Category Archives: Journal Entries

Journal entries for the Jade Regent campaign

Character: Qatana

Qatana’s Journal for Calistril 2 – 20, 4713

Starday, Calistril 2, 4713 evening
Caravan, Necropolis, Path of Spirits

The yeti’s were no longer a threat and their king had given us free passage through the necropolis, but we were still stuck waiting until tomorrow. While we could fly or air walk across the chasm, the caravan oxen and wagons needed to roll across a solid surface, and with the anti-life bubble still blocking the existing bridge, we needed a couple of Wall of Stone spells to erect our own.

It was still not yet mid day, and there was talk of removing all traces of Fumioshi from the necropolis. One of our primary concerns was the mysterious magical aura surrounding the tree in the middle of the deep blue glowing pool.

“It’s based necromancy,” Ivan said, “but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it does.”

None of us could. And so we fell back to experimenting. I took Katiyana’s head, which I had recovered from the chasm earlier, and held it in the pool while Ivan looked on with Deathwatch.

Moments later a pair of shadows appeared at the tree and approached. And just as before they stopped at the water’s edge, which was exactly where the magic field ended.

We couldn’t just leave the shadows there, and so Ivan and I used force spells to slay them. Unfortunately this left us no better off than before. Did the magical field create the undead, contain them, or both? We did not want to dispel the effect only to discover it was the only thing containing any undead created here.

In the end we used Stone Shape to carve crude warnings in various languages to keep anyone else passing through here from blundering into the pool. It was not a satisfactory solution, and none of us were happy, although Beorn had one of his hysterical cackling fits during our discussion.

Sunday, Calistril 3, 4713 evening
Caravan, Southern Foothills of the Wall of Heaven

Fresh air! It will take weeks for before the caravan itself is free from the stench of the necropolis and under-tunnels, but it took only a minute or two of blinking in the bright winter sunlight to shake off the gloom from our prolonged reliance on magical light.

A pair of Wall of Stone spells this morning and I had constructed a sturdy bridge for the caravan to cross the chasm. And then some judicious use of Stone Shape to open up a rock wall and a short while later we were out in the cold clear light of day.

Ulf said we were almost sixty leagues west of the Path of Aganhei, and then another one hundred forty or so to our first town of significant size since Kalsgard, although Ordu-Aganhei was no where near as big as the former.

But I don’t care. The delightful resinous aroma of spruce and fir has replaced the sharp smell of chert and flint (not to mention dessicated mummy and unwashed yeti). Various hues of green contrast lovely with rich browns and greys, which are all perfectly illuminated by a blazing ball of yellow in a deep blue sky.

Tonight’s camp was as cheerful as it has been since we clambered up onto the high ice. Timber summed it up best as we were sitting around the camp fire with the stars shining brightly above, “I’ve missed this!”

Wealday, Calistril 6, 4713 evening
Caravan, Path of Aganhei

We’re back on the main caravan route and heading south. We’ll be losing elevation the further we go, which means warmer temperatures. Heck, just moving south means warmer weather and more daylight hours.

We passed a group of hunters, on foot and heading north. They were a dour and grim bunch and looked at us with distrust and open hostility. I suppose we must have returned the same look, but it was odd to pass by people for the first time in weeks only to huddle down and ignore them.

At least they didn’t throw anything at us.

Starday, Calistril 16, 4713 early evening
Caravan, Ordu-Aganhei

We reached the city in the late afternoon. Brightly painted wooden buildings peeked out over an encircling wooden wall, and my spirits lifted as we approached the gate.

Here Ulf reminded us that this was as far as he would travel with us. Obviously we knew that, but we had been through so much together for so long that our party will seem lacking without him.

“There is a field within the city walls for caravans, and I’ll help you get settled in before I leave.” Ulf then frowned and looked over at the iron gate ahead before adding, “Be careful in Tien. Stay on the roads. It is not just bandits that will pose a risk if you venture away from public spaces. And be careful in Ordu-Aganhei. The prince has a reputation for being cruel, although he could prove a powerful ally should he befriend you.”

And with that we arrived at the northern city gate. A sizeable guard was posted there, and the leader hailed us rudely, “Halt! Who enters our city?”

Kali replied politely. More than politely. But she was met by scorn and accusations of our party being brigands, thieves and spies. The leader then motioned for the guards to search our wagons.

Things were about to get very ugly, and Badger hissed out of warning, “People who live in a wooden city should be more courteous when greeting guests!” when an effete looking man in fine robes rushed out shouting, “Enough!”

The guards recoiled in fear, and the dandy layed down in the road before us and begged our pardon. He introduced himself as Chua, advisor to Prince Batsaikhar, most gracious ruler of Ordu-Aganhei. He then offered each of us (correction, each of us women folk) in the caravan a black rose.

Chua led us through the gate and told us that the prince had invited us to dine with him in his palace that night. We accepted warily, and led our wagons to the (empty) caravan field.

Ulf muttered, “I’ve never seen nor heard of anything like that before.”

Star was more blunt, “The whole thing stinks like the north end of a south bound yeti.”

Indeed all of my friends were grumbling and even Huffy was not happy. The whole encounter seemed staged, but to what purpose?

I took a tentative sniff of the black rose and found it totally void of scent.

Starday, Calistril 16, 4713 late evening
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

We are now guests of Prince Batsaikhar, and I have to admit that I preferred being with the yetis.

I’ve seen the prince’s type before: spoiled, over indulged brats who think only of themselves and grow up to be petty tyrants. We’ll need to tread very carefully here to avoid serious trouble, and so I am saying very little.

And then there is the matter of his ever present insincere smile. Ulf had warned us that the prince had been known to keep that smug smile even while having people executed (apparently for pleasure).

We need to get the hell out of and as far away from the city as soon as possible. Unfortunately the prince has invited us to stay for another four days. He invoked something called the “Five Feasts of Hongal,” with tonight having been the festival’s opening act.

We met for dinner in the palace’s grand ball room, along with about three hundred other diners. This might have put me at ease had we not been clearly made the guests of honor and primary excuse for the event.

My companions dressed in bright coloured clothes, but I stuck to the simple grey raiment of Groetus. To hell with the damned prince.

Dinner was inedible. It was exquisitely prepared, but dishes were bizarre animal parts that you would only eat if it were a choice between that and starving.

Dinner was followed by three different forms of entertainment, which were, um, entertaining enough, but after the performances we were asked to do repeat them, as if it were a competition. Kali, Ameiko and Sparna made a good account of themselves (Olmas less so, but he made a valiant effort), and the prince rewarded us with gifts.

[446] Short bow, composite, masterwork
[447] Efficient Quiver
[448] +1 Arrows (x10)

We’ve been given guest rooms in the palace, and are to stay here throughout the festival. And by “we” I mean Kali, Ameiko, Ivan, Koya, Radella, Olmas, Sparna and myself. The others — the caravan “staff” (as Chua called them) — were not invited: lucky them!

Sunday, Calistril 17, 4713 afternoon
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

This morning we were finally able to sell all of the excess loot we collected since leaving Kalsgard. I’ve got a lot of gold coins, and asked Sparna to add an enchantment to my flail. I did find tuning forks for casting Plane Shift to the Astral, Ethereal, Air, and Material (need to get back!) planes.

As we walked the streets of the city we did note just how clean it all was, and unexpectedly quiet. It was as if the entire town were holding its breath.

We also were able to find a suitable diamond to raise poor Bevelek, and enough diamond dust (and to spare) to perform the necessary restorations upon him and Trask.

The casting of Raise Dead was actually rather anticlimactic. I had never cast it before and was a bit nervous, but my friends helped by reminding me of the subtle elements of the spell. I had cast Restoration before, and although expensive, both applications went well. Olmas is totally back to his full abilities, although Bevelek needs another dose in a week’s time.

Sunday, Calistril 17, 4713 late evening
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

Tonight’s feast was much the same as last night’s: perfectly prepared disgusting glop. And they don’t do courses here: everything is brought out at once, and so even if you wanted to eat the stuff, half of it was cold before you could get to it.

Kali was wearing a lovely local dress, but it was considerably more revealing than what she usually wore. I looked quizzically at her, but she only returned my gaze with a half smile.

Later I learned that the prince had sent the dress to her earlier with the request that she wear it. If it had been sent to me the prince would have found himself wearing it as he danced from tabletop to tabletop.

Worse, even though our performance at story telling tonight was a joint effort, the prince saved his praise for Kali.

I do not like the way he leers at her.

Even worse still, the prince invited Kali to breakfast the next morning. This clearly upset Kali, but she graciously accepted, and we spent some time back in her room discussing our breakfast battle plans.

For one Sparna will act as her escort, and for two she will be carrying a little statuette of me so I can use Enter Image to monitor the whole affair (possibly a poor choice of words there).

Oh yes, the prince gave us another present after our performance.

[449] Horsehead fiddle, masterwork

Moonday, Calistril 18, 4713 late morning
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

“The pig touched her!” Star screamed.

“Calm down,” I tried to quiet her.

“The filthy pig touched her!” Star yelled again.

We were all upset. Breakfast with the prince, while uncomfortable for Kali, had gone fairly well… until it was time for Kali to leave. Then, as Star already stated, the filthy pig touched her.

Kali had returned to her room, and we were trying to reassure her and decide upon a proper course of action to safely extricate ourselves from the prince’s grasp.

It was not helping that Timber, Takoda and Star were running through lists of spells to cast upon the prince, while Beorn cackled with each new strategy they devised. The rest of my friends were disturbingly quiet, and I suspected had already sided with my vocal threesome.

I would be delighted if we could make it out the city with a minimum of fuss or violence, but if it gets messy I am quite certain the prince will die.

The caravan has left without us, and we will catch up to it when we can. On its own, without us, it is an uninteresting merchant’s caravan. With us in (or near) the city it is of interest to the prince, and a target if he becomes unhappy.

Moonday, Calistril 18, 4713 afternoon
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

Well things are worse. Radella spent some time inspecting our rooms and found a variety of secret doors and peep holes in the walls.

Just great. Add pervert to the list of the prince’s charms.

Starting with Kali’s room we spent some time closing the holes and wedging the secret doors so we cannot be so readily spied upon

Moonday, Calistril 18, 4713 late evening
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

Another feast of excess and another set of performances by the prince’s subjects and an answering one by us. And another yet another gift from the prince.

[450] Vials of Flaming Breath (x6)

Tomorrow night we are expected to provide the menu for the feast, and guide the palace kitchen staff in preparing it. Ameiko and I spent an hour or so coming up with a meal plan that should impress the prince and his other guests.

Kali is working on the entertainment: a production of the odd play we found in Brinewall. But she seemed distracted. The prince asked that she sit with him at tomorrow night’s feast (reason enough to be nervous), and she thinks he will propose marriage at the end of the evening.

Seriously, things just keep getting worse.

Toilday, Calistril 19, 4713 afternoon
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

Kali was wrong. The Prince did not wait until the tonight to propose: he did so during a private stroll through the palace gardens earlier today. Kali wisely did not refuse him, but made the reasonable excuse that she had to ask her parents first.

Toilday, Calistril 19, 4713 evening
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

Say what you will about the dishes the prince makes them prepare, but the palace kitchen staff is talented. Ameiko and I are quite confident that they will properly execute our menu, which will allow us to sit at the table with the rest of our companions.

Toilday, Calistril 19, 4713 late evening
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

Sparna was not at dinner. In fact Ivan has said that Sparna has left.

“What, left with the caravan?” I asked.

“No, he has left the party. He was tired of the constant danger and just wanted out,” Ivan replied.

Oh. Well crap. Now I’ll have to get someone I don’t trust to enchant my flail.

Dinner was a big hit, and Ameiko and are were both happy with the way it turned out. As an added bonus we all got to eat without risking nausea.

Kali’s production of the Brinewall play was also a big hit with Batsaikhar, but I think if Kali showed up in a burlap sack and belched to the tune of “The Sailor’s Wench is a Dolphin Prince” he would still gush over her performance.

The obligatory gift from the prince:

[451] Jeweled scabbard, radiates magic

The actors Kali arranged to be in the play appeared oddly relieved at the outcome. Apparently the prince has a habit of having anyone who does not please him executed.

The warning signs are there for us all. We need to get the hell out of here with Kali, and keep the caravan safe.

One of the actors was suspiciously interested in us and remained at our table asking to speak with us. He chanted something that caused his fellow thespians to fall asleep.

Kali cast Codespeak so we could all have a private conversation.

He said his name was Dasi, and that he was from Minkai. He knew the history of the the Minkai royal family, and that while all that remained were slain, one branch of the family fled across the Crown of the World to Varisia.

He then looked knowingly at us and said, “I hear you are from Varisia and crossed the Crown of the World in the dead of winter.”

We were all suspicious and cautious, but as he had already heard of Suishen, and recognized that this was the sword Olmas carried, Beorn boldly demanded, “Make him hold Suishen and let the sword confirm his intentions.”

Dasi held the sword for quite some time, and it was obvious they were having the same sort of conversation that often caused Olmas so much grief. And yet, in the end Suishen politely accepted him as an ally!

Wealday, Calistril 20, 4713 afternoon
Palace, Ordu-Aganhei

As agreed upon the night before I had prepared Zone of Truth for questioning Dasi this morning. In an interesting conversation we found that he knew about the branch of Minkai family that fled, and looking at Kali and Ameiko said, “If they survived any heirs would be about your age.”

There seemed little point in hiding what he already had guessed (and McLovin really thought highly of Dasi) so I asked what he would do if the heir were standing before him?

Without hesitation he answered, “I would swear my service to her.”

“Well,” I said nodding over toward Ameiko, “there she is.”

Dasi immediately dropped to a knee (“Oh no, it’s another proposal!” Timber squeaked) and to the embarrassment of Ameiko pledged his allegiance to her.

Great. Now we just need to get all of us out of here without Kali getting married or held captive by the prince. Unfortunately the best plan put forth thus far is to leave her behind and then have her use a scroll of Teleportation to get the hell out.

This has a number of serious risks, not the least of which is that the prince can keep her in a place magically sealed against dimensional travel. In fact I suspect that the moment the rest of us leave, he will drop his nice guy pretense and make a grab for her.

And as if to confirm my fears that oozing sycophant Chua showed up with a pair of guards who were to stay with Kali “for her protection.”

I hate to agree with Beorn, but I suspect “before we leave this place some people are going to die.”

Character: Olmas

Annals of the Order of the Dragon

as written by the cavalier Olmas Lurecia, himself.

Moonday, 2 Calistril

Qatana and Kali spent a lot of time trying to rededicate this area of the cavern to Desna. Kali was concerned, I think, about the miles behind us that will be left unclean, but acknowledged that we can only do so much. We did ask the yeti to remove the heads in the passageway, and the did agree, but it’s a coin toss as to whether they really understand what we’re looking for.

We looked into cleansing the tree/lake of the shadows that seem to be held there, but all we really did was end up arousing (or summoning) two more. We dispatched them for the safety of others, but were disappointed we can’t clean this part up. We added signage to warn future visitors, and of course told the yeti too.

Koya theorized that the shadows there may be souls that got trapped on their journey through the mountain. What trapped them, and how to free them if she’s right, is beyond us.

Despite our inability to cleanse the area to our satisfaction, there is a palpable eagerness for much of the party to be moving on. We’ve been in this necropolis too long for ANYONE’S comfort.

 

Toilday, 3 Calistril

Qatana helped form an alternative stone bridge over the chasm in order to bypass the anti-life field for the caravan. We proceeded uneventfully for about all of five minutes before running into the predicted stone wall. Another stoneshape spell turned that into a large doorway, and off we went.

The air smells fresher and crisper, but after several days in the necropolis among the yeti, that may not be surprising.

 

Fireday, 6 Calistril

That was it! Just three more days through the mountain and we emerged into daylight. With Katiana dispatched (again) it was a welcome experience to find nice weather and sunshine. Cold yet, of course, but I don’t think anybody cared. According to Kali, the next town of size is Ordu-Aganhei but it’s still another week or more away.

But we can breathe again, and we can hunt again, which will make our food go even farther. We have rationed ourselves well, even with our delay at the necropolis, but one never knows what the future may hold for us. I would not have believed that travelling in bitter cold, hunting for sparse game, and sitting in a wagon for hours a day with nothing else happening would be something that would make me happy, But believe it or not, it’s a step up from the last several days.

Moonday, 16 Calistril

A couple of days ago, we saw our first sign of human life, other than ours. There was what looked like a hunting party not too far off, but we waved a hello, they waved a hello, and that’s all the interaction we could spare. We are making good time, and the weather is slowly getting warmer.

Ulf says that the area we are travelling into (and in a sense, are already in) is something of a “barbarian kingdom”. Last he knew the city was ruled by a prince. He advised us to stay on the trails since despite being barbarians, perhaps, the people here are a bit territorial and not terribly fond of outsiders. He suggested we keep our business to ourselves and let Ameiko do the talking.

Not sure I’m okay with that, but I will try to keep an open mind. I asked Suishen if he might likely be recognized now that we’re over the crown of the world, and he admitted he wasn’t sure. It’s been a while.

(later)

We reached the city. “This is the gateway to Tian Xia!” proclaimed Ulf. Ordu-Aganhei boasts about 8000 people. We could see as we approached that the city had a massive 40′ tall wall surrounding it, and guards were actively moving on and around it. There were colorful, sloping roofs with peaked corners. The northern gate was equally impressive, being a 30′ tall iron door. Ulf also reminded us that his journey ends here, although he’s happy to hang out with us as long as we remain in the city. Sandru, however, said he would stay with the group. It sounds like we may continue as a caravan, just sans guide.

However, as we reached the gate, which was open, several guards blocked our way. “Halt – who comes to our city?” Kali responded that we had just come across the crown of the world, and —

“Unlikely!” sneered the guard. “In winter?”

Kali tried to explain before being interrupted again. “Where are you from?”

“Kalsgard,” she calmly replied. “Our grandmother, who is old and in the twilight of her life, wished to see the great nation of Tian Xia before she died. It’s why we risked the winter winds and -”

“You LIE,” responded one guard. Other guards started moving towards the wagons to search them.

“We will not tolerate your searching through our private belongings,” said Kali. “Is this how all visitors to your city are treated?”

“If they are lawless ruffians, yes they are!” responded one who seemed perhaps to be their captain. We had begun fingering our weapons when a voice called out from above, “Enough!” The guards all looked up, surprised. A well dressed man emerged from the entrance and the guards bowed before him. Apparently, this was the prince’s right-hand man.

“The Prince bids you welcome to our fair city,” he said, “and invites you to be his honored guests.”

Ulf quietly whispered to us that the Prince would be a powerful ally, but he also had a reputation for treachery.

On behalf of the Prince, each female in our party received a black rose. Despite being a bit macabre, this was apparently an honor here, so they each accepted graciously. The guards fell back as the advisor indicated he would take us to the prince. We were all on alert as we walked through the city, but everywhere we went we (more likely, the advisor Chua) people politely gave way and stared at the foreigners. The castle is in the middle of the city, Chua explained, and we were to be housed there as honored guests. The caravan was escorted to a safe place before we all headed for the castle. As we entered the castle grounds, we could see it was, not unexpectedly, quite ostentatious.

And still nobody had attacked us. How unusual. Life in the wild has changed me.

In a giant courtyard was a huge bed, and on the bed we approached an enormous, smiling man. “The golden one,” offered Chua by way of introduction. Chua cheerfully advised us to be extremely polite. It was apparent that honor and protocol ruled here.

The prince welcomed us warmly, ordering food and wine be brought. “Tell me your tale!” he implored in Common. Eager to show us to be other than simple ruffians, Kali replied in Hon-la, “Thank you for your hospitality.” A close observer may have noticed a slight darkening of the Prince’s face before it was again illuminated in smile.

Kali regaled him with tales of wild, almost living storms, and a fierce white dragon before pausing to catch her breath. The prince observed, “Not all dragons bring good luck! But I must hear more. I declare a holiday and we shall celebrate the Five Feasts of Hongul! You must join me for dinner this evening!”

Of course we accepted, and we were escorted to individual rooms, with individual beds and baths and various food (like fresh fruit and snacks) already available on a table. So VERY different from our life of late.

Sparna asked about making contact with a local weaponsmith; apparently he wants to know more about forging the type of weapons we see around us. Chua assured us that would be possible. (Apparently, as royal guests, very little was IMpossible.)

A few minutes before 8, we were escorted to a great dining hall – this was not to be a private affair. There were 300 people there if there was a dozen. We were provided a place of honor near the prince and the first course was brought out. It was immediately apparent that what we were having for dinner was diplomacy, because what they brought out – as a delicacy no doubt – was duck heads in some sort of pungent sauce, and chicken feet in … well, I managed to eat a polite amount.

Part of dinner was, apparently, the three games of Hongul. This involved mounted archery, bareback riding, and wrestling. After a demonstration by our host’s champions, we were invited to show our prowess. Surprisingly, Ivan nailed the mounted archery, and Sparna proved to be a future wrestling champion by winning that bout. I retrieved Kasimir but my bareback riding is limited, and I’m afraid I was not able to clear the hurdles they had set up. Rather than seeming disappointed, though, the Prince seemed to take pride in the fact that his riders held a superiority over us and he was comparatively gracious in his victory.

One thing we noticed was that every subject in the dining hall watched the Prince closely, and no matter what transpired, closely mimicked whatever the Prince’s reaction turned out to be. There is a fine line between respect and fear, sometimes.

As a result of our competition, the prince gifted us with

[446] a composite short bow
[448] 10 +1 arrows
[447] an efficient quiver

“Tomorrow,” proclaimed the Prince, “we shall celebrate the Feast of the Ancients!”

But I must say that if today’s menu foretells our dinners during this holiday, I’ll be making quite a dent in the fruit in our room.

 

Toilday, 17 Calistril

Today, during the day, we will start to sell some of the things we acquired but have no particular desire for. I’ve decided to buy the terra cotta warrior with my share of gold, and will buy the materials for Kali to make my +2 belt of strength a +4 belt. Similarly, I’m going to see about getting my +1 amulet of natural armor improved to +2. Those three items will use up most of my share, presuming the prices here are fair.

We did not want to be caught by surprise again, so we asked Chua what was involved with the Feast of the Ancients. He told us it would be a feast of storytelling.

Kali discovered in the morning that the prince had sent a dress for her to wear to dinner. She is apprehensive of this gift, as she does not relish getting too chummy with the prince, given what Ulf told us of his reputation.

(later)

It was around 5pm that we gathered to raise Bevelek. I have never seen anything like this done, and Qatana seems so unlikely a person to do it. It took an incredibly large diamond (which turned to ash during the ceremony) and maybe every one of these goes differently, but it didn’t take all that long before Bevelek was breathing before us again – weak, a bit shaken, but alive. Vankor was beside himself, and later I saw him holding a piece of parchment that had been written on an arm’s length away from his brother. “This need not be sent now, and there’s nothing to read here” he said, but Bevelek insisted on reading it first. He paused, and then looked at his brother before hugging him tightly. “I agree that they need not know,” he said before he tore it in two, then four, and finally into small pieces. I’m not quite sure what that was all about.

It was a bit before 8 when we were again escorted to the hall and served dinner. The tale that the prince’s storyteller related was, loosely translated, “why the marmot has no thumbs”. It was elegant enough, but we decided to augment our tale of how we defeated the white dragon with minor magicks and accompaniment by Ameiko, which was very well received. The prince bowed before Kali for her efforts, making her visually uncomfortable as she politely demurred and downplayed her role.

No doubt making her appear even more attractive.

We were presented with

[449] A masterwork horsehead fiddle

The food, unfortunately, was as … distinctive … as last night’s.

Tomorrow: The Feast of the Fire.

And Kali was invited to breakfast. Sparna offered to be her honor guard, and although my primary duty is to Ameiko, I really want to assist Sparna. Two armed warriors would probably be too much though, so …

 

Wealday, 18 Calistril

Chua arrived at 7am and was mildly surprised to find Kali had an escort. We explained that as an unmarried woman, in our culture she was owed an escort to any social activities. He quickly covered his surprise and escorted her to the prince’s quarters, where a sumptuous meal awaited. According to Kali, and Sparna, the prince was polite but a bit more … touchy … than Kali was comfortable with.

Again a little before 8 a servant escorted us to the dining hall and, as expected, there were displays of fire and fire control. When we were invited to show off, I took the stage with Suishen for this one, and Ivan utilized his walls of fire to great effect. Radella’s and Sparna’s weapons were lit with oil, but Suishen of course needed no such aid. The display was again roundly applauded, and the menu was typically heinous.

We were gifted, this time, with
[450] 6 vials of flaming breath

The prince’s eyes rarely left Kali, and she is visibly concerned.

Tomorrow: The Feast of Varisia – we are the chefs for this one, although we have the entire kitchen staff at our disposal to assist us. Qatana and Koya are putting their heads together. Finally! a meal I’ll be able to eat!

However, the prince’s growing interest in Kali may ultimately have us leaving hastily. We are also preparing the caravan, as innocently as we can, in case we need to leave separately and meet elsewhere, maybe outside the city.

Character: Ivan

Ivan’s Journal, Feasts should always include food

Today Sesi we arrived in in the city of Ordu-Aganhei, for some strange reason there ruler the prince wanted us to go to his palace. It is one of those places that can be nice to look at but no one should have to live there. The prince was way too happy to have us visit and I suppose at some point he is going to either try to kill us or he has some almost impossible task for us. The constant smile on his face is very creepy.

Tonight we attended the first of five nights of feasts. Tonight was the feast of three. I think you would have like the spicy ducks heads as I think the cooks got then just right. The ox forehead was a little over done for my taste, although my mother always used to make soup out of these parts of the ox. They had a turtle casserole that I guess was ok but it just seemed like it was missing something. Pigeon brains was a new and interesting food, not my favorite but not horrible. The fired chicken feet appetizer brought back found memories. The most disappointing item on the menu was the tiger, dragon and phoenix soup. Right off the bat the flavor gave away the fact that there was absolutely no dragon meat in the soup, I suspect there likely wasn’t any tiger or phoenix meat either. I thought about complaining but the serious look on Kali’s face was a clue that maybe I should just keep it to myself. I realized at the moment that it is likely that I am the only one in the room that knows what dragon meat tastes like.

The entertainment for the evening involved the royal guard performing mounted archery, wrestling and then bareback riding. The prince asked us to perform the same challenges. Sparna in that gruff voice of his intimated the heck out the other wrestler and own the match. I got up on a horse galloped toward the target while trying to get my bow ready. There were a couple of times when I thought for sure that I was going to fall of the horse but somehow I managed to keep myself on the horse. I fire at the target and was lucky enough to hit the target with two arrows and not fall off the horse. If we were asked to do it again I likely would just have Olmas do his riding thing. So Olmas and Kasimir took on the challenge of bareback riding. They didn’t have a good evening so I feel back for Olmas and Kasimir.

 

Today is the Feast of the Ancients. The Steamed hongali stone frags were very delicious, they almost melted in your mouth. They had goose stomach but at least for me they got the spices wrong and so it wasn’t as good as I expected. Fish lips with celery was I guess interesting. Solidified duck blood was ok but not really my favorite. The goat’s feet tendons in wheat noodles is something that would make a really nice meal, this would be perfect food to share with the one you love. Dunking live shrimp into alcohol was not for everyone in the party. Hey it’s just shrimp and alcohol how can that not be good.

For the entertainment portion of the even Ameiko played a lovely tune while telling the story of the battle with the white dragon. I provided the images of our battle with the white dragon while Kali did what she called interpretive dance. The prince took a notice of Kali as he invited her to breakfast.

The day of feast of fire!!! Kali with Sparna as escort had breakfast with the prince. Kali seems to have an admirer.

And onto the feast. It started with Thousand-year-old eggs which I found out was a lie, they are just 100 days old. Next I tried the Cow’s lung soaked in chili sauce but I really didn’t care for their version of chili sauce and at least the lung that I had was a little over cooked. The pig’s face was passible. The snake venom soup sounded and looked interesting but for all I know these people have eaten the venom from childhood. The deep fired bee larvae was a twist on all of the years eating larvae and I can see this being a good snack food. Lastly we get to the duck’s feet marinated in blood. These were good but I still prefer crunchy chicken feet.

For the evening quest fire. I pretty much let the others handle this one! Yea I really didn’t think you would believe that I was not evolved with fire. There was dancing on the coals, a flaming sword and urgosh display and finally a wall of fire with me standing in the middle.

Tomorrow is the feast of Honored visitors. Kali, Ameiko, and Qatana are putting together a dinner plan. Kali and the others are trying to figure the entertainment should be. My guess is the prince really wants something that evolves Kali dancing.

Character: Kali

Kali’s Journal, Calistril 18, 4713 (Kali’s Harrowing)

Calistril 18, 4713 (Ordu-Aganhei, late night)

My memory of this is still clear, but memories fade so I want to get this down before I lose it.

After talking to Radella on the walk back from dinner, I asked Ameiko if she would stay with me tonight. “I don’t want to be alone right now.”

“As if you need to even ask. I can tell you are troubled, and of course I’ll stay with you,” she said with a smile. “It would be enjoyable to have the company, anyway. These feather beds are comfortable, but after all these months of being crammed in the caravan wagons, nights alone in a room are both a luxury and a bit unfamiliar.”

I was kind of feeling just the opposite—until this morning.

“Thank you,” I said. “I don’t think anything will happen to me. Not directly, given how much he seems to value courtesy and manner, but …” I didn’t have to add that I could be coerced or manipulated, and no one would be the wiser. And of course, everyone here seems live in fear of him. Even if I am safe, the people here may not be. I could easily get someone killed, I thought. Lots of someones. I shuddered at that.

Ameiko thought about this for a moment. “I—I don’t think the Prince would kidnap you or … probably … outright force anything. He does seem to value honor and etiquette—to a fault, if you ask me—but I still don’t trust him or know how far he can be pushed before he drops the facade.”

“I need to ask. Is there anything you can do or provide that can help me? In case I have to talk my way out of trouble, or slip away if I can’t teleport. The catch is, I don’t know when it would be needed, so I can’t completely rely on spells.” This is why I was borrowing Radella’s circlet. Every little bit helped.

All she had to offer was advice. But it was good advice. “I would not outright refuse him, especially in front of others. Find a way to string him along, perhaps, until we know we can make our escape or find out what his true motives are.”

“In other words, stall,” I said.

“Yes. Stall. It’s a delicate and dangerous line to walk.” She sighed, then said, “I never imagined you would get entangled in the political intrigues of court when we started this journey. But, such are the perils of court.” Though how she knew anything on the subject was a mystery. I bounced that around in my head. Has Ameiko been holding out on me?

I’d have plenty of time to ask her later, and I snapped back to the present. Stay focused, Kali, I reminded myself. “I think I need Koya’s help on this,” I said. “I am rudderless here.”

Ameiko got Koya’s attention with a small wave and then gestured for her to join us. When she did, I explained what I intended to do. “I can manage the spell, but I still need help with interpreting the cards.”

Koya looked lost in thought briefly, then she replied, “Well, it’s not usual to combine the spell with a reading, but I think that’s because most people don’t take the time to learn both. There’s certainly no reason why you can’t do it.”

I said, “It will take me some time to memorize the spell, but I’ll start as soon as I get back to my room.”

Ameiko said, “As soon as we get back to your room. We’ll wait with you until you are ready to cast. Though I believe Radella has suggested a ladies’ night in your room tonight, so it might get a little crowded.”

The rooms weren’t far. While they got settled, I did some quick writing, then got down to memorizing the spell.

“I’m ready,” I said.

Koya came over to sit next to me. She handed my her deck (mine is not yet finished), and waited for me to start. I pulled out the nine Crown cards for the Choosing, and then I just stared at them. Are you sure you want to do this? I remember thinking. I must have been like that for a while, because I felt Koya’s hand touch mine, gently. I snapped out of the reverie, spoke the words to the spell, and drew the first card.

I was looking at a dragon. It was The Tyrant.

My heart sank and Koya sighed heavily. “That is … not a pleasant card. It indicates one who rules but who does harm to those over whom he holds sway.”

It meant my role in this was linked to the Prince. It was confirming my fears. I stared at it for a while. I’d not studied the art on this one yet. Is it … eating its own egg? I shuddered.

I shuffled the Crown cards back in the deck, and laid out the Tapestry, face down. Starting with the Past, I revealed The Eclipse, misaligned, The Snakebite, and The Rabbit Prince.

“The Eclipse. A hidden place revealed, or an unheralded ability. The necropolis? Shelyn’s gift of Hon-La?” I asked.

“Possibly. Both brought us here in some fashion. Though I have learned not to be too certain in Harrowings.”

“The Snakebite. A weapon used against us. Any of the oni or ninja could fit here.”

“Less certain is this one, but your interpretation is as good as any,” she replied.

“And … The Rabbit Prince.” A wave of dread washed over me.

“Our host is the younger brother of the Khan, is he not? This hints that he is slippery and clever as an adversary.” Well that’s just great, I thought.

It got worse on the next column, which represented the present. Much worse. I turned over the first card and immediately thought I was going to be sick. I could barely speak, but managed to croak out, “The Marriage. Oh, gods, Koya …”

“Now, child, don’t take the cards too literally; these are merely images and shadows. In this case it means that something will change in a permanent way, but what that change is we cannot be certain.”

But I couldn’t get past the literal image. It was like I was being sent a personal warning. My hand was shaking as I turned over the next card.

I wouldn’t have thought I could feel any worse, but then I was staring at The Beating. Sniffing and wiping tears away, I said out loud what I was thinking, my voice weak and hoarse. “I—I shouldn’t have done this.”

“The seasons change whether you read the cards or not,” she replied. Well, sure, but logic is a cold comfort. “In this position, though, I think it represents how you are feeling now. A dissolution of self.” That actually made sense, and the thought helped me compose myself. I nodded and moved on.

“The Unicorn, misaligned. A false friend. I think I know who this is.”

“You are probably right.”

The Tapestry

The slow approach was killing me so I turned over the cards in the last column, representing the future, in rapid succession.

Koya let out another sigh, and that feeling of being sick reasserted itself. The top right card was The Courtesan. I knew what it represented, but I just sat there shaking my head slowly in denial so she took the liberty of explaining. Maybe for Ameiko’s benefit more than mine.

“I think it’s telling you that your future requires you to continue in this role. You must navigate the politics of this place, with some peril if you slip or falter.”

I still didn’t say anything. I just sat there and stared. Koya added, “I’m sorry, child, this is a heavy burden to place on you.

“The Sickness is difficult to interpret,” she continued, though with less certainty. “It could mean the moral decay of a place, or the corruption of an individual of importance in your life.”

I waved my hand dismissively, blowing that card off. It didn’t have anything to contribute here. Honestly, I just didn’t care. But the last one …

I took a long, deep breath and said, “The Inquisitor. I can’t cheat my way out of it. I have to face it head on.”

“With the help of your friends,” Ameiko added. She’d been watching the reading quietly this whole time. “Don’t forget that.”

“Normally we only interpret a few, key cards in the Tapestry. But in this case, most of them had something to say. What is the spell telling you?” Koya asked.

I could feel its effects now, and was trying to characterize them. “I am being … encouraged … to use my wits.”

A long silence followed. I could feel them watching me. “We have to tell the others,” I said. “Any information we need to get, about the road ahead, Minkai, the Forest … We need to do it tomorrow. Just in case.”

Character: Kali

Kali’s Journal, Calistril 3 – 18, 4713

Calistril 3, 4713 (morning, Uqtaal necropolis)

We are leaving today. I can’t say that I am sorry to go, and if we could have left yesterday we would have. We never intended to come here, we certainly didn’t want to come here, and pretty much everything about this place has been horrible. Making peace with the yeti was a welcome change from how we started, but it doesn’t bring Bevelek back to life. And while the chief is grateful to us, I worry that not all of his tribe is on board with that. Katiyana may have been the catalyst, but several of them still died at our hands. I am anxious to put all of it behind us.

I spent hours and hours yesterday cleansing this place with Ivan and Koya, removing all traces of Fumiyoshi and restoring as much of the Desnan iconography as our spells could handle. Even that was unsatisfying. It feels like a job half finished, but there is just no way we are backtracking 30-some miles to remove all of those skulls. That, and no one understands, much less knows how to deal with, the pool with the tree. Other than using the specters for target practice, which I doubt was the original intent.

I am tired. I didn’t sleep well. And I hate it here.

Calistril 6, 4713 (Path of Aganhei, Wall of Heaven, evening)

We rejoined the Path of Aganhei around mid-day today after over three days of winding through the mountains. We’ve begun our descent to Ordu-Aganhei, though according to Ulf (and our maps) that is still over a week away.

We finally have pleasant weather. The sun is on a reasonable schedule, the skies are clear, and while it’s still cold we aren’t anywhere near the sub-freezing temperatures of the arctic.  I should be happy about all of this, but I’m not. I promised mom and dad that I’d check in once we got this far and I have been putting it off because I don’t know what to say to them. There’s no way for me to tell them that Bevelek’s dead without confirming their worst fears about our journey, but I can’t not tell, them, either. So, the mature adult that I am, I’ve been avoiding it.

Calistril 8, 4713 (Path of Aganhei, Wall of Heaven, evening)

Ivan has been making small repairs to the caravan using magic as we go. The wagons took quite a beating in the storms, and then again under the mountains. As we learned in Ul-Angorn we don’t want to look like we’ve been through…well, all that stuff we just went through, I guess. Of course there’s no avoiding the obvious, which is that we are coming down from the Crown in late winter. At best, people will think we have lost our minds, but with the wagons beat to the Abyss and back, we’ll look like fools who didn’t know better and are lucky to be alive.

These mountains go on for hundreds of miles inland. They call it the Wall of Heaven. The coastal range stretches from the divide between Tian Xia and the Crown all the way down to the equator. At every point it’s at least a hundred miles across—in most it’s at least twice that—with peaks towering to 30,000 feet and beyond. Except at Goka, the only port city on the west coast, at the only break in the range. It’s no coincidence that it is also one of the largest cities in the world.

It’s said that there’s a lost valley somewhere in the northern expanse of the Wall, maybe a thousand miles or so from where we are now, where the people live an idyllic life, isolated in, and by, the mountains. It’s a Nirvana on Golarion, with no rulers, no war, no evil, and no sin. It sounds like any one of a dozen other legends we have back in the Inner Sea. I don’t believe any of them, either, but who’s to say? Maybe there really is a paradise out there, and humanity is just too jaded to accept the idea that a utopia exists.

Calistril 10, 4713 (Path of Aganhei, Wall of Heaven, small hours)

I finally talked to mom and dad. It could have gone a lot worse.

“Bevelek? By the gods, Kali…what—”

I cut him off. “It was our fault. We…we made an assumption that…it was a terrible mistake. I—I don’t know how else to…”

I had to stop to wipe my eyes.

It didn’t have to happen. We could have prevented it. I…”

Another long silence. Then mom spoke.

“Do you want us to tell someone? Do you know where their family lives?”

Give us…give us a week,” I said, sniffing, and wiping my eyes dry again. “Qatana says she can…bring him back.

A much longer silence this time.

You don’t approve.

This time, dad spoke. “That is not it at all. We are just…surprised. Qatana? Your friend, Qatana. Qatana Marchand.” he asked, clearly incredulous.

“Yes.

Another long silence.

“Now I do not know what to say.”

Calistril 14, 4713 (Path of Aganhei, Hongal, evening)

We spotted a hunting party not far from the road today. They didn’t approach us, and we didn’t approach them. Ulf suggested that was for the best. He explained that the people of Hongal are suspicious of foreigners, and accept the trade route, and the travellers on it, as a kind of necessary evil. As long as we stay on the road and keep to our business, they’ll leave us alone. Stray too far from it and we’ll be trespassing, and around here that is like asking to be executed without the added burden of having to ask.

They are mostly a nomadic people; even their king lives in a sort of traveling tent city. They are famed for their horsemanship, and live in a land that is equally famous for the quality of its horses. The city we are headed for, Ordu-Aganhei, is one of only two permanent settlements in the entire nation. Unsurprisingly, the other one lies along the trade route as well, on the border with the Forest of Spirits.

Calistril 16, 4713 (Ordu-Aganhei, late afternoon)

Prince Batsaikhar, the brother of the Khan, has made us his honored guests in the palace. In less than two hours, we have gone from living like vagrants and transients—literally living off the land by our wits and skills for months—to luxury the likes of which I have not seen since Niswan. And back then, I only saw it. As the Prince’s guests, we are living in it, and I lack the words to properly describe the contrast between where we were and where we are. Less than three weeks ago, I was in a frozen wasteland isolated from humanity. Now there are servants attending to my every need, following me like a cloud of gnats.

They don’t seem eager to please so much as terrified to not. Or, perhaps more accurately, terrified of not satisfying their ruler’s demands. The Prince makes me uneasy; he’s always smiling and overly polite. I think Ulf summed it up pretty well: “The Prince can be a powerful ally, but he is also known to be ruthless. So be careful.” A point that is underscored by the severed heads adorning the walls of the city. Chua said that “they were robbers, preying on traders along the Path of Aganhei.”

Still, our situation now is something of an improvement over our arrival. Because I couldn’t keep my temper under control. Yes, the guards at the gate were not just rude, but belligerent, accusing us of everything from being smugglers to spies to assassins. When they started climbing all over the caravan like rats in search of food, I let it get to me. Challenging their authority was, perhaps, not the right decision. Fortunately, Chua intervened before weapons were drawn.

Chua is the…well, I am not really sure what he is. Perhaps a chancellor or vizier or whatever title they give here to the one who is closest to the Prince and responsible for making things happen. He interrupted the guards and extended the royal invitations to us. Naturally, I accepted on everyone’s behalf without consulting them because it didn’t seem wise to refuse or even put the matter up for debate. It was Chua that gave us our first hints of what the Prince might be like: he handed a black rose to each of the ladies in our party, and uttered some artificial and demeaning remark about the beauty of foreign women. (A black rose is, of course, a terrible insult to a Shelynite, but Nihali takes the form of a black raven and that earns me my own share of stares. So, I guess I am not in a position to complain.)

After listening to the highlights of our travels across the Ice in the dead of winter (Radella says he was bored by them, but good at hiding it) Prince Batsaikhar declared he would be hosting the Five Feasts of Hongal in our honor. So I guess our little stunt isn’t pulled very often. Arriving in mid-Calistril was something of a red-letter day.

The first dinner is in a couple of hours. I asked Chua for advice on not accidentally offending our host. He said, “Be polite. Speak your own language, because he prides himself on his expertise in Common. And use chopsticks.”

Ameiko and I will be giving everyone a crash course on the latter.

I already screwed the second one by speaking to him in Hon-La. I am not sure what Shelyn has in mind for me, but apparently it involves drawing attention to myself, good or bad.

(late night)

Dinner was, in a word, disgusting. I have a little cantrip that covers up a lot of sins, and I got plenty of use out of it tonight. Look, I pride myself on having a wide palate, OK? You can’t travel like we did when I was young without adapting to the local culture’s food. I’m not even a vegetarian for gods’ sake (I’d practically be a pariah in Vudra for that, alone). But every culture has some screwball, over-the-top, “gourmet” dish that is truly foul, and the chefs went all out to ensure that was all we ate.

It also doesn’t bode well for the next four nights: if bird brains and chicken feet aren’t off limits, then there is a lot of ground that you can cover.

To make up for the food, we were treated to cultural entertainment. It was actually pretty impressive: the Prince’s royal guards performed an exhibition of what they called the “Three Games of Hongal”: mounted archery, bareback horse racing, and wrestling. It’s pretty obvious that their reputations as horse masters has definitely been earned.

The big surprise of the night was the Prince asking us if we could do these same things. Like, literally, the same games. After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we actually put on a pretty good showing. Ivan says he got lucky, but I’ve seen him shoot and you make luck like that. Two arrows struck their target, dead center. Sparna was challenged to wrestle their champion, and he managed to pin the guy to the floor. It was a close match—I don’t know the rules of wrestling, but it was pretty obvious they were somewhat equally matched and it went back and forth a couple of times—but Sparna got the upper hand and that was that. I remember saying, quietly, “He probably just executed that guy.” Which was not intended as a joke, but rather a factual observation. Olmas, for his part, almost pulled of the horse racing with Kasimir, but Kasimir is a warhorse and I guess he just didn’t see the point of it.

Still, two out of three wasn’t bad for people who were put on the spot like that. The Prince obviously agreed and—

There was a knock at my door just now. When I answered there was no one there: just a gift box sitting in the hall. An ornate gift box tied with silk ribbons. I opened it, and inside was an absolutely stunning, Tien-style evening gown. One that is, shall we say, fairly revealing. It was accompanied by a note from Prince Batsaikhar saying, and I am quoting this, “Your exotic beauty graces his palace and will shine all the brighter in this fine gown,” signed “with his humble compliments”.

OK. I’ve been sitting here for several minutes, dumbfounded. I don’t know what to write. I can’t process this.

Calistril 17, 4713 (Ordu-Aganhei, morning)

I am pushing all thoughts about dinner tonight and that gown out of my head for now. That is the plan for today, anyway. Shalelu says she found a suitable shop where we can purchase the diamond Qatana needs to raise Bevelek, and we have all agreed to meet at roughly 5 o’clock tonight to get it done. Until then, we are going to be unloading this collection of crap we’ve been carrying since the Storm Tower and then use the money to do some shopping. It’s just the sort of distraction I need.

I did come to one decision, though: I am wearing the gown tonight. I decided it would not be in our best interest to refuse a gift from the Prince. At least, one that is, aside from the modesty (or lack of it), fairly innocuous. We need more time here, and we need to keep him on our good side if we are going to remain here as royal guests. I intend to do my part.

Last night after dinner, the Prince announced what tonight’s feast would be (The Feast of the Ancients), and as soon as Chua came to escort us back to our rooms I asked him what the entertainment would be (because we are not going to be caught off guard like that a second time).

“Theatrical performances with story-telling,” he said.

With Ameiko’s help, I think we can have that covered.

(evening)

Bevelek breathes again.

It’s hard to fathom that one among us possesses the power to raise the dead. It’s even harder to fathom that it’s a Cleric of Groetus, and harder still that she willingly used it. I mean, it seems like a contradiction, but then again so is Qatana.

Besides, she points out that Groetus is the god of the end times, not the god of death. The latter is Pharasma’s job.

Touché.

Not that Groetus has an opinion on what she’s done. Among theologians it is widely believed that Groetus does’t intend to create followers, and either doesn’t know he has them or doesn’t care. In short, Qatana has access to divine power and no one to answer to. Like wizards and sorcerers, it is immense power that comes with literally no responsibility.

Vankor was especially grateful to have his brother back. And of course Sandru and Koya were almost equally emotional. The brothers have been with Sandru’s caravan since it’s beginning.

I’ve known them nearly as long, but what I felt was quite different. I felt the weight of guilt lifting off of me. Just a bit.

(late night)

My predictions about dinner were, unfortunately, spot-on. The assault on our senses resumed with such delicacies as goose stomach, fish lips, and solidified blood. I consider not throwing up to be a major victory.

The entertainment was a play whose title translated to “Why the Marmot Doesn’t Have Thumbs”, told through shadow puppetry and accompanied by throat singing to music on the horsehead fiddle. As expected, Prince Batsaikhar asked us if we could put on a performance to match, and this time, we were ready.

Ameiko told the story of the white dragon, through music and song. Ivan and I opened her performance with a few special effects courtesy of our spells, and as she got underway I began interpretive dance, interacting with imagery from Ivan’s illusions.

The accolades we received were enough for me, but the Prince already had two things in mind. First, we were gifted one of the Hongal performers’ fiddles (and I suspect we have executed her, too). Second, he thanked us all personally, but me especially, and then he asked me to join him for breakfast in the morning. I am not really fond of the idea, but refusing the Prince in front of a couple hundred of his nobles and subjects seemed like an extraordinarily bad idea at the time. So I said yes.

Note that I said, “at the time”. As Chua was escorting us to our rooms, Olmas struck up a conversation with him, and he asked a few questions about the Prince that have me regretting that answer.

Among the stories Chua told us was this gem: “Once he stacked five people on top of one another, just to see if he could sever their heads with a single stroke of his katana. Which, of course, he did!”

“We’re they prisoners being executed or something?” Olmas asked.

“I don’t know. I suppose they might have been. But whoever they were, they weren’t important. Should that matter?”

Chua will come by at seven o’clock in the morning to take me to breakfast. Sparna volunteered to escort me.

Calistril 18, 4713 (Ordu-Aganhei, morning)

Gods, I feel sick. I’m still trembling. I managed to keep myself together until I got back here but then I started shaking and I couldn’t stop. Even Nihali couldn’t help me. I’ve calmed down since then but I can still see the tremors in my hands and my stomach won’t stop aching.

On the way out, as I was about to walk through that door, I felt him run his hands through my hair. I was not OK with that. Not in the least. I didn’t ask for it, and I didn’t want it, but I could at least ignore it.

And then his hand continued down to my back, to my skin, and I was back on that beach, with Jeffy Theern standing over me. A memory nearly eight years old, and I could feel the wind, smell the ocean air, hear the surf, and count the grains of sand against my palms.

Nihali tells me I froze for just a second. I don’t remember, and the Prince didn’t let on that anything had happened, but I have no reason to doubt her.

On the way back, I whispered to Sparna using one of my spells, and told him what happened. Told him I’m worried what the Prince might try next. Then we met with the others when it was safe to talk.

We’re getting the caravan ready to move. I can get out with magic, but the caravan can’t and if my hand is forced it could put everyone in danger.

I have no problem admitting this: I am scared.

(late night)

I am writing this hastily as the girls are waiting for me to begin. But I need to get this down while I can still hold myself together.

Tonight was the Feast of Fire. I barely remember any of it, just the part where I was, once again, asked to perform. Dancing on burning coals (under the protection of fire resistance, of course) in a not-at-all-revealing dress of fiery reds and golds. Once again, we were rewarded with gifts from the Prince. I played my part.

He announced the next two feasts. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Honored Visitors, and we are expected to help his kitchen staff prepare a traditional Varisian meal, and provide all the entertainment. Because of course we are. The last is the Feast of the Dragon, a city-wide celebration with food, music and dragon-dancing.

It struck me on the walk back to our rooms. The Feast of the Honored Visitors. None of us has been “honored” more than I have, and we won’t be dining in the palace the night after. Whatever he’s going to do, it’s going to happen tomorrow.

But just in case I am wrong, the other girls and are staying with me tonight. I don’t want to be alone.

Character: Qatana

The Raising of Bevelek

Sunset left a rose and purple glow in the western sky while overhead a deep purple spread from the east. Shadows grew longer in the city of Ordu-Aganei and brightly colored lamps were lit, reviving the vivid hues of the buildings with an entirely new dancing array of color.

In a large grassy field near the trade district the wagons of the sole caravan were circled around a central camp fire, and off to one side of the blaze a group of figures assembled in a circle.

The corpse lay atop a quilt set upon the ground. Light from the nearby flame danced across the lines of care and worry that had etched Bevelek’s face in life, giving the illusion that he was still breathing and might wake at any moment. But while Gentle Repose had ensured that Bevelek’s body remained viable, his soul had departed.

Vankor leaned in, pushing against the robed figure that knelt beside his brother, breaking her concentration.

“I need a little space,” Qatana admonished, “I have never attempted anything like this before.”

Vankor stepped back to the circle next to Sandru, who looked on with concern. The entire caravan was present, gathered around their fallen comrade while Qatana finished preparing for the casting of Raise Dead.

She took what looked like a scarf of deep green silk from her pack, on which was embroidered an arrow in silver thread, and laid it across Bevelek’s chest, with the arrow pointing toward his feet.

Pookie urgently whispered, “It’s pointing the wrong way!”

Qatana repositioned the arrow such that it pointed towards Bevelek’s head, and pulled forth a large diamond that flickered with fire in the torch light.

“What is the cloth for?” Koya asked.

“It is to remind me which way we’re trying to go with this,” Qatana replied.

Koya furrowed her brow, but thought better of responding.

Qatana began to chant, and while the others could hear her, they could not make out the words, although she did repeat the names of Bevelek and Groetus frequently. She gracefully passed her hands over the body, gently swaying in time to her chant.

The diamond turned as black as coal and then crumbled to dust.

A thin film of mist formed above Bevelek’s body and slowly encased him, like a cocoon or a spider’s webbing. It constricted tightly around his body until his face became a fiendishly grinning skull.

Vankor let out a gasp and cried out, “What the hells are you doing…”

But he was cut short by Qatana’s forceful shout: “Behold the benevolence of Groetus!”

The mist dissolved and there lay the body the same as before.

Koya knelt down before Bevelek and stared intently into his face. “He is breathing.”

A sudden fit of coughing and Bevelek sat bolt upright. “I don’t feel so well.”

Character: Olmas

Annals of the Order of the Dragon

as written by the cavalier Olmas Lurecia, himself.

Sunday, Calistril 1

It was unusual to be doing battle so early in the day.  After arguing with the yeti, and then killing a half dozen of them, and dispelling an ice storm … it was still at least two hours before lunch.  Our magic wielders found their magic moderately depleted much earlier in the day than usual, and we’d really made very little progress.  So we decided to spend much of the day resting and, for our magic wielders, recovering spells.

To ensure that we would not be surprised and they could indeed recover their spells, we were extra diligent with the guard around the caravan.  To the rear, we had a stone wall that (we hoped) the wardens would not be able to get over or around.  And then, to the yeti side of the caravan, we had the bridge with the anti-life shell over it.  But we weren’t entirely sure the yeti couldn’t bypass that.

There was a long discussion about the ghost sword we had obtained.  We now had the ability (or at least the opportunity) to banish a possessing spirit.  Should we be trying to defeat the yeti king, or exorcise him?  Sparna agreed to take it up, but as a group we were still undecided on how to proceed the next day.

In the meantime, I tried to find some common ground with the yeti.  I saw one yeti watching from behind a rock, and I wanted to show him we were harmless, so I tried standing with my sword sheathed and my arms open.  That got no reaction.  I told him to come out with open arms and we would welcome him, but of course he did not understand Common.

Shortly, however, three more yeti appeared, also taking cover.

I asked Ivan to cast continual light on a small rock, and I underhanded it towards the yeti.  The yeti looked a little nervous, but didn’t approach it.  “C’mon, pick it up” I yelled but they just looked at the rock.  I conferred with Ivan, and he cast light on a bigger, slightly-smaller-than-head sized rock. The other rock stopped glowing, and I tossed the bigger one.

The yeti disappeared, and then reappeared with an object. One tossed it to us over the chasm – it was the revenant’s head.  Clearly he was not understanding.  Sparna kicked the head into the chasm.

I threw another large glowing stone.  It was ignored.

At this point, Sparna and Ivan talked quietly for a moment and then Sparna turned and faced the yeti.  Ivan mumbled quietly and Sparna suddenly increased in size to that of a small yeti, and Kali, getting into the swing of things, created the image of an ioun stone circling his head.  With a look of anger, Sparna took the head of Katiana (I missed how THAT made it out there!) and in a split second and with a gesture from Ivan, it too was glowing.  Sparna threw the head across the chasm.

The yeti threw the head back.

Ivan cast comprehend languages and began translating for us as Sparna kicked the head into the chasm and stared hostilely at the lead yeti.  The staredown was on.

The yeti did not break gaze as he said, “Come, cowards, and meet king.”

Kali made the ioun stone circle Sparna one last time before it flung itself at the leader.  The leader dodged and called for more yeti, including “the king’s men”.  And soon, 10 or so yeti were crowding the entrance, now some with spears.  They were gesturing and shouting and the leader said, “Come now and be escorted to king for death sentence.”

Clearly this little bit of negotiation was not working, and I was tired of it.  Now that there were distance weapons (spears) on the other side, I was feeling less charitable.  So I drew my bow, nocked an arrow and hit the leader.

He was clearly surprised, but on our side, Ivan was quick to let more arrows fly and they too hit the leader.  In a twisted bit of logic, the leader threw his spear at Sparna (!) and hit him good.  Another spear missed him.  Kali cast an aqueous orb as this strange, distance battle over the chasm continued.  Both Ivan and I hit our targets again, and the leader looked to be bleeding pretty good.

After a bit of confusion the horde of yeti hastily retreated to less open positions, and no clear target presented itself anymore.  Ivan defiantly threw an obscene gesture that, I think, transcends spoken word.  Qatana healed Sparna as both Ivan and I hit with arrows one last time before the yeti disappeared entirely.

Diplomacy is harder than it looks.

(around lunch)

We heard a noise from the rear of the caravan.  Qatana flew high enough to see over the stone wall she had erected, and saw more of the headless zombies mindlessly trying to walk through the wall.  While they appeared to be in no danger of reaching us, Qatana nevertheless lit them on fire with oil until they stopped twitching their charred limbs.

That night, after dinner, Kali proposed a startling plan: she would go invisible, and fly into the throne room and see if there was evidence that the king was an oni, or evidence that the king was Katiana’s ghost.  Although it was of general consensus that we needed to deal with the yetis in order to make progress, there had been absolutely no consensus on how best to do that.  I was convinced that if we could limit the yeti to one or two at a time we could methodically slice through them.  Kali, and I think one or two others, were opposed to the needless killing of the yeti.  Frankly, I was too if I could be shown it was really needless but I saw no other way.  Sparna, bearer of the ghost sword, was willing to plunge the sword into the king if we had evidence that he was possessed instead of being a polymorphed oni or even just an angry yeti leader … but he could do much more damage with his usual weapons if there was no need to exorcise a spirit and was wary of going in under-armed.

Kali elaborated on her plan. With detect magic running, she should be able to make that determination.  We would advance to a point nearby and she could use a Message spell to communicate what she learned back to us.  We would then adjust our strategy appropriately.  It was a plan that put Kali at great risk, but it also gave us a possibility of resolving the situation without annihilating the yeti.  If the king could be made our friend, a simple command from him would save us many battles.  And even if I thought it possible to destroy all the yeti, I was by no means certain that it would not come at the cost of the lives of some of our party.

So while I believe the group was still divided on what the yeti king actually was, we did come to the agreement that Kali’s plan gave us the best chance of success.  Normally, the well-armed and buff Radella would be our choice for spy, but this mission required more magic than mere silence.

Moonday, Calistril 2

It was around 7:15am, I think, when I heard Sparna yell something across the chasm and – did I hear right? – something in the language of the yeti?  Later, he told me he’d spent much of his watch learning and practicing the language.  Astonishing.  I later asked Suishen if he could learn new languages, and with typical disdain, he responded that language was only useful in slowing down conversation and the world would be better if everyone was telepathic.  I took that as a no.

We prepared for our foray.  In addition to all the spells Kali would need, we used resist cold (I used protection from cold, from Suishen) and variants of fly or airwalk and dark vision. Kali added magic circle; if she was right and Katiana’s ghost was involved, that ward might give a possessed creature another opportunity to shake it off.

We crossed the chasm and noted there were no yeti present.  Kali added comprehend languages to her spells and took off. We needed to give her 30-60 seconds to get there first and communicate back to us.  I told Suishen to turn the flame on.

We quickly reached the other anti-life shell, and two yeti – I think at least one was one we’d hit yesterday – silently glowered at us from the other side.  With the assistance of Ivan, I took another glowing rock and tossed it over to them.  They were unimpressed. Apparently somebody had updated them on the fact that not everything glowed was fire.  Sparna announced, “Let us pass, and will spare your lives”.

Surprisingly, the yeti replied, “Ok”.  And they each stood off to one side.  This soooo smelled like a trap, but this was the plan.  We flew or walked over the anti-life sphere, as appropriate, and proceeded to the throne room.  Although there were many yeti there – probably more than a dozen – they just stood and stared at us. Qatana announced there was a magical aura over the whole room.

And no king.  Sparna pointed this out: “Where is your king???”  Qatana cast invisibility purge – cleverly missing Kali – as one of the yeti moved down off a ledge and announced, “King? You want king?  ATTACK!”  And the battle we’d hoped to avoid began – including a lightning bolt directed at me.  Wait, lightning??

The mayhem had barely begun when another yeti emerged from a stone wall. Really.  Judging from the others’ reactions that had to be the king.  Kali, who saw the lightning and already knew what the king looked like from previous scrying, realized this really might be Katiana and that this was her chance. Kali flew over the king and put him within the influence of her magic circle.  It had some of the desired effect, as the king cried out, “Stop fighting! Evil spirit … help me defeat evil spirit!”

The yeti stopped, but were very uncertain.

Sparna stepped up and explained before he swung that he must hit the king with the magic sword to expel the spirit.  The king agreed, as Kali reached down and applied a magic circle directly to the king.

The sword hit, but the king was still fighting possession and Katiana was still shooting lightning.

Sparna hit again and this time, Katiana’s ghost emerged from the king, cackling as though it was all her idea.  With her flying, and incorporeal, only we could defeat this enemy now.  There was dispel magic, and there were magic missiles, and there were force beings, and there was, of course, Suishen and flames and shrieking (from Katiana).  She summoned a lightning elemental, but just as quickly Ivan made it go back.  It was Radella that had the killing blow – or at least so we believe since it seems we killed Katiana once before – and the room was finally silent for a bit.

Now the real diplomacy began, as praise was heaped on each party, and gifts exchanged: the king gave us the ioun stone, and we gave him a magic breastplate. Backs were slapped, hands were shaken, and promises were made.  We told the king that the revenant was dead and he was pleased.  We told him the shadows were gone and he was pleased.

[445] ioun stone of Alertness (dark blue)

The king spoke Common, thankfully, but that also meant I got to hear the exchange between the king and Qatana about how Pookie was responsible for his being freed.  It’s a tortuous story, but the next party coming through the caverns will likely find yeti-art resembling a warrior mouse-yeti.  And Qatana will be insufferable for a week.

The King, whose name was Bormurg, also, of course, gave us free passage through his realm, but commented that only a few minutes away the road ended in a blank wall.  He was confident his powerful new friends would figure out how to pass through the wall however.

Character: Kali

Kali’s Journal, Calistril 1 – 2, 4713

Calistril 1, 4713 (Uqtaal Necropolis, evening)

The counter-attack I was expecting never materialized, though we did get the next best thing, I suppose: several yeti emerged from the pool room and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the cavern, forming a living wall between us and the necropolis. Why did they take a defensive position instead of making an assault? I don’t know, but I can speculate: they didn’t want to fight us on our terms. A theme that has emerged with them is “come see our king”, followed by some variation of “so he can kill you”. And if we were to be surrounded by yeti deep in their territory I have no doubt that they could follow through on that.

Obviously, they plan to ambush us when and if we do as they ask. We figured that one out even before they explicitly said so. They are not very subtle, nor are they particularly skilled at intrigue,

According to the others, the yeti just stood there watching us. After a while, Sparna and Ivan got bored and started a ridiculous pissing contest with them. It began with tossing pebbles at each other and then escalated to whatever was on hand, including the revenant’s corpse and Katiyana’s head. Because of course it did.

I think Sparna was trying to intimidate them into leaving, or going to get their chief, or something. Whatever his intention, this was making them agitated. I wasn’t sure this was the best use of our time or resources—we were supposed to be resting, healing, and planning, not starting another fight—but I didn’t want to be accused of not being a team player again. So I participated in the silly game until it stopped being silly. That would be when Olmas actually took a shot at one of them, burying an arrow in a yeti’s chest.

For all Olmas’s and Sparna’s talk about a discipline and order, it all comes down to the pot and the kettle both being black. I may have my moments of immaturity, but at least I don’t shoot people because I am bored and out of ideas. Desna was with us, however, and the yeti retreated before anyone died. On either side. Yours truly may have had some influence over that.

I was not in a good mood. I am still not. My wonderful theory about the Yeti chief? I couldn’t convince anyone at all, and after talking to Koya I was beginning to doubt it myself. It took the wind out of my sails.

It all came down to what the yeti meant by “two moons ago”. She suggested that the spirits they worship may be connected to the moon, or that they might find the moon sacred in some fashion. How they count days is still a mystery, but the suspicion was that their chief ventures outside from time to time for whatever passes as worship or ritual.

This is where the idea that the chief was not possessed, but rather replaced, started to take root. The Five Storms knew, more or less, where we were and where we were headed. It would not be unreasonable for there to be oni waiting for us at the pass. Faced with the same storm, said oni might have turned to the Path of Spirits as we did, only from the Tian Xia side where he or she encountered the chief. We know an ogre mage can assume a human form, but there’s no reason to believe that it must be strictly human. They could just as easily take the form of a large humanoid, like, oh, say, a yeti.

An oni in the chief’s place would be just as reasonable, if not more likely, than my theory of Katiyana’s ghost. It all makes perfect sense.

Except it doesn’t explain the storm, and there is this big hole in the logic. I get that the others believe this oni theory. I get that they want to believe it. But we all heard that voice on the wind. We all saw the storm expand behind us as if it were following us. That, and Sithhud and the Five Storms working together just does not make sense. How would they even make such an agreement? How would that even work? What bargain could they possibly make with one another? Demonic beings working together is a stretch on its own, especially when they don’t have common goals.

So I wasn’t ready to give up yet. And I made a proposal: that we test the theories.

They think I am out of my mind. They … may be right. What I suggested we do—that I do—is unbelievably dangerous and bordering on suicidal. It is an idea even worse than my plan for the white dragon.

“I can fly in under invisibility, and use a spell to mask my scent. The wand will give me the ability to see in the dark. I’ll have a protective spell up that will prevent mental control over me. And I’ll use another spell that will let us exchange whispered messages, if needed. I can get in to the chief’s throne room completely undetected.”

To what purpose? To find the yeti chief, and see what spells, if any, were on or around him. I would be able to tell the difference between mental control and shapeshifting. It would give us valuable information.

Sparna didn’t like it. Neither did Olmas. What if I was discovered? What if I was hurt? I’d be surrounded, with no real hope of rescue. I could be facing the chief, who is able to cast spells, and the entire yeti tribe. The objections kept coming.

“I can always teleport away. That’s my escape plan.” And it was a pretty good one, too. It was enough to get them to agree to it.

The problem, of course, is that it wasn’t foolproof. Meet a yeti’s gaze, and I might be overcome by the magical fear it instills in you. Alone and paralyzed, I would not be able to do anything except fall to the ground. I didn’t point this out. Because they’d never let me do it if they knew it could fail. But “certain” can be an impossible standard. You could waste your entire life waiting for “certain”. That, and, I am not some gods-be-damned fragile child! I wasn’t then, and I sure as hell am not now.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to do this. I mean, I do, but I don’t. But the thing is, I don’t want us to have to kill every living thing here in order for us to leave (am I the only one?). This may be our best shot at that.

Calistril 2, 4713 (Uqtaal Necropolis, morning)

Nothing happened over night. I was worried they’d come after us while most of us were asleep, but it seems they are confident we’ll come to them eventually. Where they assume they’ll have the upper hand. They are right about the first part; the second remains to be seen.

I am more than a little nervous. One unpleasant side effect of these rings is that you have lots of time at night to fret and worry. I spent what felt like hours thinking of all the ways this plan could go wrong and what to do about it, which was nowhere near as productive or helpful as it sounds. I used to be able to break these mental loops through meditation, but…that was a long time ago.

We’ll stay together until we reach the anti-life shell inside the necropolis. Then I am on my own. The plan is for them to give me time to enter the throne room, then they’ll launch a raid to provide a distraction while I figure out what, if anything, has happened to the chief. I’ll have very little time to do this. If l screw it up, if I am discovered, or if our theories are just outright wrong, then we’ll be completely surrounded and fighting the entire Yeti tribe.

Please, Shelyn, let this work.

(afternoon)

I am still in shock. It worked. It worked! My muscles still ache, I was so tense, but it worked and it’s over.

Panic almost set in when I reached the chief’s throne room and he wasn’t there. I knew what he looked like because I had seen him before, and there was no sign of him at all. But, if we was invisible or shapeshifted or hiding through magic, it was only a matter of time before I found him.

The yeti knew we were coming and were waiting in absolute silence, and the tension in the air was palpable. It was unnerving how quiet it was; I couldn’t so much as whisper without giving myself away and that meant that I couldn’t warn the others; couldn’t tell them I needed just a little more time. The yeti didn’t know I was there, and I was not about to lose that advantage or make myself a target.

In the end it didn’t matter. I was still sweeping the room when the others came in, and though I didn’t see how the chief emerged, or where from, I saw the first spell go off and then I knew. I knew it was Katiyana. She’d used that lightning strike on us before, and the chief was using it now. What were the odds? And then Olmas called out where he was and I saw him.

The start of the skirmish was enough noise to cover me, and I messaged to the others that I was sure it was Katiyana, and flew to the yeti chief’s position, still under the cover of invisibility. I stopped directly above him, letting the protective ward that was surrounding me envelop him. And then chaos followed.

The chief stumbled backwards, almost falling over, then cried out “Stop fight! Stop fight! Bad spirit! Friends, if you help me!” He was struggling against something. Katiyana was in there, fighting to regain control. As long as the ward was up she couldn’t do it.

I reached down and put a similar protective spell directly on him, so he wouldn’t be dependent on me. Sparna had the nine-ring sword out, and was trying to exorcise her spirit. “This sword can force her out,” he said, “but I have to strike you with it.” The chief consented, and said “It’s trying! It can’t take me! I give you magic rock if get rid of bad, bad spirit.”

Lightning was still striking around us. That spell she cast was still active, and it took only her will to unleash it.

Sparna struck, but to no avail.

“Oh!” the chief cried out as the blow landed. “It’s hanging on!”

Spells were going off everywhere, now, to protect Sparna from lightning, to dispel the protections Katiyana had cast.

Sparna struck again, and this time it worked. Katiyana’s ghost was flung out from the yeti’s body. Then more spells went off as we tried to take her down. I fired missiles of pure force, and two spiritual entities of force appeared next to her and attacked. Some of these bounced off her harmlessly, and some struck true. Then a lightning elemental materialized and came to her aid, but just as quickly it was banished from the material plane. I lost track of what was happening, and then Radella struck her spirit down.

She cried out something about being the Avatar of Sithhud, and then she was gone.

And it was over.

The yeti chief or king—I am still not sure which is correct—was true to his word. He thanked us for what we had done, for expelling the spirit that had forced him to confront us. It was a welcome, though awkward, truce. Several yeti were dead. Bevelek was dead. It was not his fault or ours, but that knowledge doesn’t undo what had happened.

It’s some 700 or 800 miles to Ordu-Aganhei. It will be two weeks before we can raise Bevelek. But at least we’ll be moving again.

We won’t be able to leave until tomorrow morning—it will take a few spells we don’t normally prepare to get across the chasm and out of the Necropolis—so I’m going to spend some time with Koya and see if we can’t remove the stain of Fumiyoshi from this place. The necropolis was originally built to venerate Desna, after all. We shouldn’t leave it like this.

Character: Qatana

Qatana’s Journal for Calistril 1st and 2nd

Fireday, Calistril 1, 4713 evening

Caravan, Necropolis, Path of Spirits

This has been a bizarre day, even by our standards.

After returning to the caravan area Kali, Koya, Radella and I gathered in the eastern tower of the necropolis to see what we could dig up about yetis in general and what length of time a “moon” would mean to creatures that lived underground.

We had a small collection of books and scrolls, and each of us grabbed a stack and began to sift through them.

In the meantime Sparna, Ivan and Olmas had been irritating the yetis that had been sent to watch us.

They started with a single yeti peeking around the corner. After some posturing by Olmas and an arrow shot over its head courtesy of Ivan, the single yeti scout became four yeti warriors armed with spears.

By the time the rest of us were done with our research (it turns out a “moon” means a month to a yeti, just as it does for everyone else), the yeti were grunting and stomping about mightily while Ivan and Olmas snickered, and (I kid you not) the barest hint of a smile had formed on Sparna’s lips.

We joined in on the fun, hoping to provoke the yetis in an attack on us here, where we held a defensible position.

Ivan cast Enlarge Person on Sparna at the same time Kali created an image of an ioun stone circling his head. I pulled out Katiyana’s severed head (the rest of her body is still inside one of our bags of holding, naked as the day she was born, or hatched, or however beings like that come into the world) and used Light to make it glow.

Sparna took the head and threw it across the chasm at the lead yeti’s feet.

They seemed nonplussed by this turn of events, which was disappointing considering the effort we had put into the show.

The big lug simply kicked the head into the chasm, where it landed at the bottom with a squishy thud.

“Cowardly children people! Come meet king now and die bravely.”

With that Kali sent the image of the ioun stone flying over their heads, which elicited an unexpected response. “Witch stone! Go get king’s men. They are attacking.”

At last, we managed to spur them into attacking us.

The “king’s men” arrived, and while they looked a little bigger than the other yetis and were armed with spears, they did little more than gesture at us.

Things began to look hopeful when Olmas and Ivan shot several arrows into the lead yeti, and Kali scooped up another in an Aqueous Orb, but rather than advance the attack, the yetis simply retreated — one bleeding from multiple arrow wounds and the other crawling away on all fours like a wet dog.

“Well that was boring,” Timber unhelpfully added. “Nobody died, or lost a limb… or even bladder control.”

We kept a wary eye on the tunnel through which the yetis had fled, but did not return. I strolled over to the back of the caravan and climbed atop the rear wagon to peer over the wall.

Half a dozen of the headless mummies were bumping against a wall. They seemed unable to climb over and we were probably safe, but the damned things gave me the creeps. Several flasks of oil later and they had been reduced to charred piles of smoking bone and sizzling mummy goo.

Starday, Calistril 2, 4713 early morning
Caravan, Necropolis, Path of Spirits

It’s morning, but of course as dark as usual, except for the glow from our magical light sources. They cast a harsh bright light that tinges toward blue, which when combined with the azure glow from the lake cavern have finally set me on edge. Any sort of sky would be a welcome sight: even one agitated by storms.

We plan to assault the yeti king and his forces this morning, and spent much of last night making plans. Two hours after midnight I cast Nightmare on the yeti king in the hope that it would make him less a formidable foe today.

Obviously we do not think it is the actual yeti king causing this trouble. Most of think he has been replaced by a shape shifting oni, although Kali has an alternate theory that somehow Katiyana is behind it.

This morning’s plan is a compromise (as are most): Kali will become invisible and use additional spells to both improve her perception and prevent others from perceiving her. She will fly through the back caverns and enter the king’s throne room via a side passage. The rest of us, with various forms of Fly or Airwalk spells active, will approach from the main passage, crossing up and over the anti-life shell.

The intent is that Kali will scout out what the king is up to before we arrive, and communicate that through a Message spell to the rest of us so we can best plan the attack.

Sparna is wielding the ghost touch ring sword we took from the shadow room yesterday, just in case Kali’s theory proves correct. Likewise Kali and I have prepared various Protection from Evil spells, but I think that we’re going to find purple ogre behind all of this.

Starday, Calistril 2, 4713 late morning
Caravan, Necropolis, Path of Spirits

“And then king Bormurg said, ”Hail Pookie” and ordered his artists to paint a portrait of me!”

It was at least the fifth time she had told the tale. Most of us were tired of hearing it, but even a gentle, “We know Pook, we were all there,” did little to curb her enthusiasm for regaling us with what was (in her mind) the highlight of the morning’s events. Star and Timber were already making rude gestures behind her back, but Beorn had been egging her on just to annoy the others.

Things kind of did not go according to plan (again).

Kali infiltrated the throne room undetected, but there was no king.

We flew over the anti-life barrier and after a short discussion with the guard (with the usual topic: “You come to die.”) we entered the chamber. No King.

Even more unexpected was the reaction from king’s followers: they just stood there and stared at us. Creepy.

There was some sort of magical area affect in the room, which I pointed out to my companions. We were moving about with various detection spells or skills active when the yeti king stepped out from a wall and his guards hurled spears at us.

A bolt of lightening arced down from the cavern ceiling and struck Olmas. I created a Spiritual Ally that struck at the king, but even though it hit, it appeared to have done no damage at all.

“What the hell?!” Star demanded. “Language,” I reminded her for she had not used the word ”hell”. But I shared her dismay and confusion. The barbed devil was a thing of pure force, and it was typically effective against anything.

Sparna moved down next to the king and was bashed by his guards.

Playing on her hunch, Kali flew down beside the king and cast Magic Circle Against Evil.

The king staggered back and shouted, “Stop fight! Bad spirit try to control king!” His guards looked confused, but they obeyed. The king looked at Sparna and said, “You help get rid of spirit, I give you my magic rock.”

Sparna grinned and said, “I will help, but this may hurt a bit.” as he struck the yeti with the spirit sword.

A shimmering incorporeal form erupted from the king’s side as a gale force wind of snow and ice filled the chamber, followed by a familiar cackling laugh.

It was Katiyana!

“You fools cannot kill me, I am now the avatar of Sithude. The storm never dies!” She gloated as she flew about the room.

The yeti king called upon his people to attack her, but there was nothing they could do against such an enemy.

Ivan and I both cast Dispel Magic upon her, and we saw a pair of defensive auras around her flicker and wink out.

Katiyana shrieked and summoned a very large lightening elemental, but she had failed to notice that most of us were also flying, and able to close in on her.

Radella gutted her like a fish as my barbed devil and the others closed in.

She shrieked, “No! I am the Voice of Sithude! I cannot die.” just before she perished.

The storm vanished and relative calm returned. The king walked over to his throne and sat down. “My new friends, come to me.”

We gathered around and he proclaimed, “We now friends, you and yeti people. I grant you free passage.” and he pointed to a ramp leading up and out. He then gifted us the ioun stone that had been circling his head, which Sparna accepted.

We thanked him for his gift, and gave him a breast plate in turn, which made him happy.

I chatted with him for some time after that, and discovered that the ramp led up to a large cave, but the cave was blocked by a wall of stone.

“It take yetis but a few minutes to walk there. We think wall was put there to block others from using the tunnel, but I think it not stop my new powerful friends.”

I thanked him for the information, and passed on good wishes from Star and Pookie, leaving out Badger’s quip that “If the yetis’ butts smell any worse than there breaths they need only bend over to send their foes fleeing.”

All in all he was quite taken by Pookie (she is a rather charismatic mouse) and really did commission a painting of her (in yeti form) to be added to his walls.

The king was happy to hear that we had slain the revenant near the lake (“My people tired of killing it.”) and gave us that his name was Bormurg.

With such pleasantries over with and done, we returned to the caravan. Tomorrow, with multiple spells of Wall of Stone prepared we will be able to leave this place, and I hope exit the tunnels not long after.

[445] ioun stone of Alertness (as the feat): a dark blue rhomboi
Character: Olmas

Annals of the Order of the Dragon

as written by the cavalier Olmas Lurecia, himself.

Starday, Abadius 31

Everyone was affected by Bevelek’s death, but we also realized that we were not yet safe. We asked ourselves (and answered, mostly from Kali) what we may know about yeti.

1) They can climb.
2) What we’ve seen so far is normal behavior.
3) They are well-adapted to the cold; in fact, they radiate cold themselves.
4) They emit a fear effect of some sort which can cause one to hesitate for a period of time.
5) They have no trouble seeing in the dark.
6) They have no particular weakness, except maybe fire.
7) They may have a language, called aklo?

So while the yetis could not cross the anti-life shell on the bridge, they were good climbers and might have another way to reach us. Heaven knows we’ve made some assumptions before that we were wrong about. So we spent more time than usual setting up our watch to make sure any attack would be promptly noticed, and notice quickly given.

Around 11pm, Qatana saw a yeti on top of the shelter that Kali had conjured up, but it just sat there and watched us as she watched it.

 

Sunday, Calistril 1

Around 3am, Nehali flew up and looked behind the shelter. There was nothing there.

Around 5am, everyone was rested and up. Qatana used stone shape to create a ten foot high wall behind us – hopefully that will stop the headless miscreants from coming up behind us again.

It was around 6:20am when Suishen gave me airwalk, and the others used their various methods to cross the chasm into the necropolis. There were no yeti waiting for us on the other side.

We carefully made our way to the ornate door in the “tree” room. The revenant’s body still lay silent on the ground where it fell the last time we killed it. Qatana cast hide from undead on us, and Ivan did a hand-plant to his forehead.

“Just a minute,” he said, and ran off back in the direction of the caravan. He returned shortly, explaining he’d just cast the same on the folks in the caravan.

Radella, inspecting the door for traps, immediately noted that the door was gilded, or mostly so. It was obvious that some of the gild had been scraped off, though. Ivan did a detect poison on the door, and the two of them concluded that the door had once been both locked and trapped, but no longer was either. The door opened towards us, and bore a demonic, tusked skull face on the door.

Inside there was a flickering firelight illuminating the room and corridor. A large shadow began to materialize; more undead. It approached Radella and took a swipe, noticeably weakening her. I had Suishen turn on its flame. But then from behind us came a deafening scream. The revenant arose, and made a beeline to the shadow. He started to hack at the shadow, but his efforts seemed ineffectual.

“Force weapons” yelled somebody. Sparna called upon his spiritual ally, but it missed. I had no such force option but held Suishen at ready as I looked for an opening. A lantern archon appeared, courtesy of Kali, but also missed the shadow. Ivan hit it with some arrows, but the damage looked small. Qatana’s spiritual ally thumped the shadow pretty good; then the shadow made a point of giving me an opening by approaching me and taking a swipe. I felt a bit weaker but swung hard with Suishen. The sword and the flame hit solidly and the shadow evaporated in fading black wisps.

At the same time, the revenant dropped to the ground and lay motionless, its reason for life gone.

We paused a second before Qatana, of course, stepped toward the body, and I swear I heard her say “third time’s the charm!” For the first time, she successfully picked up

[434] rapier +1
[435] cloak of elvenkind
[436] goggles of minute seeing
[437] MW thieves tools
47 platinum pieces
a backpack
[438] 200-300gp worth of scraped gold leaf

This appeared to be another “converted” room. There were red demonic faces on the walls; certainly not a Desna design. The center of the room was dark, but a skeleton with a mask was lying on a blue stone there. Here there was

[439] crystal lamp with a continual flame
[440] ghost armor +1 (breast plate)
– can cast death watch 3/day
– automatic protect from evil 1/day when attacked by undead
[441] ghost touch sword with nine rings +1
– use 1 ring – undead bane for 1 min
– use 2 rings – attempt to banish a possessing spirit (DC17)
– use 3 rings – destroy an undead creature
sword recharges at 1 ring/wk
[442] 8 matching bracelets
[443] 8 matching rings
[444] mask, gold w/jade eyes

Outside, in the “tree” room, Ivan and I both used our airwalk to walk up to the ceiling and see why it seemed to sparkle with starlight. Turns out it was just reflective flakes in the rock.

It was 8am now, and we had decided to head in to the yeti. I asked Suishen to give me protection from cold.

We passed through the catacombs and continued north. I could see ahead there were two yeti with their hands held palm out towards us. Clearly they understood the symbol for Stop 🙂

Kali, at this point, cast a special spell that would allow her to create and then use a special language with the yeti; at least that’s what I think she said. Qatana was included in the magic, and they did indeed seem to have some sort of conversation with the yeti. Kali told us that the King had said we were not to pass. He foretold one or two moons ago that strangers in wagons would appear and now here we were. In fact, we must be killed, also per order of the King. The King is very smart, and has a glowing rock flying around his head. We were assured, however, that we would be killed honorably.

During this conversation, many in our group received resist cold. I wonder what may them so nervous …

It was pretty clear that talking was not going to solve this problem. In fact, the conversation suggested a party may have already been dispatched to “greet” us. Reluctantly we retreated to the “tree” room again. Kali used a magical shelter to block one entrance to the room and we waited. It wasn’t too long before, sure enough, yeti started to appear.

During the course of the battle, several of us were momentarily struck by fear, but never enough at once that there wasn’t at least one fighter available to defend us. Additionally, Qatana cast both confusion and aura of madness at one point, and this caused the yetis to start attacking each other. Ivan created a wall of fire that made them very uncomfortable. I think all the fighters eventually got a killing blow on a yeti, and even one of the yetis got a killing blow on a yeti 🙂

But then it got weird. As the last yetis ran off, injured, Kali ran after them! Qatana threw a look of, sure, why not? and ran after her too! I looked at Sparna, and he looked at me and we shared a look that said, “I suppose we need to go protect them.” As we approached, a giant sleet storm enveloped them both. We each heaved a sigh and prepared to move in when, just as quickly, it disappeared: we found out later that Qatana had successfully dispelled it.

Now Kali created 4 smallish fire elementals and sent them into the yeti passages. What? This seemed like a good time to retreat, having driven them off, but it seemed we were moving forward with an attack. Yet Kali seemed to be telling us to fall back. Having intentionally introduced confusion, were we not now going to attack? Sparna and I were ready to move forward and make the most of this advantage, but moving forward, we found nothing to fight. If we continued to move farther, we would be even more separated and nothing good comes from that.

“Hear anything?” I said softly to Sparna. He shook his head no.

Confused, we headed back, and then the group as a whole moved back to the caravan to regain spells and decide on a strategy.