Azure Daggers

Welcome Aboard! OR: "Who's the F.N.G.?"

The roads leading to Dagger Falls, the heart and soul of Daggerdale, are always many and long. Even if they only start down the block or in the next farm over, it’s never an easy thing.

The three souls that have harkened to the call today have travelled many varying paths indeed. Those particulars of these stories are for another time, however.

They stand assembled in front of a desk in a small, roughly appointed office in the heart of the small, walled city of Dagger Falls. The room and everything in it is a kind of microcosm of the dale in which it is situated. Rough but practical. Odd treasures ready for classification strewn randomly amid samples of the surrounding geography. Half finished maps with hinted outlines of once great and long fallen empires hastily tacked with razor sharp daggers to the hand planed pine walls.

Everywhere you look the new intertwined with ancient history. The knowledge that if you walked into any corner you’d find something new to explore, some new adventure to be had. As well, there’s a very real sense of constant, imminent danger…

Inside this room, at least, that danger is clearly manifest in the furrowed brow, snarling tusks and very impatiently drumming fingers of the well armed and armored half-orc sitting behind the desk. As he glares at each of them in turn he stands to his full height, rather focusing their attention even more than it had been before.

“Where are the others?!” He bellows. “I was told there were to be more of you!”
Before any of them can answer he waves any responses away.
“No matter. We have business to attend to and I have little time.”

He begins to describe the tasks they, as initiates into the Azurite Daggers, will perform and how they should carry out said tasks.

“The unit Structure of the Azurite Daggers in the field is very organic. You may, under most circumstances, choose which other members you want to work with in order to get a job done. In some instances we shall assign other members to your team. In any given mission you will choose, or have chosen for you, those members that are available and best compliment your abilities. A well balanced team in the field is key to success.

What is not so free-form are the Ranks, Orders and Instrumentation designations. You are all now of Rank Agate. Your Order of Measure is Vara. You are all given various designations of Instrumentation depending upon your particular talents.

He pins the insignias denoting rank and measure upon them. The rank pin is a well polished agate stone set in an unassuming metal band. The measure pin is a very small metal ruler with an even smaller measure of said ruler marked with a tiny blue stone.

At this time both your rank and Measure are the bottom rungs of the ladder. If anyone of a higher rank in the same Measure or anyone of any rank of a higher Measure than your gives you a command you will obey. Is that clear?"

None of the three assembled before him have any questions for him at this time.

As he the half-orc walks back behind his desk a man comes through the side door. He gives only the most cursory of glances at the three then addresses the one that’s obviously in charge.

“Olnor sir, we’ve just brought back the specimens that were surveyed on the last patrol.”

“Ah! Good!” Olnor replies. “This will be a perfect opportunity, when we’re done here, for you to observe the kinds of threats we’re dealing with out here.

Now, your main task as members of the Vara Measure is to observe. Be the eyes and ears of the Surveyors. Speak with the populous, watch and listen for any strange occurances that could be attributed to activities of plaguechanged creatures, people affected by spell scars or even, and especially, areas of plaguelands that were previously unknown and unmapped."

Sounds of the wagon being pulled to outside are heard through the doors and windows. There’s much yelling and shouting.

“If you hear rumors of any of these things you are to investigate them insofar as you are able. If you ever encounter any of these you are to withdraw and report your findings to your superiors. Do not engage!

The yelling from outside grows louder and loud banging and snarling can be heard from just outside the side door.

“After your report is evaluated we shall determine how best to proceed. Any questions?”

As Olnor looks at the three standing silent he seems satisfied. He begins to rise and seems like he’s about to speak again when suddenly the side door bursts apart owing to the man that had come in earlier being thrown through it! He lands amid splinters and bits of hinge upon the floor.
Raising his head, bloody and broken as it is, he looks at Orlon and says, “Sir! We might need… a little…” then collapses, dead upon the floor!

DAMN!” Olnor yells as he throws his cloak back, unsheathes his short sword and rushes out the now destroyed door.

The three new recruits have scant moments to decide what to do…

NEXT: Frog Boy Riots! OR: “Bloody” Hell!

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Frog Boy Riots OR "Bloody" Hell!

Standing in the middle of the office with some sort of battle taking place outside, the three decide they should start earning their keep.

Lea, the Drow scout, runs out the side door leading to a small alley that Olnor just vacated, short bow at the ready. Svala, the human weapon master and Kettriken, an imposing goliath warden, both burst through the front door leading to the main square.

Lea sees a partly destroyed wagon full of what used to be wooden cages in the alley. Some Surveyors had been trying to unload some creatures they had captured into their holding and research building next door. Obviously things hadn’t gone so smoothly. Small humanoid frog men, Bullywugs, had burst out of their cages, grabbed some of the wooden bars to use as spears and were running amok in the town square, attacking anyone, townsfolk included, that got in their way in their dash for freedom.

A few of of the Bullywugs had unfortunately attacked and killed some of the shoppers and merchants before turning their attention to the armed party threatening them. One made a charging attack against Svala and got his spear straight through her side, bloodying her instantly. Kettriken stood her ground and cut that one down.
In the alley Lea was doing well plugging arrows into the back of some of the things trying to flee through into one of the main streets. As one of them jumped onto a passing cart, killed the drover and leapt away to get lost in the town she heard some commotion coming from the mostly destroyed cart behind her. Seeing no immediate threat but keeping the possibility in mind she snuck back to the side of the Surveyors’ building and took a look at what was happening in the main square.
Svala, Kettriken and Olnor were doing a good job of handling the rest of the things. Some were dispatched and a couple of them were bloodied. Lea decided it was time to reposition and headed out to take cover by a merchant’s stall.

Just then the small noises Lea had heard from the cart became suddenly louder until the whole thing burst apart in an explosion of wood, iron and what looked like… teeth!
A hideous thing the size of a man with three stout legs supporting a ball like main body, what looked to be around six to ten thrashing appendages, some with gruesome bloodshot eyes on the ends and some with fanged gnashing jaws. And the worst part, the majority of the body was simply a giant slobbering tooth filled mouth with a slathering tongue lashing about pulling anything that got within reach into it’s gaping maw.
Its many eyes looked around, saw Lea, Olnor and Kettriken, its stalks lingered a while on Svala as she stood holding her wound and its many mouths seemed to salivate even more for a moment. But then it spotted one of the bullywugs, down but not out on the ground between her and it. It scuttled very quickly to the profusely bleeding thing and started to eat it alive!
Within a couple of blinks the entire thing had been ripped apart and shoved into the things massive mouth by its huge, black tongue. As the last bit of flipper was licked from what could pass for its lips the eye stalks once again swiveled to rest on Svetlana.

Kettriken stood between Svala and the thing as Olnor and Lea came into position behind it. It was a fast and vicious battle but it ended decisively when Ketrriken made its horrible vertical grin even bigger with her longsword.

As they stood catching their breath and wiping the gore off their weapons Olnor said, “Well, it looks like you can handle yourselves well enough. That’s good. As you can see we’ve got our hands full out here. Those frog men are known as Bullywugs. They’ve taken over the swamp recently. And this thing here… I’ve seen one before. It’s known as a maw demon, for good reason. It’s not native to this world at all let alone this region. I have no idea what it could have been doing out here…”
He trails off as he looks around at the death of his fellow citizens in the square. Sighing heavily he says, “We’ll get this mess cleared up. You lot get to work now. Head out and talk with the people. Get your ears and eyes open for anything that might indicate trouble such as this. Go, be Surveyors.” He turns and walks towards some of the militia that have arrived too late too help, looking tired.

NEXT: Questions, Conflicts, Confusion? OR: “Hi, we’re, like, new here and stuff?”

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Questions, Conflicts, Confusion? OR: “Hi, we’re, like, new here and stuff?”

As Olnor and the local militia clean up the aftermath of the escaped swamp creatures the three new recruits go out into the town to begin their job of investigating strange and dangerous occurrences.

Lea, feeling extremely uncomfortable and awkward around so many loud, well adjusted surface dwelling folk at one time rather bumbles her questions in a skulking, creepy sort of way. In other words she goes about her business as usual.
Unfortunately this method doesn’t evoke a very friendly response to her questions from the townsfolk. Though she did get a rather talkative, half blind, mostly deaf old man who seemed willing to talk with anyone that would stick around long enough to listen to give her some information.

“If it’s strange creatures and bad goings on yer interested in you could do worse than checking out the old crypt down on the calabash farm. Definitely some kind of something down in there… And treasure too! Every once in a while some damn fool gets it in his head to find the mother load. Comes out saying he grabbed a few silvers from a giant pile before some kind of beast from the dark depths chased him out.
That’s when they comes out at all…”

Kettriken happened upon a group of merchants unloading some wagons. They were complaining loudly about the crops being lighter and lighter. Asking what the problem was they told her that there is now a real danger of a major food shortage. Since the majority of Daggerdale’s farmlands were flooded the resilient folk of the dale have learned to harvest different foodstuffs from the swamps and bogs. But recently the bullywugs come in greater numbers and force the farmers and harvesters away. They don’t know much more than that since they don’t actually go out to the swamps themselves. They suggest that they talk to the farmers themselves if they would like more information.

She decides to follow up on this lead with some farmers and bog harvesters down at the dry goods shop.
“I’ll tell you, we were doing really well. Learning to live with the swamp creatures instead of killing them. Harvesting various plants and such for food and medicines. Some of the bolder harvesters even started exploring the ruins of the old towns. There’s plenty of riches to be had out there if you’re up for looking around a bit!”

“Yeah,” says another, “but then the ‘wugs came. They never attacked us farmers. They just came at our crops and equipment when we weren’t around. Destroying and defiling… They’re damned filthy things them ’wugs.”

Kettriken remembers back to her fight a while ago. When she attacked the thing that charged Svala she was almost choked by the tainted air that surrounded it.

One of the bog harvesters chimes in, “When we’re out gathering we can see ‘em skulking around out in the flooded forests. But, like he says, they don’t ever attack themselves. But they do lead other monsters to us. Poor things have spear marks in ’em. Drives em into a rage then they herd them to us. Bastards.”

The first farmer says, “There’s an old harvester that went a little mad out in the swamp. Lives in a little shack on the outside of the town wall. He says he’s been to the center of the swamp and knows what’s controlling the bullywugs. I think he’s nuts and I ain’t alone in that but you might could go talk to him. I’m sure he’ll tell you his story easy enough.”

Kettriken thanks the farmers and harvesters and wanders about for a while. Eventually she runs into Svala who fills her in on her pursuits.

She had found out that there’s an old logging claim up in the Border Forest that is being worked. The loggers go out in shifts of one month at a time then come back to town for a month off while the next shift goes out and works. Apparently the last shift was due back to town almost two weeks ago but nobody’s seen them. Most of the next shifters hang out in one of the local taverns getting surlier and drunker as the days go by.

As she’s relaying this bit of information Lea comes and joins them. The three decide to head over to this tavern to talk to the next shifters.

The loggers are all sitting around a large table nursing mugs of ale and wine. They aren’t very inclined to talk until they realize that the three women questioning them were the ones that took care of the monsters in the town square that morning.
“Well, it’s not that we’re ‘afraid’ to go up and see what’s happening… Not exactly. We just figure, you know, they’d want to deal with it themselves.”
The party asks what, exactly, is to be dealt with out there.

“Well, there’s always accidents out on the job. Every once in a while we lose someone. A deadfall, slipped axe, you know. Accidents. But the last few shifts…
We started losing guys…. They’d go out for the cuts and they just wouldn’t come back. Nobody could find them. Not a trace. There’s something out there. You can feel it all around. And it ain’t happy.”

“I’ve seen ’em when they got Bryson” one of the loggers says. “The forest. It just came alive and took him. Those eyes there….” she trails off into a whisper.
“What’s that?” another asks, blearily.
“Those eyes there. They disappeared.”

“Aaaanyway…” the first logger turns away from the woman. “We ain’t going back out there until the last shift comes back. It’s in our contract you see. We’re not afraid, we just want to stick with the contract is all. If you’re looking for more information you’d do best to talk to the boss, Josef Calabaza. He’s got an office here in town.”

After locating the logging office and getting in to see him Josef asks what the visit is all about. They fill him in with the information that the loggers gave him and ask what he can tell them about it all. They notice his brow is starting to glisten a bit though it’s rather cool in his office.

“Everything’s fine! Just a small glitch in the operation, we’ll be back on schedule in no time! Who are you people anyway?”

They tell him that they’re members of the Azurite Surveyors. He visibly deflates and looks relieved. _"Oh, thank the gods…. I thought you were family members. I should have gone to you guys in the first place but, I don’t know, I thought everything would just blow over and we could get back to logging as usual. There’s so much money tied up in this operation and men have lost their lives! _
_All I can tell you other than what my men have said is that some of them have reported that the thing that comes for them sometimes uses strange blue magics when attacking. That’s when I first thought of coming to you. It’s what you do, right? Take care of blur fire wielding plague creatures? _

Look, I can’t offer you any cash, but if you are able to tell me what is happening up there, and especially if you can get my men back alive I can hook you up with all the lumber you might need, within reason of course. Might come in handy some day. What do you say?"

They agree that this does sound like a job for the Azurite Surveyors and agree to investigate the logging operation the next day.

As they are resting in the inn that night they are brought a round of drinks. The wench points to a cloaked figure standing next to the bar. Turning around it’s revealed to be a human woman, quite strikingly attractive despite the obvious dark blue tracings of a spell scar around her left eye leading down her cheek and neck.
She raises her own mug in acknowledgment of their attention and walks over to their table after Kettriken’s rather unsubtle bellowing greeting.

“Hello. My name’s Loxar. I couldn’t help overhear your planning a trip into the Border Forest tomorrow. I happen to be traveling part way down the same path on my way to the village of New Teshmere. I was wondering if I might join you for a while as an extra sword never hurt in the wilds out here.”

They asked what it was she could offer up and she grins, tapping her mug to the three of theirs and taking a drink. “Well, as you sit and enjoy this round of drinks I’ve bought you you might think on what I just said about an extra sword helping out on the trails. You watch my back out there and I’ll help watch yours.”

Chastened, they agree this seems a pretty good arrangement and so agree to meet her on the logging road north of town in the morning.

The next day, some way down the road theY all get to chatting. It comes up that they are newly recruited into the Azurite Surveyors. Loxar’s face gets hard and she says icily, “Oh, is that so.” They ask what the problem is. She angrily replies, “You surveyors, you think you speak for all us that are scarred. Well, you don’t! There’s some of us that don’t agree at all with what the Surveyors are doing. When you step over the line we’ll be there.” The lines around her eye pulse slightly and her eye seems to flash a deep blue. They ask for more details about her anger. “Look, you guys say you’re new. So maybe you’re telling the truth and you don’t know. In that case you’re better off not knowing so I won’t tell you. If you’re not telling the truth you’re just looking to see how much I know. In which case I won’t tell you either. So, you seem nice enough. Let’s just drop it and enjoy the trip.”

As they were talking they had begun to cross a bridge over a small pond. It was the headwaters of a creek that acted as a tributary to the River Tesh. On either side of the bridge some old dilapidated buildings stood on stilts above the water. It used to be an old resort that some of the wealthier merchant families came too when the land was safer to travel. Now it was simply a hideout for bandits and highway men…. Which attacked as soon as they were in the middle of the bridge!

As arrows flew in from either side and some thugs ran up to engage Lea and Kettriken at the head of bridge, Svala and Loxar were at the rear and started to get into a position to charge the buildings.

Lea used some drow magic to pull up a cloud of absolute darkness around her, which shielded her from the sight of the crossbows in the buildings, blinded the thugs in front of her and also left Kettriken, who was standing right next to her, completely at a loss. Some of the thugs had lucky swipes as they backed away from the dark elf but ran into Kettriken’s long sword swipes. Despite the temporary setback the thugs and knife fighters at the head of the bridge went down amongst the spinning steel of Lea’s double axes and Kettriken’s sword.

One of the bandits in the buildings ran away mortally wounded from Loxar’s arrows and the other tried to charge Svala . Unfortunately for her she didn’t take into account the depth and difficulty of moving in the water before she missed her jump onto the shore. As she floundered around, seeing that her companions were dead or fled she begged for her life. They took her weapons and let her live.

Soon after another path branched off to the southwest. Loxar said, “This is where we part ways. My friends should be right down the path a ways so I’ll be fine from here. Thanks for the help on the road. Take care. Perhaps I’ll see you again.” With goodbyes said she ran down the road and was quickly lost in the shadows.

Night was approaching and the three newest members of the Azurite Surveyors set up camp in the outskirts of the Border Forest, ready to continue the adventure in the morning.

NEXT: You all meet up at a tavern… OR: “What is this asshole’s problem anyway?”

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You all meet up at a tavern… OR: “What is this asshole’s problem anyway?”

Kettriken, Lea and Svala all continue on their way up the Ruin Ride. On the way they encounter a member of a Chain that gives them some new orders. Svala is recalled to Dagger Falls for an unspecified reason and the others are told to meet up with some new recruits that will be assigned to their Appraisal team. The designated meeting place is a small roadside inn called the Ruin Ride Roadhouse just inside the Border Forest. It’s traditionally been the haunt of the logging shifters on their way to and from the camp up the road as well as some local farmers working plots on the still viable farmlands outside the forest.

Kettriken and Lea walk into the tavern part of the inn eager for a drink and a nice sturdy chair to rest their legs in. As they enter they receive the requisite glances from the folks drinking that an almost eight foot tall, grey skinned, flaming red haired female warrior and a slight, sulky, drow goth chick would warrant. Ignoring all of this they proceed to walk to the bar where the new members of their team are waiting. As they get to the center of the room one of the patrons stands up and yells, “Them’s the bitches that did for Worrick and me!” and reaches for her sword.

With hardly a movement to be noticed Garret the Fetcher, who was sitting at the bar directly behind the brigand, is suddenly on her. He’s got his small main gauche at her neck and his rapier slipped between the chinks of her armor. “You might want to rethink this course of action. I’m sure we can talk this over peacefully whatever the problem.” he says.

As the brigand hesitates the barmaid, whose hands are ominously beneath the bar readying something unpleasant, yells, “I don’t want any fighting in here! I told you lot enough times! Stand down! Now!”

“That’s just fine Yolla. We won’t do any fighting in here. I promise.” She slowly takes her hand away from her sword. “Will we gents?” she addresses the rest of her crew, the lot of them half raised out of their seats and reaching for their own weapons. They all relax back into their seats and the crisis is averted for the moment.

During this there are four or five local farmers that throw some money on the table they were occupying and rush out in a damned hurry.

Seemingly oblivious to all of this Kettriken waves and heartily says, “Hiya! Nice to meet you!” and gestures Garret and Amycus Belothar, the human warlock sitting at the bar next to Garret, over to the table recently vacated by the farmers. After the seating arrangements are satisfactory to Lea, who can’t stand to have her back to the room let alone not being in the darkest, moodiest corner, they order a round of drinks and get down to the business of getting to know each other.
As well, the newcomers are filled in on what the Declination of this Meander is.

As this information is being conveyed the initial table of brigands, led by the woman Kettriken and Lea originally set free, walk out. As they file through the door they all pointedly stare the party down.

Realizing that the brigands will take the barmaid’s words if not the spirit of the words to heart the party starts planning on how to get out of the inn without succumbing to an ambush. Lea decides to shimmy up the chimney to the roof to get a good scout of the situation. She sees a number of the thugs waiting in ambush around the front door. She whispers this information through the chimney to the rest of the group. Asking about exits other than the front door they learn there’s a back door where the ale barrels are rolled in. Kettriken decides to head out there and around the back of the building. Amycus slowly opens the front door but sees nothing untoward leading him to believe that a proper ambush is waiting there. Garret, having spied a cutthroat through a window, decides to give him a proper surprise by stabbing the bastard through the wall of the tavern with his sword!

This sparks off a skirmish that has the would be ambushers surprised by a crack combat team coming at them from all angles. Kettriken comes around the side of the building and wades into the middle of the group, dealing and taking damage as only a goliath warden can, morphing into her form of the relentless panther and destroying anything that got in her way. Amycus walks straight out the front door, slicing this way and that with his deathly cold fey blade, causing as much fear and terror as he does bloodshed. Garret lures one of the deadly cutthroats inside the tavern for a lightning fast blade duel that ends with the bandit bleeding to death on the floor after a battle of wits, feints, and counter attacks.. And Lea dispatches the first of her multiple victims by dropping from the roof, driving her axes into the skull of one of the bandits then hacking into the next like some bolt from an unseen god.

After the battle Garret offers the sum of the fallen’s booty to the barmaid for her trouble and sorry about that hole in the wall… The barmaid gladly accepts and tells them they’ve done her and the other locals a favor in getting rid of the band of thugs. They’re welcome anytime to a meal and room as well as the good will of the locals.

Collecting their things the party continues up the Ruin Ride to investigate the mystery of the missing logging shifters.

NEXT: Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters… OR “It’s Elemental my Dear Watson!”

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