Shemeska's Planescape Storyhour (Updated 29 Jan 2014) - Page 20




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  1. #191
    Webmonkey
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    I was there - you had three rounds to scoot your butt down to the antimagic shell and hide from her and you didn't... that was a GM forced to kill.
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  • #192
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    Magsman (Lvl 14)

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    The Brothers Imshenviir-azov ;)

    The group glanced at each other as the voice faded from their minds. Something about it was unsettling, mental impressions of something indescribably foul that was there and then gone in a fleeting moment. Toras glanced down to the end of the hall and then at the other cells that lined the passage every fifteen feet.

    “So shall we start opening cells?” Nisha grinned as she held up a set of lockpicks.

    Florian nodded, “Let’s go slow though, some of them might be locked up for a reason. Just because the mercane are evil doesn’t absolutely mean they’re not possessed of some sense.”

    “Umm… you could say that…” Skalliska said as she looked into the next cell down the hall. Inside stood three silver robed Illithids, the pale light of the hallway shimmering dimly against their rubbery purple flesh. One of them approached the cell door and gestured to the lock but as its elongated fingers neared the bars and the lock a green field of energy erupted and the mind flayer withdrew its hand.

    Clueless stepped up to the cell doors next to Skalliska as the Illithid gestured to the doors again. “The field is probably suppressing their psionics if I had to guess.” Tristol said as the Illithid nodded in the affirmative.

    Fyrehowl glanced nervously at the others before looking at the Illithids. “If we release you will you leave immediately or help use?”

    “We are only here because of greed on the part of the mercane. Business gone sour… We only wish to cut our losses and depart. You wish to do them harm?” The illithid waved its tentacles as it spoke, seemingly speaking aloud only with some level of distaste.

    Nisha looked at the others as they nodded and she began to pick the lock. A minute later the tumblers clicked into place and the door swung open, dispelling the field. “My thanks.” The mental voice of the first Illithid echoed in their ears before all three of them vanished as they planeshifted out of the cell.

    The next cell contained a pair of spider-like Neogi slavers, captives of a deal gone bad, much like the Illithids, who were released only after agreeing not to attempt to leave the demiplane with any of the mercane’s former employees enslaved. After the slavers had scuttled off down the hallway the next cell contained a three foot tall, green skinned humanoid with red eyes and long black hair, dressed in a patchwork suit of armor that seemed to have been cobbled together from a mixture of various sets of chainmail and leather, none of which fit all that properly, a Nathri. After some banter with it, the cell was opened and the creature vanished in a swirl of mist as it dove back into the ethereal. But the last cell before the end of the hall held a person of note…

    “Please, I beg of you, let me out of here. I’ve been prisoner here for nearly five years, perhaps more.” The man was dressed in brown robes, balding and wearing some sort of faction symbol that he immediately hid when he saw Florian’s holy symbol. Unbeknownst to any of his saviors, it was a symbol of the Athar.

    “So, who are you?” Nisha said as she looked up at him while toyed with the lock on his cell.

    “My name is Kalidar Marthanion, and the mercane have kept me here and other similar prison cells for far too long, hoping to sell me to highest bidder. To their regret, and no small blow to my ego, they’ve not had any buyers. Free me and I will gladly help you in whatever it is you seek to do to them. I cannot claim to be much of a fighter, but I know some measure of magic and I am rather adept at healing.” Kalidar said with a bow, his eyes glittered with hope verging on begging.

    “We could definitely use another hand, magic even more actually.” Toras said, smiling at the man as Nisha worked at the lock. Surreptitiously, Florian whispered a detect evil spell and glanced at the man, seeing as how he had been put at ill ease by his presence. However the cleric of Tempus found no spark of evil in the man and so made no objection to his release.

    “Bless you all. I am certain that my superiors will see fit to reward you once I return to Sigil, the faction will be happy to see me well.” Kalidar was giddy as he stepped from the cell and embraced Nisha.

    “Eeep!” was the tiefling’s only reply as the newly freed athar hugged her before releasing her.

    “My apologies, I’m just thankful to finally be released and given the chance to seek revenge.”

    “Not a problem, but I think you’ll find that Sigil has gone through some changes…” Nisha said with some foreboding.

    “Oh?” Kalidar said, a bit of concern on his face.

    “The Faction War. Darkwood sparked a citywide conflict and most of the factols got mazed or killed. Some of the factions disintegrated, some of them disbanded, some of them left the city under threat of death by The Lady’s edict.” Skalliska said to the horrified Athar.

    “Great Unknown…” he muttered, clutching the symbol under his shirt.

    “Ah hah! Pegged as an Athar.” Nisha said, “Or at least that’s my guess. No?”

    Kalidar nodded, “Yes. Kalidar Marthanion, cleric of the Great Unknown… factor of the Athar.”

    There were some nearly audible blinks as the man mentioned his rank within the still extant but exiled faction.

    “They’re still around, just in exile at the base of the spire. Most of ‘em packed up and left after Terrance got mazed. Jaya Forlorn is the new factol if I remember right.” Skalliska added, filling the cleric in on the state of affairs for his faction.

    “When I’m done here I certainly have a trip ahead of me then. Thank you for telling me what has happened in the years of my absence, I deeply appreciate it.” Kalidar said before growing quiet, deeply in thought over the news that had been dropped on him so suddenly.


    One last door remained closed, the last cell at the end of the corridor. Nervously the group approached the cell doors and looked at the interior. A sharp scream pierced the quiet, issuing from the bloodied and obviously tortured man huddled in the rear of the cell. His robes now only rags, and bruises and cuts marring his skin, Bartol Trenevain screamed as he saw his former ‘employees’ approach.

    “No!!! Please don’t hurt me! I didn’t mean to do anything to you, it was only a job!” The genasi sorcerer pleaded, whimpering slightly as he backed away from the cell door. He seemed much thinner than the last time the group had seen him, likely from starvation.

    “Well damn, look who it is.” Clueless said, a smug tone in his voice.

    “Hmm, as I said before, you’re awful talkative for a dead man.” Toras smiled and patted a hand on his sword’s pommel.

    “So what happened? Outlived your usefulness and the mercane booted you from their employ?” Fyrehowl asked as Nisha held up her lockpicks questioningly.

    “They made me do all of those things, it was only for money and they were offering land in Sigil as well, and it was only a few days work for all of it!” Trenevain continued to plead.

    “The mercanes I assume paid you to do all this?” Clueless questioned.

    “Yes, no, I mean… Imshenviire was a middleman. I don’t know who was paying him. They were just using me as a face and him the same way now. The mercane were paying me and passing on orders, and they sent those two Nycaloths along with me to make sure I played my part well.” Trenevain said, a bit of desperation in his voice.

    “The poison. Did you have that done to us?” Tristol asked with urgency. Trenevain looked confused by the question.

    “What poison? I wasn’t paid to do anything to you, or you.” The genasi pointed to Tristol and then to Florian. “You either.” He added, pointing to Skalliska.

    “I didn’t even have anything on most of you. It was all bluff and illusion and lies. The only one of you we actually had anything solid on was the bladesinger, and that was handed to me on a silver platter along with the other scenarios and the illusions and sensory stones to go with them. And you have to admit that Aren was living on borrowed time anyways, Demogorgon’s servants would have caught up with her eventually and drug her screaming back to the Abyss. But the rest of you it was all a bluff, and you believed it!”

    “Woah, back up there… they don’t have my sister and she’s not being tortured?” Fyrehowl asked, poking the genasi in the chest.

    “No, and in fact you could have probably found that it wasn’t true all by yourself. All of you berks just believed it and didn’t question it all. I thought they’d handed me a pack of morons and…” Trenevain trailed off with a whimper as Clueless narrowed his eyes and Florian coughed while the others grew silent and stared at the man.

    “Please don’t kill me, it was only a job! I’ll give you everything they paid me! The Ubiquitious Wayfarer, I’ll sign the property over to you in the city courts!” Desperation was dripping in his voice and the genasi was on his knees.

    “Oh really?” Clueless said as behind him, Skalliska’s eyes went wide with the implications. After all, she was getting a share of all of this.

    “In the bag, we can talk later.” Clueless said bluntly and Trenevain looked confused and worried.

    “A bag of holding. We don’t want to have to worry about you making noise or slowing us down. We’ve got problems enough ourselves as it is, thanks to you…” Tristol said to the genasi, flicking his tail in annoyance behind him.

    “Get in the bag, come on.” Clueless quipped as he held the mouth of the bag open and trenevain stepped inside, vanishing into stasis as he passed the lip of the extradimensional space within.

    “Get in the bag!…” Nisha said in a deep voiced parody of Clueless then giggling. “You’d have made a great hardhead with that line you know.”

    Clueless winced at the thought.

    “Yep, spiked armor and all.” Tristol said.

    “Hardly, wouldn’t happen. Believe me.” Clueless shook his head again. “Come on, we’ve got mercane to kill.”


    And so with Kalidar in tow, the group made their way out of the prison, Bartol Trenevain safely stowed in Clueless’s bag of holding. As they walked out of the more starkly furnished area of the keep, the hallways grew more and more lavish with the trappings of a trio of mercane merchant lords.

    “Nisha, you can loot to your heart’s content after we gank these guys… you’re going to run out of space to stow stuff if you snatch every loose trinket you see…” Toras looked over, as the tiefling was busy stuffing a small statue into her knapsack.

    “I’m just warming up, hate to warn you. I’ve got two bags of holding and a portable hole on top of it. Mu-ha.” Nisha replied with a wink as the statue along with a candlestick disappeared into the sack, and then she paused and looked alert, signaling the group to halt. Likewise, Fyrehowl was glancing around nervously, sniffing at the air.

    “That smell is back and the hallway,” she pointed down a passage to their left, “that way, reeks…”

    “Which is probably good because we don’t have to go that that; the opposite way actually. But it smells like fiends you say? Can’t be good.” Clueless said with a growing feeling of unease.

    Several minutes later and they stood outside the door to the brothers’ scriptorium, the faint sounds of quill pen on parchment echoing from inside through the open doorway from which issued a wash of white arcane light. Clueless motioned towards the door and Toras and Fyrehowl burst through the door, looking into the suddenly ashen faces of two human scribes sitting at their desks copying contracts in duplicate. Rows of cubbyholes lined both sides of the room, filled with sheaves of paper and scrolls. Two large benches, dominated by stacks of books, pressing parchment and scroll paper, and ink pots with extra quills stood in a row at the center of the room between the two horrified scribes. Behind them a door to a private office sat closed.

    “No no, no screaming. Screaming would be bad.” Florian said, cradling his axe in his arms as the scribes slowly put down their pens and glanced at the people surrounding them.

    “You’re not here to pick up the contract copies for that merkhant I take it?” One of the scribes said with a nervous chuckle, running his hand over his bald head and looking at Toras.

    “No, but you two don’t have to be any part of this. Get your stuff and stay out of harm. Can I assume that one of the mercanes’ offices is through that door?” Toras said, resting his sword on the scribe’s desk.

    “Umm, yes. Yes, Fartrenz’s office. He’s in there currently, we’re just here to make copies of everything he writes up on their legitimate business.”

    “Don’t worry about your job, we’ll pay off your contract when this is over. Your bosses will be having a very bad day.” Florian smiled at the scribe who was currently edging out of the way to let them through.

    “Kick the door down? You didn’t get your chance before, so I figure now’s as good a time as any to practice your style.” Toras said over to Florian with a grin.
    “My pleasure sir.” Florian said as he sent the door flying off its hinges, hurtling into the startled face of Fartrenz Imshemviir whose seven-foot tall form crumpled to the ground from the impact.

    “Stop them!” came the mercane’s mental voice as two guardian golems sprung to life from their flanking position near to his desk. Both of them rushed at Florian who retreated back to the scriptorium where Fyrehowl and Toras stood to brace for the golems’ charge.

    A bolt of snarling electricity leapt from the office to lash at Toras and Fyrehowl from Fartrenz’s outstretched hand. “This is impossible! You were killed in the maze!” came the mercane’s mental scream as one of his golems toppled to one side, overturning a table and stack of bundled scrolls.

    “We’re harder to kill than you thought. Your mistake.” Toras said as the mercane loosed a flurry of magical, arrow shaped bolts from a wand in its hand with a mental scream of fury.

    A second volley of magic bolts flashed into being, this time hurtling from a wand in Nisha’s hand and unerringly striking at the mercane who grunted and fell backwards against the wall before it was pegged in the chest by a crossbow bolt from Skalliska.

    “I did not order you killed! It was my brother Dalmar!” The mercane’s mental voice was verging on desperation as a second stream of magic missiles struck home, this time from Tristol’s hands. Seconds later the air was split with the sound of rending metal and breaking wood as Clueless and Florian rent the second guardian golem into a jumble of broken parts.

    “Than we’ll take it up with your brother after we’re done here.” Toras’s answer was punctuated by the blade of his sword piercing the Mercane’s chest and pinning it, dead, to the wall behind it.

    “The next one is mine…” Both Tristol and Florian said at nearly the exact moment as the others began to search the office for any evidence of the antidote to the poison the mercane had used on two of them, or written hints to its location or composition; they came up empty handed, though Tristol left with the wizard’s spellbook and Nisha walked off with his wands.

    After several minutes of skulking through the mercane’s portion of the keep, and quickly silencing a pair of well-equipped guards and a hired elven sorcerer along their way, they entered a large antechamber whose entryway was inscribed three times with the symbol of Dalmar Imshenviir. Several chairs were arranged around the periphery of the chamber, all of them seeming to be of the highest quality for those awaiting an audience with the house patriarch himself. Dominating the room however was an archway of stone that rose up in its center, easily taking up ten feet of space across at its base.

    They paused to look up at the large freestanding stone archway in the center of the antechamber. Skalliska touched the surface of the stone and tilted her head in curiosity. “Well that’s a portal if I ever saw one. Not active from this side though, or locked, I’ll have to look at it later.”

    “You can look at it later when Nisha steals stuff from these guys, come on the older brother’s office in this way.” Clueless motioned the kobold away from the archway towards the small hallway leading off from the antechamber.

    “What do mean ‘later when Nisha steals stuff’? Nisha’s stealing stuff now, you’re just not seeing me do it…” The tiefling gave a ‘guilty-as-charged’ smile and twitched her scaly tail behind her. Tristol snickered as he had barely noticed her palming a silver snuffbox from one of the tables a minute earlier.

    Quietly the group continued down the small hallway from the chamber that ended at a large door of some exotic polished hardwood. The symbol of Dalmar Imshenviir was etched and glowing on the surface of the door.

    “Not warded, it’s just his symbol for vanity.” Tristol said with a smirk as he looked at the doorway’s magical dweomers. “Not half as bad as some of the mages back home. Part of the reason why I left…”

    “Alright, who wants to go first?” Clueless asked, looking from face to face.

    A chorus of “Me” erupted in whispers and ended in smirks.

    “Ok ok, fine. Whoever gets him that’s fine, we go in together and surround him on my mark.” Clueless said, ending the discussion as he abruptly stood up and swung the door inwards.

    The interior of Dalmar Imshenviir’s study was richly furnished and decorated. Two walls were dominated by shelves of books and business ledgers while another wall was covered in maps and diagrams. The room was filled with the white light or arcane magic intended to ease the eyes when reading. Under the white glow of the light that seemed to spring from the air itself, Patriarch Dalmar Imshenviir of House Imshenviir sat behind his elaborately carved desk in a high-backed chair, his back to the door and his hand extended out into the water in the open top of a water filled glass sphere, feeding a small exotic fish that lazily swum in its interior.

    At the noise of the door opening the hand jerked up in surprise and his mental voice echoed in the room as he turned in the chair to face them. “Barzikonius?…You’re early. Err… I’m happy to see you again, I trust all is well?”

    “Your meeting is cancelled.” Clueless bluntly replied to the mercane with a smirk as he raised his sword and begun casting as the others made their own moves.

    The mercane stood there for a moment, unbelieving, before triggering a stored spell and beginning to cast another of his own. A pair of golems emerged from invisibility beside his desk and moved to attack as he was enveloped in a column of flames channeled by Florian. Only slightly singed, the mercane patriarch was still casting as the roaring flames subsided.

    “Son of a…” Florian said as he ducked the punch of one of the golems while Toras swung a heavy blow at the other that scattered a fist sized chunk of stone across the floor.

    “You should be dead. Clearly others will suffer for their failure to kill you.” The mercane’s telepathic voice was calm and measured as its spells of shielding absorbed a string of magic missiles and deflected three crossbow bolts from Skalliska. That was, however, before Tristol dispelled it. Nisha meanwhile was nowhere to be seen.

    “What is it with you and golems?!” Clueless said as he savagely slashed at one of them, drawing its attention as Fyrehowl lopped off its left arm in one smooth swing of her blade. Meanwhile, Toras and Florian were enveloped in a white burst of ice from the Mercane’s outstretched hand. Florian cried out in pain though it seemed that the half-celestial was unaffected, as was the golem, which to that point they had been quickly wearing down.

    In that moment Dalmar Imshenviir laughed, and then cried out in pain as blood blossomed across his robes from a series of thrusts as Nisha darted out from under his desk to stab him. His concentration disrupted and his spells of protection already dispelled he staggered again as a crossbow bolt thudded into his right shoulder and a bolt of lightning erupted from Tristol’s hand to lance into his chest, stopping his heart as his guts boiled from the current.

    Their master dead, the remaining golem stopped, the other having been mangled by Clueless and Fyrehowl. Kalidar rushed into the room towards Florian and knelt next to the cleric of Tempus with an ironic smirk as he fingered his Athar faction symbol.

    “I think you’re fooled and deluded into worshipping your so called god. But I owe you my life, so I’ll spare you my usual speech. May the Great Unknown heal your wounds and repay even in part my debt to you.” Kalidar smiled as his hands began to glow and Florian’s wounds began to heal, the chilled and frostbitten flesh returning to normal and life returning to dead and frozen flesh.

    “That felt good. The next will feel better.” Tristol said as a crackle of lightning arced from his hand as the spell discharged its last crackle of energy. “You deserved worse you bastard. I hope you know you had it coming for you.”

    The others nodded in agreement as they began to clean themselves of rock dust and chips of stone from the golems. Nisha held up a key and grinned as she headed for the vault door that had been concealed from their original entry into Dalmar’s personal study.

    “Look but don’t take, we can always come back and look through everything in detail. Maybe he’s got some notes on where they’ll have that antidote though…” Clueless said as he started to look over the open ledger on Dalmar’s desk.

    The ledger was dotted with drops of the mercane’s blood but was fully readable and detailed current payments made to and by the trio of mercane. Of note, there were records of payment from an anonymous person for the actions the group had been blackmailed to perform. Payment to the mercane was contingent upon their entry to the maze at which point payment would be completed and the deal would be considered complete. “Other agents would take over from that point” was noted in the language of the contract.

    Other payments were included “for the disposal of Bartol Trenevain”, and seemingly connected to the same source were details on the seizure of shipments by the Planar Trade Consortium and the delivery of “shipments and foodstuffs” through a specific portal and designated delivery point in Carceri’s first layer of Othrys. Additionally there was payment information deeper in the logbook regarding certain seized boxes to be “immediately transported post haste to the Tower Arcane on the layer of Chamada in Gehenna, avoiding normal routes and intermediaries” payment was indicated as being “double standard”.

    “Hold on actually, some of this is interesting. Loot the vault Nisha, I want to read some of this…” Clueless said, looking up at his companions. Tristol was already reading the patriarch’s spellbook and the sound of Nisha’s giggling could be heard from inside the Vault.

    Reading further into the ledger, there was a loose sheet of paper pressed into the spine of the volume seemingly as almost an aside, and written in a different hand than the Mercane patriarch’s was a note regarding “transport of goods in exchange for future services rendered, to be delivered by Imshenviir as proxy to Lord of the Sixth, Malbolge. Time frame on schedule.”

    “Woah… these guys are into some pretty heavy things… you guys need to read this…” Clueless continued reading as he relayed what he learned from the mercane’s ledger.

    Finding nothing more of current interest besides normal payments for legitimate business, Clueless picked up the ledger and discovered a second, slimmer volume obscured by it. Flipping through its pages he found a list of similarly vague payments, most of them either in code or their meaning well enough known by the mercane to use shorthand names for the contracts. However many of the payment details were made regarding similar shipments to Othrys and from the Gray Waste as well as to Belarian, the 3rd layer of Elysium, “to alleviate hunger”. The payment sheet was signed by one ‘Barzikonius Ak Palin’ in Infernal, burned into the page rather than penned.

    “What the hells…?” Fyrehowl’s ears swept back in concern as she walked over to motion Clueless aside to read over the passage referring to shipments made by the mercane to Elysium. “That’s disturbing. That’s my home plane, Elysium, and that layer is barely populated except for only a single fortress of Guardinals at Rubicon. These mercane were dealing with shipping material to the lower planes, and here they have my home plane listed as well? I want to know what they were shipping and where. This can’t be good…”

    “Hmm, there’s a map here it looks like, a trade route through the layer from a portal they list. No portal key though, just ‘Belarian portal, key 5’. We’ll have to see if Skalliska can help with that, or if they have a portal log around here somewhere all the better.” Clueless replied back to the lupinal.

    “We need to go to Rubicon and let them know about this if they’re not already aware of it. After we’re done here it’s something we need to look into. I have to do this, it’s my people we’re talking about, and if there’s something ill going on in the plane of ultimate good it’s my responsibility to stop it.” The lupinal was adamant and preoccupied with the information as Clueless nodded his consent and continued shuffling through the second ledger.

    “Seems like Dalmar here was expecting a meeting with this Barzikonius chap. I’m not sure I want to be here when he shows up for that meeting.” Clueless said with some unease as his eyes flickered to the doorway, half expecting some pit fiend to come waltzing into the room.

    “Without knowing who or what he is, I’m not sure either. Anything in there on the antidote to the poison?” Tristol said as he joined Fyrehowl and Clueless.

    “That’s about it though, there’s not much else here except a bunch of details on carpet sales on some prime world and the brothers’ alchemy sales in the Outlands. So maybe we find the third brother and keep him alive long enough to find out where the antidote is?” Clueless mused as he closed the volume and placed it to the side when a small scrap of paper that had been placed into the spine of the book dropped out onto the table.

    “Hello, what have we got here…” The bladesinger said as he unfolded the scrap of parchment, written in the Mercane’s hand. The few lines of script indicated that the “troops” would be receiving a visit by one “Vorkannis the Ebon, of Othrys” and that he and his consort “Shylara Akt’Atarm, the Manged” “are to be given full and unquestioned access within the demiplane”.

    “Interesting… not sure what it means, but interesting…” Clueless said, pocketing the scrap of parchment as his mind drifted back to the illusory image in the mercane’s prison block and the voice that had spoken to him there and in tattered fragments of his memories. He suppressed a shudder at his recollection of the voice.

    Tristol looked up smiling from Dalmar’s spellbook as Nisha walked out from the vault wearing a garish assortment of jewelry and wearing a nearly audible grin. “I’m liking these guys more and more, the more of their stuff I snag the better my opinion gets.”

    “Anyways, we should get going to find the last brother and get what we came here to get before he finds out that we’re here or Dalmar’s expected guest arrives.” Toras said, standing up from atop one of the broken stone golems.

    The group collected themselves and Nisha stowed her ill-gotten goods to prevent herself from sounding like the proverbial chain rattling ghost as she walked, and then made off back to Dalmar’s antechamber. As they entered the room there was a soft glow emanating from the stone archway and Skalliska’s eyes went wide. A split second later the others did the same as the portal opened onto a blasted landscape bleached of color and a single figure stepped into the room before the portal closed again.

    Standing roughly six feet tall and cloaked in gray and black robes and cloak, the fiend’s elongated head was featureless save for two oversized eyes that glowed fiercely like open vents into some forge of hell, swirling with a morass of angry colors. A nearly painful mental static washed over them as the Ultroloth, Barzikonius Ak Palin turned to regard them as fear struck in the pits of their souls under its pitiless gaze.

    Like a white-hot lance driven into their minds eye, the Ultroloth’s telepathic voice drive into their heads a single question, “Who are you?” Before the room erupted into a sudden flurry of activity.

    Springing into being from the scroll tucked into Clueless’s belt, the floating illusory image of The Cheshire Fiend emerged as three separate gates, like flaming red rips in the fabric of the planes, burst into existence surround the Ultroloth and three massive, hulking Nycaloth’s emerged, belched forth from whichever hell they led to.

    The mental razor that was the Ultroloth’s telepathy gave voice only to “What…” before the Cheshire fiend screamed out, its toothy profile suddenly and truly fiendish looking, “KILL HIM! KILL HIM NOW!!!”

    The Nycaloths needed little urging as they systematically began to butcher the Ultroloth, hacking its body to malformed bloody chunks in the space of seconds. The group simply stood there in shock as they witnessed the intentional assassination of an Ultroloth.

    “Good. It is done. You are dismissed, I have duties to perform here before I return.” The Cheshire Fiend said with contentment to its servants before it turned back to its pawns.

    “Perhaps an explanation would be in order? My sincere apologies for using you all, but it would not have boded well had I told you that I wished you to travel here in order to gain a point of reference to gate in Barzikonius’s killers. You might have said no, and that wouldn’t have seen to what I needed to do.” The fiendish grin said and seemed to shrug, as best it could using the tiny illusory lines that made up the upper portion of its avatar.

    “You used us…” Fyrehowl said, snarling slightly.

    “Unintended mutual benefit I prefer to say. You’ve had your revenge on two of the three brothers Imshenviir, and I’ll happily tell you where the third was is since he’s the one with the antidote to what ails you…” The grin answered back.

    “Then tell us.” Florian said, looking askance at the fiend while behind it under the portal arch the remains of the Ultroloth spontaneously erupted into purple flames that consumed the body quickly and utterly.

    “Poor old Barzikonius, I almost feel sorry for him. But that would be unbefitting of me to feel. Oh well, he was in the way of progress. But please, if you’ll follow me before you go about assassinations of your own?” The image began to float out of the room and the group unquestioningly followed it.

    The Cheshire Fiend floated confidently through the opulent hallways of the upper level of the keep and down the corridors that Fyrehowl had originally been wary of. The lupinal sniffed at the air and gave her companions a worried glance. The fiend slowed and looked back at her.

    “No need to worry. Their master is dead and they owe fealty to a new one. Things change. Bit by bit, but they change, sometimes faster than others, and the largest changes are usually the ones you never see coming…” The illusion flashed its perpetual grin even wider as it approached a closed door at the end of the hallway.

    “Please do open the door to me, and it would be best if I went first…” The fiend asked politely and Toras opened the door outwards to look into a barracks and nearly two dozen Yugoloths within. Fyrehowl’s fur bristled as she looked into the faces of over twenty Mezzoloths, half a dozen blind, snarling Canoloths, and a bloated, mantis-headed Dergholoth.

    The Dergholoth sergeant chattered a high pitched command in infernal but was interrupted by the Cheshire Fiend as it floated into the center of the room and spoke to them in the same language.

    “Barzikonius is dead. I, the representative of the tower, bid you welcome to our allegiance. Proceed back to the Waste as if nothing had happened here, further details will be given to you once arrived. Wheels Within Wheels.”

    The Dergholoth nodded slowly and then quickly spun its head backwards 180 degrees to chatter out a string of commands to those under its commands. With frightening quickness and coordination the fiends had their weapons in hand and marched in a doublewide column through a shimmering ethereal curtain in the north end of the chamber marked with the symbol of the Gray Waste.

    “We will speak again at some point, of that I am certain. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you look into my dear departed Barzikonius’s dealings with these mercane. Especially you, my dear lupinal friend, you will find the details therein disturbing no doubt, I have information for you regarding that, but for the moment I have other matters to attend to. We shall speak later, but for now, Kalteris Imshenviir is most likely within his alchemical laboratory just past a hidden door off the interior garden on the first level of the keep. As like all of his brothers, he keeps pet golems, his are clay. Wallow in his blood for me if you would.” The Cheshire Fiend said the last statement with utter innocence and a golden halo of light shimmered over its image for an ironic split second before it vanished into thin air.

    “I… no we’ll deal with that later. Let’s go find the last mercane and be done with this place…” Fyrehowl twitched her nose in irritation at the reek of fiends that permeated the room even though all of them had since departed. Despite gaining revenge by way of its information, part of her rebelled at the idea of dealing with one of them, but that thought was pushed into the back of her mind as the worry regarding the mercane dealings on her own home plane rushed to the forefront of her consciousness.

    ****

    Situated against the backdrop of the Hill of Bones, Anthraxus the Wasted, the deposed Oinoloth and former master of Khin-Oin the Wasting Tower looked across the blasted layer of Pluton and brooded over the army of fiends that he was amassing minute by minute and the end to which he would put them.

    “My master…” The voice of one of his attendant Ultroloths brought the Yugoloth lord out of his introspection and he turned to face the other who had spoken.

    “Yes?” Anthraxus’s voice rippled across the air like a carpet of maggots chewing their way through flesh. An outside observer might have sworn they actually witnessed an Ultroloth flinch, but it quickly overcame any awe or fear to answer its liege with haste.

    “I return along with our other envoys sent to Shacklers Hill. The Shackler would not speak to us. We were turned away and half of my troops dropped dead from no apparent effect and it was made apparent that He would not give us counsel…”

    The former Oinoloth snarled his displeasure and gazed up at the Hill of Bone, turning away from the Ultroloth as his mind ran over the potential meaning of it all. Since his departure from the Siege Malicious the Baernaloths had only rarely given to him their guiding wisdom, but never had they turned him away outright from their presence. But there was still time left before his forces would be fully gathered and they marched upon the Wasting Tower, perhaps the Baernaloths simply wished to watch their children butcher each other for the learning of some trivial, or perhaps not so trivial, lesson. They had certainly done worse in the name of strengthening their chosen, and with that thought, that remembrance of things seen, for a solitary moment Anthraxus shuddered in terror.

    “You have failed me…” The Wasted whispered as he turned around and opened his hand, snuffing his servant’s life like a match.

    ****

    In the city of Center, Shylara the Manged smoothed out her robes as she rose from her chair at the side of the Ultroloth Palinarus. The sandy brown furred Arcanaloth was dressed in robes of cobalt blue and deep purple, gold and even a few silver rings piercing her ears and other places a dozen or more times. Her eyes glowed with an emerald green fire as she reached up to incessantly scratch and itch at one of her ears as she flicked its tip in annoyance. Despite the layers upon layers of illusion swathing her body and the shapechange spells atop them, her condition was slowly rising to aggravate her that day and at some point soon she would feel the need the alleviate the annoyance. Some poor berk would needlessly suffer, and she’d enjoy it all the while. Not that she needed an excuse to do such…

    Quickly walking across the floor of the Palace formerly belonging to Dandy Will she hurried to fetch a new petitioner upon which to write a contract with the next mortal wizard seeking his audience to gain wealth and power in exchange for their magical support during the coming war. The fools were actually signing the contracts. Sure enough they offered much and did not require the mortal’s soul in exchange for arcane knowledge after the conclusion of the conflict, but by the end of it all, if things turned out as The Ebon wished, they would not be capable of reaping any benefit from their dealings. Chattel, all of them.

    Returning to the Ultroloth’s side she placed the steel rack heavily upon the table as the petitioner, originally dwarven by the look of it, twitched and moaned before she reached into its mouth and ripped out its tongue by the root.

    “Umm… oh my…was that really necessary?” A middle-aged human sorceress sitting across the table from the two Yugoloths looked sick as Shylara flicked the appendage across the room and looked up, smiling, into the mortal’s face.

    “That one was too noisy, I dealt with it. If it twitches too much I’ll extract his spinal column through his eye sockets, but it doesn’t seem that will be needed. My apologies if I’ve made you ill, perhaps I might add something to the contract to make you feel better?” The Manged looked up to Palinarus who nodded as she burned several more lines and terms into the flesh of the petitioner. Greed won out over morality, as it usually did if they bothered to descend into the Waste in the first place, and the contract was signed by the end of the hour.

    Palinarus looked out over the city, watching the mercenaries flock to serve under the banner of Anthraxus while his foe, Mydianchlarus, bottled himself up in the Wasting Tower like a coward. And as the Ultroloth brooded over an uncertain future, The Manged looked at the severed tongue she had picked up off the floor and wondered if it would make such a funny sounding ‘pop’ when she was able to do the same to the woman who had voiced umbrage at the act. Chattel, all of them, Palinarus not the least of them…

  • #193
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    Very cool!
    Like 'Wheels within Wheels'.....

  • #194
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    Quote Originally Posted by dal673
    Very cool!
    Like 'Wheels within Wheels'.....
    More like mysteries within riddles within enigmas, I think
    shilsen is broken - Crothian (and this is why)

    My Eberron Story Hour. Updated (Finally!) November 11. The Grand Finale!

    My world's worst paladin thread. Vote and throw rocks!

    My Sexism in D&D and on ENWorld (now with SOLUTIONS!) thread. Pop in and tell me what you think.

  • #195
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    Or plots within schemes within conspiracies...

  • #196
    Great update!

    There's nothing as inspiring like Planescape and then so masterfully written ...
    To influence the world you have to understand it.
    To understand the world you have to understand yourself.
    To understand yourself you have to control yourself.
    Master yourself and you have mastered the world.


    -Sirrash of Tolomar

    I use the Call of Cthulu cosmology with all outer planes. -- MoogleEmpMog

    Dakkareth's Data Vault
    A cool vampire game

  • #197
    Shem,
    I always thought you couldn't put anything living in a Bag of Holding (or you could but it would die)? Have I missed something or is this a holdover from older editions. I can say that I have not read the entry for the BoH in 3.5 and I dont have the manual handy.

  • #198
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    My DMG 3.0 says the same thing as the SRD 3.5:

    If living creatures are placed within the bag, they can survive for up to 10 minutes, after which time they suffocate.

    I supposed Shemeska changed that, because of this quote:
    Quote Originally Posted by Shemeska
    “Get in the bag, come on.” Clueless quipped as he held the mouth of the bag open and trenevain stepped inside, vanishing into stasis as he passed the lip of the extradimensional space within.
    The bag of holding description doesn't say anything about stasis effect (contrarily to, say, gloves of storing).

  • #199
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gez
    My DMG 3.0 says the same thing as the SRD 3.5:
    The bag of holding description doesn't say anything about stasis effect (contrarily to, say, gloves of storing).
    If i recall (and it was a long time ago so bear with me) at the time everyone just sort of nodded and said "Ok - that makes sense." No one actually bothered to look it up - we all agreed that we could do it, the NPCs could do it - that was the way it worked....

    Then we looked it up about 5 or six Get-in-the-bag's later ... and. Opps? And since we'd gone this far as it was with that? *shrug* We let it stand.

    Let's me see if I can quickly run through a few of the other standing house rules/oddities:

    1) The bag of holding thing as noted above.
    2) The sending stones we picked up - don't operate the way normal ones do (b/c the normal ones from FR *blow* compared to the cost of the item) - the versions we have - think of them like com-units or walkie talkies, with the capability to send images as well as verbal.
    3) 3.0 Haste rules (but thats to be expected)
    4) Class rules - We're talking a good number of homebrew classes that were appropriate to the character's bios and the direction the character went in. Plus some merging and tweaking of classes that had multiple versions out there.
    5) Fast and loose with some of the potent magics of the bad guys. You'll know what I mean when you see it.
    6) The stuff Clueless got that made/summoned a Slaadi in the inn - now *that's* a funky houserule. Um. Heh. Not answering that one till it gets revealed what it *is*. I'll take guesses, i'm curious to see what the readers are speculating about.

    In fact - any speculations at all guys? I know you like this - I wanna hear where you think it's going. (Plus it rubs Shemmie's ego so delightfully he may post more, faster.)
    Visit Shemeska's Story Hour I and Story Hour II
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  • #200
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clueless
    6) The stuff Clueless got that made/summoned a Slaadi in the inn - now *that's* a funky houserule. Um. Heh. Not answering that one till it gets revealed what it *is*. I'll take guesses, i'm curious to see what the readers are speculating about.
    If it were IMC, from the description there is for now, it would be a globe filled with a strangely liquid form of raw leï.

    (IMC: In the Ethereal layers of all plane flows what is known as the Ether, or the Leï (also spelled Ley). This is, a bit like the Force in Star Wars, the energy that makes up the whole universe. The Leï has for known phases, and maybe more: green (also known as positive energy), red (negative energy), golden (magical energy, used to weave, shape and power spells) and blue (force, the only known phase in which it is tangible). This leads to some interesting side-effect in house rules, like the capacity to heal or harm by transmuting leï from one phase to another, why wizards and sorcerers have low HD (burn much of the own life force to transmute it into spell energy), and the fact that if you're on an ethereal plane, you can see each thing's leï pattern and thus get a look at their health status and magical power -- someone who is crackling with green and golden lightnings all over his body shape, you don't want to mess with him!)

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