Eternal Winter

Before we move to paragon tier...

Yes, it is a DM adventure update! Well, more of a newsletter, really.

As you are all approaching paragon tier, there are a few things that you need to address, pretty much exclusively in fact to do with Markus’ cult. So try to have this done in the next session or two.

General Q&A
1) What is the name of the cult?
2) Supply a paragraph or so describing any relevant religious practices (teachings, ceremonies etc.)
3) Outfit (not including armour)
4) Conduct (do cut the eyeballs out of your victims, don’t eat them when Markus is around. And stuff)

Heavier topics
Most of these are assumed that they were decided previously and take effect retroactively. I need:
1) A map of the complex underneath Archill manor.
2) Assignments of all your lieutenants. This isn’t so much a decision as a revision, since it’s relatively obvious where to assign them. I’ll explain this below.

Lieutenants
If you all look in the characters section, you’ll now see the entry for Harith, Korn and Skai. [I’m not forgetting anyone, am I?] You may assign these into any role you consider, however I’ll give you a set of examples. [As I recall, you already set Korn to recruitment]
Alchemist/Medic
Armourer
Commander/Tactician
Diplomat

Depending on the role you give your lieutenants, they’ll automatically ‘default’ to something when the problem arises. Be as specific as you’d like, but I’ll let you know that in general the more a lieutenant has to multi-task, the less effective they’ll generally be. In addition to this, all lieutenants can lead a party of a size determined by their hidden leadership statistic. This party isn’t generally large, but come with special benefits that are determined by the lieutenant; check their character page for more.

I may think of some more to add later, so keep an eye out to see if this is updated.

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Avandra’s Best Friends

I regrettably write this while once again in a mysterious new dimension which holds for us not the rivers of nymphs and wine I was promised in the Planar Playboy stories I read in my youth, but more peril, more ugly and dangerous creatures, and more crumbling infrastructure. Who knew that the Material Plane was such a paradise? These hasty notes will have to do for now until I can get back home and compose an epic poem inspired by epic amounts of hallucinogens.

To start my tale— and most importantly— I took Skai to bed. I don’t know if it was because my skills have atrophied while in other planes or because Skai was puzzling over an especially challenging potion formulation, but it was not a spectacular event. She did not seem all that interested in what was going on. A lesser man would blame her; a humbler man would blame himself; I blame the gnomish “King Sized” bed. Being made for a gnomish king, when occupied by two amply sized humans, it was a bit like two prawns trying to fit into a matchbox. It was all well and good when it was just me and a cloud of gnomish admirers hopping in and out, but adding a second large person required an amount of… er… logistics and spatial reasoning that was beyond me after a night of little rest and copious gnomish ale.

Moving on! Wreth rejoined us from the Pokeball, patting out flames and looking insulted. As always, he could not tell us what happened. I think I need to go in there myself to check it out.

We were delivered a letter, sealed with a sigil of Avandra. And to our surprise, it was actually FROM Avandra. As in the goddess. Nothing boosts the ego like literally getting a message from God, so we were a bit starstruck as we read it. In short, she congratulated us on our latest adventure and asked us to get cracking on the next part. She told us to stick close to Larth Parsy and help him. Undoubtedly her omniscience was occupied while we were “helping” Larth last time by running like hell and letting him fight Kore while we were nearly buried in a skeleton attack. But Avandra must know what she’s doing, right? She told us to seek out an artefact of hers that will help us, and use an enclosed gem to find it. She warned us that the Raven Queen and Asmodeus are not happy with us, and want the Rift Blade back, as well as the head of Maurus. The latter we did not have, and the former actually belonged to Asmodeus. As we had pieced together, Maurus used the blade (and an Astral Diamond) to make that pocket dimension he inhabited (to escape Asmodeus) and we destroyed (to make a fucking gnome happy).

Speaking of the fucking gnome, we talked again to Lord Gimblefoot. I said that by the way, if Vithia or any of the other fairies came back to live with the gnomes, he had to promise to treat them as full citizens. Now that they no longer needed to plug portals, no more keeping them captive or sniffing dust off their wings or anything else degrading or abusive. I perhaps unwisely decided to press the point by revealing that we had in fact found Vithia and lied to the king because we were protecting her. The king got into a tiny little snit and called his tiny little guards over to remove us from his tiny little kingdom, but we would have none of that, and eventually made him agree about the fairies. Later, Garret told us this was all a bad thing I did, blah blah blah alliance broken blah blah bad Orgoo blah blah undiplomatic. As you can tell, I paid close attention to every word.

On the way out of the kingdom, at our own leisurely pace, we came upon and solved a previous mystery. Last time we were in this spot in the gnomish streets, we had seen a love triangle drama play out among Nisha, Nuor, and Selene, ending with the last killing one of the first and trying to kill the other. Well, we saw it play out again, with the same names but different gnomes. This time we got a good grip on “Nuor” and detected he was possessed by a ghost. These have a way of inhabiting people to force them to play out some trauma over and over again. We managed to exorcise the ghost and defeat it. Big kudos to Talithe who conducted the exorcism like a pro {rolling a 20 on the Religion check.} It was amusing when the ghost tried to jump into Talithe to inhabit her, but thanks to her twin souls and inner demon, it bounced off like a sparrow hitting a window, and soon could haunt no more forever.

Before we left the Gnomish Enclave we met up with Skai, who depressingly did not melt into my arms with pleas for more Orgoo Magic. I made a portal for her (just like she had made for me, hey hey!) and she took the horses and some money to the Moon City mansion. So this is what divorce feels like. No seriously, she’ll be great at helping run the place, as long as she does not turn it into hay and/or burn it down.

We flew on hippogriffs. Yawn, no big deal, no, just us and some hippogriffs flying around. Being famous and powerful is so boring. We touched down soon near Tarkin Hall. It was populated by heaps of soldiers in red with a mountain logo, as well as Cados soldiers.

Larth Parsy was there. We gave him the letter. He did not seem too impressed but he endorsed our mission in general. He said that he’s noticed a wraith was following us around; did we know that? No we did not… then we realised with horror we knew who it was. Caroline. Read back to my stirring tale titled Dwarves Need Us To Fix Their Problems. Eeeks.

I was on my way to the pub when we discovered something strange: whoever was holding the gem Avandra gave us saw a tunnel through the falling snow. Being adventurers, of course we said fuck that and spent the night drinking. I kid! I wish. No, we followed the tunnel like good Avandra worshippers, and came to a fine temple of shiny marble, which we learned was Avandra’s “Disfida Halls”. In we went. Following the goddess’ advice “fortune favours the bold”, we boldly walked in, boldly walked up to the dais, and boldly fell into a pit trap. Ow.

What followed was not our finest moment and would have made even lab mice feel embarrassed. There was a doorway, a button, a ceiling of spikes that slid up and down, and a number of puzzled adventurers. We exhausted every possible combination we could think of to get out. Finally, with a gulp, we decided only one possibility was left. Fortune favours the bold. Letting the ceiling come all the way down seemed pretty fucking bold. Juuuust before it crushed us, the ceiling pushed the button.

And we were suddenly weightless. It seemed that the whole room now was falling and we had all been teleported along with the room. We were rudely interrupted by a corner of the room being smashed to rubble as it fell onto something even larger and heavier, and we realised we were falling into a huge city of stone towers. We did not like where this was heading (namely, downward at high speed), so next time the room smashed into a tower we took the opportunity to get the hell out of there and onto the tower. We looked around. My spidey religious sense told us we were in another goddess-damned alternate plane. What the hell, Avandra? It seemed to be a plane where she should have control. Which made me wonder why we were now being attacked by gargoyles.

A big fight followed and it was rather rough on us. We managed to scrape through, though. One fun incident: a gargoyle hit Marcus and he used his Mask of Slithering to redirect it to another gargoyle—and it was a critical hit, hee hee!

So here we are, on another plane, again bereft of wine, women, and song. If only we had ignored that stupid snow tunnel we’d be drinking with the soldiers.

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In which we destroy an entire dimension

Well well well. Where to begin? Let’s start with the most important single fact in the entire story: I am alive, and as so sorely wished while in that dusty, hot, and womanless dimension, I am indeed awash in wine and pussy. (It’s gnome pussy, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.) I hate to break the suspense like that, but the very existence of this entry must tell you, faithful reader, that I was neither dissolved, nor boiled, nor plummeted, nor chopped, nor exploded, nor oublietted, nor Angel’s-Blood-overdosed to death while in that hellish place. And you also knew that were I ever lucky enough to escape there, I would make a beeline (if bees are lustful) for the pleasures of non-hellish civilisation. So the moment you saw my handwriting, you knew that I must be alive, and if I were alive, I must be enjoying an ample reward. So I have really only told you one thing: I am alive.

Let’s return to whence I left off my story. There we were, recently sprung from jail by a suspiciously reluctant Grimm, and we were sauntering off, arm-in-arm-in-kind-of-dead-arm-in-spiny-arm-in-horse-arm with our brave party, the faithful and loveable Marris, and the nightmare horsie. Except the horsie told Grimm to fuck off at that point, as I recall, and said I never really liked you, and now that you got us thrown in jail I am certain that you are a lousy date.

At this point the lovely and helpful Marris suggested that we find someone named Skai, the assistant to our erstwhile jailer, Arc, as surely she would help us find Maurus. So off we traipsed. We went through a few ugly and scary rooms, including one full of chains, one with a shaky floor, and then one with more chains, and your usual décor… brazier, torture equipment, crucified Danthu… wait, a what?

On a cross of Herdecus was nailed a Danthu, looking more dead than usual, but stirring. Then began a debate about what to do with him. My philosophical treatise on the nature of just war was interrupted by Talithe attacking the helpless Danthu. I replied by healing the Danthu and continuing my treatise. The Danthu woke up and set a bad example by struggling with his chains in an attempt to attack Talithe—I daresay in revenge. We continued our debate but I was in a minority. And here I had the misapprehension that I was in a party of people devoted to the principles of good. Silly me. We agreed to kill him if he attacked us again, and I made this clear to the Danthu. This agreed, I healed him again. He writhed and his flesh bulged, and the chains binding him started to cut into his flesh, and he went unconscious. Then Steeple and Marcus, saying a jumble containing the phrases, “he’s in pain and it’s hopeless and he’s obviously evil”, attacked and killed him. At this point I told them all to fuck off and they were horrible people, and I am still not sure I am incorrect. I was sulky and angry towards them for the rest of our adventure, more so after they pointed out that I killed that Succubus when she was pleading for her life. After some fruitless attempts to point out that she was an immediate threat, a creature of admitted and pure devilish evil, who was capable of again charming us into oblivion any moment, while the Danthu was not certainly evil, and unable to harm us, I ended up winning the argument by getting drunk.

We ventured on! I was already starting my hangover! Ah, the adventuring life. We found some barrels, which are always good for an hour of distraction. Then a long cell block full of rioting Danthu being suppressed by demons and devils. It was a bit chaotic. We got into a few scraps as we tried to move through.

We ended up in a huge, cavelike, swampy room. I thought I recognized some rare psychotropic mushrooms {rolled very low on my Wisdom check} and decided to eat one. My tongue swelled up and I began to drool copiously. As we picked our way around the swamp, Wreth and I mistimed our jumps (I spend my gym class getting stoned under the bleachers) and ended up stuck in very sticky mud. Sticky in more than one way: as we got out, clawing hands came out of the glop and grabbed Wreth. Talithe thought fast and used her Everybody Move power to knock the grasping things back and free Wreth. Then big ugly slimy things arose and started stumbling and moaning toward us, and in the middle a big female form who must have been a water sprite Siren type, because the dark air seemed to fill with giggles as she moved. My notes are ruined by swampwater so I cannot be more detailed. Besides, in my then-bereft state, even a nasty wet giggle-inducing woman looked pretty damned good to me, so I was a bit distracted. My more rational companions and I retreated, fighting off the seemingly endless waves of slow stumbling creatures. Being without anyone who could lay waste to groups of weak enemies (where O where are you, Aria? Is the Pokeball really so much nicer than this place?) we saw the slimy writing on the muddy wall and buggered off. We returned once they settled back into the swamp, then the stealthy and dim Markus snuck ahead and led us through the maze of mud until we found a way out. (By “dim” I mean Markus was using his magical dim-light candle, not that Markus is dim in the sense of having low intelligence. To call Markus dim would be an insult to dim people.)

We came to a sliding door leading into a laboratory. A great booming ruckus was coming from inside, as if a great beast were trying to get free. Markus snuck in while we skulked in the hallway. He saw a tall, burn-scarred woman in a multi-pocketed coat rummaging around, grabbing potions. In his typically sociable way, Markus stalked and then attacked her, holding her at his mercy as he fired gravelly-voiced questions at her. She told him we are in the huge horn. It’s a shame I was not there to make a witty remark. The crashing was from an entity that Maurus let in, and which she had in a cell. Markus told her we were after the Rift Blade and wanted to close the portal. She thought that was fine, since the Danthu and the demons are not her friends and the place was overrun with them. By now we had decided we had done enough skulking and came in to find Markus. I immediately applied my charm, but thanks to my numb tongue from the mushroom, it sounded a bit like I was saying how her horrific burn scars really bring out the colour of her eyes. {Matt rolled a 1 for Diplomacy.} This did not seem to warm her up. We found out eventually that she is Skai, the assistant to Arc. She saw Marris with us and asked him in Infernal, “Passion?”. Marris nodded. Talithe knows Infernal, and I don’t think they knew that. I figured this was a reference to the link between the way a gnome dies and what kind of Danthu he turns into, and Marris died because of an act of passion. My kind of guy, thought I.

After more chat ending with her giving us a map to the corpse tower, she got a potion from her pocket, threw it down to shatter, and it turned a chair into a pile of hay. Nice trick, we complimented her. She furrowed her brow and dug out a different potion. This one she threw down and it made a huge cloud of smoke. And when it cleared, she was gone. Great. And I never got a chance to hit on her after my tongue went back to normal.

We decided we needed to make haste, since we knew the Gnomes were in trouble and Danthu would be getting through the portal by now. We could not afford another extended rest, so we needed to go right to the heart of the problem without side trips. We did not try to pursue the huge beast in the nearby cell, who by the way had escaped while we were chatting, and burrowed to gods-know-where. We followed Skai’s map to reach the Corpse Tower once again.

This tower was aptly named: the inside was covered with spines, and on most spines was something dead. Some were freshly dead. Some were mouldering. Some were skeletons. They were all gross. It was like a Christmas tree for demons. We went up a spiral ramp along the inside of this towering tower, and it took a very long time. We were getting so high I started getting the munchies.

We came to a gap in the ramp where something huge had fallen from above, breaking the ramp. We had to climb or swing across. Since I am the one writing this journal, I can confidently record that I did this brilliantly, with absolutely no moments of terrifying plummeting, last-second grabbing, and breeches-wetting. Marris was not so lucky. He had a rope tied to him for safety, as he was not the most physically capable guy. Halfway across he slipped. He fell. He did not manage to grab anything. And he plummeted down into the darkness. The rope went taut. We pulled it up. At the end was no Marris. We were struck by tragedy. Some of the more deft members went back across the gap and down the spiral to look for Marris but found nothing. It would have been hard to see him had he joined the jillion corpses already on the spikes. We were bereft to lose our buddy.

While we waited for our companions to come back, Talithe and I passed the time. She’s pretty good at charades, being a mute and all. Our game was interrupted by two huge Rage Devils coming down the ramp. In a panic, Talithe and I stuffed ourselves among the corpses, playing dead. Markus and Wreth, who were just coming up the ramp and were on the other side of the gap, did the same. The Ragers did not detect Talithe and I, thank the gods of deception. But before the Rage Devils could cross the gap to reach the others, something verrrry interesting happened.

Up the ramp sauntered a Passion Devil. We had learned about these things earlier—it was the huge winged thing that ignored us and then met up with us again when Arc was toying with us. We knew they were high-level agents of deception and spying, and tough opponents. It spotted the hiding Markus and Wreth right away, and with a sinister laugh, mind-controlled them to get up and walk out along one of the spines poking out from the ramp. They were just one little hop away from oblivion. The Rage Devils were moving into position as well. It was time for desperate measures. I used my newly learned power to make me and Talithe change appearance. I made us look like Passion Devils and put on my best commanding, contemptuous voice. I told the Rage Devils and the Passion Devil, “What do you think you’re doing? You found two of the outsiders, now let us take them to Maurus! Follow orders for a change!” My bluffing skills really shone here. At first my voice came out as a terrified squeak {Matt rolled a 1}. I quickly drew from my confidence as a heroic poet adored by thousands {Matt asked the DM for permission to spend his “meta points”, earned through past role-playing commendation, principally from his Succubus Sonnet}, and tried again. At this moment my mushrooms decided to come back up, and I nearly puked {Matt rolled another 1}. I powered through it {Matt spent his action point} and continued. Thank the gods of fakery, they were fooled! {Matt rolled a 17, and with his bonuses beat even the Passion Devil’s insight.} I’ve been called a passionate devil by many a woman, so it is a fitting irony that I ended up betting my life on this role.

After a bit of banter in which I insulted the Passion Devil and the Rage Devils for their incompetence and ignorance of Maurus’ wishes, they agreed to hand over the prisoners, but the Passion Devil insisted on coming along. He asked me, still in my disguise, what to do about the other two outsiders who were yet to be found—by which he meant me and Talithe. I said they will turn up soon enough, they can’t get far without their companions. The Passion Devil said he knew the group well. He had, for a long time, been disguising himself as a Danthu and had been taken to their bosoms as their trusted friend. What the what? I realised the Passion Devil was Marris! Internally, I went rapidly through a few stages of realisation. First I was shocked. Then I admired the skill of the deception. Then I was excited—oh boy, our buddy Marris is a Passion Devil, that sure will be helpful for us to get the jump on Maurus! Then a creepy shiver went down my spine. That would be helpful… assuming that… Marris is on our side. Oh gods, I realised. He’s not on our side. This is what Passion Devils are for. To spy and infiltrate. He’s been leading us astray the whole time, and must be telling Maurus we are coming.

All this took several dreadful seconds during which my drug-soaked synapses tried to sort it all out. I decided it was time to attack Marris. Still bluffing, still playing the role of the master Passion Devil, I turned to Markus. I told him, “I know how to get your companions to show up. I know you have that candle and You Know How To Use It,” I said meaningfully, looking Markus in the eye to try to transmit my secret meaning. “Light that candle and use it now, or else I’ll kill you.” Markus caught on and started to act. But alas, Marris said, “Nice try” and before we could stop him, he jumped off the edge of the ramp, took wing, and flew out of sight.

We had been betrayed, lied to, fooled, hookwinked, duped, let down the garden path. Now I know how several of my ex-girlfriends must have felt. Wow, I’m kind of an asshole. But no time for self-reflection. If Maurus knows we are coming, and Marris is about to tell him where we are, it’s time to move, and fast. We hurried to our destination.

As we jogged we managed to put together the pieces and recall what we were getting into. Asmodeus is the leader of The Abyss. Most devils respect him, and of course there is no love lost between him and demons. Asmo does not like this little dimension, a bubble in the Astral Sea, because it’s a breakaway from the Abyss and a battleground drawing his devils into conflict with demons and Danthu. The mystery is if and why Maurus made this place.

After a few hours this big cock-shaped tower we were climbing came to a droopy end, the shaft nearly horizontal. So much for Maurus’ status symbol. We made it past a bent and battered door. It seemed like something had recently been here before us, bashing its way in—Skai’s prisoner? Who knows. There were lots of dead Danthu and infernals in the next room. They may have been stopped by another big door which was cracked and cluttered with fallen stones from the ceiling. Using Wizard’s Escape—I love to get thin—we slipped through the cracks. We entered a room with a view: open walls and a vista onto the whole plane we had been slogging through all this time. Whoa, we were high up. There we fought a Barbazu. Don’t kiss him; his beard is deadly. There was also a freaky Chain Devil, made of, guess what? Spaghetti! No, chains. I had a girlfriend who was into chains. I never bothered to learn lockpicking, though, since it was more fun to be her captive. That is, fun until I said something I shouldn’t have, and I watched helplessly as she stole all my stuff she could carry, and did filthy things to the stuff she could not. It was a week before I was rescued by the publican from downstairs, who wanted me to pay my large grog bill. Anyway, we killed them, and the Barbazu had keys, and now that I think of it, we never did find what they opened, hmm.

In the next room was a familiar unfriendly face: Skai. But she was ready to help us, and wanted to get the hell out of there. We cautiously took her advice and accepted her potions. Turns out Maurus is immune to all weapon damage. So that was a problem. He is protected by an enchantment, you see. But thankfully that would be broken with one stab of the Rift Blade. And that blade was in the chamber with Maurus, just upstairs. The bad news was that the blade was protected by some kind of magic shell, and probably not the chocolatey edible kind. The good news was that the shell could be removed if Skai got a chance to deactivate five runes around the place while we fought Maurus. So we had a plan.

Upstairs we went and there was the big guy himself—Maurus. He seemed to be expecting us—thanks Marris. He was guarded by some Chain Devils, and some Cambions, which are a mortal/devil hybrid. So it was on. We were very far from him and wanted to get closer before he started flinging spells or the like at us. So I kept talking. And talking. We strolled closer. And I kept talking. We got much further than I think he intended us to get, because of my tremendous charm. {Matt rolled 20 on Diplomacy.} By the time he caught on to our plan, we were just steps away. Skai set to disarming the runes, with only the occasional explosion stopping her. She hurled potions, which sometimes were useful, and sometimes were completely random. We mostly battled Maurus’ minions as hitting him was, as predicted, useless. Eventually Skai got rid of the last rune just before Maurus tried to get rid of her. She survived, barely. And the sky opened above us. Yike.

The fiery orange sky started to dissolve from the top down, like we were at the bottom of a draining bathtub full of fiery orange juice. Where the sky dissolved we could see beyond it the creepily large stars of the Astral Sea. It would have been a nice time to admire the view if we were not having our asses kicked. Markus had grabbed the Rift Blade, though, and, after a few botched tries, stabbed Maurus a good one. His magic protection fizzled and we began to wale on him in earnest.

Something up above caught our eye. And we caught its thousand eyes. It was The Opener of Way, the huge moon-sized eyeball-and-tentacle covered thing we had seen on that mural downstairs. And it was coming our way. We were shaken by a blue fireball shooting down from the astral sky and slamming away a chunk of rock. From it emerged something that clearly was not a local. It was some kind of freaky Star Spawn. It thankfully went for Maurus instead of us. It seems that Maurus had made this pocket dimension in a way to keep out these astral beasties, and now that the runes were gone, so was his protection, and some old war between Maurus and the astral dudes was sparking up again. Those two were going at it hammer and tongs. We decided maybe it was time to leave—whether this thing killed Maurus or not, we had what we needed. Markus slashed the Rift Blade and it opened a tear in space. Okay. We all ran through, Skai included. Oh darn, we never kept our promise to get Marris out of there. Boo fucking hoo.

Turns out this Rift Blade can open a portal to anywhere we know of in another plane, once a day. Markus had wisely (for a change) picked the portal room in the Gnomish Enclave, and after a weird sensation of travelling very far between dimensions, there we were. Markus stuck the Rift Blade into the portal and sucked it up. Job done. Time for beer! Oh wait. The room appeared to be full of dead gnomes and Danthu. Hopefully they were not all dead, or at least there was beer left behind. After dealing with a few traumatised Gnomes whose crossbow bolts amusingly plinked off our hardened heroic bodies, we found the Great Room and once again our very dear, or at least very rich, Gnomish friend Lord Gimblefoot. He tried to conceal his astonishment that we were not dead.

All was well that ended well. We got our charged-up sword. The little bastard was just about to hand it over to this meathead named Garret. We’ll take over now, son, thanks for your help. Next stop: Tarkin Hall, where the Company of Silvermoon awaits us, for our grand assault on Tarkin. Wait, no— next stop: another round for me and my multitude of small but voluptuous female companions!

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Oh, he’s a SOCIAL Danthu!

Hello again, faithful fans who may or may not ever read this—and the way things are going, that’s not certain. One more Swarm Demon and we are all fly meat. But I get ahead of myself. In the hope that this journal will someday be read to much acclaim and reward for yours truly, I continue to inscribe these words with my own dirty sweat. I’m saying, it’s hot.

Into the town we ventured, dripping with Hell Knight blood, to find what seems to be Fight Club for the evil. Devils and demons live here, and it seems like the demons have the home court advantage. We learned that this is not Hell but merely an especially hot and dusty bit of the Astral Sea, where devils and demons come for a bit of holiday. The town is at the base of a huge spire which is ruled from the top by a devil named Maurus. We learned that he is the one holding the Rift Blade, which is our ticket out of here.

And how did we learn all this, when nearly everyone we met spoke Abyssal and looked like they wanted to use us as a cushion on which to recline? From a Danthu, of course. Oh, you say, Danthu are twisted, strange, wicked, and smelly. Well, not this Danthu! Though he may be a bit smelly; it’s hard to tell. His name is Marris (an unfortunate near-homophone with the devil Maurus we are trying to reach) and he is a Social Danthu. He talks! He walks! He has a charmingly wry grin! And he does not want to eat us! I nearly said huzzah… get me out of here soon as the heat is getting to me.

Marris tells us that the Danthu are in fact the souls of dead gnomes, who are sucked into this place by some mystical power perhaps engendered by Herdecus. In a manner suitable for Dante, the kind of gnome they were dictates what kind of Danthu they become. From this I can deduce that most gnomes are assholes. But not our guy Marris; he’s pretty helpful and friendly. Among other things, he told us that the drink of choice here is called Angel’s Blood, which hopefully is just a badass sounding name for something not actually drained from angels. At least I will choose to believe this.

It turns out we need to go up this spire by one of two ways: go to a portal which is heavily guarded and guaranteed to kick us around a bit, or go up the Corpse Tower. He told us to stay to the right while in the tower. Helpful tip. We decided to take the tower.

The way was guarded by a Tiefling and a couple Hell Knights. As we were getting into position, Steeple decided to once again use his legendary diplomatic skills (see previous journal entries for how well that went) and within 12 seconds the shit had hit the fan. The only good thing about the fight was a completely badass move Markus did by fey stepping into a midair spot next to the Tiefling when she was on the roof, and before he fell, attacking her with a bait-and-switch, hitting her critically, and making her change places with him—then for her to fall to the street below! The rest of the fight went well, though it’s all hazy in my mind. {We stopped the session partway through the fight, and at the next session Dylan confessed he never expected us to fight this one, just talk our way through, so he was not well prepared to continue the combat.}

Soon Grimm joined us from Pokeball land, with his nightmare steed in obedient tow. Recently obedient. The horse, upon waking up in the Pokeball, decided this had gone way too far in an anime direction and decided to kick some undead ass to get his freedom back. In the ball they fought furiously, but Grimm prevailed, narrowly.

Soon we found a room with a foreboding portal on the wall. I could tell it did not go to the material plane, and that its runes require you to hold a certain object to go through it. Also something in the runes binds souls to the portal and allows the operator to summon something through it. No idea where the portal goes but behind it was a huge mural of what looks like a planet covered with eyeballs and tentacles. I am guessing they don’t appreciate bards there, so it’s not high on my list of holiday spots. Marris later told us that must have been The Opener of Way, which he thinks is a very foolish being to mess with. He guesses that Maurus, the devil on top, is tapping into its power, and it’s a bad idea.

We stumbled into a room which nearly became our graveyard. It had a few easy Legion Devils and one incredibly hard Swarm Devil. He was made of a billion acidic bugs. Because he had no controller, it took half damage from everything. And it hit hard. At the end Grimm told his horse to stop painting its hooves (black, of course) outside the room and come in here and help kick some ass. All of us went down except for a couple—I am not sure who, though I think it were Talithe and Grimm—and they nearly expired as well. It was very, very close.

Rattled and depleted, we went back to town to the Back Alley Inn, a nice enough sounding place set in some catacombs. Except in the middle of the night we were rolled by a gang of demons. I tried to intimidate them and instead ended up scaring myself far more {rolling a 1} so I cowered with my trousers full of shit. Grimm, however, pulled through with a brilliant bluff that convinced them that what we most feared losing were the rooms. I managed to support this with my own bluff, gasping, “No, god no! Not the rooms!” The gang, not the smartest bunch, demanded that we move out so they can use the rooms. So we got out intact and having lost about 2 gold pieces total for the lost room reservations. And I managed to steal one of those little bottles of shampoo, so that lessens the loss even more.

Back to the Corpse Tower we came, this time guarded by two comely female Tieflings. Well, who knows how comely they were. I’ve had horny girlfriends before but not like this, hey hey! I tried my considerable charms with them but I don’t think I was on their wavelength, with is probably infrared. At first they asked, are you the ones who came here and killed that Tiefling and Hell Knight? I said ho ho, no no, not us, that must have been the OTHER group of humans who came to this place sometime in the last century! They believed me (what can I say, I am a good liar) but surprisingly that meant they would NOT let us into the tower. What the what? They said that Asmodeus admired the pluck of those other humans and would allow them into the tower. So I confessed to my little fib, and they let us through. I think I hurt my chances of getting a date with them, however. I offered to meet them for a bit of Angel’s Blood later but they just laughed at me. Unless that’s how Tieflings come on to a guy, I think I was shot down.

We explored some caverns, decorated with lava and rocks mined from the walls, a lovely place. We were not going upward. And by now I had forgotten about the “stay right” advice so we were just wandering around. We fought a Slime Devil and his minions and boy, that was unpleasant. He had this way of covering each of us at times and making us attack each other while pummelling us with questions. If we did not answer them truthfully, it hurt a lot. Since I am a smartass, I got hurt a lot. Fortunately he got stuck on Steeple for a while, who was so clueless about what we were doing here and what we were looking for, since he was in the Pokeball when we learned all this, the Slime Devil did not get much out of him, ha ha.

We puzzled over a room with a sundial and runes. Making the shadow fall on the runes lit them up. Then we were stumped.

We sent Grimm to sneak ahead as we got a bad feeling about what was ahead, and it was a good thing. He spied on a room with another one of those portals plus a lot of chanting devils. Out the portal, I think, popped another Swarm Demon. Let’s not go there, we decided.

We found a ginormous cavern with a river of lava. On a tall perch in its middle was a flying devil of some sort, who let us past, probably because we looked too weak and pathetic to bother swooping upon. So we continued through a hall of devil statues—perhaps a kind of Most Evil Hall of Fame, including one of good old Asmodeus, which looked like it had been vandalised.

Then we came across a big throne room with a red carpet. On the throne was a huge armoured guy we later learned was named Arc. He had been expecting us. He had a fittingly huge hammer, and a not so fittingly huge sense of whimsy. He seemed batshit crazy, in fact, and the only thing that saved us for a time was that for some reason he could not strike us first. He tried to provoke us into attacking him but we would not. We later learned he is a device inventor, and his hammer probably was built to do something fun if we attacked. The flying devil from the cavern came in, asked what was going on. We tried to talk our way out of it, saying we were coming to pay honor to Maurus. That seemed to be the wrong answer. We said we were let in by agents of Asmodeus. That also did not seem to work, though I cannot really remember why, sorry! In any case all this was overshadowed by some kind of poofy thing he did with his hammer that knocked us all unconscious.

We woke up in jail cells. Even the horse! And hey, Marris was there too! Grimm used his phasing to get out of the cell, kill a guard for a key, and then came back to let us out—though he seemed to think disturbingly hard about whether to do so. I don’t know what Grimm’s deal is but I have a feeling we are not that important to his overall quest. I feel used, like… like a jumper that he’s only wearing as long as it’s chilly but the moment it gets warm, bam, into the closet we’ll go and he’ll be strolling around in his thongs saying tra la la, I don’t need that jumper any more. My analogy needs work but hopefully my meaning is clear.

Marris said that Arc is an odd one, who ran away from the service of Orcus. He is a rage devil, though he seems to have diverted his rage into overall nuttiness. All I know is I’m not eager to see him again. We need to escape and get up the tower, and this time stay to the fucking right!

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We’re mates with Asmodeus, yeah!

Hello again, faithful fans. If you are reading this, then we survived our hellish ordeal and I am currently awash in wine and pussy. If we failed, then nobody will read this except for maybe a devil as he wipes his hot red ass with these pages. In either case, there is not much point in putting in a lot of extra effort and filigree here. I’ll keep it pretty simple. So onward I write, with Danthu blood on the end of the thorn.

Our companions popped out of the Pokeball with fey cocktails in hand, expecting us to be in a comfortably Gnomish castle. Imagine their delight when their cocktails instantly withered to dust in the blast furnace heat and dust of this hellish plane that Talithe, Markus and I executively decided to jump into. Welcome to Hell, Steeple, Wreth, and Grimm!

After enduring some general bitching and moaning, we left the cave to see a wide expanse of hot ass kicking. Far in the distance was a large peak with a village of some sort at its base, so we figured we should go there. We were on the side of a mountain, and a long, long chain bridge led to another peak. Below were spiky rocks and lava so we took a bit of extra care. I tied myself to Steeple.

At the far end, before a large door, was a strange deformed corpse. Wait, not a corpse. It got up and went in the door. We just saw our first Danthu, and they are nasty and devilish looking. We followed it but did not see it. We were in an octagonal room—you know you’re in for a fight when you are in a big octagon—with gears along its edges and a level in the middle. Of course we pulled the lever and whoosh, we were on our way down a huge elevator. Soon we were joined by several Danthu paratrooping down from above. They were tough and weird but we could handle it. We enjoyed pushing them into the whirring gears, which chewed them up impressively. One fun moment was when Grimm missed his target so badly that his axe got stuck in the elevator’s central pillar, and Grimm was instantly left high above us, clinging to the axe, as we descended. He came back with a vengeance (as is his wont) and headstomped a few beasties.

They were soon all dead and we were at the bottom. We made our way across a desert and went down into a canyon that we otherwise could not cross. We found a fireproof fence which we played with like kids who had never had a toy before. Hell makes you miss the simple things.

As we travelled in the canyon toward the now unseen village, we caught up to a formidable party: a Hell Knight, riding a Nightmare, and two Rage Devils. I immediately made a huge hit with them thanks to my large repertoire of extremely derogatory “a demon walks into a bar” jokes {I rolled a 20 on the Diplomacy roll}. They revealed that they were headed to the village as well. How nice, to do what Mr. Knight? Why, to kill all the Danthu there, said he. Oh, can we come along, said I? Why not, said he. So we all moved along arm in arm until Markus decided to shit on the lily by striking up a “conversation” with them. In this chat Markus claimed to personally know Asmodeus, their boss. As even devils walking in a sulphurous landscape can smell bullshit, they got ticked off by this claim, and before long Markus talked us into a fight. Thanks, eyeball. However, he made good during the fight with a very impressive leaping strike that killed the knight. But before this, this gang were a lot of fun to play with. The Nightmare charged around leaving a Fiery Trail of Suspiciously Long Duration {Dylan accidentally let the fire trail burn for the whole encounter instead of just one turn} and trompling us. Grimm got a big undead woody for the horse and kept urging us not to kill it but to knock it out so he can tame it, Ash-style. This we did and as I write this he is trying to cajole an extremely evil-looking horse with bits of food. The only food we have being Elven waybread, which for some reason a devil horse does not fancy, and bits of its former master toasted on a stick, which it seems to enjoy. This is not a horse we can stable at the local village, so it will be interesting to see how all this plays out. We’re going to call him Chuckles.

As the knight died, he told us he was charged with the duty to stop the Danthu from coming through the portal. Oops, looks like we killed our potential ally, but I have a feeling we’d have come into conflict eventually anyway, him being a devil and all. Some dude named Maurus led the Danthu to this plane, Maurus being an enemy of the knight’s boss (and drinking buddy) Asmodeus. Asmo (as his friends call him) told the knight to find a blade which can close the portal to the material plane, and said blade was on the big mountain we were heading toward. Another blade to find! Doesn’t anyone around here use KEYS to open and close things??

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Gnaughty Gnomes

We still had a few wee loose ends to tie up: the Abomination ravaging Lietherack, for instance. We keep putting that off for some reason. No more! In we rushed, heroes to defeat it! But, funny thing, turns out it was long dead. While we were away, Parsy led the fight to kill it after it spend a couple days using the sewers as its personal metro and orphans as snacks. It killed a lot of militia with its snakey ways, and chaos reigned. Parsy rallied—and why didn’t he call us? He managed to put down the abomination. But in the fracas, Korn died! Oh no! We liked him! I felt pretty bad about that. If we had stayed on top of things, we could have avoided all this. Mom always said my disorganisation would get a little goblin friend killed someday. Well, maybe that not exactly, but still, I need to take better notes. Anyway, they were trying to raise Korn from the dead. I came to lend whatever help I could, and felt special devotion to the task when I met the three lovely young acolyte women who were attending to the ritual. Though I tried to lighten the necromantic mood by playing a few tunes on the old accordion, they seemed a bit distracted. I never did get anywhere with them. In fact, I struck out badly finding a girlfriend in Lietherack {rolled a 1}. I hope all this hanging around with the undead is not giving me a creepy air… look how charming I still can be…

Korn did in fact come back from the dead, though he looks a bit, err, still dead. All the same, I used my best charm to convince Parsy to let Korn come with us as Talithe’s squire. Talithe has designs on becoming a knight of Lietherack, and I think she has a real shot. She needs to prove her heroism and ability to lead others, but I think she will get her chance once we meet up with the army assembling to follow our charge into Tarkin Hall.

We made our way to the Gnomish Enclaves and soon found ourselves at a massive gate guarded by a giant statue who we later learned was called Herdecus’ Son. He quizzed us a bit and found we were fine upstanding citizens and the gnomes owe Parsy a favour. However, this was interrupted by Larth Parsy poking his infuriating head into our business again.

Larth said he was about to go to the City of Doors to fight Orcus avatars. That gave Grimm a huge undead hardon, and a demand to follow Larth in there. Larth scoffed and said Grimm only could come if he beat him in a duel. To make it interesting I bet with Marcus that Grimm would be killed in two rounds or less. So the duel began. I saw that in this big open bright space, 1 on 1, poor defenceless Larth could not get combat advantage against big mean Grimm, so in my eagerness I decided to level the playing field a bit by casting Symphony of Misfortune on Grimm, to make a wee zone of CA. I was a bit too eager and blasted Grimm badly {rolling a natural 20}. Larth managed to beat Grimm in the second round, yay for Orgoo! Larth left via his purple crayon. I healed Grimm and all was looking smiley until Marcus and Grimm attacked me. What the what? Talithe tried to make us act like adults but we are way too immature for that to work, so soon I went down like a prom date.

Meanwhile the statue snorted at our stupidity and went to open the gate. Markus showed what real maturity was all about, throwing a rock at the back of the statue’s head then running. The statue charged, took about three steps to go 30 feet, and kicked Markus into next week. Markus was knocked out. But at least it went on to open the gate.

So there we were, ready for action, fresh as daisies except for having used about four daily powers and five healing surges among us all. We rock!

We entered the gnomish city and it was bustling like a kindergarten recess. I piped up a merry tune, and I may as well have farted into my accordion {rolling a 1}. What the hell was wrong with me? I was starting to seriously worry about my charm factor. I was lost in thought as we walked the streets—well, Markus was sneaking. {Only Page, Matt, and Josh were playing at this point.} We tried to fit in and I rolled out some of my legendary diplomacy. My loser stink cloud grew and I started to officially fret about losing my touch. I soothed my sorrows in a handful of mushrooms but even hallucinations did not make me happy.

Our search for a map was interrupted by a scuffle among three gnomes about matters of love. I have to say, it’s a little creepy to see these child-sized people get into marital spats. A gnome named Seline saw a couple, Nisha and Nuor, walking hand in hand, and I guess this was evidence of some hanky panky. He chased them into an alley and we followed, to see Seline grinning wickedly over Nuor, the latter now sporting a wee little axe sticking out of his wee little head. He was about to do the same to Nisha but we stopped him—quite efficiently, I must say. But this “Nisha” now said her name was Cerise, and she could not remember how she got there. Hmmm. Mistaken identity? Bad magic? Mushroom hallucination? We did not find out. They guards took them away.

We toured the city and were impressed. One nice spot had a big glowing cross-like icon in a cavern with a huge glowing gem. I told Markus, “Ixnay on ealingstay the emgay”. The gem seemed to be a force of life and creation and we later learned it, the Gem of Elements, was used to empower Herdecus’ Son out front. Herdecus is the god they are all into here, a god of creation and gnomish protection.

We eventually made it to the royal sector and charmed the receptionist so we could talk to Lord Gimblefoot who was in heavy party mode. We started to gather that the higher-ups were a little overly decadent here. We talked about needing the special residuum, called meridium. All agreed by the Lord here, except it was going to take a week to get together, and they were about to evacuate. What the what? Seems like there was a portal to a nasty plane here, and it was no longer being kept closed. That meant whatever was on the other side was going to come here and start munching away. These baddies are called the Danthu. They don’t sound nice. Demonic, actually. So what’s up with the portal? It stays closed as long as it’s attended by a fairy creature the bloodline of which has been here for a long time. Vithia is the current portal-plugging fairy. (That sounds a bit naughty, I know, but it’s a strange world. I had a girlfriend once whose best friend was a portal-plugging fairy—a nice guy, but he was always hanging around us, plying us with bottle after bottle of strong wine, and I suspect it was not purely altruistic. He had a nice haircut, though.) Anyway, Vithia is missing and we needed to find her, or else the evacuation would begin and we’d be out of our magical dust.

We talked to a town guard Quicklock who was holding in a cell a moody poet named Sirth, who was in lurve with Vithia, knew where she was, and was not going to tell anyone where to find her. Turns out not every gnome here is a fan of the nobility and Sirth did not give a little rat’s ass about needing to evacuate. He thinks these fairies are being used, essentially as slaves, by the gnomes to keep the portal closed and Vithia did not care to carry on the family duty. Over time {in a skill challenge} with much insight, diplomacy and bluffing, we got on Sirth’s good side and he said that we should find a Norsa to find Vithia. In exchange we promised we’d set the fairy free—though this was a bluff on my part, I’m inclined to actually do it, the more I learn about this place.

We found Norsa, who is a nursemaid for fairies, who then directed us to an abandoned house where Vithia was hiding. Markus snuck in but was discovered by her. They were chatting pretty well but we decided to join in. Vithia hated the gnomes even more than Sirth, and was content for them all to be eaten by Danthu, for all she cared. We convinced her {in a continued skill challenge} to give us another option, and she relented. She gave us a gem that would protect us from the plane’s mental ravaging, and told us if we were especially brave, or stupid, we could go into the portal—which is one-way—and find a way to close it from the other side. As for how to get back home… well, what kind of heroes would we be if we let worries like that stop us? We thanked her for her help, told her we’d be going into the portal the next morning, and we’d tell Gimblefoot we never saw her. As for our last night here, err, I suggested with my most charming voice that she, a beautiful fairy on the run, and me, a handsome bard about to risk his life, might… you know… She looked at me like I was a bug. No, she probably likes bugs, at least the winged kind. She looked at me like I was a slug. I’m sure fairies don’t like slugs. {I rolled another very poor Cha roll}. Certainly it did not help that Markus was cockblocking me—don’t you have a one-eyed girl you should be screwing, mate??—but again I felt the chill of a curse upon me.

We talked to Lord Gimblefoot again, said we did not find Vithia, but that we were willing to jump into the portal all hero-like and save the day. We shored up our heroism by suggesting we get some.. er… material assurances that they would not panic and evacuate while we were in there. The Lord gave us his chalice, which is nothing to sneeze at (or into). Solid gold, lots of gems. It will do. We also asked to have some nice rooms to spend the night, it being the last night we might ever have on the Material Plane and all… and, I suggested, perhaps there are some lovely gnomish ladies that would like to express their gratitude to their hero? And at last, Orgoo scores! It took five of them to make me feel like I had finally, fully broken my losing streak, but I’m back, baby! Now facing the cold, maddening void does not seem so bad. To quote a great writer, “There are few troubles in this world that can’t be cured by a woman’s fanny.” Hear hear—I’ll drink to that from my ridiculously bejewelled cup! And if this is the last of my words to ever be read, let me bid my many fans farewell. And Orogg, my brother: for the gods’ sake pull that stick out of your ass and enjoy life for a change. I leave you all of my goods, and a list of gorgeous, delightful companions on which to spend all my money. Farewell all, for now at least…

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It’s raining undead, hallelujiah!

Hello again from your faithful adventurers! Check your local shop for our charming collectible minatures!

Turns out that nice Mr. Crow from the end of my last entry was not so nice after all. He was a raven, the evil twin of the crow minus the goatee, and was joined by about a thousand friends as we entered a strangely quiet town. A church bell tolled, the only sign of life besides the ravens. Since I was getting more and more cold, I set us a goal: for me not to die. So we went to the church. And there we met Kore. He seemed to have heard of me, for he told the party that if they gave me up to him, they could all live. Eep? Guys? Why me—is it because I have the Parsy blood? Wait, do I have it? I lost track. As the party were quite sensibly thinking about giving me up as a tidbit, a wolf charged in through the window in spectacular fashion—Larth Parsy to the rescue! He fought with his brother and told us to run. He did not have to tell us twice.

We did not get far before a nasty black rain began to fall and from the drop arose skeletons. They were fragile but, er, numerous to say the least. Several townspeople were beset and we rushed them to safety as best they could but oh gods, were they dumb. Several died and a few lived by the end. All the same, we were rather enjoying crunching up the skeletons like chips. The party mood evaporated when the big guys dropped in: two Skull Lords, each with three heads and remarkable durability…

… and a few Tomb Guardians, which had extra arms. It was sort of like sale day at a skeleton parts warehouse. Fortunately we had Rita {played by Erin} who flung waves of fire and magic missiles in every direction, clearing out the skellies so we could move around with some alacrity. Markus got a little too interested in smacking skeletons…

Talithe also made a heroic entrance, leaping a fence and rushing into the fray, most notably wiping out a Skull Lord with a powerful radiant blast, which did not mix well with his dark undeadness.

After an epic battle {which did indeed take about five hours, whoof} our enemies were dead and we were nearly so. Larth Parsy then ran in, badly bloodied, to make sure we were OK and to report that Kore had been forced away for now, but keep running. We did. Larth made an interesting exit: he brought out a purple crayon and drew a circle on a wall, then leaped through it like a portal. Grimm, paragon of intelligence that he is, stuck his head through the portal, emerging into absolute blackness, and he could not pull it out. Fortunately a hand pushed him back.

Back to Mooncity we limped, determined to rest and rebuild a bit before heading to the Gnomish Enclaves again. If Kore was going to hassle us, we could use a bit more prep. We made our mansion secure, by the way, with a combination of good locks and the illusion that it was still haunted thanks to a few of my, er, spare supplies…

The mayor Damien asked us to take care of the Thieves’ Guild, who was causing more and more trouble in the power vacuum left by our killing off of the snakey guards in our previous heroic exploits. Damien told us to talk to a woman and child who were in custody after having gotten on the bad side of the guild. Though they spoke only the native barbarian language, a guard helped translate. Her name was Rog Lack Mer, aka Leaf, and told us of a safe house in the poor quarter to go to.

This was a disaster. It was just an adventurer’s club. While in there, it was set on fire, which is a sure sign we were doing a good job pissing off somebody. We barely escaped after Steeply smashed the wall open—thanks, can opener man! Why did Leaf lie to us? Bah, women, who can ever figure them out? I forgot to go back and ask her. She is probably cackling somewhere in an alley with an empty can of lantern oil. But we saw a figure fleeing the scene and it was not her. We chased the dude through the streets. I would have won the race, but I can only remember the streets when I am drunk, since that’s how I memorised them in the first place. Grimm managed to keep up, and tracked the guy down to the real safe house.

We confronted the first guy who came to the door, Arkis. He was blind, which lowered our hero quotient a bit at first, but then found cowering in the corner Gilly, the one who set the fire. Our urge to smack him around was slightly dampened by discovering that Gilly was mute, his tongue having been cut out by the head of the Thieves Guild, the same mage who blinded Arkis. Turns out that these two were just lowly underlings. Impressed by our might and our ability to smush them to jelly if they did not help us, they led us to a big walled-off section of the Market District.

We talked our way in for a while, passing ourselves off as entertainers. See the amazing metal man! The passionate song stylings of a handsome bard! A knight chick who can make her armor disappear! And, um, this undead guy! Eventually we got to the inner sanctum, and crossed a web of cool walkways over the old, sunken, original city. The sneaky ones crept through the sunken streets, and probably found a lot of ancient gum. At the end was a blade-bristling man named Harith and his Tiefling guards. Steeple explained how we wanted to have control over this chapter of the guild. Turns out the Thieves Guild is a wide enterprise, and Mooncity is one of its most important chapters, since it has so much trade. I did not help with the diplomacy; I was dubious about the morality of controlling a bunch of assassins, uneasy about ending up behind a desk somewhere in a boring management role, and in a snit about how Steeple barged into the place with his usual meta-brained my-way-or-the-highway manner. So I sat back to watch what would happen as Steeple tried to negotiate with Harith. It took about twelve seconds for things to go tits-up, and soon we were in a fight. However, it did not last long before Harith surrendered, and agreed to take the role assigned to him.

This amity was interrupted by Grimm killing one of the surrendered Tieflings. I threw a bit of a hissy fit over that and we threated to expel him from the group if he did not follow some basic etiquette of good behaviour. Killing surrendered, once hostile, but otherwise rational and cooperating creatures that are not inherently evil: not cool. I’m still haunted by the Succubus. Besides being smoking hot, she was pleading for her life at the end. But she was a devil, a creature literally of unspeakable evil and devoted to the enslavement of the material plane, a creature whose power to lie and charm and deceive is legendary. It’s just not the same thing, killing her. Not.

Well, Arkis had been pretty helpful, and we needed someone to be in immediate charge of the guild chapter. So I dusted off my ritual books and with a combination of Cure Disease and Make Whole, cured his blindness. All in a day’s work for Dr. Orgoo.

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Oni ass kicking

Hello again to my rapt reading public. I see my faithful journal updated itself and I don’t have to write an extra entry. Good gods, I forgot it could do that. I’d let it do all my journaling work and use the time I save for precious drinking and wooing, except for two things. 1) As a bard, my adoring public expects me to write my own material in my own inimitable style; and 2) My journal writes like a prissy-assed nancy boy. If I ever write the word “Huzzah” with my own hand, please, please let it be gnawed off by a warg. It does occur to me, however, that if I simply leave the journal open on my bedstand and let it transcribe my heroic adventures conducted nearby, I could earn quite a bit of gold selling the result to the underground erotic story market. Hm, something to consider. I do like an audience…

Anyway, to write more thrilling tales of the Blue Balls! Oh, a side note to my many fans. Calling ourselves the Blue Balls has been fun and all, but I feel we might be outgrowing it. After all, we are now the saviours of entire swaths of countryside, not the plucky assemblage of rat-killers we used to be. As I recall I came up with our merry name as a way to piss off the Red Hand crew and stand out as contestants in the Cross City Race. When we actually found a blue ball that allowed us to travel through Cados, it seemed like Corellon himself cast his fey blessing on our moniker. It has served us well, but as we attain new heights of fame, it may be time for a new name. At least, that’s what a recent girlfriend told me, and she should know, as she seems to have some kind of job in an arcane craft called “Public relations”. I’m more interested in pubic relations myself, ho ho! (You see, that is the kind of high-quality humour you only can get from a trained bard, not a magically auto-updating journal.)

Let me continue with the tale of battling the Oni. (My prissy little journal misidentified the species, something that of course a man of the world such as myself would never do.) As we ran to Steeple’s rescue, the big ugly thing turned to stinky smoke and vanished. Rosy, however, saw the same smoke slipping back into the hut. So we went back underground, through the vacated slave room, and into a series of corridors. Who makes all this, anyway? Was the hut built on top of it, or was it dug out while the hut was there?

We found a perfectly innocent looking room with a desirable chest sitting pretty at the other side. Cunning adventurers as we are, we realised this may be a trap, so Rosy warmed up her eyeballs to take a look. Her eye-warming was interrupted by a crackling noise from Steeple, who had stomped into the room on his own. His charm grows every hour. I think he needs a “stop” button installed. Well, the crackling was deadly electricity coursing through him, immobilizing him on the electrified floor. Someone, I forget who, grabbed him to try to pull him back, and this created a two-person conga line of immobilized, frying adventurers. I had the brilliant idea of using my heal to slide him back out, but the way was blocked, so I figured the next best thing would be to push him away, since surely nobody would go to the expense of electrifying anything beyond the first row of floor tiles! This theory was disproven by evidence: the next floor tile was also wired up, and Steeple started to get smoke pouring out of his ears. The way got cleared, I hit him with a Blunder, and he was magically forced to tap-dance and stumble his way out of harm. It actually looked like a stage act that could make some serious coin. Come see the sparking, dancing, sliding metal man! Oh, the fun we have.

We used Mage Hand and a rope to pull the chest over, and found some great stuff: a staff of elemental ass-kicking for Aria—are you seeing this, girly? Come out of the Pokeball and join us!—and a circlet of mental onslaught. It’s perfect for me. But… it’s a circlet. It completely messes with my hair. And it’s… well… look, the heart-shaped hole in my healing armor is just stylish. The tight mariachi pants emphasize my natural gifts for the ladies to see. The accordion is clearly the instrument of love. But I think the circlet makes me look kind of gay.

We took a quick peek into a huge throne room with nobody in it—but which yielded a long carpet which Wreth fashioned into a long cape. Not really sure why. As a result he needs about a 40’ square to turn around or else he will trip on himself.

Then we stumbled into the real fun: a final room containing our friendly Oni mage, now not smoky and a lot more ready for battle, and her little pet: a Macetail Behemoth. Garnish with handfuls of hobgoblins and you’ve got yourself a holy shit salad! However, we handled the challenge handily, laying down much smack. The Oni and the few surviving hobs surrendered.

The Oni told us more about Princess Parsy. As it turns out, there are two such princesses, so let me pull these two beautiful women away from each other—something that I am usually disinclined to do, ho ho! More on them later, but they are Sarah Parsy and Carissa Parsy. The Oni said they went north to fight the Baloth, of which we learn more shortly, wait for it. The Baloth was killed and the forest there is strangely changed, said the Oni, and told us where to go to see it. We made the Oni promise to leave Cados and do no harm, and that we’d come thump her good if she was lying, which she seemed to be.

Victorious, we headed back to Moon City. Things were a bit tense there. We heard that there was an abomination ravaging Lietherack. Ohhh right. The abomination. That was made in the ritual. The ritual we failed to stop in time as we rescued Parsy. Whoops, I guess we forgot about that one. Put that on the to-do list.

That aside, we got the mayor Damien to agree to outfit our manor with anti-thief protections, free of charge, nice of him. It has Paragon brand locks. He told us there was a battle mage coming to help us get into Tarkin. I think the idea is to first go to the gnomish enclaves (more on that later) and meet him at Tarkin Hall. Him and what army? Well, he actually does have an army. We’re leading an army now? Excuse me while I fit myself with a much larger codpiece.

Our little Rosy is all grown up now, a flowering and beautiful woman—not that I pay attention to such attributes in my team-mates. It just causes trouble. She told us that she has fallen in love with a nice Elven boy in Lietherack. Awww. So she is retiring. We gave her a share of the gold as a farewell present and threw a massive party. It was great, and did you know, some of the catering staff are very sexy? We got rid of the leftover food in creative ways.

After word spread that we had a spot open in our party, we met Grimm [played by Aby as a replacement for Rosy]. He’s another revenant chap. How nice. On the plus side, this must cut down on our food costs considerably. Grimm seems to be a bit of a wild card. He wants to destroy everything made by The Maker, which seems to be everything. But it does not include us, because we were not made by The Maker. I don’t understand religion very well and I was relaxing with my bong at the time, so I had a hard time following the logic. Don’t blame me for not paying attention during church lessons! Sister Clarisse was totally coming on to me!

Back to the forest we went to find the trail of the Parsy women. We found there, in a warm and green glade, an extraordinary sight: a wounded woman with blue hair lying on a log, comatose. This was Sarah Parsy. Next to her was a tall woman in a silk dress with long blond hair. This was Carissa Parsy. As we started to chat, up popped the Planar Assassin, who Carissa called “Larth”—her brother! I need to make a family tree. As it turns out, Sarah is not quite dead. [She is constantly making death saving throws, and always succeeding.] Talithe and I tried to heal her, and discovered it was impossible. This attempt amused Carissa, because I reckon she thought of that at least once over the last few hundred years. Carissa is herself quite powerful, and was the heir to the Parsy throne. She was stuck in this glade, having been turned into a dryad (or perhaps she had to do it to herself to survive?) when Kore betrayed them all. Turns out Kore is another brother, this one gone very bad. Kore wanted the Parsy sword (and perhaps the throne) so he rose in the ranks of the military, and learned necromancy. After Sarah defeated the Baloth, he raised the defeated Baloth as an undead skeleton, and attacked Sarah with it. Sarah defeated it again but at the price we see here. What an asshole! Carissa gave us her own blood (wound she deftly healed with a leafy trick) if we vowed to kill Kore. Sure, why not, he sounds like he deserves it. He also led a zombie invasion, so that’s a reliable sign of badness. She said we still could not get into Tarkin Hall until we recharge the Parsy Sword with a special kind of residuum found in the Gnomish Enclaves. We needed to get that, and come back to the glade. Sigh. And I thought adventuring would be simpler than tending bar down in the swamp. It’s not. But on the plus side, I’ve met at least 20 different species of women!

Larth Parsy told us a bit more about himself as well, though he remained annoyingly cryptic. He was a silver necklace of a wolf, which is pretty badass. He’s a member of the Astral Wolves assassin guild, and spends a lot of time in the Astral Plane. He is a werewolf or some kind of shapeshifter, which must be a nice trick at parties, and handy to have around in case I ever write the work “Huzzah” in anything but an ironic context. He wants to close the Eye of Cados under orders from King Parsy. Apparently it’s a back-burner issue for him.

Well, wrapping this up as we ride off toward the Gnomish Enclaves. Hm, I am getting a bit chilly and my fingers are numb. The others say they don’t feel especially cold. I wonder if I caught something from one of those caterers at the party… may have been something I ate… ah well, I am sure it’s nothing serious. Well, hello Mr. Crow! Caw caw to you too! And with that merry note, I sign off.

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Oh Grrr!

Hello good historian! I, a humble journal, thus updates itself automagically, at the very moment that good Sir Orgoo, my esteemed master, is in peril. Therefore, my humble account must fill in the gaps that open as he is having his most glorious posterior masticated by an Ogre Mage. One can only hope that in Sehanine’s infinite wisdom, my illustrious master might survive this conflict and write an account in a hand far more sure and masculine than mine. But, I am a mere book of poetry infused with the soul of a most humble and pox-ridden actor, and the best I might do is to transcribe the heroic actions of my glorious master Orgoo, and his esteemed companions.

The heroic party defeated the sinister Frost Dragon in the cave aforementioned by my most brave master Orgoo. They found in its horde a most magical sphere, a snowy white on one side and blood red on the other. When activated, it flung out bolts of arcane fire and pulled Marcus, Aria, and Wreth into its body. My master thereafter called it “The Pokeball”, a term unknown to a humble assemblage of parchment such as I. The remains of the party seemed quite unfazed by this sudden transport of their companions, somehow secure, in their wisdom, that they were safe in the small and round, and perhaps Feywildish, confines of the ball until they again return to serve the glorious cause. [In fact this Pokeball is a device to transport absent players’ characters in and out of the party conveniently.]

The esteemed party found a Foe Stone, which tells them of the weaknesses of their enemies. Huzzah! (If I may interject.)

They found a chalice full of a noisome ichor. Later they discovered that it stuns the awful bugs that have been plaguing them. Good to know, say I!

They found some gold and jewels, and Rosy most skilfully skinned the dragon to yield a field of scales.

When they wended their way back to town, they were attacked by the mighty Hive Lord of the bugs and many of its minions! The chalice was used by the glorious Orgoo as he most wisely protected his posterior in the cupboard of a house surrounded by bugs. How brave he was! May be never tear out my pages with which to wipe his bunghole!

On the trail laid by the dying words of the dragon, the party bravely marched to the West of the Forest of Fa-lir, wherein they found a Hut. In it was an old woman with a perfectly innocent huge morningstar on her wall. But with incredible insight, my master was suspicious. Why would an old woman need a club she could not lift, he bravely asked, while protecting his glorious posterior by pressing it to the humble wall? They asked her about Princess Parsy but to no avail. They started to suspect this woman, and some saw through a veil of illusion to see her as a mighty ogre. But, as my master is quick to point out, it might have been merely due to the mushrooms they wisely consumed in the forest on the long and boring journey to this distant part of the forest.

As the heroic party bravely intimidated this sinister, though old, very old, and frail woman, she revealed she was in fact the ogre spoken of by the dragon! Pressing their advantage, my master bravely strongarmed this frail and old—but sinister!—woman into letting them look under the foreboding trapdoor in her floor.

At this point the mighty Steeple decided He Was Bored With All This and left. The old woman likewise opted not to stay. Ignoring our entreaties to hold her for more questioning, Steeple admitted her through her own hut’s door as she sashayed into the forest. Piqued, he followed her. Meanwhile, unawares, we remaining in the party descended into the trapdoor.

Now, dear reader, I am merely a magical journal. I don’t know how I know what I do when I am stuck in the damp and fecund pocket of my master, Orgoo. But somehow I have a vision of what transpired for the mighty Steeple. I saw him follow the old woman into the Deep Dark Forest. I saw her turn with a wicked smile on her crinkled lips. I saw her breathe out a noxious purple mist. And, I must attest, I saw mightily Steeple crumple under this breath. In his most brave wisdom, he elected not to call out for his companions in the hut. Why not? It is not for me to say, a mere collection of magical parchment. So mighty Steeple fell in a glade under the wrathful eye of an Ogre Mage, unconscious.

Meanwhile! The rest of party, blissfully unaware of the symbolic (and perhaps, in time, literal) anal rapery of their mighty metal tank-man, explored the dusty and webbed space under the hut. In time they found a seething cadre of goblins, the slaves of the ogre. A long and bloody battle was averted by the wise and generous application of mean faces and intimidating roars of the party. [The Intimidate roll was so high and they so low, they cowed them, even though they were unbloodied.] The goblins, reeking of their own expelled urine, said the ogre was “Jacinda”, who enslaved them for various nasty purposes. They said, she has a nasty habit of luring people along out into the woods alone, then stealing their souls.

My master Orgoo, in his great articulation bred of years of poetic practice, said: “Wha! But! Ogre! Forest! Lure! <burp> Soul! Steeple! Yaargh!” And thus was the party motivated to tell the goblins to, in the urgent words of my master, “Fuck off and do no evil”, and then the party ran to Steeple’s aid.

And so the battle is joined! I can only hope my master survives, to recharge me with succulent residuum of course, but also to write in me with his own hand. I would hate to be left in this forest to be the mere paper with which to wipe an ogre mage’s stinky bum…

Yours in service,

Orgoo’s Automagical Journal

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More. Fucking. Bugs!

I woke up with red lipstick all over my face, a naughty sonnet scribbled in my journal, and bloody hair matted to my accordion. Best not to try to remember what that’s all about— and judging from the empty bottles of whisky by my bed, it was the clear intent of Yesterday Orgoo to discourage Tomorrow Orgoo from remembering much at all. Onward to more heroism!

We tromped back to Fa-Lir, now with new party member Wreath in tow. [This being the revenant played by Tyler last session.] Wreath is a bit unsettling, being undead and all. Still, he’s nicer than many living people I know, so who am I to judge? In any case, we need all the help we can get.

As we went through the forest, there was a great rushing of wings above us. Brave as we are, we hid under the tree canopy. And then with a WHOOMP landed a hippogriff! Man, I’ve only seen those in paintings. And those were naughty paintings in which the hippogriffs were not, um, flying. Anyway, riding it were a guard in Parsy livery and… Aria! That was a relief. I had been sending her messages but no reply lately so I was a bit worried. Apparently she had been captured by the snakey guards we defeated in our last adventure. My first message got a reply from her that she had been captured, so I messaged Parsy to let her go immediately. Then I heard nothing. Now here she was, nice dropped off by Hippogriff Express, but she seemed a bit off. She did not remember what happened to her in the castle, and seemed a bit dazed. Hopefully the trauma did not involve the hippogriff. Anyway, the past is the past, I always say, so we bade her come with us and surely she’d get back her memory, or at least a happy approximation.

We went back to the Fa-lir church to pick up where we left off. As Markus and Rosy snuck in through a broken window, we waited outside. Then we all heard a mighty flapping and something very heavy landing on the roof of the church. Then a mad titter that sounded a lot like the Organ Guy. Before we could get away to see what was atop the church, it flew off. Soon we heard a thump and a roar from another part of town. So most of us ran that way, with a few left behind checking out the back room of the church. In that room they found a prayer book, which they took, and an altar to some barbarian god. Rosy climbed the roof and saw a part in the trees south of town. Cunning archer that she is, she shot an arrow toward us with a note telling us to meet her at that path. We all gathered up again and headed south.

After a couple hours we came to a striking clearing in the forest, with a stump in the middle, which was carved with some draconic lettering. That reminded us of the prayer book so we looked at it. It was written in, in an odd way: a number of apparently random letters were scrawled over with purple ink of the same letter. We wrote out all such letters and looked at it. We soon realised that the letters when read backward, and sprinkled with appropriate spaces, said something like “At the stump in the clearing turn toward Mother”. Hm. Mother? Some of us who knew religion remembered that the barbarian clans often called the sun the Father and the wind the Mother. Sure enough, we felt a cold breeze drifting across the clearing, so we went through the forest towards its source. And boy howdy, we found a cave! From it breathed an icy chill. So, having our usual overdose of pluck and deficit of self-preservation, into the cave we went.

The cave was coated inside with a thick layer of ice and we had to pick and jump our way from one non-icy spot to the other. Seemed like the perfect place for… an ambush… er… And we were right! Swarms of More Fucking Bugs broke out of the floor everywhere and proceeded to try to turn us into chitinous pincushions.

Not only were there heaps of them in three fun sizes, but the ice was more slippery than… er… c’mon Orgoo you can think of a good metaphor… er… slipperier than my girlfriend’s… no, too easy… um… I got nothing. It was really fucking slippery, OK? Steeple spent most of the fight on his living metal ass and the rest of us did not even try to walk across it. I used my Mr. Shuffles routine a few times to get friends off the ice. This place would be great for the kiddies if it were not for all the bugs. So we killed them, and then (note the order) tried to think about what they were and what they might do. Some of us finally recalled our nature training [till now none of us asked for a Nature check, oops] and realised that they were kruthiks:

…and were probably being controlled by a hive lord somewhere. Now we knew who to send our next Happy Holiday card to. We went deeper into the cave to find a fitting recipient.

But surprisingly, we found not a huge bug-mom-thing but a large cave containing one adult white dragon and one crazy, babbling Organ Guy. Aha. Now we knew what he was flying on. Great, so these guys were in charge? We knew better than to mess with an adult dragon unnecessarily so we tried to talk a bit. The OG was babbling about sinners and such. The dragon was obviously wearing the pants in this little family and occasionally told the OG to shut up, but he never really did. The dragon did not seem inclined to eat us right away, and when we paid due deference to him and told him we were not here to kill him, we were just trying to find out what was killing everyone in town and where Princess Parsy might be found, things started to look good.

The dragon did not seem to care about our heroic stance, and even told us that we should look in the west of the woods to pick up the Parsy trail. Then things went a bit downhill. The OG started to brag about how the bugs were cleansing the town of sinners, and when we asked about the sword slashes on some of the bodies, OG tittered “guilty as charged”. We asked if the dragon would mind terribly if we killed this madman, since we really can’t have him murdering more people. My silver tongue did not prove up to the task [rolled too low on Diplomacy] and the dragon lost patience with us. Before I knew it, a fight broke out. I really have to stop hitting the bong at times like this. [Once again, Orgoo had poor rolls: a low Insight roll to realise that the dragon was going to attack, so he missed out on the surprise round, and a 1 for initiative, putting him last in the order even after he realised that there was a fight.] The OG was some kind of wicked druid or something, using freaky psychic lightning to dazzle and blind us, and a mystical magical whip that would teleport us around when it hit us.

We tried to stay out of his grasp as the dragon proceeded to exhale very cold, cold, smelly, freezing cold breath all over us.

It took us a while to get smart enough to properly spread out, so we got breathed on a lot. When we tried to hit the OG, he was able to charm nearby attackers into thinking he was actually a great guy. I dominated him into whipping the dragon, and tried to bluff a clever betrayal scenario, but the dragon must have known my reputation [he rolled 20 on Insight] and the OG for the first time screwed up his whipping and missed the dragon. My luck is astounding. So things were not going too well. Eventually, though, we knocked off the dragon thanks to the mighty powers of those of us who actually use weapons other than accordions. Particularly impressive was the nourishing black mist that Wreath’s weapon sucked out of the dragon’s wounds and, er, other places.

The dragon collapsed, we men paused only a moment to feel how large our testicles felt after slaying an actual dragon, and then turned out loving attention to the Organ Guy, concentrating on hitting him from a distance. Soon he was interspersing his mad titters with bloody coughs, and soon after that he went down. When he died, he radiated a beautiful light which healed us all, and grass grew all around him. In the center of the grass was a single rose, just beginning to wilt. I paused to reflect on the sad poetry of this scene and wondered if before his madness, he was a good man. My reverie was interrupted by Steeple stomping on the rose. Okay, so maybe this was not the place for sentimentality.

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