Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand I’m back!
It’s been a good long absence guys, and pretty hectic for me with a changing work schedule with new and weird hours. On average, I’ve got time to run our Kingmaker game twice a month (two weeks running, two weeks not), but in putting in the time to do this, I have allowed my writing to fall behind. Which is why this latest update will give you content from our last…eight sessions!
When last we left our intrepid adventurers, they’d been tasked by the mayor of Restov to investigate what was going on with the neighboring kingdom of Varnhold, who had recently gone incommunicado. Additionally they were to discover what had happened to Restov’s trading caravans, which had not returned for the last few weeks. With that in mind, the group made their way east towards the Tors of Leviennes, passing through the Varnhold Pass and taking a look at the gently rolling hills surrounding the city. Noting the possible signs of abandonment and/or death near the city, the party angled towards Varnhold, eager to find out what was going on!
Their entrance into the city was met with no fanfare or even signs of intelligent life. Silence lay heavy on the streets, and the PC’s quickly surmised that there was little left here of interest. Still, they dedicated themselves to searching through the houses and shops for any clues of what had happened. Some disturbing wildlife and a couple of odds-and-ends equipment later, they hadn’t come up with much. Inside what appeared to be the town’s main tavern, they struck proverbial gold– a tall creature, identified as being a Spriggan, appeared paralyzed in a corner of a room, clutching a book. Taking a look at both this Spriggan and the tavern as a whole, the party started to piece a few clues together. The Spriggan was under some kind of enchantment freezing him in stasis, triggered when he attempted to read the book in his hand. Papers found upstairs, plus this book, told the PC’s that an explorer had found a bracelet on an island in the middle of a lake, and revealed an obscure bit of text mentioning the name ‘Vordekai.’
Continuing forward, more homes were checked upon, more shops investigated, but nothing of import was showing up. Noruas the Gunslinger and Gavriil the Arcanist would on occasion collect childrens toys and books, preparing themselves for an eventual life of parenthood in the future. In one of the last houses that the party entered, along the southern edge of the town, the group found a large four-poster bed of quite a bit of elegance! Having judged by now that the townsfolk were all dead or missing, Noruas and Gavriil decided to take the time to carefully disassemble the bed for travel in their wagon, while Eneko the Bard/Cavalier and Elysia the Ranger continued forwards.
After clearing the last few houses, the Ranger and Bard made their way up a path towards a stockade upon a hill overlooking the town proper, wishing to find if that was still inhabited or, barring this, if it had any good loot. Opening the thick wooden doors got them inside, where they found the courtyard abandoned of colonists. However, they did spy a few Spriggans– these very much alive and well! A battle began, with Elysia firing arrows at the Spriggans while the duo began to retreat back to the stockade doors. As they reached their exit, the duo sensed that the tide of battle had turned in their favor…and decided to press the attack instead of retreating, with Elysia’s wolf Tyr and Eneko’s horse Taz both moving forward to help in the fight.
Unfortunately, reinforcements arrived in the form of arrows and bolts from the windows of the blockhouse, and diplomacy failed when the Spriggan leader inside refused to negotiate. Noruas and Gavriil were alerted of the battle soon after, with the Arcanist making the journey up the road to the stockade to assist. His Webs filling the upper floor of the blockhouse, plus some well targeted Sleep spells, put a quick end to the fighting as Elysia burst through the door and dispatched some of the defenders inside.
Our intrepid Ranger was able to search the rooms for loot while the rest of the party secured prisoners– three Spriggans remained; Sagai, Buckeye, and their leader, Agai. Agai explained that their tribe, the Culchek Spriggans, had moved into Varnhold when the humans disappeared one day. Finding it empty, they decided to move in and claim the town as their own. Eneko sat the trio down and convinced them that the best course of action would be for them to join the PC’s for now, traveling with them for some redemption. Gavriil spoke with Agai a bit, and convinced him that with enough dedication to a deity, he would be able to raise from the dead his clan, of which only he and his two companions were left alive!
While the Spriggans were busy getting a dressing-down for their crimes, Elysia finished her looting of the stockade. She found a bag of holding which contained much of Agai’s treasure, including a magnificent bow and much gold! She also stuck a few barrels of alcohol found in the courtyard into her bag, just in case she got thirsty later.
From here the group made the decision to travel the northern road to Brevoy, in an attempt to find what happened to the caravans that Restov had been sending. It wasn’t long after they left Varnhold that they were beset in the night by a shadowy horror– a Soul Eater! The creature was taken down rather quickly, but even the short amount of time it had to attack was dangerous, as it brought Gavriil dangerously close to losing his soul, his wisdom score ending at an impressive one! A good bit of rest brought him back into the fold, and the party continued their travels, keeping Gavriil in the wagon for more rest. Soon they came across the site of what was clearly a scuffle, many horse tracks and a few wagon tracks spread all over. Engaging in proper tracking, the party made their way through the wilderness eastwards.
It was then that disaster struck! The tracks led the group into mounds and furrows of land which marked the territory of a Bullette, a creature better known as the Landshark! The party split, the majority of them moving around this disturbed earth, while Elysia continued gingerly through the Bullette’s hunting grounds, trying her best to remain undetected. This worked for awhile…before she was unfortunately detected by the beast. Though her companions could faintly see her in the distance, they were unable to offer much help until it was much too late. Elysia dealt some damage, but got ravaged as the landshark pounced upon her! As a last ditch effort, she thrown down one of her Tree feather tokens, sprouting a tree underneath of her which she was able to grab and ride to a height of about forty feet. This kept her safe for a time, but the Bullette dove back under the ground out of sight of Elysia’s arrows.
Taking this to mean that she had scared the beast away, Elysia scaled down the tree…only to be surprised by the beast leaping forth from the earth, to pounce down upon the Ranger and take her into the great beyond.
The rest of the party, having seen the tree sprout spontaneously in the middle of this field, had changed heading to rush straight towards their friend, yet they were too late to help. Gavriil took revenge by tossing fireballs at great range into the beast, and eventually felled the creature before it was able to do much more damage. Saddened, the group recovered Elysia’s body, and moved to continue following the tracks of the wagons, planning to return to Restov soon to resurrect their fallen friend.
The wagon trail continued south from there, leading the party to the open plains of the Nomen Heights, where they were met by none other than a group of centaurs! The centaur war party of about a dozen rode up to them quickly, circling and surrounding them (Riders of Rohan style) and leveling spears at them, before one female stepped forward to speak. Negotiations ensued as the centaurs attempted to convince the party to leave or else, and the party attempted to convince the centaurs to talk to them and help them figure out what was going on. Fortunately, the party gained diplomatic ground when they mentioned a possible ancient evil having done something with the people of Varnhold, which seemed to strike a nerve among the horsefolk. The war party’s leader agreed to take them to see their tribe’s War Priestest, Aecora Silverfire, for more talk!
Though the Nomen centaur tribe were quite wary of the ‘two-legs,’ the uneasy truce that the two groups had was respected as the PC’s were escorted into the Nomen camp, a large collection of hide tents and campfires. They were brought to a large central tent which served as a meeting center, and allowed inside to meet Aecora, a noble looking female centaur with many tribal decorations upon her body. Aecora, Gavriil, and Eneko exchanged information, with Aecora leaving no doubts that her tribe did not mourn the loss of those who had lived in Varnhold and intruded upon their lands. She openly admitted to their raiding parties stealing the supplies sent from Restov, most of which had been dumped in the wilderness!
The party gained much trust with Aecora when they were able to produce for her Skybolt, an ancestral weapon of her tribe which happened to be the fancy bow which Elysia had looted from the Spriggans in Varnhold. Aecora was delighted at receiving the item, so much so that the party immediately became the first non-centaurs adopted into the tribe! She became gravely serious however at the mention of the possibility of the influence of an ancient evil, telling the party of her tribe’s ancient purpose; for in the dark days of yesteryear the Nomen centaurs declared themselves to be guardians of a place known as Olah Kakanket, or the Valley of the Dead, a burial ground in the mountains to the south of them. Much of their purpose was lost to time, but one name remained through the years, one which they associated with great evil and destruction: Vordekai.
Beyond this, she informed the party that one of her tribe, a young warrior, had recently reported spotting movement near the Valley of the Dead, which she found to be troubling news, even though the area was forbidden for the centaurs to enter. She cautioned the party against entering, yet at the same time gave off a sense of hoping that they did investigate carefully– if something happened in the valley, the centaurs would be in great danger, and they were already spread thin. Finally, before the party left, Aecora offered the group a parting gift– they were part of the tribe now, and as such she felt honorbound to offer them just as much as she would a centaur under her care. She invoked her deity Mother Moon, and was able to cast Reincarnation, bringing Elysia back to life…as a Lizardfolk!
As an aside, I made the percentile roll to see what race she came back as. I rolled it where all of the players could see, then checked the table…one result lower, and she’d have come back as a Kobold! Everyone laughed over that possibility for a time, because of Chief Sootscale and his tribe’s infatuation with the Ranger already!
For her part, Elysia spent much of her time dead floating in a formless void of lightly shifting colors, where time felt almost meaningless. Just before she was pulled back into her new body however, she was visited by an apparition of a glowing green lady, matching the description of the woman from Gavriil and Noruas’s dreams. She told the Ranger that her time was not yet finished, and that she had much work for Elysia to do yet– she needed her to find her green and red blade in the west and bring it to her. Though Elysia protested that she wanted nothing to do with this, she figure insisted even as she faded away into nothingness as the newly minted Lizardfolk awoke in the Nomen tribal hut, new life entering her lungs!
After a period of new body adjustment, the group made their way north to Restov, bringing word to Ioseph Sellemius that they had determined what had happened to their trade caravans, and had negotiated with the centaurs a peace– as long as humans did not intrude into their lands on the plains, the centaurs would leave the humans alone. Receiving payment for their troubles, they sought out the services of a Cleric of Erastil who was able to restore one of Elysia’s two negative levels; as she could not benefit from this more than once in a week (yay for fully reading the rules!), the party purchased a scroll to accomplish the same task, for one of the clerics back in the capital to cast upon the Ranger when they eventually returned.
This business taken care of, and their three Spriggan companions left in Restov to start their new lives, the party decided to go down south to the Tors of Leviennes to find Olah Kakanket, where trouble was surely brewing. On the way they passed through a few minor setbacks of encounters, but nothing that they weren’t able to handle adequately. After several days travel they found themselves at the entrance to the valley, marked by posts with skulls stuck atop them as fence posts, crossing the entirety of the entrance. After pausing, the party continued forward into the valley, unafraid of what was to come!
It didn’t take long for them to come across massive stone pillars, grave markers they came to know, marked with ancient cyclopean runes and names. The cyclops empire, they had learned from Aecora, had at one time ruled over much of the land nearby in ancient times before the great battles between the cyclopes and centaurs had finally stopped the giant creatures. Olah Kakanket appeared to be a large graveyard dedicated to those fallen warriors of the past.
When the group came to the end of the valley where the mountain descends to the ground in a steep cliff, they found a stone staircase etched into the rock and leading upwards towards the peaks. This was interesting, but not as interesting as the large, one-eyed creature which stood at the base of these stairs. A closer look showed that the creature looked badly mangled, bits of flesh hanging off of it and in some places it featured exposed bone– Gavriil recognized this as being a form of Dread Zombie, an old cyclops corpse being used for some nefarious purpose! While they were studying the creature, a second shambled its way down the stairs next to the first, both standing mindlessly at the base of the steps. Deciding on their plan of action, the party spread out and peppered the two creatures with ranged attacks, managing to take out both adversaries before they were even able to get into melee range!
With this complete, the next step was clear: to ascend the steps cut in the stone. Several hours of travel ensued, at the end of which they came out into a clearing in which there sat a lake, fed by a waterfall to the east which crashed downwards over a hundred feet from the mountainside above. The center of the lake held an island which loomed up over the waters, a pillar of rock which appeared to have a beachside entrance at the base, while Elysia spotted a second cave entrance hidden by vines and shrubs several feet above the water line on the opposite side of the stone. Deciding to try the beach entrance, the party made their way down to the water, unfolding their Folding Boat which they had obtained recently in Varnhold, and setting out on the water. When they had almost arrived at their destination, they were set upon by three diving Wyverns descending from the waterfall cliffs above them! Fortunately these proved not to be a great issue as Noruas clipped their wings with her musket, killing one, allowing a second to swim away, and leaving the final Wyvern to crawl out of the water onto the beach, too injured to fly away.
Landing, Noruas and Gavriil worked together to soak some food in healing potions and float them over towards the Wyvern, trying to ensure that the creature wouldn’t starve and would be able to heal the damage to its wings enough to escape eventually. Eneko and Elysia both psyched themselves up for the exploration to follow, and then the group entered into the tunnel to see what was inside!
Inside, the party found the tunnel to have been carved, with ancient cyclopean depictions carved or painted into the walls. A crumbling arch was found not far in, with arcane runes whose power seemed to have been expended. Turning a corner, the party came face to face with…yet another zombie cyclops! This one managed to get a hit or two in before he was torn to shreds by Noruas’ gunfire, echoing her retort throughout the tunnel– there goes stealth. The chamber that the party entered next similarly contained a zombie cyclops which was dispatched– perhaps this place used to be a burial tomb for cyclopes?
A secret door led out from here into a tunnel in which lay a pool of water, dark and cool but with something clearly moving underneath the water. Gavriil could detect the presence of magical items at the bottom of the pool, but the creature was an issue. A plan was concocted to lure the creature to the surface with food rations, where the party found that this was an Elasmosaurus, an ancient and thought-extinct dinosaur who appeared to make its home in both the pool here and the lake around the island through a connecting tunnel. The Arcanist quickly cast a Deep Slumber on the dinosaur, allowing them enough time to enter the pool and take the underwater passage there to its end, where they emerged in a small room filled with pottery. Finding nothing of real note here, the party continued down a short flight of stairs, into a room with several broken statues and no obvious way forward. After a bit of searching, Elysia managed to find a mechanism to open what she believed to be a secret door– indeed it did open a passage, but at the same time it caused iron portcullises to slam down at either end of the room, while portions of the ceiling slid aside to release torrents of water down upon their heads!
To complicate matters, two false walls were shattered as a pair of dread zombie cyclopes forced their way free, landing staggering blows on both Noruas and Eneko which nearly brought them down! (the racial auto-crit once per day can be a powerful surprise attack ally, let me tell you!) Problems became complicated as arrows began to fire across the room while the water began to fill the chamber, sloshing around their ankles and making for quite the bad hair day. After sending a salvo of gunfire at the immediate zombie threat, Noruas joined Elysia in trying to raise the portcullis high enough to allow the party to duck through. After a few seconds, more complications arose– a large electric eel fell through the ceiling with the water, and began to thrash about! It attempted to grapple the Gunslinger, but she was able to brush it aside and continued aiding in their escape.
Gavriil Dimensional Slide-ed to the other side of the portcullis, Noruas slipped under the bars once she and Elysia had managed to get it high enough, and Eneko made a fighting retreat to the exit, while the water was about three feet high. Finally the Lizardfolk Ranger was snatched from underneath the portcullis to safety by the rest of the party as the eel engaged in combat with the remaining cyclops, allowing them to retreat up a set of stairs to safety, seeing the water stop following them at about ten feet up. Sighing in relief and taking a brief moment to heal, they continued up the steps to see what other horrors awaited them in here!
The stairs dumped them into a new chamber, this one with three small shrines dedicated to what Eneko realized was one of the ancient fabled Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Charon. Two doors were present in the room, one an ornate set with several carvings, and the other a plain bronze door. The group decided they wanted to head through the carved doors, but hesitated a moment when Gavriil wracked his brains for knowledge about the shrines and rituals associated with them. It seemed that performing the proper rituals with the shrines was typically done to interact with some kind of seal– though whether they wanted to enter the area beyond for exploration before sealing them up, or simply seal them straight away and move on was up for debate. Eventually they settled on checking inside first, opening the doors and having dark magical flames engulf the room for a moment, singeing everyone inside!
Stepping inside, they came to a small room with an unfinished staircase which, after several people investigating, they concluded must not actually be a secret door. Forward led them to a room with two pillars inside, and stepping in summoned before them a foul-smelling crustacean-like creature, a Piscodaemon! It seemed to be acting as guardian of what lay beyond, and Eneko conversed with it, eventually convincing it that they came in the name of Vordekai and they were allowed to be there. The creature let them pass at this, and they moved beyond into what appeared to be some kind of prison cell. Inside was a single creature, a centaur female, looking thin and hurt, unable to give any kind of movement but a barely perceptible shiver of her eyes. Thankfully, Eneko had a solution– his Cavalier teamwork feat, which he was able to grant to all of them (for the last time that day) to allow them to speak as though using the Whisper spell, but without moving lips!
The centaur, identifying herself as Xamanthe, told the party how she had been tortured and held prisoner there for days by a cyclops with a red eye. She’d been investigating the tomb when she’d been taken by surprise by one of the zombie cyclopes, beaten, and when she awoke had found herself paralyzed here in the cell. She’d been fed and kept alive, but had been promised great pain at the hands of ‘Vordekai’– yet another name drop! The group decided to break her out of there and get her to safety, hoping to cure her paralysis. Their plans were stopped when they got back to the Piscodaemon’s room however, as he took great offense at their actions, not believing their tales of retrieving the centaur for Vordekai! A fight ensued, with the Piscodaemon creating a Stinking Cloud in the room that only affected Gavriil, and a Soul Eater companion appearing to attack Eneko, who fortunately managed to avoid any Wisdom damage. The fight was brief and decisive, with the PC’s coming out victorious. Exiting the jail chambers, they made their way through the last remaining doorway unexplored, leading them down a set of stairs until they tumbled out into a large chamber, whose most immediately threat was posed by a new group of none other than the dreaded Soul Eaters!
This is where we ended the session. It’s been three weeks since we last played, but fortunately next week I will be able to run again. We will see just what happens with our brave heroes then!