Shilsen's Eberron SH (Die Hard 7 - Just DIE Dammit : 11/11/12) - Page 18




What's on your mind?

  1. #171
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solarious
    HAVE MY BABIES!!!

    .....

    I'm sorry, did I say something? Why are you all looking at me like that?


    As promised...

    ************************************************** *******************
    Nameless replies, “I am not entirely certain why. It could be as simple as I was the first one to touch it.”

    “Then again, there are many things I do not fully understand about myself. I am called Nameless, but that is really a description not a name. Whatever it is that names things is absent in me. Most of my past is also veiled from me as well and there is much to indicate that I am not now what I once was or may have been.”

    “My mentor in the arcane has a spell that can detect aberrations and for some reason I detect as an aberration to this spell. Several of the creatures in Yarkuun Draal seemed to respond to me as if I were a Daelkyr, and a dream that I had, after we defeated and sealed a Daelkyr using the Key, seemed to indicate that I have in some way been touched by them. Perhaps that has something to do with it as well.”

    “Perhaps it is Edgar?” he adds, showing his rock to Saala, “An affinity with one rock could lead to an affinity with others.”

    Saala looks a little puzzled. “Edgar?” She begins to turn to Gurr’khan for explanation, when Thlie, who has once again been paying attention, places a twisted hand on her shoulder.

    When Saala turns to her, Thlie says nothing. Instead, she slowly levers herself off the ground and hobbles towards Nameless. As she rises and moves, everyone watching can see that both of her legs are twisted and deformed, skin pushed out of place by misshapen bones.

    Reaching Nameless, she bends slowly to look into his eyes. Nameless finds himself gazing into two cloudy gray eyes, each of them strangely vacant, with a tiny pinprick of blackness at the center of each. It takes a second or two to realize what else is distinctive about them. As far as Nameless can judge, the eyes are completely and utterly insane.

    Her actions, however, are not. Or at least not very much. Thlie leans closer and sniffs at Nameless. Her own breath is somewhat rank and slightly tart. After a series of long sniffs, she straightens up and then hobbles back to her mat, before subsiding onto it. She looks at Saala, who has been waiting silently, and says solemnly, “It doesn’t matter. It’s all in his head. And he cannot use it again. He has too much knowledge now.” She pauses and then adds, “You can trust him. All of them.” There is another pause, and then the demeanor cracks as she giggles loudly. “And they’re all mental. Hee hee!”

    Saala looks quizzically at her friend for a few seconds, and then says, “It’s too late for me to stop trusting you, though I’m not going to pretend I know what that means.”

    She turns back to Nameless. “You sound honest enough, though I get the feeling you’re not sharing something, but if Thlie says I should trust you, I will. But you still have to answer my original question.” She glances at Gareth, whose attempt to detect thoughts had interrupted the request. “Tell me everything you can about the Key.”

    The Angels spend the better part of the next two hours going over every detail they can of their association with the Key and all the events that had the least connection with it. Saala asks questions continuously, revisiting every detail that they bring up. Thlie switches between paying rapt attention to the story and completely ignoring both it and their presence.

    When they are finally done, and Saala has asked the last of her questions, she says, “Well, you’ve certainly had an interesting time of things. And for your efforts I thank you.” She falls silent, lowering her head in thought. After a few seconds, she looks up. “I think now it’s time for me – us – to return the favor and tell you what we know. Please remember that what I’m about to tell you now absolutely cannot be revealed to anyone.”

    Saala waits for the Angels to all assent and then rises to her feet. She says, “Thlie – you can go ahead. We’ll join you soon.” Thlie nods, rises awkwardly, and hobbles toward the pool. At the water’s edge she turns, gives the group a lopsided smile, and simply falls in. There are a series of ripples and she disappears below the dark surface.

    Saala says, “Please prepare for a swim. If you can change to a form or use magic that will help, please do so. Can any of you breathe underwater?” Since Nameless is the only one who cannot do so, she casts a water breathing spell on him.

    Then she turns to Gurr’khan, who has been watching with the same curiosity as the Angels, and says, “Follow behind me.” To Six she says, “You can ride me.” With that, Saala transforms into a large crocodile, followed moments later by Gurr’khan and Luna. She heads for the water, carrying Six, followed by the other two druids, with Gareth on Luna’s back, Korm having grown gills and webbing between his fingers to swim alongside, and Nameless availing of a fly spell to help him move through the water.

    As the cold waters of the lake close over them, the Angels find that some light filters through the dark water, though dimly. Saala heads directly across the lake, staying only a few feet below the surface. When about halfway across, she descends quickly to a depth of about fifty feet, and continues across the lake.

    Within seconds, she reaches the far bank, which seems to descend unusually precipitously from the water’s edge. Gaping in the bank ahead of her is a huge tunnel, over twenty feet across. Saala heads into it, the others following as she swims up the steep slope of the tunnel. The tunnel seems to be natural in origin, but the smoothness of its sides and consistent size makes it clear that it has been worked on too.

    Six, riding on her broad back, sees the flickering of torchlight through the water above, seconds before they break through the surface. When they do, Six finds himself near the edge of a pool in the middle of a dark cavern, illuminated only by two everburning torches embedded in the roughly semicircular walls. These walls seem to be made of thickly packed earth, with some stone near the base, rising to a curved ceiling some thirty feet above. A large open doorway in the horizontal wall that makes up the base of the semicircle reveals an even larger chamber, illuminated by many more torches.

    Six only notices all of these details a little later, since the first things that draw his attention are the two huge nostrils, each nearly the size of his head, which are no more than three feet from his face when Saala comes to a stop on the bank of the pool. Beneath the huge nostrils is a twisted mouth, half-open to reveal rows of proportionately large teeth.

    As Six reflexively half-leaps, half-stumbles off Saala’s back, he looks up past the teeth and the nostrils, along the long snout to the bony cheekbones, above which glow two amber eyes, set deep into sockets at the base of two forward-curving horns, all of which combine to form the almost skeletal face of the huge black dragon watching him.

    Saala, changing quickly back to her own form, chuckles as she notes the expressions in the faces of the people emerging from the pool behind her, and then says, “Don’t worry. This is Thlie.” The comment is instantly followed by all of the Angels hurriedly turning and calling to the crocodile Luna, “DON’T flame strike her!”

    Luna, once she has reached the bank and changed back, looks at them disgustedly. “I wasn’t going to!”

    Saala laughs. “Yes, that would be a bad idea. Let me re-introduce you to Thlielaxara, direct descendant of Vvaraak, the Scaled Apostate.”

    As the others study the dragon, they can see that her eyes retain the somewhat vacant stare that Thlie had in her human form, and her four limbs are twisted and deformed too. Even her mouth is twisted, causing acidic drool to drip out, which the Angels quickly back up to avoid.

    “Thlie,” says Saala, “Maybe you should switch forms. It’ll be more comfortable.” While Thlie nods and complies, Saala leads the group into the next chamber. As they follow, she says, “This is where Thlie usually lives. We’re actually inside that hill you saw from the opposite side of the lake.”

    This chamber seems to be a mixture of bedroom, sitting room and museum. The central area is empty, with a large indented alcove in one side, strewn with rushes to make a rough bed, albeit one much too small for the dragon’s natural form. Near it is a pile of woven mats, which Saala fetches and distributes in a large circle. There is a doorway in the far wall, a thick curtain hanging down over it. The chamber is lit by over a dozen everburning torches in the walls. Their light glitters off the surface of scores of items that have been embedded into the walls of the chamber. These include Eberron dragonshards of various sizes, various skulls (most from animals, but with a couple of humanoid skulls and a few that Nameless and Korm recognize as belonging to aberrations), a few pieces of armor and weapons, a giant arm holding a giant-sized longsword, a single large glowing orb that the Angels recognize as a conductor stone from the lightning rail, a complicated apparatus set into an alcove of its own (which Nameless identifies as an orrery of the planes) and other odd knick-knacks.

    As they are sitting down, Six (already having produced a sketchpad to note what he has seen of Thlielaxara’s true form) whispers to Nameless, “Who’s Vvaraak?”

    “She’s the dragon who taught Druidism to the Gatekeepers, millennia ago.”

    Saala, having heard the question and answer, adds, “Yes. Nameless is well-informed. Vvaraak is the one who brought Druidism to Khorvaire and taught the orcs, who became the first Gatekeepers. Sixteen thousand years ago. Thlielaxara came to the Marches three hundred years ago as a young dragon, to follow in the footsteps of her ancestor, to study what is known as the Draconic Prophecy, and to see the results of Vvaraak’s teachings. She chose to live near the Pond of Shadows, drinking from its waters to gain great prophetic powers, but,” Saala gazes a little sadly at Thlie, “Steadily becoming insane.”

    Thlie, now back in human form and sitting near Saala, nods and smiles at the comment. “Yes, Saala is right. I’m quite mad.” She giggles.

    “Well, at least she knows it,” mutters Luna, before Saala continues. “Despite her … situation, Thlie remained a friend of the Gatekeepers, and we kept her secret. A hundred years ago, she saved a group of Gatekeepers, including the then leader, from a small army of aberrations from Khyber and a tribe that worshipped the Dragon Below. She was slain in the battle. A grateful Gatekeeper reincarnated her, but her mental fracturing manifested in her shape, and though she was brought back as a dragon, she came back with some physical issues. Nevertheless, Thlie is incredibly well-informed and the best source I know for information about the past, especially anything associated with the dragons, as the Key is.”

    Six interrupts politely. “Do you know the beholder Ek’aankh?”

    Saala looks a little surprised at the apparently disconnected question. “Yes. That is the name of a legendary monster that terrorized the Shadow Marches. Why?”

    “Well, we met him. And had a nice chat. I thought of him since he seemed to know a lot about the past too.”

    “Yes,” corroborates Korm. “They did. But I have to admit I didn’t get to, since I was a statue at the time.”

    “I see,” says Saala slowly, with a bemused expression that clearly says she doesn’t, “You … chatted … with Ek’aankh. While Korm was a statue.” Gurr’khan just rolls his eyes, not to indicate disbelief so much as resignation to the strange things that seem to have happened to the Angels.

    Nameless adds, “I think he’s mellowed a fair bit.” Then he grins. “But you don’t want to wake him suddenly. We gather that he’s crotchety when woken up.”

    Six goes on to relate some of what happened. Saala listens and finally says, “Interesting, as seems to be the case with everything in your collective past. Of course, it’s not like he’s likely to be an easy source. Especially not about the Key. But I’ll let Thlie explain about it.”

    Turning to Thlie, who has currently lost interest and is mumbling to herself, Saala explains for a little while that she should tell the ‘nice people’ what she told Saala about the Key. Thlie seems to focus, and after a little bit more prodding, turns to the group.

    Her explanation takes longer than it normally should, simply because Saala has to bring her back to the point every once in a while. Eventually, Thlie explains that the three progenitor wyrms created (or found) the Prophecy before the creation of the world. But it was forgotten, while demons overran the world in the Age of Demons, ten million years ago. Eventually, the dragons rediscovered the Prophecy and, with other draconic species like the couatls, fought the demons. A hundred thousand years ago, the couatls sacrificed most of their number to first create the Silver Flame and bind the most powerful Demon Lords in Khyber. Over time, some of the demon lords would try to escape, and some of the dragons feared that they would not be permanently bound. To attempt to keep them so, they made numerous inventions and discoveries.

    First the dragons invented the dimensional seals, which not only could hold shut manifest zones but, in sufficient numbers, would permanently separate a plane from Eberron (which is what Vvaraak taught the orcs to do for Xoriat). Though immune to most physical and magical damage, seals would leak over time, and they could be destroyed if enough power was brought to bear. Some dragons felt that relying on only the seals was too risky and it is they who built the first of the Keys. Using a Key, one could lock a seal (or an individually bound fiend) so tightly that there was no chance of escape. But in order to have this power, they had to be made able to unlock the seals too. Either ability needed to work through living hosts, who would bind themselves to each Key. As long as the bond remained, the Key would hold the given seal in place. The bond could be passed on from guardian to guardian, so that the Key would always hold. Certain Keys would work differently from others with regard to the relationship with a guardian, and this was especially true in conjunction with non-draconic guardians, since the Keys bonded better to their draconic creators. Keys were built to be usable by true dragons and those trained by them, but as part of their nature, could also be used by those they were meant to bind, like the rakshasas or the daelkyr. While a number of Keys were originally made, most are still in Argonessen. Only a few were actually brought to Khorvaire, usually by dragons who are interested in the Prophecy, and especially those who wish to help the younger races. There are perhaps, Thlie estimates, only a dozen or so Keys in Khorvaire, all probably occupied secretly to hold dimensional seals in place or perhaps waiting to seal one that is weakened. Few non-dragons know of their existence.

    Once Thlie has completed relating the details, Saala adds, “Evidently two such Keys were taken to the island near Xen’drik you went to. Your act of bonding with the one evidently created one with the second. Incidentally, since the first Key was used by all of you to re-seal a daelkyr that had escaped, which is something that I’m fairly sure has never happened, the original bond is gone and that seal is as permanent as can be.”

    “Are you sure that’s never happened? Considering that nobody knows where the other Keys are, something similar could have happened sometime, right?” asks Six.

    Saala shakes her head. “If a daelkyr, and even more a rakshasa rajah, ever escaped, we’d know about it. And so would all of Khorvaire.”

    Turning to address the group, Saala continues, “Now you know as much as I do. Due to Thlie’s knowledge and nature, she can actually use the Key. There are a couple of options for you. We could remove your bond to it and….”

    “That’s it!” says Luna, “We don’t need any other choices!”

    The others laugh but add that she’s probably right. Saala smiles too. “I thought you’d go for that. The other option would be for you to be permanent guardians of the Key.”

    That option is quickly vetoed, especially by Luna, and Saala says, “Very well. This will hurt and weaken you. I will try to help as much as possible. If any of you have lesser restoration or similar spells ready or can prepare them, do so. Give me a few minutes.”

    She walks over to the far side of the chamber and sits down to meditate. Luna watches her with a big grin on her face. “We’re finally going to get rid of that damn shard. Finally!”

    While the Angels are waiting for Saala and talking amongst themselves and to Gurr’khan, Thlie suddenly points at Gareth. “What is that?”

    Surprised, Gareth asks, “What?”

    “That sword.”

    “Kizmet.”

    “Can I see it?”

    Gareth slowly unsheathes the sword. As he grasps the hilt, he feels a wave of wariness, tinged with slight curiosity. After a second of hesitation, he hands the sword to the dragon as old woman.

    Thlie takes the sword and, in what seems to be her customary method dealing with anything, slowly sniffs her way all along the blade. Then she nods and hands it back. “Fiend blade.”

    “I beg your pardon? You know what this is?”

    “Yes. It is a fiend blade.”

    Nameless chuckles. “She’s going to tell you there’s a fiend bound inside it.”

    Gareth throws him an irritated look, but his attention is wholly on Thlie. “Can you tell me anything about it? Are there more like it?”

    “Yes,” says Thlie, slowly beginning to rock back and forth as she speaks, which sends little flecks of drool spilling down her cheek. “My people first made them. They are made to especially hurt fiends. Some can weaken them. Others prevent the use of some of their abilities, for a time. Fiend blades bind to a certain user over time and develop power as the wielder does. As time goes by, they …..” She stops as a fit of coughing takes her.

    Gareth waits patiently, until Thlie stops coughing. When she does, Thlie sniffs, looks up the ceiling and then begins to mumble to herself. When it becomes clear she is no longer interested in or focused on the subject, Gareth says, “Excuse me – can you tell me more about the sword?”

    Thlie pauses in her muttering, looks at him curiously, and then says, “You’re pretty!”

    A couple of the others guffaw at the unexpected comment, while Gareth simply tries to avoid looking exasperated and ignores the momentary thrill of amusement he feels from the sword. Again, he says, as politely as he can, “Could you please tell me more about the sword? I would greatly appreciate it.”

    Thlie nods. “Yes,” she says with finality, “You’re very pretty.”

    Luna, still grinning broadly, says, “I don’t think she’s that interested in the sword any more, Gareth.”

    As she speaks, Luna is idly scratching her forearm, and Six notices a patch of hair come off under her nails and fall off, leaving a bare patch of skin. “Luna,” he says, pointing at it, “I think you’re losing hair.”

    “What?” asks the shifter, before she looks down at the spot. Her eyes go wide and she repeats herself in a yell, “WHAT?!”

    “You’re going bald now?” asks Gareth, with a wide grin.

    “That’s not ing funny!” snarls Luna, before turning to snatch up the patch of fur and rub the bare area of skin, about two inches across, which is completely smooth.

    “Actually, it’s quite funny,” mutters Korm, under his breath.

    Gurr’khan grunts, “I told you about those symbionts,” pointing at the band wrapped around Luna’s forearm only a few inches from the bare patch.

    Luna shoots him a glare. “Yes, you’re a bloody genius, aren’t you?” She looks back down at the hair and the skin, before raising both hands above her head and screaming her frustration. The scream drowns out the sound of her companions, only partly in humor, grabbing at their heads and saying, “No flame strikes please!”

    Luna slams her fists into the ground beside her. “This is too much! Now I’m fat AND going bald?! A tentacle or two I could have borne, but this … is … too … much!!”

    She is reaching down to rip the symbionts off her body when she feels a hand on her shoulder. “What’s going on?” asks Saala, whom nobody has noticed walking over to join them.

    “Luna’s having a bad hair day,” says Nameless, and then quickly scrambles backward as the angry shifter reaches for him.

    “Yes,” says Saala mildly, “I heard a bit of it. And something about the sword. Still, we should deal with the Key, should we not?”

    “Yes,” growls Luna. “At least let’s get that off our backs!”
    shilsen is broken - Crothian (and this is why)

    My Eberron Story Hour. Updated (Finally!) November 11. The Grand Finale!

    My world's worst paladin thread. Vote and throw rocks!

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  • #172
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    YAY. Shil this is nice. A elder and insane dragon, a fat balding shifter. A paladin with a sword that has bound a demon. And a wizard who refuses to acknowledge his past that he has rediscovered.

    I likes this group yes I does…

    Please Sir, may I have some more?
    Avatar courtesy of Sialia!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by delericho
    Sadly, the reality is that many people don't realise that "no, you can't" doesn't always reduce fun, and "yes, you can" doesn't always increase it. So, very often, they find themselves working against their own fun.
    My idea of faith: The All Black's WILL win the World Cup - it's gonna happen people!!! (so long as we don't get France or Oz in our semi-final).

  • #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidekick
    YAY. Shil this is nice. A elder and insane dragon
    After the session, I realized that the only two dragons the group has explicitly met happen to be insane. Not sure what that means, if anything.

    , a fat balding shifter. A paladin with a sword that has bound a demon. And a wizard who refuses to acknowledge his past that he has rediscovered.

    I likes this group yes I does…
    When the most 'normal' person in the group is a living construct, you know you're onto a very interesting bunch.

    Please Sir, may I have some more?
    I've been busy with student conferences (oh joy!) all week and have more tomorrow, but I'll be working on the next writeup this evening. Let's just say a couple of interesting changes are coming.
    shilsen is broken - Crothian (and this is why)

    My Eberron Story Hour. Updated (Finally!) November 11. The Grand Finale!

    My world's worst paladin thread. Vote and throw rocks!

    My Sexism in D&D and on ENWorld (now with SOLUTIONS!) thread. Pop in and tell me what you think.

  • #174
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    Dragons, and old ones in particular, are at least able to take more mental abuse than others. Then again, insane, old dragons are also capable of causing a great deal of... trouble. We proved that already though, didn't we?

    Too bad Luna isn't taking symbionts... hmn... how should I put this? Kindly? I wanted to see how badly she could screw over Gurr'khan. Well, at least I'll get to see how badly you can screw over the Angels. That's something I can count on at least.
    Game balance is a myth that I wholeheartedly subscribe to. ~ Sepulchrave II

  • #175
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solarious
    Dragons, and old ones in particular, are at least able to take more mental abuse than others. Then again, insane, old dragons are also capable of causing a great deal of... trouble. We proved that already though, didn't we?
    Just a teensy bit

    Too bad Luna isn't taking symbionts... hmn... how should I put this? Kindly? I wanted to see how badly she could screw over Gurr'khan. Well, at least I'll get to see how badly you can screw over the Angels. That's something I can count on at least.
    I'll try to please. What happens by the end of the session may count, but I'll leave the decision up to you. I did get some written up today, so I thought I'd just go ahead and post it, rather than waiting till tomorrow to add more.

    I presume you won't complain


    ************************************************** *******************
    “Very well,” says Saala. She walks over to Thlie, producing the Key from within her robes, and squats down next to her. After quietly speaking to the shapechanged dragon for a couple of minutes, she hands the Key over. Thlie takes it in both of her twisted hands and holds it awkwardly in front of her chest.

    “Hold on!” says Nameless, “If this is anything like what happened when I transferred it from Corven to Korm, this would be a really good time to cast a bear’s endurance on everyone.”

    “That’s a good idea,” says Saala. “I cannot help, since I have prepared as many spells as I can to remove the damage that you will suffer.”

    With the aid of Gurr’khan, all of the Angels soon have a bear’s endurance protecting them. Saala waits until they are done and then says, “So, who will be the firs…”

    “Me!” says Luna decisively, before the Gatekeeper can finish.

    Saala smiles gently. “I thought that might be the case.” She walks over to sit next to Thlie and says, “All right, Thlie – go ahead.”

    Thlie closes her eyes and concentrates. Immediately, a thick beam of amber light shoots from the Key and hits Luna in the middle of her chest. The shifter grunts as she feels it slowly draining her vitality. An uncomfortable burning sensation begins where the beam hit, right where the blue tattoo indicating the link to the Key is.

    A couple of seconds later, the beam splits into two, one half shooting off to strike Gurr’khan in his chest. “Hey!” says the alarmed Gatekeeper, adding worriedly, “Saala?”

    Saala quickly turns to Thlie. “Try to absorb it! Like you said you could!”

    Thlie, with eyes still shut, frowns with concentration, and the second beam visibly retracts from Gurr’khan’s chest and then hits Thlie instead. A second after it does so, it begins to pulse, as does the one attached to Luna. The druid goes pale, as she feels her vitality flow away at an alarming rate. Thlie apparently feels a similar effect, though it is either not as strong or she is simply more stoical, from the expression on her face.

    The beams suddenly wink off. Luna gasps in relief and then quickly checks under her shirt. “It’s gone!” she says, relief drowning out weakness in her voice. “There’s just a large bruise,” she says, as she touches it, quickly adding, “Ow! A large painful bruise.” She quickly casts a lesser restoration to recover some of her lost vitality.

    Saala is doing the same to Thlie, who seems less affected*, and thanking her. “Will she be able to continue?” asks Nameless.

    “Yes,” replies Saala, as she continues to cast spells. “It’s better to do this all at once.”

    After Thlie is fully healed, Saala asks who the next person is to volunteer. One by one, the rest of the Angels go through the same process that Luna did. Each is left with a red, painful bruise, but their links to the Key are gone. The process almost kills a couple of them**, Nameless’s suggestion about preparatory bear’s endurances being all that keeps them alive.

    With a series of lesser restorations being cast, they are quickly out of danger, but when Saala and everyone else runs out, everyone involved is far from healthy. Thlie, taking damage every time, looks especially weak. As Saala carefully takes the Key from her hands, she sags and almost collapses. Saala helps her to her feet and leads her to the sleeping area, where Thlie lies down.

    After covering her with a blanket, Saala returns and joins the others. “Well – that went about as well as it could. Let’s return to my camp.”

    Once back there, Saala spends a little time talking to the group. The bruises that they have remain red and painful, but gradually fade over the course of an hour. One thing that the Angels notice is that while they no longer have the awareness of the Key that they did earlier, there is a lingering awareness. They are aware of the direction that the Key is from them, though not of its distance or location. Saala says that, based on what Thlie has told her, they will slowly lose this awareness, though it will take time.

    “I hope you’re right,” says Luna. “I want to be completely done with that thing.”

    “I don’t think you need to worry about that,” says Saala. “You can spend the night here.” After a moment’s thought, she asks, “Now that you are free of the Key, is there anything particular you need to do? I was thinking that there might be a couple of places where people of your varied skills could be helpful to the Gatekeepers. Naturally, since you are adventurers, I would find a way to make it worthwhile for you. Is that something you might be interested in?”

    “We would certainly consider it,” says Nameless. “There’s nothing essential that we need to do next.”

    The others agree, Luna doing so a little reluctantly, and Saala thanks them for agreeing to consider the proposition. “I will head back to Thlie now,” she says. “I need to speak to her about some of the things I’m considering. We’ll discuss this further in the morning.”

    As she is about the leave, Nameless says, “Don’t forget what I said about the people who we think have been tracking us and are probably after the Key.”

    “Yes. Thank you for reminding me.” With that, Saala disappears back into the lake.

    After she leaves, the Angels and Gurr’khan spend time getting ready for the night. Nameless, Six and Gareth debate whether the people following them might have some interest other than the Key. Nameless is quite sure that’s what they are after, pointing out that they not only are the ones who killed Arrok and Dala, who really had no importance besides their connection with the finding of the Key, but they removed Arrok’s tattoo.

    As the discussion is winding down, Nameless receives a sending from Trillia, who says, “Just checking on you. Everything fine here. Stuffed mind flayer done two days early. Currently standing in my foyer. Any idea when you will be back?”

    Nameless responds, “We are fine. Met Gatekeepers. Successfully removed link to Key today. Not sure about return yet. Keep in touch.” After a second’s pause, realizing he can still relay a bit more, he adds, “Luna getting fat and losing hair.”

    Luna gives him a dirty look and says, “I used my lesser restorations, you know. I have a flame strike left!”

    The others laugh at Nameless’s comment, and his mention of the preserved mind flayer causes further amusement.

    After some more talking the group eventually settles in for the night, Nameless making sure to put up a private sanctum spell to protect them from scrying and more mundane spying.

    ***
    The next morning, shortly after the Angels awake, they are joined by Saala. She says that Thlie is better and the two of them have discussed many things during the night, especially regarding a couple of the propositions that she has for them. Saala suggests that they have breakfast and prepare spells before rejoining Thlie and her.

    After she leaves, the Angels discuss the possibility of working with the Gatekeepers over breakfast. Gurr’khan doesn’t contribute, listening silently for the most part. When asked if he has any idea what Saala has in mind, he grunts, “I really have no idea. Saala must be quite impressed with you all. Of course, I still think you people are insane, but it’s her call.” A little grudgingly, he adds, “Though you do have more skills than most.”

    Once the Angels are done preparing their spells, they take care of the lingering effects from the previous evening. “That feels better,” says Luna, “But I can still feel that damn Key. I wonder when that’ll end”

    “Look on the bright side,” says Six, with a chuckle. “If it doesn’t and they stick the Key somewhere permanent, you’ll have a permanent sense of direction.”

    “I’ll pas…,” begins Luna, when a faint sound catches her extremely sharp hearing. Only Six and Gurr’khan, both almost as sensitive as her, hear it too.

    “What’s wrong?” asks Korm, as all three turn to look in the direction of the hill across the lake, Thlie’s lair.

    “Explosion!” says Luna. “From there!”

    “Damn!” says Gurr’khan, “Get on board. I’ll swim, but it’ll take some time.”

    Nameless, quickly calculating, says, “Six – you go with Gurr’khan. I can get the rest right in there. Luna – don’t transform into a bear yet. I can’t carry that much.”

    As Gurr’khan transforms into a giant crocodile and slithers into the water, Six leaps onto his back. Still on the bank, Nameless and the others quickly cast a protective spell each, and then Nameless prepares to transport everyone. “You sure you know where you’re taking us?” asks Gareth.

    “I’ve got direction from the Key,” says Nameless quickly, “And I’ve got a pretty good idea about distance.”

    “Pretty good?” thinks Gareth, sending up a silent prayer to the Silver Flame to aid Nameless’s judgement.

    Whether it be the Flame’s favor or simply Nameless’s incredible intellect, the alienist makes no mistake. He [i]dimension door[/s] them with pinpoint accuracy. Nameless, Gareth, Luna and Korm appear in the middle of Thlie’s main chamber.

    The first thing they notice is Saala next to a wall near them.

    All three pieces of her.


    * The person losing a link took 2d10 Con dmg. Thlie took 2d6 Con dmg.
    ** Nameless and Six got taken to a 0 Con, with the Bear’s Endurance keeping them alive.
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    Saala’s corpse has literally been hacked apart and lies near one of the chamber’s walls. The area around it is stained yellowish-green, Korm and Luna recognizing the signs of a rejuvenation cocoon that was destroyed or dispelled before it could complete its work. Nearby, backed up against the wall, and gibbering to herself, is Thlie.

    Of more immediate concern are the two other people in the chamber, standing over Saala’s corpse. One is a muscular female orc, wearing ornate plate-mail armor that the Angels instantly recognize was worn by the fake Dala during the battle with Desro. She carries the same saw-toothed falchion, blood still dripping off its blade. Behind her is an older, slimmer male orc, in well-worn traveling garb. The latter is rising to his feet from Saala’s corpse, and simultaneously tucking the Key, glittering in his right hand, into his clothes.

    As the adventurers appear, the male orc smiles and casts a spell, causing rubbery black tentacles to erupt from the ground around them. Korm and Gareth bull their way through the tentacles to open ground. While Nameless is seized by the tentacles, as is Luna, who is still in her normal form, he simply dimension doors the pair of them outside the spell’s grasp.

    The delay, however, is what matters. The swordswoman steps forward and takes a ready stance. As she does, she calls back over her shoulder, “Can we kill them this time or do we have to pretend to lose again?” The other laughs. “No – you can kill them now. They have served their purpose.”

    Luna snarls at the glib confidence of their enemies and transforms into her favorite bear form, also calling on her shifter heritage for added fortitude. As she transforms, her senses sharpen, especially that of scent. The bear Luna wrinkles her snout, recognizing the same combination of mustiness and wet hair that she smelled at the camp a couple nights ago.

    While she is transforming, Korm rushes forward to engage the swordswoman. As he hacks at her, he again finds that her resistance to damage, whatever its source, takes the edge of his blows. Hers, however, bite through his defenses and the Gatekeeper is soon bleeding heavily.

    His attack, however, keeps her occupied enough for Gareth to rush by at the spellcaster. Nameless casts a spell at the same time, causing three of his wolves to appear, two rushing at the spellcaster and one at the swordswoman. To Korm’s relief, though the one attacking his opponent barely scratches her, it uses its bulk to shove her off her feet.

    The other two wolves leap forward, their innate true strike ability making it impossible for them to miss. And yet they do, as they slam into an invisible barrier a foot from their target. He simply smiles past them at a momentarily flabbergasted Nameless. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, would you?”

    What in the Planes is that? wonders Nameless.*

    Meanwhile, Gareth sets his feet and swings, crying, “In the name of the Flame!” Kizmet kindles with silver fire as it comes down, and then clangs harmlessly off multiple layers of magical protection.

    “Please!” says the untouched target. “I was killing your kind when being a paladin meant something.” He gestures dismissively, sending three scorching rays burning into Gareth’s chest, and following them instantly with a coruscating ray of enfeeblement that saps the paladin’s strength.

    Beside the apparent protection against Nameless’s summoned creatures, the spellcaster apparently has other unusual spellcasting abilities. As the fight progresses, he casts a greater command, ordering each of the Angels to sleep. Though they fight off the magical compulsion, they realize that their enemy, so far apparently an arcanist, just used a spell normally used only by clerics. Moreover, he cast it in a unique form modified to be arcane in nature.

    What is this guy?

    Unknown to the others, Luna soon has an answer. While they are unable to do much to the spellcaster, his ally is not as lucky. Though her resistance to damage and heavy armor protects her almost completely from the wolves (all three of which Nameless now sends after her), they constantly snap at her and often manage to pull her off her feet. And they distract her from Korm and Luna, allowing them to inflict more and more minor nicks and cuts on her.

    The spellcaster, after almost taking an already wounded Gareth off his feet with a quick volley of magic missiles, targets Nameless with a dispel magic. Nameless grins as his ring automatically counterspells it, and replies, “You’re not the only one who learns.”

    Knowing that responding in kind is likely to be useless, Nameless targets the swordswoman, currently involved in dispatching one of the wolves. His dispel does take hold, stripping off the magical protection she has. It also causes her magical disguise to shimmer for just a second. Only Luna is keen-eyed enough**, the mystical connection to her guardian beast spirit letting her see through it in the moment of weakness, and her brow furrows as she sees something she cannot identify. Unfortunately, as a bear, she cannot communicate what she sees.

    As a near-unconscious Gareth shouts, “I could use some healing,” she growls and hurries to his side, slapping a big paw against him and invoking a cocoon around him. The irritated spellcaster turns to Luna and slaps a hand against her head, his hand glowing with dark energy. The druid shudders, barely managing to fight off the killing energy of the harm spell due to her unusual fortitude, emerging alive but severely wounded.

    Even worse, her movement to Gareth’s side leaves Korm alone facing the swordswoman with the single remaining wolf. As she, having just been knocked off her feet, rises, Korm takes the opportunity to land as powerful a blow as he can. Seconds later, he is down, bleeding and unconscious.

    Nameless hurriedly summons a set of wolves, but only gets one. Luckily, reinforcements arrive at exactly the right moment. A large crocodile hurls itself out of the water in the next chamber and Six leaps off it and races forward. Even as the swordswoman dispatches another wolf, he reaches her and the chain lashes out, again pulling her to the ground.

    “Gurr’khan!” shouts Six, throwing a quick glance at Saala’s corpse and the weeping form of Thlie, who has crawled to it. “Talk to Thlie! Get her in the fight!”

    Behind him, the crocodile changes form and the Gatekeeper hurries forward too.

    Luna growls her appreciation of the incoming allies. Having discovered that the spellcaster is incredibly hard to hit, she simply rears up, throws both paws around him, and pulls him into her grasp. For all of a second, before he slips out with magical alacrity, grins at her and steps quickly to the swordswoman’s side. “We’re leaving,” he says.

    He has a Freedom of Movement too? Come on! “Stop them!” yells Nameless. “Luna! Gurr’khan! Blast them!” He takes to the air, flying forward as fast as he can.

    The druids respond immediately, two flame strikes smashing down on the pair. Nameless, stopping short just outside the area of the blast, simultaneously unleashes a cone of cold on them. The spellcaster emerges completely unscathed, but the swordswoman cries out as she is badly scorched and frozen at once. She concentrates for a moment, making sure that her resistance to magic doesn’t affect her ally’s spell, and then he teleports them away.

    “Son of a bitch!”

    With the enemies gone, Gurr’khan rushes to Saala’s corpse, while Gareth, having emerged from his cocoon completely healed, rushes to revive Korm.

    Once Korm is back on his feet too, an angry and sorrowful Gurr’khan returns to join the others. “What happened before Six and I got here? Was Saala alive when you got there?”

    The others explain what happened. After they do, Gurr’khan rubs his forehead wearily and says, “I could try to reincarnate Saala, since she has never been before***. But I will need to travel to a place where I can easily find the ingredients for it, and so I could not do it before tomorrow.”

    Luna, who has changed back to her shifter form, quickly says, “Actually, I’ve got the ingredients right here.”

    “What?”

    “Yes. We were planning to use it on someone who was killed by those two things we just fought, and we didn’t get to. We can use that for Saala.”

    “Speaking of which,” says Gareth, “What in the Hells were they? The Flame and Kizmet let me overcome the resistance to damage of just about every kind of creature, but they seem completely unaffected by that.”

    Luna looks around with a puzzled expression. “I was going to ask what they were, but you saw it, right?”

    “Saw what?” ask the others, sounding just as puzzled.

    “Through the disguise when Nameless hit her with the dispel. You didn’t see her face?”

    “No, Luna – we don’t all have your abilities where vision is concerned. What did you see?”

    Luna waves her hands expressively as she explains. “Its head was that of a tiger, even though the body was human-shaped. With big teeth and glowing red eyes. Body had fur on it, which must be where that wet hair smell came from.”

    Nameless, Gareth, Korm and Gurr’khan all say at the same time. “Rakshasa.”


    * I house-ruled Protection from Evil (and Magic Circle from Evil) to only protect against evil summoned creatures, just as the other “Protection from X” spells only protect against whatever “X” is. So a protection against neutral summoned creatures, as pseudonatural creatures are, is unknown to the PCs.

    ** Rolled a 19, for a DC 40 spot check. Should just have penetrated the disguise but not revealed its real nature, but I thought it was an interesting way to handle the revelation. And much better than just some NPC doing it.

    *** Returning from the dead is significantly difficult in my game, because I prefer it that way and also think it better fits Eberron. One of a few house rules on the subject is that anyone brought back by a certain spell can never be brought back by the same spell again.
    Last edited by shilsen; Sunday, 8th October, 2006 at 11:05 PM.
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  • #177
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    At long, long last. We've figured out who's been hounding the Angels from the beginning, the Lords of Dust. As a plus, the moment they relinquish their link the Key, they loose it to the people they'll least want to have it. Well, at the very least they know the Key won't be trying to kill them this time, since it's likely to end up somewhere nasty like Ashtakala or deep inside Khyber.

    I approve heartily! The Angels are screwed seven ways. Wouldn't have it any other way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solarious
    At long, long last. We've figured out who's been hounding the Angels from the beginning, the Lords of Dust.
    Yup! The BBEG is finally unmasked. I've had him lurking in the shadows from the beginning, and the PCs have already met him in a couple of different guises before they met him with Desro.

    I'd thought there was a fair chance of a reveal if they managed to capture Desro, but that didn't happen. Not that he would have been able to reveal everything, because he was effectively a patsy too. The entire Desro thing was a setup, intended to get Desro killed and have the Angels pick up the dragonshard ring on his finger, which would let the rakshasas follow them to the Shadow Marches. Which they did. The fight vs. Desro and his two allies involved a lot of faking on the part of the rakshasas, as they pretended to be in deeper trouble than they were and to "flee."

    As a plus, the moment they relinquish their link the Key, they loose it to the people they'll least want to have it.
    At least I let them remove the link before it was stolen. My kindness knows no bounds.

    Well, at the very least they know the Key won't be trying to kill them this time, since it's likely to end up somewhere nasty like Ashtakala or deep inside Khyber.
    You're close to right. You'll see after the writeups for the session we had on Saturday (this one was the last one from the previous session). The Angels chase the rakshasas and have a couple of amusing encounters. One involving trying to pimp out the paladin (quote: "Just close your eyes and think of Khorvaire") for the greater good. And a very interesting revelation.

    Not to spoil anything, but the Angels are now on their way to the Demon Wastes. On the bright side, at least it's not Zilargo.

    I approve heartily! The Angels are screwed seven ways. Wouldn't have it any other way.
    I'm sure my players appreciate the sentiment.
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  • #179
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    Quote Originally Posted by shilsen
    The entire Desro thing was a setup, intended to get Desro killed and have the Angels pick up the dragonshard ring on his finger, which would let the rakshasas follow them to the Shadow Marches. Which they did. The fight vs. Desro and his two allies involved a lot of faking on the part of the rakshasas, as they pretended to be in deeper trouble than they were and to "flee."
    We didn't think they were in "Big Trouble" in the Desro Fight given their DR (Don't remember if their SR was apparent). We just assumed that the fight wasn't worth it for them after Desro got killed.

    The main question I have at this point is "Why bother with all the subterfuge?" They had more than enough force to just take it from us and even if we had every ally we could have mustered in Sharn, we couldn't have stopped them. Hell, if they'd attacked us before we'd headed off to Ya'kun Drall we couldn't have even pursued them, lacking the ability to teleport.

    The only thing I can think of is that for whatever reason they didn't want us to have a link to the shard. Thlie still has one though doesn't she?

  • #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rackhir
    The main question I have at this point is "Why bother with all the subterfuge?" They had more than enough force to just take it from us and even if we had every ally we could have mustered in Sharn, we couldn't have stopped them. Hell, if they'd attacked us before we'd headed off to Ya'kun Drall we couldn't have even pursued them, lacking the ability to teleport.

    The only thing I can think of is that for whatever reason they didn't want us to have a link to the shard.
    Bingo!

    Remember what Thlie said. In order to function, a Key needs to be linked to one or more guardians, who can use it to bind or unbind. So, as long as it's linked to one or more guardians, nobody else can use it to bind or unbind anything. Which is why Nameless could use it for binding the escaping daelkyr only because the last guardian (Tyrass, the insane silver dragon) had died, and he had to use it while building links between the Key and the Angels (and Dala and Arrok). Similarly, Naxaliyen couldn't use the Key to unlock the dimensional seal in Yarkuun Draal but had to get Nameless to do so.

    If the rakshasas got the Key while the Angels were in Sharn, it would have been useless until every one of the Angels was dead. They could, of course, have tried to kill the Angels off and get the Key, but if one or more of the Angels escaped, it would have been useless until they were tracked down and killed.

    It was just more convenient to get them to remove the link and then get the Key.

    Thlie still has one though doesn't she?
    No, Thlie didn't link to it. She simply removed the Angels' links (and took backlash damage since the Key resists being un-linked from a living guardian without a new link being formed). With her lifestyle and state, she basically can't be a guardian. Ideally, Saala would have had her link the Key to a suitable Gatekeeper (or group of them) and they would use it on an appropriate dimensional seal.

    But the best-laid plans of high-level druids gang aft agley.
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