Calica

Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.

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Minotaur Isle
The Slow Boat to Sian....with a detour

5/22/11
Last we left our adventurers, Nathan, Kao-Tsu, and Talia were left with the tattered notebook of Gwendolyn, not knowing if she was alive or dead, but knowing she was certainly in trouble. They also knew that Diamond Lil’s pirate army had arrived magically in Sternberg….but how to get the pirate captain to meet with her crew was unknown. Unable to do much more than search and hope, Kao-Tsu sent his monks out to gather more information on the wildens and the whereabouts of Gwendolyn. After hearty discussion, a decision was reached. Lil was to cut through the Meadowlands and Zartinia by foot, guarded by Richard, Belcoot, Magog, and Logg, hoping that a small party could sneak through enemy territory easier than a large convoy. Meanwhile, Nathan, Kao-Tsu, and Talia would go by ship to the Sian Republic, hoping to gain their allegiance in the war by using Lil’s reputation as a pirate captain as leverage for the island nation. Together, the armies would be able to route the forces of the enemy and hopefully gain a foothold at least on the seas of Nevermore.

The 3 PCs set sail on a tiny crab fishing ship, “The Icicle”, which stopped, to Talia’s chagrin, to ice fish in the amidst their adventure. In the middle of the night, a strange light appeared in the distance from an island. Upon investigation, a spirit inhabited Talia and told the party to head to the island to awaken a hero. By morning the small vessel had reached the magical isle, which despite the cold weather elsewhere, had a tropical climate. Cutting through the balmy trees, Kao-Tsu spied a tribe of minotaurs performing some sort of ritual with a golden pyramid in the distance. After a quick skirmish and some confusion, the shaman leader of the minotaurs listened to the story of the spirit leading the adventurers to the island. He suggested that Talia inhale a natural drug which would not harm her, but take her on a spirit journey to explain why they were being lead to the island.

Talia breathed in the smoke from the strange liquid, and quickly fell into a trance-like state. She had visions of the enemies of Calica: a man in red, threatening her life; an assassin lurking in the shadows, throwing shakrams; and the former king of Calica at the head of a massive manlin, drow, and wilden army. His name, his true name, came to her in a flash: Isorn’t. Suddenly, the vision changed and she saw her goddess, Wee Jas, before her. The goddess of death and magic explained that Isorn’t had made a deal with Dagon, the evil god of the Sea, and Grumsh, the god of the orcs and goblins. If those gods gave Isorn’t the power to overtake all of Nevermore, he would help them in their war in the other realm to gain power over the other gods. Wee Jas could not completely interfere with Isorn’t’s plans; however, she could help the adventurers by resurrecting former heroes from other worlds who would help in the battle against the manlin army. Lil was the first. The pyramid on Minotaur Isle held the second. Not only did Talia, Kao-Tsu, and Nathan have the hopes of the people of Calica to succeed; they also had the hopes of the gods.

As Talia awoke from her trance, she explained to her concerned friends what she saw in her visions. The minotaur shaman agreed to let the 3 adventurers travel to the pyramid, as long as they were respectful and would protect the tomb, as it was sacred to their clan. Upon approaching the edifice, they noticed a golden idol being stolen by two troublesome twin rogues! Verbal negotiations failed, and aggressive negotiations followed. The villains were slain, and Nathan replaced the idol. An ornate carved coffin rose from the center of the pyramid, and the nervous adventurers opened the lid. From the coffin rose a noble looking man, dark blonde of hair and beard, with a regal expression on his face. “Where am I, and why have you awoken Arthur Kaiyen Macbeth?”

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Perils in Pirate Province
Appeasing the Pirate King and a Dark Ally Emerges

When Arthur arose, the adventurers quickly gained him up to speed on their current situation. The powerful cleric of Odin quickly agreed to ally himself to their cause, seeing his resurrection as a clear sign from his god. Two weeks quickly passed, and the tiny Icicle finally reached it’s destination: the Sian Republic. They made port on the large isle of Cryana, where they were met with much debauchery and besotted pirates. After intimidating some drunkards, Nathan was able to discover that Sian was “ruled” over by a Pirate King, who lives in a palace on the highest hill in town. Rule was a loose term; the pirate king more provided quidelines for the scoundrels to live in somewhat peace, so as total anarchy did not preside. As our intrepid trio made their way up the hill, they realized the palace was a piecemeal mansion, with a foundation of stolen architecture. They were quickly stopped at the main gates by a swaggart pirate guard, who agreed to listen to their cause inside before taking them to the King.

The guard, once inside and comfortable with a glass of wine served to him by a senile servant, seemed at least minorly interested in the tales of wartime and the pleas to gain the pirates allegiance to Calica. However, he maintained that the Sian Republic planned to continue to be a sovereign nation; no matter who won the war, they would operate in the same fashion: as pirates, not privateers to an army-especially not to the loosing side of an army. As a bargaining chip, Talia mentioned the appearance of Diamond Lil and her pirate armada. But the guard pointed out, why would he be interested in heresay of a pirate woman who “might” exist? Just as the adventurers began to loose hope, a familar voice cut through the air as the Pirate King tore off his costume as a servant. Jack Sparrow tottered down the staircase towards the party. He explained that in his days of being King, the years were getting mundane, and between looting, pillaging, and stealing, he was beginning to long for some comfort and hominess…..in other words, he was ready to settle down with a wife. And if this Diamond woman would be willing to pledge herself to him, well then, he would do the same to their cause. Providing he got half of her troops as well. And half of her gold. Savy?

Kao-Tsu, Nathan, and Talia left the hodgepodge mansion, musing over what had occurred. If they could get Lil to marry Jack, they would have the navy to rival any nation….if. Wondering what their next step would be, they went to gather supplies and to find a ship heading to Sternberg, when Nathan discovered an odd site-a heavily injured drow in a tavern, pleading with people for assistance. The drow claimed to be from the Shifting Sands, where unbenounced to most people, the psions had staged a coup against the mage lords, and had taken over the country with the assistance of many dark elves lead by Zula. He insisted his master was one of the remaining mage lords left still alive, and he was taken by the evil drow as hostage to the Sian Republic, where he could be held as far away from the other mage lords as possible. If the adventurers would be willing to help him find his master, they could return to the Sands and start a rebellion against Zula. When Talia asked the name of his master, he replied “S’hrayas the Sylvan”. Just as he uttered the name, the strange spirit of Wee Jas again overcame Talia for a quick instant, and the party knew that this was a sign. S’hrayas was one that they could not ignore. The servant weakly explained that S’hrayas could be in 2 places on the tiny island of Ismelt in Sian: a cave or with a prisoner transfer. As he painfully uttered his final words, tiny spiders burst from his mouth and devoured him as Loth got her revenge on the rebel drow.

The party, shaken by what just occurred, quickly left the tavern to catch a ferry for Ismelt. Kao-Tsu was able to hire some expert trackers to follow 3 groups that were leading the prisioner transport, while the party went on to explore the cave. Unfortunately, drow were waiting in the cave to ambush them, and although the battle was won against the elves, 3 vicious hook horrors awaited in the next cave, which almost proved too much for the adventurers. With Nathan unconscious, a bloodied Kao-Tsu and Talia were forced to retreat into the woods. Not long after, warning horns were heard, and a search party spread out of the cave. The party was forced to retreat back to the docks of Ismelt to heal up and plan their next move, knowing that their failure has made things much more difficult to save S’hrayas.

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Perchance to Dream
Trapped in Heaven's Box

As the three adventurers fell to a wearied sleep in the tavern on Ismalt after the hook horror fight (not quite sure who was on watch, Kao-Tsu or Talia)….they all awoke to a very unexpected scenario.

Nathan roused, his wounds all healed, in his home in Calica. As he peered out his bedroom window, he saw his the figure of his father in the garden, looking fit and limber, with the city walls rising in the background, and no noticiable signs of war. The smell of Mom’s homecooked breakfast hit him, and he wandered down the stairs, confused and untrusting of his surroundings, despite the obvious comfortable scenario presented to him. He pushed his way past his younger siblings, and as he passed a mirror, he noticed he his face looked younger….almost 2 years younger. Richard addressed him with a hearty hello, and as Nathan leaned on the garden wall, contemplating the world around him, Indy barked and greeted his master. “Hey Dad,” Nathan commented, “…hell of a thing if war broke out, huh?”

Kao-Tsu heard the bells of the monastary as he opened his eyes. Master Fong banged on his door, “Kao-Tsu! You are Late for morning exercises! WAKE UP!” Kao-Tsu stumbled off his cot, rubbing his eyes in confusion. He ran to the courtyard, where he found all of the monks in training, including his hated rival, Han Li. He quickly asked the date of a passing monk, and realized he had somehow been transported to Calica before the war had broken out! He ran out of the monastary, giving a hasty excuse to Master Fong. Was Nathan also transported to this time? Did anyone else remember the past two years? And was Han Li somehow responsible for all of this?

Talia was shaken into consciousness by her brother, Terrance. She immediatlely panicked, once Terrance told her the date. Her parents must be stopped from destroying the town of Aria and killing her brother! She ran down the stairs and tore apart their magicical lab….only to find no evidence of any evil whatsoever. Zeric and Lania confronted their daughter after her destruction of their room, and as she accused them of plotting their atrocities, she realized something felt…different. She had to go to Calica, to see if Nathan and Kao-Tsu even remembered her! She forced Terrance to go with her, not trusting her parents and promising to explain her actions on the long horseride to the capital.

Kao-Tsu and Nathan met in the town square in front of Needles. They both remembered the past two years, but what had sent them back to it? Was this real or a figment of their imagaination? Could they somehow change their futures? Nathan, emotional over the return of Indy, decided it would be better to have a flaming gagog. Or seven. And for once Kao-Tsu was the sober one, as he left the tavern and tried to talk to Master Fong. He realized that he had still kept his talents from the past two years. However, Kao-Tsu discovered, the Master will always be better than the pupil. A few hours later, Talia caught up with them. As she reconciled with her friends, Indy started to act strangely, barking at Terrance… The adventurers discussed that maybe their best move was to stick together, and figure out how this world differed from their normal lives two years ago. Terrance agreed to go back to Talia’s parents, to figure out if anything magical could have caused their displacement. They stayed the night at Nathan’s home, worried about how to get back home…and if they really wanted to leave this version of Calica with no war, manlins, and evil kings. Or in Talia’s case, a world where she was never cursed to die by an evil drow, her parents were loving, and her brother alive.

The next morning, they all agreed to see the leader, in this world Queen Rainblade. As they headed towards the castle, the town guard called for aid. Briar hags were attacking the city! The three engaged the enemy, defending their hometown of Calica even in this strange parallel universe. As the hags were defeated, Kao-Tsu noticed a strange emblem on their bodies. A symbol of the house of Han Li! They rushed toward the monastary, but it was too late. Han Li had murdered all of the monks, including Master Fong! Han Li really had been behind it all, just as Kao-Tsu expected! Talia and Nathan exchanged a glance, as Indy barked at every passer by. This just seemed like it was too much to be true…

Talia suggested they head back to Aria, to see if her parents had figured out anything yet about the magic around them. When they reached the Lancaster estate, her parents explained that something seemed off about the three of them. Their magical energies and auras were totally different from everything around them. Indy began to elevate his barking and growling at everyone, and suddenly it came to Nathan. Perhaps this world was created to make them comfotable, to placate them….it was like a version of their wants and desires, played out before them! The world started to intensify around them. Talia’s parents started to demand that she wanted to stay with them, and with her brother. Master Fong appeared before Kao-Tsu, saying it was all Han Li’s fault, and only Kao-Tsu could avenge him. Richard materialized, asking wasn’t it better to live with family in a world with no war? The three forced themselves out of the dream world, and with a snap, found themselves back into a cold reality.

Seamus Alexander stood on a cupola above them, shouting to his minions, who scurried on the floor near the three adventurers just now rousing from their long dream. “What could have gone wrong? How could they have escaped the ’Heaven’s Box’? Damn you Arco del Finneus, your magic has failed me again!” Anger filled Nathan, Kao-Tsu, and Talia as they tore needles out of their skin and arose from the chilly experimental tables. Seamus Alexander was about to get more of a fight from them than he had bargained for.

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Secrets and Chases
A New Companion and the Search for Sh'rayas

Talia Lancaster (Black), Kao-Tsu Kwan, Nathan Bishop seethed with rage as they got up from Seamus Alexander’s testing tables. Unfortunately, the room was swarming with Alexander’s peons, githyanki guards who were not about to let their subjects escape unharmed. Seamus watched over the battle, confident that his minions would dispatch of the targets, as the three adventurers were already injured and away from their weaponry and armour. The fire mage flashed an evil smile, and left the scene, sure of his victory. True enough, Kao-Tsu and Talia fell unconscious in battle, overwhelmed by the mass of fighters Alexander left them. Nathan glanced out from under his tower shield, his confidence waning, as he tried to slow the wounds on his fallen companions. Things did not look so good.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Nathan saw a shadow of movement as a small creature dropped from the ceiling, taking out the minions. But what was that? A flash of blood, the flying movement of a bat, and the githyanki were screaming as they were eradicated by a mysterious diminutive foe. After the carnage had been dealt, Nathan stared in disbelief and horror, as a tiny pixie stood in the wake of the blood of his enemies. A tiny VAMPIRE pixie.

The vampire cheerily explained after wiping the blood from her claws that she had been sent by her master to watch over Talia. Nathan warily wondered why and indeed who her master was, but he kept his questions to himself, since the pixie (named Vivian) HAD just saved his life. A few hours later, Talia and Kao-Tsu awoke. When confronted by Nathan as to who exactly this vampire was and what her purpose was, Talia clammed up. She told the party that Yoreth had sent Vivian, and that Vivian would pose no danger to them….but her secretive reasons for having a vampire companion were deeply personal and would be explained later. Kao-Tsu was hurt by her decision to remain private, but when Nathan promised him a steak dinner back in town that helped.

Later on that night, the adventurers regrouped at the tavern. In a private conversation, Talia explained to Nathan her motivations. After Nathan had left the group, Talia and Kao-Tsu adventured briefly with Yoreth. Talia discovered that even though he was a vampire, Yoreth was able to retain his humanity and personality as an undead creature. It was then she thought of a loophole to her curse. The drow said that Talia would die from the curse….but how could she die if she has already been made undead? Talia asked Yoreth to make her into a vampire if by March 26th she had not discovered a way to undo the drow’s pact. Yoreth was against the idea, but he did not tell her outright “no”. That was the last Talia had seen of Yoreth. Vivian was sent by Yoreth to bring Talia over if the time is right, and also to show her the ways of the vampire, so that she can make the final choice for herself.

Talia, head down in shame, went on to explain that since that dark conversation with Yoreth, she has been changed. She does not DESIRE to become a vampire, but this has to be kept open as a last resort, only if she has not had the time in her short life to confront her parents for the evils that they have done. Nathan raised her head up, and told her firmly that she would not have to make that choice, because together, they WOULD find a way to take away the death curse. Tears in her eyes, Talia nodded firmly.

Meanwhile, back in the tavern, Kao-Tsu became aquainted with Vivian and her hunchback manservant, Goo. The next day (or night rather, as they must now travel under cover of darkness), the party heard back from their trackers that a prisoner had recently been taken aboard a sloop that sailed out of port that evening. It could only be Sh’rayas! It was time to follow that boat! They quickly hired the crew of the “Slippery Shoe” to track the prisoner’s ship down. After some difficulties with a fierce summer storm, our intrepid heroes were able to board and fight the drow sailors and their blademaster captain. They were all to enjoy a glorious victory in battle, only to discover a ruse! Sh’rayas was only meant to APPEAR to be transferred to this boat. In reality, he had been taken by the drow to the prison “Hazareth Nor”, a hidden Zartinian war prison on an island. The problem being, no one knows where the island is……EXCEPT Zartinians. Which leaves our heroes with only one option. About face, and straight on towards Zartinia itself!

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Zartinian Bound

Our intrepid heroes made port in Zartinian dock, quickly realizing that the old grudges between Calicans and Zartinians were not forgotten. Not a smile was seen in their direction, especially when the broad shield of the Bishops was proudly displayed on Nathan’s back. Efforts were made to have a meeting with the high council of Zartinia, only to be tied in the red tape of bureaucracy. Luckily palms could still be greased, and a bribe rushed their request forward. The only disadvantage was that they would be at the beck and call of the council, with little notice of their council meeting time. The adventurers settled down in a tavern, hoping it would not take long, as the xenophobic glares continued from the Zartinian bar patrons.

Talia decided to use this down time to tell her secret to Kao-Tsu. The conversation went very differently than her talk with Nathan. Kao-Tsu argued that not only had she been keeping secrets from him, which was dangerous and hurtful enough, but if she became a vampire, who knows what would actually happen to her and how she might be changed! Talia, upset and ashamed at her actions, tried to apologize, but the hurt had already been done. Kao-Tsu drowned his anger in alcohol, as Talia isolated herself from the party, trying to give him space.

It was of course at this tender moment the High Council of Zartinia agreed to see them. The four adventurers bonded together and pleaded their case to the council. They explained that as part of the war effort and as they were representing the Calican Military, the council had the responsibility to disclose the secret location of the Hazarath Nor prison, which had been compromised by drow and was holding a prisoner of war whom they needed to recapture. The Council coolly denied their request, claiming that the location of the prison was lost to all, except maybe it’s creator, General Lang. And General Lang had retired and was under protective custody. Despite their pleadings, their requests were denied, and the council threw their case out unfulfilled.

The party trudged back to the tavern in a horrible mood. What would their next step be? Suddenly, out of the shadows, a Zartinian stepped out. He told them reassuredly that he had heard what they had asked the council, and he was here to help them. He explained he was Lt. Dune and knew the location of General Lang, whom he was sure would help their cause as a matter of patriotism to stop the war (and perhaps for a bit of adventure in his old age as well). He gave the party a map with the location of General Lang, wished them luck, and Lt. Dune vanished back into the shadows.

That night, everyone’s moods were sour, despite Nathan trying to boost their morale. They followed the map into the wilderness of Zartinia, and vanquished General Lang’s bodyguards in a tough fight. After entering the rickety house in the middle of nowhere, General Lang greeted them with a sardonic smile, and invited them in for a drink, which gratefully Kao-Tsu drank. Lang recognized their strength, for they defeated his guards, but not their intelligence. As he said that, Kao-Tsu passed out from drinking the poisoned brandy. Immediately more on their guard (and upset at his trickery), Talia and Vivian explained what they needed as Nathan took Kao-Tsu outside to recover. General Lang sat back. This would be a difficult challenge, he explained. He could take them to the prison, for he knew where it was. However, getting into it was another story. The walls are totally smooth, the prison is surrounded by cannons, the bottom of the prison is mined, and only one door can be opened from outside. Not to mention that once they were inside (had they the lucky chance to break in successfully), their only chance of recapturing the prison would be to break into the warden’s office and get the mechanical/magical hybrid controller of the floating prison. Which only HE knew how to work. So unless he went along, their chance of survival were nill.

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Breaking and Taking
Hazareth Nor, the Floating Fortress

After some debate (and to Nathan’s chagrin), everyone agreed to allow General Lang to accompany them into the Zartinian prison. Lang explained that they would need to leave immediately, and they would travel through the nighttime air on his “pet” roc, Duncan. As the approached from above, Duncan would drop barrels of a sticky pink substance (created by Lang) that should cover about 10 feet of the smooth wall of the prison. The substance would allow their momentum to stop and let them cling to the surface of the prison where they could then access a hidden side entrance that Lang knew existed. However, if they missed their target by even a foot….splat.
Everyone nodded somberly, although Vivian giggled to herself. A vampire bat would have no problem flying straight in! She had another trick up her sleeve too, but that would be saved for an emergency.

Kao-Tsu, Nathan, and Talia looked at each other warily as they hovered over Hazareth Nor on Duncan’s feathery back from 100 ft up in the air. The fall was far. It was dangerous and deadly….this was one crazy mission! Nathan gritted his teeth. Nothing ventured……he dropped into a free fall. Kao-Tsu and Talia were fast on his tail. The three spun through the air, trying to straighten their bodies as the wind whipped them about, and Vivian, in her bat form, kept a safe yet cautious distance. Kao-Tsu was the first to land, the monk landing dexterously right on target. Talia and Nathan shoulder blocked each other as they careened to the ground, getting further and further from their designated drop. Could this be the end? Talia squished her eyes shut as the ground grew closer, and suddenly she started to think….happy thoughts? She looked around in wonderment, as gold pixie dust thrown from Vivan enabled her to fly to a safe landing. Nathan was not so lucky. He landed with a crash, and if it had been anyone else but the dreadnaught fighter, they would have not been around to tell their tale. He shrugged off his wounds. To Nathan, it was but a heavy scratch. After a rest, the party was ready to infiltrate the prison.

Right away, they found their drow enemies had infested the prison. General Lang took them directly to the warden’s office, which was heavily guarded. Kao-Tsu was able to sneak up and destroy a panel with a mechanical alarm, which solidified their success and the drow guards were easily finished off. Lang found his control device for the fortress, which could drive the floating prison where ever he wanted it to go, or could even make the prison self destruct! They also discovered that the new warden of the prison was none other than Zula. Talia narrowed her eyes. Her revenge on the matron would have to wait until Sh’rayas was in their custody.

The adventurers looked at General Lang’s map of the prison. Sh’rayas was likely being held in the maximum security ward, which was pregnable by a secret hallway the General knew about. The faction was able to break into the ward, but the drow guards proved too much for the heroes, as Talia and Vivian succumbed to the sleeping poison of the drow arrows. Kao-Tsu and Nathan retreated in to the hallway. Things did not look good! As they further retreated back to the warden’s office and the girls awoke, it was no longer a question of how to free Sh’rayas, but how to escape with their lives.

Once arriving at the warden’s office, a stand-down was eminent. Out of the drow soldiers strode Zula, head held high with a cruel smile on her face. She proudly proclaimed the she would have 5 new prisoners for her master. Her eyes caught Talia’s. “Although this one will not last that long. Lloth will claim your life soon. And when she does, you will know the pain of those who defy the spider queen!” Talia looked the drow straight in the eyes, and spat in her face. Zula turned away in disgust, but as she wiped her face, she laughed. “It matters not. I have you all trapped, and there is nothing you can do about it!”

General Lang started to laugh. Not quite, he explained. The device in his hand held the capabilities to direct the island where ever he wanted, but it also could blow them to smithereens! Zula called Lang’s bluff. What would be the point to destroying all of their lives? Lang looked down, hesitating, as he realized he could not pull the trigger. Suddenly, Kao-Tsu with a wild look in his eyes, grabbed the controller. If Lang couldn’t do it, HE would! He would blow them all to pieces! Just try him! He was one craaaaaazy monk pushed to the brink and this was his last stand. Zula would have no choice. She had crossed the wrong man on his last desperate rope!

Zula blinked. This one was real, and she could not tell his motivations. The rest of the party sensed her weakness and strengthened Kao-Tsu’s claim. Retreat was her only option to save face and walk away with her troops! Zula considered, and looked into Kao-Tsu’s savage and untamed eyes. Indeed. Better to fight another day than to all be destroyed. She ordered the troops full retreat onto their ships.

After the drow left, Nathan mentioned to Kao-Tsu, “What a great bluff! For a second there, we really believed you!, Kao-Tsu!”

“Bluff?” the monk replied.

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Calica Fights On
The Great Sea Battle Commences

As Kao-Tsu, Nathan, Talia, and Vivan sailed Hazarath Nor to Sternberg, they used the time to build stronger bonds of friendship. Kao-Tsu and Talia were able to talk out their earlier argument, with Talia swearing to stop keeping secrets and to trust more in her friends, and Kao-Tsu promising to tolerate and accept Vivian’s help and place in their adventuring party. Nathan and Vivian got to know each other a little better, although Vivian continued to be somewhat elusive about her past. However, no one was able to meet with Sh’rayas the Sylvan, who was quite weakened and was still recovering from his mistreatment by the evil drow. General Lang also took his leave of the crew, promising to meet up with the army after returning to his home in Zartinia to get further supplies and intel that would help the military forces. Two weeks flew by, and they arrived at Sternberg, sailing triumphantly into the harbor capital of Raftfleet.

Kao-Tsu immediately ran off of the boat to find the happy arms of Lun Raftfleet and celebrated their happy reunion after months of being apart. Talia, Vivian, and Nathan were greeted more somberly by Richard Bishop and Gagog, who swiftly escorted the party to a war council. The council was surprisingly being lead by Belcoot, who in their absence had been promoted to the rank of Commander of the Calican Military! Belcoot welcomed their presence and acknowledged their help gratefully, but quickly got to business detailing the plan of action. The Calicans, Zartinians, Sternberg, and the army of Diamond Lil were to travel immediately to help defend Sohma, which was under attack by the enemy fleet outside of the border of Sohma and Zartinia. Since the bulk of their current military strength lay in their navy, they were hoping for a decisive victory, which would secure them as a threat to the dominance of the Manlin and Shifting Sands allegiance. Each capable officer in the military would be assigned their own ship. Because strong leaders were integral to the success of this military operation, Belcoot promoted Nathan to the rank of Lieutenant! This naval battle would be a key decisive victory in shaping the history of Calica. With that in mind, Belcoot wished them all luck, dismissed them, and told them they would be dispatching within the next 1-2 days.

After the meeting, Kao-Tsu caught up with his monks, whom he had dispatched months earlier to unearth what had happened to Gwendolyn. Unfortunately, they did not bear good tidings. The monks divulged that they had discovered the wildens had all awoken suddenly and seemed to pledge their allegiance to the Manlin forces. There were rumors of one wilden woman, who, despite being taken by the enemy forces, refused to bow down before Isornet as king and admit her fear….and the monks had heard that Isornet had utterly destroyed her for her refusal to take the knee. Kao-Tsu clenched his fists in anger as he backed away from his monks, his mind delirious with anger. Isornet would pay for taking her life!

In the meantime, Talia, Nathan, and Vivian chose at the boatyard a well-tested and experienced ship for Nathan to captain. As they all prepared for the dangers ahead, Belcoot revealed the name of their ship: “The Tempest”. Nathan gathered his crew and friends together. Before leaving, he decided to give them all gifts to strengthen their bonds. To Vivian, he gave a beautiful silken scarf to the one who searches for prettiness in everything. To Kao-Tsu, he gave a wooden bracelet with branches, to symbolize his gone but never forgotten fallen wilden companion. And to Talia, he gave a simple but striking silver chain necklace, with every link forging together the days they had spent and would continue to spend together. With that and a few words of encouragement to the crew, they set sail for battle.

Two weeks of sailing found them at the battle point. The two armies faced off against one another in a naval standoff, the armies equally matched as far as manpower and ships were concerned. The enemy fired first, but Belcoot’s lead ship “The Adversary” fired louder and with more power, and as the cannons whizzed through the sky and splintered the ships, the battle was upon our adventurers before they even knew it! As Nathan ordered “The Tempest” forward, Kao-Tsu from the crow’s nest noticed Nikea’s ship “The Impulse” burning! Some fast reflexes and quick commands to the crew saved the boat from going down, and despite a sahuagin attack, they pressed forward. The next challenge found the fleet dealing with sahuagin raiders in the water….Nathan’s ship was able to lay pitch in the water while the Nikea’s boat and others distracted the rest of the fleet. The fire arrows flew with an order from Belcoot, and the sahuagin burned in the water as the ships began to sail off in presumed victory. However, the enemy still had a trick up their sleeves. Tiny boats from the NightmareScape were able to infiltrate the pitch laden area and used the power of the Lich King’s obelisk to raise the sahuagin troops and turn them into undead minions! The crew from “The Tempest” began to panic and loose hope, and even thought to turn on their Captain. After some intimidation from Nathan and Vivian, they were put in their place and even inspired by the fearlessness of their battle scarred Captain. Calica would fight on!

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A Pyrrhic Victory

Nathan reassured the sailors as “The Tempest” embarked into the heat of the massive naval battle. The Calican forces were able to work together to frequently encircle the enemy ships, unload their cannons, and sink them whilst withstanding the enemy’s barrage of cannon fire, despite the undead “healing” beams sent out by the enemy’s flagship “The Tombstone”. After a lengthy firefight, it became hopeful that the day could be won by the Calicans….assuming someone could board the enemy flagship to take out their leader. Of course, Nathan immediately volunteered his ship for the glory (or certain death), while Belcoot’s vessel “The Adversary” and the remaining ships protected “The Tempest” and held off the remaining enemy fleet.

Kao-Tsu, Nathan, Talia, Vivian, and the crew fought wave after wave of skeletal and zombie sailors as they fiercely cut their way to the stern of “The Tombstone”. Finally, they found their foe. Kao-Tsu recognized his enemy’s familiar profile as he leaned cockily on the mast. "I knew you were behind all of this…Han Li!" the tiny monk exclaimed angrily. A crackling purple and red energy scored across the menacing face and body of the undead martial artist. Han Li cracked his knuckles as his eyes narrowed.

“Kao-Tsu. You and your friends killed me once before. Now is my chance to hurt you…by taking out those dear to you!” While pulsating magenta power, he struck a vicious blow to Nathan’s midsection, and the fight began.

The four surrounded Han-Li, executing the deadliest of attacks in sync with one another. Their opponent was faster, stronger, and far more capable in comparison to the last time they had fought the monk. Somehow Han-Li was able to shrug off their attacks and turn their status effects upon whomever attacked him! But still, even after fighting the aquatic ghouls who inhabited and powered Han-Li’s undead form, the party proved too much for his stamina. The altercation came down to one blow between Han-Li and Nathan….and as the noble fighter crushed his enemy’s shoulder with a surge and sent him staggering to the ground, Kao-Tsu had realized that his best friend had set Han Li in the perfect position for his final super special move. Kao-Tsu felt the reassuring glow of Master Fong’s presence within him, and he knew it was time.

“Ten Dragon Strike Technique!!!!” Kao-Tsu roared as he jabbed pressure point after pressure point onto Han-Li’s demonic form. The evil monk bellowed in massive pain as he crashed to his knees. The amaranthine energy whirled about his body in an uncontrollable frenzy. “Nooooooooo!” he screamed as his body burst apart at the seams and exploded into light particles. Vivian and Talia shielded their eyes as they gazed back to where Han-Li’s body had been standing, only to see the glowing figure of Kao-Tsu, standing as tall he he could, in triumph over his arch enemy’s final defeat.

  • * * * * * *

With the death of Han-Li, the battle was soon won! “The Adversary” was able to sink “The Tombstone” and the paltry remaining ships of the Nightmarescape retreated into the darkness as a cheer rose from the Calican fleet. The captains of the ships all met on “The Adversary” for a massive celebration. A toast was given by Belcoot to their victory and to the sailors who gave their lives for the good of Calica and the free world. As they split up the treasure from the plunder, Vivian’s eye was caught by a glittery tiara. “Pretty!” the dark eyed pixie exclaimed, as she shrunk the crown to her size, snatched up her prize, and flew away quick as a whistle before anyone could deny her. She spent the rest of the evening zipping between the dancers and enjoying the succulent taste of Goo’s inebriated donations.

Meanwhile Kao-Tsu was thoroughly enjoying his night snogging his girlfriend Lun Raftfleet when halfway through the evening, a tipsy Logg Raftfleet stumbled over to his table. “You! Boy,” he lisped, “just what exactly ARE your intentions with my daughter anyways? To marry her?”

“Uhhh…..well yes, most likely eventually, maybe” Kao-Tsu darted back at the sailor.

“Well,” Logg replied, “you’ll have to beat ME in a drinking contest before you expect that to happen!” With that he slammed onto the table the largest pint of larger Kao-Tsu had seen all night.

“Oh that’s it, bring it old man!” Kao-Tsu laughed. And as they drank the night away, so ended Kao-Tsu’s memory of the night. Neither party could recall who won the contest the next morning. Which was probably all for the best.

As the night wore on, elsewhere Talia sat in a corner darkly illuminated by candlelight. Wine glass in hand, she stared at the letter that had been delivered to her prior to the battle. “To my daughter Talia” was all the envelope said in the familiar curly handwriting of her father. Her gaze bored into the letter. “Something bothering you?” Nathan asked as he slid into the seat next to her.

Talia took a breath and her eyes fell as she spoke. “My father….he had this delivered to me before the battle. I haven’t read it yet. I’m afraid, Nathan….of what it says. I almost want to rip it up before reading it. But yet….” Her dark eyes clouded over, and she looked at Nathan. “Please Nathan. Read it for me. Just….tell me if it has anything of value. It hurts too much to read it myself. Please?” Nathan looked at Talia solemnly. He nodded as he tore open the envelope’s seal and read its contents. He stuffed the letter into his pocket and paused for a moment before speaking.

“Talia. What do you want to do after this is over?”

Talia blinked in surprise. “After this is over? Next is the Shifting Sands, and we have to find the location of…”

Nathan cut her off. “No, no no, I don’t mean after this battle is over. I mean after the WAR is over, and after we’ve cured your curse, and after Calica is restored, and all is set to right in the world. What do you want to do?”

Talia shook her head, trying to even imagine a world without the war. “I guess…..um….I guess….I just don’t want to be alone.”

Nathan softly gripped her by the shoulders and he looked directly into her eyes. “You’ll never be alone again.” With those words, he bent over to her and together they shared a tender first kiss.

  • * * * * * *

The day after the celebration, a great flapping was heard. Everyone ran to the upper decks to see none other than General Lang astride his giant Roc. When they filled in the details of their glorious victory, instead of joy, his face reflected great fear. “We need to get to Raftfleet. Post haste!” Lang ordered. To the confused faces around him, the intelligent Zartinian explained that he believed their success in battle was a diversion from the REAL threat, back in Sternberg! With little to no troops left at home, the capitol of Raftfleet was a sitting duck for the Shifting Sands army. Richard Bishop and Nathan exchanged a glance with one another. If the strategist was correct, then many innocent civilians were in grave danger. The fleet set sail immediately for Sternberg.

Even approaching the floating city, the Calican armada knew they were too late. Smoke rose from the region and the city was still aflame in many parts. Noises were heard as they came closer….the despairing cries of broken men. Once ashore, the party immediately headed toward the home where the Bishop family had taken up residence. Richard ran inside the gutted building, and his wails of sadness that followed were unbearable to hear. Nathan stood in a coma like state, mouth agape at the destruction that surrounded him. The party cried in silence together as they took in the horror of the scene.

Later, as Kao-Tsu and Talia and Vivian pulled themselves together somewhat, they were filled into the details by Tifa Lightbringer, who had managed to save many of the children of Sternberg by taking refuge in Hazarath Nor. Not only was Lang correct, but the army of the Shifting Sands had specifically targeted to kill the children and women of the town, while leaving the men alive but injured. The enemy was looking to cripple the morale of the army. And as they heard the desperate screams around them, Kao-Tsu realized that they had indeed succeeded. Talia snapped in anger at General Lang, blaming him for not realizing the enemy’s plot sooner, and she she stormed away, kicking rubble as she went, her eyes burned with tears at the tragedy they had all suffered.

Still in shock, Nathan wandered into the house. He searched for any tokens left that could remind him of his now dead mother, sister, and brother. After affixing the tokens to the inside of his shield, he set about his next task. From the ashes of the house, he spread the sot onto his shining silver armour, blackening it with the embers of remembrance. He repeated this process for hours until the armour was permanently sooted. The deaths of his family would never be forgotten, and his enemies would quake in fear at the sight of the man who now knew unforgivable pain and loss.

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Shifting Across the Sands

A day after the devastating attack on Sternberg, Belcoot arranged for a war council to decide their next moves. Their next strike would surely need to be the Shifting Sands, it was agreed, but how could the Calicans possibly gather together enough of a force to challenge the largest land army in Nevermore? Sh’rayas the Sylvan had an answer. They had to find a way to dislodge the psions who had overthrown the mage lords. If Sh’rayas was able to get into Osh’ra, the Capitol of the Shifting Sands, he could gain access to a powerful magic that could potentially stop the psychics from using their power momentarily, giving the mages and their army the opportunity to seize control of the capitol. But to cause that much panic in the city, they would need a larger army, one that would cause fear and drop the morale of the army of the S.S. They would need the help of the Gaul who Grasps. With the allegiance of his bloodthirsty barbarian tribes, they could rip through their forces and give Sh’rayas the distraction that he would need.

The main problem was to find the Gaul. Kao-Tsu suggested sending out caravans of the Calican military throughout the desert, disguised as merchants. Surely Gaul or his men would take the bait and perhaps agree to parlay with their army? At the very least they might be able to lead them to Gaul’s secret hideout. Belcoot agreed and Talia, Kao-Tsu, Vivian, and a stoic Nathan gathered up thier belongings for the upcoming trip.

Two sweltering weeks went by in September as the party marched throughout the barren and uncultivated deserts. Nathan continued most of the way in a brooding silence, and although Kao-Tsu and Talia gave their friend a respectful distance, they warily watched over him, worried about his emotional state. Finally, a group of Gaul’s raiders fell for their ploy and attacked the caravan. Kao-Tsu attempted to consul with their leader, but as combat commenced, Nathan brutally lashed out at the bandits, killing any who opposed him. Vivian licked her lips at the bloodshed, wishing she could engage them further, while staying safe in the darkness of her covered wagon. Many fell, but the leader Kao-Tsu knocked out. After he was awakened, Nathan agreed to engage him in honorable one on one combat, with the terms if Nathan defeated him, he would tell the party where the Gaul’s lair was located. The fighter was victorious, but the words of the leader were of no comfort to the party. For Gaul’s hideout was past the Ruins of Gadash, across the Ocean of Purple Worms. The half orc strode away from the adventurers, laughing and certain that his words had scared off his enemy. For who would have the guts to dare venture into the most dangerous part of the Shifting Sands?

The party pressed on, trailing the orc without his knowing even through a dust storm, until they reached the Ruins of Gadash. Strangely enough, in the Ruins they had a chance encounter with a person they had not seen in a very long time: Mohsen! The merchant was still peddling his wares and had been caught up in the Shifting Sands, a bit lost in the desert. They adventurers helped the seller gain his bearings, and sent him in the direction of Sternberg. However, in a generous mood, Mohsen decided to bequeath a set of fine dwarven plate mail to Nathan, in memory of the Tournament of Nevermore and Team Tempest, who helped drum up business for Mohsen. Nathan refused his offer shortly, and the others gave each other a sideways glance. As the fighter again retreated to solitude, Vivian shrunk the armour and tossed it into Talia’s bag of holding, just in case.

That night, Kao-Tsu approached Nathan. He expressed concern for his friend, who was obviously in a great deal of pain over the loss of his family. Nathan at first got angry at Kao-Tsu, telling him how much his hatred burned at the people of the Shifting Sands for taking the lives of his family. How could he possibly get over something like that? This feeling, this pain, would never go away. Kao-Tsu empathized with him, telling him of his loss of Master Fong and relating how he dealt with his emotions. The key was to feel the anger, not to suppress it, and to not let it control you or dictate who you are or what your actions were. The pain and anger cannot become you. Nathan hung his head, unsure of his next move and drained of emotions, and Kao-Tsu stood by and consoled his best friend in a quiet moment.

Meanwhile, Talia and Vivian sat by the campfire when suddenly a large raven flew and landed next to Talia. The voice of Zeric Lancaster crackled out of the bird and Talia jumped in shock. Zeric claimed through his animal messenger that he regretted his actions of the past, although her mother did not, and he knew not of how to escape from Lania Lancaster. He spoke of reconciliation and a desire to be family again with his daughter. As the spell wore off and the crow returned to cawing, Talia silenced the bird with a magic missile to the head and stared darkly into the fire. Reconciliation? Did she even desire to reconcile with the man she once called father?…..

As the night wore on, they watched the man they had tracked across the desert cross the sand, playing a magical tune on a pipe. It seemed to keep the purple worms at bay, and Talia committed the Song of the Purple Worm to memory, hoping she could replicate it with her arcana skills. Right now it was their only hope for crossing the ocean of death before them.

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