Dungeons and Animals

Desert Road and a Hoarse Horse

Our heroes marched along the desert road, following the trail the years of wind had cut into the rock. The walls of stone flanking them grew taller as they went, exposing many colored layers of sediment. At night and when their camels needed rest, they would take shelter in one of the numerous off-shoot gorges off the main path.

One day, at a time when the sun was right above them, they were passed by some sort of locomotive coming in the opposite direction. A series of bright white metal cars being driven by magical propulsion, making a track form up out of the sand beneath it, whisked by them, blaring a loud whistle all the while. The sandform tracks of the train dissipated in its wake, leaving little evidence that it had come through at all.

The following day, just a bit before sundown, the group happened across a rather large clearing cut off the main path, and they could see what appeared to be rudimentary architecture carved into the opposite cliff face. Upon further inspection, Kijani, Millie, and Fern found evidence of several structures in the clearing that had long been eroded away by the harsh winds, and that the architecture they spotted appeared to be openings into an interior space carved into the cliff. And even though they whipping of the wind around them drowned out most noise, the three could faintly hear what sounded like faint melodies coming from inside.

After some skillful scampering, Millie and Fern were able to enter one of the loftier openings, and found themselves in hallway. Wandering further, the hallway descended and looped around into a large hall, lined with intricate carvings.

Meanwhile, Kijani entered through one of the ground-level openings, and ducking into one of the first threshold she saw, came face-to-face with the source of the music. A stout, shaggy horse man was sitting there on the floor next to a small cookfire, holding some kind of gourd-shaped instrument in his hands. The horse attempted to speak but broke out immediately into a fit of coughs.

Millie and Fern overheard the coughing and popped over to investigate, and once again the horse man tried speaking and quickly began coughing again. Over a few attempts, the horse introduced himself as Figaro, a traveling minstrel. Figaro continuously tried to sing a song of introduction, but explained the desert air had made him completely lose his voice. Figaro claimed that as part of his training, he challenged himself to walk the entirety of the desert road while singing, but had only made it a day and change before his throat got to the point it was at currently, forcing him to retire the challenge.

Eventually B and Solstice joined the rest of the group, and they decided to camp in the ruins for the night. As Basil set up camp, the group decided to explore the ruins a bit. Inside the large hall Millie and Fern had gone through before, Solstice identified many of the carvings as having Druidic captions. She was unable to read much of the inscriptions, but from what she could tell, there was a lot of language praising certain individuals and groups, likely memorializing ancient events.

The group delved further into the ruins, but were unable to find anything else of interest. Reemerging, they spoke with Figaro before going to sleep. Figaro mentioned the Druidic carvings they found could be leftover from a long-gone druid civilization that existed in Felhorn. He didn't know much about it, but apparently the civilization collapsed under its own weight, the druids tried to bend nature to their ends instead of genuflecting to it as most druids do. He also told the group that in the city of Crossroads there was an old monkey named Constantine that might know more, due to the wisdom he's gathered over his long life.

The following day the group set out, bringing Figaro along. They traveled for another day and a half, fighting off the occasional desert scorpion, before reaching the city of Crossroads.

"Who is that oh why could it be so?

Who is that oh I'll let you know.

Who is that the star of the show?

Who is that well it is none other than Figaro!"

-Figaro's Song of Introduction (current iteration)

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Better to Go Around

The group dragged the unconscious body of the gang leader back to town and collected their bounty, of which Jones took half and promptly left without further comment. They then returned to the tavern and regaled Millie with the story of their awkward ambush.

The following morning the group, spearheaded by an eager Fern, hustled to the church to pick up their magical ward, which had in fact been crafted into a heart-shaped medallion with the name "GREG" inscribed on it. However, their return voyage wasn't about to go as smoothly. Arriving at the docks and speaking with the captain of their chartered ferry, they learned the waters of the Brindle Bay were too treacherous for the boat to cross. A significant amount of ice floes flooded into the bay, making passage impossible for all but the largest cargo ships. The group briefly considered stowing away on one such large ship, but found out from the dockmaster that none of them were currently bound for Carlshouse. After some deliberation, the group decided to set out by land, circumnavigating the bay on horseback. They purchased a few steeds and a wagon and set out.

A couple days into their travel, they passed by a suspicious looking trio headed back towards the city of Chotchia. Two seedy looking cloaked figures and a frail, frightened hamster woman trailing behind them. Never one to ignore a maiden in need, Kijani and Solstice began to chat up the trio and got an icy reception. Pulling the woman aside, she confided that the two men had robbed her and taken her hostage. Kijani and Solstice, with backup from the rest of the gang, then quickly chased the two men off, returning the stolen money to the hamster women, who introduced herself as Julia. The group invited Julia to come along with them to town, which she humbly accepted. That evening, Kijani regaled Julia with tales of the group's adventures and the riches they'd gained.

The following day, the group again passed another party on the road, this time a caravan with a full host of bodyguards. Unexpectedly, the leader of the caravan asked that the group stop, and asked if he could speak to Julia. Timidly Julia walked over and whispered in the man's ear, who then turned to the group and demanded they return the money they had taken from Julia. The group then realized that this was a scam Julia was running, playing the victim in order to get others to steal for her. Solstice, wishing to avoid a confrontation with the numerous guards, paid the hefty amount Julia claimed was stolen from her. Julia then left with the caravan, waving goodbye to the group with a smirk on her face.

As the evening closed in, the group crested a hill to see a great plain unfurl in front of them. Fields of grain and the occasional farm house flanked the road ahead, leading up to a great, sand-colored wall that towered over the surrounding land. This wall stretched from the coast of the bay off into the horizon, and just beyond it could be seen the vast Aeolian Desert, held at bay by the humongous structure. Following the road the group soon arrived at the first stop of their trek, a city built right into the shadow of the giant wall, the desert city of Trenkhet.

The group found a stable on the outskirts of Trenkhet and exchanged their horses for a couple of camels. Except for the pony that Solstice had been riding, to which she had become emotionally attached. Because there's only two things this rag-tag crew knows how to do:get drunk and acquire pets.

The group made their way to a tavern called The Dune's Shadow, but as they made their way through town they noticed a certain animus from passersby. People giving them a wide birth, side-eye glances, Solstice even heard some utterances that, though she didn't know the language, was pretty sure were quite rude. Once they arrived at the tavern and Fern spoke to the barkeep, the reason was revealed. The barkeep informed them that the monarchy of Sundria and its golden dragon were not looked upon kindly in Trenkhet, which had been forcefully incorporated into the kingdom only a few hundred years ago. Oblivious to this, the group had been parading through town decked out in all the various golden-dragon-themed accoutrement they had won at the King's Day festival, and riling up a lot of anti-imperialists.

Since they had already acquired a pet for the day, the group moved on to their next agenda item and asked the barkeep about his alcohol selection. Kijani, still nursing her bruised heart over the Julia incident, quickly decided on a top-shelf liquor, a local specialty known as the Viper's Kiss. The drink proved to have a very potent numbing quality, and our heroes spent the remainder of the night up in their rooms, barely able to slur their words or even stand upright.

After some persuading directed at Basil, the group decided to spend one morning exploring Trenkhet before heading back out towards Carlshouse. Solstice and B perused the local market, Kijani built a cover for their wagon, and Millie searched for a souvenir. Finding herself in a woodcarver's shop, she asked about one particularly large carving for sale, which depicted some kind of six-legged, spindly creature. The carver informed her that that was a carving of the Titan, which immediately sent Millie into a tizzy of curiosity. The carver explained the Titan was a gigantic beast that roamed the desert, but admitted he knew little about it. Millie purchased the carving and quickly left to find out more.

After a stop over at the tavern, Millie found the office of the Aeolian Archeological Society, who sent her after the in-house scholar, a man named Professor Radigan. Millie found the professor up a winding staircase and atop the giant wall. Millie, posing as a student from Velhaven University, asked Radigan about the Titan. While answering her queries, he handed her his spyglass and directed her attention far out into the desert. Through the glass, Millie saw a gigantic construct towering over the dunes, a central body with six long windy legs, slowly marching with a mechanical stiffness across the horizon. Professor Radigan explained that very little was known about the Titan, other than that for as long as anyone could remember it would wander the Aeolian Desert. Expeditions to study the Titan have thus far been unsuccessful, and though the professor had several theories as to its nature, ultimately it was a great mystery. Though she was enthralled, Millie made an excuse to leave as she had promised Basil she'd return promptly.

Around midday the group set out into the desert through a passageway built into the great wall. They were only crossing the sands for a few hours before the road started to lead them into a system of wind-cut gorges. Despite being flanked on both sides by sheer faces of stone, the wind continued to batter them and their camels. Progress was slow-going, but still went, only getting ambushed by monsters once in the first two days of their sojourn across the desert. The troupe pressed on however, motivated by the knowledge that once they got back to Carlshouse, the only thing standing in between them and besting Sickleback would be finding the bastard. Or at least you might think that, but probably they were just looking forward to getting paid.

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King's Day Festival

Our heroes took to the King's Day festivities like a Sahuagin to water. Immediately they were downing cheap food, even cheaper beer, and playing just about every game they could find. There was wrestling, target practice, tightrope walking, pie-eating contests, the list goes on. The group was able to accrew a hefty amount of the fair's prize tickets, and after lengthy deliberations, settled on which prizes to redeem them for. All of the prizes, from clothing to baubles, had gold decorations and dragon motifs. Fern even got a pullover cover for her helmet to make it look like a cute gold dragon's head.

The next day, Millie woke up feeling the full brunt of her revelry, and the group elected to leave her at the inn for the day so she could recover. After spending some time mulling about, the group reconvened at the Black Boar tavern and met with Jones, the dog bounty hunter. Jones said he knew where the Nightmen gang was hiding out, and he had reason to believe the full force of the gang wouldn't be present. The party decided to follow his lead.

Jones led the group through the forest west of town a ways before locating the bandit camp, atop a perch partway up a cliff face. Jones scouted the camp out, returned and explained that if the party could get the drop on he gang, it should be easy work. B decided to recruit some extra help in the upcoming skirmish, and pulled some random magical animals out of his Bag of Tricks. Unfortunately, one of these animals was a giant elk, that unceremoniously crashed out of the bag, loudly crushing the nearby underbrush  and alerting the bandits to the party's presence. Having little alternative, the group charged up the slope to attack the bandits.

The group was beset upon by a rain of arrows from the bandits above, but with the help of the summoned animals and Solstice's fierce lightning magic, were eventually able to overpower the bandit gang. One bandit, who appeared to be utilizing bardic magic, attempted to flee into the woods, but B was able to track him down and knock him out. Just as B was about to haul the bard back to the camp, he noticed the particularly radiant and beautiful skullcap on the bard's head. The cap was trimmed with fine gold, and encrusted with gems all around the edge. B quickly returned to the camp to show the others what he had found, but when Kijani, Solstice, and Fern looked at it, all they saw was a regular metal hat.

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Interrogations are Hard

With just a couple days left until they were set to depart town, the troupe decided to buckle down on hunting the wanted gangster. They were set to meet with Chauncey and his contact in the evening, so to kill time they ran some errands.

Millie and B were able to track down an expert on curses, a minister of the Church of Bahamut named Mallison. When prompted, B was unable to describe any of the effects of symptoms of his curse, other than to describe how his Beholder's Stone looked magnificent to him but mundane to others. Mallison recommended B try to learn more about how the curse affects him before taking any further action.

Conversely, Millie was able to describe much of her condition, which Mallison found quite fascinating. After determining that the voices Millie heard in her head were not speaking in Infernal or Abyssal, Mallison relented that he could be of little help, and referred Millie to another expert on the extraplanar, who it just so happens the group was already familiar with, Ichabod. Mallison wrote up a letter on Millie's behalf to give to Ichabod, and the group went on their way.

As dusk descended, the group reconvened at the Sand Pit to meet Chauncey, who was already waiting for them. While Kijani, Solstice, and B waited outside, Millie and Fern probed Chauncey for more information about the gang before a tall wolf man arrived at the bar. Chauncey flagged down the exasperated looking wolf, who then directed the group to follow him out back.

Once behind the bar, the wolf, Oslo, asked if Millie and Fern really wanted to be in the gang, and to prove their determination, he told them to fight each other to the death. Sensing their reluctance, and brushing off Chauncey's urging, Oslo turned to leave. Millie and Fern quickly jumped him, and a scuffle ensued. Kijani, B, and Solstice ran out from the nearby shadows and helped wrestle Olso and Chauncey to the ground and tied them up.

Solstice cast a Zone of Truth and the group began interrogating the bandits about the whereabouts of their leader. Oslo, though charmed, was able to still remain vague enough in the face of the group's questioning, especially when Kijani attempted to promise that the bandits wouldn't be harmed, but as she was also under the effects of the Zone, instead promised the bandits they would definitely be harmed.

After a short while, Oslo was able to slip his bindings and threw down a smoke bomb, and began to flee. The group tried to catch him, but thanks to the use of invisibility, he slipped their grasp. The group decided to let Chauncey, who was still tied up and sobbing heavily, go with a warning about what would happen to him if he kept trying to join gangs.

The one piece of info the group was able to get out of Oslo was that the hideout was to the west of the city, so early the next morning the group, spearheaded by B, set out westward. B tried sending his various familiar out in all different directions, but was unable to locate any signs of the gang's hideout. He did however locate a nearby farm, and lacking other options, the group decided to go there. Once at the farm, they asked the workers if they knew anything about local bandit hideouts. Obviously the workers did not, but they did mention a local bounty hunter they knew of that was good at his job, and maybe he could help the group.

The group then split up for some more errands. B asked around for the bounty hunter's local hangouts, and Millie and Solstice went to a dressmaker. While Solstice got some new clothes, Millie commissioned some patches for the group, in the design of a frog's skull and bones on a shield shaped patch.

As the group was reconvening, they noticed a big parade going through the center of town. They quickly found out it was in honor of the local holiday, King's Day, in honor of King Misk, the very old monarch of the Sundria Kingdom. They followed the parade to the town square where they found a large festival underway, with many games and events unfolding.

While the rest of the group ran straight into the festivities, B took a quick diversion to a nearby bar called the Black Boar, where the bounty hunter was said to frequent. There he found the man, a dog named Jones, and propositioned him to help out heroes find the wanted bandit leader. Jones, seemingly reluctant, said to meet him back there the following evening with the rest of B's compatriots, and he'd size them up then. B agreed to these terms, bought Jones another drink, and left for the festival.

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Yeenox Makes an Appearance

The party looks on from the cliff as the orb, revealed to be an eye, turns bright red and a ethereal cloud of red mist emits from it. Another wispy cloud manifested off to the side, completing the appearance of a pair of crimson eyes. A cacophonous, raspy voice began to sound, extolling the sahuagins for their work, before realizing that the sahuagins are all dead and floating in the water. Its gaze then fell onto the party, and each of our heroes felt a chill down their spines. The voice, apparently having sized up the party, let's them know that it found nothing impressive about them and seemingly was about to dismiss itself before Basil interjected and asked if the voice was that of the devil working with Sickleback. The voice responds that yes, he is Sickleback's master, and that must mean the party was the ones who ran into Sickleback before.

As the voice expresses some further interest in the party, Basil subtly mentioned to the rest of the group that they need to somehow get the voice to reveal its identity. Kijani, having just returned to consciousness, slung some half-hearted insults towards the voice. B attempted to goad the entity, to which the voice shot back its own disparagements, as well as mentioning that B apparently was under the effects of a curse. Eventually, Millie and Basil straight up asked the entity who it was, and if it was Yeenoghu, the demonic patron of gnolls. The voice immediately lashed back, demanding that it not be conflated with Yeenoghu, and admitted that it was Yeenoghu's offspring, a devil named Yeenox. The voice thundered that one day it would overshadow Yeenoghu, spat a couple more disparagements towards the party, and promptly vanished. The red, glowing eye then proceeded to fire itself directly into the heart of the whirlpool, and moments later the cavern returned to normal.

The group made haste out of the cave, intent on getting Teke, the gravely injured friend of Koa, back someplace safe. As they rowed back to shore, Kijani pointed out to Fern that Fern has solved the puzzle of the devil's identity before her siblings, a rare victory for our bard.

Arriving back in Chotchia, the group hauled Teke to the Temple of Bahamut, leaving him and Koa at the Temple's infirmary. The group then sought out the priest they had spoken to previously, and informed him of Yeenox's identity, so that the ward could be completed. Basil  then split off, both to inform his superiors about what had transpired, as well as to supervise the ward's creation.

The group decided to drink to celebrate their successful rescue mission, and made their way back to their inn. After a night of heavy imbibing, the group once again awoke the next morning to circumstances of varied embarrassment. While Millie woke up with splinters in her knuckles and memories of a belligerent fruit cart, Kijani received a delivery of a large hunk of cheese sculpted into a bust of her own likeness. Fern found herself coming to on the floor of a local club wearing nothing but scanty underwear, while Solstice awoke buck naked in a church confessional booth. Luckily, Solstice was able to quickly locate her clothes and slip out the door as a sermon was being delivered to the assembled masses.

Recovering from their revelry back at the inn, the group then found itself once again without much to do as they waited for the ward to be completed. Millie decided to utilize a spell scroll she had found a while back and summoned her own magical familiar, an iguana that she named Oswald. After introducing Oswald to the everyone, the group wandered over to the center of town. There they found a handful of job postings, and after some consideration settled on pursuing the bounty of a wanted criminal, the leader of a local gang called the Nightmen.

Seeking information on the fugitive, the party returned to the Sandpit, the local drinking hole and fighting ring that Kijani had participated in the day before. The group tried to pry some information from the tavern's bookie, though Kijani's aggressive interrogation style quickly stymied those efforts. After some slap-fighting, the group sent Kijani to a timeout right outside the bar's entrance.

Millie worked her way over to the bar, and eventually found a drunkard who knew some information on the Nightmen. Apparently, one of the other frequent patrons of the Sandpit was a young man who would boast about his affiliation with the Nightmen. Though the drunkard couldn't offer any further details, he said the party might be able to locate this man if they came back later. Meanwhile, B took to the streets and interrogated a young urchin about the Nightmen, to which the child revealed he knew an older boy named Chauncey who was apparently in the gang, and regularly hung out at the Sandpit tavern.

Returning to the Sandpit later on, the group discovered both leads directed them to the same man, Chauncey the lizard. Millie and Fern, under the pseudonyms Marceline and Bonnibel, approached Chauncey and feigned interest in joining the Nightmen gang. Chauncey boasted that he was a promising up-and-comer in the gang, and that with his referral, he could certainly get the two girls in. He told them to meet him back at the Sandpit in a couple days, when he would bring around another gang member to evaluate the two. Millie and Fern agreed to this plan.

That night, even though most of the group was tapped out, Kijani decided to again drink herself into a stupor. Eventually, once a blitzed Kijani wandered out of the tavern, Millie and Solstice followed, tailing her all the way to the woods outside of town, where they found her asleep, spooning a small bear cub. They quickly woke her up, and hustled her back to town before any mama bears arrived.

Having more time to kill before meeting Chauncey and his contact, the group decided to pursue another of the job postings, which was a call from the Chotchia government to exterminate some ooze pests that had recently been spotted in the sewers. After trudging through a lot of grime and other unsavory substances, the group was ambushed by several oozes. Solstice again charged forward in order to Thunderwave the creatures, but her plan quickly backfired as she was set upon and nearly killed by the oozes' counterattack. B quickly hauled Solstice out of line of fire, and before too long the group was able to find a good equilibrium of attacking the oozes at range and then falling back to avoid taking damage themselves. After a while, the group was able to dispatch a fair number of the creatures, and was able to collect a large amount of the remains to turn in for the bounty.

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Rumbles and Rescues

Arriving in the city of Chotchia, the group made their way to the Temple of Bahamut, a gleaming cathedral that stood out even in the otherwise bright and decorative Chotchian architecture. They made their way to the alter and spoke to a salamander priest about their request to forge their silvite into a ward. Basil, with his usual decorum, worked out most of the details with the priest while the group consoled Fern about parting with her pet crystal, Greg. When the priest asked what the group wanted the ward to be shaped into, the group settled on a heart-shaped medallion, paying an extra fee to get "Greg" engraved on the surface.

With a week's worth of time to kill, the group wasted very little looking for trouble. Kijani decided she was looking for a fight, and Fern and Millie tagged along. Arriving at a bar named The Sand Pit, the three of them discovered a fight had just ended, and nearby gamblers were collecting their winnings.

Kijani sauntered up to bookie and asked if she could participate in a fight. Though the reigning champ, a large burly tiger man by the name of Toun, was looking quite haggard from his previous bout, he quickly accepted Kijani's challenge. With Fern and Millie cheering her on, the brawl began.

Unable to use any magic or weaponry, Kijani and Toun exchanged blows. Toun was able to pin Kijani down a couple times, though our lady lion wrestled her way out each time. Eventually, with both competitors covered and bruises and blood dripping from their mouths, Toun was able to get a decisive last jab in, and Kijani fell to the ground unconscious. With Toun declared the winner, Fern and Millie rushed to Kijani's side to resuscitate her. Kijani stood up and shook hands with Toun, thanking him for the fight.

Meanwhile, B and Solstice were searching for other ways to spend their week, and looked over local job postings in the town center. Finding the usual fare, monster subjugation, material acquisition, a few lost children notices, until B overheard someone nearby in distress. Glancing around he noticed a bird man approaching random pedestrians and asking for their help. Before long, this man hustled over to B. The bird man introduced himself as Koa, and quickly explained he needed help rescuing his friend who had been captured by monsters. B said that he'd be willing to help, but he'd have to check in with the rest of the group and probably wouldn't be able to leave until the next day. Koa thanked him, and said if he was unable to find more help by the end of the day, he would meet B and the rest of his party and their inn the following morning.

Sure enough, the next day our heroes came downstairs after waking and found Koa anxiously waiting at a table. Koa elaborated more on his situation, explaining that he and his friend Teke had heard rumors of a treasure trove hidden in an island cave just off the coast, and had gone to investigate. However, shortly after entering the cave, Teke was caught in a trap, and signaled Koa to run for it and find help.

The group agreed to help Koa, and through some verbal maneuvering were even able to convince Basil to come along with them. Arriving shortly thereafter at a tiny island offshore, the group found the mouth of the cave and delved inside. Withing its tunnels and caverns the group found stashes of crates and barrels, a band of gnolls, and a flooded room with a large whirlpool in the center. Fighting off several sahaugins, the group eventually located the unconscious body of Teke, and applied some first aid.

Wanting to find the rumored treasure trove, the group kept exploring the cave system, with the unconscious Teke slung over Kijani's shoulder. The group made their way onto a cliff that overlooked the whirlpool room, and saw several sahaugins in the water apparently in the middle of some ritual. Those capable of attacking from a distance took aim at these figures and loosed, driving several arrows and bolts into the monster's hides. The sahaugins quickly retaliated, using magic to surge the water they were swimming in upwards and landing on the cliff next to our heroes.

While one figure, a Sea Hag, remained by the whirlpool conducting the ritual, the fight raged on top of the cliff. A couple of the sahaugins were able to immobilize Millie and Basil, while the apparent leader of the sahaugins ripped into the flesh of anyone within his reach. After a grueling fight, the group was able to overpower the sahaugins, shoving their lifeless corpses over the edge of the cliff and back into the water. However, just as the battle subsided, the Sea Hag's chanting finished and she collapsed, and a small orb that had been floating over the middle of the whirlpool began to glow a bright red.

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Sailing the Brindle Bay

Fern, taken aback by her siblings' presence at the meeting, asked why they were there. Captain Katrina explained that since the troupe had expressed hesitancy in helping Carlshouse with this matter, they had solicited more outside help, and Fern's siblings just happened to be the party that responded. The Reresstis had been helping Ichabod research the devil Sickleback was communing with, though so far their work hadn't born much fruit. They had worked out that the entity was in some way related to Yeenoghu, demonic progenitor of the gnoll race, but hadn't worked out much more than that. However, Ichabod, as usual, had a plan he was very eager to share.

He began by explaining that silvite, being so closely related to platinum, could only be enchanted by priests of Bahamut, the platinum dragon deity. No such church was available in Carlshouse, but there was one in the neighboring kingdom of Sundria, in its capital, the city of Chotchia. The Kingdom of Sundria comprised most of the southern half of the continent of Felhorn, and luckily its capital city was right across Brindle Bay, just a day's sail to the west of Carlshouse. Ichabod explained that if the group could deliver the silvite to the church of Bahamut in Chotchia, he and the Reresstis could continue their research. The process of enchanting silvite takes about a week, and the identity of the entity that it's being enchanted against isn't needed until the end, so there was plenty for time for Ichabod and co. to puzzle this out.

Captain Katrina said that Carlshouse will foot the bill to ferry the group over to Chotchia, and will again pay the group when they return with the enchanted silvite. And as an extra precaution, she once again assigned Basil to go with the group, as an envoy of the Militia.

After leaving the meeting, B took the basilisk egg he found in the ruins to a local pet store, Familiars and Friends. He asked the attendant what would be required to hatch and raise the basilisk, to which the attendant explained the process was far to complex for anyone other than a specialist. The attendant went on to say that they knew of such specialists, and could put B in contact with them if he liked. B made arrangements to leave the basilisk egg at Familiars and Friends until he came to retrieve it and bring it to such a specialist.

The group set out the next morning, taking a riverboat down to the coast where they boarded their ship. Shortly after embarking, Solstice was struck with an intense seasickness, and was relegated to the sleeping quarters. Millie and Basil awkwardly avoided each other, only speaking to each other when it was unavoidable. The trip only took a day to complete, but because of the late departure time, before long it was the evening and everyone retired below deck for the night.

Awaking the next morning to sounds of a scuffle, the group rushed above deck, only to find the crew preparing spears and other weapons. In the water on either side of the ship was a party of sahuagins, intent on attacking the ship and whomever was aboard. The group sprang into action, and despite Kijani being magically paralyzed multiple times, was able to fend off the invaders. As the last of the sahuagins fled, B picked them off with a couple well placed shots of his longbow.

Only a few hours later, the city of Chotchia appeared in the distance, and our heroes prepared to disembark.

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Exploring the Ruined City

As the group settled in to sleep for the night inside the mines, B went to retrieve Socks from outside the mouth of the cave, where he was greeted by a mild snowfall. The next morning, that light drifting snow had been replaced by a raging blizzard, effectively trapping the group inside the cave until the storm let up.

Inspecting the cavern where they had taken on the goblins, the group found the other end of the elevator they encountered before. It seems the goblins had noticed them trying to operate it, and sabotaged the mechanism in a defensive panic. They also noticed the minetracks leading straight into a nearby wall, and upon closer inspection, discovered the wall was false and hid a long, downward tunnel.

The group followed the tunnel for hours, noticing small patches of silvite crystals along the way, though nothing sizable enough to be of use. Eventually the tunnel opened up into a small, aritifical cavern with some boxes and tables strewn about, and a large hole in the opposite wall. Growing next to an overturned minecart, they found a large chunk of silvite, which Fern collected and quickly named Greg. Looking about the tables, the group found a lockbox, a map of the mine system, and a journal labelled "Overseer Kinly's Log." Reading the last entry of the journal revealed that the miners had discovered some kind of treasure trove just up ahead, and that all the miners, presumably including the writer of the journal, had either fled or been killed by monsters. Millicent also deduced the documents that Flamantha had asked her to retrieve were in the lockbox, and the key was with the journal's writer. Trying and failing to pick the lock, the group decided to see if they could find the key in the ruins ahead.

Going through the large hole in the wall, the group emerged in a large, ornate looking room. Waterfells cascaded over the tops of archways, and a walkway circled a large lake in the center of the chamber. Seeing the many corridors leading out of the room, the group decided to systematically check as much of the ruins as they were able.

The group discovered skeletal remains, almost fell when a floor collapsed under their feet, and suffered an ambush by cloakers before finding what they sought. They found the key next to a partially destroyed, lifesize statue of a cat man, and quickly realized this statue had once been the Overseer himself, and turned around to see a pair of basilisks bearing down on them. Thanks to B's fancy footwork and Solstice's magic, the group was able to best the basilisks, but not before Millie had been turned to stone. Luckily, Solstice knew that a basilisk's venom could undo the petrification, and was able to reanimate Millie, though some side effects remained. Meanwhile, B poked around the area and discovered a basilisk egg in a nearby nest, which he took for himself.

The group decided to keep exploring before vacating the ruins, and shortly happened upon a camp of troglodytes. Our heroes quickly dispatched the troglodytes, and helped themselves to the treasure hoarded away in the trog's camp. Kijani picked up a fancy new axe, while Millie pryed some gems out of a statue's head.

Rounding out their exploration, they found the long-dead trunk of gargentuan tree at the bottom of an exceedingly tall chamber. Solstice remembered earlier in the ruins where she found an inscription written in Druidic that read "All may find shelter among the grove and loam of Highroot," and between that and the tree, concluded that these ruins must be an ancient druid city. She had heard of such a thing existing before, told to her by her old friend Greta. Greta had described a city built by druids that could not be sustained, and was eventually abandoned, or so the legend went.

Once out of the ruins, Millie quickly opened the lockbox and found the documents she was seeking, alongside a green-metal dagger. The group, after some experimentation, divined that this dagger was enchanted to point out nearby sources of fresh water. They then began the hike back to the entrance of the mines, and slept again once they arrived.

Come the morning, the snow had let up, and the troupe began the trudge back to Carlshouse, arriving just before sunset. The group decided to deliver the silvite in the morning, and in the meantime to partake in a little drunken revelry after their successful quest. In a rare move, Solstice opted to get in on the fun.

The next morning offered some rude awakenings for our heroes. Millicent awoke in an unfamiliar house, and upon hearing folk downstairs discuss calling the authorities, jumped out a window and booked it. Solstice and Kijani woke up in their beds at the inn, though Solstice was spooning a large ham and Kijani in a well-tailored suit. Upon looking in her pockets, Kijani discovered she had somehow been appointed a licensed health inspector for the city. Fern however, woke up inside a jail cell, facing charges for sedition. She was able to contact Kijani through her jailors, who used her newfound clout as a public official to get Fern off with a small fine.

As Millie arrived back at the inn, she was surprised to see Flamantha waiting for her at one of the tables. With Solstice and B looking on from across the room, Millie went to greet the lady. Millie handed over the documents she found, to the delight of Flamantha. Flamantha then explained she had heard back from her household, and there was in fact a record of Millie's presence there. Flamantha explained that her family did own Millicent many years ago, but that she had been sold to another noble from Swarthington, a man known as Count Georgio Wrently. Flamantha went on to explain that her family are the rulers of the country of Swarthington, and that some years ago there was a big political schism in her country. Many noble families cospired against her father the king, going so far as to hire an assassin to take him out. Her father survived the attempt, and in response, exiled all the known conspirators amongst the noble class. Count Wrently was among those exiled. Flamatha says she assumes Millicent must have gone with the Count when he left the country, but doesn't know anything that happened after that.

Before letting Millicent go, Flamantha commented on the rough shape Millicent was in, and Millie explained it was the lingering effects of the petrification. In a show of good will, Flamantha cast a spell and restored Millie to full health, curing even her hangover. Flamantha then gave Millie a magic paper card that could be used to contact her again, should Millie need to do so in the future.

Meanwhile, having a little time to kill before meeting the Militia captains, Fern decided it was a perfect time to do a little street performing. She dressed herself up in cupid costume, complete with paper wings and a diaper, and began singing her heart out in a corner of the street market. After a little while, she heard someone call out her name. Fern turned to see three cats, who she immediately recognized as her sisters, Petunia and Barley, and brother, Spruce. Fern, immediately overcome with embarassment at Petunia's mockery, inquired why her siblings were in town, to which Barley explained they were hear on business. Fern attempted to press further but Barley said they could catch up later, when Fern wasn't dancing around in the street wearing a diaper. The siblings quickly departed, the sisters barely holding back their laughter.

Fern returned to the inn, and explained her mortification to the others. They comforted her, saying they'd give her a proper makeover before she met her siblings again, so that they'd see how great Fern is doing. The group then departed for the Militia barracks to deliver the silvite. However, who should happen to be at the meeting table alongside the captains and Ichabod but Fern's siblings.

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To the Silvershelf Mines

Millicent, having just collided with the real Flamantha Swarthington, struggled to regain her composure. The upset Flamantha demanded Millie compensate her for the dress, though apparently didn't care to address the situation immediately. Flamantha cast some kind of spell on Millie, claimed she find Millie tomorrow, and left in a huff.

That night, Millie snuck into Fern's room at the inn. Millie relayed what had happened earlier, and confessed that her real name isn't actually Flamantha, but Millicent, and that she can't remember anything prior to a few years ago. Fern comforted Millie, and encouraged her to come out to the rest of the group.

The next morning the troupe arrived at the Carlshouse Militia headquarters. There they met Lt. Captain Ramsey, along with another Lt. Captain, a baboon named Rupert, and the Captain of the Militia, a snake woman named Katrina. Also present was the iguana Ichabod they recently rescued from his burning fortress.

Ichabod had been brought in to discuss the demonic ritual being performed by the gnoll Sickleback that the group had stumbled upon. He wasted little time describing his theories and conclusions based on what he saw from the Black Rock's recording, all the while casting glances at the lady captain, eagerly seeking her approval. Ichabod described the runes used in the ritual as not demonic, but devilish, which is unusual for gnolls who are often demonic in nature. Evidently Sickleback had created some form of magical siphon, feeding magical energy to some unknown entity on the other end. Whether this meant Sickleback was subservient to this entity or bargaining with it, Ichabod couldn't say.

Ichabod then described his plan for going forward. There exists a material known as silvite, found near veins of platinum, that can be forged and enchanted to ward off specific extraplanar entities. However, to enchant it, one must know the identity of the entity they are attempting to ward off. If one had access to silvite enchanted against whatever devil Sickleback was communicating with, they could cut off much of his magical power, and take him out. However, silvite is hard to come by because it's only able to be enchanted for a short time after harvesting, meaning it needs to be collected fresh. This is where the group came in, they would go retrieve some silvite from an old platinum mine north of the city, while Ichabod stayed in town and researched the identity of the devil.

Ichabod, in his nature, proposed this plan while frequently insulting the group's intelligence and competence, which the group took no joy in being subjected to. B, in a rare moment of losing his temper, got up in Ichabod's face after being called simpleminded. This all led Millie to question why their troupe was even helping Carlshouse in this matter, as plenty of other people could do this type of work. Captain Katrina spoke up at this point, apologizing for her presumptuousness and explaining that, until recently, Carlshouse had enjoyed having a local adventuring party nearby, and they were used to getting help with these types of issues. Of course she shouldn't be expecting the group to just go along with whatever the city needs, and partly as reparations, offered the group quite a bit of gold for helping retrieve the silvite. With dollar-signs in her eyes, Millie quickly changed her tune.

The group went about some errands before departing; Solstice brewing potions, B teaching Slipscale how to hunt, and Fern picking up a shiny new helmet. As Millie was attempting to teach Frangeline the frog how to sing, she was surprised to find the real Flamantha had suddenly appeared behind her. Flamantha began by apologizing for her previous behavior, she had been having a rough day, and only just now realized that Millie is a former slave of the Swarthington family. Millie, having no recollection of this fact, is taken aback and asks Flamantha to elaborate. Flamantha explains that yesterday she had used a spell called Arcane Mark to mark Millie so that Flamantha could find her again later, and she noticed Millie had other Arcane Markings already on her, ones that indicated her ownership by the Swarthington family, though Flamantha didn't remember Millie personally. Flamantha explained that her family, spearheaded by herself, is trying to phase out slavery from their country, so of course she won't be trying to take Millie back or anything like that.

Flamantha, heeding Millie's request for more information on her past, then proposed a deal. Flamantha was trying to track down the owner of a mine to the north of town, called the Silvershelf Mines. Coincidentally, this was the same mine the group was set to go delve to find some silvite. Flamantha requested that Millie try to find some kind of documentation, a deed or something, that indicated who had owned the mines before they had been abandoned. If Millie could bring those back, Flamantha will send a missive off to her home country inquiring about any records they have on Millie's past. And as a bonus, Flamantha won't charge for the repairs needed to her dress after Millie ran into her the previous day.

The group set off to Silvershelf Mines, climbing the plateau to the north or town and arriving at the foot of the Felspine mountain range. Leaving Socks the packhorse outside the entrance of the abandoned mine, the group began their delve. The quickly found some sort of old elevator for mine carts that led farther down, though when they tried to operate it, it mysteriously broke somewhere near the bottom. Not long after, they happened upon a large spider nest, and in the process of fighting them off, set fire to much of the wooden support structures littered around the tunnels. Kijani suffered a particularly nasty spider bite, and became temporarily paralyzed, and the group took a short rest while they waited for her to regain her mobility.

Venturing further into the cave, the group noticed a large wooden barricade blocking their path, with several goblins watching their approach through the slats. As the goblins loosed a few arrows down the tunnel, B hurled a jar of tar at the barricade, followed by a torch, and set the whole barricade ablaze. B, with the rest of the group on his heels, charged the burning wood, knocking it over and crushing a couple goblins in the process.

The group found a room full of goblins and hobgoblins, armed and ready for their arrival. Solstice quickly ran up and cast Thunderwave, incapacitating most of the goblins and buying the group time to attack. Kijani threw axes and firebolts, while Fern stabbed and sang, B fired arrow after arrow, and Solstice transformed into a wolf.

As Millie used her shortbow to take out some unlucky goblins, her usual cackle began to emerge, reveling in her bloodlust. But as her cackling got louder, and as a particularly clean shot went through a goblin's skull, something in Millie shifted. Her eyes turned black, and she began to levitate a few inches above the ground. She once again heard those all-too-familiar whispers that haunted her dreams, except now she could understand what they were saying. From every direction she heard words like "kill," "destroy," "dominate," and she was all too eager to heed those suggestions. She began to weave dark magic through the air, causing long black tendrils to emerge and lash out at the remaining goblins. The rest of the group looked on in horror and confusion, desperately shouting at Millie to ask what was happening. However, when Millie tried to speak, it was in a harsh, dreadful language that none of them recognized.

When the last goblin bit the dust, Millie paused, still hovering in the air, and proceeded to collapse to the ground, unconscious. The group tied her up while before rousing her, and demanded answers. Millie, still in a fog, recalled the episode but couldn't explain it. She used this opportunity to come clean to the rest of the group about her name and past, and said that for as long as she could remember she has been wrestling with nightmares filled with darkness and whispers, and that somehow those dreams broke through to her waking self. She felt relatively normal at that point, but didn't know for sure when or if that whole ordeal would happen again.

The group, unsatisfied but sympathetic, untied Millie and decided it was time to sleep for the night, and continue their search for silvite the next morning.

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Fetching Ichabod

A light snowfall begins as the troupe emerges from the woods back onto the road to Carlshouse. A few hours into their journey they spot another traveler coming the opposite way. As this traveler approaches, they recognize him as Cassus, the priest of Avandra that they saved from bandits just a couple weeks ago on their first journey to Carlshouse.

Cassus, traveling all over in his capacity as a missionary of his deity, once again profusely thanked the troupe for their help. He pulled Millie aside and exclaimed how he wanted to thank her in particular. He deeply appreciated how Millie had prioritized saving himself and his companion from the bandits during the skirmish, and handed her a gift. It was a necklace bearing the crest of Avandra, blessed by Cassus' order, widely known as a charm of good luck. Cassus told Millie that he could sense her life had undergone many changes lately, but to embrace that change and trust in Lady Luck to guide her.

Parting with Cassus, the group trekked onward and arrived at Carlshouse at sundown. Solstice and B elected to retire for the evening while Kijani, Fern, and Millie decided the best way to clear their heads of their recent harrowing experiences was a drunken bender.

Awaking in the morning, Fern found herself modestly richer from some nearly-remembered gambling, and Kijani found a couple fresh welts on her body from a fight she couldn't clearly recall. A blushing Millie, still known to the group as Flamantha, could only remember meeting some dark, handsome figure that kept her company for most of the night.

The group convenes at the Felhorn Courier Company to report back to Captain Ramsey. Once there, the Black Rock is placed onto an altar, and a foggy images of the mission from Millie's perspective are displayed. Afterward, Ramsey leaves to go report to his superiors and requests that the group meet him at his office in the Militia Barracks that evening. As the group was leaving the office, Caelynn pulled Solstice aside, and handed over a package addressed to her. Inside Solstice found a book on herbalism and a letter from her parents.

While Solstice was off putting her new book to use, Fern and Millie set off for a pet store to fill the frog-shaped holes in their hearts. They eventually met and fell in love with Frangeline the frog, purchasing her and wasting no time in their attempts to bond with the little lady.

A bit before the troupe was set to meet at the Barracks, on a hunch Millie snuck back to the Felhorn Courier Company office. Once there, she asked Percy if his Black Rock had continued to record through last night, as she wanted to uncover the identity of the fellow that was with her. He said they could look, and the tape showed that a strapping young Owl in apparent guard uniform had found her in her state of intoxication and accompanied her for quite a while before locating Kijani and Fern and leaving Millie with them.

Reconvening at the Barracks, Captain Ramsey informed the group that he wished to hire them again. This time to fetch a man named Ichabod from the village of Crane's Hollow. Ichabod is an expert on the occult and a long-time ally of Carlshouse. Ramsey also informs the group that he'll dispatch one of his men to accompany the group, and in walks Basil, the Owl guard.

Millie and Basil immediately recognize one another, but before they can speak, Fern pipes up, questioning Ramsey's motives for sending them on such a simple-seeming quest. Ramsey informs the group that Ichabod is a known eccentric with a paranoid passion for security (enough that he'd driven off every other resident of his village), and that it's likely the group will encounter some resistance upon their approach. He also says that in the recent absence of the Men of the Hearth, there is a need for reliable adventuring parties in the area, hence his apparent eagerness to hire our heroes.

As the group departs Carlshouse, Basil approaches Millie, who he knows only by the name "Flask Slippers," to see how she's doing. Millie, trying to hide her blush, proceeds to avoid the handsome Owl as much as she's able. The group just reaches the top of the northern plateau before making camp for the night.

Early the next day, the group is set upon by a pair of giant scorpions. At one point, Kijani gets picked up and her unconscious body tossed around by one of the scorpions, but before long the group is able to dispatch the big bugs, mostly thanks to Basil and his heavy crossbow. Also with very little thanks to Millie, who could hardly keep her eyes of Basil long enough to hit any targets.

As the group locates Crane's Hollow, they see it littered with slipshod fortifications, as well as many animated skeleton guards. The group's attempt to sneak up on the skeletons was foiled when Kijani's foot snapped a porch floorboard, but thinking quickly B was able to activate a stonefall trap to crush several of the skeletons before they could strike. Following up, Solstice channeled an Entangle spell that successfully snared all the remaining skeletons, making the rest of the combat short work.

Just then, the group heard loud bangs and crashes coming from inside the main building, and rushing inside they find Ichabod cowering amongst several fires and a large Bone Naga. The group was able to dispatch the Naga and usher Ichabod out of the building as the fires brought the place down. Basil identified himself as a member of the Carlshouse guard and informed Ichabod that Captain Katrina has requested Ichabod's presence. Ichabod, who up until this point was looking quite desperate and scared, immediately perked up, and with a gleam in his eye promised to meet the group there, teleporting away without another word.

After an uneventful return trip, the group arrived back at Carlshouse just before sunset. Basil told the group he would go report in, and that they can all reconvene at the Barracks tomorrow morning. As he turned to go, Millie called out to him, asking if she would see him again, to which Basil coolly replied that he'd be around.

Just as the group was about to turn in, Millie felt a strange pulling sensation from her necklace of Avandra. Following this pull, she headed towards the marketplace, and just as she turned a corner, ran smack into a finely-dressed Fennec Fox lady. Angrily shouting at Millie from the ground, the lady identified herself as none other than Flamantha Swarthington.

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