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Sunday, 25th April, 2004, 09:56 PM #91
Novice (Lvl 1)
I'll still check the site regurlarly... ;-)
BTW, do you know when your next post will be, Shemeska?
(hoping that my contribution to the 'kidnappers' of Shemeska will keep their promise...)
Monday, 26th April, 2004, 01:54 PM #92
Superhero (Lvl 15)
It'll be sometime this week, hopefully sooner rather than later. I was done with the majority of the next update as of 4am Saturday morning, but I didn't like the flow of it and it seemed a bit rushed. So in the name of quality control and 'not wanting my players to beat me up for misrepresenting their characters' I'm sitting on it for the moment till I have time to revise it.
I'll make up for the delay by writing more onto the end. And I guess I should add that I had intended to run a varient of this plot at GenCon this year possibly, so belated spoilers.
Or I could run a varient of the Pandemonium plot I'll get to writing up here in the storyhour eventually some time down the line... and my players can cringe at the memories of that one. Muahaha.
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 10:46 AM #93
Superhero (Lvl 15)
I reveal a little and then leave you at a cliffhanger. Muahaha!
With a slight bit of trepidation as the five looked at each other, they hurled themselves over the edge of the cube face to fly down into the ebon void. The air grew chill as they flew further and further into the darkness and away from the last cube. The continent sized block of metal receded at a rate far quicker than it should have, and when it began to grow suddenly distant and far off there was a slight shudder in the air as they passed the ephemeral dividing line between the first and second layer of Acheron.
Fyrhowl looked over at Nisha as they flew onwards. The tiefling seemed even more disturbed than before, shivering every so often and looking distinctly uncomfortable.
“Are you ok there Nisha?” the lupinal asked. The tiefling shrugged and looked around at the broken, weathered cubes and the other less distinct shapes that hung like dulled ornaments on sackcloth around them near and far.
“No, the planes getting to me. I’m about as chaotic as they come, and well, Acheron isn’t… I’ll be fine though. It’s just going to make me feel a bit sick if we stay here much longer. If that’s all I feel though while we’re here, that’s fine. Believe me, it could get a lot worse than it has.”
Perhaps the plane heard the Xaositect (yet though she it to hadn’t that companions she was mentioned her) and sought to pick out the chaotic irritation blundering about upon it, or perhaps true to form for the tiefling, things simply happened by random chance just because and without any real reason. As she and her companions flew down in the dark, following the direction of their planar compass, something saw them and acted.
Turning visible at the last possible moment as it dove screaming out of the void, a green skinned, thin winged beast careened towards the group with a mind-piercing shriek. Seated upon its back in a cushioned saddle sat a richly robed, tiger headed humanoid. Before they could react, the Rakshasa loosed a spell from a wand in one backwards-pawed hand and its Yrthrak mount bellowed a cone of deafening sound.
A tiny flaming bead closed the distance between the companions and their attacker, growing larger as it sped towards them before exploding in their midst with a pyroclastic roar. Already in motion, they avoided most of the flames, but none of them escaped unsinged or unhurt.
“Oh son of a bitch!” Toras exclaimed as he glanced at the rider and its mount wheeling around for a second pass. Nisha’s eyes grew wide as she recognized the type of fiend attacking them and she dove downwards and away from the group should it loose another area affecting spell.
Clueless and Fyrehowl, both of them used to flight, and attacking while doing so, shot off to intercept the Rakshasa as Toras hovered next to the priestess as she began to invoke the name of her patron power. Halfway to the fiend, the bladesinger and the lupinal saw two spells strike at the greenish, screaming mount. Tiny, flaming barbs shot out from a wand in Nisha’s hands as a golden burst of light erupted on the Yrthrak. The mount stumbled in its flight, slowing down long enough for the two fighters to close within striking distance.
The Rakshasa bellowed a string of curses in heavily accented infernal, all of the words being half roared and half spoken. A bolt of lightning struck out at clueless and Fyrhowl as the fiend held up one paw, half an invocation for the magic, and half in a crude gesture. The bolt flung wide as the Rakshasa’s mount jerked in pain, barely missing Clueless as he rolled to his left and slashed at the mount with his sword. The blade bit deep on the creature, as it made no attempt to avoid. In fact, the Yrthrak seemed to be still in some state of shock or disorientation following Aren’s spell.
The fiend roared again and slashed with a black bladed scimitar at Fyrehowl as her sword carved into the mount twice in long slashes across its flank before a third slash buried itself into its back. A spray of black blood drifted out, falling into the void and the mount screamed madly in pain, convulsing as it died.
Abandoning his shuddering mount, the Rakshasa hurled himself off the mount and into open space, hurtling downwards in a flying rustle of black robes flapping in the updraft. Fyrehowl moved to return to the other three party members as the fiend fell out of sight, still snarling impotently in fainter and fainter outbursts. Clueless however did the opposite and hurled himself downwards, chasing after the sorcerer with his sword out and aimed for its heart. The half-fey’s black wings shimmered in the darkness and swept back behind him as he sped downwards towards the fiend. A second later he struck and nearly skewered the fiend through to the hilt of his blade.
The fiend choked and spasmed as Clueless perched atop him, driving the blade in deeper till the hate in the Rakshasa’s eyed dulled and died as it did too. Before launching himself back up with a flurried beating of his own wings, the bladesinger paused to snatch at several rings on the fiend’s hands and grab the wand clutched in its rapidly hardening deathgrip.
“Hmm… have to look at these later…” he muttered to himself as he looked up at his fellows in the distance slowly retreat as the corpse of the fiend slowly plummeted into the void. A moment later and he was speeding back towards them with the Rakshasa’s former possessions stuffed into his pockets.
Back together, Aren was slowly healing the burns suffered by the group during the ambush. There were winces as her spells took effect, but soon enough they had all mostly recovered. Nisha was fiddling with the compass again, regaining her sense of direction and bearings.
“Where’s it pointing towards? I hope we’re not running into a cube full of those things…” Fyrehowl said to the rogue as Toras gripped his sword and muttered a soft, “I wouldn’t mind it…”
“Somewhere I’d rather not be? Which is about anywhere on this sodding plane?” she mused and flicked her tail to one side derisively.
“Oh it’s not that bad. Well it is, but you get to kill things and know that they’re all better off dead. You just can’t pass that up when you have the chance.” Toras smiled as Fyrehowl did the same and nodded, “Yeah, well there is that. I can’t say it isn’t true…”
Aren simply shrugged and Clueless chuckled, but with that momentary pause they moved in the direction indicated by Nisha. The planar compass, attuned to their target, drew them closer and closer to one specific cube that hung in the void, battered and forgotten. Deep furrows scarred the surface on three sides as it slowly spun and drifted, reflecting dim light and casting deep, long shadows over a pitted landscape burrowed through with holes like a rotting apple of cast iron hurled into the night to be feasted upon by great steel worms.
The air was silent as they neared the surface and one of the larger holes that burrowed deep into the core of the cube.
“Umm… damn. You go first Toras.” Nisha said as she paused at the lip of the cave mouth. Toras raised an eyebrow and looked down into the darkness.
Fyrehowl and Aren scanned the depths of the hole before shaking their heads in concert. “It’s deep, but there’s nothing down there that I can see.” The lupinal said.
“I really hope whatever made this hole isn’t down there… goblins I can deal with, but anything that ate its way down into there… no.” Clueless breathed deeply as he snuffed the faerie fire dancing over his wings before following Toras downwards.
The cave was steep but oddly smooth as the party descended into the depths. After several hundred feet the air grew warm and slightly humid. Patches and dots of rust were speckled across the walls around them from the moisture, and somewhere far off in the distance they could make out the faint sounds of rushing water. Fyrehowl’s ears perked to the noise.
“Well that’s not natural. Not for this layer of the plane anyways. And it smells… it smells nauseating almost, and there’s soot on the air as well. I’d say more but its too far off still.” The lupinal sniffed at the air and looked curiously at her companions as they continued.
A quarter mile down the tunnel, the passage began to widen and the sound of faint water became a closer rushing of a river or waterfall. A slow and lazy mixture of warm steam and thin smoke wafted up from the depths the closer they grew to their target. Fyrhowl paused abruptly, moments before she and Nisha stopped the others with a frantic waving of the tiefling’s arms and a finger over the lupinal’s lips.
“SSssshhh! G-o-b-l-i-n-s. A-h-e-a-d. B-e, q-u-i-e-t.” she mouthed as she pointed towards two lips of stone some thirty yards or so down the tunnel where it began to curve into a horizontal passage rather than a vertical shaft.
The others looked towards the spots the tiefling had motioned towards. Painted to resemble normal stone, and largely obscured by several outcroppings of iron saturated rock sat two guard posts. Manning their bases and roofs were a half dozen goblinoids each, armed with pikes and wicked looking crossbows that glimmered in the darkness.
Unspoken between them, the five crept slowly and laboriously against the cave walls above the sentries, hoping to avoid detection. The guards seemed bored and utterly at ease at their posts. In all likelihood the cube had never before been under siege by their orcish enemies, and their lax attitude worked to the advantage of the companions as they made their way past.
Creeping along at a snails pace now, the tunnel gradually became filled with a flickering greenish glow that filtered through a haze of smoke and steam that clung to the roof like a flowing, living thing. The sounds of rushing water grew louder along with the sounds of repeated blows of metal against metal. As the tunnel opened into a large cavern, the source of the noise, light and heat became clear.
Bisecting the cavern was a rushing black surge of syrupy water, likely a wayward tributary of the Styx. Lines of goblins made their way from the river, collecting buckets of the foul fluid, and made their way towards several squat buildings to one side of the infernal waterway. Furnaces built into the structures belched gouts of roaring greenish flames into the air along with rushes of smoke and steam that cast brilliant but harsh, flickering, and sporadic surges of light and shadows across the cavern. Another, longer line of goblins and non-goblin slaves stretched from the furnaces towards the far side of the cavern to collect raw ore cut from the cube itself.
Sitting upon a rise in the cavern floor and stretching nearly to the roof above, watching over the whole of the forgeworks below, sat a double towered keep of bluish black steel and dressed stone. At the rear of the party, Nisha looked at the planar compass and muttered, “No, it couldn’t be one of the slaves. It had to be someone stuck in the heavily defended and fortified keep. Wonderful.”
Clueless held back a snicker at the tieflings obvious enamored feelings about the plane and their current task. “Do you have any more invisibility potions? I really don’t think we’re going to just waltz past all of those slaves, their handlers and any guards watching from that keep and… ! Get down, they’ve got beholders!”
The bladesinger ducked back behind a ragged chunk of rust frosted iron at the opening of the cavern. Drifting slowly into view from behind one of the clouds of smoke that rose from the furnaces was a pair of chitinous orbs, each dotted with eyestalks and a single central eye. A number of soft curses resounded from the companions as they snuck glances out to count a total of three eye tyrants patrolling the area, along with one slightly different and larger example.
“What in the Nine Hells is that one?” Nisha asked, pointing to the larger variant orb.
“Not good, they’ve got a spectator… it’s probably directing the others, keeping them in telepathic contact with each other. Sometimes they can see through illusions.” Fyrehowl growled softly after answering the tiefling’s question.
“It’s a pretty regular pattern of patrols they’ve got. I think we can wait, go invisible and then make a run for it. We can make it assuming we can find a quick way into the keep. And… you do have more invisibility potions, right Nisha?” Toras said quietly with some confidence.
“Yeah, not many more. But I carry extra, this week anyways. This gnome in the Lower Ward wasn’t… I mean to say, this potion making fiend in the Hive wasn’t being careful with his bags when… don’t look at me like that, all of you.” Nisha replied with a grin equivalent to a child being caught with their hand stuffed into a jar of cookies. She flicked her tail in the lupinal’s direction as she handed out potions.
Toras looked at her in a mildly disapproving manner before glancing at the keep and commenting on their plan of action, “The gate’s pretty well sealed up it looks like. How about one of the towers there? They don’t look defended and there’s a stone lip around the top of them. So unless there’s guards stationed at the top, it’s probably a safe spot to hide till the beholders make another pass through the area. I’d bet there’s got to be some sort of entrance on the top there as well.”
“Sounds good to me. Ready? On the count of three.” Nisha nodded, quaffed a potion and faded from view to leave only a faint impression in the dusting of rust on the ground, subtly moved and broken by the shifting of her tail.
“Two, One, Three!” and with the tiefling’s out of pattern count, they bolted from behind their hiding space and launched themselves out across the cavern as the beholders moved out of direct line of sight. The smoke that billowed out across their path burned their skin and stung their eyes with fragments of burning coals and stray sparks of forge iron. But undaunted, they sped across the cavern, upwards towards the keep, to bolt over the lip of one of the towers just before the roving squad of eye tyrants returned to gaze across where they had just been.
The group sat motionless on the iron-laced stone of the parapet until the many-eyed guards passed overhead before more closely examining their surroundings. The lip was broken by arrow slits angled out towards the main entrance to the cavern, and an iron trapdoor sat in the center of the floor. Otherwise the ramparts were unoccupied and undefended.
“So, this time are you going to let me pick the lock?” Nisha asked, looking up towards Toras as she bent over to examine the trapdoor.
“I wasn’t planning on it, no.” he replied matter-of-factly as he nodded down towards the trapdoor where Clueless’s green steel sword was tapping at the obvious lack of a lock on the latch.
“Oh… good, you noticed… yeah,” she stuck out her tongue at first Toras then Clueless, then turned to the other two women and repeated the process for good measure. “Showoffs. Fine go right ahead, do my job for me.”
She gave an amused smile as the trapdoor swung open, and then cursed as the entryway gave off several multicolored sparks. “And this is why you let me check these things…pike it… they set an alarm spell on the other side.”
Fyrehowl and Clueless jabbed blades into the opening as the heavy plate was moved to one side to show a set of stairs leading down into the main structure of the keep. Magical torches burned in their sconces at regular intervals down the stairwell, but otherwise nothing marred the progression of steps as they descended downwards.
“I hope noone was paying attention to that ward…” Nish sighed and kicked at the trapdoor. “Hells, we’ll know soon enough.”
Blades drawn, they descended the stairs quickly, trying to be as quiet as possible, all but Toras floating rather than walking. The fighter was too large simply said, and would have collided with the ceiling above him considering the fortress was built for goblins, perhaps hobgoblins at the largest.
The stairs ended at a shallow portal into a connecting chamber between several hallways. Walking out into the hallway, still cloaked from vision, Nisha consulted the compass and pointed down one of the halls at an iron portcullis and several chatting hobgoblins.
“Go kill the hobgoblins, we gotta go that way…” Nisha whispered under her breath. Several seconds later Clueless, Fyrehowl and Toras suddenly reappeared as blood marred the stone of the passage and the guards collapsed with looks of shock on their faces. Clueless gazed down the passage warily and Fyrehowl sniffed at the air with curious intent as a pair of invisible tiefling fingers grabbed a ring of keys from one of the corpses, and then fished around quickly for two coin purses with a soft whisper of success.
Nisha unlocked the gate hurriedly and Toras raised it with a rough heave for the group to pass. Nisha paused to kick at one of the corpses, returning to visibility as she consulted the compass and floated down the corridor, going directly to where it pointed as quickly as possible.
“You couldn’t very well follow me if I was invisible…” she said as Clueless shot her an odd glance. Behind him, Fyrehowl’s ears perked back in the direction they had come from.
“There’s footsteps coming from down two of those corridors we ignored. Pretty distant, but there’s a good number of feet behind them.”
Picking up speed now, the group passed several empty, mundane cells and one that contained a rotting orc corpse, before finally pausing in front of a massive steel door with an oddly glowing lock plate that seemed to swirl in random patterns of color. Nisha stopped and landed with a number of soft, abortive clip-clops of her hooves as she skidded to a halt in front of the door, to look at first the compass, then the door.
“And here we are… so now just who are you we’re here to get?” she pocketed the compass and took out her lockpicks and sat down in front of the cell door.
Fyrehowl glanced down the hallway again with concern as the sound of footsteps grew closer and the others began to notice it as well. Toras glanced at the group and walked down the hallway, back towards the portcullis. “If someone comes this way, I’ll stop them or warn you all. I’ll be back.”
Before he did so, Aren took out her holy symbol, kissed it and made a sign in the half-celestial’s direction, blessing him. Toras smiled and gripped his sword with slightly more conviction than before as he walked off.
Paused to pick the lock on the door, Nisha stopped and put down her picks to quaff a small vial. She shook her head at the evidently bitter taste and then narrowed her eyes to examine the door and the lock.
“Strange… there’s not a drop of magic on the door, not even the lock. Ten stingers in an osyluth’s palm that whoever’s behind here’s sitting in the middle of an anti-magic field…” she wrinkled her brow some more and poked at the lock tentatively. It warped and distorted as she touched it, her pick simply sliding into it for an inch or two and moving around. She might as well have been attempting to pick a lock made of jellied arborean apples. Her head tilted curiously to one side as she poked at the lock some more, fascinated by its behavior. Down the hallway the sound of footsteps grew louder by the second.
“Weird, seen of I these never one… oops, sorry. Bad habit… but hells, if someone cared this much to bottle you up, I’d really like to meet you. Or maybe not; doesn’t matter if can’t pop the damn lock though.”
Above her, Clueless held his ear to the door, straining to listen for any clue of the occupant of the cell. He gave a curious look and motioned over to the lupinal to try to do the same. She pressed one of her own ears to the cold steel to try and came back with an odd look. “Sounds like someone’s chanting or repeating something over and over again behind the door. It’s faint, so they’re either whispering or there’s a space between the door and their actual cell.”
As Nisha made more and more frustrated noises and abortive attempts to pick the door’s ever shifting lock, somewhere in the depths of the keep the peal of an alarm bell was raised and reverberated through the walls and echoed down the halls.
“Hurry up! Somebody knows we’re here! That someone’s probably the entire sodding fortress.” Toras ran back towards the party, drawing his sword and glancing back over his shoulder. Nisha glared up at him in abject frustration.
“I’m picking the piking lock as fast as I can! I don’t think I can pick it, it’s made of some sort of chaos matter. Normally I’d think that was pretty swell, but not when I need to open it and I’m guessing that it won’t take a set form of tumblers till you think a certain thought. If I knew what that was I’d have a chance to pick it. But I don’t, and I’m not a psion or a gith so there’s not a fiend’s chance in Celestia of me popping it! I can’t, so if you have any better ideas, go right ahead.”
Nisha spat at the door and slumped backwards angrily in defeat, staring at the glowing liquid metal patch on the iron door. A chorus of muttered curses and sighs echoed amongst the group, but in their concentration on the door, none of them looked back at Clueless.
Standing at the rear of the group, the bladesinger’s eyes suddenly glazed over. He tilted his head to look at the door, sneered, and then, without incantation or gesture, hurled a single burst of green pulsing light at the door. The disintegration ripped the door from its hinges and incinerated it into dust before it was flung inwards more than several inches. Slowly the rest of the group looked backwards in shock at Clueless who simply stood with one hand raised out to the door, looking confused at what had just occurred. His eyes were no longer glazed over as they had been just moments before.
“Well why in the nine hells didn’t you do that before?!” Nisha exclaimed as she stood up.
“I… don’t have a clue…” Clueless answered honestly, feeling perplexed than he tried to let show. He didn’t know the spell he’d just seen himself cast, and when he had, he was only a spectator in it all, watching himself rather than doing it. Shaking it off he moved towards the open cell door.
Past the door was a long stone corridor that ran some twenty feet towards a single dimly lit and cloistered cell. A frayed mat of rags lay in the center of the small cell upon which its sole occupant sat. Nisha glanced at the person, then at the planar compass, and finally nodded to the group who walked to the edge of the cell’s entrance.
Sitting in the center of the cell, perfectly still and with their back turned to them was a single woman dressed in ill-fitting rags. She was thin, exceedingly so, likely from lack of food. Still it was obvious that she had once been in prime physical condition since her muscles were lean and taught despite her circumstances. Her skin was a pale, milky white that turned to a tiefling’s gray/green hue in places, almost a blue pallor in the dim light of the cell. Her ears were thin and pointed, further betraying the blood of a fiend running in her veins, but otherwise she would have passed as a human with tangled locks of brown hair mixed with reddish highlights tied in a loose knot at the back of her head.
Nisha’s eyes suddenly grew wide in their sockets at her first unobstructed glance at the other tiefling. Her tail was rigid and her mouth quivered slightly in nervous fear as the others crowded around to look and meet the prisoner.
Still unmoving as they approached her, she sat there, calm and seemingly meditating. In between soft, measured breaths she was carefully and deliberately reciting a series of mantras.
“I will uphold Justice before all else, purging the multiverse of those who break the law.”
“In all situations I shall weigh the rights and wrongs with a clear and impartial mind.”
“I shall decide where Justice must fall under the law, and I will mete out that Justice with a firm and unyielding hand.”
“I believe in the righteousness of my faction; we alone answer to the higher law of Justice.”
“I will not pass judgment on good or evil, only on law-abiding and law-breaking, for therein lies wrongdoing.”
“I will punish the guilty as the crime demands.”
“I will be diligent in my pursuit of the guilty, and while so engaged I shall remain innocent of any wrongdoing in the eyes of others.”
“I will never release a lawbreaker until his sentence has been carried out.”
Nervous glances were exchanged behind her as she paused from her recitations, rose to her feet and turned to face her rescuers. The glimmer of madness danced in her eyes as she looked at each of them in turn, all of whom were painfully aware of the identity of the woman standing in front of them.
Last edited by Shemeska; Sunday, 2nd May, 2004 at 02:25 AM.
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 11:09 AM #94
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 12:55 PM #95
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
I can't believe nobody thought of throwing a rock to distract the beholders
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 02:19 PM #96
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- Padova, Italy (near Venice)
- Read 0 Reviews
ø Block Zappo
Argh, Shilsen beat me. Yay for updates!
Saturday, 1st May, 2004, 05:27 PM #97
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Originally Posted by shilsen
Wednesday, 5th May, 2004, 06:13 PM #98
Superhero (Lvl 15)
For anyone following the storyhour, I'm not likely going to have an update till early next week. I've got final exams this week, plus I've got to prep for my normal campaign, plus the oneshot game I'm running for North Carolina Gameday IV this weekend.
Chunks of the next update are already written, but I've got tons of other things that I need to pay attention to first. Be patient with me and sometime soon I'll update twice in a week.
Friday, 7th May, 2004, 06:01 PM #99
Novice (Lvl 1)
- Join Date
- Jan 2004
- New Mexico
- Read 0 Reviews
ø Block Graywolf-ELM
I just pop'd in to have a look and see if this was something I might enjoy reading. It is, but forgive my ignorance, who is that in the picture?
Friday, 7th May, 2004, 08:59 PM #100
Originally Posted by Graywolf-ELM
According to Factol's Manifesto (IIRC), she was a LE female tiefling Wiz8, but at this point in Shemeska's game she'll have had many years to advance.
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