Adventures in Theia

Alchemical apparatus and other found objects in Manuun's study
An inventory of items possessed by the late Drune, Manuun of the woodwose

Curious, Maslorios picks over the various instruments, flasks, containers, urns and other various oddiments scattered around Manuun’s workbench:

  • A glass alembic on a bronze stand perched over a clay pot full of coal-ash
  • 3 glass flasks wrapped in a copper wire mesh
  • 1 pair of iron tongs
  • 1 mortar and pestle
  • 8 empty glass tubes held in a wooden rack
  • 4 smoked glass phials. Empty, but sealed with glass stoppers
  • 2 rods about one and a half feet long and 2 inches in diameter. One looks like it’s made of solid copper, while the other is a highly polished silver, but feels lighter than it should and its luster is greater than silver. Attached to each end of these rods is a strand of copper cable about 1/4" thick
  • 1 crate full of greenish, lumps of rock. They have a strong acrid smell and irritate your nose when you smell them for too long.
  • 1 crate full of lumps of black, sooty “rocks”
  • 1 very heavy, pint-sized iron flask. You unscrew the stopper and pour out a small volume on the ground, a thin rivulet of quicksilver splashes against the earthen floor and congeals into tiny blobs.

Additionally, a wooden chest at the foot of a crude wooden-framed bed revealed a large heavy sack. Inside of it were a hoard of coins: 50 gold drakes, 94 silver owls, and 960 bronze. Also in the bottom of the chest was a well-made bronze torc, with stylized wolves-heads on the end and a pair of bronze bracers. These last items were immediately familiar to Maslorios, as belonging to a bear of a man named Gorbal; a Kelt who rode in Pwyll’s Fianna. However, there was no sign of the belongings of the other missing man, Ruarc.

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Correspondence of Arkanth and Manuun
A collection of misives and directives liberated from the woodwose cavern complex in the crags north of Kaer Kilmaren

While searching the living area of the primitive woodwose, Domnhail, Bros and Maslorios stumbled upon some kind of laboratory bench littered with flasks, alembics, copper tubes, and strands of copper wire. On one corner of the desk, a stack of loose parchment was tucked under a couple of brass weights. Five of the parchments contained short messages addressed to a person named Manuun, undated and unsorted, penned by someone calling themselves “Arkanth.”

The script is highly irregular — Ogham characters written a flowing script with many ligatures and connecting marks unlike anything you have ever seen

First letter:
“Manuun, take one of the beasts you created and retrieve the urchin. He should be near ripe for my purposes. Beyond the boy, I’m anxious to hear how they perform for you and if you have mastered the warp and matrix I granted you.”

Second letter:
“The loss of the urchin is unacceptable. It took no small effort on my part to manifest him. Find him quickly, he is the key.”

Third letter:
“Things proceed apace. Quite serendipitous that the Illyrians and Kelts have fallen into petty fights over a broken city. Use whatever tribesmen and other men you have recruited to sow more chaos and discord amongst the tribes in the western valleys. Continue to spy on the dreams of promising candidates with the oculus to find those who might be useful or sympathetic and discover what inducements will be most effective; the gold and silver should prove more than sufficient for the greedy, but all the better if you can promise revenge or satisfy other desires. Ultimately, the more distractions the better — those sensitive to the alterations of the ley lines need to have their attention elsewhere.”

Fourth letter:
“A pity the wolves lost the boy. It feels like something or somebody must be interfering. Be ware.”

Fifth letter:
“Interesting. If the girl’s bloodline indeed runs that deep then she might make for a suitable host. contact your people in Kilmaren and see what it would take to acquire her. To think I must start anew vexes me no end, but it can’t be helped. Do not fail me again. I will be there in a month to retrieve her myself and ensure there are no more surprises.

Regards, Arkanth"

A final letter lie under an inkwell, with a quill casually atop it on another part of the desk. The hand of this letter was also in Ogham, but in the traditional blocky runes of the Picts

Its contents:
“Arkanth in a fortnight I’ll go to the appointed place, meet with my servant Gede and take possession of the captives. Our friends in the Kaer have promised me this highborn virgin you requested. The Druid insists she is pure and that her ancestors trace their lineage back to Lugh Lamfahda himself.”

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Spelunking
Part 1

After defeating the Woodwoe giant, the trio of adventurers took stock of the area. Maslorias found a couple doses of mindsease on the shaman, but little else of value was to be found. They decided to to explore to the west, but neglected to repair Domhnal’s broken cestus (an oversight that may haunt them). Not far to the west, they entered the area Domhnal explored earlier. Coming upon a strange sand pile, the group cautiously investigated. Throwing a Woodwoe spear into the pile disturbed a group of giant spiders. The vermin were easily dealt with and Bros found three perfectly cut amber octohedrons in the sand. Maslorias was able to extract some poison from the spiders, but didn’t have containers for storing it. He was unable to apply any to Domhnal’s dagger and poisoned himself in the attempt, but was able to shrug off any ill effects.

Proceeding onward, the group pressed on into a small tunnel terminating in wall. Maslorias knew there was a chamber beyond thanks to his previous magical exploration. Armed with that knowledge, he found the secret trigger to open the hidden door. Beyond is a charnel chamber below a basalt ledge. Nothing of worth was found amongst the rotting carcasses and bones, so Maslorias carved hand and footholds in the wall with deep magic. Bros was able to climb up and assist the others with rope. Proceeding to the south, they soon discovered a masterwork statue of Tsathoggua and a cobbled path rather than unworked stone. A Pictish hunter and two dogs lay dead at the statue’s feet. The Pict’s back had massive claw marks across the back, while the large dog’s necks had been snapped. They briefly considered toppling the abhorrent statue, but thought better of it. Following the cobbles to the south, they came upon another chamber with stairs leading up to the south, a cobbled path to the east, and a iron banded wooden chest. Rats seethed outside their torchlight up the stairs. Domhnal hauled the chest out into the center of the room, but found it locked. The group decided to open the chest with deep magic. After retreating to what they thought was a safe distance, Maslorias used Deep Magic again to warp the wood of the chest. Eventually the chest’s wood buckled, but its iron bands held. Though it failed to spill its contents, the chest was now damaged enough for Maslorias to lift the lid from afar with his spell, which proved to be a mistake. Flame exploded from the chest filling the room and sending burning rats fleeing. Domhmal was quick enough to dive flat and avoid the inferno, but Maslorias and Bros were not so lucky. Adding insult to injury, something bellowed from the east. Domhnal and Bros tried to hide, while Maslorias opted to remain in the open but keep the high ground of a small ledge. Shortly thereafter, a giant troll leading a cave lion by a leash lumbered into view. Questioning his choice to remain in the open, Maslorias hurled a sling stone at the foes and readied his staff. The troll set his cave lion on Maslorias, who with managed to keep it at bay briefly with his long reach. With the troll’s attention focused on the Pictish warlock, Bros was able to attack it unawares and deal a massive blow with his axe while Domhnal loaded his crossbow from the safety of a crevice. Foiled in it’s first attack, the cave lion made a leaping attack at Maslorias. Deftly batting the beast’s claw aside, the Pict delivered a devastating riposte, crushing the cave lion’s skull. The big Kimmerian and the troll traded blows, but the mercenary came out ahead. His axe took huge bites our the troll’s massive tree trunk club while the troll was unable to land a blow. Domhnal’s first shot ricocheted off the wall at Maslorias who was lucky enough to bat it aside with his staff. Maslorias joined the fight with the troll, and with it’s attention divided, Bros was soon able to take its head. When silence fell over the cavern, the group tended their burns and were glad to have escaped that battle alive. Amazingly, perhaps, a large number of odd, triangular silver coins survived the chest’s explosion. Believing them cursed, Domhnal refused to take any, so they were split between the other two adventurers.

The group followed the path east into the troll’s chamber and found a giant thrown and a few gems. Two possible paths south were blocked with wooden barricades, while an ancient wooden bridge, water reflecting torchlight below, crossed a chasm to the north. The slightly built Domhnal crossed the bridge and strung a fresh rope across the chasm. Another barricade, this one made of finished wood blocked another path. While Domhnal and Maslorias were examining the chamber beyond the bridge, Bros broke through a barrier to the south. That done a loud whistle rang out echoed from beyond the barrier in front of the Pict. Bros crossed the bridge, breaking it in the process, to join the others. They proceeded to dig through the barricade and explored the tunnels beyond. The halls were seemingly empty. Domhnal proceeded one way through a partially flooded hall while the others investigated a strangely still, curtain lined chamber full of household detritus. As Bros exited the chamber to the south Maslorias checked behind a curtain. Suddenly, a man sized creature and numerous smaller being appeared out of nowhere. The large one, demanded Maslorias drop his staff and surrender. Being surrounded, he refused, but took up a non-threatening posture and offered to leave the area. Bros likewise, refused to disarm himself and diplomacy soon failed. In the other hallway, Domhnal spotted one of the smaller creatures and retreated the way he came. In the chamber, Maslorias was swamped and barely able to defend himself, while Bros had more success with wrestling the tiny beasties to the south. The larger enemy then cast a spell putting the Pict into captive slumber as Domhnal entered the fray. The battle continued with Domhnal making some progress in dropping the lesser minions and shrugging off another of spell from the larger foe, but his second cestus broke. Bros continued to grapple in the south while Maslorias standing insensate.

To be continued…

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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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