For Baby!

Chad is out of town, so Jeff is running a mini, that is to take more than one session.

We've lived in the village of Myremoore for several years now, on the untamed edges of the Kingdom of Pyreon. As Knights of Penny??? Arcadia, it's our duty to defend this village, and it has not been an easy task.

At first, we were not well trusted. Perhaps it was my infernal ancestry (even if I am a paladin), or Nera Fionn's rage which boils just under the surface, or Andry's shortness. I know I can't handle her shortness. Halflings.

But we made the town a safer place, and even Elder Arragen trusts us now, although that didn't happen until we rescued him from some rather nasty bandits.

It's evening. Even the sturdy walls of the Hall of Arcadia, where us knights make our home, can't stop the beautiful sound of a warbling Hymnthrush.

We're eating our evening meal. Andry, a halfling ranger, is sitting on one side of me, her black hair hanging limply. On my other side is Nera Fionn, a barbarian of the wilds, his loose and tattered clothing hanging damply. Even as a tiefling (although not the evil type, I'm a paladin of Heironeous) feel a little uncomfortable.

Everything is just a little bit damp. Myremoore is on the edge of a swamp.

Steve runs in. "Knights! The Krieg household is under attack! There's a huge monster!"

The Kriegs have lived here longer than we have, but their first and only child was only born a few months ago.

We charge out into the street to see the Krieg household not only has a monster (an umber hulk) standing in front of it, blocking the doorway, but is also on fire. Surrounding it are a group of villagers with pitchforks.

The villagers part away as we run in and attack the creature. I bless us, Andry gets really stabby, and Nera gets really angry. We like Nera when he's really angry.

In the confusion I find my sword is Andry's back, but despite her size, she's hardy, so barely even notices.

The sounds of a baby can be heard inside, so I jump through the window. But just as I get in, the door slams open and Nera enters to retrieve the baby for baby! and the two parents. Apparently the beast was nearly dead after all.

With the parents and their young child outside, we help the villagers put out the fire.

Grelin walks up, and applies some poultices to the wounded dwarves. The baby is clearly not happy about it. The parents tell us the fire was started when the umber hulk emerged and knocked over a lamp.

The villagers really around us. They all have their own stories, about creatures seen in the forest. We had investigated a few instances before, but hadn't seen much. But now, with something in town, everyone wants to get a word in and complain.

Grelin pokes at the corpses and examines some strange glowing sacs on the creature. She collects them, and says she thinks she can use them in a poultice. She doesn't know where the creatures come from though.

A voice speaks out from the gloom of dusk. "I know where the monstrosities come from."

Erbesy Gladril emerges from the darkness. She's an elf ...and sometimes dwarf?? and one of the Green March druids.

The druids are usually peaceful, until a few years ago when they started attacking herblists they deemed were over collecting mushrooms, and the Knights of Arcadia had to get involved. Eventually an agreement was arrived at, where herbalists require a license to be able to legal collect (and must not exceed quota), and the druids cannot attack and must lend help as needed.

We've seen Eversy around a few times since then, but she usually keeps to herself in the wilds.

Erbesy has a limp now, and she speaks again. She got reports from the birds, and the monsters, they came from the Iron Tower. She investigated it, but only got away, as the creatures wee too strong.

We exchange glances. The Iron Tower has been abandoned from a long time.

There was also evidence of a mercenary company called the Steel Talons. Some of their own have fallen there. They're a tenacious group who gets the job done, and their captain, Gale Stonefire, is a skilled fighter with a no nonsense approach to things.

Erbesy collapses from her wounds, and we put her to bed, and I heal her. Grelin tends to her too. And then I remember I can convert lay on hands into cure poison, so we don't need a village herbalist anyway, do we?

Another knock on the door. It's Elder Eregen. We let him in and he shuffles in. He thinks it is best if we visit the tower and put a stop to whatever is happening there.

We agree.

It's morning. A knock comes at the door, and Grelin comes in to see on her patient, but the druid has already left. We don't tell her she didn't need her poultice.

Oh, and she'd like more of the orbs if we come across any.

We travel to the tower, taking the slightly longer route with the bridge. Jeff is making noises with his mouth. Dun dun dun.

As we near the tower, we come across a Yuan-ti abomination. Andry knows it so. It tries to sneak up on us, but Andry catches it unawares, and Nera gets really angry. That temper.

We loot a scimitar and a longbow off of its rapidly cooling corpse. Or maybe it was already cold blooded. Either way.

Andry tells us there are also some undead and an aberration in the area, but she isn't sure if there is more than one.

We reach the iron tower. It's made of stone but with bands of iron spirals up its sides.

It's old. Long ago it was built by the Exscar as a watch tower, when they attacked the elven lands.

Corpses are strewn on the ground around the tower. A small pile of slain Steel Talon mercenaries is covered with a tarp, and there are some corpses of some strange creatures here too. One of the creatures has some glowing orbs on it, which Nera cuts off.

We're not focusing. Okay, we're focusing.

The tower door is slightly ajar, and we enter. We explore the top of the tower first, but find nothing of note, other than the fresh air the hits Nera in the face. He gets a tiny bit angry at the wind's gall.

So we go downstairs and tie a torch to my shield to light the way.

Where there was once fallen rubble in the tower's cellar is now a tunnel leading down. Here and there are signs of recent activity. As we go down, the air feels even more humid, and the tunnel grows brighter from an unseen light source.

Jeff makes some pshew pshew noises while drawing the map.

The tunnel opens up into a room, with an open shimmering portal at the far side. To our left is a closed door. Directly in front of us are Flame Skulls, who engulf us in flame!

Andry is looking real bad. Nera gets really angry, and he lets a massive swing with his weapon on one of them. I smite another, and together we finish them off. They explode into dust.

We tend to our wounds, and then Nera checks out the door.

There's a scared member of the Steel Talon mercenaries on the other side.

We tend to his wounds too, and he appreciates our appearance as he had been hiding from the flame skulls. Nera introduces us, and says we're trying to get to the bottom of this.

The mercenary says his orders was to take the tower. His captain went through the portal.

Oh, and his name is Earl Perkins, pleasedtomeetcha.

We go into the portal. Jeff tells us this section is called "out of the fire and into the frying pan filled with fire.

We emerge on the top of a very squat ziggurat. The portal is framed by an archway, and beside it, arranged in a semicircle are several other arches, but they have all broken.

At the edge of the ziggurat is a large humanoid. It hears us and turns to face us. It's a large troll.

We cut of its arms, but its arms are jerks. Finally when it strikes me, I reach into my infernal ancestry, hellishly rebuking it. Combined with that and a torch, we finally strike it down.

The troll had been riffling through a mercenary's corpse, which Earl is dismayed to see. It's not the captain though. Earl is still hopeful.

Also strewn around are troglodite corpses, which also have glowing sacs, which Nera collects. Early finds something useful. It's a cloth map of the area, labeled with strange runes.

We survey the area below the ziggurat, but can't see very far through the dense purple fog. The grass seems also faintly purple, and a road leads off from the ziggurat. The stones are pale blue, and the cries of strange birds can be heard beyond the fog. The air is fresh though, and has a slight breeze.

The ziggurat itself is adorned with the holy symbols of Fharlanghn and Hextor, a strange combination of symbols to see together.

We make camp for the night.

Earl had last watch, and he is soon shaking us into wakefulness.

Something is coming he says.

We look. Two enormous and squat creatures dinosaurs with heavy leathery skin and enormous clubs at the end of their tails are slowly trundling up the side of the ziggurat. Dan is so happy. Jess never lets him have dinosaurs.

They're clearly hostile.

They charge us, and we our own attacks on them. We all get some good solid hits in, even Earl, and soon all that is left is two dinosaur corpses.

We go back to rest.

The day is bright again, but the fog still yet lingers.

We go down into the fog, following the map to where it says "Keystone". What? How

The road looks worn, and everything is really purple, except the grass which is more black than purple. Jess hates cabbage. That's fair. Dan also hates cabbage.

After several hours of travel, we hear running water, and soon we see it too. It's a wide and very green river.

Next to the river is an enormous stone slab that looks to be floating and tied to a pole with a bit of rope. Beside it on a rock sits a figure in a jerkin.

We get closer to the figure who looks up at us. It looks like a construct of some sort. It's face is a shiny metal plate, but it looks like there is liquid movement. Behind its jerkin, in its body we can see glass jars, each containing an individual organ.

Nera attempts to greet the construct, which looks at us. Then the construct walks onto the enormous slab, and looks at Nera expectantly.

I walk up onto the slab, and Nera and Andry follow me. Earl looks at us confused but then gets up onto the slab too.

The construct reach over and unhooks the slab's tether from the pole, and then takes his sparking runed staff and pushes against the ground.

The slab moves freely, and before long we're half way to the other side of the river. In the water we can see shiny rainbow colored fish, and as we peer into the water, a shark leaps out onto the stony deck. The construct shoves it back over the side with its staff.

The stone craft stops at the other side, and we all get off. The construct gets off too and goes over to a pole with a bell. It rings it, and looks at us, and then points to the other side, before getting back on the raft. It pushes off again, and soon fades into the fog.

We continue on the path.

We reach a worn structure that resembles the "keystone" on the map. It's old and worn, and bears the same symbols of Fharlanghn and Hextor.

In front of it is a deserted camp. Earl recognizes some of the belongs of his companions, and he runs forward.

We take a long look at the temple, before entering.

The temple hall is split in its decor. On the right side are scenic portraits with traveling people and roads bearing Fharlanghn's name. The other side is adorned with murals of slaughter and war.

Towards the center of the room is a statue split in the same way. On one side is an old man, and the other a fierce warrior in spiked plate mail.

We open the left door, to the sound of marching feet of mechanical constructs. Each construct is larger and has more sides than the previous, until the largest, which has five tentacles like wilted petals. They're modrons.

By the looks of the groove in the stone beneath their feet, they've been marching in a circle for a very long time. They see us, and they form a line, with the big one in the far corner, and the smallest nearest to us.

The big one speaks, and the question it asks travels down the line, until it reaches us. The gist of it is, what are we? What do we want? We're looking for a keystone.

Jess, why don't you have another cookie. Jess doesn't want another cookie. Well, she can have one anyway.

Finally, after several moments of very fruitless back and forth, the big one shoves past the smaller ones. It has not seen anything it tells us, but they follow the path of Fharlanghn. They march in circles to travel in worship of him.

We allude to how our own path has led us here. It says if we want to pass their test, we must march with them. For a year.

Nera suggests that travel means traveling to new places and not in circles for a year. I seize upon this, and manage to convince them of the errors of their ways. The smallest of their order are most persuadable, but eventually even the largest agrees, and thanks us for putting him on the path of truth.

We're led to the next room. It's a puzzle.

We spend several moments trying to figure it out, but eventually Nera solves it the best way we have available to us.

He jumps forward onto the first tile. It sends him to another, and by some unknown process, is led to the end of the room. We follow.

Jeff explains the puzzle. Each tile counts up, and stepping on a tile leads you to the next tile higher in count. They're ordered vaguely circularly.

The final room.

There is only a circle and a sign that says "Fharlanghn rewards those whose stride is fast and unbroken."

Nera jumps into the circle. Andry and I try to follow, but find the way is blocked.

Nera finds himself in darkness. A path leads on the way in front of him.

Nera runs forward, following the path. It turns to mud. But Nera will not allow himself to be stopped.

There are hurdles. But Nera will not stop nor break pace to jump over them. No, he just plows through them.

The darkness grips Nera. He feels tired and exhausted. But he will not and cannot stop. For Baby! Nera yells.

Suddenly Nera comes out of nowhere, but as he is suspended in the air, his legs move through the air ineffectually. He is slowly lowered to the ground, and in his hand, he has a glowing keystone.