Calica

A Man to Rally a Nation
The quest to save Tavor Kel

Right from the start, the five adventurers were split down the middle. Vivian and Taiass Atwari, having spent the most time in the NightmareScape, strongly felt the initiative to go after the phylactery of Prince Janus. Vivian reasoned that vampires and undead were strong enough…if you take away their weakness, they are almost indestructible. Talia Lancaster (Black) wavered, leaning at first for the chance to talk to Bellon, the fallen court spy (who had died under Talia’s brief leadership of the party). As the discussion deepened however, Talia and Nathan Bishop agreed; the Calican army owed something to the people of Zartinia. If there was even a chance that General Tavor Kel was alive, they had to take that chance if Zartinia was to continue to ally itself with their forces. Kao-Tsu Quan, caught in the center, at first refused to make a decision, saying his only choice was to go into the abyss to challenge Lloth for Talia’s soul. When that was refuted as an option, the monk split the party’s vote, saying they should instead go after Zerbo and the mud-boys….more allies would make them stronger, after all. A heated discussion followed, with votes changing sides and each argument getting more intense. It almost came to the fall out of the party; but after all was said and done, they were able to decide with a vote of 3 to 2: they would go to Zartinia.

After a trek of 10 days, the heroes found themselves in the small town of Larek in the mountains of Zartinia. Upon arrival, Kao-Tsu, Talia, and Nathan were surprised to meet Livis, the kobold potion master from Team Mixed Bag. They had not seen the strange little fellow since the Tournament of Nevermore, now almost 2 years past. After some bartering and reminiscing, Livis gave them information about the whereabouts of the General, whom he thought he had seen at the outskirts of town, fighting some over sized manlins. The kobold was kind enough to lead them to that location. As they scouted the area, the party was jumped by extremely large manlins and their pet manticores, guarding an ominous looking, broken and blackened old tower. The heroes drew their weapons to defend themselves, and Livis surprisingly transformed into a volcanic dragon and took to the sky, taking on the fight with the manticores himself! “Good thing we didn’t fight him in the tournament!” joked Kao-Tsu to Nathan, as he dodged a huge rock thrown by the enemy. “What do you mean?” the fighter replied with a half smile as he casually bashed in the skull of a fallen manlin opponent. “Team Tempest was clearly the front runner in our year’s tournament.”

Regardless, after the fight was over, the adventurers were happy to have had Livis’ help. As they parted ways, the kobold told them to venture forth to the tower, but to be careful…rumors were that it was overrun with beholders. Indeed, as they cracked open the stone door, they were immediately set upon by the multi-eyed beasts, who hissed the phrase “Protect the Mother!” as they zapped the heroes with their eye beams. Each creature was felled, and the party continued to travel through the creepy circular tower, which had remnants of failed manlin experiments, traps galore, and dangerous monsters. Vivian was able to infiltrate a disgusting room with beholder eggs incubating in ectoplasm (which the vampire gleefully destroyed, cleaning herself thoroughly afterwards). On the second floor, they found General Kel’s frost blade, which reminded them of their purpose. It could be their target was still alive yet! Also in a room with horrifying vats of discarded manlin experiments, Taiass found a note addressed to “Mother”, explaining in scientific terms how to make manlin. Seemingly the majority of Isorn’t’s experiments had been finished in this broken tower, but he took the letter nevertheless to bring back to Calica. Also notably the adventurers were able to save the soul of a poor fallen beautiful elvish girl from evil beholder magic which had apparently held her soul captive for the past 100 years. Her ghostly soul rose from her coffin, happily clinging to her rescuer, Taiass. She pledged her afterlife to defend Taiass, and her soul took on the form of an eagle, perching on his forearm and nestling against him in adoration. After exploring the remainder of the burned minaret, there was nowhere to go but to a rusted out portcullis room, to confront “Mother” herself. The Beholder’s central eye flashed as they crashed down the door. “Infiltrators!” she growled. “You will never take my prey!” Amongst the filth Kao-Tsu and Taiass simultaneously spied the general, handcuffed and bound to the wall, apparently having been subject to torture. Talia twirled her sword, pulsating with magic, as Vivian popped her fangs. Little did Mother realize SHE would be the be the prey today.

A bloodthirsty fight commenced, but there was no stopping the determination of the Calicans’ this time. All of their build up frustrations over the past adventures were taken out on the mother beholder, who was slewn and her evil destroyed. General Tayvor Kel, tired, injured, but still alive, was rescued by the 5 brave heroes. January 29th, the party arrived back in the Calican camp, which was now on the move. Only a month and a half to prepare until their final destination: the Kofas Valley in the Meadowlands. The armies of Calica, Zartinia and their allies would meet face to face with the manlin forces and the NightmareScape in a final showdown on the banks of the Yomeron River for Nevermore. As the five spent as much time with their families and friends as possible, they realized their time was up….now it was onwards to track their success…or doom!

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The Election of Sohma-Part Three
Of Muffin Men and Masquerading Manlins

Vivian hid her head and began shaking. “Bad man! So not pretty!” she muttered to herself, hiding behind Taiass Atwari and Kao-Tsu Quan. Regardless, the pixie bounty hunter continued to threaten her capture, explaining that he had been chasing Vivian for years now, and that she was wanted for the murder of 27 pixies of the fey realm. In his land she was a wanted criminal, and considered a danger to his people. It was his responsibility to the pixie people to bring Vivian to justice.

Nathan Bishop turned to the vampire, hoping for some explanation, but all she did was hide deeper into Talia Lancaster (Black)‘s skirts as tears of blood stained Vivian’s delicate porcelain cheeks. “Too long ago! Can’t remember, it wasn’t pretty!” she stammered as she averted the fighters’ eyes. The sweet smelling pixie snapped angrily at her. “Fine! If you won’t come willingly, villainess, I will take you by force!” With that, he drew his bow and let fly, as did his pixie counterparts. Taiass flourished his spear to defend Vivian as battle was upon them. The immortal one would be protected by her friends, at least until they received more of an explanation. The skirmish was fast and furious, but amidst the fighting, a strange happening occurred. As Vivian’s fangs penetrated the flesh of her pixie opposition, she staggered, and gasped, eyes wide, as she tasted the blood of her kindred for the first time in hundreds of years. “You…I…remember!” she whispered to the muffin man. “How could you have done this to me???” Her eyes narrowed into slits as she ruthlessly cut into the pixie with new found strength and increased her speed and celerity. Her attacks grew tenfold as her anger and hatred toward the pixies was apparent until finally, as the last pixie fell, the main aggressor yielded to her. “Stop! I do not wish to continue this fight further. I only ask that you pass on Vivian as a prisoner to me and my people. As I said, she is wanted for the murder of 27 pixies. Regardless of her reasons, this is a crime that must be judged by her people. She has long abated our grasp, but I assure you, she IS dangerous. As I cannot defeat you in combat, I ask that you consider my words with weight. I will concede to you as a prisoner for now, but know that I am of good nature and you harbor a fugitive. I only act on the will of the fey people.” With that, the Muffin Man surrendered to his captors.

After a quick discussion, Talia volunteered to bring the pixie to the Sohman outpost of troops. He would be considered a Calican prisoner and held by Kao-Tsu’s monastary. When asked to explain her actions, Vivian gave the others a cold stare. “My reasons for my actions are for me to know. Just know those pixies deserved their fate. They took away and killed my only friend I had in the world, and yes, I went into a blind rage and killed people. Now that I have tasted his blood,” she paused to wipe away a dark smear from her mouth, “I am even more convinced of my own justice, now that I am in my proper mindset.” Nathan and Kao-Tsu exchanged a look. This explanation would not be enough to let them trust Vivian for much longer…or even to convince them that she should not be turned in to the pixie bounty hunter! But for now they must continue on, the hours were ticking away and the Sohman election was almost upon them.

After meeting back up with Talia, the group moved on to their final destination in Sephor: Follino Hill. The hill glistened with white marble as they stood in awe of Correlian’s Basilica, a major temple to Correlian Lorethian. The Basilica was run by Maester Alejandro, an eladrin with considerable sway to the religiously inclined of Sohma. In trying to meet the Maester, our heroes were met with difficulty; however it was suggested to gain his favor, they could help with the funeral of Katherine, a fallen rose of the former Queen’s guard. This task was met with simplicity, and the adventurers headed back to Ostiense Hill to Queen Andula’s residence. They had done all they could do to promote the Queen and could now only hope that the people remembered their efforts the next day!

By the middle of the afternoon, the election results were finished. Overwhelmingly, Queen Andula had retained her position as monarch and ruler of Sohma! That evening, a celebration was held with the senators in Velian Hill. However, as Nathan and Taiass noticed, the attendance was sparse to people and the press. Nathan walked over to Talia to whisper this fact to her, and as he did so, all of a sudden, the doors to the Senate burst open. A disheveled and red eyed Talia met his eyes from the arched doorway. “Manlins!” she yelled, between heaving breaths. “One of the candidates is a manlin!” Nathan turned slowly to face the woman beside him, and was horrified to see her face morphing from the familiar beautiful complexion of Talia Black to a cruelly smiling manlin imposter, her hands curling around a red dagger glowing with arcane magic. As she thrust the dagger over his shoulder to stab him in the back, he blocked it with his shield’s edge and reversed the blow, stabbing the manlin attacker. The female manlin panicked as she looked at the wound, which began to glow and burst into a bright light, blinding Nathan momentarily. Simultaneously, Jacobus Grakus, the main candidate in opposition to the queen, morphed into a manlin and began attacking those around him, including Jaynus Septimus. Nathan moved in to protect Queen Andula, looking to his right and noticing that his manlin attacker had apparently disintegrated with the magic from the red dagger. The five adventurers gathered together and fought off the assassins with relative practiced ease, thanks to the real Talia’s early warning. As the room cleared out, and they checked on the well being of the Queen, Talia explained what had happened.

Earlier the previous day, when they were in the Velian district strip club, as Talia had disappeared backstage, she had been ambushed by manlins, who planted a fake Talia in her position with a plan to assassinate Nathan. The manlin forces had her held hostage in a small encampment outside the city, and she had overheard that one of the candidates in the election was actually a manlin. No matter who won, they planned to execute a coup on the Sohma’s leaders that evening during the election celebration. Luckily since their main forces had left, she managed to escape the prison just in time to warn them! After hearing her tale, the Sohman senators were roused by a heroic speech from Taiass. Now, the Callican and Sohman allegiance was even stronger than ever!

Unfortunately, Talia showed the others later on that evening, the manlins had taken her scrolls of teleportation. If they were to regroup with Belcoot and the main forces, it would take time. Also, Nathan was quick to realize, the muffin man was gone- the manlin Talia had apparently tried to kill him instead of turning him in to the guards. He had simply left a note for Vivian: “The hunt continues…” Queen Andula, in appreciation of all of the Calican’s hard work, was more than happy to donate horses for their journey, as well as some magical items from the Sohman vaults to help in the war effort. Regardless, it would be a month before they were with the other Calicans.

On their long journey, Vivian continued to distance herself from the others. They noticed her demeanor had changed; no longer was she the happy go lucky, impish creature obsessed with sparkles they had grown to love. Vivian was now colder, wiser, and despite her childlike appearance, very much an adult. Kao-Tsu attempted to discuss her past with her but to little avail; she still kept much hidden from her friends, and the distance was beginning to chasm the trust and friendship she had with them, especially regarding Nathan. Even their Yule celebration was half-hearted, with only Kao-Tsu, Taiass, and Talia participating. Nathan threw himself into focusing on the war effort. Talia watched the days tick by with worry. The day of her curse being fulfilled was drawing near.

January 9th, our heroes finally reached the Calican camp in the Northern Shifting Sands. Kao-Tsu immediately took Talia (as promised) to see Arthur Kayin Macbeth, hoping the wise cleric may know some sort of cure to her curse of Lloth. After a thorough examination, the cleric had no easy answers. No cure was known to him; all he could suggest was a journey to the underdark to challenge the goddess herself…and even that journey, with all of the dangers entailed, was no guarantee. Despite Kao-Tsu and Nathan’s support, Talia conceded that was a journey she was not willing to make, not with the war going on and all of the people that required their help. As it was, the heroes were petitioned with 3 different choices that could use their attentions. Kao-Tsu received a letter from Zerbo in Mixed Bag, stating that she had figured out how to make mud-boys of her own, and she wished to send 20 of them to the Calican Military, but needed someone to meet them. Taiass also got a letter from the Court. His reports contained bad news, that Prince Jaynus’ forces had now gained a resistance to radiant damage. This could be averted if the phylactory of the lich king was destroyed. It just so happened that an agent of the court knew where the phylactory was…unfortunately that agent was Bellon, presumed dead. If they were able to find the body of Bellon, the “speak with dead” scroll enclosed with the Court’s letter would come in handy. Also, Belcoot had received reports from Calican spies that in Zartinia, General Tavor Kel, presumed dead in battle, had been spotted by several trustworthy people. If they were able to find him, his presence would be able to rally the Zartinian forces, which were at this point spreading thin and loosing hope.

Three possible decisions…..where would our intrepid heroes go next? And would their differences drag them apart from each other? With the final battle approaching fast, a choice must be made…before it is too late for action!

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The Election of Sohma-Part Two
Campaigning for the Queen

The next day, the adventurers awoke ready for duty. Their mission? To get as many sections of the 8 hills of Sephor and rally the people’s votes behind Queen Andula before her competitors got to them! First off, they agreed to go to Capitoleno Hill, as they had visited the Amphitheater the day before during the Artistica Maximus. Before traveling, Vivian quickly whisked away, giddily making a secretive purchase. As they walked into the hills, she revealed her purchase: sparkly costumes resembling the over the top outfits of Commander Shield, Furious Fist, and the Black Widow! Talia Lancaster (Black) sighed as she warily looked over her skimpy costume simultaneously as Kao-Tsu Quan eagerly jumped into his flamboyant accoutrement. Well, if it was for the war effort….

Once in Capitoleno, Nathan Bishop was quick to find Stephanis Ditikus, the creator of the “Commander Shield” comic. In agreement to donate a portion of Stephanis’ profits to the war effort of Calica and Sohma, the three heroes acceded to model as Stephanis sketched them in action poses. Meanwhile Vivian and Taiass Atwari researched rumors of a demonic pen that had fallen into the hands of a local unlucky artist. When it was clear that they would need the help of the other three, only Kao-Tsu and Talia were able to help, as Nathan was mobbed by rabid fan girls and dragged off. Meanwhile, a succubus had tried to take control over a Sohman writer through the use of an evil pen. Together, they were able to fight the evil temptress away, and gratefully the writer pledged to get all of his friends to vote for the queen.

After the fight, they looked for Nathan, but finding him nowhere, the party decided to move on. Next up, Esqualino Hill, where Corvellius Scourge, a local dragonborn drug dealer of “white out” had taken control over this district. Esqualino was considered the poorer part of Sephor, filled with Dragon Mist Isle immigrants. Kao-Tsu took their problems to his heart, and in the middle of town called out Corvellius! After hearing the accusations made against him, Corvellius surprisingly said he would leave Esqualino….but wisely Kao-Tsu and the others decided not to trust him. As they followed his escort out of town, the evil dragonborn thug and his cronies jumped them! A poor decision on his behalf, as it was his last fight. The beholden Dragon Mist immigrants cheered as they hoisted Kao-Tsu up on their shoulders, their votes easily secured.

Next, the Velian district, the location of the Sohman senate and the largest observatory in Nevermore. As they strolled into town, everyone realized the Senate hearings had just ended for the day, and all of the Senators seemed to be heading to the same place to relax and socialize… a XXX club. Taiass and Kao-Tsu smirked at each other as Talia rolled her eyes in embarrassment. Nathan was going to miss out on this one. Once in the club, Taiass fit right with his “Senator Morious” disguise, easily swaying the senators with his effortless banter. Kao-Tsu entertained the drunken politicians with jokes and acrobatic stunts, while Vivian pitched in and waited tables with vampiric celerity. Only a sullen Talia did not fit in, and as the senators called for the “Black Widow” to perform for them, she disappeared behind a curtain…but to their disappointment, re-appeared fully clothed. It took some time, but the others were successful in committing the senators to friendship with Calica.

Advancing, the next section of town to tackle would be Ostinense Hill, the blue collar district with a group of restaurants called the Utilenza. Upon entering this section of town, everyone was greeted with the sounds of striking workers. It seemed that a union of food workers had been attempting to get a raise and better treatment from the owner of the Utilenza, but the diplomat brought in to negotiate had been killed! Upon further investigation, the heroes discovered a plot to destroy the Utilenza by a rival restaurant owner, Lady Agatha, whose own business had just about been run into the ground. It took them some time and revisiting the district that night to fully discover her plot, but after their cooperation, the grateful workers pledged their allegiance to the Queen of Sohma in the upcoming election.

The next few districts were met with almost immediate success. In Nomentano Hill, they were able to successfully organize the Mythic College library (mostly thanks to Taiass’ ordering college kids around). In the Modern Center, they were able to foil the plot of a con artist who tried to get them to steal a precious metal eagle from the Gallea Verde (a museum with a garden of nude statues). And in Old Sohma, they acted as tour guides for an hour in the Nevermore History Museum to take over for some guides stricken with the shakes. It was on the way to their last section of Sephor, Folino Hill, that suddenly, the air suddenly took on the smell of muffins. Vivian’s eyes darted around nervously as she flitted about the air, four pixies teleported before them, bows drawn fiercely and aiming them at her heart. Their leader stood forward, tiny in stature but still full of dignity and power as he declared: “Vivian. At last we meet again. We are here to arrest you for murder!”

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The Election of Sohma-Part One
Playing the Political Game

The five adventurers walked defensively through the chamber door, only to find not far ahead a long dead aspect of Tiamat. Talia Lancaster (Black) inferred this to mean that Isorn’t had probably lead them to the chamber on purpose to attempt to lure them to his side. In the chamber itself, droplets of the green magical residue were found, as well as cart and wagon tracks leading out into a cavern and onto the surface of the swamp. Whatever magics had once been in the cavern had been taken out long ago. Everyone pulled themselves together and decided, it was time to leave this place and it’s unfortunate history far behind them.

It was not long until an out of breath runner clutching orders from the Calican military found the heroes. Word from Belcoot was that the Meadowlands had joined the side of the Manlins. Apparently the envoys sent from the enemy had persuaded the halflings that if they took their side, the fighting would stop being waged on their turf. And that wasn’t the only bad news, troops had also stopped being sent from Sohma, one of the largest allies to the Calicans! Belcoot wanted them to investigate the Sohman problem immediately. With his orders were sent 3 scrolls of teleportation. In the blink of an eye, everyone transported just outside the hills of Sephor, Sohma’s capitol city.

Upon entering the city, immediately the problem was identified. Queen Andula, the ruler of Sohma, had been outed as a Medusa! (Her Medusa status had already been known to Talia and Kao-Tsu Quan, as together they had helped the Queen to try to “cure” her serpentine form during an earlier adventure). The city was in uproar, and immediate re-elections were occurring. Once a new ruler was decided by the people, it would be up to that leader whether or not to support Calica in the war. Already four major opponents were lined up against the queen and debating that very afternoon. Nathan Bishop instead visited the military operations while the rest of the party headed towards the Senate building. Even after his most intimidating stare, Nathan could not get any further with the military officials….no troops would be sent until the political game had been played. Angrily, he headed back to the others, frustrated at their lack of help.

From the debates, it was clear what everyone’s political stances were. The Queen was desperate to hang on to her leadership and continue to lead Sohma in what she considered to be the most important war of Nevermore. Jacobus Grakus, a blonde with a gentle demeanor who was seemingly obsessed with magic, wanted to continue Andula’s agenda but did not want her in power. Jaynus Septimus, a redheaded man, was fiery about continuing in the war, but seemed also TOO eager to go into battle himself. A dark haired wirey man, Vedris Vulcan, declared his platform as anti-war, claiming Sohma had internal problems to worry about that had prominence over the Calican and Manlin wars. And finally, Lucia Cassieopeia, a middle aged woman, coldly agreed that the Queen’s ideas were best but clearly the people could never truly trust a medusa. The people at the debate, including the Senators, seemed undecided. Indeed, whispered Kao-Tsu to the others, perhaps one of the candidates was an infiltrating manlin? More information needed to be gathered before they could be certain. Taiass tried to work the room, taking an extremely accurate disguise of an elderly senator. In the meantime, Talia, after reuniting with Queen Andula, agreed on behalf of her friends to act as a temporary bodyguards for an event that evening at the Capitolean Ampitheatre.

After regrouping a few hours later, they accompanied Queen Andula to Calitoleno Hill, center of the Bardic College of Sohma and home to many artists. The Amphitheatre was brisk with activity, as the “Artistica Maximus” was in full swing; this was an event celebrating artists and writers of all types, but especially of the trade paperback variety (or comic books, if you will). People young and old were dressed in all sorts of finery and costumes to resemble their favorite characters from the works. It was at this time Nathan noticed something odd as he passed by a teenager holding a handmade shield with a crest very similar to his own. “Cool Commander Shield costume!” the lad remarked to him as he walked by. Nathan frowned as he looked down at his attire and glanced back at the masses of people around him…..something was afoot. Why on earth were there at least 20 people dressed like him? After some quick questions, he discovered the strange truth, as he picked up a picture book and flipped through it, calling over Kao-Tsu and Talia to see. Apparently a writer named Stephanis Ditikus had heard of their adventures together and had immortalized them as three heroes: “Commander Shield”, the honorable and tough leader, “Furious Fist”, the jovial and loyal sidekick, and “The Black Widow”, the mysterious, beautiful, and scantily clad female companion. Apparently it was the most popular book in Sohma! Although flattered, the three friends agreed, they should meet with this Stephanis character.

Protecting the Queen was a little more difficult than expected, as people kept asking for Commander Shield’s autograph, the children wanted to hear more of Furious Fists’ tales of battle, and the Black Widow ignored the drooling fanboys. However, just as she expected, towards the end of the night a dagger flew from the crowds…someone tried to kill the Queen! Despite the crowds, they were able to chase down the assailant but as they tried to question the manlin, he bit down on a poisonous capsule and whatever information he had died with him. Indeed, Queen Andula had enemies….it was up to our intrepid heroes to protect her and ensure her victory in the upcoming election!

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Origin of Isorn't
The roots of the Manlin King
December 2nd, 1081. The progress: still deep entrenched in a war with the manlins. Updates via letters arrived to our intrepid heroes. Nella Sunelle sent a letter to her half-brother, Nathan Bishop, with enclosed a portrait of Richard Bishop. Kao-Tsu Quan received a letter from his beloved wife, Lun Quan, wishing him the best on his adventures. Belcoot addressed a letter to Nathan and Talia Lancaster (Black), updating them on the progress of the army. Not much had changed, however envoys from the manlin forces had been scouted in the Meadowlands, for some reason. Belcoot requested their rendezvous with the main forces, although not with urgency. Talia also received a letter from an unknown source, urging their party to travel to the village of Green Dew (in the Neutral Lands). There they would find a secret supply of Isorn’t‘s Ooze of Alteration, aka the green magical residue that helped transform man and goblins into manlins. The letter suggested if they were to destroy this, it would be a hurt to the enemy. Talia doubted the letter’s validity, but agreed since the village of Green Dew was not far out of their way, it was worth investigating. Taiass Atwari split forces with his friends, having some business to tie up with the court, but promised to meet up with them in Green Dew in a few days.

Three days later, Kao-Tsu, Vivian, Nathan, and Talia arrived in Green Dew. Markedly, they came a bit too late to the village….the tiny town showed distinct signs of ruin from an attack. Green Dew had been long abandoned by its inhabitants. As they searched through the foggy and eerie debris of the village, Kao-Tsu disturbed a magical rune on the floor. Suddenly, they were besieged by magical guardians of the village: gorgons! A furious fight ensued, with Talia and Kao-Tsu pulling out all their tricks; after all, they remembered the last time they fought a gorgon with Belcoot and almost perished. Thankfully, this time they proved victorious, however, with one setback: Nathan had been turned to stone! Vivian shrank his statue and agreed to not play with it as an action figure after some admonishment from Talia. A solution would be found soon for his petrification; for the moment, they should move forward through the town. Kao-Tsu after all had found a magical trail, leading through the woods…..

After about an hour and a half of walking through swampy lands through the fog, Kao-Tsu followed the path and lead his friends to a tiny goblin village. Upon their approach, all doors were slammed shut and windows barred to outsiders. Old distrusting eyes peered with deep-rooted hatred from the cracks in shambled windows onto our heroes as they tentatively ventured deeper into the impoverished hamlet. As the fog deepened, a wizened voice cracked out of the cold silence to the adventurers. “Travelers? Here?? Old Yammel cares not. Surely you seek the story of Isorn’t? For that is the only reason the village of Kull exists anymore…It is but a faded memory and a shadow of what we once were.” Out from the heavy mist hobbled a goblin crone with a walking stick. Interested yet apprehensive, the adventurers listened to her tale.

“Once, our village of Kull was teeming with life. We goblins were not wealthy, never rich, but full with families and farmers and crops. Next to us lived the barbarians of Green Dew. Humans. Hotheaded. Vicious. Cruel. Often raided our crops. But still, what could we do? We were farmers. They were warriors. Strong. Still, we kept to ourselves and so did they, mostly. Until one day. Illam. He was but a boy. Wandered into Green Dew. He made friends with a boy, a human boy. The humans found him. Only saw one goblin amongst many humans. They used his invasion of their territory as an excuse to raid our town! Murder. Rampage. Killed everyone except the oldest of the women who could not bear children. This was our punishment as goblins. Buried all in a mass grave. But HE escaped . . . Isnorn’t. He was a baby still! Dug himself out of the grave, he did. Vowed revenge on the humans. Waited until he was strong, as strong as the humans . . .he killed them all. Every last human. He found something in the swamps, something that made him strong . . . and when he came back, he was not goblin. No, he was more. . . but terrifying. Yammel too scared of him. No longer the scared boy he was. No. Isnorn’t wants more than what we goblins can offer him . . .” the old woman covered her face. “This place is dead now. No more will Yammel hear the cries of goblin babies. All is lost but the old things waiting to die . . . all is lost. . .” Her voice cracked as she cried into her dirty handkerchief. The fog enveloped the old crone as they backed away from the emotional old woman and the haze obscured their view of the village of Kull. Kao-Tsu continued to follow the magical path deeper and deeper into the swamp and they tried to put the story of the old woman behind them. They knew their enemy better now. . . for better or for worse.

Farther into the woods, Vivian (going off the the directions of a bullfrog), discovered the magical trail led to a sinkhole. Uncertain, the threesome jumped into the water, and attempted to swim to the bottom, despite a slight issue with piranhas attacking. Luckily, they escaped, although bloody, and swam to the bottom of the pit, which teleported them to a dry cavern below the surface of the water. The magic of the teleportation also restored Nathan to his human status! After some time resting from the piranha attack, Taiass was also able to catch up with his compatriots. It was agreed that they were most likely walking into a trap of the enemy; however all they could do was move forward.

The next room proved their theory true, as they walked into a temple room with a enchanted sleeping avatar of Mellora, guarded by evil Dagon fish-men. After some difficulty, Talia was able to magically awaken Ariella, the water fey, as the rest of the party slashed and hacked at the fish people. She explained that an aspect of Tiamat had invaded her holy temple to Mellora and had attacked her as well. He had entered her temple after a small goblin had asked her access, which she had granted. . . however, she remembered that upon his exit, he was fearsome, and unnatural. As the adventurers shared a glance and realized she spoke of Isorn’t, pitiless laughter filled the chamber. Ariella shrieked and turned into a trail of water as she saw the familiar figure teleported in behind the heroes.

Isorn’t spoke plainly and cruelly. He told the five that they were the strongest the Calicans had at their disposal, yet they were no match for his might. He offered a choice. Join him, and become manlin, and perhaps a truce could yet be made. As the heroes rejected him, he proved his might, shrugging off their most powerful of attacks. Vivian tore at his flesh simultaneously to Taiass’ stabbing psionic polearm attacks. Talia pulled on all of her blood magic, casting the most forceful of her magic missiles while diverting her very life force. Kao-Tsu’s whirling mantis step hit harmoniously to his best friend Nathan’s unrelenting shield bashes. Still, the manlin did not submit; indeed, he was barely hindered by the five!! Nathan and the others did not go down without a fight. Indeed their fierce leader was dropped three times by his enemy before submitting to unconsciousness. Finally only the monk remained standing before the manlin commander. As Isorn’t prepared a devastating spell against the unmoving Nathan, Kao-Tsu dived in front of his friend’s body, his right arm absorbing the impact of the spell and disintegrating painfully in a blast of white light that knocked both Isorn’t and Kao-Tsu to the side. The pain itself was unbearable and enough to kill a weaker man; Kao-Tsu immediately blacked out.

As the group revived one by one to Ariella’s splashes of water, they realized their luck. Isorn’t had left them alive; for what reason, they did not know. Taiass conferred quietly with Nathan, and a somber tone filled the chamber. There was much the eladrin knew about healing, but this much was for certain; the monk would forever be without his right arm. The wound was cauterized and although it would be painful, nothing else could be done for Kao-Tsu. The monk awakened to his own horrified screams. No jokes could mend his sorrows. Angrily, he agreed to push forward. The aspect of Tiamat still lay in the unexplored chamber ahead. Even though they could not vanquish their true enemy yet, all that was left was to keep gaining strength for the inevitable final battle with Isorn’t.

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Taiass versus the Court
Memories and Betrayals

As the warriors prepared for their next moves in battle, Taiass Atwari explained his latest movements in battle. He clarified his reasons for being late to The Battle of Senia; his people were in need of aid. He explained that his people were in need for him to protect of book, a precious artifact that held the names of his “great ones”. If his allies were able to protect this book, it may prove beneficial to his people who may thusly provide aid to the Calican military. Nathan Bishop exchanged a glance with his compatriots. If they were okay with this deal, so was he, despite his misgivings about Taiass’s true motivations.

Next they were off, to Sarol Mansion in the Meadowlands, a few days travel away. As Nathan, Taiass, Talia, and Vivan were prepared to meet at the mansion to guard the book, Taiass was surprised to also meet his former adventuring companions. Apparently they were also tasked with guard duty during this important occassion of the Great Ones. As Taiass gazed upon his former compatriots, he remembered the old times……

Taiass remembered one of their first adventures. Thrace, a half elf and captain of their guard, had gathered them together on behalf of the Court to find and capture Belazara, a worshipper of Bane, who had stolen a vial of fine importance to the Court. The Court was a group of immortals who were attempting to seek immortality and seek balance within the world….the fact that they were undead liches seemed secondary to their greatness. Many had followed their lead, but few had gained their trust. With this adventure, Taiass hoped to gain their favor and eventually immortality for himself. Together, Thrace had gathered Anare, a serious mage wood elf; Keyvan, a gay dragonborn rogue; and Grimm, a stalwort dwarf prone to memory problems; this team plus Taiass were expected to help capture Belazara and help the court. Slashing their way through many a hobgoblin warrior, the adventurers were victorious in their goal, although Belazara was able to escape their grasp….the Court was still victorious. The four warriors, although ordered to disband by the Court, agreed to meet every year at a fixed point in the Neutral Lands to continue their friendship.

Four years had gone by since that time. Four years and Taiass had not been able to rendevous with his former teammates, having being ordered by the Court to spy on the Calican military and integrate himself within their ranks, so deeply that indeed Taiass had not recieved orders from the Court for years. As his former mates gazed on him, Taiass felt no shame. He had only done what the court had ordered him to do. Despite the hating looks, Taiass took his guard on the inside of the mansion with his new friends whilst his old friends patrolled the perimeter. Despite their best efforts, the masquarade party at the Sarol Mansion was ambushed by hill giants and duegers, as well as an invisible foe who attempted to make off with the book of the Court. All of Taiass’ former companions were seemingly killed in the attack, and the mansion was raided by a group of Court superior agents, who blamed Taiass for the failure. As Vivian pawed through the book, she realized Taiass was set up for failure, as the book was empty of writing! The party split up in two directions, distracting the Court’s agents, who dissassembled, unable to locate the party members.

Eventually the party was able to group together. They agreed that their next step should be the Zartinian city of Tor, a day’s travel away, where Taiass’ former friend Moss Gornal, who had gathered together his original team, may know more of who set up Taiass for a fall. Through the merchantile city streets of Tor, they were able to outsmart agents chasing Moss and pay off the guards warding the fat eladrin. Moss coward before Taiass and admitted that he knew nothing, but a madman Quiddis Quo may know something. Quiddis was a conspiracy theorist who had somehow figured out who the court was, although his theories breached on insanity. The party interrogated Quiddis, who attacked them with his pet scorpions but relented his attacks once dominated by the ever persuasive vampire Vivian. Quiddis exchanged information for the “favorite sunrod of the Court” presented by Kao-Tsu. Quiddis admitted that he was the invisible figure who had attempted to steal the book of the court. He had been put up to the deed by a cloaked figure, who met him on a rope bridge just outside of town. He had a schedule to meet with the person that very night!

That night, Taiass dressed Nathan, who was close in height to Quiddis, in beggar’s robes, attempting to disguise the fighter. The counterfeit worked, as the cloaked figure closed in on the rope bridge and reveled his true face to Nathan: Grimm! The dwarf, who had been fooling his memory problems from the start, had been paid off by the NighmareScape and Prince Janus to betray the Court and set Taiass up for failure. On Nathan’s word, the others sprang forward from the woods, and were eventually victorious over the dward and his kenku guards. The court upper agents saw the fight and awarded Taiass with a great honor. He was presented with a case containing the gear of an upper agent of the Court. Taiass now had the full respect of his great Court, although the trust of his friends was beginning to wane….just whose side was he fighting for?

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The Battle of Senia
A Frenzied Fight and A Friend Lost

After relaxing for a day in Mixed Bag from the excitement of gaining Ryu as an ally to their cause, the Calican military quickly caught up to speed with our intrepid heroes. Their next orders dispatched them to Eastern Zartinia, to the Ragnor province. Calican intelligence had discovered that in the town of Senia there was a residium mine, highly coveted by the manlin army. Indeed there had been sighting of Lania Lancaster and Zeric Lancaster, Talia’s parents and generals of Isorn’t’s army. It was rumored that the Lancasters were hoping to gain control of the residium mine in order to make some sort of powerful magical weaon. Quickly, the party made haste to Zartinia, although briefly Taiass Atwari broke rank from his comrades, explaining he had business to attend to but would meet them later in battle.

After almost two weeks of journey, Nathan Bishop, Kao-Tsu Quan,Talia Lancaster (Black), and Vivian arrived at the rocky Senia military outpost by a small riverbed. The Calican troops had already been fighting for days and were currently at a stalemate with the manlin and drow forces. Luckily, they had arrived in time; major battle was due to occur at any point! As Talia looked at the state of the troops around her and tried to find the person in charge, she realized, for the first time in her military career, she and her friends were the highest in rank and the sole commanding officers of this military operation. Nathan exchanged a glance with her and he nodded, stepping up to the plate of leadership and accepting the challenges ahead of him. Sgt. Gull Hallem, a up and coming Zartinian soldier, and Sgt. Unak, a grizzled old school Zartinian vet who had fought in the old war, informed Nathan and Kao-Tsu what sort of troops were ready for the battle. Archers, crossbowmen, and mages brought up the rear of the attacks while foot soldiers were plentiful in the front. Also a group named “Razor Squad”, comprised of swordmages, and a small but powerful squad of Zartinian rangers with Komodo dragons were at their disposal. After some light socialization with the troops to raise morale, the battle was about to commence!

First under Nathan’s leadership, the Calicans pressed forward on offense, attempting to take a hill leading to the mine. Unfortunately they spread themselves too thin and their ranks were split. Many Calican casualties were a consequence. Regardless, they pressed on and were able to defeat a powerful group of drow riders. Through this victory, they captured a critical bridge directly leading to the mine of Senia. After pressing forward, word reached the leaders. Taiass rushed to the front of their lines, back from his mysterious business and ready to help. They could either help interrogate a manlin prisoner giving their troops problems or they could help in the medical triage, where a disease called “the shakes” was affecting their troops. Kao-Tsu agreed, keeping the troops healthy was key to a victory. This choice proved to be a dismal one, as not only could they not prevent the disease from spreading, but Talia and Kao-Tsu fell ill themselves.

Despite their setbacks, the party was frantic to pull themselves together. Gull Hallem brought to their attention the news that a squad of drow was seen going under the city, through the sewers. This was surely their way of getting a surprise attack on the Callicans! Talia agreed to help lead Razor Squad in a secret attack to catch up with the drow and foil their plans. In the dark stank sewers, the squad had difficulty moving about and finding direction. Instead of finding drow they were able to cut off a group of manlin with cave trolls. After a strenuous battle that left the cave trolls scattered in the sewers, a huge explosion was heard from overhead. The ground shook, and the walls began to collapse and cave in around the leaders. Nathan and what little remained of Razor Squad was cut off from the rest of the party and was forced to retreat back to their main camp, trying to find a way out of the maze of sewers back up to the surface. Taiass, Vivian, Kao-Tsu, and Talia marched forward, weary and unhappy with their current situation.

It wasn’t long before the cave in cleared out and they were exposed to the open air. Kao-Tsu was astonished to see the city of Senia practically destroyed as if a nuclear reactor had exploded. The explosion had rutted out over a quarter of the city and turned it into rubble and ash. Both Calicans and manlin had died in the explosion, but apparently the destruction had made two people very happy. Lania and Zeric stood smiling coldly amist the devastation, thrilled at the results at their work. As Talia angrily confronted them and accused them of their evil misdeeds, she realized her mother was truly lost. Lania laughed at her daughter wildly as she spoke of her superiority as the matriarch of the Lancaster family. Zeric, sadness in his eyes, pleaded for his daughter to listen to reason and join their sides as the winning side of the war. Talia shook her head sadly. Her parents were dead to her after all. After a brief yet difficult fight on the edge of crater, Kao-Tsu and Vivian were able to push Lania and Zeric over the edge. As Talia peered over, she saw a shadowy web reach out and snatch up their figures before they hit the bottom of the cliff. This was not the last confrontation of the Lancasters, to be sure.

By the time Kao-Tsu, Taiass, Vivian, and Talia retreated to their home base and regrouped with Nathan, it was too late. Their army had been routed, the manlins had taken the residium mine of Senia, the Zartinians had suffered a huge military setback and almost half of their troops had been wiped out. Not only that, but Vivian was horrified to discover that her faithful retainer, Goo had taken a spear to the chest and had died of his wounds while she had been away fighting the Lancasters. There was nothing to do but pick up the remainder of the shattered pieces of their military and move on. Vivian wept tiny tears as Talia clenched her fists in anger as the men dug Goo’s grave in the rocky earth. Her parents would pay for what they had done to her and her family.

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Honor Regained
The Heart of the Meteor and a Rumble in the Park

Hustling through the midnight streets of Epinoch, the adventurers followed the golden streak in the sky left by the second meteor. This time, the falling rock had crashed through the roof of a home, decorated in the decor of the Dragon Mist Isles. As Kao-Tsu Quan gingerly opened the unlocked door, they saw the smoking meteor, this time with a kitana sticking out of the top….and also Shinzu Honda! The mob boss sneered at the group, proclaiming that since the meteor landed in his household it was his property. Taiass Atwari countered his argument, rationalizing that the contents of the new meteor could only belong to the man who came out of the original meteor: Ryu. Honda sourly disagreed with the argument, as evinced by the band of ninjas whom he ordered to attack the intruders to his home with deadly force! Luckily, Taiass, Kao-Tsu, and Talia Lancaster (Black) were able to hold off their attackers as Vivian flew up the stairs and went for a feral assault on Honda himself. The ninjas proved no mettle for the experienced crew, but Honda was able to throw the vicious pixie off of his neck and cowardly escape through a hidden doorway. The mob boss would live to see another day, but the magical sword of Ryu’s was in their possession!

Tired and bruised, the party once again began to head back to their hotel for a much needed rest, until partway there, a magical message echoed throughout the streets of Epinoch. From the heads of eerie green flaming skulls, floating out of thin air and hovering before every doorway, the voice of Lt. Azrael was heard. “For those who would harbor the legendary samurai Ryu Kitaru, know that I demand his presence and capture. I expect him delivered to me in Ybolitos Park by 1am, or else the dead of Epinoch shall rise from their graves and devour this very city. Know that one man is not worth the lives of many, no matter his greatness. You have one hour.” Taiass sighed. Rest was going to have to wait. Again. The heroes began to run to their hotel to find the samurai, but upon their arrival, Macgresh the cleric told them Ryu, having said it was the honorable thing to do, had left on his own accord to turn himself in to Azrael. Talia shook her head in disbelief. This was going from bad to worse.

It wasn’t long before the adventurers were at the park, heading toward a sickly green glow that pulsed with power and shone ominously in the dark sky. A fog rolled in, obscuring their vision of the sleeping animals in the zoo, who prowled their cages in fear, knowing something was afoot in their home. Vivian glanced about her nervously, knowing it was likely that she would have to fight her own that evening if the rumors of Lt. Azrael’s vampire entourage were true. Finally, in the center of the park, Kao-Tsu spotted the green beacon: A statue of Orion Rainblade. However, crucified to the statue by magical bonds and held by an unholy ritual was Ryu! Somehow, Azrael was siphoning off Ryu’s magical essence and channeling it to raise an undead creature from the lake. Azrael mocked the heroes as he raised his control rod, glowing emerald and rippling with magical energy. “It’s too late to stop me! The power of the dracolich will be mine, ALL MINE!” he screamed. Ryu turned his bleeding head to the heroes. “Please, my sword,” he begged of them. “If you kill me now, it will break the conduit and end his power over the dragon. But you must hurry!” The party exchanged silent glance, and after a second of hesitation, Talia took out Ryu’s kitana. “Forgive me,” she asked the hero as she looked into his eyes and drove the kitana into his chest.

As the blood gushed from Ryu, the magic from the kitana reacted and sparked the conduit of energy leading to the control rod. Ryu’s body slumped to the floor as his magical bonds released him from the arms of the statue of Orion. Talia staggered back, dropping the kitana. “No! No! You can’t take the control from me! Take them down!” Azrael ordered his retinue, who appeared out of the shadows, mouths frothing with hunger from the spilled blood of the fallen hero. Vivian flexed her claws and bared her fangs as Taiass prepared his mind for battle. He may be facing the great ones, but they were still after his blood, and Taiass would do anything to defend himself. Kao-Tsu and Talia stood back to back as the vampires encircled them. With a burst of fire breath from one side, and a swing of an arcane broadsword, the fight began! The death knight and his followers proved awesome combatants, and it took every resource of the heroes to take them out. But finally the battle was won, and as the party took but a moment to recover, the lake bubbled with magical energy and the dracolich loomed over them, snapping his jaws.

Suddenly, Ryu, still bleeding and grasping at his chest, leaped from the ground onto the tail of the beast. “Distract it! I can take it down if it is focused on you!” Kao-Tsu baited its attacks and dodged nimbly out of the way as the others took his lead, although Taiass and Talia fell prey to the vicious dragon’s breath. Vivian and Kao-Tsu somehow were able to by themselves take enough of the attention away from the dragon to give Ryu the chance he needed to get into position. Ryu, with a sudden burst of speed, ran up the back of the beast and with a single swipe, chopped the bone dragon’s head off cleanly and victoriously. The dragon’s skeleton dropped to the ground in a heap as the samurai stepped from the rubble of bone and magic and came forth unscathed. The heroes stood injured, but in amazement of the hero. Ryu held his heart, still bleeding, but it was clear from the magic that pulsated around him, he would survive this encounter. “You have helped me regain my honor. And for that, you deserve the gift of the heavens.” He plunged his kitana into the ground, and from the weapon, the remaining magic flowed through the ground and into the heroes, boosting their abilities and magical items. The aura depleted itself from Ryu and it was clear, he was now mortal in all sense of the word….but regardless, it was clear, the Calicans had gained a worthy ally in the war effort.

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A Samuri Lost....and Found
Parties, Auctions and Favors

The next day, Kao-Tsu Quan checked on the status of his friend, Nathan Bishop. Just as the monk had predicted, Nathan was in NO shape to attend a high society party. Disappointed, Talia Lancaster (Black) left the fighter to soak his throbbing head. At least it would be easier to try get a date to the auction without Nathan over her shoulder. The four friends stepped into the elderly Lady Crescent’s mansion, who inspected their invitation and creakily welcomed them to her abode. Taiass Atwari thanked the “great one”, kissed her hand and expressed his prior acquaintance with the Lady, to the surprise of the others. The lady also mentioned to Taiass that she may need his assistance with a delivery after the auction. Immediately upon entry, they split up and scoped the room for potential dates. Talia spent the night talking about her adventures and travels to the handsome yet foppish gentlemen, but eventually held the attention of a walrus-mustached older fellow. Her knowledge of fighting and arcana impressed the don, and he took her arm honorably and escorted her to the auction. Kao-Tsu, realizing most high society dames may reject him on sight due to his diminutive stature, caught the eye of an unlikely candidate-a half orc woman, who brightened on his approach. After getting into an arm wrestling contest and a foot race with the large lady, Kao-Tsu was able to secure his date without a hitch, as she planted a wet kiss on his forehead and threw him into her carriage. Taiaiss set his goals higher-a beautiful woman, holding her head high and proud as she rejected suitor after suitor. At first his flirtations were accepted and all seemed to be going swimmingly…until he went for a walk with the woman and plucked her a sunflower. “No, I’m allergic!!” the girl wailed, as her face exploded in hives. “Get this elf AWAY from me!!” Taiass was thrown out by the guards, simultaneously as a tiny pixie hit the dirt. “Apparently no one accepts shoulder pixies as the newest fashion here,” grumbled Vivian. “No accounting for taste! I’m the prettiest thing in there!”. Taiass helped her up. They would have to find their own way into the auction. As a nobleman blustered past Taiass, complaining mightily to his carriage driver, a swift knock on the head took care of the problem and a nobility badge was procured. Next stop: the auction of Vax Lamont!

As Kao-Tsu and Talia settled into their seats next to their dates and Vivian and Taiass slipped in to the back of the hall, they looked around them. Several people of note were attending the auction: Shinzu Honda, a Shogun of the Dragon Mist Isles, and also an underground mob boss; Parrel, a red robed mage from the Shifting Sands; and Lt. Azrael, a blackguard from the Nightmare Scape, rumored to halve a retinue of vampires attending him. Whatever the grand prize was, it was sure drawing a lot of attention from many well off people! As the bidding began, Talia noticed one of the items was General Tavor Kel‘s frost blade. “Perhaps it was true that the General fell in battle”, she thought to herself. Finally, after a few hours, the grand prize was revealed. Vax Lamont wheeled out a large cage with a red cloth covering it. “So now, we come to the heart of this auction, and all you have been waiting for!” the halfling declared with a dramatic flourish of his hand. “He fell from the sky only a few nights ago in a crash larger than the heavens! To the highest bidder, you shall receive the most loyal of followers. I give you….the legendary samurai, RYU KITARU!” Lamont unveiled the cage, and the samurai in red armor from Talia’s vision stood in the cell, breathing heavily, eyes darting from side to side. Talia and Kao-Tsu looked at each other. It would be VERY BAD if any of the others in the room were able to procure the warrior before they were. The bidding was fierce and fast, but eventually with a bid of 28,000 gold (practically wiping out their military stipend), they were able to win the auction.

As the room cleared, Taiass, Vivian, Kao-Tsu, and Talia marched up to the stage and Vax Lamont handed them to the key. They freed Ryu, who agreed to be bonded to the Calicans, but the samurai seemed disheartened and weak. In fact as they walked back to their carriage, Ryu collapsed and fainted. “Let’s get back to the hotel, if everyone wants Ryu so badly as long as we are in this town we have targets on our heads!” Talia exclaimed. Indeed, it didn’t take long before their carriage was attacked by none other than Parrel and his mage cronies. The adventurers were able to apprehend the mage lord in training, who confessed that Sh’rayas the Sylvan had ordered him to apprehend Ryu, no matter the cost. Kao-Tsu and Vivian escorted the mage prisoner back to General Lang to send him back to the camp to receive Calican justice, while Taiass and Talia went back to the hotel to let Ryu rest and call for a doctor or cleric.

Taiass mentioned to Talia that he had one more mission of the evening. Lady Crescent had asked of him to travel to her mansion after the auction for a favor. Upon their return, she greeted the elf happily and mentioned to Talia that she should use her noble birth name, “Lancaster”, instead of the false surname, “Black”. Taiass raised his eyebrows in surprise. Apparently there was more that he did not know about his traveling companions! Talia looked to the ground sheepishly, and explained to Lady Crescent that the name Lancaster had been abjured by her for a reason, and to please not use that name in her presence. Regardless, the tender old woman gave her instructions to Taiass. She needed 2 boxes delivered to a merchant and to a halfling, and the contents of the boxes were to remain a secret. They were to collect the funds the merchants owed the Lady, and for their work they would be rewarded. Taiass agreed to the work, and they regrouped with the others. Kao-Tsu was found drinking with the cleric of Avandra that was sent for Ryu, and Vivian…..was nowhere to be seen. As they left the hotel, the pixie whizzed past them, giggling happily. In her arms was a small bunny rabbit. “This is Princess Diamond Tiara!” the pixie exclaimed. “Isn’t he just perfect??!?” As Kao-Tsu reached down to pet the small animal, a pair of fangs glinted in the starlight and the rabbit chomped down on his finger. Apparently this vampire rabbit was going to be a bit of a handful.

Although not all went well on Lady Crescent’s deliveries (the halfling refused to pay them and they were forced to fight him in a sewer), regardless, they job was done to the best of their abilities. The cargo got where it needed to be, and Kao-Tsu didn’t even peek at the packages’ content. They returned back to the mansion and received their reward. As they tiredly headed back to the hotel very late into the night, a shining streak of red stretched across the sky. Yet ANOTHER meteor had landed in Mixed Bag! They turned about face and ran in the direction of the meteor’s blazing trail in the sky. If someone was the first to check out this new meteor, it was going to be the adventurers from Calica!

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Intrigue in Epinoch
A Meteor Falls in Mixed Bag

Back in the Calican camp, the party split apart briefly to explore their next goals. Vivian was thrilled to find a stowaway in Talia’s bag of holding: Shozen, the stag spirit of the forest! He bowed in reverence to the tiny vampire, declaring his allegiance to the one who fought valiantly against the darkness that had plagued and eventually killed his home. Since he no longer had a forest, he would prefer to stay with the pixie. Vivian clapped her hands in happiness….after all, the white stag was so very pretty!

Meanwhile, Taiass Atwari and Talia Lancaster (Black) presented the notebook of Gull Sunelle (RIP) to Belcoot and General Lang, who poured over the notes, learning the powerful stances and tactics. Their mission to the island had not been a complete failure after all; in fact, the military had gained quite a bit of knowledge!

Kao-Tsu Quan took the unconscious body of Gwendolyn Grimthorne (RIP) to Arthur Kayin Macbeth, hoping that he could somehow save the poor wilden. Sadly, Arthur told the monk that her spirit had long left her flesh. What was left behind was only a splintered piece of the woman that he had once called friend. To bring her back permanently would be impossible, but it would be possible to see her again for a moment. Kao-Tsu agreed to the proposed ritual, and within a minute, Gwendolyn opened her eyes for a brief goodbye. She assured Kao-Tsu not to be sad or blame himself for her death, that she had died with pride and now her spirit could be with her goddess. From her body she picked a single blooming flower, asking Kao-Tsu to always remember her. Kao-Tsu accepted the gift, tears in his eyes, vowing to one day plant the bud in Calica.

Nathan had the difficult mission of telling his father the truth about Nella Sunelle. He broke the news down to Richard reasonably but gently, explaining that even if his father did not accept the girl into their family, he had regardless made a promise to a man on his deathbed that he would help raise her and care for her. Nella was not going to just disappear. Nthan explained, that despite what anger and resentment Richard may feel when he sees the child of his wife’s indiscretion, the girl deserves better respect and honor, as she still has his mother’s blood within her veins. Richard took a long moment, looked at Nella, and embraced the girl gently, kissing her forehead, in a tender familial moment. The Bishop family would sustain.

Later on that evening, the party gathered back together to discuss the events that had transpired. Just as they were discussing where their next steps would lead them, Talia received a vision from Wee Jas, indicating another hero displaced from their time and dimension! In the prophecy, she saw walking lost amongst the streets of Mixed Bag, a human samurai dressed in red armor. She snapped awake and knew their next location was destined to be the capitol of Mixed Bag: Epinoch!

  • * * * *

Thankfully, General Lang agreed to fly the adventurers to Epinoch (a 3 weeks roc flight away). November 14th, they arrived in the capitol of Nevermore’s quirkiest country. The town was dark and foggy, and as they entered the gates Kao-Tsu noticed a relaxed attitude of the guard, quite uncommon and different from Calica. In a matter of moments they discovered why the guard was so lax. As they witnessed a man thief a passerby’s wallet and attempt to knife his target, suddenly a low and empty voice uttered the phrase “Violence detected”. A huge clay golem flew from the sky downward in a whirl, smashing his fist into the thief’s skull. A clap and cheer rose up around the adventurers. “Hooray for the Mud Boys!” a woman cackled. “They never let ’em go!” Kao-Tsu and Talia exchanged a glance. This was not a sight they were used to for sure. By talking (and by bribing) a nearby merchant for information, they were quick to discover that the Mud Boys were the protectors of the city. Any violence they were able to detect within 100 meters radius, and their form of punishment was permanent. Despite this harshness, the people of Epinoch were very happy with their zero level tolerance of criminals. It kept the streets safe and the citizens happy. The golems were invented by the founder of the city, an eladrin named Orin Rainblade (the great great grandfather of Kyleen Rainblade (RIP)), and thier magic had sustained for thousands of years. The Mud Boys were forrmed from a magic well of clay, and despite the magical enchantment beginning to fade (the golems over time had gotten smaller), they were still quite powerful magical beings. The merchant also filled them in on the different sections of Mixed Bag.

Just as the mercant finished talking, a courier rushed up to greet them. He carried on his back a weighty treasure chest. He explained in a breathless voice that he had been traveling for weeks trying to catch up with them. Belcoot wished to give them their long overdue military stipend, and he had been charged with delivery as soon as possible. He handed over the chest, and the adventurers were thrilled with what was inside: 30,000 gold pieces! Kao-Tsu hugged the messenger in gratitude. Finally, something to celebrate!

Also the biggest news in Epinoch was that a meteor had landed near the shores of Lake Boke and supposedly it was made of immovable material. Upon investigation of the meteor, it was indeed impenetrable material and as Talia noticed, overwhelmingly magical in origin! Indeed, the meteor itself had been cracked open, and as Taiass looked closer, he formulated the idea that whatever was once inside this meteor had been taken out….or had escaped somehow. Unable to do anything about it, Vivian and Talia headed back to their hotel (a swanky establishment in the good part of town called “Hotel Rose Pierre” known for it’s 5 star restaurant and natural hot springs and indoor pool), while Kao-Tsu, Taiass, and Nathan scoped out the seedier parts of town…but with more of a reason to find a tavern there rumored to have the best ribs and ale in town. Dressed to the nines, Vivian and Talia settled down for a nice girl’s night in with fine wine and an elegant meal. While at the hotel, Vivian overheard the nobility speaking about a party being held the next day by a woman called Lady Crescent. Supposedly, after the shindig, a halfling noble named Vax Lamont would be holding an auction of magical items, at which the grand prize to be auctioned off was rumored to be whatever was salvaged from the meteor! Only those attending having an invite to Lady Crescent’s party would be able to attend the auction, and even those invited would only be able to attend the auction if they had a date with nobility or were nobility themselves! Digesting this crucial information, Talia was able to pilfer an invitation off of a soused noblewoman distracted by her fashionable “shoulder pixie” (aka Vivian). Step one was complete-now they would just have to work hard at the party to get dates! As Talia and Vivian walked back to their hotel room, Kao-Tsu and Taiass, both inebrieated, dragged in the unconscious form of Nathan. “Those six buckets of ribs were a little too much for him” chuckled Kao-Tus. “Plus he got into a drinking contest with a coal miner….he may not be in the best of shape tomorrow….I’ve had hangovers before, but never a RIB hangover!” Clearly a good time was had by all, but some may need more recovery than others.
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