The Queen's River

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Belog's Journal

It was suggested that I keep a journal of my adventures while working on my dissertation. I have decided that I shall.

Father insisted that I not travel alone, I have acquiesced for Mother’s sake. Cousin Sellywud shall join me on my journey, and truth be told, it will be comforting to have a familiar face around. He insists on carrying my heavier supplies, and I am wont to let him, he’s much more suited to the task than I am.

Upon our arrival at the embarkation docks, we encountered cousin <name>. He seems more well traveled than we, and we appear to have lifted his spirits with our presence.

In addition to several elves also traveling with use there was a Twygzog who appeared to be quite friendly with them, I surreptitiously collected some spores he was ejecting. I have read of a beer recipe that employs Eukaryotic catalysts and am anxious to see what results I can get with these.

Once we were underway I was quite glad I had my books, as there was nothing to do but watch the monotonous greenery slide by. I did notice that one of the barge crew was also a dwarf, albeit quite tall. Stron Guardsmanseemed to take a particular interest in our mundane conversations, presumably he has little chance to converse in Khuzdul.

Suddenly there was a rather boisterous disagreement between one of the Elves and the Bargemaster. Apparently there was a nuisance of Kobolds in the river, poaching lumber, and the Elves were rather indignant and demanding intervention on the part of the Bargemaster.

Selly was quite anxious to intervene, no doubt due to the boredom of river travel. I concurred and we were swiftly in command of the barge and intercepting the Kobalds.

The Twygzog, who’s name is Squib, charged at the Kobolds and I noticed he would need to maintain a precarious balance upon the logs in the river. I began to play an old Birling song I recalled:

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I’m a lumberjack: no time to talk
Buzzsaw loud and flannel warm, I’ve kicked around
since I was born

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
you stay on the logs, stay on the logs
Fell the lumber breakin’ and everybody shakin’
And we stay on the logs, stay on the logs
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stay on the logs, stay on the logs
Ah, ha, ha, ha stay on the logs.

Once we had engaged the Kobolds and dispatched a few, they fled. Squib followed the tracks they had been making and determined that something large – An Ogre or possibly a Giant – has been helping them drag the lumber father inland. We have decided to investigate, but first we must return the Barge to the Bargemaster in the condition we borrowed it. It’s only polite.

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Belog's Journal - The Dragonne

Dragonne.jpgWe followed the trail left by the dragged lumber, an elf lass has joined us, but it seems that Stron has decided to remain with the barge.

While we followed the trail, we recounted what we know about ogres, they’re large, they aren’t terrifically bright, but they do speak and can be reasoned with. We wonder if there is a way to lure/bribe the ogre into abandoning his alliance with the kobolds.

We must have been too focused upon our plans for the ogre, for we were ambushed by a dire bear. It has definitely already been in battle recently as evidenced by the kobold javelins embedded in its hide.

Neither we nor the bear were particular vested in the conflict, except cousin Lomac (who actually bit the bear!) so that when the bear attempted to flee, we let it. There were some kobolds that attempted to capitalize on our engagement with the bear to harry us, but a well timed magic missile dissuaded them. I also needed to save Selly using his own magic with a technique I read about, but never had a chance to try.

We resumed following the trail, and soon came to a clearing with a wooden tower used as a lookout post. Selly suggested it as a good place to camp for the night, and trusting to his judgement, we set up watches and settled in for the night. I was awoken by a sharp pain to my ear to discover that oversized ants were literally crawling all over us.

It took quite a while, and we each needed to help one another, but we were able to exterminate the ants, even the enormous one that showed up halfway through our battle, although that one merely fled. I was able to collect one of the oversized ants that while dead was not too terribly damaged. I will attempt to make a sketch for these journals, I must devise a way to clearly denote the scale.

We finally found the end of the trail, and it turned out to be a primitive sawmill. The ogre was there, but it had been killed by a creature I was initially unable to identify, it was certainly not a dragon, nor a manticore, nor a chimera, it wasn’t until the battle was over that I realized it was a dragonne.

Initially we wanted to find a hidden spot to observe the creature, but when we approached our chosen location, we learned there were already kobolds hiding there. They attempted to drive us away, but instead I began the song of heroes, alerting the creature to our presence and attracting it to our location.

The creatures roar upon arriving at our location was enough the cause several of the kobolds to feint dead away. During the battle that ensued, the same group of kobolds that attempted to ambush us during the bear fight tried their luck again, but after witnessing the dragonne get cleaved in twain by Aerith, they fled, once again. In a spectacular display of divine magic, Selly was also able to completely destroy the kobold that appeared to be in charge of the group hiding from the dragonne.

It is quite odd that a dragonne would be in this climate. They are traditionally desert dwellers, as are their dragon and lion progenitors. This matter will require some investigation, but that will have to wait.

After an examination of the kobolds and the mill, we have discovered several account ledgers detailing the poaching operation, and implicating a certain Orc. We returned to Briarton, but aside from some minor kobold skirmishes and another ant incident (the less said, the better) we arrived safe and sound.

We met with Captain Falandar who was so excited by our news, and evidence that he requested our assistance in leading the recovery team to salvage the remaining lumber. Our return with the liberated lumber was met with sincere gratitude and Lord Roderick Arunel of Briarton insisted on rewarding us with elf-made weapons. I have accepted an Ironwood Handaxe of Protection. While its artistry is passable, I feel that it will serve much better as a symbol of my status within these elf controlled areas, especially if I am to remain here for the foreseeable future.

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Belog's Journal - Forgefoot Funny Business

My cousins and I were enjoying breakfast with Squib at the Greenbriar Inn, when a extraordinarily well dressed Grippli(?) entered and galumphed over to our table. He introduced himself as Fin’iquentil and appeared to know Squib. Lady Aerith had yet to join us, perhaps she was feeling unwell.

While we were introducing ourselves and getting acquainted, a commotion arose outside. We rushed to investigate. Outside numerous citizens were clamoring about an invasion at Stumptooth’s Farm on the edge of town. Janos Grimble was there and followed us to the farm.

Upon our arrival it became evident that the farm has been infested by over-sized insects of the Formicidae family. They has already attacked the livestock, severely injuring at least one bull. The others engaged them in battle while I unlimbered by instrument. One of the insects bit me while I was distracted, but I was able to take a step back and began to play. We were able to exterminate the infestation with minor effort.

The townsfolk celebrated our victory with a feast, a wandering minstrel, named “Genevieve the Fair” performed a puppet show of the battle. While her musical performance was somewhat lacking, I must compliment her on her ability to rapidly manufacture quality puppets of reasonable facsimiles of our small band! Bronn has grown quite attached to his likeness and several of the towns children have their favorites as well. Janos Grimble was there.

During the festivities, the Imperial navy cruiser (HMS?) Axiom arrived and the crew disembarked. Several joined the festivities, and I was shocked to see a Forgefoot among them. We simultaneously noticed each other – he immediately turned and left. Good riddance.

After the show, while eating lunch, I noticed that Fin and Squib had departed, but they returned before we had finished. They obliquely mentioned that there was a need to locate contraband in town – obviously they’d had a meeting with Lady Elwindil. We put our heads together to compose a list of local scoundrels and swindlers. It’s a short list:

Cyna Ethed – Halfling thief, runs local thieves gang.
Drogo Raveknott – local ne’er do well.
Duncan Sentry – demontouched fence/smuggler/grafter/gentleman.
Archibald Blech – human fence/smuggler/wretched boor.

We began our investigation at the Queen’s Cove inn. Ameiko Kaijitsu, the owner was shockingly unwelcoming when we arrived, but a little sweet talking warmed her disposition. Archibald Blech was sleeping in the corner when we arrived, but soon woke and asked about our “pretty cleric” – I sent him to Selly. While I kept Ameiko occupied, Fin located Duncan and questioned him. For some reason Duncan wished to hold a contest of log hopping – a local variation of Birling. Bronn, Stron, Selly and Fin all lined up to compete. Selly and Bronn each wagered their puppet likenesses against their performances. Selly asked for my surreptitious assistance, and I was happy to provide it. While I was able to significantly enhance Selly’s performance, it was not enough to overcome Fin’s natural aptitude, but he won Bronn’s puppet at least. Janos Grimble was there.

After the contest, Duncan suggested that a search of Leurora’s Mercantile Emporium would be lucrative. Once again, I provided the distraction. My initial plan was to haggle over the worth of the finely wrought sword that the kobold leader of the tree poachers had formerly possessed, but upon entering the emporium it was obvious that Leurora was in the process of producing knockoff puppets of the Cragshaper clan. In fact, it was a single puppet of the three of us. We instead discussed the nuances of using someone’s likeness without express permission. While she was distracted Fin, Squib and Stron searched the back rooms.

I was still citing precedent when Squib entered the front door of the emporium. I informed Leurora that we would continue the discussion in the future and exited with Squib. He let us know our quarry was no longer at the emporium, and that we should return to the Greenbriar. We saw Janos Grimble on the way. When we arrived Drogo was there, requesting our assistance. He wanted us to scare off some creditors who were shaking him down for additional money after he’d already paid. At least that was his story. I had my doubts.

In the alley between the inn and the stable, there was a small group:

Kurdle, a gnome alchemist.
Ustob a half-giant lass.
Lady Garol an elf swordswoman
Belitz a silent human.

Kurdle informed us that they were bounty hunters and that Drogo was wanted in <place> and that they were going to take him in for the reward. Drogo had offered to pay them more to let him go but had not yet done so. Neither group seemed interested in playing Drogo’s game of “let’s you and him fight”, so when Kurdle suggested a series of contests, I accepted.

The first contest was of Strength: Bronn and Ustob would alternate attempting to hoist the hay-lift with increasingly heavier loads until one of them failed. Bronn insisted that if he won Selly return his puppet. Selly reluctantly agreed. The first few attempts were trivial for both of them, but then I noticed that Bronn was having some difficulty – so I intervened with a improvised knock spell. Bronn won the contest and retrieved his beloved puppet.

The second contest was Speed: Stron and Lady Garol would duel until one had been tapped with the blade three times. I loaned my Ironwood axe to him for the contest, its light weight and superlative balance would aid him greatly. Kurdle insisted on inspecting the axe, and used it was a pretense to spray a powder on Stron. Before I could object the contest had begun. I began to devise stratagems to counter whatever deleterious effect the power would have upon Stron, but whatever the effect was it was too slight to impair him: He won.

After easily wining the first two contests, Kurdle admitted defeat and did not even attempt to match wits with me in the third contest. Clearly his boasts of wit and wisdom have some merit. He and his group left town. Janos Grimble was there.

Drogo informed us that there was to be a secret auction aboard the Axiom this evening – hosted by Make Sieg Forgefoot. Of course. When we had initially been compiling our list of scoundrels Selly had suggested that we just confront the Forgefoot, but I thought that was just Argumentum ad Consequentiam and said we should probably perform a rigorous investigation. Maybe next time we’ll just follow our instincts.

We headed to the docks and embarked a longboat to ferry us to the ship. During the trip, I told several anecdotes embarrassing to the Forgefoot clan, the crew took quite a liking to them and to us. We learned that the captain, while well liked, was more bureaucrat than sailor, and relied heavily upon his first mate to run the ship. We needed to separate them. It was decided to inform the captain of the auction and the need for discretion.

In order to shut down the auction and retrieve the contraband, Fin instructed the captain that he needed to speak to him privately. While waiting, The rest of us began to sample the refreshments and hors d’oeuvres set out for guests. Shortly after we had begun to sample the delicacies, Forgefoot arrived, spoiling my appetite. He was furious. He demanded we be evicted from the ship, immediately. I stalled him by informing him that we were there at the captain’s invitation. He turned for the cabin door, and while Stron interposed himself, Selly admonished him that insubordination and dereliction of duty reflected poorly on one’s clan. He stopped being furious, skipped livid and went straight to apoplectic. He had just begun a tirade when the cabin opened and the captain stepped out.

The captain informed Forgefoot that all non-crew were to be evicted from the ship (present company exempted) and a search for contraband was to be conducted. Cyna, Duncan, (Drogo?) and Archibald were soon escorted above deck and off the ship. Duncan expressed dismay that we caught up to him so fast.

A search below decks yielded several samples of rare elven woods, and two caged animals, in the first a Bunni-oid, in the second was a creature I had thought mere fable: a mandh nâr lapattë, or in plain Khuzdul – Luck Bunny. It became immediately obvious what Fin had been hiding from us, but not why. We were helping him, at some point we were going to successfully locate the quarry and learn its particulars.

No Matter. We collected the contraband and returned it to Lady Elwindil using a covered wagon. When we arrived at her residence, Janos Grimble was there. Fin and Squib went in alone while the rest of us returned to the Greenbriar and resumed our supper.

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Belog's Journal - Wake Island Excursion

The morning started most oddly, neither Selly nor Bronn were anywhere to be found, and Consul and Lady Aerith were also absent, I hope they have a good story to tell when they return. As I was eating my breakfast and reading a fascinating narrative on the discovery of
thaumaturgical entanglement, Squib arrived and asked for assistance, we went to the tanner to see if Stron was available, luckily he was.

It seems that renowned philosopher and mystic Lady Halsekka has decided to sequester herself on one of the wake islands for a meditative retreat. unbeknownst to her, the Koru behemoths’ migration is unseasonable early and there is danger of flooding for those islands. We must locate her and evacuate her to safety.

The only ship available on such short notice was the Ladyslipper – Captain Archibald Bletch’s vessel. He was amenable to assisting our mission, and his presence and comments were tolerable. Barely.

Our first stop was an island called “The Boot.” It is hard to imagine why the island was named this, the shape is certainly not evocative of a boot, and no one seems to know the origin of the name.

We set out searching the Boot for clues of habitation, we found an ancient cutlass and a shoe with some ancient metatarsals (probably human), shortly after these artifacts were discovered, I noticed a lone over-sized Formicidae scouting about. Unsure if it had seen us and was attempting to bring reinforcements, I unleashed a bolt of arcane force at it. Unfortunately I didn’t kill it outright and it was able to release a cloud of pheromones to alert the colony.

The ground nearby began to shake, and immediately erupted with a swarm of angry insects with one particular specimen slightly larger than the others, with a distended abdomen. This insect immediately sprayed some sort of goo onto Squib and Stron, but the discharge fell short of my position. I began the Song Of Heroes to inspire my companions and attempted to crush the insects climbing on me without hurting myself. Ston extricated himself from the swarm and fired arrow after arrow into the mass, Squib speared a few, but was overwhelmed by their numbers and they attempted to drag his unconscious form into their tunnel.

It took a few attempts, but I was able to disengage from my foes and use a potion to revive Squib before he was dragged into the nest. We finished off the rest and returned to the ship.

We continued our search of the islands, Spider Point and Critterisle were small enough for us to determine that Lady Halsekka was not there without having to disembark. We continued on to Follyrock with only minor delays.

Upon approach to Follyrock, we saw that there was an elegant elven vessel that had been pulled up onto the beach. We examined it – the mast had been snapped and there was a warning written on the hull in goblin letters: “Go Away!”

We surreptitiously approached the structure on a slight rise from the beach, and saw another goblin sign: “claimed in the name of the Queen!” We were able to see that there was a small group of goblins inside, scurrying about at the direction of what was obviously their Queen. I snuck a bit closer and was able to cast Charm on her before we were detected. Then I backed out and announced our presence by knocking at the entrance.

They were surprised to see us, and many of the goblins began to ready weapons, but the Queen ordered them to stand down and greeted us warmly. We asked her about Lady Halsekka and were informed that she had been sentenced to Ghouldoom as punishment, and we were forbidden from interfering with that judgement. We assured her that we had no intention of doing so and that we were going to return to our home.

The Queen demanded gifts before we departed: Squib presented a cutlass (the one we had found on the Boot), the goblins were impressed. Stron presented a tanning knife, but unfortunately it had been damaged and the goblins became agitated. It fell to me to sooth their mood, and I knew only one thing would suffice, though I was loath to part with it: The puppet in my likeness that Genevieve the Fair had crafted.

The Queen was overjoyed and we bid our farewells. Upon arriving at the beach, we pushed the elven craft back into the water and attached a tow rope to bring it with us. The goblins became quite upset, but by the time they arrived at the beach, we were underway.

Upon arrival at Ghouldoom island we learned that we would need to wade ashore or risk beaching our ship. We waded ashore, upon climbing up onto the beach we immediately learned that it is always twilight on Ghouldoom island, while we were puzzling out this phenomenon, a swarm of dire rats attacked. Squib attempted to dissuade them, but their
hunger won out. We were able to fend them off without too much difficulty.

We traveled to a lone pine tree a short distance from the shore, and located Lady Halsekka part way up. Unfortunately, there were a number of ghouls milling about in the vicinity, one who refused to identify himself told us to leave, and when we refused rush to attack us. We
were able to defeat the ghouls, but not permanently, I’m sure they will return before long. We escorted Lady Halsekka to the Ladyslipper, and while Captain Bletch made numerous inappropriate comments on the voyage back to Briarton he did at least attempt to do so out of earshot. Undoubtedly Lady Halsekka heard them, but she graciously ignored him. We arrived without incident. Lady Halsekka confided in me that she believes my presence on Ghouldoom was no coincidence and is instead a portent. She alluded to a prophecy of a dwarven hero arriving to avert certain doom. Previously it was believed to be <<local>>, but Lady Halsekka seems to think I am the hero of legend. Time will tell.

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Belog's Journal - The Tale of Sheriff George Grimble

It was a dark and stormy night. We were hunkered down for the night in the Green Briar Inn. Janus Grimble was there, glowering at us once again. I decided that he looked thirsty and ordered an ale for him.

Once again he refused. Before the ale could be returned to our table and be put to good use, Drogo Raveknott, local ne’er do well, grabbed the mug and quaffed it down.

I was about to object, but he offered to tell the tale of Sheriff George Grimble, Janus’s father who is now a disgraced spirit haunting the ruins of the abandoned Little Bear Inn. A new story is well worth the cost of a mug of ale.

Years ago, before the terrible orc raid, Sheriff George Grimble was dispatched to Concord by Lord Roderick Aurendel along with four diplomats and six bodyguards to Concord with a plea (and significant funds) for assistance against a predicted orc invasion (Corwyl had already declined to aide them). They were tasked with riding straight through but were forced to stop at the Little Bear Inn.

There they encountered Lord Illidris, a high elven diplomat. what happened after that is speculative, but Gellir and several other Briarton survivors arrived at the Inn and discovered George and his retinue, apparently drunk, with no memory of the last several
days. They executed all of them for desertion. George’s decapitated body was hung in a cage and left to rot.

George’s spirit, and those of his followers will not stay quiet. The inn stands abandoned.

While Drogo’s delivery of the story was rudimentary, the content of the story was fascinating. We knew we couldn’t leave a mystery like this unexplored, especially one so close to our doorstep.

We contemplated waiting until the storm passed to investigate, but there was no way I could wait that long. We considered waiting until the morning, since it was most of a day’s journey to the inn, but doing so might cause us to miss the arrival of Lieutenant Dol Rok to answer questions of his involvement with the theft of elvish heartwood. I don’t want to miss that. We set out immediately.

Earlier that night, Brash, Selly and I had a clan meeting. We wanted to express our appreciation to Squib for all the assistance he had rendered to the clan, and the best way I knew to do so was to declare him as murkhûn – shield brother. We explained this to him on the journey. He was characteristically gracious and humble in his acceptance.

Upon our arrival at the inn, Bron and Fin offered to reconnoiter the perimeter, and I agreed that they should. While they were doing so I examined the corpse displayed near the entrance. It was in a gibbet, and significantly more robust that I expected a fifteen year old corpse to be.

While I was contemplating this revelation, Bron returned from his perimeter reconnaissance and the corpse of Sheriff George Grimble suddenly began to emit such a blue streak of Elvish expletives the air almost seemed to shimmer in its wake.

Fin had returned by this point, and attempted to assuage George, but merely redirected his ire. The stream of Elvish invectives continued unabated at Fin. We decided that we should investigate the interior of the inn.

Murkhûn Squib took the lead entering the inn, and as the rest of us followed we were swarmed by bats. While we were defending ourselves, some sort of Brachipposideros also joined the melee.

I began the song of heroes and engaged the dire bat with bolts of arcane force. The others concentrated their attacks upon the dire bat as well, and it soon attempted to flee. Sully used his beard to entangle the beast and prevent its escape. The normal bats did flee while we dispatched the beast.

A survey of the large entrance room revealed a series of nooses above the bar, and a large number of bones scattered about. We gathered the bones, so that we could bury them. We decided to finish the collection of the remains before we started digging, since it was so rainy out.

We headed up the stairs to explore the upper level of the inn. While we were still on the stairs, two groups of skeletons attacked us. The bones we had just collected downstairs comprising one group, and another set at the top of the stairs.

These skeletons seemed intent on killing us in the same way their lives had ended, they each wielded a spectral noose and used it to strangle their foes: us.

Once again, I performed the song of heroes, and this time I blended in a battle chant to assist my allies in extricating themselves from the nooses their attackers entangled them with. I successfully enabled Murkhûn Squib do exactly that.

Suddenly a surge of holy light erupted from Selly and engulfed the skeletons before him. Two of the skeletons disintegrated utterly. I was so dazzled by the display that the group of skeletons behind me were able to successfully lasso me with their nooses.

We were able to dispatch more and more of the skeletons, I luckily had filled the bladder of the bagpipes at the beginning of the song of heroes, so I was able to continue it whilst being strangled. I had to use my axe to dispatch my foes, and disentangle myself from their nooses.

Unfortunately, there were just too many nooses for me to extricate myself entirely, and I wavered in and out of consciousness. My persistence was distracting enough to allow my allies to finish the others and while no one was unscathed we were all standing at the end of the battle.

We searched the upstairs and found an attaché containing Sheriff George Grimble’s original orders. As we exited the inn, George became supremely agitated, throwing himself against the bars and lunging for the attaché. I lowered his cage and released him. While I did so the skeletons we had just dispatched existed the inn as a team of spectral
horses arrived, which they then mounted.

While they waited, George frantically motioned to us to follow him and he led us to a nearby forest where the coin he’d been entrusted with was sealed in the bark of a tree. One axe blow and it all came pouring out. We collected it as George mounted his steed and with a cry of “For Briarton!” he and his retinue raced off towards Corwyl faster than any mundane horse could hope to match, much less a group of weary dwarves on foot.

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Belog's Journal - Macabre Maritime Mystery

This morning began quite pleasantly, Selly and Brash were still asleep when I awoke, and I left them to slumber while I got something to eat. The breakfast at the Green Briar did not captivate today, so I decided to see what was available at the Queen’s Cove.

On my way I saw Janos Grimble. Rather than his usual scowl, he smiled weakly and began to raise his arm to wave until he realized what he was doing and crossed his arms instead. Then he scowled. I conveyed morning felicitations and continued on my way.

I was expecting smoked fish, for that is the usual breakfast at Queen’s Cove. Imagine my surprise when instead there was a delicious concoction of trout fillets, eggs, and bacon, with a ramekin of sauce. Ameiko must have hired a new cook. I complimented her on the meal, and left a generous gratuity.

I was enjoying my coffee stout when Brash and Selly arrived. As I was extolling the qualities of the breakfast special, a commotion arose at the docks. It seemed that Archibald Bletch had discovered an abandoned craft. A flat-bottomed barge named The River Squire. He was claiming salvage rights since it was abandoned when he discovered it. Duncan Sentry claimed that Archibald “discovered” the barge when it drifted into the Ladyslipper overnight.

Selly was most anxious to investigate. While we were contemplating how to begin our analysis of the Squire, Fin arrived. He had been contacted by Maerwynn – a local priestess of Our Grand Wright of Heaven. She tends the shrine in Briarton and aids the people of the
village with the healing powers granted her by the goddess. She typically wears robes in silver and gold tones and has brown hair and brown eyes.

Maerwynn has lived in Briarton for nearly 20 years, coming to the village as a young woman after being trained in the guilds of Our Grand Wright in another kingdom. About fifteen years ago, her left arm was severed by an orc blade as she defended a child. The priestess
nearly died of the grievous wound, and in her fever delirium had a holy vision of The Grand Wright sending her back to the realm of the living to continue doing good works.

She could doubtless have had her lost arm restored by her religious superiors, or directly from her goddess via direct prayer, but she chooses not to do so: She claims her missing arm teaches her humility and compassion for those in need of her own healing powers.

Maerwynn is concerned that by a recent disturbance in the town cemetery, several grave-sites have been desecrated. She implored Fin to investigate.

Collectively, we decided that we would begin at the cemetery, and continue up the river to determine what happened to the crew of the Squire.

At the cemetery we quickly determine that there were at least three exhumations overnight and that there was no sign of remains. The tracks are definitely humanoid – not animal and roughly human sized, but there is at least one set that is larger, possibly from an ogre.
The tracks lead to the edge of the Midland Sea and disappear.

At a loss for how to continue pursuit of these corpse stealers, we decided to head upriver to learn the fate of the crew of The River Squire. Selly suggested we borrow the Ladyslipper for our trip up the river, but we decided to forgo this as a favor to Archibald to repay
the uncharacteristic kindness he displayed when ferrying us about the Wake Islands to retrieve Lady Halsekka.

We were about to start hiking when a vessel began to pole its way up the river. A short jog later we were granted permission to embark by Captain Sheridan, skipper of The Shore Thing, a craft similar to The River Squire.

The journey upriver was pleasant, the weather was mild and the crew enjoyed my tales of adventures. Their sharp-eyed lookout alerted the crew to a hazard ahead. Someone had seeded the river with numerous trees that had been carefully trimmed to keep the balance of their volume below the surface.

We disembarked to examine the banks for signs of the missing crew. We quickly discovered a charnel pit, and attempted to identify the remains. Unfortunately, the pit was infested with numerous myriapodas, and other metameric vermin.

Our small group was swiftly swarmed by the pests. While I began the Song of Heroes, Brash dispatched several insects using a mighty overhead smash, the momentum of his swing caused a cloud of Rot Grubs to erupt into the air and rain down upon the group.

We all defended ourselves from these invasive nuisances, with only Fin in serious danger. Luckily, I was able to incorporate an inspiring flourish of my axe while severing the thorax of my foe to bolster his resolve. Due to my ingenuity he was able to marshal his confidence and dispatch his foe – gastronomically.

We continued our examination of the crew’s remains, and were able to determine that each of them had suffered severe limb avulsions, and once again we were able to find the tracks of at least one large creature, similar to the ogre we had encountered previously in the
cemetery.

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Belog's Journal - Dol Rok and the Drakkenhall Delegation

As weary as we were from our ordeal in the charnel pit, we knew we must report our findings to Maerwynn and probably to Lord Arunel as well. We began our trek back to Briarton, and arrived without incident.

As we described our findings to Maerwynn, she became distressed and urged us to report our findings to Lord Arunel, due to the proximity and severity of the incidents. It was going to be a long night.

We were admitted to Lord Arunel’s office after only a brief delay, and he arrived shortly afterward. He was greatly concerned by our discoveries and agreed that action must be taken, however, with the arrival of the Drakkenhall delegation scheduled for tomorrow, this macabre maritime mystery must be tabled for the nonce.

He asked us to speak with Gellir about helping tomorrow during the public apology to ensure that everything goes seamlessly. Our long night had just transformed into a long day tomorrow. We agreed.

The next morning, after a quick travelers breakfast, we staked out a good observation point in the village square. We were among the first to arrive and settled ourselves for a long wait. The citizens of Briarton trickled in and began to pleasantly confabulate. Selly mentioned several citizens who would likely bear the largest grudges from the orc raid about 15 years ago:

Lady Alianora Fitzhugh – Daughter of Lord Arunel; raised in Drakkenhall; married a junior ambassador to orc lands, who trusted humanoids too well. They were abducted Orcs and held captive in Houdskull Fort. Her husband was killed. Their son, Robin survived.

Grimbor — Son of Ailith the Potter, the hulking Grimbor has become something of an outcast in Briarton due to his orc heritage. Only a handful of villagers are overt in their distaste for Grimbor. Others, however, unknowingly allow their hatred of orcs, stemming from the loss of loved ones or other personal tragedies in the raid, to color their treatment of young Grimbor. As a result, the boy tends to be a loner, preferring to spend his days in the wilderness away from the hard stares of some of his fellow villagers.

Drogo Raveknott — local ne’er do well and serial bigamist.

Selly indicated that he thought that Drogo was the most likely to cause trouble and so I suggested that Brash place himself nearby to intercede should trouble begin.

Selly looked at me quizzically as Brash wandered over to Drogo, I knew what he was thinking. I explained that Brash was never going to be able to handle more difficult tasks if we never let him try. And that by failing he would learn. Selly insisted that Brash wouldn’t last 10 seconds. I bet that he could. I lost.

We had just finishing shaking on the bet when Drogo loudly proclaimed that Brash had no authority and he stormed off to the other side of the square. As this was happening, I realized that Fin was nowhere to be seen. Selly informed me that Fin has been asked to escort the emissaries into Briarton.

Janos was the next citizen to catch my attention, I caught his eye and he altered his course over to us. He expressed misgivings about Kenrick and suspected that he was most likely to cause trouble during the ceremony. Kenrick the Lame. The man whose crippling injury to his right leg has left him with a limp so severe that he requires a crutch. I suggested that a young boy whose father was murdered fifteen years ago was likely to contemplating revenge, and more likely to act impulsively.

Everything became quiet. The envoy, preceded by Fin had arrived. Dol Rok was accompanied by four hobgoblins dressed in ornate military tabards and prominently armed with great-bows. Dol Rok’s language coach must have only employed the imperative mood, for his statements were curt and challenging. He expressed sorrow for the theft and gratitude for the revelation of the operation. He concluded with a statement that the remainder of the thieves had been dealt with, and so saying tossed a crude satchel to the ground before Lord Arunel. The satchel made an unpleasant squelch as it hit on the ground and settled disturbingly.

Dol Rok turned his attention to me. He expressed feigned surprise at dwarves venturing so far from their home, and extended an open invitation for us to visit Dezzavold. He then obliquely implied the reason for our presence in Briarton was due to exile in a transparent attempt to provoke a reaction from us, but I saw through his ruse and retained my composure.

Lord Arunel then thanked Dol Rok for his steadfast resolve for justice and extended an invitation to stay in town. To everyone’s astonishment, Dol Rok accepted! There was a collective gasp from the crowd and some of the more delicate fainted. As a hush settled on the square, Drogo suddenly began to laugh. I caught Gellir’s subtle head jerk to that side of the square and started heading over there. While I was on my way the crowd had begun to disperse and I overheard Dol Rok and Lord Arunel discussed dinner arrangements. Dol Rok suggested breaded steam weevils, and Lord Arunel agreed. Drogo was nowhere to be seen by the time I was about to work through the crowd.

As I was making my way back to Selly and Brash, Gellir intercepted me and Fin. He directed that Fin warn Lady Fitzhugh about the arrival of Dol Rok and for me to secure their accommodations. I decided that the Queen’s Cove was better suited for their needs. I noticed Leurora and her husband were approaching Dol Rok with a burlap sack of tchotchkes, gewgaws and bibelots. Dol Rok declined.

When I arrived at the Queen’s Cove, Duncan Sentry was already there and arranging rooms for the Drakenhall delegation. I interceded, suggesting that a corner room overlooking the water would be preferable, Duncan disagreed but Ameiko acceded to my suggestions. I suspect more to spite Duncan than anything else. After that was settled, Ameiko instructed Vexter, her serving girl/scullery maid, to request that Angwyn ap-Llewellyn prepare some steam weevils for dinner and to transport them back to the Inn.

Vexter arrived in town via barge some time back, and stayed. She doesn’t wish to discuss her reasons for leaving her prior home and no one really pressed her on details. She evidently has suffered severe trauma, since direct physical contact provokes screaming fits. Ameiko is quite protective of her, and even Archibald, notoriously slow on the uptake, has figured out to leave her alone or face Ameiko’s wrath.

Since I had not heard of Angwyn before, I asked Ameiko for details. She told me that while the uninitiated may see Angwyn ap-Llewellyn simply as a crazy old hermit living in a ramshackle cottage in the forest near Briarton. Those who know better recognize him as a powerful, if reclusive, wizard.

Angwyn has lived in his cottage in the woods for as long as anyone now alive can remember. He keeps a vegetable garden and a few goats, which he milks, for food. Angwyn can often be found ranting in mock outrage as he drives deer, rabbits and other forest creatures away from the delicacies of his garden. For that matter, the goats sometimes slip their tethers to pillage Angwyn’s beloved garden as well.

Fin returned to the Queen’s Cove and I briefed him on the circumstances. As the evening approached, we began to grow concerned for Vexter. The trip to Angwyn’s is not far or dangerous, and her prolonged absence was indicative of some mishap. We decided we must find her and escort her to the Queen’s Cove.

A short trip later and the cottage came into view. There were several goats in pens outside, but none of them reacted to Vexter’s name – there are rumors that Angwyn transmutes trespassers into goats. The front door was ajar. Upon entry we saw a sitting room, with a large bookshelf, an overstuffed chair and a cheerful fire blazing away in the fireplace. An open book was a side table caught my eye.

The text was in Sindarin – or possibly Quendian, the sample on the page was too small to definitively ascertain, and the right page was devoted to an illustration of an imp. As I was admiring the detail of the illustration and pondering the method employed – I had concluded it was a woodcut etching when suddenly the book leapt from the table and attacked me!

Pandemonium ensued. In addition to the book attacking me, a cast iron poker assaulted Fin, the window drapes entangled Brash and the dog-grate waddled out of the fireplace to join the fray. Selly rushed to my side to assist, using his axe to remove the book. I trust Selly, but I still flinched away from his swing at my face. I then removed the book with my own axe, unfortunately sundering it in the process and removing a hunk of my beard. I’ll have to even it out later. I cast a quick mending on the book to restore it.

While the attacks were irksome, they were far from dangerous or even deleterious, it was difficult to imagine the purpose – home defense was certainly not being achieved and the grate was actually more damaging to the house than to us. We swiftly incapacitated the animated objects, quenched the nascent fires, and continued our search for Vexter.

The next room was the kitchen. There was an oven dominating one wall, and a door that had been barricaded with a chair. There was spilled food everywhere, predominantly tomato sauce. I noticed that there was a prominent trail leading out into the hallway, and that it created via the dragging of something or someone: probably Vexter. As I was communicating my findings, Fin unobstructed the door and opened it.

Rushing up the stairs from the pantry was a crowd of ambulatory pastries. They were some sort of turnover that had been filled with tomato sauce, which they proceeded to squirt at us, presumably this was the source of the mess in the kitchen. Each of them was almost half as tall as we are.

Brash flew into a frenzy with a roar, or perhaps borborygmus, and carved each of the confections into bite-sized chunks, which he then proceeded to consume with gusto, loud crunches and soft murmurs of appreciation.

While Brash finished off the remains, the rest of us took a quick peek downstairs to ensure no more surprises awaited us there. It was unoccupied, but the turnovers had made quite a mess of the supplies. We were just concluding our examination when a loud commotion came from the kitchen. We rushed back up the stairs.

We found Brash locked in combat with a magma mephit. Judging by the open door on the over it seemed that it had been in there, probably as a means of convection. Seated on top of the oven, critiquing Brash’s performance against the mephit was an imp.

The imp concluded his ridicule of Brash and commenced mocking Selly when he attempted to blast it with a spell, I unleashed a blast of arcane force upon it and it disappeared with an otherworldly wail. Brash was able to dispatch the mephit, but in so doing, he succumbed to the heat it was generating and required our aid to recover.

Continuing into the hallway, we followed the drag-marks into a small bedroom. Trapped in the closet, we found Vexter. We released her and she told us about how while waiting for Angwyn to return she selected a text to read. She had begun leafing through the pages, when the imp popped out of the illustration and began to torment her.

As we consoled her, a loud shout from the front of the cottage announced the return of Angwyn. After some careful explaining and offers to help clean the mess and repair the damage, Angwyn sent Vexter and Brash back to the inn with a tray of steam weevils. While we were cleaning Angwyn muttered darkly about Lord Illidris, who had apparently given the book to him as a gift.

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Belog's Journal - Brianton Besiegement

After we finished cleaning up Angwyn’s cottage, we made our way back to the Queen’s Cove Inn. Fin continued on to Lord Arunel’s mansion with the steam weevils. Selly, Brash and I ordered a round of drinks and settled in for the evening.

As townsfolk begin trickling in, I noticed that Leurora’s Mercantile Emporium has begun producing orc puppets for Dol Rok’s visit. They’re as shoddy as their dwarf puppets were, but they’re popular nonetheless.

We were barely into our third round when a dwarf entered. Thankfully he wasn’t a Forgefoot, although he was a Gloombeard. I called him over and ordered a new round. Selly went to collect it for us.

The Gloombeard greeted us with his clan’s typical cheerlessness, and introduced himself as Garil. He spoke of the impending necrotic apocalypse his portends heralded, which I grilled him on. We had a lively debate about how the omens were being interrupted.

Just as I was demonstrating the logical contradiction in his position, Ameiko came up to me and politely asked if we would be kind enough to yield our table for Dol Rok and his retinue. We graciously acquiesced.

As we were moving to our new seats, I noticed Janos. I told him about Angwyn’s recent troubles due to Lord Illidris’s mischief and implied he might find a powerful ally in plotting revenge. Janos hurried off to the cottage.

As Dol Rok and his envoy entered the Inn, a hush fell on the crowd. They took their seats while willfully ignoring the glowers of Briarton’s residents. After a few tense moments, conversations resumed. Fin sat down at the seat I saved for him, and filled us in on the details of the dinner party. Nothing particularly exciting.

Conversations halt once again as Drogo Raveknott decided to strut up to the fireplace and toss one of the orc puppets into the blaze while staring pointedly at Dol Rok’s table. They ignore him just as pointedly.

Disappointed with his lack of response and emboldened by his table-mates, Drogo decided to take another trip to the fireplace. I waved him over as he rose from his table: He made a rude gesture to me. I quietly told him that I could start telling stories about him, and looked toward the serving girl he’s been talking up lately. He scurried over.

I explained to him that he’d had enough fun; and that continued provocations were likely to result in injury, possibly not his, but definitely some unfortunate townsfolk. He was mulling over my suggestion when someone else from his table decided to get in on the fun, and headed for the fireplace with a handful of puppets.

As I was letting out an exasperated sigh, Selly stormed over to the puppet-bearer and punched him, sparking the inevitable brawl. During the ensuing chaos, I noticed Duncan step to the doorway and signal Archibald.

I approached him and asked how much we could expect for providing a distraction for his and Archibald’s enterprise. He was disinclined to believe that it was purposeful and incredulous that I could stop it quickly enough to merit payment. I informed him, that I could just announce that Archie needed help unloading the Ladyslipper. Duncan’s face fell, and he conceded that compensation was in order.

While we were discussing terms, Ameiko ejected the brawlers, I instructed Selly and Brash to assist in the cleanup. I couldn’t help overhear Dol Rok comment on the role the orcs had played in the defeat of the necromancer prior to the founding of Briarton. A tale I hadn’t heard and was eager to have him share!

According to Dol Rok, the twisted hills orcs were instrumental in defeating the Necromancer’s hordes, but the elves refuse to acknowledge their contribution, which has resulted in the orcs resentment.

After the cleanup, Ameiko let the customers back into the common room, and several began to bed down for the night. Dol Rok headed for the stairs, and after informing the others about Archibald’s nocturnal nautical naughtiness, we decided it would be best for us to stay the night, and to take turns keeping watch.

During Fin’s shift, he noticed a sloop approaching the Ladyslipper. He woke the rest of us and went to investigate further. Just as we were beginning to worry about him, Fin returned to tell us about the arrival of the Hammers of Concord. A small group of bounty hunters we had encountered before, whom we thwarted on Drogo’s behalf.

In the morning, I escorted Garil to the shrine and introduced him to Maerwynn. As he made his way to Purifier, Maerwynn and I spoke quietly about the rarity of Gloombeards to leave their cloisters and she confessed she had a foreboding sense to his presence. I let her know I was available if she needed assistance.

I returned to the Greenbriar and did some reading. I also tried working a complex harmony into the Song of Heroes, but it still needs work. I wonder if there is a way to incorporate the percussion of axes in combat into the melody. I bet there is.

Before I knew it, dusk had arrived, and the town had begun gathering in the north fields for the Memorial Celebration. Numerous effigies were already in place, awaiting ignition. As we congregated, and awaited the ceremony’s opening, a cry arose to the east.

We rushed to investigate, and discovered that several Follyrock island goblins were attacking the townsfolk. As we began to repel the invasion, numerous other cries of alarm arose from closer to the center of town. Fin, Brash and I finished the goblins in sight, while Selly rushed off to impede the other incursions.

After dispatching the goblins, we reunited with Selly to find him dispatching a lumbering necrotic golem constructed with the corpses of both people and animals. Selly appeared to have the situation under control, so I merely assisted with a single arcane blast before continuing in search of other trespassers.

As we approached the Greenbriar Inn, I noticed that the hobgoblins had climbed up onto the roof and were raining arrows upon the invaders. Dol Rok was presumably still inside. We noticed a small clutch of proto-ghouls – they were not quite done gestating yet, and therefore easier to dispatch – sheltered out of line of sight of the hobgoblin, and Brash sprinted over to slay them.

I continued on to the shrine to check on Maerwynn, Garil and Purifier. When I arrived, Maerwynn was absent, Garil was face down on the floor, and Purifier’s case had been opened; thankfully Purifier was still there.

Fin performed a quick assessment of the case, and learned that its lock had been picked, and that Garil had the tools in his hand. We secured him with rope and Selly arrived and treated his injuries. Maerwynn arrived as well, and confessed that Purifier had mechanical safeguards as well as mystical. She agreed to watch Garil while the rest of us scoured the town.

After all the invaders had been dispatched, I checked in at the Greenbriar. It seems that during the commotion, the Hammers of Concord had attempted to abduct Dol Rok in Lord Arunel himself’s presence; the ninnies scattered almost before they had really begun. Unfortunately for Ustob, it’s not easy for a half-giant to sneak away from 4 hobgoblin archers, and she was apprehended.

Dol Rok demanded her summary execution, but Lord Arunel refused; Dol Rok left in a huff. I returned to the shrine to check on Garil. He was beginning to come around, and a quick invocation of the Charm dweomer, and he was willing to admit his true clan is Stoneshadow and that he was hired to steal Purifier. He didn’t know the name of his employer, but he shared a suspicion that it was an agent of the Lich King. He also indicated on a map the island he had been instructed to deliver Purifier to.

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Belog's Journal - Hillsdown Homicide

While catching up on some reading at the Greenbriar, Selly, Fin and Murchun Squib went to the Queen’s cove to keep apprised of current events, and to learn any news as it came to town.

Around mid-morning, Selly et alios returned with some visitors: A gnome and two halflings. One of the halflings introduced herself as Sheriff Amelia Blunderpuss, and her companions were: Cora an itinerant gnome from Bluffside, and Bruno Shennigans her deputy. I greeted Amelia in the traditional halfling manner.

The Sheriff informed us of a recent attack upon several citizens of Hillsdown, and politely inquired about Cragshaper whereabouts during the time-frame in question, and asked for corroboration from Geller. During the conversation the gnome, named Cora, interjected numerous disparaging remarks attempting to impugn the character or dwarves in general and the Cragshapper’s reputation in particular.

I put away my book, and set out for Geller’s home. Lady Aerith and Brash accompanied Selly, Murchun Squib, Fin and me. Along the way I asked Amelia why she suspected dwarves of the attack. She described a group of swathed attackers, that were larger than halflings but smaller than humans, and more burly than goblins. The conclusion that dwarves were the attackers was one of exclusion: no other known group fit the physical description. Now I was curious.

After Geller certified our alibis, I volunteered to investigate on behalf of Hillsdown. I needed to gather some supplies, and excused myself. While preparing for the journey, I briefly detoured to the gaol to ask Garil Stoneshadow if he was familiar with the attackers: He was not. He was desperate to be protected in the event of another attack upon Briarton. He was convinced that the necromancer who hired him to bring Purifier to Whitescale Light Island would invade
imminently.

Ustob was in the cell next to Garil and insisted that she would be liberated by the Hammers of Concord soon. I asked her what made her think that was likely, and she insisted that the Hammers never abandon one of their own, and that they had rescued her from captivity in the past. On my way to Hillsdown I informed Geller about Ustob’s assertion as well as Garil’s insistence of more incursions by the necromancer in the near future.

The ferry trip to Hillsdown went smoothly, but the journey took most of the day. Our arrival was after nightfall, as Amelia directed us to the Belinda Direfoot estate, we learned that the ranchers were camped in the road rather than enter the house due to a haunting.

While I ascertained as many details of the haunting that I could, Lady Aerith went to admire a nearby dire hare. Brash saw her destination and rushed over to join her. His sudden movements agitated the hare, but some carrots from Lady Aerth and some soothing words from Murchun Squib peacefully resolved the confrontation.

As the ranchers described the events of the haunting, and explained their trepidation upon entering the house, Cora marched up the front steps and loudly proclaimed that if the ghost didn’t stop haunting the house that she would burn it down.

I gave Selly the signal we typically reserve to corral Brash, and we converged on Cora’s location. The rest of the party noticed our approach and joined us as we proceeded to the house.

Unlike other hobbit homes, build into the sides of hills, this was a free-standing multi-story home, built to accommodate elf customers of the ranch. The entry room had a pair of light sources that were no longer functional. I took one down and to examine its aura, and discovered that its enchantment had been suppressed, but not dispelled. Its light evocation had been completely neutralized by an evocation of darkness.

We each began searching for clues, and found a murder victim in a sitting room near the entrance. The victim had obviously been stabbed repeatedly with daggers or small knives. There were also hoof-prints in the victim’s blood. They were uncloven and depicted a bipedal gait. There was a second type of print present as well. It was more mundane, but still odd. It was as if, rather than shoes with a sole, the attacks had wrapped their feet in heavy fabric.

We continued looking for clues. We arrived at the master bedroom, and upon entering our senses were assailed by a psychic onslaught detailing Belinda’s murder. We learned that numerous becloaked figures converged upon Belinda extinguishing her life in addition to all light sources in the vicinity.

Reeling from the psychic impressions, we continued our investigation in the root cellar. More hoof-prints were present, and following the trail we discovered a sinkhole in the corner of the cellar leading to a subterranean passage.

The passage was narrow, constricting us to a single-file procession. After several twists and turns, we emerged into a shallow chamber; and were immediately attacked. As our lights were extinguished, I recalled the details I had ascertained in my examination of the lights in the house. I formulated a counter to their magic and executed it; our sight returned.

Now that we could see once again, I was able to identify our assailants: Dark Creepers. 200px-Dark_creeper.JPGI tried to recall what I had read about them. There were few details: They operate like thieves, extinguish light sources and steal small shiny items.

I initiated the overture to the Song of Heroes as my allies engaged with melee weapons. Brash let out a war cry and as he bifurcated one of the creepers with his axe, it erupted into flames. A detail that I read about, but had evaded my recall until now.

We quickly dispatched all but one of the creepers, which fled; as we pursued the creature down twists and turns in the tunnel, we entered a large rough hewn chamber. Numerous alembics, flasks and other alchemical accouterments bubbled away on worktables around the room. As we were observing these decorations, a simmering cauldron was upended in our direction and its contents oozed over to us.

I nimbly avoided the cauldron’s sludge, while continuing the Song of Heroes. Our group engaged the additional creepers in this room, and once again we easily defeated them, with the same creeper fleeing when he faced us alone.

We gave chase once again, but this time, when we arrived at the end of the tunnel, there was an enormous chamber, with multiple exits. There was no clear trail to pursue our quarry, so we gave the chamber an examination, and were able to determine that in addition to these dark creepers that have been targeting Hillsdown, that the assailants that wrapped their feet in fabric were evidently murothropes: wererats.

Rather than backtrack through the tunnels to the Direfoot manor home, we exited the chamber directly to the surface and returned overland to Hillsdown to locate Sheriff Amelia and report our findings.

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