Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (FINISHED 7/3/14) - Page 67


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  1. #661
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    ø Ignore Siuis
    Spend his own money, heck. If I could get permission to take the file to kinko's and get a poster made out of it, I'd pay to have them scan the map at a commercial scan-ey place.

    Wouldn't even use the thing. But it would be darn nice.

 

  • #662
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    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 324
    Overland Flight

    “Will you be staying long, then? Maximum allowable time?”

    The goblinoid creature Gibbil, caretaker of Cayyat, bounces on his toes, hands folded behind his back.

    “Probably,” says Grey Wolf.

    “I suppose you’ll be wanting the rooms made up? One for each of you? Any special instructions?”

    Flicker asks if they have a smoking room. Morningstar requests a bedroom without lamps, candles or other lights. Gibbil scuttles off.

    Cayyat’s laboratory, presumably designed and stocked by Cor Kek, is magnificent, putting to shame the Company’s basement operation in the Greenhouse. The glassware is enchanted to be nigh-indestructible, the reagents are perfectly preserved and in abundant supply, and everything is meticulously labeled. The party gets down to business, scribing scrolls, brewing potions, crafting wands, improving armor, and copying spells.

    There are no spell-books in the library, though most of the tomes touch on the theory and history of necromancy. The party leaves them alone, though all are intrigued by a heavy metal door at the back behind the westernmost stack. It’s locked, but that proves little impediment to Flicker, who springs the door open in less than a minute.

    He pulls it open, and the entire Company feels like they’ve been punched in the gut by a Bigby’s fist. Flicker blacks out and drops to the floor like an empty puppet. Ernie quickly casts magic circle vs. evil and hurries forward until Flicker is in its area. Flicker groans and gets to his knees, squinting through the doorway. Even inside the protective circle, he feels a malign heat pouring out of the small room beyond the door.

    “Huh,” he says, rubbing his head. “I was so sure it wasn’t trapped.”

    “It wasn’t,” says Aravis, gesturing. The inside of the room is small, more like a large closet, but the back wall is lined with shelves, holding almost a fifty books, all with black leather spines. The titles are in a strange language. It’s not clear if the palpable evil is coming from one book or all of them.

    “You know,” says Morningstar, “we could take all of our evil stuff from the Greenhouse and toss it in there.”

    A few of them crowd into the closet, protected by Ernie’s spell. Kibi casts comprehend languages and realizes that the books are not technical – philosophy, history, politics – but at least one of them is radiating the overwhelming evil of the Black Goo.

    Ernie picks up one of the books and carries it gingerly out of the closet, but it burns his hands and he’s obliged to drop it. They replace it using fireplace tongs.

    “I think the ink in all of those books is Black Goo,” says Aravis.

    Flicker closes the door, locks it again, and then jimmies with the lock to make it even more secure. Morningstar casts detect evil, and finds a residual taint that lingers (but is fading rapidly) on Ernie and the fireplace implements.

    “We’ve made evil tongs,” says Grey Wolf. “Lovely.”


    /*/


    Weeks pass, relatively speaking. Stuff gets made. The Company enjoys swimming in the warm lake at the bottom of the hill, and going for walks through the surrounding woods. Flicker busies himself by removing the many black circles that have been mounted, drawn, and etched into the walls around the lodge.

    When the two months are nearly up, the party gathers in the large main room, drinking tea (served by the ever-attentive Gibbil) and contemplating their next move. They have rolled out their map of Kivia again onto a long table, the corners weighted down with plates.

    “Here’s my theory,” says Dranko, puffing on a Blacktallow cigar. “I think I know where the portal to their world is, inside those trenches. It was put there by Drosh, right? And Drosh isn’t stupid. So it’s not close to the edge, because someone might stumble upon it. He wanted to give his undead guardians a chance to protect it.”

    “So,” says Aravis, “you’re saying that it’s in the middle? That’s hardly…”

    “No!” Dranko interrupts. “He wouldn’t put it in the exact center, because he’d know that’s what everyone would think. That spot’s probably trapped. It must be near the center, but not exactly. So we go there, near the center, and listen for the sounds of fighting.”

    Flicker scratches his head. “How do we know where the center is?”

    “I don’t have to think of everything, you know.”

    Grey Wolf smiles. “I like the part about listening for the sound of fighting.”

    “Anyhow,” Dranko continues, “I’ve made everything I’m going to make, and you can only pee in the lake so many times before you get bored.”

    The others stare at him.

    “Which is zero times,” Dranko hastily amends.

    Gibbil bids the party a fond farewell, and seems extraordinarily pleased that his guests also wish him well. “Good luck with your quest! I hope to see you again before long.”

    They step out of Cayyat and onto the Greenhouse roof. Dranko has two months of beard (not having shaved while on hiatus) and uses his robe of blending to make himself look shabby and tattered before re-entering the Greenhouse. Eddings looks at him, blinks once, and comments dryly, “Ah. I see you’re going in disguise.”

    Ernie laughs. “Dranko, were you expecting to disconcert Eddings? I don’t think that’s possible at this point.”

    Eddings chuckles and nods. “What is the next item on your agenda, if I might ask?”

    Dranko reverts to his normal look. “We’re going to fly to the far corner of Kivia, where our enemies have an army of undead that’s going to pry open the world and let the Emperor through. We’re going to find them and stop them.”

    Eddings blinks again. “Is that likely? And soon?”

    “Yes, and yes,” says Grey Wolf.

    Eddings nods. “So, you’ll be the saving the world as usual. Very good.”

    The party briefly discusses teleportation destinations. There are three possible options, all of which are about equidistant from where the ravines are marked on their map. They could appear in the Jungle of Dreams, or the halfling town of Victory in Appleseed, but they decide upon the desolate plains of Branoi to north-eastern Kivia, since that’s marginally closer. After a last farewell to Eddings, Aravis casts greater teleport and in an instant they’re standing in a bleak and barren land. It’s cold, and dark, and they realize that this is still the very same day as their battle with Cor Kek! It was already late afternoon when they entered Cayyat, and the teleport has moved them several hours forward. Still, they’re well rested, and can navigate by starlight. Wind whistles over the rocks and scrub. There are no blood foxes in sight.

    Grey Wolf notices that Flicker isn’t wearing his armor.

    “Oh, right,” says Flicker. “I wanted to see if this would work across the ocean.” He thinks for a second, and instantly his armor is there, on his body, fully buckled and strapped. Dranko had added the called enchantment to several of their armors while in Cayyat.

    “What if it failed?” asks Grey Wolf.

    “I’m sure Aravis would have teleported me back for it.”

    After some brief argument, they decide to summon the genie Al Tarqoz to cast wind walk.

    “It’s not right,” says Ernie. “He’s like a slave.”

    Flicker disagrees. “It’s nothing like that! We let him go back where he comes from, every time!”

    Aravis uses the ring, and the blue-skinned genie appears before them. Just as he did the last time they called upon his services, he lays down a hand of cards. “Ha! This time there won’t be any… uh…”

    “Good hand,” says Aravis, as the cards flutter to the snow-dusted earth. “Probably was a winner.”

    Al Tarqoz composes himself. “Ah, my most munificent master! I’m certain that you have a fine explanation for ONCE AGAIN summoning me away from a game I was about to win, this time on a hand that was going to earn back many of my possessions and a good deal of my dignity?”

    “That wasn’t the same game, was it?” asks Kibi. “When we summon you, is time passing for you?”

    “No, it was not the same game. And yes, in my homeland, time is passing right now, I assure you. I’m certain that my friends and business associates are assuming that NOTHING untoward could be going on regarding this hand of cards.”

    “They do know you’re a genie, don’t they?” asks Aravis.

    “Oh yes. I’m sure they will accept all of this without question. Now, how can I serve you?”

    “We’d like you to cast wind walk,” says Aravis.

    “And we’re sorry!” Ernie adds.

    Al Tarqoz smiles. “I exist merely but to do your bidding, my most benevolent master.” He casts his spell, and when Aravis assures him they need nothing more, the genie scoops up the cards, sighs, and vanishes.”

    “He’s really pissy,” says Dranko.

    Morningstar sighs. “ You would be too, if someone kept summoning you.”


    /*/


    For many hours, the bleak landscape of north-eastern Kivia rolls by beneath them. The sun rises, struggling to spread its thin, cloud-filtered light over the cold stone ground. Kibi endures the long airborne journey with stoicism, though he envies Scree safely tucked away in his familiar pocket.

    The northern edge of the of the Stongeguards approaches, jagged snow-capped peaks jutting into the bitter air. The mountain range is wide as well, stretching twenty miles west to east. They are about half way across, flying high above the mountaintops, when they start to feel discomfort. Three minutes and three miles later, it has grown worse, and also quite recognizable. It’s the distress they felt in the locked closet of Cayyat, and in the presence of the black book in Kallor, and the Black Goo from Het Branoi.

    By the time the Company has reached the edge of the mountains, they are having trouble progressing. The evil emanating from – somewhere out there – is like a psychic headwind. Figuring that the source of this is at ground level, they angle upwards, and so are able to make more lateral progress without the radiating evil become overwhelming. Eventually they see, far down below, what’s almost certainly the source: a black spot, like a huge shadow on the ground. It might be an enormous crater, or a flat-black lake. There are no clouds in this part of the sky, which gives them a decent view, and given their current altitude the black blotch must be dozens of miles across.

    Even thousands of feet above the ground, the Company, quite literally, cannot bring themselves to fly directly over the black crater. Evil is blasting upward from it like heat from a volcano. Aravis briefly wonders if he’s seeing Naslund, the Gods’ necropolis from one of his Maze visions. He rightly discards the notion. Kibi thinks this might be the thorn in the side of Abernia, of which he once dreamed.

    They decide to backtrack and go around the distant evil spot, mightily disturbed that they can feel it so powerfully, miles in the air.

    “Why in the world aren’t there any good places in the world like that,” Dranko grumbles.

    The party descends to a lower altitude once they have given the evil crater a wide enough berth. The terrain is, if anything, becoming more bleak and lifeless. There are no streams, no vegetation, so signs of natural wilderness.*

    Three hours after leaving the Black Crater of Evil behind them, they spy a large patch of mist down below, at ground level. It’s probably about a thousand yards on a side, vaguely square-ish in shape, and rises fifty feet from the ground. Dranko looks for signs that it’s roiling, and sees none.

    “It’s so dry here,” says Ernie. “How can there be mist? It’s not natural!”

    They swoop down and fly into the mist, and it’s not damp inside, though it is chilly. It’s a thick fog, obscuring their vision beyond five feet or so, and making the Company nearly invisible in their gaseous form. They’d been warned that the ravines beneath the mist would be shielded from divinations, though their telepathic bond stays active as they probe the white vapors. When they are convinced that there’s nothing interesting inside this patch of mist (and have found the ground to be unblemished by trenches, ravines, or anything like them), they fly back up out of the haze and continue onward at high altitude.

    A few minutes later they see more patches of fog, varying greatly in size. The smallest are no more than thirty feet in diameter, while the largest they see is at least twenty miles on a side. None of them show any signs of movement within; there is no breeze, and the areas of mist lay like unmoving shrouds on a dead landscape. It is clear that they are unnatural; while they don’t have sharp edges, they are all of a uniform height, and give the impression of being spell-effects like obscuring mist. They form an archipelago of cloud islands in a sea of blasted rock.

    Then, ahead of them, they see the largest patch of mist by far. It extends past the edges of their vision in all outward directions. Another hour of scouting shows that this block of fog is almost a hundred miles on a side, in a rough square. Like all the others, it rises to a height of fifty feet from ground level. Beyond it are more smaller patches, but this is clearly the largest. Flying low over the top of it, the party sees no sign of movement within, nor hears any sounds.

    Aravis decides that they should examine the ground along the southern edge of the mist – the side that faces Black Bay. They drop down to near ground level, though Dranko decides to test the fog again and flies into its interior. His connection with the others over the mind-link is cut off when he descends about fifteen feet into the fog. Interesting!

    They land on the ground. There are no footprints, but they do find what they were looking for – bits of bone flakes and fragments scattered among the stones. After some more scouting, they find that there’s a swath of ground, several hundred feet wide, littered with tiny bone chips. It seems as though a large skeletal army did in fact pass this way, coming from the bay and vanishing into the enormous cloud of mist.

    Aravis picks up the largest fragment he can find, and casts vision. He guesses that he’ll be unable to divine the undead currently, and so poses the question: “How long ago did the undead pass this spot?” The universe answers him: Six and a half days.

    “That’s quite a head start,” says Grey Wolf.

    Aravis does some quick math in his head. If the bone army is moving four miles an hour, and the mist simply covers a big open space, the army could have easily covered the whole thing in a week. But if the hidden ravines are labyrinthine enough, it could take months to explore them all.

    They’ve now been traveling and scouting for almost 13 hours. Before sleeping, they split up, and spend another three hours skirting the entire perimeter of the fog bank in two groups. They meet on the far side, and confirm that neither group has seen any more bone chips. Cor Kek's army has gone in, but it hasn't come out again unless it left in the exact place it went in. Finally, Aravis teleports them back to where they started. Grey Wolf uses his Mordenkainen’s Cube to make them a magnificent mansion, and they pile in to go to sleep.

    They’re bone tired.

    …to be continued…


    * After this description, Ernie’s player kidcthulhu uttered: “One does not simply wind-walk into Mordor!”

  • #663
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    I Defended The Walls!

    ø Ignore coyote6
    "Bone tired" -- I see what you did there.
    - 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

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    I Defended The Walls!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagiro View Post
    Eddings nods. “So, you’ll be the saving the world as usual. Very good.”
    I hope Eddings has a proper British butler accent -- John Gielgud from the movie Arthur.
    Joe Mucchiello, Head Honcho at Throwing Dice Games (Mostly defunct)
    Priority One: Fatherhood.
    Priority Two: Sanity.
    Down on the list: seemingly real close to releasing a notebook essential. Haven't looked at it in... years? How did years go by?

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  • #665
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    Same comments as everyone else, but amazing as usual. I've read the entire thing now and it's definitely inspired me to try DMing, despite the fact that I'm new to even playing the game.

    I'm not sure why, since the description doesn't really make it out that way, but for the giant crater of evil they skirted around, I have this picture in my head reminiscent of one of those scene's in games/anime etc. The one's where you see this huge fount of earth energy erupting up into space, but instead of green, it's this writhing rope of greasy black energy, heh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Piratecat View Post
    Even so, it's amazing how long my attack round can take if I don't start early. Rolling 1d3+1d6+12+7d6 (reroll 1s) for five attacks takes a stupid amount of time; each round it's 5d20 and then 45 d6, of which 40 need to be treated specially. I've either started using Machdice on my iphone to calculate them, or rolling damage during other peoples' turns and making a list. Then I roll my attacks during my own turn and just cross out the damage numbers as they come up. Saves time!
    Apologies for the extremely late reply. I got very far behind, but I'm enjoying catching up.

    Sagiro, I know I've posted this a few times in the 10 years or so that I've been reading this story hour, but you are a fantastic DM with a wonderful group of players.

    A friend of mine was playing a rogue in mid-teens, and he set up a fishing-tackle box (single layer) for his attacks. D20s in one row, then the other rows contained each of the appropriate dice for the attacks in progress (eg different weapons), then sneak attack dice. One column for each attack, and columns had the same colour.

    So he would just announce who he was attacking, as well as secondary targets if the first went down, and he'd shake the tackle box and expose the results. As long as you can add up quickly it works well.

    Oh, and as an aside, I didn't know till just now that Morningstar and Grey Wolf's players were a couple.

    Keep up the good work and I'll keep reading.
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  • #667
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duncan Haldane View Post
    Oh, and as an aside, I didn't know till just now that Morningstar and Grey Wolf's players were a couple.
    They weren't originally; although they were friends back in college, during the course of the campaign the players fell in love, got married and had a child. Which is pretty damn awesome.

    Here's our photo from the game's 15th anniversary. From left to right that's Kodiak (Kibi), Sagiro, Piratecat (Dranko), KidCthulhu (Ernie), and (Gray Wolf). Morningstar's player is taking the picture, and Aravis's player wasn't there that day.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Abernathy's Company.jpg  
    Last edited by Piratecat; Tuesday, 8th February, 2011 at 04:59 PM.
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    ø Ignore Cerebral Paladin
    Re: damage calculation: with 7d6 (reroll 1s), it might be worth doing some substitutions of equivalencies. 7d6 (reroll 1s) is equivalent to 7d5+7 (assuming that you reroll 1s on the rerolls as well), which makes the overall expression 1d3+7d5+1d6+19, which is I think substantially more straightforward. d5s aren't particularly common, but you can get prism-style dice which work just fine, or wacky irregular sided dice which can be made to work if they're shaped very carefully.

    In general, I don't like "reroll 1s" as a common mechanic, because it makes for time delays while being strictly equivalent to simpler dice code changes. There can be some fun involved, because "I never roll ones" is kinda cooler than "I get to add x to my total and roll smaller dice." But it's usually not a gain on net, imo.
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  • #669
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    Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 325
    A Tale of Two Dragons

    “I suspect we’re caught in some kind of trap.”

    Morningstar conveys this to the others via the mind-link, and the rest are inclined to agree. After all, based on Scree’s scouting report, they should have emerged from the mist in well under a minute, but it’s been over twenty minutes now, and there’s no end to it. Still, they decide to press on.


    /*/


    That morning, after a heroes’ feast breakfast and discussion of plans, the Company had decided to send Scree on a reconnaissance mission, before the whole group plunged blindly into the unnatural fog. Scree was amenable as always, sunk into the ground at the edge of the cliff, and relayed his observations through Kibi.

    “I’m heading straight down … okay, I’d say I’ve gone about thirty feet. I’m sticking my eye out of the cliff face; oh, still misty. I can hardly see at all. I’ll go down some more … Good rock. Quartzy. Strange, but solid. I’m poking my eye out every so often … hey, I’ve come to the bottom, and it’s still foggy … No, wait, there’s another cliff. It’s terraced, you see. If you scaled down the cliff by a rope or something, you’d find yourself on a ten-foot ledge at the top of another cliff! Oh, and I’ve found the bottom of the mist! Here, just a minute … Ah, I see. Now I’m at the bottom of a ravine. I can see the bottom of the fog layer, a couple hundred feet above me, I think, right where the ledge is. The ravine is about fifty feet wide down here … Hey, there are more bone chips too! Maybe it’s the Black Circle army? Or maybe the undead that already live here? Who knows?”

    “Can you feel any tremors nearby?” Kibi had asked. He wanted to know if Scree could sense the proximity of the skeletal army.

    “Yeah. I feel a bunch of little tremors. Like there are things moving around within a few miles of me, in multiple places.”

    “Their army is fanning out,” Kibi had told the others.

    “Ooooh, look at that!” Scree had then exclaimed. “A giant! No, wait. It’s just a statue of a giant’s legs. The top part is in pieces, on the ground. The face looks worn. The whole thing does … hey, now I hear something. Sounds like wind blowing somewhere past where this ravine bends out of sight. Getting louder. Oh, whatever it is just turned the corner. Judging from the bone fragments flying around, a huge blast of wind is coming down the ravine this way. I’ll just sink back into the stone and stick an eye out … Huh. Nothing happened, though my eye felt tingly when the wind blew past. Now it’s gone, and it’s quiet again.”

    Kibi had then recalled his familiar, after which they made their final plan. Morningstar cast control weather, hoping that a good gale-force wind would sweep the mist away. But while it did have some good effect – she increased visibility inside the fog from 5’ to almost 30’ – it mostly just churned the mist in place. Some magical force kept it from dispersing. Still, it didn’t sound like they had far to go. 150’ of mist, then 200’ more to the bottom of the ravine. One they had cast their buffs, including hide from undead, Aravis shapechanged into his accustomed dragon form, and Morningstar rode on his back while the rest flew on the flying carpet Burning Sky. Down they rushed, expecting to reach the bottom in less than ten seconds.

    /*/

    That was almost half an hour ago now. They are clearly moving – individual curls of mist are whipping past their faces, and Morningstar’s pale hair streams out behind her like the tail of a kite – but they’ve seen no sign of the bottom of the mist layer, let alone the floor of the ravine that Scree had described.

    Kibi, who hates flying with a passion, is gripping the sides of the carpet with whitened knuckles. “This doesn’t seem to match Scree’s report,” he says morosely, though by now that’s abundantly obvious to everyone.

    Five more minutes pass, with no change. Morningstar reiterates her opinion that this is at best some kind of defense mechanism that hedges intruders, and Flicker thinks that perhaps it’s a trap from which they cannot escape, but a minute after that the mist ahead actually starts to clear, and in rapid succession goes from thick, to wispy, to not there at all.

    They have arrived in the ravine exactly as Scree described. It’s about fifty feet wide, and stretches away in both directions at least a hundred feet before bending away out of sight. The walls are two hundred feet high, sheer, and made of a smooth gray quartz-like stone streaked with black striated veins. The ground is made of the same.

    The broken Giantish statue is also there, smashed and wind-scoured.

    Dranko wonders out loud, “How does anything get weathered down here?”

    Morningstar realizes with a start that her control weather spell is no longer active, though by rights it should have lasted for hours. There is no breeze at all here in the ravine; high above them the thick white fog hangs still like a cotton blanket. There are no animals, no sounds, nothing that betrays any hint of why this place is here.

    Aravis rubs his chin. “My suspicion is that Drosh had a blind spot for things moving through the ground.”

    Which seems true; whatever magics that were active in the mist were evidently bypassed entirely by Scree. Down here below the mist, Dranko finds that his inherent ability to detect magic works just fine, suggesting that the prohibition against divinations only applies across the mist and not beneath it.

    There’s nothing to recommend one way over the other, so the Company picks a direction at random and heads down the ravine; after all, this place isn’t going to just scout itself. A five hundred feet the ravine bends away to the left, continues on for three hundred feet, and splits. There are bone fragments down both of the new branches, so once again they choose randomly, flying along about half way up the ravine’s height, Morningstar still on Aravis’s dragon-back and the rest on the flying carpet. While the ravines vary somewhat in width, they are all of an unnaturally uniform height, and the quality of the stone never changes. Dotted here and there are more statues of giants, all in varying poses and states of decay. Most are broken in places, and weathered smooth to the point where few facial features remain.

    Nearly an hour has passed, when the party rounds a corner and sees something approaching, several hundred feet ahead of them. It seems that a force of undead has also just turned a corner, and now the two groups are facing each other. The Company is still enchanted to be invisible to non-intelligent undead, so they proceed, though cautiously.

    The undead contingent consists only of skeletons, many dozens of them, mostly of human sized, but a dozen or so of a giantish variety standing some twenty feet high. All of their bones are inscribed with glowing blue runes, on arms, on legs, even on the tops of their skulls. None of them are reacting in any way to the party; it seems their spell is holding, so they rise up a bit higher and move to fly over the enemy. (Though they are not entirely sure that this is the enemy; the odd runes lend to the theory that these are the indigenous undead population.)

    A few seconds later, a second group of skeletal creatures rounds the corner: four little flying skulls the size of large crows, and a huge skeletal dragon. The skulls have gems in their eye-sockets: a red gem in the left eye and a black one in the right. All of them, and the dragon as well, have blue runes etched upon them.

    The dragon pulls up when it sees the party. Oops! It screeches loudly at the army below. The Company hastily starts casting buffing spells, as the rune-covered dragon and its accompanying flight of skulls draws nearer. It is precisely at the moment Aravis realizes he’s seen those runes before – they belong to an obscure language he ran across while perusing some of their pilfered Black Circle books – that the skulls let loose their attacks on him.

    Twenty magic missiles streak from their black right eyes – five per skull – and all of them slam into Aravis’s draconic body. He has scarce time to recover before they each launch fireballs at him, engulfing him (and Morningstar) in a small inferno. He survives the attack, the fireballs triggering his energy buffer, though he is severely scored and burned. Aravis responds by quickening a shield spell and breathing out a massive cone of electricity. The dragon doesn’t even try to avoid the blast, and comes away scorched and smoking. The skulls zip around in the air, partially dodging the blast. None of the flying enemies have dropped. The many humanoid skeletons below are now looking up to observe the aerial battle, though none can do anything about it.

    Kibi watches the skeletal dragon approach, and wonders what kind of breath weapon it might have. Negative energy? Or maybe positive energy, since it’s presumably designed to fight other undead? Whatever the case, he doesn’t want to find out the hard way. He casts control undead upon it. The dragon jerks to a halt as if caught in a net. Kibi smiles.

    “Curse you!” spits the dragon.

    “Don’t attack me, or any of my friends,” the dwarf commands.

    “Yes, fine.”

    “Where is your master?” asks Kibi.

    “I don’t know.” The dragon’s harsh screechy voice drips with frustration and contempt.

    “Then how will you find him?”

    “I will fly back to where I saw him last. He has ways of locating us, or calling us to him.”

    “Has he found what he’s looking for?” asks Kibi.

    “Maybe.”

    “Are you all still marching?”

    The dragon sneers. “I fly, I don’t march.”

    Kibi sighs. “Is the army still on the move, then?”

    “The army is still searching, if that’s what you’re asking.”

    That tells Kibi something important, at least. The dragon doesn’t think Ten Old Bones has found the Skysteel Hole.

    “Attack those stupid flying skulls,” he commands.

    The dragon groans, but turns to do as it is bidden. Morningstar, herself singed by the barrage of fireballs, casts a healing spell on herself and Aravis. Grey Wolf uses a wand of fly on Dranko, before quickening an ironstorm down among the ambulatory skeletons. As even more skeletons come into view around the distant corner of the ravine (including four more flying skulls), Ernie pops one of the nearby skulls with a positive energy ray. All that remain are its two gems, which plummet to the ground. Dranko (now flying) and Flicker (already flying) become a flank-and-destroy team, their weapons magically augmented to allow sneak-attacks on the undead. Together they finish off a second of the nearer set of skulls. The dragon, firmly under Kibi’s command, destroys a third skull in a flurry of teeth and claws. “The dwarf!” it cries in frustration. “The dwarf is making me do it!”

    The fourth and final skull in the group targets Kibi with all of its attacks. Five magic missiles strike him, and the fireball triggers his energy buffer. Aravis takes some fiery splash damage, and glares. In retaliation he sends a chain lightning into Grey Wolf’s ironstorm down below. Skeletons explode – nearly every one of them in a 40’ radius, in fact. The ranks behind them start to fill in the gap; some instinctively avoid the plinking iron filings, but others wade mindlessly into the killing zone. More skulls move up as well.

    Kibi continues to query the dragon. “How far back in the ravines did you last see your master?”

    “Miles away,” barks the dragon. “Days ago.”

    Unfailingly polite, Kibi requests that the dragon descend and take on the humanoid skeletons. Given how many of them there still are, Kibi instructs: “Use your full breath attack capabilities on the army below you!”

    “Whatever you say,” answers the dragon, a bit too eagerly. It flies down and hovers over the mass of undead. Kibi frowns, and figures it can’t hurt to fill the canyon with spike stones, just in case.

    A darkbeam from Morningstar and an ice storm from Grey Wolf take out another flying skull. Grey Wolf then casts fly on himself and absents himself from the party’s clustered formation.

    Down below, the smaller skeletons grind themselves down upon the spike stones, unaware that they’re killing themselves. The giant-sized ones seem to be a bit smarter; they stop moving through the spikes, and instead pick up their shattered brethren to use as missile weapons. Dranko dodges two armored skeletons, but a third smacks him right in the chest. He sees that their blue runes continue to glow even after de-animation.

    Ernie drops a flame strike on two of these larger specimens. Flicker and Dranko flank and annihilate another skull like a two-headed blender. Then the dragon, facing dozens of its fellow skeletons, opens his jaws and breathes.

    Nothing comes out, save a tiny gasp of stale air, an impotent cough.

    “That was my best,” it chortles. “Anything else?”

    More of the skulls target Kibi, but he weathers the storm of magic missiles and fireballs, and that’s the last serious attack these undead are able to make. Aravis shows how dragon breath is supposed to work, blasting most of the remaining skeletons on the ground into charred fragments. Grey Wolf terminates another skull via a maximized greater fireburst channeled through Bostock. Morningstar and Kibi’s controlled dragon finish off all the rest of the enemy except for a single giant, which finally topples due to the incessant chipping from the ironstorm.

    Kibi orders the skeletal dragon to lead the Company to where it last saw Ten Old Bones. It’s large enough that he rides upon its back along with Dranko and Flicker. Ernie, Grey Wolf and Morningstar ride upon Aravis’s back, and the pair of dragons makes excellent time. They fly through the canyon maze at great speed for the next fifteen minutes. They only pull up short when Grey Wolf, under the effects of enhanced senses, hears something ahead. They all stop, and they all hear it. It sounds like wind.

    “Do you know what’s causing that sound?” Kibi asks the dragon.

    “Wind. It’s blown on us before.”

    “What happened to you when it blew on you?”

    “Nothing,” says the dragon. “It tingles.”

    “Does it affect anything that’s not undead?”

    The dragon laughs. “How would I know?”

    From around a distant bend in the ravine, the wind comes, just as it did when Scree was first scouting. They can see the cloud of bone debris kicked up along its leading edge. High up, the bottom of the mist layer is stirred by the gusting air. They have about fifteen seconds until the wind reaches them.

    For a couple of seconds they think they might try riding it out, but then they see that as the wind passes by some of the giantish statues ahead, one of their stone arms is snapped off. Dranko feels his blood run cold.

    “We’ve got to find cover! Aravis, can you make us a shelter?”

    He can. Even as the party flies down to ground level, Aravis casts a secure shelter, and they swoop in through the door as quickly as possible. Aravis himself has to hastily shrink down to human size in order to fit.

    “Wait out here until I come back,” says Kibi to his dragon, before closing the door to the shelter. And just in time, too! The door has been closed only three seconds when the wind reaches it, and their little house shudders and vibrates as the gale rushes past. Dranko fishes a long strip of jerky from his pack, opens the door a tiny crack, and pokes the jerky into the wind. It instantly becomes much heavier, and when Dranko pulls it back, he finds that the exposed section has turned to stone.

    “Well,” said Kibi. “Hiding in here was certainly the right thing to do!”

    After a minute or two, the wind dies down almost instantly. Scree gives the rest the all-clear, and they leave the shelter. The dragon is still there, waiting for them.

    “What are the capabilities of Ten Old Bones and his army?” Kibi asks it.

    The dragon looks as though it would puff up proudly, if it had any flesh to puff. “His army is vast. Tens of thousands. It will roll over you.”

    “Is it broken into more groups like the one you were part of?”

    “For now,” croaks the dragon, “but we’ll all be together before too long. Ten Old Bones can contact us when we’re close enough, and guide us to him.”

    “What does he look like?” asks Kibi.

    “Like a skeleton.”

    “Is he a lich?”

    “Why? Does that scare you?” The dragon chuckles again, a grinding, rattling sound.

    “Answer the question,” demands Kibi.

    “I don’t know what he is, and that’s the truth. He’s very old, and very powerful. More powerful than any of you, I can tell you. But he’s like you. Human-ish.”

    “Does he wear anything in particular?” asks Dranko.

    “Clothes,” says the dragon.

    Dranko shakes his head. “Describe the clothes. Are they unusual? Honestly, it’s like talking to a child.”

    “I don’t need to answer you,” spits the dragon.

    “Yes you do,” says Kibi. “I command you.”

    “Fine. He wears black. A cloak. Those things on your legs… pants. And he is adorned with various magic trinkets.”

    “What kind of spells can he cast?” Kibi presses.

    “I don’t know.”

    “Did he create you?” asks Dranko. When the dragon shakes its head, Dranko adds, “Then why are you working for him?”

    “Because the person who did create me works for him. His name is Six Bone Shards.”

    “Is he also with the army?”

    “No.”

    “Are there any living creatures in your army?” asks Kibi.

    “I don’t think so.”

    “Spellcasters? Other than those skull things?”

    “I don’t know,” says the dragon, exasperated. “I’m not privy to the abilities of every creature in the army.”

    “How about this, then,” says Morningstar. “Are there more creatures as powerful as you, or more powerful?”

    The dragon doesn’t answer at first, until Kibi glares at it. “I don’t know. Fifty maybe. That’s only a guess.”

    “And what are you all looking for?” asks Kibi.

    “A tower,” says the dragon. “And a great ring of metal.”

    At this point Kibi thinks he only has about a minute left before his control undead expires, and he has no desire to endure the revenge the creature will doubtless try to exact. With only the tiniest of moral pangs, he orders the dragon not to defend itself, and Flicker, Dranko and Grey Wolf smash it to pieces.

    …to be continued…

  • #670
    Writing TimeWatch!
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    This was the best saving throw for a monster to fail ever. Even as we speak, someone is hopefully painting a Boris Vallejo-style black light velvet poster of Dranko and some gorgeous bikinied warrior riding the bone dragon into battle.

    Gorgeous bikinied female warrior. Nice try!

    Also, note to self: find Six Bone Shards and kick his butt.

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