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Journal of the Souls of Legend

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Journal of the Souls of Legend
(This is updated every two weeks minimum. Last post August 15th, 2019)
Story by Nthal, Campaign by Loki


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.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Hostage to a Bargain

Hostage to a Bargain

I’ve signed exactly one Baatezu contract. The Baatezu are masters of creating them, having millennia to practice. And because of that, they are masters in twisting what is written to their desires, and not yours. And I will say without question, that one contract was the most painful experience of my life.

But I was fortunate in having that experience, because I learned two things. First, I learned how to protect myself from the worst mistakes you can make with them. Second, I learned how bad others are in making contracts…on both sides.​


I stood there, cold and shivering in the darkened cave in disbelief. I always believed my fate was my own to craft. To succeed or fail on my own terms. I wasn’t subject to the whims of others, and by the same token others weren’t subject to mine. Everyone was free to do as they wanted or needed.

I was surrounded by my adams; Beepu, Iesa, and Daneath. They were holding on to me as if I would disappear on them again. My eyes were welling up in tears. I heard them say, “We brought you back,” as if they had done me a great favor. I was flattered that, they thought enough of me to even raise me at all. I should have been able to embrace a new future, with friends that cared about me.

But I couldn’t see that. I shed tears, not in joy but in sorrow. My returning had sealed a bargain and their fates. If I had not returned, they could not be held to any agreement. They would have been free to do what they wanted. To seek out their fathers and masters.

I wasn’t going to return, but my absent father decided to alter that outcome. He had a different agenda, whatever it was. It didn’t matter what I wanted or needed. And now, because I wasn’t strong enough to fight his will, it would be my fault that the adams would be held to whatever bargain that was struck.
It also bothered me that compared to my other friends, that I kept surviving. And the one time I didn’t, somehow I had the ‘fortune’ to be brought back. Why should I have that luck? What made me special? Why did my father push me back to life? Why couldn’t have Elisna? She was special…to me.

“What…did…you…?” I started.

“Easy Myrai. We found a way to bring you back,” Iesa said.

“Yes, they did indeed,” I heard the voice of Mordai. “I honestly wasn’t sure if you would return at all. You surprised me.”

I turned my head to look at the smug tiefling. I felt exhausted and ill. I was regaining some strength in my legs, but I felt weak as I replied. “So…some bargain was struck in my…absence?”

The grin never faded, “So right you are. And we have much to discuss of course. But you look terrible,” he said with a mocking tone. “We should discuss things back at the Lusty Bard. You will be there promptly now?”

I caught the edge in the voice; the threat. And Iesa was quick to reply. “Of course, after Myrai pulls herself back together a bit. We have a lot to tell her.”

Mordai nodded, still smiling. He started to make his way towards one end of the cavern, when he turned and spoke. “I think it goes without saying, that you won’t mention this place to anyone. Unfortunate things could happen if others were even to hear rumors.” And he turned and ascended a wooden ladder at the far end of the cave.

“Myrai, can you move?” Daneath asked.

I nodded and between gritted teeth I said, “I need to leave…now.”

I glanced around me at what was clearly a shrine to the Lord of the Nine. The triple triangle symbol was painted on a wall, a grey altar with black candles, torches in sconces, all in a rough hewn cave or cavern. It was really unremarkable, but the place felt wrong. Like just breathing the air would soil my soul and that the dirtiness would never wash out.

The three led me to the ladder, and with Daneath steadying me, I was able to climb up. The ladder led up into what appeared to be a decaying barn. No animals or even fresh straw was here; just a damp wood rot smell. It was dark, and I could see moonlight shining down through holes in the roof. The main doors were only partially open and were cbarely hanging on their hinges. Walking through the barn’s doors I see that we are well deep into anti-peak, with no sign of the sun rising, nor setting.

Iesa took the lead, and silently he led us all down a path that was just off a main road. As we started down the road, I started to feel a little better, and needed less assistance. Mordai and the priest I had seen below were nowhere to be seen.

“How long was I…gone?”

“It is just after midnight I’d guess, but you have been dead since the afternoon.” Said Daneath.

“Ok, so the big question: Why?” I asked.

“Well, we had gone wandering aimlessly into plains and we were not prepared. We felt that it was not right that you died, and we should help bring you back.” Beepu spoke, sounding like he was admonishing the others.

“Wasn’t it you that stormed off in a random direction?” I asked.

“Well…yes. But that is not important now!”

“You’re right about that. What did you pay the bellman?”

“Um…well…we aren’t sure yet.” Daneath replied.

“You made a deal and didn’t get specifics?”

“Mordai said it was be a for a single task, with no questions asked,” said Iesa.

I sighed. This was going to be a mess. Unlike Mordai’s opinion of Aasimar, I didn’t have a strong opinion on Tieflings in general. But I did have one on Mordai, and it was clear he had something in mind for us to do. And I was certain that it would be up a Knight of the Post’s alley.

As we kept walking, I could see the lights of torches ahead, and the walls of Yartar appearing in the moonlight, not far away.

“Why? Why him of all the people to owe a favor?”

Iesa shrugged, “We didn’t really know anyone else, and we figured that we might be able to get a deal out of him.”

I looked at him steadily, “What…like a discount? Is your soul worth so little?”

Iesa looked concerned for a moment, “What do you mean?”

“You had me brought back, not just by any power, but the sodding Lord of the Nine. Any favor is going to cost your soul. Please tell me that you didn’t sign anything.”

Beepu at this point chimed in, “I was not for this particular path, but we felt pressed for time.”

“I wasn’t going anywhere.”

“Yes, but I meant in terms on getting back on track. But I suppose that could be in jeopardy now.”

“You didn’t answer my questions, especially the important one. Did. You. Sign. ANYTHING?”

“NO.” all three said at once.

“Well…you might have a chance at saving your souls I suppose.”

“’You?’ Don’t you mean ‘We?’” said Daneath.

I sighed. “I didn’t agree to anything. So, I can’t be held responsible for any deal you made at least as far as the powers are concerned. The Crimson Star is another question.” My pace had slowed as I thought about the question. “But, I suppose it’s my fault you are in this mess now. So, I might have some responsibility…I don’t know. Depends on the price.”

“Your fault? For dying?” Beepu asked.

“No. For coming back. If I didn’t return, you wouldn’t be at risk.”

“Hey, I wouldn’t blame yourself. A lot of things went wrong first,” Said Iesa. “Besides, shouldn’t we worry about the now, and not our souls in the future?”

“I wouldn’t call dying the future. You can die at any time, and then it’s too late.” I said and then I Looked at Iesa straight in the eyes. “And you really, really have no idea on the pain you are going to face on the other side. Makes anything here a minor event.”

“How do you know? What happened when you died?” asked Beepu.

“It had nothing to do when I was dead. It had to do when I was alive. I’ll leave it as firsthand experience…and I really don’t want to talk about that right now. But pain forever is that; forever.”

We continued in silence for a while and entered in the main gate of Yartar. Two sleepy guards looked us over and were about to waive us through when they looked at me.

“Hold a moment. What in the hells happened to her?”

I hadn’t thought about it, but I glanced down at myself. I was covered in dirt, dried blood and vomit. I could see some large tears in my leathers, a set of holes in my boot. But I had no idea what my face looked like, but I could only imagine it was a mess.

I looked at the guard, “I had a bad day, let’s leave it at that.”

“Are you sure you are ok?” their hands were handling their poleaxes gingerly; unsure if they should ready them.

“No. I feel like blex. But my…friends…they helped me out. Thanks for asking.”

“If you are sure then miss.” And the guards relaxed somewhat but remained watchful.
As we passed through and began our trek through the lower tier I spoke, “I must look…terrible.”

“Well, it really doesn’t compare with how you smell,” said Daneath.
I winced at that, “That bad? Let’s get to the room, and find me …a mirror.” I said with a measure of distaste.

“Sure thing…something wrong?”

“No.” I lied. “Let’s go.”

Yartar was quiet, with only a couple of drunks wandering the streets. We traversed the back alleys and found our way to the ‘Lusty Bard’ and descended the steps. Beepu pushed the door open and we entered.
The taproom wasn’t busy at that hour, but the patrons did start whispering when they saw me. Iesa stepped on ahead to get a room, and I stopped at the tapkeeper. He looked me up and down and said, “You look like you were on the wrong end of an argument.”

“Nah, I won. Got any bub stronger than an ale?”

“Got a half bottle of rye.” And he set a bottle on the counter next to a small cup.”

I grabbed the bottle, ignored the cup, and toss him a jinx. And promptly took a swig. It was warm and harsh on my raw throat, and I felt a quick rush.

“Thanks.” I said simply and took the bottle with me and headed towards the rooms.
Iesa scurried in front of me and opened the door, and I took another gulp from the bottle as I walked.

“You are planning on sharing right?” Daneath asked as he followed me in.

“Pike that. Get your own. Mirror.”

Iesa stepped up with a small polished piece of metal, “Borrowed one from one of the girls…here.” And he handed it to me.

I closed my eyes a second and took a deep breath. I opened and stared.

I was caked in dirt and blood was spattered all across my face and hair, coloring it a metallic rust. My armor around my left shoulder was torn to pieces, exposing my skin. Scabs, blood, and what appeared to be bile and vomit covered my chest. There was a lot of bruising around the neck, already turning from purple to sickly yellow under my skin. The image gave me the chills.

Not because I looked like that now, but because I had seen nearly the same look on me five years before. The only differences were that the blood wasn’t mine and I had a smile like I was on Mount Celestia. An image I always remembered when looking in mirrors. It was an image I desperately wanted to forget.
I tossed the mirror back and take another swig from the bottle.

“This is going to take a bit.”

I put the bottle down on the desk, and I reach into myself for a basic cantrip. Slowly and methodically from hair to my boots, I start to remove the filth from my clothing, skin and hair. The other three quietly arranged their packs on their bunks, and just watched me quietly.

As I was focused on cleaning, I felt something within me. Pausing a moment, I realized that there was a new source within me; something that wasn’t there before.

I opened my eyes and looked down at my shredded leather bodice and concentrated on it. Slowly I saw tears close, the torn shoulder strap now was reforming back to how it started.
I had never done this before…could I always do this? I started to focus deeper when a knock on the door, and it started to open.

I didn’t want to be interrupted and a hot flash of anger arose from me. Gritting my teeth, I felt like I was pulling on something different than I had before, building within me. I then released it in a burst, and the door slammed shut, and at the same time I shouted.

“LEAVE ME!”

But it wasn’t a normal shout; it reverberated in the room, many times louder than my voice normally carried. I could barely hear the scared girl on the other side of the door apologizing.
My companions were startled and stared at me in surprise. They looked at me with apprehension and concern. But Beepu was focused and watched me carefully.

“Myrai…are you?...” Beepu asked cautiously.

I ignored him, and I re-centered myself and continued to mend my gear. My leathers, my boot around my ankle was whole in a matter of minutes. It was slower than cleaning, but it honestly felt good, despite the effort. I was breathing a bit heavily now when I turned to Iesa, “Hold up that mirror.”

I looked at myself again. I was clean, but I still looked like I had a bout with Daneath in the ring. I touched the bruises on my shoulder and neck. I concentrate again, focusing on me and not my gear.
It took far more effort to do, but eventually I pulled more energy up from within me and spread it across my injuries. I felt…warmth, relief, it was almost pure pleasure. The bruises started to change from purple, to yellow, and then disappeared entirely. I could feel pain in my body dissipate as I my wounds fully healed. In moments, I looked like nothing had happened that day.

I turned myself around looking the mirror and saw nothing out of place. As a final touch I changed my scent around me to something with a touch of spice to cover up any ill smells, and I nodded with satisfaction.

“Iesa…please return the mirror and apologize to the girl.”

“Sure,” and Iesa left the room, looking relieved to go.

I grabbed my bottle and sat down on the bunk and took another pull from it, letting the bubs warmth spread inside me. Honestly it was terrible stuff, but I didn’t care. I might have looked clean, I felt anything but. Ever since leaving the shrine I felt dirty. I would have relished a real bath, with hot water. But I hadn’t seen anything looking like the baths at the Great Gymnasium. Nothing close. Perhaps a larger city?

Beepu, who had been silently watching me spoke, “Myrai, how did you do that?”

“What exactly?”

“All of it. I spent a lot of time in Candlekeep studying magic. Some of what you did is not something that
most arcana casters can do. In fact, some of it had a more divine feel to it.”

I was about to respond, when I remembered something that Alionus said:

‘You are a worthy disciple.’

I checked myself and considered my next words carefully. “I’m not sure. But I couldn’t do this before I…so I don’t know how I can do it now.”

“You have changed, Myrai.”

I sat there and didn’t meet Beepu’s eyes. “Well, crossing the veil wasn’t my plan, and it was and wasn’t what I expected.”

“You remember being…dead?” Beepu asked surprised.

I just nodded. But I realized that I shouldn’t have been able to remember it, just like I shouldn’t have been able to remember being alive. The Society of Sensation’s headquarters, the Civic Festhall, was filled with sensory orbs containing all kinds of experiences recorded by Sensates. Passionate ones, sad ones, painful ones, exotic ones. All kinds. But the one experience that was never captured, was what happened at the point of death. There was one where a person died and came back. But there was nothing in between those two moments.

I had experienced something unique. But I wanted to understand it and I needed time. So, I changed the topic, “Let’s find that Kobold King, Mordai and find out how dirty this task is going to be.”

“Kobold King?” Daneath asked.

“I’ll explain after we talk to him.” and I took another swig from the bottle. “Let’s go.”

I stood up and opened the door. Outside, Iesa was talking to the serving girl who I clearly unnerved earlier. Iesa had gently pulled her close to himself and had an arm around her. She was holding the mirror close to her chest and was smiling shyly as Iesa whispered to her. I had seen her before, down in the arena area, but I didn’t know her name. Her eyes locked with mine as I opened the door.

She gawked at me, looking me up and down. She stammered, “You..you were all blood and dirt a moment ago.”

“Half a bottle of rye will do wonders,” I replied. “Any idea where Mordai might be?”

She looked nervous and nodded, “Yes…I was to um…take you to him as soon as you got in.”

I tilted my head and looked at her carefully, making a guess I asked her, “You are afraid of him, aren’t you?” to which she silently nodded.

“Him, or his friends that keep him busy?”

Her eyes looked around, and she spoke, almost too quietly to be heard, but I could see her mouth the word “Both.”

I nod and smile, “Just point out the room…he’s not going to remember we were ‘late.’ I look at Iesa, and smirk, “You two can chat later.”

The girl blushes and leads us down the hall to a door near the end, and knocked on it three times, and Mordai’s voice called from within, “Enter.”

Daneath took the lead, followed by Iesa, Beepu and then myself. Mordai was already seated at a small circular table, with six chairs around it. In his hands was a goblet, and he was swirling what I presumed was wine. He was nonchalant, but when he saw me, he stopped and leaned forward, his eyes disbelieving what they saw.

“Myrai, you look so much different now. I can’t say which is the better look though.”

“You know how to say the sweetest things; must be a character flaw.” And I sat down on chair, propped up my legs on the table and took a swig from the bottle.

He grinned at the retort and replied, “Well put. And I assume your friends have told you about the deal.”

“Enough to know, you haven’t told them anything yet,” I said, as the others started to sit down on the chairs near me.

“Well, the task itself is simple enough, and remember,” as he glanced at my adams, “It was a no questions asked deal.”

“Yes, yes, now get to the point! What is the task?” Beepu said with annoyance. He clearly wanted to be anywhere but back in Yartar.

“To the point. Well then,” and he finished his drink. “It’s quite simple really; the Crimson Star has had some challenges with a particular individual and we need them…eliminated during the hate night, at her own party two nights from now. That individual is the Waterbaroness Nestra Ruthiol.”

Iesa didn’t look happy, “So, murder then.”

The tiefling shrugged, “A life for a life.”

Iesa, still looking unhappy, “Why?”

Mordai looked at Iesa with a very paternal look, “You realize that’s a question.”

Iesa was about to say something, and he shut his mouth quickly. And instead Daneath spoke “So, what are we going to find there as far as guards?”

“More questions again.”

Beepu had had it and jumped up and started berating the tiefling, “You cannot expect us to be successful, unless we know what we are up against. How do you expect us to do this unsavory piece of work?”

“Questions again.” He said with mock sadness.
I looked at Mordai, “Well, if you don’t have invitations or a tailor, then your dreams are going to remain dreams.”

He turned his head and looked at me with a grin, “Ah yes; you understand the game then. And so, I do have access to both.”

Iesa smiled and said, “A means to do the deed would also be necessary.”

“A means has been planned out, and I only have a little bit more information that I will tell you. Anything and everything else is your problem. The party will be covered by her house guards and whoever else she hires. Weapons and armor have never been allowed inside during functions, so I doubt that will change. You can use this to help you.” And he set a small glass vial on the table. “Yes, it is quite deadly. The tailor that you can use, is on the Street of the Larks in the mid-tier. It’s the only one there, and it is across from a cheese shop. I’m sure you can find your way, and just mention the Crimson Star, and they will assist you. They also will have your invitations.”

Silence fell across the room as we absorb the task at hand, and the implications ahead.

“We are going to need a way out of the party after it’s done I suppose,” Beepu said.

Mordai shrugged, “Sounds like your problem; I really don’t care.”

I drink the last of the rye, and sigh, “I guess that’s it then,” and I stood up and walk to the door.

“So, you are going to do it then?” Mordai said, eying me curiously.

I turned around and give him a flinty glare, “Sorry…that sounds like a question.” The others smile at that, and they stand, while Iesa palms the vial. And I reach the door and pull the handle.

A grim chuckle came from Mordai, “Well then, just remember. We don’t like busted deals and we will take pleasure to making…painful examples of those that do break their word.”

“I guess we’ll know soon enough.” I said, and I left the room, with the others in tow.
Moments later, I throw open the door to the room we let and flopped on the bed. Exhaustion was catching up to me and I just wanted to pass out and sleep.

“I can’t believe…” Iesa started.

“What? That he wanted a grim favor in return?” I said. “The shrine wasn’t enough of a clue that this was going to be a bad deal. Sodding Kobold King.”

“What does that mean, ‘Kobold King’” Daneath said.

“It means that he thinks he is very important, but he really isn’t. My guess is that he really is a low-ranking person in the Star, and he’s using this to get ahead. He’s not in charge.”

“What makes you say that?” Iesa asked.

“Because if he was, he would have a toady hand out the mission, so his own hands are clean. That, and if he was that vested in success, he would have hired experts.” I speculated. “Plus, he doesn’t care if we get caught. Seems addle-coved to me that you would leave yourself exposed that way.”

“Well, perhaps he thinks very highly of us then,” Beepu said.

“Doubtful…you went to him for help. We are cheap barkle to throw at a problem and if it works, great. If not, he’ll just deny the whole thing.”

Everyone went silent for a while. Eventually, Iesa broke it with the real question. “Are we really going to do this?”

“I don’t want to do it, but I’m not keen on skipping town with a criminal organization hounding us.” Daneath replied.

“So, you would rather have the Waterbaroness’ enforcers or the person who takes over to chase us instead?” Beepu retorted. “Morally this is just wrong,”

“So…what do we do?” Iesa asked.

“I’m exhausted,” I said, “And I am not going to make a decision right now. But, since we can’t ask Mordai anything, we’re going to have to find our own answers,” and I started pulling off my boots and unbuckling my belts with my blades.

“Wait…are you seriously considering going through with…murder?”

“Well…right now she’s a grave robber at minimum. Desecrating the rest of the dead is a sin, but not a mortal one. But, something extreme has happened for the Crimson Star to decide this is the best solution. We don’t understand the darks here. So we better wise up and figure it out.” And I undid my bodice armor and set it aside.

“She’s right,” Iesa said “We really don’t know what is going on. Perhaps we can figure it out and use it to our advantage.”

“I agree,” said Daneath. “We need more information.”

“Yep,” I said nodding “So we go to the tailor and we dig up the local chant and start learning. Fast.” And I pulled off my bracers and dropped them on a pile with the armor, belts, and daggers.

“So, what do we tell Mordai?” Beepu asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “Let him make his own assumptions after we talk to the tailor tomorrow. Don’t say anything and don’t answer him.”

“Why?”

“Because then you can honestly say you didn’t agree to the job.”

“But I did not say no either.”

“Whose problem is that? If he wanted certainty…he’s should have had a contract written.”

“He’d be a fool to do that,” Iesa said “That would be asking for death if someone found it.”

“True,” I said yawning “But it also means that nothing is fixed. Maybe we can change the deal later. But it won’t matter in four days.” And I stretched out on the bed.

“Why is that?” Beepu asked puzzled.

“Because in three days, the Hate Night will be over. Then he’ll know if we accepted the job or not.”

Session notes:

First off thanks reading my vanity project. I would love comment in PM if you have them. XP would be nice too.

So... there is a LARGE gap here of three players scrambling around to find someone who can raise the dead and figure out if they can get a 500 gp diamond. There was a lot of running around. And somehow, they did go to Mordai, and not the two other churches mentioned in town. If nothing else, it makes a great story and forwarded the plot that the DM had in mind.

The ‘No Questions’ dialog really happened and was actually more ridiculous as I remembered. The table had some very new to D&D players, and they kept trying to ask Mordai about his motivations and why. And the DM (rightly) stuck to his guns and made the party go figure it out and sort out rumor and truths instead of spoonfeeding it right there to them.

Now lastly 39,000+ words later; This was day one of a 5 hour game session. It was one hell of a start.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Darks of the Past

(Merry Xmas everyone)

Darks of the Past

The Society of Sensation teaches that dreams are incomplete experiences. Normally, they are things your self needs to sort out, understand and know. The Society also says that dreams can be tools; of prophecy, of communication, and of divination.

The sodding problem is figuring out which applies to yours.​

It was nearing peak, and the brimstone laden rain had finally stopped. Dirty yellow rainwater that once was pouring from gothic spouts on buildings, were now slowing to a trickle. The air was muggy, but the rain had cleared the tang of brimstone from the air. We were on the edge between the Lady’s Ward and the Lower Ward. Here the rainwater would flow into channels, draining the streets of water. Perhaps it would flow to the ditch; perhaps it would just sink below. But unlike the Hive and other places, the roads would be clear of puddles and standing water.

I would have said I was wandering, but the truth was I was being led by Elisna. She had declared today was my birthday, for no other reason than realizing I didn’t know when mine really was. And so, she was leading us from the Gatehouse where we lived and across the far side of the Lower Ward in search of…something. Elisna was very direct, and when she wanted to do something, she just did it. Never mind that it meant ditching the Bleakers and their chores for us today. She had a mission, and nothing would stop her. And I, as focus of the adventure was duty bound to follow.

So, the two of us had spent most of the morning dodging the rain as we made our way across the Lower Ward while trying to stay dry. We crossed the Ditch at Zaddfun Trestle and headed along Barmy street, passing through the Shattered Temple District. I had never wandered far from the Gatehouse on my own, and I was drinking in all the sights as if I were a Clueless. But Elisna had a plan and a destination in mind, and she would not be denied. So, she pulled my arm, moving me ever forward.

She led me down Brandy Lane, until it turned into Forgotten, and straight through Anvil’s Square. I remembered Anze, hard at work there, forging steel for cutters with jink. But not us poor kids, as we moved with steady determination, or resignation as the case was with myself. On down Ironmonger, and past Blood Boil, until finally we were on Berk Lane.

I had no idea why we were traversing the Lower Ward, on the Downward edge. We had occasionally stole off before, following the Spikeward edge making our way to the Grand Baazar. That was fun, even though we never had any money. We could look and dream a bit what a bit of money might be like. Elisna liked going there with me, as usually the coster mongers weren’t so quick to chase off an Aasimar as they would a Tiefling. But we always returned empty handed to the Gatehouse, to face whatever punishments the Bleakers had for skipping out on chores. Truth be told, the punishments were fair and mild considering the time wasted. But we were never eager to return.

But we were on the wrong edge for that kind of trip and passed through districts I only had heard of by name. Berk’s Lane wasn’t remarkable really, it was a working district but cleaner than most due to proximity to the Lady’s Ward. So, the shops were less practical, and more ‘fun.’ And it was just the case when Elisna led me to a small stall in front of a narrow house and said, “We’re here!”

I could smell it, before I even saw the sign; the smell of sugar and spice, cinnamon and honey. I knew where she had led us to. Looking up I read the sign: ‘Happy Candies Sweet Shop’ and I almost cursed at Elisna. The worst thing you can do to a hungry kid, is to bring them within a whiff of food they can’t taste. And candy was the stuff of dreams for any kid. So, to stand there in front of bins of sweets and not so much of a greenie in your pocket was the worst form of torture I could think of.
But nothing ever daunted Elisna; not even the impossible. She marched right to the stall and pointed at a bin with an assortment of sweets. The aged human calmly replied.

“Two stingers each.”

Elisna shook her head and pointed again at the same bin.

“I said, one jink each.”

Elisna shook her head again and pointed.

“Are you barmy? Four stingers each!”

I chuckled. Only in Sigil would you have a shop run by madmen. In this case literally; Xaositects. The Chaosmen were random as chaos can let a berk be, and in this case running a shop wasn’t in their favor. Elisna kept pointing, sometimes picking a different bin, but usually the same one. And the price kept changing wildly. Finally, the barmy Chaosman said “Two greenies each.”

And then I was surprised, as Elisna produced four greenies from a pouch she concealed in her shirt. The pouch was full…far more than the price she bargained down the candy to. She quickly grabbed a pair of sweets, smiled and grabbed my hand and ran, pulling me down toward Bloodgem Road, as if in fear the price would change again.

After a few moments, we were huddled together in a doorway. As I tried to catch my breath, I was stammering, “How…where did…you get…the…”

Elisna smiled and pressed into my hand a sweet. She looked at me and simply said, “Happy birthday.”
The smell of both cinnamon and honey was strong, and the color was as deep a red as Elisna’s own eyes. My hand trembled; I had never held such a treasure in my life. I placed the sweet in my mouth, and with that taste my dreams were at that moment fulfilled. Sweet honey, the burn of sharp cinnamon, and even the unexpected tang of salt assaulted my tongue. Elisna eyes must have mirrored mine as she also tasted the morsel. It was pure bliss, that only sugar and spice can bring to a child.

“Thank you…sis.” I said. We weren’t sisters really; it was impossible for it to be so. But when others weren’t looking or listening we would call each other such. We always felt kinship despite being opposites.

I was quiet and comfortable in quiet moments alone.

Elisna was bold and outgoing.

I tried to follow the rules…when Elisna wasn’t getting me in trouble.

Elisna was a rule breaker, following her whims, and leading me astray.

I was the awkward, gangly, funny looking Aasimar.

Elisa was a cute as a button Tiefling

We continued to suck on the candies as we walked past Bloodgem Park and turning up the Doomguard Walk. We held hands, and I remember I was crying. I had never had a birthday, and the gift was the sweetest one could give. I was madly trying to think of how I would repay her when hers came around.

“Stop you spiv!”

I turned my head, and I saw a human running, cradling some type of sword to his chest. Following him was a half-elf, in an apron shouting and pointing at the human running.

The human had turned the corner and was running up the street, right toward us when I heard a sound to my left. The sound of someone running. Time seemed to slow down as I turned towards the sound and I saw her.

She was dressed in studded leather and had a pair of swords at her hips. Her eyes were a colorless grey, and her raven hair was long and wild around her. But now she showed her teeth in a wolfish grin of a predator who had found her prey. She was already moving towards us and as she closed the distance, she began to spin.

The first spin grabbed everyone’s attention. I froze and was transfixed at the artistry and grace of this raven-haired beauty. So was Elisna as she turned her head to look at the woman. I could see the spiv in the corner of my eye, and his head was turned towards the woman as well.

The second spin, the woman approached closer, and the sound of metal upon metal rang out as she drew one of her swords from her hip side scabbard. Elisna was between myself and this woman, and the spiv was approaching Elisna from the rear, attempting to run past us both, as he pushed himself into a run, bumping into Elisna.

The third spin came, and I heard the sharp whistle of the blade through the air, and the sound of metal on flesh. I could see the blade cross through his neck, his head coming clean from his body, and with blood spurting everywhere. But the blade didn’t stop there, as I watched in horror as the blade edge cut into Elisna’s neck as well, severing her head just as cleanly. The woman passed behind us all with her sword trailing, with a smile of pure rapture on her face.

I remember the sweet dropping from my mouth; like it had suddenly tasted like ash. I screamed as I watched the spiv and Elisna’s heads and bodies fall to the ground in a crumpled heap. My heart scarcely beat as I watched their heads bounce on the cobblestone.

I collapsed on my knees on the dirty street. I had turned toward the figure, who had stopped spinning, and now was occupied with cleaning her blade. The small crowd around us made no moves, but they all had the same look on their face as they looked at this woman. A look of fear.

I stared at her in mute shock, and I slowly turned to look at Elisna’s body and head. Her sweet, like mine, was now discarded together on the road, surrounded by blood. Her body had fallen crumpling forward, and her head faced towards the sky with a helpless expression.

Time passed slowly and turning my head I saw the Harmonium guards arrive too late. They had their swords at the ready and approached, but when they saw the woman the same fear that had struck the crowd afflicted them as well. They were talking, but I never heard the words said. But their actions spoke more; they didn’t stop the woman as she strode down the street towards the Armory. She was unconcerned and unafraid of them.

Of anyone.

I turned back to Elisna. I was crying, shouting for my sister. The pain in my heart was the greatest I had ever known. I couldn’t imagine anything worse and wouldn’t know any for years to come.

Then I saw, Elisna’s body twitch and stir. As I was kneeling on the ground, I watched with horror as Elisna’s body, mechanically stood upright again. With precision, it bent at the waist and picked up her own head without fumbling. She delicately placed the head upon her shoulders, and from what seemed from nowhere, produced a needle and thick cord like thread.

I watched with my mouth agape as she started to sew, fastening her head back onto her neck with the thread. She snapped the cord, and then started to sew with the needle and cord above and below her pale red lips, stitching her mouth shut. As I watched, unable to move or intervene she repeated the process, stitching her right eye and then her left eye, closing them forever.

The corpse then turned to face me, and she raised her right hand. She pointed at me, accusingly for all the crowd to see. I screamed,

“Elisna…no!!”

I awoke and sat upright in the darkness of the room. My breathing was labored, and I was covered in sweat. The sound of quiet breathing filled the room. Only the mechanical owl, Foggle showed any signs of wakefulness as its head turned in circles on its nightly vigil.

I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees, covered my eyes and wept. Before, I could never remember the nightmare, just the feelings at the end. Now for the first time I remembered; I saw.

It wasn’t history or the past. Elisna’s death was true. The fact she became a zombie was true. But my mind stitched it so everything happened at once. Making me feel the raw emotions that I experienced nearly a decade in the past, fresh again as if they had happened only moments ago.

“Myrai? Are you alright?” I heard in the darkness as Daneath spoke.

I was crying still and could barely whisper, “No.” I heard Daneath move and he was then sitting behind me on the bed. He reached out and touched my shoulder.

“Please don’t,” and I pulled away. After a moment I said, “I’m sorry but…” and I stumble on the words and never really finish. I don’t want to be touched. I don’t want to look needy. I want to feel stronger. Far stronger than I do now.

Daneath said, “I understand. At best you’ve had a trying day. I just wanted…to help.” And he moved back towards his own bunk.

I calmed myself, my tears started to slow, and my breathing became normal. I was shaking my head and could only whisper one word; “Why?”

“Why what, Myrai?”

I gulped and swallowed over the large lump in my throat and whispered, “Why me? Why do I keep…surviving? My…my…sister died, and not me. Markell, died at my feet and I survived. The Faction War, so many…didn’t survive. And now the…dog things.”

“Hyenas,” Daneath corrected gently.

“Hyenas…I am back now. But so many others…so many better people…why me?”

“Doesn’t Kelemvor answer that?”

I shook my head, “No…not really. He teaches us about death, and how to…not to fear it. He doesn’t really talk about not dying, and even less is said about coming back.”

“You’ve lost a lot?”

I quietly nod in response.

“I can relate to that. I barely knew my mother as she died when I was young. My father…I never knew him. And as for my master…well that’s why I am looking for him; he’s the closest thing to family I have left.”

I turned to look at Daneath in the darkness. “I once looked for mine. Sodding waste of time and jink for me. I hope that your…our search has better luck.”

He nodded, “Well, looks like we have some dirty work to do first,” and he stretched out on his bed. “I hope…I hope we can pull it off.”

I laid back down and stared at the roof, “I guess I should be worried about just surviving. But, I don’t seem to have that problem.”

“There are worse things, Myrai.”

“Yes. Yes, there are.”

Silently I stared at the ceiling and I heard Daneath fall back into his own dreams. All the while I wondered about my own. My nightmare was still vivid in my mind. But I wondered more about the immediate future.

I realized that I needed to move forward. Why I was back wasn’t important, if indeed I was dragged back to life for a reason. What was important was that I didn’t make things worse for my adams.
It mattered more to me, that I mattered to them. I was important.

It was a starting point.

Session Notes:

I wrote part of this as the raw character background, so Elisna was always lurking in the past. It however took a bit to flesh her out beyond a name, and a timeframe. One of the core ideas about Myrai, was coping with survivor’s guilt, that keeps reoccurring. The other, is that she was closed off to people in general. Partially because of her introversion, but also about closing herself off and being detached as a coping mechanism.

But that said, part of her story is about reconnecting. And that reconnecting is important for a number of reason. Especially for her father. But’s that’s a chapter far from here.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Dressing to Kill

Dressing to Kill

Sigil is a dirty place. The rain stains everything with brimstone, discoloring cloth and flesh alike. It’s why we wear leather if we can as it doesn’t stain. The Lower Ward and Hive will have standing muddy puddles of filthy water. The worst is the Ditch, an open river of filth and muck where dead bodies are tossed, along with scraps from kitchens and night water.

But every so often, even the Ditch gets flushed from the waters of Oceanus. And so, it becomes a holiday, where everyone dives into the clear, sweet water and cleans up a bit.

And some of us clean up better than others.

Sleep had finally overcome me, and the next day began. We wandered out from the “Lusty Bard” and headed silently towards the middle tier of Yartar. I still felt weak, even after some bread and cheese in my stomach. I was just thankful I wasn’t retching anymore.

“So…I guess we need to ask some questions,” Iesa said with a smirk. “So where do we start?”

“The guards,” Daneath said. “They tend hang out together in most towns. With some drinks, I can find out who is working where. Find out more about the party from their perspective.”

“Well, Foggle can look at the manor from above. See what we can learn on how to get out and in,” Beepu commented, almost to himself.

“I bet our tailor will know something,” I said. “Guests, tidbits about the party.”

“And I want to ask the locals about the Night itself. What really happens,” said Iesa. “Because, we’re going to need to get out somehow during the night.”

“Guess we should split up then,” I said. “I don’t know if we should all go the tailor at once, but I’m going to need to go first.”

“Why?” asked Iesa.

I looked him in the eyes, “Because, it takes longer to tailor a dress than a suitcoat. We can meet back at the “Bard” later the evening. Spire’s Ward.

“Righ…what?” Daneath asked.

“Good luck,” as I walked off towards Lark street.

Truth be told, a moment to myself was nice. Being cooped up with three men was trying. Like everything else lately, I tried not to make a big deal of it, but I only now realized that privacy was something I missed.
Not that I really had any now. All through the market, the gate through the middle tier I felt and heard it. The stares, the whispers. I really stood out here. In Sigil, I would rarely get a second look or a comment. But in Yartar, it made me self-conscious. Well, more so than normal since arriving on the Prime.

Eventually after a bit of looking around on Lark, I spotted the cheese shop. And then I looked across the street. The sign was clear enough; a needle and thread. Striding over to the shop, I took a deep breath and opened the door.

The sound of a bell rang as I stepped inside. The curtains were closed, and candles lit the room. It was crowded though, full of dress forms. Some had coats, others had dresses, all in various states of construction. The shop was cluttered with racks, bolts of cloth and ribbon and trim. Buried in the back was a counter where a young male human was focusing on mending a rip in a seam in a waistcoat. His hand shaking ever so slightly as he worked to sew a straight chain stitch.

Without looking up he muttered, “Who are you picking up for?”

I slowly walked to him speaking, “I need a dress, and I was directed here.”

“Ma’am, it’s a bit late to start looking for one. My master is already swamped with last minute work.” He said, without looking up.

I had reached him, and I lifted his chin forcing his gaze upwards and away from his project. The look of annoyance quickly melted into that familiar wide-eyed look.

“I…uh…well…I…really…the Master…he can’t,”

I frowned, and with some regret said, “I’m sorry, but the Crimson Star said that this shop can help me find one.”
At the mention of the Crimson Star, color drained from his face. “Of…of…course. I’ll fetch the Master at once,” and he put down the waistcoat and scrambled towards a doorway that led deeper inside, calling out “Master Gyffor…Master Gyffor.”

Clearly the Crimson Star was a known quantity here, and a feared one. I just hoped not to scare the boy too much. Soon he returned with an older man in tow. “What is the meaning of…” as he came out to talk with me, his eyes grew wider. “Oh…my,”

I smile apologetically, “Sorry, to disturb you, but I was told that you could help me with a dress.”

“Yes…a courier rudely woke me up last night to tell me that I needed to outfit out four of you. But I wasn’t expecting a…”

“A…what?”

“An angel such as you. I was expecting four men actually.”

“Well, the other three men will be around later,” and I extended my hand. “I thought you would need a little more time with me. You can call me…”

“No…no. I don’t want to know, but…” and he bent slightly to kiss my hand to my surprise. “…It is my pleasure to serve you. Please, come on back, and let me see what I can use to start with.” And still holding my hand, he gently led me into the rear of the shop.

“Myford, if the other three show up, see if you can stitch them up in a coat and breeches. I will not want to be disturbed unless it is vital.”

“Oh Myford, one is a gnome by the way.” I call back trying to be helpful.

Myford nodded, “I better start digging in the children’s bin then. We don’t have much for small folk here.”

Master Gyffor led me into the back and I got a better look at him. He wasn’t ancient, but he was certainly old. His papery skin pale and spotted. He had a full head of silver hair and was clean shaven, and as he turned to look at me with warm brown eyes.

“Let me look at you my dear…Oh my,” as he lifted my arms until they were shoulder height. “You are…lovely. I hope I can find something to match your qualities.”

I can feel myself blush in the cheeks as they grew warm. “Thank you…is there something I can do to help?”
“Help…no. Not unless you can light some candles for my eyes. You being here helps enough. Allows me to pay off a debt.”

“Well,” and I reach within and the warm rush flows up my back as I summon a warm yellow light for a nearby sconce. “I hope that helps.”

Gyffor blinked as the light flooded the room. “Yes…that…that will do. My, were those…wings?”

I shrugged, “You aren’t far off in calling me an angel, but that’s as real as the wings get.”

“I see…yes yes,” and he started opening a pair of trunks in the back and started lifting out material from them. “I know I have it somewhere in here…” he muttered, throwing material about.

I started to look around to keep busy as he dug through the chests. “Well you are helping me with a debt as well. I’m going to guess mine isn’t as cheap as yours.”

The old man sighed a moment, “Perhaps. I can’t say that I regret the reason. Just perhaps the means. No no, not here…where would… Perhaps the other one.” And he moved to a large armoire off to the side.

“So, can I ask you some questions?”

“Hmmm, I suppose. No no…not here either,” he said as he threw out cloth and fabric out from the armoire. “Perhaps…the chest here.”

“So, what should I expect at the party?”

“Oh, I’ve never been myself…what is that? Oh! That’s where I put that baldric! Will need to remember that... But, most of the high-born houses will be there. I’m told that each of the galas are the same though. A lot of drink…Why am I keeping this? Maybe the boy can use it for practice. The Waterbaroness wanders around interacting with notables from families. Of course, most have to go through Vicam or that new captain…Arkhan to approach her. Last several ones she’s been a bit standoffish I heard. But what do I know?”

“Who’s Vicam?”

More cloth is tossed from the chest as he continued to dig. “Vicam? He’s her current seneschal. Manages the house and house business. Only been here since last several winters as I recall. I don’t care for him much. Seems a bit shifty. He tried to kick me out of my shop here in fact.”

“Why?”

“No clue. But finding a new place in the mid-tier is well…difficult. Would have lost a lot of clients if I was in the lower tier. I suppose the debt was worth it then. Ah HAH!” and with that, he pulled out a carefully folded bundle of dark cloth. I couldn’t see much of it as he brought it out.

“I had started this for my daughter for a different gala many winters ago,” and he unfolded it carefully and held it up to the light by the shoulders. I gasped. I had never seen a dress like it before. Black cloth with what appeared to be glass crystals sewn into it. It was like looking at a night sky.

“That’s…beautiful. But I couldn’t.”

“No…please. My daughter never got to wear it…it will suit you.”

I was fumbling for words, “If you insist. Why didn’t she wear it?”

“Ah, she was taken by a sickness a moon before one of the galas,” he said with a note of bitterness. But, you appear to be her shape and form. And…I would rather see it used, than rot in a chest.”

“If it helps honor her memory. Are you going to want it back?”

He shook his head, “No. I don’t pretend to understand the Crimson Star, but for whatever reason you need it, I can’t pretend that your need is well…”

“It isn’t. I don’t want to dirty your memory of it.”

“No. You can’t. If you are indeed an angel, then perhaps my daughter can guide your path.”
I bowed my head down and after a pause replied, “Well, I can use all the help I can get.”
The tailor nodded. “Well…you’re going to need to put this on. There’s a small closet over there you can change in.”

I nod and take the dress from him. It’s light and the material feels like silk, with a fine mesh netting in panels across the torso and sleeves. I stare at it dumbly for a moment and look at the tailor helplessly.

“I…uh. I’ve never worn a dress. How do I put it on?”

In the end, one of the neighbors found a young girl to help me out with the intricacies of formal dresses. I had heard each of my other adams come in and out all the while I stood and was used as a form to customize the dress. The tailor was good; never once was stuck with the needle as he made the changes. Fortunately, I was only a shade smaller than his daughter, which meant taking it in slightly. But, while that made things easier overall, I was still standing most of the day, and it was well after sundown by the time I finally walked down into the “Lusty Bard.”

My adams were at a table already drinking, and they spotted and waved me over.

“You know, I got you three ales already, expecting you to walk in. Where have you been?” Iesa asked. “You really shouldn’t order so…<hic>…much.”

“The same place you were in the morning, where he,” pointing at Beepu “was at mid-day, and he,” pointing at Daneath “was in the afternoon.”

“Doing <hic> what?”

“Standing…sitting for a couple of minutes…standing…I think I had a long discussion about silks…then more standing. What in Baator do you think I was doing!?! I was getting pinched, prodded, poked, and squeezed all day. I just got out and I’m famished.”

“Does it really take that long?” Daneath asked.

I shrugged, “I admit, today was a day of learning. I knew it was complicated…but apparently stylish dresses are something else. I think I have a better understanding of how to get Daneath into his tin, than I do to put on a dress.”

“You mean you have never worn one before?” Beepu asked me with his head cocked to one side and passed me a trencher with some type of stew.

“I was sodding poor growing up, and doing dirty chores and work is easier in breeches. So why would I need a dress?” and I bit into the trencher, tearing off a chunk with my teeth.

“Just one of the boys then,” Daneath commented.

I thought a moment in between bites, “I suppose. But it’s more practicality. Anyway, we should probably talk in the room before Iesa takes another ale for me.”

Everyone nods, and we grab an ale from the taps, and make our way to our private little sanctum. I didn’t really care for it compared to my room in Triboar. But it somehow felt safer by comparison. We all clamber in, and I flop on the bed and immediately start pulling off my boots from my sore feet and started massaging them.

“So…we learn anything useful that doesn’t involve cloth?”

Daneath chuckled, “That good eh? Well I did find a bar where the guards hang out. After some drinks, got them talking. Sounds like every guard in the town will be somewhere in major buildings. Once the fog starts, they stay where they are and wait for dawn.”

“No patrols?” I asked.

“Nope. They all have orders to stay out of it and they were dead serious.” He said and took a sip from his ale. “In fact, the fog seems to do what we have been told; if you step into it, you lose your memory.”

“Is that it?” I asked.

Beepu spoke up, “Yes and it is very strange. Some people have said sometimes they see shadows of people wandering aimlessly. But I heard from a book proprietor that I visited, that the memory loss can be anywhere from the last day, to the last moon.”

Iesa whistled, “That would be <hic> problematic. No wonder they don’t <hic> patrol.”

“Nope,” said Daneath. “And the manor will have about twenty on staff for the night. Which is not a lot really.”

“And no one to cry beef…oh, call for help,” I said.

“And nowhere to run to either,” Beepu said. “I had Foggle fly above the Manor. It is not a serious fortification. A ten-foot wall surrounds it and that wall has one gate at the front. It is two floors on the outside. Lots of windows, although that may not help much. There is a garden on one side and the stables for horses are on the other.”
“It’s not like we have to sneak <hic> in. But that doesn’t tell <hic> us how to get out,” Iesa said. “And even then, <hic> while every place has a party <hic> you can’t really move around.”

“What do you mean?” I asked and took a swallow of the bitter ale.

“The mid and lower <hic> tier houses share walls. But you <hic> can’t get between blocks without <hic> crossing fog. Some folks tried <hic> to see if you run across the <hic> street, between parties. Doesn’t work. Doesn’t matter if <hic> you hold your breath. Takes moments I heard. But, only <hic> when the fog is fully there. Early evening as <hic> it sets, you have a little <hic> more time, before you <hic> slip off.”

“We’ll be stuck there?”

“Yep, and I found out <hic> something else. Yartar doesn’t have a proper <hic> sewer.”
Daneath nodded, “I heard that too. The guards apparently thought about digging tunnels between key buildings. But there is bedrock below, and few buildings even have basements. In fact, this building is the only one in the lower tier that even has one.”

“So, no maze of sewer tunnels then. Why only this place?” I asked

“Because, a family of dwarves owned it and they were stubborn.” Daneath replied. “Oh and better yet, the guards all want gate duty for the Baroness’ gala. It’s a big deal for them.”

“Now why is that?” Beepu asked with his brows knitted in confusion.

“Because, they search everyone going in. Women included. Especially the women. They can protest, but then they can’t come in.” Daneath said taking another sip. “They seem to like that part a lot.”

“Well, compared to getting dressed that’s…annoying, even looking for blades.”

“Not just blades. Looking for pouches, crystals, wands and stuff.”
Beepu and I exchanged glances and I said, “Wait…they look for spell casting things?”

Daneath nodded, “Very explicitly. No spell casting on the grounds…or…”

“Or…what?” Beepu asked.

“They throw you outside, into the fog.” Daneath said. “No clear reason why, but it has been that way a while. Related to that; no armor either, but most just get sent away, with few exceptions.”

“This is getting better and better,” I muttered. “No way out, no armor, no weapons, and no magic. No wonder the Crimson Star wants us to do this for them.”

Iesa nodded, “Yeah, this isn’t a <hic> lot to work with.”

“Well I was thinking about that. Foggle can drop off some supplies for us near a window or door. There are a couple of exterior doors on the manor and there are a lot of windows.”

“Hmmm, might be enough for some pouches and a small blade.” I said thinking.

“Also, in the garden, not far from a servant door is a wooden platform. A gazebo. We could hide some gear there in advance,” Noted Beepu.

“And somehow at the party slip outside when we can. What did we need to stash?” I asked.

“Some weapons ideally. Can’t easily conceal my armor,” Daneath noted. “Your chest piece maybe, but…”

“Not with the dress. Well at least the pouches need to be smuggled in so we can use magic,” I said. “I know I could hide a blade and pouches under my dress. But, what about your coats? I didn’t see them in the shop.”

“Some room. Daggers sure, maybe <hic> a small sword. Nothing <hic> big.”

“Any chance on disguising ourselves as a guard instead?” I asked hopefully, looking for a different angle.

“Daneath shook his head, “No. They all know each other, and they don’t wear helms.”

“Convenient that we <hic> will be masked then.”

“Well, the guards are part of it, but she also has her staff as well,” I said. “Both her seneschal and or her guard captain…what was that name, Eragon?...no Arkhan! They may be a problem in terms of getting close to her.”

“I heard about the <hic> same,” agreed Isea. “The only other tidbit I heard was while the Hate <hic> Nights, started appearing only five winters ago, the Waterbaroness’ <hic> parties have been tighter and tighter on <hic>security in the last year or so.”

“How many nights have there been?” Daneath asked.

“This is the third in this year, which is not common.”

“Wonderful. So basically, we have a no plan or path to success and no clear way out. We should just leave and forget this business,” Beepu said in humph.

“I would agree,” I started to say, “But, when I was getting my dress, I mentioned the Crimson Star. They were afraid. So was the serving girl last night now that I think of it.”

Daneath nodded, “I noticed that. And I asked the guards about the Star, and they really, really didn’t want to talk about them at all. It was like a bad omen to the guards to discuss them.”

We all fell silent, with only the occasional hiccup from Iesa. All of us lost in our own thoughts. All struggling with the same question:

Are we going to this?

“Well,” I said, “I hate to say it…but we probably are going to need to pay the bellmen.”

Frowning, Beepu asked, “Why is that Myrai?”

“Because refusing means we are deaders already. Yartar and any other nearby ones won’t be safe for us. And heading into the wilds and its dangers is what started this mess. I don’t like it, but I don’t see how we have much of a choice.”

“Not really no. We should have never become entangled in local affairs, and should have…done something…different...” Beepu started and trailed off.

“Let’s hope the gods have something <hic> in mind for us tomorrow.”

“Well, what does that leave for us tomorrow? Final fittings, the invitations, smuggling blades and spell pouches.”

We all silently nod. And finally, I said, “Well, it could be worse I guess.”

“How?” all three asked.

“You all could have to wear dresses.”

Session Notes

The Eragon/Arakan joke started here. I take all the blame for it, but Arakan's nickname stuck hard. Even the DM, who wrote the campaign got the name stuck in his head and swore at me for it. For the record I'm sorry.

Sorta.

The other item of note that as a player, the discussion on what to do took far longer than even this treatment was. Lots of die rolls, discussion, plotting etc. Far more time on plotting than actual dialog or roleplaying. This isn't bad, but tracking the number of persuasion / investigation / etc checks while necessary, aren't themselves a compelling story.

On a completely different note, was the research on medieval tailoring. This came up as I was working on this section and my wife commented that a male tailor would never work on a dress; it would be a seamstress. This got me thinking, and I started parsing through the history of tailoring. It's a fascinating subject. But what I found is that modern conventions of thinking, don't apply consistently. Tailoring was usually fronted and run by men for the upper classes, but many times women were tailors. But they weren't consistently allowed into the master/apprentice system or even had guild memberships. The only area of tailoring that women did consistently that men did not was children's clothes, and undergarments. But not hose...

So which in the end, I changed nothing...but it was a good, if incomplete read.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
It Takes One, to Know One.

It Takes One, to Know One.
In the Society of Sensation, experience isn’t just everything; it’s the only thing that matters. Your personal knowledge is the key to the multiverse. That knowledge allows a skilled observer to understand and react to anything the multiverse throws at them.

And sometimes, at other folks for a suitable price.


We ended up sleeping late into the morning, in preparation for the long night ahead and we were very casual until the midafternoon.

It was maddening.

Iesa and Daneath spent some time wagering in the pits. They managed to break even I heard. That left Beepu and I in the room killing time. I was fairly devout, and none of this was sitting well with me. Murder wasn’t exactly ok with Kelemvor…unless a serious crime had been involved. I was somewhat hoping that we would hear that the Waterbaroness had earned a miserable violent end to justify taking her life. Of course, nothing we heard from anyone seemed to indicate this. All we had was some grave robbing and a broken deal with the Crimson Star.

In fact, I was desperately hoping that we would learn something at the party. The decision was always in our hands. We could always choose to do nothing during the Hate Night and run at first light. So, we weren’t damned. Not yet. But a clue would be nice. I couldn’t imagine that I was forced back into life for this price. A price that someone else ultimately was going to pay. But of course, the multiverse didn’t owe me anything, let alone an answer.

While I wrestled with my conscience, I turned my head to look at what Beepu was up to. He was seated at the desk, which he had scattered a number of large pieces of paper or parchment. His spellbook was on the desk as well, but it was closed. Beepu had a quill and ink out, and he was making small notes on one of the large sheets.

I smirked; of course he had books and writings to look at, to keep his mind away from the mortal quandary facing him. A book of anything to read would be rum right now. But I realized that I had never paid much attention to the various documents, papers, and notes that he constantly was working on. And this was the first time I had ever seen this large sheet.

“Beepu? What are you working on?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“My father’s notes,” he said a bit distractedly. “I’m trying to reconstruct them.”

“On the planar device?”

“How did…no wait. I did tell you about that in Triboar...yes that. There is so much missing though, that without finding him I’m not sure If I can fully rebuild the device.”

“Rebuild…you mean he actually created it?” I asked, and I moved over to the desk to look at the paper.

“That is what I believe. And why I have not been able to find him. He may have used it.” And he started leafing through his own pile of notes.

I looked down on the desk, and I appeared to be looking at a functional diagram of what appeared to be a telescope. While some of the arcane notations were clear, a lot of the document was written in a language I didn’t understand. I had to guess it was Beepu’s native tongue. Part of the diagram focused on a series of rings near one of the ends of the scope, with symbols. Those symbols were then broken down onto a table in the shape of a large diagram of a wheel, with more notations. And it was littered with corrections; crossed out words, or entire formulae. Liner notes, and subscripts everywhere. Most of it was beyond me until I looked at the wheel and the symbols written on it. And then I recognized what it was supposed to be.

It was the Great Wheel with a projection above that represented the Inner planes. I remembered seeing one similar to this in the Civic Festhall, when I started to study Arcana. It was only two years ago, but the subject of planar mechanics was still fresh. I notice that the diagram on the desk had notations and some type of math that led to a blank by most of the blocks on the sheet. The blocks which I guessed was a particular plane. In fact, only two had notations by them, but I didn’t recognize either.

“What do the notations here mean?” I said pointed at the completed formulas.

“That is the frequency of resonance, that ties to a particular plane. It is then followed by the musical note that matches. That one is an A-sharp, two octaves above middle C. The other one is broken chord of D sharp,A,E flat on middle C, in that order.”

“How did you match it to the correct plane?”

“By deciphering my father’s notes. He was not very clear.”

“Well I have a guess, that one is on the wrong plane.”

“What do you mean?” and for the first time Beepu turned away from his notes to look at me.

“A sharp is one of the better known frequencies; it ties to the first layer of Mount Celestia. However, the position on this diagram is wrong for that; it’s in the spot that corresponds to Ysgard.”

“So why is that wrong?”

“Because the other one is also well known to be one for Limbo; the notes almost don’t matter but is always a broken chord. I have heard it’s the only one like that. But Limbo isn’t what we call 'adjacent' to Mount Celestia. Based on how this diagram is oriented, Limbo is in the right place, but Celestia should be…here” I point at a different box six spaces counter clockwise on the wheel.

Beepu looked at the diagram and then at me. “You are probably right. Again, my father’s notes are challenging. Do you know any other notes?”

I shook my head, “I don’t remember the details enough. Most of the lower planes were flats, and most upper planes were sharps. But I don’t remember the octave or if a chord is needed.”

Beepu nodded, “Well as I get a bit farther in decoding the writing I’ll check with you on the placement to see if it aligns correctly.”

“If I can help I will. Granted I probably know a bit more about the goings on a particular plane; less about the chord or high-level magic to get there. But I do know what is connected to what.”

At that point Iesa and Daneath opened the door.

“…told you he was drunk,” Iesa said.

“Which is why I bet on him to lose. Made up for those bad proposition bets.” Daneath replied with a smile on his face.

“Don’t suppose you gambled up enough to pay off our friend?” I asked with the faintest hope on my words.

“If only. Felt fortunate to break even.” Iesa replied. “But I did try.”

“Anyway, we probably should get over to the tailor’s and get prepped.” Daneath said.

“We going to leave our stuff with him?” Beepu asked

“I’d trust him far more than either folks here at the taps or Mordai.” Daneath said with a shrug.

“Well…let’s go dress the part.” I said.

Moments later we were outside the bar, and as we made our way to the middle-tier, we saw that the populace was going all out with pennants and long strips of black and white cloth bannerets from every surface available. As we walked through the marketplace, it was crowded with people making last minute sales for supplies, masks, and foodstuffs. The crowd gave off an energetic vibe. Everyone was talking in excited tones and were eager for the night to start, which stood in stark contrast to how we felt. But the crowds did make it a bit slower to get to Lark street, and to the tailor’s shop.

As we walked in, the place was full of empty forms. Many of the coats and dresses were gone. Master Gyffor and Myford were both in the front, looking a bit tired. Seeing us, they gave a wan smile.

“Ah our last customer,” Master Gyffor said with a note of relief in his voice. “Myford, you can take care of the three gentlefolk, while I will take her in back, where Maralee and I will help her into her dress.”

Daneath and Iesa were already undoing straps to their armor, as I stepped into the back room. Maralee was already there. She was a young teenager that Master Gyffor found to help me in my fittings yesterday, so I was glad to have had her assistance again.

And did I need it. The number of layers needed for formal dresses was incredible. She helped me with bloomers, stockings, garters, underdress, crinoline, and finally the dress itself, which was based on a corset. After I was buckled and tied into the dress, the corset laced up, and the final ribbons put into place, I was ready for the mirror, when Master Gyffor gave me a final surprise. Turning towards him, I was going to ask a question, when I saw in his hands two items.

The first was something I hadn’t expected; a wig of white hair. It was in a short conical shape with layers of curled hair, with four tightly wound long curled braids that would cascade down my neck to just below my shoulder line. I hadn’t even considered one, but as I stood looking at it, and thinking about my own hair color, the need was obvious. My natural hair would stand out. But then I saw the mask.

I had been entranced by the masks I had saw in the marketplace, but this one was a shock. A black enameled mask, with a serene expression upon its face. Affixed to it were crystals catching the light, and highlighting the cheekbones, nose line, and the lips. The eyes seemed a bit oversized and had the appearance of being much darker than the already dark lacquer painted face. Framing the mask itself, were long feathers in black and white in a fan shape. It took my breath away.

I almost shivered, as I swore I was looking at a stylized version of the Lady of Pain’s own face, with ‘bladed’ feathers. A face that you would never want to see that close in Sigil. A face you would never wear as a mask or dare to imitate, lest you be flayed by her shadow, or mazed in her displeasure. But I was far from Sigil now and how often could you dare to take her Serenity’s own face? I smiled at the opportunity.

I looked at Master Gyffor, and was trying to find the right words, when he spoke. “Well, I’m sure you didn’t consider that you would need the appropriate wig and mask for the night. But these were also for my daughter as well. They should…unfortunately…cover your beauty well enough.”

I took the mask of feathers from him and looked at the interior and smiled. The darkness of the eyes was easily explained. Across the eye holes was a thin black gauze. It would be enough to hide my eyes.

“Thank you. I’m glad that…I can honor your memory of your daughter.”

Master Gyffor’s eyes were welling up with tears, and he turned me around and started to affix the wig to my head. “It’s enough for me that you can wear it for her. Now there…it’s been fastened to your head. The mask sits slightly in front of your face, so you can eat, drink and converse easily. Come, take a look in the mirror here.”

I then looked at myself for the first time, fully dressed. The black gown, draped over the crinoline giving the impression of wide hips, and the corset slimmed my waist down impossibly smaller. It pushed my breasts together and upwards, creating a shelf of cleavage. On the corset below my bust line were patterns of crystals so it looked like you were staring into a starry night. The crystals were all over the dresses train itself, and not just the corset. My arms were draped in black as well, with ribbons crisscrossing the length of my forearms and trailing off in lengths at the wrists. The mask’s serene face hid my silvery eyes behind pools of black, and the wig’s cascade of white curls around my shoulders gave me a cool and serene look. I nodded in approval.

“It will be a night to remember,” I said. “Can…can we leave some of our things here? We don’t really trust the Inn we have been staying in.”

“Yes…yes. That is not a problem. Come; your friends are waiting.”

I quickly grabbed a small bundle, from the dressing closet and I stepped through the doorway. In the front of the shop stood Daneath, Iesa and Beepu. Each wore a different color of dress coat, with matching colored breeches; red, black and green respectively. Each also had a mask of black lacquer, with feathers surrounding their faces. They all were standing talking quietly, when I entered the room. They stared at me wordlessly for a moment, and then they all gave a florid bow.

“Stop that,” I said and they all laughed. Perhaps the last time for a bit, considering the serious business ahead. At that point Master Gyffor, took Myford into the back, leaving the front of the shop to ourselves.

“Well,” Iesa started, “I have the invitations from Myford, so we are ready there.” and he handed envelopes of paper to each of the others and I in turn.

“Master Gyffor will hold our things here,” I said. “Assuming we can get back here.”

“Foggle will take our pouches,” Beepu said and I handed him mine from the small bundle I held.

“What are you going to do with him later?” I asked.

“You will see,” Beepu said with a wink.

“And I will take the other things.” Daneath said. And we each gave him an assortment of sharp daggers from our gear.

“How do you intend to get that inside?” Beepu asked.

“I don’t. I expect a distraction, so I can jump the wall and hide them, before I come inside. We’ll make an excuse to get them later from the inside.”

“Do you have everything else Iesa?” I asked.

“I gave the vial to Beepu. I don’t want to have to taste it in front of guards should it come to that. Myrai and I should go in first, to get Big D here some cover, then then we can regroup inside.”

“Not that again…but fine. Good luck I guess.”

I raise my hand and motion the others closer. Taking each person’s hand in turn, I place our left hands together on top of each other as we stand in a tight circle, and in my right hand I grasp the medallion around my neck.

“May the powers guide us tonight, forgive us for what we might do, and see us through our folly to the end.”

We all bow our heads and look each other in the eyes and leave the safety of the shop.

It was late afternoon, some hours before sunset. Iesa had grabbed me by the elbow and we walked linked together as any couple might through the streets in the middle tier. The black and white banners flapped gently in the air, and the windows of the shops had already set out candles in preparation for the evening. Some folk were scurrying around with last minute errands, while others were grouped together like Iesa and I, heading to a party spot for the night.

As we walked, I realized it had been years since I held the arm of anyone close like Iesa was holding me. I probably would have shied away normally, but this wasn’t a normal time. In fact, it was comforting, considering the danger that we expected to face.

“So…where did you hide Mo?” I asked as we started to make our way up the main road to the third tier.

“Oh him? Myford promised to keep an eye on him. I hope he listens; the fog sounds bad enough without an addled monkey running through it.”

“Probably would be a bad thing,” I agreed. Ahead the gateway to the manor stood; A small gatehouse of grey stone and an open portcullis Black banners and streamers flanked the entryway. While it certainly looked darkly elegant; it gave me a sense of dread as I felt I looked down the throat of a beast that threatened to swallow us.

“So how do we do this?” I asked as we slowly approached.

“Follow my lead. And if anyone asks we’re from Baldur’s Gate.”

“Alright.” I said and then after a moment I asked. “Where is that exactly?”

“South on the coast, big port city. Here we are.”

We strode casually into the open mouth of the gate and into the darkness of the gatehouse itself. Four guards stood within at attention, dressed in the town livery and wearing studded leather, and carrying pole-axes. With them were four more guards with swords at their sides. They were talking among themselves and they turned and looked at us with surprise as we approached. One of them with a thick bushy greying moustache and muttonchops approached us.

“Wait, wait now. The bell hasn’t rung yet! You can’t come in!” he spoke with a deep voice and with a burbling sound between his sentences. But without hesitation, Iesa was prepared.

“Ah yes, excellent! I was hoping that an enterprising captain could help me. My wife was hoping to look at the gardens here before it became dark and foggy.”

“Well…”the guard burbled, “I’m not a captain, only a sergeant really…I would need to…”

“A sergeant for now! I am sure you are destined for great things…what was your name?”

“Hurm…oh Kingsly sir.”

“…Seargent Kingsly. Obviously, a small favor for the guests of Waterbaroness Nestra would be well remembered.”

At that point, I gentley lay my right hand on Kingsley’s left shoulder, and I turned his head towards me with my left hand. Looking at him through the eyes of the mask and straight into his face I softly said, “Please Kingsly. If you could perhaps escort us through and then out again before the party starts. It would mean a lot to me.” I smiled sweetly as I said this, knowing that while the mask hid my face, that it would help shape the tone and words.

And it worked as I saw the resolve in Kingsly wavered. “I…I…suppose I could escort you. I warn you; I know nothing about the garden itself though.” As he looked at me with a smile.

“Wonderful,” I said with a note of cheeriness “Do you need to search us beforehand? I heard that was needed.”

“Ah…yes…I’m sorry but yes. It won’t take a moment. But first, your invitations please.” And he held out his hand and Iesa quickly and gracefully supplied the two invitations. He looked them over quickly, nodded and then quickly patted down Iesa under the arms, around the back and the outside of the legs. He then looked at Iesa and motioned to his face and Iesa obediently pulled the mask away. Nodding, Kingsly then turned toward me and I lifted my arms in a surrender like pose.

“Search away please…I must see that garden,” I said still smiling under the mask.

Kingsly quickly patted me down as well, his hands firmly feeling around my waist and patting down the dress until his hand contacted my thighs. He was very very brief, far too brief for a proper search, but I noticed that he was blushing the entire time.

“It’s alright,” I said as he was straightening himself up, “I realize you have been given your orders.”

“Ah yes…well, um…I also need to see your face as well.”

“What’s the point of a masked gala, if we can’t stay masked?”

“Oh, you will…we just need to …erm…make sure some scofflaws don’t make it inside.”

I shrug, but I made an effort to squint my eyes nearly shut as he moved my mask aside. He was more interested in my face, than my eyes and quickly reseated it, nodding and burbling all the same.

“Now that is done, let’s go and I will show you the garden.” And with that he gestured us forward through the gatehouse towards the manor grounds.

The manor was a two-storied structure, with wide windows in the front, and white stucco walls, with a central stair leading to a pair of double doored entryway. It was a residence and not a fortification; the walls and the gate were deemed enough by the past Barons and Baronesses of manor and so it remained. Kingsley motioned us towards the left and before us lay the gardens and in the distance a wooden gazebo stood.

The garden was pretty; there were some in Sigil I had seen before, but this one was indeed the largest I had visited before. I however wasn’t a gardener myself, so I found myself trying to stare at the garden’s plant and nodding a lot while walking arm and arm with my “husband” as Kingsly led us. Flowers of all sorts of colors and shapes along with various shrubs along the manor and the manor’s curtain walls. I knew none of their names and was thankful that the mask hid any blank looks I might have had. As we approached the Gazebo at the end of the trail, a number of things caught my eye.

The first was a nearby door to the manor itself. I remember that Beepu had mentioned seeing one with Foggle when he did a flyby. The second was that the Gazebo had on one side, a small side door; probably an access to a storage area underneath. The third thing I saw was a motion on top of the curtain wall nearby. I realized it must have been Daneath, but I didn’t look for him further.

“Did you see that door on the Gazebo?” I whispered.

“Yes…very convenient. D is here too. He should have seen me pointing at it.”

Nodding at Iesa, I then unlinked my arm from him and strode forward towards Kingsley who was looking around without much focus. So, he was surprised as I wrapped my arm around his.

“Thank you again,” I said genuinely, smiling under the mask the whole time. “Kingsly. It is very appreciated.”

“Oh…of course,” he burbled in a sound of joy, “It will be a long night of standing, and stretching out my legs now will be good.” I walked with him slowly back towards the gatehouse and manor entrance. Behind us I could faintly hear a thump, but if Kingsly had heard anything, he gave no indication. But not long afterwards, the sound of a bell carried through the air from the gatehouse.
“Ah, it is time. I must take you back to the gatehouse, but you may then enter the manor. Please enjoy your time here.”

“Of course, Kingsly.” And with our tour concluded Iesa and I relinked our arms and joined the small throng of guests that had collected by the gatehouse. We started to make our way up the short set of stairs that led into the manor. Two guards flanked the doors and talking to them…or rather upbraiding them was a lizard.

No…that wasn’t right. Its scales were a bright red and as it turned, it was clearly one of the dragonborn. And considering the orders it was giving, it must have been the captain, Arakhan. He was dressed in heavy chain armor, and a long sword at his side with his left hand resting on the hilt. He surveyed the guests, spending scant moments on each mask. As we ascended with other nobles in their finery and dress, he gave each of us a formal nod in acknowledgement.

We entered the manor’s double doors, we found ourselves in a marbled foyer. Two stairs curled left and right to a landing that overlooked the floor where we stood. Beneath the landing a passage opened up into a larger room, while to the left and right doorways led into a hallway and another large room respectively.

Upon the landing were three figures; the first was dressed in a gown of silver, grey and white with black beading and a black lace mask with feathers spread from a headband. I couldn’t see her face clearly, but her silvery hair was pulled into tight sets of braids that was bundled and pulled into a wrap at the back of her head. Our target; the Waterbaroness. Standing next to her on her right was a man, with shorter black hair and wearing a burgundy dress coat, trimmed in yellows and gold. His face was covered in a wooden mask with a twisted grin. I guessed that this was her seneschal, Vicam.

But it was the figure on her left that gave me chills. A woman in studded leather, her long bone white hair pulled into a high-top tail, and cascading down to her shoulders, and barely covering her slender pointed ears. Her skin was like dull onyx and her red tinged eyes watched over us all with a shrewd, haughty glare. I didn’t know her name, but I knew that face from the first night at the “Lusty Bard.”

The assassin that found her mark.

And now she was looking down at all the guests below, seeking yet another target.

Session notes:

Kingsly was first of many random characters with a distinct silly voice. And, of course the player of Iesa was particularly fond of him.

This is also the first time we see what Beepu is up to; at this point in the campaign, the device and what it could do was being revealed to the player of Beepu by the DM. So, it was easy for him to incorporate in Beepu’s constant research time.

The idea of the notes of the planes is because of the Plane Shift spell and the tuning fork needed for each location.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The glass is always at half something.

The glass is always at half something.​

Working the gaming halls in Sigil has taught me a number of lessons that I use constantly. A smile opens as many doors as a pouting frown. Pretending that you know exactly what you are doing, gets you out of a lot of questions.
But most importantly, the ability to hold your breath is a very underrated skill.

Iesa and I stepped through the archway below the staircases, and underneath the trio on the landing. Underneath the mask of serenity that I wore I felt anything but. I was terrified; my heart racing and my hands shaking. I was expecting someone was going to cry beef and point their fingers at us at any moment. That this was all an elaborate farce and we were doomed before we even started.

As Iesa was leading me, I briefly closed my eyes and prayed. Prayed that we found our way out of this manor with our lives and our souls intact.

Opening my eyes again, I saw we were in a large hall. On one side of the hall a large sideboard had meats, such as smoked fish and hams, and all manner of sliced fruits and cheeses, near stacks of small plates. And everywhere were stewards ready to hand out a goblet and with another one right behind them to fill it.
I noticed that there seemed to be a small parade of stewards and servants entering and leaving a pair of doors that I guessed led to the kitchen. The ones that left the kitchen scattered everywhere briskly, making their way to the many rooms in the manor. But while the number of servants running around was surprising, it was the surprising lack of guards that stood out. I remembered that Daneath mentioned that there were about twenty on hand. The size of the manor might help us out in the long run; too many rooms to cover.

But the Drow had unnerved me. While I can’t say she wasn’t supposed to be here, it made me wonder who else might be also be lurking in the crowd working for the Waterbaroness.

A steward approached me with a goblet, and it was quickly filled. I sipped a little wine, hoping to take the edge off of my fear. It was likely going to be my only drink of the evening as I wanted to stay sharp. Iesa also took a goblet and we looked around the room.

The guests were...well...they were boring. Some of the richer folk had fine dresses and masks, and others…didn’t. If this was the gala to be seen at, the crowd wasn’t terribly impressive. I leaned over to Iesa.

“The crowd here doesn’t seem to be laden with coin, or am I missing something.” I whispered.

Iesa shook his head slightly and whispered back “No, Yartar wants to be a player but in truth the nobles aren’t quite there. Not compared to Waterdeep or Baldur’s Gate. They do try though…” and his voice trailed off as his focus changed, following a red headed woman, whose busty attire appeared to be more painted on, than worn.

“I know her though…I met her in the second tier two days ago. What was her…Zoe! That was her name.” he said quickly.

“And? Is it relevant, or are you planning on a final fling here?”

He turned to look at me with a bemused smirk below his mask, “Supposedly a friend of the Baroness. Why…are you jealous?”

I was taken off guard and looked at her; she was pretty, and she had an air of comfort and grace about her. She was at home in this arena. Her outfit was a good fit for her frame and complemented her eye’s coloring, being a deep violet. But I shook my head to clear my thoughts.

“What? No…focus. Right now, I’d rather be elsewhere with an ale, and not here with a wine. And right now, we need the others.”

We circled the room arm in arm, pretending to drink. Well I was at least; Iesa I wasn’t sure about as I was too short to look into his goblet as we walked. After some time, the gnome and human entered the room one after the other. Daneath casually walked towards me, but to my surprise, Beepu did not.

Beepu made a beeline to the sideboard and was steadily sampling each and every morsel on the table, all the while nodding his approval or discarding food he didn’t care for. I was still staring at this when Daneath came up to me and reached for my hand.

“Mi’lady,” and he kissed the top of it too my surprise.

“Gentlesir,” I replied nodding. And then I whispered, “What is he doing?”

Daneath turned to look at the gnome continuing down the table at a leisurely pace, sampling more food. “Well, he did say he was famished.”

“Sodding…we need him to get…”

“I said that too. Don’t worry yet. One good thing I noticed; a lot of folks were already in their cups before arriving.”

I thought a moment on that and realized the implication. “So, are we going as a pack to relieve ourselves, or do you have an idea?”

I could see Daneath’s teeth break into a grin. “Yes…Iesa follow my lead once we get near the kitchen entrance,” and he tilted his head backwards with his chin pointed to an open doorway.

“Should I be overbearing or just urgent?” Iesa asked.

“Just less than I, and enough so folks miss a gnome.”

Iesa nodded and led me over towards the far end of the ballroom. On this end, large windows with curtains flanking them gave a commanding view of a pool, that bordered the garden. The windows were all shut, but I could see outside clearly; the fog had not risen.

“So, you two had a plan?”

“A rough one,”

“You could have mentioned it.”

“Not really, you kept the other tailor busy when we came up with it.”

“Hardly fair. What did you need me to do?”

“Depends on the kitchen…the door to the garden is in that direction, so we need a distraction once we get there.
Daneath had reached Beepu at the sideboard and gently tapped him, and they both took a goblet and started to make their way to the kitchen door as well.

Fortunately, the guards in the room were few. Two distracted guards stood lazily near the passage to the Foyer, and two others flanked a door on the opposite wall of the kitchen. But the kitchen door itself was very busy, as servants kept bringing out more food or took back empty dishes.

But as we made our way there, I noticed that guests were opening side walls in the hall, with men and women waiting standing nearby. Looking carefully, I saw there were about four panels on the side walls, two on each side with attending servants.

They were concealing privys! That meant we probably needed to change our approach. An idea suddenly crossed my mind, and I pulled Iesa forward so we could pass by the doors, As I did so, a servant entered, and I got a good look inside.

The doors never really closed so as we slowly crossed in front of them, I could see a busy scene of cooks preparing even more delicacies for the evening. But I was more interested in following the path of a servant who entered with a pair of trays in his hands, and sure enough I saw him take them to a back wall, where there was a decent sized pile already accumulating in the back.

I smiled, “I have a better idea. Let’s move closer and just wait for the noise.”

Iesa frowned a second and then nodded, and soon we propped ourselves near the kitchen door way, crossing Daneath and Beepu. All Iesa did was hold his hand up, palm outward to Daneath and then that same hand point to his own ear.

Daneath seemed to understand the game was changing and he kept talking aloud, while Beepu looked confused on where he was being led.

Once we were positioned, where I had an unobstructed view of the Kitchen I waited. I was looking for a large number of servants leading out more trays of fresh food and a clear view of the pile of dishes in the back. And my patience was rewarded with a foursome of stewards bringing out a whole pig.

Just as they crossed the threshold, I could see the dishes, and as I expected it was a rough unorganized pile to be dealt with at a later time. The pile was a balanced mess of serving trays, pots, and pans. And once the servants and their pig passed us, I reached within.

Focusing on a piece of light within me, I mentally started to shake it. While some of my powers needed my pouch; this one did not. In a matter of seconds, I had shaken the energy enough that I released it near the precarious pile.

The kitchen staff could feel a small tremor in the earth beneath their feet. And they would have paid it no mind, if the pans had remained balanced. But they didn’t, and the dirty pile of cooking ware slid and fell hitting the ground noisily.

“You idjuts! Yer not stackin them right! Get goin, an clean up!” a deep voice yelled in the kitchen. The servants with the pig didn’t even turn to look and they were moving faster away in fear. And with that we made our move.
Beepu and Daneath went into the kitchen first, followed by Iesa and me. They quickly ran over to a hallway that let away from the kitchen, and past a wide set of stairs descending into darkness. As we did so, we passed behind, what I thought was a very large gnome. This was a woman in charge of her domain, and that domain had a pile of pans on the floor.

The mess had touched the head cook or ‘Gour’ deeply, and she was very occupied in the shouting at the servants. And so she never noticed us move behind her. And we found ourselves in a hallway that turned after some thirty feet to the left. The hallway continued, but now there were wooden doors down the length, and a large iron bound door at the end.

“What happened to the plan?” Daneath asked.

“The privys and chamber pots are in the hall, so I figured a simple distraction would be easier than a flimsy excuse.” I said.

“Where are we?” Iesa asked?

Beepu answered, “Servants quarters most likely. Guards as well. But that door on the end is the one in the garden.”

“You sure?” Iesa asked.

“Positive. I can sense Foggle now and he is near that door.” Then Beepu stopped and twisted his head a moment. Suddenly his eyes grew wide, “We need to move. The fog; it’s here.”

We ran down the hallway to the door. It had a large iron bar across it, which Daneath immediately moved out of the way. But as Iesa tried the handle, he realized that the door was locked as well.

He didn’t swear at all, but Iesa swiftly pulled from his hair a long piece of flattened metal. He dropped down to his knees and he begun to work the mechanism with it. Glancing behind us, I saw no sign of any servants, and I created a small ball of light and focused it on one of the ribbons holding the wrists of my dress together, so he could see better.

“Thanks,” he said quietly and after a couple of tense moments, we heard the click of the door. And with that I magically recalled the light, and Daneath opened it.

Foggle bolted inside in a rush, even before the door was fully opened, and landed on Beepu’s shoulder. And while Beepu quietly talked with his familiar, we looked outside, and our hearts sank.

We could see the gazebo, and the edge of the garden. But what alarmed us was the now visible fog. It was rising rapidly from the ground and what started perhaps mid-calf as we opened the door, it in a matter of moments was already waist high and growing quickly.

Daneath, quickly shut the door, and just as quickly, replaced the bar. He stood there with his hands on the bar, braced as if to hold it down, almost like he expected something was going to try to get inside. Moments passed, and he turned to look at us and said, “Well that’s a problem.”

Beepu nodded, “Yes…Foggle was already feeling odd, and the fog was not even that high. But he still has these.” First, he handed the poison vial to Iesa, who pocketed it. Then he handed me my small pouch of components, while he took his own and his spellbook from the bag that Foggle had.

I took it and raised my dress to knee height. With a small piece of thong I tied it around my left leg, just above the garters I wore. I look at Beepu, and he, rather unelegantly stuffed his own pouch into the front of his breeches. Then he took the book and a loop of leather, and hung the book beneath his left arm, under his coat. Considering the book wasn’t terribly large, it was concealed well enough.

“What about him?” Daneath said looking at Foggle.

Beepu without a word, and barely a glance made a wave of his hand and Foggle vanished.

I blinked. “Couldn’t he have just carried our stuff with him, and you just make him reappear with it, instead of doing this?” and I gestured at the door and us wildly.

“hmm. That is a good question. But probably not. Maybe some very small things inside of him, but I doubt it would work.”

“Fine,” I said. “So, we are missing some basic stuff though. Ideas?”

“Let’s hope the guards have a room here and see if they left some equipment behind.” Daneath said.

Door by door we quietly investigated, and we were lucky to find that one room had lodgings for some of the guards. Equipment options were limited, but we did scavenge two small swords and a chain shirt.
The shirt was just large enough to work with Daneath’s frame, and his shirt and coat were roomy enough that with my help we concealed the armor beneath them. The swords were short enough that they too could be hidden along the spine underneath both Daneath and Iesa’s coat.

But Beepu and I couldn’t find anything we could use for weapon. But if it came for that, our magic would have to do. Of course, if it came to that, we had other problems.
After we concealed what we could, we crept back to the hallway and listened. The Gour was still barking orders loudly and the sounds of servants entering and leaving continued.

“So…now what?” Beepu asked.

“Well, we should look around the rest of manor; we don’t know if there is any other way out, and we should at least find out where the other guards are before we do anything.” Iesa said. “So, split up two and two and look around. We’ll head upstairs.”

“Ok fine…so how do we get out of here?” Beepu asked with his hands spread.

“Easy…we walk out,” and I grabbed Iesa’s ear and started pulling him.

“Ow, ow, ow….what are you?...”

“You dullard! You can’t just wander off. You’re not going to embarrass me again!” I said loudly and pulled Iesa into the kitchen and without stopping said, “It’s bad enough that I had to recruit these fine gentlemen to find you wandering around. What were you thinking!?!”

Beepu blinked a second and caught on, “Yes…yes! I am glad I was able to provide assistance to your Ladyship.” And he followed the pair of us, with a look of pride on his face.

“As am I” said Daneath and he pushed Iesa forward to the door to the large hall we were in before. “Please let me know If you need help with your husband again.”

The Gour turned and glared at us as we emerged, “What…this is my kitchen. You aren’t supposed to be here!” she said with tired anger in her voice.

“You heard that dear,” I spat. “You aren’t allowed in here! Now move!”

Turning my head towards the Gour I said sounding still angry, “He wont be a problem again.” And quickly focus some energy on the cooking fire behind her, where a servant stirring a pot looked at us distractedly.

Suddenly, the flames by the cooking fire grew much brighter, causing the servant to suddenly swear and backed away from the flames. The Gour, turned to look just as I lowered the power to the spell, and all four of us calmly left the kitchen.

I let go of Iesa’s ear and took his arm again, “Lead on dear.”

He looked at me with a wry smile, “Sure thing, as long as we avoid the kitchen again.”

We left the grand hall and saw that Daneath and Beepu were headed to another wing in the manor, while we re-entered the foyer. The main doors were closed, with a pair of guards in front of them, presumably to prevent ill-behaved guests from opening them by accident. The landing had guests, but the Waterbaroness and her attendants were elsewhere fortunately, so we made our way to the second floor.

The upstairs floor was a vaulted gallery, which overlooked both the foyer and the grand hall below and bridged the upper floors between the two wings of the manor. On the what I remembered being the east side was a hallway, and an opening to a large room, while the west side had a set of double doors. A pair of guards were in attendance, covering the entirety of the floor it appeared.

And while I could count, this seemed to be far less than the twenty guards. So unless they were congregating somewhere else, I was at a loss on where they might be. What really concerned me was where the host of the party was.

We found a servant with another set of goblets and took them and walked the upper gallery and moved towards the double doors. As we walked by them, I noticed Iesa reach a hand out and trying the handle lightly.

“Locked,” he whispered.

I nodded and noticed that one of the guards was circling the gallery and would be near us in a moment. As the guard approached I also recognized him; it was Kingsley.

“Think you can work the lock fast?” I said.

“Sure, but not with the guar…hey isn’t that?”

“Yes it is. Get ready.”

Soon, Kingsley had circled the landing and was near us, when I dropped Iesa’s arm and stepped in front of Kingsley’s path. He was surprised momentarily.

“Ahem,” he burbled, “Oh it is you! Lady…?” Kingsley blinked and looked my mask in the eyes.

“Kingsley,” and I reached out and grasped his hand that was on the pommel of his sword he wore. “I wanted to thank you again for the favor you granted me.” And as I spoke, I turned him so his back was to the double doors, all the while keeping eye contact with the guard. Iesa moved quietyly behind him and using the burly guard as cover started to work on the lock.

“Oh! Of course, it was my pleasure Lady...?” and he looked at me expectantly.

“Elisna,” I said using the first name that came to my mind. “Lady Elisna.”

“Quite a unique name. Are you from near here?” Kingsly asked. As I watched I saw Iesa was still working the lock, and I knew I needed to buy some more time.

“No. No, I am not, I’m from…Baldur’s Gate actually.”

“Really? That’s a journey for this little gathering.”

“Is it?” I had no idea where the city was at all, as it only was discussed briefly tonight. “The world is such a large place I’m told. Near, far, its all the same when you are stuck in a wagon for days.”

“Days? More like a month or so. You must have been very bored?”

“Yes,” a month? How big was this place? “The days blended together horribly.” Iesa was still working the lock I could tell.

“And the dreadful political situation. Is Dillard Portyr the Grand Duke still?”

Sodding Baator. I should have asked some questions beforehand. “Well…the thing is while we were from the area, I never spent much time in the city. The town I came from had enough politics to deal with, let alone Baldur’s Gate.” At this point, I saw Iesa move aside from the door and look at me and nodded.

“Kingsley, could you do me another favor, my husband wandered off, and I’m not sure if he is still upstairs or went back down. Could you poke your head around and if you see him, to tell I’m waiting in the grand hall downstairs for him? I need to attend to some…personal matters.” I smiled beneath my mask and tried to put on an innocent voice for him.

“Of course, Lady Elisna, I’ll let him know.” And Kingsley with some purpose started to walk across the gallery, without even turning around.

Still smiling, I backed up and Iesa approached me. “Its quiet inside, we should move quick.” He said quietly.

“Let’s go.” And without turning around I covered Iesa opening the door, and I slipped in behind him.

The rectangular room we found ourselves seemed to be either a sitting room or an office. The long wall opposite of the door had several large curtains, covering up the windows to the exterior. A large desk, with a deep burgundy hue sat in front of the curtains. The walls had shelves with a mixture of books and objects on them. A closed single door was on the left of me on the short wall, and a double door was on the righthand short wall.

And more importantly Iesa was right; no one was here.

“Ok,” I said, “Now what?”

“Well, look around here, I’m going to check the doors there,” Gesturing with his head to the double doors.
I decided that the desk might the most interesting thing to look around at. So I moved behind it and looked at its top. Papers where haphazardly scattered on the top, and an ink vial and set of quills and a sharp knife lay in a wooden organizer, while an oil lamp with a low glass bottle sat, with the sticks of wax nearby.
I was beginning to look at the papers, when I heard fast steps. Looking up I saw Iesa swiftly moving to the curtains. I didn’t even think and dove under the desk and pulled my dress together, so it didn’t poke out anywhere and I held my breath.

Session Notes:

So yes, stuff was indeed stuck in the gazebo, and there was a rules pow-wow about if familiars could hide in their pocketspace with stuff. The answer was no per the DM, which I agreed with. Made the whole scene more fun.

So…the funny thing about adventure maps, the privy is frequently left out, or there is an outhouse outside. The reality in noble houses there were a fair number of chamber pot used for this, inside in rooms. But again, see maps.

But what is described here is how one took care of business in the formal halls. Well, at least it was in Inveraray Castle, home of the Duke of Argyll in Scotland the Home of Clan Campbell, which I toured in 1993. The paneled side rooms weren’t large, but they were private enough to take care of things and rejoin the main party.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Prisoner Dilemma

The Prisoner Dilemma

There is a Bleaker joke that goes like this:

“A Sensate says to a Bleaker, ‘You know they say its ‘darkest before the dawn?’ right?’
‘Sure I do. You realize that it never dawns in Sigil right?’”

It’s still not funny.​

I heard the double doors open, and then the sound of boots and the clink of armor stepped into the room, in mid conversation.

“…well it’s not like they could sucssseed anyway.” A gravelly voice that spoke with the sibilant sounds stretched out.

“No, but an attempt would undermine the Baronesses’ hold here, and we cannot allow this,” a second cold and tired sounding voice retorted.

“Then hole her up in her room till morning. The rissssk is too high.”

“No Arakhan, we need her visible. Nothing is wrong afterall, and as long as she keeps sending Leoras north looking for graves, she’s doing her job and can enjoy her little party here.”

Hiding under a desk was an idea born of panic and my heart was pounding. My lungs burned, as I scarcely dared to breathe. If the first voice was Arakhan, I could only imagine the second was Vicam. I was both praying not to be found and cursing at myself for being trapped in the room with the pair. While Arakhan came across as someone that was used to “delivering the mail,” Vicam’s voice gave me chills.

“Leorasssss might ssssstart asking questionssss.”

“And the best way to keep him from doing that is to keep sending him out of town. In the meantime, let our hired professionals sniff out the crowd here. If the ‘Star’ is intending to make a statement, our reply will be visible and fierce.”

“And what of the prissssoner? How long until we-“

Prisoner? I strained to listen, still holding my breath. As I looked out from my position, I saw the curtain that Iesa was hiding behind. Inwardly I groaned, as I realized one of his boots was poking out. Not just the toes, the whole boot, as the curtain was caught in the top, basically exposing the entirety of his lower left leg.
I was staring in horror, as I expected either Vicam or Arakhan to notice this. But fortunately, Iesa must have felt something was amiss as I saw some quiet tugging, and watched the curtain being pulled out from the boot, and it was lowered quietly to the floor.

“Until they aren’t useful of course. After the gala we shall resume our…chats.

“You are playing a dangerousss game by keeping them around. Should be dispozzzed of.”

“They are safely hidden below, and no one is looking for them either. The risk is small.”

“Well, let’ssss find out where the Baronessss has gone then.” And then I heard the door open, the din of the party outside grow louder and then the sound of the door shutting again.

I waited as long as I could in silence, and I exhaled quietly in relief. I crawled my way out from under the desk and was helped up by Iesa who had already emerged. Keeping our eyes on the door to the landing we moved in close to each other.

“Prisoner?” I said “Is it normal for a seneschal to be in charge of a prisoner here?”

“No,” Iesa whispered back. “Normally the captain of the guard have such a place for criminals in the city. Private jails of rich nobles aren’t unheard of though. But the Waterbaroness seems to be on the level on the law here. Having a private prisoner doesn’t sound right.

“Perhaps she doesn’t know?”

“That’s not better, if they are going behind their ruler’s back.”

I frowned and thought a moment and said, “Well, we can tell a lot about the Baroness based on the company she keeps; willing or not.”

Iesa smiled, “I agree with that.” He looked at the doors again before speaking, “And if I had to make a guess on where they could be hidden, it would be the stairs down from the kitchen.”

“Let’s go,” I said, “before they come back.”
Iesa and I made our way back to the landing doors, and he pressed his ear against the wood. A moment later he lifted a single finger to his lips, and slowly opened the door, pulling it inwards and slipping through.

I followed him onto the landing, closing the doors behind him. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice where we emerged from and once again we linked arms and made our way back to the twin staircases.

As we descended, I saw Beepu alone talking to a large imposing figure in what appeared to be a uniform. He was tall, and somewhere in his later years with grey streaked hair that once was a solid black. His beard and mustache where a light grey. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but it seemed to be causal in nature.

“Beepu’s made a friend,” Iesa noted as we descended, also seeing the discussion. “But I don’t see Daneath.”
Once we reached the floor of the Foyer, I looked around. The party was getting noisier as the drinks kept flowing. From here we could see a doorway to what appeared to be a large study of some sort, and the other was a hallway that had a number of doors. I caught a glimpse of a man in leather entering one, but no sign of Daneath.

“We can likely look around without them for now, “ I said.

Iesa nodded again, and together we travelled beneath the stairs and entered the Great Hall. And there in the center was the Waterbaroness herself. As we made our way across to the kitchen doors, I finally had a good chance to look at her. She was older than I expected, somewhere in her fifth decade. Unlike most of the guests, she didn’t wear her mask, but instead it was fastened on the left side to the end of a wand that she carried. So, I could clearly see the brown eyes, with deep crow’s feet set around them. Her face was lightly lined, tanned and gave the impression of once being a great beauty. Her lips were painted a garish red. Her expression was haughty, and she gave the appearance of constantly looking down upon people, like the guest that she was listening to currently.

Glancing into the kitchen once again, we saw that the staff was very busy preparing food, and the Gour of course yelling at the top of her lungs. This time it was just simpler to just run across and down the stairs as Iesa and I were fairly quick, even though I was wearing a corset.

Within moments we were descending into darkness. There were sconces on the walls with torches, but all were unlit. By the time we reached the bottom of the stairs, there was barely any light at all. It didn’t really bother me much, everything was dim but visible enough. The stairs ended into a room that was storing kegs and bottles. In a corner was a dumbwaiter large enough to move a keg or two to presumably the kitchen. The room was full of racks, but the racks themselves seemed a bit light in terms of kegs or bottles stored.
But while this was my first impression, Iesa of course saw nothing but darkness.

“Where are we?”

“Probably a wine cellar of some type…oh sorry,” And I reached inwards and cast a light spell out again on ribbons on my sleeve and allowing Iesa a real look.

He turned his head and surveyed, “Yep, seems accurate,” and he bent down to look at the dust at the floor. Peering a moment, he moved towards the rows of racks that projected at a right angle from the wall. There were four of these, with the last fully against the back of the room, instead of projecting into the room.

“Most of the tracks are near the front rack. But there is another set that leads back here,” and he moved slowly to the far wall and rack. “And more importantly, this one has marks of heavier boots and not servant’s slippers or shoes.”

As I watched he moved to the racks, and gently pulled. Eventually he found one that moved, or rather pivoted and swung away from the wall. He then stepped forward and examined the wall itself.
“It’s stone, but not the same kind as the one around it. Probably a moveable panel or door. Help me look for a way to open it.”

I squeezed in next to him and we both looked over the stone and the rack. Eventually he found near the floor a small pedal that was underneath an adjoining rack.

“There! Shall we?”

I nodded, “Might get your sword out though,”

He smiled and drew the short-bladed sword from beneath his jacket.

“Ok, you step on the pedal and I’ll be ready.”

Nodding again, I held out my hand with three fingers extended...

Two fingers…

One finger…

Click!
Upon stepping on the pedal, the panel popped out on one side, opening barely the width of a thumb. We heard no other sound, so he pulled the panel open wide enough so I could get my hands on it as well. Together we pulled it open away from the wall and soon it jutted out at an angle, uncovering a tunnel.

Peering down it, there was bright orange flickering light coming from the far end. But it wasn’t enough to light the tunnel, but it was enough to see there was a large room at the end, and from our vantage point we could see a door with bars directly on the other side of the room, opposite of the tunnel.

We looked at each other silently, and I motioned Iesa on with my hand.

Iesa was very quiet, and true to his trade as a Knight of the Post. I couldn’t hear his movements at all, as he crept ahead of me in the tunnel. I followed behind him, quietly as well, but all I could hear was my own heart quickly beating in the darkness of the tunnel. I stayed behind Iesa, and let him take a decent lead in front of me.
When I was down about midway through the tunnel, I flexed and doused the light from my ribbons. The flickering orange reddish light ahead seemed be firelight. Iesa was near the corner, and I was about three paces behind him when I began to smell the sharp smoke of wood, confirming my suspicions about a fire. But then I caught the hint of…something else.

I closed my eyes and focused on the smell, as they taught us in the Civic Festhall. By shutting off your most powerful sense, you helped the other four to become sharper. It was familiar, but being mixed with the burning wood, identification eluded me. Suddenly the scent become stronger and it was then I recognized it.

Brimstone.

I opened my eyes, and was about to whisper Iesa a warning, when he peered around the corner.
The sudden eruption of heat from the tunnel opening was strong, and I watched as Iesa threw himself back away from the end. And now the very strong scent of brimstone permeated my nostrils.

I bolted back down the tunnel wide eyed and in fear. Coming past the panel, I stopped and braced myself against it and waited. Iesa was quiet, but not that quiet and he burst out from the tunnel. Fumbling in the darkness he searched with his hands for me and the panel, and together we pushed the panel closed.

Click.

We stood there panting a moment, and I watched Iesa put his ear against the door to listen. I resummoned the light and now could see the lack of normal color on his face, the streaks of ash on this face, and the clear scent of brimstone drifted from his clothing.

After a moment he shook his head, and then leaned back against the panel and sighed audibly.

“That…that…was…an…ugly…dog.” He said between breaths.

“Let..me…guess…” I said panting, but recovering, “Gaunt and skeletal…spat fire, and…looked ready to use you…as a meal?”

Iesa nodded with a look of confusion on his face, “How did you?...”

“I caught the smell of Brimstone and then once I saw fire…I made a guess.”

“Good guess.”

“Was it alone?” I asked my breathing back to normal.

Iesa thought a moment, “I saw the room was a square with three cells on the far wall, and the Hell…hound. Only saw one though.”

“Not a nice pet,” I said. “The generally only serve evil beings like Baatezu.”

Iesa looked at me with a mixture of shock and surprise, “Wait…you’ve seen them before?”

I nodded, “Sometimes a Baatezu or a Yugoloth will bring one to Sigil to sell or trade. I’ve heard that they keep many a spiv away from your valuables, if you feed them. So, in the market yes…muzzled of course. But you can’t forget the smell”

Iesa just stared at me, and then after a few moments, “You know, I knew that you were from a far away city from here…but I didn’t realize how far.”

“Well,” I smiled “Just wait till I tell you about the Baatezu and Yugoloths. If you thought that hound was bad, their masters are worse.”

“Wait, are one of them here too?”

“I doubt it. If I had to guess its Vicam’s. Doesn’t raise my opinion of him much, or the Waterbaroness if she knows about it. It’s an evil beast.”

“I’ll label it a ‘character witness’ before they hang us for a comparison.”

“Cute thought, I’ll ask the Red Death to…nevermind. Now what?”

“Well, do you have anything to hurt it?”

I shrug, “I could probably hit it hard enough with my magic. But it is going to take several tries. We might get lucky.”

“What if we bring the others?”

“Much better odds, but It’s going to hurt.”

“I have an idea for that too. But we need Foggle and some meat.”

“Foggle and some mea…Oh! That is our ticket to the job...but I’m personally fine with a different way if needed.”

Iesa looked at me, “Come on. You want out of this deal more than any one of us.”

I looked at Iesa, “That’s true…but it’s your head as well.”

Iesa looked down nodding, “Yes, well…If I’m going to murder someone…I’d rather it be a bit more straightforward. Poison seems…like a cheat.”

I reached out to his face and lifted his chin to look into his sad brown eyes. I could see the torment in his face, as he realized how the multiverse’s plan for him was taking a turn he didn’t want to take. He wanted to be in control of his own destiny, and not shoved towards it.

I smiled sympathetically, “I know…I know what you mean.” And I paused a moment before saying, “Well, let’s get the others and see about putting down this dog. After I clean us up though.”

“Look I took a bath, this ‘Iesa is smelly’ joke is a bit much.”

“It’s not that…you smell like brimstone now…and it stands out,” I said wrinkling my nose.

Iesa knitted his brow and lifted his wrist to his nose and inhaled.

“I smell what you mean.”

-----------

After a bit of clean-up with my powers, we made our way back up the stairs to the kitchen and paused near the top of the stairs to observe. The Gour was still yelling, but the servants were bringing in dishes, and moving less food and drink out at the moment.

“So? Plan?” Iesa said.

I looked at him critically, “You’re a Knight of the Post. Go sneak out and find them. And don’t forget some meat from the table.”

“Right…what’s a?...”

I hit him in the bicep, “A spiv? A Knight of the Cross trade?” and seeing the blank look on his face, “A thief?”

“Oh…sure…right. So, you are staying here? Ok, how do we get back?”

“If you push the right most kitchen door inwards and give me a thumbs up, I’ll make a fuss again, and you can bring in the others.”

Iesa pursed his lips together in a frown. “Yep. That’ll work again.” And with that he pressed himself against the wall, waited for a moment, and slipped out the door.

It was a while before I saw Iesa’s hand in the doorway and looking again I saw the pots and pans had once again been piled in a haphazardly balanced heap. I reached inside to the light within me an shook a bit, and once again tremors hit the kitchen.

“You idjits! I told you to stack ‘em pots proper!” the Gour immediately set off, and I saw the trio bolt towards the stairs. Daneath actually looked somewhat graceful, and the muffling we had put on the chain shirt seemed to be holding up as he didn’t jingle. Iesa was as swift and quiet as ever.

Beepu on the other hand was carrying a large plate, with a large cut of cured meat on it, and a dark scowl on his face. We began our descent again into the darkness.

Once at the bottom, Beepu glared at the three of us, “Now what? And why did I need to bring a ham? Do we have a plan or something? I hate this party.”

“Yes, Iesa has a plan. What took you so long though?” I asked looking at Iesa.

“Beepu was easy to find by the food. Big D took a while.” He said looking at the large man.

Daneath was rubbing his neck, “Yeah I was having a conversation and it took me a while to…extract myself safely. So, what is this about?”

“There is a secret prisoner down here,” I said, “And we need some assistance with the…guard dog.”

“Ok…the meat makes sense now,” as Beepu tore off a hunk and ate it. “But this is not going to be a very long distraction.”

“No, that’s why I’m going to poison it, and then we finish it off.” Iesa said, taking the meat from a surprised Beepu.

“Poison it? Aren’t we using that on the Waterbaroness?” Daneath said looking at the smaller man.

“We aren’t required to, and this prisoner might have a better understanding of what is going on.”

“How did you find out there is a prisoner here?” Daneath pressed.

“Vicam mentioned it,” I said.

“Vicam? Did you talk to him?” Beepu asked.

“Nope. He was talking to Eragon.”

“You mean Arakhan right?” Beepu corrected.

“Whatever. Right, him. We were nearby and overheard.” I said shrugging.

“Well, it is probably worth the poison, but is that not excessive for a guard dog?” Beepu asked as he watched Iesa dump the poison on the ham.

“It’s a big dog.”

“What like a mastiff or something?”

“Sure,” I said. “We just need Foggle to drop off the meat and come back to us, then we can take it out.

“Well…that does sound simple enough I suppose. No need to take on additional risk.”

We moved to the panel, and Iesa drew his sword out again, and Daneath did the same. I took my position to press on the pedal, and Iesa listened again at the door.

“it’s clear…I think,” he said.

With a quick motion, and a puff of white smoke Foggle was resting on Beepu’s arm. Beepu didn’t say a word, and Foogle made a small ‘boop’ sound and took to the air. Iesa handed the meat to the golden owl and at that moment I pushed the pedal. Between Daneath and Iesa they quickly opened it wide enough for the owl to fly through, and they both pushed the door shut.

For a moment or two, Beepu just stood and tapped his foot. Then suddenly he straightened up and waved his hand with some irritation and looked at Iesa and I.

“Wait a minute…Foggle said something about fire and Sulphur?”

Iesa frowned, “Must have found a trap?”

“In the air?”

“Well, once we get past the dog, I’ll look for it.”

“Let’s give it a minute to eat,” I said. “Then charge in and kill it.”

“Will that be necessary?” Daneath asked.

“Yes,” both Iesa and I replied.

“Big dog then…” Daneath muttered.

Iesa placed his ear against the stone, and after a moment he smiled.

“It’s wretching, we should go now.”

I pushed the pedal again, and Daneath and Iesa opened the door and started to move inside.

“Beepu,” I said, “Don’t use fire by the way.”

“What? Why?"

“Trust me,” and I bolted inside.

Daneath was in front, followed by Iesa, myself and then Beepu. We ran down the length, and soon Daneath rounded the corner with his sword ready to charge the dog, when I heard him exclaim.

“What THE HELL?!?”

“Close enough,” I said, Iesa already had pulled around the corner and I heard the whistling of blades in the air. Finally, when I stopped at the corner I poked my head around to finally see what I had been smelling.
The hell hound was already bleeding from a pair of gashes in it. Its mouth was dripping foam, and I could smell rancid bile in the air, mixed with the already heavy smell of brimstone. Its coat was coarse and the color of coal. But underneath it, along the ribs was the warm red color of flame and heat. The eyes of the fiend were smoldering cinders and grey dirty smoke came from its mouth of blackened ivory teeth.

Daneath had his blade in front of him, warily looking at the beast, while Iesa was positioned behind it. The hell hound was very aware the pair were trying to flank it, and it was twisting its head to look at each of them in turn, trying not to let either take advantage of it.

I looked and summoned a bolt of purple eldritch energy and flung it at the hell hound, striking the fiend in its ribs. It turned to glare at me, when Beepu rounded the corner, and what was once a confused face turned into one of surprise. He quickly made a motion with his hand and a beam of white energy sprang from his fingers striking it on its flank. Beepu then ran behind the corner and me. He turned to look at me crossly and shouted at me.

“That…is NOT a mastiff,”

“My mistake!” I yelled in return.

Daneath swung and the hound snapped at his hand causing him to miss his mark. Daneath moved back into a
defensive stance waiting for the dog to charge.

The hound had other ideas as it turned suddenly, and I could see the red glow from its ribs turn from a bright red, to an orange and then to yellow. It then breathed a gout of yellow flames towards Iesa, and spreading wide and hitting the wall behind Iesa.

The flames licked up the wall, but fortunately, Iesa had side stepped the majority of the flame and stabbed at the hound with his sword. With a sickening sound of bone being crushed and the sound of the metal hitting something soft and wet the hound yelped in anger.

I stepped around the corner and again threw a bolt of energy at it, and it turned to face me. Just as it did, Beepu also stepped around the corner and threw another frosty beam at it, hitting squarely between the eyes.
The hound staggered a moment, confused. At the last moment it turned to focus on Daneath when his sword came down, nearly severing the head from the body of the fiend. The beast collapsed on the stone below it, and smoke and embers erupted from holes in the chest cavity. Soon the entire creature was covered in flames, adding the smell of burnt hair to the already awful odors floating in the air.

I stepped around the corner and moved to Iesa. His clothing was sooty and had scorch marks on his thigh of his pants. A large hole there exposed his thigh, which already was crusted with blackened burns. He grimaced and leaned against a wall, panting heavily.

Reaching him, I reached inside for some light and poured out energy on the wound. Quickly, the blackened skin sloughed away to new healed skin, and even the red burn marks faded to nothing. Then I focused on this clothing, repairing them so no tear or mark of flame was visible at all.

“What…the…Hell…was that?” Daneath pointed his sword at the smoking pile of fur and ash.

“A Hell Hound,” I said still using my spells to repair Iesa’s breeches. “Are you hurt?”

“A Hell ho…er um. No.” Daneath stopped interrogating me and looked himself over suddenly.

“Well, that’s good. Glad we poisoned it though. Could have gone worse.” I said mildly, and I could hear Iesa stifling a laugh.

“Couldn’t you have told us a bit more, before we rushed in?”

“Honestly, I hoped the poison would kill it outright. Since it didn’t, I’m glad we didn’t use it as intended. It might not have worked.” I said.

“Now that is an interesting point. We did assume it was strong enough to work. We never really looked into that. Beepu said. “Perhaps we were never meant to succeed. Only to fail and be caught.

“Perish the thought,” Iesa said looking down at what was now an uninjured leg and unburned cloth. “That feels much better, thanks.”

“A Hell hound? Like from Hell?” Beepu asked looking over the corpse with interest.

“Some are. They can be found across the lower planes, but they are most common in Baator and Acheron I’ve heard. They follow orders if you are strong enough and can feed them.”

“But what is it doing here?” Beepu asked still looking at the remains.

“Well…I’m going to guess that Vicam summoned it, or he has a powerful friend somewhere. Either way, he isn’t to be trifled with, and giving him the laugh is going to be a problem.

“The what?” Iesa asked.

“Escaping with our lives,” I said. I’m not sure who scares me more now, him or the Star.

“Well? What now?” Beepu asked.

“The cell doors; it’s why we are here.” Daneath said, gesturing behind him.

“I’ll look,” I said, and I then took a moment to examine the room. On one wall farther from the tunnel, were lit oil lamps that hung from the ceiling. A simple stone table was present as was a older worn, but comfortable chair, as well as a simple rough wooden stool in front of it, while two fire pits flanked the table on either side, each with a set of logs burning within. There were three cell doors on the walls, each with a sliding panel at the top, and a hinged flap bolted shut, at the bottom of the door, probably for trays or other objects.

Stepping to the first one, I slid open the panel. While dark, my eyes saw only straw and a stone floor with a hole in a corner. It otherwise was empty.

I moved to the second one, and again opened the little panel. Inside was about the same as the first, with only a bucket tilted over on its side in the middle of the floor.

I finally approached the last door and slid open its panel. The same hole, the same straw. But this one had an occupant; Inside, lying on the pile of straw I could see a figure. I could hear an audible groan and could see it shift to cover its face, from the glare of the oil lamps behind me. The figure was clad in a simple white shift and it moved, trying to stand up.

“Hello?” I said, watching the figure

“You’re…not…Vicam...Who?...” came a thin hoarse voice. The figure had stood, and was slender and appeared to be slightly taller than I.

“Tell me who you are, and we can see about getting you out of there.”

“Out…out!” the figure straightened up and while trying to walk with a semblance of dignity, stumbled to the door. Now at eye level I could see that the person had a shock of long grey and white hair. Looking at me was the face of a haggard and tired woman, with thin pale lips. Her skin was once tan, but it too had lightened in the darkness. The face was deeply lined, looking about seven decades old. I then noticed her eyes, a deep brown with crow’s feet, but her elegant face once had great beauty, and now held the visage of hope and terror, not arrogance. It was like and so unlike the one I saw earlier, so I was not surprised when she spoke:

“I am the Waterbaroness, Nestra Ruthiol, the rightful elected leader of Yartar. Release me, so I can put Vicams’s head on a pike!”

Session Notes:
So, from a player perspective, Iesa had the feat “Lucky” and he used it quite a bit, the curtain was one of many places.

These are the moments that the DM commented, “You know, I have never seen that many cantrips used in one place before,” and we aren’t done yet.

The Hell Hound was…a challenge. It is a CR 3 monster, and we are all level two. So, it was a borderline deadly encounter. If we hadn’t of won initiative, sneak attacked and the dm rolled low for damage, we would have been flame broiled paste on the ground.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
We’re Altering the Deal… - 2/13/2019

We’re Altering the Deal…​

Some deals are built from desire. Some are built in desperation. But many deals are products of their time and circumstance. So, change enough events around the deal, the deal is going to change.
You just better hope that the exchange is acceptable to everyone, otherwise you will have to pay the bellman at the end.

And that price can be quite steep.

The demand wasn’t loud, but the silence afterwards was telling. I turned to look at my adams. The look of confusion, consternation, and in the case of Beepu, outright annoyance would have been funny in almost any other circumstance. Annoyance spoke first though.

“What? This was not part of the deal!”

“Clearly not, but they couldn’t have known this. If they did, they would have been a bit clearer,” Daneath said.
“What are you babbling about? Just let me out!” Nestra demanded, but the edge in her voice wasn’t there. It was closer to desperation.

I raised my hand up to quiet the others and turned to the prisoner. “I’m sorry, but I need to ask you did you have a…bargain with the Crimson Star?”

The Waterbaroness closed her mouth and took a half step back in surprise. Her eyes blinking, she was slow and faltering in replying.

“What? Why would I…I don’t need to discuss…that is not of your concern!”

I grimaced and continued, “Well, it is a bit. You see it seems Vicam has well…replaced you?” at which her eyes narrowed like daggers. Watching her I kept going, “And so we aren’t clear if your replacement turned stag on your deal, or on a deal they made. All I can say is that the Crimson Star is a bit…upset at the whole thing.”

“Replacement? Vicam can’t replace me, only the ruling families can at a moot.”

“Well…your replacement looks…like you. In fact, she’s partying upstairs in your house, while Vicam pulls her strings.” I replied, while I was guessing the nature of the relationship between the fake Waterbaroness and Vicam, I was pretty sure I was on the mark.

“What?!? That…that…thieving, bottom feeding, low life scum. How dare he!”

“Well, he dared. So, did Vicam not like the Crimson Star?”

“He was ‘advising’ me that they were a threat, the same way the Hands of Yartar are. He is ignorant on how this town works.”

I turned to look at the others and gave a small shrug. I personally believed her; and to my mind that meant the Crimson Star had the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

Iesa spoke next, “Yeah, the Star doesn’t know the truth. They just wanted to force a moot.”

Beepu’s eyes grew wide, “Of course, Vicam must have expanded his power base with the families; all he needs is time. Eventually he could amass enough power and wealth to be named the ruler…”

“…Unless the moot was convened too early, and the Crimson Star sways the vote with their own candidate,” Daneath finished the thought. “But that might be a risky gamble.”

“Unless their backs are against the wall,” I said. Turning back to Nestra “Sorry, you might have missed a bit down here. But you had a cozy deal with the Crimson Star…whatever it was, right?”

Nestra may have been fatigued, but her mind was still sharp, “You could say that. It also explains the questions that Vicam was asking. Well…he’ll pay for this. I will thank the Crimson Star for sending you to get me out then.” She said with a smirk on her face.

“Not quite,” I said with a touch of remorse in my voice, “They did send us. But they sent us to…well…kill you.”

The look on her face was at first shock and then fear. She started backing away from the door of the cell, shaking her head. I could barely see in the light, tears forming in her eyes as she started to mouth the word “No” over and over.

I didn’t really enjoy this. Honestly, I wanted to see her reaction to help me understand what I should do next. It hurt me to see the fear in her eyes, knowing that our little band might be the end of her. But I also wanted to live out my days, and get out of this bargain I felt ensnared in.

I turned to look at the trio, “I think we get her out here, and redo our deal.”

“What, break it? Vicam controls the city forces, the Star the underside.” Daneath said. “How are we going to live to sunrise to pull this off…assuming the Star lets us?”

“They forced this on us because they were desperate, and we were convenient.” I said “And besides, Vicam’s sparkling personality probably haven’t won many over to his side. We can do this…I’m not sure how…yet…” and I turned back to Nestra.

She had backed herself to the far wall and was watching me warily. “Look,” I said trying to sound reassuring, “The Star did send us, but I honestly think they have no idea you are a prisoner. But I can tell you that if we did kill your impostor, Vicam would likely kill you anyway and force a moot. But I have a better idea, for both of us.”

Nestra’s eyes narrowed again at us, “What do you want?”

“I want you to help us with our debt to the Crimson Star. We’ll help you get out of here alive in exchange.”
Nestra’s eyebrows scrunched a bit in thought, clearly considering her options. “Well, if you can do it I will see what I can do with that.”

“That’s all I can ask; do we have a deal?” and I reached through the panel with my arm. I couldn’t see her with my arm through the panel, but I felt her cold shivering hand grasp mine. She clung onto it in what imagined was desperate hope.

After a moment of shaking, I withdrew it and looked at Iesa, “Get her out. Hopefully she can help with some questions.”

“I hope you know what you are doing Myrai,” Beepu said. “I do not like these political entanglements at all. There is no telling if anyone is going to keep their deal.”

Iesa had pulled the pick from his hair and began to work on the lock on the cell door. “I don’t,” I said honestly, “But I didn’t like the original deal and the deal maker less.”

The lock made a click, and Iesa opened the cell door, and Nesta stepped out. She was dressed in a dirty silk underdress, and she looked at us in turn.

“So…it is a Hate Night then?” as she waved her hand at our small band.

“Not at all,” Iesa smiled, “We only do rescues in the finest wear, lest others think we were common adventurers.”
Nestra was non-plussed and the arched eyebrow said everything needed.

“Well, first off we need to get out of the Manor…on a Hate Night. The second is we need allies in town.”
Nestra waved her hand, “I’m sure my captain Veladric can get everything under control without having to leave my house.”

“Veladric?” Daneath said, “I thought Eragon was the captain?”

“Arakhan,” corrected Iesa absently, “See Myrai, you have him doing it now.”

I shrugged and looked at Nestra, “I’m making a guess, that your captain has been replaced. Unless Veladric is a large hulking lizard- “

“—dragonborn,” corrected Beepu. Nestra in the meantime sighed in frustration and her eyes furrowed in thought.

“--Whatever,” I said “Anyone else that you might trust? In the manor…outside the manor?”

“Well, other than the head of staff, Marta, no. She’s always managed the servants and I was never close to any of the others.”

“Who is Marta?” Beepu asked.

“Oh, she manages the kitchen mostly---”

“Loud dwarf that shouts a lot?” Beepu pressed.

“Yes! That’s her. Keeps the others in line.”

“She’s a dwarf?” I asked.

“Of course, she is.” Beepu said. What did you think she was?”

I shrugged, “Thought she was a large gnome honestly.”

“No no no…Gnomish women are more attractive and do not need to yell.” Beepu replied,

“Noted. Nestra, anyone else in the manor? That dark elf woman—”

She shook her head, “I don’t know who that might be.”

“Zoe—

“Zoe Arcincella? She’s a lush as best and a ‘fair weather friend’ at worst.” She said shaking her head.

“How about Leo---” I was about say Leodras, the hunter when I saw Daneath shaking his head quickly and mouthing “No.” That was a surprise but I didn’t push.

“…never mind. How about outside the manor in the city?”

She thought a moment. “Well I would normally say the Crimson Star, but I don’t think I want to run directly to them without some support. The Iron Blades are loyal to the city…I admit to not having the strongest relationship, but they do keep their oaths.

“Wait,” interrupted Beepu “Are these the same group led by Arryn Quinte?”

I looked at Beepu surprised as Nestra answered, “Yes!…is he here? He normally has a standing invitation.”

“Indeed! I was talking to him earlier upstairs. I doubt he has left after all.”

“He would support me I am certain. I just need to talk to him.”

“That only leaves the small problem of getting out of the manor,” Iesa said.

“Well…I might have an option for that…if I can get to my office and bedroom upstairs,” Nestra said.

“Oh?” Daneath asked, his interest piqued. “What did you have in mind?”

“There is an escape route for the manor that goes far below. I have never used it, but the entrance is upstairs.”
We look at each other a moment and we all start nodding our heads in agreement. I am sure I wasn’t alone in my thought:

This could work.

“Alright. Here’s what we should do. We talk to Marta, have her get Arryn down into the kitchen and talk to him, get his support, and then we split and get upstairs to the upper gallery, sneak into her sitting room and use that exit.”

“How are we going to do that?!? Everyone knows the Waterbaroness!” Daneath exclaimed.

“It’s the Hate Night. We clean Nestra up, and we ‘borrow a mask’ Who’s going to know?

“Vicam? Erago….argh Arakhan maybe?”

“The servants can tell us where they are, so we can make our move upstairs when the time is right.”
Iesa was quiet and he started nodding. “It would work. No one pays attention to the ‘help’”

“But she’s a mess…no offense meant.” Daneath pointed at Nestra.

“Not for long,” I said. “All she needs a little fabric and maybe a belt. And a little cleaning,”

Daneath frowned, considering his options. Finally, he looked at us. “Alright, let’s do it.”
I closed my eyes a moment and centered myself. This was going to take a little bit of time. “Nestra, go ahead and take a seat there,” pointing to the larger, more comfortable chair. “This won’t take too long.”
She moved to the chair and then slumped down in it, clearly exhausted. I opened my eyes and started to channel energy onto the Waterbaroness.

I first focused on the soiled dress, pulling away dirt, grime and filth that had accumulated on her during her stay. What once was a dirty shift, was revealed to be a fine silken dress that one would wear in the evenings in private.
I smiled; this wasn’t going to be too hard. I altered my incantations and I could see her eyes widen, as the rents and small tears in the dress weaved themselves shut. She was smiling slightly in approval and nodded. I then focused on her, pulling the dirt smudges that were across her face and arms. Then, I started pulling away oils and filth from her hair. She seemed younger now, less haggard and much closer to the noble self that I saw upstairs in her double.

Smiling I turned to Iesa, “Bring your sword over here and hold it out.”

He didn’t question and did what I asked. I started to work on the ribbons that were woven through the eyelets of my dress on the forearms. I tied one loose end at the bottom loop and pulled the slack all the way through and re-wove it so all the extra ribbon was running out on one end. I then cut it on the sword giving me a yard-long ribbon, and then repeated the same with my other arm, and cut that length in half.

I moved behind Nestra with the longer length and began to weave the black ribbon into her hair, building it up into a long pony tail, and letting fall loosely behind her with the black ribbon standing out as part of a hair weaving.
I then took the other two pieces and wound them around her own forearms and tying them off so there wasn’t any ribbon dangling. Now it appeared to be more a finished formal dress.

Nestra was nodding seeing what I was doing and waited.

“Iesa, I need to cut the lower half of my underdress off away from the top. And cut some material out so I can use it to tie to Nestra.” And I raised the black material up revealing the crinoline hoops.

“Um…Ok…you sure?” Iesa asked with a doubtful look.

“Yes, I am…but watch your hands. I will melt your mind if I have to.”

Iesa smirked and started to cut the crinoline apart, and while I did feel his cold hands on my thighs as he worked splitting it apart, he was polite about it. He then handed me the remains, and I dropped my dress down again. It dragged a bit, as it had lost some of its volume, but I bet no one was going to notice.

I took Iesa sword briefly and took it to the remains of the crinoline hoops, and I used it to split the wooden hoops apart. Then I pulled them together and bound them, so I reduced the diameter of each hoop, so they would be about the same size of the upper hoops in mine. Then I handed the weapon back to Iesa.

I motioned for Nestra to stand up and motioned for the men to turn around. I knelt down in front of her and lifted up her silken dress. Then using some spare cloth from my crinoline, I hung the hoops from her waistline, and then dropped the silken dress down upon them. Then, I stood up to look at my work.

It wasn’t a formal gown if you looked it at for long. But it looked like a party dress that would pass casual inspection. All I needed was a belt.

“That’s…impressive Myrai.” Daneath said. “I bet with a mask, no one will know.”

“That’s the idea. I guess I learned something at the tailors. But it won’t hold up long; the material isn’t that strong.”

“Wonderful. Now get me out of here!” Nestra said, clearly ready to get out of her prison.

Before we returned to the cellar, I use my powers to clean the rest of us, so it didn’t look like we had left a dog fight. I lit up Daneath’s sword with some light, so we could see the way out. I could Nestra gasp a moment, but she didn’t ask questions, for which I was perfectly happy with. We made our way back out the tunnel to the stairs. Along the way I channeled some more power to give a more…perfumed scent to Nestra. I was fairly sure she didn’t smell like dirty, filthy straw anymore. But I wanted to be sure.

Once at the stairs, I canceled the power on the sword, and Daneath and Iesa again concealed their weapons and we crept up the stairs to the upper landing.

“Ok Beepu, go get Marta.” Daneath said.

“What? Why me?”

“Because if I go, she might feel threatened and call a guard. Same with Iesa, plus the smell—”

“Hey now, I don’t---”

“-- And Myrai is probably on her bad side from the last time she talked to her.”

Beepu’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times. He then rolled his eyes, straightened himself up, and marched up the stairs to the kitchen. I was down with Nestra below the line of sight to the kitchen with Iesa and Daneath in front of me. So I could only hear what happened next.

“Madam Marta, I need your assistance come with me!”

“Whot da? Ye aren’t supposed to be in ‘ere.” I could hear the Gour, Marta say. “I don answer to ye, so get out of my kit’chen!”

“I do not have time to explain, so come with me!”

“I’m not goin anywhe…Hey! Watcha you tryin to do?”

I could here the sound of Beepu straining and then the sound of a frantic ‘whumping’ sound. At that point I crept up, and Nestra followed behind me.

When I reached the landing, I saw Beepu was valiantly trying to lift and move Marta. Marta however was standing as a solid pillar of stone with the darkest look on her face. She was hitting Beepu on the back with a wooden spoon over and over.

Whump, whump, whump.


“Let go of me, ye drunkin gnome.”

“You…must…follow…me!” Beepu stammered and continued to strain to move her.

I really wanted to laugh. At Beepu mostly, but it was even funnier that the rest of the cooking staff didn’t even turn their heads or help. They were trying to ignore the situation as if everything was perfectly normal.

Nestra then clapped her hands together twice and Marta’s head shot up ignoring Beepu and looked towards the cellar stairs. Nestra said nothing and waved her over frantically while putting a finger to her lips. Marta blinked incredulously and then started moving to the stairs, dragging Beepu with her. Once she reached the stairs she saw the rest of us. I simply waved and let Nestra do the talking.

“Whot are ye doing with these trouble—” the Gour started.

“Nevermind that. I have been a prisoner in my own wine cellar because of Vicam!” Nestra hissed. At this Marta’s eyes grew wide.

“Whot? That’s not you orderin the wine upstairs?”

“No!”

“Makes sense now. I dina think you would use all the pricy stuff first.”

“What?!? That inconsider…” Nestra started and then stopped herself. “Listen, do what these folks ask, so they can get me out of here.”

Marta closed her mouth and then looked at each of us, and then settled her gaze on Daneath.

“Alrigh…whot needs doin?”

Daneath looked at her, “Look we need couple of things done. We need you to get Arryn Quinte down here to talk to us.”

“And we need a mask and a women’s belt or cinch.” I said quietly.

“Yeah, those things too.” Daneath said. “We also need to know where the other Waterbaroness is right now. Can you help us out?”

Marta didn’t even blink; she nodded and after shaking Beepu loose she strode into the kitchen and grabbed a pair of servants. They nodded, and bounded out of the kitchen, one towards the servant’s quarters and the other through a door on the far side of the kitchen that I hadn’t noticed before.

The servant who went to the quarters returned first with a black quilted cinch, and a simple domino mask and gave them to Marta. She then came over to us and handed them to me, and I started fastening both to Nestra.

“There,” I whispered. “A guest at your own party.”

“Are you certain they won’t recognize me?”

“Well, your hair isn’t the same as your impostor now, the mask makes it hard to tell you are…you. So just don’t talk to anyone that might recognize your voice.”

Nestra grimly nodded, and Marta returned, this time with a man I had only saw briefly talking to Beepu. He was tall and was powerfully built. Blue eyed, his hair around his head was a solid grey but his face was clean shaven. Surprisingly he was armored, and upon the breastplate was the face of a dragon looking forward, wearing an gorget. His face had a confused look on his face as he approached our band crouched on the stairs.

“Now what in…wait I was talking to you earlier about shoes,” as he pointed at Beepu. “What’s going on here?”

“Arryn…it’s me! Nestra!”

Arryn stepped down two steps to look at Nestra, “Wait a minute…what’s going on here? I was trying to talk to you upstairs, but you brushed me off, your excellency.”

“That’s not me; I have better manners.”

“What do…you…wait a moment. Vicam! It must be! What did he do?”

“He’s trying to take over, and I need to get out of here. Can you give me sanctuary in your compound?”

“Of course, but I apologize for this your excellency, but how do I know…you are you?

“Because I will have the proper evidence with me when I show up! Otherwise, you don’t have to do anything, Arryn.”

“Alright. You get to the compound with your proof, I’ll help. I won’t breathe a word in the meantime.”

“Arryn,” I chimed in, “Do you know where Vicam is now?”

“Yes, he was in the library down stairs with her…er the other Nestra, talking with some upper houses.”

I looked at the others, “We should go now.”

Daneath nodded, “Probably is best. Iesa and you go first, Beepu and I will follow with Nestra.”

“Ok, see you upstairs.”

Iesa and I moved to the top of the stairs and made our way to the double doors that led to the great hall. Iesa then spoke,

“Take the other door there. Let’s find out if the other areas are clear as we go. If Nestra, has moved, go back and warn the others.”

“Where does that door go to?”

“I think it’s the conservatory on this floor, it’s the other entrance on the Foyer.”

“Fine. See you upstairs.”

Iesa slipped between the double doors and I walked across the kitchen to the other door. Taking a deep breath, I slowly opened the door a crack and once I saw that the people within were occupied, I entered.

The conservatory was paneled in dark red wood inlays. The large windows to the outside were of course full of mist and fog, so the light was all from some lit candles mounted on floor standing candelabras. There were some divans and salon seat in the room, and an unoccupied desk shaped object with white and black keys in one corner of the room.

No one had noticed me and was starting to make my way to the Foyer when I saw her.

The dark elf was leaving a door from the far side of the foyer. Her hands rested on the pommels of her weapons and she was looking around with a sour look on her face. It was clear that she was heading to the Conservatory in a manner that was brisk and purposeful.

I gulped behind my mask, took a breath and walked right toward the door. I walked as casually as I could and stared straight ahead. Trying not to turn my head to follow her; trying to look like just another patron at a party and not focusing on her.

I entered the Foyer, and she continued to move in my direction. Soon we were within a couple feet of each other. While I was focusing on keeping my head staring straight ahead, my eyes turned to watch her as best I could. We passed within a foot of each other, and I could see her head start to turn to look at me, or at least my mask. My heart was pounding, and I could feel sweat trickling down my back. Everything within me was screaming for me to break into a run.

“She’s found me. I’m going to bite the iron right here. Sodding…”

Her eyes narrowed, and her mouth opened slightly and was about to say something, when she closed it and turned her gaze towards the Conservatory that I had just left. I continued my pace, my heart still pounding, and I took one of the graceful stairs to the upper gallery.

As I made my way up, I saw Iesa was on the landing, already ahead of me. I could see his smile and he offered his hand to me and pulled me to him, so we could again link arms. But as I grasped him, I could feel that his hands were cold and clammy with a trace of the shakes. Looking at him carefully, I saw that he was tilting his head to his right ever so slightly. I took his arm and pivoted so I could see what was concerning him, without turning my head.

On the landing, in the middle of everything was Captain Arakhan. He was surveying the landing, his eyes narrowed. He was clearly looking for something, but it wasn’t clear what.

I pulled Iesa over towards the landing that overlooked both stairs coming up from the Foyer, and at the bottom, Daneath, Beepu and Nestra were making their way up the stairs. I had only moments before they reached the landing itself, where Arakhan could see them.

I looked around desperately, and then I saw something that gave me hope. Across from me, to Arakhan’s right was a doorway to a small room where there were some guests lingering, and on the wall was a lit torch in a sconce. That gave me an idea.

“Iesa, stand in front of me, and look at me,” I whispered.

He did so, looking straight at me as if we were husband and wife about to embrace. His smile beneath the mask exposed his teeth, which he kept clenched tight.

“They’re almost here! I hope you know what you are doing…”

I barely heard him as I focused on that torch and quickly worked that ball of light within me. I was whispering quietly syllables of power and then I released it.

The torch within the room, blazed brighter; what was once a warm orange was now far brighter. Continuing to whisper, I focused on the light within me and then twisted it and channeled my energy towards the torch, just as Daneath and Beepu made it to top of the landing.

Within the room there was a loud murmur and then a woman’s voice said, ‘Oh MY!’

The torch was now a vivid purple, and the onlookers were all pointing towards it. But the sound of the woman’s voice, caused Arakhan to turn his head towards the room. When he saw the torch turn purple his mouth opened and he spoke,

“What issss thisss?” and he turned and quickly moved to the room. The entire gallery was fascinated with either the light or watching the hulking dragonborn move towards it. But as he did so, the five of us moved to the double doors that lead to Nestra’s sitting room. Iesa deftly opened the door and ushered us all in. As he was closing the door, we could hear the Captain bellow:

“Who is doing that!?!”

Iesa was locking the door and looked at the rest of us. “We aren’t going to have a lot of time!”
“This won’t take long.” Nestra said. She moved to the desk and grabbed several seals on top of it. Then after opening a drawer, she started pulling sheafs of parchment, looking for key documents.

“Where’s the exit Nestra?” I asked.

“The door to my left, towards my room.”

I motioned the others to the door. By now Iesa and Daneath had drawn their swords, and Beepu had summoned Foggle from…wherever he was placed earlier. Iesa quickly picked the lock and the three of them went inside.
I looked around and saw discarded on a bench, a satchel. I moved and grabbed it and then stood next to Nestra and opened it. Without a word she dropped seals, parchment and several other objects into it. She then looked at me; “Follow me, the rest of what I need are in the bedroom.”

Quickly we moved to the room the others had went. Once within, Iesa closed the door, and picked the lock again, but this time ensuring it was now once again locked. Nestra ignored everyone and strode into the adjoining bedroom.

Daneath moved over to a shield that hung on a nearby wall. He took it down and fastened on his left arm. Once I saw him grab the shield, I stopped following Nestra and reached within. The familiar warmth spread through my back and Daneath’s shield now glowed with a warm orange light. Then I turned to the wall and used another incantation to wipe away the dusty outline of a missing kite shield from the wall.

Beepu looked at me and said, “I saw what you did. Not sure how, but it was risky.”

“I know, but I needed to get Eragon to look anywhere else.”

“Arakhan.”

“Yeah, yeah right. I’ll focus on getting it right when I’m not running from the manor.”

Nestra returned, the satchel now full and a key in her hand. She moved towards a window where a sconce with an unlit torch was attached to the wall. She twisted the sconce, and revealed a keyhole, which she then inserted the key and twisted. There was a loud click, and a panel popped open from the wall, which Iesa started pulling open while Daneath shined the shield into the darkness beyond.

“Does anyone else know of this door or key?” I asked.

“No. It’s passed as part of documents for the next ruler. I had to break the seal on them to get the key out. No one else knows.”

Iesa had finished opening the panel and the light uncovered a small closet, with a narrow spiral staircase descending. Wisps of cobwebs hung from the ceiling and the dust was thick on the stairs.

Without a word, Daneath was the first on the stairs, followed by Nestra and Iesa. Just as they did so, I could hear the doors to the sitting room unlatch and open.

Beepu and I looked at each other, and he quickly dove inside the closet with me behind. I turned and seeing that there were a pair of handles on the panel, and I started to pull on them, As I did so, I heard a key in the lock to the room.

“Here we go.” I said to myself, and the door closed with a satisfying click. Beepu had already descended. I pulled my dress and the remains of my crinoline together and started my descent into the darkness.

Session Notes:
So yes…we had a bit of cat and mouse during this session. It’s only after reading the notes that I realized there was a third advisor to the “false” Nestra. But since he never figured in any major way in the story, I’m not going to fix it.

Now, there is a lot to do with Nestra’s dress to make it pretty, which was handled as a skill check. Now, technically crinoline didn’t exist until the 18th century. But no one said they don’t exist in the Forgotten Realms. I did have to draw on some of my personal knowledge of sewing on how this ACTUALLY might of happened, versus the abstract. Luckily, it only had to last from the kitchen to the secret exit.

Beepu did try to wrestle the cook and of course it went as badly as could be expected.

And yes, more cantrip Olympics. This is the exact point where I realized I wanted more utility cantrips. And I have been frustrated with other characters because of lack of options at times.

And yeah. The Eragon joke continued…with the DM saying it once or twice as well to his chagrin.

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Descent - 2/28/2019

Descent
Sigil like most many cities is layered. Tenements in the Hive are built on top of tenements of the past. Go down deep enough and you can find forgotten places. In the Hive, many a kip expand downwards finding remains of rooms, or just piles of broken things.

But every so often, you uncover something you just rather throw back.​


I made my way down the narrow stone spiral stairs, with one hand on the wall and the other holding up my dress so I didn’t trip. The dust was thick now in the air, after the others had made their way down ahead of me. The cobwebs, also broken apart were thick at first, but as the descent continued thinned out to only occasional wisps on the ceiling. While I could see in the darkness alright, there truthfully wasn’t much to see. But the sound of us shuffling down, scraping shoes and boots on the old, worn stone seemed incredibly loud. At one point, I stopped on a step and waited and listened. Soon, silence enveloped me except for the faintest noises from below. But nothing from behind and above me.
I took a deep breath and descended deeper into the rock. As I continued downwards, I noticed that the walls were now damp instead of dry. And while I was exerting myself somewhat going down the stairs, I noticed the air was becoming warmer. I could now taste and smell wet dust in the air.

Finally, I saw the glow from Daneath’s shield shining up from below and I continued downwards. As I approached I could hear tired breathing, and finally reached the end of the stairs. They ended in a small chamber, partially finished. The floors were smooth flagstone, covered in dust. On a wall was a large iron bound door, with rust streaking down the wood. On one side of the chamber was a large pool of water.

The shield was leaning next to the door, shining its light towards the pool and the stair’s exit. The others were sitting on the floor, winded but their breathing slowing. Beepu was nearest the stairs, and looked at me, and held out his hand. In it was a small linen bag. I reached out and took and opened it. Inside was some meat and cheese.
It was then I realized that I felt that I was starving, having had nothing at all at the party. I started to eat and somewhere in the middle, remembered my manners.

“Thanks Beepu,” I said with my cheeks still full. I swallowed and continued, “When did you have time to grab food?”

“Marta actually,” Beepu said. “She was sure Nestra needed something.” And his head jerked to one side to where Nestra sat. She was tearing into a chunk of meat taken from her own cloth.

“Smart,” I said and found an open wall to lean against and sat down and closed my eyes. I was tired and sitting down sounded like the best thing to do at the moment. I leaned my head back again the cool damp rock. It felt wonderful, compared to how hot I felt.

“So, you fell behind…anything?” Iesa asked.

“No. I stopped a while to listen. I heard nothing above.” I said.

He nodded and said nothing more.

I had finished my small meal. We sat quietly, each lost in our own thoughts, with only the sounds of our breathing and the occasional drop of water hitting the pool nearby.
Sighing, I leaned forward and started to unpin the mask and the wig from my head. After a couple of moments both are pulled away from my head and face and I shook my hair free and scratched my scalp with my fingers. I again leaned my head back against the wall with my eyes closed and breathed in the damp air.

I could hear the whispers from Nestra, who was seated next to Beepu. “What is she?” and then Beepu explaining that I was an Aasimar. In my minds eye I could imagine her stares. I knew there were whispers; ‘The Lusty Bard’, ‘Fortune’s Wheel’, ‘Bottle and Jug,’…the streets, the Civic Festhall. It didn’t matter where, there were always whispers. But here on this plane it was…different. I was exotic and interesting. In Sigil, I was different but so was everyone. I was a momentary distraction. Here, I couldn’t be ignored in a room full of people. I stood out, a blazing light in the darkness. Almost like I had cast my light above my head to say “Look here!” But right now, I could hear the whispers from Nestra. Incredulity and apprehension. The notes in her voice evaluating me, wondering if my heritage influenced my thinking or beliefs. Beepu, only told her the basics; I was what Sigilites say “Out of Town.” It really was all he could; as I think he realized he really didn’t know me well. We were simply adams in a bad situation, making the best of it.

“But does she realize how different she looks?” I could hear Nestra say.

“Did you realize I can hear you?” I said without so much opening my eyes. She was suddenly quiet, probably embarrassed to be caught gossiping with the gnome. I then pulled myself up and grimaced and moved towards the pool of dark water.

I knelt beside it and dipped my hand into the pool, pulling up a small amount of water. It had no discernible odor and I tasted it; it had a slight metallic taste, but otherwise was what it appeared to be. I cupped my hands and drank my fill, when I heard a noise from the far side of the pool.

I looked up and saw only the glassy surface of the water. Waiting I watched and listened again. But I heard only silence. Frowning to myself, I blamed it on my fear of being pursued. I stood and turned to face the others, when I heard it again. The sound of a something breaking the surface of the pool. I quickly turned to look.

And once again, I saw nothing but the rippling surface of the pool. But on the air was the faintest odor of something foul, but it faded quickly. I was beginning to think that the silence and the darkness were playing tricks with my mind. So, I turned to face the others and while they were beginning to stir and stretch, none of them seemed concerned.

“So…what’s beyond the door?” I asked.

Nestra was standing and turned to look at it and frowned, “All the letters about the key mentioned that below was a passage through the caverns. But nothing talked about any detail; not any door and certainly not what was beyond.”

Daneath was restrapping the shield on to his arm, looking quite incongruous with the dress coat. “Well, we should be ready. Caverns and unused passages tend to collect unwanted inhabitants.”

Iesa looked at him, “You’re making that up!”

“No, I’m not. I always heard that caves were great homes to monsters and the like.”

“He is right,” Beepu commented “Caves are safe places for many creatures, intelligent or not. We should be careful.”

I was pulling up my dress and tying it to itself, so it wouldn’t trip me up on future stairs or rough floors. “Well then…” and I gestured to the door. Nestra moved towards it and pulled the key from the satchel she carried. The key fit, and at first, she struggled to turn it. Iesa had moved forward to help, but she waved him off saying “I can do this,” in a tone that left little doubt she demanded no assistance. After a moment, the key turned and the sound of rough rusty metal on metal sounded as the bolt turned in the lock.

Nestra did back off and motioned to Daneath, like she would any servant. She was trying to take charge as she normally was accustomed to, and it showed on her face. She had the rigid expression of someone trying to be in charge but hiding it poorly. But Daneath didn’t even react and pulled on the great ring on one side of the door. After a moment, it shifted free. A little rust, and a lot of dust shook free, as the door opened; its hinges grinding upon each other as the door revealed the darkness behind it.

I poured power in Daneath’s shield, so the light would remain on it for the humans, and he stepped in the doorway. He stopped a moment and after looking around, he then motioned us to follow with his head. We entered at the top of what appeared to be a natural cavern. Iesa then closed the door and Nestra relocked it again, and we all turned to look at the path forward.

I had never seen the like; pillars of shiny rock descended from the ceiling with some tapering into sharp points, and other into rounded blunted shapes. On the floor it was the reverse with thick pillars with rounded blunted tops rose to meet once from the roof. Some met and merged, while others were ever so close. The colors of soft brown, tans and hints of green and white coursed through the rocky material. The gallery was large and even with my sight I could not see the edge to the other side.

We started to make our way through the darkened cavern. The light of the shield created strange shadows with the pillars, and eventually the walls of the far side became visible, guiding us to the left. We heard little beyond the sounds of water dripping into pools, and the sound of cloth on cloth, and the swishing of the tied-up portion of my dress. But even those small noises echoed throughout the gallery, making any that we made, that much louder.

“I don’t like this,” Daneath said. “Something feels…off.”

“Well, no need for us to stumble blindly into trouble!” Beepu exclaimed. With a wave of his hand, Foggle appeared and with a quick glance he sent the mechanical owl alight into the darkness ahead. Quickly the brass color faded from view as it flew away from us. All the while Beepu had that distant bored look, nodding to himself.

“Well, good news Daneath, your supposition is correct.”

“That’s good news? What is your idea of bad news?”

“Well in fact…SHIELD!” Beepu yelled and ran to a nearby pillar. Daneath barely had time to turn as he raised his shield in time to bear the brunt of a shadowy figure that collided with it.
The scaly figure and fought with teeth and claws, wrestling with the large man’s bulwark. Fortunately, the creature wasn’t as skilled and Daneath gave it a quick cut with his sword.
With the creature blocking the light from the shield I peered as far as my vision could, and I saw more of the figures racing to attack our band. Iesa was already moving towards Daneath, preparing to strike. Nestra had a look of panic on her face as she looked around her, her empty hand looking for anything to defend herself. I ran to her, grabbed her hand and pulled her over to a nearby wall. As I did so, I threw some of my energy into an eldritch bolt, hitting the creature as it clung to Daneath. I then looked for Beepu.

He was gone; all I saw behind the stone pillar were more small boulders. I didn’t really have much time to process this as after I heard Iesa thrust his sword deep into the lizard like creature, that the smell washed over me. It was overpowering; a rotten stench with all the highlights of rotting fish, rancid meat and the sharp smell of bile. My eyes watered, and I wasn’t even next to the source; the lizard like creature flailing at Daneath’s shield.

Daneath shoved the creature off, and it staggered back giving an opening for the two men to exploit. Daneath swung at it, missing narrowly but it was enough of a distraction for Iesa to stab again deep into its ribs. Blood spurted out from the wound and the creature hissing faded as it clutched its side and slumped to the floor. But by then two more of the lizard-like creatures moved in rapidly from the darkness, and I could hear the sound of claws on stone further in the distance.

Suddenly I saw, a brightly lit white blade, hurling towards the two approaching the warrior. The blade slammed into one and it exploded into razor sharp fragments scattering
everywhere, slicing and tearing into the flesh of the creatures. Both screamed in a language I had never heard before, and I could feel a wave of cold air hitting my face. I glanced again on where it came, and all I saw was the same boulder and pillar.

The two weren’t dissuaded by the cold, nor the pain and they rushed the humans, again flailing madly. There was only mindless fury now as one scratched and clawed against Daneath’s shield. The other attempted to bite Iesa, but he deftly spun away avoiding the clumsy attack. Both the creatures stood next to each other, readying to strike again.
I felt then something inside of me…shift. It was like the sound of the rusty key turning in the lock of the door. Feeling of something solid shifting in myself. And with the shift I looked at the pair of creatures. Reaching within I felt past the light I used before and found something else. It was darker, and I could feel it shifting, almost like it was a caged animal trying to escape. But I didn’t spare much time or thought to analyze it. I mentally reached for it and threw its energy toward the creatures.

A black mist appeared to swirl around them. As the mist formed, I saw a pair pale skeletal arms reach from within the mist and grasp the creatures. I could feel something through these arms, as much as I could feel the warmth of another person if I touched them with my own hands. And I felt their energy fade away to nothing as both creatures slumped down on the floor, neither moving. And as it faded, I could feel that same energy course through me and dissipate.

If I wasn’t already next to a wall and covering the still cowering Nestra I would recoiled. I wasn’t sure what I had done, but I did know what I felt.

Power.

From the darkness emerged two more of the creatures, and they charged at Daneath and Iesa. It was then I figured out what Beepu had done, as I saw a bolt of fire leave a solitary boulder behind the pillar, striking one, just as they clawed onto Daneath’s shield ineffectually. Iesa however yelled in pain as he spun the wrong way and was slashed by a sharp claw. Both slashed at each of their opponents, swinging wildly.

I mentally flexed and called the darkness again. It was easier this time, and I felt again the power extend towards the pair and I realized that what I was feeling was their life’s energy. And I could feel the skeletal hands rip it away from them and warmth flowing through me as their life ebbed. But it wasn’t strong enough to bring them down.
But a blast of fire from ‘the rock’ did hit one solidly in its flank, causing it to spin and collapse in heap on the stone. The other one was stabbed in the torso by both swords, and its hiss faded into a soft gurgle as it sank to its knees and then fell to its side.

It was quiet as we watched the darkness for more, only hearing our own labored breath. After a moment the ‘rock’ spoke:
“Foggle does not see any more of them, so I believe we are safe for the moment.” The gnome said and Beepu stepped out through the rock.

I chuckled, “And here I thought you turned stag on us. Smart play there.”

“Well, I was pretty sure he ran,” Iesa said wincing in pain.

“That’s what I…oh never mind. Are you hurt badly?”

“He can walk it off I’m sure,” Daneath said. “Now that he’s done dancing like a mad jester. But we really, really should move from here.”

“Why, do you think more are coming?” Beepu said puzzled.

“No. It’s because if I have to stand in the stench of these things much longer, I’m going to vomit.”

“Troglodytes…under my…under my home.” Nestra stammered. “Foul creatures…I had no idea.”

I moved over to her and grasped her hand. “Well, one problem at a time. Let’s get you out of here.”

“Foggle found a passage leaving this cavern. And it is the only one he can see, so it appears to be the only path.”

We looked at other briefly; nothing needed to be said. And once again, we made our way through the darkness, lighting the way with the shield. Foggle was now scouting ahead of us, aloft on silent wings. The mechanical owl led us to a natural passageway, leading downwards. Like the other cave, the air in the passageway was moist and warm. Water trickled down the walls, worn smooth over time.

Soon we arrived at an intersection with passages leading left and right. Beepu waved his hand and the owl flew down the right passage. We waited as Beepu concentrated. He then turned to look at the rest of us.

“No. Not that way. There are more of those troglodytes down there,” he whispered, and he tilted his head and he mumbled to himself. “At least a dozen in a large cavern. There is a…stream…and what looks like…nests?” he concentrated more for a moment. “I do not see another exit however.”

“Well, no sense going that way and annoying the natives,” Iesa quipped. “So…the other way then?”

“Looks that way,” I said. And I felt touch of air move past, and I saw the owl fly silently overhead down the opposite passage. After a moment, Beepu again spoke.

“It is a dead end. But…wait. Worked stone! Not natural. We should look there.”

We moved down the passage quickly, and we came to a small chamber. While most of it was natural, one wall was clearly different. It was worked, but not finished. I moved towards the wall, and I reached out and touched it. The surface was streaked with deposits of limestone from the cavern ceiling, but it was thin and flaked away easily. As I pulled some the flaking stone away I realized I felt brickwork, and mortar. Scratching the mortar with my fingernails it crumbled easily.

Beepu came and stood next to me, and also probed the wall and the decaying mortar. “Someone sealed up this passage some time ago,“ he remarked. Turning to Nestra he asked, “Did your documents mention this?”

“Nothing. As I said there were a network of passages below, and it exited near the river.”

“How old is the document that discussed it?” I asked.

“It was written by the last Waterbaron perhaps, forty years ago? But now I think of it, Lardon must have had a note from his predecessor.” Nestra said after thinking about it.

“Well, someone didn’t just build a random wall. It’s was built for a reason. Probably to keep those creatures out of…something?” I said trying to think what it might be.

“One way to find out,” and Daneath placed his shield against the wall and then leaned into it, with the wall blocking the light. At first, he pushed lightly and slowly increasing the pressure. Soon, the bricks started to shift, bowing outward. Then suddenly, as the mortar crumbled to dust, and bricks were displaced pushing into a room, and Daneath fell forward into it. He quickly stood up and pulled the shield from the ground and lit up the new chamber.

“Beepu…. you are going to want to look at this, ” Daneath said.

Session notes:

So, we now begin to really use the familiar to handle critical tasks related to scouting. Because why send a fragile rogue to do it? We also finally got to play with some new spells and some class abilities.

Nestra was probably a bit more quiet at the time though; I seem to remember more cowering, but considering she had no weapons or combat skills, we really didn’t expect much. But we did feel pressure to move and keep her alive. Which required one of us…well required me to babysit her most of the time.

All the while, “Beepu was a rock” was going to be used…a lot. It was one of his favorite go to’s to keep out of trouble. Not that was bad or anything. But it was one of the many cases of “Abuse cantrips until we break the DM.”

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Passages of Belief - 03/13/2019

Passages of Belief​


Darkness doesn’t scare me; I can see through it. But Sensates play a game with a blindfold called “A Game of You.” A game where you use the senses to understand the universe around you.

The Game is played for many reasons. And the higher the stakes, the more you learn about the universe.

And yourself.​


Beepu pursed his lips and stepped to the breach in the wall. I couldn’t see in the hole, but I could see his face clearly. His eyes were widening in something between awe and greed. With a quick motion, he waved towards the room. Foggle, who was silently flying circles above us, swooped into the hole, and once again Beepu had that faraway look.

I leaned over to Daneath and whispered, “What did you see?”

Daneath looked at me and shrugged. “Books.”

Of course. If there were hard and fast rules about the multi-verse, one of them must be that the most pious of wizards could barely contain their greed over the idea of forgotten troves of knowledge stored in musty old tomes.

“Are we going to have time for this?” I asked.

“It’s not like we can hide them from him as we enter the room.”

At this point, Beepu’s eyes were growing wider and he began to shake.

“How bad is it?”

“It’s…a lot.”

Beepu’s head suddenly snapped towards the open hole and he leapt in.

“Move.” And I gently push Daneath aside and bend down to the opening and step within the chamber beyond. Standing up straight again I sigh.

It could be worse. The room was large, and I could quickly count perhaps a dozen bookcases. The dust was thick on the floor, and layers of old cobwebs were draped upon decaying wood shelves. The bookcases were full of ancient tomes, bound with leather. I walked to one of the shelves and reached out to touch the spine of a book, and the leather flaked away, crumbling to powder between my fingers.

“No! No! NO!” Beepu was running from case to case frantically.

“What is this place?” Iesa asked as he stepped in the room, followed closely by Nedra and Daneath.
I left the crumbling books and stepped away from the bookcase. Looking at the room itself it appeared unremarkable at first. A door on one end of the rectangular room, but the other end had a table or workspace. I walked over to it, and saw the remains of parchment, now just piles of dust in the very dry air. There were the remains of a candle stub, it’s wax long since melt. But on the table was a green metallic object. Lying next to it was a long chain, that split into three smaller ones. Two attached to the object, while a third lay unattached, with a broken ring laying to one side.

“It might be a temple’s archive,” I said. “There’s a censer with a broken chain here. The only place I have ever seen them in were temples.”

“She’s right,” Beepu said with disgust. “Few the tomes here are intact. Most have dry rot. The two I found were written in an old form of common. But they talked about tithes and families that had paid. Useless.”

“Well, not if you are trying to count the money,” Iesa observed.

“It’s hard to help people without jink. Of course, I’m not sure who this temple is dedicated to from things here,” I said while glaring at Iesa.

“Too many in Waterdeep don’t help anyone,” he retorted.

“Well…this isn’t Waterdeep…wherever that is. But we should keep moving. There has to be an exit somewhere.”

“Well, we agree on that at least,” Daneath said and moved to the lone door. Iesa pressed his ear against it. After a moment, he nodded and opened the it to the chamber beyond.

Daneath’s shield lit up the room; square and the walls were finished smooth, much like the library. Unlike the library it was littered with the remains of broken, dry rotted wood. All of the debris were covered with thick cobwebs. A hallway led from the center of one wall. and in the center of the room were the low, relatively intact circular walls of a pool, or an oversized well.

As we entered the chamber, the air was as dry as the library we had left. As we spread around looking around the room, Iesa stepped towards the well.

“The well has gone dry…but it is a long way down.”

“Looks like a storeroom,” Daneath observed. “With piles of discarded shelves, and furnishings.”
I was leading Nestra and I was moving towards the passageway. I only had a brief look into the darkess and could see it making a turn to the left, when I heard a noise behind me of a small rock tumbling against rock. Turning, I saw that Iesa was throwing loose pebbles down the shaft.

“Really?” Beepu said. “What if something is down there?”

“What are the chances of that Beepu? Anything alive is down here is where the water is…and there is no water down there.”

Daneath was poking in the rotten wood, “Well there certainly isn’t anything up here.”

“See? You are all over…ACK!” and Iesa jumped back from the wall surrounding the shaft. Skittering out from the depths several forms, the size of large hounds appeared. They were black, with a dull shine on their carapaces. They made no noise, despite the large number of legs, that sprouted from each of them. Their movements were quick and within a moment, four emerged from the shaft. Iesa leapt backwards as one scrambled towards him. The rest split up, with one heading towards Nestra and I, and one each for Daneath and Beepu.

I pushed Nestra behind me, and with a quick utterance of ‘zalt’ I cast a bolt of energy towards the spider as it raced towards me, narrowly missing it. The others were doing much of the same; Daneath batted away one with his shield and stabbed it with his short sword, ichor emerging from the thorax. Beepu, cast a bolt of flame at his arachnid foe, and manage to sear off a leg. Iesa stabbed and ran in circles around the well, neither making headway against the other.

“So…you HAD to do it. You had to throw stones!” Beepu shouted as he cast another bolt of flame, missing his target.

Zalt! Well you know where the is water…oh wait! It’s a dry sodding well!” and my bolt hit the square on the large onyx colored abdomen.

“Mistakes were made!” and Iesa moved next to Daneath, and he switched targets, hitting Daneath’s opponent and laying it low. In turn Daneath turned and swung and cleaved the other spider into two.

“I am so glad that you have learned something from this Iesa,” and another bolt streaked from Beepu’s hands and his opponent burst into flames and stopped moving.

Zalt” and I struck the last one between its many eyes, knocking it backwards. “Well, I’m so glad we can put this behind us. But let’s avoid tossing any more rocks down holes from now on.”

“I’ve got to get out of here. First Lizards, now bugs.” Nestra was muttering to herself and shaking her head.

“No, no. no. Troglodytes and spiders. Very different, details like that are important if you are planning to clean out your cella--” Beepu was starting to lecture. I gave him a look and he quickly closed his mouth.

“Anyway, this is exhausting.” I said.

“I ag…ag…agree,” and Iesa collapsed onto the floor. Looking at him, I saw that there was growing stain of blood on his hamstrings. I ran over to him and put some pressure one the wound.

“Anyone else hurt?”

“Well, a couple of scrapes from this one, but I’m a bit battered overall.”

I started pulling on the light within me and let if flow from my hands into the wound. I could the skin closing beneath my fingers, and the seepage of blood slow to nothing. I motion Daneath over to me and lay a hand on upon his stomach, pouring more energy into him. I couldn’t feel his wounds, but I felt his body pull on the stream of energy I gave to him. In a manner of moments, the magical energy flow stopped and where I thought I was tired before, I truly was exhausted now.

“I’m…I’m…I need to rest a bit. But somewhere without a large hole in the ground.”

“The library?” Beepu said with a glimmer of hope in his voice.

“The hole in the wall doesn’t exactly make that secure,” Daneath pointed out.

“Maybe…down the hall. Send Foggle.”

“Right.” And with a wave of his hand, Foggle flew down the darkened hall. He was focused, his brow furrowed when he spoke again. “The hall turns and continues on. There is a pair of doors, one on the end, and the other on the side of the hall, about two thirds of the way down. The one on the end of the hall is open though.”

“Can you see beyond it?” Daneath asked. Iesa gave out a slight moan.

“There is another passage beyond, more doors. And a lot more webs. As I am looking there are tracks here too. They are scattered, but they do lead back to this room.”

“What about that side door?” I asked.

Beepu thought a moment. “No…the tracks go by it and I do not see any sign of anything going in or out.”

“Well, I take it that spiders can’t open doors,” said Daneath. “Let’s check it out. Come on Iesa…up up up.”

“I’m moving…just tired,”

Beepu took the lead, and Daneath followed with a weary Iesa leaning on him. I put Nestra in front of me, and I took the rear, watching the hall behind us for more spiders. Soon we reached the door.

Iesa pulled himself off of Daneath and pressed his ear to it and listened. After a moment he nodded and moved away. This time, Beepu pushed open the door and Daneath shined his shield within.
Satisfied, he nodded and waved us in.

The room was perhaps a small store room; shelves lined the walls and several barrels lay on their side at the end of the room along with some wooden creates. The remains of moldering sacks lay in one corner with some type of grain spilling out on the floor. But there was room for all of us, and more importantly there wasn’t another exit, hole in the wall or open well shaft in the floor.
Beepu closed the door, and Daneath and I pulled over one of the crates to block it shut.

“Think that will be enough?” I asked.

“It should be from ones we saw before,” Daneath said

“And if there is a bigger one?”

“It better be. I’m real tired. Probably the party earlier.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Nestra said. “This doesn’t seem to be the safest place, and can we really delay?”

“Well, If I hazard a guess it might be early morning. If Eragon—” Daneath started.

“Arakahn” we all correct.

“—him. If he hasn’t found us, he’s not going to. But unlike him, we’ve been fighting, and we need to rest. This is as good as it is going to get.”

I find a wall and slump down. Nestra looks around confused for a moment and then shrugs and sat down next to me.

“This is absolutely surreal. I’ve been imprisoned in my own home, impersonated by someone else, probably hunted by my former staff, and now I am clearing vermin out from beneath my house.”
I turned to look at her, “And now you are slumming with well-dressed adventurers, who were at one point trying kill you and are now deciding if you can take a nap. Sounds like a full day.”

She chuckled a moment, “Yes, yes it has. Thank you.”

“You can thank me properly when we get you out of here. Get some rest.”

The others had taken positions, and Beepu had set Foggle on the crate by the door. He was trying to read some documents from his spellbook by the light of Daneath’s shield. He looked at me and held out a copper piece and then said, “Myr could you?...

“Sure,” and I flexed and put a light on the greenie, and the light on the shield winked out. “It won’t last more than an hour. So, if you really need it wake me up.”

“We’ll watch first,” and Daneath nudged Iesa who muttered, “Yeah sure.”

“Honestly…let the owl do it. I can’t keep a night light up for you,” I said.

“We’ll do what we can. Get some rest Myr.”

I nod and closed my eyes. And soon darkness over took my thoughts.

Sometime later, I opened my eyes. I could hear the others sleeping quietly. My light had gone out, but my vision saw the grey shapes in the room; the five of us, the crates, the owl and the door. It was unchanged, just colorless.

I sighed; I was feeling better but not myself yet. I settled down and closed my eyes when…I heard it.

It was a quiet deliberate noise. The slow scraping against stone, but many times over. The sounds of many legs moving softly. I turned my head and I saw that Iesa was awake. His eyes were searching the dark, unable to see. But he could clearly hear the sounds as well. I watched him finger the hilt of the sword that lay next to him.

I could see him look toward my direction, and he put a finger to his lips. I nodded, before
remembering that he couldn’t see me in the darkness. I wasn’t sure how he knew I was awake and listening. My breathing? Did I shift? Watching him, I realized that while he wasn’t blessed with the ability to see in the dark, he knew how to survive in it. It reminded me of the Game. You get blindfolded and some of the most basic challenges involve sound. So much so, that I almost always close my eyes when I really want to hear something.

But, no matter how he knew I was awake., we both listened to the scraping on stone, fading away. And I am sure we both felt some relief that the sound wasn’t scraping on the wood of the door. Soon, silence again reigned and we both let out our stifled breaths slowly.

I leaned my head back and again closed my eyes. I wanted to see the light again. To taste the sweet fresh air, and not the stale air here deep below. I smiled to myself; how strange. The air I grew up with was never “sweet;” it was smoky, the tang of brimstone on the tongue. To say I missed the air outside here with the scent of rotten fish on by the river, and the tanneries nearby was surprising to me.

I wondered;

Did I really want to go home?

What I did I really want?

What did the multiverse want from me?

And once again the darkness took me, before I could answer any of those questions.


Session Notes:
The lord of the rings moment with the well was one of those moments. We all have seen it, and yet he touched it anyway.

Considering none of us had any real gear, we were very, very conservative on moving around. Two swords, and spells and almost no armor.

One item you might have noticed were the healing spells; I took a level in Cleric, but originally hadn’t planned on it. We were supposed to have two other folks in the adventure, but they dropped out before we started (a barbarian and a cleric). This ended up being an interesting twist as the DM had us think about “If you are going to multi-class, what is the good reason.”

I’ve always liked Keith Baker’s thoughts on “classes” in the game; they are rule structures and nothing more. You aren’t a fighter, you are someone who knows how to use a sword. So multi-classing is just an extension of that. But you need the rules as a framework.

So at this point I really started thinking about what the character “Myrai” really was, and it was here I started working backwards on the details of the past, compared to the broad starting point.

1333
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Cracks in the Darkness - 03/27/2019

Cracks in the Darkness​


I wasn’t popular in the Gatehouse as an orphan. As a child, I could always make something glow with light, and apparently as an infant I always lit up something in my…whatever it was they put me in, to chase away the dark. But this woke up all the children in the room, and in turn they woke the Bleakers watching over us.

Soon, I was the only orphan that had their own room, just so everyone else could sleep. Eventually, it was an imaginary friend, keeping the dark away. It wasn’t until I was three or four…I think that I was put back with the other kids.

But by then, the damage was done. I was different. I was special. And the other kids resented that. Life was miserable from then on. The kids never wanted to see my “friend” and there was at least once where I got a severe beating for even turning it on.

But it was when I was older that I discovered, that people would pay good jink for a lit escort to their kip, after a few too many bubs. It was a discovery that would eventually allow me to pay off my debt to the Gatehouse.

It’s all about need.

I was awakened, by a light touch on my shoulder. In the dim grey haze of my sight I saw it was Beepu. I nodded; time for the last watch. I leaned forward, close to his right ear and whispered, “Anything?”

He shrugged, “Iesa told me about the noises, but nothing at all like that. And nothing else to mention. Thanks for the light earlier.”

“No problem. Get some rest,” and I pulled myself off the floor, and watched as Beepu made himself as comfortable as possible in my spot. I stretched my sore limbs and let my breath out with a sigh of resignation. While I had least gotten a fair amount of rest, I wasn’t looking forward to the boredom ahead. While I could have started the day, Beepu still needed more time to recover his magical facilities.

I quietly made my way over to Iesa and ever so carefully I examined his leg wound. As I had hoped it had healed and wasn’t showing signs of rot or poison. I then stepped over to Daneath. His coat was, at one point draped over him, his chain shirt discarded on a nearby crate. But the coat had shifted during his sleep and exposed his torn shirt. Below were bruises, which were probably turning ugly colors. But for now, dark grey was fading to lighter grey.

Satisfied, I centered myself. I was as rested and needed something to do. Starting with Daneath, I began the process to magically mend his torn clothes. Whispering the chant under my breath slowly rents in cloth, and tears in leather all closed again. I then started to chant a different spell, to clean up the spots of blood and gore that stained his coat and breeches. It took a bit of time as I would pause and listen again for our hallway stalker.

I did the same with Iesa, who had less damage to his clothes, but had far more ichor covering his breeches. Beepu by comparison was only a bit dusty, as was Nestra.

Looking down at myself, I was a bit dirty, and the crinoline was a disaster, but the dress itself was fine. I really wanted to return it intact if possible. The tailor said it wasn’t necessary, but it was important to me. Some minor tears fixed, and it was good enough until I could see everything in color again.
Looking around again I saw a small barrel with an open top along a wall, and above it clay mugs rested on a shelf, covered in dust. Examining the barrel, I found it to be old, but serviceable, whatever it held was long gone. Flexing my powers, I worked over the barrel; fixing rots and making the staves within the hoops, as tight as they were the day the cooper finished it. Or at least I hoped so. It took some time, all the while listening for noises in between my chanting. Once finished, I then cleaned the interior of dirt, wooden remains, and whatever else was left. I then mentally wiped out the three mugs on the shelf.

I nodded; it would do. I reached into my component pouch and pulled from it two items. The first was a bronze symbol of a skeletal hand holding aloft a balance, the second was a necklace which I set aside for a moment. Holding the symbol, I centered myself and focused on the light within me. I felt myself coax it, stirring it slightly. I could feel the energy, respond and resist as if a spoon were stirring in a liquid. After a second or two of this I mentally pushed the energy to the barrel.

Softly, the barrel began to fill with water in the first time in many years. The barrel was perhaps half full when the water stopped rising. I eagerly took a mug, and quietly submerged it in the barrel. I brought it to my lips and sipped. It was clean, fresh and sweet. The Gatehouse’s water all tasted of iron and rust but at least was safe. The same couldn’t be said of most sources in the Hive; and no one would dare would drink from the Ditch willingly. But this was the reason there were so many bars; the water had to be good enough to brew ale or beer. And so, drinking bub like that was far safer than water from unknown sources. Didn’t help the poor who couldn’t afford much in the way of bub though, but if you could drink bub when you wanted, it was a sign you were moving up in the world.

I moved and sat on the crate blocking the door, next to the ever vigilant Foggle, cup in hand. I quietly offered the owl a toast. Then, I sipped more of my creation and rested and waited for either Foggle to tell me, or the others roused themselves from their own slumber.

I put the symbol around my neck, and then regarded the necklace. It wasn’t much; a tangled knot of metal, grey in the darkness. In the light it was a mixture of loops; some gold, some silver. All knotted together, with a chain threading through the loops. I frowned; it was the only token of wealth I had beyond the few coins I carried in my pouch. The reality was it wasn’t originally mine; it belonged to Markell a Sensate that I…cared for.

No; that was a lie. I loved him. And I watched him slowly die in front me. I wasn’t sure what broke my heart more; his slow agonizing death or the discovery that he never loved me at all. I had sacrificed a lot for a lost cause, and I endured great pain as part of that sacrifice. But because of that, I took his necklace as a reminder.

Not to trust.
Not others.
Not yourself.

That was five years ago, and now I questioned the wisdom of it. Here I was in the darkness forced to trust others. Others that with all good intentions tried to save me from death. They could have easily left my corpse to rot in the plains, stripped of anything of value…including this neckless. But they didn’t; they found a way to return me to life. And they did it for less than love and they did it with no guarantee of reciprocation. They took a chance. That I was worth such a risk said much about their faith in me. And I found myself honored to be valued in that way.

And yet I loathed it. It was a debt of honor that I couldn’t easily repay. A debt with strings attached for us all, that imperiled us on so many levels. I felt trapped and afraid.

That I was being setup again.
That I wasn’t worthy of their trust.
That I still couldn’t trust my own instincts.

I sipped my water again and listened. My ears straining to hear something to distract me from my thoughts. Beyond the breathing in the room, nothing else was audible. Certainly not the sounds of the…thing that stalked the halls.

After an eternity had passed, Foggle started to move and made a solitary quiet “Beeppooo.” About time I was thinking. I flexed, and focused my energy on Foggle, and instantly his golden body flooded the room with a soft light. Then, I moved to gently wake Nestra and the others.

Everyone was sore; we didn’t have much between the floor and our skin. Looking over Daneath and Iesa, the magic I cast last night appeared to have made an impact. No open wounds remained on either human. Beepu handed out the last of the food that he had been carrying with him, and afterwards I showed everyone the barrel.

“What? You just drank out of it?” Iesa said dubiously.

“No, I created it.”

Beepu looked at me, “Your magic is peculiar,” and he took a deep drink “But certainly effective. But we need to find a way out. Fresh water is good, but more food is in order. And more light!”

“Well this temple can’t be that big,” Daneath said finishing buckling on the chain armor again. “We just need to avoid any more trouble. Iesa, help me move this out of the way.” And then the pair pulled the crate away from the door.

“Hey…I thought I tore this…” Iesa said looking at his breeches.

“I was bored last night,” I said.

He patted himself down, like he was trying to see if I bobbed him. Satisfied that everything was there he muttered “Well, what can’t you do?”

“Right now, food, and having a clear idea how to get out of here.”

“Well, as I recall Foggle found a passage past the open door at the end of the hall, and some doors beyond. Might as well start there.”

“Sounds like a plan. Light me Myr,” Daneath said having hefted the shield back onto his arm.

A quick flex, the warmth again and the light faded from Foggle, and once again, the shield would light our way. While I did this, Iesa listened again at the door, motioning us to remain quiet with his finger in front of his lips.

“Sounds clear,” and with that he opened the door to the darkened hall. Before entering it, he knelt down to look at the floor. Frowning his eyes swept back and forth, until finally he noticed something in the dust. Not in the middle of the hall, but near the edges. Parallel to the walls in front of us, and the wall near us were sets of prints. They were in a rough line, with round imprints in the dirt.

“Two track sets,” he said after a moment. “Must have been what you and I heard last night Myrai.”

I shook my head. “No. That’s just a large single track.”

“Wait no… “ and he looked again at the marks in the dust. His shoulders then sagged. “You’re right. It’s one big…spider I guess.”

“That’s larger than most horses!” Daneath said.

“Well let’s find a way out, before it finds us,” I said.

Iesa took the lead, with Daneath right behind, followed by Beepu, Nestra, and myself playing the rear guard. We quietly made our way to the partially open door. Without touching it, Iesa was easily able to move into the hall, with Daneath shining a light.

We all followed and found ourselves in a short hallway that ended just to our right, with a door in front of us, and a second one at the end of the hall on the far wall. To the left, the hall opened into a larger room, covered in webbing. With the barest sound of beating wings, Foggle flew into the darkened room.

Iesa had turned his attention down the short end of the hall when he exclaimed, “Well, who do have here?”

Daneath turned his shield towards Iesa, and what was once a shadowy hall with nearly formless shapes, now was lit with a very clear shape of a body on the ground.

Whoever it was, it seemed to meet an untimely end appearing to have fallen suddenly forward onto the stone floor, with an arm extended forward towards the wall. Its robe had nearly rotted away into dust, and the remains of its skin pulled taut against the bones of his face in the dry air. It still had the hairs of a moustache and beard attached.

Iesa was kneeling next to it, prodding the form with his sword. “He was stabbed in the back it appears…a long time ago. And before the spiders…no webs over him.”

“They must have come later,” Daneath said.

“Well…Foggle does not see anything but more webs and dusty furnishings. It winds a bit though.”

“Let’s check the doors here then,” and Daneath opened the door to the first room. The door made little sound, even though the hinges were dusty with disuse. Soon his shield revealed a sparse room, with the remains of some beds, and some open chests. The dust was thick here, and there were again no large spider webs in the room; just smaller cobwebs from normal spiders.

Daneath then moved to the other door and opened that one, it also making little sound. “Another resting chamber.”

“But that chest is closed…let me look at it!” and Iesa darted inside.
Meanwhile, in the darkened hall, I could see well enough. I moved past the nervous Nestra, and the distracted Beepu and knelt by the body. I placed a hand on its back and said a quick prayer:

You are never alone, in life or death,
May Death grant you peace.

Daneath looked at me, as he pointed his shield into the room and nodded simply. But as he looked at
the corpse his eyes furrowed. His head turned back and forth from between the outstretched arm, and the wall.

“What was he reaching for? It looks like he tried to move after he was struck down.” He kept looking at the wall, undecidedly. “Finish up in there, I need the light.”

“Done! Why? What did you find?”

Daneath lit the wall up with the shield. It looked unremarkable. A finished grey piece of stone. “I don’t know. Something?”

Iesa moved to the wall, and then looked at the corpse. Frowning, he traced his hands over the wall just below shoulder height. He then stopped, and then leaned close to the wall, with his cheek barely brushing the surface. He then pursed his lips and blew a steady stream of air. As he blew, a small cloud of dust appeared…as did a thin straight crack in the wall. He continued blowing, and several puffs later he was rewarded with the outline of a square, one hand high and one hand wide.

“That’s subtle,” I said impressed with the find.

“This is strange.” Beepu spoke up. “There is not an exit anywhere this direction. A bunch of desks and …a …I think I’ll have Foggle get…that!”

We looked at each other. “No exit…I bet this might open something.” Iesa said.

“Might as well,” Daneath said. “I really don’t want to back down to those Troglodytes if I don’t have to.”

Iesa nodded and pushed the square stone. It scraped the nearby stone softly, and he kept pushing until we all heard an audible click.

Then we heard a loud scraping sound, coming from the hallway we were in before. I moved over to look down it, and saw a door pivot outwards directly across from the storeroom that we had been sleeping in. It was even louder in the hall, as stone ground against stone as the door scraped itself open.

This got Beepu’s attention, “What is that racket?” and his eyes focused on the group again, and finally at Iesa. “What did you do?”

“He opened a door,” I said simply and I pointed.

We moved toward the still scraping door. It was now open at a right angle from the wall and was still opening. Shining down the opening, the shield revealed a long hallway, which turned to the left.
“That’s promising.” Iesa said, and he started to move down the hall. The rest of stood in the hall, and I was looking first towards the doorway we had just come from, and then I looked towards the hall leading back to the dry well. I was about to turn my head again, when I saw something move.
It was at the edge of my vision, but I saw…eyes. Eyes that had caught the light leaving the edge of the shield. Four…no eight glittering black orbs facing down the hall. And they were starting to move towards us.

“We have a problem…Move!” I said in a loud whisper.

Nestra just ran forward. Beepu turned to look down the hall, and I saw his eyes widen, and he took off down the hall shouting, “Big spider! Big Spider!”

I moved into the hall and Daneath backed into it with his shield in front of him. We both stood there a second, and we started looking at the side of the wall, looking for another trigger. We were looking at each other with wild eyes seeing nothing.

“Iesa!” we both shouted. “Do you see a switch or something?”

“What…no. I can’t see, bring the shield here!”

“That’s not happening,” Daneath shouted.

I felt the rush of air go by me, as Foggle flew over my head and almost got a face full of a leather satchel in the process.

“Sodding…trust me Daneath.” I flexed and shifted the light to the satchel as it flew by.
I could see Beepu’s face light up suddenly, at first perplexed and then nodding vigorously. “Light is here, Iesa” and grabbing the satchel he moved around the corner, with Nestra in tow.
Daneath was breathing heavily as I stood next to him, his arm poised to strike.

“You know I can’t see right?”

“I’ll be your eyes, I’m not leaving.” The spider was moving cautiously, but it was getting closer as the soft sounds in the hall grew ever so louder. I quickly peeked around the corner and with my vision saw it was half-way down the hall. It was slow and patient, certain we weren’t going anywhere.

“Iesa! Finding a switch would be good about now!” I shouted down the hall.

“I’m looking!”

Suddenly the spider scuttled sideways and was now in front of the open doorway. “Swing sword…BLOCK!” I shouted, while keeping one hand on Daneath’s back, so he knew where I was. He swung blindly with the sword, but the shield made solid contact with the forelegs of the spider batting it away. The spider was being cautious seeking its prey and it backed off. I quickly cast a bolt of energy at it, and the purple blast shot over the monstrosity, impacting the wall.

The flash was enough for Daneath to get a glimpse of his opponent and he swung again, knocking back a leg against raising his shield in time to prevent the spider from getting a hold of either of us.

Then, we heard the sudden scraping of the door, and the distant shout of “Found it!” from Iesa. The spider reacted to the loud noise and backed off from the closing doorway. It made no vocalization or sound beyond the scraping of its furred legs on the walls. If it was angry or frustrated it wasn’t clear. But it was unwilling to move towards the closing door. It backed off, moving backwards to the well room still facing us.

The door slowly shut in front of us, but I still spoke to Daneath acting as his sight. “It’s closed, we’re good.”

He nodded and turning around we could see the distant light from around the corner. Squinting a moment he spoke, “Well um…is the path ..”

“I’ll lead you for a bit…I don’t see anything that you would trip you.”

“Must be nice to able to see like that.”

I smile briefly, “It has its moments…still prefer real light. Come on.”

In a moment, I guided the large man down the hall and together we turned the corner where the rest stood looking at us.

“Well, glad you held the door,” Iesa said panting.

“It’s a good thing it didn’t know I couldn’t see. But a sword swinging blindly can look impressive I suppose,” Daneath responded.

“Can’t you make more of those lights?” Iesa asked.

Shaking my head, “No…only one at a time.”

“What about you Beepu?”

“Clearly he can’t” I said.

“How would you know?!” Beepu glared at me and started to waggle his finger at me.

“Because you would have done it already.”

Beepu stopped mid waggle and shut his mouth frowning. Finally, he said, “Good point. And correct.”
I finally looked past the others and saw that there was another doorway open in front of us, revealing a room.

“Anything inside there?”

“No, No. Foggle just did a fly by, and nothing appears to be in the room.”

“Well, that’s good. Shall we?” said Iesa.

Iesa then strode forward into the room, and suddenly there was a flash of light.

Session notes:
Light is a hassle. I was the only source, and course no torches or even a lantern to share. I’m pretty sure looking back at the notes, the we probably ignored the rules on light, until it was important. Like the spider. A lot of this was counter to most of the players experience, as the DM mentioned that the last several games all had races that could see in the dark. He also mentioned that there was always an elf, which made watches a bit more work.

That also highlighted that we didn’t share any language other than common. I don’t think that any of us spoke a language that we shared with another party member. That also rarely came up, but it did mean that we didn’t have a good way to share things privately…until later.

So why the fear of the spider? It was a CR 1 monster, and honestly, we felt “Fragile.” This was intended to be a gritty campaign, and while I managed to survive death once, no one want to repeat that. More importantly, we had it in our heads that the “weakest” person was Nestra. And if Nestra died, we would all be up the creek.

1433
 

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