States of Light

Miss Dopportunity

Amalaun walked breezily along the great hall. It was early—ish—in the morning, and for once Amalaun was waking up with rising sun instead of bidding it goodnight after long hours of revelry. He felt refreshed, excited. The League had finally sent message that his talents were required. At last! Amalaun nearly greeted a passing member in the hall with an enthusiastic slap on the shoulder, but then reconsidered. Quite the icy stare, Amalaun mused. Must be an instructor.
Up a flight of stairs, down another hall, and into a stately antechamber. Off to the side, a woman sat behind a desk, quietly scanning several sheets of papyrus. She looked up at Amalaun’s entrance.
“Don’t mind me, just here on League business.” Amalaun hoped the reference would impress. A very attractive attendant indeed.
“Thank you,” the woman replied evenly, and leaned forward to write on a sheet.
Amalaun started, then laughed. “My goodness, was that out loud? I’m an ass. A thorough donkey. Ah well. Happens all the time. I’m not sorry though,” he added as he headed towards the doors. “I spoke the absolute truth.”
I’ll take that smile as intrigued, Amalaun thought, although truthfully her face was unreadable.
The dark elf strode into the round meeting chamber, dominated by a large, marble topped table and a dozen imposing chairs. It was empty of anyone else. First to arrive. Amalaun paused, considering. He didn’t want to appear too keen. Perhaps he should pop out for a quick breakfast—maybe even the alluring attendant might join him. Then, just as quickly, Amalaun tossed the thought aside, and flopped down in one of the chairs. I’m here, I can greet all the others lack-a-daws!
An hour later, the chamber remained devoid of life, save Amalaun and a flourishing dalia in the corner. The dark elf sat, drumming his fingers along the marble top skittishly. An hourglass on a nearby side table, but it was useless—Amalaun had already flipped it over several times in boredom, trying to count the sand grains.
Finally, Amalaun hopped to his feet, and strode back out into the antechamber.
“Ah, excuse me…?”
The woman behind the desk raised her grey eyes.
“Yes?”
“I was just wondering, ah…is there perhaps another Chamber of the League on this floor? I was here for a meeting, but, ah, well…” Amalaun gestured to the obviously empty chamber.
“And you are?”
“Amalaun Melep. League Member. And you are, Miss…?”
“Ing from my list.”
“How…original. I like it.”
She shook her head.
“Sorry, what?”
“You are.”
“…yes?”
“Missing from my list.”
“Oh. Oh! I see, very clever—wait, what?! That can’t be. I was called for a meeting—”
“For nine bells, tuesday morning.”
“Exactly!”
“At the League Chamber.”
“Where we are.” Amalaun hesitated. “Aren’t we?”
The woman with the grey eyes smiled her small smile, and nodded. She pushed forward a sheet of papyrus.
Amalaun glanced down at it. There he saw a list of names, a neat check mark beside each one. His own at the bottom, plus a bunch above he didn’t know, save three—Gorun Giantkin, Korin Jiki Mal, and Hrath.
“Wait, I thought you said I was missing from your list.”
“You are.”
Amalaun face creased in confusion. With a deft, almost flippant gesture, he spun the sheet around to face the woman, and tapped beside his name.
“No, you are missing from this” she held up a different sheet,“which is the list of members meeting today. At 12 bells. On,” small smile," wednesday…"
It took a moment for her word to sink in.
“What?! No it can’t—ah schnauserstein.” Amalaun slumped. So that’s why he had no hangover. And was up so early. He’d missed an entire day!
“I don’t suppose,” Amalaun said with a sigh, “you’d care to go for breakfast with Amalaun Melep? League member? And part-time ass?”
The woman shook her head. At least this time, Amalaun noted, her smile was sympathetic.
“Didn’t think so. Well. I’ll be on my way.”
Amalaun paused at the door. A thought had occurred to him, and he and turned back. The woman glanced up once more.
“Out of curiosity, how long would you have let me sit there?”
The smile was again unreadable.
“I assumed you were here for the noon meeting, sir.”
It was Amalaun’s turn to smile.
“No…you knew who I was.”
The woman raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“All the names on tuesday’s list had check marks.”
A nod.
“But I wasn’t here for the meeting. Why else the check marks? And, when I first entered and made my…observation, you marked something down. I thought at first it was your address, that is the usual reaction, but no…you checked off my name. As ‘arrived’.”
The woman sat back slightly and gazed at the drow, with…satisfaction? By the gods, grey eyes are indecipherable! Then, she nodded.
“Better late than never, sir.”
“Please. Amalaun.”
“Yes, sir.”
A pause. Amalaun stepped towards the table, an arch to his own eyebrow.
“So, you already know who I am. I’d no idea I held so much interest to you, Miss…”
“Taken.”
“Ah very nice, a northern name if I’m not mista—right, got it, enjoy your day.”
As Amalaun trotted out of the room, away from those grey eyes and that smile, he vowed he would not sleep in and miss another invitation.
Not the first time he’d made that promise…

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Episode 1
(Half) Orcish Hospitality

The journey from Salerno to Krandor was unusually calm and uneventful, thanks in no small part to Amalaun’s failure to report for duty. Kenichi and Ulis remained in Krandor while Caedmon, Gorun, Hrath, Korin and Newt continued on to Sparka Hul.

News out of Sparka Hul indicated that a new Warchief had risen to power and The League needed confirmation that the new leader would honour the pledges of the old.

The heroes joined a small trade caravan in Krandor and made excellent time through the western mountain passes. They arrived in Sparka Hul slightly ahead of schedule, but the guards at the gate were not at all surprised to see them. A street urchin was quickly enlisted as a guide and he lead the group through the tangled warrens that comprise the city.

Upon arrival, the new Warchief – Arsalan of Clan Bearclaw – welcomed the heroes and announced a feast in their honour. Much food and many drinks were consumed at the feast and at the festivities continued late into the night at the fighting pits. The headline show was a battle between four of Sparka Hul’s finest war dogs and a hippogriff with partly clipped wings. Though it managed to kill 3 of the dogs, the hippogriff was finally brought down. While Gorun seemed somewhat disgusted by the display, Jiki Mal showed a keen understanding of such games and turned a tidy profit on his bets.

The following morning the heroes were called to Arsalan’s council chambers to argue their case. Arsalan seemed to favour the League, but most of the council spoke out strongly against it. Caedmon showed his mastery of language, handily dispatching one naysayer after another and securing Arsalan’s pledge after less than an hour of debate. The heroes left the city not only with the pledge they were sent to renew, but with two fine warriors and a chest of treasure for the League.

The return trip to Krandor was complicated by an ambush. A pack of war dogs supported by archers began the assault and they were quickly joined by three powerful melee combatants, including a mighty war captain. The warriors bore the colours and weapons of Clan Bearclaw, but Hrath noted that they were not true members of that clan.

Just as things began to grow desperate, Gorun called upon the spirits of the earth to shield his comrades. His gesture granted enough time for the heroes to turn the ambush back upon the attackers. The archers turned and fled as soon as they saw the captain fall…

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Skraeling Diplomacy

After the snarling jaws of the hounds, the thrumming of bowstring, after the snaggle axed human fell. Jiki Mal, watches the archer retreat. Eyes flicking quickly he takes in the scene.
Lush green forest filled with death and arrows.
Four dead, including one of their own.
Hacked and maimed bodies of the dogs litter the trail between him and the caravan. Aside from some minor arrow wounds the merchants seem to have survived unscathed. He turns and focuses on the fleeing bowmen. Three of them, fleeing through the underbrush, and none of his companions seriously injured.

“Caedmon, see to the wounded. Gorun, Newt, Hrath with me!”

With that he races after the enemy. Gorun throws a exasperated look at Newt and launches after Jiki Mal on thick stony legs. Newt and Hrath quickly follow suit, and soon the four of them have subdued the panicked warriors, albeit slightly more worse for wear. The three prisoners are on their knees, as the captors stand behind them and Jiki Mal paces silently back and forth in front of them. In a measured voice he addresses them.

“You are now our captives, By the laws of my land you are now chattel, I may do with you as I please. Were we in Shibi Mal Tan you would be sold to the arena and die for the crowd. You are lucky my colleges and I do not see eye to eye on slavery and you are not in my lands.”

He stops with his back to them, and waits for several beats before again talking to the hunched prisoners. His voice takes on power as he steadily speaks.

“I give you the offer to tell us what you know about who sent you, and i give you my word i will not harm you. Don not tell us what you know or lie to us, and……..”

There is a whisper of cotton robe against chain, and a blur of motion. Suddenly the middle captive grunts as Jiki Mal’s wakizashi sits embedded deep in his shoulder. His face turned suddenly feral, fangs barred, eyes dead, inches from the writhing man’s face.

“Hands width to the right. Your blade pierced heart beats no more. For now you will live, provided you tell me what I want to know.”

With fluid grace, he dislodges his weapon from the half-orc’s shoulder, wipes it clean on the tattered hem of his robe before sheathing it in his waistband, and steps back waiting……..

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Debating Barbarians...

I can’t believe it has taken The League a month to find some lackeys to escort me to Sparka Hul. But at least they all look competent enough… Although it was a little unnerving to see Korin Jiki Mal again. He didn’t seem to recognize me, or if he did his face never broke from that typical Shibi Mal Tan smugness. The journey to Sparka Hul was uneventful and seeing the city for the first time was quite interesting. The brawls, horrible design and general chaos really makes me wonder how this city has lasted this long, or why we are even bothering trading with these thugs. But I guess they would make good stock for The Leagues infantry. Upon arrival, Arsalan of Clan Bearclaw gave us a feast befitting of someone of my status, and the games afterwords were an unexpected treat. I expect that greetings like this will become commonplace as word of my standing within The League continues to spread. After the pleasantries were dispensed we got on to what I was sent here for, me debating a room of barbarians. Not exactly as prestigious of a mission as I would have hoped but it was amusing at least. The unsettled murmurs and looks of discomfort/anger caused by the mere mention of magic was enough on its own to make the trip worth it, but even after that they knew they couldn’t best me, so the barbarians relented and Arsalan renewed his vows to The League. Now back to Salerno where I hope they give us something a little more worthy of legend.

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Episode 2
A Hero Falls

The heroes met with Brogia in Krandor and receive their next assignment. Ulis, Kenichi, Gorun, Caedmon and Jiki Mal were charged with investigating the unusually high number of attacks on trading vessels on the route between Eulyptus and Krandor. Each city has been accusing the other of aggression and The League is concerned it could escalate into open conflict.

They secured a League-owned trading vessel and set themselves up as bait for the source of the attacks. Within a few days they got attacked by a strange pirate vessel. The enemy ship was covered in spikes, blades, bodies and blood (or perhaps red paint). They made their intent obvious immediately by attacking without a single call for surrender. Apparently they intended to capture the ship intact, as they didn’t fire any of their heavy weapons.

Eager to prove his worth, Kenichi mumbled something about lines of sight and climbed to the crow’s nest in the first moments of the conflict. His position did provide him with an excellent view, but it also exposed him to the heavy crossbows of the pirate crew. Kenichi’s robes were little use against the heavy projectiles and he was knocked from the crow’s nest to his death within a few seconds of reaching his perch.

The remainder of the battle was tough but ultimately favored the heroes. Ulis and Jiki Mal demonstrated their athletic prowess by leaping back and forth between the vessels in pursuit of the most problematic enemies. While Jiki Mal did spend a little time swimming, he didn’t fall until well after the conclusion of the combat was inevitable. The pirate captain, recognizing that he had brought his crew into a trap, chose to betray his last minion and surrendered.

Though Ulis scoffed at such a contradiction of nature, Jiki Mal and the others insisted on preserving Kenichi’s body in the hopes that the League will pay for him to be raised.

Thanks to some effective bad-cop worse-cop interrogation techniques, the half-elven pirate captain proves to be a good source of information. Apparently he was hired by an unknown figure in Krandor to attack any and all ships he could find on the trade route from Krandor to Eulyptus. He also provided directions to the pirates den north of Krandor in the hopes that the heroes would take him to Ulan Bator. Whether they honour that request remains to be seen.

Ulis piloted the enemy vessel back to Krandor where the group decided the best course of action was an overland assault on the pirate stronghold.

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Episode 3
Swampward Bound

The heroes had a brief meeting with Brogia in Krandor where they were mildly scolded for not being careful with their mage – those don’t grow on trees ya’know. She accepted their overland assault plan but advised stealth and reconnaissance before engagement.

Arrangements were made for teamsters to look after the horses and wagon while the combatants proceeded into the swamp they believed to contain the pirate lair. As expected, travel through the swamp was challenging, but Ulis and Newt eased the passage somewhat with their nature lore.

Redknife’s directions were proven accurate a few hours after entering the swamp when the heroes encountered a small group of brigands bearing tattoos similar to those of the pirates. Despite some heavy damage suffered by Gorun and Jiki Mal the brigands were overcome and, thanks to some guidance from Ulis, none escaped to raise the alarm.

The swamp grew denser and more foul as they proceeded. Their path was further complicated by an ambush by one of the non-pirate residents. A river hag had set a series of traps and ensorcelled a stagnant pond in the hopes of gathering some dinner. She proved no match for the heroes, however, and Caedmon rebuffed her attempts at parley with a blast of magically enhanced sound that shattered her already damaged skull.

After many hours of slogging, the group finally located the pirate base and got set up to begin final reconnaissance and planning.

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Episode 4
Stealth Schmealth

While Caedmon and Gorun dealt with a shift in personnel, Ulis moved forward to examine the pirate camp. His inexperience in traveling through swamps showed itself, however, and he was detected before he could gather much information. It appeared that the camp was garrisoned by about a dozen pirates, including a tiefling spellcaster and several archers.

Hrath joined the group and they decided to try and lure the pirates into an ambush. They recovered several traps from the lair of the hag they had slain and, after resting until well into the night, they sent Ulis in to stir things up. The plan called for Ulis to set the pirate’s huts on fire with flaming arrows. He was partially successful, but unfortunately, he was detected while on the opposite side of the camp from his companions. The first moments of the ensuing melee were chaotic and things were looking desperate until the heroes managed to unite their forces. While Gorun and Hrath weathered the worst of the pirate’s attacks, Ulis charged into battle and felled the tiefling in a flurry of axe-strikes. Caedmon’s healing magic kept the group on their feet and soon the tide was turned.

A few of the archers managed to escape, however, and they returned in force. Longblade, the leader of the pirates, lead a large group up from the cove Ulis had noticed earlier. The heroes fell back to their ambush position, hoping to even the odds by luring their foes into the hag’s traps. Longblade was not one to make such a tactical blunder, and he held his men back while hurling taunts at the heroes.

An experienced raider, Hrath quickly recognized the opportunity being presented. The group was able to skirt the burning camp and make their way down to the cove where the pirate ships were docked. The heroes quickly overcame the cowardly guards left on the ships and, thanks to Ulis’s abilities as a sailor, they were soon guiding the vessels out of the secluded cove. As they rounded the point, they looked back to see Longblade and his men reach the dock. The pirate commander’s furious cries echoed across the water; but he was too late.

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Episode 5
The Package

Caedmon, Ulis and Jiki Mal joined Kenichi at the Krandor safe house in response to a Sending. Brogia kept the briefing… brief.

Groups associated with the pirates were moving a “package” out of the city. The League wasn’t sure what the package was, but they were intent on keeping it out of the hands of the pirates.

The mission priorities:
1. Prevent the package from leaving Krandor.
2. If possible, return the package to The League.

The only lead they had to work with was a name: Akrosios. A common enough name in Krandor, but at least it provided a starting place.

The docks seemed like a logical place to begin a search for pirates, and the heroes soon found themselves on a tour of the dockside taverns. While Ulis followed up several promising leads, Caedmon’s bardic abilities proved critical and the rest of the group also managed to find some useful information.

Their search lead them to a sleazy area near the northern city wall. Kenichi spotted a potential aggressor almost immediately and chose to take no chances, opening the conflict by blasting a crossbowman off a nearby rooftop. With diplomacy no longer an option, the rest of the group jumped into action and they were soon embroiled in a chaotic street battle.

The street battle lead into the cellar of a nearby house, where the heroes discovered another group of enemies to contend with. Even after Kenichi’s fireball evened the odds a bit, the bad guys were tough to deal with. Jiki Mal was felled by a treacherous rogue and Kenichi was nearly consumed by a swarm of shit piranhas when he fell into a sewer channel. In the end, however, the heroes were triumphant and Ulis just managed to capture and subdue the gnome they believe is Akrosios.

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Meanwhile, on another part of the Island...

Events that have occurred with Amalaun while awaiting his first mission:

Made a number of contacts within the city, ranging from barkeeps to barons. Most particularly he has become acquainted with one Mauvais, a fellow whose activities within the city are decidedly less than lawful…

While hanging around the League headquarters, took to playing chess with an elderly advisor, Aristophilan. The dark elf has also managed to upgrade his living situation.

Has used the name of the League somewhat wantonly to gain access to several high society functions. At one dinner party, he became thoroughly intrigued by the host’s stunning consort. In addition to being utterly distant—his attempt at conversation was soundly rebuffed—she radiated a familiar energy. Later that night, much later, the debauched party now down to the thoroughly depraved or the incredibly resilient, Amalaun fawned barely conscious inebriation, to avoid both notice and exile from the party—if you passed out, you were trundled into your carriage by the servants and sent home. Amalaun kept an eye on the host and his mysterious escort while maintaining a drunken, barely discernable running monologue.
Seeing them retire to the upper chambers, Amalaun managed to follow undetected. The host lead his companion along a number of twisting corridors to, finally, a door at the end of a short hall. He unlocked the door, escorted the woman inside, then almost immediately returned to the hall, forcing Amalaun to dive back around the corner. He locked the door and left.
The door proved only a small challenge to Amalaun. He quickly slipped inside…
…into a open courtyard with a single, white ash tree in the centre.
No exits. No sign of the woman…

Has tried tutoring a couple of classes in magic, at the request of the league. Hated it, except for the day he spent crawling around the cellar with a particularly talented young boy, taking turns blowing up rats with chaos bolts.

Met some clerics of the All church. Despite his standing as a League member, they were dismissive of his magical abilities, once told. Amaulaun turned to acidic sycophancy, both managing to flatter and insult at the same time. They were left unsure of their superiority.

And, finally…

Amalaun’s first mission.

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Episode 6
Down the Rabbit Hole

Akrosios quickly yielded to the expert interrogation techniques employed by The League. The morning after the successful interception, Brogia called Gorun, Hrath, Kenichi and Ulis into the briefing room and informed them that the “package” was a vellum scroll that contained a ritual of opening.

With Kenichi’s assistance, Keiji, the League’s local arcane consultant, was able to determine the location the scroll was keyed to – a spot along the coast, north of Krandor.

The heroes decided to travel overland and they were able to reach the location in half a day’s travel. The ritual easily yielded to Kenichi’s arcane prowess and they were soon watching earth and stone melt away from the cliffside to reveal a cave mouth.

With Gorun in the lead, the party proceeded into the cave, where they woke several swarms of nasty, bloodsucking stirges. They pushed further into the cave where they were able to bottleneck the swarms and thereby minimize the damage suffered.

Unfortunately, the stirges weren’t the only occupants of the cave. While Hrath and Kenichi dealt with the bugs, the rest of the group engaged several archers, a tiefling sorcerer and the largest half-orc any of them had ever seen. The half-orc proved to be a shapechanger who eventually dropped the massive maul he was wielding as he changed into a boar. The combination of serrated tusks, crossbow bolts and balefire took their toll on the heroes, and only Kenichi avoided falling unconscious.

Thankfully, Gorun’s toughness and ability to channel natural energy into healing (along with some well-timed first aid) kept enough of the group on their feet to defeat the half-orc and all the crossbowmen.

The tiefling’s resolve collapsed when Ulis’ axes cleaved the head from the wereboar and he fled down the long hallway into the darkness. Battered and spent, the group decided to recuperate before giving chase.

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