Blackmire Marches

Highland Silver

Isidren organized an excursion into the Clannach Highlands to determine the source of the strange silver coins the the orc tribes have been given to cause us trouble. They seemed like they could use the healing power of Janus, so I agreed to join them. Led by Olaf, Isidren, Ba’zou, Levin and myself made an uneventful trip South to the Vespasian Wall.

We found a way through the wall and made our way deep into the highlands seeing nothing but a herd of sheep before we found a large village. We waited on the ridge until a party of highlanders came out to meet us. Isidren stepped forward, and befriended the leader of the highlander party, Cormag Bannackburn. He didn’t know anything about the silver coins, but gave us directions to the MacLeod clan.

En route to the MacLeod village, we came upon a wounded highlander facing off against a Dire Wolf. Without a second thought I drove my horse directly at the Dire Wolf and dove off hoping to attract its attention. With the aid of Ba’zou circling to the north, and something Isidren did, the Dire Wolf appeared confused and back up a little. I stood up and moved between the wolf and the highlander, who appeared to have lost his sword.

We moved in on the wolf, and he hit me pretty good and drove me to the ground. Luckily Ba’zou send his dogs charging in and Isidren made a pool of grease appear beneath the best. this was enough bring the creature to the ground, and we were able to quickly dispatch it.

After the beast was dead, I cast Comprehend Languages and approached the highlander, through some pantomime, and healing myself, I gained his trust and healed him. What commenced was some very difficult communication, but eventually he took a liking to us and invited us back to his cave. He told us his name was Luag MacLeod, and he was a ‘retired’ member of the MacLeod clan.

Luag told us a lot about how the clans work, and with an impressive illusion by Levin, we were able to get him to understand what we were looking for. We spent the night with Luag, and the next morning he led us to the MacLeod village.

Luag appears to be something of a legend here, as the whole village turned out to see him. He led us to the long house, and we met The MacLeod. Through much negotiation, they agreed to tell us everything they know about the silver coins, if we would clear out an ancient Verundian fort of a group of goblins. They even agreed to send some of their warriors with us.

We let them know we would need time to prepare, and made our way back towards Blackmire. My companions were itching for a fight, so we camped out in the Howling Moore hoping to ambush some prey. Unfortunately, we were the ones ambushed. While I was on guard duty and the rest of the party was sleeping, we were attacked by a group of skeletons and a group of Stirges.

The power of Janus made quick work of the skeletons, and Levin caught most of the Stirges in web. A very quick battle ensued, and we defeated the Stirges. We decided this was enough, and went back to Blackmire to prepare for our raid on the goblin castle.

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Amongst the Graves
Seeking wisdom among the undead

Shinzo’s Letter to Master,

Having spent the last two months meditating and pondering the dichotomy of space and time, I was convinced by my peers at the Winning Wager to travel to a nearby haunted graveyard known to be infested with undead creatures. I am still striving to understand the place of undead in the world of the living and wanted to examine these abominations closely. Heading out with a veteran warrior and wizard, along with a greenhorn man-at-arms named Cedric we invaded the graveyard and were promptly surrounded by skeletal minions bursting from the earth.

Cedric was almost immediately incapacitated, a state he would find himself in frequently during our exploration. I was very impressed with the arcane powers displayed by Isidren and the savage fighting style of Bazou. Master, you would be proud to have seen how well I have learned your teachings. I maintained rigorous discipline and dispatched several skeletons with fists and sling.

Our next challenge was by far the most daunting of my wanderings. What must have in life been a troll or giant, but now was an enormous animated skeleton attacked our party. Again Cedric was immediately incapacitated and Bazou nearly fell too. Isedren’s magic, my well-placed sling bullets, and Bazou’s martial abilities saved the day.

A short time later we stumbled into foul creatures called ‘ghouls’ which the veterans said could paralyze you with a bite. Other than a foul stench, I found their bones and limbs to break as easily as humans.

Master, I admit I still do not understand how the undead fit into our world. They exist only to kill and serve no natural purpose that I can discern. Could it be that by destroying these unnatural creatures I am bring balance back to the world? I eagerly await your thoughts in this matter.

Your Faithful Student,
Shinzo

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"The Darkness" and Goblin Punching

Isidren bar Turion
Personal Log: Blackmire Year 1st, Month 3rd, Week 2nd

Location: Goblin Warrens
Party Members: Isidren, Armras, Ba’zou, Bernardo

“I am a cornucopia of expulsions”
~ Armras Saralonde

The Goblin Warrens had a fearsome reputation among the old-timers here in Blackmire. Apparently several overly eager adventurers, perhaps in their thirst for gold and glory, had faced their untimely end within those goblin infested caverns in the past. This penchant for “culling the herd” so to speak, had given the place a certain notoriety which, in my opinion, is quite underwhelming. It might be though; that our party was simply powerful or well prepared seeing as only the hired help we had with us kept on falling flat on his face because of the injuries he suffered.

On the day of the expedition, we all met at the Map Room to discuss our plan of attack. There was no clear goal for this trip other than to explore the warrens, reduce the number of pesky goblins therein and take whatever items we find that had any sort of value. After a short discussion, it was decided that with his knowledge of tunnels and dungeons, the wizard Bernardo was to serve as our party leader. We hired the services of a guild fighter whose name I don’t remember and set out to our destination. I also had a new dog named Sventar and spared no coin to have a custom chain shirt crafted for him hopefully so he can avoid the fate of his predecessor.

It was clear when we arrived that Bernardo’s assessment of prolonged and utter darkness was not overstated. However, between our spells and ample supply of sunrods, illumination was not much of an issue… unless you ask Armras. As soon as we entered the caverns, the rogue started referring to himself as “The Darkness” and was acting like light annoyed him. As far as I know, the rogue was fully human and had no dark vision or variations thereof and therefore no reason to shun light. Looking back, I suspect that Armras may have had too much of whatever that strong stuff Helmut brews in the back of the Winning Wager. Either that or he truly is committed when it comes to his jokes.

Once inside the cave, we were immediately set upon by goblin wolf-riders. These ugly creatures where fearsome and in no time, they had one of our arms men bleeding on the ground. The rest of us however were more than a match for their lupine cavalry and through magic and force of arms, made short work of them. It was notable however, that one of the goblins, who was dying due to well placed magic missiles I administered, fell not through the sword or arcane might but through the spiked fist of our roguish companion. This ignominious and rather hilarious death inspired Armras to try and kill as many goblins as he can by punching them. After pausing to administer some first aid and give a precious healing potion to our injured fighter, we continued on our quest to relieve the world of more goblins, and to relieve the said goblins of their worldly possessions. We encountered another group of goblins whom we dispatched with ease except for the fact that our guid fighter was once again sleeping on a puddle of his own blood leaving Bernardo to drag him out of combat and into a safe area. Armras ,for his part, continued chasing the goblins and tried to punch them to death. He even insisted that Ba’zou step aside so he could flying punch the poor creature the shielded fighter was bashing. Clearly amused, the warrior did as the rogue said and simply rolled his eyes when Armras failed to connect. As it happened, this was to be our last encounter for the trip. Probably tired from having to drag our guild fighter to safety after every encounter, Bernardo decided that we should return to Blackmire after looting our fallen foes. Disappointed by not being able to explore the whole caverns, I joined my companions on our trek back and decided to visit the caverns again in the future.

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Pike Forest Incursion part III - Ambush and Diplomacy

Eiger’s Journal:

I signed up with one of these newcomers named Buzzard or some such to go back to the Pike Forest. I showed up ready to stand in the line and be a good soldier, but as it turns out my leadership was needed. I decided to take the same route into the Forest, mainly to show the newcomers the lay of the land.

Interestingly the fountain we saw last time was gone. Clearly a powerful magic is at work. The alchemical workshop area was still deserted and a burned out shell. I did find a path along the irrigation canal. We decided to set up an ambush to catch whoever was using the path. It went off perfect to plan. We killed a patrol of soldiers and freed some slaves, only one of which agreed to come with us back to Blackmire.

Afterward we decided to leave by a land route through heavy woods to avoid pursuit. We stumbled upon a dwelling of the Panther men. We have promised not to reveal it’s location in the hopes of enlisting them in a fight against the Cultists. Isidren is negotiating with them as I write this…

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Coppice Lakes Verundian Outpost

This was my first time back out in the field since expanding my druidical abilities. Several of my companions had been to this Verundian fort before and were anxious to finish the job. This was also the first time I brought my mule Sal on an adventure with me. People said I was crazy for training a mule as more than a laborer, but I think I proved Sal’s merit.

It took several hours of hard walking to reach the fort. We approached through heavy undergrowth from the north. I gather there was a larger entrance on the other side, but I trusted my companions since they’d been here before. Forcing our way through the locked door, I quickly find myself in darkness. I don’t know whether it was like this the first time, if so one would have thought that my companions would have had some torches ready. Betime we finally were able to see, I’d say the Gnolls knew we were there and ready for us. Since I heard they had hyenas with them I tried to convince them to sit out the fight. I told the hyenas if they’d just sit this fight out I would make sure that I would see them well cared for after this fight.

The battle was intense, especially since the hyenas declined my offer. It also didn’t help matters that our muscle rushed ahead strung out the party. Myself, Bernardo, Amras, and my two animals companions were left to occupy the Gnoll forces in the main chamber. Bronson fall to the continued assault of the Gnoll’s leader and a hyena while Bazou dealt with the Gnolls caught in Baernardo’s trap. Poor Meeghan took fell twice, requiring my healing to bring him back up. Wolf falls. Two heals on bazou, one off scroll. Both Bernardo and myself were out of spells and having to rely on stored energies when the Gnolls finally broke and ran. Given what I’ve heard about Gnolls, I’m surprised they didn’t run sooner, but I guess seeing Bronson on the ground and the pitiful state of my pets gave them couraqe.

Catching our breath we made a survey of the complex. It was mostly in ruins, but we did find a single basement room. Obviously filled with wicked looking rats, no one was brave enough to climb down. Channeling my druidical might I was able to drive them into a corner while a quick search was made and book-ssized leather case recovered.

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Graveyard

Viaja sits down on her bed, blank paper in hand and sets the ink on the corner of the bed, wedging it between the bed and wall to keep it from tipping.  Pen in hand she looks at the paper then chuckles to herself, gets back up and grabs a book to place under the paper and returns to the bed.  She begins writing
 
“To learn from our journey, we must find time to be introspective and consider our experiences.”
 
She raises the pen and looks with head crooked to the side at the paper.  Minutes pass and she sighs impatiently.  “Clearly this isn’t working,” she thinks to herself.  Grabbing her supplies she heads to the common room, sits at a quiet table and tries again, but not a mark makes it to the paper before she decides this isn’t working either.  She rises again and heads to one of the bridges heading out of Blackmire.  Sitting with her feet dangling into empty space, she leans over the book that she brought, paper on top and begins writing again.
 
“The graveyard was full of undead as expected.  What wasn’t expected was just how useful that little sling that I picked up would be.  Many skeletons fell because of the bullets flung from it, some with only one hit!  I wonder how much more damage I could do with a bow (clearly not to skeletons but in general).  This is something that I need to look into.”
 
Viaja spends a few minutes looking out over the water of the river, then stands up, crosses to the other side of the bridge and lays down on her stomach, using the planks of the bridge she continues writing.
 
“The adventurers here are impressive.  Bronson and Ba’zou and Isidren, they all did a tremendous job combatting the undead.  I’m not sure how many skeletons we killed but there was even a large bugbear skeleton that we destroyed!  And there were zombies and ghouls too.  The ghouls turned out to be the worst.  I think that we were all paralyzed at one point except for Bronson and he took such vicious hits that he was unconcious and near death when I was able to move again.  Only Isidren’s unknown talent for binding wounds saved his life until I could heal him.”
 
Viaja stands again, looks around, and picks a tree and climbs it before continuing to write while sitting on a branch.
 
“The adventurers here spend too much time in town and too little time on the road for my liking.  I’m not good at being still.  But I hear that this is the place to experience the ultimate form of travel, using the obelisks.  I will find a way to be still at least until I get an opportunity to have that experience.”
 
With that she decides she’s written enough and returns to her room to put away the paper and writing supplies.

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Of Revenge and Remorse

Isidren bar Turion
Personal Log : Blackmire Year 1st, Month 2nd, Week 1st
Location: Bandit Hideout/Abbandoned Fort, Cradle Woods
Party Members: Isidren, Melody, Khaidu, Ba’zou ,Nera

‘And for my pride did he die…’

These would have been the words on Panzer’s epitaph had I his remains to bury. But alas all I have left of him are the memories of our short time together and of how I have squandered his unwavering loyalty.

I had planned a raid on the recently established orcish encampment within the Cradle Woods and called on other adventurers to join me. It was to be both an expedition to gather information as well as an effort to drive the orcs out and perhaps gain some coin. But what most of my party members didn’t know was that it was equally about revenge. Revenge for my injured pride from having to flee the orcs before. Revenge for being dragged unconscious by savage dogs. It was for information and fortune true, but it was also for revenge. And now how bittersweet it is that I have all three.

Our group was strong and was well prepared for a hard fight. We knew from our last encounter that the orcs had substantial numbers and were not to be trifled with. We were, however confident. We had stout warriors in both Ba’zou and Khaidu and were not lacking in the healing and arcane arts between me, Melody and Nera. And so on the appointed day, we ventured boldly from Blackmire, reached the outskirts of the orcish camp and was immediately aware of their activity. The orcs were all very busy cutting down trees, trimming logs and reinforcing their makeshift fort that they did not notice us immediately despite my abysmal failure at stealth. When they finally spotted us, the orcish response was swift. Immediately warriors dropped their woodcutting axes and took up either their falchions or bows and started to converge on our position. The orcish dog handlers were also quick to command their animals to engage us. It was I who killed the first orc. The uncouth savage was making his way towards us among the trees about a hundred feet from our position when I saw him. I immediately blasted him with my potent arcane missiles which weaved between the foliage towards their mark. His death, however, did not deter his comrades. By this point Khaidu and Ba’zou were both in the frontlines receiving and dodging arrow fire from the orcs on the battlements. Nera, the druid, moved towards the northeast to support Ba’zou and confront the attack dogs while Melody moved to support Khaidu, singing a song of valour and victory. I lingered behind for a few moments, trying to command Panzer to defend me, but my guard dog was not on his brightest that day. I eventually moved forward to try and support the rest of my party. The fight was going well for us. We scored some quick kills and I incapacitated approaching enemies by the tactical use of my spells. Our luck, however, was not to hold for long. One of the orcs scored a devastating hit on Melody with his bow and the bard immediately fell to the ground. We were all worried about her that almost as one, we all positioned to defend her prone form. This however opened our flanks to our attackers. Slowly, our warriors were being whittled down by cuts and blows from the orcs and their dogs while some of our quarry were successfully resisting my spells. In the midst of all this chaos, Nera was able to stabilize Melody’s condition and the bard was soon up and fighting once again. By this time the orcs have formed a formidable battle line in front of us and were threatening to flank or move past our fighters. I commanded Panzer to attack the orc nearest us to reinforce our lines. It was a big mistake. Immediately, my guard dog was surrounded and cut down. In rage, I disregarded my careful spending of my spells and blasted one of the orcs in front of me but it was too late. I could not get to Panzer in time to try and heal him. From then on I had to force myself to focus on the fight. Melody was doing an excellent job of keeping Khaidu alive as he duelled with the orc captain and his minion. Likewise, Nera continued to heal Ba’zou as the warrior fended of our orcish attackers. We continued to reduce their numbers as I rooted the orc captain on the spot, dazed and unmoving. Eventually, we were able to capture the orc captain by knocking him out without killing him. The remaining orcs, seeing the death of their comrades and the capture of their leader, fled to the woods in haste.

After the battle, we rummaged through our fallen enemy’s equipment and bound the orc captain. We then went inside the fort to investigate the area, dragging the bound orc with us. There we found a large stash of the same strangely minted silver coins we found before and other sundry items that held no value neither in coin nor information. Finally we started interrogating the captured orc. Melody, assisted by Khaidu and Ba’zou, attempted to intimidate the stubborn creature but failed to elicit any meaningful response. We finally decided that the best approach was to hypnotize the savage.

All in all the information we got from the orc leader is both intriguing and disturbing. We found that some “big and hairy” humans from the south have given the orc tribal leaders the silver to persuade the orcs to move to near Blackmire and “cause trouble”. Who these southern humans are, I have yet to discern, but I will most definitely investigate their identities and motives.

Alas, the taste of success is dampened by my loss. Despite our short time together, I have found Panzer’s presence as reassuring and somewhat reminiscent of what few fond memories of home I have. Once again, Blackmire has reminded me of the price of folly and arrogance in this frontier, and this time it was Panzer who paid for my mine.

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Laughter and Shadows

From the Memoirs of Amras Sáralondë

I began my next adventure in blackmire working under the Wizard Bernardo again, with the fleet Khaidu, Isidren, who had recently acquired a warhound, and a new face, a warrior known as Ba’zou, who was quite handy with a shield, though only on the defense as I do not recall him landing a blow.

We were returning to the Coppice lakes, in search of an old Verundian outpost. I am not entirely sure what the Verundian were, maybe I will find out in the weeks to come if Bernardo hires to assist again.

The journey to the lakes was mostly quiet, we encountered a black bear, which Khaidu struck down after a fierce group effort of missed crossbow bolts and other such tomfoolery.

Upon arriving in the area in which the outpost of rumored to be, we were quickly able to pinpoint its location, though it seemed it was currently inhabited and not as forsaken as we were led to believe.

I personally volunteered to scout the building, noting that the rest of the party where less then ideal for such a task, and in my scouting I happened upon a gnoll, snoozing underneath an overturned wagon. Removing that problem quietly, I returned to the group to relay my findings, unfortunately not finding a proper entrance that wasn’t boarded up. Isidren has his raven scout the rest of the perimeter of the building and found a smaller boarded up entrance.

Coming to the decision that this is where we would penetrate the building, Khaidu, with the rest of us covering, carved out enough wood in two mighty blows for a singler person to move through the gap unhindered. He was immediately set upon by some kind of wild dog, not sure what kind, doesn’t really matter. The beast managed to push Khaidu to the ground, though Khaidu promptly responded by cleaving the animals legs from its body, even as he laid on the ground. (Note to Self: Don’t attack Khaidu without some fodder if I’m ever forced to take him down.)

The party entered the building, a gnoll having ducked out of sight after his pet dog was slain, alot of good that did it, as Khaidu chased him down and decapitated the creature. We moved past the entrance hall into the building proper, and and things started to go down hill from here.

Khaidu was holding off a flood of Gnolls from entering through another room when I decided to move into a vulnerable position to distract a gnoll whom Ba’zou was having difficult landing a solid hit on, though in doing so the beast landed a solid blow on me. Unfortunately not my best decision, but you know what they say about hindsight.

Another pair of gnolls erupted from the shadows of a hallway and struck at me and Ba’zou as Isidren ordered his warhound to assault the same Gnoll me and Ba’zou were fighting. One of the new gnolls gave me a rather nasty wound, and I was forced to retreat, and the amount of gnolls that started showing up after I withdrew from the combat also forced a full retreat from the rest of the group.

Khaidu and me where the only ones to take any wounds on this venture, I shall endeavor in the future to come out of these scrapes as bloodless as possible, though I suppose I’ll have to work with the others on such alien things as tactics.

The Paper is torn here, as though hastily ripped from a book.

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Orcs and coins or Dogs and more dogs

Melody makes the following points known around Blackmire:

- There are still far too many wild, hungry dogs in the Craddle Wood

- Orcs are fortifying and expanding the old Bandit Hideout in hex 76.25 and probably need dealt with, especially so close to Blackmire. Be aware that there are pit traps around the perimeter of the fort. She personally informs Bronson repeatedly of the traps in case he ever heads there ;-).

- Attempts to diplomatically get information about the Helvetii coins from the orcs, especially those in hex 76.25, will likely not work now that she’s already tried and failed.

Feeling more introspective, Melody forgoes any type of poetry or song and merely records the following for herself:

There’s one question that continues to perplex me, what is it about adventuring that brings people to risk their life time after time. Sure the reason is different for each person, but in each case I’m always curious. And here I am, doing it each time myself. Death has been too close too often, yet I keep stepping outside of Blackmire as if I think myself invincible. And why do I do it? Sure you can write better stories if you’re there yourself, but you live longer if you collect them from the adventurers as they return to the Winning Wager. So while I tell myself it’s for the stories, perhaps it’s not that at all.

One thing that I am certain of is that I have a growing hatred (more like fear, but we’ll mask it as hatred) of dogs. That’s twice now that wild dogs could have easily caused my death.

Conversing with the orcs was fascinating. And perhaps there’s something from that encounter that reveals what it is about adventuring that keeps drawing me back out of the safety of Blackmire’s gates. Negotiations fell appart and the orc lieutenant shouted to the other orcs, “Kill them all. Except for her, she goes under the knife to see what she knows.” Instead of being afraid, I was excited by the thrill of it all. Of course it helped that I had that invisibility potion ready and knew my chances of making it out of there were good. Perhaps there is something to living the adventures that can’t be duplicated in words. I want to experience it, not just to record it, but to live it.

Of course, to keep living through these experiences, I do need to continue to develop a more healthy degree of caution. The Blackmire graveyard is full enough as it is, and I must always remember that. There’s little that you can experience once you’re in the gut of a wild dog…

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Ancient Structure Investigations and other sundry musings on proper summoning magics...

Journal Entry, Octo Octobris…

The group that I hired on spec to investigate the sunken Hellic ruins in the region of Blackmire called Coppice Lakes was a motley crew at best. A barbaric warrior of some ability name Khaidu, a rather good shot with a crossbow named Amras and a Sorceror (I will withold my opinions here of such as that…) with a Raven familiar. Dupin took an immediate dislike to all of them as is his wont. I on the other hand decided to joyfully participate in the company that I am forced to keep to search out my fortune and glory.

We made good time initially, leaving the civilized lands around the city. Upon entering the thickest woods of the day, we stumbled upon a group of hooligans. We attacked them under the pretense of keeping the woods safe although more than a few of us had shrinking change purses as our true motives. Never-the-less, we prevailed and did make out with enough gold to effect the purchase of a cart and a rowboat, which would be needed to fully investigate the sunken ruins.

Upon arriving at said ruins, the lake waters around them were humming with a large water elemental. My studies of the outer planes assured me that we were no match for such a creature. Especially unprepared and in such a tiny boat. We abandoned the search of the ruins but decided in stead to head to a hedge maze a group of dimwitted Fishermen clued us in on.

Upon arriving at the maze I smelled the tell-tale stench of Druidism in the air. The maze was indeed magical in nature and upon entering we found it full of spiders, snakes, bears and wolves. At the center was a strange magical tablet that when moved, disappeared the maze and revealed a cubby with a sack of gold. We took the gold and returned home.

One of my companions dared compare the perfect creatures from the planes that I summon forth to do my bidding to the base animals and vermin that Druids summon. I endeavored to explain to him his stupidity.

On our return trip we were unfortunate enough to run afoul of a pair of wild boars who viciously attacked! As if that wasn’t enough the sounds of combat and smell of blood drew a pair of Dire Weasels as well! It must be mating season in the Cradle Wood…

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