Thursday, 26th May, 2005, 03:12 AM #11
Javorik sputtered water out of his mouth as he pulled himself up onto the wet stone of the cavern. Federico followed soon thereafter.
"So, whaddaya think?" asked the fighter, sticking a finger into an ear and shaking it vigorously up and down in an effort to clear it of water. "You think she got thrown up this way, or continued on down the stream?"
"Hard to say," admitted Javorik. "I don't know how long she was paralyzed. I'm sure if she could move, she'd try to swim to the 'shore,' such as it is."
"I suppose it can't hurt to look around," said Federico. "We can always return to the stream if she's not around here, and see where it spits us out next."
"True," admitted Javorik. "Those potions oughtta last a little bit longer, anyway." He swung his everburning torch back and forth, looking for evidence of his friend having passed that way.
"Not likely to find footprints in solid rock, you know," commented Federico helpfully.
"Not looking for footprints," replied Javorik. "Looking for--There! Look!"
Javorik dropped to his knees and held the magical torch close to the cavern floor. Federico bent over to get a good look at what his cousin had found. It was a tiny drop of blood.
"You think it's hers?" he asked hopefully.
"Only one way to find out!" replied Javorik, getting back to his feet and heading away from the rushing stream behind him, plunging deeper into the Underdark. "Look! There's another one! If it's Shanny, she went this way!"
Federico drew his sword and followed.
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 03:24 AM.
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It had been a marvelous experience, but now, alas, it was over. The human's suffering had been quite enjoyable, but now it was apparently dead. It had passed out before many times, of course, each time the destrachan or her offspring had sent the appropriate sonic scream to overload the human's nervous system, but each time the sounds of the human's continued breathing confirmed that it had simply been rendered unconscious.
This time was different. The human had collapsed of its own accord as the secondborn clawed at its side, and the destrachan couldn't pick up the rasping and panting of the human's labored breathing any more. The firstborn approached the human thing cautiously, ready to jump back if it showed any signs of life. It sniffed, bent over, and placed a single claw on the soft flesh of the human's left arm, exposed where the leather sleeve had been ripped nearly off. He drew his claw slowly, agonizingly, toward the human's wrist. The secondborn cautiously approached as well, ready to leap upon the human as soon as it woke up and attempted to fight off her brother once more.
But this time the human didn't wake up, even though the firstborn had drawn blood from his long scratch along the human's arm. This time, there would be no attempt at retaliation against the young tormentor.
Pity. It looked like playtime was over.
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 03:25 AM.
C'mon, what are you waiting for? thought Shandrilla furiously. She knew she could never prevail against her tormentors unless she could get them both at once; every time she managed to lay a hand on one of them, the other one knocked her senseless with that teeth-rattling sound they made. She'd have to kill them quickly, too, before the other one up at the top of the pit incapacitated her. Shandrilla ground her teeth together to prevent herself from crying out in pain as one of the little lizard-demons slowly clawed its way down her arm, drawing another line of blood. Tears escaped from her closely-shut eyes, but she gave no other outward sign of her pain, nor did she release the breath she had been holding. C'mon, I'm dead, she thought, Get over here and feed on my corpse already, you vicious little lizards!
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 04:06 AM.
The secondborn approached the dead human-thing. It seemed safe enough; her brother was digging into the flesh of its arm with no response, and she could no longer hear the human's ragged breathing. Still, she'd been tricked one time too many to take this human for granted; it was faster than she had expected. She adjusted her complex ears to see if she could detect the human's heartbeat without actually touching it, just in case it was a trap.
In doing so, her tail brushed carelessly against the human's other arm.NOTES
22. A destrachan can adjust the structure of its ears to make them either more or less sensitive to sounds. With such auditory control, destrachans gain a +4 circumstance bonus to all saves against sound-based attacks.
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 03:26 AM.
That was all Shandrilla had been waiting for. Releasing the pent-up scream - of equal parts pain, terror, and hatred - that she'd been keeping bottled up inside her while she played dead, she lunged at her unseen tormentors. The one that had been clawing her left arm she grabbed by a leg; the other one she was lucky enough to snag around the throat. Squeezing hard with her right hand, she crushed what she hoped was the creature's windpipe, or at least its voice box, with any luck preventing it from using any of the sonic attacks it had used against her so frequently.
Shandrilla wasn't able to do the same to the other creature, as she only held it by its lower leg. So she improvised and swung it back and forth, bashing its head into the stone floor with each swing. That seemed to do the trick as well; at least she wasn't being attacked by a sonic scream from either of these two demon-lizards, nor was the third one attempting to render her unconscious with its nerve-wracking harmonics. She didn't waste time wondering why that was, though, concentrating solely on bashing the brains out of her now-helpless tormentors.
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 03:26 AM.
The destrachan heard the human's scream of attack and inwardly marveled at its ability to withstand such intense pain. She'd definitely have to find another one of these humans; this one had been wasted on her two offspring, to let them grasp the basics of a good torture session. She could only imagine the pleasures to be had if she took over the torturing role herself!
The destrachan was about to intervene on her offspring's behalf - the human had, surprisingly, taken them both unawares - when she heard a different sound from the cavern behind her. It sounded very much like a human, only with a deeper voice; perhaps a male?
"Shanny?" it called out from far away, its echo reverberating throughout the stone corridors that led to the destrachans' lair. "Can you hear me?"
Abandoning her children to the enraged human in the pit - after all, it was weak from its ordeal, and had no claws to speak of; surely her young could manage to fight it off as they'd done so many times in the past - the destrachan turned to face this new threat.
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 03:28 AM.
The first sonic wave took both gnomes by surprise.
It seemed to come from nowhere; in truth, it came from just around a corner in the tunnel before them.
Federico, in the lead, crumpled instantly. Javorik, partially shielded from the blast's full effect by his cousin's body, felt a numbness travel through his body and a dizziness steal the strength from his limbs. On impulse, he dropped to the cavern floor alongside Federico, feigning unconsciousness but keeping his eyes open a slit. He let the words to his magic missile spell come to his lips.
The little illusionist didn't have long to wait. Around the corner stalked an upright lizardlike creature, a good nine or ten feet long from nose to tail, come to check on its handiwork. In the flickering light of Javorik's dropped everburning torch, it looked like nothing so much as a dinosaur.
Javorik let the dinosaur have it. Magic missiles screamed across the short distance between the illusionist's fingers and the monster's flank. It roared in pain and surprise, and Javorik took the opportunity to dive between the creature's legs, where he couldn't easily be attacked. Pulling out his trusty dagger, he skittered out from under the monster's legs and leapt up at its flank, stabbing his weapon in deep and using it to pull himself up onto the beast's back, where he figured he was even safer still.
It looked like he was right, for the creature couldn't reach him with its clawed forelimbs from his current position; maybe it could have had he been bigger, but that was one of the advantages of being a gnome. And now, Javorik fully intended to capitalize on one of the advantages of being a spellcaster: he started the words to a blindness/deafness spell.
Javorik had intended to blind the creature with his spell, but fortunately he got a good look at its head while it thrashed around trying to dislodge him, and noticed the stupid thing didn't have any eyes! Altering the spell effects in mid-casting, he chose to deafen the beast instead. At least he was certain the creature had ears!
It was the best thing he could have done. Immediately, the beast stopped stock-still, as if assessing its new situation and unable to believe it. Then it began thrashing about, grabbing at its head with its talon-tipped forelimbs in an attempt to unclog its hearing.
In all of the beast's thrashing about, Javorik was thrown from its back. He landed next to Federico, and took the opportunity to slap his cousin awake. Good thing, too, for the wounded and deafened beast was thrashing out in all directions, screaming out sonic attacks left and right. One blasted the side of the cavern wall, sending a small explosion of stone fragments flying off like a fireworks display. Another clipped the top of Federico's head, splitting his metal helm into small fragments that rained down from around his head like a cloud of dandruff.
But that only strengthened the little gnomish fighter's resolve. Grabbing up his short sword, he leapt at the panicked beast and drove his blade deep into its wicked heart. The destrachan fell to its side, kicked feebly once or twice, and fell limp to the ground, as lifeless as the stone it lay upon. Thick red blood oozed from its wound and pooled on the floor.
Federico extricated his sword from the foul beast, then heard a primal scream of triumph. He looked at his cousin; Javorik stared back at him in disbelief. "That's Shanny!" they cried out in unison.
Racing toward the sound, they came upon a large, circular pit dug deep into the back of an enormous cavern. A narrow, sloping ramp curved along one side of the pit's rim, providing access to the bottom. The two gnomes raced down into the pit, marveling at the sight they saw there.
Shandrilla was crouched on her knees with her arms at her sides, a dead lizard throttled tightly in each hand. Her head was upraised as if in supplication, her eyes closed tight but leaking tears of gratitude that spilled down the sides of her face. Her black leather armor was ripped and tattered all over; judging from the dried blood caking her skin, so was her body.
Javorik approached her and touched her matted hair gently. "Shanny?" he said in a choked whisper, tears leaking down the sides of his face. "It's me. Javorik. It's gonna be all right now, Shanny."
Shandrilla cracked open her eyes and winced at the flickering illusory flames of the everburning torch; after so much time spent in absolute darkness the unaccustomed light hurt her eyes. She looked down at the dead destrachan young hanging limply in her hands, and was surprised that they were little bigger than chickens; for all the pain they had caused her, she had expected them to be much bigger than they really were.
She opened her hands with some effort; her many wounds and recent exertions were rapidly taking their toll. As her head started spinning and she felt herself rapidly slipping once more into blessed unconsciousness, she managed to get out a few words to her companions, her two loyal friends who had braved unknown dangers to rescue her from the pit. The words came haltingly, from a voice long strained by screams, first of torment and then of triumph:
"Not too--bad for a--silly--human girl--"
Shandrilla pitched forward into the arms of her companions.NOTES
23. Destrachans are so adept at using their sonic attacks that they can "bounce" them off of walls, floors, and ceilings with the accuracy of a professional pool player. If it chooses to do so, a destrachan can also aim its sonic cone at the floor directly at its feet and have it spread out equally to a radius of 30 feet, affecting all other creatures within range. Naturally, these effects only work if the surface being used to "rebound" the sonics is itself immune to the effects being produced.
24. For obvious reasons, spells that cause deafness in a destrachan (such as blindness/deafness and silence) render the creature effectively blind. It immediately loses its auditory-based blindsight, and all targets are treated as if they had full concealment, meaning that the destrachan has a 50% chance of missing its target each round regardless of its attack roll.
25. Since a destrachan's many sonic abilities are intricately linked with its exceptional hearing, a deafened destrachan often miscalculates the frequencies of its sonic attacks. DMs should feel free to randomize a destrachan's disruptive harmonics when it cannot hear properly.
26. DMs using exotic ingredients for magical inks might consider having the blood of a destrachan be a component in the inks used to inscribe the spells sculpt sound, shatter, shout, and sound burst (based on the destrachan's association with sonic attacks), and invisibility purge and see invisibility (based on its auditory blindsight ability which negates the advantages of invisibility).
27. Destrachans, when first hatched, stand about 6 inches from nose to tail. By the end of their first year they're the size of a large rooster; at the end of their second year they reach nearly 4 feet from nose to tail. At 3 years, the destrachan stands some 5 feet tall, reaches a good 10 feet from snout to tail, and is considered an adult. Beyond its first three years a destrachan's growth rate slows considerably, but it continues to grow throughout its life. The largest known destrachans reach a length of over 20 feet and stand well over 11 feet tall in their hunched-over stance. Fortunately, such monsters are very rare.
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 04:12 AM.
And there we have it, the last of the "Shandrilla/Javorik" stories I ever wrote up as an "Ecology" article. I rather liked how this one turned out; I thought it really showed the level of friendship between the "silly human girl" thief and the gnomish illusionist. (Federico, despite his gruff attitude toward Shandrilla, obviously holds her in high regard as well.)
Incidentally, I wrote "The Ecology of the Chuul" intending to make it look like I had killed off Shandrilla, knowing full well that she would be captured by a destrachan and rescued in "The Ecology of the Destrachan." That was my first - and only - "cliffhanger ending," and had Dave Gross remained the editor of Dragon for another half-year or so, these two would likely have seen print in back-to-back issues.
Oh well. I hope you guys enjoy reading these. Sadly, I only have a limited supply of unpublished "Ecology" articles, and eventually they're going to run out.
Last edited by Richards; Thursday, 26th May, 2005 at 03:29 AM.
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