The Old Ones

Stygian Echoes
The Deep Carbon Observatory: Day 70

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Hours they descended, deep into stones undisturbed by those from above for thousands of untold years. Even the dwarf among them had never been this deep, though of course there had always been rumors.

The dark was absolute. The silence shocking in the complete absence of sound save for the birdsong twinkling of the great chain, moved ever so slightly by updrafts from below.

They passed through chambers full of wonders the likes no human eyes had ever seen: Advanced technology shaped by alien hands. Artifacts and objects of art that the brain couldn’t quite comprehend. Hints to the nature of our world’s past, ideas heretical to the entire ontology of the powers that be on the surface.

Down here they realized that surface civilization was like that of a dragonfly roosting momentarily on the unbroken surface of a deep pond, while that which is below teems with life an activity that is older, deeper, and beyond comprehension.

The Deep Carbon Observatory was a window built to look inwards below the Earth. Once opened, it could not quite be shut tightly enough, and here was born the end of all things.

Now the Dungeon Dogs find themselves here, in the graveyard of the ancients – while something infinitely patient and of even greater ravenous hunger stalks them in the dark…..

Deaths:

6 Shroud-of-Turin like silk shriekers
A tapestry lined in the thumbless skeletal hands of tormented weavers
13 Goblin ambushers, part of the tribe who followed the Dogz into the depths.

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The Deep Carbon Observatory
That Which Is Below: Days 69-70

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The Diamond Dogs attempted to rest in the caved in passageway of the ancient Dam, yet a mysterious thick fluid begin trickling in from above. Sensing some goblin trick, Joe launched a devastating fireball, blasting the entrance open and causing thick gouts of smoke to choke out the cave. Thinking quickly, he used his scroll to clear the air, exposing a squad of gobbo sappers to a vicious counterattack by his compatriots.

Despite their use of captured Rust Monster insects to assault the party’s weaponry the gobbos were killed while the survivors retreated deeper into the dam-tomb. Not wanting to risk falling into traps, the Dogs ascended the lip of the crater and were shocked to see exactly what was behind the dam:

An immense crater, miles across, draped in multicolored decaying vines covering the littoral zone. Upon traversing a path downwards they discovered that the mud was not what it seemed, but a great dying bacterial mat from the profundal zone of the deep lake, its ecosystem now lay naked and dying in the exposure of the sun. The crew navigated an ever shifting landscape of mountains of dead marine life, some of it colossal in size and never meant to see the light of day. Evidence was uncovered that this lake did not always exist – petrified forest and ancient towers revealed that this land was once uncovered, but was deliberately buried under miles of water.

The group proceeded cautiously as they were pursued by both the goblin tribe and the Crows, not to mention all manner of dying lake fauna in its last gasping breaths. Their closest call came when they decided to rescue a gigantic Roc, its wingspan forming a bridge across foul waters, its head lolling in pain as it was devoured from below by fat man-sized leeches. They saved the Roc. It was not grateful.

After putting it down yet again, this time for good, the Diamond Dogs found an even deeper open pit extending even further down – it appeared to be surrounded by thousands of ‘sun-scoops’ cut into the smooth walls of the crater where burning fires reflected light into colossal mirrors that drowned the pit in the brightest of light. Never ones to worry about what was ahead, the Dogs descended the mine and opened the pressure door to the Deep Carbon Observatory….

DEATHS:

An entire ecosystem
11 Gobbos
3 Rust Monsters
Several giant eels
4 Man-sized leeches
A majestic Roc, one of the last of her kind.

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Tomb Raiders
The Colossal Dam: Days 68-69

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The Dungeon Dogz sealed the door behind them with chains taken from a sprung trap and contemplated their situation. They were trapped in a flood-scoured hidden tomb buried in the interior of the great dam. They were perhaps the first living creatures to set foot in here since its construction. As always, they pressed onward.

Glittering coins surrounded a golden funereal barge in a chamber ahead. Kunal destroyed what remained of some mummified hounds, too water-damaged to move beyond turning their misshapen heads. The Scholar determined the treasure to be worthless – this chamber was apparently designed to fool thieves.

After carefully negotiating their way through traps, the Dungeon Dogs climbed a dark stone-cut ladder and emerged into a chamber containing canoptic sculptures containing the organs of long-dead holy men. Not content to let things be, Ash and Kunal poked, prodded, and finally pushed over one of the sculptures. This was a mistake. The remaining sculptures immediately animated and begin attacking the group. Cheeto the Wolverine smashed one into the floor, freeing its preserved brain from its cradle. It was soon discovered that destroying the brain will finally put the abomination to rest. Even with this information the battle was going against our heroes until Kristin’s magic dagger became an instrument of rapid death in her arms, allowing her to dispatch half of the walking dead with ease.

Further along, the group narrowly avoided a rolling boulder and breached the passage into a room full of mysterious faces embossed in the ceiling. Fearing a trap a few scouts furtively moved into the room only to be ambushed by goblins bearing poles strapped to head-cages full of angry rabid rats. The skirmish in the dark was quick and brutal, and soon the goblins were dead or dying, thanks to Cheeto’s keen nose and sharp jaws.

The Dungeon Dogs negotiated their way carefully through a chamber that the goblin raiders had clearly passed through – it appears that they brute-forced their way through the traps by taking heavy casualties – a fact that the Dungeon Dogs were clearly fortunate to realize. The light at the end of the tunnel led them to a passageway blocked by a cave in, with the bodies of a few goblins slain in apparently ritualistic fashion. It appeared that Gruta the Witch did not remain in Pollnagollum village……

DEATHS:

8 Canoptic Guards
2 Mummified Hounds
9 Goblins at the hands of the Dungeon Dogz, and 17 killed by other mysterious means….

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The Dambuilders
The River Lock: Days 67-68

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Flush from their victory against the Crows, the Dungeon Dogs rejoined Stumbleduck and set off upriver alongside Nebulous Zeb and the Scholar.

As they drew closer to the source of the flood, our heroes saw even greater swathes of destruction. They stopped to help a windmill full of children besieged by hundreds of giant pale white crabs. Sorcery sent the windwill blades flying into the air, along with the crabs’ point of ingress. The ladies bravely ascended the mill to save the remaining children from the rampaging crabs, though not before a few were turned to shreds.

A plan to save the children by dropping them off on a small hillock full of livestock was aborted when it was discovered that the hill was circled by a voracious giant squid. Instead, the children were unceremoniously dumped on the wooded shore of the River Lock along with plenty of cooked crabmeat.

Further upriver the Dogs discovered that something was going quite wrong with the Turbine golems. One of them was spotted staring endlessly into the mechanism of a watermill, while another was demolishing houses to construct a scratchbuilt dam, a pale imitation of the colossal structure viewed in the distance.

When the crew rowed into Pollnagollum village they found the remaining populace entranced on top of the roofs. Sliding between the stalks of blackened dead corn under the surface of the water was the witch, Gruta. Despite her malevolent nature the Dungeon Dogs agreed to provide her draughts of blood from The Scholar, Ash, and Kristin in exchange for answers. They learned that the Turbine Golems were dying…

Finally the Dungeon Dogs reached the massive dam and used the head-locking mechanisms from destroyed Turbine golems to activate the sluice gates at the bottom. They climbed up the dark tunnels to the great rift in the center of the dam. They explored some newly exposed passages but could not quite discover their purpose, though they did find a model of the dam mapping out the rooms on the other side of the rift. No sooner did they attempt to enter when they saw a disconcerting sight: Three riverboats packed full of men rowing furiously towards the dam from downriver. It could only be the Crows….

A defense plan was hastily assembled. Kunal with barbaric strength managed to drop a boulder on top of one of the boats, killing some men and causing the survivors to scramble into a sluice gate only to run into the waiting ambush of Stumbleduck and Joe. After some lashings of magic thorns and corrosive acid turned the vanguard mercenary into a steaming pile of slurry, the others agreed to fall back and avoid this whole battle.

Victory seemed assured, until Kristin noticed the deep pounding bass of goblin drums echoing across the canyon….

DEATHS:
Hundreds of giant crabs
Three children and one old woman at the windmill
Two turbine golems
Four mercenaries in the employ of the Crows
Several families smashed by the turbine golem attempting to build a dam

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A Murder of Crows
The River Lock, Days 64-66

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The Dungeon Dogs woke up to find their bard missing, with no sign of her departure. Each of them found mysterious letters hidden among their possessions, all of them from a group known as The Crows.

They set off in their skiff to track down the Crows, and encountered what Tzani Spilos the scholar described as a Turbine Golem, an automaton rumored to protect the Dam upriver. It looked weakened, though it still possessed great strength as it smashed a human body repeatedly into a jagged river rock. With a combination of swift rowing and Joe’s lightning the Golem was illuminated in the depths and destroyed.

Further along their expedition encountered a woman dangling upside down from a tree, hooded and restrained. Dozens of obese pale-white toads were gorging on corpses washed up on the riverbank while others attempted to climb up and devour Kristin. The riverbank was littered with carcasses of overstuffed toads, their own bodies burst by angular human limbs from the inside.

With much swinging of warhammers and eviscerating of toads the group managed to battle their way towards the tree, only to be ambushed by a hidden archer along the riverbank. Kristin was rescued and her hood removed, only for a gruesome discovery to be made: She was dead, her throat slit, and her forehead branded with the symbol of the Crows. Her dead eyes held no spark of life yet she hungered for the living….

Kunal spiked her to a tree while the group debated on the use of one of the rarest treasures in the known world, the Phoenix Feather. Ultimately Kristin was revived, but not without cost – her fiery rebirth incinerated Witney the young thief, burning her down to the bone.

Kristin related her story of deceit and betrayal by the hand of the Crows, and a plan for revenge was found. With the aid of Nebulous Zeb, a treedwelling river hermit, the Dungeon Dogs tracked down the Crow’s camp on the riverbank and staged a daring midnight assault.

The night sky was lit up by bolts of arcane energy as rival sorcerers traded shots across the river and the silent dead lunged for the living. Kunal became surrounded by a horde of stinking corpses and attacked by a mysterious warrior clad in black chainmail. He was saved by the intervention of Nebulous Zeb and Kristin’s stealth attack on the hidden sniper.

The Crows realized their position was untenable and they attempted a fighting retreat, but not before Zolushika von Der Linth, their young sorceress. Kristin’s pursuit was slowed by arachnophobic hallucinations, yet Kunal pressed onward. while the wounded dwarf lost ground. Ghar Zargoun the Dwarven archer eventually surrendered and even took a shot against his former allies, betraying his complete lack of empathy or valued belief in anything.

To Ghar Zargoun, there is nothing he prefers, or likes. ‘Liking’ seems an extravagant waste. Things are simply ordered in their way. Event upon event. Locked down and interacting. Slowly wearing out to an inevitable end. All time is simply waiting and life is an empty machine. Other dwarves didn’t understand this, especially when he gave practical proof that this was the world and nothing was inside but death. That upset them. He knew it would. But never why. Now he spends time with other races. It’s what relief must be, he thinks. No longer needing to write behaviors in your head like text and act them out, avoiding frightened looks. He can’t go back anyway. Ghar accepted his capture until presented with the Dwarven countenance of the Cleric, Ash. At that moment he already knew he was dead, and found it neither better or worse than life.

The Dungeon Dogs recovered many supplies, and retired to lick their wounds and feast on electric eel at the treehouse of Nebulous Zeb. As the sun rose they were greeted yet again by the thin trail of smoke to the north, somewhere past the Great Dam……

DEATHS:

Two dozen giant toads
The Turbine Golem
Ghar Zargoun, the Dwarven archer
Zolushika von Der Linth, the aristocratic sorceress.
17 Reanimated Dead.

Kristin…. yet not.

Witney the young thief.

A colossal electric eel.

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Long Live The King...
Carrowmore and River Lock, Day 64

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Upon awakening on a bare floodwashed hilltop the Diamond Dogs realized that their destruction of the great Dam had consequences: The entire Carrow valley was inundated and the town in complete shambles. The Diamond Dogs descended towards the town of Carrowmore and met Stumbleduck on the way, after she mercifully spared King Billy during a failed pickpocketing attempt.

In the town our heroes were met by travesty and destruction on a grand scale, and despite their brave efforts to save as many people as they could they still witnessed a rolling wave of death and strife. Children drowned, the hopeless killed themselves, while the truly desperate fought tooth and nail over the tiniest scraps of food. The indefatigable Diamond Dogs managed to save some children and set them up in the Ocular church, while learning something of the situation upriver. They agreed to search for a spoon relic with the powers to feed the multitudes, as well as bring the corpse of the fortuneteller to her family tomb in the North. Kunal met the Kantic captain Snail Shell Zarathustra and promised to scout a navigable path for the great riverboat in exchange for the usage of a skiff and a healthy sack of gold. Upon leaving the town the group witnessed the abuse of the mayor’s wife by another mercenary group, the Old Breed, and scared them off.

The Diamond Dogs loaded their skiff and set off upriver with new companion Stumbleduck and her wolverine, along with the scholar Tzani Spilios and a failed pickpocket with a chipper grin named Wit.

They encountered the floating sarcophagus of an ancient lord, mummified and cursed with eternal vigil over its treasures, which of course they fucking looted. Stumbleduck proved her bravery in the fight against the mummy. Wit and Tzani slowly realized what they were getting into after they ended up in a life or death struggle mere hours after departing the destroyed town. Tzani’s dreams of tenure at the academy were shattered when a wild magic surge swapped his own face for that of Joe’s…..

Further up the river attention was grabbed by a wizardly duel between two insane mercenary sorcerers. The Diamond Dogs demanded their money and moved in to collect, until a giant pike rocked the boat and the surviving sorcerer Koolhause launched a wave of water, launching those of unsure footing into the muddy floodwaters. King Billy was snatched by the fish and dragged into the depths, fighting with his shiv as the life bled out of him. Joe unleashed a wave of lightning destruction on the beastly fish, blowing it sky high into sizzling chunks, but it was all too late for King Billy….

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After this draining battle the group decided to search for supplies and rest in an overturned church on cliff-face, where they discovered the reanimated corpses of the arrogant Old Breed. While fighting against the hungering dead they came under deadly accurate fire from a hidden archer. The group was pinned down until a well-placed fireball ignited his tree, launching the sniper into the floodwaters. Upon examining the corpses it was noticed that each of them had a stylized crow carved into the forehead.

While attempting to rest at night the group came under attack yet again, this time by the corpses of the children they previously rescued from the floating sarcophagus. After dispatching the moaning shamblers they noticed that the corpse of the fortune teller was also missing, and Kristin made an interesting discovery….

DEATHS

Uncountable hundreds of denizens of the Carrow valley, men, women, children.

The Free Company “The Old Breed”, slaughtered twice.

Two emaciated children, killed and then killed again.

An embalmed Dambuilder lord

A giant river pike

Two dueling wizards

King Billy, street urchin and pickpocket extraordinaire, and lord of the Frog Fort.

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Hijacked!
Underground Rails, Days 62-64

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After reuniting with King Billy and receiving some vital supplies from the Clockwork Man, the group descended his great chain elevator past thousands of his previous corpses. At the bottom they reached the auxiliary train, and used the bronze disc to activate the controlling construct.

Without hauling any stock to slow it down, the locomotive rapidly caught up to the Geologists fleeing in the Clockwork Man’s stolen train. The tunnels have been unused for years beyond counting, so the double-decked trains were armed and armored for combat with beasts unknown. The ballistas mounted on top of the train cars were put to use in the battle, as the Diamond Dogs managed to shoot a spear into the back of the Geologist train. While spells and missiles flew the Diamond Dogs shimmied down the rope, battling mercenaries the entire way.

Soon after the group made it onto the train the runaway locomotive collided, causing a great shuddering crash that unleashed some of the Clockwork Man’s sealed experiments further ahead, causing chaos amongst the ranks of the defenders. The Diamond Dogs split into two groups – while the lower team battled through mercenaries and a spreading pustuluen ooze on the bottom decks the upper team tangled with doppler ambushes and betrayals in the darkness.

A doppler claiming to be a friend tricked the party into entering a sealed water-filled train car containing a horrific tentacled beast, which though dangerous proved no match for Joe’s newly acquired electric powers. The fight was not so simple though as at this moment Starovich returned for his revenge, chanting an incantation that burst forth Ash’s parasitic twin from her own neck. Meanwhile Kristin clung to the roof of the train battling giant arachnids as well as Della von Vayle’s remaining men.

Ultimately Kunal broke into the steam filled engine room and foiled a doppler ambush before sabotaging the train and setting it on course for a high speed explosive derailment. The battered and bloody Diamond Dogs grabbed Della’s corpse and drank the escape potion, as their voices harmonized into a protective bubble that brought upon a limp, lifeless sleep……

Deaths

Cordelia von Vayle, drained of blood by a giant cave arachnid.

Starovich, the “Burned Man”, lieutenant of Kutzunov the Geologist, backstabbed by King Billy and his clockwork pest.

2 Giant Cave Arachnids

A tentacled horror, caged in a sealed traincar.

A black sentient ooze of unceasing hunger.

Ash’s parasitic fetal twin, brought to a gross parody of life by the Aboleth artifact.

3 of von Vayle’s Lightbringers

4 Geologist cultists, dead in a ritual suicide

3 Dopplers

11 Mercenaries and thugs, hired by the Geologist guild.

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Those Who Cannot Remember The Past....
Clockwork Sanctuary, Days 61-62

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The Diamond Dogs wracked their brains attempting to move through the bronze innards of the Clockwork ruins as ancient rusting machinery creaked, hissed, and lurched into motion after ages of entropy.

The barbarian Kunal discovered his talent for spatial reasoning as he bypassed many of the dormant security systems, easing the group’s passage through the labyrinth. Joe discovered his own latent energy could provide electrical power to an ancient energy storage rod, allowing him to shock and electrocute his enemies at close range. Ash also uncovered an ancient glasswork blade of Dambuilder make, preternaturally sharp. Kristin sprouted feathers. We can’t all be winners.

After some close calls during a fevered skirmish atop massive grinding gears spewing boiling steam, the group managed to enter the sanctum of the Clockwork Man. His processes were barely functioning after the assault of the Geologists, but with the application of the Deep Energy gems he was restored to a semblance of functionality. From him, the traitorous Old One, the group learned much:

The Clockwork Man was once a man of flesh and blood in the distant past, a researcher at the Deep Carbon Observatory – an immense structure built into the underside of a crater formed from celestial impact. In their studies of the Veins of the Underdark they found traces of advanced civilizations and their ensuing extinctions, going back cyclically to deep time immemorial. In the darkest depths of the bowels of the earth they discovered the Aboleth.

“We give a name to a thing, and the name limits it. There are creatures before names. We are foolish to think they are limited.”
-Clarence the Chronomancer

When all was done and even the nightmares seemed to fade, all that was left of sentient life were the few chosen ones who survived through submission and collaboration – they became the Old Ones, maddened servants of the Aboleth simultaneously blessed and cursed with a form of eternal life and the knowledge of what they had to do to earn it. Their bodies would age yet their minds could parasitically take over a fresher, younger host. In this way did humanity go forth and multiply, their history pulled and prodded along puppet strings by the eight old ones who work towards an unimaginable future that distorts the walls of reality itself.

It was this order of ancients that was shocked to the very core by the Lightbringer paladin who slew The Voice, Octavius Bloatfoot, leaving seven Old Ones panicking at their newly realized mortality. While the paladin did not long survive her triumph, her dying words convinced the algorithmic logic machine at the center of the Clockwork Man to change his allegiance. He used his own mind-trawl on his millennia of memories in an effort to both protect his secrets from his compatriots and to spread knowledge to those who would fight against the Old Ones.

The Diamond Dogs arrived on the scene following the attack of Konstantin Kutzunov, the Old One known as The Hedonist. With the unwitting aid of Cordelia von Vayle he destroyed the Clockwork Man’s base of power and learned the location of the Deep Carbon Observatory, knowledge that in the wrong hands could usher in an age of suffering and transformation.

Our heroes stand at the verge of a great precipice, as the weight of their newfound knowledge threatens to pull them down into its abyssal depths. They have learned the identity of new allies and enemies fighting this ancient invisible war that rages in the unseen places of the world.

But first things first – they’ve got a train to catch…..
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The Spirit Games
Pembrooktonshire and Clockwork Ruins. Days 52-61

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Justice in Pembrooktonshire was under the charge of Tiberius, Brother of the Knights of the Conduit. He decreed the guilt of the gypsy caravan in the death of Jessica Reuter. In two days time they were to be all burned at the stake.

The town was quite eager for justice to be served and for Tiberius to move on, for then the somewhat religiously unorthodox Spirit Festival could begin. The Diamond Dogs set out investigating the crime which involved drunken interrogation, invisible burglary, lakeside trysts, copious spitting, bribes, and much examination of erotic literature. They eventually discovered the true culprit was the Knight’s squire, Faustius. The Knight Tiberius was convinced of the squire’s guilt and beheaded him in front of the entire village.

Pembrooktonshire has no walls, and has never suffered even the smallest invasion. The residents all claim this is due to the protection of the mountain spirits, whom they repay by choosing a Spirit Bride every ten years through the week-long games.

The young couples of highest standing send the hopeful grooms to compete, with the winner being the first to die. His bride is then sent off into the mountains laden with gold to be the Spirit Bride, never to return to Pembrooktonshire. This year’s games were extra special in that two men died in the second day. Two deaths is an extremely good omen, bringing tidings of great harvests to come for the ensuing decade! To complete the games in such a year would require the death of all husbands but one to give thanks for such great tidings. Unluckily for the local lads, the barbarian Kunal competed in seven days of deadly games, coming out on top with the surreptitious help of the cleric Ash and their blood god Macinfex.

It turns out that the maidens were not sacrificed to appease any spirits – nor did it seem the spirits existed at all. The Dungeon Dogs witnessed throats being cut by dopplegangers in a steam-filled cave, filled with baroque machinery meant to mimic a dragon’s breath. After leaving the surviving brides outside with King Billy, the group descended into broiling steam filled tunnels, getting deeply lost in the mountain caverns.

They came upon many signs indicating the passage of the Geological Expedtion, complete with bodies bearing violent wounds. Many hours later in the twisting darkness the group discovered the entrance to the Clockwork Sanctuary, guarded by arcane machines of brass and steam….

DEATHS

7 Grooms of Pembrooktonshire
5 Sacrificial Brides
2 Dopplers
3 Clockwork Automatons
Faustius, Squire of the Conduit

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The Great Northern Road
Wilds and Pembrooktonshire. Days 37-52

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The Diamond Dogs set out on their northern expedition with King Billy in tow, passing crowds of merchants and farmer caravans attempting to get into the sealed city of Flotsam. A certain traveling clothier seemed to take exceptional interest in their journey….

Passing out of the lowlands the Diamond Dogs traveled on a forlorn ancient Dambuilder road to the Titan’s Causeway, a vast bridge over mountain canyons, created with architecturally expertise far beyond anything built in modern Vornheim.

They stopped to help a young Geologist push his wagon out of the mud, only to realize too late it was an ambush. Arrows flew out of the forest while the wagon itself burst open, disgorging armored thugs and the warlock Starovich.

The Diamond Dogs were pinned down in cover by fusillades of missiles, but not before blasting the young geologist into oblivion as he attempted to sprint into the forest. The thugs were brought down with the help of King Billy’s backstab, which saved the life of the bleeding unconscious Ash.

Starovich beat a hasty retreat upon being horribly burned by Joe’s magic, which lit the forest itself on fire, flushing out the young archers. Kristin cornered one but his devotion to his cause was too great as he cut his own throat rather than be forced to talk.

Upon looting the wagon the Diamond Dogs discovered that these geologists were part of an expedition headed to Pembrooktonshire – and these men were left behind to stop the Diamond Dogs at all costs.

After slightly torturing a poor itinerant skald about the road ahead our heroes moved onto the mountain village of Pembrooktonshire, a place of proper manners and upright human folk. They settled in at the “Last Stop”, the only business in town that would serve mongrels and heathens alike, and learned of a bridge gruesomely murdered on her own wedding night….

Deaths

The Geological Expedition, 2nd Wagon:

-4 archers
-2 thugs

Jessica Reuter, the Pembrooktonshire bride.

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