Category Archives: Jade Regent

The Jade Regent adventure path.

Character: NPC

The Dalmuvian Brothers (Part 1)

Starday, Abadius 31 4713
Creduvian House, Magnimar

The hearth was still warm, but the embers were dying. Dinner had been welcome, but not very filling. Often, it wasn’t, these days.

Money was no longer flush in their home, but Roxanda and her parents had managed to finally get a place of their own again for the family. True, there had been better times in the past, but out of respect for her father, they didn’t bring up the past.

As it was, the family already found they had to remind him frequently he was now “retired” and any obligation to support his children had long since been met. It was his turn to be taken care of. With a muttered grunt and silent acknowledgement, he made it clear that while it may be true, it chafed him greatly. It had been a while since the day when Tobar was the patriarch of Creduvian Couriers, a successful and respected courier and shipping service. At times, some very wealthy merchants would trust nobody but him to get their shipments of goods to and from Sandpoint, Roderic’s Cove, or even Korvosa.

But then there’d been a dishonest driver, missing goods, and a soiled reputation. Competition for deliveries was fierce, margins were thin, and his competitors could sense blood in the water. All it took was a few anonymous innuendos and a few discounted offers from his competition, and his wealthy customers were gone. Too often loyalty is measured by the gold piece, and under the shadow of accusation, the business struggled and for all intents and purposes, succumbed.

Effectively, it was gone now. The business that Tobar had hoped to pass to his sons Vankor and Bevelek was nothing but a weight around their neck. The family name, a symbol of prestige for so long, was now a hurdle to overcome. “Creduvian, you say? Sorry, we have all the drivers we need.” Tobar and his wife of over 35 years, Ioanela, were, officially, among the poor.

Retirement. It may be a thinly veiled euphemism for her father, but it was not an option for her younger brothers.

These days, it was Roxanda who was the main source of income with her job as an assistant at The Old Fang. Vankor and Bevelek had been working hard at their father’s business when the bottom fell out and they found themselves unemployed, and unemployable because of their name. Thank the gods for Sandru, who never did follow the mainstream. While he couldn’t restore their good name, he helped them create a new one (Dalmuvian) and offered them a place on his team. Eventually, the plan was to establish new credentials, escape their old, and perhaps still become successful businessmen. In the best case, they might take up some of Sandru’s business when he retired.

They rarely accompanied the caravan to Magnimar for obvious reasons, so the road was their home these days. But business with Sandru was good, and they both sent a healthy percentage of their earnings back home to support their parents. Being associated with a delivery service still had one important benefit: letters home were delivered quickly. Those ‘in the business’ knew how important they could be, and personal messages from drivers and employees were delivered by whomever was going in the right direction, free of charge, as a professional courtesy.

Although it was barely twilight, Roxanda was willing to let the fire die and go to bed. But her gaze turned to a box overflowing with different kinds of parchment and paper. Bed often came early these hard days, but reading her brothers’ letters comforted her. She was closest with Bevelek, which was good because he was a much more frequent writer. On second thought, she threw a bit more fuel on the fire, lit a lamp, and started sorting through the letters.

Character: Olmas

Annals of the Order of the Dragon

Starday, Abadius 31

The guard towers were not empty.

I’m not sure why a necropolis needs guards anyway – aren’t dead and undead people enough of a reason to steer clear? – but these headless wonders seemed to be everywhere.  The biggest problem in dispatching them is that they look so … startling, that it causes people to freeze up sometimes.  This has happened to myself, and Sparna, and others.  While you’re struggling to refocus, they get free attacks on you.  And their attacks are not just physical damage – they do something deeper.  At some level, they just make you feel weaker, like they’re also draining life force yomehow.  And every one of them can do this startle thing from a distance.  They are most easily handled  one at a time; with a group it’s far too likely that at least one of them will startle you.

And so we’ve developed the strategy of separating them with walls of fire. The wall not only visibly blocks them and their startle ability, but also does them damage. Ivan is also great at picking them off with arrows.

So as they started to come out of the guard towers, up went the usual wall of fire.  I got a swing at him as one walked past me, but then without even turning, he startled myself and Kali.  While we stood stock still and gathered our wits, Kali, Sparna, and I watched Radella and Qatana destroy those that walked through the fire.  When I finally recovered, most of the headless were dead, and Radella got the last one before I could move closer to take a swing. Disappointing.

Qatana ran into a guard tower without backup, per usual, to check it out.  I quickly followed her, and we found that inside the tower was a room that looked to have alcoves suitable for bodies.  A door at the far end led to a more ornate room with room for a few more bodies.  All looked like they’d been disturbed, but whether by grave robbers or these headless creatures themselves I couldn’t tell.  There were pictures of the dead attacking the living which, given the history of this place, I have to believe were a late renovation.

Exiting the guard towers, Qatana next went to the bridge. There were runes on the supports of the bridge, that seemed to translate to “Here the dead walk. Trouble them not and do not bar their path.”  And there was a whole pile of magic surrounding the bridge, according to our staff who could see magic.  Qatana tried crossing the bridge and was stopped – we surmise the abjuration magic we detected is an anti-life field.  We were not able to dispel it, so for now we decided to go around it.

Suishen gave me air walk, and others used either air walk or fly to cross the bridge. Radella received darkvision since she was the most adept at finding traps and would be near the front.  We judged that the caravans would be safe since there could be nothing behind us, and everything in front of us had just been killed.

Ahead lay a purple glow, and as we approached we found that it came from a pool of water surrounding a tree like pillar.  The ceiling looked like a night sky, with tiny lights resembling stars.  The pool seemed deeper than we could see, and at the end farthest from us, on the ground there was a corpse.

“Undead” warned Ivan briefly.

Qatana reached down to take its sword, and it came to life. Or at least, it attacked.  It had glowing red eyes, which is always a good clue to identifying enemies.

We surrounded it easily, but at the same moment, a creature entered the room to the north – looked to be a yeti, according to Sparna.  Now there were issues on two fronts.  Kali summoned (ironically) a dire ape, and the ape and Sparna battled the yeti while the rest of us battled the revenant.  I managed to put a final blow onto the revenant and was going to turn my attention to the yeti, except Qatana again reached for the sword.  And it sprang to life again and we had two enemies again.  The revenant actually got ahold of Qatana at one point and started to squeeze her, but it was Radella this time who brought it down and saved Qatana.  Meanwhile Ivan managed to nail the yeti with some well shot arrows and it too fell.

There was healing all around and then we noticed something flitting about on the tree/pillar.  Qatana stepped to the water’s edge, and it came over and touched her. She visibly withered, and I rushed over to attack it and with a particular adept hit, Suishen momentarily created an even bigger burst of flame – perfect timing!  But our blows didn’t seem to damage it as much as I might have thought they would.

We quickly realized that weapons of force – magic missiles, spiritual allies, that sort of thing – was our best bet.  But at about the same moment it got through my defenses and touched me as well … and, just like Qatana, I suddenly felt weaker, like I’d lost a step.  I backed off, and the group slowly attacked them (there were 3 altogether) by force and distance weapons.

And just as we were getting the upper hand, two more yetis appeared near the corpse of the other yeti.  Ivan threw up a wall of fire, and it looked like the battle would never end when Kali paused with a distant look on her face and yelled, “The caravan! The caravan is under attack!” She cast haste on us all and we all hurried back as fast as we could. For Ivan and me, with airwalk still in effect, that was as fast as I could run. Others required another application of a fly spell.

The sounds of battle led us to the rear of the caravan, where we found Ameiko, Sandru, and Shalelu grimly holding back more of the headless wonders.  Ivan immediately threw up the ever-ready wall of fire to put some space between the undead and the caravan.  I immediately moved to protect Ameiko, who threw me a quick look like, “took your time”.  I asked Suishen for protection from cold, on a hunch, while we waited for the undead to try to come through the wall of fire.  Others began to arrive, and Sparna used his flight to stay above the undead while still being beyond the range of their startle ability.  Radella was able to engage them and start slashing at them.  I think she laid the killing blow on all three.

I had thought we were lucky to have gotten back to help before any of our party was seriously injured.  Ameiko, of course, was my first concern, but Sandru seemed stricken by grief.  I asked if he were seriously injured, and he gaped at me momentarily before gesturing to the ground beside one of the wagons.

There lay Bevelek.  Dead.

We’ve been very occupied with how this quest has affected us and our lives. We are scions now, and heir to the throne after Ameiko.  We have been learning new skills and spells, and acquiring new magic items, and to some extent enriching ourselves, in the name of increasing our chances of success, but because he’s a driver and not a swordsman or a woodsman or a cleric or a wizard, we have not done the same with all of our companions.  The idea was that they would never face danger, but when danger came anyway, he grabbed a sword and did the best he could.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he was startled by the headless undead and made easy prey by his hesitation.

A quick discussion with Qatana, Kali, and others revealed they felt similarly.  I think we have a consensus that if we can, we will resurrect him.  A gentle repose applied now will allow us to acquire the components necessary for that spell … which may take some time.  But he is important to our journey and our goals too.

It’s the right thing to do.

Character: Ivan

Ivan’s Journal

The necropolis has lived up to its name thus far.  Lots of dead or should I say undead. We have only just arrive here a few hours ago but we have already taken a heavy toll in our group today.

It all started out fine with two walls of fire blocking the tower doors and giving us some leverage.  It was a good thing that we did this as Olmas, Sparna, and Kali were all shaken by the weird fear effect that these creatures have. I positioned myself in a way to try to keep out of range of their effect while providing support for the others. The effect of freezing people with fear was the most dangerous thing about these creatures. Once the fighters were not frozen the fight ended quickly.

Investigation of the towers uncovered a number of alcoves that looked to at one point house the dead, presumably these are now the undead. Our count showed that there are actually a lot of these undead still unaccounted for and likely wandering somewhere in the necropolis.

Qatana in her normal forge ahead attitude could not cross the bridge.  After some investigation by Kali she proclaimed that it was a anti life shield,  no not shield. She proclaimed that it was an anti-life thingy? Anyway living things cannot pass.

I made an effort to dispel the magic but the magic is just too strong for me at this time. There was a discussion about the difficulty of getting the wagons across but to me the problem seems to be more about getting horses across to the other side. It seems like we could push and pull the wagons across one at a time if needed. But I will leave the planning to the others.

With the really cool spell air walk from Qatana I was able to get across the span. I know that in the wind this spell may not be as good in combat as fly but I really like it anyway. Maybe it goes back to the days on the high ice with getting blown through the air while levitating. I am sure Kali would have had something to say about it but with the darkness “what happens on the high ice stays on the high ice”.

We moved forward to a pool of water with a body on the other side. With deathwatch running it was clear that this was the body of an undead creature. Kali later told us it was a revenant. Nasty creature from what Kali told us can’t be killed until the creature killed it dies. I was ready to light it up with fire, even with Qatana stating not to use fire. It was almost like Gorum was encouraging me to light him up.

One of my companions noticed something by the tree in the middle of the water. Specters appeared and the others moved in to engage them. The others discovered that regular weapons were not as effective on the Specters and there touch was disastrous. Both Olmas and Qatana were touched and as a result were weaken. It was like they were drain of life. These things drain you and now we have to wait a see how many castings of restoration will be required for the two of them. This is the kind of unluckily thing that normally happens to sparna. I guess taking on the Yeti saved him from the drain.

More yeti began to show up but a wall of fire discourage them, I guess those with fir should not play with fire. Between the spiritual weapon from Qatana and the spiritual ally from Sparna they were able to take care of the Specters.  For just a moment when Sparna cast the spell I thought the weapon was a greatsword.

We were feeling good about the situation when Qatana announced that the caravan was under attack. With the power of air walk from the wind spirit through Qatana the gap was not an issue for me.  I took off in a dead run back to the caravan. It turns out that the undead had come up from behind and attacked the caravan. I got there two late as one of the brothers had been killed. I was able to protect the others by putting up a wall of fire. We the advantage we were able to dispatch these undead.

Although we have lost one of our own after some discussion we have decided that once we get back to a town we need to bring him back. I suggested that we use speak with dead to ask him if he wants to come back. His brother insists that he would want to come back. I look forward to a day soon when we can once again enjoy a drink with him as he propositions the barmaid.  I have come to understand that these barmaids are pretty used to drunk men hitting on them.

Kali used magic to scout ahead and it was a good thing as there are a lot of Yeti ahead and from what she said there king is huge. I have to wonder if the Yeti are going to be friendly, although since we killed one of their own that might be highly unlikely.

My plan is to stay awake until the last watch so that I can keep the wall of fire up pretty much all night.

Character: Kali

Kali’s Journal, Abadius 31, 4713

Abadius 31, 4713 (evening, Uqtaal necropolis)

The Hidden Truth symbolizes the ability to see past the obvious and the banal to a greater truth within. Sometimes this discovery is an esoteric one, sometimes it is a literal find, such as an item revealed within a room. Regardless, it is a card with the power to reveal secrets.

Misaligned, it can mean a secret being revealed to the subject’s detriment.

Seven months. Seven months, we’ve been traveling together. We’ve watched over one each other, cared for one other, broken bread together, and when it was called for, fought together to protect ourselves and our charges. For seven months, across some sixty-nine hundred miles, we’ve done all of that, sometimes in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds, and not one of us had fallen. And then, today.

Not Olmas (in spite of his best efforts to do otherwise) or Qatana (who we can’t seem to keep from wandering off) or even Ameiko, but Bevelek. Bevelek.

Gods, he’s just a driver. OK, that came out wrong. I don’t mean to disparage him, or his brother, and they’re no less important than anyone else. What I mean is, this is not their fight. They have no quarrel with anyone. They are just here to do a job: to help get us from where we were to where we’re going. They’re not involved. Nothing was supposed to happen to them. It’s not right.

And it’s pretty much our fault. We thought the passage behind us was safe. We had every reason to think it was safe. Obviously we were wrong. Did we miss a side passage? A secret entrance somewhere? Were we being followed without realizing it? I guess it doesn’t matter. Those are just excuses, and they don’t change the fact I am staring at a funeral shroud. We’re supposed to keep these things from happening.

I feel sick.

I’ve known him (and his brother) since I was, what, seventeen? They’ve worked as drivers for Sandru’s caravan since the beginning, and I met them in mom and dad’s warehouse that spring when Sandru finally returned to Sandpoint. I’ve always liked them, the little I saw of them. They were friendly, kind of talkative—Bevelek more so than his younger brother—and always made a point to say hello when I was around. Bevelek was especially good at working with the horses, and he’d invite me to come pet them or even help groom them as we were waiting for the wagons to load. This is how I repay that?

I didn’t get to know him or Vankor very well back then, but in the past several months a lot has come out. Their dad used to run a small courier service of some sort back in Magnimar, but he ran in to hard times and that was that. I’ve actually met their sister—I didn’t know who she was at the time—at the Old Fang. They’re still in Magnimar, all of them. Every now and then I see Bevelek writing to them.

What else is there to say? Bevelek in particular just seemed to like people, much like Sandru does. He loved being around them, talking to them, hearing their stories. He was so quintessentially Varisian that way. And he loved to travel. This trip was exciting! Dangerous, sure, but that’s why we’re here, right? And now we’re talking about him in the past tense.

Vankor was distraught, practically in shock. Honestly, I could barely face him. Sandru was unreadable. It’s just as well. I don’t know what to say to him.

At least we can do something about this. I am determined to, anyway. This journey has been a trial for everyone, in all senses of the word, but there’s also no denying that we have enriched ourselves in the process. We have taken the lion’s share of the spoils since this began. Yes, we have also taken most of the risks, too, but we are not the only ones here. We need everyone, and we can’t just turn our backs on those who are supporting us and making this trip possible. We can’t just put Bevelek to the earth like he doesn’t matter.

It would be wrong to assume, though, so I broached the subject with Vankor.

“I am sorry about what happened to your brother. We…we may be able to bring him back. But, we don’t want to do this against his wishes or yours. I need to know. Is that something you want us to try?”

This took him aback. He looked up at me hopefully.

“If you can bring him back…Yes. Yes! Please! This was…it’s too soon.”

I nodded, solemnly. “We can’t do it right away, but—we can do it. We do have to know, though…people get a choice when you try to call them back. It’s a difficult and costly spell. Before we commit to it, do you know…would he want to come back?”

He didn’t even hesitate. “Yes! I am sure he would. He loved life.”

We don’t have the money. Or rather, we do, just not in the right form. According to Qatana, the spell consumes a single, valuable diamond and ours our too meager fill that role. There are no gem exchanges or diamond deposits here, obviously, which means we will have to wait until we reach Tian Xia. Koya has agreed to preserve his body using a spell. This will give us the time that we need.

The more pressing issue is, however, is preventing today’s disaster from playing out again. We can’t be in two places at once, nor can we fight a battle on three fronts. We need to be able to explore ahead and secure our passage through here without worrying about the safety of our camp.

The necropolis seems to be guarded by undead. The headless mummies we’ve encountered both along the Path of Spirits and here in the burial chambers seem to be the resident hall monitors, attacking any living thing that enters. What makes them especially dangerous is the aura of paralyzing fear that surrounds them. Get caught off guard, or worn down by the relentless assault on your psyche, and you are overwhelmed by terror and magically rooted to the spot. This is what happened to Olmas two nights ago, to me and several of the others today, and probably to Bevelek before he fell.

Our first priority is keeping more of them from coming up from behind us like they did today. Qatana and I have some ideas, but the best ones can’t be acted on until tomorrow so we’re in for another tense night.

Next on the list are the yeti. Obviously, they did not build this place, but they’re here now. The truth of it is that they are squatters as much as we are trespassers, but from their viewpoint we are invading their home and they’ve been rather aggressive about delivering that message. Not that they’ve actually said anything to us, but nothing communicates intent quite like an ambush.

Kali’s Necropolis sketch

The necropolis and the Path of Spirits were carved out of the mountain, and the latter occasionally intersected with naturally formed caverns to form those side passages I spoke of. A rather extensive network of caverns and fissures adjoins the catacombs, proper, and the former is where they’ve made their home. They seem to move back and forth between the two. The Uqtaal excavators apparently didn’t care if their necropolis simply opened up to the caverns in places—they may have used the voids in the rock to save time and labor, for all I know—probably because there weren’t yeti living there at the time, and the residents were not alive to complain about the decor.

I used one of my newest spells to project my sight and was able to explore much of it, albeit sloppily, until the magic expired. That is how I know all of this. Yes, it was an invasion of their privacy, and yet another trespass to add to our list of sins (one that is much worse than the first, if we are keeping track, since it was intentional). I am sure it won’t be the last, either.

This actually bothers me. There are wizards who specialize in these sorts of divinations and I am not comfortable around any of them. There is more to the school than what I am doing here, of course, but my problem with it is that there isn’t much more. It is a field that is ripe for abuse. All it takes is something you owned—even just a piece, really—and someone can spy on you from a distance with a reasonable expectation of success. Possess even the smallest piece of their person, such a bit of hair or even a nail clipping, and you can nearly do so with impunity. It’s distasteful.

And of course I am doing something much like it now. I can argue it, justify it, point out that we were attacked first, but I am still crossing that line. It’s a struggle at first, but each time it gets just a little easier. Mom, and probably dad, would say that the world isn’t so absolute; that it’s a messy place, and circumstances matter. That the stakes matter. Sometimes doing the right thing is not the same as doing the right thingThis…is probably true. But, sometimes I wonder. What if there really is an absolute right and wrong, and all this talk of nuance is just something people use to excuse their own moral failings? Or worse, to justify them. Maybe the world isn’t messy; maybe just people are.

But, we need more information about the yeti here, and we need to get it without risking our lives. I’d also like to not risk theirs. Where this falls on the axis of right and wrong, I don’t know, but it’s the best idea I have on a very short list of ideas. So, excuse or justification, I’ll probably be doing this again.

Before that, however, we need to stop them from raiding us as we explore the pool room. Much like the mummies we need to block them off, only whatever we put up we need to be able to pass through in the future. That limits our options. I have some ideas here, too, but none of them are particularly good.

The pool room is the real mystery here, and we need time to uncover it. The revenant…whoever it was in life was almost certainly slain here. A revenant is born out of hatred and a single-minded purpose: avenge their own death. It’s said they can’t be destroyed until their killer is slain, and we can thank Qatana for validating at least the first half of that theory. (I have to wonder what would happen if you were killed by a revenant and became one yourself. Would the two of you be trapped in an eternal battle, neither of you able to destroy the other?)

We don’t know how it (he? she?) died originally. We only know it wasn’t the spectres: the body is too far from the water, and the spectres don’t seem to be able to cross beyond the edge of the pool. So, whatever did this is obviously still alive (or given where we are, still undead), and able to move around. Which leaves three things we have to worry about tonight: mummies, yeti, and something else that we haven’t seen yet.

Because what we need after today is another challenge.

Character: Qatana

Qatana’s Journal for Abadius 31, 4713

Sunday, Abadius 31, 4713 evening
Caravan, Necropolis, Path of Spirits

Much has happened since we first arrived in the necropolis several hours ago, some good, but mostly bad. It says much about our circumstances when the most positive thing anyone has said about the day thus far was, “It could have been worse.”

Easily said. Things can always be worse, and might yet be.

It had started out well enough. The caravan had traveled about fifteen miles before halting in front of a chasm, over which spanned a stone bridge. Towers on either side of the path seemed to guard the way, but we kept the wagons well shy of them until the my companions and I investigated the area.

Sparna, Olmas and I approached the bridge, and using Detect Undead I scanned the area. But there was no need for such precautions. The doors to the towers on either side of us sprang open and half a dozen headless mummies came forward.

Ivan reacted quickly, erecting a wall of fire before the western door. Sparna set himself before the eastern door and greeted a mummy with his urgosh. Kali then put a wall of fire in front of this door. At the western door a mummy passed through the flame and lumbered towards Olmas.

We then began a slow battle of attrition: we would slay the mummies on our side of the flames only to have another one or two run through to replace their fallen brethren.

As with our previous encounter the mummies had an unwholesome affect, and Sparna, Olmas and Kali at some point in time succumbed to the fear and froze in place momentarily. This extended what would have been a relatively short skirmish into a prolonged engagement. I helped by frying two of the undead with a pair of Searing Light rays — an action enthusiastically endorsed by Star and Beorn.

Presently the walls of fire died down and we entered the eastern tower. Rubble filled the northern quarter of the hexagonal chamber, but did not completely block an opening in the wall. We could see arrow slits facing out, and a steep stone stair leading up and around the outer wall to a balcony, which provided access to more arrow slits higher up.

The room to the north housed a number of alcoves, each with a funerary bier that had been ransacked. A door in the far wall led to a semi-circular room with three additional funerary biers, but of more elaborate design. Like the others, these too had been disturbed. The walls here had been painted with pictographs of bucolic scenes which had been defaced to show the dead rising from their graves and attacking the living. Prints in the dust on the floor indicated relatively recent passing of feet.

The western tower was much the same as its eastern cousin, but without the rubble.

Obviously this place had been used to bury the wealthy devout of Desna who perhaps wished to start their journey northward a little further along the Path of the Spirits. But followers of Fumioshi had discovered this place and made it their own. We estimated that there were probably two dozen humans that had been buried here and turned into undead. We had only accounted for ten at that point.

It seemed wise to move out from here as quickly as possible, and so we went toward the bridge to continue scouting the way ahead.

Only I could not walk onto the bridge. It was like a giant invisible balloon was blocking the way, and no matter how hard I tried to push through, I remained on the near side.

We then saw the pictographs on the abutment that proclaimed, “Here the dead walk. Trouble them not nor bar their path.”

Detect magic revealed a strong aura of Abjuration, and when Ivan threw a rock and it passed over the bridge without any resistance, Kali suggested it was protected by an Anti Life field.

Ivan and I tried to dispel the effect, but with no luck.

This would make moving the wagons across a challenge, but we quickly came up with ways we could use to (at least temporarily) create our own span to get them over safely.

In the meantime it was easy enough to use Airwalk (Olmas and Ivan) and Fly (the rest of us) to get to the other side and continue scouting.

There was a glow of dim indigo light from the south, toward which the path rose gently. Following it we entered a vast chamber that opened up to nearly a hundred feet wide as it bent westward, and more than twice that high. In the center of the cavern was a lake, and it was out from here that the deep blue light radiated. Far above we could barley make out a deep blue ceiling with glittering points of reflected light, making it look like a clear night sky.

A closer look at the water and we saw that the indigo light came from something deep down below and not the water itself. A large pillar, shaped like a large twisted dead tree, poked up above the surface from the center of the pool.

The main road continued through an opening to the west, but a smaller passage led up and to the northwest. Across the lake to the south a closed door beckoned.

We cautiously moved around the water, with Radella and Sparna leading the way, where we found an ancient desicated corpse lying on the floor at the western tip of the pond. It had a a magical sword, cloak and goggles, and the flesh on its fingers had pulled back such that the bones stuck out like claws.

Ivan called out, “Undead,” as we gathered around.

Undead? It seemed inert. I reached down to take the sword, and the thing stood up and glared at us with glowing red eyes.

At that moment a large white harry creature stepped into the cavern from the northwest. Fortunately Sparna and Kali had stopped there to watch for anything surprising us from that direction, and we heard Sparna call out, “Yeti!” as we sprang into battle.

I cast Blessing of Fervor to help my companions.

The revenant (for that is what we guessed the undead creature to be) struck out at Avia. Ivan shot it with a pair of arrows, and Avia struck back. Olmas then moved in and cut it down.

Meanwhile over at the Yeti Sparna had hacked at it and Kali had summoned a dire ape. Avia had moved over to help, and Ivan began to pepper it with arrows.

The yeti seemed well taken care of (I almost felt sorry for it), and Olmas and I stood looking down at the corpse.

“We could really use those magical items,” Star stated as a matter of fact. “I don’t know…” Pookie began, but her little voice was soon drowned out by Beorn screeching, “Yes, yes. We must have it! Take it! Take it!”

Hmm, sure. We had just defeated it. I reached down for the sword again, and again the thing stood up. This time it struck at me and then grabbed me, squeezing tightly. “I said that this was a bad idea,” Pookie snorted.

Fortunately the yeti was quickly slain, and the others joined in to make short work of the revenant (again).

Kali frowned, as she sometimes does when trying to remember something, and finally said, “I think you can only stop a revenant by finding whatever was troubling the spirit and resolving it.”

“Well, it seems obvious that it was killed here,” Ivan offered, “and so maybe we just need to find whatever killed him and kill that.”

While he was talking I saw something translucent shifting about about the tree shaped pillar in the center of the pond. “Hey, did you see that? There’s something over on that tree thing!”

Moving with surprising swiftness it flew over next to me and sliced at me with its incorporeal claws. A wave of weakness washed over me, and my friends joined together in a chorus of, “No! Stand strong!” With that to fortify me I managed to fight off the attack, but still felt less capable, and realized I could no longer cast my more advanced spells. I still knew them, but simply lacked the energy required to invoke them.

This was bad. But it could be worse. It soon was.

I yelled out, “It’s a spectre — beware its touch!” and the others bravely moved in to engage it. We quickly discovered that weapons — even magical ones, and spells only had a limited affect on the undead creature.

It reached out and struck at Olmas, who shivered and nearly collapsed from the drain of energy. “Oh, no.” Takoda cried out.

I then saw two more specters appear around the tree and make their way towards us. Oh shit.

I then noticed that these creatures had only moved over the water. “Get away from the water!” I called out, “I don’t think they can leave it. Use ranged attacks.”

I stepped back and reviewed my list of prepared spells. Spiritual Weapon was a relatively low level spell, but it would be effective against incorporeal creatures and I could still cast it. Moments later a glimmering heavy flail appeared next to the first spectre and bashed it.

The others stepped away from the water, and it looked like we had the situation under control when a pair of yetis entered from the western portal. Ivan grinned and placed a wall of fire between us and then. That seemed to do the trick, and we did not see them again.

Then Sparna said, “Well crap, I forgot I still had this.” and he held up a terracotta statuette of a warrior as a Spiritual Ally formed next to one of the spectres.

With two force weapons beating upon them, plus the rain of normal ranged attacks, the spectres were doomed, and slowly but surely they fell one by one.

We had turned our attention to the wall of fire and were deciding what to do next when the Status spell I cast each morning on Shalelu and Ameiko indicated that they were being injured. Things got even worse.

“The caravan is under attack!” I shouted. Kali used her wand of Haste and we raced back to the chasm. Airwalk was still active for Olmas and Ivan and so they continued on toward the caravan, while the rest of us crowded next to the edge.

I pulled out the wand of Fly and soon Sparna, Radella, Kali and I were able to cross and fly to across.

Four more headless mummies had come up from behind and attacked the caravan. Ameiko and Shalelu led the defense, but it was not going well. Ivan quickly got things under control by creating a wall of flame between the mummies and the caravan crew, and as the others arrived they attacked the mummies remotely, slowly wearing them down.

It looked like they had the situation well in hand, and so I flew back to the chasm and stood watch. We did not need any more surprises.

A short time later Olmas joined me. We didn’t say anything. We didn’t need to. We had both been crippled by the spectres, but while I was already beginning to feel a little better, Olmas still looked weak and shaken.

I had my friends to thank. Their effort to protect me had drained them, and they were a sombre and unusually quiet lot, although I could hear Pookie, McLovin and Takoda discussing what needed to be done next.

Sandru showed up and began to move the wagons forward as far as possible, and some time after the rest of my companions, except for Ivan (he insisted on staying at the back of the caravan and concentrating on keeping the wall of fire up until he fell asleep), joined Olmas and I.

“One of the drivers was killed,” Kali began, and my mice became quiet. “I asked Sandru if we should preserve his body so he can be raised, and he thought it a good idea.”

“So, add Gentle Repose to that list,” Takoda said softly.

“Okay,” I replied to Kali. “I’ll be able to cast that tomorrow morning. I think that by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be able to cast higher level spells again, like Restoration.”

Here we all looked at Olmas, who nodded grimly. If we were lucky the Restoration would bring him back to his full capabilities. If not… then we were looking at another week before he could receive another Restoration, and then another week after that, and so on.

“It looks like a lot of tomorrow’s energies will be spent recovering from today. But if we knew more of what was beyond the lake chamber we could perhaps prepare to do some additional exploration as well.”

Kali smiled. “I have just the thing.”

A few minutes later and Kali had drawn up a simple chart of what her Arcane Eye had found. The northwest passage, from where the first yeti had come, led into a twisty tangle of natural caverns in which more yetis lived. This warren connected to a worked stone complex of catacombs, which led back to the main path.

The main path continued west into another large chamber. An exit to the left continued up, while in the center a wooden platform had been erected on which a throne sat. Sitting on the throne was the largest yeti Kali had yet seen, and he was surrounded by a dozen more.

We’ll need to be as close to full strength as possible before taking on the entire yeti population of the caverns, not to mention the oversized yeti-king.

We briefly discussed tactics and strategy, and agreed that sealing off the main force of yetis from the “throne room” was a good strategy. Stone Shape could probably be used to our advantage, but really this called out for Wall of Stone, which none of us can cast just yet.

Perhaps tomorrow we can return to the lake chamber and explore what was behind the southern door. To this thought Takoda added, “But first we should restore Olmas.”

Character: Ivan

Ivan’s letter to his wife

Sesi,

I am writing this letter from a tavern in Jaagiin. The ale is not bad but the atmosphere just isn’t the same without you. I found someone that told me that they could get a letter to the other side of the ice, for a price of course.

The gods have favored me with new spells but not with the one that will allow me to communicate with you. I will be asking Qatana to magically contact you in a few days to let you know that we are safe so by the time you get this letter it will be old news. The gods have decided to grant me Desna wrath and fire. I know that you are thinking that any idiot can create a fire but I can make a wall of fire. This has been very useful against the undead and I suspect those with fir to burn. It has also become my go to spell for creating snowmen on the high ice. Oh Yes I have finally found a way to create snowpeople in the extreme cold.

Arriving in Jaagiin I have to admit that my thoughts turned towards letting the others continue on with the quest and heading back over the high ice. I just have to have faith that continuing on is just the right path to follow. If you are reading this to grandmother just let her know that I have not forgotten her words on this matter and that I remember that this is the will of the wind spirits. At times it almost seemed like I can hear a voice in the wind. I wonder if I am going crazy or if the wind spirits are trying to encourage me forward.

Excuse the ale stain on the letter as I had a little tussle as this guy tried to run off with my bag of spending money. My thoughts were of you focused on you and I didn’t notice, the bag only had a couple of gold so we would not have been out that much money. The barmaid was bringing me some stew as he was stealing so she alerted me. I really like magic and weak willed people. Over an Ale that he paid for we reach an agreement. He would give me two gold, never come within sight of me, and I will not force him to cut off his own fingers on his right hand. I don’t have any magic that could force him to do that but he doesn’t know that. I know you are thinking it and yes the two gold was for the barmaid.

So back to the whole quest thing I do worry that something will happen to Ameiko and one of the party would have to take over. I just can’t imagine us being the royal family and it kind of scares me to think of Kali taking on the mantle. I like Kali but my preference is to put someone on the throne that is ready to rule the people and not looking at the next business deal. It just seems like business people going into government is not always a good fit for the people. Before you know it they are taking away the rights of common people just to put a few more gold in the pockets of fellow business people. So I have to continue on this quest and keep Ameiko safe for the common person. I think at least with her the common folk will get a fair shake.

I just realized that the bard is playing an interesting and strange song. The people in the tavern must have heard this before because some of them are getting evolved with the song whistling. It seems that at certain pauses the crowd would start whistling. It seems like the crowd really gets involved after the lines with “Always look on the bright side of life”. Anyway I wrote down as much as I could get or remember. There is more to the song but I just didn’t get it written down. It was a catchy song.

So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life’s a piece of shit,
When you look at it.

Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true,
You’ll see it’s all a show,
Keep ’em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!

And always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Come on guys, cheer up

Always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Worse things happen at sea you know

Always look on the bright side of life

 

So take care my love

Ivan

Character: Olmas

Annals of the Order of the Dragon

as written by the cavalier Olmas Lurecia, himself.

Toilday, 15 Abadius

Kali, ever the accountant of our group, quietly told each of us that as a result of selling acquired but unneeded equipment, we were each 9616.43 copper pieces richer.

That evening, as I sat listening, somewhat contentedly, to the rest of the group talk about various things, I heard/felt/sensed a clearing of a throat.  Internally, I rolled my eyes, because I knew what this meant.  There was no clearing, and really, there was no throat.  And only I could hear it.  But this is the way it began every time:  the fabled sword Suishen was about to bless me with some pearl of his wisdom.

Since I’ve become his human caretaker, I’ve come to recognize his method of introducing himself.  There is a noticeable lessening of outside noise, as if I’d just lightly covered my ears.  Then there is a sound which, for all the world, sounds like a briefly clearing throat, followed by that voice that seems to always have a tinge of superiority somehow infused in it. “You know,” it may say, “you’d get more power from your swing if you drew your arm back further.”  Or “Not bad, for a standard-bearer with no formal training.”  Or “It’s hard to believe that of all the swordsmen in the world, I chanced upon one that wields a sword much like a halfling housewife might wield a flyswatter, but with half the skill and a quarter of the charisma.”

Sometimes I have a clever response, and sometimes I don’t, but it always ends with my realizing my companions are staring at me, because I’ve stopped what I was doing, sometimes in mid-sentence, and my eyes have taken on an unfocused gaze almost as though I was scanning a distant horizon.  It is sufficient at this point for me to shake my head lightly, grimace, and mutter “Suishen” and my friends nod knowledgably but look away, as if they’ve been witness to something they’d rather not, and clear their throats, quickly resuming the conversation with “soooooo, anyways …”.

And this time, my face must have looked different; perhaps my eyebrows raised in surprise. Because this time, for the first time I can remember, Suishen said nothing critical.  He said, slowly, “I am impressed with your battle with the oni.”  He paused. “I feel compelled to tell you I have more capability to assist you than I have previously revealed.  Should you find it useful, three times a day I can grant you protection from energy, and additionally, on exceptional hits, I can create a burst of flame that will do additional damage. While you need ask for the first, the second is granted unconditionally.”

I realized my companions were staring at me at the same moment that I realized my jaw had dropped perceptibly.  “Suishen?” Qatana asked consolingly.  I nodded my head slightly, almost as if to break a trance. “Uh, um, yes,” I replied. “But he just revealed to me he has more power than he’d previously let on.”  Qatana looked mildly interested. “Oh?”

“He, uh, he …” I said, still a little stunned.

And then the old Suishen echoed in my head: “Quit stammering like an imbecile. You’re about as comprehensible as an ogre with a mouthful of tree sap.”

I shook my head again and glared at … at a mental vision of me beating Suishen against a rock.  And Qatana said, “sooooooo, anyways …”

Sunday, Abadius 20

We have reached Jaagiin, with no additional notable events – notable in itself.

Jaagiin is the “capital” of the loose confederations of tribes which live on and near the high ice.  Perhaps because of the greater mix of heritage and culture, Ulf says they are more welcoming of outsiders here than some of the previous places we have stopped.  Having arrived after midday, we decided to stay the remainder of this day plus one more, which should give us adequate opportunity to reprovision, rest a bit, and perhaps pick up some more news of what lay ahead on our path.  To that end, Ameiko announced she would go shopping, looking directly at me. I sighed and announced I would do the same. In the end, the two of us plus Shalelu and Qatana went into town.

We heard a number of things both in conversations we had and in conversations we passed near to, but the most interesting things were that a white dragon had been killed over in Iqaliat (“imagine that!”) and that storms had been stronger than usual this winter (“do tell!”) and that storms in Altan Zuud, the route we intended to take, seemed to be getting worse even as the winter and storms started to ebb everywhere else (“wait, what?”).

That evening, Ameiko again looked me in the eye and announced she wanted to take her lute and visit all the pubs in town.  I swear, that woman .. but of course I went along. Keeping her safe is what I do these days.  Fortunately I am not alone in this … the entire party spontaneously decided to do the same.

And nothing happened.  Maybe we overthink this.

Oathday, Abadius 24

We have been out of Jaagiin now for three days, and it’s been uneventful.  Well, the weather has been formidable, but after all the time we spent on the high ice it’s barely noteworthy.

We saw a cabin, today, with (apparently) some trappers in it. They came out and waved, but we waved back and kept going.  We may have to weather a storm or two while in the pass so we don’t really have any time to spare.

Fireday, Abadius 25

Today it was a pile of frozen, and arguably mutilated, animal corpses that we came across.  Is this connected to the trappers?

Sunday, Abadius 27

We are now in the shadow of the mountains surrounding the pass. The storm has not abated; if anything it’s gotten worse since we approached.  Aside from the dark clouds and fierce winds, there is thunder echoing from the waves of blowing snow. Worse, Kali has heard the same mocking laugh we heard on the high ice at Dead Man’s Dome. I’m 90% certain this is not a natural storm, but I’m not sure what to do about it.

We will hope for better weather tomorrow.

Moonday, Abadius 28

It is not better. We can now hear rockfalls in the distance.  It’s not just the weather and the cold anymore; now there are physical dangers that would be difficult to defend against.  We discussed our options, but according to Ulf and Sandru, there really aren’t any.  This pass is the way through the mountains, and it’s far too dangerous to attempt to negotiate it. Going around the mountains is hundreds if not a thousand miles out of the way, and would take months – and even then we’d have to try to rejoin the main path at some point by forging our own path through the mountains and surrounding highlands.  We are stymied.

(later)
Kali, with Koya’s guidance, did a harrowing.  We were hoping the gods might give us a clue, but they mock us as much as the wind.

Toilday, Abadius 29

The cards did not give us any clue, but Koya claims that in her dreams, the gods did provide one after all.   She says the cards made her remember a story about how a traveller once took a path that went through the mountains (literally, as in a tunnel or cave). Desna is sometimes known as the Queen of the North, and legend has it that the tunnel was created so that faithful from the south could make the trek to the north – Desna – in relative safety.

Supposedly it is marked on the north side by two statues of Desna. No telling how large or obvious these statues may be, so I hope they are not buried under snow and only visible in summer.

Kali sent Nehali out to search; she can do it faster than any of us could.  Marching to the west, we began to parallel the mountain range.

Behind us, it almost seems that the storm has erupted from the pass, and is now following us.

(later)
Nehali did find a statue, and it was only about 5 miles away.  We can hear the wind building behind us, and the skies are darkening. This is no natural storm; it now pursues us.

But the statue did mark the entrance to a tunnel into the mountain.  A second statue, it appears, used to stand here but has fallen over and pieces lie broken on the ground.  The tunnel is large enough to accommodate our wagons, if we string them out single file.  Glancing at the sky, we have little choice.  The storm is perhaps ten miles away and is inexplicably moving west towards us.  We enter the tunnel, and shortly after we hear the storm howling furiously and helplessly outside the tunnel entrance.

However, the legend foretold there would be statues praising Desna in the tunnel, and while there were statues, these were no longer focused on Desna. It would seem they had been mutilated by followers of Fumioshi, and now each stately figure bore the visage of a red, demonic face.

We did not make it far into the tunnel before we decided to stop for the night. But the mutilated statues told us we would definitely want guards for the evening. And were those footprints in the dust fresh, or did the lack of wind here in the cave allow old things to look new?

Fireday, Abadius 30

Last night, or this morning, to be perfectly accurate, as we feared, we were attacked.

Four shambling, headless figures headed for our camp, and Sparna raised the alarm. I awoke, and ran to join him.

While I was ready to fight and defend, something about the creatures froze me in my tracks.  We had no idea of what these creatures may be capable, and there was only the two of us.  The rest would be coming, of course, but these things were evil, I could sense it. They might be capable of horrific acts.  Should I move forward, or drop back to protect Ameiko? What if I failed in my mission to protect her?

And while I considered this, my legs unthinkingly locked into place.  Fire erupted around the figures and it appeared to affect each of them differently. Some tried to escape. Some plowed through. Some simply stood still and started smoldering.

It wasn’t until the last one was a smoldering corpse (instead of just a corpse) that I found myself free to move and realized I had been locked in place the entire time. Sparna came to the same realization at about the same time, and we glanced at each other guiltily.

At least, I suppose, we physically blocked their advancement.

Travelling this day, and being more interested in our surroundings, we did see many footprints around.  It would not be unexpected to have more visitors.

Starday, Abadius 31

We are standing at the entrance to what appears to be an underground city.  Koya grimly tells us that the legend did speak of a necropolis where the dead could rest before finishing their journey to Desna. Fantastic. A whole city of shambling headless figures.  But it lies directly in our path, and it’s not like we can skirt it.  We’ll just have to be smart about it.

Character: Kali

Kali’s Journal, Abadius 15 – 30, 4713

Abadius 15, 4713 (evening, Ovorikheer Pass)

The barren trees of the Domagalki Forest are coated in windswept ice. In the waning twilight it takes on a sinister appearance: frozen teeth glistening in our lights, claws reaching for us as we narrowly slip from their grasp. It’s said that it used to be a lush forest, tended to by a family of fey. A few years before I was born, they left for reasons known only to them—the fey are a fickle lot—and this was the result.

We left the frozen piling and the still-smoldering corpses of the spiders behind us and resumed our ascent to the summit of the Ovorikheer Pass.

Twenty, maybe thirty miles of ice lies ahead of us, and then we are done with it for the foreseeable future. Our days are mostly twilight now, a welcome change from the perpetual night. This part of the world is equal parts beautiful, deadly, and peculiar. I will miss the astonishing sights, but not so much so that I wish to return.

Abadius 19, 4713 (morning, Path of Aganhei, Osman Confederation)

We will reach Jaagiin tomorrow around midday. It sits on the shore of Lake Buriyiim and is the seat of the Osman Confederation. According to Ulf, the Erutaki settlements here are formed around clans, and each one sends a speaker to Jaagiin to serve in an assembly. Jaagiin itself is a large trading village, about a third again the size of Sandpoint. At this time of year there won’t be much trading, though, which means we will once again be attracting attention.

Does that matter? Probably not. After Ul-Angorn it’s not exactly difficult for the Five Whoevers—we now have both Winds and Storms in our retinue—to figure out where we’re headed, or when we’ll be there. There’s no hiding at this point, so all we can do is be prepared.

We did learn one other lesson from our last stop, however, and that’s to keep the caravan looking somewhere between good repair and well-traveled. Ivan has been using spells each day to fix the worst of the wear and make sure the small stuff doesn’t get out of hand. I do some cleanup as well using cantrips that help keep it looking neat but worn. Obviously, if it always shined like new that would be suspicious, but we don’t want it looking like it’s been through the Abyss, either. We won’t have to tell stories if it doesn’t look like there are stories to tell.

Abadius 20, 4713 (night, Jaagiin)

Astonishingly, we seem to have made it through the evening without someone or something trying to kill us. Of course, the night isn’t quite over yet so there’s still time to be disappointed.

We visited a few taverns tonight and Ameiko played a couple of sets in the first. We more or less knew this was coming so no one was surprised when she announced her intentions, but it still put us all on edge. After she was out of ear shot, I suggested that we “come up with a plan for defending the pub without burning it down along with the people inside.” This earned me a number of stares. No one appreciates my sense of humor.

We kept a close eye on Ameiko, the patrons, and pretty much anything that moved or looked like it might, especially while she was playing. I also listened in on as many conversations as I could—discreetly, of course—using one of my oldest spells to compensate for the fact that I don’t speak Erutaki.

This was more or less a waste of effort. Not listening to Ameiko’s music, that is, but being a party to the drama and intrigue of Erutaki life at the Crown of the World. Did you know that the caribou herds were thin last year, almost certainly due to the colder than usual weather which limited the meltwater in the river valleys? Also, the trappers from the clans to the south have been working farther up the lake in recent years—some would say “encroaching”—in order to boost their seasonal harvest, at the expense of those who have had an unofficial claim on this territory for generations. And Assembleyman Aninnuk’s son, Noahtak, disappeared two weeks ago and it was thought he had fallen prey to wolves, but really he had just eloped with Assemblayman Silaluk’s daughter, Salak, who was supposed to be back at home tending to the family’s herd of goats. Gripping stuff, no?

OK, I am being unfair here. We actually did hear two pieces of news that were of interest to us: The first was that there are unusually fierce and persistent storms this season that are making travel extremely difficult. The second was about a village named Iqaliat, whose people were recently freed from a relentless, months-long siege by a white dragon. They managed to slay it somehow, which only goes to show that the Erutaki people can’t be kept down for long. There was also some kind of kerfuffle—they actually used that word in Common—with their shaman, but the details there were a little sketchy.

You get the idea.

Qatana was genuinely curious how the bits about Iqaliat had traveled so fast, given that we had just gotten here ourselves. The answer?

“We have these things called ‘dog sleds’.”

Qatana looked confused. “We were told no one crossed the ice in the winter time.”

“Caravans don’t. But the Erutaki are hardy folk, and we know this area.”

I mean, it makes sense: one person with a team of dogs can easily outpace musk oxen pulling wagons, especially when the former has to rest for a month just to breathe. And they can probably do it much more discreetly. I have to remind myself, and the others I guess, that Tunuak walked to the Nameless Spires. By himself. And he was probably about the same age as Koya. We don’t give these people enough credit.

What we didn’t get was information about the pass, Atlan Zuud. Almost no one makes the crossing at this time of year, and no travelers means no news about the pass conditions. That’s concerning because the bad winter weather has apparently been everywhere, more than we can definitively attribute to Katiyana’s antics. On the other hand, all of those reports are pretty generic and none of them are exactly timely. So there’s no specific reason to worry, and no hard information to act on. Famous last words?

Earlier in the day, I hunted down a wizard, which, thankfully, Jaagiin does have. Imnek was nice enough, and our skills are about on par. We each had a few spells that the other could use and we swapped a pair of them today. We made arrangements to do it again tomorrow.

Sparna and Radella both vanished shortly after we arrived. That’s pretty typical for Radella, but we weren’t used to it from Sparna. By late evening people were getting worried, and Ivan went off to find him. Turns out he had found a swordsmith and lost track of time while talking shop well into the night. Good for him. Maybe this will make him less grumpy.

Abadius 21, 4713 (evening, Jaagiin)

Jaagiin doesn’t seem overly interested in who we are or what we’re doing, and that has helped put me at ease. They are happy to take our money without tacking on a surcharge paid in invasive questions.

Sandru and I topped off our provisions for the final leg into Tian Xia. This wasn’t strictly necessary, but we weren’t about to start the next leg of this trip without being fully provisioned, especially since it’s the dead of winter and we don’t really know what we are headed into. Glad we are on the same page, there.

Next up was seeing a jewelry maker about the talismans I’ve been carving. Each disk is about three inches in diameter, very slightly domed, with a leaf pattern adorning the inner rim. The leaves are polished smooth and the gaps between them are roughened. I’d completed the second of them just a couple of days ago, and though I still had more to make it was time to start thinking about settings.

I need a silver mounting of some sort for each, along with a silver chain, so they can be worn like an amulet. The bigger challenge, though, will be studding them with small stones made from the fragments of the gems that had powered the Storm Tower before they shattered. I don’t know how to set stones yet. I mean, I barely know what I’m doing in general when it comes to making jewelry. But I’m learning.

There was no avoiding it: I had to show her one because I needed her help. She slowly traced one of the leaves with her fingers. “Is this a remorhaz scale?” she asked.

“Yes.”

She paused, probably expecting me to elaborate. I didn’t.

“This is your work?”

“Yes, it is. It’s taken me a couple of weeks. I do the carvings from the smaller ones.”

She looked up at me sharply, clearly surprised by the implications of that response. It may sound like I was showing off, but I wasn’t, really. There was no hiding the fact that I’d need materials for making more than one setting. Though I suppose I could have been less coy about it. What’s the fun in that, though?

“It’s good. Especially for a kavdlunait. Yes, I can help you create settings for these.”

That took the rest of the morning, but now I have what I need.

The afternoon was spent trading spells with Imnek. There’s not much to say there. He’s still Imnek. He’s still a wizard. He’s still nice enough. We both have a new spell.

Tonight, Sandru, Bevelek, Vankor, and I will start prepping the caravan for our departure tomorrow. We leave in the morning, just an hour or two before twilight. Yeah, that’s right: there is still no sun. Thank the gods that will be changing very, very soon.

You don’t see many temples to Sarenrae up here.

Abadius 24, 4713 (evening, Path of Aganhei)

We passed a cabin today that had a few trappers staying in it. Or, at least, I assume they were trappers; I don’t really know these things. They opened the door to watch us as we went by and they looked like trappers to me, so executive decision: they were trappers.

What does a trapper look like? Like a surly Erutaki dressed in heavy furs standing in the doorway of a cabin in the middle of nowhere. And that’s “surly” by Ulf and Sparna standards, by the way, which—let’s face it—is awfully surly. I thought I saw Qatana wave to them as we passed but they just stared at us in still silence. Having already had our fill of “surly” we didn’t stop to visit.

Watching caravan migrations must be what passes for entertainment around here. They probably have some game that they play for each one that they see, maybe the reverse of travel games like the ones that mom and dad used to play with me when I was really young and easily bored. In one of them, they’d say, “I see something that starts with the letter G” and I’d have to guess what it was as they gave me clues. When I was six my first guess for “G” was always “grass”, even when we were in the middle of the ocean (give me a break: I was six), but eventually I branched out to naming things that were actually there.

These trappers probably looked at us and pulled out their game for Abadius, where you try to be the first one to, I don’t know, spot the half-frozen corpses of the dead traveling companions, or some equally hilarious variation of that.

Abadius 25, 4713 (afternoon, Path of Aganhei)

Nihali is happy to be able to spread her wings again. Even with the tag I enchanted for her, the weather on the ice pack was simply too extreme for her to fly safely, and there were even days when I had to keep her wrapped up in the wagon for warmth. And of course it was perpetually night. We got a reprieve from the former down in the basin, of course, but there were only a couple of hours of twilight each day back then so that only solved one of two problems.

I do wish the circumstances were better. One of our scouts, Shalelu I think, saw a heap of something a little bit off the path. She thought it looked like a pile of animal corpses, so I sent Nihali up to have a look. Short version: that’s what it was.

We saw something like this back before Iqaliat, only the bodies were human. And I’m not really up for telling the long version because it’s horrible, so I’m just going to leave it there.

Abadius 26, 4713 (night, Path of Aganhei)

Qatana cast a spell for Ivan so that he could exchange a short message with someone. First, the obvious: I had considered that as an option for mom and dad, but as I understand the spell you only get a couple dozen words, each. I had better options. Second, I had assumed it was so he could talk to his sister, Abby. But, I caught his body language and thought to myself, that was not his sister.1 I have no idea what the story is there, and it would be rude to ask.

In the few hours of daylight today we could, for the first time, clearly see the mountains that form the Wall of Heaven in the distance under dark, grey clouds.

Abadius 27, 4713 (early afternoon, Path of Aganhei)

A huge winter storm has engulfed the pass and we are getting heavy snowfall and high winds even here in the foothills. I am going to go ahead and call this a blizzard just because I can.

This right here is pretty much what I was worried about. The only good news is, if we hadn’t stopped for a couple of days we’d have been up there when it hit. So, small victories, I guess.

We’re either going to have to wait it out or push through.

(evening, Wall of Heaven)

We decided to push through. I don’t know who “we” is and I can’t even begin to describe how much I am regretting that decision. This was a terrible, terrible idea.

The lightning is ferocious and relentless. There is so much of it that the thunder is a constant roll of crashes and echoes (the only silver lining is that it’s possible to tune it out, but that’s only because it just never stops). And then there’s the snow and the wind. I don’t even know where to begin with that.

A while ago, we thought we might have heard an avalanche, but it’s hard to tell because, come on. Though it sure sounded different than constant, rolling thunder, which is a thing we’ve recently become experts on. We need to see to be sure, though, and that means having a closer look. Even if it were light out, though, all we could see from here would probably be blowing snow.

At one point I thought I heard voices on the wind. Qatana must have heard them too because she looked startled at the exact same moment that I did. Normally, I wouldn’t use Qatana as a litmus test for whether or not I am hearing things, but this was different. We both agreed it was reminiscent of what we heard at Dead Man’s Dome when the last of the undead fell. This can’t be a coincidence, and it can’t be good news.

Abadius 28, 4713 (morning, Wall of Heaven)

We’re getting out. This time, it wasn’t just Qatana and I that heard it, but everyone else, too. And it was more than once: laughter on the wind. We’d had suspicions that this storm wasn’t natural, and now those aren’t just suspicions.

The weather didn’t let up at all over night. If anything, it got worse. We decided to trek up the pass, on hoof and foot, leaving the caravan somewhat sheltered against a cliff face. Ivan graced us all with spells so we wouldn’t slip on the snow and ice, and I summoned a phantasmal horse to ride so I wouldn’t have to walk in this crap. It didn’t even take us an hour to figure out that the pass was closed. It wasn’t just avalanches of snow, but rocks as well. No one would be coming through here for a while. And it intensified as we got closer. It felt like it was a personal vendetta.

We delivered the bad news to Ulf.

(evening, Path of Aganhei)

This day just keeps getting better. Sandru and I had a little chat with Ulf. Storms do not rage in one place for days. This was all wrong.

“What are our options here?” I asked.

“There aren’t any.”

Ulf wasn’t being facetious. We could, maybe, go around the Wall of Heaven instead of through it but Ketskerlet is hundreds of miles to the east and the storm has expanded in the last few hours.

Sandru said, “There’s no way we could even make it that far. The caravan literally wouldn’t survive it.” Ulf agreed with that assessment, and added that even if we did, we’d still have to cross the Gulf of Khorkii somehow, which is thick with icebergs and floes this time of year.

Going west to the Ivory Sea might be better, but that trip is over a thousand miles, and every single one of them is in the wrong direction. Most of them through barren, frozen tundra. To quote Ulf, “No one goes that way for a reason”. The only realistic route to the coast is a couple of weeks behind us.

There pretty much left turning back for Jaagiin, but given our run-in with the oni in Ul-Angorn that is not a particularly attractive choice. Whether or not it’s attractive, though, is irrelevant if it’s our only choice. Which means it’s not really a choice.

And then I had a brilliant idea because I am an idiot.

“Let’s try a Harrowing. This is why Varisian caravans have fortune-tellers, right?” I was met with everything from silence to eye rolls, but I pressed on because I am a glutton for punishment. “What do we have to lose?”

There was general agreement, but while I think most of that qualified as humoring me Koya did seem genuinely excited about the suggestion. She disappeared into her wagon and emerged a couple of minutes later with her cards. I found out why she was so enthusiastic when she handed them to me.

“You go ahead,” she said, smiling, “Just like I taught you.”

Well, I walked right into that, didn’t I?

This was not the easiest way to start my budding career. Harrowings typically focus on individuals, and what we needed was a direction for our group as a whole. So I was already feeling in over my head. But Koya was there to help and she had never let me down before, so I dove in.

I laid out a bridge. I could clearly see Ameiko’s story revealing itself here, both the past and what she would face in the future. The problem was, I couldn’t make sense of the present.2 Or, perhaps more accurately, I didn’t understand what it was telling me. There was something about the mountains or the storm that we were missing. Some key information, and it was crucial to our survival. Even worse, the Hidden Truth card was misaligned. But the larger problem was, the reading didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. What we needed was guidance, not our failings laid bare.

To quote Sparna, “But what does it mean?”

Even Koya couldn’t make sense of it, and that’s when I got worried, and when everyone else got frustrated. This isn’t how this is supposed to go.

I don’t know what to do.

Abadius 29, 4713 (small hours, Path of Aganhei)

Koya emerged from her wagon around 1:00 this morning, all aflutter. She found me working on one of the talismans in the center of our camp, and was practically manic. At first I couldn’t makes sense of what she was trying to say because she was just short of babbling, but eventually she got a coherent sentence out.

“I had a dream and…there’s something I can’t shake. I had an epiphany, or Desna’s speaking to me, or something…” The excitement in her voice was climbing again “The reading you did…where are the cards?!”

I still had them and set them out in order.

“There’s something with the Empty Throne and The Hidden Truth, something we’re not seeing. But, what really strikes me, is at the end of the bridge with The Big Sky and The Queen Mother.”

She explained, or tried to explain, that there may be some meaning to these cards, or to the way that they were brought out, that is not usual. That these cards appeared here as a message to us. I just nodded my head because I had no idea what she was talking about, but she’s the one who follows Desna. This was her thing.

“I’ve studied the peoples that worshiped Desna for years, and there is a story of a traveler that came through this land quite some time ago…that he insisted that what he saw was real.” Her thoughts were bouncing all over the place. “The Uqtaal people that used to live here, they worshiped Desna. They called her the Queen of the North Star. That’s what struck me about this.” She pointed to The Big Sky in the bridge.

She had my full attention now, as well as that of several of the others.

“What I remember is that they followed the north star. Even in death, they tried to follow the north star to be taken back to Desna and spend eternity with her. This traveler…wrote this story that the people here delved a nercopolis and a passage through the Wall of Heaven. It’s called The Path of Spirits. It was so their dead could find their way here. There’s an entrance we can look for…That’s got to be it.”

It was crazy. Even Koya thought it a fantastic story. But it’s not just a story, is it?

We got Ulf and Sandru and talked this over. Ulf had never heard of anything like this, but he was not exactly skeptical either. “No one goes to the west. At all. Because there is nothing there. Something like this, though…it could easily be that no one has heard of it because…no one is around to look.”

We let that sink in. It wasn’t proof, but he wasn’t ruling it out, either.

Lightning continued to flash in the distance. The storm was clearly expanding, getting closer. This would be a huge risk, taken solely—and literally—on faith.

I asked, “How would we even find it? One cave in an entire mountain range…”

According to Koya, the traveler’s story spoke of two statues, facing due north, that marked the start of the path into the mountains, and that path would lead to the passageway. It was…something. Better than something. It was enough to make a plan.

There will be enough light for Nihali to see by in a few hours. We’ll send her ahead of the caravan to search by air while we move west and search on the ground. All we’d need after that would be Desna’s blessing.

(noon, Wall of Heaven)

Nihali found it! Or we’re pretty sure she did.

We’d gone about twenty miles when I felt her coming back. There was a sense of urgency and excitement about her. A couple of minutes minute later, she landed in the covered wagon.

“There is a statue of a human, carved in rock. Not far from here.” One, not two. But it’s been hundreds of years…

“Can you lead us there?”

“Yes.”

And off she went.

The storm seems to be following us.

(evening, Path of Spirits)

There were two statues, but one had broken off at its pedestal. The one that was intact was clearly of Desna. They both faced due north and marked the start of a path that led about a quarter mile to a cave entrance in at the base of a towering cliff.

It’s a tight fit, but the caravan can manage with the wagons single-file.

This place… It may have been built by people who worshipped Desna, but something changed. The tunnel is lined with pillars decorated with star carvings, and the walls themselves bear stars and butterflies applied in faded paint. But on top of each pillar sits a skull, bleached then painted red, bolted into place. The skulls face north. Always north.

This is not Desna. Not any more. The symbology, assuming the Uqtaal clans were influenced by their Tian neighbors, is reminiscent of Fumeiyoshi, god of dishonor, envy, graves, and the undead. It’s said he murdered his brother, the moon god Tsukiyo, in a jealous rage and was punished by Yaezhing for his crime.

On a whim, I asked Suishen what he knew of Fumeiyoshi. He said, “His religion was banned in Minkai. Fumeiyoshi’s followers enjoy death and desecrating the graves of the dead.”

I don’t know what we’ll find here, but I suspect there’s a sinister explanation as to why so few have heard of this place.

Abadius 30, 4713 (morning, Path of Spirits)

We were rudely awakened in the early hours of the morning when four, headless mummies approached the caravan from the southern end of the passageway. Fortunately, I was already prepared for undead, and Ivan and I literally burned them nearly to ash, the others picking them off as they tried to escape the layers of flame.

This is just the beginning.


  1. This was an extraordinarily good roll on a perception check. 
  2. Our GM set up four of the cards in the spread, though not the positions where they would appear. The others were chosen at random. 
Character: Qatana

Qatana’s journal entry for Abadius 15 – 31, 4713

Toilday, Abadius 15, 4713 evening
Caravan, Path of Aganhei, Domagolki Forest

We were sitting around the fire, enjoying a much needed meal of roasted meat and vegetables with fresh baked bread, when Olmas suddenly stopped talking as a vacant look came over him.

“Oh, that’s much better,” quipped Timber. “Quiet,” I admonished, and watched Olmas to see what he would say next. We had seen this before whenever Suishen privately talked to him, and always Olmas reacted the same: a startled look followed by sudden silence and various facial expressions, depending upon whatever insight the intelligent sword deemed fit to impart to its bearer.

Clearly Olmas was not as used to voices speaking in his head as I, and was not adept at hiding when such conversations occurred.

“Ah, hmm,” Olmas began. “It seems that Suishen has decided we have done well enough that he is granting me access to more of his abilities. Three times a day he can make me resistant from the cold, and he can also produce flaming bursts when I hit particularly well.”

PookieWe all looked at one another, and Pookie echoed what most of us were thinking, “It’s a fine time to grant abilities that would help us on the high ice now that we have just come down from it.”

Pookie had touched upon a sore point in our party’s relationship with Suishen. Many of us had already expressed our opinions of what we would have done with the sword had we been the ones unfortunate enough to wield it.

Sunday, Abadius 20, 4713 evening
Caravan, Jaagiin

We arrived in Jaagiin at mid day, and aroused the usual looks and comments from the locals seeing a caravan coming down from the ice at the wrong time of year. We continued to stick to our fabricated story, but I wondered if it was already way too late for subterfuge.

Jaagiin is about the size of Sandpoint, and so it offered more services and variety of goods than Ul-Angorn. We planned to take advantage of this and sell some of the items we collected on the high ice.

When Ameiko announced she wanted to go shopping I said I needed to get supplies as well (true enough: we needed components for a new wand of Lesser Restoration) and would accompany her. I looked over at Shalelu and pointedly asked, “Didn’t you need to get some supplies too?” She gave me a blank look, and so I winked, adding, “You know, for the, um, thing you mentioned.” She got the point and agreed to join us, as did Olmas.

It turned out Ameiko used shopping as a euphemism for gathering information, and she was quite good at it.

We learned that news of the death of the white dragon near Iqaliat had already reached this side of the ice. While it is unusual for caravans to travel during the winter, apparently locals often make the trek via dog sled, and do so quickly.

Complaints about the unusual ferocity and frequency of winter storms were commonplace. At first we thought these were outdated reports from the ice, and our intervention at the Storm Tower had put a stop to them. But most of the storms the locals talked about were from the south, in the passes of a large mountain range directly on our route.

Jaagiin has three inns, and when we returned to the caravan later on I suggested some of us head back into town to see what we could hear at each pub.

“That’s a great idea!” Ameiko said as she reached for her lute. Uh oh. I glanced over at Kali, who’s eyes had widened and nostrils flared, but she remained silent. We decided it would be best if the entire party came along, just in case.

Nothing bad happened. Ameiko played and sang at each of the inns, and we heard a variety of local gossip, basically confirming what we had picked up earlier. All in all it was an unexpectedly uneventful evening, which would have been relaxing had we not all been on edge waiting for some form of attack.

Moonday, Abadius 21, 4713 evening
Caravan, Jaagiin

I spent most of today at the caravan working on a Wand of Lesser Restoration, while the others prepared the caravan for our trip south. We leave in the morning.

Moonday, Abadius 25, 4713 evening
Caravan, Path of Aganhei, south of Jaagiin

The days have passed uneventfully as we moved steadily south. The soft tundra has given way to firmer soils of a forested upland, and the ground has risen little higher each day.

Yesterday we passed by a cabin with smoke pouring from the chimney. The door opened and several trappers watched as we passed by. I waved, but they just stared glumly after us.

Today we came across a large pile of animal carcasses a short distance off the path. Shalelu and I investigated and found that the bodies had been badly slashed, but not as if someone butchered them for meat, but rather they did so for fun. The pile was frozen solid and I estimated they had been there at least a week. Sick.

Ivan asked for a Sending spell. Interesting. I typically only prepare Sending when I want to contact Elias in Kaer Maga, as I did after we came down from the ice. Ivan will his spell in the morning.

Toilday, Abadius 26, 4713 evening
Caravan, Path of Aganhei, south of Jaagiin

Today just after noon we climbed around the shoulder of a large hill and saw a line of white tipped jagged peaks reaching up into the blue sky before us. The mountain range is called “The Wall of Heaven” and there is one pass through it: Altan Zuud, “The Golden Pass”.

As the day progressed dark clouds crept around the peaks, reaching towards us and blotting out the sun. The temperature began to drop and the wind picked up. Not long after snow began to fall. It will be a cold and comfortless night.

Wealday, Abadius 27, 4713 evening
Caravan, Path of Aganhei, at the feet of The Wall of Heaven

The wind and cold intensified overnight, and snow was now falling thick and heavy. The caravan moved slowly toward the pass, but before the weather became too severe we stopped and set up camp for the night.

On the shrieking wind Kali and I thought we could hear a hysterical laughter that reminded me of the crazed cackling we had heard at Dead Man’s Dome.

Oathday, Abadius 28, 4713 evening
Caravan, at the feet of The Wall of Heaven

If anything the storm had become worse overnight.

We decided it was too dangerous for the caravan to move onto the pass, and so my companions and I made our way on foot to scout out the trail. After only an hour it became clear that we could not go this way.

The snow and wind kicked up to beyond blizzard conditions, and rocks small and large came crashing down around us.

Some sinister force was behind this storm, and there was no way the caravan could pass this way. I wanted to push on to find the source of the storm, but the others pointed out that the storm could be hundreds of miles in width, and we would be vulnerable the entire time we were exposed to its fury.

We returned to the caravan dejected. Ulf said the only alternate route was many miles to the east, where we would then need to find a way to cross the Gulf of Khorki, which he thought far too dangerous a course for the caravan.

The only other choices were to wait out the storm here, consuming our provisions, or return to Jaagiin to wait it out. But if this storm had been summoned to block our passage, then there would be no waiting it out.

Desperate, Kali decided to perform a Harrowing, with Koya looking on. Unfortunately the results were not obvious or helpful. Even Koya seemed unable to draw any useful conclusion from the cards.

The only action I could offer was to prepare to summon a planar ally the next day to scout out the source of the storm and report back to us its nature and location. It would be somewhat expensive, but it might be our only way forward.

We took the caravan back north a dozen miles to get out from the storm, and in the morning we will assess our options and make a decision.

Fireday, Abadius 29, 4713 morning
Caravan, at the feet of The Wall of Heaven

Some time after midnight Koya came out from her wagon in a highly agitated state. “I was given a dream about the Harrowing, and I believe I understand what it was telling us!”

“It is thought that Desna lives at the northern star, and the spirits of those faithful to her journey there to live with her for eternity after they die.”

“Legend tells that the followers of Desna in eastern lands delved a passageway through the roots of The Wall of Heaven so their souls could easily travel to be with Desna.”

“They called this tunnel the ”Path of Spirits”, and it is said that its northern exit is west of the Path of Aganhei. Nobody knows how far west, but the entrance to the cavern is flanked on either side by statues of Desna.”

Ulf was skeptical, but he admitted that “Nobody ever goes west because there’s no reason to go that way, and so I suppose there could be a way into a tunnel like Koya says.”

When the dim echo that passes for morning’s light began to dawn we broke camp and started westward. Kali has Nihali scouting ahead.

Fireday, Abadius 29, 4713 evening
Caravan, Path of Spirits

A couple of hours after mid day Nihali returned very excited: she had spotted a statue to our left not far ahead.

Presently we came upon the opening of a narrow valley with a pedestal of stone on either side. A statue of Desna perched upon one, but the other had toppled and lay in fragments on the ground.

A quarter mile south and the two ridges forming the valley came together. At their apex was the entrance to a cave.

We had little choice but to enter. The storm had been growing all day, and already we could hear the screaming of its winds among the peaks above us.

Thanks to our preparations for a winter crossing of the Crown of the World we were ready for the dark. The tunnel walls are lined with columns upon which human skulls have been set. The skulls all face north and have been crudely painted with a red daemonic face.

Kali thought the skulls were symbols of Fumioshi, the Tien god of dishonor, envy, graves and undead. They served as a warning to us to be on the alert for undead. Their spacing became further and further apart the deeper in we went.

During part of the watch Ivan had mentioned how he used Deathwatch as a long duration crude form of Detect Undead. Clever. I made a mental note to adjust my usual set of spells to better handle undead.

We set up a marching order with Sparna and Ivan leading out in front of the caravan, with me halfway between. Kali and Radella were just in front of the lead wagon, while Shalelu brought up the rear after the last wagon.

10 miles later we stopped to make camp, and after a hasty meal we set up the watch. It was then that I noticed the footprints in the dusty floor ahead of the caravan. Large humanoid prints of shod, partly shod, and unshod beings going to and fro. Takoda summed up exactly how I felt with “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” I let the others know that we were not alone.

Starday, Abadius 30, 4713 evening
Caravan, Path of Spirits

Early this morning a group of headless figures shambled toward the caravan. Sparna spotted them first and spread the alarm, and then planted himself firmly between them and us, urgosh in hand.

I moved up with Sparna and noticed that each of the creatures was surrounded by pale glowing wisps that made it difficult to see exactly where they were. I commented on this, but Sparna remained silent and still, as usual.

Olmas moved up with Suishen flaming and at the ready, and then he too became still and quiet.

“Well, what are you all waiting for?” asked Star, “Attack!”

Suddenly a circle of flame surrounded the four creatures, and a wall of fire sprang up between them and those of us on the front line. Ivan and Kali had been busy and Star squeaked out her approval.

I noticed that Sparna and Olmas had yet to move or say anything since the creatures had approached, and realized they must have been paralyzed. There was little I could do to assist, and so I flew above the flames and the headless zombies and began to channel energy.

Between the flames and the channeled energy the creatures were soon reduced to dust. A few moment later Sparna and Olmas were released from whatever force that held them.

After discussing their appearance and behavior Kali and I concluded that these creatures were some sort of mummy.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful (as it could be while traveling along an underground road beneath mountains to escape a supernatural storm) and we managed to travel 25 miles.

We did encounter several side passages, but each of them dead ended a short distance in. We also noticed that they looked natural, like fissures opening in the rock, whereas the main tunnel was smooth and obviously shaped stone.

Sunday, Abadius 31, 4713 afternoon
Caravan, Path of Spirits

We made 15 miles today when the spacing of the columns that line the tunnel became closer. Moving forward cautiously we entered what appears to be the necropolis that Koya had described when she told us of this odd path. There is a huge chasm barring our way and stretching off into the darkness to our left and right. A bridge crosses over the chasm, and towers carved from the stone walls guard either side.

We are suspicious, and the caravan has stopped before reaching the towers. We plan to head out on foot and scout the way over the chasm before leading the caravan forward.

Character: Olmas

Annals of the Order of the Dragon

as written by the cavalier Olmas Lurecia, himself.

Sunday, 6 Abadius

The undead armies of Katiana were truly defeated, and the legend of the Dead Man had grown. Despite the positive outcome of all that, we were in a hurry to put some distance behind us. We are close to both coming off the high ice, and to seeing daylight return as a regular and lengthy occurrence, and those possibilities have made us eager to move forward.

2 days ago, we determined we needed to magically complete the healing of Vancour. Waiting for nature to fix it was taking too long, and we needed our party, our passengers, and our staff all to be in good shape. Coming off the ice, we rather expected to find agents of the Five Storms to again try to thwart, mislead, or kill us; it was to our advantage to be as rested and healthy as possible, under the circumstances.

And today we saw the first signs of life in a while. There was a cabin, not far off the trail, with smoke curling from its chimney. I’d have as soon moved on – after all, our strategy has been to try not to call attention to ourselves – but Qatana was insistent on dropping in for a visit, and nobody argued with her.

Although he was one of the first to the door, Sparna later insisted it was my day to watch her, but I don’t think I’ve been tracking that closely enough. Seems like it’s always my day to watch her.

Anyway, the resident there surprised us a bit by responding to our knocking by emerging from the bottom half of a split, 4 hinged door. He was short in stature, not unlike Sparna but yet very unlike Sparna. Then I realized: Gods we’ve been away from civilization a long time. He was a halfling! and although it struck me as strange to find him here, upon reflection it was strange to find anybody at all living in the wilderness. Not that we were that far from town, but who would choose the solitude over …

Oh wait. Boy that felt weird. Mr I-don’t-fit-in-with-the-elves wondering why solitude is a blessing. I guess these days I’ve formed something of a camaraderie with, well, with the whole caravan. This is a group I feel comfortable with, and I would risk my life to rescue any of them. They each bring something different to the table, and yet I feel a bond with each.

Shalelu – I thought I knew her, but I guess I knew a side of her that is different from her “adventurer” side. She was something of a mentor before, but I see she is much more rounded than that. And it seems odd, but I daresay that the student is close to surpassing the teacher in a few ways. Odder still, she seems happy to have that happen.

Ameiko – the heir, of course, though nobody dare say that out loud. Thanks to Suishen I’ve come to know her much better than I did, say, a year ago. Not because it told me anything; heaven forbid it actually be that useful. But because of the role that possessing it has forced upon me – “Guardian of the Heir to the Throne” – Ameiko and I have been forced to have some serious talks about how we interact with each other and what our duties and responsibilities are. In that sense, I almost know her better than I know Shalelu now, and while I struggle to keep her out of harm’s way, I’m impressed with her battle skills, even after their being unused for a number of years.

But the halfling – right. Kobi is his name, and he is a guide like Ulf. There seems to be a friendly rivalry between them, and Kobi mentioned several times that were it up to him, he would not have recommended the ice in the winter. He said there were mostly humans/halflings/elves in town. We offered him a bit of lunch by way of friendly thanks, and being a halfling he politely accepted.

Wealday, 9 Abadius

It was the middle of the day when we reached Ul Angorn. Sandru informed us in a low voice that we should plan on staying overnight; while provisioning and minor repairs might be something we could accomplish in an afternoon, his crew badly needed a ‘shore leave’.

And so we found ourselves pulled to The Frozen Spike, the only place to obtain food and drink in the small town.

As expected, talk eventually turned to why we were here, now, at the worst time of year. The cover story we’d agreed upon was that Koya, our family matriarch, was dying, and wanted to see Tien Sha before she passed. It explained an urgency that otherwise transcended common sense. It seemed to make Koya vaguely uncomfortable as strangers offered their condolences and spoke to her in the same ginger manner one carries an heirloom teapot – and I’m sorry to say her discomfort played beautifully.

Stories flowed freely – the waitress confided that just over a week ago, a party of 12 lost half its membership in a winter storm. Last season, another local patron offered, there was a party attacked by a dragon. We had to bite our tongues to avoid saying, “yes, oh, I wonder if that was the one we killed?” Low key, little attention. Low key, little attention.

And then Ameiko, of all people, suggests maybe she could play a little music. A little concerned, I offered to sing with her, so that I could keep close with her even on stage. Normally that would have been passable although nowhere near virtuoso, except the cold air seemed to have affected my voice and what came out was startling even by my standards. Ameiko managed to look simultaneously amused and annoyed at my effort, while she played some very nice music. The pub gradually filled over the next half hour or so and, presumably, word spread. I gave up on the singing but did sit on the edge of the stage with her, keeping time and surveying the crowd.

She ended her piece to universal applause. I noticed during her piece that I was not the only concerned one; Qatana kept close to her as she returned to the table, and I’d noticed Ivan had slipped outside, probably to pre-filter any new patrons. Kali must have gone out there too, while Radella was inside but looking inconspicuous.

A man strode over to Ameiko and complimented her on her piece. She thanked him, and he said, “I play a bit myself, and I have a new piece I’ve been working on. I’d love for you to help critique it. I’ve got it at home.”

And I did a theatrical doubletake when Ameiko said, “I’d like that.”

What? She agreed?? As protector at the very least I’d be going along to observe. Then I caught Qatana’s eyes, which had gone beyond concern. Did she know something more? Her eyes cleared for a second, she mumbled a few words, and the stranger stopped speaking in mid sentence. I realized she must have cast Hold Person on him.

Ameiko was livid. ‘I can go where I want and I do NOT require a chaperone,” she insisted. I moved to put myself between the stranger and Ameiko, saying, “We should discuss this elsewhere.” And then things went quickly from awkward to dangerous.

Ivan burst in from outside. “She’s been charmed!” he cried. I drew Suishen. Radella appeared behind the man and softly said, “you move, you die” while swiftly disarming him. The man shook his head imperceptibly as he apparently broke the Hold, and suddenly roared as he became a purple ogre. Patrons began to scatter, tripping over each other in their eagerness to avoid adventure.

Ameiko looked uncertain, and then drew her own rapier. Radella made good on her threat and cut up the oni substantially. It looked startled and tried to go to gaseous form, but Ivan dispelled it. It was, ironically, Ameiko who dealt the killing blow to the oni, and when I reminded her in a solemn low voice that she should let her protector do that sort of thing, she threw me a hard look.

A little more magic helped mend the broken chairs and clean up the blood, and one more short concert by Ameiko helped soothe the crowd. I gave the oni’s ogre-sized great sword to the proprietor as a memento (“here’s a frozen spike for ya!”). But then the night was over, and while 20 or 30 people had a story that would likely grow in the telling, it was clearly time for us to go. We took the body, because of course we were going to Speak with Dead in the morning and after all, after a bar brawl where you skewer your 8 ft competitor, and splatter blood upon all within 10 feet, it’s only good manners to take the body with you.

Oathday, 10 Abadius

We of course invoked Speak with Dead, and asked four questions. This one was less evasive then some of our previous interviewees:

Who were you working for? The Five Winds
How did you find out we were here? Was waiting to see if you’d come
How did you get here? Travelled by magic
Did you tell others we were here? Yes

There are still a few repairs to make to the wagon, so we will stay another day.

Toilday, 15 Abadius

We were attacked today by two huge (wagon-sized) spiders from either side of the trail. I put myself between Ameiko and the nearest spider and she did not complain. Their bite was extremely venomous, Sparna verified, and even I found out they had body hairs that could be thrown like little darts and cause one to be sickened and unable to defend oneself.

We did eventually defeat them, though. Sparna was gravel injured by the venom, and while the venom did not get to me directly, the hairs sickened me and hampered my efforts to protect Ameiko. I provided, at best, a physical barrier rather than a credible threat.