Esa’Mylntanali

Esa
 


 

Esa’Mylntanali


 

The village of Esa’Mylntanali resides within the Verdant Kingdom where it has kept a watchful eye on their borders with the Old Kingdom and Wastelands in the years following the Lich Wars.

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Once an entry point for traders from the lands it now keeps a watchful eye on, the citizens focus a great deal of attention on the extension and maintenance of what they’ve dubbed the Forest Wall, a large stretch of forest where they’ve bred ferocious beasts and untamed plant-life.

The clan was ruled through a council of elders who voted on matters of importance to the village. Rulings by the royal family naturally overrode the council, but otherwise their word was law. Elders, when gaining their position would hold it until they either stepped down or passed into the next world. Two clans made up the vast majority of the citizenry, the Ironleaf and the Oakenbranch. Competitive with one another they found themselves as close as any allies when push would come to shove.

 

Before the Lich-Wars
For generations the village was known as the entry point to the Verdant Kingdom for the north-eastern cities of the Halcyon Empire. The many winding and looping foot trails throughout and vast forest has left more than one visitor lost within the woods for weeks or months at a time, in some cases they never turned up. Over the years many of the citizens found a successful lifestyle in offering themselves as guides to those visitors and as protection against the dangers of the forest.

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Over generations this created a tradition of well-trained scouts and rangers, knowledgeable in the hidden nooks and crannies of the kingdom, sharp of eye and used to dealing with outsiders. The flare-ups with their cousins to the east tended to carry less weight with them, but from time to time when a show of force would be needed they would always answer their kingdoms call.

 

The Lich Wars
During the Lich Wars things started to turn sour for the village. With the rampant assaults of the northern cities and the destruction of the trade networks the traders and visitors dried up almost overnight, replaced with refuges. On top of that was the worries that things were going to spill over into their lands, and being on the border they would be bearing the brunt of it.

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Guardsmen were dispatched from around the empire to the village and its surrounding areas to assist with keeping a watchful eye. Aegnor Ironleaf, a warrior from Esa’Mylntanali, made something of a name for himself. Employing clever tactics he became a master at hit and run attacks on groups drawing too close to the forest. By wars end he was hailed as a hero by the people of Esa’Mylntanali, due in part to the lives saved credited to him, but also in part pride their village had raised him.

It was rare for danger to get within sight of the village, and when it did it was often a lone undead monstrosity which was quickly dispatched. No major forces ever did threaten their well-being. If this was due to the elves efforts to try and intercept and whittle down the enemy or due to a lack of effort on the liches part is up for debate.

 

Post Lich-Wars
Following the war is became clearly their past way of life was over, no guides would be needed for visitors from the northern lands. Instead watchful eyes, accurate bowmen, and strong sword arms would be required.

A number of actions were taken by the council to help with this. All able-bodied citizenry were required to take up basic combat training. Those going the extra step and joining the ranger corps were given various honours within the village, and in turn were expected to spend time away watching for danger. Children, upon reaching 50 years of age, would have to begin adding martial training to their regular education, starting with an introduction to the Tulwa sport. Lastly a decision was made to shape the woods along the border into a wall of sorts. The beasts living there were to be tempered into more ferocious predators and dangerous plant-life.

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The wall offered them no real illusion that this was going to stop any major assault, should one ever come. Rather, the idea was to try and help channel any attacks coming from the wastes towards the borders of the summer kingdom. A force could opt to deal with losses from the creatures, it could take the long way around, or, as the council surmised, it would go in where defenses were softer. They did not believe the monsters now crawling from the scar left in the wake of the war bore any distinction between the two kingdoms and, if they were to attack, would simply do so where it was most ideal.

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The Empires erecting of Bastion Keep came as a great relief to them as well, offering yet another line of defence.

Fall of Esa’Mylntanali
About 13 years past the village met its demise. Vast numbers of undead suddenly and without warning swarmed onto the village. The trained citizenry put up a heroic effort but were helplessly outnumbered and, taken by surprise, were not able to mount an effective counter. In the end the village burned and was toppled. A small number of scouts were known to have survived, and all reported seeing nothing at all.

A hastily formed force was sent to deal with the undead, upon arriving at the city however no survivors were found. Rumors of some who had escaped the attack made the rounds. Years later a single girl from the village was verified to have survived after news reached the kingdom that one of the Ironleaf had successfully helped recover The Rings of the Mater in the ongoing efforts to stop Maras. To date no other accounts of survivors have been verified.

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Cultural Traditions


Tulwa

Tulwa is a knife dueling sport that was been popular in the village at times in the past. The goal of the sport is to cause three light wounds on your foes chest before they do the same to you. Combatants dominate hands are tied together and their top is removed so wounds can be clearly seen (women are permitted some covering for modesty typically).

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Anything more than a light wound is considered to be a show of poor control at best, and outright assault at worst. The goal is not to kill but to show who has more precise control over the weapon. Magic is of course forbidden, even in cases where both parties agree to it most onlookers will not consider it a true match.

This has been used to settle disputes in the past with some degree of success. In more recent times it has become part of virtually all children’s education, mostly in an effort to help children get over the fear of being cut. They start off using wooden blades covered in berry juice to get them used to getting hit and once they are older and have shown proper control over a blade they will be permitted to start using the real thing.

 

Falas Esse
Also known as their name day, this represents the day the elf becomes an adult. They get to cast aside their child name and take on an adult name of their own choosing. In order to gain this right a task will typically be given of the youngster, something benefiting the people of the village. Upon completion of the task a vote is taken by the elder council and if accepted they become recognized as adults. Typically this takes place around their 100th birthday. In the rare case some elves never do complete this task and are never seen as adults in the eyes of the village.

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Eunoto
A fairly new tradition, this is the name to mark the honour given to one who joined the rangers corps and had served for 100 years. Upon joining the ranger corps the elf was not permitted to marry or own anything of their own, they belonged to the village and served it. Time off would be limited to a few weeks each year, otherwise they were to be living in the wilds along the border and the wastelands. Upon completing their period they were given land and a pension, their time required in the field was significantly reduced and they would often assist with the training of new recruits, and they could now marry.

 


Ainu’Cuivie (Spirit Days)
This is a belief in what happens to the departed.

It was believed that upon death the process of moving from this world to the next took place over ten days. During this period the soul of the individual would transition from the state that exists in this world into the one that they will exist as in the next. As the transition occurs they are still aware of this world, with it slowly fading, and the new one becoming clearer as they draw closer to their next destination.

While in this state they are highly affected by the feelings and emotions of those they were close to. Ancestors will be able to speak across the void, and their friends and family will be able to reach out to them from this. Their ancestors send them encouragement and information about how to prepare themselves for the next stage of their existence, and emotions from those left behind find their way to them. As a result their families try to put on a stoic show for the departed, trying to honour the life they had and ease their passage to the next world, after all everything is changing for them and will be new and likely scary. They want them to know they will be missed but they will be able to carry on and will see them against someday, encouraging them to move on. Those who are afraid of the change or find their connection to the living too strong may end up trapped between the worlds. It would take a communication from the next world to let one living know of this situation.

Any adult involved who sheds tears of sadness is thought to have harmed the passing. Children on the other hand are bundles of emotions that go all over the place with little control, so there is naught that can be done there, but they are encouraged to act as the adults are but it is understood when they do not. On the 11th days adults are free to mourn the passing of their loved ones.

09

 

4-1 [Square One]

A year has come and gone. Our hopes were raised at the discovery and acquisition of one of the artifacts some 2 months past, and then crushed with the loss of Ramas and Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale shortly after at the hands of a mountain dwelling nation of elves previously unknown to me.

It was quite the trek to collect what we did get, and it picks up where I left off before.


We made our way to the goblins camp and there found a mass of goblin bodies that were being recalled to life by some kind of demon and lorded over by a massive twisted goblin, he must have stood near to 25 feet tall. It proved to be quite a fight. Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale and Ramas fearlessly dove in, and in the end it was Obinorcle’s magic saw us through it handily as he easily constrained the giant giving us time to deal with the demon and goblins.

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Upon our victory we searched through out their village, and there we found a story hidden within one of their huts. It was written in several languages, a few of which we knew, and through it we were able to piece together a story. It told of this god who had glowing hands, only as the hero of the story, a Dur the Disgusting, found out, they it was really a set of rings. Dur was able to cut the hands away from the god when he found him laying down in a clearing
resting. The rings continued to glow and Dur could find no way to remove them from the severed hands. To ease his burden he affixed them to a hat he wore. He travelled around the land and was through to have fallen in combat at the Battle of the Roasted Pig which occurred in a place called the Canyon of Fulg the Bent. The goblin story believes that in that location the godhat (as they so named it) could still be found. A dire warning about some dragon beast laying in wait has stayed their own hand from trying to recover the treasure.

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As it was however we don’t have the proper sense of a fear the goblins developed. Not having any idea where this Canyon of Fulg the Bent was, let alone even who this Fulg the Bent was, we went looking for Answers. Obinorcle and I went to the great library in Galinios.


 

I had never seen the likes of this library. It must have every single book in its collection. Shelf after shelf of tomes and stories, they even had the complete 26 book set of The Hunter of Everything, sadly I did not have any free time
so I didn’t get to do much more than crack the cover before I could feel the omnipresent eyes of one Obinorcle McTinkster burrowing into my back. Sigh.

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The two of us poured over the tomes trying to find some kind of clue as to where this canyon might be, none of the scholars were familiar with it. Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale asked around the town, and Ramas took a trip back to see his family who live near the city, I don’t think he had any idea how much I envied him right then.

We spent near to a month going through tome after tome. Obinorcle was rather insistent that I not shapeshift in there. Whatever I thought, but wow did the staff ever over-react the first and only time I did it. They went running for the guards saying a monster had somehow made it into the library. Some 20 guards can rushing in. All I was trying to do was reach the top shelf… I got quite the lecture from the guards, but I just smiled and nodded my way through it. It’s not my fault the librarian has never seen a giant ape in person and lost her cool. Yeash. No reason at all to flip out.

Once that incident was cleared up she spent time trying to show me how to use their ladders. I told her I was well aware of how to use a ladder and how much slower it was. I could tell she was getting really frustrated so I decided to just suck it up and use her stupid boring ladder. Well actually I usually just climbed up on the shelves which got me the evil eye from Obi. Gods, why do they make the shelves so tall if they don’t want people to climb them? I don’t see Obinorcle even getting his own books off top, Ineis go get me this up there, Ineis go get me that up there! Time was of the essence, was it really so important that I go and find a ladder first?

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Eventually we did find a few linked events that lead us to believe this place was located in the Spire Canyon to the north east of Hope’s Cove. We assembled everyone and started off. But before that I had an important item to pick up.

With my strengthening connection to the primal and seeing Thenosis’s use of his scrying magics I felt I could do the same thing. But I was going to need a special vessel to do it with, so I stopped by the adventuring shop in Hope’s Cove and had such a vessel ordered. I had it match my clan’s colours and had parts of the design match it as well. Quite expensive for a bowl but the magic was going to need it, and if I had to use something special I wanted it to feel right.

Our trip to the Spire Canyon was going to take us upwards of a month, during that time in the evenings I used my magic with the bowl and gave my hand a try with scrying magics. First I made sure I was doing it right and went looking for myself. Looking down into the bowl which had an image of me looking into the bowl which had another image of me looking into the bowl (and so on) quickly made me dizzy and after a bit the image seemed to slow down, or maybe it was just me.

Following that I took a deep breath and started looking for any survivors. My sister, Banori. My parents, Iaenaer and Gwingnis. Nothing on any of them. My friends Sontar and Halas. And so on I went. I’ve long come to term that they had died so I wasn’t too hopeful, but having this tool for the first time gave me a tool I could use to search for anyone. And on and on I went, it was slow going, between my responsibilities to the mission and how much effort the spell takes I could only scan for a person a day at best, sometimes not even then.

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Every day I would focus on memories of one person and at night during my watch I would work the magic. And every night I would be disappointed. I could have failed the casting, they could be somewhere it wouldn’t reach, but I expected not, not for so many. And then, after nearly a month of searching I found something, and I still can’t explain it. I had gone though my family and friends and had started reaching out in other ways. I found a doll, a doll I had made for my cousin Linla! It was in a wide open field. A few nick knacks were scattered about haphazardly, as if dropped in a rush. But most concerning was blood staining the grass. Fresh blood. So this happened recently. In a panic I woke everyone and asked them to look. No one really had any idea where it was, Ramas and Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale thought it might be in the south-western part of the empire based on the terrain, but that was still a guess.

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I really had no idea what to make of it, and still don’t. If she had gotten away what was she doing so far from the woods? Surely someone would have taken her somewhere safe, any of the other elven cities would have taken her in, they could have even taken her into the Summer Kingdom, after all her father was from there, she has family she could have been taken to. But it seems she was taken as far as possible. Or at least her doll was. Why this would be I have no idea. I have to find some way to find them, but I also have to focus on my task. If might not be her, and if by a miracle it is, Maras is a threat to her and has to be stopped. As much as I wanted to, heck as much as I want to, the best way to keep her safe right now seems to be in stopping Maras. But is this the right decision? I have no idea…


When we reached the Canyon we could see stone spires jutted upwards, some just a few feet, others must have been pushing 100 feet. Oddly they were all worn smooth, the reason for which would reveal itself to us not too long after our arrival.

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An hour or so after entering the canyon we ran into some giant ants, and by giant I mean elf sized easily. They approached us, keeping a cautious distance. I attempted a friendship spell on them when a group of them seemed to be making some aggressive signals towards us. The spell seemed to work for a short time but was broken fairly quickly mysteriously. I theorize a creature we would run into underground was controlling them, likely my spell had worked initially, but only until the beast below focused on the ant once more, shattering my spells effect on it.

The creatures ended up attacking us shortly after my spell broke, spitting some acid and attacking with their pincers. Nothing We weren’t able to deal with easily enough. The fight however had attracted something else. A large lizard, big enough to swallow Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale whole, with these fantastic scales that were scraping along all the rocks. It seems this was what creating the smooth features found here. How many there must be around I had no idea, all of the spires were worn this way, and I can’t imagine it was just the one.

This creature, unlike the ants, proved fairly formidable. He was able to quickly manhandled Ramas and Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale at the same time, actually swallowing Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale whole! I gave chase as a dinosaur but it quickly scampered up one of the spires out of reach. Considering my next move its two captives were able to, secure. I winced as they fell some distance to the ground with a thud along with the creature. Fearing there was more around I quickly healed them up, but it turned out this one alone, and in actuality I never did see another. In his remains we found the strangest items, all kinds of random adventuring gear, clearly a number of people have been by here and met this beast with less success than we had. I wonder how long it could have kept that up before it succumbed to some kind of fatal issue caused by all of that.

 


 

A little later as we were setting up camp for the night when a lone human male dressed in the beat-up raiment’s of a knight came upon us. He looked to be in rough shape and we quickly invited him to share our fire. He introduced himself as Rohr. He had been out with a group of fell adventurers on the same quest as us. He explained they had run into problems with some insect men in the area and the rest of his group had been captured. His story seemed to match the group that the poor woman, Hena, had been distraught about back in Hope’s Cove. He had been trying to make his way back to Hope’s Cove to find help, so I guess we were a godsend to him. He was having a great deal of time getting around the creatures living in the spire canyon however. He asked for our help to mount a rescue of his friends. We explained why we were, that we think we had found the location of one of the artifacts, and the beast that may guard over them. As fortune would have it he had actually found the beast in his efforts to find a way out, or at least he had found some monster at any rate. In the end he agreed to help us slay the beast, and in return we would help him recover his friends from these insert men.

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Rohr knowledge proved true, and the beast was indeed the one talked about in the goblin story. Well, unless some other giant dragon like beast had moved in where the old one was. Rohr lead us to it’s lair, the place was swarming with those giant ant’s, but they seemed to pay us no attention. I was a little worried what would happen should we cause a ruckus inside, but I think by this point I was quite certain we were going to meet our end on this quest, and if that happened I sure wasn’t going to the next life running on my heels!

A few dangers were in the caverns that we crept through but nothing that proved any kind of consequence. Eventually we found ourselves face to face with a massive beast. A number of the warrior caste of the ants stood on guard for the beast, clearly looking out for its well being against their own, as if they saw it as their nests queen despite it clearly not being one of them. It was using mind control on the poor creatures, and not just on them but on the thousands that littered the walls and ceiling of the caverns we had delved into. We engaged it in a fight, and it was furious indeed. It had some kind of invisible blast, some kind of assault on the mind. It didn’t cause physical harm but wore at your mind. Ramas of course was the first to go down. But he also got back up, which didn’t seem all that odd at first, it looked like he had just fallen and gotten back to his feet, but he was in fact firmly under the control of the beast. A pulsing growth was on the back of the creature. It seemed to have some kind of power of healing over the creatures he had dominated.

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Obinorcle and I held off some of the ants, Rohr faced the beast head on, while Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale took to destroying this growth. It was quite the site, I had never seen Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale fight like that before. He disappeared and reappeared in a wisps of mist and really did a number on him, clearly causing him a lot of pain if not real harm. Ramas however had made his way to Obinorcle and had taken him out, causing him to also rise. About this time the beast managed to fling Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale off his back and into a nearby deep puddle of some ooze. Rohr looked about ready to fall as well. One chance I thought, I pushed through the ants with my might dinosaur form, it’s strength easily overpowering the ants. Aiming for the beasts throat I rushed towards him, but the harm suffered in this form was too great, the ants felled my dinosaur and I suddenly found myself very small standing before this beast.

I drew upon some darker magic, magic I was using to try and help figure out a way to bridge a way to commune with the next world. I could feel the necrotic energy flow into the beast, I gave it everything I had left, and with that I saw pain in its eyes and then they were vacant. The ants behind me, Ramas, and Obinorcleall fell silent and then to the ground. I stepped back as the beast fell into a heap. Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale had managed to pull himself from the ooze and along with Rohr joined me. We took a look at our friends. I threw a small healing spell at Ramas to see if that would awaken him, I figured if he was still under their control we’d have a much easier time subduing him than Obi, but while it healed the visible wounds it did not do anything to awaken him.

While considering what to do they did fortunately come to on their own. The pit of ooze Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale had fallen into also seemed to be draining.


 

After some time it seemed to bottom out. We didn’t find any sign of anything that looked like glowing rings, or gloves, or a hat, or hands, or anything really in the chamber. So deeper we decided to go. I lept off first slowing my fall
with my magic and landed slowly in waste deep muck. Muck filled with decomposing bodies of past would be heroes, it was a horrible sight but we had a job so I did my best to put it aside. Then the muck started to move, a hand, a dwarven one popped out and out came the rest of the dwarf. I called up that we had company and then called over to the dwarf to see if he was ok, and, how was he even alive. He told a story about how his group had found this creature and looked to slay it, they had failed and his god had apparently saved him putting him into some kind of frozen state. I never did learn who his god was, he was quite evasive about it, but one thing I am almost positive of, it is most definitely a dark one. His name was Arbosh, and not seeing any other options we took him along with us.

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Exploring a bit at the base of this pit was a raised ledge which lead to a small landing. On the floor of the landing was what looked a lot like a teleport circle, but it was weird because some of the symbols I recognized as clearly
druidic, but most I did not. Obinorcle was quite baffled by it too. As this seemed to be the end of the road we decided Obinorcle should try casting the spell on it, this would be quite the elaborate setup to be a trap. So he cast his
spell and a portal popped up just as I’ve seen him do before. We stepped through and found ourselves in a large circular room. A massive throne sat at the far end of the room, with Fulg the Bent himself sitting in it. Standing guard before him were two large humanoid statues. The walls were entirely covered in some kind of text, but nothing I could read.

He greeted us, but before we could get a word out Arbosh charged at him. He swore a blood oath to end him for all he had done. Not having a clue what he had in fact actually done, we found ourselves caught in what looked to be some fight between Arbosh and Fulg.

This was a very strange battle. The statues animated and Fulg himself was invisible, or actually phased as Obinorcle explained it afterwards. The statues were easily dealt with, and Obinorcle seemed quite capable of keeping Fulg
neutralized with his magic, but we were having no luck striking him. He seemed to appear and disappear at random, so we had to spread out in the end. I had chosen a new form, I could feel my own shifting had grown enough to try it, one of the dinosaurs I had battled back in the Northern Woods with Banori. And as if by providence I was able to land the first real blow on him. He soon found himself surrounded and quickly slain by us, rings attached to his fingers. I guess he had figured out how to get them off the hands.

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I really started to doubt if this quest was going to pan out. If this man had so many years to master these rings and was laid low by us so easily, how useful can they really prove against the lich lord? Not that I see a better
alternative. As Obinorcle would find they do have some useful powers, but nothing I’ve seen so far strikes me as earth shattering. He tells me he’s not fully attuned to them yet and there is still more to unlock, so I’m still living with that hope.

The rings were cut from the fingers of Fulg and Obinorcle played them on his own without so much as a thought. I was worried at first about what they might do, they seemed to almost grow roots into his hands (which I guess is why they were so hard to remove from the hands in the story). He did seem to be ok though. It gave him some deeper understanding in a few fields and allowed him the power to fly.


We rested up that night in Fulg’s room. I spent a few hours translating the text on the walls, a lot of it spoke of another man in the north, a Rygar, lording over an army with his magic sword. We found the spell book of Fulg, and he has some rather unusual spells in it. Spell forms that normally fall into the domain of other types of magic, but created in such a way as to allow an arcane caster to work them. Obinorcle said they were strange and didn’t make a lot of sense to him.

So naturally he ended up preparing one of them to try out the next day. When he tried to teleport us out however he found the spells in his head were all becoming jumbled up due to the unusual parts of Fulgs spells that he tried to
prepare. He couldn’t work any of his other spells while the pattern for this one remained imprinted in his mind, so we ended up waiting another day. I spoke to Arbosh about what had happened between him and Fulg, but he had no answer, instead hiding behind a defense of the colour of his skin. I chalked his bizarre behaviour up to the recent loss of his group, but it was very hard to ignore the answer he gave. He killed him because his skin was green? I’ve had green skin before. I’ll have green skin again.


So the following day Obinorcle teleport us back up, and over the course of the next few days we made our way towards the insect men to see if we could help Rohr’s companions.

On the way there I spotted some glints of metal moving in the distance, I figured it was these creatures as we were nearing the region the attack had happened in. Keeping tabs on us no doubt. I saw them a few more times during the day, and finally late in the day they showed themselves to us. They could not speak any of our tongues with their biology, but I was able to use my bardic magic again to translate, and they could fortunately understand us. They told us we were trespassing on their land. I tried to work out a deal with them to let us go see about getting Rohr’s people released but, unfortunately, found they would have been killed some time ago, sacrificed to their great beast. Rohr seemed a little shaken, not surprisingly. One of his companions, Hena’s husband, had a Golden Axe that Rohr wanted to bring back to her. So I did work out a deal to go speak to their queen and see if it would be possible to negotiate for its return.

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They would not let us carry our weapons into their lands without permission so Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale and Arbosh stayed behind and held onto our belongings while Ramas, Obi, Rohr, and myself continued on. It was a days march give or take before we arrived at their city. It was very alien, these insectoids were secreting a mucus they were using to build their structures from. It looked like a kind of stone and made for some interesting looking structures. They seemed to be doing quite well for themselves out here.

Eventually we meet with the queen, we made an offering of some of our magical trinkets, our guide had told us it would likely help to soften her mood. The queen herself was much larger than these other insects, and like a good insect colony everyone seemed to be working towards her goals and wishes. On our trip there it was suggested to us that if we wanted to win her favour at all we should make offerings of gifts to her. So we collected a few of our magical trinkets before arriving and offered them up to her. She seemed bemused with these gifts, she told us about how her people had travelled here from the astral plane, through a gate to this place and had setup a new home. When she finished her story she asked what we were after. I explained that our friend here had taken part in a battle with some of their forces, and that his companions had been defeated by hers, and taken here. We knew they had been slain, but there was a treasure one of them had which Rohr wanted back.

Then she asked a question. She asked me if he had told us about the fight. I said no, and then images were projected into our heads. I saw fighting with some sentries, Rohr’s allies defeated them and moved into a village. Clearly the people were not warriors, they ran and cringed from them as they drew near, yet they slew and gutted them just the same, most appeared to be begging to be spared. Very much so like those 12 years ago…

My heart fell into my stomach. Looking deep into Rohr’s eyes all I could see was anger. I asked him if this was true. I could almost feel the light of his devotion fading from him. He didn’t directly admit to it but it was clear, he
yelled an oath at the queen and charged at her, reaching her before her guards could intercept him. Words to a polymorph spell were quickly at the tip of my tongue and I could see Obinorcle doing the same. The queen beat us however, her mandibles ripped his head clear from his shoulders. Everything went silent, all I could hear was her chewing on his skull.

She quickly finished and asked us if there would be anything else. I tried to regain my composure. I told her we were travelling through her lands and would like permission to cross them. She granted it. And on the way out she told us one more thing. Her lands were vast, the gnolls under Rhygar were being watched by her, and she had her eyes on new territories. Specifically lands in the northwest, past the mountains. I knew immediately she meant the Verdant and Summer

kingdoms. I stopped for a minute and looked over at her, she had what I could only describe as a grin on her face. She said her beast was quite impressive, they had found it in the north, a worm from the astral plane. I assume she was referring to the giant worm that destroyed Bastions Keep. I quickly considered if I should try and kill her now. Could she actually stage an assault? There’s a lot fo them, and the worm is quite formidable, but with proper preparation it could definitely be stopped. I think. Ramas was always ready for a fight, he would help I was sure. Obinorcle probably would rather not, I’d say there would be a 50/50 chance he’d help, probably because they’d likely assume he was a threat too. I looked around the room, far too many guards. I didn’t think we’d have a chance. Better to send a warning.

Once we were outside their city I stopped Obinorcle and Ramas and pulled out our map and looked at it intently. I figured at the rate they travel against the rate I can travel I could make it to the Verdant Kingdom, pass along a warning and then meet them at the ruins we were heading towards. Obinorcle looked at me skeptically. “You’ll probably end up dying.” he said. Everything out here did seen quite intent on killing us, but what was the point in stopping the Lich if the world eater made it to the Blackwood? “Look, I’ll send a message to my guy in Galinios, he’ll pass the word down. And even if they are going they’ve got a long ways to go plus the mountains to get over. They aren’t going to be attacking tomorrow.”. I had to admit he was right. So he sent off his message which seemed to be received.

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Four or five days later I spotted a unique creature. It bore similarities to a whale in it’s shape with the exception it’s fins we’re more tentacles. Oh, and it was flying, not swimming. I had to watch this beast for some time. It was

rather slow and seemed to be scrounging for some kind of food. Food I would find was actually magic bleeding from the very ground from the ancient magical fights that took place on this land. I had never seen, nor even heard of it’s like. Once I had watched it long enough I had to try it. I stretched and stretched and stretched and soon enough I had taken on its form. It’s mind was strange to say the least. I got the sense from the way it’s mind worked though that it really wasn’t entirely natural, almost like it had either been built or altered much like the ship in the astral plane, only obviously this creature was sentient. Some kind of special defence mechanism was available but I couldn’t really tell what it was, and it seemed something my sky whale mind shied away from so I let it be.

Sky Whale
Looking at the group I could see Obinorcle tapping his pocket watch, he was in quick the hurry to get to the ruins, the prospect of gadgets and lost technology had him all giddy. Ramas, I swear, was looking at me hungrily. Maybe
wondering what this tasted like… Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale was enjoying the sun, and Arbosh was busy talking to no one in particular about the virtues of this race over that one. I’m not sure why he’s still following us, and I am sure I’m not happy with it.

I switched back and we continued on our way.


A few hours later we saw what looked like a walled city in the distance and decided to check into it. As we drew nearer we could see this place was oddly large. Amazingly large. And as we found it had large owners. Giants, and not only that but ones made from stone! A small number of them had left their home across the sea some time ago and setup a new home here, and now numbered around 100 souls. Over the years they had learned to live more in tune with the new home, they would have had to given how desolate it is. They had impressive gardens tended by their druids who I saw use their magic to actually enlarge their food (a trick one of them taught me, it was just a few twists to the plant growth spell). They also hunted the sky whales, Hemel Walvis as they called them. Their meat used to fill their bellies, bones to help with their structures, and so on. The druids assured me it was at a sustainable level, but I wasn’t too sure how I felt about this.

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While there we learned a bit of their traditions, which included their whale hunt. They spoke of some dwarven ruins in the desert, this set Arbosh off causing him to draw his weapon and threaten one of the giants. Obinorcle beat me to the punch and polymorph him into a turtle. I acted inappropriately I’m a little ashamed to say in his condition, conjuring some sea gulls to strike fear into his heart. Maybe the heat was getting to me? Really there’s no excuse, and despite the way he acts it was wrong. I had tried to be understanding of him, he had lost his friends he had been with, although I could not get him to speak of them. He still was evasive about his deity as well.

A little later they invited us to have dinner and drinks with them. I grinned at Ramas and took as big a mug as him. Then, again, despite knowing better, switched into an Earth Elemental and drank down the entire
massive flagon in one gulp. I had assumed it would sort of work its way through whatever systems the elemental had, or get soaked up by some of the stone and… go away I guess. Instead I could feel is slosh about inside me. Ramas gave me a thumbs up and a big grin. I knew I was in trouble.

I sat there trying to look cool, as cool as a pile of stone that’s worried she’s going to suffer an acute case of alcohol poisoning can anyways. After trying to shift it out I decided to just get myself ready to cast a restoration spell
on myself to quickly purge the poison as I switched back. Well, I’m not sure how long it was but it was nearing nightfall when I awoke, still alive fortunately, my head disagreeing with my assessment. Fortunately for me they took care of me, because sure enough when I switched back my body absorbed it all and I was down.

Sheepishly I went looking for my friends, while vowing to not do anything else stupid today. I found them talking with the giants elder druid, he and Obinorcle were conversing about some the desert ruins when I joined them. He mentioned that one of the ruins they had come across was an old dwarven settlement. Arbosh, once again, flew off the handle. This is where I stopped feeling sorry for him. This man may not be evil but he is incredibly misguided and acting well beyond any level of acceptable behaviour by any society. This is the second time in the same day he has flown off the handle. He has no discipline, and whatever god he serves cannot possibly be worthy of any worship for granting a follower such strength. Resolved, I reached for magic to end him, I was not going to allow him to continue to put peoples lives at risk over such foolishness. Obinorcle quickly figured out what I was doing and broke me out of my trance. He called to Arbosh and between him and the elder they talked him down.

After our conversation there was talk of joining some of the giants on their hunt tomorrow, I was quite certain I was still going to be feeling ill then (regardless of how ill I wasn’t), a rather polite way of saying not on your life. I
did play with the idea of trying to sabotage the hunt. I could sneak out, use my magic to track their movement, scare off any nearby sky whales and take it places and see if I can lure them away. But really what would that have
accomplished, and with my new found vow to not do anything else stupid tonight I decided against it. So instead I joined in the talking and merriment for the night and eventually settled in for the night.


The next morning saw the three of them off, the last time I would lay my eyes on them. I wasn’t pleased they were going, I should have spoken up and tried to talk them out of it, but I figured once Ramas had his mind made up. I spent the next few hours hanging around with the druids and teaching Obinorcle about proper cat educate.

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A commotion near the entrance of the town grabbed my attention. Getting a view I saw the four giant hunters who had gone off with our companions, one of them looked in pretty bad shape. I ran up asking what had happened and was told they were attacked by elves, a vast number. My questions about what happened to my companions was met with solemn silence for a moment, the one of them told me the last they saw one of them was unconscious or dead, and the rest were in sorry shape.

Pulling out my scrying bowl I immediately went looking for Ramas and found him laid out on the ground, stripped to his essentials, and tied up. Breathing a sigh of relief that he was at least not dead I looked around and saw they were loading up a ship with meat and bones from what I assume was one of the whales. And then they started to pull Ramas onto their strange ship (I correctly assumed this was one of their flying vessels). Around this time Obinorcle had made his way out and asked he what was going on so I filled him in.

The giants were genuinely concerned as well but unfortunately could not offer much, they just knew the elves came in on their ships during the hunts from time to time, but never in numbers like this, and would leave flying towards the northwestern mountains. The range of mountains stretches hundreds and hundreds of miles so unfortunately that was not of a great deal of help. They gave us direction’s to the site of the fighting, they said our companions had managed to actually down a few ships. Hopeful that we could find some clue, maybe some navigational tool… well, I was hopeful. I get the impression Obinorcle would become more concerned with how they work once we got there.By the time we finished preparations it was nightfall again, I wanted to leave but Obinorcle and the giants were insistent on waiting until morning.


Waiting by his bed, packed and with breakfast in hand I awaited Obinorcle’s awakening. I might have nudged him awake by mistake a little early. And finally we were off.

The site proved easy enough to find, especially with it being just the two of us we were free to use our respective flight magic’s to make the trip in time. We had a look around but the ships were far too smashed up to offer us any clues at all. I scrying Ramas again, they were still in flight. I got the idea that I might be able to see some sights that might act as land marks for us. We did know the direction they had taken off towards yesterday so we started off in that direction.

Later in the day Obinorcle made contact with Ramas and Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale through his magic. The elves had been after their equipment, sending in a much bigger force after they got whiff of strong magic in the region. Then why in the blazes did they take them too? They had passed into the mountains so we flew down to the ground ourselves and I scryed them again. There was a few mountains that stood out, I figured based on that, and with where the sun was in the sky to them, we could find the general area. Plus I could see a fair number of those ships in the skies, if we can find those we should be able to locate their home I surmised.

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It wasn’t until mid-day the following day that we arrived within the mountains, and sure enough we found that we suspected was their destination by following the sights and ships. As far as we could put together the king wanted to know what they were doing in his nations territory hunting his whales. He had given their items to his warriors and sent them out after Rygar to recover his sword. For some reason he had decided to make sport of the three of them, he offered them the chance to recover their goods if they could hunt down and kill Rhygar first and bring the king the sword. Typical High Elven society, the world revolves around them as far as they are concerned.

We made arrangements with our friends as to where to meet them later. But when they did not arrive I tried scrying them and it was like I was hitting a wall. Obinorcle could not contact them magically either. Concerned we waited, I toyed with going into their city but decided it was too dangerous. A few hours later I regained contact.

Atop a cliff with a towering waterfall raining down over the ledge I saw Ramas and Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale in my bowl. They were entirely naked, Ramas had two elves in headlocks, and both he and Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale were looking back into the forest edge. I could see the ground had several arrows sticking in it. Having seen the arrows I took a look at them and saw they had a few arrows each lodged in them. In the sky I could see two of those ships the elves were flying. And they jumped.

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I held my breath as they hit the water in the pool at the base of the falls. I was sure they could not have survived such a height. Then Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale came up. I saw him looking around, I assume for Ramas. The elven ships were descending, probably for a better angle and shot. Kalshaazakkeh Lonescale dove back into the water and I could see him struggling with what turned out to be Ramas. More arrows struck the water and my bowl went dark.

Obinorcle gave a callous remark that I will not repeat here, I glared at him. We agreed our best bet at this point was to return to Galinios and try to find new recruits. Arbosh however. There was not way I was going to take him back with us, that would give us a certain degree of responsibility for the innocent blood I had no doubt he would spill. His god had seen fit to save him before, I’m sure if he’s that important he would be saved again. And so we returned.


There was something of a celebration which felt wrong to me, one of the artifacts recovered, and a pair of ‘heroes’. We were knighted which was pretty neat. I was given land on the border of the Little Blackleaf, named Imperial Guardian of the Blackleaf Woods and made the emissary of the wood elves living in that forest. The land has a, well I guess by noble standards, small home. Its way bigger than anything I could possibly need, and much bigger than anything we had back home. And on top of that an obscene amount of gold every month. I guess it makes for a good way to try and motivate those who are encouraged by such wealth, but I think once they see what they’re up against they’ll also be realizing they need to be alive in order to collect, so as to how effective if will be I have no idea. It really does feel very strange. Back home, if I still had a back home that is, I’d still not even be old enough to have claimed my own name yet, let alone… well all of this. I’m sure everyone watching down is quite impressed with everything and happy that I’m making my mark on the world. But it still feels strange, like it’s all wrong, but with no way to make it right.

Obinorcle on the other hand has gone into a retirement of sorts. Too risky, need to study, you don’t need me anyways, was more or less what I got from him. He’s decided it’s too risky for him to be jaunting about with the rings so he needs to go somewhere safe, plus he says it will let him learn more about them. I can’t imagine how safe his new estate is, but so be it. He was incredibly helpful, I’ll just have to make do, and I’m sure I can count on him for support.


After the little ceremony they had for us I had one thing I had to do. Ramas’s death had a bigger impact on me than I had expected, I had only known him about 7 or 8 months, but I found myself missing him a bit. Even after all the trouble he got me in, how worried I was he was going to snap on me, I still found myself missing him. Maybe I like trouble? I hope not… At any rate, at the very least I own him enough to let his family know what happened. I got directions and set off.

It wasn’t too hard to find them from above, and I handed amidst their small village and switched from an Air Elemental back into my normal self and looked around. A couple of kids were just staring at me, it looked like a mix of
surprised and excited. Calling out in common a greetings to them I asked if they knew Ramas. That turned out to be a ridiculous question, it seems everyone here knows Ramas. I explained who I was and that I had news about Ramas for his family. I was taken to them and explained how I was one of his companions. While not having all the details I let them know what I knew about his death.

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I’m not entirely sure how long I was in his home, through their questions I got to talking about how I had met him and Anabelle, but when all was said and done and I stepped out I could see hundreds of people standing outside, no doubt the sounds of mourning from inside having drawn them near. I wiped my own eyes looking out and started to make my way though them. I was stopped with people asking what had happened. I lead them away from the grieving parents home and sat down telling those who followed what had happened, but with a spin. I turned Ramas into the hero of every event since he was here last which they seemed to accept. I thought he’d like that.

Once I was done I left. And a week or so later I got terrible news. His entire clan had apparently decided to go strike out at these elves in the mountains and take revenge for their slain hero. I wish I could have spoken to them, but if they’re anything like Ramas I’m sure it would have been pointless. All I can do is hope they realize it won’t solve anything and is just going to end up with more bloodshed.


While making my way through Galinios I heard some people gossiping about a poor man who had his heart torn asunder by a beautiful wood elf girl. He had become distraught and could focus on naught but trying to win her back. Poor guy I thought. Little did I realize at the time that poor man was actually Sir Jeffrey and the beautiful wood elf girl was me. I had in fact not seen the last of him.

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Near the portal, I ran into a pair of human girls, a little older then me. They sort of reminded me a bit of myself and Banori for some reason. They had decided they were going to head to Hope’s Cove to make a fortune. It was painfully obvious to me they were woefully unprepared for what awaited them. I tried talking them out of it but I don’t think they took me seriously at all. I gave them a few magical trinkets, maybe they’ll live long enough to realize they should not be going there. I took them to the mayor in Hope’s Cove and left them there, I’m sure she’ll get them settled somewhere.

At the inn I found Hena. She still had no word of the group. I joined her and filled her in on what we had found. I didn’t really know how to gently put what had happened, so I just told her about meeting Rohr in the Spire Canyon, how he had helped us find the rings, and then the discovery of what had happened to the group. I could see she didn’t like what she was hearing about what the group had done, and how Rohr had died. I’m sure it was painful to hear, but there’s so many people out there wandering I didn’t want to lie to her only for her to hear the truth from someone else later on down the road.


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I paid my new home a visit next. Waiting for me on the doorstep was a torn open box that looks to have contained chocolates and some chewed on stems. Weird I thought. I heard some hoof steps from above. Looking up I could see a goat on the roof. He was glaring at me, a stare that might drive a lesser woman to tears, but probably not. I went up to the roof to introduce myself, but this goat was having none of it. “Get off my peak!” he yelled at me. I could see lots of grasses and weeds growing atop the roof and wondered if he actually lives up here, could they grow fast enough for him? Probably not.

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I tried talking to him but he seemed to be having none of it, but I kept trying. Eventually he told me he had wandered here from the stone peaks. The other goats there were fools who bothered him causing him ot leave. This roof was the first proper peak he had come across. I did some mental math in my head and I can’t imagine how he made it all this way from the mountains, but here he is. On his trip he had run into many two-leggers, all of them fools, except for one man, the only man or goat he had any respect for. He wouldn’t go into any detail, but suffice to say whatever redeeming quality this mystery man had, I lacked it. If you need anything let me know I said to him as I went back down to the ground.

I spent a few days getting familiar with the surrounding area. I got to do some work that didn’t involve hunting down artifacts, building magical death weapons, or fighting huge monsters. A small village, Aanor, home to a few hundred elves have a rather ancient tree along the main pathway leading to their town. Problem is the tree is quite old, over 1000 years, and there is concern about someone possibly getting hurt if one of the branches were to give way. Obviously there was no desire to cut the tree down, structures in the area made moving the road difficult. So hearing their emissary who was also trained in the druidic arts was around they came and asked for my help.

I had a look and agreed, the tree likely only has a hundred years or less to go, and it really was quite beautiful. I asked if I could relocate it and they were fine with that. And so I awoke the tree! It really was quite exciting, I’ve
never had the chance to see anything awoken before. Shut eyes grew on the trunk which started to open and I could see awareness start filling it. His roots were quite deep and wide spread, so I decided to name him Root. I brought him back to my home and he’s fit in quite nicely. He’s taking care of some of the younger sapplings in the area, much like a caring grandparent. He setup a pile of scrap wood to feed the termites which keeps them off him. He seems happy so I’m glad I got to do that.

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Joining root were some turkey’s who have taken up home in one of the upstairs bedrooms (just clean up after yourselves is all I asked). A rather impressive nest of bees hangs from the rafters, they’re hard workers and how I love the buzzing noise. The goat seems to have taken it in stride. I’d like to see some more wildlife here, but I know I don’t have the time right now to devote to it. I asked about in Aanor and they told me there was actually a little forest
gnome village tucked away not too far, a few of them were very good gardeners who likely would be interested in the work. One of the elves lead me to their village and I was able to hire a pair of gnomes,

Dimple Shadow Leaf, he is an older gnome, probably nearing his 380s, who has a nack for hiding. More than once he’s popped out at me nearly giving me a heart attack and him giggling away for hours afterwards. He likes to tell me a story about how when he was younger he saved some imperials. I should add he’s told this story to me about 12 times and each time it is different, but the way it generally goes is he spots some undead forces moving on an unaware battalions of imperial troops. Often the battalion will have someone famous in it, and how they thanked him in the end for warning him. I like him, and he really does have a knack for gardening.

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The other is a woman named Mote Thistleneedle. She’s got a love for needlework and calls it a hobby. She looks about my age but if I know my gnome biology that means she’s only around 30 or 40. She’s always dressed in these crazy outfits she makes from plants and barks (she swears to me she doesn’t take enough to hurt the trees or plants) that I really love. She’s quite talkative, not very good at being quiet. I’m not entirely clear how the two of them met but she’s definitely learning from Dimple.

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I even got a visit from the Druid Council from back home. They were asking for my advise on some matters! Soon after I started getting the odd visit from some of the elves living nearby, sometimes also looking for advise, sometimes some help, be it a problem growing something to problems with the local wildlife. No medical emergencies yet but I let the nearby villages know I’m ready to help.


Soon after this I found a box, similar to the one that was there when I first arrived only it had not been chewed on and some flowers. The box was addressed to me, and from Sir Jeffrey… I cast a detect poison spell on it and it seemed fine, so I figured there must be some magic rune or the like inside it ready to explode when I open it. I shifted into my earth elemental form, carefully picked up the box, walked out into the field and stomped on it a few times. No explosion, just a flattened collection of elvish chocolates. I couldn’t sense any magic from the flowers, I decided to explore them as a ladybug, some kind of poison dart trap no doubt. But again I found nothing. I did notice these were a rare breed of rose, they only grow in a few places and would have been quite difficult to get.

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I was only home a few more days but sure enough everyday another box of chocolates and flowers. I told Dimple and Mote to help themselves to them if they keep showing up, or take them home to share.


 

Returning to Galinios after a few weeks I became aware that the Summer Kingdom had seen my appointment as a declaration that the Empire had sided with my people. Communications and most trade has been cut off, and I hear tensions along the border are It sounds like there is growing unrest around the borders too. I haven’t heard any cases of fighting resulting in any death yet, but I fear that isn’t far off.

The story I had heard before about the heartbroken elf was still making the rounds, only this time I caught a name and realized it was Jeffrey and I was the one who had broken it. On top of that somehow he knew I was in town, or at least the never ending chocolates and flowers kept arriving. I wish he’d at least stop with the flowers and let the poor things grow in peace. And now I also found myself getting frequent bard-o-grams. Some of them were really cute, but this was really having a big impact on trying to get a group going. About half the time I would be talking with prospective people some courier or bard would show up. Why wouldn’t he take the hint and leave me alone? I even wrote him a letter telling him I wasn’t interested.

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Then finally one of the people I was interviewing, named Sarric offered some help. An Eldadrin from the Summer Kingdom, truly a rare sight. I wasn’t too sure about him, he seemed capable of fighting reasonably well, his interest in coming was more personal gain than saving the world but that was fine. I figured this might help with relations too, if we’re successful and the empire rewards him in a manor similar to me it may help with ease the tension. And, most importantly, he told me he could get Jeffrey off my back. I accepted him right then and there provided he was able to do it. I have no idea what he did but it worked. He does have quite the way with words so maybe he was able to simply convince him I’m not interested. Although he has brought him up on occasion, I think he’s just teasing me though.

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So, that was a week ago, so far I’ve had no more luck locating anyone else. I’ll be taking Sarric to visit Obinorcle and see if he’s had any luck as well, but I’m starting to think it may be fruitless.