The Second Generation

Rock Waters
or: "Read My Lips - No New Taxes"

Jeysen, Baernabas, and Benjin set out to the northeast in search of the elven settlements. In a few short days, they came across a shambled village. The architecture suggested it was elvish, and the first resident they met was indeed, an elf. He introduced himself as Tulip, and welcomed the travelers. He apologized for the state of the village, and explained they’d fallen on hard times lately. Benjin asked if it had been the work of raiding orcs, and Tulip explained that it was more than just that.

The regional lord, Lord Ambrose George, had responded to their reports of raiding orcs by sending knights to defend the elven villages. The knights were successful, but to Benjin’s disgust, they demanded a reward for their services afterward. The elves were just so grateful to be rid of the orcs that they paid the tribute. These events, perhaps because of the extra work of the knights, seemed to lead to Lord George increasing their taxes shortly afterwards.

Soon enough, however, this cycle repeated itself. This small town, which for the last fifty years had been experiencing modest growth and industrialization, was beginning to deteriorate. The orcs would come and raid, the knights would defend them, and efforts to rebuild would be hampered by yet more increases in taxes by Lord George. Again and again this would happen, but as the Lord seemed to operating in isolation (the lord to whom George swore his fealty, Lord Yancey Richard, had a rather hands-off approach to governing), the elven people of these woods had no recourse but to pay their taxes or risk losing protection.

Moved by their struggle, Baernabas offered a gift of $50 (mostly in cash, but also in valuable goods). Tulip was grateful – it would be enough to appease the tax collectors when they arrived next. Baernabas was ready to move on, lamenting that things were the way they were, but not feeling that Lord George was acting unjustly – after all, he would have to compensate his knights for protecting the smallfolk. Benjin, however, sensed that something more sinister was afoot, and convinced the group to wait for the tax collector to arrive, so they could discuss matters further. Baernabas and Jeysen agreed to stay.

Benjin kept the first watch, but was having trouble brewing his coffee, and so did not hear the approaching orc horde until it was nearly too late. The noise of the attack was enough to rouse Jeysen and Baernabas, who woke rapidly and joined Benjin in the fray. Jeysen sprang into action, deftly slaying an orc, and attracting the Orc Leader’s attention. Benjin, angered by this fresh attack and moved to act in defense of the innocents in the village, rode into battle on his steed, charging toward the Orc Leader, and driving his lance through it, felling it in one ridiculously, needlessly brutal blow, exploding him in his armor. The shock of the impact was enough to slay the orc’s mount as well. Benjin’s own steed, carried forward by momentum, knocked over and trampled two more of the orcs. Jeysen’s magic sword flashed as he slew yet more orcs.
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The surprise counterattack divided the orc party, half staying to fight the travelers, while the others continued with their raid. As Benjin pursued them, Baernabas began hurling every slur and insult he could think of at the vile orcs that so repulsed him. He invoked his deity’s righteous might, swelling to twice his normal size. This sudden change didn’t deter the orcs, blinded by rage at Baernabas’ vitriolic words. Before much time had passed, Baernabas had cleaved two of the orcs down the middle with his waraxe. The orcs seemed ill equipped to take on a team as seasoned as this, and each of their attacks were either stopped by armor or dodged outright. Before long, the thoroughly outmatched orcs were whittled down to only one, with any potential damage to the town almost totally prevented. The last surviving orc, fearing for his life, was eventually convinced to lead the team back to his base camp.

At the camp, which consisted of simple tents and a low-burning fire, didn’t appear to have anyone on watch (likely since everyone was out on the raid). They quickly spotted two tents obviously belonging to someone of rank, likely an officer. Jeysen used his natural stealth to approach the tents and peek inside, but the lights had been doused and he could see nothing. Baernabas tried next, using his dwarven darkvision to his advantage and thanking Fharlanghn that he’d had the foresight to enchant his clunky armor with magical silence. Inside the tent was not a sleeping orc, as expected, but instead… a sleeping human! Baernabas retreated in confusion and anxiety, and his haste was enough to rouse the sleeping man, who began shouting for help.

Baernabas reached the others with enough time to explain what he’d seen – including an armor stand in the officer’s tent, bearing a flame symbol that Benjin identified as being Lord George’s sigil. After determining that the orc had in fact led them back to the right camp (and dispatching the now worthless hostage), they realized the truth must be that Lord George had sent the orcs as well as the knights!

The officer and his fellow non-orc officers approached the travelers, ready for a fight. After some posturing and threats, the officers chose not to heed the warnings, and their strongest fighter challenged Benjin to a one-on-one duel. Benjin easily turned away his first and only attack, countering with a single blow that knocked the officer to his knees. In short order they’d all been tied up and loaded into a cart for transport back to the village.

By morning, the officers had been locked in a thankfully newly constructed jail in the village.
Tulip had identified them as none other than the tax collectors, confirming that the whole cycle was a deliberate ploy by Lord George. The team briefly considers going over Lord George’s head, and getting Lord Richard to intervene, but Jeysen knows better. He often made it a point to understand corruption and put an end to it where he could, and learned much along the way – which meant he knew Lord Richard would be of no help. Lord George’s region existed in something of a political vacuum, too far removed from Lord Richard’s greatest areas of influence to be properly controlled. It would take direct intervention by someone acting independently to put an end to Lord George’s chokehold on the smallfolk.

They leave just before midday for Rock Waters, Lord George’s seat of power. It takes nearly a week of travel. When they arrive, the city shows signs of wear and decline. A stop at a nearby foodstand indicates that prices are incredibly out of control, suggesting that Lord George’s tax money doesn’t seem to be making its way into circulation… They would need to directly consult with (or perhaps, “re-educate”) Lord George regarding his economic policy. They devised a plan to pose as foreign dignitaries who had come to offer an alliance with Lord George, offering a tribute to seal the bond. They would rely on George’s greed to gain an audience.

The gatekeepers were easy enough to fool, and they quickly summoned Joer Elle, Master of Scheduling. Elle, a sickly, dour looking man, seemed not to be concerned with whether they had an actual appointment with Lord George once they mentioned they’d be making a tribute. He made an exception for them, explaining that they should feel honored to meet Lord George without an appointment.

The throne room, which ought to have been bustling with people as Lord George held court, was instead an empty, dusty shell of its former self. Benjin noticed a layer of dust across everything in the room… clearly it had not been used in a long time. Joer Elle left them there, ominously telling them to wait for Lord George there… but as the door closed behind him, a gong rang out in the distance… and the throne began to sink into the floor! The pit it revealed gave off a bright golden glow, and the breathing of some huge beast could be heard below. Baernabas recognized the breathing, remembering the last time he and his comrades had faced such a thing… he barely had time to warn the others before it emerged – a huge dragon, red and scaly and vicious!

Baernabas began to stammer out some kind of explanation for their presence, addressing the dragon as Lord George (of whom they had previously known next to nothing). The dragon chuckled, explaining he’d killed Lord George long ago. The great beast lunged upward then, not entirely clearing the hole in the floor before Benjin summoned his magical steed and mounting it. Baernabas began reciting a prayer for protection as Benjin charged forward and Jeysen drew his weapon. As the dragon inhaled for a hideous breath attack, Benjin managed to drive his lance into the thing’s flank, wounding it greatly. The dragon released its fiery breath in a bellow of pain, fury, and … possibly excitement? The fire seared his would-be slayers, particularly wounding Jeysen. Baernabas was struck with the notion to banish this dragon to the Ice Elemental Plane, where this fiery behemoth would surely suffer the most, but the dragon’s magical hide repelled his efforts. Jeysen hurried in to assist Benjin, who was riding back for another charge while the dragon swiped savagely at the retreating steed. The dragon took that moment to try and finish prying itself from the hole in the floor, giving Benjin enough time to charge in, channeling his faith, and drive the lance into the dragon’s soft underbelly, slaying it! HOLY SHIT

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Rayn's Hamlet
or: "Undead and Loving It"

On their journey our heroes had been hearing distressing rumors about the woes of a small hamlet not far south. Its chief citizen was called Rayn, and it had come to be known as Rayn’s Hamlet. The Hamlet had been growing steadily of late, thanks to the sudden discovery of some oil-like substance with many magical and alchemical properties. However, its growth came to a sudden halt when most of its inhabitants mysteriously vanished, leaving what should be a thriving community completely abandoned.

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The news had spread quickly in Starton, where our heroes had been enjoying a short stay.
Inside the common room of the small tavern “Rested Hoofs Row.” Our heroes were enjoying a nice meal and reminiscing of past deeds and triumphs.
“Remember that crossroad demon that looked like a deer made out of light?” exclaimed Sir Benjin.
“You mean the one that was about to stomp you to death if I didn’t crush it with those boulders from the hill.” retorted Jaysen.
“The only reason you were up there was because the vile thing scared you silly! It was twice your size!” joked Baernabas in-between gulps of ale. The meal progressed well into the night. Until Scar the bartender caught Jaysen’s eye with a nod.
“Well lads I have the last round, then I got business to finish before bed.” After the interact and complex secret handshake between Jaysen and the bartender, Scar slid over a small glass and a cloth napkin with the Boorish Nod’s secret underground symbol. With a quick nod to where a large Half-Orc guard stood next to the back door, Scar returned to his duties. Jaysen, unafraid of the Half-Orc who stood nearly three times his height, simply pranced sauntered over and handed the cloth to him. with a grunt and a moan which could have been anything in Orcish the bulkish guard slammed a huge fist against the door with two loud thuds. The door creaked open to a small room filled with pipe smoke and a table with a group of halflings and humans playing cards.

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Jaysen had worked with John Littletree, the local guildmaster before, and knew how to step carefully around his grizzled and impatient manners. Carefully and quickly giving his reports of Brook’s Hold to the north. Jaysen’s next task seemed a simple one to deliver a few small crates to the guildmaster of Waterbridge to the south.

While Jaysen conducted some private business within his guild, acquiring a few crates of goods, Sir Benjin and Baernabas dug a bit deeper for information. Local rumors don’t often amount to much, they knew, but there was often some truth buried in them. Some insisted there must be a supernatural cause for the disappearances, likely a mad wizard abducting people and using them in abominable experiments. Another rumor focused more on the odd folk that had recently overrun the hillsides and wilderness around Rayn’s Hamlet. The sinister implications of these rumors were clear… some powerful mage had, apparently, experimented on the entire population, and then turned them loose on the world!

In the morning, Jaysen regrouped with the others and announced his plans to go to Waterbridge. Sir Benjin and Baernabas agreed to accompany him there, but insisted they look into the mystery at Rayn’s Hamlet on the way. Jaysen agreed, as it was only a little out of the way, and ought not to delay his own business much.

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The trip to Waterbridge itself was short and uneventful. On their journey, Baernabas engaged with the locals gathering more information about the troubles harboring in Rayn’s Hamlet. The town of Waterbridge grew out of a series of bridges over the swampy water; giving its namesake. Not many stay for too long, being only a quick stop on several trade routes, but the locals are friendly enough. Jaysen completed his task and sent word to Littletree of his success before our heroes continued south to Rayn’s Hamlet.

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While passing through the woods, they were suddenly overrun by undead walkers, a horde of them roaming through the trees. Baernabas was able to destroy most of them with a prayer and an invocation of his faith, allowing Benjin and Jaysen to dispatch the rest. It seemed the twisted mage’s experiments involved creating an army of the undead! Resolving to put a stop to such evil, Sir Benjin vowed to find and destroy this mage. Baernabas agreed, offended deeply by the animation of corpses of those whose journeys had ended. Jaysen, sensing there may be valuable loot to be had in a powerful magician’s lair, consented to join them.

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Our heroes camped for the night, a mile or two away from the hamlet, wanting to approach in daylight in case the hamlet was in fact overrun with other undead. The next morning the group approached with caution. Upon finding a suitable hiding spot, our heroes examined the small yet growing hamlet. Baernabas was surprised to see tents were in use as much as small wooden shacks. Sir Benjin and his faithful war horse Spike swiftly made a perimeter check around the small grouping of buildings. Jaysen and Baernabas stayed put and kept a watchful eye. When Sir Benjin returned he inadvertently set off a crudely built but carefully hidden trap that sprung three javelins from out of the trees grazing one of Baernabas’ legs. The commotion brought five men with dogs racing over to investigate. Sir Benjin in a commanding voice stopped the dogs in their tracks. Jaysen the master diplomat negotiated with the men that our heroes were here to help, while Baernabas tended to his wound. The five young men armed with bows and arrows escorted our heroes to Rayn, a plump, nervous man. He lived in the largest of the buildings, which was one floor and maybe three rooms, the largest big enough to fit twenty people at most.
“Welcome, Welcome travelers, sorry for the misunderstanding, we’ve…uhh…had some…umm…misfortunes as of late”
“More like an invasion, Master Rayn” a growing murmur grew amongst the scared folk. “WHAT, whh-who said that?” quickly scanning everyone’s faces and rubbing his hands together nervously.
“We did!” Out from the group of townfolk stepped forward a small party of younger adventurers. A elven druid and a couple of human fighters.
“I think there’s been a SMALL misunderstanding. We were hired to safe guard your hamlet, we don’t need the help from these UNDERlings.” Jaysen is small even in halfling standards, but he never got upset when someone mentioned, commented, or even suggested he was small. He’d always let Sir Benjin defend his honor if needed, while Jaysen, would later have a private conversation with whoever’s most precious item, as he took it away from them. While Baernabas focus on his prayers and invocations, Sir Benjin sat down and enjoyed the debate. The quick discussion between Jaysen and the naive adventurers, left the younger ones’ egos intact, but clearly undermined their authority and intelligence to the rest of the townsfolk. Agreeing to stay in the town to defend the hamlet our heroes took the shameless road, and left, straight to the abandoned mine just outside of town where the troubles began.

They came to an entrance to a mine that appeared to have been there for a very long time. After exploring for a time, they stumbled into a caved in area unlike the rough cut of the mine. Here the smooth polish wall had been there even longer still and appeared to have been a hidden lair of some kind. It wasn’t unguarded however; inside the first room, which appeared to be a kitchen of some sort, a chain infused with evil intent was tossed carelessly across the floor. After frightening some mice out of the nearby pantry and into this room, they were absorbed by the chain as they scurried across it… releasing the evil within.

Wraiths beset our heroes, and once again Baernabas attempted to turn the fell creatures. The two lesser wraiths only fled in terror rather than disintegrating while the greater wraith was affected not at all. Sir Benjin and Jaysen were lucky to have magical weapons at hand, as they were able to partially affect these incorporeal creatures. Baernabas, whose weapon had been consecrated and specially crafted to be able to strike such creatures, seemed the best choice to tackle the greater wraith, and so he called upon his divine powers and cast a spell that would make him larger in size so that he could face the large shadow on even ground. Jeysin’s sword emitted a bright glow, like bright sunlight, further weakening the undead beasts. He was able to destroy one of the lesser wraiths fairly quickly after that, while Benjin tried to assist Baernabas. The dwarf, however, was deflecting as many attacks as he was dealing, and the wraith’s movement seemed to always just twist out of his way. He noticed Jaysen having trouble making contact with the remaining wraith, whose intangible body was proving better protection for itself than the other wraith’s had, and as his enlarge person spell began to fade, he had a burst of inspiration and redouble his faith increasing his divine power within himself, gaining the energy and speed needed to overpower the greater wraith, leaving it open for Benjin to strike the killing blow. The final wraith, at last overcoming its fear of Baernabas, was struck down in one blow by that dwarf’s enchanted waraxe.

After the fight, and tending to their wounds, they pressed onward, now more determined to eradicate the evils of this place. Aside from a brief – very brief – skirmish in a hallway in which Jaysen turned two skeletons to powder, and a botched attempt at disarming a trap (which dropped bricks onto Benjin and Baernabas’ heads), the halls offered little danger.

They came at last into what appeared to be a throne room of some sort. At once, Benjin detected evil coming from the throne, and a helmet resting on top of it. While an eerie, rhythmic pounding on the stone door of the chamber echoed through the room, Baernabas approached the throne and inspected it with an enchanted monocle. It was for naught, however; he couldn’t determine the source of the evil or the magic centered on the throne and helmet… something, he knew, was not as it seemed. While Jaysen inspected the door, wondering who or what could be knocking so forcefully, Baernabas said a prayer and used true seeing to inspect the throne… and spotted a handful of coins in the seat, beneath the helmet.

The source of the knocking burst into the chamber: a dread necromancer, Tekcit, accompanied by some undead henchmen. Baernabas scooped up the coins, intuiting that they must be what this necromancer must be searching for. Tekcit and his escort attacked at once, but the heroes fended them off, slaying the undead beasts. Tekcit, sensing he may be outmatched, absconded. The team chose then to retreat and regroup back in town, and left the mines.

On the way back to the main town, they encountered a few traveling elves. They got to talking, and the elves made mention of recent raids by orcs on their villages in the area. Baernabas, who viciously hated orcs, was eager to assist the elves in any way (with agreement from Jeysen and Benjin), but they resolved to take one more day in Rayn’s Hamlet before setting out for the elven settlements. The elves were grateful for their offer to help, and gave them directions to find their village.

The next morning, the team came to believe that Tekcit would likely not abandon his base of operations so readily. They resolved to enter the mine once more, agreeing that whether their search bore fruit or not, they would not delay in moving on to assist the elves any longer than that one day. For this trip into the mines, at the mayor’s suggestion, the group of younger warriors from the day before was enlisted to accompany Jeysen, Benjin, and Baernabas. They agreed, deciding that if nothing else, these young folks would provide them with some protection… as meat shields.

However, the younger team exceeded expectations in navigating the mines once more. Soon enough they found Tekcit, who had returned to search again for the coins. He had apparently been unaware that Baernabas had taken them, but when he saw them again, he deduced the truth. Tekcit demanded the coins, claiming they could be used to create a city for the undead to exist peacefully and safely, free from persecution by the living. Baernabas and Benjin, however, objected outright: the dead were at rest after their long journeys, Fharlanghn taught, and to rouse them was an affront, to enslave them an insult. The undead could not be allowed to exist, and those who created them must be dealt with accordingly.

The fight was vicious, and though Tekcit was tenacious, he could not overcome his foes. Using a dimension door, he escaped at once, abandoning the mine and, at least for the time being, the coins he’d been seeking… but not before swearing he’d see them all again.

The team returned victorious to Rayn’s Hamlet (with a modest amount of loot recovered from the mines). After a surprisingly plentiful and filling meal of ground beef, noodles, and a cheesy sauce, they turned in for the night. In the morning, they would set out northeast in search of the elven lands, to aide them against invading orcs…

to be continued!

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Brook's Hold
or: "What Came Before, part 9"

This is a placeholder entry for un-played adventures the party had, taking them from Lv. 11 to Lv. 12. Possible plots include Benjin’s treasure map, the vengeful djinn Babahouka or something completely different. Entry title taken from the town Jeysen reported about to his guild leader in the “Rayn’s Hamlet” entry.

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Yet Another Place
or: "What Came Before, part 8"

This is a placeholder entry for un-played adventures the party had, taking them from Lv. 10 to Lv. 11. Possible plots include Benjin’s treasure map, the vengeful djinn Babahouka or something completely different.

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Another Place
or: "What Came Before, part 7"

This is a placeholder entry for un-played adventures the party had, taking them from Lv. 9 to Lv. 10. Possible plots include Benjin’s treasure map, the vengeful djinn Babahouka or something completely different.

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Nargabuz Spires
or: "What Came Before, part 6"

The team, over the following weeks, became thoroughly lost in the Nargabuz Spires, a mountain range to the east. In all their wanderings, none of them had heard much about these mountains or the history surrounding them; they only knew there was a lush valley at the heart of the mountain range. Now, in addition to being lost, their luck continued to get worse: one evening, a violent thunderstorm broke overhead. In their search for shelter, however, they noticed something odd: the storm itself seemed to be growing quieter and quieter, although it was certainly not letting up.

They encountered a lone dwarf on the run who, after noticing Baernabas, motioned silently for them to go with her. Desperate to get out of the strangely quiet storm, they followed along, thankfully taking shelter in a tunnel that had clearly been dug by dwarves. When she indicated that they should keep following her, Baernabas began to speak a word of thanks in dwarven, but was stunned to discover that his words were nearly whisper quiet. The others didn’t notice that he’d spoken at all, and continued forward until he tapped them. Only when they stopped and tried to ask him what the matter was did they understand: some kind of unnatural silence was being imposed upon them! They whirled on the dwarf, but she seemed not to have heard them either (only then did Jeysen notice that their scuffling in the tunnel seemed also to have been muted), and was still advancing down the tunnel. Baernabas didn’t detect any magical effects in the tunnels, and neither did Benjin sense any evil intentions nearby. With no other choice, and craving an explanation, they followed down into the dwarven city.

An engraved sign over the archway leading into the city proper read, in dwarvish, Berdiskali. Looking downward, they saw that the city was, like many large dwarven cities, dug down into the earth, with multiple tiers. Most of the buildings were constructed from massive stone blocks, expertly masoned. The edges of the city, made of compacted dirt, were lined along roughly a third of the city, on each tier, with what the team took to be tree roots. Benjin thought this odd, as the mountain outside had been very rocky and nearly barren…

Though people milled about everywhere, the team noticed that there seemed to be nearly no sound at all. Businesses appeared to be open, but the proprietors seemed to be, on the whole, not attending their shops. Unthinking, Jeysen began to ask the dwarf who had led them there what was bothering everyone, but again, the strange silence kept his words to a near whisper. Benjin, also briefly forgetting, asked about the strange roots – and gave up when even he could barely hear his own words.

They spotted a few older-looking dwarves seeming to get worked up. They wore black scarves – apparently a symbol of rank here, as other dwarves scuttled out of their way. These scarfed dwarves pulled knives on the vines, hacking away at them, pulling them out barehanded from the dirt walls, gritting their teeth against the dirt they knocked loose with the roots. When they’d cleared a patch roughly fifteen feet across, they seemed to sigh with relief… and they spotted the newcomers. Glancing at each other briefly, and seeming to light up slightly, they turned and waved to Baernabas, Jeysen, and Benjin. They approached slowly.

One of the dwarves, who wore priestly robes along with her black scarf, surprised them by speaking audibly (yet still somewhat faintly): “By your look, you must be the champions our neighbor gnomes send word of. Answer quickly and true: are ye?”

Baernabas, a fellow dwarf, told her that yes, he supposed they were. “Why is everything so quiet? … and how can the gnomes send word in this magical silence?”

But the dwarf was already rushing to answer him. As she speaks, she begins to grow more frantic, and eerily, her voice is already fading: “They send letters, don’t be a fool. I must speak quickly, as these roots grow back in a blink. There is a great tree on Tower Mountain, and it strangles Erond’s Tower. Its roots have spread here through the valley floor and into these mountains over the last thousand years. It feeds on sound, do you understand? These roots suck the very sound out of us, it’s driving us all mad, it’s killing our will to live, please, if you’re the heroes you say you are, you must help us! You… you must…” Realizing that even she can no longer hear herself speak, her shoulders dropped, her head lowered in utter defeat. Her legs went out from under her and she began shaking. After a moment, the team realized she would have been sobbing loudly, had the roots in the walls not already grown back into place.

Although it was too late to share the information, Benjin was able to place the name “Erond’s Tower.” Though he had had no knowledge of these mountains, the name Erond the Cowardly had come up in his studies once. Erond was a king of legend, dating back over a thousand years, to before the Unity Wars, who built the tower so he could survey his domain from on high. In time, though, he began to fear that being so close to the heavens might leave him vulnerable to incursions from beings of the heavenly planes… and sure enough, some kind of planar breach happened, quite by accident. At the first sign of something emerging – stories differ as to what it was, but Benjin had heard it was a strange green rain – Erond abandoned his tower, calling on his people to flee for their lives, leaving his small kingdom a silent ghost of its former self.

Now, Benjin reasoned, there was some answer to what had come through the breach: some kind of seed from another plane was surely planted there that day a millennium ago. Perhaps it was due to this origin that Jeysen was unable to burn away the roots with his torch, as he had tried to do once they had grown back. Resolving to assist these dwarves, Benjin produced paper and pen and sketched a few mountains on it, then handed it to one of the older dwarves. He understood what was being requested, and hastily sketched out a map to Tower Mountain, at the heart of the valley at the center of the Nargabuz Spires. He, Baernabas, and Jeysen looked at each other, resolving to help these people; surely it must be torturous to have to live this way.

After three days of traveling in silence – an unspeakably mind-wrenching task, they learned to their sorrow – they came upon the Whispering Valley (they wouldn’t learn this name until later, at which time they would also learn that, ironically, the name predated both the great tree and the Tower that gave Tower Mountain its name). It was indeed a lush valley, and here the great tree’s roots were much larger, bursting up from the ground in places. Tower Mountain itself stood alone at the center, with both Erond’s Tower at its peak, and the massive tree the dwarf had spoken of growing tall, twisting itself in, through, and around the tower itself.

Crossing the valley they were accosted by a variety of local fauna which seemed to have grown from the roots of the great tree, which Baernabas decided would qualify them as flora, as well. Fortunately, they were mostly unintelligent, and the plant creatures were easily slain when they could not be avoided outright. By nightfall on the fourth day after leaving Berdiskali, they had reached the path at the base of Tower Mountain, where they made camp.

In the night, while Baernabas kept watch – updating the star chart he’d been keeping while traveling – a large, winged shadow passed over the moon and, apparently, landing atop Erond’s Tower… it appeared, alarmingly, to be a dragon! In a panic, he roused the others, shaking them from their sleep, but of course, unable to communicate what he’d seen. He had to resort to pantomime to suggest a large flying monster overhead, which at least got the attention of his comrades. They waited for the break of dawn, only a few hours away, before setting out up the path and toward the tower.

As they drew close, the dragon, who had been watching their ascent, swooped down upon them. Its green hide thick and heavy, this dragon seemed old indeed. It did not attempt to speak, but instead grinned down at them, then looked over at the tree. Jeysen couldn’t quite credit what he was seeing, but… it seemed as though the dragon were proud of the tree? Could it be tending to it? Jeysen made a tentative step forward, hand on his blade, but the dragon blocked his path. When Baernabas produced a torch and lit it, the dragon seemed to understand why they’d come, and lashed out at them!

Terrified and outmatched, the team fled for cover in the tower itself. The dragon would, of course, never fit inside… but the floor and walls shook beneath them – it was going to try, anyway! Benjin motioned toward a staircase, and they did the only thing they could: fled upward! The dragon, undeterred, struck the walls, hoping to strike into the tower and claw at the little apes that had come for its tree.The sound-sucking properties of the tree finally worked to the team’s advantage here: in their haste, they would have been making a great ruckus, but the dragon could not hear them at all, and was forced to guess at their positions.

On the tower’s roof, however, the odds were evened once again, and the dragon, now furious, confronted them with its acid breath. While Baernabas and Benjin took the brunt of the assault, Jeysen spotted a massive scarlet-and-yellow fruit dangling in the tree’s topmost branches, which reached a mere ten feet above the tower. The fruit was larger by far than Jeysen himself, but suspecting the dragon’s pride was at stake, he began climbing the tree as the others fought a losing battle against the green dragon. He quickly cut the fruit loose, dropping with it from the branches and onto the tower below.

It struck and squashed itself on the stone, unleashing an incredibly loud note, the sound of a thousand voices singing a joyous chord into the heavens, overwhelming the senses of not just the heroes, but the dragon as well. The dragon, so disoriented and surprised by the sudden note, clutched at its ears and began to fall from the sky. Meanwhile, with the destruction of the fruit – what they’d later call a Songberry – the tree seemed to lose vitality, and with a loud groan it began to wither. This was bad news for the heroes: the tree seemed to be the only thing that had been holding up the tower over the last few hundred years, and with the new damage freshly inflicted on it by the green dragon, it would only be a matter of minutes before the whole thing collapsed!

Regretting that they couldn’t collect much from the dragon’s tower-top gold hoard, they were forced to retreat. Luck was on their side, as the now recovered dragon, furiously shouting that they’d ruined his masterpiece of gardening, had gone into a frenzy, and heedless of the collapsing tower, tried again to strike them through the walls. Somehow it got itself entangled in the falling rubble, and though the heroes were able to escape outside, the dragon was not. Crushed under the collapsing stone and withering wood, only its head protruded from the rubble at the end, breathing sickly and heavily, even then trying to struggle out from beneath the destruction. Benjin drove his lance into its head, slaying it, but not before its horrible, ragged breathing was embedded in their minds. As a final touch, the team heard the sound of coins sliding along stone nearby… some of the dragon’s hoard of gold coins had survived the destruction, and was pouring down the side of the rubble onto the ground.

In the following weeks they stayed with the dwarves of Berdiskali, who hailed them as heroes. Limil, the leader of the elders of Black House who governed there, thanked them profusely. She explained that they’d lost many teams that had been sent to investigate the tree, but the dragon had turned the entire valley into its personal garden, and dealt harshly with intruders. Now, though, the dragon’s death and the destruction of the Songberry Tree quickly became the subject of songs and tales told in taverns over tankards of ale. It transpired that Berdiskali was a major exporter of gold, and as such were rich here in the east… meaning hefty rewards and gifts for the heroes. Jeysen found himself with a number of well-crafted goods and treasures to add to his collection of wares, while Baernabas was met with multiple contracts, establishing fruitful trade with his parents’ business back at Bastion’s Ridge. Benjin, meanwhile, was gifted with a treasure map by a group of retired adventuring dwarves who regretted they’d grown too old to seek the treasure themselves. And, naturally, they were paid handsomely for their services – at the dwarves’ insistence.

The dwarves bid the heroes good luck and, after providing directions back out of the mountains they’d been lost in from the start, sent their heroes on their way to their next adventure…

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Someplace Else
or: "What Came Before, part 5"

This is a placeholder entry for the next adventure our heroes had after leaving Tinque. Ben suggested the Goblin King/Underdark adventure, and Dave suggested the falling star quest, so this adventure to take the team from Lv. 7 to Lv. 8 should be a thing of Brian’s devising.

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The Burned Sands
or: "What Came Before, part 4"

Baernabas, Benjin, and Jeysen travelled out of the gnomish hillside and through an increasingly dry landscape. Before long, they reached the Burned Sands, a desert of deep purple and black sands. In spite of the name, the desert was actually quite cool during the day. The Burned Sands, according to some lore Benjin had once read, had once been a lush forest, but had been scorched during the Arefah Purge, a famous battle fought long ago during some forgotten war. The desert, he continued, was famous for its lone, towering pyramid, engraved with glyphs in an ancient language. Now that they were there, Benjin was eager to see the pyramid for himself.

Their journey was held up briefly by an encounter with a gang of travelers much like themselves. When Benjin hailed them, they appeared friendly enough, and asked where the heroes were headed. Jeysin, who was not as inclined as his teammates to trust strangers on the road as openly, quickly told them “To see the pyramid. It’s supposed to be famous, you know.”

The other travelers agreed that this was so. One said, “We figured you were also headed to see the fallen star. That’s what the last party we saw was searching for.”

Baernabas seemed disheartened, but did not betray the truth, following Jeysen’s lead. Instead, he asked, “I see. Did they find it?”

But the travelers revealed themselves then: “No… unfortunately for those fools, we found them first!” Suddenly their illusions melted away, their alter self spells fading, revealing the three strangers to be lamia! These beasts, like lion-bodied centaurs, began attacking the team. A vicious blow left Baernabas feeling mentally drained and confused, and he felt his willpower slipping away… Benjin warned that these creatures were fond of brutal tricks, and would often sap away at the minds of their foes to confuse and discombobulate them before going in for killing blows. Luckily, it seemed they had no taste for a fair fight: sensing Baernabas would make for a more satisfying target (being the wisest of the three), they lost track of the diminutive Jeysen. Using this to his advantage, he dealt devastating sneak attacks against two of the lamia, and when the third turned tail to flee, Benjin rode it down on horseback, slaying it.

After a night’s rest, Baernabas was right again, and the team was able to continue on. Before long the pyramid was in sight… and before that, they came upon the impact crater of the fallen star. But… something was down there, a humanoid shape whose body seemed to be actively dissolving into whirling smoke below its waist. It was speaking quietly and gesticulating above a loose sphere of white-hot, glowing plasma about a foot in diameter. Baernabas identified the words as belonging to some kind of transmutation spell, and understood that if they didn’t act quickly, the creature would likely use up all of the star’s magical energy in its incantation.

The team hurried down into the surprisingly massive crater and hollered at the creature, surprising it and disrupting its spell. It revealed itself as the djinni Babahouka, and demanded to know who disturbed his work. The team explained themselves, quietly steeling for a fight: they had sworn to retrieve this star for a colony of gnomes in need of a new source of power. The djinni seemed moved, and impressed by their dedication, but explained that it, too, needed the star, in its entirety, so that it could complete a complicated ritual that was “beyond your mortal understanding.”

Jeysen, a natural salesman, began to make offers in exchange for the star, but Babahouka would not be swayed. “But there must be something!” he finally exclaimed. “Everything has a price!”

Babahouka, now seeming to enjoy tormenting the team, agreed that he would allow them to take the star in exchange for something more valuable: ambrosia, the name given to pure joy given physical form. After Baernabas confirmed that yes, this was a real thing, the team agreed that they would attempt to find some… but Babahouka warned that they had only until sundown to locate one gallon of this rare liquid. Providing a glass decanter for the task, he warned them: “Time’s a-wasting…”

Baernabas was only vaguely aware of what collecting ambrosia would entail, and as they hurried off, he told the others what he knew: there was a spell involved, but he was of course not prepared to use it that day. He spent a half hour in a meditative state, praying to Fharlanghn, before sighing in defeat. He had gained insight into the spell’s nature: not only had his vision shown him that the spell he needed was purely arcane – and therefore outside of his purview as a divine spellcaster – but even then it needed a full 24 hours of preparation before it could be cast, far outlasting their strict timeline. Jeysen suggested it was a trick meant to drive them away from the star while Babahouka completed his ritual without distraction, and suggested simply attacking the magical being. But as they started back, they saw that Babahouka was, in fact, waiting patiently, and not interacting with the fallen star at all. it seemed he would be true to his word… but time was running out.

Benjin wondered aloud what ambrosia even looked like. He seemed to suspect that, from the way Babahouka had spoken of it, the djinni may not even know himself what ambrosia’s true properties were. Jeysen, looking for any excuse to swindle the treasure from the djinni, concocted a plan… and minutes later, a combination of a create water spell, some dried fruit, and some crushed mint leaves left them with a gallon of a fruity beverage of some description, mostly lemon and lime.

They returned to the djinni, triumphant, presenting the jar of what essentially was lemon-limeade. Babahouka’s eyes lit up, only confirming to the party the truth: the djinni had no idea what actual ambrosia looked like. Giving his best salespitch and talking up the sweetwater something fierce, the djinni happily accepted the “ambrosia” and plane shifted away, leaving behind the fallen star.

The star, white hot and dense, had to be carefully handled and loaded onto the sled provided by the gnomes. With the help of Hoof-Hearted, a mule Baernabas had purchased back in Tainted Hollow, they dragged the star, unimpeded, back to Tinque. The star was delivered to Queen Ann with much acclaim, and she turned it over to the gnome tinkerers. Within four days, during which the team enjoyed an extended royal treatment and frankly exhausting partying, the star had been installed as Tinque’s new source of magical power. The tinkerers were astounded at its output, and theorized it would be enough to power their entire city for centuries all on its own!

When Benjin, Jeysen, and Baernabas eventually left the city, tales of their deeds were already spreading outside of the gnomish settlement. Statues of them, in miniature, were being carved in Tinque’s underground town square, a long-lasting tribute to Queen Ann’s Champions. Bali had been right, it seemed, and they were indeed beginning to gain accolades and a good reputation… but, unknown to them, tales of their deeds were also spreading among goblins, hobgoblins, and the Underdark… and somewhere, an angry djinni was plotting revenge against the heroes, as well…

Where the road would take Benjin, Jeysen, and Baernabas next, however, remained to be seen…

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Tinque
or: "What Came Before, part 3"

Bali the gnome wizard, seeing that the heroes had done very well under his tutelage, felt that the next step in their growth would be to go out into the world and do a great deed. It was important, he taught, for those who would do good to make themselves known to the world. He had heard troubling whispers of late, that deep below the earth, in the Underdark, trouble was brewing… he sent the party to Tinque, in the hills not far from Tainted Hollow, the gnome settlement that Bali had once called home himself.

Tinque was a very large gnomish settlement indeed: a massive underground network of burrows and tunnels in the hills, Tinque was very old. The party learned that once the gnomes had hoped to make it large enough to be accessible to the larger races, hoping to encourage trade and expansion, and as such had dug very deep into the earth. However, all those centuries ago, they had once accidentally breached the Underdark itself, and fearing the things that emerged from within, they collapsed the tunnel and decided unanimously that that was “deep enough, thanks.”

When the party arrived, they learned quickly that, of late, goblins of all things had begun raiding in Tinque. They had breached some of the older, disused tunnels, and had also unearthed another entrance into the Underdark… Queen Ann, ruler in Tinque, had received threats (in the form of poorly written letters) from Bango Skank, the Goblin King, demanding she abdicate and relinquish the gnomish city to the invading goblins.

Queen Ann had sent her reply – in the form of a small task force of gnome warriors. They outmatched the disorganized goblin forces, driving them into the Underdark… and getting cocky. Before long they had stumbled into Tydfil, a drow city that spanned a chasm beneath the earth… and the battle drew their attention. King Skank, a natural agitator, drew the attention of the locals, and the drow leader, Midhi, rallied the local militia for a counterattack. The gnomes were able to retreat, but in the weeks since, the vicious stupidity of the goblins had protracted the conflict, and often the fighting spilled over into Tinque… and the fights were slowly reaching higher and higher, into Tinque’s industrial district, home of their magical forge, the source of power for the gnome’s varied magical inventions.

Queen Ann, not confident in her soldier’s ability to fend off drow as well as goblins indefinitely, was eager to accept help from the traveling strangers. She employed Benjin, Jeysen, and Baernabas in planning the city’s defenses, and they planted explosives in the deepest tunnels, near the breach and the entrance to the Underdark, resolving to seal it off completely once and for all. However, before they could finish setting up this countermeasure, yet another battle between goblins and drow broke out. The team sprang into action, using Baernabas’ magic and the martial prowess of Benjin and Jeysen to drive the fighting down into the tunnels. However, the explosives had been misplaced by hasty and panicked gnome civilians, and when they were detonated, they not only collapsed the tunnel leading into the Underdark… but also the section where the gnome’s magical source of energy was kept.

In spite of this loss, the gnomes proved grateful to the visitors for ridding them of both the raiding goblins and the sparring factions, bringing them peace, even at the expense of certain comforts they’d grown accustomed to. No longer was the city bathed in fancy lights, or were their pantries equipped with coldboxes, or other such useful tools, but Queen Ann assured them that the gnomes would be able to rebuild, in time. They thanked the party for their services, and held a great banquet in their honor.

The heroes stayed for a few days, enjoying the rest and the adoration of the locals, but before long they began to feel mounting guilt: the gnomes seemed to be growing more and more disheartened by the loss of so many convenient tools. As they wondered what they might be able to do to help, Queen Ann summoned the team and told them that she’d received word of a fallen star a few days ride away. It had reportedly landed in a hostile wasteland that the gnomes considered unsafe and unlucky… but gnomish legends suggested that fallen stars could be a source of wonderful magical power… and perhaps, if given a sledge to cart it back, these fine men, whom she called “Queen Ann’s Champions,” could be persuaded to retrieve it for her… Baernabas and Benjin agreed at once, eager for a new adventure (as Fharlanghn’s worshipers always were), and Jeysen found he couldn’t turn down a job that would surely pay handsomely. By noon that day they were outfitted for travel and headed into the wastes…

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Tainted Hollow
or: "What Came Before, part 2"

This entry is a placeholder for an entry detailing the party’s unplayed adventure, bridging them from 4th to 5th level. In it, they find themselves in a large town called Tainted Hollow, which was defended by a wooden palisade and moat. The sky had been stained black by mysterious smoke, and the governor, a man called Cyna, enlisted their help. Somehow they attracted the attention of a local illusionist gnome named Bali and, after proving themselves worthy somehow, he taught them each 4 Bonus Feats through some kind of shenanigans.

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