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Thursday, 7th December, 2006, 07:23 AM #231
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by shilsen
Well, assuming they get a hold of the tiger-man corpses. But that's assuming too much. We need to wait to see what happens to Gareth first before turning to weighty matters such as interior decorating.
In either case, it looks like Nameless is going shopping for Permenancy!
Originally Posted by shilsen
Thursday, 7th December, 2006, 11:30 AM #232
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Originally Posted by Solarious
Also true! They are rapidly approaching that phase when the BBEG personalities of Eberron become their peers... although frankly, we all know Shilsen knows exactly how to make them both kittens and those disturbed serial killers at the same time.
To start off the updates, here's a short one. Since I'm still really busy with work and likely to be for at least a week, I'll shoot for a number of short, regular (daily or every two days) updates until I get caught up.
Handled over email:
The Angels wait only for Nameless to use the scroll, which is of analyze dweomer, to study the ring. The way that his eyes light up serves some indication of its nature even before he explains. It is of a kind he has not seen or heard of before, allowing the wearer to imbue the spells he casts with certain effects, making them more powerful, last longer, reach further, and the like. The fact that it allows casting of some minor spells and provides keener understanding of magic is almost irrelevant. Nameless quickly dons it, as the group departs hurriedly.
By the time they leave Rotting Blade, the sky is slightly darker, or at least so they imagine. Crossing the first set of hills to the northeast, they find another small line of them approximately a mile to the east, running almost directly north across their path. As the travelers approach, even with the lower visibility of the Wastes, its atmosphere polluted by smoke from the numerous fire pits and small volcanoes, they can make out the rough shape of a column of smoke and fire almost directly northeast.
As the Angels approach these hills, the shape of the column grows clearer, even as the rise of the hills hides its source. Soon enough, they find their way over one of the lower slopes, emerging onto one end of a rolling plain. As is usual in this area, at points it rises into small mounts, a couple of them glowing with volcanic activity. One of them completely overshadows the others, and for that matter every volcano they have seen here or elsewhere, which stands just over two miles away.
This one is absolutely huge, not so much in height as in width. The crater at the top, the source of the smoke column, from the edges of which liquid flame trickles in slow red streams, must stretch a mile in diameter, and the volcano’s base is twice as wide. Perhaps only because they know what it supposedly contains, the volcano seems almost alive, a dark, malevolent beast crouching low over the landscape around it.
As the Angels near the southwestern side of the volcano, following the directions provided by Vraria, they find it growing progressively darker, the pall of smoke cutting off the sunlight. While on the way, they catch sight of a silvery gleam near the base. As they approach, they see movement near it, and in the general area. Orienting themselves towards the gleam, with the low foothills and broken land around the base, they are able to approach all the way till nearly a quarter of a mile from the volcano.
Looking at the Lake of Fire from behind a low hillock, the Angels now see that the silvery light outlines a doorway, low on the volcano’s side. A tiger-headed humanoid sits beside the doorway on a rock. Moving restlessly around it are three more of the scaled, six-legged cats they had seen earlier in the day. As they watch, they see more movement in the area. Dozens of creatures are moving around the base of the volcano. There are a few more of the cats, as well as some of the large lizards they saw before, and more unusual beasts that they do not recognize. Off to the east, perhaps half a mile away from them, there are dozens of humanoid figures, perhaps members of the Carrion Tribes. Like the animals, they seem to be simply watching the volcano, not moving any closer to it.
“Let me get a better view,” says Nameless, who has already been casting a spell as they approached. He completes it, and an arcane eye pops into existence about twenty feet from the creature sitting near the door. It shows no signs of noticing the invisible sensor, nor do the three creatures nearby.
Looking through the sensor, Nameless can see that it appears to be a rakshasa, of the yellow-and-black furred variety. It is dressed in fairly ornate robes and does not wear any armor or obvious weapons other than a curved dagger at its belt. It does have many pouches at its belt, as a spellcaster might have, and a couple of wands hanging by its side. As far as Nameless can make out an expression on the feline face, it seems bored, turning once in a while to look at the door as if expecting or hoping for something to occur.
The three creatures nearby are the large scaled, six-legged cats they had seen (on the way back from Burning Keep) feeding on the carcasses of the lizards they had killed. The creatures move around aimlessly, but stay close to the rakshasa. At one point, it says something to one of the cats that is straying (unheard by Nameless, since the sensor only relays visual information) and the cat growls and returns, to plop down on a rock nearby.
As Nameless moves the sensor around, he sees that the other creatures (some more cats, a few of the lizards, what look like a pair of large snakes with spines along their backs, and a small group of dog-like creatures that he thinks have scales like the cats but only four legs) are all staying in groups fairly well separated from each other, though they do all move from place to place. They all seem fixated on the mountain. The snakes and the dogs are close to the direct path between where the Angels are and the doorway. They could find a path that gives all the creatures a wide berth, but would have to take a fairly winding approach to do so, which would take twice or thrice as long to cover the ground.
When Nameless turns the sensor towards the doorway, he finds the area beyond somewhat hazy, like looking through a thin mist, which makes visibility difficult. Beyond the doorway is what looks like a stone chamber, evidently carved, since the floor is smooth. The silvery light emanates from what looks like silver fire (much like the kind often involved with Gareth) that flows in streams up and down the walls of the chamber. There seem to be no such streams on the floor and the ceiling is too high (the doorway is only six feet high and about five feet wide) to see.
When Nameless tries to move the sensor through the doorway, it stops at the threshold as if encountering some barrier. He moves it around and checks around for chinks that it can squeeze through, with no success. When the sensor is right up against the doorway, however, he catches a glimpse of something he could not see through the haze from further away. At the limits of his vision, about fifty feet in, lies one end of what looks like a large snake. It must be at least ten feet long, since he can see a good seven-eight feet of it and not far enough to see the head. There is a pool of blood around it and something flat and brightly colored on the ground at the far end on either side, or at least he thinks so through the haze.
End of email segments
Nameless ends the spell and quickly explains what he saw. “I think that’s a couatl in there.”
“Couatl?” asks Six.
Gareth answers. “They are holy creatures. Relatives of the dragons. Some say that the Silver Flame was created when the couatls sacrificed themselves at the end of the Age of Demons to bind the rakshasa rajahs.”
“Want to bet that our two buddies killed it?” asks Korm rhetorically. “Nameless – any sign of them?”
“That’s not good,” says Six. “How do we get to the door?”
“I can transport most of us,” says Nameless, “But we need to get closer. Then we can show up and surprise the heck out of that rakshasa.”
“What about all those other critters? I get the feeling they’ll be interfering, and some should reach that door pretty quick.”
“Maybe…,” begins Nameless, when Luna interrupts with a warning growl, seconds before Korm says, “Quiet! I just heard something.”
The Angels turn quickly, just as a scarred and tattooed form looks over a nearby ridge at them. Behind it are a dozen more, all holding weapons.
Thursday, 7th December, 2006, 08:33 PM #233
Gallant (Lvl 3)
...Oh, stopping there is just plain mean.
Friday, 8th December, 2006, 09:00 AM #234
Novice (Lvl 1)
Now give me more updates or I'll stop sending my outsourcing your way!!!
That's a very good, and very mean place to leave people hanging on. You truly are a RBDM
Friday, 8th December, 2006, 10:45 AM #235
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Originally Posted by VorputOriginally Posted by Sidekick
I'm wrapping up the big project I'm involved with this morning (which leaves me with the little matter of 180 papers to grade over the next few days), so I'm hoping to have another quick update up this evening or tomorrow morning.
We're also supposed to be playing tomorrow, so there's going to be material for regular updates for a bit now.
Friday, 8th December, 2006, 11:48 AM #236
Gallant (Lvl 3)
That's not a cliffhanger. The bad guys have weapons.
Now if they had sticks, that would be a cliffhanger. Sticks are dangerous in Eberron.
Saturday, 9th December, 2006, 01:04 AM #237
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Originally Posted by ajanders
And here's the next instalment. Enjoy.
The figure nods. “So you are here. I had hoped so.” He gestures and he and the others clamber over the low ridge separating them from the Angels.
“Morran! What are you doing here?” asks a pleased Korm.
“Yes,” says the Ghaash’kala warrior, his lips twitching in what probably passes for a broad smile. “I thought after you left that you might need aid. I told you I have thought about carrying our battle into the Wastes. Some others wanted to do so as well. And your cause was especially worthy. So here we are.” He says, just a little somberly. “My brother did not like the idea. But it is done now. We would have gone to the village, but saw the smoke a few hours ago and thought we should come this way. How can we help?”
After a quick explanation of what they believe is transpiring inside the volcano, the Angels decide that a few of the Ghaash’kala should approach from another direction, to hopefully draw the rakshasa away, allowing the rest to head quickly for the door. Morran agrees and sends four of the warriors to do so.
The plan doesn’t work out precisely as intended. Moments after the four warriors catch the rakshasa’s attention by firing arrows from a long distance, it casts a spell and takes flight. Flying forward, it sends a fireball that explodes among the four warriors, who fall back under cover.
The Angels and the rest are hurrying forward already. The rakshasa, distracted by its targets, does not see them immediately, but a number of the animals in the area do notice and move towards them. The Ghaash’kala promptly speed up to intercept the creatures. Noticing the movement, the rakshasa changes direction, another fireball shooting out to explode among them. Having cast the spell, it flies back towards the doorway.
“Surprise, surprise!” mutters Nameless, as he casts a dimension door. To the rakshasa’s evident surprise, four figures appear between it and the doorway. It barely has a moment to growl before Korm, having grown a pair of wings, shoots forward at it. He throws his powerful arms around the rakshasa and simply stops flapping his wings. The weight overcomes the rakshasa’s fly spell, and the pair plummets to the ground, Korm pivoting to land on top.
Before the groggy creature can rise, Six and Gareth are charging forward to slash into it. With a pained scream, the rakshasa makes a Herculean effort and staggers to its feet, only for Six’s chain, already enhanced by Gareth to affect rakshasas, to curl around its throat. The big warforged jerks back on the chain and there is an audible snap.
As the rakshasa falls, Nameless calls, “I could use a little help,” from where he is, with two of the six-legged cats menacing him, while the third is charging Gareth. Fifteen seconds later, two of the cats are dead and the third is fleeing as fast as it can.
“That was easy,” says Korm, pulling the spear given them by the Ghaash’kala from one of the corpses. “Too easy.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” says Nameless, moving towards the doorway. “If this is a wall of force, we’re screwed. I’m hoping it’s a dimensional gate of some kind.”
“Guys?” interrupts Six, looking down at his chest. “I’m glowing.”
Looking at him, the others can see the outline of the tattoo on his chest, or more precisely, where the tattoo had been. Though it has not reappeared, a softly glowing outline marks where it was. “Feels warm,” says Six.
“I feel it too,” says Gareth, checking to see that the same thing has happened with him. Nameless and Korm are experiencing the same. “I guess this means we’re near the Key,” says Nameless, a little uncertainly, “But does it mean it’s forming some sort of link to us again?”
“If that happens, Luna’s really not …,” begins Korm, but his words are interrupted, and corroborated, as an angry Luna, followed by the Ghaash’kala, reaches them. Still in bear form, she rears up, growls and points agitatedly to her chest, where a similar outline glows.
“Yes, Luna, we know,” says Gareth with a grin. “We’re trying to work out if there’s some link….”
Luna growls even more loudly and goes through a series of remarkably eloquent gestures, which seem to indicate something about the glow, the Key, the universe and certain bodily functions.
Grinning, Nameless turns again to the door. “Now this is interesting!” The others turn to see that a small symbol is now visible in the middle of the haze that makes up the doorway. It looks exactly like the image of the dragon that was on the Key, except that this one lacks the dragonshard it was depicted as holding.
“It wasn’t here earlier,” says Nameless. “Let me check.” He casts a detect magic and concentrates. After a few seconds, he says, “Strong abjuration on the doorway. And that little image is strong divination.”
Morran, who has been waiting patiently with his men, now short one from the quick melee against the attacking beasts, asks, “Do you know what that is? Or how to get in?”
“Not really,” says Nameless with a grimace. “It could be…”
Again, he never gets to finish the sentence. With an impatient growl, Luna shoves past him. “No, Lun…,” begins the alienist, but Luna ignores him and slams her paw against the symbol. It passes right through, and through the haze beyond, with only the lightest of resistance.
Shaking his head, Nameless says, “You know that’ll get you killed someday, right?” Luna ignores him and sticks her face through the doorway. She immediately finds that the haze is less than an inch thick. She also sees that the dead creature is a winged snake, as the others had described, and that it lies ten feet from the far end of the chamber (which is about sixty feet long, twenty feet high and roughly oval) and a tall doorway made of what looks like silver flame, matching the streams that appear on each wall from floor to ceiling. Luna also notes tiny sparks of silver flame in the pool of blood around the couatl, which seem to be winking out one by one.
The druid pulls her head back out, waves the others forward, and steps through. The rest follow. Morran, trying to do the same, is brought up short as he bumps painfully into an apparently solid barrier. Nameless experiments and sees that the barrier exists for Morran, but not the others. “Must be something to do with the Key and our old link to it,” he says. “But we could seriously use you and your people in here. Let me try something.”
Nameless reduces Morran and then places the slightly surprised, but stoical, warrior inside a bag of holding. Carrying the bag through, he opens it and extracts Morran. The now three foot tall Ghaash’kala steps out, opens his mouth, and collapses on his face.
“Oh, damn! Is he alive?”
Nameless quickly checks. “Yes. I feel a pulse.” Looking at the worried-looking Ghaash’kala outside, he says, “Let’s get him outside.” The hazy barrier presents no problems when they try to move Morran through. A second after he is carried outside, Morran opens his eyes and sits up, looking confused. “What happened?”
Nameless explains and asks, “Do you want to try again? Maybe it is an effect that you can resist.”
The Ghaash’kala looks skeptical, and when one of his warriors points out something in the distance, he shakes his head. “I do not think that is an option. You are evidently chosen by Kalok Shash for this task. We will give you the time you need. Look!”
Where he points, Nameless sees at least a score of what must be Carrion Tribe barbarians heading towards them. Off at an angle, a small pack of the scaled dogs they had seen also lope closer. “More will come,” says Morran. “We will keep them from you. For how long, I do not know, so try to hurry.”
Nameless looks dissatisfied, and Gareth mutters, “Shouldn’t this Kalok Shash be a little more understanding?” The comment draws no response from Morran but gets a grunt of amusement from Korm. “If Kalok Shash is the Silver Flame, do you really need to ask?”
“Are you sure?” says Nameless. “That barrier should keep these things at bay too, and out here you will probably die.”
“Maybe. You do not have time to risk more attempts to get us in. And we cannot risk letting them follow you in. So we will hold them here.” This time, there is actually a slight smile, as he looks at Korm. “I told you. We live for the Flame. We die for the Flame. If you return and we are here, then we shall break meat together. If not, it was a good parting.”
Korm nods, understanding the fatalism of the Ghaash’kala better than his companions do. He salutes Morran silently with his blade, and heads back in, followed by the others. Behind them, the Ghaash’kala move away from the doorway, forming a loose semi-circle and waiting for the inevitable attack.
As the trio re-enters, Six, who has been watching them, says, “I’m pretty sure that creature is dead.” He points at the couatl, which Luna stands over. She growls her agreement and carefully touches it with her paw.
Instantly, there is a flash of silver light from the corpse and the blood around it, and the tiny silver sparks disappear. The light resolves itself into the spectral figure of a couatl, hanging in mid-air above the corpse. It gazes around and then speaks, in a sibilant and clearly feminine tone, “I am Dalassakash’alyntar, servant of the Flame that binds, the Light that will not die. You are come in the nick of time. You are here to stop the Lords of Dust, are you not?”
“Yes,” says Gareth, kneeling instantly. “I am Gareth Byron Deneith, paladin of the Silver Flame. How may I serve?”
“I do not know what age this is, but there is no time for explanations. I was held here as a guardian, in case anyone ever broke the seals and attempted to awaken He … that is bound within. I was awakened a short time ago to face two rakshasas, but they slew me.”
“So you really are dead?” asks Six.
“Yes, I am dead,” continues the spirit, a trifle petulantly, “Held here for a time by the grace of the Flame in case help came. And so you have. You must stop them if you can.” She sounds uncertain as she adds, “They are very powerful.”
“Where are they?”
“Through the doorway, in the heart of the fire. You must follow and slay them.”
“They’re inside the volcano?”
“Yes. You will need protection.”
Nameless says, “Can you help us in any way? We don’t have the resources we would have had if we’d had any time to prepare.” And even if we did, I wouldn’t be sure we can take them.
“There is little I can do, since I am dead,” says the couatl. Then she pauses, and closes her eyes. When she reopens them and speaks, there is relief in her voice. “There is something the Flame will let me do. I will enter you all, if you allow me, and create a temporary conduit to the Flame. It will empower you to the limit of your normal capabilities and beyond, into the realm of potential you have not yet explored. It cannot last long, but hopefully long enough.” She adds, half to herself, “I shall be quickly consumed by the process, but that does not matter. After all, I am already dead.”
“I’m beginning to notice a trend here,” mutters Korm quietly, drawing an ursine guffaw from Luna and a glare from Gareth.
The paladin turns back to the couatl and says, “Please do so.”
Even as the others nod, Dalassakash’alyntar swoops forward. Her wings spread wide to encompass all of the Angels and her already transparent form fades away. As she disappears, the Angels all stagger back at the sudden rush of warmth, followed by a sensation of immense power, which envelops them.
The precise effects vary with the individual, the warriors feeling stronger and more dexterous, while the spellcasters have their faculties heightened, with all five of them feeling significantly more durable. Dweomers that they have only studied or heard about without ever being able to cast leap into existence in their minds, ready for release. Some spells leap instantly from memory to existence, instantly cloaking them in multiple magical defenses. A momentary feeling of reverence for the Silver Flame floats into their minds, and though it quickly dissipates, it leaves behind a certainty of being blessed and protected. And it all happens in a long near-orgasmic moment which leaves them breathless*.
The experience is slightly different for Nameless. As the couatl’s spirit soars into him, a terrific pain erupts within his head, accompanied by a mad gibbering in daelkyr. Evidently the ‘footprint’ left in his mind reacts badly to the influence of the Flame. But, as he concentrates, the pain quickly recedes, to be replaced by the fascination of holding in mind dweomers he has dreamt of casting for months.
Short-lived though it is, some of the others notice Nameless’ momentary pained response.
“You okay, Nameless?” asks Luna, who has enlarged to become roughly the size of a small elephant.
“Yes, I am…,” Nameless begins to respond, before realizing, as all the Angels do, that Luna cannot speak in bear form. And that she actually just growled a query, as she normally does, without expecting to really be understood.
“You can hear…,” begins Luna, in fascination, when all of the Angels hear the couatl’s voice in their heads.
“…your voice,” she completes Luna’s sentence. “Yes. You are all linked through me, and as long as I remain and the conduit lasts, you can communicate instantly through your thoughts. Even though I am…”
“…dead,” completes Nameless, aloud this time. “We know. Shouldn’t we go now?”
“Yes,” is the response, again sounding (thinking?) slightly petulant. Immediately, without even having made a physical move, the Angels feel themselves shot forward towards the doorway. As they reach it, there is a flash of light and they are … somewhere else.
The Angels find themselves standing near one end of a rough stone area. A wall of flaming lava surrounds them on every side, even hanging in the air to form a ceiling thirty feet above their heads, as if they stood in a bubble within the heart of the volcano. The heat is incredible, and if it were not for their magical protection, they would be gasping for breath and slowly dying.
The stone they stand on is pitch black. Behind them, it stretches into four rough rectangles of varying lengths, and another, slightly thicker one stretches off at an angle to their left, each marked by the wall of lava around it. Something they notice instantly is that the lava around them is shot through with thin silver and black lines, which curl around each other.
What draws their attention, of course, is the pair of figures present here with them, both in their natural forms. About forty feet ahead, the roughly rectangular floor becomes narrower before stretching into another rectangle. Where this narrowing occurs stands the rakshasa swordswoman Nethatar, jagged blade drawn, facing towards the Angels. About fifteen feet behind her, ten feet from the wall of lava immediately in front of him, is the white-haired ak’chazar, Zathara, facing away with both hands raised and chanting slowly aloud.
Unlike Nethatar, who is dressed as before in the heavy armor she fancies, Zathara wears a strange harness, which looks like it is made of some thick, dried gray hide. In the center, four metal, clawed hands are attached to it, which hold the Key between them. An amber beam emerges through Zathara’s back and hits Nethatar’s chest, and a cone of similarly colored light emerges from the Key to meet the wall of lava ahead of them. Where the cone shines on the lava, it is slowly receding, leaving grayish-green stone behind. As the lava retreats, the silver lines fade away, and the black lines physically drop to the stone, coating it and turning it black.
“Almost like skin,” thinks Six, a second before Nameless realizes the shape they stand upon.
“It looks roughly like a huge…”
“Yes,” says the couatl’s voice. “You stand upon His hand.”
And then there is no more time, as Zathara ceases his chant, noticing the intruders.
“HASTUR! HASTUR! HASTU…”
* Mechanically, all PCs hit 11th level, with full hit pts and all spells prepared. They also all got a +2 luck bonus to attack, damage, saves, skills, ability checks and caster lvl checks to penetrate SR. Each player also got to choose what 3 stats were most important to their PC and got a +4 enchancement bonus to each stat. They were also benefiting from a telepathic link with each other and fire resistance 30. The spellcasters got to pick 4 spells each to be instantly cast. Amusingly, most of the players went, “Wow!” when they found everything that they got. And Luna’s player went, “Wait – what the hell are we going to fight that we’ll need all of this?” For some reason nobody trusts Shil bearing gifts
Last edited by shilsen; Saturday, 9th December, 2006 at 02:32 AM.
Saturday, 9th December, 2006, 01:51 AM #238
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by shilsen
Sunday, 10th December, 2006, 08:13 AM #239
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by shilsen
Sunday, 10th December, 2006, 12:57 PM #240
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Originally Posted by Solarious
The PCs got a lot of gifts between the previous weekend's session and yesterday's. And, to extend your metaphor, then went and found a bucket of water and tried to drown themselves.
Less metaphorically, we had the single most embarrassing battle the PCs have ever had.
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