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 Episode 33 of 13th Age - 2020-02-25 -  
The city of Hildebrande is a medium-sized city located on the shores of Pocket Bay, between the two forests just northwest of Gorogan's Maw. Its primary source of wealth has traditionally been from its large shipyards, but in recent years commerce has dwindled in this are due to the oversized influence of the crime guild known as the Syndicate. Using means both mundane and magical, the Syndicate has a stranglehold over the wharves, and this has resulted in a lot of commerce that previously came to Hildebrande going elsewhere. The citizens of Hildebrande are suffering from a lack of resources, as a result, causing much turmoil throughout, and a small exodus to other cities.

Religiously, one faith has taken prominence over all others in Hildebrandee, the faith of Makaria, goddess of community. Itotia, the high priestess of Makaria, is beloved by all the citizens, and with good reason: during this time of economic depression, Itotia makes sure everyone coming to her temple (the only one in the city) gets what they need, whether it's food (usually), or a cure for some disease or injury (more rarely). In fact, Itotia makes sure any adventurer who goes off to make their fortune with the promise of returning to Hildebrande gets several healing potions when they go. In fact, the temple of Makaria is known far and wide as being a provider of particularly potent healing potions.

Hildebrande is also known for its unnaturally tall buildings. There does not seem to be any written record as to why the buildings are so tall...and the people who are old enough that they might remember aren't talking. The elite ruling class of gnomes in Hildebrande supposedly keep detailed records, but no one has access to them; the gnomes are too busy with their mechanical creations, automating important tasks within the city.

Hildebrande exists underground as well; the Undercity runs at least the length and breadth of the city above. The Undercity is largely run by dwarves; though they do not form a separate government, they do control the tunnels and wield an outsize influence on the city, largely due to their ability to procure resources the city needs. Rumours circulate that the dwarves are keeping some things for themselves, allowing citizens in the upper city to suffer...

The knighthood of the Great Gold Wyrm has a secret training ground for the Wyrm's heroes in the city; everyone seems to know the facility exists, but only those who serve the Wyrm seem to know exactly where it is. Rumours amongst the populace is that there is a powerful magical artifact hidden in the facility; one that people hope the knights will use to expel the Syndicate once and for all.

Another claim to fame that Hildebrande has is that the city is home to what is considered the oldest tree in all of the Dragon Empire. While some contest this claim, the fact that the High Druid sent one of her most esteemed druids, Nakato, to the city for the sole purpose of guarding the tree lends the claim credence. Nakato herself takes her job very seriously, too seriously for some; people wonder why she doesn't use her magic to care for the people as well as the tree...especially since the weather wards of the Archmage seem to be failing, creating random weather patterns in the area.

The populace of Hildebrande are somewhat unique in their own way: the citizens all seem to be virtually supernaturally talented musically. All kinds of music, too: singing, different instruments, musical writing...and no one is sure why. Every so often, a traveling bard known as Antoine will come by and recruit a citizen to come with him to a major city where he will apprentice them to a popular bardic college. They never return to Hildebrande though...and no one has ever seen one of their performances, though everyone has heard of them.

The musicality of Hildebrande was affected in another way in the past: A red dragon, presumably from the Red Wastes (unconfirmed), would come once a year and demand tribute from the city...but not for the last five years. No one knows why the dragon has stopped showing up; people hope that a group of courageous dragonslayers killed the beast, but on that anniversary of the last time the dragon showed up, people stay in their homes and board up the entrances.

Notable Persons of Hildebrande
Ursel is a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm who runs the training facility in Hildebrande. Missing 3 fingers from her left hand from the slicing blade of a Marilith, Ursel remains excellent at dice games, though she always donates her winnings to the city temple. Always with a mint in her mouth, Ursel is honest to a fault, making her a great instructor. She believes deeply in the sanctity of life and honoring tradition; this last, combined with her honesty, sometimes makes her an easy mark to unscrupulous persons.

Itotia is the head cleric of Hildebrande's only temple. Stunningly attractive, Itotia's personality is just as beautiful; everyone loves Itotia for her generosity, compassion, and skill at diplomacy. Like many of Hildebrande's citizens, Itotia has a special talent for a musical instrument; it seems to be some type of harp, though she will not confirm what it is, exactly. As part of her diplomatic nature, Itotia tends to enunciate overly clearly; citizens know she is not condescending, but outsiders are not sure. She is quiet, but it seems to be a quiet born of confidence. She sees the whole of Hildebrande as one big community and sees the Syndicate as eroding that.

Jocelyn is the gardener the city has assigned to the Oldest Tree, and he takes his role very seriously. Highly intelligent, though failing in health as his age increases, Jocelyn was intimidated by Nakato at first but now is quite in awe of her. Sometimes Jocelyn likes to just sit against the tree and draw, something he is quite good at. He once tried to make a gift of one of his drawings to Nakato...no one knows how this gift was received and Jocelyn isn't talking. Jocelyn is coming around to the philosophy of the High Druid, and no one had better threaten the tree when he is around.

Mayor Wesley has been the head of government for over ten years, but has been reduced in status severely over the last five. Pulled in all directions by the various factions in Hildebrande, Wesley has become obsequious, stressed, and somewhat pathetic...a fact not unnoticed by his wife Patricia and their three children. Rumours circulate that Patricia has taken a lover; other rumours say that Wesley knows and cannot do anything about it.

Saelorn, preferring the name 'Sally,' is a local celebrity. Intensely charismatic, people seem addicted to him; everyone seems to love being in his company. Sally possesses an eidetic memory, and uses it to entertain, but not commercially; he does manual labour instead, and isn't very good at it. His charm keeps getting him work opportunities, enough to support his wife, Rhea. Sally is a functional alcoholic, who can often be found in the taverns of Hildebrande, having drinks bought for him.

Condon runs the Freighter Pub with his wife, Aife, and their three children. The Freighter used to specialize in service to the mercantile ships that would frequent Hildebrandee, but with the recent plummet in traffic to the city, he's had to become creative...and he is experiencing more success than ever by specializing in dwarven cuisine, or more precisely, his interpretation of dwarven cuisine. The dwarves of the Undercity have graced the Freighter with so much business that Condon is considering changing the name of the long-standing pub. The dwarves have named Condon an 'honourary dwarf' and he is known to offer the Freighter as a place to negotiate business between the city and the Undercity.

The sheriff of Hildebrand is named David. No last name, and never, ever, refer to him as 'Dave,' 'Davey,' or anything of the sort. David won't tolerate it...not that he ever reacts with any great emotion. Any emotion at all, really...but misfortunes tend to happen to those who disrupt order, which, to David, is paramount. David has no lieutenants, no deputees, no standing militia...it's just David. Astonishingly, he remains quite effective and maintaining law in Hildebrande, though no one is quite sure how. What everyone is sure of, from the Syndicate to Sally, to Itotia...is that David is frightening. Terribly, terribly frightening. No one feels at ease in David's presence. Is it supernatural? His mannerisms? Both? Something else altogether? No one knows...and no one is going to ask.

'Nasty Nate' runs a gambling den and bar 'The Loaded Die'. A typical breeding ground for thieves and other neer-do-wells, the Loaded Die is the place to find someone to do something you don't want known. Nate keeps the business running well, despite tough economic times, by taking a finder's fee for any deal brokered within the confines of the Die. Of course, the Loaded Die has long been rumoured to be a front for Syndicate, but bar was torched only two years ago, also presumably by the Syndicate, so no one is entirely sure where Nate's allegiances lie. Assuming he has any.

Branda Tulles has lived her whole life in Hildebrandee as a community worker, volunteer, and do-gooder. What she wants most is to make peace here, and as such openly opposes the Syndicate in some very public ways. More than once, the Syndicate has attempted to silence Branda, but she has, thus far, resisted all attempts to at control or on her life.

Judith is the madam of Hildebrande's one brothel, and as a result is one of the most knowledgeable people in the city. She often operates as a broker of secrets and other information. While some believe she is firmly in the pocket of the Syndicate, most believe she is an independent agent, though how she operates without Syndicate protection is unknown. Her courtesans are always unfailingly polite but also dangerous; there are no visible bouncers at Judith's brothel because all the workers can take care of themselves...and then some.
 Episode 29 of 13th Age - 2020-01-30 -  
 Canvasing the Dream Theater 
You check out the sturdiness of the bars blocking access to the chute the Dreammaster used to escape. Tough. Eventually, they would break, but it would require considerable effort and time, and you weren't sure if he was retreating to a defensible position or escaping the theater altogether. Better to look for other avenues to find him.

Looking throughout the rest of the theater, there are three backstage storerooms, plus a latrine and an obvious trapdoor in a hallway floor that opens to reveal a set of
stairs going down to the cellar. One storeroom is filled with old construction materials from the theater days and other debris. The other two have been converted into living quarters and a simple kitchen/eating area. The living quarters holds food, drink, a pouch with 20 gp, and 3 packets of dreamleaf worth 30 gp each on the black market (according to NIldaru) or half that as a reward if handed over to the Archmage's people (according to Legion)...and two threadbare robes: one is a dark blue robe that has a very faded Lamplighter's Guild symbol on it, while the other is a tattered blue Eldritch Master's robe.

There is also a back exit from the theater, but it's boarded and nailed shut, with a pile of debris stacked against it from the inside.

The total coins on the assembled downed foes is 220 silver pieces.

Wednesday at 8:15? I don't know about you guys, but I am loving 13th Age so far. I haven't done a spectacular job rping the villains, because I am paranoid about missing stuff in a new game, but I am confident that will improve!
 Episode 26 of 13th Age - 2020-01-20 -  
 Leaving the Dead Vaults 
It's only a few hours to dawn. You are walking the streets of Eldolan, heading back to the rooms rented for you at the Red Quill Tavern by Therilisa. Many of you are lost in your own thoughts; for some, like Nidalru, thoughts are of where to pawn the rings taken off Grayson (if that's his real name...) and where to spend money on magic here in Eldolan. For others, like Legion, they are of the recent combat in the Dead Vaults and the odd events that took place within. Meanwhile, Idris wondered at what kind of people the Golden Dragon put in his path as he walked alongside the necromancer and Milo, now reverted to his considerably-less-menacing halfling form.

One thing you all had in common though: You felt you were being followed.

Whoever (whatever?) it was, it stayed just beyond your sight, even with the lamps providing illumination in the dark of night. Every now and then you'd stop, listen, scan the shadows...but nothing. You'd swear it was paranoia, but each one of you had that feeling...

You began walking again, whispering amongst yourselves that you should perhaps not head to the Red Quill until you somehow ducked your tail...but ducking this pursuer seemed impossible at this point, and you were already exhausted from the day's battles.

Suddenly, the lamps of the street flashed brightly, lighting up your street as though it were midday. Temporarily blinded by the sudden light, you regained your sight in just enough time to see a dark figure fleeing down an alleyway at great speed. Looking around for the cause of the flare-up, you see a Lamplighter Wizard with his staff raised. He lowers it, and the lamps return to their normal levels of illumination. From his vantage point in the street, he looks down the alleyway where your stalker fled, then turns to you and gives a friendly nod. Returning the gesture, you finish the walk back to the tavern, feeling a bit safer here in your first night in Eldolan.
 Episode 22 of 13th Age - 2019-12-19 -  
 Shadows over Eldolan 
"Servants of the Lich King..."

Although this was the most obvious conclusion, there was still something unsettling about hearing Therilsa say it out loud. The half-elf seemed to be completely recovered from whatever spell had incapacitated her at the beginning of the combat. She gathered you all in a small circle to get your version of events; after listening intently for several minutes, her beautiful eyes narrowed as she stroked her chin thoughtfully.

"It's hard to understand the plans of the One-Eyed Lord, sometimes...a being that has existed in one form or another since the 1st Age thinks in ways most of us do not. Still, this is likely not the result of the Lich King himself, but those who seek to curry his favour. So, we need to ask ourselves: what is here that wretches hoping to impress the Lich King would want to acquire?"

Hawker's Square was still a shambles, with overturned carts, broken vendor stands, and produce everywhere. Several citizens and one Silver Shield lay dead, with tarps pulled over their corpses. Several Silver Shields were interviewing witnesses, trying to form a picture of what happened. Therilsa Stormhand didn't seem impressed. She stared at them for a moment longer, then returned her attention to you.

"I have been in Eldolan for well over 2 years, now; if I was going to be targeted by some faction for something I did on my own, it would have happened already, I should think. Do we believe it's a coincidence that the attack happened the day you arrived?" Meeting each of your stares, one at a time, she accepted your respective silences as answers. "So...now we ask: what is it about you that might be of interest to the Lich King? Some responses," she continued, with her stare landing on Legion, "are more obvious than others...or perhaps he is interested in these two," she said, indicating Milo and Legion, "for the same reasons the Great Gold Wyrm is?" She let out an exasperated sigh, putting her hands on her hips, and staring at the Silver Shields again.

"Or perhaps it's something else entirely! One thing I know for certain: those fools won't solve anything," she hissed, indicating the Silver Shields with a nod of her head. "They are afraid, undermanned due to other issues, and won't make the effort necessary to root things out; they won't risk exposing one of the magic schools if this was the result of a powerful magician making a statement against another school. No...it's going to have to be you." Therilsa took both Idris and Aegus' hands. "This is nothing less than an attack upon the Great Gold Wyrm. As members of the Golden Order, it is your duty to uncover the forces that would wreak such havoc and bring them to justice, even if it's justice at the end of your blades." Letting go, she turned to the group as a whole. "There is something else going on here, and there may be more lives at stake. It is important to be smart about things; if you falsely accuse anyone in the name of the Great Gold Wyrm, things will go very badly, especially with the forces of the Crusader present in town."

Therilsa then broke away from your huddle, all business. As she took a few steps, you could see her stumble a bit; the spell had obviously done some damage. "I am going to arrange some quarters for you for your stay in Eldolan. In the meantime," she indicated the people being clumsily interviewed by the Silver Shields, "go do a better job than they can do. There must be something to be learned here..."
 Episode 5 of 13th Age - 2019-10-26 -  
 A Leaf on the Wind 
Everything was coated in oranges and reds now; the sun had almost finished it's descent and the heat was finally starting to break. He mopped beads of sweat from his brow with his now damp sleeve, a sigh of relief that they'd reach their destination before nightfall.

The dry breeze did little to offer relief on the well-worn road; but at least this road was smooth compared to the winding path from their village; days in the wagon with his family was starting to wear on him.

"Are we there yet?" Came a familiar call from the covered wagon behind him.

"When the wheels stop, we'll be there." Grenyl replied with unmasked sarcasm. "And if your little brother asks next he'll be the first one unloading."

"Boys, leave your father be and wrap your things, we'll be there soon."

"Yes, mother..." both boys responded in unison as Alea came to join her husband at the reins. Adjusting herself comfortably on the creaking bench of the wagon, she leaned in close and wrapped her arm around Grenyl's sighing contendedly, admiring the scene as they rounded another hill.

"Beautiful here even during the drought, isn't it?" She mused.

"These fields used to be brimming with crop; trees bursting with fruit and these last few months have hurt..." Grenyl replied, his usual pessimistic inclination showing.

I think I can almost see it, Alea straighted a little and pointed into the distance, the path still winding into the distance with a few hills in between.

"Yep, that's it... Hildebrand. We'll let you and Samea off at the inn first then the boys and I will unload at the mill, ok?"

The rattle of the wheels and the trudging and breathing of the horses mixed with the dry breeze whistling through the trees along the road, when without warning, a startling clap shattered the quiet afternoon and echoed over the landscape.

Wincing at the sudden sound, and trying to keep his grip on the reins of the startled horses, Grenyl exclaimed "What in the name of Omir!" and Alea was sitting up now, looking all around to find the source of such a noise.

"What was that!?" both boys stuck their heads out, wide-eyed and looking around them as well.

"There!" Alea exclaimed, pointing into the distance ahead of them. "What could..." but she was cut off in bewilderment when she realized what she was seeing... in a cloudless sky of blue, a dense, dark cloud formation seemed to whirl and spin just over the next hill... storm-like clouds in place of the road.

Another ear-splitting clap of thunder sounded and Grenyl snapped the reins to quicken the horses' pace...

The peaceful wood echoed with the second clap of thunder, but instead of lightning, an explosion of light; a whirlwind of arcane force seemed to tear at the air itself; flashing and screeching at reality as it tore at the trees and ground around it.

The cacophony then stopped as abrupty as it began; though the echoes surely travelled far into the forest. The underbrush burned away and nearby trees scorched as witness to the violent cyclone that now vanished, leaving the forest around still in shock.

But in the center of this burned and charred scar on the forest floor lay a figure, cloaked and hooded, sprawled akwardly, unmoving amidst the still smoking forest floor.

"There, Pa!" one of the boys pointed into the treeline from the road, his eyes wide and already leaping out of the wagon.

"Boys, you come with me. Girls you stay here at the wagon." The smoke was still rising just past the treeline and the boys rushed with their father to get a better look.

"Hold on", Grenyl said, his arm outstretched to caution his sons. "Let's just see here..."

Walking cautiously into the threes, Grenyl could now make out the scene, a figure, lying in the centre of a circle clear of any vegetation, the ground gray, black, and smoking. The trees bordering the small clearing were singed, smoking and black, but looked on at the unmoving figure below.

"Hello?" One of the boys called out anxiously. With a quick look from his father, the boy snapped shut but moved still closer with his brother through the brush towards the clearing.

Daring to step into the circle formed, Grenyl crept closer to the figure, watching for any sign of movement, but there was none. Reaching out, he touched the shoulder of the figure, his robes charred and burned and pulled his hand back; perhaps thinking to provoke a reaction, but there was none. Certain now the man needed help, Grenyl gently turned the stranger's shoulder to roll him over and caught his breath... this man's skin was grey as ash.

"Whoa!" one of the boys exclaimed.

"Now, now... " Grenyl regained his composure, trying to set an example for his sons. "I don't think he's breathing... this man needs help... ok help me with him, get his legs...". The boys looked at each other and the older did as he was told, helping to hoist the unconscious man up and towards the wagon.

"Get those things, boy." Grenyl called to his youngest.

"...these!? ..." he called back looking at a smoldering walking staff, and little more than a charred bag, its contents blackened and destroyed.

"Yes, boy, now do it!" Grenyl's voice now strained under the weight of this strange being.

"What's wrong with him, Pa?" the older asked as they made their way back to the wagon.

"I don't know boy, but it's not right to leave him, ya hear?"

Making their way back through the grass and shrubbery to the road, Alea jumped down, clearing space on the back of the wagon for this strange figure.

"Are we bringing him to Hildebrand, Pa?" the youngest asked as he caught up to his brother and father.

"That's where we're going, and there are people there who can help him."

Omir knows, we can't...