Dear Travel Journal,
The last few days have been inauspicious, but to allay your fears, ultimately victorious! After defeating the shapeshifter (who was human and not a doppleganger at all! He just had a fancy hat, of which more later) we discovered a nearby cave strewn with the remains of unlucky adventurers, townspeople, passers-by, and Fyreson’s special friend Sara’s tax-collecting brother. It also had some sort of heavily tattooed extra-planar creature who wanted to go home. Oh, and 500 gp in ready coin that was supposed to have paid Ravens-on-the-moor’s tax bill! And some assorted loose change. TJ, old friend, I do not mind telling you that this discovery (or these discoveries) touched off quite the row! First- what to do about the devil? Well! Thanks to the words of the most-posterity-minded Zyf I knew just what to do in this situation!
“Ahem!” I said, “and a tale I will thee tell!”
“No one asked you to tell a tale!” (that came from everybody, but I know that Myn doesn’t like quitters [unless we quit to preserve our dignity], so I persevered!)
“Zyf’s talons once encountered a Marilith (6-armed Lady Demon, fairly powerful) after being almost fatally harassed by some dopplegangers (quelle coincedence!) as Zyf had not come into the fullness of his power, the elected to let her stay in her mystical prison, and they never saw her again…until six months later when Sir Darien the Paladin accidentally freed her while trying to kill her. Then, she ran off, never to be heard from again. Until a year and a half later when she turned up as an ally of the succubus who was the father of Emma the Larcenous’s son, Gaiden. Um, Lord Gaiden. Um, Sir Lord Gaiden. Anyway, the moral of the story is that we’ll probably inadvertently free him within the year.” I turned to the devil, “Did you hear that, sir? Probably a year at most.”
“Oh, um, thanks,” he replied.
“Anyway,” said Garchik, “What does this hat do? It’s magical.”
“We don’t know,” said Fyreson vehemently, “Now let’s go camp somewhere.”
After a rousing debate on the merits of leech-infested caves, or devil-haunted caves, or angry-townsperson-inhabited villages, we settled on staying in the nearby mostly complete burnt shell of a house with the added precautions of watching for goblins and setting up a scaregoblin made from the corpse of their human leader. Signe was a little distressed at the idea, but I quickly prayed over the body to put it’s soul, and Signe’s mind, at rest. “May you walk in the light of Myn, and may she forgive you, and double extra bonus points for letting us use your body as a scaregoblin!” Despite Signe’s concern, our campout was a complete success, which is more than I can say for the beginning of our trip back to Ravens-on-the-moor.
Oh yes, Signe and I went back to return the silverware and candelabras and heirloom swords and wall hangings and family treasures that the townsfolk had given up to pay their taxes. Luckily our pack animals were not harmed or stolen in the night (Praise Myn!)
We, however, were not so lucky. We had a choice of walking over the hill or through a tunnel. I suggested over the hill, but Fyreson reminded me that the overland path was not safe.
“Praise Myn for reminding us of danger,” I exclaimed
“But I did that,” grumbled Fyreson.
“Praise Myn for using Fyreson to remind us of danger,” I re-exclaimed.
As we attempted to go back through the cavernous tunnel, we were viciously attacked by a huge swarm of leeches. Far larger than the one Signe and Garchik had described. Based on the exhaustion we all felt on reaching the other side, I estimate that nearly 1,000,000 leeches took part in draining our blood! Except for Tam, who, after warning us for a second time that the overland route was full of quicksand and snares for the unwary, took the overland route, and, unaware, fell into some quicksand.
His yells for help attracted the attention of the rest of the party, and Signe and I rushed to his aid. Taking with us only a rope and a grappling hook, we braved the treacherous terrain of the swamplands with only Myn’s guidance to protect us. AND PROTECT US SHE DID! Signe, scouting a mere 15 feet ahead, noticed that she was sinking into the less-than-solid ground. As I was the only one close by I, by the grace of Myn, managed to pull her from the deadly embrace of the porous earth! And I got the celebratory High five! (FIRST TIME, TJ!) But we still had Tam to rescue and all I had was a rope with a grappling hook, so I threw it too him and pulled him to dry land. There were a few tense minutes when he was pursued by a moving hillock of some kind, but nothing came of that.
When we returned to the crown of the hill (near the human skulls) we started yet another debate. The human who had led the goblins had accomplished his protean feats with the aid of a hat of disguise!
“I want that hat,” opined Garchik.
“I will pay…200 gold pieces to the party to use that hat,” offered Signe.
“It’s not going to belong to any one of us,” thundered Fyreson, “we’ll use it as need be on a case by case basis. I may well organize a rota!”
“Well, I don’t want it,” I said faithfully, “Myn is the goddess of trickery, and if I need to be disguised in some way, she’ll find a way to disguise me!”
“200 gold,” said Signe desperately.
“My crippling fear of dopplegangers,” said Garchik pitiably.
“NO ONE PERSON GETS TO OWN THE HAT!” yelled Fyreson
“I have no interest in the hat,” Tam informed us.
“Well I need it if I’m going to accompany Dmitri back to Ravens-on-the-moor,” Signe shot back. And with that, the hat was temporarily hers. She put it on and went from pale and freakish Signe to kind of normally Northern Imperial Signe.
I was somewhat expecting to be met by a grateful populace, but instead we got an angry pitchfork-and-torch-wielding mob. They called us demon worshipers as we calmly returned their goods. They were a little nonplussed by that, some of the pitchfork shaking got distinctly half-hearted. “If you have your hearts set on extraplanar violence, there’s a devil in a cave a few hours that way,” I told them as I gestured vaguely. “Praise Myn!”
Unfortunately it wasn’t all quicksand and easily-cowed mobs. The next day, on our way back to camp, we chanced across several roguish fellows in Anwar’s livery. As Anwar is a very unpleasant god (probably more or less the god of complete genocide) I was sure these fellows were up to no good. No sooner had I said that thought softly to myself, then up came a man holding two cacodaemons on some sort of magic leash.
“Are you the mercenaries working for Renanto?”
“No,” I answered firmly.
“You match their description.”
“I am not a mercenary!” Imagine, Travel Journal! I am a champion of Myn, not a common sell-sword! The nerve!
He continued to ask several impertinent questions, and actually invited himself along with us at one point, before we came to our senses and tried to kill him.
Travel Journal, I can only assume that the baleful regard of Anwar overcame, on an extremely temporary basis, the holy light of Myn. Here’s what happened- Tam hit the mage (for so he was) in the chest with an arrow. And then all of us began to move around the battlefield and attack ineffectively. I was quickly bitten by one of those cacodaemonic…spheres, I suppose. And, no doubt due to extra planar venom, I began to hear strange voices, one aspirated and strangely upbeat, the other, nasal and matter-of-fact*.
“Well, it’s a beautiful day for a fight here on this trade road! Look at those bricks. Didja ever think that if they were yellow, it would be the yellow brick road? I do! I pretend I’m Dorothy all of the time!”
“Thanks Harry, and we can see the members of Zyf’s Claws stepping up to their opponents right now. This is the freshman season for this adventuring company, and while they show a lot of promise, they still have some first-time jitters.”
“I thought they were the Myn Gang! I can’t believe I’ve been wrong this whole time!”
“I’m sure they won’t mind Harry. It looks like we’re up at the top of the order with newcomer Tam. His tracking skills have been a big help, except for yesterday’s little trouble in the swamp, but I’m sure he won’t let that rattle him as he continues to fire arrows at the enemy mage. It looks like the first one is away, and oh, too bad, it seems as though that arrow got blocked by a Shield spell. Smart choice by that unknown spellcaster, as that’ll also protect him from magic missiles, should anyone decided to use them.”
“Hey! Why do we call them spells, anyway? Is it because they all have letters? I bet it’s because of the letters!”
“Ooooh! And another bad break for Zyf’s Claws as Signe Dobrev’s ray of frost fizzles out against that Cacodaemon’s energy resistance. Signe Dobrev is the starting arcane spellcaster for the group, and what she lacks in offensive power she makes up for in mystery, wouldn’t you say Harry?”
“All I know is that, if she were on my team, I’d need to use divining spells six was from Sunday! And that’s just to figure out her eye color!”
“Swing and a miss there for Dmitri Zyfsworn. Looks like the Goddess of Luck doesn’t much care that Fyreson is being bitten by both cacodaemons.”
“Maybe he oughtta listen more carefully do Dmitri’s sermons in the future.”
“Maybe he ought. And Oh no, will you look at that? A long high fly into center mass from Tam just shattered on another spell. The enemy spellcaster has put up Protection from normal arrows, which is going to keep both Garchik and Tam on the sidelines for the remainder of the battle. Fyreson seems to have switched tactics now, and is aiding Dmitri. We’ll see how well it turns out just after these words from our sponsor. Hey kids, remember when literacy was the province of the rich and/or wealthy? Not anymore! If you act now, you can pre-enroll at Carlyon College for only two cows (or the livestock equivalent). Invest in your future, stop staring at an ox’s ass and learn a trade at Carylon College. Carlyon College offers advanced degrees in military architecture, siege engineering, expert treasure-hunting, and modern Abyssal! Enroll now and start your future today! Carlyon College is not affiliated with the town of Moytura, the Western Empire, or the Council of the Fire Clan.”
“Hey! The big guy with the sword hit something! But it didn’t stay hit much! Didja ever wonder what it would be like to spontaneously heal? I do! I spontaneously fart sometimes, but it’s not the same thing!”
“And it looks as though Fyreson’s strategy is paying off. The easily distracted cacodaemons can’t stick with one target. And rookie Zyfsworn just connected solidly with the enemy mage’s torso. That’s gotta hurt.”
“That guy’s doing what I do when I get hurt. Just a little nip from the bottle will set him straight!”
“That healing potion undid some of Zyfsworn’s damage, but oh no folks, you heard it here first, Zyfsworn connected with another solid hit and that enemy mage is down! The cacodaemons are fleeing! This fight is all over but the mopping up and both of the ranged-weapon specialists have that well under control! The Claws came out swinging for the fences but once they got themselves settled down, teamwork and effort paid off for this scrappy band of ragtag wanderers.”
“Claws win! Claws win!”
But the excitement was not over, oh no! We found some coins, a slightly magic dagger which Garchik, no doubt miffed that Signe had more or less de facto commandeered the Hat of Disguise, quickly claimed. And, in an intriguing box, we found yet another old stone tablet, which, according to a scrap of paper in the box, is one third of a key to the TOWER of THAUMATURGY! Which sounds awesome! Can’t wait til next time, Travel Journal!
*Editor’s Note: Harry Caray and Vin Scully in that order- Smilin’ Seth