The Kingmaker

"Enter the Stolen Lands, a wilderness claimed by nobles, bandits, and beasts alike. Into this territory the fractious country of Brevoy sends its emissaries, tasking them with subduing the lawless folk and deadly creatures that have made it a realm of savagery and shame. Beyond the last rugged frontier stretches the home of voracious monsters, capricious fey, wily natives, and bandits who bow to the rule of a merciless lord none dare defy. Can the PCs survive the Stolen Lands, bring their dangers to heel, and lay the foundations of a new kingdom? Or will they just be one more fateful band, lost forever to the ravenous wilds?"

The Stolen Lands, a wild lawless place awaiting the hand of strong justice. A politically ambiguous place where many parties vie for control. Into this cauldron of woe walk five heroes-in-the-making to create their own nation. Patriots—but to what cause?

Kingmaker is a Pathfinder Adventure Path role playing game published by Paizo Publishing under the terms of the Open Game License. It provides a rich backdrop for a group of pioneers as they attempt to bring civilization to a wild, untrammeled land. This website is not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by Paizo Publishing.

This blog represents the letters of one of these characters, Marquand, a bitter, righteous man—an Inquisitor defending his faith in the deity Erastil against all the enemies of civilization.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Map of the P.U.R.K. as of Letter Nine

Map Legend for P.U.R.K.

1. Explored*—Barbarian’s cairn
2. Explored—Empty
3. Explored—Trap-filled glade
4. Explored—Empty
5. Explored*—Oleg’s Trading Post
6. Explored*—Bokken’s Hut—Farm
7. Explored—Empty
8. Explored—Empty
9. Explored—Dead trapper
10. Explored*—Tyg Titter-Tut & Pervilash
11. Explored*—Radish patch
12. Explored—Trapdoor spider nest (defeated)—Farm
13. Explored—Empty—Farm
14. Explored—Empty
15. Explored—Frog pond at springs that feed the skunk (defeated)
16. Explored*—Temple of the Elk (tended by Jhod Kavken)
17. Explored*—Thorn River Camp (Staglord’s bandits) (defeated)—Bridge
18. Explored*—Gold mine (Resource)—Farm
19. Explored—Forgotten cache—Farm
20. Explored—Empty
21. Explored*—Statue of Erastil
22. Explored*—Boggard lair (Garuum and his pet slurk, Ubagub)
23. Explored—Tuskgutter’s lair (defeated)
24. Explored—Empty—Bridge
25. Explored*—Old sycamore tree, Mites (defeated)—Farm
26. Explored—Nettle’s Crossing—Bridge/Farm
27. Explored*—dead unicorn
28. Explored—Tatzlwyrm den (defeated)—Bridge
29. Explored—Trapped thylacine (defeated)
30. Explored*—Fangberry thicket
31. Explored—Empty—Bridge/Farm
32. Explored*—Sootscale kobolds—silver mine (Resource)—Farm
33. Explored—Empty
34. Explored*—Grove of Tiressia (forest nymph) & satyr Falchos
35. Explored*—Coachwood trees (Resource)
36. Explored—Empty—Jubilost Narthropple
37. Explored*—TUSKLAND, capital of the P.U.R.K.—former hideout of Staglord—Bridge
38. Explored—Howl-of-the-North-Wind, a worg (defeated)—Farm
39. Explored*—Lonely barrow (defeated)—Farm
41. Explored—Empty—former lair of a scythe tree (defeated)
42. Home of mad hermit (according to Old Beldame)
43. Explored*—Old Beldame (i.e. the swamp witch)
44. Explored—Old Crackjaw (defeated)—Farm
45. Explored—Empty—Bridge
48. Explored*—Lizardfolk encampment (defeated)
49. Explored*—Candlemere Tower (infested with will ‘o wisps)
50. Explored*—Mud bowl (former lair of tendriculos) (defeated) (Resource)
51. Explored—Empty
52. Rumored troll lair (according to Munguk’s map)
56. Explored—Empty (defeated the hill giant Munguk)
57. Explored—Abandoned ferry station—Bridge

Thanks to Juan Franela

Friday, July 29, 2011

Letter Nine--Justice Received

“A ferocious worg stalks the KamelandsI” began the notice posted to Tuskland’s News Bureau—a huge tree felled in the days of the Stag Lord. “. . . and he’s been eating bandits and hunters for years.” Another monster for us to fight, dear Erastil, your world seems full with them. My eyes hurry to the bottom of the missive. “The kingdom approves a reward of 1,200 gp to the heroes who slay Howl-of-the-North-Wind.”

They’re singing our song.

Another poster stated: “A local herbalist has found that the sap of a shambling mound works wonders for cultivating certain medicinal herbs. 600gp for the sap, along with 3 potions of cure moderate wounds."

I walked down to where we were celebrating the opening of our new Municipal Community Public Library (MCPL). Featured speaker at the event was an artist named Trinia Sabor from Korvosa. (I know you attended her workshop.) She sang the long, sad ballad that’s sweeping Avistan right now, Sneffles y Cordobles. Let this cautionary tale be a lesson to you, Pino, to never let your reach exceed your grasp. I admit that, beside the central tragedy, the story is very amusing, especially her description of the angry cross-dressing halfling known as Finarfin/Findis. Another lesson for you, dear girl, this time about how zong addles the brain.

I ran into Piea, who told me that Arven sent a letter asking her hand in marriage. “I’m fond of him, but his lazy eye bothers me,” she admitted. “I thought about it—I could gouge out that eye and get him an eyepatch,” she added enthusiastically. “He would look cool!”

After the reception our crew gathered down by the town well to decide which problem we should address first. Since we knew where we might find a shambling mound we decided to head north where we’d encountered one of its kind over a year ago.

It’s much easier getting around, of course, with the roads we’ve built. We encountered many a pilgrim making their way south to find new lives in our fair land—all the more reason for us to eliminate the dangers that remain. Above us, once again I spied the raven that so often tracks our progress. I would dearly like to know what it makes of all this hubbub.

We were wandering around a field looking for shambling mound spoor when I clumsily slipped in a pile of its flop. I fell hard enough that I was concussed, seeing little birdies ’round my head. I heard Bert Askew laugh and saw him pointing before his jaw suddenly dropped and he hightailed off in fright as two of the ferocious creatures suddenly emerged from a nearby gully.

Lev used a line of cold to great effect as Cane put several arrows up their backsides.

Both mounds attacked Piea, hurting her severely. Sizzles ripped a chunk out of one, but it hardly noticed. Lev fumbled his next spell, falling stunned to the ground. I prayed that we could keep the mounds from sucking out his vital juices while he recovered. Piea hacked one as it passed her and Cane poured arrows into the other but when Piea attacked again it brutally took her down.

Seeing her lying there bleeding Kelm ran to her side, heedless of danger. “I am the chosen one!” he cried.

But even he couldn’t stop the marauding mound from attacking her again. Fortunately, by this time, I’d recovered enough to lop a huge gelatinous chunk off its top, exposing its brain and putting an end to its foul and profane life.

“Somebody give me those healing kajiggers,” Piea pleaded as Kelm put a soothing hand to her forehead, bringing a flood of relief from a spell of healing.

The other mound continued giving us what-for but I could tell that it was losing heart. Perhaps it was sickened by what I’d done to its companion. Except for laming Sizzles we quickly pruned it back until Kelm strolled over and put the kibosh on it. He then joined Piea in a rousing victory song.

“Let’s get some sap from these things,” Lev said when they had finished. We built a huge fire, cutting the creatures into pieces that we then fed into a cauldron normally used to boil brine into salt. We left Bert Askew to tend the fire overnight and, of course, he immediately fell asleep. We took turns managing the fire for the rest of the night without waking him until the smell of coffee roused him with the dawn. If he was surprised at finding the bladders containing the Mounds’ renderings already loaded onto the horses and the cauldron scoured clean he didn’t say so.

For our trouble we got:
1200 gold
3 potions of cure moderate wounds

A few days later we were back in Tuskland, sitting on the veranda at the Stumble Inn having breakfast while debating which area we should explore next. After her recent smackdown Piea was filled with urgent bloodlust, wanting to mix it up with the lizard men down south. That’s when Tig Tannerson’s mother came running up the street to say that Tig has been missing for nearly two days.

“We were ’oping he’d just run off to shag one o’ the neighborhood girls,” she said breathlessly, “but they was all in school this morning!”

“Oh goodness!” Lev replied gravely, while the rest of us groaned.

What gets into lads like Tig and Little Billee? I suppose they need a good chastisement from a sharp-tongued whip or maybe runes of discipline burned into their arms but, really, I’d rather face a shambling mound.

We wondered if he might have returned to the Old Beldame but Mrs. Tannerson assured us that Skot Skevins had already ridden there to ask. She led us to the last place where he’d been seen (a hidden place where smokers gather). Sizzles sniffed around intently as Cane turned over a few rocks. With a yip the great wolf ran south as Cane beckoned us to follow. We followed Tig's tracks along the shore of the Tuskwater, examining the places where he stopped to skip rocks or snack on hoe cakes and cheese. We then crossed the Gudrun River where he’d spent the night, reaching the confluence of the Tuskwater with Candlemere Lake. We continued following the shoreline south until we were once again gazing out over the water at the haunted Tower thinking, hoping, “surely not.” Fortunately his tracks continued around the southern end of the lake, crossing the Shrike River west, where we found another dead campfire.

Maybe Cane should take this boy under his wing and make a Ranger out of him. The lad has both courage and chootzpah to strike out over this wild land alone. These are qualities that should be encouraged and channeled.

At the mouth of the Murque River a low muddy hummock protruded from the middle of the stream. It was surmounted by a palisade of outward facing sharpened wooden stakes. We watched thin tendrils of smoke rise from a handful of huts clustered around a single large mound. Tig’s tracks had disappeared but in their place we found the clawed hind feet of lizard people. In all probability, we decided, he had been picked up and carried back to the village. Leaving our horses with Bert we crossed over the knee-deep water to a simple wooden gate on the eastern side of the hummock.

“Hmmph,” Kelm grumbled, needing an excuse to roust them. “Officially this is our territory.”

“Kill them,” Piea trilled with anticipation.

“We could talk to them,” Lev ventured quietly.

“Duke, they just stole one of your citizens!” Kelm protested. “You want to talk?”
In the distance we heard the unsettling sound of a child’s scream. Too bad it wasn’t Little Billee they grabbed because, assuredly, they would be begging us to take him away.

Two lizard folk stood at the gate, not suspecting our business. Lev tried to squeeze through the palisade while we diverted their attention but, clumsily, he gave himself away. They immediately charged after him but he squirmed away, slapping one with a line of cold as Piea shattered the gate with her Great Axe. “Size does matter!” she crowed as Sizzles followed her into the compound.

Cane shot one, killing him as I dropped another with my longbow. Sizzles took some hits, suddenly laying down and whining, while arrows whizzed about us. I fumbled, dropping my arrows, hopelessly scattering them.

Justice,” I squeaked lamely.

One of the lizards managed to wound Kelm in the side with a spear as Lev jumped onto the wall, balancing there precariously. He then tickled several of the lizards with cold while Piea and Cane rode roughshod over the rest. Piea slew the Lizard King, slicing him lengthways like a Crystalhue eel. His last two attendants cowered before her, on their knees, offering her their necks in submission.

“Take me to Tig!” she demanded hotly.

“The spirit will get angry,” they groveled.

“Well I’ll kill the spirit,” she fiercely replied. “Take me to Tig!”

“He’s on the other side of the palisade,” they moaned, voices quivering. “He’s in the swamp.”

With Tig’s screams echoing in the background I watched Cane and Kelm strip the lizard king of his possessions:

+1 natural armor
+1 trident
5 javelins
2 golden arm bands worth 100 gold each

Tig screamed again.

“Let’s go get the stupid punk!” Cane growled, turning to go.

“Why did they steal this kid to begin with?” Piea wondered, following him, dragging the two bewildered lizards after her.

“Probably going to sacrifice him to some god or something,” he spat. “That’s what lizard people do.”

As we made our way past the palisade into the swamp, which stank of fetid murder, large fat mosquitoes buzzed us like horseflies. My colleagues began arguing about what we’d just done. “We killed these lizard men for pretty much nothing,” Lev noted dryly.

“No,” Cane protested, “We killed them for fun.”

“No,” Kelm corrected. “We killed them for profit.”

At the swamp we found our old nemesis—Will-o’-wisp—rising from the swamp. “It’s the spirit!” the two remaining lizard men cried as they threw themselves onto their faces. Things were finally starting to make sense—the wisp had trapped Tig here to feed on his fear. The lizard-men were innocent, at least of this crime.

The wisp disappeared briefly but reappeared to attack Sizzles. Learning from our previous encounter we all waited for it to appear to attack before unloading on it. This time it disappeared with a “pop!” and we knew it was gone.

Tig was tied down in the swamp up to his neck in the fetid water, leeches succoring him everywhere, verily unto his mouth. We quickly freed him, then listened to him whine as Cane removed the fattened leeches from his skin. The judgment of Erastil is justice received.

In the will-o’-wisp’s domicile (and who would of thought that will-o'-wisps lived like ordinary people) we found:

masterwork cold iron longspear
tree feather token
ring of swimming
animal skins worth 100 gold pieces
3 citrines worth 50 gp each
119 gold in assorted coins
tridents and spears

We returned to the encampment only to discover that three lizard females had emerged to hiss and spit their objection to us and what we had accomplished at their expense—they were the dead king’s harem, apparently. Piea like them immediately: “Stupid skanks,” she sneered.

They picked up the scattered spears and shields dropped by their warriors and waved them ineffectually at us while ululating fiercely, their thick forked tongues reaching out greedily.

“Surrender now,” Lev pleaded, “or you will meet the same fate as the rest of your group.”

Thankfully, after a little more posturing the lead lizard-lady haughtily set her shield and spear down, raising her tail and peeing on the weaponry.

We searched the huts, finding two monitor lizards in one of them. Cane led them to the marsh where they quickly swam away.

In the big hut we found:

coral crown embedded with lapis lazuli worth 500 gold
malachite statue of a serpentine dragon worth 200 gold
various furs worth 300 gold
575 gold pieces
each of the harem with 1000gp jewelry, which we confiscated

Then we told the lady lizards and two guards to “Get off our lawn!” Watching us with hatred and hissing spitefully they disappeared up the river.

On the journey home we visited the Old Beldame on the way home who slathered the boy with salves and unguents until even his bones were soft. I’m including cookies she gave us for you with this letter.

Take care of your Mother and make sure Big Billee keeps his hands to himself,
Your uncle Marquand

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Letter Eight—Lily of the Valley

Dear Pino,

Running a nation is dry work—between bloodlettings, I mean. Taxes, defense, expansion, enrichment, culture, and basic needs are all things that have to be thought about and planned for. Pay attention when your teachers speak, Pino, no matter how boring you think they are, it’s all information you’ll need later.

At the weekly P.U.R.K. Cabinet meeting Lev was anxious that our nation soon reach the legal status of duchy. “I want to get married,” he lamented, crossing his legs.

“Have you found someone?” Piea asked, disbelieving.

“I have. It’s just that she can’t marry anyone less than a duke.”

“Or be less than virgin.”

“There’s no worry about that,” he replied stiffly. “I’ve known her a long time.”

Overall, P.U.R.K. is a happy land. Our citizens are content, our finances sound, all threats cleared out.

“It’s crazy,” Kelm noted. “It’s like—we killed the guy who was being a rabble rouser and now it’s all calm!”

“I’ve spent two months going around making speeches, making sure everyone’s happy and fed,” Lev protested.

“It’s worked!” Piea agreed somewhat amazed. “And all this time I thought we should just go and hang everybody!”

Kelm reported that it was time to extend our control south while the land stood unclaimed. We don’t know how much the other groups have expanded or when we might butt heads with the River Kingdoms, so it’s essential that we lay claim to as much as we can. “We can claim the swamp-witch hex,” he added.

“But she’s nice!” Cane and Piea both objected.

“We’ll see how nice she is when we claim her on our tax roll,” Kelm chuckled. “Or we can claim the pool with the murdered lovers.”

“Oh! The murdered lovers,” Piea sighed. “Let’s do that!”

“That’s sweet,” Cane agreed.

So we claimed the east side of the Tuskwater and the delta of the Gudrin River near where we dined on Old Crackjaw.

We then received a delegation of kobolds from the silver mine. Chief Sootscale, seeing which way the wind was blowing, had decided it was time for his community to ally with P.U.R.K. as a vassal state. We quickly accepted his offer, sending back a handsome legal document suitable for framing along with our standard regulatory package, bundled with a flag and sundry other welcoming gifts.

We turned to lighter things, rewarding citizen Daveed for his portrait Bokken en Coitus. I admit, having broken a few on the wheel, that artists don’t bring out the best in me. They tend to be tobacco smoking rulesbreakers, living on the margins, providing camouflage for real criminals. Still, their work has some value, I suppose, if it keeps our people happy.

Skot Skevins announced that he had finally finished the national anthem, excitedly ushering in a chorus of eunuchs from the new Academy to sing it for us. I was moved, although in what manner I’m still uncertain. He said he was leaving immediately after our meeting to play it for everyone in the realm. Climbing onto stages all over the country is not exactly the low profile you might expect of your Spymaster. “It’s the perfect cover,” he laughed, taking a big swig from a flagon of fangberry wine. “This way I can interrogate the local ladies without anybody suspecting a thing.”

“Except their daddies,” Cane muttered.

Piea reported that the rumors were true about her and Arven the fisherman, but claims they haven’t gotten past “first base,” or, as Arven puts it, “A nibble don’t make a bite.”

“I don’t want a ring yet,” she shrugged dismissively. “It’s still too early in our relationship.”

For myself, I’m getting nowhere fast with darling Lily. She was understanding about my not finding the Elven ruins but I couldn’t help noticing that she wasn’t servicing my table as often as she had in the past, favoring others with her charms. Be glad you’re a woman, Pino. We men are laughable creatures when ruled by our hearts, whereas women rule by theirs.

Right before the meeting broke up a messenger arrived from Brevoy. After breaking the seal Lev let out a yelp of surprise before telling us with excitement that P.U.R.K. had finally been recognized by Brevoy. Lev immediately sent his own messenger north to House Lebeda, where Ilse his lady love lies waiting, to prepare for his imminent arrival.

With Lev heading north  to meet his new in-laws I decided to go on pilgrimage west of the Thorn River to the Temple of Erastil. I found that Jhod Kavken and his disciples have cleaned up the site admirably while leaving the nearby forest wild. A soaring bower of old oak trees serves as the temple's nave while a vigorous spring emerges from beneath the carving of Erastil to spray downwards before flowing along one perimeter. Nearby I spied Jhod helping a young man transplant a small honeysuckle bush to a more convenient location. We warmly embraced.

Pausing to give tribute to Old Deadeye, I thanked him for my peaceful journey and prayed that all those I love remain safe in my absence. Then I repaired to a nearby place to freshen up, the cold water invigorating me after my long ride. I put on the plain gray robe offered me, joining the other acolytes for a modest dinner of lentils and rice, its saffron and herbs saturating my senses for a long time afterward. Then I walked with several others up to the cave where we’d fought that wild grizzly so long ago.

For the next week I would get up an hour before sunrise and wash in the cold stream, then hike through the woods until the place seemed right and spent the rest of the day in silent repose with the forest about me. I ate what the land offered and drank where I could. Elk piss tastes like fine wine when you’re thirsty. At night I would join the others in their Ritual of Sacred Humming. Then it was s'mores and ghost stories around the campfire before retiring for four hours sleep.

When I returned Tuskland was busy preparing to welcome Lev and their new Duchess. A festive air pervaded the town, garlands of flowers decorating streets cleansed of the offal and trash that usually lay there. When Lev arrived with his new bride the streets filled with cheering citizens.

 Of course you know all about that, having spent the reception sitting next to Duchess Ilse. She couldn’t help but be charmed by you, Pino. You’ve made a good friend there.

I invited Lily to the wedding's reception but was afraid that she wouldn’t accept due to her pique with me but the attraction of a prime seat at the social event of the year triumphed over her reservations. You can ask why I continue to pursue a woman who seems to care so little for me but it’s a true thing that all people desire what they can’t have—especially when it comes to love. A lucky person it is who can love easily. Most of us stir and stop, wallow and prevaricate. Remember, Pino, it is never a tragedy to lose at love. The tragedy is never to try.

Yes, Lily was beautiful that night. She wore a long blue silk taffeta gown with décolleté neckline and delicate lace trimming. I was nearly struck dumb as she approached the carriage for our short ride over to the Academy where the reception was held. I helped her remove her cape before entering the great hall to the cheers of the hoi polloi. How she glowed! I think her beauty rivals that accorded the legendary Queen Ileosa of Korvosa, or so I told her. She blushed, smiling warmly at me for the first time in weeks, twirling spontaneously like a young girl, her gown billowing, revealing a glimpse of her strong supple legs. I caught her hand, for a moment holding her closely, her eyes challenging me, laughing, provocative. She escaped with a light “Tra-la,” and soon we were in line waiting to be presented to the happily married couple.

I envy Lev’s happiness, although I share in his joy. As you know, Duchess Ilse was weaned on the intrigue within the court of the Swordlords. Something I, too, am familiar with. (I’m sure I’ve met her sometime in the past and probably dandled her on my knee as I did with you before you grew too old.) Lev couldn’t have found a better helpmeet. That he loves her too—well, that’s the blessing of Erastil.

The first dance, of course, I saved for you, my darling Pino. But the second, third, and fourth I gave to Lily and we glided around the dance floor in mutual embrace, feelings I’ll never share with anyone but her. Then I had to give her up to my many rivals and watch helplessly as she danced and laughed with each in their turn.

When I could stand it no longer I went to a bountiful table where an impeccable servant—part of Ilse’s entourage—offered me fruit punch with a hint of fangberry brandy. I saw Cane sulking in one corner of the room, wearing his tuxedo stiffly like armor, sneaking a plate of ribs outside to Sizzles, who seemed to prefer the attentions of Ilse’s mastiff Tinkerbelle, causing Cane to slouch inconsolably back into the hall. That’s where he discovered—too late—that Little Billee had left him a big watery surprise in a trashcan over the door. I can’t say that I’ll begrudge Cane his reckoning when it comes.

Kelm was showing off his new grill to several bridesmaids. They tittered as he leered at them, smacking his golden choppers with their inset diamonds and rubies glittering, slapping his naked chest with excitement. The young women seemed impressed, at least until later in the evening when he tried to show them how to dance without moving. “It all happens inside!” he crowed as they left on the arms of various counts and haberdashers.

Piea, of course, was with her Arven, who was managing to watch the dancers and his beloved at the same time. She wore a long gown, mithral halter top, thick metal bicep bands accentuating her feminine muscularity, causing more than one potential suitor to gulp fretfully when he saw them. Arven seemed blissfully unaware that she could snap his neck as easily as she was the breadsticks she was casually noshing. But I did observe him slyly putting his arm around her to sneak a kiss behind the ear. She ignored him, waving her hand idly as if shooing a mosquito.

I danced with you one more time before your Mother and Big Billee took you children home. Never have I seen you more radiant or happier. It was your night as much as it was Lev’s or Ilse’s. I pray that there will be many more like it in the future.

I walked Lily home afterward. She said she was too excited to ride in the coach. I held her hand as we traveled the darkened streets, stars blinking in their vault overhead—I made out the constellations for Desna and Sarenrae. Lily responded by taking my hand and outlining the forms of Shelyn—the Eternal Rose—and Cayden Caylen. At the door to the Inn, where we could still hear merriment inside, I finally kissed her. She gasped, smiled shyly—a look I’d never seen—before hurriedly excusing herself.

Nothing has been harder for me in my life than obeying propriety and turning away from that door—and nothing more necessary for the spiritual leader of Tuskland. I spent the rest of the night on my knees south of town with the other penitents in a cove sacred to Erastil.

Life fell back into its familiar patterns in the days that followed. Lev paid to imbue weapons for Cane and myself with magic. I hate taking charity but in this case it’s for the good of the nation. “I am not a thieving lord,” Lev said to explain his generosity. “I make sure that there are no starving people in our kingdom before I take any pay.”

“A mix of social politics and totalitarian police force,” noted ’Bert Askew, who had recently been appointed court gofer by Lev.

Then Kelm filled us in about the notorious Candlemere Tower where we were to begin our next adventure. There are many stories about strange lights, cries, and screams in the night. Few venture there and fewer return. The tower is said to be about 40 feet high, amongst crumbling ruins, and the island is covered in fangberries—your uncle’s greatest foe—and spotted with willow trees.

When we reached the shore of the lake and could see the tower clearly in the distance over the horizon, Lev paused to give a speech. “It’s time to quiet this plague on our border!” he proclaimed booming out over the water. This inspired Piea and Kelm to sing a bawdy tune that is a bit too salty for your ears, dear Pino. Let it be said that I hope never to hear you singing it.

We found a small boat by a rickety pier and, for a few silver pieces, rowed it to the island. Candlemere Lake was quiescent, its pristine waters vibrant with the bright colors of spring reflecting from the surrounding forest.

Pulling our boat onto the beach we made our way gingerly around the fangberry patches to the tower, overgrown and long disused, where we were greeted by a faintly glowing ball of light—hard to see in the sunlight—containing a nebulous image of a skull in its depths—a will-o’-wisp feeding off the fear of its victims. It was something like the costume Little Billee wore last All-Nethys-Eve to extort candy from the neighbors.

Wisps only appear when they attack, although the ones on Candlemere Island seemed to forget that. Their main weapon is a bolt of electricity that burns, which Piea quickly discovered to her anger. Most of us missed hitting the thing but Lev managed to tame it with magic missile until Piea could get her revenge.

The tower was long disused, open to the sky. It’s an ancient edifice, dating from the Age of Destiny—when civilization first rose from Chaos. We could make out faint ancient carvings of disturbing Aklo symbols representing fragments of blasphemous prayer given to Yog-Sothoth, one of the Great Old Ones! What had we stumbled upon? I was shaken with unnameable dread.
That’s when the second will-o'-wisp appeared.

This time Lev and Kelm were ready for it, hitting with magic missile as it shot a bolt of lightning through Piea. Cane finally hit it hard enough that it fizzled out.

Even though there was nothing else at the tower Lev wanted to stay for nightfall but every hour a will-o'-wisp would find us—even though everyone was more bored than scared—and we took turns killing them while taking considerable damage of our own. It was no fun, Pino. As Erastil says: “Know when to cut and run!”

We decided to come back another time when we were better prepared to find out why there was a nest of will-o’-wisps here and weed them out. So we retreated to our boat and rowed back across the evening waters to our camp, finding Bert Askew sleeping in the shade of a large oak tree while our horses foraged willy-nilly throughout the woods. That night, with the campfire’s glow reminding me of the will-o’-wisps, I thought for a long time about the Old Gods. Erastil preserve us if there is a connection between them and Candlemere. 

The next morning we set out on the second part of our quest to find the burial spot of the "Lonely Warrior," passing by the tendriculos' mud bowl and weeding out a few of its babies, before taking the road east past a gang of convicts tending our new highway. Crossing again overland through barren plain we eventually reached an ancient burial spot, grassy knolls hiding barrows of the dead surrounding us. We searched until we came to place where the earth had cracked open, allowing us entry beneath the ground, then followed a cobwebbed tunnel deeper, through a swarm of bats flying past us. A disgusting thick cover of guano coated the floor crawling with insects that squished under our boots, the sharp tang of ammonia suffocating in the still air.

Soon, we were standing in an octagonal chamber, its walls decorated with crude mosaics depicting hunting, fishing, farming—could this be the resting place of an early cult of Erastil? Four tunnels exited the room’s cardinal points. At each tunnel’s entrance a monstrous face leered and grimaced. Kelm said they represented the four winds incarnate as malevolent elemental spirits.

“I like that,” Piea said.

A skeleton lay face down in the middle of the room, most of its gear rotted away—except for a single ring, which Cane immediately bent down to take. Suddenly the four monstrous faces gasped as misty tendrils blew softly into the room. Piea and Kelm reeled suddenly with exhaustion. Sitting heavily, Kelm, grabbed the ring from Cane, slipping it on his finger with a sigh of contentment.

"It's a ring of sustenance," he explained, waving his hand to show it off. "I feel better already." 

We were interrupted as we heard scraping sounds from two of the tunnels surrounding us. “Oh my goodness!” Piea exclaimed as the creatures emerged. “That’s a lot of skeletons!”

“We’ll weed through these things like they’re chicken feed!” Cane replied dismissively.

Lev immediately stepped forward. “Could I be in front of everyone?”

“You?” we gasped.

“I have an idea,” he said, annoyed.

“You always never want to be in front,” Bert Askew, who had followed us into the tunnel instead of watching the horses, added unhelpfully.

“All I want to do is cast a spell and then run into the back,” Lev replied testily.

“Don’t put me forward!” Kelm protested when Piea suggested he join Lev. “I’m not playing this crazy ‘in the front’ game. That’s not how I roll!”

Lev cast a cone of cold down one of the tunnels, freezing the group approaching us from that direction.

“Maybe we should stay out of your way,” I bowed to him as the rest of the skeletons tried futilely to overwhelm us. Piea, despite her weakness, reaped them like wheat, leaving a very skinny one for me to polish off.

We searched the side rooms as Cane rode Sizzles like a “lover,” in his words.

One wall was adorned with weaponry, shields, armor, tattered banners and standards; interspersed with scenes carved in the wall of battle, pillage, and conquest. Flaking pigment was all that was left of the once brightly colored walls, which looked as if they’d been defaced by repeated blows from a weapon. At the far end of the room a withered corpse lay atop a stone catafalque, bony hands clutching a sword.

It did not take lightly our disturbing its slumber, rising with an eerie moan as we entered the room.

There is no reasoning with the undead, dear Pino, try to remember that. I ignited my sword with Flames of the Faithful while Kelm and Piea engaged the creature. Piea took a good shot from the desiccated swordsman. Kelm hit him with magic missile. Using Sizzles as a diversion, Cane thwapped him hard across the skullcap. Then we all took our turn as the creature concentrated on Piea. Incredibly, Lev and Kelm took this moment to argue the finer points of power attack while I finished him. He had:
•    +2 fey bane bastard sword
•    broken chain mail
•    heavy wooden shield

Everything else had been removed long before, although how the tomb raiders had avoided waking the overly sensitive warrior is beyond me.

Once more outside the chambers in the sweet night air I reflected that there was still a lot about our realm that we do not know. I thought pensively about Lily and then about you, my most faithful friend. I trust that you have spent your day productively.

All my affection,
Uncle Marquand