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Tuesday, 29th December, 2009, 09:11 PM #261
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
This is not an action-packed update.
I can't say the same about the next one.
Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 301
You'll Get To Them All Eventually
An odd quiet settles over the canyon.
Almost directly overhead is a remarkable sight, heretofore ignored by the Company what with the ground-based distractions: the Great Syzygy. Four celestial bodies are visible – moons or planets of increasing size, overlapping in the sky like concentric colored marbles – though there may be more hidden behind those. Slowly, very slowly, they are shifting out of alignment.
Dranko squints upward. “Do we all die when those are no longer lined up?”
The priest doesn't look up; his gaze is still cast upon the canyon itself, now blissfully free of monsters though the seas of blood remain. “If you are still in this canyon, yes. As will I, and Enric here.” He motions to the one other soldier who survived. “I would suggest that you return to whence you came. The Great Syzygy will not just affect the canyon; it will also prevent… “
He looks at Dranko, and wonders if the crude-looking ally of the dwarf will understand. “Cafille is out of temporal phase from the rest of the universe. That is why Kibilhathur had to be summoned with an elaborate and time-critical ritual the first time. People cannot simply plane shift to and from Cafille. You could come now because of the Great Syzygy. But we will soon become bombarded with... it's too technical.”
Dranko clears his throat with conspicuous annoyance. “You're forgetting to say something important. How about, 'Thank you, Kibi, for saving the world. Here's your loot.'”
The priest gives Dranko a sour look. “Perhaps, young man, I was getting to that, but thought that other matters, like you all being confined to Cafille for the rest of your lives, might be worth mentioning first.”
Grey Wolf quirks an eyebrow. “How much time do we have left?”
The priest looks up at the planetary alignment. “I would estimate about half an hour, give or take five or ten minutes. It's hard to tell without a telescope.”
Morningstar starts to pray for another plane shift while the priest explains recent events to Kibi.
“That was the Bleeding Scourge,” he says, gesturing to the bloody canyon. “They took advantage of the unique nature of our Prime to stage an invasion. The World Arch emanates a temporal energy that's building up all the time. When one releases the World Stone it floods the world with that energy, with theoretically devastating effects. Fortunately for us, the Great Syzygy, which allowed the Scourge to invade, also allowed you to survive here long enough to fend off that invasion. Though ordinarily, the Bleeding Scourge would be immune from the energy from the Arch.”
“Really?” says Kibi. “Because they seemed pretty affected by it to me!”
“Yes,” sighs the priest. “That was because of Baylor – the man who gave his life to save us all. He had spent the better part of the year living in a cauldron filled with a complex magical liquid. It altered his nature such that when he leaped into the Arch, it changed the temporal energy slightly to a type that would send the Bleeding Scourge back to their home world.”
“Couldn't they come back?” asks Kibi.
“Yes – in another 6,000 years, when the next Great Syzygy is upon us.”
Aravis cuts in. “A little more warning would have been nice, you know. We almost couldn't get here at all!”
“Also, you should have told me I was also the 'Closer'” says Kibi.
The priest chuckles. “I only warned you when the time was right – and indeed it was, judging from the results. According to prophecy, the right time to send for you was when I was blinded by light through the eye of the needle.”
He gestures to the top of the canyon, where the sun has now moved a few degrees off from a small gap in a jumble of rocks.
“I was standing here guarding Baylor when the sun shone upon me through that hole.”
The priest turns to Kibi and bows low.
“I am the High Priest Sipe of the Sun God Balt, and I am most grateful for your timely arrival, prophesied or not. The late lamented Lady Serpicore, Gods bless her soul, was correct about you after all. She perished in one of the previous attacks of the Bleeding Scourge – as, I'm sorry to say, did every one of your former party of adventurers with whom you spent so little time on your previous truncated visits.
“We have lost most of our greatest heroes, knights, warriors, and priests. I'm afraid I have little to give you by way of thanks, but you may have this.”
He takes off a necklace with a red and glowing bauble on the end of it and presses it into the dwarf's hand.
“This is a holy relic* of the Sun God Balt. The chain is not necessary; you may keep it in your pocket if you wish, though I feel that would be disrespectful. It has long since been used by those here who need it. Think of it when you need something badly. It will only work once for anyone, but it will work, once, for everyone. Even him.”
He gestures at Dranko.
The party flies Sipe and Enric up to the top of the cliff above the canyon, since they have no magics left to flee before the Great Syzygy ends. Then, it having been a very long day, they plane shift back to Charagan and teleport to the Greenhouse to sleep...
...except that with nothing but normal teleports left, there's a small mishap. The Company arrives not at the door to their home, but in the fine sucking sands of the Mouth of Nahalm. Ernie and Kibi have sunk nearly up to their necks before Aravis casts a second time, this time with perfect accuracy. At least, for Eddings' sake, they cast clean cantrips to banish the caked-on blood and sand from their clothes before going inside.
The butler is happy to see them as always. Dranko greets him a question that's not as unexpected as it should be.
“Eddings, what day is it?”
Eddings scowls. “You haven't been time traveling again, have you?”
“Plane shifting” says Grey Wolf, plopping into a chair and putting up his feet.
Ernie lets the cat Argol scamper up to his shoulder. “And the place we shifted to had a different – temporal signature?” He looks questioningly at Aravis. “Is that it?”
It takes them a few minutes to figure things out, particularly given the time change between Kivia and Charagan, but they come to realize that their time spent on the world of Cafille was actually passing more quickly, and so very little time has passed here at home since they plane shifted away.
While Kibi examines the necklace from High Priest Sipe – the bauble is a beautiful and stylized sun with tiny solar flares – Dranko takes a small pouch from his pack.
“Almost forgot,” he says with practiced nonchalance. “When I was negotiating with the gem merchants in Seresef, they gave me a few free samples.” He empties four stones onto his palm – a diamond, two opals, and a moontear. He hands them to Flicker. “What's your professional opinion?”
Flicker starts with the diamond, taking out a magnifying lens and giving the gem a careful examination. After several minutes he mutters longingly, “I think I need to be alone with this one.”
Dranko nods. “So?”
Flicker spends a few minutes with each gem before delivering his verdict. “In my professional opinion, these are suspiciously flawless.”
Dranko raises an eyebrow. “Suspiciously?”
“Unusually,” says Flicker. “Startlingly.”
Dranko laughs. “They have mountains full of these things, and lots of people are suspicious. They won't confirm if the source is magical, but I can tell you that the gems themselves are not. But they are, in fact, flawless.”
Flicker exhales. “I imagine the nobles of Charagan will be falling all over themselves to own these, once word gets out.”
Dranko grins broadly. “You don't say!”
Aravis interrupts. “When do we grind them up for spell components?”
Dranko and Flicker reply in alarmed unison. “Never!”
Aravis smirks. “Then how interesting can they be?”
“As a member of your Small Council and a close personal friend,” says Flicker to Dranko, “I could look after these for you.”
Dranko takes the gems back from the halfling. “You can have visiting rights on weekends.” Then he turns to Morningstar, who has been watching all of this in silence. “You may be married to the mob, but it's a really rich mob, swimming in gems.”
“You may want to give the moontear to your wife,” says Flicker in a stage-whisper. “She loves them, you know.”
Dranko looks affronted. “Are you implying I can bribe my wife's affections with mere gemstones?”
“Well, it would work on me,” Flicker replies.
Morningstar laughs. “You two would make a lovely couple.”
They discuss the gem-trade for a few minutes, and the talk eventually turns to how Dranko's new business will probably end up hurting the financial fortunes of Tor's family – nobles of Forquelle who own most of the precious-stone business on Charagan. That leads to wistful talk of Tor himself, and how they should try to rescue him someday.
“But I think the Necromantic Forge comes first,” says Dranko.
“Let's have a good dinner before anything else,” says Morningstar. “Then we can figure out what we're doing tomorrow.”
“Before that, I need a bath,” says Dranko. “Clean cantrips can only do so much.”
Ernie smirks. “If you want the dinner to be good, you'll let me go first.”
Cleaned and fed, the Company lounges in the living room of the Greenhouse and debates their next move. Dranko makes an impassioned plea to waste no more time in freeing Califax's soul.
“The man hasn't had a soul for a year, because we forgot we had it in our basement. That sort of makes it our responsibility."
Aravis answers. “As much as I agree that we should release his soul, the fact is that members of the Noble Herd and Great Pack are being killed right now.”
Grey Wolf nods. “I agree. I say we go find the cats.”
“Actually,” says Aravis, “if we're considering all of our options, we should keep going after Praska. We're on her trail. It's what we were in the middle of doing before we were interrupted by dogs and World Stones. Why are we giving up?”
Dranko leans forward. “It seems to me that we hit a dead end on that one. And we don't know how to solve the problem with the animals dying. But we know how to free Califax's soul, and we know where to do it. “We can go in, find the Necromantic Forge, free the soul, and then move right on to the Feline Conclave.”
Morningstar shakes her head. “I'm much more worried about the problem of souls not going to heaven now that Drosh is gone. The Black Circle could very well have plans for those souls.”
Flicker scratches his head. “But it's not the Black Circle that's causing the souls to be stuck. Is it?”
“No,” Morningstar admits. “But think about it. Drosh is fleeing because the Adversary may be coming. And who's summoning the Adversary? The Black Circle. Given how good they are at divinations, is it a stretch to think they're planning on scooping up all these souls for their own evil purpose?”
“But there's nothing we can do about that!” says Dranko. “Look, we're talking about the soul of the man who risked his life to prevent the Emperor from returning. We owe him.”
Morningstar exhales. She hates this kind of debate. “His soul isn't getting any more trapped, is it?”
That provokes some bitterness from Kibi. “Yeah. And the dwarves aren't getting any more enslaved... I don't think I like that line of reasoning.”
“The problem is,” says Ernie, “every time we say something can't get any worse, and we turn our back on it, it gets worse!”
“I understand that we have a number of important things to do right now,” Dranko says plainly. “I ask that we deal with Califax first so I can stop feeling guilty about it.”
Ernie blinks. “Okay,” he says. “But we should vote on it.”
Aravis votes for finding Praska. Morningstar wants to deal with the un-ascending souls. Grey Wolf and Kibi vote for seeking out the Feline Conclave. Dranko and Ernie vote for the Necromantic Forge.
“Looks like you're the deciding vote, Flick,” says Ernie.
“No way!” Flicker protests. “In that case, I vote we go figure out how to free the Dwarf slaves in Kivia.”
After a few more minutes of bickering Kibi changes his vote. “If Aravis isn't going to vote for the cats, then I'll change my vote to rescuing Califax's soul. Let's just get it over with.”
Before going to sleep they review the materials they have on the Necromantic Forge, which pinpoint its location and function but say nothing about what it looks like. The descriptions of the undead made there are unsettling.
“Walking Necropolis.” repeats Grey Wolf, looking at their notes. His comment is the same as when they first read about the place. “We're doomed.”
It won't be long before they find out if he's right.
...to be continued...
* We use Action Points in our 3.5e game, and the necklace grants a theoretically-infinite number of Action Points, with a limit of one per person per lifetime.
Last edited by Sagiro; Tuesday, 29th December, 2009 at 10:15 PM.
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Tuesday, 29th December, 2009, 09:58 PM #262
Guide (Lvl 11)
So, if you die, and get revivified/raised/resurrected/etc., does that count as another lifetime? Your first lifetime ended at death . . .
PS: There's a weird copy & paste artifact or something in there: Flicker gives the "gem `111111111// a careful examination."
- Bob Huss
[H]e's dead and poisoned and possibly insane on another plane. It's a very stylish death, but a definitive one. - Piratecat
Wednesday, 30th December, 2009, 12:55 PM #263
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Thursday, 31st December, 2009, 04:26 PM #264
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Thursday, 7th January, 2010, 06:21 AM #265
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 301
The next morning they prep spells with three goals in mind: location, travel and Undead Slaying. Before heading out, Aravis goes to the basement and retrieves the Soul Shard, a chunk of flat black rock slightly smaller than a human skull. The stone housing the soul of Califax is rough-looking and irregularly shaped, and greasy-feeling even though it's objectively dry. To a seasoned adventurer like Aravis the thing is, beyond question, capital-”E” Evil.
Having secured the Shard in his pack, Aravis teleports the party to a spot he recalls outside the town of Feslin, not far from where he grew up. Ernie immediately casts find the path to “Nazg Hodeth”; to his relief it points in exactly the direction they expect. Off they fly, the green countryside below covered with stately manor houses and their surrounding well-tended grounds, though after a time these give way to knobbly pine-covered hills that rise quickly to the Black Mountains. The name of these mountains, clear to see from this height, comes from the nearly-black dark green color of the evergreens that cover them. The peaks are not high; there is no tree line, no snowy peaks. The pines cover them to their hidden tops.
The Company drops altitude and flies for a time closer to ground level, and they discover that beneath the trees lurk a number of bugbear villages. These settlements are physically sprawling though sparsely populated, as if once there was a great civilization of the monsters here, but no more. Now the local populations resemble skeleton crews, going about their bugbearish business in villages of empty and collapsing buildings, the forest encroaching everywhere.
The party pays them little mind, and if a few bugbears here and there are alarmed by seven ghostly humanoids zooming among the trees on a magic wind, nothing ever comes of it. Finally the last of the habitations are left behind, and half-an-hour later they overshoot something red painted on several of the trees. They turn around, go back, and discover that at a distinct boundary the same symbol has been drawn in red on dozens of tree trunks. Aravis casts comprehend languages and learns (to no one's surprise) that it means “danger” in the language of the bugbears. Undaunted they continue to follow Ernie's spell.
Ten minutes later, zipping through the trees on a steady upward grade, they burst out into a huge gently-sloping clearing. Clear of trees, at least; there are gravestones here a-plenty. At the same time they feel the temperature drop a good 30 degrees, from summer warmth to a cold chill. Overhead, where the sky had been sunny and clear an hour earlier, the sun struggles to shine through a thick ceiling of slate-gray cloud. Crude and crudely-marked tombstones stretch away from them up a slope of dirt and dead grasses, dotted here and there with larger monuments and small mausoleums.
Dranko mutters, “Delioch's blessing be upon this place,” but it's obvious that the next time will be the first time.
They discover with some quick triangulation that the find the path spell indicates the center of the graveyard, so they drop out of wind form to be better able to defend themselves. The cold takes on a sickening edge and seeps into their bones. They pick their way slowly among the crooked slabs and pitted earth, wary for the inevitable appearance of the undead.
It doesn't take long. After trudging less than a hundred feet up the slope, the ground shifts beneath their feet and starts to rise violently around them. At first the party thinks that some huge creature is pushing its way up through the dirt and gravestones, but after a few seconds it's clear that what they're facing is the dirt and gravestones. The creature – and they all guess correctly that this is the “Walking Necropolis” referenced in the Black Circle literature – hulks upward of forty feet, a generally humanoid form of earth and stone with bones and tombstones sticking out all over. Dranko rises with it, trapped for the moment in a huge mouth with graven stone slabs for teeth.
“Very... painful...” he gasps, trying to avoid a gruesome crushing. The stink of the dead is everywhere around him, a stench not lost on the others as it rolls off the Necropolis is putrid waves.
Grey Wolf loads a greater fireburst into the sword Bostock and takes a mighty swing at the monstrosity's “leg.” He makes contact and takes out a large clump of sod, but the Walking Necropolis is naturally resistant to magic and shrugs off the fireburst.
Dranko, who at least has his hands free, retrieves the Lucent Tower from his pack. For some reason he mistakenly thinks he'll end up inside it when activated.
Aravis looks up in alarm when he sees what Dranko is doing. “No, that's not the way it...”
Dranko invokes the command phrase. “Crystal Rise!” The Lucent tower quickly expands to its full size of 20 feet long and 15 feet around; within seconds it is sticking out in two places from the Necropolis (roughly the chin and shoulder blades). Bones, rocks, dirt and tombstones spray out in all directions, while Dranko is slammed into the air. Feather fall slows his descent, though he finds that a detached skeletal forearm is still grasping his own arm. The Walking Necropolis bellows in annoyance, an unearthly noise that's part low screech and part grinding of old stone.
Kibi quickly summons a huge earth elemental, instructing it to grapple the walking graveyard. The elemental looks up dubiously at the much larger enemy, tries gamely, and only ends up getting poked with jutting bones for its trouble. Kibi follows up with an earthbolt that, like Grey Wolf's fireburst, splashes harmlessly off the monster's spell resistance.
“I could maze it,” calls Aravis. “And we could get the hell out of here.”
“No,” says Dranko, trying and failing to shake loose the skeletal arm. “It's a monstrosity. It's our job to destroy it.”
Aravis sighs and casts disintegrate, with no more luck in affecting the creature as the other party wizards.
Figuring they'll get through if they keep trying, Ernie casts a ringed blade barrier around the Necropolis, eight feet in the air so the Company can still attack beneath it. Flicker preps his ice dagger and tumbles into melee position, and as he does so nearly a dozen new undead creatures burst up out of the ground in true horror-movie fashion. At least these are less formidable than the Walking Necropolis; they look like rotting bugbear corpses, dirt caked into their rancid flesh and exposed bones. They glow a deep green.
Morningstar grimaces. It always gets worse before it gets better. So thinking, she makes things a bit better by casting undeath to death. The burst of positive energy is powerful enough that gravestones tilt away from its epicenter, and five of the newly-risen bugbears corpses are blasted to fine powder. She follows up with a searing darkness that penetrates the Necropolis's defenses and knocks a bunch of dirt and skulls out of its midsection. A stone-grinding growl comes from its massive unnatural bulk.
The Necropolis reaches a massive arm through the blade barrier and Ernie is gratified to see the whirling force blades slice away chunks of rock and bone. He's less thrilled as he watches the monster pluck Grey Wolf up off the ground and bring him through the blade barrier as well. Crushed in a tombstone-filled fist and slashed up horrible by blades, Grey Wolf looks barely alive as he stares up into the dead, cavernous eyes of his enemy.
Dranko activates his boots of haste and tumbles into a flanking position with Kibi's earth elemental. He lashes out once with his whip but the attack goes awry; the skeletal arm still clutching his own arm has thrown off his balance. Annoyed, he smashes the clinging hand away with the butt of the whip. Aravis shakes his head before flying up under the blade barrier, avoiding a swing of the Necropolis's other arm, grabbing Grey Wolf's exposed foot, and casting dimension door. Pop! The two wizards arrive safely back on the ground, at the edge of the battle.
The earth elemental tries to bull rush the Necropolis; it digs in with its huge stone feet and pushes with all its considerable might, enduring the cutting blades of Ernie's barrier as it does so. It barely manages to nudge the undead mountain backward, but it's enough – the Necropolis stumbles back and gets a fresh set of wicked slices from the blade barrier. Skulls and clods and stone chunks fall out of its body by the dozen. Dranko just barely manages to dodge out of the way, taking some harm from the falling detritus but keeping his feet.
“Hey Dranko!” calls Kibi. “Can you dodge of cone of cold?. You're kind of in the way.”
“Yeah, go for it!” Dranko shouts back.
Kibi shifts to an optimum casting position and blasts, the cone of ice catching many of the smaller bugbear corpses as well as the Walking Necropolis. Dranko does evade the whole of the blast, ducking behind a large tombstone as body parts and dirt and some rotting entrails go flying past.
Grey Wolf, wobbly on his feet but still able to concentrate, pegs the monster with a sonic lance that blows a gaping hole through its chest. The creature roars again, somehow managing to maintain its cohesion despite having taken some massive abuse. Ernie steps up beneath the blade barrier and swings his sword multiple times into the Necropolis's ankle. He carves another hole that reveals one of the many rotting corpses inside of it – and the corpse moves, like it's trying to escape! Ernie glares for a second before a final stroke of his sword beheads the smaller body.
“Uh, guys? I think there's something inside this thing. When it goes down, we may want to stand back...”
Flicker runs up and discharges his ice dagger into the monster, but the magic is repelled and the physical damage is pitiful.
Finally the recently-risen bugbear corpses shamble forward to attack. Two swing their rusting weapons at Morningstar, one of which scores a gash on her face. Another opens a wound in Kibi's leg. Two of the corpses have less luck with Ernie, their weapons scraping off his plate mail, while another two fail to penetrate the rocky hide of the earth elemental. The remaining four swarm around Dranko, with two of them landing blows.
Morningstar grasps her holy symbol and effects a greater turning; three more of the bugbear corpses are blown to dust. Then she quickens a mass cure light wounds that restores some vitality to both Grey Wolf and Kibi. And a good thing, too, as the Necropolis, heedless of the Lucent Tower still sticking out of its neck, targets the little creature that damaged it with the cone of cold. It smashes an enormous fist down repeatedly on the dwarf before picking him bodily up and stuffing him into its own body. Kibi can feel a dozen skeletal arms grasping him and trying to force him further into the mass of dirt and graves. Scree cries out in alarm.
But now Dranko has the opening and the opportunity he's been waiting for. He casts gravestrike, which allows him to sneak attack the undead. And he's still flanking with the earth elemental. With his lasher training he delivers a devastating series of blows with the whip; with each hit, huge chunks of dirt and stone shower from the creature's body. By the time Dranko makes his last whip-crack the Necropolis literally has no leg left to stand upon. It crumbles apart as it falls, the Lucent Tower crashing down upon its remains (and barely missing Kibi, who ends up buried beneath a pile of heavy earth).
From the Walking Necropolis's dissociated rubble, some thirty bodies rise to attack.
...to be continued...
Thursday, 7th January, 2010, 12:25 PM #266
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Thursday, 7th January, 2010, 02:04 PM #267
Lama (Lvl 13)
Was this a rebranded tarrasque? It kind of feels like one..
Red Hot Swing
"In Inspired Sarlona, nightmares have you!" -Klaus
Thursday, 7th January, 2010, 04:14 PM #268
Guide (Lvl 11)
I think it's a critter from MMII.
Edit: Corpse gatherer, I think.
- Bob Huss
[H]e's dead and poisoned and possibly insane on another plane. It's a very stylish death, but a definitive one. - Piratecat
Friday, 8th January, 2010, 08:22 AM #269
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Friday, 8th January, 2010, 11:40 AM #270
Gallant (Lvl 3)
I might have to use one of those in my own game. The players will love me for it