Giant Slayer

From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, lilypad hopper
And the plants get bigger...

Following our fight with the bramble fiends, we pressed on into the next room, a great, domed atrium, only to be attacked by a pair of invisible light creatures. We eventually managed to drop them, but the encounter held great promise of danger had we not formed up so quickly on the great bridge that led deeper into the vault.

Reaching the far door, we discovered an ancient elven woman who claimed familiarity with the Vault of Thorns in centuries past. Agreeing that the evil here must be expunged, she accompanied us into the next chamber.

A series of floating lilypads awaited us, leading to a ledge on the far side of a chasm, and, without thinking, I nimbly hopped to the other side, only to find that I had awakened a vengeful guardian of the place. A great swarm of insects surged up from the swampy water far below, and a single large entity rose up, swooping down at us to attack, eventually taking up poor FIjit in its jaws. Just as it was about to devour her and her owl, we managed to slay it, retrieving them and a fallen Torsten as we regrouped to treat our wounds.

Agreeing that we should approach with more caution, we followed a passage down to the base of the chamber with the bridge, easing inside and keeping alert for any danger. While many small, friendly creatures approached us with benevolent intent, we were set upon once again before we were able to reach the far side of the atrium. A giant, tendriled beast laid into us, with Torsten and myself bearing the brunt of the attack to keep the others out of reach of the lashing, deadly vines. Flame and blade at last overtook the thing, the creature succumbing to its wounds like a toppling tree, and we ascended a staircase out of the atrium unhindered.

No sooner did we reach the door at the top of the stairs, however, than Fijit quickly warned us of sleep-inducing, carnivorous plants, leaving herself and Elynnar to carefully harvest them while the rest of us remained ready to pull them back from danger. Though not the most severe threat we’ve faced, it did nothing to quell my unease in this strange land of magic and chaos…

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, tree-burner
I don't care much for the Faery world thus far...

The dwarf woman, Ingrahild, spoke of great monsters that had taken her brother, and she accompanied us thereafter in hopes that we would find strength in numbers. We did so, gratefully, for we soon fell into battle with a wretched wil-o-wisp that seemed to be speaking even as it tore into us. It shocked us a great deal with arcs of painful lightning, but we managed to subdue and kill it, tucking it away in Fijit’s lantern, as we’d been instructed in the efforts to guide our way to the stone circle we sought that was to serve as our gateway to the Faery world.

The lamp fulfilled its purpose, the light guiding us the stones. No sooner had we arrived, however, than we we were set upon one of the beasts that had taken poor Ingrahild’s brother. It was a tough fight against the monster, with many of us taking grievous wounds, but we managed to fell it, retreating through a portal opened by the lantern’s light and respecting Ingrahild’s wishes to be left behind to search for her brother.

Before us on the other side was a large flower-like door. As we approached it, lightning-quick wooden fiends set upon us, trying to batter us with thorns and wooden stakes. I was able to dodge every assault, but my teammates suffered greatly before we were able to use fire flasks and spells to burn the things to ash.

Afterwards, Fijit was able to commune with the animals that scurried in from around, though she learned little about wait awaited us beyond the door, save that an elf woman had previously done so, it seemed.

Despite the positive effect this land seems to have on healing magics, I find myself wary of it. I’m sure whatever lies beyond the flower door is just as foul as what attacked us on over here.

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memories of my little brother
The diary of Jinni Nibbleaxe

Father, Mother, Soem, Mimn, and myself are returning from Kaer Maga. Although, mother, myself, and Mimn are sorely disappointed not getting to see Ud; Father seems somewhat pleased and Soem seems to echo Father’s sentiments. I personally don’t believe it not of Father and certainly not of Soem. Father hadn’t seen his youngest son in almost 7 years! No matter how strict Father had been with Ud, I know he still loves and misses his youngest son.

As for Soem, he was closest to Ud Nibbleaxe besides myself. in fact he was almost closest in age except that Mimn was born 3 minutes after Soem. Soem was/is the only one of Ud’s five brothers that didn’t relentlessly tease him about lack of facial hair and his personal choices about life. To be honest our two eldest brothers were already out of the house raising their own families when Ud came along. Rundl simple ignored Ud and still barely acknowledges him in public. However, second brother Delin was often the worst offender when it came to mistreating Ud. At family and clan gatherings, Delin would often openly embarrass Ud by talking about the latest brews and asking Ud his opinion in front of other male Dwarves. Once on Ud’s birthday he actually threw Ud a party only to humiliate him by giving him silver beard clasp as a present.

Ashamed, Ud walked out of his own birthday party. He later gave those clasp to Soem, who wears them now. It’s a pity Ud’s own kin and clan drove him away to that strange city. Kaer Maga isn’t much bigger than Janderhoff but it’s much more bizarre. We didn’t visit all the nine districts of the city instead sticking mostly to to the core Hospice district and the ring district of Tarheel Promenade district ( the district where the Aspu shrine and house of worship was located. )

It was an odd place Ud Nibbleaxe my brother, chose to run away too. The Dragon Dojo wasn’t even a true church by standard practices. It seemed just a collection of run down buildings arranged into classrooms and dormitories. There was a pretty central garden located among the buildings surrounded by a veranda that connected the various structures. In it’s midst was a large white jade statue of a regal Dragon that served as the Shrine to this makeshift temple.

We stayed overnight at the behest of headmaster Shunyi. Not many visitors came to pay homage to the Apsu shrine despite it being one of the only known shrines in Golarian. Headmaster Shunyi was kind enough to explain to me some of the teachings of the way of the Dragon, as the worship of Apsu is known. He explained very few humans or demi-humans worshiped Apsu because he offered few divine gifts in the form of spells. In fact not one of the students or teachers (also known as Senseis ) had any traditional form of divine magic. Instead they drew on a magical pool of energy from their deity known as Ki, to help augment their already stringent training.

Most of the school practice one form of martial arts or another. However, master Shunyi assured me their were others that had disciplined their minds enough to move objects with mere thoughts and even more marvelous things! I was very intrigued by all this and begin to see why Ud Nibbleaxe had left his home and joined this fringe cult. This collection of people were also outsiders among their own-kind. Many members of the monastery were from far away Tian Xia. Others were from Varisia , Cheliax, Galt, and even River Kingdoms. There was only one other Dwarf and she had taken a vow of silence. Few other demi-humans were part of monastery although I did see a couple half elves and one of the senseis was a halfling!

We learned early on that Ud Nibbleaxe no longer was being mentored at the temple. That, he had chosen to go on a life pilgrimage . Master Shunyi explained that most of the students eventually abandoned the monastery to wonder the world abroad in search of purpose and people to help. That their duties after taking on the life journey consisted of nothing more than battling evil at every turn and helping those in need. He further explained that Ud Nibbleaxe was under no ones authority but his own and only needed to keep his self-imposed vows and battle evil to fulfill his purpose in life.

It was particularly interesting to learn that worshipers of Apsu held a particular loathing of evil Dragons and lies. These teachings were not too far from the the Earth Father Torag. It seems both Apsu and Torag are mortal enemies of Rovagug. This knowledge pleased my father immensely. When he found out that Ud Nibbleaxe had taken the path of a life pilgrimage I could swear I saw a glimmer of pride in his eyes. He even mumbled to Master Shunyi that. " it sounds like my son has found an Honorable endeavor to fulfill his life purpose. "

It seems the only thing my father questioned was Ud Nibbleaxe’s vow of cleanliness. He dismissed it as un-necessary and still believed Ud was trying to get out of some of the dirty jobs just as he did as a boy back home. Master Shunyi had a different explanation however; he said that he felt Ud took this particular vow because he often journeyed to the Ankar-Te district in Kaer Maga to help with midwife duties on pregnant refuges.

It seems the Ankar-Te district has some dubious practices including using the un-dead as servants and even more un-natural acts! In order to assure his monasteries honor Ud Nibbleaxe took on the vow of cleanliness. That way he could still help the needy while avoiding subversive talk about himself or the school. My father still thought this vow was un-necessary, especially if Ud Nibbleaxe still practiced it while out on his life pilgrimage. Father always says “if your hands aren’t dirty by days end, you’ve wasted your day doing nothin’ good most likely!” Perhaps that was the beginning of Ud’s self-conscious behavior. He always was a neat boy.

We are almost to Sirathu now. We spent a week in Kaer Maga trading and visiting distant clan members. No one knows where Ud Nibbleaxe is now or when or if he’ll ever return home. We’ll stop in Sirathu tonight and trade a few goods we got from Kaer Maga. The rest we’ll take back to our home in the hills Broken Column borough. If the weather holds in will only be a couple of days before we are home; under the shadow of the Storval plateau and a days journey from Janderhoff.

I look forward to my hearth and my husband Fafnir’s embrace. Our little community of seventeen families is important to the the larger settlement of Janderhoff. Why my very own sheep have been served as mutton legs at banquettes and parties of the Nobles of that city. Our little town’s root vegetables and cabbages also play an important part in the diet of that great city. We also have a some of the finest wood carvers among all of Dwarven kind, if I do say so. And lastly the leather made from my father’s own steers is in demand all the way to Korsovo!

Yes we live a happy sheltered life here in Broken Colum, I hope you can return to us one day little brother Ud Nibbleaxe and live in peace….

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, wrestler of necessity
The oddities in this awful place...

After defending the deck from those orcs, we set out the next morning after Fijit’s arrival and into the swamp. It was good to see the druid woman again, and her small owl. I had a feeling that we would need them both before our foray into the wild was over.

Proving my hunch, it was scarcely two hours before we encountered a deadly beast the others would afterward identify as a hydra, its many fanged heads tearing into poor Leetsa and nearly tearing her apart. Thankfully, Fijit’s druid fire was able scorch the beast to its final rest once Torsten, Leetsa, Elynnar, and I were able to drop it, and we pressed on, beginning to understand the true perils of the Ghostlight Marsh.

Some time later, we saw a faint smoke trail from afar, tracing it to a small encampment. Before we were able to approach, however, an inebriated Elynnar compromised our position, and we were challenged by the camp’s single occupant. Though I attempted to call out diplomatically, I was answered with an arrow, which I was barely able to dodge, and a haggard-looking dwarf leapt out of the bushes to attack us. Brave Leetsa charged in without hesitation, attempting to grapple the dwarf, and Torsten and I did likewise, finally managing to subdue and put to sleep the obviously crazed woman who seemed to think we were orcs. It was then I realized her filthy state, quickly cleaning myself and eagerly accepting Leetsa offer of magical cleaning as we moved to explore the campsite. As one who has taken a vow of cleanliness, I know in my heart that Apsu’s presence was close to departing my soul; a dark fate, indeed, should that day ever come. Renewing my will and vigilance, I set about exploring the camp with the others.

By providence, it seemed, we were able to identify a potion to remove the dwarf woman’s cursed, crazed state within her own supplies, bringing her back to consciousness. Her words were strange and foreboding…but I’ll detail them in my next entry.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, defender of the deck
Such hostile waters...

Following our tussle with Melira, her accomplice, the cook, Gashnakh, was sentenced to death. I did my utmost to supply the poor soul with forgiveness and hope before the end, but I still found the execution to be a most brutal affair. I’m only thankful he didn’t make good on his request to have me push him over for the keelhauling, as he thought he might require. I sincerely hope the man finds some measure of peace.

Shortly thereafter, we we came upon a damaged outpost along the river, the members of our team rowing ashore to investigate. Sneaking up to the nearby house, I heard sounds of distress from within, bursting through the door to find a surviving guardswoman of the outpost bound and beaten by a team of brutish orcs. Though Leetsa and I made a good account of ourselves, it was only with the timely arrival of Torsten and Elynnar, who’d already slain a pair of direwolves, that the gnome and I survived. It was here we found a small, skull-like bomb, much like one that had been used against me in the fight, only to discover that Leetsa, the person who had last touched it, was doomed to burst into flame should the bomb shell be compromised. Whether through stupidity or bravery, I quickly snatched up the item, transferring the curse to myself. Though I saw gratitude in Leetsa’s eyes, there was also a marked annoyance. I didn’t mind. What good is telling your companions that you would die for them if you fail to make good on such claims?

Resuming our voyage, it wasn’t long before we came upon a hastily constructed dam along the river, finding it to be a trap as a team of horrific water giants scaled our vessel, attempting to clobber us and the ship to pieces. Through luck and quick action, I was able to down one quickly, and, with Urul’s help, drop another with the ship ballista. Another was felled by the crew, with the final one retreating from Leetsa’s deadly arrows from the crow’s nest. Finding the one with the ballista bolt in his chest was still alive, we wrapped the evil bomb in its hands, at Leetsa’s suggestion, tossing it overboard to burst into flames on contact with the water, ending the threat of the curse. I was quick to convey my gratitude to the quick-thinking Leetsa, who had likely, in turn, just saved my life.

Tired from our encounters, we arrived later at the site of a druidic stone that marked the entrance to the Ghostlight Marsh, our first real destination along the river. Having sent the pigeon to fetch Fijit and her promised help from Trunau, we set about making ourselves busy for the days it would take for her to receive our message and arrive. The second night, we had a dark encounter with another band of orcs, who attacked the ship while much of the crew was out foraging along the shore. While we were able to slay most of them quickly, their leader, a large, imposing fellow fell in on me, rage pulsing in his eyes as he called out for the dead Melira and slashed me to pieces. Just as I was about to fall, Leetsa dropped the brute, saving my life once again. Though I respect and cherish all of my teammates equally, I am finding that I often owe my life to that small woman’s arrows. So long as I need rescuing, may the bleaching or death never claim her brave, noble heart.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, strong of belly
A stew most foul...

Another troubling development in our voyage. The very night we departed from Castle Evertsand, we were presented with a finely cooked meal from the ship’s chef, Gashnakh. Soon after consuming it, however, myself and the entire crew began swooning with the effects of a strong sedative, many of us falling unconscious. Myself, Leetsa, and Torsten managing to stay upright, we brought our Elynnar back to consciousness as we questioned Gashnakh, who had a guilty look about him.

It was then, however, that we heard a clamor below decks, rushing there to find a great, ape-like beast on the loose, battering the ship from within. Together, we managed to drop the beast (destined for the gladiatorial pits, if Krothu, the only crewmember not to fall unconscious, is to be believed), only to become convinced through questioning Gashnakh that he had not worked alone.

Heading down to the bilges, we happened upon the woman of whom he’d spoken, the one who’d contracted him to sedate the rest of us on her behalf. She was a brutal warrior, and, though we tried to take her alive, she was killed in the ensuing battle…as nearly was I, if not for the courage and quick action of my companions. My skin is still tender from the woman’s, Melira’s, arrows. I went to bed last night feeling much like I’d tussled with an oversized porcupine. Still, with meditation and time, my wounds will heal. I only hope that, in our weakened state, we are ready for whatever else awaits us on this dark voyage.

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Leetsa's writings

I am beginning to feel the effects of the Gnome curse, the bleaching when I am not in pursuit of the retched giants I so long to slay. Without the hunt I am not sufficiently stimulated, my soul craving the vengeance of my slaughtered parents, my mental faculties starts to fade into nothing. I fear the loss of my beautiful hair, my bright skin & my mind fading into nothingness. I find this to be extremely unsettling, the undesirable fate that awaits me.
If I focus on the willpower to slay all those who were responsible for my being orphaned, perhaps I can stave off the curse. Keep focused I tell myself, stay the course. I have heard of some gnomes to ward off the bleaching wasting effects, perhaps I shall seek them out & get some answers.
Perhaps this new god , the god of my mother, has some answers for me. Any new experience, any new adventure, any stimuli will keep me beautiful & sharp-minded.
Perhaps I can start crafting potions or poisons in my down time, keep my mind focused on adventure, maybe become a wonder seeker. But for now the satisfaction of hunting & slaying the awful giants of this world will keep me from entering the next world. I will not think about it for now until we return to the city, then I shall begin some of these things to ward off the gnome cures.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, leaper
It seems one aspect of my training, at least, has paid off.

Having recovered Omast’s body from the tower in the swamp, my companions and I made haste back to Raag’s boat, ever assailed by faint sounds of winged beasts far overhead. Just as we arrived at the river, the drakes attacked, one of them picking off a crewman and throwing him down into the shallows by the boat. Hopping atop Numbskull, I raced to the man’s side, leaping along the bank off of the pony and freeing the orc crewman’s lungs of water.

I then drew in every bit of power from my lineage I could muster, leaping a great distance from the shore to the boat to join the fight against the alpha drake on the boat, arriving just in time to see it felled by a bloodied Torsten. Still, the extend of the jump was surprising, both to myself, and those who witnessed it.

Only then did I realize that the other large drake had made off with poor Numbskull.

Angered and crestfallen through the night, I made off with my companions the next morning as the repairs to the ship were finished, assaulting the remaining drake back at its lair and rescuing poor Numbskull before the drake could make a hearty breakfast of him. Reunited with my pet, I spent the trip back to the boat shoving every apple in sight into his mouth until his belly bulged with the meal. All the while, I whispered promises never to abandon him again.

The rest of the short voyage to our first stop, Castle Everstand, passed without incident, the crew and our band bonding with each other now that we’d earned their respect. Not a single one of them had fallen in the two attacks, thanks to our help. I’ve learned more about my new friends, growing in my understanding of what has brought us all together. Between Leetsa’s loss of her parents, Torsten’s estranged status with his people, poor Elynnar rendering himself an outcast, and…my own painful memories, it’s no wonder that people so bereft of community should find each other and draw together so quickly.

The crew having welcomed us as their own, we reached Castle Everstand in good spirits, welcomed in by Captain Gauntwood, leader of the keep, who saw to poor Omast’s funeral preparations and Kurst’s many injuries. For my part, I spent the day attempting to track down a weapon that would assist me against the long reach of the giants we are bound to continue fighting, but to no avail. Uskara, the gifted craftswoman of the keep, refused to assist me, going so far as to shout at my awful sense of entitlement, despite my efforts to display my humility and respect. I got her a bottle of fine wine by way of apology…

My further efforts also stymied, I attended the dinner hosted by Commander Gauntwood with the others, taking in the palpable tension between the different religious factions present here before retiring for the evening in a fine bed. In the morning, we set out once more, still destined for the Ghostlight Marsh. I only hope whatever we find there will be worth the danger.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, New Recruit (Flashback)
I've sought out my fortune...I hope it doesn't kill me

I’ve been at the Brimwill Monastery for a week now, taking Master Hineda up on the offer she extended when she passed through my village. As promised, the training has been far from easy, but already I feel as though the part of me inside that has always stirred at the call of adventure and justice is being molded into something…something more than I could have ever hoped.

The training is long and difficult, filling my days with long bouts of training and meditation, during which I struggle to quiet my thoughts and focus on my future in the service of Apsu; my nights, meanwhile, continue to be drenched in nightmares. Master Hineda assures me that the ghosts of my past will soon be brought to heel, but I feel only guilt at the thought. To forget someone who meant so much to me…that awful night…the promise of life snuffed out so callously…it seems dishonest—almost cruel. If I shut that part of me away, what will remain? And will it be enough to see me through these trials?

The monastery is situated at the very edge of Kaer Maga, overlooking the sudden bluff that sweeps into the plains far below. Here, we are set apart from the dark dealings that shroud the city, and here we are free to focus on our desire for oneness with ourselves. Only then do Hineda and the other masters encourage venturing into the world beyond to embrace that darkness into ourselves as well. As Master Hineda puts it, “Darkness and light must coexist in the world, and so, for us to find true understanding of the universe, we must accept them in our own hearts, as well. Our hearts are the seed, which, above all else, must be cultivated and purified; the world beyond these walls the torrential rains that would batter a small seedling, but which only strengthen a plant whose roots have gone deep. Here, in this fertile soil, that is our goal for each of you.”

I always nod at her words of comfort, but, having always felt like a failure of a dwarf, I’ve never been sure that my ties to the earth have run that deep. Still, I will commit myself to my studies, and hope that, when the time comes, whatever roots I may have will sustain me through the storm.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, fisherman
A peaceful voyage...for a day

A bit of a strange development in our journey to the marsh. Before we departed on Raag’s barge down the river, he transported Kurst and Omast to the far side of the river, along with a few knights. They appeared to be on a mission, but we decided that if they wished us to know what they were about, they would have told us.

So Elynnar, Leetsa, Torsten, and myself set about making ourselves useful on the boat, with Leetsa manning the crow’s nest with her keen sight and the other two mucking stalls for the first bit before Torsten was instructed to take soundings and Elynnar attempted, rather disastrously, to improve the crew’s cuisine. I, meanwhile, was set to work with the fishing, taking instruction from the ship’s catcher, Urel, who came to respect my hard work and quick learning by the end of the day.

The next day, however, I was fishing alongside him hauling up our latest catch, when the railing broke, and the poor fellow was dragged into the river to be set upon by alligators. I dived in after, fighting off the beats with Leetsa’s deadly help of Leetsa’s arrows as they tried to tear him apart, finally hauling him back on board with the help of the crew, also having to swim for the well-meaning Torsten who’d leapt overboard to help as well.

Just as we managed to resuscitate Urel, however, Leetsa spotted a near-death Kurst atop his horse on the north bank, and the ship was quickly directed that way. The rest of us managed to stabilize the poor soul while Leetsa communicated with the horse, leaning of the man’s mission to find a sunken siege tower in the mud northward where evil thing had apparently taken up residence.

Taking Numbskull, Kurst’s horse, and a pair of others, we raced for the sight of the attack in hopes of saving Omast and the others. We found the tower a few hours later, and I sneaked up to it while invisible, hoping to sabotage it from within, or take it for ourselves, only to slip up at a critical moment and experience the wrath of a two-headed Ettin, who nearly succeeded in flaying me alive before my comrades tore through the beast’s pet dogs and arrived to help me drop it.

After the battle, we discovered poor Omast’s body, and I set about cleaning it, preparing for the journey back to boat before nightfall. Whatever Kurst and his uncle were hoping to accomplish here, I cannot see it being worth the awful cost.

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