Dorset Style - 06. Kingmaker

Pharast 4714

14th Pharast

Towards the end of the fourth day after leaving Varnhold you reach area which the adventures went missing.
It takes one day to explore the area and find the dead adventures.

​The Little Sellen River narrows here as it passes through a gully between two rocky hillsides, flowing around an oblong island thick with vegetation. This island is only 15 feet wide and 75 feet long; the river narrows down to a width of 15 feet to either side of it. The cliff walls of the gully are 40 feet high and can be scaled

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Lurking amid the thick reeds, nettles, and blackberries that grow on the island is a single giant flytrap. The man-eating plant moves quickly to attack anything sizable that moves along the river; the confines of the surrounding gully allow the plant to snap and grab at targets on either side of the island, including those that cling to the cliff walls within 10 feet of the river surface.

Afterwards

Greetings, my liege lords! Would that I had the opportunity to contact you via missive in gentler times. Since its founding, Tatzlford has faced many challenges, but recent rumors of a much more disturbing sort abound. A woman has come to Tatzlford bearing warnings that, if they are to be believed, indicate we may face a terrible threat. She speaks of armies of bandits, hordes of barbarians, and worse organizing to the west beyond Hooktongue Slough. To date we have had no trouble with these elements, but this woman is quite convincing. She tells us an army is marching on Tatzlford. If this is true, we will need your aid in defending our homes. Please come as soon as you can.
—In good faith, your obedient and humble servant, Mayor Loy Rezbin

17th Calistril 4714 – Arrive in Tatzlford

They immediately gain the attention of everyone in town. Captain Coren Lawry,
commander of the Tatzlford guard.

Taken to Loy Rezbin and Latricia Evanore who have the young lady Kisandra Numesti with them.

Tripartite Quest: Kisandra’s Plea

This three-part quest involves two rescues and the defeat of a local tyrant.
Source: Kisandra Numesti.
Task: Kisandra asks the PCs to rescue her father Terrion from the dungeons below Drelev Keep and her sister Tamary from the Tiger Lord barbarians, and also to remove Baron Drelev from power and seize control of the city of Fort Drelev, thus liberating its citizens from the baron’s despotic rule.

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19th Rova 4713
GM record

Day of the Inheritor – not a national holdiay in Haven, but a celebration of Iomedae

Two days travel to Ghost stone.

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​A strange, gray stone monolith, its sides polished and smooth, stands at the western end of a valley here.

Zzamas, the phase spider speaks very few words of Common and knows that most humanoids find her shape unsettling. As the scouts entered her land and attacked her due to her unsettling shape, she catured some and sent the others off – help her and she would release the captives.
Zzamas explains that several xills have forced her from her home, and she wants the PCs’ help to kill them. She promises a “fancy chest with stuff inside,” as payment for their help.​

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The stone is known by locals as the Ghost Stone, for at night, the air surrounding the stone within a 120-foot radius glows with a soft radiance, and strange, ghostly shapes of unnatural shape and posture flit and writhe through the air. The Ghost Stone itself is a spire-like structure with a dull point that stands 15 feet high.
An ancient elven relic, abandoned and forgotten.

Arrive back with the rescued explorers

22nd Rova – Linnorms Grave
23rd Rova – spot Wyvern heading to hunt the Centaurs, and A giant eagle flying home into the mountain areas.

Rumors and legends of a silver dragon named Amvarean are obviously out of date — the black dragon Ilthuliak slew the younger silver dragon many years ago and stole her treasure.
Giant Eagles to send representive on the 17th Kuthona 4713 (full moon)

Empty Dragon Lair, 25th Rova 4713

​Deep in the trackless reaches of the Tors of Levenies lies a large cave entrance. Within, a 50-foot-wide tunnel stretches 300 feet into the mountain before opening into a large, vaulted chamber 140 feet in diameter. Yet more impressive are the dry bones of an adult silver dragon that lie sprawled in the center of the cavern. ​

The dragon’s remains are not completely intact — the bones along the right arm and wing are strangely incomplete, as if they had been melted away by a powerful acid. No sign of the dragon’s skull remains at all — or of the dragon’s treasure. A a healthy scattering of silver and black dragon scales were found which the explorers had not seen them.

28th Rova 4713 – Returned to Varnhold.

29th Rova 4713 – ​The Disappearers

Blackstones Ford is now home to a band of cautious and cunning monsters who work together to lightly harvest vulnerable travelers — those too few to defend themselves or raise an alarm, or who can be lured away from their party — while avoiding pitched battles against strong, ready foes.

This “adventuring band” of eight monsters hails from a distant underground area. Looking at the mancles that were found with them, they were of a darklands design.

From the journals that were found, The Disappearers are group of escapees who were expermiments of a mad wizard. This group is now led by Iluith, a dark naga of malicious schemes and coldly clear-headed patience and foresight, who calculates consequences and risks, and clings to his “considered outcomes.” He never acts out of anger or to obtain revenge, only to exact whatever take in victims and booty can be managed with minimal riskof loss to the band (or chance of triggering a successful hunt for retaliation).
Dreeth, a cloaker was the aerial spy and “pouncer” of the band. Though Dreeth’s demeanor can best be described as permanently peevish and pessimistic, the drow spells quelled its paranoia and made it willing to work as part of a team, even eager to trust and bestow loyalty on Iluith.

Kaladryn is the band member considered next most useful by Iluith, largely because of his nigh-fanatical loyalty to the dark naga (his only friend during their long mutual captivity). Originally a svirfneblin, Kaladryn was transformed by the drow spells and fused with mindless, subterranean snake bodies into the likeness of a marilith. Kaladryn capably wields an array of deadly weapons acquired from victims of the Disappearers and is fully proficient in uses of his marilith body (constriction, tail slap, and slams), but he lacks most of the normal demonic abilities and spell-like powers.
The least useful Disappearer is Oront, a cyclops employed in battle or to overthrow and immobilize wagons and carts during attacks. Oront is far less brutish and stupid than he seems; he has a cruel sense of humor and a long, keen memory for smells, names, and faces.
The other four group members are its busy, oft-deployed “swarmers” and spies: a pair of chokers and a mated pair of tengus (Arainth and Rareezra). The tengus resent Iluith’s controlling influence and often play pranks, but they are so ruled by their pride that Iluith can easily sway them with flattery and rewards.​

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9th April session

We arrest the tanner who survived the Varnhold massacre. We interrogate him. He points the finger at some of the guards, who are also arrested and interrogated.

Note: River Kingdoms have very few laws, but major things are: what you take you keep, river freedom everyone has right of passage. They can’t tax you or bar you way but they can rob you. So we will need to heavily guard our boats.

We’re heading out to try to free our kidnapped rangers at Ghost Stone. In the hills between two lots of mountains. Directions take us to a place close to Ghost Stone, it’s very unnatural around there, we see a big spiderlike creature. Amina recognises it as a Phase Spider. They can phase between planes and have a poisonous bite. It asks us if we are going to help it. Says it was attacked but not killed and says some words we don;t recognise, Cade casts a spell to speak her language. Humanoids came to area and attacked her, she didn’t want to kill them, so she had to make ‘a resolution’. If we help her, she won;t punish them. She lives by a monolith, it’s good there, group of creatures from ethereal plane have come and taken over her homeland, they’re red, have 4 arms, they are chitinous. Medium sized, spiny, bright red, part human/reptile/insect, fanged mandibles and a scaly hide – probably The Xill. Known for implanting their eggs in helpless creatures that then hatch and consume host from within. Probably evil.

Rena says he assumes she will want to stay here afterwards, he asks that she shows similar restraint on any sentient creatures in future when she’s hunting, and we’ll tell our people to leave her in peace.

We can see the Ghost Stone from a way away, so we stop to buff up. We can see the Xill, they are wielding 2 swords and a shield, they are definitely intoxicated, behaving like they’re drunk, aggressive. This place is known to the locals, air around it 120 ft radius glows with soft radiance at night and soft shapes fit around in the light. It’s not an elf circle itself, almost like a foundation of a portal but not to the material plane, maybe another plane? Looks like it was part of something. No longer complete. Doesn’t appear weathered, stone is still smooth. The circle looks like it used to be a wall but it has crumbled away. We fight and prevail. It’s an ancient elven relic, was a portal to the ethereal. It exists in both planes, which is unusual. She’s given us a chest and freed the prisoners (who look a bit sheepish). Chest is a material component for a spell called Secret Chest. It’s clearly a humanoid wizard’s spell chest, over a century old. If it was a human, it’s probably dead. Notes in spell book are written in common.

We take our rangers home, exploring the area as we go. We go to look at the Silver Dragon lair, and they explore the rest. We see a wyvern out over the nomen lands, it lands and we don’t see it rise back up. We go over to Linnorm’s grave, see mastodons about, and a wyvern overhead, plus a giant eagle (it’s staying away from the wyvern’s territory). Giant eagles are loyal creatures if you make friends with them, supernaturally intelligent, protective of their mountain territory. We know they usually speak Auran. Tend to be neutral good. We look for an eagle to try and make friends with one. We also look for a wyvern to kill, as a good intro to the eagles. Heading up into the mountains, the eagles look to be close to the dragon lair. We see a wyvern and attempt to draw its attention so we can fight it. We shoot it down and it flies into a gully, so we have to go fetch it. There is an eagle watching us. So we put our weapons away. About 400 foot away from us. Rena walks towards it, the eagle watches as he approaches. It agrees to talk but is very wary. It says the wyverns have become more prevalent since the silver dragon died. Rena asks when that was and how it died. Silver dragon was called Amvarion, black dragon killed it many years ago and stole all her treasure (this was a couple of decades ago). The black dragon stayed around here but got bored and went away. Last seen about 6 years ago. Black dragon was called Ilthuliak. They say some of their kind in other areas have alliances with people like us. Rena introduces us all to the eagle (and mentions our gods where he thinks it will help). They will work for the best protection of the mountains, but they will need to be assured that we will respond if any of our people start to cause problems. Tehy say they don’t patrol the area near the Crooked River in the mountain, because it’s the territory of a mated pair of Roks. Near the human tower on the other side of the peaks to that, there is a set of vicious humanoid creatures near the Red Kiravoy river (he doesn’t mean the ettercaps), caves which go deep underground, group of monstrous creatures that prey on the ford there, they eagles can;t deal with them. They’re not allied with the Roks, but not a problem to them either. Rena asks if any creatures they are aware of that would be willing to help us. He will ask. He asks if we have a festival in deepest winter, does it fall upon a moon phase? Long Night is the first full moon in January, or they could come to the wedding at the ancient sycamore tree in December. They will come on the full Moon in December, 17th basically, so we’ll call that the date of the wedding. The Roks are not something we could make an alliance with, they’re just big birds. There are some owls in the Narlmarches, thinks their numbers would have been thinned out by the black dragon and probably the forest drake as well (which is no longer a problem, aha).

We take our leave and head for the silver dragon’s lair. Rena is considering buying a scroll of Resurrection to raise the silver dragon! It’s a big cave, with a 50ft wide tunnel that opens into a large vaulted chamber. Dried bones of a dragon in the centre of the cavern, not completely intact, bones along right arm and wing are melted, skull is missing. Under the dust and debris of several decades are a healthy scattering of black and silver dragon scales. Rena casts detect magic. Nothing.

We head back to Varnhold to sell some stuff. We go looking for a scroll. We need a gem to cast the spell. The gem merchant in Varnhold agrees to go to Restov to try and buy us the gem we need. Rena checks with the ancestors to see if : can the silver dragon be rezzed – yes, will she accept the resurrection if offered – yes, is the black dragon that killed her still in the region – kind of, if she returns to her lair will it attract the attention of the black dragon – eventually, is the black dragon in mivon – no, is it in the first world – yes, does the black dragon serve the fey queen as she is known, she is a nymph and her name is Nerissa – Ilith Nukook is an alley of Nerissa (ie yes), is the black dragon’s hoard still in this world – no. So that’s all organised, and the explorers go out to do some exploring for us.

We are going up the Varnhold ford (Blackstone) where the creatures are waylaying people. When we get there, there is evidence of more victims since we were last here. Head up into mountains to follow where they appear to be going back to. Up ahead of us, we can see creatures ahead. Some of them have bows. Amina and Cade can tell they’re Tengu, bird creatures, intelligent, insular, secretive, petty thieves, compulsive liars – not nice people. Dishonorable. Looks like an ambush. suddenly some others appear – they are aberrations called Chokers, natural sneak attack, can strangle with their tentacles and can see very well in the dark. One of them manages to hit and grab Rena. We kills them. Now where did those Tengu go? Ah, there they are. They appear and attack Amina. We kill them. These creatures do not fit the tracks we have been following.

We come across more things, some of us spot them, some don’t. One of them is a Cloaker, darkvision, shadow shift, can cause fear and nausea, it can fly, can engulf medium creatures or smaller, can disguise as cloak, sheet, manta ray. Kaladryn,, snake tail wielding 6 swords, longswords, Iluuth spell casting, Oront cyclops. They’d all been horribly experimented on bt some drow mage.

We win, and get da fat loots. Camp for the night, restful night. And then we go off to deal with the ettercaps. Lair is very close to river, little stream. Cave, no light source, so Rena casts daylight. We come across them fairly quickly. Place is heavily trapped but Aria is on the look out for them. Rena summons an earth elemental and sends it off to find and crush ettercaps. We wipe out the lot. Place looks like about 10 years ago it was probably a hideout for bandits, before we all came along and sorted out the bandits. Lots of rock fall,s probably caused by traps. Lots of traps of all kinds. It IS a good hideout despite the rock falls. They’ve been nicking food, about a month old, some of it is still edible. Signs of one victim of a trap. In the room with the fire, one of the boxes has a blue glow, there’s a dead dwarf in there, hand is clutching a glowing black metal war hammer. Adamantite with light spell on it. Also some coins.

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Find clues about the missing people
GM Log 13th Sarenith 4713

Having rest for two days with a feeling of being protected, the group are suddenly aware that they are being watched.

​This chamber’s walls are composed of burial alcoves. All are empty save for small stone shelf ledges holding assorted bits of pottery.​

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The walls of this chamber are covered in lime plaster and bear a series of frescoes whose colors are still vibrant. This artwork depicts one-eyed humanoids rendered in the same sway-backed style.​

​The frescoes are all in the ancient cyclops style and show scenes relevant to Vordakai’s life millennia ago. They provide glimpses into the ancient cyclops culture (ancient Iobaria’s culture).​

​Quest: Forgotten History – A description or copy of these frescos can serve to satisfy Tamerak Elenark’s request for information about ancient Iobaria’s culture.​

After Amina breaks down the secret door behind is a room:

​This chamber is empty. Its walls bear eye-shaped patterns and carvings, all of which seem to be looking at a point on the east wall where a single carving of a giant, stylized eye looms. The eye’s pupil is an intricately engraved relief roughly the size of the palm of a hand.​

​The eye carving to the east radiates strong conjuration and divination magic.​

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Cephal Lorentus – ​Varnhold’s wizard, birdkeeper, and master of dispatch. ​

After defeating Cephal using air elementals to help with noxious fumes, they travel to the “feasthall”

​*Feasthall*
This door opens onto a short dais looking out over a large chamber. Thick pillars ascend to a twenty-foot-high ceiling, while a wide stone staircase climbs to a darkened gallery above. The true purpose of the chamber is apparent from the great stone table running across its center. Dozens of seats have been set about this massive affair and propped upon them is a feast of horror. Each chair holds the corpse of a human locked in its death throes, its mouth agape in anguish, the top of its cranium brutally removed, and the brains within excised.​

The body seated at the head of the table is that of Maegar Varn himself.
Also present is a corpse wearing the trappings of a priest of the faith of Erastil — Maegar’s longtime companion, the cleric Caspar Morgarion.

​*Secondary Crypts*

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This crypt stretches into darkness. The floor of this crypt is strewn with rubble and the filth of opened graves. Sprawled on the floor is a fairly fresh corpse of a middle-aged Ulfen man, no more than a week or two old at the most.​

​Heading up the stairs in the Feasthall

This balcony has no rail — it overlooks the room below.

​Oculus Chamber
This octagonal chamber, which vaults to a twenty-foot-high ceiling, is composed of multiple slabs of opaque, white crystal fitted together to form a dome in the distinctive shape of an inverted eye, its gaze focused into the room below. This white crystal gleams with a subdued moonlike glow. The walls of the chamber are covered with arcane symbols, stylized line art, and images of cyclopes. A twenty-foot-diameter circle is incised into the stone of the floor directly beneath the great eye-shaped dome.​

​A burbling fountain and pool that stink of sulfur occupy the center of this chamber. A shallow channel cut into the stone of the floor passes beneath a pair of bronze double doors, funneling the foul-smelling water out of the pool to the east.​

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​This chamber stretches forward into darkness. A channel of sulfurous water runs down the center of the chamber into a placid pool tinged in red and surrounded by kneeling forms. Nearby sits a small stone shrine decorated with several freshly severed human heads. Just beyond this grisly altar, a hideous throne made of bones looms above the pool.​

This is Vordakai’s throne room—the chamber wherein he slept for countless ages and where he now toils on new plans of destruction at the behest of visions granted by the Four Horsemen. The stairwell once led to the top of the cairn but is now collapsed and useless.

Their bodies are the forms huddled around the central pool, eviscerated such that their entrails are laid out in intricate patterns sacred to Vordakai’s daemonic overlords.​

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2nd April session

Still in the temple. Hiding. We keep hearing “Vordecai”, an conversations in Cyclopian. We are being watched. We’re off to try and get out! In the temple, the lamps have been refilled and there is fresh blood in the chalice. We head for the doors we haven’t been through yet. We listen before we open them, but can’t hear anything. There’s a corridor ahead of us, we listen, and there’s a grim smell ahead. We reach a door. We open it. It’s a large chamber. There are 2 creatures in here, we think they are Soul Eaters. Worst of daemonic magic, can bind and devour souls. Serve daemonic lords, give up a portion of souls they consume to their master. Energy drains. Damage reduction but magic bypasses. We win. Move on to door in south. Into corridor with frescoes of cyclops. Lots of history, culture. Small room, more paintings. Big cyclops in next room. There’s a bench with vessels. There’s something behind the statue. There is a secret door. It’s locked. Amina breaks it down. In the next chamber there are eyes carved on the wall. There’s a big one on the east wall and all the others appear to be looking towards it. It’s got strong conjuration and divination magic on it. Cade tries to work out what it does. It’s not a magic item in itself, but it is linked to a magic item.

We try to work out how to activate it and what happens when we do. There are a list of questions we need to ask. Cade casts a spell to see if anyone has used it in the last 10 hours. Rena asks the ancestors. Not a portal to another plane. Focus that will allow something similar to teleportation circle. Is it activated by putting an item where the pupil is. Are we carrying the item? No. Have we seen the item? No, but we have seen a representation of it. Does it lead to where people of Varnhold are held? It’s one of the routes, yes. Does it lead to where Vordecai is? Yes. Is Vordecai person scrying on us. Yes. Is there another way to get there? Yes.

Amina goes down to the tar pit and looks across, she can see a door, and something vaguley familiar standing in front of it. It looks like a zombie, of Cephal Lorentus, the wizard/birdkeeper. We realise this probably means the Vrnhold folk are all zombies.

Rena summons 2 medium air elementals. Rena goes in with it to see if it will help him breath. Within 5 foot of it you can breathe ok. A combination of a telekinesis blanket, some levitates, and a fly, we attempt to cross the tar pit. We get over there. We start hitting the zombie. We kill him. We open the door. We drag his body with us. It’s still a bit smelly in here, but not too bad. Air elementals create a whirlwind to blow away the fumes. Cephal still recognisably him, with lots of bits including a masterworked dagger, spell component pouch, spellbook, magic bottle (Bilous Bottle). The air elementals go ahead and clear the air, don;t find anything ahead of us on the stairs which go upwards.

WE come to 2 doors. West is a corridor, east is a room with a dread zombie cyclops in. Guess which way we’re going? We open the door again and there are 4 of them. We fight mostly in the doorway, but kill them all. We move into the room. 20ft high ceiling, stone staircase to gallery above. Stone table in centre, dozens of seats, chairs each hold a human corpse (33), brains removed from top of head. Amina recognises some of the 33 people, including Maeghar Varn at the head of the table. Also Casper Morrigan the cleric, his travelling companion. Still 2 companions missing. People around table seem to be the more influential/knowledgeable people of Varnhold. Howitt Gurney & Willis Gunderson are not here. We go into the other room on the other side of the corridor while we still have Rena’s lion with us, there’s a corpse on the floor, middle aged man, this looks like Willis Gunderson. He’s probably been dead since just after they disappeared, the others were more recently dead. In each of the crypts, there are townsfolk. They’re cowering from the light. Floating above the corpse is a Troubled Soul. Looks like vaguely like WIllis Gunderson, its a Spectre, they generally have no memory of life, they hate the living, they form from emotions on death, will fight till they are destroyed, powerless in sunlight, they drain energy, they are incorporeal. We kill it, but not without damage. There are 42 people from Varnhold still alive, plus some more corpses. We have to leave them behind. Rena casts Resoration on Amina to repair some of the damage she’s taken. The balcony has no rail, we look straight down to the floor below. Nothing exciting in the upstairs room. Bronze door to the east. Octagonal chamber, 20 ft ceiling, inverted eye made of white crystal, moonlight glow, art on walls, 20ft dia circle in floor below eye dome. Detect magic reveals there is magic here. Conjuration and divination magic, overwhelming aura – this is the other end of the teleport circle! Steps going slightly downwards. There is a burbling fountain and pool stinking of sulphur, water channel goes under double doors to the east. The water isn’t moving properly. There’s something in there! It’s a Greater Water Elemental. When it soaks you, it gets rid of your magic, and it’s very hard to damage.

Into abnother chamber with a pool and a shrine with altar decorated with severed heads. There’s a familair looking raven. And Vordecai, a cyclops lich, but wasted a bit as if he’s lost power to what he was….

Wow, he was scary, but we beat him down. We find a round chamber, containing dozens of jars with a swirling light/smoke inside. They are ALL MAGICAL. There is also magical stuff on Vordecai. They are Soul Jars. Would be worth 5000gp each. We agree we should release the souls, after investigating whether we can use them to restore the people to life.

Vordecai’s eye was magical (its a minor artefact the Occulus of Abaddon, to destroy it – smashed by a bludgeoning holy weapon, wielded by permanently blinded humanoid or permanently blinded outsider), was carrying a soul jar (so that’s 43 total), lich phylactery which Amina punches into bits, there’s a treasure pile behind the throne, includes coins and stuff, a ring matching the Friend Shield one we already have, pouch holding 3 packets of dust of dryness, and a magical cold iron beastbane flail (belongs to centaurs). The occulus will fit in the slot to work the teleport. There’s also the bits of some spellbooks, which can be put together and sold.

wE DECIDE TO RELEASE THE SOULS ONE AT A TIME. None have gone mad, very confused, tell them one at a time what’s been happening. They’re very distraught. Looks as if only 87 people from the whole of Varnhold have survived. They’re all low level people. The soul jar that Vordecai had is Maestro Penrod, the scholar who they brought in to investigate the jade bracelet. We think it was Willis who caused all of this (the Spectre).

Quite a few of the Varnholders pledge loyalty to us. Rena replies that Maeghar Varn’s daughter is still alive, we need to get people out of here before we start worrying about this sort of thing. The people downstairs are terrified when we come down with the light. But they are reassured when the released souls arrive.

We get everyone across the tar pit, and then ask the blind person to destroy it with Rosa’s cane with Holy cast on it. We destroy it. Rena casts Purify Body on the blind guy. He’s no longer blind and his arthritis is fixed.

We get back to the centaurs, the horses are ok. We bring the bodies of the Varnholders back with us. We settle in the centaur graveyard. We send an animal messenger to centaurs saying Vordecai is dead, rescued a LOT of people from Varnhold including the person you were concerned about , would appreciate you coming to help transport them safely home. Message comes back that someone should be here within 2 days to escort us.

We stay overnight and then set off walking to meet them part way. And send a message back to Varnhold that we have killed the murderer of her father, retrieved bodies and returning with 84 of his people, and troops should make town ready for the return of its people.

Rena is doing blood spells to work out when people died to see who we might be able to bring back. They were all killed by a death effect and thus cannot be raised.

We get a message from Varnhold, lots of news, if you’re coming this way we will tell you, please get to Varnhold when you can. Group of centaurs come, they are uncomfortable around humans but understand that we have dealt with an ancient evil, and want to negotiate with us, they will come to the town with us. They go mammoth hunting near Linnom’s grave, Rena and Amina hunt with them, pick the weakest member of the herd. Lots of food!

We get back safely to Varnhold. Rena’s fiancee is waiting. The townsfolk go back to their homes, all their valuables have gone. Hogkeeper is missing. The Gnomish brewers survived, we give them their lockbox back. We return all the stuff that we found on the Spriggens. Fiancee offers to give up marriage but looks sad about it. Offers to be a vassal and run Varnhold. Rena says he would like to continue with the wedding and she bursts into tears of joy. We have no objections. Cade suggests it should be a large public wedding celebration.

Becomes a joint kingdom. In effect Haven gains 18 hexes.

Once the marriage issue is cleared up, the centaurs want to talk. They feel bad that they were supposed to set a guard over Vordecai, they have realised that now. We have done them a great service, and they wish to make a peace treaty with us. They would take it as a hostile act if anyone hunted, killed, skinned centaurs. Nomen Heights Varnhold had claimed, they want the Dunsward back for themselves. Rena suggests an alliance, not a peace treaty. All creatures within kingdom are subject to and protected by the law. Points out that if someone were to hunt a centaur, we would hunt and punish them as murderers, which covers every sentient living creature within our kingdom. Centaurs think the queen may be amenable to this. Rena says we will add shrines to Desna within Haven, we have work to do to undo the mistrust of millennia, but we have managed it with the fey, and we have taken action against any who have targetted the fey. We would be happy to see the centaurs roma haven freely. We find out a whole raft of issues from the Varnhold group that we left in charge.

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10th Sarenith 4713

Linnorm’s Grave

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The massive bones of a long-dead crag linnorm of incredible size lie upon a hilltop here; the bleached white ribs protrude up into the air like strange trees and the moss-draped skull provides nesting grounds for dozens of families of shrikes.

Isolated herds of mastodons graze in the hills and valleys of this area.

Valley of the Dead

​The entrance to this wide valley is marked by a series of posts decorated with bones and skulls every 50 to 60 feet—a wall of warnings erected by the Nomen that runs for the entire 6-mile opening to the valley. The Nomens call the lands beyond this valley “Olah-Kakanket” — the Valley of the Dead.

Beyond the warning wall of bone totems, the valley doesn’t seem much different than the surrounding foothills. Yet the further one travels toward the mountains, the more a strange feeling of oppression grows; the wind seems oddly muted as it f lows through the trees and grass, the birds and insects grow quiet

A mile past the bone totems, the first of the gravestones appears. These 6- to 10-foot-tall stone steles are badly weathered—many are partially or wholly collapsed, but each bears strange runes – these were identified by Cade as being written in Cyclops and listing ancient names.

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There are thousands of gravestones within the valley of the dead, but the cyclops bodies beneath them have long since decayed into soil—all that remains are fragments of bones.
At the farthest western point in the valley, where the ragged Tors of Levenies rise 300 feet above the surrounding foothills, a crack in the cliff wall allows a 15-foot-wide stone stairway to wind up into the mountains.

This area has two guardians – Dread Zombie Cyclops.
This path takes a circuitous route, winding back and forth over a length of 8 miles through the tors

Vordakai’s Island

At the end of the path they come to the Little Sellen River. There is a 100-foot-tall, naturally formed stack that rises from the center of a small lake.

The Little Sellen River’s average depth is 40 feet, but the black pool surrounding the island is much deeper. At its deepest point, the waters reach a depth of 120 feet.​ (​The Little Sellen River: The offshoot of the East Sellen river that branches further east at Mivon is known as the Little Sellen for its relatively narrow width; this river averages 90 feet across and 20 feet deep.​)

To the north, a jagged limestone cliff hems in the scene; a mighty waterfall rushes over the edge into a wide pool of black, frothing water. In the center of the black pool stands a massive, hundred-foot-tall limestone pillar of weathered stone—the last, lonely sentinel marking where the cliff’s edge once stood in an age long past. At various points on the island’s top, plumes of black smoke waft up into the sky.​

On the way to the shore there are a few signs of passage by at least three different creatures over the past several weeks. The oldest set appears to be a few human footprints. The next oldest appears to be a two larger set of humanoid footprints. The most recent, perhaps only a few days old, are of what appears to be an unshod horse.

The tracks are too old to establish where the creatures were going or to follow.​

As they approach the central island in the water approach the central island, the wyverns are swift to notice and swoop down to attack. The entire structure radiates faint transmutation magic.

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Having killed the wyverns that attacked ( one did try to fly off with Cade). Travelled across the river to the cliff, where they climb up to the cave. A naturally eroded declivity widens at the
bottom into a sheltered cave chamber here.

Collected within the hollow are the wyvern’s treasures. These include a tattered backpack holding a complete set of Ustalavic silverware worth 75 gp, a pouch holding 37 gp among other odds and ends, an old Frost resizing greatsword stamped with the Issian coat-of-arms, and a messenger’s parcel containing 5 green spinels worth 100 gp each.​

Heading back to the island in the centre,

​A natural cleft in the side of the tower of stone creates a sort of overlook here. The far wall contains a single stone door.​ It’s a 60-foot drop from here to the surface of the river, and the cleft in the rock itself is 10 feet high. The door in the back of the cleft is obscured by a curtain of vines.

​At the foot of the cliff, where the beach meets the limestone scarp, a dark opening in the stone beckons, partially obscured by creepers and dangling foliage.​

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Inhabiting this pool for many years, living off the abundantly available eels, is a fabulously rare species of river elasmosaurus—more (and larger) versions of these creatures dwell in the lakes of the Stolen Lands, and they are responsible for the rumors of sea monsters in areas like Lake Silverstep, the Tuskwater, and Lake Hooktongue. The dinosaur is ferociously territorial, immediately attacking anyone who enters the water and pursuing foes onto land for short distances if needed.

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​The construction of this chamber differs from those seen previously. The ceiling reaches to a height of twenty feet overhead and appears to bear many fractures in the rock. In the center of the chamber, two columns of mortared stone support a ceiling of strange, delicate arches of stone.​

As soon as any living creature enters this room, a dreadful summoned guardian appears in a burst of foul-smelling damp mist.

This monstrosity is a piscodaemon — a neutral evil fiend from the swamps of Abaddon. Appearing as a hideous cross between lobster, octopus, and man, the piscodaemon speaks telepathically to the intruders, demanding to know in whose name they dare intrude upon the inner sanctum of the Horseman of Death.

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26th March session

Setting off from outskirts of centaur village, to look into the mysterious Vordecai.

We’ve been told roughly where to head, we’ve requested an army to come down to Varnhold to keep it safe while it’s empty. Sorcerors coming from Firsthold (Oleg’s), and Rangers coming from Peacehold. Should take the Sorcerors 8-9 days to get down there, Rangers will take about 2 weeks.

We head off to the Valley of the Dead to look for the missing young centaur woman. We can see mountains ahead of us. Pass a notable landmark, Lenorm’s Grave, a cragmennon’s bones, huge, protruding bright white bones almost like trees, skull covered in moss, creatures living in and around it. Shrikes (birds of prey). Also see at a distance, we hear/see a herd of large creatures (mastodons). Go look at grave. There are made altars with gifts of meat and wine on them. Offerings in wine jugs are centaur origin, presented in a way that suggest propitiatory/appeasement. Hmmm, the centaurs think there is a powerful spirit here that they need to placate. Skeleton is of a type of evil and aggressive dragon type creature and an especially large one. Would have caused a lot of problems in the area when ti was alive. Nomen centaurs only came back here around the time of founding of Brevoy. There is nothing magical here, and no undead. Some of the food left looked like it was mastodon!

We avoid the herds for safety (for now) but Rena is keen to get them for the cavalry!

Day is otherwise uneventful.

No signs of civilisation, just the odd camp occasionally. It’s almost devoid of hostile creatures. Now into mountain territory. Heading into Valley of Dead, marked by posts decorated with skulls at regular intervals, 6 mile wide valley entrance so pretty obvious. We pass through that wall of totems. No magic on them. Strange feeling as if we’re being watched, oppression, even the wind seems oddly muted, very little sound from birds etc, and once we’re inside there’s virtually no sound at all. About a mile past the totems we start to see 6-10 foot tall gravestones, very badly weathered, some have collapsed, strange runes, some faded beyond recognition, some covered in lichen, no idea what language this is, very ancient. Looks like a language of the giants, possibly cyclops. Thousands of these things. In the far west of the valley, we see a sudden rise into foothills, and a path that leads there, to crack in cliff wall, stone stairway but very weathered. Where the gap into the cliff face, shadows at edge, 2 large creatures appear, Amina recognises them as cyclops. They can’t half hit!!!! We kill them but it was painful for Amina! Thank goodness for everyone else or she’d be toast.

Very long winding route, a mile along it already and no sign of it ending.

River cascading over side of mountain into tarn, island in middle, strange marker on it, tomb marker. Cade can only read the large writing on it, words corrupted, “something empire”….Detect magic from a distance, but we’re feeling magic radiating from the tomb. Is transformation magic. The river is the Little Sellen river, which would lead us back into our kingdom. Plumes of black smoke coming from top of island. Aware that guy who was interested in history was very keen on info on this period of time, Cyclops Empire was civilisation from Age of Legends, so prior to Thassalonian Empire (i.e. ancient history). It declined as humans came to exist in this area. Cassomaran continent (next door) has much more known/surviving from the Empire there , they were known as Coleran.

Have to leave horses here if we’re going onto the island. Walk down towards water, muddy waters edge, tracks here, no animal tracks, but 4 different creatures, oldest set are human from about a month ago, then 2 sets of larger humanoid footprints, then most recent maybe 4 or 5 days ago an unshod horse. Going to and from waters edge.

We unfold our folding boat. Water is very deep around island, looks black. Top of waterfall bluff looks like it’s same stone as top of island so they were probably joined by have crumbled. There is animal life on the waterfall side, but not on the island. Cade looks and thinks there may even be caves up there.

Wyverns as we try to cross. We go back to shore and fight them. Now we’re in the cave and find their stash.

Decide to go back to the island tonight, as the Ancestors don’t give any ideas that waiting will be helpful. Cade spots a hidden door 60 foot up, so he flies us up to that. 10 ft wide door leads to 10 ft wide corridor. Made for large people. Door not locked. Passage stinks of sulphur and tar. At the end of the passage there appears to be a blank wall, but the perceptive amongst us spot the secret door. Smell is getting worse. There’s a poison gas near that door. Rena tries to remove the poison from Cade, Aria and Rosa, but it only works on Rosa. They go back, Amina goes ahead, finds a bloody great tar pit. They turn back and go back to the beach. They go up the corridor (having found same footprints on beach) and find a broken amphora with runes on spilling contents on ground part way up. Symbols on archways are warding or alarm spell, but power has been expelled. Tracks of human go to amphora and retreat back to beach, the 2 large go outward only. Hoofprints only go inward. Rena’s theory – someone came here and stole a jade bracelet from the amphora, which then somehow ended up in the river and was found in Varnhold, and all the trouble started after that. We look at the rubble. We can see what’s happened – at top where rubble is there was space in the walls for 2 large creatures entombed, they broke out fairly recently (probably a month ago). Could easily have been those 2 cyclops. Chances it was Willis from Varnhold who came and broke the amphora and then lied about where he found the jade bracelet? We hoover up the loot from the amphora, Aria spots there is another jade bracelet – matches description of the item in Varnhold. Decorative engraving. It belongs on a finger, not a wrist! It is not magical. Some very ancient coins and stuff, about 200gp value. We move on. We get into a chamber, and oh heck, 2 more zombie cyclops. They’re motionless until we walk in, then they attack. We beat them. There is something ahead of us…a secret door. The alcoves are the same for the zombies this time. They were entombed alive, but didn’t struggle. There is the mark on the floor of where an unshod horse lay here and bled. So we try to open the secret door. We put the giant axes in The Bag. On the other side of door is big room, 30ft ceiling with stalactites, and a big pool with only a rocky ledge round the edges. There are stairs in the water to the north. Water looks pretty deep, movement in water but murky and dark so hard to see. Put some meat on the end of a rope and chuck it in the water. Brief tug, rope goes slack, meat has gone and a bit of rope. Rena uses mage hand to dangle another bit of meat on the surface. The beastie comes up, sees us and heads towards us. iTs a dinosaur-y thing with big teefs. Its an elasmosaurus. Stories about creatures in lakes (e.g. Tuskwater) bigger versions of this sort of thing there, mostly feed on eels etc, they’re very territorial. Its amphibious. We kill it. Amina investigates the stairs. Seems to lead north, goes about 140 foot, then it comes up. In a chamber, oddly shaped, steps down to bronzed double doors. Lots of pottery in the room stacked on shelves, all ancient designs. Go back and tell them what I’ve seen. The passageway on theother side fo the pond goes down to the river. So the underwater passe seems to be the way forward. Cade spots something shiny in the bottom of the pool. Its a tarnished belt pouch, silver raven figurine in it, and attached to the skeletal hand holding the belt pouch is a platinum and ruby ring (magical). Cade attempts to assess the ring. Ring means you are unimpeded by magic or movement restrictions. Amina takes it. We all swim along the passageway to the next chamber.

Pottery has lots of scenes of cyclops doing stuff, sometimes fighting with centaurs. We leave them for now and head for the double doors. They are stuck from the damp. However they’ve been moved in the not too distant doors. We push them open. A 10 ft high hallway ahead, 2 man sized statues depicting 1 eye humanoids in alcoves, and more of them in the room ahead. Signs of water damage in here, and like there’s a portcullis comes down. Aria can’t find a mechanism to set it off, but can see holes in ceiling where water comes in. We move up, Aria still can’t see anything, some of the statues have clearly been looted, armour or weapons missing. At the end of the room, there is a secret door that requires strength to push open, but that will trigger the trap. She thinks she might be able to disable it. Over 10k years ago this was the active empire. Aria disables the trap. We open the secret doors and the cyclops behind them start to move. we fight them.

We move up to the secret door at the end and push it carefully to open it. There are steps up. Double doors, north side of room, patterned tiles , pillars with leering fiends, painting of animals headed towards double shrines. All 3 altars have oil lamps on them, cup with dried blood less than a week, probably couple of days. Religion is to arch demon known as Charron one of horsemen of death, very obscure and ancient setup, magical keys to seal doorway. Aria stops us touching door. Searches around to find out how to disable trap on door. Aria thinks the 2 lamps and the cup with blood in it has something to do with the ritual to disarm the trap magically. She MIGHT be able to disable it manually. She does. Phew. Through the door we find an unfinished room, more bronze double doors and a passageway leading onwards. Stairs. Unfinished, they go nowhere. We check for secret doors. Nope. Next room along different, high ceilings, fractures in rock, ceiling is strange delicate arches, damp and foul smelling mist appears with something in it, lobster/octopus/man being, voice in our heads, “who dares disturb the inner sanctum of the horsemen of death”? Rena gives his name and says hes here to free the people of Varnhold.
Amina knows this is Piskodemon, evil being from swamps of Abaddon. It attacks. It is resistant to many types to energy damage. It has damage reduction 10/good. So good bypasses dr.

It casts a spell and raises a stinky cloud. Nauseates some of us. It beats the crap out of us and teleports Cade and Amina away. They turn up next to the centaur. Its a long and painful fight. Cade and Amina both reach point of death from poison, but stasis holds them at death’s door. Everyone holes up in the dead end room with the unfinished stairs for the night, Rena revives them with spells next day. They hear a cyclops go past and discover that the centaur has escpaed.

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Sarenith 4713 - to Varnhold

Varnhold: Each house was a similar scene: mundane activities abandoned, mid-chore, and livestock lay dead and rotting.  Some house bore signs of looting, while others did not.

Hogkeeper’s Farm

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This structure, though fairly new, is poorly built. The clapboard walls have large gaps and its roof sags alarmingly. Behind the cottage sprawl a mud-filled enclosure and a covered shed. The smell of decay and filth emanating from this dwelling is horrendous.​
​Around the muddy pigpen are scattered the rotten, half-eaten corpses of a number of feral hogs, now covered in clouds of fat black f lies. One wall of the pen has collapsed, allowing (in an ironic turn of events) a particularly massive feral hog (equal to a dire boar in size and ferocity) to enter and feed on the bodies of his starved kin. ​

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Attacked by crows in the barn, however there is also a Raven, and it following us…

The crows seem to have been in the hayloft and determined to peck at Amina.

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It seems that the place is crawling with Spriggans, prehaps they were what happened to all the people of Varnhold.

When the gnomes first traveled to the mortal realm from the distant land of the fey, some found the Material Plane so strange and terrifying that they lost their sense of joy. Seeing only the threats of the new world but none of its wonders, they grimly resolved to survive no matter the cost. Their innate magic responded to this twisted goal by reshaping them in mind and body over the course of many generations, transforming them into the creatures known as spriggans. Love, happiness, and beauty have no meaning for these poor souls, so they lead lives of violence and malice. The best they can manage in place of positive emotions is a muted satisfaction when they make another suffer.

Spriggans resemble ugly gnomes with an alien, feral appearance. Many are gaunt and haggard. When magically enlarged, they look the same except much more hale and muscular.

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Some tipsy ones drinking the supplies even decided that we their new more comfy home was being invaded.

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That raven is still watching us, always just a little to far away…

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In the rooms of the stockade, they find that the place has throughly searched and vandalised.

They do manage to recover a destroyed map, but are able to piece it togehter showing some of the local area and some of its known dangers.

The boss Spriggan, who had a bag, which when it was empied just kept pouring more and more stuff out of it.

They discovered the spoils of the spriggans’s looting; a sizable haul.  What they did not find was anymore clue as to the missing townsfolk. 

Amongst the items that came out of the bag of holiding was an ancient nomen centur relic – a bow called skybolt.

There was also Maegar Varns sword. With his family crest on the Pommel

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Crossing the river, a lobster/crab like thing attacked, when a little too close to the pool (or found by the squeaking petrified captive spriggan.

The pub: the waterhorse

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A two-story inn stands just off the village commons. A sign above the door depicts a rider clinging to the back of a madly galloping horse with a green mane and a fish’s tail extending
from its hindquarters. The inn’s walls are painted a cheerful shade of yellow to complement the red shutters.

Carved on the floor was the word “NOMEN,”

Within they found the research of Ervil Pendrod, a visiting professor who had been summoned by Maegar Varn to investigate a relic and recently been unearthed. 

No evidence of the heavy jade bracelet was discovered, but Pendrod’s notes indicated some connections to ancient Iobaria, supposing the recurring name “Vordekai” to be an ancient Nomen deity. 

“Vordakai—perhaps a Nomen centaur god?”

And so it was, high upon the Torres and well above the Vale’s Stairs, where rises
from the high water a stony isle of dire report. Known as Vordakai’s Island to those
that do live thereabout, some legend of its name doth come down through the locals.
For they speak of a guardian that doth destroy all who would set foot upon its
accursed shores. They did name no fewer than a twelvecount of their hero-knights
who had left their bones upon its rocky shores over the years after having tested their
mettle against its dread warden, ’til none would any longer go there for fear of its
hidden terrors. And the name of this terror was given unto this Island.

Church of Erastil

A small church stands here, its whitewashed walls and stainedglass windows gleaming in the sun. The bow symbol of Erastil shines like a beacon above the doors. Behind it on one side sits a neatly kept parsonage, and on the other a low hill holds the beginnings of a small cemetery.
While searching the church reveals a hidden drawer in the altar that contains several scrolls the priest had stashed in case of emergencies: three scrolls of cure serious
wounds, three scrolls of remove paralysis, a scroll of restoration, a scroll of break enchantment, a scroll of breath of life, and a scroll of raise dead.

To the Nomen Centaur lands

They claim an area called Dunsward.
​This easternmost frontier of the Stolen Lands borders the steppes of Casmaron and the ancient ruins of Iobaria. Tribes of barbariccentaurs regularly traverse these low, grassy plains seeing no distinction between this region and their pastoral homeland. Proud and suspicious of humanoids, these tribes avoid what they consider human lands, holding to an ages-old unspoken truce, and are both easily and violently provoked should their plains feel humanoid boots. Although the Brevic city of Restov lies nearby, the lands south of the river have traditionally been held as existing beyond Brevoy’s borders and are trod at great risk.​**

Kankerata

Linguistics check: The name means “World Chewer” or “Earth Eater” in the Iobarian dialect of Sylvan.​

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A number of strange furrows scar the grass in this area, disrupted here and there by sinkhole-like depressions and mounds of earth and soil. This region is the territory of a single, cantankerous bulette that the Nomen have named Kankerata (“world chewer” or “earth eater”). Kankerata has dominated this region for decades, contrary to the typical behavior pattern of bulettes (normally, these beasts move on to find new territories once they’ve hunted their current one out). By now, it has almost become a part of the Dunsward’s landscape. The centaurs are fond of daring each other to race through Kankerata’s network of drifts and nests—they view this feat as a test of bravery and often use it to settle disputes.

The Nomen Centaurs

The Nomens’ campsite is currently located in the southwestern Dunsward. The camp itself sits in a low hillock surrounded by a sea of grass. A large bonfire dominates the center of the camp, around which more of the horsewomen dance in a primal rhythm long lost to the civilized soul. A scattering of opensided hide huts numbering no more than five score are ranged around the hollow, inside which other members of this tribe congregate, eat, or sleep. Everywhere, the heavily armed and armored centaurs sharpen weapons, tend to gear, or walk patrols, all with a feral economy of movement and sound. These are the true inheritors of an age long gone when the steppes rang to the thunder of their herds and the fury of their war cries, while the first inklings of civilization clung to shorelines and riverbanks like children to their mothers’ skirts—afraid of the dark wilderness and its wild masters. The encampment is home to the majority of the Nomen centaur tribe, a matriarchal culture dominated by its warrior-women and led by a war-priestess dedicated to their Mother Moon. In all, there are 200 centaurs in the tribe.

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Aecora Silverfire -

Asking about Vordakai

After a moment, she admits that the name is not unknown to her. According to their traditions, “Vordakai” is a “slumbering warlord from the time of the mother tribes.”
In other words, this Vordakai is an ancient, powerful figure from a point in the distant past. Aecora apologizes for being unable to give the PCs more information, as her tribe has
lost much of its history in the years since they were dispersed by Taldor’s army.

A place to the west called Olah-Kakanket—the “Valley of the Dead.” This place is taboo to the Nomens, but their traditions also dictate that they must watch the valley for signs of disturbance or strange awakenings. Recently, a Nomen huntress claimed to have seen a strange and frightful shape lumbering amid the stones of Olah-Kakanket. Aecora ominously
wonders if, perhaps, the humans of Varnhold with their insatiable curiosity and drive to expand and conquer might have entered Olah-Kakanket, and if this, perhaps, might be tied to the vanishing.

Quest: Rescuing Xamanthe

The Nomen who claimed to see a strange shape lumbering deep in Olah-Kakanket was her headstrong daughter Xamanthe. When Xamanthe confronted Aecora, demanding to learn more about the site, Aecora was unable to satisfy her curiosity. Xamanthe has been missing for several days now, and Aecora fears the worst—that her daughter has broken tradition and entered Olah-Kakanket to investigate it on her own. The possibility that her daughter broke this taboo is painful for Aecora to contemplate, but the possibility of the loss of her daughter is yet more painful.

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12 th March session

We find out that the fish (silver eels) from the special lake are the fishy equivalent of goodberries.

Cleansing of Candlemere – consecration done, Will-o-the-wisps have buggered off.

Going along road through pass through mountains, towards fort for Varnhold. Near river, we find ford across river, as we approach there are signs from a distance of carrion birds circling.
We stop the wagon a way away and approach on foot.
Stones and boulders are very black, almost hexagonal. Not flat but easy enough to get a wagon over it. Rope guidelines across river have been downed, there’s a wagon with 2 corpses in. Look to have probably been attacked with bladed weapons, they look like traders. Wagon looks to have been torn apart and scattered. We go to investigate. We get closer, looks like they were attacked when they were making camp. Bodies show sign of constriction and blunt damage as well as slashing damage, also poison and possibly magic missile damage! Wow, someone really went to town on these guys, and horse had totally panicked. Numerous tracks away from this, up towards mountains, 6 distinct different types – large as a person but leaving almost snakelike track, human sized track, large humanoid tracks in boots. Wagon has not been completely stripped of its contents. We bury the bodies and note the merchant’s mark, also pick up what’s left of the valuables and mend the wagon and take it with us. Probably all happened about 4 days ago. We move on, but will bear this in mind for the way back.

We head up into the pass, which is only way through, single watchtower on top of pass at its highest point. No sound from the watchtower. Tower has an entry door that we can see to access. Door still intact. Aria takes a while but picks the lock and opens the door. Entrance is a double door. Cade and Amina advance in. Nobody home. Things left in working order, rotting food on a plate near an outlook slit, spear leaning against wall. Space for 6 people here. 4 rumpled beds, boots at feet of beds, as if people went to bed, cold remains of a brazier on top floor lookout point. No orderly abandonment, disappeared/left mid watch. Nothing to indicate what happened. From top of watchtower we can look down to Varnhold, across the farms to the town of Varnhold itself. Place looks as if nothing has been tended for a couple of weeks, there seems to be movement in Varnhold, but no people, can’t see pigs moving at Tannery pig pens.

We “look for clues” in tower. We find the log of the sergeant in charge of the tower. 3 weeks ago, this group arrived here, week after they arrived they stopped seeing normal activity in Varnhold, sent 2 men down to the town, they didn’t return, and after that there is no entry in the log. This does not make sense.

Heard in past of one or two people going missing like this, but never heard of a whole community going missing. Previous examples have been teleported to other planes. Normally combat involved but there are magics to make people disappear. All buildings and other creatures are still here, it’s just the ‘people’ who seem to have vanished, but no sign of violence. Magic = targeted disintegrate, but might leave dust; teleport; disappearing into ground. Not enough evidence to narrow it down, but all possibilities are high level magic and individually targeted. Or you kill everyone and disappear the bodies. Could this be the work of the centaurs magic users?

We run through possibilities of how to avoid being caught out by this if there is some sort of area effect in place still active that targets creatures over a certain size (since birds are still here but we can’t see the pigs). Cade calls his contact to try and find out if that is the case. The answer comes back that we will NOT automatically disappear if we go down there.

We will have to take the horses as no-one with us to tend them. Come in to North of town, first building we come to is a fairly new building, it’s the pigs pen, not very well constructed, emanating smell of decay and filth from it and behind it. We tether horses and go take a look. Head for the sty, it smells terrible, fighting bouts of nausea. A feral hog charges us and breaks through the poorly made fence. We kill it. It had escaped its own pen and got in and eaten the other pigs, which are now rotted and covered in flies. Rena casts purify food and drink so they are now edible and less stinky.

Then we go look in the house. There’s a lot of half eaten food on plates, more than a day’s worth of food lying around, sink is full of dirty dishes, clothing lying around – whoever lived here was a slob. Book on taming wild animals, very battered and scribbled in.

House opposite is a farm house, much tidier. Chicken coops but no birds in them, just feathers. No eggs. Abandoned in middle of early morning activities, small family probably. Rena casts spell – Discovery torch. Other building next to it is the tannery. The tanner was Tristan Beservar, journeyman, here to help Maegar Varn, wanted to experiment with tanning process so moved on to his own business to improve his craft rather than following traditional methods. Something not quite right about shape of hide here – oh ffs these are centaur hides!

We move on. 2 houses across the way are farm houses again. 1st one normal activities interrupted, 4 adults probably, all male, 2nd house 1 woman and 3 men in this one.

Big house on waterfront is the Brewery. Wagons here near loading bays. Brewery has been doing well, make a dark stout that is popular with folk in Haven too. Barrels ready to be shipped, interrupted mid loading. Run by a gnome with a couple of dwarves working for him. Notes on wall suggest there was a shipment going to Restov and one to us. There’s a loose floorboard under one of the brewing vats. Cade and Aria check for traps. Don;t find any. Pull floorboard up, and find a lockbox. Aria opens it, money and a unique recipe for their stout. Replace it as we found it. We stable the horses and the cart. We move down to the ford and try to cross, we notice in water in deep pool to side of ford, there is a tunnel of some sort heading down towards main town itself. Aria suddenly makes us stop moving. She feels there is danger in the road. Rena pokes with his spear where she points. There is a camouflaged spiked pit trap. Which suggests whatever made everyone disappear, stayed behind and made a trap. Aria says its well made. We go round. We head for the big house to the south west of the ford. Blacksmith’s. Livestock here had been left behind. All dead, being feasted on by crows. Attacked by a murder of crows (swarm). We acid and fireball them into oblivion. Troughs are empty, so they died of thirst not hunger as there is grass here.

Now head up the hill to the fort where Maegar Varn and co live. There is a fire smoking in the stockade’s compound. We walk round to the gate. Helmets visible over wall. The sharp eyed in the party notice that the ‘people on watch’ haven’t moved, so they are probably just helmets. Rena asks them to open the gate (which is partially) , a creature (see picture) throws a dagger out at us, then runs away into one of the buildings. Amina runs after it. We fey type humanoid called a Spriggen, chaotic evil, live in tribes. Can change size, can be small or large, this one is large. We beat him and manage not to kill him, just, and tie him up against a post, unconscious and badly hurt but not bleeding out. We move on to Hallit Gurney’s place. Cold and abandoned. We stop and listen to see if there is anyone else in here with us. We hear something from the corral shed building to the south. 2 more spriggens appear from being invisible. We fight. We hear a wolf howl. A bunch of wolves join the fight after we kills spriggens. Everybody’s dead, Dave.

There are sounds from inside the main block house, as if someone is locking and barring doors. We avoid the pit trap outside and break the door down. Inside is a murder alley with arrow slits. They shoot at Aria and miss. Then they target Tallis’s shield which takes damage. Rena mends it. We break down the next big tough door. We check in the well room before we move on. Aria searches the room, notices a concealed hidey hole at the top of the well which contains 6 potions. Well is deep and dark, but dont think theres anyone hiding down there.

We go through the next door, 3 rooms plus staircase: armoury, lots of weapons and armour, they’ve been rifled through. No magic in here. Next room is Hallit Gurney’s room. Has been thoroughly searched and trashed. Final room (bottom of stairs) is the bunkhouse for 6 guards. Aria checks for traps on door, let’s us know there are people inside. There’s snoring. 2 spriggens pretending to snore. 2 crossbow bolts. Oops, they’re dead.

We go upstairs. Stephan Lorentis’s dovecote. Cages have been opened, feathers everywhere, no birds left alive. Next room is guardroom. Ambush! Trapdoor in ceiling, well used ladder. Governor’s quarters empty. There is a partially destroyed map which we take. Master of despatches quarters, nothing of note. general destruction. Kitchen and stores final room this floor. Much bigger and meaner looking spriggen in here. Club and crossbow. Looks lean and trained. Tougher fight than the rest, but got him. This has been ruined as well.

So we head upstairs. On top of watchtower, watch post, view of whole town and surrounding area. The spriggens have not been up here. We can’t see anything moving, apart from that pesky raven watching us again. We go back downstairs all the way and go to question the surviving spriggen. Cade casts a spell so Rena can question the spriggen. It says they found out they could get into empty human place, better than cave. Sense motive says he genuinely has no idea what happened to humans. All gone when they came here. They’ve not been in the tunnel that comes in from the river, doesn’t know about it. Doesn’t know anything about the raven either. Fire on tower not lit, so they came to investigate, and claimed it for themselves. So we put him at the front and go back to explore the town.

Notable buildings/contents: Common where there is a well, decaying spriggen body is bottom. Our spriggen tries not to let us see it. We don;t want to drink from that. Cade fetches it out. Near river on way to get cart, spriggen gets really nervous. Pool water has big monster in, will eat you! We decide to pick a fight with river monster. Amina bathes in the river to get spriggen blood off and tempt the monster.

It’s a chuulk! Big crabby arms. Aquatic aberration. 8 feet tall, weight 650 lbs, armoured crustaceans, pincers, can paralyse victims. It attacks Amina and grapples her. It gets thumped.

It’s an escape tunnel from the well inside the stockade, and the potions are waterbreathing potions. The monster must have moved in quite recently. There are spriggen corpses in the tunnel.

Cottage neat and pretty curtains. Been thoroughly looted by the spriggens.

Potter’s house has had its magic front door kicked in, remains in garden of several clay vessels and statues. As we search house, we notice there is a chest behind a hidden door, inside it is set of flagons and platters hand detailed in platinum. Has symbols of House Surtova in design. Is very valuable and has been a commissioned job. Small placard saying its been commissioned for Eldest daughter’s wedding. we’ve not been invited sulk.

House built into hill – open door hangs askew. Old man part of original group. Been looted. There is a handaxe on table as if someone was mending it when they left. There’s a journal hidden here. It’s written in Skald, Aria casts spell to read it. Badly damaged, records descriptions of skirmishes they’ve had here with centaurs, against idea of an alliance with them, last entry about 2 weeks ago, and page torn out, 2 months ago there’s an entry that says found bracelet by river, pages torn out, there’s a symbol that Cade thinks is a warding off bad luck. we also find a folding boat.

Next place is the Waterhorse pub where we stayed. Scratched into inn door is the word Nomen in common. In the main common room, there is a giant sized spriggen standing perfectly still, holding a book. Back of his head is totally stoved in, but his face betrays no sign of his dreadful wound. Basically frozen in time, no blood etc from wound. It’s under a magical effect (detect magic). Likely to be released from stasis in near future, he was frozen, then someone stoved his head in. Looks like the book was read and was magically trapped. Was a one shot spell. Rena takes the book. Find some research materials, some downstairs and some in the occupied guest room. Lots of history books. Magic type books. So there was a research mage here.

Looks like there is a room that was recently occupied (as in up to 2 weeks ago). Belongings seem strangely familiar. We think it might be the historian type Restov we met. Letter from Maeghar Varn describing a jade bracelet he wanted him to come and study. The bracelet isn;t here though. Notes in his handwriting ’Vordecai, perhaps a notification sent to your god" next to passage in book about the Isle of Vordecai.

One of guest rooms has a very expensive viola in it, we take it for safekeeping.

Then church of Erastil. There’s also a parsonage and a cemetery with 14 wooden grave markers. Hasn’t been desecrated. Wooden box on altar with scrolls. Magic scrolls. 3 cure serious, 3 remove paralysis, 1 restoration, 1 break enchantment, 1 breath of life, 1 raise dead. We take them too.

Weavers cottage. Abandoned toys in front garden. Family with 4 kids. We spot a very starved looking calico cat. Collar with name on it. Bloody raven is still watching too. Rena charms and feeds it. It’s called Dragon. Bet the kids named it. We take it with us.

The Grange. Cargo place. Barley and grain. Overrun with rats.

Gem cutter’s house. Demolished the house, walls have been torn apart.

We’re back at the stock house. Lots of BP worth of stores here. Best gear is with the guy in the kitchen. And the map. Magical bag of holding. Pour out lots of coins and gems and jewellery. No jade bracelet. There’s a magical longsword with symbol of House Varn on it. It’s a Defending Longsword. There’s also a Centaur ancestral longbow.

Rena has some suggested questions for the ancestors:
Is Maeghar Varn still alive? No.
Is Maeghar Varn’s son still alive? Yes.
Are the majority of the people of Varnhold still alive? Yes, in a way.
Are they captured in stasis? An equivalent of.
Will investigating the Isle of Vordecai help us locate and free the missing people? Yes
Is the Isle of Vordecai in the middle of lake Silverstep? No
Is the Isle in the Nomen Heights? Yes.
Is it North of current location? No. Ask the centaurs, it’s their knowledge you need.
Was Skybolt given willingly? No.

We deal with the swarms of rats in the grain store. Purify the befouled well water as well.

We send an animal messenger to Jayana Varn at the castle, to tell her of her father’s demise and to get her to marshall 2 small armies to take over the watchtower at the pass and the fort in Varnhold itself. So leave Paladins to defend the west, Stags in Peacehold, use fey sorcerors in watchtower and rangers in the fort.

So now we’re off east to see the centaurs. Gulp! They’re nomads, we’re heading to what the map thinks is a camp. We’re not exploring we’re just travelling straight through. Next hex along, in afternoon, we find old campsites, not recently used. We keep looking, towards time we think we should pitch camp, area of grassland we are about to enter, we find strange furrows in ground, sinkholes. Camps we saw were all in rocky areas. Amina thinks its a Bulette. They are sense movement above ground. Not friendly. Rena knows about underground creatures that can burrow, see in dark, can jump out of ground to attack. Tend to be solitary and consider large swathes of territory they consider theirs.

We set up a thumper to draw it out. It comes out. We fight. We knock it down, and then we coup de gras it. Rena wants it as a trophy.

We need to pitch camp here. Rena sets up his oasis. Not many animals around, oddly enough.

Moving on looking for signs of centaurs. Well on through day, a bunch of centaurs come riding towards us in a thunderous manner. Shrill howls, aggressive, waving weapons at us, ride round our group, trying to intimidate us. Rena uses his megaphone voice to say “take us to your leader”! They’re not keen on us, but after we show them Skybolt, they agree to take us to the leader (and the rest of the tribe). Take us to a camp, what we know about them – Nomen tribe is offshoot of mighty Valshalkis, translates into Thundering Hooves. Once roamed Northern Kasamar, but migrated. Tribal tradition, guardians. Matriarchal society led by war priestess worship Desna, tribe has been in conflict with humans since Taldan explorations, to current day. Females are warrior class, males are hunters. Hide huts and tents. Heavily armed and armoured centaurs everywhere. Many start war cry when they see us, children hide when they see us. Taken to one of biggest hide huts. Not a small tribe. Tent is near fire. She tells her warriors to shut up, doesn’t want to hear why they’ve brought humans. Rena tells her what’s going on. They are the guardians who protect against Vordecai. He is a slumbering warlord of old, from very distant past. The place they may not go, the Valley of the Dead, the humans of Varnhold may have gone there and awoken something. She suggests we start there. She will give us directions. Rena asks her if we can start peace talks, begin a peaceful existence, we follow good gods as they do, no reason for us to fight, in fact it would be utterly wrong. She shows us on map where Valley of Dead is, and warns us about – on F9 on Nomen heights map that is the Valley: points out that F7 there is a landmark Linorans Grave – bones of a long a dead something on the hillside, its holy to them so must be respected. Can hunt mastodons there for food. We stay the night, will set off next morning. As we set off next morning, she takes us to one side, asks us quietly (almost embarrassed) could we look out for her daughter, strange shape lumbering in that area, and daughter went to look and has been missing several days now, hopes she has not broken the taboo, but wants her found and brought back, basically.

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Sarenith 4713
GM Log

Kingmaker__3_Varnhold_Vanishing.jpg

On Starday, the 1st of Sarenith a messenger arrives with a formal note from Restov.

Greetings from Restov and congratulations on your triumphs. I hope that we are entering a time in which these lands will be called stolen only in history texts!

Yet it would seem that for all your victories, your fellow colonists to the east have met with trouble. The settlers of Varnhold are not responding to messengers — and indeed, some envoys have gone missing as well. You may have noticed this on your own, (given your alliances with them), but as the political climate here in Restov grows more turbulent, we find ourselves increasingly limited in the amount of aid we can send. Certainly, we cannot send troops south to Varnhold to investigate without our overly watchful lords to the north misinterpreting the act. And so it falls to you, I fear, to investigate the Varnhold mystery. For if something dire has befallen the colony, you must realize that your own could be next!

Trusting in your discretion and expedience,
Jamandi Aldori — Swordlord of Restov

SPY REPORT:

Jamandi Aldori and Varnhold were in negations to find a good site to build a new dueling school.)

SPY REPORT:

Northern Brevoy has become quite concerned with
Rostland’s interests in the Stolen Lands, and the political
climate in Restov has become dangerously tense—at this
point, any perceived interest in the Stolen Lands could
well be interpreted by Issia as proof that Rostland is
attempting to increase its holdings in preparation for
civil war.

RUMOURS & GOSSIP
This is also supported by rumours in your own town of a couple of people who have not made it back who were expected. Also no birds have been recieved by Jayana Varn (daugher of Maegar Varn, looking to marry King Rena) who is currently in Peacehold as part of the diplomatic envoy arranging her marriage to King Rena.

Edrist Hanvaki also has approached the kingdoms patrols, and is worried about his brother Tomin, who was recently visiting friends in Varnhold, is several days overdue from returning.

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