Queenmaker

MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #67
Starday, 21 Desnus, 4716AR

I am happy to report that we have successfully broken the back of the bandits. The Stag Lord will never again menace Oleg and Svetlana nor any other peaceful settler in this region.

The assault began in an unsettling manner. When we tried to cross some of the open ground between the woods and the fortress we were confronted by hands reaching up out of the ground. It seems likely that the restless dead haunt the grounds. Today I mean to investigate the matter more fully so that the poor souls can be put to rest.

We backed up to the treeline and Ce Me No took a new vector of approach. He masterfully snuck in over the wall (a full 15’ high – Poe may need some help learning to judge vertical distance). Once inside he set the owlbear loose, goading it into attacking some of the guards and damaging the main gate of the palisade. He continued sniping at it with alchemical fire, but it became clear the gate would not come crashing down from the inside. We charged in with Jeremiah and I at the front. We managed to batter it down and then joined the bandits in battle.

Along with the rank and file members we encountered several other of the Stag Lord’s lieutenants. One mouthy one with a rapier was called Dovann by the others, and I singled him out for personal attention after we put down the owlbear. The experience ended for him in much the way one might expect. The somewhat simple-minded bandit who acted as the owlbear’s keeper fell at Ce Me No’s hands. As far as I can tell, his name was Ox.
We also came upon a turncoat in the Stag Lord’s ranks. After baring his sword against his compatriots and helping us clear the courtyard of the fortress, he introduced himself as Akiros. He further helped us by directing us to the Stag Lord’s sanctum in the cellar, and warning us about the creepy healer who protects him. I am not sure I fully trust Akiros. Yes, he helped us, both in the first battle and the one that followed, and yes, he seems genuine in wanting to leave the Stag Lord’s service. But a turncoat requires some doubt in the first place, and his life story has done little to soothe those concerns.

Apparently he began life training to be a paladin, and fell in love with a young woman. He claims that he didn’t know she was married, but in any case the whole thing came to an ugly head in his local temple of Erastil. The young woman brought her husband along to publicly accuse him of raping her. At that point he lost control of himself and slew both her and her husband in a fit of rage. He then fled the temple, and apparently has been wandering since then. He somehow came into the Stag Lord’s service as well, which is another issue where his character is concerned. All in all, I think it might be best to consult Jhod on the matter. Jhod is truly contrite about his past transgressions and is working to atone for them. If Akiros is of a similar ilk, well and good. But if he is not, then we are talking about making common cause with an unrepentant fallen paladin, murderer, turncoat, bandit, adulterer and possibly even rapist besides. This is an issue that needs to be worked out sooner rather than later, as otherwise I see no reason why his head should not join Happs’ on Oleg’s walls. I would just as soon not suffer the simultaneously lethal and untrustworthy to wander about the region.

We headed downstairs to find the Stag Lord. He and his ally had concealed themselves, but the size of the cellar soon brought us into conflict with them. Ce Me No, Jeremiah and I set upon the Stag Lord while Morrigan, Tōgg and Alvoy descended upon the healer. The Stag Lord opened up with his bow, but we were able to close in and force him to switch to his sword. He was indeed powerful, as he was able to break out of my grasp once. But the second clinch proved more lasting, and Ce Me No and I took him apart piece by piece as I pinned him. Jeremiah was frustrated by the experience, as even grappled the Stag Lord proved an elusive foe against his strikes.

The healer proved a more elusive foe – in addition to being the Stag Lord’s father. He seemed to be a druid like Nishi, using his powers to meld into the stone and summon allies in the form of a swarm of spiders, and then using other magic to cling to the ceiling out of range of our swords. But Falayna is wise and powerful, and I was able to draw upon her power to leap high into the air to drag him off the ceiling and down to the ground. I have heard that druids can change shape in ways that makes them very slippery, and I was primed for such a contest. But in the end the magical attacks of my fellows had softened the healer enough that a single round of blows was enough to put him down.

We found a rather massive trove of treasures in the fortress, including the arms and armor of the Stag Lord himself. Today I think we shall set about trying to clean up the fortress, both of its undead taint and of the more general mess the bandits have left. The fortress could well prove very useful for us in the future, assuming we can repair it in the same way that Jhod is seeking to restore Erastil’s temple. Once finished, we should also transport the body of the Stag Lord back to the site of Davik Nettles’ murder, in the hopes that he will find some measure of peace.

In that same vein, there also remain the restless spirits of the undead legion to the north. It would be well to put them to rest. And that gigantic serpent to the north is still out there as well… But for a brief moment this morning, it is enough to know that we have struck a great blow for good and justice in the region.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #66
Fireday, 20 Desnus, 4716AR

Another night, another ambush, but we managed this one without serious injury. Last night’s interloper was a large grizzly bear. After fighting an owlbear, these creatures seem overmatched by comparison. They are relatively easy to get into the kind of hug named for them, and their claws and teeth have become easier to avoid with magically enhanced skill. In greater numbers they might be a threat, but by themselves they are less of a problem.

Having rested we got back on the road and after hustling south all day we have made it back to the Stag Lord’s fortress. Poe has done some additional reconnaissance, and we are waiting until after dark to come out of the tree line and assault the fortress. Bluffing our way in seems unlikely, so we are going to depend upon Ce Me No to try and infiltrate the place and sow chaos that will allow the rest of us to follow him in. If we are successful, this will not be my last entry. If it is, I know Falayna will watch over my soul, and that she will know that I have found it a great honor to serve her and to play even a small role in fulfilling her sacred prophecy.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #65
Oathday, 19 Desnus, 4716AR

Pairing with Ce Me No on watches has been relatively effective in reducing the number of times he gets ambushed. Unfortunately, it has stopped creatures from disturbing our rest at some point during the night. This night past we were set upon by a creature that looked like a walking pile of tangled roots, compost and offal. Apparently it’s called a shambling mound. Rather tough to put down with magic given its resistance to fire and electricity. I was able to grapple it, but it was able to grapple and put the hammer to Ce Me No’s tiger before I ever got into melee. I was able to pin the creature in time for the cat to survive the incident while we beat the shambling mound to death, but the tiger was rather injured in the process. We have decided to take today to rest and allow it recuperate. Hopefully we’ll get some uninterrupted sleep tonight.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #64
Wealday, 18 Desnus, 4716AR

Headed out this morning, riding south for the Stag Lord’s fortress. We have received word from Nishi that he intends to stay with Jhod for the forseeable future. In the interest of filling out our small company, we have taken on two members who happened to be passing through. When they heard of our task, they were eager to help, so I shall take that as a good sign. We will see how they work out, and at any rate I’m not sure how long they will remain in our company. But for now I am happy to have their fellowship. One is a mounted warrior in heavy armor who calls himself Jeremiah. I remember the Shoanti have little but curses for the mounted warriors the Chelish called “knights,” but apparently this particular variety is called a “dragoon.” Our other new companion is a sort of shaman named Alvoy. Rather than call himself a shaman he refers to himself as a “witch doctor.” Potat-o, Po-tah-to.

Perhaps one of them will acquit themselves admirably AND decide to stay. It appears our quartet may become a trio in the near future. Tōgg has informed us of his intention to retire from the field work of exploration, mapping and dispensing justice in favor of focusing entirely on magical craftsmanship. Doubtless he will continue to be a valuable ally for us in that regard, and perhaps in the business of trying to run a kingdom while moving forward. But in the end, it is somewhat strange to think that we may soon be down to a central core of myself, our dear future queen, and a goblin with a heart of gold. I’m sure there are dirty jokes that start this way. Fortunately I don’t know any of them.

As to Alvoy and Jeremiah acquitting themselves, they soon got a chance. We followed the main road south until we were near the lair of the mites. We heard the sound of a wagon, and on a hunch, Morrigan, Ce Me No, Tōgg and I all concealed ourselves, figuring that our appearances might be known to any bandits or their allies. Alvoy and Jeremiah met the wagon upon the road and tried to treat with them – not terribly successfully. The woman who led them proved a cruel and unpleasant person, and her identity clicked for me in the lead-up. As soon as combat began, I lept forward and grappled her. Kressle she was. One of her minions managed to stab me, and another tried to use the wagon to escape. Tōgg used his stone magic to rain down on him and slow the wagon’s escape. Ce Me No and his tiger then distinguished themselves by chasing him down and leaping onto the moving wagon to dispatch the bandit. Jeremiah flattened two of the bandits himself, and my over-torquing hold proved more than Kressle could bear. She all but ripped in two as my fleshgem spikes dug into her. Often it seems those most eager to dish out punishment are least capable of taking it. I can’t find it in myself to muster much sympathy for someone who was so sadistic towards both Svetlana and Oleg.

With their leader dead, the remaining two scattered. Morrigan made a brave attempt to emulate me, trying to grapple one of them. I managed to get a hold of him instead, at which point she kicked him in the groin. Repeatedly. Gleefully. Somewhat disturbing. The other bandit was surrounded and cut down by the rest of the party. We found quite the trove of illicit goods when we searched their wagon, crates full of furs and trade goods, as well as few finer objects like a music box and earrings. We also found a crate with several bottles of a green alcohol. There had been eight, but Ce Me No’s spectacular acrobatic landing crushed six of them. Morrigan tried one of them, and then downed half the bottle. Then she went back to kicking the last bandit in what remained of his genitals while demanding information of him in somewhat uncouth terms.

Thankfully the bandit retained enough of his senses to provide some useful information about the Stag Lord. He told us they had less than a dozen bandits left in their stronghold. He also gave us the sign/countersign password needed to get past the gate. Not sure how useful we will find that – we’re decent at hiding, but we’re not that good at hiding. The Stag Lord himself is reputed to be a monstrous hulk of a man who’s never seen without his unsettling stag skull helmet. He is said to be very deadly with a bow, but also strong enough to crush people’s hands with his own. I think I may enjoy testing myself by way of a clinch with him. He is also said to be extremely fond of his liquor.

On that note, rather than watch her continue to degrade herself, I forced Morrigan to regurgitate the liquor by way of sticking my finger down her throat. Alarmingly the first effort failed… it would seem she has a certain level of tolerance for having large hard cylindrical body parts in her throat. While I was doing that, the rest of the party let the last bandit go. Recovering her sobriety, Morrigan attempt to entangle the bandit. She gave chase after her into the trees, and I was obliged to follow her. Perhaps sensing the ludicrousness of the situation, the gods did not see fit to let us find the bandit’s trail. It was all we could do to find our own way back.

Decided to make camp for the evening. Hopefully all the sweating and exertion (in addition to the forced vomiting) will allow Morrigan to get a good night’s rest. It appears that protecting our future Queen may be a full time job if you include protecting her from herself…

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #63
Toilday, 17 Desnus, 4716AR

After a long day’s ride we have made it back to Oleg’s. He had our reward from the Swordlords of Brevoy for pacifying the kobolds. We originally considered taking some down time to toughen up and recuperate, but it is clear that the scourge of the Stag Lord and his bandits have continued long enough. We will ride out promptly tomorrow at dawn.

We did pick up some rumors in the common room after we arrived. Apparently the boggards (likely including Garum’s old tribe) are venturing out of their swamps. Something called “The Great Beast that Sleeps” is also stirring. Meanwhile the Centaurs are also ill at ease. Perhaps they are all being stirred up by the same thing? Perhaps it has something to do with whatever dark power slew the unicorn? Something to ponder on, but for now we must remain focused.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #62
Moonday, 16 Desnus, 4716AR

Quite an odd experience today. The night was quiet, and our trip to the southeast revealed little beyond some rather pretty wildflowers (C12). We turned back before the watchtowers of the fortress could catch sight of us, and started the long trip back to Oleg’s. Passing back through the area where we camped last night (C11), we crossed the river in a different location. We found a rotten rope bridge with a sign naming it “Nell’s Crossing.” When we tried to cross, the remains of a corpse rose up out of the river, but instead of immediately attacking us, it spoke. It introduced itself as Davik Nettles, and explained to us the story of his demise before begging us to help him take his revenge.

Apparently some time back the Stag Lord’s bandits had come to his bridge and demanded that not only should they be allowed to cross for free, but they should also receive a large portion of the proceeds Davik earned by ferrying others across the river. Apparently he resisted and ran them off with his hounds. This led them to return in force with the Stag Lord himself. They pincushioned Davik and his dogs with flaming arrows, tied him to the bridge and cut the ropes to drown him. Apparently his soul will not be able to find rest until the body of the Stag Lord joins him in the depths of the river. I would normally be uncomfortable treating with undead. But the fact that the Stag Lord’s demise is already on our agenda and the fact that Davik’s need for vengeance is true all lead me to think that it is possible for a restive dead man to be on the side of justice in this instance.

We continued north, and have made it as far as Morrigan’s Bridge (B12) before bedding down for the evening.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #61
Sunday, 15 Desnus, 4716AR

Another quiet night. One might even get used to this. Heading east, we found a mostly featureless stretch of prairie and grasslands (C10). Travelled northeast until we caught sight of the area where we had found the fey burial mounds, and concluded it was time to turn around.

Heading back southwest the prairie continued up to the edge of the Tuskwater (C11). But we caught the track of a large hooved animal partway through. Following the trail, we eventually came upon the “ferocious” boar Tuskgutter. In all honesty, he proved rather less imposing and threatening than an owlbear or a tatzlwyrm – and decidedly less so than a troll.

After dispatching him, we relieved him of his head and dressed the rest. For a moment we idly considered trying to lure the bandits out of the stronghold with the scent of a pig roast. But we decided instead to make camp and cure the meat for later use. After scouting out the area close to the palisade fortress tomorrow morning, we’ll head back to Oleg’s to claim the bounty on Tuskgutter’s head.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #60
Starday, 14 Desnus, 4716AR

Turns out the thylacine/marsupial snores. Loudly. We were otherwise undisturbed during the night however. Tacked southeast again and came upon the largest body of water I have ever seen. Based on the rather tooth-like shape of it I suspect we have found the Tuskwater. Caught sight of a tremendous shadow in the lake but it vanished as quick as it appeared. On the south end and far side of the lake we were able to catch sight of a man-made structure. Tōgg sent Poe out to reconnoiter, and reported back that it was a small fortress consisting of a six foot high palisade fence, multiple watch towers, and a pair of buildings inside the fence. There were also a number of guards dressed rather like the bandits we previously encountered. There was also an owlbear in an enclosed area.

As we would find it difficult to approach unobserved by crossing the lake, we have decided to travel around it instead. We headed north along the shore and found the area was full of more of those Fangberries Bokken likes (C9). We left them alone for the time being when we found the area was also infested with more of those chew spiders. Rather than slog our way through it, Tōgg dispatched Poe off in the direction of Garum the boggard and his pet slurk, as both are apt to have a fondness for insects and arachnids in their diet. With any luck, they’ll do us a favor by clearing them out after we inform them that there’s good eating to be found in the area.

We continued north and east across a bridge on the Phlox River, up an old road and then forded a second river before making camp for the night.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #59
Fireday, 13 Desnus, 4716AR

Slept deeply and well last night. Continued southwest until we reached the edge of the woods, and found the area to be filled with lovely yellow flowers (“celandine” I’m told). Definitely a welcome change after the swamps (C6).

After fully exploring the area and finding little else beyond the pretty flowers, we turned back to the north, following the edge of the woods. We came across a small hut, and found it was home to a large family of raccoons (C7). Contrary to suggestion, we decided not to name the big one “Bitey.”

We also heard an unfamiliar yipping, and came upon a dugout pit that might have been used by trappers in the past. Down at the bottom, we found an odd creature. Based on my companions’ descriptions, I am unclear whether it is actually called a “thylacine” or a “marsupial.” Either way, it is an odd mix, not quite cat or dog, striped like a tiger, teeth and snout like a dire wolf, and a furred flap of skin that looks rather like a pouch. Judging the animal to have been down in the pit for some time and famished to boot, Tōgg sought to ply it with tatzylwyrm meat. It took several handfuls and several pounds of the meat, but the creature was eventually sated. Rendered more docile, we pulled it out of the pit, and I suspect it will now follow Tōgg about in the same way that the honored dead wolf did me.

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MISSION JOURNAL OF SISTER SCARLET ENTRY #58
Oathday, 12 Desnus, 4716AR

I fear I may never feel clean again, but I am making the effort. When we hooked back north, we came upon a colossal swamp of deep mud (C5). The ground was completely saturated by the flow of the Phlox River, as well as other inland water sources. While the entire area remained inside the woods, the tree cover was rather thin throughout. Likely the soil’s saturation has consumed more than a few large trees. We may want to consider shoring up the sides of the Phlox River with dykes or other fortifications to try and let the soil dry out somewhat. Exploring the area proved time-consuming, grueling, filthy, and fairly dangerous.

During the two day ordeal each of my companions got themselves and their horse absolutely stuck in the mud, requiring three to four hours of backbreaking labor on our part (I feel like my back did a fair amount of the breaking). We even had to sleep sitting in our saddles in the middle of the ordeal. We finally made it through as evening was falling today. We found dryer land as the sun was falling on the second day – as well as another tatzlwyrm. We grappled it into submission before lopping its head off, but in the interest of giving our future sovereign a more compelling legend, we have all agreed to maintain that she slew the beast singlehanded – as well as the owlbear whose headdress she now wears. While quite impressive, it could likely use a bit more drying and tanning time after the swamp.

My companions are feasting on the meat of the tatzlwyrm, as it would seem a waste to leave the body of such a heavy creature to simply rot. That said, I am fairly certain that even if my dietary vows did not prohibit me from doing so, meat from a creature that slithers would not be high on my list of things to try.

As I am still finding stray traces of swamp muck in hard to reach places, I am headed back to the river for another bath.

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