The Slumbering Tsar Saga

An Update

Please turn to the excellent forum page, where you will find unique perspectives of the adventures so far, written from the players’ perspectives. Shi’neya’s ( due to her being Shi’neya is marginally NSFW). However, a brief summary is in order:
The team entered the Chaos Rifts, and after some early encounters, managed to track down and kill the bandit Bartileus, who was a powerful werewolf, and to subsequently defeat a tribe of spitting gargoyles. Things then went a bit downhill, and they lost their first character, the gnome mage Toc, who asked a question of the Dweller at the Crossroads, and subsequently vanished. This was partly due to Shi’neya, who ( and perhaps it was the succubus in her lineage?), wanted to ask a question herself but was scared to do so and chose to wake Toc, knowing that the inquisitive gnome wouldn’t be able to resist the risk.
Subsequently, they looted a tomb in the Wastes, defeated a great spider-beast in a former dwarven redoubt, and eventually found their way back to the Chaos Rifts to find the Tomb of the Last Justicar….they had good intelligence that both Lord Vintar ( Gunther’s uncle) and Arafea ( Shi’neya’s lover) were there. Whilst they were successful in cleansing the tomb of demonic infestation, it appeared that the prisoners had been taken by a person known as the Blood Mage, who resides in the city of Tsar itself! Shi’neya got a bit tearful over this.
Most recently the party defeated and killed the dracolisk, Old Death, in his lair and are now preparing to return to Camp, and then to dare the northern Wastes as they try to gain the necessary strength and knowledge to dare Tsar itself ,a nd the evils within that foul place.
The group has also lost Erma to petrification, and been joined by Zahia, an enchantress ( and known to Gunther as Big Boobs!) and a mysterious drow witch, formerly of the Silverblades, who was recued from the aforementioned spider beast.
The doughty werebear ranger, Edwyn, has grown in strength as an archer. Yorgen, the minotaur monk remains inscrutable yet formidable. Gunther, the hulking half ogre cavalier, is a strnge mixture of simplistic honour and brutal destructive power. And Shi’neya….well, read her diary, but by all the Gods does she cause trouble!

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15th Mirtul
Into the Wastes

So into The Desolation the party went.

Their primary aims, to find the Sepulcher of the Last Justicar; To track down the wanted criminal Bartileus; and to find the remnants of the Bard’s Gate caravan. With no clue where to start, other than that the caravan was traveling west towards the Moonsea, they set out to learn the lay of the land.

Heading west along the road from the Camp the party kept a watchful eye on the Ashen Wastes to either side of the road. The windswept barrens were coated with fine white dust, it was impossible to shake the suspicion that the dust was powdered bone, a remnant of the great battles fought here hundreds of years ago.

Wasteland

The road was a empty as the wilderness around them and as the sun began to dip below the Galena’s they began to make camp. Moving a hundred feet or so from the road, they broke out the tents and began to erect them. Then almost out of no-where, the wind built to terrifying speeds, ripping the tent out of Erma’s hand and sending it spinning across the waste. The howling winds brought a storm of powdery dust, blocking eyes, noses, and coating tongue and throat. In seconds the party was near blinded and choking, struggling to breath and see. Luckily Tok reacted quickly and decisively, enchanting a rope to an extra-dimensional space. Yorghan grabbed as many tents as possible while Gunter helped the half blinded party members up the rope and into the safety of the rope trick. Yorghan struggled to negotiate the rope with his hooves, but with Gunter’s help and his strength they all made it in. One of the tents made a temporary cover for the entrance, allowing them to sluice their eyes and throats. After only a few minutes, the winds died back down, but sensibly the party decided to rest where it was safe, with Tok taking the first watch.

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7th - 14th Mirtul
Miracles of Death

With the new day the group hurried to the Chapel of the Dying Light to witness the miracle of Shi’Neya’s return. They were disquieted to see Griswald lurking around the door. They wanted him far away from Shi’Neya until she was brought back to life. Father Death was true to his word and at the culmination of his hour long ceremony, Shi’Neya breathed again, although terribly weakened. The party resolved (At Shi’Neya’s insistance) to wait for her to regain her strength.

In the meantime the adventures explored the Camp im more detail. Meeting a strange hag that ran the apothecary, she seemed friendly at first, despite her rather intimidating goblin bear pets. The giantess soon revealed a vicious streak when she asked the party to bring her the heads of her sisters that dwell in the ruined city, by a blue well in the shadow of a green wall.

The Sip ‘o’ Blood Tavern seemed rough and ready, but pleasant enough. The mute, crippled orc ‘Lucky’ Bjorc Balsam and his hand-signal-reading bar maids were certainly entertaining. He even let slip the name of one of his assailants, the beast known as ‘Old Death’.

Over the next seven days or so, several other rumours were winkled out, as the band got to know the locals better: That it is dangerous to sleep at the crossroads; that the orc mercenary Clantock was seen talking to a winged devil outside the town; also that he had been in fierce competition with the mercenary group called the Pounders, formerly led by the hill giant Gurg; that there is a lich prowling the desolation and the Userer would pay well for proof of its destructio; that a strange peddlar sometimes appears in the night and dispenses cryptic advice to those who buy its wares; and finally that the desolation was caused by a dying god!

The band were also appeared by Sammar the diplomatic envoy of Bard’s Gate who asked them to track down a missing caravan supposedly guarded by the Pounders as it made its way west to the Moonsea. Gurgs return boded ill for their chances of survival and Sammar wanted any survivors bringing back safely or at least proof of their end.

On the final night before they departed to search for the Silver Blades, Bartileus and the missing caravan the group were were awoken by a strange creaking noise. It was pitch black outside but the noise got louder and as they went outside to investigate a ricketly hand card materialised out of the darkness, pushed by a hooded emaciated figure. After buying a dried codfish for fifty gold crowns, the strange peddlar dispensed this advice: “Not only old dead guard Black Gates but something greater as well. From blackest pits of pitch and bile a new guardian arose both foul and vile. Beware his breath of clinging death.” Before hobling aware off into the night.

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6th Mirtul
A rough night and no mistake

Something was awry.

Around midnight Erma, the bookish student and lorekeeper of the party woke with the worst stomach cramps and loose bowels she had ever experienced. Headed towards the garderobe in haste she was dismayed to discover the door locked and Shi’Neya firmly ensconced within. With no other choice she opened the door and in desperation headed to the back of the boarding house to make toilet.

Meanwhile Shi’Neya’s discomfort was only slightly better, crouched above the garderobe, her insides turned to liquid, thanks to the amiable gnomes food. She pondered the circumstances that brought her to this backwater, but her exertions were interrupted when a psychotic, dagger wielding gnome leapt through the wall behind her and slashed at her heart. Crying out in pain, she staggered back but two more thrusts before she could gather her wits left her cold and dead on the watercloset’s floor.

Gnome assassin

At the same time, Tok’s magical alarm woke him, just in time to hear a creak as a trapdoor under the bed opended. Another gnome, this one recognisable as Jeblie crawled into sight, only to have Tok turn invisible. Edwyn had no such magic, but his keen senses woke him just in time to avoid a dagger thrust from Jashanah Benderkaupft. A vicious melee ensued.

Erma began to feel uncomfortable in the darkness outside. Hearing the sounds of fighting within she finished her business and hurried back to the front door. Unfortunately as she passed the east wing of the house a rope noose shot out of the darkness, looping round her neck and yanking her off her feet. The corpse that once hung in the village square was cackling madly as it heaved on the rope that once suspended it, dragging her towards the waiting gibbit. Her screams woke Gunther and Yorgen, but when they tried the dining room door they heard the rattle of chains from the other side. Yorgan charged the door almost shaking it off its hinges and Gunther’s shoulder barge crashed it to the ground, chains, door frame and all. To his horror he saw Shi’Neya’s body and quickly engaged Joashia Bender in combat.

With all the party awake the gnomes could not prevail, their wicked plan had failed, but at a terrible cost. Gunther, Edwin and Tok quickly dispatched the gnomish triplets, the last one, Jashanah, wounded and blinded, surrendered rather than perish. Meanwhile Yorgun burst through a window, rushing to aid Erma outside. He arrived too late, for Erma had already blasted the hangman to dust with her clerical godly powers.

Tying the Gnome tightly they quickly searched the house discovering quite a stash of ill gotten loot. They resolved to sleep and then see to Shi’Neya, perhaps there was a temple here who’s priests could help. Gunther insisted on a trial for the gnome by whatever legal system held jurisdiction here, the Usurer would know.

The next day they went in search of the local priest, who turned out to be a lugubrious and morbid hobgoblin by the name of father death. Who appropriately worshipped the dead god Myrkul in his Chapel of the Dying Light. He assured the group that he could indeed bring a sould back from the beyond so that it could experience the wonder of dying again. However he would need a perfect diamond to complete the ritual and a day to pray to his god for the spell. After exchanging some of the treasure found in the boarding house they brought the gem from Tidwoad in the celestial emporium, he protested that he knew nothing of their treachery and agreed to give them a very good deal!

Exchanging a little more money with the Userer they discovered that the only legal system that existed in The Camp was what could be enforced by a blade. He then chided them for disrupting the village’s operation by killing their only innkeepers. He firmly, with no little hint of menace insisted that they resume the running of the boarding house and even suggested a local girl who could do the job in their absence for a modest sum.

Returning to the boarding house Gunther resolved to hold a trial for Jashanah, as a devoted knight of Tyr, the Even Handed God, he acted as judge. Edwin for the prosecution. With Jashanah’s admission of guilt and pleas of mercy, Gunther passed sentance and then lopped the gnome’s head off. The rest of the day was spent resting from the nights exertions and trying to tidy and make good the boarding house.

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5th Mirtul
Arrival at The Camp

By the fifth day of travel the band had finally put the plains of southeastern Vaasa behind them. What little vegetation existed soon turned to rock and dust as the continued northwest. It was clear that the further they went the more desolate their surrounding became. Then by mid morning they saw habitation for the first time.

The first they saw of The Camp was a ramshackle collection of lean-to’s, sheds and awnings in the distance, that resolved itself into a small settlement. Around it a few scrubby bushes made this the most bountiful place they had seen in hours. A few locals watched cautiously from a distance. As they reached the village boundary a great howl of rage and pain drew their attention. A mighty armoured hill giant bore down on the party from the north, waiving a great spiked club. Before it could get within 10 yards it slipped on Shi’Neya’s conjured grease, Edwin carefully placed two arrows in its belly and Gunther’s great pistol belched smoke as a bullet punched through the giant’s calf muscle. Pulling itself to its feet, the maddened foe flung itself onto Gunther’s blade and Yorgen’s fists before toppling to the ground dead.

Hillgiant

Closer up they saw the creature had been horribly burned by acid. Stripping the body they made their way further into town.

Walking past the grisly hanging corpse in the village square they approached the open doors to the blacksmith. Inside they found a grim man, hammering iron, who it was discovered goes by the moniker of ‘The Userer’. As the de-facto mayor and money changer in this flyspeck backwate. They asked what should be done about the body of the giant, and the Userer told them the undertaker would take care of it. He offered the adventurers the local currency, iron bits at a five to one rate of exchange. Balking at such a steep rate, they left grumbling, with the Userer only smiling and saying “you’ll be back”.

Sure enough none of the traders in town would agree to take their gold, not even the drunk hostler, though he did seem eager to take their horses. Reluctantly Shi’Neya returned to the Userer and exchanged a goodly sum of gold for the crude iron bits. Meanwhile, the others met the undertaker, Griswald, who it appeared was a particularly well dressed ghoul. Edwyn helped drag the corpse to the creatures hovel, but was politely but firmly denied entry. At least the giant corpse should keep the fellow busy for a few weeks.

With the rest of the day to spare, and the horses stabled, they set about exploring The Camp, paying particular attention to any rumours regarding the Wastes or the Silver Swords adventuring band. It transpired that the Silver Swords had been in town some three weeks ago. They were gone for a few days and then returned talking about the tomb of the last Justicar of Tyr. After resting and re-supplying they set out again for the wastes and have not been heard of since. They also some nasty rumours regarding the rangers watering their gardens with blood, and the dangers of being outside after dark.

After some advice from Tidwoad the gnome gem merchant in the celestial emporium, they took rooms at the Bender Bros boarding house. The gnomes were amiable and friendly, cooking a tasty meal of rabbit, lamb (or goat), and many vegetables. Upon retiring, Gunter and Yorgen bedded down in the large dining room and the others had their own small but clean rooms. The first beds the adventures had slept in for five days.

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1st - 4th Mirtul
Journey to The Desolation

The jouney across the scrub plains that lie between The Vaasan Gate and The Camp are flat and dull. The weather holds clear, so the journey is not unpleasant. Just monotonous. With little else to do, the adventurer’s talk as they ride. Most of them have been together for a few years so they talk of their homes, past adventures and what to expect in the lands ahead.

The adventurers are a diverse bunch, each very different but united in their common goals.

The driving force behind this expedition is Gunter von Panzerkrieg. Cavalier of the Order of the Dragon – a knightly order devoted to the god Tyr. He owes his initiation to this prestidigous group, to his family connections. His mother, the Paladin, Lady Marietta von Panzerkrieg, who died birthing him; and his uncle Sir Vintar von Panzerkrieg leader of the Silverblades adventuring company. Were it not for these illustrious relatives, Gunter would not be accepted anywhere, for he is half ogre. The Lady Marietta was captured by the great reaver Ulgor Skullcrusher and the young cavalier was the result. Out of respect for his sister’s memory, and because he saw beyond the ugly mishapen brute, his uncle personally saw to Gunters training as a squire and induction into the order when he came of age. Sir Vinter is the very image of truth and justice that Guntar aspires to. So when Sir Vintar’s Silverblades went missing in the wasteland of Vaasa, Guntar insisted they follow after them.

Gunter’s longest companion is the tiefling bard Shi’neya. An orphan of Bard’s Gate she was brought up by the landlady of the Golden Griffin, Tayna Maldiss, after being found as an eight year old child on the streets. She grew into a beautiful and feisty woman, and one of the finest dancers and singers the city had ever seen. At eighteen she was returning from a performance when she was set upon by a group of half-orc mercanaries who robbed her. They were in the process of taking more than her coin, when she was rescued by Arafea Brightstar, a beautiful elven sorceres – and a member of the Silverblades. Arafea burnt three of the assailants with magic, but the rest of the thugs fled. Shi’neya began to travel and adventure herself with Guntar von Panzerkrieg, aiming, one day, to be good enough to join the Silverblades. When her friend – and some say paramour – Arafea departed for Vaasa with the rest of the Silverblades, she promised to send word soon, but that was over a month ago, and Shi’neya can wait no longer.

Erma Grooble is the party’s healer and archivest. A half-orc cleric of Ilmater, hailing from the Monastary of the Yellow Rose, she is bookish and shy. However she could barely contain her excitement when she discovered a 500 year old letter, that suggested that the legendary knight Lord Bishu and his ‘Fifty and One Knights’ had not been lost in the Rawlinswood with the rest of the fabled army of light, but had instead remained to cleanse the city. If Erma could discover the last remains of any of the knights and their fates, it would be the pinnacle of her scholarly career. She needed to get into ‘the field’ and find the truth. Her curiosity is limitless and has got her into more than a few scrapes.

Luckily she has her companion to protect her. The minotaur Yorgan. An escaped slave from a Thayan enclave, he was being taught to control his bloodthirsty rages by the monks of Yellow Rose. Through discipline and enlightenment he would master his thoughts and finally be welcome among the humans. The little girl orc-girl from the monastary was his only friend, equally scorned by the other monks. When she left the monastary, Yorgan couldn’t let her go unprotected. He vowed to keep her safe, whatever it took.

Together these disparate heroes form the Bard’s Gate Marauders. They have already cleared many a goblin hold in the mountains around Bard’s Gate, defeated worse. Now they head to The Desolation to find – and if necessary rescue – the Silverblades; uncover the truth and lore of ancient times; and bring to justice a brutal criminal.

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Greengrass
The group set out from The Vaasan Gate

Today is the festival of Greengrass, that lies between the months of Tarsakh [Tar-sak] (April) and Mirtul [Mer-tull] (May). The day marks the peak of spring and is used to celebrate beginnings, the cycle of life, growing things and new enterprise. The priests of Lathander give the children of the Kingdom of Damara baskets of flowers to hand out, and much feasting and drinking occurs now that the bulk of planting has been accomplished. The kingdom of Damara relies on its agriculture almost as much as its mining, the two forces that drive the wheel of commerce in the far northern kingdom.

Unfortunately the advenurers see nothing of this, as the great iron doors of The Vaasan Gate have just slammed shut behind them, walling them off from the burgeoning frontier kingdom of Damara. They could just hear the guards making bets on whether they’ll make it back alive. On the other side of the 30 feet thick, 60 feet high wall is civilisation. Here, there is only Vaasa. All of a sudden spring and growing things seem a long, long, way away.

The road ahead leads northwest away from the mountains into the wilderness. Five days riding to the north west (approx 120 miles) the scrubby plains end and the desolation begins. The first and last “safe” place ahead is The Camp. They don’t know much more than its name, but everyone it was mentioned it to in Vaasan Gate, made the ‘fist of Torm’ over their heart and muttered a prayer.

The adventuring group the Bards Gate Marauders, have been planning this excursion for several weeks, purchasing supplies and weapons, and hiring arms to wield them. A famous party of adventures The Silver Swords have gone missing in the desolation a month ago and the hulking Cavalier Gunter von Panzerkrieg wishes them found, and avenged if necessary. Secondly the infamous bandit, Bartileus the Butcher of Eamonvale has fled though the Vaasan Gate into the wastes, and must be called to account for his crimes.

The Journey begins!

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