Nyonia - Pauci Fortis

There are vampires in that castle!!
Khashi's Journal

I knew that there was something wrong with this town. Ever since we arrived, there has been something nagging at the back of my brain. All of the little things… the constant shadows, ravens everywhere, garlic everywhere, missing women and children, a ruling overlord that people spoke of only in whispers. I had heard this stuff before. On the ship as I traveled across the seas from the Empire of the Oran to the Kingdom of the Seven Seas… the sailors told tales. As I traveled across the lands, everywhere I went, there were whispers, legends, nightmares. Blood sucking creatures of the night. Vampires.

It turned out that our precautions were unnecessary. The night passed and nobody came to steal our women in the night. Some of the local cats turned out to be extraordinarily friendly. Junia took pity on one and brought it in to her room. As we found out later, this turned out to be a mistake. Luckily it did not end as badly as it could have.

While we were eating breakfast, we were approached by a man in fancy clothes. We could tell immediately that something was off about him. He was extraordinarily clean, and doused in fancy perfumes… but underneath all of that, I could detect the odor of something foul and rotten. He introduced himself as Murmanus, chief of staff for Praetor Gado, the local nobility who “protected” the town. Murmanus came to deliver an invitation from Praetor Gado to join him and his wife, Helespa for dinner that night.

The trail to find Ravinia’s father led to the castle, so we accepted the invitation (with the condition that we be back to the inn before dark). We spent the day shopping for appropriate clothes for the fancy dinner. While talking with people in town, we learned that several of the town’s children had disappeared over the last several years.

With Ravinia’s help, we concealed our weapons amongst our clothes.. If Praetor Gado turned out to be what we suspected, we did not want to be unarmed.

Murmanus returned in mid-afternoon and escorted us to the castle. It was a relatively short walk, and on the way we passed over a guarded metal bridge that raised in the middle. This was the most metal that I have seen in one place in my entire time in the Land of the Five Spices. After we walked across, we looked back to see that the entire underside of the bridge on the village side was painted in symbols and markings. Morwenna identified the markings as belonging to various gods that oppose the forces of darkness.

We were treated to a short tour of the castle. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Praetor Gado was a bit arrogant, but not any more than you would expect from a man of his position. His wife Helespa was beautiful. Dinner was uneventful with the conversation kept casual. I found myself cornered by two human females, Aurelia and Villia, while the other members of our group also found themselves paired with a member of Gado’s staff.

After dinner is when Praetor Gado revealed his true colors. We were led in to another room, which contained a large figurine of a black cat. Ravinia immediately recognized the figurine as the one that her father came looking for. Gado admitted to Ravinia that her father had come to visit him… and even more, that her father was still there as his prisoner. He had Ravinia’s father brought in, and he was dirty, weak, beaten. When Ravinia told her father that we had found and cured her brother… and that her brother was safe, Praetor Gado laughed. And then he had her brother brought in. Apparently Gado had sent his men to the Last Chance Trading Post and captured her brother as well.

Gado admitted to us that he, and most of his people were vampires. He informed us that the figurine of the black cat was what kept the surrounding area covered in shadow, and allowed him and his men to walk about in daylight. He offered us a trade. He would return Ravinia’s father and brother to us, if we would take on a quest for him. He wanted us to retrieve water from pools at the Shrine of Siam and the Antiqui Medeis. This water would allow him to extend the range of the black cat’s shadow, and allow him and his vampires to travel freely through the entire Land of the Five Spices, including Lecia.

We told him that we needed time to think about it. He agreed to give us until tomorrow night. We returned to Mors Corvus to discuss it – although I think we were all in agreement that there is no way that we could give the vampires the power to travel across the land. As much as Ravinia loves her family, we can’t trade the lives of two for all of the people that the vampires will kill if they are given free reign.

Once back in our room at the inn, and after we had ensured that we were not being spied upon, we discussed our options. We all agreed that we could not do this quest. We decided that our best course of action was to break in to the castle and free Ravinia’s family, as well as the other people who were being held prisoner. After discussing options, we decided that the best plan would be to tell Praetor Gado that we WOULD do his quest, and then after we left town, sneak back in and catch them when they weren’t expecting us.

Morwenna told us that she had a spell that she had never used around us before. It would allow her to walk through the spirit world, unseen and able to walk through barriers. We guarded her body while she sent her spirit off to explore the castle. She discovered that there were MANY more vampires in the castle than we suspected. She counted nearly 40 vampires, plus some human guards. Down under the castle, she discovered a labrynth that contained many coffins, some ghouls… and a couple of rooms filled with their captives. She also found a place where we could sneak directly in to the underground caverns and hopefully bypass the majority of the vampires.

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Banded Agate Pillars, and the angry town
Khashi's Journal

We spent the night at the abandoned mine. Ravinia seemed to be back to normal self, although she was very nervous about the empty mine. She was convinced that it was haunted. She may have had a point – when we woke up the next morning, the area was covered in a spooky, unnatural mist. We decided that nothing good could come of the mist, so we got out of the area as quickly as we could.

Traveling through the mountains turned out to be trickier than we expected. We had to make several detours to get around crevices and ravines. We eventually left the mountains and entered in to some swampy marsh lands. While out hunting on my own, I came across some unusual tracks. I decided to follow them for a bit to see what kind of creature they belonged to. I found a trio of some kind of walking crocodile creatures, who had just killed the deer I was originally tracking. I wasn’t sure if they were hostile or not, but decided that there was nothing to be gained by confronting them. I returned back to the rest of the group and told them what I had found. After some discussion, we decided that it was better to err on the side of caution, so Morwenna and I went back and wiped out our trail so that they could not follow us to our camp.

Early the next day, we found a butchered deer carcass beside the trail, along with the tracks of the crocodile creatures that I saw the day before. Looking around, we spotted them watching us from the trees. I waved at them, to let them know that we were aware of their presence. They returned my wave, so I gestured for them to come out and talk to us. Communicating with them was difficult. They spoke a little broken Scipian, but seemed to speak Morwenna’s native language better.

I didn’t catch everything that they said, only Morwenna’s account afterwards, but they call themselves “cauda”, and they had left us the deer as some kind of peace offering, worried that we might starve. I am sure that Morwenna informed them of my prowess as a hunter, and that I keep them well fed.

They gave us directions on how to find our way to the Banded Agate Pillars. They had never been there, but one of their father’s had, long ago. They warned us to be wary of gargun.

We found the Banded Agate Pillars pretty easily. They were not quite what I expected. The pillars themselves were large, smooth pillars with no obvious signs or markings. Morwenna and Junia were able to find some invisible magical markings that said that the pillars were a gateway to Siem’s Shrine. I picked up a dozen small agate stones. Surely they will come in handy at some point in the future.

We looked around the area for signs of Ravinia‘s father. There was nothing obvious at first, just a few old camp sites, and the remains of an old building. Ravinia eventually noticed a small stone marking, which is apparently something her father is known for. She found a note inside, that her father had headed to Mors Corvus (Death Raven), still searching for a cure for her brother’s werewolf curse.

We briefly discussed whether we should travel down to Siem’s Shrine, or continue on towards Mors Corvus, but very quickly decided that we should continue on in the direction Ravinia’s father had taken.

We found a deserted shack along the way. Just as we were about to leave, the owners returned. An old lady and her two adult sons, along with their small herd of goats (and sheep?). They invited us to share a meal with them, and told us that the rest of their family had ventured to Mors Corvus for supplies and had never returned. They warned us against going there. I promised the old lady that I would look for her missing family, and either return them to her, or avenge their deaths. They also told us that they remembered Ravinia’s father coming through. They invited us to camp outside, in the relative safety of their shack.

The next morning when we awoke, we discovered something strange. The family was gone, along with their goats and any sign that they had ever existed. The shack was deserted and had been for years. Morwenna summoned her spirit wolf, who told her that the entire thing had been an illusion. We do not know what it’s purpose was. It didn’t seem to have any intention of harming us. Maybe it was trying to warn us away from going to Mors Corvus)?

We continued on our way and reached Mors Corvus without any issues. There is something strange and creepy about this small town. Somehow the entire town falls under a shadow, even when the surrounding area is bathed in sunlight. The people dress in odd, plain garb, and the women are nowhere to be seen. The children don’t laugh or play, and everybody seems angry and unfriendly. There is an actual castle overlooking the town.

We went to the only inn in town (The Squinting Soldier), where we were greeted by the most unfriendly inn keeper in the entire Land of the Five Spices. The rooms were nothing out of the ordinary – other than the heavy bars and shutters on the windows. Even on the third floor!!

While eating dinner at the inn, we tried to eavesdrop on the conversations around us, trying to figure out what was “wrong” with the town. In keeping with what we had seen of it’s residents so far, even the people in the inn were grumpy and angry. The only thing really of interest that we overheard was that “somebody” may try to come for the women in the party during the night. Ulgaden and I will have to be sure to watch over them.

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The Last Chance Trading Post
Khashi's Journal

I am pretty sure that the old man who runs the Last Chance Trading Post is crazy. I don’t think humans are suited for being alone, every human I’ve ever met who was on their own has been crazy.

It had only been a couple of days since we left Viculus de Adianua behind, so we didn’t really need any supplies, but we thought that maybe we could find some information about the Banded Agate Pillars, and possibly even Ravinia’s father.

The old man did remember Ravinia’s father coming through a year or so ago, and that he had headed in the direction of the Pillars. He couldn’t tell us too much about the Banded Agate Pillars, just that a lot of people went looking for them, and nobody ever came back. He said that there were a few small scattered mining camps, but not much else for civilized people.

He also asked us to deliver some supplies to a mining camp. It was on our way, so we agreed. If nothing else, the miners might be able to give us more information about the area. One of the supplies he asked us to bring was a jug of some disgusting alcoholic drink that the miners like. I thought it would make for good bargaining so I bought a couple more jugs of it to take with us.

Not much happened in our first couple of days through the mountains. We found the mining camp easily enough. I think the miners were more excited about the human females in our party than they were about the supplies that we brought them. They insisted that we spend the night, offering to roast a couple of goats for us. I brought out one of the jugs of the rotgut whiskey that I had brought along and passed it around. They started to play some crude musical instruments and convinced Morwenna to get up and dance with them. I was amused at the way that they fawned over Morwenna and the other’s, but kept a close eye on them to make sure that none of them got out of line.

Ulgaden tried some of the rotgut whiskey and found that it doesn’t agree too well with Koori stomachs. He sacrificed his dinner to the forest gods and returned looking rather green.

The miners warned us that there was a hostile village in the direction that we were headed. They warned us to avoid them.

While checking out another abandoned mine, we noticed the tracks of a Gargan hunting party. We decided that if we left the gargan alone, they would eventually find our tracks and would come after us. We decided that it would be better to confront them when we were prepared, and in a place that we chose – rather than have them sneak up on us in the middle of the night.

Ravinia seemed to be especially distracted today, almost as if she wasn’t there. So we suggested that she stay at the abandoned mine and guard the mules while we tracked down the gargan. Normally she would want to join the battle, but today she seemed content to stay behind and meditate.

The gargan hunting party turned out to be much larger than we expected it to be. There were 15 of them, and they were of the larger, tougher variety. They were tracking a buffalo and didn’t spot the ambush that we had set up for them.

Morwenna dropped her swarm of bees down in to the center of them, which sowed panic among most of them. Ulgaden and I picked off the gargan that exited the swarm at the front of the group, while Junia and Morwenna picked off the ones at the back. The ogre, as always, just waded through cleaving gargan with that giant sword. Between us, we made rather quick work of the gargan hunting party, taking no real damage ourselves.

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Putting Turmeric Arbustum behind us
Khashi's Journal

It has been many weeks since I have updated my journal. The things that I have learned have turned my life upside down and I needed some time to process everything. I thought that I was alone in this world, that my entire family was gone forever. But now I know that this is not true. Dalan, my youngest son, is still alive.

After I defeated my brother, Ulgaden and I made a pact. We would not leave town without killing Kelus Riga. As much as I wanted to add the death of my brother to this promise, until I knew the truth about my son, I had to let him live.

There were some changes made to our little band of adventurers. It was decided that Obadiah would go on ahead with the caravan, and that Maximus would accompany him. The rest of us would stay behind to protect Junia, taking a longer side journey to pick up more cargo, and meet up with the rest of the caravan later. To replace Maximus, Junia hired Ravinia, a mercenary who was not affiliated with either of the factions in town. Ravinia seems quiet, but capable.

Ulgaden left town to perform the Koori burial rites on the remains of his mate. This is a very personal and private ceremony so I wished him well but did not intrude.

I met with Castis Tofilo, the leader of the Blue faction and discussed my situation with my brother. He filled in some missing information about my brother’s actions since he came to town and confirmed that Surtak had been accompanied by a child when he arrived in town. He gave me my first real lead – that my brother had been traveling with a circus, and a female Koori, and that when the circus left town, the female Koori and the child went with it.

We were warned that the Riga clan were planning to retaliate against us for our humiliation of Kelus and my brother. We decided that it would be best if we set up camp outside of town. But they were determined to have their revenge and attacked us in the middle of the night. It did not go well for them.

Being the cowards that they are, of course they struck us in the middle of the night. Unfortunately for them, Koori are creatures of the night, and we heard them tromping through the darkness like a herd of buffalo. And as further proof that the Gods smile upon us, Ulgaden had returned hours before, so we were at full strength.

To their credit, they did come in full force, with a large number of warriors, and a powerful wizard, as well as my brother Surtak and Kelus Riga.

My overconfidence led me to make what could have been a fatal mistake. They had a band of a dozen archers who were raining arrows down upon our camp. I charged them to force them to put down their bows and defend themselves. That is when the wizard revealed himself, raising a mighty wall of stone to cut me off from the rest of my companions. This is also when my brother revealed himself, attacking me from the darkness. He had planned to isolate me from my companions, forcing me to fight him and the dozen archers alone. Luckily, the wizard had underestimated how quick a Koori is on his feet, and placed the wall so that one end of it was close enough for me to reach. I was able to duck around the wall, actually using it for protection from the archers and drawing my brother to where he would be forced to fight me alone in the kind of fight my brother hates – a fair one.

Ulgaden charged forward, when Kelus Riga revealed himself in the darkness, attempting to attack Ulgaden by surprise. Once again, the humans underestimated the quickness of the Koori, and his ambush of Ulgaden failed. They locked in a deadly battle, but I was too busy trying to stay alive to make note of the details. I have seen Ulgaden in battle and had faith that he would overcome Kelus.

As I expected, my fight with my brother was much tougher this time. He had covered himself from head to toe in solid armor, leaving no weaknesses for me to exploit. Since I had taken our Grandfather’s greatsword from him, he had switched to a broadsword and shield, making him even harder to hit. I was forced to fight a much more defensive fight, but finally got in a lucky shot that felled him.

Meanwhile, Ulgaden had quickly dispatched Kelus, and was taking the time to remove his head – ensuring that he would never take another innocent life. Morwenna, Ravinia and Junia had dispatched the archers and the rest of our ambushers, and were closing in on the wizard. I quickly joined them, and when he realized that he was outnumbered and alone, the wizard surrendered. He traded his life, and the life of his men for what information he could give us. There wasn’t actually much to tell that we didn’t already know (that he had been hired by Masus Riga to murder us), but it gave us the definitive proof that we needed. We also learned that Masus had sent the majority of his forces after us, leaving Turmeric Arbustum heavily weighted towards Castis Tofilo’s Blue forces.

Once again I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with my brother. He agreed to answer my questions, in exchange for my word not to kill him. Reluctantly, I agreed. Junia used one of her spells to ensure that he didn’t lie to me, and I gathered as much information from him as I could. I was able to learn for certain that my son does still live, and that Castis’ information was correct – that he was with Surtak’s mate with a traveling circus.

If my brother thought that I was going to set him free again, he was sorely mistaken. I had promised him his life, not his freedom. With Ulgaden at my side, I escorted him back to Turmeric Arbustum, to ask Castis Tofilo to find a deep, dark hole to put him in.

When we reached Turmeric Arbustum, we learned that a war had broken out. With Masus Riga sending the majority of his thugs to try and kill us, he left himself underpowered, and Castis Tofilo had taken advantage of the situation, taking control of the town.

In exchange for the help that we had given him in taking over the town, Castis Tofilo agreed to imprison my brother. When my son is safe in my arms again, I will return to give my brother the death that he deserves.

Castis was also able to give me some more information. He had managed to find a flyer for the traveling circus that Surtak had arrived with, and that his mate and my son were currently traveling with. Unfortunately there is no way to find their current location. The best that I can do is to meet them in Lecia, where they will go to camp for the winter.

Before we left town, Ulgaden and I had planned to kill Masus Riga for his attempt to murder ourselves and our friends, but Castis warned us that Masus had barricaded himself in his home with a large number of mercenaries to protect him, and that it would be suicide for us to attempt to get to him tonight. He also warned us that Masus would not forget the damage we had done to his clan, and that we had murdered his son, and that he would send assassins after us. We agreed to leave town without killing Masus, but agreed between ourselves that we would come back some day and finish the job.

Ulgaden had one final act of revenge against Kelus Riga. By stealing a portion of his mate’s body, Kelus had prevented her from entering the afterlife. He thought it only fair that Kelus suffer the same fate. He dismembered Kelus’ body, and vowed to scatter the pieces in remote places, so that Kelus’ soul would never rest. I agreed to help him in this quest.

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Following the Trail

Ahh…to be on a horse again. If only it were on the plains of my homeland, instead of through the forest, but I have many cultures to study. Besides Obidiah and his family (the culture I originally chose to study), I have two Koori and a Maurya to study as well.
A note on the Koori, they seem especially restless almost like they wish they were going faster. Haven’t they learned from their travels that humans tend to be slower than Koori and someone from the army (oh I did my research before I left) can’t travel fast because their horses are not designed for that and they carry so much stuff.
The trail isn’t too hard to follow, I mean how can they hide the trail of twenty people carrying 3,000 silver? It was good to interact with the natives out of a town setting. I have some good questions to ask. For example, is it custom to offer bad fruit juices on the side of the road to travelers? The boy selling the juices did say we were about a day behind and they had taken a lot of juice with them. This was evident by a huge barrel being smashed a little ways down the road. I guess they found out the juice wasn’t so good.
After Khashi does a little scouting ahead he comes back with word that a party of humans had been killed by huge hominoids. When the rest of us arrived at the scene I informed the group that ogres had attacked the party. Khashi wanted to try and rescue them, but I informed him that the humans were probably dead and we could get lost or worse killed as well. Khashi seems concerned with helping the innocent. I have determined from my study of Ulgaden, that this is not a Koori trait, but seems that caring for innocents is more to do with who Khashi is as a person than as a natural trait.
To throw us off Muin, or someone in his group, created a false trail. We followed it for a while, but we eventually got back on the right trail. It put us a little behind, but we still were making significant progress.
We were planning on ambushing Muin and his men, but when heard the sounds of combat ahead, we knew we could no longer wait. We charged into battle, or Maximus and Atasuki did on Maximus’ horse. Ulgaden and Kashi began to engage opponents on foot. I summoned my Nataska and then spirit walked away. I was not getting anywhere close to combat. I began to spirit walk in a wide circle, doing my best to avoid any guards. When I felt safe enough to spirit walk closer to the battle I saw Khashi attacking Maximus. Now that was not what I expected. When I looked around I saw the Oldwun Mage. The man I had been looking for. He most have created a spell to make Kashi turn against Maximus. I set up my Kokopelli to create the illusion thatMaximus was dying. That way the two of them can finish doing more important things, like dealing with the mage. Maximus on his horse still, charges over the wall of guards and attacks the mage killing him in one blow. The guards were either injured, dead or have run away thanks to my Nataska, Ulgaden, Kashi and Atasuki. Maximus did attack some of the guards before the whole mishap with Maximus and Kashi.
Since the mage was dead, his familiar began to eat him. The others made a move to kill it, but I told them not to since after it had its fill of its former master’s flesh it would leave and return to the wild. A little down the trail we found the money all scattered around. We collected as much as we could. We found no sign of Muin, but that was to be expected. We took all the guards that were still alive with us to the nearest guard post. At the guard post we left all the guards except for the guard that was from the Realm of Frost and seemed to be second in charge. On the way back to Nemora Ater, (On my watch, no less. A thousand curses to who ever gave this man both strength and wits, people who are evil should only have one of those.) the guard attack me and ran away. Most likely the man would get killed by something that lived in the woods, or would get lost and die in the woods. We returned to Nemora Ater and gave the money back. The people were so thankful and also a little surprised to see us. I guess people don’t keep their promises around here. Strange.
I did not mention that I had summoned the Kokopelli, or that I had sprit walked. I don’t know how the rest of the party would react. They seemed okay with me summoning Angak and Kweo, but those were helpful where as these might make them afraid of me.

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Day 36
Ravinia's Journal

It has been thirty-six days since I received the first letter. Now I have found the fifth, and heard that my father and brother may both be alive. This still leaves me even more mysteries: why did they leave, if they left willingly, and why did they stay away? Collecting creatures for a circus, as that storyteller said? I admit the thought angers me, but I know too much of the sorts of magic that can change a person to be willing to blame them yet. I will discover the root of all of this.

I have signed on to guard a caravan. It is strange finding myself a sword-for-hire, but they will pay and cover my travel expenses, and I must be practical. There is one of the cat people here, and I find that I am very wary of him. I have heard of their hair-trigger tempers and volatile natures, and do not intend to let any of his kind surprise me.

I must figure out what this map and these riddles mean. I know I will, given enough time to think on them.

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I Choose Blue
Khashi's Journal

We stayed in Parvus Turmeric Arbustum for a few more days after we returned the people that had been captured by the gargun. The towns people treated us like heroes, and spent several days celebrating. But Junia had a schedule to keep, so the caravan set back out on the road towards our next destination. We learned that we would be arriving there just as an annual celebration would be occurring.

We had several fairly uneventful days on the road before we reached the next town. Turmeric Arbustum was a larger village than any of the others we had visited so far in these lands. When we reached the town, we quickly noticed that the town was divided amongst two factions. Most of the houses and businesses were flying banners of either red or blue. The town was overrun with seedy looking characters, most of whom were also wearing some type of red or blue markings. We received some rather ominous warnings about the town having “two bosses”.

We decided to look around a bit before we committed to where we would be staying. Junia found a neutral spot outside of town to store the caravan wagons. Ulgaden and I did a quick scouting of the three inns that we had to choose from. The first inn was flying the colors of red, and we received some rather hostile looks and comments from scum who were hanging around it. The second inn was flying the colors of blue, and the men around it didn’t look any more friendly. The third inn seemed to be neutral, so we claimed the few remaining rooms that were available.

Junia conducted her business with representatives from both the Red and Blue factions. I did my best to keep an eye on her, just in case any trouble broke out. I figured that it was as much my duty to guard HER as it was her caravan. She also found a lead on where to sell the rare herbs that we had picked up in Heldir’s lair.

The next day, Junia and Morwenna headed out of town to meet with the buyers for the herbs. We offered to accompany them, but they insisted that they would be perfectly safe. So Maximus, Ulgaden and I decided to check out the local celebration and see about participating in some of the competitions.

We expected the competitions to be in good fun, but they very quickly turned deadly serious.

Ulgaden entered the combat competition, and even before he faced his first opponent, he encountered somebody that he had a past connection to. One of the other men in the competition was Kelus Riga, who was the son of the patriarch of the Red gang. Kelus was also the reigning champion, undefeated for many years. But the thing that drew our attention was his hat – Kelus was wearing a hat with a band made from the skin of a Koori. The sight angered me, but I could tell that Ulgaden was filled with a rage unlike any I had ever seen in him before. Ulgaden challenged Kelus, wagering his crystal blades against Kelus’ hat. It was a tough fight, but Ulgaden managed to defeat Kelus and claimed the hat as his prize. He had to be reminded that this was a non-lethal fight or he would have killed Kelus.

It was only after the fight was over that Ulgaden told me his story. That Kelus was one of the men who had murdered his mate, and was wearing her skin as a trophy. My answer to Ulgaden was simple – “When are we going to kill him?” We spoke in Koori to prevent anybody from overhearing us, and made our plans that we would not leave town without making Kelus pay for his crimes with his life. Maximus could tell that we were planning something, and cautioned us several times that we should not make trouble in the town – that it would hinder Junia’s future business.

I was surprised to hear a familiar voice calling out my name. I turned to see my brother Surtak on the other side of the combat field. Of course he was wearing red and wielding the crystal sword of our grandfather. He called me a coward and bragged to his followers that he would kill me. He ordered the combat field to be cleared and challenged me to meet him. Filled with rage, of course I accepted.

I turned to one of the Blue gang members behind me and asked to borrow his blue scarf. I tied it around my arm. I had chosen my side. If my brother had aligned himself with the Red, then I would fight on the side of the Blue. Before I stepped on to the battle field, I turned to Ulgaden and Maximus and told them “No matter what happens to ME, that Koori MUST die”. They didn’t understand why, but they agreed.

Despite my rage, I knew that I had to be cautious and fight smart. Surtak was a powerful, dangerous Koori and one of the best fighters that I had ever seen. He could very easily kill me with a single blow from our grandfather’s sword. My only advantage was that he was overconfident and still viewed me as the little brother that was no challenge to him. I would prove to him that I had grown up.

I allowed him to make the first strike. As expected, it was a powerful overhead strike that would have cut me in half if it had landed. But I anticipated it, and easily knocked it aside with my batons. This also left Surtak exposed, and I quickly struck him twice with the tip of my batons – once in the kidneys and once in the throat. He wasn’t expecting such a furious attack, and they left him surprised and stunned. Gasping and clutching at his throat, he dropped to his knees, and then fell on his face. I had gotten lucky, and was not about to give him a chance to recover.

I picked up our grandfather’s sword with my tail and flipped it back to Maximus and asked him to guard it for me. I then turned to Surtak with my claws bared. I intended to end his miserable life and make him pay for everything that he had done. A wall of his Red companions surged forward towards me. I looked behind me and saw that an equal number of men in Blue was stepping forward to face them. Although they didn’t yet know me, at this moment in time, I was the Blue’s chosen champion.

I raised my claw, ready to rip out Surtak’s throat. His eyes fluttered open and he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He told me that one of my cubs was still alive, that he had stolen my youngest, rather than kill him. He told me that if I killed him, that the cub would die. I hesitated, unsure of whether I should believe him… but there was too much at risk. I couldn’t take the chance.

With a final roar of rage, I used my claw to slice open his cheek… a mark to remind him of our encounter. In exchange for his life, I made him promise to return my cub to me. I released him, and surrounded by his men, he slunk away in defeat.

I knew that I had gotten lucky and caught him off guard this time. The next time we fight, he will be prepared and will not take me so lightly. I may not survive the next encounter, but I swear that one way or another, my brother will die.

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Destruction of the Gargun outpost
Khashi's Journal

We spent some time on the cliff overlooking the gargun outpost, watching the camp and learning as much as we could about them. One thing we quickly learned was that there were MANY more gargun in the camp than the gargun we had questioned had told us. It was possible that they deliberately lied to us, but it was more likely that the stupid creatures just couldn’t count. Ulgadent and I were still confident that we could take the additional gargun, but Maximus was concerned that we would be overrun and insisted that we be more cautious.

We worked out a simple plan. Morwenna transformed herself in to a tiny bird and flew back to our original camp to gather the soldiers that Captain Capolius had sent with us. I ran far to the northeast of the outpost and lit several large signal fires, to draw as many of the gargun away from their outpost as we could. Then I circled back around to meet with the rest of our group on the cliff.

We tried to sneak in to the outpost through their back door, but were spotted as we entered the hidden hole in the wall of thorns. It worked out though, as we quickly cut down the handful of gargun that came to stop us. We cleared the outlying area of gargun without too much trouble, leaving only the large stone building with the glass dome.

Morwenna sent her ogre through the front door first, which was a good thing as there were a half a dozen gargun waiting inside to ambush us. Once we discovered their presence, it was a simple matter for us to eliminate them. We quickly worked our way through the building, finding most of it empty.

We did find where some of the captured people were being kept. Most of them were injured but none were in immediate danger. We also found several women who had barricaded themselves in the kitchen. We told them to stay where it was safe, while we located Heldir and eliminated him. We promised them that when it was safe, we would return them to their families. We also discovered quite a few books and herbs that Junia told us were valuable. We told her that we would help her gather them before we left.

We had cleared all areas of the building except for the area directly beneath the glass dome. We had yet to encounter Heldir and expected him to be in this final room. Instead we found two large tree creatures that seemed to be feeding on the infected prisoners that were strung up along the walls. The walking trees turned out to be more bark than bite, and we quickly cut them down. There was still no sign of Heldir.

We used the bodies of the trees as ladders to climb up and bring down the sick people that had been strung up. Unfortunately, all but one of them were too far gone with the sickness that had been inflicted upon them. We also found a tunnel that Heldir had escaped through. We tried to follow him, but he had used his foul magic to hide his trail.

Before leaving the outpost, we searched it for signs of the queen and her nest. We discovered that the nest had been underneath the first building that we had burned during our initial battle, and that the queen and the eggs had perished in the fire.

We gathered up all of the people who had been captured by the gargun and returned them to town. Captain Capolius said he would send his soldiers to wipe out the handful of gargun that we had left alive.

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Scouting the Gargun outpost
Khashi's Journal

We returned to Parvus Turmeric Arbustum with our Gargun prisoners. Captain Capolius didn’t seem to be very interested in interrogating them. He assumed that we had already gotten any useful information out of them. I think he assumed that we are more skilled at interrogation than we are. We told him everything that we had learned and told him to do whatever he wanted with the Gargun prisoners. We then headed back in to the wilderness to see what else we could learn. Captain Capolius said that he was going to send out word of the Gargun problem and ask for the nearby towers to send additional soldiers. He also insisted on sending 10 of his own soldiers with us to help. I would have rather that we continued on with just our own group, but Maximus insisted that we would need the help. I was sure that they would just slow us down.

We also discovered that Obadiah had sold his business to a relative of his, which means that we have a new boss. The new boss is Junia, an older Easterling woman with a bit of an attitude. For some reason she decided to accompany us in to the wilderness. I fear that we may all be unemployed soon if the Gargun are as tough as Maximus seems to think that they are. A battle is no place for a business woman, and I am not sure that we can protect her if things turn ugly.

We headed back to the spot where we had ambushed the Gargun hunting party. I was curious as to whether the Gargun had discovered that their hunting party had been taken. We found signs of another hunting party that had discovered the remains of their fellow Gargun, and had immediately headed back towards the Gargun camp. However it appeared that the bodies had been fed on by the local wildlife, which will hopefully mask the true cause of their deaths.

Ulgaden and I scouted on ahead while the others trailed behind just out of sight, with our 10 soldiers bringing up the rear. We encountered another Gargun hunting/scouting party and easily dispatched them. By my count, this brings their remaining numbers down to only 40 Gargun. We had a bit of a disagreement among our group as to whether we should kill any Gargun that we encounter, and reduce their numbers… or if we should try to avoid any altercations and hide our presence as long as possible. Ulgaden and I were of the opinion that we should cut their numbers at every opportunity. Maximus was afraid that if the Gargun became aware of us, they would hunt us in force and we would be overwhelmed. He wanted to wait for the arrival of the 30 soldiers that Captain Capolius promised to send. Ulgaden and I were underwhelmed by that idea. We were in agreement that our party could handle this problem on our own.

We encountered our first guard post as we got closer to the Gargun camp. Ulgaden and I positioned ourselves in the trees above them and laid in wait until the rest of the group came within sight. We then dropped down on the 3 Gargun guards and easily cut them down. Maximus was furious at us for killing the guards. We simply pointed out that the Gargun numbers were down to only 37 remaining. At this rate, there won’t be any Gargun left to defend Heldir!! Important note, it appears that Junia isn’t as helpless as she appeared in town. She at least knows a few defensive spells. Morwenna also pulled out a new magic doll – this one was an ogre that could shoot a bow. There is much more to this young woman than it appears at first.

We finally reached the Gargun camp. It was enclosed by a wall of thorns, and contained some fields and pens of pigs. Who would have suspected that Gargun were farmers?!? We also saw the large stone building with the glass dome that we suspected was where we would find Heldir and the people that he had kidnapped.

We scouted around the camp and saw that there was a cliff overlooking the camp where we could get a better view. While climbing up there, I was spotted by a Gargun scout. However, before he could react, he was riddled with arrows and darts from my companions. I swung up on to the cliff to finish him off. By my count, the Gargun are down to 36!

From the top of the cliff, we were able to get a better view over the camp. We were also able to see in to the glass dome. There was some kind of giant plant creature in there… and several of the captured men strung up, covered in some kind of fungus. It looked like the plant creature was feeding on them or something. We need to rescue those people… hopefully that fungus growing on them can be cured.

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Who is the Gargun master?
Khashi's Journal

After our adventure chasing down that stupid Wangai, getting back the town’s money and clearing Obadiah‘s name, I spent a couple of days just wandering around Nemora Ater. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. While we were off traipsing through the woods, the barge that I rode in to town had left without me. Not that I was especially heartbroken over this fact. I would be perfectly happy never riding another barge for the rest of my days. But it DID leave me with the dilemma of what I was going to do next.

Just as I was about to head out of town on my own, I was approached by Ulgaden. He brought word from Obadiah of a job offer. Obadiah was worried that there might be more trouble ahead and was looking for additional guards for his caravan. I didn’t have any better options, and the thought of traveling with my new friends was certainly more appealing than taking my chances on my own.

If I had known how painfully slow this caravan was going to travel, I might have given Obadiah a different answer. I had thought that the barge was slow… that was nothing compared to the snail’s pace that an ox pulling a wagon travels! There were days that we stopped and I could look back and still see last night’s campsite.

The days on the road were long and boring. We encountered a camp of goat-men that seemed to be peaceful. Obidiah traded them some trinkets for permission to travel through their lands. We also found an place on the path where strange mirrors had been placed on both sides of the trail. After some inspection, it did not appear to be anything dangerous. I took a matched pair of mirrors for later inspection. Just to be safe, I wrapped them securely and placed them deep within my pack. If any sorcerer is to try and use them to scry on me, all that they will see is darkness.

We stopped for a night at the small village that had grown up around one of the guard towers along the trail. The soldiers there warned us that many of the farms in the direction that we were headed had been raided, and all of the people taken away. They had increased the patrols of soldiers, but have not been able to catch any sign of whoever is behind these raids.

As we neared the first destination along Obidiah’s route, we came across the camp of one of the patrols of soldiers. The camp was deserted, and there were signs of a fight, and signs that the soldiers had been drug off by their attackers. I followed their trail in to the woods for a while, long enough to determine their likely destination – there was a “sparkling” in the distance of the woods that they were headed towards.

When we reached Parvus Termeric Arbustum, I immediately went to the soldier’s barracks to report the missing soldiers. The first man I spoke to was rather rude and didn’t seem to really care that his soldiers were missing. But a short time later, his superior (Captain Capolius) sought me out at the inn. I repeated my story, and he seemed concerned but didn’t seem to be too interested in rescuing his men.

We were later summoned by Captain Capolius, and he asked us to go in to the woods to try and determine who or what had taken his soldiers. It seems that he was short handed and couldn’t spare the men to do the job themselves. After a brief discussion, my friends and I agreed to go and see what we could learn.

We ventured in to the woods and came across a small hunting party of humanoid creatures that I had never seen before. Morwenna informed us that they were Garguns. This news seemed to cause great concern to Maximus. He told us tales of the Gargun sending forth great swarms of soldiers that would decimate anything in their path. We decided to ambush the hunting party to try and learn what we could from them.

The battle was short and vicious. We surprised the Gargun and cut them down before they had a chance to defend themselves. One of them attempted to flee, and Morwenna summoned a nasty swarm of bees and wasps upon the poor creature. It ran in to the woods, with the swarm trailing him. She went after him and brought back his body… it looked as though he died a very painful death.

Three of the Gargun were still alive, so we split them up so that we could question them. Maximus, Ulgadan and I each interrogated one. Between us, we learned that they had about 50 Gargun in their camp, and that they were being led by an Easterling “master” called Heldir. They were kidnapping the farmers and soldiers under the orders of Heldir. They told us that Heldir would take the men in to his “glass house” where he would do something to “change” them. The Gargun weren’t exactly sure what he was changing them in to.. only that no men ever came back out of the glass house alive.

We decided to take the captured Gargun back to Captain Capolius as evidence of the Gargun threat, and so that he could question them further. Plus, I had told the Gargun that I questioned that I would not kill him. I would not go back on my word…but I also could not set him free to warn his fellow Gargun.

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