Tertius: The Rise of Magic

A Pit of Vipers
How I Joined the Dark Side

Oh motherfucking nonexistent gods, THE PAIN!

We ventured deeper into the snake people’s burrows and encountered a cluster of several unchallenging specimens like the ones that ambushed us initially. Unfortunately, there was also a monstrous snake person wielding a flaming falchion. This one creature shut us down completely. It ensnared Gherr in its tail and whacked Shamus into quick unconsciousness. Then, when I raced around to heal Shamus, it got me with its horrible flaming sword also. Two quick smacks and I went from perfectly fine to unconscious and ON FIRE.

Shamus succeeded in slaying the awful thing by breathing cold on it (when did that happen? Is he turning into a dragon?), but we paid a high price for the battle. I am now completely incapacitated. I have horrible third degree burns on my face and the right side of my body. I can barely move, much less fight. How I wish I had some of Corby’s patented poppy tea right about now. Fortunately Gherr is being very diligent in applying salves or I would probably go insane.

With me down and Farbax still tied up in the captain’s quarters, we were not in good shape to fight. With the dam still up, we could not flee. With the current being as fierce as it is, we could not strategically withdraw. That left us with one option- talk our way out of it. We threw up a barrier at a narrow point in the initial passage, cut off the head of the horrible warrior that did so much damage to us, and mounted it on a pole with a note requesting negotiations.

Well, we negotiated. It did not go as well as I had hoped. We ended up striking a deal with the snake people to let us go in exchange for a promise to lure additional ships into the cut. We also had to give up all the loot we took from them plus additional magical items (they apparently like magic a lot), and we had to provide them with manflesh. Captain Dell sent ten of her sailors. Then they let us go.

It seems that we are now in business with a pirate. On the bright side, we have the beginnings of our own fleet and we own the Cut. That should give us a decided business advantage. On the downside, our new business partners are probably not very trustworthy. I leave it to Farbax to draw up the details in a contract, although I’ll have to review it to make sure his liaisons with Captain Dell aren’t affecting his judgment.

We have made it to port. We’ll be here a while because Captain Dell will need to disband her current crew and hire a new one. In the meantime, hopefully we can learn some way to cure my current condition.

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Snakes in a Hole

We regrouped after several weeks of R and R while waiting for Muriel to arrive.

The mystery of Martin’s abduction was quickly resolved: apparently, Farbax’s cousin Rabbix received a communique from Martin Swyndham demanding the death of Reyna Hustings; in return, the Goldbax Guild will receive a cut of the elven goods trade in Haven. Farbax instructed Rabbix to sit on this, but instead she apparently was the one behind Martin’s kidnapping. It sounds like the Gardener might have instigated Rabbix’ impetuous action; I’ll have to explore this possibility when we return to Haven. We decided to instruct Rabbix to free Martin and blame the kidnapping on the Hooligans. We told Rabbix that Martin was to remain alive, but that there were no further specifications placed on his ultimate
condition. Hopefully those strapping orc chun lads gave him a proper workout! Then we sent a letter to the Ellonwyns stating that we were looking into his abduction, and we’d learned that the Hooligans may have been involved in it. I am hopeful that we can play this out so that we get a share of Ellonwyn’s business and can start cutting the Swyndhams out. A part of me wanted to just let Martin rot, but I’m not finished with him yet and the cost of that would be the loss of the Ellonwyn trade.

In the past few weeks, Shamus has undergone a bit of a transformation. His former disturbingly red eyes are now a much more pleasing ice blue. However, it seems that he cannot remove Nonce’s dragon orb. If that is so, then we can’t dump it in the volcano for Orobeo whether we want to or not, so he’ll just have to get over that. However, this transformation merits close observation. Is he transforming or getting possessed? Time will tell, I suppose.

Gherr went somewhere, but won’t say where, and his face is now covered in tattoos. I wonder whether they mean anything?

We travelled to the coast, encountering a strange three headed beast along the way that we were required to slay. One of the heads was a goat, but nobody seems to know why. Farbax said it was a ‘chimera’, and was the result of stray magical energies or maybe magical experiments gone wrong. It was a technical discussion and I got bored so I stopped listening.

When we arrived at the coast, Red Mary went slumming and found us a captain willing to brave The Cut. Her name is Captain Dell and she seems to run a pirate ship. This should be interesting. We engaged her to take us to Haven via The Cut for 150 gp per passenger, with a stop at the Isles for ‘a suitable prize’. I wonder if the Swyndhams have their own merchant ships, and if so do they sail to the Isles? Maybe I can find out…..

It seems that Captain Dell and Farbax had a tryst, and the next day Farbax was walking funny. I wonder if he would have liked Peg Leg Annie back at the Cage.

Anyway, we sailed into the cut, which was terrifying and completely pitch black so Gherr and I sat in the middle of the ship and drank rum. It seemed like the best coping strategy. Our journey came to an abrupt and alarming halt, however, when we ran into a dam thrown across the channel. Then we were shot at by a group of odd archers on a ledge 20 ft up. They seemed to be at least partially elves, but also
seemed kind of snakey. I flew up there while everybody else shot at them from below. Apparently nobody can climb. I think I killed all of them, or maybe Shamus got a couple. There is a cave complex leading back from the ledge from which the archers attacked us, so we began exploring it while the pirate crew makes repairs to the vessel. The dams are wooden barricades filled with rock, and there is more than one of them in the cut, so we need to find a way to dump the rock before we can proceed. It seems that the snake elves have set up an ambush here so they can pick off ships braving The Cut.

Anyway, we ran into more foes, behaving in a truly odd way stripping corpses of flesh and so forth, and were required to put them down as well. It seems that they eat the hapless crews that they capture as well as looting their ships of booty. These were even more snakelike, much like a cross between a snake and an elf, and have a very nasty bite. So now we will venture into a series of burrows or holes in pursuit of snakes. What could possibly go wrong?

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Last Feast of Nonce (date unknown)

Oh, what a tangled web we are enmeshed in!

The evening started out pleasantly enough. Orobeo provided us with a very fine dinner of braised polar eel and Starshine Chardonnay. Compliments to his kitchen! And then he started telling us all manner of odd things. I pass on his statements without judgement as to their truth content:

• The Wizard Kings used to be the protectors of Tertius against the outsiders (apparently the giant frogs we met are outsiders known as ‘slaadi’);
• The Wizard Kings gained their arcane powers from dragons, who made a sort of magical fuel (kind of like magic dragon poop). In turn, however, the dragons fed off of the energy produced by the wizards. The dragons stockpiled the fuel they needed, then when they had a sufficient surplus they cut the wizards off from the magical fuel they needed. This robbed the wizard kings of their ability to fend off the outsiders.
• The first outsiders to take advantage of this were the Psions. The psions hunted the dragons, so they were compelled to let the wizards have a taste again. This resulted in the wizards (and dragons?) being able to throw off the psions’ shackles.
• The dragons are not nearly as powerful or numerous as they once were. Orobeo knows of only three: Nonce, the Drifting Death, and the bronze dragon (that I know as Sculptor Kane).

There is now a secret war going on with four factions all seeking to recreate or replace the Wizard Kings in their former hegemonic state:

• The dragons (led by DD) want to let the magic flow free, giving everyone access to it. The dragons also want to get their talons on the dragon orbs, of which there are four: an onyx, a silver, a bronze, and an amethyst. The amethyst orb was destroyed, but apparently it can be reconstructed from its shards so the dragons want those as well. Personal interjection: Nichelle at the arcane museum in Haven showed me several tapestries depicting these four orbs.
• The East Wind is a group of guilds serving as a front for the construct in the Shadowpeak. This construct is actually a magical prison for the last psion, named Kopf Matzherath. This one wants to drain the world of magic and bring back the psions and has promised to turn his allies into psions. Orobeo thinks that the energy streak we saw may have been the Kopf being released from his prison. He thinks the streak may have been headed towards Drakkar, possibly to the Last Lonely House.
• The nobles, led by Narfort. Apparently the Scrivener is a being that can bestow magical energy on people. According to Orobeo, Narfort is not the Scrivener, but he and his allies are controlling it. They wish to control magic to hand out to the people THEY choose. Apparently they can tap into the Scrivener instead of tapping into dragons.
• Last faction: Orobeo. He wants to return the world to the era of the Wizard Kings. He found a group of outsiders, called Baatazu, to use as an alternate magical fuel source. During the ritual to tap the magical energy, the Baatazu spirits were released from their bodies and went off to find a convenient corpse to inhabit. One of these is now lodged in Seamus, which means that, prior to Baatazu possession, Seamus was a Halfling corpse.
All of these possessed corpses are now warlocks. Orobeo is searching for them, because he needs their cooperation to complete the ritual. So far he has found 3 that have agreed to his plan, and another that is not going along with it. This last one has hidden himself somewhere in the Isles and is apparently powering his magic with a shard from the amethyst orb.

If the Baatazu spirit were to leave Seamus, he would once again become a corpse. Bit of a predicament. However, given that these Baatazus seem to be drawn to possess the nearest available corpse, and if Seamus were dead that would be Seamus, does that make Seamus immortal? As long as the Baatazu wants to be lodged in a body, anyway. Intriguing.

Apparently, Quentin was working for Orobeo. He was supposed to raise an army, not run off half assed and try to take the Narrows Fort himself. Orobeo is a bit irate over that.

In addition, my good colleague Jorn also appears to work for Orobeo. Jorn knows of the locations of several warlocks and Orobeo wants us to talk to him and track these warlocks down. (Well, Jorn did tell me that he had other clients. He is also involved with Ridderick Yates, which makes him indirectly involved with the East Wind, whether he knows it or not.)

At about this point in the dinner Nonce burst through a stained glass window and all hell broke loose. Nonce implored us to join him in defeating Orobeo, telling us that he was lying (no doubt true), and of course Orobeo made counter pleas. It was a difficult predicament, being put in a position to choose a side before being able to verify anybody’s claims, but Nonce told me that Sir William had allied with the dragons and was undergoing a transformation. He is apparently in the Driftfuge while he adjusts to his new state, and this is how Nonce got Sir William’s blade. Nonce also promised to come clean and be candid after the battle. I could tell that he was speaking the truth, so I decided to throw in with Nonce against Orobeo.
Unfortunately, I was the only one who did. Seamus immediately allied with Orobeo (probably seduced by visions of wizard kings dancing in his dead little Halfling head), as did Marita. I thought that Gherr was with me, but then he started attacking Nonce as well. To be fair, I’m not sure that Gherr was entirely in his right mind. He was acting oddly, in a way that reminded me of poor Corby. I think Farbax would have helped me, but he appeared to be passed out at the feast table.

With two against four, Nonce and I were defeated. Seamus turned Nonce’s head into jelly, so there was no hope of treating him. Fortunately, Orobeo accepted all of us as mercenaries who could be bought off, except for Seamus who is acting uncomfortably like a True Believer, and we came to an accord.

Following this battle, we learned a little bit more. Apparently those of us who met DD in the swamp were put under some kind of a magical compulsion, which would result IN OUR DEATHS if we did not return the black dragon orb to him. That was a sobering revelation. Orobeo said he would look into how to dispel the compulsion, and I consider that to be an excellent reason to go along with him for the present. He also wants us to destroy the s dragon orb, but I am opposed to that. It seems so…. Irreversible.

So for the moment we find ourselves in Prast, waiting for Muriel to catch up with us. I am concerned that Seamus and Farbax will be at each other’s throats. We now know the information that Narfort sent us out here to get, and we need to decide how to spin that to our advantage. Orobeo wants us to return to Haven and speak with Jorn about the warlocks, and Seamus is entirely too enthusiastic about destroying this dragon orb. We need some more impartial, more verifiable sources of information so we can sift through all the lies we’ve been told and decide what is really best for US.

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First Day of Halweek During Flaming Moon

Find stuff for Faulk funeral feast: Went hunting with Viola—try to ally with her. Went after water buffalo. WAS NOT WATER BUFFALO. Terrifying monster that had beams for eyes. Also collected stirges.

Signed trade agreement with Singing Spirit for wines. Two months of us taking no profits.

On return trip, fount a large blue frog person who called us “the chosen of this plain”? He had two smaller frog escorts who left when the large one died. Are we the chosen ones? Was the frog mistaken? Might explain why bad stuff keeps happening to us. What are we chosen for?

Also on return trip, large shockwave came from the Shadow Peaks. Knocked Viola out—she was covered in purple mist shaped like a dragon. Arcane thread pointed towards Drakairn.
NOTE: after talking with sailors, Nonce was also knocked out, but he was covered in silver mist. REMINDER: Nonce is traveling towards Drakairn.

After the funeral, Viola killed all surviving Faulks under the orders of Narfort. She is no longer under the orders of Narfort. She is now the Lendkvinne Rosenvaard and is the new noble in charge of the Faulklands. Sworn to Mullens and seems none to happy with Narfort, but she is still loyal to Narfort—warned us against openly plotting against him. Believe if push came to shove, she could be persuaded.

Traveled to Driftwood City. Rented a sea-faring vessel. Hired sailors to begin running wine from Rosenvaard to Haven.

Got to Prast and Spires of Learning. Met Intercessor of the Esoteric. Stepped into teleporter? that took us to a cathedral. Nonce traveled with us but did not come out other side. Met Orobeo. Said his imps found us?

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Fourth Day of Milweek under the Flaming Moon

This morning, Farbax elected to remain in our room at the distillery to review our proposed contract with Nonce. It’s probably for the best; I’m sure that Nonce would locate and fully exploit any loophole we fail to remove.

The rest of us attended court to meet the Faulks. It turns out that General Viola and her entourage of ten soldiers was also there in the room. I had a very pleasant and productive conversation with Viola, in which I learned the following intriguing things:

  • Narfort ordered Qynton to be killed rather than ransomed. Viola seemed unhappy about this decision. I suspect that her sense of decency and her sense of duty are in conflict. Eventually she will need to choose one over the other; perhaps we can tip the scales a bit.
  • Narfort engineered the initial Hooligan attack on the fort as a pretense for moving troops into that general area. Apparently he’s been consorting with orks on a fairly regular basis.
  • General Viola sports a very striking helm fashioned like a dragon’s head. Apparently she had it crafted as a response to a certain someone taunting her with ‘Dragonslayer’. When I asked for further details on her conflict with Nonce, she portrayed it as a series of continual annoyances that eventually blew up into a duel. If that is so, I wonder why being called Dragonslayer would have struck such a chord with her, as it apparently has.
  • Viola and Nonce initially met when Viola caught him trying to break into Flavio’s house.
  • I asked Viola how long she and her troops were to be stationed here and she was evasive. I suspect a rather long occupation.

When our audience at court was granted, we introduced ourselves as partners in the Goldbax Guild and stated that we wanted to discuss the possibility of mutually beneficial trade partnerships with the Faulks. This gambit won us an invitation to dinner with the Faulks to discuss matters, where we could be more candid. Although the food was merely acceptable, the drink was excellent and well paired to the cuisine. These people know their beverages!

At dinner, the family divulged the fact that, although they are publicly maintaining the pretext that Qynton is merely missing, they know that he is in fact dead (Viola having brought his body back to them). They have requested that we organize and supply a funeral feast for 20 in two days’ time, as a demonstration of our ability to procure and transport perishable goods and delicacies. We can obtain the drinks here in town, but will need to send away to Mullen for food product. The only specific requirement is that we provide the Bloody Flange as one of the drinks; it’s apparently Qynton’s favorite. Otherwise, they were pleased at the possibility of a regular trade network, since, being a small area, they have so far been overlooked by the established merchants.

When talk turned to politics and diplomacy, I chose to be very candid with them. I told them of Narfort’s ambitions and that we were opposed to him; what had happened at the Shadowpeak; and that we had been hired by him to find out who was backing Qynton in Prast, but that we hoped to turn that information against him. I asked them who Qynton may have been associated with in Prast and they gave me some names but they knew very little of his life there; I suspect that, when it came to Qynton, there are a lot of things that his family was very happy not knowing. I also offered to convey messages to anyone in Prast for them, but they did not take up that offer (at least not yet). In turn, they told me some very interesting things as well:

  • Qynton ascended to the position of power in the family because his father and brother were killed by orks and Qynton was the next one in line to inherit. Knowing that Narfort is allied with the Hooligans, I suspect that Narfort engineered these killings himself and suggested as much to the Faulks. I suppose that Qynton could have treated with orks and engineered these killings himself, but let’s throw suspicion on Narfort for the moment.
  • When Qynton returned from exile to claim his position of power, he immediately threw together an army and marched off to take the Narrow Fort within a week. That’s a mighty short time to put together an army and go off to war. His action also completely drained the Faulklands of its own defense force. Viola and her troop of ten are the only game in town. Very convenient for Narfort, I’d say.

All in all, it was a very pleasant and illuminating dinner. Now we have to plan a party and hunt down some wild game to serve at it.

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Fourth Day of Drynweek during Tanning Moon

Met halfling alchemist that knew Orrien. He was tapping a recipe disguised as a stew. Was for potion of ripose? Had us deliver potions of ripose to Lady Raven.

Lady Raven runs a brothel. Would not discuss her business with me.
LADY RAVEN IS A VAMPIRE. HER GIRLS ARE VAMPIRE SPAWN. Said we didn’t know what was coming. Orrien has gone into a depression.

Our boat out of town was attacked by Narfort’s men. They did not want us to identify them. They killed everyone except us because I showed them that we work for Narfort.

They took me to see Narfort. Narfort has seen into the Well of Souls. He said he was the Well of Souls? He said that Harbax was inside of him. He did not know about the Scrivener. Is he a minion of the Scrivener without knowing it? Is the Scrivener a real person or just a concept?

Narfort has an army. He has traveled in secret. He is planning to attack the Shadow Peak and then attack Haven. He says he will become king of the world and will kill all the dwarves.

Narfort knew about our plan to steal the orb he has for the Drifting Death. He always seems to know everything. He told me to cooperate and said he would make me the lord of Haven because he knew that was the kind of dwarf I am—HE DOES NOT KNOW EVERYTHING.

He wanted us to travel to Prast to spread chaos and follow through with our mission to find the supporter of Faulk. We will not do as he wishes. We need the help of a big knocker. If we get that help, we can return to orb to Drifting Death, and he can help us fight Narfort and the Scrivener (if they are different and real). Perhaps we can team up with Faulk’s supporter?

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Third Day of Drynweek, Tanning Moon

Sophie,

My love, it is the afternoon on the third day of Drynweek, we have just made port at the Shadow Peak, and I am alive.

I hope this letter, and the enclosed gold, finds you well, for I have just survived the most harrowing ten days of my life. This was to be a routine trip down the North Twin, and a tour through the tendrils with our posts, until we took aboard a woman. This is why I tell you to never take the water jobs Master Yates offers – Dark Sister herself dances among the crew when the moon blood quickens in the fairer sex’s belly. The woman, a Mme. Marshall, and her five companions, all stout men of the violence trade, attracted the worst creatures I have ever seen in the service of the Mistworn.

First, a giant living tree assaulted us. It had us wrapped in its grip tight, until the Hooligan Slayer, Gherr, cut us loose. I bought him a drink at the next port, and he regaled me with a tale of 10 Orks who jumped him and his companions, slaying all but him instantly, and he cut himself out. When we made port at a restocking station, some halflings spent the night with us who were taking a caravan of mystery goods back to Haven. I was awoken in the middle of the night by a large explosion and cries of ship thieves. When I got deck side, one of the halflings was captured, the other dead, and the entire station in splinters. Apparently their cargo had come to life, and then caused the explosion that destroyed the guild station.

We left the half man to his fate, and sailed on. The super tides hit, and we were stuck for a night in the sand bar. The unlucky wench took her men of violence to explore some ruins the captain told her about, and I prayed the tide would come back in and wash her away, but alas, she returned, and seemed cheered by some odd looking trinkets the group had looted from the ruins. The next day, Hell itself yawned open its gaping mouth, and spat forth a creature only whispered of in legend – a Hydra. Dragons are fairy tales, yet here was one of their kin standing upon our bow. While we wrestled the ship free from its grip, the she-devil and her friends forced it back to the watery brink.

That was but a day ago, and I still can barely bring myself to admit it all happened. I will confront the captain about hazard pay for this trip, and when I get home, we will have a celebration of the greatest gift we both have that I have overlooked until this day: life itself.

Yours always,
Badak Jones
Second Mate of the Viceroy

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First Day of Xonweek, Tanning Moon

I buried another brother—my last brother. My other brothers think I have abandoned them, when all I’ve done is for them and all of our people. They’ll see. They’ll all see when I end the threat of the Scrivener and save all the dwarves from the doom under the mountain.

Barbax has been returned to the earth, far from the threat of the Scrivener. His body will join with the earth without interference. His debts are now mine alone to repay.

Nonce was the only other one at the burial. He wore armor made of strange white scales and had a glowing white orb with draconic gibberish. He knew about the Scrivener when I swore my oath, though he pretended he did not. FOLLOW UP ON THIS

Hired two new employees to accompany us to Prast. Female human named Narita—very good with battle tactics. Human male named Gherr—strong and works for money and hates orks. Both seem capable. Potential leadership candidates? See if you can trust them with our true goals.

We left on a boat towards the Faulk lands. Attacked by a living tree that came from the swamp. Did the Drifting Death send it? I thought we were allies now. I made him a shrine to reobtain his blessing. Nonce attempted to deface the shrine, but I rebuilt it.

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First Day of Hyweek, Tanning Moon

Dearest sibling,

I send this vessel ahead as warning that I will journey through your swamp soon. I arrived at the port the guildsmen built on the North Vein just last night, having fought through the mountain pass from Haven with an interesting group of mortals. I fear my pressence attracted preditors they were not prepared to face – two of them died to a bullette which attacked far outside its normal territory. They are lucky to have one of the experiments with them, or it would have ended even worse.

Your stoneforged minion has been insensate for the entire trip, so for now, you needent worry about me prying your secrets out of him. My bussiness takes me far outside your domain, so there is no reason to interfere in my journey. Know that a show of force will not make me consider your side in this war favorably.

The mortal lords are conspiring against the thing in the Shadow Peak. I would expect them to attack soon, now that Drud is waning. You might consider helping them, though I know it is against your inane hatred of our short lived friends. The Bereft is a far greater threat than your personal fued with Scrivener. I hardly expect you to listen to reason though.

Altiui di Aussir

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4th day of Borweek, Tanning Moon

We arrived at the guild house and were attacked by assassins. They came in endless waves. When they were slain, a message from Girdleguard played, challenging and threatening to kill me. His men mentioned the names Gold Hand and the Demon of Haven.

He attacked us at his house. He had a completely golden arm. He told me that he had organized the attack on me and Harbax. I wonder if the Wayfarer’s had anything to do with it at all? Were they hired by him, did they feed him information, or was it completely different mercenaries?

Girdleguard claimed he had Harbax’s body and had it sitting in the Well of Souls instead of allowing it to return to the Earth. He pulled gold from my body into his cursed arm. Does he have Harbax’s gold as well? How did he get that power? Girdleguard was obsessed with calling me a bad dwarf for giving up my surname, so I don’t think he worked for the Scrivener knowingly. The Scrivener seems to hate dwarves if he’s out to destroy them. Maybe that isn’t his goal? Does he use the bodies in the Well for something, and it’s not an anti-dwarf thing?

Yates of Mistworn appeared as Girdleguard died. He had me fake a symbol of the Hundred on the body. Barbax and I took the gold from his arm. I will attempt to follow his body. I believe the Scrivener will try to claim it.

His public assets are going to Mistworn and the Ash Brotherhood. We claimed his private assets: 10k in assets plus magic items. [Detailed breakdown is included.]

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