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SessionReport

Session judged and report written by Moss Knight, the player of legendary Brother Kallahan from Conquering the Barbarian Altanis.


The Party

  • Fra 'Fingers' Vincensini, a nimble and resourceful cleric.
  • Elmenor Goldlight, a quite rich and noble looking elf clad in heavy armor.
  • Grudge, a weedy-looking thief, no doubt full of mischief.
  • Marco Tuti, a more-brawn-than-brain fighter with bravery and blood alcohol to spare.

There stood our brave upstarts, in the middle of the starry night, under the canopy of the enormous tree. Everyone around here knew to stay away from the great Oak and the surrounding glade, where time seems to stand still; but not our merry band. They were out for riches and adventure and surely, they thought, here they would find at least one of these.

Examining the vast network of roots at its foot, being almost as wide as the canopy itself, Fra quickly found a three-foot wide opening into the earth. Looking into it with a torch, they noticed a twenty-foot drop down to a sandy floor, with rough and wet roots serving as the natural rungs of a ladder, along the sides of the pit. Descending with the help of a quickly attached rope, they started examining the ensuing corridor, Elmenor scouting ahead with his infravision. The corridor came to a fork, with one branch going north, from which a distant rushing sound came, as of wind or water; the other going east, from whence came a faint green glow. After finding a mysterious leather glove, abandoned on top of some large root, the party decided to head east.

The eastern corridor appeared to be partially blocked by roots, which Elmenor passed successfully, though not before the roots animated, attempting to grab and restrain him. The rest of the party soon followed, uneventfully as well. Marco however, the last to pass through, got caught up in the roots, one of which made off with his wine skin! In a valiant effort, the fighter lunged forward, attempting to catch his beloved beverage with his teeth, but only managing to get a hold of the cork, which popped open. The wildly thrashing root escaped, leaving only a narrow tunnel in the wall, barely two fingers wide; spraying delicious, delicious wine everywhere in the process.

Cursing the roots and their wicked gods for the tragic loss of his mama’s favorite vintage, Marco rejoined the party, which now found itself standing in a strange round room. The atmosphere here was damp and warm. All over the walls and ceiling of this dome-shaped earthen space were root-faces, here of wrinkly old men, there of dashing youths, all clad in hair and beards made of glowing green moss.

“Look at what you’ve done!” screamed Marco. “That was mama’s best vintage!”.

In unison, the roots answered in a low, meandering grumble:

“We thank you… It was delicious... We do not get to enjoy wine… often…”.

“Well”, replied the fighter, “What have you got to give in return?”

“We will gladly provide… Information… If you feed us more…Delicious things…”

At this, Fra the cleric placed some of his rations on the ground, which were quickly grabbed by some roots, dragging the food into the earthen walls. After a second of silence, followed by a low, thoughtful grumble, the root-voice answered:

“The horned ogre…. owns a treasure… whose value he doesn’t… understand.”

The party had indeed heard of a strange creature fitting this description inhabiting this dark place. Intrigued, they looked for more things to give the root-faces. They found only oil, inquiring aloud:

“Well, I don’t suppose it drinks oil…”

“...Oil?” Replied the root-voice. “We… enjoy… oil.”

Confused but undeterred, they poured the contents of one of their flasks onto the earth, the liquid being lapped up quickly.

“Hmmmmmm… good… good…” said the root-voice.

After a short silence, and yet another thoughtful hum, it continued:

“Beware… the treachery… of the gnomes…”

Still angry at the root-thing, Marco threatened to feed it a brandished iron piton, at which point several of the faces disappeared into the walls. Diplomacy was maintained by the rest of the group, who decided to make their way into the eastward tunnel, from which came a cold draft of air, and a smell of ammonia.

Scouting ahead once more, Elmenor quickly found the source of the smell: The tunnel expanding in this direction was in fact a cavern, on the ceiling of which nested what looked like a hundred bats. Understandably, the floor underneath them was covered in stinking guano. Though the cavern continued to expand eastward, the party decided to head north, into a newly discovered tunnel, to avoid the bats.

The floor, walls and ceiling of this tunnel were of stone blocks, and the corridor led to a stone archway, sculpted in the fashion of a continuous, overarching pile of skulls. A skeleton wearing rusted chainmail was lying in a pool of dried blood, right under the archway. Poking at it with a ten-foot pole, and examining the surrounding walls, they discovered the mechanism triggering a deadly blade trap, no doubt the one which had sliced deep into the poor soul’s side, leading to their untimely demise. Once discovered, the pressure plate was easily overcome though, and the party hopped over it quite easily, continuing on. But not before Grudge examined the corpse further, to find a hefty pouch filled with twenty-five gold pieces, and a bronze skull necklace.

The party now found themselves in a much larger room, with several openings and doors in many directions, and most visibly, a number of statues representing regal figures on the west side. Examining them revealed nothing of import though, and the party endeavored to listen at some of the doors leading out of the room.

Out of one of the eastern doors came the sound of loud snoring, and light streamed from the opening underneath. The adventurers spent some time debating whether it was best to kick down the door and assault whatever was behind using the element of surprise; or to politely knock, and have a civilized discussion with the room’s occupant. In the end, after failing to pick the lock, they resolved to come back later, and instead went to examine the northernmost door.

Behind it, they found the corpse of an unfortunate dwarf, who had seemingly been strangled by some kind of black rope. Beyond it was another stone archway, carved in the shape of tree branches. Resolving not to go in that ominous direction, the party instead headed to the single door that led westward.

Marco swiftly opened the door, and was immediately greeted by eight shiny red eyes, glinting at the edge of the torch’s light. The creature hanging from the ceiling was surprised, and the party began the attack by throwing a flask of oil at it, which missed and ignited on the floor beneath it. Two arrows followed, both missing as well. Marco stepped forward, ready to meet the beast in mano a mano, hand-to-legs combat. The elf and the thief let loose another volley of arrows, this time hitting the creature: one half-severed one of its legs, the other embedded itself deep in one of its biggest eyes, which started oozing green blood. Seeing his opportunity, Marco thrust his halberd upward, cleanly shearing through the creature’s head, spraying green liquid all over. The creature lost its grip on the ceiling where it had made its web, and crashed down belly first, its legs gruesomely snapping in the process.

It seemed that behind the beast was yet another archway, this time one carved in the likeness of three intertwined serpents. As the party debated what kind of trap was undoubtedly hidden near it, Marco simply jumped and dexterously tumbled past the arch, unharmed. Shrugging their shoulders, Fra, Elmenor and Grudge passed through it without incident.

The party entered a small room, in the middle of which stood the statue of a hunter and his two hounds. To the north and south of it, hanging from the walls, were large mirrors. Proceeding with caution, after examining the statue for any pressable buttons of any kind, they carried on westward.

They came to a large, circular room with a tall domed ceiling. In the middle of it lay an enormous crimson carpet, decorated with gold and green geometric patterns, all made of fine wool. From there, a corridor led north, a beautifully carved wooden door to the west, and a corridor to the south. Circumventing the carpet, the party went south, in an attempt to rejoin what they thought was the way they came in from. They were correct in that assumption, and soon they arrived back at the first fork in the road they had encountered.

Gleefully, and now richer by about a pouch’s worth of gold, they headed out, up through the root-ladder and into the chilly night, back to the village where they would spend their hard-earned riches on all the pleasures the adventuring life is all about. They knew however, that this was not to be their last expedition to that dreamy forest glade, and to the strange complex under the Hole in the Oak.

#Wilderlands #OneShot #SessionReport

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rad Thief level 3 A young, short and malnourished rogue.
Gomm Thief level 3 Swarthy, good looking, dark-skinned thief. Sweet opium-like aroma is his fragrance of choice.
Rhovar Fighter level 3 A generic Nordic guy.
Brawley Dwarf level 2 Stocky, baldy, scimitar-wielding sea knave.
Flamthwynn Magic-user leve 1 An older gentleman sporting fashionable dark blue robe with purplish overtones. Seeking arcane objects and offensive spell.
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Norwell Thief level 1 A finely dressed slim fellow of few words. Carries the scar of betrayal.
BuddyPuddingBottom Elf level 2 Peppermint scented elf followed by jingles, on a quest for the perfect gift.

Sunstrong 5th, Spiritday

Battered and demoralised, Eccy, Gomm, Norwell, Delphine, and Herat rested in Bathdawn, awaiting for the arrival of the Hydra Company main force. Their delve into fungi-men caves did not go as planned. Several of their fellow adventurers were killed by a giant mushroom-mound.

“Buddy, you're alive... you don't look it!” Gomm exclaimed.

“PuddingBottom, you are a sight for sore eyes.” Eccy welcomed the elf whom all thought was gone for sure.

BuddyPuddingBottom survived by throwing himself into the stream whilst Taegen was electrocuted. He floated deeper into the dungeon. There he found another cave system, navigating it until he faced a ten feet wide chasm.

Giving it his all, he managed to jump it. Moving forward, or rather, downward, led him to a large underground river. Luckily for him, a crude, but functional, canoe was lying in the nearby dirt.

Using his last atoms of strength, he hauled the canoe, threw himself in it, and allowed the river to carry him as he faded to black.

Seagulls pecking his face were the rude awakening he didn't expect. Obviously at the open sea, Buddy resorted to paddling with his bare palms. He made it to Bathdawn against all odds. It was a gruelling journey... Some say that was the day BuddyPuddingBottom lost his peppermint aroma...

Rhovar, Flamthwynn, Rad, Brawley, and thirty mercenaries reached Bathdawn by the end of the day.

After some back and forth, Hydra Company has decided to march to the ruined keep Rad had been to months ago. The one where he had left behind Taaz. The one where Taaz broke down the doors and charged in alone. The one that already claimed many adventurers' lives.

Sunstrong 6th, Airday

Herat had been hired by Sinai, and since they failed twice to recover him from the fungi-cave, she decided to stay behind in Bathdawn.

Herat bid her farewell to the party: “I need some time to think. I still have some unfinished business in Antil—perhaps we run into each other there!”

The company marched in a column, with the adventurers mounted on their riding horses. Rhovar, the aspiring general, led them unaware that his leadership capabilities will soon be put to test.

Half an hour or so after crossing the bridge over the Highcourse river, Rhovar heard familiar howls.

“Men! Fall into formation! Footmen up front; archers into two ranks!”

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

A big, fat wolf strolls out between two trees.

Rhovar recognised him as the gluttonous chubby wolf who had gasped when the warrior offered to bring some fat clerics in exchange for his life.

Little did the big bad wolf know that he was walking into a trap. Taken by shock, rather than surprise, the company unleashed a volley of arrows at it.

Many shots found their target, making the wolf look more like large flabby hedgehog. The wolf made a large O face. Then it shook off the arrows and charged the front rank, ripping into doughty Brawley.

“Rhovar, watch out!” Rad yelled.

Turning to his left, Rhovar could see two more wolves running through the trees. Again, he recognised both. The lithest one was Meza, the only one to oppose her canine brethren in letting Rhovar go.

“Never trust those who soil themselves.” she'd often wisely say.

Archers rained volleys on the incoming wolves, while Brawley, Delphine, and heavy footmen engaged the fat wolf chewing on the dwarf. Gomm and Norwell threw their nets; one hit the mark. The adventurers quickly piled themselves on the ensnared wolf.

Eccy used the opportunity to smash its head with mace. Alas, it bounced right off the wolf's large head. Chubby canine shed a single tear and whimpered.

Rhovar roared “Men! You listen to the Hydra Company now! Follow their orders!” as he counter-charged the two wolves going for him. Alas, his horse had different plans and took him in different direction.

Regaining control over his horse, Rhovar galloped south, insulting and throwing stuff at the pursuing wolf.

“Form ranks! Retreat in order!” Eccy assumed command without missing a beat. In the chaos all unmanned horses became spooked and fled in different directions. So did the draft horses, pulling the VVagon with them.

Chubby wolf thrashed around until he managed to get himself free. Unfortunately for him, by now Brawley has completely mounted him. The dwarf used the opportunity to repeatedly hit the wolf on top of it's muzzle, causing the hairy critter to weep inconsolably.

Before that, the dwarf and Delphine tried to open its jaw in order for Gomm to throw in some natural poison. They failed, despite their best efforts.

It wasn't a good day for that wolf. Gomm, in a fascinating display of skill and quick wit, rode behind the wolf, whilst leaning to the left side. As he passed by it, he lowered the lit torch underneath the wolf's ballsack and sprinkled it with some oil.

Yes, it went as expected.

The wolf started thrashing around violently.

Brawley rode him like a pony.

“Meza! MEZA! I'm on fire! My balls are on fire! Save me, Meza!”

“Calm down, you imbecile! You are not hurting! It's all in your head! Stop it! I can't bite him with you jumping around!”

Delphine mounted Gomm's horse. Lithe thief looked like a small boy by the gargantuan plated woman. They rode off, joining the retreating force.

Eccy orchestrated the retreat to Kestizar. And not only that. He also managed to catch and calm the draft horses, ensuring the supplies hauled in the VVagon.

Rhovar led the wolf pursuing him on a wild chase, ultimately outrunning him. Whipping his horse, he rode alongside Highcourse river until he masked his scent, and then broke off for Kestizar.

Meza ripped out Brawley's throat as the chubby wolf dragged his bottom through the grass.

Hydra Company had reached Kestizar by the end of the day. Rhovar joined them few hours later.

Gomm proposed Delphine. At first she blushed and rebuffed the sly talking dark-skinned man. His persistent attempts paid off, as attested by her picking Gomm up like a little toy and carrying him off behind a tree. Their marriage was promptly consumed.

Mercenaries protested to Rhovar. They were unhappy with countless days of marching around without hitting any attractive targets, culminating with a retreat from three invulnerable wolves. They demanded better pay and a full day of rest. The adventurers collected all the back gold coins from the VVagon and paid them.

Sunstrong 8th, Earthday

“Is this the support you promised, Rhovar?!”

Elidarth the Elder confronted Rhovar. The latter had passed through Kestizar days ago. Then he promised to bring some reinforcements to alleviate Kestizar's problems with raiding bandits.

“Your men made a huge mess at the inn! They hired a bunch of whores, had an orgy, slapped other patrons, and took a shit in the flowers right in front of my home!”

“Uh, we promise to besiege the chaotic evil in that keep to protect the town. Remember, to fight evil, a little evil must be employed.”

“Just control your men. Otherwise you are no better than Roenald's lot.”

Without too much scolding, the Hydra company marched to the ruined keep on the morning of Sunstrong 8th. They reached it at noon, stopping a hundred feet away from the ruin.

Given that Rad was the chief scout during his previous expedition here, he immediately picked up that something was very wrong about the east tower.

Focusing his gaze, he could notice that the entrance Taaz broke down was covered with an ill fitting doors, which in turn were barred from the outside.

The improvised doors were splattered with blood; the splatter rising for nearly ten feet above the doors.

What now?

Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.

#Wilderlands #SessionReport

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rad Thief level 3 A young, short and malnourished rogue.
Gomm Thief level 3 Swarthy, good looking, dark-skinned thief. Sweet opium-like aroma is his fragrance of choice.
Rhovar Fighter level 3 A generic Nordic guy.
Brawley Dwarf level 1 Stocky, baldy, scimitar-wielding sea knave.
Flamthwynn Magic-user leve 1 An older gentleman sporting fashionable dark blue robe with purplish overtones. Seeking arcane objects and offensive spell.
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Ulster Fighter level 2 A former caravan guard with a promise to fulfil.
Mano Stern Cleric level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.
Norwell Thief level 1 A finely dressed slim fellow of few words. Carries the scar of betrayal.
BuddyPuddingBottom Elf level 2 Peppermint scented elf followed by jingles, on a quest for the perfect gift.

Sunstrong 2nd, Waterday

The strength of Hydra Company was at full display in Tenoch: thirteen career adventurers joined by thirty mercenaries. Discussions were had, plans were drafted, until the final decision came.

The party will strike the cave of sinister Ack!, capture him alive for that sweet, sweet bounty of 4 000 platinum pieces, and then return to Tenoch in time to defend it from cannibal barbarians.

Eccy Throi and Taegen Ianlynn took the lead of the mounted unit: fighters Ulster, Delphine the Spiteful, and Herat; thieves Gomm and Norwell; the cleric of nature Mano Stern; and festive elf BuddyPuddingBottom. Their objective was to strike the caves as fast as possible.

Rhovar, Brawley, Flamthwynn, and Rad led the caravan with Vvagon and thirty mercenaries. Their goal was to reach Bathdawn, and wait for the return of the strike unit.

Numerous heads of the Hydra Company slept well, dreaming treasure, glory, and fame that awaits them. They marched out eagerly, alongside first rays of morning sun.

Sunstrong 3rd, Earthday

The strike team galloped to Bathdawn unopposed. There the villagers greeted them with open hands and broad smiles! Since the adventurers' last descent into the caves there haven't been anymore cattle or locals going missing.

“We are here to finish the job!”

Although they hardly needed him anymore, one of the young locals guided to the caves of fungimen. The party soon discovered it was not all as they left it last time...

Mossy ladders by the first waterfall were gone! Of course, what would that be for this group of ingenious profiteers. The thieves quickly secured fifty feet of rope to the cave wall, allowing everyone to descend with a bit of work. Some got wet, but no injuries otherwise.

But that wasn't it! The device used to activate the rerouting mechanism for second waterfall was gone as well. Now this was a much bigger challenge to the adventurers since the way down was entirely blocked by the falling water.

Eccy was first to find a hexagonal depression in the hole. It was filled with soft soil that was easy to claw out. The hole was so deep that the elf had to lie on his side and push his arm all the way down to reach the bottom. A smaller round hole with hard sides could be felt at the very end.

The party jammed a blunt side of the spear and tied a torch to it. Alas, Delphine's brutish strength was too much for this set-up, and she ripped the torch right off.

This obstacle perplexed the strike team for hours. One of them even went to look for an answer in an ancient tome they found somewhere in their backpack. Finally, the party decided to head back to Bathdawn and ask the villagers to help them dam up the stream leading into the caves.

Sunstrong 4th, Fireday

Whole day! That's how long it took the party to cut down enough trees, haul them to the cave entrance, and then construct a dam that was solid enough to withstand the water pressure. How long they had? Who knows...

Unwilling to risk finding out at the wrong time, the group decided to immediately descend, despite a day of hard labour.

The flow was now sufficiently weak to allow them to access the ladders leading down the second waterfall. Remembering the green mound that consumed Rhovar and DJ Basic they opted for the longer, east route, instead of going westwards.

They travelled unopposed, stopping from time to time to check whatever piqued their interest. The portcullis leading to the three cauldron chamber were still down. It resisted a lifting attempt by Taegen and Delphine. The latter threw her back in the process, while the former grinned at the woman who had embarrassed him just a few days earlier.

“Uh, we can go south, but there a giant a mad tree threatened to beat us up.”

“Let's send those who haven't been there yet!”

Well, those had a sorry sight to behold: where once a huge tree stood, mortared and chained to the ground, nothing but charred and chopped remains laid.

“Watch out! The red carpets are back!”

Indeed, as the party walked into the chamber two rectangular, blood-red misty shapes slowly descended from the ceiling. Brave folk of the Hydra Company ran as fast as they could, reaching the laboratory where Eccy was experimented on. The shelves were still empty, courtesy of Flamthwynn the Big-pocketed and DJ Basic the Quick-handed.

After entering the large chamber with cauldrons it really started dawning on the adventurers that this place had been abandoned. Fires under the vats were extinguished and parchments from the workbench were gone.

Further, entering into the bedroom of the giant mushroom revealed that two tapestries they've left behind were gone. There were also few flagstone on the ground, that were apparently used to cover a hidden compartment in the ground. Which was now, of course, empty.

“There is no doubt that Ack is gone...”

“Let's take a look through the east doors where another portcullis was.”

Indeed, the portcullis was still lowered. Gomm and Norwell took to the wooden penile mushrooms that were at the end of the round holes by the doors leading into the blocked corridor. With some experimentation (OK, a lot of experimentation), the party learned they can operate the heavy portcullises—yes, there were actually two of them, forming a sort of gatehouse down the corridor—allowing the party to pass without getting trapped. As long as they remained by the wooden mushrooms.

BuddyPuddingBottom led the expedition into the unknown. He discovered a large chamber bisected by a river that runs from the western to the eastern end. The southern half of the great cavern was lush with tall growths of pale fungi, mainly mushrooms; forming what could best be described a fungus jungle.

Festive elf, joined by Taegen just behind him, followed the river east. Mano Stern, Ulster, and Eccy came after, intent to investigate the chamber further. Just as they entered, BuddyPuddingBottom and Taegen made an intriguing discovery—a pile of washed up bones at the exit from this large cave.

At that same moment Mano Stern disappeared into an enormous mass of fungoid tissue that had emerged from the river. It swallowed him whole, changing its colour from a pale sickly white to a vibrant pink hue.

Finding himself upside down in a writhing mass of something unnatural, crushed from all sides, Mano uncorked his oil flasks and set himself aflame.

The huge monster emitted a high pitched sound and shook tremendously—as if it had sneezed! A byproduct of that was a massive ball of lightning that shot out of its body down east.

We shall never know if that was deliberate or not, but the results were the same none the less. Taegen the Buff screamed as he sizzled and turned into nothing but charred remains. BuddyPuddingBottom hid behind him, but even avoiding the full extent of the thunderbolt did not void the fact that he was standing knee deep in chilly, conductive water.

Against all odds the festive elf survived and remained just conscious enough to drop himself into the river, and float downstream, into the unknown. Surely whatever lies there cannot be as horrible as this horror?

But fungal mountain was far from finished. A yawning opening went for Ulster, revealing a burning fire within the monster, as well as two ropey tendrils. He too met his end here.

Eccy Throi ran back, down the corridor with two portcullises. Others followed him.

Sunstrong 5th, Spiritday

Eccy, Gomm, Norwell, Delphine, and Herat found themselves in the pitch black darkness, despite exiting the caves. Howla and Vannis were dim and it was chilly. They must've spent hours down there.

They could hear their dam falling apart just as they descended to Bathdawn. Tired and disheartened, all they could do now is wait for the caravan to arrive...

Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.

#Wilderlands #SessionReport

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rad Thief level 3 A young, short and malnourished rogue.
Gomm Thief level 3 Swarthy, good looking, dark-skinned thief. Sweet opium-like aroma is his fragrance of choice.
Rhovar Fighter level 3 A generic Nordic guy.
Brawley Dwarf level 1 Stocky, baldy, scimitar-wielding sea knave.
Flamthwynn Magic-user leve 1 An older gentleman sporting fashionable dark blue robe with purplish overtones. Seeking arcane objects and offensive spell.
Blutvarth Fighter level 1 A skinny man with sharp features, curly hair and a sneering smile. He swears that he is friendlier than he looks.
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Ulster Fighter level 2 A former caravan guard with a promise to fulfil.
Mano Stern Cleric level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.
Norwell Thief level 1 A finely dressed slim fellow of few words. Carries the scar of betrayal.

Warmshade 13th, Earthday

At Bathdawn the adventurers agreed to split into two groups.

Rhovar and sick Blutvarth went towards Antil. Their job was to return the treasure recovered from fungi-men lair, recruit a number of mercenaries, and march to Tenoch as soon as possible.

Rad, Flamthwynn, Taegen Ianlynn, Eccy Throi, Ulster, and Herat rode to Tenoch. There Rad and Flamthwynn were to meet with Minn Almar, an eccentric mage who divulged that a clan of cannibal barbarians will wipe out Tenoch soon.

The scribes have conflicting reports on the exact details of what happened next, but some reports of both expeditions survive. They are presented below.

Rad, Flamthwynn, Taegen Ianlynn, Eccy Throi, Ulster, and Herat

The party reached Tenoch by the late evening. They were once again warmly welcomed by Merinthia and her father. She was disappointed that Taegen didn't make it, until Ulster explained the situation.

Flamthwynn visited Minn's manor, but was left hanging.

Taegen, encouraged by Merinthia's words and his seemingly permanent invisibility, waited for an opportune moment. Such presented itself when a maid went to Merinthia's room to change the bedsheets. He snuck in, just as the maid exited. There he placed a bouquet of flowers on the bed.

Merinthia, surprised and red in cheeks, spoke towards where she thought the invisible elf stood “I have a sweetheart in who is in Viridistan! I will return to him as soon as I recover. But I will always remember how you saved me!”

To that, Taegen said “He is a lucky man. But be certain that visible or not I will always be ready to rescue you from any danger.”

“Should you ever come to Viridistan, make sure to seek Wafim Sana—we'd be happy to show you around the most magnificent city in the world!”

Upon realising how silly Wafim would look offering a tour to an invisible person in the crowded streets of the city a grin escaped elf's lips, luckily one that remained undetected. Brushing aside this comical mental image with a wave of his hand, Taegen offered the young lady another promise:

“I will follow your advice in case I ever find myself there. I will let you rest now.” and he took his leave with intentionally too heavy steps so she can understand he is leaving the room. On his way out he couldn't help but think that he has made too many promises to a human woman which he is unlikely to keep when he will be still young and full of life while she will be old and wrinkled. If he lives that long despite being an adventurer, that is...

Warmshade 14th, Fireday

This was the day. Rad tried to make himself look as professional and proper as possible—albeit with little success. Flamthwynn informed Eccy and Taegen of his plans, just in case.

They travelled to the secret meeting place described by Minn at a steady pace. Indeed, the instructions were good enough, and the duo found the described grove well off the beaten path westwards of Tenoch.

The woods were lush and green, with plenty of wildlife moving around. Taking a few steps in, Rad noticed it god darker and quieter than he'd expect given it is noon and sun is bright.

Flamthwynn found the house—a sturdy looking, circular hut. It had single door, with three horizontal yellow stripes above them. He could see two circular shaped windows. Both framed and glassed.

Careful as always, he waited for some time before approaching the hut. Once he felt safe enough, he went to the doors and knocked once. Then he knocked thrice, but very fast.

As he leaned in for yet another knock, the doors flung open—and red faced Minn Almar whispered angrily:

“What?! What?! You can't do this any louder, can you?!”

“Apologies, esteemed colleague. I was merely trying to throw off any would-be eavesdroppers with a little... magic trick. Fine day for a secret meeting, eh?”

“I thought you were a learned man, Flamthwynn! Were you followed here? Did you speak to anyone of this meeting?”

Thinking for a second, Flamthwynn replied “We were not followed. Only I, and my friend Rad back there, are aware of this meeting.”

“Good, good... Please, come in.”

Rad walked in even before Flamthwynn got the chance to wave him to come forth.

Minn closed the doors behind them. Three audible clacking sounds could be heard—the thief recognised those for what they are: a strong lock.

The insides were as plain as the outsides. Furniture was sturdy and well made. A muscular, red-skinned figure dressed in leather armour was seated at a round table by the hearth. His armour seemed a bit off.

“Don't mind him. All will be clarified soon. Please, take a seat.”

There were three empty stools around the table, one next to the man, and two on the other side. Four wooden cups and two bottles of pale yellow liquid rested on the table.

“Come on, we don't have all day!” Minn sat down opposite the man.

Flamthwynn sat next to the muscular man, and started tapping his fingers on the table, awkwardly waiting. Rad took the stool next to Minn. He tried to find comfortable position, a process accompanied by lots of little squeaks.

“Finally!” and with that, Minn snapped his fingers. A naked, purple-skinned boy crawled from one of the cupboards, promptly approached the table, and poured Rad and Flamthwynn some of the yellow liquid in the cups. The red man sneered at boy.

“Flamthwynn, as I told you at my villa, Tenoch is in grave danger. There is a cannibal tribe that arrived in the area few months ago, and they've been harassing Tenoch since then.”

“They call themselves the Blood Spears. They impale their victims and skin them alive. Deggach here can tell you more. He is one of them.”

The man nodded.

“First I thought that Gof the Old would be smart enough to understand they must be exterminated. But he is too old, and too stupid to realise he cannot just be on the defence!”

“That's when I took matters into my own hands, and tracked them down. They've holed themselves in an abandoned tower just southeast from here. Holtar ap Tarj is the chieftain.”

“If it were just them, I'd have taken care of it weeks ago. But I made a horrible discovery which paralysed me with fear and anguish. I was convinced all is lost—until your boy Rad mentioned that mercenary company.”

“You see, not only are they disgusting cannibals... They also worship Harmakhis, a horrible deity. Deggach, please tell us more.”

The man spoke up “We used to roam the southern jungles, doing as we pleased, when we pleased. Few cowardly tribe came together and forced us out. It took us some years and many bloody battles to find our new home.”

“All was going well until Kruge, the old chieftain, got ill. He was replaced by Holtar. He was strong and savage, like a real leader! But he also listened to that wretched Marik. Suddenly we had to bow to some ridiculous sculpture. Even worse, we had to give a portion of our spoils to Marik. That portion grew bigger and bigger–”

Minn interjected “Yes, yes, and that's why you are working for me now. I did not ask you to tell us your history, but to share more about the tribe. And to answer our questions. Do you understand that?”

The man grunted with a sneer.

“Tell them what you told me—when do you plan to assault Tenoch?”

“One the night of two full moons, the rivers of blood will flow. We will feast on your flesh and curse your souls to eternal torment.”

Minn, turning to the enterprising duo, continued “Now, if my calculations are correct, Howla and Vannis should show themselves in full on Sunstrong 9th or 10th. Do you agree?”

Rad, leaning forward and joining the tips of his finger together, spoke up “Well first of all we need to discuss a few things. For starters, what is your estimate of average size of enemy forces?”

“Our tribe counts two hundred heads. Fifty of those have ate more than twenty hearts, each!” Dendrach grunted pridefully.

“Two hundred!” Rad shouted wide eyed, almost falling off the stool. Regaining his composure, he continued “For an operation like that we will need plenty of coin. At least in the high thousands.”

Flamthwynn join the discussion “Yes, 9th or 10th, that seems about correct. Now of course, we will need more fighters than the half-dozen we currently are. I believe Rhovar and Blutvarth, two of our companions, are already on route to Antil to recruit such a force.”

Minn continued “According to my research, they are very tribal. Killing the chieftain and shaman should throw them into disarray. Isn't it so Dendrach?”

“Without chieftain in place, anyone can take his role, as long as they can beat any other pretender. I had enough of this rotten place! Kill them, and I will rule the clan! I will take them back to the jungles, where we shall rule once more!” the brute explained.

“Would this chieftain in question have any definable features that would make him easy to spot on battle field as well as the shaman?” Rad inquired.

Minn snapped his fingers, and once again a naked slave-boy soon appeared with large parchment. The wizard took it impatiently and shooed the boy away.

“Here, this is the rough lay of the land...”

“Dendrach, tell us more.”

“Holtar spends most of his time on the top of the tower. His harem is there. You cannot miss him—he is the biggest man you have ever seen. He has a necklace made of elven ears, his favourite delicacy.”

“The shaman and his acolytes live in lower levels of the tower. I've never been there because I don't care for their dark magic.”

“Most of the tribe is spread out between four large huts. The weak ones are forced to live outside until they eat a heart of weeping human.”

Minn, talking over Dendrach, “So, Flamthwynn and Rad, tell me, how would you resolve this?”

“Well, just off the top of my head, they seem to rely on that well for water. Perhaps we sneak in there at night, poison water supply, and then after a day or two of them being weakened we launch a full frontal assault.”

Flamthwynn nodded in agreement with Rad's idea.

“Hahahaha!” the red man burst out laughing, throwing his head back. “You? Against the mighty Blood Spears? You and what army, little boy?”

“They will gut you without breaking a sweat. And if you live, your suffering will be legendary!”

Minn interjected “Oh, take it down a notch Dendrach. If you were so freakin' powerful, you would still roam your precious jungles.”

The man sneered, but otherwise remained quiet.

The wizard continued “You are onto something with well there, young man. I'm also confident that the tower has some sort of secret entrance. It predates these barbarians for several hundred years at least. And in absence of those, I've observed two large windows on the second floor.”

“Flamthwynn, you are a learned man. Surely you have some brilliant ideas on how to overcome this brutes through superior intellect?”

“Poisoning their water supplies sounds like it could work. I suspect such barbarians would be easily fooled as well, so distractions and subterfuges are definitely on the table.”

“Cowards...” Dendrach muttered under breath.

Flamthwynn looked at Dendrach intently for a second, then exaggeratedly looked around the room, saying “Or, we could find someone who wants to destroy the tribe, so that we can submit ourselves to their will in the hopes that they will kill the chieftain so we can take his place without a fight? I'm certain that would be a much braver plan of action, wouldn't it?”

The brute exhaled loudly. “Would you like me to open the front doors for you? Let's see how long you last before one of my brothers drinks your eyes with a straw!”

“Behave!” Minn smacked him with a long stick. “This is a man of high arts you are speaking to, barbarian!”

Rad, ignoring the exchange and lost in deep thought—obviously planning the assault and consequent riches—speaks up “If there is a secret entrance perhaps we can send a few of our strongest men to take care of the chieftain and end fighting quickly...”

“Well, that does sound like an interesting idea! Tell us more!” Minn demanded enthusiastically. “Dendrach, do you know of any other entrances than the drawbridge?”

“No.”

“Well, I guess you could always try to scale the walls to reach the windows on the second floor. The ravine is quite deep, so your death is certain in case you slip. Dendrach, would you be able to let them in from inside?”

“Yes.”

“Good! Sounds like a solid plan, if I may say so myself. See Flamthwynn, this is how it's done!”

“I am not used to your ways, esteemed colleague, but I must say you are quite convincing!” Flamthwynn lowered his head and muttered under his breath, absent-mindedly “Gotta get me one of those purple servants, could be quite useful...” He coughed and jerked back to attention “Yes, yes! a good plan indeed!”

Turning the discussion to business “Tell me more about your mercenary company. How many? When do we leave? How much for your services?”

Flamthwynn, appearing to count on his fingers (using his knuckles, base 12 style of course cause he's a wizard), “We are about a dozen at the moment, but more will be needed. Two of our members have gone to recruit more men from Antil, they will be back in a few days. As for payment, I am not well versed in the ways of gold myself, I will let my companions negotiate that element of our... contract.”

“Numbers, do you speak them?”

“What does that mean?” Rad asked, perplexed.

“Oy my, a man has to simplify everything for the young ones today! How much for your services?”

“Oh yes, well considering the large size of the opposition's army and their cannibalistic tendencies making them rather dangerous, I think 5500 gold is a fair price.”

“Hmmm... That might be fair, but I am no Green Emperor. How about a trade? 120 platinum pieces and I'll teach Flamthwynn here a few spells. I can also look over any arcane objects you have and figure out their use.”

“I’m afraid that is far too low for amount of danger involved. How about 4000 and two spells. If you don’t have that amount of gold on you right now it can be done in instalments as well.”

“My knowledge is much more valuable than that! Flamthwynn, please explain to your friend what kind of tribulations does a learned man have to endure to unlock arcane powers!”

Flamthwynn, looking back and forth between Minn and Rad “You are absolutely correct, esteemed colleague, the value of magical knowledge should not be underestimated! However, as much as I wish to be instructed by you, I understand my companion's concerns. For he and those of our company who are not practitioners of the magical arts, magic has little value, certainly they do not weigh it as heavily as I do against the danger of death–” somehow he tripped on his robe while seated and pathetically, slowly fell to the floor, not before being unable to catch himself by the table edge.

Minn, gasping and turning blood red, roars “You have wasted my time! What cruel joke you played on me, to give me hope! Get out! Get out!”

The duo ran out at the speed of light, and rode to Tenoch as fast as they could to report their smashing success. There Taegen and Eccy convinced them they should go to Actun. It is an old elven city; older than Antil. It is well known among elves, for it is still independent of both the Green Emperor and Invincible Overlord.

Rinendirlan Ælasyn, their mentor, gave them a letter “guaranteeing entrance, should they ever need help.” Eccy was convinced that the spellbook recovered from the lair of sinister giant mushroom must be the one Rinendirlan sent them after. Therefore he was quite eager to send it to him as soon as possible. With Actun being the closest know save haven for elves, he lobbied hard to get the party there.

Prior to setting out, they recruited another rogue-like figure. This was Gomm, a sweet talking and sweet smelling fine looking man dressed in leather armour with a long cape. Together they rode towards the Romilion sea, and followed the shore north-west.

Warmshade 15th, Spiritday

Another wonderful and sunny day in Barbarian Altanis. The party galloped alongside the ever narrowing sea as it formed Selget Haven. They kept as far as they could from the notorious Gristly jungle to their left.

Suddenly a troupe of armoured rides, followed by charging footmen, came at them for south-west.

“Whip the horses! Faster!”

Alas, the mounted warriors caught up with party in moments.

“Halt! Identify yourself!” the leading figure yelled in elven.

Eccy turned his horse to greet the figure.

“I'm Eccy Throi, accompanied by the Hydra Company. We are travelling to Actun to return what is the rightful ownership of our Master, Rinendirlan Ælasyn.”

“Thenan of Castle Silvan. We patrol these areas and ensure Actun remains safe for elves. I'm afraid your Master's name is unfamiliar to me.”

“Perhaps this letter will help you.”

Armoured elf read it with great interest.

“Hm, this is sufficient. Just follow the river upstream and you will find Actun soon enough. And make sure these humans cause no trouble.”

“Pssst, ask him if we can sleep at their place instead out here. It's a bit scary with that jungle nearby...” one of the humans whispered to Eccy.

“We are busy enough as it is. Go and ask yourself.” and with those words Thenan and his troupe marched southwards, continuing their patrol.

The party continued their journey.

“I don't understand. It should be just across the river. But where are the bridges? Or any crossings? Eccy, Taegen, these are your people. Tell us more!”

They found themselves at the bank of broad river that empties itself into Selget haven. According to their map, Actun should indeed lie at the other side. But nothing but thick forest could be seen.

“Any axes? Maybe we could make some rafts or canoes?”

But no one took any axes.

Few of the adventurers investigated the river. The edges were shallow enough to walk, but it gradually got deeper and deeper. It was Eccy who had most fascinating discovery—a narrow pathway that remained shallow.

He followed it, finding that it winds left and right, like a spasming worm, but remains shallow. Others soon followed him, in a line. The path was just wide enough for one mounted person. Flamthwynn noticed that there was no solid ground at moments—and yet he was still able to walk without falling into the azure river!

Progressing slowly, following the labyrinthine path, Eccy led the party to the other side of the river. Just in time to be greeted by twenty heavily armoured and armed elves.

“Welcome to Actun. Your identity and reason for visit? And why is he invisible?”

“It was a side effect of a potion he drunk.”

“Your paperwork checks out. You can enter Actun. Aeralyn here will accompany you in, escort you to Kylasrendi Lirielsinger, and help you leave.”

“How about our friends?”

“Humans? They stay out. Nothing will happen to them, as long as they behave. No fires. No loitering. No shouting.”

And so were Eccy and invisible Taegen led into dark forest, while Gomm, Rad, and Flamthwynn were left at the east bank of magnificent river.

“Well, I guess it's time to make camp. At least it's sunny?” The trio engaged in some recreative gambling, with Gomm picking up the lot.

The wood elves found it difficult to orient themselves in these woods. They were nothing like Scarlet Forest in Elephand Lands where they hail from. Some of the trees seemed to repeat themselves.

Suddenly a white-marble stone tower appeared in front of them.

“This is the home of Kylasrendi Lirielsinger. He is ready to welcome you.”

The duo entered into bright antechamber. The sun shone from above, as if there was no ceiling.

“Welcome. I know Rinendirlan Ælasyn quite well. What brings you here?”

“He sent us on a mission to recover stolen spellbook. He instructed us to seek help in Actun once we do so.”

“Can I see the book?”

Eccy passed on the leather-bound book retrieved from the fungi-men cave.

“This isn't your Master's book. Whose is this? Can you tell me more about that place?”

The duo explained everything in great detail.

“I'd like you to bring me the sentient mushroom alive. Could you do so? For four thousand platinum pieces?”

“We can try!” Taegen answered enthusiastically.

“I did not ask you if you can try. Can you bring it alive?”

“Well we can, but we have other matters to attend to first...”

“That's fine. I have time.”

“Now, about the invisible guest. That is rude, but I've been informed it's due to your incompetence. Tell me more.”

Taegen's explanation only lowered his already low status in the host's eyes even further.

“Wood elves... Like children... I can arrange for you to become visible, should you wish so.”

“Yes, please!”

“You will be visited tomorrow morning, and that will be taken care of. Now, I will take care of the book. Aeralyn will show you to your housing.”

And with those words their chilly host left them in the antechamber.

“Can we do some shopping while we are here?”

“Whatever you need will be brought to you.”

The duo was escorted through the woods to a simple stone building. A nourishing dinner and warm beds awaited them, unlike their three human friends who had to sleep without open fire.

Warmshade 16th, Airday

“Are you ready to leave?” Aeralyn was eager to escort Eccy and Taegen out of Actun as soon as possible. The latter was made visible by a disapprovingly looking elf. By now both of them felt quite unwelcome here.

“Sure.”

They were quickly led to Gomm, Rad, and Flamthwynn, whose welcome seemed infinitely warmer than whatever it is they just experience in Actun.

“Hey, are there any ships in Actun that could take us to Antil?”

“Yes.” Aeralyn replied, and nothing more.

“Oook. Could you tell us about Stigrix? It's a settlement nearby?”

“Full of disgusting dog-men. Maybe they can give you a ride.”

“Oh, we have a funny guy here?”

“Fine, we will ride back.”

Aeralyn exhaled a sigh of relief, and went back into the dark forest.

Eccy once again led the party over the river, following the shallow pathway.

They reached Tenoch by Warmshade 18th, and decided to stay there until Sunstrong 1st—because that's when the market fair will be!

Sunstrong 1st, Airday

Rad spent his days telling stories of his amazing adventures to whomever wanted to listen—and many did! Villager of Tenoch donated nearly a thousand copper pieces, two sacks of potatoes, two chickens, one pig, one goose, one pheasant, and three days of animal feed. He also turned down seven marriage proposals due to insufficient dowry offered.

Gomm spent days at Bronze Lantern and foraging various herbs. He collected enough henbane to make two salves... Or one dangerous snack.

Flamthwynn and Eccy spent their time attempting to identify bottles the former had recovered from the fungi-men lair. The content of bottles were as follows:

  • Empty.
  • Blue-black liquid with the consistency of water.
  • Chunky liquid.
  • Blue liquid, highly viscous, almost a gel.
  • This bottle contains an eye suspended in a clear liquid; the eyeball is bigger than the mouth of the bottle.
  • The outside is painted with a scene of galloping horses.
  • Clear water.
  • Clear water; underneath this bottle is a scrap of parchment; stains render most of the note illegible; the few words that can be deciphered read “the finger is the key.”
  • The bottle is painted black.
  • Oak-brown solid or liquid.
  • Brown-yellow; labeled as goblin urine.
  • Clear; labeled as poison.
  • Birch-brown solid or liquid.

Uncorking the one with chunky liquid had proven rather disastrous. Even a small whiff sent Flamthwynn screaming like a mad-man. He ran around Tenoch, ruining his reputation in the process, while Eccy tried to calm him down. Minn watched with disgust from his villa.

Taegen used the time to train the local militia. He often spared with Thulkor, Gof's adopted son and leader of the militia. He learned that many consider Minn crazy and don't believe in the cannibal clan threat.

On 1st, Tenoch was bustling with more activity than usual. There were elven traders from Actun, miners from Quitzit, merchants from Antil, and all kind of folk from region.

The party used the opportunity to seek new recruits for the Hydra Company. Four individuals stood out:

  • Delphina the Spiteful, a titanic female warrior. At least a head bigger than next largest character. So ugly most people flinch when they see her. Loves slaughter.
  • Sister Nadia, a halfling female. Came from far far west.
  • Rondel the Fighter. Yellow hair, light blue eyes, double pupils. Claimed to be born this way.
  • Woodruff Proctor, male cleric, interested in learning about the Antilian peninsula. Scholar on his way to Antil. Fears water and looks like goblin.

Despite her rough (understatement) appearance, everybody was attracted to Delphina. Alas, neither Rad nor Flamthwynn had enough coin to please her. Their offers were welcome as much as Eccy and Taegen were at Actun.

Finally, Taegen the Charming stepped forward and invited her for a friendly sparring session.

She gleefully accepted. Gomm, Rad, and Flamthwynn, experience gamblers they are, quickly started taking bets. 2:1 in favour of the big woman.

Delphina dropped her heavy greatsword to the ground. Taegen walked in and politely approached her. He was rewarded with a rib-shattering blow to the side of his body which sent him flying. He landed on his face and took a long nap.

Eccy observed in disbelief.

The gamblers found themselves in trouble now—only one person bet on Taegen. Sixteen others placed their money on Delphina. Luckily for them, enough money circulated that they walked away with a humble net profit.

Gomm the Entrepreneur made a deal with Delphine to hold more matches during the fair. He also hired her as his muscle. Consequently, he started sweating if he'll be able to pay her on time.

Eccy, being the only responsible character here, tended to downed Taegen. They retreated to bed early.

Rad, Flamthwynn, and Gomm decided to party long into the night, losing everything they've made on previous days. Ah, such is the adventurer's life.

Rhovar and Blutvarth

Warmshade 13th, Earthday

Rhovar and Blutvarth took all the treasure to Antil. They were to gather reinforcements, sell the treasure, and get proper healing for Blutvarth, before joining others in Tenoch.

Five giant wolves surprised them in the woods just after they had crossed the majestic river Highcourse. Two went for Rhovar, and other three for Blutvarth.

One missed Rhovar's horse, but the other managed to bite off its hind legs. Rhovar fell down and rolled, uninjured.

Blutvarth's horse was also ripped to shreds. He fall down, a bit less gracefully than Rhovar, since he was still reeling from the trauma of transforming into and from lizard form.

The wolves circled the duo, ignoring the horses at the moment. They were larger than the wolves any of them have encounter so far. Each had a different mane, and some even had tattoos.

“This is it Rhovar... Death or Glory.” Blutvarth, still reeling from the pain, stood up, unsheathed his sword, and pointed it at the wolves defiantly.

Rhovar says “I'm sorry!” and turns to run away.

Blutvarth gave Rhovar one of his signature grins, though the melancholy was visible through his façade of defiance.

“I've seen too much death. I can't bare face it again” Rhovar utters through tears. But the wolf circle was too tight—there was nowhere to go.

“You cannot run from your own, my friend.” Blutvarth assumed an offensive stance, sword pointed forward.

One of the wolves started... laughing?

“You really know how to pick them, Meza.” the largest one spoke in chaotic.

“I don't want the cowardly one. They always soil themselves.” the smallest added.

“What do you desire beast?” Rhovar blurted “Is it flesh? What about this treasure? Will it please you?”

None of this made sense to Blutvarth. He just heard wolves growl and Rhovar bark. The man had truly lost it.

“Flesh! Treasure! Dominion! All!” the largest one barked back at Rhovar.

“You are terrible masters, take our treasure and the flesh of our horse and leave us be, and I shall leave ye a sack of gold as a toll on the way back here!”

“Silly little thing, what else will you offer before we rip you to pieces?” the smallest one spoke again.

“How about your friend over there. Look at him; look how bravely he stands.”

“Maybe we ask him to join us, and have him feast on your flesh...”

“Not a bad idea, Meza!” the large quipped enthusiastically.

“I bid ye, terrible masters, I will give you two sack of gold and another horse if you let us leave. What name shall I call my new masters, oh loathsome ones!”

Blutvarth, could see the wolves circling him and bark back and forth with Rhovar.

“Where were you heading to?” the small one asked.

“The city of the giant Eagle, where I have much coin stowed away. This here treasure is only a trifle compared to our stores.”

“Oh! The feathery pilgrims! Juicy, juicy, juicy!” the fattest one chipped in.

Blutvarth stood motionless, keeping his guard up, following the wolves with tired eyes. Although he didn't understand what's going on, he's prepared to die and didn't want to lose face at the last minute.

“Here is the deal little one... you bring us five pilgrims, and we let you live.”

“How shall I find ye, oh fearsome ones”

“Come and lounge by the great river; we will find you.”

“What name should I call my new masters?”

“Wormmour Clan.” the largest barks. “Go now! Go and bring us back the feathery delicacies!”

“As you desire, oh mighty Wormmour!”

They allowed Rhovar to step out of the circle. And then they tightened around Blutvarth.

“And my friend masters, he knows the feathered ones, I will need him to trick them! Look at his wounds, he is tired old meat! As I speak your tongue he speaks theirs!”

The smallest wolf spoke once more: “I'm sure you will find a way, o snivelling one. Your friend will stay with us. Depending how fast you come back, we might return him in one piece... or his bones.”

“Six clerics! Let him leave and I shall bring you six!”

The fat wolf gasped!

“Go, go!” and they let both go, despite Meza's protests.

As they hurried away, Rhovar told Blutvarth everything. “By the hair on our chin my lad!”

Horseless, but full of adrenaline, the duo decided to head towards Kestizar, the closest safe settlement.

“A boat, a boat is what we need my lad! A days sail from Antil 'tis all. Then we'll summon up a horde and come back and skin those dogs!”

They reached Kestizar by the end of third watch. It's a large fishing village with wooden palisades. Most of the guards were wounded or bandaged. On their way to it, Rhovar and Blutvarth passed a number of trashed huts and houses. There was a heavy atmosphere in the air, and most of the people avoided them.

“Hail guardsmen! What assails the noble Town of Kestizar?” Rhovar said to the guards “Tell, what aid I can give you?”

Most of them tried to ignore him or just mumbled something.

“We've been harassed by forces of chaos for weeks now. They strike at night with horrible howls and fiery hell. It's been getting worse... Many here have lost their kin just two nights ago...” one of them said quietly.

Another, with bloody bandage running along his leg, chimed in “That limp-dick Karnalt refuses to send any help whatsoever, choosing to hide behind castle walls instead!”

“You want to help us? Seek Elidarth the Elder, she will know best.”

“Thank you brothers. Keep up your chin and your shield. I shall talk to Elidarth to see how I can aid you.”

Blutvarth was paler by the hour. He retched often, and had little strength to move around. Although Rhovar's cowardice shocked him at first, now he's more intrigued by his craftiness than anything.

Rhovar traded in his plate mail for two leather armours. Then he found a safe place to leave Blutvarth to rest while he sought transport to Antil. Alas, most of the locals ignored him.

“You remind them of Skandiks, my friend. Brutal, pillaging lot they are. Blond and pale, just like you. Have you heard what they did in Zothay? Unspeakable horrors.”

“My name is Lenden. I might be able to help you. I usually take advance pay, but if you give your word and promise 150 gold coin, I can fix you up.”

“I am of the North yes, at my birth I was lain on the altar of Grimnir along with the head of a stag, as is the custom of the first born of my tribe. We may seem savage to you southerners, but there is an honesty in the battle lust. Aye, I will take you up on your offer friend, I have a companion who is gravely hurt, we must make Antil with speed so he can be healed.”

“Lady Luck smiles upon you then. We are leaving tonight, when Howla and Vanis are at their highest.”

“Two moons, good omen, may Freya bless our journey. I shall see your fists are stuffed with gold when we make port. I shall collect my companion and meet you at the boardwalk.”

Rhovar informed Blutvarth, and then went to seek Elidarth the Elder. He found her at the recently pillaged part of Kestizar. There a group of people was going through the remains, cleaning up and sorting surviving belongings. Among them was a young woman dressed in simple clothes.

The warrior approached her with a raised hand, and reverberated “Hail from the many headed Hydra Company. Condolences for your loses, Elder. Let us pour out this offering and sing to their passing.” He presented the wine he picked up on the way. “What assails the town of Kestizar? Perhaps our mercenary company could aid you.”

After she finished giving out instructions, she took Rhovar on the walk towards breached palisades. She was courteous, but didn't mince words.

“Brigands and their monstrous servants: goblins and hobgoblins. They are surprisingly well coordinated. Tarrak is certain he shot down a few of them, but we couldn't find their corpses in the aftermath.”

“I'm worried they are merely probing our defences. I've requested help from Antil many times, but they always write to ask Lord Karnalt. And he hasn't offered any help, no matter how much we ask for it.”

“I planned to ride to Antil several days ago, but am afraid Tenoch might fall in my absence. The spirits are low and people are broken.”

“We are fishermen and jewelers, not warriors.”

“Tell me, blond fighter, do you still believe you can crush this villainous horde?”

“A sharp blade will cut. Karnalt has lost his whetstone. You ask me whether I think we can defeat this menace? Two days ago we smashed to pieces the skulls of forty degenerate fungal men in the bowls of the earth. Here I am, Grimnir sees me breath still. See here, the slime of their brains still mires my weapon. My answer then elder, aye, I will kill any foe before me, or die trying. A true warrior never forgets to sharpen his blade, for a blade has but one purpose; Death.”

“Tonight I sail to Antil to gather troops. Tenoch is besieged and I have promised to destroy their enemies. I shall stop here on the way for rest, do you know where the enemy camp? Do you know their numbers?”

“I'm quite confident that I recognised some of them. And If I have, then those were men led by Roenald, a knave and scoundrel who lairs in an abandoned keep south-east from here. But they were always a petty bunch, so I might be wrong...” Elidarth replied.

Rhovar scratched his blonde beard in thought. “You know him? Does he take prisoners? What do you think his reaction would be if you offered him parlay? If you offered him treasure, or slaves, in order to leave the town alone? Would he jump at the chance? I am brewing an idea.”

Elidarth thought for a moment before replying. “Earlier this year, perhaps Dewsnap or later, a group of men got drunk and started causing trouble. They were bragging about how they are unstoppable, and have recently vanquished a party of adventurers. Apparently, they were about to get rich from ransoming a priest of the Sun and a dwarf from some far away clan. When asked to leave they got violent, so we forced them out with clubs and spears. It is then they mentioned this Roenald figure. I thought that'd be the last of them...”

“I can tell you one thing—whomever was attacking us over the last month was not talkative at all... They all seemed... Possessed, in lack of better word.”

She heard out the details of Rhovar's plan, but ultimately hadn't bought it. “Wouldn't you rather garrison here, and then counterattack?”

Looking around, all he could see were recently constructed palisades which look like they'll fall over as soon as someone blows at them.

“How often do they attack? We can counter attack here. I will return as soon as I can with as many men as I can muster.” He offered advice on how to improve the palisade before leaving.

He found Blutvarth where he left him, albeit much paler. The young warrior was dying.

“I do not think I will make it to Antil alive my friend. If I could choose, I would like to die in a prettier place than this...”

“Don't talk that way. You're gonna make it!”

Lenden met them after midnight. He led the duo to a small boat with four hunched figures. A large bald man accompanied him.

“Aegan will accompany you to your home, to collect payment for services rendered.”

Then he looked at Blutvarth.

“You look horrendous boy. What are you suffering from?”

“I wish I knew, friend. I was grievously wounded during a fight, and one of my companions gave me a magical concoction. I underwent some kind of... transformation. Then I felt amazing, strong, renewed. But after a while, I was myself again. My weak, wounded, bloodless self. My companion attempted to give me another concoction, but my body violently reacted to it. I've been feeling worse and worse since.”

Aegan, in his failed attempt to whisper subtly, grunted something like “slit” and “throat” to Lenden.

“Now, now, what these fine men do in private is no concern of ours as long as they pay their dues.” Lenden said.

“My man here, who will also be your captain for the night, is slightly concerned with what you just shared.”

“Will you oblige if he politely asks you to jump out of the boat in case you... Transform again?”

“Whatever magic caused him to transform is long gone, but take my word I will end him if it happens again. Death is the transformation quickly approaching him.” Rhovar said stoically.

After some back and forth both loaded this not suspiciously looking boat at all. They reached Antil by sunrise.

Warmshade 14th, Fireday

They disembarked in the most dubious part of the Servant's Quarters, far outside of the walled portion of the city.

“Done. Pay up!” Aegan demanded forcefully.

“This is not the location. Go up at the docks, we have a warehouse with the coin, as I told your master. I will hold this banner aloft for the guards to see.” Rhovar retorted.

“We are in Antil, are we not? Lead the way.”

“You are already over charging me dog, we'll be landing on my personal jetty for the price I'm paying. Raise sail, dog.”

“The boat stays here, dog! Now walk or I'll gut you myself!”

Blutvarth reflexively put his hand on the pommel of his sword, stood up slowly; and calmly, though with laboured breath, said:

“There is no need to get angry, both of you. Aegan, my good man, there is plenty of gold at the end of this for you, but not if you do not guide us to the exact place we need to go. Even less if you attack us now. Unlike our coffers, our purses are empty; and death would be quite a meager reward for the service you have provided us, wouldn't it? Let us not spill blood here.”

“This is the furthest we get on sea!”

“Why are you so reluctant to go any further. You can be honest, I have fought alongside all kinds.”

“Ask Lenden. Enough of this play, will you lead to your place and pay up, or are we going to carve you up right here, right now?!”

Reluctantly agreeing, the duo made their way through the Servant's Quarters. “Streets” are nothing but packed dirt. Urine, feces, and what not, are stomped into dry canals running alongside the pathways. Most of the houses are simple hovels, with only a few being multi-storied.

There didn't seem to be much life bustling around, except occasional gangs of urchins, begging cripples, and shady looking figures who observe the duo with as much contempt as they had for them. The closer they got to the walls, the better did conditions become.

“Name and reason of visit?” the guards at the Gates of Antil inquired.

“Morean, visiting the Walled Bazaar.” Aegan grunts.

“Rhovar, officer of hydra company, returning to base.”

“Blutvarth, prospective member of hydra company, accompanying my officer.”

“Oh my frog!” Kallahan exclaimed, seeing Blutvarth. “You look gloriously sick! ... Though maybe that's not such a good thing in your case. “Let's get you some help. I'm a poor healer but I might know people who can help you.”

Rhovar spent next five days recruiting mercenaries. He managed to hire eight heavy footmen and twenty two archers who had just landed in Antil port. Death of their lord made them jobless, so they were quite enthused to meet Rhovar. Perhaps they would be of different disposition had they known they are about to meet some cannibal barbarians.

He also signed up new Hydra Company members: Blutvarth, Norwell, Brawley, and Mano Stern.

The pale warrior was dropped off with healers of the most impressive bosoms, per his dying wish.

Just before ending up in the Hydra Company, Norwell had tried all sorts of jobs in Antil: From working occasionally as a waiter in taverns to the really hard work of unloading cargo from ship at the docks.

However, accustomed to the life of the great city he could not part from certain luxuries, such as accommodation in a good inn, fine meals and beverages and flirting. Although that meant that he had a great time he soon could not afford this lifestyle and unfortunately at the same time he agreed to join a gang of smugglers who appreciated the fact that he worked at the docks already.

The plan went all wrong, many of the smugglers slain by an older gang claiming the docks as their own. Norwell barely escaping death and having even lost his money pouch and desperate to leave Antil before losing his life again hurriedly offered his services to Hydra Company hoping he would be send on a mission to the countryside. Current estate: Clothes, tools, sword, sling, a few rations and 41 copper pieces he had somehow forgotten inside his toolbox.

Brawley got very drunk, telling everyone who would listen that he is a favourite son of the sea god, he survived being marooned and came into possession of a magic lantern.

He was so boisterous he started dancing on the bar, that was when a man marched up to him and told him to kindly shut his mouth. Brawley started fist fighting with the man wrecking a large portion of the pub.

Unbeknownst to Brawley the man was an influential figure in the city, and the next morning Brawley found himself waking up in the stocks of Antil's square.

He spent days there, all manner of food thrown at him, animals using him as a urination station. Once he was released he looked for the quickest way out of Antil and happened upon his friends who told him about the advert for the Hydra company. And here he was, his neck and wrists still bruised. He now spits at any mention of Antil.

Little is know of Mano Stern, probably because he was the only lawful member.

Rhovar, Brawley, Norwell, Mano Stern, and their force of thirty mercenaries, set out for Tenoch on Warmshade 18th.

They arrived at noon of Sunstrong 2nd, waving their banners proudly.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.
Flamthwynn Magic-user leve 1 An older gentleman sporting fashionable dark blue robe with purplish overtones. Seeking arcane objects and offensive spell.
Blutvarth Fighter level 1 A skinny man with sharp features, curly hair and a sneering smile. He swears that he is friendlier than he looks.
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Ulster Fighter level 2 A former caravan guard with a promise to fulfil.
Rad Thief level 1 A young, short and malnourished rogue.
Adkin the Butcher Fighter level 3 A hot headed warrior quick to fury trained by Marco Vitelli, retired quartermaster of the army of the Invincible Overlord.
Rhovar Fighter level 3 A generic Nordic guy.
Dave John Basic Fighter level 3 A village boy with an affinity for stabbing rats.

Warmshade 12th, Waterday

Slow fire burned under the cauldron with pale green liquid.

“Should we get out?”

“I think this might be our best chance to defeat that evil mushroom...”

“We still haven't found Sinai!”

“How about one more room?”

The adventurers agreed that those burdened with awesome treasure they've just plundered from alien mushroom's chambers should start heading south, towards suspect exit, while the rest will investigate north. Western passageway, the one they came in through, was still blocked by heavy portcullis.

Carefully moving on, the explorers found themselves in the most alien chamber so far. The walls were bulging and warping as if they were melted into shape. A familiar stream went through a grate in the floor, crashing on something hard below.

A round, oddly shaped desk was in the center; a bizarre recliner next to; and a large, warped cabinet extruded from the western atrocity of a wall. Flamthwynn recognised the place as some perverse take on library. Stroking his chin, he announced that he'll be studying the contents of this chamber. Eccy Throi joined in, seeking the spell book his Master sent him after. Rad went for the cabinet. DJ Basic sought rats.

Rest of the party proceeded north, upstream. There they found a massive chamber full of large, human-sized pods hanging from the ceiling. Dozens, and dozens, and dozens...

At this moment Blutvarth the Lizardman begun screaming and shivering—another disgusting metamorphosis was taking place! His scales started peeling off, his yellow eyes burst with force, his razor sharp teeth fell out, and his tails spasmed so hard it broke in places. At the end of this macabre show, Blutvarth the Pink Human was left one the ground, a naked, shrivelling excuse of existence.

He did get some help from the party, but they were more interested in parchments on the table and contents of the cabinet. Indeed, Flamthwynn could read some of them. It were mostly ramblings of a mad person. Calculations of nutrient requirements, plant growth cycles, an the like. He did find an illustration of a cage-like shaped. The text next to it said:

“Command: Fahoorth”

Rad scoured the cabinet for traps. Having found none, he smugly opened it, only to have the cabinet shriek loudly. Alarmed, the thief was joined by Eccy, DJ Basic, and Flamthwynn in smashing it. After they properly beat it up, they proceeded to plunder its innards. They've recovered three scroll cases, presumably with scrolls in them, eight heavy tomes on horticulture, and one large, leather-bound, locked book. The last one was taken by Eccy.

Flamthwynn and Eccy stayed in the library, while the rest joined Adkin and the gang. Together, they went further upstream, and played exterminators for an hour. That's how long it took them to cut down just a little bit over a hundred pods. By the time they were done, all were thoroughly covered in minced fish paste, rotten vegetation, and an assortment of colourful gooey substances.

As this took place, Flamthwynn studied more of the alien notes. An illustration of familiar U-shaped plant with slimy tendrils on the underside had “Shothuar” scribbled next to it. The following unfinished note caught his attention as well:

”...the unexpected result of the experiment has been forced into a larger cavern, where it has, so far, remained peaceful. I can keep it back with its discipline stick, but it has become a very irritating obstacle.”

What about Blutvarth? Well, I'm happy that you remembered him, for he was better off whilst being ignored. Flamthwynn the Master Alchemist, persuaded the young warrior to drink another vial of blood red liquid, which was “most definitely” a healing potion.

Too weak to think or argue, the man downed it all in one go. It went out as fast as it come down. Blutvarth vomited blood all over himself. Eccy and Flamthwynn masterfully evaded the vomit projectiles. The elf couldn't believe how incompetent this lot is.

“Feeling better, boy?”

Too weak to exist, Flamthwynn interpreted the boy's wobbling head as yes. From now, both Herat and Eccy had to assist him. Remembering that Rad felt better after drinking the pale green liquid from the bubbling cauldron, Master Alchemist's next brilliant suggestion was to go for it.

They took (dragged?) Blutvarth to the vat. The boy dunked in his head and took large gulps. Others left him to it, not wishing to risk getting themselves soiled. This time the contents stayed in the boy's belly, and he did feel... warm. Which helped, since he was still naked after the transformation.

By now the Exterminators have rejoined the Healers. The party was now where they were at the beginning of this story—in the cauldron room.

“Let's get out!”

Following southern path led them down the tunnel which entered into yet another large chamber. Entrance was flanked by the upside-down plant cups.

“Shothuar!” Flamthwynn yelled, proving himself actually useful. The plants flattened against the cave wall.

A gravelly, rumbling voice echoed through darkness. It spoke in elven:

“Who goes there? Have you returned to torture me more?!”

Hesitantly entering the cave, the party quickly found the source of this disturbing voice. A twelve foot tall, six-men wide tree was planted in the south-west corner. Its roots were mortared, and many branches were chained to the ground.

“You are not that accursed mushroom... Free me! Free me so I can trash this place!”

“Watch out!” Rad yelled as he noticed two blood-red carpets slowly descending from above. “That's it, we are out of here!”

And so they ran north, upstream, finding themselves at the familiar T-junction. Lowered portcullis was to their right. They were on the right track. Low, hateful grumbling echoed from behind them.

Moving further upstream, the party once again went into the chamber with cages. A dwarf was still imprisoned. The dwarf that turned out to be a horrific black monster last time it escaped.

“Let's kill him!”

“What if the cage is magical and anyone inside looks like a dwarf?”

“Let's open it and see?”

“What if it isn't and it kills us after we let it out?”

“I have an idea.”

The idea was Flamthwynn, and yes, it included passing the liquid to the person being “helped.” In this case it was a vial of ink and a piece of parchment. Surely whatever was inside could write something? Alas, the dwarf was as uncommunicative as it had been before.

Without much else to do, the party proceeded upstream, to exit. They traversed slowly, making sure that the exquisite tapestries don't get damaged. Once again the went for the left tunnel, taking them through the room with fish-mincer. On their way to the the four-way junction with wood divider, DJ Basic noticed something odd to his left.

There was a dry tunnel they've always ignored since they assumed it to be a dead end. Also, entrance into it was basically a collection of ropy pillar of fungus growth spanning from floor to ceiling. But this time it seemed as if these pillars were moving towards them.

“Guys, check this out...”

“What are you seeing?

“I'm not sure...”

“How shall we resp–”

Before Adkin had the chance to finish his sentence, a massive mound of vegetation shambled out of the fungal wall. It engulfed both Adkin and DJ Basic in a single attack. They found themselves in a green hell, with endless tendrils constraining their limbs.

Rhovar immediately dropped the tapestry he was holding, and joined the fray. Flamthwynn, Eccy and few others fled upstream. Taegen the Invisible, Rhovar, Rad, Ulster gave it their best, but haven't managed to land more than two blows.

Having absorbed two of their members, the monster retreated back into the fungal overgrowth. Party desperately tried to hit it with their missile weapons, including burning oil, but once again missed. With a heavy heart, they too retreated upstream.

Adkin and DJ Basic fought the tendrils with all their might.

“Oh, no, you green demon, you will go down with me!” Adkin muttered. He would've rather set himself on fire, than die within this glorified pile of leaves. Gathering just enough strength to take out and uncork two of his oil flasks fueled his rage even further.

Flint and steel were. Damn, in which pocket were they? As he struggled to reach them, the innumerable tendrils overpowered him once again. Few constrained around his neck.

DJ Basic also struggled immensely. At one moment he nearly got out, but got pulled in at last moment. He heard Adkin grunts of defiance; he heard the uncorking. Then he heard the vials bouncing off the ground; the clang of flint hitting the hard cavern floor. And then his grunts were the only one.

Until they too, were no more.

“We haven't found Sinai. We lost two more...” Herat lamented as the survivors were greeted by the village boy, their guide.

“There will be time to mourn. But not now.”

Warmshade 13th, Earthday

They rested at Bathdawn, and with the crack of dawn rode off in two separate directions.

Rad, Flamthwynn, Taegen Ianlynn, Eccy Throi, Ulster, and Herat rode to Tenoch, intent on making their meeting with Minn Almar on Warmshade 14th. They reached their destination by the end of fourth watch.

Rhovar and Blutvarth took all the treasure to Antil. They were to gather reinforcements, sell the treasure, and get proper healing for Blutvarth, before joining others in Tenoch. Five giant wolves surprised them in the woods just after they had crossed the majestic river Highcourse.

Player Session Reports

Flamthwynn's juice:

Adkin's end:

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Flamthwynn Magic-user leve 1 An older gentleman sporting fashionable dark blue robe with purplish overtones. Seeking arcane objects and offensive spell.
Blutvarth Fighter level 1 A skinny man with sharp features, curly hair and a sneering smile. He swears that he is friendlier than he looks.
Adkin the Butcher Fighter level 3 A hot headed warrior quick to fury trained by Marco Vitelli, retired quartermaster of the army of the Invincible Overlord.
Rhovar Fighter level 3 A generic Nordic guy.
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Ulster Fighter level 2 A former caravan guard with a promise to fulfil.
Alestone the Brave Dwarf level 1 Overdressed coward.

Warmshade 12th, Waterday

“We've got company!” Rad yelled while slamming the doors behind him.

Most of the party was focused on naked and groggy Eccy. His arms were lined with bloody dots; needles hanging from the alien recliner he was lying on being the most probable cause of these mysterious injuries.

In the confusion the party had been joined by two newcomers:

Alestone the Brave, an absolute coward dressed in heavy armour from top to bottom. He even had matching knee pads. The dwarf seemed to materialise out of thin air—as if he came out of the fog.

Blutvarth, another heavily armoured figure. He was much less cowardly than the dwarf and had a sneering smile to prove it.

With little time to act, Adkin and Rhovar shook the elf back to his senses, while Taegen the passed healing potion to him. Eccy downed it without hesitation. The ghost of Saint Zagyg smiled upon him.

All warriors—Adkin, Rhovar, Blutvarth, Ulster, and Alestone—rushed to form a bottleneck at the entrance into the chamber they've been in. Whatever will come through that doors will suffer hell.

Herat stood her ground in the centre of the room, firmly holding the torch and providing much needed illumination. Freshly rejuvenated Eccy noticed his equipment in the corner and rushed towards it. Flamthwynn exercised tactical retreat in the direction he judged to be safest.

THUD. THUD. THUD.

The cave ground vibrated underneath their feet as something approached the closed doors.

A moment of silence was gone before Alestone had the chance to relent, and the doors came down with a tumultuous noise.

Gigantic fungi-man squeezed sideways through the door-frame, revealing two massive hammer fists. Dwarf immediately set him alight with precisely lobbed oil flask. The giant reached the party in one step, and enveloped Alestone with another.

Alas, the dwarf tried to wriggle out of it but was crushed to bloody by the monster's hammer fist in seconds. His blood splattered all over Blutvarth and Rhovar; the only reminder of his existence.

The warriors were swift in their vengeance, each carving out a chunk of the humongous fungi-man. Taegen went all in and cast Light upon the monster's head.

“Crushed dreams” illustration by one of the players.

Giant monster now acted as a lighthouse, revealing yet another curious figure just outside the smashed doorway. Rhovar, Blutvarth, and Adkin could see a eight feet tall mushroom with huge cap and two mean looking narrow eyes. They radiated sickly yellow light and looked as if the creature was scowling.

It focused it's gaze on Adkin the Butcher, and shouted in Common: “Protect me mighty warrior! Save me from these barbarians!”

To which the fighter positively responded and implored his friends to stop this violence at once. To say that he was ignored would be an understatement.

Distracted by their traitorous peer, Rhovar and Blutvarth hadn't noticed a number of purple-coloured orbs flying towards them at incredible speed. The former suffered two strokes, while the latter went down after a single hit.

“You! YOU!” Ulster boiled with rage. “I will kill you Sorcerer!” he roared as he charged past the towering fungi-men, and went straight at the mushroom-wizard. He was checked by another fungi-men, but not before he took a swing at the target of his rage.

His mace bounced of invisible barrier.

“Ack! Savage!”

The creature fought back, striking him with a staff-like object.

“Adkin, what has gotten into you?” Rhovar pleaded as he tried to wrestle down his friend. Alas, he was no match for the man trained by the famous Marco Vitelli. He was thrown to the side like a little pebble.

“Don't you remember all the wine and ale we guzzled together? All the dungeons we ransacked? And the women too?”

Overwhelmed with all the fond memories of their tight camaraderie, Adkin managed to snap out of whatever charm had that mushroom-wizard placed on him.

Herat and Taegen finished off the blinded monster. Flamthwynn maintained safe distance throughout the engagement. Let the kids perish, he did not reach his age by rushing in first.

“Ack! Savages! Savages! Savages!” the Sorcerer yelled as he turned and fled into the north-east chamber.

Still outraged, Ulster smashed the head of the fungi-man who had stopped him with a single strike, and charged after the fleeing monster. Other warriors, as well as two elves, followed.

Flamthwynn, feeling safe, went over to inspect Blutvarth. The boy was still breathing but needed urgent attention. He quickly instructed Rad and DJ Basic how to help him. Then he went through the potions shelf that DJ Basic started, but hasn't finished ransacking.

“Hmmm... What might be a healing potion here... Hmmm... Probably something red?”

Lo and behold, he did find two vials with dark red liquid. Putting his nose to both revealed one had a rusty smell while the other had a pleasant cedar aroma.

“Here, this one will... Make you feel better...”

Blutvarth, barely conscious, placed the vial to his lips as carefully as he could. Then he took a few shy sips. He felt tingles on his lips and warmth in his belly. And then he down it all in one go.

First few seconds were rather uneventful. Then he started to itch. A lot. Then his hair started to fall out; his skin started to crack and split; his teeth and nails came loose before falling off. He could feel his asshole burning, as well as stupefying pain in his face, as if great force was pulling it forward.

Flamthwynn got to enjoy the show from first row. The man in front of him went from broken boy in metal armour to a blob of pink flesh in matter of seconds. Blutvarth's face elongated into crocodile like shape, and razor-sharp teeth replaced human molars; pinkish skin was no more, replaced by shiny green-scales; nails replaced by claws, and swimming skin between the fingers; and finally, a long tail stretched from just above where once his anus used to be.

Clearing his throat, Flamthwynn spoke in lizard-man tongue “Ahem... So... Are you feeling better?”

Blutvarth, still recoiling from the horrific experience, took some time before responding. He did indeed feel better, but was thoroughly confused with what had just transpired.

As this macabre transformation took place rest of the party chased after the mushroom-wizard, charging into a large circular room. Unlike Ulster, others were not blind to lavish furniture. Four large masterwork tapestries adorned each wall; a large, alien-like reclined couch with silk bedclothes; a glass cabinet containing three cut-glass decanters and a silver goblet; a water pipe on a low table in the middle of the room with an enormous brazier full of unlit coal right next to it.

Ulster had seen his victim run through the eastern doors. They were similar to other doors leading into this chamber with one exception: they had iron bars running up and across them. Next to the doors were two holes carved into the wall. Both were filled with pale green, stringy substance, quite similar to the material fungi-men are made out of.

Using the shafts of their long weapons, Adkin and Taegen pushed the substance aside, revealing a small mushroom in each hole. Both felt wooden to touch, and did not budge even when pulled or pushed. They did move once they were twisted. The duo pulled both up simultaneously. The wooden mushroom rose as two small penises, and then limply fell back once they were released.

At this moment Ulster and Eccy judged they had enough of this, and invited invisible Taegen to force the doors open. After all, this wood elf was known far and wide for his impressive pythons. He earned his reputation once again, opening the doors as if they had never been closed at all.

Alas, Ulster was left disappointed, for around the corner laid nothing but a dark corridor and lowered portcullis. Party ignored his calls for vengeance, opting to plunder the lavishly decorated room instead.

Rhovar and Adkin gently lowered, rolled up, and then tied two of the majestic tapestries. They were so heavy that two men had to carry one. Herat helped herself to the glass cabinet, nicking all the stuff within.

Finally, Flamthwynn introduced his new friend to the rest of the party. Fighters deemed wholly unimpressed, unlike Eccy, who wondered who are these accursed folk whom he had partnered up for this expedition.

Once they finished taking all the valuable they can carry, the adventurers headed back into the chamber with three vats. As soon as they left, five fungi-men assaulted them form behind. Neither had proven to be any significant threat to this well oiled machine, not even the four-armed buff fungi-man. In fact, he was the first to go down, chopped to thin slices by Adkin the Chef.

Whilst discussing their further plans, Flamthwynn scanned through piles of parchment on the workbench. He recognised the spidery alphabet: goblin. But language was elvish. What a weird combination. The notes were either of an alien or mad mind. They were on combining plant and flesh to create new life; on something called “snagwort;” and numerous diatribes on “surface-dwelling folk.” Was there anything there worth of further study? Only time will tell.

At the moment the party stood in the dimly illuminated chamber, discussing their next move. Embers beneath one of the cauldrons quietly cackled.

What is this place?

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Adkin the Butcher Fighter level 3 A hot headed warrior quick to fury trained by Marco Vitelli, retired quartermaster of the army of the Invincible Overlord.
Rhovar Fighter level 3 A generic Nordic guy.
Rad Thief level 1 A young, short and malnourished rogue.
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.
Dave John Basic Fighter level 3 A village boy with an affinity for stabbing rats.
Ulster Fighter level 2 A former caravan guard with a promise to fulfil.
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Sinai Cleric level 3 White-robbed beduin, worshipper of Bukera, The Silent Scorpion.

Warmshade 11th, Airday

“We'll gut them like pigs, should we ever run into them!”

Ariad and Ehrman were nowhere to be seen, and by the looks of it, they've deserted on the horses owned by the Hydra Company.

Despite being concerned with their dwindling numbers and poor equipment, the party has decided to ride back to Bathdawn.

One delve, they said, just one delve to see if Eccy and Sinai are still alive.

Interlude

Sinai was dragged around with ease; he heard the familiar water stream and the noise of meat grinder. No matter how hard he fought back the creatures' grip seemed unbreakable. Eccy didn't fare much better, despite his more impressive strength.

Eventually they were stuffed into a small cage each, with enough room to barely be on all four. Nothing but darkness and sound of rushing water remained.

Exhausted and with streaming water as a lullaby, the priest and the elf sunk into deep sleep.

...

Droning, familiar noise woke up Eccy.

“What has happened here?” he heard in Elvish, albeit with a weird accent.

“Only one dead? Oh, how have my traps failed so!” the voice went on.

As Eccy turned his head he felt his whole body ache from the uncomfortable position he was in for unspecified amount of time.

“In tarnation! How many minions have I lost!”

He could see a large mushroom figure covering the whole entrance into the cave. It had a thick stalk and broad cap. It seemed to have two arm-like appendages, and the right one seemed to be holding something that doesn't emanate heat.

It turned around into the chamber where the party had faced a large number of fungi-men. It muttered and spoke all the time, in an unfamiliar elvish dialect.

It suddenly returned, still talking.

“Ack! Those pesky villager must've hired some pesky good doers!”

It moved with surprising agility towards the cage Sinai was in.

“Wake up!” it yelled in high-pitched voice in common, while striking him several times with a blunt object.

“Rise and shine, intruder!”

“What is a Priest of Bukera doing so far away from deserts? What are you seeking here?!”

“I seek what was taken from our people and return it to its rightful place!” Sinai roared before ramming himself into the cage with all his might.

“Ack! Savage! Savage!”

The cage did not bend at all, but the creature scuttled away, towards Eccy.

“Primitive, primitive!” the creature continued in elvish.

“You! Yes you! Oh, how fortunate I am to capture one of your kind. Speak! What were you looking for here with these barbarians?”

“I pursue arcane knowledge, and to master the craft of combat. These barbarians, such as they were, were useful to me in this pursuit.”

“Ack! Ack! And how many of them were there?”

“I'm not sure, ten or so. A fairly incompetent lot. I'm sure you will have noticed the one corpse was made by a spear to the back. An accident.”

“And where did they leave to? Are they coming back for you?”

“I have no way of knowing.”

“Surely you are smart enough to take an educated guess? Don't be shy now.”

“I met them in this very cave, and barely knew them. How am I to know where they've gone? I came in search of spellbooks I was heard were in the hands of someone that matches your description. Now I find myself captured. A fool's errand perhaps.”

“A fool's errand indeed! Don't you worry a thing, for I'll soon give you new purpose. Just you rest here and be a good boy.”

“Do tell me, what would that new purpose be?”

“Patience. You will find out soon enough. In the meantime—enjoy the show!” and it scuttled off with an ominous laughter.

Without anything else to do, Eccy tried to work the vines holding the cage down. Alas, it took him six hours before he managed to reach the vines. The cage, despite being of natural material, had very little give on the lower side. Even worse, once he did manage to reach the vines, he found them to be quite elastic.

Sinai once again rammed the cage. He bounced right back, then bounced off the floor into the cage again. He suffered whiplash and barely remained conscious.

...

Their plans were disrupted by scuttling sounds. Eccy could see out humanoid shapes moving in two quintets. Each group grabbed something off the ground, and carried it to the other chamber. They returned an hour later, and pushed whatever they've been dragging into the wooden device in the middle of the room. Sickening sounds of crushing bones and mincing meat were heard.

“Damn. I'll be turned into soup soon. Better not let that spell go to waste...” and so Sinai healed himself.

...

Their plans were once again interrupted, this time by large mushroom and a number of fungi men.

“Ack! You've been patient enough!”

Warmshade 12th, Waterday

With their horses spent from a day of hard ride, our brave gang opted for brisk march to the caves of vicious fungi-men. A local boy was eager to guide them once again, for these were the only warriors who had shown any interest in absolving them of this evil.

They reached the cave mouth just as the sun was lazily showing its first rays. Flamthwynn and the guide stayed behind, at what they deemed to be a “safe” distance.

The mossy ladders were still at the same spot, right next to the crashing waterfall. Rad picked up on the first change—plants flanking the tunnel to next waterfall have been replaced! Adventurers peppered them with arrows without too much hesitation.

Rad used the wooden key to reroute the second waterfall, revealing another set of ladders going down. Downwards they went.

And here they faced the second change since their last visit. At this point was junction, splitting the water stream in three different canals. Although the divider was still here, the southern tunnel was completely blocked with what seemed to be wood. In fact, it looked as if the wood had grown out of the cavern walls, so perfectly flush was it.

Chopping proposals were chopped down on the basis of attracting too much attention, too early. Since the stream was now split in two, instead of three, they had to wade through knee-deep chilly water.

Following the southern was uneventful... to a point. As they approached the T-junction leading to the lower level, they heard scrapping and splashing sounds. Almost as if something was being dragged.

Peeking around the corner revealed four fungi-men to be the source of the noise. They were in fact dragging crooked trees that party had vanquished just several days ago.

Using superior tactics of “surprise our foes and crush them,” the party charged and took care of all four in record time. Adkin and Rhovar killed one each, and DJ Basic demonstrated that rat killing skill set is very applicable to fungal creatures as well.

Investigating the scene revealed two things. First, it seemed as if the monsters were trying to build a dam out of deformed trees. Second, the spikes and rope set up by Rhovar on their previous expedition had been taken out.

With the further descent dangerous enough as is, the party had once again decided to spend the needed time to secure hundred feet of rope along the tunnel walls.

Taking a deep breath, they went down, one by one. The place where they fought the black horror was close.

With another familiar T-junction in sight, the party opted to send forth two scouts. Taegen drank a supposed potion of invisibility, while Rad sneaked up to the corner and listened carefully.

The elf first became transparent. Then he disappeared from top to bottom, with his palms and feet disappearing last. Rad heard scrubbing sounds to west. In that direction was the chamber with human-mincer and prisoners.

Finally, Taegen set off on his own. After all, if his own fellow adventurers can't see him, surely the fungi-men won't be able to see him as well!

And indeed, two of the creatures was just around the corner. They seemed to be scrubbing some black, oily substance from the tunnel walls. He slipped right past them, and went into the chamber. Without any light sources, he had to rely on his infravision.

He could see one to the south, slouched and balled up. Sneaking on into the northern chamber revealed four large pods with heat signatures. Satisfied with his findings, Taegen went back to inform the party of his findings.

Their attack was swift. Both fungi-men were too preoccupied with their cleaning tasks to notice their upcoming doom. They were hacked to bits in seconds.

Adkin's sword, generously returned by feral dwarf turned towering black demon, was still where it was dropped last time. Rest of the adventurers rushed into the chamber, hoping to liberate Sinai and Eccy. Alas, all cages but one were empty. One single, grumpy dwarf was the only prisoner, much to the adventurers' horror.

Polearm wielding warrior could not resist the urge to pepper the prisoner with select insults. The rest of the party proceeded to northern chamber, where they cut down all the hanging pods as well as any inhabitants they found.

Northwestern alcove had a bittersweet surprise for them—a pile of equipment, torn clothes, armours and weapons. Rad was the first to delve into it, quickly realising these are the properties of their fallen and captured friends: Phelim, Norna, Sinai, and Eccy Throi.

Rad took Sinai's holy symbol, a crystal scorpion, carefully wrapped it up, and put it in his backpack. Others discarded their leather armour, and put on the deceased's heavier, metal armour.

Adkin's provocations went unanswered. Now provoked himself, he seriously considered stabbing the helpless dwarf to death. Was it a kernel of suspicion, fear, or generosity is unknown, but he decided to spare the captured monster.

Since they haven't found their allies, the party has decided to follow the stream leading southeast. The winding tunnel lead them to yet another T-junction, this time splitting south and east. Both canals had fishing nets in them, with some small catch.

Scouts were once again sent forth. Peeking around the corner revealed a most curious sight: the stream seemed to terminate in darkness, and cauldron over fire could be seen in distance.

“This is it, let's go in!”

The band tightened their rank, and marched in with two abreast.

The stream did indeed terminate, falling down large iron grate on the floor. The chamber they found themselves in was moon-shaped, with weird, curvy walls. In front of them stood three cauldrons, each on a stone tripod. A pinkish, six-foot pod was hanging to their left. Unlike others they've cut down so far, this one was more fleshy and had blood-red pulsing all over it. Finally, a broad wooden desk by the wall beyond the cauldrons.

Taegen the Invisible went straight for the table, discovering that it is covered with parchments that had unrecognisable scribbles all over them. He stuffed as many as he could in his backpack.

Rad the Bad went for the pot with milky, pale green liquid. He sniffed it, and it having found it a pleasant smell, decided to take a sip with conveniently placed ladle. It was sweet! Which was enough for him to down a whole pint of the liquid. It was tasty and left a warm, fuzzy feeling in his belly.

DJ Basic, went on to listen to the eastern doors. Quiet as a grave. And worst of all—no rats. That's when he decided to join Ulster, who stood guard by the pink pod all this time. Know for his patience, DJ cut the pod open, revealing a sickening sight.

Pus, blood, and green-yellow-pink slimy fluid poured out of the pod as it was cut. Heavy smell of rot promptly assaulted their nostrils. In it lay a human—if the creature can be called that—half encrusted with fungal overgrowth, heavily deformed body, and mushroom-looking head. It had human eyes, and seemed to attempt to talk. Moans and sucking whizzes were all that could be heard.

Ulster recognised the non-transformed parts as the man who was once his superior. He ended his suffering by smashing his head with mace, and then beating the body to a bloody pulp. “He is man no more.”

Rhovar and Adkin took it upon themselves to secure the southeast perimeter. Whilst doing so, one of them heard weak moans and talk from behind the door. Although he could not understand the language, he could swear that he heard the word “Taegen.” Summoning forth an invisible ally turned out to be a bit of an issue, but he eventually succeeded.

Listening intently, Taegen did recognise the language and voice! It sounded like Eccy! Wishing to waste no more time, the trio swung the doors open and went in courageously.

Yet another room with warped walls, and iron grate that sucks in another stream. They found foggy Eccy lying stark naked on an elongated wooden chair. The latter had many wooden needles on articulated stalks attached to it, as well as some sort of funnel near the head rest. Eccy's arms had bloody prick-holes spanning from wrist to elbow.

His foggy mind tried to process what was happening, but with Taegen being invisible it only seemed like yet another hallucination. It wasn't until the warrior duo started shaking him that he realised his rescue was real.

DJ Basic was attracted to large shelf by the chair. Numerous potions laid on its many shelves. He swept the top shelf into his backpack. Some of it ought to be useful!

Rad the Observant noticed that he was left alone in the chamber with vats and bleeding pink pod. He rushed south to join his team mates. He heard wood straining behind him just as he reached the south doors.

A massive fungi-man smashed through the doors with two hammer-shaped fists. It was so large it had to turn sideways to be able to pass through.

An audible “Ack!” could be heard from behind it.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Adkin the Butcher Fighter level 3 A hot headed warrior quick to fury trained by Marco Vitelli, retired quartermaster of the army of the Invincible Overlord.
Rhovar Fighter level 3 A generic Nordic guy.
Rad Thief level 1 A young, short and malnourished rogue.
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.
Sinai Cleric level 3 White-robbed beduin, worshipper of Bukera, The Silent Scorpion.

Later...

Character Class Description
Flamthwynn Magic-user level 1 An older gentleman sporting fashionable dark blue robe with purplish overtones. Seeking arcane objects and offensive spell.
Dave Basic Fighter level 1 A village boy with an affinity for stabbing rats.

Warmshade 9th, Fireday

“We have it all under the control, don't fall apart now!”

Sinai, Eccy, Adkin, and Rhovar were keeping a host of fungi-men checked. Their positioning forced the creatures to squeeze through the passageway one at a time.

“Thank you friend! I will not forget this!” Ulster, the warrior imprisoned in one of the cages, was profoundly grateful that Rad set him free. Although dressed in nothing but loincloth and tattered shirt, he rushed to pick up mace dropped by Norna.

The latter had perished from horrible wound inflicted by a feral dwarf in another cage. He ripped out her arm, and she bled to death as her party ignored her wails and pleas.

“Somebody take care of that damn dwarf!”

Taegen handed over the lantern to Ehrman, ensured Merinthia that he will be back soon, and rushed into the chamber. There, joined by Ariad, he stabbed the captive dwarf. Grunts, froth, and a mean look was all he got.

“Fall back! Regroup by the cave entrance!”

They've been doing so well. They cut down a dozen of these fungal creatures, nine cursed trees, and other plant-based critters they've encountered.

“Something is very wrong with this dwarf...” Ulster muttered.

Alas, in the chaos Sinai was grabbed by two fungi-men. No matter how hard he fought back, he was unable to break their iron grip. He was dragged into unknown darkness. Eccy didn't manage to get far before being constrained by three creatures.

Given their retreat, light abandoned the chamber, barely illuminating the entrance—just enough for the retreating warriors to see creatures right in front of them.

“You left something behind.” an unexpectedly deep, almost growling sound voiced from the darkness.

“What the–”

The party had no time for wonder, for a cage came flying from the darkness. It landed straight on Taegens's broad chest, nearly killing him. And indeed, were it not for his amazing physique, he'd be nothing but a mangled collection of bone and sinew.

“Go, save yourself!” Eccy shouted, encouraging his friends to flee. He continued fighting the fungi-men, desperately trying to set himself free. Few of the creatures ignored him and went toward the growls in the darkness.

Ehrman, Ariad, and Merinthia rapidly moved upstream. Taegen and Rad were just behind them. Heavily armoured Adkin and Rhovar were way behind.

And then it went from bad to worse.

A towering black figure stepped out of the darkness. Nearly 8 feet tall, with long, lanky arms. It was so black it seemed like it was sucking the colour out of its surroundings. Its amazing blackness made it impossible to make sense of any features—except two. First, it had two blood-red eyes which felt like razors cutting at the very fabric of being . Second, it had a pearly white grin spanning the width of its head. Snot-yellow foam was dripping from it.

The figure moved with shocking speed. It ran right past the fungal creatures and captured Eccy, past the armoured warriors, and stopped just short of Rad and Taegen.

“I said, you left something behind.” the demon turned to Adkin, dwarfing him. It raised it right arm, showing a short-sword given to it by the fighter. And then it just dropped it into the stream.

“Um, ahm, why thank you.” the warrior stammered. “Now that we saved you, how about you help us escape?”

The creature was so close he could smell its horrible breath. He could also make out some of its facial features: long nose flattened against its face, large ears, and tense, leathery skin covered with warts and boils.

“Banter? I'm hungry, you know...”

Rad quickly dropped some rations. Adkin offered his wine.

The creature threw its head back, as in disbelief, and growled “Oh no, I'm hungry for something else! Your flesh!”

Without any further venue of escape, Rhovar and Adkin attacked the creature. Nordman missed, but Adkin delivered a stunning blow, nearly severing the monster in half. The creature roared and wailed whilst Adkin watched in horror as parts of its wounds are closing right in front of his eyes.

Rad the Bad snuck up to the creature from behind. He acted without hesitation. He doused the monster's open wound with oil. Then he wasted no time in shoving a lit torch deep into the gash. His bold action was well rewarded.

The monster roared and thrashed around as flames engulfed it. Then it melted away like a large, black candle. Thick, oily substance covered the stream.

Alas, there was no time for celebration. Eccy was still held by a number of fungi-men. The party had decided to leave him behind—all but Ulster.

“No! I refuse to go! Haven't you seen what they do their prisoners? It's fate worse than death!”

“Listen, you must go! Leave!”

“No... No!”

“Leave!”

“I promise I will come back! And I will bring an army! We will level this accursed place! I promise!

And so Eccy was left behind in darkness.

It was pitch black outside.

A sole figure sat by the campfire. Few horses slept next to her.

“Herat!”

“I was starting to get worried... Where is Sinai?!”

“He was captured. Listen, we have no time. Saddle the horses, we must leave at once!”

The party rode until the first ray of sunlight guided them to Bathdawn. There they crashed and spent the day sleeping.

Warmshade 10th, Spiritday

“My father will surely reward you. I'm from Tenoch, a village that's just one day of riding to west.”

Coin is coin. Taegen stayed behind to rest and heal, while the rest escorted Merinthia to her home. Dave Basic, the village pest controller, and Flamthwynn, a wizard seeking spells of great power, joined the party as well.

Indeed, they were warmly greeted in Tenoch. Kegan, wealthy farmer and Merinthia's father, welcomed the party to his manor. Meats and ale were served in great quantities, and good times were had.

As the night drew close, Kegan brought forth a heavy sack of coin and presented it as a gift to the party. Rad the Scale estimated it to be some five hundred coins heavy.

“Is that all?” Adkin inquired. “Without us your daughter would still be in that hole. If you don't have more coin, how about you provide us supplies and men?”

“We cannot afford to spend any man. This is ruthless territory. I'm happy to provide ropes, oil and food, but cannot offer much more than that...”

“How about we take Merinthia back?”

“Are you threatening me?”

The tensions were soon calmed by other, more level headed participants, and festivities were continued. Despite that small hiccup, the adventurers were invited to spend the night in the manor house so they can leave refreshed.

Warmshade 11th, Airday

New day, new victories.

Rat boy spent the morning catch rats. That earned him 79 copper coins. Adkin and Rhovar fletched some arrows and exchanged words with the militia captain. The latter was impressed with them and asked if they'd be willing to train the locals.

Rad threw some pebbles, before joining Flamthwynn. The wizard heard that there was another, truer, wizard in Tenoch. The people described him as appalling and scary. Most keep away from him. Not Flamthwynn though.

It didn't take them long to find his house.

Knocks were answered by a grumpy looking man dressed in garish yellow robe with blue inscriptions. One look at Flamthwynn made his face glow.

“A man of Arts! What a delightful surprise. My name is Minn Almar. Please come in...” the man, despite his invitation, was rather awkward and cumbersome in his move, almost like he isn't sure how to behave in presence of others.

Flamthwynn broke the silence “So! What brings you to live in this fine place, wise Almaruz... Amiraz? Emorul? ... Wise colleague?”

The man frowned “Minn Almar.”

The inside of his villa was opulently dressed—unlike anything adventurers have seen in Tenoch so far. Merinthia's father's manor pales in comparison.

A selection of teas was served by purple-skinned slave boys. Some of them smelled fruity, others earthy.

“Oh, I had enough of city life. I sought a perfect place far and wide until I found this humble village.”

“It is perfectly positioned between Antil and Actun. Farms here are abundant, so there is healthy trade with both cities. I hate the dirty streets and zealots of the Walled City.”

“Elves of Actun make my skin crawl, but they have many arcane wares and secrets... Again, Tenoch shines, because it serves as the usual meeting place between them and local humans.”

“Surely you recognise the brilliance of my choice?”

He took a hearty sip of brown-coloured tea.

“What brings you here, Flamthwynn? What is your specialty?”

“And why is your slave boy eyeing my properties so intently?” he asked, motioning to Rad.

Rad looked around, wondering who he is talking about before realising he’s referring to him! He quickly dusted himself off and tried to look more proper. Finally, he responds “I am no slave, my Lord, just a travelling companion. I was just admiring your many trinkets and wares.” Rad made a mental note of any valuable that would be easy to take.

“These are art pieces, boy, not trinkets.”

He couldn't help but notice how Minn's unpleasant face deformed even further, before turning his attention back to Flamthwynn.

Flamthwynn tried to hide his amazement at this man's riches and potential arcane knowledge. He stuttered “My specialty is... Health! Health of the body. Especially bodies- I mean people that are... Uhm... Unhealthy. I come here in search of knowledge of spells that might bring health to these... people.” He concluded his eloquent answer with a grin.

“Your service might be in high demand soon.”

“Poor people of Tenoch are unaware of the fate that awaits them, fools they are.”

“A savage tribe of cannibal barbarians has been raiding the village for months now. Gof the Old and his dimwitted son are way out of their league.”

“They think that they are safe just because there haven't been any raids for two weeks now.”

“Little do they know of their impending doom...”

Minn barely whispered the last sentence, and kind of just gazed through the window with glassy eyes.

Rad, hearing the opportunity for money, snapped out of his treasure gazing and remarked “Raiders huh, how many? Perhaps our mercenary company can be of service!”

Minn looked at Rad with renewed interest; almost as if new life was brought into him. “Mercenary company? Tell more!”

Trying his best to look and sound professional, Rad explained “We are the Hydra Company. Well renowned in Antil. With us is about a dozen well trained men, but if needed we can return to base and gather much more.”

“And, who is your leader? Flamthwynn, have you been concealing your identity?”

Unperturbed continued “The company is owned by several men and I know I aren't the best example of a fighter personality. I’m more of a marksman or specialist, but we have plenty of strong warriors. If you doubt us, you can ask Kegan or his daughter. They will surely vouch for us.”

“As for Flathwynn, we are barely acquainted, but of course he can speak for himself.”

Minn stroked his chin and leaned back in soft chair. “Interesting. Most interesting.”

“Oh, I do not mean to hide anything from you, wise colleague. I have only recently joined the company of these mercenaries, but can attest to their professionalism and ability!” Flamthwynn glanced at Rad with a hint of a wink, more of a playful squint of the eyes, trying to not be seen by Minn Almar.

“Perhaps we could protect this village on your behalf, it would be advantageous for all of us... I cannot speak for Hydra, but perhaps you could instruct upon me some of your wisdom in return?”

“Well if you speak so highly of them, then this poor village might stand a chance after all.” Minn spoke after several minutes of silence.

“Hear me well—you too boy—do not say a word of our conversation to the locals. They are superstitious lot, and could react to their detriment.”

“I have a secret location a mile from here. Can you meet me there in three days, so we can discuss our plan of action?”

“Time is of the essence.”

“Absolutely. I shall convene with the rest of the company, and give you an answer as soon as I am able.” Flamthwynn gets up with a look of determination, though inside he was thinking “Oh god what am I getting myself into.”

Rad gives his best impression of an elegant bow and adult voice “Of course Milord, we will be there and battle ready.” He was already counting all the coin this guy will pay them.

Minn illustrated the meeting place as well as best path to it on a piece of parchment and handed it over to Flamthwynn. “Make sure that no one from Tenoch sees or knows you are heading there. And don't waste my time. I will wait until the sun sets, but no longer.” And then he awkwardly shooed them both out under the excuse that he needs to tend to some other matters.

Will the party go back to save Sinai and Eccy? Or will they find nothing but ground meat?

Player Session Reports

black_horror

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Rad Thief level 1 A young, short and malnourished rogue.
Adkin the Butcher Fighter level 2 A hot headed warrior quick to fury trained by Marco Vitelli, retired quartermaster of the army of the Invincible Overlord.
Rhovar Fighter level 2 A generic Nordic guy.
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.
Sinai Cleric level 3 White-robbed beduin, worshipper of Bukera, The Silent Scorpion.

Warmshade 8th, Earthday

“What shall we do?!”

“Fire-bomb it!”

“Cast Light at its eyes!”

“Try to talk to it?”

The party was exchanging ideas rapidly, whilst a humanoid shaped fungal growth advanced towards them. It didn't seem to care too much what the adventurers had to say.

The party withdrew back into the tunnel they came from, and tightened their ranks. The fungi-man came close and lunged forward, both of its arms changing shape into a web-like sphere.

One of them landed, capturing an adventurer with a firm grip. At that moment, the creature's other arm shapeshifted once again—this time into a firm, ball-like sphere. The creature promptly proceeded to hammer the unlucky victim.

At this moment all brakes were off. One of the elves cast light on the creature's bulbous yellow growth, which they assumed to be eyes, while brave warriors Rhovar and Adkin jumped forth to rain fury.

Alas, Adkin was too eager, and sprained his ankle on the slipper cavern floor. Marco Vitelli would have had him flogged for such incompetence. Ariad, one of the retainers, was of cool nerves, and struck down the creature.

With the threat eliminated, our brave company was eager to investigate curious pods in front of them. Stepping forth they quickly discovered these were in fact two connected chambers, each some forty by forty feet and ceiling so high their torchlight barely illuminated it. A familiar stream was running through them, flowing southwards.

Around twenty human-sized pod-like shapes were hanging by thick stems from the ceiling. Each was suspended few feet off the ground. All but one were open; each reeked of rotten leaves and fish. The elves were as perplexed as humans.

Inspecting one didn't reveal much.

It was at this moment that the party opted for brilliant strategy of “we can investigate more of this cave if we split-up.” Sinai took Phelim “The Scorpion” and Norna “The Repulsive”, his trusty retainers, and went on to explore upstream.

Rest of the party focused on one unopened pod. It was hanging in the south-west corner of the lower chamber. Just behind it was a small nook. Adkin, having massaged his twisted ankle, carefully cut the pod's stem.

KLANK!

It fell to the ground with a loud thud, and bounced of like a plump watermelon. Unsure of what might lurk in it, the group surrounded it with malicious intent.

“Guys, what if one of the abducted peasants is in it?”

“Cut it gently then, I suppose?”

Taegen took to the knee, and approached this as a finely coordinate operation. He gently penetrated the pod with the tip of his blade, and then cut horizontally from top to bottom. Steaming pile of rotten sludge was his reward.

Simultaneously, Rad heard a clicking sound when the stem was cut. The source? A small compartment popped open in the alcove behind the pod. He snuck up to it, and then ransacked it. Two vials, one with metallic orange liquid and another with creamy, watery liquid.

The former had a pleasant appley aroma, while the latter had tarty, nearly citrusy smell. He carefully stowed them in his backpack.

The party fielded some interesting theories, but ultimately agreed that this sole creature wasn't the main culprit. Hence they decided to follow the path downstream, hoping it will connect to the narrow cave passageway they came from. And indeed they did. From there they went back to the chamber where they cut down nine deformed trees, and waited for Sinai's return.

The Cleric of Bukera, God of Desert Mountains, quickly found that the upstream path leads to the junction with wooden divider. It is fed by a waterfall, and it splits the stream into three paths: west, south, and east. He travelled the west when he came down for the first time; now he came to that place from the eastern passageway; therefore only southern remains to be explored. And so he went, and his acolytes followed.

Another chamber opened up after some time. The ceiling was ragged with the spiky points of innumerable stalactites. Part of the stream flowed into the middle of the room, forming a small pond. The far edge of it glowed with an eerie bluish light. Animals usually stay far away from bright colours—but Sinai is no animal.

Coming closer revealed that the edge of the pool was smeared with some sort of gooey substance.

“Norna, bend over and collect it!”

“No way! Do it yourself!”

“Okay then.”

The cleric bent over and pushed his left pinky into the goo. He was ecstatic to find out that his pinky now emanates glittery light blue hue. Next he soaked his whip, so it to glows. It made for a nice complement to his yellowish glowing boots, courtesy of small mushrooms he treaded on earlier.

Then he proceeded to pour out holy water from his vial, only to fill it with the phosphorescent liquid. With nothing else left to do, he took his team further downstream. That reunited them with the rest of the party.

Downstream they went, reaching another T-junction. Two streams joined into one at this point, flowing rapidly southwards at a fairly steep slope. This tunnel was more treacherous than all the ones they've travelled so far. Stalagmites and stalactites blocked the passage, leaving enough room for barely one person to navigate them at a time. There was no dry footing; all was slippery and wet.

Rhovar took nearly an hour securing the route. He staked an iron spike every ten feet, and then laid the rope, securing it at each point. This allowed even the least dexterous members to descend safely. They still had to watch their footing, but the chance of fatal fall was nearly nonexistent.

Another T-junction greeted them at the bottom. This time it split westwards an southeastwards. A desperate scream coming from the west interrupted the adventurers' planning meeting.

“NOOO! Let me go! NOOO! I beg you!”

Sinai the Hero led the charge, others soon followed—even the unnamed reluctant ones.

“NOOOOOO!” they ran fast enough to witness a macabre sight. Group of six fungi-men was firmly holding another human upside down. They held him above a large wooden apparatus. It was very similar to the one the party has encountered earlier, in which they found minced fish.

The man was yelling, desperately trying to set himself free, but the creatures' grip was unyielding. His grotesque ending was witnessed by all. The creatures pushed him into the device head first. Loud crunching sounds were intermingled with gut-wrenching yelps and pleas. The latter were outlasted by the former.

“Please save me!” loud female voice screamed.

“Don't leave me behind! Not like this! Not like this!”

Adventurers' torchlight was too weak to illuminate the whole chamber; their attention was laser focused on the atrocity that just transpired in front of them. Once they snapped out of it, they immediately found the scream's source. Just at the edge pf their light they could see two small cages.

Distraught woman was kneeling in one, pleading them to save her.

“My father is a rich merchant! He will reward you well! Please!”

“Oh, well, that changes everything!” Rad the Hero said.

Once again the party tightened their ranks, putting heavily armoured Sinai and Phelim upfront, while mighty warriors with long reaching weapons backed them from behind. Elves and Rad prepared their bows.

Fungal humanoids rushed them, but were forced to fight two by two. The party had successfully funnelled them to their advantage. Adkin's polearm worked overtime—he cut down four of the creatures. Rad was in his element, raining hell on all. No creature was left unscathed. Phelim, unlike his master, downed one as well.

A great tragedy struck mid-way through the fight. When the creatures closed in for melee, and Ehrman ran out of arrows, Eccy commanded him to charge in. The intent was to get the fighter to use spear from second rank, bolstering frontline's capability to dish out pain.

Not even the Gods know—except mayhap Mar Nod—what made Ehrman slip. But everyone had seen the result.

The warrior obeyed the elf, threw his shortbow to the side, and took out his spear. He pushed through his brethren, leading with the tip of his spear, ready to drive it through one of this ungodly fungal men. Alas, he lost his footing in the stream. Going down he tried to use the spear to balance himself, but ended up driving it through Phelim's heart instead. From behind.

“What... What have I done?!” he staggered backwards in disbelief.

“No... No! Impossible...” others pushed him backwards, as they finished the remaining monsters.

“No... No...” Ehrman was shaken to his core. Ariad, Rhovar, and Adkin tried to calm him with no success.

“Oh, thank Mithra you are here! I'm Merinthia. Please set me free before more of them come!” the screaming woman seemed to have regained her composure.

The chamber was some fifty by seventy feet. Surprisingly, most of it was dry. The stream terminated around the wooden contraption of doom. In fact, it seemed to power it somehow. There were four cages in total. One housed Merinthia, one a grumbling dwarf, and one a fighter named Ulster.

The cages were made of an elastic, yet firm, fungy substance. The party found it impossible to break, bend or cut. They was a small boxy affair, forcing the prisoners to sit on the ground in an uncomfortable position.

Ulster calmly explained how they found themselves here. Merinthia indeed is a daughter of a wealthy merchant, and she hired him, alongside several others, to protect her trading caravan. They were ambushed in the forest close to Bathdawn, and were taken down here. Since then, they were slowly taken away, one by one. Most were minced right in front of their eyes.

Merinthia shared similar detail, including the information that Thuskar, her most trusted and capable guard, was not imprisoned in the same cave. She is hoping that he has set himself free, and is looking for them.

The dwarf was entirely uncommunicative. He turned his back to whomever tried to address him, and merely scoffed and grumbled.

At one point a discerning adventurer noticed the cages are tied to the ground with some sort of discoloured vines. Unlike the cage, they were easy to cut. Strong-man Taegen quickly released the damsel; and she in turn threw herself in his wide elven arms.

“Oh, please take me to safety!”

Guiding her, Taegen retreated upstream, almost all the way to the T-junction.

“Here, have some food and a blade. That should help you free yourself.” Adkin three a short sword and some rations into the Grumpy's cage.

“Company!” Eccy shouted as his colleagues. He made a shocking discover following the northern exit—a chamber filled with pods and fungi-men. Eight of them to be precise.

Sinai, Rhovar, and Adkin rushed to his aid. They immediately swarmed the narrow tunnel. In doing so, they secured a tactically superior position, forcing the creatures to fight one by one while having to suffer three or more blows in return.

“Norna, get the blade from the cage with the mute dwarf and set Ulster free!” This time she did not object. Rad rushed to the fighter's cage as well.

Adkin cut down another fungal humanoid. Alas, its replacement quickly rushed in, and managed to capture Eccy Throi in its iron grip.

“AAAAAAGHHHHH!!!”

Norna unleashed an ear-piercing shriek.

Rad turned to her in confusion. Horror replaced confusion, as he realised that Norna was screaming because her right arm was ripped out from her shoulder blade. She staggered, cupping her gaping wound spurting blood, calling out for Sinai to heal her.

“What the fuck?!”

The dwarf in the cage was loudly gnawing on the arm, slurping and giggling. Once he finished with it, he grabbed the sword, and tried to cut himself loose, imitating what the adventurer's did earlier. He seemed quite clumsy.

“Ariad, get over there and beat that sword out of his hand!”

Norna's loud gaps and pleas were mostly ignored, sans Rad's quiet “I'm sorry...”

“Set me free and I'll grab her mace. Set me free and I'll bash these monsters.” Ulster said to Rad.

“And if you don't want to set me free, then I beg you to kill me right here, right now. Drive your sword straight through my heart. Anything, just not that machine!”

Ehrman, despite still being shell-shocked, managed to follow Taegen. The elf was now calming both the fighter and the damsel.

Ariad stood by the dwarf's cage, attempting to strike his hand whenever he tried to cut himself loose. So far the dwarf has cut the vines on one side of the cage.

Rad was almost done with setting Ulster free. Just one more tiny cut.

Eccy Throi was firmly in the creature's grasp. Behind it nine more stood. Sinai was brutally whipping them; entangling them. Rhovar and Adkin were stabbing at Eccy's captor.

Will they manage to fight their way out of it?

Or will they be fed to the machine?

Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Sinai Cleric level 3 White-robbed beduin, worshipper of Bukera, The Silent Scorpion.
Rhovar Fighter level 2 A generic Nordic guy.
Adkin the Butcher Fighter level 2 A hot headed warrior quick to fury trained by Marco Vitelli, retired quartermaster of the army of the Invincible Overlord.
Rad Thief level 1 A young, short and malnourished rogue.

Later...

Character Class Description
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Taegen Ianlynn Elf level 1 Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.

Eccy Throi's report linked at the end of the post.

Warmshade 8th, Earthday

Continued from session 24.

Sinai gripped the whip in his hand as three crooked, deformed trees slumbered towards him. Phelim “The Scorpion” stood next to his master, ready for whatever was about to happen.

It's been nearly four hours since they've entered this forsaken place. So far everything seemed natural; water made its way through the winding caverns and tunnels. And yet, what now stood in front of them was obviously unnatural.

Rhovar pulled Sinai back, taking his spot at the frontline. The party decided to fall back and tighten their ranks in the narrow tunnel. There, their four toughest warriors would slow down the trees, while the others would engage with missile weapons from back ranks.

It was a glorious ninety-second skirmish.

The trees slumbered after the party, with only one managing to catch up with them. The party filled it with arrows, to which it responded by battering Rhovar. Adkin was quick to abandon his bow for a polearm. He soon discovered a natural gift for felling trees. Rad's bow was working overtime—the only time arrows wouldn't be flying is when he was chucking oil flasks.

Indeed, the young thief has proven to be quite a lumberjack (and pyromaniac!) himself. Not even a minor slip prevented his barrage. Unfortunately, Ehrman wasn't as efficient. Although he tried his best, he knocked himself unconscious early on in the battle. To add insult to injury, once he came back to his senses, he somehow managed to get tangled with Norna “The Repulsive,” causing them both to loose precious time.

Like mindless drones, the mad trees kept coming after the party. And like mindless drones, the party felled them one by one. Last ones went down in blazing flames, courtesy of Rad “The Mad.”

By the time they finished, the dead blackened trees were pilled so high they started blocking the water stream. Worried they might get washed away, the party spent some time rolling them along one of the tunnels, allowing the stream to flow freely once again.

“Who are you and what have you done with these trees!”

A duo of buff elves surprised the party with their inquiry.

“These were no normal trees. They were hateful and assaulted us! We are here on a mission to help the good people of Bathdawn. Hail Hydra!”

The duo scanned heavily armed party and introduced themselves as Eccy Throi and Taegen Ianlynn. They claimed to be here on behalf of their master Rinendirlan Ælasyn, investigating something of great importance.

After some minor pleasantries, both parties decided to join forces in bringing an end to whatever evil lurks here. Indeed, once the elves have landed their hands on dead trees they knew something was amiss. All of them felt off. All nine of them emanated aroma of suffering. Something here was very wrong.

The chamber they found them in was some thirty by thirty feet. Glowing moss that hangs from the ceiling in long, frilled strands illuminated it with a blue glow. The stream flown in from the northwest and turned west, to the tunnel they came from. Three artificially made canals sprawled eastwards. Three earthenware pots were in each; they used to house the hateful trees. Now they lain crushed to pieces.

A dry corridor extended further east. This was perhaps the first dry piece of soil they've seen since descending into this cavern. Alas, it didn't extended that far. In fact, it led the party to another stream, albeit wider and louder. This one has flown from north to southeast, terminating in a loud, crashing waterfall.

This time the party decided to go upstream. Rad noticed a narrow passageway to his right. It was just wide enough to fit one person. Eager for some action—maybe due to the leftover adrenaline from the previous encounter—he asked fellow adventurers to tie a rope around his waist. That was all the security he needed to go explore the mysterious tunnels on his own.

Half an hour and one dead-end later, the Master Thief had found another exit. It required a bit of crawling, but what is that for our Rad? Nothing.

Another dry tunnel. And a surprise! Looking at whence he cometh from, Rad had seen a huge stone face carved into the stone wall. The narrow tunnel he came out from was actually the face's open mouth. The face itself looked barely humanoid; almost like a mockery of human features.

Unwilling to risk it further, he went back and informed the party of his findings. The party decided to further investigate the corridor Rad had found. Since the tunnels were so narrow, it took some time for all of them to crawl through. Luckily for them they were unmolested.

The tunnel they found themselves in extended north and east. It was eerily quiet; especially after listening to overwhelming sounds of rushing water for most of the day. Rhovar and Adkin went to investigate the eastern path.

There they found a chamber covered in blue-green moss and lichen. Some patches were more colourful than others. The warriors quickly found this was no regular cave. As they got closer to the moss, they felt a slight pull towards the center of the chamber. The iron piton they threw in there hit the ground... And then started to slowly rotate towards northeast.

That was enough to send the fighters packing.

Following the passageway northwards was no less surprising. This time the whole party advanced, only to encounter a chamber blanketed with minuscule, bulb-headed yellow mushrooms. The wood elves did not recognise them, but both thought they probably aren't poisonous.

But that was not all!

Rhovar noticed a fist sized rock levitating at eye-level slowly approaching him. It looked as if the rock was gliding through the air. Its features became more apparent as it came closer: it was a carven stone head, similar in style to the large stone face they crawled out from.

Rhovar and Adkin, our favourite fighting duo, took out a sack and charged the head. Their boots got covered with vibrant yellow paste as they crushed the mushrooms. The floating head offered no resistance. Unsure what to do with it, the party hammered the sack to the cavern wall using several iron spikes.

Stepping deeper into cave revealed a passageway sloping up. By now the whole party had bright yellow boots. Following the upwards path led them to another chamber. Yes, there was something surprising in this one as well.

As they approached the mouth of the chamber, their torchlight illuminated three human-shaped figures hanging from the ceiling. The elves recognised the shapes as pea-pods, but man-sized. The room reeked of rotten fish and vegetation.

A human shaped figure stepped from around the corner. It was covered in knobby fungi. Two large yellow bulbs stuck out from its hazelnut-shaped head. It outstretched its weird looking arms and shambled silently towards the party.

Player Session Reports

Crom_Damn_it

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