The Undiscovered Country

Pratical advise for the jobbing minon
A friends of the Ogres Union leaflet

Welcome to the friends of the Ogres Union. Your membership has may perks including up to date advice. Please find unclosed practical advise for the jobbing minion.

1. NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY
2. Practise basic fire safety, it is a small thing but removing combustible material and/or avoiding fire spells could be the difference between returning to your favourite watering hole and retuning to a smouldering heep.
3. Beware of mounts and pack animals, while valuable assets they are very unreliable. Current scientific research has shown horses can be ten times more explosive than dynamite.
4. NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY, but if you can not prevent, it make sure you stick with the healer.
5. Invest in a strong pair of fire proof gloves and avoid touching anything with your bare hands, while its good to grab loot and get your fair share, its best to avoid being the first creature to open or touch something.
6. The best way to ensure your share is to offer to carry the loot.
7. Do not annoy Dragons or attract their attention.
8. Ensure you have some advanced payment, there is a high chance they will not live to pay you at the end of the adventure.

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Only Forever

The druids had finally stopped shouting at her….again….finally. She had held herself together throughout, not one betraying emotion escaping, like a good Elf. At least she couldn’t be berated for that. Before they could caveat their dismissal of her she was gone, not to her home or anywhere they’d have sent her, but back into the forest.

As soon as she was into the trees her strolling gait became a run, the action releasing her tears from where they were dammed. She ran. Ran until she was far from the Elven settlement. Ran until she reached a grassy bank where she dropped to the ground and buried her face in her arms. Exactly when the grass beneath her arms became fabric, she wasn’t sure, only noticing when a hand began gently stroking her hair. Looking up, it didn’t matter her vision was blurry from crying, she instantly recognised the figure sat before her. Her arms now rested atop his thighs where the grassy bank had so recently been. She sniffed back her distress, as he continued caressing her hair.

“Little one”, he soothed. “I’m here. You’re safe with me!”

She tried to speak, to tell him what had happened, but words would not form while the memories still burnt across her mind. He looked deep into her glistening eyes.

“They’re angry, because they’re afraid of you,” he explained. “You’re not like the rest of them. Your family, the druids – none of them understand you. Not like I do”.

He continued, not releasing her from his searching gaze, “I know their words sting you – the reprimands for not being what they want you to be, the rejection by your family, the taunts about your differences…the punishments when you disappear to answer my call.” His voice melted “I am with you then and always. Not like them!”

“They would pass you from pillar to post, trying to amend your nature.” he muttered irritably. “But I won’t have it. You are mine. You will travel a different path than the one they would have you take. All you have to do is trust in me!”

A blink, his, and she felt calm sweeping through her mind. He wiped the tears from her young face. “Now, lets see if I can’t teach you something wonderful to do with those remarkable eyes!”

Behind her heels, a grassy mound grew from the earth into the shape of a small seat. She couldn’t help but sit on it, her hands steadying her balance. Taking her chin in one hand, he once again stared into her molten silver eyes.

“Now my child, I shall show you a trick, but you must use it sparingly,” he explained slowly. As she gazed into his eyes they changed, the colours swirled, his pupils twisting and changing shape until they were overwhelmed by a strange glow…almost like they were being lit from behind. She gasped at the beauty of them, rapt with attention and devotion. “You try. Concentrate your thoughts on how to get your way, push that energy out so it radiates from you like a torch…..yes – like that.”

The child imagined what it would be like to be wanted, to have people do as she asked, and no longer yelled at, to be free. The silver in her eyes began to slowly swirl, her pupils vanishing as if drowned. A faint glow emanated from her, much less powerful than his, but there none the less. She felt strong….but suddenly very tired. A flicker of her eyelids and the effect was gone. Before she could topple from her seat, a warm strong arm enveloped her, reviving her spirits.

“Good. A little practice and you will be able to command others to your will.” he promised silkily, with a kiss to her forehead. He pulled her close to his side and whispered, “They will make you feel lonely, but you won’t be, for I will be with you, even in your dreams….forever!”

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The Teachings of Bais Lai

The cold only began to bite as his meditations ended, frost clung to the stubble that belied how long he had sat in lotus position, that, and the ache in his knees.

Once, he would have faced a day’s trek to the sacred spaces directly below. These days, he had a more direct route… stepping into the frigid void Kai fell. As the winds howled around him, whipping his yellow/orange robes about his body and face he brought a closed fist up across his body, 2 fingers, raised together passed through each of his chakras, drawing his Ki up from his center to his limbs. Through his Ki he reached out to the spirits of air, ceasing to fall and instead taking six graceful steps on the very wind itself. As he reached the ground he reached out to the stone and asked it to accept him gently as a visitor on their lands. They acquiesced.

The young man, for he was truly now a man, touched down with a thud in a closed kneel, one fist supporting him, the other arm extended out two fingers upturned to where he had fallen from.

It was warm on the lower slopes, he felt himself begin to thaw. The air was spiced with cherry blossom, indeed his direct descent had caused quite the swirl of petals to mark his arrival. They parted all the more suddenly as the young man called the mountain winds to his aid as he made all haste to the library caverns of the lower complex.

Kai arrived at a flat sprint, skidding to a halt that sent up a miniature eddy of dust. Master Kuàijì coughed and spluttered his way through it as he sought to be civil:

“Young Master Kai, What brings you back to the Libraries? There was a time in your youth I couldn’t keep you away, but I haven’t seen you this way in years. Some said you had joined Brother Kenco in seeking Mercantilism as a path to enlightenment?”

“No! I have been speaking with the Shunryu. He had a warning for brothers and masters alike! I must see the Foretelling scrolls of Grand Master Yosoku!”

Kai pushed past the master once again accelerating at the speed of the east wind.

With a resounding boom of ancient wood on ancient wood, and a accompanying clang of weathered iron on the same, the huge doors before him swung shut.

“Those stacks are sealed from all but Grand Masters, Master Kai you know this…”

The young man is for a moment humbled, he looks down, turns his head to look over his right shoulder at the older master, nods a bow. Then stamps his right foot down. The earth responds to his focused Ki, it rises up around the older Master’s feet and ankles, shackling him in the rock of the mountain side. It won’t hold for long.

Snapping his head back left to face the barrier to what he seeks, he also snaps his hands around, thrusting them outstretched toward the huge door palm-heels together, fingers outspread. Now it is the wind that answers his call, a howling gale thunders past the trapped Master and threatens to knock Kai over as it hammers open the ancient doors.

The youth flees inside. Moments later the older man is free and perseus.

Inside the cavern the light is subdued, the air is still and dry (this is why this place was chosen). Kai’s incursion into it with the east wind at his back stirs centuries of dust, ruffles pages of codexis, rattles scrolls in tubes. He passes the majority of the stacks but has to pause when he gets beyond the generally permitted shelves. Strictly speaking no knowledge is off limits here, but…

“You go to far Kai, you are not ready to read the foretellings!” Master Kuàijì confronts him from the end of a row.

He sits down into Neko no shisei, ready to challenge Kai in one of the elemental forms he has never truly mastered. In response Kai drops into Uma no shisei, his Ki burning on his fist and feet.

Kai stabs the air with a punch from his waist that emits a bolt of burning ki when it hammers into its apex. He follows up with his left leg, flicked round in a deadly arch from left to right, turning the fighter around and lashing off a second bolt of fiery ki.

Kuàijì sighs, and steps back, once, twice, each step accompanied by a sweeping wave of his arms, first one meets fire, then the other, each sweep pulling water from the air to wrieth his arms and extinguish the attacks. There is a hiss of steam.

“Really Kai, fire in the great library?”

“My apologies Master, I forget myself” Kai sags into a submissive bow.

At this the older man charges.

“So. You. Do!”

It is Kuàijì’s turn to be carried by the winds as he saws across the space between the stacks, left leg out in a fearsome Hikō kikku.

Kai flinches, left arm, out middle fingers pressed to thumb, the others extended skyward. Around his hand a golden inverted pentacle burns, surrounded by a binding circle, described in Tensar annotation script, from which radiates a golden arcanic energy plane. The Masters kick strikes the wholey not Ki force barrier, the resulting Thaumic discharge leaves him panting on the ground.

“So you learned all that you threatened to on your Pilgrims Walk, young master sorcerer? He spits venomously.

“No, but I learned some, and it is not incompatible with The Arts. Now if you will sit still a while wise Master, I need to do a little reading…

Kai rolled the scroll closed with more force than a three thousand year old document deserved. It rattled as he rammed it back in the rocky chamber from whence it had come.

“And they will carry amongst them a darkness amongst the ‘ones of hope’ that will stand in the way of the forces from the north, and from the far west, and so the middle-west is doomed by the forces enshadowed”

Kai spas back at the older Master that stood at the other side of his golden enconjured barrier.

He lets it drop. The master is smiling.

“And the Middle-west means so much to you, doesn’t it? Because they use magic, instead of Ki there?”

“No! The Middle West means much to me because I have friends there! I… had… friends there! They have an evil in their midsts, and I know what it is, there is a little man with them, he is from the far-west, he invests his power, his ki, his soul maybe, into the bodies of the blessed ancestors and plucks their rest to serve him unquestioning, He defiles the ancestors and courts hungry ghosts. He is the enemy in their midsts!”

Kuàijì thinks for a moment, then crosses the gap to the young master without fear of further assault, but at that moment the doors to the library are darkened by the last figure either man would expect to see here.

He throws his knee-length grey beard over his shoulder

“And what do you believe the Spring Dragon told you master Kai?”

Kai is prostrate on the ground, as is the older Master, for they are in the presence of the Saikō

“It told me there was a hidden evil amongst the people of hope that currently fight for the middle-west as named in the foretelling scrolls! I know that evil, it is a magi who seeks to power of the dead and would use it to poison the Hun and Po of the living and the dead around him….”

He would go on but Saikō holds up a hand

“You read the words, but you do not hear young Master. These were the teachings of the Spring Courts to our people when the Winter Courts preyed and feed upon we, mortal kind… “

“These warnings concern themselves only with the four courts. The Spring Court taught us to defend ourselves against the aggression of the Winter Queen, but foreseeing scrolls warn us against more than the motivations of one court. The courts have remained quiet for decades, they have grown tired of us, we can defend ourselves.”

He strokes his long grey eyebrows into place

“The courts do move in the middle-west, their motives are shady, but the Spring Court continues to protect us in the far-east”

“Then I must warn them!” the young man unintentionally shouts at the old Highest Master.

He starts by trying to describe a portal in the air, but when that doesn’t work he assumes a stance and through ritual punches attempts to make a hole in space and time.

“Kai, my son” Kuàijì voices, approaching the lad, putting an arm around his shoulders.

“It is a shame this revelation came to you now, a few months too late, but perhaps embrace the words of Master Bais Lai: this is no longer your Monastery, nor your Monkeys.

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Season 7 Session 7

That night, Illyria tries again to contact her lord. She reaches out with her mind – and finds herself in a room, where a dark-haired, sharply dressed man is sitting. He greets her with his usual devilish charm.

He informs her that Hell has indeed been destroyed, but that she carries a little part of the power of Hell within her. She asks him whether destroying his enemies who are advancing on Theria will elevate her in his sight – he tells her she will become the highest of all his servants, which delights her most intensely. Unfortunately, he is rather more non-committal on the matter of whether the Vizier can be trusted.

Meanwhile, in the Feywild, Sal’s patience is rewarded by an audience with the Summer King. Jack is mysteriously also present for this briefing, in which the Summer King explains that Theria must fall. That event will cause the people of Arnest to lose faith in the power of the One and turn back to the worship of the Fey, allowing them to become the dominant power. The meeting ends, and Sal and Jack are returned to join the rest of the party in Hommlet.

The next morning there is the by now customary breakfast planning meeting in the Welcome Wench. Jack and Sal betray no hint of their meeting in the Feywild, and Illyria is positively glowing with private satisfaction, but Mortimer is troubled. His conversation yesterday with Jack, who is by now an old friend, shook him and now he does not know who he can trust. Jack apologises, and explains that he too is a servant of Asmodeus, that he has been acting a bit funny because he is so flustered by Illyria’s beauty, and that he has got to know Asmodeus through spending so much time hanging around in the Grey Wastes, which is Asmodeus’s place.

This last point seems a bit off to Mortimer and Illyria, who go off to the bar for a private discussion. They are sure that Jack is not what he seems, but decide they need more information. Returning to the group, Mortimer announces that he has decided he does not know who he can trust, and that the only way to set his mind at rest would be by reading the minds of his companions.

Illyria is happy to volunteer. Mortimer reaches into her mind, questioning her motives, and finds that she is indeed working on the instruction of Asmodeus to help defend Theria. (He also finds a lot of rather graphic and imaginative imagery involving Illyria and her Lord, but that kind of thing holds no interest for him.) As he goes round the group, everyone seems to be honest, Sal painfully so, giving him a glance into a painful childhood. Even Jack appears to be absolutely telling the truth. It’s almost uncanny just how truthful Mortimer’s mind reading reveals him to be. Sadly, Mortimer stops due to limited spell casting power before he can get round to Lobash. Mindful of Jack’s earlier words of flattery, Illyria asks if he will give her a lock of his hair – when he demurs, she gives him a massive snog, during which she takes the opportunity to cut herself a lock of his hair in any case.

None of these shenanigans are getting them any nearer to a plan to attack the enemy. The merits and limitations of continuing to whittle the enemy down through meteor strikes, as opposed to striking at the enemy leadership, are debated at length. In the midst of this discussion, some magic detection shows that someone is scrying the group. This is quickly dispelled, but it causes some worry.

Eventually, a plan is agreed. The party have previously seen an ancient red dragon flying above the horde, and the last time they attacked it seemed to take an interest. So this time the party will attack as before, bit this time wait around for the dragon to show up, and kill the dragon.This will hopefully be a significant blow to the enemy’s strength. Assuming, of course, the dragon doesn’t kill them.

At this point Jack notices another scrying point, which is again dispelled. The party decide to press on with their plan. Illyria’s scrying of the horde indicates some burning farmhouses nearby, with some hobgoblins doing some looting and whatever else it is that hobgoblins do. The party take their usual shortcut through the Grey Wastes, taking care to emerge some distance from the hobgoblins to avoid distractions, and Mortimer once again summons meteors from the sky to pummel the enemy.

After the previous attacks, the horde has now been spread out about as much as it can while maintaining unit cohesion, so Mortimer’s assault only kills about 200 hobgoblins, plus three manticores. (One manticore just manages to escape with a burning tail, flying off in some considerable distress.) Then the party spread out and wait, dispersing themselves so that the dragon’s fiery breath can’t get them all at once, and taking cover behind rocks where they can.

Soon enough, the dragon appears, flying towards them, flanked by four sphinxes. Illyria pushes back at the dragon with eldritch blasts, which slow but do not stop its advance, and her reward is to be the first target of its flame breath when it does manage to get into range. Meanwhile the sphinxes swoop down, emanating blood-curdling wails that completely spook Jack, who elects to remain hiding behind a large rock.

Illyria manages to banish one of the sphinxes, but the other three land and the melee ensues. Tuakiin’s magical blinking in and out of existence manages to frustrate both their blows and their terrifying howls, but it is a bloody battle nonetheless. The dragon swoops down at Illyria, despite Mortimer’s lightning bolt, and she catches it with her glaive and pulls it down to earth – as if the sphinx wasn’t enough to deal with. Sal and Lubash sprint towards the battle from their more distant positions, defying the terrors of the dragon and the sphinxes.

For a while Illyria is facing the dragon and a sphinx pretty much alone. Her vicious glaive and retaliatory fire blasts against the sphinx prove effective, and hurling the dragon through a nightmare dimension for a few seconds is certainly helpful, but it is when Tuakiin manages to smite the other sphinxes to oblivion and attack the dragon, followed by Lubash and Sal, that the tide begins to turn.

Lubash attempts to grapple the dragon, but this is a larger and uglier beast than the black dragon he wrestled out of the air over Rhest, and it is all he can do to pin its wing. This is enough for Sal, who subjects the dragon to a flurry of powerful blows. Eventually the dragon pulls free of Lubash’s grasp and takes to the air, severely wounded and apparently in retreat, but before it can get far Illyria blasts it into pink mist, which sprays everywhere, closely followed by small fragments of dragon raining to the ground. The remaining sphinx, wounded and suddenly very alone, flies off. Lubash manages to find one of the dragon’s teeth on the ground, to add to his collection.

Bloody but alive, the party teleports back to Hommlet.

The last sphinx reappears from its banishment, to find itself flying above deserted and very gory ground.

Azarr Khul emerges from his tent. A sphinx is there to see him. It looks the worse for wear. “They killed us,” it says, “They killed us all.” Azarr Khul’s jaws expand, his neck grows, his arms stretch out into wings, and he transforms into the largest golden dragon anyone has ever seen. His transformation complete, he chomps the sphinx up in a single gulp. Returning to human form, he announces that it is time for a change of plan.

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The Babe

The mother’s attention wavered, distracted by the other adults nearby. In that second of inattention, the baby crawled off quickly into the nearby bushes, before it could be stopped. It held in an excited gurgle as if it knew that any outburst would lead to discovery. Deeper into the undergrowth it headed. It couldn’t yet understand the meaning of the words in its head, but they were like a beacon leading it and enticing it onwards.

After some time, it broke out of the denser grasses, onto the edge of a clearing. Gripping a nearby tree trunk, it shakily pulled itself onto its feet and toddled arms outstretched towards a tall, beautiful, young man, stood by a throne.

“There you are, little one!” he greeted, his voice rich with promise. He picked the unsteady child up and held it close. “You’re a spirited creature…and always come when I call,” he added proudly. “Hmm – I think you have my eyes!”

He smiled a smile that was both welcoming and devious. “I have plans for you my child. Soon there will be much for you to do, much for you to learn,” he tapped the child’s nose teasingly, making it chuckle. “Remember – you are mine! No matter where you go, I will be with you,” he promised reassuringly.

“Just fear me and love me…” he added softly, his fingers trapped in chubby palms, “…and do as I say!”

In the distance he heard a shrill call of “Where is the child?” Gently, he lowered the babe back onto its unsteady feet and, with a hand in its chin, stared deep into its silvery eyes. “I will give you your dreams.”

Straightening up, he loomed over the small child and ordered “Go back to your mother! For now!”

The child, with slightly tearful eyes, gave a tiny wave of a hand and wobbled back to the edge of the clearing, before tipping forward into a crawl and disappearing.

The beautiful man sat back into a lounge on his throne, a mysterious smile playing on his lips.

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A Mind, not a Weapon

Mortimer woke with a start, He hadn’t realised he was tired, after all he’d slept about 16 hours in the last 24… not that he thought anyone could have slept with the roaring dragon that appeared to be behind him. He glanced back. Lobash, oh yes, one of the last truly trustworthy squadmates he could rely on. On that note, time to stop hiding (he hated those times) and think.

There was a silent pop of black mist and Lobash snored on.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Mortimer woke with a start, He hadn’t realised he was tired, after all he’d slept about… oh who knew any more… in the last 24…

It was the hour just before dawn by his guess,

“Hello darkness, my old friend”

Without thinking about it he waved a hand toward the lamp, it ignited and cast it’s yellow radiance that played across the familiar quarters in the tower.

“Heh… dey always used to freeze when I did dat”

A few hours ago he would have found this evolution of his magics disturbing, but sleeping on his nighttime meditations given him a kind of calm, after last night’s hysterics.

The peace of the grave…

Slept on, literally, because not for the first time mortimer had slept face down on a desk festooned with unrolled scrolls, covered in complex indecipherable notes of a genius level intellect. Symbols, circles and true names connected by powerful lines and links.

Only there was no magic here. No Existential Markup made up on these pages. They were instead the workings of a brilliant mind that had been brought up a soldier, never stopping to think.

On a half dozen sheets in the center of the desk was a chronology, compiled from extensive historical reading of the events in the West, the East (thanks to twenty of Rufus’s books that lay in a pile to the right of the desk), and current affairs, from a simple recon mission that had brought him in contact with a dragon born from a world beyond the deserts, and a black amulet.

Over there, a list of names of those he had fought aside against the forces of the Horde and it’s various sorcerous leaders. He wasn’t a sentimental Gnome, by any account, but he was a soldier, and he recognised there were far too many names crossed off on this list. More still had question marks next to them: Anariee? Kai? Krom? Drum? … it ended with: Johnothan… if dead, where body? who is the halfling with Noname? do breeders move on that fast (this is asterisked with: “insufficient data”)

The Bard had been circled and noted with an index to another paper. “He warned! Didn’t listen, more than one enemy!”

Over here, another list. Allied Actors and Sources of Extranormal power:

Entries included:

  • Mortimer Greysproket, Vizier, Clousus, Master Burne (D) etc; manipulation of inherent Arcane forces of this Plane through decades of practicle study. [note, spell books, scrolls, focuses etc]
  • Tuakin: unknown, seemed pure martial power, now supernatural, no known deity, -probably a dragon thing-
  • Bard: inherited arcane sensitivity expressed through applied harmonics.
  • Carig: Patron: Asmodeus [when alive] – noticible dip in power when moved to the West until ‘A’ was semi-raised.
  • Necromancy fan-girl: practices match those associated with As’ – power persists after the destruction of Hell, questions!!!!
Now he read “Jack”
  • Jack: WHY SUDDENLY HOSTILE?! No evidence of study, assumed innate magical ability, but this wouldn’t survive being placed in the body of a grunt soldier early on. No evidence of religious devotion (even compared to oneself). Otherworldly patron?
  • The One – deceased. Not his style from readings.
  • Asmodeus – Fits, No evidence of dawn rituals, we practitioners would have known?
  • Acerorak – was present in the tomb! Convert? Did he touch any vessel containing soul?!
  • Mushroom Demon – that was just an inflicted dream!
  • Fae? Realm under threat? Rhema, Vani, Kai, new kid Sal(?) All elf/fae alien actors in group?(!!)

Mortimer lifted a sheet he found his quill still lying on. In large letters underlined three times (something he flinched at even now, what had he been thinking?) was

NOT POSSIBLE!
“got the idea to try and recreate the meteor siege spell from childhood,

EVEN IF IMMORTALITY ACHIEVED, CAN’T INFLUENCE CHILD SELF!”

This last line is underscored so much it has torn a hole in the page.

“I really wasn’t myself…..”

He inked the quill and wrote on a fresh sheet:

‘Multiple enemies’

“Horde” – what is there motive now? Acerorak dead, Clausus dead, what is dragon boy doing this for? Why fight on? Parlaey?

“Realm” – Defectors obviously false, conspiracy to overthrow king Burnes served, Bard’s said father is evil, what ever outcome, he must die. Honest ruler needed.

Orks, Loyalty?

Faewyld – apparently real, apparently under threat, what will that drive alien minds too?

Hell: coming back?

Finally he tore a strip off the parchment and wrote frantically:

“You’re a soldier, not an artillery piece! You’ve demonstrated your power, scout and abduct dragon boy. Chat in the wastes, why is he still fighting, what could he want? Tuakin could break him if he keeps calm.

Shelling enemy is limited use, (and exhausting), infiltrate and assassinate leadership? Teleport circle mines – Lobash can cast metal! ?

Poison one race, sow seeds of discontent, lobash might militarize ‘oppressed’ group?”

He paused. The quill hovered over the torn piece… he relented, dried it, folded it. He rolled the scrolls.

Placed them into his bag.

“Hold on to this” he asked it’s contents. He trusted they would hold on to his notes with suitable… rigor…

On a discarded scrap of parchment he added:
“get the hell out, no side can be trusted, last few friends are acting crazy. Raise an army, secure asset, follow Acerorak’s plan; secure research space and protect?”

He looked at the words and picked up the piece…

He even had blueprint, a nearly impenetrable ‘tomb’ fortress, shut himself away, continue his research? Why should he care what Human claimed to rule the land, as long as his lair was suitably impenetrable?

He paused for what seemed like an eternity, looking at the note.

His three fingered hand crushed the note and rammed it into the pocket of his robe.

Not now, not yet, now it was time to be a soldier again. There was an impossible war to win, but… that was the only kind he knew.

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Season 7 Session 6

The scouts manage to locate the enemy horde – it isn’t exactly difficult – but it is large and they are only able to clearly see the squads on one flank. While they are on their way back, Venomfang swoops down to the farmhouse. She converses with Tuakiin, and you don’t need to be fluent in Draconic to tell she is unimpressed. The fact that Tuakiin is skulking out in this farmhouse indicates to her that the deal she made to fight for the city is worthless – and she doesn’t seem inclined towards easily forgiving people who she thinks have messed her around…

With Tuakiin’s efforts to get Venomfang onside by telling tales of Javier’s abuse of dragon eggs clearly failing, Mortimer steps in. He argues convincingly that it was he who brokered the deal between Venomfang and the Vizier, and that deal still stands notwithstanding their subsequent travel from Theria on military business. Venomfang accepts this, but nonetheless demands tribute from all three present – Tuakin, Mortimer and Lubash – to compensate her for the inconvenience of having to come here out of her way.

Tuakiin offers the fine gems from his armour. Venomfang wants the gems, armour and all, and will not be bargained down. Reluctantly, Tuakiin misty steps out of his armour, appearing naked beside it as it clatters to the ground. Mortimer produces one of the gems of great value that he obtained in the Tomb of horrors, and this is enough to mollify Venomfang as far as he is concerned. Lubash, however, has no fancy gems to give, only a few coins, and he knows this will be insufficient. Instead, he offers up his warhammer, made by his father and passed down to him. It is a crude weapon, but one of great personal value to Lubash. Indeed, Venomfang declares it the greatest gift of them all, and flies off with her new loot, leaving the adventurers in peace.

No sooner has she gone than Illyria and Sal arrive. Illyria’s cheerful greeting of “What’s up, bitches?” is met with silence, and she contents herself with appreciating Tuakiin’s naked posterior while Sal reports on the disposition of the enemy. Eventually, the others explain the Venomfang situation, and they decide to make camp within the barn. Lubash thoughtfully clears away the straw to avoid a fire hazard.

Over supper, Illyria speaks to the party. She reminds them of the lesson of Yule, that they must work together as a team instead of closing themselves off from each other. As it stands, whichever side wins this war will want to kill the party afterward, but if they can stop the enemy horde before it reaches Theria they might win the gratitude of the King. She asks that everyone say what they can bring to the fight, and right now it seems that Mortimer’s new-found ability to summon meteors from the sky is their best way of striking the enemy.

They establish a plan – Mortimer will teleport himself and Illyria to within a mile of the horde, where he will call down meteors. As soon as the spell is cast, Illyria will plane shift them both into the Grey Wastes, and Mortimer will immediately plane shift again, taking them back to camp. There is only one difficulty. Mortimer has never seen the area he is teleporting to – only Illyria and Sal saw it on their scouting mission.

It is not easy to creep Mortimer out, but Illyria manages it when she tells him not to worry, she can show him in a dream. Nonetheless,he agrees to go for a nap to allow Illyria to invade him unconscious mind, and such have been the travails of the day he nods off almost instantly. When he is sound asleep, Illyria begins her spell.

Mortimer dreams that he is in the great hall of the elf-queen’s palace in the Shining City. It is deserted, apart from Jack, who is standing in front of him with a bag. Jack opens the bag and lets Mortimer look inside, revealing an utterly black globe – like the mouth of the carved devil’s head in the Tomb of Horrors. Mortimer declines to reach inside, and Jack gives him a royal wave.

Then he hears heels clicking towards him on the marble floor, and Illyria is behind him. Jack disappears, and the palace transforms into a landscape in northern Arnest. This is a vision of where Illyria and Sal saw the horde, and Illyria points out a twisted tree on a hill and a high ruined tower, landmarks which should be close enough to the horde for Mortimer’s spell. After taking this in, Mortimer demands that Illyria bring Jack back, but alas she can only provide an illusion of Jack that simply smiles and royal waves over and over again.

A bucket of cold water wakes Mortimer, and he is ready to go. He decides to aim his teleport at the ruined tower – specifically, behind the ruined tower, for safety. The party decide it would be best of they all went together on this mission, just in case something goes wrong.

Something goes wrong.

Instead of the ruined tower, Mortimer accidentally brings them to the only other tower he knows – the tower of Hommlet. Hs former quarters to be precise. Tuakiin and Lubash recognise it instantly, and when they tell Illyria they are in Hommlet she has scathing remarks to make about the local pub.

There is a knock at the door. It’s Jack. Mortimer is too pleased to see his old friend to ask too many questions about how he came to be here, and soon they all go to meet Rufus, who is now master of the tower. He is still in Burne’s body, but he tells Mortimer that everyone in Hommlet knows his true identity. Rufus has a melancholy demeanour these days, but is happy to help the party and arranges for Tuakiin to obtain a new suit of armour.

It being rather late, the party decide to sleep and try their plan again in the morning. They all bed down in the tower, and once in bed Illyria tries to reach out with her mind and contact Asmodeus, whose presence she felt during her morning ritual. It doesn’t work, and she spends the night in a delirious sweat. To avoid Illyria’s muttering, Sal looks for somewhere else to sleep – discovering an abandoned, trashed room that seemed to have once been the quarters of an elf, she helps herself to some items and beds down for the night.

In the morning, after their usual rituals, they assemble for another attempt, but this time they will go through the Grey Wastes first, and then teleport back to Hommlet. Jack is initially reluctant, saying that Mortimer has brought him back from the Grey Wastes three times now, and he has no wish to go back, but eventually he accepts the plan.

This time, nothing goes wrong. Mortimer brings them to the shadow of the twisted tree, and Illyria drops them straight back into the real world. Sal climbs the tree and hauls Mortimer up on a rope to give him a better view, whereupon Mortimer produces four pebbles, flings them into the air with a trail of magical light, and four flaming meteors crash down upon the horde, killing hobgoblins by the hundreds. Descending as quickly as possible, Mortimer casts his teleport spell and soon they are all safely back in the tower of Hommlet.

In the Welcome Wench, where the party go to relax despite the rampant inflation caused by the present crisis, Mortimer is mainly drunk on his own power, at once delighted that the spell worked and aghast at the scale of the destruction it caused. Nonetheless, Illyria is keen that they should repeat the attack as soon as Mortimer is able, and he goes off to sleep and recover.

Late that afternoon, they are ready to go again. The horde will doubtless have spent the day marching, but during the last attack they saw a rocky outcrop in the distance that would be a suitable vantage point. They arrive, and four more pebbles rise into the air, and four more meteors come down. The horde have dispersed themselves somewhat in response to the previous attack, but still lose hundreds more of their members to fiery crushing death. Indeed, a careful observer would probably conclude that the horde was by now down to about 83% of its original strength.

A great red dragon some distance away swings round in the sky towards the party, but they teleport away while it is still far off. Back in Hommlet, the party try to relax in the Welcome Wench before bed, but Mortimer is even more troubled than before. Meteor storms were used to devastate armies in his homeland, allowing the battlemages to take control, and Mortimer is now distressed at the possibility that, by using this spell now, it is he who brought this power into existence. Lubash tries to reassure him, arguing that it’s not possible, but Jack is far from reassuring. He tells Mortimer “Yes, it is all your fault,” and then vanishes, leaving Mortimer to his troubles.

That night, Illyria tries again to contact her lord. She reaches out with her mind – and finds herself in a room, where a dark-haired, sharply dressed man is sitting. He greets her with his usual devilish charm.

That night Sal opens her mind once more to her lord – to see if he has further instructions for her. He is busy, so she awaits his pleasure with customary patience.

In the Feywild, the Summer King holds court on his throne. Before him stands Jack, who assures him he has been sowing chaos. The Summer king approves, and walking with Jack informs him of his plan to step down soon, and assures Jack that he will be the next Summer King.

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Inside the dust covers
The books of 'The Bard' school of art and music

A peek inside the dust coves of book required for ‘The Bard’ school of music and Art.
please see letter Congratulations.

Edwin’s Adventures in Interpretive dance
Join Edwin on an inspirational journey through the dangerous world of dance.
Discover the moves that bring pleasure and pain. Bring down hordes and inspire entire army’s.

‘The Bard’ banging book of beets
Ch1 Crowd pleasers – music to earn money
Ch2 Inspiring music
Ch3 Battle music
Ch4 Deadly music
– The devils chord
– The brown note
– Thunder wave
– Sonic boom
Ch5 Finding your own song

Good Vibrations
Healing with the bardic arts. beating a drum or painting a picture. Tapping into the vibrations of the universe to heal and mend.

capturing Conceptual Art
With great power comes great responsibility.
Ch1 The history of pleasure
Ch2 Art of Adversity
Ch3 Rebellious Artisan’s: Fighting the system with cubism
Ch4 The Dark arts of propaganda and the deadly use of watercolour
Ch5 Sacred Sculpting

History and philosophy
Ch1 History of music from Wind-Speaker to ‘The Bard’
Ch2 Choosing your instrument
Ch3 Wind and string theory
Ch4 Crowd Flow
Ch5 Philosophy and ethics of manipulation

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Congratulations

Dear musician,
we are pleased to inform you that you have a place at ‘The Bard’ School of Music and Art.
Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
(Be advised as the school is a charitable institution, students unable to afford the list below should apply to the school directly for help.)

First years require
Empty music sheets
Any instrument
Dancing robes
Formal jesting hat

Books
‘The Bards’ banging book of beets by ‘The Bard’
Edwin’s adventures in interpretive dance by Lord Edwin
History and philosophy of the Arts by Meredith Woodall
Healing Vibrations by Zabrinas Darkwell
Capturing conceptual art by Dr Robert Nut
Revolution- The rise of the Ogres union by Farther Dirk

regards Your Head Master Tineyd Ancer

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Conversion

It was a slow process, but Sal was patient and she could already tell that she was having an effect. The community of humans had always hung on her words when she’d told them of the ways of the Elves. They were fascinated. It had then been almost effortless to turn her tales to those of the Fey.

They’d allocated a part of their highly structured day to Sal, almost as soon as she’d appeared among them, for her to teach them of the Elves. It was her gift to them in return for her new home and the knowledge they shared with her. Everything she told them was noted down by careful hands, for further reflection and study. Their questions asked and answered. They were unfazed by her apparent youth, assuming her wise…and perhaps older than she appeared. Or maybe just innocent. They encouraged her study of their ways and the incorporation of their techniques with her own.

The first time she mentioned the Fey, it was a throwaway comment in the midst of a discussion on the history of her tribe. She was careful and calm when she was asked to explain more, said she would cover it another day. From then on she gave them only titbits of information, coolly dealing with their increasing eagerness to know more, building their anticipation.

When she judged the moment right, she conceded to their requests for a more in depth explanation and described the beauty and wonder of the Feywild. She saw their eyes widen with awe, their imaginations trying to picture such a delightful holy garden. They could barely speak their questions as she finished. They were hooked.

No more questions about the Elves, except where they related to the Fey. No more were they interested in becoming friends with the nearby settlements. They had only one interest now and Sal was the key.

She gave them enough to sate them. Her instructions had been clear. Not everything, but enough. When it was finally time for her to leave, when her path was pointing away from this place, they had been converted. They would continue without her, but all was Fey.

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