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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 2 — Pajabbar Play
~ third-day, 3rd of Marpenoth, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
the Plain of Standing Stones


"Allen, do you want to hold my guiding light?" asked the minotaur, holding up his everburning torch to one of the Shadovar soldiers.

   The monotony of the rocky desert through which they now traveled was getting to the young minotaur, and he was thoroughly bored as he stood outside the tent, surrounded by a handful of guards. Leokas had "played" archery with the adolescent monster several times already, but now the elf wanted to conserve his remaining arrows for an actual fight. Leokas had also at last finished the large, composite bow he was crafting for the minotaur, its draw weight being so heavy that even the minotaur struggled to pull it back. Unfortunately, it also required longer arrows, and there was no wood available in the middle of the dry wasteland.

   Allen was the soldier who had let the minotaur watch him saddle the bats. The man laughed. "We, too, have many such torches. There are several in our — what is the word? 'barrage'? — in our group tent."

   "Why do you like so much dark?" asked the minotaur.

   "Only the shades like the darkness," said Allen.

   "But the big guiding light lets you see colors!"

   "I know!" said Allen. "Neither had we color in the land whence we came."

   Setting the magic torch down, the minotaur lowered his horns slowly toward Allen and waited for something. "What art thou...?" Allen began, but he instinctively moved his ranseur into a defensive position, which the minotaur took as engagement in a play scuffle. The minotaur swung his head with his horns, catching the ranseur in one of the curves. He shoved back, sending Allen nearly off his feet and back a yard.

   One of the other guards immediately stabbed the minotaur in the side, which drew blood, but not a considerable amount, because of the minotaur's thick hide. The beast spun around to face the new "playmate" and attempted to lock horns with his ranseur, while a few other guards tried to stab him and missed, as he jumped about, snorting happily.

   Allen shouted out something in his own language to the others, but then he heard a couple of the soldiers call out a foreign word forcefully. The minotaur felt a strange wobbly sensation for several seconds, and his thoughts grew cloudier than usual, which made him pause.

   From the corner of his eye, the minotaur saw several of the guards fumbling for various items from pouches at their belts and speaking strange words. One of the guards tried to touch him with a hand glowing with sparkly red light, and a crackling beam of energy shot at him from one of the soldiers' hands, also missing. The guards pulled back. Then he heard the sound of a cricket. "Gulêt!" Allen commanded, and the minotaur lost consciousness.

~~~~

The minotaur awoke to find himself lying on the ground with Hakam over him. "You were just asleep," said Hakam.

   He heard Cassiera speaking to the guards. "He just wanted to play; the poor thing is bored. You didn't need to stab him."

   "Anything you say, beautiful," said one of the soldiers.

   "This I understood," said Allen. "That is the reason for which I caused him to slumber."

   Cassiera tried to explain this to the minotaur. "You cannot play with the guards," she said. "We have to wait to play later. Why don't you play fetch with Leokas' wolf?"

   The minotaur approached the soldier who had stabbed him — there was still blood drying on the point of his polearm — and patted him on the shoulder. "You play good!" said the minotaur.


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Interlude: Two Princes in Deadwater
From the journal of then-Prince Darren of Shushan

Whitescale, Day Eighteen, Twenty-first hour

Truth be told, I wished it could have been anyone else. But in my dream, the Fates had made it clear. The odd Drow and I were to travel into Deadwater, as the rest scaled Howlmount.

More truth told, I didn't envy them. Even before I heard them recount their trek, I knew it was a deadly place. Few adventurers ever make it back down from its gnarled peak.

I had only told Malthar we were looking for an antique, of sorts, and that we'd need a thief's touch to get it. As we hiked into town, I was beginning to think twice on the secrecy.

"So, what kind of antique is this? Is it the kind that helps you steal more things? I like those kinds of antiques. I also like the kind of antiques that help you acquire a large empire in a short amount of time."

The scarred 'Prince' was carrying a large sheaf of paper and a writing quill in one arm. His smile made me nervous.

"Shorter the better."

I could just make out that the top sheet read "Contract" before he tucked the sheaf into his haversack.

"So the steal-y kind - or the empire-recruitment kind?"

I relented.

"It's an ancient device -a mechanism - for your metal friend. In a dream, The Fates told me The Raven Queen can control minds, but this will allow at least Moi to protect himself."

"Strictly curiosity - but how much do you think it's worth?"

"Please, just wait until after we save the world."

By then, we had reached town. If you've never been to Deadwater, don't feel like you're missing out on anything. It's nothing compared to even the quaintest village in the Communes. Magic is forbidden in Janrenia, and it shows.

Stone buildings jut out from Howlmount itself. Narrow passageways wind between "plazas" with nothing more than a guide rope and a three hundred foot fall to comfort you. A slow trickle of melting snow ends in a stagnant pond at the center of town. Hence the name, Deadwater.

The Fates had told me to make contact with a village elder. Here at least was one blessing, an ancient crone was hobbling toward us. She was blind, carrying a walking stick. A large purse jangled at her side.

In hindsight, I should have guessed Malthar wouldn't have been able to resist.

What happened next - is still a blur. He moved in. I tried to stop him. Then two figures leaped out from behind a house.

The next thing I knew was darkness.

I was gagged, tied up, in a cold stone room.

The door creaked open.

"So, this is how the Seven Swords act? Common thieves? Scoundrels!?" the old woman's voice shook with rage.

"For 1,200 years my family has been on this gods-forsaken rock, watching, waiting, to deliver the Blackrose Mechanism, and this is how we are rewarded?"

I tried to answer - but you know- the gag.

She left, slamming the door behind her.

Several hours passed - no food, but the guards did try to pour some water through the cloth of my gag. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

Through my tired eyes, I saw something the guards didn't - a shadow in the corner of the room that didn't quite fit right.

Malthar's blade slit their throats in seconds. Without cleaning it, he moved on to the ropes binding my legs and arms.

"I hope you're ready to pay up. I had to trade a fairly expensive-looking timepiece to find where you were. Granted, I had stolen that from someone else- but Taker's Keeper's, right?"

After he pulled the gag, I told him he'd have his pick of a new one from the treasury.

That's when a prison of light gleamed around us.

"I thought you said magic was forbidden here!"

"It is!"

Of course. The crone stepped slowly into the room, one hand tracing invisible runes across the sky, maintaining the force cage.

"What King Korrent doesn't know can't hurt him. Now, you've tried to pickpocket me, broken into my home, and killed two of my sons, tell me why I should let you live."

I tried to reason with her, but Malthar ruined my chances in an instant.

"Yeah, uh, correction. I didn't try to pickpocket you. I did."

From his pocket he pulled out a strange metal plug-- with thin lined patterns running along it, and a black rose stamped at the front.

Her rage gave me the chance to act. I hadn't accessed the aether in ages. I'm not very good. But this time it came to me hungrily. (A side effect of a land that has banned magic? More research needed.)

The bars fell. I ran. And Malthar swung into motion. Seconds later, the crone lay dead.

But the true shock came next. We watched from the window as a blinding white light enveloped Howlmount's peak.

"I'd say our friends were successful. Now let's leave and never come back."

I tossed 500 gold on the table. At least the family's job was done.
Session: Chapter Eleven: Finding Folly - Saturday, Apr 25 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Sam
Posted by the GM
Kiera's Blades
Interlude: Jerald's Escape
"Hurry up Jerald!"

With bloody palms, two children scrambled up the sheer walls of the Baron's castle.

"For Kord's sake Kaelant," hissed the younger, "shut it. Anyone hears us and we're dead."

"Better dead than back in his bedroom." Kaelant was no more than 11. His long, blond hair was tangled, matted with cold sweat.

"The quarry ain't no picnic either," Jerald whispered.

Jerald had turned eight two weeks ago without knowing it. His small, wiry frame moved gracefully over the rough stones.

He paused for a moment, waiting for Kaelant to catch up.

"Where do we go when we clear the barony?"

"North along the sea. Maybe to Noven."

"The Quarryman says Liturgists are proof religion can make good people do bad things"

"Can't be worse than The Baron."

The two crested the wall, Jerald first. Kaleant second.

"See that?," Kaelant whispered, pointing at a low-hanging, violet star. "That's the one we follow. It will take us to the sea, and we just turn left when we hit the port."

Jerald's eyes squeezed tight, as he bit at a fingernail.

"Okay. Let's go."

Getting down was easier than going up. The boys scuttled silently from window to stony outcropping.

Jerald jumped off the wall like a cat, the grass only rustling in protest as he touched down.

"Come on," he motioned to Kaelant, still about fifteen feet up. "It's easy."

The world seemed to freeze for Jerald as the older boy jumped. Kaelant was coming down the wrong way, legs tense, one awkwardly forward.

The leafhoppers' chirps were interrupted by a sick crack.

Kaelant's scream cut through the quiet of the night like shears.

Jerald looked in horror at the bone jutting out of his friend's leg. They heard distant murmurs, then both their hearts dropped as the alarm bell began ringing tinnily.

Tears welled up in Kaelant's eyes.

"I can't walk. You have to go. They'll be here any second."

"I'll come back."

"No you won't. Go. North to Noven. It can't be as bad as here. Anywhere can't be as bad as here."

Jerald sprinted across the fields, praying to any god that could get him safely out of there.

In the distance he heard The Baron's displacer beast bark wildly, and Kaelant screamed again.

And just for a second, the low-hanging star seemed to pulse in the distance.

Jerald ran for hours- until his feet began to bleed.

He kept his gaze locked on that star, like a drowning man hanging on to driftwood.
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Epic!
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Sam
Posted by the GM
Kiera's Blades
Interlude: 1,213 Years Ago
An excerpt from "Forged: Untold Tales of Kiera's Peace Watch," Marcandros Tyr (p. 49):

Very few scholars are familiar with the happenings around modern-day Frain six hundred years ago, but through a careful analysis of ancient bard's songs, art and pottery, any well-read historian could stumble upon the same discovery that I have.

Kiera's Claw did not have power until a good time after it had reached the Marshes.

Consider: How could Kiera safely transport it through the country without catching the attention of the Druids? We have certainly heard the rather comical tale of Kiera delivering Curse to the mariners of the north. We can assume most - if not all- her blades were forged for someone else.

Contrary to the popular, but abysmal "Berrogian Timeline"(pg. 93), I believe Kiera delivered the blade roughly six scales after her husband's death.

A tapestry still hanging within the Arnel museum depicts five figures marching amidst a terrible storm. Though snow covers the ground and the wind is howling, the trees remain full of green leaves. This was not the weaver's mistake. I believe the art matches with current climate studies, suggesting a rare summer Howlstorm swept through the area while Kiera was in it.

The figures in the tapestry undoubtedly depict Kiera, her guard Baelinn, and an unknown dwarf, elf and a human.

I suggest Baelinn's Betrayal happened within the Marshes, directly after Kiera woke her Claw.

Consider: Legend has it Baelinn only revealed she had been recruited by the Raven Queen's followers after a taxing fight. Those in Frain will be quick to show you what they believe to be dragon clawmarks within the trunks of the Meeting of Kings (Three King-Trees growing together - for those who have not picked up a geography book. My editor tells me I would be remiss to exclude this fact).

Now consider further: What if those are actual dragon marks? An old bard's song amidst the Mercenary folk goes as follows:

The paladin was first to die,
As Baelinn looked him in the eye,
The dragon's flames flickered in her gaze,
She served death, death till the end of her days.

Twas next she moved for the druid young,
But vines like rope she was caught on.
And the swordsman with a blade like wind,
Sliced Baelinn the Betrayer end to end.

Now call o'er a wench to warm up this lap,
and I'll tell you the rest if good ole Iron Ale's on tap."

(Last line optional depending on how much the bartender has had to drink.)

If my theory is correct, the dragon's flame is no metaphor. Is it too wondrous to believe Kiera, and a small band of her trusted allies could slay one of the fearsome beasts? Not for me.

I believe Kiera woke the Claw's power with the magic of the Kings, yes- killed a dragon - and then only barely survived an attack from her trusted guard Baelinn.

Is it any wonder Kiera's next move would be heading to Bokkor?

(Historian Note: The above story is recorded only as a quote within a popular history primer used to tutor children in the Princely Communes. The only known copy of Forged was purchased three hundred years ago, and reportedly burnt by Seraph Luxen of the Liturgical Province.)

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Epic!
Oma's Diary: Entry 601
Shockingly, the leader of the Misfits, Jayce, kept his word. (That's the name that the halfling captain calls them, or us, I should say, since I am an adventuress now!) Jayce came for me last night, and I snuck out with him. He wrote up a contract for me and everything. (He forged the signature of the justicar with them; it was blatantly obvious to me.) I will get a half-share of any treasure. So, I did it; I am free from my boring, over-protective mother and my stupid, greedy father! Good riddance! I did not even have to give my body to Jayce for my plan to succeed,... though I can tell he wants it.

He made fun of my sack of things. Did he expect me to purchase a pack and hide it in my bedroom for the servants to find and tell Mother? Frankly, I think I am better prepared for a jungle than any of them, with the possible exception of the justicar. He's mildly attractive; it's too bad that he is a typical Calishite male and thinks I am property. scum. No matter, Jayce is gorgeous! I can look at him all day long. He's more attractive than any of the elves! (Oh, I didn't even know there were green elves until today. His skin is darker even than mine.) But back to Jayce — his music makes me want to melt!!! So I can forgive him for teasing me.

So here I am at sea. AT SEA!!! Can you believe it? I saw whales and dolphins this morning! Goodbye, Calimshan! Well met, Adventure! Meet Oma al Catahras, the dangerously beautiful conjuress! Ha ha!
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