Ogre Trade Traditions
Yelling and screaming until you get what you want

Plans where indeed made but little to nothing about what had been discovered about the bandits, plan to expand the lodge and change it into a fort residence. This was to overcome the developing coolants in the villagers, the cramped living quarters and the treat of more attacks meant that getting individual houses was unlikely as they were not as defendable. The plans called for a massive increase in size, a second floor, a inner court yard with a well and plans for enough to have one room per two people.

The large amount of wood needed was gathered in the first half week of the project and set to dry as there was a small stock pile already to work with. Work preceded uninterrupted for only a few days when one of the Familiars spotted sails on the ocean to the south west. This was the first chance for trade and contact from outside the valley that had been seen. The party decided that this opportunity was too good to pass up, and immediately sent people to try intercept and communicate.

A Rupert’s familiar was sent ahead to start the contact as if the ship continued at speed it would pass the river mouth before they got there. It discovered that it was a ogre ship with goblin crew, but knowledge of ogres and their culture was well documented and most of the party knew how to deal with these simple and aggressive creatures. With a sample of the drugs Quara had produced the Imp with Rupert controlling was able to setup a proper trade meeting.

A proper ogre trade meeting meant two armies meet and only if they equally matched was there a trade, else the weaker side was destroyed and their goods taken. The party sent for reinforcements are the five that had been sent ahead would not intimidate an ogre army. Gathering most of the warriors and the hunters the rest of the party with horse carts and a few tools headed south to the meeting site. A small area was quickly fortified to help increase the defence and add to the intimidation factors.

Fortifying the area was definitely a good idea as the ogres returned with over fifty goblins and a dozen ogres. The ogres marched right up to the fort, this was the first sign that they might trade as if they thought the party was too weak from a long distance they would have attack with ranged weapons. Outnumbers but not out classed the party held their ground as the army approached, it was a large disadvantage to allow them so close without a fight but this wasn’t a fight it was business and business has risks.

Once the ogres were in near charging distance they stopped and started the second phase, intimidation. The ogres and the goblins roared insults, made threatening gestures and other actions to intimidate and demoralize the party. The party in return did the same back to the ogres, few ogre or goblins words were know and the ogre army knew little common so the match was over rather fast due to confusion but with a one on one scuffle ending in victory for the party a successful round ended. The two most intelligent and cunning members for each side then moved forward to discuss the trades. The ogres had brought a huge pile of ores, gold, silver, iron and copper. The party had only brought a handful of drugs, but such was the rarity and desire that they were given massively inflated prices that netted nine thousand pounds of ores.

With the trade complete and the goods exchanged the fourth and final phase of ogre trading could begin, me no leave first. Similar to the intimidation phase but this time a clear winner is needed, only the loser can turn his back to leave first. The party had chosen a defensive position overlooking the bay couldn’t leave without abandoning the goods. But once more the lack of communication brought confusion and frustration creating an unending draw. After three hours of this Gepav lost her patience and stepped in to the middle challenging like the ogres had done in the second phase.

But unlike the second phase this was a death match not a challenge of strength, Erky and Quara broke protocol and gave Gepav a few magic buffs to ensure victory. Skilfully and with the ogre mages distracted by the fight they got the spells off without being noticed. Gepav quickly and brutally slaughtered the ogre challenger, ending the trade meeting. The ogres nodded a respectful acceptance and turned their army away and heading back to their ship. Once the ogre had finished loading and shipped off the party got together their goods and headed home.

While away the Villager had managed the finish the ground floor foundations and outer wall, making a small fort but with an opening where a gate or portcullis was to go. Work on the interior and the development of furniture was starting as the return with the huge pile of ores. Everyone getting back to building, planning and developing, so much to do and an unknown amount of time to do it in.

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Imps, spies and hostages
Blind luck, demon summoning and psychopaths
Without any idea where the demon came from or returned to was dangerous, but a continuous demonic presence alters the environment and nothing like this was visible anywhere the party or the familiars had searched. Rupert decided to get things moving towards his goals, he called upon his mysterious patron to summon a imp familiar. This creature could remain invisible and scout the very insides of the bandit fort, he sent it out with this mission and unlike the other familiars he could see, hear and speak through it at any distance. After sending the imp on its way Rupert gathered the party to go and find ingredients to a common popular substance poppies.

The party was highly successful finding an entire field of the flowers needed, taking special care not to let Soul near or alone with her addiction to drugs already known they didn’t trust her not to consume the poppies raw. The next day Quara spent developing and refining a compound substance to blend the hallucinogenic moss and the poppies opium. She wanted to takes few days to and ways to take the substance to find the best methods.

On the same day Rupert informed Erky that he needed to use the storage area and not be disturbed, Rupert hide himself away so he could safely send his senses into his familiar to guide it about the bandit fort. Within the fort he discovered an outside walled area with five towers, one on each corner and extra one with the entrance gate. A fortified building within the walled area also held two towers, it held three floors and had arrow slots all around.

A second wooden building was also within the walled area it had two floors with an attic, and housed the majority of the bandits. The wooden building held little more than beds and tables, very cramped living though only slightly worse than the Lodge the villager and party now lived in. The inner court yard was mud and rocks but there was a back exit that lead into a large sealed off field of grass that was where they kept their horses.

Inside the fortified buildings ground floor was five bedrooms that were being used by the scouts, the food supplies and weapon storage and also the doors to a tunnel leading into the mountains. the second floor had a walk way around the sides with many arrow slots, the middle was sealed with secure doors. From within the sealed area Rupert thought he heard someone crying.

On the top floor he found a similar setup but in the seal central room he heard the sound of two people sharpening weapons. The imp was incapable of opening the doors so he waited until the occupants moved. When the door to the top floor opened he got the first look at the bandit leader, the huge blood splattered half-orc looked more like a full orc fresh from a war. His eye burned and look like they should have been on a demon, vicious but cunning, despite his appears of a blood thirsty frenzy berserker a clear and thinking mind drove him.

The imp quickly slipped into the room as Skull Crunch and Barakas headed down stairs. In this room had four beds in each corner, each clearly owned by vastly different people. Skull crunch’s bed was like that of a madman that had messed with demons and had every type of protective ward Rupert had ever even heard of and many he hadn’t. Across from that was a messy shambles of weapons and armour, Barakas’s. On the other side of a wall from Skull Crunch was a very neat and tidy setup with daggers, poisons and jewels, Hama’s. Dust covered Hama’s area, it looked like she hadn’t been around for several days. The final bed area was also neat and tidy, but held an armour and long sword stands, Blath’s. This too was a little unused but not as long as Hama’s.

Before the imp slipped out of the room he drunk the poisons, as a demon he wasn’t effected, and pissed into the bottle to replace the liquids, then he tracked the two who had left. They had gone through the second floor locked area, where it once again waited for the two to return. Once again slipping into the area as they walked out, Rupert could not hear the crying this time but the locked area was a short hallway with two heavy secure doors as entrance and exit and two wooden doors leading to side rooms.

After listening to the wooden doors he hear someone moving in one of them and so moved into the other room first. This room was very similar to the bed he had seen upstairs, full of wards and magic symbols. From what he could tell this was a summoning and containment room, his lack of knowledge meant he could discern any more. The imp then moved to the other door, with a wry smile it knocked high up on the door and waited near the opening point on the floor.

Once the door opened it slipped in, this room was full of books, items and junk. Cramped and overstocked a small hammock hung in one corner next a work bench and chair. The occupant was a young human female, that looked tired and worn, this was Mara. Jars of feather tokens, shelves of potions and a many various other item that Rupert had seen on the bandits lined the work bench. A box at her feet was full of discarded items, badly formed or broken but still magical, the disenchant pile.

Rupert was at first relieved that what they had thought was their second greatest threat within the bandits was this tired and worn soul. Given the treatment she had received he thought it might be useful to gain her trust and have her change sides. Remaining invisible and using a altered voice Rupert spoke to Mara, offering help and asking question.

Rupert learned that she was treated badly but also still carefully she was too valuable to damage. Her treatment had left large scars in her mind Rupert realized she would not turn until she was positive that her tormenters were destroyed. Mara told Rupert that the room across from hers was indeed a summoning room but also held the sealed true names of several demons giving the Bandits their tenuous loyalty. She also confirmed that Skull Crunch was indeed in charge, he had captured a power demon by way of a essence amulet. An essence amulet was a way demons protect themselves from destruction or loss of power when defeated, but if the amulet was taken it had the opposite effect, allowing the holder to great inflict pain to get favours.

With this information Rupert got Mara to let the imp out and as in a rat form briefly became visible and waved goodbye. The imp fled the fort and Rupert told it to have a few days off and mess around as he brought his mind a focus back to his body. He told Erky all he had learned and Erky called a meeting to inform the party and other relevant people of what had been learned, plans needed to be made.

Spawns of Chaos
Bandits, Undead, Goblins, Demons and a Dragon.

Victory was sweet with zero losses and the end of one of the bandit leaders, but survivors meant that the location of the village was now known. Without a reason to hide the forge furnace was lit and finally began work. The stability of village meant that resources had become secondary to future planning and preparation. Estimates of the remaining strength of the bandits still meant that if the bandits got into the village it would mean massive loses if not a total defeat.

Training and production began for future uses, the village looking and developing like a war front fort. Necessities of the time and place, the villagers trained hard all of them fit and ready for a fight hopefully it was enough. During the day the surviving bandit were followed by the familiars, the Paladins fiend horse seemed to have been the one to take command leading the bandit back to their fort.

The bandit had camped for the night some distance from the village, there had been discussions on chasing them down but on horseback the party would only be able to keep up and not catch them. This became less likely when morning came and the familiars reported that the bandits had been attack in the night and only a few had escaped and where heading to their fort since late in the night.

The party quickly got their own horses and headed out to see what might have happened. Once they arrived they deduced that the bandits had been attacked by the undead and the bodies had been dragged away. The signs of the fight suggested that the bandit were surrounded and outnumbered, there was even signs of an organized attack making the party think that there was likely to have been a vampire leading the attack. The party collected what they could find and hustled home.

The next morning the familiars spotted a few bandit scouts that had been sent north were returning to their fort. These scout always had more information and better equipment then the regular bandits so the party used one of their feather tokens to summon a roc to transport them to intercept the scouts. The three scout were completely outmatched and even when one tried to escape using magical invisibility he failed.

From the two survivors they learned that the geas placed on them had been altered, during this interrogation they even triggered one of the geas on one of the scouts. But from the remaining scout they did find out that Skull Crunch had control over or allied with a powerful demon, also that their fort held many magical defences left by the dwarfs. With this information they saw no reason to keep the scout alive and ended his life.

The next day Lia who headed into the deep forest to gather some apples to create an orchard. Walking clearly and deliberately in the open as not to give a threatening appearance to the elves that fiercely defended the forest. Elves are usually known for their trust in diplomacy and compromise to resolve differences, but Mira had warned the party against entering the deep forest as years of dealing with the bandits had left a bad mark cause a shoot first policy in the elves.

Lia herself being an elf, her appearance and manner of entering so openly must have left a impression as when she returned to the village a sign of trust had been left. An arrow had been placed in her hair without her knowledge, it’s placement could only mean an elf had been close enough to place it. Whether this was a sign that the village itself was trusted or just Lia’s act of apple collection was unknown but it was a step forward.

A bigger step forward occurred the next day when the party set out hunting for bison to expand their herd. After a successful effort they captured five more bison but a remaining five escaped, Varric, Gepav and Rupert left the captured bison to the other to return and when in gather the remaining ones. But instead of Bison Varric found a track similar to that of a ape, an usually creature to find in this area.

After tracking it down they found that it was not a natural creature but a demon, and it held trophies of its kills, namely elves. Quickly Varric and Rupert snuck up and prepared to ambush the demon, but after their first volley it showed its magical nature and when invisible. Fighting back to back the three fought the reckless and brutal demon, they outnumbered and overwhelmed the monster glad that there was only one. They knew little about the demon so they dragged it back to let Erky had a look at it.

On their way back to the village they heard several arrows thud into the demons corpse, but no archers were seen. The arrows were clearly more of the elves like the one placed in Lia hair, even though the party was some distance from the deep forest were the elves usually stay. Probably a hunting party that had been hunting or hunted by the demon. Either case the elves now had another reason to be friendly with the village.

The next few days were uneventful until a patrolling lookout rushed in to report seeing or not seeing a invisible army approaching from the north. This wasn’t a direction that was expected to be attacked but the slow nature of the army made it a sitting duck to the arrows and ballista’s of the village. The armies invisibility dropped revealing it to be made up of demons, the weak ones were slow and easily hit they never even came close to the river let alone the walls of the lodge. But the leaders were fearless, fast and tough. They got up to the river before summoning more of themselves which rushed over the walls and engaged the villagers in close combat.

Despite the reckless and fierceness of the demons they were outnumbered and overwhelmed, the leader of the demon army retreated and escaped into the trees. And the village had a second victory without a single loss, even the number of injured was lower than the last fight. Victory celebrations were a little lacked this time though as the realisation that more fights like this were in the near future.

Bandit Raid
Bandits 0-13 Bear Hill Village

After a long discussion the party decided not to continue engaging the undead, there were too many unknown factors and even if there wasn’t anything beyond their speculations the risks were too high. As it was the party had collected enough to fill their cart and given travel times and preparation times they needed to head home to get ready for the arrival of the next group of volunteers and the inevitable attack from the bandits.

The party secured the tunnel with a wall of rocks and prepared to depart in the morning, but early that morning a blizzard had moved in delaying their departure until the next day. The five day trip was mostly uneventful, no ambushes or other attacks, though the familiars did spot four winter wolfs watching them easily a day out of their way. They did follow and so were deemed not a threat, the only threat came when Soul began rampaging about demanding the drug she had become addicted to. Quara had nothing left to give her and so they had little choice but to subdue her, paralysing magic and a quick beating, Soul spent the rest of the trip home tied up in the back of a cart.

Once home at Bear Hill Lodge, Quara was able to create the drug Soul was after along with several other poisons. Rupert claimed the poisons taking the risks on self-poisoning for the added effectiveness in combat. Preparations where made for the journey north to collect the new arrivals, and they set out only two days after they had returned. As they set out the weather was clearing, still cold enough to kill but it was unlikely to be storms or get colder.

On the journey north Quara sent her familiar to watch the bandits and Erky sent his familiar north and out of the valley to find the approaching volunteers. The familiar over the bandits spotted Mira who was also watching the pass but saw no movement from the bandits. The familiar that headed north died on its third day of travel, Erky knew this as he felt the connection between them break.

Erky estimated that it was a barrier placed just north of where they had been dropped off. It was a magical defence probably setup to slow the dragons approach. Erky had heard of these barriers before in his studies with the gnomes but had never known where or how many had been deployed. Getting north by magical means was unlikely even if the Geas could be lifted.

After this failure Erky resummoned a familiar and sent it to wait at the drop off point and watch for the arrivals instead. The familiars did spot something interesting two days latter, by chance one looked south and saw a group of winter wolfs. After a quick recognisance twenty-two winter wolfs in total were spotted far to the south. They were avoiding the areas nearer to Bear Hill Lodge, probably a silent sign of a truce. Though they had only lost a few to the party with such small numbers it was still significant.

Once the party arrived in the north there had been no movement from the bandits and no sight of the new arrivals. It would take three days waiting to spot the new arrivals that were three days away. The party had used these six days to build a raft to make crossing the now defrosting rivers easier. They then waited as the new arrivals received their instructions and Geas before approaching.

One person had taken charge and was leading they new group, but she was very relieved to relinquish command once the party made themselves known. Lia was a little surprised to find that one of her old crewmates was in the group, and even another ex-pirate she had met before. These three almost immediately made a gang or crew, hard to say as they all still missed the sea.

The journey south was far quicker now that spring had arrived the snow and ice was mostly gone, and the raft the party had build was most useful to successfully cross the rivers. All was going well until the third day when a report that the bandit pass was clear and the bandits where getting ready to leave. With only one river left to cross in the morning the party hustled the group forward to get out of the open and into the light forest before the bandits left their base.

This in conjunction with Mira being spotted and chased meant that the bandits didn’t follow them. Giving them the time to safely return home, Mira also managed to escape into the Elves forest leaving the bandit to search the area for the lodge with no leads.

Safely home and with more workers the party got to work immediately setting up crops, hunting groups and other resources gathering. The defences were already built and ready, but Erky had remembered about the goblins and their long-range ballistae and thought he’d make some himself. He slaved day and night to create the first one knowing in might prove useful when the bandits riding around found them.

Erky’s plan was well timed as soon as he had finished the ballista the bandits had spotted them and turned to approach. This was the event the party had been expecting and fearing for nearly three months, though the outnumbered the bandits the bandits had better equipment and training. The lodge had been built solid with many arrow slits and cover points just for this moment, pits and trip wires had also been laid around the lodge.

It began early morning as the bandit lined up and began riding fast towards the lodge, Varric was the first to fire using the ballista he totally outranged everyone else getting several shots off before the bandits even got into range. He focused his fire into one of the bandit leaders, Barakas Art, a Tiefling Barbarian and probably the strongest and toughest of the lieutenants when he was in his rage.

Blath Windriver, a Human Fallen Paladin, wasn’t fazed when Barakas fell and continued the charge. Once his men where in range they unleashed their arrows, several of the lookouts began dropping almost like clockwork four would drop per volley from the bandits as they approached. The lodge was had many to put the wounded away and treat them, but also when they returned fire they began dropping the bandits.

The storm of arrows flying both way saw many fall on both sides, the party had expected the bandits to charge straight in over the field of pits and traps. But they slowed and came to a stop just inside the field, eight bandits being caught in the pits and traps fell. Blath saw he wasn’t going to win this way ordered a retreat; he turned them towards the river to cross and hide in the trees on the other side.

The party didn’t want the leader to escape and focus all remain fire on to Blath, he indeed slumped in his seat but his horse was still leading the bandits away and taking the unconscious Blath with it. Erky took a dangerous risk to prevent the Fallen Paladins escape and left the lodge and sent magic after Blath. Magical flares signalled the death of the bandits, but not all that had fallen had shown this flare, so as the remaining bandits escaped with Blath body and the Villagers cheered the party set out to find and finish the fallen bandits.

None were found however, even Varric couldn’t find any trail or hiding place, he concluded that they had probably escaped with invisibility and flight. His conclusion was further supported when they searched that dead and found potions of invisibility and feather tokens to summon flying mounts. The day was a victory and without any loses on their side, the injured would recover within a day or two without help and they had gained better equipment and more horses. A celebration was in order, to the new arrivals and the victory against the bandits.

Forbidden Magic : Necromancy
Making new enemies and killing them

Erky experiences with mind altering magic and having overcome them allowed him to review the images of the cave and he realised that not all the walls the familiar had seen were really there. That night he sent his familiar once again into the caves to test the walls and found that they were powerful illusions, fortunately even powerful illusions fail with a slight touch. What was behind the illusions was undead miners, skeletons using good quality pickaxes to mine ores.

Without a second thought the party started to move the rocks blocking the passage and headed in to collect the ore. Necromancy and undead creation was not an approved practice, it had once been used to try and solve to autonomous construct problem but with disastrous results. The controlling necromancer had failed to maintain control on the undead and the so called constructs attacked in the middle of showing them to the high nobles, undead creation was banned ever since.

Moving the stones was going to take away and only a few could get in the small area to help so Varric and Rupert decided to go do some scouting. They approached one of the nearby goblin bases with ease, and a crazy thought came to them. Overconfident and reckless they thought that they could stealth their way into the camp and take out the leaders. The plan was going well as they shot down over half the guards on the forts walls before one fell off the wall and crashed with a thud to the ground.

The remaining guards, three of which were using ballista’s, all turned and returned fire. Varric and Rupert had planned an escape route and used the rope and river to run for their lives. They quickly got out of the goblins short bow range and thought they could pick a few more off using a long bow. But the goblins were moving the ballista’s around to fire at them, they could out range it even one good hit could be fatal and so they retreated.

In the meantime the rest of the party had cleared the rocks and entered the cave to engage the undead. The skeleton miners had dangerous weapons with the heavy picks but they were weak and in low numbers so not really a threat, but a zombie proved to be more troublesome. The zombie didn’t a weapon but it’s able to shrug off damage made it more dangerous than the skeletons. Though once hit with a single solid hit it finally fell, the party fell back to their cave home and Gepav thought it’d be a good idea to build a wall and door to that tunnel.

Varric and Rupert returned wounded and tired but alive to tell the tale of how they bravely fought a whole camp of goblins before running for their lives. The others told of the undead and ore wealth they had found, copper ore piled high in a corner. Gepav finished has rock wall and had a section that could be taken down to squeeze in and out of the undead tunnel. The noise of this would easily notify they if someone or something was trying to get through.

The next morning Soul who had been holding off her addiction was in a frightful mood, she was grabbing Quara and demanding more. Quara had used what she had left to try grow more back at the lodge easily a three day trip at best, and with the winter cold Soul would almost certainly die for the attempt. Fortunately she had a similar addictive item that might substitute for the one Soul wanted, Soul not in a state to refuse tried it. It seemed to work but Soul still felt the itch but it was ignorable, the substitute was unlikely to work a second time but had bought her time.

The party opened the undead tunnel and entered again, this time they cleared out several mining points each with only few skeletons that barely had a chance to turn before they were destroyed. Until they found a large illusionary wall that had a line of zombies on the other side, with their new knowledge on zombies the party knew this was going to be a long fight though not overly dangerous.

The illusion fell as they attacked the zombies but with a web placed between them they felt that most would just get caught and be easy pickings. But two of the zombies didn’t simply change as expected instead they move to switches that dropped a trap on the party. The slab of stone missed everyone but the slabs had been holding swarms of skeleton rats that was now attack the party from within. Erky not wanting to lose his concentration on the web that had held most of the zombies withdrew from the group and supported the party with at range.

Despite the trap and surprise attack the fight ended with minimal damage, the party set about looting when Erky was attack from behind. The invisible attacker was a vampire, it picked up the gnome and bite his neck trying to sneak off without the rest of the party noticing. Erky was able to alert the party and they moved quickly to his aid. The vampire realised he wasn’t going to get away or win in a fight so he shape changed into mist and escaped through tiny holes in the caves roof.

Further investigation found that there was a table and cards, indicating that there could be four vampires in these tunnels. As the party return the their cave they noticed the tiny holes here and there in the roof of the tunnels. From their research into monsters that the party knew a lot about the nature of vampires, namely their weaknesses and how to destroy them. First and most comforting was that vampires cannot enter a residence without an invitation.

Once they returned to their cave they restored the rock door Gepav had made and hung a tent over the front entrance to but this little cave a little more like a residence. Erky was still sure that there was more illusions so he had an idea to sent a familiar with invisibility to scout the caves. This idea was very successful as the illusionary walls only appeared when a seen creature approaches and so didn’t even activate. Giving more places to explore, but with the invisibility running out the familiar returned with only that information.

The party had a safe sleep, and once again descended into the tunnels. This time they fought large skeletons that resembled minotaur’s, these were much tougher and hit harder than the smaller skeletons. After the second group was destroyed the party realised something obvious, these skeleton had been mining for a long time and there was only about a day’s worth or ore here. Erky wanted to know where it was all going so he sent his familiar out to find another group and hide in one of the ore boxes.

To pass the time as they waited for the return they decided to do some mining of their own, with Gepav’s instructions they got into the swing of it pretty fast. A few hours in Erky felt the presence of his familiar as it was carried towards his area. The skeletons walked past their tunnel and down an unexplored path, the party argued that they should follow, but as they argued a second group and then another followed behind the one they had seen.

Several groups of skeletons walk by, as the last one left the first one had returned going back to their mining points with empty boxes. For today the party decided to watch and count the numbers, after having counted them going out and back there was thirty three that left but thirty five that returned. The party came to the conclusion that there was a powerful necromancer that was controlling and creating these creatures down that tunnel.

The information give by Erky’s familiar was that the skeletons walk small cave just before a tunnel that was obviously a constructed area. There they dumped the ores and walked past a bat that touched each as they walked past delivering some magical spell. The bat was a familiar that was maintaining the necromancers control, over the undead. In these caves was several zombies standing and wandering about and the cave showed no sign of yesterdays ores, someone cleared the room latter taking the ore elsewhere.
A plan to destroy all the undead and steal the ores came to the party. They would let them mine and move it all to that cave then ambush them on their way back destroying small groups in a tight cavern, then to head down the tunnel to gather the ore. The next morning they readied to do this, hiding in a cave just off from the path and watched as they all walked past then once the last was out of sight and the first was on its way back they pounced.

The plan was going well except that the was a chain reaction of awareness that move from one group to the next, meaning that the group were arriving faster than expected. It start to break the front lines when the larger skeletons and several rat swarms started to join the front lines, but even then the party adapted keeping up the attack. But when the stream of skeletons stopped and instead eight zombies with crossbows and a vampire in the middle appeared many thought it was time to retreat. Lia on the other hand charged instead, getting in close and using magic knocked the group over. This gave the others enough courage or foolish bravery or a need to save Lia, that they push forward and held their ground.

The zombies where very inaccurate but they always focused fire and where dealing significant damage, but their actions where almost completely being given by the vampire. So much so then when the vampire who had been using them as shield finally fell, or shape changed into mist and escaped into holes in the roof, the zombies dropped their weapons and attack with the bare hands. At this point it was only a matter of time until the party destroyed them all.

Now the party sat victorious but heavily injured and exhausted, do they briefly rest and continue on the ores or retreat for the day. They had not yet fought more than one vampire at once and they believed there was four, also a vampire defeated would fully recover in an hour about the same time it took them to rest. A final piece that might stop their assault was the Necromancer was in one of the vampires or did they serve it too.

Goblin leaders and dark caves
Promise of a fate so grim

Stories of adventure and excitement fill the lodge, Mira talks of how she skilfully avoided the bandits and observed their fort until the stairs had fully iced over, and the party spoke of their experiences with the goblins and the winter wolfs. Mira added what she knew of the two, that the winter wolfs hunted in packs much like normal wolfs and that there was likely to be another three to six winter wolfs. Her knowledge wasn’t first hand though as she usually returned to the forest during winter and so have not personally encountered winter wolfs. On the goblins she did say that they responded organically, attacking a single area and you attract more powerful forces. Their reaction times can vary but always the shift is done during the day.

The party planning a renewed attack decided to move to a new location based on this information. Heading further north then before, near to one of the ruined towns. They decided against using the town itself as it would have no natural shelter or defenses. They would have to finds another cave when they got there.

Erky spend a day modifying one of the carts to have detachable sledges so that they could carry more stuff, he also made it so two horses could pull and thus further increasing how much they could carry. As a final addition he used some tents to create a canopy for the cart to ease the travel out.

The next day they set out and it was a near perfect day, a good start, but late that night a storm rolled in and lasted until late the next day. Wisely the party felt they should stay put and wait it out, they were in no rush. The next day was better light wind and some clouds, the familiar scout was successful in spotting a winter wolf stalking the plains. At the pace the party was moving it was three days away at least. There was a brief discussion on whether they would split up and try to rush the creature but since it hadn’t location them yet and it was in the path they were taking they thought to leave it until they got closer.

For two day they approached as the wolf patrolled around but only change to be north of their path. On the third day the familiar reported that the wolf had spotted it and had been watch it instead of patrolling. By midday the winter wolf had also spotted the party and disappeared now that it was actively trying to hide from the familiar. It was spotted every now and then but it was remaining at least a day ahead of the party, clearly it had no intention of attacking.

Now approaching their destination the party send the familiar out to find nearby caves, it reported four possible and the one chosen was under the hill the ruined village was on, next to the river and directly across from the goblins. When they arrived they found it was easily defensive and large enough for them to use. There was also a tunnel in the back that appeared to have collapsed, Gepav had a quick look and declared that it had now collapsed the rocks blocking it had been placed there. There where gaps around the rocks that a tiny creature could squeeze through but otherwise it was blocked, Lia used her wild shape ability to shape change and slowly worked her way through the rocks to find a long tunnel leading to a cavern with five more tunnels. She returned and suggested that they sent one of a familiar in to explore more.

Erky did this late that night, but before they lost the sun light they setup fortifications, having prepared many spikes back to the lodge they created a defensive row of spike and an angled path to enter the cave. The familiar returned in the morning as they were leaving, it reported a system of caves but all ended quickly. Only one tunnel had not been explored as it was full of water.

The party headed out to scout the goblin camps and found the here where some much larger camps, but with their conference and experiences from before they felt they could take such odds. And indeed as they attack a camp with over sixty goblins it seemed another easy victory. But one goblin with a red bandana took charge and began giving orders, organising and saving many goblin that would have otherwise been slaughtered.

The party had to disrupt this leader so a fog cloud was magically created around him but he orders and already created a greater defence then the party had expected. The party was winning but they were using more resources and taking more damage than they had expected. When the magically summon fog lifted from the goblin leader he saw that situation was hopeless and used another goblin to escape the spike trap around it. This cased a panic in the remaining goblin who all fled, most killing themselves on the spike trap not having the same mind as their leader to escape safely.

Those that remained where shot down before getting very far, none escaped. Fortunately the second camp they raided was far fewer with only twenty goblins and they didn’t put up much of a fight. The party then returned with a little more knowledge, the larger the group the more likely there would be another leader type goblin. As they return to the cave Erky remembered the images of the caves that he had seen through is familiar and had a feeling something was missing.

Winter, Wolfs and Winter Wolfs
Home sweet home

As the party got ready for their new day raiding, keen and vigilant eyes spotted distant movement. A winter wolf cautiously searching the area, most likely looking for them. Thinking first that such a creature would never work for creatures as weak as goblins, but that the goblins answered to ogres and If this was one of their scouts it needed to be removed.

With great skill and luck the party managed to get in the wolfs path to lay an ambush, despite the wolfs super natural abilities the fight ended fast. The wolf had formidable powers over ice and a freezing breath that made it’s bites highly dangerous. Even with an ability to create an ice clone outnumbered and out ranged the wolf had little chance to survive. It did however let out a howl before it died, perhaps a signal perhaps part of its powers the party didn’t know.

With the wolf deal with the party decided to move their camp before heading out to fight the goblins. Varric found a perfect replacement camp far more defendable and so hidden he almost missed it. It was a small cave hidden behind some bushes, with a tiny hole in the roof and back entrance that would require all but Erky to crawl through.

This move only took a few hours leaving still most of the day so the party moved on to the goblin camps, this day their familiar scout reported significant changes to the larger groups. New goblins better equip and with wolf mounts were seen in the nearest major camp. The satellite camps were also larger, were before camps as small as four had been seen now the smallest held twenty two. Given their new level of knowledge and conference the party still moved in.

Two small camps beside each other were their targets the twenty two and a thirty two count camp. Both fell with barely a scratch to show, the party had gotten even better at fighting these goblins. Luck was with them on the first camp and no alarm was sounded on the major camp nearby, but after the second their presence was known.

Thanks to their familiar scout they knew not only had the alarm been raised but that they had very little time to loot. This major camp held a combination of technology and magic, the goblins had created giant kites capable of carrying five goblins and they had a shaman capable of summoning wind enough to lift and steer the kites. These kites moved faster than the party could their only hope was to keep ahead of them long enough for their magic to run out.

Grabbing the most important items from the camp the party ran at top speed, the goblins were slowly gaining on the party but once the party crossed the river the goblins gave up their pursuit. the boundary of the river both baffled and comforted the party. The sudden change in weather by simply cross the river was clearly unnatural, even with the knowledge of a ancient red dragon and its ability to alter the terrain around its lair. This was several miles from the bottom of the mountain were the dragon resided at the top, the dragons influence shouldn’t reach even half way down mountain.

Now clear of the altered environment Lia noticed a change was coming, using magic to confirm her suspicions realised. A storm was coming, and was likely to last well into tomorrow. They moved back to their new camp and settled down to weather the storm. As they rested Erky had a sudden moment of clarity, the winter wolfs body as a supernatural creature could be used to create magical items.

Varric volunteered to go retrieve the corpse, and at first light he headed out. The storm had whipped up to a blizzard, Varric was rugged up and moving carefully. If he got lost he would last long out here and with visibility down to about ten feet he couldn’t afford to lose his way. His memory and tracking served him well he found the corpse within a few hours. He wasn’t the first to find it but he knew nothing of this as he gathered it up and started back.

As he got close to the camp Varric realized he was being followed, not that he had seen more than a shadow in the storm, a sound of crunching snow out of step with his own foot falls and pure instinct. He felt that it was at least two and he guessed that it was more winter wolfs, he had little choice but to continue on. He could fight one alone and even if he did his path to the camp would certainly be lost if he got in a fight.

As he got back to the camp alerted the rest of the party to the presence of the winter wolfs and they prepared for a fight. Erky sent his familiar out through the small hole in the roof to scout, he learned that there was in fact three winter wolfs and that they were now circling the cave. Winter wolf discovered the back entrance but failed to find the hole in the roof. Though they had found the back entrance it was unlikely they would use it, nearly twice the size of a normal wolf they probably could squeeze through the gap but this would leave them completely venerable to attack.

The party had plenty of time to prepare a defensive line before Erky announced that there was now six targets. Three ice clones entered through the front, straight through the layered magical defences, two made in over the first layer an area of grease tripping one. The second line was overlapping webs and spikes that caused damage but failed to slow the creatures. Readied for this attack the party was able to strike first, but the ice clones had great resistance and they couldn’t focus their fire.

The fight was brutal and hard won, several severe injuries were taken. With Soul suffered painful internal injuries making it near impossible to act. Despite these injuries and the loss of magic potency the winter wolfs remained outside. Instead of continuing the attack they use their powers to create walls of ice over the two entrances trapping the party in the cave. Thanks to their scout the party learned that one of the wolfs had taken off and the remaining two were standing watch over the entrances.

Seams the wolfs wanted either to trap them and freeze them or bring reinforcements. Grateful for the break and knowledge that they could take it, the party decide to recover and plan a little. They had no intention on waiting for the third wolf to return with help. Their breakout plan involved engaging both wolf but focusing on one. The ice walls were venerable to fire and bludgeoning damage so easy to bring down. Erky also felt that he could squeeze out the tiny hole in the roof and get the drop on the wolfs.

Erky was lifted out and out the hole and once he was set he spotted the wolf at the rear entrance and initiated the attack. The ice walls at the entrances were blown open, with magic and arrows flying out and into the winter wolfs. The winter wolfs were far less resistant then the ice clones and even their attempts to reseal the entrances wasn’t going to help as Erky fired from the unknown exit.

The winter wolfs released they weren’t going to stop the party and run for it disappearing into the storm. But Erky knew one was weak and sent his familiar after it, using the familiars telepathic link to guide his shot at the unseen target he successfully finished the wolf before it escaped. The final one was gone but at least it was unlikely to return any time soon.

The storm lasted a two days in this time Erky was able to extract and contain the magic from within the winter wolfs corpses into residuum. This raw magical component was rarely know outside of the Gnomes inner circle but was not restricted knowledge, though some of the ways to a gather residuum were restricted. Soul on the other hand was recovering very slowly, even with magical Lia and Varric weren’t able to hasten her recovery.

It was decided that it once the storm had broke they would head home to recover and resupply. With the weapons and armour they had acquired they could equip everyone with swords, bows and armour. Though the armour would need to be resized, there was time before any attack might threaten the village. The storm broken late evening and Lia felt there would be several days of mostly clear weather, so the party made ready to leave the next morning.

That morning was perfectly still and the sky perfectly clear, almost unnaturally calm but it was a good start for the trip home. With the clear and still day it was even possible to spot the winter wolf that was following them. Well out of range it looked ready to follow them home, not something they wanted just yet. The party came up with a cunning plan to ambush the winter wolf.

Varric and Rupert felt that they could sneak over to the wolfs position as it moved to follow the rest of the party. Lia and Erky had an idea to get Lia over too, Lia could shape change into a rabbit and have Erkys familiar fly over carrying her. Quara suggested that Erky and herself then also put invisibility on the familiar and Lia, just to make certain that the winter wolf didn’t get spooked.

Lia swooped down on the wolf and transformed to her normal form and used her magic to created a spike trap. This was the signal to Varric and Rupert to attack having successfully approached the winter wolf from behind. Lia then deployed the golden lion statues and wild shaped into a bear. The wolf fell quickly to the arrows and claws, and Erky had another corpse to extract residuum.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful except for Souls complaints of pain. Quara had been collecting and testing different plants looking for uses beyond food. A few had a small magical nature and Erky was able to produce some residuum from them, but one moss was hallucinogen and analgesic. But it was also highly addictive and even with small carefully applied doses Soul started wanting more even after the pain had stopped.

Fortunately they made in home before any major side effects showed. To their surprise they were greeted by Mira, as her waved at them from the watch tower. She had taken them up on their offer for shelter, at least during winter. This had been a very profitable few days, but winter had only just started.

Mining for metals
Carrying capacity and limiting factors

The party having been chased away from the river found themselves surrounded and outnumbered but not directly noticed by the goblins. Fortunately the goblins really do not like moving much and were not the best of guards. A few carefully retracted steppes and the party escaped to the east side of the river. The river was more than a physical border, it appeared that the goblin were not even putting watches to guard from attackers that might cross it.

This gave the party more hope that keeping to the east of the river was a wise move, though their camp was easily visible from the other side they were not in danger from the goblins. The weather on the other hand was a danger and crossing the river had a strange effect on it. On the west side it was warmer with less winds and snow, but the east side was still getting colder and hasher.

After the success of their first day the party became more aggressive though starting with a smaller group they cleared the camp fast and thought a larger target would be doable. The larger camp was a little more difficult but still successful. Once more raising a few alarms but the goblins quickly gave up as the party fled too close to another large goblin camp.

As the party was collecting weapons, armour and ores they felt that they were getting to the limit of what they could carry. The leather armour being the heavy and bulky was the biggest burden, it was decided that they wouldn’t take any more and focus more on the weapons and ores.

The third day raiding and the party was finally getting into the swing of things, perhaps luck had played a part giving they a excellent advantage of terrain but tactics learn over the last two days certainly helps as the fought another large group and slaughtered them with barely a scratch. This fight drew the attention of the nearby main camp and gave the party little time to loot. But with the task of striping the armour off they didn’t need much time and minus the armour still collected everything and escaped. Using their animals they quickly left the goblins behind, a few goblins had gotten close enough to fire shots but they hit nothing.

A estimate of the items gained from this last fight meant the they could do two more of similar size before they hit their carrying limits. Time would tell if they had learnt a successful pattern of attack or if the party had merely been lucky in that last fight.

Daily routine
Grinding dem goblins

Exhaustion having dropped most of the party, some even coming close to death, full day rest is used to fully recover as fast as possible. It was at moment when the party began to see that the villagers where getting into the full swing of things being able to run almost everything without direct supervision. Acula and Winter taking up roles for motivation, entertainment and general leadership. Inge taking over as foreman and quartermaster keeping constructs and supplies in working order. Souls squire taking the master at arms drilling and training the villagers to defend themselves.

Though having been such a sudden change they weren’t quite ready to take over completely, still coming for the party for advice. But this did put an idea and starting a plan for getting a missing resource, metals. With the information given by Mira they knew that the goblins had mines, giving them access to metals. But the banding raided them during the warmer times of the year in large numbers. This meant that if they were to get metals for weapons and tools they needed to raid the goblins in winter, when the bandits where secured in their fort.

This rest period end uneventfully but as they recovered Erky‘s and Quara’s familiars reported that the bandit scouts had returned to their fort. This was in the evening so any expected response should happen until the morning. And just as expect over two dozen armed bandits left the fort on horses the very next morning, thankfully they were headed for the southern ruins and not for the village.

At midday a quick estimate as to their speed and destination put them at near three days from their fort to the ruins. Given that they would spend a little time search for signs of settlement and then spend time to travel back, it meant that as long as the village wasn’t spotted it was unlikely that the bandits would move again until after winter. Despite a few complications the plan to distract the bandits had been successful.

While keeping a close familiar eye on the bandits, the party focused on training a small selection of villagers over this time Acula, Inge, Winter and Souls squire where being prepared to lead so that the party could raid the goblins for metals. At the same time warm and water resistance clothing was being made to survive the harsh weather that was coming.

The bandits acted just as hoped and six days after that had left their fort they where back and the very next morning the party grabbed their gear and headed out. They used caution and moved slowly stopping often to warm and dry themselves to not lose their strength to the weather. A trip that probably could have been done in two days took them five, but as the weather got worse they were happy, the worse the weather the saver the village was. Making camp across the river from the goblin territory the smells and sounds of the goblins could easily be smelt and heard drifting on the wind.

There was an enormous number of fires, huts and encampments all across the hills. Keeping safe from this number of goblins was a matter of stealth and cunning, brute strength here would get the party kill under an avalanche of goblins. That night they hear that goblin moving, they clashed and hooted in small skirmishes but clearly these where just muscle flecking actions. Even still groups numbering over a hundred where based just an hour or two from where the party camped.

The goblins showed no signs of crossing the river and had no one even watching the river side of their camps. Routine with the bandits raiding them had probably created this habit, but it now work to the favour of the party. Striking out early the party used familiars to scout out a safe target and path to them.

The goblins seems to be mostly inactive during the day, but still they would be easy to disturb as lazy guards moved around all the camps. The party found a small camp with a little over two dozen, probably the same number as the bandit group that had just been riding around the valley. They circled around to the north side of their camp to get cover from a small rise and a few trees.

Rupert and Varric snuck up close just behind a the rise, as the others prepared an ambush in the trees. Half the guards fell before that alarm was raised and the goblins sprang into action. The party was surprised by the organised and skilled way the goblins reacted to this sudden assault. Seams they were expecting and use to this sort of attack, their only surprise was who their enemy was.

Rupert was spotted before he could retreat and hit with multiple arrows knocking him unconscious and forcing a change of plans the ambush now not meaningful the Erky dropped two golden lion statues to the ground and sent the summoned lions into the goblins. With Lia running magical healing around they quickly reduced the goblin numbers down.

Though the goblins had managed to bring down the lions only six remained and they were now outnumbered and outmatched. They ran for it, the party didn’t want them escaping as only a few hills away was a clan of about one hundred goblins. The remaining goblins didn’t even get outside their camp before they were brought down magic and arrows from the advancing party finished them off.

This small camp held very little beyond what the goblins carried on themselves, but several chunks of iron were found in a box this added to the weapons and armour taken from the bodies wasn’t a treasure horde but a good start. Though they had bought themselves time with stopping the fleeing goblins their little skirmish hadn’t gone unnoticed and the party found themselves fleeing as over fifty goblins came raging out of a nearby camp. This pursuit only lasted about two hours before the goblins gave up but this put the party away from the river and now surrounded on by goblin camps.

Games of thought
A life time in a moment

Sleep has always been a hazardous, especially for adventurers, but when there’s a door into your head sleeping might well be like charging the gates of hell. Erky found sleep easy as he hadn’t remembered about the open door yet, and late that night his mind asleep his body was commandeered. Erky moved to his work area and using his own resources draw a symbol onto the floor before sitting in the middle and activating the linking signal.

A trail barely a thought wide lead a stream of magic from far to the north that build a proper link that dragged Erky’s mind and soul from his body then delivered it to the home he had escaped. A few hours later at the changing of the watch he’s absence from the sleeping quarters was noticed. Though with the lodges size he was found fast and since he was sitting in a pulsing magical circle with more power than Quara had ever seen she ordered that no one enter the circle. Her knowledge of such circles only gave her that is was a trap, she didn’t know what it did or how to undo it. So she instead read through all their books on magic to find more information.

She learn little but a few key points, it was a marker used to link two points of planer travel. It seemed that unlike the ones she read about this one didn’t move the target body and soul, and was likely to be reversible. Armed and ready for a fight Gepav, Lia, Quara, Rupert and Varric stepped into the circle.

A sudden lightness and freedom came over the party as they watched their bodies disappear beneath them. Pulled on a immense and unseen force they quickly accelerated toward the north mountains and clouds became a blur but then slowed and refocused as they approach a city they had all seen before. It was the very city they had all last seen before their journey south began.

Their flight took them where none of them had even been straight into the Gnome Quarter. Their lightness and freedom ended and they found themselves standing in an identical magical circle as the one in the lodge. Even with Erky sitting in the middle but unlike the static motionless body in the lodge here Erky was very animation as he struggled against chains that bound him.

The party only clearly saw each other and the chains that bound Erky everything else was a blur and difficult to make out any details. But they all released that there was two gnome with magical chain linking to Erky, Quara knew this magic, it was mind control and likely a second attempt as they Erky was able to resist it. Still not knowing the nature of the magic that brought them here she told the other to remain within the circle but to take out the gnomes.

The gnomes where so focused on their assault on Erky that they had failed to notice the party until they were attacked. Heavily drained from attacking Erky they didn’t put up much of a fight, magic and projectiles flew but when they were defeated instead of falling their form simply dispersed like they had been made of smoke. Before one had been defeated he was able to pull a rope leading to a guard room alarm above. In the brief pause before the guards arrived Erky said that they could and would need to leave the magic circle. The chains that bound him were dependant on the statues holding them.

Rupert attempted to break one but only scratched it, Gepav snored and made a quick inspection of the stone statue before carefully placing a piton hit it once with his hammer. The statue crumbled under its weakness, releasing Erky right side. Erky then pointed to a part of the wall, which was actually a black curtain surrounding the whole room, and said that there was the entrance that two guard would soon be entering.

The party readied for the new threat and as a gnome in full plate wasn’t silent they knew when to strike he stepped through the curtain only to have magic throw him back through. Gepav leaped after him thinking another quick and easy victory was at hand. But even prone the plated gnome was hard to hit cleanly and once the gnome regained his feet his sword flew fast and true into the side of Gepav’s head. The attack held more power than the gnome himself was capable, divine magic of a paladins deity had enhanced the attack and Gepav fell.

As Gepav fell unconscious he realized he wasn’t unconscious and thought how, what was going on, then he remember his body wasn’t here so he only thought he was hit and hurt. The damage he had suffered closed and the weapons he had used returned, he restored to when he had first arrived on plane. The paladin didn’t notice this restoration and stepped over the fallen dwarf to attack the rest of the party.

A shadow moved in behind the paladin and remained unknown behind the curtain. An assassin stalked the party as they focused on the paladin. Seen only as a movement in the curtain they moved away from the walls forcing the assassin out but even still his attacks were precise and hitting vital locations with ease, the party was glad that their real bodies weren’t here. The assassin and paladin were hard to hit in their own ways but they fell quickly as those that fell stood quickly feeling invincible in this plane of thought.

With the fight over Erky free and immanent threats resolved Erky explained the situation. This was the manor when he had learned magic and all his knowledge. The gnomes had attacked him through a small statue that was here in the manor and if not destroyed they would continue to attack him, and possibly even attack them. The gate way that had brought them here was controlled by their own thoughts, simple wishing to return would allow them to do so.

Erky directed the party up the stairs to the first floor basement where the guards had been stationed, the room now empty Erky quickly informed the rest of the party that no objects could be taken back when they left. With nothing but servant quarters and storage on this floor they continued up to the ground floor.

The stair lead straight into another guard room Rupert and Varric snuck up to see the two guards playing cards. Though they were curious as to why they hadn’t responded to the fighting they had been doing down stairs or the alarm, another issue drew their attention. This floor held windows that looked out into a void of nothing, this was an absolute nothing and Rupert almost totally flipped out at the sight. He managed to slip back down stairs undetected before curling up in a corner, Erky having been in this plane before and was so use to the sight that he had forgotten that most new comers had such reactions to the void.

A few minutes of convincing and positive help from his party Rupert shrugged off the strange fear, drowned mostly in sham that he had to be treated like a scared child afraid of the dark. Now recovered Erky told they that sound didn’t carry in this plane, in fact only a focused mind might notice something was even there. This mean they could probably all get in the guard room before the guards even knew they were there.

The battle with the two guards ended fast the party barely caring about hits as they thought themselves invincible. Erky knew better but didn’t know how much to tell them, if they knew too much they would become targets for the gnomes and unlike with himself they were likely to just be killed and have their souls enslaved. This in mind as he remember that that the war room and office were just off this guard room, these held more information about Sylta.

As the party got use to the sight outside the window he moved into the war room to see if he could gather information, he having never been in the war room himself warned the party not to look at too much or learn anything just in case. From his search he learned that the mountain to the north west of Sylta was home a an ancient red dragon “Grim Dark”, most likely not his real name. It was him that had stopped the empire from expanding into the south, a map showed that he had claim a large area as his own which included almost all of Sylta.

This new was disturbing but the information suggested that he was mostly inactive as he was given tribute by sailors at a coastal city on the west side of his mountain and no villages were build in his territory. There were listings of past villages that he had burned, three had been in Sylta. Little else was know about Sylta only rough notes about the inhabitants nothing the party didn’t already know.

Erky then moved to the office but found that it wasn’t empty. As they entered the Gnome at the desk was clearly writing a scroll and all his attention was focused into doing that. Erky laughed and told them to ignore him, but not to get directly in his line of sight or touch him. The plane of thought enhanced your focus at the expense of awareness.

This room held information on the trades that when south along the Sylta coast, trading furs and magic item components from the centaurs there for mostly food. Erky also found the records on the expeditions that had sent them to the south in the first place, he discovered the count, supplies and date of the next ones heading south. To this he and Rupert created a convincing forgery on the documents and added a copper still to the supplies.

Satisfied with this they moved to leave but the gnome writing the scroll suddenly cursed and the scroll in his hands exploded. The gnome and his writing equipment and the fragments of the scroll vanished in black smoke. Erky laughed as this made returning the forged document was so much easier now, the gnome mistake in crafting had aided them. Though Erky also felt that he probably failed because they where there, an unconscious itch that distracted him.

With new information and resources set to arrive the party decided to hurry out to avoid any further contact as each meant exposure and becoming targets for the gnomes. They quickly and quietly headed up to the attic to find Erky’s statue, encountering no one else on their way up. Once they reached the attic they saw a crack in the plane that pulsed with magical power, this was the source of the gnomes power. Fortunately they didn’t have time to study this ultimate secret as the guardian detected intruders and activated.

The guardian didn’t look like a gnome but more an animated suit of armour, the party was quicker getting a few hits in before it fully activated. Thinking another easy fight was about to happen Erky ignored the guardian and searched for his statue instead. He spotted it in one of the side chambers, these room had clear walls that one might have thought where glass. The doors to each had a panel that required a code to enter, Erky knew these codes and hoped that hadn’t been changed since he left.

The guardian now fully activated drew two battle axes and closed on Gepav nearly dropping him in one series of attacks. It was fast and hit hard, it also resisted the bulk of the damage that the party threw at it. Erky realised this was no push over he gave a warning the party that taking too much damage a once could really kill them. This helped little as Gepav was cut down his form blurred and flickered as he suffered in the thoughts that had he been in his body he would have died from that hit.

Erky saw the party falling and figure that if he could destroy the statue they could instantly leave with a thought instead of fight the guardian. He entered the code and to his relief the door opened, he knew that the if the statue was destroyed by magic in the right way the gnomes would think he had died and stop pursuing him. He called up his remaining magic hit the statue, but it only cracked he didn’t have magic left to destroy it correctly.

Erky returned to the door and called Quara to help and noticed that only Varric now stood against the guardian in melee. Lia and Gepav lay on the ground blurred and flickering, they could leave but they would take the thoughts of their damage with them and most likely die from stock. If the treat was remove he knew their mind could relax and recover easier and the guardian was heavily damaged and failing. He moved to cover and Started to at support to Varric and Rupert to bring the Guardian down.

Quara approached the statue and studied the cracks to find the right place as she hit it with magic. Her well placed hit caused the statue to crumble and fall just as Erky had describe it need to. Satisfied she returned to the door to help them defeat the guardian, as she reached the door Varric was cut down too. Her attack caught the guardians attention and no one standing to fight in melee she closed the door between herself and the guardian.

Almost as insult the guardian walked up to the door and entered the code. Eyes wide with fear Quara said “There’s no place like home, There’s no place like home.” and vanished in a puff of black smoke. At this point Gepav was able to recover his mind and stood once more to attack the guardian, Lia and Varric quickly followed but even as heavily damaged as it was the guardian still beat Gepav and Lia down again. Varric, who had remain out of melee this time, drew a final arrow thinking “Just die already.” to his relief the guardian obliged his request and it changed into black smoke.

His relief was short lived as the smoke didn’t dissipated like the others had but instead moved to a panel and started to reform. At this point Gepav and Lia had recovered again and they all thought “Home please.” and vanished in black smoke. All except Erky who had slipped downstairs and made his way to the library, this was likely to be the last chance to get near one he had intentions not to waste this opportunity. Armed with Quara’s and his own magic write inks he was able to spend four hours researching spells and coping down notes to make learning them easier.

Once the inks ran dry he closed his spell book satisfied and returned with a thought. Soul who had decided not to go was still turning away as the party returned. Only a few seconds has pasted in all that time Erky was stationary for half a minute longer than the others. Within the plane of thought time moved differently, one sec outside was one thousand inside. Triumphant about the massive success of their little trip ended abruptly as the side effects of entering the plane of thought hit.

Massive waves of exhaustion cause most of the party to fall helplessly to the floor, even Erky who was use to enter the plane fell, never had he been in for so long. Several hours of real world time had passed since he had been taken, to him several days of thought had passed. Also he had been under attack almost continually during that time too. Rest would be easy for a few days.


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