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Mohkba Mania: This is a Good Thing. Kind of.

“My tree is a twig! This is bad! Where did mage go?!” Tekkittir yells, hefting her spindly growth of a club—now the size of an infant sapling rather than a full-grown tree—against a nearby table leg to disappointing effect. The party’s unexpectedly disrupted teleport to Mohkba changed each of the adventurers fundamentally; while Tanhoj and Vic were used to being of a reduced stature (albeit only a few feet rather than a couple millimeters), their half-orc companion was easily the most distraught by the situation.

“Don’t panic,” Mykail says, testing his legs before easily springing several feet into the air despite being an inch tall, “things could be worse. At least we’re in Mohkba; there’s no reason to be short tempered about it.” Before he could crack another size-related joke, the half-elf’s companions shoot him a stare colder than the chillest Klavekian wind. “Look,” the bard says with a serious tone, “this isn’t as untenable as you’re all thinking it is. Yes, our blades are likely of little use, but imagine how much harder it will be for the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. to find us now? this is a good thing. kind of.I’m sure that they know the biomancer has been eliminated and now we’ve got a distinct advantage over an entire guild of sneaky criminals keen to stab our backsides. This is a good thing. Kind of.”

Stephni shakes her head, slapping the plucky bard on the shoulder. “He’s right. And Jesker—thrice damn his name—seemed to realize something was going wrong as he finished the spell so it’s only a matter of time before we’re back to normal. Until then we should be taking advantage of this..anomaly, and figure out what the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. are up to so that when we’re able to act again, we can do so swiftly.” She looks around, delicately resting her gloved fist on her chin thoughtfully. “Where do you think we are right now? Is this the Carpenter’s Quarter or the Divine Quarter?”

Looking around carefully and making some calculations with his fingers, Justahn grumbles a bit and says, “if you like I can cast a fly spell to get a bird’s eye view, but gold to bullion says that we’re in the Carpenter’s Quarter. People in the Divine Quarter would have nicer shoes.”

“I’m in agreement and while I’d like to confirm our suspicions, avoiding casting spells might be prudent,” Mykails says. “We did just get shrunken down to the size of bread crumbs thanks to the Sanctioned Arcane Practitioners and I’m not at all keen to draw their attention in our current state. Let’s make for the Red Palace—however it is the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. are planning on using those abominable creatures, the castle is sure to play a part.” Looking down the dirty city street that more resembles a canyon than anything else, the half-elf grins, “besides, I’m sure getting in will only require a little bit of effort.’”

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Wandering Wasteland: Clues in the Sand Beggar

“Well that was an experience I don’t think any of us will soon forget,” Mykail remarks with a sarcasm that his allies learned long ago is foreshadowing for something biting. Despite herself Stephni let her irritation twist her face into a grimace, prompting the bard to practically howl out, “oh don’t go and get a scowl about it!” before breaking out into obnoxious laughter.

“I’m not going anywhere with him today,” the knight says, gripping the handle of her sword tightly enough that a few passerby in Ravine take notice, cautiously stepping out of her way. “Teams of two; Tanhoj is with me. Scour every watering hole in this city for any signs of the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. and meet back up at the Sand Beggar tavern at sunset. Practice discretion too—Vic, please go with Tekkittir—remember that if they get wind of us snooping around again, they might bolt. We can’t afford that now that we’ve come so close to stopping them. Eyes sharp, people!”

Over the course of a long and weary day, each pair of adventurers learns little more than that while the cabal’s agents were definitely active in Ravine for some time, they had all since fled to parts unknown. No amount of intimidation (whether with dagger, spell, or tree) convinces the various barkeeps and merchants to share a more telling tale and with the weight of Ullast on their shoulders, each member of the party trickles into an alleyway near the Sand Beggar as the sun sets over the horizon of Aventyr.

clues in the sand beggarUsing her enormous club Tekkittir handily breaks through the door to the tavern and, weapons readied, the group charges into an empty bar. After swearing in a colorful variety of languages that surprise even Justahn, Stephni dejectedly grabs a bottle from behind the counter and steps outside, complaining that the trip back to Mohkba will take forever and that convincing the guard that they’re not criminals will be a nightmare, gradually listing the crimes they are accused of with a contempt unbecoming of her title.

Most of her companions follow suit and grab a few drinks for themselves, but Nehpets’ keen elven senses catch something on the floor under the hinged bit of the bar top. “That’s not normal,” he says while reaching down to touch the gritty fluid. He smells the dirty, oily liquid at the tips of his fingers and cringes, closing his eyes in concentration. “This is from the Grave Morass! The P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S are in the Grave Morass!”

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Wandering Wasteland: Welcome to the Scorched Lands!

“I’m not exactly keen to another portal,” Stephni says, her eyes locked on the metallic pool before the party, “dragon’s advice or otherwise. The last time we did this the results were less than ideal.” The reflective puddle at the adventurers’ feet was barely big enough for Tekkittir to fit through but something in the liquid definitely evoked the feeling of Aventyr.

Justahn peered at it, hand on his newly acquired dreamblade. “Let’s not be hasty. I’ve found this to be a most informative journey and look forward to sharing tales of the Plane of Dreams over a few fine mugs of mead.” The dwarf grinned, “and besides none of us are dead, right?” A stifled laugh comes from around the backside of the burly half-orc barbarian carrying their bard, the only reply Mykail could manage after nearly perishing inside the dead god’s brain. “Besides I can feel that this is going to lead to Aventyr. I can feel it.”

Welcome to the Scorched Lands“I’m not so sure that’s a fine indicator, big guy.” Vic knelt down to the ground, peering into the puddle with keen halfling eyes. “A feeling isn’t much to go on. That said I don’t see why we’d want to stay in Alucinar any longer than we have to. Captain sing song there certainly can’t stay for much longer…and…that’s Jesker in the puddle there. The wizard.” Sure enough—though hard to see—a vision of the wizened old mage was in the metallic liquid, waving the group toward him.

Stephni immediately, reflexively stepped backwards, raising her hands up plaintively, “no, no no, no. That old coot? You can’t even seriously be considering this! We’re wanted in Mohkba because of him and nearly died in Shlyappa! If I ever get my hands on his withered old corpse of a body, I’ll wring hi—” before she could finish, a massive reverberation shook the very ground.

“Well,” Vic says, looking around to make sure he had all his kit, “reason enough for me.” With that the halfling leaps into the metallic puddle, disappearing from Alucinar entirely. Tekkittir followed in close pursuit (with Mykail over her shoulder) and Nehpets didn’t tarry. Tanhoj and Justahn wavered long enough to give Stephni sympathetic shrugs, but with no allies in sight and the reverberations becoming more common it didn’t take long for the knight to jump across dimensions.

As Stephni expected, conditions here were not much of an improvement. Off in the distance—fortunately moving away—was a huge swathe of light blasting away the hot sands. People were crawling out of the shadows, shielding their eyes against the blinding ambiance. As her eyes adjusted a familiar figure began to take hold: Jesker the Great. “Welcome to the Scorched Lands!”

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Awake in Alucinar: The Dead God Dreams

The Dead God Dreams

In sleeping realms of shrouded thought,
lies the dream which chaos wrought,
no final battle could be fought,
against the fate the dreamer sought.

Life forsaken; divine no more,
the dying god his madness poured,
into a battle of a winless war,
an eon faded to nothing more.

Yet still, the Dead God dreams,
ghastly visions and horrid themes,
a darkened place where no light gleams
of evil thoughts and wicked schemes.

Flee now, O’ gentle child of light,
for death and sorrow haunt the night,
pray the dead one’s wrath and might,
remain in dreams, and out of sight.

Go now, and ask no more,
turn your ships against battered ore,
this sea is cursed by dragon’s roar,
for the Dead God dreams here forevermore.

Ameslari hymn about the Sea of NightmaresThe dead god dreams

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Awake in Alucinar: Sleepless Sonuvanje

Stephni’s stomach churned as she trod through the portal spawned by the strange creatures that attacked but an hour ago, questioning her sanity with each step. The rest of the group had voted however, and the majority decided that with no other leads that the gateways were the most advantageous way forward. So it was, she thought—gripping the hilt of her sword—that Mykail had convinced everyone to head into another foolish situation. So what if there were no other leads? The cypher notes could have turned up something, but no, once again the bard was influencing the group’s direction.

Sleepless Sonuvanje

I’ve been right before, you know,” the half-elf says, seeming to read her mind as she stepped into a place he claimed was known as Alucinar. “What else would we be doing? I can’t make out anything from those weird messages and Justahn has confirmed that there’s no magical trace of where the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. went. This is just the most logical place.”

The minstrel cracks a smile that Stephni can’t ever seem to defend against so she just nods resolutely, scanning the area in this new dimension. “Right well let’s not vacation here, alright? I’m never at ease in these weird places and would much rather face off against something in Aventyr. Anything in Aventyr—I’d even take on the AaWBlog before another claustrophobic minute in Shlyappa, and this place seems even more disorienting.” Suddenly a whoosh of air and crashing of limbs catches her attention and she instinctively turns to face the threat, sword drawn. Much to her surprise it’s just Tekkittir, the half-orc’s expression even more confused than normal and the tree she uses as a club on the ground beside her. Odd to be sure, but the hairs on the back of the fighter’s neck rise as the giantess stoops to pick the weapon up only for her hand to pass right through the wood!

“Do not panic,” a loud, familiar voice rings out, yawning, “your friend will feel better shortly.” Looking around for source of the deep, basal tone, Stephni locks eyes with a massive dragon, but even to her mundane senses it is immediately clear that the creature is incredibly tired. It yawns again before continuing, “it is not uncommon for a creature to have some difficulty with their bodies when they first reach the Dreaming Island. You must be new here; I am Sleepless Sonuvanje. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to Alucinar, the Plane of Dreams.”

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Bogs of Bane: Tread With A Very Big Stick

The demon huntress was a fine guide through the swamps, Tanhoj thought. While she was certainly not exactly at ease in the Amber Roads or Shlyappa, the fiendish bogs and evil-ridden marshes gave the gnome the chills. Silently she prayed to Nearru, asking the god of death to spare her and her companions once again; the last day of travel had been nearly without incident and though she had faith in her god, the cleric knew that their luck couldn’t hold much longer in the Mangrove Maze (especially now that sun was going down).

Just then the silhouette of Varssadd raised up her hand in a closed fist, indicating for the party to come to a stop. “Wonderful,” Mykail muttered under his breath, “let’s give the leeches a few minutes to get to work shall we?” A baneful glare from their guide cut the bard short, leaving only the quiet hum of the demon huntress’ dirge…and something more. Rising slowly almost as if from the water itself, the disturbing melody had a ring to it that Tanhoj inherently understood, a sort of nearly silent manic madness and mystery that spoke to her very soul—brushing upon it with a frosty touch colder than deific Arnut’s.tread with a very big stick

The unnatural stillness of the very air and the absence of buzzing insects rifled the cleric’s senses, raising the tiny hairs on the back of her little neck. It was almost as though nothing else but them were alive in the murky waters until, peering through the branches of the mangroves, she spotted something rising from the muck. At first glance the gnome thought it to be a bit of branches that were freed from the filth on the bog’s floor, a star-shaped assortment of sticks, but then they twitched as the rest of a creature’s bulk—it was nearly the width of a barrel, covered in writhing tentacles—rose up out of the water. Other figures joined it and though more familiar, they disturbed Tanhoj just as deeply: these creatures of the forest has been changed and warped, transformed by fiendish means. Even in the growing darkness, Tekkittir’s half-orc eyes spotted the gnome’s concern and her huge bulk moved toward the cleric, the barbarian’s arm slapping the gnome’s tiny shoulders hard enough to rustle armr. “Do not worry, little Tanhoj!” Tekkittir ‘whispered’ loudly, “Tekkittir was told at a young age to always tread with a very big stick.”

To Tanhoj’s horror the thing in the bog ahead turned as one with its minions and though its star-shaped head revealing nothing, several tentacles raised up to point in the direction of the party. In the half-light of the dying sunset Mykail rapidly searched through his pack, pulling out a few flasks of volatile substances sure to be needed in a few moments. “Tekkittir the saying is to ‘Tread softly and carry a big stick’, not just to carry a big stick. Is that why you’ve been lugging that tree halfway across Aventyr?”

“Ha, silly bard, you are mistaken!” the barbarian shouted, oblivious to the danger fast approaching their location, “Tekkittir said very big stick!” In response the things in the bog shrieked, Tanhoj prayed one last time for Nearru’s grace, and battle was joined.

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Fiction Friday: P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Cypher Notes

Throughout the AaWBlog Adventure Path for 2015, the PCs have been finding P.R.A.N.K.S.T.ER. cypher notes (first in the Ambush on the Water sidequest, then in Uncovered Contraband, and most recently on the person of ignis the stonespeaker) and if the adventurers haven’t yet made the Linguistics check to break the code, they soon will. Below are the contents of the messages after the party has figured out the key. [They‘ll find the fourth missive later on this month! -MM]

#1
prankster cypher notes 1

#2 prankster cypher notes 2

#3 prankster cypher notes 3

#4prankster cypher notes 4

Stay tuned for the rest of Bogs of Bane to see what precisely the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. are up to in Aventyr, and make sure to stick around as we build up to the big finale to the 2015 AaWBlog Adventure Path in November!

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Stealing Stones: Getting Lost

Rounding yet another bend in the never ending tunnels of the thrice-damned zwerc enclave, Mykail was certain that they’d lost the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S.’ trail and pushed down the thought that whatever plans the nefarious criminals have for the Shlyappa ore are another step closer to fruition. “I told you not to let Tekkittir into the tunnel first, and we’ve had the ‘no trees inside’ conversation too many times.”
Tekkitir’s tree has proven itself many times,” the barbarian yells from behind, “and there is much room for tree here!
“Well,” the bard says, rolling his eyes in frustration, “we’re not in that escape tunnel now, are we?” Stretching his arms out, spinning to accentuate the space inside the main thoroughfare, “we’re in the central tunnels again, my half-orc giantess. We have LOST the bad people we’re following—the ones that tree just so liberally smashed. Worse yet, oh wielder of tree, we have no idea where they are going!.”
With a woosh the massive dead plant swings overhead and for a brief instant, Mykail thinks he’s taken things too far. Before the improvised club slams into him, however, it stops a few feet above his head and Tekkittir points down a junction. “Do not worry, funny man. Maybe that waving dweorg knows?
Tekkittir“I do!,” the young dwarf yells, waving his other arm down a side tunnel cutting off the thoroughfare. “I am a dweorg and I do know! They went down there, giant lady!”
“Quickly!”, Steph yells as she dashes down the passage, slinging her shield across her back. “Double time it before we lose them again!” Tekkittir stares down Mykail as he ducks into the passage, which fortunately has enough width for the half-orc as she drags the tree in behind her and the rest of the party follows suit (along with their new dweorg friend).
“They weren’t far behind you,” the boy yells, sprinting his fastest to keep up with the adventurers, “not far at all! You are so swift, you will certainly catch up to them soon!” Something about his voice caught Mykail’s ear, however (the right one—ostensibly the elvish one), as though it dropped an octave. It must be the caves, the bard thought, and turned his senses forward in search of any sound of the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. or a sight of their passing.
After a few minutes of hard running the group reaches a junction of tunnels and Steph yells for a hold. The dweorg boy lags behind, but he calls out from behind them in the passage, “oh, don’t stop now, you are so close!” getting lostOnce a pleasant and melodious pitch, the dwarf’s voice drops an octave as he rounds the bend, hunched down with one shoulder high. Suddenly his arm bursts open to reveal hard red sinew beneath as chunks of bone shred open his skin, the rest of the organ ripping apart as he—it, a freakish creature from the nightmares of a madman—sloughs it off his infernal body like one would a trenchcoat.
“We wouldn’t want you getting lost.”

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