Stolen Lands

One Eye on History

As the party returned to Candlemere Island, Darrick and Torm decided to explore some of the brambles around the tower, leaving the rest to explore the depths of the tower. Not to be deterred, the remaining four party members ventured forth and investigated the seemingly bottomless pit.

The exploration began by lowering Kanon into the pit. As he descended; however, he felt something slimy wrap around his waist. It grabbed Kanon tight and could have spelled trouble for the fighter were it not for the quick thinking of Joseph who cast a spell on Kanon allowing him to slip free of the slimy grasp. Kanon was pulled back up and at this point Baron Black could see to the bottom of the pit and estimated it to be only about sixty feet deep, though the others still could not see through what appeared to be some sort of an illusion. The party attempted to take some shots at the creature in the pit, but with most of them having to rely upon Vlad's description, they were unable to inflict much damage and the creature soon retreated.

Once again Kanon allowed himself to be lowered into the pit by a rope as Vlad prepared a second rope around himself to be able to follow right behind should Kanon find more trouble. As Kanon descended, he heard a weird, unintelligible mumbling emitted from the bottom of the pit. At first it appeared to have little to no effect on Kanon but he soon began to babble inoherently before once again becoming wrapped up by the creature. This time; however, Kanon was not able to break free, and to his horror, this creature had several mouths that latched onto him and began to suck his blood, even as the amorphous creature molded itself around him, completely engulfing Kanon.

The party fought valiantly but Cice never could pierce the illusion that hovered over the pit and as such, could do little to help. As Joseph and Vlad attacked the creature, it eventually spat Kanon out, but not before the brave fighter had given his life. Working together tough, Joseph and Vlad were at last, able to kill the creature. The group began to mourn Kanon when Cice noticed a magical ring half submerged in the mud at the bottom of the pit. As she examined this ring, should could not make out all the properties in the ring, but it appeared as though it conferred on the wearer the ability to reincarnate another. Cice wasted no time in using the ring to reincarnate Kanon, who came back to life, albeit with a much more coppery skin tone and the ability to see in the dark.

With Kanon restored to life, the party had time to examine the bottom of the pit and saw that the walls of the pit were completely covered in carvings. The entirety of those carvings was words in the Cyclops languange. There was also a carved hallway leading out of the pit and this too had the walls covered in the Cyclopean language. The party followed the hallway, and the carvings, to a room wherein the skeleton of the mage Danmac Lettadel lay. Around his neck was a magical amulet that proved to be an Amulet of Natural Armor. Also among the remains of the mage was his personal journal describing how he came to the Stolen Lands to study the Candlemere Tower and how he learned of an ancient struggle between the Cyclopean Empire and Yog-Sothoth.

The party pressed forward and were soon met by another aberration, one that looked like a giant maggot but with a tail full of sharp teeth and a sharp stinger. This particular creature also appeared to suck the marrow out of the bones of its victims. It was a difficult battle, but the party once again prevailed and located a secret door in the room that lead to another short hallway. Rather than press their luck though, the party decided to spend the night before moving on so that they could recoup some of their energy and resources. That night though their dreams were filled with terrible visions and nightmares, though most were still able to get a good night's sleep.

The following morning the party explored the short hallway and found a room that housed a foul smelling, three legged creature that attacked Kanon. As the doors were opened though the party realized that there was a darkness obscuring the ceiling of the room. At about the same time, Vlad became paranoid and tried to resist Joseph's efforts to make him stronger. Kanon battled the creature, trading blows back and forth but soon Vlad became particularly paranoid and ran out of the room, striking Joseph down in the hallway as he fled. As Vlad ran, and Joseph bled, Kanon and Cice attempted to fight on, only to eventually see a second creature reveal itself as the darkness at the top of the room dispersed. Cice also noticed that there was a swirling, purple mass at the top of the room that resembled a portal to some unknown region.

Despite their valiant efforts, Kanon soon went down as well and Cice was forced to retreat in the hopes of saving her comrades later. Cice did use her familiar, Scree, to observe the creatures as they appeared to simply wait in the short hallway where Kanon and Joseph's bodies lay. It was short time later when Cice observed the creatures retreat from the hallway, leaving the bodies where they were. Cice was able to revive Kanon, but when they attempted to do the same to Joseph, he would not wake, though they did notice that he continued to breathe.

As Cice and Kanon dragged Joseph's body out of the tower, they soon found Vlad who insisted the party had attacked him, but was cautiously still trusting the party. He was able to cast a small restoration spell on Joseph, enabling the Cleric to at least wake, though Joseph was unable to interact with the party. The party was able to return to Ravens Bluff where Jhod Kavken was able to determine that Joseph had suffered a terrible amount of wisdom damage, but fortunately between Jhod and Vlad, they were able to restore all of Joseph's lost wisdom. With that the party vowed to return to the Tower at some point to deal with the entities inside, but first they needed to reflect on what they had already learned.

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A Haunted Tower

As the party crossed the icy lake they were met by a fellow adventurer, named Darrick, who claimed that he was specifically looking for them and that he wished to offer his services to them. Some were a bit suspicious at first but the party agreed that an extra pair of hands and eyes could serve them well, and not just because the monk Aven had wandered off. The island was filled with thick brambles and nettles on all sides. The party was forced to forge a path through the thick nettles with Kanon leading the way.

As they approached the tower though a sense of unease fell over the party and many of them were shaken by the feeling. It was at this time that a floating ball of light, presumably one of the dancing lights that many travelers had reported, appeared and attacked the party. The ball's attacks proved fairly damaging to the party, but more importantly, it proved to be very difficult to hit in return. The party was having a difficult go of it until Kanon at last lined it up and split it in two with a single strike. Kanon was quite excited by this turn of events and even Torm offered him a tax break as a result of his labors.

After defeating the little ball, the party forged on toward the tower. After a few hours of labor they at last reached a clearing that spread around the tower. The party's relief soon turned to dread though as a large group of humans came running through the door, though it remained closed, and through the party. The sight of these fleeing humans terrified Joseph and Torm and they took off running toward the lake. The rest of the party would not be deterred though, and Darrick in particular wished to show his worth to the party, ignoring the strange carvings on the walls of the tower and entering into its main hall.

As Darrick began to explore the entryway, he became paranoid that everyone was trying to kill him. This would prove to be at least somewhat true as Kanon, apparently believing that Darrick was not sufficiently impressed with Kanon's dispatching of the ball of light, came up behind Darrick and struck him down with a single blow, leaving Darrick unconscious in a pool of his own blood. This spooked the rest of the party enough that they remained outside the tower (or running toward the lake) while Kanon continued to explore (though Vlad did at least throw a heal toward Darrick to keep him alive).

As Kanon continued to explore, Cice began to look more closely at the carvings on the outside of the tower, and soon discovered that they were words written in Aklo. Even with the aid of a spell to help her read the language, she still had difficulty deciphering everything, but did catch some references to an entity called Yog-Sothoth. As Kanon was exploring, he located a fancy dagger that appeared to have some magic about it, but as he grabbed it, he felt drawn to a makeshift altar in the center of the room. The party watched in horror as Kanon began to loosen his armor as he stood in front of a bowl-shaped depression in the altar. Despite their attempts to get his attention, Kanon continued to work at loosening his armor, apparently bent on using the dagger on himself. Lucky for him though, Joseph had recovered from his terror and returned to the tower. Joseph soon realized that the tower was infected by a series of haunts and was able to start destroying them, including the one that had taken over Kanon at the altar.

With that the party was able to heal and retreat to the other side of the lake, but they remained determined to continue to explore the tower. They returned a couple of days later after Vlad had successfully summoned a new animal companion and resumed their exploration of the tower. Torm was curious about the altar and attempted to activate some sort of response a couple of times by cutting his hand and letting the blood flow into the bowl, but to no visible effect. As the party explored they found what appeared to be an endless pit in one hallway and then stairs leading up. They chose to explore the upper levels of the tower after making a few attempts to discern just how deep the pit was.

When they reached the upper levels they found what appeared to have once been a library of sorts and another room that may have once been a laboratory. On the final level, they located what was once a bedroom. The walls of the room were scrawled with what appeared to be more writing. Cice looked closely and soon discovered that the writing was again in Aklo. However, as she began reading it, she started to babble in Aklo, despite the attempts of the party to stop her. At last they pulled her out of the room, but she continued to act strangely. She was far more uncouth than before and seemed reluctant, at best, to use any of her powerful magics.

The party decided to spend the night in the tower, but not before Torm summoned an earth elemental to explore the area directly beneath the main floor of the tower. As the elemental was exploring, Torm eventually sent it to explore the area where the pit was, only to immediately lose contact with it. The party slept fitfully that night, with some of them having terrible nightmares, and when they awoke, they decided to retreat once again to the far side of the lake. Around mid-day Cice did begin to act normally again and announced that she could once again cast her most powerful spells. The party at this time agreed that the third time would surely be the charm and decided to once again mount an expedition to the tower, crossing the lake and preparing to enter the haunted tower.

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A Dish Best Served Cold (and with some fire)

Baron Black and his Treasurer Torm limped back to the capitol where they rejoined Joseph and Cice Tappo.  Saddened by the death of their comrades, the group also received a letter from Hannis Drelev detailing his displeasure with their recent efforts at spying on his newfound kingdom. Although the matter of the letter was important, Baron Black decided that a more pressing matter was seeking revenge on the tendriculous that had killed General Mugwort and Warden Micka

Baron Black began by asking Cice if she knew anything about tendriculouses, and was pleased when she was able to tell him of their primary weaknesses.  With that information in hand, the party set out to find some new equipment to deal with the plant and to also find some adventurers who would be willing to travel with them.  Torm was able to find one such adventurer when he stopped by the barracks and found a squatter named Aven who was willing to accept the mission.  While Aven's appearance often causes him to be confused for a devil or demon, Torm was not concerned.  The party also recruited another squatter, Kanon Phodder, as he was exiting a local tavern.  Kanon appeared particularly interested in traveling south.

With new friends in hand, the party returned to the mud bowl where the tendriculous had ambushed the smaller group just a few days before.  Torm summoned an air elemental to scout the area in an effort to look for the creature and was at least somewhat successful as the elemental located the tendriculous and was promptly killed by it.  With the creature revealed though the party attacked, unleashing an array of ranged attacks.  The plant did rush out toward the party in an effort to close the gap but was soon penned in by Fire Elementals and Vlad's wolf animal companion.  Unfortunately for Vlad, the plant managed to consume the wolf, but the rest of the party escaped relatively unharmed and vengeance was theirs as the creature was slain and at least some of the belongings of their comrades were able to be recovered.

After celebrating their revenge, the party continued to explore the area around the mud bowl.  While camping a short distance from the bowl, the party's rest was interrupted when Aven heard some commotion coming their way.  As the party was roused Vlad was able to make out four creatures while Cice was able to discern they were speaking giant, and were likely trolls.  In short order the four trolls revealed themselves and charged into combat.  One had a large great axe while a second was armed with several spears, some of which he threw at Aven.  The other two trolls were unarmed but charged directly at Joseph who was soon rendered unconscious. 

The fight was looking bad for the party until Cice started to tell jokes in giant.  The first one merely seemed to anger the troll with the great axe and it responded by slamming the axe down on her shoulder.  Her second attempt at joke telling; however, proved much more successful and the axe bearing troll collapsed in a fit of laughter.  The party then focused their attention on one troll at a time and started to gain the upper hand.  Finally the fight truly turned in their favor when Torm smashed the elemental gem he had recovered from the giant turtle a few days earlier and a large water elemental was summoned.  Although the trolls were powerful, they were no match for the combined efforts of the party and the large elemental and the trolls were soon all killed. 

As the party sifted through the trolls' belongings they discovered something peculiar.  The trolls not only had a sizeable amount of gold on them, but all of the coins had the letters "HMK" crudely scratched onto them.  The group sorted through their own memories and could not make heads or tails of the letters for they could not recall anyone possessing those initials nor any group that had the same.  They did recognize though that something was likely amiss and made it a point to seek out more information about "HMK".

The party then made their way south along the edge of the Tuskwater Lake until they could find its southern edge.  There they noticed that there was a short waterway that connected the Tuskwater to Candlemere, a lake that has grown infamous amongst the local fishermen for the eerie tales of dancing lights on its shores and over its waters and the blood curdling screams that some fishermen claim to be able to hear coming from the island in its center.  Kanon would not be scared off though and proclaimed that he was crossing the frozen waters of the lake to the island.  As the rest of the party agreed, against the advice of Vlad, the baron sent out his eagle to scout out the island.  The eagle was unable to locate any creatures on the island but was able to see a ruined tower in the center of the island, that appeared to have been there for a very long time.  With that information in hand, the party set out across the frozen water, arriving at the bramble covered shores.

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A Kingdom Grows in a Dangerous Wilderness

As the citizens of Raven's Bluff continued to grow weary of the overcrowding and the squatters inhabiting the city, the leaders of Pohjola continued to grow their new nation and gather information about the world around them.  Spymaster Joseph Lagrange sent a spy into Drelev to learn some information about Pohjola's neighbor to the west.  Meanwhile, Baron Vlad Black claimed more land around Raven's Bluff, even as the building within the village continued.  He attempted once again to calm the squatters and move them out, but again, they refused to leave.

The following month, the kingdom continued to grow, but word reached Joseph that his spy in Drelev had been captured.  Although Grand Diplomat Cice Tappo attempted to calm the situation with Drelev, she was unable to do so and Baron Hannis Drelev let her know in no uncertain terms that these actions would not be tolerated.  On the bright side, the completion of a shrine and Baron Black's calming words did finally manage to convince the squatters to leave with the promise that they could move into a new housing development the following month. 

The next few months saw the kingdom continue to expand its borders and build new buildings in Raven's Bluff but was otherwise largely calm.  The only real hiccup occurred when a group of farmers to the north grew dissatisfied with Cice and her inability to calm relations with Drelev.  It turned out that one of the farmers was the uncle of the spy who was captured and he was angry that Cice had been unable to secure the spy's release.

As the calendar turned to a new year, the leaders of Pohjola grew a bit restless sitting in their capitol.  Coupled with this was a growing curiosity as to what lay around the borders of the Tuskwater Lake that they had yet to explore and so they set out to explore the uncharted lands to the south of their capitol.  Cice; however, remained in the capitol as she continued to correspond with foreign dignitaries and Joseph informed the High Council that he had important matters to attend to.  The remaining party members thus set out to explore the Kamelands to the east of Tuskwater Lake and south of Raven's Bluff. 

On their second day out, the party found a well-hidden trail leading down from a cliff overlooking a pool of water that was surprisingly not frozen.  Mugwort was curious about this pool of water and went up to take a drink.  Although the water seemed relatively normal, a more pressing matter revealed itself as a giant snapping turtle charged out of a little outcropping at the base of the cliff, straight toward Mugwort.  The general turned and tried to hack at the turtle but his aim was high and his bardiche passed harmlessly over the turtle's head.  The turtle's aim; however, was much more accurate as it clamped down on Mugwort's leg, puncturing a major artery and sending him into unconsciousness.  The party rallied to Mugwort's aid and soon dispatched the turtle.  Mugwort was shaken by the fight but was able to recover well enough.  As the party searched the turtle's den, Micka located a water elemental gem half buried in the mud of the den.  What the turtle was doing with it he had no idea.

The following day, the party continued south along the eastern shore of the lake and found that the Kamelands continued far to the south.  As they were exploring though, they located a strange mud pool that was bubbling with warmth and surrounded by large mushrooms and other fungal growths.  Also apparent in the air was a foul odor.  Mugwort, remembering the results of his curiosity from the day before, refused to investigate the area, but Micka was not deterred.  He and his companion, Kuma, went up to the edge of the mud pool to examine it.  Other members of the party decided at least get somewhat closer to Micka just in case; however, Torm and Mugwort became nauseated by the noxious fumes emanating from the area. 

As Micka was examing the mud bowl, the fungal growth within it lurched to life and snatched the druid into a massive maw.  As Micka became paralyzed he tried in vain to identify what had just grabbed him, but Vlad was able to recognize it as a tendriculos.  Mugwort rushed to Micka's aid only to see the druid disappear down the giant plant's gullet, and then he too became snared by a tentacle from the plant.  Torm; unfortunately, was battling his nausea, as was his horse and he was too distracted to offer much help.  Vlad sent one of his animal companions in to assist as he fired arrows at the plant, but the arrows seemed to have little in the way of a lasting effect. 

Mugwort was then briefly released by the plant only to be snatched up into his jaws.  As Vlad and his cat companion tried to help, Mugwort soon joined Micka in the creature's stomach where, paralyzed, he slowly dissolved next to the druid.  Torm was eventually able to recover from his nausea, but not before Vlad's cat had been killed by the creature as well.  Torm sent in two earth elementals to battle the plant and although they did some damaged, they too were quickly killed by the enraged creature.  Torm took this as a sign and chose to tactically withdraw from the fight at a high rate of speed. 

Vlad; on the other hand, was determined to avenge his fallen comrades and chose to slowly move back as he continued to fire arrows into the creature.  This drew the creature out of the mud bowl as it charged toward Vlad.  However, it first encountered Vlad's long time mount and companion and the horse was snatched into the creature's jaws and soon swallowed as well.  Vlad grabbed a new mount and started to back away while firing more arrows at the creature, but the plant did not seem interested in following him out of its territory.  Although Vlad continued to hit the creature with arrows it soon became apparent to him that the arrows were being counteracted by the plant's natural regenerative properties and that they essentially had no effect on it.  With this realization in hand, Vlad cursed under his breath and vowed to be back to avenge his friends, but begrudgingly turned and joined Torm as they regrouped and headed back to Raven's Bluff.

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Raven's Bluff: Squatter's Paradise

The following morning, the party continued to meet with various representatives of different interests as many came calling on the leaders of the new nation of Pohjola.  Many of the major noble houses checked in with offers of aid, as did the Church of Pharasma, Mivon, and a retired soldier turned merchant by the name of Count Addar Arnovski.  The initial offers gave the leaders much to think about as they soon realized that they ran the risk of entangling themselves into alliances and rivalries.  As they thought these offers over, they received a visit from Maegar Varn who once again renewed his desire to maintain good relations between his nation and Pohjola

Over the next few days, the party decided to attempt to negotiate better terms on some of the offers that they had received.  They were successful on several occasions in their attempts to receive better deals, or more favorable terms.  Prior to making any final decisions, Joseph spent some time looking into Count Arnovski and attempting to learn what, if any, agreements Hannis Drelev had made.  Joseph learned that Arnovski was a Rostlandic agitator who is hoping to see Rostland rise up against Issia and Noleski Surtova in particular.  What he also learned though was that Arnovski is hoping that the new kingdoms in the Stolen Lands will rile the Surtovas enough that they become entangled in the Stolen Lands, thereby making the Rostlandic rebellion more likely to succeed.  With respect to Baron Drelev, Joseph learned that it appeared as though he was likely to make agreements with House Surtova and House Lodovka.

Ultimately, the leaders of the new nation made agreements with most of their suitors as follows:

Mivon:  They agreed to establish a trade route with Mivon within three years and to negotiate permanent southern limits to the expansion of Pohjola.

Lady Nina Kitalla:  Pohjola agreed to grant equal rights to all fey within their lands and equal protection.  Additionally, Lady Kitalla agreed to serve as Councillor.

Count Addar Arnovski:  Pohjola agreed to allow him to build a system of lochs along the Shrike River so that he can further his mercantile trade routes.

Lady Vellara:  The leaders agreed to gift her a large area of land where she'll establish a vineyard and winery.

Church of Pharasma:  The church will pay for a graveyard to be built in the kingdom and the leaders of the nation will agree to outlaw the evil practices of necromancy and help the church in eliminating the undead.

Church of Gorum:  Pohjola agrees to build a military academy within five years and in addition, should the legendary weapon Ovinrbaane be located, it is to be turned over to the church.

Church of Erastil:  In exchange for a small amount of resources, Pohjola agreed that the High Priest would be filled by a worshipper of Erastil, and that position was given to Jhod Kavken.

Golden Spinnakers:  The council agreed that they would establish trade agreements with the guild and additionally, when the time came, they would allow the guild to run a rail system through Pohjola.

House LebedaTorm was eager to accept an agreement with his cousins.  The Council agreed that they would establish a trade agreement with House Lebeda and additionally, Elanna Lebeda would take on the role of Magister. 

House Orlovsky:  Pohjola agreed to an alliance of both mercantile and military interests, agreeing to aid each other should the need arise. 

Most notable in the rejected offers were that the leaders of the new nation rejected the overtures of House Lodovka and House Surtova.

After finalizing their assorted agreements, the leaders returned to their new nation and established their first settlement, Raven's Bluff.  The party got to work building a housing district and started the construction of an inn.  It seemed as though there was much hope and optimism for the new nation as Raven's Bluff was flooded with interested settlers.  So much so that there was insufficient housing for all of them and a group of squatters took up residence near the newly built housing district.  Baron Black attempted to calm the unruly citizens, but was unable to do so initially.

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Birth of a Nation

With the death of The Stag Lord, the party had a chance to rest and to interrogate the three remaining bandits, Akiros Ismort, Auchs, and Jeb the Snitch.  They learned from the three that the hills on either side of the fort were haunted and that the dead would rise up from beneath the ground whenever anyone walked amongst the hills.  Upon looking through the fort, the party was able to find a few faded symbols to the hag goddess Gyronna which may have explained the undead in the area, but they could not say for certain.  Akiros also informed that party that due to the haunted hillsides, the practice of the fort was to simply toss any dead bodies over the cliff and into the Tuskwater Lake

The party then began a search of the fort and soon found the Stag Lord's personal cache.  While most of the belongings were mere mundane items such as bedding and clothing, they did locate one chest that filled with valuables.  They also located the fort's armory where numerous mundane weapons and arrows were stored.  As the party was wondering where the everyday foodstuffs and other items were stored, Akiros somewhat reluctantly told them about the cellar where most of the fort's wealth was stored.  His hesitation had nothing to do with not wanting to help the party, but rather with not wanting to have to have contact with the guardian of the fort's supplies, Nugrah the Decrepit.  He did ultimately lead them to the trap door down to the cellar and explained that in all likelihood, Nugrah would attack them.

Once in the cellar, the party was indeed attacked by Nugrah who had shifted into the form of a wolverine.  He proved to be little match for the party though and was soon rendered unconscious and the vast wealth of the fort was the party's for the taking.  The party did interrogate Nugrah and through him learned much of the rather sad tale of the Stag Lord and of the druid's conversion to the worship of Gozreh.  Ultimately the party decided to let Nugreh go after he stated that he did not really wish to help the party in overseeing the affairs in the Greenbelt, though they did confiscate his lone weapon, a mundane club.  With the exploration of the fort completed, the party sent a message to Oleg's detailing the defeat of the Stag Lord and asking him to relay the same to Karsten Lebeda.

From there the party set out to finish exploring the rest of the northern Greenbelt, while also making the trek back to Nettle's Crossing to bring the corpse of the Stag Lord to the guardian of the Shrike River.  When the reached the crossing, they rang the bell to get the attention of Davik Nettles who then rose from the waters and walked across the top of the river toward the party.  Vlad then informed Davik that they had killed the Stag Lord and proceeded to throw his corpse into the river.  Davik quickly grabbed the Stag Lord's body and pulled it under the water.  The party watched as the waters churned for about a minute, then as they calmed, Davik's magical ranseur washed up on shore, a gift from the undead guardian of the Shrike.

The party then headed west, into the Narlmarches to finish their exploration of the Northern Greenbelt.  For the most part, their exploration proved to be uneventful; however they did encounter a tatzlwyrm named Sithriss with whom they managed peaceful contact.  The party ultimately purchased a cold iron longsword from him and agreed to allow him to keep his home on the Skunk River free from any interference from the party or their subjects.  With their exploration of the northern Greenbelt complete, the party headed back to Oleg's to restock as well as to inform Kesten Garess of the fate of Falgrim Sneeg who had been killed during the fight at the Stag Lord' fort.

Waiting for the party when they arrived at Oleg's was a package from Restov containing the payment from the swordlords for the killing of the Stag Lord, as well as a summons to come back to Brevoy.  The party then made haste for the farm where they had first received their charter, just outside of Restov.  When they arrived they found that Maegar Varn was already there and on the following day Hannis Drelev arrived.  It seemed clear that the swordlords had summoned each of the groups that had been sent into the Stolen Lands.  As the second day wore on though Karsten seemed to grow increasingly nervous, finally relating to the party that he had yet to hear back from the Iron Wraiths, the group that had been sent the furthest away, out to near the border with Pitax

It was during dinner on the third day when everyone learned the fate of the Iron Wraiths. There was a commotion from outside and when those gathered inside went out to look they observed a large, metal carriage sporting two gunmen on the top and drawn by two horses.  Exiting the carriage and wearing a mysterious clockwork suit of armor was King Irovetti of Pitax.  He was carrying a metal shield bearing the symbol of the Iron Wraiths, which after barging into the dinner hall he threw down on the table, causing large cracks to form in the thick, wooden surface.  He proclaimed that there would be a reckoning for the audacity of the swordlords in sending spies to his border then promptly stormed out of the hall and got back in his carriage.

Visibly shaken by the sudden intrusion, Karsten decided that they might as well get down to business at that point.  He announced to those assembled that the swordlords were very pleased with their progress thus far and as such, they were handing out a new charter to each group.  This new charter granted each group the right to rule their particular section of the Stolen Lands.  He also informed the groups that the swordlords would be supporting each group with an initial shipment of supplies, laborers and settlers.  Privately, he then informed the party that while the swordlords had tried to keep their operations in the Stolen Lands quiet, things of this nature never stay truly secret and as a result, there were many in Restov who might be willing to bargain with the party to provide additional aid in the formation of their new nation.

The following day the party traveled to Restov where Karsten had set them up in the Flaming Wench Inn so that they could begin meeting with those who wished to deal with them during the formation of their new nation.  The party also took this opportunity to begin discusses each member's role in the new nation.  The party ultimately decided that Vlad would take on the role of ruler of the new nation.  After deciding on that, the party then began to meet with various representatives of assorted factions and noble houses.  By the end of the very long day, the party had met with several envoys of various interests and realized that they had only just touched the tip of the proverbial iceberg. They concluded the day with the knowledge that there would be a lot of discussion, thought, negotiating, and meetings that they would have to go through just to get their new nation started.

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A Lord No More

After spending a few days resting, shopping, and crafting items the party set back out into the Greenbelt.  The first stop was at the nest shared by Perlivash and Tyg-Titter-Tut to bury Feldspar per his wishes.  Jhod traveled with them as they offered to escort him to the Temple of Erastil that the party had previously cleansed for him.  After burying Feldspar, the party continued on to the Temple and left Jhod there to start work on fully restoring it.  Jhod thanked them for the escort and their help in cleansing the area before the party continued their exploration.

A few days later the party came to a swampy clearing containing the ruins of two small buildings.  Living in this clearing was a single boggard and a giant slug-like creature that he called Slurk.  The party attempted to talk to him, but communication was difficult as the boggard only knew  a few words of common and nobody in the party knew boggard.  Mugwort did make somewhat of a connection with the boggard when he scrounged up some food for it to eat as it appeared to be hungry.  Although the party was unable to really communicate with the boggard, they did seem to at least leave on good terms and both groups went their separate ways. 

The party continued to explore and a couple days later came across a fifteen foot ivory statue of Erastil in the forest.  The statue appeared to have been there a long time and was covered in grime and droppings.  Cice was able to detect some transmutation magic coming from the statue but could not otherwise figure out what that magic was.  The party made note of where the statue was and its orientation to the south to see if it was pointing at anything in particular as they traveled further south.

As the party continued their exploration along the southern edge of the Northern Greenbelt, they came upon a foul smelling pond where a unicorn had been killed and its horn removed after death.  Joseph was able to use his skills as a healer to determine that the unicorn was blind when it died and that it had likely been killed by some sort of death effect.  Cice was also able to recall that powerful fey could sometimes "mark" a victim in such a way that it was repellent to natural life and that appeared to have happened in this case as well as none of the insects or other creatures in the area dared to approach the unicorn's corpse.  After much discussion, the party ultimately decided to drag the unicorn's body back to the statue of Erastil and see if the magic of the statue could do anything for it.  When the party returned to the statue, Vlad touched the unicorn's hoof to the statue and recited a prayer.  The statue, sensing Vlad's growing devotion to Erastil, then enchanted all the slashing and piercing weapons in the party, giving them all a very keen edge, though it seemed as though the enchantment would only last a week. 

With their weapons newly enchanted, the party decided they had best take advantage of the limited duration of the enchantment and make for the Stag Lord's fort.  It took the party almost four days to reach the fort as they had to travel through the Narlmarches, a dense forest, most of the way.  As they approached the fort, the party could see that the northern approach was a wide open field for three hundred feet with a dirt road approach the wooden gate.  The fort was surrounded by a wooden palisade fifteen feet high and the interior was comprised of an abandoned, and crumbling stone outpost of a previous age.  The eastern and western sides of the fort featured hills overlooking the outpost with only thirty feet of flat ground adjacent to the palisade.  On the southern edge was a steep cliff leading down to the Tuskwater Lake. 

The party opted to attempt subterfuge to try to gain entry to the fort.  They approached after Cice had prepared a silent image in the form of Kressle, the bandit leader that had been raiding Oleg's.  Unfortunately for the party, the bandit had previously recovered Kressle's remains and knew that the party was lying to them.  Additionally, it seems as though when Mugwort abandoned the Stag Lord, he became an enemy to the bandits.  As Mugwort attempted to find out more about what had happened to his family, Micka warped the wood of the gate, causing it to pop open and allowing access for the party. 

With that, the battle was on and the party faced the full wrath of the bandits of the fort.  Both sides initially traded blows back and forth before one of the bandits was quickly killed.  Shortly after that a bandit came running out from inside one of the buildings, an angry owlbear pursuing.  A few seconds after the battle started, the Stag Lord appeared at the back of the fort and climbed onto a walkway.  He pulled out a large bow and fired a couple of greenish-yellow streaks at Mugwort, dropping him unconscious as the half-orc's body was ravaged by acid and electricity.  Although the party was facing all of the bandits at once, it soon became clear that the tight quarters of the fort worked to the party's advantage as it was hard for the bandits to come fully to bear on the party.  Additionally, both Micka and Torm had summoned creatures to aid the party and those summoned allies proved to be quite damaging to the brigands.

The Stag Lord; however, proved to be quite deadly with his bow.  He knocked several party members unconscious during the battle as he continued to fire from atop a walkway out of the party's reach.  As things were starting to look grim for the party, one of the bandits snatched the Stag amulet from around his neck and threw it to the ground before turning on one of his fellow bandits and killing him.  This same bandit, Akiros, was soon able to convince another bandit, a huge giant of a man wielding a deadly club, to also stand down.  The tide turned soon after this and the Stag Lord was facing the party alone.  Though still deadly, he had run out of magic arrows and he could not produce enough attacks to counteract the numerous cuts and attacks he received in return.  After a long, drawn out battle, the Stag Lord was slain, his body falling off the walkway and the green glow emanating from his helm dying out. 

After the battle, the party discovered several magic items on the Stag Lord and when Cice could not identify the properties of the helm, Vlad opted to put it on himself.  After a few moments, his wounds visibly healed and he claimed to have seen a beautiful woman with long, flowing green hair.  He indicated that she said she needed his help and then said he liked the helm so much that he didn't want to take it off.  The party then took time to rest and recover while keeping an eye on the three surviving bandits (two of whom had apparently switched sides during the battle).

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Making Allies and Finding Enemies

The party camped for the night outside of the Old Sycamore as they mourned the death of their friend Feldspar.  The next morning they discussed their options, either heading back to Oleg's or returning the statue to the Sootscale Kobolds.  In the end they decided that returning the statue was more urgent as Joseph could keep Feldspar's body fresh enough to be reincarnated at a later date when they returned to the trading post. 

As they traveled toward the Sootscale Caverns, the party soon heard the sounds of a battle up ahead.  Vlad sent his eagle ahead to scout out the scene and help inform the party of the situation.  His eagle was able to see a half orc fighting with two wolves, so the party decided to approach cautiously.  By the time the party arrived, the half orc had killed both wolves and was admiring his work. The party observed that the half orc was wearing an amulet of the Stag Lord and he admitted to working for the Stag Lord when he saw the same amulets on the party.  He introduced himself as Mugwort and claimed to be a scout for the Stag Lord.  He offered to travel with the party as they both continued to work toward meeting the Stag Lord's goals.  He did inform the party that the Stag Lord's fort was about one hundred miles from their current location.

Arriving back at the Sootscale Caverns, the party asked to be taken to Chief Sootscale.  They informed the Chief that they had the statue and he proposed that they work together to defeat Tartuk.  When the party agreed, the Chief lead the party to Tartuk's quarters, with several kobolds following along to see what would happen.  Upon seeing Tartuk, Joseph removed the statue of Old Sharptooth and smashed it to ground.  This enraged Tartuk and he ordered the kobolds to attack the defilers as he turned invisible and his pet flew at Vlad. 

Tartuk's pet tore into Vlad, nearly killing him, but fortunately for Vlad, Joseph was nearby and was able to heal him.  As the following kobolds started to attack the party, Chief Sootscale attacked Tartuk's pet.  Tartuk reappeared in time to launch a couple of magical missiles.  It was at this time that Cice told a really bad joke that caused most everyone to simply groan, however Tartuk found it to be absolutely hilarious and began rolling around on the ground in a huge fit of laughter.  Although Tartuk's pet was vicious, it could not withstand the might of the party on its own and Tartuk continued to roll around laughing until he was killed by the party.

After the fight, Chief Sootscale proposed that the kobolds and the party form an alliance and have peace between them, respecting each other's spaces.  As a sign of good will, he offered to let the party have some of the treasure that the kobolds had collected over the years (and which had been appropriated by Tartuk after he arrived). Although the party was interested in the Chief's mace, he was unwilling to part with that.

The party left the kobolds and continued to explore the Greenbelt as they looked for the fangberries that Bokken wanted.  The party soon located the Shrike River and followed it to the north looking for a crossing.  They did find a crossing that appeared to have once been a rope bridge that had since been partially destroyed. Mugwort rang the bell that offered to allow passage for five coppers only to see a soggy, undead humanoid rise from the waters of the river.  Davik Nettles informed the party that if they were with the Stag Lord then their lives were forfeit and that the blood toll could only be paid by throwing the Stag Lord's corpse into the river.  When the party told him they were not with the Stag Lord, despite carrying his amulets, he receded into the waters. 

The party continued their exploration over the next couple of weeks, exploring much of the region around the Sootscale caverns.  For the most part they did not encounter anything until they were ambushed by six bandits working for the Stag Lord.  Torm was nearly killed during the initial volley from the tree-perched archers, but once the party spotted them, they proved to be no match for the party.  A short while later, the party found a brush thylacine that was trapped in a pit.  Mugwort fell into the pit when he tried to help the creature and the hungry thylacine thought Mugwort was a snack.  Mugwort was able to escape the pit without killing the creature and then Micka befriended the creature and set it free. 

It was a couple of days later that the party finally located the fangberry patch and were able to collect more than enough fangberries for Bokken.  With their supplies running low, and the knowledge of the location of the Stag Lord's fort gained from the one surviving bandit, the party decided it was time to return to Oleg's to reprovision and prepare for the assault on the Stag Lord.  It took a few days to make the journey north, but the trip was otherwise uneventful.  The party asked Jhod to cast Speak With Dead on Feldspar to see if he wanted to be reincarnated or not.  Feldspar's soul told Jhod that he had accepted his fate and that he wished to remain at rest.  He did ask Jhod to be buried near where his friends Perlivash and Tyg-Titter-Tut lived.

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Alas Poor Feldspar, We Knew Him Well

After stocking up on supplies, the party resumed their exploration of the Greenbelt region of the Stolen Lands.  They headed east to visit Bokken and purchase a few potions before exploring the area around his little hut.  Much of the region surrounding Bokken's hut proved to be open plains with little in the way of trouble; however, as they traveled south they did run into a group of bandits operating under The Stag Lord.  The party began by pretending to be fellow bandits under the Stag Lord's leadership but Feldspar then moved to attack.  The fight with the bandits proved to be a brief, easy fight and half the bandits were dead as the other half surrendered.  The party took the surviving bandits captive and finished exploring the region, finidng the hidden stash referenced by the map found in the lair of the spider the party had fought several weeks ago.  The bandits were then taken back to Oleg's and turned over to the soldiers there. 

The party set back out and continued to explore to the south and east of Oleg's.  They encountered an ancient sycamore tree that Tyg indicated might be home to some mites, an evil race of fey creatures.  The party was looking for the mites because the captured bandits indicated that one of their bags of loot taken from Oleg's had been stolen by a group of small blue creatures.  When the party arrived at the sycamore tree, they found a narrow opening leading into and under the tree. The party waited outside the tree for a mite to exit and quickly subdued it.  Speaking with the mite prove difficult as nobody in the party spoke its language, but Micka was able to at least cast comprehend languages so he could understand the creature.  Using a series of gestures, Micka came to understand that the mites had Svetlana's ring at one time but that the ring had been stolen by a band of kobolds.  The mite seemed to think that the kobolds might be to the south of the mite lair, but was not sure.

As the party continued their exploration and search for Svetlana's ring, they located a heavily obscured cave opening.  Entering the cave, Micka soon found a promising gold vein in the walls of the cave.  The party marked the cave's location on their map and then did their best to heavily conceal its entrance in the hopes of being able to start up a mine at a later date.  Shortly after locating the mine, the party found the entrance to the kobold lair, a lair that was apparently once a silver mine.  Feldspar snuck into the lair and found a captured mite in a cage near the entrance, which he freed.  Feldspar continued to explore the entrance and soon found a pit trip that he easily jumped over.  The paryt began to follow Feldspar but stopped when they got to the pit trap.  Micka began to pound pitons into the wall before Torm eventually sent his eidolon to jump the pit as well.  Unfortunately for George, the eidolon, he did not jump as far as Feldspar and instead landed in the far pit trap, the one that Feldspar did not see, but had cleared anyway. 

It was at this time that a lone kobold approached Feldspar, only to be shot with an arrow.  The kobold protested that he only wanted to talk, so Feldspar healed him with his wand.  The kobold offered to lead the party into the lair in order to talk to their leader, Tartuk.  The party took the kobold's offer and was soon lead deep into the lair.  Along the way, more and more kobolds began to gather around them and one of them introduced himself as Chief Sootscale.  Chief Sootscale indicated that Tartuk was now leading the tribe but that he was not entirely happy with Tartuk's leadership. The party did eventually reach Tartuk where he indicated that he did indeed have the ring that they were looking for.  He told the party that if they retrieved the statue of their god from the mites, that he would then give the party the ring. 

With that, the party then returned to the Old Sycamore to try to recover the statue from the mites.  Joseph agreed to scout out the mite lair in his fox form in an effort to either locate Svetalana's ring or at least get a layout of the lair.  As he scouted the lair, Joseph was able to view several distinct areas and noted that the lair descended deep under the tree.  He observed what appeared to be some sort of workshop where two mites were playing a game of shooting caltrops into each other's mouths.  He also located an area that appeared to be a hatching ground for giant centipedes.  Finally, he was able to find a room where several mites were torturing a captive kobold.  Joseph backed out of the lair and informed the party of what he had found.

The party then descended into the lair beneath the tree, quickly killing the two mites in the workshop. They then went further down toward where the kobold was being tortured.  Again the torturers were easily killed and the kobold was rescued, though his three brethren that were previously tortured in the same room were already dead.  At the far end of the room was a chasm about ten feet wide and twenty feet deep.  There was a rope strung across the chasm that had several hand holds already tied into it, but Joseph opted to tie a second rope and jump across the chasm.  He then briefly scouted ahead and found several more mites arguing around a table on which was an ivory statue depicted a demon like creature.  Also in the room with the mites was a giant tick, roughly the size of a bugbear.  Joseph came back to the party and reported what he saw. 

Feldspar that crossed the chasm using the rope with the handholds, but that rope proved to be trapped as one of the handholds gave way and Feldspar began to fall.  Fortunately he was able to grab the second rope that was now tied across the chasm, but his fall did alert the denizen of the chasm, a giant centipede, which reached up and bit Feldspar, infecting him with its poison.  Feldspar was able to clamber across the chasm and the party soon killed the centipede.  Unfortunately for the party though, the fight with the centipede alerted the mites in the next area and one of the mites came charging in, mounted atop the giant tick.  That tick bit deep into Feldspar's leg, locking its teeth into his leg as it began to suck Feldspar's blood. 

The part sprung to action, with Joseph trying to help free Feldspar from the grappling tick and then healing him. Vlad crossed the chasm to fight the tick directly while the others worked on thinning the ranks of the mites.  Unfortunately Feldspar could not break free and the tick eventually sucked him dry, killing the poor ranger.  Cice was then finally able to get a powerful spell off that incapacitated the remaining mites and the tick was swiftly killed thereafter.  The party recovered the stolen statue and the meager treasure of the mites then took their treasures and Feldspar's body and retreated out of the lair.

 

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A New Friend?

The party took a moment to catch their collective breaths and to prepare for whatever reincarnated from the severed hand that the necromancer had poured the Salve of the Second Chance on during the previous battle.  As the Salve completed its job on the hand, a tall, beautiful woman appeared.  Upon being interrogated by the party, she explained her name was Femiel and that she was a healer from the small village of Hooktun in the Hooktongue Slough.  She explained that she and her fellow villagers had lived a peaceful life of fishing and gathering in the tiny village until a large group of men bearing the symbol of Hannis Drelev attacked her village, slaughtering all who lived there.  Upon looking at the necromancer that had attacked the party, she identified him as Rilev, a fellow member of her village.

When pressed, Femiel indicated that she tried to respect all the gods and would tend to lean toward those deities that her fellow villagers revered most.  She did indicate though that she generally prayed to Erastil when she was in need of spells.  As she was being interrogated, Joseph was also reincarnated and came back as a kitsune.  After taking a moment to recover, he then consulted his harrow deck and determined that he should not trust Femiel for the cards warned him of a betrayal.  Femiel did; however, agree to journey with the party at least until they could get to a more civilized area. 

The party continued to investigate the ruins underneath the long abandoned town and soon came upon a locked room that contained a single skeleton inside.  Examination of the skeleton revealed a sealed scroll tube and that the skeleton appeared to have been dead for a long time, perhaps as long as a century.  When the tube was opened, the party found parchment containing writing in Kelish.  Cice was able to translate the writing and learned that it was an accounting of the final day of one Athis, Scribe of New Stetven.  Athis described that sometime during the night a number of devilish plants had been planted around his village and when the villagers awoke the next morning chaos and destruction ensued.  The plants attacked the villagers and to their horror, the stricken villagers soon turned into more plants.  Athis ran to the ruins beneath the village to seek refuge.

While hiding in the ruins beneath the village, Athis eventually heard an unfamiliar female voice speaking in Sylvan telling someone to "guard the orb until all the plants have died".  Athis would eventually try to investigate only to find a couple of starved looking dog like creatures that attacked him.  Athis fled to the tiny room and barricaded himself in only to soon realize that his wounds would not heal, meaning that he would soon die.  Just beyond that room the party found what appeared to have once been an office of sorts, with chewed and torn papers scatted all about.  Beneath the mess though was a locked iron box that contained numerous papers detailing the founding of the village of New Stetven, including the commissioning of the ever-burning brazier and the command word to turn the flame on and off.

The party was then attacked by a rat swarm which managed to infect Feldspar and Joseph with filth fever before being killed.  In the following days, Femiel would cure both Feldspar and Joseph of their filth fever.  As the party pressed further, they were attacked by a pair of dog like creatures that Cice was able to identify as Gaunt Hounds, magical fey beasts.  Femiel displayed a bit of her true power during the battle as she helped the party defeat the creatures with a couple of powerful spells.  Vlad was able to stabilize one of the hounds before it died but the other was killed outright by the powerful spell cast by Femiel. 

In the area containing the nests of the gaunt hounds, the party located a secret door that lead to a small chamber containing a crystal orb on a stone stand.  The orb was vaguely grayish in color and had some swirling mists inside of it.  It radiated evil and gave off a strong aura of fear.  Feldspar and Torm investigated the orb initially, with Torm touching it and becoming terrified, running all the way out of the ruins and through the clearing that once contained the village of New Stetven, stopping only when he reached the party's horses and was out of the range of the aura of fear.  Micka eventually decided that the orb was sufficiently evil that it could not be kept around and so smashed it with his new scythe taken from the body of Rilev.  As soon as the orb was smashed, the aura of fear that had been permeating the area vanished. 

The party camped for the night in the ruins of New Stetven then proceeded to spend the next several days exploring the surrounding areas.  For the most part, the party found a lot of open plains and forests and not much else.  In the Nortwest corner of the Greenbelt they did come across an old barbarian cairn that appeared to have been erected by the Tiger Lord barbarians.  The party dug out the rocks of the cairn and located the decayed remains of a warrior whose skull had been smashed in.  Also among the remains was a Ring of Swimming which the party took.  The party would also locate an area with a pair of ponds heated by sulfuric springs.  The warm water proved to be quite soothing and several members of the party took the opportunity to bathe in the warm waters.  Feldspar though was attacked by a giant frog but the party was able to easily kill the creature.  As the party's supplies began to run low, they decided to head back to Oleg's to restock and to sell some of the items they had acquired.  Feldspar got into an argument with Oleg over the price of the brazier but eventually the party was able to sell everything while also informing Jhod Kavken that they had cleansed the temple of Erastil that he had been looking for.  In thanks, Jhod offered to render free spell casting for the party provided they paid for any expensive material components.  Femiel also took her leave of the party at this time, but not before casting restorations on Joseph and Feldspar to cure them of the ills they still suffered from having been reincarnated.

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