Blights edge

Creeping Tensions
How many times can you survive a suicide mission?

Mel and Alva are in the office deliberating on whether they should continue to search it, or if they should make their escape and link up with the rest of the party. Before leaving however Melanth attempts to open a locked safe, disabling the lock. Wise to Rindlecup’s traps, the dragon has his enthralled ghost open the safe, and is immediately grateful when caustic dust showers the hapless undead. The dragon has the ghost retrieve a wrapped item from within it; revealing some valuable gems and a blob of what appeals magical mercury.

Loot:
250k worth of gems
Magical substance (Venom)

They proceed down the stairs to what appears to be a planetarium, into which the observatory’s telescope penetrates. Gnome ghosts labour about the planetarium, though they pay the party little attention. Some of the equipment seems to have curious Saris fist shaped holes in it. Mel and Alva weave through a barrage of bottles and quickly duck out of the door, coming to a floor full of work cubicles. Pipes lead into the central area before vanishing deeper into the observatory- whilst the resident ghosts are frantically trying to extinguish fires breaking out amidst their work. Guessing that Nathanew has recently passed through, they pause whilst Alva speaks with one of the ghosts, asking what they are doing making potions for a mostly undead army. At the prompting of one of the gnome ghosts Melanth takes a potion they offer, finding that it heals him but inverts his scales colouration.

From the gnomes they learn that the rest of the party has headed further into the facility, likely in pursuit of Rindlecup. Both Mel and Alva snag a few more of the random colour-changing potions on the way out.

Loot:
Random colour morph potion of dubious use

Continuing downwards, they find the lowest floor with several rooms coming off, most of which show signs of damage. They hear several voices coming from the side rooms, one of which of Pern. The raven informs them that Rindlecup is near the front wall, which is heavily guarded. He leads them to a janitorial closet with a trap door in the centre, though the three are spotted and immediately come under fire. Melanth orders his thralled sniper to cover their retreat as they dive down the trapdoor and make their way into an underground tunnel and storage annexes.

Wandering lost for a time, Alva and Mel find a spilled box of metal components in what seemed once to be an infirmary. A body still lays stretched on a litter, missing its legs the area from when the Observatory was overrun. Alva treats her wolf companion as they take a short rest, looking through the books before continuing. Further down the corridor, they find a locket and the remains of an explosion, along with a gnome’s legs. The blood trail from the infirmary seems to lead to this point. Alva opens the locket, finding that contains a short message to the dead gnome from their loved one; Aga take is into her possession. They are showered with damaged glass from broken bottles as they fight their way through the musty darkness. One of the more useful things they uncover is a crate of healing potions, which they all use, Lorn included.

After finding a dead end, they finally see signs that they are beginning to catch up; scorches on the wall, a rat that has been exploded by a punch. Eventually they come to a rickety staircase, and cautiously tracking up it, they find a way back into the observatory. They are apparently near the front entrance; through the doorway they spy many gnomian ghost snipers and Rindlecup being treated by his frantic Saris apprentice. Deciding that they weight of numbers is not in their favour, the three retreat back into the tunnels and rest for a time, drinking some ale they uncover in one of the gnome’s abandoned casks.

Backtracking, they eventually manage to track down fresh tracks that indicate the rest of their party has recently passed through, following them to a nearby entrance. Hearing voices, they pause to confirm it is indeed their friends. Linking up with the rest of the party, Nathanew casts invisibility upon them, and they manage to slip through gaps in the enemy patrol and return to base.

From there they return the note to Gristgear only reluctantly, their suspicions piques even further as the gnome gives them the cold shoulder regarding what exactly it is they are seeking, and hints that he has an even more dangerous assignment lined up; Rachival. The party immediately takes umbridge, seeing a suicide mission in the very definition of the term, and retreat to the bar to nurse their wounds. Melanth is lous in his opposition to Gristgear, and begins to hatch a plan…

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Into the Observatory
Subtlety was never our forte.

The session opens on the discussing of a plan of action. Ruling out launching anyone from a cannon, the squad decides to infiltrate the observatory with use of spells and their collective climbing abilities. Making their way to the wall under gnomish distractions, they quickly prepare for scaling the stony structure, Alva tying a secure harness around Lorn to help hoist him up. Nath goes about casting invisibility on everyone, whoever drew the short straw downs the invisibility potion and up they go. Ten minutes of climbing later, they arrive at the top of the observatory. Upon reaching the top, they see a large dome housing the telescope. The only door leading inside the dome was left propped open, so the group makes their way cautiously inside. Nothing greets them but a few potted blight plants, one of which had a hand written note underneath. Getting over the shivers of the rather disturbing message, they pocket it and move on to the door ahead of them adorned with a name plate. Two traps later, they manage to make their way into the office of Eddison Rindlecup.

The office appears to be riddled with traps, enchantments, and other sources of potentially dangerous magics. After only a few moments of searching, the party is interrupted by a warning from Solaes. Voices make their way to everyone’s ears, and hiding and ambush spots are quickly found or made. The door opens slowly, a sudden rush of six ghostly body guards enter and have a look around. escaping detection by using their spider walk to cling to the ceiling, the party retains the element of surprise. Hathril, much braver than his size relays, decides to use this opportunity to drop down on the demon nearest the door. Racing off out of the dome with a wild squeak of a bluff, the squirrel creates the perfect distraction. Several guards are now out of the equation, but this does not stop the gnomian necromancer from entering the room and heading straight for the desk…the very same desk Agnartaki and Lorn have made their hiding place.

Terrified, but thinking quickly, Agi fascinates the ghostly guards and demon. The necromancer, however, manages to ignore her poetry. It’s now or never for the rest of the party to make their move, and Mel opens with a mighty roar. Dropping down from the ceiling sword-first, the dragon carves deep into the necromancer, stealing a spell as he hits. Lorn sees an opening and dives for the gnomes ankles, pulling him violently to the floor. Alva drops down from the ceiling, landing gracefully and drawing her bow all in a single fluid motion. She looses her arrow into the flickering skull of a nearby ghost. Sol then joins in the fray, pushing off the ceiling’s surface and going into a flying kick. The saris’s foot connects audibly with the demons collar bone, and a howl of anger escapes the beast’s throat. Taken by surprise, but not out of commission, the necromancer casts chain lightning from his staff which the party just barely manages to dodge. Forcing them into acrobatics was all the necromancer needed, and he uses the opportunity to scramble to his feet. Mel charges to counter the gnome, cracking the caster’s flimsy wrist and procuring the staff. Lorn tries for another trip, but his jaws snap closed on nothing but the robe of his enemy. Alva changes target to the demon, two arrows hitting their mark and staggering the beast. Before the fight can continue, Hathril dashes back in to the room, squeaking a reminder to leave their main adversary alive. Sol, seemingly unfazed by the warning, finishes the demon off with a few more crushing blows from her bloodied fists. The necromancer makes yet another suspicious move, dashing under the desk and focusing for a teleport. Agnartaki, unable to stop him, can only look on as the gnome escapes. Nathanew yells for assistance from Sol, taking on the chase after the teleporting gnome. Mel and Alva take a few painful musket bullets from the remaining ghosts, but soon finish off the enemies with a few well aimed shots, a stab of Niatha’s fang, and a bit of help from Lorn’s gnashing jaws. Despite springing a nasty poison trap, all undead are eliminated (aside from Mel’s new ghostly recruit) and Alva, Mel, Lorn and Agi take a hurried moment to finish up their business in the office.

Taking a look around, the group decides anything of importance would have to be contained in the desk. Forgoing stumbling through the many nodes of magic Hathril detected, everyone stands back as Mel heaves the entire piece of furniture against the wall. Managing to avoid any lasting injuries, everyone is now free to rifle through its contents. With Agi’s help, they find a letter that bears an interesting message addressed to a Rachival facility. Tucking this letter into a secure place, they decide to take what other documents and artifacts they can safely procure along with the gnome’s staff. As they finish gathering everything up, Alva takes a critical look around. Her eyes catch a few oddities around the room and they stay to investigate, first finding a locked safe embedded in the floor under the rug. Checking for traps the best they can, Alva and Mel open it up with the help of the ghostly sniper. Cranes, explosions, and bursts of flare-fire later, they’re no closer to any treasure. What other surprises could a closer inspection of the room bring? And where did Hathril, Nathanew, and Sol get to?

END SESSION

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Fiends gonna Fiend
Craters! Flutes! Bears! Mass murder!

Returning triumphant to the village, the Squad are greeted by throngs of applauding villagers. With their trophy in tow, the party are at first elated and somewhat bewildered by the stunning battle… until ther see Boris on the sidelines. As is their wont the villagers have excluded him from the proceedings, even though it was Boris who arranged for the party to travel to the village, and again for them to take care of the problem. Pushing past the revellers angrily, they congregate in Boris’ hut.

As he tends to Alva and Nathanew’s wounds, the squad berate Nathanew for his rather poor choice in magic use; though the Fiend’s flashy pyrotechnics are impressively destructive, they are somewhat unsuited to closer quater fighting… especially in forests important to the local economy. The party only hope that the village assumed the torrents of billowing smoke and new if rather molten crater in their landscape wasn’t entirely their doing.

As the conversation progresses they touch on the subject of Boris’ abuse at the hands of the villagers. Though he is supplied with ample animal guardians and a fierce winter wolf companion by the name of Ezra he has suffered heavily at the hands of the supersticious peasants. Nathanew in particular looks noticably distant and agitated. Boris himself seems to accept this as part of the price of a healer’s life, much to the consternation of the party who have grown fond of the man.

Debating with themselves about the looming summons to Chiconis, the party decide to spend one more night in the village; once the healing was done they would have been late arriving in Kirasanct, and no one relishes the thought of traversing this frigid land at night.

Boris calls Melanth to one side. Recalling a promise fifteen years earlier when the dragon was freshly exiled from Dralk he makes the offer of an animal companion; a large and sleepy polar bear named… Daisy. Boris had chanced upon Melanth when near dead after seeking shelter from a winter storm in a cave that was occupied by a similar creature. The resulting fight between the beast and dragon armed only with his teeth had nearly cost Melanth his life. Melanth is less them impressed with Boris’ joke- the experience had instilled in him a pathological hatred and fear of bears. After protesting that Daisy would be too large and conspicuous for the Squad to move around undetected at their need, Boris instead offers an eagle. The dragon accepts gratefully, naming her Ha’rok.

As this is happening, Alva tries her hand with skills at wood carving. Using some of the ample wood taken from the fallen treants and skills honed during her years in Feledan with the Elves, she attempts to craft for herself a flute using a pocket knife. After testing it on Hathril’s ears her design isn’t successful, and exasperated she throws it into the fireplace. Hathril retrieves it beforei t is damaged, extolling her to keep trying. Alva vows to accomplish the task through dint of patience.

That night, silence creeps over the village. A silence too thick for a hut and house full of animals… who upon closer in spection seem to be absent. Especially conspicuously absent is a certain Fiend… one with a known grudge against the town. Long years of campaigning have sharpened their instincts to a fine edge; sensing something amiss, both Alva and Melanth are awoken seperately, though Hathril remains asleep. Having bedded down in different buildings and unknowing of each other’s actions they begin to investigate, fearing the worst. Melanth wakes Boris and together make their way back into the charred forest.

Seperately, both Alva and Melanth converge upon a small camp-fire where Nathanew and a goodly number of Boris’ animal companions are gathered in attendance. Sneaking through the darkness they hear talk amongst the group; Nathanew sits with a map on his knees, Ezra, the three crows and other creatures, seemingly scheming the destruction of the village. Though his grievences with the peasants are well known none had imagined he would go this far- what is more his words seem to indicate that he would be willing to strike tonight. Melanth creeps through the grass, hoping to startle the plotters when he in turn is startled by Alva, who ambushed him from the shadows. Both agree that action must be taken- Nathanew might be unstable, and though neither are overly fond of the inhabitants of this squalid slive of earth they cannot stand by idly and let him commit a massacare.

Emerging from the shadows, Melanth spooks the meeting with a loud cheerful bellow, idly twanging the string of his bow. Whilst they’re distracted, Alva approaches from the other side and startles them again. Realising he has been made, Nathanew tries to keep up the facade of innocense despite knowing he has been caught red handed. Angry, motivated by vengeance and with a host of animals at his call the situation seems tense. Neither Alva or Melanth will let him go through with the planned attack; it would be a betrayal of Boris’ trust and likely end up traced back to their guild, which would wreck the Redscale reputation and land them all on the gallows. Nathanew seems irrational and likely to attack before Boris makes his own presence known.

With the argument looking to grow violent it is Boris who defuses the situation; begging Nathanew not to go through with it. He confesses that he suffered their mistreatment good-naturedly in the hopes that one day they might grow accustomed to him, and for their own sake seek penence for the harm visited upon him. Alva berates the Fiend with suggestions of what would become of the rest of the guild and the Squad and Boris if they were found to be a party to such actions; Melanth whispers to him that the Fiend might get his vengeance another way; through in-action, by persuading Boris, the only healer and animal handler in the village, to abandon it.

Under the combined pressure Nathanew finally seems to relent, stating he will think on it. Greatly relieved, Boris an the rest of the party prepare themselves for an uneasy night.

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The Taxidermy of Terrible treants
The mysterious delivery mission continues... and the party is re-united with an old face

When morning comes the Squad find themselves still within the frigid city of Kirasanct… Much to their regret. The dreary, hostile place bears down upon them heavily, necessitating excessive drinking from even the stronger willed to stave off depression… which is to say nothing of the nature of its inhabitants. Though not the most welcoming of cities there is one thing the Fiends DO know well and that is warming food. As they avail themselves of this, Nathanew begins to pack for the journey to come- somewhat disgruntles at having been left out of proceedings the Squad confronts him for more information about their purpose in the ice-locked city though the Fiend remains tight lipped.

Explaining that the village is too distant to reach by walking and cut off from portal connection, Nathanew instead tells them that he will cast a spell to help them arrive faster. No one relishes the thought of footslogging across endless miles of tundery quagmire and scree- least of all the dragon, who has shown to be quite vulnerable to the chilly conditions. The nature of Nathanew’s spell? Spectral horses; the spirit forms of creatures that have been unknown to all save the paleo-zoologists and archivists in Aradoth for well over an age. Alva is delighted with the apparations and takes to her ghostly mount with the grace of a forest-born elf; Melanth however has no small amount of trepidation, professing that he would rather eat the creature than ride it. He is promptly catapulted out of the saddle by the force of its accelleration.

Though a smug Nathanew and somewhat unnerved Melanth manage good time, they are forced to pause frequently to allow Alva to catch up with her somewhat slower wolf companion. Though distant, their magically summoned mounts carry them to the village with little event; by evening the three reign in their disturbingly incorporeal mounts at the small collection of log huts. The mining village is filled with introverted and superstitious folk; the exotic newcomers find themselves somewhat alone, greeted only by distrusting stares as they dismount and watch Nathanew carefully searching for what he came for.

Their reverie is shattered by the sounds of raucous argument. A pair of crows cackle and scuffle amidst a cloud of their own black feathers. At the appearance of the distinctively blue-skinned Fiend they cease their boisterous commotion, greeting him in grackled croaks punctuated with oaths; Pernunculus, familiar of Nathanew, it transpires is the much abused brother to these crows. And the crows themselves are subjects of a certain skilled animal handler…

Boris Michaelson. A man of soft words and a softer heart, made virtual outcast in his own village by its intollerant population. Brother of Nathanew.

Distracting themselves away from the murder of bickering birds, the party greets Boris enthusiastically. Much removed from his brother’s sarcastic and smarmy demure, Boris it transpires has also had prior dealings with Melanth- and become one of the few bipeds to be safe from the dragon’s scorn. Inviting them into his home, the group talks to Boris at length; it transpires between the friendly cajouling and catching-up that Boris’ mother (and by extension, Nathanew’s mother) has been afflicted with a lingering illness, and the Fiend was asked to bring medicines to alleviate her illness. It also seems that the village has fallen upon harder times; a group of Treants have moved into the forest nearby and are injuring villagers who attempt to reach the mine. Offering their assistance in healing the ungrateful villagers, the Squad also decides to help clear the treant nuicanse; Alva’s new bow requires components sourced from Treant roots, providing an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Spending the night in an unoccupied hut, the Squad sets out on their animated tree hunt early the next day. It doesn’t take long to find the treants; being an order of magnitude larger than the Squad (or the surrounding trees for that matter) means they are easily picked out of the surrounding vegitation. Arranging themselves in a loose combat formation, the party of battle-hardened mercenaties allow Nathanew to fire the opening shot; somewhat predictively a fireball. That succeeds in slaying a treant with a single hit. And incinerating its roots. And setting the surrounding forest on fire.

Making mental notes to hit the Fiend with something heavy later, the rest of the squad gets stuck into the remaining two treants. The larger of the two balks beneath a hail of arrow from Alva, whilst the smaller makes the mistake of tangling with Melanth and Lorn in close quaters and is reduced to a smouldering pile of ash. Nathanew shows little abashment for his error in judgement, conjouring a thick hail of ice shards that pelt a wide area aroun the largest Treant, stripping away foliage and smaller branches in great sheets of greenery. Hathril, attaching himself firmly to Alva’s antlers seeks to quench the errant fire with a druidic spell- the squirrel less than impressed with the Fiend’s reckless destruction of nature. No sooner has the second Treant fallen however than the ground shakes beneath their feet, trees being pushed aside as a fourth treant, larger by another order of magnitude than its fellows, rises from the canopy of needled fir trees.

Years of practice swing into motion as the Party immediately re-positions itself to meet this new threat; Alva attempts to call upon the powers of nature to entangle the Mother of All Treants, but the creature is too strong to be trapped by the grasping vines she coaxes from the earth and smashes throuh them with impunity. Melanth barely manages to avoid being plastered across the landscape, the agile dragon dodging aside and causing the massive newcomer to smash one of its wooden arms upon a sheer cliff face. Nathanew, who by now seems to be working his way throuh the elements, conjours a bolt of intense lightning that arcs between the two tree-beasts- scorching and sizzling their bark, filling the clearing with the scent of a well prepared bonfire. Hathril, with more success than Alva’s attempt, conjours an Anti-Plant Field to help preventthe party being overrun by the sheer size and strength of the creatures before them; though he manages to contain their efforts to break it, maintaining the field saps his strength and requires his absolute concentration.

in the next round Alva and Melanth find their attacks to be less effectual; barely managing to dent their respective targets, whilst their targets in turn largely fail to do much damage. Nathanew is caught by a vicious whip-like appendage, though not before casting a second bolt of lighting after the first. The third treant curls in upon itself as a writhing pillar of smoke and licking flame, collapsing to the ground thoroughly dead, but the jolt seems only to anger the largest one. Thrashing and smashing with all of its might, the creature cannot break the field of Hathril’s conjouring. Severely weakened, Melanth finished it with a flurry of slashes- only just barely avoiding incinerating it with the Fang.

Largely unmolested, the Party celebrates their success by gathering components from their defeated foes. As well as mundane wood, Alva manages to obtain one of the roots that she requires for her bow. In addition to this the head of the World’s Largest Treant remains intact, and by malenth’s reckoning would make a fine trophy for the guildhall. Rolling it back to the village, the Party goes to report their success to Boris, feeling much happier for having killed something.

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A Chilly Interlude
Gristgear, letters home and farting about... the usual.

No one could accuse the Redscales of being strangers to the many and varied variety of debaucheries that could be found in the Running Cleaver, but Sol’s squad in particular seem to make an art form of the practice. Three chairs, two tables, a fireplace poker and a dozen minor injuries later and they awake to find themselves extremely hungover and sharing their beds with a selection of satisied opposite genders in their company. With further elaboration on the events of that night best left to the imagination, they instead assemble in the mess hall.

Post awaits them; news from their respective homelands from such reletives and acquaintances as they keep contact with. Of particular note is Nathanew’s letter; a missive from his somewhat estranged brother, who lives far to the north. As it transpires, their shared mother has grown ill and is in need of medicine; medicine that luck would have it is in plentiful supply thanks to their illicit looting of the Merchant’s Guild stall. Together Menath and Nathanew begin to formulate plans for the delivery of such, the dragon being acquainted with Nathanew’s family through… mysterious means.

Soleas (Who had unsprurisingly skipped the reverlry and thus was in posession of an insufferably pain-free head) interrupts further introspection by announcing that in their absence a fresh contract has arrived, requiring them to report to the research quater of Chiconis within two weeks, offering an ungodly sum in gold… and annotated with an ungodly number of warnings from apparently everyone who has handled it. It comes as little surprise to learn that Ludwig Gristgear is behind the summons, and much to their dismay has chosen to single out their party for more of his nefarious works.

After short discussion punctuated with many four-letter words, the Squad jointly agrees that Gristgear can wait, and that they would rather prolong their leave of absence. Mel and Nath make preperations to head to the Fiend city of Kirasanct, finding that they are to be accompanied by Alva and Hathril, who are drawn by a mix of curiosity and having nothing better to do. In short order they outfit themselves with cold weather gear, stepping through the nearby portal to the frigid northern realm.

Kirasanct, ever the forbidding place, is not one that offers a warm welcome to outsiders. The same remains true now, with the native Fiends giving them little more than a cursetory glance as they emerge from the unknown skeins of the Portal network. immediately beset by the cold, the first thing the party does is seek out a nearby tavern in which to escape the unforgiving weather, whilst Nathanew disappears into the city on errands of his own. annoyed at being cut out of the loop, Hathril Alva and Melanth warm themselves by a fire and speak of their possible reasons for being here.

Abruptly, Nathanew returns with a female Fiend in tow; a timid and somewhat awkward looking creature clad in thick glasses and utterly unremarkable attire- which in itself was remarkable for a Fiend. Introducing her as Nivarien Vantacci, it appears that the two are extremely close friends and have been so for a great deal of time. Despite her natural reserve the young girl quickly warms to the motley group, as Nathanew takes Alva to a Fiendish outfitters to obtain some more fitting cold weather gear for the wiley hybrid. Though Nathanew’s purpose in bringing the girl along remains unclear, they decide to make a trak to Boris’ village in the morning.

END SESSION

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Good Morning, Redscales!
An unexpected guest starts off a day on the town.

The session opens on a sleepy morning at the Red Scale Mercenaries guild hall. The calm in the air is soon broken as a fuming half giant storms her way through the door. The woman growls out her demand to see her husband…none other than our unfortunate Hrsag. Sol, keeping her cool as always, explains the situation; Hrsag has been posted at Harro and is unavailible. The half giant’s rage is not satisfied, but continues to grow as she directs it at Soleas. Melanath and Alva, already on their feet at the first sign of hostility, cautiously make their move. Alva moves slowly to re-position herself, catching Sol’s eye as she does so and nodding her intent to come to the Saris’s aid. Mel, looking a bit pale in the scales, slinks quietly out of the room in search of his shield. Hrsag’s so-called wife, now nearly boiling over with rage, begins to turn her demands into wild accusations that range from racial slurs to hidden affairs. Solaes remains steadfast as ever, hardly twitching a whisker as the half giant grows more violent. Melanath returns just in time, positioning himself (and his sturdy shield) between the two. He tries to reason with the barbaric woman, now revealed as “Valna”, a crime lord and apparently quite the figure in Mahagra. Valna, however, will have none of it. Refusing one last insistent request to leave from Soleas, the half giant surges forward with a roar to attack. Melanath and Soleas both sidestep the charge nimbly as Sol relays the plan of action. Mel is to go find Sir Fangthoth. NOW. With a salute, the dragon speeds off down the cooridoor to alert the Guildmaster of their rather sudden guest.

Melanath comes to a sliding halt, foot first into the forge door. His breach attempt failed, Mel is instead left wincing and hopping one-footed as he calls to Guntzheg through the all-too-thick barrier. Guntzheg is roused from his mourning however, and opens the forge door with a grumble. After a hasty report from Melanath on the state of their once peaceful dining hall, Guntzheg puts some suspicions to rest. Hrsag is in fact a true “man’s man”, but the poor bloke was bullied right into his marriage. It’s beginning to sound like none can refuse the demands of Valna in Mahagra, but Melanath and Guntzheg make their way back to where the rest of the party is still putting up a fight.

Rounding the corner, the two are greeted with quite the sight. Much of the surrounding furniture is destroyed, the party themselves are spread about the room strategically. Valna is in a rage, hefting any immediate objects to smash or hurl toward Soleas, who in turn has crouched, rolled, or dodged out of the way of every one. Alva is behind the half giant, arms spread before her, eyes scanning frantically through the rubble. Nathanew remains at his table with a stunned expression on his face and a small bit of breakfast hanging out one side of his open mouth. Hathril is nowhere to be found, having gone out much earlier in the morning on the hunt for chestnuts, so the little squirrel was not among those to see what happens next. Valna hefts a table up over her head, readying it with a roar for a final swing. The battle cry is cut off abrubtly as the half giant’s limp body crashes to the floor. As the dust clears, Alva is revealed standing over her… makeshift bludgeon in hand.

As everyone catches their breath, the scene in the guildhall slowly returns to normal. Many set about tidying up remnants of furniture, while the party themselves make a combined effort of dragging Valna’s unconcious body out to the streets (after brief discussion and dismissal of other means of disposal). Guntzheg mercifully grants them the rest of the day’s leave, so Melanath, Alva, and a reluctant Nathanew head out to their favorite spot for relaxation; the local tavern. Hathril manages to come scurrying along just in time, so they all enter the dimly lit room together. The tavern is much more crowded than one would expect at such an early hour, and no sooner than they walked through the door Alva is met with a slightly familiar pair of drunken eyes looking her over. Playing along, she offers the man a flirtatious smile, laughing to herself under her breath as she turns to follow her companions to the bar. Mel and Alva start the morning off with a few strong rounds whilst Nath and Hathril opt for something a bit more tame. The group has a bit of time to enjoy each others company, laughing, toasting, and recounting the morning’s events before a stranger approaches. The same man from before, to Nath’s annoyance…and Mel’s amusement. Alva herself stands to greet him, seeing the perfect opportunity for a fun little game to start off their day. The rest of her group looks on in snickering amusement as the drunken man does most of the work against himself. At just a few words and a wink later, the whole tavern is enjoying a round at their new friend’s expense.

Good music, long tales and plenty of strong ale make a day pass quickly, and soon evening was upon them. The party stumbles out of the noisy tavern and into town’s streets , heading toward the market just before then vendors start to pack their wares. The sweetly scented air of twilight cools their faces as another day in Bristugo comes to a close well spent.

END SESSION

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The Stone King's Puzzle
The life of an adventurer is never easy. No matter WHAT the contract says...

A week passes; a week full of sorrow and grief at the devastation that the Redscale Guild suffered at the hands of the Withered Aegis. Though the city was saved, the victory feels an empty one: too many rooms lie empty, and too many graves filled. The guild leader in particular seems to have taken the disaster harshly and has refused to emerge from his forge since returning to Bristugo; none can say what he works on, and a pile of food and tokens from concerned friends and family alike lay unacknowledged outside of the Guild master’s personal foundry.

The Squad makes light of it all, continuing with their routine as a mask for the deep grief they all feel, settling into their new ranks and status and renown for the actions they had taken. Barely a squad in the guild has been left unmarked, and theirs is amongst them… technically. Alva seems to have adjusted well to her new status as Gifted. Their period of rest and recovery is interrupted however by the arrival of a certain Ted Killingham, who presents the newly Gifted half-breed with a proposition; a contract for the recovery of artefacts of artistic importance and other items from a ruined temple on Scorpion Isle. Recalling that he still owes the guild artefacts from their previous assignment, he offers payment of 1500gp per squad member, after guild tax of course. Offering assurances that the ruin is unoccupied aside from the usual wilderness denizens, he leaves Alva and Melanth in the Guildhall cafeteria where they quickly bring the contract to Corporal Soleas, who is relieving whatever personal stress she might be feeling in the practice yard. Though Melanth attempts to needle her she remains impassive- authorising the mission and ordering the assembly of the team tomorrow. During the conversation it transpires that their commanding officer Hrsag has been sent to the Harro front; an assignment that is only slightly short of a death sentence.

The pair leaves to convey the news to Nathanew, strolling through the trade town’s bustling market district and exploring his more well known haunts before finally happening upon him in a bar, finding the Fiend regaling a crowd of awestruck women with exaggerated tales of his exploits. Alva takes the opportunity to throw a wrench in his scheming, flamboyantly settling herself in his lap much to the envy of the crowd, before dragging him away by the buttonhole to discuss the upcoming mission. Unexpectedly, Hathril also meets them there; for his conduct he was granted membership of the guild and the rank of Private… something that Ted was evidently less than pleased with, but accepted as his personal choice. It occurs to them that this mission could have been Ted’s way of making sure that his nephew gets a less risky assignment in the now uncertain future of the Living Races, though the squad as a whole agrees that an easy and potentially very profitable mission is a pleasant change from their usual high-risk assignments. They spend the night shopping, drinking, dancing and carousing, mentally steeling themselves for a return to work. Alva manages to acquire a selection of potions for herself, whereas Melanth opts to swap out his buckler for a more sturdy shield.

Their assignment turns out to be somewhat more arduous than anticipated, though not in the way expected. The remote site is hard to get to and necessitates a long trek through thick jungle- the sight of which they’re mostly sick of after the costly battle just a week previous. Happy to be away from the gloomy and tense atmosphere of the guildhall they make good time, arriving at their intended destination within a day. They are not alone however; as they break through the thick undergrowth before the shining temple they are greeted with the sight a tent bearing the bright red and blue livery of Cherri’s Delvers. Lamenting that they have been beaten to the prize, the Squad makes their way into the temple, encountering the Delvers contingent there. After Nathanew makes an ill advised attempt at deceiving the Redscale’s long-time allies, the two parties exchange their missions. Luckily for the Squad, the Delvers had not been able to figure out the puzzle that locked shut the temple’s antechamber and instead had satisfied themselves taking notes of the intricate murals and arrangement of the temple’s architecture.

(Break, session continued next day)

Despite a wealth of adventuring experience and their diverse walks of life, the party is somewhat perplexed at how to proceed; none of them can make sense of the room in any meaningful way, and no one wants to simply start poking runes to see what effect it will have. Instead they opt to seek outside assistance; the Delvers contingent describes another pair of researchers who were also in the area, and had retired from the temple to explore the beach. Leaving behind Sol to set up camp, Hathril, Nath, Alva and Melanth head off to the cliff to try and find the pair.

…And find them they do. Cresting the lip of the cliff, Alva and Mel are confronted by the sight of a man sliding down the cliff, and a nude lady bathing in the shallow waves- something that draws many wry grins from Alva and Melanth in light of their recent bathing expedition. An ogling Nathanew is immediately challenged by the man for his lecherous staring, forcing Melanth to interpose himself between the two before blows are struck. Making more formal greetings the party allows the somewhat flustered young woman to make herself decent whilst chatting with the man now dubbed Cliff; he claims the pair to be explorers sent to the temple on a mission by the Imperial Administration to retrieve artefacts, drawing much lamenting from the Squad who are now keenly aware that they have two rivals to compete with for possession of whatever treasures the tomb might hold. His student, now dubbed Wave, corroborates this. Though they negotiate Cliff seems wary to assist the Squad, or the rival Delvers who are already ensconced. Melanth detects that the man is either lying or concealing information from them, but nevertheless it is decided that all three parties shall explore the temple together to ensure fairness and equality of distribution. Now if only they could get the bloody door open.

The puzzle is not a simple one. Taking over from the Delvers contingent at nightfall, the squad makes attempts to decode the meaning of the runes and meets with no success; they seem to be quite out of the experience of anyone present, with implied elements from Dwarven, Satyr and Dragon architecture. Left with no choice but to try and manipulate the runes, it is found that using each in turn will cause a body-part of a figure to illuminate upon the floor of the chamber in a manner similar to a sliding block puzzle. Though they quickly come to realise that each rune corresponds to a body-part, the order in which they need to be arranged is seemingly random and leaves them somewhat perplexed. Agitating this is the fact that with each failed attempt, some form of magical response is forthcoming- be it sprays of acid, electrical sparks or simply irritating effects that necessitate the evacuation of the Temple after each attempt is made.

Finally, through trial and error they solve the puzzle- getting the order of rune activation correct to make the body parts appear in their correct alignments on the marbled floor, revealing a caricature of a figure; broad and squat with a stern face and expression. The marble door slides back to reveal a spiral staircase leading down; the Squad pauses to make arrangements with the rest of their groups; Cliff and Wave will accompany them into the depths, as well as a member of the Delver’s contingent, whilst the rest remain outside to guard the entrance. They advance cautiously, ever wary for traps and other devices that might impede their progress, but find the way mercifully clear; too clear, in fact. Too many years of adventuring have left them paranoid of such a lack of resistance and the tension in the atmosphere quickly builds as they wait for the expected attack.

Moving further into the tunnel however they find something most peculiar; a huge body encased in pristine glass, enshrined in a small chamber into which vents pour a sulphurous smoke. It is surrounded by enough riches to make the Dragon salivate and fill all their coffers for years; precious silks, gold, a shield and mace that are obviously magical in nature and gems the size of fists- and of it all the corpse remains the most intriguing: pierced as if by a blade, and preserved as perfectly entombed in what looks like a solid block of glass, as if it had died not a moment ago. It is not of any race that the Squad knows of. Though it is of the proportions of a Dwarf, it is the size of a half-giant, and appears to be at least partially mechanical or ceramic, though of a workmanship unknown in the living world. Cliff and Wave take a keen interest too- the two babble excitedly, describing the corpse as a ‘Titan’, apparently un phased by the small fortune of treasure that lays around. They mention their master, a ‘Gorret’…
But wait.
Did not the founder of that line himself say that no Gorrets remained?

Before angry explanations can be demanded however the sulphurous stench in the room grows thick and livid; flames burst from vents in the sides to scald the Delver soldier’s pet bat, the fiery cloud swirling and coalescing into a Fire Elemental. Actions are immediate; Sol and Alva attack with haste whilst Hathril uses a Quench spell upon the planar monstrosity, which still reeling from the unexpected arrival cannot seem to hit the nimble soldiers around it. Alva unleashed a fierce volley from her newly acquired stopgap bow, demonstrating that she can handle the weapon just as well as any magical equipment whilst Soleas with her typical dedication to duty immediately runs forward and tries to punch the incorporeal fire beast into submission. Melanth interposes himself between the vulnerable Sorcerer and the elemental- a mistake it transpires, as Nathanew has no qualms about his safety as the Dragon does for the Fiend’s. The Delver’s member also demonstrates poor decision making skills by throwing a grenade into the erupting melee, very nearly causing a disaster before the fuse fizzles out as a dud.

The combat does not remain one-sided for long though. An unarmed Soleas is scorched whenever she stands close enough to strike with her fists, and Nathanew neglects to move in favour of showering the thing with spells before tying to run for cover, which results them both catching two very nasty hits leaving Sol injured and Nathanew near death. Melanth curses the Fiend for his recklessness as the Squad draw in closer together, steeling themselves for a battle to save their friend…. again.

END SESSION

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Back to Bristugo
Weary warriors return from battle on much needed leave.

The session opens on an argument. Melanath, Gunzheg, and many of the remaining forces, Red Scale and otherwise, are still in Sslanis. Everyone present is trying to decide on the best solution to the problem of the Aegis-infested jungle surrounding the ruined city. After much bickering and a few bouts of sane deliberation, Melanath gains the attention of each party with a loud bash against his buckler. He suggests a compromise; instead of razing the forest in fire, or completely ignoring the problem in favor of preservation of nature, the defensive forces could clear only the trees immediately surrounding whats left of the decimated walls. After doing so, they could rake the dirt and lay the fallen lumber, creating a dead ground to hold off any suprise attacks. The exasperated dragon is relieved when the Druids reluctantly agree and begin to plan amongst themselves. Seeing this as the perfect time to excuse himself, Melanath makes his way toward the portal to Bristugo and the promise of rest.

Meanwhile, Alva, Nathanew and Pern are all back at the guild hall…some more concious than others. Alva, still riding on the revitalizing sensation of her own blood rushing through her veins again, can’t seem to keep to her quarters. She heads out in search of a good weapon and a bit of conversation, and to her growing disappointment is finding neither in the understandably somber hall. Her thoughts wander to her squad…those who had stood so faithfully beside her when she thought all was at an end. It didn’t feel quite right being the only one home from battle, and she was eager to see them again. Suddenly, her expression brightens as she remembers seeing Nathanew brought back to his quarters earlier that morning. She quickens her pace toward his quarters.

Alva peers around Nathanew’s doorframe quietly, not wanting to disturb his much needed rest. She sees him tucked in to bed, his cool blue skin marred by cuts and scrapes. A small smile finds it’s way on to Alva’s lips. There lay Nathanew…beaten, bruised…but alive. Alva shakes her head in happy disbelief at his stubborness before letting her gaze wander about the room. It falls on Pern, fluttering this way and that, busily collecting every sharp tool in Nathanew’s room- of which there appears to be a disturbing amount. Alva watches the bird grumble to himself as he adds more and more to his growing pile. Feeling her excess energy turning a bit mischievious, she decides to lure Pern toward her with the roll of a coin. He takes the bait immediately, and their reunion in the hall is loud, but happy. Pern, curious about the process newly Gifted go through, tags along with Alva and they chat as she continues her search for a sturdy bow. The search hasn’t continued for too long, however, before they’re interrupted
by a sudden incoming attack. Like a flash, Alva is pulled away… into the arms of an overjoyed dragon. Melanath has returned from Sslanis.

The two old friends are reunited in an uproar of laughter, good-natured threats and relieved embraces. Pern tires quickly of their show and heads back with a squak to continue caring for Nathanew. Lorn however, is all but bursting with joy at their feet, and Alva quickly dives down to greet her beloved companion with a good wrestle. The rejoicing trio soon realize such a gorgeous day would be a waste spent sulking indoors, so they decide to set out to walk the familiar roads of the town. Alva, with Lorn panting happily at her heels, dashes off to her quarters with an armful of gear that Melanath so kindly returned to her, whilst the dragon himself deigns to wait for her just outside the guildhall.

On her run back to her quarters, Alva catches a glimpse of Guntzheg. She nearly yelps out an excited hello, but regains her composure and greets the rather somber-looking dwarf with respect. The two converse for a while and he welcomes her to the ranks of the Gifted, albeit with a hint of sadness, and subtly informs her of her promotion within the guild. He offers his ear and his advice Alva, but she picks up on the current mood and decides it best not to tax Guntzheg’s emotions much more just yet. She instead changes the subject, hoping to finally be set on the trail of a new bow. Guntzheg obliges, and even offers to craft her one himself. He sends her on her way to Cherri with a list of needed materials, and the two say their farewells. Alva pours over the list eagerly as she ambles her way back to her quarters. By the time she finally arrives, she rushes to set her belongings in order so as not to keep Melanath waiting further. After a quick once-over of her gear, Alva and Lorn are both running out the door and into the bright Bristugo morning.

Melanath is awaiting them patiently, picking at his battered gear in distaste. His own appearence isn’t holding up much better, and he offers up the idea of a wash before they hit the town. Alva agrees to tag along and the two set off at a lazy pace toward the river. Arriving at the water’s edge, they settle underneath a shady grove of trees. It’s quiet, and the most relaxtion they’ve seen in many long days. Alva slips off her boots and lays down on the riverbank, letting her foot float laxly in it’s clear water’s as Lorn splays out clumsily in the cool dirt. Melanath begins to take off his gear, twitching and growling every so often as the movement agitates another wound not yet healed. Soon he’s dressed in nothing but his scales and he hops lightly into the water, beckoning Alva to come along with a sly grin plastered across his muzzle. Alva, though not one to miss such a grin, feigns ignorance as stands to join him. Melanath, always the gentleman, turns around as she prepares herself for a bath….or so he thinks. Upon turning around, he finds only her pouch and dagger in the dirt behind him, the nimble woman herself hanging with her antlers pointed earthward from a low branch of the tree they had chosen to rest beneath. The pair’s laughter rings through the trees, Alva’s like the many silver bells in a young dragon’s hoard, Melanath’s like the great bellow of a battle drum. Their mirth carries it’s chorus through the Bristugo air, and for a moment the battle-weary mercenaries finally have their five minute’s peace.

END SESSION

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PLACEHOLDER 1 (Full Sesh)
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PLACEHOLDER 2 (RP sesh)
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