New World Order - Jungle Edition

Miles of worthlessness
The slavers were too easy, and the dragon is too hard

We found ourselves one mile from the slaver’s encampment, and we paused to discuss our tactics for attacking them and rescuing their captives. We questioned the slaver we had captured alive, but the brute was a simpleton and could provide little of help to us. Observing his crude mannerisms gave me an idea. While Thamior and Cheetara stealthed into the camp and took out the archers in the treetops overhead, the rest would assault the camp… except for me. I volunteered to be the distraction (or the scapegoat?). I arcaned myself into the form of the slaver, put on his clothes, practiced speaking a few of his loud complaints and refusals, and left for the camp.

I ran into camp blubbering and shouting about the attackers! Close to a dozen slavers stood near a large campfire, with a loud braggart leading the thugs in a rally of curses and catcalls towards “Miles you idiot”, “dumbheart Miles”, and “Miles of worthlessness”. To play my role as Miles, I needed to reduce my intelligence to a mere shadow of myself, but combined with my physical form and voice I carried the day with an actor’s proud skill. I howled about the dozen attackers that ambushed me and my two companions, the trickery and flame they hurled at us, and I attracted their attention away from the stealthy approaching the camp. Several slavers were standing over the bound forms of the captives, ready to execute them quickly as the campfire danced cruel flames in their darkened eyes. As the archers were silently and skillfully removed, I stumbled into a position directly in line with the executors, intending to hurl a lightning bolt through them all when the time was right.

The leader shouted insults and invitations into the jungle, and all of the slavers were growing restless waiting for those he hoped would behave as “civilized men” which were obviously upon them. My team emerged from the trees into the edge of the camp shadow, and the bargaining began. There might be a way to rescue the captives without the risk of battle, and the leader threw offers of selling the captives and threats to kill them and other things, and it seemed clear that they did not have a taste for battle this night. Their price of 20 gold per head was trivial, but I could see that even that paltry sum was more than my team really wanted to part with. Finally, they agreed to keep one captive with them until they were able to depart in safety. I joined with the rest of the slavers departing camp and my team advanced to see to the health of the captives. After a mile or so, I howled of exhaustion and received another assault of curses, but as I predicted, they were not willing to wait and they left me behind and dumped the captive so they could proceed at top speed.

After they ran out of sight, I approached the bound captive, but he shouted and squirmed even after I morphed back into my original Elven form and voice. I awaited my team to approach up the trail, and they reported the rest of the now free captives have bolted for their village. We pursued the slavers and I sent Aethyr overhead to view them with the sharpened sight that the fey-owl depended upon. Thamior’s baby bronze dragon Kriv returned down the trail – apparently he had been hiding among the slaver’s items – and Kriv (speaking Draconic) described some sort of shantytown the slavers entered. Evening smothered the jungle. Aethyr and I observed the town from a distance, and it appeared to be a ramshackle pirate hovel with a hundred or so degenerates living among the filth. We quickly decided to avoid the shantytown and aimed to cross overland through the jungle, over the large nearby river, and towards the nearing mountains where our goal of the Ibecx ruined city was rumored to lie.

After three weeks of so of eventless travel through the thinning jungle, we refound the big river’s southern end and followed it for a few more days into the foothills of the mountain range. Several of us spied a stonework dam over a nearby river tributary, and perhaps our lack of recent encounters gave us all a thirst for meeting someone, even someone with a hostile intent. Kragg quickly found Dwarvish runes which he knew were carved by one of his compatriots we had rescued from the sewers of Port Garmsby. Perhaps some of these Dwarves are accompanying the vile halfling sorceror Sid while he searches for the Ibecx ruins? The dam structures were uninteresting except for a 15 foot circular pit, perhaps a cistern for water storage. Juju, eager to help, offered to light a rock and drop it into the pit, and she was rather nervous while drawing the arcane energies as she was still very new to using the magic which I have been instructing her. The pit had an opening hidden within shadow.

Kriv jumped impulsively into the pit, disappeared for a moment, and shouted about a “small wet city place”. After finally emerging from weeks of jungle into the dusty sunlight, we now descend into the dry pit. Plenty of stonework was mined out of the rock and abandoned. A few housing rooms, a refuse pile, a dozen buildings, no remnants of magic, and nothing of interest other than a few Dwarven runes hastily written (within the past few weeks Kragg says) about Sid not being able to find what he is seeking. We depart for a few more hours of southward travel before the sunlight runs out over the mountainous horizon.

A night of quiet on the hillside was deceiving. Perhaps we should have thought deeper about hiding our presence, especially as we were nearing Sid’s horde. As dawn approached, Cheetara woke me and whispered about another flying lizard. A large blue dragon lumbered through the pre-dawn sky, heaving its wings and hoary breathing across the rocks. I have been in the habit of preparing our nightly campsites with what an ancient wizard Leomund had called his Tiny Hut, a protective dome of force, and all were thankful for the dome as the beast clawed at the dome as it flew by, breathed lightning upon it, landed upon it, and made itself a nuisance of the highest order. The blue dragon was angry with us for some reason, and his rage would likely last much longer than the hour remaining before our Hut would evaporate into the dawn.

Growing concerns about the alchemist?
Can we really trust this fellow?

I hold growing concerns about our recently-discovered alchemist. I find it incredulous that he had in his possession those accursed goggles, just happened to offer them to us for “testing”, and knew depthful knowledge about their history and extreme dangers. He seems to hold no grudge against us, but I feel we shall be hearing of an ulterior motive, especially since he claims to know of only one method to rescue friend Thamior. And could those topaz socks be somehow linked to this plot?

“Oh, by the way, since you’ll be traveling to the infernal reaches, could you kindly retrieve some mystic ingredients for me? It’s such a small price to pay for saving your ranger’s life, after all. I would love to travel with you but my frail body could only hinder your band of seasoned adventurers…”

I am glad that the dark enemies we encountered have not found us so tastefully seasoned.

Atrei, discerning and doubtful

The Squire chimes in

What in Fury’s name was that? I hear many tales of combat and danger of your group, but this recent religious jaunt was nothing more than a fairy tale. Wandering around in someone’s childhood memories, throwing banana peels and climbing trees? A squire is ready for a fight, not watching little elf school. Trusting your lives to a bunch of giddy cleric pretenders is the height of stupidity. Maybe you have all dreamed all of your adventures?

Who’s in charge here? When danger arises, everyone goes off and does whatever they want. No command structure. No sense of order. No formation. Everyone falling down and dropping weapons. The pale magic elf doesn’t even try to fight, preferring to hide at a distance and light things on fire. It’s amazing to me that any of you are still alive, flailing about like that. Every battle is nothing more than a bar brawl. It’s embarrassing.

The Dragon Whisperer
This is getting unbearable

Dearest Ava,

Boy has it been an eventful several weeks. Things have been on the up and up for old Thamior. Firstly we finally escape the Land of the Gray! This has been a long time coming, but is a huge relief. Our trip back to town was rather uneventful, and we apparently have become rather well known among the humans. Among the Wood Elves is another matter, my only contact is you and Embray so its rather hard to judge.

Of course this fame isn’t without its drawbacks. The governor wants the Trouble Shooters (I know its lame, but that’s what we are calling ourselves now) to clear their stone quarry of overly clever Kobalds. Apparently they are led by some human named Horath. From what I understand he is annoyed that the Roman’s have small boats and thinks that they need bigger boats.

We also now have a tag-along named Nass I think? He and Mara (the Fighter) have some sort of history. He is a pretty poor fighter from what I have seen but he can carry the dirt out of equipment. This was especially helpful recently when we set out to observe the quarry to determine how much of a pain it will be to clear. Due to my expert woodsman skills we traversed the path largely unimpeded.

By largely unimpeded I mean we were found by an imp named Isosceles who trades in information. We had actually acquired some goggles on a recent trip to Embray’s that are just the best. Isosceles was so kind as to give us the name and bit of history of the goggles. Apparently they are called Gondales Mystic Specticles and were forged nigh 100 years after The Great Ghost Dance. In any case now Mara won’t let me touch the goggles anymore for some reason. She is rather mean about it too! I just want to see the pretty lights again!

The next day we found a good little hidey hole to discuss plans from and information gathered by Aether. I almost forgot! Atrei has an Owl now named Aether. He has some sort of Arcane bond with it and is able to communicate and use it for recon. This was immensely helpful as the last time we engaged these Kobald directly it was a bit of a nail biter. This largely simplified the whole initial recon business. This encampment is far more organized than one might initially guess. It was only in times before The Dance that we heard tale of Kobald who did anything other than fight over scraps.

To do some more in depth surveillance I fashioned us up some snow shoes to better cover our tracks so we wouldn’t be so easily spotted by the patrols. As many of our Trouble Shooters hadn’t used snow shoes before we took an excursion to get our bearings. During this we encountered a Polar Bearformer named Grimlock. I say bearformer because he was clearly not a real bear as he had none of the telltale signs of one. Luckily we had our good old friend Frodo to commune with him. Of course the Bearformer decided to be difficult and not just turn into a human to converse with us, so Frodo had to relay reply’s to us.

According to the Bearformer the Norse aren’t the ones who started the war necessarily, and for that matter they didn’t start it over the size of their boats! This is obviously nonsense. He asserted if they did start the war it was justified, though that is something I’m sure many on both sides would say. According to him the Taun-ti are apparently behind this whole human conflict and they supposedly have proof in the form of multiple captured Taun-ti agents. He told us how to approach the camps and not be fired upon and he took his leave.

In any case with our dreams of ambushing the patrols dashed we promptly began our return to Port Garmsby. Though this apparently wasn’t for the feint of heart. Overhead I spotted a white dragon approaching. We promptly took cover but to our dismay the dragon landed. Wise as we are we promptly began our retreat, but suddenly everyone but myself and Aether were stunned in fear. It was a real case of brown trousers. In that moment I knew what I had to do. I had two choices to save the Trouble Shooters from certain death; convince Whitey that we were far too strong to be trifled with, or go down in a blaze of glory. Luckily the latter didn’t come to pass. Through quickness of wit and deftness of negotiation I convinced Whitey to take a few Black Dragon Eggs we were had been carrying for a while and a paltry sum of gold. I’d like to add that Frodo time and time again insisted that the eggs were dead, but lo and behold they turned out to be quite a valuable asset.

With disaster averted thanks to yours truly we successfully returned home even greater legends than before! But the job of a trouble shooter never ends! We had to figure out if the Taun-ti were indeed behind the going’s on in the Roman’s Ranks. Myself and Atrei set off to speak with our wise friend Embray.

Once there we discovered not very much more than what we had already heard from the Bearformer, but he did corroberate his story. Of course no good deed goes unpunished, Embray tricked me into putting on cursed Azure Socks that made me dance for as long as I wore them. Embray will not here the end of this! In addition, Embray insisted that those goggles were dangerous. I assured him that they definitely were not; providing only good things and wonderful gifts to all those who used them. He then got all uppity when I told him how we learned the name of the goggles, saying he was “planning on moving soon” because “the demon’s must not learn of the existence of the goggles or it will be the end of days” nonsense I say! Embray is so prone to hyperbole that one cannot tell his yarns from his wheel.

Once we returned I promptly went to the Temple to get the cursed socks removed. I then returned to the Tavern and Mara finally let me get some quality time with the goggles. Apparently I am in some sort of coma now? How can I be writing this if I was in a coma?

Truely yours,

P.S. I have some questions for you, like why didn’t you tell me that Port Garmsby was under siege? When did the human’s start warring over the size of their boats? Are the Taun-ti real? Did you receive instructions not to tell me anything? I worry sometimes that you don’t want me to know when you need help. We need to talk soon about this and other business.

The alchemist, the eyewear, and the imp
Snowfall cannot cover the dangers we dabble with

On our third morning in Port Garmsby, just hours after our warfare against the kobold invader squads, our injured group members took the time for an opportunity for rest and recovery. Thamior was willing to walk with me to an alchemist’s shop north of the city run by a man named Hombre. To protect his location, I won’t describe which hollow tree holds the entrance to his underground shop and some of the sophisticated furnishings we saw there. The alchemist was quite enraptured with his research and was taken off guard when he noticed us observing him experimenting with a star-shaped aquatic creature. We had the start of a number of fascinating conversations about the causes of the recent warfare, styles of Elven ships (and the shortcomings of other cultures’ sailing vessels), and a wealth of history about kobolds of the past and their ancient Ibex masters that could aid us in our interactions with them. Our ranger Thamior was quite skillful in arranging our purchase of healing potions from him, and he even enticed the alchemist into studying our group’s water-weird-in-a-bottle we discovered from the hag’s villainy in Fort Strade.

While discussing some of the finer points of arcane with him (and obtaining his willingness to teach me some skills in crafting magical items), he made good offer to us for testing some unusual emerald green metallic goggles he had found. It is unwise to dabble in unknown magics, I am well aware, but I felt this was a test of trust, to see if we were truly willing to commit ourselves to trusting him. I was confident the alchemist was not trying to harm us on purpose. I cautiously volunteered myself, placing the scaly leather goggles on and seeing the smoke-filled thick lenses clearing away and acting similar to my Detect Magic spell, bringing certain items in the shop into crystal clarity while all others were foggy and confused. Thamior also tried himself on the goggles, but his descriptions focused on specks of bright light in the creatures around him instead of the items I had seen. Perhaps these goggles enhance some of our innate abilities? More experimenting is needed.

Thamior and I returned to the city and our merry band, and using the goggles he had detected a person stalking us while we walked (which appeared as an ordinary squirrel to the naked eye). While updating them on our wonderment in the alchemist’s dwelling, we found it easy to encourage the group to try the goggles, and each one was most eager to try them but I insisted (for their safety) that I examine the items in more depth first. The goggles did not exhibit the nature of a typical magical item when examined, but some extra study was able to detect threads of Divination, Enchantment and Illusion schools of magic which seems like an unhealthy combination to me, an ill omen to come.

Each person tried the goggles. Mara mentioned seeing colored auras around each person, differing in color in what I believe is related to the person’s career path. Kragg saw jewels and precious metals in the clear bright manner that I would see magical items. Frodo had an overpowering vision of his unseen benefactor from where he draws his arcane power, Frodo calls him simply ‘the outsider’. This Outsider is apparently an imposing human male of indeterminable age with deep blue, almost black robes with silver glyhs running across them that appear to be mirrored on the Outsiders body in silver tattoos the villainous halfling Sid who taunted him and seemed aware of the vision, snapping his fingers to end Frodo’s vision. Our Cheetara was jumping around, batting cat-claws at unseen objects and overly enjoying herself so much that Kragg had to entangle her to end it. I took more detailed notes so I could discuss further our findings with the alchemist, but one thing is quite disturbing to me: these goggles somehow read the nature of the wearer and amplify that nature to unusual proportions. The danger of addiction and over confidence must be guarded against, and if the Outsider Sid can interact with the wearer’s vision, I question if we should be carrying this thing among us at all.

We were oblivious to the horrific mess that Cheetara’s antics had caused, and the innkeeper demanded to be paid for the damages. A courier arrived to speak with Mara, saying that Praetor Peneton had commanded her presence, and she hastily paid the innkeeper so all of us could depart.

As we awaited Mara’s return, we had a rare moment to appreciate the snowfall. The city is encompassed with war and woe, burned buildings and slain soldiers. The snowfall was already near knee height, but the new snowfall gently covered and caressed the broken city and hid the ugliness for a brief moment. It has been only days since ending our week in Pepplefen’s fateful fog, but several months had passed in the real world and this was my first chance to really notice the snow. Mara returned quite annoyed, sharing the Praetor’s protective instructions for her new squire Mahir Nassar while this new squire strode beside her with an almost imperial attitude. Nass had been closely carousing with the Praetor’s daughter Metella, a vicious fact we all understood all too clearly. We decide to quickly depart the embattled city for the stone quarry so that the Praetor does not summon us into some further troubles.

Our first hours on the journey began in a simple march, and then the many tracks in the snow ceased and we settled into our walking rhythm and kept alert. We departed the trail and went overland, stopping for the eve with a shelter campfire and a chance to help our new members learn how to keep our two-person watches. I was awoken by Frodo and Kragg who had been talking to an odd talking raven who came into our camp, asking for secrets to share. An imp, a foul shriveled creature. Frodo seemed quite eager to decide what secrets we could safely share with the thing, and we discussed quietly among ourselves. Our dwarven Kragg was quite uncomfortable with this creature, probably bristling with divine reminders about his noble purpose and his commitment to fighting evil wherever it is found. We decide to share our discoveries about the history of Fort Strade (by talking to my long-winded Gerald-staff) and our experiences with defeating the hag, and in return the raven-imp said its name was Isoceles, gave us better direction and nearby landmarks for the Ibex ruined city we were planning to visit, and described the Gondales Mystic Spectacles we were dabbling with, a 500 year old item which sometimes sapped the wearer’s soul. The thing departed only after describing how we can request its presence in the future for further secrets. No more sleep for this eve.

By midday we approached the quarry, and we carefully scouted for hostiles. My new fey-owl Aether was dancing in the stiff winds above the hills, informing us of two small six-men-and-kobold encampments and sentry patrols roaming south of the quarry entrance trail. Thamior has been well too often with those accursed goggles, and his eyes were bleeding from his recent use of them. We all felt something wrong, why the goggles came to us just prior to the raven-imp appearance, why the northern approaches seemed unguarded, why the kobolds were guarding a stone quarry which they had ruined and with no valuables for them. We endeavored to encamp for the eve while observing for ways to ambush the patrols and find our way into the quarry safely during the morrow. We readied ourselves for a killing-day.

Atrei FaintWalker, Conjurer Errant

Logbook Entries 209-217
I never want to see the Shadow Plan again...

It’s impossible to tell time in this town. They sky is a near constant grey. In the grand scheme of things, exact times may not be very important. I will do my best to guess at the times.
7th Day in Shadow Plane
0800 – People slowly waking up. The Smith, Cole, may be of use in furthering my blacksmithing knowledge. Thamior finds letter. Letter included below:

“Dear Annoying group of interlopers.

How fun it has been, this game of ours. I was a disappointed your scarred friend wasn’t able to join us, I was so looking forward to adding a real dagger to his body, but I suspect my hired thugs got to have all the fun!
I must move on though, my time here is at an end, I have wards to start and ancient artifacts of power to uncover. Your time here, though, has just begun! You think your so clever, gathering supplies and planning an escape, but my associated and I have other plans for you and your peasant friends. They like you, they want you to stay and they reap the spoils of your misery…
To that end I have set my minions to the task of destroying the temple, can you not hear them working even now? Oh, and to ensure you will be too busy to interrupt them I have taken some of your friends and relocated them throughout the town, they probably won’t last the day, but by then your future will be sealed. I may return in a few years, and if any of you still live, I will put you out of your misery then, so don’t despair…too much!
Good riddance to rubbish,

This letters confirms my theory that this Halfling is the same one we encountered in Port Garmsby.

0830 – Noise of stone on metal can be heard. The group heads to the temple.
0845 – Arrive at temple. Steep path up to the temple approx. incline 50%. Two ogre zombies and two zombies seen. Zombies hitting temple repeatedly. Atrei: Kite zombies with noise. Effective until chanting begins. Zombies return to hitting temple.
0900 – Fog rolls in. Blocks view of all enemies. Start ascent to temple. Movement is slow. Fireball hits us. Enemy still unseen. Run into two ogre zombies. Zombies attempt to roll down path. Zombies fall down off path.
0930 – Halfling is seen. Mara attempts a tackle and fails. Halfling disappears. Brie uses Gust of Wind. Fog disappears. 3 ogre zombies, 9 regular zombies, Halfling sighted. Gust of Wind pushes zombies back.
0945 – Battle begins. Halfling disappears using magic circle. Shadow creature appears. Effectiveness of melee attacks is low.
1000 – Shadow disappears. Enemy is known for disappearing and reappearing elsewhere in battle.
1015 – Mara knocked unconscious. Brie heals.
1030 – Atrei knocked unconscious. Shadow and remaining zombies killed. Brie heals.
1045 – Basement scouted for enemies. None found. Temple is secure.
1100- Return to town hall. Missing children have been found/returned.
1200 – Group eats and rests.
1600 – Acquire daises from north-west fields.
1700 – Return to temple. Group rests for the night.

8th day in Shadow Plane
1st group of villagers escorted to teleportation circle. One daisy in hands of each villager. Brie uses teleportation scroll. Teleportation successful.

9th Day in Shadow Plane
Repeat of day 7. 2nd group teleported.

10th Day in Shadow Plane
Repeat of day 7. 3rd group teleported.

11th Day in Shadow Plane
Repeat of day 7. Last group teleported.
Return to the original Pepplefin Village. Time midday. Currently is snowing. 1 day in shadow plane equivalent to two weeks in regular world. Approximately in shadow plane for about 6 months. Damages sustained in shadow plane not present in original Pepplefin. Morale is high.
While away war has started. Norsemen and Asians against Romans. Arabs neutral. Trade from Romans to new world has stopped. Blockade put up by Noresmen.

January 20th
0800 – Leave Pepplefin.
January 23th
1500 – Arrive in Port Garmsby. Journey uneventful.

January 24th
0900 – Receive summons from Governor.
1100 – Arrive at governor’s office. Receive writ as compensation for our weapons that were requisitioned. Zombie infestation at mines. Governor wants group to neutralize threat. Ore needed for fortifications. Halfling (potentially same as before) stirred up undead in sewers. Left town to the south to pursue “city of power”. Follow up with scholars for additional info.
1500 – Bumped into Mahir near The Green Thumb Apothecary and Herbalist. He didn’t seem to recognize me.
1700- Talk to Phillip, guard friend known to get information and be discrete for the right price. Ask Phillip to do some recon on Mahir. How long has he been in town? How did he get here with the blockade? Who is he with? Why is he here? Waiting on Phillip’s response.

But why Nemo?

Dearest Ava,

It’s been a while since my last letter, though to be honest not much has changed. The town is still gray, still bleak, and we are still stuck.

So we went out on a simple mission to pick some flowers. Note that this isn’t the most exciting activity, but we need them for some magic or some cleric thing so I went along with it, at least it got me out of that armpit that is the town hall.

On our way we went to turn on the clock tower by opening a sluice up to activate the clocktower. Well I went to actuate the lever while the other bickered for a while about something and I swear the thing hissed at me! I went to actuate it again and it appeared to be fine. Something is really up in this Town!

Having braved the hissing lever successfully we continued on our quest for the flowers. Given the nature of this place, this had no hope of going well. Well out of nowhere a will-o’-the-wisp jumped out at us. I had no choice but to fire on it before it came too close. Despite my efforts they are wirery little fools who roam in large packs. Luckily Bree had a trick up her sleeve. She changed a few words and they all turned tail. Likewise rather than sticking around for them to return we also got out of dodge.

During this exchange Atrei lit off a Thunderwave and attracted a whole batallion of Zombies. To escape their clutches we attempted to climb the clocktower. I guess more accurately I attempted to climb the clocktower and was kicked off by Bree for some reason. If it weren’t for Hadrian I would have been drawn into the mechanism that drives the clocktower.

As an aside we had a second reason for being in this field: in particular we were hoping to strike down this griffin vulture thing. It has been wrinkling our sprinkles for quite a while and we were hoping to not have to deal with it anymore, if you catch my meaning.

Recently I have been questioning my role in the family. We seem to have these ideals about ourselves. With Nemo’s recent betrayl are we all so immune? I think I need some time to collect myself before I can contact you again. Maybe I can find some solice in figuring out how to talk to the Water Weird. I have taken to calling her Waskind. I am assuming its a her, but we can correct this later I suppose.

Respectfully yours,

Surviving an ambush
Death was hungry but we soured their meal

The morning of the fifth day. Surrounded by nothing but the unrelenting grey fog, with an entire town overrun with undead, a demon vulture, and demoralized families. We don’t need a prophet to feel the doomsday we are wrapped within.

Our town cleric Bree is continuing her work on crafting a holy symbol and Hadrian is feeling the apathy while we discuss our options. For our escape from this grey fog, Bree can use that holy symbol and the small gems we have gathered… and one daisy for each person to cross through the temple’s teleportation circle. Finding a hundred daisies in a autumn fog-ridden zombie town could be harder than we’d like to admit. Fortunately, the alchemist’s spellbook from our adventures in Strade’s Gallows contains arcane ways to locate plants, and I was able to divine some daisies nearby: only a few hundred yards away north-northwest, which should put them near the river’s edge. However, that is also on the other side of the temple, the source of the town’s maelstrom of misery. Young Jenna is struggling to read that enchanted book that Thamior had found, but her progress stopped abruptly, as if something in the air has changed. Bree’s herbal tea helps some of Hadrian’s apathy and he perks up enough to inspire us with some crafty words. We discuss our next goal and depart before any further maladies inflict us.

We start east to the river and follow it north and northwest, intending on briefly visiting several town buildings including the clocktower before scouting for the daisy field. Quiet. No sign of wandering zombies. The community hall appears empty. Several other buildings are abandoned and ignored. We moved quietly to avoid confrontation, and it was too easy. We approach the clocktower and I catch sight of a shadow in the sky, surely that demonic beast we fought earlier. Right on cue, zombies amble forth from between the buildings, the vulture thing awkwardly shakes through the sky, and a chilling fog oozes from the rooftops. Ambush!

Off-guard but now on the offensive. They made a mistake and we rush forward to make them regret it. With few words, we drive into the fog and maneuver around the buildings to the far side while Bree gains the rooftop. Zombies from several directions converging on us. The vulture hurls a Fireball into us, scattering us like kindling. I woke with a headache and a smell of sulfur, as Hadrian, Bree and Thamior stood over me providing curatives. Thamior fires at the vulture as it lazily flies to longer range. Before I think too deeply, I run across the street and Mage Hand the clocktower door open while Thamior furiously rushes towards the doorway, stopping to fill the room with arrows as more zombies come forth. Bree hops down on Mara just as the vulture crumples onto the roof, and my Firebolts have no effect upon it. A scream from the clocktower’s gnome as he falls from the tower, impaled with a glowing dagger from the dark halfling summoner. We collapse upon the tower. Bree and I Thunderwave and Bree casts a Magic Circle to keep the hordes of undead out as we enter the tower and climb to fight the halfling horror. No sign of the halfling, but the vulture hurls poisoned spores towards us and the shadow creature comes through the walls and swipes at us. Mara and Hadrian fall and we struggle to heal them and keep our team together. Thamior fights the shadow and I spend my energies using Suggestion to convince the shadow to return home and finally it has good effect.

While we heal a bit, I was able to study and understand the clocktower mechanisms. Installing the cog that Thamior got from the gnome two days ago, the tower briefly starts up and then halts due to lack of water from the waterway. Maybe we can unblock the waterway so it can attract the zombies, but not now. We find the key to lock the clocktower door and carefully take an uneasy rest.

We were favored this day. Our enemies set an ambush and caught us in the open. We should be dead. Someone is playing this gruesome game with live pieces, and they see must see some value in our survival. I would love to learn more about them and their motives, but today is not that day. We are alive, and for now that must be enough.

A letter to Ava
Pepplefen Day 2

Dearest Ava,

My adventures with these wonderful humans has been going /swimmingly/. A few days ago we were blessed with the good fortune of being trapped in what I can only describe as a graveyard that just won’t stay still. There are zombies everywhere, and you know how much I /love/ the undead.

In addition to the hordes of zombies there is this wizard guy who seems to be keeping us here and if that wasn’t bad enough there is also an entire town’s worth of people in here with us. They are too scared to go outside the town hall and they all smell like they haven’t bathed in weeks. There was also this thing about the town hall being blessed so no zombies can get in, but that hasn’t stopped me and my companions from venturing out, so I’m not sure what is up with them.

Atrei, you know our utilitarian high elf wizard friend has been acting very strangely since this morning. We all went out to collect supplies from the inn and he lit the entire place on fire! In addition to the fire there were spiders literally crawling in that inn. I bravely slew many of them myself and managed to save several children in the process. Granted they were fleeing a burning building, I played a pivotal role in lifting their spirits with many a present, just like uncle Haewin used to do.

After this bout of bravery by yours truly you’d think we’d have had enough, but no we fought and slew a giant spider and saved a catatonic woman from its grasp. Truly this was a harrowing day that is meant for the ages.

This excursion has not been without losses though. Recently we lost our dearest friend Nemo. We lost him on our way out of creepy child town, I mean Strade’s Gallows. He was drinking with some halfling and we haven’t seen him since. This just leaves me with the other three humans. It gets very lonely out here.

Respectfully yours,

P.S. Have you gotten any more books for me? I have been looking forward to studying about water weirds. I’ll let you know more about this in my next letter.

Against an ocean of unnatural
Can grey fog be worse than a flood of undead?


But after the maelstrom of recent events, the next four weeks were calm and unassuming… and just felt wrong to us. Nothing unusual. We helped the town begin their rebuilding efforts, and with evidence that their curse was finally past, we were able to help them recover some of their morale as well.

The townsfolk were starting to become comfortable with my nature as a conjurer, which meant that it was almost time for me to leave them. I found creative ways to contribute with my talents: my Mending spell for repairing tools and materials, of course, as well as Tenser’s Floating Disk to haul heavy building materials and Mage Hand to lift tools and ropes to workmen on the walls. They shared some of their tales about ghostly fish swimming through the swamp’s thick air, rumors of warfare among the northern peoples, talk of recurring disease among the eastern cultures, and the recent conquests of the pirate Rat-Tail and his rodent-guarded treasure stash.

A time to depart. The worst of the damage was now gone, and the town returned to its daily routines of farm and fowl. We didn’t belong here. Lacking a specific goal, we aimed to walk back toward Port Garnsby to look for new opportunities. The grateful master of a river barge offered to carry us and a crate for our equipment – for a small fee, of course – but our time on the small craft still seemed out of place for us. Mara told me of the group’s brief foray through the town of Pepplefen before we met: no people, odd sounds, hints of the unseen, and finally a wall covered with bloody lettering pleading “Help us!”.

As the barge approached Pepplefen on its way toward Port Garnsby, the boatmen complained about the unnatural fog. They’ve never seen round-the-clock fog for 10 weeks straight, and this fog seemed to hide the tiny riverside town. We were eager to get active again, so we disembarked and walked into the mists along a roadway to the town. A young woman ran towards us, crying for our help. She kept repeating that “he” had her mother and the town was in danger. Even after she mentioned how “he” had asked for us, we weren’t dissuaded. Sure, it was a trap. She led us across the bridge over the river into Pepplefen and she disappeared within a strange shadow. We glanced at each other in a knowing way, and each of us smiled as we entered the danger zone.

We were disoriented for a moment. One step through a shadowy portal and we were within the town, but everything was smothered with a damp grey fog. The air smelled like a musty cellar, and the few sounds were muffled and dim. It was almost like being within a blurry painting with all colors drained away. The girl, Kendal, frantically led us between some buildings and we heard the faint sounds of chaos. Fighting in the street. the subdued sounds were hard to make out, and it wasn’t until we got close that we realized that very few of the sounds were coming from men. Undead. The street was filled with animated corpses, a few foolish men trying to escape the doom, and several buildings catching on fire. A halfling woman pleaded to save her man Aiden.

We had no need to debate our next move. Hadrian roused our spirits and we ran into the fight as two remaining survivors tried to flee. An undead ogre approached from behind the zombie horde, and a halfling lingered there and shouted to us, “Greetings! Welcome to town!”. He was accompanied by an evil demonic vulture-thing and a frightened human woman that he shoved to the ground in spiteful laughter. My Firebolt made little effect upon the horde, and our attempts could not possibly succeed against an ocean of unnatural. We managed to extricate only one of the men and were barely able to flee before being surrounded. Hadrian’s words did not impress the horde, my Thunderwaves drove a patch of them to the ground while Mara sliced and Thamior’s arrows cleared a path. A group of men and women shouted for us to follow them to safety within a town hall building. The dead advanced but mysteriously halted outside the door.

What had we walked into? The halfling woman was a cleric named Bree that explained their plight. About a hundred people were trapped within the town, due to the haughty halfling’s summoning ritual of a demon in their temple. She had managed to bless the town hall as holy ground which kept the evil at bay for the moment, and she was able to provide minimal food and water and not much else for the despondent people. Kendal was miserable that her mother Annabel has not returned – she was the woman that the halfling shoved to the ground. The villain purposely told Kendal to leave town through the portal to attract us here. Bree said she believed there was a portal in the temple, a way of escape for all of us, but she needed components from several other buildings to activate the portal to safety. A church bell rang a mournful melody in the distance while the doomed sat in silence among the cramped quarters, whimpering their losses and wondering if their absent loved ones were still alive. Why were we invited here? Why can’t anyone leave? Could this villain be related to the Watch’s halfling Edgar that gave us so much trouble last month, and what were his motives? How will we protect a hundred broken farmers through streets of undead to a temple controlled by a creature of the Abyss? We had good reason for disappointment, but I was thinking too deeply about all of this, driving myself into despair despite everyone’s support. I did not want to frighten the others, so I kept most of this to myself. I sat in a corner holding my white staff, talking under my breath to the mage within the staff, Gerald, and he could offer no comfort for our troubles and no relief for my despair. We would die here. The fog would claim us. We would all die here.

We wanted a new adventure, and one had rolled over us in colorless cold grey.


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