In the Shadow of the Tyrant

The Sending of Heroes

Champions of Freystadt!

You are hereby tasked with a mission of the utmost import. You are to infiltrate Tyrant’s Redoubt at its suspected location in Blightmoor, extract Major Benyamin El-Mofty, and return with as few casualties as possible. The use of excessive force is permitted by order of the Lord General himself.

Knight of the First Vault Markus Hofmeister will be in command for this venture, assisted by Dame Karin Armbruster. Should these two be indisposed, command will fall to Major Hannah Köhler, and subsequently to Captain Rirosorchalwen.

The Blightmoor is full of peril, and Tyrant’s Redoubt doubly so. This will be the most difficult mission you have yet attempted. But fear not! The hopes and prayers of the citizens of Freystadt go with you. Rescue our fallen soldier, and return triumphant!

Abadar go with you.

Signed,
High Priestess Renate Konstantin

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Tales of Grunewald - Albion's Trials Six

Entering Grunewald five heroes did walk, following a road, all cobbled from rock. A wondrous map, from an old man’s hand, guided their steps in this mystical land. But before them appeared an unexpected sight, a tree and a fork, which way was right? Then out from the forest, a figure did appear. A soldier bedraggled, blood in a smear.

Though tempers did flare, their row did not last. The lord of the forest, Albion, came past.

“Thou have been released, young one, from that torturous hell. Live your life with these comrades, and live it well.”

Upon which the hero named Kham did stand, he kneeled and presented the toad in his hand. Milton’s skin was red, his pores leaking smoke. His voice was hoarse, no more than a croak.

“Your toad’s condition we quickly may fix. But first thou must pass my trials six.”

With a rustle of leaves and a breath of air, the forest disappeared, and only darkness was there. The hero called Gilbert, her branches spread wide, watched as into the clearing, four Treants did stride.

“You sideth with humans!” they bellowed at her, “While they cut down our comrades, both thistle and fir!”

“These are my allies!” Gilbert didst cry, “Though they are human, attack them and die!”

The Treant strode forward, and lifted an arm, but through sword and spell only he came to harm. Out from the darkness, Albion did appear. An apple he gave Gilbert, and spake for all to hear:

“Thou have passed my first trial, and I am impressed. Keep ahold of that apple, and thou shall be blessed.”

The next trial was Nyrik’s and to his surprise, his daughter and a commoner did show before his eyes.

Albion gestured, his eyes hard and gray, “Choose one to die, or both I shall slay.”

For a time and a half Nyrik did consider, his pure blue eyes flicking hither and thither. Eventually he nodded in his decision, stood before the two and took up position.

“By my own honor, neither shall die. If you must kill them then first fight I.”

Albion grinned and gave Nyrik some bark, turned a sword in his hands, iron gleaming and stark.

The next to be tried was Riwen, and with Albion’s word, she appeared on a battlefield, blood all on her sword. Cowering before her were children three, terror on their faces for all to see.

“Kill them quickly,” a dark figure said, “They deserve not to live, they should be dead!”

Riwen strode forward with a shake of her head. “Why must they die?” she cautiously pled.

“They are inferior,” the boy in black jeered, “Slay them now, and shed not a tear.”

Riwen stood fast, and lightning did sear. “They will not die,” her voice lacking all fear.

But Albion was sated, “Thou has done well. Come back to me now, from that wartorn hell.”

Upon Riwen’s shoulder her reward did appear. The shape of a tree, etched proud and clear.

The newcomer Elowyn, whose trial was next, saw soldiers before her, and rightfully was vexed. Blood and gristle filled her vision, her squad splayed out, their bodies stained crimson.

“You were their leader,” a voice said in her ear, “Why should they die whilst you remain here?”

The horror was not over, and her father was there, the word “Betrayer” in blood over his sightless glare.

“Can you condone all the things that you’ve done? You have caused so much pain, and helped no-one.”

“My actions were just!” Elowyn replied, “Thou cannot judge me, I still have my pride!”

Behind her loomed the spectre of Death, with rusty scythe and rattling breath. Through her soul pure fear did fly, she must have courage, or else she shall die. But even in the darkness she did not despair, her strength of heart banished Death from his lair.

For Elowyn’s trial was a beautiful cape, its form cast around her in a natural shape.

" Now Major Köhler! " Albion cried, “Your memories we shall see, from before you had died.”

With a grinding noise and a horrible scrape, from the ground five pillars did quake. Upon them were scrawled symbols five. Sun, moon and spark. Bell and beehive. ’Twas Gilbert who finally solved the riddle. “Five elements!” she said, as quick as a fiddle.

Five elements indeed, and with each stone that fell, a vision came to Kohler, her past it did tell. Her times with Benyamin, both happy and grim, then he over her grave, form sodden and thin. A deck was Kholer’s reward, though she was at a loss.

“Use it wisely,” said Albion, “Else I shall be cross.”

Kham’s trial was last, a test from his college. His family looked on, begrudging his knowledge. Though the questions were hard and without any quip, Kham’s wits pulled through, he was smart as a whip. As he turned in his test, through the darkness did shine, the glowing of the sun, over a clearing fine.

A branch Albion gave Kham, it took shape in his hands, becoming a staff of much power, no item of chance. And lo behind Albion, a tree did loom, it’s fruit hanging low, and its flowers in bloom. One of these fruits the lord gave to poor Milton, his skin cooled to normal, no longer its crimson. From the toad’s back two wings did sprout, his tail ’came long, but not so his snout. With a joyous squeal, flame shot forth, as Milton took off, fast as a horse. Kham was in joy, his friend had been rescued. Albion sent them back, with the treasures they accrued.

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Excerpts from Ludolf's Novella - Chapters 2-3

Chapter 2 – Unmasking the Thief

So there we were, Köhler‘s squad and I, the body of Starling laid out on the table in front of us. Everyone else in the inn, even the owners, had left in a hurry. Can’t say I blame them. I had just took a long drag on my cigarette and opened my mouth to speak, when another man burst through the door. Blonde-haired, muscular, and devilishly handsome – I could tell he was going to be trouble. Warrant Officer Nyrik, he said he was; another member of Köhler’s squad. I still had my doubts, but it never hurts to have more hands, and the lad looked like he’d be good in a scrap.

We talked up the topic of what to do with the body for hours, it seemed. Finally decided that the only thing to do was to pay up and have some local religious type raise him from the dead. One of the dames mentioned that I could use my Golden Fist connections to come up with the money. That made me chuckle. I guess I can at that.

I’d take care of the messy business of getting him back up and conscious the next day. In the meantime, one of my contacts was going on about the thief being seen leaving Kaiten’s Timepiece each night. It was probably a false herring, but it bore investigating. I’d send Köhler with her men, broads, and vegetation to investigate while I did the thing with Starling.


I got the report from the tiny Major later the next day. She was blasted excitable, and went on every tangent that presented itself, but I managed to piece together what happened. You don’t get as far as I have in this business without learning a thing or two about putting information together.

They’d made it to the clock tower early that afternoon, and the monkey unlocked the chains over the door. I tried not to think too hard about that bit. She said the first floor was filled with philosophers, and I can only assume she meant statues. Not surprising for a tower dedicated to Kaiten. They were mechanical, probably guards, but the monkey disabled the activating device. Damn useful monkey, that.

The second floor had a statue something she called a “Trickeratops”. Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like that, but it must have been pretty monstrous, judging from how the bird described it. Seems like the Elven broad, Rirosorchalwen, mostly took care of that, with a bit of help from the tree. What caught my interest is when she mentioned the monkey finding a white creature, emaciated and with holes for eyes. That matched up with what Starling, or Stanislav as I ought to call him, had told me.

The journal they found confirmed what I had suspected, and what De Ven had told me. Those things were following him, and they were likely working for the other " Starling ". We finally had enough information to act on, and, according to his letter, the thief’s next target was the Winther manor. A perfect place to catch a murderer.

Chapter 3 – Killing a Monster

The clocks struck midnight, and I took a long drag on my cigarette. Down in the foyer below, the butler was dusting by candlelight, watched carefully by the tree. Judging by the last few attacks, it wouldn’t be long before Starling made his appearance.

Sure enough, minutes later a shadow spread across the room. Kham, in the corner, visibly shivered, and I could tell that it had gotten to Köhler too. Even the Elven broad, usually a stalwart sort, looked a bit shaken. With the sudden crash of broken glass, the room went pitch black.

I slowly drew a knife, trying to adjust to the darkness, but I couldn’t even see the lit end of my cigarette. As soon as it had come, though, the shadows vanished, and Warrant Officer Nyrik stood in a halo of light, brandishing a glowing stone that rotated slowly around his hand. There was no broken glass, and no Starling. I breathed out.

As I slid the knife back into my bandolier, the other skylight suddenly burst, and Starling fell to the ground in a billow of black cloth, claws raking for the butler. I cursed under my breath, and drew the knife again, but Nyrik was already in action. He drew that enormous sword that he keeps on his back, and charged the thief, cutting a long gash across Starling’s chest. The masked thing didn’t like that. It let out a horrible scream, and white fire blazed from the wound. I knew that Nyrik was trouble, and for the first time I years, I felt I was out of my depth.

Before anyone else could act, Starling raised his cloak, and I knew what was coming. Stanislav had used the same trick to teleport away from Köhler’s squad before, and I cursed and fumbled with my knives in a hurry. Just as it seemed the murderer would escape, Nyrik was there again, swinging his sword on the downswing, and with a flash of light, Starling hit the ground and lay still.


The aftermath was a messy business. It always is. Things got political when it turned out the fake Starling was a fey, and we had to wait a few days while the delegate from Grunewald took her sweet time getting to the city.

I had De Ven sent to the Catacombs. He wasn’t a bad lad, and didn’t deserve it, but I don’t make the laws, and that’s what passes for justice in this city. When that Suspiria broad finally showed up, I breathed a sigh of relief that was a long time coming. Starling’s corpse was handed over to her, and she took Köhler’s squad with as well, something about a sick toad. I didn’t mind, I wouldn’t need them again for a while.

With one last glance at the departing crowd, I put on my duster, lit a cigarette, and hit the streets. There were more crimes that needed solving, and the city relied on me to take care of them. I wouldn’t let it down.

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Excerpts from Ludolf's Novella - Chapter 1

The Deep Imbroglio
A Novella by Ludolf Forest

Chapter 1 – Clipping the Starling’s Wings

The dame came to me late on a summer night. I was smoking, legs up on my desk, the ice in a glass of brandy settling slowly beside me when she walked into the room. She was short, and not much of a looker, but that’s the way it is with these government types. She said that I had to catch a phantom thief having his way with the city’s nobility; that it was an order from the Lord General himself.

I slowly exhaled a puff of purple smoke. I don’t like being given orders, but it doesn’t pay to upset men like Sigismund. I said I’d take the case. This didn’t seem to satisfy the dame, and she started going on like they do, but my mind was already on the mystery at hand. Phantom thieves are always trouble, and if years of prowling this city has taught me anything, I wouldn’t be able to handle this one alone.

A piece of paper drew my eye on the desk, under the glass of brandy. A letter from my own bird. She’d been writing a lot lately, excited about going out west and this new elite squad she was working with. I don’t like the idea of leaving Freystadt, but an elite squad sounded like just what I needed for this case.

The dame was still droning on. I fished out a piece of paper from my desk and began to write. Being a member of this town’s so-called elite had its benefits, and the message would reach Karin by nightfall. Until then, I’d case this phantom thief’s recent hits, and see what I could learn.

I swung my legs off the table and grabbed my overcoat. The dame seemed angry now, still ranting about something, but all that mattered now was the case. My office door slammed shut with a crack behind me, muffling the last words of her endless lecture.


Pemberton’s report was on time, as it always is. You don’t get very far as a detective in this town without getting a few contacts among the suits, and Aalekzander was the best of the best. I unfolded the message as his man scurried away; they’re always nervous around my type.

Reading the report told me what I had already suspected. This elite squad my bird kept talking about lived up to their reputation. On their way back they’d killed an adult hydra, survived an attack by will o’ wisps, saw through a trio of annis hags, and assassinated a dragon. An impressive record, but I decided to wait until I saw them function in the city before making any judgments.


It was early in the morning, outside the gate of the Paternoster estate, when I met my “elite squad” for the first time. Years of working the shadier parts of this city had taught me not to give anything away, but it wasn’t easy keeping the shock off my face. I asked for detectives and they send me a bunch of broads and a bug. The only man among them was the one they call Tsenkyo, and he worried me. From what I’d read in Pemberton’s reports, the man was a magnet for trouble. I didn’t ask whether the monkey was with them – I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer.

I took a long drag on my cigarette. If this is what they sent me, I’d just have to work with it. We walked into the estate while I gave them the rundown. A lot of it, they already knew, and that spoke well for their abilities, but it started to wear on me when they wouldn’t stop asking about the Paternosters’ blasted golden elephant.

I was showing them the very elephant when the owner of the estate made his first appearance. Eustachius Paternoster was a weasel of a man, the very image of a stuck-up noble. Can’t say I liked it, but years of experience told me to just give this type what they wanted so they didn’t stick their aristocratic noses too far into the investigation.

Paternoster demanded that we post a pair of guards in his sleeping chamber. Starling hadn’t murdered anyone yet, but a twinge in my gut told me that he was right to be worried. I decided to stake out his quarters myself, along with Captain Barkwin. She may have been a tree, but there was no denying she seemed the most reliable of the lot. The rest of Major Kohler’s squad would take care of guarding the elephant.


I couldn’t do anything but watch as Starling punched through Paternoster’s chest and pulled out, hand dripping with blood and holding the noble’s heart. After an eternity, I loosed a throwing knife from my coat and threw it at the thief. With a jolt and a spray of blood, the weapon flew back to me. That was reassuring. Starling could bleed.

Reaching out to me, with a thousand screaming voices, the thing shot something out that froze to my very soul. You don’t police this city for as long as I have without dealing with worse than this, though, and I shrugged off whatever it did to me. The cigarette left my mouth, and I drew another knife, but Starling was already gone.

I checked Paternoster first. Sure enough, he was dead. Even a noble can’t survive with a hole in his chest that big. There was some commotion going on outside, and the Major said the monkey had picked up the thief’s trail. Trying not to think too hard about that, I followed the rest of the squad.

There, lying on a flight of stone steps in a back alley, was the body of Starling. His black cape was still, he wasn’t breathing. Starling was dead, and things just got complicated.

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A Formal Complaint

To whom it may concern,

I am writing today to formally complain regarding the actions of the officer squad under command of Major Hannah Köhler. At noon on the previous day, Lieutenant Hasek and I were socializing within my private quarters, whenCaptain Rirosorchalwen knocked on the door and brashly demanded entry. Lieutenant Hasek, being off-duty, had been indulging in a bottle of wine, and convinced me to allow the Captain into my room, despite my better judgment.

Accompanying Captain Rirosorchalwen was Major Köhler herself, Lieutenant Fannalfannalrin (who promptly departed), and what I can only presume to be the Captain’s pet monkey. As I was distracted, attempting to deal with the interruption, said monkey began to, for want of a more dignified description, monkey around in my room. The primate began ripping through the important paperwork upon my desk, and destroying the results of my arduous magical calculations performed the previous night.

In retaliation, I afflicted the monkey with a harmless spell, after which it vanished. Major Köhler, rather than disciplining Captain Rirosorchalwen for such uncouth behavior, simply stood by. The Captain herself seemed to find the situation hilarious, adding insult to the damage the monkey had caused.

Before I had a chance to voice my displeasure to the Major, the primate appeared again, this time tampering with the bowl of fruit I had brought to my quarters as a snack. Once again, I scared him away with a harmless spell, barely maintaining my dignity before the laughing officers who had invaded my quarters.

This incidents repeated themselves several times, until I was finally able to forcefully evict the monkey from the premises. Finally relaxing, I took a bite of a piece of fruit from the bowl, only to lose consciousness a moment later. Several hours afterward, I awoke, alone in my quarters, with my prized spellbook and coinpurse missing. I can only assume that Major Köhler and Captain Rirosorchalwen used the monkey as a distraction to drug me and steal my possessions.

Aside from the obvious criminal intent, these actions reflect poorly on the Freystadt military as a whole, and are unacceptable, particularly for officers of their rank. I trust that correct disciplinary action will be taken against the parties in question.

Respectfully,
Lieutenant Sibyllia Kaspersen

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The Battle of Fort Mϋllrose

High Priority Message to Lord General Sigismund Dreher
Regarding: Combat Report

My Lord,

I am pleased to inform you that the battle went exactly as planned. The forces of Blightmoor broke against our mighty walls, and were sent scattering back into the forests. It was an overwhelming victory for Freystadt.

Intelligence had indicated prior to the battle that the enemy intended to break through our defenses with a vanguard of giants, but they were not the only elite forces to have been dispatched from the Blightmoor. We have confirmed at least three other elite units. One giant, much larger than the others, confirmed by our resident priests to be a resurrected Zombie, one heavily armed and armored warrior, believed to be their commander, and one large black dragon, likely a fully-grown adult, were also present on the battlefield.

We commenced the battle with our two elite squads, hand picked by your Golden Fist, meeting Blightmoor’s Hill Giant forces in the center of the battlefield. Though each squad suffered minor injuries, thanks to their valiant efforts, only a single giant actually reached the walls, and only managed to collapse a small section of our defenses before the troops there responded, slew the giant, and established a defensive perimeter to plug the breach.

According to the official confirmed count, Major El-Mofty’s squad brought down a total of six fully-armed Hill Giants in the first battle, while Captain Köhler’s team killed only five. The Captain’s squad is, however, also responsible for killing the Zombie Giant, which attacked them in the midst of the other combat. Despite Major El-Mofty’s insistence that it “still only counts as one”, this is quite a feat.

At the appearance of the heavily armored knight and the dragon, Dame Armbruster and myself detached from our respective squads and intercepted the wyrm. Though powerful, our combined prowess was enough to keep it at bay and away from the fort. Shortly thereafter, however, the enemy commander joined the battle, and engaged Dame Armburster in a one-on-one battle. Due to my extensive defensive training, I was able to lock down the dragon, but was dismayed to see Lady Karin struggling with her own enemy.

To our great relief, by this time both Captain Köhler and Major El-Mofty had finished eliminating their respective targets, and rushed to our aid. Having been slightly faster in defeating their enemies, the Captain’s squad arrived first and showed remarkable courage and skill in surrounding and harrying the dragon. Lieutenant Barkwin was especially enthusiastic in this fight. In a display of impressive magical prowess, Captain Köhler herself dealt the finishing blow, striking the dragon’s head through with a bolt of lightning and crashing it, headless, to the ground.

After this, both squads rushed to the assistance of Dame Armbruster, who had been bloodied in her fight with the enemy commander. After being surrounded on all sides, however, the armored man produced a black sphere and apparently used its magic to teleport away. Lieutenant Rirosorchalwen landed a direct hit as he activated it, but I regret to inform you that the enemy successfully escaped.

As a summary, Major El-Mofty’s squad performed just as expected, but Captain Kohler and her men went above and beyond their duties, and even saved my life. Each of them shall be receiving a promotion on the morrow, and I give them full recommendation for any further duties the upcoming conflict with Blightmoor may bring.

For the Glory of Freystadt,
Commander Boris Siegward
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Benyamin's Journal (Entry 3)

Well it’s been ‘bout a month since that Alena woman sent me away over in Freystadt. I ’aven’t been doing much with this here journal since then, so I’ll try to catch up a bit on events.

First off, I was pretty pissed off at bein’ dismissed all casual like that, ‘specially since that blasted Gnome had me thinking that I was on my way to getting a promotion. I stormed about the city for a few days, but, without any other orders and nothin’ else to do there, wasn’t anything for me but to head back to the ol’ Horstmar garrison. Didn’t run into nearly as much trouble on the way back, neither. I tell you, that old squad is a magnet for trouble.

Well wasn’t even a day after I got back that some “urgent missive” came for me, straight from Fort Mϋllrose itself. Seems like something big was shapin’ up out in the West and down in Blightmoor, and they wanted a Captain of my experience to show up and beat some sense into the newer recruits. ‘Bout time I got some recognition, and from Boris Siegward himself, no less. Let’s see the fairy beat… no, wait, her orders were from ‘im weren’t they? Damnit all.

Anyway, I trekked on down to Fort Mϋllrose, took me a week or so nappin’ in the back of a hay wagon heading that way, and reported straight to the Commander. To my delight, and I don’t often use that word, he promoted me right there on the spot. Major El-Mofty. Got a nice ring to it, don’t it?


Now I ain’t one for complaining, but why do they always saddle me with the misfit squads? Boris kept calling them elites, but the two women always look shifty, the halfling‘s got some sort of complex, and one of them’s a giant bug for cryin’ out loud! It was bad enough when they sent me a tree, and now a bloody bug? Heck, this red-haired fellow, Rifnanhannel or somethin’, he’s the most normal of the lot, and he’ll run away soon as you shake a stick at ’im. Going to have to do something about that.

I will admit they’ve got some potential though. Neither the young lady with the bandages nor the big bug fellow seem to use any weapons, but heaven knows they don’t need them. She’s got hands quick as a snake, and ain’t afraid to use them in ways that make even me cringe, and he’s got four bloody arms. That blasted ant-thing can shoot out punches faster than I can follow. Let me tell you, I’ve seen some great brawls in my time, and nothin’ measures up to that.

Rifnanhannel’s got a good arm on ‘im, and doesn’t have any trouble hefting that big sword of his. Lad could really do some damage if he could buck up and fight for a bit. Commander Siegward said somethin’ about “pushing him ’till he snaps” – not sure what he means by that, but we’ll start with some verbal abuse next time we’re in training and see where we go after that.

That just leaves that halfling snot – he’s good with a bow, though I dunno how he manages to keep his balance with an ‘ead that big – and the wizard of the team. Now she’s good at magic, don’t get me wrong, but that personality of hers damn well rubs me the wrong way. She’s always questionin’ my orders and lordin’ over me and lookin’ down her nose – it’s bloody infuriating. Seems like the rest of the crew hates her as much as I do though, only one she gets along with is the other dame, with the dark hair. Well, they can keep each other, as long as they stay out of my hair and pull their weight when battle comes.


I was pretty bloody surprised when Boris told me his strategy for the next battle, though can’t say I disagree with it. Seems like that other squad of misfits I headed is on their way ‘ere, and they and I are going to have some sort of competition. According to the intelligence the Commander’s managed to collect, them Blightmoor bastards are relyin’ on getting some giants up to the walls of the fort, to make an entrance for the other mooks. Not a bad strategy, way better than you’d be expectin’ from the brutes that live out there.

Turns out Siegward’s counter to this is us. My new squad – which I’ve taken to callin’ Mofty’s Marauders, good name eh? – and the other team, led by “Captain” Köhler. We’re gonna head out and take down those giants before they can get to the walls. The Commander’s gone and taken it a step further, he’s gonna hand out promotions to the team that kills the most giants! Hell, this is my chance to finally get the rank I deserve. Lieutenant Colonel El-Mofty, hah!

Now my old squad knows how to handle themselves, but they’ve got nothing on the Marauders. Murderers, swindlers, and all around dangerous folk, these new guys are. I should ’ave this competition in the bag. A nice shiny new rank ought to more than make up for how troublesome these guys are to train.


Köhler’s squad showed up yesterday, and the Commander says we’ve got about two days to go ‘fore the Blightmoor bastards march on the fort. I could ’ardly keep my bearing when that fairy heard Siegward introduce me as “Major El-Mofty”. Hah! It’ll be some day when a bloody sidhe gets one-up on ol’ Benyamin.

‘Course, it’s not like it wasn’t good to see them all again. I jus’ got back from visiting with the Captain. Told her to watch out for ‘erself and all that. Bah, I never was any good with this soppy stuff. ’Course, now I just got back and heard that Marina was off causin’ trouble with the other squad. Something about stealin’ some Wizard’s spellbook. Now that they mention it, they did have two new humans hanging around with them when they got here. Well, two human fellows shouldn’t be nearly ‘nough to tip the scales in their favor. I’ve still got this one in the bag.

Now I’ve got to fill out this “incident report”. That Marina gal will be getting an earful from me later, no mistake. Bloody paperwork…

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Karin's Missives (Letter 2)

Alana,

See, I told ya I’d get back to you about yer piglets. There was no call fer that nasty little note you sent me last time. Anyway, we finally made it all the way to Fort Mullrose, safe and sound, though, lemme tell you yeah, it was one hell of a trip. Bet you wish you could have been here, eh? Eh?

Right after that first time I wrote ya, we ran into a bunch of beary owls out in the woods, attacking some poor adventurer sod on the ground. Now Nyrik, that piglet doesn’t like to stand for that sort of thing, so he was off like a bolt, tryin’ to defend the guy. Riwen and the others all joined in, even the fox was harryin’ the things’ paws, and they killed a couple of ’em before the rest turned tail and ran.

After that first fight, I decided yer piglets could take care of themselves, and started stayin’ out of the scraps they got in. Better for them to get some good battle experience so they can become big, strong Freystadtian hogs, eh? So from back where I was, I got a prime view of the big ol’ owlbear as it barreled right through the woods straight at the group. This must’ve been the mama, and let me tell you, it was the biggest beast I’ve ever seen. The piglets continue to impress though, Nyrik got himself all trapped in the thing’s paws, but Kham, that wizardy fellow, he cast a spell that made it slow down, and the rest of them had beaten it to death before it’d even got a chance to right its bearings. Ha!

’Twasn’t even one day before we ran across another beastie. This one was a creepy floaty mask all following behind us in the shadows and such. Right unsettling it was. I noticed it straight away of course, and didn’t take the others long. Gotta tell you though, that Kham fellow is right oblivious. He kept rubbin’ his eyes and muttering something about bees. Dunno what that was all about.

Anyway, seems like yer piglets knew what that thing was, and knew that it was powerless in the sunlight. The bastard was waitin’ for night to fall, so it could slink all out of the shadows and kill us at its leish leasu less kill us whenever it wanted. Now Nyrik, he lured the thing right into a windmill’s shadow, and hit the mask with that big shiny thing he calls a sword. Now I don’t know much about religion or all that shmuck, but I swear when he cut the mask, the metal started putting out all holy light and shining all over the place, and damn if that mask didn’t scream. Long story short, yer piglets killed it, and they found a nifty bag and a magic ring for their trouble. Not long after, we were back on our way.

So remember that ring I mentioned before? ‘Course ya do, ya just read it. Turns out that there ring was cursed! Nyrik put the thing on, and we didn’t notice ‘till the next day, but his hair started growing up a storm. Better, he can’t take it off! Now he has to cut his hair each and every night, so it doesn’t get too lucshu lucs luxurr too nice-lookin’. What a hoot!

Few days into our trip, and yer piglets and I found ourselves right outside Horstmar, that big tradin’ town. I never spend much time there, but seems like that’s where the rest of them are all from. Who’da thought? So we come up on this lumbermill area, and there’s all these stumps and logs all strewn about, and that Gilbert gal gets a haunted look on her face, and starts walking all around like she’s in a trance. Makes sense, I suppose, her bein’ a tree and all. Them stumps must have seemed like a graveyard to her.

So there she is wanderin’, and she comes up on this stump that ain’t quite like the others. The other piglets and I aren’t far behind, having been following her wonderin’ what’s come over old Barkwin, yeah? Sittin’ on that stump, waving at her like it’s the most normal thing in the world, is this rabbit wearing a waistcoat. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen, I tell ya. Now the rest of us are all confused and wondering what a rabbit is doing wearing such fancy rags, but Gilbert isn’t taken in. She shot an arrow straight through the rabbit, quick as lightning, and the thing bounced backwards but stopped – it was held to the trunk by a huge bunch of these stringy white veiny things! Right nasty it was.

The stump didn’t like this, apparently, and its front split open to make a big ol’ mouth, spewing out tentacles left and right. Riwen knew what it was, and started shouting out warnings to the rest of the piglets. She’ll make a damn fine commander someday, that girl will. Kham, that monk fellow, he looked a bit scared but did that magic thing of his anyway, and just like the mama bear before, the tentacle stump slowed way down – let everybody else just dart through its tentacles, safe as houses. Everybody but Obsidian, of course. That stump had a taste for meat, it did, and it grabbed the fox in one big tentacle and started dragging it closer. The others managed to kill it before he got pulled all the way to the mouth, but I don’t much fancy thinkin’ about what might have happened had they not.

We didn’t spend much time in Horstmar, but kept on going right into the forests leading down West. Not a mile out of town, and we spotted a real ugly bat thing just sitting off the side of the road, watching us. This time Nyrik knew what it was – he called it a Berbabblebang or somethin’, and decided that, as a Paladin and all, he had to kill it. Now I wasn’t going to argue, I don’t want anythin’ looking like that hanging out anywhere near a Freystadt town. Everybody approached it with weapons drawn, but the thing just kept staring at us. Its eyes were shining like lanterns, but looked like nobody was home. It went all blurry too, and it took Nyrik a coupla tries to get a good hit in, but when he did he just right cleaved it in half. End of problem.

Now the next few days were pretty empty. Surprising, yeah? All that stuff happened to us right out of Freystadt, then we get into the real wilds and it’s quiet as Ludolf. Seems like just the other night we had some giant gorillas sniffing around the camp, but Kham, Nyrik and I just slept right through it. Didn’t even hear about it until the next day. Turns out Riwen and Gilbert managed to calm them down, thanks to some timely help by the little Captain. That piglet ain’t as burly or forceful as the others, but lemme tell you Alana, she’s got a good ‘ead on her shoulders. Good job making that one the Captain, that’s for sure.

Nothin’ else much exciting happened till the very last day, right before we got to Mullrose. Some bastard had put a giant tree right in the middle of the path. Fortunately that little Kohler came up with a solution, and dug a tunnel down under the log and up out the other side. It was a bit of a tight fit, but I managed to crawl through, and the others didn’t have nearly as much trouble. So we get to the other side, and I’m just in time to see the fairy shoot a great jet of water at this lumberjack-lookin’ fellow standing on a ledge above us and holding an axe.

Things got a bit hectic after that, and next thing I know, I’m runnin’ down the hill bein’ chased by that big mother of a rolling log, with Obsidian and Nyrik carryin’ the unconscious lumberjack. Two other burly ‘jacks were running backwards on the log, arms crossed, keepin’ their balance, right ridiculous it looked, and Riwen was up there with them! Quick as a cat, she is. Kham did some fancy teleporting to get behind the rollin’ thing, and the Captain can fly so, of course, she didn’t have anythin’ to worry about. The rest of us though, we had a grand old time. Runnin’ through streams, jumping down cliffs, smashing through brambles, all the while being chased by what had to be a ton of huge, rolling tree. It was fantastic fun, let me tell you!

So as we’re running along, tryin’ our best to keep pace with the log, I hear some sounds of fighting from behind. There’s a brief whooshin’ noise, and the first lumberjack, Beck, they called him later, came tumbling down off the side of the log and landed right in front of it. There was a horrible thumpin’ noise as the log rolled right over him. Damn painful, it had to be.

The other ‘jack only lasted a little longer, then he fell off too. Jack, Jack the ’jack, he managed to get up and get a runnin’ start, stayin’ just in front of the log, but ran straight into the brambles Obsidian had dodged earlier. He got caught just like a fly in a web, then the log ran over him too. Thump thump! Ha! It was great.

Seemed like both the lumberjack twins had been dealt with, so I decided it was time to put a stop ta all it. I was still doin’ fine, of course, but Nyrik was startin’ to look tired, and had that unconscious ‘jack still draped over his arm. I got a bit more of a runnin’ start, then turned around and raced up to the log. One swing from that axe of mine and bam! The log split in two and rolled off in opposite directions. All the piglets stopped running around and stopped, givin’ me this incredulous look. Guess it wasn’t quite as fun for them, but what’re ya gonna do, yeah?

It was just a hop, skip and a jump ta the fort after that, and I handed the piglets off to that nice young Private they assigned to them at the gate. Some angry-lookin’ guards came up and took the ‘jacks off our hands, so I reckon’ that’s the last we’ll see of them, and I headed off to my quarters here for some well needed sleep. Helluva journey it was, and yer piglets were damn entertaining. Ya ever need me to cover them again, just say the word.

Your friend colleague,
Karin Armbruster

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Karin's Missives (Letter 1)

Alana,

Look, I know you and me don’t get along so well, but just thought it’d be common courtesy ta let you know that I picked up yer piglets safe and sound. They’re a bit scrawny, ‘specially that magical twerp, but they’ve got spunk! That fairy in ‘ticular. She’s as big as me pinky, but got spirit that’d put most grown men in this country to shame.

Now we just finished killing off some of those big one-eye bastards that’d set up camp just a day outside Freystadt, and the piglets handled themselves well. I wanted ta make sure they didn’t get hurt or anything, of course, so I helped out for this fight but I’ll let ‘em handle things for themselves if we run into any other trouble. They’ve gotta get some real, gritty battle experience if they ever want ta grow up to be big, mean Freystadtian boars after all! Ha!

I’ll write ya again when we get to Boris’ keep out in the West. It’s gonna be a long trip, and things sounded pretty bad from the reports we’ve been gettin’ here in the city, so I hope we make it in time. Back to back, out in the mud and the rain facin’ the stuff outta Blightmoor, that’s when we’ll see what yer piglets are really made of! Look forward to it!

-Karin

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Köhler's Letter to Binyamin
Written by Sighing

Heya Bingyamen, how are you doing! I’m doing great! Things are going awesome for me and I wish you could see it! I tried to find you after we completed our mission, but I guess you went home already? So, anyway, I decided to write you a letter, but it turns out I write way too small for big people, so I’m dictating this to a maid at this inn we’re staying at. So weird I found a maid who can write, huh? Oh, she’s glaring at me.

So we went to this dungeon to get some kind of thing, I can’t remember what kind of thing exactly but it was really old. We met a bunch of really greasy type people and also we fought a man of worms, but that’s besides the point, we got two new guys to join my brigade!

That’s what I’m calling it now, by the way. My unit is called the Unicorn Brigade! Because the deadliest part of the unicorn is its smallest and most beautiful part, the horn, and that’s me, right in front! Cool, right? I mean, I haven’t told the team yet but they’ll fall in line once I explain the metaphor like that.

So, we got these two guys, and one’s a paladin, and the other, um, he’s, like, uh, a magic guy. You know, with, like, all the blasty spells? But he also summons monsters, but not SCARY monsters. Well anyway their names are Nyrich and Commsenko, and they’re totally righteous! Nyrich even saved me a bunch of times in the dungeon when Mushowshi kept trying to kill me. Oh, did I tell you I saw him? He’s way evil and he joined the bad guys. Totally gotta kill him before he kills me.

So yeah, I was like “Hey Nyrich, I’m ALL about the paladins, how about you quit your job and join Freystadt?” I forgot to tell you, this guy was working for some guy named Cal the Dope, that’s why they were in the dungeon. And anyway Nyrich is like, “Oh, I shall join your cause, but I will go nowhere without my love.” And I was like, “Well, you can bring him too, I guess.” So they joined the Unicorn Brigade! But they’re the lowest ranking members. Even behind Gillburt!

So we’re heading back to Freystadt and we come to this bridge, and there’s like, um, big fat blobby guys, they all look alike to me, Orcs or Ogres or Ogrillons or whatever, point is, they asked us for money to cross the bridge. I forgot to tell you, there was a bridge. And I’m like, “Haha, we don’t need your dumb bridge,” but Ruin was all like “Um captain, we do actually,” and I’m like, shit. So we attacked them, but one fell on Obsidian and hurt him really bad, and I spent the whole fight healing him, it was awful. But we killed them, because psh, what else was gonna happen?

So then Nyrich sees this holy symbol of Ayamiddy and he’s all like “Whoa, that’s my symbol, we gotta check it out,” so I’m like, “well, okay.” So we keep going and there’s this massive cathedral in the middle of nowhere and I’m instantly like, “psh, nuh-uh,” and I shoot sparkles at it and we figure out it’s an illusion. Then Nyrich gets angry and he’s like “RAAAUGH who is messing with my godddd” and he rushes in and there’s this pretty lady in there! But she’s a monster. She was pretty though, she had the cutest fangs, but it turned out she was a lamia? That’s like a lion, but instead of a head it has a lady. Anyway, naturally I was like “Wow, you’re incredible, you should join my brigade,” but she was like “grr, no way, because I’m a bitch.” So I shot off some sparkles and set off a huge arrow trap, and she got angry and attacked, and of course we totally killed her, but I felt sad about it. Anyway we took her stuff.

So we go home to see Alena, and I’m feeling scared because we never managed to bring back that thing she wanted. But she was like “nah it’s no big deal,” because she’s cool like that. But then she told us she’s been digging up her basement because… I don’t remember why she’s digging up her basement, it’s a weird thing to do. But there was a ghost down there, and it stole Ruin’s voice, and then we killed it. But there was also this undead girl made of stone. And we killed that too. But it hurt Ruin really bad. Then we healed her though, so whatever. Anyway, we took their stuff.

Alena was totally happy with the awesome job we did, though frankly I think she should have just not dug up her basement? At any rate she was all like, “you’re the finest military unit in Freystadt, go take a couple days of leave.” And that made my brigade happy, but I wanted to spend more time with Alena, not with my lieutenants, so I asked her if she wanted to have a sleepover. And she goes, “Okay, if you can get Gillburt to come, sure.” But she wasn’t talking about our tree-lady Gillburt, but this other guy who lives in Freystadt. So I was like, yeah! I’m totally gonna get him to come!

So then my brigade decided to go shopping, and there’s this fat guy there selling really ugly shirts, and it turned out they were cursed shirts! He put a shirt on Commsenko and it made everybody really angry at him, so he tried to take it off, but it was too tight! Luckily I used my superior brainpower to come up with a solution, and I cast Barkskin on him, and it made the shirt explode. Then the merchant tried to run away, but I chased him down, and I was gonna poke him a little with some sparks but Ruin advised me not to, and she’s my best strategist so I listened to her.

Then we kept exploring town, and we met this really pretty girl, I guess she was a cleric of Addabar, and she was waaaaay into Nyrich. I mean, she saw him and she goes “Fufufufu you and I should hit the town fufufufu,” and Nyrich is like, “um, no, I’m with my brigade, also you scare me.” I tried to tell the lady that she could spend the night with me if Nyrich was too shy to go with her, but everybody talked over me. Anyway I guess it was okay, because Commsenko said “No run away it’s a terrible demon,” and, yeah, she was, it turned out. But I think it was mostly that Commsenko was jealous.

So after we got that out of the way, we found Gillburt’s house, and I knocked on the door, but it was actually his roommate that answered it, Bainhamer. He let us all in though and he was really nice, though he didn’t seem to like Alena for some reason. (Actually, a lot of people don’t, and that still doesn’t make any sense to me, because Alena is so cool? Are people not seeing how pretty and poised and smart and good-smelling she is?) Anyway, this is the best part, though. He told me he went to skool with Gillburt, and at first I was like “Haha what the heck is skool,” but then he said “That’s when you’re a kid and old ladies are mean to you.” And then I HAD A MEMORY!! I totally DID go to school once! I remember those scary old ladies! I don’t remember where it was, though, so not much help.

But then Gillburt finally came home, and he was really nice, and gave us all scones. He said I was even cuter than he expected~! And he also said he was sure Alena liked me, because Alena likes cute things, and I mean, that’s me! So I was really happy! I told him he should come with me to Alena’s house and have a sleepover, but he was uncertain about it (I don’t know how you don’t immediately agree to spend time with two pretty girls and a bunch of chocolate and marshmallows but I guess he has obligations or something). I really thought he’d come around, though!

Anyway, Gillburt works at the vault, so we decided to check out the vault. I think Ruin was trying to find something out? I think she was looking up an elf she knew or something. But there were so many records, I got excited, and I tried to find my records. But the librarian said the records were only available to high-ranking people, so I go, “Well, I’m a captain,” and they said that wasn’t good enough, even though they’re MY records! They won’t let me read my own stuff! So I was pretty unhappy, but I knew Alena would be able to get me in if I asked her.

We went back to Alena and I asked her for help opening the vault, but she said she’d only help me if I agreed to help her. She wanted us to go to the Groonwall and mediate a dispute her friend was having with these other fey. I’m super fey, I mean, I’m really really fey, everybody knows that, but actually I really don’t know anything about the Groonwall. I’m from the Blightmoor, and that’s where all the swamp fey live, but the Groonwall is more of a forest. It’s a lot greener and there’s no tar pits. But I was really excited to meet these fey, because I never really get a chance to meet any since I left the swamp.

Well, as soon as we headed down there, we met these giant shambling mounds, and one of them was eating a poor doggy, so of course we attacked, but it got really messy when I tried to electrocute it and it got really fast. Ruin was all like “I TOLD you not to use sparks!” but I was like “I didn’t hear you!” Anyway, it ate the poor doggy, and almost ate Obsidian before we killed them both dead. The mounds I mean.

Then we ran into these three hags, and of course I got excited, because I was made by hags, and so was Alena! These were forest hags, of course, not swamp hags, so not that interesting, which was good, because we had to kill them. They weren’t really that strong, but they made some members of our brigade look like hags too, so it was impossible to figure out who to fight until Ruin finally killed one and all their tricks went away. Well, except for Commsenko, who got turned into Obsidian’s brother! He was an adorable magic fox and it wasn’t an illusion. Even after we killed the hags and took their stuff, he was stuck that way! I was so happy for him. I think Obsidian was happy too.

Anyway we got to the edge of the Groonwall and there was this big tower, so we knocked on the door and this really really old guy answered the door. I guess he was Suspeerya’s butler? Suspeerya was Alena’s friend we were looking for, by the way. So he takes us to her, and she turns out to be this really beautiful blonde woman, just great! She was a little shorter than Ruin, so still pretty big, too. Anyway I just thought she was human. She was totally sexing that satyr, though, it was really obvious. (Oh, there was a satyr there too.) Anyway she told us she wanted to build an observatory to grow poisons, and the field fey wouldn’t let her. But I was like, psh, easy breezy, diplomacy is my middle name.

So I float out to the field, and all of a sudden all these animals turn into beautiful field nymphs called Bladdoowids. It’s weird, ever since you went home, we’ve been running into more and more beautiful women. There was also a tiefling woman you would have liked, but she got eaten, long story but totally not my fault.

So the bladdoowids say to come meet their queen, and I was excited because I thought the queen might be a sidhe like me. But then they said “Nah, but Suspeerya totally is.” And I’m like WHAT? How is that possible? I mean, you should have seen her, she’s way bigger than a sidhe and she’s not purple and doesn’t have wings or horns or anything? But they didn’t explain which really annoyed me. Anyway, the queen’s like, “We hate Suspeerya, and she wants to grow poisons to kill humans, so we hate that too. But we find your two humans really handsome, so we’ll let her have what she wants if they give us babies.”

Anyway so they went off to sleep with the bladdoowids, and I tried to spy on them because they really didn’t give me anything else to do. But afterwards everybody was satisfied so the Queen was like “Okay thanks, we’ll let Suspeerya have her stupid garden.” All in all, it was super easy.

So I go back to Suspeerya, and she goes, “oh, great, you guys are the best.” And we’re about to go home, but of course I want to know what’s this about her being a sidhe. But she said, “oh, the Queen lied to you.” I thought that was a really weird thing to lie about, but she wouldn’t tell me anything more, so I went home feeling a bit cranky.

Then we went back to Alena’s house, and I asked her about Suspeerya being a sidhe, and she was like “Oh, she’s a special kind of sidhe,” and of course I got jealous, because the way she said it, it sounds like Suspeerya gets to have sleepovers with Alena even though I don’t. But she said “No, you’re special too, but Suspeerya is different.” Yeah, I mean, I don’t know, I just want to know what her whole deal is.

But then she says to the Brigade, sorry, we can’t have fun yet, I need you to go to Fort Mullrose. And of course I’ve totally been to Fort Mullrose, that’s where the commander gave me the orders to come to you, so I was like, sure, that sounds good! I guess she wants us to do something with the Blightmoor, which is interesting, because that’s kind of my hometown, you know? Anyway, tomorrow we’re supposed to meet this lady, Karen something, and we’re all headed off together to save the day! I don’t know from what, maybe you can meet us there and we’ll find it together?

Hugs and Kisses,
Captain Hanna Köhler, Commander, Unicorn Brigade, Freystadt Army

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