The Undiscovered Country

Session 6 - Tue 2nd December
Psychological breakup…

Back at Fandolin most of the party get some well-deserved sleep. At the townhall Krom confirms that the reward for sorting out the kobold problem is 100gps. Rima talks to the farmer about the Redbrands but doesn’t get much valuable intel. Krom and Rima go to scout the area around the ruined manor and find a tunnel near the manor house leading deeper into the hill. Rima notices that they are being stalked by wolves, and calls them out. Using her animal communication ability Rima determines these are the same wolves that were freed from the Bugbears liar. Krom, not being able to communicate with the wolves, knows that the safest way to deal with such animals is to establish himself as the alpha male. He attempts to intimidate the wolves and believes he is successful, while the wolves communicate their amusement to Rima in no uncertain terms. The wolves have seen some people around the manor.

Stella – Krogen’s plain-looking sister – questions Tuakiin about the green dragon. They agree that gold is a typical desire of dragons, due to the power it gives them over humans and other races. They realize the Redbrands might’ve been keeping their spoils at the manor. Tuakiin explains he is not particularly interested in gold, but that Brond is.

Brond wakes Kai and they have a pint-downing competition with Jasmine, who wins hands down. Stella arrives to be greeted by Brond’s lewd comment “didn’t recognize you with clothes…”. Stella lunges for him but Brond easily overpowers her and quotes sarcastically “Thank you Captain Brond for saving my life, I will be eternally in your debt”. Stella responds with a head-butt. Kai and Tuakiin intervene physically. Krom and Rima arrive and suggest that the party further investigate the manor dungeon and the possible spoils that are presumably waiting to be claimed now that Glassstaff is no more. Kai shows the manor dungeon map. Stella – having spent the most time in the dungeon- explains that the chasm is the biggest challenge as it contains a particular insidious horror known as a Nothic. From what is known of it, it is humanoid in shape, a couple of heads taller than the tallest man, yet crouched. Its skin is scaly, spiny and slimy. Worst of all, it has access to the deepest recesses of one’s mind, where it probes and prods.

Stella proposes she helps the party past this obstacle, on condition of having the right to claim the contents of Glassstaff’s personal chamber. Jasmine asks if there are any nice clothes to be claimed and attempts to smooth Stella’s metaphorical feathers by saying her hair would look nice in a plait. Rima however says the party should not trust Stella as her brother attempted to murder the halfling farmer. Kai remembered that he other prisoner told them that the second entrance (the one Rima and Krom has scouted) leads directly into the chasm.
Before leaving Tuakiin asks Kai to preside at the ceremony of his swearing of the Oath of Vengeance. Jasmine drunkenly interjects and Kai finds out that the coffee drink he knows from Master Kenco in his homeland is not available here. There is a brief discussion on the outline of a business case for a coffee empire here, but it is thought that the climate may put paid to that idea. Kai does confirm that despite knowing little of the concept of vengeance, he can and will preside at Tuakiin’s oath. Krom and Rima also join them in the woods for the ceremony as witnesses.

Returning from the woods Kai tells Rima about his mission to find the Elf Banshee and tempt her with a comb, she suggests that perhaps a plan B might be for them to sing a complimentary song about her.

The party set off for the ruins of the manor. Rima calls her wolves back (Alpha, Beta and Gamma) who show Rima a trail where some people went. They also explain that they killed and ate the other naked prisoner

Session_6_map.JPG
Session_6_Krom_mini.JPG

Arriving at the ruins of the fancy manor house at midnight, Kai greases the cellar doors and the party cautiously enter. Tuakiin vaults the pit trap the party had found in their last sortie. The three sarcophagi with skeletons have been untouched since the party last were here, nevertheless Tuakiin severs their skulls and crushes them underfoot. Stella reveals a secret door to an armoury suitable to equip more than a score of soldiers (Daggers, spears, etc.).
The passage to the chasm, the north end of a large natural chasm is found. Kai detects large arcane energies, he believes this is the presence of the Nothic, which is similar to the “N’T’thek” of myth in his homeland.

Crossing the nearest bridge over the chasm, the part hear the words “Hello again Stella” within their heads, and “Krom, so scared inside”. The party quickly but cautiously cross and use the key to the rooms on the other side. “Rima, your life will be so empty without her” again echoes in the party’s minds. Rima touches her leg, seemingly for reassurance, but she couldn’t stop a tear escaping her eye.

Brond enters a room set up for alchemical experiments. A large rat, identified by Stella as Glassstaff’s familiar, is quickly dispatched. Kai again detects a general magical aura. “Found as an infant, abandoned by its parents” is heard in the mind.

The other room appears to be Glassstaff’s personal quarters. Stella, as agreed, straps the chest to her back. There doesn’t appear to be much else of value. Kai takes some interesting samples from the laboratory and two alchemy books. The final room appears to be the bugbear’s room, but there is nothing but an empty gaming table.

The party make their exit back the way they came. The Nothic steps up its mental antagonism. Kai “The child that things it’s the One”; Rima “Your lover will die”; Brond “I know your secrets”; Tuakiin “I know your heart’s desire”; Jasmine ”Your ??? will betray you”.
As the party cross back over the bridge, Krom throws a flask of oil and sets it alight, driving off the shadow of the hulking, spiky humanoid. “Your clan will die” are its parting words.

Out of the dungeon and returning to Fandolin the party believe they are out of danger. Most of them are, except Stella, who is attacked by Brond. Jasmine uses her fey presence to attempt to scare everyone and demands that Brond explains himself. Brond explains his motivation and Jasmine agrees not to intercede, provided Brond agrees to look after, and work for Jasmine as his priority from now on.
Rima and Kai try to run back to the scene, but not before Brond delivers the coup de grace on Stella.

Jasmine instructs Brond to open the chest and find out what’s so important. Brond kicks it open and a large cloud of green gas escapes. Both Jasmine and Brond retreat. Kai shouts out to ask what has happened, and Jasmine exclaims “This gas has killed Stella!”. However once closer Kai sees that Stella has clearly been stabbed. Brond offers the excuse of “A mercy killing to an afflicted victim” but Kai is less than convinced.
In the chest is gold, silver, a black stone amulet and a scroll

[To be continues next session…]

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Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em
Captain Brond's post-combat reflections

Well, that was a weird couple of days and no mistake.

It had all started when that big fucker Tuakiin set fire to the Redbrand’s pub for no reason that had ever been adequately explained. He’d been having a quiet pint in the other inn when all the commotion hauled him out for a look. Of course he dived straight in to help the big guy, and got a fucking pasting for his trouble, but when you’re a Captain you look out for your people even when they fuck up. The Redbrands all died in the town square, so job done.

At least until that fucking sheriff stuck his bony nose in. Kronen or Krogen or whatever the fuck his name was. Obviously a cunt, but Brond hadn’t lived this long in the world without learning that there are cunts you can do business with, and cunts you can’t. After the usual pushing and shoving it seemed the sheriff had finally decided to be the second kind, so off we trooped to raid the Redbrand’s HQ and rescue his little sister.

That went OK. Brond dropped a couple of the Redbrand fuckers out in the open, and took out some more once they got down into the lair. He took another pasting for the team, of course, but that’s par for the course. He even found it in him to be merciful to the Redbrand prisoner – a little lass, but pretty mean with a dagger as Brond had discovered. Still, the god-botherers in the team wanted her spared, and keeping the team together was more important than this one girl. And if he hadn’t spared her life, he wouldn’t have had the sight of her naked arse vanishing into the treeline, so everyone’s a winner.

After that, rescuing the girl was a doddle. Not that she bothered to thank Brond or anything, but hey, at least they’d reduced the Redbrands’ while maintaining their own. Not quite evening the odds, but at least tilting them back a bit.

By now, Brond was looking forward to a long sleep, a hot bath, and a bit of the old in-out-in-out with Ser Lia (not much cop on the battlefield, but so what? These posh birds are always dirty as fuck, that’s why Brond likes them). But it was not to be. The bloody wizard turned up with his three bugbears, and the best Brond could manage with the bird was a quick knee-trembler behind the stable before she fucked off back to her Baron.

By this time Brond was knackered as fuck, and there were bits of that battle that he just completely blanked on, but he definitely took out two of the damn bugbears with rapiers in the back, saving the kid Kai from a serious mauling. The kid was still pretty shook up, but a bit of paternal advice from Brond soon sorted him out. The kid’s got heart, even if he does insist on hitting things with his hands. One of these days Brond would have to explain to him why people invented swords.

Anyway, that was it. The battle was done, the wizard was dead and the sheriff had fucked off somewhere with his ungrateful sister. Time for bed.

Brond awoke refreshed and at peace with the world, but it wouldn’t last. He wasn’t half way through his breakfast pint when the sheriff’s sister barged in to the pub. For some reason, Brond’s light-hearted quip about seeing her now fully dressed set her off something fierce, and she went for him right then and there. Se was lucky that Brond did the whole officer and a gentleman bit – even when she tried to draw on him – and just put her in an armlock instead of stabbing her in the heart and getting on with his pint as he had every right to do.

Anyway, it turned out there was some bullshit with her brother and a dragon, and apparently he’d stabbed some poor cunt on his way out of town. To be honest, Brond tuned most of that stuff out. It’s not like he was going to mount a rescue mission for that prick, was it?

No, Rima’s idea of looting the Redbrand’s place with the key she’d found on one of the bugbears was a much better plan. Turned out the girl could be of some use there, or so she said. She could get us in, but she wanted all – seriously, all – of the loot from one particular room. Which would of course be the only room worth looting. As a “thank you for saving my life”, it was pretty fucking thin, and Brond wasn’t alone in that thought. Some of the party members were objecting furiously to this attempting shafting, which it obviously was, but the girl wasn’t budging. It looked like they might need to raid the HQ without her help, which could be a fatal undertaking, so Brond took the simple step of happily agreeing to whatever the girl demanded. With the full intention of stabbing her in the throat as soon as the mission was over. Come on, what did she expect to happen? If you don’t share, you’re not part of the team. And if you try to fuck the team over, you get fucked by Brond.

He shared this plan with Rima, who turned out to be fine with it as long as she wasn’t nearby when it happened. Brond could happily give her that assurance.

So anyway, they went in again and there was fuck all there, except for a great big fucking chest sitting there right slap in the middle of the room that the girl (Stella, was it? Doesn’t matter much now) had claimed for herself. She insisted on carrying the damn thing out herself, which suited Brond just fine. It’s hard to avoid being stabbed when you have a heavy load.

Another trip through the woods at night, and not a peep out of this Stella girl about maybe sharing some of the loot in gratitude for us having rescued her from a slave pen, even though it was clear to every fucker for ten miles around that she had thoroughly shafted the team. Time for Operation Stab.

Rima and Kai would normally scout ahead, and Brond sent Tuakiin up with them to spare his feelings. These godly types can be very fussy about this stuff, but Brond was sure that Tuakiin knew what the score was. Why else would he send the least stealthy member of the team up on point? But if a bit of plausible deniability would help someone with their conscience, Brond would always be happy to oblige.

The stabbing went fine – she cried out a bit, but hey ho. Jasmine seemed a bit put out by the whole thing, probably just surprised – she didn’t make any serious attempt to intervene or anything.

Beside the body on the ground was the chest. These things usually have some kind of trap on the lock, so Brond decided to cut the crap and just caved it in with his boot. Right enough, some kind of poison gas came out, but it was no big deal.

There was loads of money and stuff inside.Result. Then the rest of the team arrived. They’d obviously been running, and they looked a bit annoyed. Never mind. Brond was sure they’d calm down when he’d explained the situation to them.

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Yeah, we run running in the dark - And we run 'til we fall apart - And we run 'til the heavens above

Suggested listening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcwRv1JPWNU

As they trudged back from the chasm beneath the manor house Kai was silent. He reflected. All night he had tried to exude and engender calm and tranquillity in the hearts of his friends, after all, they couldn’t know what they had flirted with down in that darkness.

He watched as the half elf Reema strode ahead, she was almost out of his torch glow, apparently preferring to peer into the unfettered darkness on her own. He couldn’t help admire this keenness of sense, and her grace, he suspected there was a touch of the Fair Ones in her, although he was no Fae-fool, he knew the grace of the Fair Ones perfectly counter balanced a terribleness.

Not far from him strode the giant Dragon Born… Kai found he held a new found respect for him, after all he was now his oath binder. The man found his focus in vengeance… Kai had always been taught vengeance was the art of drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die. Then again, he favoured soft-form styles and the reed that bent in the wind, not the rock that stood firm against it. For all his own beliefs there must be equally valid counters, for that was the balance of things. He was keen to keep his Hun and Po (his higher and lower souls) in balance and harmony faced with an N’T’thek…

“N’T’thek sha abour” the Masters would warn novices who did not think focus and control was worth all the hard work.

Kai had never seen one, never expected to see one, he had assumed they were stories told to hormonal boys who could not keep their focus and still their minds. A beast that would prey on the darkness in ones soul and pollute the undisciplined, power obsessed, mind with madness, until they too became a, what was the Common? A Nothic. For Kai, who had dedicated his Pilgrim’s Walk to uncovering more secrets of supernatural power and adopting them in to the Arts of his people, the prospect was terrifyingly close to home.
He returned to his centred thoughts and tried not to dwell on the whispers he had heard:
found in the Faewyld and all alone, abandoned by his parents

This didn’t disturb Kai’s Zen, he had always been in the monastery, he had never known anything else. Most of the boys he knew were given to the Arts as infants, none knew a different life, Kai couldn’t miss what he’d never known, and the discipline of a novices life had never felt lacking in care and affection. The next whisper had disturbed him though, because while he was focusing past his fear, it had tickled his pride.
He thinks he’s a chosen one

It was true wasn’t it? Kai had been told few came to the monastery in the arms of the Fair Ones. That this was a sign. Wasn’t it true that Kai was not an open hand warrior, of a silent Ninja like many of his brethren, he could bend the elements to his will with his martial arts, and moreover, tap the basics of the Arcane, the Fae Powers. Didn’t this make him spe…

A scream split the night.

Kai saw Reemer pass him, her natural grace carrying her ahead, but Kai knew they couldn’t reach there in time, unless…

“Spirits of wind lend me the speed of a gale!” he cried out in Sylvan to the night! Ki energy poured from his Hun and Po into the Chakras of his lower body, and he ran. He felt the wind spirits lend him their aid. He felt like he flew as he passed Reema in a blur, calling out to the rear guard of the party – why had he left them undefended? – the N’T’thek’s doubt still plagued him.

He arrived to see a brutally stabbed Stella, Brond and Jasmine stood a good distance from the body inspecting the contents of the chest.

A mercy killing to an afflicted victim Brond said… Kai was no simpleton, and despite his tendencies of innocence, no stranger to violence, from weapons he bet the western soldier had never heard of, inddeed. This didn’t look like a mercy killing.

fire_bender_by_afrinaz-d577hu4_1_.jpg

Kai’s inner peace was gone, replaced by furious injustice! He dropped into Kiba-Dachi stance and let his anger fuel his elemental control of fire, pleased and surprised to see his Ki manifest as pure flame, preparing him to confront the first friend he had made in these lands. Thus the peace shifted, and the N’T’thek sniggered in the dark.

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Session 5 - Tuesday 25th November
In which we kick mage and bugbear ass...

6am outside the manor house where the party have just slain several Redbrands from within.
Michael Krogen and his sister are keen to get back to Fandolin, so the party head off, leaving Kai to wait observing the crossroads for anyone leaving the manor house.

Back at town Rima comforts the family of Elsie, but can gain no further info on Themendra.

Krogen and his sister slip off to the stables of a farm with a view to stealing a horse to make good their escape. When challenged by the halfling farmwoman, Krogen responds by stabbing her in the stomach, leaving her to die in front of her 10 year old son and riding off with his injured sister. Hearing the son’s cries Rima arrives in the nick of time to save the mother (using Lina En’Fallana – Song of Healing) & learning that the corrupt sheriff tried to kill her. However, karma is quick as Krogen, his sister, horse and all are snatched from the road out of Fandolin by a green dragon.

Kai spots Glassstaff and his personal retinue of 3 bugbears and so hot foots it back to Fandolin to warn the rest of the party who have by now scouted a number of defensible positions from which to rain death. Split in two fire teams they occupy the burnt out pub (Krom, Kai and Tuakiin) and Alderly Farm (Jasmine, Brond and Rima on the roof). Lia informs Brond and the party that her duties lie elsewhere and so departs, but gives her longbow to Tuakiin to aid in the coming skirmish.

The battle plan was to wait for the Glassstaff party of four to get within short range, but they are evidently wary, remaining just out of longbow range over the rise.
Kai again goes to observe and soon comes running back to the defensive positions once the enemy advance.
Glassstaff teleports directly to Brond and Jasmine where he uses an arcane charm to force them into seeing him as a friend, preventing them from taking an aggressive move towards him. Meanwhile the 3 bugbears have come within range and receive a hail of arrows from Krom, with Jasmine’s deadly aiming seeing one off this mortal coil.
Tuakiin tries an arcane command on Glassstaff to non-avail, similar Jasmine cannot charm him either. However, Krom also seems to be resisting magical effects successfully, shaking off two attempts by Glassstaff to charm and slow him.
By now the two remaining bugbears have survived the rain of fire and have closed to melee range to Kai and Brond. Brond responds by backstabbing one to death. Krom hits Glasstaff with his spear, but Glassstaff simply drinks a magical potion to regain strength. Those able to attack Glassstaff continue to do so, grinding him down. Rima repeatedly attempts to force the eponymous staff from his hand, but cannot get past it’s shielding power in the melee. She does however stir Tuakiin and Krom with her rousing battle verse.
A bugbear hits Kai for a might hit, just before Brond rapiers the bugbear from back of his head out through his eye. Sensing the end of the battle Jasmine takes a key final action: re-applying her makeup(!). Finally Krom manages to spear Glassstaff to death.

In the aftermath Brond notices that the party are largely ok, except for Kai who Brond judges has “nothing that a pint and a hand job won’t fix”.
Some loot is found on the bodies of the bugbears, and Tuakiin claims the Glassstaff itself.
A horse appears in the village, with the injured Stella (Krogen’s sister). Stella thinks that Tuakiin is the evil mage himself in dragonkind form, but Rima proves otherwise by showing Glassstaff’s severed head. Stella reported that the dragon seized her and her brother, but left to the East with Krogen only.

Meanwhile Krogen awakes, tied up, alongside with two guard drakes. A kobold appears and notes his awakening. Three large eggs sit ominously in the corner of the cell…

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To sleep, per chance, to dream.

Kai imagined he could feel the hot bugbear breath on his neck. He tried to ignore the fact the ache in his legs had become a searing pain, and his own hard-trained focus could no longer achieve mind over body and shut it out. He pleaded with the spirit of the forest to conceal his path and yield to his flight. He called to the spirit of life to infuse him once more, to just, keep, running.

He leapt, placing his hands on the burnt out windowsill before him and posting himself leg-first through the gap. He hit the floor at a skid, and for one awful moment he was sure he couldn’t will his legs to straighten. He couldn’t bare to tell his friends he was so weary even his Fae-given arcane abilities were nearly beyond him, let alone that he could hardly stand.

The fight with the Bugbears past him in a blur, he moved on instincts trained daily for over a decade, and was glad of them. When his leaden arms and legs refused to move Kai abused his Chi and hammered it into his chakras forcing his mind to move his muscles where his body would not. Yet, in the back of his mind, Kai marvelled at his own movements, he was faster now than he ever remembered being, even though he was as exhausted as he ever remembered being.

He was aware of fighting by Brond’s side. He didn’t know how to take the notion, but it felt right, the man treated him fairly and for all his quirks, felt to Kai like a leader of men. So when the fighting was done, battered as he had been by the last blow, he collapsed into the rough mans arms, he trusted the Captain, even as he surrendered to the darkness.

Kai didn’t so much sleep, as sink. The strong ale Brand insisted would fortify him seemed to have the opposite effect. He had fought several battles, channelled more Chi than he knew he had, and sprinted almost 5 miles all things considered. He didn’t so much sleep, as cease in the mortal realm for several hours.

- – -

In his dream Kai saw a lizard beast rise from the south – four saurian limbs, demonic wings and a cruel primordial head that belched flame. He didn’t know the name of this creature but it reminded him of his Paladin party member in passing. In his minds eye it attacked a young woman ridding on horseback with a devil, snatching the devil into the air… then a roar, as of a lion sounded, and with a shriek as of a bird the winged lizard was gone. In its place a serpentine dragon, flowing mane and noble bearded weaved in the winds from the east. The Dragon set down before Kai – who found himself in a field of long green grasses he hadn’t seen since home – as Dragons were want to do, this one coiled in on itself and turned into a wise Master, with flowing white moustache and fierce green eyes.

“Finally you have found a cause to test yourself young one. Finally you test your body to its limit instead of seeking shortcuts in the ways of the Fair Ones…. "

The Dragon chuckled and pointed into the distance, which now contained, although Kai would have sworn it did not before, a Halfling farm…

“What do you see?”

“a farm…”

“but what do you see?”

Kai took a moment and ventured a guess:

“A windmill”

“indeed” Hissed his draconic sensei, “Notice the sails, they are heavy and slow, but they rotate gracefully around a balanced centre, and in this way they can snatch ever mote of air and direct it’s energy to where they might… follow this Kata, when you can learn to flow around a balanced centre, you may catch the air as the windmill does”

Kai was about to object, this was an exhaustion dream and he couldn’t possibly learn the Martial Arts from watching farm equipment, but he knew better than that, when a dragon spoke, you listened.

The savage beasts they called dragons here were not the guardians of wisdom and the spirit world he knew from his home lands, but somehow he knew, something had disturbed a dragon out here in the west, and while bestial, it apparently shared some connection with its noble eastern brethren.

In the Inn Kai slept, twitching.

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Session 4 - 18 November 2014
In which rescuing an innocent girl involves a surprising amount of blood

It would be fair to say the evening could have got off to a better start.

As the flames from the burning tavern flickered in the dead eyes of the fallen Redbrands, the adventurers gathered in the town’s remaining hostelry to discuss the way forward. It seemed clear that the Redbrands would soon visit retribution on the town. But would it be better to meet them on the road, or to try to organise the villagers into some form of defensive force?

Their deliberations were rudely interrupted by a recently-ex pub landlord, who quite unreasonably blamed Tuakiin for his present predicament rather than reflecting upon the inadequacy of his own fire safety procedures. A stern talking-to from Captain Brond muted the man’s protests, but the relief would be short-lived. No sooner had Kai scurried off to see what aid the local holy woman might provide than the landlord was raising his complaints with the town sheriff.

There are those who believe that law enforcement is merely legitimised gangsterism. A meeting with Fandolin’s police officer, Michael Kronen, would do little to abuse them of that notion. Kronen seemed less concerned with justice than with preserving his own good standing with the Redbrands by offering them the adventurers’ heads. He was whipping up a fair crowd of pitchfork-wielding peasants to this end when the adventurers pushed through the crowd and confronted him. A heated exchange ensued, which only calmed down when it became clear that these townsfolk were too intimidated by Tuakiin to back Kronen up in combat.

It was resolved to restart negotiations more peacefully in the remaining inn. Kronen revealed that his relationship with the Redbrands went deeper than self-interest. The Redbrands had been keeping his sister hostage to ensure his cooperation, and their leader, evidently some kind of magician, had personally visited Kronen in the dead of the night to make his threats.

It was decided that Kronen would accompany the adventurers on a mission to attack the Redbrands, on condition that they would enable him to attempt to rescue his sister. The more idealistic members of the party were keen to do everything they could to help with this rescue, but Captain Brond was quite clear that his obligation extended no further than getting Kronen to his sister’s location.

The Redbrands were known to approach from the east road, so the adventuring party of Brond, Kai, Tuakiin, Ogmore and Kronen set off that way. Unfortunately, Kai’s forward scouting failed to pick up the path off the road that the Redbrands had been using, but when the main party spotted it they sent Ogmore after him while they set up an ambush.

It wasn’t long before two Redbrands came down this smaller path, but they were quickly cut down with missile fire, both being finished off by throat shots from Brond’s crossbow.

The skirmish over, Kai scouted ahead once more. He certainly couldn’t miss the huge ruined manor house at the end of the path, and he was able to determine that the cellar was open and in use before returning with his intelligence.

At first the party set up an ambush with snare traps, imagining that more Redbrands would emerge to look for their missing comrades, but when a couple of hours of fruitless waiting had proved this hope in vain, they decided to take a more proactive approach.

Kai went into the cellar first, with a view to luring out a few Redbrands into the ambush. Finding four of the mercenaries sleeping in bunks, he reported back. The adventurers decided to assault.

The plan to take the sleeping Redbrands by surprise went pear shaped when the creaking door woke them. Brond charged in nevertheless. He slit both arteries in one woman’s throat, bleeding her out in seconds, but his strike at her companion in the upper bunk missed and he soon found himself grappled by a semi-clad woman in unwelcome circumstances.

Kronen shot into the melee and the other adventurers piled in. The combat ended with the last Redbrand surrendering, her male comrade unconscious, the other two dead and Brond rather beaten up and in need of some of Tuakiin’s healing.

The party dragged their prisoners up to the surface, where the woman who had surrendered was only too willing to buy her life with information. She mapped the cellar, confirming that Kronen’s sister was in the slave pen, and provided the numbers and disposition of the defenders.To the adventurers’ dismay, this included three bugbears. Mindful of their encounter in the goblin caves, they decided to avoid a full on confrontation if possible, and instead to launch a quick raid to free the prisoners.

There was some heated debate over whether the party should keep their word and let the prisoner go, as Kai and Tuakiin urged, or slit her throat to be on the safe side as Kronen insisted. In the end, Brond told her to strip naked and run of into the woods, assuring her that her unconscious companion would be given the same treatment when he awoke.

Once she had gone, Kronen expressed his displeasure to Brond in no uncertain terms. Taking him aside, Brond explained that he had to keep the party together, and that this risk was a price he was willing to pay. His mercy was strictly pragmatic, however, and when Kronen surreptitiously killed the remaining prisoner Brond was content to look on.

A collapsing floor trap proved a minor obstacle, thanks to some agility and the use of some rope. The skeletons in the central chamber were spooky at this time of night, but otherwise inert. Ogmore cunningly avoided a repeat of the creaking door debacle by liberal application of lantern oil to the hinges, and the two sleeping guards in the slave pens were quickly dispatched.

Kronen picked the lock on his sister’s pen, freeing her for an emotional reunion. Ogmore released the other prisoner by the simpler method of using the dead guards’ keys, and soon the party were heading back to Fandolin. The rescue mission was complete, the enemy’s numbers had been reduced some more, and they had incomplete but still valuable intelligence on their remaining foes.

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Pride Cometh Before a Fall

Suggested listening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTwpjRu-3zY

Kai staggered and lent against a tree, he was out of breath, but he doubted it was from exhaustion, the monks would make novices carry stones uphill literally all day for weeks on end when there was a new wing to be built. He didn’t tire that easily.

No. His head hurt… so did his shoulder, ribs, and hip. Mainly because he’d bounced off of them. He considered asking the Dragon man to help him, he found his ability to will the body to heal as fascinating as his own Master’s abilities to will the body to ignore wounds. Not that he could ask of course, he’d embarrassed himself and then snapped at his fellow wilderness wanderer because… well…

“Yeah I couldn’t step on air, apparently I can only do that when I’ve got to save your life!”

His pilgrims path would lead him to manhood, but until then he could apparently still act like a teenage boy. Kai choked back tears… wisdom taught that there was nothing to be gained holding pain inside to poison one’s Hun and Po, but pride didn’t let him show weakness, anger at himself burnt in his chakras, and he took it out on the wrong people.

But I know that I was wrong, and knowing is half the battle. I am learning.

Slowly Kai let himself focus.

Breath… This is always the first lesson.

He owed his friend an apology. He would make the world without right when the world within was. He was not so badly wounded, mostly his young pride. He’s sought to show off his agility, forgetting that basement stone walls are often damp… he’d slipped, he couldn’t focus his chi in time and even though his legs and arms had made the motions the spirits of the air would not carry him, he’d nosedived into a known pit trap, but that hadn’t shamed him in front of his friends, his reaction had.

Breath… focus

Kai straightened up and closed his eyes for a moment, pressing his index fingers together. He thought back. They had done well. In the village the wise dragon had held the furious tiger in check. They had avoided a fight with themselves and focused on a common enemy. They had found a… well, and ally, in the law-keeper of the town, they had tracked the Redbrands to their camp, thinned their numbers in surprise assaults. He himself had infiltrated the enemy stronghold for he could be as quiet as a shadow and as light as the wind… although he’d have to remember that trick with the lamp oil, clever Ork!

Still that was something to be proud of… no, pride had caused his outburst, there was no place for that.

Breath… focus… centre.

He found himself confident in following Brond’s leadership. He didn’t agree with his methods, and his lifestyle was… colourful… but kai found his soul, well, he felt a solid foundation there. He had lead them to victory, he had spared a kill and gained vital info, he had let those who were not threats go. There was good in him, Kai could feel it.

And they had freed the sister! They had helped their new found ally, kept their promise to him, kai had asked “how long has she been missing, and in that time, how many times have you had five adventurers offering to die saving her with you” He was glad not be made a liar on that front. He wanted to believe he could do good with these eclectic people, more good than any of them could do on their own.

They had done good, now all they had to do was live to do more. GlassStaff was in that compound, surely his wrath would not be far off.

Kai sought to learn the arts arcane, but it disturbed his centre to hear of them used to upset the balance so darkly. Perhaps his pursuit of the arcane knowledge was flawed, perhaps it was the Pal-ah-din’s abilities to heal, not harm, that would suit his Hun greater?

Kai spun from the tree and strode back to the group, fists clenched, centred and focused. there was no more time for introspection, Now they had an evil to face, now they had friends to find, and innocents to defend.

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Ahzid krosis

Tuakiin sighed. Moonlight and glowing embers played across their golden scales. I’ve been a fool. Impetuous. Reckless. This is not the path I chose.

Vengeance. Untempered by compassion and justice, it can be a dangerous force. I have not yet taken the Oath. But if I ever hope to hold to its tenets, I need to live by them now.

Fight the Greater Evil.

My sworn enemy vanished without a trace two decades ago. What exactly am I doing in Arnest picking fights with small-time mercenaries? I’d hoped to talk to the dragon at Thundertree, but this far west a dragon would simply eat a folaaskiir like me. I’m not in Escapar any more.

No Mercy for the Wicked.

These Redbrands are no saints. They’ve terrorised this town for months. Giving myself up to them won’t sate their bloodlust, and they’re not the sort to listen to diplomacy and reason. We have a chance to rid Fandolin of their tyranny.

By Any Means Necessary.

I balked at killing that old knight. Perhaps I’d have gotten closer to the mercenaries, gained some information. They might know of someone who would travel the hundreds of leagues to Escapar for a taste of dragon gold. One old man, for a chance of finding that munax kendov who killed my mother. And now my cowardice has put a town of innocents in danger.

Restitution.

I can’t leave this town to its fate. I have a heyv to its people now. If I never find my sworn enemy, I must fight the greater evil of greed and injustice. I may die before the morning light, but to do so in the struggle against iniquity is righteous.

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Session 3 – 11th Nov 2014
Saves and Salesmanship

Krom and Orgmore had been scouting the area surrounding the Bugbear’s cavern, and had found much evidence of goblin activity, and one unfortunate goblin who was quickly dispatched. They met back up with the rest of the group (except for Chaplain Cooper who, it appeared, had returned alone to St Cuthbert’s).

With the knight Ser Lia Fletcher in need of rest after her ordeal at the hands of the Bugbear, and with no other enemies apparent in the area the group returned to Hommlet with plans to return the next day to retrieve the remaining booty. On the way Ser Lia explained that she had been dispatched on a mission from Baron Mortimer to encourage the town of Fandolin to pay their overdue taxes, and to find out what had happened to the previous tax collector.

Back at The Welcome Wench, the group confirmed their on-going board and lodging requirements with Gundigook [lifestyle choices made, e.g. Poor = 2sp each day in town to cover room and board].

Rima visited the traveling Trader who sold the group healing kits and rented the cart and pony needed to retrieve the loot. Both prices and customer service left much to be desired. Nevertheless Krom stocked up on some equipment.

After a welcome night’s rest the party returned to the cavern. No problems encountered in retrieving the crates of weapons and salt beef marked with the blue lion shield insignia.

Rima and Brond visited the fortified tower near town, Rima singing a catchy jingle as they went, while Brond provided the military endorsement. The marketing was effective, with the robed figure Master Burn (who had previously been noticed in the Welcome Wench) following them back to town. Burn noticed the lion shield insignia on the crates and expressed interest that the Lionshield Coster trading company had opened a post in Hommlet. Brond replied that this was a temporary endeavour only. Burn also asked about the manager of the Lionshield Coster in Fandolin and his wife, with Brond quickly covering that she had recently died, cutting short further conversation. Master Burn resolved to visit soon to offer his condolences. In any case Burn paid full price 15gp each for the remaining crates of salt beef (a local farmer having taken one already) and an extra 5gp in Brond’s charge to be paid to the family of the (supposedly) deceased. None of the townsfolk seemed interested in the weapons, despite some half-hearted attempts by the party to point out the possible dangers from goblins, bandits etc. So after the most choice items were taken by the party (Krom taking Tuakiin’s Scimitar which he felt was a fine piece of work) the rest were sold to the local blacksmith for scrap for 12gp.

Kai accompanied Master Burn back to his tower and asked him about the arcane symbols he had noticed him drawing with this finger on the tables of the Welcome Wench. Burn was quite modest about his ability, but did point out that he now lived in his own tower, with around a dozen staff under his command. He explained he had fought for King Samuel in the rebellion, when Baron Wheeler had got ideas above his station. He suggested his associate Mr Spugmooir staying in the inn as another source of arcane knowledge, and agreed to meet Kai later for a sherry.

Meanwhile back at the inn Brond was providing the final comfort required by Ser Lia, apparently reaching the parts that two hot baths couldn’t… The next morning the newly bunked couple were reluctantly roused by the rest of the part to set off to Fandolin with a view to investigating the Redbrand mercenaries and also completing Ser Lia’s mission of tax collecting.

It took two days to get to Fandolin. The party passed a sign to Thundertree, a Dragon’s Lair that Tuakiin had previously visited but was unable to meet the owner. During that time on the road the party also passed the occasional farmhouse, the ruins of several hamlets, and got a glimpse of the imposing Barrier. Rima muttered to Kai that he shouldn’t go near it as bad things would happen if it was touched.

Nearing Fandolin the group was set upon by bandits. Krom in the rear-guard and wary Brond were the first to react, Krom killing one bandit but being pin-cushioned by two hits in return. Brond fatally shot a second bandit in the cock, as Krom dived into cover. Another bandit fell to Krom’s bow but the final bandit escaped before the others could engage.

Arriving in Fandolin in early evening the Orcs, Tuakiin and Kai explored the surrounding area noticing the Provisions Store, the Orchard, the Miners Exchange, various farms, the Townmaster’s Hall before visiting the Shrine of Luck. At the stone Shrine Sister Griela introduced herself and was able to confirm that the Redbrands mercenaries were indeed gathering in town, having started recruiting about 6 weeks ago, and now probably at least 30 strong. Sister Griela also asked the adventurers if they would be able to retrieve for her a Spellbook of Corendell which is guarded by an Elf Banshee in the ruined town of Congbury about one day’s travel to the north of Fandolin. A Banshee’s vanity but hatred of mirrors was discussed and at Kai’s suggestion the possibility of exchanging the spellbook for a suitably elegant comb was agreed as a possible solution. Kai and Krom went to the provisions store before closing time and were indeed able to buy such a comb.

Orgmore – not in the mood for shopping – instead entered the Townmaster’s Hall to inquire about the reward notice pinned outside. The man inside was able to confirm that there was indeed a reward for killing the kobolds in and around Wyvern Tor, a couple of hours out of town. Orgmore accepted the assignment, but somehow neglected to agree the monetary value of said rewards.

Brond, Rima and Lia were already installed in The Stonehill Inn and were quickly able to ascertain that the Redbrands have somewhat of a extortionate grip on the town, charging protection money and violently crushing any dissension, as exhibited by the killing of Themendra’s husband and the disappearance of Themendra herself and her child. It was speculated that they may well have also have disposed of Baron Mortimer’s tax collector. For the last few months small groups of Redbrands have been frequenting the other pub in town, The Sleeping Giant Taphouse.

…meanwhile in The Sleeping Giant Taphouse, Tuakiin who had entered the inn alone was talking to the mercenaries who he believed could be his future employers. The mercenaries explained that they worked for Glassstaff the Mage, and they were indeed hiring. Tuakiin explained that his objective was to become further skilled in the art of killing. The mercenaries explained a trial job: Jonah had not paid his protection money so Tuakiin was asked to pay Jonah a visit to practice his murdering skills as a message to the rest of the town. Tuakiin was not taken by this proposal and pointed out that this kind of behaviour was more becoming of thugs than mercenaries. This comment was not taken well and Tuakiin decided the best course of action was to belch out a roiling gout of flame at the gathered mercenaries before exiting stage window. Unfortunately he was not able to escape further as the mob of four set upon him outside the now burning inn.

Luckily this commotion did attract the attention of some of the party members who were returning to The Stonehill Inn, about 200 feet away from The Sleeping Giant Taphouse. Kai, Orgmore and Krom rushed over while Brond alerted Lia & Rima inside the pub. Rima provided long range fire while the others rushed in. Kai’s super speed allowed him to arrive first, his fire blast killing one, and drawing attention away from Tuakiin who by now was down and bleeding having been outnumbered and overwhelmed by the professional murderers. Kai’s unprecedented channeling of Ki allowed him to jump over the attackers and administering a healing draught to Tuakiin just as he was about to fade from land of the living, only the inspiration of his comrades preventing the thread from breaking. Brond, who had also closed to melee range, had no such Ki ability, nor desire to avoid the mercenaries, and attacked with usual panache. What was not usual was the quality of this enemies, each one a trained killer wielding a sword in each hand. Brond was felled by two huge hits, but not before two more mercenaries were killed. The final mercenary turned to run but was given a taste of Orc justice by Krom who was finally close enough to skewer the enemy with his spear, the now ex-mercenary sliding gorily to the floor. Brond was stabilized while Tuakiin, rejuvenated by the potion was able to enter the burning inn to save the landlord’s children trapped within, his dragonborn hide shrugging off the flames.

With no appetite to hang around in the aftermath and risk more Redbrands turning up, the party retreated, looking to hole-up somewhere defensible for at least a short rest, some healing music and possibly overnight.

[75xp each and a short rest, location to be decided next session]

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Crouching Dragon, Hidden Healer.

Suggested Listening:

Kai the boy stood on one leg, feeling the rough grain of the wooden pole beneath his bare foot. His left elbow rested on his left raised knee and edge of his left hand was presented like a knife into the breeze, slicing it around him, not allowing it to blow him off into the river below.

“San!” Master Wei shouted, signalling the third position.

Kai hopped up, flipping the position of raised arm and leg. landing now on his right he fought not to lose his centre, and his balance!

“Excellent boys!” Wei enthused “Your nerves, your muscles, your bones, they are in harmony to keep you balanced on the poles. Balance is the key to all things… even those times when one needs to stand on a beam that life has neglected to provide. As the Fair Ones taught us, at such a time one must ask the spirits of all things to provide. Leap, and ask the spirit of the air if you may stand upon it.”

To illustrate his point Wei sprang from the bank out over the river, he stepped 3 times as if dancing up an unseen stair, and landed nimbly on an unoccupied driven pile.

“The spirits are in all things, the earth, the air, the carp. All are in harmony, in balance, in this way we may ask the spirit of air to be briefly like the spirit of earth, and tread upon it….

Focus! Breeeeath… Ki flows up from ones core and out to ones body, focus your Ki to your feet, through our Ki we touch the spirits. Focus, and step onto the air." The Master urged.

The boy Kai breathed, he focused, and he stepped!

… onto nothing, he fell, flailing, into the icy rivers below. His thoughts focused on one sure thing: no one could train themselves to do the impossible.

Kai the boy who would be a man knew what he needed to do, he did not know if he could, only that he must. His strange friend lay dying, beaten by a mob, and his friends would not die on his watch, not while he still drew breath!

Before him stood 2 men easily twice his weight and 5" his height. They knew how this went, the smaller boy, weighing a buck-fifty might have had some magic tricks earlier (hence the robes), but he didn’t get out of sword range now, alive.

Kai breathed, and stepped upon the air.

Three steps took him over his attackers head, they stood too stunned to respond. He leaped then, off the air, thanking the spirit for its support, and soared like the Red Crane, falling to earth silently behind his reptilian friend like a cherry blossom on the wind.

His hand was already in the pack tied to his staff at his back, he uncorked the healing potion with a flick of his thumb and poured the elixir down the dragonborn’s throat, willing the spirit of life not to leave him.

*

Kai opened his eyes, his meditations on the events of a few hours ago – over. He focused a while on the soothing melodies of Rima’s song. The chill of the night and the harshness of his surroundings found their way back through his meditative detachment. He rose slowly, silently, making his way to what remained of a window. Tips of his fore and index fingers pressed together before him, the boy-who-would-be-man Kai prepared to take the next watch, and asked the spirits to be his eyes and ears.

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