Kingmaker in Eberron

Book 3 Chapter 17 - Realm of the Fellnight Queen Part 3 FINAL

Soft echoing footsteps were the only sounds as our heroes moved down the path that the spriggan leader had pointed out for them. The hallway opened into a massive circular chamber and on the opposite end of it stood a throne with a regal looking woman standing before a throne of brambles and vines. A small number of stairs led up to the throne and at the top of the stairs was a large black mirror.

Inside the mirror were shifting images of the missing children, smiling and laughing and playing together in some unknown space.

The imposing Queen stepped forward to the mirror with a bemused smirk on her face at these outsiders entering her throne room.

Not wanting to show any sign of disrespect the majority of our heroes stayed at the entrance of the room while Dox stepped forward and knelt on one knee. “My name is Dox…from the Kingdom of Valdrik. We have been tasked with bringing the ruler of this realm out from this prison.”

“You show respect.” mused the fae Queen. “But your help is not necessary. The Princess has already been reunited with our mother, and once we are at sufficient strength we will leave this place behind and finally be back together.” the Queen placed a hand over her heart “We have not been forgotten.”

Dox tilted her head as she could have sworn she heard another voice, a softer younger voice repeating the same thing at the same time…that “We have not been forgotten.”

“And the children?” Dox asked.

“They have been granted refuge. It is a much kinder fate than if they had been left in that poor kingdom. After tonight, they won’t have a home to return to.” The Queen stepped forward and placed a hand on the mirror, which rippled and shifted from the images of the playing children to the horrifying destruction currently ongoing at the capital of their country, Waterview. The slaughter and mayhem of the Carnival of Tears was put on display for our heroes to witness, with no sign of the other half of the council.

“Now, the children will live out their time here under my guidance. Adults are not welcome in this place…leave now. I will not repeat myself.”

Dox once again heard that small voice “But they seem nice. We shouldn’t be so mean.”
“And what of the Princess Rhoswen? We won’t leave without her.” Dox spoke defiantly. When a promise was made she was serious.

“I am ”/characters/rhoswen-queen-of-the-fellnight" class=“wiki-content-link”>Rhoswen, Queen of the Fellnight, and I will protect the Princess from ALL those who would harm her!" The Queen slammed the bottom of her staff into the ground as a wave of shadows emanated from her.

It was right at this moment that Dox finally realized where that other voice was coming from. The Queen’s Shadow…it was smaller than it should be. Laying as a shadow upon the floor, attached to the Queen of the Fellnight Realm was the moving talking shadow of a young girl.
Battle was joined with the rest of our heroes quickly rushing across the chamber to reach Dox. The floor of the throne room shifted and burbled as another giant Teddy Bear made of rocks rose to stand in their way!

Another clockwork automaton in the shape of Red appeared from the shadows, taking a defensive stance in front of the Queen as well.

Both aspects of the fae creature known as Rhoswen could apparently act independently, flinging spell after spell after at our heroes. Dox, for all of the wrath thrown her way merely crawled forward and placed her hands protectively upon the stone floor to try and grasp the shadow of the girl.

“You poor poor thing…please, what can I do to help you?”

The shadow placed a soft hand upon Dox and whispered “It’s okay. It’s okay, I can protect all of the people that I brought here, even you!” And with a sudden shift and an utter of some magic words Dox found herself much much smaller as she was suddenly transformed into a small songbird!

Luckily for our changeling, their naturally changing physiology allowed Dox to merely concentrate and return herself to her own form.

Seeking to end the battle without merely killing the cursed ruler of this place, Ogg, Dox and Alanea realized that the positioning of the ebon mirror appeared to affect Rhoswen. Turning the mirror to face the opposite direction caused the fae to switch places with the shadow on the floor, with the young girl standing as a fully fleshed out creature and the queen as her extended shadow. Another clever turn of the mirror caused the shadow connecting the two to be stretched taut as the two could be pulled apart but not completely separated…not by any kind of normal means anyways.

Ogg however had more than normal means available to him. Bringing the Glaive of the Darkest Depths to bare, the half-orc general sliced through the extended shadows and using its dimension-cutting abilities, severed the shadows.

The little girl clutched her chest as if having a panic attack as the queen, who immediately became flesh again as well, crawled to the young girl and attempted to cover her protectively.

The mystery of the “Queen” who was also a “Princess” had finally been deduced….they were one in the same. This young girl, the Princess Rhoswen who had been sealed in this place by the Rulers of the First World for “The Crime of Existing” had gone insane from her loneliness over the untold amount of time she had been left here in her prison. Having some connection to the shadowy nature of this demi-plane, her powers had created and expanded this place to the castle it is now…and after being forced to endure such loneliness and sorrow for so long her psyche fractured. But what happens when a Fae goes insane? A protective personality was formed, a Queen that would be strong enough to protect the young girl that had created her from anything that would harm her…

“I’m sorry” the Queen muttered to the young girl. "I did everything I could…I — " before she could finish, the creature known as Queen Rhoswen was pulled through the ceiling as if plucked into the sky by an invisible force.

With her mental protections gone the Fellnight Realm began shuddering and collapsing in on itself, the throne room falling two floors as the world around them dissolved into endless shadows. When the shifting and changing was finished, all of the creatures that were still real were crammed into the single square shaped room that had previously been inhabited by the illusion of the crying young girl.

There were a few awkward moments as the other Spriggans who had not been killed collected at one side, the one spriggan who had decided to buddy up to our heroes was in between, and Eleanor was cramped into the tiny room.

The ebon mirror was also back in the room, reverting to showing images of children laughing and playing. Upon examination it appeared to be some unique and amplified kind of Maze spell that the kids were placed in…if the mirror were removed from this demi-plane the effects on it should automatically end and bring the children back into the material plane. Ogg hefted his Glaive and once again sliced a hole through the dimensional lines revealing a portal back to Candlemere.

Dox lifted the young girl in her arms. The girl’s breathing was shallow as if she was sick. As Dox began moving towards the portal something began pulling in the opposite direction, as if an invisible anchor was attached the tiny girl in her arms. The girl clutched Dox’s shirt, whispering softly.

“I’m sorry. You should go…leave me here…”

No. Not like this. Not to this little girl. No one deserved the punishment that had been put upon this little girl’s shoulders.

With Ogg, Alanea, Boudreaux, Lucius, Eleanor, and Aurum all pushing behind Dox our heroes slowly step by step moved through the portal. With red rose petal tears falling from her eyes, Princess Rhoswen looked up at Dox one last time to mutter “Thank you…” before being enveloped in a white light.

As they found themselves on the other side of the portal, all that remained in Dox’s arms was a single rose.

Waiting for them on the other side was “Red” whose face was unreadable at the sight of the rose in the changeling’s hands.

The mirror’s magic broke, and the children of Valdrik slowly began pouring out onto the island of Candlemere.

Lucius and Dox approached the red garbed wanderer and held out the rose. They had fulfilled their promise but…they hadn’t expected this.

“I’ve known this little girl for a long time…and I felt that a long time ago I failed her when I shouldn’t have. I came here to right a wrong…and now this.” The man looked square in Lucius’ eyes.

“I take it you’ll take responsibility for this situation?”

Lucius wasn’t quite sure how to take that. Take responsibility? Of what? Regardless, he nodded but not before Dox piped in that she would also take responsibility.

Once again Red cut open his palm as he handed the rose to Lucius and Dox. The thorns pricked their hands as the mysterious man poured a few drops of his own blood onto the rose. Wrapping his palm in some bandages he gave a huff as he turned from Lucius…

“Of course it had to be a woodsman that I have to rely on.” And with that, the man walked off.

The danger has passed, but loved ones and innocents have been lost in the crossfire.

With the leaders of the country meeting back up, it is time to pick up the pieces and decide what to do next.

Next time on Kingmaker!
Level 9 Reached!

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Book 3 Chapter 16 - Realm of the Fellnight Queen Part 2

From the courtyard of the castle where our heroes had just finished fighting off a number of living plants a giant teddy bear, two great wooden doors served as the entrance into the castle proper. Inspecting the door, it was easy for Boudreaux to tell that the wood itself was still alive – not a completely uncommon material to the people of Eberron but still unique to find a living set of giant double doors.

Finding that the door had no locking mechanism whatsoever our heroes headed inside. The castle had a grand entry room though by the level of dust across the floor and on the furniture it appears that it had not been used in some time. There were signs that the dust had been disturbed by many footsteps recently – a sure sign that this is where the children had come. A grand sign stating “Welcome Friends!” had been hung along with various colorful streamers to brighten up the place a bit.

A number of Leshys in fact were still putting banners in place, occasionally falling from the ceiling and landing with a bouncy ‘plop’ before gathering themselves up and heading back to their job. The trail of the children led forward, while both Eleanor and Boudreaux could smell some animals in a room off to the left…since the animals didn’t seem an immediate threat our group continued forward.

Throughout the castle, the vines and brambles that had once covered the entirety of the island of Candlemere were similarly everywhere here. They covered the ceilings, stretched along the walls, and formed a decaying covering into the room up ahead of our heroes.
Pushing through the brambles, the next room opened into a towering cylindrical shape with a set of stone stairs leading up to the second floor of the castle. All of the desolate feelings of isolation, sadness, and anger that had been pouring out of Candlemere for all this time, enough negative emotion to draw a veritable horde of Will-O-Wisps emanated from this room. There was a square shape etched into the floor of the room as if it were marking boundaries for a secondary room and sitting inside that square was the image of a small girl with roses for hair sobbing softly to herself. Moving closer to the girl it became evident that it was a magical afterimage…not unlike a kind of spiritual imprint left by a ghost.

Dox also realized that this girl was the same one that had visited her dreams and placed a Geas on her to locate the Faengard stones…but why was she so sad? With nothing else in this room (which looked as if no one had been here in a very long time) our heroes headed upstairs to the second floor.

What awaited them above was a stark contrast from the depressing scene below. A band played lively orchestral music, the room was brightly lit and filled with indistinct conversation as dozens of people were dressed for a masquerade ball. The ball was being held in celebration of Queen Rhoswen finally being reunited with the King and Queen. Sure enough at the center of the ball there were three distinct figures. A regal looking man and woman were dancing together, and another woman was dancing alongside them with long hair made of roses looking much like an older version of the girl downstairs…

Despite appearances, there were only two people in the entire ballroom that were actually real. All the rest, including the Queen, and the dancing King and Queen were some form of programmed illusions to keep a party going on for…someone?

The only two actual creatures were also dressed for the ball – a man who looked strikingly like the gentleman named “Red” who they met on Candlemere, and a woman whose dress had a number of long black feathers protruding from it. As our heroes interfered with the ball and questioned the dancers the two ‘real’ dancers moved to intercept and were revealed to be clockwork automatons whose likeness was apparently based on real Fae that were close to the true King and Queen.

After dispatching both clockwork guards through a combination of combat and playing off of their pre-programmed responses – apparently they were designed to treat the rest of the programmed illusions as completely real. A pixie revealed itself after the battle wearing a small artificer’s outfit. Introducing itself as “Kenchlo” he lamented over the work it would take to repair the guardians and how upset the Queen would be that her creations were destroyed. Aside from being irate at how long it would take to repair the automatons, Kenchlo himself wasn’t hostile. The poor pixie had apparently stumbled upon this realm some time ago and since there was no real way out he had been serving the Princess/Queen ever since.

“Well that is who we’re looking for…that and a number of children. Have you seen any come through?”

“Not recently, but the Queen should be upstairs…” the Pixie pointed to the open door exiting the ballroom to lead further into the castle and gave some basic instructions on how to get to the third floor.

As our heroes continued on they found a number of tapestries adorning the hallway they were traveling down which slowly weaved the story of this “Princess Rhoswen”. Periodically, people, fae, animals or other random creatures slipped through the dimensional cracks and found themselves stuck in the Fellnight Realm. Every time this happened with a mortal, they remained here for some time as guests of the Princess but inevitably as the began to grow older or if they angered the ruler they were transformed into a harmless animal to join the rest of the creatures here. This did not bode well for the fate of the children…

Hearing noises at a T-Junction in the hall, Dox snuck off to the west after hearing busy noises of clanging metal and found a number of grey-skinned fae known as Spriggans busily working in a kitchen that had been hastily repurposed to double as a forge. The spriggans, all of whom were wearing aprons and chef hats were moving back and forth from handling metal in a giant forge and cooking various pastries.

Deciding not to bother the cooks our heroes followed the eastern path leading to another set of stairs and into another hastily repurposed room that had once been a storage room, but now served as an Armory. Looting what they quickly could and continuing on the path led them out onto a covered parapet covered by a lattice work of tangled limbs, vines and leaves…it provided a rather commanding view of the courtyard below and the valley beyong the palace gates back to the hedge maze. A group of Spriggans were attempting to blend into the foliage here and against a less experienced band of adventurers it may have been successful. Once again using Diplomacy as their most powerful weapon they called the Spriggans out and regaled them with how fighting them would be a bad idea…after all they had repelled the legendary Talonquake.

The Spriggans were taken aback by that…they had heard that the legendary owlbear had been on the move again and that it had been prevented from laying waste to a kingdom but these people are the ones who did that? The spriggans huddled together to discuss whether to fight them or let them pass…they had been hired by their queen to come find Queen Rhoswen and work for her – help her build an army to pour back into Eberron to wipe out any remaining resistance from that other kingdom…uhh…that one that was currently being destroyed….Valdrik! That’s the one.

Breaking from their huddle a spriggan representative stepped forward to give their answer. “After some deliberation we have decided not to engage in —” before the spriggan could answer one of the Topiary Gargoyles adorning the walls of the castle leapt down, grabbed the ‘lead’ spriggan and tossed it from the parapet towards the courtyard below. Seeing the fate of their leader, the other spriggans activated their own innate magic and grew to a large hulking size. “Sorry bro. Not gonna have that happen to us too.”

Battle was reluctantly joined by our heroes as the other spriggans charged at them, along with a number of Topiary Gargoyles from the outside of the castle. Lucius had Aurum quickly grab the spriggan leader, saving him from meeting the ground and kept him away from the battle. The enemies were again quickly dispatched and the last spriggan returned to the parapet.

“We’re looking for the Princess of this realm. Any idea where she is?”

The spriggan, understandably shook at having almost died moments ago pointed to the set of double doors leading once again into the castle. “If you can get outta this place you’ll take me with you right? I’ll uh…I’ll just wait here. Just don’t forget me!”

With that agreement our heroes opened the doors with an ominous crrreeeaaakkkk and headed inside…

We will conclude this adventure with the next chapter as our heroes finally meet the strange ruler of the Fellnight Realm!

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Book 3 Chapter 15 - Realm of the Fellnight Queen Part 1

As the sun was setting across the landscape of Eberron and the moons began to rise into the sky, our heroes Boudreaux, Eleanor, Ogg with his companion Spike, Lucius and Aurum, Alanea, and Dox stood upon the banks of the Tuskwater Lake along with the crochety old woman simply known as The Old Beldame.

An unsettling fog had spread across the lake, and when they paused a soft voice echoed across the waters…

Quickly pulling out their Folding Boat that had let them reach Candlemere back when they first cleared out the swarms of Will-O-Wisps, our heroes boarded and set out for the island once more, following that haunting voice. About halfway to the island the boat suddenly turned to the left and came to a sudden halt. Peering over the edge, Alanea noticed sections of the water that were burbling and shifting separate from the rest of the lake. Alanea immediately recognized the burbling as Aquan the language by water-aligned elemental creatures.

“Not invited…” One section of water burbled. “Yes, not invited. Cannot go forward.” Replied the other. “Too big.”

Ever the curious ones both Alanea and Dox (wearing Alanea’s Helm of Comprehend Languages ) tried to converse with the creatures while Ogg wanted both of them to stop talking to the water, cause it clearly wasn’t actually speaking back. Recognizing these creatures as Water Elementals (Elementals in Eberron are part of a large philosophical debate as to whether or not they truly have any sentience, or can simply ‘mimic’ aspects of intelligent life)

“Oh but we were invited…”

The water burbled. “By who?”

The group paused. If they got the wrong answer that could be…very bad. Suddenly, Dox spoke up… “Rhoswen. We were invited by Rhoswen.”

The water paused and then slowly subsided from the sides of the boat, pushing it back into its original position heading towards Candlemere. The rest of the trip was uneventful and once again our heroes found themselves at the shores of Candlemere. The island was still a burnt out husk from the last time they visited, when the numerous Will-O-Wisps all committed suicide in a great fire.

Between Lucius and Boudreaux and their incredible tracking skills it was easy to tell that numerous small figures, children, came ashore here and headed straight inland. Heading to the remains of the tower at the center of the island, there was a man dressed in a fancy adventurer’s outfit that was entirely red sitting upon a nearby rock with a fishing pole slung over his shoulder.

Dox recognized the man, she had met him twice in her travels throughout the kingdom in the past few months. A self-proclaimed ‘dandy’ and wanderer the man simply went by the name of Red (Though that is a story for another time). An alias of course but Dox understood the nature of keeping secrets.

‘Red’ introduced himself to the rest of the group, remarking on how strange of a coincidence it was that he met them here. He had been looking for a new fishing spot and wanted to try out the shores of Candlemere when wouldn’t you know it the rulers of the kingdom came wandering by. Red did see a bunch of children come through here fairly recently, and that they headed inside the broken tower to the ebony mirror.

The group was reminded of the warning signs written across the shattered tower, that the creature imprisoned here was ordered to stay there for all eternity by The Council of the First, the rulers of all Fae. Red posed the question, is a newborn innately sinful because of its own birth? Or are all infants born with an innocence of the world? The Fae had come to their conclusion already…but what of the people of Valdrik? I’ve seen the people of your kingdom and you tend to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to offering people a chance to live peacefully.

“I can tell you how to get inside that mirror, to go after the children from your country. The creature inside there is both Queen and Princess and is trying to save the young ones from your land in her own way. After tonight, there won’t be a kingdom left for them to return to anyways. I’ll also tell you what I know of her defenses and traps to watch out for, in exchange for a favor of course.”

Lucius piped up and agreed to that deal – if this Queen/Princess ‘Rhoswen’ really was innocent then bringing her out of her prison was the right thing to do anyways, and the tactical info could be useful. The two men shook hands, and Lucius felt as if a heavy weight had been placed upon his shoulders.

“Very well then. I know that she’ll have a large castle, and is likely at the top of it. She has servants that work for both the Princess and the Queen…try and focus on the ones who favor the Princess as they’ll likely be more understanding or at least easier to lie to. If you find a game, don’t try to cheat at it that’ll only make the place mad.

The place you’ll be traveling to is a demi-plane called the Fellnight. Illusion and shadow magic will be enhanced there, and the plane itself is both entirely self contained and timeless. You could walk around the entire place if you kept walking in a single line and wind up back where you started.

As for my favor, I want you to bring Rhoswen back from the other side. Get her out of the mirror – no matter what it takes.”

Alanea: “That still doesn’t answer how we open the portal to get inside.”

“Well, I believe Dox already has the method for that.” Wondering what the man was pointing at in her satchel, Dox reached in and pulled out three small stones each with a Sylvan rune inscribed in it. As she stared at the runes memories came flooding back to her – nightmares night after night with images of a young girl urging her to find these stones and retrieve them, that bringing them together would allow the little girl to finally be free. Dox clutched her head as blood streaked from her nose as the longstanding Geas she had been under was broken (Also another story.)

At Red’s instructions our heroes placed the stones – which Boudreaux recognized as being part of a planar lock referred to as a Faengard – in a triangular pattern around the ebony mirror that now sat in plain view in the center of the ruined tower. The mirror rippled and flowed as the energies from the stones seemed to open the portal within…

Red waved from the outside of the tower, never stepping foot inside. “Remember your promise. And good luck.”

And our heroes stepped inside…

The land that greeted them on the opposite side bathed in perpetual twilight. Stars littered the sky but there were no moons. Periodically there were small sconces or bioluminescent plant life that provided the only other source of light in this Fellnight Realm. Off in the distance stood a great castle of obsidian stone and dark wriggling vines covered in thorns – the very same kind of bristly vines that once covered the outside of Candlemere.

Ahead of our heroes were the same tracks of the children they had followed from outside, heading into a great hedge maze leading towards the castle. Lucius had Aurum take to the sky to try and provide a bird’s eye view of the area, but as the great bird took off the top of the hedge maze shuddered and began growing to match the height of the bird. Apparently this place didn’t like cheaters…well best not to press their luck then.

Traversing the hedge maze, Boudreaux and Dox proceeded to re-enact their Mary and Little Lamb strategy from dealing with the Big Bad Wolf since this place seemed to prefer ‘children’…the helpless animal was just to help sell the image. With Boudreaux’s scent ability following the trail it led the group to a large opening inside the hedge maze where it appeared that an adult sized person approached from the other side of the maze, stood for a bit, and then the foot prints of the children scattered in the multiple exits from the area. Following the children at large would be a bit harder now…

However Boudreaux did manage to find a small child’s toy that had apparently been trampled and broken from too much roughhousing underneath one of the hedge bushes. As the druid picked it up, one of the nearby pumpkin gourds shifted and stood up with a small plant body forming underneath it. The small plant creature wandered over to the druid and held out its hand, and after Boudreaux handed the toy over the creature popped it inside of its head and sat back down.

Boudreaux recognized this creature. It was a natural form of life known to many druids, a series of plant species called a Leshy. They were child-like and trusting and this particular type of Leshy had the habit of sticking broken items inside its head which are then slowly repaired over time. It was at this revelation that Boudreaux realized how many gourds and bulbs had been sticking out of the hedge maze and lighting the way. There were dozens of these creatures here…probably to serve as both caretakers and living traps against intruders.

Boudreaux managed to catch the attention of the many Leshys in the area after calling out to the nearest one in the ancient Druidic tongue, which these tiny plant creatures immediately recognized. Conversing with the non-plant creature that was quickly named “Brother Nature” by the Leshys, the plant guardians acknowledged that lots of guests had past through here recently and headed towards the castle. They were invited for a special party by Princess Rhoswen.

Our heroes nodded…that definitely matched with the info that Red provided. “Do you know a way through the maze?” asked Boudreaux.

The Leshys shrugged as a group. They were plants, and could travel through the natural terrain. The maze itself didn’t really matter to them. One spoke up however “We do know that Queen Rhoswen knows a way through the maze. But she hides it from Princess Rhoswen because it makes the Princess upset.” Curious at their statement, the Leshys decided to show their Brother Nature what they meant.

Peeling apart a section of the hedge maze, a small slab of stone was hidden within a section of the wall that stated in that weird tri-language written on the outside of the tower that Alanea had decoded “No one will ever love you.” With an arrow pointing to the west. The Leshys could apparently not read the language, but knew that the Queen periodically looked at these strange markings.

With a clue to follow our heroes then began following the arrows. Each time they reached the exact point that the previous arrow had pointed to, they found another stone slab and another disheartening message. “You’re here forever.” “Your birth is an unforgivable sin.” “No one will ever come for you.” Until finally our heroes made it to the exit of the maze and into the open courtyard of the castle. A great set of wooden double doors the only entrance into the castle proper. As our heroes stepped forward however the wriggling vines of the courtyard danced with a serpentine slither to them as numerous Assassin Vines attempted to latch onto and strangle our heroes. To complicate the matter, the earth grumbled and shifted and from underneath a statue in the courtyard came a huge sized teddy bear made entirely of earth!

Someone was apparently unhappy that they had arrived. These measly defenses however would not be enough to prevent our heroes from moving forward! The vines and elemental fell to the combined might of our heroes in short time, with the Old Beldame almost being dragged off by one of the vines…this was not a safe place for an old woman.

As each creature fell it burst as if a seam had been ripped open on a doll with each creature – both plant and elemental – bursting into a coal like shadowy powder. Tarvis mused over this sight…given the weird effect this plane had on Illusion and Shadow magic, these creatures appeared to be some sort of exotic form of a Shadow Conjuration.

All that was left now was to walk up to the front door and knock.

Next time on Kingmaker, our heroes progress through the Castle of the Fellnight Queen!

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Book 3 Chapter 14 - The Carnival of Tears Part 4 FINAL

Shifting back and forth in the background forever seeming both near and far, the Bogeyman’s voice rang with a clarity over the clanging buzzing machines in the Tent of Modern Wonders. The creature spoke with a low Aundairian slang to it, talking about all the people they’ve ‘helped’ through the exhibit so far.

A small collection of trees were periodically placed throughout the tent for demonstrations and before their eyes two of them shifted into leaf-covered elf like creatures that were identified as a type of malicious Fey – Grimstalkers! Two more dropped from the ceiling of the tent to try and surround our heroes as they frantically tried to rally not only to fend off their attackers, but to save the helpless people here including none other than Roberta Catherine Evered d’Lyrandar.

Septim Garess was quickly handed a flower and asked to drink up – he was parched after waiting in line so long after all – and quickly regretted his decision. Before he could even react to the situation however, a small marble bounced out of the darkness and exploded in a ball of force, catching Septim, Sydney and Valerie inside a 10 ft by 10 ft bubble. Valerie could only watch helplessly as her sister continued on the conveyer belt towards the giant buzzsaw…

Korin leapt into action with his mighty axe, slicing into the gears and wires but not managing to sever it completely…one more strike would do it. Cassie, Tarvis, and Mikmek began fighting off the Grimstalkers while Lissa found a place to hide. Right as one of the evil fey moved forward, with poison dripping from its claws a great skeletal hand punched through the top of the tent and grabbed the creature – pulling it outside with a scream followed by multiple slamming noises and then silence, followed by the chortles of Mr. Raconteur still outside.

One by one the Grimstalkers were either pulled outside or cut down by our heroes. As Korin hefted his axe once more to sever the conveyer belt however, he found his body frozen in place from a Hold Person by the Bogeyman. The trickster fey compounded this with a sense of Crushing Despair and a natural aura of fear that spread from the psychopathic child stalker. Cassie managed to free Valerie, Sydney, and Septim with a concentrated Dispel Magic. Valerie leapt upon the conveyer belt in a flash cutting furiously at the ropes keeping Roberta bound…and moments before she would have been cut to pieces by the buzzsaw a furious Septim leapt over Korin’s back and finished smashing the conveyer belt into pieces with a an angry cry “I HATE CARNIVALS!”

The tiny blur that had been making a nuisance of itself the entire fray finally materialized upon Korin’s shoulder. Barely a foot tall the tiny fey, revealed to be a Quickling, wielded a vicious looking knife and prepared to slit Korin’s throat open, without realizing that Korin had finally overcome his Hold Person…which led to the unfortunate ending of the fanciful fey as he was tossed off of Korin’s shoulder and promptly cut in half.

With all of the small fry removed from the fray, it was finally time for the Bogeyman himself to take care of things. Tarvis clashed with the creature landing a solid blow as Valerie moved into a flanking position. Feinting with a sleight of hand trick the Bogeyman’s claws dug deep into Valerie as he taunted her. “Here I was hopin’ you’d get to see your sister get all chopped up into pieces…I wanted to see the delicious look on your face, and hope I could find that small part of you that really wanted it to happen. Ah well, I’ll have to get to her after I cut you up.”

The Bogeyman was one of the most deadly opponents our heroes had yet faced, even with Bastion calling upon his divine gifts to shield others from harm his strikes stabbed into organs, and with a gleeful smile he stared into Valerie’s eyes and forced her to relive her own nightmares over and over until her heart suddenly gave out. The leader of the country dropped to the ground in slow motion as everyone froze for a moment. Was she dead? The ruler of Valdrik?

The Bogeyman pulled an icicle shard from his jacket pocket wrapped like a cigar, striking a small flame at the end of his fingertips to light it in celebration of his first kill during the battle, turning to face Tarvis while holding out a golden ticket with “Tarvis d’Lyrandar” written on it. “I believe I asked you to wait for your turn mate…well good news it looks like there’s been a sudden opening.”

Bastion pulled Valerie away from the fray and over to Cassie, a concerned look on the warforged companion’s face…Cassie quickly checked…her pulse was faint but there…and she began administering healing spells.

With Korin finally free he rushed to take Valerie’s place, and despite Tarvis being worried about falling next to this creature he stood his ground. With a final blow the Bogeyman was reduced to fraying clothes and dust in the wind…

The rest of the machines in the tent were disabled as our heroes gathered their wits.

The people here were saved for now. Valerie was alive, Roberta was alive. Septim and Mikmek offered to stay behind to keep an eye on the place.

With the second Witch Shard in their possession and the last of the twisted amusements destroyed the Cold Rider would be making his appearance to end all of this once and for all.

Our heroes quickly rushed back to the wagon of Namdrin Quinn, returning his wife to him as the second shard was broken. Namdrin wept over the form of his sleeping wife… “I know I cannot undue what happened here…I will accept whatever punishment you deem fit…in addition to whatever House Phiarlan will do to me. But for now…now we must end this.”

The fog and sleet swirled and gathered like a slow whirlwind above the frozen lake. A large rider upon a dead stag strode forth from the maelstrom, a shining glaive of ice within his grasp. Other fey, pixies, and brownies were gathering behind the rider as if entering from the eye of the storm itself.

Korin called out the rider with a challenge. It was time to end this! Bring it on ya undead bastard! (Korin’s player handed me the Plot Twist Card – Wrath calling on the Rider’s anger to get the better of him and change his tactics).

The Rider charged and landed a strong blow against Korin, but after the many horrors of the evening this seemed small in comparison. Our heroes had defeated every horror, freed those who had been chained from helping, and with no powerful allies left for the Rider to call upon victory for our heroes was all but assured. The ghostly spirit of a powerful man with a horribly scarred face pulled itself out from the back of the Cold Rider, calling forth an ethereal bow and arrow and firing into Korin’s chest. “You…I remember you…this time…I will avenge my Queen!” the ghost cried out. Unfortunately it’s declaration of vengeance was cut short as Korin’s axe and Tarvis’ staff struck the Cold Rider down in mere moments.

The animated object of the Titan’s Wheel windmill blades (courtesy of Mr. Raconteur) made short work of any remaining allies of the Rider.

The events of this terrible evening have now come to a close…what remains is the aftermath. How many lost their lives? How many were wounded? Can Valdrik survive such a blow to the spirit of their kingdom?

These questions will be answered in time…but for now, what of our other heroes? Let us rewind the clock of the evening back before the horror began to the banks of the Tuskwater Lake to begin another tale…

Next time on Kingmaker, the Realm of the Fellnight Queen.

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Book 3 Chapter 13 - The Carnival of Tears Part 3

Lissa d’Jorasco sat oblivious to the carnage around her, eagerly still trying to win the eating competition until her companion Sidney set down some flower with liquid in it next to her. Shooting him a glare that questioned why he was interfering didn’t have the same effect as it usually did, and with her arms tied behind her back she couldn’t tell him to leave in her preferred fashion.

Sidney offered the liquid. “It’s not against the rules to drink water. This’ll help you win.” Convinced for the moment, Lissa drank and her world fell apart. Sidney quickly cut her hands loose as Lissa realized what was going on around her. The other contestants had been burnt to death, her ‘pie filling’ was unmentionable and the chef had been splattered here and there.

Facing Sidney, Lizza’s stomach emptied itself all across his chest. A good five minutes later, when Lissa’s stomach was completely empty and a good round of dry heaving became manageable Lissa finally spoke. “I knew it was a mistake to go outside…”

“Lissa, have you seen Deedee? We haven’t found any children so far…”

“Of course, I told her to sit right over there for the competit—” Lissa pointed over to a nearby chair where a single kewpie doll sat flopped over. Thankfully, Lissa did still have her equipment with her, including a scroll of Remove Blindness which they used on Grigori – Sidney being okay with observing things through his homunculus for now.

There were three locations left that our group had not explored yet. The Ice Sculpting competition, the Ice Maze, and the Tent of Modern Wonders (sponsered by House Cannith). The sculpting event and and maze were closest – so time to start there first.

Traveling as a group to the surface of the frozen lake the Ice Sculpting competition was in full swing. Small, frozen blue gnome-like creatures with bushy beards made of sharp bristling ice shards were handing out hammer and chisel to the excited competitors who were smashing and stabbing helpless citizens frozen inside the ice with horrified expressions on their faces. Among the victims here, our heroes immediately recognized Auchs whose right arm and left leg were dangling from their sockets.

Thankfully, the Ice Chiselers were far too busy enjoying the carnage to realize their merriment was about to be rudely interrupted. Moving across the ice was an added challenge but not enough to deter our heroes. The Ice Chiselers and their stabby ice beards were quickly dispatched, and the competitors (the living ones anyway) freed from their prisons. Those that were frozen in the ice were suffering from hypothermia, and many were suffering from shock at the torture they had undergone. After managing to heal the wounded – though many had injuries (such as Auchs) that standard healing magic could not mend, Grigori, Bastion, and Lissa led the survivors back to the Ale Tent to hold up and stay safe while the rest explored the carnival.

Heading towards the Ice Maze, a terrible wolf howl was heard in the distance…
The walls of the maze were a good eight feet tall and about 8 inches thick but with no ceiling. The more disturbing nature of the maze however, was that there were corpses embedded in the walls every so often. Wandering through a maze that may or may not reconfigure itself once they enter would not be an ideal solution, so Valerie was buffed with some Invisibility and Fly to scout out the area. With her impressive perception and trapfinding skills there were multiple that were discovered from a safe distance. A giant Jack-In-The-Box, a field of sharp Ice Flowers, a section of ice that would flip to trap people underneath, and finally a great pile of corpses in the center of the maze accompanied by a familiar nine foot tall killing machine.

Valerie’s heart sank. The clothes and mannerisms only pointed to one person…this was Kundal, the half-orc hunter that had been an afflicted Big Bad Wolf responsible for the deaths of three citizens shortly after their kingdom was founded. They had managed a cure, but it would only last if he was a vegetarian the rest of his life. With the strange enchantment caused by the Eye of Rapture

The afflicted BBW sniffed the wind realizing that prey was nearby…turning down a corner and out of sight. Valerie decided that now was a good time to return to the others. Filling them in, it was an easy task to lead the others through the maze while avoiding the traps – breaking down walls where necessary to reach the center. Kundal burst forth from the center of the pile of corpses, scattering them everywhere as he waded into our heroes with his greataxe! With a heavy heart the wolf was struck down, reverting to his half-orc form staring off into the distance with empty eyes…

Two problems solved, one area left to stop. There were still traps here to deal with, and people still wandering the maze but it would take a lot of time to disable them all…
Our heroes stopped off at the Ale Tent to pick up Lissa and Bastion, with Grigori staying behind to protect the people as his position of Mayor demanded.

Heading over to the Modern Wonders tent back near the entrance of the carnival, they passed by a series of wagons that were home to the carnies. One of them clearly labeled “Master of Ceremonies – Namdrin Quinn. Do not disturb.”

Not one to honor most signs and/or warnings, Korin kicked the door off its hinges and stomped inside. Sitting in a large recliner in the corner, nursing a bottle of strong liquor was the Namdrin himself the elf and master of the Carnival of Shadows. Namdrin was not alone however, Mr. Raconteur the manager of Basilia Baxton was also pacing back and forth impatiently.

“You’ve got a lot of balls! Why didn’t you warn anyone about what was going to happen!?” shouted the dwarf.

A voice slurred with drink and dipped in anger replied from the elf “I. Couldn’t. Warn. Anyone. Part of my ‘contract’…”

“You mean for this?” Valerie pulled out the Ice Shard they had obtained from the Red Jester. Mr. Raconteur was at her side in an instant, holding his hand out for it. Placing it in his grasp, Mr. Raconteur snapped the shard in half, the frozen form inside growing into the full fledged sleeping form of Basilia Baxton.

“Sorry for your luck mate.” muttered the manager to Namdrin “But my contract is now broken. I am at your service, rulers of Valdrik.”

“Alright, but we have some questions first. We’ve been putting out fires as we can but…there’s still been no sign of this Cold Rider. How do we put an end to this?”

“Disrupt his fun…the attractions that he’s perverted, you keep burning those down and he’ll have no choice but to show himself.”

“And the children? We haven’t seen any of those since all this carnage started.”

“Well, you have me there. I would have expected the children to be in the carnage along with everyone else. I think the fae would have preferred it that way. I’m sorry, but I don’t know where they are.”

With Mr. Raconteur added to their retinue and Namdrin left to drown in his drink they finally arrived at the Modern Wonders tent. Outside a large skeletal figure running on clockword gears paced back and forth, occasionally picking up random passersby and throwing them inside the tent. A line was slowly making its way forward into the tent.
Mr. Raconteur took one look at the clockwork skeleton and nodded. “That’ll do.” With a snap of his fingers the figure stiffened and locked into place, now under the manager’s control as an Animated Object.

Using their official powers of cutsies followed by backsies several times the heroes made their way past the disturbing signs advertising the different machines provided by House Cannith – The Stacker! The Debarker! The Ten Splitter!

At the front of the line was Septim Garess, the warden of their council waiting patiently for his turn to go through the attraction. A flower was quickly shoved into his hands as another cheerful voice called out to Valerie.

“Hey! It’s so good to see you!” Waving from her place strapped to a conveyor belt, heading towards a large buzzsaw was the uncharacteristically smiling face of Roberta Catherine Evered d’Lyrandar. Valerie was…conflicted.

“Ah welcome welcome to the Modern Wonders ladies and gents.” A crooked looking man in threadbare clothes stepped forth from the shadows. A creature of nightmares, one who feeds on fear, a bogeyman!

Coming soon, the final chapter in the Carnival of Tears!

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Book 3 Chapter 12 - The Carnival of Tears Part 2

When last we left our heroes they were discovering a side of the fae unknown to most people, a terrible fury and wrath that has made itself manifest in a guise of mirth and humor while performing horrific acts of violence upon the populace of the country of Valdrik.
The Brownies that had been running the Titan’s Wheel were dispatched which prompted the sudden appearance of a six foot tall jester wearing a solid white mask in the shape of a Comedy smile (of Comedy/Tragedy fame). The rusted sharpened wheels of the windmill began to spin down the hillside heading towards the frozen river where the ice sculptors and ice skating events were taking place.

Sidney and Valerie began working in tandem to destroy the rest of the windmill in a controlled demolition while Korin Kool-Aid manned his way through the front wall with Mikmek following behind and buffing the rest of the party with Haste. Tarvis, seeing the danger of the windmill immediately sprang into action chasing after it. Calling upon his childhood memories as a street rat, having to learn the ins and outs of running through the alleyways of a large city, (with the Plot Twist Card – Childhood Lessons to give a +5 Insight bonus to his check) and the practice he underwent under with his mentor ingrained an impressive amount of acrobatic skill in the half-elf and they served him well now. With a running start, taking a couple of leaps off of nearby carnival stands and with a final pole vault from his staff Tarvis managed to land perfectly in the center of the wheel and turn it away from the frozen river….

Meanwhile as Tarvis had the diversion under control that left things squarely on the Jester’s shoulders to deal with these interlopers. The Jester’s skills were strange, throwing a set of playing cards at people that seemed to generate random effects from Invisibility to Faerie Fire to Slow while also striking foes with his jester’s staff complete with a creepy jester skull on the top.

Perhaps the most dangerous ability of their opponent however was when it removed its mask for a moment, revealing the surgically widened smile of a man underneath as he let forth a wild cackle that chilled the hearts of our heroes.

Mikmek and Valerie were seized with terror and took off in random directions – with Bastion running after Valerie to keep her safe. Sidney felt something grip his heart, that something was poking and prodding at that mortal reflex to run in the face of insurmountable terror but his thoughts drifted to his daughter DeeDee and none of it mattered. (Despite failing his save against the Jester’s Cackle, Sidney’s player used the Plot Twist Card – Pivotal Moment to negate the failed save) With Valerie having taken off, Sidney completed the work on the destruction of the windmill while Korin and Cassie faced off against the Jester.

Despite the Jester’s many tricks the sheer toughness of Korin and the healing abilities of Cassie proved a potent combination. With each strike of the axe, and stab of the knife multi-colored confetti spilled out of the jester as it continued cracking jokes and dancing about until finally the prankster was felled.

In the meantime, Tarvis had successfully crashed the windmill blades further upstream into the non-frozen river which had brought him close enough to the ice-sculpting competition to see what was going on there. The blocks of ice that people were putting hammer and chisel to still had people stuck inside them. Smiling carnival goers and aspiring artists could not see the chunks of flesh and streams of red that were being culled from their sculptures…whether the people stuck inside the ice were still alive was unclear. With a deep breath Tarvis headed back towards the others

“One problem at a time…”

As our heroes gathered back together, and the windmill successfully being safely demolished, it was time to take a closer look at the Jester’s body. The rod he carried was magical, a combination of enhanced with an Eberron Shard as well as being magical on its own – it was a Rod of Wonder! Not only that but the actual outfit the jester was in was magical…and apparently alive in some fashion…this only made things a little more terrifying about who the sorry person was that had been wearing it. In reality it seemed that the suit had been wearing him…

Sealed within one of the bells on the left part of the Jester’s hat a small ice shard was found that matched the description given by Syntira…this was one of the shards that had been used as leverage against Namdrin Quinn and Mr. Raconteur! But..what to do with it? Best to hold onto it for now at least…

Continuing towards the Pie Eating Contest there was one last stop…the Burlesque show. While Korin only wanted to peak his head in to see if there was any immediate danger, Valerie strode right on inside. Lively band music played as an exotic beauty was performing a fan dance upon the stage. Folks were filtering in to the show and a few were already seated, possibly from a previous performance. To the trained eyes of our heroes however, there was definitely something wrong – and clear signs of violence and the dragging of bodies out of the tent.

It was here that our heroes found another familiar face – Grigori Tulsa, mayor of Waterview. As Valerie administered the flower she realized that he was blind…and it was at this point that the dancer dropped her feathers and a great white light filled the tent!

Mikmek and Sidney could not avert their gaze in time and the world went dark…their eyes had seen the most beautiful creature in the world and decided that nothing else would be worth seeing ever again. Now that the Nymph had revealed her true nature, four more frozen Brownies leapt out from behind the curtains to rush through the audience towards their new victims!

Bastion and Valerie setup a defensive stance next to the blind Grigori to keep him from harm while Tarvis and Korin charged the stage…and both failed to strike the Nymph completely!
“Performance issues?”
“This uh…usually doesn’t happen you see…”

Cassie and Valerie however had little problems with striking the Nymph with an electrified Scorching Ray and Searing Light!

With Bastion’s assistance defending Valerie the remaining Brownie’s were of little threat – with only one of them managing to escape. There were now three members of the group that were blind, with only one potion of Remove Blindness available from Sidney.
Sidney passed the potion along to Mikmek, choosing instead to summon Homunculi and use their senses to observe his surroundings. Not the perfect solution, but it was better than nothing. Grigori however was tied to a rope connected to Bastion and chose to make himself invisible for the time being…arguing that it would be more dangerous to be separated from the group than to go along with them.

Finally our heroes made it to the eating contest. The delicious scents of sugary berries and fresh-baked pastries wafted through the air. A banner waving high in the air of blue silk beckoned carnival goers “Biggy-Piggy Pie-Eating Contest!”. Beneath the banner was a twenty-foot long table covered with a red-checkered tablecloth. Seated at a bench before the table, twelve local contestants – including Lissa d’Jorasco – eagerly stared at the empty pie dishes in front of them. Napkins were tucked into their shirts and their hands were tied behind their back.

The event’s sponser emerged from behind a wheeled cart – easily 600 pounds with porcine features, from cloven feet to to a piggish face. Wearing a double-breasted chef’s jacket with checkered cuffs and golden epaulets complete with a floppy white chef’s hat. Lifting some kind of cannon that was attached to a gigantic oven, the chef bellowed “Begin!” as he flipped a lever and ‘pie filling’ sprayed out of the cannon filling the contents across the table as the contestants eagerly began shoving their faces into the rotten and diseased entrails filling the pies.

Seeing that his contest was going to be interrupted, the chef – identified by out heroes as an evil type of Fae known as a Swinomancer – dropped his pie filling cannon. “Usually I would offer my delicious delicacies to those who would intrude on my contest. Are you sure you don’t want to find your place among the winners circle?” The Swinomancer gestured over to a small fenced area filled with a dozen or so fat pigs wandering about aimlessly.
“No, I suppose not…you are the troublemakers I’ve heard about after all.” The Swinomancer held up a hand, conjuring a Fireball and hurling it into the midst of our heroes – including the contestants!

All of the contestants were killed by the fire save for Lissa who miraculously managed to survive. Unfortunately for the Swinomancer no one else was felled by his magic and he found himself quickly surrounded by Valerie, Tarvis, and Korin…after being stabbed multiple times the only action left to the evil Fae was to conjure the furnace within himself, exploding in fire bursting forth from inside his body to try and take out the three attackers with him!

This too…was in vain.

Lissa has been found though Deedee is still no where in sight. The Carnival has been disrupted, but it’s still going on…how much longer until they can find the Cold Rider?
Next time on Kingmaker!

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Book 3 Chapter 11 - The Carnival of Tears Part 1

Our heroes had gathered at the edge of the Narlmarches forest and heeded the warning given by Syntira, nymph queen of the local Thelanis fae court. Ten people could drink from the flowers given by the queen, granting protection from the Eye of Rapture wielded by the Cold Rider.

Time was of the essence and the group quickly divided themselves into two groups. The first would be heading back towards the Carnival to fight against the frozen fae and save the town. The second group would be heading towards Candlemere to investigate and resolve the demi-plane of shadow coming from there.
Group One: Mikmek, Korin, Valerie, Bastion, Sidney, Tarvis, and Cassie.
Group Two: Alanea, Dox, Boudreaux, Eleanor, Lucius, Aurum, Ogg, and the Old Beldame.
For now, we follow the group returning to the Carnival, unaware of the horrors that await them…

Each member of the group drank their flower of protection leaving three left within the group. It was time…they only prayed they would be able to make it back in time…
The moons of eberron were high in the sky as our heroes returned to the carnival; lights shimmering off the ice like pale ghosts dancing in the darkness. The lively music that wafted throughout the festivities changed after the sounding of a gong, signifying the lighting of the fireworks. Colorful rockets shot into the sky, and as wild eyed onlookers watched with glee, a rain of leeches fell from the ‘fireworks’ coating the area with sickly wet noises.
Citizens were still lining up at the Ticket Booth, which had undergone a horrifying transformation. Pinned on the rickety wooden booths hung the precisely removed facial skins of unfortunate fairgoers, all twisted and stretched into expressions of grotesque laughter. Frost-limed tiny fae clattered about the booth, attending the oblivious crowd, handing them grisly event tickets peeled from tongues and fingers. Korin could not contain his anger, rushing to the front of the line and angrily grabbing one of the fae – which Cassie quickly identified as a Brownie.

Korin demanded answers, but the brownie only chortled “You shouldn’t take everything so seriously! Here, have a lolli!” The brownie offered what appeared to be a human eye shoved on a wooden stick. And then the second brownie in the ticket booth attacked! The brownies proved to have little offensive strength against the dwarven barbarian, however their fingers were sharpened into frozen needle points that spread a burning cold throughout Korin’s forearm.

After the first brownie was shattered into snow and ice particles, the other teleported away. Valerie spoke to the rest of the people in line with her impressive diplomatic skills and barely managed to convince them to head back to town and that the carnival was over for the evening. Unfortunately, this was the last group of people that our heroes could successfully convince to leave. Despite their pleas, and their arguments the happy carnival attendees did not seem to understand what was going on.

Sidney was dead set on locating Lissa and his daughter…based on Lissa’s eating habits her most likely location would be at the eating contest…on the other side of the carnival. Between our heroes and their destination were multiple other attractions. The drinking tent where the ale was supplied by Korin, the Titan’s Wheel strength contest, and the burlesque show tent.

The ale tent was closest, and there was the possibility that Lissa was there so our heroes rushed to their first attraction. Outside the tent there were loud boisterous voices singing drunken chants accompanied by the clinking of glasses. Pulling open the flap to the tent our heroes saw a tavern full of drunken lumberjacks in various disturbing states of transformation. Over half of the lumberjacks enjoying their brews had been turned into humanoid shaped trees, with roots burrowing out from their shoes and into the ground. Most of the others were in some state in between, with some having leaves and branches burrowing out from their skin.

It was here that the group located Corax, mayor of Tatzlford and leader of the lumberjack groups for their kingdom. Laughing at some unheard joke Corax hefted his greataxe “That’s right! I’m the strongest guy at all the camps, those trees don’t stand a chance against steel this strong!” and to prove his point Corax smashed his weapon through a nearby tree-lumberjack, splitting him in two. Yeah it was time to put a stop to that…
Three tiny figures floated through the tavern carrying pitchers that were much bigger than them. They flew amongst the happy drinkers occasionally refilling their mugs. After spotting the interlopers the fae, which were identified as Pixies, conjured bows out of thin air and began raining tiny arrows at our heroes. Unfortunately for them, their targets happened to be Valerie, Bastion, and Korin – all of whom had skin too thick to be harmed by the tiny arrows. Spells, jumping attacks, and carefully planned reactions against invisibile opponents (Candlemere had taught them well) made quick work of two of the three Pixies. The third quickly turned invisible and fled.

Korin sundered Corax’s axe, and with the ale not flowing any more the remaining lumberjacks drunkenly wandered off into the night.
The Titan’s Wheel was the next location on their way to the eating contest, and it too had undergone a horrifying transformation. Stripped of its once-colorful decorations, the windmill jutted like a rotten claw from a quagmire of mud and blood. Fairgoers navigated toward it on rotten planks arranged as stepping stones to span the fetid morass. Ghoulish trophies dangled from the great metal wheel, bound by their own intestines to the rusting metal as they dragged the remains through the mud and up into the air as the wheel rotated. More frozen Brownies led two separate lines at the Titan’s Wheel. The first line continued with the game, slamming the hammer down to test their strength while the second line was leading people around to the back of the windmill…

As our heroes approached the brownies at the first line quickly ran off to the back, followed by Mikmek, Korin, and Tarvis. Valerie and Bastion first spoke to the people playing the actual game before eventually just taking the hammer away from the people. Mikmek and Tarvis let loose with a series of Burning Hands which proved fatal for most of the brownies. The two left alive climbed higher into the insides of the windmill and as Korin stepped inside their nefarious trap was revealed – a series of chains quickly animated and wrapped themselves around his arms and legs quickly dragging the dwarf into the cogs of the windmill! To Korin’s disgust he was clearly not the first person dragged through this machine either – the second line to the back of the windmill was going through these people in droves. However these chains were no match for strength of the kingdom’s accountant! With a flex of his muscles the chains snapped into pieces while the other two brownies were quickly dispatched.

Valerie and Bastion in the meantime, had been breaking down a secondary wall at the base of the windmill determined to cause the device to collapse on itself. It was at this point that our heroes heard a soft jingling of bells and assorted “ooh” and "aah"s from the front of the windmill caught Valerie and Bastion’s attention.

Dressed in a pattern of red and black was a jester standing a good six feet tall and performing card tricks and bits of legerdemain to a gathering crowd. A mask of solid white covered the face of the jester in the face of a Comedy mask. “Ah, I see you’re making a bit of a scene at our happy carnival! Interfering with our merry tricks! You may think you’re at an advantage but I always pride myself on having an ace up my sleeve!” As the jester revealed the card in his hand to in fact be the Ace of Spades a quick fwip had slit the throat of one of the enraptured watchers as the card was thrown at the windmill itself severing the cotter pins that held the wheel in place. With a lurch the blades began spinning off their hinges, and cascading toward the frozen river where the ice carving competition and ice skating areas are!

Out heroes continue their travels in the Carnival of Tears next time on Kingmaker!

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Book 3 Chapter 10 - The Carnival of Shadows

It was time for some hardcore research into just what the hell was going on with the weather. Alanea, archaeologist and bookworm extraordinaire secluded herself in the various libraries (making good use of her Research feat, as well as her Lore Master ability from Bard) to learn all she could about unique weather related phenomena.
What she discovered…was disturbing…but the evidence fit the current situation so it was at least worth entertaining as a hypothesis. On occasion, various pocket dimensions or ‘demi-planes’ pop into existence…sometime they pop off of an existing plane like a budding mushroom or a stream of water leaving a river and eventually forming into an isolated pond. These demi-planes occasionally float across the cosmos and as with the other known planes sometimes become coterminous with Eberron, bleeding over their effects onto them. With Alanea’s research into the Planes, Arcana and Geography concluded that this effect was currently two fold.

A demi-plane of Ice and a demi-plane of Shadow were converging on the kingdom of Val’drik from two separate directions, effectively ‘sandwiching’ the kingdom in between them in a manner similar to shifting tectonic plates…

Boudreaux spoke up at this moment – “You mean, the same kind of event that creates volcanos is occuring on a planar level? That sounds safe.”

Demi-planes can in fact be ‘popped’ or have their planar essence bled off much in the same way a blister or cyst, but it would need to be done procedurally and with care – the most opportune time being at the peak of the demi-plane’s proximity to Eberron.

With some careful research Alanea was able to narrow down the time when the two demi-planes would be closest…in about two and a half weeks from now. Right during the second year anniversary celebration for the founding of the kingdom, when Basilia Baxton and the House Phiarlan Shadow Circus would be in town. Creating a small planar/geographic timing device to narrow down when planar activity would be at its peak, Alanea was satisfied she could at least have an alarm go off when it was time.
Knowing that shit would be going down in the next few weeks, while they still had the time the council organized their work ahead of the carnival… (aka it was time for the last Kingdom Turn of the Year).

Year 2 Turn 12
Hexes Claimed (Kingdom Size 48 now)
1. Hex where the party discovered Pax.
2. NE of Sootscale lair.
3. East of the Khyber Shard Mine
Improvements
1. Sawmill
2. Sawmill – Hex with Tyg-Titter-Tut and Perlivash’s home
3. Sawmill – Troll Lair
Buildings
1. House Lyrandar Air Station – City Value +1,000gp, Economy +2, Stability +2, Unrest -1
Event: The Carnival of Shadows

In addition to the arrival of the Shadow Carnival, representatives of House Lyrandar and House Cannith were also making a return to Val’drik. House Lyrandar, with Roberta Catherine Evered d’Lyrandar making her second debut at the kingdom was in charge of spearheading the construction of the Lyrandar Airship Tower.

House Cannith was showing off a host of new logging machines at the event, confident the new technologies would be a great economic opportunity for the lumberjack community of Tatzlford and beyond.

And with that short amount of time, the Carnival was in full swing. The sun had barely risen before Sidney felt a tug-tug on his arm. Bleary eyes opened to see a fully dressed wide eyed Delia d’Cannith with an expectant look on her face.

“Alright alright daddy’s up, we’re going to the carnival…” “YAY!”

Entertainers and vendors were out in force amongst the streets. Painted elves in bright outfits walked the streets on covered stilts handing out fliers and candies, jugglers, fortune tellers, and all other manner of carny folk were filling the air with a festive atmosphere despite the cold.

Part of the river on the northeastern part of town had been frozen over during the night, with a section of it being inspected and fenced off to allow people to ice skate safely. Priding themselves on all forms of entertainment, House Phiarlan also had a traveling Burlesque show within a well closed off tent – Lucius having to occasionally shoo curious children from getting too close.

Korin supplied free booze from his brewery which Phiarlan graciously accepted and kept the spirits high and flowing. Not only was the gruff dwarf the most populer member of the council at the local eatery (despite his ruthless reputation for economics and forcing people to dig holes as corporal punishment) but after trying his hand at the strength of test at “The Titan’s Wheel” he nearly broke the machine with his incredible strength!

Sidney and Delia participated alongside Dox and Lucius in the Sack Race. The more coordinated (and adult) members of the council made quick work of the rest of the competition while Delia clenched her small fist in a reaffirming pose as she looked to her father “The important thing is you tried your best!”

Valerie was finding it hard to join in the festivities. Perhaps it was the fact that her step-sister had returned once again…her very presence seemed to be a weight upon her shoulders, one that Roberta seemed to revel in rubbing in. Morphing into her peripheral vision was the familiar warforged hand of Bastion, offering a stick of cotton candy. “You do not seem happy to be at the carnival Valerie. Is this not a location of mirth and entertainment? You should participate in the many events going on here. It is an important part of the mortal experience.” Looking to her constant companion and bodyguard, the warforged had already become covered in many of the cute little ‘kewpie’ dolls that were being handed out as prizes. It was impossible to stop herself from smiling.

“Alright Bastion. Let’s have fun.”

The revelry went on through the day, fast approaching sunset as new fliers were being handed out with revelers shouting to passers by that an amazing firework display would set off the switch over to the evening events! It was around this time that each of the members of the ruling council heard a message in their head…

“Hello? I am trying to reach the rulers of the country of Val’drik. My name is Syntira, and your city is in grave danger…please…please meet me at the edge of the forest to the west of Waterview!”

Realizing the message was of a desperate nature, each member of the council gathered to head towards the meeting spot – with Sidney leaving Delia in the capable hands of Lissa d’Jorasco.

Grauk, the faithful ranger of Boudreaux continued to watch the roads in and out of town thus putting him out of the immediate picture.

As the leaders approached the edge of the forest the familiar sight of the hunched over Old Beldame was standing near the tree line. She called out in her signature raspy voice “You might wanna look away for this one!”

A bright almost blinding light grew from the forest as an immensely beautiful and very naked woman left the tree line. As the council looked away, hair was tastefully placed across her body as a beautiful but sad voice called out to our heroes.

“I am Syntira, Queen of the local fae court on the other side of here – back in Thelanis.” Ah, so she was from beyond the mushroom circle…interesting. “I come with a dire warning. My people have been…changed. Affected by a dark cold from the north…a rider upon a dead stag, and with a voice like cold steel he spoke whispers of vengeance and retribution against the many sawmills that plague the Narlmarches forest. At his arrival, my people changed. They no longer remember the green…they forget the woods. They have forgotten everything but hate. Now they come with the wind, led by the Cold Rider…they come to the carnival to butcher you and the rest of the mortals, and the only two that could have stood against their plans are chained by bonds of love stronger than iron.”

“You must act quickly! My kin already begin their slaughter. Your people bleed – I feel their pain as I once did the torment of the trees. Pain is evil. Tree, beast, or man, it makes no matter, and no measure of cruelty can repair what has come before. Your kin suffer for nothing but spite. Save them, and save yourselves…but take these with you, lest you offer youselves to the frozen fey as lambs to a butcher.”

The captivating woman held out her hands from which ten small flowers grew, filling up with a small amount of crystalline liquid. “Drink this and you will not fall prey to the Rider’s magic. He carries an iridescent purple flower of living ice called the Eye of Rapture, an ancient fey enchantment to cloak horror and agony in a guise of mirth and merriment. So long as this crystal remains unspoiled, your people will continue their revels as the fey cut them down. Only by frustrating the Rider’s plans can you force him to show his hand and end your people’s suffering once and for all!”

At this shocking news, the planar leyline device upon Alanea began flashing and beeping! The convergence was occuring, with all signs pointing to the south of their location…towards…Candlemere! The final piece of the puzzle had finally made itself known. Where Alanea had originally determined that their kingdom was being sandwiched by these two demi-planes, it was unknown that this demi-plane of ice was in fact pressing upon the neighboring portal to Thelanis the First World, forcing the plane of the Fae even closer than normal!

Time was of the essence. The Carnvial, or Candlemere? What will our heroes do? With only ten flowers given by Syntira there was only enough for all the members of the council…and who are these two that ‘could have stood against’ the frozen fey?
Find out in the next exciting chapter of Kingmaker: The Carnival of Tears!

Meanwhile…

From someplace close and far away at the same time, two figures wrapped in shadow peer through a mirror the size of a great entrance to a ballroom. A young voice calls out in surprise and elation at what they see. “Friends! There are friends! We have to call them! It’s been so long since we’ve had visitors!”
“Hush girl!” The larger figure’s voice snapping with authority as it held out an opened letter, sealed with a wax emblem of the First World. “Mother has finally called us after all this time…we must do as she asks. She’ll come for us. She hasn’t forgotten us. We must be an obedient daughter though musn’t we?” The smaller form whimpered, wiping tears of crimson flower petals from her eyes. “We’re a good girl. We’ll be good.”
“Still,” the larger figure mused “These ‘friends’ of yours will serve their own purpose. And look, that ugly old hag still lives after all this time. Things are going to get interesting…” A haunting laugh echoes through the vast halls of a land of twilight, pulling back to reveal a great obsidian castle covered in wriggling vines.

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Book 3 Chapter 09 - Winter is Coming

The Kingdom of Val’drik
Year 2 Turn 9 (January/Zarantyr)
Hexes Claimed.
1. Plains near Svetlanta
2. South East Hex from Candlemere
3. South West of Svetlanta
Hex Improvements.
1. Farm
2. Farm
3. Farm
4. Farm
5. Sawmill
Buildings.
1. Stockyard (Svetlanta)
2. Granary (Svetlanta)
3. Jail (Tatzlford)
Army Created: Small Human Army, The Valdrik Northwatch stationed in Svetlanta.
Event: None
The month of Zarantyr passed fairly uneventfully. Life was going on as normal, with some tensions between the Fae and the logging groups in the Narlmarches forest still tense but eased somewhat through the Pamphlets created by Boudreaux covering some of the basics of mortal/fae relations.
Letters continued to arrive for Alanea on a weekly basis as they have for nearly a year, ever since Maegar Varn attended the founding day celebration in Waterview the gentle rotund historian has become close pen pals with the Medani heir.
The most curious thing however was the flakes of snow that began falling from the sky. It started softly at first from somewhere in the Narlmarches forest. Despite the temperatures being in the 50s and 60s, a constant light snow was falling across the land. While it was melting as soon as it hit the ground the phenomena was still odd.

Year 2 Turn 10 (February/Olarune)
Hexes Claimed.
1. East of Pax’s old cave.
2. South East of Pax’s cave.
3. South West of Pax’s cave.
Hex Improvements.
1. Sawmill, South West of Svetlanta
2. Quarry East of Waterview
Buildings.
1. Foundry (Waterview)
2. Tannery (Svetlanta)
3. Brewery (Svetlanta)
4. Brewery (Tatzlford)
5. Sewer System (Waterview)
Event: Boom Town (Tatzlford – Economy +5 until next Event Phase)
Olarune continued with the expansion of the kingdom despite the falling snow. Many of the heartier beasts and crops that were locally discovered in the Kamelands were naturally resistant to changes in the weather. Tatzlford was actually enjoying a nice bit of publicity along with a new array of logging tools being brought into the village thanks to the constant increases in the number of Sawmills within the forest. Business was booming and new technology from House Cannith would make logging faster and more efficient than ever!
Dox was also in talks with Basilia Baxton to see if she was interested in returning to Val’drik for another founding day celebration. Basilia had been traveling Khorvaire as part of a tour with the Shadow Circus of House Phiarlan (sort of a Ringling Brothers equivalent) but she would see if they were interested in coming along to Xen’drik.
Snow continues to fall…temperatures are hovering in the 40s to 50s.
Year 2 Turn 11 (March/Therendor)
Hexes Claimed.
1. Forest hex that was home to spiders and spider swarms.
2. Hargulka’s lair.
3. The forest hex containing Perlivash and Tyg-Titter-Tut’s home.
Hex Improvements.
1. Sawmill.
2. Sawmill.
3. Sawmill.
Buildings.
1. City Wall (Waterview) Western Side.
2. Cistern, underneath Town Hall (Waterview)
Event: None
The Ruling Council convened to discuss just what might be going on with the continuing strange weather…initially the group just figured, “Hey it’s Xen’drik. Maybe this happens?” but if this weather was going to continue it could be a danger to the citizens and the crops…unfortunately reaching out to Pax did not lead to any useful information either.
Pax: “It’s snowing outside? Hey it’s Xen’drik. Maybe this happens?” followed by a shrug.
The group was also concerned about the Narthropple Expedition…it had been over six months since they had hired the group to explore to the West and try to find Fort Drelev (or as my players have started referring to it, Desert Bluffs). Sidney wasn’t quite up to creating a Crystal Ball just yet, and no one as capable of using a Sending aside from Cassie but even then it would be a gamble. Boudreaux’s Animal Messenger wouldn’t work if they didn’t have a location to go to either. After some thought Sidney popped up from the table. There was one other option they had to try!

Making his way back to the marble tower with the ancient warforged, Sidney remembered they had discovered that strange pool of water that seemed to transport people into other people’s dreams. With a small retinue of other council members, Sidney took a drink from the pool and dropped to the ground.
Sidney walked forward through a land of gray shadows, finally happening upon a door. Entering with a polite knock, Sidney found Jubilost sitting on a comfortable chair in front of a fire with a nice bowl of hot soup. After convincing Jubilost that he was in fact dreaming, Sidney got a bit up to date on what they had been up to. A majority of the land just west of Val’drik was a god forsaken swamp. While they hadn’t found Fort Drelev yet, they’re making good progress at least mapping out a decent swath of the marsh. Jubilost planned to be back within six months or so.

There was one other unsettling event within the kingdom, though this was more of a personal nature. For the past couple of weeks there had been no letters from Maegar Varn…something that was remarkably out of place for the historian.
Silence from the East…and snow continues to fall. Temperatures continue to fall to the 30s. Time to talk to the Old Beldame.

Next time on Kingmaker!

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Book 3 Chapter 08 - Diplomatic Elections

With their slowly expanding kingdom the ruling council decided they would need a better voice for the people – someone local in each of their cities to be their representative. Basically, they needed Mayors. (While the official title for each of these elected representatives would be ‘Viceroys’ in the mechanics of Kingdom Building within the game itself they are elected Mayors)

Then there was the issue of Pax Tera…whatever he is, it’s clearly not human. After some back and forth discussion (without Dox) between Pax’s demands and their counter offers, an agreement was finally reached. A Caster’s Tower would be built in the capital of Waterview specifically for Pax where he could live and study on his own. As a caveat, Alanea would be the only one granted unlimited access to these books, everyone else would be required to have Pax’s permission. Offically Pax would be held “on retainer” for assistance at the University, being granted Tenured pay and free room and board at his tower. The university would also offer Grad Student credit for assisting Pax with any of his research. The poor bastards.
There was one last caveat of the negotiations. Pax agreed to move into the tower, but also declared that if he were ever to leave…he’d get to take the tower with him. The council agreed, under the stipulation that Pax stayed in the kingdom for at least two and a half years.

Year 2 Turn 7 (November / Aryth)
Hexes Claimed:
1. Bandit Camp,
2. Pax’s Cave,
3. Cavern of the Glaive

Improvements:
1. Farm built at Oleg’s
2. Road built South East of Oleg’s
3. Finished road from Waterview to Oleg’s
4. Sawmill
5. Sawmill

Buildings:
1. Caster’s Tower
2. Town Hall (Tatzlford)

Event: None

Both Waterview and Tatzlford were officially scheduled to have public elections in the month of Vult (December). There were few restrictions as to who could vote, as long as you were a registered citizen of the country and you only voted once.
And within the month the results of the election came in!

The official Mayor of Waterview, to no one’s surprise became Grigori Tulsa whose way with words blew the competition away.

The official Mayor of Tatzlford is the head of the lumberjacks, Corax who the group had met over a year ago dealing with a troublesome fae having charmed halted his progress. The man was gruff, but he knew the locals and would look out for their interests.

Year 2 Turn 8 (December / Vult)
Hexes Claimed
1. Plains
2. Plains
3. Plains (all three near Oleg’s Trading Post)

Improvements
1. Farm
2. Sawmill
3. Sawmill
4. Fishery
5. Farm

Buildings:
1. Observatory
2. Smithy (Tatzlford)
3. Watchtower (converted Oleg’s Trading post as the new building of their new city – Svetlanta)

Event: None

In addition to expanding their kingdom, they finally created their third city. Converting the old trading post at Oleg’s into an official Watchtower, the group officially named the new town “Svetlanta”

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