Conscientious Objectors

Dreams Do Come True

We’d escaped with our lives and not much else. As the battle raged (and I was locked in combat with the most… resilient… tyrannosaurus rex I’ve ever fought), I saw my nemesis enter the fray. I swore I would kill him. I swore I would claim bloody vengeance.

No, not Ydersius. Not even Vyr-Azul.

Cuddles.

Oh, I saw him. Though he didn’t see me.

As my duel with the tyrannosaurus went on… and on… and on… and so forth, my compatriots managed to behead Ydersius, steal his head, and… teleport out. I could see my nemesis so close! But no, I was forced off field. Forced off field to save Lena-Karik’s mother, and Varya, and save Kyras’ corpse. Forced off field without killing Cuddles.

As my rage boiled within, I did the only thing I could, prior to teleporting. I knew he felt my stare, I knew he felt my hot rage. As he turned, and our eyes met…

I veiled as Brea once more and smiled.

As I teleported away, I saw the dawning comprehension in his eyes, heard the beginnings of his scream, felt the deliciousness of his impotent hatred. I left him there, deep in serpentfolk territory. With hostile serpentfolk surrounding him. I left him there, and it felt right.


Years later, after the fighting (I won’t say it was in Iomadae’s name, but I felt I owed her a debt… I’m not one to leave debts to gods unpaid), I finally opened that little bar I’d been talking about. My taxidermy skills had improved by leaps and bounds, and I now had quite the collection (properly mounted for display, of course). I’d even managed to track down a second camulatz, an endeavour that took the better part of a month, and the most terrifying aerial battle I’d ever engaged in.


It’s a bitter winter evening, and as it grew late, the fire in the hearth grows low, and I see the last few tipsy regulars out the door, I close up shop for the night. As I wipe my rag over the counter and clear the last few flagons into the dish tray, I hear the door open, then shut. The driving snow and brutal wind sounded just terrible, and I’m thankful they have little chance to intrude on my cozy, quiet evening. And, though I hated to turn a customer away…

“We’re closed” I say, barely glancing up from my cleaning.

When there is no response, I look up. The four figures silently step forward into the waning firelight. The two serpentfolk drop their veils, and start to circle around the counter to the left. The wood golem circlee to the right.

But the menace of their movements was of little concern to me. Instead, I grinned at the short figure in front of me. He was older, wearier, and sporting as many ugly scars as I had, and wielding a vicious-looking war axe. But it was him. It was him.

“Brea,” he hissed. “I… hate… you…”

I reach under the counter and pull out a large peacock feather

“Cuddles. I’d hoped this day would come.”

I spread my wings and vault the counter, swinging the sword with both hands, every last ounce of hatred behind the swing. With a snarl, Cuddles leaps towards me, his axe coming around in an equally fast, equally purposeful blur.

At last.

Our reckoning.

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The Death of Marcello Vicolla

Excerpt from the final page of a journal found by Initiate Pavo Baradin while cleaning the caretaker’s cottage — Neth 30, 4710



Life takes many strange turns. As I write this, I sit here in the humble cottage that was my home while I lived among the humans as Marcello Vicolla. I lived here, acting as caretaker for the temple and worshipping Iomadae in my own way for almost an entire human lifetime and yet, I have had more wonderful, spiritual, and awe-inspiring experiences since I left then I ever had listening to the head priest’s sermons. For most of my life, I have felt lost, but somewhere in the dark depths of Ilmurea, the holy light of Iomadae shone upon me and showed me the way once and for all. I know now that Marcello Vicolla was a lie. A well intentioned lie, perhaps, but a lie nonetheless and I cannot be true to Iomadae without being true to myself. To say the head priest and my brothers and sisters in the temple were surprised to see my true form would be an understatement, but when they saw the power of Iomadae flowing though me, they welcomed me without reservation.

Soon I will leave to fight at Iomadae’s side against the forces of evil, but if it is Her will that I survive, I know now that my purpose in life is to continue to travel the world for as long as I am able, bringing Her light and Her sword to all the dark places. Perhaps my companions and I are not the only serpentfolk to reject our species’ evil ways. It is my duty find my serpent brothers and sisters and show them that they are not alone in believing in a better way. If they choose not to listen, well perhaps Fulba Onatee will have a short but meaningful conversation with them. He can be quite convincing.

No matter what the future may bring, one thing is certain: Marcello Vicolla is dead, now there is only Reethna Onatee, Serpentfolk and Cleric of Iomadae.

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Contientious Objectors: Fact or Fiction? by Arbo Keioki
Chapter 3: Lena:Karik (pgs 342-344)

Excerpt from Chapter 3: Lena:Karik (pgs 342-344)

The diary of Lena-Karik, the famed Serpentfolk warrior, was found in the clutches of the human named Groundhog. The existence of this diary was only rumoured among those inside the Church of Lena-Karik. According to close friends of Groundhog, the diary was passed down from his grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s friend’s grandfather’s deliveryman’s grandfather, who had been the legendary shadow vampire, Chinchilla. Chinchilla was the first soldier of Lena-Karik, and went off to train many other soldiers. These soldiers in turn went off to raise many animals of various sizes, all in the name of Lena-Karik.

Below is a small excerpt, retelling the fight against Ydersius.


All I could think of when I was standing wounded on the pyramid, waiting for Vyr-Azul’s spells to inevitably hit, was how Phoenix and Unicorn and Pegasus and Cerberus would miss me when I died. Then Sharta-Meklesh also appeared on the pyramid and a glow came from Reethna-Onatee and then from within me. Warm, tingly, healing that tasted like justice and mithril. Or maybe that was the blood. Anyway, I have converted to Iomadae.

With newfound hope we fought on. Even when the tyrannosaurus rex appeared behind me. Even with a bunch of bees kept coming out of this amphibian’s barrel. Even when this goblin that looked suspiciously like Cuddles was running back and forth near this large gooey snail.

Al though the tyrannosaurus was unusually persistent, I left Het-Kiril to it and worked to take Nylla-Jas down. Meanwhile I could see Terod-Iras bravely go face-to-face with Ydersius. Our dearly departed Yssith-Atil’s summoned creature was able to climb down the hole, grab the sword Fulba Onatee, and return it to Reethna-Onatee.

Reethna-Onatee chopped Ydersius’s head off. There was a collective gasp (and a shrill inserpentfolkane scream from Vyr-Azul) as the head rolled and the body blindly flailed with indignation. Vyr-Azul tried to grab the head but dropped it into the arms of Reethna-Onatee. Around that time the tyrannosaurus grabbed me in his teeth and we decided as a group it was time to go. The bunch of us at the pyramid went to recoup while Reethna-Onatee said he would take Terod-Iras and Ydersius’s head to a high temple of Iomadae and teleported away.

We laid low for a bit and I thought since Zif had been so nice to let me “borrow” his teleportation boots I would also whittle him a small Head of Ydersius in addition to the Cerberus ornament. I asked group if we could stop off quickly on the island where Zif and the pets were relaxing and to our surprise found the Reethna-Onatee and Terod still a bit worn and being taken care of by Chinchilla. Reethna didn’t really want to talk about why they were here instead of the temple so I handed him Cerberus. Playing with Cerberus is a good stress reliever. Thankfully Zif was still asleep, so we had a coconut drink and waited for the boots to recharge before setting off again.

We will have to take care of Vyr-Azul soon, but right now laying on the ground and breathing while not talking to each other is pretty nice.


Are these the false scribbles of a deluded cult leader or is this finally proof a rebel group of Serpentfolk succeeded against their god? Researchers have puzzled over this for decades. Unless a daring group of adventurers can find more evidence, we may never know the answer.

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The sleepers

From the journal of Yssith-Atil:

I should really go to one of Iomedae’s sermons, or maybe just pick up something that I can read… I will have time. With Ydersius “dead”, we finally have some breathing room to clean up the messes that Vyr-Azul’s insanity has wrought.

The first, and only pressing issue is Vyr-Azul himself. He still knows the location of one of the caches of ancient sleeping serpentfolk, and he probably still has the means to wake them. Hopefully, knowledge of it will die with him. With Reethna leaving in a week, we will have to figure out the best way to find him, and quickly.

Then there is Eando Kline’s cache which, luckily, he wants to keep hidden as much as we do. I will have to convince him to tell me where it is so that we can seal it up. Once that is done, I will be able to join Het at her pub and relax a little. Maybe we can slowly wake up some of the sleepers and integrate them into the world, but I know that I am not the one to make that decision.

Speaking of integration, I will have to visit Issilar from time to time to make sure that he is doing alright. Maybe all of us could even help him retake Saventh-Yhi from the vegepygmies. An out of the way, magically hard to find, city is exactly what he will needs. I can’t let him end up like Drago.

Summary:

  1. Kill Vyr-Azul with the group (skip if not possible)
  2. Seal all entrances to the serpentfolk sleeper’s cavern (or wherever they are)
  3. Relax at the pub / Help Issilar integrate into the world.
  4. Not listed above but, once #2 is done, I would like to offer free teleportation services to any agent of Iomede on church business. So once a day (2-3 Teleports) to/from just about anywhere in the Inner Sea.
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Ydersius, God of *most* Serpentfolk

from the journal of Gethedar:

Sunday, Neth 21:

And it was going so well.

My defences had held against the forbiddance as we breached the inner sanctum. The guards placed at the doors were no match for Reethna-Onatee and I, even before Lena-Karik began raining death upon them. Yssith-Atil had flawlessly countered the Blade Barrier with a Stone Wall ramp, allowing Reethna to take out Sozothala. It had almost felt too easy.

Then the Earthquake began.

Reethna and I foud ourselves cut off from our companions as they were buried by the falling rubble, only their telepathic voices could reach us over the cacophony, letting us know that they had survived. Yssith could not reach us, due to the Anti-Magic Field… I knew the situation must be dire if he was willing to sacrifice his magic for this. The field turned out to be short-lived, as Yssith was overcome. According to the spotty reports we managed to exchange while fighting for our lives, Yssith-Atil had boldly sacrificed his life to protect Het-Kiril and Lena-Karik, only to be taken over by an intellect devourer. While I questioned the tactical soundness of Het focussing on freeing Yssith’s body from the creature, I cannot truly fault her, for having to face the idea of allowing such a creature to inhabit the once-great mind of a friend is unthinkable, and some things are more important than tactics. With that situation resolved I can only hope we see our Draconic friend soon; for within the Sanctum the fighting has been fierce.

Vyr-Azul and his inner circle have been throwing everything they can at us. If not for the innate defences of our kind, I believe we would have long since perished. As it is, we managed to hold them at bay for some time, slaying Vyr-Azul’s pet serpent. When Lena appeared, I thought that she could tip the scales back in our favour, but she only beat Ydersius, god of all Serpentfolk to the Sancutm by a matter of moments. Vyr-Azul unleashed some sort of electrical storm, badly wounding Reethna and I, and stunning us with the force of the blast. While we were reeling from the force of it, Vyr-Azul swept up Fulba-Onatee. We had a moment of hope when we all prayed that Fulba would overcome Vyr-Azul, but in that clash of minds, our foe prevailed, casting the sword into the pit to disappear into darkness.

Yet not all hope is lost. The mantis has arrived, as have some very odd inter-planer travellers. As well, a snake-like guardian golem seems to be malfunctioning and has deemed Ydersius an intruder (an opinion I share with it). As I lie here on the edge on conciousness, I regret my lack of piety, for it seems a good time to take up prayer.

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3 out of 4 Serpentfolk agree...
losing your head is inconvenient.

Hopefully from the future journal of Yssith-Atil:

Having violently subdued the Emperor of Scales, we Dimension Doored into the antechamber before “The Sanctum” as the guards called it. It was eerily silent until Gethadar walked, invisibly, into the Sanctum itself. Four degenerates had left the massive adamantine doors open so that they could hide behind them and ambush the temple’s latest invaders…us. Once Reethna and Het went into the Sanctum and started into those four, the real threats emerged. Sozothala, Nylla-Jas, Vyr-Azul, Raviaza, and some green skinned lady were all waiting for us… in the air. For some reason, mass flying never occurred to us.

If the last few months had taught me anything, it is to work with what you have. After I conjured a ramp over the Blade Wall that someone have put up, Reethna managed to take an impressive leap at Sozothala, taking his head clean off his shoulders. Reethna is now behind the wall, some how surviving the intense magical onslaught that Vyr-Azul and Nylla-Jas are pouring onto him.

Gethadar followed Reethna’s lead by bolting up to grab onto the green skinned lady. For a hairy moment, it looked like she may try to drop him into a giant pit off to one side of the Sanctum. Of course, we shouldn’t have worried. He sprung off the green lady to try for Nylla-Jas, unfortunately, her Mirror Images did their job and he fell to the floor. But, he made his point, and all the flyers seem to be edging a little higher.

Het was having too much fun with the four, now two degenerates to get involved with all these high flying antics. After killing two and blinding one, he had to jump through a Wall of Fire to help Lena and me with our little problem.

Lena, with her usual terrifying flair, has been filling the immediate area with shafts while trying to convince Nylla-Jas that this is not our fault. I swear that it may have worked too… unfortunately, Nazith, like the others, is as insane as Drago and bent on the conquest of the Overburn. Which leads to the problem. Crazy wizard types tend to summon dangerous outsiders and other assorted terrifying beasts to their aid. Outsiders like Raviava, the six-armed, flying, snake-bug-elf, thing that just swept through the ante-chamber and sliced up Lena with concerning accuracy. Lena has dropped to the floor, hopefully alive.

I was barely able to teleport myself to the opposite side of Raviava to put into action ‘Plan A for crazily powerful outsiders and wizards’, an Antimagic Field. Of course this leaves me cut off the magics and friends that have kept me, mostly, alive until now. It’s amazing how much time you have to consider your life when you are standing next to something that is about to kill you… and how much trust you can have in four other people to stop that from happening.

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No more running...
maybe some praying, but definitely no running...

I feel like all of my days are not series of good and bad news. Good news: I got out of the army again, bad news: the entire army is hunting me. Good news: the other guys were able to kill Belkor and free Eando Kline, bad news: Vyr-Azul thinks that I did that… and so on.

At least we’ve riled up the Morlocks and Vampires, giving them a fighting chance, even if we don’t have one. As long as Eando Kline keeps up his end of the bargain, their armies will be on the move immediately. Reethna sent what forces he could off to the west so that the allied army can get through his recently built fortification without trouble. Although, I honestly don’t know if they will make it very far unless we, sigh, cut the head off this serpent. Of course evil serpentfolk seem to have a good track record of surviving decapitations… 2 for 3 as far as we know.

After the army was set in motion, we went to Het’s sister to retrieve the sword that was left with her. Along the way Gethadar diplomatically (Het’s kind of diplomatically) ensured that Airesh would not be reporting our movements to Vyr-Azul. That done, after a disturbing tactical debate with Big, we teleported to Drago’s old laboratory to prepare. From all the commotion in the area, it was clear that the allied army was doing it’s job, pulling dozens of troops from the temple. Not much more to say. We burned through thousands of gold in scrolls (hopefully enough), teleported directly to the Emporer of Scales and got to work.

It was a short, brutal fight, but he finally fell. We weren’t able to bring him down before he alerted half… maybe the entire temple. Even if he didn’t, Raviaza teleported in and then out again, which probably means that anyone who didn’t know that we were here now does.

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Hanging In Ilmurea

Everything seemed to be going so well. Ahktar-Drago was dead, and his former apprentice had looted his lab (and was successfully forging his reports). Khavith was happy with Gethedar, and had a scheme to make Vyr-Azul forget about her possible draconic ancestry. Sskhavo was entrusting an important fortification to Reethna-Onatee, who was now accompanied by a bodyguard. Lena-Karik had managed to ditch Zif-Tarrin someplace tropical and abscond with his magic boots. Het-Kiril’s squad was suffering, but they were clearly in the minority.

The group decided they needed to press further into the temple. They made it past quite a few guards, and eventually ran into the Emperor of Scales. Careful not to approach too closely, they told the Herald of Ydersius that they urgently needed to speak to Sozothala. The Emperor checked in telepathically, and then led them into the lower temple, leaving them with some guards.

It turned out that the leader of the degenerate guards was none other than Sarteth, Lena-Karik’s older sister and childhood protector. She had a bit of a disagreement with Reethna-Onatee’s bodyguard, but eventually sought out Sozothala.

The group explained to him that the vegepygmy problem was out of control and that they needed his help. This was, of course, an elaborate ruse to lure Sozothala into a trap, and he completely believed them. He said that he would certainly accompany them, and that he would just pop back into the sanctum to see if Vyr-Azul would allow him to leave immediately. He invited the group to accompany him. They declined, and when he went to the sanctum they quickly left the complex.

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Het-Kiril's Personal Journal

It’s now quite apparent that Vyr-Azul is a racist bastard.

He has ordered a squad of dragon-blooded serpentfolk sent out into Saventh-Yhi with orders to kill the leader of the vegepygmies. Difficult to do, given that vegepygmies don’t really have a command structure. Also, given the mess in the area (bubonic plague killing everyone, and the vegepygmies spreading thanks to the easy supply of fresh dead), pretty much a suicide mission.

Naturally, the squad went missing.

And naturally, Vyr-Azul orders a second squad… who just so happens to also be full of dragon-blooded serpentfolk… to follow the first squad, find out what happened to them, and try to kill the leader of the vegepygmies. My squad.

I am going to enjoy watching Vyr-Azul drown in his own blood.

My first thought was to not go on this blatant suicide mission. However, that would leave me in the tenuous position of not being able to enter the city, since I would technically be a deserter. Ordinarily, not an issue… however, it does make killing Vyr-Azul and his cronies a little harder. So, I’m left with the option of carrying out the mission to buy my compatriots time to put another victim under my sword.

Incidentally, Vyr-Azul has a runner meet me at the gate to order me to surrender my falchion upon my return. I am presented with a sho-tel. Surrender the weapon I’ve trained with and mastered in favour of a weapon I wouldn’t even use to spit meat over a fire? I think not. If Vyr-Azul wants my sword so much, I’ll have to oblige him… but I’ll not surrender my weapon. I must plan a way around this. But for the time being, I have a mission in front of me.

My initial thought had been to simply fly myself and my troops to the heart of vegepygmy territory, however that would leave me dangerously low on funds with which to afford healing magics and curatives against the diseases we would be coming up against. Additionally, I wasn’t sure that such a plan would leave us able to see through the tree cover to find the squad we’re tasked to find (although, if they are dead at the hands of the vegepygmies, there is likely nothing to find). So, I made the decision to buy healing, proofs against disease, remove disease scrolls, and restoration scrolls. I would have to lead my squad by ground to the heart of vegepygmy territory.

My squad… dejected doesn’t begin to describe it. After our last expedition up top and the casualties we took, I don’t blame them. But I’m frank and open with my plan. They’re cautiously optimistic about it, and agree to follow me for now. That is all I can ask. After a last good-bye to my sister at the gate, we set out.

The first part of our trek goes relatively smoothly. We get out and make good progress initially. However, as occurred last time, we quickly come upon a vegepygmy squad engaging a boggard. We make use of the distraction and attack the vegepygmies while trying to make our good intentions known to the boggard. After a long, brutal fight we manage to dispatch the vegepygmies and query the boggard. He has, in fact, seen a squad of serpentfolk recently, and points us off towards troglodyte territory. As my squad are relatively unharmed after this first engagement, we press on, accompanied by the boggard for a short time.

Soon after splitting off from the boggard, we cross a bridge to the outskirts of troglodyte territory. I give the order to skirt around, however we are quickly engaged by a large parrot, a camulatz, if I’m not mistaken. I’m unsure why it attacked us, but it seems quite focused on me and does its best to behead me. However, I manage to strike it several times as it flies past, and on the last engagement, I manage to sever an artery. We chase it down and finish it off, then find and loot its aerie.

I briefly entertain the thought of cutting through troglodyte territory (as it would be quicker), however we spot a large group of what appear to be undead and/or diseased troglodytes in front of us. And a large party of vegepygmies behind us. Frustrated, and not wanting to be caught in an engagement on two fronts, I pull us back across the bridge, wait until the vegepygmies engage the troglodytes, and order us to skirt around the troglodyte territory. I have one of my troops drop a major image of a squad of serpentfolk in the furor to add to the confusion and reduce the odds that we would be spotted.

However, it quickly becomes apparent that any choice I make is going to be a combat-heavy slog. As we progress through some buildings, we are engaged from the rooftops by a vegepygmy squad. This proves to be a tactical nightmare, as my squad are quickly being infected by spores. As they dole out healing magics and engage one group at range, I race to climb to the top of the second building to engage the other group. I get to the top, and manage to throw one vegepygmy off of the roof to the ground below, and then I engage the other two with my sword. We dispatch the squad of vegepygmies, and take stock of the situation. It is getting late, and though my troops are relatively unharmed thanks to the magics we have, we have only covered half the distance to the vegepygmy territory, and have seen no further signs of the other squad.

If we manage to return to the city alive, I will have to see if I can find a scroll of Mass Fly… that might see us accomplish our task far more quickly. And I will probably leave my sword with my sister for safeguarding while I operate in the city itself, at least until I can come up with a solution to allow me to retain my weapon (or obtain a backup weapon).

Vyr-Azul’s death can not come soon enough

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Drago is dead... all hail Drago.

Depending on the events of the next few days, this is either from Yssith’s journal written about a weeks from now or a “Speak with Dead” questioning.

Our plan was set, we were prepared, and then we made contact with degenerates…

I was able to find and disable all of Drago’s wards and traps which somewhat limited our timeline. After we met up, a few of the others teleported to Katapesh to pick up supplies. Reethna has certainly taken to his new position in the military, he has laid out detailed plans for troop deployments throughout the city. The plans might be useful if we survive until the end of the week… so probably not.

With everyone back, we made our way to Drago’s house, preparing ourselves as we reached it. Bo-oh was waiting outside, so Reethna told him that he was reassigned to the Het-Kiril’s squad… which was then relayed to Drago. Plan A gone. Ss-Sss and Gar were also inside (all three of his guards, just our luck) so Reethna reassigned them as well and we headed in. Who knew that this military thing would actually come in handy.

Reethna, still abusing his new rank, walked into Drago’s study to discuss details of his new deployment plan. Drago was nowhere to be found (invisible somewhere), but at least we knew that he was fairly close. Knowing how dangerous he could be, I had prepared for this and was able to detect him in the rafters of his study, that was all we needed. I walked in, and started the first step in a fight that will take days and likely some of our lives by the end.

This time we were lucky. His utter arrogance, or madness, was the only thing that stopped him from killing us or getting word to the others. I’m reluctant to tell the others how close every spell I sent at him was to failing, even while I was pushing myself to the limits of my abilities. I don’t know if I can keep this up, but there are no other options.

Now I just have to pretend to be Drago, through his reports, for the next few days. What could possibly go wrong.

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