The Spear of Hoar

12 April, 2017

A good session. I think I got back in touch with what James is about, the whole leadership thing. Which is to say, I think James got back in touch with what he is about. We had to run from the bad thing through some collapsing tunnels (using the Paizo chase cards) and Andy wanted to know what James was doing. My/James’ response was “All I care about is my men”. Sexist and speciesist, and most of all: classist, but that’s the fantasy military for you. He took a round to get command points rather than running, and he use those command points to grant a couple of re-rolls. It put him behind everyone else running out, and that was fine.

This letter is being sent to granddad Lancet via super secret family message pouch.


In hopes this finds you well, I write now that we have a few moments of peace.

It has been an eventful day.

We seem to have recovered the Spear of Hoar. Or if not that, some other spear that seems to be a powerful religious artifact of some kind.

Our researches in Santa Cora narrowed down the probable locations in the Owl Barrens to two. We arrived at a mine at James provides the location here, as nearly as possible from which dragon-stone had been found in the past, and were informed by a local resident (a mad old hermit, but cheerful) that it was inhabited by a dragon.

We entered the mine and dealt with the dragon and a few of its offspring. One was gravely wounded (we took a wing off) and bargained with us for its life, offering to lead us further into the mine where the spear was located. Surprisingly, it (I have it’s name written down somewhere – Z-something – Zika?) was true to its word, and led us to the entrance of a chamber. We kept to our bargain and permitted it to leave and make its own way out. This may one day prove to be a mistake, but it is what it is. I would give long odds on a one-winged dragonling surviving the wilds.

The path to this other chamber led through a chasm in which there were pillars of what appeared to be dragon-stone. Several tons of it each. These pillars bore masks of (God starting with a G). We attempted to retrieve one of these masks, but it did not go well.


The chamber itself had an inhabitant and what appeared to be a library of ancient books. All I can say is that the woman looked human, although obviously could not have been. She indicated the spear – which was lying in a reliquary of some sort – and invited/permitted us to take it.

I should mention at this point that three of our company are of a divine bent.

  • Nacelle, a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. Our current mission to retreive this spear is mostly hers. Or so we belived.
  • Elsbeth, a sorcerer. She appaers to be some sort of devotee – perhaps a lapsed prestess? – of the god Hoar. This mission appears to be some sort of personal quest for her.
  • Cannis Lashley, a and bard and I believe priest, although I am not sure of whom. Cannis is a fragment of the god of song, but I don’t belive anyone knows that in-character. He appears to be an assimar and has several times exhibited odd abilities.

Backtracking a little – we passed at one point a statue of Hoar, or rather, a statue of Elsbeth slaying Hoar with a dagger. The woman was clearly Elsbeth. Even more startlingly, Toasten – who wields odd magics seemingly connected to the manipulation of time – claimed to have made the sculpture “in the future”. None of us quite knows what to make of this, least of all Eslbeth herself.

So, back to the chamber. The spear was in two pieces – the head separated from the shaft. Nacelle attempted to retrieved the spear from its reliquary, but was not able to. Cannis, however, was able to do so. The spear rejoined accompanied by rather a great deal of lightning, which appears to be one of Hoar’s manifestations.

At which point, the inhabitant of the chamber exclaimed “At last! We can feed!” and attacked along with several shadows. The spear at this point appeared to be possessing (as near as I can make out) Cannis, which problem Nacelle dealt with by rebreaking the spear.

After dealing with the hag and her shades, I had a look at the bookshelves. he library was fake – almost all the books were blank or had pages filled with random gibberish. One, however, was not. It appears to be some sort of necromantic grimoire, and I have taken possession of it.

The way behind us had collapsed by this stage, but one of us detected a breeze coming from further below. Lacking other options, we proceeded even further down.


Below was a cavern containing massive pile of bones of various races and pillars of dragonstone. In the center was a giant skull ringed by four extremely large pillars containing a bier on which rested an elven woman.

We looted the bones – a little unwise, perhaps, but we recovered a few magical items.

I investigated the more natural dragonstone columns and chipped of a sample, which I have enclosed. Our – I suppose “expedition leaders” woke and spoke to the elven woman, and then a great many things happened in rather quick succession. Some sort of spirit – very great, filling the whole cavern – appeared and someone at some point stabbed the Elven woman in the chest with the spear of Hoar I think. As I mentioned: rather a lot going on at the time. We located an exit and ran for it. I gather that the woman and the spirit were some sort of ill-starred couple. One hopes that we have sent her on to a better place.


I am not entirely sure how we made it out, considering the depth to which we had descended and the fact that the caverns were collapsing around us as we ran. However, everybody appears to be here and mostly in one piece. I have a rather interesting grimoire which appears to be sealed, a rather interesting wand which I hve not investigated yet, but much more importantly we have the Spear of Hoar. It all went rather well, all things considered.

Perhaps of interest to House Lancet, however, is several tons of dragonstone laying in the caverns beneath the location I have mentioned. Of course, the war makes retrieving this a trifle problematic, but it is that nature of wars to not last forever. Perhaps the spirit we ran from now inhabits the place, making retrieving the stone impossible. Then again, perhaps with his ancient lover or whatever finally well and truly dead, he has moved on. Quite a bit of the cavern did collapse, but this is not to say that it cannot be mined out. And it’s possible that the dragonstone itself has been damaged by today’s various spiritual and physical cataclysms.

It’s not a certain thing, is what I am getting at. But the rewards could be great.

As for us, we have the Spear of Hoar – in two pieces, granted – but it’s not clear to me what exactly we intend to do with it. I imagine that in the right hands it could spit an orc like nobody’ business, but at present we are trying to deal with half a continent of them.

That is: I find I must trouble you for advice, once again. Has anyone any idea how such a thing might be best used? Any old prophecies, that sort of thing?

In hopes that this message finds you swiftly,
Faithfully,

JM


You know, James is being pushed in a dark direction at the moment

  1. Big Book ‘o Badness
  2. Shadowy wand of Shadows
  3. Turns out the necromancer was the good guy all along

But at the end of session, James faced that big thing alone and popped it with the only thing he had – a Magic Missile carrying a bonus 10 points of holy damage. It called him “star mage”. In 13th Age, holy damage comes from the overworld, from the stars.

I’m not 100% clear on how James got out. Maybe he’ll go to the dark side, maybe he’ll find a way to integrate the two. But I’m a little more hopeful for him now that he has rediscovered his moral center. It lies on the “soldier/commander” side of his character sheet.


I have been putting this off

6 April, 2017

A message, sent by secret magic message pouch.

I have been putting off writing this for days, but we have a quiet moment and I can shirk my duty no longer.

I am to blame for the recent collapse of the protective wards around Santa Cora, and I suspect elsewhere as well.

As I have mentioned previously, I was gifted with a certain cloak by Edmund the Marked, granting me some access to the magics of the nodes of The Empire. By this means I reactivated the node at Ebony Watch, and the node on the dwarven ruins beneath Chancer’s Hope, which protected the city from the orc and giant incursion from the south.

At Santa Cora, I gained access to the Astronomer’s Tower, a structure which had been sealed for centuries. At its top was a node (connected to air magics, as it happened, not that it matters now). With Edmund present, I accessed the node. As I was doing so, Edmund gained control of the magics from me and cancelled them. This act appeared to not only shut down the node atop the tower, but also the one in the Santa Cora cathedral. I do not know how far the damage may have gone.

His stated reasons for doing so were preposterous lies. I do not know who he is working for and I will not credit anything he might say. Acts speak louder.

Edmund must be brought to justice and made to pay for his treachery. But I would not that the family name be associated with this. Let the histories not say that one of our family was responsible for the fall of Santa Cora. James is careful to not mention the family name – this communication channel is not entirely secure.

As for me, I travel with my companions now joined by one Nacelle, a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. Perhaps she will choose her friends more wisely than I. We travel south to the Owl Barrens in search of the Spear of Hoar, god of just retribution.

I still wear the cloak. Pride, perhaps. The Empire might be better served by my sword at Santa Cora – perhaps I could do for a couple of orcs, at least, before falling. But I shall at least see where this paladin leads us, and attempt to keep you informed.

Mother – I doubt I shall be returning home.


Summary for Maddie

6 April, 2017

Just a summary of my character’s story for a player who has returned to the game recently.

James’ story arc has been a classic greek tragedy – a rise and rise and rise and then bought low in one catastrophic stroke bought about by his own hubris.

We have a couple of mysterious wizards knocking about the world: Edmund the Marked, ex Council of Four, and Aeg Ilsa, Necromancer.

Edmund helped out the party on a couple of occasions and gave James a cloak. The cloak had a connection to the magical “nodes” of the empire – defenses set up ages ago to protect the empire from … stuff. Giants. Orcs. Probably elves and dwarves, too. The cloak also has a quirk, that whoever wears it becomes (fantically?) dedicated to the empire.

At Ebony Watch, James managed to re-ignite one of these ancient nodes. A pretty major deal. Later, in Chancer’s Hope he managed to re-ignite a second one. This one was a bit unusual in that it was in dwarven ruins underground and may have been property of the dwarf king, kinda sorta. Compounding this is that there is political tension between the dwarves and the empire at the moment. Mal Shieldglider was implicated in this, and has been exiled.

While reigniting the node, Aeg asked James if awakening the node was really such a good idea. It seemed to James that it totally was, because the city was being attacked by the orc horde. And indeed, the node once activated put this defense around the city. James got the idea that reigniting the empire nodes was basically the right thing to do.

In Santa Cora, it turned out that there were two nodes – one in the cathedral, and one in the astronomers tower, which no-one had entered for centuries. Edmund was present as James reactivated that node, a bit of a pinnacle moment. But as James did so, Edmund seized control of the magic and through this connection with this activated node brought down the entire freaking network. The immediate effect of this was that all of the storms that this node had been protecting Santa Cora from (this node was why Santa Cora always had nice weather) hit the city all at once. But the wider effect of the entire network going down is obviously more dire. Especially with an orc and giant army attacking from the south.

Edmund’s rationale was that life would be better if common people would rise up and be heroic, rather than relying on the empire or on heroes. I can’t work out if he’s a commie and wants the proletariat to rise up; or if he’s a libertarian and wants to reduce the state to a size where it can be drowned in a bathtub.

Turns out Aeg was the good guy all along. There were clues all along, of course, but James’ distaste of necromancy and his getting all wrapped up in this wonderful cloak he received and the power it gave made him ignore them.

James at the moment is at the “Luke, I am your father and Yoda has been lying to you all along” stage of his character arc. He’s extremely bummed out, which perhaps is why he’s stepped back from trying to tell people what to do and handed off the job to this paladin of the GGW that’s recently joined the party.

Luke somehow managed to stay good. Don’t know about James. He has just gotten this big book ‘o bad necromancy, and it has turned out that he was wrong about at least one necromancer all along. Maybe its time to find out if the dark side has the power to save the empire. Because at the end of the day, a soldier knows that the only way to deal with an army of orcs and giants inevitably involves killing a whole bunch of them.


Alarum!

16 December, 2016

Mother and Grandfather,

I write to you of a most urgent matter, as it appears that Santa Cora has been blockaded – I am told that there is no way to get a message out of the city. I hope that the way by which I send this message may yet be open.

Edmund of the Council of Four informs us that a massive orc army is some few days away. It seems that our little company for the past few weeks has unknowingly has traveled scant days ahead of it.

To out best information, the orc incursion is based at Proudfort. The army approaching Santa Cora appears to comprise at this point, James puts in the details that he got from Edmund and the commander about the composition of the army – numbers, naval, siege..

Although this information was initially not strongly credited, I was able to confirm to the city commander that Chancer’s Hope was indeed assaulted by a large orc naval fleet and land army, backed by giants. (Reassuring that the names “Mallard” and “Griffinsheart” carry at least some weight). The city now prepares for battle and siege, but I fear that Santa Cora is woefully unsuited to such, having always relied on its magics.

The magics of the city appear to be – well – not working properly, and it’s impossible to be more precise than that at this stage. I fear that the Lich King may be involved in all this, as there have been liches in the city and other phenomena relating to the undead.

It is something of a puzzle to me as to how this very considerable army – if these orcs come from their usual lands to the northwest – was moved to Proudfort. The logistics are challenging. The only feasible route, I suspect, would be along the behemoth path, to the ruins around the Grey Towers, down the coast and through the Koru Straits. This means that Drakenhall must also be involved – Drakenhall controls the straits, and in any case orcs simply don’t have ships as a rule.

Thus the most terrible enemies of the empire – the orcs, the dragons, and the undead – would seem to be in some sort of alliance, one of at least several years standing, which is now moving into open action.

James debated mentioning the very secret fact that the city has a second node, and that it is deactivated, and that activating it would worsen relations with the dwarves and elves. It seems that the nodes used to be more active in the past, and played a role in the old wars.

He is not mentioning it because it’s a military secret, and because it doesn’t directly relate to what the recipients of this letter need to know. If he included it, then grandad Lancet and Ducalis could not show this letter to anyone else, which is something they might need to do.

Irrespective of my speculations about history, obviously major action cannot be taken on my word alone. However, I hope that if indeed no communications are getting into or out of Santa Cora, at least someone has noticed and wondered why that might be the case. The situation is extremely grave.

Oh, mother – in happier news, it appears I am now a Captain.


On Empire

12 December, 2016

This is not a letter to anyone in particular. Maybe James just writes things down to organise his thoughts

The Lich King asked me an important question earlier today.

Yes, truly. I rather foolishly decided to attempt to wear a certain ring, judging that better me than someone else. In the end, perhaps I was right. I seem to have emerged mostly unscathed and un-ringed. (How on earth was Cannis simply able to remove it?)

Neverthleless he asked me: why should it matter who in particular is emperor? Is not the empire its people?

The answer struck me immediately as “no”, although I was at something of a loss to defend it. I answered that my loyalty is given to The Emperor, but the Lich-King’s question was a fair one. There have been other Emperors before the man we have now, and there will be others subsequently. If another man were Emperor, I would serve him as willingly and completely as I do this one. So to what, then, is my loyalty given?

Although, obviously, the possibility of having an empress doesn’t cross his mind. Can I just say, at this point, that Her Maj Elizabeth the Second by Grace of God Queen of Australia does a wonderful job, God blessah?

The notion that The Empire is its people belies itself the moment you start to examine the notion. Let us start with the obvious: there is nothing special about we the inhabitants of the empire. The people are simply people, the same as in other times and places, and nothing more. Nothing less, either: people are quite remarkable. But there is nothing inherently different between a work-gang of farmers and a pack of bandits. They eat and drink, they bleed, they have hopes and virtues and vices. It’s possible for a sailor to be punctual, diligent, and obedient and yet crew a pirate ship.

The difference between bandits and farmers is law. Framers obey the law because they are confident that the law – the emperor – protects them. That is, the substance of empire is its laws, its governance, its traditions. Why do people obey the law? Well, for some it is purely a pragmatic affair. But hopefully, most people obey the law because it is right that they do so.

In a word: the substance of empire is its legitimacy. A nebulous idea, to be sure. And so the need for strong symbols – flags and parades, a crown and a man to wear it. To give one’s loyalty to those symbols is not in itself wrong, even if that loyalty might be understood more deeply.

Nevertheless, we are in danger of a solipsism here, that the empire is legitimate because it is legitimate. As the Lich King points out – if he were Emperor, I would serve him. He may be right about that, but it does not follow from that that I should therefore support his efforts to overturn the current Emperor. To put it another way – it may not matter all that much who the emperor is, but it matters a great deal how he came to become the emperor.

If I travelled to another part of the world, with different laws and a different emperor, should I be obliged to follow the laws there?

I say yes. No – I say maybe. Laws can be unjust and oppressive. If the laws in this hypothetical kingdom were worth honouring, then they would be substantially the same as the laws here. They would outlaw murder and theft and sedition, they would oblige the strong to protect the weak, they would make it possible for a common man to pursue a trade and raise a family in security.

Perhaps I have just changed my mind. No – perhaps I have found a way out of the quandry of legitimacy. The emperor and his laws are right because they do right for the people that they are protected by. So it does come back to the people, but not in the manner the Lich King argues.

What a load of nonsense I have written! Necromancy disgusts me – I shall not serve a fleshless head under any circumstances, it’s as simple as that. Likewise, I shall not forswear my oaths – how could I have forgotten? I will oppose the Lich King, all who serve him, and any other enemy of the Dragon Empire to the limit of my power to do so, now and always.


Suicide bombers (Oooh! Controversial!)

17 October, 2016

Now that James has someone to report to (in-character) and a way to do it, it makes writing these things a bit easier. I’ll see how much I can recall of the last two sesssions.

James will make two copies, I think – one for dad via mum, and one for granddad. James is thinking that Ducalis would be more interested in magical happenings, and grandfather more interested in staying abreast of current events. He may be wrong about that 🙂 .


Events relating to attacks on dwarves in Santa Cora, (insert-date-here)

  1. Information

    1. Yesterday, our unit undertook a mission to kill a lichling in the dwarven tombs of Santa Cora.
      1. The lichling was present, and we sucessfully dealt with her.
      2. The lichling mentioned, I belive, something about “court”, which I take to mean the court of the lich-king.
      3. After the creature was dealt with, we recovered a heavily magical ring. I have it for safekeeping, but I have not worn it and doubt it is safe to do so.
    2. Yesterday evening, Xavier’s Home for Wayward Dwarves was approached by a person wearing a vest of
      explosives.

      1. Our unit intervened
      2. I rendered the explosive inert with a Dispel Magic abjuration.
      3. The attacker was This was game two weeks ago – I forget most of what happened, except what my character did. A don’t know what became of the dude, or if he was human.
    3. Today, the dwarven embassy here in Santa Cora was attacked
      1. The attacks took the from of large missiles, apparently from a heavy siege weapon.
      2. The embassy caught fire. I was not near enough to see if the source of the fire was the missiles themselves, or some other cause.
      3. We identified the source of the fire as being a particular tower at (insert address here).
      4. As there was already a bucket-chain forming to deal with the fire at the embassy, we chose to investigate the tower.
      5. We entered the tower – the door was warded, I believe the cloak I wear disarmed the wards.
      6. We found no-one and nothing at the top of the tower, from which the fire had been coming.
      7. We found a drag-mark on the roof, near the edge and in the direction of the embassy, consistent with something having been pushed off the roof.
      8. After a brief interval, Edmund of the Circle of Four arrived. He stated that:
        1. Nobody had entered this tower for centuries, and that he himself had made failed attempts to do so; and
        2. That a certain magical effect about 15′ above the roof of the tower was the source of the protection from adverse weather which covers Santa Cora.
    4. We have moved into this unoccupied tower and taken it for our base of operations.
  2. Evaluation

    Two attacks on dwarven establishments is most certainly not a coincidence. Quite obviously, some party in the city with considerable resources is attacking dwarves. They are not likely to cease. As it is unlikely that we just happened to be present for the only two attacks this party has made, there have probably been others.

    Whatever party organised these attacks has access to considerable magics. The missiles being fired at the embassy may have been conjurations, and it may be possible that the weather enchantment may have been used to enable or amplify the effect. I am reminded of the Ebony Watch node, where also an attempt was made to “hijack” an existing magical emplacement.

    Likewise, the explosives in the explosive vest was magical rather than alchemical – hence why the abjuration was able to disable it.

    Another odd parallel with the Ebony Watch incident is the presence of undead. There is no direct link, however, it is very suggestive that this lichling should have been active, in the dwarven tombs, immediately before at least two attacks on dwarves. The involvement of some kind of undead nobility would certainly account for the the presence of a mage skilled enough to enter a tower that has withstood every attempt by Edmund do do so.

    Unless, of course, that party had a cloak like mine. The possibility that a party loyal to the empire (the cloaks magics require this) might be responsible for these attacks is gravely disturbing.

    Our unit numbers two dwarves. Mal Shieldglider will most certainly insist on taking some action. He is, after all, a Shieldglider – rank does come with responsibilities. The sympathies of the entire unit, myself included, are rather on his side in this.

  3. Action

    At this stage, the goal of any action would be to keep more dwarves from being killed, both as a goal in itself and to stabilize relations.

    1. Mal will wish to consult with the dwarf temple and community. I am concerned that they are not likely to know who is doing this, why, and may fall back on blaming the usual suspects, whoever they may be.
    2. In general: our unit comprises individuals of diverse skills and backgrounds. Most likely, what will happen next is that people will split up and each investigate in their own way. We will rendezvous here to compare notes.
    3. It might be wise, today at least, to prepare multiple castings of Message.
    4. I intend to investigate the magics of this tower further. I have not yet investigated as to how far (and in what sense) the structure goes underground.

      Examining this tower further will probably not advance our goals.

      Perhaps rather than this I should simply hit the books. There is no shortage of them here in Santa Cora. Why should these attacks be happening now?

      Perhaps I should simply systematically visit each graveyard and look for suspicious activity.

      I should just accompany one of my allies who does have a plan of action and would like a little back-up.

    In summary: at this stage we lack a clear plan of action. Which is to say: I do. My allies will seek information in their own ways.


We will have a talky, role-playing game tonight at the bar. I need to examine the books for some cheese that will permit James to craft some walky-talkies. Not as good as Edmund’s, obviously, but


Reporting In

6 October, 2016

As we have just arrived in Santa Cora, I write to “report in”.

Our group has taken lodging in Xavier’s home for wayward dwarves. The city is full, and so I have prevailed on cousin Buffy to take us in. She seems less than pleased, and it would be best if we found other lodging before long.

Some of us have business here, especially Misthanar, who seeks treatment for his petrified arm. I myself will be seeking some sage to consult about the reactivation of the Ebony Watch node, the change in the Chancer’s Hope node, and my part in it.

Hopefully, we will spend only a few days here before proceeding on.

(Initials J.M.)

Out-of-character, granddad has contacts, granddad knows people, but James is being round-about about asking for help. Perhaps he’s in a “Lancet” frame of mind, not wanting to create a debt. Meta-game, of course, it’s just a way for the DM to pass info to the party in-game. Although James isn’t happy about the drama, ut seems Andy is perfectly happy for us to stay at cousin Buffy’s 🙂 .

James did get some help from granddad, though – it seems the expert on nodes is Aeg Ilsa. The necromancer. I suspect he might be a Professor Snape character – everyone thinks he’s bad, but he’s was secretly good all along.

James doesn’t like necromancy. None of my good characters do, even though it is one of the best schools of magic for sheer hit-point damage 🙂 (the others being transmutation and evocation). Then again, I have always preferred utility casters.

Back to it – James has been a little rude to Aeg in the past, a little cool and distant. But, Aeg had previously said something about the nodes (“Do you think re-igniting the node was a good idea?”) and now granddad is saying that he’s the man to talk to. James is going to suck it up and be civil.

Oh – a fun moment in-game. Speaking of utility casters. Bad guy magically locked a door and split the party. Misthanar belted the thing but not enbough to break it. The DM permitted me to use the Hold Portal utility spell to undo the bad guy’s Hold Portal. Rolled a 20. In game, “The magic was the only thing holding the door together after Mist hit it, so with the magic gone it just [hand gesture]”.

Now that I have level 3 spells, I pack the wizard Utility Spell at third level, giving me access to Levitate, Speak With Item as well as the first-level effects. I even took the feat, so that I get two castings from one slot. James has High Arcana talent, which among other things grants you access to Dispel Maqic, so putting it all together its reasonable he might be able to undo an enemny Hold Portal on a 20.

Nice to see the utility spell come in handy straight away, although the main reason I took it was for Levitate, which will get you out of a number of jams (being thrown in a pit, drowning). At fifth level you can cast it on an ally. Still, seeing how the bad guy so effectively split the party with it was a nice lesson. And Message also has its uses.

We are mid-combat. Andy has permitted us a sort of semi-short-rest, recharging encounter powers, and carrying over over my command points and Nova quick actions. I have plans for the lichlings’s book, which doesn’t seem to be a phylactery but which is nevertheless so, so evil.