Adventures of the Shining Force

News and Rumors - September, 50 AD

World News

Dom Pod Gora
Orders from the Linjekonstian clergy have closed the borders to Dom Pod Gora. All non-dwarves, regardless of nationality, are being expelled from the nation while all dwarves are being welcomed home to help reclaim their birthright. A naval blocked has been set up around its ports and border posts are springing up seemingly overnight. Reports indicate that their must have been plans for this eventuality in place for some time given the swiftness with which the nation has rearmed itself.

Queen Martine Byàl has received a vote of no confidence from parliament and has been removed from office. Disgusted with the current state of her nation’s politics, she has reportedly left Em’lemar for Granseal. Tsoi Banniè has been pardoned of all crimes and is being touted as a war hero who defied a the queen for the greater good of the nation. In response, separatist attacks have increased dramatically not only on the typically outlying settlements but on the capital itself.

King Gran officially called for the nation’s militia to arm, particularly those near the border with Dom Pod Gora and to reinforce Mamwald. He has stated publicly, often, and in no uncertain terms that any incursion by Gorran forces into an allied nation’s territory will be met with “overwhelming and unstoppable force.”

The strange storms have abated for now, thanks to the aid of the Shining Force, though a new problem has arisen as powerful creatures from the elemental planes have established footholds across the nation, rending the immediate areas uninhabitable as the land itself is changing to match its new owner.

Local News and Rumors

  • A group of bandits has been attacking refugees along the southern roads, stealing valuables but killing none. Their reputation of striking swiftly and leaving little trace has led to them being dubbed the “Lightning Thieves.”
  • Rumors have spread of a master swordsman travelling the countryside in search of challengers. Claims indicate that he is unassuming in appearance but unstoppable in combat, defeating all who have faced him.
  • A star fell from the sky and landed somewhere in the southwestern mountains. Many have departed, hoping to claim whatever rarities it may have brought with it from the heavens.

  • The unknown ship was successfully boarded by a small group of wizards from Haerinn’s Institute. Though no living beings were found, several strange skeletons were retrieved and are currently being studied along with various artifacts recovered from the ship. The ship itself however was lost to the sea shortly after the wizards left.
  • The magical barrier at the mining camp was breached by a group of adventurer’s who ventured inside. They have not been seen since and no further expeditions have ventured inside.
  • The noises in the necropolis ceased as mysteriously as they started and peace has returned to the district’s nights.
  • The carnival has been a hit, selling out nightly performances for weeks with all who have managed to see the show raving about it though curiously unwilling to speak about any specifics.
News and Rumors - August, 50 AD

World News

Dom Pod Gora
King Gyldneskaeg has been deposed by the Linjekonstian clergy and is in hiding, exile, or dead. Linjek. son of Linjekonst, has been appointed as supreme ruler. All foreign embassies have been closed and the diplomats sent home on pain of death. Emboldened by the lack of foreign response, the clergy has ordered the rearming of their military.

The siege of Wenensia ended in utter massacre, both of the separatists and their hostages. Tsoi Banniè, the commander of the Ailé Gisa, has been dismissed from his position and is currently being held to await trial for war crimes. This isn’t being received well by most the nobility and parliament as they generally feel he did what must be done but Queen Byàl does not appear to be ready to relent from her decision.

King Gran has reported publicly that no word has been received from the expedition on the Invincible. He has brushed off concerns that the ship has been lost and is confident that there’s a good explanation as to why Sir Astral has not sent a report of their status.

Seers and shaman across Mamwald have been reporting disturbing omens – snow in a field in summer, rivers running in both directions, stars moving back and forth across the sky, and many others. Berwyn Driscoll has called all the clan leaders and spiritualists for a Grand Moot to discuss what these signs could portend.

Local News and Rumors

  • An unusual ship of unknown make or origin has run aground on a shoal off Granseal’s east coast. It appears to be abandoned though none have confirmed this as the sea turns impassably stormy whenever a vessel approaches
  • Mining in the southern spur of the Verstoppt mountains revealed a doorway blocked by a shimmering barrier of green light. Work has stopped while the matter is being investigated
  • Strange sounds have been heard overnight by those who live near the necropolis in Granseal City. Supposedly warded against undead by the blessings of the Church of the Sacred Radiance, residents aren’t particularly worried, but it is annoying
  • Leaflets for a travelling circus have been appearing all over town on their own, flying over the walls before affixing themselves to any flat surface they can. The circus boasts acrobats, trained beasts, fortune telling, and the best freak show on this plane

  • After protests from naturalist groups sponsored by several noble houses, the dragon auction was cancelled as “a barbaric display of wealth at the expense of an intelligent creature.” The remains were donated to Haerinn’s Institute of Magics for study before receiving a proper burial
  • After several failed or faked attempts at hunters trying to capture the metallic peafowl, Lord Goldsmith has enlisted the aid of the Shining Force, hiring their famed tracker Elda Akkaja to capture the beasts
  • After several loggers disappeared during the night without a trace, the Roseland logging camp has been abandoned and effectively shut down, the owners unable to get any workers to stay
  • The Baycliff Abbey monks have recovered their ale recipes from a group of Goran brewers that had hoped to implicate a vintner from Em’lemar with the crime. The group of younger adventurers that helped them was rewarded with free ale for life
News and Rumors - July, 50 AD

World News

Dom Pod Gora
A young dwarf claiming to be the son Linjekonst has gained the support of several high-ranking members of the Linjekonstian clergy, the Masters claiming to have witnessed him perform miracles first hand. This has only further fueled rumors that the king may be deposed as many in the church are interpreting it as a sign to take back control of their country. Foreign diplomats are worried.

The Ailé Gisa have been largely effective at ending the attacks on settlements, often dispersing the separatists without bloodshed, with the exception of the siege at Wenensia. None of the lancers sent there have reported back in and parliament fears the worst for their fate. Once the remaining Ailé Gisa have returned, they will likely be dispatched to see what happened.

The grand reveal of the king’s flying ship has lived up to the expectations of his earlier statements with nobility from across the island jockeying to send a representative on the upcoming expedition.

The mysterious invasive mushroom has spread to more villages. Scattered reports indicate people who ate the mushrooms and have thus far survived the ensuing sickness are starting to undergo physical mutations, their skin changing to match the hue and glow of the mushrooms. Any attempts to cure the sickness, mundane or magical, have thus far failed.

Local News and Rumors

  • A logging camp near Roseland reports finding a circle of trees that have all been snapped in half towards a central point. Nothing of note was found in the center but the loggers reported feeling uneasy while looking and have not returned to investigate further
  • A man was found near-death at the foot of a path into the Verstoppt mountains on the border of Granseal and Em’lemar. He claimed to be from a village in the mountains that was overrun by the Followers of Zeon before he passed away
  • Monks at Baycliff Abbey are offering a reward for the return of their ale recipes that were stolen by someone who left behind a rotting bunch of grapes
  • Farm animals around Therradale have apparently started talking though, according to the farmers, only when they think they are alone

  • The owners of several whaling vessels hired a group of monster hunters to deal with the dragon. They successfully slayed the beast, confirming that it was a silver dragon of about 30 years, still quite young for a dragon. An auction is being planned for its hide and other useful parts
  • The golden peacock has been spotted with a silver peahen. Lord Goldsmith has offered to pay three times as much if both are caught, five times as much if they are both caught alive. Several other lords have offered bounties as well, though none quite as high
  • The missing teens have all reappeared. They have no knowledge of where they went or what happened while they were gone but they are otherwise unharmed
  • The prankster magician turned out to be an illusion crafted by Lord Covington, a noble wizard known for his sense of humor. His pranks are now being praised as the highlight of the season with many nobles inviting him to parties specifically hoping to have mischief occur
  • No new graffiti has appeared in the local slums though those that viewed it previously remain in altered mental states
  • There have been no sightings of the floating body of water since the initial reports
News and Rumors - June, 50 AD

World News

Dom Pod Gora
Several members of parliament are openly speaking out against the king, referring to him as a “useless braggadocio” who was only elected because of his popularity. Those familiar with the situation claim secret talks have begun to remove the king from power.

Separatists have laid siege to several smaller communities they feel are infringing too far into their pure ancestral lands. Parliament has deployed the Ailé Gisa, cur’oiseau lancers, to deal with the situation. This action was taken against the queen’s will who sees it as far too much force to solve the problem, especially when dialogue hasn’t even been attempted.

The celebration of both the king’s coronation and birthday is set to begin soon with a week of festivities including a visiting circus, contests at arms, fine cuisine, and a promise from the king of a grand presentation that will “change the future of our nation forever.”

An entire village has lost its crops for the season due to a strange, invasive species of mushroom that glows under the moonlight. No one has been able to identify it yet and anyone who has eaten one has become extremely ill.

Local News and Rumors

  • A young dragon of unidentified color has been seen following whaling ships and stealing their catches
  • Children’s dolls have gone mysteriously missing during the night for several weeks
  • Something big has been smashing farm buildings and urinating on them
  • A golden peacock was spotted in the surrounding fields and a local lord has offered a bounty for it
  • Teens have been going missing in city parks recently
  • A prankster magician has been has been terrorizing noble parties, causing quite the ruckus
  • A graffiti artist has been tagging the local slums with several people reporting mental breakdowns after viewing the works
  • A local wizard is hosting a pie eating contest during the celebration week with a “fabulous prize” on the line
  • Trade vessels have reported a body of water the size of a small pond floating in the air with fish swimming in it
  • A local fisherman claims to have caught a live mermaid and is charging 5 cp a gander
Onto the Mainland

The following morning, in return for the gift Hench had given them, the village elders gifted him a Tengu Charm, a very princely gift for an outsider to receive. They sent Akihiko, one of their young hunters, to guide the group back to their ship and guide anyone back to their village who desired to visit and learn from them. A few members of the crew disembarked, mostly academics like cartographers and linguists, before the ship flew off to the mainland for the party to disembark and continue their exploration.

Across the narrow sea, the members of the Shining Force were dropped off by the Invincible to be left to their own devices for some time while the ship went back to the tengu village. Not wanting to leave them entirely stranded, Sir Astral gave them a small glass orb that they could shatter to communicate with him one time, enough to send a message for him to come pick them up or to send help if desperately needed.

The new land was much different than the tengu’s island chains, a vast beach as far as the eye could see in either direction with an ocean of tall prairie grass before them, the landscape largely flat except the occasional grassy knoll. They headed to one of the hills to try getting a better view, surveying the land while Sorrowsong send her familiar into the sky to scout the area. Through the birds eyes she saw a vast mountain range in the distance and a campfire not too far from them but her concentration was interrupted when the ground beneath their feet began to shake, not an earthquake but rather the hill itself was standing up. Jumping down, the group was greeted face to face with a giant turtle seemingly made of or covered in stone, the grassy hill actually its shell.

The turtle, his name not given because he said it would take too long to tell them, was a spirit of the land and had just finally gotten to sleep for the first time in ages. He was too tired to punish them though and instead told them to watch out for his followers, beings he said looked like the group but also like him. Satisfied they were now going to leave him alone, he laid back down, grumbling about how it would be another 100 years before he was able to fall asleep again.

Not wanting to disturb the spirits any more, the group avoided any other hills and continued towards the campfire they saw. As they drew near, they were ambushed by a group of small humanoids that bore a striking resemblance to various colored hares, long ears and all. Once each side had determined the other was peaceful, the leader of the group, Scabtha, led the party to his campsite. They were a group of Coinin, rabbit folk who were part of a greater group known as the Creimire that lived on the plains along with many other peoples. They were responsible for hunting and gathering food and supplies for their tribe and were on their way back to their dens. The party, having proven themselves to be diplomatic and generally of a pleasant disposition, and clearly all well-armed too, was invited to accompany the hunting band as they headed home. They would be able to meet many more of their clan there and find out more about the strange new land they found themselves in.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

The Invincible was outfitted and ready to launch, the crew was packed and prepared, and the members of the Shining Force were given their mission. They, accompanied by Sir Astral and Oss Divinos, were to serve as the expedition’s primary away team, scouting for and dealing with threats while others aboard tended to the more mundane aspects of whatever exploration may await them such as finding food and cataloging what they find. Sir Astral and Oss’ long project was finally revealed to be several pearl earrings which when worn would allow the wearer to understand and be understood regardless of language, even if only for a few hours a day.

The ship took off with much fanfare from KingGran and the gathered nobles, its rotating blades pulling the enchanted ship aloft and out over the sea into the vest unknown. The ship’s speed quickly put the land of Gran Island behind them, laying out nothing but blue sea in all directions. Travelling continued like this for a couple of days, rather boring all things considered though the vastness of the sea itself was overwhelming.

It was only after several days did they notice an interesting feature – a massive storm that spanned the horizon as far as they could see, left and right and higher than they could possibly hope to climb over. Captain Neba Lod called for everyone else to go below deck where they would be protected by the enchantments on the hull while she tried to steer through the storm, the magic protecting the helm blocking out the worst of the storm from harming her.

The ship was battered and many of the crew discovered a new kind of sea sickness but eventually it made its way through though the storm must have been gigantic given how long it took. The captain called below deck that everyone had to come out and see this. Behind them, the storm raged as a giant wall of clouds and below it was the floating landmass of their home, apparently all contained, water included, upon a massive rock miles above the ocean below. They marveled at the site a bit longer, letting the realization sink in, before Sir Astral suggested they keep moving rather than try fighting back through the storm. There had to be more land out there somewhere.

A few more days flying over the new ocean did eventually lead to a landmass, first a chain of large islands with a larger continent visible beyond it on the horizon. Eager to see what may be in this new land, a group departed for the island while the ship waited nearby. The island had trees unlike any they had at home, spindly things with almost black bark and small, spares leaves. Growing on the trees were small fruits that resembled an orange tomato and were very tough though sweet and tasty. They also found an inhabitant of the island, a small creature with golden fur, a long tail, and dexterous hands as it grabbed and ate the fruit from the tree. Aya used her magic to talk to the creature who told them the fruits were called tasty berries and that there were people that looked like Sqawk that lived on the island in buildings made out of colored wood.

Continuing on, they also found small green and yellow bird that, when cooked, tasted like gamy, tough chicken. It wasn’t until their first night camping that they encountered something dangerous. Rampaging through the jungle but fortunately not noticing the group in their hiding spot was a version of the small golden animal only it was the size of a troll, covered in silver fur, and had an extra set of arms. According to the animals themselves, this was the avatar of their god Girallon come to gather his offerings. Sorrowsong had performed an augury prior to the voyage and saw spirits walking the land, not in the heavens and beyond like they were used to. Apparently this was one of them.

The next day the group found an actual trail that led to a small village matching the description the golden animal had given them – small buildings made of colored wood populated by people who resembled Sqwak only their arms had an extra joint that ended in actual wings. They were greeted by two of the villagers that resembled hawks rather than crows like Sqwak, or to be more accurate they were greeted by the tips of their spears. The two guards seemed as curious as they did hostile, especially when they could all understand each other, and decided to escort the group to their elders rather than to their jail.

The elders resided in the largest building in town, a squat, dark building with a curved roof. The guards took all of their weapons before escorting them inside, leaving their own outside as well. Inside were three of the birdmen, one resembling a hawk, one resembling a crow, and one resembling an owl, clearly the leader of the three as he dismissed the guards and was the only one to speak to the group.

They first demanded to know where the group came from and were clearly surprised when they heard they were from the floating island. Once the group had told their tale, the leaders seemed to be very intrigued and clearly more at ease, except whenever Sqwak tried to talk. They referred to him as a Sullied One, one who was cursed because his ancestors had stolen from their gods, and refused to acknowledge him directly. He told the group they were known as the tegnu and were the only people living on the island which was otherwise inhabited by animals and the occasional spirit. The mainland contained more people who were more like the group, though they were covered in more fur, and was home to many, many more spirits.

After many hours of talking, the group was given free right to explore the village so long as they didn’t cause trouble and kept their Sullied One in check. First contact had been made and thus far, it had gone well. Hopefully all future encounters went as well

Mushroom, Mushroom!

After hearing more news about the troubles in Mamwald with the invasive fungus that was destroying crops and killing or changing those who ate them, a few members of the force, primarily driven by Aya, decided it was time to investigate. They barely crossed the borders into the Republic of Mamwald before they encountered a farming community that was burning parts of their fields, destroying the crops and the mushrooms that had afflicted them.

The farm folk were nice but ultimately not the most helpful as they had no knowledge of what could cause such a plague, attributing it to a curse or dark magic set upon them. The village once knew a druid who could have helped them but he hadn’t been seen for some years so they were left to their own devices, which mainly boiled down to just burning the mushrooms and the affected crops then hoping the soil would become usable.

Ever one to suspect dark magic, Wil felt they should investigate this druid. A druid could equally be as responsible for such a plague as he could be able to stop it, after all. They got directions from the villagers to head east to the swamplands near a river delta where the druid lived and set out. The going was tough, the group having to leave their horses behind for the final end of the trek, but the two wilderness enthusiasts in the party were able to lead them safely through the mire to a lonely ramshackle hut sitting atop a small hill of dry land.

As they approached, they were greeted by an elderly halfling leaning heavily on a walking stick who introduced himself as Henwerdd. With a smile and a cheerful if somewhat weak voice, he invited them in to enjoy some food, a fine bounty of fruits and vegetables, dried meats and cheeses, and fresh baked bread despite the conspicuous lack of an oven or hearth in the hut. Hernwerdd was aware of the troubles the farmers were experiencing but unfortunately was unable to help them, his magic was far too diminished in his old age. Slightly wistful but still cheerful, he invited the group to stay the night rather than traverse the swamp again in the fading light. Glad for the food and relative dry warmth of the hut, they accepted.

The acceptance of the offer to stay was also to help solve a bit of a mystery as Ingen detected something unusual about Henwerdd – the fact that he was registering as a nature spirit. While it was possible an aged and powerful druid may have transformed, something didn’t seem quite right. During the night, Sorrowsong heard faint humming and caught the scent of pipeweed outside the hut and investigated. She saw what appeared to be Henwerdd though his skin was blue and glowing slightly under the moonlight. Startled by her approach, his appearance quickly went back to normal but it was plain that it wasn’t just a trick of the light, though she didn’t push the issue and let him be.

The following morning was a different story though as the rest of the group was curious as to what exactly he was. An honest fellow, Henwerdd revealed he was in fact a namazu, a river spirit that resembles a humanoid catfish in his natural state. He had lived in the swamp for ages, nurturing the farm folk and helping them responsibly grow their community without doing undue harm to nature. Unfortunately, his brother Lernwerdd didn’t share his views and felt that cultivating the land was nothing more than mortals exploiting it for their own gain. The two drifted apart over the years and Lernwerdd’s grudge against the farmers only festered in his isolation. He was responsible for the fungus plague, Henwerdd knew, for Lernwerdd had asked him to help it spread. Henwerdd of course refused but he couldn’t bring himself to raise a hand against his brother, so he simply remained in his hut and let things come to pass.

However, Henwerdd understood his brother must be stopped as he had gone too far. He provided the group with his location as well as a bushel of blue carrots that would allow them, or their horses, to walk across water as if it were solid ground. All he asked in return was that they not make his brother suffer.

The party headed south along the river to where it widened and eventually split. In the middle of the branch was a small, rocky island with a familiar-looking old hut. They called out to Lernwerdd who emerged spear in hand, shouting angrily in a language none in the group understood. They managed to communicate briefly in Mamwalish but words quickly failed as Lernwerdd shot a blast of water at the group before raising the riverbank to flood around their legs. The party replied eating the blue carrots to stand on the water and launching their spells and arrows, landing several strong hits before Lernwerdd could properly retaliate and keeping their word to make sure he didn’t suffer.

As he passed, Lernwerdd’s body turned to a viscous water before running down the side of the island into the lake, leaving behind his magical spear. In the hut they found one of the plague mushrooms in a small box of soil which they carefully wrapped up before returning to Henwerdd. He studied the mushroom and found it to be the magical focus sustaining the plague and that destroying it would kill the rest of the mushrooms. He let the party keep the spear as reward for helping save the farmers and because he couldn’t bear to keep it.

Returning past the farmlands on their way home, they saw the farmers clearing out withered mushrooms, their crops seeming to have regrown on their own. The party told the villagers what happened and suggested they visit Henwerdd more often, the old druid could use the company if nothing else.

Now back in Granseal, King Gran was nearly ready to launch the maiden voyage of the Invincible. What adventures would await our heroes beyond the unknown horizon?

The Odd Eye

The party searched the rest of the room, hoping for a clue as to why the dolls had been taken. Inside the altar they found a prayer book to the Odd Eye which was unfortunately mostly written in a language they could not understand, only being able to make out the few prayers and exaltations that were in Gransian. The altar itself proved to be more interesting as a hidden switch in one of the eyes revealed a secret passage beneath it.

After a brief rest, the force headed down the passage into a long tunnel underneath the brickwork of the city sewers and into the bedrock itself. The tunnel was completely dark so those able to see served as the forward scouts, eventually reaching an opening in the passageway into a lit room where they heard several voices. two normal ones speaking Gransian and one impossibly deep voice with an otherworldly vibration speaking in an unknown tongue. The voice seemed displeased with the other two and eventually left through a door in the room while one of the individuals started to come down the tunnel. The scouts hurried back to the rest of the group who decided to press on as a whole unit.

When they encountered the voice headed their way, it turned out to be a gangly teenaged human wearing ill-fitting black robes and a wooden pendant carved like an eye. Aya cast a spell to entangle him in grasping vines while Wil cast a spell to command loyalty from him and to answer their questions. He didn’t seem to know much, only he was never told any of the plans by the higher-ups but he was trying to work his way into their good graces. Rather than dispatch this poor kid from the country who seemed to fall in with a bad crowd, they gave him some coins and told him to go have a fun time. He gladly obliged.

Now at the entrance of the chamber, the party contemplated their options. The unnatural voice was still present, armor and coins rattling loudly as it walked around the room counting treasure. Feeling bold, they hatched a plan to send a doll into the room first using Sorrow’s magic as a hopeful distraction to launch an attack. The plan worked surprisingly well, the voice seeming bemused by the moving doll, though not entirely unprepared for the attack. Try as they might, the huge humanoid’s armor and pitch black skin couldn’t be pierced by their weapons and their spells didn’t fare much better. As it became quickly clear that they were outmatched, Sorrow sent her raven to try clawing at the monster’s uncovered eye while the rest made their mistake. The distraction worked, though the poor familiar surely met its demise as the group heard the hissing of energy from the room behind them as they fled.

Harron decided to stay behind to observe the monster to ensure it didn’t pursue and to study it while the rest of the party retreated back into the city. The party split up from there, some reporting back to Sir Astral and Oss while others visited their new friend Professor Garnagel at the institute. The former two were busy still crafting whatever it was they were crafting but did recognize the monster they found as likely being the Odd Eye himself, a demon prince of hell that was cast away for trying to usurp power from his father. Professor Garnagel corroborated as much but with more detail that the Odd Eye, not his real name of course, was indeed one of the sons of the Lord of Hell and was the demon prince of greed and lust, cast out by his father for attempting to steal one of his relics. If the tales the Church of the Sacred Radiance tells are true then the Odd Eye’s presence in the mortal realm is the source of the darkness in men’s souls relating to his sins. Whether or not they believed those stories wasn’t relevant as the fact stood that he was still an incredibly power demon and was present in the city though seemed to be doing little other than amassing wealth and dolls.

Back at headquarters, the group had Fée help translate the prayer book. Inside were all sorts of unseemly rituals for summoning demons or placing hexes or how to use emotional energy stored in objects to animate them into a monstrosity, such as using the favored dolls of children to construct a horrific golem.

One mystery solved, the party now had to decide their next move. The Odd Eye was clearly beyond their scope of power to defeat at the moment but, as long as he stayed content to merely steal, he didn’t seem to be that big of a threat.

The Great Doll Caper

The fiend defeated and a cryptic clue in hand, the heroes now had some investigating to do. Unfortunately, none of them were particularly well versed in demon binding or who could be capable of it, but they did know a couple power wizards – Sir Astral and Oss. The two were busy working on… something, creating what looked like earrings out of small, irregular pearls and gold links while chanting and sprinkling various powders over them, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have time to help.

Sir Astral determined that, given the power of the demon and how long it has been active, whoever bound it must themselves be quite powerful. The obvious suspect was a member of the Cult of the Divine Penumbra, what with their penchant for shadows, but it could just as easily be a follower of any of the dozens of religious sects known to be in the area or even a stray wizard.

Splitting up, one group went to look into the cult while another visited the arcane college and another went to try finding the potential lair mentioned by the shadow demon.

Pursuing the cult proved to be difficult, not because they were hard to find but because those who were easy to find were the kind that bristles at the idea that their religion inherently makes them demon worshipers and baby snatchers. Rather than crash a religious service, Sorrowsong and Wil visited a cafe frequented by members of the cult called The Vagabond Pike, just in time for a poetry reading. It was full of soul pain and well received by the audience, if you’re into that sort of thing. Unfortunately, despite his charm and charisma, Wil came on a little too strong and was seen as somewhere between a poseur and a narc. Little information was gained other than where to get a good cup of coffee.

Ingen and Harron went to Haerinn’s Institute of Magics, the city’s arcane college, and spoke with Professor Garnagel, one of the senior professors on the subject of conjuration and a specialist at summoning and binding planar creatures. Affable and always willing to talk about his specialization, Gagasior told them everything they could ever hope to know about how the shadow demon was likely summoned and what sort of person would have the power to do so as well as the potential uses for the dolls in such a practice. A child’s favored doll is something that has a lot of emotional energy and could be used in all sorts of dark arts rituals, including but not limited to summoning fiends. Unfortunately, though this helped build a profile and a motive, it didn’t really point in a direction, though the professor did know of a group called the Lumencore that seemed to fit the profile though they were more rumor than reality, as far as he knew. Happy to be of help for something beyond students passing their exams, the professor extended an invitation that his doors are always open should the members of the force have further questions.

Sqawk and Aya took a more direct approach and went to the city’s administrative center to find a map of the sewers around the area where the demon was active. They found several older maps, they hadn’t been updated since before the war, but they did find a promising location that appeared as a large room on one map but was missing on another of the area.

Grouping back together and compiling their leads, the party headed down into the sewers to investigate the only solid lead they had. The lead proved to be a good one as there was a section of wall that had clearly been bricked off more recently than the surrounding walls. With a little ingenuity and a lot of time matching up maps, they found an entrance that from the surface that led to a side tunnel that eventually hooked up into the chamber and found its use was probably not something sanctioned by the city.

The chamber was large with two rows of pews facing towards an altar carved in the shape of a large eye. Between the altar and the pews was a large pentagram carved into the stone floor, the etchings lined with copper and what looked like dried blood. Searching the area, Sqawk found a hidden panel in the center of the pentagram in which was stashed dozens of dolls. They were definitely in the right place but didn’t have time to ponder much beyond that as the dolls started moving, stacking together and forming one giant doll which proceeded to bash the party with its makeshift appendages.

Normal weapons glanced off the monstrosity but spells tore pieces of it off while a well-aimed thunderwave from Aya blasted it back against the wall where it split into smaller and significantly less resilient versions of itself. Now susceptible to normal weapons, the dolls proved to be little threat and were broken apart into their normal sizes where they ceased to move.

The dolls had been found, but the question as to who did it and why still remained a mystery.

Marriage Counselling and Bedtime Stories

After King Wilhelm Gran XVI‘s rousing speech, the Invincible was landed in the castle courtyard and the members of the force present along with several nobles were brought aboard for a grand tour. The interior of the ship was grand, matching even the most well-appointed of the royal navy’s dreadnoughts from the war and was even about the same size. More impressive than its fine appearance and massive size was the ship’s engines, the huge devices taking the place of the bilge in the bottom of the flat-bottomed ship. The engines, powered by elemental fire, turn the propellers while the ship itself was enchanted with elemental air to help life its bulk off the ground, the king explained. Throughout the tour, the king maintained his air of nobility but was clearly excited, describing the ship almost as a child might describe his favorite toy.

Harron perked up and asked if, once the ship sets off on its expedition beyond the island, the Shining Force would be a part of it. The king wouldn’t have it any other way, extending an invitation to any and every member that wanted to be a part of it, though it would still be a couple months before the expedition was properly outfitted enough to depart.

After the tour and the following banquet to close out the week of festivities, the members of the force went back to business. First, Gantry organized a group to head back to Beckendour and investigate the business of the giant with the wandering bladder. Upon arrival, they met with her friend Amelia to find that the village had lost another building, unusual given it broke the pattern of how frequent they are by being within a week of another building. At this point, the villagers had left most of the outlying farm buildings abandoned rather than risk people anyone accidentally being crushed.

The group easily followed the trail back to the lair that Gantry had found before and sent Sqawk and Harron in to investigate. The inside of the cave was small, relatively speaking, containing only three chambers with connecting tunnels. The first one they investigated was mostly empty except for the exceptionally large, exceptionally crude crib in which slept the ugliest, biggest baby he had ever seen – a hill giant baby. The main chamber was dominated by the sound of snoring coming from the baby’s parents, one of which was indeed a peg-legged hill giant. The final room appeared to be a larder of sorts though it was mostly filled with bones and raw meat in various stages of rotting. At the back of the chamber was a very poorly hidden tunnel that led to a room containing giant barrels fermenting various types of alcohol as well as a scattering of liquor bottles presumably looted given the standard size of the bottles.

The scouts returned to the party and it was ultimately decided they should try talking to the giant as it seemed like he was likely just getting drunk and may not be doing anything malicious. Unfortunately, no one knew how to speak the Giant tongue and presumably the hill giants wouldn’t know how to speak any of their languages. Returning to Beckendour, Aya cast a spell and sent a raven to find Elda Akkaja, the force’s huntmaster and resident ranger. It would take a couple days though so, in the meantime, they stayed in the village to see if she would show up.

While waiting, as luck would have it, the giant again came to the village. The party’s suspicions were confirmed as they saw the giant sit on a building and start drinking from one of his wooden kegs. Based on the giant’s gesturing, it seemed he was deliberately leaving home to get drunk away from the wife and kid, and based on the sample of his drink he gave to any takers, he was consistently getting very drunk. That was about as far as the talks went though as the party didn’t want to just attack the giant and he eventually left. After relieving himself, of course.

The following morning, Elda arrived into Beckendour, her expression immediately incredulous at the party’s proposition. Her stance on hill giants was to kill them, not talk to them, but they were able to convince her to translate, though her enchanted bow seemed displeased by this.

At the giant’s den, through Elda, the group discovered the giant was heading to the village because humans make the best chairs, these chairs being their houses. To the giant, houses are made of stone and dirt while chairs are made of wood, the difference apparently a little too subtle for him. Tharivol came up with a compromise – if they built him a better chair, far from his wife and kid, would he stop destroying the village? He agreed, though he refused to help them since humans are the best builders and he doesn’t know how to work with wood. They spent the rest of the day cutting down trees and lashing the logs together to form a crude chair on the banks of the river. The giant, after adjusting a bit, seemed satisfied with the chair and agreed to leave the village alone. Elda seemed skeptical but allowed it for now, leaving no room for doubt that if the giant broke his word, she would see to it that he never bothered the village again.

Back in Granseal, Wil and Sorrowsong grew interested in the disappearing dolls, assuming it couldn’t possibly be simple thievery. To attempt to draw out the doll-nappers, they dressed Wil up as a noble child with Aya playing his mother, Ingen his father, and Sorrowsong as their maid. They rented a villa then paraded around town, making a big show of buying fancy dolls. Sqwak and Harron trailed the “family,” keeping an eye out for anyone suspicious who may be eyeing them, but no one stood out.

After a couple days of this and nights of staying in the villa, they finally had a taker. The scouts spotted a shadowy figure on the rooftop that climbed the side of the building like a spider, opening the window Wil was sleeping in and silently slinking inside. Wil was awoken by the window opening followed by the creature’s heavy, ragged breathing. It crept closer to him and reached out, it’s inhumanly long fingers wrapping around his shoulder as its face drew nearer to his.

Before the creature could go any further, Wil lashed out with a spell, illuminating the room and blinding the apparently light-sensitive creature. The scouts took this as a single and leaped into the room, joining the fray before the rest of the fake family arrived. The creature, identified as a shadow demon, was resistant to almost all of the party’s attacks. It was only when a combined magical onslaught, particularly from the holy radiance of Ingen’s spell, that forced the creature to flee out the window, unfurling long wings and taking to the sky. It wasn’t quite quick enough though and was brought down, crashing to the street in a heap.

Sorrowsong channeled the Raven Queen’s power into her book and ask the creature where it’s master had its lair, the demon clearly having been bound by someone since its body remained. The bloody writing appeared in her book and simply said, “below you.”

Now the real mystery was afoot.


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