Sword of Ruin

Idolobha, the Desert City
The Setting in Which We Now Find Our Friends.

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Idolobha. Desert City. Dwarven Commerce haven and home to many.

The city had many holes torn throughout it. One of which our fearless heroes tumbled through. The poster of “The Green Dog,” hung on a brick wall, just in front of their noses. Why would someone hang a poster in an alleyway?

Speaking of noses, the huge crew followed theirs to a bakery. Not only did they find a tasty snack; warm, sweet, and crumbly bread, but also information about the local area and what the locals noticed about the adventurers’ new quarry.

The group discussed how they would go about getting the dangerous relic, the Sword of Ruin. Each idea was contemplated while certain members of the crew stressed the need for quick measures as all the portals were shutting.

The cat witch offered the suggestion for all the characters to draw their version of the sword, as they saw it. All versions, like sands in the desert were different. Her point was, that the sword was too hard to measure by one mind, but also too hard get a consensus on by many.

The Zeds from other breds took their moment to offer a three-way deal to Lavlock, the barer of the Crimson Key. Each Zed proposed to go off on their own and return with a prize to aid the Hounders in their mission; to find the Sword of Ruin. Whoever gives the best prize, gets the key. They also bound her to the Key so she couldn’t give it away. The Zed’s went off on their mission.

The crew moved on to the inn, “The Canary’s Promise,” and rested. The next day they visited the temple of Seto and met with the head priest, Solar. They pushed the request to make a True Calling of the Balance. Solar refused, on the grounds that the adventurers were not ready for such powers. He suggested to go to The Green Dog to find the cleric and talespinner, Marxo.

They found the disheveled and drunken dwarf in the bar and through the fog of ale, stale, and fell breath, they heard a story of the Sword of Ruin. More information could be found in once of his books in his home. Following him to his abode, the adventurers find it ransacked. The book in question was gone. The only suggestion was to look for the book in the library, titled: “The Empire, Dimes,” by Tyroll Lymermere, the first bard of the order of Pontigrades.

The clever, quick, and quiet ratling tailed the talespinner back to the temple of Seto, where Marxo forced his way in and demanded an audience with the Solar.

The flummoxed fraternity returned to the Canary’s Promse to compare notes.

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The Hounds Win the Adventure.
Zed Probably Wins At Life.

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As Zed Mandrake approached the same campfire he’d approached at “end of day,” for the last dozen or so end of days, he thought to himself:

These guys? Seriously? I mean, of course these guys. That was the plan, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? I think I’d have had a more creative reveal than this. Nevermind.

Zed Mandrake was a man of many plots, many schemes, many plans; it was easy to get lost in the spider web of brilliance. Surely his plot twist would come along on cue.

These fools have no idea how close they were, perhaps I can spin this to my advantage – maybe get that stick in the mud Dagger off my back.

The group of adventures huddled around the campfire and listened to the drivel from Crim, and Dagger did all the work talking them into lending their skills to the cause, especially that Mustachioed one.

It’s like his Mustache keeps sizing me up.

Led to the silver river, they jumped in like lemmings and came out attuned to Rainscour proper. They led the way past the grey ashen trees and to the old community building. They even worked out a simple plan, attempting to claim the Crimson Key for themselves. Dagger hackles were raised about that, but Mandrake was confident his opportunity would come.

Dagger can’t focus on them and me at the same time.

It was almost as though the adventurers weren’t really helping. Dagger and Mandrake made short work of most of the Pained Statues. The Fey Paladin tried many times to snatch the Key to no avail. That’s when Dagger tried to take things into her own hands.

Literally. Time to make my move.

This was when the wizard stepped forward and surprised everyone by grabbing the key. The monsters felled, they all fell into discussion.

Discussion? Come on! Fight! You know you want to! Kill each other. Wait, where is the wizard trying to go.

The wizard had no interest in sharing the key. He was making the Mandrake getaway.

He’s stealing my exit!

Before his prize got away, Zed Mandrake was able to suggest a Shadow of a Doubt among the wizard’s companions.

Ex-companions. At this rate, he’s promoted to antagonist, and I’m their new hero! Huzzah!

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Hunters and Hounds
One Story - Two Worlds

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Once upon a time, in two versions of the same world, a band of Heroes chased a notorious Thief.

The world was called Cynus and the thief was called Zed Mandrake. The versions of the world were very similar, only tiny differences separated them. Also, both versions of the thief were the same. The heroes, however, were very different. In one world a group of dedicated Hounds: a winged Paladin of the Fey, an Elven alchemist in uncertain masquerade, a flame-touched wanderer and diplomat, a Ratfolk adventurer of exceptional cunning and lore. In the other world a group of fierce Hunters: an Elven magus and scholar, a noble Halfling knight, a human cleric of Marrus, a feline Witch, a Tengu archer, another disciple of the Sky-Lord.

These two bands shared a story, though they knew it not.

They were called together by a human noble, Cassandra Talbot. The thief had pillaged her manor and stolen many valuable things, but also an amulet of great sentimental value. Talbot offered gold for the safe return of the amulet and information that Mandrake had been sighted in the ravaged city of Callimaco to the west.

The Hounds and Hunters went down the same road. They faced the same goblin toll at the Fire Beetle Tree, one group paid in gold — the other in steel. They went to the same city, marveled at the same gargantuan grove of spire-trees, argued with the same dwarves, slept under the same roof. They also wandered into the ruins of the Doom and found the very epicenter of the devastation. The place where the Sword of Ruin’s shadow hung like a fly in invisible amber. They fought the same skeletons of gold, they each bartered with the demon frozen on the roof, they each left with a ring of pure mithril lackadaisically thrown in a traveling pack.

But here a difference. The eye of the storm was covered in ash. For the Hounds it was white. For the Hunters it was black.

They each followed the thief’s trail to the floating Adamant Mine. They each found his treasure and his letter waiting. A letter that warned them to take the weregild he left behind and follow him no further.

Neither Hunter nor Hound obeyed.

Each group found a different scent of Mandrake’s trail. The Hounds followed the Bottle’s word to Hornghast, grey tower by the sea. The Hunters found their way in the tears of the Innkeeper to Yellowdale, fields of golden wheat.

The Hounds found Hornghast embattled by gloom and death. A shining narcotic held the shadows away from the populace, but kept them locked in slothful dreams. They did battle with the drug peddlers and were enlisted by the King himself to find the source of this peril and destroy it. They battled through betrayal and salt water to free the captured being that produced the drug. The Hounds slew its captors and brought a fresh wind of justice to the gray streets of the city. They earned new honor and a fierce new ally at their side.

The Hunters found deception and wisdom in the fields of wheat. Battle with a fiendish traveling circus saved a young boy’s life. The stern cleric of Banu, Prose Willow lead them to a corruption that endangered the land and blotted out her divine vision. In the ruins of a forgotten estate they found sorrows and secrets long forgotten, but purged the land of the evil seed that blossomed before their eyes. Their company grew with the addition of a naive acolyte of Banu and a taciturn swordmaster.

Both bands were given a prophecy. The god Banu’s dark words for the Hunters, the Sylph’s strange riddle for the Hounds. Both saw strange scraps of metal fall like rain from a clear sky.

Neither found their quarry. Only a thin possibility of his next location — Rainscour.

So they followed the thief’s steps – all the way to the Blank Gate that barred the way to the City of Rain. With patience, wit, and a bit of luck both bands stepped through the featureless stone — where now the tale begins again.

Two worlds, one journey – at last the Heroes will meet.

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Circles and Cycles

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We left the inn late in the evening.

We had watched Bolander cycle through his emotional outbursts and his sleepy snoring until we could estimate and anticipate them. He’s not called The Broken just because of his horn.

I inspected the dose of pebble that Janus had given me. From top to bottom, there was no evidence that the drug was made by alchemical means. Point of fact; however it was created, it was more costly to manufacture than it was to sell it. It’s existence made no sense.

How was it made? Why was it made? Why did the townsfolk use it, again and again?

The little dose between my fingers was round, a circle. And the path it took to each individual was also circular. Purchased at the shady apothecary, smuggled home or to an empty alleyway, ingested and enjoyed in some way, only to bring the buyer back for more.

In some ways; a perfect business plan.

Speaking of plans, ours was simple. We were to go to the north side of the town to witness and engage a transaction between to parties at one bell past midnight. Lavlock and her dogs would back us up if we needed it.

The three of us found the old unused temple, barely standing on its own. We quickly improvised a strategy. Hatch would raise her battle cry when the time was right and Varvara and I would spring from our hidey-holes, hopefully in a flanking situation.

Half of our prey showed: some silly kobolds and a fiendish bugbear. Each of them had a large sack of what we could only assume was pebble.

They sat waiting the other party for an impatient hour. They were finally preparing to leave the scene. No alarm was made by Hatch. Upon inspiration from nowhere inside me, I decided to act with my own idea. I brandished The Mustache and sprung into the scene.

“Oh, there you are!” I said.

That got their attention. They trained their weapons on me.

I thought I could use their confusion. “You’ve got the stuff. I’ve got the money,” I said to the Bugbear. His name was Crust. CRUST.

“You’re not the usual guy,” said Crust suspiciously.

“I’m the new guy,” said me, with no believable confidence.
“Nope,” said Crust, “You’re the dead guy.”

Then he tried to kill me.

When Hatch finally sprung the trap and she and Varvara came to my aid, I’d already had a couple of holes in me. My bombs only seemed to make the angry Crust angrier.

He focused his attention on me. I did not like his attention. Then Hatch distracted him for a while so that I could blow up the kobolds.

Crust was really pissed off at me for this. He shot me in the face.

The arrow seemed to buzz as it struck me. I could feel the arrowhead with my tongue; taste the malign it had for me. The arrow wanted me to die more than Crust did.

Somehow, the bugbear shot me so hard that the shaft of the arrow shattered from the impact to my head. I didn’t realize this until later, because I was too busy dying.

I remember a white light, shining down on me. I saw a figure, vaguely elven, vaguely female. I’m confident she was beautiful.

I thought, “Well, number 997 has failed and gone.”

The figure approached me and put her hands on my face. They were warm and soft.

Then I felt a chill as I woke up slightly, looking into the face of Varvara. She had brought me back to life with her holy touch. I spat the arrowhead out onto her feet.

Crust had been dispatched by Hatch and I had been patched up.

It was then that the guard arrived to save the day. We drug the drugs to the guardhouse and turned them in as evidence. Our hands were shook and the promise of more work was given.

Our circle of a day was complete as we returned to the inn and sat in our same seats.

To myself, I thought of another circle, another return. I had myself a half dozen doses of pebble and I wondered if they might be a path to find that mysterious figure in the white light.

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A Few Sights Never Seen Before

“Make no mistake, recruits. The journey upon which you are about to embark will be difficult. Dangerous. It will ask much of you. Your comfort. Perhaps even your life.”
Field Marshall Prenn was unlike anything I’d ever seen, riding his square-snouted trotter back and forth in front of formation on the first day of training. Most halflings are so slovenly. Ill-groomed. Paunchy. Pleasant. Prenn was none of these things.

“But if you see this journey through,” Prenn continued, “I swear on the honor of the Order of the Paw, you will do things you never dreamed of in your sleepy, lazy, village lives.”

“Things like diving to the bottom of the ocean to scout out some underwater evil at the behest of a water priestess.” He didn’t say that last part, actually. He probably meant fighting trolls or some such thing. Prenn probably wouldn’t have agreed to this madness at all.

But I have more to prove than Prenn, so here I am, dropping rapidly into the watery darkness below. I’ve never had much use for gods—I don’t doubt they exist, they just never seem to pop around when they’re needed—but I dearly hope that the sea god’s magic holds up its end of this deal. I reach the bottom quite quickly. The advantages of swimming in chain mail. The only advantage of swimming in chain mail, I suppose? And probably not an advantage under normal circumstances. Anyway.

In a field of seaweed near an underwater trench, the keen-eyed bird man finds a cow skull. It seems a bit out of place. I’ve heard of sea cows, but I think they are a different thing entirely from the moo-moo cow variety, which tends to prefer drier climes.
At the base of the trench, two more things that do not belong: Troll-hounds. We follow them back through the murk, back to a cavern entrance beset with thick, wooden roots and vines more suitable to an ancient forest floor than a seabed. It’s quite ominous, like something from the stories, expect that the stories are never underwater. No turning back now, I suppose. Mission abandonment could result in withdrawal of divine favor while we are still 100 feet below the surface.

My old gemma used to say that every biscuit has two sides. I’d correct her, explaining that every biscuit has three sides because— geometrically speaking— a biscuit is a cylinder, and then she’d cuff me one to the jaw, which I thought was unnecessary because I was really just trying to be helpful, but anyway, what she meant to say was that everything has a little good and a little bad which is exactly the case with this cave. The good? It’s full up with breathable air and our movements are no longer encumbered by water. The bad? It’s also full up with troll-dogs, a mad, spindly wizard fellow, and to the sorrow of the bird man’s left leg, a demon with sharp teeth and a gift for sneakery.

It’s a quite a good tilt, in my limited experience with such things. This non-uniformed rabble is beginning to function like something resembling a unit. I even bark a few coordinating orders along the way, doing my best impersonation of ol’ Marshall Prenn. Near battle’s end, the paladin offers the wizard a chance at surrender. He respectfully declines, howling some madness about shadows or dark forces and what all.

It occurs to me that Sugar will need yet another bath. Good dog.

At the cavern’s far end, we find the wizard’s strange shrine—a pulsating tangle of roots and tangle, the source of all the strange undergrowth that has no place here, like so many other things.

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The Undersea Cavern - Black Hunters

The victorious hunters returned to the village circle with the rescued half-orc in tow, where he was greeted by a tearfully vicious homecoming with his parents. The other townsfolk celebrated his return and were quick to acclaim the travelers as true heroes and adventurers – many fine pies and poorly fermented beverages were shared during the celebration.

Having earned a rest, the hunters returned the Temple of the Sea-God and bedded down for the night. The witch, Beatrice, excused herself for private meditation – and after making sure she was unobserved – quickly summoned the demon the hunters had defeated back in Callimaco using her arcane arts. The demon, going by the name of Candle, quickly struck a bargain with the witch and vanished within her own shadow until such a time when he was required.

The next morning, the party gathered their gear to depart. They had lost the trail of the notorious thief, Zed Mandrake – their only clue a vague sighting to the south. The best plan they could devise was to head in that direction and pray they caught some wind of his trail. But, before they could depart Usum Casane asked them to speak with his master, Prose Willow. She entreated the party, as the only adventurers of any skill in the area to assist her with a matter of some concern.

Being devoted to the god of water, Banu, allowed the Arcleric Willow to see for many leagues across the sea, everywhere within the sea-god’s domain. But she had noticed a spot of blackness, a place her sight could not pierce. In return for the hunters’ aid she offered to seek the guidance of the gods in their quest, a perilous venture. The group agreed and they were soon making their way across the sunny bay in a magical raft made of shell and rock, propelled by Prose Willow’s faith. The cleric of Marrus, Lysander, discovered he had a tendency to sea-sickness on the journey, and was soon to ill to do much else beyond groan and hold his stomach.

At last they arrived at the spot – the ocean appeared no different than the miles of water they had crossed, but Willow insisted this was the correct location. She wrapped enchanted cords of beaded rope around their hands – the blessing of Banu would be theirs for a short time, allowing them to breathe beneath the waves.

The hunters sank into a new world – water and wave, and the sun shining through a glass ceiling. They found a few oddments, including a cow skull many miles from land. The sharp eyes of the group lead them into a narrow canyon of sand and rock, following the movements of some vicious troll-dogs. A strange system of roots seemed to be growing along the canyon walls, hidden by the sand. Following, they found their way into an underwater cavern, but filled with air. The roots were even more dense here, gray and thick. A vicious battle ensued, dealing with the vicious troll-dogs, an invisible imp, and the mad enchantments of a savage wizard who gibbered and howled threats of insanity.

After the battle they found signs of a crude campsite belonging to the dead wizard, and a cluster of dark roots and plant matter that seemed to be the source of the infestation. A node of organic red substance seemed to pulse with dire threat. The group took a few samples of the roots and returned back the way they had come – their ability to breathe underwater was soon to fade. Prose Willow greeted them and listened to their report with a serious mien — and informed them that the blackness was not gone, her vision was still limited by whatever grew in the undersea cavern.

The hunters returned to the Temple with more questions than answers…

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One Thousand Enemies

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Prologue: High Tea at Talbot Manor

As we entered the garden, the first thing I noticed was that the garden grew for status, not for the enjoyment of the manor. Even the begonias put on airs as we, a Snake Oil Doctor, a Thingfinder, a Charming Wizard, and a Briar-Hailing Holy Sprite, strode by them. The petunias seemed sad and without souls.

The food was fantastic, and especially good to go! Our hostess spared no expence; on herself. I will say the cookies were worth adding to my formulae book. The crumpets too, but for a very different reason. Gutbombs, all of them.

Miss Talbot happened to be human. Some treat it like a curse, some like a badge, but she was money. And money invited us to sit at her table. She also kind of creeped me out.

We were entreated to find a family bauble, no value, only sentiments and family memories. I’m also thinking family secrets, for five thousand gil would ensure a handsome reward to adventurers with a sense of quiet decorum. I don’t think my new friends trusted her very much.

Our quarry was a thief that took the griffon amulet, Zed Mandrake. He left his calling card, a small square token with the letter Z on it. He was last seen in Callimaco, a short wagon-ride to the west.

Then she dismissed us, like a pack of hounds after a bunny.

Scene One: On the Road

The wagon made our travels mostly comfortable. It was helpful that two of my new companions were very small, but I thought about some possible upgrades over the course of a few afternoons. I even drew some carpentry sketches to make installments with some of our reward money. More wagon, more space, more security, but that all depends if my new companions wish to continue companioning with me after the job.

The crazy pine spires were on the horizon when we came across a foolish creature that demanded a toll for passing. The wizard talked him down to a minimal toll and the wagon passed without injury. One bomb woulda made a gremlin puddle, but it wasn’t my turn to play hero. Not that day.

Scene Two: The Broken Gate, The Boarding House, and The Pancake.

We arrived at the city late at night; a tourist trap for sure. Or would have been, if the Bottle had seen my investment scheme as clearly as I had. I fully intend to buy her out of that town and tar and feather her with kindness, or maybe just with tar and feathers.

The spire-pines crushed the town like troll teeth on a bunny.

Very few buildings avoided their masticating scrutiny. Somehow, commerce and mining grooves on. Speaking of which, we were quickly shown to the boarding house and the restaurant. The boarding house was a well enough place to hang our hats (we mostly stayed in the wagon anyway) and the Pancake was a charming but sad place. The miners were salt of the earth, briny and sad. They had a potential for something more than digging but they’ve accepted the career as their lifestyle.

Scene Three: First Morning in Calico, The Temple of Jocasta, and the Ephraim Mining Company.

Woke up to the sound of dwarven children searching for acorns of the giant trees. This gives me an idea for a future enterprise to make money. Crazy and silly candy; could sweep the market. Breakfast was good; not memorable.

We briefly stopped by the Temple of Jocasta and witnessed a lashing of three acolytes by a chastising cleric. This Marlowe took his business serious as he went about it, praying as he did. We found out later that they were punished because they were caught in the act of sneaking out of the temple without permission. It’s a savage act that they receive without complaint.

The Cleric does not find us friendly, or at least, finds our character wanting. We don’t find any clues toward our pursuit, Zed Mandrake, so we press on.

The Ephraim Mining Company would be a great boon to commerce and tourism to the area if only the people in charge of it weren’t so prepared to stagnate their investment into ponds, rather than feed them into business streams. Money should be able to be free and randy, like a bunny.

We touched base with Pegwin Bottle, turned down for a meeting to invest commerce within Calico. Rescheduled for the next day unless I wanted to part with more tokens, even after she heard my symphony of business sense.

Scene Four: Dinnertime and an Oath

We’re propositioned to explore an old family household, mainly because within our party we had a paladin of Jocasta, who could open the way to explore it.

We meet later in the evening and proceed. Two denizens of the undead guard the path, but they’re easily pushed aside by our paladin’s holy might. We move down the hall and come to a room baring a magic sword and an oath. Our ThingFinder Ratkin makes an oath and takes the sword.

I am forbidden to make use of all the valuable gemstones that litter the old establishment.

Scene Five: The Adamant Mine

We persist in pushing The Bottle into allowing us to take some bats up to the Blue Mile, still under the guise of researching the place as a tourist trap. We’re given access and a guide.

The bats were amazing, tough simple minded in their task. They fly us up to the top of the mine and we enter the straight tunnel. Following it, we see the rigging and equipment of the past littered about the mile. Vick, our Old Pal and guide leads us down the tunnel without incident. We’re all as excited as bunnies as we come to the end of the line.

There is a blue net stretched across the opening of a bend in the tunnel. Some tiles are littered as if absently tossed into it. However a pattern was quickly observed. A – M – A – _ – I – N – G is the easy puzzle. Though without our own tile, Z, one couldn’t complete it. We stick the Z within the wonderword and the net falls to the floor of the tunnel.

Within, we are met with cash and prizes, which we quickly collect. Also, there is a note, which reveals the source of our reward: Zed Mandrake. He congratulates us and offers this haul as a peace offering. Our continued pursuit of him will be taken as villainy. He seems like a nice guy.

Before we can consider the implications, Vick and some other miners make to take our take. We bluff them with fake bombs and leave them stranded, taking their bat mounts. Vick broke our hearts that day. He shan’t be forgiven, unless he asks for forgiveness.

Like a bunny.

All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.

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The Eye of the Storm

After a fierce battle with ham and tolberry, where Rosemary was incapacitated due to her allergies to the delicious jam, our adventurers collect themselves and leave the tavern in search of the Eye of the Storm with hopes of finding the Sword of Ruin. It is a relatively straight path so armed with Mantel’s knowledge and discoveries; they quickly arrive at the Agnes Warehouse. The adventurers are suddenly filled with a feeling of utter nothingness; as if the area was completely void of life; the grass, while appearing normal, turns to ash at the slightest breath, and even the wind is silent.

Upon entering the warehouse, they find themselves confronted with what looks to be a snapshot in time, two dwarves and one catfolk frozen in places and covered in what looks to be a layer of black ash. Out of curiosity, Lysander approaches the frozen catfolk behind the counter and touches it with a dagger only to have the ash fall away to reveal a Burning Golden Skeleton who then wakes up the other two dwarven skeletons! After a swift battle in which Dorian was briefly knocked unconscious, everyone quickly realizes that any and all metal in the warehouse has been turned into gold; the grate on the floor, nails, dining wares, etc. The most logical option following this revelation was of course to scoop everything, including the fragments of gold bones, into the bag of holding and then to continue upstairs.

On the second floor, once again a frozen image in time of what looked to be preparations for dinner, with more dormant gold skeletons. Thankfully this time the skeletons are dispatched while they are in their dormant state, but upon searching the rest of the 2nd floor the travelers come across a shadow on the ceiling of the master bedroom that is being cast by nothing in particular in that room. Finding nothing else, the party travels upstairs to find the cause of this shadow.

Once on the roof, the party is greeted with an unnatural scene; a demon frozen in time with a single iron loop floating in front of it. What makes this scene even weirder is that there is a shadow of a sword being cast underneath the loop but with no sword to be seen. Beatrice, pulling from her vast knowledge of the planes, recognizes the demon as a wrecker demon, a chaotic creature that lives to destroy but oddly enough can not stand the site of it’s own reflection! Armed with this knowledge the party moves into place to attack, Dorian touches the loop, breaking the charm cast on this warehouse and freeing the demon, but at the last minute has a sudden thought to placate the demon and communicate. Once free the demon offers to share all it knows about the Sword of Ruin but for a trade; in it’s attempt to stay in the mortal realm it offers itself as a slave to one for a year and one day and only then will it share all it knows.

At the thought of having a demon for the slave, Beatrice prepares to accept only to have Lysander and Dorian adamantly object and attack the demon rejecting it’s offer! After a valiant fight from the travelers, the demon dissolves into nothingness leaving behind it’s bracers and a tattered cape which brings us to now……

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The Mandrake's Letter

You did it!
Followed my trail without error and have found your way here, to this tiny room in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know who you are, but I honestly feel a warm glow of appreciation for you at this moment. Did you encounter many dangers tracking me down? I hope no one died!
I don’t know what Talbot told you, what sob story she crammed in your ears. I’m guessing some fa la la about the robbery and this minor, unimportant family heirloom of no particular value. Ha ha ha…don’t you hate it when people write out their laughter?
So here’s the compact — I’m guessing you were promised a tidy sum of gold to find me and bring back the amulet, well here’s my counter-offer. Take this gold and treasure and we part ways here, no worse for wear, and the finest of friends.
But if you cross me, if you decide to follow me — well, then you are a most unpleasant sort. Friendship rescinded. If you refuse my most gentlemanlike offer, then I am afraid if we ever meet I will treat you all like villains.
But I hope not! Enjoy Talbot’s gold and throw down a pint or two for me.
With much love and utmost respect,
Z

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The Bright Empire through the Thistledown Revolt

I am as you have made me. From the earth and the stone, the blood in my heart is your blood. The quiet in my head is the mountain’s silence. I speak now only to teach what you would have me teach.

Humanity saved the People from centuries of death and battle. All was forgiven. With open arms and eager hearts we welcomed the humans into our lives, eager to see where their wit and ambition would lead us.

It lead us to the lash, it lead us to the steelbolt collar around our necks. It lead us to Empire.

Humans do not breed as fast as the ratfolk or the naga, but they make up for that with ceaseless effort. Their hands never tire of building new things, their eyes never cease looking for the next opportunity, and no other of the People are as quick to abandon their morals or their creed if profit is in the offing. After the Eon of Cinders, a Council was formed, lead by our savior, the wizard Bex. Humans were quick to press this advantage, in only a generation ten human families had grown to hold unprecedented power in the young lands the People were carving for themselves.

Ten families that would grow to become great merchants, then the nobility, then the royal blood of our oppressors. And one bloodline among them was greater still, the cursed family called Bright.

Even now there are many tales of this family, a family of mighty heroes. All lies, of course, the ill-reflection of the first Emperor’s light shining into the past to aggrandize his forebears. But they were the first to unite the great cities of Cynus, the first to put the crown on their heads, the first to put their boot on the necks of the People.

We served at the beck and call of human masters. Races that they found comely were kept in foul bondage as concubines and bond-slaves, races they found not to their liking were shut out and hunted, and dubbed ‘monsters’. We prayed in our pain to the Balance, but the gods act as they will and waited many long years before they sent our deliverance.

He was a simple farmer. A half-orc, like me. His family was killed by Imperial power, a blade buried in his back he fell to the earth to bleed out his final moments, just as many had fallen to the arrogance and cruelty of the humans.

But he did not die. My Lady of Stone lent her grace and his wounds closed. He pulled the sword from his own chest and stood up amongst the ashes of his lands.

Thistledown. Our savior, the Undying One. The one to lead the People, to pick us up from our bended knees and show us the path to our freedom.

And so it began, the Revolt. Small at first, like tiny sparks in the dry forest — but they spread and grew into a mighty inferno. We shook the pillars of heaven with our wrath, and pulled down the Brights and all the Great Houses of humanity. We sowed the fields of our world with human blood and reaped a harvest of liberty. We did not slaughter every human that we could find, though perhaps we should have. They are a vile race.

And so the Second Empire began, with Thistledown as our new Emperor – guided by a true Council of the People, as it was always meant to be.

And for a time peace was ours.

For a time.

I speak these words as you would wish, Jocasta of the Sand. Let the knowledge pass from me to the next, that these things never shall be forgotten.

-Davan Marlowe, Cleric of Jocasta

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