The Tiki Company's Epic adventure Great Job!

What Lurks in the Lagoon
Part 7 of TTC Renewed

Our affairs with Belarin settled and Serket sent off to find a better life, we left the stinking city of Ontas far behind us as we made our way back to Almernae. Teresa was adamant in joining us, and by the time we were prepared to find Wilward Jones’ hidden chest, we had found that Mersh had once more disappeared.

This was becoming too common an occurrence.

I am not sure if it was his business with Serket, which he had yet to explain under the promise that he would one day soon tell me, or if it was the looming fight ahead of us, but he had vanished into thin air. His disappearance did nothing to help my nerves. Without Buck, there were few in our company I felt I could rely on to keep the party together. Moira and Albion were new to the party, and while Albion was as calm as they come, I’m sad to say he was no leader. Moira on the other hand was caught up in the thrill of the adventure and was more than happy to simply follow the road to where it would take her. Peregrine, while a brilliant fighter and inventive strategist, I could not depend upon to keep the rest of the company on task and keep our morale level. Mersh was mysterious. He was strange, wacky, and sometimes caused more trouble than the villains we so often fought. But he was a friend, someone I could always depend upon to be there when the party needed him.

It was only this thought that compelled me and the rest of the Tiki Company to pursue our target. When we needed him, Mersh would be there. He’s always had his reasons before, and I would once more trust him to do the right thing.

Soon enough we found ourselves back at the port with Captain Cobb and his crew. He agreed to take us to the Azmar Achipelago, and afterward his debt to us would be cleared. It seemed like only a few hours before we reached our destination. The map had led us to a lagoon in the middle of the archipelago, though even from the surface we could sense something amiss.

The water stank of death and poison. The clear, blue waters of the sea had turned to a murky, sickly green water filled with pestilence. Whatever Wilward had put to guard his chest and the treasure below was powerful. Simply laying anchor in the middle of the lagoon had put the crew in a state of unease. The message was clear, get the chest and get out. I guessed they would give us a few hours at most before setting sail and leaving us for dead.

The first obstacle we had to overcome was how to get to the chest. It was hidden somewhere far below in the dark and any number of sea creatures may be guarding it. We agreed that Moira and Teresa would wait with the ship for the time being as singing would prove to be rather difficult underwater. Luckily, I had spent the entirety of the trip catching up on my studies and learning a couple new spells. Specifically, the Water Breathing spell. This would make it a simple matter for Peregrine, Albion, and I to search for the chest.

Leaving our encumbering gear behind, we dived off the bow of the ship into the murky water below. Even through the water breathing charm, I could smell and taste the putridity of the water. We followed the anchor chain to the bottom of the lagoon, and with my ability to detect magic we were able to find a faint arcanic trail that eventually led us to an underwater cave. As we surfaced, I shed some light in the cavern to reveal a pair of large, iron double doors that blocked our path.

So, Wilward had intended for us to fight whatever lay beyond these doors, eh? Albion and Peregrine waited at the doors while I surfaced to get Moira and our equipment for the upcoming battle. We would need her bardic prowess to help inspire us to victory.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from my time with the Tiki Company, it was to never underestimate the power of a bard.

Fully equipped, we stood before the entrance to the Black Dragon Company’s treasure vault. Before we could stop him, Peregrine swung open the doors and charged inside only to be met with our foe. A young Black Dragon stood between us and our goal, and just as soon as Peregrine entered the room it attacked, spraying acid at our halfling comrade.

As Peregrine ducked behind cover, nursing at the acid eating through his armour and into his flesh, we joined the battle. Albion goaded the beast away from Peregrine as Moira began her performance and as I threw lightning bolts and fire. Splitting the dragon’s attention, Albion and I banked to the left while Peregrine and Moira circled to the right, hoping to catch the dragon off-guard and unearth the trapdoor it was guarding.

Fortunately for Peregrine, Albion’s plan worked and the dragon moved to go after him. Unfortunately for Albion, the dragon was much more powerful than he first anticipated. As Moira continued her song (and searched through the treasure for the trapdoor), Peregrine slung arrows at the dragon’s thick hide while Albion did his best to fend off the monster. I offered what support I could, firing spell after spell at the dragon. Yet it seemed no matter what we did, the dragon would not fall. I did not think it possible for a monster such as this to become so loyal, so tame to one such as Wilward Jones and the Black Dragon Company.

At last, the dragon struck down Albion, but before it could finish off our friend for good, I launched one last spell at the dragon, enveloping it in a cone of fire. Finally, the dragon fell, collapsing in a charred, arrow-pierced husk.

The dragon defeated, we tended as best we could to Albion’s wounds and sauntered over to the trapdoor. With mild surprise, we found it unlocked. I suppose Wilward was counting on the dragon to fend off any and all intruders. Below the trapdoor we had at last found what we were searching for.

Below we discovered a small, circular room. At the center lay a coffin, perhaps dedicated to a fallen member of the company. Strange to see a man of Wilward’s caliber showing such sentiment to another. Surrounding the coffin were three chests, each belonging to one of the members of the company. Our primary goal, however, was at the far chest. I could sense the arcanic aura surrounding it. It was Wilward’s chest without a doubt.

The chest disappeared as I approached it, most likely summoned through a Secret Chest spell, and as I waited for its return the others plundered the remaining chests. Once Wilward’s chest had returned, I tentatively opened it to find a smaller toy box inside. This toy box had looked like it belonged to a child of no more than ten or so years of age. I was disgusted and confused. What kind of man takes a child’s possession and uses it for himself? Did he murder the child and take this as his trophy?

Regardless, I searched the chest and found what we had been searching for. Wilward’s journal (LINK HERE) revealed information that shook us to our core.

My family and clan, the Blue Leaf Clan, had foretold that Wilward’s father, one Coheed Jones, would be defeated around the same time that I was born. Curious enough, this prophecy had suggested that I would be the one to bring this demon’s end.

Is this what the elders were preparing me for? To defeat Coheed Jones? I was preordained to be a seer, a diviner of other’s destinies and to predict the world’s fate. I had left that life behind many years ago, but it seems to have caught up with me at long last. Then I read that Coheed had destroyed my clan, killing everyone that I once loved and cared about.

I remember how my vision began to blur, pulsing red with every beat of my heart sending rage, sorrow, and the thirst for vengeance through every inch of my being. Would things have been different had I stayed? Could I have stopped Coheed and saved my clan had I remained and accepted my fate? Something told me no, no matter what I did the result would have been the same. The Blue Leaf Clan’s death was foretold, and nothing I could do would have prevented it.

Destiny… is there any point in trying to escape it? It was not until later that I thought these things. At the time the only thoughts that consumed my mind were those of vengeance. On the blood of my clan, I would see Coheed Jones and all of his wicked children vanquished. First Machine had fallen by my hand, and now I would do everything in my power to see that the Jones family was no more. Coheed, Wilward, and Kathleen Jones. They would taste my wrath, the wrath of the Blue Leaf Clan.

Wilward’s journal also told that the assassin sent after Buck, Kathleen, had succeeded in her mission. If Buck had been hurt too, I did not think I would be able to contain my fury. Wilward waits in Artorshade for us, and I’ll be damned if I don’t sent him to the same pits of hell that I sent Machine.

As fortune would have it, as we surfaced from the underground cave we found Captain Cobb’s ship in ruins, and the captain and his crew nowhere to be found. Pirates, under the command of Wilward Jones, had destroyed, pillaged, and killed everyone they found on board, except for Teresa. We were soon captured and led on board, only to be sent below deck where, bound and unarmed, we would be delivered to the Black Dragon Company on Crescent Isle.

The Blue Leaf Clan, Albion’s family, Captain Cobb and his crew, Teresa, and now maybe even Buck…

How many more would have to get hurt because of me? How many more friends must I be forced to lose before this monster sees his end?

Every single one of their deaths will be the fuel for Coheed Jones’ funeral pyre.

-Tibles
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Ontas, the Armpit of Ashen
Part 6 of TTC Renewed

We stood in a small circle, surrounding the defeated Alexis Machine. Bound by the iron rope, Peregrine set to looting the assassin. Normally, I wouldn’t vie for the weapons and gems found on his person, but in this case I made an exception. A crossbow, magically enhanced, was my prize for defeating him.

Defeated, Machine began to tell us what he knew of the “Illusive Man” that hired him. He saw his own life as forfeit, and didn’t see any reason to hold back what he knew. There was no reason not to believe what he told us. The man was defeated completely, trumped by the prey that he had hunted for over two years. It’s funny, really. He had seen his own demise in Kaldoran’s Mirror, just as I had. Yet he was so convinced that the future heralded the truth he accepted what he thought was his inevitable defeat instead of fighting to change what had been foretold.

As Ogden had said before, the “Illusive Man” kept the identities of his various henchmen a secret, even from each other. Machine, however, had spied on his employer and learned that his favourite minion sent after us was a tiefling by the name of Wilward Jones.

Jones… I had heard that name before… And it bode ill for us.

Alexis Machine in his own right is one of the most skilled assassins Ashen has ever seen, but this Wilward Jones was in another league entirely. The leader of the infamous Black Dragon Company, Wilward Jones on his own was a skilled and renowned bard and potent magic-user. Over the last few years, the group had grown to control an island-nation off the coast of Ashen and had many of the nobles of Ashen itself in its pocket.

I had kept my eye on their movements, though lately they seemed to have gone quiet. While Wilward seemed to act as the brains as well as leader of the Company, the other two living members made up for in their viciousness. Our old acquaintance Clare Trannyth was the muscle of the Company, and the final member was one Alistair Traven, a bloodthirsty werewolf known for literally tearing his foes limb from limb.

Machine also let it slip that each member of the “Jones Family” bore a strange tattoo. It was almost like a birthmark, yet it’s meaning escaped me. Perhaps it was just that, a brand given to all of the Jones Family children. This begs the question, just how many were there? Were they all our foes? Perhaps potential allies?

Finally, before the guards escorted Alexis Machine to the local prison, he gave us the location of Wilward Jones’ personal diary. In a locked chest at the bottom of the sea in the Azmar Archipelago, our answers awaited.

The guards took Machine away, and Mersh soon rejoined the scene under the guise of a guard. He must have broken out while everyone was preoccupied. Moira had additionally achieved funding for Artemis to continue his work to find an antidote for the lycanthropy that had spread across Austrail. It would seem as if our mission here was complete, but not without a few losses. Arya Green Sleeves had indeed been assassinated in the night, as well as Greak Wolfsbane and a guard stationed in the dungeons.

Yet… my own mission here was not finished. Kiana’s dagger weighed heavily against my chest. A promise must be kept. Machine had to die by my hand.

As the night wore on, I waited for my chance to end this once and for all. Albion and Mersh had taken aside the slave trader from earlier in the evening, Tobias Kant, and went out drinking with the man. As they pressed on and down more and more drinks, Albion learned that his family, taken into slavery from the Gomezian Mountains, were most likely traded into service in the mines of Ontas. I meanwhile informed Artemis about the night’s events. When I asked him what he knew of Wilward Jones and the Black Dragon Company, he seemed uncomfortable. While describing the Jones Family and the Black Dragon Company, I couldn’t help but notice he put a hand over his shoulder, as if an old wound was acting up again.

Once the situation had calmed some, I made my move. Making my way to the local sheriff’s office, I managed to convince the guards to let me speak with Alexis Machine. It was only with Moira’s help and distraction that I was able to speak with the assassin alone.

I took this chance to name the crossbow I had taken from him earlier. Treachery. A fitting name for the weapon that now served its master’s enemy. With one last glance to ensure that the guards were still distracted with Moira, I let myself into his cell. As I had requested, Machine was left bound by the iron rope to prevent his escape. The guards were skeptical, but I knew that, should his bindings be removed, he would have fled without a doubt. Perhaps then he would have resumed his hunt for my blood, or perhaps he would have left Ashen entirely.

It doesn’t really matter now though. As per his last request, I stabbed Machine in the heart with Kiana’s dagger, letting him bleed out. I never forgot this moment. To this day, I can still see the cruel, satisfied smile on his face as he experienced what he had been doing to people all of his life. I can still see the life leave his eyes. It continues to haunt my dreams and plague my nightmares.

With a snap of my fingers, I started a fire that would consume his being, reducing him to ashes. Soon, nothing was left of my foe but a pile of ashes and a mythril chainvest. Scooping the ashes up in a small jar and taking the garment, I left the office to return to my hotel room. The next day we left the city of Westvale behind us, and I couldn’t have been more grateful. We met Captain Cobb at Cydney, and from there we made way for Ashen and Almernae to deliver the dagger to Kiana.

As we sailed, Peregrine found a little stowaway below decks. A direwolf pup, young but vicious nonetheless, had somehow snuck aboard the ship in Austrail. Peregrine took the pup into his care. Emrys seemed to like him well enough, and another animal companion in the company is always welcome.

The journey back to Almernae was uneventful, and soon enough we were standing outside of the Dusty Drink to be met with the sight of Ogden Sadric painting the front of the pub. It would seem as if in the time we were gone, Ogden, Teresa, and Kiana had decided to begin fixing up the pub for re-opening. It was good to see Ogden excited about something again. The poor man had been tossed around like a ragdoll over the past few years, and needless to say it can be a trying experience.

The dagger delivered to Kiana, we had decided to set out for Ontas before pursuing Wilward’s Chest. If what Machine told us was true, then Wilward should have no knowledge of Machine, his death, or that we knew where Wilward hid his secrets. Besides, it was very possible that Albion’s family was being held in slavery in Ontas, and we had a duty to free them. Not to mention that a few words with Belarin were needed…

Another day’s travel later, we neared the industrial city of Ontas. Black smog lined the horizon, and the putrid stench of sulfur filled the air. The environment looked like some mechanized war zone. The landscape was torn up, drained of its resources. The sun couldn’t be seen through the blanket of fog covering the skyline, smothering those caught underneath. Not a single living thing could be seen for miles around, chased of or killed in the desperate pursuit of progress. Even for a desert, this place was desolate.

We approached the black iron gates of the city. The guards let us into the city once we announced who we were. As we entered the city, they surrounded us. Apparently Belarin had become only more paranoid since we parted ways, and had a warrant out for our arrest. We were to be taken to the citadel dungeons until the despot Belarin would see us.

As we waited for our audience with the “king”, we planned our next course of action. Belarin, already a shaken and paranoid man, seems to have only gotten worse after he regained his memories. It wasn’t long before we were taken to court to be tried by Belarin.

In the courtroom Belarin stood, one hand resting on one of his swords. He look more bedraggled since I last saw him, and no amount of kingly goods adorning his body could change that. It didn’t matter if he was now the ruler of Ontas, he was still the same man I knew from the Tiki Company whether he would admit it or not.

He stood above us, looming with a murderous glint in his eye. I feared that we may be forced to fight him. The last thing I needed at the time was to have to defeat an old ally, even if time has changed him. He accused us of interfering with his revenge against the Albright family by killing Alexis Machine. Years back, in the last few months before Belarin lost his memory, the Albright family had hired an assassin to murder Belarin. The assassin, a sort of albino tiefling by name of Kathleen Jones, had failed in killing Belarin. She did, however, succeed in killing his wife and his child. When Belarin apprehended her, she managed to escape just before he could take his revenge. Now, years later, Belarin had sought out Alexis Machine to seek out his vengeance.

Another Jones family member… this was troubling. What was even more troubling was the state of my former friend and ally. Since when did Belarin need someone else to seek out his vengeance? Since when did the former paladin need someone else to fight his fights? The Belarin I knew at least had enough honour to handle things himself.

Mersh, Peregrine, and I explained our situation, why we killed Machine, and why we were here. The man was convinced that we had come to Ontas to fight him and kill him. It took some doing, but we were able to remind Belarin of who we were, and that we were once allies and friends. He let us go, but I could see the defeat in his eyes. He was expecting a bitter fight to the end. Perhaps he wanted us to fight and kill him so he could be with his family again. I know not, but I would not take the life of a friend.

He directed us to the mine shafts, where we would go to seek out Albion’s family. A group of oriads taken from the Gomezian Mountains was sent deep below the city under the watch of an enforcer named Jade Serket. Mersh cringed at the name and began to sweat. It seemed as if he knew this enforcer, and judging from his reaction, there was a bit of bad blood between them. He was took to don the disguise of an elderly man as we boarded the elevator to take us to the lower levels of the mines.

We were greeted with darkness at the bottom and a ballista aimed at the shaft. I harsh voice hailed us, I guessed at the time it must have been Serket. She asked our business, and when we proposed an arrangement to take Albion’s family out of the mines, things quickly turned south. It wasn’t long before we had ducked behind crates, ballista arrows and bullets flying overhead. This Jade Serket was a gunslinger, and judging from the wound in Peregrine’s shoulder, a good one. Perfect.
As Mersh, Moira, and I snuck around the side to attack from behind, Peregrine and Albion began to advance forwards to the miners launching volley after volley of crossbow bolts. Serket called on the captive oriads to attack us, but with a few convincing words from Albion, his brothers soon turned on their master. With a well-placed Fireball spell, I destroyed the ballista while Peregrine and Albion dueled with Serket and her minions. Moira cast an invisibility spell on Mersh, and he crept up behind Serket for the finishing blow.

Serket defeated, Albion liberated his family and friends from the Gomezian Mountains and set them free. And as Mersh had a talk with Serket, I took my leave for the surface to do some research on Kat Jones. The newspapers were full of propaganda, slandering the albino tiefling and providing little I didn’t already know.

However, while I was researching it began to come together. Bits and pieces of the puzzle that before seemed strange began to fit together. The way Artemis rubbed at his shoulder when I brought up the Black Dragon Company and Wilward Jones… Didn’t Artemis always say Entwhistle was his mother’s surname? Of course, Artemis was a member of this Jones family. Yet, instead of bringing more dread, this gave me hope. Artemis was my trusted friend and ally, which meant that there may yet be hope for the rest of this family of tieflings.

Mersh and the others returned to the surface, and Serket was already gone. Mersh had decided to let her go and set her off to start a new life. Mersh… the Prince Slayer and my oldest friend. It would seem that he held many secrets. I have tried many times to get him to talk about it, but every time he managed to sidestep the question or change the subject. I had learned over time to simply let it go, telling myself that he would open up given time. But now… his past had started to return with dire consequences. I would have to have a few words with him soon. How much did my friend know and how much was he hiding from us?

Were I a more paranoid elf, I would find my own trust in Mersh beginning to waver.

-Tibles
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One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
Part 5 of TTC Renewed

The ball continued as planned after Peregrine’s incident in the kitchens. While he was detained, Albion continued his serving duties while Mersh, Moira and I proceeded to the ballroom for the dance. Machine had vanished, Peregrine was locked up, and my “date” was getting increasingly inebriated (again) while Mersh’s seemed content to brood in the corner. In short, tonight was not turning out as I had hoped. It certainly did not help when Largo Jankins, the priest who was to marry Penelope Oliander with the heir of the Albright family, died while dancing with Moira.

The room fell silent, and all eyes turned to the bard. The room immediately went into lockdown. As Moira was apprehended by a few guards, the exits were sealed off, trapping everyone in the ballroom… or so we thought.

Mersh and I immediately went to Moira’s aid, doing our best to convince Jeras and Electo Albright that she could was not responsible for Largo’s murder. With no stab wounds, it was clear that the priest was poisoned, and Moira was nowhere near him during the dinner. This was not enough to convince them, so we reluctantly filled them in on the plot to kill Alethea, and how we had come here to stop it.

With a little more convincing, Electo agreed to let me accompany Jeras and find Alethea, who had vanished in the chaos. Mersh, or Jean Felipe, and Moira had stayed behind to appease Electo and prevent a total riot. Albion was quick to join us as an “escort” to ensure that I wouldn’t try anything.

Meanwhile, Peregrine busied himself with bluffing his way out of the dungeons and into the rest of the mansion. As we ventured to the conservatory, Peregrine snuck and bluffed his way up to the upper floors of the mansion to search the bedrooms for any clues. After scrambling through most of the bedrooms, Peregrine found himself on the roof where he was met with a cloaked figure, sword pointed at Peregrine’s chest. Their brief encounter ended with Peregrine slipping in through the window to Electo’s room and calling for the guards. The guards apprehended the man, later revealed to be a member of the Black Hand, and Peregrine as well for intruding.

As Peregrine’s explorations unfolded, Albion, Jeras, and I made our way to the conservatory. Upon arrival, I immediately knew that everything had gone wrong. Largo Jankins’ murder may have been the work of the Black Hand, but ultimately served as the perfect distraction.

Alethea was nowhere to be seen. One of the windows was open, curtains fluttering in the breeze. Fortunately, I stationed Emrys outside to circle above the mansion. He reported that he saw a figure in the dead of the night sneak into a shed down in the gardens.

Before we could attempt to pursue Alethea, Jeras’ suspicion of us led to his sword pointed at our throats. It took some time to convince him that despite what he may have thought, our only intentions were to save Alethea and to capture the assassin. Hesitantly, he lowered his sword and left us to pursue Alethea and save her from her fate. However, first we needed to work our way through the barracks to equip an unarmed Albion. It was necessary, but another stall nonetheless.

As Albion and I worked our way to the gardens, Mersh did his very best to stall for time in the ballroom. Under the guise of Jean Felipe and through his name of the Prince Slayer, he confused Electo and the guards long enough for us to pursue Alethea and Machine with as few hindrances as possible. While he was eventually apprehended and taken to the estate dungeons, Moira and Peregrine slipped out and made way to join us at the gardens.

Albion and I arrived at the gardens shortly after. The gardens were empty, but a trail of footprints could be seen entering the nearby shed Emrys had pointed out to me. Only one set of footprints, suggesting that Alethea or Machine had entered the shed but had not left. I could sense Machine’s presence as I approached the shed. He was here, and he knew I was here.

Was this a trap? Most likely.

Did I have a choice in the matter? No.

Would I have left if I could? No, this game of cat-and-mouse had gone on for far too long. It was time to end this.

Steeling my resolve, I stepped forward to enter the shed. As the door swung open and as I stepped inside, a tripwire went off, setting off all of the lanterns and lights in the garden, bringing the previously shadowed scenery to life.

It only took a second to see that the shed was empty. Like I had guessed, a trap. And I had walked into it willingly. A dark laugh from behind drew my attention. I turned, and there, perched on a small tower, was Alexis Machine, crossbow drawn.

I was surprised he hadn’t already killed me, but after assurances that Alethea was still unharmed, we exchanged a few words. Apparently he too had looked through Kaldoran’s Mirror in the Tomb of Gregory Fox, tracing my movements. He had seen his demise at my hand, much like how I saw my own demise at his. Yet this was not some dark, dank basement and I was not tied to a chair at his mercy. The future had changed, I had made it change. The promise of premonition is a fickle being. People become so obsessed with their future when it is told to them, so obsessed with prophecies, that they fail to see what is right in front of them.

Divination, while it may be accurate in some cases, blinds those subjected to it from the truth. I refuse to be subjected the fate’s whims. This encounter was proof that the future can be changed. We are the masters of our own fate.

We agreed to a duel, one confrontation to end all of this. Albion waited reluctantly at the shed while I met Machine at the bridge. His rapier drawn and my spells ready, a calm silence fell over the garden as we waited for the other to make the first move. I looked into his eyes, and saw nothing but the murderous glee twinkling in the depths of darkness that I had seen before in my visions. I honestly doubted my odds of defeating him in single combat. A highly trained, experienced assassin that had never failed in his mission against a young wizard like myself?

I had something he didn’t though, an ace in the hole.

The duel began, and the first move was mine. I unleashed a torrent of flame at my foe, and was left shocked when he emerged without so much as a scratch. Then, in a flourish, he darted forwards, feinting me out and leaving me off-guard. Of course, a rogue like Machine would be near impossible to attack with my regular spells.

Taking a few steps back, I prepared my next spell. I wasn’t completely unprepared to deal with one of Machine’s calibur. I sent forth a ray of magic, atrophying his muscles and weakening his strength. It proved to be not as effective as I had hoped, as he lunged forward, slitting my throat with his rapier.

Had it not been for Albion’s charge while Machine was preoccupied with me or for the timely arrival of Moira and Peregrine, I would have died. I still carry the scar across my throat to this day, a grim reminder of my recklessness and my duel with fate.

With Moira’s healing magic, my wound healed before Machine’s eyes. Peregrine and Albion were quick to join in on the attack, and soon enough, Machine was at last defeated. Bound in iron rope, he sat on his knees before us.

One thing Machine failed to realize was his downfall. The Tiki Company is a family, and when one member is threatened, you threaten the entire company. We fight as one, we act as one, and through this we have overcome every obstacle set before us time and time again.

Albion, Moira, Peregrine, and Mersh. Though the Company may change from time to time, it remains thus. My ace in the hole, my final gambit: The Tiki Company.

-Tibles
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We Drop the Ball
Part 4 of TTC Renewed

With three days left before the assassination of Alethea Albright, we arrived at the gates of Westvale, the heart of the Golden Valley. As per expected, the gates were sealed tight with several guards manning the ramparts, crossbows aimed squarely at us. Peregrine attempted to reason with the guards, bluffing that we were a group of merchants coming to Westvale to sell our wares from Ashen proper. Our lack of wares was more than enough to indicate he was lying to the guards. He may as well have said we were a group of travelling thespians, which in retrospect may have been more believable. After a few strained moments, Moira let it slip that we were adventurers, and we were promptly given access to the city.

Once accommodations for our stay in the city were obtained, I did some research on this ball that we were to be attending. I admit, it was not difficult to figure out that the ball was in celebration of the uniting of the houses Albright and Oliander through the bonding of Penelope Oliander with the heir of the Albright family in holy matrimony. Our mission, then, was to intrude on a wedding celebration meant to join two very hostile and powerful families, find a way to locate Machine, and apprehend him before he kills Alethea. Compared to our other schemes, this was rather simple in comparison.

A few of the other names attending this event included Williver Stoneheart, a wealthy and well-known business owner, Daes Vagner, a merchant and investor who made his name in Westvale, and Arya Green Sleeves, head of the only elven house in the Golden Valley. Our first task, now that we knew this, was to find a way to get into the ball itself. It goes without saying that such an event would be invite only. While Peregrine and Albion sought to have some serving clothes tailored, Moira, Mersh, and I went to pay Arya Green Sleeves a visit. Perhaps she would be willing to help us in our efforts.

Only later did I learn that, while the rest of us busied ourselves above, Mersh had slipped away and found himself in a circle of thieves and assassins. This group, the “Black Hand,” were fooled by Mersh’s guise as the “legendary assassin” Jean Felipe. Striking an accord with the Black Hand, Mersh was assigned to kill Arya Green Sleeves at the ball, and in return would be paid a hefty sum. I trust that Mersh only agreed to save his own neck, but knowing him… ah, it matters not. What’s done is done.

Regardless, Mersh joined back up with Moira and myself just as we were allowed into the Green Sleeves estate to visit with Ms. Arya. It was good to see that the Blue Leaf Clan still held some prominence amongst my kind, even this far away from the Fey. It was strange though, meeting with Arya. I had spent so long away from home and my elven kin that I had forgotten how unattached they were to the rest of the world. By not growing attached, it is easier to watch the world around you age and die while you live for hundreds of years. Heh, my time amongst other races, other cultures, and my friends in the Tiki Company has taught me much. Who would have thought that a group so different, made of elves and dwarves, halflings and humans, oriads and dragonborn, could grow to be so close?

I digress, forgive an old elf’s ramblings, whoever may be reading this. While Arya could not grant us access to the ball itself, she did inform us that any who holds an invitation may bring a guest. Long story short, we had to find dates.

Arya was kind enough to let it slip that she knew of three others that would be attending the ball who did not yet have a plus one. Margo Walputh, Laura Flatfoot, and an old friend of Moira’s, Davon Homeforger, were scheduled to attend the ball. With this knowledge in tow, we bid Arya farewell and went to find our respective dates. First, however, we needed more presentable attire for the situation. Mersh and I went to get fitting for dress clothes, while Moira went about a little shopping spree.

Mersh was the first to obtain a date, wooing Margo Walputh at her small abode in the slums of Westvale. Once Moira had finished her shopping (and after I was forcefully dragged to a small boutique to buy Mersh a fancy hat), we visited a small inn where Moira was acquainted with her old friend Davon and where Laura agreed to be my date to the ball. I admit I was a tad worried. This was far outside of my comfort zone, but then again, most things that The Tiki Company does falls into that category, so I suppose I should have been used to it. Though, Laura’s inebriation at the time also helped.

The next day, we found ourselves sitting in an escort en route to the Albright estate for the ball. Albion and Peregrine had managed to “convince” one of the guards to let them in under the guise of helpers and servers. At the ball itself, Moira was largely occupied performing with Davon, who was invited to perform. Mersh, or Jean Felipe I should say, and I were occupied ourselves with our dates. Nonetheless, we all kept an eye out for Alexis Machine.

As the evening wore on, we began to worry that perhaps Machine had caught wind of our plan to ambush him and had left. Or worse perhaps. Albion had a rather nasty run-in with a slave owner and trader by the name of Tobias Kant, a large, beefy man who Albion suspected of having knowledge of where his family may have been sold.

The night continued, and soon we found ourselves at the grand dinner. The head of the Albright family, Electo Albright, a jowly man with a temper far too short for his size, sat at the head of the table. Even from my place towards the far end of the table, I could see the glares he was giving Vincent Oliander, head of the Oliander family. Moira seemed to have obtained a seat closer to the Albrights, sitting with Jeras Albright, who I later learned was Alethea’s uncle. Alethea, however, was missing from dinner. There had been no sightings of Machine, and I feared the worst.

Moira convinced Jeras to accompany her to find Alethea in the conservatory. She warned him about the plot against her life, and to our gratitude, believed her. Luckily, Alethea was found and brought to dinner unharmed.

It was then that Mersh and I spotted him. Alexis Machine. He was disguised as a server, but I would recognize him anywhere. We excused ourselves and followed. After alerting Peregrine, we kept a sharp eye out. I knew I had seen him leaving the dining room, but he had not yet returned. The most likely place to search would have been the kitchens.

Peeking into the kitchens, I remembering seeing who I thought was Machine. In my defense, I had never met Machine in person, but this man looked exactly like him from behind.

I told Peregrine of my suspicions, and without warning he burst into the kitchens and assaulted an innocent man by mistake. Luckily, the sounds of the man screaming, Peregrine’s battle cries, and my head bashing against the wall could not be heard from the dining room.

It was going to be a long night.

-Tibles
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Tooth and Claw
Part 3 of TTC Renewed

Come morning, the storm had passed and we had made it through the night. Another look at our map confirmed that the nearest settlement, a village called Whimsyshire, was at least another four hours away on foot. As Moira and Artemis helped Peregrine pack up our makeshift campsite, I sent Emrys to scout ahead. Hopefully he wouldn’t return with the news that Albion and Mersh were collapsed on the road ahead. Making the journey to Whimsyshire in the storm would have been taxing to say the least.

A few hours passed and the four of us arrived in the small town of Whimsyshire around midday. For a place with such a name, as Moira astutely noted, Whimsyshire was not very whimsical. The streets were deserted, save for a few guards and civilians darting between houses, as if they were trying to hide from something. Even the guards looked rattled, keeping a sharp eye on the road. I could tell we were not going to be received with a warm welcome.

If the town had a bazaar or market of any kind, it certainly wasn’t in use. At the center of town was a large cathedral, and I could see from the road that it was reinforced as if to ward off some kind of attack. Something was happening in the little village of Whimsyshire, and I had a feeling we were about to be caught up in it.

We made our way to the only inn in the village, simply named ‘INN’, to seek out our companions. The innkeeper greeted us cooly and asked us how long we intended on staying. She appeared to be relieved when we told her we planned on leaving in the morning for Westvale, and then showed us to the rooms Mersh and Albion had procured late last night.

Walking through the storm was more taxing on the two than I anticipated. Mersh was out cold in his room and even Albion was snoring the day away. Our rooms rented, Peregrine, Moira, and myself went to investigate the village, but not before we were questioned by the captain of the guard. Strange enough, he was very interested in when we planned on leaving his little town, and was satisfied when we told him on the morrow.
whi
Moira and I ventured to see the local trader about some of the gear and loot we had acquired from our battle with the slavers. The couple that owned the trader were, as was everyone else we had encountered in the town, very interested in how long we planned on staying. Word had gotten out in the short time we had been in the town about our presence here and on how long we were going to stay. Something was happening in this village of Whimsyshire. The occupants were paranoid, and the guards suspicious.

Moira and I tried to glean some information from the trader, but the couple was tight-lipped. It appeared as if they were fearful not just of whatever was plaguing them, but of the ramifications in the town guard discovered they had told us. Even when we offered our assistance with whatever was troubling the town, they refused to tell us directly what was happening. All we learned was that it had something to do with the ‘disease’ that was stopping ships and sailors from sailing anywhere near Austrail.

No matter how much we asked, the couple refused to say anything more. Fed up, Moira and I chose to visit the temple at the center of town. The traders had informed us that we could purchase healing potions there, and we were in short supply. It would also do us good to pay our respects to the local deity.

We approached the temple doors, barricaded and barred, and were told by a voice within, presumably one of the clerics, to enter from the other side. As we entered the temple, we were met with the sight of several bedrolls and other supplies stacked against the walls, as if people were taking refuge here. Moira and I pleaded with the cleric to divulge what he knew, but alas, as every other soul we encountered had done, he refused to say much of anything. The residents were scared, even the clerics of the temple were tight lipped, and the guard was keeping a stern eye trained on us. We were given the impression that the sooner we leave this village behind us, the better.

With a heavy sigh, we left the temple. As much as I wanted to help these people with whatever was ailing them, they were adamant that they did not want nor need our help. It was just as we were descending the temple stairs that Peregrine came running up to us. As he wandered through the village, he seemed to have harassed a paperboy looking for answers. After a run in with the good captain of the guard, Harsk, and a shifty character in the streets. Peregrine learned from this man that this village of Whimsyshire has been besieged by “night terrors” for the past several weeks. Villagers have gone missing during these attacks, and the number of “night terrors” seems to grow with each assault. Another strange coincidence was the timely arrival of the new captain of the guard, Harsk. His promotion to the position heralded the beginning of these “night terrors,” and I agreed with Peregrine, his hurry to get us out of town and his timely arrival with these attacks was too much of a coincidence to not grant some investigation.

Come nightfall, Albion and Mersh had fully recovered from their trek through the storm. Peregrine and Albion went to the local watering hole and, despite the situation and threat of “night terrors” got drunk. Mersh had disappeared into the night, but I was confident he would turn up should something happen. As Artemis spent the night in his room at INN, Moira and I went to find our inebriated companions.

The night air was cold on my skin as I walked out of the safety and warmth of the inn. The wind howled through the trees and echoed around the deserted village. Only now did Moira’s conversation with a local in the bar make sense to me. At night, all of the villagers garrisoned in the temple. The howling on the wind. Disappearing villagers and increasing attackers. I looked up to the sky and found the moon was waning, nowhere near full. It was impossible, how could there possibly be…

Another ear-piercing howl shook me out of my thoughts, and Moira and I retreated further in the village towards the temple. There we met with Peregrine and Albion who, despite their current inebriation, had heard the howls as well. A growl from behind us captured our attention. We turned, and down the street were three werewolves and a dire wolf, fangs bared and jaws snapping.

We readied ourselves for battle as the werewolves charged. As they neared, I unleashed a torrent of flames before ducking behind Albion and Peregrine. Moira’s bardic performance aided their attacks from a distance as she struggled with scaling a boulder. Despite our efforts, Peregrine and Albion’s attacks had little effect on the beasts, their wounds sealing up faster than they could be inflicted. I had forgotten, werewolves were largely immune to weapons that were not silvered. Luckily, my magic was proving to be quite effective.

The werewolves pounced, bringing me down to the ground. With a snap of my fingers, I was able to knock both of them out with a sleep spell. The dire wolf had already been disposed of by Peregrine and Albion, which left one missing werewolf to deal with. A scream from behind a house was all the indication we needed. Albion and I surged forwards to deal with the last werewolf, but were met with a horrid sight.

Mersh was lying on the ground bleeding out. If the gash marks raked across his neck were any indication, he was either already dead or seconds from bleeding out.

An arcane rage began to take over. I saw red and blood pumped in my ears. The werewolf charged, attacking its new prey. I focused my will on the beast, and unleashed my magic. A single pillar of fire enveloped the monster, reducing it to ash.

Leaving Peregrine and Albion to deal with the two slumbering werewolves, Moira helped me carry Mersh to the temple. He needed medical attention that only the healing clerics could provide. It took some bargaining, and I was prepared to blow the doors down myself, but they grudgingly let us in.

Peregrine and Albion joined us as the clerics examined Mersh’s unmoving body. He was dead. My oldest friend, killed by werewolves. Gathered around his body, we all mourned his passing, but through the power of friendship a miracle, Mersh began to stir. The clerics set to work, and soon our friend was recovering in the corner.

The captain approached us, and after some negotiations accepted our help. Albion told us about a newspaper article detailing the escape of a prisoner from Fort Renwick on the western coast. The prisoner had fled east, towards Whimsyshire, and had taken two people captive.

We suspected that this man was responsible for the werewolf attacks, and our best option was to prepare the village for another attack tomorrow night. We spend the day building up fortifications around the village and ballista on certain buildings. Come nightfall, we were ready. Artemis and I stationed ourselves at the first ballista while Mersh and Moira stationed another on the building opposite to us. Peregrine and Albion had silvered weapons readied to fight the monsters. The werewolves attacked in greater force than last night, but were prepared, and were able to dispatch of the group that attacked us.

Emrys spotted one of the survivors from the attack limping away from the village, no doubt returning to wherever these werewolves made their camp. We followed, and sure enough found a small encampment of werewolves next to a cave not too far from the village. Emrys remained to keep an eye on the werewolves while the rest of us returned to town to rest for the next day when we would deal with the beasts before anyone else could get hurt.

As the others slept in the wee hours of the morning, I did some research of my own on werewolves. An alpha werewolf was responsible for turning others, passing on the disease. While the alpha had the power to transform at will and had full control over his actions, the others he turned were not so fortunate. The alpha controlled when they would transform and then they would do his bidding.

An alpha that could shapeshift at will… it could be anyone. The captain of the guard was ruled out as a suspect after last night, so it must be someone else in the village. First thing’s first, we had to investigate the werewolf camp itself.

Emrys returned as we prepared to set out to tell us that the werewolves had reverted to human form and that they seemed to be very confused. Could it be that these people had no memory of what had happened?

Moira, Albion, and myself approached the encampment. The villagers greeted us cautiously, and asked where we had come from. We told them that we came from the village of Whimsyshire, where they had all been taken from. They had been told by their “leader,” Matthias, that they were lost in the middle of a forest far away from any civilization. As we inquired about what they remembered, they said nothing. They had all woken up here and had been hunting and trapping ever since. Their numbers had steadily began to grow until these last few nights when people began to disappear.

I had met this Matthias before. His house was across from the inn, and he had told me he moved to this village around a month ago with his wife and child. He claimed to be the first victim of these “night terrors,” and had watched while his wife and child were carried away by the monsters.

A journal stolen from the cave by Peregrine and Mersh confirmed what I suspected. The kidnapper from the article Albion showed us was infected with lycanthropy and had been spreading it amongst the villagers. When we left the village earlier this morning, he was still sitting on his porch and now was the time to confront him. Peregrine, Albion, and myself returned to the village while Moira and Mersh opted to stay behind and keep an eye on the captives.

When we returned to Whimsyshire, Matthias was still on his porch. Peregrine and Albion approached, and soon enough the situation escalated. He transformed into his werewolf form as Peregrine and Albion began to wrestle with him. Before things could get ugly, the captain of the watch appeared with the majority of the guard. The monster was arrested and locked away, and the rest of the captives were led back to town where they voluntarily locked themselves up until Artemis could find a cure.

With the village’s thanks, we left Whimsyshire and continued our journey to Westvale. We had three days left before the ball started, and three days to capture Alexis Machine and save Alethea Albright from her fate.

Sometimes being an adventurer is more trouble than it’s worth, but none of us can escape our destiny, not forever. Our actions may alter the course of our lives and our fates my change, but I believe there are certain things that one is destined to do in life. No matter what I did, I was destined to meet Machine one way or another, and I could sense that time was coming.

-Tibles
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Danger on the High Seas
Part 2 of TTC Renewed

The journey back to Almernae was uneventful, Ogden’s words weighing heavily on all our minds. As we traveled in silence, save for Moira’s softly-sung songs, I planned out our next move. Machine was going to be south, in the Golden Valley of Austrail no less, in a week’s time to assassinate the lady Alethea Albright all orchestrated by Belarin. As much as I wanted to speak with my former companion, the protection of the young Albright’s life and capturing Alexis Machine took precedence.

We returned to the Dusty Drink in the evening to find two new faces in the pub. Mersh, after missing for years, had returned and answered my summons. That would be a first. I was delighted to see my friend after so long, but he remained tight lipped as to his whereabouts for the last three years. Accompanying him was the ‘rock-man’ Peregrine had told me about, Albion Halberg. He explained his situation and asked to join our company in our quest. Peregrine and Moira seemed to trust him, so I had no reason not to accept him into The Tiki Company. After all, we were going to need all the help we could get to track down both Alexis Machine and this Illusive Man who for some reason wanted me dead. Little did he know his first and last mistake was to try and get to me through my friends, my family.

After introductions were made, we set off at dawn’s light with Artemis for the nearest port town to find a boat willing to provide safe passage to the Golden Valley. As we left, Kiana pulled me aside to make one request of me. She handed me a gilded dagger, her father’s dagger.

“Tibles, I want you to take this dagger and I want you to plunge it into Machine’s black heart when you find him. I want you to return with the blade coated in that monster’s blood. Please, for my father, do this for me.”

Her father, Thannis Allan, had been murdered by Alexis Machine three years ago. I could still see the look of horror and the light leaving poor Thannis’ eyes after Machine pulled his knife over a lack of payment. It had been why Kiana had granted me sanctuary in her father’s pub. I promised to end Machine’s life and to avenge her father’s death. I nodded and took the knife, reiterating that very promise.

We made our way to the port town of Arefu to the south to procure a ship that would grant us voyage to Westvale. One week remained before the ball, one week to make our way down south, one week to come up with a plan, one week to capture Machine in the act and end this game of cat-and-mouse.

However, it was finding a ship willing to take us to Austrail that was the problem. Every captain, sailor, and shipowner we had approached refused to sail anywhere near Fort Renwick on the west coast of the island, let alone Westvale on the east coast. It was after much searching that we were hailed by a young captain of a ship. Mersh spontaneously began dancing with some rather impressive moves in the middle of the docks dressed in a poncho, a sombrero, and a false mustache. I suppose this should have registered as odd behaviour, but after knowing Mersh for so long, I’ve almost missed his antics.

While Mersh continued his dancing spree, besting all challengers in the port town, we negotiated our fare for passage to Austrail. The captain seemed to not know what exactly was the cause of the clout of fear that had spread over Austrail, but did hear rumours that it was some kind of epidemic disease spreading across the populace. The young captain, against his crew’s wishes, agreed to take us to Austrail for a rather hefty price. Peregrine was doubtful of his capabilities, but we agreed nonetheless.

With a little bit of extra pay for Peregrine’s pony, we were off. I busied myself with maps, scrolls, and the like at the bow of the ship, enjoying the feel of the fresh salty air against my face. I had been buried in that basement for far too long. Moira chatted with the captain while Peregrine roosted in the crow’s nest. Mersh had not yet gotten over his seasickness and spent much of the journey incapacitated and Albion acquainted himself with a rather threatening cook. Mersh got up to his usual hijinks after night fell but found himself caught in the act by the cook.

It was not until the next morning as we neared Austrail that thing took a turn for the worse. I suppose I should have seen it coming. Things never go well for us when we take to the road, at least not for long. Another ship, bearing no colours or flags of any kind, had spotted us and began its pursuit. We readied ourselves for battle, the crew hiding below deck while the captain remained vigilant at the wheel.

Slave traders, led by a formidable barbarian foe wielding a magically enchanted lightning spear. Wonderful.

After a long, gruesome battle with the barbarian and his crew of lizardfolk, we stood victorious with the spoils of the slavers safely on board. It had nearly cost us our lives, specifically Albion’s, Mersh’s, and my own, but they were vanquished. The captain was more than willing to pay us our fare back and supply us with healing potions as compensation for protecting his ship and crew.

As we cleaned the deck of the corpses of our fallen enemies, the rumble of thunder in the distance warned us of an incoming storm. Black clouds began to form on the horizon, heralding a mighty storm. No sailor in his right mind would be on open seas when that storm hit. The captain offered to take us to shore, away from any kind of civilization before he turned back. Leaving us with few options, we had no choice but to accept or be delayed by another few days that we could not spare.

As the first signs of the storm began to surface we had reached the shore. Rain began to fall, steadily growing faster as the wind picked up to near gale-force. The ship that had taken us this far was already moving towards the horizon and away from the storm. Artemis, Moira, Peregrine and myself had opted to set up camp for the night to wait out the storm. The nearest town, Whimsyshire, was still a few hours away. The storm gathering in strength was all we needed to find shelter for the night. Albion and Mersh, however, had other ideas. While we insisted on waiting out the storm, the fighter and the rogue had decided to try and walk through the storm to Whimsyshire and find ‘proper’ accommodations there.

The Tiki Company had been reformed for a total of three days and already we had been shouted at, shot at, hit with lightning, boarded by slavers, almost killed, and left out in the rain. Looking back, I should have been grateful that was all we had to face on our way to Austrail. We still had to deal with Machine, getting into the ball, and whatever disease had been plaguing the island. It was strange, over the howls of the wind and the rumbling of thunder that resonated across the landscape, I could have sworn I heard wolves…

-Tibles
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The First Foray

I must set this into writing, for such exploits much be recorded. These past few days have set the stage for the rest of my life, I suspect. After escaping the ambush of the Brass Buckle, the renowned Peregrine (NOT Poragren, I discovered) and the charmed pit fighter Albion ran out into the night in search of the man who ordered the attack, with me trailing haplessly behind. When we arrived at the arena at last:

I stood in shadows, shrouded by silence
And hearkened then to sounds of violence.
Words of flinty tone, uttered by those lips of stone
Punctuated by a Halfling’s tenacious attack.

Guards fell and blood flowed,
Blades clashed, destruction sowed.
The tale of deceit the pair soon unwound
One way of escape, was all Abercromb found.

He leapt from the height, to his death below.
His Elusive master we would not know.
All was still then, muffled by death –
Save for the Halfling, who can’t hold his breath.

I rushed to their summons, breathless as well
Half from anxiety, but mostly from smell.
To every surface in the ring,
Blood and decay seemed to cling.

Callously they stood, those seasoned men,
And pondered aloud, what to do then?
A deeper plot they had revealed:
This adventure was far from sealed.

But then, alas! Sealed were we.
Portcullises shut on dallying folly.
Torches flared and footsteps pounded
All chance of flight was grounded.

I, heart in mouth and bow in hand,
We staked our ground and made our stand.
Then lo, through the gate, he came.
Framed by lurid flames,
Alistair Diazon – kyrie eleison!

Ach, but I broke meter! Clearly I am too worked up to continue thus. I shall try to continue more calmly. Here’s how it happened:

Abercromb’s nefarious business partner, Fitch, had arrived and trapped Albion, Peregrine, and innocent little me in the gladiatorial arena. The Oread and Halfling seemed to revel in our sudden situation, but for the life of me I cannot understand it!

Two massive orcs thundered in, my teeth chattered at the vibration, and more besides. Here was a situation I could not talk myself out of. I was in too deep.

One of the monsters advanced on our capable rock-man, while the other lumbered towards my cowering place. Peregrine, of course, had leapt atop a central statue to begin taunting the enraged gladiator. I was beginning to see a pattern.

I stood, transfixed as I watched doom approach, when an arrow lodged itself solidly in the orc’s chest. The Halfling! Perhaps I had been too harsh on him. Before my sigh of relief was too complete however, the orc was upon me. Adrenalin surged, and I lashed out with every weapon I could lay my hands on. A trembling arrow glanced off the thick hide, but my rash rapier struck home. The orc fell with a colossal thud at my feet, and I leapt aside just in time.

Energy rushed through my veins, and I vibrated like a plucked harp string. Perhaps this was what my combative partners relished. Hardly able to hold myself back, I burst into a grand ballad, hoping to similarly inspire Peregrine and Albion in their battles.

It went poorly with them.

Albion was hard pressed by the second orc, and Denizon — as Albion had declared his name – was climbing towards Peregrine with a most fearsome countenance. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the despicable form of Fitch leaning over the balcony above. The greed in his eyes was apparent even from my position, and before I could rationalize, I had sent an arrow to bury itself in his ostentatiously attired shoulder.

Back in the arena, the battle raged on, Albion felled the second orc with a mighty blow, and Peregrine continued to harry the gladiator, while my attempts at assistance continued to fall short – or far, in the case of my alchemist’s fire.

Finally, the three combatants stood locked in bloody contest at the statue’s base. In horror, I watched at Alistair Denizon displayed the reason for his renown, and landed three devastating blows to my comrades. Near their end, the valiant companions fell back. This seemed to be the end. But no, I could not let the quest end this way. There is no more heinous offence to a bard than to have a story cut rudely short. Enraged, I dashed out from behind my sheltering pillar, and made a last, desperate stand. With all my might, I sent the power of my music ripping though the barbarian’s toughened hide, and he toppled at last.

From there, it is a blur. After healing what we could, the Halfling and I climbed back to the now-empty balcony to attempt to open the portcullises. We were discovered by guards, however, but they were luckily sympathetic to our plight – or my tattered bodice, either one. Thank goodness for hormones. Their influence has saved me more times than I can count.

We passed a surprisingly pleasant night in jail, leaving Fitch imprisoned behind us, and proceeded to DeSica’s to outfit ourselves for the upcoming journey to Almernae. While examining the wares, whom did we spy but the escaped Teifling! Loath to let him escape again, and hoping that he might have some useful information on this Elusive Man, we gave chase.

The streets of Gootham are treacherous at best, but eventually I cut off the henchman’s flight. Leaping ahead to balance on a clothesline in front of him, I brought him to his knees with my whip. Unfortunately, this feat was surprising even to me, and I — but that’s not important.
Albion and Peregrine climbed up to the rooftop behind, the Oread inexplicably spattered in blood, and commenced badgering the poor thing. As if killing his brother and chasing him across half the houses in town wasn’t enough. But I digress. The Teifling did not have any important knowledge, and after I finally made it to the rooftop again, I suggested we try not to make even more of an enemy of the unfortunate fellow. Goodness knows what his life must have been to bring him to this point. Eventually, I succeeded in convincing both the big and the small brute to release the Teifling, under the condition that he amend his ways, and even to entrust the Brass Buckle to his care in our absence. Perhaps not my best decision, but those deep black eyes were just so sad, I couldn’t help myself.

We spent a pleasant night at the forge, and I even taught a few rudimentary chords to the reformed goon – Ralzarek is his name. In light of his disillusionment, Albion set out to seek new information about his missing family – poor, tortured fellow – and left Peregrine and I to break our fast at the local tavern.

With light hearts and full stomachs, we left for Almernae. Despite feeling slightly uneasy about abandoning my stewardship, my good deed sat warmly in my breast. Perhaps I will meet Ralzarek again, and we can swap tales. Yes, I left, for a bard must follow the action. Onward, to adventure!

-Moira Magee
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Familiar Faces
Part 1 of TTC Renewed

Six months. That’s how long I’ve been in hiding in this little pub in the desert town of Almernae. Six. Bloody. Months. I understand that it is necessary, that I must do whatever it takes to keep Machine off of my scent, but I believe that soon I will go mad if I’m pressed to stay in this basement for much longer. I can hear the world calling me and my feet ache to get back on the open road.

Heh…I suppose my time with the Tiki Company really has changed me.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the kindness shown to me there in my time of need. I am eternally in debt to Teresa and Kiana for taking me in and giving me food and a warm cot to sleep in. And I have Artemis to thank for bringing me news from the outside world from time to time. But in my six months I spent locked up in the basement I had turned up no leads on Machine, and I neared the end of my rope.

I spent the last few days of my isolation tossing knucklebones against the wall, trying to catch a glimpse or hint at what was to come. Every time the bones gave the same answer: death. Something was coming, the calm before the storm had passed, and I needed to be prepared, but prepared for what? I had no leads, nothing to go on, and sooner or later Machine or one of his associates would track me to this pub and I would not have more innocent blood on my hands.

I was about to give up hope when Artemis returned with a news update. Apparently, someone had dropped off a letter at his office a few days ago addressed to me. The note read thus:

Greetings, friend.

I’ve happened upon bits and pieces of information here and there, and if my suspicions are correct, you are the one being hunted by the assassin known as Alexis Machine.

Worry not; the secret of your identity, as well as your whereabouts, are safe with me. I seek to help you; I have information that may prove useful to you.

Come to Red Rain Cave, west of Almernae. I’m in hiding at the moment. In order to find me, head downstream until you reach a moss-covered door. I’ll leave the rest up to you.

-An anonymous informant.

P.S. Bring food, I’m sick of eating rats.

Finally! A lead had presented itself! Now all that remained was to gather together what was left of The Tiki Company. I sent Emrys on his way, carrying with him a letter addressed to each of my former comrades and longtime friends: Peregrine Toque, Richard J. Buckles, Mersh, Belarin Urthador, and Duran-Duran. I could only hope that they would come, and I began to prepare. The game was afoot, and the first move was mine for the taking.

It was another two weeks or so after that before I heard the front door slide open upstairs and heard two pairs of feet walk across the floorboards upstairs. I smirked to myself as I heard the familiar banter and wordplay that only Peregrine was capable of. Now who was it that had accompanied him? He wouldn’t really have brought Bonnie along for the ride, would he? Or perhaps he met up with one of the others along the way?

I walked up to the main floor of the Dusty Drink to see Peregrine engaged in conversation with Teresa and a half-elf that I didn’t recognize. I greeted my old friend, saving him from Teresa’s wrath, and he introduced me to his new traveling companion, a bard by the name of Moira McGee. Apparently, Peregrine had his own troubles, running into another assassin after his blood, on his way to Almernae.

Forgive me, my Peregrine is a little rusty after two years of not speaking or listening to it, but the gist of the story was that he was looking for Mersh in Gootham on his way to join up with me only to find that Miss Moira had been commissioned by Mersh to watch Buck’s store, The Brass Buckle. I can’t imagine Buck would be very happy to hear that…and things were finally beginning to patch up between him and Mersh…

Afterwards, they ran into a group that was hunting Peregrine for some unknown reason led by a man called Ambercrombie who had been ordered by some “Illusive Man” to hunt him down. One of the group hunting them, Albion the rock-man (my Peregrine is still a little rusty, forgive the translation), had been working with them on the promise that he would receive help in finding his family. It turns out Ambercrombie was lying, and after he jumped from a tower, the rock-man had left to try and find his family. Moira, in the meantime, had asked to accompany Peregrine in his travels for the time being. She was well-versed in several “ballads” about The Tiki Company, something I was going to have to discuss with Artemis next time I see him.

It took some convincing, but after a few moments of chatter the three of us set out for Red Rain Cave, about a day-and-a-half’s journey from Almernae. This was a lead that could not be passed up, and I had already waited too long. Hopefully the rest of the company would join up with us later. The journey itself was uneventful, though I had forgotten how much I missed having a bard in the group to lighten the mood.

As we neared the basin, Emrys flew back from his scouting. An ogre stood between us and our destination. Watching the beast with its back turned to us, I suddenly missed having Buck, Duran, or Belarin in the party. None of us were exactly built for going toe-to-toe with a massive ogre. Though it seemed this didn’t occur to Peregrine forthwith, as he tried to sneak up on the ogre from behind, almost alerting it to his (and our) presence.

Moira and I quickly got the situation under control, using a combination of her lullaby and my Sleep spell to render the ogre helpless before us. We eliminated him before he became a threat. It may not have been the most honourable victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.

The ogre gone, we entered the cave to find this “friend” of mine that waited within. We followed the river flowing out of the cave to it’s source deeper into the basin where the light of day could not be seen. We trekked alongside the river and found a large area filled to the brim with hobgoblins and orcs.

Oh adventuring, sometimes I hate you so.

Time seems to have done us wonders with regard to strategy. Instead of charging in head first as we once did, we planned out a course of action. Under the protection of my Mage Armor, Peregrine took the charge, slaying the first enemy in a matter of seconds with a powerful kick to the head. Then, the battle began in earnest.

Peregrine nimbly slew goblin after goblin with his sword and axe, though at a great cost as the hoard focused on bringing down the halfling ranger. I cast some of my more powerful spells, burning and battering the goblins as they approached while Moira supported us all with her song. The battle wasn’t easy, but we won. The orcs and hobgoblins lay in pools of their own blood or burnt to a crisp or washed down the river until only one remained. I interrogated the terrified fellow with Moira’s assistance. The goblins knew nothing of this cave nor who inhabited it. They were simply planning an escape from the ogre when we happened onto them. The goblin fled as we continued our search.

I was immediately drawn to a moss-covered section of the cave wall. I had found a secret door, magically protected to only open when a riddle is answered correctly. Spent from the battle, we opted to answer the riddles instead of forcing our way in.

Apparently the cave was once home to a bandit by the name of Tokagero, and it was in his voice that the riddles were asked. One by one we passed the test and were permitted to enter the inner sanctum of Red Rain Cave. Inside, Peregrine and I were indeed met with another familiar face…Ogden Sadric.

It took us some time, but with thanks to Moira’s power over words, we were able to get all of the information that Ogden had to offer. The “Illusive Man” that hired Ambercrombie to eliminate Peregrine was the same man who sent Machine after me. For whatever reason, he’s wanted me dead for some time, and my two year hiatus only served to anger him into sending other assailants after my friends.

This…this will not stand. Nobody goes after my friends, my family, in order to get to me. I shall make this Illusive Man pay…

Ogden explained that he himself had been contracted by the Illusive Man to gather information on Belarin. It seemed that our sword-wielding friend had regained some of his lost memories and had returned home to Ontas on the West Coast. He was royalty, a despot of the city, whose real name was Belarin Vladislous, and for whatever reason he was seeking revenge against the Albright family of Golden Valley off the East Coast of Ashen. He was so caught up in revenge that he had hired the very assassin sent to kill me to exact it.

Belarin had found and hired Alexis Machine to kill the young Lady Albright.

As much as I wanted to journey to Ontas myself and have a few words with my former comrade…we needed to alert Lady Albright to her peril, and maybe catch Machine in the process…

We left Ogden in the cave and told him to make way for the Dusty Drink in Almernae with a note carrying my seal and left to plot our next move.

The game is afoot, and slowly the terms are coming into light. The first move has been made, Illusive Man, and now the dice pass to you. Play your little games, send all of the assailants you desire and I shall ensure that they are all brought down until all that remains is you.

The Tiki Company is piecing itself back together, better and stronger than ever, and we are coming for you.

You have no idea what you have just unleashed.

-Tibles
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The Chronicles of The Tiki Company
The Tale of TTC

Stories.

That’s all we really are in the end, stories. And when we die and our soul becomes one with the great aether, we see the story of our lives play before our eyes. We see all of those that we loved and those that we lost. We see our struggles and our failures; our victories and our happiest moments.

I remember when I was young I read so many stories in my studies. Even when my lessons were complete for the day I would find some nook in a tree and would spend hours upon hours enraptured by the stories in my books. The ballads of warriors in their fight against evil, a hymn of prayer and hope to light a dark hour, a sonnet of true love that not even the bonds of time could break, the myths of ancient magics long forgotten by the realm that held the ultimate power, histories of lands that most have only dreamed of beholding, even the common folklore of the towns and cities…I read them all time and time again. And the more I read, the more I longed to see the world for myself.

I desired nothing more than the chance to see the world’s stories with my own eyes and maybe even write a few myself along the way. But who was I to abandon my duties, to escape from my destiny? I was young, I was reckless, and I would not be confined by some predetermined fate. My life was my own, and I would make my own way.

How foolish I once was. I thought myself learned and wise, when all I really did was run. I suppose after all these years I’ve never stopped running.

And so I did just that, I ran away from my home, from my destiny, taking with me my spellbook and my only friend in my youth who would accompany me throughout all of my years until the end. Emrys was a cheeky falcon, but faithful, loyal, and held an unwavering spirit.

The “Wandering Wizard” they called me. Looking back on it now, I can see how well such a title befit me. I was reckless in my youth as I continued my travels from one town to the next, never staying in one place for longer than a few days at a time. When my magic could be of service, I would offer my assistance. Whenever a soul cried out for help, I would do what I could. I never wanted their praise, and so I left as quickly as I arrived, leaving naught but a name.

But this is not my story. Well, at least not entirely. I played my part, but this is the tale of a group of wayward adventurers that originated from all walks of life. None of them, myself included, would ever have imagined that they would band together and endure through trials that would test their strength, their fortitude, the will, and the bonds of friendship they forged that would through time prove to be unbreakable.

They became more than just friends on the road looking for adventure. Neigh, adventure found us. They became a family, my family. And like all families they were not without their own struggles, but through it all we remained just that. In a time of need we could count on one another for their support.

Through some force, call it destiny, or fate, or the will of the gods, or even simple happenstance, this group of the most unlikely of friends banded together to face the darkness of the world.

Over time our company changed, as all things must as we sail down the river of time. Some left to make their own mark and to start their own lives, others…others passed in the course of our journeys, and no matter how much I learned, how powerful I would become, I could not reverse the flow of time and bring them back. Time indeed is the greatest foe of all, one that cannot be beaten. We can try to escape its clutches for a time, but must all one day succumb to it.

My pardons, it seems I have began to ramble. Please excuse an old man as he reminisces, my mind is not as sharp as it used to be. At any rate…

We did not choose our path, it was given to us. I once believed that we could control our fates, and to an extent this is true, but we all have to face our destinies in due course. After all, you can only run for so long.

And it mattered not when we left the company, as we would for the rest of our lives carry with us the memories of our accomplishments and of each other. Even as we drifted apart, we would still look back on the times we spent together and a smile would grace our lips or a tear would fall silently as we recalled the loss of one of our own.

You see, we never really forgot each other. Not even death could keep the memories of our adventures at bay. Even once we had disbanded, we would still join together every year once or twice to pay our respects to those that had fallen, be it to the sword in battle or to the icy claws of time. Years after we retired from the adventuring life, I would still pay visits to my friends, my family, if for nothing more than to check up on their lives at peace. I became an “uncle” of sorts to their children that would wander into town every now and then to visit their father or mother.

Just because the company disbanded never meant that I stopped my wandering, I’ll have you know. I became “The Wandering Wizard” entirely, the road my home.

But again, this is not just my story. This is a story of a company of friends. This is our story.

This is the story of a rogue that grew up alone on the streets of the big city, learning how to pickpocket and steal as his means of survival, of his vows to avenge those that had fallen and of how he found love more than once in the company. The soul. Without him we would surely our way and fall into darkness.

This is the story of a old militia captain, discharged from his duty, that fell into our company, of his own acts of heroism and bravery that soon led to the restoration of his rightful position as a military leader. The shield. Without him, how could we defend ourselves from our foes?

This is the story of an estranged cleric who thirsted for adventure and craved for his name to become known to the world as the leader of a group of heroes. The pride. Without him we would surely fall into obscurity.

This is the story of a bar maiden, sworn to peace, that guided our company in ways that I could not and supported us in our times of need. Though she chose not to raise her blade to fight, we would not have succeeded were it not for her aid. The calm. Without her peace our rage would have known no bounds.

This is the story of a ranger, caught up in the wilderness, who joined our family on a whim and became one of the greatest friends I have ever had, a bond that I carried with me for the rest of my life. The heart. Without him we would surely have withered and died.

This is the story of an old war veteran turned blacksmith who took up arms again to lead us into battle and through the woods, a man greater than I by any standard who I looked up to for guidance. The leader. Without his guidance we would fall into chaos.

This is the story of a crowned prince who had lost his memory to the fates of time who ventured with this company to regain what was lost at a terrible price. The sword. Without him how could we vanquish those that would do us wrong?

This is the story of a boy taken down in his prime, who had sought to finally become a man in his adventures with us. I can tell you that when his time came, he had achieved his lifelong quest. The youth. Without him the world seemed greyer and less vibrant than before…

This is the story of a young bard with no home to call her own that sought adventure, to live out her dreams that old songs and ballads had given to her, who found that and a home of her own in the company. The voice. Without her, how could our story be known truly?

This is the story of a man who had lost his family and everything he held dear to a madman, who, once our enemy, found his vengeance and his peace in our group. The strength. Without him how could we have carried on in our darkest hour?

And lastly, this is also my story, the story of a wizard who had run away from home and had found his place in the world amongst these strangers. I guided them as best I could, imparting what little wisdom I had to offer. Alone, we were weak. Together, we were strong. The wisdom. Without it we would have met disaster.

Listen, my friends and to any of those who read this, listen to the chronicles of the Tiki Company.

Every life is a story, but sometimes it takes you a lifetime to see how these individual little tales interweave, entwine, and join together to create an epic unlike any other that you have ever seen. This is the story of the Tiki Company, of its fights, its victories, its losses, and of all of the lives we have touched.

We are all leaves on the wind, cast about in the storm of life as we dance through the storms of time. We all share our beginnings, and we all must meet our inevitable ends and destinies. That, however, is not what matters. As with a leaf caught on the wind, we all end up on the ground sooner or later. What really matters, what is really important, is the path that we forge for ourselves along the way. Like the leaves on the storm winds, each path we take is unique as we flit about in the dark.

My name is Tibles of the Blue Leaf Clan, and in these last hours of my life I chronicle the entirety of the Tiki Company. All of my friends have passed on, leaving this last duty to me. I owe it to them, to all of them. It is time that I look back on my life and face the end after my long years.

I am done running.

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A Halfling's Journey
Prelude to the rebooted campaign

It’s a lazy summer day when Peregrine Toque, a formerly-adventurous halfling, now settled down to a peaceful life with his wife Bonnie Baillie, his newborn child, and his massive longbottom leaf grow-up, receives and urgent letter from his old friend Tibles of the Blue Leaf Clan. Heeding the call for help, Peregrine journeys down south to Gootham, to find The Brass Buckle, the blacksmith shop formerly owned by Richard J. Buckles.

There, he meets a young half-elf bard by the name of Moira Maggee, who had been told to keep watch over the place by a young, dark-haired man.

Meanwhile, an Oread pit-fighter by the name of Albion Halberg, is ordered by his master, Abercrombie to capture or kill Peregrine Took. Heeding his master’s orders, he journeys with his fellow pit-fighter Orazid, and a group of other hired thugs to bring the halfling back to Abercrombie, dead or alive.

When they arrive at The Brass Buckle, Peregrine hides, and Moira opens the door. The thugs force their way inside, and begin searching for the halfling. Thinking quickly, Moira places a charm spell on Albion, causing him to turn on his companions when they show hostility towards her. A fight breaks out, Peregrine joins in, and in the end, the thugs are defeated.

One Tiefling is left alive for questioning. Albion, Moira, and Peregrine all agree to find Abercrombie and inquire as to why he sought the halfling. The Tiefling sees an opportunity, and flees while the three are deep in conversation.

Moira and Albion pursue the Tiefling, and Peregrine slips into the back room to uncover the clue that Tibles had left as to his whereabouts. With that, he catches up to his companions by riding his pony after them.

The Tiefling gets away, and it is decided that the group cut through the Tin Street Markets to get to the spire of the Arena, where Abercrombie is waiting for the group of thugs. The going isn’t easy, but the group makes it relatively unscathed.

Albion ties Peregrine’s hands in an easily undone knot, and enters the meeting place, informing Abercrombie that all the others had perished at the hands of the skilled halfling and a few of his accomplices. When Abercrombie’s guards move in to carry the halfling away, Peregrine undoes the knots, and the duo makes short work of them.

A cornered Abercrombie reveals that he never had any intention of finding Albion’s parents, and was simply using that as a tool to make the foolish Oread stay. He reveals that he was ordered to find and capture Peregrine Toque, or uncover any information on The Tiki Company, by a thick-accented, mask-wearing man in a fireside armchair.

When it is clear Abercrombie’s life now holds little value, he jumps off the spire, ending it before divulging any more information. Moira resolves to join Peregrine for her own reasons, and head south to meet Tibles in Almernae. Albion decides to hunt around for some actual leads on the whereabouts of his family, and the two groups go their separate ways.

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