The Province of Loirdae

Thorns and Roses
Our Heroes Venture Into the Woods

"The boy, no older than eighteen, looked up with dark circles under his eyes, blood spilling from his mouth. Shae's invisible hand swung harder, sending a solution of saliva and blood to the dark wooden floor. Dickfor, flashing his Dragon claws and his hybrid wolf eyes, made it clear the boy wouldn't leave alive. Evie watched her comrades, quietly suggesting sparing the boy and tracking his whereabouts utilizing magic…Maybe he would lead them further into the Rosenthorn web. Pablo laughed, detecting a magical presence about the boy. No, he would tell the party nothing. His mind was too far gone, imprisoned by a powerful spell. Arcerys grew frustrated with waiting, and plunged a dagger through the boy's right hand. The boy only stared, laughing calmly under his breath. The spell only grew stronger, as its caster watched deep into the darkness…" 

The third installment of our series began in the Gare Noir headquarters, with our heroes returning to Fallon with Holden safe and sound. The guild remained uncharacteristically empty—save Fallon and the two assassins from the previous day. After inquiring Fallon about the absence of the members, Fallon revealed the Rosenthorn's had attacked Astrid personally, critically injuring her husband and threatening her two children. Fallon had limited knowledge of the Rosenthorns, knowing only they were a rival guild originating from the South, and their attacks were intimate and deadly. The seedy organization seemed to know everything about their targets, from personal history to who they slept with to where they resided. For Fallon, who followed Astrid's creed for the Gare Noir firmly and steadfast, this method of operation greatly disturbed him. He revealed Astrid was in hiding with her husband at the Church of Ara, and she would only take visitors escorted by a member of the Gare's inner circle. And she wanted revenge. 

Dickfor and Shae decided they would visit Astrid in the morning with Fallon, while Evie and Pablo took to the streets for information and some light shopping. Before leaving however, the party paid their assassin allies for information regarding rumors about the Rosenthorns. The assassins heard three rumors surrounding the Rosenthorns: they had a red dragon-born in their leagues, they were secretly ran by a family of Yuan-Ti, and they had a resident mage who could read the minds of his victims. Not knowing the validity of any of the rumors, the party gathered the information and took their leave for the night. At the Church, Shae and Dickfor reunited with Kari Zev—the orphan girl the party rescued from the evil Sisters of Chordessa. She told them her parents, when they were alive, owned a ship called the Ragivan (or Rag of Anne if you're Matthew and deaf). Her mother died at sea, and her father was presumed dead after disappearing on an island off the coast of the Naya Republic. However, Kari firmly believes her father is alive and in danger on the island, and wanted the party to help her investigate. She will turn seventeen in one month, the age of legal adulthood in the City of Tidus. The ship will pass to her, and she still retains control of the crew. Once she can leave, she hopes the party will join her on a quest to the high seas. 

However, more pressing matters required Dickfor and Shae's attention. In a hidden part of the church, Astrid sat watching a Priest of Ara try to heal her unconscious husband. Distraught and white with rage, Astrid asked the party to help heal her husband. Dickfor called for Nissa, their Paladin ally, to tend to the man's near-fatal wounds. After a few minutes, it was clear he needed care beyond Nissa's skills. Astrid's beloved husband had been severely poisoned, and he was getting worse by the minute. Waiting with Astrid was Arcerys Bant, the lead assassin in the Gare. The sending stone in Shae's pocket began to vibrate, signaling Evie and Pablo had news. Shae put the stone to his ear, and heard Evie yell for backup. 

Meanwhile, in the Middle District Market, Evie and Pablo went to their trusted Apothecary (the one who sold Evie poison for her arrows). Unexpectedly, someone was waiting for them at the merchant's stand, captain of the city guard Francis Palisade. He inquired about any suspicious activity, such as people requesting poison from a public merchant (a highly illegal substance). However, his focus centered on a wanted criminal named Tristan Esper, a known associate of the Rosenthorns. Palisade did not know much about the Rosenthorns, but Evie revealed they were on the hunt for Rosenthorns as well. Palisade assured Pablo and Evie he would aid them in their investigation, but little did he know a Rosenthorn spy was watching, and had stolen Pablo's wondrous Silver Raven from beneath his robes. Evie's quick perception spied the thief a mere thirty feet away, but he sounded an alarm—bringing eight more rogues into the fight. Backup became a necessity. 

Evie and Pablo acted quickly, both utilizing their skills in magic to buy time for Dickfor, Shae, Arcerys, and Fallon to join the battle. Pablo split into four separate Pablos, confusing the lowly rogues while Evie summoned an entanglement of magic vines to slow the thieves down, and prevent them from wounding her or Pablo. Francis engaged in melee combat with the thief who stole Pablo's raven, seemingly the most skilled in combat. After grappling him to the ground twice, Francis suffered an unfortunate surprise attack from the thief, injecting a powerful sleep poison into his neck. Once the other party members arrived, the battle ended quickly. Dickfor and Shae slaughtered a few thieves, while Arcerys and Fallon showed their true skills and eliminated the rogues in two fatal blows. Pablo acted quickly, sending the young bandit captain into a deep magical slumber. Shae, Evie, and the two Gare members dragged Francis to the church for healing, while Pablo and Dickfor took the bandit to Krishna's bakery for questioning. 

Darkness swept over the city, and our heroes took to questioning the young thief. Due to Dickfor's uncanny ability to find every little detail at the most convenient of times, the party found the thief's poison capsule attached to his back molar, as well as his poison needle used to incapacitate the Captain of the City Guard. Shae used his mage hand to extract the capsule, and Pablo's spell kept the rogue sound asleep. Evie elected to stay behind to work on an herbal remedy for Astrid's husband, another feat the party discovered tied with her mysterious past. After some careful examination, Evie discovered that Astrid's husband had been poisoned in a similar manner to Francis Palisade, only this specific design caused the man's wounds to not close, preventing him from breathing easily. Her remedy worked to slow the poison, buying time to find a real cure. Thanks to Evie's expertise, the only cure she knew of resided deep in the forest: the husk of a Vine Blight.

Meanwhile, the three men ended the thief's slumber, opening up a line of questioning. From the little information they gathered, the thief was a member of the "Rosenthorn Family" and was assigned to watch the party by a mysterious contact, only known by the initial "J." He had no apparant knowledge of the Red Dragonborn rumor or the Yuan Ti, but he was not in a very high position in the family (so the rumors could still be plausible). He did however mention, after Dickfor claimed to know "J," that he would never reveal his family's secrets due to J's intimidation. Yet, he did reveal Tristan Esper, the man wanted by the city guard, was responsible for coordinating the attack on Astrid's family. His unwavering loyalty to the Rosenthorns shone through any method of questioning inflicted by the party—almost too much loyalty. Pablo decided to cast a Detect Magic spell on the thief, sensing not all was what it seemed. It appeared the young thief was under a powerful mind control spell, dictating he reveal nothing about the Rosenthorn Family. The spell seemed to be wearing off, but then renewed once more as the questioning continued. Once Evie arrived, unaware of the two dark figures watching the bakery door, she suggested the party let him go and let Pablo's familiar follow him to his contacts. They agreed, and watched the thief fade into the darkness—out of the city and into the woods. 

The party called it a night, and took to TGIFreydas for a restful evening (except Pablo who apparently needed to spend gold on a more boujee establishment). The next day, Fallon found the party and told them he knew where to find Tristan Esper, and a whole clan of Rosenthorn rogues. However, it was a two day's ride, and the woods were dangerous. Fallon offered to provide two Rogues to accompany the party, and would pay 1000 gps for the sigil of Tristan Esper. Nissa elected to join the party as well, provided that her healing would be more beneficial to the party rather than to Astrid's husband. The party agreed they would help find Tristan, and set off into the thick forest surrounding the city. A numerous set of encounters occurred on the way to the Rosenthorn camp—supposedly set on the large stone porch of some Dwarven ruins. It seemed every encounter eluded to the ruins as the Beldam Ruins, hinting at a dark presence that dwelled deep within. After fighting some goblins, discovering a nest of Vine Blights (how convenient), meeting a mysterious fortune teller, and encountering some living ooze, the party found the ruins and surprised Tristan's gang. Evie used her wild shape to turn into a serpent in order to spy on the party closely, but had unfortunately been spotted by Tristan. Dickfor charged through the crowd, raging and seeking revenge for his boss' plight. Pablo shot fire into the camp, unfortunately giving away his position due to a critical miscalculation. Shae snuck from behind, causing a distraction in the stables and spooking the horses. Through some incredible rolling, the party defeated the rogues—allowing the unarmed members of the party to escape into the forest. The party found numerous poisons, all skillfully made and foreign to identification. However, what intrigued Nissa most was the overwhelmingly dark presence that surrounded the ruins, and Dickfor's danger sense ran wild upon gazing at the great stone door…

Will the party discover more about the Criminal War? Who is this mysterious J? Who creates these poisons for the Rosenthorn Family? What rumors are more than rumors? What the hell is a fortune teller doing in the middle of the woods? What lies within the Beldam Ruins? Find out next time…

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Holden, the Missing Boy
Witches, Warlocks, and Hags (oh my!)

"The smoke swirled in the room as the heat from the fiery staircase radiated through the Orphanage. Evie locked eyes with the evil witch as a bright beam of light cascaded down from the solid oaken ceiling. Instantly, the witch's form burned with magic energy as the children upstairs screamed for help. Shae kicked through the attic window, only to discover a fifteen foot drop…" 

Our heroes arrived in Tidus merely a days ride after leaving the small village. Nissa claimed to be right behind them, wanting to meet up to discuss some issues she'd heard of in the city. However, two days passed, and no sign of their friend. Pablo, who grew tired of waiting, left for the Mage's college to do some more research on the unknown religion Nissa claimed to be part of—as well as smoke some of his finely crafted herb. Waiting for word on the glue market, Dickfor and Shae took to the docks and drank in a seedy tavern called The Mouse's Shadow, controlled by Dickfor's guild the Gare Noir. 

Shae's sending stone finally vibrated in his pocket, indicating Nissa's arrival. After speaking with some prostitutes (one of which had cloven hooves) and drinking some "fine" ale, the two elected to meet Nissa in a more reputable establishment, a tavern in the Middle District called Freyda's. Before leaving, the bartender at the Mouse's Shadow, a heavy-set Half-Orc, told Dickfor that Astrid was looking for him, and needed to speak with him at once. Noting Astrids request, the two found Nissa with a female elf they had not seen before. 

Nissa explained that when taking Samuel Lightfoot back to his home village, she received word from her church that Tidus had been having a problem with young urchin boys going missing in the streets. The boy's ages ranged from ten to twelve, and were not seen after their disappearance by any known informant. Nissa asked for Dickfor and Shae's help, and they agreed—on the condition they meet with Astrid first. Nissa agreed, and introduced the party to Evie, a young elven druid with knowledge of the city and great power. Evie neglected to share much personal information with the party, only stating she was a member of the elusive Circle of the Moon. Also, potato skins got thrown on the floor for some reason because this game is ridiculous. 

All four heroes arrived at the Gare Noir headquarters, something Astrid was less than pleased with. Bringing new people into the Gare, she stated, was not something for Dickfor to decide. Alas, she disclosed she was in dire need of assistance. Fallon, Astrid's top fence, needed help finding his son, Holden. Holden, only six years old, had been missing for twenty-four hours, and no one had any idea who (or what) took him. Astrid offered the party 400 gps for the boy's safe return, and 100 gps on the information of his death. She also warned the party of the time crunch; after 48 hours, missing people generally turn up dead in the river. Nissa and Evie's interest piqued especially due to the similarities between Holden's disappearance and the mystery of the missing boys.

The party talked with Fallon about Holden, and learned some key pieces of information. Holden enjoyed spending time at the bakery in the Middle District Marketplace, owned by a man named Krishna. Krishna had long paid his debts to the Gare, and in return received top pick of produce and supplies from the West. After some prying, Fallon revealed Holden could not speak and often suffered from sensory overload. Holden's mother had dropped him off at the bakery, and Fallon arrived only a little late to pick him up. Holden was instructed to wait on the stone benches, but he was no where to be found when Fallon arrived. Fallon, clearly heartbroken over his son's disappearance, left the party's questioning to take care of some business with Astrid, indicating it was time for the party to head to the bakery. Before leaving, Shae talked with some assassins at the bar, who offered information in exchange for gold and a two hour waiting period. Shae declined, but Dickfor wondered what the assassins would have known about the boy's disappearance…

Arriving in the marketplace, the party headed to the bakery immediately. Krishna welcomed the group, recognizing Dickfor as a member of the Gare Noir. He said he did not know what happened to the boy, only that Fallon was late picking him up and he needed to close the shop. He left Holden on the bench outside, clearly seen from the front window of the shop. Evie, spying Krishna's son Ali, elected to speak with him. He revealed Holden never spoke and often screamed, but he had recently made a new friend. Ali described a woman in white, who started visiting Holden in the past week. He told Evie her dress looked like the dresses the women wore at the Orphanage run by the Sisters of Chordessa. The party had gathered some good information, but before leaving had noticed Krishna's dog cowering in the corner. Performing the ritual of the Spirit Wolf, Dickfor spoke with the dog. Frightened beyond reason, the dog revealed only a few words:

"She came from the grates, and she took him. A monster from the grates."

Alarmed with the new information, the party separated to save time. Nissa took to the orphanage, conveniently located near the Mage's college where Pablo resided. Evie and Shae went to the market to gather supplies, and Dickfor searched around the bakery for remaining clues. Nissa used her divine sense to discover an overwhelmingly evil aura radiating from the orphanage, so she thought it best to wait for the party before entering. She sought out Pablo at the college in order to do some research on the Sisters of Chordessa, revealing a battle long ago with a coven of witches and their leader, Chordessa. Dickfor discovered clues of the boys disappearance, namely a piece of a red shirt Holden was wearing the night he vanished. He also found a sewer grate visible from the window. Plugging the slits of his nose, Dickfor jumped into the sewer, hoping for an answer. Once again channeling his wolf spirit, Dickfor spoke with the numerous rats in the sewer. They told him they could "take him to her" and "show the way," all with a suspicious amount of eagerness.

Meanwhile, Evie and Shae gathered supplies and entered a weapon shop in the Marketplace. Upon gazing on other swords, Shae felt a calling from his own, and saw for the first time a wholly personified image of Gisa the Ghoulcaller. She told Shae she knew stories of witches who took little boys and she would offer him help in showing the way. She also revealed her brother, Geralf, still lived. However, Evie noticed Shae's strange behavior as he stared into the distance, provoking Gisa's disappearance and causing a small injury to Shae in the process. Only Shae could see the apparition, but her promises seemed genuine…

The party reconvened at the Orphanage upon the information of Nissa's divine sense. They entered together through the wooden door and met the Sisters Cersei, Sara, and Bella, who turned out to be a coven of witches themselves. On the wall hung an eerie painting of the witch Chordessa, a woman in white with gorgeous locks of long hair and an outstretched hand. The orphanage had a loft, where four children lived. Three young boys, all fed entirely too well, and one teenage girl, skinny and fascinated by Dickfor's dragon blood. The boys revealed they all were force fed, hating all things sweet. One boy, Rishkar, revealed his nightmares of a gruesome woman leaning over his bed. The girl, Kari, revealed to Dickfor that she wanted to run away and the sisters were not as holy as they seemed. The witches ambushed the party after their discussion with the children, and provoked the longest and deadliest fight in our dnd history thus far. One witch ignited the staircase, causing the Orphanage to burn to the ground—luckily mere minutes after Shae rescued the four orphan children and sent them to Pablo. Dickfor slaughtered Cersei, while Evie and Nissa focused their energy on the other two sisters. After enduring Dissonant Whispers, a laughing spell, and a lot of Eldritch blasts, the party finally defeated the witch coven and escaped the burning building unscathed. 

Turning to Pablo for help, the party researched more into the name Chordessa, and how best to defeat their foe who clearly had Holden in her grasp. Nissa discovered a map of the sewers and a description of Hags, a horrible breed of creature who's sole purpose in life is to cause misery and despair—their trademark diet consisting of small children. One alarming piece of information (only discovered because the party rolled a fucking 20) is that hags often breed human daughters into hags, and they come of age right at sixteen—leading the party to believe Kari, the orphan girl, might be a hag in disguise. To their surprise, thanks to Nissa's divine sense, Kari had an overwhelming presence of good surrounding her—similar to an Angel. The plot began to thicken…

Dickfor and Shae returned to the burned orphanage and discovered a secret path to the sewers behind the painting of the Woman in White, aka the Hag Chordessa. Thanks to another fucking roll of a 20, Dickfor discovered the painting had been coated with a magic lacquer to turn away all of good alignment. Luckily, the fire had torn the painting and revealed a staircase to the sewer system below. The men also found an old clay necklace belonging to Kari. Kari gave the necklace as a gift for saving her life, saying it would bring them good fortune. After a third goddamn 20, the party learned the necklace had four charges of the Bless spell. It was time to face the music and go after the Hag herself. 

Before departing, the party returned to the Gare Noir to inform Astrid, only to discover the alarming disappearance of everyone in the headquarters. Astrid had left a note for Dickfor, stating they needed to take care of some business but he needed to stay on track finding Holden. She left him a ring made of bone like material, and once he put it on he could fully channel the Spirit of the Wolf, allowing him to warg into other animals and gain their senses entirely. 

Following the path through the sewers, with help from Nissa's map and the rats, the party discovered a drop off outside of the city and into a lake in the forest. Jumping in, the party swam to shore to discover eerie lights floating in the trees. The lights turned out to be Will o Wisps, spirits of the dead children eaten by the evil Hag. The party seriously missed Pablo due to the wispy (ha) and incorporeal nature of the monsters, but they defeated them nonetheless. The trail of wisps lead to Chordessa's cave, where they heard the blood curdling screams of small children in despair. Our heroes raced to the bottom of the cave, defeating Chordessa way too easily. They did not fall for her tricks of illusion, and they made it in time to rescue Holden and two other boys—but unfortunately failed to save one, Rishkar's twin brother Peema. 

The party discovered many treasures in Chordessa's cave, but one striking note left the party in awe. The note read: 

“We know what you’re doing. The boss doesn’t like it. We bring you the fat ones, you stay out of Tidus. We let you live here—you let us do our jobs, you disgusting whore. Fuck up again, and we are coming for you.” – Morgana

The note was sealed with a red rose encased in thorns, a sign Dickfor recognized from the village of Geralf and Gisa. Filled with mystery, the party took the note and returned to Tidus. Evie and Nissa elected to stick with Dickfor and Shae, impressed by their good nature despite their shady pasts. The party returned to the Gare Noir to find Fallon, who was overjoyed at Holden's safe return. Fallon assured the party if they ever needed his services, he would be an ally to them for life. The party asked about the absence of the other guild members, and Fallon only muttered one solemn word: Rosenthorns. 

Who are the Rosenthorns? What is happening to the children in Tidus, the ones not captured by the witch? Who is Kari, or rather what is she? Geralf is still alive? What consequences will come from Gisa possessing Shae's sword? Will James stop rolling 20's on intelligence checks because SERIOUSLY?  Find out when we return to the Province of Loirdae…

 

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The Stitcher and his Masterpiece
Our Heroes (?) Meet for the First Time!

"Dickfor the Younger, a Dragonborn of blue scales and little intelligence, laughed loudly at the table in the small, unassuming tavern. Shae, a young halflng (self titled "glib as fuck") told tall tales of his adventures trying to join the monastery—only to discover he had no knack for the art of Ki. Pablo, the young High-Elf wizard, inhaled deeply from his wooden pipe. Filled with an herb of his own design, he watched the tavern swirl in his peripherals, slightly in awe of the humanoid dragon sitting next to him…"

Our three unlikely heroes started their adventure using a trail of letters, each addressed from a different sender. Dickfor, a member of the Criminal Guild of Tidus, received a letter from his colleague Astrid, inquiring about retrieving a glue-like substance from the abandoned residence of one Geralf, an exiled member of the community and wizard-turned-mad-scientist. An anonymous letter addressed to Shae from the "Treasure Hunter's Guild" inquired about the same item—calling it "Stitcher's Glue." Pablo's letter was the most mysterious, a letter to Geralf himself from his estranged sister, Gisa, detailing her arrival almost 50 years prior. After gathering information from some prostitutes, making a few drug deals, talking to a mysterious figure very interested in the tower's treasures, and buying some drinks for an unknown group of mercenaries, the three men set out into the darkness to find Geralf's tower. 

On the trail, the crew met Nissa Oran, a half-elf Paladin from the Acolytes of the Forge, a religion unknown to the kingdom of Loirdae. Powerful and intimidating, Nissa told the three men of her quest to eliminate Geralf's abominations (and all undead in the world), and her desire for help in the matter. She agreed to let the party aid her in her efforts, and promised she had no interest in any of the treasures inside the tower. 

Once the party reached the property (and after a few lucky die rolls), they found the entrance to Geralf's laboratory—along with a mysterious diary labeled "For Gisa." Geralf's underground lab was filled with torture devices, potions, and some leftover abominations from his past that the party had to eliminate. Skeletons, grafted together Zombies, and a trap in Gisa's chambers which would have been deadly had it not been for Shae's nimble fingers—the party quickly learned that zombies in towers are not easy foes to best. Pablo and Dickfor mowed down quite a few threats and found some mysterious potions (likely worth a couple gold pieces). However, the most mysterious part of the lab was a magically sealed stone door engraved with the phrase "Mind over Magic." The door only opened with a special stone key hidden inside Gisa's chambers, right next to a mysterious blade the party was hesitant to touch. Alas, Shae took it anyway…

 Dickfor took the stone key (insistent he be the one to hold the key due to Astrid's careful instructions) and put it into the lock on the ornate door. The key pulled magically into the door, opening a new part of the laboratory. Here housed Geralf's masterpiece, a very large orc male grafted onto the corpse of his sister Gisa, the necromancer. The stench was horrid, and Nissa fell to the power of the undead abomination. Pablo acted quickly, giving Nissa one of the party's precious healing potions, allowing her to deliver a mighty holy blow to the beast's back. Dickfor, part man, part dragon, part tank, hit the monster with his family great sword, carving away the rotted flesh. Shae, who hid for most of the fight, delivered the final blow to the beast's backside (the butt blow if you will). The corrupted corpse of Gisa fell to a stinking halt, and the party was free to raid the tower of its treasures. 

Inside the secret room, the party discovered many magic wonders: A mysterious bag of holding—which can carry almost five-hundred pounds and feel like fifteen, a silver raven figurine that can transform into an animal messenger, and Geralf's glasses, which adds an intelligence bonus to anyone who wears them. They also found the coveted "Stitcher's Glue," alas only two vials. Nissa, fascinated by the substance, asked for one of the vials to bring to her church. The party debated (especially Dickfor), but agreed to let Nissa take one of the vials. Pablo kept the other vial, due to competition between Dickfor and Shae. 

Nissa bid the party farewell, leaving a sending stone with Shae if they ever needed to contact her again. Dickfor suggested the party head to Tidus to meet his criminal contact Astrid in order to sell the glue for a high price. However, the party remained intrigued by the mysterious "Treasure Hunter's Guild," so they elected to stay in town one more night to meet the letter's author. After talking to some crazy old lady about cat butts and weed, our heroes met the eccentric Samuel Lightfoot, a gnome with an—to put it lightly—expressive personality. Samuel begged the party for the Stitcher's glue, in addition to giving some not-so-subtle cries for help. The party then discovered Samuel was on the run from another patron in the bar, an unknown Yuan-Ti warlock in disguise. Battle ensued, and our hero's won—after sneaking Samuel out of the bar disguised as a dog. 

Shae contacted Nissa about the Yuan-Ti, and she immediately responded. Samuel, forever grateful for the party's rescue, admitted he wanted the glue to restore an ancient family blade as a gift for Nissa, who helped him in the past. The party chose not to give the glue to Samuel, and instead sent him off with Nissa to meet up in Tidus the following day. The very mention of the word "blade" sent a cold sweat down Shae's back; he clutched his newfound weapon fondly, hearing whispers from its hilt…

After an uneventful carriage ride, the party arrived in Tidus, appraised their treasure, and contacted Astrid. Now they wait for further information on the glue market, and whatever other bidding Astrid requires. 

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