Defenders of Autumn

Prologue

People new to Autumn are often pleasantly surprised at how peaceful and pleasant a town as “interesting” as Autumn is. Arriving via Skycraft showcases its mosaic of cultural influences. Architectural, magical, social, and civil-engineering concepts from far more races than this world alone must hold somehow meld into a generally pleasant, thriving, and happy community.

There are dangers, of course. The death rate around Autumn, if not in the town proper is quite high, though it should be noted these statistics are almost solely due to abundant hired-adventurer fatalities, whose sacrifice ensures the town’s peace. Autumn is a town that understands both the price of vigilance, and the benefits. Despite the excitement, Autumn is no more dangerous than any other town in the Dragon Empire.

Many make there way here, and many of those find themselves in the Grinning Oaf Tavern. One night in particular would change the course of several lives, and the course of history.

A sorcerer who once thought only of themselves works the room, chatting up anyone who could help them find adventure.

One of the lizardfolk — a race of mostly savage sentient-eaters — sits in a corner, clawed fingers expertly pulling a pleasant, unobtrusive tune from their lute.

A living statue, the last warrior of an ancient goddess is here, looking pensively at a goblet of mead on the bar before her.

In through the open door (for it is a warm evening) stomps a wild Gnome of the Gnorth, muttering under her breath “‘Untold dangers’, porting home without me, by my pointy hat I’ll…”

Humans, the other races agree, are masters of emotional expression. Elves, for example, tend to be either stoic or throw themselves fully into one emotional expression at a time. Humans can create a stew of emotional expressions all at once, making them both adorable and infuriating to other races.

The human sorcerer currently excusing themselves from a discussion with two off-work Dwarven miners currently displayed the following emotions, should one be skilled enough to read them: Exhilaration, dread, relief, and a deeper sadness mixed with a twinge of guilt.

“Did you say ‘untold dangers’?!” they exclaimed, a little louder than they’d meant.

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Rear Guard
What could possibli go wrong?

If you prefer your stories brief, I am not usually the one you should seek, but I’ll try.

Meet our heroes, a charming rogue with great natural power named Blue, a Gnome of the Gnorth (and recently ex-babysitter of wealthy children) Gnaomi, the living statue of an ancient goddess brought to life Mur, and a curiously non-savage, non-cannibalistic lizardfolk (desert variety) named Mort who was even more curiously a musical genius.

Not all of them were looking for adventure when this whole thing began. Oh sure, they were all of the adventuring type and currently with spaces to fill their schedules, but truth be told only one of them was truly interested in the job that night.

Heh, that job. “Rear guard duty”. So bad, so unwanted that even after Blue’s “offensive negotiations” backfired these four ended up getting it: the crappy job that would end up changing Autumn forever.

Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So yeah, “offensive negotiations”… it turns out they were so offensive some red-skinned humans took it upon express their displeasure. With maces.

Guess they’d never heard not to anger a Gnome of the Gnorth before. Or a whatchacallit, animated-ancient-goddess-statue either, because the two of them tore through those humans so fast half of ‘em didn’t have enough time to put expressions of surprise on their faces. For their leader that might be for the best ‘cause Mur tore his belly open with her scythe and then stuffed his corpse into a dumpster, and I’d hate to be buried with a big “What’s going on” look on my face.

Then she just, walked away. They say she’s a holy warrior, but she gives me the creeps.

Sorry, I was going to make this short…

Ok, so they headed out to the crappy little outpost they needed to hold for three days. (That’s weird, isn’t it? Why?). Turns out some Warbling Mushrooms had sprouted across the road. Normally that’d be a really unpleasant time for everyone but that Mur explained matter-of-factly that they could put Deadmoss in their ears to block the painful sound.

Then she killed and harvested them, noting their use in the creation of healing potions. I tell you, I’ve seen entire caravans gone mad by Warbling Shrooms and that… statue dealt with them like they were nothing. Creeps, I tell you.

They also had a wolf pack threaten them, but that wasn’t a problem either. Gnaomi used her Gnomish War Kazoo to becalm the pack. One of them even seemed to form a bond with her, though it left with the rest.

They got to the outpost, with general orders to keep the area secure and head off any threats to the town of Autumn itself. Almost the instant the six former guards guards were out of earshot, a Kobold warband attacked, lead by their “Hero” who shouted “Now there are less! For the Tribe! Attack!”

Now, Kobolds are a bit of a terror for your average farmhand but truth be told most adventurers don’t give them a lot of respect. This party, though… they downright honored those Kobolds… by wiping them out nearly instantly.

Blue’s Scorching Ray tore through the entire pack of Kobold Archers, killing them all. One lived long enough to let loose a final arrow, but then died to the magical burns sizzling across his flesh. (Critical Hit on Mooks plus Ongoing damage)

Gnaomi just ran flat out to nearly the entire pack of Kobolds giving all of them clear chances to strike her before she became a whirling dervish of axe chops and pointed headbutts. She didn’t hold back one bit. That’s respect.

Mur walked from Kobold to Kobold, silently and efficiently ending them with her scythe, while Mort hurled insults that his Bardic magic used to sew chaos and finally stop the Kobold Hero’s heart. (Befuddle and a Battle Chant killing blow, both on the Kobold Hero).

OK, OK, three out of four respected the Kobolds.

The Kobold Hero bore a map and her instructions:

“The Tribe must flee. The champions of the tribe must flee first to find safety. Fleeing first is true Kobold courage. It is the way of survival for the Tribe. Kobold champions must make the fleeing-place safe. If the Tribe cannot flee, the Tribe will perish to the Oncoming Storm. Nothing is more important than the Tribe. Fight. Do not flee.
Unless you get really hurt, then you can flee. You’re not super kobolds.”

Gnaomi explained they needed to collapse the Kobold burrow or more would threaten Autumn.

It was around this time that young wolf made an appearance. That made Gnaomi very happy, I’ll tell ya. It’s too runty to be any help in combat, but already seems to be following simple commands.

They left Mort behind to watch the guard post and followed the map, which lead through a treacherously deep swamp. Using some of the Warbling Shrooms from before, Blue created a ritual of ice-walking, causing their path to ice up ahead of them and de-ice behind as they walked. A little more slowly and carefully than before, they resumed their way to what appeared to be the mouth of an ancient tomb, its interior blanketed by a mountain rockfall in ages past.

A giant stone door was slightly ajar. Gnaomi saw Kobold tracks leading from the doorway, as well as two more tracks heading in. They signified a pair of humanoids who’d wedged the door open enough for themselves to get in and the kobolds out.

“Probably human,” Gnaomi snorted, “They’d do something this foolish.”

Mur pulled the large stone door off its hinges.

“What about this Kobold burrow-hole?” Blue asked, pointing at the small tunnel breaking through a weakness in the stone floor.

Wordlessly, Mur hefted the huge stone door and dropped it flat across the hole.

“Fixed,” she stated as her head turned to peer into the darkness of the tomb as if she’d seen it somewhere before, and was trying to match memory with what she could see in the dim light now spilling in.

Armored statues lined the walls while columns etched with tales of heroism and the proud kingdom it spawned lined what was once a majestic carpet, but was now simply slightly different colored dirt.

Spurred on by her vision, Mur made her way inside, followed (of course) by the rest. Stairs led to a dais guarded by two skeleton warriors, all that was left of a once-noble afterlife honor guard. Things were made more difficult by an opportunistic Ghoul and its two “recent hires”, the two foolish humans who’d opened the tomb were now newly-risen Ghouls. It was founding a new nest with free door guards!

The undead were dispatched without much trouble. (So little trouble I didn’t even take notes. Lots of 20s were rolled by the players.)

Mur’s vision lead her to open the crumbling sarcophagi, revealing the dusty remains of an ancient king. Across the remains was what appeared to be a large halberd blade with a wicked curve. As Mur reached to pick it up, everyone in the tomb felt a pulse of connection.

As Mur worked to placed the relic on the haft of her simple farmer’s scythe the source of the blade became clear. The claw of a massive dragon had been sharpened by skills long-lost, into this, “The Claw of Furious Vengeance,” Mur announced to her party’s quizzical expressions, as though it explained everything.

Gnaomi and Blue exchanged glances. Sure, their holy warrior has a cool new magic weapon, but… dragons don’t lose their claws. And most of them, good or bad, don’t take kindly to people (or living statues) using their remains as tools.

Also, why is Blue’s hand smoking?

“Why are we standing around? Did you FORGET?”

(to be concluded — we ran out of time before the finale encounter which will happen first thing next session!)

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Hostile Takeover
Imperial Bureaucracy And Ogres

My Lady,

I have done as you asked, in the manner you asked it. The land is mine, by all Imperial rights and laws, and the two Ogres who dwell there still live.

[The Imperial Seal of Lestin Dumal, Duke of the Caustic Marsh]

P.S.: Of the group I was to check on, all but the lizardfolk bard had left to investigate a finding in the hills. Deputy Gwinn seemed pleased at this. Perhaps you will be too.

P.P.S.: The Ogres are indeed a cute couple. I understand why you didn’t want me to simply end them in their sleep. They’ll be interesting tenants should they decide to stay after the change.

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Rolling Thunder
Surely none of this is related

Blue’s smoking hand held the Archmage’s Wand of Memory. Apparently it was pointing at something Blue had missed, its painful heat’s glow revealing the flow of magics about the tomb.

It was flowing down and out, like water down a drain, of water were a glowing blue mist moving about in the air not at all like vapor would. Almost alive, one might say, but being pulled down and through the crack nonetheless.

This was why such an ancient and powerful lord’s defenses were so reduced — something had been leeching its power away.

Desperate to find where the power was and what it was being used for, the party checked the crack by tying Gnaomi’s Nanny’s Eye Ring to a string and used it to see deeper. It widened out into a sloping passage. They excavated the crack and headed down together.

The passage widened into a deep underground chamber with another, larger passage at the back. In the center was a ring of rock and ash containing six glowing skeletons of what appeared to be (to those educated enough) dragon hatchlings.

As they approached, the hatchlings stirred, then pulled themselves upright and lurched towards the heroes.

After a difficult battle that included both Gnaomi and Mur ending up face-down (temporarily, in Mur’s case), the party made their way out, hearing a great rumbling in the distance. Peering toward it they saw a great white dragon take to the sky and fly away.

They returned to their posts, satisfied they’d done their jobs, held it for the next few days, and were, as promised, relieved by the former guard later.

GM Note: This is actually the “end” of the previous “adventure”. Then we began the next, below.

When our party returned to Autumn, they met Sheriff Autumn for the first time in a mysterious meeting at the town’s edge at twilight. He let them know nefarious forces would be looking for them after their destruction of the skeletal hatchlings. Until he had more information he had set them up a safehouse to use — a privately owned and used floor with several rooms, located above a general store a few blocks from The Grinning Oaf.

After a few day’s rest, Deputy Gwin contacted the party with information on some secret society that was preparing a ritual to track them down. How the Sheriff came about this information was unknown, but they had a few leads.

During their investigation they encountered the town’s Church of Normon, (of current-day saints), who were weird but helpful, and followed cultists through a hedge maze to a secret meeting room under a statue. They easily knocked out the guards out front, and Blue Mort put on cultist’s robe, using them to surprise the cultists inside before murdering them all.

After dispatching the cultists (and a noxious Ooze From Another Realm they had summoned) they pulled back a large curtain covering a wall to reveal a huge painting of Malastraza, the town’s Mausoleum Dragon!

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Advanced Destiny & Dragons
Happy Shade's End!

The heroes helped the town prepare for the Shade’s End Celebration. That night, as the town was gathered in the park for the revels, Malastraza landed and attacked Sheriff Autumn, who seemed prepared for her arrival. When she lept at him he grabbed her by the throat and ripped her incorporeal self from her body.

Rather than dying, her body, now shrivelled and darker, attacked those remaining including our heroes. At full power these heroes would be no match for the ancient Malastraza. Even against this… “husk” of what she was the heroes were hard pressed to survive.

But survive they did. When Malastraza’s corrupted body was destroyed, Sheriff Autumn released his grip. The non-corporeal part of Malastraza still had a furious glare, darting between the heroes and the Sheriff, but she backed away and gave a short nod before leaping into the sky.

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From the Desk of Rash #1

Date: 4th Day After Arrival

All things considered, this could have gone much worse.

I learned from the orcs of a nearby town, Autumn, before they chased me off. I should stop there for information, at least. Maybe let someone know about the vermin? If they don’t chase me off too.

I can’t stop looking at my hands. Much worse indeed!

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