Victory in the Vale

Magic Religion

by Hio

So the Bahamut thing really didn’t work out. Apparently “honorable” doesn’t just mean not being a pussy in battle, but doing things like not drinking or taking stuff that you’ve legitimately taken. I mean, that doesn’t seem fair at all.

Plus, I totally destroyed that chubby little bugger, Balgron the Fat in Shadowfell Keep. And that twisted torturer too — honestly, I don’t even know why I travel with a party at all. Though Lyssa is kind of hott, but I don’t really like those strong-female types. And Valthrun, he’s the dude. And he doesn’t need any religion at all, so there you go.

Almost forgot! We were killing all of these undead, zombies and skellies and the like, when we got to a room where they just didn’t seem to die. Can undead die? I mean, they did die (or un-die since they’re undead), but then more would come. It was like a troll losing his arms and growing them back, except that it was a room instead of a troll and lots of skellies instead of arms. Eventually I saved the party by reading the script on some of the room’s altars. Can you believe it? I’m the only one who knows Draconic — those guys are all idiots. Even Thrak was impressed and started praying to his god about my awesome reading abilities.

Then there was this big skellie dude that I everyone seemed afraid of — I could have taken him for sure. Sir Keegan or something something. He wasn’t important enough for me to know about because I was drinking at the time the rest of them were telling stories. Their loss, I say. But now we have some gate to close here in Shadowfell. Mostly I hope the girls at the tavern are in a much better mood when we get back to town. And they’ll love that story about Balgron the Fat. I can’t wait.

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An Excursion into Shadowfell Keep:
A Sage's Account.

by Valthrun the Prescient

I am keeping this journal of observations for many purposes, not the least of which is to occupy myself during the brief spurts of downtime I am allowed, for committing myself to a conversation with any of my uneducated compatriots is a long, drawn-out, aggravating process that I only undertake when necessary. More importantly, though, it will hopefully survive as an important record of how the abandoned keep’s interior has changed over the years, and provide insights as to the Empire’s legacy when I am able to divine it myself. I also hope it will provide a second usage to other arcane practitioners who are curious about field work – I will probably not be providing so much an exhaustive manual as a collection of words to the wise, though.

The keep’s walls and outer structures remain as desolate as ever, wrecked by the earthquake some years prior and never repaired. The goblins have vandalized the interior, even to the point of digging a pit by the entrance and filling it with such offal as to attract a swarm of rats, which thankfully we managed to avoid provoking. Any traces of the Nerathi soldiers that watched over this place are gone now, save perhaps for the mattress frames that the goblins use for their bunks, or the chests that they fill with “shineys” (rough translation from the goblin tongue). They obviously have no regard for the historical import of the site, even going so far as to completely dig up the floor of a rather large chamber in search of nonexistent buried trinkets. I suppose it’s not entirely truthful of me to condemn their gathering, as I did come away with an enchanted implement for my troubles…

There was a strange rune on the ground on the second level: a trio of lines emanating from a single point, separating sigils of a hand, a crossed pair of arrows, and the symbol denoting infinity. The others believe it to be some kind of enchanted, terror-inducing trap, but I cannot be certain – no such icon has ever appeared in my notes, and it would be imprudent to make a guess at this juncture.

More pressing than the rune, though, was the presence of undead – I should have surmised it from the telltale smell. Skeletons and zombies in varying degrees of decomposition are a worrying sight indeed, even if they appear to be far less capable of seriously harming us than the goblins we’ve fought. Their presence suggests that either the rift’s worsening energy leak is animating the dead soldiers entombed here, or that the death cultists that I suspect are behind all this have a skilled necromancer in their ranks. Neither possibility is particularly comforting to think about, but the most disturbing thing at all about this is the sense of satisfaction I can’t help but feel when a dusty skeleton explodes at the behest of a well-timed bolt of arcane force.

The deepest part of the tomb held none other than the infamous Sir Keegan himself, now animated as a fleshless abomination, but seeming to be far more in control of his faculties than the historical accounts would have me believe. I stayed well away from him while my naive allies conversed with him; I had told them that he was the reason for the Keep’s downfall, hadn’t I? In life, the man had single-handedly dispatched almost half of the men under his command and a great many more civilians besides, including his wife and children. Then again, I suppose I should hardly be surprised – why wouldn’t such cutthroat individuals want to be chummy with that murderer? As for me, I trust nothing he has said.

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Gellies & Zombies & Shinies
Going down deeper

by Hio

We left that creepy room with Sir Keegan‘s creepy corpse. And I don’t know why, but Lyssa took a bandage or something from his broken sword. Weird, just weird.

This time we fought two Gellies which was not really my style. I don’t really like anything that I can’t feel my sword really cutting through. This was like cutting butter with a knife, but with gelatin and my sword. I drew a picture of what it was like:

Gelly cut

The first guy was orange-like, or I think he was. Maybe he was purple. One of them was purple and one of them was orange. I guess he wasn’t really a guy. I guess he was an it. It was orange. Pretty weird how you can’t make orange or purple rhyme with anything. That proves they were related though.

I forgot to mention that Thrak got too scared of the monsters and decided to jump ship, or rather jump the dungeon. We have a new cleric now, which is good cause that means I can still kill things and get hit but not go down. I never go down. His name is Elssa or Lyssa or Eli or…hm. Whatever. I thought he was the bug-trainer at first, because we fought some giant bugs then slept and BOOM Eli-whatshisface was there! He still must have a thing for bugs, but I don’t think he’s trying to kill us anymore.

There were some zombies in the stomach of a wall. The wall ate us, we killed the zombies. Nebin somehow made one of their head’s explode — I’m sure he learned that trick from me. In the end, I ended up with a shield and some new armor. I put my old armor up on the rack where I got the new stuff – just because I’m a good guy like that. Oh and I got an axe from…OH

The best part of the day? I KILLED IRONTOOTH AND I TOOK IS AXE OH YEAH. Punk thought he could run away but not from Hio! And just like I killed him, I will kill others with the axe that he owned. My axe’s name is Irontooth, pretty good right?

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The more things change...

by Lyssa

The more they stay the same. After three years of training and traveling with Hio and Nebin, I thought that they were making some progress towards becoming enlightened individuals who would choose good, lawful acts without being prompted and bullied. Or at least that they were getting closer to the point where I could leave them unattended in a town for an hour without Hio raping and pillaging the townsfolk while Nebin picks their pockets. In particular, I had great hopes for Hio’s conversion to Bahamut leading him on the right path, but sadly that experience with religion could best be measured in hours.

During our trip to the Keep, we acquired two new party members, Valthrun and Elyas, a wizard and a cleric. Why a cleric you ask? Well sadly, I have failed in my duties once more, and Thrak, our friend and cleric of many years chose to to leave the party to pursue his god on his own. The new cleric does not appear to be an improvement on the party, as after we had closed the rift, we encountered several small bands of hobgoblins, and upon two of them surrendering and voluntarily dropping their weapons, Elyas chose to continue attacking them, killing one and the other barely fleeing with his life, and that only because Valthrun was forced to attack Elyas. While I do not like goblins, it is still beyond wrong to attack any sentient being that surrenders, and I fear what influence he will have on the rest of the party. Hio is barely kept in check at the best of times, and Nebin is often lead by the good of his wallet rather than of his conscience.

In consequence of Elyas’s behavior, Valthrun and I elected to leave the others to their own devices and return to town, as, being weak, I needed a strong drink before Hio arrived and there was none left in the entire village. Strangely, as we continued to the surface, we saw no evidence of the goblin Splug, who had been our brave and loyal companion for a large part of our experience in the dungeon, and I am somewhat concerned at this absence, fearing equally that he has been hurt or killed and that he discovered the true way his master died.

Upon arriving in Winterhaven, we were greeted by the news that the town had been attacked by animated skeletons from the graveyard, and so resignedly, I turned back to find my party and tell them of the situation, and to make sure they had not perished in the dungeon. They had not, and I was disappointed to see the cleric alive and comparatively well. They had some fantastic story of fighting and defeating another jelly (although this one was invisible and used acid as a weapon, something I find hard to credit) and were certainly the worse for wear. They also seem to have enraged Sir Keegan in some way on their way out by offering him souvenirs of the family he destroyed. I can only suspect this was the cleric’s idea, as it lacks the directness of Hio and the profit motive of Nebin.

We are all safely back in Winterhaven, and while Douvan assures me that I have done my best with my group of friends (and to be sure they have thus far refrained from burning this village down, a definite sign of progress on Hio’s part) I cannot help feeling that our struggles will only intensify from this point. Hio is pleased that tomorrow we shall go kill some skellies as he calls them, and I believe the cleric is pleased as well, as he seems to feel some holy vengeance towards the undead tied to his particular god. I can only hope that this next adventure brings our party together…

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The Game Room!
Oh, and we closed the gate...

by Hio

Whoever set up this keep that we’ve been killing things in must have been a genius. It was like the good old times in the service, before I met Douven and the rest of everybody else. The officers would set up these obstacle courses, to test us and how hardcore we really were. They were always different, those things. Sometimes it was climbing walls and swimming across rivers and crawling through tunnels and eating rats and lifting rocks and jumping over fire. Sometimes it was magical. Sometimes I was too drunk to remember what it was.

But this room was the best obstacle course I’ve seen so far. It had this statue that I’m going to call a robot because I’ve decided these things. A R eally. O verly. B adass. O bstacle. T hing. He looked like me, tall with a giant sword (which isn’t me anymore now that I have Irontooth, but I think the robot was older than my axe). In true obstacle-course form, he kept smacking me with his sword. I understood immediately. I had to learn from the statue before I defeated it. So I studied his form, perfected the “swinging a big-ass sword” technique, before I won and that obstacle was done.

There were some dragon statues that tried to push you over, but they were kind of boring. I tried using my Bahamut statue, and speaking in Draconic because that’s how those things are supposed to work, but they didn’t stop. I wanted to win against that game as well, but everyone else wanted to go and I couldn’t say no to killing real people instead of just dragon statues.

I think there were also some babies pouring water, but those weren’t nearly as interesting as the ROBOT.

After killing some more zombies, we had to go into the ritual room. I was completely okay with the ritual room. I killed the sorcerer. I killed him. He is dead.

The second ritual room. More blood in that one. More sorcerers. Bloody chains. I saved everyone. I killed Kalarel. He is also dead.

Some other stuff happened, the cleric attacked V which I kind of get because that guy’s a dick but he wasn’t a hobgoblin so I don’t know. V left with Lyssa because in typical fashion she got all moody.

We’re back in town now. Time for girls (two tonight, I think) and booze. Tomorrow, killin’ skellies. Ah, the life of Hio the Hero.

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They're All Insane.
And yet I doubt this is the end of our arrangement...

Thugs. Brigands. Ruthless slaves to the joys of killing and stealing. I wonder if they truly cared about sealing the rift at all, or if it was only a convenient stop on their journey to picking clean the keep of both valuables and life itself.

But worst of all is that damned cleric. Hio at least can be swayed with lengthy reasonable argument, or baited into following a different tactic. Nebin is a greedy bastard at times, but cautious enough to at least entertain the notion of methods other than wholesale killing.

But this Elyas… he serves the god of death, and has apparently taken her teachings to mean that any living creature who looks at him wrong already has one foot in the grave. A pair of hobgoblins surrendered to us after a sound thrashing, and Elyas’ thirst for blood had him chasing the fleeing, unarmed warrior down the hallway. I used a simple spell to rebuff his charge, knowing that the deva was more than sturdy enough to weather the blow, and possessed a suite of healing abilities to cure himself even if I caused him more harm than intended.

He responded with the most powerful prayer his patron had gifted him with, nearly sapping the life from me in one strike! The man is clearly insane; I would do well to choose my battles with him more wisely from now on. One hobgoblin’s life is not worth my own in trade.

Normally, this would be the point that I write them all off forever, but I cannot ignore the power and survivability they appear to possess as a group, at least when infighting is not an issue. I’ve been planning an expedition to Thunderspire Mountain for months now, and these four seem more than capable of getting me there…

If they don’t kill me first, that is. They’re all insane.

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What's Wrong with Women Today?
In which Hio doesn't get laid

by Hio

There’s nothing quite like waking up on a sunny morning, fully rested, sandwiched between two little tarts (a blonde and a brunette), and the promise of killing skellies in a graveyard. Hell yes.

But then there’s also seeing that hot elf from the bar that you thought was in the bag, and realizing she’s a follower of Orcus. When we got to the graveyard, there she was looking fine as always. Originally, I thought she was coming on to me because she said she’d taken my blood to raise her flock of skellies (those things certainly un-die with a satisfying CRUNCH), but then turn’s out she was just a bitch.

Now bitch is dead.

So we headed to Thunderspire Mountain because some slave trade thing going on, which is evil like Orcus who is evil because he’s a demon, which is a creature that is evil because it does bad things that are bad because Lyssa says they’re bad? I’m still a little sketchy on the details of what makes something good and evil. Me, I just like killing skellies.

Once we got to Thunderspire, we went to the inn to do that thing where you talk to people before doing more exciting things. It was disappointing. No girls at all. Halflings, but I don’t really swing that way. Plus I’m not really sure how that would work, with half and half and Hio? Probably not. Other things I’m not into: doll shows (Nebin’s pleasure of choice) and animals.

The GOOD part was that I got to spar with Brugg the Ogre. That guy’s club is massive. And man, can he hit hard! Haven’t been in a fight that good since that other time with that…owlbear. Yeah. The owlbear. I fought him single-handedly with one hand tied behind my back, and the other tied in front of my back. And he was the biggest one in the pack. And he was about 13 feet tall. And he had beaten all of the other owlbears before. But I challenged him and even though he was scared, he accepted and I won.

The fight with Brugg was better.

Getting hit like that, when you try to breathe and there’s no air, blood running down your face and head stupid from booze and pain: that’s when you’re really living.

There was another girl too, besides the Orcus cult chick, and I TOTALLY could have boned HER, but stupid Nebin and his stupid need to show-off screwed everything up. It was after we’d killed Chief Krand and his silly sorcerers in the Chamber of Eyes place, when we found the mess hall where all the bandits eat. Finally! A girl, and a hott — no, a DRUNK one at that. I joined them, telling them I was the new guy so I could get an ale and a chance with that girl. But NEBIN just had to go all show-offy and burn off her face with lightening :( What a waste of such a hot body.

We’re headed out again tomorrow, but I’m not sure where. I think I’ll try to hold off on the girls until I get back to Winterhaven. It’s just getting too depressing.

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Missive

To: Raven Knight [Redacted]
Location: [Redacted]

I am reporting on the status of an Orcus Cult previously located outside of the City of Winterhaven in an abandoned keep. The information was given to me by the lord of the city, Lord Padraig, upon my arrival and introduction. I set out immediately to destroy this abomination to the Raven Queen.

After I reached the keep and entered, I noticed that someone, or a party, had started working their way through the legions of undead. The aura of evil was palpable and choking. At the time I was uncertain what had transpired and continued cautiously. This was to my benefit because as I exited a doorway leading further into the keep’s depths, I was attacked by a diminutive half-elf. Fortunately, the half-elf was not a skilled warrior and did not manage to hit me. An elf stopped him from further attacks to question why I was present.

Brief discussions with this group, which also included a halfling and a human, led to an agreement to work together, since our interests were aligned. In addition to the information I knew about the keep, the group informed me of an attempt to open a portal. Aware of this knowledge, I continued with vigor. Without dragging this out more than it needs to be, we managed to destroy most of the unholy within the keep. In the bottom of the keep was a mage, of sorts, attempting to allow Orcus to enter our realm. The group fought well and the portal was closed with the destruction of all those tainted.

As we exited the keep, the remaining cultists of Orcus were destroyed with one incident. When attempting to relieve the followers of their mortal burden, I was stopped by the human, a mage, when he attacked me. Fearing he had fallen to the taint, I tried to subdue him for cleansing. However, the elf stopped me. I decided to let them be for the moment, in order to finish the purifying of the keep. When I turned my back, he attempted another attack against me but missed. Not wanting to deal with the other members of the party, I banished him from my presence. The elf left with him. Fortunately, the halfling and half-elf understood the gravity of allowing agents of Orcus to maintain a foothold.

As we continued the purge of the keep, the remaining party came across a chest of clothing and sundries that belonged to whom I assumed was the previous lord of the keep. He had murdered his family and been punished to walk the realm beyond death. Because of the condition of the party, and myself, I was unable to absolve the spirit. That will need to be done at a later date.

For now, I feel I must remain with this group. I am not certain that all of them may have escape clean of soul. As I write this missive now, the human, a man named Valthrun, recently attacked another of the party members during the night. I fear that his mind has been addled. The elf, I believe, was merely a pawn, unable to see the evil she was aiding. But they will require observation. Presently, we will be traveling to [Redacted], upon my return I will send another update. Included in this report is a dossier on each of the members.

May the Raven Queen strengthen you,
Elyas

Name: Hio
Race: Half-elf
Occupation: Soldier, of sorts
Temprement: He seems to be of fairly low intelligence and somewhat easy to manipulate. His interests lie in rewards such as drink and women. His actions, while seemingly violent and possible malevolent, are more likely the result of ignorance. From what I understand, he attempted to join the Church of Bahamut, but lost interest when it didn’t align with his goals of killing. Best course of action is to prevent him from thinking and perpetually direct him towards a fight or willing women.

Name: Nebin
Race: Halfling
Occupation: Rogue with sorcerous tendencies
Temprement: Similar to Hio in his lack or morals, but also easy to distract. His motivations seem to be entertainment for himself. While not evil, his whims can lead him down dark paths.

Name: Lyssa
Race: Elf
Occupation: Monk
Temprement: Lyssa would appear to be the moral compass of the party. She has been attempting to bring the other two into a more law-abiding nature and teaching them to live a “good” life. Her views on the world are somewhat naive, which is surprising for someone who has lived as long as she has undoubtably lived. Not easily dissuaded from the path of pure goodness, she will forsake the balance that is necessary for all things.

Name: Valthrun
Race: Human
Occupation: Wizard
Temprement: While undoubtably one of the smartest in the party, his sense of ego for having been named head wizard for his backwater town has seemed to fill him with a sense of self-worth that has yet to be proven. I do not blame him for his exasperation with the rest of the party, they can be rather difficult at times, he has remained aloof. Recently, it would appear as though some of his protective walls are crumbling, revealing to himself what he really is. Perhaps this was catalyzed by the taint of Orcus, or by leaving his tower for once. Regardless, care will have to be taken with him.

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A package sent from Thunderspire

Hi Mom and Dad,

Guess what? Me, Lyssa, Hio, and Thrak got to save Douven for a change! He went out to this little town called Winterhaven and got captured, but we totally saved him. Turns out, the kobolds who had him were in an Orcus cult! They were going to open up a portal to the Shadowfell close to the town. Well, Lyssa said we should help, and then the guy in charge, Lord Thudrag said he’d pay us, so that convinced everyone.

When we went to the keep, the town wizard Valkrung decided to come with us. He was pretty helpful, but he keeps to himself a lot. Once we explored a little, Thrak just disappeared, but luckily, we met a big purple guy named Elias who came to kill the Orcus people, too. He’s some kind of death priest who doesn’t like undead. Anyway, he’s pretty powerful and he’s a healer, so it all worked out. Well, with the new guys, we took out the head guy trying to destroy the world, and we found some really interesting stuff along the way.

After we rested a little, we went back upstairs and found a bunch of hobgoblins who wanted to slave us! I tried to trick them, but Hio was Hio again, and I had to save him. But after that, Valbrun and Elias had some kind of fight, and he left with Lyssa. I’m still not sure what’s going on, but the rest of us explored some more, and I had to save them AGAIN from an invisible cube. It was weird. Lyssa was angry again, but she always gets over it.

Now, we’re resting for the night back at Winterhaven, but we have to investigate more stuff tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll be okay. I’ll write again soon.

Love,

Nebin

Hi Mom and Dad,

I forgot to send the last letter. Sorry. I’m just going to send both. It’ll be like reading a story. A really cool story.

Anyway, after we rested, we went to the graveyard and found out that some elf from town was raising skeletons. Hio kept hitting on her, but we had to kill her in the end. Turns out, she was someone who rejected Hio the first time we were in town. Then again, I could throw a rock blindfolded and still probably hit someone that rejected Hio, so I don’t suppose it matters much.

So after that, we got a note that told us where some slaves went. That’s not a good thing, and Valgrim wanted to go even before that, so off we went to Thunderspire.

When we got there, we saved one of our folk, who put us up in their inn. Hio seemed really not interested in the halflings there, which is really different from usual. I think he’s one of those big folk who likes weird things. That’s probably why he was being shifty. I think he felt bad about it, though, because he had an ogre beat him up. Maybe that’ll help him not think about halflings like that. Anyway, after that we took out the slavers, no problem, but found out that they already sold the slaves! Now we’ve got some druregarers or something to hunt. I’ll ask Valrynth how to spell it tomorrow.

I’ll be better about sending letters from now on since we’re doing more dangerous stuff. I’m sure we’ll be fine, though. Lyssa helps us make good decisions. Write you again soon!

Love,

Nebin

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Bedding Women
And the best song ever

by Hio

I once met a band of traveling bards named Lonely Island. They wrote the best song because it perfectly represents my life. And through the powers of magic or religion, that song is see-able below:

I Just Had Sex

Yep. Her name was Stasi. A real class-act. Professional village dancer. Bonus.

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