Kingmaker

For Posterity
And for a third time the charge was sounded....

Having won the tournament, Araveti the Traitorous departed only hours before we received the news that no less than 4 of his armies assailed our kingdom. Desnaton was under seige, a horde of foot approached from South and Trolls and Wyverns in the North, salting the land.

We gave chase, vowing that Araveti would rue this day in the pits of Hell. Our Noble King returned to lead our people, returning the Sorcerer Orman Ras to us to rain fire upon them. Araveti and his bodyguard of trolls, wardens, and ogre mage were easily tracked, and we overtook them that same day.

Cresting a rise, we led a dreadful charge, but presumably the mage had enchanted himself and king with a Contingency Teleport, and no sooner had we landed blows but they vanished, leaving their minions to face us. In addition to trolls and Wardens, the vary same barbarian who tried to kill me in the tournament joust was their, and his fury was terrible. Even after Orman melted his very armor off he yet stood, his greataxe dropping my faithful steed Ajax with a single blow. He brought Sam and myself near death, and dropped the Sorcerer as well. Even as we tried to kill him we risked being hit by his whirling blade. Even as I healed us enough to revive the sorcerer to let Sam’s arrows finish him, a Warden in a fit of spite tried to finish the dying AJax, but even the most mortal wounds may be undone, and were.

With Araveti and the Mage gone, we elected to continue our pursuit to his capitol, only some miles away. He is not the only one who can teleport. Orman, invisible courtesy of a borrowed ring from Alder, who had recently joined us on our way to the tournament, found an abandoned tower to bring us to from which to plot our next move. Orman once again took the form of an earth elemental, and entered the lower portion of Araveti’s castle, where he found a Naga, or some sort of snake creature. Giving up on charming him as futile, he conversed with it, and it appears it is not altogether averse to the idea of a defeated Araveti. More shocking was that this creature was apparently able to produce our King’s Mother, who tried to kill the sorcerer one site, perhaps still enchanted by the same Faerie Queen who corrupted the King’s Father.

There could be no other choice – we would teleport there and begin our second assault on Araveti by first rescuing our King’s Mother. When the spell was cast however, we appeared somewhere strange indeed. A great chamber, with floating lights at the top like stars, a lake, and some sort of central pool with glowing water. We were greeted by something that appeared to have once been a halfling, but looked frozen and translucent. This ghost seemed mad but not hostile, telling us nothing of great note, only that he was known as the Gardener. When we made to leave though, he attacked with fell magic, aging us unnaturally and sowing fear that in this document I will confess pierced even my resolve. At the same time, the lights proved to be our old friends Will-o-Wisps. The ensuing battle was made much easier by the clever efforts of Alder, who used his whip to steal the staff the Gardener carried, which turned out to Quicken spells. Magic made us immune to the will-wisps, and the ghost fell shortly thereafter. As we healed, we heard a faint plea from a water clock. Inside was a Naiad, an agent of the Faerie Queen, sent to hide a sword from all including the Queen.

The Gardener and Araveti had made a compact to take the sword from her, but Araveti betrayed the Gardener, took the sword from this place, and killed him. We learned that he was also in the process of trying to develop a city devastating poison, but that this was likely a ruse to draw us here and trap us. Alder went scouting up the stairs we saw, but was smelled out by a were-rat. he came running down to warn us, and a wall of force divided their forces. The were-rat made it through though, and shot a volley of devastating arrows, felling Sam yet again for someone so young. I used my most powerful healing to try and revive him, but to my horror and dismay he did not rise! With Sam gone and my companions staggering, I did what I had done once before to fight unconventionally: I asked Desna to free me from my human form to take another shape. As a ferocious tiger, I pinned the rat to the ground, while Alder cut him to pieces faster than his twisted body could regenerate. As he struggled, he spit and clawed at me in a frenzy which still makes me anxious for my health.

Terribly wounded, and with Sam dead, we elected to withdraw and lead our Kingdom rather than press the assault. For as we struggled in dark places, our brave and glorious Soldiers defended their homes with our Lives. The Army garrisoned in Lakefort intercepted one of Aravet’s outside of Tazleford, and for the second time in our short history the charge was sounded and the enemy was overrun, trampled and routed. Meanwhile, in the north, the garrison of Olegton achieved what can only be described as the greatest military achievement I am likely to see in my life, as full of war as it is. When trolls assailed the walls, the did not break, but retaliated viciously and again and again, taking strength from the great walls and thoughts of loved ones. And the trolls died. But those walls could not save them from the Wyvern’s, fleeing our victorious cavalry. Those brave men and women, for a second time, faced horrible monsters and atrocious odds, but did not flee. And now it was their turn to do the dying. But oh, the manner of their deaths! Stories will be told for generations, how even as poison filled their veins they drove forward, their last breaths exacting terrible vengeance from their foes. The Wyvern flight was crippled, and two days later, when our Army arrive, not even hiding behind our own walls could save them from our fury. And so a third time the charge was sounded, and a third time the enemy lay impaled upon our lances. Olegton free again, we turn our eyes to the West. We are coming for you Araveti, oh yes. You will pay for taking our best, our bravest heroes. For Sam, for the farmers, the soldiers and for the Green Marches.

We. Are. Coming.
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An excerpt from the journal of Orman Ras….

Year Four: Greenbelt

Well….interesting times, interesting times indeed….

Upon our defeat of the Sepoko Bullywugs, we harvested the heart of their leader as instructed by “our” Bullywug. A ceremony was begun in which the heart would be eaten – a ritual of assuming a leadership role – which felt normal to me for some reason. I was offered to take a bite and suddenly became ravenous. If not for the swift action of the frog-man – I would have consumed the entire heart by myself. I chewed the hard muscle and experienced a series of flashes…almost like memories…

You see an army in front of you in the distance, too far to make out the enemy, but their army is huge stretching miles across and deep, extending to the horizon in every direction. The ground is broken and covered in blood and pitted iron. You look to your left and right. To your right is a gaunt creature with the head of a jackal and clear, jagged teeth. He rides astride a weary looking horse whose ribs stand out. To your immediate left is a writhing creature oozing green ichor. He rides a massive quadruped, shaped like a horse but covered in mottled green plates like an insect. To your far left is a tall man carrying a dim lantern in his left hand and a massive scythe in the other. His horse is skeletal and the bones are covered in onyx runs. The one on the far right speaks in a deep tone, “This is your domain, lead our armies, bring their soldiers to me, to cross my dark waters”.

You see lovers in the throws of passion, gripping each other. As you look closer you see that the woman has deep black wings and her lover seems bound. Shackles bind his ankles and wrists. Even so bound he tosses her across the room before they rejoin in a lustful embrace.

You see a woman cut, slicing herself across her abdomen.

You see a woman command a massive dragon, his black horns and scales make it difficult to see his jet black pupils. At her command the creature bends down and stands motionless as she opens its gut secreting a creature inside. With a word, the dragon heals. She commands it again. It takes flight. The memories fade as a voice speaks, each word sounds like it is spoken amongst a clash of arms. The voice is outraged.__


Three times you have turned down a crown. The first time, I thought it was because the tribe was too small, made up of creatures too base to be worth its while. The second time, I thought you were merely being politic, playing allies against each other, merely postponing your rise as king. I saw your father in you as you were raised to a position of power, the power in the darkness. *I relished your defeat of Charon’s servant. Like Charon, his servant had thought too much of himself, grown accustomed to a position of power that was not due to him. You slew him and drew Charon’s ire. But he knew he could not act. He knows that he cannot touch my son. And if he knew who your father was, he would shake in terror.
Then I saw my own nature reflected in you. Your spells turned the tide as you repelled the barbarian horde. I knew the pride of a mother. *

But now you have turned down another kingdom. The Bullywugs were weak, it is to be sure, but no weaker than humans. With you at their head, they could be fashioned into an army. Do you think I would not come to your aid. Have you forgotten who you are? Have you forgotten who your father is? Have you forgotten your role in this world? You must rule, you must lead, you must kill in battle, you must spread misery, you must prepare the land for return of he who has not walked the planes for aeons. *

All that – in just a few seconds.

My mind reeled – not sure what to believe. I spent a few days letting the information sink in. One of my parents was War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I spent a few days anticipating the delicious carnage which would be my destiny, the comfort of knowing I had a powerful parent – if not a god, something akin to it – who would support me in the destruction of my enemies, who would protect and aid me versus those who foolishly dared deny me…only to swing over to moments of clarity when I feared for my soul. (But then again – did I even have one?) After all, are not the Horsemen dedicated to end of everything?

Ignorant thing that I am – I recalled vaguely that that War was a man who rode a red horse with angry eyes of fire. I proceed to get an elaborate tattoo of a red horse on my back. (It was only a few days later when I discovered I was grossly mistaken.)

I choose not to share this insight with my allies at first. I feared they would try to kill me. I also feared that if I was harmed they would call vengeance upon themselves from powerful forces. I contemplated leaving the party and accepting my fate. I decided to wait – until a week or two after the wedding. I drank and entertained myself in various ways and avoided thinking of the matter.

A few days later – the Summoner that has plagued us from time to time – attacked us. It was a difficult battle – he was immune to most of my spells and his “pet” was…impressive. I was thrilled to use my new spell to clip its wings – anytime I can kill a bird pleases me greatly. Finally, in time, our enemies were slain.

The Summoner was brought back to life in his natural gnome state. I expected a sad and sentimental reunion between father and son (Venrick). Instead our king quietly and calmly questioned his father and explained he had a lot to answer for, much to do to make up for all the evil he had done. His father – who had lost his wife and his life quietly listened to his son and agreed. There was no disrespect or judgment from the son, no excuses or explanations from the father. Bur rather a strong sense of honor, integrity and responsibility. It made sense of course – the son learned from the father – so what may have seemed strange or off emotionally to us made perfect sense to them. We had chosen wisely – making this “silly” little creature king. But if the son is the product of the father – what did that say about me? Just moments earlier I had attempted to eat the heart of the defeated Summoner and was annoyed when Venrick had stopped me. I feared that I would have to leave my companions…and soon.

It was decided that we would finally rescue the loved ones of the woman who warned us of a recent attack of our kingdom. After some difficultly we managed to have an idea of where they were: Drelev Keep.

After a recon by Derrick and Sam (they actually managed to spend time in a house of ill repute and not enjoy themselves with a woman!) – it was decided to gain entrance to the tower by posing as a traveling troop of entertainers. (I would be a Wizard of course.)

It was also decided to gather some sort of gift to sweeten the way in. “Windchaser” – a renown “wild” horse appeared to fit the bill. Off we went and we quickly discovered the horse had been awakened and was the prior companion of Varn. A quick conversation with the horse made us ware of the following: Varn’s soul was still being held by Charon, that a soul held for one year becomes the “property” of the holder and Varrn had been dead for 11 months…

My friends decided that we would summon servants of Charon to begin a conversation for the soul of Varn. (I suspect if Venrick was around – we would not be summoning dark outsiders.) I tried to dissuade them at first – for my own protection and also because devil and demons are crafty and wind up getting the better end of the deal – always. But they were not to be persuaded.

Devon, who at times appears to know all things – did a bit of research and I learned the following: Szuriel – the black-winged woman with bleeding eyes and ragged teeth – is the Horseman of War. (Then who is my father? The one that if Charon knew who he was _would shake in terror?) _I felt like a fool for the Horse tattoo and wondered if I was more a pawn in dark dealings then a powerful demi-god in training. A few divination spells and it was decided that we would summon a servant of Szuriel. I could almost hear my mother laughing…

I finally shared my linage to my allies _ I could not risk the summoning without them knowing this. Rather than hate or disgust – there was acceptance. (Although Devon said he was “not ok with it” – he thought it would be a good idea to avoid eating hearts for a while.) Very strange…I suspect this is “friendship”, but part of me wonders if this is not foolishness on our part.

The circle was created, the spell was cast….and to our surprise – instead of a servant…there she was – Szuriel. I have to give my friends credit – they instantly knew the danger we were in and their faces paled as she casually wiped away the summons circle with her fingers. With a smile she said: “Really, if you wanted to talk to me child, you could have just called me.”

I had gone over this moment in my mind a couple of hundred times – pictured it as a solemn moment where I would renounce any chance of being a “good” person and proudly proclaim: “Hello Mother, I’m ready to begin the end of all that is, etc. etc…”

Instead, as if I were an embarrassed schoolboy, I took a step backwards, hung my head and said: “Hi Mom.”

She talked to us for no more then five minutes, with casual polite contempt – as if we were three little birds and she was a giant cat. Before we knew it, we agreed to surrender to her the Eye of Charon (She claimed she wanted it just to annoy Charon) and a particular sword – supposedly created or blessed by Gorum. Szuriel coyly said she wanted it only because the idea of a sword of some other god of war vexed her greatly…but she did let slip that the sword, along with the eye – could allow her to do something…

In exchange for those two items – she would get Varn’s soul away from Charon and save him from eternal damnation. But was this true? I am not sure she made any promise to free Varn’s soul – simply to take it away from Charon. A year from now, would Varn’s soul still be in her position? If I were her – having all the power in the negotiations – that’s what I would do. We asked for clarification and she replied with a wicked smile and a thinly veiled threat that it would be presumptuous to try to try to learn more.

We all agreed to the “deal” and she gave her word to keep up her end of the bargain. Would she? And if she did – wasn’t it in all in her favor? She teased me about how pretending to be a traveling entertainer was degrading to my linage and hinted that she wanted me to get the sword as it would be an asset to my “success”. I muttered that I would like to speak to her in the future. She said she would like that and with that was gone.

I shook my head and smiled. As the full weight of what I had learned and what we had agreed to sunk in – one thought played in my mind:

When Venrick got back and realized what we had done – there would be hell to pay.

Interesting times, interesting times indeed….

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Eulogy given by Akiros on the First Celebration of the Day of Falled Heroes

No matter how long I live, the time I spent with the heroes of the Greenbelt will be remembered with deep sobriety.

I met them at the nadir of my existence. I was a man adrift, seeking but not finding – serving like a dog – to a man who was worse than one. For years I had lived amongst thieves and brigands, slavers and killers. Like the land itself, they were wild, and I was wild too. I lived unrepentant, little more than a sword, a tool of those who would use me. I can never repay those on whom I preyed in those dark times. But it is my sincere hope that I may be judged mercifully for my later actions.

The Heroes of the Greenmarches shook the land, wrenching it from petty squabbles and the misery of misspent years. I sided with them against the Stag Lord, though to my shame I joined the fight when it was all but over.

I like to think I became a better friend to them as time went on. I accompanied them into the realm of the lich, Vordakai. But that is a tale that can be told better by others….and not the purpose for which you have assembled.

But the moment, of which I am most proud, came later. The heroes of the Greenbelt met upon hearing that the city of Tazleford was under attack. It was barely a fort, but occupied by hundreds of folk, it being a place of respite for the sick and weary. They set off on horses of pure magic, tearing across the open land in order to reach the city in time.

The Heroes arrived as the sun began to crawl down toward the horizon, setting up what defenses they could, traps they had collected years before, pits and barricades. Then, with but two score soldiers, they set to defend the city against a barbarian horde, numbering over a thousand.

The horde was led by Aemon Trask, servant of Zon-Kuthon, who rode a demon creature into battle. With him were fifteen trolls, each carrying a siege weapon, designed to batter the walls of Tazleford. Behind him was the horde, Tiger Lord barbarians, the tribe that turned back Taldan regiments, the fiercest empire of the day. They arrived at the outskirts of Tazleford at sunset. The barbarians began the demonic yelling, their drums beats with a sound that filled the vale. With a single command they set upon the city on a hill. They swarmed up to its walls, setting up siege ladders, as trolls used uprooted trees as battering rams.

Lyrice and Sam rained down arrows. The Good King directed his troops as Devon and Derrick bolstered the troops. Orman released torrents of fire as if the very hells themselves had been released. Hundreds of barbarians fell as the Heroes of the Greenbelt held their position.

As the sun came over the horizon, the Heroes saw that many of their comrades, the brave gnomes who fought along side them, bearing brittle bows in frightened hands unaccustomed to war, were injured, exhausted, or dying. Hoping to find some way of protecting them, Devon went to Aemon Trask to beg for parley and for the lives of these innocents. Aemon offered little but bitter words and sent Devon back.

The battle would be won by force of arms rather than by reason.

As the sun rose fully above the horizon, the horde fell upon them again. The walls of the city were breached, and Aemon Trask, who had previously been cravenly commanding from the rear, rode up into the breach.

Six trolls flanked him as they filed into the breach. Aemon stood, the sun behind him, his black laquered plate shining in the brilliant morning sun. He slowly unwound the chain binding his right arm, as horns grew from his head.

Cruel arrows and the Good King’s summoned companion tore two trolls apart, but not before they nearly rent the cavalier priest in two.

Sam, seizing the initiative, charged the evil general. His blade sliced through the evil creature’s armor, but the stroke was not fatal. The mount, a cursed lion, conjured from the hells, fell upon the ranger first. Its claws pulled Sam toward the ground, but he managed to stand. A troll also tried to batter him into submission. Sam still stood. Aemon released the fury of the Abyss, he gored the ranger with his massive horns and drove him to the ground with his shield. His cruel whip lashed around Sam’s neck as arcane disease wracked him. Nearly lifeless, Sam fell.

Derrick, driven by courage and the principle that no comrade of his should die to so horrid a man, rode over trolls as Lyrice and Orman felled them. But Derrick also fell. The lion nearly unseated him, and Aemon’s cruel whip brought another Hero low.

Patichka, loyal servant of the Good King, charged in, following the path others had plowed. She grabbed the cruel chain, wrapped it around Aemon’s neck and throttled him until he fell.

The trolls looked ready to end the battle, to lead the horde, in waves, over the Heroes, whose only protection lied in shambles.

But the Good King and his advisor, Derrick, had planned for months to raise an army. Before they had left, they instructed me to bring them to the field of battle as quickly as I could.

As Aemon fell, the leading line of the Greenmarch calvary crossed the river. The barbarians fled before us. Our horses trampled them as we charged upon them. We threw caution to the wind. Trolls fell before our lances and the barbarian horde, previously a thousand men strong, battered by the spells and arrows of the Heroes of the Greenmarches, fell before us. I will never know a time as proud as that ride. Not until I crested that hill did the full favor of Erastil fall upon me once again. Not until I gave control of the army over to my king, did I feel I had earned my position.

But today is a day of remembrance. Not for the heroic actions of a few. Not for the fifteen that survived the assault, that held the city. Not for those proud men, of whom our beloved King is one. Nor is it for our brave soldiers, even though today we recount their story. But rather, today is for those brave gnomes who stood amongst heroes. Who stood against a force much mightier than they. Who stood until they could do so no longer, their wounds stealing their last breaths. Who cause us, today, to stand taller because we knew them and count them as countrymen. Today we remember those who no longer stand beside us.

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Dream Journal night no. 1241

 

Journal Entry Part I

As predicted my strange dreams continued last night.  As I drifted off asleep under the Valvos Tree I began to see those familiar forms: the "gnome" Venrick, the horned biped, a hairy biped and the holy one with shining armor.

As usual I felt confused as if a veil were blocking my thoughts.  What strange dreamland is this that I must visit every night?  I must discover why the one called Venrick and myself have fates as intertwined as Bilinokh Vines across the great Valvos Tree.  I must continue to investigate this matter.  my primal form changes there as it does here…perhaps my changes are the key to unlock this conundrum…

The armored one suffered still from the near drowning from the day before.  Soon we saw we were not alone, but were joined by an intoxicated holy one and a lumbering oaf behind him.  The gargantuan oaf carried a dead "gnome".  They had killed some flying beasts and the giant was still covered in its quills.  They found two magical belts and when the hairy one put on his it turned him into a female of his species.  Venrick was delighted by such a turn of events and kept reminding the formerly hairy one of HER new found sex.

It was decided that the oaf would guard the armored one while the rest of us went into a hole which led to a tomb.  We encountered some large skeletal things and discovered a tunnel with some water guardian beast that blocked our advance.  Here, the intoxicated one received divine insight and poured gallons of fermented drink into the water which seemed to make the beast sluggish and it swam away.  Venrick asked me to search the watery tunnel and I discovered a doorway into a tomb.  After searching it for shiny bits the group continued.  Here we encountered more of the large skeletal things and triggered a trap that filled the room with water and swimming things they called eels.  I managed to break down the bars blocking our retreat. 

We continued on until we encountered some cursed altars.  The intoxicated holy man was stricken with unclear thinking and loss of insight when the doors into the hall beyond the altars were opened.  There we encountered something called a daemon (pescodaemon), whose squamous form emitted such foul stench that all were nauseated by it.  The battle was bloody and many were struck down and nearly died.  The Daemon seemed to know something of the horned one's paternity and continued to mention it to the horned one, all the while attacking the horned one.  Finally it was destroyed but not without some "friendly fire" amongst the group.

We then entered a chamber and freed a severely wounded quadruped, named Xamanthe.  She was the warrior child of the "centaurs" we had met a few dreams ago.  We returned her to her tribe and we were inducted as honorary members.  They swore fealty to Venrick and we returned to the city.

As I am queen in my lands, so Venrick is ruler of his.  His approach seems more focused on delegating than ruling directly.  And he seems to be preparing for a major event.  They used magic to coax the little dead gnome back to life and somehow the one named Sam managed to return to his male self.  The leaders of this land seem to be preparing for a war as they have outfitted an army and gave them quadrupeds to ride. 

I believe there is a plan to return to the hole in the island in the river so that they can battle a fierce, ancient king for whom the daemon worked.  It will be a terrible, bloody battle I fear and I suspect at least one shall die. 

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Greenbelt Razors
Chapter Seven

Chapter 7: A rebellion is crushed, our city is damaged , a meeting is not kept, a village’s inhabitants vanish, I grow a profound hatred for birds, I grow more powerful and become intoxicated with my power to cast death from the skies above and yet come close to death three times only to be saved by luck, strategy and “love.” And politics rears its ugly head once again…. So much ground to cover…I’ve come a long way from petty robberies and hiding in the shadows from the city guard….

We returned from our adventures to find a riot in the streets…our crown jewel – the city we had most developed – was attacked and a madwoman (a priest I suspect) was stirring up the masses. Thank the abyss we did not debate matters this time and slew most of the troublemakers. I found my physical “improvements” intoxicating. I no longer felt fragile and I laughed at sword blows that would have previously left me bleeding. I cast death with scorching rays of heat and fire cooking my enemies. Delicious! The kobolds were right – blood is blood. (On a side note I was relieved to see that the house of “ill repute” I recently established took no damage – so all was well. Although the alchemist’s shop was damaged – this did cause our economy some short-term stress.)

We took off for a prearranged meeting to link our nation with our neighbors. We built our road and made it to the agreed patch of ground. There was no road and no one to greet us. Off we headed for the nearest city – Varnhold. We crossed a stream near the city and were attacked by a Chull….who quickly grabbed me, paralyzed me and if not for the swift actions of my colleagues – I would have drowned. Humiliating.

We proceeded deeper into the city and encountered a barn with a number of animal corpses. We were set upon by…I know now how else to describe it but a swarm of crows. Their black bodies filled the air, blocking out the sun. In moments all but one of our party members were blinded by the damned bird’s claws! We had to retreat and wait a day until our caviler could heal us all and restore our vision. I was starting to think my new body was not as ‘strong’ as I thought it was.

We found a high spot to view the city and saw groups of spriggans moving throughout the city. (The gnome said they were evil and not to be trusted.) In the distance we saw what appeared to be a fort and we decided to approach it.

We entered the city proper and found a ghost town. The city had been abandoned – but what struck me as odd was that we saw no dead bodies (besides those of horses and livestock.) We explored the city we found some treasure, a journal that spoke of a “discovered bracelet” and a description of a tribe of centaurs (Nomen) that had caused trouble for the locals before. We entered a tavern and found a dead spriggan with a head wound sitting up in a chair. We found a number of books and I triggered a sepia snake sigil protection spell. I awoke at camp site hours later with a strained back. Annoying.

Around this time, a raven began following us around. We talked to it asking it to go away – it said “no.” I hit it with two scorching rays and one of my teammates’ hit it with an arrow. Enough damage to kill a man and still the bird did not fall.

I despise birds. . (Note to self: create a spell specifically focused on destroying all birds in a 100 foot radius.)

We suspect the bird to be an agent of someone, perhaps a familiar.

We ventured back into the city and after some scouting we decide to attack the fort. I would fly in using a new spell I had gained and attack from the sky. I would also find some way to let in my companions from the front gate.

I flew at rapid speed from behind the fort….below I spotted a handful of spriggans and wolves in the courtyard. A fireball flew from my hands and I laughed as I heard their screams of agony as they died. I flew faster…seeing more spriggans attacking my colleagues with bows. Beams of heat flew from my fingertips and they died. I landed and opened the gate, letting them in.

We rushed the courtyard – our enemies fleeing into a structure inside the fort. They believed themselves safe inside the structure, with murder holes to attack us. Fools. As my teammates burst the front door and fought bellow – I flew up at an angle to press our attack.

I was cowardly attacked from behind by another of those vicious creatures. (The wound was serious, but my new body could take it.) In contempt I did not even look and aim as I used the _magic missile _spell to burst his brain.

I flew down a corridor….eager for battle, to destroy my enemies. And then a giant hand lashed out and I fell to the ground, near death. (Three times death held me in her arms in as many days….I think our ranger and I are equal now for near death experiences.)

I am told that the leader of the villains told my allies that I had been captured and I would be slain if they did not surrender. They pressed on with their attack. (I am not sure how I feel about that.)

Somehow they came to the agreement that one of us would fight the leader – if he lost, his group would surrender. If we lost, we would swear loyalty to the tribe. The gnome’s eidolon fought for us…and lost. But there was something not right…somehow the leader had cheated. (We later discovered that through a set of magic rings, the physical harm done to the leader was passed on to his tribe.)

The facts get slightly muddled here but the gnome – through a stroke of genus came on the spot with a plan that was…I am in awe thinking of how razor sharp his mind is to think of such a plan of attack on the spot. (I will never doubt our decision to make him king of our land.)

Our new “leader” asked for magical healing for his wounds. The gnome said I had a powerful potion of healing in my haversack. The leader reached into my bag and drank the only potion inside….

An elixir of love potion.

I awoke in the arms of the leader, who embraced me as his “son” and told me how we would rule our tribe side by side. I must admit that when the opportunity came a few minutes later to attack…I was a bit off balance…trying to understand what the hell had happened. But we killed him and defeated his tribe – who weren’t that sad to see him gone. The accursed magic bird returned and took one of the rings. Again I damaged it with a spell but it was not enough…and away it flew…

(Note to self: All birds. Dead. Now.)

We left and returned home, only to find word that we (as charter holders) were commanded to meet fellow leaders for a meeting. I’ve found more honor among thieves, but the details of that meeting will await another time. I grew weary and we set off early in the morning to continue our adventures…

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Assorted Letters by V. Groundminer
an Aborted Varn-meet

 

Waterlily

Grim news…I hope you and yours are well.  Lakefort has been attacked.  We arrived to the scene of terrible destruction.  The Alchemist's tower has been destroyed, along with one of the city walls.

Some mad, twisted shell of a woman ranted and raved within the town center and she preached of Gyrona's insane blessings.  We confronted her and her bloody apron wearing minions.

As she cackled those near her lost their senses.  I am glad you were not here to see the scene unfold.  If we had not had a Cleric of Gorum passing through town, I think it could have turned out poorly.

After calming the populace and setting up defenses we went after the huge creature that destroyed our city wall.  It was a mammoth owlbear.  Its path was easy to follow.  Imagine our surprise when we instead came across a giant.  You have heard that one was roaming the hills, no doubt.  

Imagine my pleasant surprise to find him most amiable. Although he has a fondness of the drink, he is ultimately just a victim of loneliness…every creature should have the opportunity to receive the blessings of the Eternal Rose and because of that I and my friends agreed to help him.  In turn he will help defend our city.  I fear he will be a drain on our coffers (and casks of Shrike Pale Ale) but I think this giant will be worth every copper.

We continued South (telling our giant friend to wait for us).  We came across the lair of the monstrous owlbear.  Nasty little mushroom creatures tried to block our way but we finished them off.  We also dispatched a bunch of hungry little spiders.  Imagine our terrible surprise however when we encountered a vile, centipede infested living vine mound.  We nearly lost one of our own in the fight.  Sam lost his fair wolf and we stopped to find a secluded glade to inter the poor beast.  Sam had grown inordinately fond of the beast.  I think he must be lonely. Perhaps we have more of Shelyn's work to do?!

The horrible owlbear was powerful but we have brave (if not foolhardy) warriors amongst my little troupe.  What was most disturbing though was that it worked for my cursed father.  I wish to restore him or release him for he suffers so and vexes us so.  After a brief exchange of words (he hid like a coward) we were forced to retreat when the cleric of Gorum and that infernal sorcerer fell into a pit of putrescent green goo.  Luckily we fished them out (Ptichka to the rescue!)

We also explored the rest of our charter lands including a horrible mud-caked tendril plant beast.  But it was the encounter with the dragonkind that was most challenging.  It had caustic fumes bellowing from its gaping maw.  In the thin tunnels of a cave hid a forest drake and only by threatening its brood did we manage to tell it to move away.  

I shall return soon and tell you in person all of the details of our adventures.

Ven

 

------

My moon and stars,

Well, we returned home and got busy building our city.  It is thriving and we have managed to also protect the forest and lake lands.  Soon we go off to meet Varn and his people.  Sam is anxious to see his family; now settled in Varnland.  We really should convince them to move here.  I would have thought Sam would have insisted.  Is he a little ashamed of his meager upbringing? 

You know, I have tried to teach Sam a thing or two and I am afraid he is a bit slow to pick it up.  I continue to allow him to charge into battle and he continues to get battered and he has yet to understand why I wait for him to do so…poor boy, it must be so disorienting to be a boy in a man's body…

Unless you hear from me soon, all is well at the "Varn-meet".  With tender wonder and growing thirst I part from your cool waters.  Fare thee well.

Ven

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...My cattail in a summer wind,

Varn and his people are missing.  We crossed their barren land through a mountain pass until we arrived at Varnhold.  We watch it from a distance.  Horror of horrors…I…I do not wish to alarm you…but the town is filled with…with…Lonely Ones...yes, spriggans.  Oh fie!  Ere my return to you and Lakefort, we must dispatch these wretched souls.  I fear some creatures are beyond reason, and these are among the worst.  I can only pray to Desna that the constant dreams and nightmares I have about fighting them was only an omen of my encounter and not of my demise.  

If I do not return, please take comfort in knowing that I stood brave and resolute; loyal and fierce in the face of these horrors!

Ipray that soon I will see you again. 

Ven

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We're in charge here...

Excerpt from The Travels of Lyrice Volian:

It is good to be back out in the greenbelt exploring these wild lands. Though our time spent out of Lakefort has been far too little for my liking, we have done well to make the most of it. Perhaps that is all well and good however, seeing as we’ve stared death in the face far to often of late. During this previous excursion there were a number of dangerous and exciting encounters that needed our attention. First was this creature called a Hodag. Fully expecting a dragon, or a Troll, I was completely taken off guard by this huge, scale and spike covered reptile. The various creatures indigenous to this land are a continuing source of amazement for me.

Further along during our trip, I saw perhaps the strangest thing in my life. A troll approached us with what could only be described as a makeshift white flag, though the troll employed a sail. For the life of me I can barely recall why he visited us. Some crazy troll claiming himself king of our empire or something of the sort. Perhaps if more trolls would proclaim themselves king, I could get out of the castle more often. Anyways… we came to a unanimous decision that there is only room for one king of the greenbelt, and decided to deal with this issue immediately.

Eventually we found the lair of the trolls… an old watchtower built into the high hills in the southeastern corner of our chartered lands. Though dangerous, the trolls guarding the entry way seemed easy pickings, and those in nearby chambers were either lazy or afraid. We continued to explore the Troll’s lair, and the noteworthy events were preventing the trolls from capturing Venrick, and planting an exploding crossbow bolt in the neck of a hideous two-headed troll. Also, the Tiefling spell-slinger that generally hurls magical missiles at our enemies has found a nasty little spell – a flaming ball he can control – which the trolls don’t seem enjoy very much.

Ultimately, we found the Troll King (Or rather, we found a devastating fireball that belonged to him). To our surprise, the Troll King was the very same troll that made a meal of our horses and harassed us in the night when we first explored the Greenbelt. We threw up a barrier of trees to prevent him from killing us while we regrouped, which he promptly lit on fire. A spell of command sent him climbing the tree, which set off a series of explosions. Barely alive, I retreated, amazed that the creature still had a head. Shortly thereafter, the King was dead, and the threat to our kingdom ended. Unfortunately, this also signaled the return to the confines of our city… and my return to the my dreadful duties as High Priest.

Excerpt from The Travels of Lyrice Volian:

Finally I convinced these infidels that run this kingdom to construct a Brewery in Lakefort. We’ve been expanding this city for what seems like years now, and we still have to import our beer? I can only hope that they are sensible enough to hasten the development of facilities to brew and sell beer in our other settlements. Anyhow, it was good to be on the road again, even if for a short while. We explored a new area of the Greenbelt that with a rumor attached to it about a magical rapier. In the name of Cayden, I thought this worth pursuing.

Coming across a strange undead crypt, my immediately concern was who or what may have owned this weapon previously, and how powerful might they have been. We set off traps, and fought off skeletons, and eventually came across an undead individual rambling on about barbarian lords and such. I think we had already established our stance on additional kings, lords, and rulers in our region, and so we promptly dispatched this undead being (and took his magical rapier). Unfortunately it was broken, so we’ll have to get it fixed as soon as we return to Lakefort. I’m actually looking forward to the return trip for once. Speaking of, there is our castle in the distance. Wait, where is Bokken’s tower?

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Greenbelt Razors: A Novel of Adventure and Exploration

Chapter 5: I return from the kolbold negotiations and find that a party member has died/reborn, help kill a werewolf, have a taste of the madness that is politics and public opinion, muse on my physical weaknesses, and experience loyalty and sacrifice (from afar).

And so after a two week negotiations with the kolbolds over the “silver mine” (made much easier with my mastery of the draconic tongue and for the first time in my life – positive regard for my appearance – some started to refer to me as “Brother Dragon –Devil”) and a battle or two with creatures I encountered along the way (Note to self: hire a bodyguard when traveling alone) – I return to the group of would be kingdom-makers who have gained a charter by more…lawful means.

Sam was radically different in appearance. It appears he was killed in combat and now (through a spell of reincarnation) has a more mature look to him, which now with his stutter gone helps with his social interactions. The lad in a man’s body still seems a bit awkward; losing his virginity will take care of that (Note to self: arrange for prostitution to be legal in our kingdom) but there is no doubt to his courage and eagerness to rush into battle. Experience will temper him…or an early grave will be his fate. Upon arrival, two problems turned up that we had to deal with.

Disappearances of locals and a heavy set man who enflamed the public, accusing us of bring misfortune to the fledging kingdom because of our efforts at taming the land. After some investigation – I helped in tracking down the villain to his room. (My spy master abilities are nothing to brag about – lucky for me I was able to brush off his questions of me following him by pretending to visit the same prostitute as he did – ah, I do miss my misspent days at the Leather Rose – the local brothel I spent most of my “fortune” – but I digress.) We killed the werewolf that had claimed a number of victims. The heavyset man blamed us in public for the deaths and was very skilled at twisting our words to portray us as incompetent, corrupt…. Our attempts to defend ourselves made the problem worse. I thought best just to kill the man – perhaps too much of the bandit in me – but I believe that once someone shows you who he is – believe him. (You can only ask for justice/mercy/respect once – the rest it is akin to taking to a deaf man.) We took off to help recover a kidnapped woman and tracked her to a lair of Lizardfolk. Due to my lack of swimming skills – I almost drowned and spent most of the encounter having arrows embedded in my back. (Note to self: learn Fly spell.) Finally we managed to defeat the tribe and find our victim, tapped and given over to a will-o’wisp, who sadistically fed on her while slowly electrocuting her to death. She was at its mercy but agreed to a trade – the gnome’s servant creature (called – an eidolon I believe – and he has named her Ptichka.) While she – I assume the creature is female – knew she was in no danger of permanent death, it was fascinating to see Ptichka willingly allow herself to be tortured to death to save the woman. It was obvious by the gnome’s emotional discomfort that he did not see Ptichka as a slave but rather a favored pet…or perhaps friend, comrade in battle? Because of my racial background, my interactions with others tend to be negative. I am accustomed to hate, anger, distrust and agreements only as good as long as you have the strength to enforce them – so I must admit this experience (of friendship? Loyalty/Honor?) is a strange one. I admit I have a soft spot to the gnome – to be introduced to him and to be “welcomed” by being the brunt of a joke of having a large nose – is ironically, the most positive greeting I have ever encountered.

We returned as heroes by all – except the trouble maker who accused of setting up the woman’s capture, etc., etc….a challenge to a duel by our caviler didn’t work. Finally we had him arrested and kicked him out of our kingdom. Burned notes found in the home he was staying at, hinted at that he was hired by a rival…it appears our success is disturbing others. Off we went to explore. We encountered a group of gnomes who had trouble with their cart crossing a river. I was no long in danger of drowning – due to a magic ring of swimming I was able to swim out and save three of the halflings. (I did get run over by the cart once though. Thank the abyss for thick skulls protected by horns!) The leader was a professional map maker – who asked for outrageous prices for his maps. We were able to get an idea of the troll lair from him. (Note to self: learn Fireball spell.)

We then explored an abandoned tower that appeared to be made by elves. I was then stabbed a number of times in the back by a rapidly moving creature. We went deeper into the fort and then encountered creatures of the fey – an ugly brute and a delightful woman who reminded me of Rebecca –the sadistic madam of the Leather Rose. “Rebecca” had the ability to charm us all with a scandalous dance. I was caught in her embrace and her bites sapped one of strength and vitality…I dropped to the ground unconscious and in danger of dying if it were not for the caviler healing me with a divine spell. I awoke – burned her with my magic, and with the help of the party, brought her and the brute down. As I write these words – two things stand out for me. First, it may be that the fey is actively seeking to impose their will on the land. Or perhaps they were in charge all along and do not enjoy the “intruders’ setting up a kingdom. I will strive to do as much research on the fey as I can. Knowledge of one’s enemies is a powerful weapon. Second, while I will never be a physical warrior such as Sam or the caviler….my weakness is disturbing. During my time with the kolbolds, they shared knowledge of rituals, diet, potions – that would bring out one’s natural dragon-side, if it existed in an individual. They encouraged me to do so and seemed confused why I would have any hesitation in doing so. I have never worried about fitting in, but I do have some concern if my intellect or abilities may be damaged if I walk down this road…although the kolbolds say that there is no danger on that front. I perform the first ritual tonight…

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The first casualty

Dear pa ma Maggie Pete and Michael

I hope everything is well at home. How was the harvest? How are the cows pigs and horses? I am terribly sorry that I left without saying good bye. I know I should not have done that and I should have written you earlier. I and my friends are in the stolen lands. The major has given us a charter to take the land and to kill bandits and monsters. We even founded a kingdom. My friends made me the warden. I travel around the land and find criminals and monsters that kill farmers and other people. I hope that I can visit you soon. I have lots to tell you.

In the last few weeks many things have happened. We traveled south from our town lakefort. It was really cold and during the night three groups of wolves attacked us. One of them was really big and made the air ice cold. Derrick Valeria one of my friends almost froze to death in his saddle when the wolves attacked. But we killed them all and saved Derrick before he died. Next to our town there is a lake that was frozen. On the lake we met an old man. He asked us to kill a large turtle that was in his favorite fishing hole. We went there and didn’t see the turtle. Devon found a cave next to the river. He and Derrick and Lyrice went inside the cave which was very small. They found the turtle and tried to kill it but it had a very thick shell. I tried to attack it too but I couldn’t get near it because Devon was standing in the way. The turtle bit him several times and he was bleeding a lot. Then I could get next to the turtle and I tried to kill it using the stroke that pa taught me two summers ago. But I missed because of the shell. I tried several times and then I hit it. Devon and Derrick also hit it. Venrickagorn also came to help with his pet Petitschka. It looks very strange. It has purple hair and a large mouth but it seems to like him. He is a strange gnome but he is very nice to me. After we killed the turtle we found several eggs that we kept warm. Maybe we will have little turtles soon. We took the head of the turtle back to the old man and he gave us a gold ring. Devon was very excited about it.

We walked around for several days. One night I was standing guard and I saw a big cat coming to our tents. I tried to make sounds that would make it my friend but it didn’t listen. I am much better now with making animals my friend. Do you remember how I tried to make our old cow Hilde my friend and it hit me with its butt? The cat suddenly jumped on me and Derrick was screaming in his tent. I used my dagger to get the cat off me. Devon helped me and killed the cat. I ran to the tent and there was an old man stabbing Derrick in the face. Lyrice was taking care of his wounds he is very good with wounds but the crazy old man stabbed him again and again. I was sure that Derrick was dead. Venrickagorn called a hyena that attacked the old man. He always calls all kinds of animals and other things that fight for him. I don’t think he knows how to fight himself. Petitschka hit him too. I also hit him with my greatsword this time using the overhand swing that Peter showed me but he was still standing. Lyrice hit him with his sword and killed him. The others told me that he was the brother of Bakken, the potion maker in our town. I don’t know why he tried to kill Derrick.

We went into the forest and found a nixie and 9 loggers. The nixie looked like a small girl with green skin and silver eyes. I think she normally lives in the water. The loggers had cut down some of the trees and the nixie was upset with them because they had cut down her tree too. Venrickagorn was very upset with the loggers and threatened to kill them if they did not leave the forest alone. Devon and Derrick were nicer to them and paid them 100 gold to go somewhere else.

The nixie asked us to help plant new trees and to get magic seedlings from one of her friends. We agreed and went to see her friend a dryad. She agreed to help us and the nixie if we helped her to kill an evil tree that was walking around and killing all the dryads in the forest. We agreed and looked for it. It was huge! It was almost as tall as the old oak tree in front of the house but it was walking around and waving its branches with large thorns trying to hit us. The dryad had told us that arrows would not work against the tree and so I ran towards it to swing at it with my greatsword. It hit me twice. Venrickagorn later told me that I hit it really good with my sword but I don’t remember it because the tree killed me. Because I was dead I don’t know what happened to the tree. I think my friends killed it somehow. They took me back to the dryad and she called another dryad who asked my friends to swear a holy oath that they would protect the forest. Then she did something to me and I woke up. I don’t really understand what she did but I look different now. I am much taller than before. I have blond hair and a long blond beard. Do you remember the northerners from Ulfen that came through Sweetwater three summers ago? I look like one of them now. But don’t worry I’m still your son sam.

I miss you all a lot. But I have learned a lot since leaving home. I’m really good with my sword now. I am also much better with my bow. I have learned a lot about the forest and animals and nature. A couple of weeks ago I found another friend. Maya is a large black wolf. She follows me everywhere I go. I even teached her to do some things like attack someone and sit guard. But I don’t think she will like Petitschka because she looks strange not like other animals. I will write again soon.

love your son sam

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Of Bandits and Kings

On this day, 1 Desnus 4710, we have founded the first city of our fledgling country, Lakefort, on the site of the former base of the Stag Lord. From henceforth, on this day each year shall be celebrated the anniversary of our founding. It is a good location for a city: by the lake and with easy access to the rivers, and with plenty of fertile farmland around. And it is an auspicious day for our country’s birth; the first warm months of Spring, the season of new beginnings.

The first group of settlers are just coming in, as I write these words, a long line of carriages stretching across the path back to Brevoy. They come for myriad reasons, but at heart I think they are here for the same reasons I am here: to leave behind their old life so they may find a better one in the Greenbelt. They have come a long way, these men and women. It is many leagues to Brevoy. Perhaps it is better so. We have come here to found a new kingdom, not a mere barony that Brevoy may snap up at a moments’ leisure. Whatever be the intentions of those who gave us our charters.

It has been a strange time, these past few weeks. This wilderness is so unfamiliar to a child of the city like me. And we were sent here to tame it. And tame it we have, or at least the northern half, the part we were originally chartered to keep.

The last stage of exploration began with us mapping the Shrike river. There we found an undead spirit who called himself Nettles, who demanded we slay the Stag Lord, lest he haunt us eternally. We assured him we would but, like many of the restless dead, he was most unreasonable. The time given to us was much to small, and it lent a certain urgency to our quest.

As we made our way further into unexplored territory, we found a great Sycamore, surrounded my mite tracks. We had finally found the nest of the little vermin. Cleansing it, however, was an arduous task indeed. It was a great system of tunnels, under the earth, and navigating them was difficult for many of us. Their leader seemed to be using kobold blood and flesh to create explosive alchemical concoctions which were used on us liberally and with glee. We barely managed to succeed at defeating him and freeing a kobold prisoner. Deep in that tunnel I caught a glimpse of a strange tentacled creature, but we wisely decided to leave rather than fight it. The Kobold insisted we return to their camp as soon as possible, and return their ‘god’, a strange winged statue.

The chief of the kobolds told us that their tribe had a new shaman, who apparently used great magic to summon their god, and had taken control over the tribe, we agreed to rid them of him if they would agree to peace between us. The gnome, thankfully, acquiesced to this. Truthfully, I had been worried that he would have been harder to persuade. Venrick is a good man gnome, but his hatred of kobolds borders on the extreme.

After fighting the shaman, however, I believe we have learned the reason why. The shaman’s summon was of course not a god, but an eidolon like our diminutive friend’s. More worryingly, it was disturbingly similar in form. Venrick believes that the shaman was not a kobold at all (and I am inclined to agree, given that kobolds of a purple coloration are nowhere found to my knowledge), but a member of his family, cursed by a great Fey queen. I must admit, the story sounds ridiculous when written plainly like that. But I believe him. Fey have been known to do stranger things, and if Venrick believed kobolds to have been responsible for his kin’s death prior to this, it would explain his opinion of them.

We succeeded in driving the shaman away, though he yet lives, and agreed to a treaty of non-aggression with the kobolds. It was wise to not make them our enemies. I think we shall have enemies aplenty soon enough.

When we returned to Oleg’s, we discovered a message for us. The swordlords of Rostland, troubled by increased bandit activity, offered us a reward for the Stag Lord’s head. They also issued us a new charter, fully doubling the lands assigned to us. Fortunately we had learned the location of the bandit fortress from the kobold we rescued. We rode at last to confront this bandit king, and rid the land of his menace once and for all.

What we found was a fortress. An imposing wooden palisade on a lake that seemed impossible for us to breach. Clearly a frontal assault was out of the question. We spent some time discussing ways to get it. It was the tiefling who suggested that we pretend to be envoys of a great crime lord from Brevoy.

I must make a confession here. I had been mistrustful of our sorcerer for some time. It had not been because of his demonic heritage. After all, I of all people have no right to judge another by the contents of his blood. But the mark on his horse, and the knowledge he displayed of New Stetven’s underworld, soured me to him. His plan only made me more suspicious,, but it was the best one we had.

Sadly it did not work. A man from Nisroch, who called himself Dovan, agreed to let us in, but only if we brought the head of the cleric of Desna. Obviously this was out of the question.Derrick is a good companion who has humored my strange requests many times, and I would never raise a hand against him. I write this here as I wish to make it very clear that I was only jesting when I suggested we cut his head of. Truly.

In order to keep up the pretense, however, we set north as though we were making for Oleg’s. In the night we were visited by another of the Stag Lord’s follower’s, indeed his second in command, who called himself Akiros. Yet strangely, he seemed to me a man of integrity, and most unsuited to his current employ. I have learned, over the years I have practiced my… profession, to read a man’s character. It seems to me he was once a devout and upright follower of Erastil (from the pendant he wears around his neck), but time has changed him greatly. Still, he followed the Stag Lord not out of loyalty, but because he saw him as the only stabilizing influence in such a wild land.

He demanded to know our true reasons for being there. Much to my astonishment, the sorcerer not only told him the truth, but confessed things even the rest of us had not known: His past as a bandit, and how he got his hands on a charter. My mistrust in him, it seems, was ill founded.

That, and a good word in from Woody, convinced him to trust us. He let us into the fortress, and after a great battle we slew the Stag Lord. Not only that, but Akiros agreed to aid us in the future. So we have not one but two former bandit helping to rule our little kingdom. Such irony! Yet strangely, I find I do not worry. Perhaps it is a reminder: that I of all people also do not have the right to judge another by the contents of his past.

In the bowels of the fortress, I learned what it takes, to make a man like the Stag Lord. It is a memory I shall keep with me, distasteful as it may be. I shall say no more here.

And so we founded our kingdom at the site of our victory. We have divided the administrative duties among ourselves: the sorcerer handles magical affairs, while Derrick is in charge of keeping the lands safe. Akiros has agreed to help keep the peace, while Oleg helps handle our treasury. Sam shall patrol the wilderness, while Lyras is now our high priest. At his insistence, we have begun construction on a tavern. I must confess myself pleased. I have sorely felt it lack, unable to ply my craft or pay homage to my god.

Perlivash is now our councilor, and TygTuggerTut is our Spymaster. Surprisingly, it is Venrick who has been at the forefront of our efforts. While we make decisions as a group, he seems a most adept administrator. As for myself, I am now “Grand Diplomat”, though that term has little meaning. Humph. I had thought to leave New Stetven to get away from politics.

But then that had always been a foolish notion. Where there are people, after all, there is politics. Even here, far from the capital of Brevoy and the Dragonscale throne.

Such a motley crew! It is almost a farce, a miniature kingdom led by a council of bandits, gnomes, tieflings and fairies. But one day, the nobles of Brevoy shall have to treat with us – with me – as an equal. I swear it. I must admit, the thought of the consternation on their faces when that day comes is not unpleasant.

Yet at that I cannot help but wonder: what does our dear ‘Regent’ of the Dragonscale Throne think of these tiny kingdoms being formed out here in the Stolen Lands? Is he content to just let them be, as he considers the subtle threat they pose beneath him? I cannot believe that. Noleski is no fool, and one underestimates House Surtova only at their peril. I know that better than most. I fear we shall have many dangers attending us until that day comes…

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