Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 3





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  1. #21
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    Bargains of Spirit and Flesh - Part 4: The Doom of the Reavers

    "This has to be the two most boring weeks of my life," said Kham. He was sitting on one of the wagons, his chin in his palms. They were left alone to their own devices; the dwarves were uncomfortable in open spaces and allowed human teamsters to drive the wagons.

    "It was exciting enough when we got to Nevanne," said Quintus, watching the scenery go by. "Master Elabac has far more influence with the Coryani Senate than I suspected."

    Ilmarė was testing the strength of her bow. "The commander was right to be concerned. This caravan carries enough weapons to equip an army."

    Vlad, next to Kham, was sharpening his dagger. "I imagine the invasion of Moratavia last year by Coryani legions didn't help." He looked over at Quintus.

    "The threat of a dwarven embargo is enough to even open the Empire's doors," said Quintus. "If those blades are as good as you say they are, the legions have a vested interest in keeping the dwarves in business."

    "That includes seeing the curse continue," Ilmarė said, twanging her bowstring.

    Quintus stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Actually, I believe the story goes that only the clan that creates the perfect item is exempt from the curse. Not the entire race."

    "Save one clan, doom the rest," added Ilmarė.

    "What is this curse anyway?" asked Vlad.

    Quintus leaned back into his seat. "The dwarves were giants once, tasked with protecting humanity. But they turned on their charges and made themselves as gods, forcing humans to worship them. When Illiir discovered their treachery, he cursed them all. It was only through Sarish's mercy that they have a chance to return to their true forms."

    The wagons slowed to a halt in front of a warehouse with a sign of the Legendary Blades smithy.

    "We're here," said Kham.

    After the trains were unloaded, they followed Elabac to an Ansharan temple just outside of Tralia.

    The austere temple had prayers engraved to Anshar similar to other gates, but it was strangely deserted. No one attended the braziers; no one kept the incense burning around the central idol of Anshar.

    "If nobody's here, does that mean we can go home?" asked Kham half-heartedly.

    They followed a winding staircase to a dimly lit chamber. In the center was a Gate of Anshar, a monolithic archway fashioned from marble and covered in prayers to Anshar. Flanking the gate were several hooded figures, all chanting a low mantra.

    A young Ansharan priest rustled up to the doorway. His eyes were gray, a sure sign of Val heritage.

    "Master Elabac! You made it! That's great!" He rushed over and gave Elabac a hug. The priest was talking so fast that he was stuttering. He began rustling back towards the gate. "If you'll step up to the gate I'll be happy to transport you through-"

    "Wait." Ilmarė put one arm in front of Elabac. "Something's wrong."

    The priest froze.

    Quintus lowered his longspear. "What is it?"

    "Not all of the monks are moving," she said.

    The priest suddenly ran off to the side, almost tripping over his robes in his haste.

    "Not good," Kham said as he reached into the two holsters beneath his armpits and pulled out both handgonnes.

    The remaining monks threw off their robes to reveal five squat creatures of dwarven stature, covered head-to-toe in spiked armor. The armor had no latches or straps—it was permanently attached to their bodies.

    "Reavers!" gasped Elabac.

    Quintus dropped his shield off his back and put it in front of him. "Elabac, stay behind us! Kham, Ilmarė, try to find a weak spot in their armor. Vlad-"

    Vlad's longsword and shield were already out. He charged into the room as three of the Reavers unsheathed broadswords. Their leader wielded a huge axe that had a spike at the other end. Still another unrolled a long, weighted chain covered in wicked-looking spikes.

    The lead Reaver twirled his axe, first over one shoulder and then the other. The other Reavers waited even as their leader stepped forward. He was daring Vlad to attack him.

    "Vlad!" Quintus couldn't get out anything more as the spiked chain snapped in the air, inches from his face.

    Kham took aim. "Alright my dears, let's go to work." He fired and a Reaver's head bobbed to a loud SPTANG! as the bullet bounced off of its helmet.

    Ilmarė snapped an arrow at the Reaver threatening Quintus, but he slapped it out of the air with the spiked chain. "I cannot get a clear shot at the other Reavers," she shouted.

    Vlad rammed his shield into the lead Reaver's weapon in an attempt to pin it against the smaller dwarf. To his surprise, the dwarf held his ground and jabbed underneath Vlad's shield with the pointed end of the axe. Vlad made a clumsy swipe to give himself some breathing room as the other Reavers circled him.

    "I'm working on it!" shouted Quintus. The spiked chain smacked into his shield and the tip snapped around the edge, gashing the signifer's arm.

    Vlad blocked two more blows with his shield but made one Reaver pay with his life as his blade cut deep into the dwarf's less-protected neck. The Reaver went down without a sound. But he paid for it as one of the Reaver's blades pierced his side. Vlad backpedaled as fast he could but stopped short as he collided with the stone wall. He had nowhere to run.

    "Vlad's dead if we don't do something, fast," said Kham as he reloaded one of his handgonnes. He nodded to Ilmarė. "Cover me!"

    Kham ran into the large chamber and dove as the chain swept in a low arc. He tumbled and rolled up in front of Vlad, both handgonnes out. The two Reavers who flanked Vlad paused in momentary surprise as the yawning maws of two dragons in their faces.

    BLAM! BLAM!

    Quintus crouched behind his shield and waited. The chain snapped through the air towards him like some angry metal snake. He thrust his longspear into its arc and twisted, causing the chain to whistle around and around the longspear.

    "Ilmarė! Now!"

    Ilmarė reached into a pouch at her belt and withdrew a pinch of something. "Faer ned I gwaew, daro nin coth!" she whispered as she blew the dust from her palm.

    The sparkling substance wafted through the air with a life of its own, spiraling its way into the Reaver's helmet. The dwarf's grip on the spiked chain relaxed as it staggered backwards.

    Quintus rushed forward and speared the longspear through the Reaver's chest.

    "Now what I had in mind," said Quintus, "but that will do."

    He dropped the longspear, still tangled in spiked chain.

    "LETUM INFIRMUS!" he shouted as he ran towards Kham and Vlad with gladius drawn.

    Vlad was propped up against the wall, blood seeping from an abdominal wound. He clutched his side as Kham blocked a sword blow from one of the Reavers with the guard of his handgonne. Two other Reavers lay dead, smoking holes in their helmets.

    "Ha!" Kham shouted as another blow bounced off his handgonne. "Victoria's a saucy wench, but she can take what she gives out. You'll have to find a bigger… " His eyes widened as the lead Reaver lifted his axe over his head. "…blade."

    Quintus smashed into the Reaver with his shield, sending the axe flying. Before the lead Reaver could react, he followed up with a thrust of his gladius into the dwarf's ribcage. The Reaver staggered backwards and collapsed.

    With a start, Quintus realized his back was to the last Reaver. He whirled…

    Ilmarė stood over the last Reaver's corpse, her sword dripping dwarven blood.

    "How did you get over here before me?"

    Ilmarė shrugged. "I am a daughter of Osalian," she said, "god of the Wind."

    Quintus wiped off his blade and sheathed it as he walked over to Vlad. Kham was hunched over him.

    "He's hurt. Bad."

    Vlad winced as Quintus put both palms on him. "Illiir, iuvo sana sua vulna levis," he said.

    A golden glow emanated from Vlad's fingertips. Vlad blinked as he struggled to his feet.

    "That was very foolish, Vlad," said Quintus. "Discipline is life. Never forget that."

    Vlad nodded. "You saved my life Kham. I didn't…

    "Expect it?" He smirked. "I'm full of surprises."

    Kham finished reloading both handgonnes. He pointed them at the advancing Ansharan priest, who had snuck out of his hiding place behind a pillar.

    "You've got fifteen seconds to make the ladies here forgive you," said Kham. "And it better be poetry, because they aren't cheap dates."

    The priest's face was streaked with tears. "They killed the other priests! They said they would kill me if I warned you!" He looked pleadingly from face to face.

    "Please," said Elabac as he tottered from the safety of the doorways, "haven't we shed enough blood today?"

    Kham spat a curse and put his handgonnes back in their hostlers.

    Quintus gathered up his longspear and walked over to the portal. "Make yourself useful, priest. Open the gate."

    The Ansharan priest hurried over to the portal and began chanting, waving his hands over its runes.

    "Aren't you going to ask me if I counted my blackpowder?" asked Kham.

    Quintus looked the Val up and down. "Did you count your blackpowder?"

    "Nope," he said with a wicked grin. Then he hopped through the portal. The last thing he saw before he was surrounded by blue light was Quintus' look of horror.

    It was worth it.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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  • #22
    I've read some of this thread, but not all since I haven't played all the mods yet

    Nice work on dialogue, and that pic is really nice. It fits the Pistoleer in my group perfectly. Keep it up, hopefully I will be able to read it all someday.

  • #23

    Out of Play

    I am sorry you haven't played those modules. Regretfully they have been retired earlier this year and are nolonger available to play through Living Arcanis. This is a fun retrospective and also serves to solidify the magic of the early adventures. I hope you reconsider and read on and discover the wonders of arcanis.

  • #24
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    Bargains of Spirit and Flesh - Part 5: Out of the Frying Pan…

    The gate's flickering blue aura dissipated even as Kham look slack jawed upon the scene around him.

    Some humans were corralled in a far corner, chained to each other. Scattered about the chamber were desiccated limbs, skulls, and ribcages, evidence of a battle where undead were defeated with extreme prejudice. The victors of the battle stood victorious at the far end of the chamber. One man, dressed in white plate armor rimmed with yellow edges, stood in front of six other warriors similarly arrayed in yellow armor. All of them wielded long, two-handed swords with edges shaped like flames.

    "Nierites," Kham said under his breath. "Damn."

    "Surrender or suffer the Flames of Nier!"

    Kham put up his hands. "Errr. You know you sound remarkably like someone I know…"

    There was another flash of blue light as the gate opened behind Kham and Quintus stepped through.

    "That's him," Kham said, pointing at a confused Quintus. "Fanatical legionnaire, meet fanatical Nierite."

    Quintus turned, shield and spear at the ready. "Nierites? Here? But this is Ventaka!"

    "By order of Leonydes val'Virdan, the Sword of the Heavens, I demand you relinquish your weapons!"

    Quintus' companions stepped through the portal.

    "You go deal with them," whispered Kham.

    Quintus placed his spear in front of Vlad, who had his sword and shield out. "Hold. Let them come to us."

    Vlad nodded.

    "Ilmarė, guard Elabac. Kham…" Quintus looked around. "Where's Kham?"

    Kham was running across to the left of Quintus towards the prisoners. The utter lack of any signs of surrendering prompted the Nierites to begin walking towards them with their two-handed swords held high.

    "If I know fanatics," Quintus said, "they'll-"

    "Charge!" shouted the leader, breaking into a trot.

    "Steady," said Quintus.

    One of the Nierites split off and ran to follow Kham.

    "Steady…"

    Kham turned. "You idiots are actually following me?" he shouted over his shoulder. "I'm a noncombatant!"

    "Steady…"

    When the Nierite didn't stop, Kham whirled and drew forth his handgonnes. "Okay, I lied."

    "NOW!"

    At the last moment, Quintus lowered his spear. The shaft smashed through the Nierite's plate and spun him sideways. A second swung his sword hard into Quintus' shield, the blow reverberating so hard throughout his arm that it rattled his teeth.

    Ilmarė ducked low underneath the swing of a massive sword and pierced the Nierite's plate armor with the tip of her blade. He slumped forward, forcing Ilmarė to kick the corpse off her sword.

    Vlad chopped downwards at the thigh of the fourth Nierite while his shield blocked the fifth.

    BLAM!

    The handgonne fired but it was not enough to stop the charging Nierite. The blade struck sideways, knocking Kham to the ground. His handgonnes flew in different directions, out of his reach.

    Quintus saw Kham go down. "Vlad! Hold them off! I'm going to help Kham!"

    Vlad blocked a sword blow with his shield and struck another Nierite down. "Go!"

    The Coryani dropped his shield as he charged across the chamber towards the Nierite. "LETUM INFIRMUS!" he shouted.

    The Nierite raised his sword over his head. The force of the blow would be such that it would surely decapitate his victim.

    Before the blow came, Vlad's spear struck the Nierite's abdomen and lifted him up. He kept running, spearing the man five feet above the ground against a nearby wall.

    Ilmarė joined them a moment later. "They're all dead," she said.

    Quintus helped Kham to his feet. "Ouch," Kham said, clutching at his ribs.

    "Broken ribs. Hold still." Quintus puts his palms to Kham's chest. "Illiir, iuvo sana sua vulna levis."

    Kham stretched and picked up his handgonnes. "Perfect. Nice to know someone else is carrying their fair share of the heroics around here."

    Quintus smirked as he yanked the spear out of the wall. "You're welcome."

    Kham joined Vlad, who was talking to a bald, pasty-faced man with gray eyes and dressed in expensive black leather. Most of the prisoners were freed from their chains, but a few stood dull and lifeless, their eyes unfocused.

    "What's up with them?" Kham

    "Dey are de living dead," the bald man said.

    Kham's gray gaze flickered over to him. "And you are?"

    "My name is Helac val'Mordane."

    "He's something called a Black Chanter," said Vlad. "They were attacked by Nierites."

    "The Nierites are led by the Sword of the Heavens," said Ilmarė. "He is the tyrant who tore down the First Imperium and precipitated the Shadow Age. Leonydes was thought to have vanished until he resurfaced in Nishanpur. The Sword of the Heavens has had his eye on Canceri ever since."

    Kham scratched the back of his head. "Black Chanter, huh. You sing to corpses, right?"

    "Dis is true," Helac said in his thick Coryani accent. "Most of our blessed ancestors dat have passed on and return, find dat deir ability to feel emotions and passions begin to fade. I know of special songs and melodies dat can stir some of de lost passion vidin deir vithered breasts."

    "Helac says he was captured after leaving Akali's personal chambers," added Vlad.

    "I had just put my Lord Vervain to peaceful rest along with de rest of his advisors vhen I was captured," said Helac.

    "Lord Vervain?" asked Elabac, hobbling his way over. "That is who…we have come…to see."

    Helac blanched. "De Nierites you killed vere an advance guard of a much larger army. Dey have laid siege to de city. I'm afraid dey plan to permanently seal de Akali vitin deir chambers."

    "If Vervain…is sealed in…all is lost," said Elabac.

    Quintus looked from Elabac to Helac. "Helac, do you know the way?"

    "I do."

    "Then let's get moving. Oh and Kham?"

    Kham stopped short.

    "You've got 17 shots left. You may not be counting, but I am."

    Kham shrugged. "We'll be lucky if I have anything left by the time we're done with this insanity."
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

    Want more? Subscribe to my column; follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the web; buy my books: The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, The Well of Stars, and Awfully Familiar. Become an Examiner and get paid to write today!

  • #25
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    Bargains of Spirit and Flesh - Part 5: …Into the Fire

    The long, dark, and dank corridors made Ventaka feel more like a mausoleum than a city. Sounds of men shouting and weapons clanging echoed around them as the siege continued. Long trails of scorch marks and the blasted remains of fallen combatants littered the silent halls.

    Helac led them unerringly through the catacomb-like passages, deeper and deeper into the black heart of the Necropolis. Before long, they heard the muffled chants of sorcerers enacting a ritual that would entrap the leaders of Ventaka behind a supernatural barrier.

    Kham peeked around the corner. At the center of the northern side of the larger corridor was a set of bronze double doors, turning black with age. Before the doors, a circle was inscribed in blood, its borders marked by four lit braziers. Standing outside of the circle was a robed figure, reading from a scroll. Around him were four Nierites dressed in full armor, another gray-eyed man wearing the vestments of a Nierite priest, and a huge figure dressed in bright red full plate, its edges lined in bright yellow.

    "Well?" asked Quintus.

    Kham took a deep breath. "Seven, five warriors and two Val—one is a priest, the other is probably a sorcerer."

    Quintus frowned. "Well, it's six against seven, our odds are still good." His gazed wandered over to Elabac. "Make that five against seven. Where's Helac?"

    "He slipped away just now," said Ilmarė. "He mentioned something about stirring his ancestors to repel the Nierite scourge."

    Kham put his hands on his hips. "You were saying?"

    "Okay, it's four on seven. There is no way we can take them all."

    "We just killed six warriors," responded Ilmarė.

    "Those weren't sorcerers," said Quintus. "You remember how much trouble we had with the Harvester. They've got a sorcerer and a priest."

    Vlad glanced around the corner and looked back over his shoulder. "Wish we had our own sorcerer."

    Kham drew his handgonnes. "I've got all the sorcery we need right here."

    Quintus blinked. "That's it! Kham, you have enough blackpowder for 17 shots, right?"

    The Val looked at him sideways. "Yes, why?"

    Quintus turned to Ilmarė. "You have control over the wind spirits?"

    Ilmarė looked down her nose at Quintus. "I ask the children of Osalian for favors."

    "Yes, yes. Well, do you think one of those children would be willing to toss a burning vial of blackpowder through the air at our enemies?"

    Kham waved one of his handgonnes in Quintus' face. "Excuse me? That's MY blackpowder. It's very expensive. And volatile. You don't just go making—"

    "Uh, guys?" said Vlad. "They're all chanting now. I think they're about to finish the seal."

    "We don't have time to argue, Kham. It's the only way to even the odds."

    Kham crossed his arms. "I don’t like it."

    They all stared at him. Around the corner, the chanting grew louder.

    "Fine, fine!" said Kham as he threw up his arms in defeat. "But blackpowder is dangerous stuff, if you're going to blow my shot, at least let a professional put it together." He put his gonnes back in their holsters and took out a powder horn and a vial from his coat.

    Then he pulled a fringe out of his pocket that Quintus recognized as part of Kham's rug. "Glad that rug is finally proving useful."

    Kham ignored him as he carefully measured out the blackpowder.

    "Vlad, on my command, we will run out in front and hold the line. Ilmarė will provide cover from behind us. Kham, you take out the sorcerer and the priest. Elabac, you stay here. We're going to need to hit them hard and then press the advantage."

    Vlad and Ilmarė nodded.

    Quintus stepped over to Vlad. "Kneel," he said.

    Vlad arched an eyebrow but did as he was told. Quintus put both hands on his forehead. "Illiir, sanctimonia largioro!"

    A warm glow surrounded Vlad.

    "Didn't you heal him already?" asked Kham as he tapped the remaining blackpowder into the vial.

    "I was not healing his wounds. I asked for Illiir's blessing. Illiir saw fit to give it. It is a good omen."

    The chanting grew to a fever pitch.

    Vlad stood up. "I feel…amazing."

    Kham rolled his eyes. "We're going to need a lot more than a good omen from Illiir if we're going to win this. I'm ready."

    Kham put the vial down on the ground in front of him and pulled out his flint and steel. "Ilmarė, you're going to need your faerie friends or whatever you call them to blow this vial over to the Nierites fast. I don't know how long it will take to explode, exactly."

    Ilmarė frowned but only took her bow off of her shoulder. Vlad drew his own weapon. Quintus held his spear and shield at the ready.

    "Kham, go," said Quintus.

    Kham sparked the flint and steel and on the first try ignited the fuse.

    "Ilmarė, go!"

    Ilmarė closed her eyes and put one palm up to the ceiling. "Faer ned I gwaew, tegi sen naur an nin coth!"

    Nothing happened. The fuse hissed, popped, and crackled as the fuse continued to burn.

    Ilmarė continued to chant, "Faer ned I gwaew, tegi sen naur an nin coth!"

    Kham drew both of his handgonnes. "Uh…"

    Suddenly, the vial tugged up into the air as a slight breeze wafted around them. It floated around the corner.

    The chanting continued, then one person stopped. Then another. Then all of them.

    "They saw it," Quintus said through gritted teeth. "If that doesn't go off the sorcerer will stop it."

    There was a shout and then…

    All hell broke loose. The explosion was more powerful than any of them expected, except perhaps Kham, who had his wrists over his ears. Rocks and smoke spiraled and the cavernous stone structure rumbled all around them.

    Through the haze and confusion, Quintus shouted, "Now Vlad!"

    The two marched forward in syncopated step into the blast area. The warriors were sprawled outward from the blast radius, struggling to regain their feet.

    Quintus stopped after a few steps. "We make our fight here." He outlined a circle around them with his longspear. "Let them come." Then he hunched down behind his shield.

    Vlad put his shield arm towards the rubble and waited for the smoke to clear. Behind them, the soft whisper of Ilmarė's voice floated through the darkness.

    "Tira nottolya, Nárendur " she sang of facing the enemy, servants of fire.

    One of the Nierite warriors stumbled out of the smoke towards them. Quintus skewered the man on his spear and dragged him closer. Vlad dispatched him.

    "That's one," said Quintus.

    Another warrior, seeing the fate of his companion, rushed towards them, forcing Vlad to turn his shield towards him. They engaged in a series of feints and strikes, the warrior's greatsword against Vlad's longsword and shield.

    The sorcerer stepped out of the smoke and pointed. A burst of sparkling red magical energy streaked from his outstretched finger past them. Kham yelped in response.

    A loud retort answered the attack, but the sorcerer clenched one fist and held his wrist before his face. On his arm was a bracer sculpted in the form of a black heart, shot through with veins and tentacles. It pulsed as the bullet struck and a black field flickered. The bullet fell to the ground.

    "Tulta tuolya," sang Ilmarė. She commanded them to summon forth their strength.

    Emboldened by her music, Quintus speared another Nierite warrior even as Vlad cut down a third.

    "Three down!" shouted Quintus.

    The sorcerer pointed and a white ray pierced the smoke. Kham cursed and fired back in retaliation. The sorcerer blocked the shot again with one wrist and lifted a pulsing green orb in his other hand.

    BLAM!

    A red hole appeared in the sorcerer's forehead. He slumped to the ground.

    "Block THAT!" shouted Kham. "Meet Melara, a new addition to my harem!"

    "An mauya mahtie," sang Ilmarė. She called upon them to summon forth their strength.

    Kham ran over to the left of Quintus and Vlad. He was clumsily stuffing the last few shots of blackpowder into his handgonnes.

    "Kham, what are you doing? Get back, you're breaking the line!" Quintus shouted at him.

    "I'm trying to get a better shot at the priest!" Kham shouted back. "I can't see him!"

    There was a strange chanting as the Nierite priest, his eyes glowing red with divine fury, stepped out of the smoke. He stretched out one hand.

    "Vlad, behind me!"

    Vlad spun backwards behind Quintus' shield as a wide gout of fire spread from the priest's fingertips. The flames licked around the large shield.

    "Found him!" Kham shouted back. He took aim at the priest.

    "Ter oiomornie," sang Ilmarė. She sang of battling through endless dark.

    BLAM! The bullet sparked off of the priest's magical defenses. He whirled and lifted his greatsword, stalking towards Kham.

    "You dare to strike at me? I am filled with the Rage of Nier! You cannot de—"

    "Yeah, yeah," said Kham. He aimed two of his handgonnes.

    BLAM! BLAM!

    The bullets struck true and pierced the priest's breastplate. But he kept on coming.

    "Oh…crap!" shouted Kham as he spun his handgonnes backwards to use them as clubs.

    "Ter ondicilyar," sang Ilmarė. She sang of fighting on through chasms of stone.

    Kham crossed the two handgonnes in front of him just in time to block the blow from the priest's huge sword. It knocked him backwards against the wall.

    "Kham's in trouble," shouted Quintus. "Vlad—"

    Vlad was still exchanging blows with the last of the Nierite warriors.

    "Up to me then," Quintus muttered to himself. He dropped his longspear as he ran, drawing his gladius. "LETUM INFIRMUS!"

    The large sword gave the priest an advantage, but it was an unwieldy weapon. Kham took the opportunity to retaliate by smashing the hilt of the weapon into the priest's jaw. The blow was strong enough to shatter teeth.

    The priest merely spat blood and grinned a bloody grin.

    "You'll have to do better than that."

    The priest slapped Kham sideways with his blade. He landed in a crumpled heap. The priest stalked over to Kham's unconscious body.

    Quintus arrived at the scene just in time to block a powerful blow from the priest's two-handed sword. He used the momentum of his charge to lift the sword up, pushing both of the priest's hands over his head. Quintus speared his gladius into the priest's unprotected armpit.

    The priest fell backwards. "Guardian of Nier! To me!" he shouted and then collapsed.

    "Mettanna," sang Ilmarė. She entreated them to fight to the end.

    A crackling figure, wreathed in white flames, swung his huge two-handed sword through the air at Quintus' head. He barely ducked in time.

    The holy flames surrounding the Knight of Nier engulfed Quintus' shield as another blow struck. Quintus struck back, but the bright red armor was masterfully crafted. The blow bounced harmlessly off the knight's armor.

    Another massive swing knocked Quintus' shield out of his hands and left him gasping. He attempted to parry with his gladius, pitifully small in comparison to the knight's weapon. The gladius skittered across the ground.

    The knight, with practice born of seeing many combats against both the dead and the living, drew his greatsword back in a precise military stroke. Then he thrust it forward, skewering Quintus' side.

    Quintus looked down in shock at the wavy-edged blade sticking out of his abdomen. The knight twisted the blade and yanked it out. Quintus clutched the wound as blood pulsed from it.

    "None shall survive the Wrath of Nier!" the knight boomed, his voice echoing deep within his helmet. He lifted his greatsword up over his head. All Quintus could do was stare up at the coming blow.

    Vlad skidded in front of Quintus and blocked the attack with his shield. He was hurt, bleeding from a dozen superficial wounds and some more serious internal ones that only his armor prevented from being fatal.

    The Milandisian struggled to catch his breath. The knight seemed huge, powerful. His armor had protected him from the blast and he seemed indefatigable. Vlad's longsword and shield were puny in comparison.

    The knight elbowed Vlad back to give him room for another swing.

    "Nurunna!" sang Ilmarė. It was a command: Fight to the death!

    Vlad heard the command. If he was going to die, he would die defending his friends.

    He struck before the knight could swing, cutting down at his opponent's forearms. The sword slapped point first into the dirt.

    The knight was more resourceful than Vlad expected. He released one hand from the hilt of the greatsword and punched Vlad hard in the face.

    Vlad fell backwards, his ears ringing. The taste of blood was in his mouth.

    The knight released the sword and lifted it over his head. "Now, you die!"

    Suddenly, a warm glow suffused Vlad's body. He wasn't sure how, but he knew it was the blessing that Quintus had asked to be placed upon him. Illiir has blessed Vlad, and the deity was with him in his time of need.

    With a renewed surge of energy, Vlad slid forward beneath the knight's legs and thrust his longsword up under the Nierite's breastplate. There was a strangled groan and blood gushed out of the opening.

    The knight fell forward on top of Vlad, knocking the wind out of him.

    From beneath the heap of armor, he could hear the sounds of armored troops marching in unison. Then he heard Ilmarė's voice.

    "Well, Helac, your undead troops are a little late."

    "Oh, really. Dat is too bad. Are your friends dead?"

    "No, I think they will all survive."

    "Dat is too bad too. When dey are ready, I vill take you to my dread Lord."
    Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 9th November, 2004 at 12:46 AM.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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  • #26
    Excellent!

    Bravo, good update. Very nice.
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    Bargains of Spirit and Flesh - Part 7: Dark Bargains

    As they entered, the smell of decay and mustiness of the ageless seemed to engulf them. Swirling miniature dust storms formed and died with every move. Kham sneezed.

    The chamber was titanic in its size; large enough to swallow entire buildings whole and still have room left over. Thousands of scrolls, tomes and books occupied an entire side of the room.

    "This library is bigger than the Great Library of Coryan," Quintus whispered, one hand holding his side.

    The other side of the chamber was occupied with table after table of alchemical apparatus and potions.

    "It seems that the Ventaka rulers have enough to keep them occupied for generations without ever stepping foot outside," said Ilmarė.

    Helac led them into the chamber and then, bowing deeply, backed out.

    In the center of the room was a large screen made of wafer-thin jade. Backlight by a simple light, a skeletal creature stirred from its repose. The terror that emanated from it was palpable.

    When it spoke, it was a lethargic croak—part groan, part scream.

    "I am told that you have been instrumental in thwarting the invaders from imprisoning us?"

    Elabac cleared his throat after a long pause. "I am Elabac of Solanos Mor. I have traveled…through many perils…to meet with you. I seek…your intervention…in entreating Neroth…to grant me life beyond life."

    "I still don't think this is a good idea," whispered Kham.

    Quintus hushed him.

    "We have heard you, Master Elabac of Solanos Mor," responded the thing behind the screen. "And what will you offer to us for our prayers on your behalf?"

    Elabac looked surprised. "What can I offer? I seek this gift…not for personal power…but to help my people."

    The creature seemed amused, if that were possible. "If we are to persuade our Lord to grant you life beyond life, then you will have many years indeed to help your people. But Ventaka needs you now. With the betrayal of the Nierites, we will need quality arms to defend ourselves."

    "I know where this is going," whispered Kham.

    "Pledge to remain here for the next 20 years," the thing said, "and we will do what we can."

    Kham took a deep sigh.

    "We will need time to prepare. Wait in the antechamber until you are summoned."

    And with that, Helac returned to usher them out.

    They were standing in an uncomfortable chamber, filled with the corpses of the dead and not quite dead.

    Quintus was pacing. "Why are we waiting? Master Elabac, is this not what we came here for?"

    The wizened dwarf seemed startled. "I had not…expected…these turn of events."

    "The best laid plans of dwarves and men often go awry," said Ilmarė with a smirk.

    "Oh that's very helpful, thank you," said Kham. "Look, dwarf, I don't like this any more than you do. What is there to decide?"

    Elabac looked thoughtful but said nothing.

    Quintus winced, rubbing his wounded side. "You do realize that we came all this way at your request. Nearly every one of us died. I swore to see Illiir's will done and I have been true to my word. Now you must follow through with your part."

    Vlad stood in front of Elabac, arms crossed. "It's a serious decision. Give Master Elabac some time."

    Quintus also crossed his arms. "I have been skewered, you have been stabbed, and Kham nearly got his brains spilled across the ground twice today. We have battled Nierites, Reavers and thugs. We have pledged to defend him on this quest and we were true to our word. Now we are here and he is not SURE if he wants to go through with it?"

    A spider dropped down onto Quintus shoulder. He brushed it off in a huff. "I am a patient man, but enough is enough. This place is disgusting and I want to go home!"

    There was a knock at the door. Everyone turned to watch Helac enter the room with a delicate tea set.

    "I find dat de tea helps one dink clearly."

    He handed out teacups of some steaming concoction.

    Kham looked down at his saucer and noticed a note was stuck under it. He read it quickly

    Kham loudly slurped the tea down. After a beat, he said "Excuse me, I need to pee. I'm going to ask Helac where I can go without accidentally desecrating one of his ancestors' resting places."

    Quintus glared at him but said nothing, his arms crossed in one corner of the room. Vlad was talking with Elabac while Ilmarė stared skeptically into her teacup.

    Outside, Helac was waiting for him.

    "I do not dink your dwarven friend understands de implications of de transformation he is about to undergo."

    Kham closed the door behind him. "Yeah, I know. Life must be a real barrel of laughs when you're half-dead."

    The bald man shook his head. "No, it is not. Dat is my point. If Elabac wishes to craft de perfect weapon, he will lose his passion completely."

    "Why are you telling me this?"

    The bald man's eyes darted to the emerald on Kham's coat. "I believe ve have much in common, you and I," was all he would say.

    Kham walked back into the room and shut the door behind him.

    "Alright, this decision is a bit more complicated than I thought. Upon becoming undead, Elabac will lose his passion and emotion. Without that passion, he'll never be able to craft the perfect weapon. Give him 20 years of this depressing place and this whole quest will have been in vain anyway."

    Ilmarė arched an eyebrow. "You came up with all that just now?"

    Kham shrugged. "I do my best thinking when I pee."

    "Perhaps you are right…" said Elabac. "If I lose my passion…my fire…then all that I sacrificed…has been in vain. Come…let us leave this place of death…and go home."

    Quintus smacked his forehead. "So this truly has all been for naught."

    "Not for naught," Vlad reminded him. "Wait until you see one of Master Elabac's failures in action."
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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  • #28
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    Keep em coming, Michael!

    Did you get your player to do more PC portraits? That one for Kham is simply amazing!

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    Bargains of Spirit and Flesh - Epilogue

    They were all seated around a long table carved from solid stone. It seemed to stretch the length of the entire cavern itself, fading out into darkness at the far end of the table, lit intermittently by tapers that sputtered and hissed.

    Quintus hunched over the table, his features shadowed by the candlelight. He hadn't spoken since they had left Ventaka. Kham was sprawled across the table, one leg up on the bench, which prohibited anyone else from sitting next to him. Ilmarė sat perfectly still next to Vlad, who chewed on something thoughtfully.

    "What is this?" he said between bites.

    "You are eating a fungus," said Ilmarė.

    Vlad nearly choked.

    "Mushrooms," Kham said. "Eat them long enough and they taste like beef."

    Vlad took a few more thoughtful chews. "It really DOES taste like beef!"

    Just then, Elabac entered with his entourage. They escorted him to the head of the table. Quintus didn't even look up.

    "Thank you…my friends…for seeing my task…to its conclusion."

    Kham nodded. "Hey, no problem. Any time you want to go into Canceri to make a complete—"

    Vlad shot him a look. Kham covered up the conclusion of his sentence by taking a sip from the metal goblet in front of him.

    "In gratitude…you may each have…one of my failures."

    "We are honored," said Vlad, inclining his head towards the wizened dwarf.

    "Quintus…" began Elabac.

    Quintus' head snapped up.

    "We have a guest…from the Coryani Empire…here to see you..."

    Before Elabac could respond, a man dressed in lorica segmentata armor stiffly entered the room.

    Quintus stood at attention, nearly tripping over the bench as he did so. He put his right closed fist over his breast in a salute.

    The legionnaire refused to make eye contact with Quintus. He unrolled a scroll.

    "Quintus Aurelius Ignatius," he read out loud, "due to your assistance in resolving the abduction of Senator Tensen-Balin's son, you are invited to attend a hunt at the request of General Menisis val'Tensen, Defender of the Empire."
    Quintus blinked. "It would be an honor for I and my comrades to attend. We were all responsible for the child's safe return."

    The legionnaire snapped the scroll shut and marched back into the darkness.

    Vlad looked from Quintus to the spot where the legionnaire had read the scroll. "What was that all about?"

    Kham thrust his chin out in Quintus' direction. "It's a rank thing," was all he said.

    Quintus sat back down, all the anger drained out of him. He stared thoughtfully into his cup.

    Beldin, sitting to Elabac's left, leaned forward. "Master Elabac wishes to extend his gratitude to the Coryani Empire as well." The young dwarf looked unusually somber. "He would like to send his envoy to deliver a gift on behalf of Solanos Mor."

    Elabac gestured with one hand and pointed at a man that no one had noticed before. His most striking feature was his pale white hair. The man rose at Elabac's gesture and bowed slightly towards Quintus. There was a lacquered box in his gloved hands.

    "I would be honored to present this gift on your behalf, Master Elabac," he said quietly.

    The old dwarf nodded in approval.

    "He doesn't look like a dwarf to me," Kham said to Vlad. Vlad shrugged.

    "You can call me Sebastian Arnyal," the white-haired stranger responded.

    Quintus squinted at the man. "From whence do you hail, Sebastian?"

    There was a moment's pause. "Canceri," he replied.

    Kham shook his head and took another sip of his drink.

    Beldin waved at some of the other dwarves standing at attention around the table. Lacquered boxes snapped open in front of each of them: for Ilmarė, a silvery, thin longsword; for Vlad, a thick-handled longsword; for Kham, a beautifully gilded scimitar; for Quintus, a spear with a silver tip, its three sections laying side by side in the velvet case.

    "Wow!" said Kham, fondling the scimitar. Vlad held the sword before him reverently, stroking the blade. Ilmarė simply took the box without comment.

    Everyone turned to Quintus, who was staring at the open box before him. After a moment, he closed the box and took it under his arm.

    "Very well, Sebastian," said Quintus. "You may join us."

    There was an audible sigh of relief from the dwarves.

    "I should like to see my home again," Quintus said. And with that, he left the table.

    "Don't worry about him," said Kham to break the awkward silence that followed. "It's been a rough couple of weeks."

    "I understand," said Elabac.

    "You've been given a second chance, dwarf," said Ilmarė. "Don't waste it." She followed after Quintus.

    Vlad and Kham exchanged glances. "Thank you so much for the honor of these weapons," Vlad said, bowing deeply. "I will wield it with pride." Then he left.

    Kham pushed off the table and rose to make his leave. Then he changed his mind and grabbed the bottle of wine off of the table.

    When Kham was out of earshot, Sebastian turned to Elabac. "Those were your champions?"
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Temptations of the Flesh - Introduction

    This next story hour is a home game from the two-part tournament module, "Temptations of the Flesh," written by Henry Lopez and set in the Arcanis setting (thanks Henry!). You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Our cast of characters includes:

    · Quintus Aurelius Ignatius (human Clr2), played by Mike Tresca (that's me): http://michael.tresca.net
    · Kham Val'Abebi (val Rog2), played by Jeremy Ortiz: http://www.dreamsculptor.com/index1.html
    · Ilmare Galen (elf Brd2), played by Amber Tresca (my wife)
    · Sebastian Arnyal (dark-kin Sor1), played by George Webster.
    · Beldin (dwarf Ftr1), played by Joe Lalumia.

    Our DM is Robert Taylor, a gaming legend in his own time: http://www.storyboardz.net.

    At second level, there was a real concern that we were all a lot more powerful than we should be. We learned from the use of blackpowder as an explosive in the last game that burning oil is a really cool thing. Unfortunately, my old school Second Edition roots did not recognize that alchemist's fire is the better choice. The use of burning oil nevertheless helped us in a pinch.

    The new characters integrate smoothly, although we unfortunately did not have Vlad in this adventure—his disappearance is explained below. Beldin and Sebastian made suitable substitutes, but the adventure was still very tough. Oddly enough, it wasn't as deadly as the previous adventure.

    In fact, the person who gets really screwed is Kham. He gets petrified, cursed, and almost eaten by a monster. We had to use every trick in the book to save him and ourselves.

    If we learned anything in this adventure, it's that our characters suck at dungeon crawls. They're not too good at political maneuvering either (Quintus tends to be something of a loud-mouthed jerk, but he's learning). We're really at our best in street brawls.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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