Over the Crown of the World

20: Terror in Ravenmoor
Feast of Ravenmoor

As Khoren, Aeryk & Kaitlinn look askance at the monstrous pig, their new spider-friend is taken by surprise by Atem. Atem had taken off for a little midnight meditation earlier that evening and had been found by Viorec, who’d managed to persuade the ornery monk to come with him to aid his allies – just in time it seems. The Monk gives the spider enough of a pounding the monster immediately vanishes, allowing he and the others to put their full, unadulterated attention on the horrible pig-thing, which they manage to dispatch in short order.

Reunited, they bring Atem up to speed before searching the creepy basement. They don’t quite know what to make of the disturbing insect icon on the table, but agree the blood-stained thing must be destroyed, so they break it apart with some handy shovels. They also uncover more cultist costumes bellow the table, and a number of bodies buried in the ground nearby. One even matches the missing tax collector, so they take his head as gruesome proof. Given their injuries they choose to flee the farm rather than explore further, stopping only briefly to fetch Viorec & his son before skipping town.

Two days later they reach Rodrick’s Cove, where they are happily reunited with Ameiko and the rest of the Caravan. After some healing by Koya and some tail-telling from Khoren, they buy horses and set out to return to deal with the Ravenmoor cult with the help of Orik and Meuhenau, while the Caravan continues north for Brinewall.

Reaching Ravenmoor at dusk the following day, they strike immediately for the farm, where they find (and speedily dispatch) several more cultists without trouble. Searching the house for the spider-thing, they are again ambushed by the Arenae, but this time they manage to avoid it’s enchantments (for the most part – Orik has a nice nap) and chase it down, dispatching it on the ceiling finally with a well-placed blow by a giant-sized Khorien and his electrified sword sticking through both spider and roof.

Outside, they find a band of mongrelmen in the barn they easily dispatch, but the pack of stirges hiding amongst the drying flayleaf prove more troublesome, especially when they ambush Kaitlinn (who had been exploring away from the rest of the party). She leaps into a nearby pond to be free of them, leaving them to be slaughtered by her friends. United again, and much more cautious, they enter the maze.

As they explore they notice the webs and fungus filling the corn-hedge walls,but are quite caught by surprise when Aeryk shoves his torch into the wall to see if it might burn, he instead aggravates a swarm of mosquitoes. The insects prove more than a match for them, their rapacious hunger nearly killing Meuhenlau and badly hurting many of the others. Unable to find a way to harm them, the party picks up their fallen and flee, turning to see it stop at the mazes edge, where they see it swarming around a faceless stranger who disappears back into the fields of corn, along with the mosquitoes.

Badly hurt and with their healer down, they decide to claim what victory they may and again flee Ravenmoor. Six days later they finally again catch up to the Caravan outside the haunted walls of Brinewall, with several amongst their number suffering from Malaria and Meuhenlau’s Axebeak dead from injuries incurred in their flight. And yet, in their absence they find their friends that stayed with the Caravan too have suffered…

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19: Fight for freedom!
Feast of Ravenmoor

Kaitlinn wakes to someone quietly (yet urgently) knocking on her door. Her late night visitor proves to be Viorec, who warns her of Khoren’s recent abduction by “Night Creepers” – stirge-headed humanoids believed to lurk in the swamps – and that he had seen the Magus dragged off to the old Chenowitz Place. Quickly dressing and grabbing her gear, she hustles over to get Atem but finds the Monk, too, is gone. Now more worried than ever she follows Viorec into the night to find her missing friends.

Viorec stays by the road once they reach the notoriously haunted farm, leaving Kaitlinn to sneak in on her own. As she approaches the main house she finds the effigy of Desna, a winged scarecrow standing in the yard, is no mere frightener of crows as it comes to life and pursues her. She looses it briefly in the corn field, but it quickly finds her again when she tries to slip past and pursues her to the door of the house. Slamming the door behind her and blocking it, she waits for a moment to be sure it can’t force it’s way in (strangely it stops it’s pursuit once she is out of view). Safe for the moment, she turns to find Khoren locked in a cage in the main room, and he is not alone – Aeryk, Shalelu’s student, is with him.

Each brings the other up to date as to how they arrived there. Aeryk, for his part, has spent the several weeks since they last saw him working as a guide for a caravan heading up to Riddleport, and had fallen afoul of the local “Nightcreepers” while passing through town a few days ago. Freed, the former prisoners had just begun gathering their weapons when “Nightcreepers” drop down a ladder nearby to attack. While they manage to drop two in short order the third manages to get to the door to let in the Scarecrow before dropping to their blades and arrows. Despite Aeryk dropping his alchemist’s fire to smoulder on the floor the gang still manages to break the animate straw-monster apart.

A cursory examination of the “Nightcreepers” reveals them as townsfolk wearing stirge-masks. A search of the loft above turns up only a very disturbing-looking quilt, while searching a nearby candle-lit room leads to disaster when the floor gives way under Kaitlinn, dropping her a short way onto jagged rocks. Amidst the rubble they find a small chest filled with a varied assortment of jewelry, a light salve for injuries so far incurred. Recovering, they head further in to the house. In the kitchen they come head to head with an ooze animate compost-heap, and learn the secret ingredient for those delicious mushrooms they ate at the festival. In the last room they encounter a massive spider in a room full of moths, which, despite it’s attempts to catch them up in it’s web, they manage to injure with the last of their Desnan Candles.

Unfortunately they soon find this is no ordinary giant spider, as it climbs to the ceiling and begins weaving enchantments. Soon they are all be-spelled, charmed into thinking this spider is their friend. The spider talks them into traveling downstairs, where they find, amongst other things, the horrible pig-monster that had escaped them during the great pig-chase the previous evening…

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18: A very peculiar party!
Feast of Ravenmoor

As the Festival truly begins Mayor Kreigler takes his leave of the Sandpoint Heroes, leaving them to wander about and enjoy the festivities. They again run in to the beautiful young maid Shel Lupescu, as well as the Stirge-shepherd Viorec Korzha, and after a few rounds of vigorous dancing (wherein both Kaitlinn & Atem show their skills), they persuade the visitors to give the various competitions a try.

The first event is the Dreamer’s Leap, where contestants jump over a bonfire. Both Kaitlinn and Atem show their acrobatic talents, though Atem flourishes with his training as a fire-dancer. Following that, Kaitlinn joins the “Falling Stars” Starknife-throwing contest, but is rather shocked to find herself beaten by a clearly drunk local, the aptly names “Lucky Eddy.” Taking a pause, the gang takes in some of the Raven fights before all joining in the three-legged race. Much to Kaitlinn & Atem’s surprise, they end up loosing to the excellent teamwork of Khoren & Shel.

The last competition, the Great Greased Pig Chase, takes place just before dusk. Kaitlinn & Atem again hop in, along with another cheerful yokel, while Khoren hangs out to watch. After spending several minutes trying (and failing.. and falling in the mud.. repeatedly…) their trial ends as Kaitlinn finally manages to catch the sickly (and possibly drugged) pig.

Which promptly dies, much to her surprise.

She is more surprised, however, when a plant sprouts from the dead pig’s spine and bites her. As she falls backward, more vines quickly sprouting and entangling her, Atem steps up to rain down many blows on the increasingly unpig-like creature, as it continues to transform, growing an extra set of legs and yet more plant-like growths, it’s eyes becoming an inky-black. Atem is disturbed by every blow he lands, as visions of hell (and an unnatural hunger) fill his mind with every punch he lands. As Khoren hustles to join them, Kaitlinn manages to sneak a knife free and shanks the monster, causing it to squeal with inhuman rage, and fly away as rapidly as it can, swiftly vanishing off above the swampland to the south-west. While the locals are horrified, they don’t seem particularly, a fact Shel dryly explains as “though the Dream-tender does it’s best to protect us, some bad magic poisons the land, and some times that poison gets in the beasts. Not much for it.”

Once things calm down and the sun sets the Feast begins. For their successes in the competitions, the Sandpoint Heroes are invited to sit at the Mayor’s table, where they partake in a wide variety of exotic (and disturbing) dishes, and listen to the town’s history as recounted by three maids in white (one being Shel). Afterwards the Mayor and his advisers amongst the town elders discus who of the three should be crowned “Founder’s Feast Queen.” With a little nudging from Kaitlinn, that proves to be Shel, a fact that makes her parents ecstatic, and Kaitlinn and company find themselves showered with the family’s thanks.

Not long after the townsfolk break off to head home for bed, while the Mayor leads them back to his home (though Kaitlinn argues against it, her suspicions raised about the odd community, Atem wins out in arguing for comfort and the security of solid walls. Bedding down for the night, Khoren wakes up later to a faint rapping at his door. Shel, it turns out, wands the handsome swordsman to sneak out with her to an old farmhouse known as a secret trysting-place for young lovers – after much batting of eyelashes, he agrees, leaving his companions to their own dreams.

Near the old farm-house though they are taken by surprise by four stirges, along with two strangely robed figures armed with sickles and sporting mosquito-masks. Though he.puts up a good fight and manages to take down all the stirges, they weaken him enough that the poison on their sickles, along with Shel’s own shocking betrayal during the fight, prove to much – he is forced to surrender just before the poison knocks him out, as whispers of Shel’ thanking him for his noble sacrifice in taking her place as the chosen one follow him into unconsciousness…

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17: The road to Ravenmoor
Feast of Ravenmoor

Three days later as they are nearing Gauderia the Caravan is ambushed by Goblin raiders, who do some damage, but are otherwise easily rebuffed. They alight for a day in the hometown of the Twilight Academy for trade and repairs, counting it just as well given the thick, cloying fog that settles on the town. From there they push north again, taking another day to reach Wolf’s Ear where they pause, again, to do a little business – though Kaitlinn has her work cut out for her herding Khoren & Atem when they realize there might be Werewolves stalking about the legendary town. From there the Caraan travels another day along the Lempblack River, before they split off following the north road through the Churlwood to Rodric’s Cove while Kaitlinn, Khoren & Atem continue following the river east to Ravenmoor to fulfill their missing persons job for Magnamar.

Though the mosquitoes and Ravens dogging their steps put them a little off, the haunting child’s cry of “Apppplesause! Where aaaaare yoooou!” right before the sudden appearance of a Styrge flying right for them nearly pushes them to violence. Especially when the insect latches on to Kaitlinn.

And nuzzles her.

As she begins shrieking, a young boy runs out of the tall grasses and begs them not to kill his beloved pet. As he carefully removes the creature, he reveals his name is Ornigaard, but runs off before they can ask him more questions, saying only they should ask his father, “’cus he knows everything!”

As they make for the river for their final crossing into the town proper, they are again accosted, this time by the boy’s father, who properly introduces himself as Viorec Korzha, who apologizes for the distress Applesauce caused. Walking them to the ferry, he gives them directions to both his own home and the mayors, both good paces to swing by if they need a place to sleep, but also points out there’s plenty of fields to camp in. He mentions the mayor may be a little distracted though, with the Founder’s Festival being today and all (to which he invites them if they’re staying in town anyway). As to the missing taxman, Elias Kyle, he remembers the obnoxious red-headed fellow who swung by several weeks back (about the same time as the last festival in fact), but as he understood it the man collected the taxes and moved on – rumor has it though he may have just taken the money and run off to Riddleport, as he seems to be the sort to do so.

Leaving their new friend behind, they hire the creepy hunchbacked ferryman to take them across, who teases them about swimming across and running afoul of some creature called the “Water Wolf” that has been haunting the river of late. In town they take a leisurely stroll towards the town square, pausing briefly for Kaitlinn to buy (poor quality) clothes from the old crone managing the Weaver’s shop. At the square they pause, taking in the squalor of the village and noting it has seen better times. Atem notes the ruined church, and poking around notes the ill-cared for straw-and-squash effigy of Desna inside. Kaitlinn and Khorin strike up a conversation with Shel, a beautiful young lady mending a dress in front of the local Trading post who seems to take a fancy to Khoren and happily tells them more about the Founder’s Feast and how she’s in the running to be the Feast Queen, at least until her gruff father shoos her inside. Continuing onward they find a stone circle and amphitheater with yet another ill-tended effigy to the Goddess of Dreams.

Eventually they reach the mayor’s home, where they are threatened by his brother Leonard, but before he can chase them off Mayor Andretti Kriegler comes out and apologizes, assuring them they are more than welcome and ask that they stay and enjoy both his hospitality and the coming festivities. As they walk back to the festival grounds he happily tells them what he can of the time the missing taxman spent there, assuring them he gave Elias the funds, but eventually admitting he suspected (as so many others apparently did) that he may have run off with the gold. The Mayor swears though that if they’ll stick around another day he’ll scrounge up what he can and send it with them to pay the debt Ravenmoor owes, though it won’t be as much. More than that and they’ll likely have to chase down the missing man in Riddleport. The three agree to take him up on his hospitality, secretly discussing amongst themselves their suspicions that the mayor is not being fully truthful. There seems to be a coverup, they ask themselves, but why?

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16: The Journey North begins with a step...
Burnt Offerings, Brinewall Legacy, Feast of Ravenmore

With Nualia and Tsuto dead, their dogs dispersed, and their allies either fled or captured, the gang sets about looting the spoils of war and making sure everyone gets a piece. It is decided Orik would be the best man to make use of Nualia’s blade, while Rogar takes her magical armor. Tsuto’s protective Ring is taken by Haji, while the mysterious medallion is claimed by Khoren. Kaitlinn takes Tsuto’s bow and tools, the petty cash is distributed as best they can amongst the rest, while other assorted jewelry and treasure that may need appraising is thrown into the party fund to be appraised of it’s value later.

With the principle threat behind the Goblins defeated, the rest of the gang head back to town to rest and recuperate or to brag of their adventure (or, in the case of Orik, to see to it Lyrie is handed over to Sheriff Hemlock to face justice), while Khoren, Haji, Kaitlinn & Rogar continue to explore a little further. While they fret at the illusory pillar of gold hiding a stone carving of the same, they decide to call it quits when a nearby tomb proves to be full of Shadows.

Back in town Haji takes his leave, wanting to make his way back home in Cheliax, and so many fond farewells are said. Ameiko in turn introduces the remaining company to her younger brother Atem, recently returned from the monastery and eager to travel north to Brinewall with them, and several marvel at just how many siblings she might have. The following day is spend working hard as final preparations for the Caravan are made. It is at this point they are introduced to a potential passenger, Jeminda Anikee. Jaminda ends up hiring them instead to resolve her business north in Ravenmoor rather than travel with them herself. Turns out her recovering drunk of a brother-in-law, Elias Kyle, had gone off to collect back-taxes from the small village at her insistence (having discovered the clerical error that had resulted in none being collected in the last 15 years). Now she’s afraid he may have collected the money and skipped off to Riddleport, presuming he’s not dead in a ditch thanks to bandits. And if her superiors find out about this before she can get the money back, she’ll be sacked for sure! So if they can just get the taxes back, they’ll be compensated well for their time.

Packed and with a possible side-job tucked away, the Caravan sets out the following morning. In the rain. And the mud.

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15: New Friends, Old Enemies
Burnt Offerings

Orik returns from locking Lyrie with three (relatively) new faces: Robert (a Shoanti Barbarian with a crush on Ameiko), Rain (a Rogue Shalelu had rescued some years back), and Matthias (a Dhampyr Sorcerer, one of Sandru’s guards & Caroline’s cousin) – all three of whom had come to Thistletop to lend a hand as folks back at Sandpoint had started to worry. After some introductions and bringing people up to speed, the gang heads down the stairs to put an end to Tsuto and his mistress.

Pausing only briefly to examine a badly defaced rune-carved door and pass through a statue-filled hall, Rain manages barely to avoid being trapped by a falling portcullis and the subsequent slashing of statues holding pole-arms. After she, Caroline & Kaitlynn manage to deactivate the dangerous hallway, the company moves forward, turning to the right when a pair of doors present themselves (and the other showed only another hallway dead-ending in another door).

They quickly find Tsuto waiting for them, and he isn’t alone. Nualia, the mysterious Aasimar foster-daughter of the old priest of Sandpoint, one arm transformed to that of a hideous demon’s, armed with a bastard-sword in the other, her belly covered in scars, flanked by the horrible hounds Kaitlynn, Rogar & Shalelu remembered too well from the Temple above are with him. The Hounds howl & fly up to attack, setting half the party to flight. While Orik does his best to blockade the beasts and hold them off, Rain, Caroline, Shalelu, Rogar & Khoren all flee, only to run smack into flames being unleashed by an escaped Lyrie, the obnoxious Quazit Elyrium at her side giggling with glee, who adds a summoned fiendish dog to chaise them back down. Meanwhile Haji summons a celestial dog of his own to help Orik, as Richard muscles through the confusion to help the fight in the doorway, and Kaitlynn and Matthias do what they can to support them with spell and knife. After a brutal exchange of blows they manage to take down the Yeth Hounds and force their way in, but Nualia has spent her time well, using her magics to make herself even more brutal, bringing both Orik and Richard nearly to the brink of death with sword and claw.

Lyrie rushes up to “rescue her love,” only to be taken down by Haji’s blade. Soon the others rally back to the fight, and Shalelu briefly manages to grab the Quazit, giving it enough of a scare to cause it to flee the moment it escapes. It resets the trap, however, before it leaves catching the Elf by surprise when she attempts to join the others in the fight with Nualia (she survives the blades and the fall into the pit, but it isn’t pleasant). Khoren, Caroline, Kaitlynn, Matthias all manage to finish what Richard and Orik started, bringing down the murderous Tsuto and his lover – though the Quazit briefly tries to help her flee by turning her invisible, Nualia refuses to give up the fight, instead attempting (and failing) to take Richard’s last bit of life-force before the heroes catch on and end her villainy for good.

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14: Rescue & Retribution
Burnt Offerings

Caroline and Haji grow concerned when Shalelu, Kaitlinn, Rogar and the Traveler do not return that evening, and so set out to see the state of things at Thistletop. Arriving just as dusk settles, they overhear happy Birdcruncher Goblins bragging about how, with the Thistletop Goblins all wiped out, they’ll be important now, and get Thistletop all to themselve. Hustling onward they find scenes of carnage, an easy trail to follow, of Goblin and Goblin Dog carcasses demonstrating where their friends had passed. They pause briefly at Traveler’s grave before heading downstairs.

A quick search of rooms off of the main Hall shows the brutal massacre of Goblin women and children, which turns Caroline’s stomach. While explorine a side hallway, she stumbles into a room full of cells, in which Rogar, Shalelu, Kaitlinn, and Khoren, a friend of Ameiko’s missing since the Goblin raid during the Swallowtail Festival. She quickly jumps back however, as the jailer, a handsome man in banded mail swiftly draws his Bastard Sword and Shield and gives pursuit! Seeing rescue at hand Rogar manages to break open his cell, but is quickly dropped by the warrior when he attempts to seize his blade. As Coraline, Haji and his two-headed Dog-beast circle around the swordsman, the enemy makes a fatal mistake, turning his back to Kaitlinn’s cell, who stabs through her bars with a dagger hidden up her sleeve that hadn’t been found when she’d been captured, cutting deep into his right arm and forcing him to drop his weapon (and causing him to loose consciousness as well).

After taking his keys and setting the rest free, the Heroes strip him of his weapons and are brought up to speed on what had put their allies in this predicament. Kaitlinn had been knocked over the head while fleeing the Temple, while Shalelu had managed to drop one of the deadly Yith Hounds before falling to the other – her injuries have left her hobbled, though she can still shoot a bow. Khoren makes his introductions: he is another old friend of Amieko’s who had spotted Tsuto in the confusion of the raid, and had gotten catured when he tried to apprehend him – he would have been sacrificed to Lamashtu tonight if the gang hadn’t rescued him. Finally, they wake their prisoner, who proves to be quite forthcoming with information, as he is a mercenary at the end of his rope on a job he sees as going nowhere fast.

His name is Orik Vancaskerkin (of the Freeport Vancaskerkins), and he is a man in a pickle. On the run from what counts for law in Freeport for murder from getting mixed up with an Alchemist and a Tiefling Prostitute, he fled to Magnamar, where he took a job as Nualia’s bodyguard, only to find himself working with Goblins and a sleazy Bugbear, plotting to wipe out Sandpoint (which he actually kinda liked, what little he’s seen of it), and listening to the horrible howls coming from that godforsaken temple. He was thinking of skipping out when the gang showed up and bushwhacked him (jailer wasn’t even in his job description). He then adds that if they set him free, let him keep his stuff, and let bygones be bygones, he’ll happily help them deal with the crazy woman and her collection of monsters and misfits. This they agree to, and soon he is re-equipped and ready to go (as they all are, once they have had a moment to heal-up). He adds only one request – that if they can let her live, he’d like to see if he can turn Lyrie (the Wizard Anthropologist they’d jumped earlier) to their side – she’s a little confused, wrapped up in an infatuation over Tsuto, but he thinks he can break through to her, given the chance.

With Orik in the lead, they head quickly back to the war-room, but find the way to the scholar’s study and the stairs down blocked from the inside. Rogar, with a little help from his friends, breaks open the door, only to find Lyrie rearmed and ready, backed up by Tsuto Kaijitsu and Bruthazmus the Bugbear, who promptly bathes them all in flame before stepping behind the others. While Bruthazmus and Shalelu engage in some arrow-snipping (him using his elf-bane arrows to no small affect), Tsuto attempts to hold them off at the door with a surprise dash in, but is badly hurt in short order and flees, leaving the fight to his allies, who are swiftly overwhelmed. Bruthazmus falls under enemy blades, and Shalelu takes great delight cutting off the head of her old rival, while Lyrie is subdued and again stripped of her gear, and carried off by Orik to be locked up in the Prison wing until their return. Meanwhile the rest of the gang sprints down the stairs after the fleeing Tsuto…

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13: What lies beneath...
Burnt Offerings

Though they express their suspicions, the Sandpoint heroes agree to take the queer creature named Hobbs along as a provisional ally once he tells them his story. An Oracle of obviously unnatural heritage, Hobbs had been spotted and hired as one of several mercenaries on the outs in Magnamar by the fair-haired and beautiful Nualia, a former resident of Sandpoint (thought long dead, according to Kaitlinn, caught in the same fire that killed her guardian, the priest Ezakien Tobyn, and burned down the old Sandpoint Church eight years ago). Hobbs has since had a falling out with his erstwhile employer (ever since she took in a certain troublesome Quassit refugee from bellow the town) and is happy to switch sides to better see them all dead.

Heading downstairs, Rogar immediately notes the superior stonework of the halls. Finding several doors leading away, they follow the sound of Goblin laughter and break in to what appears to be a Goblin boudoir, catching fur females by surprise and dispatching them swiftly. Pushing on they find first a hallway, and a third door leading to a room full of cages with a few Goblin whelps locked within, which Kaitlinn quickly dispatches. Yet another door leads off to a cave with a vine-covered exit to the Varisian coastal waters – the only other exit blocked by a tentacled horror reaching for them. Rogar blocks it and sets to as Kaitlinn & Shalelu fill it full of holes. Though Rogar is stung repeatedly (Hobbs as well, when he gets too close) and a little crushed, he recovers, and they set on to find its’ lair, wherein they find an assortment of dead Goblins.

Pushing on, they find a large set of stone doors covered in horrifying carvings decorated to Lamashtu – which they leave behind on grounds that they’d rather not deal with what horrors might be behind them just yet – and instead head off a side passage, where they find a series of rooms. The first proves to hold a poorly done collection of Goblin murals, the most intriguing of which shows the Thistletop Head in profile with a gigantic Goblin with flaming weapons inside. The next room proves to be some sort of war counsel chamber, where plans for attack on a blackboard show the recent attack on Sandpoint was just one of many planned, and there are more to come, once the Whisperer Bellow is freed. The last room proves to be inhabited by an attractive, dark-skinned woman in white otherwise preoccupied with her research into a collection of ancient Thassilonian artifacts. Hobbs persuades her that his “friends” are just new recruits, and introduces her as Lyrie Akenja, a Wizard Archaeologist in Nualia’s employ. Somewhat shy, she encourages them to go away and leave her to her studies, but when she encouraged to speak her mind by Kaitlinn, her honesty in not caring that Nualia’s plans will destroy Sandpoint get Kaitlinn’s Starknife chucked into her gut, followed by a whack over the head by Rogar to knock her unconscious. Hobbs would have finished her off but for Shalelu aiming an arrow at him and telling the more bloody minded to back away. “We’re here to kill Goblins” she states, “not massacre everyone we meet, no matter how misguided.”

At Shalelu’s insistence they heal Lyrie just enough to keep her from dying and leave her gagged and trussed up behind her desk. Searching the study they find a stairwell leading down, but decide they’d best head back and finish exploring this level of the Head instead before going deeper. Heading back around to the horrifying double doors, they enter what Kaitlinn identifies as likely a Church of Lamashtu, Demon mother of monsters. Inside they not the eerie similarities to the temple bellow Sandpoint, and are completely surprised when they are ambushed by hideous flying hairless dogs. The baying of the Hounds sets Rogar and Kaitlinn in such a panic both drop everything and flee in opposite directions. Of the four who went down, only Kaitlinn makes it out, mad with fear as she races back through the Nettlewood for home…

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12: Seige at Thistletop
Burnt Offerings

Retreating to rest and recuperate at Sandpoint for the night, Shalelu leads Kaitlinn, Rogar & the Traveler back to Thistletop the next morning. Finding the bridge re-strung, this time they cross it one at a time, finding doing so will not cause it to snap. Finding the front doors barred from the inside, but no one paying attention from the watch towers, they decide to stealthily climb to the roof to scout over to the inner courtyard in hopes of slipping in (Traveler stays behind to watch the front gate).

Looking into the courtyard they are spotted by four of the hairless Goblin Dogs, which immediately yip an alarm. As Kaitlinn, Shalelu & Rogar strike them with arrow and knife, the Goblins (supposedly) on watch take notice, and while those outside race to the entrance on their own Goblin Dogs, two begin firing from one of the towers (two others chuck pickles out of the other tower, perplexing Kaitlinn no end, before joining their allies in the far tower by taking shots at the heroes). Traveler finds himself fighting not only the pack outside the stockade, but a half dozen more that spill out of the front entrance. Though she jumps down to help and heal him, Kaitlinn proves unable to alleviate enough of his injuries to save the mysterious caravan guard before the mob of Goblins and their pets bring him down. Still, the assembled horde prove unable to defeat the survivors, as Rogar, Shalelu and Kaitlinn do their best to avenge their fallen comrade, slaughtering the lot of them.

With the door open they set about exploring the rest of the stockade, moving swiftly from room to room until they find the locked entry into the throne room. As soon as Kaitlinn jimmies the door, they rush in to face four Goblins, three skilled warriors led by a warchanter who put up a good fight, but fall to the vengeful heroes in short order. Finishing their quick reconnoiter, they find a set of stairs leading down, when they encounter a strange-looking fellow who asks them nicely not to shoot him, as he is no more an ally of the Goblins than they. His name is Hobbs, and if they’ll let him join their band, he’ll tell them what’s REALLY going on in Thistletop…

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11: Bridge over troubled Water
Burnt Offerings

With AMeiko busy setting her affairs in order, and Sandru & Koya getting the Caravan ready to leave, the gang decides they’d best help Shalelu track down her hated rival, the notorious Bugbear Bruthazmus. The following morning Shalelu leads a small band consisting of Kaitlinn, Haji and the Traveler off through the hinterlands north of Sandpoint to the Goblin stronghold at Thistletop. After easily fighting off a Goblin ambush in the woods and carefully working their way through the brambles and nettles blocking the way to the cliffs, they fight several packs of Goblin Dogs before finally finding their way the a rickety rope-bridge crossing the gulf between the mainland cliff and the bizarre half-head island jutting from the waves upon which the fortress of the Goblins awaits.

Half-way across the bridge the rope snaps on one side, dropping all the wood slats into the frothing waters bellow. Though Shalelu & Kaitlin manage to grab on and pull themselves back to safety, Traveler takes the 80’ plunge. Only Haji, who had yet to try to cross, stands with his bird-thing on the cliff’s edge unscathed. The Traveler survives his fall, managing to swim into a nearby cavern, only to find himself fighting for his life against a hungry Bunyip. Though Shalelu & Haji race to a hole entering the cavern above, and Kaitlinn bravely (if possibly foolishly) clambers down the cliff-side and swims in directly to the cave entrance where Traveler had last been seen, none manage to arrive to give him aid and the monster tries dragging him down. Luck and general cussedness win out in his favor though, and he manages to beat it to death before he can bleed out. Pulling himself onto the ledge, Kaitlinn manages to reach his side in time to give him magical healing with a wand she’d bought for just such an emergency. Soon joined by Haji & Shalelu, the four set about searching the cave’s tide-pool, finding treasure amongst the remains of the monster’s prior victims.

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