Adventures in Theia

Woodwoe woes
Battle in the cave

The trio cautiously enter the cave, Bros in the lead. The initial chamber offers little of interest, but two options onward: stairs to the southwest and a passage to the southeast with a hint of flickering light. Proceeding into the latter, Bros is fortunate enough to spot some tripwires in Maslorias’ torchlight. Curiously, they seem to be set directly into the stone walls. Backing away, Bros bowls the chaos beast’s head into the trapped passage. A large net falls from above and several spear shoot from the walls, but luckily Bros is agile enough to avoid entrapment and the others are out of range. Unfortunately, this alerts the denizens of the cave, as guttural sounds come from farther within. The sounds are soon followed by a group of Woodwoes. Combat is joined.

Bros pushedsthrough the passage and engages several foes. Domhnal takes a couple pot shots with his crossbow while Maslorias animates the enemy shaman’s staff, distracting him. Shortly after Domhnal’s second shot, a second group of Woodwoes start up the stairs. Not wanting to be flanked, Maslorias abandones his spell to defend the stair-head while Domhnal swapps his crossbow for his cestus. Bros faces down several foes at the end of the southeast passage.

At the stairs, Maslorias and Domhnal put their height advantage to good use. They make steady progress through the savages and advance down the stairs only to spot a giant of a Woodwoe. Eight feet tall, in patchy scale mail, and wielding a massive maul, he beckons them on. In the southeastern passage, Bros’ opponents put up more fight. While he thins their number he takes several wounds, and his armor saves him from several more. Eventually, he manages to retreat into the passage so fewer opponents can face him. As they crowd into the tunnel he cuts down several foes creating a barrier allowing him to retreat further up the tunnel.

The giant proves to be made of sterner stuff than his shorter brethren, even after Domhnal dodged past him surrounding him. With his armor, he shrugs off blows that would have felled others, and despite his size, is much more adept have dodging the miner and warlock’s blows. Thankfully, the two shorter men prove to be even more evasive. They remain unharmed while the giant is bruised and bloody even after Domhnal’s cestus broke and he is forced to switch to a dagger. Unable to bring his hammer to bear, the giant grabbs Maslorias from his position on the stairs and throws him past Domhnal.

Back in the southeastern passage, Bros’ slog continues. The enemy climb over their fallen brethren, and Bros skewers one with a thrown spear. More blows are traded, but superior skill and position surpassed superior numbers. One by one, Bros hacks and stabs his foes into submission. After the last one falls, he follows the sound of battle to the stairs. Bros joins the battle with the beleaguered giant and after a few more blows, he falls.

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Cave assault
Not the fight we were looking for...at first

Bros leads the way up the slope towards the cave disdaining any attempt at stealth. Domhnall and Maslorias follow more cautiously while Judoc, who sends a ball of light into the cave, and Liannan wait with the horses. Instead of the wolfish beastman, Bros is greeted with bellowed curse and a hurled spear. While the spear harmlessly glances off his shield, the big man charges into battle ignoring the unlikeliness of the beast throwing a spear. He discovers a small group of armed men inside and promptly skewers one with a spear hurled in turn. Hearing combat joined, Domhnall and Maslorias rush to support the mercenary. The fight is short and brutal. Domhnall knocks out some teeth, Bros hacks huge chunks out of people, and Maslorias wraps a crossbowman up with a magically thrown net.

The spear struck man survived his injuries and is treated but remains unconscious. Interrogating the prisoner, they find that the beastman had attacked the men in the cave as well. They learn that the men in the cave had been banished by Geed, the leader of the slavers who had attacked Irb’s village. Geed has taken control of the old Cosgrove fort out in the moors northeast of Kaer Kilmaren.

Domhnall shimmies down a shaft into tunnels beneath the cave. While the tunnels seem natural, they seem to have been smoothed by the passage of water or feet. When he stepped on a wooden spike concealed in the floor, feet seemed more likely than water. Ascending a rope to rejoin the others, Domhnall recounts what he found. Maslorias susses out some of cave system with Deep Magic: the system seems extensive, but he doesn’t find another entrance. The party decides that the cave is likely home to woodwoes and not worth investigating instead of tracking down the beast.

The group frees their prisoner and then rests briefly before pursuing the beast. Unfortunately, when they are ready to take up the trail, snow from the persistent storm obscures the tracks. thus deterred, they scout a small track running along the hill. While pushing into some brush, the group is assailed with rocks hurled from above. Domhnall fires his crossbow blindly and manages to connect with someone. Bros climbs up the basalt ‘steps’ and spotting the rock throwers, hurls his spear and spits one of them. The other retreats making odd sounds. While the trio dither about what to do and gather their spent missiles, with a howl, the wolfman emerges from a cleft in the rocks. Bros again throws his spear, hitting the beast which then leaps over the Mercenary to ground below and charges Maslorias. Dodging out of the way, the warlock whacks the beast in the head with his staff. Bros dodges more rocks hurled from above while Domhnall sinks are quarrel into the beast just before in wraps Maslorias in tight embrace. Straining his muscles, Maslorias breaks the beast’s grip and fells it with another blow from his staff. The beast tumbles down the slope, followed by Domhnall who confirms the kill with a bolt to the throat. Seeing the beast fall, the rock throwers retreat into the caves, leaving the three men to decide what to do next.

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Out of and into the woods
Escaping a storm and tracking a wolfman

Out of the woods.
The one eyed Dvergar gives the party comfort, shelter, and cryptic conversation. The group manages to gather that Judoc is a cambion, a half fey or half demon depending on your point of view. The Pellarin stones ward a gateway from another place. A place where the giants were sealed away by the Keltic pantheon, or so the legends say. Also, it seems the ritual planned at the stones was intended to open that gateway. Not liking the sound of that, Maslorias, Irb, and Bros decide to return to the stones and end the threat posed by the remaining horned shamans. The Dvergar provided them with special stone that cuts through the forest’s glamour and a shadow cloak to hide them.

The one eyed Dvergar leads the group back to the standing stones and then departs. Scouting the area, no threat is found. With further investigation, the group determined that the horned shamans managed to complete the ritual without their leader and one of their own. Eight people, including some woodwoes, surround the central slab. The blood bathes the stone, filling its runes. The standing stones lean in toward the center, and they are magically dead. The central stone slab they surround, however, blazes with magical energy. Irb and Bros suggest cleansing the stone with fire to try and stop the the magic in process, but all efforts fail. They decide that only magic can stop magic, but Maslorias is out of his depth. With the strange winter storm approaching fast the flee the forest, aided by the direction stone.

Ahead of the storm, the group trudges into the rolling hills outside the forest. As the prepare to set camp for the night, they spot a fire in the distance. Sirona the owl is sent to investigate. A small group of men surround a fire at the base of a small watchtower with horses picketed behind it. Since the area is supposed to be empty, the group believes them to be bandits and decide to relieve them of their horses. Maslorias, Irb, and Bros leave Judoc with the woman in blue and creep up to the tower after nightfall. It being the dark of the moon, they don’t need to worry about being seen, and Maslorias deadens sound between the tower and horses with a spell. That done retrieving the horses proves simple. Another spell to harden the earth foils any pursuit. Thus mounted the group makes decent time to Kaer Kilmaren.

Into the woods
The group arrives in Kaer Kilmaren and finds the town filled with people fleeing the storm. The following day they do some shopping and information gathering. The town’s seneschal is missing, leading them to believe he was the shapeshifting rat Doy bulls-eyed after their first trip to the Magswold. No other information of note was available. Everyone was obsessed with the strange weather. The group gathers supplies for the departing Irb, who is determined to find his people. Unable to send a courier bird given the weather, Maslorias dispatches his owl, Sirona, with a message for Pwll in Garstag.

The following morning, Maslorias, Domhnall, and Bros are surprised by Yurgar, the one-eyed Dvergar of the wood. Strangely, but fortunately, only those three can see or hear the odd visitor. He explains that the ley lines in the forest are unraveled at the Pellarins. He’ was concerned that the group did something at the stones, but becomes convinced that the mysterious horned shamans completed their ritual and let something out of the otherworld. Luckily whatever it was couldn’t stay on this side for long. And perhaps luckily as well whatever it was ate the ones who let it out. He suggests tracking the ley lines from other circles of stones and departs.

Soon after, a young man from a local farm stumbles into the inn with his guts ripped open. Dipping into his memory, Maslorias sees a Wolf chaos beast attack his farm and slaughter all there. It’s a miracle he made it to town. The locals have called for the local Druid, but the farmer has passed out. Unable to staunch his wounds with normal medicine, Maslorias melds his flesh with Deep Magic. The mage light and closing wounds stuns the crowd and leads to questions when the druid arrives. Maslorias says his people have means of their own. The group decides to track down the beast then investigate the nearby stone circle. Not wanting to be left behind, the woman in blue accompanies them with the understanding they will escort her home after they visit the circle.

The group has no trouble tracking the farmer’s blood trail to his farm and the wolf into the woods. As the tracks enter a stone gulch, the group grows suspicious. Again drawing on his magic, Maslorias detects life in the gulch well above the group. Thus warned, Bros is not surprised by the giant spiders lying in wait. The ambush disarmed, and some loot gained, the party presses on. Eventually coming to a hill with a cave some distance up its side…

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Escape...for some
don't goose a bear

Having woken, bound and gagged, in the cage he had tried to open the previous night, Maslorias toot stock of his situation. Beat to hell and mentally fatigued, he bided his time and surveyed the enemy camp though Sirona, his owl’s eyes. The camp seemed to lack discipline, so hope for escape remained. The day passed with little excitement: thin gruel and a brief encounter with the enemy sorcerer that left him with determined to escape that very night if possible. After night fell and the camp (including most of the sentries) fell asleep. Using his affinity with plants, Maslorias undid his bonds and the lashings of the two cages. Having freed himself and a group of captured Picts, he dispatched the sleeping sentries and steeled himself to retrieve his gear from the sorcerer’s tent . After a harrowing passage among sleeping enemies he arrived at the tent. Maslorias crushed the sorcerer’s throat with his improvised staff and and retrieved his gear. Not wanting to press his luck by searching the tent, Maslorias crept back through the camp and fled into the woods with Irb, the only captured Pict brave enough to wait for him after retrieving the woman in blue. Unable to find the stream that led him into the forest, Maslorias relied on deep magic and Sirona to lead them to Judoc and Domnal. Surprisingly, they were in a stone hut with a one eyed Dvergar, not where they had been left.

Meanwhile, in the dryad’s grove Doy had decided he had had enough of Mór and tried to leave. Mór did not take this well and called out a bear to stop him. Doy and the bear played ‘ball,’ a painful prospect for Doy who was the ball. Mór also called out Bros Tal, a Kimmerian mercenary hoplite who had slept in her grove for a very long time. Bros and Mór argued, and when the bear turned it’s attention to the ancient hoplite, Doy took his chance to sprint into the woods. The dryad cloaked the fleeing hunter in fog and bid Bros to retrieve him. When the large man refused, she urged the bear to attack. Doy heard the sounds of combat, but forgot lesson from attacking the camp: Never play the hero. Doy ran back into the grove and slapped the bear on the ass as he ran past it. Not taking kindly to the playful slap, the bear abandoned its attack on the mercenary and charged after the hunter. With one devastating swipe of it’s paw, it tore through poor Doy’s spine. Doy’s sacrifice did allow Bros the time necessary to dispatch the dryad, ending the threat of her magic. With her out of the way, the mercenary was able to defeat the bear as well.

Alone and lost in the woods, Bros Tal decided to skin the bear. As night fell and the temperature dropped, the big man decided to start a fire. Forgoing all the natural wood surrounding him, he decided to dismember and burn the dryad’s corpse instead. Big mistake. Mór burned eldritch green and she burned cold. As the flames grew a blizzard descended on the grove. Bros fled into the woods, and was lucky enough to stumble upon a steam. He followed it to a curios stone hut with even more curious people inside…

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Never play the hero
A foolhardy attack

The the skirmish in the night, Maslorias and Doy plan to stake out the Pict camp at the stone circle. Upon arriving they see that the Picts are more brutish and backward than the most isolated mountain Picts. Furthermore, a man and seven antlered shamans seem intent of sacrificing some captives including a blonde woman in a blue dress.

Discarding caution, the two adventurers decide to disrupt the proceedings. Doy shifts to the west, intending to snipe the leader of the ceremony and cause distraction enough for Maslorias to free the remaining caged captives. Doy opens with a magnificent shot, but unfortunately, he is spotted immediately. He leads some men off. Maslorias moves to free the caged prisoners, but is spotted before he can free them. The ensuing melee does not go well, even with Doy returning and felling a shaman with a mighty shot to the head. Maslorias is felled by several unfortunate blows. The shamans conjure up an earth elemental, which causes Doy to abandon heroics and flee into the woods.

Maslorias later awakes, bound in the cage he had tried to break open. Doy manages to get lost in the woods and stumble into a dryad’s grove. Will either of them escape?

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The travelogue of Maslorios and Doy
wherein a Kelt and a Pict explore the wilds of Getae

After a week on the road, the caravan of Jhonen the Illyrian trader finally arrives at the Keltic hillfort village of Kaer Kilmaren. Maslorios and Doy, along with their manservant Dohmnail and their mute nameless ward receive a cool reception from the local hostler and find the locals dour and unsmiling.

Moments ago an eavesdropping, middle-aged man removed himself from the inn and nearly ran for the tower at the center of town after Maslorios and Doy questioned the innkeeper about a woman named Liandrin. Shortly thereafter a grim guard entered and barked at the quartet to mind their own business and stay out of trouble, which they politely agreed to do and the guard turns on his heel and leaves.

Jhonen and his men start to filter into the main hall of the village inn after securing wagons, horses and oxen.

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Escape!

Coroebus and Yenyu are bound, blindfolded and marched for about thirty minutes to gods’ know where and roughly thrown into a stockade. When they are confident their captors have left them truly alone, they begin to work at the ropes that bind their wrists. Fortunately Coroebus was somehow able to secret a blade when the soldiers stripped them. As they whisper in the dark trying to take stock of their situation, suddenly a familiar voice cuts through the gloam — Amon!

The three companions waste little time with sentiment and work feverishly to cut their bonds and with Yenyu’s expertise are able to work the tumblers of the crude lock to their prison. After several tense minutes the door is worked open and the trio crawls quietly up a small hill towards some dim light. They crest the hill and look down into a campsite where five sleeping figures are clustered around a dying campfire. In the dancing shadows they can just see the outline of another cage.

{TBC …}

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Revenge of the Keepers
All hell breaking loose in Belthaar

The Fall of the Citadel

With some unknown army poised a mere hundred or so yards from Belthaar’s western gate, Yenyu, Coroebus, and Amon continue to wait and watch the spectacle unfolding around them in the market district — Hundreds of Keepers of Ershkigal clashing with the city-watch and the garrison of Belthaar at the gates of the Citadel. Arrows can bee seen raining down into inhumanly silent Keepers as they assail the massive wooden gates that separate the palace from the lower city. Amon from his perch on the roof of a nearby bank witnesses the Keepers falling under the withering hail of missiles, but also notes a circle of Keepers gather around a lone figure in the dimness of the torchlight square below him. Faint sounds of some incantation begin to rise on the wind and some seconds later a massive blast of thunder fills the air and knocks him backward. When he looks up, all that remains of the citadel’s once proud gates is a collapsing ruin of stone and bodies flying through the chill night air. The remnant of the Ershkigal cultists swarm over the rubble and resume their assault on the palace.

Curious, Amon clambers down the from the roof of the bank and pads along the battlements of the inner city wall and ascends the citadel walls to get a better vantage of what the Keepers are doing. When he reaches the top he arrives just in time to witness the spectacle of three great lions launching themselves into a score of Keepers who are rounding the corner into the western gardens of the grounds. Roars fill the air and bodies of Keepers can be seen flying around, but eventually the Keeper’s numbers overwhelm the lions and flashing scimitars rise and fall cutting them down. Done with their bloody business the Keepers quickly batter the palace doors open and pour into breach disappearing from view. Amon decides that there might be more to be seen at the rear of the palace and creeps through the shadows and eventually climbs the palace walls to get a good look at what is inside a 4th floor window that is ajar. To his chagrin he climbs the masonry only to be spotted by the King’s harem and a burly eunuch that charges him. In his haste to climb down he loses his grip and falls 60 feet landing heavily and awkwardly in some shrubs that barely manage to break his fall. He struggles to stand and realizes that his arms have gone completely dead. Seconds later he hears a rustle in the bushes near the citadel wall and spots a face emerging from a well-concealed trap door — a poorly disguised nobleman and his consort sneaking out of the city? Amon staggers towards them and introduces himself. Taken aback the man demands that Amon help him for the sake of the city and for the sake of King Simshattar. Amon assents and the trio exit the citadel through a postern door set into the clifftop gate of the citadel. After several minutes of descent they reach the bottom of the escarpment, but are immediately surrounded by soldiers of Ghezath and taken into custody.

Meanwhile, Yenyu and Coroebus notice a new commotion in the streets near the city’s prison. Screams of terror and cries of confusion can be heard echoing in the distance, from the eastern part of the city. From their perch near the Lion Gate the source of the tumult soon reveals itself. A beast something like a cross between an eel and badger the size of a small house undulates up the street. It wriggles and writhes on four long tentacles as thick as a man’s torso and seems drawn to the path of destruction left in the Keepers’ wake. It passes by them without noticing and proceeds toward the citadel.

Setting aside the threat posed by the mass of figures outside the city wall for now. Yenyu and Coroebus follow after the creature at a very healthy distance as it moves through the ruins of the citadel gate and creeps into the palace. With the beast inside the palace they ultimately decide to brave getting closer and ascend the steps to the great bronze doors of the palace. When they peer within the sight of a great battle greets them. The last dozen or so Keepers and their High priest are locked in battle with the crawling corruption spawned that looks like it was vomited from the deepest pit of Hell.

Choking down their fear and feeling their options about to run out, Yenyu and Coroebus quickly decide to throw in their lot with the Keepers and attack the writhing horror. The High priest utters a sorcery of destruction and rends the creature. Gouts of ichor spray over the polished marble tiles and the enraged the creature flails at the Keepers cutting them down like wheat and crushing them in its iron grip. In short order all that remains of the Keepers is their lone High Priest, now held fast in the vise-like grip of the badly wounded creature’s tentacle. Seizing the opportunity, Yenyu and Coroebus strike an opportunistic blow and fall the beast.

Dazed and bewildered by what has transpired, the duo begin to explore the eerily silent palace. Floor by floor they survey the building hoping to find some sign of the sapphire Sadmimmon/Ikhtanbu has sent them to retrieve. With few rooms left to explore the figure of Sadimimmon suddenly appears and interrogates them in Ikhtanabu’s strange, raspy and nearly disembodied voice. The shade seems consumed with its search and barely even registers their presence. The two look at each other and decide that now might be the time to abandon their association with the single-minded revenant and quietly and quickly exit the palace and make their way towards a slightly ajar postern gate set into the Citadel’s North Gate.

After several minutes of descent they reach the bottom of the escarpment, but are immediately surrounded by soldiers of Ghezath and taken into custody . . .

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Stirring Up Trouble
Keepers on a Rampage

Coroebus and Amon leave the Sage Eneru to do his research into I’Kanabul Zhul’s missing sapphire and head back to the Scriptorium. On the way there they meet a man smelling of fish, Yenyu a frequent patron of the dirty dog. He helps them make repairs to the shop. As evening draws near, they return to find out what the Sage has learned. It seems the Kings favorite concubine is said to have a large sapphire. Additionally, Eneru repays them for the dagger: something to improve Amon’s blade and a cup that supposedly fills with water if buried in the sand for a hour. The team returns, once again, to the Scriptorium to decide what to do next.

Breaking into the palace is considered and quickly discarded. Informing Abu Jumal or I’Kanabul Zhul of the gem’s location is discussed as well. Zhul was discounted for his lack of stability, Jumal for being untrustworthy and difficult to locate. In the end, it was decided to inform the Keepers (knowing they take a hard line to grave-robbing) as to the gem’s possible location and see what happens. Yenyu disguised himself as a beggar and paid a street urchin to deliver a note to the Keepers.

The plan of last resort enacted, the trio headed to the gate between the residential and craft districts. Waiting for some time with nothing happening, Coroebus and Amon moved to the Square of the Green Peacock to check the Keepers’ compound. The Keepers formed ranks and marched on the keep. The district gate guards would not open the gate so the Keepers attacked. They breached the gate and pushed on to the Grand Plaza. The guards held them off for a while, but the plaza was breached. Palace guards currently hold the Keepers at bay with arrows.

While this carnage was taking place, Amon watched from rooftops and followed the battle. He observed four men run to and open the Lion Gate, but didn’t intervene. Yenyu ran home only to return some time later for reasons of his own, meeting Coroebus who had lacked the western gate to the Prison. Sounds of a riot came from within. Yenyu and Coroebus cautiously followed the sounds of battle and noticed the open gate. Investigating, they saw a large group approaching. The closed the gate, but the bar was too heavy to lift without jury-rigging a pulley. The gate barred, they climb to the top of the wall and see what they assume to be an army approaching the city. They gather slings, despite them being nearly impossible to use untrained, and prepare for what may come.

This night certainly looks to be…interesting.

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Taking sides
New friends in old places

Puzzled and a little disturbed Coroebus pulls the dagger from the back of his belt and holds it in front of himself in the middle of the street. “Ummm . . . Amon?” He says uncertainly. “I’m not sure where this thing came from, but somehow I just reached down and this damned silver dagger was tucked into my belt.” Amon and Salazar both raise their eyes and a long pause hangs over the trio as they each grapple with the implication. Something untoward, perhaps even unnatural has occurred in their midst. Resolving to to let it unnerve them or distract them from their goal of finding Sadam they put the matter aside and head back to the trade district and Sadamimon’s scriptorium.

The troupe comes up the street and in the failing light and long shadows of the day, just minutes before the sun sets, notices something amiss. The door to the scriptorium has been broken into. Splinters around the door handle and the door frame make it clear somebody has forced their way in. Amon, followed by Coroebus and Salazar cautiously approach the door with weapons drawn and listen intently but are greeted with total silence, save for the slight squeak of the front door as it moves in the light breeze. Satisfied that whomever broke in is long gone they enter and take stock of the damage. The front room is a complete disaster, Amon’s cot is overturned, clothes are strewn everywhere and every drawer, cabinet or crate has turned out or turned over. Sadam’s office and quarters are in a similar state of chaos. Amon tries to sort out transpired, but it doesn’t appear to be the work of burglars in search of valuables. The only thing noteworthy is a missing ledger that was always on Sadam’s desk.

Suspecting the intruders might return, the three friends bar the front door, ascend the ladder to the rooftop porch and lay in wait. After an hour of nothing but the deepening of dusk, a guard patrol (strangely) led by a guard captain marches down the street directly toward the door of the scriptorium. The captain raises the butt of his spear and begins thumping on the door vigorously demanding to be let in. With quick thinking the three friends agree to throw a rope over the balcony in the back alley and have Amon walk up to the guards and try and nonchalantly engage them and get them to leave their ambush alone.

With Salazar and Coroebus hiding in the narrow alley along the side of the building, Amon comes out of a side street a bit further down the road and casually strolls up to the guards and asks innocently about what the problem is. A bit taken aback and then clearly annoyed, the guards point down the street, “Move along. This is none of your concern.” {TBC}

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