Journal of the Souls of Legend (completed)

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Journal of the Souls of Legend
(Based on a homebrew campaign in the Forgotten Realms)
(This campaign is finished)

Story by Nthal


Introduction - Harsh Landings

It always seems that the interesting stories, start with the unexpected. It’s like nothing is ever planned or is part of the hero’s own grand design. An event occurs, and the hero jumps right in and starts. And so, it was with me as I jumped right in. Or rather dove right in.

I ran to the bar and leapt forward, aiming for the hole that led behind the bar. I wanted to avoid the now inevitable fight between a pair of patrons. Now, I probably should have expected it, after all when the bar’s glassware is all made of metal you must assume that they have seen a scrap or two and they were tired of replacing the mugs. The Smoldering Corpse bar had indeed seen many scraps, and I as a reasonable mortal, had no interest being anywhere near the Malebranche and the Glabrezu, and their dispute.

I grabbed my pack and ran to the bar and dove for the square opening that led to behind the bar. Which is when everything started to slow down. I was flying low to the floor when I saw it; A pinwheel of color right underneath the bar and before I could open my mouth to swear something appropriate, I passed through the threshold.

Passing through, I first felt the warmth on my hands and arms, and then my face. Bright light flooded my eyes, the scent of a skanky bar’s spilled bub with the overtones of brimstone fell away to something…cleaner and fresher. The sound of air rushing by my head was growing, as I realized I was falling, tumbling over in the air. Glancing down I saw the rapidly approaching ground. I shut my eyes tightly and prepared for a harsh landing. Then I hit the earth hard, landing on my back, my pack landing on the ground nearby.

This was not the start of a good day

I lay there stunned, at first unable to breathe and barely able to moan with my eyes closed. Finally, after a moment I started to gulp down air again. I then opened my eyes, so I could assess where I might be.

I was staring up towards a wooden building, with a pair of very large doors. I had apparently fell from a large open doorway that was right above them. Projecting from that doorway was a beam with a pulley at the end. Overall the wood was worn and grey. Behind the building in the air were…blue skies?

This set off warnings in my head. I quickly stood up and looked around. It was clear I wasn’t in the city anymore. There was a lot of dirt; but no stone at all on the ground. But there was a distinct lack of buildings near me, beyond the large building I was near, and another smaller one nearby. There was some fencing near the buildings. But what stood out was there was a of living…plant stuff.
This was about as far from the city as I could get. But that didn’t really answer where I was. So, I started looking around, trying to find some familiar landmarks.

The first one I was looking for, I didn’t see. After turning around about three times, I was sure of it. the Spire wasn’t visible. It’s not exactly something you can miss; a tall thin mountain, a needle miles wide at the base and extending straight up from the Outlands, into the sky. It was said to be infinite in height, leading to the slang “climbing the Spire” to mean an impossible task. And at the very top, you can see the city spinning at the top of the infinite Spire; a paradox as how is there a top? But impossibilities are the province of the multiverse. But the fact I couldn’t even see it told me I was far from home; I’m not even in the Outlands.

The next thing I realized, was that there was a glowing ball of light in the air. It was hard to look at directly, but I had a good guess on what it was. It must be a sun. That narrowed down the list of planes I could be at; most of the planes on the wheel didn’t have one. But there was one set of planes that did consistently, but they weren’t on the wheel at all.

Which at that point, I realized I didn’t see a portal either. While I had been on the ground for only a brief time, there still should have been light from the portal’s swirl. But, guessing where I fell from the opening from the building’s second floor, the doorway was dark; no swirling color at all.

I then acted on my next instinct and panicked. Grabbing my pack, I raced to the doors of the building and with effort pulled one open. The interior was empty of anything living, but there was a lot of dried plant stuff on the ground. Quickly I spied a ladder that led up to a loft area, saw the open upper door with the beam and pulley, and promptly ran and dove out that doorway headfirst, thinking of home.

I was rewarded with another trip to the dirt. I landed a tad better, but the pain was still the same. And I did this again and again. Each time thinking of something different. I tried to recall was I was thinking when the portal appeared. Trying to think what might have triggered the portal. By the fifth time of landing on the dirt, I gave up. I turned over on my back and screamed a curse and closed my eyes.

I must be on the sodding prime. No, I was hipped on the sodding prime. And clearly didn’t have the key or any way to open a portal to go home. That was assuming there even was a portal on this end. It could have easily been a one-way portal. Considering no-one else had appeared here with me, it must have been bad luck. I didn’t have anyone that was so red with me that they would have hipped me intentionally.

I was lying there thinking to myself when I heard a voice. “Er, sorry m’Lady are…are you alright?”
The voice sounded hesitant, almost afraid. And it sounded like it belonged to a young man. I kept my eyes closed and replied, “No. No, I am not alright. I am laying on the ground here, and with no way to get back to my home.”

“Ah. Well…er…right,” which then led to a long pause before he spoke again, “So why were you running into the barn and jumping out the hayloft door?” sounding hesitant and now confused.

“Looking for the portal, of course.” I replied. “I imagine you don’t know what I’m talking about do you?”

After the briefest of pauses, came the expected answer; “Um, not really. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else jump out that doorway before without some hay to land in. But um…are you hurt…did…did you need help…up?”

He sounded earnest and honest enough, and I extended my left arm out and felt him grasp it around the wrist and was quickly pulled to my feet. At which point I finally opened my eyes.
He must have been in his teens. Light brown hair and brown eyes. His skin was well tanned, and it wasn’t yellow stained like many other city goers. He was not a boy and not yet a man either, with limbs all gangly with wiry muscles that said that he labored hard.

But the instant he locked eyes with mine I could see the color drain from his face and he started to pull his hand away, “By the gods…what…what are you?”

I cocked my head to one side and I’m pretty sure gave him a puzzled look. But I didn’t let go of his wrist just yet.

“What do you mean, ‘what am I?’ What do you think I am?”

He still was looking at me unnerved. I usually get reactions with people when they first meet me, as I do have some striking features. But I had never seen anyone act this way before in the city.

“I…I…dunno. I mean your hair is …is…is a pretty …um…shiny g-g-gold. B-b-but your…eyes. I c-c-can see m-m-m-yself in them. Like m-m-mirrors.”

Sodding Baator. A clueless Prime. This was indeed going to be a long day.

I started talking soothingly and smiled, “It’s alright…my eyes are a bit different. But I’m not going to nick you or anything,” releasing his arm and holding up my hands up, fingers apart.

He pulled his hand away like it was stung, looking at me wildly and he took a step away from me, but he didn’t retreat further. “A bit d-d-different. That…that’s putting it mildly.”

“I take it you have never met an Aasimar?” I said still smiling and still cursing in my head.

“A what…what is...a…Aasim…”

“…mar,” I finish. Thinking for a second, I then said, “You have heard of angels, right?” to which he nodded quickly. Still smiling I continued, “Think of me as…part angel. And, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m just a little…lost. So, if you can point me in the direction of…” to which I then stopped.

Where did I want to go? I barely knew where I was in the multiverse, and the idea of being lost on a Prime plane didn’t appeal. But I had no idea what to ask for. So, I improvised, assuming that there must be a small settlement nearby, as it would be if I were in the Outlands.

“…a town nearby?” I finished.

He was still a little wide eyed, but at the word ‘Angel’ he relaxed a bit.

“You…you do look like one m’lady. You’re awfully p-p-pretty like what an Angel shou…should be like. Those eyes are…are…well are a bit strange. Anyway…we aren’t far from town. It’s just down the road, about two miles.” He said, pointing to a road just beyond a nearby fence. He then frowned and asked. “Um, m’lady, you said you were…lost. Where are you from?”

I was already picking up my pack and checking inventory to make sure that I still had my daggers and things. I then looked at him again and responded

“Where am I from? Sigil, the City of Doors.”

“Ah…. where’s that?”

I just winced and said, “Far from here I’m afraid…thanks for the directions.” And I started to make my way
to the road.

“Uh…ok,” seeming somewhat relieved that I was leaving. I had made to the fence and was climbing over it, when he rushed towards me a bit and called out. “Um, sorry m’lady but…what’s your name?”

I glanced over my shoulder and gave him a smile and said.

“Myrai.”

Session breakdown

So, when a group of us online decided to meet and play a campaign of Dungeon’s and Dragons, this was my starting point. I knew that we were going to be in the Forgotten Realms but I wanted something different. As it turned out, I was replaying Planescape: Torment and I had started diving deeper into the setting. I never had any real experience with it when it was in production and was a broke high school student to boot at the time.

So, the idea popped into my mind of a Sigilite dropped into the Prime with no way home. A new Yorker dropped on the west coast, and so Myrai was born.

Of course, since there wasn’t anything official, I had to stitch Sigil’s timelines with the realms. After talking with the DM, we basically decided that timeline wise, that while we were starting in 1491 DR, Sigil’s timeline was only two years after the events of “Die Vecna, Die’ and placing the Faction War about five years in the past.

And so, the game began, and I was its unofficial historian. The above was the prose that came to mind when the DM just dropped me outside of town.

That was over a year ago, and hundreds of pages of notes ago. And I am rewriting those notes into something more like a story for no other reason that I want to.

So who is Myrai? Myrai is an Aasimar, and has metallic gold hair, and eyes that look like they were freshly minted chrome from Chiba (and now I think of it, the cant and Shadowrun have a lot in common chummer…er berk. Whatever). You won’t find her stats here, but feel free to guess that, and class(ses) as you go.

So, enjoy!
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Dandelions in Triboar (Updated 9/5/2018)

Session 1 – Dandelions in Triboar

Sodding…the Prime. What crime did I commit to be sent here? I mean, it isn’t a host of other nasty places like Carceri or Gehenna. But why at all? Why now? Unanswerable questions right up there with “What can change the nature of a man?” Pike that. “What can change the location of this woman” was more important at the time.

The town wasn’t far down the road I was travelling. I hadn’t been very far outside of Sigil before. A couple of gatetowns in the Outland and Aborea once. But I was still reflecting on what had happened. The kid’s reaction to me was strange to say the least. Yes, I have hair that looks like spun gold (I wish..that would solve a lot of jink issues). Yes, my eyes are like polished mirrors. Strong looks sure…but the reaction seemed a bit much. I had heard that some primes are more isolated than others. Because of that, I decided to put the hood up of my cloak, covering my hair, and keeping my eyes into the shadows. Because if he reacted this way, how were others going to? And he was only a kid. Adults I hoped would be more receptive.

I hoped.

Then there was a matter on what to do next. Part of me wanted to head back to Sigil. But the other part of me, the Sensate wanted to explore. While it was a prime, it still was an adventure. Something to be experienced and learn about. So, I was going to play it cautious, but I might as well make the most of it, while I find a way home.

I guess I wanted to go home mostly because I had just put money down on a kip and had some small mementos stored away. Nothing valuable, but personal items I didn’t really want to lose. It annoyed me that in a day or two, those all would be dross for someone else to sell.

But, I had my daggers, and a mace strapped to the bottom of my pack, some jinx and a symbol of my faith on me. So, I was sort of prepared to travel. But not outdoors. I did do that once in Aborea and was loaned out bedrolls and stuff. But that was a small problem. I didn’t know where I was really which was a bigger concern. Some primes are harder to leave than others after all. That and finding a blood to do it, or a portal or something was going to take some time.

Then there was the matter of jink, or rather that I didn’t have a significant amount of it. I could probably survive a month with the thirty-odd jinx I had on hand. But, I was lanned enough to know, that without a lot of jink, acquiring a portal key, or a spell from a fingerpainter, or even just the local chant was going to be challenging. Add the fact I had little idea about where I was, didn’t give me a lot to work with in terms of options. Granted, a festhall with some gaming I could earn some, but I was better at running a table as a host compared with dicing. Somehow I didn’t think they knew how to play ‘Styxes and Sixes’ here.

Finally, the most pressing matter was food. Food in Sigil is easy. Just wandering around the wards could find carts with the stuff…if sometimes of a questionable source. But some you could trust. A nice sooty za would be really rum right now. But I didn’t have any food, let alone za, and I was getting hungry.

So, the town was the only real option.

I strode into town and at first look it was…quaint? It had all the feelings of a gatetown, but smaller and missing the gate. It is also not a destination, but a place to travel through to go elsewhere. It appeared to straddle the intersection of a main road going…

…How DO you tell directions here? Spikeward and Downward don’t work. Something to learn I guess.

Anyway, I entered the town and was between what looked to be a place that sold large animals, and another which seemed to be a collection of costermongers with large wagons, and animals to pull them. I walked onto the grounds of the latter and listened. I didn’t want to mark myself as a newcomer and get bobbed in the bargain, so I couldn’t take notes. Really can’t afford to lose anything now, so avoiding getting bobbed was a concern. But by listening to the ‘mongers and others I found out the name of the town; ‘Triboar’, and it sat on an intersection of the ‘Long Road’ and the ‘Evermoor Way.’ I also heard directions like ‘North’ and ‘West’ but had no idea what they meant.

But one thing did catch my ear, was that one of the ‘mongers was complaining about a rider in his caravan. A loud wizard, who thought very highly of himself, his father, his projects, and his annoying golden owl. I was about to ignore them at that point when of one of them said ‘…and he wouldn’t shut up about his planar…thing.’

It was stretching my hopes to be sure. But a loud wizard shouldn’t be hard to find. And as it turned out it wasn’t. But, it was even easier to find the owl.

The owl, was a bright shiny gold color, like my hair. But the tone was closer to brass, than gold. It was flying around here and there, but it was following someone heading to a two-story tower in the center of town. Getting closer I soon figured out who it was following.

At the time I wasn’t sure, but I learned later it was a gnome. And for the record, telling gnomes, halflings, and dwarves apart took a bit of learning. They aren’t common in Sigil, so any mistaken racial assignments are all my fault.

But he was loud. And he was laying into a guardsman at the tower about someone inside. I was guessing that the tower must have served as a birdcage along with other functions, based on the phrase ‘let him go.’ I at that point, circled the tower, and placed myself on the edge of a one of the caravan areas and watched. I then saw two things.

The first was after several moments, the gnome was let inside the tower, leaving his owl outside. That told me he was planning to leave soonish. The second thing was more interesting; I wasn’t the only one interested in the gnome.

Across the way at another caravan area was a Tinman. He was human, dressed in chain mail and with a shield slung on his back. And he was watching both the owl and the entrance to the tower intently.

I wasn’t sure if he noticed me doing the same thing. So, I sank down to the dirt and basically occupied myself with a greensteel file and working on my nails to pass the time. I didn’t need to see the entrance; I just needed to see the owl. Or hear it. It regularly made a sound that was roughly like “Beee-poooo.” I seemed to remember a story that a power once gave a mortal something like that, so I wondered if this was a bad trope come to life.

Time passed, and the owl got excited, and I glanced over at the tower. It appeared that the gnome must have paid the bellman and sprung free a human. I remained seated and looked at the human.
This one was…well dirty. No filthy. Like he hadn’t seen a bath, let alone water in some time. He was dressed in dark ragged clothing and had unkempt hair and a light beard. But, I noticed he was quickly buckling a short sword and dagger around his waist, but in a manner so that the rags he wore concealed them somewhat. This gave me an impression that he was a knight of the post.

Fortunately enough, the pair was going to walk right by me. As they came closer, a small animal darted from the crowd and made a beeline to the dirty one and climbed on his shoulder. It was small, brown furred, and kinda looked like a real ugly human child, but cute in that small animal way. I mean it had hands after all. No idea what it was at the time, but the human started to feed it something, and it gave the human back something in return; something shiny. I suspected another bad trope concerning a Knight of the Post and his pet. I just needed a third and the Rule-of-Three would be completed.

As they got closer, the Tinman approached the pair and very intentionally ran into the dirty human, and said, “Meet me at Dandelions” and then walked right past where I was sitting and turned into the caravan grounds.

The pair were taken by surprise at this and looked at each other blankly. I couldn’t hear the human, but the gnome’s voice was clear, saying “Well I don’t know who that was either!” followed by soft mumbling, and again the loud response “I think it’s odd, so perhaps we should investigate. Where is this ‘Dandelions? And who names a bar after a flower?’

I agreed with that sentiment; why would you name a bar that? I’m sure there is a story there, but it isn’t one I really want to care about. They continued onward, and I remained seated. I didn’t really want to follow either the Tinman or the pair. That’s a good way to marked as a cony-catcher or a spiv.

Fortunately, I remembered seeing a ramshackle inn with a flower on a sign, before I reached the place selling the large animals. So, after a moment, I pulled myself up and backtracked. All the while I kept the hood up, and at least gave the appearance that I knew where I was going. And not a soul noticed or cared.

I just hoped that this was going to either lead me home, a way to make some jink, or at least an interesting experience.

As I found out. It was a bit of each.

Session Breakdown

There is a lot going on in the first session, so I am posting a bit ahead of my schedule, just to get things going. 200 pages of is a lot to work with.

And so, without involving a bar fight (which I was told was another option being considered) we have four people trying to come up with a credible way to meet and start adventuring. Credit to the DM for giving enough hooks for us to rationalize the characters behavior.

The dialog is fairly close to my notes, as is the name of the bar. The only things that I retcon’d from my notes was the layout of Triboar itself to match what was documented in Storm Kings Thunder. And no there isn’t a “Dandelions” there either…but there is an abandoned inn!

Also…you’ll notice that there is a bit of the cant throughout the dialog from Myrai. I know some people hate it, but in this group it went over very well, and they got very attached to Myrai as a concept. The language was a big part of that. If you need translation to terms, go to http://www.mimir.net/cant/cant2.html which is the most complete source of cant online.

Mechanically we are all first level. Keep that in mind, as we go forward. We are also not using XP, but milestones. Some other notes are that this particular Forgotten Realms is a bit more…magic poor. Fewer wizards for certain. Otherwise, it resembles the Realms as you know.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Flint Rock and the importance of tipping (9/13/2018)

Flint Rock and the importance of tipping.

The odd thing, is that while people always are trying to get my attention and talk with me, I’m not really a people person. Most people aren’t worth the screed they spout; and in turn, I’m not inclined to spent time with them. On the other hand, when I talk…people take notice. I’d like to credit good breeding or looks, but its more than that. Must be the eyes.


Working my way back I found the sign. It was in front of a dilapidated Inn, that had signs of recent work. Some new wooden boards side by side by old ones. The sign to the inn itself was a simple yellow flower, painted on a sign that had carved on it “The Frost Touched Frog Inn.” I’m honestly not sure which one was better.

Strangely enough, with me taking my time I a had arrived ahead of the dirty pair; The owl gave it away with that awful “Beeepoooo” sound somewhere on the road behind me. So, I quickly darted inside.

Inside the Inn appeared…serviceable. The bar itself seemed to be new, but the tables, chairs, and stools were mismatched castoffs; old but sturdy. A hearth and a low fire, gave the Inn a slightly smokey atmosphere. But for as bad the Inn looked outside, daylight didn’t break through the walls, and a bit of work had been done to return it to use.
Inside, the Tinman was already seated at a table, not far from the bar itself. He glanced my way as I entered; clearly expecting the pair, and quickly returned to his cups when he saw it was me. I quickly moved to the bar and found a seat that was close to where the Tinman was, trying not to be obvious. And then I flagged down the barkeep.

“G’day Lass, welcome to Dandelions! What can I ge…” and like that his voice trailed off once we made eye contact. He stood there and just blinked with a wide-eyed look of shock on his face.

Sighing, I leaned a bit over the bar, reached for his apron and pulled him closer to me. And said slowly and quietly; “Please, it’s been a long day. Yes, they look different, and yes I can see you just fine. I want a strong ale, a meal, a room for the night, and later I’ll answer questions If you’re nice.”

The barkeeper, recovered quickly nodded “Of of course! Yes…yes…just a moment.” And scurried off to get the ale. At that point the dirty pair entered the Inn. And it became apparent that my placement at the bar really didn’t matter much.

The reason being, is once the gnome saw the Tinman it was apparent that he had only one volume for his voice; Obnoxiously Loud. It wasn’t hard to listen in. Pretty sure the kitchen could have listened in.

“So…you are the one that ran into us into the square. Who are you?” the Gnome demanded.

The Tinman looked pained, clearly expecting a quieter discussion. “You know, I wasn’t trying to talk to you. And you are speaking a bit lo…”

“Never mind that! If you want to talk to my associate here, you are talking to me! Now, who are you?” he barked…or more yipped and puffed up his chest in response.

Giving up on the lack of discretion the Tinman continued, “Who I am is a man looking for his master. You may call me, Daneath.”

“And what does that have to do with us?” the gnome asked archly.

“With ‘us’ nothing. With him however,” pointing at the dirty human “I have been informed by some…friends of mine that he might know the way.”

The dirty human blinked and spread out his hands, “Whoa, look I have no idea what you are talking about. I don’t know about anyone’s ‘Master’ so I don’t kno…”

He was cut off by the Tinman, “You do…you just don’t know it.”

“It doesn’t matter in the slightest!” said the gnome. “This one is in my debt and he already has a job to pay it off. And I am in some haste, so whatever you want will just have to wait!” and with that, the gnome again puffed out his chest and looked indignantly at the Tinman.

“Is that so?” and the Tinman looked at the dirty human “And, what are you doing for this Gnome that is so important?”

The dirty one replied, “He wants to go to ‘Flint Rock,’ He claims he’s trying to find his father.”

The gnome turned and looked at the dirty human, “I didn’t say you could discuss that with anyone…er…what was your name again?”

“You didn’t say anything about it being a secret either. And since you finally asked, Iesa.” the dirty one retorted.
At this point, the barkeeper slid me a clay mug and said, “Supper’s coming out,” and headed to the trio to find out what they wanted. I sat there sipping the ale (which wasn’t half bad, if a bit strong on the hops) and remarked to myself that this was the strangest discussion I had heard in a while. Not the content mind you, but the fact it was out in the open as it was. Granted it was mostly because the gnomes voice carried, but that seemed to lead to everyone raising their voices. After a bit of talking to the barkeep, the orders for drinks made and they continued.

The Tinman regarded the gnome “’Flint Rock’? That is an odd coincidence. That is where my master left to.” Both the gnome and the Tinman looked at the dirty human. “So how do you know the way to a sacred cairn in Elk tribe territory?”
“Elk tribe!” the gnome sputtered, but the other human ignored the outburst, “Let’s say I liberated that knowledge some time ago…”

Well that confirmed it; he is a Knight of the Post.

“…and I have been making my way south to go there myself. But why would your master want to go to an Elk tribe cairn, and why would a wizard be insane enough to go to Elk tribe territory at all?”

The gnome glared at the ‘Knight’ with that, “I didn’t know it was in Elk tribe lands! And I know full well their reputation on how they treat uninvited guests…and especially uninvited wizard guests! And considering my father was a powerful wizard, he must have had a good reason. But I must find him, and I must complete my work!”

“Your work?” both humans together said looking at the gnome intently.

“Yes, yes. I am building a device that will allow me to breach planar barriers and let me travel! I suspect my father was building or had a device. But I haven’t heard from him in years. So, finding him is imperative to me to accelerate my work!”

I am now fully paying attention to this conversation. So much so, that I hadn’t even noticed that the barkeep had slid a slice of meat in front of me some time ago. But here is a possible way home; either the device or the father of the gnome, who I am now certain is a Fingerpainter.

It isn’t going to be quick to get home, but at least the berks can show me around this mudball of a prime. Now it is a matter of how do I join in on this?

The Tinman spoke “So…what in the Hells is your name?” looking at the gnome.

“Ah, of course! You have the pleasure of addressi…”

“The short version please.” The Tinman said holding up his hand before the gnome really got started.

The gnome glared, “Ahem that’s just rude! But I am Beepu, Beepu Tilteepockey of Silverymoon. But despite your lack of manners, I think we should stick together, as it sounds like we are heading in the same direction for the moment. Let me get some meals from the barkeeper and we can formalize our plans!”

The Fingerpainter then hopped off of the chair and made his way to the bar. Since the barkeeper was in the back, the ‘Painter climbed up on a stool next to me and was shouting repeatedly to get the barkeeper’s attention.
At that point I decided to dive right in, and hope for the best. It beat banging around the town, and pike it; at least I wouldn’t be bored. So barely turning my head, I address the ‘Painter, “So…you’re looking to travel into the planes?”

“Hmm? You were listening to our private conversation!”

“Private? I bet the barkeeper and the cook in back heard your ‘Private’ conversation.”

“Still! That’s not proper manners to listen in!”

“It’s rude to shout.”

“I’m not shou…ting.” And the Painter realizing that his voice was indeed carrying managed to lower his voice a bit. At this time the two humans were in a quiet dialog between themselves but were looking at the Fingerpainter with puzzled looks.

“Well, you aren’t now. Anyway, what do you know of the planes?”

“It’s all very technical, for a common woman like you to understand. For example, places like the Nine Hells…”

“Baator.”

The Painter blinked, “What did you say?”

“Only clueless primes call them ‘the Nine Hells.’ The plane is Baator, it is inhabited by the Baatezu, and they take a very dim view of primes wandering in uninvited.”

He blinked again, “Yes…yes that’s right. Who are you exactly?”

“Someone who is willing to trade a bit of sweat and stuff to help you achieve your goals, in exchange for a trip home.”

“Home? And where is that might I ask?”

At this point, I turn to him, smiling and look the gnome in the eyes, watching them grow wide.

“Sigil, th…”

“The City of Doors…” he said quietly looking into my eyes. He blinked and shook his head. “I’m sorry, but your eyes…I have never seen anyone with eyes like that.”

I shrug, “They’re because I’m planetouched; An Aasimar. I just happen to show it…stronger than others do.”

“So, you aren’t fully human?”

I pause a second. I’ve never been asked that question…or at least in that way. I’ve never thought of myself as either human or part human.

Awkwardly, I answer, “Well, I really don’t know the answer to that question really. I’m a foundling…so while I know my father was some type of celestial, my mother…I have no idea.”

“How interesting, and do you have skills that can help us on our journey? What can you tell me about planar mechanics? Who is your father? What are you doing in Triboar? How did…”

At that point I place my hand gently on his lips. “Tell you what, your friends might have the same questions, so perhaps we can discuss it with them?”

“Of course! That makes sense…Once I get the barkeeps attention!”

Smiling I turn my head towards the kitchen and barely raising my voice said, “Hey barkeep!” to which he almost instantly appeared from the back. He walked up straight to me, and clearly ignored the Fingerpainter.

“Yes, yes…did you need something more?”

I nodded, “A round of your ale for four on me, and whatever…Beepu wants on him.” Tossing the barkeep, a jinx and said,“Thank you.”

The barkeep smiles and catches the coin and looks at the Painter with some disinterest. “And you want…what?”

“I’ve been trying to get your attention for a while! How do you expect to make any money with service like this!”

“By making room for patrons who actually tip,” was the retort.

---

Eventually the barkeep and the Painter come to some arrangement involving stew, and I then dismount my stool, and grab my plate and move to the table where the humans were talking.

Neither was startled by me sitting down with my meal, but both did quiet down and look at me quizzically and then at each other. Their eyes narrowed in suspicion and the Knight was about to say something when the Painter came back to the table.

“Yes, well food is on the way and I found someone that will be very hel…”

“Who is she?” the Knight asked, “And what’s with the hair and eyes?”

I smile, “So nice of you to notice. It’s a rarity, or so I’m told. You can call me Myrai, and you might say I’m interested in his success.” Leaning my head toward the Painter.

“And you want what?” the Knight asked.

“Simple things, a tour, a way back to the Cage, jink…” Seeing the blank looks, I realized I needed to be clearer as the Cant was going over their heads. “Let me…rephrase, I come with you while you explore and find your way to ‘Flint Rock’ and do what you need to, Beepu gets me back to my home city, and I get a cut of money along the way. Does that make sense berks?”

“I can assume you can pull your own weight, seeing you have got a number of blades on you. But some of the words you use…like ‘berk’. What does that mean?”

“Where I come from we call it ‘the Cant’ …It’s a form of slang. And berk? Berk means…partner.” I lied.

“And this place…the Cage?”

“You mean Sigil? Well imagine a place that is the crossroads of the multiverse. It’s a place that has doors to and from anywhere if you have the key. Because of that it is the trading hub, where anyone can do business with anyone they want. And before you ask, it’s called the Cage as getting in and out requires that key, and keys change often.”

The Knight and the Tinman both looked at me, processing my words. I took a good look at them for the first time; both had black hair and brown eyes, but where the Tinman, Daneath, was all muscle the Knight, Iesa, was wiry. Both had appeared to have quick reflexes, when the ale arrived and both going for the tallest filled mug. The Tinman was clean shaven, where the Knight had thick stubble on his face. The Tinman had a sword and a large bow strapped to his pack, while the Knight had his short sword and dagger. The tinman of course had chain mail and a shield was leaning against a nearby post, while the Knight seemed to have some leather buried beneath his rags. Perched on the shoulder of the Knight was the brown, short furred animal…I should know what it is, but it’s not coming to mind.

By contrast, Beepu the Fingerpainter did not appear to be the most athletic. Standing about three feet in height which made the two humans twice his size easily. He too had dark brown nearly black hair and green eyes. More notable was the wide assortment of trinkets and gizmos hanging from belts and straps. But it’s the owl that really stood out.
The owl wasn’t real. Well, no it is real, but it isn’t alive. It’s like a modron; all gears and wires and stuff. Even sitting there quietly on the back of the Painters chair it made quiet clicking and whirring noises as it surveyed the inn.

At this point I can’t imagine what they thought of me. But since someone is going to read this journal, I might as well describe myself. I stand about five foot, with my shoulder length hair worn free. I wear a set of soft leathers, that looks like a crazy quilted mess of blacks and red (they were leftover cuts, that I helped stitch together), with a light leather cloak, and a boiled leather chest piece. A dagger on my hip off a belt, which on the other side supporting a pouch that drops down and has a strip of leather keeping it place with my right thigh. If they paid enough attention they would have seen more daggers; one in a bracer and one in a boot. That left the two necklaces I wore; one a…personal momento and the other a symbol of my faith.

An eclectic mess. But it was comfortable, and easy to keep clean from the brimstone infused rain of the lower ward.
The Tinman spoke “Well, if we are going to Elk territory, we’ll probably need all the help we can get. You can handle yourself, right?”

Smiling I reply, “I can take care of myself, but while I don’t know what this Elk tribe is, from the sound of it they wouldn’t like me better than the Fingerpainter…sorry, wizard here. But I’ll manage.”

Then from behind me a voice said, “So there you are Iesa! If you are planning on running, we’d better talk…now.”

The Knight turned his head slightly and was looking at someone behind me and said, “Well, running now would be a waste of an ale. What do you want Korsos? It’s not like I’ve done anything.”

“Done anything yet,” the voice intoned. “But truth be told, your fine is paid for, so you are indeed free to go. I’m just here to give you…advice.” Which I then heard a chair scraping behind me and the sound of someone taking a seat. Turning my head, I saw a mid-aged human; with greying hair and beard and vivid green eyes. He had a deep tan and wore leathers that had seen plenty of time outdoors. A sword was belted to his side and a bow, on which he leaned forward on, holding it in both hands with one end on the floor as if propping up his frame. He was sitting on a chair backwards, facing towards our table. The final thing I noticed was a chain around his neck, with what looked to be a badge of office, with three pig heads? No…Boar heads…

Oh, I get it now. Triboar. Great; a guvner of sorts I suppose.

The Knight was giving Korsos a look that sat between suspicious and curious. “Advice? You could have given me that the first time you had me thrown in that cell.”

“True. But then it would have been lost on you boy. Plus, I wasn’t around for the second time. At that point I normally wouldn’t have cared one whit about you. But…you surprised me. I wasn’t expecting you to be the altruistic type.”

“Fat merchants shouldn’t kick kids,” spat the Knight.

Korsos frowned, “No…no they shouldn’t. But threatening the merchant at sword point till he soiled himself was a bit strong of a response. Granted he didn’t notice you lifting his purse at the same time. And because that purse was dropped in those kid’s hands, is the only reason I’m not bringing you back to the tower.”

I looked at the Knight closely; and my gut just told me his story. A street kid, living by his wits, but not alone. Probably was with other kids supporting each other, and by extension to any other group of urchins around him. I could easily see him being a lightboy in Sigil, and later in life, keeping an eye out for them. We might have a little bit in common.
His voice brought me back to the present, “So, what, ‘don’t do that again’ is that it?”

Korsos shook his head, “No…you need to leave town. The merchant has made a stink of what you did, and while Darathra might be inclined to believe you, she’s out of town and not due back for weeks. Malton, her second seems to have taken a shine to you…but in not the most pleasant of ways. In fact, if he was at the tower today, it would have been doubtful that your friend here,” to which he pointed at Beepu, “and that annoying, noisy construct would have been able to spring you loose. However, he isn’t back from hunting yet, and won’t be until late tomorrow. If I were you, I would arrange to be elsewhere by then.”

“Now wait a minute! Foggle isn’t noisy!” Beepu said defensively. “He is a state of the arcanotechnical machine.”

“Oh…so you admit to him being annoying?” Korsos said mildly.

“Yes, I do mean…wait…NO…that isn’t what I meant at all!” Beepu replied flustered at the turn of the conversation.

At this point I decided to intervene before the gnome escalated it, “So where do you recommend that Iesa go?”

Korsos looked at me for the first time and did a double take. But he recovered and quickly answered “Ah, well he could head north on the road to Longsaddle or south to Amphail or Waterdeep. But I admit, Iesa might get chased in either of those directions by Malton. You might be safer heading to Yartar if for no other reason is they aren’t likely to help anyone in authority from Triboar. What I wouldn’t do, is head off into the wilds.”

“Something wrong in the wilds?” I asked.

“Well, two things. The first is that the Elk tribe which normally patrols and harasses wagon caravans haven’t been seen in a while. That’s odd enough, but whatever caused that, has also led to a sudden increase of gnolls. That tells me that the Elk are truly concerned with other matters; they wouldn’t just let gnolls run rampant in their territory.”

Gnolls; spawn from Yeenoghu, one of the Demon Lords of the Abyss. An extreme rarity in Sigil as they weren’t exactly civilized. When they were brought in, they were handled like dangerous pets. And usually a fatality would happen and the Guvners would point out that’s why you don’t bring them into the city, and the Red Death puts them all to the sword; including the responsible party. But I didn’t realize they were present on primes. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant thought.

Korsos continued, “Although, I’m not sure in your case which would be worse; a pack of gnolls or a patrol of Elk tribesmen. Your appearance might be…interpreted in the wrong way. They barely tolerate elves, and the Elk know that they deal with magic. It’d be unfortunate if you crossed their paths, as I have no idea what would happen to you. Beyond being painful that is.”

I had caught on that this ‘Elk Tribe’ were a bunch of superstitious primitives and they didn’t like magic. Considering that people reacting shocked or surprised around me, made me believe the Elk might take it a bit farther. And I really didn’t want to become a petitioner to my god just yet.

Shrugging I comment, “We’ll just have to avoid them…no matter which way we end up going.”
Korsos nodded, “Well, I’m sure you’ll come to the right decision, and then leave Triboar. Good-day to you all.” And with that, Korsos stood up and left the Inn.

It was getting near dark, and the Inn was getting busier with merchants and some locals. I start to cut into the now cold dinner, take a bite and chew and looked at the others.

They in turn looked at the Knight, who’s brow was furrowed in thought. Eventually he spoke, “So if we all want to get to Flint Rock, we should leave tomorrow and head to Yartar.”

“Because of you annoying the merchants here?” started the Painter “You really should control yourself and focus at the task at hand; MY task!”

“No,” and the Knight gave a level gaze to the Painter “It’s because from what I know, it is closer to Yartar, than here.”

“Well…that at least makes some sense.” The gnome remarked.

“How exactly do you know the way to the place?” the Tinman asked

“I saw a map once, and I have a good memory for these things,” the Knight commented.

I looked at the Knight carefully; something was amiss, but I couldn’t figure out what. It was like he was trying to hide something. It was the way he was looking with his eyes; defensive and suspicious.

After a quick swallow of the ale, I asked “How far is it to Yartar exactly?”

“About sixty miles east…” the Tinman replied, “so almost three days march, assuming we don’t find a ride in a caravan. But we can see if any of the caravan’s is headed that way on the morrow and get whatever supplies we need. You all have rooms here?”

The Painter and the Knight shook their heads, while I gave an affirmative nod. “Well, seems that two of us do, so you should consider staying here. Otherwise, we can do what we like until then…within reason,” giving a hard stare at the Knight.

The Knight lifted his hands, palms up and half shrugged, “I don’t want to spend more time in jail if that’s what you mean.”

“Well, I for one do not want to pay another set of fines for you, so you should be on your best behavior!” started up the Painter. “And another thing, you keep your pet away from Foggle! It’s not a toy!”

“What? Mo?” The Knight pointing to the animal on his shoulder, “I don’t even think it likes that contraption much. Too noisy.”

“Anyway,” interrupted the Tinman, “Let’s meet here in the morning and start out. I’m going to retire for the evening, and get my gear situated. Till tomorrow” And with that he rose and headed to a set of stairs at the back of the room.

“Yes, yes, that is a good idea. I must return to my studies! Much to do.” And with that the gnome wandered to the barkeep and started shouting about a room…leaving his stew untouched behind him.

“Think he’ll miss that?” the Knight pointed at the gnomes forgotten bowl.

“Doubtful. He looks like he has enough on his mind right now,” as I looked over at the Painter and watched him unsuccessfully bargain down the price of the room.

“His loss. I’ll be turning in as well; the cell wasn’t exactly comfortable and I need the sleep. I guess we can talk more in the morning…Myrai right?” to which I nodded. He then drained his bowl, took the one left by the Gnome, and walked to the barkeep. It seemed he jumped in front of the Painter in the line, got a key and headed upstairs, annoying the painter even more. Finally, he manages to get a key and stomps off upstairs as well.

Leaving me alone at the table. I sat there a moment deciding what I wanted to do. And after thinking about it, I realized that I was mentally drained, and the pains and bruises from jumping down two stories were being felt. I really wanted a warm bath to soak in, but I hadn’t seen or even heard anything resembling criers for them here.

I rose, asked the Barkeep for a filled mug of ale and a key and also took my leave of the bar, and headed upstairs. Soon enough, I entered the room, closed the door and leaned against it, slowly beating it with the back of my head. I was truly hoping I had made the right choice.

I then realized it was dark, and I reached within and I projected some of myself onto a nearby lamp. I felt a warmth running up and down my back, and then the lamp glows with a soft yellow light. No flames or smoke, just a solid light. Gulping down some of the ale, I start removing my armor and leathers and laid them on the bed. Sitting beside them, I start muttering to myself some incantations. First the armor and leathers changed; the dirt and grime of the day dissolved, and then became polished and shined. Then I start to do the same to my skin, because while I couldn’t get a proper bath, I at least could keep myself clean.

I check my blades, and my pouch of coins and once all is accounted for, I moved my things on to chair near the bed. And then I kneeled next the bed and remove one of the medallions from my neck and clasp it tightly in my hands, holding it so I can see the front face clearly. I run my fingers over the raised surface of it, over the skeletal arm, and the scales.

And I close my eyes and prayed:

No one should be alone, in life or death,
Death is part of life, not an ending but a beginning
Death is without deceit and has meaning,
I will strive to help those to live,
So, they can die at their appointed time,
I will honor those who have died before me,
For it is their lives and deeds that give us the world today,
Bless me to live until my appointed time,
So, my deeds will live forever,
So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith
May Death grant us peace.

And with that, I kissed the medallion and placed it again on my neck. I then crawled into the bed, and with the same rush along my back the room darkens.

Tomorrow would be an interesting day.

Session Breakdown
During this part of the session, we were now starting to feel out the character’s relationship to each other. Some of the conventions of personality start in these early sessions.

One of my character development, was a contradiction. Sigil and Planescape talks about powers and there is some dynamic between some of the factions. It describes temples. But it doesn’t really cover faith and how faith fits with the citizens. But I wasn’t thinking in terms of a cleric, but a truly devout lay person.

But the deity I wanted to base it off of was Kelvemor, the ‘new’ deity of death from the Forgotten Realms. Normally you think of sending prayers to Chauntea for rain and crops, Tymora for luck, even Umberlee for safety from drowning. But why does a lay person worship a god of death? And that it itself started a story.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
From an Anthill... (9/27/2018)

From an Anthill…
When they say a plane is ‘infinite’ you really don’t have an appreciation for distance until you need to go somewhere. Then, the journey always seems fraught with issues; taking too long, bad weather, things trying to kill you…all at the same time. But by that point, all your problems seem smaller anyway. So, I guess it works out.

I woke with a start, sweating and with heavy breathing. The dream I had was vivid, but the images were fading. Images of the past; of war, of betrayal, of pain.

And death. Far too much of that.

Sitting up in the bed I held my head with my hands and focused. I tried to calm myself down, when I remembered where I was.

I groaned, and flop backwards back on the bed. This wasn’t my kip back in Sigil. That was a run-down shared space in the Hive, run by a woman that called herself, ‘Blind-Kari.’ And while she was blind, she had the best hearing. So good, that I wondered if it was a peel of some sort.

No, I was still on the Prime, and I as I recalled from last night, my group of adams were going to head to another anthill called Yartar. And it was going to take about three days to get there. I sat up in the bed and grabbed my clothing on the nearby chair. I started to pull on my leathers when I realized, I wasn’t even sure which Prime I was on. The names of these towns weren’t familiar. I made a mental note to ask the Fingerpainter, Beepu where exactly where I was.

I laced my leather bodice, and then strapped on the leather breastplate. I began to run through my head what I might need for a trip here. Food and water maybe…doubt any bub is going to keep for the trip, without getting to the stronger stuff. But I was keenly aware that I didn’t have a lot of jink, and I had no idea what stuff cost here. I didn’t like the idea that a merchant could just rob me based on I didn’t know the ask for a given thing. The cost for the room and meal…seemed right. But I honestly didn’t know.

The leather bracers were next; always a pain to put the one on the right arm. I reflected that it was an odd coincidence that the three others were all looking for this ‘Flint Rock’ a true Rule-of-Three, which of course made me a Fourth rule. I wasn’t really interested in the place, just was hoping to find a path home. But somehow, I suspected it was going to take a while just to get the Fingerpainter’s device running.

And that was assuming I was ready to leave. While I had my doubts now, I was pretty sure I was going to get distracted and it might be a long time before I go back. I knew that my kip was going to be picked clean soon enough. But other than a sleeping shirt and a comb and brush, I didn’t leave anything valuable behind. The comb and brush were maybe sentimental, as I had had for a long time when I was a “guest” of the Gatehouse. Memories, but replaceable.

I buckled my belt and strapped my pouch to my leg and started putting my blades where I wanted them; boot, bracer and hip. I steeled myself for a long day, grabbed my empty mug from last night, and then opened the door and headed down stairs.

I was the first one awake it appeared as the common room below was empty. I could hear some noise that came from the kitchen.

“Excuse me,” I called out, and the innkeep emerged from the kitchen.

“Well, I guess I wasn’t dreaming after all. And you are up early.”

“I…am? Ok…does that mean that there isn’t any food ready?”

“Oh, I can get something for you in a pinch. I have some tea ready if you like.”

“Well I…sure,” realizing that I had no idea what standard fare would be here. So, I decided to be ‘surprised.’ At least I knew what tea was. I took a seat at a nearby table and waited.

In a short moment, said tea was in my hands. I’m not a big drinker of it, but, closing my eyes I was savoring the scent. Earthy, with a hint of a sharp bitter note. I smiled, remembering that the new was fun, if sometimes unexpected.

Soon, the Innkeep brought out a plate with a fork, that had some type of smoked meat on it; a sausage of some sort I guessed. But the yellow fluffy stuff next to it was a mystery. I poked it with the fork a bit and took a bite. The texture was soft, and I could taste the hints of salt and a sharp spice. But the substance had little overt flavor itself.

While I was sampling this, I heard the clinking of metal armor on the stairs, and the Tinman made his appearance. He saw me at the table and saw my meal. Commented “That’s what I could use now,” and called to the innkeep to get him the same, and the innkeep diligently served up yet another plate of meat and yellow stuff. Not too long afterwards, the Fingerpainter and…what was its name…Foggle, came down next. He took a look at the plates in front of us, and then shouted, “Yes, yes, more of that!” and the Innkeeper, with somewhat less enthusiasm brought out another plate and almost threw it down on the table.

The Fingerpainter doesn’t make friends easily.

At this point, the Knight made an entrance. Amazingly enough he was much cleaner, with his hair oiled and slicked back, his rags discarded and was dressed in dark leather armor, his blades in the open. He grinned when he saw us, and called out, “Sorry, probably need another plate!”

“No problem, just started getting another batch ready,” he came out of the kitchen and plopped down a fourth plate, and quickly rushed back.

I had just finished my sausage. It was a sweet one, and a tad overdone for my tastes. When I watched the Knight dive into his meal, it was like he hadn’t seen food for days. Wolfing it down and between bites said, “Been a while, but love eggs.”


My stomach turned.

I looked at him, feeling anxious; “What…did…you…say?”

He stopped eating long enough to look at me like I was from…well I guess I was from elsewhere…but it was a confused look. “Eggs, why?”

My stomach was becoming less happy.

“You mean eggs…from a…bird. You eat them?” I said slowly.

He just nodded and started eating again.

“I need a moment,” and I stood up and made my way to the kitchen resting a hand on my abdomen. Looking inside, I saw the Innkeeper cracking an egg on an iron plate over a fire, and was mixing it up creating a pile of… yellow…

I scanned the kitchen and saw an exit and I bolted for it. I threw open the door and I was outside, somewhere behind the inn. I saw a well and a small tree. My stomach was heaving, and I stumbled over to the tree and promptly emptied the contents of my stomach on the ground.

Leaning against the tree, I was panting and the only thought I had was “Eggs? They eat eggs?!?!”

After a moment, I straightened up. Reaching within, I use some magic to clean my clothes and my face of the mess I had made. Turning, I head to the kitchen door and stopped short and reconsidered. I then instead walked around the inn to the front and re-entered.

The trio had already finished, thank the powers. The innkeep was hovering around the table, and was looking into the kitchen. He then noticed me entering from the front, and then he turned to face me with a look of concern on his face, “Are you alright? Was something wro…”

“I’m fine,” I said cutting him off, “Don’t concern yourself.”

The Knight looked at me with squinted eyes, “What was that about?”

I slumped down in the chair, “You…and the eggs. That’s…disgusting.”

They all now looked at me with that look that plainly said, ‘You aren’t from around here are you?’ The Knight pressed on, “What? Eggs are delicious.”

“They come out of the rear of a bird!” I responded in disbelief. “They are unborn birds. And you eat them? That’s just…just not right. Anyway, just Styx it.”

“What?” all three say looking at me.

I sighed, “’Forget it’ is what I meant to say.”

“Alright…while you were, resampling your breakfast we made some decisions, that I would get some supplies for a trip, and Iesa would check if a caravan was heading to Yartar today,” the Tinman explained.

I nodded, happy to drop the topic on eggs. “Makes sense, but please be…thoughtful on the price. I don’t have a huge amount of jink on me.

“What?” all three say again still looking at me.

“Seriously? Jink…Money,” I said, while rubbing my thumb and finger together.

The Tinman nodded, “Never want to spend a fortune on trail rations. And it wouldn’t likely have eggs either. You ready to go otherwise?”

I shrugged, “We aren’t getting closer to Yartar banging around here.”

The Knight then chimed in, “Yeah, seeing that I overstayed my welcome, I want to get out of town. Let’s meet by the eastern caravan grounds in a bit.” And he and the Tinman left the inn. I reach into my pouch and pull out some stingers and hand them to the innkeep and muttered, “Sorry about the mess.” I pulled my cloak’s hood up over my head, tucked my hair inside, and left the inn.

On the road outside, there wasn’t a lot of people moving about yet. I guess that meant it was early. The sun hadn’t risen above the hills to the east. It was then that I noticed that the Fingerpainter was following behind.

“Well! It would seem that many things are different here than in Sigil," the Fingerpainter started.

“Well, that’s true in the gatetowns as well. I just didn’t spend much time in them," I said.

“Gatetowns? Those are the settlements that lead to the other outer planes right?”

I nodded, “Each one has a gate to a particular plane; Automata leads to Mechanus, Ribcage leads to Baator and so on. But just because there is a gate, doesn’t mean you are welcome on the other side. That reminds me, I have some questions for you. First off, where am I exactly?”

The Fingerpainter looked at me and sighed. “Easy, you’re in Triboar!”

I groaned. “No, no, that’s…” I started to say.

“…Which sits on the major trade route between Waterdeep and Mirabar as part of the Lords Alliance. The Alliance itself covers much of the Sword Coast, which is a collection of kingdoms, independent city states and…”

“No, I meant...” as I tried to get a word in.

“…various dwarfholds. All of which is sometimes just referred to as ‘The North,’ but this is just a small part of the continent of Faerûn. Let’s talk a bit about some of the nations and history...”

“NO!” I shouted, whirling around to face him, causing him to jump back a little startled. I stop a moment to reign in my temper and said, “I’m sorry, that’s not what I was looking for. I meant what’s the name of this particular Prime Material plane?”

The Fingerpainter frowned, “Well…um…it’s just ‘the Prime’ to those who even know about it. Most of the folk here, “as he gesticulated to the nearby costermongers starting to stir and pack up in the caravansary, “Don’t even know that. Maybe the name of the world would help? We call that Toril, although some older texts refer to it as Abier-Toril.”

“Toril…Toril…” I repeated softly. It rang a bell in my mind. Where had I heard that? It came quickly to me; Kelemvor’s faith started there! And then I remembered its nickname.

“Godswalk. I’m on Godswalk then,” I said aloud, and more to myself.

“Godswalk? I don’t get…oh! Your referring to our history! When the Gods came and walked upon the world. We call that the ‘Time of Troubles!’ Wait a moment. You didn’t just make that up did you? You mean that this whole world has been reduced to a simplistic nickname?”

“Looks like it. It is one of the better-known Primes. Known for having a lot of strong opinionated mages with enough skill to back them up. It is also known as a Prime with a fair number of portals.”

“’Better known?’ How many other Primes do you know of exactly,”

I stopped and thought for a moment, “Well, I can name seven, but I know little beyond their names. People have arrived from each from time to time, but I couldn’t tell you much about the places themselves. And what I know of here I have already told you.”

The Fingerpainter’s brow furrowed for a moment, “Well that seems all too brief. We have legendary mages here after all! I’m sure that there is a more accurate description of Toril than say ‘Harmless!’

I replied “Well…’mostly.’ Honestly, it’s just a lack of perspective. Here, a pack of gnolls is a problem. On the planes, we get excited if the Great Modron March is going to be headed through a gatetown. And the fact you are about to say ‘what is that?’” at which point the Fingerpainter lowered his hand and closed his mouth with a pout, “illustrates the point. No common reference.”

The Fingerpainter thought about it, “I suppose there is merit to your conjecture. But, I still find it strange that the world is reduced to a footnote of trivia about one event that happened a hundred years ago.”

I held up my hands, “Perspective and experience is what we have, and they are the tools we use to understand the universe. The broader the better. But while we are on the topic of lack of common references, I had another question.”

The Fingerpainter seemed relieved on the opportunity to switch topics, “Yes, of course! What inquiry do you have about this place, its peoples, history or other knowledge!”

“Could you explain what is meant by ‘Eastern’ and ‘East’?”

-----

The extraction of knowledge of the four cardinal directions took some time. It made some sense in regard to following the path of the sun in the sky. That doesn’t work in Sigil at all, as there isn’t a sun; it just gets light and dark. Peak and Anti-peak. Here they used phrases like ‘Mid-Day’ or ‘Midnight.’ But I got the concept down. I wonder if other places share the same concept?

Anyway, after some time our pair of humans returned, with the look of good news and bad on their faces. And they quickly got us caught up on their morning investigation.

The Tinman started first, “Well supplies are easy; so got enough food for a week for each of us. But…” and he looked at the Knight who without losing a beat said, “Because of the gnolls getting so close to town, the caravans are all holding off leaving for Yartar, instead heading north or south or just waiting to hear if the road is safe. That means that we can’t get a ride or even offer up guard time. No one wants to risk it.”

The Fingerpainter rolled his eyes, “You mean we have to walk the road then. That’s not acceptable!”

The Knight arched an eyebrow, “Well, it’s not like I have the coin to force them to move. And even after pointing out Daneath here, they didn’t take it as much as an endorsement. ‘Too green’ they said,” To which the Tinman snorted.

“Um…green?” I said trying to catch up on ‘primal slang’

“Oh…someone new to the job, amateur…you know,” replied the Knight.

“Ah...got it. So, not much point waiting then.”

“Not really. But we might have to run a small gauntlet on the way out from merchants trying to sell us anything as we head out. Along with the hanger ons,” said the Knight, “so keep an eye out for your coin.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll see,” and the Knight grinned, “I am curious on what offers you are going to get.”

And soon enough I found out. There was one caravan that was semi-ready to go. Meaning it was mostly packed and ready to move. Yet the drovers hadn’t hooked up the animals to the wagons yet. But one merchant was conducting business at the back of his wagon, and it had a small group of women hanging around him. The women appeared to be shopping, but it what was for sale that was strange.

The women were trying on masks. Not simple paper formed masks, but elaborate feather masks. Each of the women were looking at each other and commenting on how they matched hair/eyes/face. The merchant called out to us as we were walking by.

“Heading to Yartar for the Hate Night! You’ll want a fine mask for the festivities!”

The Fingerpainter spoke up, “Hate Night? I have never heard of such a holiday. And why do you need a mask?”

The merchant got excited, and the humans moved so that the gnome was between them and the merchant. This worked as the merchant focused all of his attention on the gnome.
“Well, it started several years ago. Once a year, the Waterbaroness declares that a ‘Hate Night’ is coming, and she holds a grand party at her keep. And the locals all join in on their own parties throughout the town. And, by tradition, they are masked balls.” the merchant explained. “For some reason, feathered masks are used almost exclusively. But alas, with the gnolls, I am afraid that I cannot make the journey to sell these pieces…but for you I can offer a discount…”

At this point the Fingerpainter realized he had been drawn into a sales pitch but wasn’t skilled enough to extract himself quickly. As for myself, I looked at the masks, and they were really rum. Some were colorful, others were black with bright paint. I wanted to purchase one just because. But, I was very concerned about jink so I put it out of my mind.

Which is when I met ‘the hangers ons.’ Once they saw our group approach, the women broke off and started to talk to the humans along the lines of ‘Hear its dangerous out there…might be the last trip you make, so why don’t spend a moment with me and go marching off with a smile?”

Jinkskirts. I can’t say I was surprised; seemed to be reasonable pitch as well. The Knight, just waved his hand and didn’t make eye contact. The Tinman, was a bit clumsier in saying no…about six times. One of them was about to head to the Fingerpainter, who at this point was haggling over the price of a mask, he didn’t even want. The bartering seemed to make her question if she wanted to spend any time debating price, and so she made a beeline towards me.

Now, in the various wards there are jinkskirts (and jinkshirts) all willing to help cool a cutters heels. So. I wasn’t surprised or shocked at all at the attempt of selling. But the encounter here wasn’t one I would forget.

“Hey now, I know that I may not be your…” she had approached, and casually moved in close to embrace me. She had just draped her arms on my shoulders and took a good look at my face under the hood.

But she didn’t show fear or shock. Instead, I saw a very different expression cross her face. One that I would have described as…longing.

She was breathing deeply and was stammering on the words, “Well, I do say that I would be tempted to give you a discount, just…for the experience.”

I remember smiling and removing her arms from my shoulders and holding her hands for a bit. I looked at her and said, “I guarantee it would be a time to remember. But…I’m afraid that I might be out of your price range,” to which she made her face into a pout. “But, it is nice of you to think of us for ‘last-rites.’” I then release her hands and walked, following the road out of town. But I was also checking my pouch, to make sure I still had coin in it. I smiled to myself and shook my head. I wasn’t some first year Sensate namer; and even then, we didn’t need to pay for that experience; plenty of other Sensates around to ‘experience with.’

Eventually, the other three extract themselves from their various sales. Even the Fingerpainter managed not to buy anything. As we passed out of Triboar, the fields of the farms started to get farther and farther apart. And eventually, the fences from the far-flung ranches disappeared in the distance.

For a couple of miles, we chatted a bit but quickly we quieted down and focused on the long march ahead. And it was the first time in a very long time that it was truly quiet. Only the sounds of wind, the occasional bird chirp and the rustle in the scrub. It was at this point that I realized what was different. The last time I was anywhere like this was at my test for becoming a Factotum, in the Gilded Hall in Arborea. But that was for the experience alone; something novel I don’t think any of us Sigilites had ever done. But that was more social than anything else.

This; this was about as droll as an experience can get. No wonder bards are sought after.

Things changed near sundown. The road we were travelling entered a small valley, and as we meandered through the floor of the valley we saw some carts and wagons. At first, we were excited to see…well about anyone. I was ready for any conversation, and a noise other than “Beeeeppoooo” every mile. But as we approached we quickly realized that something was wrong.

The first clue from a distance, was the lack of any large draft animals at all. Then the lack of people. The humans drew blades and moved forward, while the Fingerpainter and I stayed behind them and was ‘being open to’ something unexpected as it were.

As we drew nearer, it was plain that the caravan was a recent arrival to its current resting place; the cloth over the wagons was in in good, if torn condition. But it also had marks of an attack. Arrows were lodged in the wooden sides of the wagons and were scattered across the ground. Approaching we finally saw the corpses scattered around.

But not many; only about four were laying in the dirt, and that seemed to be not enough to manage the five wagons here. Four of the wagons were open topped, but the fifth was a canvas covered wagon, concealing its contents. All the wagons were sitting in the middle of the road, which was flanked by shrubs and bushes, about half the size of a human, or enough to hide a gnome.

“Looks like they met a bad end,” the Tinman remarked.

The Knight nodded and crept quietly forward. Then he froze, placed a finger to his lips. He was still looking around in general, but he pointed towards one of the corpses leaning back against a wagon wheel. The shape was roughly humanoid but had the remnants of brown fur on its body and with a faintly lupine shaped head. On the ground next to it was a mace, primitive but clearly was once a threat in its hands...or paws.

“Yep…gnolls,” the fingerpainter whispered.

I nodded, and I crept forward with the others. The caravan was pointed towards Triboar and we were just approaching the former lead wagon. It was against this first wagon that the body was leaning.

Looking ahead to the other wagons, I whispered back, “Seems we missed what happened here. But where are the deaders from the caravan?” I had noticed that the other corpses were also gnoll and not human.

“Deaders? What doe…oh! Hmm, that’s odd. They must have been taken. Gnolls have strange proclivities; none of them are pleasant so I heard.”

“Nice,” I muttered under my breath. By now the humans were at the second wagon, and were making their way to the third, and the Fingerpainter jogged to catch up with them. While he was doing so, I knelt near the deader, and noticed something odd.

While the caravan was attacked very recently, but the corpse was…old. It looked desiccated and its face looked sunken in, and not at all fresh. It reminded me of some the zombies used by the Dustmen…or ex-Dustmen rather used in the Mortuary. I seemed to remember, that they tried to use “dry” ones near the crematories as they lasted longer. But it otherwise had little more than a basic leather belt around its waist. While I would have said that a proper burial would be in order, I had no idea what was acceptable. Everything felt wrong, but it wasn’t anything specific that I could point to, that could say why.

I stood up and turned towards the others. The humans were standing on the spokes of the wheels and looking into the back of the third wagon.

“Anything, or anyone left?” I shouted to them.

“Nothing much. Looks like anything useable was taken,” the Knight called back.

I frowned. I could see the next corpse, which was near the second wagon, and from where I stood it looked about the same as the one by me; old. It didn’t make any sense. At about that time, that brass owl suddenly started going barmy. And started to repeat the same words over again: “Beepoo, beepoo, beepoo…”

“What the?” I remembered myself saying, when I noticed my shadow on the ground from the setting sun. It would be dark soon I supposed, and a camp would be needed. But, then a motion on the ground attracted my attention, and I saw the lengthening shadow of a second figure, beside mine. I turned quickly, and not more than a couple of steps away, was the corpse I was just looking at. It’s mace in its hands (or paws), and looking at me coldly with dead eyes. It turned at the waist as it was beginning to deliver to me a blow.

“MUSTIES!”

Session Notes:
Much of the dialog is an expansion of the original session, some personality and vernacular for each of the characters start to shine through.

So, Myrai is a true city woman. Never seen a farm, or has any experience on what/where her food is made of. So, it is completely arbitrary thing about eggs. Falls under the idea of what food is typical/atypical.

Myrai has heard of a number of worlds, like many planewalkers: Athas, Abeir-Toril, Aebrynis, Mystara, Krynn, Oerth (Greyhawk), Ortho(Harmonium), and rumors of a very very distant one (Eberron…but the name isn’t known to her). She doesn’t know much anything about them, beyond small details like Krynn’s folk, believes anything not from there is from the abyss, and Athas as being a wasteland of very dangerous natives.

This is mostly because my interpretation of her arcana skill is strong in planar mechanics, and outer plane knowledge but as we will see later, that doesn’t make her a technical expert on the nature of magic
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
...With a spot of violence... (10/8)

…with a spot of violence…


It’s a moment like this you wonder about your own life choices. “If I had made that turn, would I have avoided that gang that robbed me?” And that was my line of thinking; I just wasn’t sure whether the choice was agreeing to deliver that message to Barkis, or just getting up in the morning. I’m beginning to think the latter.

The…undead…thing was ready to twist and bring that rusted mace into my ribs. But at the point it should have started swinging at me, it stopped. The dead white eyes stared at me, and it shivered intensely. Like it was fighting some other battle, trying to strike me. Finally, it stopped apparently losing and loped towards the others.

I had barely any time to digest this sudden change, when I heard the whistling of an arrow. The arrow streaked at me, cutting my upper arm and I yelped in surprise. Looking down the line of wagons and carts, a figure had jumped out of the covered wagon. It had the same form of the undead thing; lupine head, shaggy short fur. But this one moved far livelier and looked comparatively healthy. I didn’t like the looks of it, and considering it was nocking another arrow it probably didn’t like me either.

My other three companions also had their hands full, as at nearly the same time that the withered gnoll took a swing at the Fingerpainter, three other bodies suddenly decided to stand up. But despite the pain in my arm, I was focused on only one thing:

Surviving.

I moved to my right, trying to get a clear view of the gnoll with the bow. After moving about five paces, I had an opening. I focused a moment, reaching out to find the gnoll’s life force. I quickly find it and I utter a single word ‘zalt’ and a bolt of crackling purple energy streaks toward the gnoll, striking it hard in the chest. I then moved and found cover by a nearby tree and crouched low.

The Fingerpainter, didn’t care much for the one that took a swing at him. He sent his owl skyward and then after some weaving and bobbing managed to conjure a mote of fire, and with force…hit the wagon next to him. Panicking, he ran to the other side of the wagon, narrowly avoiding getting hit with the mace. Now, all three the undead gnolls charged at our Tinman, and their weapons were simply knocked away by his shield, and he quickly did a savage cut against one of them. Then the Knight quickly moved behind it and made a quick slash across the hamstrings, causing its legs to buckle and it falling to its knees. Then he quickly spun out of the way from the other gnoll that stood beside his fallen companion, who was now swinging wildly at empty air.

At this point another undead gnoll charged at me, and I gritted my teeth together, steeling myself for the inevitable blow. But, as with the first one it appeared to be struggling with an internal conflict on even trying to hit me. And again, it failed and charged back into the rest of our group, swinging its club and smashing it into the Tinman’s shield. I was getting the impression that they were actually afraid of me. But that was silly wasn’t it? The undead don’t fear mortals…right?

But regardless of the undead one’s feelings, the live one was a different matter, and it took another shot at me going wide, and it then moved behind the wagon and into cover again. I returned the favor, and moved out more, flanking him just enough to get a clear shot. I threw another bolt of energy at it, striking it in the side,

At this point the Fingerpainter changed his tactics with fire and changed to frost. Quickly pulling a small flask from a pouch he splashed some water onto his hand and with a quick motion hurled a frozen bolt towards the foursome now packed in close to the Tinman. The bolt hit one in the rear and it exploded in all directions, striking all the undead gnolls nearby. I could even hear the bones break from where I was crouched, and two of them fell to the ground.

The two that remained didn’t react or even flinch. Oblivious to the magic behind them, they continued their assault on the Tinman. One manages to land a blow on his armor, resulting in a grunt. But it was enough to prevent him from getting a clean swing at either of the gnolls. The Knight again struck one of them true with his sword, puncturing deep in the ribcage from behind and felling it.

The live gnoll again took another shot at me, the arrow sinking deep into the tree trunk. It was getting angry and sloppy, and it started to move closer towards me ignoring any nearby cover from the wagons. I simply stepped sideways from the tree, and threw another bolt, striking the gnoll again in the chest. I changed positions, leaving the tree and moving behind a wagon. Once there I drew a dagger from my belt, preparing for a close-up encounter with the gnoll. I checked my arm, and the bleeding had stopped for the moment. My heart was pounding hard, and yet I couldn’t feel the pain from my arm anymore. What I could feel was quite different.

I felt exhilarated. I could feel my face ache from the wild smile on my lips.

I felt alive.

I couldn’t see it, but I heard the whistling of a bolt of fire through the air, and the sound of a body hitting the ground. Then the sound of a blade swinging and cutting into a dried corpse and then a ‘thud’ as a body hit the earth. I had guessed that my companions struck true. Or if not, they weren’t screaming about it.

Several things happened at once then; first I heard footsteps running and a blade cutting air, followed by the Knight’s voice swearing something. Then from around the corner of the wagon came the gnoll. Close up I could now see it in its full, ugly glory. The short fur on its face and body was a mess of blood, applied like war paint. Its foul stench filled my nostrils with a mixture of rot and filth. It swung at me wildly, but it wasn’t even close enough to strike me with the rusted blade in its hand.

I recoiled and whispered ‘zalt,’ a bolt streaked out and struck it square in the face. I could see its eyes roll backward and it sank to its knees, and then falling forward into the dirt. The feeling of exhilaration had reached its peak. I felt powerful. I felt like I finally was in control.
Coming around the wagon, the knight appeared with sword in hand ready to strike. Seeing the unmoving body on the ground his posture softened.

“I think that was the last one,” he said breathing heavily. He glanced at his blade and after seeing no blood on it he sheathed it at his side. Looking at me again, he had a puzzled expression on his face.

“Are you…alright Myrai?”

I blinked and stammered, “Y-y-yes. I’m fine. Why?”

“You just...look…never mind,” he said continuing to give me a strange look. He then changed the topic. “We probably should finish looking at stuff here and burn the bodies.”

“Sure…I need a moment, and I’ll lend a hand.”

He nodded and turning around, he returned back to the wagon where the others were.
I stood there a moment. I had seen death many times in Sigil. Of friends. Of strangers. From violence. From starvation. Many deserved better fates and better endings. It’s what attracted me to Kelemvor to start with. Death was a certainty; embracing the end on your own terms was important. Helping others pass with dignity was another.

But you didn’t want death; you wanted a life to live out its allotment of time. You wanted to avoid ending to…anything but old age.

So why was I so…so…excited on killing the one live gnoll? I didn’t regret killing it; it was a spawn of a demon lord. It was a plague of corruption. I was afraid for my life at the start, but I didn’t feel afraid when we attacked each other. But I was enjoying myself battling it and bringing it down.
I didn’t know what I should have been feeling. But I put it out of my mind and rejoined the group.

“I assume that’s the last of the musties,” I said as I approached.

“Well I guess that depends on what a ‘mustie’ is. If you mean the witherlings, looks like it,” replied the Tinman.

I nod, “Plus one live one.,” I wince as I start to come down from my euphoria and the pain of my arm starts to register. “I’m going to clean and bandage this. Anyone else hurt?”

“Just a deep bruise really,” replied the Tinman. “Nothing broken, and no bleeding. I’m going to look at the other wagons though, I’ll be a moment,” and with that he moved towards a wagon, with this sword drawn.

The Fingerpainter, raised his arm and his owl returned and alighted on his wrist. “Filthy witherlings! This tells me that any gnolls around here are in dire straits,” the Fingerpainter said, punctuating with a ball of spit on the ground. “Necromancy comes too easily to them. We don’t need undead in the world let alone undead gnolls. Both are disgusting enough, but combining them? I hope this first time is the last time.”

I stared at the gnome, “What do you mean ‘first time?’”

He turned his head to look at me, “Well, I have studied a lot about various schools of magic. But reading about the undead is a bit different than running into them.”

This surprised me, “You mean, people don’t normally…well…animate them?”

The Fingerpainter made a face, “No! That’s not proper! Most goodly folk would consider that an offense. Wait, why? What do you do in Sigil with undead?”

“Well, the Dusties…er what used to be the Dustmen, collected the corpses of the dead and interred them in the mortuary based on their beliefs. But some poorer folk sold their future corpses for jink. They get animated and used as laborers.”

“Why would they do a terrible thing like that? The gods don’t normally approve of such dirty things.”

I felt relieved, “Well, being poor has a lot to do with it. Jink now, for a body that you aren’t going to miss later. But it’s nice to hear that not everyone animates the dead here.”

The gnome nodded, “in the north here, very true. Now there are singular places that have more than their needed amount of undead. Like Warlock’s Crypt I have heard. But the only nation that has large concentrations of undead servants is Thay, far to the east. There the Zulkirs that study necromancy, animate…well whatever they want.”

“Remind me not to visit,” I said trying to put the thought of cities crawling with the undead out of my mind. While we were talking I had with some difficulty cleaned out the cut with water from my waterskin. I was going to try to put on a bandage when the Knight intervened.
“Let me. It’s hard enough with two hands, let alone one,” he said. I nodded and let him tie the makeshift bandage on. “I have a question though. Why didn’t the two witherlings attack you? I saw them run at you, and just as quickly run towards us. What did you do?”

I thought a moment. It was a great question, but one I didn’t have an answer for. “I don’t know…I saw them try very hard to swing at me, but they were hesitant. But I didn’t do anything. Not a spell.”

The Fingerpainter chimed in, “Did you use that holy symbol on your neck?”

“What? No…why would I do that?” I asked, as this was confusing to me.

“Well, those with a lot of faith in their gods, sometime invest power their servants and they can then cause the undead to run and cower. Many clerics here can do this.”

“Oh…I mean in Sigil while we have musties around, I don’t think I ever saw someone do that. I don’t know how, and I …don’t think I did anything. Thanks Iesa, that should be good.” I said, as he finished tightening the cloth around the arrow wound.

He nodded, “No problem. Sure it’s not too tight?”

“No…it’s fine…really,” I looked at him. For some reason he looked nervous, or rather skittish. “I’m not a piece of delicate crockery…I’ll tell you if it hurts.” I said.

“Yeah…right. We probably should look at the rest of the wagon’s here, see if anyone was hiding or there is stuff we can use.”

And at that moment, the Tinman returned, “Nope…nothing living or dead beyond what we killed.
And I’m pretty sure this isn’t a merchant caravan.”

The Knight looked up with interest, “Why do you say that?”

The Tinman continued, “No ‘goods.’ Just old furnishings, used farm tools and junk. Looks like homesteaders to me; probably fleeing their farms because of them,” he said pointing to the bodies.

The Knight looked crestfallen, “Probably means not a lot of coin either.”

“You are welcome to look, but I only poked at a box or two. Nothing obvious, and if I were a farmer, I’d probably keep my coin on me if I could. Which means the gnolls might have taken any coin accidentally.”

I look at the Tinman, “What? They don’t loot?”

“Well…they do. But not coin. They want people for…food,” he replied with a tone of disgust.

“Why am I not surprised. Well I guess we can take what we need, but what then?” I said.

The Knight then responded instead, “We should burn the corpses and get some distance. I’ll start looking for a spot for the night. But I’m going to double check the other wagons before we go.”
I nodded and looked at the mess of corpses. I guessed that taking care of the dead wasn’t exclusive to uncorrupted peoples of the multiverse. I then started to drag the corpses into a pile on a patch of bare earth. As expected, beyond strips of leather and very poor weapons they had nothing of value. The Tinman came over with some chairs and broke them apart to make some kindling.

The Knight returned with a look of disappointment on his face. But he did hand the Tinman a clay pot. He glanced quickly at the contents, nodded and poured the contents on the wood and bodies.
“Hey Beepu, can I get a light?” the Knight called out.

“Magic isn’t an art used to make things convenient because you can’t work a flint and steel.” The Fingerpainter preached in retort.

“That’s nice. Just light it so we can leave before any other gnolls decide to show up.” The Knight replied

“FOOM” and with an arrow of flame the Fingerpainter set the makeshift pyre alight, and soon became a roaring blaze. I bow my head, and utter a prayer, hoping the souls find their just judgement.
We leave the remains of the caravan, and move with some haste, as the light from the setting sun was starting to fade. The Knight was ranging ahead looking for a place to camp. Sometime later, just as the sun sank below the horizon, he returned and motioned for us to follow him. He led us a small distance off the road to a gully. Down in the gully, the water had scooped out a cut underneath a formation of sandstone, providing cover from above, and a safe place to light a small fire.

I took off my pack and set it on the ground. The Tinman called out my name and tossed me what looked to be a rolled bundle of cloth, leather and fur. I looked at him quizzically.

“I found some bedrolls in the caravan, and I noticed Beepu and you didn’t seem to have one.” He stated. “We should gather some wood for a fire and setup watch.”

“Thanks…didn’t even think of it. But what do you mean by ‘watch?’” I asked.

He looked at me with surprise, “You really haven’t been outside a city much. Someone that keeps an eye on the fire, and for trouble. I assume that you wizards will either want the first or last to get your beauty sleep.”

I give him a level look and replied drily, “Thanks for the concern. I’ll take the first I guess. And also, I’m not a wizard.”

“I had wondered about that,” the Fingerpainter chimed in. “You mentioned being able to take care of yourself. I thought it was with those daggers. But now with your explanation of planar mechanics I see I was in error. You must have sorcery in your blood.”

“I guess...It was only in the last four years I could cast anything. And I don’t have a book of spells. So, I suppose it’s accurate.” I said.

“Well, magic is magic no matter what the source. Now, I don’t think we need watches at all. Foggle can watch for all of us.” The Fingerpainter said looking at his mechanical owl with pride.

“If it can see in the dark, it’s a help since you’re the only other one that can. But I’m not going to let it be our only eye for trouble.” The Knight disdainfully said, looking at the owl.

“Well, since you two are the only ones,” pointing at the Knight and the Tinman,” that can’t see in the dark, why don’t you take a watch together with the owl.

“Oh! That would be a help…only half of us will be blind then. Won’t matter though…we’ll likely hear them before we see them,” the Tinman said with a smirk.

And at that moment, I understood why. I could hear them in the distance. High pitched yipping and what almost sounded like laughter.

“That doesn’t sound like the gnoll I just killed,” I said listening intently.

“No…those are the hyenas that follow them around. It’s said after a hyena eats its fill from leavings from the gnolls, that a new gnoll is born…or bursts forth. Something like that.” The Knight said. “Anyway, they’re scavengers Not much for sneaking when gnolls…and food are around.”

“Great.” I said. “Something to listen to.”

We laid out our bed rolls and munched on the rations; some type of mix of nuts, take and jerky. Dry but filling and I admit it was better than some gruel I had in the Gatehouse. The other three were talking some small talk, but I was lost in my own thoughts.

I always thought I was, if not well lanned was lanned enough. But here, I was beginning to realize how much I really didn’t know. We always joked about how Primes were “clueless berks.” But, now as I said to Beepu earlier it was just a lack of context. The nearest marauders to Sigil, were always just around the corner, but they were barred by portals or even just the will of the Lady herself. The last time the Blood War entered Sigil was hundreds of years ago. The damage was extensive, and that area is called the slags now. But the war was remote in most people’s minds.

Here, there were no portals, no gates, no walls. Here the monsters walked free and no power barred them. For that matter, I can see why powers matter more to the Primes. It probably mattered a lot to the travelers in that caravan. I tried to push the thought of their fate out of my mind. They’re in the deadbook now.

I’m not.

No…we’re not.

I look at the three. They banter easily about local goings on. I’ve never been that good at small talk. Or maybe it’s the small talk is always the same topic; how I am different. It took a long time to…be let in to a circle of friends in Sigil, almost all of them Sensates.

All but one dead. And that one…well he had enough torment for a lifetime or twelve. I didn’t want to dwell on that either.

At that point there was an exchange going on between the Knight and the Fingerpainter, when the Fingerpainter started to snore. The Knight poked him and pointed out the obvious and started to prepare for sleep. Looking at the others it was clear that everyone was exhausted from the fight. One by one, each settled into their bedroll to get comfortable.

“Night all,” I said and got various murmuring in response. I looked at the owl and it returned my gaze with a slow mechanical blink.

“I should really get a pet like you I suppose. But do me a favor, if I fall asleep and especially if I start snoring, wake me up.”

“Beeeppooo.”

“I hope you said, ‘Sure thing,’” and I looked out in the darkness as I started my first watch, hoping for a peaceful night. From the sounds though in the distance, it wasn’t going to be a quiet one.

Session Notes:

The combat was pretty much as written. Yes the witherlings wouldn’t attack me, and they were constantly redirecting themselves. Everyone can start playing guess the power set here. Also, for people wondering, the wizard never was a fan of using his owl for a help actions. It was weeks before he asked how that mechanic worked since he read about it online.

Please feel free to PM on questions or comments. Would love to hear from 300+ viewers of this story.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
...to a Blexburgh

…to a Blexburgh
First impressions sometimes get to the heart of things, before you start wasting time trying to rationalize why you disagree with your gut. But everyone makes a bad call here and there. It’s when you are in total denial and not listening to anything, ever, is where you need to stop thinking about it so hard.

Nothing happened.

That’s it. No hyenas running through the camp. No marauding packs of gnolls. No excitement.
Staring into the darkness and listening to hyenas wasn’t exciting. By the time that my watch ended, the noises from the hyenas had faded away to nothing, and only the sounds of insects and pops from the fire remained. Which was a surprise to me, as the one thing I was dreading, was listening to “Beeepooo” all night.

But the owl was quiet the entire time. It wasn’t asleep at all, as its head turned often, but it didn’t utter a sound. This was different than during the day, where it always was making noise. I knew it was a familiar, but I didn’t know how you went about and got one or how they work. So maybe it’s noises meant something, and at night it had no reason to make any.

So, the only time it did make that noise, “Beeppoo” it just pivoted its head looking at me, and then towards the two humans. Considering that there wasn’t a clock anywhere, this was very helpful. I moved back into the circle where the others slept, reached down and touched the Knight. He was a light sleeper and woke with a start. He turned his head trying to locate me in the darkness.

“Shhh. Nothing is going on…but it’s your turn,” I whispered.

He blinked and following the sound of my voice looked in my direction and nodded. “Quiet and dark, guess I can’t ask for more than that. Daneath up yet?”

“No, started with you,” I said, moving towards the Tinman. “Been quiet and dark for a while; no howling anymore.”

“Great…could use more light now though. Can’t even see the wood we had stacked up.”

“I can help with that,” I pulled out a greenie out of my pouch, and with a quick flexing of my mind, no more effort than blinking my eyes I felt the rush up my back, and a golden light burst from the coin. I then held it out to the Knight.

He was blinking looking at me, “What the…was that real?”

“The light? As real as the next hour is.”

“No…the wings…wait they’re gone. I did see them…right?”

I shrug, “Ghostly, not quite there wings. I know they appear when I make a light, but not other times. I guess it’s a hidden gift from my father.”

“Beepu said you were related to angels…I thought it was his idea of pulling one over my eyes.”
I chuckle, “No…I don’t think that’s in his spellbook. He and I talked earlier. I’m an Aasimar…so yeah part angel. You can…cover that coin with a cloth or bag to hide the light if you need. I’ll let you wake him up,” pointing at the Tinman.

I then moved over to where my bedroll was and laid down and covered myself with the wool. I put my head down, and I could feel the exhaustion catching up with me.

“Wait, who’s your father?”

“Heaven knows,” I mutter sleepily, and I drift off into sleep.

---

I awoke in terror sitting upright with my hand at my throat. My breathing was labored once again. Familiar territory. Familiar fear. And just as familiar, no memory.

Actually, I’m not sure I want to remember. Considering I’ve had nightmares for years now.

I just want them to stop.

“Well I guess I do not need to wake you up,” the overly cheery voice of the Fingerpainter quipped.
I sigh, trying to pull myself together, “No. I’m quite awake. Now.” I stretched and pulled myself out of the bedroll.

“Well as a nice surprise nothing happened. And as I told you before, Foggle could have easily done all the watches for us.”

I looked at the owl and then at the Fingerpainter, “You’ve got a Tanar’ri’s chance in Nessus of that happening.”

The gnome’s brow furrowed, and his eyes darted back and forth, his mouth silently mouthing words. Finally, he turned his head to look at me.

“So…no then?”

---

For the next day and a half, it was marching. My calves and hamstrings burned the entire way. We didn’t talk much as I recall. I don’t remember much about the road or the hills or anything. The intervening night was as uneventful and as was the morning.

Finally, we arrived. The road came around a hill and I could finally see the destination. Yartar was a bit larger than Triboar. It was situated on a hill where a pair of rivers blended into a third. The town had a wall surrounding it, and it appeared to be tiered. The top tier had some sort of estate at the top, and there was a broad second tier with stone buildings. This overlooked a broad third tier of wooden buildings visible above the surrounding wall. This was my second impression. The first impression hit me hard and my eyes widened, as the breeze blew from the town and towards us.

The smell was overpowering. It was a mixture of rotten fish, oils, urine and fouled water. The only thing I didn’t smell was brimstone, which was in the background of all the smells in Sigil. The sources of the smells were clusters of buildings along the banks of the river, downstream from the city. Docks were anchored just outside the walls, and large number of barges were docked, and even then, the docks were only a third full.

It was a Blexburgh. I was underwhelmed at the site and smell. I only hoped that this plane had more to offer than this city.

The smell wasn’t lost on the others as well.

“Wow…I thought that the docks in Waterdeep smelled bad.” The Knight remarked, pulling a cloth over his nose.

“Ah, that smell is from the tanneries downstream from Yartar. Making leather is a nasty business, best out of sight and out of nasal distance.” The Fingerpainter said matter of factly.

“I just hope its downwind.” Our Knight replied.

“Well we can hope. But, where are we going now that we are here?” I asked.

“I can find us a place once we get in the gates,” the Knight said.

“You’ve been here before?” the Tinman turned and looked at him.

“No, but I can find my way around.”

I put up my cowl of my cloak and tucked in my hair again. Soon we found ourselves crossing the Surbrin river bridge and were walking towards the gate. Unlike Triboar, there were actually guards standing around the gate. Or rather, leaning near it. They seemed uninterested in us, or in anything in particular. As we were approaching, a heavily loaded wagon had pulled in front of us from a road leading north, with an armed escort. Leading it was a man dressed in leathers, and a pair of swords hanging from belts. The guards, where they were bored before, stood more alert and watched as the wagon entered the gates. But they didn’t stop or question the man, or the drovers. In fact, they seemed almost apprehensive. But as soon as the wagon entered the gate, they resumed their relaxed postures and ignored our small band, as well as the other people wandering in.

The main thoroughfare wandered into the city and between the walls and the fact that the tanners were downstream the noxious smell became much more tolerable. But what caught my eye, was that there were dark sailcloth banners overhead, stretching across the road. Many of the smaller shops on either side, also had a mixture of dark and white toned cloth. It certainly felt that the town was getting ready to celebrate the strange holiday they called the Hate Night.

We finally reached an open market. Here among the customary goods of fish and leather were specialty vendors offering something for the occasion. Everyone seemed to have feathered masks for sale. Several were offering cheaply dyed cloth for decoration. Street urchins were hawking flowers dipped into dark paints, creating what looked to almost macabre bouquets. Everyone had something to sell for the occasion, as long as it was generally dark, and framed with light colors.

The market sat roughly in the middle of the lowest of the three tiers of the city. Most of the folk that had entered the town with us at the gate now started to separate and conduct business. But the wagon that we followed did not stop. In fact, several of the caravan guards were actively pushing commoners away from…whatever they were carrying. The wagon continued through and started to move upwards toward another gate leading to the next tier.

At this point the Fingerpainter spoke up, “Well the assault on my nose has been stopped. So,” and he turned to look at the Knight, “Where is it you propose we stay and plan out our next steps. That, and food. Yes food is in order, after those trail rations almost anything would be welcome.”

“Almost,” I said absently as I looked around at the stalls and goods. “Probably should see when the party is too.”

“Party? Is that terribly important compared to our journey?” the gnome asked archly.

“Only if you want to buy supplies from a hung-over merchant; might get better deals from someone nursing a headache.” I remarked.

“Hang around a moment, I’ll be right back,” the Knight said as he dove into the throng of merchants and shoppers.

“…and I guess we wait here.” I said.

The Tinman shrugged and was then quickly mobbed by several merchants trying to sell him cloth wraps for his scabbard for the coming occasion. Since we were on the edge of the marketplace, I just moved to find a nearby wall and waited. I really wanted to shop and look around. But the amount of jink in my pouch was only getting lower and I didn’t want to give in to temptation. Fortunately, the other two were getting the most attention from the merchants, and for the moment they didn’t give me a second glance.

It wasn’t long before the Knight returned and motioned us to follow him. We quickly cut through the center of the market and entered what looked to be a poorer neighborhood than the ones we had passed earlier. He quickly navigated us down some narrow streets, and then to even narrower alleys. I was beginning to believe he was either barmy or lost or perhaps both, when he came to a small set of stairs leading down to what appeared to be a cellar behind a building. On the wall on the building was a worn sign with dark letters:

‘The Lusty Bard’​

“Here?” the Fingerpainter exclaimed. “This is a bit off from the main streets and such. Why this particular place?”

“I’m with him on this,” I said, “I mean, I’m ok with cheap lodgings, but this smells like a den of cony catchers.”

The three look at me blankly.

“I mean a den of…spi…er, well knights of the p…um…”

The blank looks continued.

“Den of thieves.”

All three nod, and our Knight replies, “Exactly.”

The Tinman, the Fingerpainter and I, look at him and say, “Why?”

He shrugs and says, “Well, it’s a great place for local information, the drinks will be cheap. And besides, what could go wrong?”

Session Notes:

Funny thing is that after a year, the map that we used for Yartar has gone missing. Even stranger, is while there is an official map of Triboar, there isn’t one of Yartar from WoTC.

And as to the Hate Night; we were mystified too.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Darks of Yartar

The Darks of Yartar.​


There are two things you can rely on when you are in a den of cony catchers, is that for certain you know that everyone is looking out for their own interests. The real question isn’t if your interest and theirs are the same, it’s when their interest changes.

Which leads to the second thing you can rely on, it always changes.



We descended the worn stone stairs, arriving at a battered oaken door. Without a pause, our Knight gripped the handle, opened it and continued down into ‘the Lusty Bard.’ The gnome followed him, and I followed the gnome with our Tinman bringing up the rear.

Once below, my eyes quickly adjusted and gave me that strange mix of colors and greys. I could tell the humans were having challenges adjusting to the dark by their squinting and the quick turns of their heads. The darkened room was typical of a tap room with benches and tables were scattered around and columns supporting the building above. A bar with some tapped barrels behind it followed the long wall with the barrels stacked on their sides in a rack. The room was perhaps half full, and while none of the patrons turned their heads to look at us, their eyes told a different story. Everyone seemed to be watching and sizing us up out of the corner of their eyes.

Despite the name, there wasn’t a bard present, or any music at all. Only the quiet murmur of the crowd, which became even more subdued as we closed the door behind us and stepped off the landing. We were outsiders, and it wasn’t clear of at all on what they thought of us. Personally, I was hoping not to draw any attention to myself; the only women in the room were a couple of serving girls, that were both homely and weathered. I knew I would stand out and attract attention, but I didn’t want to be picked out to be a cony.

Right after the door closed, the Knight made a quick flourish of his hands and with confidence strode over to an empty trestle table, worn and stained with…well at least beer or ale. I didn’t recognize what he did, but I guessed he sent a signal or message to the various folks in the bar. The crowd did react; some turned their heads away uninterested, others shrugged, and a small number seemed to be more interested than before.

We threaded our way between the haphazard collection of tables, when one of the girls wandering around the taproom came by to give us a look over. She was young, with black hair, brown eyes and olive skin, wearing a crooked smile on her face. I also noted she was a fair bit more attractive than the other two serving girls who were dropping off drinks to the other tables. And then she said; “So watcha want strangers?”

“A round of ale for my associates,” the Knight replied.

“I would prefer just some water,” the Fingerpainter corrected. He then looked at the Knight, “I need to keep my mind sharp in a place like this.”

The Tinman and I said nothing and for me, an ale would be just fine. But the serving girl looked at the gnome with an arched eyebrow, clicked her tongue in her mouth, held out her hand and said, “A silver for the table then. Might take a bit to find…plain water.”

The knight shrugged and tossed a stinger to her, which she deftly caught. As we sat down at the table, she brushed herself next to the gnome and commented, “We don’t usually get much requests here for water; most folks think it’s not safe for you.”

“My mind is more important!” the Fingerpainter replied and was trying to ignore her in his personal space.

The girl shrugged and wandered into the crowd towards the bar. The Tinman turned his head to look at the gnome. “Water? Really?”

“I am not going to justify my beverage choice to you! But not ordering something would look strange do you not think?”

“I think the water order was strange enough. You might as well gotten the ale and not drank it.”

“But I was thirsty and drinking from my skin would be rude in an establishment such as this. And that would have been wasting an ale.”

At this point a different serving girl arrived at the table and asked, “So what did you folks want?”

The Knight looked at her briefly and said, “The other girl was getting us some ales.”

She looked at him for a second with an amused look on her face, “Honey, we got two girls workin’ today and neither of us have talked to you, so what did you want?”

This got the Knight’s attention, “I said I gave an order and coin to the other girl. You know, the young pretty one with dark hair.”

“Ah…you mean Senya. Sorry hon’ she isn’t a serving girl here. And good luck finding her and your coin. Should have waited for the ale before paying up too,” she said with a smirk on her face, and a stifled giggle.

The Knight, realizing he’d been duped, covered his face with his hand and groaned. Finally, he muttered, “Just three ales then…” then he looked at the gnome and pointed
at him, he then amended it, “…and a water for him.” Nearby, some patrons at a table, snorted trying to hold in their laughter.

“Sure thing,” and she walked off towards the bar. While this was going on I checked the room out and I was not surprised to see that I couldn’t see “Senya” anywhere. It was well executed; and established we didn’t know who was who here. But it was a bit of a ploy for a stinger.

The noise next to me caused me to turn my head as the gnome was patting himself with his hand around his belt and was saying something in a language I didn’t recognize. He then with a steely glare looked at the Knight, “She took my coin pouch…that…that…Senya. This is your fault!” and he stabbed his finger at the Knight.
Now it was clear what the cony was, and it appeared that her score was going to be a bit higher than just a stinger. I couldn’t help myself but smile. Yet at the same time, I checked my own belongings. Fortunately for me I had everything still. Probably because I don’t keep my coin in a coin pouch at my side.

The Knight had a look of shock on his face, “I told them to leave…never mind.”

“Some pull you have here,” I remarked dryly. “I feel perfectly at home at this point. Thanks.”

At this point the Tinman was laughing as well, “Well…you did say ‘what could possibly go wrong’ after all.”

The Knight’s cheeks had turned a nice baator red and his face scrunched up in anger. He glared towards the bar, stood up, and waded through the patrons, heading for the keeper.

Just as he reached it, a pair of sounds grabbed our, and for that matter everyone else’s attention in the bar. The sound of a quarrel being fired, and the sound of it hitting its mark. The latter came from the back of a human in leathers, and he promptly fell flat on his face not two paces from the door leading to the stairs. Turning to my left the owner of the quarrel was an elf. Guessing by the flowing white hair, delicate pointed ears, and the dusky skin I was guessing one of the dark elves; a drow. Her eyes were cold, and she had the faintest smile on her lips as she looked at the now fallen body on the floor. Her lithe body was dressed in black leathers, covering what appeared to be fine chain underneath. In her hand was a small handheld crossbow, and in the other was a sword.

I probably stared longer than I meant to; she was exotic and unlike any other elf kind I had ever seen. Most drow never come to Sigil, and those that do, always seem to be ‘Giving the Laugh’ or hiding from someone; their god, their sisters or brothers, or someone. While rarely seen, everyone knew about them and the power that ruled them. And the reputation they had was they were capable, cruel, and not to be trusted. I had only seen one other before in my life, and that one was a corpse. And despite the fact she just ‘delivered the mail,’ she was already intriguing.

But if she noticed me staring at her, she gave no indication. With a quick snap of her fingers, two men came from behind her and approached the silent man on the ground. They quickly cuffed him and after opening the door, dragged him to the street above. The drow paying no heed to anyone around her, followed with an air of smug confidence. She followed the two men, and the door closed, returning the taphouse to its dim light. Shortly afterwards, the murmuring started.
The Knight at this point returned, and like others was staring at the door where she had exited and calmly tossed a pouch over to the Fingerpainter.

The gnome was surprised, saying “That was quick; seems to have all my coin in it too. How did you manage to do that?”

The Knight nodded at the doorway, “Well, the tap keeper was playing dumb at first. But when that…” nodding his head towards they doorway, “happened, he seemed to change his mind. I asked about it too, and she is some enforcer for the Waterbaroness here.”

“The local ruler I take,” I remarked “And fortunate for us. And it didn’t cost you anything?”

“Oh, it cost a small favor owed to me,” came a voice from a figure that had approached quietly behind our Tinman. “But, a small investment made can pay handsomely; especially for skilled individuals.” I turned my head to look at the new arrival; the voice indicated a ‘he’ and he wore a full cloak, with his hood up. And while I was sure the humans, couldn’t see well, I was certain the gnome saw what I saw under the hood. A smiling face with pointed teeth, solid colored eyes without the whites, and a pair of thick horns curling down around his ears.

He waved his hand, and the serving girl, brought out our drinks, plus a fifth which he grabbed off her serving tray. With a lazy, practiced flourish he pulled his hood back and continued that grin and spoke “And I see we have four newcomers to Yartar.”

“What makes you think we’re new here?” the Knight challenged.

“Well simple, you tried to warn everyone to leave your friends alone upon entry. But you clearly aren’t a member of the guild here, so of course the guild decided to put you in your place.”

“How do you know that?”

“You aren’t a woman,” the tiefling continued with that smug smile. “Or at least I am fairly certain you aren’t a very unattractive one. And the local guild only accepts women. But, this is well known to the locals, but not to you. So, you must be new here.”

The Knights mouth opened and shut a couple of times, as he clearly couldn’t think of a smart retort.

“But, everyone is new once and I for one enjoy new company. You may call me Mordai. But please, why don’t you relax a bit so we can chat? Who might I have the pleasure of addressing?” and he pulled a stool from another table and casually sat down between the fingerpainter and the Tinman and across from me.
“I am Beepu Titeepockey of Silverymoon, and I suppose I owe you thanks for my pouch,” giving a pointed stare at the Knight once again. “He is Iesa and the large one next to you is Daneath.”

“I see, and well met. But who is this woman that I see? While I can see the shape of her face the colors are lost in the darkness. You can probably take the hood down as the sun won’t bother your eyes here.”

I know that I tilted my head to one side and regarded him. He was puzzled, but he hid it well with a smooth tongue. But it was a subtle challenge that hung in the air. Pulling myself straight, I dropped the hood down and shook my hair free. “Myrai. I hope there is enough light for you to see me proper now?” as I fixed my eyes on him.
To his credit, he barely reacted. Like myself, I was sure he couldn’t have seen my eyes or hair in the dark under the hood. They would appear flat and featureless. Only in the light can you see your reflection, and hair in the dark is just grey hair with trending toward light or dark. So, my metallic hair and mirrored eyes weren’t what he was expecting.

“I would have thought you were an eladrin here in the dark, but you are altogether rarer…Aasimar.” He said with a hint of distaste and a little loud.

The other patrons in the taproom, had noticed this exchange and of course turned their heads to look at this development. Many of them did doubletakes and the conversation picked up a bit here and there. I couldn’t make out what was being said, but my “reveal” was causing a stir in this downtrodden bar.

I then smiled, “Your skills at observation are still holding up zu’ling. But for a friendly conversation your tone concerns me. Are you uncomfortable with me berk?” and I waited.

Still smiling he replied, “Of course not, but I’m a tiefling not a, what did you say, a zu’ling?”

I had grabbed my mug that was set on the table earlier and took a sip and replied, “I disagree, your coloring and features are very consistent with a zu’ling. You don’t have the foul complexion of a loth’ling and your features and coloration in combination wouldn’t be typical for a tanar’ling. But all the word ‘zu’ling’ means is what plane has touched you. All, are tieflings after all.” And I took another casual sip and watched.

He was processing what I said, and he appeared to take it as is. This told me two things. First, because he had never heard the term zu’ling, he wasn’t a planeswalker. And second, calling him a berk didn’t cause a defensive reaction either. To me that sealed it; he was a clueless prime. But, while that certainly true, it didn’t mean he didn’t know things.

“You don’t care for her much, do you?” the Knight said dryly.

“No…considering her kind and mine are polar opposites. But, now we have formally met you seem to be exactly the people I am looking for…mostly,” He said, not even giving me a second look unsurprisingly. To be honest, tieflings and aasimar generally aren’t comfortable in each other’s presence. Being descended from creatures of belief sometimes manifests as physical discomfort. Not always, and not even universally. I barely noticed any discomfort with this one, but he seemed more affected by me.

“An interesting offer,” the Knight said, “But we were more interested in some…local information.”

“I’m not an information broker really. My organization that I…represent is more goal and action oriented.”

“And what organization is that?” the Tinman asked.

“We call ourselves, the ‘Crimson Star,’ and we have interests in strong commerce…and keeping it strong.” Mordai replied. “Yartar is an up and coming city, and all it needs is some pushes in the right direction. The right pushes will lead to stronger influence in the ‘Lord’s Alliance.’ And so, we are always looking for capable hands.”
The Knight nodded, “Makes sense. But I think we have…other plans right now. But we are curious about some things we saw in town.”

“Oh? And what would that be?” he looked at the Knight with some amusement.

“Well, we noticed a heavily loaded wagon coming from the north under escort. I didn’t think there was much around here that would warrant one. Know anything about that?”

The tiefling regarded the Knight with a look of interest, “Them? That’s the Waterbaroness’ pet project. Seems that since the Elk tribe ‘disappeared,’ she has a band of folks looting Elk burial mounds.”

“What do you mean ‘disappeared?” the Fingerpainter asked.

“The Elk haven’t been seen now in two seasons, which is unlike them to say the least. And so, the Waterbaroness made a decree that all burial sites were the sole property of her excellency. I hear that there is an outpost north of town where they rove the plains.”

“What’s so interesting about these mounds?” the Tinman asked.

“Burial customs of the elk, usually find some wealth with them. But its mystery if this is some type of crass form of grave robbing or…something else.” He shrugged and took a sip of his drink. “But the Waterbaroness has been a bit distracted lately, so getting her opinion is a bit challenging.”

“Distracted by what?” I asked.

“Oh, the Hate Night festivities.” And the tiefling took another drink.

“That was the other question, what is this Hate Night? I’ve never heard of it.” The Knight interjected.

The tiefling frowned a moment and then spoke, “It started maybe, four or five years ago. The Waterbaroness announced a celebration and gave a warning. A grand masked ball at the Waterbaroness’ keep, to which everyone copied. But the warning was to keep indoors the entire night. Effectively a curfew on the town…or else.”

“Or else…what?” the Knight asked.

“Well…that is the interesting part. Each Hate Night a fog rises in the town, and people who wander in it, lose their memory. It’s all very mysterious, and random. One year, it happened three times, another only once. Never the same day, and it can be announced any season.”

I frowned to myself. I was wondering if it were a planar in nature, specifically to one place where I had heard that holding on to memories were a problem. The Feywild. A shadow of the prime that was a twisted mirror of its environs. But I had never heard of a town so close to a border of it. It sounded almost like a gate town in this regard. But on the Prime? Was it possible?

“But somehow, the Waterbaroness knows exactly when it is and she always enjoys her captive audience in her domicile. In fact, it’s the only time that every guard is basically off duty; not that anyone can take advantage of it,” and Mordai drained his cup.

We looked at each other, digesting what we just heard. I thought it was an interesting chant. The stuff about the Hate Night was interesting local history, if not terribly useful. But the idea of the robbing the graves of the Elk sounded wrong. And as I remembered, ‘Flint Rock’ was a cairn…so we might need to hurry.
The Fingerpainter was more blunt about the whole scenario saying, “Well that is all very interesting, but we already have things to do and little time. So, taking on additional work is out of the questions!”

The Knight flipped a jinx to Mordai and said, “Well thanks for the information.”

Mordai looked vaguely insulted, but pocketed the coin and said, “Well, perhaps when you have finished your…obligations then. You can leave a message with the tapkeeper here, and it will get to me swiftly. Good day.” And he stood and sauntered off in the back of ‘The Lusty Bard.’

At that point that the Knight and I heard something in the background. Sounding like muffled shouting. Our eyes caught each other as we both tilted our heads at the same time confirming it wasn’t our imagination either. At that point, a door on the far side of the bar opened, and the shouting became clearer.
It was a mixture of cheering, jeers and insults and what sounded to be a fight going on. The door closed, as a patron exited with some excitement and a smile on his face; perhaps the first honest smile I had seen in the taproom since we arrived.

The Tinman reached out and tugged the sleeve of the smiling man and asked, “Hey, is that a fighting pit down over there?”

The beaming patron nodded, “Yes it is,” and the patron looked at the Tinman up and down. “Heh, you’re large enough to be a contender. Thinking on trying your luck on the floor?”

The Tinman stood up with a dreamy grin on his face and said:

“Yes…yes I am.”

Session Notes
first, sorry on being a bit late; gaming convention distraction. Also, again if you aren't familiar with Sigil cant, 'Darks' means 'secrets' This was part of our earliest sessions, and we were still feeling out the characters a bit, and we had an interesting mix of non-charismatic characters trying to be the face of the party. In fact, we were very tentative about who was leading the pack. From my perspective, I was 'tagging' along as I didn't really care about Flint Rock yet.

And of course, still 1st level...which leads to some interesting things we will see soon.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
"Big D"

“Big D”​

When sizing up your opponents, you always need to look at every angle. Their speed physically and mentally. Their confidence; is it real or for show? Their choice of weapons; big, small, fast, slow, physical or magic?

And lastly; sometimes size does matter.​

I looked at our Tinman, with what I am fairly sure was a puzzled look on my face. His attention was focused on the now closed door. He had a hungry look on his face with the just the slightest grin on his lips.

The Knight noticed this as well, “Wait, are you seriously thinking about entering the ring here?”
Without turning his head, he nodded and explained, “Yes I am. It’s how I acquired the money to buy my gear. It’s a bit of fun”

“This seems to be a waste of time! Should we not be making plans to…head north?” the Fingerpainter said looking hard at the Tinman.

The Knight turned his head and responded, “Probably not till after Daneath has his fill. Besides, it’s late afternoon. We aren’t going to get far in the dark anyway.”

The gnome made a face at this and nodded, “Your probably right there. We should get a room then at least so I can get some work done.”

“I agree with that. Come with me and let's make some arrangements. Don’t get started without me Deneath; I want to see this.”

The Tinman looked at the Knight and sighed, “Just hurry it up. I’ll see you inside. Coming Myrai?”

Startled for a moment I quickly said, “Sure, beats sitting here at a table alone. Let’s take a look.”

The Tinman and I got up and made our way to the closed door. A burly guard stood at one side of the door, and quickly sized up the Tinman. He nodded approvingly and opened the door. As he was doing so, I quickly grabbed the Tinman’s arm and locking my arm around his. Smiling I said, “We’ll…you know how to show a girl a good time,”

He was surprised at first, but it was replaced quickly by a wolfish grin, “Well, let’s see what the locals have as far as entertainment.” Together arm and arm we entered the darkened room.

If the rest of the taproom looked worn down and dilapidated, it was because of the arena we entered. The owner or owners put more money down here; the bar along one wall looked newer and better cared for. The chairs and tables around the room were better quality, and the serving girls were more attractive. The room itself was square, but in the middle was a thirty-foot diameter pit, with a pair of stairs on opposite ends leading down into it. The pit had a rail, and the tables surrounded the pit in tiered layers, so every table had a decent view of the fights.

Opposite of where we came in, the wall was covered in slate boards. The boards were covered in chalk and on them were names, brackets and odds. One board that was in use this evening, clearly covered the odds of various fighters who were in the pit and in front of it were several humans, exchanging coins for chits.

The Tinman, pointed over to the boards and we made our way to the far side of the room. Once there, he was looking around and finally settled his gaze on a nearby red-haired human with mutton chop facial hair and holding a flat board in one hand and a quill in the other. Upon approaching him, he regarded the Tinman and I for a moment and spoke. “So, you both looking to enter the ring?”

Grinning the Tinman replied, “Of course, but only I. What’s the setup tonight?”

“Basically, it’s an open king of the ring; you enter one at a time, and whoever holds out for the night is the winner. But I’ll tell you, the crowd is a bit bored.”

At that I look around, and while the room is pretty full, they crowd didn’t look enthusiastic. It stood in contrast to the moments before we entered the room where I remember more cheering and excitement.

“Fickle crowd?” I asked

“No…conceding to the inevitable. Everything is nice and fine, until the ‘Apple-King’ decides to play. Then, it all stops. No one likes the odds.”

“For or against this ‘Apple-King’?” I asked.

“He’s got a good local rep; can’t make money betting for him to win. And few make coin betting against him. Usually he shows up late in the evening to clean up, but he decided to step in early. Mucks up the betting,” the human frowned.

“And why is he called the ‘Apple-King?’”

“Heh, that has to do how he punches. He hits a bit low most of the time.” The human grinned.

“Sounds like he could use to be taken down a peg. What’s the rule of the pit?” the Tinman asked, cracking his knuckles.

“Well, usually bare fisted and no armor. But when the King is in the ring, we let folks use armor. Not that it helps much.” The man replied. “So are you interested?”

“Of course, he is,” as the Knight clasped the Tinman on the shoulders to our surprise, as neither of us heard his approach. “This is ‘Big D’ after all!”

The Tinman blinked and was about to interject, when the Knight continued, “He doesn’t like talking about it, but he’s well known in the Sword Coast rings!”

“I’ve never heard of…” the red-haired man tried to say

“Of course not! He’s been on the coast itself; Luskan, Neverwinter and Waterdeep mostly. This is his first time out this far east. So, let’s get him in and start the fighting!”

The Tinman turned back to the man and said, “Well…I agree with that. I don’t mind fighting with armor. It’s his loss.”

The man nodded, “Alright…let me get your name here…’Big D’ I’ll get it up on the board.”

“Wait no…I’m not call…”the Tinman attempted to correct, before the man walked off towards the main chalk board. He stopped and turned to look at the Knight instead, “Really? ‘Big D’? That sounds silly.”

“Nah…trust me, it’ll work.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“You’ll see…or hear” the Knight grinned.

“Fine. Better hold my gear.” As he took off his pack, bow and unbelted his sword, passing them to the Knight. He looked at his shield and decided to hand that to the Knight as well.

“Where’s your stuff?” I asked the Knight.

“Oh, it’s with Beepu in the room. Here, hold his sword. I need to warm up the crowd.”

The Knight then entered the crowd and was talking to a table with one of the serving girls at it. As I watched he quickly, hit up several tables, pointing excitingly.

The Tinman ignored this and flexed. “Well, I don’t usually do knuckledusters. Prefer blunts. Still something seems odd about this.”

I shrug, “Kind of reminds me of the ‘Bottle and Jug’ as they do some pit fighting there. But they are a bit more closed door about it.”

“Oh why?” he asked

“Mostly because some of the fights, people don’t walk away from.” I said and looked the Tinman in the eye. “It’s a rough place in an even rougher place.”

Looking at the chalk board, I see that they have written his name near the top of the board as ‘Big D.’ Alongside his name were set of odds, but I wasn’t clear on why so many, and what the odds meant.
His name was written below another one, that said ‘Apple-King’ but in comparison it was a single set of odds; in the house’s favor. No one in their right mind was going to make a bet on a sure winner.

At this point an older blonde, heavy set woman made her way to the edge of the ring and started shouting:
“All right! We seem to have a new comer to the ring. Someone with experience and a name.”
At that point I could hear a voice in the crowd. It sounded like the Knight, and he was chanting loudly “Big D!”

Quickly around the room, others started to cheer and chant. What was malaise and disinterest before, started to change to excitement.

“Big D!”

“Big D!”

“Big D!”

I nudge the Tinman, “I think you should make an entrance now.”

He nodded and stepped down the stairs into the pit. He lifted his right arm aloft in beat with the chants. Encouraging the crowd and drinking in the adulation.

I moved to a rail near the edge to watch. The Knight kept the chant going, moving in the crowd. I turned to look at the board, and I saw a flurry of activity. Bets were being made, odds being revised.

The woman at the rails was nodding approvingly, “Big D it is! My, can this…majestic form of a man hold his own? Does he have what it takes to be the next king of the ring here? Or does he have yet another set of apples to be bruised? Because we all know his opponent, our local scourge of the ring, our own ‘Apple-King!’ And into the ring strode in a figure.

The figure was diminutive compared to ‘Big D’ barely half his height. He wore only a pair of breeches and no shirt or even shoes. His chest and arm muscles were defined, but to my eye looked wiry. His brown hair was pulled up into a top-knot and he looked very, very sure of himself. He looked at ‘Big D’ with a knowing smile. He flexed and waved to the crowd, unconcerned about the fight.

“Well…get your bets in…no telling how long it will…or won’t last.” The woman said with a smile. “Now get it on!” and the crowd responded in cheers.

The short figure was quick, skirting around the edge of the ring, while our Tinman circled as well, keeping his distance and sizing up the King.

Finally, the Tinman had enough and made a sudden move and jabbed with his left hand, connecting in the side of the small figures head. He then followed up with his right fist clenched, bringing it down on the left shoulder of his opponent.

The crowd for a moment was quiet, but once the two blows connected it grew wild. They expected something, but not for the heavily armored one to strike first and hard.

The figure was also surprised at the speed of his opponent, and his eyes narrowed into a glare. Now focused, he moved quickly, throwing a pair of punches and a kick at the Tinman. None landed squarely, being either blocked or glancing off the chest plate of the Tinman’s armor.

The Tinman saw an opening and landed a right mailed fist into the side of the figures face, but missing with his left.

“Oh, he’s just pissin him off now,” said a man next to me to another human. That human nodded, “Yeah. Not often someone lands a punch on the halfling, but he’s going to make this ‘Big D’ pay.”

The halfling (I guess) again moves quickly and punches three times. Each one connects with armor solidly. But if it had an effect on the Tinman, he wasn’t showing it. Nor did the fact he was punching metal seem to bother the halfling either.

The Tinman kept close and swung twice, neither finding their mark. The halfling kicked and punched with quick strikes, but nothing seemed to be a solid hit that the Tinman noticed. While the halfling was fast, the Tinman had solid reactions; always moving in a way so his armor took the brunt of the punches instead of trying to dodge the blow.

By comparison the halfling started changing his tactics, attacking less and spending more time dodging the Tinman’s attacks.

After several minutes of probing, the Tinman landed a pair of punches on the halfling, the right pounding down on right shoulder, and the left punch landing with sickening crunch of metal on bone, knocking the halfling to the ground.

The crowd was wild. Again glancing at the slate, the chits and coins exchanged was fast. Money was being made, although it was hard to see in whose favor. But by ‘Big-D’s name, odds were being crossed off, from left to right, and as I watched another was crossed off again. It finally dawned on me what it meant; the odds were for how long ‘Big D’ would last in the fight. And he had defied all expectations; there were only two odds left.

No matter what, the house expected ‘Big D’ to lose. The payout of the fight was twenty-three to one for him to win.

But the Tinman was oblivious to this, focusing on his opponent. The halfling was only down briefly and rolled quickly backwards and was back upright in a flash. He was bloodied and smiling, altogether unconcerned. He glanced at another halfling at the side of the ring who gave him a quick hand signal. And with that, the fight changed.

The halfling changed his tactics. He repeatedly dove towards the Tinman and only kicked, no longer attempting to punch. He then kept moving away from the Tinman, attempting to force the Tinman into chasing him.

Looking at the Tinman, I could see him nod and smile; he knew he was being baited into chasing. He moved himself to an edge of the ring and waited. He didn’t chase, and let the halfling come to him, as he prepared himself to strike when the halfling got close.

The halfling never let up, and tirelessly came in, kicked and left striking range. The Tinman was not connecting with any of his swings however, and it appeared that the fight was moving to a standstill when it happened.

The halfling charged in and jumped, and instead of kicking threw a punch which hit the Tinman on the left temple. Taking the blow, the Tinman spun away from the wall stumbling. His eyes were unfocused, and his head turned slowly trying to track the halfling.

Only half aware, he didn’t see the halfling dive between his legs and throw a single punch. The single punch was aimed straight up into the armored codpiece of the Tinman. And like that, the Tinman collapsed on the ground of the pit.

The crowd was hushed with the sudden reversal of events, and then it erupted in cheers. The ‘Apple-King’ at first smiled rose both arms in apparent victory. But his brow furrowed, and he looked around, mystified at the crowd’s chant.

“Big D!”

“Big D!”

“Big D!”

I was surprised as well. But I didn’t have much time to process it, as I made my way to the pit stairs to collect the lump formerly known as Daneath.

The Knight had made it to him first and was checking him over, laughing as he did so. I reached him and knelt down and held his head. His eyes were rolled back, and he was breathing, but he was out cold. The Knight and I with some effort stood up ‘Big D,’ each of us under an arm and dragged him back up the stairs out of the pit.

On the way up, the crowd was excited and still chanting “Big D” and giving all sorts of accolades. Meanwhile I could hear this shrill voice behind him in the pit:

“Why are you cheering him? I’m the one that won!”

Dragging him out of the arena, the Knight led me down a hallway to a door, which he kicked a couple of times. The door flew open and the Fingerpainter glared at us.

“I am trying to work. Can you not work a door handle yourself?”

“Not with my arms full. Daneath is heavy.”

“Move! Let’s drop him on the bed,” I said rapidly tiring. The Gnome backed up and we stumbled in and unceremoniously dropped the unconscious warrior on the bed. The Gnome closed the door and looked at the three of us with some disbelief.

“I hope you are satisfied. We need him functional, so we can get to ‘Flint Rock’ tomorrow.”

The Knight looked at the sprawled-out figure and shrugged, “He just needs to sleep it off. He’ll be fine.”

“I am a little concerned if he was so easily beaten in the ring,”

“He wasn’t. In fact, he outlasted everyone that had tried to take on the Apple-King in the last season.”

“So, you lost money on him I suppose.”

“Nope. I bet on him going down.” Smiled the Knight.

“What? You bet against him?”

“No. I just didn’t bet on him to win.”

I laughed. “So, you just stoked the crowd…and encouraged him with their enthusiasm.”

“Yep, and now we have a legend of note with us; the warrior extraordinaire; ‘Big D’!”

To which ‘Big D’ replied in the only manner he could.

He started snoring.

Session Notes

When you ask your DM to taking on a stronger challenger, and punch above your weight...you get a Hin Fist halfling.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Crossing the Planes

Crossing the Planes​

They say that your life passes before your eyes when you are facing death. All the Sensates I knew said that the mind went into overtime seeing if you missed something. The priests said that there wasn't any pain and it’s a peaceful experience. The Dustmen all claimed that you were dead already, and the True Death awaited those who could empty themselves of emotions and attachments.

Sodding clueless berks they were.​

The snoring continued through the night as I lay in my bed, my eyes drooping. I had done my prayers hours before and now I just wanted to sleep. But it appeared that somewhere during the fight, ‘Big-D’ had broken his nose. For three days on the road while I took watches, I could not recall the noise that now came from the bunk nearby. I was seriously thinking about breaking it again when sleep finally won out.

I woke again sometime after dawn. The Fingerpainter had originally camped himself by a small writing desk near a bed, but apparently, he never bothered to use it. He sat slumped in the chair, with only the lightest of murmurs to give any indication of still being asleep. Big D was silent, as it appeared that someone had nearly smothered him with a pillow. But the occasional movement told me that he still was among us.

That meant the Knight was the only other one awake, and he was quietly looking at a large piece of parchment. He had acquired a cup of something, and he took a sip as he continued to read. “Morning Myrai,” he spoke glancing in my direction.

I groaned, “Thanks for the pillow,” and I pushed myself up by my arms. “I didn’t think it would ever get quiet last night.”

“Well, Beepu wasn’t using it,” and he turned to look at the unconscious warrior on the bed. “Might have to rebreak his nose again. A good hard right to counter the left punch to his face.”

“Don’t think so,” as I sat up and started pulling on my boots. “The punch hit him here,” I pointed to the upper part my head. “I bet he broke it when he landed for his dirt nap.”

“Hmm, you’re right. Doesn’t really change the solution does it?”

“No, and I doubt he’ll enjoy fixing it,”

The Knight shrugged, “Somehow I bet he’s had it done before. We’ll let him rest a bit longer before we do that.”

I nod, and finish with the lacing at the back of my boot and reach for my leather bodice. Grabbing it I start to fasten it around me when the Knight asked, “Did you need a hand with that?”

I looked at him with a cocked eye and replied, “Usually that line works better at night…but I’m fine.” I tried to hide my smirk as I threaded the leather strips through the eyelets in the armor.

“Probably right, but we all need help occasionally.”

“Probably; but I’ve been putting on my armor for the better part of a year. Pretty sure I have it down now. But…thanks.”

“Sure thing.” And for a moment it was quiet as I finished fastening on the armor. Then he asked. “Who were you praying to last night?”

I paused in putting on my gear and looked at him, “Kelemvor.”

“The god of the dead? That’s not a casual god to pray to.”

“Life isn’t casual, and it tends to be cut short.”

“That’s a bit cynical don’t you think?”

I stop a second and think. Images of Markell and Elisna and so many others come to mind. I shake my head, clearing the thoughts away. “Probably, but after losing enough people you care about…it’s comforting. You don’t need to seek death, nor does death come to find you. It’s here always with us. So, there isn’t a need to pray for it. You pray to honor the dead, and not to join them… yet.”

“Ok…that’s still a bit grim.”

“Maybe. But looking at you, you’ve seen the underside of this…place. Tell me the truth; doesn’t everyone pray to see another day?”

“I guess…but they usually don’t pray to death itself.”

“Somehow I find comfort in it. It doesn’t matter to me what others do or don’t do in comparison.” and I finished putting my blades back in their normal places. “We should wake the others and figure out what we are doing next.”

The Knight was putting the parchment back in his pack, “Well north of here for certain. I was thinking that we should stop at the outpost that the Waterbaroness setup. Get information, and make sure we don’t step on any toes.”

“Makes sense to me. What was that you were reading?”

“This? Some old notes I wrote a while ago,” he said nonchalantly. Too nonchalantly. But he clearly didn’t want to discuss it, so I let it drop.

“Hey Foggle,” I said turning to the golden owl perched on the desk. “Wake up your master; I’m sure he wants to get moving.”

The mechanical owl was standing watch, with its head revolving constantly in circles. Now, it blinked its eyes and turned to stare its head at the Fingerpainter silently. Then the wizard yawned and opened his eyes saying “…alright, alright what is the…Ah! Morning!”

I looked at the owl; normally it just said “Beeepooo” in the most obnoxious way possible. But now I realized that it could communicate, without saying anything. I wondered how much of a conversation could be had with a mechanical construct. Or did the magic involved create a connection with…something.

For now, it was beyond my ability to do anything like that. But I wanted something. The Fingerpainter stretched his arms, jumped down off his chair and then settled his disapproving gaze on the sleeping “Big-D.”

“Well, why is Daneath just lying there?” he said shrilly.

“Most of us were trying to get a decent night’s sleep, and it took a bit to get him to quiet down,” the Knight said.

“What noise?”

I blinked, “What noise? The herd of gehreleths didn’t keep you up? How can you sleep through that?”

“Well…my father snored so I guess I got used to it.” The gnome shrugged. “And what’s a gehreleth?”

“It’s an unpleasant group of beings in the lower planes; and they are obnoxious to everyone,” I replied. “You really don’t want to meet any of them.”

“Well, might as well get this over with,” the Knight said, and he promptly shook the sleeping warrior. He snorted and sat up, bleary eyed looking at us.

“Whud are you looking at? Ah crap…how did I break my dose again?”

“You don’t remember?” I said incredulously.

“Noe. I…I…remember goin to duh ring. Who’d I fight?” he asked as he knitted his brows together trying to remember.

“It was…a fight that most others won’t forget, Big D.” the Knight said

“Big D? Who choze dat name?”

“You did! Crowd loved it, the fight was spectacular. One for the ages.” The Knight said beaming.

“Oh. So, I wun?”

“Not so much. But it was a great bout!”

“Right. Hey, wherze my codpieze?”

I pointed to the desk, “It’s over there…might need to see a smith about it though.” I said.
On the desk, lay the iron protector of his apples. But it had a sizable dent now the size of a childs fist.

“Whad duh? Whad did I fight?”

“Well,” I said trying to find the right words “Someone with a reputation for…low blows. Anyway, we should get moving.”

“Whud? I need dis fixt!”

“Your codpiece? We can find a smith.”

“Noe, my doze.”

The Knight looked at him and said, “Well sit on your hands and tilt your head ba…”

“I noe how dis works. Just doo id!”

CRUNCH!

--------------------------------

Minutes later we left the “Lusty Bard,” with Big D shaking his head.

“I can breathe better now, thanks. But need to find a smith still.”

“Tell you what. Why don’t you two,” and I pointed at the humans “take care of repairs and learn the chant about goings on north? I’m kind of curious about the Hate Night party coming up. Might be a way to get work later.”

“More delays! And what do you propose I do?” the Fingerpainter said.

“Provide me an escort of course. You can help me find the higher end merchants that might know about the local goings on.”

“I am not a tour guide!”

“No, but did you want to hang around the smithy, or see there is anything else to learn here?”

“Sounds fine to me, let’s meet back midday in the main market,” Big D said, “Shouldn’t take too long with a hammer and we won’t lose too much time. We’ll see you then.” And the two humans strode off.

“Wait..wait…” and the wizard half-heartedly started to chase after the humans and then stopped. He turned and came back to me scowling. “This is a waste of time. Wait…You want an invitation, don’t you?”

“Pretty much.” And I turned and started walking toward the direction of the gate that let up to the next tier of the city.

“What do you expect to do at a party like that?”

“Well I hope to meet people who need stuff done and have jink to melt. Probably have time enough to get to where you want to go and come back.”

“You mean ‘have money to spend?’ Well…as long as it is a follow-up thing to do.”

“You got it. And I suspect that you and I are going to need lots of jink for supplies in the future.”

Rubbing his chin the gnome nodded, “That actually does make some sense. We can afford to make conta…hey, aren’t you going to put up your hood?”

I looked at him,“No, I don’t want to hide while I am here. I only covered up because I didn’t know where I was and what to expect.”

I strode through the marketplace, heading to the gate to the upper tier. Weaving between the ramshackle stalls, I began to get the impression that I was getting attention. Most of course only saw my hair. The merchants ahead who saw my eyes however, they fell over each other trying to offer me goods; masks, fruits, everything. I just smiled and let their tongues behind me tell the tale. In Sigil, I was just a funny looking Aasimar.

Here, I was a bit more than that.

The district in the middle tier was much more well to do. Less merchants in stalls, and more in small shops. Buildings were of stone with slate roofs, instead of wood and straw. The merchants were friendlier as well…not that smiles my direction was rare.

But as friendly as they were, the information I was looking for was somewhat disappointing. Invitations to the Waterbaroness’ were of course already distributed. The one seamstress I spoke with basically was swamped with last minute changes to orders for the grand ball, only three days away. She had no idea how someone could get an invitation now, let alone a dress.

The Fingerpainter did manage to spent some quality time in a couple of shops that had various tomes for sale. Nothing seemed to spark his interest and he seemed to be flustered overall in the…lack of organization of the shops. Not that his proposed solutions made any sense either; assigning numbers on the back of tomes, where the numbers meant a particular topic didn’t seem much better.

Eventually we returned to the lower market to meet up with the humans. We were eating some type of bird meat on a skewer, when the pair strode up to us. The first thing I noticed was Mo was back. It only dawned on me then, that I hadn’t seen the creature for days. But now I saw it bounding across the top of stalls, and landing on the Knights shoulder. After that, I saw it drop something into the hand of the Knight; something shiny. I smirked; our Knight of the Post had a squire of the post.
The second thing was Big-D himself. As I watched him approach, it was obvious that he replaced his codpiece. It could have been that it was larger than before, or the way he walked. But it probably had most to do with the metal used was a bright polished silver, instead of the dull iron of before. It…stood out.

“Nice work,” I said as they approached. “Nothing obvious to draw attention.”

Big D frowned, “Pounding out the metal caused it to crack, so this was all that was handy in a pinch. The smith seemed very happy to do it and it didn’t cost me.”

“A generous smith? Sounds suspicious.”

“Not really,” said the Knight, “He was a winner in last night’s betting, so he was more than happy to support ‘Big D’.”

“Stop that…still a silly name. I can’t believe I gave that as my fighting name.”

“Anyway,” I interrupted “Did you learn anything about goings on north of town?”

“Not much more; there is a camp a couple of hours northwards where they range out. Got a contact name. And oh, it’s real recent. It was only setup in the last month or so.” Said the Knight.

“Well that is enough to get started. We have wasted enough time here!” the gnome said in his most commanding voice.

“I can’t argue with that, beats banging around here,” I said. “Might as well start walking.”

The others nod, and we started making our way through the crowded streets back to the main gate to the city. As we walked, I kept seeing Mo darting from the Knights shoulder, to lamps, stalls, gutters, and back. Always moving. I then asked the Knight; “Where has Mo been? I don’t recall seeing him for days.”

“Oh…mostly in the top of my pack; he was sleeping most of the way here. I think he was bored. Once we got here, he perked up and darted off. Didn’t see him till this morning.”

“Interesting. Also…this might sound silly but…what is he?”

“What Mo? He’s some sort of monkey. Why?”

I stopped in the street. My eyes opened widely, and I stared at Mo on the Knights shoulder. And I just couldn’t control myself.

I started laughing. I finally got the joke.

The Knight stopped and looked at me mystified, “What? Why is that funny?”

I recover a bit, wiping some tears from my eyes, “I just got the point of a particular insult used in
Sigil.” I said in between laughs. “When you see a fiend that looks like they have been on the wrong end of a scrap, you sometimes hear another group say ‘So, looks like you got beaten by the monkeys’” I was still chuckling and caught my breath and continued; “But I didn’t understand why they would be so insulted, and why it implied it was a bunch of primes that did it.”

“Because you have never seen a monkey?”

“Close…Seen one or two…but never knew that’s what they were called. It’s hilarious.”

“If you say so…now come on, or we’ll lose the others.”

-----------------------

The road north was really not much to speak of. Really. It barely qualified as a road, being just gutted tracks of wagon wheels with weeds in between. While we were in some hills that came up to the riverbanks near Yartar, now it was flattening out into plains, with only an occasional rise here and there. Even the trees were becoming sparser and sparser the farther north we went.

Eventually, we saw wisps of smoke ahead of us. We continued north, and we saw what appeared to be a stockade in the distance. As we approached, it became clear that this was both very new and very hastily assembled. Once at the doorway, it was apparent that this wasn’t really a defensive fortification. It was square, with wooden palisades, with two buildings within. One of the building appeared to double as a wainwrights and tack house. Another seemed to be a bunk house, and this one had smoke drifting up from a chimney. There were several wagons, and draft horses within the fort, waiting for the next load to carry south to Yartar. There were only two guards at the entrance, and there was only one “tower” which was more of a trestle assembly in the middle of the encampment with a platform at the top, where a lone, miserable looking, guard was posted.

It wasn’t designed to keep people out; it was designed to keep things inside of it with a barred door, and guards at the only exit. The fearsome elk tribe had never beset it; brigands never tried to rob it. It was untested, and guards in front of it unconcerned, even as we approached.

Once at the entrance to the stockade, the humans approached and introduced themselves, and quickly head to one of the buildings within. That left the Fingerpainter, Foggle and I waiting on the outside.

The Fingerpainter was doing tweaks to Foggle. He had a small pouch open with various tools he used to keep Foggle going. As I watched, it was clear that Beepu saw this machine as something more than a mechanical contraption. The care he took, the apologies he gave when a tool slipped, and the gentle caresses of his hands as he polished it.

“There’s a bit of magic infused into it, isn’t there? It’s not just clockwork.” I said watching the Fingerpainter work over the owl.

“Well…yes. The familiar spell binds it to me, so we can converse. I can even look through its eyes if need. But the bulk of it is artifice. Something my family has been doing for centuries. Especially my father.”

“I thought your father was more of a wizard?”

“Oh he wa…is. But he had many interests. His devices infused magic into them as well, but usually the devices helped focus or intensify the magic used.”

“Like planar magic?”

The gnome nodded and continued his work on Foggle, “That was what he last was working on. I have some of the notes, but not enough to reconstruct what he was doing. That’s why I want to find him. It has been two years since he has been home or anyone in the family has heard from him.”

“Makes your urgency understandable,” I said slumping and leaning against the palisade. “I was once that way about my parents.”

The gnome didn’t even turn, but his tone changed to a curious one, “

“What about your parents? You mentioned your father briefly, but you did not elaborate. You have not spoken in a while?”

“More like ‘ever.’ I was given up at birth as an orphan by my father. He swore the ones that took me in to secrecy and left.”

The gnome stopped and turned from where he sat on the earth, “Secrecy? About what?”

“About him mostly. I mean I know he was a celestial of some type, but what kind, what his name was, and anything about my mother. The two bleakers who took me in swore an oath, and they both died when I was young. So, I can’t ask them.”

“So, a…say an angel, dropped you off and that’s all you know?”

I nodded, “Yep. When I got older, I tried to dig up what I could. But with little to go on, it was just dead end after dead end. My parents are a deep dark. Nothing at the Hall of Records, the Factol of the Gatehouse, I even tried asking around the Great Gymnasium for a day before they threw me out.”

“Threw you out?”

“I didn’t pay to go in, so I don’t blame them. I was probably more of a pest then anyway. But it’s strange.”

“Being an orphan is already too common if you ask me.”

“It’s more than that. Aasimar usually…well their progenitor keeps tabs with their descendants and communicates with them.”

“What with letters?”

I shook my head, “No…from the other couple of Aasimar I talked to, they could communicate directly with their progeny in their heads. That they would receive…guidance directly from theirs. But I’ve never heard anything like that. So, he’s silent for a reason.” I said not saying the other possible reason. Not saying that fallen angels don’t talk to their dependents either.

“Hey, you two,” said Big D as he walked up with the Knight in tow.

“Hey. So, what’s the chant?”

The Knight frowned, “Well basically this is a collection point for goods and treasures found in burial mounds. They basically will offer a contract and you can go scavenge, bring the goods here and they pay you. But they’re stingy, based on what I say they pay a tenth of the value.”

The Fingerpainter piped up, “Can’t others just take it to another town and sell it then?”

“Well they have also scouts who are looking for wanderers; if they have tribal goods, they take them. But based on the tone, only after teaching the unauthorized looters ‘a lesson,’ it appears.”

“Ah, so organized grave robbing. How…civilized,” I said and spat in to the dirt. I knew that Kelemvor didn’t really approve of disturbing the rest of the dead from the teachings I had read. “But I suppose we aren’t looting graves. We are looking for people who seem to be at a grave.”

The Knight nodded, “Yep, which is why we didn’t sign anything.”

“Anything else?” I asked.

“Yeah. Since the Elk left, more and more gnolls have appeared. Seems that the Elk had been keeping the cowards at bay. But not anymore,” Big-D said. “They have been moving farther and farther south, and pretty much it’s them between us and the rock.”

“What about ‘Flint Rock’ itself?” the Fingerpainter asked with urgency.

“No one knows how to get there. And there aren’t any tribesmen to ask, not that they would tell us. So, we are going to have to find it on our own,” replied Big D.

“Well then! North it is.” And the gnome folded up his set of tools, put them into his pouch, sent his owl aloft and started marching north.

“What? We’re just going to wander around and hope we find it?” I said incredulously.

Big D shrugged, “I don’t have any other ideas. Besides, if we don’t find anything in three days, we’ll have to turn around anyway for supplies.” And he proceeded to follow the Fingerpainter.

The Knight however was quiet, looking at the other two with a look of concentration on his face. He too shrugged and muttered, “Well it’s the right direction I suppose.”

I looked skyward, and closed my eyes and said, “May Kelemvor protect them,” and then proceeded to follow them into the plains.

The road continued meandering in a northwestern direction. But we moved off the path and started heading straight north instead. This made some sense, as Flint Rock wasn’t on a road, so following that wasn’t going to get us far. The plains themselves were mostly scrub, thistle and other low bushes. And as we looked ahead we saw few hills. But we made our way towards one, to get a lay of the land ahead of us.

It was midafternoon when we had reached the hilltop, if you could call it that. It was basically a low mound, with some outcropping of rocks and more scrub. It was dry and dusty, and no signs of water anywhere. At least the grasses were low enough that we could walk through them without difficulty.
Looking around in all directions told the same story. Scrub and more scrub. And looking north, it continued to look flat. It made me wonder what flint rock even looked like, or how a cairn would stand out. It then occurred to me, that most of the groups ranging the plains were mounted, giving them a better vantage point. Since we didn’t have the means to purchase them, we had to work with what we had. And what we had was Foggle.

While we surveyed the land with our eyes, the gnome closed his eyes and was looking through Foggle’s. While he couldn’t go very high, it was high enough to give an idea of what to expect. I watched with a certain envy. I really wanted a familiar at that point; it seemed too useful not to have. But I had never heard of sorcerers having one.

Being shorter than the other two, I sat down on a rock and thought. There must be a way to find this place. Some sort of trail or markers to at least give us a clue if we were heading in the right direction.
As the wind was blowing through the grass and as the Fingerpainter was scouting above, it crossed my mind that something was…missing. I sat there quietly thinking, trying to put my finger on it.

“This is not helping. I will have to send him higher and let him tell me what he sees. My range looking directly, is too limited.” Said the Fingerpainter, and he opened his eyes and watched the owl silently ascend.

I was nodding in agreement to what he had said when it dawned on me. Beyond the light rustle of the brush from the sporadic breeze it was dead quiet. No other noise from the plains beside our own breathing at this point. No birds, nothing moving in the foliage around us.

Nothing.

“Hey berks,” I asked and suddenly getting alarmed, “It’s real quiet. Didn’t we hear birds or animals in the brush earlier?”

The knight looked at me sharply and then cocked his head to listen, “You’re right. I remember hearing some earlier. We might of scared any off though.”

One thing about Foggle, is despite being a clockwork, it was very silent as it flew. It took that moment to land on the Fingerpainter’s shoulder and uttered an excited “Beepooo!”

“He found something that we should look at,” the gnome exclaimed excitedly. “Not far to the north!”
“How did you get that out of one ‘beeepooo’?” asked Big D, “What else did it say, that a boy fell into a well and is drowning and needs our help right away?”

“The verbal utterance is just to provide the illusion of audible communication. I just hear what he says in my mind. And no.”

“No what?”

“There is not a well.”

“Well,” I said standing up and stretching, “Let’s take a look.”

After a short march we arrived at the spot indicated by the owl. And at that point I really wish we hadn’t found it.

It looked to be waist high and was initially appeared to be a collection of round rocks and wood, shaped into a pyre. As we approached, you could hear the sounds of buzzing flies. Once I was close enough, I could see that most of the rocks were not rocks at all.

They were skulls. Perhaps a dozen, in a pile underneath and around three small wooden logs. The skulls themselves weren’t clean, most having flecks of meat and gore attached. Maggots crawled over the decaying flesh as flies landed and then took off to resume their dizzying flight around the pyre.

We didn’t say anything; we knew that the gnolls created this grisly thing. I knew a little more; it was a primitive shrine to the gnoll’s master, the demon prince Yeenoghu.

“I would have rather found a well,” I said with a mixture of disgust and sadness.

“That means there is a pack roaming about,” said the Knight. “We probably shouldn’t linger here.”
I silently nod, and we continued north. The scrub and weeds spread in all directions endlessly. In the distance another landmark, a small rocky rise was evident, and we headed towards it to get a view again with our own eyes. The owl was once again aloft watching everything from a height. The sun was maybe an hour or two away from touching the hills when we reached the outcropping.

It wasn’t a lot, random projections of granite boulders of grey and white. And the elevation was again barely above the level of the plains themselves. We started the same routine, but Foggle had not flown very high, when suddenly it dropped down to land on the Gnomes shoulder.

It startled him as well and quickly turned his head to look at the owl. Then he looked at us; “He saw something in the brush creeping towards us!”

We started drawing weapons. For the first time, my dagger felt woefully inadequate. My heart started pounding as I braced myself for an attack.

Big D had drawn his sword, “How many, which way, and what?”

The gnome glared at the warrior, “About six, a bit northeast, but he wasn’t clear on the what part. But it wasn’t humanoid.”

So not gnolls. Something else. At least with gnolls I knew what to expect. My throat felt suddenly thick and dry.

Big D nudged the Knight, and they moved together towards where the owl had indicated. The Gnome and I stayed back behind them, about twenty paces. The two had made it to a large boulder when we heard it.

There was no animal noise, no roar, nothing of the kind. But we did hear paws running fast on the ground, moving brush aside, approaching fast.

Big D was hit first, as a large dog like animal jumped at him trying to bite his midsection. Fortunately, he was able to bat away the assault with his shield and he quickly swung his sword, giving the beast a flesh wound. Nearly at the same time, two of them came at the Knight. But neither found its mark, and one received a deep wound for its trouble.

Meanwhile, the Fingerpainter and I respond to the attack in our own way. The gnome with a quick incantation threw a fire bolt at one of the wounded ones, but it went wild. I sent off a bolt of purple energy and it struck the one that just attacked our Knight. Too late we heard more beasts coming from the dense brush.

Flanking the gnome and I, two more beasts appear of the brush, giving me a better look at them. They were dirty and spotted, with a dog like face and rounded ears. Their front legs were longer than their rear, causing to lope with an ungainly stride. But they were fast, and aggressive, their jaw hung open showing heavy bone breaking teeth.

The Fingerpainter had seen them a hair quicker than I and was already moving towards a boulder. I started moving to follow him, so we could protect each other, when I first felt pain.

I screamed and then felt the snap of bone as one of the beast had dove and had a firm grip on my ankle. I fell to my hands and knees, unable to stand. My blood was spurting from the wound, and it was all I could do to shake the beast off my leg.

It didn’t try to hold on, instead backing off and started to pace, waiting. I tried to scramble towards the Fingerpainter, when the second one leaped at me. Its face and jaws brushing against my own, and I even smelt and felt the warm fetid breath against my neck. Its jaws clamped onto me, and I couldn’t breathe. I felt massive pain and the tearing of my own flesh.

Help.

My blood was spurting everywhere. I stabbed at the thing wildly, losing my dagger. I then desperately punched with my fists against the hide of the thing.

Help.

I tried to talk, to scream, but no air leaves my mouth. I could taste and feel blood fill it instead of air. The beast pulls away from my neck…taking flesh, meat and more with it. I try to scream again, but my voice is gone; stolen by the beast.

Blood…is…everwher…

Help.

Darkness grows around me, and then…

Grey.

I am lying on dusty ground, which is the color of bone. The air around me is cloudy. My throat hurts as does my ankle. But the pain is fading away. It’s quiet. But not a peaceful quiet. A quiet…

Nothing.

I feel slow and unrushed. I stand up. Why was I on the ground? But, I slowly turn myself around and see nothing beyond the dusty air. There is nothing to look at or see. No…there is something. I can see a shadowy form in the distance.

This is familiar. I stare at the shadow and slowly it coalesces into a more defined shape.
It’s a building. No, a tower. While there is light in this place, it isn’t coming from anywhere. So, the tower fades slowly into view. It is far away, and the details aren’t clear. But what I can see is that it has the sharp lines of a crystal. A crystal that is smoky and barely translucent.

This is not a place I’ve been to. It’s a place I’ve heard of. A special place. Thinking is slow here,
unrushed so it takes a moment.

This is the Fugue.

I’m…I’m…

Dead?


No one should be alone, in life or death,
Death is part of life, not an ending but a beginning​



Session notes:
This is where I go off on a soap box about my opinion of 5e edition taking a major step backwards for level one survivability. I like danger and challenges (this campaign has a lot of that. Spoiler, we aren’t done here.) but I don’t like how little it takes to push a character into the rule set of “Death due to massive damage.” For the record, the leg bite was 6 hp out of 8. The neck bit was an additional 12 points of damage due to a critical. So yes, 18 points of damage.

My complaint is, it doesn’t feel very heroic. I feel the same way in the early parts of any Bethesda game where giant rats and mudcrabs are deadly beyond belief. And while D&D has helped casters a lot with cantrips, this is a bit much. I’d rather have double the hp at Level 1, and keep everything else about the same, so when a pack of goblins/kobolds/hyenas/whatever assaults you and you go down fighting, you at least can take one with you. 4e had at least a better heroic feel in THAT regard.

There was a total of 5 of the damned Hyenas, and while only a CR0, the dice really weren’t rolling in the players favor.

Rant off.

This is also where, just because you die doesn’t mean there isn’t an interesting story for everyone. This is where the DM did a great job of turning lemons into lemonade for the players.
Hats off to you sir.

Finally...Mo had a bad habit of appearing and disappearing. Foggle was always around, but it was never super super active for a while.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Darks of Death

The Darks of Death

Death is only a Beginning. It sounds trite or like a bad trope. But Death is change for everyone that survives. It’s emotional. It puts much in life in perspective. It frames what it means to live.

What most folks don’t realize, is that the Dead don’t have it any easier. And sometimes, it changes them too.

I was dead.

I was not upset.

I was not angry.

I was not happy.

I was…incomplete.

I stood there in silence, staring at the Crystal Spire towering in the distance above the haze of dust. The silence itself was almost soothing if almost overwhelming. I realized that part of it was because I was no longer breathing, and my heart was still. I realized this was the purest moment of quiet I had ever heard.

Or not heard, as the case was.

I hesitated a moment and with my hand trembling I reach up towards my neck, uncertain on what I would find. My fingers reached out and touched skin that was neither warm or cold. But, I didn’t feel anything was missing. Looking at my ankle, it seemed whole. I no longer felt any pain.

Looking myself over; I looked just like I did moments ago…but everything was grey. My leather pants were a mixture of grey and black, my skin was a light grey. There was no color anywhere. Not me, not the Crystal Spire, not the dirt. But among the grey one thing did catch my eye.

I noticed on the ground, what appeared to be a thin cord. I knelt down to pick up and hold it. The cord was warm, and it felt smooth to the touch, like a strand of soft silk. One end of the strand trailed off into the distance, disappearing into the haze. But to my surprise, the other end was attached to me, right at the small of the back, above the belt line.

My first thought was that it was an astral cord. But those I had been told were silver not white, and I thought they attached high on the back and then disappeared after a bit. But…it couldn’t be that; I was dead. But what was it then?

The silence was broken by the sounds of distant footsteps crunching in the dusty earth. Turning my head, I was fairly certain that it was coming from the direction of the spire. I turned to face what now appeared as a shadowy figure in the distance.

The steps were unhurried, much like everything else felt in the Fugue. And slowly, emerging from the haze a robed human like figure appeared. The robes covered the figure’s torso and arms and covered the legs down towards the knees. They were simple, plain and unadorned; no jewelry and nothing resembling a weapon. The figure walked in simple shoes, crunching in the dust. While having the grey color that permeated the rest of the Fugue, the figure had a faint nimbus of light that gave a subtle glow all around them.

Originally, they weren’t headed towards me, but at some point during their lonely march they noticed my presence. Wordlessly, they changed course and approached where I stood.

As they drew near, I wasn’t sure of their gender. Their head was bald or shaven, yet they had no beard or moustache. The face had sharp features, high cheekbones and a square chin. As they came close I could now see their eyes; a pale grey. As they neared within five paces, they started to shake their head. Then, in a somber and quiet masculine voice, he finally spoke.

“Ah, a shame. Too young, well before the fullness of time.”

“What? My death?” I replied.

The figure nodded, “So you recognize your current condition. That will make things easier for you.”

“I’m not clear on that. How?” I said puzzled.

“I shall explain if you would accompany me. I am seeking a soul who is to arrive soon.” And he started walking, continuing in the direction he originally was headed.

I fell in alongside him, and now having someone to converse with and focus on, the haze in my head started to clear. “Sounds fine, I don’t think I have anything else planned right now.”

The figure turned and regarded me, “Humor…how refreshing. Most that recognize their condition are angry or upset. You seem fairly calm; a sign of maturity.”

I shrug, “If you say so. I take it you weren’t expecting to meet me here?”

The figure shook their head, “No. I was sent to look for the soul I spoke of.”

“So…deaths because of other reasons aren’t looked for?”

“No…we assist and gather them as we perform our duty. Some do arrive at the City of Judgment on their own. Others, refuse to approach because of fear or uncertainty. Many are unclear where they are. But all are collected all the same.”

“For judgement?”

“Sometimes,” he said. “Those who may be faithless or false can be. But the others, a god will send their proxy to gather them, and face judgement at the gods demesne.”

“I suspect, I may be here a long time,” I said smiling.

The figure turned in shock, “Why? Surely you have not abandoned or betrayed the gods!”

“Wha…no, no, no. I am a worshipper of Kelemvor. This is his home, and any judgement will be here.”

The figure smiled and nodded, “Of course. Forgive my assumptions. Yes, the faithful to the Judge and the Scribe are assigned fitting duties here, and rarely leave.”

“Is it…pleasant?”

Again, the nod and smile, “While the souls within awaiting judgement or to be found by their proxies are cared for, nothing makes their stay pleasant or not. Nothing should detract from the final journey and the fruits of judgement from their god.”

“So, they can fully embrace their future. But what of Kelemvor’s own?”

“If they are truly faithful, their duties will fulfill them. We smile, laugh among ourselves and are glad. The serenity and peace fill you with all that you need.”

“I guess I can look forward to that. Beats having your neck ripped out by a snarling beast.”

The figure stops and turns, “I’m sorry, but what did you mean by that?”

“What, my death? Pretty much as I said. It was th...” and the figure cut me off.

“You should not remember that.”

“What? Alright, it’s not like I want to remember that…but I do.”

“How odd.” And he continued forward, “You would be the first I have met that did. Perhaps it will pass, since it was so recent.”

“Well, that would be nice. I didn’t enjoy the whole dying thing. I’m sorry, but what is your name? We didn’t exactly introduce ourselves.”

He chuckled, “Perhaps that is why others do not remember their own death. And I am called Alionus.”

“Ok, I’m Myrai.”

The figure cocked his head, “No. that isn’t right. That isn’t your name.”

I look at him a moment and turn my head back towards the direction Alionus was heading. “That might be true. It’s was what I called myself. If I had a name…no one told me. But I’ve been calling myself ‘Myrai’ for years, since the early days at the Gatehouse. Actually, it was really Elisna that suggested it afte…”

Alionus interrupted again, “This is very odd. You should certainly not remember that either.” Stopping he faced me, “Are you telling me you actually remember your life?”

“Well…yes. I’m not a petitioner, so wouldn’t I?”

Alionus shakes his head again, “That doesn’t matter. Souls are judged by their gods, and then perhaps they are invested and become a petitioner. But a soul…doesn’t have memories of before the veil.”

“Well…I would prefer that. My death…the deaths of Elisna, Markel, and however many others I saw. I want to forget all of the last five years. Its baggage, and nothing more to learn from it.”

Alionus stood regarding me quietly. “A cruel irony. You wish to forget and cannot.”

“So, you don’t remember your …life?”

He shook his head, “No. It has never been a concern. For some that arrive here…it does bother them at first. But we explain it, and the soul moves on.”

“Why do the souls forget?”

“The soul is many things, and the gods can read it and know all of what you were. But your own memories are left behind, so you can embrace your future rewards…”

“…or punishments.” I finish. “I always heard stories of ones that willed themselves back to the living. To finish deeds and duties undone. Don’t they remember?”

“I know of ones you speak of; revenants. But no, they simply feel as you said, that something is incomplete, but intensely. But, even they do not remember. It takes a great will and a great cause for that to happen.”

“Sodding...I’m again a special case. Alive with funny hair and eyes. Dead with memories and a strand attached to me. Why do I have to be the exception to everything?”

“I’m sorry, but you have lost me. What strand do you speak of?”

I stop my tirade and look at him in the eye, “Are you barmy? This strand!” and I scoop up the strand with my right hand, turn around and point with my thumb over my shoulder, pointing to my waistline.

Alionus leans forward to look at my waist where I was pointing. “I can barely see it. It’s like smoke to my vision.”

“Well, it isn’t smoke to me, its bright and warm.” I look over my shoulder at him. “Do you see anything…else?”

He nodded, “There are arcane sigils that surround it, where the ‘strand’ enters your soul. I cannot read them but looking at where it connects to you it looks like it isn’t natural. It’s like it is growing into you.”

“Oh, pike me! Could that be why I remember?”

“Perhaps,” and Alionus reached out for the strand. But as I watched, his hand simply passed through the strand. “I cannot touch it. I feel a warmth as I try, but there is nothing to grip.”

I then reach around awkwardly, trying to get my hands around it. I do so with difficulty and pull, but beyond minor discomfort I cannot dislodge it either.

“Great,” I say. “Maybe judgement can fix it.”

Alionus shrugged, “Perhaps. You have another choice it appears.”

“What? Sell my soul to a Baatezu?”

“Well…that is another option, but I am referring to something else. Do you not feel it?”

I stop pulling on the strand and wait. After a quick moment I feel something; a tugging to my left. I turn to look and then I saw it.

Forming out of nothingness, a small vortex appeared. Smoke the color of dusky greys, blacks and fiery reds. The presence of color stood out and I just stared transfixed. It was hypnotic, beckoning me. Calling me.

I shook my head attempting to clear it. As I watched, the fog swirled and shaped itself into an archway, solidifying into grey rock, while the space beneath still swirled with fog. At the top of arch, there was a keystone, and etched into was a symbol that gave me chills.

It was a symbol of evil. Three triangles, arranged in a manner to create a larger, inverted triangle. The symbol emitted a baleful red light. A light that seemed to be directed at me alone. I had seen this symbol before and I shivered.

It was the Symbol of the Lord of the Nine; Asmodeus.

I stood there in fear, feeling a call, a beckoning to enter the gateway. I turn to look Alionus. “What is…what is it. Why is that…”

Alionus looked calmly at the gateway. “It is a way back. Someone has used magic, in an attempt to bring your soul back to your body. And that someone…is a servant of the Lord of the Nine.”

I didn’t understand. Why would a follower of Asmodeus be trying to bring me back to life? It had to be a trick. It didn’t make sense.


I looked at Alionus, “I don’t have to go right?”

He frowned, “No. Some do. Some do not. Most never desire to leave their rewards, although ones looking to escape punishments do take them.”

I stood there defiantly. “No. I am not going back…back…there. I have had enough. My friends are dead. Elisna is dead. Erin is gone. Markel got what he had coming to him. There is NOTHING there for me.”

Alionus spoke again, “Are you certain? These chances at another life are rare. But, it is up to you.”

I thought, of the small list of people I could think of, there was only one being that might miss me, and I him. But Nastanal was a creature of belief. He had seen countless more mortals die than I. He was already going to outlive me, so what if it was a hundred and forty years too soon.

And as for my mother…I assumed her dead.

And my father? He didn’t care before, why should he now?

I turned away from the archway. Certain of my path. No more pain. No more loss. No way to lose. There was nothing for me to gain in returning.

I started to walk away, and I’m stopped. Puzzled, I turned my head. The strand no longer lay on the ground. It was now in the air, taut as a bowstring. Leading from me, back into the fog in the archway.

I looked at Alionus, “You said it was my choice. I don’t…want..to..go.” and I started pulling and straining against the cord. Pulling more of it out of the archway slowly.

Alionus stood there, his face conflicted. “I do not…I am not sure…”

I pulled harder against the strand, slowly moving step by step away from the dark archway. I could do this forever. I didn’t feel tired. This was a matter of my will against whatever was pulling me.

And I was winning.

My back was to the archway, so I didn’t see it approach. But if I had turned around, I imagined I would have seen a black snake slithering out of the gate. And that snake struck me hard in the back near my shoulder blade.

Because, suddenly I felt PAIN and I screamed. I turned my head to look behind me, I saw a second strand had attached itself to me. This strand was an inky black, with only the slightest shine; like liquid obsidian.

As I strained against the first strand, the point of attachment of the second one, moved down my back towards the original one. Once it reached it, I saw a flash of purple and symbols appeared. Then, the black strand wound itself around the first, forming a braid leading back into the archway. Once the braid had crossed the smoke that formed the archway’s interior, I felt it redoubling its efforts and it again pulled my soul.

I grunted, and I leaned away from the archway, my hands now on the dust. My feet had dug into the dusty earth. But now it wasn’t enough; I was slipping, making gouges into the ground as I was pulled backwards.

I looked again at Alionus, “Please!” I begged “I don’t want…to…leave. Help…me!”

Alionus was paralyzed. His eyes darted back and forth, unclear about what to do in perhaps millennia. Finally, he straightened himself up and moved towards me. Standing in front of me he held out his hands. And summoning as much as I had within me, I grabbed onto his forearms and gripped tightly.

The light was blinding and the pain more so. Alionus was knocked down to the ground and I lost my grip as my hands stung from the blast. I was gasping in shock, trying to hold my position, but I was losing the battle. The Strand was stronger now. Slowly, inexorably I was sliding towards the archway of evil.

Looking ahead of me, Alionus sat up. The look on his face wasn’t pain, or confusion. It was one of revelation.

“Of course. I understand now.” And he stood and dusted himself off.

“Come…help…me,” I shouted. I felt for the first-time fatigue. “Please!”

Alionus shook his head. “I cannot; I am forbidden. I have a message for you though. It is ‘You must go back.’”

I was tiring, I felt tears in my eyes fill as I strained. The pain as I pulled against the Strand was incredible and my energy was nearly drained. I was crying, I was angry, I shouted defiantly:

“WHY!?! What’s the POINT?!?”

Alionus cocked his head a moment as if listening and spoke again. “You are a worthy disciple. Your faith will reward you…My…Daughter.”

My Daughter?

My eyes opened wide in surprise. I lost focus. In an instant I felt myself pulled backwards and I soon found myself crossing the inky threshold of the Archway.

Grey faded to black.

My eyes opened wide to the light of torches underground. I laid on my back on cold stone, and I took a sudden intake of breath. I gasped for air and felt ill. I closed my eyes, I strained and sat up, and then I turned towards my right, doubling over in pain. I started to heave and then I vomited. The taste of bile and what might have been food were purged from me. I once again felt pain in my ankle, and around my neck and throat. I opened my eyes and while everything was at first hazy, I was able to see three things:

The first, is that a robed figure walked away from the altar where I laid. In his left hand a gemstone was disintegrating into black powder, all the while chuckling to himself.

The second, is that I saw Beepu, Iesa and Daneath. They were in front of the altar and they rushed to me. They held me and assisted me in standing talking over each other excitedly and tearfully.

But the third thing I saw was what made my blood run cold: Mordai. He stood next to the robed figure, having just finished shaking his hand. His smile on his face told a story of victory…for him.

Oh, my adams…

…what have you done?!

Session notes:

This was a longer form of a struggle I had as a player. I had given Myrai a fairly dark back story, with loss and the struggles of the Faction War and the events of Die Vecna Die in her immediate past.

So, if you lose all that, and you are lost far from your home and you get devoured by a beast, why on earth would you come back?

The one thing that struck me, is that behind the scenes here, we have three other players, who were actually invested in Myrai and all them felt it was way too soon to die, and they scrambled to find a solution. The death was a major point of the story; they rallied to help Myrai. The DM made it possible to help a poor level one character.

All that left me is to rationalize a reason why. I had not yet put a lot of thought into Myrai’s future; it was new campaign with new people and I had left a lot open. But then I had an idea, that would drive her story. A bit of faith, a bit of fate, and a voyage of discovery.

I wrote a very short (1-2 page) version of this originally, but it wasn’t quite right. Now, reworking it for consistency, I’m happier with the results.
 


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