Serpent's Skull

The Vaults

Haven’t written in this thing for awhile. For a few weeks there it seemed as if we wouldn’t crack this city’s shell. That’s changed now though. After sweeping through the city like a storm and killing that serpent-lich thing, we encountered a crazy woman roaming around in the jungle. I recognized a pathfinder mark on her shoulder, so we took her to Amavor. Lucky we did. He recognized her, cured her of some magical “feeblemind” spell, and pumped her for information about Savanth-Ye. She- Juliver- doesn’t know much directly, but following some hazy recollections she had brought us to an ancient vault. Pretty normal routine inside, at least for us. Follow behind Goyle, retaliate against anything that threatens us. Took down some more monkey men, a giant slug, stone golem, and befriended some bat creatures that the cleric was then able to get some info out of. Strange guy that priest. He’s equally comfortable hashing out a peace treaty as he is pumping you full of arm-sized crossbow bolts. Preach peace, practice war I guess. Anyways he’s been even more helpful since the witch just up and left.
Long story short: we found a tapestry that denoted the location of several vaults throughout the city. An old book we found suggested that these vaults are where the people of this old city stowed a lot of their shinies- the handiwork of some doomsaying priest of Pharasma. So now we hit each vault one by one.
During the last fight I noticed something interesting. I used to weigh putting myself at risk for an ally, but now we all risk our lives for each other countless times during a fight without a second thought. It’s strangely effective, each of us watching out for the good of the group. This is not how the orc tribes wage war, how pirates fight their battles, or how thieves duke it out in the streets. I would put money on our tiny group against 100 of those foes however.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Red Mantis came to collect their sword. We gave it to them for a tidy little sum plus the promise of an assassination contract for each of us. I chose the captain who captured and sold me in The Shackles. Now that he’s as good as dead, I’ve effectively tied up all the loose ends in my past. Now that I’m focusing fully on the future, I feel sorry for the enemies I’ll face there.

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Professionals

We’ve come to find a routine while exploring this dangerous city. We wake with the sun, eat a tasteless breakfast, follow Goyle into the jungle, and fight anything we come across. With the Abadarran traveling with us however, diplomacy has become an option when encountering these native creatures. Not as much fun, but I suppose less scars and daily broken bones is a good thing. Glib has been quieter; that should be nice but since his displays of casual death-dealing magics, being silent is the creepiest thing he can do.
During our outings we’ve come upon these ziggurats. Every one seems to bestow a different kind of magic in it’s district. Interesting, especially considering the one cratered area that’s protected by a force field has a corresponding number of towers in it. We can’t get to it now, but it’s the group’s idea that if we activate all the ziggurats we’ll be allowed entry.
The lack of loot has come to an end. We found an artifact! Luckily the artifact is in the form of a sword that enhances the wielder’s fighting abilities. I claimed it immediately. Glib tells me the sword is smart and has it’s own mind and agendas. Ha! I’ll just have to show it who’s the tool and who’s the master. Anyway if it gets annoying it will fetch a king’s ransom in some distant market. I’m almost tempted to take off with the sword by myself, but there must be more riches in that cratered area. We’ll master this place or die trying. I give us good odds.

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Goyle's Grumblings

Today was an interesting day. The last few days, as we rested in camp, I realized that the fight with the crocodile taught me something. As I was standing in the path of that great beast’s charge, I hit a moment of pure focus. I grit my teeth as I saw in slow motion (at least in comparison to the real thing) the teeth closing in around me. Using this extra time, I positioned my shield to deflect the teeth as I backstepped to be just outside those gaping jaws.

The fights with the bat and chimeras did not help much in refining this focus, though the chimeras nearly killed a lot of us. I spent the next two days practicing this focus.

I looked forward to battle with the frogs, but the new guy just had to make friends. Pleasantly at least, they directed us towards more monkeys to slaughter. Now, I like most of the people I travel with, but if Arty threw a ward on me, I coulda taken what we saw on my own. No ridiculously large crocodiles, no bats just as large, and no creatures that spit acid, just monkeys flinging poo. While I was laughing when Arliss was hit by the poo, I would never have been that dumb.

The only real annoyance was the pretty big winged monkey. It took me a little longer to get my focus centered, otherwise the creature wouldn’t have even scratched me. Then the new guy just disappeared and reappeared behind the beast. He used that goop the old monkey used to destatuefy it and turned it back to stone. Unfortunately he must have ran out, cause that thing was still swinging away at us. As always, an invisible Arliss means dead enemies (of Arliss) very quickly.

What in the 9 hells will we run into next?

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Into Death's Maw

Savath-Yhe has yielded no treasure yet, only death. While exploring the ancient avenues we have fought so many dread creatures, including a crocodile the size of a small warship. As it approached us in all its terrible glory I saw Goyle waver slightly for the first time ever. As the croc’s mighty jaws snapped closed over him though, our armored dwarf stepped nimbly back and teeth the size of swords scraped down along his shield. Then the impossible happened. The creature that could have swallowed any of us whole shuddered and died. We must have stood there motionless, unbelieving for a full minute. Realization dawned for me then, and I looked back to see the gnome smiling, nodding his head. A queer look was on his face, as if dealing death were a childish new game he wanted to play over and over. Terrible, undeniable power in a child’s frame. What could be worse?
Other creatures we fought too, like a gargantuan bat that took wing with Goyle in its claws before dropping to the ground due to many wounds we gave it. Again Goyle looked shaken but his was the final sure strike before it died. Ape men like those we fought in Tazion fell to us too, though bigger and stronger. Strangely they made no sound in combat nor in dying.
The last fight was one of the toughest and most desperate I have ever been a part of. Bary and Boco did not come out of it alive. I have heard tales before of chivalrous knights who lay down their lives for their king or comrades. I have always thought of these stories as fancy, created to sell a book or gain trust where there should be none. However, Bary gave his life as if he were a knight in one of those tales. I would not have believed it if it did not happen right in front of me. While exploring a ruined keep, three hideous creatures assaulted us from on high. Massive three-headed beasts they were- one a goat, one a lion, and the last, a dragon. Before they closed they soaked us in acid that they coughed out from there bellies. We fought them as our flesh boiled. During the melee, Bary drew one away to fight it single-handedly, buying us the opportunity to take them out one by one. Goyle and I surrounded one and bled it dry within seconds, our battle tactics as precise as if we shared a mind. While we prevailed against the smaller two, Bary and Boco were holding out against the leader- an enormous black-scaled monstrosity that rippled with muscle. As we all turned our attention to driving it off, we saw Bary and his mount drowned in the beast’s acid. One moment they were there, the next they were smoking piles of charred steel and flesh on the ground. We avenged him as the beast fell to Glib’s fireball, the witch’s acid, my poisoned crossbow bolt to its eye, and finally Goyle’s decapitating strike. Bary’s actions were 4 parts brave, one part foolish, but because of him our task could continue. I hoped that if he were somehow watching from his afterlife’s reward, he wouldn’t mind if I rifled through his things.

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The Lost City

The time spent in Tazion was more useful than intended. While we tarried there, our caravan arrived behind us with goods to buy and sell. The guard captain- Rowtillius Havalar- told us of our rivals and how they had harried our smaller party. They consisted of those Aspis Consortium cravens and Red Mantis assassins. I understood their tactics and convinced Havalar to lay an ambush for them- their strength lay in shadows and traps, not in toe-to-toe confrontation. As our rivals entered the city, our guardsmen routed them with help from my sword, Glib’s magic, Ironbeard’s spear, Bary’s sling, and the witch’s hexes. During the fray, we spotted the leaders. It was the snake-fiend from the Shiv, followed by a wizard, a pirate, and two women we were shipwrecked with! One of the women there from the Shiv had spurned my advances those months ago, giving me an impressive knee to the groin. I don’t even remember her name, but her face dredged up that memory and I became very, very angry. A titanic victory ensued. Glib cast a dread spell at the flying wizard, turning his own worst fears against him. The mage died screaming 30 feet in the air, then plummeted to the ground. Our groups met then, and glib cast yet another powerful spell, this one on me. I became invisible and no one could see the eager smile on my face. The next few moments were truly a blur as I gave in to the orc-rage, but I do remember spells and sling stones whirring through the air, my scythe chopping, the warm blood of my foes covering me, and finally ripping the head off the snake priestess. The Shiv woman was still alive, surrendered, so I curbed my bloodlust and gave her a wicked shot to the face- with a fist, not a blade. It seemed as if the snake thing had magically controlled this group and with her end came the end of the spell. They surrendered to us, one and all, and we joined forces for the sake of mutual profit. I called for their deaths, but my companions convinced me to let them live. I hope trusting these snakes and insects works out.
The path to Savath-Yhe turned out to be less dangerous as Bary expertly guided us to the lost city. Once on the outskirts of the ruin, we encountered the ghost of a half-orc who had found the city, but died and never was credited for the find. After we destroyed the spirit, we told Amavor to make a note of this man in his Pathfinder journal. His spirit found peace after this credit, and he would not bother our camp any longer.
We are in remarkably high spirits now with our camp set up and the ripe fruit of Savath-Yhe laid out before us and ready for the picking. Its secrets and treasures await.

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Redirection

How am I to defend myself against something that assaults my senses? Since the shipwreck I’ve been dazed, mentally dominated, stricken with numbing fear, paralyzed, and stunned. Each one more than once. I am never worried about a physical confrontation but these foes we face are tricksy and cunning, capable of insidious magics. My companions have each suffered these effects as well. The most recent catastrophe occurred after some alluring succubus charmed me into bed with her. The next thing I know I am fiercely defending her, rushing out into the night to fight my own party. Luckily, my hazed mind did not think to put on armor. How terrifying I must have looked, swinging my sword at Bary’s giant bird- bloodied, angry, and stark naked. Terrifying or foolish. The next thing I knew I was being roused from unconsciousness, listening to my companions’ desperate but victorious fight against the succubus and her minions. It all makes me so… furious. Next time I will think of what happened here and my rage will give me clarity.
We arrived in Tazion to find it overrun with bizarre sentient apes. To a lesser group they would have been death with their supernatural speed and strength but again our little band impresses me. I couldn’t tell you how may we slew; lets just say they learned to fear us. Deep within the ruins of Tazion we came across another of those snake people! This one was even stronger than the first, hurling fire, lightning, and enchantments that nearly destroyed us all. The battle lasted many minutes mostly due to the snake mage’s damned illusory duplicates. We’d strike him down only to realize we’d hit the wrong one! After we finally overwhelmed him (with help from some summoned lions) we sacked and searched the place.
In a central chamber we found some 3-dimensional map that showed the location of Savath-Ye- the true lost city. It will be some time before we reach it, but this perilous journey is not a waste. The wild is turning us into killing machines. We are like whirlwinds in battle. By the time I go back to a soft human city it will be like living among children. Ha!
Noteworthy piece of info- apparently the snake man was a cast-off from Savath-Ye. We should expect more of his kind when we arrive. I’m looking forward to that.

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A Dangerous Path

The travel was not only slow, but FAR more dangerous than I imagined. We cleared the way for the caravan, slaying wights, giant apes, dinosaurs, wizards, a troll zombie, hostile natives, a meat-eating tree, and a strange ghostly shadow creature. Still, none of us have fallen. Well except for a few Sargavan soldiers. I have started honing my speed and power in combat, felling or maiming most foes with a single blow. Every so often I feel my orcish legacy fill my mind with violence, but I have learned to control it and use the rage to great advantage. Glib has come to surprise me yet again. The little bastard can now throw explosive fireballs that leave only burning death after their impacts. Who knew such power could fit into such a small frame? I am more glad than ever that he is my oldest companion. I don’t know why he follows me around but he certainly seems to enjoy himself. As it turns out, Goyle can definitely fight. He is nigh indestructible behind his layers of metal, and when a blow does land he seems to not even notice the pain or blood. He attacks with a large polearm skillfully in one hand. Bary- our scout- accurately flings stones with a sling staff. Funny I know, but our dead foes with neat little holes in their heads don’t find it so humorous. The bird he rides is a fast bastard with a nasty bite. All in all an unlikely but effective warband.
Unfortunately Kyara, our healer, was assassinated during a resupply stop in Kalibuto. They struck at night and managed to take her out before falling to our combined might. I quickly questioned one before slitting his throat- a more merciful fate than I would normally give, but I was in a hurry. It seems that we have competition. What once was an expedition to retrieve lost treasure is now a race. Bodies on the road corroborated the assassin’s information. It seems our foes are Red Mantises and The Aspis Consortium. Both powerful foes, worthy of our attention and anger. At present I am writing in our camp in The Screaming Jungle- a place of constant moisture and discomfort. We just killed some gnomish creatures who tried to ambush us. We are closer to the ruins than ever. Besmara willing, the next time I write we’ll be laden with treasure.

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Lure of Greed

We arrived in the Sargavan capital of Eleder with no complications. There we managed to sell our treasures and lore to various buyers. The question was, “Now what?”. Although I was rich by most men’s standards, still I was ill at ease. Languishing in this faltering city for the rest of my days was not an option. Then good news came. Apparently the lore we found was deciphered by the scholar Valinis and it hinted at a lost city far to the east. Who knows what lost treasures it contains? I sense even if this trip is successful my perpetual need for more will not be sated, but it is at least something to do. Why can I not be satisfied with my riches now? Then I think of the lost city and I cant wipe the smile off my tusked mouth.
To prepare for the long journey we needed supplies and allies. Joining us was the mercenary Goyle, who was perpetually clad in body-covering armor and shield. How does the dwarf walk in that, let alone fight? Also helping us organize was the pathfinder Amavor Glour, who was interested in the lost lore. Gained through the life of another possible ally was Nakechi, a wizened shaman and master of the wilderness. He would lead us to the ruin. Surprisingly we gained assistance from the Sargavan government. After coming to agreeable terms with Grand Custodian Byron Utilinus, we received a retinue of soldiers and a caravan to store the loot. To scout for us was a tiny little man who rode a giant bird. We keep strange company, but hopefully they can hold there own in a fight. Lastly, I bought a breastplate that the bards could sing about. A strong piece of mithril that is light but can stop a sword or arrow easily in its tracks. Right before we left we ran into some trouble with a terrorist group that burned our warehouse. Nothing violent retribution didn’t fix, but it costed us money and time. Also I should note that I now rent a space from the crimelord in Eleder, one Madam Dagastanna. Hopefully she wont get in my way should I decide to work in the city.

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Off This Rock

We explored the rest of the temple with Lanliss and the Nethys cleric. At the very end we encountered a woman who appeared to be half human and half snake. She spoke for a while and revealed that she was the Varisian woman who led the captain here. Clearly this situation would degenerate quickly into violence, and Lanliss acted first. I crept around to her flank to hopefully take her down fast, but found my faculties clouded by magic. I turned around, compelled to slash at Lanliss. As I raised by blade however, the wrongness of this compulsion assaulted me and I shook my head clear of her spell. Now doubly angry, I charged her. Her skeletal minions fell quickly, but she eluded us. Her magical defenses kept us from easily slaughtering her, and her poisoned fangs had Lanliss almost to the point of collapse. If it weren’t for the cleric and the oracle we would have been forced to flee. Eventually some of our blows landed and she hurriedly touched a statue behind her. Some magic turned her into insubstantial mist, and she glided out of the chamber. We also used this magic but she had a head start. We glided up to the surface and followed her tracks but they led to the coast and disappeared beneath the waves. Bitch is amphibious. Ugh.
Damn it! I’m glad it wasn’t me of course, but why do my allies have to die in the most horrific ways possible? This does not bode well for me. While exploring the dark, deep areas of the snake temple, we encountered a hideous creature of many eyes and maws. It bit Lanliss and within seconds sucked him into its body. Obviously fed for the moment, it retreated back into its watery lair. Of all the people on this rock, Lanliss was probably the best to have on your side. Quiet, reliable, good in a fight, and didn’t ask too many questions. I would say rest in peace but considering how he died I don’t think that’s an option.
The rest of our time waiting for a ship to spot our lighthouse was actually enjoyable. We ate Kyara’s catches, were entertained by Glib’s magic shows, and I was given a small gift from the gods. The women who fled the savage’s camp came back. Not only did they service the new leader, but they brought us a magic sabre from another dead jungle denizen. After a couple weeks, a ship from The Shackles came to pick us up. They were looking for that woman who rebuffed me. Starts with an “I”. Anyways we got picked up and now we’re headed for Sargava. Time to sell our treasures and old lore!

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Death and Mercy

Nagi died in the caves today. We came across a group of ghouls who promised us the gift of “eternal life.” Before any of us could respond, Nagi lowered his weapon and walked towards them. At the last moment he charged, but the radiant slash that should have killed the leader just grazed her harmlessly. The ghouls fell upon him. It was a sight that no one should see- I felt pity for the paladin even as I focused my burning rage upon the undead bastards. Again, my rage saw me through and I don’t remember much besides hacking them all down and tasting their rotting flesh. At one point I saw Glib bravely stand beside me. I saw him destroyed 5 or 6 times before dimly realizing that he was making illusions of himself. Clever bugger. When I came out of my state the only one left alive was the leader. She had summoned a darkness so deep that only I could see with darkvision. Regardless, I guided my blind companions and saw Kyara make a wild swing. Luck favored her, and the scythe struck the creature’s neck, cleanly severing her head and ending their little tea party.
We burned the bodies, just in case they rose as zombies or something. Without Nagi we were greatly diminished, but the other gnome offered his services to our explorations. Again, another companion who claims to be a spellcaster. Having two gnomes around will be irritating, but maybe they can entertain each other.
Well, the gnome bard’s time with us was short. We decided to search for the Chupucabra and in its lair we found 5 large standing stones. The bard somehow figured out what they were for, but told me with a smirk that it needed orc’s blood. I glowered at him and told him to piss off, but he kept asking. From that point on he would continue to berate me, my lineage, my mother, my teeth, my build, anything. I have killed men for much less but decided to curb my anger for the sake of the expedition, and for Glib. Wouldn’t want the trickster angry with me. Anyways when he finally activated the power of the stones, the chupucabra attacked us. It was a short and furious battle but we were the victors. We then realized that the water level here and dramatically dropped after we used the stones, and there was a set of double doors previously underwater.
Inside revealed some kind of complex with undead and traps- many traps. Mostly pits but there was also a devilish room that sealed itself- making whoever was inside a prime target for the axe that dropped out of the ceiling. Kyara was almost crushed by the door as it closed, but we managed to force it open. I then carefully disarmed the trap and destroyed the axe.
Oh yes, the gnome. Back in the entry room were skeleton javelin throwers. The group ran by them to escape through another door. The gnome proceeded to shut the door- sealing me and the oracle with the undead. We survived, obviously, and even after this I somehow cooled my anger and offered him his life for a healing spell. He insulted me again, so I stabbed him, bit out his throat, and fed him to a shark. He did a fine job avoiding me for a while. My companions half-heartedly tried to stop me but not hard enough. Perhaps in my book I can spin this in some dramatic way such as the bard betrayed us or we ate him for lack of other food. Hmmm, it deserves thought at a later time. Now we are heading back to camp to rest and recuperate. I plan on forcing my ex cell mate to accompany us this time.

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