The Free City

The Necromancer's Tower and the High Seas

Ambushed by a group of bandits and Chimeras who clearly had no intentions of holding up their end of the bargain for the party’s work of getting the wagon out of the city, they fought their way through the attack! Finding an old brass key, they decided to enter the dilapidated tower that sat in the clearing, only to discover that once they got inside, some sort of extra-planar magic was at work…for the inside of the tower was noticeably larger than the exterior of the structure should have been able to accommodate. 7161950754_543ff90b5d_b.jpg

They found themselves in a weird circular room with mirrors lining the entire circumference. In the room were 4 pillars in a square with a 5th at its center. Off to one side was a grimy cage, inside of which sat a greasy half-orc, covered in hide and furs. Despite his hangry-ness, they decided they could use the help and let the fellow out, learning it wasTrag, a druid of the nearby forest who had come to the Tower to investigate the unnatural magics taking place within, only to find himself ambushed and captured for what he imagined was a week or so.

Returning their attention to the pillars, they saw that the 4 on the outside held rectangular blocks with various symbols on them, and the one in the center was empty. A quick scan of the room and deciphering of the symbols lead them to realize they could “unlock” the blocks using 4 natural elements: fire, water, earth and air. Doing so at first didn’t appear to do anything, until one of the party noticed that what used to be a blank space now held an ornate object, but only in the reflection of the mirror! Looking at the reflection while attempting to grab it was the only way to secure the item, which was used to open the door on the far side of the room, revealing a set of stairs leading up.

Deciding to power on, they found themselves in another circular room, this one lined with murals depicting hordes of Minotaur in battle. Standing in the center of the room was a shadowy apparition of a Minotaur, motionless, seemingly unaware of their presence. In it’s chest where its heart would be floated the outline of an ornate key. Glancing around the room, they found a Minotaur in one of the sections of mural with a key hole in a similar location to the shadow Minotaur’s floating key. Reaching in to try to grab the key only provoked it into substance and it attacked them viciously (also allowing the party to witness Trag’s shapeshifting abilities for the first time). a210fa6832ad3e14ea3f53c5ff2e29fa.jpg One of the party had the brilliant idea to taunt it into a charge, causing it to run full speed into the image of the minotaur with the key hole, which LO AND BEHOLD, opened the door to the next level!

Ascending to the 3rd level, they found themselves in another make-shift Laboratory, which brought them face to face with the master of the tower, a Human woman in dark robes, black hair and eerily white eyes, and…KEITH THE MYSTERIOUS HALFLING.

Battle ensued, and the party nearly lost 2 of their own in the process, but it was Trag who eventually brought the fight to a close by luring the charging minotaur from the level below up to the 3rd level, grappeling the necormancer and allowing them both to be impaled by the charging beast. They left none alive, rested until all were fit for travel, looted the room, and set out back for…

Oh shit.

Sunrise. They had missed the boat they had arranged to take them to Vramora. The boat that Po had (unbeknownst to them) been clinging to the hull of all night.

As they made their way back to their city with their new companion Trag helping guide them through the forest, they devised a plan for re-entry to Mah’ Puana, since they figured they’d not be welcomed back warmly since their violent escape. Grimpem would assume the roll of an eccentric cult leader/noble and everyone else would be his entourage. No guard tried to stop them, and after a brief disagreement about how to proceed, decided the easiest course of action would be to sell their newly acquired horses and use that money to buy passage on a charter ship to the city of High Pengard.
Once safely on board their ship, The Boundless, they left the port of Mah’ Puana and headed east, towards Vramora.

A couple days out to see saw the first action of their voyage.

“Sails ho! 3 points of the larboard bow,” came the cry from the nest above.

“Perhaps its just another charter ship?”
“Maybe its a merchant vessel?”
“It could be a Naval ship…what colors are they flying”

All these questions and more began to ripple through the ship. It didn’t take a discerning eye to figure out that this mystery ship was closing on them, their bearing taking them straight towards them.

A short while later, the boat appeared, a two-masted Brigantine flying neutral merchant colors…but as soon as it was within striking distance, another flag suddenly ran up to join those colors: The crimson flag of PIRATES.

And as fate would have it, this ship was fashioned The Maiden’s Vengeance!
The Captain of the charter ship, along with his imposing first mate Montebank, rallied the ships crew and commanded all the passengers below deck…but was glad to have all the help he could get. Even though the charter ship was larger, the fighting force on The Maiden’s Vengeance was more battle-hardened and vicious, and the odds were not great.

A great battle ensued as the party attempted to repel the boarders and Dubdha, Dwarven pirate captain with whom they had originally made a deal, saw fit to lend them no quarter…but was slain in the battle! They finally managed to repel the last of the boarding pirates, but the captain of the Charter ship was knocked overboard…and despite Trag turning into an otter and jumping overboard, he was lost to Iono, the God of the Sea, Lord of the Grasping Waters.

With the party back aboard The Boundless and Monte now in command, the ship continued on it’s way towards the city of High Pengard on the continent of Vramora.

Aethervox, The Fang of The Wild & the Eldritch Fragments of Duli

The puzzle wheel loomed before them in the moonlight, it’s cryptic letters gleaming with an otherworldly light that seemed to come from within. A few minutes passed as they worked to solve the riddle, eventually leaving one of them to proclaim what they believed (correctly) was the answer: “COMMAND WORD ORPAR

At first, nothing seemed to happen, but then…Thrum Thrum Thrum

The sound of giant beating wings grew louder and louder until from overhead came the group’s worst nightmare…a giant Ancient Green Dragon! It landed on the end of the ouctropping, dwarfing the party with his massive size. Aethervox, The Fang of The Wild Aethervox_-_Green_Dragon.jpg had come. It became clear that, despite his obvious capability, he didn’t seem intent on destroying them at that moment, mostly out of surprise they were able to make it to his inner sanctum at all. He offered a glimpse into his hatred for the city of Jiyutoshi, his seeking of balance for the lives of the animals/wilderness taken by the denizens of the city, and his desire to destroy Lady Kyoko. He offered them a dire warning: if anyone is to survive, they must convince the people to leave the city.

Pluefin noticed a green glow coming from the throat of the dragon, and also that upon inspection, the dragon seemed not to be made of dragon scales like expected, but rather seemed to be constructed of the wilds themselves. His body made from tightly woven vines and twigs, his massive horns resembling gnarled tree branches.

After he had delivered his warning, he transported them magically to the top of a long mining tunnel with 2 mine carts waiting for them…but behind them, the tunnel began to collapse! They hopped in and raced through the tunnel, dealing with the many obstacles that were thrown at them…vines across the tracks, a gap in the bridge, a giant spider setting a trap for prey…The last stretch of tunnel was done on foot and they dove out into the forest just as the tunnel came down JUST behind them.

They found themselves in the forest where they got lost on the way back tot he city, but eventually made it. Seeking information about what the hell just happened to them, they sought the council of Kurgi Gemheart, the librarian on loan from the Supreme Atheneum in Stonehaven on Vramora. Upon hearing of the green glowing light, he told them The Legend of the Eldritch Fragments of Duli, and bade them to seek the remaining lost fragments. He had 2 leads, one in High Pengard with King Hamish, the other in Tel Kir’ah on Sudreas. They chose King Hamish

They were given horses and set out for Mah Puana. Along the way, found a caravan of covered wagons where some shit had gone down. learned their kids had been stolen by a pack of Gnolls and Kobolds. Rolph the half-orc accompanied them. They got lost (Arauka) and accidentally disturbed an Owlbear which they miraculously killed. They eventually found the right path to a cave where the gnolls and kobolds were holding the children, under the command of a fearsome Troll! An epic battle ensued, and in the process, they discovered the grisly truth: 1 child had already been consumed, another lay dead in a boiling cauldron, and a 3rd was stabbed to death during the struggle.

Upon returning, they met Madame Wanderjoy of Madame Wanderjoy’s Traveling Cavalcade and Minstrel Revue. She rewarded them with trinkets and a safe passage back to Mah Puana. They stayed a few days and set off.

Arriving in the Capitol, the found a tavern, The Wench and Chalice, where the bartender Rolando directed them to the Wicked Squid, where he said they could procure inexpensive passage to High Pengard. Upon arriving, they found the rowdy bar a roiling mass of brawling sailors and scoundrels, but 3 captains sat undisturbed in the center of the room. The trio eventually learned them to be Mira Seaspray of The Windhammer, Dubdha of the Maiden’s Vengeance, and Sesca Veetay of The Leviathan. They relayed their situation, and heard the proposals of the 3 captains, eventually choosing Dubdha and The Maiden’s Vengeance as their vessel of choice, who was able to leave the next morning in exchange for their hard work and effort as part of his crew on the way.

They returned to the Wench and Chalice, and as they were having a drink in the great room, 11a89b2cf393f23c3f6c11dec106c2e8.jpga thin, mustachioed man approached them with a proposal…but it ended up being essentially extortion, as the man made it suddenly apparent that the entire population of the bar was under his command. He bade them to meet at “Wooden It Be Nice – Fine Carts and Wagons” and find a man named Cecil. From there, they would take a stocked cart to a designated spot about an hour’s ride outside of the city. He offered half their 100gp fee up front (suspiciously quickly), and said if no questions were asked and the goods arrived unspoiled and without the group looking, they would receive their 2nd half and be done.

As the party left the tavern, it was immediately obvious that they were being trailed by several individuals. Po decided he would not take part in this plan and headed towards the dock and The Maiden’s Vengeance to try to wait it out until the morning. The remaining 4 headed to meet Cecil and retrieve the cart. They concocted a plan wherein Hettle would pretend to be sick (and produce an awful stench with his magic) and the others would act as his concerned friends helping to escort their ill friend to a specialist outside the gates. The two guards, a young rookie and a jaded vet, began to allow them through, but just as it all seemed in the clear, their captain arrived and smelled a rat! He drew his weapon and called for more guards!

They fought hard to open the gates, and eventually overpowered the guards and managed to get the entire party (including an unconscious Hettle) onto the cart and speed off into the woods beyond the gates!

Meanwhile, Po found himself pursued by the agents of the skinny man from the tavern, but managed to evade their many furious attempts to tackle/injure him. He made it to the water where his Genasi heritage allowed him to escape safely under the surface of the water. From there, he found the Maiden’s Vengeance and clung like a barnacle to the hull, waiting until their morning meeting time…

The Lost Mining Expedition

Arauka burst out of the burned husk that was once Crab’s Cup, in hot pursuit of the direction of Keith’s pattering footsteps…only to discover the streets outside barren and silent. No Keith to be found…somehow, this slippery halfling had evaded his particularly keep senses once again. As he grumbled under his breath and returned to his party, he cursed the bastard who ever first discovered the arcane arts.

A few hours later, the group brought the news of the lair below the former Crab’s Cup and of Keith the Halfling. Lady Kyoko thanked the party for their work putting this strange organization on their heels, and assured them that they would be able to help the women in captivity. But as they were talking, Kyoko’s Orc Sergeant at Arms, Lob, burst through the door, his usually stoic demeanor broken by a mask of confusion and urgency. He bid the Lady “Must come to the grand hall…one of the lost miners has returned and…you must see this with your own eyes.” The party followed Kyoko and Lob down the corridors to the grand hall where a small crowd had created a circle around someone. When they got close enough, they saw the poor fellow.

Horribly disfigured with a strange flesh-eating disease (that looked oddly similar, albeit way more extreme, to the group of leper-like infected that Lady Kyoko cared for in the upper reaches of the Iron Palace). He babbled his way through the lady’s questions, until Kyoko had a satisfactory jigsaw puzzle of what happened to his mining party: this male dwarf had been wandering the wilderness for many days, probably weeks. The expedition had been working on a particularly interesting vein of ore at the base of some mountains a few days west of town when their camp was suddenly attacked by a giant badger, and he described a sort of “black fire” that enveloped the creature (sounding very similar to the effect of the giant boar that the party encountered as they approached the city). He claimed his fellows barricaded themselves into the mine as the badger attacked. This dwarf made contact with this black fire and the badger as he retreated into the wilderness and very quickly became ill as this disfiguring disease spread through his body. His feverish haze caused him to stumble aimlessly through wildlands until by luck he was spotted by one of the guards on the walls of Jiyutoshi.

The lady Kyoko bid the party to please help the expedition and rescue anyone they could find. There were 15 folk on this expedition, 14 remaining with this fellow accounted for.

As the party ventured through the wilderness following the vague directions of the raving lunatic, they eventually came upon the mining camp. It was in chaos, the remnants of their belongings (along with several corpses) strewn every which way. Arauka noticed some extremely large paw prints and determined them to be those of a giant Badger, confirming the story. As they cautiously ventured into the mine, they experienced a number of challenges, as well as many more corpses of miners: Rust monsters, run-away mine carts, some strange floating monsters that appeared to form from Stalagtites.

Eventually, they came upon a large Dragon Statue, which upon approaching closely enough began to speak in a deep, booming voice: “You approach the realm of one to whom you must first prove your worthiness. You are not known to him, but your hearts are being watched. Answer wisely these riddles” and then asked them 3 riddles. Upon successful completion of all 3, the dragon began to spew water from it’s mouth, the water hitting an invisible barrier behind the party. This sudden “room” they found themselves in began to fill up very quickly, but an observant member of the party noticed a small hole on the ceiling and suggested simple patience, that once the room filled up enough with water, they could simply swim up and out the hole.

As they did, they found themselves magically pulled up the dark crevasse, and when they all emerged, they found themselves in what could only be described as a mini canyon…almost like a giant courtyard many hundreds of yards in diameter set deep into the middle of the mountain, but with the sky open above them. This craggy glade had it’s own waterfall and small river, many large hillocks and plenty of trees. As they observed the land around them, suddenly the ground began to tremble, and from the ground burst a Giant Badger. Screaming in from above came a Giant Eagle, and from around one of the large hillocks came a giant Hyena! A fierce battle ensued, and once the last of these unnatural beasts fell, the ground again began to tremble!

On a flat, rocky outcropping at the top of the largest hillock in the center of the miniature valley, the crew saw a large, standing stone disc rise up. As they got closer, they saw that one one side of it, around the diameter, were many finely-hewn shalestones and copper in a mosaic-like design…they approached with caution…

Below Crab's Cup Tavern

…and act they did! Throwing caution to the wind, they group decided to go in after Po, as was their charge from Lady Kyoko to deal with the Shadowhands. As they entered the burned out tavern through the back door, Po suddenly awoke from his nasty bump on the head to find himself in a dimly lit block of jail cells. Looking around, he discovered that he was not alone, for each of the surrounding cells was occupied by pregnant women in various states of consciousness. The cell next to his held a young woman who appeared mostly lucid, so he inquired of her where they were and what was going on…but the young woman revealed herself to be not as lucid as she had appeared. Mumbling something about a “monster” who put a “darkness inside her,” Po wasn’t able to get much out from the poor woman, and decided to revert to his training and meditate.

Meanwhile, the group having discovered a trapdoor in the floor of the burned out tavern, they descended the ladder and began traversing carefully through the twisting corridors of the tunnels in which they now found themselves. Eventually, they saw a light from around a corner and, peeking carefully, found themselves in front of a relatively ornate door in a small antechamber. They checked for (physical) traps, but found themselves beset by a magical spray of acid when they attempted to open the door, scalding poor Grimpem (an oddity from what they expected were a bunch of hoodlums and sneak thieves…). As Arauka quietlyTESV_HQ_027.jpg opened the door, he say before him a large domed chamber bisected by a running waterway. One the near side were tables and chairs, an apparent eating hall. On the far side were more lavish accommodations: over-stuffed chairs, couches, luxurious pillows and such for pure comfort (an oddity in what they expected to be a den of thieves…).

Seated at the tables and on one of the far couches were a few thugs clad in dark leather and carrying nasty looking weapons. Arauaka, in a moment of inspiration, grabbed his pet mouse and flung it at one of the seated thugs….only to miscalculate his aim and simply lob the poor creature into the room in full view of the thugs! With their cover blown, the crew burst into the room and set into fierce combat with the 4 occupants. After dispatching them and hiding their bodies in the waterway, they opened a door to find the kitchen and a boistrous chef hard at work. Hettle, in an attempt to befriend him, managed to (quite quickly) earn the ire of the mustachioed chef, who then flung his bubbling pot of bolognese sauce at gnome in the doorway. It clattered with an enormous BANG off the door, and the trio quickly subdued the man as he slipped in the bolognese as he fearlessly attacked the crew with a kitchen knife. Binding his hands and feet and gagging him with a potent block of hard cheese, they hid the bound chef in the pantry and closed the door.

The mighty sound of the pot of red sauce crashing against the door was enough to rattle Po from his meditation, and he began calling loudly for help, and to his great fortune, Pluefin, Arauka and Hettle all heard him! They followed their ears to the door Po’s voice was coming from and jimmied the lock open, and the soon found themselves in the cell block with Po and the Pregnant women.

With a sobering realization, they deduced this must be one of the holding cells for the women Keith has been using in his dastardly experiments! With so many of the women appearing to be in such poor health and shell-shocked mental states, they decided that they would focus on springing Po from his cell and leave the women here to be retrieved later by Lady Kyoko’s guards.

Some mighty swings from Grimpem’s hammer freed the monk, but the sensitive perception of several of the party heard that the massive hammer blows had drawn the attention of some other undesirables in the stronghold. Realizing they were trapped in the narrow dead end of the cell block, they decided to set a trap as they had in similar situations. They heard the voices of multiple people and shortly thereafter, the sound of keys in the lock of the door at the end of their narrow hallway. The poor fool who came rushing through as the door swung open met with a grisly fate: in near identical circumstances as Arauka’s last trap, the man’s leg was completely severed, and he fell, shrieking to the ground.


As the members began to fall and the prowess of the party in battle became apparent, the apparent leader called out, “Master! Master, we need you!” From a door they had discovered earlier to be locked emerged…Keith the Mysterious Halfling himself! Despite the relentless bombarding the party with vicious spells, it only took a few solid hits for the crew to watch Keith’s expression of rage and ferocity melt to one of mortal panic, and in what seemed to be his preferred method of escape, filled the room with a magical fog and made a break for it.

Arauka, having magically marked the halfling as a target, followed the sounds of pattering footsteps as it beat a hasty retreat towards the entrance. Arauka followed the direction of the sounds and headed back towards Crab’s Cup.

The rest of the party remained in the stronghold for a few short moments, gathering what items they could find, including a few potions.

A new friend, strange occurrences and arson

After the morning errands were run, the time came to venture back to High Town, to the Iron Palace and Lady Kyoko. Along the way, the group decided the following things:

1) Pluefin would not go in, as Lady Kyoko had not met him and they wanted to keep some cards close to the vest.

2) They would not relate ALL the info they had, leaving out key parts to allow them to retain some autonomy from Lady Kyoko.

Lob.jpgWhen they arrived at the Iron Palace and entered the main grand chamber, they were met by a towering Half Orc who introduced himself as Lob, Lady Kyoko’s Captain of the Guard. An imposing and gruff figure, Lob informed them that Lady Kyoko was unavailable and would answer to him in her stead. They relayed their information, and in return, Lob said to them,

“The Lady believes she has someone who can be an asset to your group, and in exchange for his help with the affairs she has placed in your hands, she asks that you assist him with his. I’ll leave it to him to explain.”

Stepping from the crowd came a young man, of roughly late teenage years. Wearing humble monks robes and carrying few supplies with him (save a small pack and a quarterstaff), there was something else about this man that was immediately apparent…he was not human. His skin had a faint but noticeable blue hue to it, and in a few places it even seemed like his skin took the appearance of fish scales. His hair, pulled back tight, was the color of dark seaweed. He was, undoubtedly, one of the rare curiosities of this world: a Genasi. Introducing himself as Po with a bright smile and an eager energy in his voice, the young Genasi told them about his monastary (The Order of the Veiled Morning, Jiyutoshi’s top provider of quality ales…). As the group was heading towards the gates of low town, the air was suddenly filled with alarm bells and the call of “TO ARMS! TO ARMS!”

The group was stunned to see a stampede of wildland animals rampaging through the city! Charging towards the Place was a pack of bristly boars, ferocious large cats, deer, swarms of vicious looking insects and a the largest Elk any of them had ever seen! A brutal battle took place, but eventually the animals were all put down…but during the battle, Grimpem had noticed something lurking in the shadows between the buildings heading for the palace! Returning with haste, the group was met with the sounds of sword-on-sword.

Entering the main grand hall, they found a circle had formed around two individuals locked in a fierce duel: Lady Kyoko, armed with a large katana, fighting with a young feral woman wrapped in animal skins, her face smeared with blood and dirt, wielding two ferocious curved daggers. The circle of guards around the combatants didn’t seem concerned enough to intervene, but held their weapons at the ready. Watching the battle, the difference in approach was immediately apparent: Lady Kyoko defended and counterattacked with great poise and control while the wild beast girl attacked savagely and ferociously, snarling and howling like an animal. Just when it seemed Lady Kyoko might get the best of her, a thunderous howl was heard from the courtyard. The group turned to see Renna_-_Wolf_Girl.jpga GIGANTIC WOLF leaping through the air into the middle of the circle. With one smooth motion, the beast girl leapt on to the back of the wolf, and the wolf pivoted with an otherworldly dexterity and leapt back over the circle of guards and out the door! Arauka gave chase but the speed and leaping ability of the wolf proved too much, but it was clear the wolf was heading west towards the Wildlands.

Lady Kyoko, sheathing her elegant blade beckoned the group over, and said:

“I should explain. That was ”/characters/renna" class=“wiki-content-link”>Renna. We simply call her the wolf girl, but she’s a human who was stolen by spirits in the forest and turned against her own kind. She hates me and wants to kill me for the collateral damage to the land for our mining operations. She sees our presence as a threat to her land. She is not master of the Wildlands, there is something greater that commands her and these beasts, but this is the most direct attack on Jiyutoshi there has been…they grow bolder and more capable, I fear things will only escalate more if we don’t get to the bottom of this soon.”

The group left with the mysterious, unknown threat of the Wildlands fresh in their minds, but decided they needed to pursue S.O.A.K more first. Po, explaining he was in Jiyutoshi to get to the bottom of a mystery surrounding the Golden Swan Wild Ale, a popular brew from his monastary, went into a tavern to begin his investigation.

Using various underground contacts, they learned that a newly arrived blonde halfling had been seen frequenting a seedy tavern in low town called Crab’s Cup, known as a gathering point for the Shadow Hands. Laboriously concocting a plan that involved a stakeout and espionage, the group cautiously began their descent on the small, decrepit tavern, waiting for signs of the mysterious halfling….only for Po to stride right through the front door and ask for him by name! He attempted to chat up the room, but the gruff looking group inside weren’t keen on this brash newcomer, and a short scuffle later found Po captured and locked in a closet.

As the crew outside waited for a sign that wasn’t to come, Po began his attempts to escape, ddcf7718ceb7523af3c9d5b3565024e1.jpgeventually pestering the attending guards so much that they opened the door to shut him up and “teach you chattering whelp a lesson”…at the same moment, the group decided to take a rash action and burn the building down! As smoke filled the tavern, a surprisingly low number of people came out into the street, leading the crew to believe there must be another way to escape the building.

Inside, momentarily free of his captors, Po decided he would try to stealthily follow the fleeing thugs…only to (critically) fail miserably, leading to his renewed capture and bundling down a secret trap door passage with the fleeing gang.

The remaining party members, not seeing Po emerge from the burning building, gritted their teeth and decided to act….

Trapped in the (trapped) closet

Even though none could read the book, the group decided to continue through this strange and dangerous basement to see what else they might possibly discover.  

As the stepped into the next room through a narrow hallway, they found themselves looking at two tables with a large arcane symbol etched on the floor between them.  On the outside corners of the tables stood 4 large posts, each topped with a crystal.  Pluefin reached up to grab one, and the instant his hand made contact, he leapt back like he'd just been bitten by a snake!   He described his head filling with the sounds of people screaming in pain, and advised that no one else should touch one.  They searched the room, eventually entering a (trapped) closet to find more arcane/alchemical gadgetry.  As they were inspecting it for items of value and/or interest, a few members' ears perked up to the sound of voices and footsteps heading towards the room!  

With little time to decide, they all piled into the closet, closed the door and waited quietly.  The sound of two casually chatting voices (whose words proved difficult to discern) suddenly changed their tone when they entered the room.  Immediately, a sense of urgency filled the voices of the new arrivals as they began searching for the source of their suspicions.  The room suddenly filled with the sound of arcane words and magical energy began to swirl…the gang readied themselves…

The door to the closet flew open (sending poor Hettle flying backwards), and in an instant, vines shot up out of the floor, attempting to entangle the group!  All but Pluefin managed to escape and the group leapt into battle.  Emerging from the room, they found themselves face to face with 2 foes: a human (dressed in robes of burgundy and white, his dark brown hair pulled into a tight ponytail near the top of his head), and a halfling (dressed in a fine doublet and shirt, and a mop of blonde hair).  Fierce fighting ensued as the group learned quickly of the strong magic possessed by the pair of enemies.  When the human fell to a well-placed crossbow bolt from Pluefin, the halfling suddenly filled the room with a dense fog…and escaped!

Searching the robes of the fallen human wizard revealed an unidentified spell scroll, and a small golden medallion.  This medallion was larger than a gold currency piece, about 2 inches in diameter.  Its edges shaped into a 9-sided polygon, the insignia stamped onto its surface was that of 2 crossed keys with 4 letters arranged in an arch over the top: S.O.A.K. 

None recognized the letters or the insignia, and despite their wounds, the group decided they needed more answers from this basement before they could leave.  Following their instincts to another room, the group entered what appeared to be a master bedroom (complete with California King bed).  Grimpem stomped a rat that went racing for the door, and 2 books: "The Anatomy of Humanoids by Murato Roka" and another mysterious book was found, which appeared to be written in the same language as the other book they had already discovered.  Finding little else of apparent worth, they decided they shouldn't linger as the escaped Halfling would probably alert someone to their presence.  Curiosity got the best of them, however, and as they stopped to search one last room near the main entrance (which was filled with alchemy equipment and various foul smelling decoctions), the sound of the trapdoor opening and gruff voices descending the ladder floated down to their ears.  

The gang decided to lay an ambush consisting of a hunting trap, a mage-hand-held vial of acid and some notched arrows/readied hammers.  Their door flung open and a relatively large human strode confidently into the room…only to have his leg completely SEVERED by the hunting trap!  Giving a sickly scream, the poor fool fell to the ground, and Grimpem met his whimpers with a mighty blow from his hammer.  Battle ensued as the party now stared down 2 more large ruffians, armed with swords and daggers.  These didn't seem like the powerful wizards they had encountered earlier, but more like hired muscle.  Arauka was the first to fall, but Grimpem leapt to his aid with a healing spell and put his Elven friend back in the fight!  Pluefin took to dueling with one of the thugs, and Grimpem surprised everyone by creating an illusory replica of himself (lovingly named "Grimpett") who dashed into the room and distracted the other mercenary.  Hettle, employing his mage hand to great effect by dropping vials of acid from overhead, attempted to save the life of the legless man whimpering on the ground in order to extract information, but his incompetence in the world of Medicine left him poking haplessly at the poor fellow's wound until he bled out and breathed his last.   

As the group gained the upper hand, it was clear the brutes had no intention of retreating, and they fought until the last brute was slain.  Rooting around for what valuables they could find (and stopping yet again to look behind ONE LAST DOOR which ended up being a closet full of clay/mud…), the gang finally retreated into the daylight and made their limping way back to The Stone Pony. 

Safe, sound, and well rested, the group resolved that they must first discover the meaning of the two books they found.  Grimpem, using his knowledge of Kaza's weakness for books of Poetry and Cooking, convinced Kaza to look over their books in exchange for a book on "Western Herbs and Spices", taken from the mysterious basement.  

Kaza took the book, and as he began to peruse its pages, his face darkened.  Confused, he looked back at Grimpem, and inquire in a deadly serious voice, "Where did you find this?"  

He explained to Grimpem that the content of this book was most dark indeed, and he didn't feel like he should be reading it out loud in the Common room where a few customers still lingered.  He agreed to come to their room after closing time to go through it in detail.  A couple hours later, Kaza was in their room and reading from this first mysterious book.  

"Its appears to be the results and lab notes from some sort of scientific study related to…well…lots of bizarre things.  There's a whole section here about trying to crossbreed humans and ogres in an attempt to create a new species of Half-Ogre:

Experiment 1004A Section 5

The male human/female half ogre coupling  produces offspring  extremely rarely and can not be depended on for significant numbers. The female human/male half ogre experiments fare much better, but with one hundred percent loss of host.

Experiment 1008.5CE Section 2

Our rate of experimentation has increased, with the new influx of the female subjects from the lower part of society. These new hosts can not be relied upon to go to term, being in such poor health, suffering from common ailments those living in this manner are subject to. A healthier source of subject would help immensely, as I have some new surgical ideas I would like to implement, but the subjects I have to work with would not hold up under the knife.

Experiment 1015E Section 1

The new surgical techniques we are applying have reduced the numbers of fatalities by removing the unborn before term. The hosts seem to be viable for three "harvests" before their bodies fail…

Kaza stopped reading, looked up at the group, clear distress on his face.   He flipped to the back of the book and asked, "have any of you heard of this…Keith?"  Assuming it to be the blonde halfling wizard who vanished into the fog, the group explained briefly who they thought he was.  "I don't have the heart to continue," Kaza said gravely, handing the book back to Grimpem.

 Pluefin reached into his bag and pulled out the second book and delicately asked, "What can you tell us about this one?"

Reluctantly, Kaza took it and skimmed its pages.  "Well, its written in the same hand and language as the other, but this one has a more…personal tone.  More of a journal, less of a scientific document.  But these are still the ravings of a mad man.." 

"Where does undeath begin?  Suppose we remove organs, one by one, replacing them with a magical re-animative equivalent, and then batter the subject with a variety of Turn Undead spells. Those spells do not have effects on living beings, but eventually the subject will cease being alive and the spells will act on them.  We could end the scourge of undead before they even begin if we can pinpoint the exact moment where UNdeath occurs.”

Swallowing hard, Kaza flipped to another page.

"Some of my less dedicated colleagues have had to be "dismissed", as they were expressing doubts about our new female hosts in the Half Ogre work. I have no such compunctions. Once they are here, they are a number to me and nothing more. Advancement would never occur if the weak willed were to have their say."

Kaza closed the book and handed it back to Pluefin, silently.  "I must retire for the night.  Be careful, you lot.  You seem to be stepping into some seriously dangerous territory."  He nodded solemnly and left the group to ponder their next move.  

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

The plan was: brunch, shopping, information, Lady Kyoko, Patrol for Monsters.

BRUNCH: by Pluefin's recommendation, Grimpem, Arauka and Hettle headed to Ninny's Breakfast for their famous Blue Eggs and Pan Crudles. 

SHOPPING: Once their appetite was sated, the trio headed to The Iron Drake to peruse for some new gear.  Grimpem admired (but then passed on) a giant 2-handed maul for some new handaxes, and Arauka purchased a fine round shield.  

INFORMATION: Pluefin met with his criminal contact to see if anyone had heard anything about these insane experiments, the halfling Keith or the disappearances of the forge workers/children.  The contact returned a short while later saying that the rumors among the underground is that the Shadow Hands have pulled back on their normal activity for some reason, and that the arrival of this new group (S.O.A.K, presumably) might have something to do with it.  They suspect the Shadow Hands are assisting them somehow, but also that someone in High Town must be in on the operation, as no self-respecting low/middle class worker would de-value the lives of working people like this writer of the journal seems to.  The contact recommended seeking out the High Town connection to this whole bizarre situation.  

Hettle went to visit Doli Cotton, the halfling at the Hearthfire General Goods shop.  The gloriously sideburned and golden throated halfling wasn't terribly eager to interact with the gnome again, but in the end was convinced to sell him some loaded dice.  On his way out, Hettle turned and asked Doli if he had hever heard the name Tobit before.  The halfling said there was a gnome by that name in town, but it was several years prior, "perhaps 5 or 6."

LADY KYOKO/PATROLLING FOR MONSTERS: The group decided their next step was to take the information they have to Lady Kyoko (perhaps leaving out some of the details) so she would feel like they were being useful, then return to Low Town and patrol the streets looking for more signs of these horrible experiments.

Trio becomes a Quartet

"My book!"

The group turned around to look at Grimpem, who was furiously patting down all his pockets.  "It's gone!  We have to go back."

"Back to that…thing?" Hettle asked, nervously.  

"We have to go back," Grimpem repeated, urgently.  As the trio gathered their things and headed for the door, they were stopped by a voice.  
"Is this what you're looking for?"

Turning, they saw a young male elf holding Grimpem's book out to him.  The young lad introduced himself as Pluefin, and told them he had seen their battle with the strange creature and when they left, he went to inspect it himself and found Grimpem's book.  A short conversation later revealed Pluefin's interest in their presence in town, and his willingness to trade some knowledge for the chance to hang with them for his own protection.  

Hettle's not-too-subtle reference to the Shadow Hands brought lots of unwarranted attention, and the group decided to retreat to Grimpem's room to finish the conversation.  It was there Pluefin told them of the reclusive leader of the Shadow Hands, a fellow that few have seen called Asano The Fence.  He mentioned that they have many safe houses around the city and continent and are not to be trifled with due to their brutality.  

The group decided that the first thing they should do is figure out where the strange wolf-man creature came from, and they decided to first talk to Mei to see where she first encountered the thing.  The next morning, they headed up to the forge to which the workers had taken her.  She described the alley that she was attacked in, and Pluefin was able to identify it.  Chatting quickly with the forge worker, she told them of the disappearance of a few of her co-workers, and that normally a brothel girl's disappearance could be chalked up to fleeing in search of a better living situation…but the ladies in question had settled in quite happily to their life at the forge, and it struck the worker they spoke with as odd that these particular ladies would leave.  They noted the information and decided to continue pursuing the source of the wolf-ish monster.

Arriving at the alley, it was Arauka who, using his extreme skills of tracking and observation, was able to very quickly determine the exact roof that he believed the monster had jumped down from.  Seeing an opportunity to demonstrate his nimbleness, Pluefin pulled out some climbing pitons and began his ascent up the side of the building (not as gracefully as hoped).  He lowered a rope and the remaining crew joined him on the roof.  They followed the tracks several rooftops away to a locked trap door, which Arauka once again handled with great aplomb (and thieves tools).  Under the trap door was a ladder leading down a narrow chute that, to everyone's best dark-vision assisted assessment, went down underground before ending on a dirt floor.  A little encouragement to a cautious Pluefin (and a decent ultimatum from Grimpem: "you either come with us or stay on the roof to be found by whoever uses this door…"), the group descended (some head first…) down the ladder and emerged from the bottom in what appeared to be a small holding room in a dark basement.  

The snuck through the door and found themselves in a room illuminated by reddish alchemical/magical lamps, and in the room were 2 tables, one with a skeleton strapped to it.  The gang tried to find any magical source (and Hettle harvesting a Tibia for a flute) but to no avail.  Continuing on into the next room, a room with 2 glowing kilns and a few work tables,  Aruaka wandered in only to be ambushed from behind by some giant 10-foot tall faceless humanoid creature!  A fierce battle ensued as the group rushed into the room to help their friend!  Burning coals were used, some strategic pinning of the giant creature (later discovered to be a Clay Golem) to the floor, and well-placed magical bolt to the skull finally toppled the creature.  From inside the creature's skull, the group harvested a glowing crystal which seemed to have given the golem its animation, and in another part of the room they found a book written in a language no one in the group recognized.  

What was in the rest of this basement?  What manner of work was being done here?  What clues would they find in this mysterious book?

Getting Bearings in The Free City

As the party got to know each other, it was Lionel (the old man on the cart) who really got the conversation going by answering some questions about the current state of Jiyutoshi, the rumors and troubles of the city, and questions of its benevolent leader, Lady Kyoko.  But as the crew got acquainted, the elf Arauka seemed to sense something strange out in the woods, and headed out in front of the caravan.  Moments later, a thunderous CRRRAAASH and an otherworldly bellow erupted from the dense trees, as a roiling mass of black flames and tentacles burst forth and attacked Arauka.  

Battle erupted as the trio sprang into action.  As they fought the enormous beast, they discovered to their horror, that this beast was actually a giant boar covered in some manner of demonic material.  The trio dispatched the demon pig, harvested one of the giant tusks and continued on to the free city of Jiyutoshi.  Lionel pointed the group on to the Stone Pony as a place to stay, and to talk to Kaza, the innkeeper, who was a former apprentice of his.  

Upon arrival, Grimpem's priority was to sell the giant tusk he was carrying around and scrape together some coin.  Eventually, they found their way to Hearthfire, a local pawn/sundry/general goods store. Behind the counter was Doli Cotton, a halfling with the most glorious sideburns that the world has ever seen.  They haggled for a bit, Grimpem got over zealous with his bluffing and quickly earned the ire of the smooth-talking proprietor.  They did manage to glean the name of another potential buyer, Christoph Hoyle, the alchemist down at Mystical Cookery along the riverfront.  

When the trio entered the dark shop, they were greeted by a tidal wave of strange smells, and one of the oddest individuals they had ever met, the be-goggled alchemist Christoph Hoyle.  Between outbursts of hysterical laughter, dancing and singing like a maniac and snorting some boar tusk scratchings, Christoph agreed to purchase the tooth in exchange for a bit of gold and 3 potions which could be collected in 10 days time.  Satisfied with the transaction (but sufficiently creeped out), the group decided to follow Lionel's suggestion and find The Stone Pony tavern.  

As they rounded a corner into an open square, they spotted the stone statue of a horse rearing up in front of the building: their destination, The Stone Pony.  The district of Low Town that the Tavern occupied was a lively one at night, many street performers and street workers were out, and there was a lively energy in the air as the citizenry went about their debauchery.  As they haggled with Kaza for a good 10-day rate for 2 rooms (they were eventually landed in rooms "C" and "D" with Hettle/Grimpem in "D" and Arauk in "C"), one of the group noticed that there was abnormally large number of brothel girls in this tavern.  The gang watched as a drunken man approached one of these girls, propositioned, was rejected and got aggressive.  As the trio rose to intervene on the lady's behalf, they quickly discovered their assistance was not needed as a score of brothel girls erupted into a violent storm of resistance and beat the ever-living shit out of the poor fellow.  They learned from Kaza that these particular brothel girls had their contracts bought out by Lady Kyoko who then in turn hired them to work the bellows in the mighty forge at the top of the city.  

At that moment, one of  Kyoko's silent guards entered the tavern, spotted them from across the room, and identified him/herself as one of the guards on the caravan when they were attacked by the demon boar with a silently raised solidarity fist.  He/She strode over and handed them a written invitation to see Lady Kyoko the following morning, but with little other details included.  

The next morning, they made their way to the Iron Palace, called Tetsu-jo in the native tounge.  After mistaking a high profile and blustery councilor for Lady Kyoko, the Mistress of Jiyutoshi presented herself to them, humbly dressed and even-tempered.  She beckoned them into her personal wing of the palace, taking them through finely manicured zen gardens, meticulously cultivated courtyards, and finally, to a separate wing on the far end of one of her courtyards.  There, the trio found themselves in the presence of dozens of men, elves, halflings and many other goodly races…but who were all 9c5533c10013592db4fa548f6b40ce7b.jpgbandaged and deformed.  These folk were suffering from something akin to leprosy, and the trio learned that they had all been outcasts until Lady Kyoko took them in.  She gave them care and purpose, by having them work as accountants for the city, helping Lady Kyoko with the tremendous feats of organization the city and economy needed to keep going.  

The Mistress of The Free City requested assistance from them in 2 ways, as her own forces were stretched to the breaking point.  First, her mining/scouting expeditions that had struck out into the Wildlands in search of their next iron ore mine have been disappearing…as have the search parties sent out to find them.  She fears the worst but needs to know if there are any survivors and, just as importantly, what is causing these disappearances.  The second task was a domestic one, in the form of a newly arrived and particularly brutal organization of thieves and murderers, calling themselves the Shadow Hands.  The criminal underworld of Jiyutoshi had been, since her rule began, relatively benign…petty thievery, burglarly, pick-pocketing, money laundering scams and the like.  But her city guard didn't have the resources to deal with this new savagery, and she requested the trio's assistance in any way they could: any information about the group to aid in their expelling from Jiyutoshi, or any progress in eliminating them.  She promised they would not go unrewarded for their services, and allowed the group to spend the afternoon partaking in some hospitality…a meal, some time in the palace baths and such.  

The gang left the Palace many hours later, having spent the majority of the afternoon in comfort.  They crossed the vast city back towards the Stone Pony in Low Town…but sometime after sundown as they were crossing through one of the more seedier slums, a shrill scream pierced the night air, and around the corner came running a young girl, of about 10 years.  Plowing straight into the group, the young girls babbled incoherently for a few moments about "somethingsomethingitsaftermesomethingsomethingMONSTER"

Not more than a few seconds later, there was a low menacing growl, and from around the corner in pursuit of the young girl, came leaping a monstrosity the likes of which had never been seen by any of the 3 adventurers.  Built on the frame of a man, various wolf parts seemed to have been grafted on…a Chimera of wolf and man: The torso and hips of a man, but the legs, forearms/claws, tail and combination head of a wolf/man!  A more vile hybrid they had never seen.

A savage battle ensued, and the horrific nightmare beast was defeated.  Finding little of interest on the beast itself (save for a few extracted teeth, courtesy of Hettle), the trio brought the young girl, who's name they learned to be Mei, back to the Stone Pony where she would feel more safe around a crowd of humanoids.  It is there, they began planning their next move when Grimpem noticed something was missing from its usual place in his coat pocket…

The Story Begins


For years, this isolated settlement on the edge of the savage Wildlands has called to those with a rogue streak of independence, entrepreneurship, a taste for adventure or any/all of the above. Even though Jiyutoshi owes its allegiance to the capital city of Mah’Puana, its geographical distance from the capital has allowed it to function as a near sovereign state for many years. Governed by Lady Kyoko, a charismatic and much-beloved leader by its citizens, Jiyutoshi has solidified itself as an economic powerhouse and urban bastion from the Wildlands, against which the city is dangerously nestled.

What once was merely a glorified outpost for explorers of the frontier, the discovery of massive iron ore deposits in the surrounding lands caused both an economic and population boom in Jiyutoshi. The city’s footprint began to expand rapidly and the burgeoning metropolis existed in a near lawless state for many years as the city was flooded with all manners of people wishing to gain control of the new found wealth. Crime was rampant, rival gangs battled openly in the streets as they each sought to establish themselves as the dominant force in the city. But it was Lady Kyoko and her mysterious contingent of elite soldiers who eventually gained control. Not only did Lady Kyoko crack down on violent crime by establishing a strong and persistent City Guard (captained by her personal elite warriors), she also organized the mining industry into a single united workforce, commissioned the massive forge in the center of the city and negotiated strong and lasting economic relationships with many wealthy merchants in the larger cities on the continent. In doing all these things, she created the stability that the city so desperately needed and for this, her people adore her with a ferocity not seen in any other city on the continent.

But recently, the exports from Jiyutoshi have begun to decline in volume. Messengers are not arriving either at or from the Free City with the regularity they used to. Rumors and stories have begun to circulate of caravans traveling to and from the city being attacked by strange beasts, with some caravans disappearing entirely. These rumors, disregarded by most as the ravings of mad men or sowers of discontent, have caused a migration of two types of people to Jiyutoshi: ambitious individuals who seek to capitalize on the sudden and strange instability, and those who would seek to help Jiyutoshi stabilize itself (and maybe make some coin in the process).

It is on one of these caravans that you find yourselves, bound for Jiyutoshi. Each traveler has their own reasons for making the difficult journey, but tensions run high as the convoy begins to make its way through the outskirts of the Wildlands, still a full day’s ride to Jiyutoshi. Many of those traveling with the caravan (totaling 15 individuals including yourselves: 3 of which are on their own horses, 2 horse-drawn carts upon which yourselves and those other travelers without horses ride, and including 3 armed guards from Jiyutoshi) begin to make nervous small talk as the dense and savagely lush forest presses in closer around you, cutting off almost all the natural light from the sun with its soaring, thick canopy. The air grows humid and stagnant as the smell of wet leaves and decaying plant life creeps into your nostrils. Moss-covered trees grow larger and thicker here than most have ever seen, and the sounds of fauna one might expect in such a wilderness are conspicuously absent.

An elderly human man of about 60 years sits on one of these carts. He wears the black and red tunic of an employee of the Free City, and his perpetually soot-stained fingers reveal him as a worker of the great forge. His nerves are shown clearly on his face, and his remarkably thick and well-worn hands run hastily through the thinning wisps of white hair on his head as he swallows loudly, lets out a tense chuckle and asks to nobody in particular,
“(gulp) hehe…what brings you to the Free City?”


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