Everyone Dies

Day 1 - Hearthglen
Character interactions, woo~

Located at the foot of the Aeric Mountains, just south of Snow Pass, sits the small but prosperous town of Hearthglen. Though the winters are harsh and supplies sometimes meager, the people of this town live happily and are open to new and friendly faces. In this town one can find a two-story tavern/inn, as well as a general store, a blacksmith, “Wanda’s Tinker Shop”- as the eccentric gnome woman working there claims- a town hall, a guard tower, a large but less-than-luxurious fountain, and surrounding residential buildings.

Xenlin Snow, a paladin traveling south from his home in Fallen Crest, enters Hearthglen and proceeds immediately to the tavern. Sitting at the bar, he orders a mug of ale, a small meal, and a room for the night. Just as the innkeeper brings him his food and he begins to discuss local happenings, the pair are interrupted by a looming, 7-foot-tall half-orc and a short, wiry old man. They order food and rooms for the night- the innkeeper, made uncomfortable by the half-orc’s presence, attempts to charge them more than double the paladin’s price. Xenlin points this out, at which point the man huffily lowers his asking price. As Kho Na’an the barbarian half-orc and Caratticus Lynch the old coot sit down to supper, a morose and irritated individual appears in the doors of the tavern and takes a seat in a dim corner. His name is Blaze, a half-elf ranger living in the nearby woodlands. He has yet to even order when he is greeted by a (relatively) young elf dressed in fine traveling clothes, grinning from ear to ear and speaking with an ever-cheerful lilt to his words. He introduces himself as Voltage and sits to join the half-elf- Blaze is not amused.

After a few minutes spent trying to engage the ranger, Voltage the wizard gives in and exits the building. Then, seeing a fountain (and being a bit extravagant in himself), he casts a spell to make the fountain exude light. Though not particularly practical in the middle of the afternoon, it is nevertheless very pretty. It therefore catches the eye of the adventurers in the nearby tavern, two of whom- Xenlin and Kho Na’an- determine to investigate the strange event. After his stubborn insistence on finishing his meal, Caratticus picks himself up and decides to join them. He considers offering to pay for the half-elf’s meal, for which it seems the young man is unable to compensate, but changes his mind. There they are introduced to the wizard, who after some strangely cheerful conversation, agrees to join Kho Na’an and Caratticus on their journey to Hope, an unfamiliar but infamous town near the Banshee Wastes. Xenlin similarly agrees to assist the two in their quest, despite the pair’s lack of specificity in their true goals.

As the four continue to converse, they are interrupted by a large crash to the right of the tavern door. They look to see the quiet and unfriendly Blaze, lying flat on his face, in the snow, next to a bulky bush, following a terrible failure to hide himself from them. The paladin, lifting him roughly from his place on the ground, introduces himself and asks the ranger’s name. After some discussion of a not entirely favorable nature, Blaze passively agrees to join the adventurers on their journey south. That being decided, the paladin takes the lead, charging that the group divides to interview local townsfolk and prepare supplies for the coming journey.

  • Xenlin and Voltage visit the general store. The shopkeep lazily greets them, mumbles a short complaint about the cold and the lack of inventory, then asks what they’d like. The paladin asks about the length of the journey to Hope, and the shopkeep tells them it was approximately a month the last time he checked. Xenlin “senses motive,” at which point the shopkeep admits that it’s really more like a week and a half on foot.
  • Kho Na’an and Caratticus visit the Town Hall, where they discuss municipal government with a stately gentleman at a large oak desk. They talk about their journey to Hope, at which point he mentions knowledge of a nearby goblin encampment and suggests they take a small detour to the south in order to best avoid it.
  • Xenlin and Voltage return to the fountain at the center of the town to wait for their new companions.
  • Kho Na’an and Caratticus decide to enter the building to the north, a small room built like a shop with a crooked and ruined sign above the door. Here they meet Wanda Scheffil Pepetor Ellywick, a middle-aged gnome woman with a strange fascination for metal and shiny things. Blaze, who up until this point has merely been wandering around town, comes to see the gnomish woman before going off on his own yet again. Kho Na’an and Caratticus begin conversation with the short, peppy creature, in the end agreeing to exchange some scrap metal and a mechanical rat’s head (retrieved in a previous campaign) for 8gp, a gold-painted cat figurine, and a “watch”- that is to say, a large circular object with a smiley face drawn onto it. Having traded these items, they depart and join the others at the fountain.

Xenlin takes inventory of everything the adventurers have combined. Having done this, he determines that the group is in need of 25-days’ rations, a bedroll, three blankets, and a hood for the half-orc. As the only one with a fair amount of money, Caratticus offers Xenlin 20gp for haggling purposes and sends him to the shop. After some discussion, the paladin procures the majority of the equipment needed- only the hood needing substitution with a short, worn cloak- he returns to his group and distributes the supplies amongst each of them.

Having decided a course of action and gathered all the necessary supplies, the five adventurers return to the inn, go to their respective rooms, and settle in for the night.

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Day 2 - The Road to Hope

Winter glances over the forests south of the Aeric Mountains- snow sneaks between trees in sparse sheets. North of the Snow Pass, this is referred to as the edge of the “Summerlands,” for though icy winters penetrate even the hard shell of Fallen Crest, these forests somehow remain eternally green no matter the season. Though the trees are few and far apart at first, within half an hour of leaving Hearthglen one will encounter dense thickets which crawl over the unkempt roads and abandoned landmarks of times long past.

The travelers depart Hearthglen roughly an hour after dawn, packed with trail rations, blankets, and all conceivable necessities they could gather. They opt to travel south down the main road, rather than take the path southwest toward Hope. However, after only half an hour, they encounter a Goblin raider- though Kho Na’an beheads the creature with a single swing (nicely done, Kho Na’an), it is quickly followed by four more goblins on horseback, approaching from the south. After a long and fumble-filled fight (the spoils of which amounted to 22gp, a light horse, 5 morningstars and a metal talisman), three of the new enemies are dispatched, the last taken prisoner and coerced into leading the party safely around the goblin encampment, claimed to be positioned off to the west. Thus, for the remainder of the day, the party travels southwest without incident. Though, unbeknownst to any of them, a single goblin watches them from the darkness of the woods…

After two hours of travel, the party decides to make camp. They settle down approximately 100ft west of the path, opting not to start a fire for fear of being spotted. The goblin was left tied up, but given a cloak by Kho Na’an to keep him warm through the winter night. Despite the extreme cold, no party member suffers a penalty for lack of preparedness or fortitude.

Kho Na’an keeps watch for three hours before he finds himself too tired to continue. At this point, he enlists the help of Blaze, who watches for another hour and a half before, unfortunately, he falls asleep. When the party awakes, the goblin is gone, along with 15gp and the metal talisman. Blaze uncovers two goblin tracks to the north for a short while before the group, realizing the goblins’ head-start and fearing retaliation from the encampment, determines to continue southwest at a steady pace. After two and a half hours of traveling about 50ft west of the road, the group comes across a weather-worn shrine. The cleric recognizes that the shrine is dedicated to an older, more obscure deity, but cannot recall anything about them. The group does, however, notice a brass dragon’s head at the front of the mossy shrine- this makes Blaze incredibly wary of the place. After some intense concentration, Kho Na’an the barbarian manages to decipher the magical, shifting draconic words on the shrine, to a certain extent:

… the god Aasterinian… … … … … …
… … … fare thee well in thy travels…

Though Xenlin the paladin recognizes the name, he is unable to place anything more about the deity other than his relation to travel. Nevertheless, the religious party members- Xenlin, Caratticus, and Kho Na’an- say prayers and place (respectively) 2, 3, and 5gp on the step of the shrine. The three feel an immediate sense of peace and surety, as if their travels will, at least for a time, prove very fruitful.

So, the party continues. They travel for another three and a half hours before they make it to the edge of the forest- at mid-afternoon, they opt to rest a moment, thus completing this leg of their journey.

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Day 3 - The Aenn Tunnelers

Southwest of Hearthglen, at the edge of the dense northern woods, one encounters the Hills of the Free Folk. Once a collection of thriving settlements for halfling kind, its peoples were long ago driven to the east by The Great Dragonflight. Now, only decades later, it has become a safe haven for kobolds and other forest dwellers, now displaced from their original haunts.

After a moment of rest on the edge of the forest, as the sun sinks into mid-afternoon, the Travelers begin to make their way southwest through the Hills of the Free Folk. After only half an hour of travel, they feel a suspicious presence- Caratticus, Blaze, and Kho Na’an soon spot two dark figures peeking out and then disappearing from the tops of the hills to their right and left. Not wanting to risk an ambush, Xenlin calls out for the creatures to show themselves- almost immediately, six kobolds appear from the surrounding hills and demand that the Travelers drop their weapons. After some unsuccessful attempts at making a peaceful solution, the kobolds charge in and the Travelers engage in combat.

In a long and arduous battle, four of the six attackers are killed, one having been knocked unconscious and the other having fled (chased by Kho Na’an). The kobold prisoner is tied up as the half-orc is unintentionally led to an entrance to the kobold tunnels. He climbs in, is greeted by a rock slung past his head, and immediately climbs back out. Xenlin rides in on the goblin horse just in time to see Kho Na’an climb out; after relaying some basic information about the barbarian’s findings, the paladin rides back to rejoin the fight.

As four of the Travelers regroup and move to return to Kho Na’an’s side, the latter individual engages Ultak, the kobold raid leader, in polite conversation about the nature of Draconic race relations. After some time (and some crazy successful diplomacy checks), it is determined that the kobold prisoner, Tulnar, will be exchanged for a captured druid girl, at which point the Travelers will go on their merry way. Ultak and another kobold bring the girl up through the tunnel; as the prisoners are exchanged, Xenlin gives the raid leader powerful advice about how his people could be successful in the world. This is followed by wise words from the half-orc scholar, which is in turn followed by a surprising speech by Caratticus (characteristic of the time before he lost his senses). Ultak agrees to consider the words of these religious peoples, tears in his eyes- even the other kobold, with no knowledge of the Travelers, seems to deeply consider these words. Thus, with nothing left to say, the kobolds return through the tunnel, and the Travelers determine to continue their journey to Hope.

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Day 4 - Hill Travel

As the Travelers continue through the Hills of the Free Folk, the rough landscape begins to smooth into flattened plains and the sun begins to sink under the horizon. Faint howls echo from the east- a strange tension hangs over their heads.

The Travelers move southwest through the hills following their encounter with the Aenn Tunnelers. They continue for roughly an hour and a half before the sky grows dark and they decide to make camp. Xenlin and Kho Na’an gather dry grass for a fire, and Blaze becomes quite taken with a particular dandelion for roughly ten minutes (fumbles yay). Kho Na’an and Blaze offer to take first watch, which lasts them about three hours, before they grow too tired and decide to pass the duty along to Xenlin; before they rest, they tell him about the howls of wolves they heard off to the east and southeast. Xenlin continues to watch for another three hours without incident (HONOR. DIGNITY. PALADIN), and then enlists Caratticus and Voltage to guard them for the two remaining hours of the night; he neglects to mention the potential wolf problem. Voltage, immediately bored beyond comprehension, decides to go on a walkabout- he and Caratticus engage in a high-energy argument before the cleric finally gives up and lets Voltage run off to the east.

The wizard continues on for half an hour before hearing howls to the north, quickly approaching, as well as faint Orcish voices. He hides behind a low hill and listens intensely to the orcs; one, Gul’dak, swears on his life that he heard something behind that hill, and insists that his partner, Grub’nak, is neglecting this information due to his deep-seated trust issues. They continue in this manner for a fair fifteen minutes before Grub’nak finally agrees to look behind the hill.

By this time, however, Caratticus has woken the rest of the group; he and Kho Na’an have decided to go after the solo-playing adventure wizard. Kho Na’an has joined Voltage behind the hill, and the two play a very clever and stealthy game of “ring around the rosey”: as the orcs approach very loudly from the right of the hill, Kho Na’an and Voltage stealth their way around to the left. The orcs are sufficiently fooled, and after about 20 minutes more of their domestic spat, they continue south with their two dire wolves (who somehow don’t sense the young Travelers until it’s too late). Following this series of hide and listen checks, Voltage and Caratticus return to the camp as Kho Na’an decides to follow the orcs back to wherever they seemed to be going. This turns out to be a small stone building just over a rise; realizing that the orcs were unlikely to leave during the day, he decides to return to his own camp and tell his companions what he found.

At the camp, the druid still lays unconscious against a large rock; however, she seems to stir, and the Travelers feel she may wake at any moment. So, for the next hour and a half, just as the sun begins to rise, they allocate time to doing whatever piques their interest:

  • Blaze tends to his weapons, spending a great deal of time examining their make and assuring that they’re well cared for.
  • Caratticus decides to make “ration stew,” and it is surprisingly delicious.
  • Kho Na’an teaches Xenlin a few basic rules of the Draconic language.
  • Voltage studies his spells and prepares for the coming day.

After this, the group sits down to some 18/20 hella good stew, and exchanges stories and anecdotes for another hour. The druid has yet to wake; all seems peaceful for the time being. Little do they know, a presence still follows them from the northeast…

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Day 5 - The Ruins of Hope
Everyone appreciates a nice fountain.

Just east of the Banshee Wastes, the large settlement of Hope was once a thriving trade center. Though on the edge of Orcish lands, it has been well-frequented by merchants, diplomats, and holy peoples seeking to cleanse the lands beyond Aenn. However, the supposed dragon attack only three months ago has left Hope nearly demolished. All but the center of town has been reduced to rubble, and ash clings to the town like a permanent stain.

As the Travelers finish their hearty ration stew, the druid finally wakes. She questions the situation for a moment before details start coming back to her, and eventually she is made fully aware of the situation, as well as introduced to the party. She recalls that she must continue on to Hope, in her mission to “heal” the Banshee Wastes. She therefore offers payment to the Travelers if they can escort her there; seeing no reason not to, they accept.

That being settled, it comes time to discuss the orc encampment to the southeast. Kho Na’an insists upon trying to communicate with them first, and though the druid and some others object, they eventually concede. Just as they begin discussing tactics, however, they hear a galloping from behind them, and a loud, high-pitched voice calling “Steady!” Who should they see, but Wanda, seated on a murky brown pony, galloping just a few paces beyond them until the horse stops in its tracks and she is thrown off. Kho Na’an lifts her and checks on her, asking if she is okay; he is pleasantly surprised to discover who it is, and after a brief conversation to catch up, she repairs his smiley watch so that it will glow whenever kobolds are nearby. After that exchange, she meets the rest of the group and explains the nature of her journey; she is on a trade route to sell her wares in Hope, and attempting to make the journey quickly as she has been appraised of the orcs on the warpath. She informs the group that they are heading for Aderann, capital of Aenn- though newly informed, Kho Na’an and the group still feel they should check the encampment and attempt to reason with them. At this, Wanda bids them farewell and hops on her pony, then takes off in the direction of Hope.

Kho Na’an, Blaze, and Xenlin go to scope out the orc encampment, while Voltage, Caratticus, and Annalae the Druid carry on towards the town. Kho Na’an and Blaze sneak up to the encampment to discover a band of 50+ orcs, pitching tents outside of an old, ruined tower. Kho Na’an, ever resolute, approached the encampment, hailing in Orcish. He was approached by two warriors, who upon hearing some convincing diplomacy business, agreed to show him their war path in exchange for help in discerning the quickest and safest path to the human capital. Kho Na’an follows the orcs into the broken tower, hoping to gain some intelligence from the ordeal.

Caratticus, Voltage, and Annalae arrive at Hope to find it in absolute ruin. The town is hard to see through the fog; all the Travelers can make out is ruined homes and ash. Annalae is deeply saddened by this discovery, and becomes distant from the others. The three decide, rather than waiting at the outskirts of town as planned, they should go in and search for signs of life. As they draw closer to the center of town, this is exactly what they find; more and more buildings have been left standing, and even a few humans can be sighted going about their daily business. Caratticus asks a man what happened here; he is unsure they will believe him at first, but divulges the attack of a green dragon only a few months ago. Not having much more information to give, he directs them to Eliade in the town center, who he claims is running the town following the attack.

Upon seeing the tactical map, Kho Na’an advises the commander to send half his men through the Banshee Wastes so as to flank the capital from either side- if they think they’re skilled enough. The half-orc hopes that in sending half the orcs through the Banshee Wastes, the commander will weaken his own forces, the Wastes being terribly dangerous and shrouded in Draconic myth. Kho Na’an then offers his services in scouting Hope, which the new route would lead the orcs straight through. The orc commander concedes, sending Kho Na’an east with five of his best. As the half-orc departs with his scouting party, he yells “ambush” in Draconic to alert Blaze to the situation. He then proceeds to delay the orcs as much as possible as Blaze and Xenlin travel on horseback to Hope, in the process learning their names and lengthy back stories. The largest orc is named Ulnar, and he carries a falchion. The next two are Grub’nak and Gul’dak, who, as Kho Na’an recalls, were in a small domestic dispute the previous night. The remaining two are Temmie and Temmie; Temmie is the quiet one of the group, but Temmie is rather headstrong and is deeply offended at Kho Na’an’s reference to him as “Temmie II.” Temmie is Temmie, Temmie insists, and though Temmie has little to say on this matter, Temmie is obviously wounded by the ordeal. Still, Temmie is cheered by Kho Na’an’s suggestion of a traditional Orcish insult contest, and even participates a bit (though his insults don’t branch far from excessive use of “h0is”).

Blaze and Xenlin reach Hope to find the very same ruins that their companions encountered. Blaze descends from the horse, dazed by the sight; it reminds him of dragon fire, and he is triggered. Xenlin pushes him to act, and the two decide to split up; Xenlin will travel to the center of town in search of the magic-users, while Blaze will scout the route back to note the progress of the orcs. That being decided, they part ways, and the paladin proceeds on Horcerer (accept it, Xenlin) to the town center. Blaze puts his masterful sneaking to good use and tracks the orcs back a short distance; he finds them as Kho Na’an is listening intently to the various long-winded backgrounds of his Orcish party. Blaze determines that it’s roughly a 40-minute march to the broken gate of Hope, and so hastily makes his way back, stopping only to observe a small outcropping that could prove useful in case the aforementioned ambush comes into play.

Caratticus, Voltage, and Annalae reach the center of town to discover the still active community of Hope. A large town hall stands out above all other structures, garnished by a small but intricate fountain at the foot of its steps. A large guard post lies to the hall’s right, and a smaller one to its left. Across the main road is an assortment of shops and crudely repaired residences. Annalae wanders off, still in some sort of daze upon seeing the desolation of this place. Caratticus and Voltage speak to a guard standing beyond the larger post; he tells the Travelers that Eliade can be found in the town hall, and that no, he’s not quite sure about lighting up the fountain, and they should ask Eliade if it’s regulation since they’re already looking for her (municipal gubbanent being extremely important to the people of Hope). That being settled, the magic-users make for town hall, when they see Xenlin approach on horseback through the fog. He quickly dismounts and tells them of the approaching orcs, and they decide to speak to Eliade together. They check on Annalae first, but she seems quite taken with the fountain. “There was water here, once…” she mutters in dazed, melancholic Elven. They decide to leave her to it.

The Travelers approach Eliade within the town hall as she discusses daily matters with a guard. She wears leather armor and speaks with an unusually casual tone; however, there is nothing about her that does not immediately convey leadership. More important matters having come up following the discussion of lights and dragons, the Travelers quickly decide to inform her of the impending orc scouting party. She appears all at once angered, exhausted, and unnerved by this situation; she sends her guard to ready the troops and have them stationed in each remaining residence to protect the citizenry. Though she prepares to meet the orcs head-on, the Travelers inform her that they should have no trouble dealing with this mess (failing to mention that they themselves may have caused the mess in the first place ;P). After some convincing, she accepts their help and goes out to make sure that her people are getting to safety.

The paladin, wizard and cleric exit the town hall- who should they encounter, but Wanda! She is pleased that the three have made it to Hope, but is made uncomfortable by the discussion of orcs approaching the settlement. She offers her assistance in fighting them, but is at great length told by Xenlin that the Travelers should have no trouble handling the ordeal. That being done, she departs yet again to go about her business, seeming more annoyed than anything else that the orcs might interfere with her day. Once the gnome leaves them, they decide to reconvene with Blaze to discuss strategy.

Blaze meets up with Xenlin, Voltage, and Caratticus on the outskirts of town, with Kho Na’an still leading the orcs in that very direction (at this point, Annalae is gods-know-where). Blaze mentions the choke-point he discovered, and the four decide to position themselves there – the ranger and the wizard lying in wait, the paladin and the cleric standing out to confront the potential foe head-on. They are sitting at the rocky outcropping for mere minutes before they sight the orcs; when Kho Na’an draws near, he turns to face them and delivers a spine-chilling speech:

“Orcs! Fellow kinsmen! I am Kho of the House Na’an, Barbarian. Blood of my blood, noble orcs need not fall this night! We have no quarrel with you, and our martial might has bested all foes thus far. Even now we have comrades gathering strength, and our combat would surely be ruination onto you. Ulnar, you spoke to me of your family. You know that their honor would be stained with your death, and their glory ensured with your life. Grubnak, your search for wealth and women cannot continue beyond the grave. Temmie, do you not want to claim your namesake, live up to that glorious legacy?
Surrender or join us in our fight. It is the harder struggle, but the more honorable.”

He levels his axe, and narrows his eyes at them.

“Gruumsh himself protects our quest.”

The orcs look shocked for a few moments, but slowly each one of them begins to consider the words of the half-orc. Grub’nak turns to his partner. “Gul’dak… I’m tired of living a lie…” Temmie looks down and appears on the verge of tears. “Temmie just want to be Temmie…” Four of the orcs are ready to leave this place; the only one who remains unconvinced is Ulnar. As the troupe readies themselves to leave, Ulnar turns to Kho Na’an with a hateful glare. “We will not forget this, Kho of the house Na’an.” The half-orc attempts to intimidate Ulnar, to little avail. However, as the largest of the scouting party turns to leave, Xenlin calls out to him, challenging him to unarmed combat, a duel of honor- should Xenlin win, Ulnar is to say nothing of what happened here. Ulnar, being honor-bound and foolhardy, immediately accepts. The orcs and the Travelers gather in a small circle as the combatants ready themselves (except for Blaze, who is still just being sneaky af). Bets are placed; everyone has a jolly old time.

The battle starts with a troublesome amount of misses; the two seem to continuously dodge each other’s punches, and attempts to grapple fail outright. Soon, however, the tides turn in favor of Ulnar. He begins to land blow after blow, knocking Xenlin around and boggling his senses. As this transpires, and although no one witnesses it, Caratticus shifts in his position on a low rock; a shadowed look comes over him, as if his wits are once again about him. Ulnar throws a few more punches, and eventually Xenlin is thrown to the ground by a strong uppercut. Caratticus bends down to check on him, calling for the orc to wait; he sees Xenlin is unconscious, and stealthily heals him with a hand on his back. This action appears to be unwitnessed by any of the orcs, and the fight continues with Xenlin appearing to have a “second wind.”

For a long time, neither of the fighters manage to land a blow. However, after a great deal of time, and much to the delight of the Travelers, Xenlin becomes more and more adept at landing small and efficient blows on his orc foe. Though the fight was long and hard, the paladin manages to eventually knock Ulnar to the ground. The Travelers rejoice; the orcs appear shocked, but accept this and, with dignity, pick up their unconscious friend and carry him off in the direction of the encampment. Before they leave, however, Temmie stops and turns to them, a severe and terribly serious look crossing his usually blank face. “I saw what you did, cleric,” he states. Caratticus affixes him with a solid stare, and claims he has no idea what the orc is talking about. However, the orc’s nat 20 spot skills prevail, and he leaves with knowledge of Caratticus’ dishonorable action in helping the paladin. Though he is dissuaded somewhat by the combination of intimidation and diplomacy that the group inflicts upon him, he leaves with merely a promise that he will think about it. Xenlin, of course, is unaware of all of this, having stumbled away to find a seat after being thrown around to a great extent. Once the orcs have departed, the Travelers make to go about their business. First, however, Caratticus has more to do in his brief moment of clarity. He walks up to Kho Na’an in a rage, and promptly delivers a surprisingly eloquent lecture:

“Kho Na’an!”

“You blithering fool! How dare you endanger the citizens of Hope? Your actions put lives at stake! Women, children, families! You dared to flout the teaching of St. Cuthbert with unequaled ignorance! I have no means of knowing what put you on course towards this act- and for the Savior of Protection’s sake, I don’t want to. Praise be to St. Cuthbert that he did not acknowledge this blatant disregard for the protection of innocents.”

“You nearly have damned the citizens of Hope and have unnecessarily ruined their chances of avoiding bloodshed in the future. How could you have taken such risk without worrying of the consequences? Explain yourself, Kho Na’an. I demand you tell me why you take such risk!”

At this outburst, everyone is shocked (except for Xenlin, who is still too “birdies flying about the skull” to notice). Even more shocking, though, is Kho Na’an’s reaction: he slaps Caratticus and states plainly yet forcefully, “I’ve had to care for you as a child for months. Don’t you dare question me.” He asks Caratticus if he knows the population of Aderann, in an attempt to make his point; unfortunately, it is to no avail, as the slap knocked Caratticus from his moment of clarity, and he has completely forgotten his outburst as well as the events of the past few minutes.

As he realizes his mentor has slipped back into his haze of senility, Kho Na’an turns to address the rest of his companions; what was once an early afternoon has sunk into late evening, and the Travelers take this time to recount the terrible amount of things that have transpired over mere hours.

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Day 5.5 - Secrets of the Dragon
Everyone is triggered.

The people of Hope are frightened following the coming of the orcs, but still maintain their quiet strength and dignity in the face of peril. The Travelers go about their business in the night, when all is silent but for the whispers of evil beyond Aenn.

After the party recounts their individual experiences with the orcs and the town of Hope, they depart the location of their confrontation to speak to Eliade and seek medical attention for Xenlin. When they arrive back at the town center, Blaze takes Xenlin to the inn, Kho Na’an and Caratticus make for Town Hall, and Voltage runs off to find Annalae.

The ranger and the paladin enter The Merry Moth to find it completely emptied, but for a guard standing ready at the stairs. Blaze carries the paladin over with great difficulty, and then very huffily asks for aid. The guard, after determining that the scrawny half-elf and nearly unconscious paladin are no threat, tells them to go upstairs and speak to the innkeeper. Blaze, still ever the put-upon teen, drags Xenlin up to find a large group of people huddled together on the second floor. He asks where the innkeeper is, and one individual points to a large room on the right. They enter to find a middle-aged man sitting in a small chair, staring off into the distance. “Orcs… orcs… … … orcs…” The two Travelers briefly recount their experience and ask to use the bed, which the innkeeper allows due to his prejudice against orcs. After dropping the wounded paladin in bed to rest, Blaze departs to aid in the search for the druid girl. As he exits, he stops and turns to the people still huddled on the floor of the inn. “Why aren’t you in your homes,” he asks, at which point he learns that many of them don’t have homes anymore- they were destroyed by the dragon, and there are still many people for whom houses haven’t been rebuilt yet. The expression on Blaze’s face refuses to change, but many feels are had.

Kho Na’an and Caratticus enter Town Hall to find Eliade, speaking nervously to two guards who turn at the ready to see the Travelers. Eliade breathes a sigh of relief at the sight of the familiar cleric, though she still retains a suspicious sentiment as she greets them and Kho Na’an pulls back his hood to reveal his orcish heritage. The half-orc, however, explains his loyalties and how he aided in sending the orcs away; he pulls out the falchion he took from the barbarian Ulnar and promises his axe to Eliade. She accepts, albeit cautiously, and is convinced by Kho Na’an’s reasoning as to why the orcs might have come back. That being solved, Eliade offers them either the guard’s bunkhouse, or a deal on a room at The Merry Moth. The two Travelers give their thanks and depart, Kho Na’an leaving to search for Annalae, Caratticus visiting the inn to heal Xenlin.

Voltage knocks on the door of the first house he sees. An older man greets him, but then is unamused by his cheerfulness and talk of adventure; he slams the door in his face, and Voltage moves on to the next house. A middle-aged woman opens this door, quietly asking, “Is it over?” Voltage explains that, yes, it is over, and it is all because of he, Voltage, who single-handedly defeated the orcs! The middle-aged woman is also unamused by this, but explains that she thinks her next-door neighbor was talking about some weird woman rubbing a fountain earlier in the evening. Voltage thanks her and proceeds to yet another residence. The man who responds to him this time says yes, he thinks Matt took her in when the order was called for everyone to return to their homes. Matt lives behind Town Hall, he explains. Voltage thanks him, then throws in that he, the elf wizard, single-handedly defeated all of the orcs. Voltage is not very good at bluffing, however, and the man quickly gets sick of his shit. “What’s your problem?” the man demands. “What’s going on?” his wife asks from behind him. “Mommy, why is that man lying? I thought you said I could trust people!” their child exclaims. The man slams the door on Voltage, who merrily continues on to find Matt and the druid girl.

Blaze exits The Merry Moth to see Voltage crossing through the town center. He immediately applies skills of super-sneaking, and vanishes like the wind behind the inn. He walks along a row of ramshackle houses, many of which are barely reconstructed, as this is now the outskirts of the still-suffering town. The angsty ranger continues to have feels, until he sees Voltage emerge from the other side of Town Hall. Not given enough time to escape, he huffily decides to join the cheerful adventurer and begin checking the four houses situated behind Town Hall.

Kho Na’an begins walking among the residences of Hope, when he catches an odd bit of Draconic coming from a nearby alley. He applies his not quite as super but also pretty nice sneaking skills to listen in on the conversation:

“Any word of the High Tower?”
“They operate in the shadows. The citizens fear them too much to speak out- but a keen eye can feel their fear.”
“… Ya think you’re real poetic, don’tcha?”

Kho Na’an continues using his expert sneaks to get a quick look at who might be talking- he discovers Wanda, speaking covertly to a hooded man sitting in the shadows of the alley. She continues:

“I mean, just because I’m reporting back to a goddess doesn’t mean we have to be all prissy about the language. Aasterinian’s not a terribly wordy gal, y’know.”
“Wanda, this is serious! And I’m allowed to be dramatic- I’m a spy, for chrissakes!”
“Well, I dunno, Bill. Back when I was doing my initiate work in Entille, things didn’t seem so life-and-death.”
“But they are now, Wanda. It’s not just the dragons anymore. The so-called ‘Elders’ are taking over all of Dietrich without anyone noticing- they could already be in Aderann, without us even knowing.”
“… Y’know, when I first started following the goddess of luck, travelers, and trickery, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. I’m gonna get back to work; you’ll come get me if anything happens.”

With that said, Wanda moves to depart; she pauses for a second, her expression shadowed in the late evening- then she continues on her way, exiting from Kho Na’an’s end of the alley but walking opposite the way he came. The half-orc jumps from his hiding spot, running for dear life to tell the others what he discovered.

Caratticus enters the Merry Moth to find the innkeeper at the bar, washing his washing glass which was a loan from the glass-washing innkeeper of Hearthglen. The man continues to look off into the distance- “Orcs…” A few of the townspeople have gone down to the first floor of the inn, having been assured that the potential orc threat had been dissolved. A guard still stands at the staircase, however, still on duty in case of a surprise attack. Caratticus asks the innkeeper where the paladin went; he is directed upstairs to the room on the right, then is questioned about the presence of orcs or orcish-speaking individuals in the area. The cleric denies any presence of orcs, but leaves quickly so as to avoid a confrontation with the man’s racist tendencies. Caratticus goes upstairs to find Xenlin sprawled on a large bed, shifting between groans and pterodactyl noises. The cleric determines that it in fact hurts everywhere, and so decides to just cast a healing spell. With a little help from the magics, Xenlin is restored to nearly full health and sits up for a briefing on the conversation with Eliade.

Blaze and Voltage set to work, Voltage checking the second house from the right as Blaze checks the last house on the left. No one answers the door to Voltage’s knocks; Blaze doesn’t knock, as that is not the emo git’s style- instead, he peers through the window using his super sneaks, to find a small child eating dinner. The boy is quickly joined by his mother, who sits at his side and wraps her arm around him. Feels are had once again; Blaze resists the urge to smack the plate out of the boy’s hand and yell “MY PARENTS ARE DEAD.” Voltage then checks the first house on the right, while Blaze hangs back. A young woman answers, and Voltage asks if she might know a man named Matt. She replies, yes, he’s just two houses down. Voltage thanks her, and can’t help but throw in that He, Voltage the wizard, single-handedly defeated all the orcs with his mighty crossbow. The woman is unconvinced, but does not give much of a fuck. That being settled, the two Travelers decide to check the final house behind Town Hall.

The door is quickly opened by Matt, who appears to be the only friendly individual in all of Hope; Blaze and Voltage immediately get the skeeves. They do find the druid Annalae, who is merely sitting at a table, feeling the wood- the wood GRAIN. In the table. Wood grain. Pervs. Voltage is not the friendliest of individuals, immediately criticizing the girl for going on the perilous journey to Hope and talking about how all of her friends are probably dead- Blaze, however, manages to convince her to come back to the inn with them, being sympathetic to her cause and offering to assist her in tracking down her companions. As the ranger and the druid decide to return to The Merry Moth, the wizard decides to have a polite discussion with the supposedly skeevy Matt.

Voltage demands the man tell him why he brought the druid to his home. Matt explains that the druid was looking for a place to go when the citizens were advised to hide out; being not terribly skeevy at all, Matt offered the girl his home. Voltage is not convinced; he asks Matt why a young, chipper man such as himself is sitting around in Hope instead of adventuring as any normal man should. Matt explains that he does a lot in Hope; he’s a builder; he builds houses. Voltage decides to continue being indignant, and tells Matt about his single-handed conquest over the orcs. Matt is completely convinced of this, and is in awe of the wizard’s awesome powers. That being said, Voltage decides he’s done his duty in both grilling and deceiving the poor man; he departs for the inn after Blaze and Annalae.

Just after Caratticus finishes his conversation with a healthy Xenlin, the half-orc Kho Na’an emerges, panting heavily and struggling to get the words out. “Wanda… hu… High Tower… heff… Entille… Aasterinian… he…” He eventually catches his breath, then blurts out the nature of the incident with stenographic detail. Fearing the worst of this situation, Xenlin decides he must leave the town center to meditate and pray to Heironeous; Kho Na’an decides he must go to Town Hall to speak to Eliade of the potential threat. Xenlin gets out of bed, leaving it open for Caratticus to, within seconds, occupy. Just as the two fighters are preparing to leave, however, they are greeted by Blaze and Annalae, who must quickly be told of the new development. Blaze agrees to accompany Kho Na’an to Town Hall, and Annalae sort of just spaces out for a while; she is sleepy, and must sleep. At this point, Voltage enters the room; the ranger, the paladin, and the barbarian all decide there is really no need to be there for his briefing as well. As those three Travelers exit, the innkeeper enters; he is curious as to when all of these weirdos are going to either leave his best room or pay for it. Caratticus, after some questioning about the prices and the quality of the less-best rooms, pays 2g for a smaller room to which he, Voltage, and Annalae immediately depart for bedtimes. Voltage feels the need to attempt to flee without being seen, but is quickly caught by the suddenly-not-going-blind Caratticus. They enter the small room, situated with a single bed, a small end table, and a chair. Annalae is offered the bed; Voltage lays his bedding on the floor; Caratticus falls asleep in the chair with his crossbow pointed at the door.

Xenlin walks for roughly an hour before being endowed with a powerful light aura- he is given the strong urge that he must go south, to fight the great evil that emerges from the far kingdom. The paladin is unimpressed with the bestowing of such information, and really just wants to know about the bronze dragon motherfucker that Wanda spoke of earlier. Heironeous is unamused by Xenlin’s sass, and decides that if the boy on sabbatical is so curious, he’ll just have to pray a little harder.

In this time, Kho Na’an and Blaze decide to speak to Eliade as quickly as possible, and then likely try to find Wanda. Blaze is not so interested in the speaking, however- more so in the sneaking. He goes to a window and has more super sneaks while Kho Na’an enters. The half-orc finds Eliade still with two guards, each placed in front of doors at opposite ends of the hall; he asks her if they might speak in private, and she cautiously waves the two off to the other rooms. Kho Na’an immediately drops his hood and tells the woman of his discovery; he neglects to mention names, however, not wanting to incriminate the gnome woman who had been so kind to him in the past. Eliade takes all of this in; she explains that she’d heard of something occurring in the kingdom of Entille, but was unsure that it could possibly affect her and her town all the way in Hope. Kho Na’an accepts this logic, but still advises that she be wary of the potential danger; since there is talk of it in Hope, it is very possible that the trouble could reach this far. Eliade agrees, and thanks him for this information. A stern gaze afflicts her, and her eyes seem to ponder the countless dangers that have threatened to take her people. All of this done, Kho Na’an bids the woman goodnight. He turns to leave, but stops to say one more thing. “They said, ‘They operate in the shadows. The citizens fear them too much to speak out- but a keen eye can feel their fear.’ I think that is important to consider.” Eliade nods; the Traveler departs.

The next step for Kho Na’an and Blaze is to track down Wanda; this is not difficult to do, as the guard points them to a large cart in plain sight, labelled “Traveling Trinkets”. Blaze applies his sneaking skills yet again, and ducks to the side as Kho Na’an raps politely on the wood at the front of the large tarp which creates a single room for the gnome woman. After mere moments, Wanda pops out with a cheerful grin, and exclaims, “Welcome! What can I do for- oh,” her enthusiasm disappears when she recognizes the cloak of the man who, as it turns out, she had sighted that very evening. She gains a looks of awkwardness and reluctance. “I suppose I have some explaining to do.” Kho Na’an responds, just as awkwardly, that he does, in fact, have a few inquiries. At that, Wanda invites him inside; she stops quickly, thinking she may have heard something, but does not win out against Blaze’s incredible sneaks when he ducks under the cart. She and Kho Na’an enter the cart, to find piles upon piles of scrap metal and blinking lights and half-finished gadgets. Kho Na’an looks around for a few pleasant seconds before simply saying… “Rad.”

Wanda begins by asking how much the half-orc has heard; he replies that this seems like a suspicious way to begin a conversation, but the gnome explains that she only wonders how much he already knows so she can understand what she should still tell him. She explains that she’s decided to trust the half-orc and his companions; they seem like kind people (for the most part), and she believes they may be able to help her and Aasterinian in their duties. She states that there is a great evil emerging from the south, and that though Aasterinian is not necessarily the most kindhearted deity, it is in her interests that this evil be wiped out. Wanda, now established as a super-spy, ends by telling Kho Na’an that this is a dangerous place to have such a discussion, as the two don’t know who could be listening. She asks that Kho Na’an and the rest of the Travelers meet her out in the Banshee Wastes the following night, where all will be explained. She tells him to look for a large, blackened tree, which should be visible from the now-destroyed southwest gate of Hope. Kho Na’an agrees to this plan, and thus bids Wanda goodnight after inquiring (characteristically off-topic) about any amounts of lumber that he may be able to purchase or barter from her. She explains that Matt the builder, who Kho Na’an may know since the townsman seemed to be quite taken with his friend Voltage. This being discussed, they part ways rather pleasantly; the barbarian and the sneakiest of sneaks ranger go to the bunkhouse, where they have been offered rooms for the night. Kho Na’an has a lovely conversation with a guard about the use of great-axes as he continues his whittling project, while Blaze quietly admires his very pretty bow and prepares his very pretty arrows.

Xenlin has gone wandering for about half an hour more when he is struck by a revelation! He falls back as he is struck by a blinding light; suddenly he sees the face of a great and powerful bronze dragon. The creature roars; it says in a deep, rumbling voice, “Consult with Aasterinian- trust the gnome woman, for she knows. Sheeeeeee knoooooooooows!” The paladin is considerably freaked the fuck out after this vision, and, once his eyes clear, he races back to town to tell his companions of the incident. Fade out. “Everybody Loves Raymond” theme plays. The End.

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Day 6 - The People of Hope

The Travelers awoke early in the morning, Caratticus, Voltage, and Annalae having had a relaxing rest at the Merry Moth, and Kho Na’an, Blaze, and Xenlin having succumbed to exhaustion in the guards’ bunkhouse. Xenlin awakes violently to thoughts of DRAGONS; he immediately briefs Kho Na’an and Blaze on his discovery. The barbarian and the ranger, in turn, tell Xenlin of their conversation with Wanda, and the plan to meet at sundown. Kho Na’an also, during this time, befriends the axeman he had conversed with the night before; he makes quick use of this newfound bond and requests that the guard keep watch during their meeting in the Wastes (without mentioning the nature of said meeting, of course).

Caratticus and Voltage awake at the inn – Annalae continues to be sleepy, so Caratticus instructs Voltage to keep an eye on her while he, the cleric, searches for the rest of the group. Voltage is not interested in doing this, it being not the least bit adventurous, and attempts to escape. He fails. Quite miserably. Caratticus scolds him until he goes back inside the inn, at which point the elfin teen proclaims his independence by simply studying his spells on the first floor, rather than watch the druid. Caratticus then proceeds on his quest, recalling somehow that Eliade had offered him and the other travelers the guard’s bunkhouse for the previous night. Deciding to check there first, he is fortunate to find Kho Na’an, Blaze, and Xenlin, all deep in discussion regarding the forthcoming events of the new day. He is given the missed information, as any player experience must be regurgitated three times over WHEN YOU SPLIT THE PARTY EVERY FIVE MINUTES, FRIENDS. (cries)

Kho Na’an determines to find a shop that will provide him with “cloth the color of the Banshee Wastes.” Xenlin gives Blaze the task of searching around the city for tips and clues that may help the Travelers learn the full story of what happened here. Then, the paladin and the cleric decide to speak with Eliade on the matter of divine protection for the town. That being determined, the ALREADY SEGMENTED band of Travelers spLIT THE PARTY INTO MORE SEGMENTS.

Kho Na’an wanders the town center until he finds Emma’s Tailoring, a small shop that appears well-kept, albeit a bit run-down. Greeted warmly, the half-orc responds in his characteristically friendly way. He then asks specifically for cloth the color of the Banshee Wastes; Emma is a bit uncertain, but brings out an old, frayed, and rat-shit cloth, claiming that it is indeed the color of the Wastes, but only because rats got into her shipment and shit on it. Kho Na’an takes this cloth for free, but also decides to purchase some plain, undyed cloth and, at Emma’s suggestion, take it over to The Uncreative Name to have it dyed by Cartman, the Man with the Cart.

• Blaze goes to the Inn to Check on Annalae/Has Feels about Annalae’s Missing Buddies/Agrees to Ask Around While Druid checks Town Hall
• Xenlin and Caratticus talk to Eliade about a Shrine to Heironeous
• Xenlin and Caratticus piss of Matt the Builder
• Kho Na’an Talks to Cartman, Discusses Fine Arts, Forgets He Has No Moneys for Cartman’s Artful Dyeing
• Xenlin and Caratticus go to the Armory and Inquire; Xenlin becomes a Part-Timer

• Kho Na’an re-enters Cartman’s with Caratticus as Backup, Explains the Whole “No Moneys” Thing, gets Side Quest (SIDE QUEEEEEEEEEEST :D)
• Voltage Decides to go on a Walkabout; Fails
• Blaze meets up with All ‘Dem
• Xenlin/Voltage Confrontation (the gang’s back together again)
PARTY SPLIT WHAT A SHOCKER
• Xenlin drags Voltage to the Inn to tie him up
• Kho Na’an and Caratticus go to Emma’s, go to Cellar, Fight some Rats like Badasses (C = 8, K = 7)
• Kho Na’an and Caratticus turn in Side Quest (SIDE QUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEST :D)
• Caratticus goes to the Inn to take over for Xenlin, who is feeling Salty and must Meditate
• Kho Na’an throws Wastes Cloak at Blaze as he runs off to Matt the Builder’s
• Blaze takes Cloak to Enchanting Place, makes Sketchy Deal with the Enchantress; Inquires about Smoke Stick, is told about an Experimental Enchanter in Aderann
• Blaze has Encounter with Sketchy Dude (Is he the Rat? Is he Not? INTRIIIIIIIIGUE), breaks Chemistry Set, Steals Papers, Sees Weird-Ass Bird
• Kho Na’an talks to Matt the Builder, makes deal for Lumber and Stone
• Blaze reads about Sketchy Shit, brings it to the Enchantress, she takes it and says the Cloak will be ready in an Hour
• Blaze goes to the Wastes, finds nothing super sketch; Annalae exits the town, talking about how her friends are apparently out there and stuff; Blaze convinces her to come back, wait a day, and if they’re all dead she can feel free to go
• Blaze and Annalae get back to town; Blaze tells Annalae to go back to the inn, then does some super sneaks

Note: I know this post is terrible and I’m really sorry >_< I’ll probably be fixing it in the future/explaining things a bit more, but for now I’ll just go with the excuse that I got the big bad flu last week and just finished most of it tonight and I’m sorry. If I missed anything, or left anything out of order, please don’t hesitate to bring it up to me! Same goes for something that involves EXP, of course, I don’t want to deprive anyone! I promise I’ll be better next time, anyway. See you guys tomorrow!

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Day 6.5 - Shenanigans
sidequestsidequestsidequestsidequest

After instructing Annalae to go back to the inn, Blaze super-sneaks his way back to the enchantress’ shop to pick up his new Ghillie suit. He then proceeds to the inn to meet up with everyone, and discovers Caratticus watching over a sleeping and slightly pummeled Voltage. Caratticus has seen no sign of Annalae since earlier that day. Oh dear.

Kho Na’an is walking back to the inn when he is struck with a great pain in his foot and ankle. Poison! :o He recalls the rat bite from earlier, and glances over the swelling purple mark before booking it up to the inn to get the help of Caratticus. Limping at that point, the half-orc shows his companions the purple marks, which fade from to small teeth marks up his leg. Caratticus decides to poke it.

Kho Na’an is displeased with the cleric’s analytical methods, which produce a light yellow pus and thoroughly gross out the half-elf. He asks him if he can cure the disease; Caratticus says no. Kho Na’an is further displeased.

The barbarian and his cleric friend make their way downstairs and decide to speak to the innkeeper. He is no longer cleaning his customary glass, but instead moving his washcloth in a repetitive circle as he stares off into the distance. “Orcs…” Caratticus and Kho Na’an greet him and ask if he knows of any healers around town that could help the larger fellow in his predicament. Innkeep Denien Book tells them of an old man who may or may not be alive – MadHealz324. Kho Na’an immediately goes to seek out this holy man on the southeast side of town, while Caratticus chats up the innkeep and Blaze leaves the inn to perform even more sneaks.

Caratticus makes a deal to keep the room for another five days, then proceeds into the residential areas on the innkeeper’s information of “southeast,” and knocks on doors.

Kho Na’an limps to Matt’s house; upon reaching it, he is barely able to speak, but requests of a chatty Matt the location of MadHealz. The builder points the barbarian to the house on the left at the end of the row, a shotty and nearly torn-asunder home. He knocks; “WE DON’T WANT ANY.” After some coaxing, however, a short old man with a surprisingly well-kept white beard opens the door. Kho Na’an explains his situation, shows the healer his wound, and begs for assistance. MadHealz obliges, inviting him inside.

Caratticus knocks on the door of the second to last home; he is greeted by Charmant, a fluttery sort of person who tells the cleric that MadHealz is just next door, and then invites him to tea. Caratticus is to later forget about the tea (Caratticus.), but still he proceeds to the home of the old healer.

Caratticus knocks on the door, and overhears Kho Na’an state that the stranger must not be trusted. Despite the half-orc’s pleading, MadHealz is sick o’ dat shit, and determines to allow the human cleric inside. Kho Na’an then slips into madness for a bit, referring to Caratticus (who is not at all blue) as “the blue man” and requesting his (orc? human? half-orc?) mother. The half-orc resists the cleric’s subtle attempt to control him; he later gives Caratticus the burliest, Kho Na’aniest, suffocating hug of which he is capable, while MadHealz324 stealthily applies an ointment and whispers a small prayer over the wound. Kho Na’an soon passes out, only to wake five minutes later without a clue of what previously transpired. He runs merrily off to the blacksmith, while Caratticus purchases some of the ointment that Dr. MadHealz324 (as he is formally known) has mixed for the rat poison. That being done, the cleric takes a leisurely walk back to the inn.

Kho Na’an goes to the smithy to meet Smithy, the town blacksmith. In a single conversation, he completely discredits Xenlin and also takes his jerb. He is heard by Blaze, who has finally managed to climb up something.

Blaze first performs the super sneaks about the fountain. Neither hearing nor seeing anything of interest, he concludes that rather than talk to the townspeople like a good little D&Der, he must perform more super sneaks around the rest of town. He begins by carefully spying on the alley of the Rat; he sees one guard at the front, and- following some failed climbing attempts- one guard at the back, as well as two likely criminals conversing near the wagon-cart-thing. One asks how long they need to keep this chick; the other says that the Rat is going to send something to “that weird guy from earlier who screwed with the Seagull.” The first individual asks who the hell the Seagull is; the second claims that he thought it was a good name, since he’s so into birds, and it was catchy enough and don’t judge his name choices ( ;P ). Blaze has an “oh shit” moment, and immediately runs back to Kho Na’an at the blacksmith to explain the situation. He is freaked, and decides that they must have an all-out war with the Rat and his gang. Kho Na’an expertly hypes the blacksmith to fight this blight on his town, and the man gives them two very pretty swords which he forged with his son (tears). With these blessings, in the possession of Blaze who cannot yet use two swords, the two go to find Caratticus, just to see him emerging at that very moment from the alley near the inn.

Blaze briefs Caratticus- roughly speaking- on the situation. Kho Na’an and Blaze are now ready to throw down, but the lawful neutralness in Caratticus requires him to go to Eliade at the Town Hall with this information. Unable to reach an agreement, the barbarian and the ranger run off to save the day, and Caratticus rushes away to bring the LAW.

Blaze and Kho Na’an decide to create a distraction; while Blaze sneaks around the back end of the alley, Kho Na’an must distract the guards enough to draw them away from the wagon-cart-thing. Kho Na’an decides to be a property developer, and begins offering the guards life-changing offers. However, the half-orc appears to suddenly be shit at bluffing, and only serves to terribly irritate one or two guards. Blaze decides he must make his move; he stumbles in his step and fails to properly bonk the rear guard on the head. The criminal turns around- GUYS…” Blaze panicks and attempts to hit with the butt of his sword; criminal guy grabs his wrist and growls. Blaze slashes his wrist, causing him to cry out and release his grasp; criminal guy is pissed. All of the guards are now focused on the attacker, and Kho Na’an decides to do a bit of role reversal!

Caratticus enters the Town Hall to find Eliade reading at her desk; her two men are situated at opposite ends of the room, as usual. The cleric explains the situation; Eliade, as it turns out, is not a fan of the Rat, and instructs the soldiers to find men to cover guard duty so they can join her in the raid. Caratticus mentions that some of his companions were afraid the Rat may have bought out some of her men; Eliade explains that it used to be a problem, but she has since cut down her forces and gained complete trust in the Hope militia. That being said, and the guards having readied themselves, the four lawful individuals proceed to the Rat’s wagon.

While Blaze attempts to outrun his foes, Kho Na’an charges into the wagon-cart-thing; in it, he finds Annalae, hands and feet bound, and ANOTHER CRIMINAL WOAH TWIST. The half-orc acts fast- he pulls out his flint and tinder, and proclaims that if the man so much as touches his weapon, the half-orc will burn the whole thing down. The criminal is sufficiently freaked- he attempts to intimidate the burly man, but fails miserably and is forced to give up the captive. The half-orc, however, is not quite satisfied with this, and rages; he picks up the criminal and casually chucks him through the wall of the wagon-cart-thing. Without another word, Kho Na’an picks up the druid and runs away, holding her above his head as he is chased by three of the five total guardsmen. Just as he is running away, he sees Caratticus approach with Eliade and her guardsmen. LAWFUL STUPID,” he shouts as he makes for the Banshee Wastes. The three remaining fighters counter the three pursuing criminals, and Caratticus runs after his half-orc friend.

Blaze runs along the backs of Hope’s surviving shops, attempting to widen the gap between him and his assailants. Spying the open end of the blacksmith’s shop, the ranger performs yet more super sneaks, leading the two criminals merely by voice through the Smithy until they can encounter Smithy. That they do- the criminals approach, Blaze drops the swords at his feet, and the blacksmith is so fucking ready man. Then— “Son?”

The ranger is still sneaking like a motherfucker, but determines he must see this shit. The son of which the blacksmith speaks is the uninjured criminal- each is very curious as to what the other one is doing there, until the estranged child decides to run dramatically off into the night. The blacksmith is shaken up after this ordeal, but is not yet finished being so fucking ready man. The Blaze-injured criminal readies; charges; and gets bonked on the head by the hilt of Smithy’s sword. With one of his two chasers having absconded and the other quite unconscious at that, Blaze decides it’s time to go to the Banshee Wastes and ready for their meeting with Wanda.

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Day 6.75 - Avatar of the Dragon
ALLLLLLLLLLL the exposition!

The Travelers reconvene in the Banshee Wastes, at the twisted tree that will be their meeting place. They discuss the plan for when Wanda arrives, and the axeman whose services Kho Na’an enlisted approaches. Kho Na’an asks him to hide behind Hope’s southwest gate and report any potential dangers to his fellow sentries back in town; he agrees, and the two fist-bump enthusiastically before he gets himself into position. Blaze searches the area for any potential traps or other dangers; he finds nothing, and decides to position himself in his Ghillie suit about 50 ft away from the tree, bow & arrow readied.

The paladin utters a prayer to Heironeous; the barbarian utters a prayer to Gruumsh. Caratticus gets a distant but severe look in his eye, as if his true personality is beginning to reemerge. Kho Na’an notices this change, and calls his name; there is no response. He attempts to speak to him in Draconic; still, no response. ”Dick.”

They wait for a few minutes more, until a tiny cloaked thing emerges from the southwest gate. Wanda joins the five Travelers (Caratticus, Kho Na’an, Annalae, Voltage, and Xenlin), greeting them heartily and exchanging pleasant conversation for a small time. She notices that Blaze is missing, and senses motive like a motherfucker. However, she claims that it shouldn’t be an issue, so long as he’s listening in. Then, the conversation turns to the heart of the matter; she takes down her hood, and begins to explain the conspiracy emerging from the Kingdom of Entille. There rests the High Tower, an amalgam of wizards that broke off from Alche, the Wizard Throne and set up operations outside of Dietrich. Since their inception they’ve caused great harm to the Kingdom of Aenn, spreading madness amongst its people. Though Aasterinian is all for Chaos, she has realized that the Wizards have begun targeting her Travelers- and this she cannot abide.

In the middle of this exposition, Wanda looks at the dubious expressions of some and explains that she can show them something that might prove her honesty a bit more. She asks them to keep calm; she particularly asks Blaze, shouting the request into the Wastes. Then, she pulls her hood back up and over her eyes. She begins shaking; the air around her begins to swirl and blur; her body descends into shadow; the shadow grows larger and larger, reaching the size of roughly five buildings. Then, the shadow recedes, and in its place is a large, adult brass dragon. Aasterinian.

Pretty much everyone is freaked the fuck out. Caratticus, even sane, is speechless. Xenlin is struggling to maintain his calm; Blaze freezes in place; Kho Na’an starts asking worriedly if the dragon is Aasterinian, and where Wanda went. The dragon calmly and politely introduces herself as, yes, Aasterinian, and explains that Wanda has been her avatar for years. She notes that there’s not much time; Wanda failed to notice the axeman at the gate, and he’ll surely be running for the town at the appearance of the dragon. However, in what short time she has, she must request the assistance of the Travelers. The Wizards of the High Tower are wreaking havoc on the Kingdom of Aenn- they brought the Dragonflight all those years ago in an attempt to dissuade and weaken the gods of this realm. They’re also responsible for curses of madness across Aenn, including Caratticus’ own sickness. Furthermore, their plots have gained them near-full control over Dietrich, the capital city of Entille; not even the gods know what destruction they could reap with the power of an entire kingdom at their disposal. They worship an old god, one of death and destruction and rage. It is a god so old that not even Aasterinian knows its name. Yet the wizards are not serving this deity, so much as drawing power from it in the hopes that they themselves can ascend as demigods- a foolish and surely dooming endeavor, but if they succeed it will be the end of Aenn. Aasterinian has enlisted the help of many gods, even those she quarrels with on principal (Bahamut, Heironeous), but few of them have enough power to fully interfere in the affairs of the Kingdom Across the Sea.

Kho Na’an laments. ”If even the gods are weakened, what chance have we?” Aasterinian gives him a calm but serious look. ”I’m not saying this mission won’t be dangerous,” she admits. ”But my friends still fight the Wizards. They are distracted, their resources are focused, and they are unlikely to notice a few mere mortals at their door; together, you may just have a chance.”

”Little Travelers, will you assist me, and the Kingdom of Aenn, against the coming dark?”

Most of the Travelers seem ready to join in this quest- but Blaze, from a distance, merely stands and draws his sword. ”NEVER!”

Blaze asserts that he will never assist a dragon, no matter what the circumstance. A shouting match ensues, watched over by Aasterinian as the townspeople amass in the square. Caratticus begins to lecture the half-elf; Kho Na’an finds his words insulting and provocative, and attempts to clobber him over the head and therefore knock him out of his clarity. However, his fist is met by Xenlin’s arm, and the cleric continues. Xenlin further disputes Blaze’s hatred for all dragons, and the argument continues quite dramatically until Xenlin begins to hear the shouts and stomping of an angry mob approaching from beyond the gate. Aasterinian hears as well; ”I must go, Travelers,” she says. ”For the sake of the gnome woman. Please, if you have any concern for her well-being, you must lie about my presence. Give her your answers by tomorrow.” That said, the deity reverts back into shadow; she morphs and shrinks, and when the shadow recedes, it is again Wanda, in her little green cloak, smiling sheepishly up at the Travelers just as a terrible swarm of people flock to them. Blaze disappears (as the Blaze do), and the rest of the group readies to face the town.

With some incredible bluffing-their-asses-off skills, the Travelers and Wanda convince Eliade that what the axeman saw was merely a display that Wanda had been working on for some time now. She promises, for further reassurance, to make the “dragon” reappear during the festival three days hence. Eliade and the townspeople are confused, but accept this merely due to the power of the ass-bluffing-off; they depart, all but the axeman who asks Kho Na’an why on earth he was told to come. Kho Na’an explains that he was an important part of the Dragon Beta, and that his reaction was a necessary part of the process. He accepts this, due to Kho Na’an’s super bluffs, until Kho Na’an leans in as he shakes the axeman’s hand and whispers, ”There are forces at work. Trust no one.” He leaves, reasonably freaked at this point but remaining silent.

Kho Na’an decides to walk out beyond the destruction and desolation of Hope and the Banshee Wastes, desperately in need of some time to think. Wanda and Caratticus converse, with Xenlin listening nearby; Wanda met the cleric roughly 50 years ago, and is happy to see him as himself, if only for a short time. Caratticus pledges his mace, just as Kho Na’an has pledged his axe, to the cause given them by Aasterinian; Xenlin is also pledged to help. Wanda worries about Blaze- she says that she believes him to be a good man, one who could be of great help in Entille. She acknowledges that he is merely plagued by his past, and asks that the cleric and the paladin try to talk him into coming with them. They express that it is their wish as well, and with that Wanda bids them a cheerful goodnight and patters off into town. Caratticus and Xenlin engage in some conversation about his sanity; feels are had. Then, the cleric decides to take Annalae and Voltage back to the inn, while he still finds himself capable of some intelligence and direction. Xenlin walks away in the direction of Kho Na’an, also looking for some time to clear his head.

Caratticus and his companions reach the inn without incident; as soon as the cleric sits on the bed, experiences a moment of calm and comfort, his expression begins to change into that of a careless simpleton. ”Hmm! I’m tired!” He then offers Annalae the bed; she accepts graciously. She also thanks him for his part in saving her, and explains that she heard something about a ranger, and wondered if it might be Blaze. The matter is left open, however, and she begins to speak of her friends out in the Wastes and Blaze’s promise to help. Caratticus offers his services as well, and NPC bonding ensues. With that said and done, Caratticus, Voltage, and Annalae drift off into sleep.

Kho Na’an, upon seeing the unburned fields outside of Hope, decides to construct a small fire from sparse trees and dry grass. He is soon greeted by Blaze, who sits with him and immediately begins a major feels jam. Blaze explains his contempt for dragons; the half-orc explains his history, and reasons that if he is a half-orc who tries to be good, perhaps not all dragons are destructive and evil. Blaze is unsure of his feelings, but sees no way to contend the words of the barbarian.

They are then joined by Xenlin, who sits with them and furthers the feels jam as he argues for the sake of some good dragons. He explains the destruction he has seen, and warns Blaze against the dangers that may reach Aenn if the High Tower is allowed to thrive. The conversation does not go super well, and ends with a chorus of “you don’t know me”s. The ranger leaves, and the barbarian follows behind, commenting on the way that Blaze should feel no obligation to obey Xenlin’s commands, as chaotic good individuals are wont to do. Blaze returns to the bunkhouse; Kho Na’an goes to the inn to speak with Caratticus.

The half-orc wakes his former mentor; the old man is rather crotchety, and does not understand a word that Kho Na’an says. However, Kho Na’an asserts that he only wishes to “leave a message” for the “real Caratticus”: ”For seven months, I led you through that forest. I tried to help you; I am still trying to help you. But if you endanger me, or get in my way, I will smite you.” He stares severely at the old man for a moment more; then he smiles and bids him a cheerful goodnight as he leaves for the bunkhouse. Caratticus 1.0 sighs uncomprehendingly and goes back to sleep; Xenlin soon joins them at the inn, succumbing as well to the promise of rest. All said and done, the Travelers lay in their beds, dreaming of things to come and preparing themselves for the long days to come.

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