Amas & Oras

The End
Not edited or fixed up.

Strelok volunteers as bait. Bombs are put on hold because dying to friendly fire sucks. He goes into the cage built outside the wall. All the small ones are already dead, and the big ones aren’t interested.

Meanwhile, Hayden notices that Polena has been strangely silent. She looks a bit pale and dizzy. He asks her how she is, and she says she doesn’t feel well; she hasn’t eaten since the ship, and doesn’t have an appetite. She feels like there are too many things in her head. Hayden calls over Sheila, who determines Polena is a bit feverish, but finds nothing else wrong. Healing helps a little. Polena says she is fine; Sheila orders P to let her know if she feels worse again.

Strelok ventured from the cage a bit and is drawing some attraction; about half a dozen smaller creatures have begun to advance in a slow, plodding manner. He hobbles a few with bullets to knees. He returns to the wall at a reasonable pace. As he approaches, Polena suddenly worsens. “I feel so many things in my head… I feel like I’m possessed!” Sheila searches for such, and finds some evil power has taken hold of her. Hayden asks if she had contact with any of them; she had never even seen them before, being below deck when we saw one from the ship. She’s been with us the entire time. When Sheila tries to infuse some holy energy into her, her eyes roll back into her head; Sheila releases her.

Strelock, about 1/4 mile out now… and those of us on the wall see that rather than chasing him, the small ones approaching are moving WITH him, towards the wall. Hayden points and asks Sheila “what did you do?” Sheila asks Z about book mentions of airborne or posession… no. Hayden asks if there are any other catalysts for the Monster forming; no, just eat each other, like Russian nesting dolls. Strelok is maybe 1000ft from the wall, creatures a bit behind. Sheila tries another Lay On Hands. No seizure things this time, and after, she looks almost normal. When positive energy is channeled, however, her eyes are open, and are solid white. “I can feel them coming.” Sheila asks if the creatures are attracted to Polena; Polena isn’t sure. “It’s like they’re in my head.” When the channel is over, her eyes go back to normal, and the creatures begin to move faster. Sheila asks how many Polena feels… hundreds. We turn to the horizon, and see at least two dozen more coming… much larger. Hayden yells for Strelok to get back, and he books it. Hayden asks P what they want; they have no desire. What’s calling them towards us? “It might be me.” She closes her eyes and furrows her brow. She says “stop”… and they all freeze. Hayden stares. “Next try ‘explode’… no? Just a thought. Zephyr, catapaults??” P sinks down the wall as if greatly fatigued. Sheila takes care of her as best she can, Zephyr readies the alchemists and others capable of firing the catapaults, Strelok barely makes it back before four of the six (2 dead from bullets and Z) near Strelok crash into the wall below Polena’s feet. They try to scale the wall. Zephyr ponders the affect upon Polena… “son of a bitch. It might be Faramil.” Polena says they will destroy everything. They want to destroy everything. They have intent now. P still doesn’t know why they are drawn to her. Meanwhile, another creature has dropped thanks to the bombs.

We carry Polena along the wall towards the cage. Bird-friend dive bombs the creatures a few times, making scolding noises. It is sometimes distracted by the flying empty catriges, which it gleefully tries to catch. Polena insists on walking herself. She slowly sits when they reach the part of the wall with the cage. She closes her eyes, concentrating; slowly the creatures begin to calm. Not stopping, but more calm. We decide to keep them as per the original plan, to be bait for the larger ones, rather than pick them off. After a few moments, Polena whispers, “go”. As if on puppet strings, the creatures turn and start to plod away. Now that she has time to concentrate on the matter, Zephyr ponders. She concludes that Faramil in his physical form was destroyed, but it is possible a metaphysical form was spread across the lands in the explosion. It was diluted. Perhaps no one with the proper blood or powers was ever close enough to bring the power to bear. But Polena can control the creatures, which only Faramil has been able to do. Not even the cultists were able. Hayden asks about how we can use this, and Z points out that P’s abilities seem limited and she is obviously struggling and suffering. P asks Sheila for more healing, which she is given. Polena is getting a handle on directing the healing energy, so that it heals her and harms only the alien entity. Sheila says she will stay with Polena to keep her stabilized; Hayden offers her his stock of potions that have the same effect as Lay On Hands.

Strelok says he thinks this is a potentially terrible idea. Using these powers could make things worse. He suggests getting her as far away from them as possible. Hayden asks what that would gain us; Strelok is thinking more of Polena than the group and humanity in general. Strelok orders people to help her as they can and storms off.

The night passes. Polena has kept the small creatures subdued and a short distance off, but is obviously exhausted by dawn. The larger creatures are only 2 miles out at this point, and we can see them fairly clearly through spyglass or whatnot. They are not converging independently, but fighting amongst themselves. Just after dawn there is a massive clash between two kaijuu sized ones. Niam and Hayden bet on the winner. Polena whispers, “yes”, and seems to visibly relax. “I have figured out how to do it.” Sheila asks, figure out what? “How to make them do what I want.” She told them to fight, to destroy each other rather than everything else. She redirected their overwhelming need to destroy. Sheila tells her to rest, and Polena quickly falls asleep. Looking over, Sheila sees that they are continuing to fight. One soon tears the others leg off. Niam turns to Hayden. “Sure you don’t want to make that a gold?”

The fighting between the two seems markedly different from the eating behavior seen before; there is ripping without chomping. Hayden soon forfeits a silver piece. The victor suddenly starts gnawing on itself. It screeches loudly. It then severs the tendons on one of its arms. Shiela tells the group that Polena is to thank for that, and everyone is duly impressed. The others in the two dozen, however, do feed on the remains.

Strelok is awake and drinking. “Of course, my girlfriend is a scion of some great evil.”

The larger creatures seem to have forgotten about the little guys. There are a few more clashes, which attracts more of them. It is early afternoon when Zephyr finally throws a bomb at one of the little ones, causing it to shriek. The sound gets the attention of the larger creatures in the distance; easy prey has been spotted! In half an hour, the larger creatures are less than a mile away… and we see that they dwarf the wall. Shit. 15 minutes and they are about a half mile away. Sheila tries to gently wake Polena… we need all the help we can get. Polena’s eyes open white, and she gasps. Her irises soon reappear. “I don’t know if I have enough time.” She concentrates. After a few minutes, the creatures begin to slow down one by one, some coming to a halt. Suddenly, one spins, and screeches at its… companions? frenemies? fellow creatures… and it heads towards the stopped creatures. There is a clash between the creatures, and the explosive crystals continue to be fired.

The battle rages for several hours, as more and more of the several dozen seen converge on the clash. Some clashes have erupted further along the wall, and at times creatures smashed through the wall while wrestling. Zephyr is running low on crystals. Several have been taken down, and Polena has kept them from eating each other or the bodies; but Polena and Sheila have almost been swept from the wall several times. We need to move. But as Sheila tries to move Polena, she lifts her hand, saying she is so close… the last six or so converge, about a half mile from the wall. Polena opens her eyes, stands up, and says that it is more difficult the farther away they are… but she thinks she has figured out how to do it. She has to go to Ardova, call them all to her, and will them all to destroy themselves… because she can’t reach them all from here. Hayden asks what happens to her… “I save the world”. Sheila says she is going, to keep her stable. Zephyr is going to incinerate bodies so that if Polena loses control, there isn’t a feast that gives easy access to Monsterhood. Hayden asks his Bird Friend if he thinks it is worth it. Bird gives him a FUCK NO squawk. Hayden points out that if it works, they will have saved the world… think of all the shineys! The bird cocks his head, and alights on Hayden’s shoulder. Strelok once again suggests leaving.
H: Did your father run from the greatest hunt in history?
S: yes.
H: And you want to be like him?
S: …this is was going to end badly for me either way, wasn’t it?
Strelok says he will stick with us for as long as he can.

Polena suggest we leave at daybreak. Z starts burning. Niam and two other guardsmen are coming with us, as are two of the alchemists. Strelok uses dimension door to get the carriage down from the wall, so that the alchemists can be preparing more weaponized crystals as we travel. We have the two birds and some warhorses. We travel for several days and encounter many creatures. Polena gains more strength daily; Z and the alchemists have perfected the crystal assembly lines, smooth flowing, and have identified weak spots on the creatures; Sheila has needed to use fewer and fewer spells and potions to stabilize Polena; Strelok is having a grand old time fucking shit up, killing stuff, and bitching. Strelok’s also been collecting teeth. They are large, chitinous, and yadda yadda. Hayden has been improving his firearm abilities, and is delighted that he can kill things from a distance with no bloodstains on his clothes. We travel for six weeks. We lose one alchemist and the two guardsmen along the way. At the end of the six weeks, Polena says she can’t feel it anymore… her aura has extinguished the evil one, and the creatures are no more.

We return triumphant. Sheila is accepted back into the order, but “fuck that”. She shoves the victory in Strong’s face a bit.

Strelok returns to his cabin to find his brother there waited. And he makes a HILARIOUS FACE OMG. He shoots his brother in the shoulder. There is also some kicking. It is a wonderful family reunion.

Hayden goes to Danuul and sees Marcus. He greats Hayden, says he went back to where they grew up; “he’s not there anymore. Did you have something to do with that?” Hayden is vague, then offers him a partnership conning banks. Hayden also gives his thrush a nest of gold and jewels. The bird finds a lady thrush. They have cute thrush babies.

Polena is welcomed to the most prestigious academy in Vuresca. Zephyr is offered a teaching job, but she rejects it… hey, how about field research? (Zephyr runs off into the wilderness, funded by the college).

Deep in Olvan, someone is plotting, but what the fuck ever. Later.

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Business idea: slime mold condems: can shape to your specifications and vibrate for your pleasure!
[not cleaned up or edited yet]

So, we landed. We are traveling to the “headquarters” farther inland, accompanied by the sentry we met (Bobriguez). His compatriat, a large beared man named Jennifer, stays behind to man their post. The wall is largely unmanned. We walk for about 2 hours without seeing a soul. The wall is intact, despite the lack of guards. Z theorizes that they large worms, the ones capable of breaching the wall on their own, would be concerned at this point with consuming other worms, smaller one. Hayden remarks on the lameness of this apocolypse. As if in response, a large worm in the distance turns in our direction. Bobriguez (giggle giggle giggle) sees it and turns pale. He runs, wordless, to the nearest of the guard towers that are present her and there along the wall. He leaps out the window. We stare for a moment. He reappears atop the guard house and strikes a flint, sparking a fire. It is a signal, and soon we. see a single fire spring up in the distance. He calls to us: we must hurry. Z gets out the catapult. Strelok takes out 50 gold and bets he kills the thing. Zephyr takes the gold immediately and lifts up a hand-held catapult.

The creatures is rather far away. It is about the size of the one we saw in the shallow waters. Since it is so far away, we keep moving, although Z is disappointed at the delay in testing the weaponized crystals. We “scuttle”. We arrive at what counts as a “headquarters” in about 30 minutes. It is a shanty town. There is a post about three times the width and twice the height of the guard posts we have seen thus far. STheila asks who is in charge; Bobriguez says it is Niam. Niam Leeson. Zephyr grabs her alchemists, Polena, and a few of the mercenaries she taught on the voyage, and heads towards the highest point in the tower. Sheila meanwhile sets out to find the defensive details. Z is lead to the guard house and pointed out the window; there are rungs leading up higher. It is a long way down. Z levitates the weaponry and climbs up.

Niam assembles the defenders, who are a ragtag bunch. He himself is scruffy, mid 30s, wearing pieced together armor from military and paladin sources, plus some obviously home-made. He looks tired. Niam asks who we are; Bob tells him we’re reinforcements from Amas. Booms are heard from up top as Zephyr tests out the weapons. The giant creature was distracted by a smaller worm, and then wandered off; however, there are smaller worms to test weapons on. Niam asks Bob if he saw what made the Monster stop, as it had been on a collision course, and Strelok explains. Niam is introduced briefly to the main party. (Kaboom!) Niam is glad to see us; we double their numbers. However, Niam advices we go home… it is only a matter of time before a large one simply steps over. Screeches interrupt the conversation— Zephyr is having some success on the roof. Some happy cackling trickles down from above.

Outside, small ones have also gathered. Hayden tests out the fire-arm he got from Strelok. He manages to drop a small one (about 12 feet). Niam remarks that it is a better weapon than any they have; Strelok says, “What until you meet Betty!” He goes into Jake’s saddle bag and pulls out a case. He begins assembling a long rifle.

Hayden asks about the supply situation. He is told there is a nearby village in Molavum that gives some support. Strelok reassures Niam that he’ll like us (arrogantly, and calling him “Gene”. Niam thanks him in a flat tone, calling him “Frank”. Strelok doesn’t notice.) Niam says their plan is to lure as many of them into a trap as possible, and take them out. Sheila asks what kind of trap. Niam says that the ones 12-ft high or so seem intent on infecting other people still; once they get 18 or so feet, they start being more interested in eating other worms. So they were going to lure small ones, and use those to lure large ones. Strelok offers to be bait. Niam thanks him. “You’re a good man, Frank.” Niam also approves of Zephyr, who has dropped 5 or 6 at this point. Niam asks Strelok to explain “firearms”, which Niam has heard of but never seen in person. Strelok demonstrates; he has brought many extra weapons to pass out to anyone able and willing. He demosntrates using an elephant gun, and drops another worm, in a squishy and bloody manner. The weapons Strelok brought are all magically reloading. St warns they won’t do jack shit against the big ones; Niam says there isn’t jack shit to be done. Sheila points up, and says that’s why we brought “this one”. Introductions continue.

So, this is the stronghold remaining — about fifteen men. Maybe some paladins. Zephyr’s concept of refugees/survivors against the safe side of the wall that can be recruited was way off, as was the idea of a force (weak, but quite a bit larger) fighting off a near continuous wave of plague worms.

TIMELINE, lifecycle
>tiny worm
>infects human host
>"percolate" for a month or so
>burst forth; approx human size for a week or two
>grow beyond their human-body shell
>Focus on infection of humans for a time; midstage; reproduction
>Grow to about 15 feet through growth cycle and by feeding on humans, any other living thing
>Appetites change, begin to eat one another; compelled to consume one another, grow larger

Zephyr eventually comes looking for the rest of the group and is told of the plan to lure and attack. She has no immediate input, since her information and the planning based on such was off. She says she’ll need to rethink the plan; for the first time, Hayden seems to think that there IS a plan. Rather discouraged, she retires to go over the information she has and contemplate what would be most useful at this point. Sheila has the urge to rally those who deserted, but it is likely they are long, long gone. Even those in the nearby town fled, leaving some supplies for the soldiers that stayed. She tries to improve morale for those who stayed; Strelok goes to the rough to do some shooting; Hayden socializes, brags about his exploits, and talks with Niam about the plan. The plan Niam had culminated in pummeling the largest ones with big rocks; with the new weapons, it has been upgraded somewhat.

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A sad, lonely fish
[not cleaned up or edited yet]

We are on boat. Mother fuckers. We’ve been at sea for three weeks. The wine is getting watered down. Hayden wakes to a warm tingly sensation around his mouth… he awakes to see Strelok pumping something into his mouth from a small barrel. It is sweet. “The fuck?” Strelok giggles.
He then takes the keg hose for himself and pumps the top of the keg wildly. He reveals that he took the stuff they found in the Forest and mixed it with booze. He is wearing only his belt, cloak, and sword. He cackles and runs out of the cabin. Hayden sighs. Strelok may have been at sea too long.

Hayden goes up to the deck, where he meets Sheila. It is very early, and few ship hands are on deck. There is loud snoring from below. Sheila begins doing bare-hand forms. Strelok is trying to get to the crows’ nest. He has only made it about three feet up. Sheila asks if he’s slept; Strelok apparently doesn’t need sleep, and recommends “the stuff!” (blue goo + strong booze from abandoned village) Hayden says it is quite strong, and asks if anyone else hears humming. Strelok asks why he was climbing… there was something important, but he forgot… Sheila suggests he come back down, and he does somewhat reluctantly. He goes over to Sheila and slings an arm around her. He still is wearing little other than munitions. Upon Sheila’s inquiry, he says he has never been better.

Hayden decides to go up to the crow’s nest. He sees no land. He sighs and remarks that it is taking far too long, and that this is a tiny boat. Bored….

The days are long and stressful, and all are relieved to finally see land. We ’d expected to see the port city. Instead, there is lots of debris in the water; entire docks ripped from their places, skeletal remains of great trading ships. We wonder if the lumber was needed to burn bodies. Suddenly there is a thundering screech echoing – Strelok drops to the deck and screams. Zephyr has read about the larger beasts roaring to warn off potential rivals; how large, the book did not say. As she finishes telling everyone this, two answering screeches are heard. Hayden: “Well, sounds like something that needs us to go kill it.”

Later that day, a sailor calls to say he’s spotted actual land… which is about 30 miles out from shore. We discuss our plans – land somewhere open where there are not hiding places where things can jump us as we disembark. We’ll land as close to the wall as possible. We will, if need be, fight our way to the wall. We are overheard by a shiphand, and told we aren’t landing anywhere near here… we’re going are the wall. This is not the safe side. Reports say the wall does indeed stretch to the coast. Hayden is pleased by this news, and asks how long. He is displeased when told it will be another 4-5 days. He hopes we will not encounter what we heard before; we know the small ones seem not to like water, but we don’t know about the larger ones.

The next morning, we wake to cries and exclamations from above deck. We go up and see a gathering of shipmates on the port side of the ship. Then we hear another screech… much closer and louder. Zephyr pushes her way through and sees one of the plague beasts in the water. It looks like [insert description here. Include: very tall; almost like combining an Alien™ with a baboon. kinda insectoid, kinda armor plated, but shorter rear legs and longer arms. As they grow out of the human host, the human skin sometimes doesn’t fall off all the way, giving the appearance of being worn as a loin cloth.] It is 35 feet tall, perhaps half as long. This one is walking through the shallows, towards the port city – not towards us. The possibility of testing the weapons comes up, but it is likely too far away (about half a mile). We hear another roar, and see a smaller movement before it; borrowing a sailor’s spy glass, we see it is chasing a smaller one. It will absorb it and get bigger. Strelok says he can kill it. He still seems a bit unstable… perhaps not just from the drinking, but also a seeming change in his mood over the past few weeks. We decide not to break our course, and as we sail off, we watch the larger crush the smaller before gathering it to its mouth. Strelok asks if under the arm might be a good place to attack, a weak spot; Zephyr is unsure, as there was no information about the creature anatomy at this late a stage that would reveal weak points. Hayden looks down at his sword, then at the giant creature, and sighs. “This isn’t going to end well.” Strelok reminds him that he has offered before to teach him about firearms. Hayden agrees. Strelok hands him a gun. Hayden looks at it a bit, “Sooo…” Strelok says, “point it at things you don’t like and pull the trigger! Preferably not things that are the hull of the ship.” Hayden tries shooting it at the water, and is a bit surprised by the recoil. A sad, lonely fish floats to the surface. Hayden’s ears hurt. He tries again… and kills another poor fish. Strelok adjusts his aim a bit. He leaves Hayden to practice. Many seabirds die that day. The TerrorBird down in the hold begins to get restless from the sounds of bird death.

Later, Hayden asks how the bullets so small are supposed to hurt something so big. Strelok advises him to “fire enough of them”.

A few days later, we pass the wall. By then we have seen more of the creatures, at least three of which were larger than the first we saw; one perhaps 50ft, another about 60. Some have swollen abdomens. Finally we see the wall, which does indeed extend out into the sea. The wall here is unmanned. There is no evidence that the creatures have gone far out enough to sea to get around the wall. We go to shore in a small dinghy, and need a few trips to get all the equipment. Hayden strikes a dramatic pose in the bow of the dinghy. Suddenly, in a spire in the wall, a man appears. He asks what our business is. Strelok waxes eloquent about bringing hope… and deat— Zephyr pushes him into the water. We tell him we have brought weapons, despite there not being many of us. He tells us to go see Niam, and gives us directions. Zephyr fishes a struggling Strelok out of the water. He complains about the taste of salt water. Between our wagon and dozens of bags of holding that Zephyr purchased, we can get everything along.

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[5/14 rough]

Recap: boat, sheila develops, planar travel disc.

Hayden and St talk about plans after this is over, if we survive. They settle on pirate kings, and then ponder how they wound up in this position. Z and Sheila wanders up from below deck, from making bombs and drinking in the galley *resp). There is small talk about boats; Hayden has been picking up some of the terminology. Sheila is surprised he is planning for after the fight, as he expressed doubt that we’d succeed; he points out that he isn’t sure we’ll succeed, but that he has a vensted interest in his own survival. Asked what she will do after, Sheila says something vague about people needing leadership. St and H suggest starting her opwn church. She could even be the new goddess, since she’ll be saving the world. Hayden [pomts out that [easants are easil;y duped; Strelok: didn’t you used to be a peasant? H: ….do I look like a peasant? They move on to the benefits of tithing, which Sh says she isn’t interested in. Sheila says she will continue to do what is right, and will continue on that path for the rest of her life. H asks what determines “right” after all this. She points out that there will always be people who need help. Hayden still is mystified by the idea of helping people selflessly. Nor does he understand he not wanting money.

Z wants to continue studying; places yet to explore, creatures yet to discover… H: things that haven’t tried to eat us yet? Haven’t tried to blow us up yet? Z points out the latter has not happened, with the exception of the thing Hayden poked with a sword. There is a disagreement on whether it was gentle nudging or stabbing.

Hayden questions having enough manpower and materials; Zephyr goes over the plan again, and Sheila reassures that Hayden may be surprised by what people can do. But then she starts talking about the light or something. While he has valid concerns, Zephyr feels many of the points have been explained before; Strelok points out to her that they have been drinking an awful lot, but she decides to go back below deck and leave people more attention worthy to explain. Sheila adds that she knows that there were a few hundred paladins who decided to stay in Oras rather than go back to Amas.

Polena meanwhile is practicing her sorcery. There are some minor explosions. Her eyebrows get considerably singed. Sheila inquires about her progress. Polena says she mostly has control, but sometimes the explosions are a bit bigger than she expected them to be. She had found a book on board that has been helpful. Sheila tells her to stay comfortable with it, and Polena says it comes naturally to her; she will try to keep it in check. Sheila reiterates that this is important. Polena cites Strelok and Zephyr’s assistance and says it will be fine.

Later, Z approaches Sheila and asks her to be the figurehead of this expedition, as she feels Sheila is already being seen in that role; more importantly, she doesn’t believe people will listen to her. Sheila agrees, and they discuss details about communications between builders, healers, fighters, and alchemists. Zephyr and the alchemists she brought will be doing the teaching of weapon launcher building, bomb creation, and crystal cultivation, but Zephyr plans to mainly fight on the wall once she has things generally set up. She explains she’d like to have all healers ready, and have the wands and scrolls she bought in Amas on hand to use. The warriors should be able to use the bombs as long-range weapons from the wall.

Later when the group convenes, more detail is arranged: Strelok will find a metalworks and people with guns or the knowledge to make them; he himself can make basic hand cannons. Hayden will aid in coordinating people, as he is chasmatic ; he comments that he is a glorified clerk, but Zephyr again says he is more a war general. Hayden is also interested in helping use hand cannons made by Strelok. Sheila will be the general leader, but will especially direct the paladins and healers.
Zephyr knows that Olavand has been completely devestated, and can assume Ardova likely is as well. The last remaining country with respectable technology/resources would likely be Erag, but they are rather focused on the furtherment of their own people. The wall should be between ardova and molavan, which are near erag.

Hayden asks if there is a military that isn’t wearing clanking armor, for stealth purposes. Sheila says there isn’t a set uniform; some will have armor, some will wear leather, etc. Hayden clarifies that he wants to know what they look like, but Zephyr inquring as to why does not bring forth an answer. Sheila says the flaming sword and a burning sun are common to most warriors. Cut and color scheme? Based more on rank; a simple, low ranking — Hayden interrupts and asks specifically about officers… he wants “to look the part”. Zephyr doesn’t quite understand this, but gives up trying quite quickly.
Strelok asks about Polena; she is currently on deck, and has been rather moody. Z says that since she learned about the weapons with Hornswaggle, she can act with the Alchemists in teaching, cultivating, developing. Strelok and Sheila are concerned about Polena (a well-timed explosion rocks the boat a bit). Strelok goes up to talk with her.

It is night, but the moon and nebula are bright enough to see by. St asks her what she is practicing. Polena says she found a book about magic, and the sailor said she could borrow it; it belongs to his daughter who goes to school in Vuresca. St offers help and his own spell book if they’d be helpful. Polena asks for his opinion on a spell she hasn’t quite mastered. She steps back a ball of light, akain to a sun, forms between her hands; she releases it and it shoots forth across the sea. Kamehameha! She says she hasn’t been able “to do it less than that…”; the ball is seen far out on the horizon. She is concerned that if she uses it as is, she will hurt someone. Showing Strelok the book, he recognizes the spell as a cold blast… but Polena’s casting did not resemble a cold blast… except that he suddenly notices a trail of ice in the wake of the energy. He tries to replicate what she did. He easily forms a small ball of the cold energy. he concentrates on making it larger; he is able to make it brighter and larger, but only to the size of a grapefruit, as opposed to Polena’s beach ball. His peters out about 200 yards away. “…That’s the smallest you can make it?” Polena gestures with her hands to show a slightly smaller one she made… He says he wasn’t holding back, and feels he couldn’t make one a third the size of hers. She repeats that she fears she’ll hurt someone. She says that when she used the water spell against the Charybdi, it was simply supposed to move the boat… but its effect was far greater. She asks Strelok to help her tone it down. He says he’ll try, but most people try to do the opposite. He has a few ideas. Polena says she feels different these days… like something inside her is different. Because using magic, or because sad losing the church family… she isn’t sure. Strelok says people can come into their power in different ways, so that may be it. She says she hopes she can be helpful, since the beasties don’t respond much to magic. St says there is more that can be done than balls of fire or ice; she asks him to teach her some of those things. Strelok agrees, suggesting, among other things, entaglement spells and divine magic. Polena decides to practice a bit more, and Strelok tells her to come find him if she needs anything.

The trip is nearly one-third complete.

St goes to talk with Z, says they may have a bigger problem. Z asks bigger than what. St says P’s power growing faster than anyone he’s ever seen; he is concerned, but trying not to let her know. Z says she can be helped at the schools after all this, but for now… damage spells won’t help much now anyway. St suggests metamagic, and asks for Z’s aid. Sheila overhears, and says we should direct her toward non-attack spells, as it would not be good to fall back on those against creatures that may actually become stronger from such attacks. Z agrees, but says Polena knows her shit. Soon they all go to bed.

The next day, Zephyr went to have her own chat. She asks Polena how she is doing. Although not used to being supportive on an emotional level, she tries her best, and her awkwardness doesn’t get in the way overly much. Polena talks about it being hard not being part of the church; also, working on magic that has in the past always been something “bad”. She also regrets not having proper teaching in the area. She feels lonely. Z tries a half hug, and Polena breaks down. Zephyr pats her continuously, trying different shoulders, the top of the head, both shoulders… but she is attentive to Polena’s sobbing the entire time, and doesn’t even mind the emotional clinging all that much. After a few minutes, Polena settles down, and apologizes. Z tells her not to; she reminds her she has friens, offers to help, offers to get her into a magic school, etc. Polena is grateful. Z says she can come talk to her anytime, and they can… just… uh… she’d not sure what people do… Polena says she knows a fun peg game; Z says that as soon as this is all over, P should teach her. P gladly agrees.

Four days pass; it is now day 10. One sailor has been lost in a storm. Polena has made a bit of progress in reining in her power; concentrating a little less hard, and being more thoughtful of time she allows it to charge, she replicates Strelok’s smaller cold blast. Hayden walks up to Polena and makes the motions as if doing the spell himself: it poofs out. “Eh, I got nothing.” Polena said she almost thought he’d do it. Like, maybe he was a secret wizard…

Hayden uses presti. to change outfits. Cleric officer….? Pirate king…? Cleric officer? Pirate king…. Zephyr wonders a bit at this bizarre behavior, but decides to ignore it.

4 more days pass; day 15. We’re down to jerky, fruit, water. People are getting restless and irritable. Strelok contemplates fishing, snd finds some fishing gear.

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All the Montages.
ALL OF THEM.

Totally haven’t fixed or proofread this, fyi.

2/26
We discuss more what our plans will be. Z hopes to recruit some working under Horns so that she is not the only one who knows what to do, especially since at this point the people working on them have a more updated idea of how to use it. Hayden isn’t sure how he can help; it is suggested that he can help get things we’ll need, including a ship. Polena reminds Strelok of the people who had been trying to find their own route between continents. They are south {Cassianka? sp?}. Further, they owe the party a favor. It will also be easier than going through Ferrin.

PS, part of Strong’s plan to quarantine Oras includes a blockade to stop ships.

General call would bring people who aren’t necc useful, despite good intentions. Zephyr agrees with St’d idea of paladins and clerics; Sheila’s divine spell stopped the infection of a blight worm at its earliest stage. Zephyr also will use a sending spell to contact her school in Vuresca to try to recruit the strongest alchemists. Hayden and Strelok mention something about casing the “Stronghold”.

Hayden cases. Details are acquired. He and Strelok scheme how to steal things. After forming a rough plan, Strelok goes to talk to Polena. He asks how she’s doing. She says she’s expected this would eventually happen. He says we have the option to get back at them a bit, if she is interested. Polena doesn’t understand, and Strelok outlines all the wrongs they’ve done to her. She defends them somewhat, but not a lot. He asks for her opinion. She doesn’t know if she wants to help, but doesn’t mind if they do it. Strelok says they’d use it to help out Oras.

He then goes to Zephyr, who is a bit skeptical. Will be used for “mission”? Yes, Strelok reassures her. Zephyr says as long as they don’t get caught… Strelok says that may be a problem, as they may well notice, and would obviously suspect us. Zephyr points out that she’s already planning on stealing the weaponized crystals (even if she has Hornswaggle’s blessing, many people involved in cultivating and weaponizing crystals, some would notice…) and hoping to take some of his alchemists to aid us; even without that, she needs to linger with Hornswaggle for at least a few days, plenty of time for Strong to come after us. Strelok says they have other means of getting funds. Zephyr says she will leave it to his judgement. HIS… not Hayden, who she had to bribe to take a sobering potion so that they could discuss the fate of the world.

[Side: The bird that followed Hayden from the Forest is being more noticeable recently, interacting more. He takes crumbs from Hayden, splashes water when Hayden drinks from the well… and has even brought two gold pieces to Hayden (and some copper). Hayden raises an eyebrow and decides the bird has paid his rent. He shares his jerky with the bird. Hayden tells the bird that it is suddenly a lot less annoying. “Keep this up, and it might go somewhere.”]

Hayden asks Sheila if servants of Iomadae take certain vows. For example, is a vow of poverty part of the deal? Sheila gives away most of her earnings. Sheila says no, just a teaching that you should not take much for yourself. He continues to ask questions, wanting to leave something for Strong that may get Strong in trouble. He plans to take a medal prominent in Strong’s medal and leave something in its place. Hayden grabs parchment and quill and runs off on his own. That night, Hayden attempts to get into the building. He lurks until he sees people go in for nightly cleaning, then uses his hat of disguise along with stealth and bluff. He leaves a letter in Strong’s office, on the floor as if it had accidentally fallen and was unnoticed; people cleaning, however, will undoubtedly see it.

Meanwhile: Sheila cannot think of any paladins in particular to ask along. She plans to speak to people on the road to recruit them, either to fight for change here or go to Oras to help.

Early Morning Ceremony: Is cold. The ritual is observed by two council people, and Strong leads. Sheila is asked many questions, relating mainly to her path and its relation to Iomadae. They take her armor and give her another set: it is more muted, a dark blue-gray. The insignia is a bit different – it is simpler, and features a sword. As the ritual concludes, they wish her well. Strong looks sad. Sheila nods and takes her leave.

The party assembles and heads out. Sheila seems more terse than usual. Hayden looks up at the Stronghold and sees Strong watching them. Hayden uses his hat of disguise to take the appearance of an alter boy and winks back at Strong. Strong looks alarmed and confused.

We head towards Hornswaggle and Danuul. Zephyr uses a sending spell to contact her college. Hornswaggle’s colleagues are academic types; they offer aid in research, and similar, but they are not the sort who would come along. Zephyr asks for any adventuring types among recent graduates (or not necc recent) who she might be able to enlist. There is a montage. Polena and Zephyr go to Hornswaggle, Strelok and Hayden to Danuul. Zephyr asks Sheila to find any who might have divine magic and would come to help with healing. She suggests the church of Iomadae in Danuul; Sheila does not wish to deal with them, however; they may not look well upon her and her new path, and this path is brand new to her. Strelok says, well, she could introduce herself to some vice! Hayden adds that she might take the chance to loosen the ponytail a bit. No? Well, Strelok asks about affiliates; soldiers such as she met during her stint on the wall, for instance; healing clinics that are not religiously affiliated; etc.

NOTE: Physical confrontation DOES work against these things; just difficult. So trained soldiers WOULD be a benefit. Zephyr points out that if we are planning to send soldiers onto the battlefield, really need to get clerics, people who know divine healing. Some soldiers would know those spells. Further, the soldiers who worked with the church will know people. Zephyr gives her share of the money from Strong to Hayden and request that they buy as many divine spell wands, scrolls, etc. as they can find. Additional 10k for bag of holding… but is told they will be fine for money. Instead use for things needed for crystal cultivation. In that case, Zephyr says, just get as many bags of holding as you can.

MONTAGE
As Zephyr expected, Hornswaggle not happy about fact that all his work will be held in reserve. Agrees they should go to Oras. Gives Zephyr half a dozen prototypes. Two alchemists who work under him are willing to come. They know all about the crystals. Zephyr learns from Hornswaggle; in spare time, Polena bombards her with questions, wanting to learn. Best intentions, but stretches Zephyr’s time thin. Zephyr at times puts her with one of Hornswaggle’s underlings to learn, so that Zephyr herself can best maximize her own learning. College responds, sending a list of names of people interested in helping out. Setting up a research committee. Half a dozen willing to come with us. Zephyr requests they be sent to Hornswaggles lab immediately. They should be there within 5 days.

MOAR MONTAGE
Strelok works on getting bounties in Danuul; Hayden has scrolls of “sculpt corpse” to make it appear that certain people have been caught, and collect rewards. Danuul still up and running, but much tension and suspicion, fewer nomadic tradesmen coming through. More quiet at night, more security at the city gates. Hayden works on stealing from merchant vaults, wealthy townspeople, and other places with decent amounts of coin.

Hayden’s loot:
1,665 gold
800 gold
600 gold, ~800gold worth of jewelry

During day: shopping! And when that is not happening, Hayden tries to figure out the bird. It has taken to alighting on his shoulder. It chirps and warbles at him occasionally. It seems to pay attention to Hayden when he speaks, and may make response sounds. Hayden is able to get general feelings from the bird…. which can be irritating, because often when Hayden yells at it, it becomes gleeful. Hayden has discovered it is very fond of leftover toast crusts, and is happy for meat scraps. Berries and other fruits also are good, but are often a bit large; an apple slice proves troublesome. Hayden recommends an opposable thumb. The bird pecks him a bit, then nibbles his thumbnail. When Hayden is stealthing, it can be shooed away, but often will take it on itself to roost nearby and watch. Once during a heist, it coos softly to alert Hayden to a guard nearby.

HOORAY IT’S A MONTAGE

3/19 – I was pretty much dead after finals and cake D:
So during montages, Sheila talked with army buddies about helping.

Hayden decides to stop by his old home.

Hornswaggle has no interest in coming along.

~
Hayden and Strelok are in Danuul. VERY crowded; a tent city has been erected.

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Where We Go From Here

The town Ilirra: Many refugees, some areas cordoned off for them. Marketplace deserted, people staying inside. Feeling we should leave asap. We go to see Strong in his nearby “Stronghold”. Polena worries about the church’s reaction to her use of magic; Strelok points out they don’t need to tell Strong. Polena reluctantly says this is true.

We are given separate rooms, our weapons are taken. Then Strelok, Zephyr, Hayden, and Sheila are put in a waiting room; Polena is not with us. Sheila is summoned to see Strong alone. Strong is sitting at his desk, not looking very happy; he looks disappointed, in fact, which is harder to deal with than angry Strong. There are no other chairs, so Sheila must stand. Strong says he’d “had more hopes from this mission than he probably should have had”. Sheila outlines our trek, including some creature encounters. Also: the corpse balls found in ruins and the city. Strong then asks how studies with Polena have been going. Sheila says she’s been improving. Strong agrees, yet the part of her they’d hoped would have been quelled in her time with Sheila had only gotten stronger. Polena is no longer welcome in the church. Strong suggests this may have resulted from Sheila’s poor choice in companions. He also says he’d been thinking of Sheila taking over his position one day, but clearly may not be suitable… Sheila snaps. She’s done all she’s been told, everyone has survived and contributed, gone through more than most could. Strong’s eyebrows nearly reach his hairline. Sheila concludes, and is overcome with an “oh shit what did I do” expression.

Strong: I see fieldwork has been hard on you; why I thought mentorship program would be suitable. By now you should have settled down and have your own students. Understand adventure is in your nature; however, not questioning your place in our flock, you are a valued member and did impeccably; however, “we have lost a young and brilliant girl from our group because it was difficult for your to multitask and guide her toward the light”. Not a failure on your part; a lack of aptitude for teaching. As I was saying, many other venues in the church that might better suit your nature. I do not plan to renew any contracts with your party. Clearly not aligned with our point of view; although effective mercenaries, little more than that. I understand your loyalty & sense of friendship with your group; willing to grant you a sabbatical to sort out your loose ends, at which point you can return—
Sheila: what good if world is ending?
Strong: We’re doing what we can…
Sheila: You need us. You need me, you need this group.
Strong: not my decision to make. I trust you, but you don’t have good graces with rest of council. Don’t test them. I strongly advise against it.

Sheila has had it. Especially because he went after Polena. She defends her ward passionately, saying Strong has not been there to see her accomplishments or growth. Also frustrated that he hasn’t even talked to any of us about the mission yet has decided it is done. She has done her duty. Skyler snickers. She says mentorship is more about character, about making sure they do things in the heart of Iomadae. Strong looks sad. He says he understands her feelings. But the church is very clear on the dangers of the unpredictable nature of arcane magic; they cannot abide a viper living amongst them. She’s shown great strength of character. Perhaps they can one day be allies. But as a member of our church… it is just not possible. Sheila says this situation is not working for her. Strong says he regrets that this might be their last conversation. He would not say this to anyone else. In ancient church lore, have been paladins who devoted lives to Iomadae as “heart wanderers”; did not attend church or belong to organization, instead independent bringers of her word. Isn’t that what Iomadae did herself? Few are strong enough to travel this path; none of chosen it in past 600 years. Strong says there is a ritual, and then Sheila will not receive help from the Church again. Sheila says she hasn’t really been getting help as it is. Strong says he is sorry she feels that way. The ritual will take place tomorrow at dawn. “You are dismissed.”

It is early afternoon. Zephyr gets a summons.
Zephyr is greeted happily, and shown to a chair. He comments on the parties progress and the loss of the mercenary and Hayden’s hand. Z informs him of the threat the information in the book contains and that the forest is not a current problem. Strong is confused at first and asks for context to her excitement. She explains how she came upon the book she has been translating. She explains how the bugs while a threat, are not nearly as important as the plague worms and their growing numbers and connection to Faramil. She also inquires about Hornswaggle and his work with the bombs. She volunteers the party to save the world. Strong is seriously disturbed and tells Z that they must immediately quarantine the entire east continent. He informs her that even though some ships did get through the blockade they are being quarantined in the bay. He also informs her the party will not be further employed by the church and that the church is pulling out entirely from the eastern continent. He looks forward to her continuing to work with the church on the bombs. Z expresses concern about the paladins being recalled, S informs her that those that wish to stay can. He expresses that the church simply cannot sacrifice their soldiers considering the current circumstances. They must protect their own and cannot focus on peoples that can only offer “Dust and horses”. He tells her that the creatures are growing in size and lessen in number. There is a wall separating Ardova and the northern parts of the continent. It has been holding, but that is currently the best hope. The creatures however are getting more dangerous as they grow. Z also inquires about Javid. He was killed. Euthanized. The weapon is nearing completion resulting in a steam powered grenade launcher. A trebuchet like launcher as well. The weapons will be stored and set up to be used in case of emergency infection or other breach of quarantine. Hornswaggle is still working on the crystal production but needs more resources to grow enough for mass productions. Zephyr asks if the weapons will then be sent to Oras; Strong admits that, no, they will not. They will be kept in Amas for its protection should the plague worms reach this continent. But can just cultivate more… Strong says it is very costly. Zephyr inquires as to whether that is from materials, or manpower; she is told the vast majority is paying people to do the work. She points out that people fighting to survive are unlikely to ask for wages; Strong offers to part with a prototype, and Zephyr accepts. She then asks for and receives directions to where Hornswaggle is working. It is several days away.

Meanwhile, 20 min after Zephyr summoned, Hayden and Strelok’s things are returned; told they would not be needed. Strelok asks about money; told they could stop by the treasurer. Sheila is awol (stormed off after meeting w/ Strong), and Polena was taken from the start. There aren’t sure where the women are. They go to the Hawk N Swallow inn for a drink. Hayden mentions he’s got money to blow; Strelok says: we can use that for planar travel. Hayden:…. Huh? (Would need to find an outsider already here to transport us, as we don’t have that tech) (Strelok tries to explain: Our universe is a pancake. There are an infinite number of pancakes. We can go to one of those other pancakes. Why haven’t others done it…? Difficult, expensive. Some leaders of Strelok’s college can do it. Hayden: “sure, why not. Could be fun. Hopefully less tentacley death.” Strelok also says we might try to do something about the problem here. Hayden is doubtful. Strelok says escape is a plan B. Hayden asks what plan A is; Strelok says it is to get drunk.

Back with Zephyr and Strong…
S gives Zephyr voucher for money, 24Kgold. Z goes searching for the rest of her group and does not find them. She then goes to the treasury to receive her payment. Bag of holding is good. She inquires about Sheila and Polena. She is informed that Polena left the city and is heading towards the train station. She asks for a rookery and sends a message to Polena to return. SCRAW!!! She then inquires about the boys and Sheila and is informed the boys went to a bar and that Sheila in the training yards beating the shit outta some poor noobs. They are terrified. Wimplow style. They conspire to reform the group. Z informs Sheila that she is going after Polena. She requests that Sheila find Strelok and Hayden in that time, as Zephyr has much she needs to say to the group. They will meet back here in 2 hours. Zephyr steals a horse. The stable boy is very accommodating. No not like that. sigh

Sheila finds the boys, surrounded by empty cups. They seem jovial. Sheila is tempted to have a drink herself. She takes a swig of one of their cups… and wonders why they like it. Sheila asks what their plans are. What about money? Z has. Where is Z? Going after P. Where is p?? What’s going on? Sheila briefly explains that church rejected Polena, Polena headed to train station, Zephyr currently fetching her back; Sheila also leaving church (they kicked YOU out? No… parting ways…) Hayden likens it to telling a fish to get out of the ocean. Sheila says she was apparently starting to swim upstream. So, Hayden asks what Sheila’s plans are. She says she will be doing nothing sanctioned by the church. Hayden is wondering why they are letting her go solo rather than kicking her out. Meanwhile, Strelok is asking about how the church does duels. He wants to challenge Strong.

Sheila explains she has a certain personality type that the church doesn’t welcome in their daily functions… Strelok: honorably discharged? Sheila: well, yeah. Strelok: So… pension? Sheila: no. Not connected to the church. Strelok to Hayden: What are you doing tonight? He proposes a party to celebrate Sheila leaving church. He holds up a glass and tells her she has eight or nine more to drink to catch up. (Throughout all this, Strelok keeps saying he should go get Polena, and Sheila explains Zephyr left already and etc.) Strelok realizes after being told 3rd or so time that Zephyr is meeting them with Polena in about 1.5 hr that he should sober up. He goes to bathroom, and Hayden asks what Sheila is going to do; wait. What? Wait? Disciple was kicked out, you are leaving the church, and you’re just going to wait? Strelok returns and says plan is to duel Strong, and then he and Hayden have extracurricular activites… H: eh? S: well, she’s not getting a pension… H: and they already fired us… and world is ending… there is a lot they won’t need… Sheila tuned them out at “extracurricular activities”. Strelok suggests he and Hayden case the place…

Zephyr comes upon a sad Polena sitting dejected on the side of the road. Out of her clerics robes she’s quite fashionable. Zephyr greets her casually and asks where Polena is going. Polena says she was thinking of going to the school Zephyr attended, since Zephyr had spoken so highly of it. Zephyr says that unlike what Polena told Strelok awhile back, it is not the case that she “has no where else to go”; she can stay with Zephyr. However, where Zephyr is going will be dangerous; she requests Polena come with her for the time being to meet up with the rest of the party, and Zephyr will explain everything. Then if Polena would like, Zephyr will write her a letter of recommendation to get her into the school. Without yet knowing what the danger is, Polena says she wants to stay with Zephyr.

They return to the city. She crafts a sobering potion for the drunken party. Zephyr has had a lot to say bottled up for several hours; when she returns to find Strelok and Hayden drunk, she is a tad frustrated (the words “I will blow you up!” may have been used). She quickly crafts a sobriety potion. When Hayden complains of the smell, she tells him that she has the party’s money. He and Strelok drink.

She explains the situation in the soon-to-be abandoned continent. She outlines her plan: go to Hornswaggle and make sure she knows everything there is to know about the crystals and the bombs made from them; obtain promised samples, then steal or pursuade Hornswaggle to part with much of the weapon that Strelok had intended to keep on this continent for protection. Find a ship — either hire some of the many people who have relatives still in Oras, or buy (if inter-continental transport is cut off, merchants with large fleets have lost most of their need for them). Go to the wall that has been constructed in Ardova and recruit the people there to cultivate the crystals and help with the weaponization process. Chuck crystal bombs over the wall and the advancing Plague Worm horde. Hopefully kill enough such that even if the remainder consolidate into one being, the resulting beast is not as unstoppable as Faramil’s Monster at full strength would be. She plans to sell most of her things, anything that is not useful against the plague worms, to raise money; she may need to call in debts, as she has lent money out to the party previously. She apologizes to Hayden, as she had previously promised her funds to aid in the regeneration of his hand. She asks if any will join her, speaking to each directly. She explains how if we cull their numbers now we can prevent them from completing the transformation. Hayden is skeptical as to what we can really do against these things, but is at last convinced. Zephyr attempts to use the prospect of damsels in distress all over Oras, honestly thinking that this is good motivation, and having no idea it comes off patronizing to Hayden.

Other thoughts: Zephyr wonders if we might spread word that we are going to Oras to help; many people have family there, and the fact that the church is withdrawing aid and leaving them on their own will not sit well with many. They’d need to bring their own food for the voyage.

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Helping Hands

We return to Danuul. More chaotic than before… not overt or overwhelming, but the usual “busy” feel is affected by an air of fear. So many fleeing the coastal cities have made it much more crowded. Refugees have been landed from Oras. Rumors of people/ships being turned away, some ships being burned. Ferrin is torching incoming ships, no questions ask; or, Ferrin is welcoming all refugees; conflicting rumors. The refugees coming may itself be just a rumor, with people fleeing the coastal cities just because it is a possibility. Luckily we are able to find room and board, three rooms between the five of us.

Hayden is brooding, having a new sense of mortality. When we enter the city, we see a shop that sells prosthetic limbs with all sorts of attachments. It is called “The Stranger”. Hayden decides to check it out. The shop keeper takes a look at his arms to gauge size. He tells Hayden that they don’t have anything basic in stock, but some with a few features… he brings out a “floor model” that he admits has a few “bugs” (Hayden twitches at the word “bugs”). The hand has a lighter finger, which creates fire in a finger; another finger has a can opener, a third has a knife, etc. A “sort of… deluxe smarmy model”. There is a reservoir in the palm, and a finger unscrews… it is a flask. There is also a concealed compartment for valuables. All the limbs in the shop are magical in construction. Each has a crystal and comes with a crystal necklace, which communicate in a way, allowing one to move their artificial limb like they would a natural limb.

Hayden expresses interest in the hand, but doesn’t have enough gold. He sees what he might have to trade… not enough, unfortunately. He barters a little… but not unfairly… and impresses the shopkeeper with the tale of how he lost the hand. The shopkeeper sees him as a veteran. “Here at the Stranger, we believing in reaching out and touching those in need…” he offers a discount: 4k gp rather than 6.5. Hayden reminds the shopkeeper that he said this model was “buggy”, and a floor-model. The shopkeeper sweats a bit, but says he’ll knock of 500 gold. Telling the shopkeeper about the gems and jewelry he has to offer, he talks them up a bit, and makes them more interesting by the stories of how they were gotten. However, they are not quite enough. The guy (not quite sane) says he needs them imbued with certain magic. Hayden is not entirely sure what this means, but says he can do this, and will return in the morning.

Zephyr knows what the man meant, and is impressed that the man figured out such an application of magic. Zephyr says she can do this, imbuing the six gems within the day. Polena may be able to help.

Meanwhile, Strelok has returned to Van’s gun shop. The shop is closed; Strelok knocks, with no success. Around back is a skinny flight of stairs, up which is a door with a bell outside. It takes a few rings before Strelok hears stirring from within, and much grumbling. “Oh, it’s you. Don’t you know the meaning of the word ‘closed’?” Strelok: No welcome back from a terrible place from which few people return alive? Van: well, uh, a few people have returned, and I had faith in you….

Strelok hands him the gun found in the wastes. Van recognizes it; he says he made it for Strelok’s father, around 20 years ago. He hadn’t thought Strelok’s father ever used it, nor had been very fond of it. Strelok says he found it in an old building in the wastes. Van thinks this is odd, and asks if Strelok saw any signs of is brother there. Strelok says he had not. Van says he hadn’t seen Alexander for many years, but knows that he had a tendency to cache weapons and ammo; and there are stories of impressive game in the forest, including a dragon. Alexander is a bit of a daredevil hunter. Strelok asks if he could trade it for the gun he commissioned before the party left for the Forest. Van is agreeable to this, and fetches the commissioned gun, kept in a mahogany box. Mahogany. In parting, Strelok recommends that Van leave town; Van asks where he should go, as the creatures are rumored to be prolific and spread quickly. He will stay.

Sheila goes towards the center of town to see what people are saying. At this point in the day, people are heading home from the market. There is much talk about the increased number of people in the city. Where they came from differs on who you talk to. The same contradictory rumors about the plague worms, the quarantine, and refugees. Those passing through are traveling to the south west, Pen{sp?} and Agrium.

Meanwhile, Hayden forges a bank bond from Illira. The next morning, he disguises himself as an older gentleman, in nice but travel-worn clothing. He retains the stump where his hand used to be. He goes to a bank and tells a story of fleeing the coast; the bond, he says, was all he could save. The bank teller is sympathetic, and finds a manager to help out. It takes awhile, as the bank is very busy. The bank is low on smaller-value coins, and the manager apologetically asks if it would be alright in platinum. He brings it to Hayden… 200 platinum total. Hayden drops the disguise once away from the bank, then heads towards the shop. He notices a mechanical hand on the roof; it is going up and down… waving, sort of… He buys his new hand. It is buckled on, and he puts on the jewel necklace. The shopkeeper flips a tiny switch on the back of the necklace, and the hand is now on.

The party catches a train to go see Strong.

WE ALL GAIN TWO LEVELS!!

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Many Bugs = Happy Birds.
Also, wtf Aeric?!

So the party had awoken to find Zephyr and Polena gone. Their beads on Sheila’s bracelet still bear their resemblance, but are cold and unresponsive. Strelok was unable to track the two. The remaining party decided to continue heading towards the center of the forest, having no other ideas.

The forest is denser, and travel more difficult. Progress is slow. The two birds do not speed things up, as they are not evolved for this type of terrain. It is getting hotter and more humid. The party encounters more bugs, a few oozes, and what looks like a shambling mound; all were successfully bypassed. Several species of fungus “ripple” towards the party. Bioluminescence is more frequent.

75 feet up a tree, a body is hanging from a branch. Hayden asks Strelok if he can shoot it down, but Strelok is reluctant to make noise. The body looks like it has been there a long time; not Polena or Zephyr. There are centipedes the size of giant river otters. Those in the party without breathing aids find themselves having coughing spells from the spores and plants. Occasionally the party will experience burning or watering eyes. Strelok devises something to help Sheila; a mask of moss, more or less.

Night falls, and the party finds a campsite. It is the hollow of a great tree, in what seems to be an abandoned animal den; there is only one opening, aside from a narrow slit in the wood in back. The one opening is well camouflaged. Aeric puts together a crude trap alarm to alert the party if someone approaches the entrance.

Unfortunately, he does not return to the den, although the traps are set.

Strelok looks for tracks and believes he sees a trail; however, night has fallen, and it becomes harder and harder to see them. Further, all the roots within the ground move slightly, making it hard to see the tracks. The plants in this part of the forest subtly writhe in the night. Luckily, the tree within which the camp has been made is long dead. Strelok and Hayden debate whether or not to try to track Aeric given the ever-increasing lack of visibility. However, the writhing disrupts the dirt and the tracks, so by morning it may not be possible to follow them. Further, the presence of tracks makes it look as though Aeric ran off; Polena and Zephyr left no tracks when taken.

Hayden yells at the forest a little, trying to get the attention of anything sentient. The night noises abate a bit as things are startled. Sheila and Strelok agree to follow the tracks, and the three set off, accompanied by the two birds.

Everything glows, so the party can at least see the path. Unfortunately, the party is soon attacked. The creatures are glowing, slimy, and have a “deep sea” feel. Some have shining lures. The tracks take them further into the forest, and it looks as though Aeric is moving quickly. The party encounters several dead bugs, evidently slain by Aeric. After traveling three hours, the tracks are noticibly fresher.

Then there is a scraping mark, as if Aeric tripped… and nothing else. The party pauses… and looks around. The forest is moving faster now, and seems to be taking a shape. It seems to be contracting. It eventually stills; it undulates, but no longer moves otherwise. The forest has previously acted this way if large things are moving in the vicinity. Exhausted, the party decides it needs to camp. A suitable tree is found and camp is set up once more.

~
While unconscious, Zephyr dreams of the blight worms, and of “their master”… the dreams are lucid, terrible, and perhaps prophetic.
~

Morning seems to come quickly, despite the fact that watches are not set and everyone in the party sleeps. Now that the sun is up, the forest is much, much quieter; in the night, it seemed near a roar. They sleep a few hours past dawn, setting off at 10 or 11 am.

The party debates their next steps. Go further? Return and focus on the blight worms? Leave, find a wizard, and hope he can trace the missing party members through Sheila’s bracelet?

Strelok at least is able to make a better breathing aparatus for Sheila. It is still a bit itchy, but no longer makes her sneeze.

The party decides to move on into the forest.

Shortly thereafter, they find a corpse ball. It contains a single body… a fleshy one. Luckily, it is no one from the party, nor even human. It has leathery wings, a reptilian bat creature. It only has one hand, the other arm ending in a bloody stump. The goo of the corpseball is still sticky; a falling leaf lands on it and is slowly sucked in. Closer inspection shows many small beetles also sucked in. The flesh remaining suggests the corpse balls are not just the regurgitated non-digestable remains of food.

The creature in the ball is fresh and may have been sentient; perhaps there are others of its kind. Strelok climbs a tree to look around, but finds cat-sized bees. He descends.

After a few hours, the party spots a necklace on the ground which belongs to Polena. Hayden looks up, but sees nothing. There are no other signs. A small bird tries to snatch the necklace, but the party quickly scoops it up. Strelok asks to hold on to it.

Around this time, Zephyr begins to awaken, experiencing a terrible headache. It feels as though she were cut off from her arcane magic. She suspects she is in a field, one that the forest probably couldn’t make itself; also within structure, a lean-to shed thing. Zephyr notes that she and Polena are not necessarily trapped, as there is no obvious lock. But the field likely not just for magic. Polena is unconscious on pile of hay, snoring and drooling slightly. It’s warm. Pretty comfy. Neither woman has any apparent injury. Zephyr is awake maybe 3 minutess before remembering her dream, and suddenly she understands the book**. She is shell-shocked for a while, but has time to process. After about an hour, a large beetle comes and pulls open the door. It glances in, then backtracks… leaving the door open. But then a skinny gnarled man steps into doorway. He wears plain robes, is all skin and bones, encrusted with bark and debris, and he carries simple wooden staff. One white eye, one piercing.

Notes that Zephyr is awake and of good constitution; he did not anticipate that. He will not say much, but says Polena and Zephyr will not be harmed, as long as he gets what is “his due”. Says we should be on our way soon (implies it depends on the will of some male being). Won’t answer questions about how long we must wait. Says food will be brought. Zephyr decides it best not to press for answers. The man closes the door. A beetle burrows in, vomits a sweet-smelling yellow substance, and leaves. Having been unconscious for 24 hours, Zephyr needs food, and can’t resist long… the substance is surprisingly pleasant; like nectar from trees smelled. Suddenly Zephyr feels euphoric. Polena stirs, and Zephyr has an urge to finish quickly; she has enough self control to leave Polena some.

Pallas is curled in haystack in the hut, nibbling happily on bugs. He tells Zephyr they were brought on the back of a bug, and the two women were well tended. He couldn’t lead us back, but possibly could ID key landmarks if he came across them again.

After awhile, Zephyr gets lonely, and pokes Polena awake. Polena is excited about the food; Zephyr decides not to say anything. Difficult, since she is bored and finds the bugs fascinating already. Zephyr fills Polena in on the situation. Polena says her magic wouldn’t be useful anyway… Zephyr reassures her that she’s been making progress. Polena says she’d like to learn more, and asks Zephyr to teach her some. Zephyr is extremely pleased to do so. The man doesn’t return that evening, but the two are engrossed. Polena gives her rapt attention, which makes Zephyr feel appreciated; she finds she actually likes Polena very much.

~~
Back with the party, the birds are SO FREAKIN HAPPY.

Strelok has a theory about expanding leaves blotting out sun, obscuring daylight and making it seem that the party has traveled for more hours than it actually has; what they perceive as dusk and dawn are off.

Strelok tries climbing another tree. He finds an empty hunting blind. Looks like it was last used a day or so (judging by blood on ground). Appears to be used at least weekly. This looks like a good camp spot, so he goes to tell Sheila and Hayden; but he will stay on the forest floor with the birds. Sheila says they should stay together. Hayden bitches about not using the convenient platform above. Strelok assures them both that, with the two birds, he’ll be fine. He turns out to be right; the birds gleefully “defend” him against insects.

“Morning”, Sheila awakens; the party is getting more sleep since the light doesn’t reach them through the canopy until after dawn.

(With Zephyr and Polena: Polena is horrified when a beetle delivers breakfast, but Zephyr likens it to honey from a bee)

On their travels that day, the party finds a shred from Zephyr’s clothes and one of Polena’s shoes.

That morning, Polena and Zephyr have normal-person, non-educational discussion, which Zephyr is surprised to find she does not object to. It helps that there is no rambling on Polena’s part. Zephyr almost forgets that she is captured, except for the back-of-the-mind panic from not having access to her magic. It makes her feel hollow, defenseless. Probably early afternoon when a commotion is heard from outside. Theoor opens, but a forcefield is visible just outside. Zephyr and Polena go to the door frame. They begin hearing voices yelling and rustling sounds. A few moments, then a great beetle bursts from forest with the skinny man riding it. He yells “Aeric!” and from the opposite side of the clearing, Aeric enters. He is badly wounded; black eye, scratches and scrapes, gouge in scalp where hair and skin is missing. He trudges in, and says “it’s done. You may let them go now.” Skinny man considers, nods, and force field is removed. (Meanwhile: Polena and Zephyr’s beads on Sheila’s bracelet are suddenly warm).

Aeric tells Zephyr that it isn’t safe, and she and Polena must go. Zephyr: “The fuck?” Aeric: “No time now.” Although wanting to know what is going on, Zephyr recognizes that this is not the right time. Suddenly, she feels Sheila’s pull from bracelet, and she and Polena allow the transportation.

Reunited, Zephyr fills the party in on recent events. We wonder about Aeric, obviously. Strelok returns Polena’s necklace and shoe.

Zephyr then says we need to get the fuck out of the forest and back across the wall. She fills them in on what she has figured out in the book, not mentioning that dreams aided in her discovery, or that they were prophetic; however, the dreams give her an urgency she can very successfully convey. What about Aeric? Well, we don’t know where he is, he doesn’t know where we are, and if it is between him and the rest of the world…

We have similar encounters as when we were traveling into the forest, but the further we head away from the center of the forest, the more relaxing things become. On the third day of travel, Hayden spots something shiny. He does like shiny. It is gold… a lump rather than a bar or coin. It looks like pure ore, a huge chunk of it. It is sitting in the hollow of a log. He goes to take it… but the bird that tried to take Polena’s necklace is back, and it swoops and chirps angrily at Hayden. Dive-bombing and angry noises. Hayden ignores it, shooing it with his dominant hand, and grabs the gold with his off-hand. The bark of the tree snaps shut, trapping his hand, and a cloud of purple spores bursts forth. Then the rumbling starts. The bugs are coming. The bark is chitinous… not wood after all. Hitting it with the pommel of a sword produces a clanging sound. Sheila tries to help. The forest parts. Sheila swings with her fiery sword, but no success. Strelok yells that we need to go; the birds are panicking, Pallas is screeching loud enough for the entire party to hear. Strelok runs over and hits the chitin with a cold spell, then Sheila repeats a full-force blow with her sword, on fire. Blade sinks in about 1/4th of an inch; able to wrench it out… but the rumbling is ever louder. Strelok appologizes and severs Haydens hand. He throws Hayden onto the bird beside Polena to heal, gets himself and Zephyr on the second bird, and we all fucking RUN. Sheila’s armor prevents the birds from carrying her, but she is able to run quickly. Z throws bombs behind them. The party runs for most of the day before losing their pursuit.

Night is falling… Hayden has lost a hand, but his “bird friend” has followed us. Zephyr asks Polena and Sheila about restoration spells. Polena says someone at church may be able to. Zephyr offers her saved up money to Hayden for payment of such restoration spells, and points out that they’ll be paid by Strong when they return.

Traveling montage. We move as quickly as possible across the desert and wall. The men of the hold are surprised to see us alive. One mentions seeing a man who made magical, mechanical limbs. Hayden is quiet throughout the trip, which is very worrisome. The bird continues to follow us. Strelok says he knows someone who could maybe make Hayden an attachment…

**
1200 years ago, Demon Faramil defeated and magic returned (maw created, separated countinents, ocean formed). Book speaks of primal power within his control, possibly never activated because he was still building power. This primal power called Faramil’s monster, a devouring power. Blight worms are larval stage of this creature; ultimately they are almost like homuncili, each having a small part of the monster. As they grow, they will consume one another; growing, growing, growing. Plague will spread, then consolidate, and Faramil’s monster will form. It was perhaps catastrophic for us to leave when we did; the plague spreads quickly, and we’d heard rumors before we’d left of the blight worms appearing on this continent. The plague could easily consume a continent, leading to its destruction. When the monster reborn, chaos unleashed; entire plane could be at risk, not just our world. Ohshitohshitohshit. Prophetic dreams showed Zephyr the extent of the horrors. Ritual to spring the monster from depths required a cult, to bring about the blight worms. Only truly devote or truly insane would perform this ritual.

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[Incomplete]

[The following is Cody’s log followed by extra notes from Becky, who will come back later to consolidate them into a cohesive log.]

Most of the day spent chiseling corpse balls. It is around 4 pm. They return to the church to make camp for the night. It is uneventful.

Sheila wakes the group early. They gather and head towards the Forest. They travel throughout the day, eat some scorpions, and come upon the first real signs of an eco-system. The humidity begins to rise. By the time they make camp that night they have come upon small patches of grass. The night passes uneventfully. They arrive at the forest arrive around noon. Zephyr acquires some spores from a plant. They make camp in the semi-circle of three. Using a hammock they make sure to stay off the ground. It has become uncomfortably warm and humid.

A large beetle the size of a German Shepard appears from the underbrush and then disappears immediately, leaving behind ichorus goo. This happens again several times over the night. Nothing happens. We are visited my many forms of life, salamanders, insects, small mammals and strange bats. Zephyr digs. She is very curious. Polena assists. The night is uneventful.

Morning comes. Everything is damp. Sheila notices while cleaning her armor that the dew is unusual. It is thick and viscous. The night’s digging was unsuccessful. The roots are so thick it is impossible to dig more than a few feet down. The fungus gets thicker farther in. They begin to see bioluminescent creatures and plants. Zephyr begins to add to her “guide”. The predatory things we find are all smaller than us and give us no trouble. They find a mineral deposit that Zephyr takes a sample of. Hayden is drawn to a bluish light. He comes upon the well of a tree. It is filled with sweet smelling that glows liquid. He puts his finger in it. It smells like nectar. He brings it to the parties attention. He tastes it. It is delicious. He is mildly intoxicated. He feels amazing. He fills a bottle with the goo, Zephyr does as well. They make camp for the night.

In the night they feel movement underground and they hear movement in the forest. The forest seems to move around the beetles, parting for them as they pass through. The Tree Well seems to be a potential food source for the insects. Zephyr feels very close to a major breakthrough with her notes. Possibly the origin of the parasitic creatures they faced on the last continent.

Blue drank is the shiznat.

Zephyr comes to the realization her notes contain the summoning ritual for Faramils monster, which is the cause of the blight worm plague. We make camp again. The first shift passes uneventfully. Sheila awakes to her natural clock. This is unusual. Polena and Zephyr and missing.
“this isn’t the blessing I want it to be is it?”
Unable to find a trail they set upon direction indicated by Erics “Hunch”.

~~~~~

Zephyr’s studies of the corpse ball material revealed:
• Non-corrosive or poisonous
• Appears to be just waste material/byproduct
• Was an ooze before hardening into a solid
• Must have a preservative element since clothing, metal, etc has not degraded
• It has an unusual signature that implies magical components combined with biological base. Definitely made within a living creature.

From translation studies: can now read most of the book, but there is a sizeable passage at the end that is in a different hand and in a proto-language; cannot yet translate it, but have the sense that it is very important.

Sneezing as approach forest. Not an unpleasant smell. See more and more life — small insects, birds. looks like normal, healthy wildlife. Zephyr notes that all these birds are migratory, not native to this area. Air getting more humid. By time we camp, grasses.

Forest much denser than expected. Flora: large trees, smaller growth. Trees too large for forest edge, and how it is spreading. Mangrove-like root systems. Emitting spores: a large, rotund thing with a large blossom on top. Aproximately a 2ft diameter. Oozing spores. Ocassionally pulsing. Zephyr jars some spore-mist.

She decides to dig that night to examine the root systems. If there are shallow roots, no problem; if they are deep, that suggests that the burrowing insects are native to the waste rather than the actual forest (unless we are seeing dead plants)

Find 3 trees to camp by.

Beetle size of german shepard leaves yellow goo; corrosive, smells sickly-sweet. After several such fleeing beetles, seems a defensive thing, but can also be used to aid digestion.

Polena offers to help Zephyr dig, saying everyone else doesn’t think Zephyr knows what she is doing, but it seems like Zephyr is the only one who knows what she is doing. Zephyr is touched, and realizes she has been feeling rather dispirited, being the only one with a “plan” and yet not being paid much attention to.

Glowing goo: traces of elemental magic; foresty, nurturing.

Hayden tastes goo… Zephyr decides to start studying him again, because HOW HAS HE SURVIVED THIS LONG?!

Zephyr translation epiphany: thinks she knows where to focus now. Study: no more translation, but even more feeling that the information contained in this passage is imperative to our current quest… yet does not seem to be about the Forest. Perhaps an origin story?

Plants moving to let beetles through: symbiosis? magical or psychic signal sent from beetles? Possible beetles have a sort of spell they can cast

As we travel deeper into forest, things become bigger, and symbiosis more noticeable (witnessing plants moving for creatures often). These observations cause Zephyr to become more and more obsessed with the untranslated passage; now sure it has nothing to do with the forest, yet important.

Later, breakthrough in passage: 1200 years ago when demon (Faramil) slain, had compartmentalized soul (like homunculus) into vessel that was his body, and a vicious beast. Faramil was destroyed, but the monster lay dormant. This book details rites/rituals to reawaken Faramil’s monster; results are what happened in Oras… creatures are his children. When they have amassed enough power, Faramil will return. The magic that has returned to the world would make it easier for Faramil to return, as it has allowed this Forest to grow. Layman’s terms: someone summoned Faramil’s monster, intentionally, although results may not have been foreseen.

Polena and Zephyr take second shift… and are hit by darts. They pass out before they can react.

Taking over notes:
The party travels the rest of the day looking for Polena and Zephyr. Along the deer trail, they see structures — simple and rudamentary, yet unable to be made by non-humanoid hands. Several platforms, and some posts with engravings in a language they do not recognize. Hayden says people must live here, but Strelok points out that it may be that they LIVED here. The writing on the posts is in the same language as that on the disc that attatched to Hayden and then Strelok. Strelok asks his sword where his friends may have been taken. Sword “sensed one of the creators come”. Strelok asks if it can locate where the creator is now, or at least a general direction. Sword: "They are all around. The creator used to be one, now he is many. " Strelok asks for closest one. The sword says it is in the general direction they are heading. This makes Strelok suspicious of Aeric, who had a gut feeling that they should go in their current direction.

Travel long into the night, but finally stop to camp.

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Fort exploration

City not built in desert, life drained. Formerly a bustling port trade city. We camp in church of Pelor. Last campaign was 1200 years ago. When magic came back into the world. The forest began to grow as soon as the magic returned. Began to grow slowly. Spores present, but not in force; far fewer plants to produce them. After a few hundred years, gained speed. History: “forest” only reached the city we are in about 300 years ago. That is when the waste ARRIVED at the city, when crops started failing, drought, etc. At first only thought it was a bad few years, but only got worse. The actual forest, the city discovered, had grown towards them at an alarming speed.

Within 30 years, the city was nothing but dust; no longer viable. Some tried to stay, most left. No one beyond the wall knows what happened to them. Valuables taken by those who migrated over the 30 years. Corpse balls suggest why nothing was heard from the hold-outs. Migrators had not thought drought would last forever, but feared the approaching forest also.

Morning in the church:

Hayden snores in a gentlemanly fasion, Sheila meditates through it. Zephyr considers looking for a library. She consults Sheila about looking for a library, citing the possible knowledge it would provide to the success to the mission. They decide to head to the fort instead to look hopfully for the last bastion of the city’s people. While trying to express the importance of her search for information, Zephyr gets frustrated with Hayden, and Sheila says she doesn’t have to explain things. Zephyr expresses bewilderment that there is someone who does not catch on even with a clear display, in laymen’s terms, of logic. Sheila says he is just trying to get a reaction. (Aeric: “he’s fucking with you…”) Zephyr suddenly understands: Hayden is interested in psychology!

Once at the fort, Zephyr levitates up the wall and opens the portcullis. The courtyard around the fort is bare. Littered with a little training gear and rusted armor/weapons. The fort itself is not elegant but certainly sturdy. Hayden looks for murderholes. There are windows on the second story. Sheila opens the barred door with a clever use of her sword. Inside, we find the stone walls are much thinner than they appear from the outside; a clever ruse to deter attack. The place creaks as the door swings open, making Zephyr suspect that the mortar used in the construction is of lesser quality than that in the church. We move quietly.

The main door opens into a large entrance hall. The large door on the left opens up into a large room. There are the remains of severals wagons, some empty chests, and some old grain. The first door on the right is a small access hallway that follows the outer wall. A door in the hallway leads to what appears to be a mess hall, which in turn leads to a weapons storage room and some barracks.

The barracks have several rows of tall bunk beds. The room is old and well used. Zephyr looks through the chests in hope for a diary or notes. She finds letters, only 3 or 4. In her search she comes upon a large corpse ball. After her initial shock she notices it is located over a crevice in the ground. It is actually mounted on the wall and extends into the crevice, and so is even larger than first glance. At least 20 bodies, fully armed and armored. Zephyr sets an old sword aflame, and Sheila uses her sword in fire-mode. Sheila and Zephyr both begin to attack the ball with flaming swords… It smells terrible. Aeric leaves, Polena looks green. They hack into it until the have excavated about an 8th of it. They find nothing of use. They give up and move on to another doorway in the barracks which leads into the main hall. They find a long table they suspect would be used by a ruling council. The rest is mostly empty space. Likely once filled with much fine finery, it is now barren and ransacked. A door near the council table leads to some sort of infirmary. Zepher finds some basic medical impliments. They also find some council member chambers. It has been looted. An endtable contains notes from a consular that worked here. The last entry was 267 years ago. The last entry was speaking of leaving and the frustration that not more people were leaving with them. Zephyr takes the notebook so that she can read it in full later.

They then head to the tower. It is full of wagons, crates, a huge corpse ball and some stairs leading up. They follow the stairs leading to a junk room of sorts. As they round the stairs and come upon a faggot, it’s drafty and damaged. They come upon what is clearly a nest.

“Yes, young flesh” Hayden whispers. He stealths. Creeping. He finds the young of the Yutherk. They kinda look like winged lizard. 2 infants. Eyes open, beaked head with a small crest turning purple. Eye-less sockets. Size of large dog. Some field sketches exist of these, but no real info. Origin is the forest. Zephyr puts in earplugs, and examines the infants. They approach, squawking and biting. Sheila tosses them some lizard. The squawks vibrate the entire tower. Zephyr opts to leave them be. Meanwhile, Hayden looks through the “piles”.

The next tower is filled with nicer crap. Some masterwork things, nothing magical. The third tower contains what seems to be the last stand of the people. Hayden falls through the stairs in this room and breaks a leg. It is healed by the paladin and the cleric. Hayden cleans himself up. The last tower is similar to the third, but without a corpse ball. They discover a guard house with a skeleton. It bears a note. “They came out of the ground, we had no defense.” (They’ve come for us. There is nothing else I can do. I hope someone finds this. The bugs came, out of the ground. We never saw it coming. Etc.) It is about 1:30 in the afternoon. Hayden climbs the third tower, bypassing the now broken stairs, and sharpens his weapons on some repair equipment he finds.

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