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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Letter 13—Communiqué from Restov

Dear Pino,
Trollhound--Pathfinder Copyright Paizo

We continued searching the rooms. Lev followed the winding stair carefully into the darkness above but found no one on the landing. He then saw a room farther up, door ajar. Lev has shown much more confidence of late. Before this he would hover in the background, complaining bitterly if he exposed as much as an inch of his flesh to the enemy. Now he strides confidently into battle, taking the point as we searched the darkness for our foes.

Kelm followed him upstairs, then Sizzles. What they found was an unsanitary mess, and one of the major reasons people don’t like trolls. We went to the second set of stairs, Lev leading once again. He quickly returned. “There are two sleeping trollhounds chained to the far wall,” he whispered.

We discussed our next step. Arrows from a distance? Fireballs? Sneak past? What would you do, little Pino?

“Don’t you magic guys have sleep or anything else?” Cane rumbled. “This makes me angry.”

“Anybody have a silence spell?” Kelm asked. He was greeted with silence.

“I suggest we get them barking,” Lev said. “The patrols will rush in and we like ‘fireball, fireball,’ and ambush them.”

“Wrong!” Kelm replied dismissively. “They wouldn’t come running. They’d get cautious and start looking around.”

“They’re giant trolls!” It was Lev’s turn to be dismissive. “Once they see us in there they’ll be like, ‘Roar!’”

“All right,” Kelm conceded. “Let’s do this then. I’m throwing a thunderstone,” he added, jokingly.

From the top of the stairs Lev slapped one of the beasts with a ray of cold as Cain fired his bow. We heard its yelp of surprise, “Ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh!”

I imbued my bow with Flames of the Faithful as Cane brought one of them down. We attacked the other one. Lev hit with a bolt from his crossbow, cackling maniacally. Kelm threw alchemical fire and they began squealing. “Take that, you regenerating fooks!” he cursed.

I then knocked the other down with a flaming arrow and Cane calmly finished the job, roasting them both thoroughly.

We then cautiously entered the next chamber. There was a large stone table in the center of the room where a man’s headless corpse lay. The walls were decorated with ancient carvings that had been defaced with graffiti in several languages. Refuse and old bones littered the room, roaches crawling over them like a living carpet. A closer inspection showed that the man had been tortured slowly, “in a lovingly fashion,” as Cane put it. We left him there.

Lev went ahead, peeking around the corner. He saw stacked boxes, barrels, crates, and bags filling the room from floor to ceiling. A line of crude shells lined one wall. A rough hole was broken into the southern wall leading deeper into the complex. Lev craned his neck looking into it before entering.

We followed him, coming abruptly to a room where we heard two grunts of surprise. “Man flesh!” one of the troll’s two heads said hungrily, as if a fully-dressed Crystalhue goose had walked into the room. “Bleearghh!” his second head agreed.

Nagrundi--Pathfinder Copyright Paizo
Lev responded with a large fireball up its snouts. I followed by casting searing light, which hit with a loud thump as Vlad moved into position. Piea seemed not her usual self, hanging back. The critter gob-smacked Lev as Kelm hit with magic missile.

Lev then harried it with cold, while I bloodied them with a shot from my longbow. Piea knocked them down as Cane finished them with burning fire, never to regenerate.

Next we found a 30 foot natural cavern with dripping stalactites, gnawed bones littered the floor. Many grisly severed human heads were arraigned in a large circle drawn on the floor with dried blood.

I found a niche in the northwestern corner of the room with a stash of treasure, probably taken from these unfortunates:

•    1902 silver pieces
•    888 gold
•    rose-prism ioun stone in a pouch

“Too bad you don’t have a girlfriend,” Cane sneered unnecessarily when he saw the stone.

“Or a pet,” I muttered under my breath.

We left the grisly scene by way of a hall. Piea still didn’t seem right, gasping for air and swaying on her feet although she refused all offers of help. “Something I ate,” she retched. I remembered her stopping by a “fast-food” hut outside of Tuskland. The one run by MacDonelly, selling ground meat on a bread roll (called a “Big Don”) from a window along the roadside. She doubled over moaning, “It burns.” We were forced to leave her there huddled and shivering in a dark corner of a room, calling piteously for her Arven.

Lev again took the point but marred his performance somewhat by tripping over a rock. Of course, that’s when we came upon the trolls’ leader in a large room as filthy as the rest. He was huge, wearing thick armor, adorned with human skulls like a Swordlord wears jewels. A huge chair—his throne I guess—sat in one corner. He hadn’t gotten to tell us how good we would taste when Lev hit him with a fireball. He charged with a roar, hitting me soundly across the bridge of my nose. Lev retreated to the back while Sizzles took a hit for her lover, who had accidentally whacked himself on the head with the broad side of his greatsword. Vlad then did his best to heal everyone as Lev hit the troll weakly with his morningstar. I used my last spell of searing light.
Hargulka--Pathfinder Copyright Paizo

Cane hit him cruelly as Vlad continued to spread healing amongst us. Kelm was picking away at him from a safe distance when the troll hit Cane atop his head with its morningstar. In desperation the creature suddenly fell forward crushing Cane and myself beneath him, slapping his hands to his neck and detonating two fireballs on his necklace, immolating himself and doing your dear uncle little good.

“Awesome!” I heard Kelm exclaim through the ringing in my ears as I crawled away from the corpse, wiping gore from my eyes.

Dimly I heard shouting down the hall as more trolls approached. We solemnly regrouped.

“They killed Nagrundi!” one of them cried while entering from a narrow passageway. I made a tactical error by not positioning myself to slow their entrance and was scolded for my lapse by Kelm. There were three of them.

“Mm, man-flesh!” one of them cried, still thinking of his belly. We would empty it soon enough.

“Piea, damnit, we need you,” someone called, but there was no answer. We could only pray that the trolls had not found and eaten her.

Kelm cast mirror image, creating three copies of himself, but was hit anyway as he moved to block their charge, effectively limiting Lev’s ability to use his necklace of fireballs. He used a line of cold instead.

Meanwhile, Sizzles bit one in a place that caused it to cry out in humiliation. “I’ll eat you!” he pointed at the wolf who growled a challenge before tripping him up. As the monster fell with a loud crash Cane drove the point of his sword deep into his flesh. Stupidly, the creature stood, allowing us all another shot at him. I crushed his trachea while savagely stabbing him.

Another one attacked Kelm but suddenly slumped over, as if exhausted. The Lev miscast a spell, which blew up in his own face.

“I’ll kill the mofaux standing right in front of me,” Cane announced, then reconsidered. “You think that’s a little harsh?” he asked himself.

Seeing his colleagues down the third troll turned to run but couldn’t escape quickly enough as we shot him down. As suddenly as it had begun the violence was over. All was quiet except for the sound of crickets and blood dripping from my sleeve.

We found on the toadies:
•    17 silver
•    42 gold

The king:
•    +1 large hide armor
•    +1 darkwood thundering morningstar
•    rusty key

By his throne a map was tacked to the wall as way of decoration. It was drawn on the back of a thylacine's hide, not very well tanned. Besides the location of their lair we saw that they had marked the location of Tuskland itself with a symbol for ‘Good Eating.’ There were arrows pointing to sites of planned raids and routes of attack and retreat. Lev studied the script that had been scribbled upon it carefully. “The trolls have been carrying out a series of organized attacks in locations where civilization has intruded upon the Stolen Lands," he marveled. "Fey regions have been marked Avoid!

“Are they afraid of them?” I wondered.

“Aren’t you?” Kelm grunted, sending a shiver up my spine. “I suspect they’re allies.”

We found a chest, which we opened with the rusty key, finding:

•    a dragon carving in exotic wood worth 200 gp.
•    gold necklace with jade pendant 500 gp
•    7 pieces of jewelry worth 750 gp
•    5 gemstones 100 gp each
•    3 smashed bottles of wine
•    engraved silver tankard 52 gp
•    1484 copper
•    3550 silver
•    652 gold

As we cleaned up the mess—including Piea, who was in the trolls’ privy hugging the bucket—we buried what human remains we found and burned every last ounce of troll-flesh. Lev immediately began planning using the citadel as a foundation for a second city. We should name it Trollsylvania.

On our return we made Piea ride upwind from us—her horse with its ears laying back unhappily—until she and I could scrub ourselves clean in the freezing Tuskwater. To cap it off we realized that we had forgotten to collect the trolls' blood, losing a handsome bounty.

We wintered in Tuskland, I nursing my wounds and catching up with my correspondence. Little Billee is in and out of the house as usual but I have not see his father much and discovered that Bert Askew has taken his place at the dinner table. Your Mother seems as happy as I’ve seen her since your father joined Erastil on His holy mountain. She has a beautiful smile—something you share.

One cold, crisp day I took you and little Billee out into the countryside following the Skunk River into the forest. Little Billee and his dog chased birds, squirrels, deer, and anything else unlucky enough to cross their paths. You, though, were as sober as the judge I once was.

Skunk River--Painting by Rachel Perry

“Uncle,” you said. “Tell me again about your encounter with the fey of the forest.”
“So, once again I talked about the beautiful Tiressa and her companion Falchoas whom we met near here the previous year. Since then we’ve kept the woodcutters and hunters clear of this area despite their complaints. The fey can be difficult friends, but they are worse enemies.

That’s when a familiar dark shape approached us from above, landing on the branch of a nearby elm. He watched for a while, dark eyes shining brightly. You were shy at first, peeping out from behind my cloak until I encouraged you to come out and meet him. “Here,” I said, “hand him this scrap.”

You extended your hand, giving a little yelp as he suddenly took flight, swooping to the ground next to you to accept the token. Soon you had made a new friend.

“Tell him your name,” I said.

“P-Pino,” you stuttered, unsure.

“P-pino,” he repeated.

You squealed with delight. “Pino, Pino!”

“Yes, little girl, I was fooling,” said the bird. “Marquand speaks of you often.”

“What’s your name?” you asked shyly.

The bird contemplated us for a moment for he has never told me his name. Finally, he gave what passes for a shrug amongst birds, “Some call me Stack-o-lee,” he said.

There was wonder and delight in your eyes but before we would continue we heard barking and little Billee arrived in a rush causing Stack-o-lee to take flight.

“Get him, Huckleberry!” Billee cried, but the bird was far above, circling once to drop a present on little Billee’s head. “I’ll come see you in the city, Pino, fare-thee-well!” He gyred out of sight.

After dunking Billee’s head in the Skunk several more times than strictly necessary to clean him off, we headed home.

Soon after a messenger arrived bearing a communiqué from Brevoy that ended our winter’s sojourn. Soon we gathered at our stronghold.

Pathfinder Copyright Paizo

“Varnhold is 40 miles to the northeast as the crow flies,” Bert Askew told us as he pointed it out on a map. However, the Levenies mountain range stands between us and them. The fastest way is through Varnhold Pass, otherwise you encounter the watchful outposts of Brevoy: Fort Serenko—a wooden fortification—and the village of Nivakta’s Crossing.”

“Maybe we can annex them,” Lev speculated.

“You can’t claim anything of Brevoy’s,” Bert Askew lectured. “That would mean war!”

“Well, we can’t go north,” Kelm had come to the same conclusion. “We have to go through the pass.”

“We can still go through Brevoy,” Lev countered. “It might be good to talk with people about what’s going on and get more information.”

“I don’t want to go through Brevoy,” Kelm said with finality.

“Anyone else have an opinion?” Lev challenged the rest of us. “Should we gather information, maybe get some clue as to what we’re walking into, or just walk right into it?”

“I like the walking right into it,” Kelm whispered mockingly.

“Why don’t we send some scouts ahead and see if it’s friendly?” asked Cane.

“Why would we send scouts when we can go ourselves?” Kelm replied. “Where’s the adventure?”

“Send Skot Skevins!”

“When has Skot Skevins ever done anything quietly?” Kelm shook his head.

“We could go to the outposts and act like we’re somebody else.” Cane said brightly. “See what’s going on.”

“Why do we have to act like we’re anyone else!” Lev cried in outrage. “We should be like, ‘Yo! We’re interested in what’s going on with our neighbors next door.’”

“Are you going to get more information from a guy who works in a coal mine or from somebody who is trying to hide that information from you?” Cane reasoned.

The answer, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed sweet Pino, is that you get more information from the guy who’s trying to hide it from you because he has more information to give!

Once more the strident words of Bert Askew echoed through the palace as he schooled us. “Restov said they can’t assist you openly because they don’t want to anger House Surtova. Brevoy is splitting. It looks like civil war—the northern lords versus the southern lords. Restov is trying to settle these lands to the south so they don’t have to fight a war on two fronts.”

“Aaaahhh!” Kelm moaned, suddenly understanding. “They don’t want to tip their hand about what they can bring to bear.”

“They can’t openly align with you because House Surtova would see that as an act of war. Nobody is supposed to know that it’s a diplomatic mission.”

And so, at morning’s light I depart the city once more, leaving you and your mother behind. Mind what I said about watching out for trolls and do your homework diligently. Help your mother with the household chores and I’ll bring you back a treat from Oleg’s when I return. Oh, and keep an eye on Bert Askew for me. Make sure he minds his manners in his dealings with your Mother.

Your doting uncle,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Letter Twelve—Marquand Loses His Smile

Dear Pino,

Thirteen names were on Skot Skevins’s list and to my horror I discovered that one of them was my Lily! How could this be?
River Kingdoms--Copyright Paizo

My colleagues insisted that I lead a party to question her but I found myself abashed. I could hear the whine in my voice as I asked her if she was part of Gyronna’s cult. She denied it. As you know (and Little Billee, to his chagrin, can attest) I can tell when someone is lying to me, but with Lily I was reluctant to employ this technique. It proved a fatal mistake.

“I don’t understand what you’re doing, Marquand,” she accused, voice like a whipsaw. “Why am I being interrogated? Maybe Grigori was right about you guys. You barge in here asking me questions, casting these spells!” I found myself unable to question her further.

Next we saw Sasha Tovan, still angry about the owlbear attack. “I bet that Vika Godina’s involved!” she sneered. “Just you listen to me, she is behind that owlbear attack!” As worrisome as that notion was, we decided Tovan was speaking from lust for revenge, but was not personally involved with the cult.

Word of our interrogations spread quickly around town and the people were not happy.

We visited Madam Godina next. “I’m not mad about the owlbear,” she insisted sweetly, motioning for us to accept the petit fours a girl not much older than you offered. “The owlbear destroyed the brothel. But what have you done since?”

“We’re in the process of rebuilding it.”

Her eyes shone with bitter contempt. “Back alleys are not the safest place. Some of my girls are angry. Some have gotten hurt!”

Kelm agreed with her but, “This isn’t a perfect world,” he wheedled. “We know the sex trade is necessary—this is why we’re trying to keep it safe.” Then his voice dropped 20 degrees. “We’re trying to figure out why some of your girls are implicating you in a serious crime.”

“They are? That’s crazy,” she scoffed. “I just handle the money. They’re not happy about that?”

“Would you know why Sasha Tovan might have it out for you? Could she have been shorted?”

“Of course not!” she cried, outraged. We knew she was lying, but there was no way to prove it. “I’m probably the most equitable madam in all the River Kingdoms.”

“Do you know any reason outside of money that they’d be angry with you?”

“No,” She lied again, which is a form of truth, I suppose—you know what things are not. She knew about the cult, too, although she wouldn’t admit it. “I don’t have time for this,” she said angrily.

“I want to remind you,” Lev cautioned, “that the worship and support of the vast majority of gods is welcome here in this fine kingdom, however there are certain that . . .” he suddenly dropped his chain of thought.

“Look, we don’t have to rebuild the brothel,” Kelm interjected. “We can do it as a service to you, but you must tell the truth.”

“But I am,” she protested. “I’ve never heard of this ‘Cult of Gyronna’ that you’re talking about!”

“You’re not fooling anybody here,” Cane growled menacingly.

“Am I being accused of a crime?” He had nothing and she knew it. “Thank you for being forthcoming,” Kelm finally grumbled.

Next we talked with Natalie Bukov. “I want to know what you’re doing about the brothel,” she blustered.

“We’re going to rebuild it as soon as we get this cult thing fixed.”

“I was in the alley with some guy behind the tradesman’s house and he put a knife to my throat and said if I spoke a word to anybody he was going to find me and cut me!”

“Can I kill him?” Cane asked, always looking for an excuse.

“Can you describe him?”

“He was wearing a hat.”
Copyright Paizo

We asked her about Madam Godina.

“She’s kind of cruel but fair when it comes down to it.” Bukov knew nothing about the cult so we let her go.

“If you ever have any problems again, come and find us,” we urged.

“Is that code for something?” she asked, eyes narrowing as she passed out the door.

Next came Katya Rochev. We asked her about Vika Godina. “I like her,” she said truthfully. “I know some of the other girls don’t.”

“What are some of her problems?”

“She loses her temper with the girls—they’re just kids, y’know? They rub her the wrong way and she lashes out.”

“As far as I see it we have two options,” said Duke Lev after she left. “Follow them and find out what they’re doing or arrest them.”

“It’s not the headmistress who’s the head of the cult,” Kelm reasoned. “She knows about it but isn’t going to rat the person out—she probably brings in a lot of money.”

Cane followed Rochev over to Jankov Vagina’s house, a tradesman, but a tradesman of what his papers didn't say. Perhaps an oversight. Crawling to the window on his belly, Cane saw that Vika was speaking with his wife Alotta (Lottie). He also witnessed a man furtively pulling on his clothes and sneaking out the back. Fortunately, Lev was politicking in a nearby tavern and quickly responded to Sizzles’s summons, pursuing the stranger into the night until determining he was an adulterer only.

It hasn’t been easy writing you about these “fallen women” Pino. If we were back in Restov I would agree that you are too young for such knowledge. But out here on the frontier, you need to know the depths that people can plunge. Only a strong moral backbone will see you through.

At sundown the women left the house heading east, with Lev and Cane in stealthy pursuit. Other women were also following the road in that direction, including Miss Kushi Bussoms—one of the more popular of these kind of ladies—and Regina Smirnoff, wife of the tanner. Cane and Lev followed them to a barn on a quiet farm before sending Sizzles to fetch us.

There was a single lamp burning in the barn. Cane tried to reach the loft while standing on the Duke’s back but quickly came tumbling to the ground. He made it on his second try.

From there he saw that while the barn was empty there was a trapdoor in the floor. He gestured to us and soon we’d shuffled nervously inside. In our minds’ eye was the memory of the owlbear attack—after all, Sasha Tovan implicated Godina in the attack on the city—and the disaster that it caused, myself most of all. We intended to taking no chances with these women.

“You realize,” Kelm cautioned us in a hoarse whisper, “that we can’t kill them.”

“Wha!?” cried Piea and Lev, simultaneously.

“I can kill them,” Cane insisted. “You see, I have this sword. . . .”

“Because,” he interrupted, “if we kill all the whores and the wives to prominent people in the city, they’re going to turn on us faster than . . . than Golem will turn on orcs,” he said, referring to the popular legend.

“Bert Askew told me before we left that only two of them are wives,” Piea interjected.

“We can always find more whores,” said Lev.

“I can talk to them as they bleed out,” Cane added casually.

“From their eyeballs,” Piea laughed.

“It would be better to take them alive,” Kelm sighed. “Try them publicly.”

“Let’s see how they react to us storming in,” Lev said. “We’ll try to take some prisoners if necessary—try to redeem them.”

“Save the wives,” Kelm reminded us.

We opened the trapdoor. There were steps leading down and a light was flickering. We heard the disturbing sound of chanting.

There was a bright flash of light.
Cane and Lev went down while the rest of us waited for their signal. Suddenly there was a bright flash of light and a loud thump, followed by a dismayed curse from Lev and quiet weeping. We quickly followed them down to witness a scene of horror. Lev’s attack—far from being met by the fierce resistance of a powerful foe—had mercilessly slain five of the women and left the other two with terrible burns. One of the survivors was Lily!

I tried to reach her but seeing me she shrunk back with a cry that rent my heart more completely than the owlbear had done. “I hate you,” she snarled, tears streaking down her ravaged face. “And I will hate you forever!” She broke into tears, her one surviving colleague, Regina Smirnoff, hugging her, glaring at me. Turning my head I walked away. How do you protect someone from herself?

I stared out over the carnage. Even Piea’s ebullient humor had abandoned her. It smelled of burnt hair, fabric, and skin.

The dead—some of the poor girls still twitching—were:

•    Malgorzata Niska—midwife, who had apparently been the leader of the group and was curiously not on Skevins’s list
•    Vika Godina—madam
•    Katya Rochev—prostitute
•    Kuhi Bussoms—prostitute
•    Lottie Vagina—wife

We confiscated:

•    Masterwork dagger
•    5 gp
•    magic shabble
•    gem, symbol of Gyronna, 500 gp

The gem is a very dangerous item because it’s how Gyronna watches the world. “This is your fault!” Kelm said, staring into it.

“You’re all going to die,” Lily spit as Lev and Vlad led them away. “Gyronna will see to it. Gyronna will see to it!”

Shaken, I followed them back to town but declined to enter, instead making for a small grove of Erastil where I spent the rest of the night examining my soul.

Bert Askew later told me that the woman had been put in the same dungeon as the Mad Hermit and within a few days had killed and eaten him. I can’t imagine that he tasted good.

Lev gave an impassioned speech excusing the massacre to the satisfaction of the proletariat but not to that of my heart. How could I have been so wrong—about Lily, about the cult, about my actions? How will I make it up to the dead?This is why you haven’t seen me recently, Pino, I’m not fit company for decent people and won’t return until I am.

Finally, we left Tuskland behind to fight something that could fight back—the trolls that were terrorizing the southwestern corner of the Green Belt.

A narrow path wended its way up a hill, steep cliff-face on one side, sheer drop-off on the other. At the top the path followed a wide ledge around the corner of a weathered stone building jutting from the side of the hill. We debated whether or not to wait for them to wander down.

Troll--Copyright Paizo
Just as the sun was setting we heard someone stumbling down the path but when he reached the bottom he spied us and abruptly doubled back. Cane shot him before he could get far as Sizzles moved up behind to trip the creature.

“Gghrargghhuhuhuh!” it cried as Piea charged in, blood squirting into the air.

Then it was Piea’s turn to scream as Cane accidentally slashed her with his sword. “Oopsie,” he apologized before he and Piea turned their attention back to the luckless troll and quickly it was dead. Cane then used his flaming sword to cook the creature thoroughly.

We waited there as night fell but the others had been alerted, if not by the cry, then by the stench of its cooking. We heard rocks falling from up above, like somebody climbing and we could just make out movement on the side of the hill. We reasoned that they were going to the other side to turn the tables on us.

Kelm said, “We should go up and ambush them instead of waiting here.”

“We could run over and shoot them while they’re climbing up the side of the Pillar,” Lev said.

“I could stand toe-to-toe with 20 trolls, myself,” Cane replied sardonically.

“I say we climb,” Kelm repeated.

I agreed with Kelm although Lev was still unconvinced, thinking that they’d detect our approach first and set up an ambush.

“If we stay down here the best case scenario is there are five trolls and four of us,” Kelm explained patiently. “In that case I’m betting on the trolls. Three of them are going to charge one person and drop him.”

“What are we going to do?” Cane asked.

“I vote to go up,” Kelm said.

“Up, up,” Cane cried. “If we’re wrong we’ll fire our way out and kill everything in the world!”

“I like your style,” laughed Kelm.

“If nothing else, if we’re on the path it’ll be harder for them to . . .” Lev began reasoning.

“. . .  come up more than one at a time!” Cane finished his thought.

If you wonder where I was in all of this, I was still stunned from all that had happened to me. Truth is, I’ve been in a daze ever since meeting that owlbear. Oh Lily, I hardly knew ye! I never believed it when they said you were using me because you did such a poor job. When I love again—if I love again, because right now I don’t care if I survive the night—I will listen to my friends.

We soon reached the structure that was sticking from the side of the hill. At first we heard nothing within, then the sound of an argument. We crept carefully, well beneath the arrow slits in the side of the blockhouse. Then I tripped over a large rock. I thank Erastil that it was too dark for me to see the looks on my colleagues’ faces, although I heard Sizzles snort with disgust.

There came a growl and scream in pure rage as a huge rock-troll lumbered through the door. “Ggraaghrrraagh!”

Rock Troll--Copyright Paizo
Vlad blessed us as I readied my longbow but Cane hit first as it emerged from around a corner, shooting so quickly that his hands were a blur. Lev added to its misery with a ray of exhaustion. Staggering in distress it raked its claws across Cane and then Piea as she rushed to join Cane in pushing it off the cliff.

“Oogleboogle!” came a cry of chagrin from the watchers in the blockhouse.

We moved closer where we found a door pulled off its hinges. Lev leaped gracefully up the wall—surprising unless you know that he led his acrobatics team at the academy. He clung like a giant mantis to the arrowslit as he looked inside. He signaled that he saw a troll with a double-bladed axe waiting for us.

Cane sent Sizzles in first, so surprising the creature that its axe missed her. In his excitement Cane dropped his own weapon. Lev, meanwhile, continued hanging from the slit, raining fireballs on its head. “Justice!” I cried, hitting savagely. It made a halfhearted swipe at Vlad as Kelm leaned over, casually finishing it.

With trolls, at least, you can feel good about killing them.

Ah, the postman is here. I’ll have to finish in my next letter.

Your sad uncle,