The Skies of Velaris

After Hours
Spirits and specters

Pim’s hands shook as she locked the door behind her. She slid the two deadbolts into place, armed the wards on the door, and sat down on the stool behind the front counter of the shop. Slowly, deliberately, she withdrew a bottle of Trog Sweat and a glass. She poured the spirits into the plain cup, hoping that if she did so slow enough, thought about it hard enough, she could stop the trembling that was making the liquor splash on the table.

She had been followed again, that much she knew. But by who? One of Ghrast’s cronies, maybe, but she had never known the tuskmouth to be so subtle. She wasn’t even sure he knew the word. Who, then? She hadn’t stepped on any toes in the Circles, none that knew it was her anyhow. Or did they? Maybe Lalic was finally getting wise to who her competition was. Still, it wasn’t like her to be so openly confrontational as to send a tail. It was looking more and more like there was an unknown variable in Westside, a prospect Pim liked even less.

Possibilities spun through the halfling’s head as she tossed back the last of the foul liquid. Aptly named, she mused. Maybe it was some visitor come to call from those smoke-stained days of yore. She stared glumly down into her glass. She had always known it was a possibility, but eight years on, she had hoped it was one that would never come to pass. She had let her guard down over the years more than she cared to admit. Not to intruders, mind. She had her security for that, her ear to the ground and her finger ever on the pulse of the city. No, she had dropped her guard to this place. Gotten comfortable. Gotten to like it. Like the streets, like the people. She had let it get its arms around her, making her blind to the constriction for her own happiness. The thought of leaving it all behind, cutting loose and running, was more painful to her than she had realized. There was a bitter taste in her mouth. She chalked it up to the Trog Sweat.

Maybe it’s time to stop, she thought, money be damned. I only need the money for the security and the payoffs, and I only need those because of how I get the money. Maybe it’s better just to cut it all out. She turned the glass slowly on the counter, watching the patterns of soft candlelight warp and shift across the knotted wood. Fears flickered. Maybe they would come for her, any of the numerous “they”s she had accumulated over the years, come and try to burn down what she had. What would she do then? Her hand ran absently through her hair before coming to rest on the table. It had stopped shaking. I’d fight, she thought. She stared down at the counter and took a deep breath. She’d fight.

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Sleep Denied
The defense of house Lairtas

Plumes of dust shook free from the masonry as the Great Hall of the Lairtas family stronghold shuddered. “Steady, lads,” Traghan called, easing his men for what was to come. The chanting of the mages grew more urgent. Warriors gripped their weapons closer, raised their shields.

So this is what we’ve come to, the captain thought. Fighting for dear life against these upstarts. Just a generation ago, we were pulling them up out of the dark ages, and this is how we’re repaid. His thoughts were interrupted as the oaken double doors in front of him began to splinter under the assault of the enemies’ attack. Not today, you whelps. Traghan’s teeth gritted, and his sword began to glow as he silently cast a spell on it. Today you see the might of Lairtas. The might of Faenan!

“Mages on my mark!” he barked. The door shook again, timbers buckling and cracking. Another blast, and a hole appeared all writhing arms and steel. “Cast!” he bellowed. A dozen bolts of energy rocketed toward the opening, blasting the doors back and shattering them over the invaders. Enemies streamed forth, and the battle was met in earnest. Steel rang and the air sizzled with spells. Soldiers of every stripe fell all around. Through it all Traghan flew, his sword singing and crackling with energy. He took an arrow in the shoulder, but didn’t feel it. The rush of battle filled him. He hewed through the enemy lines like a thresher. His boys were dying, but taking the enemy with them.

Finally, Traghan stood facing down the enemy leader, a towering brute that looked as though he could crush plate armor in his teeth. The monster batted aside a battlecaster, who slumped limply against the stone wall where he fell, and then set his eyes on Traghan. The commander steeled himself, trying to ignore the cuts and bruises, and surged forward at the beast. It produced a wand from some hidden pouch, blasting Traghan squarely in the chest with some foul spell and sending him sprawling. He staggered to his feet and charged again, this time meeting his enemy blade to blade. He could feel his strength leaving him bit by bit when, from across the room, he heard the novice initiate Retram call out to him. He felt the boy’s magic bolstering his spirits, and it was enough to deliver the killing blow, felling the armored behemoth he fought. Traghan slumped to the ground, still gripping the sword that lay buried in his foe’s chest. He could feel the bastard’s spell seeping through his veins like poison. Not today, he thought. Not today…

He floated for a long time among the clouds. Here was eternal spring, spent alongside countless friends. He drifted, free, through countless skies. But suddenly, he felt an unnatural wrenching. The world was torn from him, try as he might to claw it back. Things grew dark, then light again, and Traghan was dimly aware of himself, and then of someone else. Chanting which grew louder and louder, and a repulsive smell that infested his senses. Traghan stared about himself and opened his eyes once again. Here were unfamiliar surroundings, dark and claustrophobic. Traghan shrieked. The sound was eerie and jarring. There was a man standing over him gesturing in a way that was obviously supposed to mean something, but Traghan paid him no heed. All he could think of was his rest. His rest that he had worked so hard to secure. He had saved house Lairtas. Did that mean nothing? Had he not earned his repose?

“R… RESSSSSSTTT!!!” he cried. The world reeled around him. Time folded and redoubled. He saw the halls he roamed, and saw himself roaming them, and saw the others who roamed them. Six of them there were. Six that were different from the other man. Traghan was aware of his men around him. He would lead them into battle again and find his rest once more. These invaders, too, would be denied the conquest of house Lairtas. Faenan would live on, and Traghan would find his rest. He summoned up his soldiers, made them ready. On his mark, they would all sleep. Sleep forever.

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Message Found in a Bottle

Grozztang Abbey, from The Skies

To my great Muodha, Yzzd, in humility and hope,

Forgive my forwardness in writing to you, Mother Abbess. I do not forget the conditions of my exile and if it were not for a terrible cause, I would not dare to trespass the terms of my punishment.

In my sojourn in the skies I have come across an unspeakable evil, an fearsome enemy to our Great Mother, Melora, goddess of life and death and keeper of the cycle of time. There is a necromancer in the skies. I have met one victim of his crimes against the cycle. He cut her life too soon, but then denied her the peace and comfort of her body’s reincorporation to new life. He has forced her to return and inhabit a body trapped in its current form.

There is nothing to be done for this poor body now, Mother, but I beg this of you. Grant me the power of a Leviathan Oath, that I might swear against this necromancer and avenge his depraved offenses against the sacred cycle of life. If I fulfill this oath, Muodha, I beg you to judge my own errors atoned.

I am entrusting this message to an enchanted vessel and sending it to the deep. I pray with all the life that is in me that Melora will guide it to its destination. May she do the same for us all.

Ever in loyal service to Abbess Muodha and to the Mother of All.

Brangaen Merrecke

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Exoden Epilogue
A village celebrates

“To the outsiders!” Wooden cups were raised high above the heads of two hundred villagers, and the hamlet of Syrkuum drank its fill. A group of excited gnomes crowded around the six strangers, asking to hear of their exploits for the umpteenth time that night while five tieflings performed a whirling jig accompanied by elvish woodwinds. Standing slightly apart from the crowd, elder Telakosa amusedly watched the cavorting of her people. Indeed, their visitors had given the village good reason to celebrate, putting a stop to a bullywug threat that had grown larger than any of them had realized and halting the incursion of goblin invaders that would have surely lain waste to much of the island. Even Akmenos, she was pleased to see, was becoming more comfortable regarding the crew of the Cloudskimmer as allies, if not friends.

“You seem awfully contemplative, elder.” The monkey had appeared at Telakosa’s side without warning, but she knew better than to be surprised. Her connection with the forces of nature was too strong to be taken off guard by them. She had felt the spirit coming like the old elf Eofel felt the approach of storms in his creaking joints. “You’re usually the celebratory kind. Not one for festivities tonight?”

“Oh don’t mistake me, spirit, I take no shortage of joy in tonight’s revelry. You know I love nothing better than seeing my people happy. And how happy they are! Just look at dear Trikomes. He hasn’t left that dragonborn alone all night. He’s so delighted that it was the trident he gave the paladin that ran through Jebdul. I’ve never seen him look so proud in his life. They say the warrior slew Jebdul in one strike. Imagine! That old toad has been haranguing us for years, and they come along and do away with him in a week. It’s remarkable.”

“Then why the pensive look?” The monkey’s mouth moved, but it was just a formality on the spirit’s part. In truth, his mouth did not even match in its timing with the words projected directly into the elder’s mind. She had long since grown used to it. Telakosa paused a while before answering, mulling over her thoughts before forming them into words.

“I should have seen it before,” she said at last. “Jebdul and his ruffians must have been using that temple for months before today. If it hadn’t been for the outsiders, he could have built up a power base large enough to make a bid at ruling Sheenryn. Luckily, the crew did come, of course, but still. Perhaps Akmenos was right to challenge my rule. He may be brash, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t right.”

The spirit did not answer. Instead, it peacefully scratched its side before asking, “And what of the wilden and her family?”

“Those people stormed the Temple of Exoden and defeated not one, but two menaces to this island, spirit. That wilden shapeshifted into a primordial bear, batted a few bullywugs away like limp toys, and carried her husband and son on her back through a collapsing ruin to safety. I think they can fend for themselves adequately. The wilden woman, especially, has an impressively strong link to the spirits of the jungle. She is as adept as Akmenos in battle, but her empathy runs deeper.” The spectral monkey said nothing. Telakosa’s mind lingered on the druidess as she watched her reuniting with her family. That the three should have been reunited under such circumstances, with the mother rescuing her family from the goblin slavers who had captured them, was nothing short of miraculous. It seemed like a sign from the spirits. The elder’s eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly, and the corners of her mouth tugged upward. “Yes… What of the wilden?” The monkey merely faded from her side.

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Wings of Djetur

From the research notebook of Varos Cloudstrider

As a disciple of Akadi, I strive to follow some basic tenets: travel widely, encourage freedom, respect the wind. So when we learned that the nearby Temple of Exoden was devoted to the quest of flight, my interest was piqued. It was clearly a sign from Akadi that our own quest to regain flight would lead us to a temple dedicated to the same purpose.

While neglected for centuries and currently inhabited by vile creatures, there was much to be learned from their histories.

It appears as though the Temple of Exoden was dedicated to an old god of flight, Exoden. I had not heard of this god, so I gathered what I could to bring back to Albeser when next we cross paths. It seems, however, the rest of the crew is intent on passing some of these religious texts to Capron the Wise.

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Temple of Exoden Loot

Treasure

  • Crown of the Bullywug King (with peridot) (100g)
  • Topaz (100g)

Equipment

Items of Note

  • Holy Book of Faenan from the rectory at the Temple of Exoden
  • Miscellaneous Tomes from the library at the Temple of Exoden
  • Warden’s Journal from dungeon at the Temple of Exoden
  • Documents from the rectory at the Temple of Exoden
  • Wooden Wing Icons from the monastery at the Temple of Exoden
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Ghosts of Sheenryn
A shaman remembers

Akmenos looked up at the ruins of the Temple of Exoden floating in front of him, hanging in the air like so many insects entombed in spider silk. He had never liked the place. It was too quiet. In here, even the spirits of the jungle went still, silenced by the violence wreaked upon them by the heretical cult that had built the temple. Obsessed with flight, they had ignored the ground beneath their feet, recklessly demolishing tracts of land to build their madhouse. Disgusting. And now these treacherous outsiders wished to twist it to their own ends. Akmenos had read their motives in an instant, and the spirits only confirmed it: the outsiders aimed to conquer Syrkuum, turning the villagers against one-another, worming their way into the heart of Elder Telakosa, and laying the groundwork for their ambitions. How could Telakosa have been so foolish as to trust them with her own father? Clearly she had been corrupted. Akemenos had seen the result before, and he would not allow it to happen again.

Then, as now, they had come with promises of peace, promises of cooperation, promises of protection. Hollow promises. The humans had tried to bribe them into stupidity while, just outside Syrkuum, teams were brazenly pillaging the jungle of its trees and murdering the spirits around them. To make matters worse, some of the weak-willed villagers were drawn into forced labor with promises of advanced technology and greater power. It would have been the end of Syrkuum were it not for Akmenos’s parents. He willed himself not to think about it, but still the memories came, stirred up by the presence of these new intruders. How proud he had been as a child as his parents incited the other villagers to fight! How awesome the sight had been as they all called upon the spirits with whom they had lived for so many generations, crushing the humans and driving their enemies before them into the ravenous jungle! And how terrible the retribution had been when the humans returned with their flasks of fire and their weapons of steel. The villagers had fought valiantly, and triumphed, but not before young Akmenos had seen his parents killed by the vengeful humans.

The tiefling shook his head, clearing his mind, and focused on letting the spirits move through him. He had never felt them so chaotic here. They seemed to swirl and shriek before him. You are as angry as I am, eh, my friends? I’m glad to have your support, he thought. There was no answer. Something was different about the Wild this time. It hungered for the expulsion of those that would defile it. Even here, normally so silent, the spirits were whipped into a frenzy. Akmenos turned to his companions, the last few sensible residents of Syrkuum. “Best to move quickly and quietly. Thank you for remaining true, friends. The spirits are with us. Come!” The group crept forward through the shadows, determined to stop the outsiders before they could bring destruction to Syrkuum once again.

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Sparky's Training Log: Day 1
Welcome aboard, Sparky!

Vermilio’s notes: on a relatively routine mission to find silverscale crocodile sheddings, we subdued a crocodile. We’d originally planned to sell him to the villagers, but in our short time knowing him, we realize that he is the missing member of the crew of the cloudskimmer. A rigorous training schedule is forthcoming. Initial notes: swaddling and oxygen deprivation seems to calm him down significantly. I’m not sure, but I think that he likes me. I’ll just have to train him to express his love in a less bite-y way.

Some other stuff happened, and that captain guy got healed and stuff, so that was cool too.

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Outcasts
From the mind of Brangaen

Though outwardly quiet, Brangaen felt terribly upset. She had never been so humiliated in one evening. All her attempts to heal Captain Baelnog had seemed only to cause him more pain. It was only after Herrat and Vermilio tended him that he lapsed into a deep, but troubling, perhaps comatose sleep.

It was just then, as they were bandaging his badly broken leg, that she had suddenly felt a presence. The figure peering out at them from the trees was indescribably ugly, but the energy she felt from him was entirely positive. Inquisitive, and a bit distrustful, but not threatening.

Vermilio gave this odd frog-looking creature a difficult time before they all decided to rely on his help in finding a village. And food. No sooner had they come to this agreement than Gus and Varos ran back into the camp – trailed closely by enormous and terrifying bugs. Because of her inability to help the captain earlier, she decided to sacrifice her own safety and when she felt the spider at her back, she drove it even further from the rest of the crew. She had not, however, been able to kill it herself and knew that she had been helped, not only by Herrat, but by that strange frog man, although she didn’t know how or what he had done. Even after that, she had needed a healing potion from Vermilio before she was able to drag a scorpion off Varos’ back.

All of these failures upset her. She knew her companions would not hold it against her, but she was deeply displeased with herself. She had not fought well and she had failed to save the man to whom she owed her livelihood, her food, the clothes on her back. He had not been furthered injured in the attack, but still lay in that distressing semi-sleep.

As the crew slept, she felt the frog creature’s eyes on them. From inside her trance, she could feel the trouble of his mental energy. She could tell he felt uncomfortable feeling their pain, exhaustion, disappointment, and confusion. He was not used to interaction with others – not used to helping or harming – was unsure how to behave. As he waddled away into the wood, escaping their presence, something deep inside her moved with him. A strange sympathy drew her to this lonely hermit, whose peace they had disturbed. Sometimes, she thought, I wish for that peace, too.

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A Carpet of Creepy Critters

From the Journal of Varos Cloudstrider, Chaplain of the Cloudskimmer

Mysterious Island, Day 1

What should have been a simple courier job has turned into a campaign of epic failures. We were attacked by a goblin vessel which managed to down our ship (though not before experiencing numerous casualties on their part.)

The fight was short but glorious. I, of course, believe we could have held out against their supposed “uncountable” numbers hidden below deck. But, it’s been a while since many of us had seen combat, and it was clear that we were still stretching our battle legs. It was by the pure mercy of Akadi that I didn’t fall to my death as I attempted to leap (in full plate mail no less!) from ship to ship. While the battle was over in a matter of moments, to our untrained senses I am sure it must have felt like nearly 2 hours.

Our ship crashed onto a small island, somewhere between our destinations. Praise be to Akadi for steering our burning vessel to the safety of land, rather than to the crushing maelstrom of the uncharted seas. While we are now on an island with limited provisions and few prospects for escape, I know that Akadi will soon open a way for us to continue on our great journey, as wanderlust is but one of the great rites expected of all of us.

Upon awakening on this new island, we quickly set upon our separate duties. Gus and I started looking for signs of civilization, and with no particular guidelines, headed west. We planned to return by nightfall, and attempt again in a different direction should we have no luck. Vermilio began working on the ship, though if he put a little more faith in Akadi, and less faith in machinery, we might not be in our current predicament. I should remember to discuss with him how fate can railroad us to our destination, and that he should put more faith in the deities than his own arcane prowess.

Herrat, as our best tracker, set upon looking for Captain Baelnog, who is currently missing.

What happened after Gus and I left in search of civilization is unknown to us, though I hope they achieved better success than we have. Our travel was incredibly uneventful and, frankly, quite boring. After a few hours, we had yet to receive any sign of town or village, and it was clear we would have to head back if we hoped to return by nightfall. As it grew dark, we could hear things skittering in the dark, and as we got closer to our base camp, it became evident that the skittering things were beginning to give chase.

It wasn’t long before we were running as fast as we could towards the downed ship. Next I knew, we were swarmed by all manner of vermin, each crawling, stinging, biting, looking for its next meal. Apparently, while we were in the forest, our crew found a new friend, as some frog-like creature was assisting in our fight against the critters. By the time the fight was over, I didn’t care what news everyone had. Our fight seemed to have carried on for nearly 3 hours, though surely it must have been over in a matter of minutes. As far as I was concerned, it was time to sleep, and any news could wait until tomorrow.

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