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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Letter Eighteen—Xamanthe Silverfire

Dear Pino,
We returned to action with another long argument over how far Cane can swim underwater. But when Cane actually swam down the steps he quickly found the way back out, steps leading up into a large room.

Thanks to Paizo, all rights reserved.
There was pottery everywhere, many graven with black and white images of flowers, cities, and one-eyed cyclopes engaged in worship, fighting, and athletic contests. Surprisingly, considering the rascals cyclopes are, none of the images involved making love. Instead there were depicted vicious confrontations between cyclopes and centaurs. We recognized the design (thanks to one of Bert Askew’s lectures) as belonging to the ancient Casmaron empire. Lev and Trask quickly stacked them into our bag of holding next to the roc eggs.

Cane and Trask led the way to a set of bronze double doors, opening them with a noisy rasp. Inside, we passed two shallow alcoves, each harboring the painted statue of a fierce cyclops warrior, before reaching a room crowded with sixteen more. At least a dozen had been vandalized. That's when one of them lurched angrily to life.

“Rawlargh! Rawlaaaargh!” it cried, hitting Sizzles with a stroke of its battleaxe, slamming her to the ground, and then taking a big bite out of the wolf, who whined, fighting back desperately.

Trask quickly shot a flurry of arrows into the cyclops’s head until it looked like a walking pincushion, its head as soft as an overripe cheese.

Lev told us what a great job we were doing and that with a little more effort we’d send this creature to the ancient gods where it belonged and, sure enough, with my next shot I finished it off.

Cane watched anxiously as Vlad ministered to his grievously injured wolf and, before long,  Sizzles was limping gamely along behind us. A secret door hid a portcullis blocking our way. That’s when we noticed the  large shuttered gates in the ceiling.

“Uh oh,” someone muttered as they ratcheted open, the river rushing through. Worse, the deluge was accompanied by an enraged moray eel that fell right on top of my head. Fortunately, the torrent rushing through the ceiling swept me away from its snapping jaws. As the water filled the room to waist level I struggled to reach Cane, trying to lift the portcullis, but slipped and fell underneath. Meanwhile, Trask was using the eel for target practice as Cane just managed to lift the gate open. That's when another dread zombie cyclops emerged from the room behind us.

“Yuck, if we kill them all the room will be filled with dead zombie juice,” Cane complained unhappily, coughing out a mouthful of water.

Lev made a quick speech encouraging us to follow him under the portcullis. Trask followed, taking a hit from the zombie. The second zombie attacked Vlad as he swam gratefully under the portcullis. I slashed at it but missed as I ducked behind Vlad. Finally, Sizzles and Cane emerged as the trap slid back into place. We could hear the zombies grunting as they tried to lift it.

Steps, hewed from "living" stone led up to a shrine where softly colored slate tiled the floor and pillars were carved in the likeness of leering fiends. Friezes on opposite walls depicted processions of animal-headed creatures marching along a black river’s bank. As the pilgrims reached the far corners of the shrine they approached a shadowy creature awaiting them in his sinister longboat. An altar stood beneath each twin and between them was a bronze double door. The doors were decorated with a mosaic of a winding river crafted with obsidian tiles. We were in a shrine dedicated to Charon, one of the Horsemen of Death. The smoke of the shrine lamps symbolize the rising spirits of the dead as they approach the river Styx.

“That’s nice,” Cane said approvingly.
Copyright Paizo

A third altar stood near where we’d entered. On it was another basin and unlit lamp. I remembered Bert Askew telling us, "In some temples lamps such as these are magic keys used to help seal doorways." just then we heard the portcullis roll up and soon we were fighting zombies again. Sizzles took his revenge on the nearer one as Cane ignited his flaming sword and, with Lev and Vlad’s help, finished them off. Blocked from the battle by combatants, Trask and I ducked through the farther door where a long tunnel disappeared into darkness.

When we returned we found Cane bleeding profusely into a ceramic drinking cup, at one of the altars. They'd found the cup there, recently used to collect blood for a sacrifice. As Vlad lit the lantern Cane offered himself. He was about to drink his own blood when we stopped him.

"Dude, that's messed up," Trask said, objecting. But after trying every way of offering bloody sacrifice we could think of we gave up and let him pollute himself further. Quaffing his life's blood like a light ale, he watched smugly as the doors opened with a rusty squeak.

One way led to a dead end but from the other a hideous monster emerged out of the darkness. It was part lobster, part octopus, and part human—a piscodaemon’s caress is not a loving one. To quote your picture book, Tintin and the Throne of Flies: “Blistering blue barnacles, these aquatic daemons roam the lower planes sowing misery and blight, threatening enemies with powerful claws and writhing tentacles! They delight in drawn-out deaths, poisoning creatures or dismembering victims to watch them slowly bleed out!”

All rights Paizo
“He’s going to taste nice with a little bit of butter,” Cane said, smacking his lips.

That’s when Trask heard a voice speaking to him from inside his head. “In whose name do you dare intrude upon the inner sanctum of the horseman of death?” it snarled.

“The one true god, Aroden,” Trask thought in return, which is a shame because the right answer was Vordakai. Puzzled, we watched Trask strut around in silence as he debated the piscodaemon in his head, “Aroden’s dead, son! He’s the dead god!—his death heralded the end of prophecy! What do you say about that?”

“You shall die,” it answered succinctly.

“We shall use you for a soup base,” Cane told it when he heard the news.

I didn’t help our cause by missing my first thrust, although Trask found his target. “Ha hah ha hah ha!” he crowed before it swept forward, embracing him in its poisonous tentacles. Cane stabbed it but I completely missed my next two strokes, like a boy with his stick. Lev somehow called a fire elemental into being but, having no use for it, he blasted a sonic honk at the piscodaemon. With Trask's encouragement it left our plane of existence with a loud pop.

The next room was circular, held up with masonry columns grouped to form shallow alcoves. In the center one immense pillar held up the flat ceiling of the chamber. Manacles hung in each alcove and ancient bloodstains in most. Across the room a young female centaur stared vacantly at us. Manacled, she had been beaten an humiliated, bewilderment dazed her eyes.

Thinking she was under a spell I cast dispel magic over her but it didn’t help. Lev suggested using one of our scrolls of remove paralysis instead.

“Let’s tie her up first,” Cane blurted. “As soon as we let her go she’s going to go psycho!”

“We’re here to help her!” Trask objected, horrified.

“We’ll let her go if she’s sensible.”

“I have a freaking!" Lev started, waving his arms frantically. "I can calm people relatively well!” he finally said. He then turned to her. “I free you from your shackles in the name of Milani!”

She was bewildered at first but quickly assessed her situation.

“Who are you guys?”

“We were sent by your mamma,” Cane replied.

“Aecora Silverfire,” Trask reminded him. “And you’re Xamanthe.”

“Are we still in the . . . tomb?”


“How did you get stuck here?” Cane asked.

She sighed. “I underestimated that frickin’ dread zombie cyclops! Other than that . . . in and out memories. A nearly skeleton cyclops would come and visit me. It was a giant thing. A glowing gem wedged in its eye socket.

"It told me, ‘You should be honored to be a guest of Vordakai, beast woman.” She pondered us with a tear stained look. “He promised to return when, ‘Your fear and dread drive all semblance of will from your mind at which time you will thank me for these gifts of pain!’” she wailed. “Then he would laugh.”

“Probably shouldn’t look at the eye,” Lev speculated.

"That was Vordakai—an ancient enemy of my tribe!” She said, disbelieving her own eyes.

“Um, hmm.”

“An ancestral boogieman, if this truly was that. Pshaw!” she spat. “I can’t believe those old tales.”

“The good news is that you’re free to go,” Trask said graciously. We wasted several minutes arguing about the best way out without wading through floating zombie guts or tipping off Vordakai. Finally, Lev said with some exasperation, “I need to rest!”

I guess we all did. We returned the way we came in, wading through the rotting water and lifting the portcullis. Having no more trouble with zombies, we emerged into the golden late-afternoon sun, the air smelling of early summer flowers. At our camp, we fed and watered Xamanthe, before stabling her for the night. In the morning we’ll bid her goodbye and safe journey before finishing this business with Vordakai.

Eat your vegetables,
Uncle Marquand

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Letter 17—An Eye for an Eye

Dear Pino,
We made camp away from the island in a quiet spot that offered cover and good line of sight.

Cane, unusually loquacious, shared the nature of his love for Sizzles as the rest of us prepared to bed down. It sounds very similar to something Little Billee tried with his cat, and you saw what came of that—they almost didn’t get the bleeding to stop. At least the cat is safe, although we won’t know if Billee’s the same until adolescence.

Cane volunteered to take the first watch, prowling the perimeter of our camp like the wolf he holds so dear. All was quiet once Lev and Trask stopped arguing about the names our new towns would bear (Ilsagrad and Varnville). the next thing I knew I awoke to Cane’s sunrod blazing forth. At first I thought I was dreaming because I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. It looked like Cane was wrestling with shadows—shadows with claws! It was a soul eater from Beyond.

Soul Eater
Quoting from the school textbook: “Summoned forth from the inky swamps of Abaddon, a soul eater is an extraplanar entity devoid of emotion or reason and possessing a hunger that may only be sated by devouring the souls of the living. They are often conjured by vile spellcasters pursuing morbid agendas. Even when not seeing to the heinous commands of a sinister magic user, the soul eater prowls and hunts, constantly seeking living souls upon which to gorge itself.”

“Good thing I’m soulless,” Cane laughed, returning to the battle with a loud and nasty thunderstrike. He stared at the creature in dismay as it cackled maniacally, “Hee hee haha ahhaw heh heh ehe ehe heh ha ha hah ha ha ha!” while raking him savagely.

Trask hit it with three arrows to little avail as Lev began spouting his familiar “You guys are great,” speech and we all felt a little better about ourselves. I stepped up, took a couple of licks from the monster, and returned its affections with strong slashes from my sword.

Suddenly a burst of noise erupted from Vlad buffeting the creature. Trask followed with a single shot but deadly aim. Sizzles then ripped into the soul eater ferociously as it flew into shreds about her head like chicken feathers from a slain hen.

It was still dark so we tried to resting until dawn came glimmering from the east. I found myself gazing at the north star and wondering what you were dreaming. Ever since the owlbear rampaged through Tuskland I’ve seen how little my protection is worth when I'm away. Gods bless Bert Askew, but I doubt if his noodle arms could fight anything larger than a housecat.

With a start, I realized that it was morning, awakening to the sound of Sizzles whining piteously. “She had a bad dream,” Cane said, rubbing the back of her neck. “It was a Cyclops, old as the hills with a glowing red eye.”

“And he probably chased his tail!” Trask scowled as I hastily folded my blankets. “Are you really trying to relate to us what Sizzles saw in a dream?” he scoffed.

“Yes, I am,” Cane replied, taken aback. “And Sizzles is a she.”

I sat by the fire as they bickered, drinking a hot cup of coffee. A half moon was waning at the edge of the sky. Then we packed our camp and saddled up, Lev and Cane in the lead.
Copyright Paizo

Before long, over the distant scrub, we could see a tower jutting up. We came to a rushing river where we saw an island—a large rock, really—at the tower’s base. It was Vordakai's Tomb, the place from where no one returns. A hundred feet of water separated us. Tethering the horses we unfolded our boat, making for the island. At the foot of the cliff, where the beach was rimmed by a limestone scarp, there was a dark opening in the stone, partially obscured by creepers. Cane noticed tracks in the mud. Three creatures had passed this way over the previous three weeks: the first was human, the second was something very large, and, most recently, unshod horse hooves—a centaur. 

“This makes me angry,” Cane muttered.

Lev led the way in. It was very dark and I walked careful of debris on the ground. Lev reported that there were arches overhead, stopping us before we crossed their plane. He said runes were writ there—a magic ward. Lev and Trask moved ahead while I cast light and the rest of us explored the alcoves. We found human tracks, going into and then returning from the tunnel ahead. The huge footprints emerged while the centaur’s entered.

Farther along we found an amphora that had been broken open, spilling 689 ancient gold pieces. Each was stamped on one side with the image of an all-seeing eye, a clenched fist dominated the other. Buried in the coins was a jade bracelet—the one described by Master Pendrod!

“Worth 200 gold on eFey,” Cane joked.

Rubble lay strewn on the ground. As we collected the coins our colleagues went ahead, peering around a bend in the tunnel. Lev noted that the entire structure of the tomb was imbued with preserving magic.

That’s when they spied a large creature shambling unaware towards us, a zombie cyclops!

With Lev whispering encouragement in his ear Trask let fly with a flaming arrow.

“Querrowlowlowl!” we heard it howl as the arrow hit true.

Through the wall there was a muffled “Querrowlowlowl!” in answer.

Cane quickly followed up the attack, cutting a large bloodless hunk from its pale flesh. I cast hide from undead and moved forward but the fight was quickly over when Vlad blew it away using a spell of searing light.

The muffled growling became more distinct as stones tumbled from the wall and another zombie cyclops broke through.

This time Vlad’s searing light failed miserably—perhaps his powder wasn’t dry. Trask calmly filled it with arrows as Cane’s sword fell so heavily that its blue spine went spiraling through the air all by itself.

We collected their masterwork battleaxes and moved through a door into a large cavern with stalactites dripping from the roof. A wide pool filled the chamber except for a narrow shelf hugging the wall at the level of the river outside. We saw no tracks. Lev noticed that there were stairs in the river going down. Cane stripped to his trunks, much less shy now that Piea has left our group. He had hardly disappeared down the steps when we saw the water begin to roil.

“I like watching the failure of others,” Trask smirked, “especially if it was my action that sent them to their doom.”

What Cane had encountered was an Elasmosaurus. I’ll leave it to you to research the creature but, needless to say, it was large and vicious. Bleeding badly, Cane cried, “Look at my side! I’ve got a chunk out of it! That was a bad idea.”
Elasmosaurus--Public Domain

“We’ve got to kill it because there’s stuff down there,” Trask grumbled.

“Well, I’m not going to be bait for it!” Cane said hotly.

“Let’s stop being little girls about this and let’s go get this done, buttercups,” Trask growled, frowning with his one good eye.

I cast spiritual weapon and gingerly placed it under the water. The creature sat unperturbed as it popped away at him. Cane, healed somewhat by Vlad, swaggered back into the water after the creature, getting bitten once again. I heard Vlad screech in pain, realizing that he had cast friend shield, taking half of Cane’s damage.

Trask shot an arrow into the water, nicking it. I tried, too, but hit Cane instead. I heard a curse bubble from the water

“Ha ha ha ha,” Trask shouted. “How delicious! Friends make the best enemies!”

Sizzles entered the fray but the creature matched him bite for bite. Then it turned to lash at Cane again but this time he was ready. With the flash of his blade the fight was over.

We found that it had been protecting a pouch containing a silver raven figurine of wondrous power and a ring of freedom of movement. We quickly rolled dice for possession of the ring and, for once, the gods smiled on Cane.

The firelight is getting dim and I must get some rest before I go on watch. I’ll continue this story next time.

Always true,
Uncle Marquand