Wartenn's Kingmaker

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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Against the Trolls

While out adventuring, we discovered a group of trolls that had taken up residence in the Shrikehold. We encountered an initial group of three trolls that were bringing back a cart full of building supplies – large-sized books on building construction with lots of pictures and large-size hammers. We were able to take out the trolls and confiscate the building supplies. An initial scouting attempt on the fortress showed it to be well-guarded and the start of a permanent troll city of sorts.

After returning to think about the troll situation, Darius Orroz Lodovka made a contact that knew a considerable amount about the trolls. He offered to sell the Shrikehold a map of their stronghold as well as some detailed information. Darius took the information to the Council, and came back with the following info:

- Troll leader is named Hargulka. He does not seem abnormal in any way, except for perhaps being smarter than the average troll with more vision. He has a large map on a hide on his wall of the area.

- There is a troll that wears better armor than most in the camp. Seems to be a lieutenant that restricts access to Hargulka.

- Patrols generally consist of two trolls and one troll hound.

- Lair is a combination of worked stone above and newer raw stone caverns. You must pass through the barracks area to get to the personal quarters and audience chamber of Hargulka.

- Hargulka is building a nation for trolls and others “not like the soft skins.” They have some allies and are building up. The land they have was gifted to them by “the Lady,” and her friends helped them set up their initial settlement. Hargulka was confident that the Shrikehold would be “much surprised were they to try to come up and strike against us.” All monsters are welcome in the troll settlement. More come to join them each day, and when they grow large enough, they will kick out the humans.

- There are 7 rooms, at least 15 trolls (could be up to 20), and 5 troll hounds. 1 of the hounds was in Hargulka’s room and the others were either on patrol or in the kennels.

- External door to the main fortress is stone and at least a few inches thick. There is a sliding track that the door is on that appears to be controlled by a spoked wheel inside the room.

- The crates in one of the rooms bore two symbols. The informant recognized that one of them was the symbol of Pitax. Darius confirmed that with Lady Valeria. While we can be certain that Pitax will claim that the supplies were stolen from them, Hargulka’s talk of allies and what is known of Count Irrovetti makes me suspicious that he may be allied with these trolls. Pitax’s frequent wars with Mivon over some of that fertile borderland would gain a bonus if a new front was opened up on Mivon’s northern border. It is unlikely that we’ll be able to prove this. The other symbol my contact did not recognize…. nor did Lady Valeria.

- Hargulka is interested in an alliance with Darius’s contact. He has made a request for my contact to recapture the books and building supplies that they lost and bring them back to the camp to prove that he is as powerful and useful an ally as he claims that he could be. They are expecting him to bring the items to them in the middle of November. At that point, Hargulka would likely let my contact in on more information.

Seraphina recognized the other symbol as the symbol of the banished queen of faerie that had a dalliance with Oberon. Titiana did not take kindly to this, and the vengeance was the stuff of fey legends.

We offered the trolls a chance to surrender. They refused. So the Senior Council set off to launch an initial attack before the troll infestation got too out of control.

The initial attack took out their watchtower, three trolls, and a troll hound. The party then set up a false camp to draw attention that evening. A party of 5 more trolls and two trollhounds took the bait and were soundly destroyed.

Now we prepare to finish the job. Approximately half of the trolls have been defeated already.

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Founding of the Shrikehold
From the Journals of Darius Lodovka, Lord of the Rose

I cannot say that I expected that our exploration of the Greenbelt would end in us ruling a small nation. We made a bunch of deals that gave us resources in exchange for promises to build trade routes, buildings, or advance the goals of some of our sponsors while we grow as a country. Overall, I think we did very well. It has been 8 or 9 months now since we rose to power – and it has been a very busy and eventful time for the Shrikehold.

All of us have settled into our roles. Nymka is known to the public as the Guardian. Kargan is our general, Costin serves as our magister, Hamond Wylcey is our warden, and I serve as spymaster. Or Lord of the Rose as I call myself. The rose is elegant and attractive, but if you aren’t careful its thorns will stab the hell out of you. So I find it fitting.

We have two settlements established – Tralg’s Folly and Leveton. We don’t have a whole lot in Leveton right now – just some housing and a marketplace. We built a road to connect Leveton and Tralg’s Folly with Brevoy as we promised. In Tralg’s Folly, we have build quite a number of buildings, and our population has grown by leaps and bounds.

It has been quite a while since I wrote in my journal – partly because of my many activities. I’ve built a tavern from the ground up in Tralg’s Folly. I now have an innkeeper working for me that takes away from the work I have to do, but I love spending time there and swapping stories and having a few ales. It’s an excellent place to gather information.

There has been other excitement too. Some inquisitors of Old Deadeye came to stay with us for a couple of months to remove all of the goat statues in our realm. We had a visit by Count Arnovsky, and a month later his associate Arnold came to live in our town.

I recently sent my newly-trained spies on an easy scouting trip to Varnhold, and it ended poorly. Some of the spies were caught, but we avoided a major political scene. My entire life has been spent being in the spotlight and standing out. It’s pretty clear that I have some work to do and some skills to learn if I am to train a skilled group of spies.

We are currently exploring a fortress on our western border that is in the possession of some fey. We battled a quickling and found his piggy bank, which gave us the idea to call this place Svinevault. We also battled some kind of fey beasty and its assassin vine friend. We now go forth to explore the main keep.

I know that’s kind of a whirlwind tour of what we’ve been up to the past few months. I’ll try to do better at journaling in the future.

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The Party Pt. 2

From the Journal of High Ruler Nymka of the Shrikehold,

Nah, just kidding. =You should be. You’re not strong enough to hold what you have.= First, Waythe, it’s not mine [And it won’t be. You are weak], Quiet. It is ours, and at least at this point it belongs to all of us. The future is uncertain, especially with us just starting out. That being said, like hell if I’d be taking any rulership advice from either of you. You would either have me light everything on fire =FIRE!= sigh, yes, fire. Or, devote so much to military that everyone would starve [Proper culling of the weak]. Shut it, Gnout.

OK, everyone, cut out of the conversation for a moment. It was an interesting party. I wasn’t really used to the political maneuvering, until I realized that it was just the standard street haggling with fancier clothes, scents more obnoxious than the gutter, and more pretension. Most everyone was anxious to get their piece in, advancing their own agendas. Fortunately, most of them were relatively in line with ours. The Pharsmans were concerned with what they always are. So many people shouting, both internal and externally, that we don’t want undead in our nation, with no patience for me to agree with them. I still have the obligation of establishing Nethys’ position on the situation. The important piece is that…Nethys doesn’t give a rat’s ass what is done with magic, so long as it is used. I’m free to adjudicate what magics are and aren’t allowed from a theological stance, but that the church has no official position. FOOLISHNESS! You gave away your greatest advantage! First, I said quiet. Second, tell that to your turncoat bone golems. Whatever happened to them, anyway? I don’t want to talk about it.

There were others that…I’ll admit, I’m not sure why they were there. The one joker who just wanted to take over the area before we even started with military forces, or the one that wanted us to just cede any ruins over to her (though, to be fair, she was Winter). Lots of little notes on the overall decisions made, but overall I think we came out ahead.

Of course, the biggest thing was figuring out who was gonna run this thing, at least in theory. I tried to look at things objectively when I put myself forward for the position of rulership, though I fully recognize that this is a collaboration. I’m very rarely, if ever, going to be making decisions by myself. OK, to be fair, I can’t make any decisions by myself! I’m already a committee.

That being said…it is weird. I came into this group looking to forward the advance of magic in the area for Nethys, and to counter any potential cults and major threats that may be in the area. I suppose my position as ruler is just as effective in this case BETTER, but I was thinking at best I would be starting a little temple out in the wilds. This is more than I was expecting, and I only hope that I am up to the challenge. You will be.

The new charter member – not so sure on him yet, but he appears to be solid, competent. Hell, more than competent. He’s fully aware of his capabilities, knows how far they extend, what may happen in the future, and what challenges there may be. Looks a bit like Tralg in the eyes, though that could just be me feeling guilty about Tralg’s passing. Naming the capital Tralg was a good idea…though may not be the BEST thing. Still need to think that over a bit more as to how I’ll vote on that. Most definitely a memorial, maybe even a holiday for him.

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Episode IX

The party held by the mayor of Restov came to an end. All told, the party had collected support from or made deals with all but four factions (Church of Abadar, Jerribeth, House Surtova, and the One-Eyed Witch).

Agreements were made regarding who would nominally be in charge of our kingdom, and a name was decided on (The Shrikehold).

Now, while we have legal claim to the land between Oleg’s Trading Post and Mivon, we are actually in control of nothing more than the ground we walk. Next week, we aim to fix that, as we take over the northern coast of the Tuskwater for the capital city of The Shrikehold.

I’m sure that whole “ancient evil fey coming back” thing in the area won’t bite us in the ass.

At all.

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