Stolen Lands

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.

If This Coach is Rockin' . . .

As the party left the area surrounding Hargulka's lair, they soon heard a rumbling coming from the trail up ahead. The party all took cover in the woods while they waited to see what was creating the noise. As they waited, the rumbling grew a bit louder and soon they observed a sizeable coach being pulled by a pair of shadowy horses and no apparent coachman. They called out to the coach and it pulled to a stop as a large male popped his head out from a turret in the top of the coach.

The male called out to the party, who were still hidden and indicated that he was looking for the town of Raven's Bluff, even though he was headed in the opposite direction. The male, later identified as Greggor Ardoc imdicated that he wished to seek out Baron Vlad Black and offer his aid. It was at this time that Kanon Phodder yelled back that the Baron was with the party and Greggor immediately offered his assistance, as well as offering to serve the Baron in a more . . . personal role. He described himself as a mage that had used a scroll of teleportation to get to Raven's Bluff but something went awry with the spell and he landed in the middle of the woods and had been lost ever since. He also believed he could help with the trolls for he had a good friend that is a troll.

With the introductions made, the party, with their newest member, headed back to the capitol so they could restock in preparation for the assault on Hargulka's lair. They were in town for about a week and while there they not only equipped themselves with new wares, they also heard a rumor of a wandering hill giant to the south in the Kamelands. Before heading for Hargulka, the party decided to instead seek out the giant first. Unfortunately both Cice and Joseph had matters of state to attend to and were as such, unable to go with the party. When they located the giant, they found that he appeared to be quite depressed and also stressed out over coming down to the last of his alcohol. The giant introduced himself as Munguk and stated he was sad because he had been kicked out by Hargulka for being too dumb. The party attempted to recruit him to their cause be he indicated that he didn't want to hurt anyone and was sad that everyone always wanted him to fight. Ultimately the party decided to let him be, but before they left, they asked to see what he had and learned that he had a "pretty necklace" and a "lucky stick", both of which were magical, though he seemed not to know that. The party was able to convince him to trade the necklace, which was a Necklace of Fireballs with a single charge left, but he was unwilling to part with his lucky stick, which was determined to be a wand of Hideous Laughter.

With that out of the way, the party headed back to Hargulka's hideout. They once again searched the area and it appeared as though some trolls had been through the region recently but it seemed as though they went back into the hideout. The party carefully made their way up the hill to entrance to the old fortress and managed to avoid detection on their way up. Once at the entrance, Aven was able to hear two trolls on the inside arguing with each other. Together he and Vlad barge into the fortress and took up position. The trolls stopped their arguing to attack the intruders but proved to be little match for the party. Although the party did take a couple of hard knocks, they were still able to dispatch the trolls with relative ease. From there, the party headed up to the top of the watch tower and located a lone troll on watch. He too fell swiftly to the combined might of the party. Although the first two fights seemed to be fairly successful, Greggor was feeling a bit down for he had tried multiple times to knock the trolls over with his spells and though he was indeed able to damage them pretty good, he could not figure out how to trip them up with his magic missiles.

The party then headed deeper into the old fortress and found what was once a main hall. The large room had a massive table in the center on which lay the headless body of a halfling, pieces of which were being fed by a troll to a large, trollhound beside him. The troll and his hound immediately attacked the party coming down the stairs, but once again the party proved to be too much for the denizens of the lair. As the party continued to explore they came across a room with two more trollhounds chained to a wall. One of those hounds managed to break free from the chain and charged at Aven and Vlad, taking a bite out of Vlad in the process. Vlad then responded by offering the hound some meat and trying to soothe the beast. This tactic proved to be quite successful and soon the hound and Vlad were on very friendly terms. Vlad took the hound back to the entrance and tied him up there for safe keeping before rejoining the party and heading deeper into the lair.

From there the party found a large store a supplies that could go a long way to supporting the kingdom, albeit a store of supplies large enough that they would need several wagons to haul it all away. At the back of this store room though was an entrance to a network of caves leading deeper into the hill in which the fortress was built. As the party followed in they came across a section of cavern that had a circle drawn in blood in the middle of it and a large pile of skulls laying about. As Aven approached to take a closer look he was suddenly attacked by Nagrundi who had been invisible until the attack. Aven took a mighty blow from the troll's large sword and with that, combat was joined. As the party began raining blows and arrows down on Nagrundi, the troll responded by casting a lightning bolt into the a line of party members. The powerful bolt knocked Aven unconscious and badly wounded a couple others. Greggor the fired his own spell at the mage, a fireball, which dealt a good deal of damage to the troll but which also caught Vlad's cat in its area of effect, killing the cat. At last though the party was able to kill Nagrundi and revive Aven.

The party was starting to notice their resources were low, but decided to press further forward. Aven scouted ahead thanks to an invisibility spell from Greggor and found a large, two headed troll up ahead. Aven took up position behind the troll and waited for the rest of the party to join him before engaging in battle. Greggor rushed forward, and was eager to prove his worth to his new liege. He was so eager in fact that he went into a Bloodsurge as he cast a powerful spell at the two headed troll, hoping to take him out quickly. The spell worked and dealt a large chunk of damage to the troll, and knocked him down; however, it took an even bigger toll on Greggor, knocking him unconscious from the over exertion as he body was wracked by the blood surge. The two headed behemoth was incensed at the human that had dared to hurl a spell at him and barely noticed Aven behind him. He charged forward to stand over the prone form of Greggor, and even though the party started to pour everything they could into him, a few seconds later he brought his greatsword down onto the unconscious mage. With most of the damage already done from the blood surge, Greggor's life force was extinguished by the might blow. It was not long after that though that the troll was also slain. Before he died though he called out to Hargulka for help.

The party then heard a loud stomping sound headed their way and took up positions to defend themselves, but they were not ready for what they found. Hargulka emerged from around a corner carrying a large gun of some sort on his shoulder. He pointed the gun at Vlad's bear and fired. When the shell hit the bear, it exploded in a massive fireball that killed the bear and badly damaged the rest of the party. A few more blows were rained down on Hargulka while Aven tried to hide and while Hargulka spent several seconds reloading the massive weapon. Seeing that the troll was reloading, Vlad and Kanon fled the caverns, hoping that Hargulka would not follow. Aven continued to hide since he was already somewhat behind Hargulka and he watched as Hargulka shouted at the humans for violating the treaty. Eventually Hargulka returned to where he had come from and Aven was able to search the body of the two headed troll, finding some magical trinkets before grabbing the corpse of Greggor and dragging it out behind him. The party then left the lair and regrouped outside while they debated whether or not Greggor would want to be resurrected.

Dangerous Curves Ahead

After the party chased off the quickling that had harassed them, they took a moment to catch their breath and then began to investigate the rest of the abandoned keep. As the party began to search the next tower of the keep, Darrick backed out of the keep to search for any sign of the quickling and to watch the party's back as they continued to investigate. In the next tower the party was able to find an urn that contained numerous gems and coins, which they eagerly collected.

The party then crossed the courtyard and began to examine the third tower, which they found to have been mostly sealed off due to the roof of the tower having collapsed some time ago. They did spend about a half hour scouring through the rubble of the tower and much to the delight of Kanon they did locate an elegant statuette of an elven goddess, the very kind of artifact that a barmaid in Raven's Bluff was looking for. Kanon was very excited and hopes to be able to give it to the barmaid, Lily, when he returns to the city.

The party then went to the fourth, and final, outer tower of the keep and found it to be covered in vines. The door was barred from the inside but that did not prevent the party from opening it with the combined efforts of Vlad and George, the eidolon of Torm. Upon forcing the door open the party found that the inside was similarly covered with vines and vegetation, and as they stepped inside, Vlad was attacked by a grimstalker and an assassin vine. The vine was able to briefly grab onto Vlad but the Baron was soon able to free himself. The grimstalker quickly decided it was best to flee and attempted to climb out the top of the tower but Aven had no trouble keeping up with him given that he can fly and the grimstalker was soon felled by an arrow from Kanon; however, when it did fall it managed to land on Vlad and Torm, injuring them slightly.

After the brief fight, the party searched the tower and located a chest which contained the belongings of the grimstalker. Cice then cut off a piece of the grimstalker's skin and used it to make a pair of treasure maps, detailing the location of treasure that the creature knew about. The first map lead to the chest in the grimstalker's tower, but the second one lead many miles to the southwest. At this point the party decided to head to the central tower of the keep, finding the base of the tower in the center of the courtyard to be made of beautiful stone with walls decorated in motifs of idyllic elven activities. Shortly after the party entered the central tower and began to climb the stairs, the entire area began to fill with a poisonous mist. This mist had a particularly powerful effect on Cice, George, and Joseph as it attaced their minds, making them increasingly less wise. Joseph was hit hard enough that he became unable to cast his divine spells.

As they reached the top of the stairs, George burst through the door there in order to escape the mist. On the other side of the door the party found what appeared to be a sitting room that was decorated with what had once been rather elegant furniture. Unfortunately the passing centuries had not been kind to the furniture and it had largely rotted away. On the far side of the room was a set of double doors. When George and Aven opened the doors there was a solitary figure on the other side in what appeared to have once been a bedroom. This figure appeared to be a beautiful woman who then began to dance in front of the party.

The Dancing Lady's movements proved to be quite mesmerizing to the party as Torm, Kanon, Vlad, and even Cice were awestruck and stood there in a daze watching the beautiful dance. Only Joseph and Aven were unaffected by the beautiful dance but they soon found themselves entangled in a mass of vines. The vines were no problem for Joseph in his fox form, but his inability to cast spells limited his options. The Dancing Lady soon moved up to Aven and began to claw at him while she danced. Aven was able to break free of the vines and tried to fight back, but it seemed as though she mostly shrugged off his punches.

Her dance then featured a rhythmic, gymnastic tumble as she rolled by George and then circled around to Torm. She grabbed onto Torm and began to dance with him as she held him tight. Aven continued to try to fight her, but she still seemed to mostly shrug off his blows. As she held Torm tight, she then leaned in and her teeth clamped down on his neck as she began to feast on his blood. Joseph and Aven tried to break her off of Torm but she was unmoving. At one point she offered to let the rest of the party leave if they allowed her to feast on Torm. Aven was unwilling until he saw Torm fall limp and lifeless in her arms as she killed the summoner. Aven finally agreed to leave with the rest of the party if they could take Torm's corpse with them. To this the Dancing Lady agreed but told them not to come back.

When the Dancing Lady returned to her bedroom she stopped dancing and allowed the rest of the party to leave, which they quickly did. On their way out, one of the party members was able to recognize her as a baobhan sith and they soon decided that they did not wish to return anytime soon, though Kanon was hoping to come back quickly and kill her. Down a member, the party dashed from the area of the keep and camped for a couple of days several miles away. During this time they were able to mourn Torm and heal the damage to the minds of Joseph and Cice. The party discussed their options and decided to follow the second treasure map on the grimstalker skin, especially since it appeared to head in the same general direction as Hargulka's stronghold.

A day later the party was attacked by a forest drake, though it proved to be of little challenge to the group. They dispatched it with ease and then followed its tracks, and a map that Cice created from its hide, to its lair where they did find a few trinkets and weapons, as well as the corpse of an elven scout. From there the party continued to follow the previous map which lead pretty much due west. After a couple of days the party came to a narrow path that lead to, and then up, a tall cliff face. Vlad sent his eagle out to scout the area up ahead and he could soon see that at the top of the cliff there was a watch tower disguised as a natural rock outcropping. This tower and the building around it appeared to be of dwarven make but more importantly, Vlad, through his eagle, could see that there was a troll inside the tower looking out. Vlad's eyes lit up as he realized that they had located Hargulka's stronghold. The party discussed their options and decided that even though they had only been gone about a week, it was best to head back to Raven's Bluff so that they could properly bury Torm as well as reprovision and gather the supplies they would need to take on a troll stronghold.

A Hunting We Will Go

After running into difficulties during their last foray into the wilderness, the party decided that it was time to head to Restov to purchase some new equipment, sell some of their more valuable treasure, and try to heal up Darrick and Cice, both of whom had to be reincarnated during their last adventure in the wilderness. The journey to Restov was largely uneventful; however, Vlad had another vision of the green haired woman he had first seen upon donning the Stag Lord's helmet. She told him that there were numerous forces at play, many of whom were moving against him. In particular though, she warned him of Hargulka, saying that he is building an army and that the lands which he now claims will not support his army for long. As such, it was only a matter of time before Hargulka moved north.

When Vlad relayed this information to the rest of the party, Aven and Content Not Found: kanon explained to Vlad that this was exactly what they had been trying to tell him. The party agreed that at the very least they needed to investigate Hargulka and his army more closely. While in Restov, Kanon started to look for some extra work in an effort to earn a bit more coin. As he was doing so he came across a notice for a potential job and met with the potential employer. This man, Masa Andryt, informed Aven that he was looking for somebody who could provide him with inside information on Pohjola. He further indicated that he would pay well if the information was sufficiently valuable.

Kanon became excited and quickly gathered the rest of the party in an effort  to convince them to tell Masa what they were doing as part of the ruling council. The rest of the party did not share Kanon's enthusiasm for this idea but did agree to meet with Masa. Masa informed them that he was a simple purveyor of information and as such, information on Pohjola was surely something he was interested in. While the party did not provide him with said information, they did agree to purchase information on Hargulka's kingdom from him. Part of this deal also included an agreement between Masa and Darrick that Darrick would sell his alchemical wares to Masa at a discount for the next year. Masa then told the party that Hargulka was building an army that was having trouble sustaining itself. He further told them that Hargulka had two trained army units at the moment and that he was hoping to train more.

With this information in hand, the party decided to stock up on alchemical fire and to then go and investigate Hargulka themselves. With their new purchases in hand, the party returned to Raven's Bluff. There they agreed to build a wall around the city as well as to start building roads to the south in an effort to establish a trade route with Mivon. Grigori continued his rantings while the party was in town, but they decided not to do anything about it at this moment. With the affairs of the nation in order, the party once again set out, this time with a mission to investigate Hargulka and his army.

The next day they came across the ruins of a long abandoned elven fortress. The front gate had long since rotted away and the towers were crumbling. Even the outer wall had a couple of sections that had crumbled away despite the obviously fine elven craftsmanship. As they entered through the old front gate of the keep, the heavy portcullis came crashing down atop of Torm's eidolon George. The heavy portcullis caused substantial injury to George but did not manage to kill him. The party was able to lift the portcullis up and heal George.

As they continued to explore, they investigate one of the towers and were attacked by four angry rat swarms. The party was able to inflict a little bit of damage, but it wasn't until Cice lobbed a fireball at them that the swarms were largely destroyed. As they were fighting the swarms though, another creature began to attack the party. First to be hit was Torm who appeared to have been stabbed in the back and began to bleed while also experiencing the effects of a poison. The party turned around but could not locate Torm's attacker. As the party began to search in earnest, four will o wisps seemed to appear in the courtyard. The party began to attack them but seemed to be having little effect. Eventually Aven was able to study the wisps a bit more closely and realized that in actuality, they were nothing more than a dancing lights spell.

Joseph then thought he heard something nearby and went to investigate as well. As the party started to get spread out, Darrick was then hit by the creature and the party was finally able to identify their tormentor as a quickling. They continued to have trouble locating the creature but soon Joseph was able to hit it with a powerful spell and Torm cast glitterdust on it, allowing the rest of the party to see it. Cice then began to pummel it with magic missiles and it tried to flee. Aven was able to grapple the creature and asked it to surrender, but before the quickling could, Cice hit it with more magic missiles. The creature escaped Aven's grasp and then fled from the tower. Cice was able to get another hit on it with magic missiles, but it soon was out of range. The fight over, the party decided to take a moment to catch their breath before continuing on with their exploration of the keep.

Mystery Solved

With a new day the Council of Pohjola continued their investigation into the recent string of murders. While Baron Black attended to matters of state, the rest of the Council continued their investigation of the innkeeper Beovir Dyrmundsson. Aven, Kanon, and Joseph snuck into the innkeeper's quarters the room along with Cice's familiar. Once in the room Scree, was able to detect the scent of something that smelled a bit like a dog, while Joseph noted a hint of a coppery odor.

While they were investigating, Kanon noticed the chest on the floor and decided to look inside. Although Aven did not detect a trap, when Kanon shook the chest, there was an explosion that singed Kanon and made a racket. Aven quickly left the room while the others attempted to hide in the closet. Joseph and Scree had no trouble hiding behind the long dresses that were in the closet, but Kanon tried to hide behind a hanging shirt, leaving much of his lower half exposed. When Beovir stormed into the room he immediately noticed Kanon trying to hide and confronted him. Beovir demanded to know why Kanon was in his room and that he leave. Kanon, thinking on his feet, pretended to be drunk and confused as to why the innkeeper believed it wasn't Kanon's room. Although Beovir was clearly angry, he just kicked Kanon out but did not alert any authorities. After checking the rest of the room, Beovir left and locked the door behind him, leaving Joseph and Scree still in the room.

Joseph crept out and examined the window to the room and saw that he could leave that way but for the fact that it would be a difficult climb. Fortunately for him, Aven eventually returned to the alley below the window and saw Joseph looking out the window. Aven then flew up to the window so that he could carry Aven down to the ground.

The party maintained their watch on both Beovir and Kundal for the rest of the day and evening and the following day Joseph kept watch in Beovir's inn. Joseph crept up to the top floor, where the innkeeper's room was as the everyone slept. After waiting for some time and not noticing anything, Joseph decided to go outside and make sure that the Beovir had not left by the window. When he went to the alley he observed that the window to Beovir's room was open and that there appeared to be a partial foot print in the alley heading toward the main road. Joseph could not follow the trail very far and so used his divine magic to fly up high to see if he could locate the innkeeper from above. When he did so, he noticed the innkeeper on the roof of the inn opening a concealed panel and entering into what was obviously some sort of attic.

Joseph flew to the roof and examined the panel, discovering that it would be fairly simple to open. While there he also listened and could hear Beovir talking to somebody, but could not make out the words. Joseph waited for a bit until he heard Beovir starting to return to the panel, at which point Joseph moved to the other side of the A frame roof as the innkeeper exited. Joseph then decided to gather the rest of the party so they could investigate the attic together. When the party entered the attic, they discovered what could best be described as a small shrine to a beautiful human woman next to a coffin. The party looked inside the coffin and found a skeleton with decaying female clothing. A closer look at the skeleton revealed that a couple of the canine teeth were noticeably longer than normal. At this point, Kanon ripped the head off the skeleton and was getting ready to smash it before being stopped by the Baron. The party also noticed that there were sizeable blood stains on the floor of the attic.

With this information, the party went to the innkeeper's room and arrested him on suspicion of murder. He protested but was taken into custody relatively peacefully. Once in custody at the barracks though Kanon began to question Beovir and started to apologize for ripping the skull off the woman's skeleton. This enraged Beovir and he broke his manacles and shifted into a hybrid of wolf and man, attacking Kanon. Kanon, with the help of Joseph was able to subdue Beovir, but their suspicions were confirmed and the innkeeper was executed the following day by Aven.

With the Council already in town, they continued to make plans for the nation and decided that it was time to build a jail rather than continue to use the barracks as a makeshift jail. At this time, Vlad also informed the Council that he had signed a treaty with Hargulka that would keep the monstrous nation to the south and secure Pohjola's southern border. Pohjola at this time also received a gift from House Orlovsky in the form of a monument to Baron Black, which pleased the Baron greatly.

With the nations affairs seemingly back in order, the party once again set out to explore the southwestern reaches of the lands. The first day they encountered a group of lizardfolk that had taken up residence on an island in the middle of a river. In speaking with their leader, Vesket, the party learned that the lizardfolk had resided on the island for many generations and that they had also reached an agreement with Hargulka that the two groups would leave each other alone, but would be willing to assist each other if needed. At first the party was hoping to extract taxes from the lizardfolk, but ultimately relented.

The party continued their exploration of the area and the following day they encountered a manticore. The spikes that were shot from the manticore wounded Cice and Kanon deeply, but the party was able to work together to defeat the monster. With Cice and Kanon recovering from their wounds, the party decided to rest the remainder of the day then finished exploring the rest of that sector the following day.

Murders Most Foul

After recovering from their encounter with The Lonely Warrior, the party resumed their explorations of the southern Greenbelt region. They found more farmable plains with some rolling hills but little else for the first few days. As they continued to explore though they eventually came across some more troll tracks, these being north of the proposed border between Hargulka's Monstrous Kingdom and Pohjola. The party followed these tracks for a few days and Torm even had his eidolon, George, follow them for a bit.

As they were following the trolls though the a massive windstorm swept across the region, making it impossible for Aven or George to remain aloft smd requiring the party to seek refuge in an old hunters shack for an evening. When they awoke the next day the party continued to follow the trolls and eventually observed the tracks lead back south of the proposed border. The only real disruption that the party found was a dead hunter who appeared to have had much of his body eaten recently.

The party ended their tracking of the trolls and moved back north of the border themselves and continued to explore. They again continued to find much farmable land but not much else. One night; however, while the party was camping, Kanon was on watch and heard a woman crying for help. He raced into action and followed the sound of her cries in an effort to aid her. When he reached a rocky area where the sound was coming from though he was attacked by a leucrotta, a creature with the body of a lion, the head of a badger, and the hooves of a stag. Alone, Kanon proved to be no match for the creature and was soon rendered unconscious.

The next morning, a surprisingly well rested Torm awoke later than expected, for Kanon could not wake him for his shift on watch. He soon realized that Kanon was nowhere to be found and roused the rest of the party. It did not take them long to locate Kanon's tracks and the ran off after their friend. They located the same rocky area that Kanon had found the leucrotta and saw a cave into which it appeared something had been dragged. They investigated the cave and found the corpse of a young woman in one corner, and an unconscious Kanon hanging from the ceiling in another. Although Kanon was badly hurt, he was still alive.

As they located Kanon, Vlad's eagle alerted him that something was attacking the horses at the camp. The party hurried back toward the campsite but were met by an angry leucrotta on the way. While the creature was very formidable when facing just Kanon, it was no match for the combined might of the party. It was; however, successful in killing the horses that were left behind at the camp site while the party went in search of Kanon.

After the battle with the leucrotta the party decided it was time to return to Raven's Bluff. They made their way back over the next couple of days and arrived in time to learn about a series of killings in and around the city. The first night, several livestock had been slaughtered and partially eaten. The following night a handmaid had been killed, part of her ear having been ripped off. The third night, a shepherd boy and part of his flock had been killed. The citizens of the town were anxious and scared and Vlad and the rest of the Council agreed to immediately investigate the attacks personally.

That night the took up position outside the city in the general area where the previous two attacks had occurred. Early in the night a barbarian named Kundal came out the city gates armed with just an axe. When confronted by the party he told them that he was going to try trapping some game. He was warned that it was dangerous at night but was unconcerned. Torm sent George to look after Kundal and to "keep him safe". A couple of hours later, George reported to Torm that the barbarian had felled a running elk with his axe, and not long after that, Kundal passed by the party on his way back into town, dragging the animal behind him. The party did not see anything else that night but upon returning to town, they learned that a traveling merchant had been slain in the night.

The party suspected that Kundal may be responsible and had already learned that there was a mix of human and wolf prints near the sites of the previous murders. They went to the Flaming Wench Inn where Kundal was staying, only to learn that he had left that morning. The innkeeper, Beovir Dyrmundsson claimed not to know anything about Kundal leaving and let the party into his room. A search of the room reveal a severed human ear under bed, still bearing an earring that was identified as belonging to the maid who was killed.

The group quickly raced out of town in search of the barbarian and caught up to his wagon, ordering him to stop. He was questioned but denied any involvement in the killings. He also claimed that he had indeed checked out that morning, leaving his key with the innkeeper. Aven became suspicious of the innkeeper and decided to examine Beovir's room at the inn. Inside he found a magically trapped chest but not much else. The party decided to watch both the inn and the barracks where they had secured Kundal that night to see if anything happened at either location. Nothing happened at either location that night, but also nobody was killed in town. The party was confident that he killer was either Kundal or Beovir and decided to call on Joseph's spellcasting prowess to help uncover the mystery. They had him use Speak With Dead on the slain townsfolk but all any of them could remember was being attacked by a large wolf. Without a clear answer as to who the killer is, the party decided to take some time to consider their options and look for more clues.

Friend or Foe?

As Kanon continued to inspect the walls of the tower in Candlemere the rest of the party decided to explore the surrounding area. The party set out to explore the plains surrounding the lake and it was not until a few days later, when they were on the western shore of the lake, that finally encountered someone. They found a dilapidated hut surrounded by a rickety fence and a lonely looking scarecrow in between. The fence had a rusty bell on it but when the party passed the fence line without ringing the bell, the scarecrow animated and attacked the party.

The construct was no match for the seasoned party and they proceeded to inspect the interior of the hut. Upon searching the hut, it appeared that it was inhabited, at least recently, but that nobody was home. Aven then set out to look for whoever the owner might be and located her a short distance away. When he approached her, they exchanged a few words and she appeared to have been angered and attacked Aven with a spell of some sort. Aven retreated and flew back to where the party was waiting at the hut and warned them of old woman who had attacked him.

The Old Beldame arrived soon after Aven, appearing as a bird and shapeshifting back into the form of an old woman with greenish skin. She yelled at the party for trespassing and called them thieves and soon followed that with a series of spells that seemed designed to incapacitate but not kill. She was however, just one old woman against a party of five and she was quickly subdued by the party. After restraining her, the party woke her up and interviewed her. They learned that she had lived in the area for a long time, that she was an herbalist and a sorceress of the fey bloodline. She told the party that she just wanted to be left alone but was willing to occasionally trade with them. She even mentioned that she could help identify items or perform magical services for them so long as they compensated her and largely left her alone. She was not concerned with the growing nation that the party was building provided that they respected her privacy.

After dealing with the Old Beldame, the party returned to Candlemere to check on Kanon. When they arrived, Kanon told them about all the cool history he had learned about the ancient Cyclopean empire and how he could now speak and understand their language. The party though was ready to continue exploring and so they all, including Kanon, left the island. As they continued to explore the regions on the edges of their kingdom, the party came across a set of tracks that unmistakeably belonged to a number of trolls headed north, toward the lands comprising their kingdom.

The party followed the tracks for a few days and it soon became clear that tracks were headed directly toward the location of the Sootscale Kobolds and their lair. The party hurried and arrived at the kobold lair to find that they were preparing a feast for both the party as well as a group of seven trolls that were visiting. The party accepted the invitation (which had evidently been sent to Raven's Bluff) and were escorted into the recently converted feast hall in the kobold lair. When they arrived, they learned that the trolls were emissaries from Hargulka's Monstrous Kingdom. Hargulka, is a troll that is attempting to provide a safe haven and kingdom for all the "monstrous" races in the region according to his emissary. His emissary indicated that Hargulka wished to negotiate a border between his kingdom and that of Pohjola. During the feast, the leaders of Pohjola agreed in principle to set the border between the two kingdoms at Shrike and Murque rivers with Pohjola to get the lands north of the rivers and Hargulka the lands to the south. The emissary indicated he would have to take the proposal back to Hargulka for approval, but he was confident that it would be agreed to.

The party left the feast and resumed their explorations. They eventually came across a long ago built tomb that appeared to have been built for a barbarian warrior. When they entered, the party found that the initial chamber was occupied by a pair of bat swarms but that they appeared to be sleeping at the moment. As they ventured further, they encountered another chamber that featured four large faces occupying opposite walls of the octagonal room. As they entered the room though, they learned that the faces comprised a part of trap that blasted a wave of negative energy over the occupants of the room, causing Kanon to become fatigued. As the trap went off, a dozen skeletons animated and attacked the party.

The skeletons were no match for the party but when the party ventured forth into the next room they encountered a powerful undead, The Lonely Warrior. The tomb was built for him and he attacked the party when they entered his burial chamber. He appeared to quickly kill two of Vlad Black's animal companions, then also appeared to strike down Aven. As this was happening, the bat swarms had also been awakened and attacked. The battle was perilous, but the party eventually succeeded in vanquishing the undead warrior. As they struck him down, the air shimmered and his spirit rose before them. He informed the party that they had finally passed the test that he had been cursed to inflict on any who entered and that their courage allowed him to finally find peace. As the party looked on, they saw that their fallen friends were, in fact, still alive, though unconscious.  At that, the party breathed a sigh of relief and were able to get rest of their own.

Uncovering the Secrets of the Tower

Having returned to Ravens Bluff and regrouped, the party, once again full, decided after some deliberation to focus on governing their kingdom for a couple of months. Pohjola continued their steady expansion by claiming more territory and building both a series of farms and roads, while also beginning the preparations for claiming another swath of the Narlmarches. While they were in the capital, Baron Black was approached by Loy Rezbin about the possibility of starting a settlement near the lair of the tatzylwyrm Sithriss. Rezbin assured the baron that he would only establish the settlement if he had the blessing of the wyrm and also agreed to protect the wyrm and to be eventually be annexed by Pohjola should the nation wish to do so. After some deliberation, the leaders of the nation agreed to the request on the condition that the wyrm be protected and that the wyrm agree to the existence of the nearby settlement.

The following month saw more good times for the burgeoning kingdom as the small populace experienced an economic boom, bringing in even more resources to the kingdom while still maintaining a low taxation level. Meanwhile, Cice set off to Restov to acquire some new magical scrolls and to  learn more about the mysterious ring they had found in the depths of the tower. She was able to learn that the ring of regeneration only ever charged one charge at a time, but that it could be recharge by depositing some of your life force into the ring.

With a couple of successful months of managing the kingdom behind them, the party decided that it was time to return to the tower at Candlemere in hopes of finally learning all of its secrets, as well as defeating the guardians in the tower. As the party landed on Candlemere, they were soon attacked by another Will-O-Wisp but with seven members in the party it was defeated without too much trouble, especially with the help of Cice's magic. After vanquishing the wisp, the party encountered no further resistance on their way into the tower.

Having explored the upper reaches already, the party returned to the depths below the tower and made swift progress to the room wherein they had previously met a roadblock in the form of an Otyugh and another aberration that seemed to control it. The party took a moment to buff themselves with various magics and then charged into the next room.

This time they found that the room was occupied by two otyughs as well as the third creature. With all seven party members in attendance though, the party was able to dispatch the aberrations with little trouble. As they searched the room after the fight, Darrick noticed a secret door on one wall, while the others were checking out the mysterious portal on the ceiling of the room. As Cice, Aven, and Kannin checked out the portal, which seemed somewhat unstable, they noticed that it lead to a region of space that did not appear to be anywhere near where they were. All three got to experience a brief moment in the vaccuum of space before returning to the breathable air of the room.

Meanwhile as Darrick examined the secret door he determined that it was not trapped and tried to open it. Unfortunately for him, it was indeed trapped and emitted a fireball into the room, damaging several members of the party. After another attempt, he was finally able to disable the trap and then entered into the room beyond, which contained a single magical glyph. The party examined the glyph initially but were unable to determine what exactly it did, until Torm decided to press the glyph. As he did so, all of the walls below the main floor of the tower began to glow with an arcane energy, detecting as magic. Torm looked closely at the walls and discovered that despite the carvings being in Cyclops, he could still read and understand them. If another person attempted to read them at the same time though, neither could make out the writing.

The party took turns trying to read the wall and learn more about it but most soon dismissed it. Kannin; however, was very intrigued and declared that he was going to stay in the tower and continue reading the wall, even though he soon deduced that it would take nearly a week given that the wall would rewrite itself as he read it. The rest of the party though did not wish to wait that long and set off to once again explore the rest of the tower as Cice in particular was interested in locating and spellbooks that the mage may have left behind.

When they went upstairs, the party eventually located a magically hidden area in the top floor, inside of which resided a book. Once again Darrick looked at it when Cice grabbed it and again decided that it was not trapped. He took the book from Cice and opened it, only to learn that it contained a very deadly trap and was struck down by the magic of the trap before the book could be opened. Cice recovered the book and tucked it away for safe keeping then retrieved the Ring of Reincarnation and used it to bring Darrick back, as an elf.

After spending almost a week reading all the walls below the tower, Kannin felt more intelligent and had a good understanding of history, as well as the ability to speak and read Cyclops.