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Journal of the Souls of Legend

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Water and Light - 4/9/2019

Water and Light​

I don’t know much about traps. But I do know about being bobbed and peeled. To me, it’s the same thing; one is social the other mechanical.

And while I can’t do much about the mechanical, I do know that knowing what the trap/cony-catcher is expecting, it becomes easier to disarm the situation.

Usually.

We all froze and blinked. The sudden appearance of light put us immediately on edge.

“What did I do?” Iesa asked, unwilling to step forward or backwards.

“I do not know yet, I need some time to answer that.” Beepu barked, and pulled out his book and started flipping through the pages.

“So…can I move?”

“Hmm? Oh, most likely. If it was going to be harmful, you probably would have been incinerated already.”

“Inciner…what?”

“Turned to ash.” Beepu said absently.

“Ah…great. Wait. No. Not great. You sure?” Iesa said turning to look at the Gnome with alarm.

“Yes, yes. Just let me know if something else happens to you.”

“Like what?”

“Maybe you get frozen?” Daneath said sounding helpful.

“Perhaps…shocked?” I venture with a smile and wink at Daneath.

“Good point. Perhaps poisoned?” Daneath said thoughtfully.

“True…or maybe he just disappears in a puff of dust?”

“You. Are. NOT. HELPING.” Iesa said, looking at us in horror.

“Shhh…you are disturbing my focus. This will take a bit”

Daneath and I stepped into the room, moving past the mortified Iesa. Even Nestra entered with a small smile on her lips.

While Iesa regained his composure, I looked around. This was clearly a chapel. The room was rectangular, with an altar in the middle of the long side of the rectangle, and opposite that was a pair of double doors. In each corner was a pillar, and upon each was a blazing light, far brighter than my own. In the room were four stone sarcophagi, evenly spread through out the room. In the far side of the room was another single door.

Otherwise, the room was empty and dusty.

“Any guesses on who this is dedicated to?” Iesa asked as he moved towards the altar.

“Not yet…and don’t touch anything. Seriously.” I said.

“Yeah yeah, I’ll wait for Beepu. Wonder what’s in those…”

“No.” I said firmly.

“What?”

“No grave robbing.”

“They aren’t using anything anymore.”

“No.” I said simply, and I pointed to the holy symbol on my neck.

Iesa scrunched up his face, “You know, the dead can’t spend it.”

“I’m not disturbing the eternal slumber of the dead.”

“Why?”

“Because I want them to stay eternally slumbered” I turned, glaring at him. “It’s not like a random chest in a chamber you found stuff.”

“Hey now…” Iesa began to protest.

“Or that pouch from the body?” I retorted.

“Now come on…wait, you saw that?” Iesa sounded surprised.

“She’s got you there.” Daneath chuckled, “But we should really find the fastest way out of here.”

“I just wanted…” and Iesa muttered quietly under his breath.

“Now then. What is going…oh my!” Beepu said as he strode into the room. His eyes blazed with a blue light as he looked at the floor and the pillars in the corners.

“What do you see?” I asked looking at him carefully.

“Lines…lines of power.” And he started circling the perimeter counter clockwise around the room, passing the single door, and only stopping once he reached the double doors. Once there, he took a step back and exclaimed, “Well, well.”

“Well, well…what?” I said a little impatiently.

“Iesa hit on a magical trigger, that covers the floor by the doorway we came out of, and the double doors there. Both link to the pillars in the corner. But the trigger does not cover that third door in the corner.”

“Anything else?” I said.

“Yes, yes, yes. While the rest of the room, the altar and the sarcophagi do not have an aura, the there is another stronger one near the double doors. It actually appears to be on the ground on the other side.”

“But not this side?” Daneath asked.

“No. The doors have no magic on them at all.”

“What kind of magic is it?” I asked, wondering how I could learn this spell.

“Well…the door is blocking a clear read on that. But we can probably open it safely.”

“Probably?” Daneath asked dubiously.

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Go ahead” Beepu said and waved his hand at Daneath with a big grin on his face.

“Ok…” Daneath said, and he put down his sword and grasped the large handle and was going to pull when…

“Sure, he won’t get incinerated? Or frozen? Or shocked?” Iesa asked no one in particular.

Daneath glared at Iesa, “Really? Now?”

Iesa held up his hand with a helpless expression. “Just…checking.”

Daneath grasped the handle and began to pull.

“Or poisoned…”

Daneath let go of the handle and glared at Iesa, “Now look, if you want to open this door!”

“No, no. Sorry.” He said sounding almost hurt. Almost. And then under his breath I could barely hear “Or turned to dust.”

But Daneath didn’t respond to the comment, and pulled the doors open, revealing a short hallway, that opened into a small square room, with a raised pool of liquid. The pool was illuminated from another passage on the right, and we could see the reflection of the light on the ceiling of the square room. I could hear us all inhale sharply though as we saw that light.

The light was the warm glow of daylight, we were certain. Not the small light of my magic, and not even the stronger, harsher light on the pillars. It was the warm glow of daylight. We couldn’t even feel it, and our hearts were warmed by just the thought of it.

Until Beepu spoke.

“Oh dear. That’s a strong big of magic there.”

“Where?” Daneath asked, freezing.

“Right in front of the doors. Very strong evocation magic all on the floor and walls.”

“What does that mean? Myrai can you…translate.”

I shrug and say “Um…well, that means that if you step into that area, you might…”

“Might what?”

“…Get incinerated, frozen, shocked, poisoned, or turned to dust…” I said in a helpless voice, feeling terrible saying the possibilities.

For a moment there was silence as we looked at each other back and forth.

“Well…at least it won’t be me!” Iesa said smiling, clapping his hands together. “Beepu…do your stuff!”

Beepu’s smile faltered. “Uh what? I cannot do anything about this.”

Iesa smile faltered. “What do you mean? I thought you were a wizard!”

“I am a wizard…but I do not have the power to counter this.” Beepu said.

Iesa looked dumbfounded and turned to look at me.

I shook my head “I can do…stuff. But I don’t know what to do about that.”

Iesa turned to look at Daneath, frowned a moment, and turned to Nestra.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Nestra said archly.

“We can’t be this close…and…and…”

“Let’s look around, maybe there is a way around it,” Daneath said optimistically.

Iesa brightened at this and moved to the third door in the corner. “Yeah, yeah, around it. Beepu said this door was safe!” and quickly burst into the room. Just as quickly, he came out with a guilty look.

“I…need the shield.”

Daneath rolled his eyes and walked over to the door, and together entered the room.

Nestra had this point sat down by one of the sarcophagi and shook her head in disbelief. I was afraid to ask if it was the situation, the chaos that Iesa was causing or both.

Beepu, had edged himself to the doorway and was looking at the ground frowning. I walked carefully and stood next to him. I then asked, “Anything else?”

Beepu nodded, “Yes…the field is not deep, barely a finger width. But the field certainly does go to the ceiling.”

“Meaning you can’t just send Foggle through, or just jump over it.” I guessed.

“Correct. And the only thing I am certain of is that it will not heal you.”

“Wrong evocation.” I said frowning.

I looked down the hall, straining desperately for any detail. When I noticed that there were shadows on the rim holding the pool of water. Squinting I couldn’t make out what it was.

“Hey Beepu, take a look at that pool. Can you see the shadows on it?”

“Hm…no I can’t really…wait. Hold this.” And suddenly Foggle landed on my wrist.”

“Hi…Foggle. What am I—”

“Hold him up, facing the pool.”

I gamely raise him to my eye level, not being entirely clear what Beepu wants.

“No no no…higher raise him up with your arm.”

I raise Foggle up and find myself standing up on the tips of my toes. “Like this?”

“Yes, yes, YES! It’s writing! But I can’t make it out at this angle, though. I can only make out one
word in elvish…water.”

“Damn it.” Iesa said, with Daneath in tow. “It’s just a cloak room. Nothing in there, that isn’t moth eaten.”

“There’s got to be a way.” Daneath said. “Maybe another hidden door?”

“Might as well look,” Iesa said and started moving to the wall to our right. “Uh, Beepu…the walls are safe right.”

Beepu nodded and waved his hand, still staring at the magical field I assumed. Muttering, “Water. Water. A clue?”

I thought a moment, thinking back to some lessons in the Civic Festhall that I had attended. Lessons about the habits of some religions and water. “Maybe the ‘trap’ isn’t meant to keep us in…maybe it’s to keep others out.”

Beepu looked at me, “I follow the logic. We are trying to break out and not in. So?”

“Perhaps we either need to drink from the pool or bless ourselves with it beforehand to come inside the temple.”

“Of course; an infidel wouldn’t understand the ritual! That’s probably right. But it doesn’t help us much. We can’t read the rest of it from here.”

I think a moment. “I might have an idea. But I don’t like it much.”

Beepu raised up his arms and hands upwards, “At this point it’s the best idea we have.”

I turned to the pair who were scouring the wall for a door. “Hey, by any chance did you see any…I don’t know…vials, flasks or cups in that room.”

Iesa thought a moment, “Yes…there were a couple of metal flasks. Why?”

“Go grab them and bring them here please. I have an idea.”

Iesa frowned a second, and then shrugged. He then walked towards the cloakroom, pulling Daneath with him. After a moment, they returned with a pair of small flasks, about the size you would hold liquor in.

“Great, these will do. Thanks.”

“Sure thing. Now what’s your idea?” Iesa said.

“Oh…I’m going to walk through the door and get some water from the pool.”
“Oh, ok that makes...WHAT?!” Iesa said looking at me in shock. “Isn’t that going to get you incinerated?”

“Or frozen?” Daneath said with alarm.

“Or poisoned?” Exclaimed Beepu.

“Or turned to dust?” Nestra said from her seat softly, not caring if we heard her.

“Possibly. But I know a trick. All I have to do is shunt the energy that would maybe kill me, elsewhere.”

“Well shouldn’t you put that on like Daneath or something?” Iesa looking at me with more than little concern.

“Yeah put it on me…wait what?” Daneath spoke and then realized what he was saying and looked at Iesa with alarm.

“I can’t. This only is going to work on me.” And I closed my eyes seeking that dark spark of energy. Finding it with my mind, I focus in stretching it, and wrapping it around myself. All the while ensuring that a portion is attached to a stream of negative energy. Mentally I stabilize it to act as a sink, so that any energy or damage would be drained away keeping me safe. It wasn’t a real shield of magic; if I could do that any negative effects would just bounce off of me. Here I was more, redirecting it. All the while the conversations continued.

“Can’t you do that Beepu?” Iesa asked the gnome.

“Let me think. No. Very certain. No.” Beepu said decisively.

“What? I thought you were a wizard!”

“Not this again…I do not know everything yet, and I certainly have no idea what she is trying to do, and I understand less on how she does what she does to start with. This is sorcery I have never seen before.”

I took a deep breath, and moved forward toward the doorway, striding with purpose. My right hand is at my own neck, clutching my holy symbol as I strode towards the threshold of the door.

“Well come on there has to be a better…. MYRAI!” Iesa had finally noticed me moving towards the door and took a step towards it when I crossed the threshold.

I could feel the energy cascade into my being, in a blaze of pure power. Like I stood in a great beam of light magnified a thousand-fold. The energy poured into me and I could see only a brilliant white light, leaving spots in front of my eyes. The darkness that I had wrapped around me, lapped at the energy, sucking at its power and draining it. But even its thirst wasn’t enough, and I could feel the pain, spread like fire across my skin and soul.

And then…it was gone.

I was across the threshold, and I looked myself over seeing wisps of white smoke waft away from my skin and clothes. The hint of burned cloth hung in the air, as I turned to look at the shocked members of the party.

“I guess we forgot the option, ‘Seared by light’” I said, somewhat in shock that I made it across.

“Are you …well, I guess you look…what happened?!” Iesa said.

“I sent the big light somewhere else, so it didn’t hurt me…much. Beepu, is the trigger still there?”
Beepu nodded, “Yes, it is. It will go off again if crossed, so you didn’t disarm it. How powerful was it?”

I shook my head clear a second, “Well, I’m not sure. But without what I did…I don’t think I would have survived. Stay there.”

Without waiting for a response, I walked to the pool and looked at the inscription on the edge. My heart sank a second as looked at the words. Which I was pretty sure was elvish. Then I remembered, Beepu said one of the words was ‘water.’ He must speak elvish.

“Hey Beepu,” I shouted. “I’m not sure I can pronounce this right, but can you translate elvish?”

“Of course…just give it your best shot!” And I saw that the others, including Nestra, were standing in the doorway watching intently.

“Alright, I can do this,” I said to myself, and started at a point on the circle and shouted, “Sagrate aborre o tay eiya e rezo pon aguan absolvican paar enete no mey cofre.”

“That doesn’t make any…of course, you started in the middle of the sentence. Um, basically its ‘To enter, anoint yourself and pray for…forgiveness?'”

“Right,” and I knelt down to the pool and filled the flasks full of water. I then dipped my hand into the water and brushed my fingers across my brow, and then again under the eyes and chin.

“Well…here goes nothing. Please forgive me for…for…any sin I have committed. I’m not trying to desecrate your temple or show impiety. I, just…just want to go home.”

I stood and walked back to the threshold to the chapel. The others saw me approach and started backing up.

“Wait…shouldn’t you do another spell?” Daneath said.

“I am going with some faith here,” I said.

“Yeah, great. I still might have some doubts—”

And I crossed into the room. No light erupted. There was no pain. Nothing. And for a moment, no one said anything.

“Are you a believer now?” I asked with small smile.

“I could be…convinced yes.” Daneath said with a much wider one.

“Well…everyone kneels. I’ll anoint you and you can pray for forgiveness.”

“About what?” Beepu asked.

I spread the water across Beepu’s forehead, cheeks and chin. “Anything you think you need forgiven; just be honest about it. Then we will cross the threshold one at a time.”

“That’s it?” asked Iesa.

I repeated the same motions with the water, “That’s it. I didn’t even say it in Elvish.”

“Well that’s good. I don’t have time to learn Elvish,” Daneath said.

Again, spreading the water across his face, “Well it might come in handy I suppose. Someday”
“I can teach you all! It is a simple matter of getting a strong grasp of the five genders specific form and the declensions. Simple really.” Beepu said with excitement.

“Not today,” and I brushed Nestra face with the water. Unlike the others she was trembling…afraid.

“I don’t know what to ask you.” Nestra said looking at me with a pained expression on her face.

“You aren’t asking me for forgiveness. There is nothing I can forgive. Just ask. Just believe. That is all that matters.” I say, smiling at her.

And just to make sure, I anoint myself again with the water, and whisper a prayer for myself and the rest. Then one at a time we passed through the doors.

Beepu went first, with confidence and calm.

Daneath went next assured…but he still held his breath crossing.

Iesa followed, gritting his teeth and his eyes tightly closed.

Finally, I took Nestra’s shaking hand and together we crossed.

While there was no dazzling light, and certainly no pain, there was a feeling of a weight being lifted from our shoulders. Perhaps we truly were absolved of some sins. I don’t know how we could have felt gladder than we did at that moment.

We passed the pool and looked down the hall, and we could see the final remains of the sun as it rose in the distance, putting the tunnel back into shadow.

The Hate Night was over.

But the ordeal was far from done.

Session notes:
A year later after this event occurred, I realized that I (and not the DM) screwed up. You see in the campaign I had cast False Life to get by the field. That was fine. Except I cast it on Daneath, and he walked through the field.

False Life is a self only spell, so really only I could walk through the field. So, I did change the story a bit to hem back to the rule, because that type of mistake bugs me. But I would have done it for them all the same.

And it wasn’t the only time; we’ll get to abuse of another spell I did later, because I didn’t read it properly. And disengagement movement was another one we kept getting wrong as well.
So, I wish there was a good elvish primer somewhere, or that I had the time to write my own parser for this. But I don’t know one (or least one I like), and I don’t have time. I just hacked Portuguese to be elvish…because I wanted to.

The original phrase was close to “Para entrar na minha abóbada assustada, irritar-se com as minhas águas, e orar por absolvição.” And since it was machine translated…well I’ll let you go figure it out.


1,533
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Altering the Deal, Part 2 - 04/17/2019

Altering the Deal, Part 2.

There is a difference between being intelligent and being smart. An intelligent person rationalizes everything, and really intelligent people do it to a degree that leaves nothing to chance.

A smart person though, doesn’t rationalize anything. In fact, they would point out that most people don’t behave rationally at all. And really smart people come up with solutions that make an intelligent person say, ‘that makes no sense to me!’

Of course, it doesn’t. It only has to make ‘sense’ to the party that matters.


While the light had faded somewhat, we were still able to see. We moved down the passage and up a flight of stairs. We arrived in a chamber, with a tall arched ceiling, and near the top, was a rough open window in the rock to the outside. The light from the window above guided us and fed our hopes. Below it, the passage was choked with debris. Not just rock, but roots of plants, soil and scattered leaves.

We made our way through the passage and we could hear the sounds of the river rushing past, the smell of soil and the taste of moisture in the air. As we made our way up the passage, we finally arrived at curtain of foliage, and we pushed our way through them.

Finally, we were outside. The roots covering the passage were nestled in a cluster of boulders in the hillside. There was no sign of buildings or ruins anywhere near. Why was a temple here? Why hide it? It didn’t make much sense, but it didn’t have to I supposed. We made our way towards the river, and the brush cleared enough to see that we managed to come out upstream from Yartar far from the fisheries and the tanneries. We found ourselves on a bluff overlooking the eastern road, entering the town. We were still hiding in the brush, uncertain on what to do. A quick walk and we would be in the town itself. Of course, that would be people with normal business.

“Foggle can see the gate, and a lot of foot traffic entering the city as well,” Beepu said after the owl landed nearby.

“Did he notice anything suspicious about the guard’s behavior?” Daneath asked.

“No. He did not get that close, and I do not believe Foggle would be able to determine ‘suspicious behavior.’”

“Give me some time, I’ll scout ahead and see what’s up,” Iesa said.

“What? In your finest clothes? Is that wise?” Beepu said pointedly.

“I’ll take care of that. Stay here out of sight,” and with that Iesa moved towards the town. The sun rose steadily higher and higher, and was near Peak, when he returned. In his hands, were some rough spun tunics, cloaks, and robes. But more importantly he had some interesting information.

“What do you mean? They aren’t looking for anyone?” Daneath said puzzled.

“Yep; the guards are completely bored,” Iesa explained. “They aren’t searching wagons, going in or out. I made some conversation with some of the locals, and beyond drunken stories about the Hate Night, there isn’t any news. Certainly, no one is publicly talking about strange events or wanted figures.”

“That seems odd. With all the strange goings on in the manor that we caused, you would think that at least someone would…react?” Daneath said.

“I don’t think we got away that clean,” I said after thinking a moment. “It might be that they don’t want to cause a lot of barkle.”

“What?” everyone said at once.

“Um…distracting noise? Or perhaps they want to keep it quiet.”

Iesa nodded, “You read my mind Myrai. I’m guessing that the guards aren’t in the know yet. Maybe that Drow has friends looking for us instead.”

“Comforting,” I said drily. “So, can we get to the Blades without being seen?”

“Well, let’s get everyone dressed up,” and he tossed the bundle of clothing to Daneath, “…or down rather. I know enough of the town that we can take alleys and stay out of sight for the most part.”

“That’s good. I’m eager to get this over with,” Nestra said with relief.

I start pulling over my head a rough spun robe, “So, get past the guards, get to the blades’ compound, and find some time to get our stuff back.”

“Yeah mostly that,” Iesa said half focused on the conversation.

“We could send Foggle to pick up Mo,” I said with a smirk.

Iesa returned the grin, “Well…yes. I do want Mo back at my side. But I doubt he has changed his mind about Foggle.”

We donned the robes and cloaks and made our way down to the eastern road. The roadway was packed with farmers and livestock, and not cargo and wagons like the western gate. And as Iesa had said, the guards were barely paying attention to really anyone of note as we entered Yartar again.
The streets of Yartar had signs of disarray. While banners were being taken down with care, many of banners and ribbons appeared to have been torn down and damaged during the revelry. The mood was somber; many folk were avoiding making loud noises, and others were walking unsteadily, trying not to look at the sun at peak. But few paid attention to us, as Iesa lead us down several alleyways, keeping us off the main thoroughfares. It was quicker than I expected, as we encountered little in the terms of crowds. All the while, I felt on edge. Were we really being watched or hunted? For the moment I was simply glad we weren’t heading towards ‘The Lusty Bard.’

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves circling a squared, walled compound. The grey stone walls stood at least three men high, with battlements, and towers on each corner. We made our way to the front where a pair of guards, dressed in mail stood attentively in front of a heavily reinforced oaken door. As we approached, I could see their hands move towards the swords at their hips. They were expecting trouble, and their open helms didn’t conceal the look of concern on their faces as they looked over each of us one by one. One of them took a step forward and pointed at Beepu.

“You; what is your name and business?” the guard intoned. He sounded nervous, like he expected trouble but not clear from where.

Beepu was taken aback for a moment, and quickly repied, “I am Beepu, and I wish to see Arryn Quinte at once!”

The guards looked at each other, and the second guard nodded, and pounded on the door with his mailed fist. “You are expected; are there any others?” and the scraping sounds of wood against metal was audible.

Beepu thought for a moment, “Erm, no. We do not expect anyone else.”

The guard nodded, and the double door, split open and two other guards emerged, with hands also at their sword hilts, eyes looking around with concern. The second guard then said, “These are the ones, take them to Arryn immediately.” The pair nodded and waited for us to follow them.

We stepped inside the compound; it was essentially a walled fort with a large open area dominating the courtyard. Pells were arranged on one side, and archery targets were arranged on the other. From here, I could see that guards were patrolling the walls, while none were engaged on either the pells or targets. Today was not a day for practice it appeared. The guards led us past the unused equipment, and towards the entrance to an inner bailey. Quickly ascending some steps, they opened the door, and led us within.

Before long we were ushered into what appeared to be a small dining hall, where the silver haired Arryn Quinte was pacing near the head of the table. Upon seeing Nestra, the look on his face changed from concern to relief.

“Nestra you are safe. I was concerned when you didn’t appear at first light.”

“Some…complications underneath delayed us. But my…guardians saw me through.” Nestra said, gesturing towards us.

We had begun to remove our peasant garb, when a valet appeared to take our robes from our hands.
“I see. But I do forget myself, I did ask you to prove you are the real Nestra. Do you have something to show me.” Arryn said apologetically

Nestra nodded and reached into her satchel and pulled out an oblong object and some parchment and handed them to Arryn. He looked over a pair of documents with interest, and then looked at the object at one end.

“I remember these, and the seal matches. And not just any seal either; your personal one not the general business seal. Forgive me for doubting, but I needed to be certain.”

Nestra nodded and pulled out a chair from the table and fell into it exhausted.

“Some food perhaps, Arryn? We are all quite famished.” I said, “Especially her excellency.”

“Of course,” and a quick clap of his hands sent the valet out of the room with the discarded clothes, and in a few moments he returned with flagons, bread and cheese. We dove in, our hunger stripping away any pretense of manners.

“So Arryn, what happened last night after we left?” Daneath asked. “I know we caused a bit of excitement on our exit.”

“Surprisingly enough, not much. Arakhan made a lot of noise about a torch, but nothing really happened until very late in the morning. I saw that that Vicam’s mood changed and was angry. He was very angry at the drow he hired, as well as at Arakhan. But it wasn’t clear on what. But he was certainly eager to get us all out of the house once the fog retreated.”

“Can’t imagine why,” Iesa said tearing at the bread with his teeth. “It sounds like someone poisoned his puppy.”

Arryn looked at Iesa with a bemused look, “Well if you believe Vicam has tears, I have a decanter full of them for sale. But he was indeed furious. I did notice that he certainly didn’t consult or even speak to…the pretender Nestra. The Nestra I know always wanted to know about the important details.” Turning to Nestra with a smile.

“He did like to try to keep my nose out of things too often” Nestra commented sourly. “Pity, he actually had potential. Now I see that he simply wants to grow beyond his place.”

“So, are all the tinmen, and iron for show, or were you expecting trouble?” I asked after swallowing some cheese.

“Well, I didn’t know what manner to expect you, but I was worried about Vicam,” Arryn explained.

“But I have a few friends in the watch. Last we heard, no orders beyond celebration clean up and assessing party fines where needed.”

“Thank you again, Arryn for your help. Can I trust you to help to remove Vicam from my seat?” Nestra asked.

“Of course, your excellency. Our loyalty has always been to the ruler of Yartar, and you are still that.” Arryn replied, his fist touching his heart.

“While the nap below was helpful…I feel the need to retire and rest properly.” Nestra said arising.

“Thank you again, Daneath, Iesa, Beepu and Myrai. Once I have taken back my seat, I will make sure that the ‘Crimson Star’ is aware of you…value to me. Now Arryn, if you could spare a chamber for me—”

“One has already been prepared…for each of you actually,” Arryn arose from the table and clapped his hands together. “My valet can show you the way. Rest well your excellency”, and the valet bowed and led the tired Nedra from the chamber.

“Now let us get going! We have a lot to do.” Beepu said.

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Daneath said.

“What? Why not!?” Beepu glared at the warrior.

“Because the Crimson Star isn’t paid yet,” Iesa said. “Nestra can’t do much until she is back in power.”

“Arryn,” I turned to ask. “What are you going to do to help Nestra?”

Arryn sat down heavily and with a frown said, “Well right now I can’t do much. I have men in the wilderness hunting down some packs of gnolls that have hitting settlements recently. That accounts for the majority of my men currently. I usually send them out to avoid the Hate Night. This whole event was…unforeseen.”

“That’s an understatement. How long until they return?” I pressed.

“About a week, and I will have a well-armed company. More than enough to handle the city guards. But…”

“But?”

“Vicam has Nestra’s coffers. The various encampments ranging for Uthgardt burial mounds have enough ne’er do wells to outnumber my men three to one.”

Daneath frowned in thought. “Those are bad odds for any fight. Whose side did you put the city watch in?”

“Vicam’s, because he’s still paying them. It would be helpful to get the Crimson Star’s support now though, but I don’t know where they are in this either with your…recent entanglement.”
Iesa stopped chewing a moment, “Why? What forces would they bring?”

“Fighting wise? None. But if they choose a side, noble and commoner alike will tend to not bet against them. Guardsmen stay home, certain paths become more difficult. That type of thing. By the Hells, even the nobles might lend men to the effort…if they thought they were backing the winner.”

“We should not be involved in this political theatre!” Beepu shouted. “I am sorry but we have more important things to do.”

“Beepu,” I said “This isn’t done. And the path looks like we need to encourage the Star to take a side and have them call off our debt. We have to show them the real winner.”

“Utter nonsense! No good will come from this maneuvering and machinations. We should let Nestra solve her own problems. Regardless, I need time to decipher these scrolls and catch up on this work I have been putting off because of you Myr,” and he stormed out of the room, almost bowling over the returning valet.

“Show me to my room! I have enough to do withou—” and Beepu’s voice trailed off as he walked away from the room.

“Thanks Beepu,” I said with my eyes downcast and more to myself. After a moment I turned to look at the others. “Well, I guess we need to do something that will get the Star’s favor.”

“What did you have in mind?” Daneath asked, leaning forward in his seat.

“We bring them Nestra’s head as originally asked. The fake one.” I corrected as I saw Arryn looked at me in shock.

“How? Arryn said he needs the men from the wilds.” Iesa said.

“We go back the way we came, break in at night and,” I gulped as I put the words together “remove her from the playing field.”

“Why would that help?” Daneath asked.

Iesa’s eyes widened. “Of course. Vicam still doesn’t really have his own power base yet, it’s based on Nestra. He’s lost the ability to make laws and orders in her name. But if she were to say something in a council or conducting business, everyone would follow her lead.”

“Right,” I nodded. “Without having the fake one, he can’t claim that Nestra is a fake. Without someone who was convincing, he can’t have her order the others around. She’s the key.”

“Just the three of us?” Daneath said incredulously.

“We’d be armed this time. We know the way, and they wouldn’t be prepared for anything.”

“I don’t like this at all.” Daneath said.

Iesa leaned forward, “A quick dash in and out. And we can end this? I’m all for it.”

“I’m not!”

“What’s the difficulty you are having with this Daneath?” Arryn asked.

“It’s not like the passages below are safe; large spiders and troglodytes at minimum. And house guards.” Daneath explained.

“I have an idea for the spider,” I quickly said. “And I’m not worried about the house; they aren’t going to have a pack of men upstairs, when they still need to cover the rest of the grounds. Granted the trogs…we could use more men.”

Arryn thought a moment. “I can perhaps spare two men to help you. I do prefer a more traditional fight. But this isn’t going to be one of those fights, and if you can do this—there might be less blood spilled.”

Daneath looked at Arryn in surprise, “What? You are taking their side?”

Arryn smiled, “They have the grasp of strategy. Your enemy doesn’t know you are coming, and they don’t know when. If I gather all my men together here, they will know who to watch, and where. Striking now you have an advantage. The longer you wait, they have time to ready themselves.”

“I admit, you are making a risk Arryn if you do this.” I said.

“That is true. But, a true commander knows what he can gamble. I can lose two men to help you.”

“What happens to us doesn’t cost you,” I countered with a wry grin.

“No. But you are motivated.”

“So Daneath? Five is better than three.” I said looking at him intently.

“We should do this. You are ‘Big D’ after all.” Iesa said in agreement.

“Oh, you have got to be…fine, fine FINE. Let’s get it over with.”

“Arryn,” I turned back to the old warrior, “Can we have a man drop a message off to a person in town? They have many of our things.”

“Of course. And I am willing to do one better. If you need any arms or armor, I can supply you from my armory.”

“Well, then. I need some parchment, a pen and a room. If you can send your messenger to me I will have a package ready for him.”

Arryn nodded. “Certainly, when will you leave?”

“Tonight, after we rest a bit.”

“Of course. Now Daneath, you certainly need some better arms. Come with me. You might learn something. You too Iesa. My valet will deliver your message.” And again, Arryn clapped his hands, and the boy appeared. He simply said, “Assist her. Until evening Myrai.” And he stood, bowed and left the room with the curious pair in tow.

I looked at the valet. Young, thin limbed, with sandy hair and brown eyes. But the one thing about him that stood out, was the aura of exhaustion. Even now he seemed winded, after had escorted Nestra and Beepu off to rooms elsewhere. But now he stood, breathing heavily and avoiding my gaze.

“Been a busy day?” I asked?

The boy shrugged, “Lots of runnin ‘round. Arryn’s squire isn’t ‘ere to help neither,” he said while staring at his feet.

“I see. Do you have a name?”

He nodded, and still didn’t raise his eyes. “Jarris, ser—er m’lady.”

“I’m not a noble, but thanks I suppose. Jarris, I am going to give you a bundle with a note to run to a tailor in mid-town. I will have a couple of errands for you on your return and after I rest a bit.”

“What kind of errands?”

“Well, I need to see if there is any arms or armor I can use, get some empty flasks, and lastly I need someone to purchase something for me.

“Sounds better than cleaning the scullery.”

“I would have killed for a chance to clean a scullery. When I was your age, I was polishing the rust off of manacles…for days.”

“By yourself?”

“No... with about twenty other kids. There were a lot of manacles.”

“I guess a scullery wouldn’t be as bad. What did you need bought though?”

“Oh that? I need a large sheep.”

Session notes:

So why did Beepu leave? Because Beepu’s player wasn’t going to be available for the next session. The DM didn’t want to play him, nor let us double up. But we did make an elaborate setup, to do basically what happened next.

1654
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Past Paths of Darkness - 04/24/2019

The Past and Paths of Darkness​

If Sigil is anything, it is about belief. In the universe. In yourself. In what you perceive. In order. In entropy. There is even a belief that that powers aren’t what they claim (barmy Athars.) But it is all about you in the end.

That isn’t the same thing as faith. Faith is belief in something or someone else. It requires no proof. It only demands your trust.

Finding what you believe in is easy. Finding faith in something, is a struggle that will last a lifetime.

The brimstone stink hung heavy in the air in the Lower Ward. The dank muggy air, cling to clothes and skin alike here at the Gatehouse. For the folk in line for bread or healing, or a room for the evening it is something to endure as they wait. Perhaps they get what they seek, perhaps they sleep the night in the dirty gutters till the morning and start the wait again. Some might not last that long, and the collectors come for their shells.

I had finished my tasks for the day, and I rested my bones outside the Gatehouse, alone. I’m always alone these days. Once I would have thought about sneaking off into the night and getting jinx by lighting people home. But now, even as the darkness begins to fall, I have no desire to move in the oppressive heat. No will to chase the jink that would let me leave this place. Nothing mattered. Perhaps there wasn’t a point to the multiverse. It is as it is, and no action would change it.
I sat there looking past the throngs of people. Their faces covered by hoods, robes, cloth strips across faces. All to hide the truth of loss. An eye. A pox. A scar. Pride. Or that there was nothing left to lose.

The fetid air made the alleyways and thoroughfares alike appeared choked with a yellow haze. I was simply staring into it, when a lone figure, slowly and deliberately made its way through it. With uneven steps, it unhurriedly walked past the mass of the poor that gathered here seeking out respite from the uncaring multi-universe.

As it approached the entrance way, I could see her…no it, clearly. The reddish skin mixing with dark purple botches on the arms. What was once fine copper hair, was now matted against the skull with clumps missing from the scalp. The hair did not hide the thick leather cord that kept the head attached to the once young body. No cloth hid the milky whites of blind eyes, no longer needed. No pox or scar blemished the dead skin of her cheeks. There was no sign of pride, and certainly not fear on the face of this wreck of bone and flesh that stumbled ever forward.

Elisna.

I shivered as I saw her…it. My name day adventure gone wrong, when the multi-verse took the one thing that mattered to me. My defender. My friend. My…sister. She moved towards the great gate slowly, and none blocked her path, or even gave her a second look. No one cared about her now as a corpse for the Dustmen.

She shambled slowly past me, her head turned and locked on a point within the gateway. It did not turn to face the other living poor. Or me. My heart’s wounds were still fresh from the day when she was slain in the streets near the Armory. And the cold reality of the multi-verse struck hard again. For, the first time in days I could feel again, as all the emotions boiled forth within me.

Sorrow. Horror. Guilt.

For the first time in weeks I felt the urge to move. To get away. To run. To hide. I clamored to my feet and ran. From her…it. From my sorrow. My guilt. My shame.

I didn’t really run far. Time seemed to have slowed to a crawl as I moved through the dirty streets. Tears welling up in my eyes, blurring the hazy path in front of me. I blinked madly and wiped my dirty arm across my eyes. Soon, I was deep in the Hive, and darkness was starting to set in. Still crying, I turned and ran into a building with a random open doorway.

No…it wasn’t random. I saw a warm light, and like a moth to flame I sped towards it and crossed into the dilapidated tenement. Turning the corner, I sat on the ground, with my scrapped knees pressed against my eyes, and sobbed. I remembered screaming when Elisna died; I’m sure I cried. But this seemed to be the big one; the one where you are overwhelmed with the moment and meaning of the emotion. My heart was giving everything into the effort, holding nothing back, when I heard a sound.

My eyes were full of tears, and I could barely see. But I remember that dry papery voice; “My child. What leads you here in such sorrow?”

I turned my head to look at the voice, and I saw the yellowing skin of an old figure. His skin pulled taut against bones in his arms and hands, which while thin belied a wiry strength. Beneath a cowl, I saw that his eyes were a pale green, and I could barely see pointed ears and some semblance of hair on his head, pulled back tightly. His face had a thin moustache, and a thin beard neatly trimmed into a point. His facial features highlighted strong cheekbones as do many of the Githzerai race.

“My friend…she…she…died…and…and…” I stammered.

“You feel…responsible? Guilty? Ashamed? Uncertain?”

I felt these things, but the word ‘uncertain’ took me by surprise. I looked at the Githzerai puzzled, mouthing “Uncertain?”

“Yes. Uncertain on what you should do. Can do. Must do. How to move on, in essence.”

“It…it hurts.”

“Yes. I am certain it does. But have you considered there is a reason for that young one?”

“N—n—no. What good is…pain like this?”

“So, we remember of course.”

“I don’t want to remember! I want…want”

“You want the pain to end yes? Then you must remember in a…useful way.”

“Why remember at all?”

“We remember to never forget the one who passed beyond the veil. We remember to honor for what they stood for. What they taught us. What they meant to us. And that is why we should not forget.”

“But…but…wh—”

“Why? Because the lessons the dead give are important.”

“I..I..don’t..under—“

“No. Not yet. Think about your friend. What would she want for you?”

I looked at him and turned away my eyes were searching aimlessly as I thought about Elisna. The times we spent together dreaming of a life far away from the Gatehouse. A life unfettered with debt, in control of our destiny. Doing things that were more important than meaningless chores. A life where we embraced the future.

A life without fear.

With that revelation, it put all the antics she had done into contrast. She pushed me to do outlandish things, not because she desired trouble for anyone. But that she saw that my fear held me back from being more. She always wanted the best for me, even if things didn’t turn out the way she anticipated. Even my name day.

Still sitting on the ground, my heart slowed and my tears began to dry. I then felt the hand of the Githzerai on my shoulder.

“I see you have found some peace. I hope that my small part helps.” He said with compassion and warmth.

I turned to look at the Githzerai in the eyes. His eyes were tired, but his face was serene and certain. Around his neck was a simple chain, which hung a bronze disk of a skeletal arm holding a set of balanced scales.

“Are you a cleric?”

He shook his head, “No. I am not blessed with the power of the divine. I am a lay priest who assists whomever I can with my lords’ tenets.”

“Who is your power, and what tenets?”

He smiled at me, “His name is Kelemvor, and he is a god of death. As for his tenets, they are relatively simple. Live long, help others to live, help others to deal with death, and help those with death who cannot help themselves.”

“The Bleakers say the multiverse doesn’t have a point or purpose, and the best we can do is help the berk next to you.”

“I admire their ethic, but if the multiverse isn’t about life and living, why do we need death then? It’s a waste of an otherwise wonderous creation.”

Kneeling there I thought more and asked, “Why does a power of death, care about anyone living at all?”

“We believe that everyone has a finite time, and that time should be used to experience, grow and pass on that knowledge. For a soul to be claimed by their god, they must have time to demonstrate their faith; and the longer the better.”

“Can…can…you teach me more?”

“Of course, all you need to do now, is…” and the hand on my shoulder gripped me tightly, and I watched the skin and tissue crumble into dust. Looking at his face, I saw the skin sloughed away and then I watched his eye sink back and disappear into his skull. The pools of darkness held my vision and the darkness burned my eyes, as I could not turn away. I squeezed my eyes shut to hide from the horrific visage in front of me..

Open your eyes Myrai!

I sat up in the room, chest heaving. The room that Jarris had taken me to, was simple; a bed, a table and stool, and a small chest near the foot of the bed. I could see the green vial of ink, and the brown parchment paper on the table, along with a half-eaten red apple.

Sighing, I pulled myself up off the bed and stood, stretching. I was only dressed in a long tunic that I had found in the room. My dress was sent away with a simple letter back to the tailor. It said little, only thank you in Celestial and Common. The under garments were a wreck, and I felt lucky to have the tunic to cover myself.

I had started a second letter, this one to Beepu when the candle I had in the room ran out. At that point I decided to try to get some rest and slept. Now, I looked at the letter, and was thinking about what I had written, when I realized something was different.

On the table was the remains of a half-eaten apple. I looked at the apple and realized that It cast no shadow. It certainly did before in the flickering candle light, but now…nothing. I looked down at the floor, at my feet and I realized that I didn’t cast one either. In fact, nothing did. Not the stool, not the bed, not the table. There were no shadows, and no darkness. Everything looked like it was in peak on the brightest day.

I shook my head. This didn’t make any sense. Why were there no shadows? I turned to look at the letter and the writing on it, when I realized something else.

I could read the words.

My heart started to quicken its pace. I could always see in the dark, I suppose since birth. Nothing ever was truly dark. But before, when I looked around, everything was a shade of grey or black. But I couldn’t read in it; I needed to create or use some form of light. Otherwise the page of a book would be a uniform grey. But now in what should have been true darkness it was different. No shadows from light, yet all the colors that light revealed were visible.

“What the?” I pulled my hair forward, so I could see it, and I could clearly see the color of beaten gold. The inkwell, the apple, even my brown tunic; all had clear color.

<Knock, knock>

“M’lady, Myrai?” came the muffled, tentative voice of Jarris.

“Come in.” I replied, and the door swung open, flooding the room with shadows and light. A torch in a sconce opposite my room’s door, barely lit the room. But in doing so, the colors faded to grey. The words on the page were there, but much harder to read in the dim light.

I was absorbing this, as Jarris stepped into the room with a bundle, and on top of the bundle was a simple note.

“Any trouble getting this?” I asked taking the bundle and placing it on the bed. I was picking up the note as he replied.

“No. The old man was delighted to get your note and package. Luckily his apprentice had a cart and we got all other stuff.

“Stuff? What about Mo?”

“Mo? The monkey? He followed along making noises and throwing pebbles at us. Didn’t stop until we got in the compound and he saw the lean one. Made a bolt right towards him screeching. The lean one was happy though.”

I smiled, “I imagine so.” Taking the note, I saw it had written inside a single phrase:

‘Thanks for the memory.’

I then opened the package, and saw within my pack, boots, leathers, and my belt with three daggers within. Drawing one, I spun it in my fingers. It seemed like ages since I needed it or used it. But the weight of it in my hand was comforting. Not having a weapon on me during the party, made me feel vulnerable; almost naked. But with the dagger in my hand I felt confident again. It was something visible that I wasn’t some cony waiting to be bobbed and peeled. I was a cutter, and I would make you hurt if you assumed otherwise.

Jarris watched my display silently for some time before speaking again, “You might think about something bigger. That’s what the men at the pells always tell the recruits when they start with daggers.”

“Well, I guess they might have a point there. Let me get dressed and finish this note. Then you can take me to the armory to find a ‘proper’ weapon.”

“Yes M’lady,” and the boy left the room sheepishly.

But once the door closed, blocking the torch light, once again the room lit up with clarity and color. I could see the reds, blacks, and browns in my leathers, the dull shiny steel color of my daggers. Everything.

Something had changed within me. I didn’t understand how this could be. Why now? I did feel stronger overall, but I had also eaten and slept. I decided I would have to ask Beepu later about it…assuming he was speaking with anyone at all.

I put on my gear, hurriedly finished my letter, and left the room with Jarris. Jarris took me outside to the training yard. The pells and targets were unused, and the yard itself was empty, although two guards were on the wall patrolling. Jarris led me toward a different door on the main building and motioned me inside.

There were some oil lamps in the room, and along the walls arranged in neat orderly rows, were weapons. Spears, swords, hammers, polearms and others all leaned in their racks on one wall. On the opposite wall were stands of armor, and shields arranged on the floor leaning against the walls.
I walked over to a sword on the rack and picked it up. I held it a moment, feeling its weight. It was crafted well enough, but it felt too heavy; like I would exhaust myself trying to swing it. I returned the weapon to its place on the rack and moved down farther, until I came across a slim blade, with a fancy cross hilt. Unlike the other weapons, it was sheathed. I grasped the scabbard and drew the blade, which rewarded me with that fine metal on metal scrape as it came free.

I saw that while it had an edge, it was meant to be used as a thrusting weapon. I remembered that some cutters in Sigil preferred blades like this; they were fast, and a hard thrust could create a grievous wound. After cutting the air for a couple of moments, I nodded to myself. This would be a blade I could use effectively.

“A rapier? I’m not sure that’s what they meant by ‘bigger.’”

“Probably not.” And I shifted my dagger to my right hip and attached the rapiers’ frog on my left. “But I can use this better, than those other swords.”

I then moved down the line of armor, and found on a stand a simple chain vest, with some rents in the metal rings, and a bunch of extra leather thong. Staring at it a moment, I realized it was the chain shirt that Daneath had used during our escape from the mansion. I knew it didn’t fit well, but I didn’t realize how much extra thong it took to make it work for him. Looking it over, it appeared to be sized for either a slender man, or perhaps an elf.

I focused a moment on the chainmail shirt and pulled on the light within me. I poured the energy to fixing the rings, and slowly the rents began to close.

I could Jarris next to me, “You can do that? Arryn would make me do that with pincers.”

I shrugged, “I can fix some things. But here, help me put this on and size it a bit. I draped the shirt over my shoulder, and looked at the floor, when I saw a round buckler on the ground.

“Perfect. Just what I need.”

It took a bit to get the armor sized appropriately, but Jarris was a help. He clearly was working hard to be a squire, if for no other reason than to pass the valet work to someone else. Soon I exited the armory and entered the yard. There near the pells stood Arryn, Iesa, Daneath, and two other armored figures I didn’t recognize. I noticed that Mo was bounding around the roofline, and that Iesa kept an eye on his furry pal’s wandering as I approached.

Daneath was dressed in different armor than when I first met him and was nodding to something that Arryn was saying when I stepped up to the group with Jarris.

“Ah…Myrai. You look…different. Like you are expecting trouble,” Arryn noted with approval.

“Well, if you aren’t prepared for trouble, you are going to be surprised.” I replied.

“Indeed. Now Daneath, remember those strikes and moves. It will help you gain an edge over your opponent. I bet Iesa could do the same, if he focused on the technique more.” Arryn then turned and gestured to the two armored figures standing nearby.

“This is Berevan and Viceri. They are solid soldiers and have volunteered to help you.” At this point, both took their right fist, and thumped their own chest with enthusiasm. Arryn continued “I found out that the guards at the western gate are former blade members. They won’t stop anyone in Blades livery, nor will they report your leaving the city at all. Beyond that it is all up to you. I wish you luck and may the gods protect you.”

We all nodded our thanks and turned to the pair. Daneath spoke first, “Well, as I am sure Arryn told you we are taking a hidden path to our target. There are monesters in the caverns below, and then eventually some house guards once we reach the manor house. If we do this right, we won’t have all the guardsmen coming down on us.”

Berevan and Veceri nodded. Berevan then spoke, “This doesn’t seem to be the honorable way to do this.”

I stepped forward and paced in front of the two. “Perhaps not. But is it honorable to stuff a person who has done no wrong into a cage? Is it honorable, to summon a foul servant to help keep her penned?”

Both men shook their heads, their faces expressions grim.

I continued pacing in front of them, “These aren’t honorable foes. They have lied and deceived the whole of Yartar from noble to commoner. Why would they fight on fair terms? And so why should others die, if we can avoid a larger fight?”

“We are taking the fight to them, where they think they have the advantage. Our hope is to be swift and to do the unexpected. Can you handle that?”

The pair didn’t hesitate. They nodded and said in unison, “Yes m’lady,”

“Alright then. Jarris, drop off the note under Beepu’s door, and then I will need the…”

“Right away, I’ll be right back with it” and Jarris bounded off without me finishing my sentence.“Alright then. Let’s do this and get back before the next morning’s light,” Daneath said.

“Great, but what’s Jarris getting for you Myrai?” Iesa asked as he was feeding Mo a small piece of dried fruit.

I looked at Iesa, “Something to keep the spider busy.”

Session notes:

Everyone leveled at this point, although the joke at the table was that Beepu would be behind because he missed the session. It meant some spells, hp, and stuff, but most of the upgrades were in gear items and less wealth.

1,718
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Interlude: Professor Morkbottom - 5/1/2019

Notes from the symposium on “Heroes – Social constructs or deviants?”

Candlekeep – DR 1842

Now as I explained in the last hour, heroism takes on many forms. But too often it seems that bards and minstrels overlook in their songs the thought behind actions. Too often we hear tales of heroes jumping into the fray without a care or thought. But the reality of course is much murkier. And in the case of heroes on their opening steps in their adventures it can be perilous.

So, taking an example from the late 1400s, let us discuss the “Souls of Legend” as we now know them. As is the case of early heroes, we have a wide array of various writings of the time, but fragmented and often contradictory. Often the sources themselves seem questionable. But sometimes we are fortunate to have some complete writings, and even writings from the protagonists themselves.

The first of the heroes is mostly known today as “Big D” as his name has been lost to time. And as typical for many of the period, he left no written work. Most of what we know has been come from two sources. The first source are remains of gambling chits with the word “Big D” upon them. Around these chits is a great oral history of a peerless battlemaster in the ring. One able to control opponents and guide allies equally on the field of combat. Here too, the wealth and success of those gambling on his fortunes were legendary in their own right. The second source of information stands in contrast. Remains of souvenirs sold by halfling merchants; dented codpieces with small signs in common saying “How about them Apples?”

<Chuckles from the audience>

The halflings of the time had a very low regard for the warrior, but it isn’t clear why. So, it’s hard to reconcile these diverse opinions from the times, and the one thing that could settle the truth once and for all, something from his own hand, simply doesn’t exist.

A pity.

Next, we have Iesa. He is a cipher really. As typical for someone in his profession, he avoids leaving evidence like a plague from Talona. But we do know of his trade from the writings of his peer calling him a “Knight of the Post.” We’ll talk about that author momentarily, but even today in the planar cant it paints him and his deeds in a shadowy light. But from what we can tell, it was used dare I say affectionately. Even in Sigil, this can be seen as a mark of regard, one that many take in pride. But for Iesa, it is more nuanced, as we do have a fragment of his own writing. It shows a man conflicted; growing up in a world and he try to find his place in it. He calls out to his mother in these fragments, trusting to family and not gods to provide guidance. It is writings such as this, that places these early heroes in perspective; they are mortal, and they know it, and sometimes the getting by and surviving is the most important thing.

Next, we have the most prolific author of the four, and unfortunately the least accessible; Beepu. His writings are vast, ponderous, and woefully incomplete. As typical in the Gnomish writing style of the time, he used written Gnomish as a memory jogger, and so there are gaps throughout his personal writings. So, an example is that most diagrams are incomplete, as they only can be pieced together with thoughts of the author. Some others derisively call this “lazy note taking” but considering the multiple volumes written before he ventured out in the world, I doubt this interpretation. But in his writings that survive, they are almost all about construction of magical items and family, specifically his father. It is difficult to ascertain context or meaning behind what appears to be the ramblings of a half mad bullywug who has smoked too many herbs for their own sake.

<Chuckles again from the audience…gnomes are glaring>

For most humans, not versed in gnomish this is a barrier to research. But occasionally, a piece of written text appears that is much more complete in both what is written and context. In this case we do have a fragment of a letter that is basically admonishing his peers, not to get involved in politics, and to move on to search the north for “Flint Rock.” It is in clear common, that he also senses mortality and cares for his peers. This is a direct contrast to our image of heroes jumping in and doing…well…heroic things! If we didn’t know of the exploits of these individuals, it might seem cowardly. But is it cowardice or caution? Should we take these words seriously?

That leads us to the last one, Myrai. That she is unique is a dramatic understatement. She isn’t from Toril; a being native to Sigil that gives her a jaded and highly biased perspective on people. Her journal, once you scrub through generations of planar cant idioms, clearly has a negative view of many folks she encounters. The closest parallel is dropping a Waterhavian noble among the Uthgardt tribe for a spa day.

<Mild chortles>

But, unlike the writings that the bards have written about her, are strikingly honest and unflinching. One example is her litany on fiends and celestials; the true immortals and how mortals are nothing more than tools in an endless war. She shows in her texts, a stark view of the multiverse and mortals place in it.

Which gives one of Candlekeep’s treasures, an original complete copy of a letter to Beepu from Myrai before they set out on a dangerous undertaking.

“Beepu.

I know your study and research is your passion is top of your mind. Your letter is an inspired warning of fools who shouldn’t dabble in politics. It certainly set “D’s” mind going.

But we are going after her. Not because of the politics though. That was unavoidable once that bargain was made. And I feel trapped in that bargain.

But the fate of those in politics are their own; I’m only keen to tip the scales in our favor. And right now, we have two groups that aren’t kindly disposed to us. Vicam and all the power he has is going to be focused on us for what we have done, and the Crimson Star’s power and influence for what we haven’t done. All because of that bargain and the choices that led you all to save me; to bring me back. I can’t walk away from that…gift. And I can’t let you all pay for it with blood.

So, we can’t repair our standing with both groups; it is too late for that now. But we can square the deal with one and get the favor of a third, the Waterbaroness, to tip the scales in our favor. And maybe do the right thing in the process.

During the Factor War five years ago, I spent my time hiding on a battlefield. The Cage had lived up to its name, letting no one in or out. I spent my time helping. Mostly by getting folks out of harm’s way, not fighting or being in the way. But I did pickup on tactics that the Harmonium used.

1. Always have a safe place to retreat to
2. Don’t leave a safe place for your opponents
3. And always go into a fight with eyes open.

Yartar isn’t safe for us to go to Flint Rock. We can’t come back easily without taking care of problems here. Our opponents are still strong here; and we have a chance to neutralize one and weaken the other. And lastly, I intend to move fast, strike hard, and get ready to run if need be.
So…thanks for the advice. It took an hour, but “D” agrees. Kelemvor’s symbol is a scale held up by a skeletal arm. With some blessing and luck, I hope the scales tilts our way.

Myrai

P.S. – Iesa is really mad you didn’t use his name in your letter. I’d watch your component pouch for monkey poop if I were you.”

So, a scion of immortals is also concerned with her own mortality. But it drives her forward; committing her to taking action and embracing the risk. But why? Because, it is the safer action? Because the payoff and good it does is worthwhile? Because of a debt and obligation to see a deal through?

All of these reason matter to the hero. Only at the beginning of their path, can we see that they truly understand its cost.

Trandlehard Morkbottom, Avowed of Candlekeep

Notes:

I wrote a version of this, so not to reveal to Beepu what happened while he was out. Let us say…he was surprised.

Personally, I found the idea of researchers looking back 300 years at the past exploits of adventures hilarious. So Morkbottom does appear time to time to give folks a different take on events.

1,791
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Retracing the Path - 05/09/2019

Retracing the path

Some barmy hardhead once said that ‘Criminals always return to the scene of a crime.’ That’s a load of blex.

They only do if they have a good reason, or they are really daft.

Usually, its’ both.​


“So, I don’t understand--” Daneath started.

The sun was close to setting, and we had just passed through the eastern gate. Following the road, we were making our way back to the hidden entrance of the temple.

“Trust me it will work out fine,” I said.

“I’m not worried about the plan. It just feels wrong to bring it along at all.”

“I’m sure you can be its gallant defender if the time comes.”

“Baaah,” was the only response from the docile sheep I was leading along with us down the road, oblivious to the risks it would be facing in the near future.

Deneath held his tongue as the five of us continued to make their way to the vine covered entrance of the once forgotten temple. The sheep followed peacefully enough on its own. I was told by the farmer to avoid looking at it, and it would simply follow along. He said he ‘bred the smarts’ out them, so he didn’t have to chase them around. I for one wasn’t to complain. Before long we had arrived at the vine covered passage.

“And to think we were so excited to have found the exit,” Iesa commented with a wry grin. His mood was light as Mo was on his shoulder once again. The monkey clung onto him as much as a lost child clings to their mother. I was envious. While Foggle was interesting and useful, Mo’s behavior was more than just a simple Lim-Lim. Mo seemed relatable. But while interesting, it wasn’t what I wanted.

“Call it penance for leaving a job unfinished,” I commented.

“So…what are we facing in…there?” Berevan said pointing to the darkened entrance.

“Well, a trap, troglodytes, and spiders,” Daneath said simply. “The trap isn’t a problem as Myrai can get us all past it.”

“Troglodytes?” Veceri spoke up. “Those are like lizardfolk but smellier right?”

Iesa nodded, “Yep, those are the ones. And the smell isn’t a joke.”

“So, what’s the sheep for?” Veceri pressed.

“The spider,” I said while looking over my gear.

“How big is this spider?” Berevan asked with some concern.

“About as big as a horse,” and I looked directly at Berevan whose face was taut with a look of consternation. “So hopefully the sheep will occupy it’s time.”

“That sounds cruel,” said Veceri.

“Well, it was going to be mutton for someone already. So better it than us,” I said.
The two men looked at each other with the look that said, ‘What have we gotten ourselves into?’

“Don’t worry,” I said smiling. “We came through it all once before, barely armed. I think that together armed as we are, the monsters won’t be a problem.”

“Well, let’s do this. Light Myrai?” Daneath said hefting his own familiar shield.
I closed my eyes and focused, and felt the warmth spread up my back once again. Opening them, I saw Daneath duck down into the dunntl.

“Wait…were those…I mean…did I see?” Veceri stammered.

Iesa patted the man on the shoulder, “You did see them. Don’t point them out to her though. She gets cranky about that.”

“I heard that,” I said glaring at him, and I followed Daneath down into the hidden tunnel, leaving the darkening sky of the surface.

Heading back into the depths, the tunnel had lost all the warmth we saw earlier in the morning. The sun no longer lit the corridor with hope. Now it felt that the darkness we descended into would stain our souls. It felt appropriate considering the task we set upon ourselves. It was as if my meager light was all that stood between us and damnation.

We reached the pool, and the here too in the dark the character changed. The water appeared black, and the elven letters on the rim of the pool gave it a sinister look. I stepped up to the pool and filled the two flasks I was carrying, so we could leave once our task was done.

I then anointed myself, whispered a prayer of absolution to myself. I then anointed each of the others in turn. While Iesa and Daneath were indifferent to the blessing, Brevan and Verceri looked at me suspiciously.

“Just ask for forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what but be honest.”

They looked at each other and consented, each kneeling and kissing the pommel of their swords. Finally, as a precaution, I touched the faces of Mo and the sheep.

“Is that necessary?” Iesa asked. “I mean, I’m not sure that Mo…prays.”

“Oh, I’m sure he does.”

“What do you mean?”

I smile and look at Iesa, “Because he worships you.”

Iesa looked at me and was about to respond, when he instead shut his mouth in a grin. Looking down he nodded and chuckled at the truth.

We moved down the hall to the still open doors into the main temple. While I was holding my breath as we crossed, nothing happened. After we all crossed the threshold, I noticed that Daneath and Iesa both gave out a loud exhale.

“Faith you might have found…trust might take longer,” I quipped.

“Well, considering searing light wasn’t what we expected the first time—” Daneath started.

“Searing light?” the two blades said in unison.

“That’s what happens if you don’t use the water and ask for forgiveness.” I said.

“Wait, what did you expect?” Brevan asked.

“Oh…there was a list. But it isn’t important now.” I said, trying not to giggle.

“Alright…so, where are we?”

“In a forgotten elven temple. Keep your eyes open. If we find anything, odds are it’s the spider.” Daneath said, all business.

We moved to the ajar panel that once concealed the hidden passageway on this side and we all stepped inside. Once in position, Iesa put his hand on the lever. Looking at each of us a moment he nodded, and I could tell he mouthed counting to three and then pulled the level down. Farther down the passageway, from around the corner I could hear the loud scraping of stone on stone. I grimaced at the sound remembering how it attracted the spider the first time. While Brevan and Verceri looked at each other grimly as they noticed the door to the temple swinging shut.

As the scraping noise dragged on I looked down the tunnel and shook my head. What I saw was strange; everything in range of the light of Daneath’s shield was bright or dim. But beyond it everything was as bright as daylight. And I now noticed that it wasn’t just how bright everything was, but how far. I could easily see in the dark for about twenty or thirty paces, but I could see twice that now. Another oddity I needed time to think about it. Time, I didn’t not have now.

The scraping stopped, and Daneath started to move forward when I put my hand on his shoulder.
“Let me lead, I can see farther anyway.”

Daneath’s brows furrowed a moment and he then shrugged and stepped aside. I moved in front of him and moved forward. I really wished that Foggle was here to do this for us. Beepu for all of his annoying quirks was if nothing, reliable. Foggle was a great asset, and I could only hope that between my new sight, and our friends that it would be enough to make up the difference.

We reached the end of the passage, and the door stood wide open. Swallowing and suppressing my fear, I looked around the corner.

The last time I was here I remembered seeing the spider emerging from the darkness. Now, it was bright without a shadow on the wall, floor or anywhere. I could see the room with the dry well ahead. What I didn’t see was the spider.

“Baaaah,” the sheep bleated. It was remarkably calm considering it was in a darkened temple and had followed submissively to the rope I held. At least one of in group was calm, ironically.

Waving the others forward, I lead the sheep forward to the opening ahead. I wasn’t really trying to be quiet or hide my movements considering the amount of armor and leather scraping and creaking behind me. Swallowing, I pushed the fear out from my mind and moved forward and crossed into the room.

It was as dusty and dirty before, but the bodies of the little spiders had disappeared. The room of course seemed brighter to me, and I could see the walls clearly now. The main thing that might have been different, were the shrouds of webbing that hung from the ceiling. But honestly, I wasn’t sure they were really new. I didn’t have nearly as good a look before, so were they new, or did I just not see them clearly?

I started moving along the edge of the wall; I wanted to stay away from the dry well where we suspected the giant arachnid laired. We had had all entered the room, and the rest were following my lead when from the edge of my vision I saw a motion.

I turned my head to look. At first, I saw nothing. And then saw the slight movement again. Focusing I realized I saw a large forelimb touching a wisp of cobweb. And then with horror I realized that what I thought was a veil of webbing hanging from the ceiling was much more. The webbing draped around the thorax of the monster. Its unblinking eyes trained towards our band against the wall.

I didn’t even have a moment to say a word or shout a warning, when it dashed forward. As large as it was, it was shocking at how swiftly it moved, taking us by surprise. Its attention was focused singularly at one us as its new prey. The smallest one.

The sheep.

The sheep didn’t even hear it approach as the spider grabbed at it and bit. It barely had time to make a half-hearted weak noise. Iesa’s reaction was quick, backing away from the sheep. Then he swiftly started to circle around the backside of the monstrosity, making his way to the next doorway. Mo was even quicker; bolting from his shoulder disappearing into the darkness. I moved toward the same doorway, never turning my back to the thing. And Daneath, who was following me was nearly as fast, backing up, with his shield pointing directly towards the thing.

Berevan and Verceri were stuck flatfooted by the predator, and while I couldn’t see either clearly, I could hear them shout, followed by the whistling of blades. And then finally, I heard the sound I was dreading; the sound of a blade against the carapace.

The prey and my plan was now forgotten, half wrapped in silk on the ground. The spider shifted quickly to face the attackers striking it. Iesa notice the change in focus immediately, and moved forward to strike at the spider, missing with his rapier. Daneath moved toward it and struck a solid blow against the abdomen. I focused a moment and send a blast of energy at the thing, striking true as a purple blast of energy flew from my hands to strike its thorax.

The spider turned to face the its greatest annoyance, Daneath. It quickly spun and lurched forward at him. Its forelegs reached out to grab the shield and pull it down with its weight, so it could bite him. But the bite missed its mark, and I saw Daneath take advantage of the moment and quickly reposted, clipping it. This did leave an opening for Iesa, but the spider pushed him away using a pair of its rear legs. Unbalanced now, it was able to dodge Berevan’s clumsy swing, but Veceri struck true with a hard blow against the abdomen to which the spider gave out a great hissing sound turning suddenly, causing me to miss with my next bolt of energy.

The spider retaliated against Veceri, batting away Veceri’s shield easily. It then lunged forward, sinking teeth into his flesh where the shoulder met the neck. His scream quickly started to fade, and I saw him drop his sword to the ground and he sinking to his knees. Iesa thrust with this weapon, now the spider was busy pumping poison into the helpless warrior, sinking his blade deeply into it. The spider shuddered at this, and again, when Daneath’s sword came crashing down on its thorax. The spider quickly turned again, it’s forelegs again flailed against the warrior’s shield.

While the spider was focused on breaking through the defenses of the warrior, Iesa took advantage of the spider’s singular focus. He lunged and thrusted his rapier striking deep into the seam between the abdominal and thorax plates. The hit was rewarded with ichor spurting from the wound. The spider shuddered for a moment, and then sank slowly to the floor. It’s quivering legs curling beneath its body reflexively.

But while the battle was over for the spider, it wasn’t for Veceri. I ran over to the fallen warrior and laid my hand upon his chest. I started to pour light into him, trying to stave the bleeding. The energy came forth in a rush and as I channeled light into him, his eyes fluttered open. He gasped for air, and then his breathes started to slow down to a measured pace.

Satisfied, I stood up and made my way to the poor sheep, wrapped in the webs. It was breathing quietly, and lay unconscious on the floor. I pulled out my dagger and cut away the webbing holding it fast. I let it rest there on the floor, somewhat relieved it lived through the attack, and a little guilt for using it as bait.

“Anyone else hurt?” I asked, not seeing anything obviously wrong with the others.

“No. Perhaps thanks to your gambit with the sheep there,” Iesa said pointing at the animal, and as Daneath shook his head.

“Perhaps it was for the best, now that we don’t have to worry about running into it on the way back,” I replied.

“Do you suppose I could go into the well and…” Iesa asked looking at the dry well again.

“And what?” Daneath asked.

“Well, get the coin I dropped in—”

“No.” Daneath and I said at once. Iesa looked as us crestfallen. At this point, Mo returned from the doorway leading deeper inside the ruined temple and jumped on Iesa’s shoulder. Iesa smiled and ruffled the monkey’s fur.

“Well, if we are all good, let’s keep going. No more spiders; just Troglodytes.” Daneath said to the two warriors.

“So, keep a nose out,” I said. I refreshed the energy on the shield and took the lead. Soon we arrived in the rotting library. Where the air was once dry, it tasted wetter now, and the smell of wet paper permeated the air. The hole to the caves was still very visible and seemed much as we left it earlier in the day.

We crawled through and made our way down the passageway until we reached the intersection where down headed to the burrows, and the right turn that led to the caves and pools and the iron bound door leading up into the manor. Beforehand, we used Foggle to scout the way for us. Now I found myself with the sharper vision and looking for threats ahead.

I really wished that Foggle could do it instead.

Looking down the tunnel I could just barely see it open into a large chamber, but there was no sign of anyone or anything below. I then turned to the right-hand passage and stepped up into the large cave system that separated us from the spiraling staircase.

I entered the cavern and knew that something was different. The first thing I noticed was that there was no sign of the bodies that we had left behind from our original decent. But the second was more relevant; the odor. I could smell that odor that marked the presence of the Troglodytes. Yet not the scent of decay or death.

It was then that I could hear the hissing in the cavern. And then I knew we were being hunted.

Session Notes:
So if this sounds like Jurassic Park…it was. Sorta. It was a random roll for who the spider went through…and it was the sheep.

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Of Fire and Fate - 05/23/2019

Of Fire and Fate​
There are many regrets one can acquire in a lifetime. Should have, Could have, Would have.

It is occasionally nice to say though: “Nope! I don’t regret that!”

Not that it was obvious at the time.

The hissing sound came from the left and the right, and within moments our small band was surrounded by troglodytes. The smell was overpowering, and it took quiet the effort to contain myself and not retch.

Daneath and Iesa went left, and Berevan and Veceri went right. I don’t remember how many there were total, but it became chaotic, as the lizard like folk charged from behind stalagmites from both sides. I focused more on the right side, guessing that Berevan and Veceri might need more assistance.

The iron blades worked well together against the Troglodytes. They stood shoulder to shoulder and covered each other well. Berevan on the right would strike out at one first, and pulled back defensively, allowing Veceri to lunge forward, strike and retrench, readying themselves for the next go around. Except while they focused one creature at a time, I was able to focus on two at once.

As I reached towards the Troglodytes with some of the dark energy, I realized that if they were close enough, that I could lash it to two of them. So I coiled my will around a pair, and pulled at their life’s essence. Tapping it and pulling it away from them in equal measure. Berevan certainly noticed, exclaiming, “by the Gods,” as ghostly skeletal hands reached out and clung onto our smelly foes.
Meanwhile Daneath was proving himself a more dangerous foe; several times one of the Trogs would miss him, creating an opening for a quick riposte. The surprised foe then would be brought down quickly with a rapier thrust from Iesa.

The creatures were disorganized; flailing at shields and attempting to bite at anything within reach. As they assaulted our party the stench they exuded became even stronger. I fought as hard to maintain control of the dark magic I was tapping, as much as my stomach to hold onto its contents. Tears were streaming down my face as the combat dragged on. Berevan at one point was almost overwhelmed and was staggering barely able to hold up his shield. But Veceri was able to lean into him and together held up.

Fortunately, because the troglodytes weren’t organized, they didn’t swarm us all at once, rather streaming in one or two at time. This enabled us to cut them down quickly in time for the next ones rushing to our weapons. And soon, we stood over a pile of nearly a dozen corpses. The only sound in the air was the ones of our heavy breathing and the dripping of water from the ceiling.

“See? Smelly Troglodytes, decent arms, no problem,” Iesa said with a smile.

Mo ran back on Iesa’s shoulder, and he patted him gingerly. “And you shouldn’t run off like that Mo,” he chided.

“Let’s get to the door, and see if we can get a quick breather. It should be close,” Daneath said business like.

We continued to the left and the air became clearer, and within moments we were in front of the bound door, that led upwards to the manor house. We approached it, and Iesa placed his ear to the surface a moment, straining to hear anything. After a moment he nodded and produced the key and with a little work, unlocked the door and Daneath pulled it open.

Daneath shone his shield into the chamber. Nothing had changed. The scraps of cloth on the ground from our escape. Iesa quickly looked at the inside of the door, brushing his fingers over the lock.
“I don’t think they found this place,” he whispered. “There’s no sign that anyone tried to force the lock, or pick it open.”

“Then they haven’t found the door either,” I said. “Let’s rest and get ready.”

“Ready for what?” Veceri asked.

“That is the question. Hopefully only some guards. Otherwise…well we’ll improvise,” Iesa replied quietly.

We sat down on the chamber floor. I tended the limited wounds our band had, pouring in more light where needed, and then sat down myself. And hoped.

This was the moment, the gamble we all took. Well…almost all. Beepu was dead against it, and stood by his principles. I guess I could respect that, although I wished he was here. Sitting there I wondered if I could really do this.

I wanted to leave. This town. This plane. But that ever-present feeling of being trapped just clung to me. My friends agreed to a deal that essentially was a “life for life.”

Mine for hers.

I didn’t even know who ‘she’ was.

Could I even turn back now? I kept telling myself that it was going to work out fine. That it was for the best. With my head hung low I did the only thing I could think of. I 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.​

I just hoped my deeds were worth all of this effort.

“You ready Myr?” Daneath asked, snapping me back to reality. I simply nodded and after quick deep breath, stood up and began the ascent up the stairway.

If going down took forever, going up with arms and armor took an eternity. It was exhausting work, and I lost count of the steps after a hundred and twenty. But, this stairway had an end, and finally we reached it.

As we approached the top, I changed the light on Daneath’s shield from a bright yellow to a deep red. Iesa once again stepped in front and listen to the wooden closet door that led into the sitting chamber. He pressed his ear against the wood and we all held our breath. He took his time, and then he turned his head to look at us and shook it.

“I don’t hear anything,” he whispered.

“Get ready to open the door,” and I saw Iesa hands on the lock mechanism, and I snuffed out the light.
The darkness only highlighted the noises of our breathing. After a moment I heard the door open, and dim light entered the closet.

We all stepped out one by one. Somehow Daneath sounded quiet in his armor, more so than Veceri or Berevan. In the sitting room was a lone set of candles in a sconce. The door to the adjacent chamber was closed, as was the one to the bedroom itself. But there were no guards in the room itself. Mo scampered to a nearby shelf and watched quietly.

Iesa made his way to the doors leading outward and listened. His head moved sharply upward and held two fingers and then he pointed to either side of the door. He then bent to the door it self and took out his picks and very slowly began to work the lock. After a moment, he retracted the picks and put a small rod of metal in the lock. He then made his way to the bedroom door and listened. After a moment, he held out a single finger in the candlelight.

Our target was alone.

Daneath moved over towards the door, and Veceri and Berevan were about to follow, when I stopped them.

“No. Leave this to us, we need you to hold this door.”

The two looked at me puzzled. “What? We are in this together, as dirty a deed as it is.”

“No! Right now, if something goes wrong, we need this door to stay shut. It will mean the difference on everyone leaving!” I said hissing. “This is about all of us going back alive! I am not ready to die again…and you aren’t going to start.” And I gestured to the door.

Iesa opened the door to the bedroom quietly and stepped inside, and Daneath entered as well.

“Look, Myrai, we are here to help do this,” said Veceri.

“Then help by keeping this door—”

And before I finished, an explosion of flame came from the bedroom, and I heard Iesa scream in pain. From beyond the door I could hear muffled sounds.

“Hold. That. Door.” I said.

“What with?” Berevan asked.

“Block it with the furniture. Do anything. This is your mission!” I said, and I turned and ran to the bedroom where I could hear a fight.

Entering the doorway, I saw crumpled on the ground Iesa, still smoking from flames. Daneath was moving towards a figure standing in the bed. A figure that I was familiar with.

The room was dark enough that my new site had clarity. The woman was dressed in a nightgown, made of silk. Her dark hair was shoulder length and was a chaotic mess. Her red skin had a slight sheen in sweat and in one hand she held a dagger pointed straight at Daneath. Her eyes were simple molten orbs of red. Her horns elegantly curving around her eyes, like a ram. Her face was a mixture of pain and anger and she cast a bolt of fire, striking Daneath square in the chest, sending embers everywhere. She was screaming as she wove her magic. She was going to be heard.

I quickly threw a bolt of energy at her, catching her in the shoulder with the blast, nearly knocking her of balance. She turned to glare at me, and her eyes kept darting between Daneath and myself. But she wasn’t focused on me enough for her to hear a simple word I said.

“Lannasa,” I said in Celestial.

Iesas eyes twitched a moment and he blinked. Still laying on the floor, he quietly reached over to his rapier that had fallen next to him. Behind me was a racket as many people were working on beating down the door. I could hear Veceri and Berevan both make strained noises, keeping the guards from interfering.

While the tiefling was preparing another fiery blast, Daneath swung at her with his sword. And just as she was about cast the bolt of energy at him again, Iesa sprang up to his feet and lunged, striking her square in the abdomen. I could see her face puzzled and she turned to look at him in surprise as she fell to her knees. Her face struggling to process how the foe she had just felled, had now struck a mortal blow. Her head rolled backwards and she fell down onto the bed.

She lay gasping for breath, and Iesa in a fluid motion had drawn a dagger, and was about to plunge it into her, when he stopped. His hand shaking. His face was contorted and confused; just by looking at him I could see all the emotions I felt before cross his face.

“Spare her; take her with us,” I said.

With those words, he brought the hilt of the dagger against her temple, and her eyes closed.

“Are you serious?” Daneath said.

“Yes,” I said “She knows more, and we don’t know the questions. She’s worth more alive. Bind her hands, gag her, and blindfold her somehow.

Iesa looked at Daneath and nodded and pulled some rope from his pack. “She’s right. Besides, can’t call it murder this way either.”

“Put some cloth on her wounds; I’ll fix them on the way down.” And with that I moved to the sitting room. A divan, a table and a pair of chairs were pushed up against the doors. And against them, the two warriors were straining. The looked at me in desperation and as they did so, the blade of an axe pierced the door.

Behind me, Iesa dashed out and held out his arm for Mo, who quickly scampered onto his shoulder, and he ran into the closet and down the stairs. Behind him Daneath ran with a figure wrapped in bedsheets over his shoulder. As he ran I poured enough energy to prevent her from dying outright. And then I put energy to make light appear from his gauntlet. He nodded and ran into the closet and down the stairs.

“Time to go, you first, I’ll close the door.” Berevan and Veceri nodded and ran for the closet, with me close in tow. I could hear them clattering down the stairs, following the light ahead. I could hear the axe blows and could here the bellowing of the captain now:

“Inside! We cannot let them essscape!”

And I closed the door and fled in down the stairs in the darkness.

As we fled downward it was at first quiet. Then I could hear the axes on the door above and knew that our time was short. We pressed on again with our descent. When we all reached the chamber with the pools and the door we stopped a moment. I checked our captive and made sure she still breathed, and we exited the bound door. Once on the other side, Iesa took the time to jam the lock with another iron shard.

Grinning with satisfaction, Iesa nodded. And together we fled into the darkness.

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

The gate opened, and Mordai stepped into the marshalling yard of the Iron Blades. His look was bemused as he looked over the grounds. Exiting from the main building, Arryn emerged with a similar smile.

“Arryn…it has been a while.”

“Our interests seldom intersect Mordai, so not much reason for social calls.”

Mordai chuckled, “No, I suppose not. So why the change in heart? Is there some offer I made that you wish to take advantage of? But I don’t ever recall making one for you. You didn’t seem the type.

“All I’m doing is facilitating a meeting.”

“A meeting? Isn’t that what we are doing now?”

“Perhaps,” I said as I stepped out of the shadows of the armory door. “But, we did need to make sure you were in a mood to listen.”

Mordai turned to face me “Ah, so I was correct you haven’t left town. Saves me a lot of time.” He looked at Arryn, “I’m sure she has quite a tale she has spun with honeyed words.”

“She has…but the tale is mostly for you. I’m just keeping the peace,” Arryn said simply and stood impassively watching the two of us.

“And so, what would you have to say that would have any interest to me?” Mordai said with a tone of distaste.

“Well, I admit we may not be the best in following orders as given. We do take some pride in not making mistakes.”

“Mistakes? Like this?” Mordai said gesturing around himself. “A broken deal is still that; a broken deal.”

“You are absolutely right. But being unable to ask questions, put us in a bind. Perhaps we could have done better if we knew what to do with two women each claiming to be Nestra.”

Mordai narrowed his eyes and looked at me, as I approached him in the courtyard. “What game are you playing at?”

“The oldest one. Practiced by Baatezu, Tanar’ri and Yugoloth alike. A game of bargains. And one lesson that you learn very quickly, is that the one with the most information has the most leverage in any deal.” And I circled him, seeing his face getting more confused.

“You are playing with words. Get to the point, two women?”

I nodded and continued circling, “Yes, one upstairs holding a party looking all rare and fine and in charge. But little did you know of another, trapped beneath the manor by her own staff. A captive. The real Nestra.”

I could see Mordai’s mind racing and thinking, “That’s an interesting…tale. Original if marked with the flaws of a bad trope used by bards. And so, you had difficulty figuring out which was which then?”

I stopped and looked him in the eye, “No that was pretty easy. But your…orders didn’t give much in the way of discretion. What if harm came to the wrong one. So, the nice thing about being in the halls of power, is that you can ask the right questions. And so, we did, and we have a new deal for you.”

“A new…deal. You are presuming a lot. Even if I believed you.”

“You should Mordai,” Arryn said. “After all, Myrai there is telling the truth and you have a good deal on your hands. If you let it.”

“Alright then,” Mordai again looked at me. “What deal?”

“Nestra, the proper one is interested in keeping its deals with the Crimson Star as it was before the recent…problems. In fact, it has come to her attention that her seneschal has been acting against the interests of Yartar, and therefore you as well.”

“You have my attention then, there is more?”

“In fact, one of Vicam’s staff has been impersonating the Baroness for some time. So, she has seen fit to pass sentence upon her.”

“Worthless. This imposter is beyond your reach now.”

“Sadly, that is true. However, she is within yours.”

“I don’t understand,” again sounding puzzled.

“The Baroness has passed sentence on her imposter in person. And it seems she has some, not so fond memories of her. So, the Waterbaroness’ sentence places the women’s fate…in your hands.”
Now he was taken aback, “Mine?”

“Of course. It takes someone sneaky and underhanded to ask the right questions of someone sneaky and underhanded,” I said with a smile, and watching him bristle. “So, her life is yours. Yours to question and root out all the conspirators against her Excellency. Her rewards for you are…great I’m told.”

Mordai looked at Arryn with disbelief, “I admit what I am hearing is…interesting. And you vouch for this, you agree with it?”

Arryn shrugged, “This is treason we are talking about. A time when loyalists are rewarded for service. But the offer is good. The woman can be brought where you need her.”

“No need, my men are outside the walls here,” Mordali said and took a step towards me, nodding slightly and with a slight grin on his face. “Our bargain is concluded, and your debt paid. You do understand the currency of the realm it seems.”

I smiled and stepped close to him and said in a well-practiced voice; “En mar a lechtang’gi et a sanjeb tantok.” To which his eyes widened in surprise.

“I didn’t realize you spoke…the tongue.” He said eying me nervously.

“When you live among Baatezu and make deals with them, you better understand the pitch you are playing on.” I said. “Take care Mordai. The future might be messy, but somehow I think you will do…just fine.” And I turned and made my way back to the main building in the yard, passing Arryn.

“What did you say to him? He looks…shocked.”

“A reminder that the games we play, were invented long before us mortals.”

Session Notes

The quote uttered was “I had the oldest and best teachers.” And as far as my backstory was concerned, if you make a bad deal with a fiend, you better learn something.

Yep, Mordai was surprised. As it turns out the players collectively are terrible interrogators. Partially because lack of skill, and really really bad questions. But in the end, we realized we didn’t need answers, Mordai did. So, we made it his problem, and made plans to leave town.
I was really done with Yartar as were the rest of us. So change was good right?

2,000
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Leaving Yartar - (6/6/2019)

Leaving Yartar​

Good friends are hard to find. And what makes a good friend is dependent on what you need. A good ear, sage advice, support when you need.
But even rarer is one that will lay their life down on the line for you. The purest form of love you could ask for, but never would.
Rarer still is when a stranger does that.​

I was smiling to myself as I climbed the stairs. It seemed like a great chain had been lifted from my neck, and that I could finally move on. Of course, moving on still meant finding a way home. I was still trapped here on Toril. But being trapped there was far easier to handle than being trapped in a debt, and not being threatened by a horrible fate of cutters trying to the deliver the mail. It was back to the new normal from my perspective.

All of the discussion with Mordai was done in the early morning. Our schedule was a bit messed up, so it would be a long day ahead, and Daneath and Iesa wanted to get moving as quickly as possible. But we needed to deliver our good fortunes to our wizard.

Once on the second level, I made way to the chamber that Beepu had been lent as a room. No one had talked to him since he stormed out of our plan to sneak back into the manor. I did have a note dropped off, but he never responded. Not that I really expected a response.

I stood in front of the door, and hesitated a moment thinking about what to say. I then knocked on the door and waited. Hearing nothing, I knocked again louder and called out Beepu’s name. No one within responded. Frowning for a moment, I considered my options, and decided to appeal to Beepu’s ‘better half.’ I drew a dagger from its sheath, I used its pommel to bang on the door and called out:

“FOGGLE! Can you wake up Beepu and get him to the door?”

Instantly I started hearing repeated hoots from his mechanical familiar and within moments I could hear Beepu calling out “What? What? What? Door? OH!” The door swung open in a rush, just as I sheathed my blade.

“Oh, Myrai! Yes, um…come in.” the disheveled gnome said, his eyes still bleary eyed.

“Woke you at your desk?” I asked looking at him critically

“No! Why would you say that?”

“Because I can see the imprint of your bookmark on your left cheek.”

“Wha…oh. Well yes. More comfortable than the straw mattress here. Too firm.” And he walked back into the room. As I expected the desk had scattered bits of brass parts, sheaths of papers full of diagrams, and his spellbook propped up on the table, leaning against the wall. The bed was unused for sleeping as far as I could tell, but clothes and other items from his pack were spread across the surface. On a small table was a plate with some assorted dried fruits, bread, a pitcher and an empty mug on its side. Finally, I noticed on the ground by the door, was the note I had Jarris deliver to him; still sealed.

I picked up the letter and chuckled a moment. “Well, I see you be been busy reading.”

“Yes, yes, something to do while you argue about going back into the manor. I assumed that once you came to your senses you would come find me.”

I looked at Beepu and then the room and then the letter in my hand, “And so…have you even left this room?”

“No. No need. Prestidigitation is good for cleaning anything, including chamberpots, and I do not eat or drink much anyway.”

“So, you have been studying your…stuff for the last two and half days then?”

“Of course I have been….what? Two and half days? It took you that long to finally not pursue that path of madness and go back to the manor?”

“No…that was pretty quickly decided after you left.”

“Oh, so you just left to study?”

“Um, no. We were busy. In the manor.”

“WHAT? Why did you not tell me?”

I threw the note at Beepu, “We did. Somehow I assumed you would have read the letter.”

Beepu caught and regarded the note frowning. He simply stared at it with his brows knitted together, and yet made no moves to open it.

“I see. Well then, is the…deed done?” he asked with the note of distaste as he turned to look at me.

“No. We chose…a better path.”

“How so?”

“We brought the fake Nestra here. The real one basically accused her of treason, and we handed her over to Mordai. And as such we are free to go.”

“Oh. I see.”

“You sound, disappointed?”

“Well…maybe. I discovered some things I guess over…two days you said? But I suppose, I just expected that you would not have been—”

“Successful without you?”

“Yes. Yes, in fact. Perhaps I should have gone.”

“Well, what is done is done. It would have been nice.”

“So, what is next?”

“Well, we are meeting downstairs to discuss that. Assuming you can break yourself away for a moment.”

“Certainly. Especially if we can finally get on with our travels!” and he grabbed my arm and started pulling me out to the hall. “No more delays! We should have been moving already!”

Beepu continued to pull me along, like I was a petulant child, berating me the entire way. And all I could was shake my head and smile.

A quick journey downstairs, and Beepu stood in front of the dining hall, and he with all the majesty he could muster in his three-foot frame, threw open the doors and strode in.

Daneath and Iesa were the only occupants in the room and they both turned at the ‘grand’ entrance.

“Alright then. Finally. Flint Rock!” Beepu declared, challenging the pair to disagree with him.

“No. Portstown,” said Daneath and he bit into a hunk of cheese in front of him. Across from him Iesa nodded and fed Mo a piece of fruit from a small pile he had finished slicing.

Beepu was stunned a second. But he didn’t speak first; I did.

“Portstown? What in sodding Baator are you talking about? And what kind of name is ‘Portstown’? Call yourself after the local industry? What’s next? ‘Smithstown.’? ‘Fishtown’? ‘Whoreto—‘?”

“Because I have a lead that will help us get to Flint Rock there,” Daneath said glancing at us both.

“Lead? From where?” Beepu finally interjected.

“Leoras,” Daneath said and again bit into the cheese wedge.

“When did you talk to Leoras?” I asked.

Daneath leaned back in his seat. “Well, while we were investigating the manor, I saw him enter a room sneakily. I thought he might lead me somewhere interesting. Turns out, he baited me, and I found myself with a sword at my neck in a dark room. So, we had a…chat.”

“I’m sure that wasn’t awkward or anything,” I said crossing my arms. “So, what exactly did you talk about?”

“Well, the short version was, he knew Vicam was trouble, which is why he wasn’t going to interfere with us doing, anything. He knew that Nestra stopped trusting him and kept sending him out digging in graves. But more importantly, he knew something about me.”

“What exactly?” I asked curiously.

“This,” Daneath pulled his left sleeve up to his elbow and revealed a tattoo. The design was well done, but simple. A snake tied into a double loop. “I have this tattoo, as does my master. He also told me something else. He was traveling with a ‘tinker’; a gnome.’

Beepu’s jaw dropped open, “Wait, together? Your Master and my father? That sounds suspicious. Why would my father follow your master? I have never seen that tattoo. Are your sure that Leoras did not pull a fast one.”

Iesa chimed in as he continued to feed Mo, “I thought about it as well, but think about it. We have talked about Flint Rock, but we haven’t talked much about why we are going since we met in Triboar. So how would Leoras know? Plus, why? He was the one with the sword. He knew something about what the tattoo meant and said that a half-orc smith in Portstown could shed some light on it. Even better though, it’s on the way.”

“I’m not one to believe in coincidence,” I said slowly. “But, this sounds like we should make the attempt and find out what’s going on. Otherwise we’re in the blinds here.”

They all looked at me for a moment with a questioning expression, before I remember, “Right, in the dark..um not in the know?” to which they all nodded.

Iesa then spoke up uncomfortably, “And well I…may…know how to get to Flint Rock.”

Daneath’s head twisted suddenly to look at Iesa. “Wait, what?”

Iesa reach into a satchel and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. He unfolded it and it was a crude map. Scattered on the surface were strange words in a common alphabet that I didn’t recognize.

“So, you have a map? How does this—” Daneath started, when Iesa pointed to symbol of a mountain on the top edge of the map. Next to the mark was a second one.

A snake set into a double loop.

“How did you get this?” Daneath looked at Iesa with surprise.

“Mo found it…I thought. But I’m beginning to think that wasn’t an accident.”

“What?” I said. “that he was given it? To give to you?”

Iesa nodded. “I mean after I got this, I was thrown in jail, Beepu gets me out, and then I met Daneath.”

“Beepu, how did you know to find Iesa in the jail?” I asked.

Beepu thought a moment. “Well, I knew that I needed to get to Flint Rock, because of my father’s notes. I remember remarking this to a man in Triboar marketplace, and he mentioned that a man who was just arrested could help with that.” Beepu’s eyes scrunched in thought. “I don’t remember anything about the person though.”

“It’s no coincidence. It can’t be,” Daneath said. “But how does it tie together?”

“That’s the dark of it,” I said. “Sounds like I’m the only one here that doesn’t have an interest in Flint Rock. I don’t have a master, I doubt my father is involved, and I don’t have a tattoo like that.”

“You have a tattoo?” Iesa asked with sudden interest.

“What?…no! That’s not important! What is, this that this is all tied together, and none of understand how or why. So, while I don’t have a vested interest beyond seeing if Beepu’s father can get me home, it sounds like we need learn a bit more.”
Everyone nodded.

“So, to Portstown?” Daneath asked the group.

To which we all nodded quietly.

“Get your things, say your goodbyes. And let’s get out of Yartar.”

It didn’t take long to get our gear together, and somehow word got around that we were learning. As we made our way to the gate of the compound we ran into Arryn, Jarris, Berevan and Veceri. I exchanged a quick goodbye with Arryn and Jarris, while Daneath and Iesa spoke at length to him. I was occupied with the two warriors that had joined us beneath Yartar.

“Goodbye Myrai,” Berevan said. “And thanks for well…keeping us alive I suppose.”

“And you were right,” Veceri spoke up. “If we didn’t hold the door, based on the pounding, we might never have left.”

“Well,” I replied, “To be able to tell the tale later, is pretty important. We can’t learn from others that came before us unless we survive and share it. Kelemvor wants us to have a full life, so we can pass on the best of our knowledge and works onwards. So …take what you learn and pass it on.”

Both Berevan and Veceri nodded. “We will,” Berevan said, “And perhaps there is more we can learn from a god of death.”
I nodded, and so we departed the Iron Blades’ compound and made our way towards the eastern gate and the docks. While we struck a blow against Vicam, we weren’t sure if we were being hunted. So, we followed Iesa through the alleys, avoiding guards and giving The Lusty Bard a wide berth.

The eastern gate was busy with traffic as always, and the guards either weren’t particularly observant, or we were simply paranoid about having a target on our back. We made our way to the docks and wandered up the river, seeking barge or other water transport that could take us north to Portstown.

It wasn’t long before we found a large cargo barge that appeared to be heading north based on the young crier calling out for passengers. Finally, we could put Yartar, and its politics and machinations behind. Ahead the road forward to Flint Rock and eventually home. But I was chatting with Iesa as we made our way to the pier, when things became...problematic.

“So, you’ve never been on a boat before?” He asked with some surprise. Mo was on his shoulder and looked bored as Iesa and I talked.

I shook my head “No. The only ‘river’ in Sigil is what we call ‘The Ditch’ and no one plys a boat on it. In fact, the only boat I know of is part of a bar called the Black Sail Tavern in the Lower Wards. In fact, no one remembers how a boat even got there to start with.”

“So, did you ever learn to swim?”

“Well, normally the Ditch is just a smelly, grimy and horrible river of muck full of trash and…corpses. But every so often a gate to Oceanus would open and flush it clean. When that happened, all the orphans would run there to play in the water. So, I did learn. I’m not good at it though.”

Iesa shook his head, “I can’t imagine that. Waterdeep has its charm in the poorer sections, but I can’t tell if I am in awe in what you describe as commonplace or disgusted on how it seems one of the worst cities for crime and filth.”

“You never ask about the nice parts!”

“You mean there are nice parts?”

“Well…sure. The Lady’s Ward of course, and the Guild Ward and Market Ward have nice parts. I just…didn’t spend time there.”

“What? Couldn’t fit in?”

“No…not enough jink,” I said rubbing my thumb and forefinger together. “You can’t tell me that Waterdeep is any different?”

“No…No I can’t. Maybe you should visit just to compare.”

“I’d like that actually. It’s got to be better than Yar—”

“You there, stop!” a voice spoke behind us. And as I turned I saw that a guard, wearing the livery of the Waterbaroness had grasped Iesa on the shoulder. I was about to tell of the sod when Iesa spoke with surprise.

“Kingsley!?!” and Iesa started looking around nervously. Slightly ahead of us, Beepu and Daneath had heard Iesa’s exclamation and had turned to see what the fuss was about.

“My…my friend. What have you done? Do you know that Vicam’s men are scouring the docks and bridges looking for you? What happened? You are in danger!” Kingsley was stumbling on his words, clearly surprised to have found us, and his voice was warm and genuinely concerned.

And scared.

“Umm…that’s a long story and we don’t ha—” Iesa started to speak when blood erupted from Kingsley’s chest, spattering Iesa, Mo and me. Mo gave a screech and bolted to the buildings near-by, as we stared at Kingsley in horror. All the blood came from a gaping wound, caused by a javelin that was now lodged through Kingsley’s torso. Looking behind him, we saw the source.

Arakhan retracted his arm and drew his sword. His heavily scaled face was sneering at us. He drew his sword and strode forward, leading a small group of guards towards us.

“That’sss what we do to traitorsss. And the ssssame fate awaitsss you.

My jaw hung open in surprise. Not at the violence directed towards Kingsley and his betrayal. I was surprised that Kingsley was warning us at all. In Sigil, no one ever seemed to stick their neck out to help someone. The Harmonium didn’t have the reputation of being compassionate. They were the ‘Hardheads’; there to enforce order that they defined. And here was Kingsley, slumping the to the ground. His blood was rapidly pooling on the cobblestone. I turned and looked for Daneath and Beepu screaming “Help.” I was not going to let this man die!

Beepu, Iesa and I were dumbfounded and were slow to react to the threat of Arakhan and the four guardsmen with him. Daneath’s reflexes kicked in however and he was truly the man of action.

And his first action was to bolt swiftly straight to the barge. Only after he reached it did he turn and realize that we were engaged with various guardsmen, and that Kingsley lay motionless on the ground. I saw him turn to look at a crew member and shout at him, throwing a coin purse at the sailor. Then he drew his sword and started to make his way back.

Meanwhile, Iesa rolled to his left towards some nearly warehouse buildings and pulled his new bow from his back, and quickly fired an arrow at one of the guards heading towards us. The arrow sank deep into the chest of the guard, but he still charged forward in pain, but unable to close with the swift Knight of the Post.

Beepu quickly recovered from his shock, and pulled a vial from his pouch, while Foggle flew straight up from his shoulder. After a moment he flicked the open vial and a solid bolt of ice shot forth, striking another guard. The bolt exploded into sharp icy shards, lacerating several of the guards, and one fell down to his knees.

Two of the guards looked at me, standing over Kingsley’s body and started forward, swords drawn. I was angry; I expected friends to perhaps take a blow for me. I didn’t expect a stranger to do so. And while we ‘knew’ Kingsley, he really didn’t know us at all. I was not going to let him die saving my skin. It wasn’t right and It wasn’t close to fair.

Staring at the two guards I reached within and pulled at the darkness, and skeletal hands grasped at the throats of the approaching men. Their eyes had the look of fear at first, and then they glazed over as the fell, slumping down onto the ground.
Arakhan was unconcerned and strode forward toward myself and Beepu who was only slightly behind me. The ice and cold didn’t seem to bother him at all, and he wasn’t even bleeding. I swallowed in fear, not particularly prepared to take a beating from the longsword the Dragonborn held.

(See! I can tell Lizardthings apart!)

Arakhan swung at me, but the blade went wide. I sidestepped to the right, hoping to expose his back to the Knight of the Post’s new toy. But Daneath arrived first, swinging his blade. But his strikes were deftly deflected by Arakhan’s shield.
Iesa took another shot at the remaining guardsman, sinking an arrow in his throat. The guard gurgled for a moment, and fall forward onto his knees, and then flat on the earth.

Daneath with renewed energy swung again and landed a solid blow again the captain. He continued to circle him, when suddenly the sneer was replaced with a smile. Arakhan puffed up his chest and blew icy frost on Daneath, Beepu and myself. Daneath took the full force of the icy gale, which shielded Beepu and I from the worst of it. But he too slumped down to the ground.

Seeing Daneath sink to the ground, I prayed to Kelemvor. Kingsley was hurt, but Daneath was in bad shape now. I wanted desperately to save both them, but with Arakhan so close to me, I was equally concerned with living. So, I tried a different tactic. I pulled in measures of light and dark from myself and focused the energy on Arakahn. To force him to stop his assault.
At first it seemed to work; his posture softened, and he pulled up in surprise. But just as quickly he shook his head, and focused his hatred towards us.

Arakhan looked ready to bear down on the two of us when I heard Iesa shout at the captain.

“Hey lizardboy, you look like you hatched from a rotten egg!” . But he followed up his verbal volley with an arrow, which solidly connected with the captains’ shield.

The Dragonborn turned to face Iesa. He bellowed at this new torment, and charged. Iesa smiled and shot at him again, all the while running for his life as the Dragonborn bore down upon him. As the captain moved towards Iesa and the warehouses, I knelt down quickly and touched Daneath on the brow and focused some light into his fallen form. I could see the marks of where the frost had froze his skin, return to a warm pink.

“Get up! Get Kingsley! And get to the barge!” I said quickly, trying to recover my energy to save Kingsley. Arakhan was busy chasing Iesa through the streets, and I could hear the occasional twang of an arrow, followed by it striking the shield.

Daneath looked at me confused, “Wha…why?” he stammered climbing to his feet.

“Because he tried to save our lives, grab him and go!” I shouted at Daneath. He shook his head and turned towards Kingley’s limp form. With a heavy boot he snapped the javelin into two, leaving only a stump in his back and the point out his chest, and he carefully picked up the fallen guard, and made his way to the barge.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! We must make haste!” Beepu said, running ahead of Daneath and jumping aboard, with myself close behind.
“Captain? Captain? Captain?” Beepu shouted looking around for someone in charge. “We need to depart immediately once our friend arrives, but no sooner.”

A stocky dwarf regarded the gnome a moment, and then looked at Daneath. “You know, that gold was to hold the boat for you. And right now, I’m lookin to move on to spend it. Cast off boys!” he barked.

“No wait. I will double the gold if you hold us here a bit longer!” he said, and the captain raised a hand and said.
“Cast of boys. Slow like.” and the sailors continued to remove the last of the lines securing the barge from the pier, but with far less haste than before. They finally removed the last of the mooring lines and slowly the barge broke away, as the oarsmen below, pushed the barge away into the river.

During this exchange, I poured a bit of light into Kingsley. He would not pass into the Fugue today, but I needed time to heal him further. A pair of sailors, had picked up his fallen form and moved him to what appeared to be a tent on the deck. No longer concerned with Kingsley, I turned to look for Iesa.

The delay was just enough, as Iesa came skidding around a corner running for all his worth. He looked panicked and wild-eyed, and Mo was now ahead of him on the rooftops. While Daneath had quick reflexes, Iesa had him beat in swiftness on the ground. He saw the barge was slipping away and focused his efforts to gain speed for a leap across the water.

Close behind running like a lizard possessed was Arakhan. Even the heavy armor was not enough to slow him down, and he looked to make the same leap that Iesa was about to try.

Beepu and I glanced at each other. “I do not think I can penetrate that armor at all,” Beepu said as he flung a bolt of fire at Arakhan to watch it strike its chest with no seeming effect.

“Let’s try something else,” I said and reached within. This time I looked not to the darkness, but to the light instead. And I grabbed at it desperately, pulling its energy down towards the Dragonborn.

From above, a dazzling white beam of energy appeared and struck down from above, squarely hitting the Dragonborn. He howled in pain as the energy coursed through him. The strike stopped him cold, and he turned and moved towards some crates on the side, looking for cover from the assault from the heavens.

I was going to have none of it, so while Beepu tried to strike again with a bolt of fire, the cover of the crates where more than enough to deflect the attempt. No such succor existed from the radiance I was calling and again I called it down to strike my target. Arakhan howled in pain, and realizing the futility of hiding, started to move again towards the barge.

By this time, Mo had jumped and easily cleared the distance across the water to the barge. Iesa, with some amount of grace also easily cleared the distance, landing on the deck with room to spare.

But Arakhan was dressed in much heavier armor. So, while he strode forward towards us, it became clear that he would not be able to make the jump. Instead he bellowed, powerless to stop our escape. I continued to pull light down upon him and the Dragonborn yelled in pain. Finally, he gave up and moved farther away from the dock and the torment I provided.

We stood there, breathing heavily watching Arakhan depart; denied his quarry. We heard the oars start to pull against the weak current of the river, and we began our journey north to Portstown.

I wasn’t going to miss this Blexburgh.

Not one bit.

Session notes:

The fight at the end caused no amount of retconning during the session. The first problem was understanding the simple language of Maxilian’s Earthen Grasp and the phrase “On the Ground.’ Was the dock a ground? During the session the DM said no, which bummed Beepu’s player out as he felt then that he wasted his spell book choice. Later on, after much pursing, this interpretation was deemed to be an error.

A second problem arose with my attempt at casting Charm Person. This actually succeeded at first, and we started to have a dialog, when the DM (correctly) remember that during combat he was have advantage on the saving throw, which he then made. Then he backtracked and reasoned that I should have known that and asked if I wanted to do something else.

Because we couldn’t hit the AC he had (something in the high 17 or 18, and dice were not working for us) I tried again…which also failed. High risk, high reward. I mean how good of a wisdom save could he have? ( 17 and 20 on the dices, so good enough)

Fortunately, his Dex was terrible. Which gets to a point about Myrai. I had a lot of cantrips at that point. About eight. This allowed me to have quite a bit of utility, as only three were damaging attack spells. Eventually I would end up with twelve. I for one loved the flexibility it gave me, pulling out something to turn events in our favor. More on that type of stuff later.

2,123
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Return of Big D - 6/13/2019

The Return of “Big D"

It amazes me often about who lives and who dies. The cruelty and unfairness of it all.
But what amazes me more, is that we get along at all.

We stood on the top deck, winded and watching the Dragonborn fade back into a gathering crowd near the pier. But my thoughts didn’t linger there long, but instead I turned to look around for Kingsley.

The sailors had laid the guard, face up on a trestle table inside of a rectangular tent on the deck. I rushed over to him, and already could hear the muttering:

“Ill-luck to bring a dead man on board.”

“He’s surely a gonner.”

“What are we going to do with him? Pitch him back into the river?”

I pushed the sailors aside and looked over the form sprawled on the table. What I saw did not give me comfort. While I stopped him from dying in the street, his fortunes didn’t look good. The remainder of the javelin still protruded through his chest. While it clearly missed his heart, it must have pierced his left lung. The wound oozed blood, but only because it had clotted around the wooden shaft. But with every breath the wound would bubble with air.

I had seen this before during the war in Sigil. My mentor in the ways of Kelemvor was a healer. He commanded no magic beyond the use of his mind to help. And many were saved by his hand and I tried to learn as much as could. And the memory of this kind of wound filled me with dismay.

Kingsley was going to die. The only question was what would kill him first. He might slowly bleed to death with the shaft of the javelin. He might drown in his own blood. And worst to my mind, was rot would set in, leading to fever. I knew what my mentor would have done out of duty.

But this man had warned us. Saved us. It wasn’t right he pay with his life, for me. For any of us. And unlike my mentor, I had something else.

I had power.

But I didn’t have time.

“Guys! Find some cloth quickly and help me!” I shouted.

Iesa came in first, and his face probably mirrored mine. “Um…how is—” and Daneath and Beepu then stood next to me, both looking at the stricken form of Kingsley. Beepu was holding what appeared to be canvas.

“That does not look good,” he stammered.

“No, and help me, before he leaves to see the fugue,” I said moving to the other side of the table. “But I am going to need your help.” And I looked at each of them in the eyes. “All of you.”

“Sure Myr…but can you heal that?” Daneath asked doubtfully.

“Not with that piece of wood in him. We have to remove it.”

“Wait,” Beepu said concerned. “That will probably cause him to lose whatever blood he has left. Additionally, it might damage his insides.”

I nodded, quickly and listening to Kingsley’s breathing, I realized his death was approaching fast. His breathing was labored, and I could hear the sounds of gurgling in his throat as his blood slowly filled his lungs.

“I am damn well going to try. Take the cloth, and put a bundle of it under him, right where the javelin entered his back.” The three were still staring at him and didn’t make a move.

NOW!” I shouted, snapping them into focus. Daneath came to my side of the table, and slowly rolled the guard towards his right, exposing his back. Beepu took out a dagger and cut some of the cloth he had into two and stuffed a bundle underneath him.

“Ok, lower him down.” He told Daneath. The big warrior carefully returned Kingsley to lying flat on his back. As he was shifted, Kingsley started to cough and convulse.

“Quick, Iesa hold down his shoulders!” and he quickly responded, pressing down on the shoulders, trying to keep Kingsley still. At the same time, I climbed on top of the table and the guardsman him, using my weight to keep him from moving.

“Beepu, wrap some cloth around the shaft and hold it there.” I said as I grasped at my medallion at my neck.

“Daneath, I’m going to say a prayer. When you hear the word ‘live’..pull the shaft out.”

“Like an arrow wound…yeah yeah got it.”

“Beepu, there will be …a lot of blood. Just push down on the cloth. And if I do this right. It’ll stop.”
Beepu, had shifted to the right side of Kingley, and climbed up on the table and knelt on Kingsley’s right, gathering the cloth around the shattered javelin. His hands spread it out and he breathed deeply and nodded. I quickly glanced at Iesa and he nodded, pushing down on Kingsley’s shoulders.

I placed my right hand upon the right side of Kingsley’s chest, and I did so, Daneath moved to Kingsley’s left side, standing closest to the wound exit, and grasped the shaft with both hands and breathed deeply twice and then nodded.

I was now up to me. I closed my eyes and centered myself; reaching to for the strongest point of light within me. I took a breath and steeled myself.

I would save him.

Everything felt to be moving through honey; everything felt slow and delibrate as time slowed to my eyes. I Pulled at the light within me and prepared myself to push it into Kingsley. I then whispered the prayer:

“I will strive to help those to live.”

I could feel the energy start to pour into Kingsley’s form slowly. But on the utterance of the last word, Daneath lexed his muscles pulling the javelin through his chest, wrenching it free. As he did so, I felt Beepu pushing the cloth over the now gushing wound. I could feel the warm blood splashing on my face as it sprayed everywhere. His body bucked and convulsed again. I heard Iesa straining to keep him from moving and causing more damage, as I tried to maintain my position on top.

But as the blood flowed out from Kingsley, I was feeling something very different. Where I was at one point pushing energy into him, now I could feel his soul pulling at it…tearing at it. It felt like I was drowning in water, as he pulled at the energy I had to give.

“I will strive to help those to live,”

I chanted again with some desperation, channeling more and more energy. My heart was beating faster, and I was starting to feel fatigue. But I knew somehow that it wasn’t done. He needed more.

I will strive to help those to live,”

I was shouting, tears in my eyes as I could feel the last of the light leave me. I was at the limit and, I could feel Kingsley’s life pull more and more from me. And then…it let go my own light and it settled back within the guardsman. He stopped moving, and his breathing was less labored.

I opened my eyes and saw the aftereffects of our effort. We were covered in blood. All of us were all panting trying to catch our breath. I moved my right hand over to where Beepu held the cloth and pushed it slowly and carefully aside. At first, he resisted, but after looking at me for a moment, he relented, allowing me to peel away the cloth from the wound.

As I had prayed for, there was no wound. The skin was whole, with only the slightest hint of a scar where the javelin once stuck out of his chest. Just blood, darkening and cooling on his softly breathing chest.
“Did…did…did we…do it?” Iesa asked looking back and forth at Kingsley and me.

I nodded, breathing heavily. “He’s going to need some rest…we all are. Let’s…get Kingsley off the table and put him…somewhere.” I slowly, unsteadily got off the sleeping man.

“I will see what someone can do for him as far as accommodations,” Beepu

“Might want to see about us as well,” Daneath said.

I stepped slowly out of the tent on the deck and had a good look around for the first time. There were a scattering of tents and some tables. A large hole or rather an entrance to the deck below was laden with cargo, and rowing benches on the far sides, allowing the barge to move upstream. On the deck were an assortment of sailors and some passengers, sitting at tables underneath an awning.

All of them staring at me. It took me a moment to remember that I was probably covered in blood. I moved over to an edge on the deck and pulled out a small mirror from my component pouch. I then started the incantations to begin cleaning myself off.

I chuckled to myself, only seven or so days I ago I was doing the exact same thing. But instead of my own death and return, I stopped someone else from crossing over to the fugue. Smiling I returned to midship and then moved towards the tiller. There, a sailor had a steady hand on the wood, while the captain looked over the main. The dwarf seeing me approach, nodded and spoke.

“Hear you brought a dead man onboard,” he growled.

“I seem to remember that one of your men said it was bad luck,” I said walking to the stern of the barge. “Well, he’s quite alive now. That means good luck then?”

“I don’t see how.”

“Another passage to claim fees for?”

The dwarf for the first time cracked a smile, “I guess that may be so. And I can get the rest of my crew to stop whining.”

“And I don’t suppose that the captain might have something that passes for a decent mug of bub…er…drink on board.”

“I might, is my luck holding?”

I smiled, “I pay my tabs.”

“I’ll see about a clean mug then and see if ye can…hold some fire in your belly.”

“Well, it has got to beat the swill in Yartar,”

“Almost anything do that girl,” and the dwarf moved back towards midship and one of the awnings, and then came back out with a mug and handed it to me with a wolfish grin. I grabbed it and could smell the potent vapors. Quickly I took a swallow and could taste the smoke and warmth of the alcohol.

It was heaven. And only then did I become aware of an argument among the some of the passengers:
“I’m sure of it.” A human said almost whispering

“Yeer, imaginin things, that’sss not him.” Said another, a bit tispy from cheap ale.

“Not who?” said a third.

“That’s Big D! I’m sure of it.” Said the first.

“You mean the guy that beat the ‘Apple King?’” Said the second one.

The first one nodded vigorously.

“Well,” the third one started. “You should ask.” Pointing to the table nearby, were I saw Iesa and Daneath both sitting. The two nodded and encouraged the first. The man then stood up and walked toward my friends. He had the look of a first year namer in the present of a Factol; Scared. Awed. Uncertain. He reached the table and spoke.

“Excuse me sir. Are you…Big D?”

The warrior winced as Iesa stifled at laugh. “Well…I…um…yes. Yes I am.” He said, guiltily as Iesa barely contained his laughter.

“And you were the one that brought down the Apple King?”

“Well, I admit…I don’t remember much about that bout.”

“Well I remember!” And from another table sat a trio of halflings, and one gave a glare of hatred at Daneath. He stood and strode slowly over to where Daneath sat. “And I remember putting a dent in your codpiece as a parting gift.”

The three humans that had fingered or argued about Big D before, were unanimous in their exclamation in awe: “The Apple King!”

Daneath’s face was calm and unconcerned. But I could see his hands clenching, readying himself.

“So…you enjoy low blows. Only way you can win?” Daneath said with a touch of contempt.

The halfling’s eyes narrowed with a venomous look, “You entered a ring no-holds barred, and expected a fair fight? Your brains are as big as your balls.”

Iesa at this point stood up and theatrically spread apart his arms as if welcoming the two. “Excellent then! A rematch it is between the Apple King and his nemesis, Big D! Here and now, place your bets.”

I at this point almost choked from swallowing the fiery whiskey. I had a moment of dread of having to put Daneath back together again.

Daneath turned to look at Iesa in a mixture of horror and hatred. “What?!? I am n—” he started to say when he saw the large amount of coin started to be changing hands, placing proposition bets on the outcome. In the meantime, the Apple King had shed his pack and other equipment and was stretching out his limbs in preparation for ‘the match.’

I could see Daneath pull Iesa close to him, and him muttered, “Next time, you step in the ring!” to which Iesa only smiled and clapped him on the back. Daneath stood up and removed his pack and sword belt, placing them on the table. He then strode forward on the deck towards the Apple King.

The King didn’t hesitate, and quickly threw himself at Big D. Whirling around the King attempted to land a pair of firm kicks. But unlike the prior fight, Big D had heavier armor, and the King was having less luck finding open spots to hurt his larger foe.

Big D by comparison started using his new techniques he learned while at the Iron Blades. So a miss resulted in an opening where Big D could land a punch on the chin. A normal person would likely be sent sprawling. But the Apple King, took the blow and rolled, taking the shock and remained upright.

Big D while he could retaliate, had a hard time landing his own punches. Swinging wildly, and frequently whiffing by the halfling. The halfling’s blows when they connected clearly hurt, but the armor again kept that from being common.

It was clear after a moment that unlike their first meeting, the match was far more even. Big D was taking the punishment from the halfling and could endure it. The Apple King relied more on never getting hit, so when Big D did land a punch it comparatively did more damage.

The pair circled each other and kept swinging. The Apple King trying to finesse his way to a victory, and Big D just trying to pound his way to victory. Finally, it was luck that cast the die on the two combatants. Big D, moved forward to swing at the Apple King, when he lost his footing briefly on the rough deck. The Apple King took advantage and dived low and punched high. With a sickening sound of metal crunching, and Big D belatedly covering his apples.

I could only wince as I saw Big D sinking to his knees. The crowd on deck was excited. Mo was hopping up and down on a table, while Beepu had his fingers in his ears as he was attempting to read. But it was Iesa that turned the entire bout on its head.

“He cheated! I saw him throw something on the ground!” and with that statement, the crowd’s cheers hushed, and a dead silence set in. You could hear the wooden boards creak, and the water running by, but that was it. All the oars stopped, the crowd was silent looking back and forth between the Apple King and Iesa. Even Mo stopped hopping up and down. I stood by and took a swallow of my drink, wondering how this was going to end.
Iesa moved forward and pressed his palm against the wood in front of Big D. When he lifted it and turned it over, there was the sheen of oil on his hand. He then pointed his finger at the stunned Apple King. “You cheated!”

The halfling’s face had honest confusion on it and he stammered, “What I didn’t throw any—”

“I saw you,” Iesa shouted. Then another human, the one that was a fan of Big D chimed in.

“I bet you did! You couldn’t win a fair fight!”

The crowd now started to shout and jostle. I put my mug down and went to Daneath and helped move him to the side as the shouting continued and increasing in intensity.

“Did…did I win?” Daneath asked, barely coherent.

I smiled, nodded and replied, “Your fame has once again exceeded you.” I led him to a low tent nearby and helped him inside, when he promptly passed out. I returned to the deck, and it was clear now that the majority of the crowd believed that the Apple King cheated. I also noticed two things about this group.

Firstly, it was clear that the bettors for Big D, were in the majority. But the second thing was more important. Almost all the crew of the barge were betting for Big D, and the Captain was now in the thick of the crowd and siding with his crew.

“You don't cheat on my boat!”

“I did nothing of the sort!”

"So…your calling my crew liars?”

“I. Did. Not. Cheat!”

“Right then. Here’s your stop.”

“Wait, you can’t just leave us here!”

“You start a fight with a passenger, cheat and try to take my crews hard earned coin? Well, now you can take it to the shore and walk it!”

I noticed that the barge was being steered towards the bank. The helmsman was skilled though and kept the barge from running aground or getting caught in the plants.

“But as a courtesy to you; take your passage fees back and you can throw yourself and your two friends off. Unless ye be needing some help with that!” The captain said glaring.

Moments later, the three halflings were on the western bank having swam or waded to shore. They were shaking themselves off when the Apple King turned and shouted.

“Hey! This is the wrong side of the river!”

“So, it is! And your on the wrong side of my manners!”

I made a mental note to myself. Don’t annoy the captain on their boat.

The excitement was over, and I moved towards a small table with my mug. I was tired and just about done for the evening. Night was coming soon and I for once just wanted a good night’s sleep.

At that point, the three humans sat next to me. And one of them started;

“Wow, so you know Big D? Are you a fan or his—”

This is one of those times I rolled my eyes. However, I have come to realize that unless you have an iris or clear whites of your eyes, people tend to miss it. I found that out from Elisna, who as a tiefling had solid red eyes. And the same problem.

“I just…travel with him.”

“Oh, wow that must be…oh WOW! Your eyes…you are…wow can can I?”

“No wait, can I?”

“No me!

And finally, all three said at the same time:

“Get you a drink?!”

I spent the rest of the evening drinking lightly, and shifting mugs, so they ended up drinking what they bought for me. The conversation was somewhat about me how I looked, and a bit about Big D. But it was the same dance of each of them trying to get a coveted spot in my tent to sleep in for the evening.

It must have been near Anti-Peak when the last one passed out, and I could extract myself from the table. I moved again to the stern, where the captain was alone holding the tiller. He glanced at me amused.

“You were right.”

“About?”

“Your good luck. Made more in drinks off them drunks than their passage.”

I looked town on river drifting behind us. “Glad I’m valuable for something then.”

The dwarf cocked his eyebrow and looked at me, nodding.

“Ye'd fit in at Citadel Adbar. Good food. Good drinks. No one pesters you, if you donna want it. Helps that the dwarves wouldn’t hit on you as much.”

“Oh?”

The dwarf nodded, smiling. “Nah. You look too breakable, and you don’t have a beard.”

I laughed at that a long while as the we continued our way north in the night.

Session notes:

This is what happens when you get a dialog that goes like this in the game:

“Kinglsey appears to be dying”

“I heal him.”

Sorta boring.

The second round with Big D was pretty much as is; a bit more even, and accusations of cheating.

2,214
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Entering Portstown Gingerly - 6/19/2019

Entering Portstown Gingerly

(And a special welcome to the folks who have shot my pageviews through the roof!)

My faith spends a lot of time with people preparing for the final days. Either their own, or someone close to them.

So, preparing someone to live is an uncommon experience.

I was up relatively early the next morning, watching the sun rise. The last time I watched it was somewhere between Triboar and Yartar. It was still a novelty to me, and this seemed to be a great way to watch it. Sitting on a chair on the deck, doing essentially nothing but watching. I could look at the color of the sun, and the colors it painted across the landscape as it rose. Closing my eyes, I could see the light, and feel the beginning of warmth on my face. It was a peaceful indulgence.

But truth be told, I was up, not because of the sun. It wasn’t even because I couldn’t sleep much myself, although that did have a small part in it. I was truly awake because I wanted to see Kingsley when he first woke.
During the war in Sigil, there were many patients who after taking a grievous wound that weren’t the same. Most causes were obvious; a loss of a limb, or an eye were enough to break the spirits of a person not prepared to be a casualty. But there were others that while the wound healed, they didn’t act the same. Some were quiet, some were slow, and some were violent. The Gatehouse would often take in the last and keep them from others so they didn’t harm anyone. The others hopefully had family to care for them.

I didn’t know where Kingsley might land. We didn’t know anything about him. Did he have family in Yartar? Anywhere near? What would he do now? Was his mind intact? Hopefully today we would know.
I heard a soft groan from another tent and I turned my head hoping. But the quick hoot of Foggle, made it clear who was stirring. And not long after, Beepu crawled out of the tent that we had shared. He pulled himself upright and stretched. Seeing me he both yawned and waved.

“Morning. I guess you slept well,” he remarked.

“Well, once the three humans passed out on the deck I could think about it.” I said gesturing at the still forms by the table nearby. “Daneath and Iesa were up longer, still talking when I finally called it. Thanks for…being a gentlegnome last night?”

“Oh well…yes. I do not take as much room as the others, so it only made sense. And besides I do have manners.”

“Yes…yes you do.”

“Ahem, any sign of the others?”

I shook my head, “They were snoring right before sunrise. Saw Mo somewhere, probably looking for food or something.” And I looked behind Beepu at the tent that held Kingsley. “And nothing from our…friend yet.”
“Yes. Quite the conundrum. Hopefully he can tell us a little more on what we left behind.”

It was then I could a hear a groan from Kingsley’s tent. I pulled myself onto my feet and walked over to the closed tent. What I heard was some muffled whispering and frantic searching. Presently, the flap to his tent was flung aside and Kingsley, wild-eyed and confused emerged. He stood up and was starting to look around when I addressed him.

“Are you feeling better Kingsley?”

He turned to look at me with surprise. “I…well…I guess? I thought I was dreaming. But I don’t know what was dream and what was real.” Looking around for the first time his confusion continued, “I don’t quite know where I am for that matter.”

“I’m told this is the River Surbrin, and you are heading north on a barge. What do you remember?”

“Well…I…swore I was dead. I remember seeing you and the dark-haired fellow. And I…I was stabbed? Yes…I remember that. But—” he looked at the tunic he wore, that had a clear hole on the left side. But looked under it, clearly trying to find something else.”

“Well, you did have a javelin sticking through your chest.”

He looked puzzled, “But I don’t see a wound...or blood even.”

“No, you would not,” Beepu said. “Between Myrai and I, we cleaned up most of your blood. And she used some magic to close your wound.

“So…I didn’t die?”

“Well, if we didn’t remove the javelin, you probably would have. Seemed too good a person to visit the fugue so soon.”

Kingsley stopped looking for the wound and looked at each of us, “Well…thank you. I owe you my—”

“No,” I said. “We’re even. Your warning probably saved us. So…why did you?”

He stood there thinking a moment before talking again, “I had been a house guard for about six years, and the last year had been strange for certain after Vicam arrived. Then…Nestra seemed to change. I put it out of my mind for a while, but when I saw you and the other fellow I knew something was going to happen. And something did but they wouldn’t say what. Had us search the rooms and the guests. Then the next night was even stranger.”

“How so?” Beepu asked.

“Well, I was downstairs, when the upstairs sergeant called for help. Then all of us were trying to break down the door to Nestra’s room. We finally made it through, and there was dirty smoke in the air, but nothing else. No one else. It was another guard that found the hidden door, and we all charged down the stairs only to be blocked in a room with another door. At that point some of us were told to go back upstairs and secure the house. Did that, got little sleep and then in the morning we were told to start looking for several guests. Her for certain, and you being the only gnome at the party, plus the other two men. I had no idea why, and I was just surprised to see you at all. You just didn’t seem the type to cause trouble. It didn’t feel right somehow,” he rambled, recalling the haze of the last several days.

“Well, Eragon—” I started

“Arakhan,” Beepu corrected.

“Right, Arakhan. He seemed to take it personally that you told us. Thank you.”

“Well…I’m glad I could…help.” Kingsley said, his face plainly looking like it needed to sort things out.
“It was a great help,” said Iesa who had crawled out from his tent. “After leading Arakhan around the docks for a bit, he clearly wanted to kill us. And I for one appreciate being alive.”

“I have to agree with you there; he wasn’t pulling hits with his sword. Probably would have bled right there if Myrai hadn’t of helped me,” Remarked Daneath.

I gamely shrugged, “Glad to help…we should try harder, so I don’t have to maybe?”

“So Kingsley,” Beepu started to ask. “Did you leave anyone behind?”

“Wha—oh no. Family passed away a while ago. Don’t have a wife or anything either,” he said, almost disappointedly.

“No one?” I said frowning. “I mean it could be worse, but somehow I don’t think you can go back to Yartar.”

“No…probably not.” He said glumly.

“Well cheer up! I can write you a letter of reference! This barge should continue up to Silverymoon. If you want you can go to my mother’s place there, and she can help you get established!” Said Beepu enthusiastically.

“R—really? You would that?”

I turned to look at Beepu, “You can do that?”

“Yes, yes,” Beepu said waving his hand nonchalantly. “Least we can do. There was no way for Kingsley here to know that he would be, well ending his employment. So, it is the least I can do to get you restarted.”

I was surprised, and a little envious. I could only offer what I had. I didn’t have a family like Beepu. And have the confidence to offer what he did, with the certainty that his mother would help. The same offer that I had from Beepu for his father’s help. Beepu was not the easiest to get along with, but I wouldn’t ever say that he wasn’t generous.

“Well…thanks. That will help,” Kingsley said with some tears in eyes. “Now If you don’t mind, I’m starved…I need to…”

“Please! Don’t worry about it. It’s not your week to die, and perhaps the change will work out for the best” I said hopefully. And with that he started toward one of the tends, where some cheese and bread were already laid out.

“That’s generous of you,” said Daneath. “You are sure your mother will help?”

“Of course! No question at all!”

“Well, that’s good. Now, what do we do about Arakhan?” said Iesa.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well…he might not give up easily. We might need to disguise ourselves at the next stop just in case.” Iesa said.

“Makes sense, but can you do it?” Daneath said.

“That could be challenging,” Beepu frowned.

“Bet I can,” Iesa said and then started looking at me. In fact, all three were.

“Wait…what? I can just cover up under a hood, right?”

“Well, that’s the first thing that a person searching for another looks for; someone trying to hide features.” Iesa said. “We’re going to have to do something about your hair.”

I felt defensive suddenly, “I…well…sure…I guess. Nothing permanent right?”

Iesa smiled, “No, not at all. But…I don’t know what to do with the eyes.”

Beepu was frowning, “Well…we could cover her eyes. As if she were blind.”

“Any magic you could use?” Daneath asked Beepu.

“My illusions would work only if she stood still. I will have to think of something else.”

“We have some time to figure it out right?” I asked, somewhat alarmed at the attention about how I looked.

“Well, we’ll need an idea by tomorrow, before we dock,” Daneath said.

“And what are you berks going to do? I mean he’s distinctive per Kingsley,” and I pointed at Beepu.

“Fake beard and a burlap sack. He keeps Foggle hidden,” Iesa replied, and Beepu shrugged and nodded without much fuss.

“And the Big D?”

“Fake mustache and braid his hair.”

I blinked,” And yourself?”

“Well, I was going to cut down my hair, so I had some for the beard, and darken my skin, and wear a hat.”

“A hat.” I less asked, than stated the obvious.

“Myrai, you are just very…distinctive. The gold and the eyes are dead giveaways.”

“I bet he doesn’t even show.” I said.

“Can we take the chance?” Daneath asked?

“I…I guess not. We’ll take care of it tomorrow I suppose.” I said defeated. Turning away to look at the passing water, I realized that it was an odd argument to have. It made sense that we might be looked for. So why was I putting up a stink about it?

Frowning I thought about it and I realized that deep down…I wanted to be distinctive. Like it or not it was me. I never wanted to hide who I was in the Gatehouse, in Sigil, or even when I first arrived a hood was fine. But the prospect that someone might actively look for me and I had to hide was uncomfortable.

The next morning found myself sitting down on the edge of the deck, with Iesa seated on a stool behind me. He was rubbing some smelly oil through my hair that he claimed would alter the color. He had already trimmed his hair down, and honestly it looked like an improvement. It was strange having another person work their hands through my hair like this. It actually felt a bit relaxing, as he gently pulled sections of my hair and coated it.

All the time I was thinking about my eyes. How could one disguise them? I sat and thought, and something then just fell into place. One of the incantations I knew could alter aspects of my voice and presence. Could I use that? As I thought about it, I decided it was worth a try.

“Iesa, what color is my hair turning out?”

“Well, I would describe it as coppery at the moment. It doesn’t really want to get much darker.”

“Ok,” and I remembered that green eyes worked well for that color, and I sat and thought about Beepu’s eyes. I then focused both light and dark energy, and painted magic over my eyes. I pulled out the mirror from my pouch and looked.

The hair was coppery alright; metallic copper but not as shiny as my natural gold. But my eyes were now a bright green. I focused a little and toned it down to be less vivid and after some trying had a look that I could live with.

As a red head I was going to be tolerable. But the first thing I discovered was that I had to constant put energy in keeping up the appearance. It just wouldn’t stick around for very long. The second thing I found out was that it was giving me a headache. At least I knew when the spell was working.

“Well, I’m about done.” Iesa said. “Hope I didn’t hurt you.”

“Same here, and no you didn’t.” I stood up on the deck turned to face Iesa, raising his chin as I bent down. His eyes locked with mine, and I watched his jaw drop and his eyes blink with surprise.

“How did you—”

“A bit of effort, even now. I need to actively keep it up. But I gather it works for you.” I said with a smirk.

“Looks good, what else could you want?”

“A wide brimmed hat obvious. This actually hurts to do.”

“I’ll keep an eye out.”

“Great. Are we the only ones getting off in Portstown?” I asked.

“Yes, everyone else is travelling north past the ruins of Nesmé and eventually Silverymoon. That includes Kingsley.”

“Well, then we don’t have to explain to others leaving the boat then.”

“Nope. And hopefully this will be enough. Oh, before I forget here is some coin I owe you,” and he passed me a small bag of coin.

“From our findings?”

“Yes…minus some expenses.”

“Expenses? Like the orphans that were waving their hands at you as we left Yartar?”

“Ah…yes. I didn’t think anyone noticed.”

“I don’t think the others did. But I’m sure they could use the help,” I said approvingly.

“Well let’s get ready to leave.” Iesa said, clearly happy that the discussion on his soft spot was over.

It didn’t take long to get our meager things. Daneath was surprised at my new look, and his new braids screamed dwarf. Beepu looked like a poor gnome with a patchy beard and simply nodded at my new look. Foggle was hidden…somewhere. While Mo was bounding around the boat.

“Isn’t Mo somewhat distinctive?” I asked.

“Yes, but I’ll carry him in my pack once he burns off some energy,” Iesa replied.

The barge was pulling toward the dock and the crew was getting ready to cast mooring lines to fasten the barge to the jetty. As this was going on, I took a moment to thank the captain for the journey. He looked at me and laughed, saying he wasn’t sure if he was drinking more now or before to have a missed a second woman on board.

Finally, we said our goodbyes to Kingsley. Beepu gave him a letter, and Iesa gave him some coin as well to “Help him get restarted.” Kingsley had tears in his eyes and simply said “Thank you.” I touched him and gave a simple blessing.

Bless Kingsley to live until his appointed time,

So, his deeds will live forever,

So be the will of my Lord, so when Death comes,


All will know his worth forever.


He looked at me and nodded and asked, “And when is my time?”

I shook my head, “It’s not for us to know. But I’m pretty sure it’s not today, and probably not tomorrow.”

“What about the day after?”

“Pretty good if you don’t annoy the captain.”

“I guess that will do. Thanks, Myrai.”

And with that final good bye, the four of us walked down the gangplank and stepped into Portstown.

So, if I ever said that I was disappointed in Triboar or Yartar, looking around I realized that indeed it could get worse. Portstown was optimistic in being called a town. It couldn’t be larger than twenty buildings, which would put it at half the size of Triboar. And it was far poorer, with most of the buildings in rough shape. Even calling the buildings, ‘buildings’ was a stretch in most cases. At least one was a burned-out shell and others ready to fall apart. The main road was a muddy track leading through the town. Few horses of any kind were visible hitched by the buildings, and only a few people were making their way around the town.

“Guys, other than Beepu and his sack, we’re going to stand out just on the virtue of the towns inhabitance being this poor.” I observed.

“That is why I chose this sack. It gives off the vibe of poor and unwashed. I learned that from ‘the Dirty One’ here.”

“Hey! I was in jail, they don’t give baths in jail.” Iesa said hurt.

“Can we move, I’ve got a large headache already,” I said resisting the urge to rub my temples.

“Whatever, we need to find that smith,” Daneath said, his patience already a bit thin. He was eager to get on the next step.

“Keep your ears open then,” I said and started down the main road, and the rest followed. Daneath stayed with me, and Beepu and Iesa stuck to each other on the other side of the street. As we made our way, we quickly found the local Inn, but also heard that distinctive sound of hammer on an anvil. Daneath and I looked at each other, nodded and made our way to the noise.

On the very edge of Portstown, stood a smithy. It was a large building, larger than I would have guessed for a town of this size. As we approached I whispered to Daneath.

“Let me go in first…I have some actual business I want done.”

“Business?”

“Yes, an actual transaction. Once that is done, he might be more willing to talk. Wait for the others and see if anyone else is paying attention.”

“Sure, why not. It’ll let others catch up anyway.”

Nodding, I strode into the smithy.

It probably would have been dark for most eyes, as there wasn’t a light source anywhere, and most of the windows were shuttered. But to me, everything was brightly lit with no shadows at all. But what I saw on the walls surprised me.

Large weapons; huge axes and blades were fastened to the walls. They were hung above the reach of people, which told me these were trophies, and not items for sale. The walls otherwise had various tools, horseshoes, some weapons and shields. Standing tall at the anvil was a grey skinned half-orc. He didn’t wear a shirt or smock, and his chest was covered in scars from weapons and burns. He barely lifted his eyes to look at me as I entered.

“What did you want?” he asked simply in a deep gruff voice. His tone was what I expected, someone who talked when necessary.

“I’m looking to have some work done on a shield,” I said as I browse over the weapons that hung on racks on the side of the smithy. There weren’t a lot, but what was there was good quality.

“Work? The shield you are carrying barely looks used. What work could you need done?”

“I would rather the sign of my faith be on display for my friends…and foes to see.”

The half-orc snorted a moment, “So what, they fear you? That might be a stretch,” he said derisively. “So, what did you want on the front then?”

“A set of balance scales held aloft by a skeletal arm”

The half-orc looked up at me and stared, his eyes focusing on me. As he did so, I pulled out my holy symbol out from under my armor with the image I described.

“You aren’t what I would expect for a doomguide.” He said, looking at me carefully.

“Death can wear many guises. Why would his faithful…or acolytes be different?” I said with an edge of challenge in my voice.

“True enough. I have seen many battles and many deaths. And some are more pleasing than others. Did you have a preference on how it is done?”

“Well, if I had a day to have it done what could you do?”

“I’m not much for gilding, encrusting or untherin styles”

“Untherin?”

“It’s an eastern technique, where you make a dovetail channel and pound gold flush into it. There’s also fake Untherin which is a simple pattern that you hammer gold into. Works just as well. But it isn’t exactly scary, and it takes a week. But what I can do etch it and fill in spots with lampblack. Seems more fitting.”

“Alright, that sounds good. So, how about I buy a shield from you, and you etch it, and I pick it up tomorrow evening? You can take this one as part of the trade.”

“Ten gold then for the shield and work with the trade,” he said.

“Done,” and I pulled out a pouch from beneath my armor and removed five gold coins. “Half now in good faith with one small request.

He took the coins from my hand and looked at me quizzically. “Request?”

“Yes. On top of the business I have, my friend outside has some questions, and you might be able to answer.” I then turned and raised my voice to say, “Hey D!”
The half-orc frowned, “I’m no innkeep with rumors.” As Daneath came inside with the other two in tow.

“Well, thank you for your business. And I do hope you can help.” I said, and I looked at Daneath.
Daneath was taking in the trophies and tried to start off casually;

“So…wow, how much is that axe up there?” he said completely missing its importance.

“It’s not. Is that the question?” the half-orc growled.

“Uh…no. You see I am looking for someone and I was pointed your way by a mutual…acquaintance.”

“Not ‘friend.’ Who?” the Half-orc bluntly asked, clearly on edge.

“Leoras of Yartar.” Daneath said as nonchalantly as he could.

“Leoras. Not a friend. And why would he send you here?”

“Because you might know someone that can help me find someone else.”

“Know some people. Do you even know who you are looking for?” he replied, his arms crossed. His agitation was visible and clear in his voice.

“Someone with a tattoo.”

“Look. I don’t have time to play with words. I have a commission to do,” nodding at me, and turned to get a shield that hung from the rack nearby.

The headache was getting to me at this point, and my patience was running out. “D…show him.” I said simply pointing at my own arm.

Daneath looked at me a moment with a pained expression and then nodded. He rolled up his sleeve and exposed the snake tattoo on his arm. “This tattoo.”

The half-orc turned to look, and he looked like he was about to drop the shield as his eyes opened wide.

“No. I won't help you.” He said shaking his head slowly and with a touch of fear in his voice.

Daneath looked at Iesa with a puzzled look, and Iesa simply shrugged in surprise. Turning back to the half-orc.

“What? We need to talk to someone who has this mark. Why will you not—”

“Because,” he interrupted “I swore not to.”

“Please,” I appealed. “We’ve come a long way and its important. If there anything you can do…”

The smith thought for a long time, and finally nodded and raised a meaty hand. “I won’t lead you. I’ll tell you where to go. But I can’t guarantee you’ll…”

“Get what we want?” Iesa asked.

The half-orc turned to look at Iesa and said:

“Survive.”

Session notes:

Ever notice that its hard to find French toast, or French bread, or wines from Burgundy in D&D? Well, you also can’t do Damascening either, which is a style of inlay used on armors. So Unther has now replaced Damascus.

Source of this type of stuff below:

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dect/hd_dect.htm

2,781
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Grove of the Brethren - 6/26/2019

The Grove of the Brethren

There is nothing a bottle of bub can’t fix.
Except the real problem.

“This seems like a setup,” Iesa muttered.

“Why is that? Because it always is?” I retorted. We had left Portstown and were on the road out. I had dropped the magic concealing my eyes. However, the headache was still there and had not faded.

“No…yes…right…Crap. It’s too convenient is all!” Iesa stammered. “A short hike outside of town, and follow a path after hitting a stream? That’s it? “ he exclaimed, as Mo skittered ahead from shrub to shrub.

“You want a long arduous quest? I for one just want to find my father. If this happens to be the shortest path, so be it.” Beepu lectured.

Daneath was silent throughout the discussion. His face was knotted in concentration, but he was unwilling to share his thoughts. Ever since the half-orc had reluctantly gave us directions, Daneath seemed to be steeling himself for something. A fight? An argument? I couldn’t tell.

“Well remember that the smith also didn’t say we would survive,” Isea tossed back. “Why should I feel comfortable.”

I stop and turn to look at Iesa, “Fine, let’s go back now.”

“What?” He was taken aback and looked at me in surprise. In fact, everyone had stopped and were looking at me.

“We came all this way, to get answers and all you are doing is shouting screed.” I said leveling a gaze at Iesa. “I don’t care if you’re afraid or paranoid. I already know you don’t like it. But what I am not hearing, is something better to do. So, either get ready to dance, or go home. But tell me now, so I stop wasting my time.”

Iesa’s mouth hung open a moment taken aback and stunned into silence.

“Let’s get this over with,” Daneath said, continuing down the trail. “Coming?” he glared at us and turned to continue down the path.

Iesa and I stared at each other for a moment and we both nodded. We knew we were heading into trouble, fighting now was a waste of energy. We all followed Daneath, making his way on the trail.
The directions were simple enough:

“Follow the main road out of town until you hit a stream. Just before the water, you should be able to find a game trail on your left. Take that trail until you enter a grove of trees. What you are looking for will be there.” The half-orc said grimly.

“And what are we looking for exactly?” Daneath had asked.

“They’ll find you.”

That was all we had to work with. It had been a while since we had found a game trail and were making our way to some trees settled into a small valley. Considering that this wasn’t even going to take a day, on one level this did seem too easy. But something else was bothering Iesa and I couldn’t finger what exactly it was. So, there was only one recourse.

“Beepu. What’s got Iesa going on edge?”

“Oh. That is simple. A woman.”

I wasn’t sure I believed what I heard. “A woman?”

“Yes. As Iesa and I were looking for the smith, he ran into an elven woman, and I he had some words with her. If I did not know any better, I would have said he was smitten.”

“And? What happened?” I was very curious at this point for reasons I didn’t even understand.
“Well…nothing? As I recalled he approached her, said something, and she gently laughed and walked away.”

“That’s it? You didn’t hear more?”

“I was busy looking for the smithy, and it did not seem important.”

“You know Myrai, if you are jealous you could just say so,” Iesa said with a wicked grin on his face.
I could feel my face flushing in embarrassment. “What? Of you? Not likely. Mo on the other hand…you might break his heart.” I said glibly and strode ahead of Iesa so he couldn’t see my face.

“Sure Myrai. Whatever you say,” Iesa chuckled.

Jealous? Why would I be jealous? I liked Iesa certainly. And he was attractive in that unkempt style of his. Clean him up a bit, and he could easily make many women swoon I was certain. But beyond flirting with me on occasion, he never really showed interest in me.

Did I miss something? He had a cute and playful personality, but I never gave anymore thought to it than that. Should I have?

That had to wait, as we crossed some boundary and found ourselves in the outskirts of the grove.
Now Foggle was flying about ahead of us and slightly above us. Before we had arrived in Yartar, he did this daily. So much so I frequently forgot he was around. So it had been a long while since he had done this type of ranging. At some point though, Beepu stopped in his tracks and looked around flustered.

“Where are you?” he muttered to himself aloud.

“What’s wrong Beepu?” Daneath asked.

“Foggle. I…I cannot feel him.”

“Wasn’t he just ahead of us?” Iesa said. “Perhaps we should catch up with him.”

“I am inclined to agree,” Beepu said, and we jogged along the path. At a certain point when we ‘crossed-in’ the grove he stopped again, looking confused. And then Foggle, flew down and landed on his arm.

“What happened?” I asked.

Beepu focused a moment and then looked at me. “It seems we have crossed into something. He could not talk to me, but it was more than that. From his perspective we disappeared from his sight as he watched.” Beepu looked at each of us in turn and then said. “We have crossed into a magical field of some kind. We should be cautious.”

Now we were under the shade of the trees, I could feel the hairs on my neck rise. The air felt alive. An almost primeval air surrounded us, and the whole atmosphere felt…The trees felt like they were closing in, watching us. I could see it on everyone’s faces that they felt the sudden change. Even Mo, who normally charged around chattered, was silent and apprehensive.

We moved slowly through the trees, looking and searching for something we couldn’t see. We knew we were entering someone’s demesne, but little idea who…or perhaps what. But as far as we knew, and we were warned; we were likely uninvited guests. And perhaps unwelcome as well.

Finally, we entered a clearing, with a solitary oak in its center. A small brook ran through the center, circling around the large tree. Various bushes, and ground foliage was scattered around ground. Some wildflowers had blossomed, giving the floor of the clearing vibrant yellows and violets. It looked tranquil.

And yet, it felt anything but. The omnipresent feeling of being watched. No being judged hung there in the air. There was no birdsong or rustling of animals in the brush. This included Mo, who had drifted to Iesa, and now sat on his shoulder. Beepu’s minion seemed loud by comparison, with metal gears whirring as it took off to fly above us.

We were looking around apprehensively, when I spotted her. Standing next to the oak tree I saw a woman leaning against it, watching us. Her skin was a deep brown, her eyes had the lightest grey. At first, I thought she was an elf, but then I realized I was seeing something far more fey. Her fingers were longer and thinner, trailing off into long tendrils. Her hair moved in the breeze in a cascade of oaken leaves attached to flexible shoots that hung loosely down to her waist. All of this concealed the fact that she wore no clothes, and probably had never had.

A Dryad, I thought to myself. I heard of them from stories. The Sensates had many stories about many of the fey creatures as they were fairly common in Aborea, where the Sensates had an enclave established for training and…rehabilitation. The stories told were lumped into two main categories. The first was all fantasy and romance, where protagonists of all type chased the maidens of the wood for a dalliance. Fun stories and of course the most common. But the second group were more practical and interesting. Dryads were fey and were fickle. They were focused on their domains with care and joy; but that did not include trespassers. Especially, non-Fey. While I knew enough about creatures of belief to know how they looked upon mortals as barely animals, the Fey would take a very similar perspective; even to true creatures of belief. For while they weren’t truly immortal, they had all the attitude of one. What they wanted is what they got. If they needed a man for something, they would take them. The fantasies are all from then ones who leave their clutches. The second set of stories tells the rest of the story of the ones who never leave…dead or at all.
All of which were enough to take me aback, but it was the severe look on her face that gave me chills.

‘We were not wanted here,’ was what its face said.

Daneath broke the silence of the grove first, “Ahem. We were hoping that—”

“Leave this place. He is under its protection,” the Dryad said in a strongly accented voice. She was now no longer leaning against the tree, but had taken a step forward, fists clenched and staring hard at us.

Iesa spoke up, “We need to just talk to him, and we’ll be gone.”

“No.”

“This doesn’t have to be a conflict,” I said hopefully. “We don’t need to fight.”

“I…disagree,” she simply said.

From the bushes burst out a barrage of sharp spines. Daneath reacted first, placing his shield in front of him and ducking for cover. I was lucky with several grazing me, and two more splatting against my shield. I threw a bolt towards the dyrad and hit her in the leg. Beepu, took a single needle as a flesh wound, and started to move to a nearby rock for cover. but it was Iesa that took a full shot to the chest, with blood spraying everywhere as he sprinted towards one of the bushes.
The dryad face appeared frozen, regarding us all with an indifferent expression. She raised her arm palm up and then flexed, closing her root like hands into a balled fist. A greenish emanation of light appeared around her hand and I could feel the energy spread out from her.

From the ground, first the grass grasped at my legs, and then roots erupted and wound around my legs and ankles. They pulled at me, holding me in place. Beepu had some cover but was equally immobilized by the grasping roots. As for Iesa, he had already moved far from the grasping tendrils, and Daneath easily broke their hold. Unrestrained, he moved towards one of the bushes spitting needles at us.

I watched with surprise, as the bushes started to move on their own accord. What once appeared to be a simple shrub now looked to be a short-hunched figure, covered in conifer needles. And now, they had a single focus; Iesa. There were three of these vicious bushes all throwing needles at Iesa as he scampered looking for cover, as he tried to safely close with one. Fortunately, Daneath’s break from the spell holding Beepu and I was a welcome distraction.

Iesa closed with a bush and made a quick cut with the tip of his rapier and managed to lop off a side of the bush. Unfortunately, the bush swiped at Iesa, and a knotted ball of needles struck him in the gut, winding him and causing him to sink to his knees. Daneath however led with his shield and cut the bush down, while more needles bounced off his armor and shield.

As I saw Iesa fall, I worried less about the roots holding me fast, and instead called the light within, to close Iesa’s wounds and put him back into the fight. The shrubs from Baator however focused their fire on Iesa and Daneath, giving me breathing room. Or rather us.

From behind his rock, Beepu had pulled out some clay from his pouch and quickly made a small hand with it. And with a couple of words, the earth erupted around the dyrad and took the form of a giant hand, which grasped and squeezed the fey. If it caused her pain or any type of discomfort, it wasn’t obvious. She made no noise, and her face kept the same flat expression. But I could hear what sounded like creaking wood coming from her, as she did struggle to free herself.

My magic had the effect I expected, and Iesa quickly scrambled to the next shrubbery, parrying its blows until Daneath closed and chopped at it with his heavy sword. The shrub momentarily distracted twisted to defend itself, giving Iesa an opening, allowing him to cut the second bush down. The last shrub threw more needles at Iesa and moved away, trying to keep distance from the pair. This barrage was as accurate as the last, and Iesa was faltering again.

The Dryad twisted in frustration, unable to move and act. But it still held us fast with its spell. It turned to look at Beepu with that frozen face. I would have felt more comfortable if she looked angry, or in pain, or even annoyed. That inhuman look of permanent disdain was she offered. She didn’t even utter a scream.

I could only pour more energy into Iesa, unable to strike a blow at anyone. But Beepu, focused and briefly released her only to grab and crush her body again. Now the wooden creaking sound became louder, and the Dryad twisted more and more attempting to free herself from her bonds. But he then threw a bolt of fire striking her form.

I can’t unhear that sound; it was primal. A horrid mixture of fear and revulsion as the fire licked over her. Her face finally changed from impassive to one of frustration and fear.

Fortunately, keeping Iesa alive was enough for the Daneath and he to strike down the third shrubbery, with Daneath taking a mild punch to the gut with a ball of needles. Now that didn’t have to pour more energy into him, I threw another bolt of energy at the dryad, striking it in the chest. But it was Beepu that finished her off. First there was this sickening sound of wood cracking and shattering, followed by another bolt of fire to her midsection. The Dryad then lost…cohesiveness, as her body broke apart into ribbons of fiber, leaves and loam. And as she collapsed, so did the ensnaring magic holding myself and Beepu in place.

We were looking around a moment, for more murderous vegetation when we heard the unexpected sound of slow clapping.

Turning around there standing on a rock in the open field, was a halfling. He was unassuming, with tousled black hair and bright blue eyes, and his weathered brown face had the slightest smile upon his lips.

“It was about time that you arrived,” he spoke confidently.

Daneath’s eyes narrowed “We were what? Expected? And who are you?”

“Yes. Our organization values its privacy, and we do try to keep tabs on people that are important to us. And my name…is not important for this conversation.”

“What organization are we talking about? Some part of the Zhentarim?” Iesa said confused.

“No…not the Zhentarim. But, I am bound by certain strictures and codes. So, without the correct currency I can’t say more.” He said, crossing his arms in front of him, and looking at us expectantly.
Beepu and I looked at each other blankly; neither of us had a clue what currency he was talking about. Daneath’s mouth opened and closed as he stood thinking about what the strange halfling wanted.

Suddenly, I heard the ringing sound of a thumb flipping a coin. The halfling caught it in the air and then held it up. It was more of a large token than a proper coin, but on one side was the same mysterious looped snake symbol, that was tattooed on Daneath’s arm.

“Is that what you are looking for?” Iesa asked with the faintest tremor in his voice.

The halfling regarded the piece, “It is. And it buys you some answers…and your lives today.”

“Our lives?” Beepu exclaimed. “While I do appreciate the offer, I do question the necessity!”

“To be fair, it was essentially paid for by his master,” the halfling said. “But the organization normally keeps its secrets close.”

“What organization exactly?” I asked feeling more than a little lost.
The halfling looked down and smiled, “The Kerhak. We…adherents serve our master’s ends. We are given power from him, and we are to use them for his ends alone. Your master was one of these adherents. As am I.”

“So, you know my master then? Where is he?” Daneath asked.

“North I assume, travelling. Running in fear I suppose.”

“Fear? Fear of what?” Daneath pressed.

The Kershak, his master. Because he broke one of the rules in accepting the power. The Kershak will always reclaim his power. As it grants many abilities and long life. But if one of us has children, it…diminishes us all. Makes us weaker and makes it harder to reclaim. And so, it is your Master, your father ran.”

Daneath was taken aback, “What…he never said—”

“No, he didn’t. He did expect you to find me. He said as much when he travelled here with an older gnomish fellow.”

Beepu’s ears pricked up, “What? They were here…together?”

“From what I know they were..friends. But I couldn’t tell you how or why they travelled. He paid dearly for me to…delay the inevitable.”

“The inevitable?” Daneath asked fearfully.

“The sins of the father must be paid in blood. His blood and his progeny.” The halfling said simply.

“I thought you said we paid for our lives already,” Iesa said concerned.

“And you did. You all will walk out of here alive today. But should you return, you would not walk out again. And at some point, in the future, I will not be able to delay the inevitable either.”

“Great. Daneath, I don’t know what to say but sorry?” Iesa said guiltily.

“Well, your brother I am certain appreciates your concern,” the halfling said smugly with his grin growing wider.

“Wait…what did you say?” Iesa looked at the halfling in shock and involuntarily took a step toward the halfling.

“You hadn’t figured it out? Why else would you have a Kershak coin? You are both prodigal sons of your father. How wonderful. I am…glad I could at least clear up that mystery for you.”

“You are certain of this?” Daneath said.

“Of course, unless you think your father is a liar? But I wouldn’t worry about it much. Your fate is written; the Kershak will have his blood. And the blood of those who help his quarry escape his wrath.”

Beepu started to look concerned, “Wait what?”

“Oh yes, your father I suppose is a marked man as well. As are you. Both of you,” he said pointing to Beepu and I.

“This has got to be a soddening joke,” I said uncomfortably.

“No. The Kershak isn’t known for its sense of humor.”

“So, why are you letting us go then,” Daneath asked intently, becoming more alarmed.

“Because, I…respected your father and owed him a debt. It is now paid in full and then some,” He replied mildly. “I will not pursue you…for now. I do hope you find your fathers. The next time we meet, will likely be your last,” and with that utterance the halfling jumped down from his stone onto the earth. But we never heard him land or saw him walk away. He simply vanished from sight, leaving the four of us standing confused in the diming light of the afternoon.

After a moment Beepu spoke, “So. How could you be such a dolt Iesa? You have a map with this mysterious Kershak symbol on it. A mysterious coin with the symbol on it All mysteriously in your possession from a mysterious benefactor. We have Daneath with it as a mysterious tattoo. So, it is no mystery that you are brothers. The only mystery is why my Father is involved.”

I looked up at the sky. I had heard the story and the threats and was quite done with it. “I’m going back to town,” I said and started back towards the trail that let us in.

“Myr…what’s wro—” Iesa started and reached for my shoulder to stop me and turn me around, when

I swung with my fist and punched him dead in the face.

“OW! What was that for?!?”

“For dragging me into…this!” I said, “First you get me killed wandering in the plains, even though we had a map. You have me brought back in a barmy bargain with a criminal with ties to the Lord of the Nine, and now…now I find myself marked for death, just because I travelling ‘helping’ you.” And I started stomping off in frustration.

“Where are you going Myrai?” Beepu shouted. "To the Inn, to get drunk since I can’t go home.”
I was not in the mood to talk and led the way back to Portstown. Beepu was following right behind me, but said nothing. Iesa and Daneath were talking, excitedly however. The threat to their lives far from their conversation, as they were excited to be brothers.

It was dark when we reached the inn, and I had barely remembered to cast the magic to cover my eyes again right as I walked inside. The lower floor was segmented into two sections, one being a general common room, the other was a little nicer, presumably for those with more coin. I headed straight to that section. My foul mood must have been on full display, because the tapkeeper looked concerned as I marched up to his bar and growled for a bottle of whiskey. The keeper just nodded nervously and handed me a bottle and a glass to fill.

“Anything else?” he asked with a note of concern.

“A room for the night,” and I slid about twenty coins of gold to him. “Will that cover it?”

He simply nodded. He retrieved a key from a cabinet nearby and slid it to me. Meanwhile, I pulled the cork out of the bottle and took a long drink from the dark bottle. It was strong, and the burn was harsh and raw as it poured down my throat. I could feel the rush of the alcohol warm its way through me and could begin to feel the calming effect work its way to my head.

After a moment Beepu came over to the bar and joined me on a stool beside me. He sat silently there looking at me with concern. I wasn’t very receptive and was seriously thinking about dropping the spell on my eyes so I could focus more on the drinking when he spoke.

“It was not exactly fair to punch him you know.”

“Probably. I should have punched Daneath was well. That would make it fair.”

“Or say what you—”

“Beepu, I know. And it also isn’t fair that you and I now living on borrowed time.”

“Yes. I do not understand why my father was involved.”

“It’s that gizmo you have in your pack. They probably were looking to go somewhere.”

“But that magic can be found in many ways. Why my father? What was so special that he brought to the table?”

“I wish I knew. If we are lucky we can ask him.”

“And if we are not?”

“Then I hope he left you a note.”

“Perhaps that isn’t the worst case. I am going to call it for the night. I suspect you will be drinking for both of us.” And he slid off the stool and headed for the stairs.

“Night Beepu,” and I took another long swig.

In the common room, there was celebration. Iesa had bought a round to celebrate his new brother, and Daneath for the first time in a while was smiling. Both looked complete. They didn’t care about the threats anymore. They had each other; a family long since sundered now reunited. The patrons around them eagerly helped them celebrate with raucous laughter. But when the singing started, I grabbed my bottle and made my way to the stairs unsteadily.

I opened the door, threw my energy at a candle to light the room in a soft red light, and closed and barred the door. I dropped the pack I carried on the floor, and removed the sword belt and peeled off the armor I wore, letting it all fall in a heap. The gambeson, shirt and pants followed. I climbed onto the bed naked and sat upright in the bed with bottle in hand.

“It was not exactly fair…” kept running through my mind.

I was happy for Iesa and Daneath really. Finding each other to be more than comrades, but family. And their family was connected to Beepu’s via his father. And there it was: a Rule of Three. Three souls searching for their father. Intertwined with destiny.

So of course, that made me a 'Fourth Rule.' An exception. I tried looking for my family once. Cost a lot of coin, and I found nothing. My father remained hidden. My mother, I knew even less. Siblings? I had no idea. And the closest surrogate, was dead all because of my name-day. My last love…died in front of me, as I helplessly watched. Finding out he never loved me made it even more painful to bear.

It didn’t help that I didn’t really know how the others thought of me. Was Iesa joking? What about Daneath? Beepu had some respect for my abilities, but that didn’t say anything about me. And I had just acted like an ass in such an endearing way in front of all of them. At least it was honest to them. To myself? I wasn’t sure.

I sat there, feeling the tears flow freely down my cheeks as I drank to quell my thoughts, and dull the pain in my heart.

It wasn’t fair.

I wanted more than partners in crime or acquaintances.

I wanted more than memories.

I wanted family.

I needed family.

I needed someone.

Anyone.

But all I could do was sit there and cry in the dim light, naked and unconnected. I don’t remember when the darkness finally took me. I was just glad that for once, I couldn’t remember the nightmares that plagued my dreams for an evening.

Session notes:

This dialog was a long time ago, and my notes were rough because I was tangential to the main story here. But it was indeed now DaddyQuest.

2990
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Road North - 07/04/2019

The Road North

Travel is the gateway to discovery said some Sensate who was a blood for certain. It always sounds simple and nice, like a stroll in the Lady’s Ward looks to be.

But here, it felt more like the Lower Wards, at night.

What worried me was finding the prime version of the Hive.

What scared me was walking into something worse.

I awake painfully with the warm light from the sun shining into the window on my body and face. I opened my eyes slowly, drinking in the pain in my head; justly earned. At least the dreams were gone for a night, but this wasn’t a price I could afford often.

I pushed myself up by my arms. It was an awful mistake as far as my head was concerned. Breathing heavily, I sat up and massaged my temples and looked around for the first time. My armor, gear and clothes were in a heap on the floor. Near the bed was an empty wash basin and pitcher on a table and some cloth near it.

I was going to reach for my pouch buried in a heap on the floor, but I stopped a moment. I grasped my symbol of Kelemvor and whispered to myself some words and tones and pulled on some light. I turned and looked at the basin and the pitcher both now filled with water. I grabbed the cloth that sat next to it and used it to wash off my face and hands.

The cool pure water felt good against my skin, and I realized it had been a very long time since I actually washed ‘normally.’ Maybe five years ago since I found out I had magical talent and another year after that, to figure out I had a spell that I could to clean myself. It was a simple trick I taught myself after the Faction War. Creating water on the other hand, was new to me.

When I first could cast spells, I was ignorant on how arcana worked. After I discovered I had some ability at it, I then attended any lecture I could at the Civic Festhall. I now understood its principles, and with much trial and error I learned how to cast basic spells. But I never could put my finger on how managed to actually do it. They talked of sorcery and connections to dragons, and wizardry and study. But I didn’t study it, and as for draconic blood I had no idea. But I learned what I could about aracana and things related to it. And I found that I enjoyed the talks about the planes and planar travel most. The thought of travelling; to go wherever you wanted when you wanted. The idea of freedom. At the time. I thought this mysterious gift of magic would provide a means.

But it wasn’t until I left the cage, for the one I found myself now, that something had changed. I used the magic I had before to remove soils, dirt and the like. It was practical; staying clean in the Hive was a challenge and the Civic Festhall was a mess after the war. But now? I saved Iesa, I could call upon the light’s radiance on Arakhan, repairing things and now…water.

Many in the Hive never saw pure stuff. Most in the Hive avoided water; much of it there wasn’t safe. Even bub was safer. But once, when I tended as a hostess for a dice game called ‘Styxes and Sixes’ I got a strange tip. A shot glass full of water from Oceanus. It was not a typical tip, but the Sensate in me was curious so I tried it. the taste was one I would never forget. Clean, pure, and sweet. I then understood why it commanded the price it did.

I finished with the cloth and lifted the pitcher to my lips and drank. I knew that in a bit that the pounding in my head would lesson. It tasted much like the sip I had of Oceanus. But how could I create the water? Cover my eyes? Heal? Any of it? I just felt I was plucking or pulling on threads of power. A Strand that I could sometimes make what I want to happen.

A Strand that seem to have its own mind at times. The speakers said that most of magic was fluid. You commanded, and it obeyed. When casting, I felt like I was wrestling or fighting it the entire time. But during other times, I could feel it within me, twitching and waiting…for something.

I could have asked Beepu. But while we were in the elven temple, I remembered that he said that he ‘was mystified on how I did things.’ Not sure if one of his book’s would shed much light there either. I’ve seen his notes; and the language he uses has some of the symmetry of Celestial, but the grammar is …well. Florid? Ponderous? No…
Wordy.

Not as break teeth as Infernal. That was painful to pick up. Safe thing to do with fiends and tieflings around. So much so that many contracts are written in it. I can swear in Abyssal too…but I doubt I want to have a conversation in it.
But what I did note, is that some the spells in the spell book, might be workable if I can scribe it into a more orderly form. Less gaps. More order. Less words. Not Modron level efficient where I need a cryptix tube to decode it. Just understandable to me.

I put my hands on the table and looked out the dusty window. Thinking a moment, I realized that whatever the Strand was, it had power. It was my skill with it that was lacking. Here I was pushed to using it beyond the simple incantations I discovered. Perhaps if kept pushing, or pushed harder, it someday let me rip apart reality and let me have the freedom I wished. I couldn’t pull that much yet from the Strand. I needed time, patience, discipline. Study might help, if I knew what do look for in a tome.

I knew I wasn’t going to get an answer on any of those questions today. I so I dressed myself, donned my armor and weapons and grabbed the rest of my things. I quickly started the spell to change my eyes, and then made my way down to the ‘nice’ side of the bar. It wasn’t hard to find Daneath, he was standing and glaring at a table, where his newfound brother sat.

But sitting with him, was an elven woman. Obviously the one that Beepu talked about before. The way that Iesa looked at her, said it all; he was smitten.

I didn’t know many pure-blooded elves as they were rare and elusive in Sigil. But you could almost feel it when they entered a room. They had that otherworldly look, delicate features and grace that would make you weep if you stared at their glory too long. And this one was no exception, with long auburn hair and green eyes. Her light tanned skin had perfect complexion, which her dress showed off quite a bit of. Her arms were bare, and the dress was stylish, with a simple squared cut out at the top, and slits below the waist, allowing her to show off her legs. But it was her face that was the most striking and the most telling.

She was bored out of her mind.

Iesa was talking to her and she was avoiding talking to him. I approached Daneath, to see what was going on.

“Hey,” I said casually.

“Myr,” he responded frowning.

“Should we…find a temple for them?”

He chuckled, “Might be a good idea, not sure what’s more urgent. Confessing or marrying him off.”

“True. Hey…I’m…I’m sorry about last night. I was a bit out of sorts—”

“Well, can’t say I’m surprised. Finding a brother was not what I planned on.”

“True, that was quite the surprise. But the headaches were getting to me and…well at least you are getting closer to your goal. I’m—”

“Not anywhere closer to home?”

I nodded, “Still feels far away,”

“Well, those two are going to be awhile, and Beepu was still doing stuff upstairs. Why don’t we get some supplies and get ready to fix your headache?”

I smiled, “You say the nicest things. Should we get a room for them?”

“That’s optimistic don’t you think?”

“Some healing magic then?”

“Closer; he may take some hits.”

“Can’t fix any damage to his own ego.” I said holding up my hands in a look of helplessness.

“I’m sure he’ll live; let’s go,” and the two of us walked out into the morning sun.

The creatively named Portstown, didn’t look much better in the morning light. But it was reasonably supplied, so finding food, some rope and other items for the trail was easy enough. We also stopped by the smithy where I picked up my shield. The light-colored steel now had an etching of the skeletal hand and scales, clearly visible with the contrasting lampblack. I thanked the half-orc, and which he nodded agreeably enough. But he did glare at Daneath the whole time.

We also found out a little about the goings on in town; pretty much both overland trade and farming was in dire shape. While the Uthgardt tribes were a handful, they tended to rob, and take the things they wanted, which was seldom. But with their disappearance, the gnolls started to appear everywhere, and they didn’t steal anything. They slaughtered, destroyed, and were just a terror. The river was the only lifeline the town had, as many of the ranchers and farmers had already fled to Yartar to the south. Grim times for the town indeed.

With gear, and my spell induced headache in tow, we returned to the Inn and to our surprise, little had changed. Iesa was still chatting up with the elven woman, who still looked uninterested in the conversation with him. But surprisingly, Beepu was there sitting with them. Mo, I noticed was laying limply on the table by Iesa’s arms. It appeared that the monkey had given up and was attempting to surrender to Iesa and end his jealousy and boredom. Foggle was on a rafter above watching the table.

Beepu was of course, loud and trying to discuss Arcana with someone who wasn’t interested. Well she sort of was, Iesa wanted him to bolt.

“Well, I’m not sure what places time would act like that. Meaning time could be longer or shorter?”

The elven woman nodded simply but said nothing.

“Well I am sure that I could research and disco—”

I interrupted, “Time changes? Like time dilation and compression based on exiting the place or…plane?”

The woman seeing me for the first time looked at me puzzled and spoke, “Yes. That sounds right.”

“Feywild most likely; most other planes don’t alter time. Limbo sometimes can, but it takes a strong will to do so on a large scale. And even then, it takes a lemon of some skill to do it at all.”

“A lemon?” Beepu asked confused.

“Oh sorry. Term for someone that is skilled in chronomancy.” I said.

“Oh…well, how do you know it wasn’t Limbo then?” Beepu asked, trying to sound assured in his own knowledge.

“Well, was gravity subjective?” I asked.

“Meaning could I…change it? No.” the Elven woman said, staring at me with surprise.

“Limbo has both subjective and morphic gravity. That means down is where you think it is, and how strong is also under your control. So…Feywild until you know more. About done here Beepu?”

“Well, you should get some supplies, right?”

“Already done,” Daneath said smiling.

Beepu blinked a moment, “Yes. I guess that does settle it. Good day. “ he said looking at the woman. “Are you coming?” he asked Iesa.

Iesa was complexly flummoxed at the turn of events having both been shut out of the conversation, and now being denied the conversation he wanted to have. “Well I..um…kinda wanted to…um,”

“Sounds like it!” Daneath said grinning. “We have a long march ahead of us,”

Iesa looked as if he was going to say something, when Mo jumped up and started to pull on Iesa’s arm and pointed towards the door. Then Iesa’s face scrunched up and he let out a sigh. Defeated by his own monkey.

“Well, um…goodbye lady…?” Iesa asked the Elf looking for a particular answer.

The elf had a wan smile and left her seat saying, “Goodbye. Perhaps we will see each other again…when you have time.”

Iesa helplessly tried to maintain eye contact as well dragged him outside. He then at all of us with a glare. “Hey now, I think she was in trouble!”

“Truly. The boredom could have been fatal,” Daneath quipped.

“I’m serious! She was being evasive and wouldn’t tell me her name, so I wouldn’t be in danger.”

“Well. We should keep you safe,” I said.

“You’re not listening! She was in hiding!”

“In the open in an inn?” Daneath asked.

“Um…yes? Why not?”

“Iesa, if she needed help, she would have asked,” I pointed out.

“I think she was unsure whether we could help,” Iesa said, still looking over his shoulder as we walked out of town.
“Tell you what, after we are done and if we have time, we’ll come back. Deal?” Daneath said, offering a compromise.

“Sure. Deal!” Iesa said with a big smile.

Beepu pulled my head down so he could whisper to me, “Are we coming back here?”

“Beats me, I wasn’t planning on it,” I said honestly. Standing up again I looked at Beepu with a cheeky smile.

The moment I was out of town, I dropped the headache inducing spell. Having to continually cast it was trying on my patience, and I was happy to be done with it. At the same time, I casted the other spell to clear the dye from my hair. Truth be told, it was starting to itch. Someday I could find a town with a proper bath and would spend far more time than needed in it. But not for a while I guessed.

Finally, Iesa started to use the map. He quickly discovered that the grove was clearly on the map. So using that as a landmark with the river, Iesa figured out what direction we needed to go. So, we followed the road to the river, but instead of following the game trail to the grove, we headed northwards, into the plains. We were supposed to continue on until we came to a valley or something. The map was only readable by Iesa, and he wasn’t very comfortable working with it. But he did have a sense of direction, and for someone city bred through and through, he did seem to know his way outdoors. Far better than any of us. Daneath was just eager to head forward on the journey, Beepu frequently claimed that he could look into anything, if only he had the right book. I would have rather spent time in a larger city. Something better than Yartar at least. The outdoors was…interesting, but I wasn’t comfortable in it.

As we walked, Mo would dash in and out of the waist high grass and brush, always jumping on Iesa, then bounding off. Foggle on the other hand flew above us, communicating silently with Beepu on silent, mechanical wings. We appeared to be following another game trail, or perhaps a trail that the Elk tribe left behind. But it seemed that nothing had passed this way in a long time. Or at least that’s what Iesa said.

There wasn’t much to say on the march, until Beepu spoke up suddenly;

“What holes?” and he looked up quizzically at Foggle, who was flying in a circle, waggling it’s wings erratically.
We all stopped and looked at Beepu expectantly. He stroked his chin as he had a silent conversation with Foggle about something. It was a moment or two before he spoke.

“Foggle says there are holes on either side of us in the brush. Person sized.”

“Person sized? Like a Beepu person or a Daneath person?” I asked feeling nervous.

“Daneath plus si—i—i—!” and his eye grew wide as Daneath was covered in a shower of dirt. Behind him was a large insect with long antenna, and flailing legs. But the pincers on the mouth of the monster were enormous, and liquid from its mouth dripped with an acrid smell onto the ground.

We were already moving. Mo ran for some nearby brush for cover, while Iesa drew his weapon and lunged in for an attack, hitting the creature squarely it is rusty brown midsection. Unfortunately, the blade didn’t penetrate far, and whatever it was seemed unfazed by the strike. Beepu on the other hand moved into the brush, but before doing so, flung a bolt of fire at it, also hitting it squarely. And I did nearly the same thing on the opposite side, but I used a blast of eldritch energy instead of fire. I also, didn’t hit it.

Unfortunately, Daneath’s reaction time was slower than normal, and the creature vomited up more acrid bile, spewing the content right at Daneath. He tried to interpose his shield in-between himself and the monster, but the blast showered him head to chest with liquid, and I could smell the acid burn flesh. But Daneath while wounded, was far from out. In a scream born of anger and pain, he swung with his sword striking a hard blow on the lowered head of the insect. The resounding crunch of the chitin, and the spurt of goo from its head was a satisfying sound.

Iesa struck again, this time with better results, causing bile and other fluids to spurt from the creature’s side, followed up by another bolt of fire from Beepu in the brush, hitting it were a nose might be for a normal creature. But that was enough to bring it down, and it flopped unmoving on the ground, leaking more acrid liquid from its mouth and other wounds. The bulk of the monster was still below the earth, but it didn’t retreat. It simply quivered for a few moments, and then died.

I was paralyzed a moment. That acrid smell was familiar, and even more so when it struck Daneath. I shivered as the memory came back to my mind after being buried and forgotten. It was acid being used on flesh, on the night that Markell died. The screams of pain.

My screams.

I shook the memory loose. It wasn’t the time. It would never be the right time, but certainly not now. I moved to Daneath and grabbed out a skin of water I had at my side, and poured it over his head and torso, trying to wash the acid away from his skin. I then focused a moment and put some light into Daneath.

“Thanks, that…feels…better,” he panted.

Beepu emerged from the brush, followed by Mo. “An ankheg! Nasty creature. That explains the holes. And perhaps why the game trail is lightly travelled.”

“I want to see one of these holes,” Iesa said and moved into the brush.

“That is probably not a good idea!” Beepu shouted at him.

“Why?”

“Because they can sense you before you can see them!”

“Oh come on, what’s the worst that can….HELP!” and we heard the sound of something else bursting through the ground and more dirt flew in the air. It wasn’t surprising. Just like the Well in the elven temple, Iesa had to throw a coin in. And so Iesa had to look at the hole. And here he was face to face with another ankheg.

But this one was much larger, and it lowered its head to snap its huge mandibles at the hapless Iesa. Fortunately, it missed, allowing Iesa to stab it in the abdomen, but the thick plates took the blow. Beepu launched another bolt of fire at it, and it struck one of the flailing legs. Daneath then charged into the brush, and he struck a solid blow on another leg, slicing it off, ichor spurting everywhere.

I cast another bolt at it, and this one struck it in the thorax, but the damage we were doing seemed insignificant to this one. Even the loss of the leg barely warranted a reaction. But it swung its head around looking at each of in turn quickly and ultimately it focused on Daneath biting down. The sound of its mandibles scraping the metal on his armor gave me the chills. Daneath again grunted in pain and the smell of acid on flesh again permeated the air. But the ankheg could not hold down the warrior and Daneath beat the monstrosity off with pommel strikes down on its head.
Iesa kept circling it, trying to get a blow from behind. Then he lunged and stabbed with his thin blade striking true. The blow sprayed the air with more ichor. Meanwhile, Beepu’s fiery blast struck it again, as did my bolt of energy. Both of us certainly didn’t want to get any closer than I had to, and for me the memories of what acid can do to skin if it was untreated encouraged me to keep my distance.

But the ankheg reacted to the greatest source of pain, and swiftly turned and clamped down on Iesa. He howled in pain from the beasts’ attack and once again the smell of more acid on flesh permeated the air. Iesa was caught in its maw, and the ankhe reared its head, lifting Iesa up into the air as it attempted to chew and slice Iesa into smaller pieces.
But Daneath was having none of that; he wasn’t going to lose a brother he just found. He swung at the ankheg sinking the edge of his blade deep into its thorax. He retracted it, causing bile to spray the air. But Daneath quickly spun and his blade cracked open part of the carapace, causing bits of its innards to fly in the air. It would be a fatal blow, as the ankheg opened its maw and dropped Iesa to the ground, and then waivered a moment, quivering before it too flopped over on the ground, with bile gushing from is throat.

I rushed over to Iesa, and poured the remaining water over his chest wounds, and focused my light on closing them. He was breathing heavily with his eyes closed, but I saw the tension in him give as the healing reduced his pain.

“And that is why you do not start poking into holes like that!” Beepu shouted chidingly. “Have you learned nothing from earlier life lessons?”

“I’m alive right?” Iesa retorted. I helped him stand up again. He grunted in pain, as he wasn’t fully healed yet. I looked at my face for a moment, and with a voice of concern asked, “Myr? You look ill. Did it?...”

“No. Just…bad memories that I’d rather forget.” I replied, shifting to avoid his gaze.

“Sure. Right. Hey Beepu, is there anywhere around without holes so we can rest?”

Beepu looked at the airborne Foggle for a moment and then replied, “We are nearing a downwards trek into what looks to be a gorge. I think that is what you were looking for. We might find a place near the entrance.

Daneath said, “I’m all for moving, and I’m not taking votes.”

No one disagreed and with a quickened pace we headed to the gorge. We reached it without additional encounter with bugs and after Foggle looked around, saw no more holes. We stopped for our midday rest while we considered our options.

The gorge itself was a dry river bed that led down into a wider floor of the gully, while rough scraggly hills adjoined the walls. Looking over Iesa’s shoulder the path led straight through the gorge, and unhelpfully told us nothing about the hills on the east and west.

“So, through it is the only way?” Asked Daneath.

Iesa nodded, “According to the map it is. I’m sure we could go over the hills, or go around them instead. But we might have a challenge getting back on track.

“That might take a bit of time,” I said. “We have food for what a tenday? So, unless we find stuff out here, we only can afford five days of travel on the map, before we have to scavenge or go back for more supplies.”

“Right,” Beepu said, “All the more reason to avoid delay and travel as far as we can. All in favor of following the trail as is, say so.”

At that moment there was a bellowing noise. A deep angry shout using a language I couldn’t understand. It of course came from deeper within the gorge, as the sounds of the fury released bounced from wall to wall within.

“Alright you heard that, we go around,” Beepu said without missing a beat.

“I think we should go forward,” Iesa said with confidence.

“Why is that exactly?” Beepu asked with surprise.

“Easy, hear how angry that voice was?”

“Yes?”

“Well, it’s not angry at us!”

“Are you sure it will stay that way?” I interjected.

“Only one way to find out. And you already pointed out the food situation, so…”

I closed my eyes a second and thought a moment about the options. I then nodded, “Alright…lead on.”

“I’m going to hang back a bit…I’m not real sneaky,” Daneath said.

Iesa may not have been the outdoorsy type, but I was impressed on how hard it was to hear any sound from him as he crept towards a clearly very angry…thing. In fact, the create ahead sounded like it was talking to itself, but not in any language I could understand.

Beepu and I saw motion though the brush and we moved to take cover behind a tree. I looked at Beepu and then pointed upwards. He nodded and focused a bit before replying.

“It’s an..ogre? No, it has two heads. An ettin I am guessing,” he whispered.

“Does having two heads make it smarter?”

“No. It is like taking an ogre and then dividing their mental faculties by half and giving each head that half and still losing something in the exchange.”

“Great. Anything else?”

“Stronger than an ogre. More violent. Also, probably can outrun us.”

“So maybe we sneak Daneath by and ignore it.”

“Yes! I agree,” Beepu said with a firm nod. But then we heard a sound that made me very concerned. Iesa started to talk to it.

“Hey hey, big guy! What’s the matter?

My mouth dropped open for a moment, “What is he doing?” and then I heard a couple of words next to me and turning my head I saw that Beepu had disappeared.

“YOUZ HEP SMASH LIL LIZURDS” I could hear the big creature say, followed by a similar voice say; ”HE NOT HEP. HE FUD!”

Grimacing I crept forward as best I could and soon I could see what sounded like a disaster in progress. There near a hole or cave in the rock stood this large misshapen figure. It must have been three heads taller than I, and was dressed in ragged uncured hides. And on the shoulders of the ettin were two heads, one head had a shock of filthy brown hair, while the other head had a balding pate, with long brown hair on the sides. As a bonus I was downwind from it, and it stunk like someone had rolled in a slaughter hour floor, and then forgot to bathe.

For a year.

I then heard next to me Beepu who said, “He better not mention us,”

“Nice spell. Thanks for the support,” I said dryly.

“Anytime!”

Iesa was talking again, “No we aren’t food! We can help!”

“We?” Daneath said as he caught up to us, clattering next to myself.

“Oof!”

“What the…Beepu?”

“Yes, it is me. Watch where you are…never mind.”

“YOUZ GET SACK!” / “SACK FROM LIZURDS”

“Lizards…in that hole?” Iesa pointed to a pile of stones wedged into a passage leading into a rock face.”

“LIZURDS TOOK SACK,” // “COVER HOLE WIT ROCK”

“LIZURDS NO LEAVE,” // “WE NO GET SACK”

Iesa was nodding, “So if my friends—”

“I knew it!” Beepu hissed

“—help you get your sack, we not food, right?”

The ettin heads turned to each other and then looked at Iesa again and said

“LIL ONES GET SACK” // “OR LIL ONES FUD”

“Sure, sure, sure…Let me get them. No eating them! Hey guys, come out!” Iesa called to us as if nothing was wrong in the world.

“I am going to kill him!” Beepu’s voice seethed.

“Well. At least he won’t see it coming.” I said trying to sound positive.

"What could possibly make this any worse?"

Session notes:

So, the elf and Iesa dialog was about as short as that. But there at least three attempts to get a name out of her. None did work of course.

We were still third level as well, and we were very concerned about being crushed, especially after the hyena incident.

It was also about here, I originally started expanding Myrai’s back story a bit on how she got some of the skills she has.

3,219
 

Richards

Adventurer
I just started reading this Story Hour the other day and it's been very entertaining. I'm only as far as the pit fight with "Big D" against the Apple King but I decided to skim ahead and see if you'd gotten any feedback yet - and it looks like I'm the first. (That's a common downside to these Story Hours: you don't always get a whole lot of input from the readers.) But well done! This is an enjoyable read and it's been interesting finding things out about the main character as she in turn finds things out about the world around her. Keep up the good work - I'll be reading in fits and bursts as my free time allows.

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Thank you! You are indeed the first to comment, and it does mean a lot to me!

I'm about a 3rd of the way on the story, so I'll be here a while.

Please, enjoy, and for others reading, would love to hear from you!
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Kobolds – the other kind of Lizard - 07/11/2019

Kobolds – the other kind of Lizard

I kinda like Kobolds. Any creature willing to build anything in the Hive that improves things, is due a bit of respect. Even if it was only a sewer. But it was the only sewer in the Hive.

Of course, that was Sigil. I had no idea how the rest of the multiverse looked at them.

Or why.

I looked at Daneath with resignation. “So. Kill him in his sleep later?”

“Sounds good. Wait…are we talking about the ettin or Iesa?” Daneath asked.

“Does it matter?” Beepu said somewhere next to us.

“We can discuss and pick…afterwards,” I said. “Let’s go.”

I closed my eyes a second, gathered my will and walked forward towards the source of that rotten odor. Stepping out of the brush into a clearing I reached Iesa and the…Ettin.

Its right headswas locked on a hole in the wall of rock. The left one was staring intently at Iesa, who was projecting an aura of calm. The ettin was dressed in a rotting hide of what might have been a deer or elk. Its body was caked with dirt, and what hair it had hung in greasy clumps at the side of its heads. What I wasn’t expecting though was the expression on the ettin’s faces. The one staring at Iesa was what I expected; angry, suspicious and stupid.
The other head however, had a look of determination as it stared at the opening in the rock. Even as I moved into clearing, and the first head glanced at me with suspicious, it never turned its gaze away. But the look of anger was clear on its face. But it was the tears in its eyes that surprised me.

“So…he’s lost a sack?” I asked looking at the first head, staring a Iesa. It gave a sideways glance and spoke.

“LIL LIZURDS TAKE SACK // GET…SACK…BACK.” The second one said slowly and sadly.


“No problem! Right Myrai?” Daneath said clambering behind me.

“Sure…otherwise I am sure that Iesa can apologize for all of us. Beepu, I hope you are following us.”

He said nothing. But Foggle flew into the rock fissure ahead of us, which I took as a yes. I looked at Daneath, and flexed some power and lit up his shield, and we all made our way inside.

The interior of the cavern wasn’t like the one below Yartar; that one seemed to be carved by water and smooth. This seemed to be like the rock fractured and shifted creating smooth walls, and jagged stones across the floor. The entrance wasn’t very wide, maybe three or four paces across at most. But beyond this bottleneck, the cavern opened up to a much larger gallery. From where I stood I could see some pillars of rock and on the opposite wall, there was a ledge looking over the chamber at its rear. Near the back of it, a passage was visible on the right leading deeper.
We stood there a momen, as the brothers eyes became accustomed to the darkened interior. Mo, who had been scampering on the ground, quickly climbed onto Iesa’s shoulder and looked around nervously. While normally Daneath would take the lead, this time Iesa did, which surprised me. But after a moment I saw why. Kneeling down he pointed at the ground.

“Pit trap,” he whispered. “Definitely kobolds. Watch your heads and your step.”

Iesa, Daneath and then I pressed our backs to the right-hand wall to avoid the trap. I kept my eyes looking at the far ledges. Watching for signs of movement and listening for anything out of the ordinary. My vigilance did not go unrewarded, as I heard behind me a snap, and the sounds of gravel and the sound of a gnomish voice go “Oof.” Quickly looking behind, me, I saw that the pit was now wide open, and the dust wafted upwards. And from the bottom I heard choking and coughing.

“Beepu! Iesa just pointed that out!” I said disappointedly.

“Well yes. Only problem is that I cannot see where I am stepping as I cannot see my own feet.”
I kneeled down and thrust my arm down in the pit. “It’s a good thing its shallow. Can you grab my hand?”

“Yes, I think so! Harrump!” and I felt his hand in mine and I pulled the still invisible gnome out.

“Just step where I do.” I said shaking my head.

“That fall hurt, can you work some magic and heal me?” He demanded.

“Fine,” I said with resignation. I concentrated a moment and then reached out my hand to where I thought Beepu was. My fingers quickly found his nose, and that was enough contact to allow some energy to mend his injury, whatever it was.

“Hey Myr, can you see anything?” Iesa called quietly.

“I don’t see anything, but I wouldn’t rely on that,” I said. While the gallery was as bright as day for me, there were many rocks, ledges, pillars and other obstacles scattered around the area. I was sure we were being watched, especially after the noise the trap made when Beepu fell in.

“Well, it will not matter Foggle can probably spot them,” Beepu’s disembodied voice said. And Foggle who was circling lazily right above us, flew deeper into the room. I watched its golden body drift through the air, as Beepu focused to look through its eyes. But as it approached the rear third of the room I head the snap of a crossbow, and it was followed by Foggle exploding, with brass and bronze parts scattering and bouncing across the floor of the room. It happened so fast that the mechanical owl never made a noise, beyond the ringing of metal parts on the stone.

“No!” Beepu seethed.

“Don’t suppose you saw where the shot came from?” Iesa asked, focused on the darkness in front of him.

“Not at all. We are going to need to find all the parts, so I can put him back together.” He said angrily.
I looked down towards the end of the room, and for a moment I thought I saw movement on the ledge near some small rocks piled together. I waited a moment, and I saw a head peak over the rocks. It was about gnome sized, but with a long snout and reddish scales all over it. It was clearly trying to hide, and it made no sound.
Once I saw the head, I threw a bolt of energy at it and heard a yip as a shower of purple sparks appeared after I struck
it.

“About there, on a ledge.”

“Well then, watch your feet!” and Daneath and Iesa moved forward, taking the light with them. This wasn’t a problem for Beepu who could see well enough in the dark, certainly not a problem for me. I moved forward a bit, so I could get a better view of the kobolds, while Iesa and Daneath looked for a way up onto the ridge.

Moving forward was tricky as Iesa and Daneath soon discovered. After ten paces each was presented with different problems. First a net dropped from above narrowly missing Iesa. Daneath’s choice of path apparently had tripwires or snares. But the big man was stronger than the material and just plowed his way through. Finally, moving forward I saw another target and struck it, and a bolt of fire streaked from just ahead of me finishing it off. Beepu then faded into view and took cover behind a stone pillar.

It wasn’t much of a fight really. In a matter of seconds, Iesa had lept onto the ledge and was stabbing at the Kobolds, while Daneath drew the fire of several crossbows. Beepu who was now several paces in front of me, couldn’t be seen, and kept shooting with fire bolts easily hitting targets. And while I was perhaps visible, I had the impression that I was out of their visual range, allowing me to pick them off as quickly as I could see them. It didn’t help the kobolds that they were terrible shots with their crossbows, with quarrels shooting wide, or bouncing off of Daneath’s shield. It wasn’t long before the sounds of quarrel fire and yipping ceased.

I made my way to the ledge where Iesa was standing. As I approached he spoke,

“There is a passage up here leading down deeper into the rock.”

“That is good. Now help me up on that ledge!” Beepu demanded, his voice still angry at the recent obliteration of his owl.

“Where’s Daneath?” I asked

“Here,” he replied. “There is a ladder that you can climb up, on the far end before the cavern narrows and descends.”

“So which way down?” I asked.

“I’d say this one. I bet the main passage has more traps. Plus, this entrance had a boulder here that is meant to hide it. They didn’t close it in time.”

“Wait for me to climb up then,” and IBeepu ran down to where Daneath indicated the ladder was. While he did so, Iesa pulled me up onto the ledge directly. On the stone shelf were scattered bodies of Kobolds, about seven in all.
As we waited for Beepu to catch up, I felt a rush of satisfaction. We weren’t on the edge of death or defeat or anything like that. And I clearly wore it on my face.

“You seem to be enjoying yourself Myr,” Daneath commented.

It took me aback a moment. Sure, I was happy to on the winning side, and not having to save someone’s skin. But enjoying myself? I thought a moment and realized that I did relish the fight. It was like the time with the gnolls and their withered zombies. But this was more intense for some reason.

“Are we ready?” Beepu’s voice asked.

“Sure, we’ll follow you,” Iesa said gesturing toward the small tunnel down.

“Well then let us…wait. Iesa! Get moving!”

With an impish smile, Iesa took the lead down the passage, moving slowly. His eyes looking for surprises. As the passage was about to open up, he stopped. He then pointed at a thin rope strung across the floor. It was hard to see, even with my vision as it had been coated with ash that was very close to the color of the surrounding rock. The rope snaked its way along the wall until it reached a bucket hanging above. I wondered what they might put in that bucket, but then I had second thoughts about it. Iesa moved the line out of the way and tied it tightly so it didn’t dump the contents. Then we snuck into the next vault.

It was similar in some respects to the one we just left. We were on a ledge overlooking the floor of another room. But on the floor of this room, there were many lean-tos scattered around the floor. There were a number of smoking fires, and there was debris of all kinds along the floor. Bone, wood, shattered stone, hides and junk.

There were a couple of kobolds visible around the fires. And while most of them were distracted, a couple of them were watching the entrance and saw us. A tall lean one, festooned with feathers and small bones started to yip something in perhaps draconic. It pulled a pot hanging from its belt with a leather thong and stared at it when it suddenly became lit with fire. And when it did, the kobold wasted no time to hurl it high over to the ledge we stood on.

We all reacted differently; Daneath raised his shield, Iesa stepped behind a boulder for cover. Beepu simply backed out of the way of the detonation that was to follow. As for me, I dove for the floor, covering my head as I did so. I felt the warmth and then heat of fire, and the sound of a dull roar as the world around us was engulfed in flame. After the din had died down, I looked around, and of the two I could see Daneath and Iesa were fine, while I was a little singed. My ears were ringing from the explosion, and the air tasted of smoke.

I crawled up to the edge and threw a bolt of energy at a visible kobold, knocking it down. Pulling myself back, I could hear scampering and claws on stone, as some of the kobolds ran towards us via a ramp.

“Hey Beepu,” I yelled “It would be really rum if you could make stuff explode like that. It would save a lot of time.”

“Amateurs! Not everything needs to explode to be effective!” he retorted. He then chanted a moment and tossed some sand from his pouch in an arc in front of him. As the sand hit the ground, I heard noises below me. Peering over the ledge, a number of the Kobolds had fallen down in small heaps.

Snoring.

“Point made!” I shouted and rolling to my side I found myself face to face with an angry pair of the little lizards. Now, Iesa made his move, moving from his boulder and quickly dispatching another one with a quick thrust. Meanwhile Daneath also stepped forward and slashed at one standing over me, running it through.

I glanced at the other one, who was readying to stab me with a pointed spear. I rolled to my right and flexed a moment and called down a radiant beam of light onto it. It yelped in pain and started to run back down the ledge. But it wasn’t fast enough as a bolt of fire streaked from nowhere and hit it square in the back, causing it to fall over the edge of the ledge into a crumpled heap.

For the moment, nothing else approached us. But we could hear soft raspy snores from the lean-tos below. I stood back up and looked around and saw that there was another tunnel that opened into another cavern. Iesa saw it as well and quickly moved down of the ledge and stood next to the passage. He then cocked his head to listen. He turned to look at us and said, “Sounds quiet down there, and there is some torchlight below. I’m going to check it out.

“Wait a moment, you barely can see as it is I’ll come with you,” I said.

“I’m going to take care of things here. Give me a hand Beepu.”

“What? I am not some murderous vagrant!”

“They did shatter Foggle into shiny pieces.”

I didn’t hear how the rest of the conversation went, as Iesa and I crept down the tunnel. It wasn’t long, perhaps fifteen paces we found another trap. It was right before it opened up into the next chamber. At that point, Iesa motioned for me to stop. He pointed at the walls and I could see pieces of wood with rusty swords fastened to them. The wood was bent, ready to snap forward and cut and intruders to ribbons. He pointed to another thin ash colored rope on the ground, and we both stepped over it.

Stepping into the room, it was clear that we were in some kind of hatchery. The remains of eggs hells were scattered in what looked to be nests lining the walls of this circular room. On one end was some small bags, but one large on made of crudely stitched hide stood out. Iesa and I looked at each other and nodded smiling.

We moved over to the pile and Iesa looked into the smaller sack, and I heard the clinking of coin and the sloshing of liquid. He opened the sack and pocketed the coin and looked at the vial briefly, before pocketing that too. I stepped over to the larger bag and looked it over. It was not small, and it would likely take Daneath to move it. But I decided to look inside to make sure that this was the right sack.

I don’t know what I expected to find. I opened the crude hand stitched sack and my nose was assaulted by the smells of rotting meat. I covered my mouth, holding back the urge to vomit as my eyes welled up in tears. I was about to close it, when I saw something silvery.

Still holding my hand over my mouth, I reached inside and retrieved a small silver bag, barely the size of a deck of cards. It held something soft that with a little give, like wet sand. I quickly summon some power to clean the exterior of this pouch. I then loosen the silver drawstrings, revealing a find powder. I grasped as small pinch between my finger and thumb. The texture was like a fine sand as I rubbed it between my thumb and fingers. Lifting it up to my nose I sniffed. I caught the order of pepper and I then had a strong urge. I quickly pulled the strings closed, and then sneezed, narrowly avoiding sneeze scattering the contents.

“I can smell that sack from here, and it’s nothing to sneeze at Myr,”

I rubbed my nose, trying to wipe away the smell, “Funny. This seems to be an emergency item belonging to someone.

“I wonder who?”

“Good guess they are the rest of the contents of the sack.”

“Oh. Well, forget that. Let’s get out of here. Hey Daneath! Need you to carry this!”

Moments later, I saw Daneath striding down the tunnel. In front of him, he held the unconscious kobold that threw the pot of fire at us.

“Think this will be proof enough we did the job?

“I guess so,” Iesa started. “But you need to watch out fo—”

The sounds of whistling blades, and blurred motion for the tunnel walls cut him short. In a flash, what was once a corpse, was now a flayed pulp of bone and muscle, barely recognizable as a humanoid at all. Daneath stood there in shock, covered in blood and gore from the assaulting blades.

“—for the trap.”

I stood there in shock. The fresh corpse had a strong resemblance to someone who had crossed the Lady of Pain’s shadow. I had seen the results of that only once, but it was vivid memory. I could only assume that the soul of the kobold wasn’t shredded as well.

“So much for that,” Iesa said, dropping the remains to the floor, and wiping the bloody mess from his eyes and face.

“I think the sack is good enough,’ I commented. “Mind carrying it?”

“Why me?”

“Because Iesa needs to make you sure you don’t kill yourself on a trap on the way out, I’m not strong enough, and as for Beepu; it’s larger than him!”

“What are you saying? That I cannot pull my own weight?” Beepu asked fuming.

“No. I assume you can’t pull something greater than your weight. That and you need your hands free.” I pointed out.

“For what?”

“I think you need my light to help find all the parts for Foggle, if you want to put him back together.”

His eyes popped out a for a moment before replying. “Quite right. Are we done here? We are wasting more time!” he said with his arms crossing and glaring at all of us.

“Guest that’s me,” and Daneath grabbed the sack and with a grunt started the climb out of the kobold warren.
The climb out wasn’t long. It took longer to find all the parts to Foggle. But that had a lot to do with Mo stealing pieces when Beepu was distracted. Eventually he declared that he had found enough, and he had enough spare parts to rebuild him. We then, avoiding the pit in the front made our way outside.

The Ettin hadn’t moved. The left head stared suspiciously at Iesa as he exited the cave, while the right was peering around Iesa looking for his sack. When he saw Daneath lugging it out of the darkness, the head smiled and almost looked to be crying.

KILL LIZZURDS // SACK. GIVE SACK!

Iesa nodded and smiled. “Yes, no more lizards and we found your sack.” To which he gestured to his brother’s burden with a flourish. “Now, be more careful next time!”

The ettin reached out and took the foul container from Daneath who quickly stepped back.

“WE HAVE SACK. PUT DEM IN SACK // NO PUT LIZZURDS IN SACK

“LIZZURDS SMALL. MORE MEAT ON DEM // TOO MUCH WORK

“YOUZ NEVER LISEN // YOUZ STUUPID

“NO YOUZ // TAKE BACK STUUPID!”

The exchange become less and less sophisticated, but we didn’t stay to listen to its conclusion. We made good time putting distance between us and the Ettin, just in case it made a decision involving us getting into that sack.

By nightfall,we had emerged from the gully, and we looked for a place to camp. Iesa soon found a small clearing near a stream that seemed adequate. As soon as we set up tents, Beepu asked for my light and started working on Foggle. He pulled out a small brass pot, and lit some incense. He then proceeded to take some tools and he began the slow task of rebuilding the owl.

I was by the fire, taking our rations and adding some flavor to them, making them more palatable. But I was really lost in my own thoughts about the fight, when Daneath noticed my distraction.

“Myr, what’s bothering you? You’ve been acting odd since the cave.”

I thought a moment and looked at him, my face scrunched up a bit. “I’m bothered by…well how much I…enjoyed that fight. It seems wrong somehow.”

Daneath nodded, “Well, being victorious can warp your perspective. I mean the winners of a war don’t dwell on the ugly side. So, I’d say it’s normal.”

“It’s just. I remember someone that killed…a lot of people. And she was, driven. She reveled in killing for sake of killing.” I said, thinking back to the long raven tresses of the Sinker that butchered Elisna. “She reveled in destruction. She embodied it.”

“A sinker?”

“It’s a nickname for a faction called the Doomguard. They were mostly destroyed in the war in Sigil, but they believed the universe was going to fall apart. And that was the normal order of things.”

“But you don’t?”

“No. I never believed that. Death might come, but life was to be experienced. Creating things and experiencing new things was important. But then I find myself…enjoying the fight and wondering if…”

“If that’s who you really are?” Daneath asked.

“Well Myrai,” Iesa said coming over and sitting by the fire. “You don’t exactly come to mind when I think of murderous destruction. Too cute for one.”

I shook my head, “The woman was beautiful. Wild, untamed, dangerous. She inspired so many. So many to kill and destroy. So many Sinkers would die for her. Many did in her name.”

“What happened to her?”

“Before the War started, she and several others disappeared. Might have caused it to start and everyone was blaming the other. She was probably sent to the mazes by the Lady, but…no one knows.”

“The mazes?” Iesa asked curiously.

“The Lady can throw who she wants into a prison of sorts. It’s said that you will live forever in the maze, never starving, never aging. But it’s a prison that has a way out. A way that few ever find. And in five years, no one had heard from her, or the others.”

“Not a very nice Lady?” Daneath commented.

“No. She’s not called the Lady of Pain for nothing.”

Iesa shuddered, “Well…I wouldn’t worry about it. You're making it bigger than it is."

“You’re…probably right. I’m going to turn in, wake me for morning watch. Night.” And I moved to my bedroll in my tent nearby and took off my armor and weapons.

I wanted to believe it was nothing. But something kept nagging me about the fighting. Something I couldn’t put my finger on. It wasn’t about casual destruction. I had felt the exhilaration several times. But it wasn’t the violence. It wasn’t the victory. It certainly wasn’t glory.

I laid there turning it over in my mind over and over, never quite finding the answer before my dark dreams once again took control of the evening.

Session notes:

Foggle exploding was overdue. It had a price on its head for certain.

The is only the first time we got magic items. We the players rolled for them. And we rolled…poorly. That would continue for a while on treasure.

3,496
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Plains of Blood - 07-18-2019

Plains of Blood

There are no cemeteries in Sigil. The Dustman take care of the dead according to the beliefs of the deceased. That could be a burial in the earth, submerged in on ocean, picked apart by carrion birds of the sky, or incineration by great flames. Only the last is performed in Sigil, the rest the Dustman take care of.

While I hated the Dustman for what they did to Elsina. For the ones that didn’t sell their shells, they did honorable work.

So I guess that most Dustmen are people too.

I know that I gave Iesa a start when I sat up suddenly, gasping for air, and clutching my symbol of Kelemvor. It was the first night that we had to camp in the wilds, and it had been a while since anyone noticed my nightly torment. I stared helplessly into the night; trying to remember what it was about. Why could I not shake this nightmare from my mind? Why could I not remember it? I guess I had some time to mull over it until dawn as I had drawn the last watch.
I pulled on my armor and weapons and crawled out of my tent to relieve the brothers. Iesa saw me and had a look for concern on his face. He pointed at me and was about to say something, but I waved him off. He shrugged, and Daneath and he retired for some sleep.

Foggle of course sat on a branch watching over everything. It never slept, and my understanding was that it had good night eyes. Still, we still took turns as only Beepu would trust the owl with our skins alone.

I should have focused more on the watch, but the nightmares frequency was troubling me. I guess they have been a recurring thing since I was perhaps fifteen turns of the wheel, but they were sporadic. Rarely was it clear in memory on what I saw or did. But it was always clear emotionally. Fear. Dread. Guilt. Sorrow. Loss. But now, there was something else lurking within; but only the barest glimpse. A revelation just beyond the grasp of my dreaming mind.
My dreams and nightmares weren’t usually this mysterious. But as I thought about it more, my nightmares have been more frequent ever since…

I died.

Granted, dying was horrific. Coming back even more so. But I didn’t dream about death or dying. It was something else lurking in my head that refused to let my waking self, see. But what was strange was unlike nightmares before, I had the same feelings each time. The same intensity. I wondered if I was experiencing the same nightmare each time.
I sat there mulling over my dreams for hours getting nowhere. Finally, the sun rose, spilling red orange light across the grassland we were in. To the north were low hills, but they were far in the distance, with a lot of rolling grassland in between. But I noticed something now as the sky started to brighten. In the distance were pillars of black smoke. They were widely separated from each other and whatever was causing them, was fixed. Once the sun rose above the horizon, I woke the others and pointed them out.

“Well, we’re not alone out here,” Iesa said grimacing as he squinted looking into the distance.

“Nope. But who should we expect to find?” Daneath said as he tightened the straps to his armor.

“In a word; trouble.” Beepu said grimly, and he sent Foggle aloft. “But, we will see them before they see us.”

We started heading north. Somewhere ahead of us was another gully surrounded by hills per the map. But there wasn’t much in the way of landmarks. So, our best guess was to head north and find a piece of high ground and see if we could get a better idea of where to go, and to use Foggle to maneuver through the grass safely.

It wasn’t long before Beepu gave us an indication of something interesting, and he pointed towards a narrow column of sputtering smoke nearby. It wasn’t as dark or thick as some of the others, and we hoped that this may give us an idea what may lay ahead.

Following Foggle, it led us to a small cairn in a cleared area of grass. It was a simple affair, a pile of rounded stones stacked into a pile, with a smoking pyre of wood in the center. But as we approached, our curiosity turned and twisted into horror as we realized the truth of what it was.

The stones, weren’t rock, but were piled bleached skulls. Some had marks upon them indicating injuries, others the marks of teeth. All of them were human or humanoid stacked together, with the remains of bloodied soil as a crude mortar. Beside the smoking wood pile, was a sundered half of a log, hollowed out to form a basin. Within it, was a pool of congealed blood, with unidentified lumps of…something within. Finally sticking up on end behind and bowed over the smoking wood was a stave, from which hung three stones wrapped in rope and hanging from the top of the stave. A rare breeze blew the rocks, and they clicked together quietly over this display of blood and gore.

“This…this…isn’t Elk tribe is it.” Iesa stated flately.

“No,” I said looking at the effigy of a triple headed flail “It’s a shrine to the Tanar’ri lord known as the ‘Ruler of Ruin;’ Yeenoghu.”

“Gnolls,” Daneath said and spat. “Can’t say I’m surprised.

“Foggle does not see any packs nearby,” said Beepu hopefully. “Perhaps we can sneak through them?”

“Let’s hope so. I doubt we will find any Elks tribesman though,” Daneath said.

We left the grisly display undisturbed and continued onwards. We said little now, pushing our way through the tall grass. Our ears strained to hear anything out of the ordinary. But we heard nothing. Not birds, not animals, not even the wind on the grass.

We trudged north, constantly scanning the horizon for gnolls. And sometime after the sun climbed to peak, Beepu stopped and motioned us towards him.

“There is a depression nearby,” Beepu said concentrating, looking through Foggles eyes. “And an open pit it appears?”

“But no pyre?” Daneath asked.

“No, I am having Foggle fly in closer to—”

And then we heard a strange sound and a flash of red light, followed by a high pitched “BEEP” and the sound of metal parts hitting the ground.

Beepu closed his eyes and looked upwards mouthing the words “Not again.”

“I take it we need to get those parts back?” Daneath asked, to which Beepu nodded.

We ready ourselves and head towards the direction of the depression. It was not far, and for three of us it was a simple divot in the ground the size of a barn. Several small hillocks of dirt and rock were spread around the depression, breaking through the top of the tall grass spread around. Finally, in the middle was a large open pit. Beepu of course could see none of this, as the top of the grass was above his head.

“So where do we start?” I asked.

“The pit, and work our way out I guess,” Iesa suggested.

Having no better idea, we make our way into the depression.

Iesa was in front, followed by Daneath, and Beepu and lastly myself as we headed toward the open pit, when I noticed the odor. It was one of blood, sweat, rot and wet animal hide. I was about to shout a warning, when a pack attacked us.

A group of figures dashed out from crouched positions. It was sudden, and it appeared that their cunning was enough to conceal themselves even from Foggle’s sight before he was blown out of the air. So, we barely had time to react to our assailants.

The first two collided with the brothers, each slashing with swords. They snarled and the look on their faces screamed volumes about their Tanar’ri master. Madness, bloodlust, and hunger all mixed together as their yellow eyes looked at us as their next victim.

Beepu meanwhile had a problem; while the gnolls were no longer concealed, they might as well been from his perspective. Beepu stood well below the tops of the grass around us and was blind to the snarling band that attacked us now. He muttered under his breath, faded from sight, and I watched the grass part as he dashed to a nearby hillock.

“Great,” I muttered, and soon I was under attack by two of the dead withered gnolls. Or would have been, because as they closed I could feel a kind of…resonance as they approached. It was uncomfortable, but as they both came to me and looked to swing, they froze. Their clawed hands clutched swords, but the blades twisted in their hands in frustration and their bodies writhed and shivered. Then, they turned and headed straight for Daneath, a couple of yards away.
The first time this had happened outside of Triboar I had no idea what happened. Now I was more certain. That dark strand of magic was the resonance I felt, and it what was protecting me from the witherlings. I didn’t know how exactly, but I suspected that if I attacked them directly, that the resonance effect would be broken.

Fortunately, I could cast magic at the living pair already on Iesa and Daneath. I grasped at the gnolls, summoning skeletal hands to claw and grasp at them both, while I held my ground from the fleeing witherlings.

The brothers Iesa and Daneath, now worked as brothers in arms. Daneath would take the lead hitting the beasty creatures with his sword and forcing openings so that Iesa could thrust and slash with devastating effect. Working together they easily brought one down, before the two witherlings reached their position.

Of to my left I could hear swearing and the sound of crumbling dirt giving way. As assumed that Beepu was trying to climb up a hillock to get a better view, and hopefully assist. Since the witherlings couldn’t see him, and they couldn’t approach me their ire was focused on Daneath who was closer to me than Iesa. They swung wildly, striking Daneath’s shield and hitting not much else.

I then focused my effort on the second gnoll, I pulled on that dark strand of energy and wrapped it around the gnoll and then sent a blast of purple energy at it. The bolt hit it forcefully in the chest, and the additional energy pulled and rent the flesh of the creature, causing it to howl in pain. My heart pounded quicker as I heard that sound, and I looked for other targets, when I saw another pair heading straight for us.

Iesa took advantage of the gnoll’s distraction and laid it low with a vicious cut across the throat. All the while Daneath bashed the other witherling off-balance with his shield and landed a crushing sword blow on the shoulder of the creature, nearly cleaving it into two. All the while, Mo screeched from Iesa’s pack, as if warning him about the additional combatants coming towards us.

And again, from my right I heard more dirt shifting and more grunts, as Beepu must have been looking for a way to gain some visibility of the battle. I in turn pulled the darkened thread from the corpse of the dead gnoll and shifted it to one of the charging pair. I sent another bolt of purple energy at my target, striking true. I could hear a cry of anger from it as I heard bone crack, and could see flesh rend. It shifted its gaze towards me and charged. Deneath finished the last witherling and moved himself between the gnoll and me. Iesa took advantage of the distraction that Daneath’s movement caused and thrust through the last witherling, causing it to drop.

The gnoll pair split, one heading for Daneath, and the other heading straight for me. The first swung it sword, and blood spurted from Iesa’s side as it found a gap between the boiled leather Iesa wore. The other was able to close to me and swung. But I batted away the blow with my shield. While I did so I focused on the dark strand and called another skeletal hand to grasp and claw at the gnoll, while the other spell also stripped away its vitality.

Daneath and Iesa again together exploited the holes of the gnoll’s defenses, and swiftly brought it down. Then both ran over to assist me as the gnoll again swung ineffectively, clipping my shield once again. I focused again and laid the last gnoll down, just as Daneath and Iesa reached me. I relaxed a bit standing straight and looking around for more to charge out of the brush. My cheeks and face ached a bit, and I then realized that I must have had a large grin on my face. I turned away from the brothers in shame and horror. I didn’t want to be seen enjoying this.

I shouldn’t be enjoying this.

My thoughts were interrupted by an “Ah HAH! No…wait. Where are they?!” from Beepu’s voice nearby.

“I think you missed it,” Daneath said calmly as he started to wipe the gore from his blade.

“Did he even see it?” Iesa asked.

Regaining composure, I turned to look at the pair and shrugged, “Who are you talking about? It’s only us three.”

“Very funny. Now help me down!” Beepu’s voice said.

We all looked around with sly grins aimlessly. “Wasn’t Beepu here a minute ago?” asked Daneath mockingly.

“Not sure. Might have fallen into another ankheg hole.” I said looking around.

“We’d see that. More likely a rabbit hole.” Iesa said. He then bent down peering into the grass. “Beepu? Are you in there?”

From on top of a mound of rock and dirt, Beepu appeared with a look that could melt iron and said angrily. “I. Am. Right. Here!”

“Hey nice of you to jump in and help! Appreciate that.” Iesa said waving at the gnome.

Beepu glared and started to slide his way back down the floor of the plains.

“Myr, nice of you to send two of them our way. How did you manage that, and not this one?” Daneath commented while nudging the corpse with his boot.

I shrugged, “I…I don’t think the dead ones could attack me. I can feel them want to and try, but my…my magic scares them?”

Beepu had walked up at this point, “So you invoked something?”

“No. I didn’t do anything. I just felt it happen.” I said.

“Well, at least you helped,” Daneath said with a smirk.

“Hey! I was going to—” Beepu started.

“Let’s find Foggle,” I said. “And get out of here. This place feels wrong.”

We continued to make our way to the pit, and once I stood at the edge, I regretted it. The smell that it emitted was one of the foulest I could have imagined. Within it, the skeletal remains of…people were scattered in pieces, rotting in the open air. If I had to guess there might have been twenty corpses dismembered within. I kept staring in horror drinking in more details, unable to turn away.

“Go find Foggle. I…need a moment.” I said as a sank down to my knees. The others moved away, looking for the brass familiar as I stared at the mess below me.

I wanted to do something. I didn’t know who the corpses were once. I didn’t know if they died fighting. I didn’t know what the gnolls were doing with them or even if they were done with them. What I did know is that they deserved better. A better fate. A better end. A better passing into the fugue.

I thought a moment, trying to find the right words for this. Trying to remember a prayer that my mentor taught me. Finally, one came to me. While I couldn’t bury them; I could give a blessing.

“We see the unknown before us and beseech You,

“May their souls pass to the Fugue for Your judgement and rest,
“May their kin remember them and their deeds,
“For while their shells left behind may be forgotten,
“Their souls shall travel far past failing memories reach,
“Let their souls rest, and provide succor to those who remain,
“So, they will be remembered. So, they will be honored,
“Blessed be the unknown fallen.

I grasped at the some of the dirt next to me and stood. I cast the dirt across the pit of gore. My head was bowed as I shed tears for the fallen. None of them met their end in the fullness of time. I could only hope that their souls could rest beyond the fugue.

“I found him!” Daneath said, lifting the owl from the grass. “Looks like he’s in one piece, but he does have a hole in him.”

“Let me see!” Beepu said rushing over. “Yes, yes, yes. You are right it appears. I will have to repair him again this evening.

In the distance we heard yelping and the mocking laughter from hyenas. The sound gave me the chills from the memory of the last encounter I had with the dog like animals.

“We should get going before they show up,” Iesa pointed out. “Are you done Myr?”

I nodded, and we restarted our trek northwards, quiet and lost in each in our own thoughts. The sounds of the hyenas faded in the distance, which we took as a good omen for passing by unnoticed. Eventually as the sun started to kiss the horizon to the west, Iesa found a place we could rest for the evening. It had a source of water and was nestled low between two low mounds of earth. We lit no fire for the evening, as we didn’t want to attract the attention of packs.

Beepu was hiding under a blanket with my light, so he could repair Foggle, without the light being seen. I chewed my rations slowly, occasionally adding some desperately needed flavor. Of the many foods I missed, it was Za I missed the most. Folded bread with meats, cheeses, mushrooms and sauces, baked and sooty. So, of course my jerky now tasted as perfect as my memory could recall. It was a pity I couldn’t do the heat or the texture to make the illusion complete.

But I sat there, thinking about the magical forces I could manipulate. The strands of darkness. The strands of light. And now I realized that I didn’t even fully control them. These strands affected things around me without my input. Preventing the dead from attacking me. Allowing me to see perfectly in darkness. So, what was this Strand of magic I controlled?

Did I really control the Strand?

Or, did the Strand control me?

Session notes:


DM 2, Foggle 0. We never were sure what shot him.

And yes, Beepu technically did nothing. He couldn’t climb, and he couldn’t see. Might as well been visible, but I did have better armor so it worked out.

3712
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
A Final Kiss of Mercy – Part 1 - 7/25/2019

A Final Kiss of Mercy – Part 1


When you are young, it is easy to laugh at death. To face it brazenly and with bravado. To boast about cheating it with friends and laughing with drinks afterwards. We are quick to deny it’s hold and smile knowingly with our comrades that death is thing to be beaten, and that immortality can be won.

When you are old, it is easy to welcome death, the peace it grants after the toils of your labors. You made it to the end of the game and can look back at all the great things you have done, smile and move on.

It is hard when you feel your labors are incomplete, young or old. It is hard to invite death in for some tea when you truly want more life. It is hard to just let it go.

And sometimes the only choice we get, is how. If we get that choice at all.

I sat there shivering in the cold, early morning light listening. Most of the time after anti-peak involved the sounds of yapping hyenas in the distance. They were too close for my tastes, but Foggle was an asset here. Beepu realized that Foggle could understand us just fine, so he instructed his familiar to follow some basic instructions about scouting around our campsite, and to make sound if there were trouble. I used it a couple of times when the howling and yipping got close, but Foggle didn’t make a sound. So, I suppose shivering in the cold was a bit better than having a fight with any wandering packs.

The light of the early morning was a deep crimson, scattered across a solid gloom of clouds. It seemed fitting out here with gnolls wandering about. I stood and stretched my cramping legs, all the while trying to keep my arms and torso covered with the woolen blanket I had. I felt on edge for some reason. I wanted to get moving, but the humans were going to need a bit more light to travel safely.

But since the reddish light was growing, I turned to Foggle and said, “Well we have some better light. Go up a bit and see if you see anything interesting.”

Foggle blinked with its mechanical eyes, and with a hop, spread its wings and silently circled upwards. As it did so I finished stretching and started to pack up my simple lean-to. Almost fourteen days here, so little of it in a proper bed. Not even a proper bath in that time. I shouldn’t complain; I’ve had less. But it doesn’t mean I liked it.

Suddenly there was a flurry of wind and wings, and Foggle landed on top of a small boulder near me. I was a little surprised as most of the time it was utterly silent. But it became clear it was trying to get my attention. It stared at me, and then turned its body. Its head twisted to keep a level gaze with my own while it turned. Then, the body stopped, and both wings flapped and stretched, pointing to the north east.

“I’m guessing you found something then, Foggle. But not a threat?”

I pause a moment, and then move to Beepu’s tent. I reach in and found his body and shook him saying, “Hey, have a dark here. What did Foggle find?”

From within I heard, “Wha...what? One moment. Interesting!” and a bedraggled Beepu emerged, looking for his familiar. Seeing it on the rock, he cocked his head and then said.

“He has seen something…odd.”

“Odd? That’s a bit vague.”

“He is fairly smart, but he usually lacks context. Seems in this case that he has found someone. Someone that is not a gnoll and that he does not see as threatening.”

“And he wants us to take a look?”

“He is advising that we should. I tend to agree. Afterall a person out here might have information.”
“Beyond ‘keep away from gnolls’ I’m not sure what barkle they might have.”

“It is on the way, it will take little time and we might learn something.”

“Fine. Let’s get the others up.”

We rouse the brothers, who were still tired from the midwatch in the evening. They rubbed their eyes and quickly equipped their gear, as Beepu and I finished packing up our things and assisted with the other items in camp. Mo oddly enough was still sleeping, so Iesa made a kind of nest inside his pack near the top, so the monkey could continue sleeping. It wasn’t long before we were ready to move and follow the oddity that Foggle had found.

It was farther than I thought it would be; the first light must have given some clarity to Foggle’s sight. it must have been almost a mile before we reached another depression in the plain. As we approached, I saw the circle of carrion birds overhead, and I dreaded what we would find.

It was similar to the charnel pit we found before, but the grass had already been burned to ash on the ground. Some standing stones were scattered around, perhaps fifteen in all. There were four large piles of bone. Each was a mixture of blackened ones by fire and bleached by the sun. The piles surrounded another crude altar to the Tanar’ri lord. On top of the altar I could see the remains of a body sprawled on top of it. There were wisps of smoke from what must have been a pyre behind the altar, its fires long since spent. But while the fire burned low, there was a pervasive sense of dread. A foul energy hung in the air, like a weight on my chest, making me labor to breathe.

Looking about I frowned; what did Foggle see? There was nothing here to—And then I saw it. On the altar I could see an arm start to flail wildly. Whoever lay upon that foul plinth was still fighting for his life. From their mouth came noises; not of a normal person in pain, but a soul being wrenched and twisted.

I wasn’t clear on what was happening to the figure on the altar. I was clear that it was a trap. No gnolls, no hyenas, a victim left alone. The dark wasn’t that it was a trap, it was only what would springing the trap bring onto us.

We looked at each other a moment. There were no words spoken. We slowly made our way down towards the altar. Daneath drew his sword, then he and I took the lead. Iesa pulled out his bow and notched an arrow, and with Beepu followed a distance behind us. And the sight as we grew closer filled me with grave concern. The figure was a male human, dressed in shredded and bloodied robes. His face was covered in blood. It wasn’t splashed randomly, but it was painted on with random shapes across his forehead cheeks and neck. His right arm was bound to the altar, but his left had wormed its way from the bonds and was thrashing. As he thrashed, he shouted incoherently:
Fargh’tan! Gajhstkrin anjaztz konat Yeenoghu. Fargh’tan, Fragh’tan”

The language was Abyssal, and while I only knew some words from that hideous language, the grim fact that he was shouting the Tanari’ri lords name did not bode well.

As we reached his side, I could smell the strong scent of rot. As I looked over the figure, I saw the cause. Both of his legs above the knee were missing, the bone visibly splintered. The rent flesh wept blood and discolored pus on the stone and tattered remains of his robes. The sight was so familiar of another time.

I closed my eyes to the grotesque display in front of me. I had seen this before. Smelled this before. Five years ago. The only difference was the man was screaming in Abyssal, instead of planar common. I was shocked out of my reverie by Beepu behind me:

“I know that man!”

At that point bursting from two of the pile of bones flanking the altar came, monstrous figures. They weren’t skeletons, but instead a horrific effigy of bones knitted together to create large hulking figures now bearing down at us.

“Oh sodding—” was all I had time to say as the abominations bore down on Daneath and I. Daneath stood his ground and the thing swung a knotted mass of bone, knocking away his shield and allowing his second arm to swing and impact Daneath hard in the chest. Daneath sank to a knee and out of the corner of my eye I saw him tremble as he attempted to put up his sword to shield him from the next blow.

I was expecting that the thing would react like the witherlings, and that the second one would turn away with that shuddering feeling and attack someone else. But the strange resonance wasn’t there, and it swung, connecting with my shield. I used the blow’s momentum to spin away from it second swing which missed me completely.

Behind me I heard Iesa fire his arrow into my opponent, piercing it deep somewhere in its torso. That was followed by a blast of fire from Beepu, striking it where a person’s abdomen would be.
I turned to look at Daneath; he was cowering behind his shield, unable to act rationally.

“This is not the time,” I shouted. I took a step towards Daneath and flexed. I could feel the rushing surge up my spine, and I felt the flare of my personal energy burst forth into my hand, causing my ‘wings’ to flare visibly. I quickly laid it on Daneaths shoulder and felt a brief moment of resistance. Then it suddenly faded.

And Daneath reacted, yelling in anger as he swung his blade into the arm of an incoming blow. I heard the cracking of bone, and saw the balled fist deflected away from Daneath. But it was the second fist that connected solidly with his shield and I watched Daneath stagger with the blow.
That distraction of watching Daneath was one I could ill-afford. The other one slipped past my guard and I felt the its balled fist hit me in the ribs. I yelped in pain and pulled some energy from the dark strand, causing a skeletal hand to appear and grasp the things neck. I watched bones break and turn to dust as I kept focusing on it.

“TWANG” and an arrow careens wildly into the grass and I hear Iesa swear something.

“You must focus!” I heard Beepu yell, and another bolt of fire hit the one facing me. The bones creaked and smell of scorched bone permeated the air. Meanwhile, Daneath swung and connected with his opponent, sending a shower of bone shards flying. But as hard as he hit it, it looked unharmed.

This wasn’t good.

Daneath and I stood side by side, with our shields up. As one of them swung down to hit me, I defected it. Daneath did much the same and was able to riposte the strike, chipping away at what resembled a ribcage woven by drunken spiders. While he was landing strikes, they didn’t seem to even slow it down.

I heard Iesa’s bow again and another arrow hit the one in front of me, connecting solidly in the arm. But it wasn’t enough to prevent it from swinging at me again, and I took a grazing hit, while I was able to use my shield to roll with the blow on the second strike. I reached out again with the dark strand and I felt the energy connect. I felt the energy that held the thing together shatter, and the monstrosity collapsed into a heap of decaying, scorched bone.

The second one was having challenges now trying to land a blow on our warrior. But as it tried, arrow and flame struck at its midsection. It staggered briefly at the new attack, but its focus never left Daneath. It beat down on the warrior’s shield, providing another opening and Daneath thrust deep into its body. Of course, there was no blood, only the splinters from the bone and not a great amount of that either. I changed tactics and using the light strand, I threw a bolt of purple energy at it, striking it in what might have called the head. Iesa’s arrow finally connected with it, sinking deep in the upper body so the fletching wasn’t even visible now.

These things didn’t moan or scream. The only sound we heard was the sound of bone creaking and scrapping across each other as it moved, or the sounds of the brothers’ weapons chipping away at it. Daneath held his ground as it pounded at the large man, who tried to bat them away and reply in kind with this sword. But one landed a solid blow again, causing the warrior’s knees to buckle, and then he fell.

I again throw a purple blast of energy at it and watched as another arrow found its mark. But it was a blast from Beepu that brought the pile of bone down into a smoldering heap on the ground. As it fell, the human stopped its tirade and fell quiet.

We waited a moment in the new stillness, expecting more things to jump out the piles of bones. When nothing occurred, I moved over to Daneath and poured a little light into him. He responded with a groan and pulled himself slowly to his feet. I then looked at the dying man and found my voice again;

“Iesa, help me lift this man,” as a ran over to him, I drew out a dagger and started to cut the bonds holding his right arm.

“Sure thing, but where…are we going?” he replied as he grasped the man’s left side and with me on his right and together, we lifted the now unconscious figure upright between us.

“Back to where we camped? Anywhere but here,”

“Back then,” Daneath said looking around as we ran, as Iesa and I carried out the gnolls’ victim.

“Beepu,” I panted. “Mind explaining who this guy is?”

“Yes! Gregor here was a colleague in Candlekeep.” He said excitedly.

“Candlekeep?” I asked

“It is a massive library on the edge of the Sword Coast. Perhaps the largest one of its kind in the world”

“You don’t say,” I grunted as Iesa and I carried the limp torso back towards our prior night’s spot.

“Yes. He was a member of another school there. I have not seen him in years.”

“So,” Daneath asked as he twisted around looking for foes as we made our way back. “What is he doing here of all places?”

“And what is this that horrible smell coming from him?” Iesa asked

“I have not the foggiest idea why he is here. We will have to ask him.”

“The smell is rot, and it’s probably killing him. Back to camp, talk there,” I grunted as we moved the unconscious torso out of the foul altar’s pit.

We backtracked and made our way back to last night’s campsite. Iesa and I were winded by the time we got there with the man. Beepu quickly spread out a bed roll, and Iesa and I gingerly lowered him to the ground, so I could see what could be done.

Underneath the blood markings, the man’s skin was very pale, his breathing shallow. I had felt the tremors wracking through him as we carried him, and he shivered as he lay there on the ground. I knew he was feverish as I could feel the heat when I carried him, and I suspected he was in bad shape.

I knelt next to him and I peeled away some of the robe away from his legs and more of the nauseating smell polluted the air. I pressed gently on his abdomen and found it distended and taut. He was bloated, and it was clear that the rot had set in deep within his bowls. The man was on death’s door, and I was surprised that it had not taken hold yet. I then remembered a tale I heard drinking in the Bottle and Jug that gnolls weren’t born; they were made from their foes.

Could that be happening here I wondered? That night it was a story. This day it was a possible reality. A grim one.

As I examined the man for other injuries, the man’s eyes fluttered open, and he started a wracking cough. He looked at us confused at first and then his eyes settled on the gnome.

“Bee…Bee..Beepu?” he sounded incredulous as he spoke haltingly.

“Yes, it is I. What are you doing here Gregor?”

Gregor leaned his head back and closed his eyes. His breathing was labored. Daneath put a bedroll under his head, while I uncorked a waterskin and touched it to his lips. The man reached up and grasped at the skin and swallowed repeatedly. Finally, he lay it back against his side, mouthing the word “Thanks.”

“Gregor,” Beepu asked again intently.

“Looking…for…artifacts.” He stammered.

“Artifacts?” Beepu asked staring at him intently.

The figure nodded, “Yes…the Elks…buried…many things at…Flint Rock.”

Iesa and Daneath looked at each other, “Flint Rock?” Iesa asked suspiciously. “What do you know of Flint Rock?”

“A grave…blocked by a…door. The door…is a…game. Either you open it…or…or…it takes…your life.” Gregor stammered.

Beepu sat on the other side of the man and grasped his robes, “You were not alone. Who else?” he demanded.

“An…Avowed named Chriton…and four appren…tices. Including my…self.”

“And, where are they?” Daneath asked.

“The door…won. Took their lives. Tired…so…tired…” and the man looked like he was near to passing out.

“How far is this door?” Iesa asked, as he pulled out his map with the markings.

“Not…far..from…here. Half..a..day,” and he closed his eyes and lay there breathing heavily.

We silently looked at each other for some time. Then Beepu spoke first:

“Well, lets head back to town,” he said.

“What? We are almost there, and you want to go back?” Iesa said.

“We cannot let him die here!” He exclaimed.

“Beepu,” I said softly. “He’s almost done. He has the stink of rot, and it has already settled into his organs. He has almost no blood. And it seems that may be cursed to…”

“To what?” Iesa asked apprehensively.

“To turn into a gnoll,” I finished.

“All the more reason for us to head to town. Its his best chance to—”

I looked upwards for guidance I guessed. But upon doing so, I realized we had a new problem circling above us.

“Beepu. I can’t give him legs,” I started. “I can’t cure the rot and keep it away. There is a flock of carrion birds above us that is going to attract gnolls from everywhere. He isn’t going to make it, and we might not either if we try.”

“We cannot just leave him to die.” Beepu exclaimed.

“What else can we do?” Iesa said puzzled.

“Myr is right. All we can do is give him a clean death.” Daneath said.

Beepu whirled and confronted Daneath, “We cannot do that! We can save him. We should save him.”

As the three fell to arguing, stayed kneeling besides Gregor holding his hand. This was so familiar to me. It was only five years ago during the Faction War. An eternity ago. But I remembered it clearly…

Session notes:


This was an argument. I would say the argument took longer than the encounter itself did. It was one of things I did like about this campaign. Nothing was ever morally straightforward.


3,931
 
Last edited:

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
A Final Kiss of Mercy – Part 2 - 08/01/2019

A Final Kiss of Mercy - Part 2

The Faction War was a “short war.” The Blood War was far older, and still rages today.

But every time I hear it being called ‘short’ I only have one thought.

It wasn’t short enough.

But I remembered it clearly…

The Faction War was a mess. The Factols had vanished. The Sinkers and the Hardheads were fighting openly on the streets. Ely Cromlich was arming anyone who asked for a blade. Factions were taking sides, and blood was spilling everywhere. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was in the middle of this, that the Blood War spilled into Sigil for the first time in long memory. Tanar’ri and Baatezu portals opened up between different groups of Sinkers and Hardheads. The fighting took a grim new turn as this new chaos broke out everywhere.

The Civic Festhall was a safe haven for a while, but once the fiends invaded, no where in The Cage was safe. A large pack of Tanar’ri assaulted the Festhall, looking to take revenge on an old slight by the Factol Erin Montgomery. But while they looked, many others paid the price. The poor most of all.

I was in a tenement off of Founder’s Fence, with my mentor, a Githerzai who simply referred to himself as “the Speaker.” I never knew his given name, but it was he that taught me all I know about my Lord of Death, Kelemvor. He taught me the litany’s, the precepts and the principals. But it was on the 34th day of the War that I finally understood their importance and took it to heart.

The Speaker brought us to Founder’s Fence with a purpose; to help anyone we could. I didn’t have any magic then, and I wasn’t a soldier, having only a solitary dagger to my name. But while he had no magic himself, he was a good healer.

The Lady of Pain had shut the portals down, preventing anyone from entering or leaving. It stopped the Blood War within the Cage from getting worse, but the citizens were panicked and desperate. Violence was spilling everywhere. And the poor sods found succor where they could.

I was walking alongside of The Speaker, when we came up to one such place. A makeshift infirmary, and we both quickly set to work. It was grisly, messy, and it seemed to never end. There was no priest or even or any other skilled healers here; they were all near where the fighting was, healing the solders of one faction or another. Or the rich. Or their faithful.

But the poor, had no such access to magic or skill and had precious little faith left. Many died to their wounds, bleeding to death or their shells too injured to continue. But many more died to rot, as it set in driving victims to fever, chills and then death. Those who survived through both simply sat and waited. Everyone had lost someone or something, and all that remained were shattered memories.

We helped as many as we could. Kelemvor teaches that death should come at its ordained time and you should fight to live against things that prevent it. That was easy, to help tend and bandage wounds. To ease the sufferings of small ills. But what I learned that day was harder.

The Speaker had touched me on the shoulder and said to me, “There is a man in that room there,” he gestured to the back of the dingy tenement. “I have done what I can, but it will not be enough. He may need Kelemvor’s blessing and…your help.” He handed to me a cloth wrapped bundle, holding something long and heavy.

I slowly unwrapped Inside of it gleamed a long piece of metal. A stiletto, long thin, with a triangular shaped to it, made of Baatezu greensteel.

I trembled as I held the bundle and I looked at my mentor and asked, “The young smith, right? I remember some of the others talking about him.” I looked at the blade, uncertain and then I looked again at my mentor.

“How do I know he’s…ready?”

“Ask him. Do not push. Traditionally, he should ask three times for certainty.” He said somberly. “I have shown you how to use the blade. But for you to become a proper Doomguide…all you must do is help him pass the veil, on whatever terms he wishes.” And he again gestured to the back.
I took the bundle in my hands and walked slowly to the rear of the building.

“How do I know I’m ready?” I said to myself.

At the back was broken doorframe, leading to a small darkened room. I took a deep breath and I stepped inside.

There laying on a bed of straw was a young man, barely older than I was. He had strong burly arms, marked with soot and the occasional scar. His build was clearly one of a smith, young and strong in his trade. But now, his skin was sallow and pale, and glistened in sweat. But his abdomen looked to be bloated. Looking him over, I saw that his left thigh was crushed, no longer straight or firm in definition. Blood oozed through the bandage soaking it thoroughly. But it was the smell of that told me his time was nearly over. A rotten miasma, which was strong in the small space.

The man opened his eyes and looked at me. He then smiled with hope and started to prop himself up, wincing in pain as I moved over to sit on the edge of his bed.

“An..an angel?” he asked with a raged whisper.

I bowed my head down guiltily, “I’m…I’m sorry no. I just…look the part.”

He collapsed and sunk back into the straw, “Are there any…any healers that will come.”

My head still bowed, “I’m sorry, but…other than The Speaker, there are no skilled healers here, and he told me that he has done what he can, but--”

“So... I’m going to…?” letting the sentence trail off, unwilling to say the word.
I nod slowly and quietly.

“Can’t you just…take my…take my leg and—”

“There is a modron with a bonesaw here, but…your leg is shattered; Just muscle and skin. There isn’t much to saw. You would likely bleed to death if the…”

“If the what?”

“If the rot doesn’t take you first. It has…set in deep.” And I laid my hand on his forehead and could feel the heat as he burned to my touch.

“So…why are you here?” he asked with a note of anger.

“I…I am here to help. I just…can’t heal you.”

“How? How are you--”

“I’m…a...Doomguide.”

“And…what does?...”

“Provide comfort where we can. To provide guidance if needed. And to…help you if wanted to...”

“Help me?…ah…I…I see…” he said as the implications sank in and the tears started to flow down his face.

I held his hand fast, “We often don’t get the time to face death,” I said. “But when you do, it should be on your terms.”

“So…I might bleed away. I might go mad with fever. Or I can…ask for your help?”

“Yes,” I said softly, still holding his hand with mine. I could feel that I was trembling and hoped he didn’t notice. And in my other hand, I still clutched the bundle with the greensteel blade within.

“Does…it hurt?”

“The pain…ends. No one wants to prolong it,” I replied.

The man in bed turned his head, no longer wishing to face me. The tears still streamed down his cheek.

“It’s not fair. I…I…I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to.”

“Old Sensates say the same thing,” and I gave the slightest smile

He chuckled a moment, “I guess I’ll be in good company then.” He lay there for a while, avoiding looking at me. “But I don’t have to?”

“No. It’s your end. Your choice.”

“What must I do?”

“You…ask three times, and if I feel that you are…in your own mind I…grant you peace.”

He looked at me a moment and then he asked a question as he realized something.

“You’ve…never done this before? Have you?”

I shook my head, “If…If you want I can—”

“No, no. You’re fine, I guess. Are you…alright to do this?”

I closed my eyes a second and breathed deeply and nodded, mouthing yes silently on my lips. And then I finally said, “Yes…I can do this.”

“Are you…sure?”

I looked at him for a moment and then I looked down at our clutched hands holding tightly. Finding the courage, I spoke again:

“It…doesn’t matter if I am or not. It matters that I help someone in need. It matters that I help you.”

He was quiet with his tears for a moment. “I don’t want to lay here and wait for…something. If you can...”

I shook my head affirmative and then said, “That’s one.”

He nodded, “I’m…I’m glad you are here then. I’ll do want your help.”

“That’s two,” I said quieter, and I could feel my own eyes tear up.

He nodded and then he turned to face me. I knew that he was looking at his own reflection in my eyes. Wondering what had gone wrong that it was to end…at all.

“You have such…wonderful eyes. I have never seen any like…I wish…I wish…”

He then took a deep sigh and closed his eyes.

“I’m ready…please.”

As he closed his eyes, I shook loose the cloth from the blade, and I took at look at him as he lay there rigid, bracing himself, and grimacing.

It was all wrong. My tears flowed freely now, and I released his hand and brought my left hand behind his neck, as I leaned over him, and kissed him straight on the lips.

I could feel him tense a moment, and then he relaxed returning the kiss. In that kiss I could tell that, he forgot where he was. All he could feel was the love from another person. And as he let go of his concerns, I then with my right hand, thrust the stiletto between his ribs, pointing upwards behind his heart.

His eyes flew open in surprise and then he released his hold on my lips and gasped. Pulling back, I looked into his face and saw the look of what was at once surprise, soften into a faint smile, and finally a look of peace.

I sat there and cried, never tearing my eyes away from that face. The from behind me I felt my mentor’s hand on my shoulder, and then I heard him whisper in his dry papery voice:

Speed well on your journey beyond the veil,

“And may the Judge of the Dead speed you onward hence,”

I heard him withdraw; leaving me there alone with my raw emotions. I was unsure what I should have felt; Sorrow? Relief? What surprised me was that I felt exhalted. And while I didn’t understand why, I took solace that I simply felt.

My first mercy. My first kiss.

There were others I kissed during the next several days following. We wandered the Hive, helping. And I kissed many. Far too many; thirty nine in all. Young and old. Men and Women. Tielfing, humans, bariaur, genasi, and githerzerai. The worst ones were children. Too many did I kiss, and with all of them I did I ask their forgiveness. And yet, each at the end was the wiser and more compassionate than I.

And now, I was kneeling next to another man, faced with an even grimmer fate. Not injury to his body, not rot, but the loss of a soul to an Abyssal lord. But now, my companions argued on what the right course was; try to save him or put him out of his misery?

“This is wrong; we cannot decide this,” Beepu exclaimed.

“Beepu, what you believe we could do, doesn’t matter.” I said softly.

“Of course, it matters! We should do everything we can to—”

“And what about what HE wants? That’s what matters; not what we think.” Said, barely raising my voice, letting the anger I felt through my clenched teeth.

And now, I stared at Gregor with sympathy. His breathing was ragged and labored. I leaned forward towards his ear.

“Gregor…I—”

“I know,” he whispered. “They cursed me. I’m going to…to...”

I started to cry, “I..I..think so. I don’t know…but you were talking earlier in Abyssal.”

“I…I know I am done for. Take…take me while I still have my soul. Please…”

I looked at my companions, and they slowly nodded. Beepu clearly didn’t agree with Gregor’s choice, but he understood it and appeared to respect it.

“How do we do—” Iesa started.

“I’ll take care of it,” I responded softly.

I took Gregor’s hand and I leaned close to him and I whispered:

Speed well on your journey beyond the veil,

“And may the Judge of the Dead speed you onward hence,”

I drew out from my boot, the same greensteel stiletto. My tears still flowing.

And I gave him a Final Kiss.

Session notes:
In the end after we did this, I wrote a version of this mostly to explain why. Writing that story, really is the genesis for turning the campaign into a prose format.

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Last edited:

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Doors - 8/7/2019

Doors

A closed and locked door is perhaps the worst thing you can present a Sensate. ‘What’s hiding beyond it?’ The idea of interesting things beyond waiting to be experienced makes a Sensate like a cat. The cat is on the wrong side of every door.

Of course, a planeswalker with any experience will point out what should be obvious.
Some doors should stay shut.


I sat up again and looked at the man, now sleeping peacefully in the arms of death. My tears were gone, and within me I felt a strange mixture of peace and exaltation. Each time I gave a final kiss, I felt this way. One part of me always wondered - why? Why should I feel that way killing someone? Even if they asked for it? Even if they needed it?

Beepu’s face was dark and his face scowling at me. And I couldn’t say that he was wrong. But I didn’t see a way to save him. But shouldn’t I have tried?

Iesa and Daneath appeared to be in agreement in the necessity. But as dangerous as each man was, I could only see Daneath actually doing it. Iesa, while capable and no coward to a fight didn’t seem the type to carry out an errand of mercy.

All of these things they each wore on their face openly as each looked at Gregor in his repose. Finally, Iesa spoke.

“I couldn’t make that kind of choice,” Iesa said.

I turned to look at him, “I hope you never have to. Any of you.”

And turning back again to look at Gregor I whisper to myself:

“Or I.”

Daneath nudged Iesa and I could hear him quietly say “Lets see if we can find some stone and build a cairn,” and both left the campsite, leaving Beepu and myself with Gregor’s body.

I looked in my pouch for a pair of greenies and some cloth, and I knelt by Gregor, and put a coin on each eye, and then bound the cloth around his head to keep them in place and began to utter a prayer. A prayer to allow the body to rest peacefully as the soul would travel on. Somewhere in the middle of this, Beepu finally spoke.

“Myrai. I cannot…agree with what you believed was right. But I can say at least you treated him with dignity. But, what if he said no?”

I stopped and thought a moment. “If he wanted to face his end head on? I wouldn’t have stopped him. Might have restrained him though in case he…turned. And then, we would be fighting for our lives, and perhaps his soul. Then, I would be blessing his shell, so it didn’t rise again.

“His shell?”

I nodded, “I don’t know where the term came from, but the Dustmen use it when they refer to the fragile bodies holding our soul. Anyway, we would have likely killed him, in a more painful way.”

“Are you really certain?”

I nodded, “As certain as anyone can be. If I was wrong, well…my god will judge me at the end of things.”

He remained silent, until the brothers returned. Daneath and Iesa moved the body to what appeared to be a dry creek, with lots of worn rounded stones. By peak, we had covered the body and made our way northwards once again.

We threaded our way between several smoke pillars from more pyres. As we neared sundown, we came to what appeared to be a large earthen mound, in the middle of a rising bluff, overlooking a nearby river. As we approached, I realized it was a humongous stone slab, laying half buried in the earth. And in the center was a carved rectangular opening leading below.

Flint Rock.

We stopped a moment; it had been almost fourteen days since we set out looking for this place. And now, none of wanted to move forward. Three of us sought clues to the family that had left behind. And as for me; I was looking for a glimmer of hope for a way home. But as I stood in front of the rock, I could feel that nothing ahead was right. That something dark lay ahead; disturbed from its endless slumber. Something that gnawed at me. I did not want to go in.

But the brothers, and Beepu were far more motivated, and they stepped cautiously into the opening that led down below the rock. I gamely followed, producing light on the shield so the brothers could see.

The vault we entered was a decent size. On the ground were deeply inscribed grooves, creating sweeping curves and whorls in rock. The room was supported by five solid pillars of rocks, each carved with symbols of animals and humanoid figures.

Even the roof of the vault was covered with these carvings, deep in the rock to withstand the ages. Some had signs of pigments; blues, reds and black being the most common. This gave the room an aura of primal power. One of strength and might, but animalistic. Even now, as the dust and the wisps of cobwebs on the upper reaches of the gallery. But there was a feeling of this was something in the long past. Of ancient glories almost forgotten.

Almost. On the ground I saw the remainders of ash and soot. Coming over to investigate, found bits of bone, leather, cloth and left-over bits of metal. The others investigated similar piles scattered around the room. It was then I saw it on the wall.

It was a circular shape with a diameter half again my height. On it in relief were circular disks, three in all arranged in a triangle, with symbols of animals, weapons and other shapes. On the floor in front of it, was another pile of ash, but this one had a dagger laying on the ground, and the burnt remains of a book, now discarded with many of its pages turned to ash.

I kept looking at the rings, trying to make sense of what it was for, as the others started to talk.
“These must have been Gregor’s companions,” Daneath said as he poked in one pile with his sword. “But what did this?”

“That did,” Beepu said pointing at the shape on the wall. “My guess it is the door they spoke of. And that is a very complex puzzle lock.”

“So, you have a plan Beepu?” Daneath asked.

“Yes of course! I am going to study it, and remember the last position on the marks!”

“What does that tell us?” Daneath asked confused.

“Well, it is clearly incorrect as it killed them. So we can be certain to avoid this one.”

“There has to be a faster way,” I commented. “I mean if time wasn’t a problem sure I bet you
could. But somehow I can’t imagine your fathers not leaving behind something else as a clue.”

“Are you doubti—”

“No, just the speed. And that that you have to do this blindly.”

“Wait a minute…” Iesa muttered, and he reached into is side pouch, and drew out the map we had been following. We moved over to his side and clustered around.

Normally, Iesa was very protective of the map, rarely letting any of look at it or the drawings written upon it. Now we looked together at the strange document. I could see the path we followed; the mark for Flint Rock, the canyon we passed days ago.

Across the document were scattered symbols and arcs and more circles; some dark and some faint. I looked at Iesa quizzically hoping for a clue on what I was looking at or for. And I as looked, I could see his eyes widen and the look of comprehension spread across his face.

“I understand it. The circles on the map are the positions that need to be used on the wall.” He said quickly, tracing his finger across the marks.

“That does not help us,” Beepu started. “We do not know where to start or end and we only know one position to avoid.”

“They’re numbered,” Iesa said. “This map has the sequence,”

“How? I do not see any numbers.”

“It doesn’t work like that. But for those who understand the cant, it’s clear.”

“That is a bit to stake our lives on,” Beepu frowned.

“I’ll take it,” I said. “What do I do?”

“Same here,” Daneath said.

Iesa turned to look at me with surprise and then looked at both of us nodded. “Go to the wall and turn the upper disc so the symbol of an axe is on top. Then turn the lower right disk so the Axe symbol is near the center of the three, and the lower left one so the axe is on the opposite side of the center. Then touch each axe.”

“Alright,” and I moved over to the symbol on the door. Hesitantly I reached out towards the right most disc, grimacing and expecting to become the next pile of ash. But my hands touched the stone with no ill effects. The stone itself felt cold, and rough as I moved my hands over it to fine a grip to turn it. It wasn’t smooth to turn, but nor was it a huge effort. As I started to turn the disc to align the Axe symbol, I saw Beepu step up and start to do the same with the left disc, while Daneath stood between reaching the upper one.

In moments, the axes were aligned, and Daneath started to count upwards; “One…two…three!” and we all pressed the symbol. As we did so I know I scrunched my eyes shut and tensed waiting for the blow…

…that never came. I hadn’t even realized I was holding my breath, until I had to let it out, which was followed by everyone else.

I chuckled, “Well, at least Iesa got that one right,”

“Hey!” Iesa said looking up from the map.

“Well, if he gets it wrong, I will have some strong words to say,” Beepu said archly in a mocking manner.

“Good news, we won’t know or care if it does,” I said. “What’s next?”

“Thanks a lot…oh…um upper disk with the snake symbol at the bottom, the right disk with the snake in the middle, and the left with the snake opposite the middle.

The three of us followed the instructions, and again did a count down and press. Then Iesa gave out the final set:

“Elk symbol at the top of the top disk, the Elk symbol opposite the middle on the right, and the Elk opposite the middle on the left…But then press the sun symbol on each disc.”

We complied with the rotation and after looking at each other, Daneath again counted it off:

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three.”

This time when we pushed on the symbols, we felt and heard a loud snap and then silence. We looked at each other nervously, and then we heard the sound of stone slowly scaping against stone. Taking a step back from the lock we watched fascinated, as the rock gradually sunk into the ground, exposing a tunnel descending beneath.

I flexed and cast a light on Daneath’s shield, while he strapped it back onto his arm. Shining it down the passage, I could see it descended gradually out of my sight. On the ground there was a thick layer of dust. But looking closer I saw there was a faint outline of two sets of prints heading downwards.

“Hey, do you see that…?” and I gestured to the faint trail, when I noticed that the boots led only one direction.

“They don’t come back out,” Daneath said completing my thought and turning to look at each of us.

“What does that mean?” Iesa asked with a note of worry on this voice.

“That there probably is another way out!” Beepu said confidently.

“That’s one possibility,” I muttered to myself quietly not wanting to mention another possibility, lest I curse us with ill thoughts. Daneath, started moving downwards, and I quickly followed him, with the others following close behind along with Foggle overhead, and Mo on Iesa’s shoulder. The brothers drew their weapons, while Beepu and I were ready with incantations if the need arose

The passage descended deeply into the earth. Soon I could taste moisture in the air and smell damp earth. But more than that I felt cold; like the warmth was leaving me as we proceeded. I could tell that Beepu at least felt the same as I heard him rub his hands rapidly over his arms in an attempt to stay warm. But was another feeling that preoccupied me as we continued downwards.

It was that gnawing presence. As if the shadows here beneath the earth were trying to sustain themselves on my soul. It was a discomforting feeling that made me anxious.

Soon the shield lit up an ornately carved stone door of granite. There was again whorls and circles, but not totems or other shapes on it. As I stared at it, Beepu broke the silence.

“There! A lock.” And he pointed to a metal box on the left side of the door with an oddly shaped keyhole.

“I’m on this,” and Iesa stepped forward and knelt down in front of it, pulling a leather satchel from his belt pouch. We waited as Iesa carefully poked and prodded with picks inside the lock.

<<SPRONG>>

“Damn!”

“And?” I asked.

“I’m on this…but I just broke my pick.”

“Well…pull it out,”

“I uh…can’t. It’s jammed.”

“Really? Now?” Daneath asked incredulously

“I will not let us be thwarted by your inability to pick a lock!” Beepu said angrily, and his hands started to move as he started to cast a spell.

“Oh, come on! It’s rusty with all the moisture!” Iesa said standing up and spreading his hands outwards.

“Sure that it isn’t you that is rusty?” I asked.

Before he could respond, Beepu said; “There!”

I looked at the door and it didn’t seem changed. Or open.

“Beepu, it’s still closed,” Iesa said.

“I did not open it. I made it easier to deal with the lock.” The gnome said archly.

I looked at the door again and realized that there was a difference. The rusty metal lock mechanism was changed to a light brown color. Staring at it closer I released it was a type of wood. I turned to Beepu confused and was about to ask the obvious, when Iesa spoke up first.

“I can’t pick a wooden lock!”

“You don’t need to,” Daneath said as he lowered his shoulder and slammed into the door with his weight. The lock broke apart into splinters and the stone door swung open.

“I can’t pick that either,” Iesa said crestfallen.

“Come on,” Daneath said and he led the way inside.

We arrived at an intersection and ahead of us was another door while passages led left and right, turning around corners in both directions. Daneath walked over to the stone door and looked it over and turned to Iesa:

“Ok, here’s your chance to redeem yourself,”

“Umm…I can’t”

“Why not?” Daneath said with some surprise.

“There isn’t a lock,” Iesa said pointing at the sides of the door. Looking at it, not just the lock was missing. There wasn’t a latch, a handle, or even a pull ring.

“Can you turn that into wood?” I asked Beepu.

“Definitely not. Too large.”

Daneath put his shoulder against the door and pushed but the stone refused to move. He tried to push it sideways. He even tried to find a grip to pull on it to no avail.

“Rusty?” Iesa asked mockingly.

“Not helping.” Daneath said in frustration. “Let’s try another passage.”

Returning to the intersection, we headed to the left, and found another intersection, with stone doors on the left and right, and the passage continuing straight turning a corner. Checking the doors, we found that beyond some artistic differences, they were the same as the first one we found. No lock or handle.

“Well this is a problem,” Beepu observed.

“Maybe if we found some tools?” Iesa said.

“We can keep an eye out I suppose. Let’s keep moving.” I said.

We continued down, and the passage opened up into a small room, with an exit opposite the passage we came from. The room itself had a pair of statues of human like shapes in two of the corners, while a low altar of stone sat in near the center of the wall towards our left, and between the statues in the corner.

Stepping into the room I looked at the altar, and it seemed unremarkable. There was melted wax from long ago, crumbling with age on the surface. I looked around and was puzzled; I still felt on edge, and the gnawing was present. But this wasn’t was I was imagining from a barbarian tribe. This seemed more sophisticated. All of it did; the stonework, the doors, everything.

Beepu started to chant something and his eyes opened with a dim white light now flashing within. I knew the spell in question, and I watched him search the room for dweomers. He stepped forward towards the altar and then stepped around it toward the wall behind it. I watched him, curious to what had gotten his interest. The I was surprised to see him walk right through the wall and disappeared.

I stepped up to the wall and reached forwards. I half expected to feel a wall, but my hand passed through it as well. I was about to step through, when Beepu stepped out again, holding a bundle.

“What did you find?” Iesa asked.

“It’s just an alcove, with the remains of cloth and leather. But this…this is in good condition,” and he held up a short cloak. While it was short, in length, it was broad at the top, as if made for a human sized frame. It was a deep maroon, with a fur trim around the hood and edges.

“It’s interesting, why is it intact then?” I asked.

“Because it appears to have a warding enchantment on it. Why do you not try it Myrai?”

“Me?” I was surprised. Somehow, I thought he would have taken the cloak right then as a first finders claim.

“No, you. After that incident with the hyenas and the bone things; you probably could use it best.

“Go ahead Myr,” said Iesa while Daneath nodded.

I reached out and grasped it; the maroon material was thin supple leather and the fur was luxuriously soft. I pull it around me and fastened it with a pin that was already attached to it. Somehow this cloak felt comforting just by wearing it. And I admit that I felt wilder somehow wearing it.

“I don’t know wa…thanks,” I said sheepishly.

“Well, lets keep moving then.” Daneath said and led us down the opposite passage. Following it we turned a corner, and then it turned again, coming to yet another intersection. Two stone doors again on the left and right, but this time a wooden door was in front of us ten paces from the intersection.
“Can you open that?” Iesa and Daneath asked each other, both gesturing at the door. Both stopped a second and briefly laughed and then each graciously offered the first crack at the door. Finally, Iesa stepped up to it and then disappointed said:

“There isn’t a lock; just the door handle.” He then grasped the handle and pushed open the door.
Daneath flooded the room with light, exposing a wall full of scrolls and a table covered in dust.

“One moment!” and Beepu rushed inside to look at the shelves, eager to find something he could use or learn from. His eyes were still aglow from his incantation, and I suspected he was quietly recasting the same ritual over and over again.

Mo bounded onto the table, kicking up a cloud of dust, while Foggle effortlessly circled near the ceiling in the room. Looking around, there was a door that was on the left of the entrance way, similar to the one on the way in.

Beepu quickly snorted with disgust, “The moisture has destroyed everything.:

“This is strange. Scrolls? Aren’t these barbarians like…savages? That’s how they were described in the bars.” I said looking at Beepu.

“Perhaps they are not. Or were not. No one has been down here in a while, our fathers notwithstanding.”

“Well we keep looking then,” Daneath said, and he reached and pulled open the door.
I turned to look at him, and he stood still at the doorway and didn’t move.

“What’s wrong Daneath?” I asked.

“What do you mean? I can’t see in the room; even with your light.”

“Wha?...” I said and took a step forward and stood beside Daneath. To me I couldn’t see any darkness at all, but I could see that my light didn’t brighten anything either. But that was all what I was able to process as I saw a figure stepping in front of the door.

“Get out of the way!”

Session notes:


So, I scored a cloak of protection and it became a running cloak. From there on there were many times that I saved from being hit by magic, or an opponent missed by 1 to the cheers of “The cloak!” What was strange was that at the time, no one else wanted it.

After having my bacon saved repeatedly, there were lots of regrets in turning it down.

4,263
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Faith healing - 08/15/2019

Belief is the strongest thing in the multiverse. It transcends the mortal self and forges places and powers.

Most of the time you don’t question what you believe in. When you do that is normally a crisis.

But sometimes we don’t know what we believe. And there is an interesting journey from there.

I grasped at Daneath and tried to pull him back. Just within an arm’s length, I saw a shape of a tall, extremely slender figure, almost sickly. But where its face should have been was smooth and featureless. Silently it reached for the big warrior and I only had a moment to throw a blast of energy, striking it in the midsection.

But I was too late, as the form grasped at Daneath, its shadowy hand like appendage, passed through his armor. I could hear him groan in pain, and he staggered backwards, breathing heavily. Within me I could feel that sickly resonance, but stronger than I had felt before.

Iesa whirled, drawing his rapier and stared at the entryway where Daneath stumbled backwards from.

“What? I don’t see anything,”

“I cannot see in there,” Beepu said frantically, looking for something to throw his magic at.

“It’s there!” I shouted, pointing wildly at the opening, and then I looked again.

They…are. Move!” and I pulled Daneath backwards away from the door. Within the next room, I saw three figures slowly and deliberately moving towards the opening.

Then, the three figures suddenly surged forward. I felt slow as I watched the entities moved with a fluid like grace and speed. One reached for Daneath and he swung desperately with his sword, attempting to fend off the shadowy foe. A second one flowed straight towards Iesa, who thrust straight into its amorphous chest, then he spun avoiding its grasping tendrils.

The third one streamed towards me, and I could feel the resonance again; the Strand vibrated and struggled against the negative energy that the figure exuded. The feeling was intense and I could see it struggle to grasp at me. Time felt slow as I watched it strain towards me. Finally, it twisted and rushed towards Beepu. He scrambled to the back of the room and as I watched he faded from sight, leaving the shadowy form without a target for the moment.

I reached out with the Strand and a pair of skeletal hands grasped at the shadows in front of me. I could feel them rend and tear at the foul energies holding them together. Daneath and Iesa both swung again, both finding success with their swings. Daneath was fortunate that the undead thing scraped against his shield, while Iesa’s agility was enough to keep himself safe.

Then the hairs stood up at the back of my neck and turned to see the third one reaching towards me. I barely had enough time to raise my shield keeping it between me and the shadow, but once again the strand held and it twisted and tried to attack Iesa this time, with no success.

Fortunately, Beepu didn’t stay hidden, as he threw a bolt of fire at the shadow attacking Daneath. It started to dissolve into a fine mist. With that one down, I focused on the Strand again, this time pulling on the lighter energy. Instantly, a beam of radiant light struck Iesa’s attacker, causing it to dissolve in the air as well.
Daneath whirled and charged the last one on his brother, cleaving at it twice with desperation, while Iesa attempted to lunge at it. His blade didn’t strike it, but it was enough of a distraction that Beepu’s second Fire bolt found its mark and the last one fell, its form dissolving away.

The large warrior was winded, and he sunk to a knee, breathing heavily.

“D…what’s wrong?” I asked reaching over and steadying his shoulders as he gasped.

“Feel cold…tired…the armor feels…heavy,” he panted.

“Sodding…they must have drained him.” I said.

“What in the hells were those things,” Iesa said looking over his blade, unsure if he wanted to clean it.

“Shadows. Creatures of undeath that rob you of your vitality. Make you weaker,” I responded looking over Daneath to see how serious his wounds were.

“Well, that was more than I expected. And I still cannot see into that room, now that they are gone.” Beepu said peering towards the doorway.

“Give me a moment, and I rose and walked into the room. If it was dark, I couldn’t see it. All the rooms, the halls looked the same to me; well-lit and no shadows. As it turned out, the room was mostly empty; with only some moldering cots and mattresses ravaged by time. On a table nearby, I found a small coin purse falling apart with a case of dry rot. I could see the glint of golden metal and I swept up the coins and pocked them for later. Once I saw the room had no other exit I returned to my compatriots.

“Nothing much, some jink is all. Better Daneath?”

The warrior shook his head, “I’m real tired, but I don’t want to stay here.”

We retrace our steps to the first intersection and come past another pair of impassible stone doors. Continuing past that the passage twists and turns until we enter a large hallway, with pillars supporting a vaulted ceiling. Here there were remains of banners, their color leached away with time. Here also were more carving and symbols on the walls.

This all felt primal in some way, unlike the other room which had a more spiritual feel to it. I traced my hand on the carvings in the rock, wondering about the Elk tribe. Why did they create this? Why did they seal it away?

But as I wondered, I could feel the wrongness too. Some shard of darkness was near. No, not darkness; sickness. It was now strong enough to make my stomach turn.

“You feeling alright?” Iesa asked.

“I…no…I don’t know. Something isn’t right. I’ll be fine let’s keep looking around.”

Iesa nodded and touched me on the shoulder. He moved and stayed close to Daneath who still was having difficulty. But he refused help from Iesa and kept moving.

The chamber had an exit on the far end, and we continued on. Soon we found another pair of stone doors. But now the sense of wrongness was getting far stronger, moving from discomfort to borderline pain. I gritted my teeth, trying to push it away from my mind, keeping focused on my surroundings.

The passage opened into a square room, with a passage leading out ahead on the far right of the room. As we entered, I could finally feel the source of pain. I closed my eyes and tried to shake my head to clear my thoughts, letting out a groan.

“Myr?” Daneath turned to look at me with alarm.

“Can’t…can’t you feel it?” I said between clenched teeth, trying to steady myself as I leaned against the entrance way.

“Feel what exactly?” Beepu asked puzzled.

Opening my eyes, I pointed to the far corner of the room.

“That…the pain it gives off.”

In the far corner was a statue of a majestic Elk its shoulder line was taller than I and colored a dark black. The statue was standing in a pool which edge was decorated with carved patterns. But what caught my eye most was that the statue was covered in sickly green moss on its back, that oozed and dripped a brown liquid in to the basin. I was almost sure that the moss was glowing, but with my vision it made it difficult to be sure.
“I do not feel anything at all,” Beepu said as Foggle landed on his shoulder. “But that statue has seen better times,” he remarked. I now noticed that Mo, was avoiding the statue altogether as he scurried around the room.

I stepped carefully towards the figure, each step accentuating the pain that gripped me. As I approached, I realized that it was actually made of wood. But the statue wasn’t carved from it, but it was rather grown into its current shape. The black color was a product of mold from the moisture, and it covered the body where there was no moss. It’s antlers were easily wider than I was tall, and also dripped with moss.

What was this? Why could I feel it? Why only I?

“There isn’t much here, we should keep looking,” Iesa said after glancing into the pool, looking for valuables or signs of his father.

“We can wait a moment. Right Myr?” Daneath asked.

“We should look for a way to open those doors is what we should do!” Beepu exclaimed frustrated.

“I’ve been thinking; those are probably tombs,” Daneath said. “And I don’t think our fathers came here to rob graves.

“I thought the Elk built cairns,” Iesa commented.

“This…this is far older,” I said stepping next to the Elk figure, “This place…hasn’t been used in a long time. But I think Daneath is right.”

“So now what?” Beepu asked the brothers and they began to talk. But I ceased to pay attention to them. The pain was intense, as I saw the moss had invaded deep into fissures in the wood. As I looked at it closely, I realized that this looked familiar.

It resembled the rot that stole so many on the battlefield. The discoloration, the ooze, the swelling in the wood. I realized then that the statue wasn’t trying to hurt me. It was simply radiating its own pain. I couldn’t take it any longer. I didn’t know if I could help, but I needed to do something to lessen it. Anything. I reached out with a hand and touched the wooden muzzle of the statue and started to pour some energy into it.

The reaction was swift. At first the light flowed into the statue easily. The darkness inside was hungering and trying to swallow it all from me. I gasped and then tried to force more energy into the darkness; trying to overwhelm it. I felt my face contorting in pain as I pushed harder and harder. Around me I knew there was shouting, but none of the words meant anything to me. All that mattered was defeating that core of darkness inside the wooden form.

I pushed again, and I could feel the Strand within me twisting and coiling. It was active in fighting the darkness. But the battle had moved beyond the statue; I was now a part of the battlefield as I expended more and more power. I wasn’t in control in any tangible way; all I could do was brute force; my light against the dark.

And I was losing. I was tiring my reserves from the Strand waning. The darkness was eager to consume again; and I had unwittingly exposed myself. Sweat poured off my forehead as I strained to find more energy from the Strand. All the light was gone, and only the scant amount of dark threads were left. Somehow, I knew that tapping those would make things worse.

I was going to die.

I could barely think coherently. My left hand reached up to touch the holy symbol I wore. My fingers brushed the scales and the bones, and I then gripped it tightly. It was my shield that had protected me. It was my beacon that lit the way. And it needed more. Like it wanted proof of my faith. Could I sacrifice all? Would I?

The decision wasn’t hard. I reached within again, but not to the Strand, but that small part of self that brought light and could cure ailments. It was all I had left and I with desperation I threw it at the darkness. I could feel the energy flare up and down my spine, and I could see the flash of light in the corners of my eyes as my ethereal wings appeared.

The energy struck the darkness and I could feel it recoil. It was almost like my wings had swept forward to surround it and hold it place as I started to rend it asunder. I was screaming now something, words in Celestial pouring from my mouth as I tried to crush the darkness with my will. With my faith.
Then the Strand reacted. Not the light, but the darkened threads reached for the core I fought against. And then suddenly, I felt my being swallowing it, wrapped tightly in threads of light and dark. But as I did so I felt a final burst of darkness leaving me in all directions.

The pain fell away, and my knees gave as I fell on the floor, my hand leaving the statue. Iesa came to me first and lifted my torso up so I could.

“Myr! Myr! Come on now! Talk to me!” Iesa said frantically.

I blinked barely comprehending trying to catch my breath. I felt violently ill and could barely talk. “I…I..”

“Yes, come on. You’re ok.”

I stammered as my thoughts started to coalesce.

“The darkness…something is…coming.”

Beepu heard that and threw Foggle in the air down the passage we came from. Daneath, swallowed and tightened his grip on his sword, and faced the passageway, the shield shining the way.

“Those tombs are open, and we hav—”

And with that figures entered the room and swung at Daneath blocking the passage. He swung striking the clumsy assailants easily. Iesa stood, drew his rapier and lunged, plunging his sword deep into another figure, felling it.

In a panic, I stood up. I might have been tired and exhausted before, I now had something. My unease was now nausea but I choked it down and I quickly hurled a bolt of energy at the figure that Daneath struck. It was only then I realized that I was striking musties. But these were much more focused and faster.
Beepu had a different concern and he shouted, “I’ll be right back!” and ran towards the passage that we had not explored yet. As he did so, he faded from sight.

More musties arrived and they unleashed their anger on the brothers. One pounded Daneath’s shield ineffectively, while the damaged one an and another manage to land solid blows on Iesa. All the while I could hear Mo screaming, looking for cover. I reached out toward the pair and summoned the skeletal hands to grip and hold a pair, causing one to fall.

But Iesa’s luck had run out, as I saw him being clobbered with fists from the pair, falling to the floor. Daneath, despite his exhaustion, screamed and again started to swing at them and backed up towards where I stood. They thrashed at Daneath as he moved, but it did move them away from Iesa, who lay in a pool of blood on the floor.

I heard a noise and turned just in time to see two more musties emerge from the other passageway. Once again, I could feel resonance as they struggled to focus their attacks on me. And once again Daneath bore the brunt as they twisted and unloaded their fury upon him, battering his shield and him.
Daneath and I stood back to back, surrounded by four of them. Iesa was running out of time and I was desperate.

“Sorry D,” I said as I reached with in and plucked at the dark strands within me.

“What—”

And with that I freed the darkness that I just claimed from the Elk. I screamed and tendrils of darkness erupted from me, battering all the musties around me. But it also battered Daneath who grunted as the tendrils flailed against him. I ran past the musties and they barely had any energy to respond. But I knew that with the resonance was gone, any protection I had was gone with it.

It was at this point that a solid shard of ice emerged from the passage, It exploded on a musty dropping another one to the ground and cutting others. Beepu faded back into view and moved away from the doorway looking to get a better view of his foes.

Daneath swung and cut down another one, just as I reached Iesa. I quickly placed a hand on him and pulled desperately on a strand to heal him. But all I could do was stop him from dying. And that was enough.
Beepu blasted another one with a bolt of fire, causing it to fall to the ground in heap. And Daneath struck it for good measure to ensure it stayed down.

Our ears strained to listen over our breathing. Listening for signs of more assailents. Moments passed before Beepu spoke up again.

“Foggle didn’t see any other active ones.”

“What about the way you went down?” Daneath asked.

Beepu shook his head, “It ended in a large oaken door. I don’t think there were more than two stone ones on the way to it.

I pulled off my pack and placed it under Iesa’s head. I was tired, so tired. But I started to pull some incantations to clean him up. Mostly to see his wounds clearly, but also to wipe the filth and blood away. As I did so, Mo approached Iesa and sat next to his head.

As I watched I saw the monkey pull some of Iesa hair and stroke it. He would drop those strands and repeat with a new handful. His eyes, so human like looked on the fallen Knight with sadness and hope. He continued to stroke his hair. I was struck on how…human it was. Mo was always there in the background, but not always in front of everything. But now for I, he was the center of the world as he tried to heal his…

Master?

Friend?

Father?

How did Mo think of Iesa? All I could do is gently stroke the monkey’s fur. It may have been the first time he had let me, or it may have been the first time I tried. But the look in his eyes told me all I needed to know; he loved Iesa.

“Myr…some warning next time—” Daneath started.

“I said sorry!” I said looking him in the eye. I needed to get to…your brother.

“Yeah…thanks,” Daneath said appreciatively. “Think we are good to rest a bit?”

“I hope so! I am not carrying him!” Beepu said.

“Good. Rest would be good.” I said. Moving to a wall and sitting down wearily.

“Myr, what was it you were screaming in that language…with the elk that is?”

“Celestial? I...I don’t remember. There was a lot of pain. Do you?

“Something like…’E kohana ma ko’o makunanae’ ?”

“Oh…it’s a plea for help.” I said. But that wasn’t quite correct. The better translation was:

‘Help me my Father.’

Session notes:
So some of the spell casting done for drama’s sake (the last bit at the end), but I did burn all my other slots healing to purge that elk. It was a moment of high drama.

Here also was really the first time I tried to humanize Mo. It wasn’t a familiar so keeping track of it was a pain, especially since he never was in combat. So where’s Mo was a constant challenge to remember.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Of Powers and things (8/22/2019)

It is a given that mortals don’t have a full understanding of what immortals want. Not fiends. Not celestials. Not Slaadi. Not Modrons.

But whatever we think we know about their desires, we have even less understanding about Powers. And to pretend we do is folly.

And yet we do anyway and miss the truth.

We rested by the Elk; the room felt to me clean now that the darkness had been purged. Daneath both were wounded, but Iesa was worse off. I moved from my spot at the wall and sat next to him and checked him over. No cuts, but a lot of bruising from where the musties pummeled him. But his breathing was steady and easy.

As I touched his chest checking for bleeding, he awoke with a start. He sat up with a wild-eyed look, his head turning around. Mo quickly screeched in delight and jumped on his shoulder and clasped his arms around Iesa’s neck. Iesa, turned to look at him and smiled, and ruffled the fur on its head. I smiled and said, “I’ll leave you two alone,” to which Iesa gave me an amused look but said nothing.

I moved to Daneath then and asked, “Anything serious?”

He shook his head, “No, but I still feel weakened from earlier. I want to sleep it off.”

“Perhaps we can soon! These things burst out of the tombs after all.” Beepu said.

“I’m not big on robbing the graves here. And besides, I’m going to guess your father wouldn’t have opened them anyway.”

“True! But there is another door at the end of this passage. One of oak. But I admit to being very tired as well. I do not have much strength to manage any significant magic. What about you?”

“Now that I have rested, I feel better. I can probably manage more arcana if needed.”

“Well, let’s move and avoid things if we can. I don’t want to die here,” Daneath said somberly.

“I second that,” Iesa said quietly. I turned to look at him, and while Mo had certainly ha lifted his spirits earlier, he seemed distracted.

“Then, let’s move,” Daneath said, and I flexed and refreshed the light on the shield. We then moved into the far passage to look for the door. As we made our way there, we passed the remains of the two stone doors, shattered on the ground. Beyond them was only a small alcove, and moldering remains of cloth and leather. But not far from that stood the oak door.

This one was similar to the one we ran into the entrance. Iesa stepped up to it and examined the lock for a moment, and then retrieved his tools from his pouch and started to work on it.

<<SPRONG>>

I could see Iesa close his eyes and grimace in frustration. “Beepu could you…do your trick again?”

“More rust?” Beepu said with a smile and was already starting the transmutation. In moments, the metal lock was now flimsy wood, and Daneath broke it open.

“I’m going to have to practice,” Iesa said shaking his head.

I touched his shoulder as he put away his tools. “Well, just think of it of saving it for when you really need it.”
“Heh I guess,” and Iesa stood up, and we resumed our exploration. The tunnel continued straight for a while and then started to widen. Before the others could see, it was clear that the passage ahead of us descended. But there was an opening on the left before that.

As we approached, I heard a sound. I glanced at the others and found them returning my glance.

“Is that…crying?” Iesa asked in a hushed tone.

“From that passage? Take a look.” Daneath whispered, nudging Iesa forward.

“What? Why not you?”

“I’m in heavy armor, do I sound quiet?”

“You’re in heavy armor what’s going to hurt you?”

“Fine, if you two are going to argue about it,” I said stepping forward, before Iesa caught my arm.

“No…I’ll do it,” and he moved down the hall, with Mo following quietly behind him.

“What has gotten into him?” Beepu wondered aloud.

“I think I have a guess,” I said. “I have seen this before, after someone gets seriously hurt. You have proof you aren’t invincible.”

I watched Iesa in the distance peer looking into the room, and I saw him stiffen, and then slowly back up. As soon as made some distance, he started to run back to where we stood in the hall.

“What’s the matter?” Daneath asked, almost annoyed.

“Well…it’s a woman crying--” Iesa started.

“A ghost?” I guessed.

To which Iesa nodded, “I could see through her…so…yeah.”

“Did she notice you?” I asked.

Iesa shook his head. “We avoid her...I’ll try moving really slow along the opposite wall.”

“Wait are you…” I started.

“I don’t know if I can handle another fight,”

“Ok…let’s go.” I said. But as we made our way down the hall, I crept towards the side passage, and looked within.

The figure was indeed a woman, kneeling in torn furs and homespun cloth. Her auburn hair was long and braided, and her skin was a dark sun kissed color. But as Iesa said you could see through her. She paid me no mind, as all of her focus was on a casket resting on a bier. It appeared to be damaged from a broken part of the ceiling, crushing it.

I looked at her for a moment. She wasn’t like the other undead; she didn’t seem to want to kill us. I wasn’t even sure if she heard me at the entrance, or even if she cared.

Unlike the other undead, I wanted to help her somehow. I remembered tales of spirits being laid to rest by helping it. Completing an unfinished task, a blessing or prayer, and even returning the bones of the dead to their resting place. I was half a mind to enter the room, when I felt a tugging on my leg.

Looking down I saw Mo release his grip on my breeches, and pad back over to Iesa. Looking at him, he had an exasperated expression on his face, and perhaps a small bit of fear. I turned to look at the spirit in the room and sighed. I remembered an old maxim that my mentor, the Speaker told me once:

“Remember, while we serve our lord; the needs of the living outweigh the needs of the dead.”

I turned my back to the spirit and quietly moved to the stairs and followed the others down. All I could do was mutter under my breath; “May Kelemvor grant you peace.” I wanted to do more, I felt I could have. But the fear in Iesa, the battered Daneath; both came first.

We continued down the stairs until it opened into square room, which then led into a large room. Since I was last in the line, all I heard was a gasp, and Beepu running to the right side. The brothers turned and followed. I caught up and looked down at the kneeling gnome, to see what had caught his interest.
It was a leather pack, with brass colored fittings. But on the flap covering the opening, was a rune I didn’t recognize. But then it dawned on me.

It wasn’t old and rotten; it was in very good shape.

“This…this is my fathers!” he whispered. And he opened the pack and looked inside. I could see papers, similar to the plans he poured over, and I also saw a small book. His hands were quivering as he undid the clasp that held it shut. He opened it and started to flip the pages.

“It’s a journal, but it was only partially filled out. But there is a note here…” and he quickly started to scan through it his eyes flashing back and forth, digesting it. It seemed to be eternity as he read, before finally Iesa spoke up.

“And?”

“What? Oh sorry. Forgot you were here.” Beepu said guilty.

“So what does it say?” I asked.

“Well, it is a personal letter, but it says a couple of things. The first is that there is a piece of a device here and the schematics to build it. It is basically another copy of the device that they have. The other pieces are elsewhere, and I must find them.

“The second is that he is travelling with you father, helping him somehow. Oh, he calls him Umbra. It looks he is running from the Kershak, but it does not say why.”

“Where were they going?” Daneath asked intently.

“Let me see…oh my.” And Beepu looked at me in the eyes. “They were trying to get to Sigil.”

“What?” I asked. Beepu now had all my focus. “How? What key did they have?” I knelt on the floor grasping Beepu’s shoulders, on verge of shaking him.

“The device would take them there directly. It says nothing about a key.”

“That…that’s not supposed to be possible,” I said my voice dropping to almost a whisper.

“What do you mean Myrai. You’re here,” Iesa said.

“Yes, that was different. That’s why I was looking for a key and portal to Sigil, or somewhere I could get to that has well known ones, like Sylvania.”

“So, what’s the difference?” Iesa pressed.

“This is going to take a bit. Sigil is called the ‘City of Doors’ for a reason. It has portals to everywhere in the multiverse. All you need to find one, and the key and, poof there you are. The key could be a piece of bone, or something weird like the breath of a cat. There is a brisk trade for the locations for both. Some portals are permanent, others are temporary. Some work in both directions, and some are one way.”

“So, this device creates a portal to Sigil. That is not strange.” Beepu beamed.

“No,” I said shaking my head. “Sigil has another nickname; it’s called ‘The Cage,’ by us for a reason. There are no physical doors or main gate into Sigil at all. Because of this people like to go to Sigil and hide. We call it ‘Giving the Laugh.’

“Ok. I think I understand that,” Daneath said, and I watched him trying to work out the implications. “But if there are no entry ways into Sigil, how do you get there or leave?”

“Only by portals that are…created by the Lady,” I said reluctant to say her name, even here so far away from my home.

“The Lady?” Daneath asked confused.

“We…she has been called the ‘Lady of Pain’ for a very long time…since before there were Tieflings. But she is the ruler of the city. Sure, the factions ran…er used to run the city’s services and handle crime and laws about theft, commerce and other stuff mostly. But she sets the big rules. You don’t worship her, you leave her Dabus alone, you can’t be a member of a faction anymore, you don’t threaten the city. But there is a big one that she enforces; she controls all the portals in and of Sigil. All of them. There isn’t a spell that can breach that. Tanar’ri Lords can’t. Baatezu can’t. Angels can’t. Powers can’t. It’s why the Blood War doesn’t flood the city, or why it isn’t a staging area for fights elsewhere.”

“Are you sure that’s true?” Asked Iesa.

I nodded, “During the Faction War, she shut every portal down after a bunch of fiends from both sides of the Blood War started killing each other, and then Sigilites. I guess she did that to prevent more from coming in. But that also created new problems. No food, no water, nothing was coming in or out for days. No one could enter. No one could leave. After the war ended, the portals reopened, and a bunch of people left because of her new rule about factions. At least those with keys did. I stayed, partially because I didn’t have a reason to leave. But also; I didn’t have a key.”

“So how did you get here then?” Daneath asked.

“I…was in the Smoldering Corpse bar, when a fight broke out. I dove to get behind the bar, and somehow that triggered a portal. I crossed it and landed on my back on a farm in Triboar. But I don’t know how I triggered it. It might have been someone else for all I know. I found Beepu, followed him to the Dandelion’s bar. There he told me that his father might be able to help. But I thought he meant he knew where a portal was or had a spell that could get me close. Not a device like you are talking about,” I said looking at Beepu.

“So I do not see the problem,” Beepu said.

“The problem is that the edicts of the Lady are Law. Its not supposed to be possible. It would...change a lot of things if it is true,” I said, not wanting to say more.

“Well, I do not have all the pieces yet anyway. I will need a lot of time to read through these notes to even determine how to build it.”

“Well, pack it all up. We should see if there is an exit near here,” Daneath said, sounding tired.
I nodded absently, lost in my thoughts. A device that could get to Sigil directly? I couldn’t think of anything more dangerous. Every power and proxy would want it. No power can set foot in Sigil now, but this…this might change that. But even if it didn’t the Blood War could spill there, powers could send their proxies at will into the city.

Assuming someone with it wasn’t just mazed on the spot by the Lady. Or worse, flayed body and soul. Beepu may not realize it, but we might become marked by every proxy from the Abyss to Mount Celestia wanting it. Some might just want to trade, but a lot just might try to take it by force. But I suppose it was a problem for later.

Once Beepu had repacked his things with his father’s, we continued across the room to the next hall. This hallway was carved with more shapes into the side of the rock. Animals, stars, weapons, and people. Finally, the hall emptied into a large circular room.

This room was lit with a cool blue light streaming from above. There was even the movement of air, and the light bounced off of dust, stirred up by the air. The walls had more carvings, but these has splashes of colors; crimson, ochre, and indigo the most common. But here, they were probably a faded reminder of their former glory. The center had a dais taking up perhaps half of the room, and in the middle of it was a gnarled stump of a tree. Yet was if it was plucked from the ground, exposing deep inter twining roots and then suspended above the earth. It was old gnarled and dead; none of the branches above had leaf or flower. While it was a marvel to look upon, a motion among the roots caught my eye.

A figure dressed in tattered robes made of fur and leather emerged from beneath the tree. As we slowly approached, I could see that he wore a magnificent headdress toped with a rack of elk antlers. Streaming from the antlers were ghostly feathers and ribbons. And then I realized, that he too was a ghost, long forgotten in the halls beneath Flint Rock.

He stepped towards us slowly, his eyes were featureless, but his head turned to each of us in turn. He looked at Iesa for a moment, then Daneath. As he turned and looked at Beepu his head cocked to one side as if surprised, and then he looked at me. I felt like he was peering deep into me, searching for something. I was expecting chills or cold, but instead I felt warmth as he looked within me. And I wasn’t sure if he took longer with me than the rest, but it felt like it nonetheless. Finally, the apparition spoke.

“You have purged the darkness left behind by others. For this we are grateful,” its deep echoing voice said, resonating within the chamber. “You have calmed many of the restless souls here, and yet did not disrespect our eternal slumber. Go forth in peace, living ones; for beyond the veil there are gifts for you. But do not return again to this place.” And with the final word, the spirit broke apart into motes of light that scattered beneath the roots of the tree. As they danced, a doorway of light coalesced and hung in the air shimmering.
We looked at each other, uncertain, and perhaps leery of taking the first step. Finally, I did, as I thought to myself, a portal is a portal. I stepped beneath the roots and took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Then I walked into the doorway.

It felt warm, refreshing and alive. That feeling spread through out my limbs and gave me a feeling of peace and calm. I then felt the warmth of the sun on my face and on the skin of my arms. Floral smells invaded my nostrils and the scent of cold dust fell away. The tension of days of toil, of fighting, of surviving fell away from my shoulders and back.

It was strange; the feeling was familiar. Almost the same as when I helped others pass the veil into the Fugue, or the first time I knelt to give myself to Kelemvor. It was a pure feeling washing over me.
I opened my eyes, and found myself alone in a green field, with wildflowers covering the hills in a carpet of colors. Colors I had never seen and never dreamed of before. A brilliance and beauty that brought tears to my eyes. Then I saw…

It strode in the field of flowers. It was of colossal size and my mind could barely hold its image. It was majestic, perfect in shape and form. The nimbus of golden light made it hard to look at. It didn’t just almost blind the eyes, but my mind as everything else fell away from perception.

Its head turned only slightly, and it regarded me silently. It’s impassive gaze saw through me, seeing me for everything I was and could be. I knew then that I was in the presence of a power. Something we talked about with disdain in Sigil; far away from their direct influence. Thinking of them as distant cold beings, unable to comprehend mortals and their challenges.

As I stood in the presence of the Elk, I knew then that they were wrong. I had committed myself to my own power, the one that was there at the end of things. A point to reflect on all that had been done with your life. To me I saw that as different than most powers, an exception to the others.

But the Elk that I saw before me was for life as the Elk tribe lived in the now. It cared in the most primal and pure way that anything could. It was beyond my comprehension. But even now as I stared at it, I could feel it caring even about me; an insignificant mortal, far from its charges. And in that moment a brief flickering of…gratitude. And then the nimbus increased in intensity, blinding my vision.

As the light faded from my eyes, I found myself standing on a familiar plain, far less colorful, and far fewer flowers. I was no longer alone, as the others stood with me. Beepu too had tears in his eyes, while Iesa and Daneath looked at each other with surprise, each holding an object. Iesa held a short blade with a wavy edge, and Daneath held a longsword, etched with runes.

I looked about, and I realized we were far south, not a day’s journey away from Portstown. And as the sun was setting in the western hills, I wondered how far we had left to go, and what challenges we would face next.

Session notes:
So, we all got a reward at the end of this…almost. My reward was next to that ghost, that I couldn’t convince the others to face it. All I needed to do was a ceremony. The DM did feel guilty about it.
 

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