Stolen Lands

Top of the World!
Or at least the Stolen Lands

After defeating the ice mephits, the party debated whether to climb higher up Talon Peak or to descend back down to the watch tower and prepare to head toward the Whispering Grotto. In the end, the party's curiosity won out and they decided that they would climb higher and hopefully find a spot to rest soon. As they continued their climb they at last came to another plateau after about two hours of more climbing.

Aven once again took it upon himself to sneak into the cave that offered the only shelter on the plateau to determine if it was safe. When he snuck in he was able to discern what appeared to be four yetis inhabiting the cave, one of which was unusually large. He could also make out the forms of what appeared to be two human sized bodies on the floor of the cave, apparent victims of the yetis. Aven snuck back out and relayed this information to the rest of the party as they arrived on the plateau.

The party was debating how best to approach the yetis, who appeared to be unaware of the party's presence, when Bernard decided he had heard enough and tossed a bag of food into the cave. Bernard's offering was answered with an angry roar from inside the cave. With an exasperated glance at the paladin, Aven and Vlad headed to the sides of the cave entrance in hopes of attacking the yetis as they exited. However, the creatures only came out far enough to be able to swipe at the party members on the edges of the cave entrance. Bernard attempted to use his special paladin powers on one of the yetis but found that the creature was not evil and thus did not suffer extra ill effects. At the same time, Vlad confirmed that another of the yetis was also not evil. The beasts continued to attack the party; however. Eventually they moved so as to allow the other two yetis to join in the fray, even as one of the first yetis fell to the party's blows. Although the yetis had powerful claws, they were ultimately no match for the party, and they were soon all dead. The last two fell particularly quick when it was discovered that they were, indeed evil.

The party searched the cave and found a pile of gems and coins as well as two dead humans. Finding no other signs of danger the party camped in the cave for the night to secure as much warmth as possible for the weather had grown particularly cold and stormy.

The following morning, Joseph was able to use his divine magic to speak with one of the dead humans and learned that he was indeed a guard from the town of Varnhold, though he had been stationed at the watch tower. Unfortunately, the guard did not know what had happened to the town and further, was not even sure what had happened to him as he never did get a good look at his killers. The party surmised it was the yeti's but was disappointed to learn that he did not know more about the vanished villagers.

Refreshed, the party continued their climb to the top of Talon Peak. It took many hours, but they did eventually reach the peak of the mountain, where they discovered an ancient, crumbling observatory. The telescope in the observatory was long since broken and in the center of the tower where the telescope would have once stood, was now a giant bird nest with four immense eggs, each the size of a human. As the party was exploring the tower and attempting to make sense of the strange markings on the door of the observatory, they were greeted by a loud screech as a gigantic roc alighted on the top of the tower. Aven was getting ready to battle the gargantuan bird when the creature spoke to each of the party members telepathically, and in each of the languages they knew. The bird offered a friendly greeting to the party and appeared to know them by name.

As the party questioned the bird it became clear that the creature was beyond ancient. It also was soon revealed that while the roc was familiar with the Nomen centaurs, it did not know what had happened to Varnhold. The existence of Varnhold was barely even a blip on the timeline of the Roc and it had never even noticed the town. It did however offer to the party that if they were able to pass the test of air, they could have one of its eggs which the Nomen in turn could use in a ritual that might provide further information to the party about what had happened to the villagers.

The party readily agreed to the test and one by one they were taken onto the back of the bird as it flew up high in the atmosphere and then raced along the mountain and through the air. The bird would make sharp, banking turns, rapid swoops along the peaks, full verticle loops in the air and even fold in its wings and dive at breath taking speeds down the side of the mountain. Most of the party had trouble remaining on the bird, and Cice and Bernard might have suffered particularly devastating injuries when they fell off the bird were it not for the paladin's magical boots. However both Aven and Vlad performed well enough to pass the test and the Black Roc gifted the party with one of her eggs.

The party then descended down the mountain with Aven flying softly down while carrying the immense, and heavy egg. When the party was about a third of the way down the mountain, a rift violently opened in the air near the cliff face and two huge air elementals burst forth from the rift. Joseph, thinking quick, used his magic to teleport himself and Cice to a nearby plateau while Aven flew down to the same plateau. The elementals soon followed the party down to the plateau where Cice used her magic to confuse them into fighting each other. By the time the elementals were done fighting each other and had regained their senses, they were both nearly dead and the party was able to dispatch them with ease. Thankfully for the party, they were then able to descend the rest of the way down the mountain without any trouble.

When the party returned to the Nomen they were informed that the Black Roc is a creature that transcends time and that its eggs are able to catch glimpses of events that had transpired in places they've been as well as to observe glimpses of events that were yet to be. The centaurs readily agreed to perform the ritual for the party, but before they did, the party decided to take the egg through the town of Varnhold in the hope of being able to catch a glimpse of what had befallen the town.

After taking the egg to the town, the party returned to the centaurs and several of the elders brought the party and the egg into a large, round hut with a small opening in the top. As the ritual began a thick, aromatic smoke began to fill the hut and soon images began to flash in the smoke. At first elves could be seen constructing an elaborate observatory on the top of a tall mountain peak. Later though the elves had disappeared and it appeared as though cyclopes had taken up residence in the observatory. These astronomers appeared to be focusing on the Dark Tapestry. Later the party could see that the cyclopes were all gone or dead and the tower was abandoned. The images then flickered and soon a tiny village appeared and humans could be seen fighting with centaurs. The village then grew before the party's eyes until at last, the images showed an evening when all at once, everyone in the town simply walked out of their homes and headed south out of the town as a haunting melody played on the air. This was not the end though for the final images to be shown were those of the same village of varnhold and another large scale battle, only this time it appeared as though most of the combatants, on both sides, were human.

After the ritual, Aecora pulled the party aside and told them that while she still did not know for certain what had befallen the vanished town, she suspected what may have occurred. She informed the party that it had long been the sacred duty of the Nomen tribe to guard against an ancient evil that was said to reside to the south in an area known as the Valley of the Dead. She knew the name of the evil was Vordakai, but the tales of the nature of the evil had long since vanished from the memories of her tribe. It was this sacred duty though that kept the Nomen in the plains of the Nomen Heights despite centuries of attacks from humans striving to drive the centaurs out of the area. She believed that Vordakai was a cyclops but also stated that the ancient cyclopean empire that used to control the region was not known to be evil. She regretted that she could not tell the party more, but she did indicate that there was one other who might know something of what had occurred, a silver dragon to the south by the name of Amvarean.

Going Up?

Having successfully proven their worth to the Nomen centaurs during the Kankeratta Run, the party was finally welcomed into the Nomen camp. Even the loudest opponents to their presence prior to the run accepted that the party had more than shown their mettle during the Run and agreed that the party could, at least, stay. So long as their intentions remained noble of course. Aecora Silverfire was even more welcoming than the rest of the tribe though for the party had taken time to ensure that Xamanthe was safe after she was trapped by a collapsing ceiling. To show her gratitude, Aecora gifted the party with a wand that would mend their wounds.

Aecora then proceeded to tell the party much of the history of the relations between the Nomen centaurs and humankind over the centuries. She described a long, bloody history where, as she told it, the humans constantly attempted to displace, or worse, kill, the centaurs despite the fact that the centaurs had been roaming the plains of the Nomen Heights long before any human ever set foot there. Sadly, she described the attitude of Maegar Varn as being little different from that of the previous humans they had encountered. When they sent a welcoming party to greet the new group of humans that attempted to establish an outpost in the area, that welcoming party was immediately attacked. This, she stated, was why her tribe had given the party such a chilly reception.

Aecora again thanked the party and then allowed them to mingle amongst the rest of the centaurs. One centaur, the tribal tattooist, approached the party and asked them to be on the lookout for manticore quills, for they could be used to make particularly excellent tattoos. As they mingled, the party was also informed of several sites considered to be sacred to the tribe. One was the Nomen burial grounds where, unfortunately, a group of manticores had recently taken up residence. Another was the grave site of a long dead linnorm which the Nomen said they often visited to leave offerings for in the hopes of appeasing the spirit of the linnorm so that it would not return and rampage across the Nomen Heights. A third was a peak atop the Tors of Levenies known as Talon Peak where a great spirit of Air resided. Finally, there was the Whispering Grotto on the Western side of the Tors.

The party decided that they did indeed wish to visit these sites in the hopes of learning more about the centaurs as well as hoping to further gain the respect of the tribe. They first set out north to the burial grounds where the party was attacked by three manticores. Although manticores had proved to be quite troublesome to the party in the past, this time the party did not have many problems with the creatures and they were sood dispatched. The party gathered up numerous quills to bring back to the tattoist and he was quite pleased with their efforts, gifting a magical circlet to the party which Vlad found to be very interesting.

The party then decided to travel south to the linnorm grave so they could see it and pay their respects as well. When they approached, the ribs of the creature still stuck up in the air like long, deadly fingers and the party could see numerous urns, jars, pots and baskets that had been left at the site. There were numerous tracks as well, most appearing to be horse hooves. The party had hoped to then travel to the Whispering Grotto but soon discovered that by continuing on the direct path, they would have to climb up and over the Tors of Levenies. At this point, they decided to travel back to the north and to the Varnhold Pass to make their trip easier.

After spending the night in Varnhold, the party set out the next day and went through the pass and headed back south toward the Grotto. As they traveled south though, Aven found an old tower part way up the mountain, a tower that from the top of it, likely had a view through a gap in the peaks of the Tors to the eastern side. The party decided to check out the tower and found that the front door to the tower was unlocked. When they entered they found numerous weapon racks that were largely still full with recent weapons, but nary a sound in the tower. The party continued to explore until finally, on the top floor, they found a single door that appeared to be stuck shut. Aven went around outside the tower and through a window into the room where he observed a single emaciated, and dead, human. Aven also saw that a large dresser had been slid across the door to bar entry from the outside.

Aven let the others in and they were soon able to determine that the human had died of starvation. Clutched in his hand was a journal of sorts. Thom took the time to read the journal and discovered that it was a daily log of the captain of a group of soldiers that appeared to be from Varnhold. The journal left clues of a terrible tragedy born on the howling winds and speaking of bright eyes that could be seen in the night. It described a terrible fate for the rest of the soldiers stationed there and ultimately the captain had barricaded himself in the room stating he couldn't leave. They wouldn't let him leave. Also telling was mention of a signal fire, presumably from Varnhold, that should have been lit nightly but evidently had stopped being lit not long before the troubles befell the inhabitants of the tower.

At this point the party decided to explore the area around the tower for they recognized that it was part way up on Talon Peak. They began to climb and soon found the going to be very difficult but for the magical rope of climbing the party possessed. Even with the rope though it took hours before they could reach the next plateau where a sizeable cave was located. The party began to explore the cave, only to discover that it was the den of giant dire bear. An angry one at that. The bear was ferocious and was able to claw terrible wounds into the bodies of the party, but with the party fighting together, and thereby distracting its attention enough, it was finally able to be slain. Bernard wondered if the bear was somehow responsible for the disappearance of the village of Varnhold, but it didn't make sense since it couldn't have taken the entire village without a trace.

After resting to recover from their battle, the party continued to climb higher, certain that a greater mystery awaited, and an answer, at the very least, as to what had befallen the tower. After climbing for another hour or so, the party was ambushed by a group of ice mephits. The mephits had some advantage since many party members were still climbing, but others were able to fly and thus, engage the mephits on even footing so to speak. The mephits, while annoying, were not particularly dangerous however. After several of them had been slain, the last one left in fight shape surrendered. The party asked it if it knew of any powerful creatures on the mountain and it did describe a group of creatures that it said were very dangerous. It could not give a great description of the creatures though for it said that they moved fast and were powerful and thus, the mephit and its brethren always kept their distance. The party then healed an unconscious mephit and informed both mephits that they could leave so long as they did not trouble the party further. Before departing though, the mephit asked if the party had any of the extremely valuable eggs that could be found on the mountain and seemed disappointed when the party indicated that they had not encountered said eggs.  With that, the mephits departed and the party decided to rest and consider whether to continue climbing to the top of Talon Peak, or to back track and head instead to the Whispering Grotto.

Running Wild

The party left Varnhold and headed east, searching for the Nomen centaurs that were said to reside somewhere in the Dunsward to the east. The party began by exploring the plains to the east and soon there efforts were rewarded as they were encountered by two centaur scouts. The scouts tried to turn the party away initially, but when the party insisted, the scouts eventually allowed the party to go to the Nomen village, provided they hand over all weapons.

The party continued to receive a chilly reception from the centaurs who indicated that they did not like humans and that humans had, for centuries, driven the tribe from their lands. When the centaurs were told that the party was simply attempting to gather information about the disappearance of their friends in Varnhold the centaurs continued to be unfriendly, stating that Varnhold was anything but a friend of the centaurs. After much back and forth, Baron Black at last was able to gain a concession from Aecora Silverfire, the chieftian of the Nomen tribe. That was, that if the party could return the sacred bow Skybolt to the tribe that it might go a long way to mending the relationship between the centaurs and humans, though the bow had been stolen by the people of Varnhold shortly after they settled in the region.

The party camped for the night in the Nomen village and then left early the next morning to return to Varhold in hopes of locating the bow. The party decided to approach the village from the south this time and start a search in that area. While searching through the houses in the southern part of the village, Aven Darkheart located a home where it appeared some celebration had been taking place at the time of the town's disappearance, for there were presents in the home that had yet to be opened. Aven went over to the presents to open them in the hopes of finding something useful. Instead, he was attacked by the presents, which turned out to be a mimic. Although Aven found himself in a sticky situation, and others in the party likewise had some issues, all in all the mimic proved to be relatively simple to dispatch.

After the fight, Joseph Lagrange took the time to consult with his goddess to see if the bow was in fact in the town at all so as not to waste time searching if it weren't. He learned that the bow was in fact in the town and was actually located in the stronghold that was occupied by the Culchek tribe of spriggans. The party then proceeded to the stronghold in the hopes of figuring out how to get the bow out while causing the least amount of fuss. Aven and Darrick were in favor of using stealth to infiltrate the stronghold and simply steal the bow, believing that they could do so without alerting anyone inside to their presence. However, while they were discussing their plan, Bernard, the paladin, came up with a simpler idea. He offered instead to buy the bow from the spriggans. Bernard asked the spriggan on guard at the gate to ask Agai if the spriggan chief would be willing to part with the bow, and was rewarded by learning that the chief was happy to sell the bow to the party if they would then leave. Bernard readily agreed, much to the chagrin of Darrick and Aven.

Before leaving Varnhold altogether though, the party decided to dispatch the chuul that had almost killed Bernard previously. The party laid out a plan, sending the stoutest fighters and the best swimmers after the chuul, while also giving those who were fighting the ability to breathe water. Now that the party knew what they were going to be up against, they had no trouble fighting the chuul and it was killed without much struggle. As the party inspected the tunnel in which the chuul had made its lair, they noticed that it opened into a wide underground cavern and then had another small tunnel leading off of it. Vlad eventually swam down that tunnel and discovered that it opened out at the bottom of a well inside the stronghold. Vlad made a note of that in case he should ever need it in the future.

With Skybolt in hand, the party returned once again to the Nomen tribe and presented the bow to Aecora. The chieftian was quite pleased at the return of the relic. The return of the bow also impressed many of the other centaurs, including Aecora's daughter, Xamanthe. However a sizeable faction of the tribe, comprised primarily of younger centaurs, and lead by the warrior Danide still opposed the party's presence, saying that the two leggeds had performed their errand and that they could now go. Cice Tappo continued to negotiate with the centaurs and eventually Danide declared that they were simply at a disagreement, but that the tribe had a means for resolving disagreements, the Kankerrata Run.

The Kankerrata run is a sacred test among the centaurs and one that requires strength, wit, and endurance. The party agreed that they would participate though the tribal leaders said there would be no shame in not participating for no two legged had ever attempted it previously. The next morning the party was taken to an area of the Dunsward known as the Blood Furrows and told the rules of the Run. The Blood Furrows were a large swath of the Dunsward that was inhabited by a sacred spirit of the earth known as Kankerrata. The goal of the Run is to traverse the length of the Blood Furrows while touching several sacred stones and avoiding the jaws of the sacred spirit of the Earth. Participants must navigate numerous obstacles and can attempt to slow down other contestants, but it is sacrilege to kill Kankerrata, though damaging the spirit is allowed in self defense, so long as it is not killed.

Every member of the party chose to participate, though several soon found that completing the course would be difficult at best. Bernard, Thom Merrilon, and Cice soon had to withdraw as they faced insurmountable obstacles in their path. As the rest of the party progressed through the course, they eventually encountered the great spirit as Kankerrata burrowed out of the ground and took vicious bites out of Aven and Joseph, rendering the poor cleric unconscious in one chomp. Fortunately, Aven was able to revive Joseph and they could continue on through the course. As they approached the end, Darrick and Danide hit the open plains and could see the finish line, but Kankerrata once again burst forth from the ground and attacked. This time though, it attacked Danide and Darrick was able to sprint ahead to the finish, crossing the line first. Vlad was the next to complete the course as Danide continued to fend off Kankerrata. Joseph then crossed ahead of the centaur as she finally was able to withdraw from her combat and finish. Finally, Aven also crossed the line, succesfully completing the Run. The party drew additional praise when earlier in the run Joseph had taken the time to help Xamanthe who had been pinned under a collapsing stone ceiling in one of the caverns.

After the Run, even the most ardent opponents of the party's presence in the centaur village were willing to accept their presence there, even if they did not yet fully trust the party.


After defeating the hydra, the party decided to head into Varnhold to investigate the seemingly abandoned town. As they approached the Kiravoy River, the party observed the first few outlying homes in the town proper. Aven and Darrick snuck into these homes to try to see if anyone was inside. Once they entered the homes they found that the occupants of the home appeared to have left in a hurry. There were partially eaten meals on the tables or meals in the process of being prepared. Furthermore, although the belongings of the residents appeared to have been rifled through, by and large they all appeared to still be there. Clothes were present, as was cookware, toys, even wagons were left behind.

Cautiously, the party approached the Kiravoy River which ran across the road leading into town. They observed that the bridge that once served to cross the river had been destroyed with only foundation posts remaining. The party scanned up and down the river and noticed a deeper pool just to the east of where the bridge once stood. Curious, Bernard shed his armor and swam down to the pool to investigate for he had spied a tunnel leading off of the pool. To his dismay though, when he reached the tunnel in the pool, he found that the tunnel  was inhabited by a chuul. The large, lobster-like creature was quick to snatch the paladin in its claws, trapping him underwater.

The rest of the party sprang into action when they observed the paladin to be in trouble. Cice flung spells at it while Bernard tried to hack the creature, and Joseph dove into the water to heal the paladin. Eventually, Thom was able to use his spells to appear next to the paladin and the cleric and grab both of them as he used his magic to bring all three back to the shore. From there the party observed the creature retreat into the tunnel out of sight.

The exploration of the town continued and party soon found the town's tannery where out back there were three centaur hides that had been hung up to cure. Past the tannery, they came to the town inn, the Waterhorse. Scratched hastily onto the door was a single word: "Nomen". A quick delve into their memories allowed the party to recall that there was a local tribe of centaurs that went by the name Nomen. Upon entering the inn, the party found a strange sight. A large spriggan was standing motionless with an aura of amber light around it. More curious though was the fact that the back of its skull appeared to have been caved in, yet it still stood. In its hand was book with a strange sigil on it. When Bernard attempted to read it, a magic ray darted out from the book and attempted to ensnare him, but fortunately for the paladin he was able to resist the magic. In the corner of the common room a table was littered with books that appeared to belong to the scholar Maestro Ervil Pendrod. These books all seemed to be histories of centaurs and Iobaria. Also on the table was a charcoal sketching of a large jade bracelet. Maestro Pendrod had made some notes about the bracelet, which is what had drawn him back to the town, and noted the unusual markings on the bracelet. He attributed the markings to the Nomen Centaur tribe.

The party then ventured to the upper floor of the inn where they discerned that only one of the guest rooms seemed to have been in use when the town was abandoned. This room appeared to belong the Maestro Pendrod and inside the party was able to fine more tomes. One of these tomes was written by someone named Carmyn e'Brothasa and chronicled Taldor's Third Army of Exploration into the north. Scanning through the book the party observed that one passage in particular had been transcribed by Pendrod, and it read:

And so it was, high upon the Torres and well above the Vale's Stairs, where rises from the high water a stony isle of dire report. Known as Vordakai's Island to those that do live thereabout, some legend of its name doth come down through the locals. For they speak of a guardian that doth destroy all who would set foot upon its accursed shores. They did name no fewer than a twelvecount of their hero-knights who had left their bones upon its rocky shores over the years after having tested their mettle against its dread warden, til none would any longer go there for fear of its hidden terrors. And the name of this terror was given unto this island.

In the margin of the tome, Pendrod speculated that this Vordakai might be some sort of Nomen Centaur god. The party searched their own collective memories but could not recall having ever come across that name in their studies. The party did recall; however, that Maegar Varn had previously mentioned having some trouble with a group of centaurs to the east of the town.

The party then moved onto the Church of Erastil which also appeared to have been ransacked. As she was examining the altar though, Cice was able to locate a hidden drawer that contained ten scrolls which held powerful spells upon them. Cice then wrote a note and placed it in the drawer, explaining that the party had taken the scrolls in case they were necessary and stating that they would gladly replace the same if the townspeople were located and the scrolls were no longer needed.

The rest of the town was much the same. Ransacked houses but most belonging still there. In none of them were there any people. The closest exception came from one small house where the party found a half starved cat hiding among the debris. Cice was able to speak to the cat using her magic and learned that the cat's "feeders" had left in the evening when a "new bird song" was heard. The cat was distracted by some fish at the time and so did not follow. Since that time though it had not seen its feeders.

With the rest of the town already explored, the party at last moved to the stockade and blockhouse where they had observed a spriggan cooking a side of beef earlier. When the party entered the stockade, the lone spriggan transformed into its large version as it shouted a warning. As the party began to move into the stockade, three more spriggans appeared, also large in size. Bernard rushed up toward the nearest spriggan with Baron Vlad Black by his side astride his giant cat. The cat immediately tore into one of the spriggans as Vlad moved onto the next and Bernard fought with a third. The spriggans, though fearsome in size, proved to be no trouble for the party and soon three were unconscious while the fourth was dead.

When the party moved to the door of the blockhouse, they found it to be barrred with a single spriggan on the other side. They attempted to negotiate with the spriggan to get it to come outside but it said that "a guy" would not allow him to. The spriggan did say though that the town was abandoned when they got there. At last the party was able to get one of the defeated spriggans to go into the blockhouse to negotiate with their leader. They soon were told that Cice and Joseph could go into the blockhouse to inspect it and talk to the chief. Cice found the chief, named Agai, and was able to talk to him. He again reiterated that the town was abandoned when they got there and that they had only been there a week. The party's previous inspections showed that the town appeared to have been abandoned for at least a month. After much back and forth, Cice and Joseph were allowed to search the blockhouse and the two sides eventually agreed to not disturb each other. The party promised to leave as they continued their search for the missing townspeople and they agreed not to bother the spriggans. With that, the party decided to rest for the night before heading out to the east to seek the Nomen Centaurs.

Fixing Squirrels, Finding Nuts, and Missing Friends

The party had finally managed to dispatch Rhoswen, though not without some heartache as their new arcanist had fallen victim to one of her spells and found himself turned into a squirrel. The party took the now unconscious Rhoswen and removed her belongings from her, then traveled back across the portal and into the Narlmarches and their homeland.

Upon returning to the material plane, the Joseph attempted to message various members of the Fey Council in an effort to determine how to ultimately deal with Rhoswen now that she was defeated. His first response came from Vinroot who responded with a somewhat drunken reply but was unable to complete his message to Joseph as he ran out of time. Next though, Joseph received a response from the unicorn Palombier. The unicorn informed the party that they had been gone for four months even though it seemed to have only been a few days in the minds of the party. He further told them that whatever they did, they should not bring Rhoswen back to the material plane.

With this information in hand, the party quickly decided to send a few members back into the Fellnight Realm to seal the barrier while placing Rhoswen on the other side of the barrier. The group that went into the Fellnight Realm spent no more than half a day there sealing the barrier back up, but when they came back, their companions told them they had been gone for two weeks. At this point, the party wished to waste no more time and headed back to Raven's Bluff to check on the capitol and so that Vlad could finally spend some time with his bride. The party was relieved to find that the realm was still in good hands and that everything had continued to progress smoothly in their prolonged absence. It seemed as though Serani Black had taken well to the role of Baroness in her husband's absence, though she gladly gave the reins back to Vlad upon his return.

The party quickly began going about the business of governing, including appointing Kesten Garess to fill the role of General on the High Council, which was left vacant by the untimely demise of Kanon Phodder. General Garess was happy to fill the post and the kingdom resumed business as usual. Among the matters to attend to was the unfortunate transformation of the arcanist into a squirrel. It took a few tries, but Joseph was eventually able to reverse the effect and Thom was brought back to his normal self.

While the party was resting up in Raven's Bluff, Cice Tappo took the opportunity to walk around town, getting to know the people better. They seemed to be much relieved now that she was no longer a hobgoblin but had somehow become a gnome. Even with the recent trouble with Tenzekill, the townspeople preferred her as a gnome. As she was walking through town, Cice decided to put on a bit of a display for the townsfolk and brought out the magical chicked she had secured from Kanon's belongings when he perished. Squeezing the chicken and uttering the trigger "Wakka Wakka!" Cice felt a strange sensation spread through her. Her voice grew a bit deeper and as she looked down, she realized that the chicken had transformed her into a male! The crowd was quite impressed.

It was about this time that Vlad received a message from Karsten Lebeda stating that hey had lost contact with Varnhold. The message stated that several messages had been sent and even an envoy, but nothing, including the envoy, ever returned. He urged Vlad to look into the matter and see what he could discover about the sudden silence from Varnhold.

Vlad, who had developed a friendship with Maegar Varn quickly convened the High Council and the party agreed that they must set out at once to Varnhold. The party gathered their provisions, and purchased some new ones with their newfound wealth, and made haste for Varnhold. Fortunately they had previously located a shortcut to Varnhold when they had previously visited and they were able to cut some time off on their journey. During this time Cice continued to be amazed by the wonders created by her/his transformation.

As they were crossing through the mountains into the territory of Varnhold, the party observed a partially ruined tower. They also noticed that the area had grown incredibly silent. Aven Darkheart flew up to the tower to investigate and found that it was abandoned. From the tower though he did see that one could look upon much of the territory of Varnhold, including the village that comprised the capitol. He then flew down and decided to scout ahead for the party. In doing so, he located a cave. Aven then decided to investigate the large cave a bit further and Vlad sent his eagle to stand sentry at the mouth of the cave. Aven attempted to sneak into the cave to see what was in there but as he was making his way he heard a growling sound and looked around a large rock to see a five-headed hydra. The beast immediately lunged at Aven and attempted to eat him for lunch, but was unable to get its jaws on the shifty monk. Aven wasted no time in backtracking out of the cave and rejoining the party so they could formulate a plan.

The party decided first to have Cice go up to the tower so he could cast a magical eye spell on the town of Varnhold in an effort to investigate some more. While they wanted to dispatch the hydra they also wanted to make sure that they rescued Varn. Cice's spell showed him that the town appeared to be all but abandoned except for a the stockade which appeared to have a lone spriggan in the courtyard area. The spriggan appeared as though he was attempting to give the appearance of there being more spriggans there than was actually the case as there were helmets propped up on sticks along the palisade of the stockade. Cice was unable to see inside the main building inside the stockade though to determine if there were indeed any more spriggans there. Aside from that though Cice was unable to determine any other signs of life.

With this information in hand, the party decided they had time to fight the hydra and also believed that the hydra may have been responsible for the disappearance of Varn. The party returned to the cave and Aven and Bernard, the paladin rescued from the Fellnight Realm, crept into the cave while the rest of the party prepared themselves at the mouth. As Aven crept in, he once again attracted the attention of the hydra and it rushed out at him. Once again though the monk was able to avoid most of the blows and the rest of the party began to pepper the hydra as well. Cice began to hurl spells at the beast but appeared as though the wizard was distracted by his newest wand as the spells were not nearly as effective as normal. Bernard meanwhile, was anxious to prove his worth to the party and began to hammer the beast, raining powerful blow upon powerful blow onto the hydra. The fury of the paladin quickly proved too much for the beast to handle and it was soon slain. Although Bernard took a few hits from the hydra, the party remained largely unscathed and were left in good position to head to the village of Varnhold to try to uncover the mystery of the town.


It was a joyous occasion for the entire nation of Pohjola for Baron Vlad Black had at last chosen a bride and was being wed to Serani Orlovsky. Not only was the entire town of Raven's Bluff buzzing, but nearby nations were as well as the event drew attendees from Brevoy, Mivon, and Varnhold just to name a few. Everyone was excited for the nation was thriving and there had been relative peace and stability for many months.

As the ceremony was just getting started though, a low buzzing grew into a much louder buzz. Though this was not from the crowd, who had been hushed by the beauty of the young bride, but rather, was from a pair of giant bee swarms that flew through the crowd and wedding party. The happy event turned into a terrible scene as the guests screamed and ran cover. Many members of the High Council jumped into action in an effort to escort guests to safety or to fight off the bee swarms. The council members were able to defeat the swarms with their magic, and even Serani got involved as she used a wand to destroy many of the attacking bees.

The ordeal was not over though with the defeat of the swarms. For shortly after the last of the bees was killed, a wall of thorns grew around Baron Black and a trio of spriggans sprang from it to attack the baron and his bride. The spriggans proved to be only a minor nuisance however, but it was what occurred following their attack that truly terrified the wedding guests. For a booming voice carried over the ground and proclaimed that doom would fall upon the town and the voice identified itself as a scorned gnome named Tenzekill Braybittle but indicated that a Queen Rhoswen would have her vengeance. As the voice died out and the panicked screams of the guests quieted, a thick, unnatural mist came out of the woods and began to surround the guests and head for the walls of the town. The mist was so thick as to reduce visibility to a mere twenty feet. The guests again grew terrified but were eventually lead back to town by the members of the High Council.

Upon returning the Raven's Bluff the party decided to wait out the mist and let it dissipate before heading out to investigate. However, after a couple days the mist had not dissipated and if anything, it had grown thicker. Worse, the High Council received word that the mist was spreading throughout the kingdom and was not confined to just the capitol. Investigating the mist revealed that it was definitely magical in nature even though the mist itself was not magical. At last, the party determined that they had little choice but to head out into the mist to investigate it. Jhod Kavken did tell the party about a reclusive druid named Devarre Snowgaard who lived in the Narlmarches and might know more about the strange mist. With that information in hand, the party set out to find the druid.

As the party made camp that dirst night in the Narlmarches, they were interrupted by a dryad that stepped out of a tree trunk. The dryad collapsed to the ground, clearly weak and in distress. She was able to plead with the party to help her sisters and to give them directions of following a stream before she screamed in agony and died on the ground before the stunned party. The party followed the stream and soon came to a clearing where two figures were bound before a large fire while several spriggans danced about, taunting the bound figures.

The party wasted no time in attacking the spriggans and once again the spriggans proved to be no match for the party. As the last of the spriggans was defeated, the party rushed to the two captives and found that one was a dryad named Fira, the eldest of the dryads in the grove, and the other figure was a unicorn named Palombier. Fira informed the party that she was the last of five sisters, as the spriggans had killed the trees of her sisters, thereby killing the dryads as well. Palombier told a similar tale of having been attacked and captured by a large number of spriggans and similarly thanked the party. He healed those who needed healing but told them that he still owed a life to debt to the party.

The party continued on the next day and things seemed to be going well until a massive tree shuddered then fell to the ground in front of the party. As the dust settled, an eye popped open on the tree and it began to talk, albeit with very slurred speech. The tree, which was clearly a treant, stumbled to its feet and began swinging wildly at the party members. It raged at them for destroying the forest. The party mostly attempted to stay out of the treant's way while engaging it in dialogue. In a moment of clarity, the treant realized that the party was not aligned with the spriggans that were attacking the forest and soon introduced itself to the party. Though its speech was still slurred, the treant, named Vinroot, was somewhat able to tell of what was happening in the forest and to direct the party to the druid Devarre. Before leaving, it did share its flagon with Aven Darkheart who soon became a bit weak willed but otherwise was ok.

The party was at last able to locate the ancient fey mound where it was rumored Devarre resided. Using some dust given to them by Fira, the party was able to penetrate the magic that hid the true nature of the fey mound, including three monoliths and the cabin of the druid Devarre. When they arrived the party did not locate anyone in the area and all appeared quiet. However, near the cabin the party located a pit that had a wolf trapped in the bottom of it. The party was able to rescue the wolf though it was clearly hungry and dehydrated. Upon approaching the cabin, the party eventually located a lone occupant, the druid Devarre. As they asked him about the happenings in the forest the druid seemed confused and offered little help. As the party pressed though he began to get angry and left the cabin whereupon he began casting Call Lightning Storm.

The party sprang to defend itself but tried to subdue the druid rather than kill him outright. The druid was powerful but seemed almost to be fighting himself at times. The party was soon able to subdue him and as they did, they observed a will-o-wisp fly out of the druid's body and race off into the distance. With the will o wisp gone, Devarre was soon himself again and was able to explain the nature of the fey mound to the party. He explained that the monoliths served as anchor points between the material plane, the first world, and the fellnight realm. The fellnight realm he explained was a prison realm created by the fey to house a powerful, but evil fey creature. At first, the party believed that this creature was Rhoswen but Devarre explained that the realm had actually been created for Nyrissa, but that other fey were later imprisoned there as well. He was then able to direct the party to the location of the source of the mist, where he hoped that the party could solve the problems befalling the forest.

When the party arrived at the waterfalls that they were directed to, the found that there was a small clearing in the mist around the pools that the waterfalls flowed into. From one of those pools however floated strange puffs of mist that then moved into the rest of the forest surrounding the pools. The party climbed up to the pools and began to investigate the upper most pool when they were attacked by a pair of water elementals. The fight against the elementals was difficult but ultimately the party once again prevailed. As the fight ended the party was able to locate mystical fey stones at the bottom of the pool but as they went to retrieve them, Tenzekil and at least forty spriggans revealed themselves from the brush around the pools.

The party was surrounded and knew that their only hope was to run. Fortunately for them just as they began to run, Palombier appeared with a host of other forest creatures and fey. Palombier urged to party to race to his location and he and the other unicorns with him could get the party to safety. The party raced to the unicorns and were able to be carried away to safety and to a large gathering of good aligned fey and forest creatures. The party soon learned that there were numerous factions present at this gathering and that the various factions could not agree on a course of action with regard to the invading army under Rhoswen's control. Eventually though the party was able to appeal to their sensibilities and convince the gathering that they needed to band together to fight the invading army. Ultimately each faction agreed but it was discovered that a group would need to travel into the Fellnight Realm to repair the barrier from the inside. A large army would be hard to conceal, but a small party should be able to get the job done and thus, it was decided that the party would travel into the fellnight realm to seal it from the inside.

Alright, who brought the dragon to the party?

The party returned to Raven's Bluff to bring the rescued villagers who were kidnapped home and to tend to their own wounds while mourning the loss of the newest comrade, Jegan. Kanon Phodder took some time to see his girlfriend, Lily Teskertin and make sure that she was okay after having almost been sacrificed by the necromancer to the strange, aberrant creatures he served. They also placed the necromancer in a jail cell until they could decide what to do with him.

After spending some time with his Lily, Kanon set about the town to try to gather rumors and learn what, if anything, was concerning the townsfolk. In particular, he wanted to learn if any other citizens had recently been kidnapped. While traveling around the village he did not hear of any new disappearances, but he did encounter a half-elf that was interested in starting up a magic item shop in town. Kanon took the half-elf, Thom, to Baron Vlad Black to introduce him and to try to encourage the Baron to accept Thom's request.

Upon being introduced to the High Council, Thom was evaluated and his request considered. Cice tried to determine how much he was worth while Kanon and Vlad suggested that he might need to go adventuring for a bit in order to afford the rent on the new shop. Kanon assured Thom that he would be able to make some money adventuring, and that if he didn't, the rest of the party at least would be able to acquire some magic items. Thom thought about it for a moment and then decided that adventuring might prove to be profitable after all, and so agreed to join the party on their adventures.

With that, the party decided to set out and once again explore more of the Stolen Lands, this time setting out to the Southwest to explore the Narlmarches. The recent presence of the trolls of Hargulka's Monstrous Kingdom seemed to have driven many of the denizens of the Narlmarches away, but the party did encounter a friendly faerie dragon who just wanted to make certain that their intentions were good. They chatted for a while and Kanon attempted to show off the majesty of his rubber chicken but this mostly just resulted in Cice becoming covered in glitter and feathers. The faerie dragon was not overly impressed but Kanon still seemed happy, especially once the chicken gave him a cigar.

As the party continued to explore, their sleep was interrupted one evening when a group of lizards raided their camp. Unfortunately for them, and poor Wilhelm Thornegaard, these were no ordinary lizards, but rather were shocker lizards that nearly killed the sleeping cleric. As the party rallied to fight off the lizards, Thom saw his opportunity to impress his new friends but unleashing a spell that quite literally unleashed his flesh in a myriad of shapes and directions, cutting through several of the lizards. Unfortunately it also cut through one of Vlad's favorite animal companions, killing the large cat that Vlad sometimes used as a combat mount. Vlad was not certain that this sacrifice was worth it, but Thom insisted that he had just saved the Baron's life.

The party was able to defeat the lizards though and the next morning Kanon followed their tracks back to a small cavern beneath the base of tree. Climbing in, he and Aven Darkheart found two dead humans but also discovered that they had not kill all of the lizards the night before for there were another half dozen in the cavern. Kanon was nearly killed by their electric blast, but then Aven and Thom were able to fight off the rest of them. Upon searching the bodies of the two humans, Aven was delighted to recover an Amulet of Mighty Fists.

After healing Aven back up, the party finished exploring much of the southwestern Narlmarches and then headed back to Raven's Bluff to attend to Council business. The High Council saw that things were going fairly well in the kingdom and they had a very profitable collection of taxes and tithes which helped to fund the continuing building of the Town Hall and the granary that they started. They were even able to drive off the slavers of the Onyx Alliance. Their high was short lived though as soon numerous citizens reported that there was a large dragon attacking the kingdom in the Kamelands. The party could not let this monster continue to wreak havoc on their kingdom and set out to ride at once. They followed the reports to an area of the plains near the Sootscale Caverns and were there attacked by the green dragon.

The initial blast of the dragon's breath was centered on Joseph Lagrange and Cice, but caught most of the party. From there though the party responded quickly and were able to quickly damage the dragon with arrows and spells. The dragon flew high in an attempt to gain distance on the party but ultimately Joseph brought it down with a Searing Light. Unfortunately though Thom had positioned himself directly beneath the dragon and though he tried to dive out of the way, the large dragon crashed to the earth on top of Thom. The massive weight of the falling dragon knocked Thom unconscious but fortunately did not kill him and he was soon brought back to full health.

Cice then used her wizardry to create a map out of the dragon's skin to its lair and the party was pleased to discover that although it was a young dragon, it had already amassed a decent sized treasure horde.


Hunting the Slavers

Upon learning that some citizens had been taken by slavers, the High Council set about investigating the incidents. It was soon learned that a dozen men and women had been taken from the town of Raven's Bluff. The men were all reported to be young, healthy and fairly strong while the women appeared to also be relatively young but also curvaceous and attractive. Kanon Phodder was concerned when he learned that the women taken were all young and attractive and immediately sought out Lily Teskertin to see if she was alright. Unfortunately for Kanon, he soon learned that she too had been taken by the slavers.

Kanon went with Vlad and the rest of the party to Lily's apartment and looked around to see if he could locate any clues as to what had happened, but there were no signs of a struggle in or around her apartment. Cice Tappo was able to put her ear to the ground so to speak and collect a series of rumors and information about the missing people and with the help of Darrick was able to learn that it was believed that the people responsible for the kidnappings were members of the Onyx Alliance. Checking their sources, the party was soon able to learn that the Onyx Alliance is a dark alliance of creatures from the Shadow Plane and is headquartered in the city of Shadow Absalom. It was also learned that fetchlings are often drawn to Golarion from the Shadow Plane in order to serve the Onyx Alliance.

This new bit of information caught the attention of the party as their newest member, Jegan was a fetchling and it was thought that he might know something about this Onyx Alliance. Jegan assured the party that he had nothing to do with the kidnappings and that he had come to Pohjola precisely because he hated slavery and wanted to get away from the Onyx Alliance.

The party next went about trying to learn where the kidnappers may have gone and Baron Vlad Black was able to track their scent to an abandoned warehouse. From there he could follow their trail out the gates of the city and to the river to the east of the city. The trail then followed the river upstream for about a mile before disappearing altogether. Checking the other side of the river showed that there was no new trail there either and it was surmised that they must have boarded a boat of some kind and taken to the river. Vlad then flew upriver to where the Shrike joined with the Thorn River. Upon arriving there, Vlad questioned the workers at the fork of the two rivers as to whether or not they had seen any boats coming through the area with wagons or large groups of people, but learned that they had not.

Vlad flew back toward the party which had started to march north along the Shrike and told them what he had learned. At that point, he and Cice began to use their magic to speak with the animals in the area to learn if they had seen anything that might fit the description of what they were looking for. Again, none of the animals, including the fish in the river, had observed anything like what Vlad and Cice were describing. This lead the party to believe that the slavers must have headed back south along the Shrike and entered the Tuskwater, but from there, they could have gone in three different directions. The party decided to camp for the evening and prepare new spells in the morning that might help them.

The following morning, Joseph Lagrange prepared a Sending to deliver to Lily in the hopes that she could tell the party where she was. Fortunately, she was still alive and was able to respond. Unfortunately, she stated that she couldn't see and did not know where she was. However she was able to describe having been on a boat then went for a short walk and was scratched by branches along the way. She said that she was then lowered down something and had heard screaming. Her description of where she had gone was enough for the party to soon realize that she must be at Candlemere for it matched perfectly what they had encountered when they investigated the island, and the tower therein, previously.

With this information in hand, Vlad, Jegan, and Aven Darkheart flew to Candlemere while the rest of the party began their trek there. Upon arriving at the tower, Vlad and Aven went down to the front door and investigated the area. They could tell that a number of humans had recently entered the tower though the total number was hard to determine since many of the footprints overlapped each other. Jegan meanwhile, flew to the top of the tower and entered the tower through an opening in the ruins.

Jegan continued down the tower and eventually located the opening in the floor that lead to the lower depths of the tower. Concerned for the safety of Lily, and wanting to prove to the party that he was not responsible, Jegan pressed on in the hopes of rescuing Lily. Jegan was also hoping that maybe Vlad and Aven would follow him down but they instead remained outside, waiting for Jegan to return. As Jegan pressed on, he found half a dozen prisoners in a room guarded by two humans. He tried to bluff his way past the humans but they ultimately did not fall for it. However, when they tried to attack, Jegan cast Sanctuary on himself, making them unable to attack him. He then pressed on, looking for the rest of the prisoners and trying to determine what was going on. He soon found the main chamber under the tower and saw a young woman strapped to an altar surrounded by six men, one of whom was chanting. Above them, he saw a giant portal in the ceiling.

Jegan knew that these men could not be up to any good and he decided at that moment to try to disrupt the ritual that they were preparing. He cast deeper darkness on the room and then moved to the altar in an attempt to free the woman strapped down there. He was able to free one leg before some of the men at the altar began to attack him. Realizing he was outnumbered, Jegan, attempted to flee and made it out to the hallway, but one of the men was able to cast Hold Person on him, paralyzing him. With that, another man was able to cut him down with a sickle.

When Vlad and Aven realized that Jegan was not going to be coming out, they flew back to the rest of the party and together they marched as quickly as they could to the island. The party was able to cross the short distance of the lake to the shore and then entered the tower, heading toward its depths. They quickly traced the same steps that Jegan had the previous day and found two guards standing watch over a half dozen prisoners. The party rushed the two men and quickly cut them down before heading to the main chamber.

Once at the main chamber Kanon burst through the doors and saw Lily on the altar with a half dozen men around her. On the ceiling a portal appeared to be opening and giant tentacles were starting to exit the portal. As Kanon stepped in, a zombie that looked a lot like Jegan attacked him, but Kanon wen straight for the altar to try to rescue Lily. The rest of the party started to follow in behind Kanon but the human leading the ritual stepped over toward Kanon and paralyzed him before returning to the head of the altar to continue his chanting. One of the men around the altar then knocked Kanon unconscious as the rest of the party began to attack. The leader of the ritual proved to be a necromancer and was succesful in draining the energy from a couple of the party members, but ultimately the necromancer and his followers proved to be no match for the party and soon they were all either dead or dying.

The party kept the necromancer alive so that they could interrogate him later and they also liberated his spellbook and other treasures from him before binding him. Kanon was revived and Lily was saved . . . and very grateful of Kanon's efforts to rescue her. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done to save Jegan as his zombie form was also cut down.

Taming Monsters and Enslaving Humans
Or, how one nation threw the party of the year!

Having successfully tracked the monstrous owlbear back to its lair, the party prepared to fight it and end the threat to their capitol once and for all. Kanon had hoped to use his new, magical chicken to lure the owlbear out but only succeeded in creating a large patch of mud outside of the lair of the beast. On a second attempt Kanon did manage to create a keg of ale in the mouth of the cave in which the owlbear had made its home and Kanon was quick to secure this new treasure. Other attempts were made by the party to lure the owlbear out into the open but they were ultimately unsuccessful and the decision was soon made that they would have to go into the lair rather than risk letting the owlbear roam free.

The party cautiously entered the lair of the beast and found a huge central chamber off which branched three separate tunnels. The group turned to the tunnel to their right and proceeded into a smaller chamber filled with vines and other vegetation. As they started to explore the chamber, the group was attacked by a tendriculous. The evil plant quickly lashed out and grabbed a member of the party while the others attempted to fight back. Although the party had run into a rough patch with a tendriculous over a year earlier, this time they found that the creature was not so tough and despite its powerful attacks it proved to be little match for the party.

Having defeated the tendriculous the party began to debate their next course of action. Kanon, decided to go forth and explore the narrow tunnel that lead away from the tendriculous' hiding spot and soon learned that this was an unfortunate decision for he fell into a forty foot deep hole. Although the fall was not a big deal for Kanon, the acidic slime that covered the bottom of the pit was. The slime quickly began to eat into Kanon's flesh. Kanon attempted to scrape some of the slime off of himself with a spare katana he had, and while it was successful in removing the slime from his flesh it also ate into the katana, destroying it. Fortunately for Kanon, the rest of the party was soon there to assist and they were able to drop a rope down to him and haul him away while at the same time using spells to destroy the slime in the pit.

Kanon was weary from his encounter with the slime and decided to back out of the cave and have a drink from his new favorite keg. After some further discussions, the group agreed to once again enter into the cave and seek out the owlbear that had rampaged through Raven's Bluff. Reentering the initial chamber, the party this time took the tunnel to the left and found a small chamber filled with spiders and their webs. The spiders though were small and did not attack the party as they investigated. During their search of the area they did find the remains of an unfortunate adventurer who had obviously met his demise in the cavern.

From there the party decided to go through the central tunnel leading away from the main chamber. That tunnel lead to another massive chamber. This chamber showed the signs of being the primary nesting area of the owlbear and also was home to the remains of a single human that appeared to have been killed in the last week. From the nest of the owlbear the party could see another tunnel leading up and to their left and at the top of that tunnel was an enormous owlbear, larger than any they had ever heard of before, that appeared to be mourning over the carcass of a smaller owlbear. As the party was examining the nesting area of the creature though the massive owlbear heard them, lifted its beaked head and let out a screech of rage. It rose and charged at the party, determined to tear them limb from limb.

The jaws and claws of the owlbear were sharp and strong and it took the chance to grab the party members that it struck. Its eyes were filled with rage as it lashed out at the party, seemingly oblivous to the numerous wounds the party members inflicted upon it. At one point, Cice was able to inflict a large amount of damage on the beast with one of her spells and the creature responded by slapping her with an awesome blow into the wall of the cavern. However, despite the ferocity of the creature, it was quickly whittled down by the party with blow after blow until it finally fell unconscious from the combined efforts of the party.

Vlad then went to inspect the carcass of the smaller owlbear that the creature had been mourning and in doing so located several deceased owlbear cubs as well as one malnourished, but living, cub. The carcass over which the creature was mourning was that of an adult owlbear, albeit one of normal size and appeared to be the mate of the giant owlbear. Vlad took the opportunity to feed the cub and to befriend it. Between the food and his own training, Vlad was soon able to make the cub friendly and it appeared to happily follow Vlad around. In addition to the owlbear carcasses there were also several human corpses around the dead owlbears. These all appeared to be bandits or adventurers and appeared to have been killed by an owlbear within the last week.

Jegan and Joseph then searched the nesting area of the owlbear and located numerous items. Of particular note, on the body of the human near the nest they found a magical ring that had a lock of beautiful green hair woven into it. After resting for the night outside the cave, the party reentered the cave in an effort to try to learn what had previously happened in the cave and why the owlbear had attacked Raven's Bluff. Joseph used speak with dead to talk to the man in the owlbear's nest and learned that he and his men had come to the cave to tame the giant owlbear. It was learned from the one of the leader's men that while they had initially been successful, they were interrupted when the mate of the giant owlbear returned and attacked them. They fought off the mate but had no choice but to slay her and with that, the giant owlbear turned on them and killed them all.

Cice was also able to determine that the ring was a ring of bestial friendship allowing it to be used on magical beasts the same way that a ring of animal friendship could be used on animals. Numerous attempts were made by the party to revive the giant owlbear and communicate with it, but all proved unsuccessful and eventually the party decided to kill it outright as they were just being cruel to it by healing it then knocking it back unconscious.

With the giant beast dead, the party collected proof of their deed and returned to the capitol to show the people that the threat was at an end. The people were overjoyed at the news and this, timed with the one year anniversary of the founding of the new nation lead to a grand festival. Dignitaries from all around came out to the festival and the people were thoroughly happy. Anybody who was asked would say that the festival, while somewhat costly, was a huge success and pride in the nation had never been higher.

The High Council was riding the effects of the hugely popular festival as they convened for their monthly meetings and attended to the business of the nation. Perhaps most pressing was the issue of the Treasurer post. With the death of Torm Lebeda the post was currently vacant and had rendered the nation unable to collect its monthly taxes from the people. There was much discussion as to who should take over the post and eventually, the decision was made to offer the position to an old friend, Oleg Leveton. Oleg was his usual surly self, but he agreed to take the position anyway, conceding that while he was unsure about the new nation and its leaders when they first arrived at his humble trading post, he couldn't deny that they had caused his operation to be quite successful.

The party was feeling quite happy until Nina Kitalla came to them with dire news. It seems that some vile individuals had taken the opportunity of the Founding Day Festival to sneak into town and kidnap numerous citizens and sell, or at least attempt to sell, them into slavery. The party immediately attempted to find the source of these evil deeds but were not able to do so. This news put a very sour aftertaste to the otherwise joyous events of the previous week.

New Toys and New Problems

The party retreated from Hargulka's lair just in time to see Joseph and Cice coming up to the cliffside of the lair, with a new friend in tow: JeGan, who claimed to have access to mysterious powers. There was a debate among the party members as to whether or not to go right back into Hargulka's lair and finish him off then and there, or to wait until the next day to do so. Ultimately it was agreed that the preferred course of action was to wait until the following morning, at which time Aven would head back to Raven's Bluff to make sure that Hargulka had not sent an army that way.

The following morning the party prepared to reenter Hargulka's lair and prior to venturing forth, Joseph consulted his Harrow deck but was a bit dismayed when Desna appeared not to tell him much. As the party journeyed into the lair they were relieved to see that it did not appear as though reinforcements had arrived from anywhere. They were soon able to find the remains of Vlad's cat and bear, though much of the bear appeared to have been eaten during the night. As the party began to creep toward the room where they believed Hargulka to be hiding out, they were met by his powerful gun upon peaking around the corner. Kanon Phodder lived up to his name by taking a blast directly in the chest, and the ensuing inferno caught most of the rest of the party squarely.

In response, Vlad charged at Hargulka, hoping to keep him from using the gun further. Cice attempted to catch the giant troll in a fireball but strangely, it did not appear to have much, if any, effect on him. After launching a couple of arrows at the troll, Kanon then charged in to join Vlad, only to be hit by a fearsome blow from the troll's magical morningstar. Moments later, the troll smacked Kanon again and the kingdom's general fell down and did not get back up. JeGan positioned himself to try to help the general out, but claimed that his spell failed and that therefore, Kanon must be dead.

While Vlad dueled with Hargulka, Joseph and JeGan took turns healing the baron. Cice then switched tactics and tried to distract the troll with a series of jokes; however, the first two attempts fell completely flat. Hargulka and Vlad continued to trade blows while Cice then switched to using magical missiles, slowly whittling the troll down. Finally she was able to tell a joke that had the troll laughing on the ground momentarily, but it was all the time that Vlad needed to finally take the troll out once and for all.

After the fight, Kanon started to come around as Joseph healed the party en masse. This lead to much confusion on the part of JeGan who insisted that Kanon had to have been dead for his spell not to have worked. Regardless, the party was happy to have Kanon back. Vlad was a bit disappointed to learn that Hargulka's gun was simply too big for him to wield himself normally, but he did collect it as well as the three remaining shells that Hargulka had on him. There was some discussion about possibly mounting the gun on the city walls or just outside the city to be used as a powerful deterrent to any invading armies as well. The party also located a secret door leading off of Hargulka's throne room and on the other side they found a room with another door as well as a dozen slaves chained to the wall. Joseph quickly freed the now former slaves and they expressed gratitude toward their saviors and pledged to join the Kingdom. The party then debated how they could get all of the various treasures and supplies they had located back to Raven's Bluff in one trip, and ultimately concluded that it could not be done. Instead they fixed up the broken wagon in Hargulka's throne room and loaded it up as best they could and decided to get that back to the capitol and then return immediately for the rest before anyone else could claim it.

As they began their trek back to the capitol, Vlad sent a message to Jhod Kavken asking him to prepare a caravan of wagons to send back to the lair and load up the rest of the supplies. The following morning, he received a message back from Jhod and Aven telling him to get back to the capitol immediately. The party, fearing that Hargulka had sent an army to attack Raven's Bluff, hustled as much as they could and was able to cut a day off the journey so as to return to the capitol on the evening of the third day. As they arrived, they saw that the town was in chaos. An entire side of the wall had been destroyed as had two entire city blocks. Smoke and dust hung over the town and the people of the city appeared to be shell shocked. Slowly, the party was able to get reports of a terrible monster, half bear, half owl that had ravaged the city, but it was much larger than any owlbear they had ever heard of. Eventually it left the city, leaving a fifteen foot wide trail of carnage in its wake.

The party believed that they had little choice but to head out and immediately try to end the threat of the owlbear. Fortunately its trail was easy to follow and while most of the party went after the monster, Aven and Darrick were sent to Hargulka's lair to collect the rest of the supplies. It took a couple of days, but the party was able to catch up to the monster and track it to its lair. Outside, Kanon continued to test out his new magical item, the Rubber Chicken of Wonder, with . . . interesting results, including ending up wearing a clown wig and nose with his face painted as a clown. Ultimately though Joseph snuck in to get a lay of the land and to see what was inside. He found several chambers inside the cave complex and ultimately located the monstrous owlbear as well. It appeared to be mourning over the carcass of another adult owlbear and the carcasses of several owlbear cubs. There did; however, also appear to be one cub still living. Joseph snuck back out and informed the party of what he had found and the decision was made to go in and destroy the monstrous owlbear, though Kanon appeared to desire to try to save the cub.