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Sunday, March 17th, 2019
11:04 am
In Search Of: The Metroi - Session 1

Last Friday, I finally got to start a new campaign, with players that were all, for the most part, brand new to role playing games as a whole. I have to minorly experienced players; Krystal and Jeff, who used to work with me on the Plant. In addition to them, I have Colton (11) and Emily (13), Jeff's girlfriend Silvia (32) and their roommate Maria (28), all of which playing their first ever game. For matter of record, the players are running the following characters:

Krystal: Yasmeen Thornheart
Jeff : Duke Bonneville
Coltin : Tyron Ironheart
Emily : Varrila Ironheart
Silvia : Meeks A'tchu
Maria : Aksel Treesap
NPC : Arlo Fenford

Session 1

The Searchers sat around a table at the Hungry Pelican, a convenient tavern in the town of Hathock. Most of the patrons in the tavern have come to Hathock to enjoy time out on the nearby lake, some for enjoyment, others hoping to make a trophy catch from the plentiful fish beneath the lake’s calm surface. Yasmeen Thornheart’s group, however, had interest in another direction. Decades past, Hathock had been a boom town to a copper mine. While the mine went dry long ago, Yasmeen’s research suggests there are ruins somewhere in the mountain, further in than the mine, and these ruins may have been left behind from The Metroi ancients. The Metroi are said to be a race that somehow departed the face of Caladon long ago, even before the elemental cataclysm that had reshaped the face of Caladon’s geography almost a century past. To date, nobody has been able to find solid proof of the Metroi’s existence. Nobody is even certain if the Metroi were mythical ancestors of Humans, Dwarfs, Elves or something entirely different, but Yasmeen had grown up with stories of the wonders of that civilization and had devoted her life to finding something to prove their existence.

Her eyes went to the rest of her assembled entourage, a group who had either joined her search on their own, or that she had hired. She had fondly dubbed the group “Searchers”, as Yasmeen’s personal journal was written more in story format rather than personal diary. To her right was Villara Ironheart, a young Dwarf explorer, who was the first to join in her personal endeavor to prove the Metroi’s existence. Villara was more explorer than scholar however, and while Yasmeen sought to prove the Metroi had once been here, Villara was along to be the first to see any ruins, and get first calls on any long forgotten treasures. Travelling with them was another Dwarf named Tyron, also from the Ironheart Clan, who had come along to guarantee the safety of Villara. The two referred to themselves as “Clan Cousins”, but Yasmeen wasn’t sure if there was actual relation or not. Currently, Tyron had already retired to sleep for the evening.

Next to Villara was a Human named Duke Bonneville, a tracker Yasmeen had recently hired. He didn’t seem to have an interest in the Metroi, and while he didn’t know personally of any ruins in the mountains, he did know the area, and he knew the precise location of the old copper mine, so she had hired him to guide them through. He was eager to take the work, and truth be told, if there “was” a ruin, he would be very curious to see and explore it. He looked to be taking the job seriously, as while the others ate and drank, he poured over his map, trying to figure where the best place to start looking would be. At his feet was a good sized grey wolf, which Duke fondly referred to as “Mugruff”. Yasmeen was surprised to see that the tavern keepers didn’t raise any objection to Mugruff’s presence, but then, she’d reminded herself that Duke was apparently a local, and as such, Hathock’s citizens would be used to seeing the pair together.

Next to Duke was Meeks A’tchu, a Halfling treasure hunter. Yasmeen had not hired her, as much as agreed to allow her to choose from any treasures they may find. Meeks had learned of the group after bumping into Varrila and talking of their past exploits. Since nobody had an idea what to expect from any ruins they might find, be them Metroi or otherwise, having someone with Meek’s skills in “archeology” would be useful. (A ruder person would call it thieving or tomb robbing, but Yasmeen preferred the more respectable title.)

Beside Meeks was the most curious of the Searchers, a Gnome named Aksel Treesap. While they had been at camp one night, the Gnome had simply appeared and offered herself to the trip. Yasmeen had no idea how long the Gnome had been following them, hiding in ways only a wood Gnome can, listening to their talks before she decided to join their search. Looking at the Gnome often made Yasmeen question how many other times they’d thought they were alone, and had some woodland creature listening in?

A young man walked up to Duke at the table. From Yasmeen’s guess, he seemed to be between the ages of 18 and 20, not very imposing, standing an inch or so above 5 feet, and not looking very hardy. The young man still began speaking assuredly to Duke.

“Talk in town says you’re the group planning on going out in the mountain later? It looks like you don’t have any clergy members among you, so what’s your plan if someone should fall and break a leg, huh? Or get mauled up by a bear, huh? Do you have a plan for that? Do ya?” The young man demanded.

Duke didn’t answer, giving the man a look of both surprise and annoyance before glancing over to Yasmeen, and returning to his map.

“I’m skilled enough in first aid to have a handle on it should that happen.” Yasmeen answered, bringing the newcomer’s attention her way. The young man focused his questioning on her.

“And what happens if “you” take a tumble and bump your head, huh? Have you thought of that possibility? Hmm?” The young man had an aggressive manner of questioning, apparently rather sure of his expected answers. While his brashness was slightly annoying, Yasmeen decided to get to the point.

“What is it you want? She asked bluntly.
“My name is Arlo, Arlo Fenford.” The young man replied. “I am a professional in medical applications. I can provide all of your first aid and overall healthy protection needs.”
“You look rather young to be presenting yourself as a professional. How much experience do you have? Yasmeen questioned.
“I’ve been doing this most of my life, the past six years right here in Hathock.” Arlo answered, with an arrogant “harrumph”. Yasmeen noted that comment caused Duke to give Arlo a quick glance, noting that these two didn’t appear to know each other, despite having been in the same area for a few years at least. Yasmeen questioned Arlo a little longer, satisfied with his answers that he did indeed know enough first aid to be a benefit to the group. They discussed payment. Surprisingly, Arlo decided to forego any particular wage payment, instead wanting a small portion of whatever treasures they may find. After agreeing to their terms, the group decided to meet the next morning for breakfast.

Day 1 True to his word, Arlo was in the tavern the next morning. He had five plates of food already ordered and set out, but as Tyron was not at the table the night before, they were one plate short. Arlo was vocally apologetic, seeing it as his first flub in proving he could see to the needs of the groups’ overall health. Yasmeen noted the young man’s apparent intent to live up to his claims.

The Searchers set out after breakfast, heading towards the old copper mine. The road was travelable still, though it had seen rare usage in the past few decades, except for curious explorers from the more touristic visitors to Hathock. Even with its close proximity to the town, the Searchers quickly learned that the mountain did still present its dangers. Duke and Mugruff led the way, keeping somewhat ahead to be able to scout for possible threats. A few hours into their walk, after Duke and Mugruff had passed through an outcropping of rock formations, Meeks was surprised to see what appeared to be a large, orange-brown blob jump out at her. The “blob” turned out to be a large creature that looked to be a beetle with spiderlike legs and a bony plating around its body. The creature had its jaws now attached to her leg, but thankfully, the leather of her armor was preventing anymore than squeezing from the creature’s mandibles. The rest of the Searchers were still processing the sudden appearance of the beast, when three more jumped out at them.

The fight was over almost as quickly as it had begun. Except for Tyron and Duke, none of the Searcher’s were what anybody would describe as “fighters”, but they were also not helpless by any means. Most all of them were rather proficient with smaller blades, and the air was quickly filled with them. Tyron proved once again that the crossbow he always carried, the one he proud fully boasted had been built by his own hands, was not just for show. The others all flung knives or darts, Aksel and Yasmeen also using arcane attacks via magic missile spells and the two foot, bony armored half spider-half beetle attackers, were defeated rather easily.

The creatures were natural denizens of the mountain, with normal animal intelligence and these predators were used to easy catch prey. Two were quickly killed off, and the remaining two were just as quick to flee when they took painful wounds. Duke and Arlo both identified them as boulder spiders, known local predators. The only Searcher who’d been hurt was Meeks, and Arlo made it his purpose to see to her wound, which was fortunately little more than bruising just above her ankle. Arlo wrapped her foot as a precaution, while the rest of the Searchers regarded the two dead boulder spiders, noting that the thick legs would make for a decent meal later, if cooked up right. While the majority were busying themselves with gathering the legs, Meeks and Tyron both had the idea of harvesting poison. Tyron had the better luck, while Meeks’ unfamiliarity with the creatures caused her to get poison on her hands. Arlo jumped right back into medical mode, able to clean her hands, noting that the poison wasn’t contact deadly and wouldn’t pose a threat unless it got past the skin, into an open wound.

The rest of the trip to the mine passed without incident, arriving just around three in the afternoon. Most of the Searchers were generally cheerful, almost childlike in their playful curiosity, and went about exploring the area just to see what they could find. Arlo insisted that Meeks rest and keep her foot up, so rather than explore, Meeks used a small iron pot that Duke carried in his pack to cook the meat from the boulder spider legs. Yasmeen and Aksel both went to their spell books, recommitting to memory the arcane patterns lost when they cast their spells against the boulder spiders. Rather than search about the old, abandoned structures of the copper mine, Tyron went hunting, while Duke set himself to searching for a source of fresh water.

By evening, Tyron had returned with three rabbits and Duke had made enough trips to a nearby stream to have refilled everyone’s water skins and have a full pot for whatever game Tyron would return with. After cleaning the rabbits for the stew, Tyron passed out “lucky” rabbit foots to the rest of the group, which surprisingly, set Arlo into a tirade of how useless such an item would be. “These weren’t very lucky for the rabbits now, were they?” He demanded. “And they each had a pair! Why would “I” want to carry even one around? I might as well be cursing my own impending doom!”

“Arlo, just take it.” Yasmeen said, in a sweet, flowery tone.
“Okay” Arlo answered, his own voice immediately softened. The flush of his face making it clear that his bravado could be easily diffused with even a minor brush of feminine wiles.

Nothing of interest was found in the mine nor it’s structures, so watch was set for the night, and the party settled in for sleep. The only shift with any interest was Varrila, who while silently walking around the party’s camp site, found herself suddenly face to face with a prowling mountain skunk. For a brief moment, Varrila’s heart went cold as she envisioned herself in a cloud of stinking spray, but she forced herself to become as still as a tree. After a few moments of staring, the skunk disregarded her as a non-threat and went about it’s search for food in the night’s moonlight. When it was safely away, Varrila chuckled to herself. It would make for an amusing anecdote over breakfast in the morning.

Day 2 The second day began cheerfully. As the group worked to break camp, Varrila told her story of escaping skunk spray, and Yasmeen sang songs of adventure and Metroi tales, perking everybody’s mood. Tyron found a good piece of wood and was carving into it, a Dwarf’s instinctive need to bring shape to the shapeless. They conversed briefly, making a guess as to which direction to go to hopefully find a hidden ruin.

Duke’s skillful knowledge of the mountain brought them safely through a day’s travel, ending with them finding a high ledge that allowed them to see down the mountainside that there were no ruins in the direction they’d chosen. Seeing that any further progress would take longer than the hours of daylight they had left, the Searchers made camp where they were. Yasmeen, Meeks, Varrila and Aksel again going over what they could to find another direction. As they settled for sleep, Duke took first watch. After more than an hour, his scanning eyes noted a flying creature, large enough to catch his attention even at the distance it was. He didn’t know what kind of bird could be that large, but it had apparently not noticed him, so he went about his watch, being sure to pass the information to his relief.

Varrila was into her watch when her night vision picked up movement in the sky. Knowing that Duke had seen something hours earlier, she quickly hid herself in the nearby trees. As she watched, a flying creature did soar in and land nearby. Her Dwarven eyes allowed her excellent night vision, she could see almost as well in moon light as she could in broad daylight, and what she saw turned her stomach. A repulsive mix of a Human and a vulture was now walking amongst the tents of the camp. It had not paid her any mind, and she was certain that it had not noticed her during its approach. Hoping that this, whatever it was, had poor vision, Varrila quickly crept behind it, and as it poked it’s vulturish head into Duke’s tent, she stabbed deep into it’s back, causing it to shriek out in an earsplitting cry!

As would be expected, the shriek of pain woke all of the Searchers in their tents, but the shriek was immediately followed by another high-pitched cry as Arlo woke in terror. The birdlike creature leapt to the air to flee, Varrila threw a dart at it, but missed wildly as she had misjudged the direction it would go, Tyron was able to get out of his tent with enough time to draw an aim on the fleeing thing, but his shot missed, as it was moving faster than he’d guessed. Yasmeen was able to get a shot off with her bow but lacking the gift of night vision like the Dwarven cousins, her shot missed by a wide margin. The unknown “visitor” was long gone before any of the rest of the Searchers were able to get out of their tents. Arlo emerged, his fright replaced by anger, and marched directly up to Duke demanding answers for his sleep interruption. Seeing the scrawny 5’2 youth squaring up against the muscled tracker, who easily cleared 6 feet, was an amusing sight for the rest of the group. Tyron chuckled to himself, and even Duke seemed amused. Yasmeen mentally compared Arlo to an angry chihuahua and using the same soothing voice as she had the previous evening, she convinced him that Duke hadn’t been the one to scare him awake, and the best thing he could do now was go back to the sleep he obviously craved.

Day 3 The remainder of the night passed without incident, As the others set about breaking camp and heating breakfast, Tyron set himself to searching for his quarrel. The Dwarf proved to have a natural talent for tracking, as he returned not only with his quarrel, but also the dart that Varrila had thrown. After breakfast, the Searchers set out on their search, this time a slightly different direction.

A few hours in, the Searchers had cleared a crest and were on their way down, when Duke spotted an entrance to a cave. Searching revealed the cave to be a relatively small, “one room” cave, large enough to comfortably fit three to five hibernating bears. Inside, curiously, were two smoothed out indentations, assumingly for firepits, and between them a small stone “table” that had a smoothed out indentation in it. At the back of the cave was a small, 12 inch diameter rounded stone sphere. It was easy to spy, as it would regularly lighten, then darken, in steadily repeating intervals. Each time it was “lit”, it was easy to see that it was not a solid color, but patched in shades of amber, violet, green, blue and red.

All of the Searchers found this find to be more than just “curious”, and they all spent hours trying to discern what it was, how it was used and why it was laying in a random cave, hidden deep in the mountain, with a stone dais in the same cave with an indentation perfectly sized to set it in? The Searchers were at first careful not to touch it directly, but curiosity got the better of them. Yasmeen used a spell to verify their suspicion that the sphere was magical, but even after Aksel conducted an 8-hour arcane ritual in hopes to identify the sphere, all she could divine was that it was an old magic, somewhere tied to travelling. Meeks was the first to throw caution to the wind and touch her bare, ungloved hand to the sphere. She detected that the stone warmed each time that it “lit” and cooled just as quickly when it darkened.

Each member of the group was so intent on trying to figure out what the curious sphere was, that nobody noticed the evening closing in until Arlo and Mugruff had each been found snoring next to the cave wall. The Searchers concluded that the inside of the cave was safer than the outside, so watches were set, and the group collectively laid their bedrolls along the sides of the cave, rather than near the firepits. Duke took first watch. Despite his experience as a woodland trapper, Duke found that pull to sleep irresistible, with the warmth of the fires heating and the snores of his fellows echoing off the cave walls. Despite his disciplined training, Duke’s head nodded as deep sleep claimed victory.

Day 4 The fellows each awoke in surprise as they realized they had all slept through the night without the safety of a watch. Duke was feeling beyond embarrassed and ashamed, and chastised himself as much as the others berated him for his lapse in protection. Through the arguing inside, Duke’s ears picked up the sound of Mugruff whimpering from outside of the cave’s entrance. The tone of the group immediately changed, and both Duke and Tyron went outside cautiously. At first, there was no reason to be seen for the wolf’s concerned whimpers, but as Duke looked around, he tracking eyes realized first, then Tyron shortly afterward, that the landscape around them had changed.

Trees around them were in different places than they had been the day before, rock croppings had appeared, and as the two looked out, they quickly spotted, far in the distance, a stone building that had most certainly “not” been there not even half a day earlier when they were coming down this same mountain! Calling the others out, everyone marveled at the changed. The general consensus was that it had something to do with the stone, and Duke was immediately forgiven for falling asleep, now that everyone figured it was magically induced.

Confusion changed to excitement. The appearance of the building was the closest sign to ruins that they’d been searching after for the past few days! With eager haste, the Searchers broke camp and set out for the building they saw in the distance. Duke judged it would take them two days to cover the gap between them.

As they Searchers walked, something was seen flying out at Duke’s head from some nearby trees. The object struck true and Duke went down. Before anyone could react, they saw several short, reddish-brown hued bipedal, beastly looking humanoids. There was not time to study their appearance, nor, as Yasmeen regretted, try and talk with these newcomers, as they all charged in with animalistic war cries. The Searchers were being ambushed!

The attacking force was large, having almost 2-1 odds against the 7 Searchers. Mugruff charged with a howl, attacking fearlessly and taking one ambusher out in the process. The blow that felled Duke had not given the damage that it had initially appeared, and he was able to quickly scramble to his feet, pulling his battle ax at the same time. Tyron always walked with his crossbow “at the ready”, so he quickly took a knee and set a quarrel at the closest ambusher, which looked too close to a Goblin for his liking, Yasmeen sang a war song, hoping to inspire the Searchers in their fighting. Varrila and Meeks started throwing darts while Aksel easily killed one of the ambushers with attention grabbing magic missiles, even Arlo surprised everyone by swinging up his walking stick and charging forward with a loud, obnoxious cry!

The fight did not last long. The ambushers had numbers, but they were not able fighters, not striking successful blows, and doing minor damage when they did. Duke’s mighty swings with his ax took down more than half of the dozen ambushers, but unfortunately, the over-zealous Arlo made the rookie mistake of charging forward as Duke was in mid-swing. The mistake was disastrous, and the scrawny youth went down in a bloody heap. On the left, Tyron and Meeks fought off four of the ambushers, three of which had their attention on Mugruff, who’s jaws seemed to inflict lightning fast bites in all directions, attacking them all at once. On the right, Aksel and Varrila fought off what ambushers weren’t being cut down by Duke, and as the last attacker fell, all attention went to the bloody body of Arlo Fenford!

For the second time today, Duke found himself overly apologetic, feeling like a let down. Yasmeen used Arlo’s own medicine bag to do everything she could to stop the bleeding, shouting out instructions to the rest of the Searchers to keep them all busy with specific tasks to save their medic’s life! After a frightening period of uncertainty, their efforts paid off. Arlo was stabilized and brought back to consciousness, but he would need to rest before he could make any attempt at mobility. For the first time, the lack of clerical magic was striking the party. Duke and Tyron argued that staying put placed them under risk of more of these ambushers coming for the missing twelve, but their argument was countered by the very real fact that Arlo could “not” be safely moved. With grim acceptance of their predicament, the Searchers set in to make themselves as safe as possible for Arlo’s recovery.

This is the end of session 1. All of the players are between the ages of 11 and 32, and 4 of the 6 were in their first rpg game ever. I was impressed at their cooperation, their immersion into their characters, and the way they used their heads to try and get past the challenges thrown at them. Many of the small details, such as taking the boulder spider legs for meat, or Tyron’s offer of rabbit’s feet and carving actually happened in game, without any prodding from me as the DM. We are all eager for Session 2, coming in a couple of days.
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
11:05 am
Happy New Year!
Welcome my dear readers, to a fresh start! 2018 is officially behind us, and 2019 brings all f it's promise!

We had a disappointing year as a Family, with the change of custody, the evaporation of my job, and the awful realization that there will not be any help from Ray, but we have to remain positive. The businesses will pick up, I will become a Notary, and things WILL turn around. They just have to. Time now to think positive, trust in God's plan, and as Walt Disney said back in 1955, it's time to "savor the challenge and promise of the future"

Current Mood: hopeful
Friday, December 16th, 2016
11:54 pm
Emily has a cru-u-ush…
Welcome back Dear Reader!
Yesterday, there was a field trip for the 5th graders of the school at the water treatment plant on Avenue D. Krystal and I both volunteered as chaperones, as we enjoy being active in the Kids educations and school lives. Over the past year and a half, we have consciously made it a point to be “present” at Emily and Colton’s trips, but not demanding their attention. We feel it is better for them to know that we are there if they want or need us, but that they can feel free to enjoy the time with their friends without feeling obligated to involve us. I actually feel this had made for a stronger relationship between us and each of the Kids.
What made yesterday more interesting however, is that as we were waiting for the busses, it came out that Emily has a crush on a boy in one of the other 5th grade classes. I’d never seen, nor heard of this kid before. His name is Armajha (pronounced Ah-MAW-zhay). My first impression of him was that he was surprisingly polite and well mannered. I gave her my head nod to go ahead and sit next to him on the ride over. I’d be on the same bus, but as I said above, I don’t demand that she sit next to me. Unfortunately, the teachers had the classes sit by class, so they weren’t able to ride together, however, at the water plant, they were able to buddy up. Watching them, and the other students in his class, I remain with my initial impression that this kid is a good person in Emily’s life. On the ride back, they were able to sit together, and I got a picture of them.
Today was a field trip to the Planetarium at one of the high schools in Palmdale. This time, both the bus rides to and from, and the time in the Planetarium was separated by class, so Emily and Armajha weren’t able to spend ANY time together. I was disappointed by that, but relieved to know that Emily understands that it wasn’t “my” meddling. She'd had permission to spend the time together from Krystal and I.

After school yesterday, Krystal talked with Armajha’s mother and they exchanged numbers, so today, we got permission to drive him home. Particularly since today was the last school day of 2016, I wanted them to have some time before they don’t see each other for three weeks.  Now, I don’t want any readers to misinterpret this into thinking that Emily has a boyfriend, or that we are OK with her dating such a young age, this is a school yard crush. The fact is, they are in two different classes, and only see each other at the recess periods. Besides, even if we tried, we can’t order Kids not to have the feelings of interest, that’s just a part of maturing. Emily has a year and a half left in this school, and then we will find out what middle school has in store for her, but living in Lake Los Angeles, who knows what will happen, but I doubt they’ll be in the same school come 7th grade. Heck, one or both might lose interest come Summer, so let them enjoy spending time together, especially with him being polite and well mannered. (Also, if you haven’t gotten it, Armajha is Black, and I encourage Emily learn to see Humans as Humans, not as people categories by race, color or creed. That’s not the America I was raised to believe in, and it looks like she is adopting my beliefs)
Saturday, December 10th, 2016
10:53 pm
Union Elections were held today
Hello again Dear Reader
We had the December Union meeting here in Palmdale today. In addition, we had the election for our Lodge’s Executive Board, as well as another Company’s contract negotiator elections. This other Company has over 400 employees, and I honestly think that the man behind a lot of the politicking these past two years, who was also running for Lodge President today, was responsible for having that second election held here and not at a location closer to that Company where the majority of those 400 employees would have an opportunity to vote. Indeed, before our meeting started, he was out welcoming all of those employees and encouraging him to vote for his slate of nominees. It all turned out for naught however, as when the tallies were all counted and rechecked, however many times it took them (I didn’t get out of there until almost 7PM, five hours longer than normal), he didn’t even make 1/8 of the tally!

Overall, I was pleased with the members of the new administration, there was only one person that I would not have wanted, but I’ll deal with it. We can now move forward and work on a transfer of power, not a take over. This is good for the future longevity of the Lodge, and I am optimistic.
Friday, November 18th, 2016
12:00 pm
Nominations were yesterday
Hello again Dear Reader
We had our November meeting last night in Burbank. On November 5th, I'd sent an Email to Ed Marroquin Sr. informing him that I’d decided that I would run for a second term as Recording Secretary if nominated, fully knowing that I was “going” to be nominated. I did tell him as well, that I thought it would be foolish to try and vote in a new Board without two other members of the old Board (besides myself), who have been doing this for almost 30 years, with such a wealth of knowledge not only on what the rulings and bylaws are, but why they were enacted in the first place. Tonight, when the nominations were said and done, one of those guys, Dean Brewton, the man who first dragged me to the meetings in the first place, was also nominated and running unopposed. Regardless of who else may the on the Board, the two of us will be there.
Of the other positions, there is a strong mix of names. I recognize that many of the Board members with longevity are in their mid to upper 60’s now, and there is a valid need to bring up new blood into the leadership council of this Lodge. Ideally, I would like there to be some old timers as well as myself to help teach a new group over the next two years, so that the baton can be passed, not usurped, and there looks like a good possibility of that. We’ll see how the votes go next month.

I have a hopeful feeling
Friday, November 4th, 2016
7:35 pm
Being a Leader, or being a Boss
Hello Dear Reader;
We had our Executive Board meeting this afternoon. Ed Marroquin Sr. was there, which does not surprise me, as this month’s Union meeting will be the one where we will have nominations for the Executive Board for the next term, and he wants to be sure he’ll be eligible to run for Lodge President. When I was brought into Union involvement a few years back, I never anticipated being on the E-Board. My second or third meeting was a November meeting, and it was time for nominations. Back then, we’d never had a need for elections, because just getting one nominee per position was like pulling teeth, and if everybody ran unopposed, there was no need for a vote. When it came time to nominate for Conductor-Sentinel, nobody was interested, and I found myself nominated. When asked whether or not I accepted the nomination, my response was “Am I allowed to?”. Two years ago, it looked like we were going to have the same problem. The woman who had been our Vice President had made it clear she was not interested in re election, and the current Recording Secretary agreed to accept nomination for her spot. I reluctantly agreed to accept nomination for Recording Secretary. (I had no idea how involved the position was, and it took me a while to get “settled in”, but that’s another story)
When the meeting rolled around, we were surprised to find that there was a group from one of the other Companies in the Lodge who had decided that the Executive Board was Lockheed biased, and they were going to ambush us with an actual election, there were nominees for each position. (The big irony here is, if they had come to us openly, we again wouldn’t need an election, as several Executive Board members would have happily stepped aside). The past two years have been tumultuous with political bickering from this other Company breaking the unity that the lodge once had. This year, we KNEW they’d be coming again, and we knew specifically that Ed would be gunning for the President position. Several of us had decided to just let him have the spot, but at the same time, we knew that all of the work some Board members have done for the past two decades to make our lodge what it is would be destroyed on the first term of the new bloods. I found myself torn. I knew I had a decision to make, but I kept putting it off.
At the end of the E-Board meeting today, Ed took me aside and asked me point blank if I intended to run again, because he likes the way I conduct myself, and didn’t want to have to nominate somebody against me. I told him that I hadn’t fully decided yet, but on the drive home, I realized that the meeting is in less than 14 days, and I was running out of time to make a decision. I really thought about it hard and deep. I remember back in high school, fantasizing about where I would be later in life. I always saw myself being “in charge” of things. In early 1993, after I had signed the papers for the Army, I found a copy of one of Dad’s old FM 6-22 (Army Leadership) manuals and I read it during English Class. I used to fantasize about getting my stripes before going to Basic, and being the one in charge, telling people when they were out of line. What I didn’t know then, was the difference between being a Leader, and being the Boss.
After year two of Active duty, I didn’t want to be in charge anymore. It stopped being something that I was actively pursuing. I had learned that I make a lot of mistakes, and I didn’t know everything that there was to know. I could compare myself to Sergeants in my platoon, and see that I was lacking. What I didn’t know, was that realization was laying the foundations for me becoming a Leader. See, being an actual Leader is not a rank, it isn’t a job title. Leadership isn’t a Noun at all, it’s a Verb. While certainly many Bosses are leaders, and that is an ideal combination, the two aren’t necessarily synonymous.
My first venture into Leadership, I didn’t even realize it. New Privates came into out unit in later 1995 (post Cuba). I befriended them, and I knew there was a lot they needed to learn, and I knew what it was. I figured I could tell them in nicer ways than many of the intimidating Sergeants, and so I showed them what they needed to know. I didn’t realize that was the actions of a Leader. In 1997, while I was in Kuwait, when we first deployed, we had some volunteer augmenters from A company, and I was made a Team leader so that I could teach them the procedures used in B Company. Almost immediately, our Squad Leader went to the Expert Infantry Competition, and the A Team Leader had control of the squad. He kicked me from the position, and put his buddy in as B Team Leader. I wasn’t pleased about it, kind of hurt the ego, but when we got TO Kuwait, Bernstein would sit next to SGT Fisk and enjoyed the Title of B Team Leader, and the feeling of being “in charge”, but I was the one teaching the guys how to do our movements and techniques, talking the through it, doing mini rehearsals. To sum it up, I was leading them, he was just giving orders. The actual Squad Leader saw this, and much to SGT Fisk’s displeasure, I was put back as B Team Leader.  By the time that deployment had ended, I was promotable and scheduled for Sergeant School that same year. SGT Fisk was assigned as my sponsor, and to his credit, he put his personal feelings aside and did what he had to do to make sure that I was ready and that if I "didn’t" pass Sergeant School, that it would've been something of my own doing. (Regrettably, it took me way too many years to see that fact)
Once I made Sergeant in the Army, I always had the mindset of a professional, a Leader. In all of the jobs that I’ve held since, I have never set out to “be in charge”, but leadership, whether it be in roles, or actual positions, seems to find me. People recognize and gravitate towards people they can trust to steer them right, and that quality is something that I emit. It’s not something that I consciously do, nor is it something that I can turn off, it just is. Union Leadership is no different. When I hired on here at The Plant, I really didn’t know what a Union was. In fact, when it came time to vote for my first contract, I was hesitant to stand against the Company, because I was a LOT better off than the job I’d left in Ventura, and I mistakenly thought that was the benevolence of the Company and “not” because of the contract negotiated by The Union. It took a few years being involved and educated before it really “hit” me what I was involved in. I never expected to become the Head Steward, I never came here hoping to be on the contract negotiating team, but like other jobs, leadership roles sought me out, and I have never shied away from answering that call.
That last bit is what resonated deep within me during the drive home; “Leadership isn’t something I was looking for, but it keeps seeking me out, and I have never shied away from it”. Now, the Executive Board is facing a challenge, and the leadership of the Lodge is in danger. The people looking to vote most of us out have seen my work, and they don’t want to replace me. It may be that I can be a voice of reason and a grounding member of this new administration. Sure, I could easily decide to not accept the nomination and let it go to somebody else. A lot would be taken off of my plate, but I really feel that in doing so, I would be letting down the Lodge, and taking the easy way out, so come November 17th, I will accept the nomination, and see what comes of the election next month. I have made my decision, let the dice now fall where they may.
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
12:35 am
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 17)
Session 17: Below and above

The Fellows positioned themselves to what they felt would be the most tactfully advantageous should they be attacked and set guards. Less than an hour into their rest, they heard the sounds of angry canine howls coming from the direction they had come from.

The Fellows readied themselves for battle. The Dwarves took a position on each side of the entrance to their room, Robin was set to shoot arrows between them, Moreena and the strange man they called Wolf each took a position behind the Dwarves to be ready to heal as needed. "Sir Frost" lit Robin's bulls eye lantern and held it to face toward the tunnel, so that the attackers would have to contend with light in their eyes, while Moreena held tight to Robin's dog on the far side of the room, also keeping watch from the section of the tunnel they hadn't cleared yet. The only one unable to really contribute was the savage Half Orc, who shouted out what the group assumed was obscenities in Orcish while he pounded his arms against the ceiling in angry frustration!

In moments, as they had anticipated, more of the sickly wolf/human hybrid monstrosities came charging from the tunnel they had cleared just hours earlier. This time, the Fellows had the advantage of the more spacious room, while the monsters were still attacking from the 4 foot wide tunnel. Melody called upon the divine protection of Magnikai (Bless) while Moreena called upon their God's more offensive strength in the form of Spiritual Hammer. The Dwarf Cousins worked well together, one attacking high, the other hitting low, their Dwarven plate armor shielding them from the fangs and claws of the beasts, Robin fired deadly arrow fire into each beasts, and to everyone's surprise, there was even spellfire from the Sea Witch, who got off three volleys of Magic Missiles before the strain was too much for her and she passed out.

Melody gave control of Robin's dog to "Sir" Frost as she went to tend to the collapsed Sea Witch. Bobo also came to the caster's aid, his concern for the pretty woman momentarily distracting him from the rage of being too cramped to fight.

As before, the tactics and cooperation of the Fellows overcame the single minded ferocity and cramped space of the attackers, and they were quickly cut down. After the last had fallen, The Fellows saw to their wounds and ensured the collapsed sea witch was in good condition. Robin went to examine the creatures, and noted that each was missing an ear and a paw. The unsettling reality was that these were the "same" creatures they had fought and cut down earlier. Both Melody and Wolf spoke of stories and tales of wild monstrosities with advanced natural healing that could come back from a death like state, and these unknown monsters may possess such a trait.

They still couldn't burn them while in the tunnel, and it was far to difficult to try and drag the creatures back out the miles of tunnel they had come from to try and cremate them above ground. It was decided to cut them into as small pieces as they could to make it take much longer to regenerate. Finally, Bobo was able to make use of his rage, and The Fellows left him to the gruesome task.

Unfortunately, Esmerelda was in even less of a condition to press forward than she had been before, so the group had little choice but to let her rest for several more hours. Thankfully, the only fight they had to contend with during these next few hours was the heat from being underground, the choking stench of both the stale air and the slaughtered mess Bobo had created nearby.

Eventually, enough hours passed for them to start moving again. Progress was even slower this time, as the decided to move without the use of the lantern to save on oil. Using only the directions given from the Dwarves and Bobo who could see, they made agonizingly slow progress through the pitch black tunnel before Valgard saw another tunnel meet with the one they were travelling. This tunnel was much thinner, even the smaller Dwarves would have to walk it sideways. Valgard went to see some of where this tunnel led, as they didn't want anybody coming up behind them.

This new tunnel was a short one, and Valgard called back that he'd found more stairs, leading up. The Fellows pressed in to join then, and at the top of the stairs was another concealed entrance. The taller members of the group felt jubilant being back above ground, taking in fresh air, standing upright and feeling the cool breeze compared to the stagnant hot underground air.

Robin climbed up a nearby tree to see if there were any recognizable landmarks, and noted that the tunnel had taken them away from the city, which meant it was unlikely that it had anything to do with the water in the wells of Foxbury. While she was doing that, a feint smell of smoke came to the noses of the group.

The group followed the smell to a cleared area they hadn't been able to see through the thick forest when they came above ground, but was less than 100 feet from the tunnel. The smoke was coming from a structure in this cleared area. That it was a building was obvious, but it didn't look like something any Human had built, and the Dwarves did not recognize the design neither. There was a chimney however, and a thin wisp of smoke coming from it.

Robin approached this odd cabin first. She was able to hear voices from inside conversing, but in a language she did not know. Approaching the door, she called to whomever was inside. The voices stopped, but she did not hear sounds of anybody coming towards the door. The ranger walked up and knocked, again calling a greeting. This time she heard sounds as though she was being replied to, but she could not understand the words. Still nobody came to open the door.

Robin was about to try a third time, when she heard a low growl coming from her dog. Looking down, she noted that the animal's hackles were raised, and it was slowly backing away. Trusting her beast, the ranger returned to the Fellows and reported of what she had heard. Sir Frost took exception to her being ignored and decided that he "would" get the inhabitants to come out and talk with them. Ignoring the arguments of roughly half of the group, the teenager showed his impetuous hotheadedness by climbing to the roof of the strange structure and, while ignoring the angered glares from half of the fellows in the woodline, wrapping the chimney to prevent any smoke from escaping, them going to wait just above the door.

Robin waited with a knocked arrow, the Dwarves gripped their weapons, the clerics tried to get Frost to leave the roof, Esmerelda left the group in disgust and went back to the tunnel entrance, and Bobo just itched for a fight. Time passed, ten minutes, twenty, thirty... Smoke began to escape from around the door, but whomever was inside just casually chatted away, Frost could have sworn he heard laughter as the crude cabin filled with smoke.

Abandoning what he'd thought to be a clever idea, Frost retrieved his cloak and came down off the roof. With half of the group chastising both his lack of morals and lack of maturity, nobody could think of any reason to try and contact whomever was inside, so with no place else to go, they went back towards the tunnel entrance. A successful hunt and forage yielded squirrels, nuts and berries which Wolf cooked. The Fellows were glad to have something other than dry iron rations again.

The night watches were set, and the group settled for sleep. Closer to Midnight, the smaller Dwarf they nicknamed "Hobbit" began to feel tremors in the ground and saw the heat signatures of four large forms lumbering towards them. Inexplicably, the Dwarf made no move to hide the fire, nor did he awaken his comrades until the forms were upon the camp. Only then did "Hobbit" wake the others by hammering his shield.

The others woke to the horror of seeing three big, ugly giant humanoids even uglier than the Half Orc! The giant humanoids began to snatch the sleeping fellows in their bedrolls, except for one who tripped and fell on his face! (rolled a natural 1) Hobbit charged headlong into one swinging his hammer, while the rest of the group scrambled franticly to get out of the bedrolls and armed with their weapons. Robin's dog gave to fright and ran off into the woods, and worse, Moreena and Wolf found themselves unfortunate enough to have been grabbed before they could try to stand!

Thinking quickly, Moreena cast an illusion spell to make it appear that a fireball had been cast at the feet of the 9 foot brute. As she was casting, Esmerelda shot magic missiles into the chest of the monster carrying the cleric, thus when the illusion shot forth, the ogre had no reason to disbelieve. He dropped Moreena and ran around shrieking, trying to put out nonexistent flames. Seeing this, the other two moves away from the illusionary fire, but still attacked and tried to grab the Fellows. Esmerelda continued to shoot magic missiles from her bedroll, Robin sent arrows into the big targets, while the Dwarves hacked and hammered at their thick legs. From somewhere in the darkness, beyond the light of he fire, a forth attacker was throwing large rocks into the Fellows campsite, both Robin and Moreena had the misfortune of being hit by these rocks, causing more damage then if they'd been struck by the iron bound clubs wielded by the three ogres.

Seeing the reactions to Moreena's fire spell, Robin lit and threw a canister of oil into the chest of the ogre than had tripped, grinning to herself when he hollered in pain. She attempted to do the same with the brute that still had Wolf carried over his shoulder, but missed, and the oil now caused a real fire to burn with Moreena's illusion of fire!

The size and strength of the ogres worked against them as the small targets proved to dodgy to hit. Before long, all three ogres went down with earth shaking falls. The fourth in the darkness fled before the Fellows could engage him. The Clerics prayed over the wounds sustained from the thrown rocks. After putting out the fire from Robin's missed oil and retrieving her arrows, a search of the 9 foot cadavers turned up only their weapons as valuable enough to save. Each was easily six feet long, thick and bound in iron wraps. Deadly in the hands of a brute with the strength to wield it. The Fellows were GLAD they hadn't been struck by them, thanking God or fate for the luck.

Despite the craftsmanship of the huge iron bound clubs, the young teenager declared that they should be burned so that they couldn't be used again, and when it appeared none of the others did not stop this 16 year old newcomer to the group from telling the seasoned adventurers what to do, Bobo had enough. He grabbed one of the large weapons and yelled to the group that he was no longer a part of them.

"Boss Heery good boss. Him dead. Boss Vence good boss. Him dead. Boss Sharp never shoulda been boss. Him dead too. Now no boss and you all follow whelp boy? You all like wild dogs! Go dog away to your death. Bobo make more metal by himself than with you! When sun come back. Bobo gone, and This is for ME!"

Already fatigued from the attack of the ogres in the middle of the night, none of the others had the energy to try and calm Bobo, so they let him shout until he'd shouted it all out. Frost burned the remaining two clubs, not wanting to make eye contact with the angry Orc breed. Robin went into the woods to try and find her dog, while Melody played soothing music from her flute to allow Moreena to coax her terrified cat out from a tree. the others settled to try and sleep the rest of the night before morning.

((Play ended here))
Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
9:04 pm
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 16)
Session 16: Poisons and Tunnels

Finding themselves all geared up with no place to go, The Fellows set out to look for work. That evening over supper, they discussed their options. The caravan merchants who were willing to hire them all intended to make their way to Lockport in four days. Robin tried to get the others fired to the idea of exploring the silver mine noted on her map of Hudson Holly, but none of the others supported her idea. They suspected that the mine had dried out years ago and none of them knew anything about mining. Sir Frost in particular had no interest going back to the town he had finally gotten away from. They discussed trying to search the surrounding areas for the highwayman bounties that were posted, going to see what opportunities would present themselves down the Great Road and trying to start hunting small animals for furs, before finally deciding to hire on as caravan guards when the merchants moved on in four days.

Robin was already disappointed with their decision to not go to the mine, and the suggestion to become furriers inspired her to just seek some peace. She informed the group that she would be back in three nights, inviting them to enjoy their time in the big city. The newcomer who called himself "Wolf" was eager to leave the walls of the city, and offered to keep her company and well as safety in numbers. Robin searched his face for a few moments before shrugging her shoulders and the pair departed.

Once far from the walls of Foxbury, Robin and Wolf found that they got along rather well together. The two had a shared interest in herbalism, and Wolf was far more knowledgeable of the two on the subject, and most of the three days was spent showing her what he knew. The highlight of that was finding a batch of harfly grass, which helped in blood clotting, useful when binding wounds.

On the third day, Robin noticed a large tree stump that seemed oddly "off". She called Wolf's attention to it, and the pair soon discovered that the stump hid the entrance to a stair leading down to a tunnel. Not wanting to explore it without the others, they chose to go back earlier than they had arranged.


Back in Foxbury, the days passed slowly. Bobo and the Dwarves made good use of their coins in the tavern. Sir Frost showed surprising restraint for a youth of 16 by not joining the trio in drinking, but he encouraged them to tell stories of their exploits. It was amusing to see Bobo tell a story, as he had a penchant for trying to act things out, and subconsciously switched between Common and Orcish.

The morning of the third day started differently. The Fellows could hear busy commotion in the hallway, not loud enough to be a fight or raid, but louder than normal. Valgard peeked his head out to find all of the patrons were leaving their rooms with their possessions in a hurry. Asking what was going on, a passer by in the hallway told him that the wells in the city were yielding water that made people sick, and nobody wanted to stay and see how far the damage would reach. The Fellows hurriedly packed up their own belongings and left the Inn to see people leaving the city in a panicked flow. At this rate, the city would be a densely populated stone village within a few days!

The rumors were varied and plentiful, but most felt that the wells had been poisoned. It seems that morning, people from all over the city were being afflicted with bouts of painful vomiting and violent seizures. The infirmaries were over flowed and the temple clerics were not able to cure the afflictions.

The merchants they had arranged to leave with had already departed, and with not much else to do, the Fellows left the city to wait near the gates for Robin and Wolf.

When the two parties finally reunited, they group puzzled if the tunnels had any connection to the poisoned wells, and decided that there was only one way to find out. Returning to the city long enough to get Moreena and Melody from the Temple (who left reluctantly, with the sick in the temple and infirmaries), the Fellows began their descent underground.

Reaching the bottom of a short stairway, they found tunnel the was just an inch over 5 feet high, and 4 feet wide, and pitch black. Only the Dwarf Cousins and the Sea Witch, who stood five foot even, could move along comfortable, the taller ones having to hunch. Sir Frost and Bobo, who stood at 6 foot and 6'11 respectively, suffered the worst. Bobo going as far to bend over and go hands and feet for a while.

The Dwarf Cousins led, Bobo uncomfortable and complainingly followed them, as the three did not need light to see. At the back, Sir Frost carried a lantern allowing the remaining to see as they progressed, slowly and awkwardly forward in this tunnel that didn't seem to end.

After miles and hours, Valgard detected the sounds of soft whimpers and canine sounding yelps coming from up ahead. The group stopped and listened before realizing that the sounds were coming closer and louder. What started as sounds of whimpering quickly grew into frenzied howls. 'Hobbit", the shorter of the two Dwarves, readied his hammer and set himself firmly in the tunnel. Valgard realized that there was not enough room for both he and his Cousin to fight, so he set his axe aside and readied his bow. Beside him, Robin crouched down and set to use her own bow.

The decisions proved wise, as the group found themselves facing a charging pack of odd creatures that looked to be half man, half wolf abominations! Fortunately, the attacking beasts suffered the same restrictive space penalties that the Fellows did, and only one could really attack at once. 'Hobbit' made a good defensive shield with his Dwarven plate and solid Warhammer. Moreena and Melody both called upon the power of Magnikai to protect the group and guide their strikes, Esmerelda pushed her way forward to be able to see what they were facing.

Between 'Hobbit's hammer, Valgaurd and Robin's arrows and Esmerelda's spells, the strange monsters were cut down rather quickly. Bringing the lantern closer, the creatures were no more identifiable. They were not uniform in appearance, some having different wolf parts than others, the group looked starved and the smell was unbearable. Sir Frost cut off the ears and a paw from each, in case there was some kind of bounty.

The Fellows decided to push further down the tunnel, and within twenty minutes, they came to a widened chamber. The wasn't much bigger, only five and a half feet, but it was enough for each of them to sit comfortable if they chose. As the lantern was brought in, a twinkle caught the eyes of a few of the fellows, and they found a one inch circular gem, cut and polished into a cabochon. Sir Frost took a look at it, but determined that it was a stone he had never seen, nor had either Dwarf. Esmerelda was asked to see if it detected magical, and she determined that it did.

Sir Frost noted that his lantern was almost out of his second canister of oil, which meant they had been underground for almost four hours. The awkward walking was taking it's toll on the Humans, and the decision was made to rest in the room for a couple of hours. Esmerelda attempted to cast Identify on the gem, but came up with no conclusive result, however, the spell took a lot of her strength, and she needed more than just a quick rest - much to Bobo's agitation. The Fellows situated themselves so they would be best defended against anymore of the wolf/man beasts, and set in for as comfortable a rest as they could afford.

((Play ended here. It seemed slow, as the players of both Moreena and melody were absent, and the player of Wolf had an emergency at home and had to leave just as the group was leaving Foxbury))
Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
12:15 am
Another coming of full circle
I make no secret of the fact the 80's was not a good decade for my Dad. Enslaved to alcohol and drugs, he made lots of choices that negatively affected everyone in his life. In 1985, his drunken outbursts made living with him a threat, and one night in the cover of darkness, we had to flee.

I do not remember the month, but I remember that the first night, we spent at the house of one of my school friends. I remember that his dad was also a big man, and was ready to act in our defense if the need arose. Either the next day, or maybe the second, we ended up in a shelter home in Glendale. (If I tried to take you there today, I would only be able to get in somewhere in the general vicinity.)

Yesterday, alcohol (and maybe drug) influence violence showed itself in the household of one of Emily's school friends. Her mother has made the wise decision to leave. The next few weeks will be tumultuous, and so we have invited Alexia to stay with us until her Mom finds a new place for them to live.

I figure the next few days will be the most "volatile". If the boyfriend is going to try anything foolish, it will be then. Fortunately, I have the next two days off. Here in my house, Alexia is perfectly safe. Neither her Mom nor the (now ex) boyfriend knows our address, so there is no fear of a nasty visit overnight.

For the next two days, I will be there for both the drop off and the pick up from school - and I will be dressed and ready for a fist fight. I will be wearing my Army pants and boots as a warning, but if he is too dense to see that, then he will find out that he may be big, but I am mean. I have a violent bloodline, and I abandoned the silly notions of "fighting fair" during my weeks in Basic Training.

In 1985, I was the fleeing refugee who needed the protection of a man willing to do violence of my behalf. 31 years have passed, and now I am the man willing to do violence on the behalf of a fleeing refugee in my care. Another full circle.
Friday, April 8th, 2016
10:32 pm
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 15)
Session 15: On the road to Foxbury

After waking from a good sleep, they began to get ready for the next day's travel. Bobo began to show impatience with the others, who took too much time in his view, but his annoyed pacing "did" manage to get the rest to put more speed into what they were doing. Once they got started, the day looked to be a boring one. After a couple of hours however, Robin, walking ahead of the wagon, saw two trees the had been cut down and laid across the road in a "V" shape. This was no accident, and obviously had not been there when the Fellows had come to the Halfling town a week earlier.

Robin signalled the wagon to come to a stop, and she and the Dwarf Cousins cautiously approached the road block, waiting for the ambush to be sprung, but no atttacks came. With the Dwarves and Robin acting as security, Melody and Sir Frost unhitched the horses to use their strength to clear the road, while Moreena and Esmerelda stayed on the wagon, waiting to cast shoud the need arise, The newcommer called "Wolf" and Bobo stayed with the wagon for rear security, a position that bothered the Half Orc greatly.

Just as the horses were nearly ready to pull, there came the sounds of something coming towards the road. From the sounds, it was larger than an animal, and was heading towards them with a purpose. Melody tried to keep the horses calm, while the two Dwarves, Robin and Frost got ready to meet whatever was coming from the treeline.

Whatever they had been expecting, they were all surprised to see what looked to be a common scarecrow emerge from the treeline. It could easily have been one of the scarecrows they'd seen in the farm fields of Hudson Holly, except for the fact that it was actively coming towards them, and the twisted visage was both un-natural and unsettling. The two Dwarves were in no mood to sit and ponder the anomoly however, and they met the lumbering scarecrow with bad tidings and steel, Valgard swinging his axe, "Hobbit" bringing down the hammer. Robin whirled to face the opposite side of the road, expecting another attack to have been sprung while their backs were turned. The young lad Sir Frost took one of the ropes they'd planned to use to pull the trees and fashioned a quick lasso, while Melody worked to get the horses to pull the trees out of the road.

Back at the wagon, Bobo refused to be away from the fight, and charged ahead to the scarecrow to aid the Dwarves. Moreena felt the tabby leap from her lap, to face the scarecrow and hiss, the hair bristling on it's back. Moreena also saw Bobo charge, so she turned to scan behind them, making sure nobody was trying to approach from the rear. Wolf stood and began speaking words none of them understood, and a thick fog began to envelope the wagon. Esmerelda cursed, as the fog blocked her view of the scarecrow.

After placing a good blow to the leg of the scarecrow, Hobbit chanced to look up, and his eyes met the eyes of the supernatural farm piece. Unexplainably, he was overcome with a feeling of dread. His muscles froze, he was unable to fight, unable to run, unable to even tremble, he simply stared at the horror before him. A few feet away, Valgard continued to hack away with his axe. Sir Frost showed quick thinking by tossing the lasso over a low hanging but thicker branch of a tree, then lassoed the scarecrow and strained his muscles to full it off the ground. The scarecrow dangled, but still swung single mindedly on "Hobbit".

Back at the wagon, Esmerelda and Moreena dismounted and stepped out of the obscuring fog that surrounded them. Just as they were taking in the battle scene to decide how they could best be effective, they heard crashing sounds beside them, as a second scarecrow stepped into view. Esmerelda met it with a pair of magic missiles, the energy crackling from her fingertips to meet it's lumbering wooden body. Standing on the wagon, Wolf began to speak his foreign tongue again.

Bobo reached the first scarecrow and joined Valgard in chopping it to pieces as it dangled from the branch. Surprising everyone, a lightning bolt cracked down from the sky, hitting the second scarecrow and obliterating it to flying splinters! As Bobo and Valgard chopped, "Hobbit" felt control coming back to his muscles, and saw that the twisting visage of the scarecrow somehow seemed less gruesome. "I think it's finally dead fellas." He said with a tinge of chagrin.

Sir Frost, Robin and Melody worked to clear the two trees from the road as Moreena looked over the scratches on "Hobbit's" face. Bobo paced like a caged animal, although whether he was fearful of a second attack, or hoping for one, was anybody's guess... Valgard examined the leftover remains of the scarecrow, and saw the word "Ora" scrawled on it's forehead in what appeared to be smeared berry juice. He also saw a broken arrow shaft tied around it's neck. The Dwarf called Robin to look at the arrow, and she was rather surprised to recognize it as one of hers!

For the first time, the Fellows realized that the target of the attacks was not the rare herbs they were transporting, but they themselves. Looking back over their encounters over the past week, Robin stated that the only arrows that were unaccounted for was the mysterious woman that had disappeared in the hut. The group was quiet for a moment, before someone uttered the word "Witchcraft".

With little else they could do about it, the group pushed the trees out of the way of the road and continued onward to Foxbury, but they were extra tense, wondering when the next attack would come, and what it would be in the form of?

Despite the constant tension, The Fellows did not have any further encounters for the next two days, and then the uncommonly travelled road to Hudson Holly finally met with the great road. They knew it would take them one more day to reach Foxbury. Some of the Fellows began to relax as they saw more familiar sights, talking of what they would do when they were safe in Foxbury. Sir Frost listened with anticipation, as he envisioned what the big city would be like.

Not everyone was relaxed however, as up ahead of the wagon, Robin was keeping a sharp lookout, trying to find and kind of booby trap on the road. Thus, she was not surprised, although still taken aback, when a skeleton began to cross the road ahead of her. It appeared to be a Human skeleton, and it carried a club in one hand, and had what looked like glittering jewels in the other. Curiously, the skeleton whistled as it walked across.

Robin fired an arrow, sending it toward the walking bones, but the skeleton sidestepped, and looked in her direction. Back behind in the wagon, Moreena stood and in a commanding voice said "By the glory of Magnikai, be gone to your rest!"

The skeleton shook in place a bit, then faced Moreena's direction, and shook it's fist at her. As usual, Bobo gave the skeleton a savage war cry and began charging towards it. The others gripped their weapons tighter, when two bolts of arcane energy, magic missiles cast by Moreena, went flying through the air hitting the skeleton squarely in the rib cage. The bones dropped as it they had slipped off of a hangar. Robin cautiously approached the pile, checking the skull for any writing. Finding none, she saw the glittering rocks were just common red stones, and when she brought the club to Moreena, the cleric-mage told her the weapon was just as common as any of the branches on the forest floor. With a last wary look around them, The Fellows picked up and Melody give the reigns a flick, onward towards Foxbury.

Finally, The Fellows reached the walls of the city. Now, everyone felt relief, except for Wolf, who suddenly felt confined by the large stone walls that surrounded the city. The Fellows checked their horses at the stables, then Melody went to find Bryce Chandler to deliver the shipment of herbs he'd sent them for.

As she approached him at the market square, he looked around and asked "Where is Vence?"
Melody told Bryce about Vence's death, as well as 'Sharps'. The merchant shook his head sadly.
"It seems you folks have bad luck with your leaders." he noted.
"Well, Vence really wasn't our leader, but it may have seemed that way after Captain Heery died." Melody explained.
"All the same" Bryce began "I'd feel a bit safer if you "weren't" working in my employ anymore."
"That is your decision to make" Melody returned.

Bryce gave her the gold he had promised on delivery, and then bought the excess barrels of blue peat tar they had brought with them, and Melody returned to the tavern/inn they had all agreed to meet at. As expected, the Dwarf Cousins were already a few steins into drinking, introducing Sir Frost to what they called "a REAL bar room". The only ones not present were Moreena, who felt she needed to spend time devoted to the Temple. (It had unsettled her that the skeleton had not been turned away when she presented the name of Magnikai), and Esmerelda, who had excused herself to go and find a tattoo artist.

((Play ended here, with the group back in the city, free to go whichever way they'd felt so inclined.))
Wednesday, March 30th, 2016
9:11 pm
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 14)
Session 14: Back on the road, with new faces

The Fellows spent their last night in the Holly Hearth Inn and met in the commons area for breakfast the next morning. As they ate, they discussed their possible options delivering the herbs back in Foxbury. Robin expressed interest in returning to Hudson Holly to try and find silver in the old mine on the map. Both Dwarves felt the old mine had long since gone dry, and Melody voiced the opinion that, if there were any silver left, the Halflings would likely be mining it themselves. Moreena found that the orange tabby gravitated to her once again. Melody smiled and commented that, while people mostly choose other pets to their liking, cats choose their people.

As The Fellows loaded their wagon to prepare for the days on the road, several of their Halfling friends came to bid them farewell. The group thanked Jasper for keeping their belongings safe, and he reminded them of the two scimitars Vence had commissioned when they had first arrived. Since they were already paid for, they were added to the goods on the wagon, but then Robin took a few test swings, and decided that she liked the feel of the scimitar better than her short sword, so she switched the two weapons out. Bobo said nothing, but his hand absently grasped the hilt of Vence's old scimitar on his belt. Though he would likely never admit it, the Half Orc missed his friend. The last official "errand" was the Dwarf Cousins buying two 10 gallon barrels of Dwarven Ale made in the village. (They claimed to want to sell it back in Foxbury, but nobody in the group figured the barrels would last the 4 day trip to the city.)

As the wagon was leaving, Moreena was mildly surprised to find the orange tabby following them. Robin tended to walk ahead of the wagon with her dog, so the two animals were unlikely to cause trouble, and the woman welcomed her new pet to join them. Melody chuckled again. "Yes, cats choose their Humans."

Three miles outside of town, Robin saw a younger lad sitting on a tree stump near the road. She looked to see if he presented a threat, and found that she vaguely recognized him as one of the Humans she had seen around Hudson Holly during their time there. The two waved to each other, and talked while the wagon caught up.

"Greetings friend" The Ranger called out.
"Good Day to you" He replied.

The youth introduced himself as 'Sir Frost'. He explained that he had long ago grown weary of the dull life in the Halfling village, but didn't have any place to go. Since The Fellows had lost two members in the last week, he was hoping they would be willing to allow him to join with them and finally get to see some of the rest of the world. The lad looked to be still in his late teens, but stood almost 6 feet, and knew how to handle a longsword. He also demonstrated good skills with a rope, and would be handy in packing up the wagon, so The Fellows decided to let him follow along, at least until Foxbury to see how he fit in with them.

Further down the road, Robin heard the sounds of something large crashing through the woods at a high speed heading their way. She signaled the others, readied her bow and took a covered position behind a nearby tree. The noise grew louder, and as the group readied themselves for an ambush, they were surprised to instead see a male deer burst through the tree line and shoot to the other side of the road, followed by a small pack of dogs giving chase, but oddly, not barking. Neither the deer nor the dogs seemed to even notice the group, but Moreena called to Bobo "THERE GOES DINNER!!" and the big Half Orc sprinted into action with a bellowing yell. This led the rest of the group to attack, and the dogs were quickly taken down. Sir Frost instead of using his sword, used a lasso to capture one dog alive, but the rest were felled with arrows and magic. Valgaurd tried to bring down the deer, but was quickly outrun. Looking at the dead dogs, Melody walked up to Moreena and quietly chided "next time, make sure he knows you want venison, not dog." Moreena didn't reply, just shook her head.

The rest of the group was not as selective as to the meat they would eat, and the slain dogs were quickly skinned and cut up for dinner. Of the one Sir Frost had captured, Robin hoped to be able to tame him and make him another hunting dog, but he trembled and cowered at her touch. The dog was loaded at the back of the wagon, and the group pressed onward until they could camp for the night.

As the group was setting their camp sight, the first sentries took their turns at watch. Robin rarely stayed still during her shifts. She always walked in circles, far enough from the others that her foot steps would distract the spell casters from their study sessions, but close enough that she could alert them all to danger if need be. During one of her rotations, a man stepped into her view. He looked to be a Human, and his hands were held out unthreateningly.

The man introduced himself as "Wolf", and told her that he had seen them fight the dogs which had been chasing the deer, and he was pleased that they did not abandon the dead, but had chosen to use them for food instead, and that they did not harm the one that had been captured. The two talked for a short while, and the ranger began to suspect the man was a younger druid. Satisfied that he was not a threat, she brought him to meet the rest of The Fellows. The group shared their stew with the newcomer, and after an evening of campfire and conversation, he agreed to walk with them on the road for a while, at least to Foxbury.

The night passed without incident, and the Fellows hit the road early the next day, hoping to cover as much ground as possible.

((Play ended here, a shorter session with more role play than battle. This session introduced the new characters to replace Vence and Sharp. Next session is scheduled for April 5th))
Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
9:51 pm
What a fun day
Mom and I were able to spend the day together, as I was off from work, and Krystal and the Kids are currently in Stockton visiting Krystal's family during their last week of Spring break.

We decided to take a trip to the old Calico Ghost Town park. I had recently been there with Deana and Chris when they came down here in December, and I had "thought" that was my first trip, but Mom tells me that she and Dad brought me there when I was a wee tyke of stroller age.

The drive out went quickly and pleasantly. It was windier and chillier than either of us had anticipated, but we listened to instrumental CD's and talked and laughed for the few hours that it took.

While on the way, Mom asked what my dream job would be if money were not a barrier. I answered that I'd love to travel and give reviews of places that I had been, be they restaurants, theme parks, museums, what have you. She advised me to just start now. Start writing reviews, if nothing else, just for practice, so I am going to start with today's trip to the Calico Ghost Town.

On our way home, we decided to take the long way (I15 South the Highway 138 back to Lake Los Angeles) but as we neared Victorville, we decided to change plans to take Highway 18 West until it joined the 138, but somehow we got horribly turned around, and to our surprise, we found ourselves turned around so far, that we were back in Barstow where Highway 58 meets the Interstate 15 freeway! This time, we were just going to stick with the original plan of taking the 15 South to the 138, but when we stopped in Hesperia to get food and fuel, we hit rain. I did not want to match my driving skills with the "death trap highway" on wet roads, so we turned back around to go home the way we had originally came; Highway 58 to the 14 South at Mojave, however, when we hit the halfway point; a truck stop along the 58, I asked Mom to break out the GPS, and we took the 395 road directly home. Maybe saved 45 minutes to an hour.

Yes, today was fun. Tomorrow will be cleaning around the house, and back to work on Thursday. Bye for now!
9:42 pm
Travel Review: Calico Ghost Town
Calico Ghost Town is a restored version of one of California's old silver mine boom towns from the 1800's. This State Park was made possible through the intervention of Walter Knott (Of Knott's Berry Farm) and is located a short drive North of Barstow along Interstate 15. Admission is a modest $8 per adult, $6 for children 6-15, and free for children 5 and younger.

I've visited here on two occasions, a few months apart, once with Krystal, the Kids and some out of State friends on December 31st, 2015, and the second time today, March 29th, 2016 with my Mother.

My first impression was one of surprise. I had envisioned a smattering of run down, dilapidated buildings out in the desert. I was fully surprised to find what had once been the main street of a small community, which offered a good 6-8 hours worth of activity. In addition to many tourist shops offering a variety of goods to sample from old fashioned candies, polished stones and stone crafts, leatherwork items, candles and even a store dedicated to dog supplies, there are several fun activities for the whole family.

Guests can walkthrough the Maggie Mine shaft, and get somewhat of a feel for what it had been like working underground for those 18th century fortune hunters, take a ride on a train around a short track, try their hand at gold panning and visit a house where the laws of physics are bent or flat out ignored. For the more supernaturally orientated, there are ghost hunting tours that are featured on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. (Look for the bottle building near the amphitheater for more information.)

The old town has two restaurants for hungry guests, as well as an old fashioned saloon, where one can sample on tap beers, sarsaparillas and get bar food (hot dogs and small pizzas).

For the historical minded, there is a museum in the old Lane House, and a few areas with historical displays, such as the old school house, barbershops and blacksmith's shop.

My second surprise, in addition to the full set of options to keep visitors busy, was the guests themselves. In all of my years of seeing travel brochures in racks in hotels and bus/train stations in this State, I have never once seen one advertising Calico. ("I" only knew about it because we had tried to make a trip as a family in the later 1980's), yet during both of my visits in the past few months, I saw a large percentage of foreign tourists. Some Asian, some that sounded German or Slavic. I wondered where "they" had seen advertisements for this place, when a good percentage of Southern Californians would not recognize the name if brought up in casual conversation. (Not that foreign tourism is ever a bad thing mind you, not suggesting that at all.)

On the way out, one can visit the Calico cemetery. This was my biggest head scratcher. At first, I was thinking that the cemetery was a mock up, and the actual Human remains had long ago been moved to one of California's newer cemeteries, but I also saw more modern and recent headstones, some even post 2000, so I'm not sure whether the graves are real or not.

Lastly, there is an added bonus for those active in the hobby of geocaching: here are three actual caches, as well as one virtual cache. Remember to exercise good discretion when trying to log these finds.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
10:02 pm
What a splendid day!!
My Mom is in town visiting, and today was my first full day to spend with her.

Unfortunately, she, Krystal and I stayed up until 2 this morning talking, so when 0630 came around, I was able to get up and get them ready, but since Emily is still out of school per doctor's orders (influenza), and Krystal had a facial appointment for her, Mom and Katie, I only stayed up until they left, then I laid back down and didn't wake up until the 11A hour.

Emily and I met with them again after school let out (12:25 on Tuesdays), and then we made the trip down to Ventura. Back on May 12th, 2014, Krystal and I became geocachers, finding our first cache on our two year anniversary. That July, we got Mom in on the hobby, and all of us went to Ventura to escape the summer heat, and get some finds in down there. One of the hides that we attempted, but did not find was on the pier, but we did take a family picture. In June of 2015, Mom was back in town, and so we all went down to try a second time, that time with a year's worth of experience under our belts, but still couldn't do it. Today, we went down to the pier with Mom for what has become an annual tradition of getting a Family picture on the pier, and looking for this particular geocache.

Today, WE FOUND IT! I cannot describe in words here how good it felt to have not given up and kept looking and finally struck it. All of us agreed, it felt better for having found it after multiple attempts.

We did not stay long in Ventura, the fact was, we had accomplished both of our trip goals in one activity, so we left and made our way to Claim Jumpers in Valencia. The Claim Jumper chain is my favorite restaurant. My friend Tracy introduced me to the chain during my visit after coming back from the "war" in March of 2009 in Las Vegas, and then I was MIGHTY pleased to discover a location had opened here at the mall. Unfortunately, the chain is expensive, so I don't get to go there very often, but yesterday, I got the check for my State tax returns, and so we had set aside this particular meal.

This was my first time dining at the Valencia location, but it is the nicest of the three, in my opinion. Normally, my meal is set; tri tip chili bread bowl, but unfortunately, a few months ago, bread bowls were removed from the menu. I was saddened to hear that, but I still had tri tip. Everybody else opted for the pork ribs. I was the only one who finished, and 5 hours later, I'm still full!

Tomorrow after school, we hope to do some more geocaching, and Thursday, Mom will go down to San Bernardino to see her parents, so I hope we are able to make the most of what time we have her with us.
Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
10:34 pm
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 13)
Session 13: From Ruins to Roots

While the remainder of the group were fighting the suits of armor, both Melody and the Halfling "Sharp" snuck away to a nearby door. Finding it unlocked, they stepped inside, and found a much smaller room, which appeared to be a room in which the manor's inhabitant's would use to get out of travelling cloaks and boots. "Sharp" began to inspect a small dresser for hidden compartments, in which he found one, but it was empty.

As "Sharp" looked at the dresser, Melody heard the door they had entered close. She went to reopen it, and felt resistance, then saw a key turn, locking it. As she was trying to turn the key, "Sharp noticed a mirror behind them. He noted curiously that, while he did see their reflections, they were not accurately showing the reflections, rather, the pair in the mirror were looking out at the two of them. "Sharp" was curious, yet cautious. He brought the reflections to Melody's attention, and then the reflection of Melody began to speak in a strange, deep voice. The pair of reflections stepped out of the mirror.

"Hello" Melody offered, trying to make a connection, but the reflection pair did not answer. "Sharp" had seen enough. The image of Melody kept the deep chanting, while the one of "Sharp" stood, tossing it's dagger from one hand to the other

"Nobody who steps through a mirror is friendly." He stated, before sticking his arms out, his thumbs touching, fingers spread outward. "Sharp" spoke a few words in magic and the pair of reflections were engulfed in the flame of a Burning Hands spell. The glass of the mirror cracked from the flame, and the wall threatened to catch fire, but the wood was too sturdy. The reflections however, remained, though the Melody skirted the blast of flame, and the "Sharp" started hopping around.

Melody was still not sure what to make of the pair, when the "Sharp" stopped hopping and waggled his finger at the real "Sharp". The Melody image knelt down and blew the real "Sharp" a kiss, and at that moment, the real "Sharp" felt a stabbing pain at the top of his sternum! He tried to cry in pain, but something cut his voice off in his chest. "Sharp" crumpled down, his vision grew dark, and then he was gone, without ever knowing what had hit him.

Melody saw "Sharp"s body crumple, and saw a small, winged creature materialize from behind him. The creature was about two feet tall, with dark red skin. From behind it was a jagged tail with a stinger on the end. The same stinger that was now behind pulled from "Sharp"s body.

Realizing that she was now alone, Melody began to strike out. She had never been accused of being a lethal fighter, but she swung her fists wildly. The reflections attacked back, along with the winged monster. Melody was surprised to see both reflections go down in a slump as her fists connected with them, but the winged thing was tougher, and it's claws raked her again and again until she was overwhelmed and went down, unconscious from the pain and lost blood.


Back in the foyer, the Fellows fought to catch their breaths as the second suit of armor clattered to the floor. Just as they were realizing that Melody and "Sharp" were not amongst them, they heard the door open, and a feminine voice called out "I'm all burnt up!" From where they were, they could see Melody laying on the ground. The fellows rushed over, weapons at the ready. Going inside, they could not see any enemies, and they pulled their friends out to the foyer. Moreena prayed to Magnikai to lend his healing upon them, casting Cure Light Wounds on each. Melody began to breathe, but Robin was not able to find a pulse, nor any signs of breathing on the Halfling.

Melody came to, and seeing herself rescued, she quickly told the others what she and "Sharp" had encountered. As she remembered seeing the Halfling go down, she demanded to know how he was. The uncomfortable looks being exchanged amongst the others told her the truth before Robin confirmed it. "Sharp" is gone."

The remaining Fellows lost all interest in the Manor, and they left to get back to Hudson Holly. Eric and Esmerelda helped Melody to walk steadily, Robin and Bobo led the way, ready for anything to jump out and attack, them, the Dwarf cousins made sure nothing followed from the doors of the manor. Nobody looked up, to see a large stone form watching them leave, an expression of hatred and disdain on it's face.


For the second time in as many days, the citizens of Hudson Holly watched the Fellows return with one of their number dead. The change was apparent in the way The Fellows were treated. The feeling of celebrity reception was replaced with sorrow at their sight. Another casket was built, and Melody played her sorrow into tune from her flute long into the night.

The next morning, the funeral for "Sharp" had as much attendance as Vence's had, but the grief was stronger, as this time, it was a fellow Halfling being put to rest in the village cemetery. After the crowd dispersed, Eric parted from the group, deciding to return to his old Master's estate, to try and find a paladin to continue squiring him. The rest of the Fellows began to arrange to get the last of the herb types they had been hired to get; Madman's root. They knew the root was buried deep, and they would have to arrange for the use of Mack Bromley's dogs to find them. Robin and Esmerelda went to try and make the arrangements with him.

Mack Bromley worked in the village sheering sheep and working with wool. He was rude and obnoxious, but the pair found he was easily manipulated by womanly charms. It was not difficult at all to appeal to his ego and get him to agree to take his dogs out to help find the root. Mack was rather proud of his bloodhounds, and eager to make himself agreeable in their eyes. The payment of a bag of cinnamon and a gold coin seemed to excite him as well. Arrangements were made to meet the next morning at his shop.

Finding the root proved to be the second easiest of the plants to find. Knowing the roots emitted a god-awful racket when unearthed, they had thought ahead to bring candle wax and cotton balls to protect their ears. The first three hours, they had unearthed 11, during the 4th hour, the noise attracted a pack of 5 wild dogs, driven to frenzy from the maddening effects of the root. the dogs would have been an easy fight even if the dogs hadn't driven mad. The 5th hour, three wild cats were affected by the noise. Esmerelda put two of them down with a Color Spray spell, and the third was easily cut down from the fighters in the group. When six hours had passed, they had dug up the twenty roots they needed, so the Fellows returned to Hudson Holly, and began packing their wagon for the return trip to Foxbury. The mood was heavy and somber. They had arrived a group of 9 eager adventurers, and just eight days later, they would be leaving a group of 7, two of their number staying in the cemetery grounds.

((play ended here))
Wednesday, February 24th, 2016
8:35 pm
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 1)
Session 12: The Barlott Ruins

In searching the Goblins lair, The Fellows found an ale mug and silver butter knife, both of which had been taken from The Holly Hearth Inn, a map case, a total of 16 copper pieces and a quiver with 12 interestingly designed arrows - most definitely "not" made by Goblins. All of these items were brought to Vence, who cast a Detect Magic spell. Only the arrows gave off the glow he had been looking for. Vence also noted with undisguised loathing that the arrows were of an Elven make.

The spell casters of the group made it known that they would need to study their spells, and Robin did not want to leave until the fire was completely out. As the others were killing time, Robin's dog caught a whiff of something, the more alert of the group followed, and it led them to what appeared to be a shallow grave. Uncovering it, The party found the Remains of a Human, who was missing his left hand. Moreena decided that the Remains needed a proper burial, and since there were two Clerics in the party, they could give him one.

Upon hearing this however, Melody scoffed at the notion of performing her Clerical duties, and choose instead to accompany the Halfling "Sharp", as he wanted to go back to the old Barlott Ruins without the others. He would not say what he was hoping to find. As they were leaving, one of the Dwarf Cousins noticed them and followed - just for good measure.

The walk to the old manor only took a couple of hours, as the Goblins had apparently been there often enough to leave an easily follow able trail. As before, an ominous feeling of discomfort washed over the three when the ruins came into view. "Sharp" led, creeping as best he could. Melody suggested looking for the corpsemoss in the cemetery, as that was the reason they needed to be there in the first place. "Sharp" reluctantly agreed, but his eyes kept going back to the ruined manor, wondering what values could be hidden inside, guarded though they may be...

Melody found several patches of the moss, and her mind wondered at just what had come of this Barlott family, since corpsemoss was only said to grow around graves of murderers, or those killed by murderers. Once she had found and left markers to the suitable patches, "Sharp's" greed clouded his judgement, and he could not resist the urge to go inside. Both Melody and the Dwarf they called "Hobbit" weren't as eager, but both went to provide what protection they could offer. Hearts pounding, they slowly pushed open the door leading into the manor...

Back at the clearing, The Fellows had buried the Remains they had found in a deeper hole, and had sent the anonymous man off with a proper funeral. The bodies of the Goblins were drug into the lair they had worked so hard to fortify, so as to minimize any spread of disease when those disgusting creatures began to decompose. Robin regretted having used her lamp oil to burn down the hut. With their spells recommitted to memory and their business done, the rest of The Fellows made their way to the Barlott manor.

Melody urged caution as the three slowly entered what looked to have been a foyer. Decades worth of dust was evident, but the three could make out large staircases the went to an upper floor, although they looked to have fallen into disrepair. Even one as light as "Sharp" may have been too heavy to safely walk them. In the center of the foyer stood two suits of armor. Approaching them, they could see that they were suits of chainmail within a breastplate. Each had a helm, and a shield with the Barlott Family crest. One held a spiked footman's mace, the other a broadsword. Melody and "Hobbit" both expected the armor to begin attacking at any moment, and just wanted to be outside of the building again, but "Sharp" would not be dissuaded. After brushing some of the dust off of the chain, and rapping it a few times with an arrow, he was certain they were no more than just armor, all left alone for the taking. Calculating how much he could sell the suits for, he began trying to remove a chain gauntlet, when both suits raised their weapons!

"Hobbit" raised his warhammer protectively, and Melody ran back to hold the door open. Both suits attacked "Sharp", but the agile Halfling began to tumble in a defensive manner. "Hobbit" swung his hammer against the one with the broadsword, and left a good dent in the breastplate, but the suits both ignored him, taking slow steps towards the Halfling. Melody urged the pair to run outside. Cursing her for being right, "Sharp" tumbled his way outside, and after seeing the Halfling gone, "Hobbit" stopped hammering the armor, and ran outside himself. The three waited for the doors to fly open, but the only sounds they could hear were their own heavy breathing, and the slow steps of the armor, which sounded to be moving away from the door.

With no other choice but to wait for the others, "Sharp" set up a camp. He refused to listen to the other two, who wanted to be a further distance, "Sharp" refused to go anywhere that did not allow him to stare at the door, his greed and wounded pride giving a single minded desire to get back inside, a desire that overpowered even the un-natural feeling of dread that seemed to exude from the manor.

As the afternoon gave way into evening, the rest of The Fellows arrived at the ruins. Everybody tried to ignore the structure, wanting only to get the corpsemoss and be gone. Melody walked Vence and Esmerelda through the cemetery, pointing out the suitable patches of corpsemoss that she had found, but all three agreed that, with the sun setting, it was too dangerous to try and harvest the deadly plant. They would have to wait until morning. Again, the group began to try and persuade "Sharp" to move his camp a safer distance from the old ruin, but he argued his point stubbornly. Finally, the others decided to let the Halfling spend the night staring at the door if he wanted, the rest were going to the same camp they had held the night before. Only when the others left, and "Sharp" realized that he was actually alone did his senses return, and he rejoined the rest of his Fellows.

Double watches were set for the night. Melody and "Hobbit" took first watch, which began as the rest were finishing the dinner meal and setting themselves to sleep. Melody played a soothing tune on her flute, to help calm her comrades. As soft snores came to her ears, Melody looked up, and was surprised to see that she had drawn an audience! Hovering nearby were four odd creatures. They looked very close to being sea creatures which she had heard called manta rays, but they were a long ways from water, and these things weren't even on the ground, they just sorta hovered in place. She got "Hobbits" attention, and he slowly made his way to her, himself not knowing what they were facing. After a few minutes, the four creatures began to "float" away from them. Melody again began to play a soft tune, and watched as the four "manta rays" returned. She noted that they would only get so close, and did not appear to be making any threatening gestures, so she played for them until her shift was over. When the next two had been awakened and were ready to take over, they all watched as the four listeners floated away.

The rest of the night passed without incident, and "Sharp" seemed to be his normal self the next morning, as he cooked up one of the best camp breakfasts the group had ever eaten. The Dwarf cousins even commented that it was surprising the smells hadn't attracted a wandering bear. Vence, Melody and Esmerelda talked amongst themselves what they knew of corpsemoss, going over the precautions that they would have to take when they harvested it. While waiting for the others to memorize spells the day before, Moreena had spent the time using some of the leather from the Goblins crude armor to line a sack, which she'd hoped would give them a safer method of getting a bushel's worth of the moss back to Hudson Holly. "Sharp" reminded them that he wanted them to get two bushels worth, he did not intend to allow any profit opportunities to slip past him. The other three rolled their eyes. It was easy to talk when "he" wasn't the one taking the risk at handling this deadly plant.

As the herbalists worked in the cemetery, the others kept watch. The eeriness of the ruins was getting under their skin, they often found themselves jumping at nothing at all. Melody tried to sing hymns to calm the nerves of her friends, and it did settle some, Vence tried to mentally recite formulas. The mental distraction proved too effective however, and he pricked his hand while attempting to safely harvest the moss. Vence worked to keep himself calm, knowing that fear and panic would make the poison work quicker. He quickly wrapped his hand with some healing salve and hoped that it would work, but he didn't tell anybody else what had occurred, as he didn't want to cause undue panic. After almost half an hour, the three had gathered a bushel's worth of the deadly moss, but "Sharp" was adamant that more be gathered. Knowing that the Halfling would attempt it himself if his demands weren't met, and with his lack of knowledge or skill in herbalism, it would mean his certain death, Vence went to try and get more moss. Whether from his anger at the Halfling, or the effects of already been pricked once, or just plain bad luck, Vence found himself pricked a second time. He turned and sat with his back to a headstone, took a last look at the world around him, and laughed at the irony of his situation, and quietly passed away.

This time, The Fellows noticed he had been pricked. They rushed to his aid, but upon seeing his wrapped hand, the grim realization set in that there was nothing they could do. This time, even "Sharp" did not object to leaving the rest of the moss behind. The fellows broke their camp, wrapped Vence in his bedroll, and for added safety, tied the sack containing the moss with Vence's remains, and began the solemn return to Hudson Holly. The Fellows talked very little on the return trip. It had not even been a full month since they left Bordwell to take a quick job in Lockport, and they had already lost Captain Heery, Jonathon Heery and Jake, now Vence as well.

News of Vence's death spread quickly through the Halfling village. While they hadn't realized it, The Fellows were the most exciting thing to happen in this small, mostly self contained farming community in a good while, and many of the villagers had come to regard to group as travelling celebrities, bringing tales of adventure and excitement. Now the community was showing in large numbers to mourn. As a courtesy to the friends of fellow clergy, Brother Coogan decided to perform the internment free of charge. A casket would have to be made, and so the burial was scheduled for the next day. In the meantime, Vence's body lay in a state of repose. The pain of grief seemed to hit Bobo quite suddenly. He went into the cemetery next to the Temple and began to yell loudly. Esmerelda and Moreena came to try and comfort him, but were taken aback when he explained that he was yelling into the afterlife, to warn those warriors there to prepare for Vence's arrival, as to be ready to welcome him. It was their first glimpse into the Orcish culture from which Bobo had initially been raised.

Robin asked if any of the village members knew about arrows and archery, and was told of a girl who considered archery to be her calling, despite being the daughter of one of the orchard owners, still, she was considered to be the best shot in town. She'd made her own bows and supplied many of the hunters with their arrows. Her curiosity now piqued, Robin went to meet his Halfling lass, one Taimee Cabella. Robin found herself surprised when Taimee recognized her immediately. It seems the girl had heard of The Fellows, and had been waiting for the chance to meet Robin herself. They spent a short time discussing archery until Robin showed Taimee the arrows that had been found in the Goblin's cave. Taimee's eyes widened in amazement. These arrows were the best samples that she had ever seen! She wasn't able to verify that they were in fact of Elven design, and she knew nothing at all of spellcraft, but she was able to say with certainty that they had "not" been made by anyone in Hudson Holly. Satisfied with her answers, robin spent the rest of the day helping Taimee with her orchard tasks while happily discussing archery and amazing shots with somebody who understood the disciplined involved. The work and the talk were needed distractions from the loss of a friend.

That night, at the Holly Hearth, Bobo told the rest of the Fellows that Vence had told him of his will. Since nobody figured Bobo would have otherwise understood the concept of a will, nobody denied the possibility that Vence truly had spoken this to Bobo. Vence's spellbook went to "Sharp", and his scimitars went to Bobo.

After Vence had been laid to rest the next day, and the village had returned to their work, the Fellows tried to decide what to do. They had recovered the two baskets of bell berries that they had come to get, they had the bushel of corpsemoss and they still had double the amount of blue tar with the wagon. The only thing left to do was get the madman's root. "Sharp" knew that the others would want to go back to Foxbury once they had all of the herbs, and despite the loss of a friend, he still did not want to leave without going through the ruins and taking whatever had been left behind by the old Barlott Family - even though he had no real idea if there truly was any treasure left behind. He convinced the others that Vence's death had to have meaning, and they had to avenge him. He told them of the armor, and that if there was guards like that left behind, there "had" to be something that they were guarding, so The Fellows found themselves returning to the manor ruins, but this time as a war party.

Just before the Fellows opened the main door of the manor, Moreena gathered them and asked the divine protection of Magnikai, asking not only for His shielding presence, but also to guide their sword hands and let their eyes aim true. ((Bless))

Stepping inside, The Fellows cautiously strode towards the pair of armor suits, which they were mildly surprised to find had returned to their original places in the foyer. The suits largely ignored the Fellows - until "Sharp" stepped inside, at which point, both suits started to walk straight towards him. Each of The Fellows took action to match their strengths. The Dwarves and Bobo swung, Robin fired one Elven arrow and one of her arrows. Seeing both of them pierce the chain, she decided to save the Elven arrows and use her normal ones. Esmerelda sent bolts of magical energy, "Sharp" used his sling, and even Moreena decided to swing her quarterstaff. Only Melody decided to look around the foyer, ignoring the animated suits altogether.

Because the suits made no sounds other than metallic clinking, and did not outwardly react as a living being would, it was difficult to tell if they were or were not being damaged by the hail of blows, arrows and spells being rained upon them. Valgard even managed to pull the helm off of one, which A.) did not slow them a bit and B.) revealed nothing underneath. What was more apparent was that they seemed singly focused on the Halfling. When they got close to him, Moreena called upon Magnikai to shield the Halfling from their sight ((Sanctuary)). The suits paused only for a moment before turning their attacks to Valgard. Amazingly, the suits were not very fast, nor particularly skilled. Valgard was finding it easy to dodge the blows, but he could easily recognize that the hits would be heavy and devastating if one were to actually land... Since he had dropped his axe when he tried to wrest the helm, the Dwarf found himself unarmed against the walking armor. Unafraid, he tried to pull the mace from the one closest to him, but was not able to break whatever enchantment kept the suits animated. Going for whatever weapon he could grasp, Valgard's hands wrapped around the club they had found at the scene where the bandits had been massacred. He wasn't too pleased about it, but at least he wasn't unarmed.

Melody, entirely nonchalant to the struggle of her friends, began to walk towards one of the doors to the side of the manor. "Sharp" noticed her, and since the suits were now focused on the Dwarf, he followed her with a grin. As The Fellows fought valiantly, the Thief and of all people, the Cleric, abandoned them to whatever treasures they could find within the manor.

The Fellows began to feel frustration as their muscled burned and screamed from the fighting, Esmerelda had shot magic missiles until her brain could not remember how, so she tried to crack at them with her whip, Bobo struck one so hard with his axe, the vibrations stung his hand ((Max damage on a natural 20)). Finally, whatever force kept the suits "alive" broke, and in turn, they each dropped to the ground as if they had slipped off of the hook holding them upright against the wall. relieved and exhausted but unharmed, the Fellows breathed heavy as they looked around themselves. None had realized yet that two had left them to their fates.

((This session went long, and play ended here, with 7 of the Fellows in the foyer, and 2 creeping into another room))
Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
5:31 pm
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 11)
Session 11: Tracking the Thieves

After The Fellows had placed their belongings safely in Jasper's care, they assembled in front of the Holly Hearth Inn. Vence was ready to go, but Melody brought it to his attention that none of the spell casters had memorized their spells from the night before. The group briefly discussed how much time it would take and weighed that against how much further their stolen berries may be getting away. Vence decided to split the force. Vence, "Sharp" and Valgard would follow Robin on the trail while the two Clerics and the Sea Witch recommitted their spells to memory, later going into the woods with Bobo, the new Fighter Eric and the Dwarf "Hobbit" to protect them.

Following the trail was relatively easy for Robin, but it did take it's time. The skilled eyes of the Ranger were quickly able to see that they were not trailing one thief, but a small number of thieves trying to walk in a single file, stepping in each other's prints. While this made the trail easier to find, they did not know the numbers they were up against. Along the way, the found a tobacco pipe that they recognized as having seen being used at the Inn during dinner the night before, another mile in, they found a brass key. After roughly three miles, they came to a point where the line of thieves split. Even the non-trackers could understand why; the lingering stink of skunks was in the air. The single file split into four scattered trails, and while finding these, several porcupine quills were also found. The tracking group surmised that the thieves either had the worst luck with angering woodland creatures, or perhaps the 4 bushels of bell berries was attracting the creatures that would normally run away long before being encountered.

As Robin had tracked, the other three were leaving easy signs, so that the rest could follow to catch up. "Sharp" pushed the notion of picking one of the scattering trails and continuing to try and catch the thieves, hopefully one at a time. After arranging sticks and stones, they decided to follow what appeared to be the trail left by the heaviest feet, and they set out. Another hour's worth of tracking, and Robin found where her quarry had set off a snare trap. The trap must have been set for a far larger prey, as the rope noose held only a leg. Judging by the size of the leg and the color of the skin, they four deduced they were pursuing Goblin thieves, but they were surprised that such a reputedly cowardly race would creep so boldly into a settled village... By using their own trap setting skills, they were able to calculate an approximate direction that the unlucky Goblin had been flung, and then fanned out to try and find the rest of him. Before too long, they did find the remains, and confirmed that it was a Goblin. He had likely died as soon as he'd landed, and some form of critter had chewed away at him, but hadn't dragged his carcass off. He was still wearing the satchel that contained a bushel of their bell berries, so the group took that and back tracked to the point they had dubbed "The skunk spot".

After choosing the next tracks to try and find, they found that this Goblin hadn't gone as far as the first, before he had taken to the trees. Robin tried to climb a tree and see where he had gone from there, but her tracking skills were trained in ground movements, not tree hopping, so with frustrated acceptance, they returned again to the skunk spot. This time, they found the rest of the group had caught up to them, and were waiting.

The third track led them several miles through the Kennerly Forest, before coming out to a road. The appearance of this road indicated that it had once been well travelled, but now was being reclaimed by nature. Robin studied her map, and determined that they had met the road which led to the ruins of the old Barllott Manor. Furthermore, once the Goblin tracks hit this road, it continued in that direction. Vence and "Sharp" agreed that they might be able to kill two birds with one stone if they found the Goblins hiding in or near the manor, being able to get their stolen berries, and the corpse moss that they needed.

The tracks were far easier to follow on the road, and The Fellows found themselves within sight of the ruins just as afternoon was giving way to evening. They decided to make a cold camp for the night, exploring the ruins the next day. As night descended, Melody had an idea. If the Goblins were using the old ruins as a base, perhaps the sleep magic of her flute would make over taking them easy? She and "Sharp" carefully set out to scout. Once arriving, she warned "Sharp" the he needed to stay awake, and began to play. As soon as "Sharp" heard the first notes, he recognized it as the tune that puts people to sleep, and plugged his ears tightly and kept an eye out for movement from the old manor.

After she had finished playing, the pair crept slowly to the building. It looked like it hadn't seen contact in decades, and they had no reason to believe that there were any Goblins there. They walked around the whole outside, and could see the cemetery not too far away. It was a smaller area, set more for a family and servants than for a community, but Melody did note the symbol of Magnikai worked into the gates at the entrance. It seemed out of place next to the ominous structure, which had made both the Cleric and the Halfling feel as though they were being watched by unseen eyes. With no more information gleaned, the two returned to their camp, and the rest of the night passed uneventfully.

The next morning, The Fellows spent a short time deciding if they wanted to further pursue the Goblin tracks, or try to get the corpse moss from the cemetery in the ruins. After some discussion, they decided that the corpse moss, if any was there, would not go anywhere, while the bell berries could be getting further and further away the longer they let it go, plus the trail would continue to get harder to follow. Robin took point again, and found that the Goblin trail led to a larger, more used trail that led back to the ruins. On this larger trail, unlike the tracks they'd followed from Hudson Holly, there was little to no effort made to hide any tracks made. Since Melody and "Sharp" had scouted the manor ruins the night before, they Fellows chose to follow this larger trail in the other direction, and after a few hours of walking, they found the trail came to a spot where somebody had cleared out an area in the middle of the woods, and had built a fence. This wasn't a fence large enough, nor secure enough, to keep even a rabbit out, but was more a marker of a closed territory.

Moving cautiously, the Fellows went to the fence, where they could see an older looking woman was standing next to a raggedy hut, stirring the contents of a large cauldron. Robin called out to the woman with a pleasant greeting, but the woman ignored her. Robin called out a second time, and the old woman left the pot to go inside of the hut. Curiously, the spoon in the cauldron continued to stir without her. The Ranger moved to hop over the fence. Melody warned Robin that was considered trespassing, but the Ranger replied that politeness hadn't done very well, so now she was going to make sure the old woman could even hear her. As soon as Robin's feet hit the ground on the other side, a loud shrieking came from a tree beside them. Looking up, The Fellows could see a skull hidden in the tree that they hadn't noticed before, and the shrieking was coming from this skull. Moreena, the other Cleric, suddenly had a very bad feeling about the nature of this old woman living out in the middle of nowhere...

Walking cautiously, but non threateningly, Robin walked to the door of the hut to try and make contact with the old woman. Immediately, she felt an odd tingling in her eyes, and heard the old woman ask "Who are you and why have you come here?"
Robin tried to reply "We were searching for Goblins and... "
The old woman cut her off "Do I look like a Goblin to you??"
"No you don't madam, but perhaps maybe you've seen some in the area?"
Robin tried, but the woman angrily replied to her "There are no Goblins here!"
Robin was still attempting to convince the woman to come out and speak with the group "Then perhaps maybe we have things you may want to trade... "
But the woman cut her off. "I have only one thing to trade with you... "

Robin heard the woman begin chanting some words that the Ranger found somewhat familiar. With a feeling of dread, Robin realized that she "had" heard the words before; Esmerelda speaks them just before launching bursts of arcane energy at her enemies. The old woman was attacking with magic! Robin instinctively moved to put the hut wall between her and the woman, but to her surprise, the magic missiles went through the poorly constructed wall, which could be seen through, and her body was racked with pain.

Back at the fence, the other Fellows saw Robin get hit with the arcane missiles, and began to hop the fence to go and help her. "Sharp" pulled his sling and knocked the skull out of the tree. The shrieking stopped when the damaged skull hit the ground. Vence who had been standing off to either side of the group, both watching Robin, but also looking out to make sure nobody came up on them, was able to make out a small force of Goblins attempting to ambush them from his side. He noted it curious that Goblins were employing stealthy tactics, trying to be quiet and hiding from tree to tree. Despite this curious note, he called out warning to his friends, and began to cast a spell of illusion to put wolves between him and the Goblins.

Back at the door of the hut, Robin quickly whipped out her bow and shot a pair of arrows inside. She heard the old woman cry out in pain, and as she was reaching for two more arrows, she felt a whoosh of air push past her. Bobo and Valgard had made it across the fence and were running to help her at the door.

Esmerelda heard Vence's warning, and quickly sent a pair of magic missiles at the first Goblin she saw, smiling with satisfaction as he crumpled to the ground. The new addition to the group, the young Fighter named Eric, called out to Robin if she needed any healing, while Melody pulled her specially blunted arrows out and took aim at the approaching Goblin threat, while Moreena turned and cast a [i]hold person[/i] on the first Goblin she saw. "Hobbit" had just hopped the fence when he heard Vence's warning of Goblins, and his Dwarven prejudice took over, he hopped back over the fence to rid the world of these wretched, disgusting creatures!

Robin fired two more arrows into the hut, and once again heard the woman cry out in pain. Vence's illusionary wolves burst out of the tree line and began snapping their jaws at the Goblins, halting their approach with fear and confusion. Vence was getting better at his illusions, and now the wolves snarled as well as lunged at the surprised ambushers, who held their ground and did not flee. Esmerelda took advantage of their sudden stop, and felled a second Goblin with two more magic missiles. Some of the Goblins gave into their fears and felt the crunch of the wolves' jaws on them, their comrades believing the appearance of sickly dark Goblin blood. Arrows from the Fellows at the fence took other Goblins to the ground. Back at the hut, a loud cackling laugh was heard

Bobo and Valgard reached the hut, bursting inside, were surprised to find it empty! Robin also ran inside. Surprise and anger welling up, she looked around at the meager contents of the squalid hut, seeing nothing of immediate value, she pulled out a flask of oil. She ordered the Half Orc and the dwarf outside, and began to light the hut on fire.

During this exchange, the Halfling "Sharp" had been slowly creeping up to the hut. Seeing the Ranger emerge and seeing flames from inside, he loudly chastised her "First loot, THEN burn, you idiot!" The angry Ranger shot back "I already looked, there wasn't anything worth saving inside."

Back at the fence, Vence continued his illusion, making the appearance of the fallen Goblins rise from the ground and attacking their fellow beasties. This did appear to shake the resolve of the Goblins who had seen them fall, but others were quickly appearing from the wood line to take the place of the ones who had fallen. Esmerelda fell a third Goblin with her magic missiles, while Melody continued firing her blunted arrows and "Hobbit" went charging with a hateful Dwarven roar.

From the ground sprouted what looked like rubbery roots that attempted to wrap around the feet of Esmerelda, but she had seen them in time and side stepped them. Eric and Moreena were not as quick, nor observant, and found their feet clutched. "Hobbit" reached the line of Goblins first, and began introducing them to the business end of his hammer. Moreena, not in range of the hut nor the Goblins, cast levitation on the cauldron, slowly lifting the pot of bubbling fluid up and towards their assaulters. Bobo and Valgard continued charging towards the Goblins, Bobo shouting like an ox, and Valgard shouting for his cousin to save a few for him. Some of the Goblins attacked "Hobbit", others fought with the illusionary wolves and raised Goblins.

Back at the hut, Robin stood near the door, waiting for the old woman to emerge from a hidden spot, but all she saw was the fire getting larger. The Halfling "Sharp", seeing his chance to search the hut burning away, pulled out his sling and tested the wind before engaging the approaching humanoid monsters.

Reaching the fence, Bobo launched himself like a star athlete, landing on the other side without as much as grunt, he swung his large axe and split a Goblin in half, Valgard climbed over the fence, cursing his shorter legs, not wanting to miss any of the fight. Esmerelda, realizing she had no more magic missiles left, drew her dagger and began to slice away at the root on her foot. Moreena twisted her foot and pulled herself lose with ease, Eric struggled with the root on his foot while Melody grabbed the fence for support and tried in vain to pull herself free.

Ironically, the illusionary wolves and undead Goblins were doing more to fight off the real Goblins than any of the party's fighting members, and the morale busted ambushers found themselves on the ground clutching wounds that only existed in their minds, while others attempted to flee. Arrows and sling bullets took care of the rest. Moreena, seeing the Goblins scatter, changed the direction of the levitating cauldron towards the burning hut. Eric hacked at the root clutching his foot, but was no making any progress, Esmerelda cut herself free, as Melody held tightly to the fence, resisting the pull of the root. Moreena found herself pulled to the ground just as the cauldron reached the hut. Whether she intended to drop the cauldron over the hut, or her spell broke as the root pulled her to the ground would be debatable, but the cauldron dropped into the burning hut, spilling it's contents. Flames that burned on dry hut kindling extinguished with a hiss, but the burning oil mixed with the cauldron contents and spread in a liquid stream. Robin and "Sharp" looked at the forested area on the other side of the fence and worked busily to stop the flame from causing a wild fire.

As quickly as they had emerged, the rubbery roots released the held Fellows and withdrew into the ground. The Goblins were cut down. The Fellows had diverted the spreading of flames. They began to check each other for wounds and search the bodies of the Goblins. "Sharp" noticed a tree near the hut that appeared dead, looking around it, he found a hollow hole that had been hidden with dried branches, Inside, he found a book, two potions and one of their stolen satchels of bell berries! While Vence and "Sharp" waited for the hut to safely burn down, Robin tracked the Goblins back to a lair nearby. With the Dwarves and the Half Orc, they went inside and found that these Goblins had fortified the inside of the lair, fighting them in here would have been a MUCH more difficult fight.

((Play ended here, the next session should be in two weeks time. Thank you for reading.))
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
5:34 pm
Campaign Journal: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 10)
Session 10: A disturbing turn of events

After getting the barrels of tar down to the base of the hill, The Fellows decided that the threat of ankh worms was too great a risk, and the decision was made to press back to Hudson Holly before allowing themselves to succumb to fatigue.

The return seemed slower, partially because the majority of the group was ready to drop where they were, and partially because the horses were now pulling an extra 450 pounds of peat tar. Over the sound of the horses hooves came the sound of a number of beating wings. From out of the treetops came a swarm of what appeared to be large bats. Perhaps, if they weren’t slowed by their physical exhaustion, the group would have been quicker on the defense, but the situation being what it was, only Vence and Esmerelda were able to get spells off before the swarm of winged creatures was upon them. Vence used illusion magic to attempt to hide the Fellows in a large clump of bushes, while Esmeralda sent to bolts of sparkling arcane energy into the swarm, dropping one of the bats before it got to them.

Once they’d descended, the group was able to see that these were not bats, but rather beasts that seemed to be monstrous mosquitos with large bat like wings. They behaved like starved mosquitos as well, each landing on a target and piercing the skin with a long blood sucking proboscis. The next moments were a flurry of action that was more of instinctive reactions, surprises cries, the crackling of magical energy, the twang of bowstrings and the sounds of fists beating upon squishy bodies and hardened armor. While the winged beasts were easy enough to fight off, the blood they drained left a few of the group weakened and woozy, in addition to the draining fatigue they were already battling.

Worse still, the biting of the creatures along with the smacking of hands and the sounds of the fight spooked the horses, who lunged forward with the wagon! Once control and order was maintained, they had a chance to look at the swarm, and Robin was able to identify them as stirges, an uncommon but relatively easily managed pest to livestock owners. The rest of the journey back to Hudson Holly was uneventful. The more awake members of the group saw to the stabling of the horses and the putting away of the wagon and goods, while the ones who had been diving in the bogs took themselves straight to the waiting beds and the blissful sleep that came with it.

In the evening, the staff of the Holly Hearth Inn woke the sleepers and invited them to the dinner that was being served. Being more agreeable after the hours of rest, the fellows assembled in the commons room to join the Halflings of the town in a cheerful meal. Melody took advantage of the opportunity to perform music from her special flute. The rich tones filled the commons room, keeping more than a few of those present caught in delighted entrancement, carrying upon each note. Many of the other Halflings pressed the Fellows for stories of the adventure in the bogs. Moreena tried to regal them with a story, but it came out more like a lecture, and Bobo’s version found him getting excited and unknowingly switching from common to Orcish. So engrossed was the big warrior in his tale that he didn’t notice his confused audience leaving him to his ramblings.

Amid the busy commons room, a new face was seen, a young Human keeping to himself quietly. Upon noticing him, the Fellows invited the young man to their table. He introduced himself as the squire to a Paladin who was in town to visit the temple. The Paladin was not joining his squire that evening, as he was not feeling well, and desired to rest in peace and solitude. Of the many cats that seemed to stay around the Inn, an orange tabby seemed to find Moreena a comfortable companion, and purred contently as the Human woman petted his back and scratched under his chin.

After the dinner stew was finished, Melody promptly excused herself back to her room, while the rest stayed and enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere of the Halfing dinner hall, sipping down thurl tea and talking with the young squire, passing a few more hours before returning to their own beds for deep, restful sleep.

The next morning, The Fellows came to the commons room of the Holly Hearth Inn only to find a disturbing discovery; A severed, partially decomposed hand had been placed in a poor attempt of hiding. The hand had been positioned to hold a candle, which had burned itself until the wax was melted around the fingers and the wick consumed. Vence was the first to examine it, and feared a darker sorcery. The staff at the Inn were visibly shaken and unnerved. When a suggestion was made to alert the Temple clergymen, one of the staff literally made a run as fast as his Halfling legs could move!

Bobo, Melody, Esmeralda, “Sharp”, Vence and “Hobbit” all went to take the hand to the Clergy (with Bobo actually carrying it). Arriving, the group was surprised to find commotion already at the temple. It appears, the Paladin that was squiring the young Human they’d met the night before had died in his sleep, and the clergymen were busy tending to his remains.

The one Priest who’s attention they’d managed to get disgustedly ordered Bobo to get “that THING out of the holy building, preferring it to be left in the cemetery on the grounds. “Sharp” saw the Human squire standing near the door where his master had died, with a confused expression. He approached him and learned that the young man now had to find another to finish his training. Never one to pass up an opportunity, “Sharp” presented himself to the Priest to take the lad under his wing. This sent the Priest into an almost arrogant laughter, the notion that a “roguish fighter” would be considered a candidate to teach a holy warrior the ways of Paladinship? After his laughter subsided, the Priest explained that the squire would have to return to the training Temple to be assigned a new Paladin, but in the interim, he was not under the jurisdiction of any of the Hudson Holly Clergy. Upon hearing this, the Squire decided that helping his new friends discover the source of the grisly hand was the righteous thing to do, and pledged them his sword for the time being.

Vence went back to the Fellows’ wagon to find something he might be able to use to safely store the hand, where he made the discovery that all of their baskets of bell berries were missing! Additionally, there was evidence that the thief had attempted to take at least one of the barrels of tar, but was not strong enough to handle the weight. Immediately infuriated, he sent his woodpecker familiar to assemble the Party to go and retrieve their stolen goods. In his mind, the odd happenings were starting to piece together. Robin found tracks that led to the woods outside of town, but before they left to follow the tracks, the Fellows decided to alert Jasper, the Dwarf who passed for the law in Hudson Holly as to what was going on. Jasper agreed to keep an close watch on the Fellows’ wagon as they went after the thief, moving the wagon to his own forge building. With the safety of their belongings insured, The Fellows took to the trail left by the thief, with hopes of getting to the bottom of these curious, yet disturbing events.

((Play ended here, a good session of role playing all around. Look for the next recap in two weeks’ time))
Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
10:23 pm
Re: "Adventures of The Fellows" (Session 9)
Session 9: The Bogs:

After gathering the baskets of bell berries, The Fellows returned to Hudson Holly just before lunch time. They discussed the options they had for the other three plants they needed to gather. "Sharp" enthusiastically suggested going to the old ruins to try and get the corpsemoss. When asked why he was so eager to go to the ruins, he replied simply "It's probably the most dangerous to get."

Moreena reminded the group that the full moon was two nights away, and one of the conditions for the blue peat tar was that it had to be gathered during the full moon. To "Sharp's" disappointment, the group decided to go to the Bogs to the East of the village today, set up a camp to be fully ready for the night of the full moon.

The first order of business was getting the barrels to gather the tar. Bryce Chandler had hired them to get three barrels, so The Fellows decided to get six barrels - as they intended to double cross him and undercut the market. "Sharp" found a cooper in the Halfling village, and went to discuss buying barrels. After selecting the six that he wanted, "Sharp" asked "How much?" The cooper replied "What've you got?"

Taken somewhat aback, "Sharp" asked again "How much do the barrels cost?" The cooper repeated "What've you got?" Not liking the direction the transaction was going, "Sharp" tested the water "I've got two silver in my pocket." The Cooper's face took a disapproving expression. "You mean silver coins?"

"Well, yes." Sharp answered, slightly confused. "Those may be fine for the Dwarves and the tavern, but don't you have something more... useful?" The cooper asked. After a moment, understanding washed over "Sharp", and he realized the cooper wanted to barter. After some discussion, they traded some more uncommon cooking spices for the six barrels, and The Fellows faced the next decision. After spending close to half an hour ((real world time)) going over the options of taking the barrels to the Bog in their wagon, dragging them in a litter behind their horses, carrying them, rolling them, or floating them up the nearby river, they eventually settled on using the horses to pull litters.

Following the map they had received from the hermit, Bryant, The fellows came to where the map indicated the terrain turned into an incline. Upon getting there, they realized that the map did not do the steep hill any justice. There would be no getting the horses up this steepness, let alone a wagon. The Fellows were glad they had come a day early, it would have wasted too much time getting the barrels to the bog had they waited another night. Slowly and carefully, the group climbed up the steep incline, making a rope pull way. After the rope was set up, getting the barrels up the hill was an easy task.

Once atop the hill, they found the forest picked up again. They cut their way through until they found the bog they were looking for. True to it's name, the mossy covering of vegetation was in fact, a blueish hue. "Sharp", Melody, Moreena and Esmerelda scouted the bog looking for the best place to start tomorrow night's work, while the others busied themselves with getting the barrels up the hill. Vence stayed below with the horses. As they scouted, a circle of standing stones was seen on another hilltop, and though some curiosity was aroused, the stones were too far away to go explore before nightfall. The Fellows marked the map for another occasion.

A plan was made to set up camp until nightfall the next evening. The Fellows intended to spend the next day resting up for what would surely be a long evening of harvesting tar. With Vence staying back with the horses, it was left to Esmerelda's knowledge of plants and herbalism to determine if they were in fact where they needed to be. They determined where they would go about the harvesting, and then set up a campsite twenty feet away. That night, though watches were set, the only nuisance to contend to was the teeming insects attracted to the stench of the bog.

The next morning, Robin caught enough small game animals to make a delicious breakfast, but as it was cooking, The Fellows heard a loud a loud crashing coming from the forest. Bobo and Robin defensively went to investigate, and found themselves facing a pair of bizarre creatures, they appeared to be the product of a foul mating of a snake and an insect. The bony exoskeleton plates sported large, grasshopper looking legs and an insectoid head with large, clacking mandibles. The creatures were heading straight towards them. Both Fellows called their friends as Robin sent an arrow towards one of the creatures, and Bobo met the other with his axe.

The next few minutes found all 8 of The Fellows finding these new creatures to be a handful. Spells and arrows damaged them easy enough, but the exoskeletons were tough to damage with regular melee weapons, even with the strength of the Dwarves and the Half Orc. One of them spit a clear mist between Bobo and Valgard, yet both amazingly dodged it. The grass that was hit began to smoke and a hissing sound could be heard. Eventually, the poundings took their toll, and the armor cracked. Following that, the two creatures were quickly felled.

Robin and "Sharp" attempted to skin the creatures for the exoskeletons, but each time they tried, they got wounded by the acid the creatures had within them. They were able to remove "some" plates, but the group eventually decided to bury the creatures in a shallow grave. (The decision proved wise, a few hours later, the fellows were alerted to the sounds of more noise. which turned to be more of the creatures digging up and eating the remains of the two they had slain.)

When darkness fell, The Fellows began harvesting the barrels. The water of the bog was very thick, and the tar lay 15 feet below the surface. Even the powerful Bobo had difficulty. Through countless dives, he was able to repeatedly fill an iron pot to bring the tar to the surface. After one barrel's worth however, the half Orc was completely exhausted. The rest took turns diving with the pot, ropes tied around them in case they had to be pulled to safety. The harvesting of this tar proved to be far more difficult then any of them had anticipated.

As the night dragged on, The Fellows once again heard the sounds of creatures charging from the surrounding woods. It seems the smells of the bog water on the skin of the fellows attracted four more of these Ankh worms. After a grueling battle in which the weary and fatigued Fellows fought hard for their very lives, the insectoid worms were put down. Valgard, Bobo, Esmerelda and "Sharp" all sustained ugly wounds of mandible bites and acid burns. The clerics healed what damage they could, but they would still require proper rest and healing.

After filling the barrels, the group decided to get them downhill immediately. Nobody wanted to risk another attack. Once again, the rope pulls proved to be an invaluable method getting down the steep hill safely and quickly. The group reunited with Vence as the sun was rising. Although they were all deeply fatigued, fear and caution pushed them all to get back to Hudson Holly before they allowed themselves to rest.

((Play ended here. Look for the next session in two week's time.))
Saturday, January 2nd, 2016
11:53 pm
Happy Birthday Kid!!
Today is my little Sister’s 34th birthday. I started my day getting to talk to her for a little bit. It wasn’t very long, as I woke up with just under an hour and a half before I had to leave for work to put in a 12 hour shift, from 11A to 11P.

The highlight of my work shift came right at my 1/3 point; We had a young kid, maybe 17? 18? He came up to the bank building with his family. They went inside, he started walking around the parking lot and towards the back of the bank acting “WEIRD”… We had him on two different cameras, and the oddness of his actions had us questioning whether or not he was under the influence of something. Two Captains and two Officers responded, not sure of what to expect. At some points, he would spit like a camel, then he would mimic video game fighting moves, then he would gyrate his hands, then he would stare at the sky, always moving. Definitely made us a tad nervous – and then he saw our vehicles.

Immediately, his back straightened and his hands folded over his torso. He walked over and stood behind a bush, as if under the thought that if he couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see him. Shortly after our Captains made contact, they all walked into the bank building, and a few minutes later, they emerged with his parents, who were not looking pleased. This kid was his hands over his face, obviously humbled at having been taken before his folks. After it was done, it was pretty funny, but while it was going on, none of us knew what to expect next from this kid…

As I mentioned yesterday, I was not able to see the Tournament of Roses Parade yesterday, but thankfully, KTLA was streaming it on their website. I must say that, by far, my favorite float was the Disneyland 60th Anniversary float. What a way to kick off a new year than seeing The Fairest Of Them All, Snow White, dance her way down Colorado Blvd? This year was the last year that Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards will be hosting the show. My earliest memories of the Parade were in the early 1980’s from Germany. I have never known any other pair to host this yearly event, and I’m going to miss their dynamic next year. They made it a point to get it through that it was THEIR choice to “pass the baton”, so to speak, so that made it better, they aren’t being forced out due to age.

Anyhow, one of the Day Shifter’s called off for tomorrow, so I have another 12 hours to put in. That makes back to back 12 hour shifts this weekend. Financially at least, this year is kicking off with a bang. Bye for now!
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