Kingmaker

[Interlude]

“Hassim…for 100 years, you’ve bumbled, stumbled and proved inept beyond all hope, and yet my daughter finds you (the Fates alone knowing the why!) irresistible. Yet, I AM the Emir of the East Wind, and unless you can find even a single witness, I’ll forbid your wedding (though my daughter cry tears amounting to a sea)……a feat which for you I am assured will surpass the difficulty of finding of a seed in a world of sand! I give you till the turning of this hour glass! You have but the passing of a mortal day to find ANYONE who will vouchsafe your character."

Hassim left the palace of Emir, his hear sinking as low as the bottom of the deepest ocean. WHO could he find among the arrogant genies that would risk their reputation even acknowledging his existence? No one…but…DID it HAVE to be a gen? Hassim’s heart lightened…the Emir had not SAID so…”MY friends! My MORTAL friends!” he yelled allowed.

“By the forked beard of Zeus and his children! By Odin’s One Good Eye! By all the Fates that made them, I summon friends to my SIDE!” Hassim shouted, and the joy in his magic split the realms of Air and Light, pulling the only souls he’d ever called friend from their decades-old resting places. Stone melded into flesh in the transportation…skeletons regained their mortal encasement….yellow musk, long dead and turned to normal dust, fell away and in a shining flash, the mortals he knew so well stood before him (if somewhat confused).

What can be said about what words transpired in the court of the Emir of the East Wind? For no one was allowed to remember…the outraged Emir, his hopes dashed at the mortal’s testimony, threw them down and back to their human realm, scattering them across the kingdom…Hassim was forever forbidden from using his powers in the celestial realms, and he had not so much time as to give his friends ‘Thanks and farewell!’ before the mortals (and cat) were thrown down into a world many years older then what they remembered, their minds cleared of all that transpired after their deaths…

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Trolls, Ettercaps and Owlbears, oh my!

What once was the hunter is now the hunted! My stalwart companions and I trekked forth into the foothills to the south of Gnarlgate where a band of trolls had taken up residence. We had fought through many with nary a scratch, but found ourselves at the entrance to what I could only surmise was the lair of the more powerful trolls.
Carefully, we entered the tunnel, and came across a fork in the road. Klois took the left tunnel, while Yuri took the right, their weapons glowing from Inari’s spell. From the darkness a bestial roar and two trolls emerged to pounce on Yuri! They beat the rogue into submission with gleeful hatred. Magnolia, seeming to have taken a fondness for our resident gambler and thief, charged forward to engage the trolls. Klois sensibly moved away and tried to put an arrow in one of the beasts to no avail. From out of the left tunnel, another beast emerged; this one a two headed monstrosity! After seeing my comrades swatted aside like so many flies, worry for Inari filled my being, and I moved forward to block the passageway from the foul beasts. She laid the two headed monster to rest, and cast new magics upon the trolls. It seems she learned a thing or two from our southern witch neighbor. Immersed in noxious fumes, the trolls retreated back from whence they came, and Klois and I were able to recover our fallen allies and make a tactical repositioning back to Gnarlgate Keep.
After many days travel and licking of our wounds, we return to the Keep to find it burning! From the beleaguered townsfolk we learn a monstrous owlbear had attacked the city and broken our palisade, and trampled our tavern as well. The militia attempted to stave off the creature, but lost many of their number in the process. After laying these brave souls to rest and grieving with the families, we once again pack up to track down the monster ravaging our lands.
Yuri was able to track the giant owlbear…not that a 10 foot swath of destroyed plants and trees was too terribly hard to follow. We arrived at a ridgeline after several hours ride, and found a large cave opening. Wanting to see if there was perhaps a rear way into the Owlbear’s lair, we rode along the ridgeline and found what we were looking for: a small opening on a ledge about 15 feet high. Klois took the lead this time, and scrambled up the cliff. Once he reached the top, it appears he was pulled in, and much scuffling about and clanking could be heard. Not wanting our friend to perish, we charged headlong toward the cliff and attempted the climb. Yuri and Magnolia made the scramble, but the weight of my armor and shield was too much for the slope to handle, and I slipped back down the embankment. Poor Inari is a great many things, but an accomplished athlete is not one of them, and she too slid back down. From later accounts, our three compatriots fought off several large spiders and two Ettercaps that were wrangling them. Ugh, giant spiders. Realizing they were in peril without Inari and I, the three made a hasty retreat with the help of gravity, and the Ettercaps and their minions returned to the dark.
We made our way back to the original cave opening, and found it full of moisture, fungi, and bugs. Klois made his way into the cave, and I flanked him, waiting for the Owlbear to appear before us. A terrible scream erupted from one of the man size mushrooms, and I quickly cut it down to size. Several other mushrooms sprouted tentacles and began to move toward us. We traded blows with the fungus for a few seconds, and narrowly avoided their deadly touch. A terrible roar came from the depths of the cavern as from Hell itself, and the fungus…smarter than they should be…retreated hastily down side tunnels. I raised my sword high and strode forward to meet the Owlbear as he emerged from the dark. With another challenging roar, the creature charged toward me. I stood fast to bear the brunt of his assault as I saw my compatriots began to circle him…when we were saved. Forgive me my Lady Sarenrae, but your divine guidance was not needed on this day, as the dark arts Inari studies struck the beast into an unnatural and sudden slumber. This was not a corrupt soul to be redeemed, but an enraged being in need of purification. We took the opportunity afforded to us, surrounded the sleeping beast and slaughtered it.
We searched the remainder of the cavern system and found a dead beastmaster and a pile of bones. A webbed corpse was in the vicinity as well. Cries from a nearby tunnel sounded much like the owlbear in mini, and we quickly made our way there. We came across the Ettercaps and spiders attacking a baby owlbear. Upon seeing us, the Ettercaps found a better place to be. I used all my charm and animal husbandry skills to sooth the baby, but to no avail While powerful, a friend of mankind the owlbears are not. Still, there was no need to kill the little one, and I know of merchants who will purchase said creatures for use where a simple guard dog just will not suffice. We found many items in and about the owlbear lair, including enchanted gloves that I took to aide my climbing and swimming, as well as a ring that should help me communicate my will to animals.
On the ride back to Gnarlgate Keep, I tried to calm the owlbear, and see if against all hope we could, if not tame him, at least make him safe to return to the wild once he was bigger and able to fend for himself. But to no avail, I was rewarded with my efforts by a particularly nasty beak bite that scored my gauntlet to the core. We fed the little beast until wandering merchants came by who were interested in purchasing him, and after haggling, we agreed upon the sum of 3000 gold. I shall keep this to replenish our supplies as our journeys continue. With a heavy heart, I put away my sword and take up the crown once again.

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The Ancient Ruins

The crown wears heavy on the brow, and with rumors abound that one of our citizens was keen on acquiring ancient elven relics, I gladly cast aside the jewelry of rule for the tools of battle once again. The Harlot Lily performs a distasteful, if necessary role in our budding kingdom, and a ruined keep somewhere to our west should have what she is looking for. More importantly, another watchtower rebuilt could curb intruders from using the forests to move close to Gnarlgate without our knowledge.
We traveled uneventfully for a few days and discovered the ruins near to where we had heard they may lay. We found the ruins in a state that gave credence to their name; everything overgrown, mossy, old, the smell of decay hung about the place. A little used trail approached torn gates. We made a cold camp and Yuri went to scout the surroundings. A few hours later, Yuri returned to us, much worse for wear. He had been assaulted on his scouting trip and had been stabbed in the back…literally. While a dark part of me I try to ignore found it appropriate the knave received a dose of his own medicine, I called upon my divine gifts and healed him of his wounds and fatigue. Yuri had no knowledge as to the nature of his assailant and after much discussion we decided to search the keep itself.
An hole in the wall is all that is left of the gate of this keep. Yuri advances first, scouting the area out. I move forward into the gate when mad laughter followed by a crashing portcullis catches me unaware. My armor catches most of the gate, but I am pinned beneath it. Yuri dances to the side as a piece of the keep wall falls, narrowly avoiding him. I do envy his light feet, but someone must bear the burdens of armor to keep Inari safe from harm. Magnolia helps me lift the rusty portcullis, but the ancient hinges catch many times before we are able to move it high enough that I can push through to the other side. As Inari scrambles through after me, mad laughter again is heard and a small creature jumps on her back and attempts to stab her with a wicked needle. The creature misses, and she makes it through the gate unharmed. Magnolia follows, and we find ourselves in a very unwelcoming keep courtyard.
Yuri expresses his desire to leave…now. I try to reason with the rogue, tell him that a keep such as this cannot be left standing with unknown hostile occupants this close to our borders. He relents, eventually, and, moving ever so carefully, he approaches one of the tower doors. A few rats greet him as the door hinges screech in protest. Then the screeching becomes louder. There were more than just a few rats in the tower! Two huge swarms of the vermin pour from the tower keep, accosting Yuri and Magnolia both. The invisible invader returns and attempts to back stab Magnolia, but her armor holds. Then Inari is hit with his fiendish weapon, and she cries out that she feels poison running through her veins.
Yuri mentions something about seeing a haggard looking elf peering at us from another tower, but this information is lost to me as I wade into the swarms of rats. Sarenrae’s blessings keep the vermin from poisoning me. We are ill prepared to fight these swarms, as only Inari can truly do any damage to them with her spells and wands, and the poison is taking its toll upon her. The hateful little beast shows himself again, and Inari hexes him to sleep. He disappears! We continue to battle the rats and I work my way over to where the little beast vanished. Knowing him to be there still, I swing my sword at the spot I know his sleeping form resides in, but I am unable to hit his body. Eventually, Inari’s hex wears off, and our opportunity to make short work of the little wretch is wasted. Many more times we swing and miss until Magnolia connects a mighty blow, and the quickling vanishes yet again and retreats to be seen no more. Inari finally finishes the rats that have been plaguing us, and we regroup for a moment.
We attempted to track down the Quickling, and followed his tracks deeper into the ruins. We glanced into the central keep tower and saw beautiful but old elven paintings, tapestries, and frescoes upon the walls. A spiraling staircase led upwards into darkness and the unknown. We made our way to the far wall of the fort where the tracks disappeared. We were at a loss as to where the little blighter took off too, but admitted defeat. The tower where Yuri claims to have seen an elf is nearby, and we approach with caution. The tower was covered in groping vines and bleached skulls. I was doubtful as to any friendly creatures living here, but we proceeded. Knocking on the warped wood of the door and calling out in every language Inari and I knew garnered not the slightest reaction. Magnolia seemed determined to enter this side tower, but we all moved back to the central tower when no answer was heard.
Our group waited at the entrance while Yuri scouted the area. An old gas trap went off, but it didnt affect the rogue. He waited until the fumes dissipated, and moved toward the staircase. He called out that he saw a figure, but it moved back up the staircase when it saw him. I moved forward to assist him when the figure came toward us from the stairs. A beautiful elven maiden, even more so than Inari, danced toward us. A small part of me screamed that this was not natural, that something was amiss, but both Yuri and I stood transfixed as the maiden approached us. With malicious glee, the creature attacked Yuri and nearly killed him on the spot. But still I could not look away from the entrancing figure. Then she attacked me as well. My armor held, and her hold over me vanished. I fought the creature on the stairs, and called for the power of my goddess to aide me. I was half afraid my lust would disgust the Dawnflower, but she answered and divine might filled my being.
Only one of the fey could entrance us so thoroughly and completely and with this knowledge I pulled my cold iron longsword and shield. The fey and I battled fiercely over Yuri’s prone form. I called to Inari for aide, but she was attempting to help Magnolia who felt compelled to chase after another creature that attacked at the same moment as this fey. Poor Yuri, it will be be these women adventurers that will be his death yet again! I battled the fey up the stairs, and when she felt the fight ebbing against her, she retreated to her inner sanctum. With a brief prayer of thanks and another for strength, I followed. Inari had arrived, but was quickly fixated by the fey’s power, and was taken out of the fight as soon as she arrived. The sanctum was filled with plants which quickly animated to their mistress’s command. I felt myself ensnared but broke free of the vines and finished the battle. With her last breath, the fey attempted to curse me, but Sarenrae felt merciful this day and blocked the evil magic. It was later after reviving Yuri that I learned Magnolia had fought an undead in the side tower, which had been the creature Yuri mistook for an elf.
Much battered and bruised, we searched the rest of the keep with no peril to us. We found many relics for the Harlot Lily, and returned to Gnarlgate on the morn. These ruins shall be reclaimed from eons past and the wheat flag of Dorindraad shall fly from its towers!

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Yuri, there and back again.

Yuri was not liking how this fight was turning out. The faint light in the cave revealed a chaotic scene. From above, swarms of bats were harrying the group. From within, the moans of the dead could be heard. Undead in all states of decay were shambling toward Yuri with a painful slowness. Through the gaps in the corpses, a strange Necromancer could be seen, chanting in a dark language.

Torch in hand, Yuri sallied forth. Dancing from foe to foe, he struck with blade and flame. A strange cloud of web filled the room with a sudden woosh. Without thinking, Yuri slung his torch into the thick of it. To his delight, the undead burst into flame, buying him more time. A foul stench preceded a mangled claw as it swept past Yuri’s head. Twisting to his left, he removed the corpse’s head from it’s shoulders. It dropped in a heap as he rolled beneath the lunge of another.

Boreas was in trouble. Blows from the Wight rained down upon him swift as lightning. The air hummed as unholy magics crackled in the cave. With each strike, Boreas grew weaker and weaker. Though no physical marks could be seen, his armor glowed a sickly green where the Wight’s sword struck true. The undead closed upon the group. Yuri had but a moment to decide to throw himself upon them to keep them from surrounding Boreas. With no time to talk himself through this, he rolled between two undead, cutting their legs from beneath them. As he rose, another ripped a chunk of flesh from his chest. A grunt escaped Yuri’s mouth as an ethereal blade sprouted from his gut. As quick as it appeared, it was withdrawn. Yuri sank to his knees as the undead flowed past him. Warmth spread from his stomach down to his thighs, spilling out onto the ground.

“Ahhh, it is time, yes Father? Yuri comes home.” A fleeting thought passed before Yuri as his vision failed. Strange that he was kicking his legs, as if running. So that is what this is like…

A hand ripped Yuri from the darkness. The most unfathomably loud ripping sound filled Yuri’s ears. Something was ripping him apart from the inside. He couldn’t scream. He couldn’t fight. He couldn’t even see what was destroying him. All he knew was pain.

After what felt like an eternity, Yuri felt something hard upon his back. This isn’t at all what he expected when he was slipping into the after life. What cruel fate has befallen him? He slowly opened his eyes and was staring at the sky.

“Arrrrgh What is this? Yuri’s head is pounding!” As his eyes adjusted to the light, he was able to look around him. Unbelievably, his friends were there. Boreas had the most unusual expression. One of both relief and disgust, followed slowly by amusement. Inari’s eyes were wide in admiration. Strangers stood amongst them. Indifference was all he could gauge from them. “What has happened to Yuri?”

Boreas quickly explained that they had paid a Dryad to bring Yuri back from the dead. There was a catch. There was always a catch, Yuri cursed. He had been transformed into a wretched Kobald, of all miserable creatures.

“This is no problem. Yuri is glad to be alive. There is more killing to do, yes?”

With that, the party set out once again. The most unusual feeling was tugging at Yuri’s head. Things were fuzzy. It was difficult to focus on the task at hand. And what in the God’s name did he do with his candle?

The rest of the day was spent doing battle with a giant tree beast, negotiating with a Fey whom had once tried to seduce Yuri into the water, and dispatching a pack of dogs.

Yuri remembers that the most out of all things. Once again, he found himself fighting for his life. His friends were set upon by these dogs. Dogs? More like a Warg and his mangy pack of wolves. Boreas was on his back, hacking at the Warg. The women were doing more than their part as usual. Yuri used his positioning to draw two wolves away from Boreas and Klois. Yuri does enjoy watching Magnolia cleave her foes in half with that great axe. Quite amusing really…

A day or so had passed after the encounter with the dogs. Is it true? A spell has been found to return Yuri to his human form! “Yuri is most excited! Thank you friends,” he exclaimed as they offered their gold to restore him.

“Yuri will try to be more careful with this body, yes?”

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New allies and a new trophy!

The chef at the Angry Owl Bear Inn is to be commended on his cooking; dinner with Inari is delicious! Over our meal and a few drinks, we discussed rumors that hunters have brought back to town about mythical creatures in the woods. Inari believes one could be a Dryad, a being of great power. She believes this creature, if a dryad it indeed is, might be able to resurrect Yuri with white necromancy spells. I trust her judgment in all things magical as only Heket has more knowledge of the arcane of any I have met.
We noticed a couple of rugged adventurers at the bar, and we decided to approach them to see their business here in Gnarlgate. A woman that carried a great sword with ease, and her cousin, a rogue that gave me a brief pang for Yuri greeted us. Magnolia and Klois, adventurers for hire, had made their way to the Greenbelt upon hearing of several fledgling kingdoms making their marks upon the land. We agreed to bring them into the fold…if they agreed to help find the dryad in the woods, and attempt to bring back our fallen comrade.
The two agreed, and after convincing one of the woodsman to lead us to the dryad, we set forth. Our trip was uneventful, and we were greeted by a satyr who we came to know as Falcos, consort and guardian of Tiressia, her lady of the glade. Once we established we came in peace, and explained to her our reason for our visit, Tiressia agreed to help us resurrect Yuri. However, she told of a great evil in the woods, an ancient fey who absorbed the life force of all things good and wholesome around it. The fearsome faerie had harmed many of the woodland creatures and Tiressia feared for her glade and her very life. We agreed to defeat this evil in exchange for her powerful magics. She performed a ritual, and Yuri was returned to us once again…sort of. While Yuri retained his…Yuriness, his physical from was that of a familiar creature, a kobold! While outwardly expressing regret, I secretly found his plight quite amusing, as did Inari. Issues aside, Yuri was back, and it was time to pay our debts and track down the evil fey.
We traveled south from Tiressia’s Glade for maybe a day before coming upon a patch of withered forest that stank of corruption and decay. A gnarled old oak stood alone in the center of this patch of corruption, and the evil poured from it so thick it was as if a physical wall. Clearly we had found the bane of the wood. The old faerie stood still as if trying to lure us in but we were not to be fooled. My comrades and I positioned ourselves to be ready for combat, and with a brief prayer to Iomedae, I moved into the fray.
The old oak took a glancing shot at me, but my armor held. Magnolia began her work on the fey, landing brutal strike after strike. The rogues flanked the fey, worrying it with daggers and finesse. But Inari all but crippled the fey with her dark hexes, causing his powerful blows to land far from their mark again and again. The old fey fell to the combined power of our might, and we found various trinkets and baubles at his roots. A tattered robe with embroidered skeletons sewn about it pulsed magic, and Inari donned it with the hope that it would increase her all ready impressive magics.
On the return to Tiressia, we were beset by a will-o-wisp, a magical predator of great power. Magnolia was ambushed by the beast and was hit with magical lightning and I engaged the beast. After a few ineffectual swipes I called out to everyone to flee as this creature was beyond us. Our group fled to the four winds while the will-o-wisp chased me down, hitting my horse many times. Eventually it grew bored and went to look for easier prey. It took me many hours but I met up with everyone at Tiressia’s Glade. We told her of our victory, and she rewarded us yet again with magic feathers that sprout into trees when planted. We agreed to come to her aide when called in exchange for her sending us word of any troubles in the area. She told of one of her kin, a water nixxie, that was having trouble with our loggers to the east, and asked of us to help her.
After a half days ride, we came across many of our loggers in a rabble, yelling at a beautiful water fey. We saw the nixie had enchanted two of our loggers and was using them to provoke a fight. Yuri stepped forth and reasoned with the nixie, who we came to know as Melianse, and we found that our loggers had came to her glade and destroyed many of her friends, the trees. Fortunately, Tiressia’s gift came in handy, as we agreed to replace Melianse’s fallen friends and to harm her glade no further. We offered our aide in times of need, and she agreed to keep watch over the waterways of the area for us in return. Our loggers were grateful, and moved on to less dangerous woods.
We were set to return to Gnarlgate, but Yuri came across some tracks and remembered a bounty posted by our citizenry for the death of a giant warg. We opted to track down this beast and keep our farms safe. Again, luck was not on our side, as we stumbled into an ambush of wolves. The first I knew of this fight was when a wolf the size of a horse flew from cover and dragged me from the saddle. His vicious maw struck many blows against me, but Iomedae’s grace kept me in the fight enough to keep the beast’s attention. My comrades had no better luck against the smaller wolves, nearly all of them being pulled from the saddle and to the ground. But it was once again Magnolia’s sword and Inari’s magic that won the day, and we returned to Gnarlgate triumphant with new allies, a new trophy for the Angry Owl Bear Inn, and best of all, a friend returned.

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A Friend Falls...

A break from wilderness was refreshing! Though I do not mind the rigors involved in making our charter lands safe for settlement, a warm bath and good ale do wonders for the soul! Good thing too, our task just become more arduous. The regency has heard of our exploits, and have given us charge of a small group of peasants and merchants to begin colonization of our charter. Roderick has been assigned as our liaison to the throne and should be able to help greatly with the business side things.

On the road back to Oleg’s outpost, our group decided to settle the area around the fort that Akiros had been guarding. The area is all ready clear of trees for several miles, it sits on the Tuskwater lake and river, and more importantly the old fort, while run down now, is of sound construction and can be repaired easily. The fort also commands a wide area of respect with a handful of archers…which we ourselves discovered! Thus the fledgling country of Dorindraad was founded, and we christened the old fort Narlgate Keep. A bundle of golden wheat on a white background is our seal which pleased Yuri immensely. I was unaware he had such a soft spot for farmers…a little out of character, but a ray of hope nonetheless.

Spring and Summer passed by entirely too quickly. Construction of the small folk homes, repairs on the Keep, and planting crops made half a year go by in nary an eye blink. Inari it seems has a green thumb! She is on the path to become a herbalist and alchemist. She has many of the village children helping her with an herb garden, and she is working closely with Hamm, the unofficial mayor of the townsfolk, to make sure the crops will yield a bountiful harvest this year.

It feels good to be part of a militia again. We approached Akiros and asked him to be our Captain of the Guard, which he gratefully accepted. He hired five of the townsfolk to be full time Guardsmen, and another ten to fifteen are being trained as militia when the need arises. He has set up a watch list for in town as well as many patrol routes around the vicinity. While a good measure, this nearly ended in disaster when a patrolman came across the kobold caravan from the silver mines. Noone was injured, but the townsfolk will take some convincing of our erstwhile kobold allies. Inari tells me of visits by the fey as well, and of shoelaces being tied together, missing milk jugs, misplaced farm equipment…the usual fey tricks. She gave instruction on how to win their favor to the townsfolk, and it is not unusual at all to see plates of pastries left on doorsteps every evening. From the way a few of the Guardsmens’ armor has been getting smaller, I think not only the fey are enjoying these nocturnal treats!

A chill bite to the wind announces harvest time and very long days for all. We helped the farmers every chance we were able and were rewarded with a good crop this year. As autumn comes to a close, and the small folk begin preparations for the winter ahead, the road calls to us yet again. Much of the Narlwood has been scouted by us, but the Kanelands are all but a mystery, and there are a few loose ends to tie up. On a chilly morning, once again we buckle our armor and ride out to meet fate.

A few hours’ ride and we came across a ridge line. A small cave piqued our interest, and we decided to explore and secure the area. Foul odors of insects and excrement spewed forth from the cave mouth with an almost physical force of intensity. Gretta led the way into the cave, and was rewarded with a swarm of bats! She flailed away at the swarm with her mace to no avail, and in the confusion moved farther into the cave. Another swarm of bats attacked me as I moved into the cave to help her. Seeing the little effect Gretta’s mace had on the swarms, Yuri and I broke out torches and attempted to burn the flying rodents while Inari used a few more charges on her Burning Hands wand. Gretta was able to cast a silence spell that confused the bats greatly, and we were able to engage the swarms without them hovering around us.

Inexplicably while we continued the fight with the bats, Gretta took off further into the cave. I learned later that dwarven capriciousness for shiny things triggered a rather obvious trap…but at the time I was caught rather off guard by a small army of skeletons emerging from the hallway from where the cleric disappeared. Realizing our fight just intensified in danger and difficulty rather abruptly, Inari tried to stall the skeletons with a Web spell that didnt work as well as we would like. The skeletons were very difficult for Yuri and I to manage with our blades that did little to slow their attacks. Time and time again they came at me, but I managed to block or deflect all of their attacks. Yuri and Inari were able to destroy many skeletons as they clawed at my armor, and the fight was going well considering only three of us were present.

Then I felt a dark presence emerge from the hall…a cairn wight; a powerful undead with a sword glowing with evil magic. Knowing that only I could stand up to this monster, I called upon the divine grace of Iomedae to help cleanse this evil from the world and stepped forward into combat. I blocked an attack, and missed a swing, then landed a blow that staggered the creature. Then he returned the favor. When the glowing sword hit me, I felt a terrible wrenching pain as if a part of me had been taken forever. I knew then that this fight would not end well. Inari tried her best to hex the creature, but he shrugged off her attacks as well as he did mine. Suddenly, the wight circled and attacked Yuri. He was in tatters from dueling with many skeletons, and never saw the blow that did him in. The pain at seeing a friend fall was great, but the pain in my body was too much to continue the fight. Had the four of us confronted the wight on our terms, I’ve no doubt the outcome would have been different.

Inari helped me out of the cave, and once we were certain the wight had returned to his crypt we were able to retrieve Gretta and Yuri’s corpse. Though pain continued to wrack my body, we buried Yuri in one of the wheat fields, and Akiros accompanied us to Restov so I could find a cleric powerful enough to heal the wounds that evil sword inflicted. As I was being healed, I felt my strength returning almost as if a part of me I had lost had now been made whole. The ride back to the Keep was uneventful…and a tear slid from my eye as I caught sight of the wheat banner billowing in the wind. Rest in peace Yuri, you will be missed.

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Yuri's log

Father, what a strange land this has turned out to be. Yuri is not complaining though, for the lack of frozen water is quite refreshing. Besides, there are plenty of bodies to drain of their life blood. This is good day, no? Wishing you were with me in these hard times. Yuri could use a hand with the grain business.

Enough of the idle talk. Yuri finally got the chance to take a closer look at this run-down fort. The rear palisade is no place for a man. The living are not welcome here. Stinking flesh-eaters tried to take Yuri to the grave. This is no problem for the group, no? The pretty lady seems to like smashing flesh-eaters. Yuri is quite impressed with how she handles herself. Perhaps a squeeze on the back side to encourage her next time is in order. The wall was short enough in any event. Climbing it was without problem. Once pretty lady and stone foot finished off the flesh-eaters, they managed to climb up with the she witch and Yuri.

The inside of the fort was black as coal. This was good. The night has always been Yuri’s favorite time to play. People fear the darkness. Not Yuri. Yuri could hear one of the rats in the building, just around the corner. The slob was lost in his game of cards. Yuri had one regret before lunging through the door…he was about to ruin a perfectly good game of cards.

As usual, River was true and found the rat’s throat as Yuri’s free arm wrapped around his face. There was a satisfying “Tssssssss” sound as the first stream of blood sprayed the wall. With each frantic beat of the rat’s heart, the spray weakened. One last kick of the feet on the rough wooden floor and the rat’s soul drifted into the nether. A clean kill, Yuri! No blood on Yuri’s cloths is always a clean kill, no?

Yuri drifted back into the darkness to report to the others. “There is one less rat to worry about. Yuri thinks now is good time to go look around. Stay here and don’t make noise.” Stone foot didn’t look too thrilled about the blood glistening upon River. This is reason why group needs Yuri. Everybody wants to be the lion until it is time to BE the lion. They have no stomach for working a blade. Useful in a fight…not so useful at being a shadow. Tonight, Yuri is shadow.

There was more work to do. Yuri slipped through the rubble to see what he cannot see. Drunken rats were making an awful lot of noise in the courtyard. This presents little problem. A doorway was staring at Yuri from across the way. Of course, it is Yuri’s duty to make sure there is nothing down there that should belong in Yuri’s pockets. Down into the darkness, there shown a light. Yuri’s arms got goose flesh. Yuri knows what goose flesh means. It does not mean keep going and digging himself into a Bullette hole. So, Yuri went back to grab the others.

“Yuri does not like what is around corner. Perhaps you should follow Yuri inside, no? Let Yuri look further and we then decide from there.” So with that, the group entered the barracks. Yuri motioned for stone foot to stay and keep the pretty ladies safe. There was something stirring underfoot. Some creature, for sure. Yuri did not concern himself with this. There were more important things to kill. A lone guard in his tower, perhaps? Yuri slipped upon the rat like his own shadow. No time for letting River earn her namesake. With a sharp downward thrust, Yuri severed the rat’s spine just below the neck. The rat didn’t even grunt as he dropped to the ground. His eyes twinkled in the torchlight. They were wild as they stared at Yuri. A grin slipped across Yuri’s face as he watched the rat struggle inside his own body. It will take this one a long time to die. A shame Yuri can’t stay to watch…

Yuri stubbed toe on stupid plank. Fortune curse the shadows, the rat in the other tower heard Yuri. “HEY! HOG NOSE, DAT YOU? Get yer arse back on post ‘for da boss sees ya!” Yuri had no choice but to slunk back to the tower. It was amusing though, propping up the rat with his own spear, looking out over the road. Nobody else was any the wiser to his fate. His wild eyes still stared, a raspy pant escaping his lips as he tried to force air through his broken body. Yuri leaned close and whispered, “There there, rat. I gave you a nice view.” Oh yes…it will take him quite a long time to die…

Yuri made it back to stone foot and the others. “There is much work to be done. 3 big rats and their minions down in the court yard.” Yuri let stone foot take them back downstairs and around the wall. When Yuri opened door, a dank bedroom awaited. Yuri’s mind began to race. Drunk brute, pretty Elf, shadows, stone foot smash, pretty lady dance, River run red…yessssss. This will work. “Inari, get on bed. Drunk fool will be distracted. Give Yuri and Boreas time to stick him.” To Yuri’s surprise, the she witch agreed. Time to stick the Stag!

Yuri’s jaw hit the floor when the Stag rat jumped on his bed. He tried not to laugh as the she witch struggled mightily. The dance began in earnest. Yuri does not like fighting like this! Yuri dodged who knows how many heavy handed blows from the Stag rat. With a might spring of his legs, Yuri launched himself back to meet trouble at the door. Pretty lady can’t be left alone. Sure enough, Yuri’s instincts were right. A great oaf and fancy pants flew through the door. Yuri kissed his blades and squared off against fancy pants. His rapier was quick, but Yuri was quicker yet. Dodging a timely thrust, Yuri tried to get behind the oaf. Yuri hit brick wall. No, not brick wall. Oaf. Oaf tried to smash Yuri. Nobody smashes Yuri but Yuri!

Yuri looked to the sky as he felt wetness all over his face. Yuri does not remember rain clouds. From the corner of his eye, he sees pretty lady smashing fancy pants’ face. She witch must have put the rat to sleep. Yuri grinned at pretty lady and rolled away from the Oaf’s earth shattering blow. “Yooo killed friiiiiiiiiiend!” the oaf shouted at pretty lady as he went after her with a vengeance. As this was happening, Yuri saw his opening with the Stag rat and stone foot. The rat turned his back on Yuri to handle the she witch. Using the corner of the wall as leverage, Yuri sprung through the air. Hide and Seek, the Reavers of Darkness slid through the Stag rat’s lower body, spilling viscera across the floor. With a mighty grunt, he dropped to the floor, just as the Oaf did.

Yuri did not bother himself with stone foot’s conversation with the fallen paladin. The fight against the old man is hardly worth mentioning either. Yuri had far more important things on his mind. Gold. Ale. Women. How much longer must Yuri be out in these wilds before he can find a real city??

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Oh, here's my journal!!! It's been missing...

Finally able to write once again in this journal of mine! Between bandits, bears, fay, frogs, boggards, kobolds, undead ferrymen, smash mace first-ask questions later clerics, wheat obsessed rogues, and almost scarily powerful elven witches, I have been amiss in recording my adventures. We find ourselves camped near an old fort along the banks of the river that runs the edge of the southern forests. Rumor has it bandits inhabit the fort, and they greeted us with many a volley of arrows. Yuri set out to determine if their defenses are weak at any point, and he returned with…decent news.

It seems as though dark magic is at work at this fort. Yuri discovered one area which is not patrolled by the human residents of the fort, mainly because it is guarded by the once-human residents of the fort. Black and foul these undead creatures were that arose to attack my comrades and I when we approached the rear palisade, but the holy magic of Gretta and Iomedae’s divine grace allowed us to make short work of the damned sentries while Yuri and Inari scaled the palisade. I heard a bit of a yelp as someone sat on the business end of a spike, but aside from that and grave ichor on my armor, we made it within the fort proper with nary a scratch.

We hunkered down in the dark…not the most noble of things to do for a warrior of light, but an entirely pragmatic one. From counting the arrows launched at us we knew we were facing at least a dozen bowmen. Yuri took off to scout the fort area. He returned what felt hours later, but the moon showed to only be a few moments. A guard in the nearest hut was all that stood between us and some concealment from prying eyes. Yuri unsheathed his blade and performed his dark deed, but certainly no better than this scoundrel deserved. The two women and I remained in this first hut, eyes and ears straining to hear the results of Yuri’s next task, and with a sigh of relief the rogue returned with blades yet again bloodied. A narrow escape this time however, as he was forced to play the role of his most recent victim to satisfy the curiosity of a not so drunk watchman.

Yuri told us of a typical bandit scene; drunken degenerates enjoying ill gotten gains. He was particularly interested in three bandits that seemed to be alpha dogs amongst the ragged pack; a svelte rogue such as himself, a club wielding brute, and a man wearing a horned crest which could only be the Stag Lord himself. Many more bandits were enjoying the revelry, as well as a caged beast that was none to happy about it’s predicament. While my blood sang to wade into combat cooler minds prevailed and a plot was formed to isolate the Stag Lord from his compatriots. While I was none too happy about Inari playing the sacrificial maiden… even I can see her beauty and the desire she holds over men. And there is always the bone deep conviction I will do unholy things to any who touch her.

As quiet as scale mail wearing mice can be, we carefully snuck into the Stag Lord’s bedchambers. I remember all too fondly from my militia days that even the hardiest of drinkers soon succumbs to the siren call of sound sleep. With Inari on the Stag Lord’s bed, the rest of us hid in the shadows. We did not wait for long. With many a grunt and stumble, he made his way to the bed, and quickly flopped upon Inari! While I am remiss in admitting the actions of a drunken bandit took me so off guard, that is exactly what happened. The fight began in earnest once the gravity of his situation penetrated his drunken stupor.

Time and time again the Stag Lord and I traded blows, our armor soaking most of the damage. Rhythmic chanting erupted from Gretta as she sang her battle cry and bolstered her allies. Yuri impressed me yet again with his cat like reflexes and other worldly nimbleness. And Inari, my own dark goddess…the power she holds over her fellow mortals is…disturbing. We fought the Stag Lord and soon the rogue and brute as they arrived…but a curious thing happened. Another man whom Yuri had not mentioned to us held back the rest of the bandits. The fight was tough, but we prevailed…and found ourselves staring at bristling arrows.
This new man, Akiros as he named himself, held the bandits fast, and explained to us his disdain for the Stag Lord and his actions. Akiros and the remaining bandits joined forces with us to put down the raging owlbear that remained in the cage, and even though the beast broke free from his confinement, this fight was soon over.
Once the last blood had been shed, Akiros told us of his past; a fallen paladin of Erastil, with a story full of tragedy. And yet, one also of redemption, as Akiros agreed to man the fort and protect these lands for our charter in exchange for supplies and men. He told us of one final trial to securing the fort… a mad druid living in the dank walkways below the fort. The father of the Stag Lord himself. A bit of trickery afforded us a night’s rest, and come the dawn we four companions braved the dark crypts of the the fort.

Knowing our foe, I led the way into the crypts. Our exploration was rewarded immediately by mad laughter and a summoned giant ant. I stepped forth to battle the creature, and was caught off guard as the druid disappeared into the wall! That was a little trick Heket had never pulled from her dark tomes… but then again, Heket rarely dabbled in little tricks. Yuri sprung forth to surprise attack the druid when he returned, and return he did. With a maneuver that belied his “mad” title, the druid attacked Inari, recognizing her for the greatest threat. A swarm of spiders erupted over my sister who swatted ineffectually at them. With all my martial prowess, there was nothing I could do for her, and proceeded to kill the ant blocking my way to the druid. Ah, but Inari rarely finds herself in a situation that she cannot overcome. As evil and conniving as Heket was, she did prepare her daughter well for situations most mothers could not comprehend. With a flick of the wrist, Inari burned the swarm to cinders and lashed back at the druid with her own magic.

The ant a congealing pool of viscera and exoskeleton at my feet, I ran forth to engage the druid. With Yuri at his back, the druid became enraged and morphed into a giant badger. At this point, the druid’s audacity at hurting Inari outweighed any surprise I had left at his parlor tricks, and we made short work of him. Once returned to the surface, we took time to gather our supplies, the body of the Stag Lord, bid Akiros farewell and rode toward the fallen ferryman to fulfill a promise made. The Ferryman rewarded our group with a ran-sear once we unceremoniously dumped the Stag Lord’s corpse into the river. What fresh hells await the Stag Lord I do not know…but I do know all is deserved.

We returned to Oleg’s outpost and collected our reward for the death of the Stag Lord and his band of miscreants. Oleg and his wife were thrilled at the prospect of a bandit free forest and had high hopes of trading unmolested with the trappers and rangers in the area. Our group headed to Restov to resupply and procure more suitable gear for our adventures to come. While one great evil in our charter lands had been overcome, surely the Stag Lord will only be the first…and the least.

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Frogs....

This place is becoming dull, Yuri thought to himself as he followed the group through forests, hills and plains. Oh, there were some good fights from time to time but Yuri was getting restless. There are no people here! No people to sell grain to. How is a man supposed to make an honest living cheating people around here?

The days drug on and his legs were sore. Why have the Gods forsaken Yuri so? The ground began to stick and the unmistakable stench of bog filled the air. Ahead, Yuri caught a glimpse of a white horse laying in a clearing. Horse? No…something was unusual about this beast. Where once a horn belonged remained only rough-cut bone and blood. A unicorn, no doubt.

From the woods burst a rough looking fellow. Barbarian by the looks of him. Yuri paid little attention as introductions were made. Little use learning a man’s name lest he be eaten the next day. If he proves his worth, then perhaps Yuri can pay him more attention. He did have a rather decent supply of grog…Yuri may end up liking him after all.

Yuri glanced at the beast and thought of a wonderful cloak he could make of it’s hide…
His attention was quickly brought to the underbrush as he heard some snorting. From the clearing burst the most hideously beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes upon. The creature struck a majestic pose and bellowed, “Am I not beautiful?!”

It’s feathers spread before it in a wonderful display of color. Adam, as the creature announced himself began to make his rounds among the group. For some reason, he thought the pretty lady was a hideous thing. This irked Yuri. This beat had better pay more respect to the lady folk. Before long, it was rummaging through their cart. To Yuri’s dismay, it began to drink his entire stash of ale!

Yuri knew the group didn’t have the will to do what was right, so Yuri took matters into his own hands. “Adam…come close to Yuri so that I may gaze upon your beauty.” Adam pranced over and began a slow turn, displaying his wondrous looks. As his back turned to Yuri, he quickly drew steel across Adam’s neck. Instead of the familiar fountain of blood he had come to expect, Adam inspected his blade and thanked Yuri for the necklace. Surely this creature was of magic. Yuri would have to bide his time to rid himself of this thing.

Days of hard travel was interrupted by a particularly foul Owl bear. It, like all the other beasts of this land proved no match for the group. It was near this place that Yuri found a peculiar bridge. Being light of foot, he was able to hop across the ruins. Perching atop a ruined cart, he saw a serpent sleeping beneath him. What luck! Treasure was scattered about in the serpent’s bed. Another was across the way, wandering about. If Yuri played his cards right, he’d have a few shinys to add to his collection.

The barbarian fellow proved quite valuable in the fight against the serpents. Braving the raging river to close steel, he was a tough lad. The women folk had issues swimming, as usual. Yuri was going to have to jump in and save the pretty lady. This better earn him a favor in the future…water is for the birds.

The worst of the journey was yet to come. Yuri wanted to look into frog-man’s house and see if there was anything worth keeping. Turns out, frog man can hear better than most. Yuri would like to forget being drug around the ruins by his legs. Horrible frogs…

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November 14th "Help of the Fays"

As our awkwardly formed group sits around a fire starting to drift off to sleep I hear snarls. As I look in the direction of the startling noise I see three sets of eyes. They leap out of cover and attack Yuri as he tries to run away. As the other two reveal themselves Inari puts a sleep spell on one and the other hairy beast assists the attempt to drag Yuri into the woods. I moved as quick as I could to help Yuri. The best I could to was draw attention to myself. They let go of the little human and turned to me. They probably saw more meat on me. Anyway, they knocked me to the ground but I got right back up swinging. Two were killed and the last one ran away.
As I am riding in the wagon back to camp, feeling every little bump in the road, we encounter a priest who had a dream. The dream he told us of is about a temple in the woods. It’s overgrown with bushes and shrubbery. It also has a deer statue. He warned us that if we ever came across such a landscape that we should be careful for the temple is guarded by a creature that is not in it’s right mind. The reward for finding this temple is healing and gold. Sounds good to me so we take off Southeast looking for this overgrown temple.
In route we come across a spiders home. Yuri is amazing the way he works those two knives. With one strike the spider is down. After recovering quickly from my in awe moment I begin to get curious as to what is inside the spiders hole. I quickly volunteer to go down knowing that I will keep the majority of the money. 10 gold and an ambulant was my reward but I couldn’t get out. I struggle with climbing so they had to pull me out. Oh I hope none of my clan was looking down on me in that moment. Embarrassing but funny I must admit.
As we continue on our journey a demon snake sneaked up on me. It clawed me and wrapped my burly body up in it’s poisonous tail. I try to break free and feel my strength decreasing. I remembered not to give up for I carry the strength of my clan and broke free. Irari finally makes the demon drop with her cross bow. After healing myself we continued on our journey toward the temple.
The strangest thing happen the next night as we were sleeping next to a tree that looked like it’d be struck by lightning… Yuri’s ring he had found was on my finger and there lying next to me was a backpack full of daises when I awoke. So the next night we take longer to get to bed still wondering what could have happened the night before. As my imagination is running wild with ideas I hear a whisper saying, “Danger is coming.” It immediately grabs my attention and the rest of the group follows suit. The danger was a Snarl Tooth Bear. The whispers which we assume are the Fays tell us to leave at once. Inari sleeps the bear so that we can safely escape what would have been a brutal fight. What a strange land this is turning out to be. We move west with the Fays. They continue to whisper to me. They don’t seem to like Yuri… I think it’s because he took back the ring they gave me as a gift the previous night. I enjoyed their company but we had to head east. I hope I get to see them again someday.
We returned to Ologs in a few days time and then turned around and went back out to find the temple. We come across leading up to a cave entrance with a big horned elk statue. This was the temple the priest was dreaming of. As we cautiously approach the stairs a bear comes out looking angry and confused. I get this feeling that there is a person trapped in bear form. He’s insane. I caution the group not to kill the bear but we have to bring him down, put him out somehow so he won’t harm us. We manage to knock him unconscious and bring him back to camp where Jhod took him away hoping to return him to human form.
We return to the temple and find nothing of use. I hope that priest can restore it and bring it back to it’s former glory and purpose. We head west and come across a swamp that leads to a river. Giant frogs appear and wrap their tongue around a fawn, dragging it back into the water never to be seen again. I step back and refuse to take on these abnormal sized frogs. They were seriously, probably as big as me. I convince the group to leave the frogs be and we camp nearby. As I drift off to sleep I think to myself, “I hope we don’t croke,” then chuckle a little.

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