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Wednesday, 19th October, 2005, 01:12 AM #1101
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
I'd definitely enjoy seeing a Rogues Gallery too, though I'd be much less interested in stats and more in things like background and motivations.
Wednesday, 19th October, 2005, 01:42 PM #1102
Novice (Lvl 1)
Nice update Shem. I've gotta admit, I really like Nisha, she's just hillarious. A rogues gallery would be really cool; just give us everything you've got......as long as it doesn't interfere with regular updates.
Thursday, 20th October, 2005, 12:38 AM #1103
Novice (Lvl 1)
A rogue's gallery write up would be great- as Shilsen said, stats would be of less importance then backstorys- but I'd still really like to see those as well. I know I'm just repeating what has already been said, but if you want to know what such a thread would entail, the best example you can get would be the "the Paladin and his Friends" thread for Sepulchrave's storyhour.
*Edit* The above mentioned Rogue's Gallery thread seems to have disapeared . Well, If you've read it you know what I meen.
Last edited by Aneul; Thursday, 20th October, 2005 at 12:45 AM.
Thursday, 20th October, 2005, 01:24 AM #1104
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Originally Posted by Aneul
Rogues Gallery for Storyhour 2
I'll provide stats for some of them, but I'm the sort that doesn't give stats to archfiends or deities, except for cases of avatars or planar projections etc (which happened on a few occasions). If I have them I'll provide them, but it'll be rare for full stat blocks. I'll give enough backhistory to drown you though for some of the characters, but some I'll wait on to provide certain levels of detail so I don't spoil things.
And unlikely to have a storyhour update this week, I've got my sister's 16th Bday party to attend this weekend, and I'm working pretty heavily on stuff for school.
Friday, 21st October, 2005, 05:28 PM #1105
Novice (Lvl 1)
Finally caught up, now I get to eagerly await the next update with the rest. Shemmie, your writing/DMing is some of the most brilliant and inspirational stuff I've ever read. You've got me to dust off the old Planescape box and move my campaign into some planar intrigue again. I bow to your superior DM-fu and look forward to more of the story. Now just to start to your other story hour...
Saturday, 29th October, 2005, 11:33 AM #1106
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Slow trickles of blood running down his face from his hollow eye sockets, the sorcerer turned servant politely smiled at them, clasped his hands in front of himself and waited for their response. It was disturbing, and provided a harsh dichotomy to the scene a third time over: a palace in the middle of the Scarlet Jungle, gorgeous stonework neglected and ravaged by the elements, the polite and elegant, but mangled servant.
“So…” Nisha said, glancing oddly up at the major domo who was waiting for their answer.
“I don’t think we have much of a choice actually.” Kiro said.
“I really –really- don’t want to follow him inside.” Skalliska said with a harsh whisper. “I saw him die and I saw what happened to him. I honestly don’t want to get any deeper into this than we already are. How about we go back?”
“No. I’m killing that bastard.” Toras said bluntly to a resolute nod of agreement from Florian.
“Guys,” Tristol said. “There really isn’t any other way into that palace unless we accept this invitation.”
“Yes it’s a trap,” Clueless said. “Of course it’s a trap, but he’s just toying with us for as long as we amuse him like a housecat with a bug.”
“And we’ve already shown that we can take him down if we can get close enough.” Florian replied.
“We’re walking into his home though.” Tristol said. “It might not be as easy as it was last time. We’re not on the Astral, and some of us won’t be tossing out spells at double the normal rate like we could then.”
“Don’t worry.” Florian said. “Trust me.”
“Oh?” Kiro asked.
Florian just grinned.
“Do tell?” Clueless prompted the cleric.
She smiled, turned away from the still eerily grinning servant, and withdrew a single crossbow bolt from a bag at her waist. Several symbols of her deity were carved into the surface. It was very obviously blessed, and blessed with particularly fervent devotion towards its intended aim.
“Oh yes.” Florian said. “This is for him.”
There was a pause, a pregnant silence, and some shared glances. Collectively they turned around to face the waiting servant.
“Yes, we would be honored to accept your master’s invitation.” Florian said with a beaming smile. “Please. Do lead on.”
Nothing happened as they crossed the courtyard. Though apprehension was nearly tangible on the air itself, the wards remained intact and undisturbed. Under Tristol and Clueless’s vision the glowing, deadly filaments of magic that crisscrossed the courtyard like a dweomer fattened spider’s web, remained intact and didn’t so much as register their passage. The taught wires of energy simply passed through them as they crossed the distance to the waiting servant.
True to his word, the Rakshasa had allowed them entry into his home. He could have killed them in that moment, but seemingly true to his kind’s bizarre noble pretensions, such an act would be rude. But of course, it was simply to instill a sense of complacency and false security among his victim-guests. From time to time he would watch them when not otherwise occupied with his other duties that were of far more importance than this eventual, and simple, act of self-serving slaughter.
Of course, his victims suspected as much as they walked up the marble steps of the main entrance of his palace. Tristol was paying particular attention, and the level of magic he saw was sobering. Despite his own upbringing in the magocracy of Halruaa, where archmages built towers into the sky and raced flying ships in open, ostentatious displays of their power, there were subtle elements in the blanket of magic that permeated the walls of the palace that made all of those prior examples pale by comparison.
In fact, the aasimar mage noticed that there were two distinct patterns to the magic literally stamped upon and embedded into the structure of the stones that the palace was constructed from. One was impressive on its own, more powerful than Tristol’s own ability, and from a very different school and style of casting. It was distasteful, reeking of a subtle, powerful evil like the scent of death that could never fully be cleansed from the scene of a brutal murder even years after the fact. That magic was everywhere, lacing like cracks or veins of minerals through the stone, and it fit what they had seen the Rakshasa capable of on his own: 9th sphere magic.
Then there was another pattern as well, and it was distinct from the Rakshasa’s. It was present in only small, minute amounts, seeming to shift and hide within the other, omnipresent dweomers like an ocean going predator slipping between the currents and only occasionally giving prey the image of a fin breaking the surface. It wasn’t there long enough to analyze it, and Tristol didn’t much have the chance to stop and stare at the walls as he and his companions were being led forwards. But what he did see was frightening, and on a level clearly leagues beyond their be-whiskered host. And it wasn’t just distasteful like that one’s magic. Though the two shared some common elements, the second one was ugly and rancid, sickening to the touch even from what brief exposure to it the mage felt. It was there for a moment, hideous in what was seen, and then it was subsumed by the Rakshasa’s.
There were two of them of course. Siddhartha had a sister, another Rakshasa noble like himself. And from what they had seen or inferred, there seemed little to dispute that she was the more powerful of the two. Tristol shuddered as he walked on and tried not to consider the possibility that they might have to fight both of them at once.
The silk wrapped major domo gestured them forwards through the length of a wide, tall-ceilinged foyer paved in broken, weathered flagstones, many of them shifted and tilted at odd angles from settling over the centuries. Tiny trickles of water ran through cracks in the vaulted roof of the chamber, dripping with a slow pitter-patter of water, tiny manifestations of neglect. The gray, milky colored walls were covered in weathered carvings, worn down and rough from the acid laced water that left mineral deposits, strings of tiny, pale violet crystals in its wake where it had dried.
For a palace it was in shambles, the faded glory of a fallen noble house and its Lord and Lady.
“Do not mind the magic above the proper entrance of the palace ahead.” The servant advised them as they neared the end of the chamber. “It is simply to prevent the elements from entering the home of my master.”
Nisha splashed at a puddle in front of her.
“Well it hasn’t been doing its job so far I don’t think.” She said.
“You will see…” The servant replied as he stepped through the rune-covered final archway and into what appeared to be a slowly collapsing central chamber.
There was a slight pause as they all glanced at the symbols carved deeply and cleanly into the stone. The glyphs did not appear to have been so much as touched by the erosion that had pitted nearly every other inch of the palace’s stones so far.
Fyrehowl walked through first, and to no apparent ill effect. She stepped through onto the other side and immediately seemed taken back by something, letting out a slow whistle. She was seeing something that none of the others were yet privy to.
“What’s on the other side?” Skalliska asked.
“Just walk through. It’s safe.” The lupinal replied with no elaboration.
And so they followed.
Indeed, nothing undue happened to them as they passed under the final arch of the foyer, the true entrance into the Rakshasa’s palace. The only thing they noticed was an odd, disturbing feeling, like cold insects crawling over their skin then scuttling off just as quickly. And then, as it faded, they stepped through the boundary of the illusions and their eyes were opened.
“Holy…” Florian said in amazement.
“Anything but.” Kiro said, correcting her softly.
The palace was not ruined. In fact it was likely that –none- of the palace was even so much as scuffed by the acidic environment, except for the most exterior of its decorative stonework. The entire structure was swathed in illusions and other magic that shielded its true nature from sight, and now inside of those wards, they could see just how breathtaking it actually was.
They stood in a sprawling circular chamber, perhaps fifty feet in diameter, which extended out underneath a high, wholly intact dome decorated in intricately carved bas-reliefs of tiger-headed fiends presiding over courts of artists, musicians, and slaves. The floor was paved in inch wide blocks of exotic, mirror-polished stone, each of different colors, arranged into a mosaic of metallic cubes suspended on a field of darkness. There was no question as to who lived in the palace simply from that image.
But that was hardly the object of their gaze. A pair of massive statues dominated the chamber, each of them towering fifteen feet high. Two Rakshasas, both of them carved from milky white marble, with claws of red carnelian and brilliantly sculpted clothing and features that were lifelike in a way that was breathtaking to behold. One of the two was male, and its snarling visage was clearly that of their host Siddhartha. His eyes, a pair of large fire opals, leered down at them. The other, his sister, whom they had only heard of but never seen, was carved in the same life-like detail, snarling, with glittering orbs of jade set within her eye sockets. Both of them were ominous to behold by size and realism, on top of their snarling expressions, and the eyes had been carved in such a way so that their gaze seemed to follow you.
“My Lord is suited to live in comfort and luxury, as you now can see.” The servant said. “There is no rush. You may ask me to pause to allow you to admire my Lord’s house at any point.”
“Clearly…” Clueless said as he peered up at the female of the pair of statues.
They paused under the pretense of admiration, though in truth there was some of that as well, taking full stock of their surroundings. Three wide hallways led off from the chamber, one left, one right, and one directly ahead of them.
“The guest wing is to the right, and that is where you have rooms prepared for yourselves.” The servant said, taking notice of their curiosity. “The entirety of that wing is open to you. The servants’ chambers, banquet hall, library and kitchens are directly ahead of us, and you may wander freely there as well if you wish. My Lord has opened his home to you for your admiration for the time being.”
“Before he kills us, yeah yeah.” Florian said.
“Indeed.” The former mercenary turned slave replied bluntly.
“What about the other hallway?” Fyrehowl asked, pointing down the left passage.
“That is the Lord and Lady’s wing.” The servant replied. “That way is off limits.”
Clueless glanced down that direction. The hallway was dark save for the distant flicker of magic. They’d be going that way eventually. Just not yet, not while the fiend’s servant was present.
Before they left, following the major domo, Tristol took a long, hard look at the pair of statues. He couldn’t confirm it, but he could swear that they were both watching him beyond the fact that their eyes were carved in a way to give that impression. It was odd, and disquieting. Fyrehowl felt it too. Something simply didn’t feel right as she passed between the statues, there between their gaze. She couldn’t put a finger on it, not yet.
Unable to find a reason to pause and linger further to examine the statues, they followed their escort.
A few minutes later the disturbingly cheerful ex-sorcerer had led them through the palatial length of the central hallway, and through several open galleries decorated with grim, sometimes gruesome, but truly inspired works of art. Though the style might have clashed with their own sensibilities, the Rakshasa, or pair of Rakshasas, had taste and the money to cater to it.
They said little to their escort as they walked, but they memorized the layout of the palace as best they could. One thing was certain from the outset: the interior of the structure was larger than the illusion on the exterior had led them to believe. The height of the ceilings was deceptively high, especially from their collapsed appearance from outside.
Soon they approached the end of one particular hallway and stood before a set of double doors at which their escort paused and gestured. The doors swung upon with a flicker of magic and he motioned them into what appeared to be the palace dining room.
“Please enter and be seated.” He said. “Though my Lord and Lady will not be in attendance this evening to dine, the food will be as exquisite as is normal in their house.”
The banquet chamber was large and rectangular, paneled in richly stained and carved wood, and hung with numerous tapestries that depicted war and conquest, marching armies and feasting Rakshasas. The chamber itself was seemingly built around a massive stone table that extended almost its entire length and which appeared to have been carved as a single piece from some giant petrified log. Magical, flickering candelabras sat at even intervals on the table, and the ten places had been set before ten chairs. Eight guests, ten chairs, two of which were significantly larger than the others.
Their escort gestured them towards eight of the place settings and the bowls of water and washcloths present for them to wash their face and hands before eating.
“Dinner will be served shortly, and it is my hope, and my Lord’s hope, that you enjoy his hospitality.” He said. “If you have any questions for me as you eat, I have been given leave by the Master to answer what I can for you.”
They sat down at their assigned places, four of them on each side of the long table. Their escort did not sit, but stood at attention, out of sight but within the range of conversation. As soon as they had all settled in their seats, the tiefling snapped his fingers and a dozen other servants entered from the kitchen with bottles of wine, water, and platters of freshly cooked food whose very scent made the mouth water.
The ends of the table were each set, despite being unoccupied, and both were served with food, and served first. That was where the pair of Rakshasas would have sat, had they deigned to eat with their victim-guests. The staff of servants seemed trained to routinely prepare meals for both of them, even when only one or neither of them were in attendance, just on the chance that they might arrive and desire food or drink.
But wine was poured, food was served, and then for a few moments nothing happened. They simply stared at the dishes with uncertain expressions. Yes they were hungry, famished in fact. But they were also worried about being drugged or poisoned, which made holding back from eating the food which was absolutely splendid in both appearance and in smell, a difficult but perhaps required task.
“Please eat.” The major domo requested as he stepped closer. “My Lord wishes to show you the sort of man he is before the end approaches. You will dine on the same food that he does regularly, food befitting his station, enjoying the experience but at the same time being in awe over what is normal for him.”
They glanced down at the meal set upon their dishes. It was some sort of braised, seared meat over roasted apples and cabbage, all of it smelling faintly of some exotic, hardwood smoke. The wine sparkled in their glasses and shed a pale yellow shine across the bowls of rice drizzled with sesame seeds and other spices that accompanied the main course. It looked absolutely delicious; a meal of a quality that most of them had never had before. But for the moment they just stared at it.
“Your distrust is assumed,” The bleeding sorcerer stated. “But it would bring our Lord no pleasure to poison you. Poison is a method of death reserved for other nobility, men and women of high station. None of you are fit of deserving such. Please use your magic to discern that there is no poison in your food if you desire.”
Florian rolled her eyes and did just that.
“It’s fine to eat guys.” She said a moment later. “It’s not poisoned.”
And so tentatively they ate, testing small bits of the meal at first, and then smiling, moaning through mouthfuls of the meal, and giving giddy expressions over the breathtaking delicacy they were being given as a literal last meal. Some of the food seemed to be native to the prime, though it seemed likely that many of the spices were native to the current layer of Carceri, Cathrys.
“This is quite good.” Kiro said. “Thank you. Your master is a man of refined taste.”
“I am pleased that you enjoy.” He replied, pausing only to wipe a drop of blood from his chin before it dropped to the ground. He could hardly allow any of his own blood to touch the ground and sully his Lord’s immaculately polished floors.
They asked little as they enjoyed the food, but like trained monkeys, or more appropriately puppets, the dozen servants each waited patiently along the room’s fringes, obediently present to refill drinks, bring additional food, or offer any requested spices. Each was dressed in the same style of silken uniform as the former sorcerer who seemed to have been put in charge of them all. And, like the blind, bleeding tiefling, all of the other servants bore black symbols burned into the back of their left hands.
Eventually though, their curiosity got the best of them.
“I have to ask.” Florian said to one of the servants, a young female aasimar who had just finished pouring her more wine. “This food is wonderful, but I can’t place what animal the meat is from. What is it?”
“Elf.” The woman replied with a thin, just-so smile.
Several gagging coughs resounded around the table.
Florian paled and pushed her plate forwards. The others paused mid swallow as well. Fyrehowl looked disgusted and Tristol looked sick. Skalliska kept right on eating, and Kiro gave a mild shrug and took a few more now informed bites.
When a dessert of chilled plums and dried figs was served minutes later, most of them had fully lost their appetite from the revelation. Plus it was difficult to eat when their tiefling escort’s empty eye sockets kept on steadily bleeding down his face.
“So…” Fyrehowl asked. “Where exactly are your master and mistress?”
At the direct question regarding the fiends, the tiefling seemed to momentarily flinch before answering.
“The Lady is away, and at the moment, the Lord is preoccupied with his own affairs. You will see him though come the morning.”
Clueless and Fyrehowl glanced at one another. They had noticed the tiefling flinch.
Making the pretense of tasting the dessert and then wiping his mouth with his napkin, the bladesinger softly whispered the words of a thought detection spell and glanced at the tiefling. The man was smiling but his mind was not. The only thoughts he had, the ones that blanketed the surface of his mind, were those dwelling on the agony of having had his eyes ripped from their sockets by the Rakshasa who had killed him, brought him back from the dead and then enslaved him.
Clueless turned and looked at one of the other servants, and the thoughts on that one’s mind were similar. They had been betrayed and enslaved by the fiend’s magic after becoming superfluous. The moment they were no longer of use they lost their freedom and their free will, and the symbol on their hands both marked them as property, and seemed to taunt each and every one of them with some fragment of just how they had become chattel. Each and every one of them among the dozen servants; some of their minds even dwelled upon suicide, but the ability to do such was denied them.
“So.” Florian said abruptly. “Dinner was quite good, thank you. Now you had mentioned something about rooms for the evening so we could rest?”
Clueless ended his spell. The thoughts were too miserable to listen to, and the more he heard it the more it filled him with a mixture of fury and dread.
“Indeed.” The tiefling replied. “If you would follow me, I will lead you back to the guest wing.”
Collectively they pushed back from the table and stood up from their chairs to follow him, both full from and somewhat queasy from their meal given its quality and its origin. The moment they had stepped away from the table the other servants were already in motion to clear it of uneaten food, used dishes and silverware. Like clockwork automatons they worked without comment or complain; but constructs weren’t tormented like the fiends’ servants were.
It was only a short walk back to the massive central chamber with its lifelike, larger than life statues of the palace’s owners, both of them still seeming to gaze upon and follow them all. From there, the tiefling walked them down the corridor that entered the small guest wing of the palace. It was no less grand than the areas they had already seen, and in some ways it was even more spectacular. After all, what good was wealth and splendor if it wasn’t used to impress upon others just how much of it you possessed?
The guest wing was centered upon another domed chamber, though smaller than the massive one at the palace’s center. It was focused around a sculpted fountain with a statue of a coiled brass sea serpent rising up from the center. The coiled metal wyrm spat a stream of water out from its mouth, cascading up into the air, and back down to the sapphire tiled pool below. And, once more, the serpent’s bejeweled eyes were cut in just such a way so that they seemed to linger upon and follow you almost regardless of where in the room you were standing.
Beyond the fountain, several doors led off from the chamber, and the tiefling pointed out the three of them that already stood open.
“Several rooms have been prepared for your rest.” He said. “One set for the men, one set for the women, and one for the kobold.”
Skalliska shot her former captor an ugly look as Nisha first tried, and then failed, to suppress a snicker. Their escort continued as if he hadn’t noticed a thing, almost as if he was progressing along a script or a series of instructions given to him by the brand on his wrist.
“The three open doors lead to the three sets of rooms, and you’ll find that each are complete with a bed for each of you, a selection of alcohol, incense, changes of bedclothes, and a water basin for your use before retiring for the evening.”
“Thank you.” Toras said as he motioned Clueless, Kiro, and Tristol to follow him down their appointed hallway.
“We’ll be waiting to meet your master in the morning then.” Florian said with an artificial smile.
“Indeed.” Fyrehowl added.
“I shall wake you in the morning.” The servant said. “Good night.”
The tiefling turned and walked from the room, but his charges said and did nothing till his footsteps had fully retreated some distance down the hallway.
“One room for the women and one room for the kobold?” Skalliska said with some indignity. “I’m female too you know. And…”
“Well you are still wearing a burlap sack.” Nisha said.
They all turned to look at the kobold who was indeed, still dressed in nothing but a burlap sack with holes for her head and arms to poke through. In fact, she’d been dressed in nothing but that sack through dinner and they hadn’t really said much about it.
“It’s not my bloody fault! They took my clothes and everything else when they kidnapped me!” Skalliska said with a frown. “The Rakshasa presumably took all of my things with him when he was turning that tiefling from a sorcerer into a house boy.”
“Yeah…” Florian said. “Speaking of which, there’s no way in hell that I’m sleeping here.”
“It would not be advised given our host.” Kiro said.
“I don’t particularly feel like waking up and being killed or tortured to death.” Clueless said. “Or, more likely, ending up like his servants.”
Toras nodded. “I noticed that too. All of them have those brands on their wrists.”
“And there’s something else I noticed as well.” Tristol said. “This whole place is covered in some seriously impressive magic. Most of it seems in line with what you’d expect from our ever so gracious host, if I can call him that.”
“A future rug.” Toras said.
“Well, there’s also some bits and pieces of magic flitting through the place that are seriously beyond what I think him capable of. And if anything, it reminds me of the tower on Maanzicorian’s godisle.”
“Makes sense,” Clueless said. “Since this palace and the jungle around it were largely blocked from any sort of divination magic, much like that godisle was.”
“So if the Rakshasa didn’t cast it then…?” Nisha prompted.
“The other Rakshasa. Siddhartha’s sister.” Fyrehowl said. “Who we haven’t met, and who seems to be the more powerful of the pair.”
“And I really, really don’t want to cross paths with her.” Tristol said. The magic that she seemed capable of was simply beyond anything they could handle. Though it seemed increasingly likely that eventually they would indeed cross paths with her.
“But she doesn’t seem to be here.” Clueless said. “Thankfully. Though I’ll admit to being curious what she and her brother were up to in the first place when we ran into him on the Astral.”
“Indeed.” Fyrehowl said.
“So since sleep seems to be out of the question.” Kiro said. “Shall we make ourselves at home in the fiend’s home and take liberties with the place?”
“Let’s go where we’re not supposed to go!” Nisha gleefully suggested to the much more humble cleric beside her.
“The private wing.” Florian said with a nod. “That’s definitely top on my list of things to take a look at. And there’s also the library that was mentioned. That might give us an idea of what this pair is up to, or why they’re exiled so sodding far from their native plane. And I’ve got some morbid curiosity regarding the kitchen of this place.”
Nisha stuck out her tongue. “Elf even tastes pretentious.”
“And it might also be a good idea to… what the hell…” Florian trailed off abruptly. She was staring at something.
They all followed Florian’s gaze warily, suddenly silent at what they saw.
She had been distracted by something seeping out from under the base of the one door in the guest wing that was not among those leading to their own rooms. Liquid, reflecting black in the suppressed light; blood was pooled under the door, leaking out from something beyond.
Tristol’s eye grew larger as he realized just what the puddle of liquid was.
“What’s behind the door?”
Saturday, 29th October, 2005, 01:12 PM #1107
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Originally Posted by Shemeska
Damn nice update.
Saturday, 29th October, 2005, 11:40 PM #1108
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
At least an update! I was waiting for this one!
I'm still impressed the PCs decided to simply walk into the fiend's trap.
Originally Posted by Shemeska
Originally Posted by Shemeska
Sunday, 30th October, 2005, 12:44 AM #1109
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Originally Posted by Gez
Sunday, 30th October, 2005, 07:38 PM #1110
Originally Posted by shilsen
An excellent tension-building update. Must have been frustrating for your players to walk into their enemy's lair without a single chance to kick any ass.
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