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  1. #21
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    The Thrune's Fang

    With Ishirou’s treasure successfully recovered, there was no clear direction for the castaways to continue their exploration of the island. Nessalin and Jack wanted to continue to head further inland, while Arioch and Lyrissa advocated sticking to the coast, arguing that if colonists had established a community on the Shiv, it would make sense that they would have done so near the shore. Ultimately, it was the consensus to follow the coast for awhile longer, though Jack and Nessalin privately placed wagers that the trek would be fruitless.

    One thing the Shiv was not short of, they soon discovered, was shipwrecks. It seemed as if they would come across another one at least once daily. Most of these were derelict shells, but on occasion, they happened on one whose crew had not completely abandoned ship. Such was the case with a wreck called the Windwar. As the castaways approached the hulk, they were at first hopeful when they saw the figures moving about on its deck. When they drew closer, however, it became obvious that the seamen had long ago shuffled off the mortal coil. They were nothing more than zombies, still clad in the rags of their clothing. The undead, sensing living flesh nearby, immediately began shambling towards the survivors. It was not really a contest. The living outnumbered the dead, and were more heavily armed. The outcome was a foregone conclusion. Agnar, however, added his own wrinkle. In the midst of the melee, the priest managed to enslave two of the zombies to his will. This did not sit well with all of his companions.

    “This is an abomination!” Jask protested.
    “I didn’t create them,” Agnar pointed out, “but since they’re here, why not use them as a resource? If you prefer, you can take the front line from now on.”
    “They should be destroyed!” Jask continued. “These were once men. They deserve better than this.”
    “Who’s to say?” Agnar shrugged. “Maybe they were bloodthirsty pirates. Maybe this is exactly what they deserve.”
    “If you persist in this, I warn you,” Jask replied, “you can no longer count on my assistance. You know of my healing skills. I’ve tended your wounds, and I’ve protected us all from the tropical blights that plague this place. No more…at least not for you. If you are going to throw in your lot with these unholy atrocities, then you are on your own.”
    “That sounds suspiciously like a threat,” Agnar said coldly.
    “It’s a promise,” Jask countered.
    “Watch yourself, priest,” Agnar warned. “We’ve already seen how dangerous this island can be. Accidents happen.”
    __________________________________________________ _________

    “It cannot be!” Jask breathed.
    The group had come upon yet another derelict ship. It looked no different from the multiple others they’d encountered before.
    “Are you delusional?” Agnar scoffed. “You must be if you think we’re getting off the island on that wreck!”
    “It’s the Brine Demon!” Jask exclaimed as he turned to the others, pointedly ignoring Agnar. “When I discovered the evidence that incriminated my superiors, one of the documents indicated that one of their contacts in the Shackles was a man named Avret Kinkarian. He was captain of a ship called the Brine Demon…this ship! I’d heard that it wrecked in the waters near Smuggler’s Shiv, but I never dreamed anything would have survived!
    “What’s your point?” Agnar snapped.
    “The point,” Jask snapped, “is that if there is any chance some evidence proving Kinkarian’s illegal dealings with the Sargavan officials is still on that ship, then I can prove my innocence once and for all!”
    “You’re dreaming, priest,” Agnar sneered dismissively. “That would have been over ten years ago, plus you’re still counting on getting off this island and back to civilization where you could make your case. Two very unlikely scenarios.”
    Jask wasn’t listening. He’d already started towards the wreckage.

    Everyone except Agnar and Zavasta accompanied Jask aboard the Brine Demon, and at first glance, the priest was afraid that the necromancer had been right. Much of the ship’s hull was missing, and it was obvious that whatever cargo it had once carried was long gone. Yet it seemed that the captain’s cabin might still be intact, and when Jask forced the door open, he saw a skeleton slumped on the floor, its bony hands clutching at a well-made, watertight darkwood coffer which sat in an open secret compartment in a rotting desk. Jask barely breathed as he carefully slipped the container out of the corpse’s hands. It was still locked, but the mechanism was badly rusted, and one blow from the pommel of Jask’s dagger popped it right open. Inside were three objects: a beautifully crafted, softly glowing dagger, a golden locket which contained a tiny, incredibly detailed portrait of a beautiful, red-haired half-elf woman, indentified along the bottom edge as ‘Aeshamara,’ and several fat ledgers and journals. Jask put the first two items aside as his trembling hands began rifling through the papers. His eyes grew wider and rounder as he read the words he’d not dared hope existed. The documents contained irrefutable proof of collusion between Captain Kinkarian and half a dozen Sargavan and Bloodcove government officials who were skimming off the tithes and taxes offered to the Free Captains of the Shackles. Jask covered his face with his hands and silently wept.
    __________________________________________________ ______

    “So I’ve been thinking,” Jack said as the castaways gathered around their fire that night. “Isn’t it time this little cadre of ours had a leader?”
    “A leader?” Zavasta laughed. “What do you think this is, some kind of adventuring party or something? Way I see it, it’s every man for himself until we get off this rock, and after that, I hope I’ve seen the last of you bunch of losers.”
    “I’m not talking about a permanent arrangement,” Jack said. “But if any of us hope to live long enough to leave here, then I think someone should be calling the shots, or at least providing some kind of direction. Arioch, isn’t your order some kind of military unit?”
    “If you think I’m about to take orders from some murdering Hell Knight,” Zavasta shouted, “then you’re as crazy as the captain that wrecked us here in the first place!”
    “I’ve already told you,” Arioch’s voice was tight with barely controlled fury, “that my order does not engage in human sacrifice, you small-minded pyromaniac!”
    Zavasta rose to his feet, his hand going to one of the many flasks at his belt. Arioch rose to, his fingers already beginning to weave a summoning. Suddenly, the campfire flared up in a roaring blaze, and a dark figure stepped out of it. Its form was nearly skeletal, its bare bones picked clean, yet it wore the dripping coat and tricorn hat of a ship’s captain. One of its hands was a gleaming, metal hook, and its whole insubstantial form dripped with cold, brackish seawater.
    “It…it’s Kinkarian!” Jask gasped.
    “Thieves!” the specter rasped. “Scoundrels! You will return my beloved Aeshamara to me!”
    “What’s he talking about?” Aerys shrieked.
    “The locket!” Lyrissa shouted. “He wants the locket we found! Give it to him!”
    Nessalin, who’d taken the locket, fumbled it out of his pocket and thrust it towards the ghost. For a moment, the apparition stood mesmerized, its head cocked to one side.
    “Open it!” Lyrissa hissed. “Show him the picture!”
    Nessalin undid the latch. When Kinkarian gazed upon the portrait within, he reached for the locket, and then, with a melancholy sigh, he simply faded away.
    “Well,” Nessalin said in the silence that followed, “I guess we’ll table our previous discussion for the time being.”
    __________________________________________________ ________

    Most of the next day was spent travelling in tense silence, but at mid-day the survivors came upon the remnants of a quickly rigged shelter, and evidence of a small campfire which sat well above the high-tide line on the beach.
    “Well I’ll be damned,” Nessalin said as he leaned over to pluck something from amidst the refuse. “It’s the Captain’s hat.”
    When he held the tricorn aloft, it was obvious to all of them that it was indeed Korvack’s .
    “Look at this,” Lyrissa added.
    She held several brightly-colored scarves in her hand.
    “These were Ieana’s,” the bardess said. “I saw her wearing them on the ship.”
    “So they survived,” Jack said, shaking his head.
    “Only until I catch up to them,” Zavasta growled.
    “Tracks,” Gorak abruptly announced from the far side of the camp site. “Two people. Many days ago. They go that way.” He pointed south into the jungle.
    “Well then,” Arioch nodded, “looks like our course is decided for us.”
    __________________________________________________ _______

    They followed the tracks for days, heading ever deeper into the island’s interior. For the most part, the trail led along well-traveled game paths, and though the signs were subtle, Gorak had no trouble following. At one point, near a fork in the trail, the big half-orc nodded to his left, though the path led away to the right. Just visible through the trees was a dilapidated-looking hut. Though Kovack’s and Ieana’s prints did not go there, the survivors decided to investigate nonetheless. The dwelling was partially collapsed, and stood on the banks of a gurgling stream. It seemed to have been built from a combination of driftwood and tree trunks, with a roof of wide leaves and strips of rotten canvas sail. The front door hung partially ajar. Dozens of bones and skulls, quite obviously of human origin, decorated the hut and the surrounding area, each bearing numerous nicks and scratches. Inside, the conditions were not much better. All that remained of any furnishings were bits of an old chair carved from a tree stump, fragments of fabric, and rusted bits of metal. As the group looked the place over, however, Lyrissa spotted something wedged into a small niche in one wall. It was a leather bound journal. She pulled it free carefully. The years and weather had not been kind to its contents, and only fragments of notes remained. She began to read aloud:

    “…many survived, the Thrune’s Fang will never sail again. Sargava’s assimilation must proceed without…”
    “…fine hunting on the Shiv, but the bugs are a constant distraction. Nylithati’s skills at healing help fight the sickness, but I fear she has…”
    “…founded. Nylithati has seized control of my crew. They are hers now, and so I have abandoned…”
    “…fine home. Fresh water nearby and I need not endure Nylithati’s ceaseless raving above…”
    “…will not be returning to that gray, silent island again. There is nothing there but horror…”
    “…crew lurking about the area. They seem strange, almost feral. It has been almost a decade since the wreck. I wonder what strange beliefs Nylithati has…”
    “…changed. There was no sign of Nylithati in the camp, but the focus of their ceremony was a cauldron they must have salvaged from the Thrune’s Fang at the base of the ruined lighthouse. It was into this they threw the half-eaten body of the still screaming man…”
    “…all around. I can hear them chanting in the green even now. They call Nylithati ‘Mother Thrunefang’ now, and promise me immortality if I lay down my arms and submit. I know what their immortality consists of, and I’ll have no part of that corrupt life after…”


    “The Thrune’s Fang?” Lyrissa said questioningly as she looked up from the journal. “Could that be referring to the House of Thrune in Cheliax?”
    “Sargava was a Chelaxian colony before Aroden’s fall,” Arioch nodded. “They declared their independence in the chaos that followed. When House Thrune finally consolidated their power, they sent an armada south to reclaim their colony. Only the Sargavan government’s alliance with the pirates of the Shackles saved them.”
    “So this must have been one of the Chelaxian ships then,” Lyrissa said. “I guess it shipwrecked here, decades ago. Sounds like their captain came to a bad end at the hands of his own crew.”
    “Much like ours will,” Zavasta growled.
    “Did none of you hear that part about a lighthouse?” Nessalin asked. “The crew of this ship must have found the remnants of the colony . If they had a lighthouse, then there might be a chance we can use it to signal a passing ship!”
    __________________________________________________ _______

    The castaways headed back into the jungle, picking up the path they’d been following easily enough. Twice along the way they encountered the snare/spike traps they’d run into before. The first time it was Nessalin that inadvertently stepped in one. After that, it was decided that one of the zombies Agnar had recruited would take point along the trail, and sure enough, the shambling corpse had triggered another one.

    As nightfall approached, Gorak brought the group to a halt.
    “What’s the problem?” Arioch asked.
    The barbarian nodded towards the tree line ahead. Following his gaze, Arioch saw what at first he took to be more trees, but then saw to be an open-air wooden tower protruding above the palms. Two figures stood within it. He quickly motioned the others down into a crouch, and then called Minion to him.
    “Trouble ahead,” the summoner whispered to the eidolon.
    “When is there not?” the little creature rolled his eyes.
    “I want you to scout,” Arioch instructed, “ but stay hidden. Don’t be long, and don’t take any chances. Come back here as quickly as you can.”
    Minion nodded once, and then vanished into the gathering darkness. Several tense minutes passed, with Arioch stretching out his senses, certain he would be able to feel if his companion came to any harm. Then, as quickly as he’d disappeared, Minion was there again.
    “Looks like the remains of a village,” he reported. “Several buildings still intact, including a lighthouse. Saw a few humans, savage-looking. All tattooed up and spoiling for a fight. Big lizard staked out where the trail opens up into the clearing.
    “So you wouldn’t suggest a diplomatic approach then?” Arioch asked wryly.
    “Not unless you want to be the main course at a state dinner,” Minion shrugged.
    “You’ve done well, as always, my friend,” Arioch patted the eidolon’s head. “You may go until I have need of you further.”
    “As you command,” Minion replied before disappearing in a puff of brimstone.

    “What plan?” Ishirou asked.
    “I want you, Aerys, Gelik, Jask and Sasha to wait back here,” Arioch replied.
    “I fight good as any of you!” the old Tienese growled.
    “Exactly,” the summoner said. “That’s why I want you back here. If there are more of these people out here in the jungle, I don’t want them flanking us and hemming us in.”
    Ishirou nodded his agreement slowly.
    “As for the rest of us,” Arioch continued, “I can create a diversion, and maybe get rid of that lizard. That will give us a chance to get down there and possibly catch them by surprise.”
    “Who put you in charge, General?” Zavasta sneered.
    “Have you ever been in a military unit?” Arioch snapped. “Have you ever served in a forward position? Do you have a better plan?”
    “Just as long as I get to blow up something,” the alchemist grumbled.
    “Alright,” Arioch said, “then follow my lead.”
    __________________________________________________ ____

    The small whirlwinds came twisting down the trail like dervishes. The Shiv dragon, a tropical variant of a giant monitor lizard, turned its head slowly, its three eyelids blinking. The twin elementals hit it like a pair of miniature cyclones, sending it cartwheeling head over heels until it was brought up short by the chain around its neck.

    Shouts came from the top of the watchtower as the warriors there sounded the alarm. As Arioch and the others arrived, the summoner commanded one his elementals to break off its attack on the dragon. It zipped away in a blur as its twin continued to pummel the lizard until it stopped struggling altogether. When it reached a large building that the guard tower was attached to, it paused just as the door flew open, and men and women began to pour out. They were all universally tanned, but they were obviously not Mwangi natives. Their hair color ranged from darkest black to whitest blonde, and they were decorated with pentagram-shaped scars. Their teeth were filed to sharp points, and their wild-eyed expressions spoke of deep mental instability. They wore no armor, just layers of animal skins, and the only weapons they carried were notched and pitted scimitars. Arioch recognized their scars immediately: the mark of Asmodeus. Incredibly, these savages were in all likelihood descended from the Chelaxian crew of the Thrune’s Fang! It would bring him no joy to kill his fellow countrymen, but he knew that he would be doing them a favor. No true son nor daughter of Thrune would willingly choose such an existence. His resolve solidified a moment later when they tore his first elemental to shreds.

    At least a dozen cannibals emerged from the buildings surrounding the small village square. As his companions moved to engage them, Arioch began opening more rifts between worlds. First came a laughing hyena, which bounded across the square to savage one of the warriors, tearing the man’s throat out as it bore him to the ground. Next came another elemental, this one made of earth. It lumbered forward into the melee, heedless of the overwhelming numbers. Gorak towered over the cannibals as he waded into them, his sword laying about him in a blood-soaked flurry of violence. Zavasta hurled one of his bombs into another group, while Jack tumbled and somersaulted among the savages, cutting and slashing with his rapier and saber. Abruptly, a blood-curdling battle cry echoed across the campsite as a truly huge man stepped from the lighthouse. His hair was fiery red, and his eyes emerald green. He bore a large wooden shield carved with the symbol of Asmodeus on one arm, and a gleaming curved scimitar in the opposite hand. He roared again, and his people parted like a wave before him as he strode purposefully forward.

    The pause in the battle was brief, however, as the violence swirled forward once again. More cannibals fell beneath the jaws and fists of Arioch’s summoned thralls, while Gorak, Nessalin and Jack continued to ply their blades with surprising skill. Even Agnar used his dark powers to good effect, sending his zombies into the fray while he chanted prayers that resulted in small pockets of explosive sound that sent several of the savages reeling. Still, the Thrunefang cannibals had strength of numbers on their side, and it wasn’t long before Arioch’s remaining air elemental went down, followed by the hyena. Then, in a far corner of the square a small gate opened in a bamboo stockade. From it shambled a quartet of skeletal warriors, their jaws clacking and their clawed phalanges grasping. Standing behind them was a crone of a woman bedecked in an assortment of fetishes, with a black-furred monkey perched on her shoulder. Her eyes burned with zealous fervor as she commanded her undead minions forward.
    “Kill those two!” Arioch ordered, gesturing towards the red-headed chieftain and the old woman.
    Basic military strategy said that if you took out an enemy’s leadership, the rank and file would capitulate. The summoner knew they were not dealing with regular troops here, but he thought that fact might actually work in his companions’ favor. In clannish societies, leaders were often viewed as parental, or even divine. Therefore, he hoped, if the cannibals lost their ‘father’ and ‘mother,’ it might demoralize them completely. Or it might drive them into a killing frenzy. Such were the fortunes of war.

    Zavasta took the lead, hurling another bomb into the midst of the savages and opening a path to the chieftain. Jack took the opening, dodging among the burning warriors deftly, and then rolling under a powerful swing from the chief’s scimitar to come up behind the big man. Jack slashed with his sabre, opening up a large gash across the chief’s back, but the cannibal seemed not to notice. He whirled on the rogue, leaned forward and actually BIT Jack’s neck with his sharpened teeth. Jack was taken off-guard and reeled back. The chief smiled, his teeth dripping blood, and rushed forward. At that moment, however, Arioch’s earth elemental reared up behind the chieftain and slammed one of its rock-like fists into the back of the big man’s skull. The cannibal’s eyes rolled up into his head as he fell limply to the ground, comatose.

    Meanwhile, Agnar had seized control of one of the charging skeletons and turned it back on the others. In the ensuing chaos, Nessalin rushed the witch, his sword crackling with electricity as he called upon his own magic. The crone’s eyes went wide, and her hair stood on end when the young magus thrust his sword into her belly, sending the surge of energy coursing through her nervous system. She continued to twitch and shake as she collapsed, smoldering, to the ground. After that, though the cannibals showed no sign of simply giving up, nor fleeing, what remained of them was no match for the castaways. The battle was over within a matter of minutes, leaving several of the Jenivere survivors bloodied and bruised, but none seriously. Arioch had Minion call Ishirou and the others into the village, while Nessalin and Jack tied up the chieftain securely. As the group paused to catch their collective breath, the realization that the lighthouse did indeed exist, and seemed to be in relatively good repair came to all of them. Perhaps rescue from the gods-forsaken Shiv was not such a remote possibility after all.
    "Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. TEACH a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime!"

 

  • #22
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    Nice fight; it sounds like the summoner did some serious work that battle. Between an undead lord cleric and a summoner, the party's going to end up outnumbering their enemies by mid levels.

    Makes me wonder just how Jask is going to die though (other than painfully, of course).
    Never pet a burning dog.

  • #23
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    Mother Thrunefang

    “Wake up, bastard!” Zavasta delivered a solid kick to the unconscious cannibal chief’s ribs.
    The man groaned, then snarled as he realized his predicament, baring his blood-stained, filed teeth. He babbled something in a guttural language, and then spat at the alchemist. Zavasta raised his foot to kick again, but Arioch put a restraining hand on his shoulder.
    “Just a minute,” the summoner said. “I understand him…sort of. He’s speaking a pidgin form of Infernal, the tongue of fiends.”
    “Of course you would recognize it, wouldn’t you?” Zavasta sneered.
    “Most Chelaxians would,” Arioch replied blandly, “and these people, savages though they may be, are descended from Cheliax. What’s your name?” he asked the bound man.
    “I Klorak the Red!” the chieftain snarled. “Asmodeus feast on your hearts!”
    “If I were you,” Arioch said as he crouched down next to Klorak, “I’d keep a civil tongue in my head…while I still had one of each. Do you see that large fellow over there?”
    He nodded towards Gorak.
    “If you don’t answer my questions to my satisfaction, I’m going to feed you to him, starting from your toes and working my way up. Do you doubt me?”
    Klorak’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at the barbarian, then he gave one terse nod.
    “I’m glad we understand each other,” the summoner continued. “Now, we’ve been tracking two shipmates of ours, one a man, blonde hair, bearded, and the other a dark-haired woman. Their trail led us here. Where are they?”
    Klorak looked genuinely confused. “See man,” he replied. “No woman. Clan brother bring man in as prisoner.”
    Arioch cocked his head, trying to judge the truth in the man’s words.
    “Where is the man now?” he asked.
    “With the Mother,” Klorak said.
    “The old woman we killed?” Arioch nodded towards the crone’s corpse.
    Klorak shook his head. “No. That Malikadna, clan witch. Mother Thrunefang down there,” he nodded his head towards a bamboo cover near the wall of the lighthouse.
    “Jack,” Arioch called, “take a look under that lid over there, but be careful.”
    Jack moved to the cover and lifted it, then raised his eyebrows.
    “It’s a pit,” he said. “Pretty deep one.”
    “What’s down there?” Arioch asked Klorak.
    “The Mother and her children,” the chief said matter-of-factly.
    “Explain!” Arioch snapped.
    “We follow the Mother,” Klorak shrugged. “If she like sacrifices we give, then she take chosen to be her children.”
    “And is that what happened to the man that was brought to you?”
    Klorak looked confused again, as if he were trying to remember some remote memory.
    “No,” he said at length. “Clansman ask to take prisoner down to the Mother. Him honored clansman. I tell him yes. He take prisoner below.”
    “I see,” Arioch nodded.
    The summoner stood and looked at his companions.
    “I think we’ve learned all we’re going to from him,” he said. “Gorak, kill him.”
    __________________________________________________ ______

    No one openly objected to Arioch’s summary sentence of execution for the cannibal chief, but he could tell that at least Gelik and Jask were not entirely comfortable with it. The summoner was fine with that. It was probably time to start establishing a pecking order, as Jack had suggested. In Arioch’s experience with the Order of the Gate, actions spoke much louder than words.

    Once Gorak had finished his grisly work, the group fanned out to search the village thoroughly. Aside from the mundane trappings of a tribal camp, they found two things of interest. In a small room in the lighthouse, Lyrissa discovered the remains of several meals, many of which were recognizable as rations taken from the Jenivere…further proof that their quarry had indeed been in the village. The second discovery was the lighthouse itself. As it turned out, the reflector and machinery of the tower looked to be fixable with perhaps only a few days of work. They had found their salvation from the Shiv, but first there was the matter of a little payback.
    __________________________________________________ _________

    As the others prepared a rappelling line to descend into the pit, Agnar walked calmly over to the carcass of the Shiv dragon and placed his hand above it.
    “Rise,” he commanded.
    And the Shiv dragon did rise. It lurched jerkily to its feet, stood on wobbly legs for a moment, and then shook like a dog coming out of a creek, shaking the flesh from its bones.
    “Come,” the priest said, and the skeletal creature followed at his heels like a loyal cur.
    Agnar smiled grimly at the stricken look on Jask’s face as he passed.

    After much deliberation, it was decided by the castaways that Aerys, Gelik, Ishirou, Jask and Sasha would remain above in case more cannibals returned to their camp. Then one-by-one, the others dropped into the darkness of the hole. The shaft dropped down some forty feet before opening into the roof of a ten-foot high cave. The uneven floor was stained with blood and scattered with pieces of wood, fallen leaves, broken weapons, and in places, bits of bones. All-in-all, it was not a good omen. A single, narrow tunnel exited the chamber, and the group was forced to travel single-file as they began to move as quietly as possible down it.

    After a short distance, the tunnel opened into a wide but low-ceilinged cavern. The smell of decay in the air was thick and palpable. To one side, the roof dropped down to little more than three-feet in height over a region strewn with bones and bits of old flesh, while to the other, the ceiling bulged upward in a dome shape. Six circular, pod-like alcoves lined the walls on that side. As the group crouched to enter the cave, they heard the sound of low growls coming for the direction of the bone pile. Two dark shapes crouched there on all fours. They were vaguely humanoid in shape, but were so feral and gangrel in form as to be almost animalistic.
    “Fascinating!” Agnar breathed as he saw them. “They’re festrogs! I’ve read about them, but never actually seen one. Remarkable!”
    “If you’re going to tell us anything useful,” Nessalin snapped, “you’d better do it now. They don’t look like they’re exactly welcoming us!”
    “They’re victims of ghoul fever,” Agnar said in a distracted voice, “but during their transformation, something went wrong. Think of them as undead abortions. They can’t paralyze you like a ghoul, but they are much more vicious. Perfect killing machines.”
    “Looks like we’re about to find out!” Nessalin shouted, backing away as he drew his sword. “Here they come!”

    The creatures loped forward like rabid wolves, and one of them lowered its head and charged into Gorak’s legs, bringing the big barbarian down like a fallen oak. The second one bowled Jack over just as easily, and as Nessalin tried to leap out of the way, its oversized jaws clamped down on the magus’s leg.
    “Heads up!” Zavasta shouted as he hucked a flaming bomb towards the festrogs. The creatures shrieked as they leaped away from the flames, but both still suffered scorching burns from the explosion. Still, they recovered quickly and both leaped upon Gorak as he tried to rise to his feet. Agnar moved forward his hand outstretched to try and heal the barbarian’s increasing number of wounds. He did this not out of any sense of compassion for Gorak, but simply because he knew that oaf’s strong sword arm might be all that stood between himself and death. Whatever his motive, he was denied his attempt at altruism as one of the festrogs turned and viciously slashed him with its three-inch claws as he drew near. Still, the momentary distraction was all Gorak needed. The big brute roared as he surged to his feet, hurling the undead from him. One of them rolled and leaped back at him in a flash, but the barbarian’s sword was faster, and cut the creature in twain while it was still in mid-air. Before the second one could rise, Lyrissa stood over it and impaled it with her polearm.

    “Look at this,” Jack called as he sifted through the bone pile.
    He held up what looked to be a scrap of leather armor.
    “I recognize this,” the rogue said. “It belonged to the Captain. Wait a minute…there’s writing on it! Someone bring me a light!”
    Nessalin quickly obliged with a snap of his fingers.

    “ ‘I am Captain Alizadru Kovack,’” Jack read, “ ‘betrayer of my crew and destroyer of the good ship Jenivere. Hell would be a welcome escape from what hideous unlife looms before me, but it is no less a punishment than I deserve. That I was enslaved mind and body to a serpentine demon who wore a Varisian’s skin does not pardon me. It is my weakness that led the Jenivere, her crew, and her passengers to their doom. That Ieana has abandoned me here is nothing more than the fate I deserve. I do not beg forgiveness, but I despair that she lives still, and that she seeks something dire on this forsaken isle…she seemed particularly interested in Red Mountain. If you read this and you be a kind soul, seek out what I have become and destroy me, and then seek out Ieana and slay here as well. And to those whose lives I have helped destroy, I can only apologized from this, my dark cradle and darker grave.’”

    “They say confession is good for the soul,” Agnar chuckled once Jack had finished.
    “So, are we saying that he died in this room?” Nessalin asked. “Are his bones among these?”
    “Or at least he thought he was about to die,” Arioch replied.
    “You’re both wrong,” Agnar snorted. “Don’t you see? He wasn’t dying…he was transforming!”
    __________________________________________________ __________

    Another narrow passage led the group into a tall, silo-shaped cavern with a dark pool of water at its center. A stone ledge wound up towards a fifty-foot high ceiling, passing several more cave entrances along the way. For a moment, Jack thought he saw a flicker of movement, like a shadow detaching from a shadow at one of the caves high above. Then it was gone, perhaps just a trick of the darkness.

    They started up the treacherous ledge, and turned into the first tunnel they came to. After a short distance, it gave onto a long chamber that evoked the feel of an ancient, hideous cathedral. The walls were carved with images of serpents walking upright like humans, snakes coiling around and eating hapless women and children, and even stranger scenes. Four stone pillars carved like coiling snakes supported the vaulted ceiling above. Four small cells blocked by rusted bars sat in the walls on either side of the chamber, while at the far end, an immense carving of a snake’s head loomed, an ash-caked door clenched in its jaws, while at the near end rose a horrific mound of bones and partially decayed bodies arranged almost as if to evoke the imagery of a coiled snake made of corpses. Agnar smiled appreciatively at the tableau.

    Abruptly, a pair of hissing, shrieking ghouls appeared at the top of the carrion heap, their heads cocked inquisitively at the fresh meant that had just entered their larder. Jack’s eyes widened as they began to advance, because one of them, though emaciated, pale and blood-streaked, was very obviously Captain Alizandru Kovack! Then, before he could fully process what he was seeing, the creatures charged. Whether it was truly recognition, coupled with hatred or regret, the thing that had once been captain of the Jenivere came directly for his former crewmen, of which Jack was foremost. The ghoul slashed at him with its filthy nails, shredding his tunic and the skin beneath. The rogue fell backwards, feeling the monster’s fetid breath on his throat. Suddenly, the ghoul was lifted bodily into the air as Gorak seized it by the neck. It writhed and twisted, spitting and biting even as the barbarian impaled it on his sword. Moments later, its companion followed it into oblivion on the tip of Lyrissa’s spear. As Gorak pulled his sword free from the captain’s chest, Agnar rubbed his hands together greedily as he stood over the corpse.
    “I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since I found out it was your fault I’m stranded here, you bastard!” the priest sneered. “Now we’ll see how you like eternity as my slave!”
    “No,” Nessalin said, placing himself in front of Agnar.
    “You’ll get out of my way if you’re smart, boy!” Agnar snarled.
    “He’s paid his debt,” the magus said flatly, magic crackling at his fingertips. “I won’t see him defiled in this way. It’s enough.”
    “Not for me!” the priest shouted. “I’m taking my pound of flesh!”
    “Then take it from Ieana when we find her,” Arioch replied, moving to stand beside Nessalin.
    Agnar glared at the pair, and then looked around. Lyrissa, Jack and Gorak all eyed him grimly. Only Zavasta stood by him.
    “This isn’t the end of this by a long shot!” the priest snapped as he turned on his heel and strode away.

    Near the door in the serpent’s mouth lay several empty bottles of colored glass.
    “I recognized these,” Lyrissa said as she retrieved one of them. “Ieana was carrying them on the Jenivere.”
    “Let me see that,” Zavasta said. He took the bottle and sniffed at its mouth. “Healing draught,” he pronounced.
    “Looks like our wily Varisian got herself into some trouble here,” Arioch said as he brushed a layer of ash from the door. “Unless I miss my guess, this door had a warding glyph. Guess Ieana’s not as smart as we’ve been led to believe.”
    “She’s smart enough to still be alive,” Nessalin commented.
    The door was unlocked, and badly damaged. A small room lay beyond, in the middle of which sat a low stone altar, its sides carved like coiling snakes and its top carved to resemble a yawning viper’s maw. The walls of the chamber itself were carved with images of anthropomorphic serpents using strange, pointed megaliths of stone to work great feats of magic…transforming an army of humans into zombies, calling down flaming bolts of lightning from the stars, or parting the waters of the sea to dash human ships upon the exposed rocks of the seabed below. The final image seemed to have been recently cleaned of dust, and several lines of text had been made more legible via the application of inks and perhaps blood.
    “Fascinating,” Agnar mused. “I believe these are carvings of serpent folk!”
    “The savage jungle snakes?” Arioch asked.
    Agnar rolled his eyes. “You should study your history more, Hellknight. Thousands of years ago, the serpent folk ruled empires mightier than any that exist today. What you see today are just degenerate cast-offs of a once-glorious civilization. I’d like to have a closer look at these pictograms and see just what our little fugitive was interested in.”
    “We’ll come back for it,” Arioch replied. “If there’s a chance Ieana is still here, then we need to find her. Let’s keep moving.”
    __________________________________________________ __________

    The group continued up the narrow, winding path up the conical cavern. Several smaller caves they passed along the way proved empty. Finally, they reached the top and a long cavern scattered with bones, body parts and bits of seaweed. A hole in the floor on the far side echoed with the sloshing of waves. Four ghouls crouched near the hole, and behind them stood what might have once been a woman, but was now a gaunt, green-skinned horror with long ears, a pointed tongue, and rotting flesh. She wore tattered rags, and a small snake’s skull on a thong of hair around her neck.
    “You impress me, children,” she said in a rasping voice, her tongue lolling in what passed for a smile. “Since you killed all of my Thrunefangs, I will be wanting new subjects to supply me with fresh sacrifices. I offer you all the gift of immortality!”
    “You don’t know what true immortality is!” Agnar answered. “You grovel here in your hole, a queen among scavengers, while a bunch of filthy savages bring you scraps! I make you a counter-offer, ‘Mother Thrunefang.’ Kneel before me now, and I will make you first among my minions. Think carefully before you answer. The Ferryman does not make such offers twice.”
    “Impudent fool!” Nylithati spat. “Kill them all!” she commanded her thralls. “But take the priest alive!”

    Anticipating the turn of events, Arioch had already prepared his summoning. A small air elemental, whirling like a dust devil burst among the ghouls. On its heels, he called an earth elemental, which quickly sank into the stone floor of the cave, only to reemerge a moment later in the midst of the fiends as well.
    “Great move!” Jack cheered. “I’ve got a straight shot to the old lady!”
    “Jack, no!” Arioch shouted, but it was too late. The rogue was off and running.
    Jack threw himself into a tumbling dive and came up on his feet right next to Nylithati. He grinned fiercely as he gripped both of his blades, but his smile turned to confusion as Mother Thrunefang waggled a finger at him. In a flash, all four ghouls were upon him like a pack of wild dogs. Jack went down beneath them, and when the lacedons turned back to the elementals, the rogue lay motionless on the ground.

    Lyrissa, inexplicably, began to sing. As she did, she wove a spell into the words, and a moment later a patch of greasy oil appeared beneath the feet of one of the ghouls. It slipped and fell to the floor, and the earth elemental pounced on it. Gorak took the opportunity to wade in, his wide swing grazing Nylithati’s chest. Hissing with rage, she bared her claws and leaped at him. At her command, one of the ghouls turned on the big barbarian as well. As it moved to attack, however, it suddenly jerked upright, whirled around, and then leaped at one of its brethren.
    “I warned you!” Agnar grinned evilly as he winked at Nylithati. “Just like your pathetic pets, you will be mine as well!”
    The ghoul on the ground in the grease stain struggled to regain its feet, but as it slipped again, Gorak spun away from Nylithati and cut it down. Behind him, Nessalin and Zavasta took down another one, the magus’ blade crackling with magical energy, and the alchemist’s bomb doing the rest. Gorak started to turn back to Nylithati, but as he did, she seized his shoulder with alarming strength, dislocating it as she spun him completely to face her. Her other hand flashed out, he claws slashing across the barbarian’s throat. He fell, still breathing, barely, but bleeding profusely. She then leapfrogged over her two minions tearing at each other’s throats and pounced on Lyrissa. The bardess couldn’t bring her polearm to bear, and fell back, struggling to keep the ghoul away from her throat. Agnar could tell that Mother Thrunefang was coming for him. He suddenly felt his control of his ghoul wrenched away, as Nylithati sent them both howling towards his allies. Her red eyes locked on to Agnar’s, and she charged, all teeth and claws. The priest back-pedaled, but he knew he wasn’t fast enough. Just as Nylithati leaped, however, Zavasta caught her with a direct hit from one of his bombs. She fell to the floor in flames, screaming and thrashing. Nessalin saw his chance and rushed her, his scimitar laced with electricity. As she tried to rise, he slashed her throat, sending a jolt of lightning through her body. The splash from Zavasta’s bomb strike set one of the charging ghouls alight as well, and it fell halfway through its assault. The final one was no match for Arioch’s elementals, and it went down in a flurry of wind and stone.
    __________________________________________________ ___________

    Jack and Gorak were still alive, but in bad shape. Lyrissa tended their wounds and prepared them to be moved back topside. Nessalin stood over Jack, his thoughts a jumble. During their time together on the Jenivere, they’d been on good terms. Not exactly friends, but close enough as far as shipmates went. Ever since the wreck, however, Jack had been acting erratically, throwing himself into deadly situations without a second thought, and consequently putting the rest of them at risk. For the briefest of moments, Nessalin considered killing Jack where he lay. After all, it was possible that the rogue had contracted ghoul fever from his wounds, wasn’t it? Suddenly, he didn’t feel so well. He felt hot and cold at the same time, and maybe a bit nauseous. His vision swam, and darkness took him.
    __________________________________________________ ________

    As it turned out, Jack, Gorak and Nessalin had all contracted ghoul fever. Jask spent the next several days tending to them, working slavishly to keep them alive. During the interim, several of the castaways set about assessing what repairs the lighthouse would need to be restored to full operation. Agnar, meanwhile, Agnar went back into the caves to further investigate the strange pictograms and writings they’d discovered in the chamber beyond the snake’s mouth. He puzzled out that the god the serpentfolk in the carvings were worshipping was called Ydersius. The name was vaguely familiar from some of his basic studies. The ritual depicted in the carvings was an odd one: it showed serpentfolk splashing blood on curved runes carved on upright stones before a red mountain, and then holding venomous against the blood that they might lick the stones, pouring water onto a pyramid-shaped block of red stone from a bowl, and standing before the pyramid of stone with arms upraised and mouths agape as if shouting to the heavens as a bolt of lightning arced up from the stones into the sky. Writing beneath the carvings read:

    ‘To command the very tides to rise up and eschew what lies below: empower the four sentinel runes with the blood of a thinking creature tempered by the kiss of a serpent’s tongue. Anoint the tide stone with waters brought from the sea in a vessel of purest metal. Invoke the Lord’s sacred name to wrap His coils around the sea itself that He might lay bare what lies below and cast down your enemies on the waves above.’
    __________________________________________________ ___________

    “I think I know what Ieana is up to,” the priest announced when he returned to the surface.
    At that moment, from somewhere several miles south of the village, bolts of lightning lanced from the ground towards the sky, and a sound of distant rumbling, like prolonged thunder, filled the air.
    “Too late,” Agnar said.
    "Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. TEACH a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime!"

  • #24
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    While I'm getting caught up on the StoryHour after a week at GenCon, I recommend ya'll check out WarEagleMage's Adventures in Darkmoon Vale. WarEagleMage is currently playing Lyrissa in this campaign, but he's started an at-home game with his kids and their friends, all around 10 or 11. Reading it reminds me of when I picked up my first set of dice. It was all downhill from there!
    "Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. TEACH a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime!"

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    The Red Mountain Devil

    “You’re sure it’s her?” Arioch asked.
    “No, I’m not sure,” Agnar shrugged, “but who else shipwrecked us here, left us to die, turned the captain into a ghoul, and just happened to be researching some ancient ritual involving magic stones that shoot lightning into the sky?”
    “I see your point,” the summoner conceded. “So what now?”
    He turned to the others. The other castaways stood in circle in the middle of the Thrunefang encampment. Some of them looked nervous, and all of them looked uncertain about the events of the past few days.
    “I want some payback,” Nessalin was the first to answer.
    “What about getting rescued?” Gelik asked. “The lighthouse is almost ready!”
    “Then it will still be ready in a week,” Nessalin snapped. “You can stay here if you want.”
    “Actually, I don’t think that’s a bad idea,” Arioch interjected. “I’m not about to let Ieana get away with this either, but I don’t think all of us need to go after her. Some should stay here and keep working on the lighthouse. If the rest of us aren’t back within a week, then someone needs to signal a passing ship and be able to tell the tale of what happened here. Ishirou, I think you should be in charge of this group, not because I don’t feel you’re capable of coming with us, but because I think you are best able to defend the others if there are any more Thrunefangs still out there.”
    The old sailor thought about it for a few moments, then nodded silently.
    “So who else is going?” Nessalin asked.
    One by one, others raised their hands: Jack, Agnar, Gorak, Lyrissa, Zavasta…and Jask.
    “You??” Agnar asked, shocked. “Why are you going?”
    “To protect the others from you,” the priest replied simply.
    “It’s settled then,” Arioch smiled slightly. “We leave immediately.”
    __________________________________________________ __________

    The group set out along the coast, heading generally south and east, towards a distant mountain with a reddish hue. That seemed to be the source of the strange weather they’d observed. It turned out not to be a short trek, however. It took many days, monotonous slogs punctuated by the occasional discovery of another derelict shipwreck, or the sudden, unexpected attack by some of the local wildlife. Finally, they reached the red mountain, which was really not much more than a high bluff that overlooked a sheltered bay. Four stone monoliths that appeared as jagged stalagmites of rock protruded from the grass at the edge of the cliff. A weathered, snakelike rune was carved into the inner face of each of the stones, all of which faced a three-foot-high pyramid-shaped block of stone at the center of the four surrounding spires. The vegetation and soil that surrounded the pyramid had been trimmed back and excavated to expose the strange block fully to view. The peak of the pyramid had a cup-shaped indentation, and channels ran down the four sides into empty basins at its base.

    “It’s exactly like the pictograms depicted,” Agnar remarked.
    “So now what?” Nessalin asked.
    “Well first we need some blood,” the priest smiled, “from an intelligent creature. I nominate Jask.”
    “I’ll do it,” Nessalin volunteered before another good priest/bad priest argument erupted.
    The magus took his rapier and pricked his palm with the tip.
    “Next?” he asked Agnar.
    “Smear it on each of the runes on the pillars,” Agnar instructed.
    Nessalin nodded and placed his palm on each the sigils in turn.
    “Now we need snakes,” Agnar said.
    “Covered,” Arioch replied.
    The summoner then proceeded to conjure up a writhing viper out of thin air.
    “Outstanding!” Agnar nodded. “Hold it up to each of the pillars. It’s supposed to lick the blood.”
    “I’m not entirely comfortable with this pagan ritual,” Jask said.
    “What a surprise,” Agnar snapped. “No one asked you to come. Ieana came here, and she performed this same ritual. If we’re going to find her, we need to retrace her steps exactly.”
    “It’s going to be ok,” Arioch reassured the Sargavan. “Let’s just get it over with.”
    “We need water in a metal bowl or container,” Agnar said as he looked around. “Gorak, your helm.”
    The big barbarian looked confused.
    “Take your helmet off,” the priest sighed, “and go get some water in it. Don’t spill it.”
    Gorak nodded and hurried off. He returned a few moments later with his helm full. Agnar took it from him and poured it atop the central pyramid, where it ran down the four channels to collect in the basins below.
    “Ydersius!!” Agnar then shouted as he tossed the helmet aside.
    Suddenly, tremendous bolts of lightning arced up into the sky from the surrounding stone monoliths. All of the castaways were hurled to the ground by the shockwave, their ears bleeding as their drums ruptured. The ground began to shake as a sound like thunder, more felt than heard, emanated from the lagoon below the bluff. Jack crawled to his feet and peered over the edge. To his utter amazement and shock, he saw the waters roiling and receding out to sea, exposing rocks, flopping fish, and several sunken ships to the air. At the base of the cliff, a pair of large stone doors previously hidden by the water, slowly and noisily ground open as the water level lowered.
    “You have to see this!” Jack shouted as he turned towards the others, but then something else caught his eye.
    A monstrous creature was rising up above the other side of the bluff on great, leathery wings. It was otherwise reptilian, and roughly the size of a man, with clawed talons and an oversized jaw filled with fangs suited for ripping and tearing. As the others started to stand, the creature let out a deafening roar and dove towards them.

    The monster swooped low and slashed at Jask just as the cleric reached his feet. He was knocked reeling, tumbling dangerously close to the edge of the bluff. Agnar couldn’t suppress a soft chuckle, and silently prayed that the bothersome holy roller was dead. As the creature banked and wheeled for another pass, however, Arioch tore open a rift in the sky before it. The whirlwind form of an air elemental came rushing out and buffeted the beast, making it veer off course towards Lyrissa instead. As it moved in, Jack appeared out of nowhere, running and leaping into the air, attempting to grab the monster’s legs. It swiped viciously at him, sending him spinning away. Lyrissa managed to get her pole arm up and slash at the beast, but it still bit down hard on her arm. She cried out in dismay as she felt herself being lifted into the sky, but then a second elemental answered Arioch’s call, and the pair of them hammered into the winged devil from both sides. It shrieked and wheeled away again, heading for edge of the cliff, attempting to escape. At Arioch’s command, the elementals pursued. They easily closed the distance with the monster, but as they drew near, it turned on them, ripping one of them out of the air. The second one, however, beat it mercilessly about the head as it grappled, until finally, it fell screeching towards the jagged rocks below.
    __________________________________________________ __________

    Several ledges, each connected by rickety-looking rope bridges, led down into a rocky cleft to the beach below. The castaways slowly picked their way down the hundred-foot descent to the seaweed-covered rocks and tide pools where the lagoon used to be. The sandbars between the pools weren’t very far apart, but as the group began jumping cautiously from one to the next, Agnar lost his footing on the slippery rocks and plunged into one of the deeper pools. With his armor and gear weighing him down, the priest began to sink. Though most of the water in the lagoon had receded, waves still washed over the rocks and pools, and the current was strong. Agnar found himself struggling desperately as it pulled him deeper and deeper. Then he saw the shadowy form swimming towards him out of the murk. The shark opened its jaws and rolled its eyes up as it struck.

    When he first saw the blood appear in the water, Gorak did not hesitate, but simply dove in. Whether it was out of a sense of duty to save his comrade, or just a basic instinctive reaction to bloodlust, he couldn’t say. What he did realize much too late, however, was that he had never learned to swim during his time on the open plains of the Stolen Lands. He promptly sank like a rock.
    “Why does it seem like I’m the one who always has to save these idiots?” Jack sighed as he stripped off his shirt and plunged into the tidal pool.
    “I keep asking myself that same question,” Arioch muttered.
    The summoner shook out his sleeves, and began a calling. A moment later, a pair of red-skinned porpoises with dorsal fins that were hooked and barbed, and teeth like those of a barracuda, appeared and dove into the water.
    “What…what were those…things?” Jask asked.
    “Hell-spawned dolphins,” Arioch replied.
    “Oh,” the priest said, “that’s what I thought.”

    The fiendish dolphins rammed and harassed the great blue shark, forcing it away from Agnar, and allowing the priest to kick frantically towards the surface. The shark turned on its attackers and tore at them viciously. The water frothed with gore and blood, and out of the murk swam Jack, his sabre clenched in his teeth. With the shark distracted, the rogue grabbed his blade, and then shoved it into the gills of the huge fish. The shark heeled over and began to sink slowly towards the bottom, the hellish dolphins quickly following, eager to feed. Jack glanced up and saw that Agnar had safely reached the surface, while below, Gorak was slowly being pulled out to sea by the current. Jack swam down, uncoiling a rope from his belt as he went. He caught up to the big barbarian, who in turn grabbed the rope and wrapped it around his waist. Jack then swam upwards for all that he was worth, but his chest burned, and he knew he was not going to make it. Suddenly, the terrifying dolphins were at his sides, lifting him upwards. His head broke the surface just as his breath gave out, and behind him, Gorak came up sputtering as well. Agnar was already back up on the sandbar, and Zavasta cast another rope out to Jack and Gorak, hauling them back into calmer waters.

    “You’re injured,” Jask said as he kneeled down next to Agnar.
    “You have a flare for the obvious,” the necromancer growled.
    “I’d be happy to help you,” Jask shrugged. “All you have to do is dismiss your undead servant.”
    He looked over to where the skeletal form of the Shiv dragon crouched on the rocks.
    “Go to Hell!” Agnar snarled.
    “I thought that’s how you’d feel,” Jask smiled. “Just thought I’d offer anyway.”
    He got up and strode away, leaving Agnar bleeding on the sand.
    __________________________________________________ _______

    Between the exposed sandbars and the open stone doors at the bottom of the lagoon lay the front two-thirds of a wrecked ship upon the rocks. Its bow was still mostly submerged, but its ruined midsection was propped up on a ridge of slimy shoal. The sides of the wreck were thick with seaweed and barnacles, and dozens of crabs clattered around on the deck. The group clambered across the listing deck, spotting an open hatch that led below decks as they did so. Jack glanced down as he passed, and saw what looked like the remains of a galley. On the far side of the seaweed-draped room, he could just see a door propped open by a rotting chair.
    “Wait a minute,” he called to the others.
    “What now?” Agnar barked. “We don’t know how long those doors are going to be open, or when this place is going to be flooded again! You may not have noticed, but I don’t swim so well.”
    “It won’t take long,” Jack said as he lowered himself through the hatch. “I’ll be right back.”
    Jack was on a mission, one that he said nothing of to his fellow travelling companions. He’d insisted on searching every shipwreck they’d come across since being marooned on the Shiv. He’d both hoped and dreaded finding what he’d been looking for ever since he took passage aboard the Jenivere…his father’s colors. It had been awhile since he’d heard of any sightings of One-eyed Clyde, and Jack had come to believe that his father might truly be dead like the rumors alleged. So far, he’d found nothing, but that didn’t stop him from continuing his search. Now he crept towards the open door behind the galley, and pulled it slowly open.

    Once a fine cabin, perhaps even the captain’s cabin, the chamber was in ruins. The furniture, including a crushed desk and a bed, lay in a heap near the bow, and seaweed and other tidal life glistened on the walls. A layer of seawater covered the floor, deeper near the bow than by the door. Suddenly, the water erupted in a fountain as a small creature leaped into the air. It was vaguely humanoid, but had wings on its back, and on the whole, looked to be made of pure liquid. A tricorn hat was perched jauntily on its head.
    “Stand tall, sailor!” the creature commanded. “Report on this damnable low tide!”
    “Umm, excuse me?” Jack asked.
    “Get the barnacles out o’yer ears, boy!” the creature snapped. “I asked fer yer report! That be an order!”
    “Umm, I’m sorry, er, Captain…?”
    “Ekubus!” the creature barked. “Cap’n o’the Salty Strumpet! Who be ye?”
    “I’m Jack, Jack Clyde,” Jack answered. “You wouldn’t know if your crew included a man called One-eyed Clyde, would you?”
    “Never heard o’im!” Ekubus said. “Me last First Mate got himself carried off by that winged devil topside! Now, what o’ this low tide? This be the second time it’s happened in a fortnight!”
    “Really?” Jack asked. “Did you see another person…like me the first time?”
    “Nah, not like ye!” Ekubus shook his head. “Was a funny lookin’ critter what came down from the ledge and swam over to them scary doors, then went inside like a damned fool!”
    “Funny looking?” Jack asked. “How so?”
    “Well, it had a snake head and a snake tail!” Ekubus shrieked. “That were funny lookin’ enough fer me! Just ask Patrick and Krusty there. They’ll tell ye the same!”
    Jack looked around and saw a forlorn looking crab and a starfish lying on the deck. They didn’t look particularly communicative.
    “I’ll…take your word for it,” he replied to Ekubus. “Why did you say that those doors were scary?”
    “Don’t ye think underwater doors with pictures o’ vampires on’em is scary?” Ekubus said.
    “Uh…yeah, I guess I do,” Jack agreed.
    “Then I guess yer head ain’t made o’ wood!” Ekubus snapped. “Now, go take care o’ this low tide, and leave me t’me work!”
    With that, the odd little creature dove back into the surf.
    "Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. TEACH a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime!"

  • #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jollydoc
    Lyrissa, inexplicably, began to sing.
    This has to be what everyone thinks, when they see a bard in action. Why the hell is this idiot singing? Did I wander onto the set of a Broadway musical instead of a dungeon?
    Never pet a burning dog.

  • #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Hammerhead View Post
    This has to be what everyone thinks, when they see a bard in action. Why the hell is this idiot singing? Did I wander onto the set of a Broadway musical instead of a dungeon?
    True that. Bards probably make the least sense out of any class.
    Wait, he did what?!
    Yes, he burned down the reinforced adamantine gates, sir. We don't know how, but all indicators seem to support that claim.

    [No fortification is safe from a psychopath with pet hellfire engines - the PC's know of at least 3]

  • #28
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    I agree that the spontaneous singing is pretty ridiculous. Which is why Lyrissa doesn't sing. She does perform oratory and dance, however. I think our good doctor was just taking a little creative license in his SH. As for the validity of bards, I think it's a situational thing. We have a large party, and all the primary roles are covered. While the fluff surrounding them may annoy some, bards are a force multiplier when it comes to the bonuses they provide to everyone in the party. Those quickly add up. Lyrissa is currently designed to a) provide buffs to the party in the form of performances and spells, b) to impose de-buffs on enemies in the form of dazzling display and spells, c) to be the party's diplomancer, d)to assist in melee combat using her reach/trip weapon, e) to be a backup party wand healer, f) to utilize UMD to be a cast-anything caster. There you have it. She's primarily a buffer/de-buffer, but she can contribute as a secondary anything. I wanted to play a character that can do something every round, and Lyrissa fits that bill nicely.
    You will learn respect
    And suffering will be your teacher

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    Speechifying and pole-dancing don't make much sense on a battlefield either...
    "Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. TEACH a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime!"

  • #30
    Well I for one would be dazed watching a pole-dancer on the battlefield.
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