Reins of Darkness

Available Heroic Paths
A LIST!

Finally posting a list, I’ll try to keep it up-to-date

  • Dragonblooded
  • Faithful
  • Fellhunter
  • Feyblooded
  • Giantblooded
  • Healer
  • Painless
  • Quickened
  • Seaborn
  • Spellsoul
  • Shadow Walker
  • Steelblooded
  • Sunderborn
  • Warg
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Ulfen: An Oral History - Chapter 10

Sometimes, in order to keep your sanity, you simply have to accept the madness around you.

I woke up, having finally finished recovering from our aquatic adventure, and made my way into another one of Shard’s futile conversations with a newly promoted Fa Kseen about the giants’ intent to ‘civilize’ the world.

Now, up to that point in my life, I had never once trusted the giants. But at least I had the sense to keep quiet about it in conversation /with them on their own ship as it rose into the heavens./

When someone – or, in this case, an entire race – is convinced they’re doing right, it’s nearly impossible to change their mind.
I will give Shard some credit, he really seemed to zero-in on Fa Kseen’s use of the term ‘steward’ – on whose behalf were the giant’s stewarding? I tried to let him know that we were of one mind, but feared giving anyone listening reason to doubt our allegience.

Unfortunately, our ability to ponder interesting thoughts was being hindered by Smash who had apparently learned how to shapeshift and was (quite literally) making a camel-headed pest of himself. I guess I should be grateful for the opportunity to end the conversation, at any rate.

We made a few last minute preparations as we neared our destination: a ‘research’ vessel that the giants placed in the heavens to block the sun nearly one thousand years ago. Believe me when I say that consciously trying NOT to fathom such a thing was only slightly less difficult then trying to figure it out.

Have you ever climbed a really high mountain? Felt how different the air and the temperature are from the valley below? Climbing out on the deck of the ship was like that, only moreso. Fortunately, the same sheild Smash used to give us safe passage to the depths of the ocean worked just as well in the heavens. Looming over us was the largest single structure I have seen at any point in my life. A giant dark ball just hanging in the pitch black sky, the faint glow of a long hidden sun just barely creeping around the edges.

The giant ship continued to drift towards the ‘vessel,’ maintaining speed even as we drew within bow shot. At this point Fa Kseen strode forward and, well, did nothing. Even as we continued within the giant’s reach until it was literally resting against his immense head, at which point we came to a full stop.

Realizing that we lacked his reach, Fa Kseen knelt down, allowing us to draw close enough to enter the giant sphere by a simple door though, as we would see, there was much more to even the simplest device aboard this ship than we realized. With a final warning that some of the features on the ship may not be working correctly after a thousand years, the giant mothership began to drift away.

Turning our attention to the task at hand, we discovered ourselves in a series of nondescript chambers, all constructed from the same strange metallic rock that the giants apparently used in all their construction. Things were in fairly good condiditon, given how long it had been drifting up here – though I can’t imagine what would have molested the giants so far from everything.

We spent some time learning (painfully, in Smash’s case) how the giants traversed the various levels of the structure – by means of a tube that altered gravity, raising or lowering individuals through openings in either the ceiling or the floor. Occasionally we encountered openings in the walls and the ceiling that revealed pipes and strange leafless trendrils – some of which were frayed and spat yellow sparks, sort of like a wet log on a fire. There were a few places where chunks of the interior were broken away and revealed glowing gems embedded in the strange material. Smash attempted to remove one using a crowbar, only to suffer a tremendous shock – as if struck by lightning. It was then that we had our first encounter with another living creature.

Frozen into stillness, Smash could only offer a loud grunt as a small /brain/ with four legs crawled from around the back of his head. I stepped forward with my axe – which produced yet another grunt – and flicked the thing away from him. It landed some distance away and suddenly /grew/ to the size of a large dog. We managed to make fairly short work of the beast, but were somewhat shaken by its sudden appearance – in both form and purpose. Rounding a nearby column, our unease continued to grow.

Slumped on the floor, wearing tattered rags and a strange gauntlet, were the skeletal remains of a giant. We attempted to ascertain the means of its death and discovered that a portion of its skull had erupted outward. It was impossible not to imagine where our attacker had come from. Even more unnerving was the fact that these remains were many, many years old – which meant that the brain creature, or others like it, had been stalking this vessel for quite some time.
Despite the fear which crept over us, I remained fascinated by the gauntlet, convinced it was a mighty weapon or tool of some sort, though I had no clue how to use it. Shard decided the best course of action would be to recruit this individual – it could demonstrate the gauntlet’s usefulness when the opportunity presented itself – and raised the deceased giant. Had we not just encountered a brain with legs, I might have been put off by this.

Eventually, we located what – to my dwarven sensibilities – look like an access level. Believing that it could likely connect to the center of this massive construct, we set off towards the warmer side (having started on the cool dark side), hoping to cross the middle at some point. Along the way, we found some sort of hovering skiff to use as transport, strange vats that turned out to produce spark which, to my further amazement, was use as a source of power for the ship’s various smaller constructs. In retrospect, I guess calling it ‘spark’ should have tipped me off …

Traveling on, we encountered an unnaturally hot spot which made us all sick. Fortunately, Shard managed to grab another key card, despite the strange mutants occupying the area. We were then set upon by a veritable herd of the brain-creatures and I finally got to see what the giant’s gauntlet was capable of – it appeared to fire a focues beam of light that split everytime it struck something. UNfortunately, the brains were immune to it. The skiff was fast enough, though, that I could circle them while Smash took them down with his enchanted bow.

(I apologize if I’m merely hitting the high points, but it’s getting late, my voice is tired and I’m rather hungry – I’ll try not to leave anything unmentioned, at the very least)

Further exploration took us out of the service level and into a massive living jungle, dancing ghosts – at which point Shard was felled but raised – and controlled – by Tenebrous without our realizing it, a crafty creature posing as a talking bunny on a stump (yes I’m serious), a massive tentacled frog-like beast, beam-weilding contructs guarding a glowing land-shark which produced that same sickening heat as before, and finally FINALLY, the controls for the entire thing.

Which Shard promptly attempted to destroy.

Apparently, Tenebrous like the permanent eclipse – I think it was originally his doing, somehow – and tried to thwart our efforts. We managed to prevent him from doing any further damage (I was seriously on the verge of re-killing him, though who knows who – or what – would have taken over at that point) and getting the station moved. That second moon? Yup, that’s it.

Unfortuanately, the giants decided that our usefulness ended with bringing back the sun, and left us no way off the vessel. There were no smaller ships or magical means down back to the surface. We did, however, discover some kind of advanced armor that could withstand the bitter cold and lack of air outside, as well as some sort of flying belt that would allow us to fall slowly and not burn to a crisp. Of course, Nash and the others wouldn’t leave the ship without loading up on spark, first.  For my part, I decided to collect several of the smaller brains – I figured they could be of use against the giants.

We finally touched back down on solid ground – three days later. But, as you well know, three days was all the world needed to become a very different place.

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Ulfen: An Oral History - Chapter 9

After what I reckoned to yet another thousand-or-so foot descent, we finally touched down in a large cavern. The light of the sunrod I had dropped combined with the soft, silvery glow emanating from a large well in the centre of the cavern floor provided just enough light to make out our surroundings.

A series of alcoves were cut into the circular chamber, some of which housed monstrous statues. It occurred to us that several of these statues were rather familiar – namely Shax, Haegente, and Ureneme in their cursed forms. Other alcoves contained only rubble. If I had to guess, the empty spaces once housed statues of Amin, Pymon, and the other vestages we had encountered up to this point. There were two notable absences among the gallery: Malphus and Nebarius.

Dominating the gallery was the featureless form of a giant, bound in chains and covered with the symbol of Nebarius. I guess he was making up for the fact that his sigil was nowhere to found in the sprawling, intersecting script etched into the stone floor about the well. After a bit of investigation and hypothesizing (possibly aided by the vestages bound to us), we determined that we were looking at The Pact itself – that dark and mysterious contract which gave rise to the Dark Lord.

The silvery liquid – heavier than water, in that it did not flow up and out of the well – grew agitated. We noticed pairs of glowing green eyes winking into existence. Further investigation revealed that astoraxes were /manifesting/ in the liquid. Despite the dark depths in which we stood, mere feet from the cold, crushing pressure of the water surrounding us, only then did shiver when we realized that we were looking at the birthplace of these foul creatures.

Fearing a sudden swarm of astorax, like the one we encountered above, I loosed a bolt of lightning from my wand into the well. Some combination of the lightning, salt water, and silvery liquid put an end to the creatures swimming there and lowered the level of the well. Unfortunately, as we watched, we realized that the process was starting all over again. Eventually, the well would once again be full of astorax.

Casting about for a means of cutting power to the well, Ruel used his armor to locate any source of magic that might be feeding it. A cry of pain was his reward as (I would later discover) the entire cavern lit up like the sun to his enchanted vision. Apparently, we were standing inside a single gigantic nexus, far larger than any we had encountered to this point.

Smash attempted to shatter one of the statues with his mighty, shapeshifting sword. I’ll admit, a small part of me found the look on his furry snout rather amusing as it shattered to pieces. But, to be fair, the rest of me did feel bad for him. I have few possessions I’d consider precious, but there are one or two items I’d be sorely put out to lose. Especially by my own hand.

As we stood there dumbfounded, we discovered that we were not alone. The water pushed itself out of the cavern and a huge many-headed dog-beast – some kind of wolf/jackal/hyena, as I remember – came padding out from behind the statue of the giant. Nebarius himself, come to greet us in his temple.

I don’t really think he had any interest or intention of fighting – not that he was afraid, because he was not in the slightest. So we talked. Now, I don’t rightly know if there was some magic in his words that makes it hard to remember all that he said, or if it’s just my old age, but I can only remember bits and peices of the conversation: Something about the giants being his servants and it was them that eclipsed the sun. And something about overseeing the pact, while not being a part of it. Maybe a few other details.

No, what I really remember is how he made me feel as he spoke: His words were oily, frustratingly vague, and very self-assured. He was arrogant and pleased in no small way with what he had accomplished, how he had outwitted all the others – though he tried to avoid actually speaking about things in a direct manner. Very un-dwarflike. Un-orclike, too, for that matter. Maybe elves talk that way; at any rate, I found myself getting more and more upset.

During this exchange, Nebarious took on an upright, bi-pedal form (though still sporting the many dog-heads) – standing one hundred feet tall. Smash, having positioned himself behind Nebarious, decided at some point to charge into one of the enormous legs. I can only assume it was some sort of insane, suicidal grief at the lost of his sword that motivated him, because the rest of us had been trying to avoid picking a fight, if we could help it.

The attack barely registered. Like being bowled into by a tiny puppy, Nebarious looked down at our shaggy comerade with a looked of annoyed amusement on his many faces. Feeling that the situation had suddenly spiraled out of control, I decided to do something drastic.

Ever since our adventure in the enchanted forest below the dwarven cairn (you know, I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated how ridiculous my life has been I sat down with you starting talking about it) I had been carrying around something special: a single dose of a posion commonly known as ‘the kiss of the grave’ – the bane of immortals everywhere. Mixed with the enhancing mushrooms that Fa Kseen was so fond of, and a bit of Dwarven Bark for taste, I produced an arrow that would make the unkillable killable. Using my enchanted bow to guarantee a hit, I gifted Nebarious with mortality.

You’ve heard of ‘white noise?’ It’s like a total lack of sound, but you can hear it … Anyway, it was like an explosion of heavy white noise, a silent scream. For the briefest of moments, we stood in uncertain quiet despite the sensation that something truly chaotic was happening just outside our ability to perceive it. After that intolerable moment passed, Nebarious looked down at us and it was clear that any amusement he’d felt before was gone; one hundred eyes, hot with rage, bored into us.

Ruel and Smash lept into action, raining mightly blows upon this giant of giants. I drew another arrow, this time treated with a mushroom-enhanced potion of controlling and let fly. I had hoped that I could convince Nebarious to dispell the bubble of air that filled the cavern and either drown him, or crush him to death with an unfathomable (heh) amount of pressure. Unfortunately, being mortal made him no more willing to bow to our will than before.

Nebarious responded with a mighty howl that froze our blood and very nearly threatened to freeze the rest of us into stone. In fact, Shard was petrified (you should ask him about it sometime). I don’t know how Smash and Ruel avoided a similar fate; for myself, I could feel Hagente protecting me from joining the collection of statues in the cavern for eternity.

Smash continued his assault, looking for a weak point. I threw one of my wands to Ruel, who was astride the massive shoulders, hacking away at his neck and caught a number of Nebarious’ many heads in an arc of lightning. Unfortunately, this only seemed to compound his current attitude towards us.

We managed to kill one or two heads, but any progress we were making was not going to fell Nebarious before a lucky strike on his part would end this confrontation. Using the the speed of my armor, I rushed up and grabbed a pinky toe easily the size of my arm. For the second time that day, I got to see a look of confusion replaced with fury pass over fifty canine faces as I slid a pair of cursed bracers on like a oversized toering. Barring a momentary lapse on our part, our attacks would now be landing much more easily.

Once he realized what had happened, Nebarious’ response was as swift was it was vicious. Each head shot forth on the end of a long, serpentine neck – a third of which arced down at me, another third towards Smash, and the final third twisting back on Ruel, still on his shoulders.

I really don’t know if I have the words with which to articulate what it’s like being ripped to shreds. And, believe me, I understand how strange that sounds, since I’m sitting here talking to you at this very moment. I felt each and every tooth stab through my armor into my flesh, felt the pressure as fifteen pairs of jaws clamped down and began to pull. What they pulled apart, however, was not my body, but – somehow (don’t ask me to explain it) – Hagente who was bound within me. The same thing happened to Smash with Ureneme. I’m not really sure how Ruel survived – likely there’s more to him than he was letting on.

At any rate, there we stood, somehow alive albeit stripped of our mighty helpers. It was then that the statues of both Hagente and Ureneme shattered in their alcoves. Smash performed a mighty leap to clear the heads attacking him, while I darted for cover behind the statue of Shax. I didn’t have any plan at that point; merely hoping that if Nebarious attacked the statue to get to me, it might somehow bring the Conqueror herself down to help us.

What eventually happened was far stranger (to my mind). Ruel, still holding the second wand, cast arc lighting once more. When the lighting passed through the statue of the Conqueror, it shattered and I suddenly found myself bound to Shax – apparently she had some sort of affinity with lightning … Thus bolstered, I rushed forward, activating the ring given to me by Ureneme and transforming into a water elemental. I landed two mighty – if I do say so myself – blows against Nebarious’ foot and, fearing reprisal, unstoppered the Miraculous Mistmaker I carried in the hopes of surviving at least a little longer.

As it turns out, Nebarious did NOT like water, in any form. Where the mist touched him, his flesh reacted as if I had poured acid on it. In fact, his aversion to water was such that moments later, we had Nebarious trapped. How? Well, that’s where Shard comes in. You see, despite the fact that his physical form had been turned to stone, he could still act as a shadow-spirit.

As Ruel, Smash and I fought Nebarious, Shard was using his arcane abilities to try and break the statue of [name?], the vestage he served. After building up a magical resonance within the statue, it shattered and he found himself a vessel for most – if not all – of [name?].

At that moment, we destabilized Nebarious’ physical form and Shard, now unoccupied elsewhere, trapped a small portion of his essence within himself along with [name?] who, it should be noted, actively hates. Thus, it turned out to be a good thing – for us, I’m not so sure about Shard – that he was trapped as a statue, lest he loose his already-tenuous grip on reality.

Now we found ourselves with a bit of a connundrum: What do we do about Nebarious, part of whom is trapped in our ally (the rest of whom we had no idea where it went). After some deliberation, and a bit of urging from Shax within me, I decided to try an alter the pact. I began to use the acid I had accumulated on our journey north to wipe out certain elements of the script. At first, I followed the impulse Shax provided concerning her inclusion in the pact then, to be fair, I tried to use the remaining acid to affect the other included parties in a similar manner.

Unfortunately, I did not have nearly enough acid to free everyone, so I settled on wiping out those places where the lines of the pact criss-crossed with one another. I can’t say that Shard was happy with my decision, but then, when is Shard ever happy? To my mind, the world was already such a terrible place, I doubted loosing the vestages to wage war on one another could make it that much worse. Let them focus on enslaving one another and leave us mortals alone.

We also wanted to free the giants – after all, their enslavement to the Chi Julud was the whole purpose to our adventuring and our journey north – also, it would not do to give any one vestage sole control of such powerful servants. Shard, using the same technique as before, shattered the statue, revealing a large mirror within, which Smash immediately destroyed as he is so fond of doing.

There, standing behind the mirror, was Fa Kseen looking in control of himself and content in a way I’d never seen him. Honestly, seeing him like that chilled me to the bone. Guess where the rest of Nebarious had gone? Fortunately, he was not acting on whatever impulses Nebarious was no doubt feeding him regarding Ruel, Shard and (in particular) myself.

Turning our attention to the astorax well, we realized that it was still functioning as it had before. Our only recourse to ending its ability to spawn the horrid things was to drain it. Shard began by fusing his two powerful swords into one ridiculously powerful sword. Smash eagerly restored his magic blade, then Ruel and I each took turns, eventually draining the nexus of all its power.

Finally, we all returned to the surface and made our way back through the Conqueror’s ship to find her and all her giant kin looking refreshed and free of the Chi Julud. Ureneme and Hagente were there, too, finally free of their monstrous forms.

There was some debate among the party as to what we should do or where we could go. But, upon hearing Shax declare that they were going to “Turn the lights back on,” I decided that, at least for a little while, our goals were in parallel.

I don’t know for how long the Conqueror will want us around or in what capacity, but as the giant’s ship started to rise into the sky, all I could do was excuse myself to go find a quiet corner of the ship and get some much-needed rest.

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The Conclusion to Chapter 8 of "Ulfen: An Oral History"

The room in which we stood was radiating magic, but we were unable to find a source. Unsure of ourselves and the layout of the ship, we decided to return above decks and try another route into the bowels of the massive vessel. It didn’t take long to wind up back where we started. We were stumped. 

Smash and Ruel cast several spells to discern something – anything – that might give us a clue as to what we should do. As they were focused on their spells I noticed a distortion of some sort, like a ripple in air, through which a horrible beast stepped through, an astorax. We made short work of the creature, but knew that where there was one, there were bound to be others.

Suddenly, a tremendous column of ice rose from the floor. Within, we could just make out a large humanoid figure. The sound of laughter echoed around the chamber; clearly, someone was enjoying our frustration. I very nearly started a fire in order to gain access to our encased observer until Ruel brought my attention to the handful of large seige crabs standing frozen in the corners of the chamber. We decided instead to head further down and see if we could find where this icy antagonist came from.

Upon finding and descending the next set of stairs down, we noticed the temperature rise significantly. The ice in this lower section of the ship was almost completely melted and water ran through the corridors. While I could appreciate not having to endure the sting of the far North any longer, I was well-aware of the fact that if we stumbled upon any more of the ships inhabitants, they would not locked in ice.

And find them we did. In a long hallway lined with doors, we quietly peaked in several of the rooms to discover giants, completely under the sway of the Chi Julud, going about their insane business – one appeared to be carving a cube of stone from a much larger cube of stone while another giant gnawed on him; another appeared to be sleeping and, giving no conscious effort to maintaining his (it’s?) form, was little more than a massive blob of flesh on a slab. The unscrupulous (and, I must say, unsporting) Smash wanted to take the opportunity to slay this one, but I talked him out of possibly rousing every other giant in the hallway against us. It was a good thing he listened (for once), after what we found waiting for us at the end of the hall. Through a pair of enormous golden doors that swung open as easily and quietly as anything ever produced by Dwarven hands, sitting upon a throne of gold, was the Conqueror.

Though the brilliant light of the circular golden chamber blinded the spark-enhanced eyes of my companions, I was able to see this impressive figure of a she-giant, bedecked in golden armor and flanked by two more of her cursed, gibbering kin. Hesitant to step into the chamber uninvited – or invited, for that matter, as I do not fully trust the giants – I offered a polite bow and attempted to engage in what I hoped would be a non-aggresive parlay.

As the Conqueror looked down at us, her head rolled away from the rest of her body and landed with a sickening thump on the floor! To this day I can clearly see in my mind’s eye the bloodly stump of her neck and the wound, while certainly not fresh, which bore a striking resemblance to the one given the Devourer by Fa Kseen’s mighty lance. As shocked as I was to see her head fall off, I was even more shocked to see her hair snake itself into a set of spidery makeshift legs and turn to face us. Apparently, the grievous wound she’d been dealt had not been grievous enough … the mere possibility of having to face one for whom decaptiation was less fatal than annoying made my stomach turn – and that’s saying something, given my heritage.

Seeking to stay in her good graces – at least, while we stood there on a ship full of insane giants led by the Conqueror herself – we offered our services is dismissing her now unneeded servant, Nebarius. Nebarius, one of the mighty vestages. Nebarius, who had some sort of pact with the giants relating to the Chi Julud.

And I, in all my foolishness and desperation to stay on her good side replied with, “Shall we bring you his head?”

“Yes, all of them,” was her reply.

Needless to say, my companions were less than thrilled at the results of my diplomacy and the position in which we found ourselves. I reasoned that we might yet find some way of pitting them against each other, and dispatching the bound-to-be-wounded victor ourselves. Looking back, it’s a wonder I hadn’t perished a dozen times over during that period of my life, given my complete lack of anything resembling common sense. I guess it’s funny in a way: I was afraid to eat anything the Fa Kseen would cook, for fear of how it would affect me, but had no problems promising one demigod that I’d kill another.

Following the Conqueror’s instruction to head ‘down’ to find Nebarious, we found ourselves in the very bottom of the massive ship. A large iceberg had thrust up through the bottom of the vessel, flooding this lower level. Fortunately, Smash carried a shield that maintained a bubble of air and Ruel’s enchanted armor allowed him to breathe under water, not that I’d want to breathe the effluvium into which we descended.

It looked and smelled like water for the most part, but looking around confirmed that there was more to it than that. Large glass containers lined the walls of this lowermost chamber, jars filled with orcs in some sort of fluid which, as far as I could tell, either grew or preserved them (or both). Some of the jars, however, were broken, and we had to make our way through the contents floating around us. There was no sign of Nebarious, however.

As we approached the massive rend caused by the iceberg, we realized that we were not alone. Standing on the surface of the water above us, was a creature as tall as a giant, but that’s where the similarities ended: a recognizably female torso extended into the legs and talons of a bird of prey, while its arms twisted into tendrils bearing an impressive metal hammer. I shudder to recall the face properly, though the lamprey mouths which sat in place of eyes still haunt my dreams.

Fortunately, the creature was willing to talk. Turns out she was Ureneme (sounded like “your enemy,” which put me on edge at first), one of the Conqueror’s (now identified as Shax) two sisters who had been cursed by Nebarius to wear a monstrous form – not so monstrous to Smash, however, who decided quite liked what he saw. Despite the beast’s attention (Smash, not Ureneme) the creature (Ureneme, not Smash) was willing to help us defeat Nebarius, first by granting us rings that would protect us under water, then by binding herself to Smash.

The encounter had given me a fair clue as to who it was that had appeared to us in the column of ice
two floors up. Quickly retracing our steps, we returned to the large room to call forth the winged, bull-headed form of Hagente, the youngest of the three sisters. Her explosive exit from the column of ice caused a little bit of damage, but considering the ice crystals (similar to the one Fa Kseen had been carrying around since we moved into our new home) we each recieved, would turn out to be well worth it. 

Now we were faced with a choice – or rather, I was faced with a choice, as Ruel flat out refused to let the giantess bind with him. I’ll admit, a part of me was worried – I had no idea how much control, if any, this creature would have over me, or what the lasting effects of being bound might include. Had the task set before us been not been as daunting, I might have refused. As it turns out, Hagente and I had some things in common; we both favored the axe, and we both preferred to keep our faces hidden – her for the monstrous form she was cursed with and I … well, you know why I wear a mask. Suffice it to say, it felt like we made a good pair.

Our meagre ranks thus bolstered by Conquerer kin, we descended once again to the bottom of the giant’s giant vessel (Sorry, it sounded better in my head than out loud).

Hanging from his sheild while I sat above it, and Ruel close besides, we dropped through the hole. Almost immediately, we were set upon by a trio of astorax. Fortunately, our various gifts and bindings allowed us to make out their positions in the water. After a short skirmish, we found that we had sunk nearly a thousand feet to the bottom of the iceberg. Coincidentally (or not, in retrospect), located right next to it was a kind of shrine or temple built around a large circular opening.

The darkness below was imprenetrable; I lit a sunrod and pitched it down to light our way. We watched it slowly sink further and further down until it was barely more than a pinprick of light. Suddenly, even that was blotted out as something came rushing, bubbling up towards us. As swirling mass grew closer, we began to see pairs of sinister glowing eyes dancing about – many, many pairs of glowing eyes.

Thinking quickly – or possibly having had his bowels loosened by terror – Smash dangled his nether-region over the edge of the chasm and gave us a first-hand view of what Shard had done inside the giant. Foul black ink (I don’t care whatever else was in it, I’m callin’ it ink) filled the hole. I expended the charge in my frost crystal and sealed it with the horde of astoraxes – is it ‘astorax’ or ‘astoraxes?’ I can never remember. Nash would know. I remember the sheer pressure of the water at that depth being enough to hurt Smash’s backside when he crossed the safety of the bubble to -er, launch his attack.

At any rate, some time passed and we cut a small hole – well large enough to let a camerillaroo through – in the ice. Some dead astorax(es) floated up. After confirming that it was safe – ‘safe’ being a highly relative term in this context – we continued our descent into the unknown.

[Author’s note: Though Ulfen insists that this chapter continues yet a bit further before the next chapter begins, I felt that in the interest of pacing and balance, the remainder of this chapter would better fit in Chapter 9]

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Excerpt from Chapter 8 of "Ulfen: An Oral History"

… thus we descended into the massive cube, which the giant kept referring to as a ‘ship:’ I, mounted upon Smash, in the lead with Ruel close behind and Shard in the rear, muttering nonsense about something or other – clocks or dressers or the futility of attempting to break the darkness through the use of force.

Despite the fact that we were in the frozen wastes of the far north – farther north than I had ever traveled in my life – it grew noticibly colder inside the vessel than out. Thankfully, I had my Elven Cloak to ward off the cold; the others seemed to have been bolstered by the Kraken stew our giant friend pushed (chock full of that horrid spice they’re constantly trying get me hooked on), though a bit … troubled in the lower regions. I can only assume it was handling their insides the way the Kraken had handled the giant’s ship.

Ice coated every surface – walls, floors, ropes and tackle … and giants and orcs. But these giants were different. They dressed the same, sure enough, as did the orcs frozen in subservience to them. It was an odd sight to behold, and even now, after all these years, I’m still not sure exactly where I come down on it. I’ve never been a friend of purebred orcs (a contradiction if ever there was one) who always seem to be serving one dark master or another, but seeing with my own eyes the proof that they were created for servitude … well, how am I supposed to feel about that? What does make me?

Anyway, sorry, back on topic.

Giants – some of which were far larger than any we’d ever seen – and orcs, both perfectly preserved; no decay, no evidence of the mysterious curse that seemed to affect the giants we had been traveling with when they left their boat. Clearly there was magic at work here. Just then, a heavy scrape drew our attention to a curtain of ice, behind which the shadow of a monstrous figure lurched into view. Having taken not only the shape (for the most part) of a camel, but the sense of one as well, Smash yelled at it.

Now, I’m not one to speak ill of a brother-in-arms, and I’d never willingly betray a comrade … but I would have brained that fool then and there if we didn’t need his brute strength to take down the single largest giant I’ve ever seen – larger even than the ones we had passed on our way to this point – dragging a sword, tall as a tavern. How it had escaped the ice and what it was doing, we had no way of knowing, only that it now crashing through the ice towards us. 

I leapt from my perch and drew my bow as Smash charged our towering foe … only to slip on the ice, swing wide and manage to release two more of the brutes from their frozen prison. I guess I should have brained him after all.

As we fought, the giants began to rapidly succumb to the curse of their people – their ancient ship offering no refuge from the twisting, writhing mass of flesh to which the Chi Julud reduced them. The two smaller ones we dispatched without too much trouble, their own tortured forms as much their foe as were we. But the big one, he just would not go down. We hacked and shot and hammered and – through dark magic or sheer force of will, I could not tell – still he stood.

Eventually, Shard used his shadow magics to repeat the trick he performed so admirably on – or in, rather – the Kraken … only I had not given him any more flasks of acid. A few tense seconds passed as the dark cloud melted into the giant’s torso. Suddenly, the giant siezed up, took a lurching step forward and dropped his massive sword. Grabbing his gut, the beast sank to its knees as a foul black ichor literally gushed from every orifice and fell dead at our feet. Shard emerged a second later, looking not so much content as … relaxed. As if a great burden had been lifted.

Suspecting the mysterious fluid might have some value to my growing interests in all things poison, I collected some in one of the numerous empty bottles I had begun keeping on my person for just such an occasion. It looked for all the world like ink, but I distinctly remember the smell of human feces.

Suffice it to say, I try not to think too hard about what occured in that giant’s belly.

Moving on, I used my skills as a tracker to retrace the giant’s steps through the structure. Arriving in a large room that Ruel (using Erithon’s enchanted armor) determined was the source of significant magical emanations.

 

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Fa'Kseen's Ranting: Hijacked Part 1
The die of PUNishment!

New Rule The First: In such cases as any player (but mostly Jake) should make use of any pun, paronomasia, or the intentional use of homophonic, homographic, metonymic, or metaphorical language in a humorous context while at the gaming table (wherein “at the gaming table” is defined as being in proximity to any couch, seat, table, floor, or other horizontal surface on which a game book or character sheet has been set), the GM is given the right to immediate make one roll of a ten-sided polyhedral solid with the letters “F” “W” and “P” engraved on one face and the other nine faces being blank (hereafter referred to as the “FWP die” or “Fuck with party die”), with the consequences of that roll adjudicated as normal for any roll of the FWP die.

New Rule The Second: In such cases as the GM makes use of a pun (see rule 1) or leaves out a salient detail of the story being told, the GM shall make one roll of the FWP die, with the inverse of the normal effects of a roll of the FWP die (hereafter referred to as a “Fuck with GM” roll). Enforcement of this rule shall be at the discretion of the players, with any effects of the Fuck with GM roll being adjudicated by the GM in the favor of the player enacting the rule (subject to validation by the other players or a shame-faced admission by the GM). The results of an FWP result on a Fuck with GM roll are entirely up to the GM, and may include, but are not limited to: one free randomly generated magic item (hidden behind the salient detail that the GM left out), one free hero point (for the player heroically saving the party from the GM’s bad pun), or one ruling automatically being made in the player’s favor in cases of questionable or situational rules.


Quartermaster’s log, stardate…oh crap, I’m not supposed to mention that we have stardates here…

Well, it happened, I finally lost my composure in front of my companions. They ran off after we finished dealing with the devourer, or rather, I stopped by the forest for a quick snack of that delicious talking tree bark. Regardless, they left me behind and apparently headed back out through the dwarven cairn and off to deal with some nonsense involving blowing up a dam before I could tell Nash about my amazing discoveries or the mission I had for him.

I went searching and found them, once again, in a situation of unreasonable duress. I saw Nash, Raule, Ulfen, Shard, and Smash (so easily recognizable in his camerillaroo form) crouched behind a once-great metal wall. I say once because it was heavily dented in a way reminiscent of many other walls we have hidden behind in the past…that is, dented in a way that could only be caused by the substance that smash calls dynamite. On one of the wall were my friends, surrounded by a legion of orcs, and on the other were a half-dozen of the Dark Lord’s legates, soaked in crimson fluid from what appeared to be a rather recently exploded blood-mirror.

I had previously called the ship I had waiting to come pick us up, and given the situation, I was very glad to see them coming up the river. Since I was on the wrong side of the orc horde from both the boat and my friends I gave in to the Chi-Julud and charged…

I did not see how, but my friends were on the boat when I reached it, bloated and raving. Raule, having taken possession of a number of Arithon’s artifacts, claimed that Shard had gone mad (a sad side-effect of spark withdraw) and attacked Smash (not too surprising given the latter’s frightening camel-gorilla-kangaroo mien), and that he was forced to teleport the crew to the ship. Ulfen pointed out that he managed to behead one of the legates before they escaped, an admirable feat from the dwarf-gimp, perhaps I will belay that court martial I had in the works for him.

Once everyone was aboard I gave the order to back oars and take us out of the river, conveniently giving Ulfen and Smash the opportunity to rain a few more volleys down on the orcs as we passed again.

As we sailed downriver, I explained how the Council of the Stewards has assessed our situation and determined that, with our current inability to deploy our main forces, we had no means of beating back the forces of the Dark Lord beyond our current holdings. How the Chi-Julud remained our bane and were we to deploy any of our soldiers in numbers sufficient to make a difference in this war, the madness would take them and they’d be just as likely to slay each other as the enemy. I told them about how, in searching the journals of the Lord Mages of Ancient Gresilia, I had hoped to find some arcane cure to this madness that afflicts my people. Instead, I found that holding the pattern of even a few of their ancient magics in my mind burned me to the soul and made the rage that much greater. Vengeance, perhaps for these ancient men, for I am now certain that their “Conqueror” was one of our kind, and, much like the Sibbecai and Litorians, the orcs of this realm must be servitors of our creation. From the records in the Lord Mage’s library, I had found many similarities between the tales of their Conqueror and those of the first expeditions of the Hu-Charad across the great sea. I believed, I told them, from what I had pieced together, that I had found the location of Xa’Ascolais, the legendary “Lost Enclave”, the first of my people to set foot on this Dark Continent.

Did I mention how nice it is to be back on a ship again? This land just feels wrong, even without my turning into a giant, gibbering blob of flesh, barely able to maintain my corporeal state. Also, Master Shard kept asking the most impertinent questions, inquiring whether our desire to deploy our troops was a good thing and questioning the will of the Council. Most unbecoming one of the care-taken. I think I may have to dial back his ration of soup…

Anyways…from the accounts I have pieced together—I believe that the “Conqueror” first made landfall far to the north and east, past the great ice flows, in the lands that are now the home of the Orcs. The Council of the Stewards has given me use of one of our Great Ships, a hundred of our best soldiers, and an equal number of sailors to sail up the coast and seek Xa’Ascolais.

On our way out of the river and into the bay, we passed Xa-Charad and my companions were able to see first-hand our need to deploy in force against the orcs. That is, they saw the 50 legions laying siege to our fair city, and we narrowly avoided having our ship destroyed by artillery fire from one of their siege-crabs. My companions discussed how they might break the siege, but I insisted that our mission was more important. Ja-Haram, our helmsman, steered us far out to sea and then turned us towards the iceberg-choked northern waters.

image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Titans_Kraken.jpg On our sixth day out our ship was attacked by a kraken, which, contrary to popular belief, is not a squid, but a massive, four-armed, fish thing. Granted, it did send forth a giant tentacle first, but Smash cut it off before it could attack us—actually, Smash might have thus provoked it into attacking us, but that tentacle made for an deliciously meaty soup (though it sadly gave a few of the crew the runs). After Smash hacked off the tentacle, the thing grabbed our ship and attempted to rip it in half. Luckily my companions and the crew leaped to the occasion, cleaving off one hand and seriously damaging the other before…

Before Mr. Shard turned himself into a creature of shadow, flew into the Kraken’s stomach, and dropped several flasks of extremely potent acid made by Ulfen. Within moments the entire contents of the poor kraken’s bowels poured out through a gaping, smoking hole in its upper intestines. My friends grabbed several odd objects from the falling debris, including what appeared to be another piece of the Arm of Power which Arithon had been collecting, and a sword which Shard claimed was enchanted to enforce the balance of the cosmos (whatever that means).

We sailed for another three weeks, frightening off the occasional orc war canoe and nudging icebergs aside with our ram. Finally, on our 30th day out, we saw a great structure looming ahead, near to the shoreline, but rising out of the water—a mountain, or an island, but perfectly square. On closer inspection, we could see that it bobs slightly in the water, quite similar to Malphas’s Pyramid in the Quivering Forest. The massive structure, floating like a great barge, towered some two-hundred feet over the surface of the water and was easily three hundred feet on a side—-like a massive stone cube, its surface smooth and unbroken, but worn rugged by years of exposure to the icy northern winds and the salt-spray of the sea…

I fell to my knees, as did my crew, knowing that we had found Xa’Ascolais, the great mother ship in which our kind had first come to this land. After paying my obeisance, I explained to the caretaken that this was a royal ship of the Stewards, a “mother ship” bearing one of our queens, and that clearly this must be Xa’Ascolais. I gave them a map of the expected layout and dispatched them to investigate.

Ulfen, or perhaps Raule, I believe it was, suggested that one of our kind should go aboard first, to see if the thousand-year-old ship extended the protections of home to us as did our current craft. Ga-Karran volunteered, and was able to dungeon step onto the main deck, clear sign that Xa’Asolais still belonged to the Hu-Charad. Sadly, he immediately succumbed to the Chi-Julud, losing his grip on his form and devolving into a debased mass of flesh.

Ulfen, Raule, Smash, and Shard teleported to the deck behind Ga-Karran and body-checked him into the sea where we were able to drag him back onto our ship before he could cause any damage. I believe they then went below, for I have not seen them in close to an hour. And I forgot to pack a bag lunch for them…how foolish of me…Shard will need his meds…

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Fa'Kseen's Ranting: The Dwarven Cairn Part 2
And so we learned that his true name was Mr. Puddles...

To The High Council of Stewards and the Paragnostic Assembly,
From Fa-Kseen, High Quartermaster of the Council,
Concerning the continued exploits of Anansi Corps.
Continued…

As Ulfen, Zeruch, and I sat partaking in Arithon’s memory, a group of wolves came upon us. Have I mentioned how delicious wolf smells? Anyways, we smelled them coming and I made greeting. The wolves clearly had great respect for Arithon, for they ate what remained down to the marrow. The wolves claimed that they served “The King” (more on him later), and gave us directions to his camp.

As we made our way to visit “The King”, the father of the three lovely ladies we had met earlier in the day, we asked the wolves about “The Devourer”. For things so ready and willing to devour, they had little nice to say about this kindred spirit, even being so rude as to suggest that the Devourer of Worlds may be less than sentient—as if any being with such a discerning palette could be anything less then brilliant.

On the way we suddenly saw a snake-like head breach the ground ahead of us, like a great, delicious fish or whale breaching the surface of the ocean. It looked very much like the dragon which I had seen Master Strasby Nash turn into just a few days prior, save that it bore upon its back a pair of men. The first was a human, tall and broad of shoulders, very much like misters Smash and Zeruch, and introduced himself as Raule. The second was black of skin and white of teeth, dressed all in black, and called himself Shard (or Shatter or some other such moniker). While his name was obviously false, I found him to be a most level-headed and well-spoken individual, with many insights to share concerning furnishings—a master architect or carpenter he must have been. He was able to shed much light on the nature of the Chi-Julud induced hallucination I was experiencing, though I did find it odd that he seemed to be able to hear the doorknobs speaking as well.

The six of us (Ulfen, Zeruch, Nash, Raule, Shard, and my esteemed self) proceeded through the forest, plagued all the way by pesky pixies—not even a mouthful those things. The wolves rushed ahead to a clearing where we met yet more of the talking trees from earlier. We passed them without consequence. These were not even nice enough to share a single of their berries, let alone a kind word.

Shortly thereafter we encountered a band of legates, five of them, mounted on their great mammoths. Have I ever mentioned how delicious mastodon is, boiled in a sauce of orc cheese and elderberries?

The mammoths ran over us, clearly possessed by spirits the magic-sniffing dogs of the Dark Lord, but did little damage, despite their impressive meatiness. A few fireballs from myself and Master Nash, some creative application of electricity by Ulfen, and some assistance by the wolves, and the beasts and their riders were soon nicely braised and added to our larders. Here I must mention Mr. Shard, for he seemed to know quite a bit about the legates, even going so far as to repeat some of their prayers of healing, but I suppose that only goes to show how fine, knowledgeable, and sensible a fellow he is—more so, in that he clearly appreciates a good gazpacho. Oh, and he also had a sword which seemed able to disintegrate Legates with minimal effort on his part. A most agreeable and outstanding fellow…I think frying may be the best use for him…perhaps with a sauce of basil and plums.

Nash was most overjoyed by some scrolls we found on the bodies of the legates. These were the first extant examples of post-umbral writing we had found, an transcription of the Black Speech, using the characters of Ancient Gressil. We took a few minutes to copy the contents—spells to heal significant wounds, disrupt magic, and give communion with the Dark Lord—into our notebooks before proceeding.

The hunger then came upon me greatly, and I was determined to cook up the mastodons (preferring mammoth meat well-done, rather than lightly grazed with fire such as these were), right there. But my companions convinced me of our haste, despite the time taken to indulge Strasby’s bibliophilia, so I was forced to put them on ice to collect later. A waste really, as mastodon is always better served as fresh as possible, and fresh, warm, legate brains make a wonderfully delectable paste when spread over toast.

We pressed ahead and came upon the great yellow tents of “The King”. His retinue were a ghastly lot: slim-wasted wastrels of women with satiny wings, great clawed things with overly-small mouths, and emaciated snake-like women with more arms than hips. The King himself was not-at-all jolly, dressed all in yellow, and similarly thin, multi-armed, and snakelike. A manifestation of my Chi-Julud addled mind obviously, for nothing so ill-fed could truly be called a king, and he showed none of the royal appreciation for fine cuisine. The king bade us slay the Devourer on pain of death.

While I feared little at his hands, I saw the Devourer from afar as we approached and the hunger came upon me fiercely. A great winged turtle it was, and my mind, addled with dreams of Devourer soup, could do nothing but hurl the Lance of the Giants at the thing, cleaving its head from its body in one blow. On closer inspection, we found the teeth of the great thing to be black, hard, and mirror-polished, as if its mouth were a gate to the Dark Lord. We smashed its teeth, obviously. Then Ulfen shoved a door bearing Conway, a talking doorknob, down its throat. Nash and I leaped to the rescue, hurling ourselves down the headless beasts esophagus, dreading the thought of so much meat being transformed into a dragon as small and gamy as Nash now was. Nash struggled mightily to wrest the door from its throat without the knob contacting it, but to no avail. The knob grazed the Devourer’s flesh and it began to shrink.

I quickly brought forth a lovely carving knife which had been gifted to me by Mr. Shard, and cut free the beasts larynx—a tough bit of tendon, but still quite delicious—then cut a hole through which Nash and I could exit the beast’s stomach. It shrank, and sharnk, and shrank, and died (though Nash claims he could heal it)…quite the waste of a perfectly good, immensely huge, turtle. Also, did I mention that the head which I had previously removed with my spear grew back? Let it be hereby put to the record that I request Ulfen be reviewed before the Courts Martial for his severe negligence in allowing a potentially infinite supply of turtle meat to be transformed into a small, lean, and terribly finite chunk of dragon flesh…and also for his clear lack of the refined taste buds expected of a soldier of his rank, though I’m not sure if that is really a punishable offense…it should be.

Anyways, the Devourer was slain, its mirror-teeth smashed, and no one was eaten. Which I guess is a good thing.

Next…a recipe for larynx bortsch.

Oh! And I forgot to tell Nash about my wonderful discovery and the ship you have waiting for us! Next time I guess…

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Fa'Kseen's Ranting: The Dwarven Cairn Part 1 and 3/4
Imps are delicious!

To The High Council of Stewards and the Paragnostic Assembly,
From Fa-Kseen, High Quartermaster of the Council,
Concerning the continued exploits of Anansi Corps.

I will keep this brief, as the Chi-Julud is upon me and I cannot guarantee the veracity of any longer account that I might make.

First, let me offer my sincerest thanks to the council for honoring my requisition of the ship. Once my companions and I have dealt with The Devourer (more on that later in this missive) and discovered why that dragon tasted like Nash (more on this as well), we will be proceeding with our new mission.

Having completed the first course of my studies in the High Tower of Magery, all that now remains of Ancient Gresilia (I may speak more on this in a alternate missive, but I defer to Master Nash to fill you in on the relevant details), I went in search of my companions. As usual, they were not hard to find—I could taste their fearful sweating a mile away.

I discovered them holed up in an ancient dwarven cairn, the doors held tight, presumably against the onrushing army of orcs which arrived at roughly the same time as myself, though from a different vector. As you may see from the following account, I think they may have been better off dealing with the orcs head-on, but I digress…have I ever mentioned how delicious orc is, boiled in a sauce of mastodon cheese and elderberries?

As I said, I found my companions, or rather a small sub-set there-of, namely the sword-master Arithon, the thing that was once called Smash, and the new recruit, Zeruch, just inside the cairn. Smash was, as usual, sleeping on that very fine mat of his and unable to be awakened. I had no time to debrief as, shortly on entering the cairn, I heard a scream, not unlike that so often made by Master Nash, from down the nearest corridor. I rushed to investigate, certain that Nash must have discovered some wonderful new flavor, as is so often evidenced by his screaming.

Down the corridor I discovered a large dragon of strange mien, a species I was not familiar with, but, sadly, when I went to get a taste so that I might identify it, it vanished. Though its residues on the ground tasted quite a bit like Master Nash himself. Beside where the dragon was I found a door. A golden gate with three knobs.

The knobs spoke. Or at least, in my Chi-Julud addled state, I believed they spoke, and given that belief so often parallels reality in this land, I was forced to verify. For the record, the door-knobs did not taste of cotton candy, so I must assume that they were real, and did, in fact, speak.

They, the knobs, introduced themselves as Connor, Conway, and Conrad. They were most reluctant to open or to provide any useful information, so I was forced to interrogate them forcefully.

As I was gnawing upon Conrad, Arithon and his squire arrived. Their timing was quite convenient, for I seemed to have provoked Connor by my licking and the knob summoned forth a Marilith to do battle with us. We prevailed, I think. I must admit that I was rendered unconscious by the beast, unthinkable as such a thing is for one of our kind. When I awoke the demon was gone, so I must assume that Arithon’s valor availed us once again. Again, sad, for I did not get a single taste of the thing, and I can only assume that a six-armed snake-woman would be exactly as delicious as that stew I made on this Xa-Grolman’s Eve past, you know, the one with the six ladies arms and the snake…

The marilith gone, the doors opened with little further objection, though I gnawed on them a bit more just to be sure. Beyond the gate we encountered a strange blue mist and a man, old and gray, of undeterminate race, and calling himself November. Addressing him by my name of December, I took a taste and found him to be quite delicious, tasting of liquidambar and tannins, with the subtle aroma of a late-autumn forest. He gave us some keys and bid us follow…but I could not. It was here that I learned another great word of the True Speech of this land, a word of entering of great power. As you know the True Speech is hard to transcribe, but, best as I can attempt, the word sounds as “P-l-ee-s”. I was surprised that Arithon and Zeruch both knew the word well. I must inquire later how they learned of this magic.

The word being spoken, we proceeded up a new corridor. At the end we found an arch, exiting upon a forest, guarded by a door-knocker. The knocker itself was no challenge, but the small red monkey that held it bit off my tongue when I sought to taste it. Feeling a kindred spirit, I proceeded to reciprocate the imp’s gesture, taking it into my mouth and chewing until the friendly little creature gripped onto the bloodied stump of my tongue and would not let go. A great many doses of extract-of-mushroom, that most delicious of all seasonings, encouraged the imp to take up permanent residence in my mouth, where it now serves me in place of my tongue.

Past the arch we found a small cottage. My friends rushed to open the doors, compelled by some strange curiosity, or perhaps by the key-shaped amulets they now wore. Oh yes, did I mention they key-shaped amulets given us by November? I cannot remove mine, neither by tooth nor force. They bear some subtle magic related to the binding of spirits, and speak with the voice of Otiax, he who opens the way, but have no function that I can surmise. Useless junk I imagine. Still, Arithon and Zeruch rushed to open the doors.

Within I found a fabulous banquet, though I cannot for the life of me remember how it tastes, and another red monkey demanding that he was hungry. I crafted for him a feast greater than the banquet which was before him and we were well rewarded for our troubles. The small creature gifted me with a moat, a great trench of water that might be folded up so as to fit in one’s pocket. Oh, and I believe that there were other demons in the cottage, awakened by Arithon’s obsessive loosing of portals, though I also cannot recall what they tasted like, so I must assume that Arithon and Zeruch dispatched them by their own prowess without the need of my superior culinary skills. Arithon is becoming quite good with a knife, I must see that he is assigned more KP duty…he would be quite good at peeling turnips I imagine.

We took our rest and I awoke to find that the Chi-Julud had progressed almost to its utmost and that I was barely able to hold the solidity of my form. I quickly made pact with the Dog-God and recomposed myself before the others awakened. Shortly thereafter Ulfen arrived, another new recruit, calling himself The Lord hath made unto us a good point. Goldfinger (we called him simply Goodpoint, for his appellation seemed much too long for such a small creature), wearing the ceremonial feathered headdress of the Sarcosan pilgrims, and carrying a great eye, nearly a yard across and quite delicious looking, in tow.

Ulfen quickly drew our attention to the cottage’s well. A very large well, some 15 feet across, for such a small cottage. I quickly went down to investigate and found it to be quite cold. A perfect cold-storage facility for perishables I surmise, and I have duly noted its location for future use. It was inhabited by some strange icy creatures, though they yielded quickly to a few well-placed castings of Arcimander’s Magnificent All-encompassing Radial Inferno, which my allies insist on calling simply a “fireball”…clearly they have no respect for the intricacies of of the mystical culinary arts of the Ancient Gresilians. Of greater interest was the ice in the well. It had a strange flavor, tasting at once of both lime and salt, and made for some most delectable post-prandial refreshments, and was even better blended with mushroom juice for a post-post-prandial snack.

I emerged from the well to rejoin my companions as they entered the woods. The woods opened before us, reminding me of the infamous Quivering Forest near our fair city, though it was clearly something else. A few minutes into the forest I realized that our possessions were being preyed upon by some pixies. They were quickly dispatched using Fa’Kseen’s Most Excellent Prismatic Spray, a spell of my own devising.

We then came to a clearing, filled with great talking trees…clearly another manifestation of the Chi-Julud. The trees were decidedly unhelpful. They gave us some delicious berries, but insisted that they be eaten raw, as if we were some kind of savages incapable of cooking our food…almost as bad as elves these trees. They were, however, quite delicious, somewhat chewy in texture with the faint bitterness of elm and a sweet, minty aftertaste. They, however, took umbrage to the small taste I took, insisting that I should ASK them for a taste, as if they were somehow our equals. They even had the gaul to attack me.

While I dealt with the rude shrubberies, my companions took their leave. I caught up with them just as they finished off a similarly offensive topiary. They spoke with a strange woman who showed no gratitude for their burning down the tree to save her. The woman was nice enough to direct us to a magnificent castle, of a size typical of our own people, but scaled for the smaller humans. The castle was surrounded by a mote, which we summarily drained using the imp’s gift, allowing us to cross and making for a fantastic catch of many large bass, pike, and gar.

The keeper of the drawbridge politely allowed us entry and directed me to the castle’s very fine kitchens. My companions, delinquents that they are, wandered off to the explore the coronal chambers. I quickly set to work making my masterpiece—rotissierie broiled moat-bass ala vorpàl! The beautiful princess to whom the castle belonged came in as I was completing my art, and we had a delightful meal together. She was able to tell me much of use, most specifically that the Devourer of Worlds, the great beast freed from beneath the city of Karse by the other members of Anansi Squad, was nearby, just beyond the castle. I had long hoped to trade recipes with that most excellent of eaters, so I called my companions together and we set off to meet the thing.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that the princess’s ghastly younger sister had a HORSE! An actual, non-flying, non-horned, non-speaking, HORSE! Sadly I did not get to try any, but Arithon promissed me that once we had treated with the Devourer for the princesses, they would gladly give us the meat of the beast as reward for our diplomatic endeavors on their behalf.

Unfortunately, in the next clearing we encountered several large, rotting hands of an animate nature. Ulfen and Arithon devised a brilliant stratagem involving holding a stroke of lightning between the two of them to destroy the things, but Arithon fell in the battle. He could not be revived, so I performed the last rights for him, preparing him with a delicious mushroom and herb sauce. Sadly, Ulfen and the others refused to honor Arithon’s memory with me…I will never understand the rudeness of humans…even with the Chi-Julud, I at least can still show proper respect for the dead. Maybe another dose or two of the spark will improve their attitudes…

Hmmm…the hunger comes again…I must end this missive and break my fast. Perhaps I can convince the others to memorialize Arithon with me in this second round…

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Session 14: Nash's Account
Manafest Destiny

Repairing back to the library, we resupplied and made for the third landmark described by the tattered texts from the library. An inland sea had covered the mountains described by the scraps of paper since they were written, so we found ourselves in want of a boat.

We were able to revive an ancient vessel, full sunk in the harbor, and christened her “The Rebound”. Several days of good sailing found us on a jungle island mountain, encircled with mangrove swamps. Some tiny orcling tribes made their habitat there, and with minimal disturbance to them we were able to gain the peaks of the mountains. They were honeycombed out with erosion, and inhabited by some orclings engaged in ecclesiastical activities. They joyfully accepted Fa’Sheen as a proxy for their food-providing god and a little less joyfully gave us access to their sacred artifacts.

Among them was the third piece of the key. Arithon and Smash were able to activate it and bring back the city into the world.

The landscape was more eerie in its familiarity than in its alieness. We were in the streets of a city which stretched out in every direction. It appeared uninhabited as we picked our way through it. The only strange structures we found were large rune covered arches that seemed to course with power such that any physical contact with them was dangerous.

We investigated a storehouse, where we found domestic supplies and fresh food. We attempted to obtain a higher vantage point, to better navigate through the abandoned metropolis. It was then that we discovered the true inhabitants of the city. From nook and cranny they rushed at us: human carrion, carapace encrusted, they lept with alacrity upon us and overwhelmed us. Arethon fell, Ulfen and Fa’Sheen dragged him back into the storeroom, while I threw what explosives I had into the street and ignited them. Smash threw himself against the door and somehow it held against the blast. The building collapsed upon us and we knew nothing for a while.

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Session 13: Nash's Account
A Fungamental Discovery

No power of the Dark Lord could now keep us from exploring out and delving to the very depths of the earth in order to obtain the second key to the lost city.

The next piece of the key to the capital city of the Gressig Empire was in a labyrinth buried in the sands of what we now call the Siegblum Dunes. Once we’d found the entrance we descended with caution and hammers and axes. The honeycomb of chambers below were ever changing and shifting — we could open a door, pass through it, and immediately double back on that same door and find ourselves in another part of the labyrinth. Then, in the middle of this baffling maze, we came upon a room filled with huge lithopyhtic mushrooms.

Fa’Sheen first tasted the mushrooms, as his penchant directed him, and upon his report that they were among the most complex and pleasing fungi he had heretofore enjoyed, the rest of us also also tried them. They were delicious.

We busied ourselves alternately collecting, drying, cooking and tasting the mushrooms for about a fortnight, during which time we discovered several effects which they precipitated. One, that they strengthen the effect of any magical additives which were combined in the stew, and two, there were always certain unforeseen effects, often unpleasant, which followed.

We found ourselves at liberty during this time to discourse amongst ourselves. Heretofore I have been terse. I have done so to make the narrative engaging and memorable. As to my comrades discourse, I have been more liberal with my summary, even perfunctorily abridging the narrative, paraphrasing when I should have quoted exactly the words of our interlocution. I will attempt to describe the scene in the drippy cavern of the mushroom in full.

Nash: “I’m fine with adding more spark, by all means, but any further additions we ought to be more judiciou…”

Fa’Sheen, opening an unknown vial of liquid and dumping the entire contents into a stewing pot of mushrooms: “Perfect, ah! Taste that bouquet! Now if I only had some more torrid desire, oh, here it is!”

Smash, pawing at the walls of the cavern: “I can taste with my hands!”

But I must continue. Waking from our reverie and exploring the labyrinth further, we soon found the center of the labyrinth, and the key it held.

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