Arulia

The Very Interesting House of Maldred
I've Got This Ring!

The party returned to the cottage in the morning. Somehow the wasps were already agitated when the party arrived, and they were flying around the cottage-nest in great numbers … However, as the party watched, they dropped one by one to the ground. A few veered off the nest and attacked the party, which handled them easily. Approaching the fallen wasps, they found that the bodies were simply sleeping, and riddled with tiny arrows. They killed what sleeping wasps they found, and attempted to enter the cottage. They had to cut their way through the papery nest material, but eventually entered the cottage. A few wasps remained inside, including a queen and attendant workers, which the party killed. They called out to Maldred, and were answered by a voice coming from under the floor warning them to watch out for the wasps. They cleared away more of the nesting materials and found a trapdoor in the floor leading downstairs, to where Maldred was hiding.

He explained that the wasps were drawn to his magical work, and that he had simply tired of trying to get rid of them, so he let them have the upstairs, and he worked beneath them. He had, in a force cage, a tentacled horror, which he demonstrated to the group, by showing how it attempted to graft to flesh. He let it graft to his finger, then shook it off by means unknown. He told them that if the graft were allowed to become complete, who knows what it would do to him. Worried that the creature would be free when the force cage expired, Maldred explained, "No, I’ve got this ring, it makes a spell I choose permanent, but it can only maintain one spell at a time. Useful. I’ve had this creature for a week now. "

They convinced him to go back to Kechner with them. He said he would, for a time, but the last time he did any real work in there, they asked him to leave town. They helped him pack up his books and the creature within the cage, and rode back to town. He was greeted with enthusiasm by his old friends Elverrion and Tuala. Upon seeing the creature within the cage, each of them fretted that it would get free, to which Maldred said, each time, “No, see, I’ve got this ring, it makes a spell I choose permanent, one spell at a time!”

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Oh God! Not the Bees!

He sent the group to retrieve his old friend, Maldred, an expert on aberrations, who had a cottage about a day’s ride from the town. Along the way, the party was attacked by wolves, who had similarly been taken over by the horrors, but the party was forced to kill them without saving any as living specimens. They arrived at the cottage, to find it had been taken over by giant, horrific, magically-deformed wasps. A fight ensued, during which the party was forced to flee, and spent the night recovering before returning the next day.

At around sunset, they saw a squadron of about 20-25 orcs running along the far river bank, about 300 feet away. One half-heartedly fired an arrow in their direction, but it fell far short of them. The orcs ran on into the night.

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That Boy's a Monster!

Along the way back to town, they had stopped at a farm house where a distraught father grieved over his son, whom he had had to tie to the bed. The boy had been overwhelmed by a tentacled horror the night of the meteor shower, and his entire body was transformed into something hideously wrong. As the priest examined the boy’s skin, the boy’s mouth opened and a thick black worm extented out to latch pincers to the priest’s arm. The priest was able to extract himself as Bella grabbed the worm and pulled … Only to find it was the boy’s tongue. They brought the boy, still tied to the bed, back to the manor to examine. Over the next day, Chance and Elverrion studied the boy, and Elverrion knew he would need more learned help. He also suggested that if the party could find a living specimen of a creature that had been dominated by the beasts, it would be useful for testing.

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What's a Little Treason Between Friends?

The butler stood behind her, and it took all her careful explanation for him not to cut her throat right there. She learned that the three people she found in the crypt were, in fact, the escaping heretics, who faced certain death if they remained in the Kingdom. Kismet resolved to help them, but was only freed on the condition that she not say a thing to her friends unless certain she could trust them. After an evening of things known but comically unsaid, she led Lord Dunnyck a merry chase east down the road, eventually giving up their mad flight and allowing themselves to be arrested and held. Dunnyck took each of them in turn for individual interrogation. Chance pretended to be deaf (so as to have a reason not to have heard the command to stop), but Dunnyck recognized his name as a relation to some powerful peers, including the king’s highest general. Jay gave his name and was surprised when Lord Dunnyck seemed to recognize it. Kismet and Bella endured thorough questioning, and Priya was called to task for not ceding to the authority of the king. However, when Brahn, the priest of Nyan, was brought to Dunnyck alone, Dunnyck immediately fell to his knees and begged the reverend for spiritual guidance. He was confused by the actions of these people to draw themselves into trouble, when they seemed to have no knowledge of the real criminal issue at hand. They prayed together. Shortly after Dunnyck was done questioning the lot of them, a rider came to the cabin they were in, they had a whispered discussion, and Dunnyck, disgusted, told them they could go, left the house and rode off back to Kechner, and thence back along the road toward the capital. Upon their return, Lady Tuala quietly and obliquely informed Kismet that the fugitive priests had escaped into Vurin.

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Into and Out of the Cave
These Goblins Don't Speak Goblin Very Well

They met up with the last warriors of Kogar, and Kogar himself, hiding within warrens of the cave system. Kogar led them to Khamad’s secret study. The party caught sight of a tall hooded figure, turning and walking away, back to Khamad’s study, as Khamad engaged the party. Kogar went after the hooded figure, shouting “Gwardesh! You will pay for what you did to my people!” Khamad prevented anyone else from going after him, by summoning more of the hideously deformed wolves to fight the party. Khamad backed into a corner, shouting “You bring monsters to steal my power! Now you die!” He fought to the death without saying another word. The adventurers ran down the hall to catch up with Kogar. They only found him dead in Khamad’s study, the back fo his head torn open and emptied, no sign of his brain. Throughout the room were scraps of papers and a few books, but it looked like most of the room had been hastily packed and removed. There was no sign of Gwardesh.

They brought what papers and treasure they could back to town, where Elverrion and Chance were able to peruse it, and found that it contained words of the Dark Speech, that unearthly language of unmaking and chaos. Elverrion agreed to keep it from the world, taking it back to his study to examine it and run some tests to determine its possible intent. In the mean time, the keep had other things to worry about, as Lord Dunnyck, the King’s Inquisitor, had arrived to conduct an investigation.

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The Corrupted Goblins

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Lady Tuala generously offered rooms in the manor house as a refuge for the displaced townsfolk. The whole town was camped, army-style, in rooms throughout the house. In the morning, sweeps were made through the town to ensure it was safe, and the Lady gathered the heroes of the previous night, the only ones with experience in dealing with the creatures, to discuss plans.

Elverion suggested the goblins, nearby in the forest, might be responsible, as their shaman had recently collected a quantity of strange magical writings he would not share, despite the treaties in place. The new compatriots were asked to go and find out if the goblins had attempted to nullify the treaty. They should go under truce, but be prepared for a fight. On the way there, they encountered a horse, which had been infected by the tentacled creatures, and was changed, made into a wild ravenous beast, its skin coated in slime, its teeth turned to fangs. Killing the horse, they found a swollen outline of approximately the same size and shape as a tentacled creature, but no separate body. They reasoned that the creature had wholly merged with its victim to corrupt it completely.

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As they approached the goblin caves, they were met by two goblins, who claimed that Chief Kogar no longer talked to the wizard Khamad. That Khamad had been talking only to Gwardesh, lately. Gwardesh was a tall-one, like them, but wore a cloak that obscured his face always. Khamad had changed since learning new magic from Gwardesh. As if to demonstrate, the pets of the goblin wizard attacked. Once wolves, they were changed – covered with wrinkled, rubbery skin, eyes and mouths opening allover their bodies. Although they assumed the wolves had been corrupted as the horse had, the goblin warriors explained that the wolves had been like that since Gwardesh came to teach Khamad new ways of doing his magic.

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It Begins With Starfall

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A Priori Colleague of the Collegium Arcanum, named Chance, arrived in the trade town of Kechner, where there was a minor religious festival going on. Local to the crossroads town, the spring Festival of Nyan observes Nyan’s tears, which fall from the sky in a decorative display that typically lights up the night. This year, an especially bright display was forecast by Elverion, the tenured academic and astronomer of Lady Tuala, Lady of the manor and administrator of Kechner.

Chance came to observe the phenomenon, having a number of arcane theories about the nature of the tears. In town, the festival carried on all day. Chance met up with Kismet, a plucky barmaid, and her friends: Karl, a socially awkward, monstrous-appearing man who tends to keep to the shadows, but somehow trusts Kismet; Bella, a young elven lady, lately ward of the temple of Nyan; Priya, brassy paladin of the one-armed Sleadren, Goddess of Fate; and Jay, a young human man with a touch of fey blood, who sings for the entertainment of the whole Silver Stag tavern. Together, they savor the wonders of the festival and join up to enjoy the coming display of the Tears of Nyan after sunset.

Initially the lights in the sky drew oohs and ahhs, from the assembled onlookers. However, wonder turned to tragedy when the Tears fell explosively to the earth, disgorging beasts consisting of all mouths and tentacles. The falling pods destroyed buildings in the town, and fires started to burn anything that would catch. with the help of Brahn, a strange male half-orc priest of the goddess Nyan (whose clergy are always women), they managed to defeat a few of the beasts that approached the helpless townsfolk. Amidst the carnage, much of the trade town was destroyed. Lady Tuala took command, however. Leading the townsfolk to the wine cellar of her keep, she managed to prevent many casualties that might have occurred had the townsfolk been left exposed above.

Kismet, the plucky barmaid, managed to somehow loosen the lock leading deeper underground, that stone door at the back of the wine cellar, leading to the family crypt beneath the manor house. Before she had the opportunity to announce it to the crowd however, the Lady appeared at her shoulder. ‘Would we not be safe down here?’ Kismet asked. Tuala informed her that it would be a violation of her ancestors’ sanctity, and the presence of so many would defile the spirits of the dead. Kismet was about to argue, when a disturbance at the entrance to the cellars drew everyone’s attention.

One of the tentacled beasts had found its way to the cellar. Brahn, Priya, Chance, and Bella managed to hold the beast at bay. Deftly winding his way through the crowd, somehow spotting every gap between the many people crowded into the room, Karl slipped close and dealt the creature a staggering blow, after which, Bella, the young elven girl, released a bolt of magic from her fingertips and slew the beast.

Fascinated by the remains of the creature, Chance and Elverrion discussed its features, its possible origin, its nature … And Chance reasoned that it was from a far realm deep in the darkest depths of the universe. Above all, it was critical that they stop any more such creatures that might be out there. Priya agreed to lead a small group of people, including Jay, Kismet, Chance, Karl, and Bella; and Brahn would go to make sure they had healing magics available to them. Lady Tuala sent two of her armed guard to escort them.

Finding several unopened pods in craters nearby, they were repelled by the great heat. Unable to approach, they observed a pod opening, and two tentacled beasts emerged, which sensed nearby life and moved to attack. One was killed before landing a blow, but the other wrapped its tentacles around one of the guardsmen. The rest of the group managed to kill it before much damage was done, but the beast was sealed fast to the poor guardsman’s flesh. Its flesh had flowed around its victim’s protective clothing and grafted to the man’s skin. As the beast hovered on the brink of death, any harm inflicted upon it was felt by its victim. They brought the man back to the manor, where Chance and Elverrion dithered over the proper way to remove it. Suddenly Bella seized the creature’s rubbery flesh, commanded the half-orc priest, “Heal him,” and tore the monster from the helpless man. Although he screamed in agony as his flesh was rent open, the healing magic soon quieted him, and he lapsed mercifully into unconsciousness to recover, the danger past.

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