The Verden Realms

Game Session #9
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(Told by Victor Taur’on)
Well, adventuring done for the moment. we all settled back for our week of chilling in La’kola. As we got back on the 1st day of the month of the Crane, which is called “The Day of Beauty,” I decided to take Mel out to dinner. Other than that, we goofed off a bit, and came to the decision that we were going to go talk to Stasia’s chief rival in town, Cornelius Hawthorne, the next day.

“Why would you do that,” you might ask? Simple; we had just REALLY pissed off his eldest son and heir apparent, Ian, at the Great Insane Mage Escape. Ian is known to have a CRITICALLY SHORT fuse, and to be a bit duel and grudge happy. Cornelius controls a sizable portion of La’kola’s underworld; he’s kinda like their Tony Soprano, just hopefully with a better ending.Not only is he the kind of guy we don’t want pissed at us, but Ian stands to inherit his job. Having a pissed off mob boss in a town we need to have as a retreat point is bad for business. And getting to Cornelius first before Ian gets home means we can tell our side of the story with no interruptions.

We head over to his bar for breakfast the next morning, and its what you would think; Cornelius is holding court in a bar full of his peeps. After a few people are let to his table to talk to him, he comes over to our table to chat. Of course he knows we are staying with Stasia, and he also knows that Stasia has recently purchased land back home for a summer villa. Gotta love information gathering. We tell him that we were up investigating around Amos’s place because of the explosion, and had used Ian’s larger crew as a diversion as we rolled in to rescue Amos, leaving all the goodies and a few rooms of combat for Ian an Co. Cornelius then made a GREAT (and thoroughly WRONG) deduction; since we were checking on a mage and not adventuring, and since we got home SO fast, we must be doing it as a favor to Phineas Tanglestaff (archmage of the La’kola Library), not Stasia. Sounds good here, why not!

We inform him that, while we are friends of Stasia, we don’t take sides in local politics. We wanted to meet him as well, and though Stasia and he may not see eye-to-eye, she obviously respects him enough to say it is a good idea for us to meet him. He is a genuinely nice guy (for a mob boss), buys us breakfast, and we roll on out.

We move on to go to the Library. Notice the capital “L” in that; it is the biggest public-access library in the Valley. We all peruse the shelves for a while, noticing that there are marker-blanks for books that are stored ‘upstairs’ in the restricted-access area. When we ask to get in there (dropping Phineas’s name as we do), we are told that he has time to escort us through a couple days from now. Shibby!

Long story short, we hang out in La’kola a few days. We shop, Conner goes a-whorin’ for the first time (while Haven finds it EXTREMELY distasteful, he was learning skills that, as a diplomat, he may need to have), Aldric finds some great earring settings for the two matching sapphires we confiscated from some cultists (our enemies du jour these days!), and I get to cook a bit. Fun was had!

We eventually get to roll into the restricted area of the Library with Phineas, who we try to convince to tell us more about godmarks. He is VERY reluctant at first, guarding this knowledge so strenuously that I ascertain that he must be an expert in the field. I let him know that I am an ‘ascetic’ (monk), and also godmarked, like the legendary Bart was. He mentions that, to his knowledge, Bart was the only godmarked ascetic he has ever found evidence of, although as godmarks are usually kept SUPER secret and ascetics are also generally rare AND secretive, he might have missed a few. Haven also shows her godmark to him, and eventually he shares a bit of info; he keeps a record of every godmarked individual he finds out about after their death. He is somewhat of an expert on the subject, and it is that reason that he does not let us peruse the books on the subject.

Evidentally, one of the books is a legend that states that at some time, someone will gather all the godmarked people together for a battle against ‘The Darkness,’ bringing the world into a better place upon its defeat. As every time this has been attempted it has ended in spectacular tragedy, he believes it to be false at best, and a trap for godmarked people at worst. He goes on to tell us that there was a person not too long ago that set out to ‘take’ godmarks from people, thereby bringing all of them together (in him) and fulfilling the prophecy. As these stories go, he went all Darth on folks, and it ended BAD. Phineas refuses to let us look at the book; I can definitely dig that. We find that the other book he has is a copy of Fess’s godmark treatise, and, upon his letting us see it, realize that he has a beaten, edited, and in some cases (specifically the whole section on ‘transferred’ godmarks) defaced copy. I tell him that I’ll ask Mom if she can have a real copy made for him, since he was nice and helped us out.

After this meeting, we all go back and chill at Stasia’s. The next day, my big ‘surprise package’ arrives; its Gwen (my guard from before)! She announces to Uncle Charlie that she has been made his new official guard, with orders to do as she sees fit and take no order that she deems unnecessary. Charlie seems to be perfectly OK with this; he and Gwen kinda grew up together, and he has mad respect for her. As I tell him later, I figured he needed a friend for when his path eventually diverges from ours, and Gwen is a great friend, and one who won’t take crap from him wile at the same time always work for the betterment of Charlie’s goals. Since she was currently without a charge, it made sense to me; Charlie agrees.

Remember way back when Conner caused Gwen to split from us? A few episodes back (Episode Four), Conner and Gwen tied into it, and it was never resolved. Well, the second Gwen stepped off the airship, Conner faded into the background, obviously rattled. After a bit of cajoling, and a warning from Gwen that it would be better for them to just resolve this shit and Conner get the ‘blue letter’ from his sister than for him to stay obstinate and get the ‘red letter’ from Caroline, Conner and Gwen made up to both of their satisfaction. The red letter went into the fireplace, we finished packing, and boarded the airship to Reneaux.

We were itching to get there, as Felix had gotten a strange letter from Aunt Blair asking him to investigate a guy while there. When Gwen mentioned that apparently our cousin Allison had met a boy there, it became apparent as to this fella’s identity. We make it to town, set up in our estate there (which, as we feared, was unbelievably spartan due to Allison’s paladinistic urges), and sent people off to buy stuff for dinner. A bit after we get in, the doorbell dings, with Conner making it to the door first (Haven, Felix, and I were too busy fighting to get to the door first to beat Conner there!).

At the door is a very pretty human gal, all bare-shoulder outfit and sashaying sexiness. Shana shows us some art representing her; she’s a looker. We roll some Diplomacy and History rolls to see if we can figure out who she is, which most of us do; she’s Adelaide, the sister to the King of Mordova, Sebastian (Haven’s dance partner and dress-buyer). Also, according to all accounts, shes a notorious man-eater and arch political player; she’s Sebastian’s political hit-girl.

Conner immediately FALLS IN LOVE. Not a little, peeps; Conner’s player plays it PERFECTLY. He falls in love the way only a 15-year-old teenager can; after she leaves to get ready for the dinner party she going to have catered for us here, Conner FLIPS OUT! “She’s perfect! Everything has to be PERFECT for her!” The whole shebang, peeps; it was hilarious, fun to be a part of, and virtually GUARANTEES a future train-wreck! When she does show up later, he is in his BEST clothes, and all twitter-patted over it. So much so that when Allison flies into the house, crying her eyes out as she runs upstairs, Conner barely notices…

Yep, you guessed it; her beau broke up with her. While Allison is our age, this is her first real boyfriend, too. Using fresh-baked cookies to lure her out of her room, we hear the story; he basically wanted her to forswear her military rank, move here, and manage his household. To Allison, that is impossible; she has our family’s deeply-seated need to protect our home. The fact that he refused to really try to see things from her angle made it even worse. I mentioned to her that his family (minor nobility) probably have raised him in the culture that states that a woman’s best place is at home, and that the problem they have is a cultural one, at best, and something that can be overcome if both parties really want to do so. Haven disagreed at first, but then sat and thought about it a second and, as we realized that our country was the only one that really let women rise to the same heights as a man, there was probably some truth to that.

Well, that is where we left off. Conner wants to DUEL the guy (which is like Don Knotts wanting to duel Darth Maul), Felix has intel to get on him, Aldric, Haven, and I want to meet him and see what we can discern about him. We still have a desk to procure and get sent on its way, and then we get to have our first cross-country trip on horseback to meet up with King Luther en route to the Big Parties at the Unification Day festival. All this, plus Conner is smitten with a mutha-farkin’ succubus.

Good times, good times.

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Game Session #8
-- How to kill Cultists

(DM perspective)

Our little heroes awake a few hours before dawn on the 28th of the Rabbit, and head to a secretive area of Lah’kola’s shore – and then hitch a ride on their dragon friend miles north of the city. Now, they’ve only seen Stazia in dragon form once before – but, an adult steel dragon isn’t anything to scoff at. A special harness is applied that lessens their weight and straps them in for the ride.

They are dropped off not far from the wizard’s keep (which they notice has a light) and not far from a portion of the forest that was clearly aflame not that long ago. They decide to trek to the burned out place (even though Conner really wants to meet this wizard). On the way, they are attacked by a scout and his wolves which they handle easily enough. But, when they approach the “fire zone” they find a problem. They sneak up to what is clearly the entrance to a cave – HEAVILY guarded by men wearing uniform of some sort. Not a kingdom, but maybe a merc crew? And, to the side it seems this place was seiged recently – fire has gotten into the trees and scared them.

Yeah, they decide to go check in with the wizard instead of charging willy-nilly.

At the wizard’s tower, they are first told to stop approaching by a young elven boy – then a gruff older man tells them to bugger off. They explain who they are and kindly ask to discuss the issue of the well-guarded cave in the distance. The gruff man invites them in. They meet Amos, who is… wait.. over six feet tall? Built like a brick shithouse? Doesn’t fit into his threadbare robe well? The elven kid and this pretty female servant provide them gruel – they guy sits down and is rude and gruff…. this is odd. They eat.

All but Victor fall asleep (and I must thank the crew for being okay with having eaten the gruell – none said they weren’t – I assumed. They were kind to me :D ) Victor stares at the guy and says “not Amos are ya.” and the fight starts. The kid and the lady run out – she casts a web behind her.. they are in the wind. And “Fake Amos” hulks out – no kidding. He grows two feet, and begins to pound on Victor like he’s a drum. The others are awakened by Aldric’s spirit companion – and the fight goes down.

IT was hard – but they lived. Barely. In fact, the first death saving throw for the crew was rolled… and the first death saving throw fail occurred as well ;)

They get the guy beat down, the chick is long gone – with stolen goods from Amos’ house… Amos’ little “house servant” is actually a brownie – who they nickname “Andy” And tells them his boss headed out a few days ago – and hasn’t come back. He went to the caves… well, hell. No place to go but to the caves, huh?

On the way their, they almost bump into another adventuring crew (a crew belonging to Stazia’s rival), heading the same way -this gives them a GREAT idea. A diversion.

They not only let the other crew attack, they make sure to sneak in the door and alert guards – so the basic mass of troops heads outside. They then sneak in, find poor Amos starving and driven insane. They get him out and leave the place to the other crew – and notice a few interesting things on the way.

1. These are cultists – no doubt. These guys are crazy, and have intentionally driven Amos insane for fun. And maybe to turn him into one of the icky things in cages they found.
2. These guys are apparently into some sick things…. they snuck past a party of cultists having some rather sado-masy fun time.
3. They saw a few empty bags and boxes… all bearing an odd symbol on them.

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Game Session #7
--Visions of Doom

(DM perspective)

Our heroes sail into Glanmour, their Uncle Charlie in tow as well as the cutie red-head eladrin fae that was ordered to mack on Victor. As they sail into view of what is undoubtedly the largest city in the entire valley kingdoms, our beloved little Conner has one of his “visions.”

What did Conner see? The city of Glanmour, stretched out before him – empty, and smoke surrounding it. Plumes of colored smoke float over the town, and it has a foreboding sense. dum-dum-DUM! Conner is rather worried now.

They get Conner up, dust him off and decide to worry later. Charlie takes care of the worrisome things, heads them and their bags to the home that Taur’on owns and uses as a small embassy of sorts. They tour the town, see the harbor and the forest of boats that flow in and out. They buy some salt-water taffy! (Yes, that would bite my ass later… just wait), and as they wander down the boardwalk with a bag of taffy and nothing but fun in their minds – they see an ODD boat on the dock. People are gathering about it, watching the passengers disembark. They are odd people, strange people… holy shit those are hobgoblins. Yep, an entourage of hobgoblins from a distant kingdom arrive. The crew is very interested ;)

As they shop and look about, a pretty white-haired tiefling-gypsy girl gets their attention by offering to do a tarot reading of Conner’s future. Something Conner is all for! If anyone actually wants the reading- I’ll be happy to provide it. But, it started with the Tower. Not good. As the last card hits the table, it flies away – luring the kids on a merry chase through the town shopping district. When they finally find it, it is tangled into a mass of vines, covered in white roses, that is wrapping itself around a rather beautiful old fountain. The card? Death of course ;)

The roses… wait, these are gyspy roses! Much like the ones that grew in their own city! The Gypsys planted them there before they left this spring. … It seems they did so, everywhere? Wow, neat?

They worry. But, frak that – they have a party to go to, lets get dressed. Haven panics. Haven worries. She’s wearing the dress that the king of Mordova gifted her. This could be bad, right? She gets to the party, and sees a lot of girls staring – it is a VERY new fashion after all. Then King Sebastian appears, wearing a matching suit. Girls fume, girls sigh. Seems the princess of Glanmour is pissed as hell. Wonder why. Sebastian tells her – OH, she has a dress JUST like that for the big party this summer, poor girl can’t wear it now, can she ;) Haven so wants to punch him. Hard to do while dancing… I love watching Haven’s player want to claw my eyes out
But leave it to Charlie during all this to get a dinner party with the Hobgoblin ambassadors. Good Ole’ Charlie. Next night? Hobgoblin dinner. The Crew discovers that the Hobbies are in the area searching for the body of a long dead hero of their people. A man that created their civilization, that gave them hope for a true future. Ashurta.

Wait, isn’t that the name of the little goblin undead-thing that is friends with Stazia Almari? Why YES IT IS! INterESting!

The crew keeps their tongue, but are kinda happy they are heading to Lah’kola to visit Stazia in the morning. Ack, the Hobbies inform them they are heading that way in a few days. Oh boy.

The river trip is uneventful – but once they get there, they have a ball. Well, more a backyard ho-down ;) It all begins as the crew settles into their rooms at Stazia’s home – Illiana Snow (a member of the Lah’kola Council, as well as a fae of the winter court) shows up with… none other than the LadyRuler of the Winter Court herself. Seems the lady wants to meet Victor. Oh that’s right – you guys don’t know what Conner did about Victor ;)

See – every Fae-touched creature is chosen by a Fae Court. Nobody is quite certain how this works, but at some point during their teen years, young gnomes, eladrin, etc will suddenly show a “mark” of some sort by one of the six fae courts (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Tears and Cave). See… Victor never did. Even though he’s eladrin, even though he visits the fae realm, here he is at 18 and shows absolutely NO sign of being marked. THIS is odd. But, nobody really noticed it…. Till Conner decided to make a deal with the powers of fae for Warlock Power. That made people go “Oh, wait… where is Victor at, anyway…” and every court realized… Victor hadn’t been picked. Mel has already been sent by the Fae Court of Fall to see if he’ll choose them… and now… every damn court out there wants to meet Victor. This scares his siblings… he isn’t, well, very tactful.

Stazia decides to toss a party to “introduce her guests” (i.e. Victor) to her fae friends in Lah’kola. The party is rather fun, every court sends a rep – every one asking Victor if he’d like to join. Haven dances with boys, Victor plays his mother’s song from the winter opera for the crowd. Haven cries while dancing with a boy. Totally fun. ;)

As the party breaks up, Stazia asks the guys if they’ll do a little errand for her – her usual group is out of town – and it seems a rather large fireball was seen a few days north near a crotchety old wizard’s tower. They wanna take a dragon express up there and play in the woods a few days to see what is up?

Do Taur’on kids get into trouble? ;)

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Game Session #6
--Uncle Charlie joins the crew

So we hop back on the lightning rail after last game’s adventure, all flush with success. About the same time as Haven realizes it, the Ah’ved group from Ostcrag comes back to speak to us. Or rather, to speak to Aunt Viv; when Haven speaks the OBVIOUS leader of their group shoots her a look that could wither oaks. Basically what they have found is that the fomorian-trap yadduah on the tracks was actually a large and VERY elaborate teleport circle designed to LOOK like a yadduah. He and his guard leave us (after I make it a point to speak to him, regardless of his obvious distaste of an ‘inferior’ doing so; he’s in OUR train car, so he can learn to roll with OUR customs!), and his sister stays, a really nice gal who is accustomed to our social structures (and moves like an ex-adventurer). We hash over what this probably means: this heist was LUDICROUSLY funded, but far less so than the value of the goods they could have made off with; they had access to fomorians, whether they were mercs, captives, or just in the right place at the right time; and we probably shouldn’t go to court in Ostbrag, as our political leanings aren’t that compatible.

Also, Conner relates to the family that he has recently figured out after speaking to me and others that his new found multi-class into Bard with Warlock flavoring has become a full hybrid Bardlock. Since his pact is the same regardless of how much power he draws from it, he might as well get what he can! Its new PHB 3 rules, and so far as we can figure, will work REALLY well!

We hit Fario and are informed that the ceremony for giving over the super-lumber will be in the morning a couple of days from now. This isn’t a huge surprise, but Aunt Viv and Uncle Casper are kinda bummed; their adventuring company will have to head out from winter break without them, meaning they have to meet them en route. More interesting BY FAR is the person giving us this information…

UNCLE CHARLIE! Our wayward social gadfly uncle has somehow managed to meet us here, much to Aunt Viv’s surprise and somewhat consternation. A bit of info is in order; Charlie is Taur’on PRESENCE in the courts of the north, but not really our VOICE. He’s always been somewhat of an embarrassment; he means well, but his well-known alcohol problems leads him to speak stuff he shouldn’t, and woo women that he DEFINITELY shouldn’t! Moreso, when Dad died, something happened between him and Mom that she has yet to forgive him for; while we kids get to see him every year or so (and always loved it when we did, as Charlie is FUN!), he never came to the capital, and we found lately that he is semi-exiled from Mom’s presence. This slight is also present in Cedric, but not in anyone else, at least for those reasons. Charlie burned bridges with Aunt Blair in a separate (but alcohol-related) incident, and everyone else just kinda pities him. Mom’s never spoken ill of Charlie in front of us proves she hopes that he will someday make good on whatever slight is hanging in the air there, but she holds him at arm’s length.

Well here he stands, clean, sober, bright and FOCUSED. So much so, I immediately mention DOPPELGANGER! Haven gets flustered by this, so the night’s inside joke becomes accusing everyone we meet (and may have known) of being a doppelganger. He virtually BEGS Viv to let him handle this hand-off, and its clear that she wants to, but this responsibility is huge, and she obviously fears him relapsing into ‘old Charlie.’ She vetoes his wishes in the hand-off, but we mention that we were heading to Glanmor after Fario, which is one of the courts with which Charlie is INTIMATELY familiar. After the ceremony, we head out with Uncle Charlie along with us, much to his and our delight, as we want to see him and Mom at least on speaking terms; life is too short in a family with the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, ya know?

We get into the wagon to head out, with only one extra passenger on board a 10-person wagon. Charlie is perplexed by this, as he paid for the whole thing, but is rapidly stuck silent when he meets the passenger in question. A flip of her cloak reveals a 19 Charisma Eladrin gal, about our age. Simply put the prettiest girl we’d ever seen. Charlie amps up the mack-o-meter, but she blocks him immediately; she’s a lady on a mission, and evidentially that mission is ME!

She introduces herself as Melonormaeadsefsdw, screw it, we call her Mel. She immediately tells us that she is the grand-daughter of the ruler of the Fall Court, and as it had currently come to the attention of all of the Courts that I was unaffiliated (because of Conner’s warlock dabbling, and now much to his embarrassment now). While she was going to be sent regardless to try to seduce me into marriage because of my close ties and observed training with Grandpa Vardis (heir to perhaps the greatest swordmage legacy in the known realms), my status as ’free agent moved his timetable up, and he sent her out to snare me.

She flat out TOLD us this. Kinda weird, eh? But not really, she’s had similar bird-in-gilded-cage symptoms as us, but instead of love and happiness in the cage, it was study, etiquette, and silence. She read the dossiers on our family (remember, the Fall Court are our neighbors), and realized what eladrin culture left her grandfather incapable of seeing; Taur’on respond POORLY to subterfuge, and even worse, dishonesty. Now all she wants is to run with us until we no longer want her around; she wants to spend some time outside her cage and learn of this world outside her own, which obviously amazes her. She’s a dragon-focus sorcerer, at least TRYING to be honest, and fun to be around, so we figure why not! Its better than her following on her own and getting killed by whatever is running to/from us!

We hit the river, get on barges, and head out. Nearing the fork in the river that will take us north, we spy the barge that left before us foundering in the water, gaping holes in the side, with four BIG-ASS crocodiles climbing on board to eat some crew. We immediately spring into action, with Felix, Haven and I preparing to board, while Conner, Charlie and Aldric use ‘suble persuasion’ (re: threats) to get the crew of our boat to move us alongside. Mel seems transfixed; she’s about to get to FIGHT, but weirder still, why are WE fighting? This isn’t our boat, neither is the one being attacked; we could just float on by. But she’s with us, she wants ADVENTURE!

I’m over first, unveiling my ability to run on water for a short burst, catching the rope tossed to me by Haven and tying it off. Haven pulls the boats closer, letting the crew of ours know that we ARE going to board; they relent and move us closer. As I engage, everyone piles onboard, including Charlie, with a passion to save the endangered crew matching ours, and Mel, who Fey Steps to a corner and starts blasting. Crocs do good damage, but can’t take the pressure; they cave in short order, with only one crewman of the other boat as a casualty. But before dying, the last croc’s eyes flashed green, and it spazzed out on us, going all berserker rage and whatnot. It was a coordinated attack, to be sure; but we are too busy transferring the cargo of their boat to ours to be able to look for whodunit. With this under our belt, we putter on to Glanmorr for our next session!

It was a short session, but DENSE with role-play. LOTS of fun, and good times all around!

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Game Session #5
---The Great Train Robbery

(told by Victor Taur’on)

Mom (Queen Victoria) calls us into her room. We have to have a guard accompany us at least to Fario with their allotment of timber. She puts up Gwen and Brutal, as usual. Conner pretends she didn’t say Gwen, and I veto Brutal. Love his the most, but that guy is a MASSIVE BUZZKILL. We haggle a bit on who, then I come up with a gem; our cousin Allison! She’s supposed to go to Reneaux later anyway, which would be on her trip back, and the honor she’d get for this job is AWESOME for her! Besides, Allison is great peeps anywho! Without much further ado, we head on up to Edge to board the lightning rail.

The lightning rail… how awesome is that! Its a train powered by lightning elementals! Pretty safe, too, as the elementals dancing around the train form a natural defensive shield. We wind up alone in a car with a guy carrying adventuring gear and, in the seat next to him, a really swank-looking saddle. He stands to salute us, and slap me twice and call me Dr. Zaius, he’s a drow! First one we’ve ever met!

When Aunt Viv and Uncle Casper head to our car after getting Allison situated in the cargo car with the timber (Allison ain’t leaving it!), we find out some truth on him; his name is Cin and he’s a mercenary bodyguard (and moves like perhaps a ‘wetworks’ kinda guy). He’s run with them before, and they seem to like him a lot. Good to know; the more the merrier!

We roll along on the train a few days, passing through Lost Hills (lovely country!) and into Reanaux. WHEN SUDDENLY (heh heh), a freakin’ HUGE yadduah opens on the track! The train comes screeching to a stop, as five fomorian giants stroll through, pissed and ready to fight! Aunt Viv, Uncle Casper, and Cin spring into action, ordering us to stay put, and head out to assist the woefully out-classed train guards. The guards now posted in our car do the same, much to Haven’s chagrin; we were going to go post up with Allison, but the guard informs us that if he lets us go into danger he would be WAY past in trouble.

As worried as we are, Aldric thinks to send his spirit companion (a leopard today), out to look around for our side. But the cat has wondered over to the other side of the car, looking out where the combat isn’t. Aldric strolls over, just in time to see a large cadre of horsemen vanish into the treeline away from the train, and Allison to stumble/fall out of the cargo car! Enough is enough; I’m out the window, followed by the rest of the crew. Dashing to Allison, we see she’s got a broken leg, and been gassed. Blind and barely able to speak, she points to the car, to the woods, and barely croaks out a “they took it all!” to us.

Conner is against us, as nobles, going into such a situation. I’m already looking for horses (which we saw being loaded on earlier)! We outvote him (besides, Haven got made a Rose Guard member, and Allison outranks her and gave her an order) and, to help Conner, who has never ridden bare-back before, I go grab Cin’s saddle to saddle up a horse (yeah, never touch another man’s saddle, but Victor don’t know cowboy rules!). When I throw it on a horse, it floats off, over next to the horse, and BAMPF! Instant horse! AWESOME!

We get riding, and they aren’t trying to hide their tracks. Jetting into a clearing, we are ambushed by archers/soldiers set up to slow pursuit. While they obviously were not ready for us, they put up a FEROCIOUS fight, with Aldric using his daily power to great effect to clear the field. We remount and roll out, with Aldric and I tracking the movements. On the tracking skill challenge, we need 12 successes before 6 failures; with two assists from Felix, we nail 12-0 (AWESOME ROLLING!). In record time, we find that the main bulk have kept riding towards Lost Hills, but a smaller group broke off the trail, counter-tracking, covering tracks, and the like into a VERY well-hidden side trail. That sounds like our huckleberry; besides, it looks like upwards to 40 horses went the main way, and we ain’t THAT crazy!

We take the side trail, and, after a bit, see a blue and gold explosion light the sky in front of us. Sounds like a booby trap on a chest of timber (or so we guess!). We ride into the clearing to find 12-or-so troops, led by a REALLY pissed halfling, and a WHOLE BUNCH of timber containers! KOMBAT TIME!

This fight is TOUGH, we are outnumbered, and these are not bandits! I guess right off the bat (and am reinforced by everyone else) that these guys move like soldiers, probably a merc troop. Archers, strikers, and polearmists make for a well-rounded group. And the halfling is a warlord! Sheesh! Haven goes into the midst, drawing fire as Felix and I move to start flanking. Aldric and Conner take up spots in the woods for cover from the archers. In a couple rounds, Haven is dropped (she had 6-7 people on her at once), but gets brought back up by our well-oiled healing machine. I get peppered with arrows as Felix and I start carving up people to one side, but this fight is already shaping up to be HARSH!

After going all Matrixy and using my daily (killing one and hitting all 3), I get some focused fire. I go bloodied, then next round get hit by a flanker (they have sneak attack) for 12! Fully healed, that’s almost half my total; I’m down to 4hp! Haven gets hammered at the same time, and we have ONE heal left, Aldric’s magic totem can get off a 2-for-one on a heal. Problem is, he has to HIT with it, and he starts air-balling like Hellen Keller at a half-court shootout! Next round, Haven goes bloodied (but barely, she’s built like a tank full of robots!), and Felix takes a HUGE hit, knocking him down to 2hp!

We keep it calm though, dropping 3 more soldiers in rapid succession. The halfling has already ordered the retreat, the archers have split and finally, his troops do as well. Haven gets saluted by the one on her, and then gives him a smack in the head on the way out, dropping a crit and damn near killing him. We let them run and focus fire on the halfling; Conner tries to convince him to surrender, but he says that his surrender would be a death sentence to him and his men’s families. With the final words of “At least I got killed by the good guys,” we bring him down. We don’t chase, instead taking up defensive positions to wait for the cavalry to arrive.

Uncle Casper flies in in eagle-form, followed by Aunt Viv, Cin, and a small group of train guards. While everyone checks the seals on the timber-cases (they held), we find that they KNEW this halfling; he was a ex-member of the Blackfire Company, a fellow adventurer whom they had worked with before, and an OK guy! But he was always fascinated with robbing the lightning rail, as he’d be the first to do so; if it weren’t for those damn kids and their spirit-cat, he would have gotten away with it, too! We head back to the train, load stuff back up, make sure Allison is OK (she got the leg healed; and we made sure she knew that her not passing out and getting to where Aldric could see her was the ONLY reason we caught them), and get back on the rails.

Questions:

1. MYSTERY YADDUAH! It either was naturally occurring and scheduled, in which case this is the biggest lucky break EVER, a dormant existing one whom they managed to find a way to open (never heard of it being done, but the theory is sound), or was deliberately opened, which is HORRIFYING TO THINK ABOUT!

2. This was a damn-near perfect swipe; other than the casualties against the giants, the robbers didn’t kill anyone. They only worked on us when we pursued; probably the “no witnesses” clause. It would have required people on the train to help; the horses loaded on were obviously done so as a get-a-way device. Whoever helped the halfling plan this had months of planning and a LOT of resources!

3. Why? What purpose did they have for the wood? SCARY thought! But then again, if that wood got snatched, it very well could have sparked off the first World War in the Valley. Several million in goods = everyone is pissed, and since our share was going to STOP A WAR, that, by itself, was bad news!

Observations:

1. We have no luck when traveling… or, if ya like to fight, we are exceptionally lucky!

2. Haven had issues with having to kill a person. Monsters are one thing, but she had a gut-check moment after the fight, realizing she snuffed a few real, live people. She got over it a bit; the LEAST CRIME those guys committed was horse thievery, which is a hanging offense. They also assaulted nobility, attempted theft of good in excess of 7 million gold, invaded property of another kingdom on Reneaux lands… sheesh, the list goes on-and-on! Haven felt a bit better, but doesn’t like killing people… a good thing, me’thinks!

3. Conner wanted to take the halfling alive, but not because he was being a valiant combatant or out of mercy. He wanted to take him in and give him over to the authorities, letting them extract info from him. Basically, Conner showed, at least to me, a rather flippant idea on how that info is taken from a person. Besides, this guy was a paid thug; he wasn’t gonna HAVE any info (“I got a drop off with the time, date, and job, plus a retainer”). Kirk is doing a great job in playing a character who is talented, well-trained, and has NO IDEA how to get his hands dirty! GREAT roleplaying!

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Game Session #4
---I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay

(As told by Victor Taur’on)

Well, we get home from our adventures in WestWick, met by a snowball fight from our fully OK little sister and her new best buddy Tori. Mom was impressed by our success, and even more so by the addition of Dr. Fisher and our ghost-aunt Dominique. We moved them into the ghost Albert’s wing; now he has people who like him that can talk to him and help him perhaps move on! With Fisher’s machine that lets us see Dominique, it also lets Aldric learn from a really savvy shaman, and we now have an artificer (Fisher) in the family!

The rest of the winter goes by pretty normal; we give Mom the book about Godmarks that Fess the Bold wrote for scribing and putting in the vault. Aldric flirts with Tori, but very properly and sweetly; he’s a proper gentleman, after all! After a day of training, Grandpa figures out that Tori had been mislabeled all these years; she’s a natural Swordmage, and, stranger still, a type (Assault) that is normally, but not always, Fey-based. She can read his journal in much the same way I can, so while we are all here, I offer to let her study the mystic parts with me, while all of us interested in combat can read the regular notes.

Gift Day comes, and awesome gifts are exchanged. I got everyone new pajamas! Soon after, we all head out, as a family, to the site where the Queen traditionally cuts the first tree of the year. For background, our country is, hands down, sitting on the biggest forest in the Kingdoms. Add into this that our conservationalist logging, combined with elven and human druidic traditions, means our trees grow faster, timber is better, and land is always more beautiful. Every year, the Queen traditionally fells the first tree, and sizable portions of the tree she fells are bid on by various people from around the Kingdoms. Such a sacred event carries weight, and items made from these cuttings tend to be special by nature.

Well, this is the 200th anniversary of the unification of the Viori Kingdoms, an amazingly important event. Representatives from over half the kingdoms have came to bid on this tree. Many of these people have come to bid on the WHOLE TREE (minus the cut of each that we keep every year). What they don’t know is that the entire Winter Court session in Taur’on was Mom brokering a peace between Lion’s Gate and Fario, with lots of timber treaties keeping Fario out of their woods, and sealing the deal with Lion’s Gate buying the WHOLE TREE (minus said cut, plus one extra that Mom wanted) and gifting it to Fario! Since it was done on such notice, we had no time to tell everyone, and probably wouldn’t have anyway; the buying and selling isn’t the point with us, its the spiritual ceremony. Anyone who is coming for the mercantilism can just be disappointed!

Well, we meet lots of dignitaries from around the Kingdoms, including the bastard Princess of Salbatica (her Dad, the king there, loves her, but can’t legitimize her officially), who informs us that the King is in attendance and would like to speak to Mom later, in private. Curious! The crowd is IMMENSE; lots of peeps are gonna leave PISSED!

Ceremony starts, and the sacred axe Mom has for it begins to lead her into the woods. The whole assemblage hoofs through the woods (in the first days of spring, so tons of nobles in the mud. Funny to me!) for FOUR HOURS, not noticing the strangeness that we do; namely that we are passing terrain features (a strange clearing being the weirdest) that shouldn’t be there. But ritual is on, so we keep a-walkin’. We arrive at a VERY strange copse of trees; seventeen in number (same as the number of gods we have), and each a prime example of a different type of tree. The axe leads her to the massive oak in the center, obviously her target du jour.

Well, she winds up, and starts a-chopping. The magic of the axe and ritual means that the tree is gonna go down FAST, despite the MASSIVE size of it. While everyone else watched the oak, we all were drawn to the fact that, with each swing, ALL of the trees were shuddering. After a few swipes, all 16 of the other trees fell and, with a bow to the ancient oak from Mom for the gift, it fell as well. HO-LEE CRAP!

This changes things A LOT! Fario and Lion’s Gate ask to renegotiate their contract; instead of the whole oak, Lion’s Gate buys a single slice of each tree to give to Fario; a MUCH more significant gift! We likewise keep a full set, and after the family helps the loggers clear branches and the like (keeping small pieces of each, leaves, berries, nuts and the like for later), Mom orders three more full sets made for sale, and the rest sold off one piece at a time.

Set one is bid on heavily, finally being sold to the Kingdom of Ostcrag (weird kingdom, lead by dark Ah’ved with a mostly slave population. While every other kingdom hates slavery, every indication shows that the slaves of Ostcrag PREFER their situation, and have it better than most peasants in other kingdoms) for 750,000 gp! WOAH! Second set comes up, and Ostcrag starts the bid war AGAIN, stunning the assembled folks, none of whom have had time to get back in touch with their homes for orders! No one wants to lose, much less lose TWO sets to a kingdom that damn near everyone has pretty extreme distaste for! But it looks to be going that way. King Merlin from ProudPony out bids Ostcrag once when they drop 750k on the bid again, raising it to 780k just to force them to raise again (he likes to phuck with peeps!). Ostcrag raises to 800k, silencing the now somber crowd…

…when a bid of ONE MILLION GOLD rings out from Stasia Almari, the “Adventurer Queen” of the independent city La’kola! Most of these people have NO IDEA who she is on sight (she doesn’t travel much), and the idea that a non-noble just dropped a million gold like it ain’t no thang BLOWS THEIR MINDS. The people from Ostcrag, who obviously have NO IDEA who she is, scramble to make up their minds, but let it slide, one set to Stasia!

The next and final set starts out with Ostcrag just bidding 750k as an opening; they are ready to be done with this! Everyone stays silent; better to get the pieces they want rather than drop all their money on something that is best kept together as a set! Easy win by Ostcrag, going once, twice… ONE MILLION FROM STASIA ALMARI! You gotta be KIDDING ME! Everyone looks SHOCKED, and Ostcrag looks PISSED! They get all defiant, chatter a bit, and come back with 1.1 million; Stasia bids 1,250,000 without batting an eye. Obviously off their game (and probably out of money), Ostcrag drops out, Stasia, a trumped-up commoner, buys TWO sets! Everyone is FREAKED OUT, which goes into DOUBLE SECRET MODE when, upon receipt of her second set, GIVES IT TO MOM! BOGGLE!

Things calm down, with all of the remaining chunks being bid away. At the end of the day, we made 7 MILLION GOLD off of 17 trees; as I mentioned later, if the peasants of most countries knew that happened, they would be honor-bound to rise up and KILL their nobility!

We go back to camp, Mom has her meeting with the King of Salbatica (he wanted to warn her that his son, the crown prince, has decided to play politics and is planning to woo Caroline. Seemed a good guy!). We all get together for dinner, when a VERY WEIRD THING happens. One of our two main guards, Gwen (really my guard throughout childhood, as everyone else had specific teachers), tries to get Conner to have a drink (alcohol). He refuses, but instead of a “naah, I really don’t like it,” he leaves a nebulous air hanging as to the reasoning. As none of us had ever seen him this adamant against drinking, our curiosity was piqued; Gwen kept pushing, earning several dodgy reasons as to why not. She countered with a “if ya don’t drink this ONE SHOT, I’ma go get you a hooker!” Conner, being somewhat flusterable by such things, still stood firm; Gwen rolled out and came back with a hooker! He countered with he wasn’t impressed, he wanted a GLANMORIAN! A good call; Glanmor is one of the kingdoms farthest from us… but Gwen is WILY! She went and got the two representatives of Glanmor (freakin’ NOBLES) to come drink with us!

Things went in their normal, zany way, for the most part, but Conner was getting more and more flustered, and his refusal to give in was uncommonly stubborn, even for him. Finally, pushed to the limit, Connor threw a micro tantrum, getting REALLY mad, and telling Gwen “Never do that to me again!,” storming out of the room (the player literally got up from the table and stormed away, both from good role-play and the emotional drain of the whole thing! Haven’s player thought he was really upset he did it so well!). Gwen got up, turned in her swords to the other guards, and left, going to Mom’s room. The party broke up; Haven went to talk to the Glanmorian peeps as they left, trying to save face. She missed (so we ALL missed) a backhanded comment of “Well, that is the danger of being too close to the help,” which is probably a GOOD THING (Haven HATES classism!).

Mom came in, and we got to the bottom of it; Conner was still spiritually reeling over the idea that he had helped destroy our evil bitch ghost Great Aunt Katherine’s soul. He caught the force of that FULL BLAST, no training (he had just multi-classed to shaman); it was tormenting his mind, and this event brought that to the fore. He’s a lightweight drinker, and fears being out of control. Valid points, for sure; but without some work, a bridge might have been burnt with Gwen, who is literally one of the most dedicated people in our kingdom. Interesting drama!

Well, as part of the deal with Lion’s Gate and Fario, Haven and Aunt Vivian have to deliver the set to Fario after the Spring festival. That is a hell of a trip, and we are all going! Should be fun; last time Aunt Viv took us anywhere, we got jumped by mutant kruthick on an AIRSHIP!

Notes:
1. Stasia Almari – I failed to cover this before, but Stasia is from La’kola, an independent city in the mountain south of Fario. La’kola is adventurer paradise, and, even more importantly, where an entire island fades into the lake in the city every Summer from the Fey Realms! A HUGE resource, but hard to get to, and from the insane amount of adventurers there, near impossible to invade! Well, Stasia is one of the Councilors of the city and, in the past, she and her family had sent said adventurers to Taur’on to do adventurer stuff. Recently she had done that, uncovering the mutant kruthik menace and absconding with a VERY ancient goblin lich (a good geebalich found in a previous, one-shot game!). She had come down during the winter to formally meet and apologize to Mom, and, during this, we learned that shes a freakin’ DRAGON! She does the faked-death-seat-passed-to-relative thing every so often to keep up appearances in La’Kola. As a dragon, she hoards like any other… but she hoards ADVENTURING PARTIES. Suffice it to say, SHE IS COOL AS ALL GET-OUT! She invited us to stay in La’kola, which I plan to do!

2. Mom is gonna use the money to build a series of schools and a university for the commoners of our kingdom. Lots of other countries ain’t gonna like that!

3. There seem to be a LOT of tense political situations around, but NO ONE is noticing it. Scary stuff…

4. Aldric’s flirtation of Tori is progressing well!

5. Haven is making a list of boys she likes. Sebastian, the King of Mordova (mentioned last time), sent her a cameo to match her dress. We informed her that this is likely just his way of saying hello, and that he’d like to be friends, of a sort. While she is disgusted by Mordovian politics, this is deviant from those games, and more than a bit intriguing…

6. Conner had better make up with Gwen. That’s all I am saying ’bout that.

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Game Session #3
--to Westwick

(as told by Victor Taur’on)
Well, we start off at a brisk trot, getting geared up for a trip to the War College in WestWick. We leave our new “sister” Tori in the capable (but tired and stressed) hands of our Mom and Aunt Blair (who each are interested in what her skill-set will be), and get packed for a visit to the big city. Anxiety is runnin’ high; we believe that the King of WestWick (Leopold) will be there to greet us, as well as the Crown Prince of Painwald and Leo’s best friend, Eaton. Interest abounds here, as both are quite the eligible bachelors and my cousin Haven just so happens to be one of the prize catches of the whole Kingdoms ATM (though she refuses to see this fact!).

Before we head out, my grandfather takes a break from his vigil over Caroline to have a morning workout session with me, as usual. Afterwards, he hands me an old, leather-bound and ribbon-wrapped journal book, telling me that “you need this now.” It is a gorgeous book, fey panther skin with ribbons from various ages and types wrapping it shut. Upon opening it, we find it a treasure beyond compare; it is the combined notes of both my grandfather (a world-class swordmage and living legend) AND his mother, Salkana, who was even more accomplished in her lifetime! It is filled with notes about the weak points on different creatures and types of armor; and adventurer that uses weaponry at all would pay a king’s ransom for such a book! But even more interesting are some indigo-colored notes, written in Leonid, that rearrange themselves for me (and only me, to others they are just more combat notes) on the page to form information on the use of force, movement, and leverage in combat! Its seems that Grandpa’s lineage like to invent new, fun ways to killerate things…

We hop on the airship, and after a couple of days we arrive at the War College. The city it is in (which is also the capital, complete with King Leo’s castle) is HUGE to us; easily 2-3 times the size of our capital. Conner starts right out of the gate playing a foppish, combat-challenged noble TO THE HILT, much to the dismay of the Headmaster of the College (who’d hope he’d land a prize pupil of high rank). King Leo and Prince Eaton meet us at the landing zone, both commencing to lay the flirt down on Haven. But as King Leo has to roll out to do King-stuff, Eaton wins the day with Haven, gladly assisting us with our tour of the grounds.

We meet several interesting people, including Eaton’s cousin Elisabeth Martain (about our age and one of the famous griffin riders of Painwald), who took Conner on his first ride on griffin-back. He stepped out of character a bit to even accept such a thing, even moreso to not even attempt to feign fear at it. But hey, sometimes you have to jump at a chance like that, especially since she was pretty cute and TOTALLY interested in Conner! He played 90% oblivious to her advances, feigning his focus ON THE MISSION and not ON HER BREASTS.

Another interesting meet was a Professor named Kentegern. He was recommended to us by King Luther’s tutor (Kentegern’s mentor) as a man worth knowing, and MAN did he prove to be so; he handed us a book from Kentegern’s own collection that BOGGLED OUR MIND. Not only is it on a subject of INTENSE interest to us (Godmarks), but it was written by one of the primary mentor’s of Viori and our familial tie to that time, Fess the Bold! HANDWRITTEN, not a copy; this book is PRICELESS!

Finally, we meet meet Professor Fisher. He’s fidgety, absent-minded, and when he see’s Haven for the first time, he drops the books he was carrying in shock. VERY suspicious indeed! We let it slide for now, putting him on our “suspects” list as we break for lunch. We all get our first meeting with meatloaf (Conner is NOT pleased, and feigns even more displeasure as part of his facade, over the lack of food more representing his station) in the teacher’s cafeteria. Prof. Fisher walks in, followed by, NO SCHITT, the GHOST OF OUR MURDERED AUNT DOMINIQUE. Aldric, being one who can see her, damn near goes super-nova on him right there, but reigns it back in for appearances sake. Its a good thing, too, as he then proceeds to watch as Dominique dotes on Fisher; he obviously doesn’t have her there against her will. We ask him over to eat with us (also the Headmaster, King, Princess, and Eaton; he’s flustered at the honor), whereupon he sits on the right edge of his chair, saving room for Dominique to sit. After a fun lunch, he asks us to meet him on campus tonight; he’ll send a student named Loveday to come get us.

We tour a bit more, then head back to the tavern prepared for us. Conner wanted to “rough it” in a tavern, so Leo’s sister Helena rented an ENTIRE INN for the night, staffing it with soldiers and having other soldiers and guards dress as commoners to give us the illusion of an authentic tavern experience. Remember, the last time Princess’s of Taur’on came here, both died gruesomely; Leo was not taking any chances! A good try, but actor’s they ain’t; we wind up spending the early evening with the soldiers just drinking and goofing off. Loveday shows up, even more jittery than Fisher, and waits a few for us to get geared up (all black, ninja-type gear). We let him lead out a bit ahead as we shake any tails we might have, then let him make a diversion at the gate long enough for us to sneak into the campus.

Here’s the skinny on Fisher; he has DOMINIQUE’S HEART! Well, not like that; he has a heart-shaped locket of her, with a lock of her hair and a piece of her heart in it. He specializes in battlefield medicine of the non-magical kind; a new science in these lands. When she died, he assisted in her preparation for moving home, and took a piece to remember her by. Ya see, Great Aunt Dominique (the Crown Princess of the time, if you remember), was betrothed to Fisher! Long story short, she fell for the shy, earnest fella at school, and they were secretly engaged to be married. Before they could tell anyone, Katherine murdered Dominique, was pole-axed by Roland, and poor Fisher was left in shambles…

Except a funny thing happened. Her locket became a focus for her, and as long as he had it, he could see and hear her. Using his magical knowledge, he even made a device that allowed others to do the same (the guy’s a genius inventor). He had knowledge of a place near campus, a warehouse, that school children would dare one another to try to stay in, as it was HAUNTED! It fit the bill for what we were looking for, and (leaving Fisher and ghost-Dominique to prepare a ritual circle just in case), we rolled out on the Great Heart Hunt.

When we got there, Aldric and Conner (who multi-classed Shaman this level) both felt the huge, dark energy of the place. As we looked around ,we found a basement room, sigiled on floors and roof, with a door. Opening the door and walking in, we were immediately jumped by skeletons a-plenty; tough, fun fight that gave Conner the CREEPS! Moving in a bit more, we were jumped by big zombies; low defenses, but high HP and hit like a semi full of cinderblocks! I moved around behind for a flank, and activated wave two (all minions), damn near getting dropped in doing so (2hp left!). A couple of timely heals, two GREAT slide-1 powers by Conner to get me in position, and BAM!; I clear out the minions in one attack round, with Aldric doing the same with the ones Haven and Felix (Trey, rogue, single target DPS MACHINE) had already weakened.

Okies, last room. Evil altar? Check. Glowing red sigils on the ground? Check, 8 more big zombies, check. Haven (our defender) moves in for the attack and I follow. Then the surprise guest stars, three specters pop in from invisibility. Yeah, their howl SUCKS; really good damage AND knocks prone. All of us get hit, Conner and Haven go bloodied (I’m 2 points from it myself), and the momentum swings to the mobs.

We ain’t having that! Haven hops up, marks ‘em all (YAY WARDEN!), can’t move (she’s grabbed by a zombie), so instead she drops her daily power, becoming charged with THUNDER POWAH, and hitting everything around her (re: all the zombies and a specter), doing damage and, for icing on the cake, knocking them prone! I use a teleport to jump 6 sq away (standing for free!), hammer the specter on the healers and rogue (dispatched by Trey immediatly after), then drop my action chip, roll BACK to Haven, shuffle the mobs around, and kill the specter and a zombie by her. Healers hop up, heal folks, and pops some zombies. One specter, turned against his will, informs us that he REALLY doesn’t want to fight, but that specter over there is making him do so; one dead specter later, the third one stops fighting, retreating to the end of the room until we mop up.

Last specter was one of Dominique’s guards, and he gives us some valuable info (like where the bitch’s heart is in the room!). We uncover his body, Haven releases him from his earthly duties, and Aldric, a priest himself, blesses the body, sending him to the afterlife with honor. We grab the heart and beat feet back to the College.

Ritual goes up, Haven and Conner assisting on our end, and a star-studded squad of bad-ass caster on Caroline’s end (where the body is). When the spirit realizes its in deep schitt, it tries to deal with Dominique and us, gets told to face death like a noble (good lines abound here), and then her soul is RENT ASUNDER. That’s right, SOUL OBLITERATION. Conner is shaken up, Haven a bit less so, and I’m just fine with it; she was trying to do the same to my little sister, so the bitch deserved it! During the ritual, a twin-channel is opened between Conner and Caroline; telepathy FTW! They close it up, but it might be useful later…

We stay put for another day, going out shopping in this BIG ASS CITY. Haven is macked on by, simply put, the most handsome and charming man she has ever met; he tells her a lady of her beauty shouldn’t go with a dress unless it was as remarkable as her. Felix confirms (though the “stranger” doesn’t) that it was the King of Mordova (a kingdom of political intrigue and warfare-by-dialogue; we generally don’t like ‘em), Sebastian. Haven is rattled; tho he stands for the things in nobles that she generally hates, "he’s SOOOOOOOOO pretty!" We tease her, but the best is yet to come, as we are leaving, a package arrives for her; the very dress the “stranger” recommended for her. INTERESTING

So, a recap:

1. We make new friends, telling Leo that Conner’s interest in college was a ruse, but our interest in friendship was not. He digs it; he’d have done the same. Leo gets a promise for the first dance at the bicentennial celebration next year, making sure that Haven knows he finds her very, very interesting.

2. Prof. Fisher and Ghost-Aunt Dominique are heading home with us, as a hired mentor (he’s retiring to our lands, my idea!). Our desire is to have him be recognized as Dominique’s husband and be able to live as our Uncle; Dominique (herself a powerful shaman in life) wants to try to help our crazy uncle’s ghost find some peace.

3. Haven has more suitor’s than she knows what to do with, LITERALLY. She’s an awesome warrior, but buys that ain’t us are an absolute mystery to her. IT IS AWESOME!

4. Conner, for all his pretending otherwise, is rock-solid in combat.

5. ALDRIC LIKES TORI!

6. I am a zombie-killin’ MACHINE!

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Game Session #2
--adventure awaits

(Told from the perspective of the Eldest Son, Victor)
Well, we pick up where we left off; Haven’s 18th birthday bash! She’s the belle of the ball, and all the young suitors line up to dance the night away with my cousin. While many of these young bucks are nobility or from rich merchant families, one loggin’ town actually had a week-long contest to see what young man was the best for them to send. The kid in question, a soldier named Abel, put up a good show, despite being WAY out of his league. Haven was flummoxed by all the show, but an ACE nat 20 on a Diplomacy check kept her in the spotlight all night!

During dinner we were treated to a show by the Gypsy troupe in town; a comedy of errors about the followers of Viori and some of their not-so-noble hijinks. Its one of our fave plays, done better than it has ever been done, complete with a mini food-fight with audience participation! The head of the troupe, Grigori, slips Haven a tarot card depicting the Two of Swords, which we obsess over for a bit before bed.

Well, without further ado, we hop on a airship (Note: all airships are operated and owned by Volkhan, which are basically wolf-men!) and head to the kingdom or Wrathmorne. Its our first trip away from our kingdom, first trip on an airship, and first time meeting some of our respective mothers’ fave people, King Luther, his sister Victoria (called “Tori,” she was even NAMED after our mom!), and their mom Beatrice! We are accompanied by Aunt Vivian and Uncle Casper (Haven’s folks) as chaperons, but Conner is put in charge of the diplomatic mission (unless he flubs it, when Vivian will step in).

Airships are AWESOME! This world has magic-powered boat-with-balloons airships, and it is generally considered the safest means of travel in the kingdoms. Well, until FLYING KRUTHIK ATTACK! Aunt Vivian, at first telling us to go below deck, quickly changes her mind when she sees how many are coming. Ordering us to kill the little ones while she and Casper nuke the Brood Mother, we get ready for o first our first real fight!

As I want to keep this brief, here’s the highlights: the kruthik land, dropping damn near every deckhand on round one. Most of us run to the upper deck to help up there and to get away from the BroodMom. As the BroodMom has several little’ns behind her keeping us from stabilizing the dying crew members, I cash in my daily and roll out. For those of you who think 4th ed. less dynamic than 3.x ed, here’s a lesson. In one round, I killed 4-of-six mobs (shoving them off the boat), danced past the BroodMom without being touched (shift 7), killed mob #5 with a punch, knocked mob #6 prone, and then teleported back behind Aunt Vivian, all safe like. CRAZINESS!

After a hard-won fight (great healing by Aldric and Conner, but still almost had two party members dropped to the negs!) in which Aunt Vivian was VERY narrowly saved from re-entry woes by Haven herself grabbing her, we amble on to Wrathmorne.

Wrathmorne is JUST LIKE OUR KINGDOM… well, but with a MASSIVELY HAUNTED FOREST. And a sad, sad back-history. And everyone is always somber and serious. Okay, so it ain’t much like Taur’on at all. But Princess Tori is AWESOME, and our whole reason for being here was to bring her back to be fostered for a year in our court. After a tense formal dinner followed by a fun after-party, we sleep and awaken for a relaxing sparring session followed by an afternoon of falconing…

…whereupon Conner (our resident oracle), falls from his saddle in a prophetic fit. Upon awakening, he tells us that our little sister, Crown Princess Caroline, is in CRAZY DANGER, and we gotta beat feet out NOW! We do so, getting back on the airship with Tori in tow, and burn rubber back home.

Remember that old cult activity we uncovered last game? Well, it turned our evil Great Aunt Katherine (the one who killed her sister and was killed by Roland) into a Leech Spirit, who has possessed our sister! Our warning to Mom via Sending caught it EARLY, so the damage is minimized, but our resident Shaman tells us that the stasis that she has Caroline in has about a month time limit before her soul is destroyed and Katherine is left in control. A month that, even though the jig is up, Katherine is more than willing to wait just so we’ll have to suffer killing what’s left of Caroline.

Well, we figure out a couple of things (Conner has a “A HA!” moment). The flying Kruthik are an aberration in nature. The ritual that makes Leech Spirits (which is done by removing the heart and storing it somewhere safe), as a side effect, perverts nature. So, the area with the flying Kruthik is probably near a large concentration of cultists in our borders!

But, while this may be the case, evidence also points to the likelihood of Katherine’s heart being possibly in the area of her death, which was at the war college in the kingdom or Westwick. As storming a cultist army is NOT in our agenda, we get geared up to go investigate Westwick, likely with no guards. We have to keep our real mission secret, so as not to air our problems to other kingdoms, so we are going under the pretense of Conner’s interest in perhaps enrolling at the college.

And that’s where we stand. A recap:

1. Caroline is in stasis, but fighting back HARD with assistance spiritually from our epic-leveled-but-senile-Swordmage grandpa; she’s may be frail of body, but Taur’onians gots da Will, yo!

2. As much as Mom (Queen Victoria) might like to send ANYONE else to Westwick (she facing losing her youngest, so sending her kids against cultist who, by their very nature, HATE OUR GUTS, is TERRIFYING), we have the best alibi, and no one else can be spared; all available forces are being marshaled to go after what could be an army of cultist-necromancers.

3. “Cousin” Tori is being WAY COOL about all of this, as she is from a country whose nobles are used as object lessons by other countries as has much worse you can have it. She’s not asking questions, staying out of the way, and being a model guest. (Also of note, my brother Aldric has called “dibs”!)

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Game Session #1
--and so it begins

Players: All cast members are family – The boys are all the children of the Queen of Taur’on (Queen Victoria II) while the one girl is the only child of her twin sister, Vivian. Players are, in order of age:

The Triplets (age 18):
Victor – (Eladrin Monk)
Aldric — (Half Elf Shaman)
Felix (Elven Rogue)

Vivian’s Daughter (age 17.9999999):
Haven (Human Warden)

and the Queen’s Twins (age 15):
Conner (Half-elf Bard)
Caroline (NPC, future Queen of Taur’on, and loving little sister)

Yes – the Queen has a mix-matched set of kiddies – but when your mother was a half-elf, your dad an eladrin and you married an elf yourself? Your kids tend to be a bit, well, eclectic.

Now – the last important detail about these children, they all bear the mark of a god. These “godmarks” are rare, and it is uncommon for anyone to even discuss the fact they actually bear one upon their person. Throughout history, it is said those that bear one will be destined to do great things. Great good, great evil – but great things. The marks are, in order as they are listed above, Owl, Raven, Coyote, Wolf, Stag and Rabbit. There is no doubt that this is the most important secret these children carry with them – for if it was discovered that they had one mark? SIX MARKS? The religious and political ramifications are terrifying.

The first game begins on the 4th day of the Wolf:
The kids are heading into town, news had arrived the Haven’s parents would soon be arriving (well, news as in Conner always seems to know these things – the mark of Lord Stag has gifted him with odd foresight… and unfortunate seizures as well) and they love to be at the gates when they get there. To their surprise, Vivian and Casper were also accompanied by King Merlyn and Queen Cynthia of Proud Pony – well, King no more. Merlyn announces he has abdicated for his son, Morgan – and wants to spend the winter in Taur’on to let his son get his feet without “daddy” about. The kids love Uncle Merlyn – so it rocks to have him about the entire time.

The town is preparing for the Howling Festival (5 days of performance and music – starts on the 10th). As they walk through the streets, Vivian and Casper tease the kids about birthday presents – do they wait for Haven’s birthday to pass them all out – even though the other kids have already had their birthday? Or do they give Haven hers early? Answer at dinner! Family all heads up to the house were happy is held by all. Caroline is working on her new Warlord training skills (which aren’t going well) – and the family watches until dinner – presents are passed out (and Haven giggles over her new Axe). During the dinner, Conner discovers that he can somehow can absorb languages – as he suddenly understands halfling for no reason. Victor also decides to risk informing his Aunt and Uncle about his new found powers – Victor has discovered he is not a swordmage as the family hoped – but… an Aesthetic.

5th of the Wolf:
The Gypsies arrive, and make a grand spectacle of their coming. They even come to court to properly introduce themselves, and request the royal family attend their play on the first night. Queen has requested that they perform for her niece Haven’s birthday party (on the 11th) to which they agree, for a price. They quietly discuss this with the Queen, and the children only know that she accepts their price… whatever this must be.

6th of the Wolf:
The Elven emissaries from both Bright Hope and Lion’s Gate arrive to prepare for diplomatic discussions with Fario – Queen Victoria will administer over this in hopes to bring them to an agreement over border disputes. Unfortunately for the children, its simply more time at court with annoying politics. They watch a bit of Elven court political put downs, and Haven discovers flirting boys will flirt with BOTH princesses if told. Poor Eitienn. He didn’t mean to tick her off :(

7th of the Wolf:
I swear to the gods they solved a 58 year old murder mystery in about an hour. Doesn’t hurt the guy playing Aldric is actually a cop, heh? :) They put to rest a spirit that Aldric had been seeing lately (Yes, he sees dead people – did I mention all of them are touched a bit?) – and discover she had been murdered by someone that married one of their long dead great-aunts. IN-teresting. Did we mention this great-aunt was also murdered? Because she killed her elder sister who would have been queen? MORE interesting! Cult activity in town? Old and probably over.. but is it?

8th of the Wolf:
Airship arrives with Fario guests (who are there to talk in a neutral location with the elves) and Stazia Almari from Lah’kola. MANY interesting things occur that deal with a goblin lich (named Ashurta), a dragon and interesting conversation over dinner. Suffice to say it was awesome roleplay.

9th of the Wolf:
Practice day – light roleplay – it is decided that the kids will accompany their Aunt and Uncle to go to WrathMourn. The young king, Luther, has asked that the Taur’on family foster his little sister, Victoria (named, in fact, after Queen Victoria – she was childhood friends with Luther’s mother, Beatrice). Tori will be 14 on her birthday, and Luther feels she could use some exposure to a happier court than his. The kids can go on the airship, and bring her back after Haven’s birthday. The Queen figures they can use a little adventure – and adventure she can control is a good thing.

10th of the Wolf:
First day of the Howling. They arrive for the performance only to discover that their box has been moved WAY to the front of the show. Kids are being hand picked by the gypsy to sit in front of their box and in front of the stage. As the show begins, a lead actor comes forward and teaches the children a little rhyme-sing-song-hand-clap routine. He then pulls out a violin and begins to play – the Queen, paying that debt off, pulls out her own violin and begins to play and move toward stage. She and the gypsy play a stunning duet to the delight of the crowd, then she sits among the rest of the orchestra. Then, the play gets started.

For those that have read the entries – the Queen’s Consort, Adaron, died 8 years ago. (Almost to the day – she buried him on the morning of the Howling) His troops saved the adjoining eladrin city from certain destruction – and he protected his men’s retreat – dying to save them. His death was devastating to the Queen, and the people of Taur’on – for he was a true hero – and died as one. It takes only a moment before the crowd realizes the Gypsies have written a new play – “The Heroic Deed of Adaron.”

As the play wears on, the Queen is still performing in the orchestra. Occasionally, her family notes she will turn to see what is occurring on stage, and realize that was a bad idea and continue watching her sheet music. As the death scene ends, the entire crowd is in tears – their father’s best friend and their protectors are in tears beside them (big guys trying not to be noticed sniffing into their shoulders) and the entire city is sobbing. As the actors lead the dead Adaron back to his Queen – the Queen herself stands, all light focuses on her as she plays a solo piece, reflecting the sorrow of her heart at the loss of her love. This is where a few of my own players almost cried on me. As she stops, the light dims from her. The stage is black for a moment until the gypsy that started everything is suddenly back on stage – he gives a stirring eulogy, and then he starts up the children’s sing-song again – and everyone realizes, not only have they gypsies written a play – they have crafted a new children’s rhyme. Adaron’s story will live forever.

The game ends with the family escorting their mother back home, tears on her sleeve but feeling rather better with her family and city understanding her grief. Course, the bottle of wine she bought won’t hurt much.

next game? BIRTHDAY BASH!

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