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Saturday, 19th December, 2009, 04:59 AM #251
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
What I did was, I kept the Kibi World Stone thing in my pocket for years, waiting until I was fairly sure the players (especially Kibi's -- my wife, as it happens) had forgotten all about it. Then I looked for an opening. The party had kind of petered out on the whole Praska thing, which for the time being was a dead-end, and hadn't yet made any specific plans to find the Feline Conclave. Seemed like a good time for a pace-changing one-off.
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Thursday, 24th December, 2009, 02:58 AM #252
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 300
Kibilhathur Bimson, during those brief times spent summoned to the world of Cafille, had never actually seen the World Stone. As is typical of heroic quests there had been a number of preliminary steps necessary before the main event, and Kibi hadn't made it past even the first of those adventures before snapping back to Abernia for good.
He did recall seeing the World Stone's location on a map – in a canyon that, according to a dire warning on the parchment, could not be entered by living creatures. Worse, he recalls that the World Stone itself was said to be blocking the World Arch, which must not be opened lest the world be destroyed. Kibi never received a clear answer to his questions about why his summoners wanted him to move the World Stone, or how he could survive in the canyon that housed it; the Lady Serpicore was still muddling through prophecies at the time that were supposedly going to reveal the details. All she knew was that the world of Cafille was going to be threatened by something called the “Bleeding Scourge,” and that moving the should-never-be-moved World Stone was the only way to stop them.
Kibi responds to the sending: I'd like to come and help, but we cannot survive in the valley. That's where we'll plane shift, though; correct me if you want me somewhere else. Then he tells the others what he has heard.
Dranko snorts. “You know if we go help them, it's going to be like four months before we get back here.”
“Another thing I don't understand,” Kibi adds. “You can't plane shift into Cafille. The plane has some odd temporal properties that make it impossible. That's why they had to summon me the way they did.”
“Maybe it's an enemy, luring us to certain doom,” Morningstar posits.
“I can't take the chance; I need to go!” answers Kibi. “I have to help those people.”
While Flicker digs a ruby out of his pack, Aravis points out a potential snag. “Depending on how big the canyon is, we may end up inside it if we plane shift. Which will be a problem if we can't survive there.”
Kibi receives another sending: You can survive... it's the great syzygy! You.... argh! Augh! Hurry, please! Agh!
“We're jumping into a fight,” Grey Wolf sighs. “We're always jumping into fights.”
“We have to go now!” Kibi exhorts. “But I don't have a plane shift prepared. Who does?”
It turns out that no one does, but Morningstar uses her gem of recall to get one in a hurry. Off they go to Cafille! Upon arrival they drop fifteen feet through some tree branches and land with a collective thump on a soft forest floor. The smell of a new Prime fills their nostrils: rich, cold, coniferous.
Morningstar stands up and brushes pine needles (or something like them) from her robe. “What's a syzygy?”
“I think it's a kind of worm,” Dranko answers. “A sea worm.”
Morningstar blinks, then turns to Aravis.
“It's an alignment of planets, in a row,” the wizard explains.
“Or maybe that,” Dranko concedes.
Kibi has no idea where they are; it's not a part of Cafille he remembers. Worse, Kibi doesn't have a greater teleport readied, and Aravis has already used his for the day. Time is passing, they're between five and five hundred miles from their destination, and the Company has no way of reaching the World Stone! Kibi tugs his beard with agitation. They quickly review and discard options: scry takes too long; clairvoyance doesn't have the range; Morningstar has mass heal ready instead of miracle.
“Wait,” says Ernie. “I have an idea. Kibi, I'm going to fly you up.”
Flying? “What? No...”
Ernie grabs the dwarf around the armpits and flies him straight up, through and above the trees and into a beautiful clear sky. They're at the edge of the forest, and abutting the wood is a steep cliff dropping off to the east. Beyond the cliff is a series of box canyons stretching away nearly to the horizon.
Way out above one of the canyons, maybe a dozen or more miles away, Kibi and Ernie can see a wispy stream of smoke rising upward, a pencil-thin thread of gray against a deep-blue backdrop. Kibi breathes a sigh of relief. Assuming that's his spot, a normal teleport is back as an option.
Seen once, he thinks. Good enough for now.
Ernie lands, and they hit everyone with fly spells who's not already so endowed. Kibi takes a deep breath and casts teleport.
They arrive high in the air above a large box canyon, near to the dead-end. Below them – well, there's a lot to take in.
The canyon itself is almost eighty feet wide directly below, though it tapers down narrowly. They cannot actually see the very end, as it's covered with a rocky roof – the canyon effectively ends in a cave. The walls of the canyon rise up at least a hundred feet.
There are numerous battered and broken defenses scattered across the canyon's expanse: slabs of stone and wood, partially-filled trenches, hastily-constricted and now mostly-wrecked barricades. It's as if someone wanted to slow an advancing army and didn't have long to set things up.
Also, there's an advancing army. It looks like they had brought some siege towers with them, but those have all been destroyed. One is on fire and producing the smoke seen from afar by the Company. The soldiers in this army wear no uniforms, or indeed any clothing at all, and while humanoid are clearly nothing like human. They are taller as a rule, standing seven or eight feet, and have brown rubbery skin reminiscent of troll-skin. Scattered here and there are some truly Giant specimens of the type, towering at nearly fifteen feet tall. They have long sharp claws, and all of them, shorter and taller, have something wrong with their faces; the Company is too high up to see exactly what.
The floor of the canyon below is scattered with hundreds of bodies of these creatures, along with an even greater number of slain men and elves. Sounds of battle ring out where the badly-outnumbered defenders are still holding off the tide of advancing monsters. And that tide is clearly going to overwhelm them soon, as the canyon extends back as far as they can see, and it's filled with hundreds – no, more like thousands – of attackers.
There's no sign of the World Stone, but given that the army is pressing toward the cave at the end of the canyon, the Company has a fairly accurate impression of what's going on. As they descend they take in three more details about the battlefield: first, there are some defenders standing here and there who have not died, but who are also not fighting back. They're standing or sitting, glassy-eyed and comatose, weapons fallen from their slack hands.
Second, there's too much blood. Even for a battlefield with hundreds of bodies, there's much too much blood. It's not just that the shattered barricades, corpses, monsters and defenders are splattered with dark liquid; the ground itself looks like it's a few inches deep in the stuff. Some of the trenches are practically filled with it.
Guess that's why they're called the Bleeding Scourge thinks Kibi.
Third, the Company sees what's amiss with the faces of the monsters: they have no traditional features. Instead, across the otherwise-smooth face of each member of the Scourge is a single carved rune, distinct in its edges but weeping blood.
Dranko grimaces. “Nothing good ever comes from guys with runes instead of faces.”
Kibi immediately drops a wall of force that almost entirely blocks off the cave mouth; he leaves a small gap at the top that he and his friends can fly through. He shouts to the others that he has done this (as the party is not mind-linked at the moment) and then flies himself through the gap and into the cave as a wave of monsters smashes into the base of the wall.
The back of the cave is not far in – maybe thirty or forty feet from the mouth. Set into the rock wall at the back are the columns of a large arch, and completely filling the archway is an enormous white marble stone. It's a perfect sphere, about ten feet in diameter, and so white it seems to glow from within. No dirt, blood, or grime marks its perfect smooth surface.
Near to the Stone and off to the side is a man in leather armor, hunched over slightly and fervently praying inside a little translucent force bubble. A tall woman in plate mail, badly wounded, is guarding the man in the bubble. Some monsters had gotten into the cave before Kibi's wall of force went up and are battling the few remaining defenders there. A tall elf dressed in long red robes stands nearest to the Stone; he has just finished casting a healing spell on a number of the soldiers.
“I'm Kibilhathur Bimson,” Kibi announces as he lands. “I understand you have a stone that needs moving. Oh, and I dropped a wall of force over there.”
The priest looks up and nods at Kibi. “Walls won't hold for long again the Scourge.” Then he points to the World Stone and adds, “Move that!”
The rest of the Company moves in to assist the defenders outside the wall (though Flicker follows Kibi, to serve as a bodyguard). Dranko drops an ice storm to help slow down the Scourge, then moves down just out of reach of one of the giant-sized monsters. Aravis sighs. “He always gets in the way,” he mutters to himself. Out loud he shouts, “They're in a perfect cone formation, but Dranko is...”
“I'll dodge it, whatever it is,” Dranko calls back. “Don't worry!”
“You'll dodge a prismatic spray?”
Ernie, meanwhile, drops a flame strike, accompanied by the battle cry: “Back off, you nasty-faced... things!” It's modestly effective, though the Bleeding Scourge seems to have some resistance to fire.
“Do what you need to do,” reiterates Dranko.
Aravis sighs, shrugs, and blasts a prismatic spray straight downward, catching a huge swath of Scourge in its cone. The angle is such that the wall of force protects those in the cave, and Ernie is high enough to be out of the blast. Only Dranko catches some friendly fire, and he does – barely – manage to avoid going insane.
Four of the smaller Bleeding Scourge vanish, ten die from various damage types, and another three are petrified. Four big ones are also caught: one sucks up a large amount of electrical damage but doesn't quite die, another does drop dead from poison, and the remaining two are unaffected.
Some of the Scourge pressing against the wall of force turn and start yammering in horrible screechy voices – maybe it's a language? And the ones already inside the cave advance and attack. Two get through to Kibi and rend him with their claws, but that's not the worst of it. Huge gouts of blood spray from the runes in their faces and splatter the dwarf from head to foot; it burns his skin and sets his clothes to smoking. He manages to resist some further ill-effect but bellows in agony nonetheless.
Two more Bleeding Scourge overwhelm and kill the bodyguard standing over the man in the bubble. Another monster sprays an elven defender with acidic blood, and the effect is even more gruesome: a bloody rune draws itself across the elf's face, his body jerks around uncontrollably, and a second spray of blood spurts out of his face, directly at one of his wounded compatriots. His ally screams and smolders. Kibi turns green; he's seen a quite a few revolting creatures in his time, but this... ugh! The surviving soldiers fight back and slay one of the beasts, but it's the Scourge who clearly have the upper hand.
Outside the wall, the Scourge continues to pour down the canyon toward the World Stone as the Company thins their ranks with magical firepower: a firestorm from Morningstar obliterates a couple dozen, and Grey Wolf sets up an ironstorm as a precursor to Aravis's inevitable chain lightning.
Two of the Giantish members of the Scourge jut their heads toward the cave, and from each of their runed faces springs a thin beam of gray light. There's a flash where the wall of force stood, and the front line of monsters stumbles forward.
“Wall's down!” shouts Kibi.
While the fellow in the force-bubble continues to crouch and pray, the red-robed priest casts another healing spell on his allies before turning to Kibi.
“Move it!” he barks. “Do what you have to do!”
Kibi throws up his hands. “I don't know what I have to do!”
The priest goes white and a look of panic crosses his face.
“You don't know?!” he cries, frantic.
“I thought you'd know!” Kibi answers, equally frustrated.
“I don't know!” exclaims the priest. “You're the Opener! There's the Arch. Open it! Move the damned Stone!”
Kibi looks again at the World Stone: a towering sphere of perfect, unstained marble. Not knowing what else to do he puts a hand upon it.
Immediately the dwarf realizes it's saturated with Earth Magic, and its power starts to intermingle with his. The World Stone starts to glow in earnest as energy rushes between the two, and Kibi realizes he couldn't pull his hand away even if he wanted to.
Kibi thinks at the Stone: Move! My will is that you move! It doesn't budge, but a surge of Earth Magic flows through him when he concentrates.
“Protect me!” he cries to his friends. “I'm going to be busy for a bit.”
They're all busy for a bit. Aravis unleashes his chain lightning into the ironstorm with predictably destructive results. Grey Wolf and Ernie pound the attackers with spells while Morningstar heals the good guys. Dranko uses his ring to place a wall of ice across the cave entrance – another delaying tactic – and then catches sight of a monster smashing through the force-bubble protecting the chanting man. The rune-faced horror rakes the man's neck – it would be a death-blow, but Dranko casts an interrupting spell of wound-closure to save his life before other elven soldiers bring down the beast.
The wall of ice comes down, disintegrated by one of the giantish Bleeding Scourge. Another one blasts a cone of blood from its face into the cave, drenching them in stinging gore. Most of the Company resists the accompanying horror, but Flicker is overwhelmed. He sits down quietly, expression vacant, and drops his sword. Behind them the blood sheets down the curve of the World Stone and puddles onto the ground beneath it.
Another smaller member of the Scourge leaps forward and tears at Kibi, but the dwarf keeps his hand on the World Stone. He continues to concentrate, willing the Stone to move while channeling Earth Magic into it. More blood splatters upon him, this time from the lacerated face of a horrified human defender.
No good, Kibi thinks, and so he casts xorn movement and sinks into the ground, keeping his hand in contact with the very bottom of the World Stone. Surrounded by the earth of Cafille his power grows stronger, and he knows that somehow he is changing the very physical nature of the great marble sphere, though the details are still beyond his grasp.
The attackers press in, while the Company and the ever-dwindling ranks of native defenders fall back to guard the back of the cave. Dranko goes invisible and annihilates one of the giants with his whip. Ernie grows in stature with a righteous might and hacks away with his blades. “Nice to see something other than kneecaps for a change!”
Aravis casts another prismatic spray. Grey Wolf blasts a cone of cold. Morningstar heals the robed priest and moves to protect the chanter.
“Good!” shouts the priest. “We have to protect Baylor at all costs, or all of this is for nothing. Now if...” He looks around and doesn't see Kibi. His face falls. “The Opener! What happened to the Opener?!”
What's happening is, Kibi is finally figuring it out. With a last massive surge of Earth Magic he understands the link he's formed with the World Stone, and how he's affecting its nature. Specifically, he's changing its weight. Suddenly, to him, it's as if he's holding not a hundred-ton rock but a thin shell of balsa. With his wrist and hand still above ground, he moves the World Stone off to the side as easily as if it were made of paper mache.
(Since Kibi cannot see what's going on above ground, he fails to realize that he has slammed it right into Ernie. And while the weight of the World Stone is lessened, its mass is entirely unchanged; Ernie is knocked backward against one of the cave walls, stunned.)
The World Arch now stands unblocked; it is filled with a deep purple light. The man Baylor, who has been praying for the well-being of his world while waiting for this moment, stands upright. He looks at the red-robed priest, sighs, and with an expression reminiscent of the last one seen on the face of One Certain Step, shouts “I die for Cafille!” before dashing straight into the Arch.
Purple light blasts outward and fills the canyon, diffusing into the air above and filling the world with a mauve tinge. The Company is overcome by a odd feeling as the light washes over them, odd and familiar. They feel as they did while traveling back in time using the Eyes of Moirel. They feel that something is wrong with how time is anchored to space.
The Bleeding Scourge are physically blasted backward and as they stumble they fade out of existence. Even the corpses vanish. Within five seconds there is not a single specimen of their kind left on Cafille, alive or dead.
A few seconds after that, the same thing starts to afflict the Company. They feel like an inexorable hand is shoving them backward, and their physicality starts to falter.
The priest looks around frantically. “Where did he go? He has to put it back!”
Kibi emerges from the ground to see his friends looking only semi-solid, and he hears the priest yelling loudly, “Put it back! For the love of Balt, put it back!” The dwarf moves the World Stone easily back into position, blocking the Arch and cutting off the source of the purple light. The fading stops. Morningstar realizes that the priest is the only defender to survive the attack, but casts revivify on the last soldier to have fallen.
Kibi looks confusedly at the priest. “Can you explain what this is all about?”
The priest turns from Kibi to the now-lifeless canyon and then back again.
“Gods be praised!” he shouts, and engulfs Kibi in a bear hug.
...to be continued...
Thursday, 24th December, 2009, 10:54 AM #253
Gallant (Lvl 3)
I think part 300 deserves a round of applause, or fireworks, or something equally celebrationary. Love the rune-face monsters, pretty gruesome, yet cool. What effects did the blood spurts have?
Twitter tag: @skyfullofdust
Thursday, 24th December, 2009, 02:59 PM #254
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
This group is so awesome, they save worlds without even knowing how!
SussexGamer Blog - infrequently updated Tumblr.
Twitter account is Sussexgamer.
Played in Swordlands Story Hour -campaign now completed.
DM of 4e Adventure Path Story Hour - last updated 8th June 09, game now ended.
Sadly, neither link now works but you can search for either game in the forum itself.
Thursday, 24th December, 2009, 03:46 PM #255
Scout (Lvl 6)
Thursday, 24th December, 2009, 10:26 PM #256
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
They really ought to do something about Flicker's Will save.
Thursday, 24th December, 2009, 10:27 PM #257
Lama (Lvl 13)
Red Hot Swing
"In Inspired Sarlona, nightmares have you!" -Klaus
Friday, 25th December, 2009, 02:42 PM #258
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Friday, 25th December, 2009, 04:42 PM #259
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
This was one of those fights where Dranko felt relatively useless - area effect spells were definitely the order of the day - but which made for a spectacular session. One of the facets of good pacing is to know when to completely swap the feel of the game for a session. We had been pretty frustrated trying to track down Praska and fight swarms, and the change of pace was a delight.
Saturday, 26th December, 2009, 01:16 AM #260
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
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