Wartenn's Kingmaker

Ruby Phoenix Tournament Part II and The Pirate Dragon
A Letter Home

Great Uncle Kozek,

It has been a long time since I’ve written home. I think you would be very proud of the kingdom that my friends and I have carved out of the Stolen Lands. I’ve brought the Lodovka shipmaking skills into a new location and also run a large trade empire as a hub of trade between Brevoy and a couple of the River Kingdoms.

I’m currently half a world away from home with my friends competing in the Ruby Phoenix Tournament. Have you ever heard of it? It’s put on by the Church of Abadar every decade and takes place on a small island near the Tian continent. It’s an invitation-only event, with a choice of artifact granted to the tournament’s winners.

My friends and I are doing well – we’ve made it through four days of battles, exhibitions, and tests of strength, speed, and mind. Our tournament day was cut short yesterday though, and we were offered the chance to take on a brine dragon that had been harassing a nearby island. We were the only team that accepted the offer to deal with the dragon.

We purchased an old rowboat, and Costin filled it with summoned wild monkeys. This succeeded in drawing the dragon’s attention while we waited in ambush. It swooped up out of the water, destroying the boat and gobbling up several summoned monkeys while drowning the rest.

You should have seen the battle! It was amazing! Kargan… the big guy that travels with us – remember he used to work for us up in Winterbreak? Well, he was feeling under the weather and didn’t make it to the fight. So it was up to me to draw the attention of the dragon. I succeeded very well. The dragon really didn’t like me.

This was one of those times I was grateful I didn’t go through with the SwordLord training. Their training on fighting dragons primarily consists of either dying or running away – depending on which school you go to. Nymka did a great job of keeping me alive while I repeatedly stabbed it. I poked out the dragon’s eye and made it bleed a whole lot of blood. Costin kept hitting it with spells while Hamond and his wolf took swipes at the beast’s flanks.

It was a short fight, but a tough one. I’m pretty sure it’s the closest that I’ve come to dying in my adventuring career. But I’m still alive, and we walked away with some really great new trophies, some dragon hide, and the dragon’s hoard. I’ll send you something nice as a gift as soon as we get the hide back and treated and crafted into something useful. I think it’s appropriate for the Lord of House Lodovka to wear some brine dragon armor!

I hope everything is going well in the north! Feel free to come down and visit sometime!

Sincerely,

Darius Lodovka

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The Ruby Phoenix Tournament - Part 1
Kickin' @$$ on a new continent

At last, August has arrived and the Ruby Phoenix Tournament for this decade has come again at last. The heroes were picked up in a flying and rather frail looking boat (according to Darius) and flown/dimensionally hopped to a small island off of the Tian Xu continent.

There were very few representatives from the continent half a world away. Many were native Tian’s – particularly monks and sorcerers. There were also an abundance of kitsune (including one with 9 tails), an oni, and a nagaji. And monks. Lots of monks.

Day one had three events in store for the adventurers. The first tournament was a battle against a few monks that were very clearly outclassed. The second event was breaking a series of increasingly hard objects. The third was an exhibition fight against some kind of oriental undead. There were many boos in the exhibition round because the fight lasted approximately 3 seconds.

That night, the party celebrated and got to know some of the competition. They were also introduced to some kind of disease or toxin that affected two of the party members – weakening and slowing them the next day. Fortunately, Nymka had a restoration handy.

Day two had three more events. There was a fight on a sheer cliff face, an archery challenge, and an epic battle against a battle oracle on three multilevel platforms. The party once again won all three challenges.

Day three will be dawning soon, with many new unknown dangers and challenges….

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The Rest of "Blood for Blood"
We apparently don't like free XP

So…. a lot has happened since the last adventure post. Almost an entire 6th of the campaign actually.

After securing Tatzleford, the leaders of the Shrikehold began doing some exploration of the Hooktongue region for the sake of national security. Chuuls and boggards were hostile and refused to negotiate, and they were wiped out or driven away. Chimeras, a hydra, and a dire tiger were all dealt with too. And a den of Auromvori were befriended and now live in the Tralg’s Folley menagerie. An alliance was forged with a race of swamp-dwelling water-skipper creatures that seemed friendly enough once the boggards that hunted them were driven off. They aided in the exploration of the swamp that would have taken much more time without them.

The leaders of the Shirkehold also encountered some human enemies as well. The capital of Drelev was found on the northwest side of Lake Hooktongue and next to a river. The city appeared in bad shape. Some spying determined that Drelev had bent the knee to a force of barbarians and armed forces wearing the colors of Pitax a few months prior. As part of the surrender, the eldest daughter of each noble house of Drelev was kidnapped and carried away by the Tigerblood barbarians.

The party went to challenge the Tigerblood clan and discovered its camp above an ancient ruin that turned out to be sacred to Gorum. In addition to the dozen or so barbarians standing guard outside the ruin, there were also hags and hags-in-training, a pair of horrible daemons, an iron golem in the likeness of Gorum’s avatar, some bloody skeletons, and the leader of the barbarian tribe. He fought extremely well and did a lot of damage before he was killed in an epic and climactic battle. His sword, an artifact of Gorum, was carefully taken. A spirit possesses the immortal spirit of an ancient warrior that thumbed his nose at Pharasma by saying he would live forever. She took issue with that claim, and ended his life. But Gorum liked the guy and put his spirit in a sword, hiding it away from Pharasma and protecting it so that one of his favorite warmongers could continue to live on.

The party then moved against Drelev. After some spying, it was determined that there would be no redemption for this individual and that he had to be punished for his crimes against his people. The party pretended to be mercenaries and were hired on to the town’s guard staff. They got to see first-hand the suffering of the people while earning a pathetic amount of compensation. While employed, Nymka and Costin made sure that “accidents” happened to a few other mercenaries. Darius made contact with the local brothel owner and cleric of Callistria. She told them the secret way into the castle.

The castle raid went surprisingly well after fighting past a couple of black puddings. The party came out in the treasure rooms of the castle and also released a prominent and powerful prisoner of war. His gear was returned to him, and he joined in the fight.

There isn’t a whole lot to tell about the rest of the fight. Drelev made a last stand with his lover, brother-in-law evoker, and a handful of guards. It was not enough to stop the PCs. Drelev met his end and control of Drelev was turned over to the noble that the party rescued. The town was also renamed Fort Hooktongue.

After Drelev was freed, the Shrikehold began claiming land in the Hooktongue Slough. This ran them into Pitax for the very first time as Pitax was also starting to claim land near the Slough.

As tensions increased, Pitax sent a messenger to negotiate. The messenger seemed like a decent enough fellow and brokered a gentlemen’s arrangement of the claiming of land and mutual profit. The leaders of the Shrikehold have been invited to a party the following year to celebrate the new friendship between Pitax and the Shrikehold.

The leaders of the Shrikehold are still cautious in their friendship with their neighboring River Kingdom. More acts of espionage are on the way to determine if their intentions are good or evil….

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The Battle for Tatzleford
We Ain't Afraid of No Trolls

The intelligence agencies of the Shrikehold did some significant spying on our neighbors in the HookTongue Slough during the February and March kingdom turns. Morale in the city was low, and it appeared that the city was not claiming land nor had it stretched out as far as it could. We were curious.

Agents discovered that Pitax had backed a band of tiger-loving barbarians in attacking the city a couple of years ago. The city had made some kind of deal with the attackers – and every eldest daughter in the city was taken captive to ensure their cooperation. There is also some kind of ancient temple to a hag goddess under the Temple of Callistrea that told a prophecy of some kind of invincible barbarian king.

Shortly thereafter, a rider appeared saying that Tatzleford was about to be attacked. A rider had appeared warning of an attack force, and the town was unable to defend itself against the forces that were coming. Kargan rallied the armies – but there was no way that they would arrive in time. So the High Council went out to lead the defense of the town and to try and buy time.

Defenses were set up on the bridge leading into town. We discovered that the attackers were a mix of human barbarians and trolls, though allegedly under the command of our friends we had just spied on. Hamond Wylcey did a sweep of the area and discovered the army was not as dumb as it looked – they had crossed the river farther south and were attacking from the south. The High Council switched defensive positions and prepared for a fight.

The battle was brief and bloody. The High Council faced off against a dozen trolls in a very short confrontation. The trolls could not stand against the might and fire of the High Council of the Shrikehold.

Unfortunately, the enemy commander was killed in the fighting and no interrogation could be done. Needless to say, we will need to get some answers very quickly. And the fighting is likely far from over.

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Hooktongue Saints
The Band Gets Back Together, Kicks Some @$$, and Takes Some Names

After a long absence in which Darius chased assassins and battled rival spies, the party finally got together again to explore the Hooktongue Slough. A swampwalker had been kidnapped by a tribe of boggards. We decided that we would help out the swampwalkers and rescue their comrade.

I won’t go into detail about what happened there. Suffice to say, we met their chieftain and had words. Then there was stabbing and bleeding and then the boggard tribe ran in terror into the swamp. We had killed their “god” and then their chieftain in ways I would rather not talk about. The fight was very one-sided, and the boggards hopefully learned a very valuable lesson.

We then returned home for a month of rest while we planned our next move. We discovered the lair of a number of potentially bad things that we will need to check out, including a tribe of giants with powerful technology from Numeria. Still no word yet on the dragon – for a being as big and powerful as it is….nobody seems to have heard from him. Also no word on what happened to the band of adventurers we hired and that disappeared.

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Saving Varnhold
And Nearly Losing Ourselves

On the way to the lair of Vordekai, the PCs found the remains of Varn and many of his skilled men. All were dead and missing their brains.

After battling their way to Vordekai’s lair, the party decided to not rest and kick down the door to confront the lich. They had no idea how badly this would turn out.

The cyclops lich was not alone, and started off with a spell that exhausted the whole party, effectively eliminating much of the melee strength of the group. The spellcasters were low on spells, and the lich and his antipaladin guardian were not low on resources. Kargan was slain, and shortly thereafter the party retreated. Kargan’s corpse was brought along.

Using a scroll of raise dead, Nymka was able to restore Kargan to life. After a brief rest, the party went back down into the ruins to confront Vordekai for the last time. This time, the party was successful. They recovered mad loot.

After dividing the spoils, our intrepid heroes restored the remaining 42 citizens of Varnhold to their homes and returned the runaway centaur princess. The Shrikehold then annexed Varnhold and renamed it (some river that starts with a K) Crossing. But it is now affectionately referred to as KFC.

There were more adventures to be had. The party found a half black dragon bullette and dealt with it, earning some very nice bullette hide. They also found the abandoned lair of the silver dragon of these parts. It turns out the dragon was dead and appears to have lost a battle with a black dragon. To nobody’s surprise, the black dragon had already looted the silver dragon’s hoard. Likely the black dragon lives in the Hooktongue Slough area.

A group of folks from Brevoy asked for permission to set up shop between the Shrikehold and Hooktongue Slough. The rulers of the Shrikehold granted them permission.

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The Valley of the Dead
aka Luckiest Centaur Ever

Upon arriving in the Valley of the Dead, the party found the rock walls to be etched with skulls and markings of death that were far higher than a centaur would be able to draw… and it would have taken considerable time to carve them as well. After a brief commune with nature, the heroes learned that the centaur princess had passed before us not long before, that there were no animals nearby, and that there were unnatural creatures nearby. This was obvious, as two zombie ogres came shambling out of the trees. What was not obvious from first glance was that these zombies were faster than usual. They closed the distance quickly and inflicted some respectable bruises on the melee warriors.

Winding through the valley and the heights, the party encountered wyverns and speedy ogre zombies. Eventually, they came to a cave where there were more speedy ogre zombies and a dwarf Loch Ness monster that had somehow trapped itself in a watery cave. After Hamond Wylcey calmed it down, the party went down the natural stairs, walked down a 30 ft corridor underwater, and came up in the beginnings of the cyclopian ruin. There were ancient pots and craftsmanship not seen by mortals for a very, very long time. The new museum in Tralg’s Folley would delight to have some of these pieces.

Wandering through the ruins, we found a very clever trap which sealed people in and then drowned them. After narrowly avoiding being drowned the first time, the party carefully explored the trap and found a way around it. Careful dismantling of the trap doors seemed to take the teeth out of the trap, and the party was able to move safely on.

After climbing some stairs, the party discovered the worst hidden room ever. It was a weird room decorated with eyes that seemed to have something to do with scrying. There was also a room of ghosty things that hungered for the souls of spellcasters. Those were beaten down, but not before they sipped the life force of our casters a little.

There was a shrine to a death god that required the party to fill cups with blood and then pour the blood over the lit lanterns on the dias to unlock the doors leading forward. Fortunately, we didn’t have to drink the blood.

We also came upon a room full of boiling tar. There used to be a bridge that crossed it, but it seemed to have been destroyed or long ago disintegrated from the ravages of time. Nymka tried flying up to tie a rope to the ceiling and came face-to-face with a fast undead human spellcaster that threw a surprise spell at him. The fumes of the burning tar were too much for Costin, and he was forced to withdraw from the room a couple of times to get some fresh air.

After a hard-fought battle with the flying sorcerer, the party was able to defeat him and drag his truly dead corpse down safely to land.

The party then retreated to a safe spot to rest and recover.

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Centaurs and Ancient Mysteries

The heroes of the Shrikehold set out to discover the fate of Varnhold. Farms, the watchtower, and the buildings of the town of Varnhold were all intact, and had suffered only minor damage. And that damage seemed to be after the disappearances. Upon further exploration, they discovered that some fey had moved into the fort and had claimed the Varnhold as their own. Upon defeating them, the heroes found the sword of Lord Varn and a number of items taken from the missing townsfolk. They also found references to Varn having several archaeological expeditions looking for ancient cyclopian artifacts. Something was found not long before everyone disappeared. Oh….and Varn apparently is guilty of some war crimes against centaurs and had taken to skinning them and tanning their hides.

The heroes went out to talk to the centaurs. It took months to build up their trust… including going through one of their coming-of-age rites in the middle of December (which Darius won and Nymka took second place. The centaur chieftain shared that there was a “Hall of the Dead” that led to an ancient burial place of an ancient cyclops high in the mountains. This creature is what the Nomen centaur tribe is stationed to guard against. The chieftainess’s daughter, jealous of the attention the heroes were getting, appears to have gone off to face this big bad on her own to show her worth.

The heroes have prepared and are ready to venture into the dark caverns of the dead….

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Varnhold Vanishing

There were several months of peace and growth in the Shrikehold after the trolls were defeated. Adventurers explored the remaining unexplored regions of the Shrikehold’s borders.

But in July, the High Council began to hear disturbing rumors. Varnhold had gone quiet. During the High Council sessions in August, the worst fears were realized. The guardpost in Varnhold territory close to Varnhold Pass was empty. The citizens of Varnhold seem to have disappeared.

The High Council received a message from the Swordlords of Restov that requested that we look into the disappearance before we met the same fate. The Swordlords were unfortunately quite busy as tensions continue to increase and civil war threatens to tear Issia and Rostland apart.

The High Council prepares to go and investigate the disappearances.

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Defeat of the Trolls

The next morning, the party went back to the troll settlement to find that the kennels were empty and the trolls were hiding back in their cave. We checked out their storehouse and found their lumber was actual trees… not cut lumber.

After some brief planning, Nymka summoned a couple of earth elementals to enter the fortress and open the doors all the way. They encountered no resistance, so Nymka sent them to do some exploring. They did eventually encounter some pretty heavy resistance and they were destroyed.

Scouting revealed that there was a huge (literally) two-headed troll… some type of ettin-troll hybrid. We lured it to the entry chamber and attacked it with fire and ranged weapons until it was dead.

We started off the last encounter in the throne room with Hargulka and his minions with a bang. Costin pulled out a sheet of large paper and cast Explosive Runes on it, then threw it in the throne room. He mimicked the two-headed troll’s voice and said, “Found this.”

Hargulka demanded the scroll be brought to him, and an explosion followed. The party then sprang to the attack.

In the room was a normal troll, Hargulka, two trollhounds, and a weird rock troll. Fireballs were thrown, and the melee heroes kept the trolls from closing on the casters. The battle was over fairly quickly, but the rock troll was not vulnerable to fire. We did, however, discover that they petrified in the sun. With careful planning, we drug the unconscious troll outside with the help of summoned earth elementals. We positioned his unconscious form in a very embarassing balet-esque pose, then drug it out into the sun. It petrified. This petrified rock troll is now in our park district. A naming contest has been announced in Tralg’s Folley, and as soon as we get the resources, we’ll be turning him into a fountain. We are also going to be changing his outfits every holiday and at the start of each season.

We went through the months of November, December, January, and February. We attended a celebration in Brevoy, brought in a new and apparently very wealthy settlement of kobolds, and hired some adventurers to explore some of the remaining hexes within our southwest borders.

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