Journal of the Souls of Legend

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Highborn - 11/10/2019

The history of the elves may have started in Aborea, but their journey passed through the Feywild. From there some left for one of the many primes, while others stayed behind becoming Eladrin. Some of those returned to Aborea, becoming noble Ealdrin.

It an interesting story, and the take away is how the planes will change mortals. However, its is not the only tale like this. But some of those tales are darker and more sinister than that.



“Ugh…what? What happened?” Alanathia said weakly, causing her to cough. While my magic helped heal her, it only fixed Iesa’s near deadly jab. Her right eye was still black and swollen shut, but her left wasn’t much better.

“You took a nasty blow in the back, but it looks like the hobgoblin gave you a work over beforehand. How are you feeling?” I asked with a concerned voice.

“I remember questions…questions about Whitepetal…I remember being hit…I don’t remember much after that,” she said sounding tired and resigned.

“Did they say what they wanted?” I asked, somewhat relieved that she didn’t remember who stabbed her in the back.

She furrowed her brow for a moment. “She…she didn’t ask questions about our forces, but I suppose she already figured out we are weakly defended. She did ask how long it would take for…for…reinforcements to arrive. And she asked about our recent guests.”

“Ravalan?”

“He was one, but also your companions, by name.”

“By names? She knew our names? What did she ask?”

The elf closed her eyes and she focused a moment before replying. “What skills you had, magic you possessed…but she didn’t ask about you…only the others.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I always thought of myself as someone that would stand out in a crowd. While I was glad, I wasn’t a target, I didn’t really feel much better knowing this.

“How did Whitepetal fare?” she then asked.

“A lot burned, and a lot of dead. Galenas can give you a better idea when we get you back.” I replied. She then nodded and I felt her relax a bit, and she closed her eye, deep in thought.

“Myr?” Iesa said as he approached. “Is…she alright?”

“She’ll make it,” and I raised a hand to lift a finger just in front of my lips briefly, and then I ran my fingers through my hair.

Iesa caught my meaning and nodded and spoke again, “There were only two elves alive in the cages; we’ve given them what aid we can, and they can move whenever we’re ready.”

“Alanathia? Can you walk?” I asked, giving her a nudge.

“Yes. Take me back.”
It was early in the evening, and we were gathered in a large hall that was stretched and supported by two great trees in Whitepetal. It was here that the leaders and elders gathered and where the people would congregate as a community. Now, the merriment was gone, replaced by the melancholy of the survivors trying to put their world back into place.

We had not been there long, although the return to Whitepetal was slower than we would have liked. While Alanathia was only impaired in one eye, the two others were weakened from their imprisonment. It was well after peak, and near the setting of the sun, when we finally reached our destination.

And now, we listened as Galenas told Alanathia the scope of the fighting and damage. Half of the elves that lived there were injured, a quarter of the outpost was dead. I hadn’t realized it before, but the area that Whitepetal covered was much larger than the parts I had seen, and the pitched fighting between the elves and the hobgoblins was costly. But surprisingly, very few hobgoblins escaped alive, beyond the ones we chased. But the cost to the elves was far higher. And we learned that the hobgoblins had more forces, close by. And at last count, more than enough to overrun Whitepetal.

“But we do not believe the hobgoblins know this yet,” finished Galenas. “If for no reason that, other than the band that went to the quarry, no one else managed to escape.”

“An expensive thrust into our defenses,” Alanathia muttered. “And more than sufficient to keep us pinned here. And we are too few to take action against them.”

“Where are the hobgoblins attacking from?” Daneath asked.

“Before the attack last night, most of them were at an old temple on the what is now the edge of the Misty Forest.” Galenas started. “There are scattered ruins of towers and other constructions left behind from Ilefarn, that make good scouting posts. Many of them are also held by this so called ‘Prophesized One’s’ forces.”

“And now?” Daneath asked.

“We do not know. They had been picking off our patrols slowly over the last several weeks. Now we know why. And now we do not have enough to safely scout and find them. Not without reinforcements.”

“So, reinforcements are coming soon then?” Iesa hopefully asked.

“We cannot expect much help in the next several…weeks.” Galenas responded quietly.

“What? I thought that the wood elves had enough to keep Secomber from encroaching.” Iesa asked.

“Iesa, you do not understand,” Beepu said quietly. “Since Ilefarn fell, the forces that once guarded this place, are…gone.”

“Gone? I don’t understand.”

Alanathia spoke next, “Many families of elves have…retreated away from here. We are the remnants of those who chose not to leave, in the name of keeping our old homes safe.”

“So, the fearsome reputation is what? A front?” A shocked Iesa continued.

“It had been enough to keep wandering hunters and loggers at bay,” Galenas said. “A well-placed warning arrow is enough to accomplish that. But this is not Secomber…or even Silverymoon. We do not have powerful magic to keep the goblins at bay. Nor do we have walls or fortification to act as a bulwark. We could pick off stragglers, and we could peel their forces slowly apart given enough time.

“But we would lose much,” Alanathia continued. “No outpost, no community would be spared. Our families would be homeless within our home. The cost…would be more than we could pay.”

“Then…we take the fight to them,” I said from my place at a window, looking out at the ravaged outpost.

Galenas turned to look at me, “Do you not understand? We do not—”

I turned and stared directly into the eyes of the elf. “I didn’t say you. I said…we.”

“You would do this?” Alanathia said in puzzlement. “Why?”

“Because Iesa, Daneath, and Beepu need to talk to Melandrach. Because for some reason, the goblins are interested in them. And because of what they did here.” I said.

“I am very curious on why they are interested in us as well,” Beepu spoke up. “I cannot believe this is coincidence, but I do not see how this random band of hobgolbins causing trouble, would even know of us.”

“Hey, wait…everyone knows ‘Big-D’” Iesa said with a smile.

“Not again,” Daneath looked up at the ceiling helplessly.

“Somehow I think it is more than a match up with the ‘Apple-King’ that has their interest,” I said dryly.

“Fine, lets get going and strike at them before they are organized,” Daneath replied. “We just need directions to the temple and we’re good.”

“I don’t like the idea of going in the front like that. I’d prefer finding a different way if possible,” Iesa said with a frown.

“The only ones with living memory of the temple are the Highborn. And we haven’t seen one of their number in some time.” Alanathia said.

“And anyway,” I said, “Charging in, isn’t a good idea until we are prepared. We should rest, and scout around the temple, and see what we find. Then we decide how we kill them.”

“Kill th..Is that necessary? Could we not find a way to negotiate and end this, with less risk and less blood?” a concerned Beepu asked.

I looked at Alanathia, and her swollen face. I nodded in her direction while I spoke, “Their idea of talking seems to involve their fists or blades. I think we are done…talking.” I said angrily, and I headed across the hall to leave.

“You did not answer my question; ha-celas. Why?” Alanathia asked again.

I stopped a moment and stood quietly. I then turned to look at her, “Because…it’s the right thing…no, the only thing we can do.” I then turned and left the hall and embraced the cool air of the early evening, as I walked back to the room I was given.

There’s more to it isn’t there Myr?

--No…yes…I don’t know.

They hurt you.

--What? A bruised arm, and…

That’s not what I meant.

--…Yes…they should pay. All of them.

Myr, I’m not su—

--Drop it.

Don’t you—


I swiftly moved my hand in a swift cutting motion, and Gossamer vanished in a sparkled haze. My mood was running a red one, when I finally got to my room, and slammed the light door shut. I unbuckled my rapier from my hip, threw it on the small table and collapsed on the lounge like chair. Once planted, I grabbed the bottle of liquor that Morlea had once brought, removed the glass stopper, and brought the bottle up and took several swallows. I felt the burn of the drink sting me as it slid past my lips and throat

It’s nuances of herbal and floral notes were lost on me. I just wanted to experience the familiar euphoria. I didn’t want to think or feel right now. As I sat there, I peeled off with difficulty, the chain shirt I wore, and let it hit the floor. I laid back, looking upwards at the ceiling. I could feel my head begin to swim a bit as I felt the warm liquor run through me. Soon, my eyes drooped, as my mind drifted away in the darkness.

---

I awoke with a start, as someone was knocking at the door. The sky was a dim orange, telling me it was still early morning. I stood up and stretched, and stumbled over to open it, to face Iesa.

“Hey, we’re going to be heading out in a while, are you—”

“Give me a little, and I’ll meet you at the hall.”

“Alright…oh, by the way, Beepu said you might be able to figure out what this is,” and Iesa handed me a small leather bag, tied shut with a thong. I took it from him and opened it to find an amber colored gem. But as I gazed into the bag, I noticed that inside the pouch it gave off a faint glow.

“Why did Beepu say…I should figure this out?”

Iesa shrugged, “I found it on the hobgoblin, noticed the glow, and gave it to Beepu. He said it had an enchantment on it, but not one he was personally familiar with and maybe you were.”

“Thanks. I’ll poke at it as we travel.”

“See you at the hall,” and Iesa turned and started to walk of, when he half turned and spoke again. “I hope you are…better,” and without waiting for me to reply, he continued on towards the hall.

I watched as Iesa strode off, while turning over the bag in my hand. Frowning, I closed the door and waved my hand.

--u think…that. Oh. I see. Fine.

It’s not. I’m…sorry. I…don’t know what got into me.

--You do. That’s the problem.

By late morning, we were on our way. We had some food, and basic supplies. I was given a small shield to replace the one I had lost, and we started on our way. We had rough directions to the temple, and it would take most of the day to reach it. Fortunately, the elves knew their home, and gave us guidance on hidden paths that would lead us quickly through the forest. While patrols might be a concern, we wouldn’t be lost, and adrift in the underbrush, wondering which way led out.

We had said little more than pleasantries in the morning, and we kept to ourselves as we marched. It wasn’t that there weren’t things to say, but more that we wanted to hear what was coming. The elves gave us warning that the patrols the hobgoblins ran, were quiet to a fault, and their wolves would smell you long before you see them.

So, we now smelled of pine and oak thanks to some creative working with the strand. We moved as stealthily as we could, and fortune seemed to smile upon us. We encountered no hobgoblins as we trudged through the brush. But nor did we find any other elven patrol, confirming Galenas’ fears that more had been lost.

By late afternoon we reached our destination; a plateau that overlooked the temple grounds. We crept slowly to the edge of the bluff, to see with our own eyes the temple grounds.

A large waterfall graced a sheer cliff face of rock. The waterfall was on one side of a fane, carved into the rock. The entrance was carved with runes and symbols around it, with a stone bridge that the river passed under. The ruins of columns and arches lined a causeway of flagstone, that led to the entrance to the fane. The columns were covered in vines and the floor of the causeway was litter with leaves, needles and dirt from perhaps centuries of disuse and overgrowth. On both sides of the causeway, several pools of water stood, even now, fed with channels from the river, keeping the water fresh and clean.

But along the causeway was new construction; large tents of leather stretched over poles. Pens with fencing of fresh cut logs, along the pools. In the pens, were worgs; some sleeping, others pacing back and forth. Outside the tents were perhaps two score hobgoblins, but the size of the tents told us there were far more elsewhere. Fires were scattered around the camp, and ramparts of logs shielded the main path into the temple, providing cover for defenders.

Following the path away from the temple, it descended down to the floor of the forest. But along the edge, the trees had been cut away, and more ramparts and palisades had been constructed, allowing defenders a clear view of the path ascending. Looking at the area remaining, it could easily hold a much larger host.

“That is exactly…not the way in we are looking for,” Iesa said dryly. “Even with Beepu’s magic…it would be a matter of time before I would be caught.”

“Give me a moment,” and Beepu waved his hand at Foggle and the brass owl vanished. “I am sending him up and around the camp so he cannot be seen.”

“And for the rest of us, there isn’t much hope of sneaking past. Even at night,” Daneath frowned.

“No, their eyes are too sharp,” Beepu commented frowning. “And watching the guards, they are disciplined and organized. And so are their worgs.” His eyes looked unfocused and far away, and I knew he was looking through Foggle’s eyes. “Based on what I am seeing, half of the camp is not here. And guessing at the bones in the worg pens, probably on patrol. But Foggle does see some just inside the entrance to the temple. So, no telling how many might be below. This makes a frontal attack inadvisable.”

I couldn’t agree more with their assessment and had nothing to add. So, l looked farther along the path. We were on a ridge overlooking the temple, with the waterfall on our left and the entrance a bit farther. But beyond the escarpment, was another tower in the distance. It stood halfway up a hillside that would lead up above the waterfall, to where the river above flowed.

“Well, it looks like they are waiting for more to arrive,” Iesa said.

Daneath nodded, “Yep. If we had some archers or siege weapons, we could attack them here. But they have built cover just for that.”

“So, we return and say what, ‘nothing we can do?’ or ‘You should run,”

“No…not yet,” and I pointed at the farther tower. “I am guessing that is guarding or overlooking something.”

“So?” Iesa looked at me puzzled. “What good is going there?”

“So, we can do what the Hobgoblins did to the elves,” I said looking at him. “We don’t attack where they are strong. Pick them off on the edges where we can. Perhaps capture one and get some information. Also, it is off the main path. So, what is it guarding?”

Beepu started to nod, “Yes. Another path? An entrance perhaps?”

“It has got to be better than attacking directly,” Daneath concurred. “Iesa?”

“It is worth a try. And if not, then we can go back…” Iesa started.

“How about, ‘not in a box’,” I looked at everyone, and everyone nodded in agreement.
We found our way down to the forest floor. We believed that we were unobserved and found the same path that led to the temple. Where the other direction went was lost to dirt and tree growth. We couldn’t see the tower…not directly. But both Gossamer and Foggle could from the air, and they helped us stay on track.

As we got closer, we found the was tower on a hillside, while the ground in front was a gully. Scattered in the gully were boulders and clusters of earth. We approached and it seemed that this area was what must have been the remains of a forest fire. There were only a few trees that still stood, and many channels of water that had cut paths between the earthen clusters. The tower itself, was once several stories tall, but now only a slender section of wall reached that height, and nothing remained of the second level.

But leading to that tower, was the remains of a path and several tiers cut into the earth. And on those tiers, we could see several goblins and some worgs. Several tents were scattered on the tiers as well, but it was nothing like the temple. These seemed hurriedly constructed and didn’t have the organization of the other ones. There were no other defenses to provide cover beyond the remains of the tower itself.

We looked at each other and nodded; we knew we could do this.

“So, here’s my idea,” Isea grinned as he spoke. “Daneath and I get closer and start shooting arrows at them. Once we do, they’ll try to charge us, and you two pick them off.”

“That’s a lot of goblins…are you sure?” I asked.

“I have a new spell I want to try,” Beepu said rubbing his chin. “It will be invaluable.”

“Fine…will it kill them?” I said bluntly.

“What? No…no…no. Not directly. But it will help.” he grinned.

“Take your word for it,” let’s go.

We split and watched Iesa and Daneath move forward towards the tower, keeping low and trying to stay out of sight. Beepu and I drifted a bit to the right, keeping the brothers within our vision. Foggle stayed low, along with Gossamer, not wanting to give the goblins something to look at.

After some skulking around the earthen berms, I saw the brothers stop. They thrust their swords into the earth, the hilts in easy reach. Daneath set his shield down as well. Then both pulled their bows off of their back. Each of them nocked an arrow and drew.

I looked at Beepu and watched him begin to make motions with his hands. In the stillness, and without the hectic flow of battle, I could feel Beepu pulling at the weave. The incantation seemed simple, but he was focused in pulling more power into the spell. I heard the twang of arrows, and my eyes were drawn towards the tower, as I watched two goblins fall; one knocked straight off his worg, and a second falling backwards into a campfire. Then I felt the Weave near me tense and release.

Beepu threw open his hand in a flourish towards the tower, and I saw an explosion of mist, boil out and cover the goblins in a thick fog. I squinted trying to see anything within. The brothers were also taken aback and turned to look where we stood. All I could do is shrug my shoulders as I turned to look at the gnome in puzzlement.

“Wait,” he said. And he started another incantation. As he did so I could hear the goblins and worgs, shouting and barking in frustration. I then hear the sounds of bodies hitting the ground hard, accompanied by screams of pain.

I turned around to look back at the mist, and out of it bounded a worg with a goblin mounted on its back. Quickly two arrows were fired, striking the worg in the chest, and pitching the goblin forward towards the ground, as I threw a bolt of energy at it. As the goblin stood up straight and bared his teeth, the bolt struck him in the head, knocking him back to the ground where he lay still.

Beepu finished his second spell throwing a pinch of sand into the air, and he commented. “That will make things easier with them sleeping through the fight.”

It now was clear what he had done; the fog made it dangerous to rush at us directly. Then his sleep spell would keep a number of them out of the fight. And considering how thick the fog was, it was unclear how many of the goblins could even see that anyone fell asleep.

“Myrai, help me get up this berm, so I can have a better view,” he asked, and I extended a hand and tossed him up. “Ah…this is excellent!” he exclaimed, as we heard more goblins and worgs screaming, falling and even the sickening crunch of bone as bodies hit earth and rock.

I only needed to hear those sounds, to put a smile on my face. More stragglers bounded from the mist. They were me with arrows, bolts of fire and energy flew, picking them off as they stumbled into view. I was reveling in picking them off one by one. My smile growing wider as each one fell into a lifeless heap.

Then I could only see its barest outline, but a larger back furred worg emerged from the fog. Unlike the other goblins and worgs before, it wasn’t rushing out, it moved out slowly and patiently. Its head turned slowly, searching out ahead of it, when its eyes locked onto Beepu. I heard it howl and start two steps towards him, when a blue haze erupted, and the wolf disappeared.

I didn’t have anytime to look for it, as I heard the sounds of legs running above me, and then a snarl and a scream of pain from Beepu. I backed up and looked up to see that same black wolf’s jaws rip into Beepu’s arm. Once locked, it shook its massive head and tossed the gnome aside. I stood there stupidly in shock as I watched this worg, grin in satisfaction as blood dripped from its muzzle. But now as I looked, the muzzle, the face was all wrong. The face wasn’t one of a worg, but it looked more like a goblin’s but smashed onto the body of the worg. It’s head and jaw were broader, and even more teeth filled its maw.

“So…wizard, ready to be the rabbit you were born to be?” the worg spoke, in a rough, cold voice. It started moving towards the gnome, unconcerned that it’s prey could flee. Its head was lowered, and its eyes were firmly looking at Beepu’s fallen form.

I threw a bolt of energy at it, only to see it ricochet off it’s hide. Iesa was still picking off goblins with his bow, while Daneath dropped his bow, and grabbed his sword and shield to run in our direction. Beepu, in the meantime scrambled to his feet and ran and jumped to another berm, trying to close the distance to Daneath. He also twisted around, and a blast of fire left his hands, only to see it go wild. He turned and ran and jumped across a gap between the berms, trying to get more room between himself and the creature.

It simply snarled and bounded after him, clearing the jump and lunging at Beepu. Its jaws closed on Beepu’s leg and blood sprayed in several directions. Beepu screamed and cursed again. Fortunately, he broke free and ran straight towards the warrior.

I was about to throw another bolt of energy at Beepu’s assailant, when I noticed that the fog bank was dissipating.

Beepu lost his focus…watch my back!

--Then you better turn around now!


I whirled in time to see two worgs bounding towards me. I cursed something filthy under my breath and pulled on the dark strands. Seeing the skeletal hands grasp for their throats, I ran. I could feel the hands tear at their souls, but they weren’t daunted by my exertion.

They snapped at me, and one managed to draw some blood from my right arm, as I fended off the other one with my shield. I started to back up slowly, heading towards Iesa. As my legs churned, carrying me to safety I hoped, I heard the sound of Beepu’s voice shout.

“I need some help!”

“Jump, I’ll catch you.” Came Daneath’s reply.

As I fended off the worgs snarling and nipping, I turned to look at Beepu. He was running as fast as his legs could carry him. He finally reached the end, and I saw him jump. He dove straight forward towards the warrior, his legs still running in the air while his arms and torso stretched out, as if to reach an impossible goal.

Daneath was waiting below, and I watched as Beepu fell straight through his hands, and his body struck the ground as Beepu landed face first into the mud.

Even as I was batting off the two worgs on me, I could barely stifle a chuckle at the comedy that lead to Beepu’s dire predicament. Once I saw Beepu moving again, I wasted no time and turning around, pulling on the dartness, and summoning the miasma to swallow both of them. Both ran through it, and I kept running towards iesa, so we could cover each other.

Myr…what do I?--

--Just run!


I ran as fast as I could, passing Daneath, as I saw Beepu pick himself up, with Gossamer close behind me. I turned again and flexed, pulling at the darkness, and again the bell tolled, and the miasma spilled forth. This time the souls of the worgs let go, and left this plane for the fugue, and their corpses fell, running themselves into the ground.

“Dyde ech corden duol dim yner ffunto!” Beepu yelled, screaming at Daneath.

“The sun was in my eyes…what does that even mean?” Daneath yelled in return.

“It’s an insult, I’ll tell you later,” I said as I ran by running to my favorite Knight of the Post. Iesa had dropped his bow, and had finished off another worg, when he turned and looked past me shouting “Beepu, watch out!”

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark!

--Not helping!


Turning I saw the worg thing land its jaws around Beepu’s arm and hold fast. It then bolted, dragging Beepu across the ground and towards the tower. I could hear Beepu cursing and I saw flames as Beepu tried to hit his tormentor, but the bolts flew wide. Iesa ran ahead of me, as did Daneath after the worg carrying Beepu. It was fast and soon it was on the top of the hillock, when it spun and tossed the gnome down the path.

“You will not free him. He will die in the ‘Prophesized Ones’ name!’ filthy ganlockts!” And it ran into the bottom of the ruined tower.

I looked around and didn’t see any goblins or worgs moving. Iesa was running to some of the tents on the lower ledges and was stabbing frequently, waiting for his brother to catch up to him.

--Goss find a way into that tower, find out who this prisoner is.

Sure thing.


The Tressym spread its wings and used its legs to run and skip across the ground fast. It wasn’t as fast as that worg, but it easily outpaced the brothers as it flew low around the tower, looking for a way in.

I had just caught up with Iesa and Daneath, who were waiting for me. Beepu was unconscious, and I quickly pulled on a white strand, and poured energy into him. His eyes snapped open in surprise and then he grimaced in pain.

“Where is that, that, thing?” I sputtered.

“In the tower,” Daneath said, already moving again.

“Who are we not freeing?” Iesa asked.

“Probably the last of an elf—”

--Um Myrai…I don’t know what this is. But it has four legs and horns.

A Bariaur? Here? No…wait. What kind of horns?

--I have no idea..long ones like tree branches.


“It’s a Highborn!” I shouted. “Kill that worg before—”

“On it!” both men replied and then dashed towards the tower. I started to chase after them, and I saw out of the corner of my eye, Beepu stand up shakily and start to follow.

How is it?

--Restrained and wounded.

Get close and touch him.

--It’s huge!

Just DO it!


I was still running, and I saw the brothers enter the tower and could barely hear them as I ran closer.

“Where is it?” Iesa said first.

“How could it hide?” Daneath replied.

Tell me when you touch it? And where is the worg?

--What worg? All I see is a Barghest about to drop down on your friends.


My eyes widen, and I screamed: “Above you!”

Beepu was just behind me and we were not four paces from the door, when we saw the large form of the barghest drop and land on top of Daneath. Iesa stabbed at it with his rapier and backed up back outside.

It chased him, growling and snarling with that horrid face, taunting as it lunged. Meanwhile Daneath stumbled out, bleeding profusely where the shoulder and neck met. I ran to him, and quickly poured more of the white strand into him. I was weakening; there wasn’t much more I could do.

“I will devour your souls!” it growled as it lunged towards Iesa. Daneath, charged from the tower, and plunged his sword in the back side of it. The barghest bellowed in pain and turned to snap at him. As it turned, Beepu threw a bolt of fire, but the barghest simply ducked, and the blast flew overhead.

--Ok I’m touching it. Now what?

Keep it company.

--Ok…how?

Try sitting on its lap and purr.

--Really? I don’t even know him.

GOS!


The battle outside was going poorly. The barghest hide was thick and it seemed that Iesa’s blows were ineffective, while Daneath couldn’t hit it at all. Beepu, covered in blood, was missing with his bolts as well, and at least one only just singed it. I was about to join into the fray, but I had one thing to do first. I concentrated on a white strand and drew energy from it into me. I then pushed it down the thread that connected me to Gossamer. I could feel the energy touch and caress something through Gossamer, and felt it bind itself with it.

--He’s wakin—

Start purring!


Looking at everyone, I saw that Iesa had taken a nasty bite and was stumbling. I ran over behind him and as I pulled on a white strand, barely grazing him. But it was enough to help close his wounds, and I felt the energy on the white and dark strands dim within me. I had nothing left and would be lucky to prevent anyone from dying now.

I moved myself to the door of the tower and blocked the entrance and turned around. The beast had just lunged and bit down on Daneath’s sword arm, just as he attempted to thrust his weapon into it. Daneath grunted and withdrew, placing his shield up in front of him, just in time to block the teeth and claws of the Barghest. Iesa tried to thrust, tried to slash and could not land a blow.

Finally, I could concentrate. I pulled on the only piece of the strand I could. The most basic and primal. The dark miasma once again surrounded the Barghest. As the bell sounded and the darkness formed, I heard it howl in agony, as its soul was flayed apart by dark energies. It turned to look at me and charged.

I placed my shield in front of me and lowered my body closer to the ground. The impact jammed my shield into my shoulder, and my feet dug into the loose earth, and then catching on the threshold of the door. The beast’s muzzle, bit and tried to slip up over my shield, but I held my ground.

I could no longer see my friends, but I heard the whistling of metal in the air, and the sound of blades sinking deeply into the foul thing. I could smell burnt hair as a blast of fire hit it. I concentrated again and pulled more miasma, and again sounding the bell.

Suddenly, it stopped pushing on my shield. Looking over it, I saw that it changed targets and it was dashing straight at Beepu, closing its jaws on the gnome. Once again it started to thrash, twisting its head as it shook Beepu, like a rabbit caught on the hunt. As it did so I heard Beepu say something and I felt the Weave snap.

Three bolts of light arced from Beepu, and each struck the barghest. It dropped Beepu, staggering a bit on all fours.

“No…too…soon…only…four m-m-m-ore...”

And as it spoke, Daneath charged into the beast, knocking it over. He then brought his long sword down twice, each spraying blood and the second one with the sound of bone cracking as either the spine or a thick rib was cleaved. The barghest quivered a moment, and then its form went slack, blood pooling beneath it.

We stood there panting, exhausted. Beepu, lay there unconscious, and Iesa was also severely wounded. Daneath, while bloodied seemed to shrug off the injuries. I had some scratches, but otherwise was alright.

I moved to Beepu and put a bit of energy into him, keeping him on this side of the fugue. Then, I stood up straight and moved softly to the doorway leading into the tower. Iesa was about to follow, when Daneath laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Let her do it,” Daneath said softly.

“But I can talk to—” Iesa started.

“She might be more his…peer.” He said simply.

I crossed the threshold of the tower. The room was a shambles, and the roof let slivers of light in. Holes were present in the walls, everywhere. It was barely intact, unable to keep the elements or wild animals at bay. Inside was no furniture, only a straw pallet in a corner. On the wall was an iron ring, and on it was attached a chain with a padlock, that led to the neck of a being that I could only describe as majestic.

I was familiar with Bariaur, a four-legged race found in Sigil. They were touchy, proud of themselves, and their horns. But they had horns and faces that resembled that of goats, and they stood no taller than most humans or gith.

This creature was something else; it was massive, he easily could have been twice my height. Its body reminded me of the Elk spirit I saw before. It had a male torso, that was elven in proportion. Its skin was deeply tanned and muscled. On his head was a mane of chestnut brown hair, and from beneath the locks, were massive antlers, again like the Elk spirit.

It was laying down; the chain was short enough that it could not stand easily. There were signs of blood from cuts from blades all over its body. But now the wounds were closed. As I entered, it took no notice of me, as its attention was focused on something else. As it lay there, it had a look of amusement as at looked at Gossamer, who had perched himself on the Highborns’ flank. There with wings outspread and purring up a storm, Gossamer kneaded that flank, with outstretched claws as if it was the purest sign of love.

The Highborn finally took notice of me, and he turned his head to look. His eyes appeared to be full of starlight. He also had that hint of a smile on his lips, as he spoke.

“Such a marvelous creature,” his deep voice intoned with a touch of merriment on it. “I have only heard of Tressym, this is the first one I have met. I don’t suppose I could keep him as a…companion.”

I smiled as a knelt in from the Highborne, “I don’t think that is possible. He is really a celestial spirit and is a part of me.”

The Highborne nodded. “I knew it was not fey and seeing you I can see you that are not human.”

“The elves would call me a ha-celas and I am…far from home. Let me see about finding a key to that lock. I pulled out the copper wire from my pouch and whispered;

“Iesa, look for a key somewhere.”

“GAH! Don’t surprise me like that. Right. Find key…and come in?”

“Yes, and if you don’t find one, come in.”

I turned to look at the Highborn again, “My friend, Iesa is looking for the key now. By the way my name is Myrai and that,” I pointed at the still kneading Tressym, “Is Gossamer. What may we call you?”

“In this tongue, the best translation would be Pathhorn. And I thank you for dealing with these goblins. It was fortunate that you arrived.”

“That may be more accurate than you know,” I responded. “However, we should talk elsewhere, before more goblins arrive. My friends are badly wounded, and we have many questions for you.”

“For…me? Concerning?”

“The temple that the goblins have taken.”

The Highborn nodded slowly. “I know of somewhere safe nearby. And yes, we must talk.”

Session notes:

This was a near TPK, as the other three were on the edge of dying, and I would have soon followed. Lousy dice roll all through the night.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Pool of Refuge. - 11/19/2019

Pure water is more valuable than ale in Sigil, and much harder to find. So, there is a mystique about how water is a cure for almost all ills. How the taste of nothing is a sign of quality. How it washes away our tears and filth so easily.

So, the greatest store of water is in the bathing pools of the Great Gymnasium. And there, if you are lucky, can get all the ills cured for a princely sum in the private baths.

But in Sigil, every so often, everyone can wash away their troubles for free. You just have to put up with a lot of filth until that day comes.



Iesa came in the tower, with a key in hand. “It wasn’t on that…thing, but I found it in the tent. So, if you give me a moment…” and Iesa quickly sprung open the lock.

The highborn now freed, stood up, and slowly made his way outside. The sun had just touched the horizon and the warm orange glow was spreading across the sky, and the few clouds as well. Daneath was bent over Beepu, who was laid down on the earth, with Daneath’s cloak acting as a pillow. Beepu’s clothes were stained in his own blood, and his shirt was torn in many places. His face was pale, and his breathing shallow.

The highborn noticed the injured gnome and frowned. “There were more goblins here before,” he began, “and they will return. I know of a safe place near.”

“We should be careful so they can’t track us,” Iesa said concerned, already looking around for a surprise attack.

Pathhorn nodded, “Indeed. But I will conceal us. No worg or goblin will follow us,” And I saw the highborn close its eyes and whisper something into the air. He then bent over and carefully lifted and cradled the gnome in his arms. Turning to look at the three of us he spoke again

“Follow swiftly,” and the highborn started to lope into the brush. We barely had a moment to look at each other, before we found ourselves running to catch Pathhorn. Iesa and I were close behind, and Daneath was clattering behind in his armor. In truth, Pathhorn was clearly not running at full speed and was not trying to lose us in the brush. But the pace was a bit more than brisk.

The sun had just set, and the light in the sky was fading into deeper and deeper shades of violet when Pathhorn finally slowed down. We were walking into a thick copse of trees. The undergrowth was thick, with the bracken as tall as I. We threaded our way carefully, following the highborn, when suddenly, we found ourselves in a glade.

There were few trees within it, but oaks that lined the edges, provided a broad canopy over, concealing most of the sky above. The bracken that choked the woods before, was replaced by a carpet of moss. The clearing was shielded on one side by a rock face, that opened into a shallow grotto. Below the grotto, was a stick stand of cattails, that surrounded a pool. In the sky, the moon Selune hung, and its light filtered through a break in the canopy above, scattering across the water.

I slowly walked into this place that we were led in awe. I had that same feeling when I was in the presence of the Elk spirit. A feeling that this was sacred and primal. As I stood there, drinking in the sight, Pathhorn carried Beepu to the grotto. The stone floor had what looked like matts of soft leaves and moss. The highborn lay the gnome gently upon one, and moved to the rear of the grotto, where a small shelf of stone held a number of bowls. Pathhorn, grabbed one and moved towards some shrubs near the entrance. As he did so, I knelt next to the gnome.

His injuries were bad, with many tears in his flesh from the barghest. I focused a moment and pulled some energy from the light strands and started to clean away the blood and repair his clothes. Iesa and Daneath approached me as I worked.

“Will he live?” Daneath asked.

I nodded, “I can’t do more for him right now, but I will later.” I heard the Hightborn approach, and I turned to look at Pathhorn. “Thank you for guiding us here.”

“Assisting each other against a common foe is expected; I am thankful that Silvanus saw to it that we found each other,” he said with the barest smile. He then gestured around him, “You are welcome to stay here and rest. But do not leave the clearing; you might not be able to return.”

We nodded, and then Daneath asked, “So…the elves said they had lost contact with the highborn. We didn’t think we would find one.”

Pathhorn frowned “We are few in number, and the hobgoblins harassment unceasing. Most of us have returned to the Feywild to ride out the storm.”

“Most?” Iesa said puzzled. “So, there are others…where are they?”

Pathhorn stared and regarded the lean man for a moment before speaking again. “I am not certain, but I suspect more mischief from the hobgoblins. And I intend to find out.”

“Can we help in any way?” Iesa pressed.

Again, Pathhorn was quiet a moment as he regarded each of us before shaking his head. “No, the distance I must travel is far and you would not be able to keep up the pace. I must continue alone.” He then looked at me, “You had questions about the Temple of the Fallen as I recall.”

“Yes...yes we did. We saw that the hobgoblins have taken it, and…” I paused trying to gather my thoughts together in a way that made sense.

The highborn arched an eyebrow and waited.

“…well find out what they wanted, and perhaps see if there is another way in.”

Pathhorn nodded, “The leader of this band tried to question me. He was interested in something inside the temple. In short, he was seeking knowledge of the Grand Font deep within.”

“What is that?” Iesa asked.

“The temple is old. It was built as the final rest for the elves and fey that fought in the Fourth Crown War. It was the end of this war that saw the great verdant forest burned away, leaving what you call today ‘The High Moors.’ But the valiant of the Fey and the Elves were laid to rest at the Temple. Many thousands of years past, and the Elven kingdoms of old fell away, and new ones arose. But here in the Misty Forest, only the wood elves, and some moon elves remained. Many left Faerun in the retreat, and most forgot the temple.”

“But what does that have to do with the ‘Great Font’?” I asked.

“I have never seen it, but it was a pool that cleansed the spirits of the stain of that war. And while it stripped away the filth from the souls, that same filth and corruption remain below. As to why the hobgoblins seek it, I do not know.”

“Wait, the elves said that you were the keepers.” Daneath stated trying to understand what had happened.

“No; we honor our fallen and keep others out. We do nothing more. And recently we have done less, as we return to the Feywild.” Pathhorn said.

“Well, I don’t suppose you know a way into Temple that doesn’t involve fighting through the encampment above?” I asked hoping.

“There is. There are two,” and we all leaned forward with interest.

“The first, lies in a crevice of rock, near the top of the falls. There the elven priests lived and had a passage that led to the middle levels of the temple. It was secured with a secret password, known to the priests. The second was built later, because of events.”

“Events?” Daneath asked. “What changed?”

“Once the Font became…corrupted, it was feared that the Ilythiiri, what you call Drow now, would seek to use this corruption for ill. The Temple became fortified. Deep below, a portal was created as an escape route in case the upper halls fell, so the guardians could warn others. I have never seen that portal either.”

Pathhorn, looked up at the sky and that the moon that peeked between the leaves and branches, before continuing. “But, the ages past and Ilefarn’s fragmentation and fall, the purpose of the temple became lost. Some, such as the highborn, remember as does Melendrach and some of the sages of his court. But for most others, the truth is hidden.”

“Do you know the password to access the halls?” Daneath asked.

The highborn was silent before giving a deep sigh. “Yes. But, I am torn; I should discharge my duty and stop them. But I have a duty to our people to help them. It should not be your task.”

“If we cannot help your people, let us help here.” I said. “We already are helping the elves…so doing this is a small matter. And as someone recently said ‘Assisting each other against a common foe is expected’”

Pathhorn nodded with a smile. “So, I did. The password is simple; ‘Gathen thyr kollas’ spoken at the runic circle in the crevice will allow you to pass through the rock. Beyond that…I do not know the path below. You will be on your own.”

“Our thanks, Pathhorn.” Daneath said.

Pathhorn stretched, “I have gathered some food for the evening, that will prepare for us all. After that I must ready myself for the long journey ahead before I rest.”

“Of course,” I said. “We and our small menagerie will try to keep things quiet. One small question; is this place sacred or...”

“This? It is a simple refuge for highborn travelling. It is concealed, but it is not a place of worship. For us, all the wild is. And you mentioned a menagerie. Did you have other tressym?”

“No…a monkey,” I gesturing to Iesa’s pack, where I could see a nervous Mo’s eyes staring at the highborn, “and a mechanical…owl?” I looked around suddenly. “Where is Foggle?”

“I haven’t seen him since that goblin worg thing,” Iesa said. “I don’t remember him following us.”

“Ah…that…thing.” Pathhorn said with a frown. “Unnatural, and I did not know it was with you. I am afraid it might be a bit lost. Excuse me, as I gather some things.” And Pathhorn moved to the edge of the grotto.

I looked down at the sleeping gnome, “Well, I guess I have enough energy to heal Beepu; he’ll know what to do.”

I laid my hand on Beepu and pulled on a white strand within me. I then channeled it into Beepu’s form, and I could feel the wounds close throughout him. His breathing quickened and his eyes opened, and he lurched forward with a start.

“What? Ouch…I hurt. Sore. Where are we?” Beepu spoke with confusion on his face.

“What do you last remember?” Iesa asked.

“I remember a lot of drool, bad breath, and the world spinning. It was that worg was it not?”

“Not exactly. It appears we fended off a barghest, not a worg.” I said looking Beepu over.

“What’s a barghest?” Daneath asked.

“A fiend.” I said. “It will devour souls, but it usually is sent to the Prime to feed on goblin souls. Sometimes they’ll snack on others.”

“Feed on s…wait, shouldn’t it be a foe of goblins then?”

I shrugged, “It’s a demiplane. Why it was doing what it was is a mystery.”

“I see…I hurt. I need some rest,” and I watched him snap his fingers, and suddenly Foggle appeared in a puff of blue sparks. He then laid down. Then he frowned, “But I am hungry. I should eat something first.”

“Indeed,” and Pathhorn held out a bowl, with what looked to be raspberries, but each was the size of a large acorn. “These fruits are enchanted not to ever spoil and to fill your need of food for a day. Eat one tonight and save the rest for when your need is dire.”

“Yes! That is excellent advice. You see, you should all pay attention to the wise words of…” Beepu’s brows knitted a moment as he looked back and forth at Pathhorn and then at the rest of us. Finally, he straightened up and said.

“And who are you exactly?”

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

The fruit was filling, and we each started to focus at different tasks at hand. The brothers oiled and sharpened their blades and maintained their armor. Beepu after eating, fell asleep and started to softly snore, all the while Foggle quietly spun its head looking for threats.

Pathhorn, kept to himself. I saw that had already gathered packs and satchels. Now, he was gathering tools of war; a polished bow with carved images of leaves and trees. Quivers full of arrows with broad, serrated, metal heads. Blades of different length, each curved, and now being honed to a sharp edge.

I left the cover of the grotto, and made my way in the cool air, towards the pool in the center of the glade. Gossamer fluttered along side of me, casually swooping and gliding about. I watched him, skim the surface of the pool, but with grace and precision, so his wings, tail and paws never once touched. For some reason watching him play made me smile.

-- So, you DO know that asking me to purr at someone I don’t know is generally considered a breach of etiquette.

Huh? How so?

-- It’s just not right. I should know the being and should at least know if I like them first.

What? Is there some type of manual about this?

--Of course not. It’s common sense!

So…the fact that you were kneading him with your paws was a complete accident, or were you conveying some strange insult?”

--Oh…that…well…I guess that I needed to keep up the illusion…that…

That?

--Alright. I did like him. So, what are we doing here by the pool anyway?

Indulging myself.


Before long, my weapons, armor and other clothes were in a neat pile on the moss, and I was beneath the waters. While I knew it was months since I had a real bath, it had been even longer since I had actually swum.

That last time was a hot day in Sigil. It was nothing special or remarkable as a day, except the smell. That day, the stench from the Ditch was overwhelming. The odor could be smelt as far as the Lady’s Ward. The reason was simple; the Ditch was a river of slime, rot and garbage. Many people threw their junk into it. Many spivs threw bodies into it. All to be forgotten beneath the dark green and brown waters. And that day it was especially ripe for reasons I would rather not have explored.

But the Ditch would change once or twice a year for a day. On those days a portal would open, and the pure clean waters of the Oceanus would flood the Ditch. And in moments, the entirety of the Ditch was cleansed. It would sparkle with the filth and detritus now swept away. On days like this, everything in Sigil stopped. The markets, the forges, the shops all closed. It was all a grand holiday that rich and poor alike enjoyed. All the kids from the Gatehouse, including myself would rush and play in the waters. As time went on, I finally learned how to swim. And I fearlessly tread those waters. Waters that made your soul feel cleansed itself, as worry and toil would wash away. And you would be sharing this experience with thousands as each took their turn in the waters.

But now, I found myself shedding weapons, armor and clothes to do something I had never done before; swim alone. I stepped carefully on the rocks and soon I was submerged in the waters of the pool. To my eyes, everything flickered between dim moonlight, and brightly lit. The water felt cool to my skin, and only the smallest ripples scattered across the surface as I entered. But the most striking thing was how quiet it was. I could barely hear the lapping of water on the rocks, as I disturbed its stillness and only the faintest rustle in the branches and leaves overhead. I exhaled and let my head sink beneath the surface, and I entered a different world.

Where it was quiet before it was now almost silent, beyond a bubble or two escaping my lips, and the beat of my heart within me. I relaxed and listened to nothing as I hung in the waters, drinking in the peace and silence. Enough to quell my worried thoughts, and to still the anger I felt against the hobgoblins for what they had done. Slowly my body began to rise, and I stretched out my limbs as I broke the surface. I floated there quietly, listening, and hearing the only the sounds of my breathing. My eyes were only half open to see Selune above. I wanted to feel this way forever.

But I knew it was an illusion. A momentary respite from the goings on. I floated there in the darkness wondering when I might find respite again. But I wasn’t even sure where this all was leading. Why I was needed here? Why was this important? Why me of all people?

I closed my eyes again, listening to my breathing, and my heart underneath the water. I chased away the doubt, the fear, the uncertainty. The answers would come soon enough.

I hoped.

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

I was awake at the first light, still having the habit of last watch. Seemed unneeded here, but it did give me time to look at that gemstone. After a number of hours, I realized that that it held, captured within a magical matrix, a quantity of light. And this light could create light like I did, or it could project them onto particular points. I was certain that if it was commanded to, the light could be shined into a creature’s eyes, and perhaps blind them for a time. An interesting object that could be useful at the right time. I smiled at myself for figuring this puzzle out, and I couldn’t wait to tell Beepu.

I looked over at the others; Iesa and Daneath might be brothers, but their sleeping habits were very different. Daneath preferred to lay flat on his back, while Iesa curled up on his side. Beepu was always flat on his stomach. I think I toss and turn a lot, but I tend to wake up that way. But none of them were awake yet.

My eyes turned to Gossamer, who decided to sleep on top of Pathhorn, just where the fur ended, and the elven torso started. I shook my head.

Traitor.

--Huh…wha? It’s not what you think!

Really?

--You were up looking at the gem, and I was…cold! Yes! And so, Pathhorn gives off a lot of heat, so I figured tha—

Gos?

--Uh, yes?

I’m teasing, but we need to wake the rest.

--Ok…ok…on it.


Before long we were up and getting ready to move. That included Pathhorn, who was now covered in harnesses and straps. Pouches hung from some, and blades and quivers from others.

“You look like you are going far, Pathhorn,” I said.

The highborn nodded, “Yes. It is many days travel from here.” And he turned to look at me, “And I forsee you will travel far soon as well.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because the ‘Prophesized One,’ is far from here.”

“What? He’s not at the temple?”

“No. From the conversations I heard, he is somewhere in the High Moors. But I beyond that, I cannot say. But I am also certain you will cross paths with him.”

“We could help you and you us,” I said, but his face was still focused on his tasks at hand.

“I thank you but no ha-celas. And I wish you well on your journey...home.”

I nodded, and Pathhorn gathered himself, and bolted out of the grotto, and into the bracken that surrounded the glade. He seemed unaffected by the brush, and in a moment, he was gone.

Sighing I turned to the others, who were finishing up packing their gear.

“Time already…ugh.” Beepu groaned.

“Feeling better?” I asked.

“Yes. I felt fine. Then you woke me up. Now I feel sore and grumpy.”

“Back to normal then, that’s good.”

“Hah hah,” the gnome spat.

“Well, the good news is we aren’t far from the entrance,” Iesa said smiling. “Hopefully, we can kill the leader and go. And that will be the end of that.”

“It’s never that simple,” Daneath said staring at Iesa. The only thing that is certain is getting back to Whitepetal.”

“What do you mean?” Beepu asked, as he absentmindedly polished Foggle.

“This,” Daneath held up an object that looked like a crystal globe, bound in silver.

“And…?” Iesa said.

“Galenas gave it to me, and he said with the right words, it will lead us back to Whitepetal.” Daneath said with a grin.

“Why you?” Beepu said archly.

“Oh…well…”

“Well what?”

“It was after you told that joke…”

I leaned over to Iesa and whispered, “What joke?”

He leaned over and said into my ear, “It was when you were below, but the joke involved comparing gnomish generations with elven ones. I didn’t get it.”

“Did the elves?”

“Yes…they did,” and Iesa winced.

“That was an excellent example of sophisticated gnomish humor,” Beepu said defensively.

Daneath spread his hands, “It must have been, because they didn’t want to burden you with such a trivial task.”

“Right. No wait, why did they give it to you? You cannot pronounce elvish correctly! I keep trying to teach you, and you just snore.”

“Because Myrai was busy…can we go?” Daneath said looking at Iesa and I helplessly.

“Let’s go,” I said trying to hide my smirk. “Iesa, care to lead?”

“The river and the upper falls should be fairly close,” Iesa said as he started to move to the edge of the glade. “We’ll probably hear it before we see it.”

“Works for me,” and Daneath jogged to catch up with Iesa, while Beepu and I followed behind. Gossamer flew a distance behind me keeping an eye out for unwelcome guests.

“I do not think he is taking me seriously. I am trying to educate him.” Beepu muttered.

“He’s more of a learn as you go, than learn by lecture type,” I said trying to mollify Beepu.

“You are probably right about him. What is your excuse?” Beepu looked at me with a squinted look.

“Look, it was a major effort to learn the other language I know. I’m not ready for that kind of commitment,” I said honestly. “Ask me when we aren’t trying to end a war with folks that speak goblin.

Beepu considered that a moment. “Goblin would be useful,” and he sent Foggle up above to help find our way to the river and the top of the falls.

Iesa was right on both counts; it was close, and we heard it first. As we approached the site, I could see the tops of ruined buildings, covered in vines and lichen. But before we actually entered the site, Beepu stopped us short.

“Goblins!” He exclaimed in a sharp whisper. Then his eyes started to defocus. Suddenly he had a look of confusion as he cocked his head to one side. “Wait…I thought they were resting, but these seem to be…dead.”

Daneath gripped his weapon tightly and took the lead from Iesa. “Well I applaud them, but it doesn’t make me feel safer.”

We crept out of the forest, and its thick undergrowth and found ourselves in what might have been a small village. Five stone structures, in varying states of ruin surrounded a well. The river passed nearby, and a stone bridge crossed it, still intact. What might have been a road or pathway leading through the village, was choked by undergrowth, but clear of trees. As we moved onto one of the pathways, we saw what Beepu spoke about earlier. Four figures lay in the center of trampled bracken, and as we approached, I became nervous.

There were flies circling around the hobgoblin corpses, but the lack of the scent of rot told me that these corpses were fresh. Blood had been not spilled, but sprayed around the foliage, and was even now slowly dripping from leaves. As we got closer, we saw that they were all marked with multiple stab wounds, like a rapier used over and over in quick succession. A couple of them had larger tears around their shoulders, and one had a snapped collarbone sticking out of his jerkin.

I knelt next to one of the bodies and looked closer at the wounds. A greenish stain was visible on the edges of the leather around the punctures. Their faces were twisted in a rictus snarl, which they still kept even as they died.

I looked up to the others and spoke quietly, “This is very recent, and I am guessing poison was used.”

Iesa also knelt down and looked at the ground. “Odd, lots of boot tracks, but I don’t see any leaving here. No animal tracks either. It’s like they slaughtered themselves.

“That can’t be right,” Daneath said agitated. “They have longswords and axes. Those leave slashes, not…signs of being poked to death.”

I stood again and looked around, feeling on edge. Something was wrong here. It felt unnatural how they died.

“Well, If we need to retreat back here, we should make sure that everything is cleared of threats,” Beepu said in a matter of fact tone. He waved his hand and Foggle started to circle above the ruins.

We headed to the center of the former village. Here, the well still stood, but the mortar that held it together had already crumbled away, and with it, part of the circle of stone had collapsed. As we looked around a moment, I saw Daneath out of the corner of my eye, move towards one of the stone buildings. The door had fallen away long ago, and I watched him peak inside.

Suddenly he moved and used his shield to block something as we heard rapid strikes make staccatos sound against it, like the sound of a bone spear on wood. He started backing up and we heard him say in terror:

“What in the hells is that!?”

Session Notes:

We failed persuasion check I was told, to assist the highborn. Iesa was playing ranger, without being one. All things considered, it worked out well enough.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The interplay of a campaign is what makes it fun; its why we play (or least why I play.) Trying to capture the essence, while cleaning it up to make a story is a challenge, and I am glad you like the results.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Death in the Darkness - 11/26/2019

I could always see in the dark. I can see even better now, but it doesn’t change the fact in slightest. But there is a game that Sensates play, called “A Game of You.” Part of the game is using your experience to understand something around you, and with all your senses, but your sight. Sometimes this is done with blindfolds, but usually a spell to banish the light is used so to be ‘less distracting.’

The first time I played in that way, was one of the most frightening experiences I faced. I always could see, and now I couldn’t. Humans don’t have this problem; they are afraid of the dark at times, but they know there isn’t always light, so they overcome it.

I suppose to take away something you take for granted is always scary.



Daneath shuffled backwards, keeping his shield in front of him as it was hammered repeatedly from the front. His sword arm was cocked and ready to swing at the first opening. A loud hiss came from the doorway from his attacker, but the staccato sound continued, as Daneath’s shield absorbed more blows. Daneath kept backing up, trying to evade the constant blows and force his opponent into the open. As he did so, from the darkness of the ruined building his foe emerged.

All I could see at first were shadows, striking at the warrior. But has he retreated, I realized that they were tendrils, colored a deep purple with blotches of red. At the end of each were sharp spines, and the ends were surrounded by more bone protrusions. As Daneath continued to retreat, the monster left the building and came fully into view.

The creature was a large bulbous shape, easily wider than my arms stretched out wide. Its flesh was twisted and folded upon itself into layers, with colors of pinks and blotchy purples across its flesh. Around the outside, veins covered the exterior, pulsing and twisting. The shape just…floated there, with a mass of tendrils hanging below it, all still trying to impale the warrior. But in the middle of the mass, was a huge beak, like you would see on a bird of prey. It snapped and gave out loud hisses as it now tried to reach over the shield in an attempt to bite Daneath.

I didn’t even think about it; I just simply threw a bolt of energy at it and watch ichor spray from its floating body. Next to me I heard Iesa swear something, and the sound of him running. I turned, and saw that he was charging a second creature, that had emerged from another building. I then heard Beepu mutter for a second, and he launched a bolt of fire at the new foe. The sound of the flesh boiling was matched by an angry hissing sound from the monstrosity.

“What is this thing?” Daneath yelled, not even turning to see our troubles had doubled. He finally found an opening and his sword cut deeply, into the floating body of his attacker.

“I believe,” Beepu started, throwing a bolt that careened wildly and striking the stone building behind the creature, “that is an aberration that normally lives in the underdark. I thought they were solitary though.”

“Anything else that ack—” Iesa started, when several of the tendrils stabbed him in the torso, piercing his leathers. His body suddenly became rigid and then limp. I watched with a sinking feeling as the creature lifted Iesa’s body off the ground, bringing him closer to that snapping beak.

“I think they have a paralytic poison that—”

“Late!” I shout. “Daneath, Iesa needs—”

“What? Oh crap!” he said glancing quickly to see his brother’s limp form being lifted into the air. He then turned to look at his own foe. Flexing, he brought his sword to his shield, making a loud clanging sound, and then made a quick slash, while shouting at the top of his lungs. The blade cut deeper than the last time, and the creature writhed in pain. It made a loud hiss and fled deeper into the ruins.

Daneath made a swipe at his retreating foe, but quickly turned and ran to attack the other one holding Iesa. As Beepu threw more fire at Iesa’s captor, I focused on a dark strand, forming it into a loop. I quickly focused, and mentally tightened the loop around the thing Finally I threw another bolt of energy at it. As my bolt hit it, that loop tightened, pulling more life away. It too made that same hissing sound and opened its beak wide to bite off Iesa’s head. At that moment, Iesa suddenly regained control, and stabbed upwards into his foe with his rapier. The blade sank into the flesh, and the thing responded, by extending sharp barbs from the tentacles already holding Iesa. Each of them stabbed at the restrained man, as he desperately tried to fend them off with his blade.

Finally, Daneath arrived and struck a hard blow, and I could hear the crunching sound of his sword on the beak as it again tried to bite and swallow a part of Iesa. Iesa struggled to escape, but his thrashings were growing weaker, as more poison seeped into his body, from the sharp barbs piercing his arms and chest. He hung limply there underneath the floating aberration, his fingers barely maintaining a grip on the rapier.

Beepu again leveled a bolt of fire at the thing, and the stench of charred flesh grew worse. I was frantically pulling at the strand again; holding one thread around the creature, while loosing another bolt of energy to strike it again. The mesh tightened, squeezing more life from it, when Daneath with a loud cry, thrust his blade deep into the open beak. Blood and ichor sprayed everywhere, and the creature suddenly fell from the air in a wet heap. It landed on Iesa, who then slowly struggled to untangle himself from the tentacles that once clung to him.

But it was too early to celebrate, as I heard Beepu shout. The other one had returned and attempted to grab the gnome for a quick snack. I quickly untangled the loop from the dead creature, and mentally threw it on the other one. Then I focused and threw another energy bolt at it, at the same time as Beepu blasted it with a bolt of fire. It writhed in pain, and was about to tear into the gnome, when Daneath cut across its flank, spraying blood onto his shield as he passed it. I heard a sound to my right, and turning, I saw an exhausted Iesa stumbling forward trying to clear his head. As he moved, his stumbling turned into a run and with a shout, he lunged, plunging his rapier deep into its bulbous body. The hissing noise it made stopped, and the thing hit the ground with a wet thud.

It was quiet, with only the sound my heart pounding in my ears as I turned around looking for more. The silence was then broken by Beepu who said, “Foggle does not see any more of those creatures. We may be safe.”

I moved over to Iesa, who now was dry heaving, still trying to shake off the poison’s effect. While he was kneeling, I placed a hand on his shoulder, and pulled on a white strand, filling his body with energy. I could sense that he was covered in many small puncture wounds and I closed most of them. After a moment, he stood.

“Thanks…I feel…better.”

“You look a little green, you going to be fine?” I asked looking at him critically. Color was returning to his face, and he seemed surer in his step. But I wanted to be sure.

“I’m fine. Thanks ‘D,’” he then said as the big warrior approached.

“No problem. It did a number on my shield though,” as he looked over the barrier, now covered with many small dents.”

“Better it than you,” I remarked.

“True, but what were they? I have never heard of anything like these before.” Daneath said puzzled.

“As I was trying to say, they are native to the Underdark.” Beepu said smartly. “Usually they are also solitary hunters, but small packs are not unheard of.”

“So, what were they?” Daneath pressed.

“They…ah…well…I might have skipped that part in the lesson,” Beepu admitted.

“You skipped their name?” Iesa said with a look of shock in his eyes.

“Its not that important,” I pointed out. “Let’s find that entrance.”

“I sent Foggle to look for it from the air. He should be back soon,” Beepu commented.

--He might have a problem with that.

Oh? Why is that?

--Its below a canopy of tree and brush. Too high and you’ll miss it.

You know, just saying ‘follow me I know the way’ is usually enough. Otherwise you just sound…I don’t know…pretentious?

--I am a Tressym.


“Gossamer found it already. We can rest there and go below.”

“What? How?” Beepu said confused.

“You’ll see.”




It was just across the stone bridge and to our left, was a rent in the ground descended next to the river. The top of the steps was buried beneath pine needles and leaves. Beneath that was carefully laid flagstone that descended into earth. As we approached, and started downwards, earthen walls, and flagstone steps gave way to carved rock. It wasn’t far before the descent ended in a rounded area. Overhead, there wasn’t a roof, but there was layers of vines and tree limbs farther above. But we weren’t the first ones to have been here.

The leaves and needles from above had been partially swept away from the center of the floor to the edges, revealing a circle of runes and symbols. But on the walls of this concealed was spattered words using a dark pitch like substance.

Daneath looked at the lettering on the walls. “Well, it isn’t any swear words that I know.”

“It is probably more like a public note for other goblins,” Beepu commented. “These are war marks. Not a language but for communicating basic information.”

“So, what is it saying?” Iesa asked impatiently.

“Probably ‘circle on ground,’ Daneath commented.

I was listening to the exchange and then I closed my eyes and focused. There were several quatrains in the Apocrypha that I had translated, and one seemed useful about now. I had only read it once, but as I concentrated, the incantation came easily to memory. I realized as I was casting, that there was a connection between the Apocrypha and the strands. I wasn’t surprised, but the idea that the Apocrypha wasn’t just a strange book or reference was just another puzzle to sort out. But I put it out of my mind and finished. I opened my eyes and looked at the walls. I saw the marks, and I just knew the meaning. There wasn’t any other trick, just a slight shimmer as I looked at the words.

“Circle-elven, magic seek later.” I said as I stepped to the wall.

“What? I thought you did not know goblin?” Beepu said looking at me.

“I don’t. But I do have some magic that can,” I replied. I turned to the glyphs on the ground.

“That’s elvish, but in the older style of Hamarfae,” Beepu said. “So I cannot read it.”

I looked at the circle and walked around it, following the script around.

“Stand within, face the north, chant the words, pass through,” I said. “The number of words doesn’t match what I understand. Probably is more poetic in elvish.”

“Well, that certainly means that we are in the right spot then,” Iesa commented. “We ready to do this?”

Daneath didn’t respond, and stepped into the circle, faced the northern wall and spoke:

Gathen thyr kollas”

Daneath looked around puzzled, as did Iesa seeing and feeling nothing. But for Beepu and myself, we could feel the Weave flex and twist. We could feel the contortion and the energy flowing into and through the wall.

“That’s disappointing,” Iesa said with a frown.

“It worked fine,” and I held my breath and walked through the wall.

I walked into in a wide hallway carved out of the granite. An elven motif was carved at waist level both behind me and in front of me as the hall proceeded left and right. To the left I could see that a passage led to stairs upwards, while to the right, the passage turned and I could see a door in the wall, made of bronze or brass, at the turn. But I strained to listen and could hear nothing.

--Well this is different.

I glanced down at Gossamer who strode in behind me with the rest following shortly after. I stepped forward to make room for the humans, who I knew would be blinded in the darkness. I could see them blink and squint for a moment. I quickly pulled on a white strand and lit up Daneath’s shield with a dim red light. Daneath blinked several times and looked at me and mouthed the word ‘thanks.’

Iesa’s eyes were still shut and he put a finger to his lips as he cocked his head. He then pointed in the direction of the stairs and started raising fingers. Opening his eyes again, he started creeping towards the door, with the rest of us following behind. I would have said quietly, except that Daneath’s armor was anything but quiet as he moved. I could see the grimace on his face as he moved, as he was painfully aware of the noise he made.

Once there, he crept forward, and pressed his ear to the door and listened. He then backed away and pointed at the door raising two fingers.

Goss, watch the rear.

I saw that Beepu sent Foggle upward, to drift near the ceiling. Iesa drew his rapier, and Daneath readied his longsword. Iesa grasped the handle of the door, ready to open it on Daneath’s signal. After taking a deep breath, Daneath nodded, and Iesa pulled open the door, and moved so that his brother could charge in.

Daneath led with his shield shining it into the room, and quickly moved inside. Just as he did so, I could hear the sound of something move through the air, and I heard the sound of metal on metal, along with a loud “Oof!” as Daneath was struck from the side of the doorway.

It became a tangled mess very quickly. Daneath pivoted and pushed back at his foe, allowing Iesa to slip in behind him. He then entered deeper into the room and I heard the whistling of his rapier, and the sound of it striking someone. At that point, I too rushed into the room to see that a lone bugbear was fending off the pair. Standing just out side of range I threw a bolt at the humanoid, striking it square in the chest, putting a smile on my face.

--You have a runner!

I turned to look and saw a goblin, running wildly out of the room, screaming at the top of his lungs. As it ran down the hall, I saw that Beepu tried to hit it with a firebolt, but missed, striking the ceiling overhead. The goblin was clearly running in fear and it paid no attention to what was going on behind him, and quickly rounded the corner and ascended the stairs.

“Sodding…we’re going to have friends soon,” I said my smile fading fast.

“What? Beepu,--” Daneath started as he brought down his sword with a crash onto the bugbear’s shoulder,”-- missed?”

“Not good,” Iesa said as he stepped forward, and thrust deeply into the bugbear’s belly, causing it to fall to the ground in a heap.

“How did you let it get out of the room with three of you standing there?” Beepu said angrily.

“I didn’t see him at all,” I said defensively. “Now what?”

Suddenly, we felt the ground buckle and the walls around us shake. Dust and rock started to fall from the ceiling, as we struggled to keep our balance. As the ground convulsed and pitched us around, I could feel strains in the Weave; either it was being used to cause this quake, or the quake was tearing at it.

Looking at Beepu I said, “Did you feel that?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “This is not natural. My guess is this has something to do with the Font, which is probably below.”

“Then we better move fast,” Iesa said, exiting the room, and the rest of us close behind. To our right stairs descended deeper into the temple. But ahead of us, towards the ascending stair, we heard the shouting of very angry voices.

“We can’t hold off a large force,” Daneath said grimly. “Not here. We’ll be overwhelmed or trapped. Neither good.”

“Leave that to me, move down below!” Beepu said. He began to chant and I could see a thick fog start to form near the stairs leading to the upper temple, and spreading towards us.

“Let’s go,” said Daneath, and he started to descend with his brother close behind. I started to follow, when I realized that Beepu wasn’t moving.

“What are you—” I started.

“Go! I have some other spells to delay them,” he said as he pulled a piece of bacon from his spell pouch.

“Ok…stay to the right side of the wall as you come down,” I said, and I started to descend not waiting for a reply.

Heading downwards a bit, I turned looking back up the stairs, and pulled on a white strand. I focused my attention on right side I started to churn the earth and stone with my energy, causing it to rupture. The stairs on one side was a broken mess. I continued to back down the stairs, breaking more steps as I went. I did this several more times, when I heard shouting and the sound of clattering metal on stone.

“Please Kelemvor, keep him safe,” I said quietly, and I ran down the stairs, with Gossamer close behind.

--What about—

He can take care of himself.

--You sure?


I didn’t reply as I descended. Soon I heard the sounds of combat below, and I realized that the pair had their own difficulties. The stairs started to curve as they descended, and soon I saw that there was light ahead. I was not more than ten paces from it, when once again the ground buckled and heaved, throwing me against the wall. Rubble and rock fell from the ceiling, with one narrowly missing my head. I stopped, trying to find anything to brace myself and stay upright, when I heard a voice over the cacophony of stone and rubble. A deep resonating laughter followed by a guttural shout of goblin. As the ground ceased its motion, I once again ran down the stairs.

The chamber I found myself was large, with a newly formed crevice in the center, surrounded by broken jagged flagstone. From below, an unhealthy green glow emanated, casting the roof of the chamber in a sickly green aura. Iesa and Daneath were close to each other, and a sizeable pile of goblin bodies already marked the path they chose as they were working their way to the end of the room.

There at the far end stood a pair of hobgoblins. The first was festooned with fetishes, and a dark feathered baldric, holding a shield in one arm, while his mace hung on his belt. The second one was larger and far more imposing. He was dressed in a style of plate armor, decorated with skulls and spikes. He held a large axe with both hands, and was starting to head to the brothers, as they were finishing with a pair of goblins. They had just laid them low, when the large figure rushed at them, ready to cleave anyone in his path.

Just as he was about to crash into the pair, I saw the first hobgoblin make a gesture and I felt the weave reverberate. I wasn’t sure what had happened at first but it became very clear as I watched the hobgoblin warrior swing his axe at Iesa, striking him hard. But it was Daneath who didn’t flinch, or move, or even pivot as he stood stone still as the melee continued around him.

I ran toward the brothers, and as I approached, I pulled the dark strands and threw a loop around the hobgoblin priest, followed by a bolt of energy, striking him in the ribs. I then gritted my teeth and readied my shield and ran to stand next to Iesa.

Iesa was bleeding badly. And I watched the hobgoblin warrior turn his head to watch my approach, but he ignored me, assuming I wasn’t much of a threat. This gave Iesa an opening, and he lunged at the warrior, finding a opening between the plates of armor, and causing the hobgoblin to roar in pain. He quickly swung his axe and missed the lithe Iesa. While this exchange of blows occurred, I considered my target. I knew that his mind was strong; strong enough to thwart my miasma. So, I chose a different option. I uttered a quick prayer and pulled on the light.

From above a bright white light shone on the hobgoblin. I could see the radiant flames sear him as he wasn’t quick enough to avoid the blast. He then screamed a curse at me. I could feel his will on mine, I felt the urge to surrender, and drop to my knees. But, gritting my teeth I shook off the compulsion, and in a moment it faded.

Iesa continued to dance with the larger warrior, with Iesa unable to pierce his heavy armor, and the hobgoblin unable to find much more than empty air, as Iesa dodged the axe swings. If it wasn’t for me being a minor distraction, I am not sure if Iesa would have any hope hitting the warrior. I in the meantime summoned another bolt of radiance from the heavens onto the priest, and again he cursed at me in pain, as he threw a bolt of white energy at me, only to have it strike my shield harmlessly.

Iesa was not as lucky, as the axe found its target and slashed deeply into his side, and almost knocking him over. Iesa was about to strike, when a bolt of fire streaked across the room, hitting the priest. I barely had time to register the scream, when I saw Daneath suddenly move, and strike the large warrior with his sword, as the blade came down on the shoulder of the warrior. Blood spurted from the wound, and the warrior yelled again in pain. Daneath then shoved with his shield pushing the warrior backwards away from myself, creating an opening for Iesa, who moved towards his backside and thrust, piercing the armor and causing more blood to spurt from the hobgoblin.

Beepu, ran into the room on the other side of the crevice, and threw another bolt of fire at the priest, and once again he found his mark. I then took two steps forward and let loose another energy bolt. It too found its mark, and I tightened the loop around it, and squeezed the last bit of life from him, as he slumped to the ground.

The warrior started to move defensively and chose to stand his ground at the edge of the crevice, keeping his exposed rear away from Iesa. But it appeared to be a mistake, as this also pinned him as Iesa and Daneath flanked him. The brothers set a cadence of one making a strike, followed by the other. The warrior was fast, but not fast enough to block the blows, and soon his armor was soiled in blood. Finally, Daneath thrust his sword forward, piercing the hobgoblin beneath his arm pit. The hobgoblin didn’t scream or yell, he just fell backwards, into the glowing green depths below in the crevice.

The ground once again started to buckle, and the quake felt more intense than the prior ones. More rock and debris fell from the ceiling. Beepu and Iesa simply moved out of the way, while Daneath and I hid beneath our shields. And unlike the prior ones, this one didn’t pause or stop.

“Well what now?” Iesa shouted.

“We have a lot of ones above, trying to make their way down,” Beepu replied. “Some grease and a lot of fog has kept them busy, but it will not be enough.”

The tremors eased a bit, and I looked around, and saw at the far end of the room, another set of stairs descending. “There!” I pointed. “Keep going down and find the other exit.”

“We’re going to get buried in here!” Daneath shouted back to me.

“How many were coming down from above?” I yelled at Beepu.

“Too many. More than a dozen, and we know there is even more above.” He replied. “We should go down.”

“Let’s go then!” Iesa said, and he ran to the stairs, with the rest of us in tow with me in the rear.

These stairs were narrower than the ones above, so every so often I would use a white strand to buckle the stairs. Finally, I ran down the stairs as I best I could. It curved, and then I could see glowing green light coming from below. I swallowed and ran into the next room.

The room was a large vaulted chamber. On our right were the remains of wooden shelves, now rotten with the moisture that I could taste in the room. On the opposite wall I could see a dais with an altar upon it. The center of the room was dominated by a large pool of water, and it was this pool that gave off the green glow. In the pool was the remains of rubble from the crevice above. Dust and dirt fell from ceiling still as the tremors coursed through the ground.

Beepu of course made his way towards the bookshelves, eager to seek knowledge that he could carry or copy, with Foggle following right behind. Iesa and Daneath stayed together and started to look at the pool and its surroundings. I made my way towards the dais and the altar on the other side.

“Where is he?” Daneath commented as he looked around the pool.

“I don’t know, think he is in there?” Iesa pointed at the pool with his rapier.

“Probably, can’t tell how deep it is, but I’m guessing fairly.” Daneath said.

“Why do you say that?” I glanced backwards as I made my way to the other side of the room with Gossamer.

“Mostly because of the rubble. We almost fell in, when the quake created that crevice. Not much is above the surface now.” He replied.

As I made my way across, I realized that the floor was wet, likely from the pool overflowing its bounds with the fallen rubble. But the floor itself didn’t glow. That seemed to be tied to the pool itself...or perhaps something within. Finally, I reached the dais and its altar.

I didn’t know much about elves and their religious beliefs. But I did know a little of one power; Naralis Analor. Naralis was a minor power who in many ways was almost a mirror of Kelemvor’s. The main difference was that Naralis was more focused on healing, and less about death. I supposed it was because death was an uncommon visitor to the elves to start with. It just wasn’t important in their daily lives. Avoiding it and injury made more sense.

So there above the altar was a kite shield carved in relief in the rock. It was massive with the bottom tip touching the top of the dais, and the upper edge being twice my height. On the surface of the shield, in bas relief was a bird, a dove most likely based on the power. But along the edges of the shield I could see elven runes carved into the side. As I stepped onto the dias, I realized that the altar was meant as a funeral bier; a place to receive a final blessing before being interred. I turned around and looked at the walls of the room and was puzzled.

There were no tombs, or signs of graves. So where was the final rest of the dead? I stepped off the dias and moved towards the pool. As I approached the edge, I saw on the low wall that surrounded it. On the edge closest to the altar I could see there were grooves in the stone. I realized then that the final resting place was the pool itself. A place for the dead to be shrieved of the stains of the war they fought in before they rested.

Beepu was searching the shelves, and I could hear disappointment in his voice

“No…no…ruined…molded filth. Why cannot beings store their books properly!”

“Hey, come over here and read these runes Beepu. If I had to guess, it might relate to the way out.”

“Cannot you do that yourself? You have the power!” he retorted, still looking for anything of value.

I was about to respond, when I heard from the pool the sound of churning waters. Iesa and Daneath backed up a moment from the edge and held their weapons at the ready. Suddenly from the waters erupted a familiar figure in plated armor, with a skull and spike motif. But now, from beneath the gaps of the armor, the flesh of the hobgoblin was now a glowing sickly green. And as it emerged from the pool, the glow in the pool faded to darkness.

The hobgoblins’ axe came down crashing on Daneath shield, pulling Daneath down with the weight of the blow. Then with inhuman speed, it pulled back the axe and swiftly repeated the blow, striking at Daneath’s exposed back. I could hear the crack of bone, and blood sprayed everyone, as Daneath collapsed onto the floor.

“We don’t have time!” I yelled, and I ran towards the fallen Daneath, while Beepu tore himself away from the shelves and ran towards the dias.

“Not good!” Iesa said between his teeth as he lunged trying to find a weakness in the hobgoblins armor. He spun narrowly avoiding a pair of axe swings. He then backed up, deflected a blow and tried to pull the glowing figure away from Daneath. I dove and slid on my knees to the warrior and started to pray. Just as I started, I realized that the hobgoblin had moved towards me, and had raised its axe, in a grim mockery of a headsman ready to execute a criminal. I was wide eyed in fear, not ready for what came next.

But it never moved, I watched it struggle and quiver as I felt its will resonate against the strand. It howled aloud its frustration, denied its prey. This gave Iesa an opening, which he didn’t squander. He stabbed his rapier, piercing the steel and sinking deep into the body of the dead hobgoblin. It reacted immediately to the blow and swung wildly as Iesa again tried to retreat away from it.

This gave me the time I needed, as I pulled on a large strand and poured it into Daneath. I heard him inhale sharply, and then he quickly struggled to his feet.

“Thanks, be a moment,” and the warrior charged into the hobgoblin, his sword coming down on a pauldron, staggering the foe.

“I got it!” Beepu yelled excitedly. “It’s an incantation. I should be able to open it in a moment!”

“That—ARGH!” Iesa spat in pain, as the axe swept into his side, cutting slashing Iesa’s flesh. He staggered, and deflected a second blow, before sinking down to his knees in pain. I could see his eyes starting to lose focus, as I scrambled over to him, pulling on yet another strand and pouring more energy into him.

“Stay…with..me!” I grunted, feeling tired from the exertion.

“Trying,” Iesa whispered, and he stood once again, and staggered towards the hobgoblin, slashing wildly, looking for an opening.

The hobgoblin swung at Daneath, his axe failing to connect. But Daneath made him pay, as he reposted, slamming his blade into the exposed side of the thing. Then Daneath followed through with a quick thrust, striking it in the belly, and causing it to stagger backwards. Iesa then thrust again with his rapier, striking true. The hobgoblin retaliated quickly, smashing the butt of the axe, into Iesa’s chest, and knocking him down again. He then whirled, and the axe collided with Daneath’s and I could hear him wheeze as the air left his lungs. He staggered, trying to put up a defense from the hobgoblins blows.

I moved alongside Iesa and poured some more energy into him. He responded and started to weakly climb to his feet again. I was tired, while unhurt, I was running out of strands I could use.

“I got it open!” Beepu yelled triumphantly. I looked and saw that the shield had lifted up, exposing a passage beyond. “And will you stop playing around!” and with that a bolt of fire left his hand and struck the hobgoblin.

If he noticed it wasn’t apparent, as he continued his assault on Daneath. He swung once, and missed, and again Daneath riposted, chopping his sword into the left arm of the hobgoblin. But the second one connected and almost brought the warrior down.

I could see him shake his head, trying to clear it. He then with a shout threw himself at his foe, striking two solid blows. The hobgoblin retaliated with another overhand chop and again brining Daneath down to his knees. I felt resigned to my fate and moved to keep away from the deadly axe blows and reaching Daneath and with my final bit of energy, closed enough of his wounds to get him moving.

The hobgoblin suddenly turned his attention away from Iesa and moved towards me. I could feel its will, straining against the strand. But I was exhausted, and I felt a sudden snap, and watched with horror as the axe came crashing down on my shield arm, almost knocking me over.

“No!” I heard Iesa and Beepu shout in unison, and as I watched the hobgoblin erupt in a firey blast, and at the same time, Iesa stab his rapier straight into the open face plate of the hobgoblin. I watched it stop cold in its tracks. Then with a sudden clang, sank to its knees, and then slumping over on its side. As I watched, the greenish light faded away, leaving behind a empty lifeless husk.

It was quiet for a moment, when the quakes started again; this time more intently. The ceiling was falling apart dropping dust and stone all around us. As we struggled to regain our balance, I looked at the stairwell that descended into the room. My heart sank, as I watched a half dozen hobgoblins enter the room.

Daneath was the first to react. He simply bent over, and hefted the fallen hobgoblin, and ran. He ran past Beepu into the opening behind the altar.

“You have to be kidding me you Soloth. Run!” I shouted, and we all ran, familiars and all into the passage way. As I ran inside, Beepu poured some water into his hand, and threw ice at the hobgoblins running after us. I heard the ice explode into shards, lacerating them. But they were undeterred, but they moved more cautiously toward the entrance, as we retreated within.

Daneath’s shield still lit the way, and so we all stumbled into a small circular chamber. On one side was yet another stone door covered in elven runes. I looked us all over, and it looked grim. Iesa and Daneath were both severely wounded, despite my best efforts.

“I don’t have anything left Beepu,” I said. “I can’t heal, and I can’t summon anything big.” The room trembled, as the earth still complained and thrashed.

Beepu nodded, “I can do one more incantation, and I am done as well. But I need to open this door.” He then looked at me with a level gaze.

“It is up to you.”

I was in shock. I knew I looked like a fool with my mouth hanging open. “I…I…can’t possibly—”

“Yes you can. You will. I will make it so. Just get into that passage and start casting. Go!” And Beepu pushed me towards the passage.

I staggered forward, unclear on what he was thinking. I was afraid; unsure if I was ready to die again. But I couldn’t fail my friends. I wouldn’t. As I stepped into the passage, I could hear Beepu chant something…something familiar.

Suddenly, the passage was lit as brilliantly as daylight. I quickly looked around me and I knew what he had done, when I saw I cast no shadow.

I was in darkness. I smiled, and moved back through the passage, ignoring the quaking. I could see them ahead of me. A dozen hobgoblins, perhaps more. All clambering down the passageway, with only myself as the last defender.

I focused and threw the loop I had kept alive at the at one of them as they approached two by two. I saw them, the foul creatures that attacked Whitepetal. I was no longer afraid. I felt the hate well within me. This band of thugs weren’t going to hurt anyone else ever again. I was going to personally send them to Judgement, here and now.

I watched them push forward, nearing the edge of Beepu’s spell. I smiled and said as I stepped forward.

“So…are you afraid of the dark?”

I moved fast, and I could see their ugly faces contort in confusion. For beings who normally could see in darkness, this was a new experience. I then summoned skeletal hands to grip them by the throat and squeeze. I was going to drain the life out of every last one of them.

They twisted and turned, trying to escape me. They swung blades trying to find me, even though I was no where near them. They could only hear the members of their band scream in pain as I methodically, two by two slaughtered them. I tore at their life as wild as the barghest might tear at anyone’s soul. They fell over bodies, confused on which way was best to run, unable to see desperate to escape.

I said nothing beyond the simple prayers to Kelemvor needed to kill them. After the first eight, I lost count on how many I slew. The first ones died as warriors, while the last ones died as cowards in the dark, their shrieks of terror cut off as each one died. Finally, I took the life of the last one, ripping his lifeforce away with a prayer. The quake intensified, and I ran back to the chamber. As I approached it, Beepu dropped the darkness, and I entered the room with the rest ready to leave. The far door was now open, and light was visible at the far end of the tunnel.

The quakes suddenly increased again and with even greater intensity. Cracks formed in the walls snaking their way from floor to ceiling. We looked at each other briefly and said nothing. We didn’t have to. We simply ran down the open passage, as dust and stone fell. So much fell, that even the light outside was obscured. My lungs were choking on the dust, as I desperately ran seeking refuge. Finally, we emerged from a wall of granite. As we spread away from the exit, dust spew forth from the passage, and I could hear rocks tumble as the tunnel collapsed behind us.

I had collapsed flat on my stomach and lay there breathing the clean forest air. I could feel the rush of my panic fade away as I lay there, trying to catch my breath.

“I…knew…you…could do it,” Beepu said as he lay on his back on the earth, eyes closed.

“How…how…many?” Daneath asked as he sat on the ground, with the hobgoblin corpse nearby.

“A…a..lot,” I said as the enormity of what I had just done was starting to sink in. I felt cold. Uncertain. Hollow.

“We…we should rest here,” Daneath said. “Once we get our bearings, we can get back to Whitepetal.”

I nodded silently and pushed myself up and crawled to a nearby tree. I then sat with my back to the trunk, leaned back my head and closed my eyes, breathing deeply.

--Myr? How…do you feel?

I feel like…an angel.

--You mean one your friend can count on?

No…not one you pray to for succor...

…One you pray for succor from.


Session notes:

There was a lot of blood, and quite a bit of separation between Beepu and the rest of the party. That story isn’t as fun or interesting though.

So, I was a murder hobo machine in the end. Afterwards, even though there was a lot of anger towards the hobgoblins, there is a big difference in saying you want to slaughter them all, and then doing it.

So…murder hobo with a conscience, I guess.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Crossing of Madness - 12/2/2019

The multiverse is a wonderous place. You really could say that anything and everything is possible at the proper place and moment. Wonderous things. Glorious things. Unexpected things.

And some of those things are best left alone, unexplored and forgotten if it can be helped. But if you can’t, you better be prepared to deal with it. Otherwise, the results might be…fatal.



We were moving through the forest, climbing upwards to the plateau above. We wanted to see the outcome of our efforts and know if we made a difference. After some hiking through the brush, my calves were burning. I really wanted to ride the disc that was floating behind Beepu. But the disk was basically ‘full’ of the spiky hobgoblin armor that Daneath had claimed as his prize. But he needed to fix the straps on it before he could use it. So Beepu had conjured up a floating disc, which now had the armor and our packs to make the climb easier. Finally, we reached our goal, and could look down upon the temple.

From our vantage point, the entrance to the temple was covered in fallen rock from the quake. The camp itself appeared deserted. The once bright fires were now dark, and the teeming worg pens now stood empty. Most of the tents still stood as they did before, but a few, a bare handful were torn down. But there was no sign of movement at all. As we watched, Beepu sent in Foggle to get a better look from above. So, we waited and watched the glittering golden fleck in the distance, circle and swoop. It wasn’t long before it returned, alighting on Beepu’s arm.

“As we suspected, the camp is empty,” Beepu said after silently conferring with Foggle. “The rubble at the temple, appears to be the entire passage, and not just the entrance itself. Otherwise it is as it appears; abandoned.”

“Should we search it?” Iesa asked with a smile on his face.

“I am not sure it would be worth the time. The weapons left behind do not appear to be quality ones, and I doubt there is anything beyond coppers to be found.”

“He’s probably right,” Daneath agreeded. “If they had anything valuable, they were carrying it. The armor the leader wore probably is the most valuable thing they had. Even his axe wasn’t worth keeping.”

“Well at least it was a quick burial,” Iesa said moping. “I would have left…it to rot.”

“Myr likes nothing better than a proper funeral, right?” Daneath said, nudging me in the ribs.

“Hmm?...Yeah,” I said softly.

“You alright?” Beepu asked with concern on his voice.

“I’m…tired. We should find a safe place to rest,” I said, trying to sound like myself. I clearly wasn’t convincing.

“Right…sure. But yeah, a nap would be good.” Iesa said, standing and looking around. “I doubt I can find the glade again, but I bet we can find a safe place tonight.”

“True,” Beepu stroked his chin as he voiced his thoughts. “My theory is that the remaining hobgoblins will report back to the ‘Prophesized One’ about the set back. Without more forces, they cannot hold this site. And if the reason for this site was the Font below, it may be even less useful.”

“What they had here, was enough to take on Whitepetal,” Daneath replied. “So if they are all buried, that makes things easier. All we need to do now is get back, and see what our next steps are.”

“Well, it would be tomorrow at best,” Iesa said. “So, lets find a spot to rest.”

Everyone was nodding in agreement, and we started to search for one. Once again, Iesa’s skills in the outdoors was shining through, as he found a bear cave. Well calling it a cave might be generous; it was a hollow in the earth, framed with roots. If a bear or other animal had used it, the occupants were long gone. We lit a small fire, and ate some of the rations we had. It was a quiet meal, with each of us preoccupied with different tasks. Daneath had enlisted Iesa’s help to rework the straps on the armor of the hobgoblin leader. Beepu in the meantime was looking over some notes let by his father and making his own in the margins. We had some time before we needed to start our watches.

It’s not like we really needed a watch, with the two familiars present. Neither slept and brought something different to the watch; Foggle was very good at spotting things, but Gossamer was smarter and a better observer. But we all preferred that someone else took turns with them. Generally, I took the last watch, as I enjoyed watching the dawning sun. But tonight, was different.

“Beepu?” I said looking at the gnome. “Mind if I take the first watch…I’m not quite ready to fall asleep yet.”

“Switch you mean? Not a problem,” he said yawning. “I am ready to turn it in now.” He then looked at me curiously. “Are you certain nothing is wrong?”

I touched the symbol that hung from my neck; the skeletal hand and arm, lifting a balance aloft. I was stroking the familiar relief as I answered, “I guess…it’s a matter of faith.”

Beepu nodded, “I will leave it to you to sort out then.” And he moved to his bedroll and started to settle down for some rest.

I moved towards the entrance of the mud cave and sat down at the entrance, looking out into the forest. I sat there on the earth, still caressing my holy symbol, and stared at nothing in particular. I was still turning over the memories and the emotions I felt in the tunnel. Seeing that moment where I broke the hobgoblins’ fearsome front asunder. Where I had become fear incarnate.

No…death incarnate.

It gave me the chills, remembering what I had done. I didn’t feel sorrow for the hobgoblins; they started a war. I didn’t feel regret for what I had done. I had already killed a number of beings, defending myself, or just accomplishing a goal. The ones I had slain, would be judged by my lord and sent onwards to whatever fate the multiverse had for them. And if I was in the wrong, Kelemvor would tell me now or later. And I would pay the penance, whatever the cost. That was what I believed. But it wasn’t any of those things that bothered me.

What did, was how I felt during that battle. A manic ecstasy as I tore away their lives. Each life that I snuffed out with a prayer and a gesture and the pleasure I felt. How simple and effortless it was. How bold I felt. How right it felt. How good it felt. It was that simple truth I couldn’t reconcile.

I enjoyed killing them. I enjoyed the screams of pain. I enjoyed the look of fear they had in the darkness. I only stopped because I ran out of hobgoblins. I wasn’t sure if I could have stopped myself if I wanted to. But that was it; I didn’t want to stop.

That frightened me.

I shouldn’t have felt that way. Death was a part of life, and I wanted to help those who needed passing, or ease the suffering of those left behind. To honor the dead and guide the souls to the Fugue. Not revel in the pain and suffering I caused as I sent them to judgement. Why did I feel exhilaration? Shouldn’t I feel sorrow at the waste of life? And even if someone was going to face their end, shouldn’t it be with the same mercy as those who beg for release?

This was well beyond the hatred I had felt. What I felt, wasn’t right. I was revolted at my naked lust for pain and spilled blood. Was this how the Celestials felt in discharging their duty? Glory and disgust? Was this contradiction the cause of ones to fall from grace? Because of a lack of strength? Because of a flaw? Did Zariel feel this way on the plains of Avernus?

This can’t be right. How could I revel in the death in another, when I am sitting here questioning it, knowing its wrong. Was I really that callous in the moment? I wanted to fix this somehow. Needed to. But I didn’t know what I could do or even a person that I could talk to about this.

My hand was still around the symbol I wore when I gripped it tighter as I closed my eyes and prayed.

Please Lord Kelemvor. Give me a sign or hope that I’m not going barmy. Help me face my problems and give me hope that I am doing the right thing. Purge this…this…this wrongness from me…please.

I was too tired to shed tears. I just looked up at the stars, hoping for a sign. For guidance somewhere in the firmament.




I awoke to Iesa gently shaking my shoulder. I nodded and pulled myself out of my bedroll and started to strap on my armor and gear. Looking outside the cave, I could barely see the trees, as a thick fog was in the air, covering the forest in a misty grey blanket.

“Is that going to be a problem?” I asked as I tightened the buckles on my bracers and looking at the fog.

“With the elven trinket I would hope not,” Iesa said. “But I guess you or Beepu could better answer that.”

I made a face, “I doubt it; Beepu is better at things. I’m better at dealing with…”

“People?”

I grimaced, “Only if their health is of concern. Or a lack of it.”

Iesa looked at me for a moment before replying, “Well, I appreciate any effort to keep me breathing. So, anything you do there is fine by me.”

“Should I enjoy it?”

“Helping your friends, sure? Why not? Let’s get going and talk when we can get some drinks in us.”

I nod not willing to reveal more, “A good drink would be…welcome about now.”

“Come on, you stupid thing work!” I heard Daneath say outside.

“You are not saying the words correctly,” Beepu admonished. “The stress is at the end of the word, not the beginning. If I do not pronounce the words correctly, you do not get this handy disc carrying your precious ugly armor.”

Entu-LA Eska!” Daneath intoned, while knitting his brow. The orb bound in silver wire, lit up with a green light. As we watched, the orb lifted away from Daneath’s hand and started to float towards the northwest. “And its practical! Its better than I have now!”

“So why do you not wear it?” Beepu asked with that lecturing tone.

“Because the elves might get upset,” Daneath replied exasperated. “I do have some sense.”

“Well, you can all talk about that, while I’m going to follow the…bauble thing,” Iesa remarked, and he started following the orb, with the rest of us close behind. It wasn’t following a straight path, but was rather tracking some hidden pathway, that made it for an easy march.

But as easy as the march was, the fog didn’t burn off even with a light breeze. Instead it seemed to get darker as we travelled. The sun was completely hidden, and it became impossible to tell what direction we were heading. Considering we could barely see four paces ahead of us, it was a good thing we were following something. I didn’t want to become lost, as we didn’t have a large amount of supplies to start with.

--Myr, behind us! I smell worgs!

My heart skipped a beat. I quickly turned around facing the wind and shouted, “Worgs!” I readied my shield and waited. The others didn’t hesitate and also turned, with swords ready while Beepu started to prepare a cast.

We couldn’t see far, but when they bounded out of the fog it was enough for me. I started a quick cast, and a miasma surrounded a worg and its rider. As the worg charged at me, I could see the goblin’s face go from bloodthirsty, to empty as it fell from its saddle. The worg was a bit tougher, but as it went by me, Daneath and Iesa both skewered it from opposing sides, while a blast of fire from Beepu was enough to send it tumbling into a heap on the ground. Then Daneath moved in front of me, to shield us all from additional attacks.

This was fortunate, as from the fog, another pair of worgs with riders appeared. Both the worgs charged at Daneath, but neither pair of jaws were able to pierce the man’s armor. And as for their riders, it was even worse, as they swung wildly, finding nothing but air. Once again, the brothers sliced into the hide of a worg, and I was able to injure the rider. Beepu quickly poured some water into his hand, and threw out a shard of ice that exploded, killing the first worg, while injuring the other, and killing its rider. The worg snarled and tried to run off, but both of the men were able to land blows, felling it before it could disappear into the fog again.

We readied ourselves for more, but it became quickly apparent that none were coming. Beepu launched up Foggle into the air, as we all stood silent and listened.

Gos? Do you sense any others?

--I was lucky that I smelled them before, but I can’t hear or smell anything now. And, I can’t see much either way.


Daneath pulled down the bauble from the air, causing it to go dark. Just after this Beepu cursed,

“Of course. There is a goblin encampment in our path.” He said distantly, as he received some communication from Foggle.

“Well, that’s great. Now what?” Daneath said angrily.

“Let’s avoid them, cut to one side and go around,” Iesa said. “We can pick up the path on the other side.”

“How far is the camp Beepu?” I asked.

“Oh, not too far thataway,” and he gestured absently toward the direction we were originally heading. “Up above it is easier to see,” and he snorted.

“Right,” and I thought quickly, “Send Foggle ahead, and I’ll send Gossamer to flank us to see if they start heading our direction.”

“Of course, of course, <snort> that will do.” Beepu said distantly, as he waved his hand. Gossamer took flight above, towards the direction that Beepu indicated, and we all turned to skirt the camp on the right side. I was somewhat nervous though. Foggle was a much better scout than Gossamer; it was quiet and faster. Gossamer was brighter though, but I had this horrible vision of him being pierced by quarrels from a goblin.

Be careful.

--You think I want to get hurt?


We started on our way, now moving slowly and cautiously, trying not to attract attention. Daneath of course had difficulty in doing this, being in the heavy armor he wore. As we travelled, it was getting darker. While we had an inkling that it should be getting close to peak, the darkness grew, as did a chill in the air. But more problematic was that Beepu was humming to himself like he didn’t care about being found.

“Beepu! Pipe down,” Iesa said also frustrated at the gnomes lack of discretion.

“Hmm, hmm, what? Why? Nothing is <snort> going to hurt me.”

“This is serious,” I said. “It’s hard enough to fight in this fog, so let’s avoid it.”

--Myr, this doesn’t make sense. Summon me back after you count to twenty.

What? Sure fine.


And I started to count in my head…silently unlike Beepu, who seemed to my mind getting louder and louder.

“Come on, let’s <chuckle> go!” Beepu said, and he was starting to…skip ahead of Iesa, who was trying to make as little noise as he could.

“Beepu!” he hissed. “What in the hells has gotten into you?”

“Baator,” I said absently, reaching the count of twelve. Beepu could be a little strange at times, but this was not normal. I decided I would bring it up after I summoned Gossamer back. When I reached twenty, he was now starting to hum louder. I then pulled on the strand that connected us and Gossamer appeared in a quick shower of sparkles and I looked at the tressym expectantly.

--Myr, something is wrong. There isn’t a goblin camp anywhere!

I was now really confused. And I turned to look at the skipping gnome. “Are you sure there’s a goblin camp near. Gos cou—”

“Of course there <snicker> is. Foggle is never <snort> wrong!”

“What does he see now?” I asked.

“What? Foggle-a-gog? Flowers and sun <snicker> and rainy showers and fun!”

“What are you talking about?” Daneath said exasperated. “Showers and fun? This isn’t a game.”

“This game is tame!” Beepu replied, “Perhaps something less lame!” and Beepu suddenly bolted ahead. The disc with the goblin armor and our gear following behind him.

“What the?---Get back here!” Iesa yelled, and he started after the gnome, with Daneath and I in tow. In a moment, both ran off deeper into the fog, as we gave chase. Not long afterwards, we hear the clatter of metal hitting the ground. After a number of paces we found Iesa, standing looking deeper into the fog, with his fists balled up and at his hips, breathing heavily. The armor and gear now in a cluttered heap on the ground.

“Where is—” Daneath started.

“I don’t know. He outran me.” Iesa said winded.

“What? Beepu?” I said questionly. “Outran you? How?”

Iesa threw up his hands. “I haven’t the foggi—oh that’s terrible. I have no idea.”

“What do we do? Chase him down?” Daneath asked a bit confused.

“How?” I exclaimed. “He seems to be able to outrun us. All he’d have to do is turn and run in a new direction and we couldn’t find him,” I could hear Beepu starting to sing nonsense in the fog, his voice echoing around all of us. We all stood looking around in different directions trying to pin point where he might be. But it was hopeless; his voice seemed everywhere, echoing about.

“He’s gone mad,” Iesa said.

“Madder,” I retorted between gritted teeth. “We can’t help him if he’s run off. Let’s get ourselves out of the fog.”

“Right,” and Daneath pulled out the orb bound in silver. “Entula Eska!”

The orb lit up, moved about two paces and dropped to the ground lifeless.

“Remember the stress is on the last sy—” Iesa started.

“I know that!” Daneath said angrily. “If I don’t it say correctly, nothing happens. That wasn’t nothing.”

“Close enough.” I said. “Try again.”

He moved to the orb and picked it up. “Entu-LA Eska!” and the orb moved two paces in a different direction and dropped to the ground again.

“This isn’t happening,” Daneath said. “And I don’t like it,” he picked up the orb, and put in a pouch. Then he began to strip off his armor.

“What are you—” Iesa started.

“Help me change armor.” Daneath answered. “If there is something wrong, I want to wear the best I have.”

“Alright…” Iesa said and he started to help his brother with the straps.

As Daneath was changing, I heard a noise in the fog at first soft, but quickly growing.

“…eepuuu...Beepuuuu…Beeepuuu…” Foggle repeated over and over, as it appeared from out of the fog. It then started to circle us repeatedly.”

“Foggle?” I said cautiously. “Can you find Beepu?”

“…Beepuuu…Beepuuuu…Beeepuuu…” it kept repeating, but as I watched I could see it was shaking its head.

“Great,” I said aloud. There was something seriously wrong here.

Goss keep an eye out.

--Yeah…sure…like I can see.


Ignoring Gossamer, I started to pull on a pair of strands, one light and one dark. I closed my eyes and started to focus on an incantation that Beepu had taught me. Specifically, one to detect magic. The words were based on the gnomish language, so it was a bit muddled, but I got enough of the intonation out that I could feel it take effect. Once I felt that the magic had taken hold, I opened my eyes.

The sudden pain was unexpected, like I had decided to stare at the sun at peak. The forest was swirling colors and pulsing with energy like chaos incarnate. I gave out a choking sound as I squinted trying to find my bearings and see again. As I stared, I realized that I was wrong, the forest was fine as I could see the trees and brush. But the Weave was a different story. I had heard tales of what Limbo looks like from other planewalkers, and those descriptions paled in comparison to what I saw, with the cacophony of colors swirling around me.

“Myr what the..what happened?” I heard Iesa say.

“I’m…alright,” I choked. “Help D. I am looking for…” I gasped, “magic energy.”

“And?” Daneath said amid working on buckles.

“I can’t see anything..but magic. We’re surrounded by it.” I said, turning in place staring at the colors and swirling. As I turned, something caught my attention; a nearby pine tree. As I looked, it was shimmering and shifting between two different trees. One normal one and another one, flourishing. with more needles and a larger trunk. But both were sharing the same space. I then realized part of what was happening.

“Oh no,” I said looking around with dread expecting…something more.

“What? What’s going on,” Iesa demanded.

“We’re…at a planar border I think.”

“Say again?” Daneath said stopping to look at me.

Fearfully, I replied “I think we are on a manifest zone of the…Feywild.”

Session notes:

So, this is a hard lesson. If you can’t attend the gaming session for any reason, bad things might happen.

Did happen. We did keep it quiet for about a week though, leaving only cryptic statements in text messages.

So, we were all mean, not just the DM.
 

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