Tales From Janus Valley

Treetop Intrigues
Adventure Among the Elves

A new day saw the party assisting Bill Barleycorn with his booze deliveries to the elvish city of Hala Xel. The first delivery to the Goldleaf Inn brought a mystery, as a nondescript elf woman left Zed a drink and a cryptic message. No trace was to be found of her, though, and the party rested for the night before mounting the lift to Hala Xel proper.

The morning brought with it new acquaintances. Sergeant Gaespa Furlevar greeted the party, warmly welcoming Visok back to his old stomping grounds. She passed on a tip that the elder shamans might be interested in some help. The party proceded on their business, only to run into another new (for most of them) face; that of one of Zed’s old trainers at the monastery, Callio. The elf offered to show the party around the city once their deliveries were finished. Dropping off the rest of the booze, the party bid Bill luck trying to woo the elvish ladies that ran the Wildvine Lodge, and set out exploring.

Their sightseeing ended at the Eldergrove, where a shaman faced a quandary: it appeared some of the local rock apes had stolen their spirit totems, and they needed someone trustworthy and discreet to recover them. The party signed up anyway. With an important consultation with the Xelian Primal Spirits only one day away, the party set out for the caves under the forest floor.

It was unmistakeable that they’d found the right cave. Trudging through filth and detritus, the party was swiftly set upon by the ferocious apes. Though they seemed nonthreatening enough, the apes showed how dangerous they were, tackling Tristan to the ground and gnawing on his face. Callio had accompanied the party, and joined Zed in battering one of the apes until Zed uppercut the beast’s head clean off. The party swiftly finished off their opponents and delved further into the caves.

They came to a small nesting area where an alpha ape and several of his brood lay in wait. The slick rock bridge across a pool was treacherous, and the alpha showed his formidable strength when he bodily hoisted Visok off his feet and tossed him into the water below. Dashiel slipped by two of the apes, only to be struck by a huge rattlesnake that had snuck into one of the nests. The battle in the dark went fiercely, but Tristan’s knives found the throats of several of the apes, and Dashiel decapitated the snake with a well-timed arrow. Visok recovered the totems from the nest where the snake had lain; grimy, but none the worse for wear. Looting what few valuables they could find, the party headed back for the surface…

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The Thing in the Cave
Feed Upon the Unself!

At the center of the blighted forest lay the cave described in the old wizard’s journals. As the party approached, they noticed the gray, dismal trees twitching and shuddering, despite the noticible lack of wind. Steeling themselves, Zed, Tristan, and Dashiel entered the yawning gulf before them.

The cave was a rocky path back into the mountain. Roots slithered ominously across the ground, prompting the party to tread carefully. As they crested a sizable hill, they noticed a strange, otherworldly light.

From a deep pool, surrounded by the slithering roots, unnatural colors were emerging. A slumped humanoid form knelt at water’s edge. The party approached cautiously, only to find that the body belonged to a long-dead wizard. A network of taproots burrowed into the mummified body and the corpse began to speak.

The creature’s strange speech patterns were difficult to make out, but it spoke of feeding upon all it deemed “lesser,” and of growing strong enough to call “the Spawnsire.” Its intentions became clear when it wielded the wizard’s body like a puppet, summoning a torrent of tainted water that washed the party down the hill to the mouth of the cave.

Gasping and weakened by the poisonous flow, the party knew they had to get close enough to administer the wizard’s curative water. They battled up the incline, through walls of roots that had grown to block their progress, dodging jets of the creature’s toxic water. As they neared their goal, the dead puppet began sending bolts of lighting through the standing water, electrifying it. Exhausted and injured, the three heroes steeled themselves for battle.

The corpse wizard cast a protective field over the pool and began attacking with magic and the mobile roots. During the arduous struggle, the sinister intelligence reached into the body’s robe and deployed a weaponized water mixture that left the party burning and blinded. Destroying the corpse, the force bubble dissipated, and the spirit of Aegwar could rest at last.

The job was not yet done, though. Tristan drew the mixture that had cured the village wells and prepared to end the threat once and for all. As a desperation move, the Thing in the pool launched a screeching psychic attack that brought the heroes reeling to the floor. Fighting through their pain, the adventurers emptied the contents of the bottle into the pool. The water churned, the roots in the cave thrashed violently, and the creature’s telepathic death throes sent shockwaves through the heroes’ minds. The otherworldly colors dimmed to a pervasive red glow and with a final cry of “Spawnsire! Vengence!” the creature, whatever it was, perished.

As even the redness faded and the cave fell silent, the party noticed light coming from a tiny hole in the ceiling. It illuminated the only evidence that remained of their adversary: a small, irregular crystal that now floated in the pool. The party carefully fished it out, but didn’t know what to make of its unintuitive angles. Climbing the hill outside, they found the impact crater from the falling star the wizard wrote of. At its bottom; a tiny hole deep into the mountain just big enough for the crystal to pass through.

Wearied, and with many questions, the party felt a holiday was in order.

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The Wasted Countryside
The Village Saved. A New Enemy Emerges.

Time was running out for the villagers of Sweetwater Village. Tanna’s arcana skills helped cross a few more pools off the list, before she was felled by an enchanted sleep. Working together, the remaining party members worked through process of elimination to concoct the correct potion that could cure the ailing halflings. One of the pools offered strange visions that the party noted to follow up on later, but for now, the villagers needed their help.

Wasting no time, the party rushed down the mountain, arriving at Sweetwater Village just as Kyle Rosering and his rowdies were getting back to down. They were terrified at the sight of their countrymen wasting away on the ground, and agreed to help. Visok and Zed set about treating the wells, while Tristan nabbed Bill Barleycorn to fill him in on the wizard’s pools. As Kyle and his boys distributed the cured water, the halflings began to recover. Victory was cut short, however, by a psychic assault of unfathomable frustration and hunger emanating from the hills. Shaken, but determined, the party agreed that whatever had been feeding off the village had to die.

The party hacked their way up the mountain before arriving at a strange area of the forest. A clear line had been drawn: on one side, healthy woodland; on the other, a grey, brittle mockery of nature. Tanna confirmed that it wasn’t a natural phenomenon, and Zed caught that the wasted area was perfectly circular. Clearly their target was at the center.

As the party progressed cautiously through the wastes, they began finding dead bodies. Hunters, explorers, adventurers, and others had been caught and lashed to trees. They’d apparently been left there and fed off of, much like the halflings of Sweetwater Village. An unnatural fog crept up.

Out of the haze, three hooded figures emerged. They spoke of the end of the world, and commanded the party turn back and submit to the forces at hand. When rebuffed, the strange figures displayed a surprising knowledge of the party, and warned them of the futility of their efforts. When it became obvious that a fight was inevitable, the mist coalesced into a fourth hooded figure, who stabbed Tristan, and the battle was on.

The attackers displayed strange powers. One unfurled a mass of barbed black tentacles from his sleeves that kept Tanna entangled for much of the fight. A hulking hooded figure lept into battle, threatening brutal punishment on any trying to get by him. Zed caught the last assailant, a powerful spellcaster, and broke him over his knee. The lifeless body evaporated before their eyes, leaving only a precious metal ankh, and a green spark of light that shot off towards parts unknown.

Tristan engaged in a brutal knife-fight with the cackling sneak attacker before succumbing to his injuries. After a quick spell from Visok, Tristan leaped to his feet and gutted his opponent, who likewise vanished. Tanna escaped her opponent’s tendrils long enough to behead the hulking adversary, whose punches had failed to even scratch Visok.

That left the tentacled attacker. Wasting no time, Zed unleashed his devastating cacophonous shout that shredded the foe and revealed his warped, twisted visage for all to see. With his final words, the last adversary told the party that their efforts were, at best, buying them time, and that the day of reckoning would come regardless. He vowed that they’d meet again before he too vanished. Battered and bleeding, the party withdrew to rest the night…

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The Room of Pools
Drink It In

Brelyn contented herself with looking through the wizard’s posessions until, in a flash of light, Zed and Tristan Wayfarer reappeared from their strange sidequest. Brelyn‘s efforts had turned up a magic mirror with a recorded message from the old wizard. The reuinited party proceeded down the stairs until they were stopped by an arcane construct that served as a security system. The construct wouldn’t stand down without instructions from its former master, so the party had to work quickly to disable the arcane generators that were building up a massive charge. The image of the wizard in the mirror confused the construct briefly, and Tristan and Zed were able to bust of the trap. The guardian got a few good shots in, but the party rolled over him and proceeded on their way.

Down in the depths of the mountain, a room was full of pools of water laden with magic. A journal belonging to the old wizard, Aegwar clued them into the formula they needed to reconstruct to cure the halflings’ wells. The only problem: none of the seventeen pools were labelled. Arcana checks were useless in the presence of so many conflicting sources of magic, so it came down to good old-fashioned experimentation to find the pools of Healing, Evolution, and Aura.

Initial responses were favorable. Tristan pushed Brelyn into a glowing pool that infused her robes with a powerful enchantment. The pool of Healing was quickly deduced, but Zed’s leap into another pool sent him into a brief berserker fury.

The party proceeded more cautiously, trapping a few rats to use as test subjects. All was going well until a rat dropped into a thick green pool emerged large, humanoid, and decidedly feral. The party had to put the beast down, with Zed suplexing it into another pool, which turned out to contain a powerful acid!

Tristan tried to gather a sample of the sludge only for it to respond and attack. A brutal battle followed as the ooze beast evolved to counter attacks the party used against it. With Zed bleeding out on the ground, the party finally took down the monster, which collapsed into a dormant slime again, and it was agreed that one had to be the Evolution pool.

The party decided to gather up likely sample candidates and retreat, only to find that outside the wizard’s special bottles, the waters’ magic faded outside the room. With time running out for the halfling village, the adventurers pressed on. The experiments continue…

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Through Unspace
A Hasty Alliance. A Fight for Freedom.

When the glare cleared, Tristan and Zed found themselves somewhere else entirely. They were standing on a cluster of rocks floating in the middle of a seemingly endless void. Around them were other humanoids, imprisoned in cocoons made of some kind of fiber. They began freeing the others. Inside were a gigantic green-scaled dragonborn named Varis, a bow-slinging eladrin named Dashiel, a telepathic Gith who fled the scene, and a grey-skinned humanoid who thanked them for thier assistance before slicing a hole in space itself and leaping through. One of the final cocoons held the remains of a genasi whose armor had absorbed some of his essence. Tristan took it, and Zed laid his body to rest.

There wasn’t much time for introductions, though. Predatory creatures swooped in from the void, looking to recapture their prey, while bits of mud and crystal rose from the ground itself and joined the attack. The hastily-formed party made short work of the attackers, and all were amazed when Varis took a tremendous explosion to the face without flinching. With the creatures’ deaths, the nimbus of rocks formed a pathway into the distance. It also unearthed some remains and a magic longsword that Dashiel took.

At the end of the path was a small stone structure. Inside, the party got lost in a magically-induced maze of corridors. They found the dying Gith, whose magic choker kept him alive just long enough to tell the party to look for messages. What followed was a frantic flight from creatures that seemed immune to all attacks and a search for some other adventurer’s charcoal scribblings. They led to a room in the heart of the maze with a portal whose energies the creatures were drawing from. Rallying, the party laid waste to their foes, with Tristan taking a head for unknown purposes. The victory was bittersweet, however, as the party found their unnamed benefactor, charcoal stick still clutched in his dead hand. Varis respectfully took the adventurer’s bracers, and the party jumped through the now-active portal.

The other side was a series of platforms in the void, covered in strange devices that were drawing in vast amounts of arcane energy. A beholder sat on the highest platform. He called himself Sclerex, and described himself as a genius who had constructed these devices in this pocket dimension to draw energy from magic items in the real world. Parley went south quickly when it became clear that he had no intention of letting the party leave alive. A sleep ray from one eye put Zed on the ground for the start of the fight. While Tristan and Dashiel engaged the beholder’s draconic sentries, Varis began a purposeful stride towards Sclerex. Along the way, he shrugged off telekinetic blasts, waves of necrotic energy, fire, and sleep beams, before mounting the platform and brutally bashing Sclerex with a giant maul. Zed awoke just in time to roundhouse the head off the last sentry before joining Varis in unleashing hell on the megalomaniac. Sclerex had just managed to pick himself off the ground when a clutch shot from Dashiel found its mark in his main eye. The killshot sent him hurtling back into his devices, and the collective energies started destroying the structure. As the machines began exploding all around them, the party jumped through an emergency escape portal. Time and space bent around them and…

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(Not so) Sweetwater
It's happening too fast! You have to save them!

As Maynard’s Crossing rebuilds from the attacks of Canopius Vig, the party is picking up the pieces. Visok has accepted a volunteer job training guards to assist the cleanup sweeps. Zed is practicing his kata and meditating. Tanna is shopping. Brelyn is … herbalizing. Krisella has mysteriously disappeared after the battle.

Queue has spent the last several days communing with spirits when she has a terrible vision. The mysterious spirit has warned her that the Red Sky is coming faster than expected. She saw a series of visions and was urged to find the Lady of the Sea. Tracking down the party, Queue and company sought out the so-called “Lady,” a waterfront tavern.

Inside, no world-shaking events appeared to be happening. The party encountered a gentleman named Tristan Wayfarer who was dismayed to find he was in Queue’s dreams. While the gang attempted to sort it all out, a bar brawl broke out at the hands of some rowdy halflings.

Beating some respect into ringleader Kyle Rosering‘s face, the party came to find out he was afraid to return to his hometown, on account of some wasting sickness. Seeing a parallel in Queue’s visions, the gang set out for Sweetwater Village

On the way, a gang of orc highwaymen tried to rob them. It didn’t work out so well for the would-be thieves. Looting them, the party found a map to a cave in the mountains, and a bottle of magic liquid that released a massive shockwave when broken.

Sweetwater Village was a mess. Some tainted wells had the local halflings in a stupor, with the exception of Bill Barleycorn, a brewer who’d survived by drinking only his own product. (He was a mess too.) Bill told the story of a time once before when the wells ran sour, but were saved by a mysterious traveller’s bottle of magic elixer. He produced the bottle, and, sure enough, it was a match for the ones the orcs had been using. The party set out for the cave, stopping only to block the toxic wells off.

Sneaking up on the orc sentries, the party cut a swath of destruction through their ranks. The cave proved to be well-constructed dwelling that the orcs had recently occupied. In an arcane laboratory deep within, the party squared off with the orc warleader and, after a lengthy battle of attrition, put him down. The lab was strangely sparse, but an elaborate arcane door held the promise of further secrets. Tristan and Zed picked the lock, but suddenly there was a bright flash…

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The March on the Crossing
The Necromancer Dies Today

Arising after the previous day’s exertions, the party hustled for the lair of the necromancer Canopius Vig. The blockade they’d left had been carefully removed, and beyond lay a vast, empty hall. Empty, that is, except for unoccupied slabs and a single bloated zombie that kept mumbling to himself. Canopius had left a prerecorded message for the party, daring them to stop his attack on Maynard’s Crossing. As a final parting gift, the corpse swelled up and spewed contagion, infecting the gang with Canopius’s plague of undeath. Time was of the essence.

Hastily grabbing anything of value, the party followed Vig’s trail out the secret exit, finding that Southside was under attack by legions of the living dead. Between them and town sat dozens of zombies. Time to get to work. Krisella and Zed set about blasting the undead crowd when a volley of flasks of acid decimated the zombies’ numbers. Sergeant Gneiss had come to the rescue! The guards brought the party to their forward command post.

The situation was deteriorating. Vig’s plague was transmissible by zombie bite, and the initial attack had the town scrambing to contain the devastation. The guard had made several pushes to assault Vig’s position in the Oldtown Cemetary, but had been repulsed again and again. The party tried to convice the guards to let them make a try of it, but Gneiss and the others refused to throw away any more lives. The party finally convinced Gneiss of their intentions, and she, exasperated, agreed to provide what cover she could.

What followed was an all out sprint to the graveyard. Visok dropped his shoulders and powered through the undead’s ranks. Tanna left a trail of burning bodies as she carved a path, and Zed moved like lightning over and around everything in his path. As the gang regrouped at the cemetary, Krisella hopped down from a nearby rooftop, having avoided all that unpleasant business. With the undead in the city, the cemetary was eerily deserted. Tanna sensed magic at the cemetary center, and the stage was set for a final showdown.

Canopius Vig was gleefully painting runes on a bare skull, and stood within an enormous bloody sigil on the ground. Between him and the party were two gnawed-on former guards, each with large gems in their chest, and a pile of corpses. He welcomed the party warmly, greeting them as his future undead slaves. With a wave of his hand, the corpse pile stood up into a stiched-together monster he called “Gash,” and the fight was on!

Tanna and Visok moved to engage Gash while Zed and Krisella tried to get by Vig’s undead bodyguards. Zed got into position and opened up on Vig, but what’s this?! The Necromancer’s sigil was deflecting the damage onto the zombie guards! Zed spitefully took Gash out and closed to take another shot at Vig.

Gash arose again as Tanna and Krisella finished off the first guard. Gash arose, that is, only for Visok to hammer him right back to the ground. Zed launched another attack at Canopius, who mocked his wasted efforts. Zed took the head off the last zombie guard, and the necromancer started sweating. Gash arose once more, only for Visok to bury the abomination a third and final time.

Out of nowhere, Krisella jumped on Vig. Daggers flashed and the sound of crunching bone and tearing flesh filled the air. When it was all over, Vig was kneeling dazedly on the ground, and his guts were spread all over the clearing. The magistrate had been avenged.

As death closed on him, Vig made a final outraged petition of Orcus, swearing that he would have been ready for the Red Sky. Orcus didn’t want to hear it, and Canopius Vig died a gruesome death. Tanna ate his heart for good measure.

Vig’s plague was dispelled with his death, and the party felt their vitals returning. Without his magic to guide them, the zombie army was little more than shambling targets. The party strode off to help the guard clean up the streets.

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