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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.
 

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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.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Ghosts of the Forgotten - 12/8/2019

To planewalkers, there are many pieces of the chant needed to survive a trip to any plane. Some are simple: avoid the lower planes and the Blood War. Some obvious: don’t try to deal with slaad, and don’t try to cheat a modron. Violating those is likely to get you put in the dead-book.

But the Feywild had a special place in the list of warnings and advice. Its wasn’t about you avoided or did, or even about where you were going to go. It all was about one thing.

When were you getting back, was a question of paramount importance.


“Feywild?” Iesa was looking around him, wondering what might leap out of the depths of the fog. “So what? Are the fey going to kidnap us or something?”

“We aren’t fully there, so no,” I started trying to get my bearings in the swirling colored mists. “Not yet at least.”

“Great,” Daneath said through gritted teeth as he started pulling on the macabre spiked armor. “And will you focus and help me finish?”

“Sorry,” Iesa said. “It’s…just I have heard lots of stories. I’m sure Myr will just say, ‘It isn’t true,’ in some charming way.”

“I’m no greybeard about the Feywild,” I answered. “But I’m sure its half true. Just not clear on which half. If I had to make a guess, if it had an unfortunate ending, it’s likely true.”

“That bad?” Daneath asked without looking up.

“Well, its chaotic, and the fey are concerned with…fey…stuff. And only fey stuff. We’re either an annoyance or entertainment to faeries and eladrin. But there are other beings in the feywild, and not all of them are as friendly as faeries.”

“Like what?” Iesa asked as he pulled a strap tight on Daneath’s armor.

“Hags, some giantkin, spirits and dire creatures to name a few. A bored noble eladrin could be bad as well.”

“Any good news then?” Daneath wondered aloud.

“I can still hear Beepu over there somewhere,” and I pointed towards a section of unblemished fog. In that direction Beepu’s chortling had broken down into mad laughter.

“Good. I’m about ready to kill him. How do I look?” Daneath asked turning around in the captured armor.

“Honestly? Like a githyanki with questionable taste.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Beyond it screaming ‘Maglubiyet loves me?’ Nothing,” I said innocently.

“Come on,” Iesa interrupted our banter. “That laughter is grating and I want to find our way out of here.”

We started towards the distant sound of the wayward gnome. I felt on edge; I knew only the barest things about the Feywild, and most of that summed up as ‘Don’t visit, it will make a mess of your day.” As we travelled, I kept up the spell so I could see the magical fields easily. The plants and even occasional stone flickered between two different images over and over. Fortunately, it seemed that we weren’t deep into the Feywild, as everything after flickering stayed with the prime version of things. I guessed that we were on the shoals of the manifest zone. So hopefully we could find our way out.

Following the cackling sounds that Beepu was making, the fog became lighter, allowing us to see farther. Now we saw that the trees had given way to a clearing. The clearing had pillars of rocks scattered on the edges. On the far side of the clearing was a berm, and on the side facing us we could see a hole descending into the earth. And there dancing by the hole was our gnome.

He was skipping and cavorting about, and he alterated between manic laughter and loud humming broken apart by giggles. As we moved forward cautiously, the ground and stone alternated between two very different pictures of the world around me. The first was as described, but the second I saw not stones, but marvelous pillars, reaching to the sky in a perfect circle. And instead of a berm, I saw a stone building with a stairway leading to a passageway beneath the earth. On the building’s awning above the stairs, I could see a golden symbol. Three circles overlapping and bound by a triangle. Thinking a moment, I realized that this was the symbol of Angharradh, a goddess of the Seldarine that was a personification of three other goddesses of the same patheon; Aerdrie Faeinya, Hanali Celanil, and Sahanine Moonbow.

We continued our approach towards Beepu, who was perhaps twenty paces away from us. But as we neared him, I noticed movement behind the stones that encircled the clearing. From around two opposing stones, stood a pair large broad humanoids. Their skin was twisted and stretched across their massive frame, each standing almost twice my own height. Each carried a length of stone in their hands. They moved slowly, towards us, unrushed. As they emerged, I noticed that they didn’t shimmer and shift like the stones, trees or the berm. They were clearly in our plane and they were looking at us with snarls on their misshapen faces.

“Stop Beepu! We’ll handle these two,” Daneath yelled and dashed out to meet his foe head on. He collided with the creature and slashed at its exposed belly twice, each spraying blood and a single gutteral scream as it tried to smash the warrior with its stone club. However, it was clearly off balance, as its other hand clutched its midsection, trying to keep its guts on the inside.

Iesa also reacted, and ran to the second one, and thrusted with this rapier high into the chest. The monster gave out, not a yell, but a sharp wheeze, as blood and other fluid spurt from its wound. The single strike staggered it enough, that its clumsy swing had no chance in connecting with the nimble rogue.

Satisfied that my parters weren’t going to be crushed, I decided to see if we could reign in Beepu and get him under control. I started pulling a light and dark strand, and fastened them mentally into a loop. I then focused and was about to encircle it around the gnome, when I felt strong resistance. Not resistance that a foe would normally put up to avert say my miasma; this was stronger and made it difficult to focus. But I redoubled my efforts and pushed past it and mentally threw the loop around Beepu. But instead of his life force or body, I looped it around his head.

I could feel it connect and I could feel a conscious will push back at it. Looking at Beepu as I did this, I realized that he had a shimmer around him, and that there was something else near him. No…inside him. It was this being that I was fighting with. Suddenly I felt the Weave snap, and the loop of magic break asunder. To my surprise I saw shredded paper burst around the gnome in a shower of color, with a low buzzing noise as accompaniment. I barely had time to react, when I heard music and singing. The music sounded like they were coming from a drunken band of minstrels, with a horn, a flute, a lyre and a drum. The singing was a deep drunken braying; enthusiastic, not in a proper pitch, and certainly uncoordinated.

Sala was a frog that was workin,

“What the?” Iesa and Daneath said at the same time, glancing around for the source of the noise, all the while inflicting deeper wounds on their ineffective foes, who just kept swinging madly at the pair.

Slapped by the wenches for lurkin,

I was stunned. I knew this song. I heard it in Sigil many times.

And sent o wild and whirlin,

The song was more than annoying to me; it grated on me like cat claws across a slate roof.

Till he spun right round in da firkin, Hey!

I stood there and my hands reached up to cover my ears.

“I HATE this song!” I shouted. But then it became worse as Beepu joined in on the chorus.

Frog In the firkin!
Frog in the firkin!
Frog in the firkin, Hey!


I was in severe pain. My head pounded, and I moved a hand to my nose. I touched my nostril and looked at my hand in shock, because it was covered in my own blood. Lifting my head to look at Beepu, I could see the shimmering shadow had the remaining resonance of a quick magic spell. The spell was actually hurting me with him just singing.

This was not happening. I was not going to die being shouted to death. And certainly not by that song.

“Shut..up!” And I tried to throw a dark strand around Beepu, or whatever was controlling him. I really didn’t care which, as long as the pain stopped. I tried to get the skeletal hands to grip around him and I struggled to cast it at him, as if the mere act was a crime. And once again more colored papers exploded with louder buzzing sounds.

If ya beer be a bit burpin,

I heard a groan, and wet flesh hit the ground, and then I saw Daneath rush over to Iesa’s side and knock away the stone club from smashing into his roguish brother. With his foe distracted, Iesa thrust deep into the chest, and it too fell dead to the ground.

And your belly starts a churnin,

“Why are we listening to music and singing?” Iesa shouted over the din at me. “This isn’t exactly going to help stop him.”

Check your mug, for that green lug,

Again, I felt my head split into two as Beepu cackled away, taunting us with, “Time to race, time to chase!” and he suddenly, floated down into the hole in the earth disappearing into the darkness.

The frog in the firkin,
The frog in the f…


The song and music subsided with Beepu’s departure, although my head still pounded in pain. I pinched my nose shut, trying to stem the flow of blood. Daneath approached me first, his face aghast.

“Myr? What the..?”

“Dat…song. It was killin me,” I replied still holding my nose shut.

“That’s a lot of blood…here,” and Iesa handed me a bundle of cloth, which I promptly put under my nose to soak up the blood.

“So how did we get a song and music in the middle of the forest?” Daneath looked at me in confusion.

“I tried to well…charm Beepu. And then it went all wrong…sorry I couldn’t stop him.” I said trying to clear my head.

“And that off-key song was the result?” Daneath looked at me with disbelief.

“It’s a song from a bar in Sigil, called Moebius. It’s a song only sung there, and last I heard it had over a hundred verses.” I said, looking at the cloth, satisfied that the flow of blood had stopped.

“Why?” Iesa asked.

“Well, to encourage drinking, or dulling the pain from the song—”

“--No, why here now?” Iesa corrected.

“Oh…well I suspect that there is more than just the Feywild here; something else is going on. And I bet it’s” and I pointed to the berm and the entrance into the earth, “down there.”

“Well let’s going get him and get out of here,” Daneath muttered angrily, and we all walked to the berm. The first thing we noticed as we approached it, is that it was a ruined tunnel with stairs leading down, and the second was that there was a very dim yellow light down below.

“I guess we’re expected,” Iesa said grimly. “At least we might be able to see.”

Gos…stick close.

--Right. I just want out of here; this is too weird.


As we started to decend, I barely heard the flutter of wings, and Foggle flew down ahead of us. We paused, listening, expecting to hear an explosion of metal parts raining onto the stone. But instead all we heard was a solitary “Beepuuu,” from the owl. We continued on and after a long decent, found ourselves in a square chamber. From the middle of each wall in the chamber were passages to rooms beyond, each with light spilling forth. The room we entered, had four pillars, upon each had a warm orange yellow light flickering. In the center of the room, was a statue. The statue appeared to be of three elven women, who’s clothes, and legs merged into a single pillar. The statue or pillar base, was set in the middle of three rings, bound by a triangle on the outside. Each of the women looked down a different passage, except the stairs we descended from. Foggle was quietly circling around the statue, making no noise beyond the occasional flapping of its wings.

“Elves…isn’t this—” Iesa started.

“Angharradh,” I finished for him as I looked around. The room was covered in thick layers of dust and cobwebs. “And it has been a long time anyone has been here.”

“The Triune goddess,” and Iesa sighed as he looked about. “And no sign of Beepu. I don’t see even his footprints.”

“He was flying, or did you miss that?” chided Daneath.

“Well…no, but he didn’t stop to land here either,” Iesa was now on the defensive.

“So, head into another room?” Daneath started. “I say we go--

“—Left.”

“—Straight.”

“—Right.”

Daneath, I and Iesa said at the same time, pointing in a different direction. We each looked at each of the others with a dirty look.

“Right…um, so we shou—”

“—Go wherever you go Daneath.” I said, not really wanting to argue.

“—Uh…sure.” Iesa agreed quietly, and Daneath nodded with satisfaction. He then led us down the left corridor. It wasn’t terribly long before we entered a simple room. Four more pillars, each with lights on top, just like the entrance room. But here instead of a statue, was a ring, with letters gilt with golden metal, just below a layer of dust. I moved to the edge of the ring, knelt and looked closely at it. Concentrating I could see amid the soup of magic was a strong conjuration effect

“Can you read it?” Iesa asked.

Shaking my head, “Not yet. It’s elvish using that older writing style. Give me a moment.” And I started to cast the ritual so I could read the letters. As I did so, I heard behind me some jostling, and liquid sloshing in a jar or flask. I kept at it, and I saw that Daneath was handing to Iesa a pair of crudely worked clay flasks. I kept up my quiet chant but gave a quizzical look to Daneath.

“Hobgoblin elixirs. They are supposed to help out with your health. Found them on the warlord.” Daneath answered without me having to ask.

“I guess we’re lucky he didn’t try to use them then,” Iesa smirked as he took a pair from his brother.

“I was not complaining. Here Myr,” and he handed me a pair of flasks, which I put in my pouch, still concentrating. Finally, with the spell cast I looked at the runes, and read them aloud:

“Praise to the Winged Mother, bringer of rain and storms…I think it’s a prayer” I said, turning to look at the brothers.

“Well that’s…interesting. But I don’t see how that—” Daneath started before I cut him off.

“—No, there’s more. The circle has magic imbued into it…Conjuration magic.”

“So, its like that other circle at the temple then?”

I nodded, “And I bet the other rooms have a circle and a different prayer.” I chuckled to myself and mutter almost under my breath, “This is taking the Rule of Three a bit literally.”

So, what? We each enter a circle say a prayer and…hope?” Iesa looked up at the ceiling helplessly in resignation.

“You could call it…having faith?” I said a bit whimsically.

“Easy for you to say; you’ve seen what comes next.” Iesa wryly commented.

“Ah…I..suppose,” I said feeling a bit uncomfortable at the roundabout mention of my death. We really never talk about that day much; too many painful choices made on that day. Or not made but rather forced. I brushed it aside and continued. “But I think you only have to believe the magic is going to work. I doubt an elven goddess wants a short lived, round-eared, filthy worshiper anyway.”

“Hey! Whose filthy?” Iesa said with mock indignation.

“You are,” Daneath said, as he cuffed Iesa. “So how do we do this?”

“Well, I’ll give you the prayer here. I take Iesa to another circle, give him the words he needs on his circle, and I will go the third and recite the words there. But I’ll use a message spell, to each of you so we do it at the same time.”

“Think we need to go through that much effort?” Iesa asked with a doubtful tone.

“I’m willing to bet on it yes,” I said. “Three goddesses as one, three circles with a prayer I bet. And all need to be said at once.”

“Shouldn’t we do it in elvish?” Daneath pointed out.

“Well…yes. But I don’t speak it, I just can read it. Can you?” I shrugged my shoulders and looked at Daneath. He scrunched his face and nodded.

“Well, I guess that will have to do then. I’ll wait here.”

“Come on Iesa,” and I started back down the hallway towards the Triune statue. I noticed that Foggle, who had quietly followed us into the room, remained flying around Daneath. I smiled; Daneath always wanted to have his own pet, so it would do for a while I supposed.

“You sure this is going to work?” Iesa asked as he walked along side of me. “I mean we don’t even know there are other cir…I’ll be damned.” He said as we walked into the room opposite. And there was an almost identical setup; four pillars, one circle, and more writing. Once I again I knelt down and read aloud.”

“Praise to the Heart of Gold, our winsome rose…can you remember that?” I asked.

Iesa nodded, “Sure thing. I’ll wait for your..signal..spell…message?”

I nodded and started my way back. “This will work I’m sure.”

“But what will it do?” Iesa called back to me as I entered the first chamber.

“Get us to a maniacal gnome who so needs a beating,” I mutter well lower than Iesa could hear. I strode down the passage opposite the stairs and came to another set of pillars and a circle. Once again I knelt and looked at the prayer written and nodded.

--Myr, are you sure you know what you are doing?

Of course not!

--Is this a good idea?

Probably not.

--Then why are we—

Look, I’m not sure saving Beepu from himself is much in paying off a debt, but I feel we should at least try.

--So where did he go, if he was by himself?

A great question! Let’s find him and ask!


I quickly pull out a copper wire and wrap it around my index finger. Twisting, I think of Iesa as I pull on some strands.

“Iesa, count to ten slowly, and do the prayer.” Not waiting for a response, I pull on the strands again and this time focused on Daneath.

“Daneath, count to five slowly, and do the prayer.

I then stood in the circle, and read the writing on the edge aloud:

“Praise to the Daughter of the Night Skies, our lunar lady.” As soon as I said the last word, I could feel the Weave flex and fold upon itself and I felt the release of power. There was a flash of light and I was blinded for a brief moment. I blinked, waiting for the spots in my eyes to clear up, and as they did, I saw a new passage straight ahead of me.

Smiling, I felt a bit of pride. I saw a puzzle without seeing all the pieces! I guessed at what I bet was an obvious answer without even having to try random experiments. I didn’t have to poke and guess. I then turned around ready to trot back to see the brothers, when my smile dropped from my lips. My eyes widened and I realized the game might have higher stakes than before.

Before me I could see the archway back to the room with the statues, but the passageway was replaced with solid stone. My breathing quickened as I turned the copper wire on my finger.

“Iesa?”

“Daneath?”

“Can you hear me?”

“Can you hear me?”


My shoulders sagged, and I turned back to look down the now open passageway. In the distance I could see more light. I felt a lump in my throat as I swallowed. I gripped my shield tighter and I started to walk down the passage, to see what else fate had brought to the party.

--Told you this wasn’t a good idea.

Shut up!




Session notes:

Confetti and strange music happened, and this really convinced me never to miss a session. Which I did for over a year…but that miss is a different story.

Otherwise I was confused as hell on what we were really dealing with. But we were really convinced that Beepu’s player would return and have to roll up a new character.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Unfunny Moments -- 12/18/2019

I never think of myself as ‘funny.’ I might say something clever that gets a chuckle, but that isn’t the same thing as having that gift to say the perfect phrase, that causes everyone to roll with laughter. I relish it when I can laugh like that and forget the annoyances of the day. And I envy the folks that can fill a hall with laughter with little more than the perfect phrase.

But I hear too, that some with that gift are truly cursed. That many struggle with the contradiction of while they can lift the spirts of others easily, their own still wallow alone in despair and pain.

But worse than that, is the truth that laughter from one, is pain for another. That some take joy on inflicting this upon others. It doesn’t matter why; the end effect is the same; misery and bitterness.

So, does it come as a real surprise, when the multiverse finds a way to make that pain, literal and fatal?



I slowly walked forward, hearing the heels of my boots echo in the corridor. Gossamer flitted around behind me still eager to leave this place. The only noises I heard were coming from me; otherwise it was silence. I was looking around nervously as I walked closer to the light that flickered ahead. Where once I felt pride in solving a puzzle, I now felt fear and not a small amount of anger at myself. I was certain that Danneath and Iesa were each trapped in a similar circumstance; and it was all my fault.

I was pondering this, when I entered the room with the light. The light came from a lit brazier, in front of an elven figure, who I guessed was Sehanine Moonbow. At first, I was puzzled about the fire. But as I approached the flame, it became apparent that it was a magic. It gave off no heat; just light. But it still cast flickering shadows. I would have preferred no light. No light meant no shadows but real light spoiled that view of the world for me. The shadows gave the statue a sinister appearance, as they played across its face.

But after regarding the statue and the brazier for a moment, I realized that there was no other visible exit from the room. The brazier was in the center of the room, and the statue was next to it. As I slowly turned around, examining the walls around me, I realized that there was an exit. However, it was blocked with stone, with only the archway visible, just like the circle room I had just left. But unlike that room I saw no writing anywhere. It would seem to be another puzzle, but this was more confusing, as there wasn’t a clear place to start to unblock the path.

I moved towards the statue to get a better look at it. The last puzzle involved the prayers to the goddesses, so perhaps this one had to do with their image. Standing next to it, I marveled at its beauty. The skilled artisan that carved it from a block of stone centuries before me was a master. The smooth lines of the goddess’ form showed no defects, no fractures. It was the perfect representation of elven beauty. I smiled to myself, knowing that Iesa’s prayer room probably led him to a statue as well; but his was the goddess of love. So once again he would be faced with an elven beauty that he only could approach and never claim.

I reached out to touch the surface of the statue, and I felt the smooth cold stone as I ran my fingers across the surface. There were no inclusions or blemishes that I could feel. As I looked up, I met the goddess’ eyes. They were open and blank, looking across the room. In front of this piece of art, which must have been more than twice my height, I felt small and unworthy.

Well…what did you want from me, Sehanine Moonbow?” I quipped quietly. And as the last word of the power’s name left my lips, I felt it; a shudder in the Weave. I backed away slowly and started to look around me for…. something…anything, when I felt a wave of heat wash over me. I turned, and saw that in front of the brazier had appeared a figure. It was shorter than I, but its skin looked like heated stone; glowing an orange red. It turned around and quickly spotted me. Its face looked like melted wax, but the burning eyes, and sinister smile of sharpened rock. It looked at me with what I could only guess was violence. As it turned, flexed its hands and stepped towards me.

I stared at it for a moment insulted. A fire mephit? Here? And who would send me a mephit? Any planeswalker knew that each type of mephit had a particular meaning intended for the receiver. And this one was particularly insulting; Slight regard and gloating at someone who lost an intellectual battle. Who would dare send a mephit, especially that one?

My anger rose in me suddenly, its rage matched the heat the creature gave out. I quickly pulled on a dark strand and cast it at the elemental. I saw the skeletal hand grasp at the creature around the neck and claw at its life. But what happened next was unexpected. In my fury, I could feel that the strand I used was much stronger than I was used to, and I could feel its life force simply be snuffed out like a candle. It started to slump and fall, and as its knees touched the stone floor, it exploded into sharp shards of jagged rock. I staggered as some of the stone hit me, and coughed as I breathed in some hot dust. I looked at where it once stood, and all that remained were small fragments of stone, clustered in a pile.

I waved my hand in front of me, trying to clear away the dust and smoke, when I realized that something else had replaced it. Coiled around the remains of the mephit I could see a scaled form. I watched as it moved and slid around the floor, until a serpentine head rose to the height of my waist. Its unblinking eyes regarded me coldly, while a slender string of a tongue tasted the air rapidly with quick flicking motions.

It suddenly lunged; its fangs sinking deep into my right arm. It was so fast that I couldn’t block it with my shield or twist out of the way. I screamed in shock and afterwards I felt pain. My arm felt like it was on fire, as the snake pumped its venom into me. The poison acted swiftly, even as I stumbled backwards into a corner. I felt lightheaded as I tried to focus my mind. As the serpent started to slither closer, I pulled one of the rough clay flasks, and tore out the cork with my teeth. Spitting it out, I quaffed it down, the bitter taste burning my mouth and throat as I swallowed. Even so, my stomach stopped heaving, and I felt steadier.

It was fortunate, because the snake lunged again. Now a bit better prepared, this time its head collided with my shield as I batted the snake away. Once again pulling on dark strands, I heard the bell ringing deeply, and the snake hissed in pain as I shredded its life. It retaliated, once again swiftly striking in an attempt to clamp its jaws down on me. But this time it missed, striking left, when it should have right. And then flexing, the final bell rang for it as the miasma robbed its remaining life, and it collapsed on the floor in a jumbled pile.

I leaned against the wall to catch my breath and looked around, expecting something else who wanted to burn me, bite me or whatever else it had planned. But as I did, I saw that the passaged that once was blocked, now suddenly was clear. Exhaling quickly, I continued towards it, unsure what the next challenge would be.

--Myr? What is going on here?

I really don’t know. Right now, finding the others is the first thing to do.

--And then beat up the gnome?

The thought had crossed my mind…


I emerged into another square room, again lit by four pillars, and a double door in front of me. The door was made of old worn oak, and it had the same symbol as before, three circles bound by a triangle, embossed upon its surface. But as I moved towards it to look closer, I…smelled something.

It was a rancid mixture of tar and rotting fish. I turned around; not sure what foul thing now wanted a turn with me. From a corridor on my right I saw a figure move quickly towards me.

“Myrai? Finally!” Daneath said as he emerged from the passage. He too sounded on edge and looking at him in his armor I could see slashes of a dark substance on his vambraces, and some blood covering his sword arm. But it was the smell that I noticed the most, as the foul fish and tar smell came directly from him. Foggle, floated silently in the air following close behind.

“Where is…whoa!” I started as I brought a hand to my nose, “What did you run into?”

“Don’t rightfully know,” Daneath said with a grimace on his face. “And yeah, I know. Its smells real bad.” I could only nod vigorously in reply, trying not to wretch.

“I am guessing that Iesa is that way,” And Daneath pointed down the hallway, opposite of where he emerged. “And so, we wait?”

As he said that I finished a spell that would for now change the fishy smell, to one slightly more floral. My eyes stopped tearing up and I was a little more confident in taking a breath without the urge to vomit. Once finished, I started to cast the other spell that would let me see the magical confluence around us. It was simple enough that I could do the ritual while I spoke with Daneath at the same time.

“Well, you were blocked in,” I said recalling what just happened to myself. “Until you killed your smelly thing, and then the way was open?”

“Pretty much.”

“Then we have to wait…unless you have digging tools?”

“Do I look like a dwarf?”

“Of cou…wait is that a trick question?”

“NO!”

I shrugged, “Then we wait and get ready to deal with Beepu.”

“And how do we do that?”

I sighed. “I…I don’t know. When I saw him last, it looked like…something else was with him.” Daneath was wiping off his armor of blood with a cloth but kept glancing up intently at me. “I’ve heard of magic that can possess people, but…”

“But you can’t…fix that?”

I hung my head down tiredly, “I don’t know how. But we might be able to drive it off.”

“By?”

I swallowed, took a breath and looked at Daneath. “We kill him.”

Daneath looked at me hard, and his mouth opened and closed a couple of times. His face contorted, as he wrestled with the thoughts racing through his head. Finally he sighed, looked at me again and said;

“What!?!?”

“Look, best guess I have is that a spirit can only possess someone that is alive. So if we kill Beepu it will run!”

“So, we don’t save him?”

“Let me rephrase; Almost kill him.”

“That will work?”

“I…don’t know. But it’s the only bad idea I have.”

“Why wouldn’t it possess one of us instead?”

“Perhaps it could. But from what little I do know, possessing someone of a strong mind is…difficult.”

“Wait, then why did it go after Beepu? It liked a challenge?”

I shook my head, “I’m thinking that there is a reason that it targeted Beepu, and not someone else. Perhaps for some reason Beepu couldn’t resist it.” I said. I was out of ideas, and all I was doing was grasping at straws. Fortunately, I finished casting the spell. Hopefully it might be able to lead us out of the blinds.

Daneath never really noticed what I was doing. But he was about to respond to what I said, when his head jerked up and he readied his sword. He moved, clattering in the mail he wore to the door and listened.

I looked at the warrior and waited until he turned to look at me. When he did, I mouthed the word “What” on my lips and shrugged.

In response Daneath waved his hand in a rhythmic pattern in…time.

Singing.

I nodded and check my gear and my wound. The bleeding seemed to have stopped a while ago, and I as ready as could be. Just then we heard from the third passage the sounds of running. Turning, we saw Iesa bound out of the darkness, with Mo close behind, eyes open in terror. He skidded to a stop when he saw us and was about to speak.

“Hey g—”

“Ssshhhh!” Daneath and I both hissed and I pointed to the door.

Iesa nodded and moved close to me and whispered in my ear.

“We have a plan?”

“Yeah…almost kill him.”

“Almost? How am I supposed to do that?”

“Stop huffing in my ear! And with…panache.” I said looking at the panting Knight of the Post. “It’s the only chance we have.”

He gave a sharp short sigh and nodded, shrugging as if to say “oh well,” We both turned to Daneath and we pointed at the door, and we both nodded. Daneath nodded in return. He then grabbed the door pull and heaved open the door, revealing the next chamber.

It too was lit from flames in sconces, but the room felt cold as the flames did not warm the room at all. Lining the walls were cases and cases of books on stone shelves. In the center of the room once stood a long table, now broken and sundered on its side. On the left side of the room, on the floor I saw a bound metal chest. But in front of it was a diminutive skeleton, almost childlike. I didn’t have much time to stare as my attention was drawn to the right side, by the sound of tearing paper and humming. Turning to look we saw Beepu, flying in the air cheerfully tearing paper from a book and throwing it nonchalantly in the air over his shoulder.

“Beeeepppuuuu,” Foggle hooted mournfully, still hovering around Daneath.

“hmmm hm hm hm hmmmhmmm, Hey!” and Beepu turned to look at us with glowing white eyes. “So, you made through passages three, and now it’s your time to face me?” He giggled.

Iesa stepped in front of us and spoke, “Now Beepu…this isn’t funny. Let’s stop this nonsense now.”

“Pretense, nonsense, no sense, now! And I expect you to laugh like a cow,” and I watched as Beepu waved his hand. I saw a small flash of light, and a sinister smile creep across the gnomes face as he floated and giggled.

From behind I watched Iesa struggle for a moment, as if trying to stiffle a cough…or a laugh. Then I heard him struggle a moment and retort back. “Not…funny…Beepu.” His shoulders dropped a second, and then he lunged straight at the gnome with a yell. His blade pierced the air and looked to pierce the heart of the gnome when suddenly an explosion of color paper appeared clouding all of our vision. Then drifting lazily to the left I saw the bouncing gnome, scattering more papers as he went, giggling madly.

I ran to my left to block Beepu from moving and started to flex a dark strand. Once again, I struggled…I felt a fleeting feeling that I should…do something else. Something else for Beepu. I focused my mind and pushed through the compulsion, and threw the strand at my former friend, trying to claw at his life. But I too was rewarded by an explosion of paper and derisive laughter from the gnome.

Daneath ran towards the floating gnome, with grim determination. But he never made it across the room before he stopped, and slowly turned, like he was having his own mental hurdles to overcome. But after a moment, it stopped, and he simply charged.

Straight into Iesa, swinging his sword trying to hit his brother. But it was like he wasn’t really trying to hit him, as he swung. But it was enough to keep Iesa off-balance, lest the heavy blade did find its way past Iesa’s defenses.

“What are you doing D?” Iesa barked at Daneath, parrying with his rapier, as Daneath tried to swing again.

“We…need…to worship…the Beepu,” Daneath said with frustration at the words coming from his mouth.

Beepu laughed at us like a childhood bully would laugh at their victim. Cold, mean and spiteful. He was enjoying our frustration; our ineptitude. And I was frustrated. Almost past my endurance. I was beginning to think that we had no choice but to run, and leave Beepu behind, when again I spied that chest near me with the skeleton.

Iesa and Daneath’s battle faded to the background for a moment as I looked at them. The first thing that stood out was the scorch like marks, just under a thin layer of dust on the chest. I moved right next to the chest and blew, scattering it away and revealing marks below. The text was again elven, but my spell from before was still working and I could read what remained. A phrase that basically meant “unpredictable weave.”

I looked then at the skeleton, and saw I was mistaken; it wasn’t a child. The frame was hunched, and broader than a child. As I looked at the skull, and saw that, of the teeth that remained they were larger, like an adult’s and the fangs more robust. The skull’s forehead was not like a human’s either, being more sloped, and wider in proportion. I realized it probably was a goblin’s skull. Then I heard another clash of metal on metal and I turned to look at the melee.

“Come…on…throw…yourself at Beepu’s…mercy,” Daneath stammered, still weakly trying to swing at Iesa. He wasn’t swinging hard, but an errant blow was still dangerous. Iesa kept moving away, not willing to commit himself against his brother as he deftly fended off the blows. As he was doing so, Iesa turned to look at me and shouted.

“I hope you have an idea here,” he yelled at me.

Then before I could respond, I heard that derisive laughter again and heard “Oh hiding, and ever lurkin? Maybe you need more ‘Frog and the Firkin!’”

I was puzzled for the briefest of moments, and then my head exploded in pain. I tried to cover my head, instinctually trying to protect it as the pain continued. As I knelt there on the ground, I watched as I saw a splash of blood hit the floor, and I could feel more dribble out of my nose. All the while I was mentally trying to think through the problem here.

What was the connection?

Panting heavily, I focused on the chest looking for disruptions in the Weave. I was rewarded with what appeared to be a shimmering vortex of wild color and power. Its matrix started at the chest, and strands of it spread to the skeleton and to Beepu as well. The same shimmering that I had seen before was incredibly strong here, warping everything it was touching. The room was changing from clean and new, to ruined and forgotten. The chest from shiny and clean, to dusty and corroded. The skeleton from a corpse, to a goblin dressed in garb that struck me as a cross between a priestly robe with the patterns of a street performer.

Where once I was squinting, trying to absorb the cacophony, my eyes widened drinking it in. I turned to look at Beepu, and I saw it clearly now. The shimmering shifted between a gnome, and the same goblin in the strange garb.

No. Not a goblin.

A Nilbog!

I knew what we needed to do.

“Iesa,” I shouted. “Knock some sense in Daneath now!”

“What do you think I am doing?” he shouted back, and parrying another weak blow.

“Not trying hard enough! Just. Hit. HIM!” I shouted back, and I pulled out my symbol of Kelemvor. “I need time! And I need both of you to keep the Nilb…Beepu busy.”

I heard another parry and then a whistling of the rapier in the air and finally a groan from Deneath.

“Ugh…what the? You hit me!”

“You noticed.” Iesa quipped. “Great, now help me with Beepu. Myr needs time.”

I fumbled in my pouch, looking desperately for it. I didn’t have a lot, but I needed it now. Finally, my hands touched the cool glass of the vial I sought. I pulled it out and smiled. It was a small crystalline vial with a glass stopper, sealed with wax.

Holy water.

I twisted the stopper and poured the contents onto my fingers. It was barely enough to wet them with a couple of drops, but it would be enough. I moved to the goblin body and touched my wet fingers across what once would have been its brow. I then started to say the words of the sacrament:

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

Daneath now under control again turned and started to charge the Nilbog, and again found himself struggling. This time he sunk to his knees, breathing heavily as if kneeling was the most challenging thing he could do. Through gritted teeth he spat, “What…is… she…doing?”

Death is without deceit and has meaning. May your soul find its way to Acheron to the Great Warren. Join your brethren with Khurgorbaeyag.”

“It sounds like…last rites?” Iesa said as he hurled a dagger at the Nilbog, only to see it hit the ground in a shower of paper and laughter in Beepu’s voice. I quickly glanced at the flying gnome and saw him again pull at the weave and mock Iesa. “Roll, troll, how droll! Drop and laugh you silly calf!”

“May your kin guide you on the next step of your journey. Because Death is never an end, but a waypost. Not a destination, but a Journey. The memory of your deeds will live forever in your kin.”


Iesa twisted and shook his head, and took steps toward the flying gnome. He looked Beepu in the eye and with a small chuckle said forcefully; “Still not funny.” And thrust straight at the gnome only to be blinded by more colored paper.

“Why wont you LAUGH?!?” the Nilbog retorted, now sounding more angry than mocking.

So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith. May Death grant you peace.”

I finished the blessing and looked at the Weave once more. The connection between the corpse and the chest was gone, leaving only the curse connected to Beepu’s tormentor. I now stood and smiled a moment. I focused on the dark and light strands and readied my next move.

I braced a moment and wrestled against that compulsion not to hit him and pushed past it, once again. Feeling the compulsion give I shouted at the Nilbog:

“Hey! Catch!” and I threw a bolt of energy at the gnome and the spirit. I could see the bolt streak and hit another explosion of paper.

“Hah! You little nit, you can’t hit!”

I spun, and then released the second bolt and sent it streaking at the gnome. This time the bolt hit Beepu in the middle of his chest, and the we heard the sound of air leaving his lungs in a wheeze. Blood spurted out of his mouth. His face contorted in anger and shock, and it looked at me in surprise.

“That’s not what’s writ, you little twit!” I retorted. “Guys, you need to hit him twice.”

Iesa looked at Beepu now and smiled. He pulled out his dagger that he found in Flint rock, with his left hand, and moved. Slashing with it first the paper exploded again, but the rapier pierced through the falling scraps and connected with the gnome’s body. Blood sprayed from the wound, splattering the drifting paper with blood.

“Beeeepppuuuu,” Foggle hooted mournfully at the turn of events, still near the entrance, where Mo peaked around the corner, and Gossamer sat looking on unconcerned.

Daneath blinked and then pulled himself up off the ground and shouted with a grin on his face. He charged once again, this time undeterred by the Nilbog’s effect and was a whirl of blades. His sword cut through the paper shreds. His first swing was met with yet another explosion, but his follow through landed solidly in Beepu’s side, causing more blood to spray and hit the shelves and books. But his anger burned hotter still and two more times he swung at the Nilbog, and more paper fluttered in the air, and Beepu gave out a large wheeze as the air left his lungs with the last strike. Yet the Nilbog floated there with a look at contempt at us all.

“This is no fun…time to run!” and our gnome, streaked past the entrance we came in, our trio of animals scattering to get clear. It flew down the corridor that Iesa had originally came from.

Daneath started to move and once again was struggling; the compulsion not to hurt the gnome was overwhelming him. But Iesa and I ran after the gnome, as fast as we could.

“I don’t think…I can…catch him.” Iesa said, as he ran by me. But I saw the gnome turn a corner at a speed that put Iesa to shame. And I was no where near the runner. I watched Iesa turn the corner sprinting as fast as he could.

This wasn’t going to work unless we could actually hit the Nilbolg. And if Iesa couldn’t get close, then there was no chance I could. But I didn’t need to catch him.

I rounded the corner and immediately pulled on the strands again. Twisting the strands, I threw a pair of bolts of energy down the corridor, I watched as they streaked past Iesa. Time seemed to slow, and I felt my heart beat as I watched the bolts flew towards their target.

The first got close, and more paper streamers exploded in the corridor, blocking my sight of the gnome. Then I watched the second fly through the cloud of colors. My heart skipped a beat as I heard nothing for a moment. My heart sank…my last attempt to save Beepu from the Nilbog. Then I heard it; the sound of a body hitting the ground.

I ran forward, starting to look at the Weave once again. I could see the connection that probably led back to the chest’s curse. But as I watched, I saw the end of it moving ahead of me. The tail of the stream of energy flew over me and just as I arrived at Beepu’s body; I saw the Nilbog’s spirit hover there.

It looked confused, and it tried to reach toward the fallen gnome’s body. But it strained to connect with it, seeming to be repelled. It then turned and looked at me. Its eyes had the haunted look I knew well; the look of a nightmare ending. It said nothing, but it smiled as I watched its form dissipate into formless mist, and then into nothing.

I didn’t even stop to think. I threw a light strand of energy at Beepu; shrieking:

“E kohana ma ko’o makunanae!”

I passed Iesa who had stopped near the fallen gnome. I ran to his form and slid down onto my knees. I rolled him over gently, until he was facing upwards and my heart almost broke. He was badly beaten, and blood oozed from wounds that we created as we savaged him to free him from the Nilbog spirit. He was drenched blood, and it started to settle and pool beneath him.

Too much blood.

I knelt there and leaned over Beepu’s clean-shaven face, streaked with his own blood. I turned my head looking down the corridor. I pulled my hair away with a hand, and lowered my cheek down low, hovering just above his nose and mouth. I closed my eyes and waited, listening.

I heard Iesa step closer, and then I heard the sound of wings fluttering. I heard mail clattering in the distance, getting closer and then finally halting. But no one said anything; waiting for my next words to break the silence.

I heard nothing. The tears started to well in my already shut eyes. I had no words. No thoughts. Just overwhelming pain and sorrow that touched my soul.

Time passed, and I swallowed and was about to speak when I felt it. The hairs on my cheek were brushed ever so slightly. I waited and I realized in the silence, that I felt the faint touch of breath on my cheek; its warmth casting away the chill of the cool underground air. I opened my eyes and heard the drops of my tears splash on Beepu’s face. But as I looked, I could see the faint rise and fall of his chest, as he quietly lay there barely breathing.

I turned my head to look at the first face I could see, that off Iesa. I said nothing as the tears fell. But my smile told the story best as I watched Iesa once stricken face relax and break into a grin even as his eyes watered. And then finally, he started to laugh, and he turned to look at his brother. Daneath’s face too softened and he clasped his brother and joined him in deep laughter smiling, wiping the tears from his eyes.

I finally couldn’t control myself and let the joy in and laughed too as my tears fell. For it was that laughter was the only magic needed to set things right.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Gambit - 12/22/2019

The first rule in dealing with fiends is: don’t.

The second rule is if you can’t do the first rule, then you better be in a position of strength. This is tricky; fiends are immortal, and very patient. They have seen more, know more, and have been manipulating mortals since before there were tieflings. So, knowing what that position is can a problem.

That leads to the third rule; if you aren’t sure about how strong your position is, whatever you do, don’t make yourself weaker. It just won’t end well.

But really…stick to the first rule. It just saves time.



We had retreated back to the room with the books. Daneath carried the injured gnome gently, and we laid him down in a pile of our cloaks. I took the time to clean and repair some of the damage to his clothing. Now, he slept, and we occupied our time examining the chest, and talking about what had just happened.

“So, you think that this chest was the cause of this?” Iesa said with his hands between himself and the chest, afraid to even lay a hand on it. “I mean, is it safe at all?”

“It’s safe; there isn’t any sign of dweomer,” I said confidently. “In fact, everything that I see looks…normal.”

“So, what exactly happened?” Daneath asked as he leaned against one of the walls.

“My guess is this; somehow a nilbog,” and I pointed at the goblin skeleton, “Found this place and managed to get to the chest here. He then sprung a trap that magically slew him. But the curse that was laid down was one that used Wild magic. So, while it killed the goblin’s body, it couldn’t affect the nilbog spirit. But the wild magic and nilbog managed to create a vortex that kept the spirt bound here, and kept cycling this place back and forth into the Feywild.”

“Uh huh. I’ll take your word for it,” Iesa said, rubbing his temples. “But I thought nilbogs were a curse on goblins. How did it get ahold of Beepu?”

“Once the vortex was created, anything was possible. In this case, the nilbog spirit was still stuck in this place, bound to the chest. But somehow the vortex was twisted just enough, so that it could possess…gnomes.”

“Because gnomes are secretly misshapen goblins?” Daneath said looking at the ceiling with a wry smile.

I shrugged, “To the Weave it wouldn’t normally work, but with a wild vortex it became possible. And because the vortex was bound to the chest, the corpse and the spirit, it was locked here; trapped. So, once I laid the body to rest, and we forced the spirit out of Beepu, the vortex collapsed. The nilbog couldn’t possess him again, and it never could possess us, so…it left.”

“Where is it now?” Iesa asked, looking around as if the spirit would jump out of a wall nearby.

I lifted up my hands, “Somewhere else. Acheron perhaps, or it might wander the prime until it finds another goblin. I’ll just take ‘not here.’”

Then, Foggle’s head started to spin in place, and started hooting; “Beepuuu, Beepuuu, Beepuu!”

“Oooohhh. Ow, ow, ow. What…what happened?” Beepu said slowly,his face wincing in pain, as he propped himself on an elbow.

“What? Don’t you remember?” Daneath asked, looking at Beepu like he had grown another head.

“I remember…flashes. Terrible jokes…but one thing stands out. A song…about a frog in—”

“Don’t” I said levelly “Sing. That. Song.”

“It was kind of playful and jaunty—”

“—Forget you heard it.” I said icily.

“Alright…fine…not clear on what that is about. So…where are we? I do not remember this…place.”

“Part of a temple to Angharradh. This place seems to be a sort of library.”

Beepu sat up and looked around excitedly. His face registered surprise and then shock as he looked at the piles of colored paper, torn pages and discarded books scattered around the room.

“What a mess! How did this happen?”

“Well…” Iesa said as he started to work on the chest, trying to pry it open. “That would be…your fault.”

“What? That does not sound like me at all! And what happened to me? I hurt quite a bit. I seem to have bruises and cuts and…a lot of blood on my skin.”

“Well…” Iesa started and then he looked at Daneath for help.

“You were floating and making a mess and…um well…Myr?” Daneath looked at me helplessly.

“We beat the sod out of you.” I said bluntly.

“You…you…beat me?”

“Repeatedly.” I said simply.

“But…that seems…harsh? Why?” Beepu questioned, very confused.

“You were possessed. And while you were out of control, you had Daneath attempt to kill Iesa, then you kept trying to have Iesa collapse in laughter with your bad jokes, and to top it off, you tried to kill me with…that…song. You’re lucky it was only a beating.”

“Alright fine. What possessed me?”

“A nilbog,” I said sighing. It was going to be a long day

“Wait! That is not possib—”

“Wild. Magic.” I said.

“Ohhh…I guess it is then.”

“Got it!” Iesa exclaimed, as he defeated the mechanism that held the lid shut. He then quickly opened it and looked inside, his eyes eager to see what had caused all of this trouble.

“Well…these are worth something,” Iesa said as he held up a golden bowl in one hand and a silvery cup in another. Neither were tarnished with age, as both glittered in the cold magical flames that lit the room. They had runic shapes on them, and I realized they weren’t words, just stylized iconicgraphy. I moved over to the chest and saw more items; what appeared to be an inlaid box of silver, and several more cups and bowls. Each were stylized as a piece of art onto themselves.

“They look to be religious relics,” I said. “That would make sense for this place, and the protection on the box.”

“So? What do we do with them?” Daneath asked. “Carry them around and sell them?”

“Actually…no. We give them…back,” Iesa said.

“Curry favor, and perhaps a reward on something more useful?” I reflected. “That’s smart.”

“I thought you did not like robbing the dead Myrai,” Beepu said archly, now finally standing and starting to move about.

“I don’t like disturbing the graves of the fallen no,” I said turning to look at Beepu. “But this isn’t a tomb. And those clearly don’t belong to the goblin, which is the only corpse at rest here.”

“Fair game then,” Daneath nodding in agreement. “What about the books?”

“Yes…yes…yes!” Beepu limped over to a shelf and started to look over the remains.

“They are in good shape for the age they must be. Religious and historical titles. And no Beepu,” I said to the gnome, who’s head snapped up to look at me. “I didn’t find anything on arcana.”

“Wait? You looked at all of them?” he sounded disappointed and almost offended, that he missed the opportunity to examine all the texts himself first.

“You’ve been out cold for a while,” I pointed out. “You feeling better? Think you can get a disc up to carry the chest and stuff.”

“Certainly. A decent meal and something better than a stone cold floor would do wonders for my spine. But we could just carry the chest.”

“It’s not for the chest; its for the armor that Daneath left in the forest above.” I said looking at Daneath with a smirk.

Daneath had a puzzled look for only a moment, to have it swiftly replaced with wide eyed shock. “Crap! I can’t go the elves in this!” looking at the hobgoblin warlords’ armor he wore. “We have to find it before…how do we get out of here?” and he immediately turned around and started to walk down the corridor that I had originally came from.

Iesa watched for a moment and got up, “I’d better catch him before he gets lost.” Turning he jogged after his brother, but not before Mo dashed up and settled on his shoulder, riding the way out.

It was quiet for a moment. Then Beepu with a deep sigh spoke. “Well despite the mess you caused, I should thank you.” He pulled out from his satchel a worn tome and began flipping pages looking for a spell. As he did so, he continued;

“Does that make us even?”

“What? A life for a life?” I said. I really hadn’t considered the debt that I felt I had owed before. It always felt like an unbearable weight on my shoulders, and one that I would never be able to repay.

But hadn’t I already? I stopped Daneath and Iesa several times from passing into the fugue fighting skeletons, gnolls, and various goblins. This was really the second time I had helped save the little wizard, as he was shaken like a rag doll in the jaws of the barghest.

It wasn’t quite the same though. They never crossed into the fugue. I just prevented it. They had to put themselves into debt to a criminal organization to save me. And then, by coming back I made them accountable for it. It didn’t even matter I hadn’t intended to. They were willing to risk a lot; they were willing to murder someone in cold blood to bring me back. Had I made the same risk?

“I…don’t know really. Is it the same thing? You all put a lot on the line for me.”

“That is true. But does it matter on the details? You have bled with us and stopped us from leaving. I would say its close enough. I still would like to know how you do things at all though.”

“Well…perhaps at Whitepetal,” I said straightening up and stretching my arms over my head. “You can drink your tea, and I will have something stronger.”

“Sounds just fine,” Beepu smiled, sounding more like his normal self.



Beepu and I exited into the bright sunlight of the forest, with our familiars on a invisible disc holding our packs and the chest, and I carrying a bundle wrapped in cloth. The fog and darkness were gone. As I looked around, I realized how little of the ruin was even visible. This was a place from long ago, the rocks that could have been pillars had fallen over in the distant past. Any walls or buildings were beneath layers of dirt and leaves going back centuries. The light of the sun felt good; warm and inviting, as it cast light over the dense foliage nearby. In it, I heard rustling and I could see the dark hair of Iesa, moving plants around. Turning to look the other direction I caught the sight of Daneath, also beating the brush.

“Can’t find it?” I raised my voice so both could hear.

“No…I thought I had it out in the open,” Daneath yelled back.

Beepu and I just looked at each other and then glanced at our familiars, who sat behind us on Beepu’s disc, both suddenly looked at each of us as if they knew…

--Fine. I’ll look for the armor.

And I didn’t even have to ask!

--At least the weather is worth it.


And with that Gossamer took to the sky, with Foggle a moment afterwards. Both started to circle the area in larger and larger circles, with Gossamer flying lower, and Foggle at a greater height. Beepu was focusing on the owl, giving more direct guidance on where to look.

Meanwhile, I started to look for a tree that was off to the side of what I thought was the boundary of the ruin. Finding a suitable one, I focused on strands, and watched the dirt churn as I mentally excavated a hole. It was done quickly, and I leaned down and carefully laid the bundle at the bottom. I made a quick prayer, and then moved the dirt back, interring the goblins bones, for their final rest. I nodded and smiled, and then returned back to the ruin just in time to hear the hooting of Foggle.

--Looks like the Modron found it first.

Were you even trying?

--Yes!...er kind of…sort of…not at all, I was enjoying the sun.


I shook my head and rejoined the others. Iesa was helping Daneath swap out his armor for his older set of mail. It wasn’t long before Daneath once again lifted the silver bound orb and said

Entu-LA Eska!”




We were not even half a day away from Whitepetal as it turned out and the orb made finding the hidden paths trivial. As we approached, the orb started to glow with an emerald green light that grew stronger as we approached. Soon we were met by two elves patrolling the pathways. Recognizing us, they escorted us to one of the lifts, and in no time, we found ourselves in the great hall spanning between the trees.

We strode inside, and we saw Galenas and Alanathia in discussion with a pair of elves. As we approached, they turned to greet us, dismissing their comrades. Their faces were somber, but a small smile was on each of their faces.

“We are truly overjoyed to see you,” Galenas started. “We felt the tremors from here. Not long afterwards, one of our scouts found the remains of the encampment. You indeed have our thanks.”

“It is unfortunate about the temple,” Alanathia said with a note of sadness. “But perhaps it is for the best to let go of that part of our past.”

“You are probably right about that,” Daneath started. “We found Pathhorn—”

“—I’m sorry who?” Galenas interrupted.

“A highborn,” I said. “The goblins had captured and were trying to interrogate him. But, we managed to set him free and discovered that the goblins were after…magic in the waters and trying to harness it. After we killed the warlord below, the magic fell apart, and it all collapsed. By the time we’d reached the surface, it was as you said; the encampment was deserted.”

“And where is Pathhorn now?” Galenas pressed.

“Gone far to the south to rescue some of his kin,” Iesa said.

“I see. Still, it is good that you stopped the hobgoblins from using what they found,” Alanathia spoke barely nodding as the conversation continued.

“What was all that magic within?” Beepu asked. “It was not something I was familiar with.”

“No. It was the remains of High magic from the Crown Wars. Magic far beyond the power of non-elves. But, while the hobgoblins could not use it properly, they certainly could have tapped into its power for other ends. But, why did it take so long for you to return?” Galenas asked.

“So long?” Iesa replied confused. “What are you talking about?”

I rolled my eyes upward and closed them sighing. Still closed I asked, “How long has it been since the temple collapsed?”

“Its been almost a tenday,” Alathania replied. “We thought you had perished.”

“What?!” Iesa and Daneath exclaimed together. “We were only gone a day,” Daneath continued. “How could—”

“--The Feywild,” I said cutting him short. “Time flows differently there. We got lucky.”

“What do you mean?” Iesa looked at me with a bit of fright in his eyes.

“Its why traveling to the Feywild is dangerous. Time doesn’t work the same way there. So we could have returned with no time passing, or perhaps longer.”

“How long?” Iesa pressed.

“Well…a century?” I said and watched Iesa’s and Daneath’s eyes bulge in their sockets in shock. “So…ten days is ok. Could be worse,” I said nonchalantly, trying not to make it a big deal, and hiding my relief at the same time.

“For shorter lived beings that could be a problem,” Galenas commented. He didn’t even try to hide the amused smile on his lips. “But why the detour?”

“Well, that’s a bit harder to explain,” I said thinking about the events. “Let’s leave it at ‘we accidently left the prime, found a ruined temple to Angharradh, and left behind a lot of books in a library, and found some relics, that we have right here!’ and I pointed to the chest on the disc, floating silently behind us.

Galenas moved to the chest, and slowly opened it. His eyes grew wide as he reached in, and pulled out one of the golden bowls, turning it in his hands.

“These were…lost long ago. You again surprise us, and you have our thanks. You must tell us where this temple is, as we were not aware of any such ruin anywhere nearby.”

“Indeed,” Alanathia now spoke, taking control of the conversation. “Well, perhaps we should tell you what has happened since you left, please sit.” And she gestured to some lounges that were arranged in a circle in the middle of the hall. We moved to them, and we sat down.

Or rather, Beepu sat, I reclined, and Daneath and Iesa flopped wearily into their seats, still shocked at the time lost.

Alanathia began, “Shortly after the tremors, we sent out some scouts with instructions to find you, and to see what the hobgoblins were doing. While we didn’t find you, we did follow the few worgs and goblins—”

“—Did you kill them?” Iesa interrupted.

“No,” Alanathia said, giving a look with a hint of disapproval. “They followed the group for a while.”

“That makes more sense,” Daneath looked at Iesa pointedly. “We know that the ‘Prophesized One’ is still out there somewhere.

“Correct,” Alanathia continued. “Since we had in the days received some relief from elsewhere in the forest, we sent a number of scouts to learn the whereabouts of their leader. We have uncovered several things. The first, is that there are several more encampments deep in the High Moors. It is likely that the leader is there. More disturbing is that they had been doing raids on roads around Secomber and smaller communities around it.”

“Raids? To what end?” Beepu asked critically.

“Slaves.” Alanathia replied. “For what we do not know. The Moors have wealth concealed there, from battles in the past, and lost settlements. Perhaps they need miners or diggers. But it matters little. The raids have increased ever since the collapse of the temple. We fear that we have perhaps provoked a conflict.”

“By forcing them to start their plans early,” Daneath said. “Or they needed to change tactics.”

“We agree. We have been able to mobilize some of our forces in preparation. But we cannot do that and investigate. The border between the High Moor and the Misty Forest is easily fifty leagues in length. If we can repel them at the edge that would be best. But we cannot roam the moors to seek them; we are too few.”

“And we do not know what other forces they have,” Galenas continued. “We have an advantage of knowing our forest well; and knowing that we are truly under attack. We can prepare. But our forays into the Moors are very limited. But we have had some help.”

“Oh?” Beepu sat up expectantly.

“Ravalan returned to Whitepetal. He received information of a human village at the edge that will be targeted soon. He has left for that village to learn more and to, perhaps, encourage the villagers to leave.”

“How did he get this information ?” Daneath asked, his brow knit as he was thinking through it.

“He was told by a…party we have had dealings with. And that party wishes to speak to you all.”

“About what?” Iesa said confused. Beepu and I exchanged glances at this strange turn of events.

“They would not tell us. In fact, while we thought you were deceased, this party had great…optimism that you were simply delayed. And so, they have been waiting here for you to return.” Galenas and Alanathia both stood. “We will fetch them so you may speak privately here. Then we will speak afterwards.” The pair of elves, then departed the hall, leaving us in confusion.

“Someone asking for us?” Iesa started, “That doesn’t make any sense. I mean who would look for us at all?”

“And here?” Beepu added. “The fact we are all not elves, in a forest that enforces an edict against non-elves from entering at all. We are fortunate to be here, and yet someone is waiting here for us to return?”

“This is the second time,” I said recalling some prior events. “The hobgoblins were asking questions about us…by name. They knew we were here.” I said, putting some thoughts together. “They only asked about us after the attack, but how did they know? We didn’t exactly leave any hobgoblin alive we fought. So who did they learn about us from?”

“You’re right. This doesn’t make sense.” Daneath said with a frown. We then heard footsteps enter the hall, and we all turned to look at our mystery party.

The fact it was an elf didn’t surprise me; with the exception of Ravalan, only elves could easily enter the Misty Forest. But that is where it ended. This elf at once looked at easy in his surroundings, and at the same time the way he strode into the room looking around with disdain spoke volumes. He did not want to be here; he did not think much of his surrounding, and as he came towards us; how little he thought of us.

His lips were curled into a sneer of contempt, as his dark emerald eyes looked us over in our seats. His black hair was pulled back into a tight pony tail behind his head. He wore light chain, backed with dark leathers, and a cloak streamed behind him as he walked. He wore a longsword at his side, which the stylized hilt gave an impression of wealth well spent on quality, and not gaudy decorations upon it. Nor did he have rings or other jewelry. Even his cloak pin was a simple affair; high quality and functional.

I wondered if this was a sun elf. I had heard a little of the various grouping of elves here. Most I had saw in passing I understood to be called Moon elves; they did not shun the races around them and in fact spent much time around others. The copper elves, by contrast were the bulk of the elves in the Misty forest. While they did not appreciate the races around them in their homes, they would venture beyond their forest realms and mingle with others. And the less said about the drow the better.

But I was told the sun elves were different. They stood above their brethren viewing themselves as their betters. And they supposedly thought even less of non-elves; a momentary annoyance to their grand culture. Although everyone I spoke to said they were noble, I never heard anything positive about them; not even a name that one could say was worthy of adoration.

From where we sat, Beepu and I was facing the elf as he made his way across the hall. At the sounds of his approach, both Daneath and Iesa rose from their seats and stood. Daneath had a look of suspicion as he did so, and he crossed his arms watching. Iesa arose, but wandered over to a pitcher and poured himself a glass of something, as he eyed and sized up the newcomer.

“And so, here…you…are,” the elf spoke slowly and softly. His voice gave no signs of contempt or arrogance. But it did hold the tone of someone very confident and sure. “The Kershak, sends…his regards for his wayward…grandchildren.”

For a moment the brother looked at each other, with questioning looks. Then, Iesa spoke. “Well…that’s interesting. I didn’t know we had a…living grandfather.”

The elf gave a thin smile, “Insofar as you have…taken power from Umbra…power that belongs to the Kershak alone…it is the best way to describe your…relationship.”

“That makes you what?” Daneath rejoined. “Our cousin?”

“Nothing so grand. You may call me…Paradros. And I have come here to bring you…an offer.”

“An offer?” Iesa asked skeptically.

Paradros smiled and looked down a moment as if considering his words, before looking Iesa in the eye. “Your…suspicion is warranted. Normally, those that betray the trust of the Kershak, do not get offers. Certainly, Umbra wasn’t given one. And those that assist, don’t warrant much in the way of…mercy.” Paradros had closed the distance to Iesa, smiling until he stood an arm’s length away from the lean man. He then turned to Daneath as he continued.

“But…even the Kershak has…a difficult time penalizing you for blundering beyond your…father’s mistake. For he broke the trust and not you. And so, an offer to…make things right seemed appropriate.”

Daneath looked at the elf, as if to size him up. “What offer?” he said simply, his eyes narrowing.

The elf smiled, “A very simple exchange. You leave me the items that rightfully belong to the Kershak. The sword,” pointing at the blade at Daneath’s waist, “and the dagger,” gesturing at Iesa, who had unconsciously gripped the pommel during the conversation. “For your…efforts in recovering them the Kershak will provide you with 16,000 crowns.”

Iesa blinked and I swore that his eyes were going to pop out of his bonebox. Daneath, also did a double take between looking at the elf and the sword and dagger.

Beepu and I looked at each other at this development. Beepu was frowning, but I couldn’t tell if it was in disapproval, or if he was thinking about what was said. But the brothers wore their expressions plainly. Iesa was pretty clear in his first thought; the temptation was there. Daneath by comparison was confused, as he appeared to struggle with various thoughts on the matter. But then Paradros continued.

“Of course, there is one condition to the Kershak’s…largess. It is a small requirement, but a very important one, that the Kershak demands.”

Paradros smiled as he looked at all of us. But as he spoke my heart skipped a beat as I processed the words said.

“You must remain inside the Misty Forest, until the end of your days. All four of you.”
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Sins of the Fathers - 12/29/2019

Sigil is often called the Birdcage, mostly because of junk and ruin stacked upon itself in the Hive; the city’s largest ward and garbage pit combined. But, Sigil was also a cage, requiring a key to leave.

So, doesn’t that mean that every plane is a cage too, and the only reasons that people don’t realize it, is because they can’t see the bars?



I stared at Paradros, his words still echoing in my mind. I sat there mouth agape, unable to speak. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

“What?!?” Beepu’s voice elevated a full octave, and he jumped up and was standing on his seat, fists clenched, and face the deepest red I had ever seen. “I cannot stay here, when I need to find my father!”

“Well that is indeed the problem,” Paradros calm response contrasted with Beepu’s rage. “Your father did help remove the weapons from the Kershak’s holdings. So, he is as culpable of the crimes, as Umbra was,” and Paradros looked each of us over quickly. “As are you all.”

‘Till the end of our days…’

“You can’t be serious?” Daneath said, approaching until he was within arm’s length of the elf. “We recover weapons you claim are stolen. Now I can understand a…reward for recovery. But to keep us here as well? That is a bit much.”

“The weapons are but one crime of Umbra’s,” the elf calmly spoke, meeting Daneath’s level gaze. “You and your…brother are the other. Now in the past, the Kershak handled this problem in a very straightforward manner; said problems were eliminated.” Paradros turned, and strode to where Iesa stood, the rogues face grim and eyes narrowed staring at the sun elf. “So, to keep your lives is a considerable gift…along with the wealth to live comfortably…here.”

‘Till the end of my days…’

“And the elves here are fine with this?” Iesa said slowly, as if still trying to comprehend what was transpiring. “They barely want us here to start with.”

“The Kershak has had a long arrangement with the elves here,” Paradros explained patiently. “We both work within the borders in the Misty Forest, and we do not interfere with each other’s affairs. And we do not harm each other or each other’s servants, hirelings or guests. Occasionally we trade favors. They will accede to the Kershak’s request. And so long as you stay here, you will not be subject to the Kershak’s…judgement.”

I sat there, silently as the others debated. I couldn’t find the words to interrupt. I was having flashbacks of my childhood; the feeling of being trapped.

“That still does not help me at all,” Beepu shouted. “I have important research that I must discuss—”

“—Well…” once again the elf spoke in that paternal voice. “As I said, the Kershak does not offer mercy to assistants of criminals. Perhaps if Ravalan was aware of that—"

“Ravalan?” Iesa’s head snapped to attention. “What does he—”

“—He too helped your father,” he said to Iesa, and then turned to Beepu still standing on his seat, “And yours now that I think about it. So, I did tell him about a threat of a nearby village though.” And as he spoke are wry smile crossed the lips of the elf.

“A village,” I said softly from my seat. “A human village. Outside the forest.” I looked at the elf squarely in the eyes.

He turned and looked at me for the first time, his gaze meeting mine. Normally people who look at my eyes for the first time give a reaction at seeing themselves in my eyes. But not him. His smile just got a bit wider.

“Why…yes in fact. I knew you were paying attention after all, Myrai. Quite the observant one.” His smile was wider, like a predator that had found prey. “And so…who knows what dangers lurk outside the safety of the forest.”

I barely heard what he had said. I already knew that he had laid a trap for the poor Firbolg. I didn’t need him to point out the obvious fact I already had. But I did hear one thing that made me suspicious.

My name.

We had not been introduced. We had never met. But he knew us. But while I somewhat expected he knew about the other three, as all their fathers were known to the Kershak. That he was familiar with me, my name, my eyes, gave me chills. What else did he know?

“I see that I have given you all…a lot to talk about,” he turned and again met everyone’s gaze as he started to move towards the entrance of the hall. “Since all of you have to agree, I will take my leave and let you…come to your senses.” And with confidence, he strode away from the four of us, finally calling over his shoulder as he left. “I will come collect the Kershak’s things in the morrow then.”

I sat there, confused on how we ended up at this turn of events. But it wasn’t long before the fighting started.

“We should take the deal,” Iesa said simply. “That’s a lot of—”

“—I can’t do that,” Daneath said angrily, turning towards his brother. “I remember my maste---father. I will not abandon him, not when he told me to seek him out some day.”

“That’s nice,” Iesa spat back. “Your ‘master’ set you up. He trained you, right? Clothed you? Fed you? Must have been nice to have an iron spoon in your mouth.”

“It was thankless work,” Daneath retorted. “You trained, and if you did poorly, you were whipped. It wasn’t a grand party. But I respected what he was doing, and I respect him enough to find him.”

“Nice. Beats you like a dog, and like a dumb puppy you come back for more. Still, at least he filled your bowl.”

“What is your issue here?” Daneath demanded.

“My ‘issue’ is that while you got your puppy food, I was on the streets, being beaten by bullies, by adults, by anyone who wanted what little I had. That I had to steal food to keep my mother and I alive. Where was our ‘loving’ father’s contribution to our table? Where was he when my…” and he stopped and turned away from Daneath. “Why would I want to find him? He didn’t need me, and I don’t…need…him.”

It was quiet for a moment after the exchange. I knew Iesa’s story; -so close to my own, yet so different. I knew Daneath’s desire as well, for a father that was a distant idea in the past. I wanted to say something to both of them, but of course;

“Look you two,” Beepu started with a fiery look in his eye. “I say you go find him, and Daneath you hold him, while Iesa punches. Then you bond and drink or do whatever. I do not care. All I know is that your father, Umbra, was the last being to be travelling with my father. And I need you to get over your father issues and get back on the road to find mine.”

“You just want to finish your…contraption,” Iesa said. “You’re just using us to get to your father.”

“YES! You get it!” Beepu yelled triumphantly to the shock of the brothers. “I do not care anything about Umbra, except he is following my father. And if they split paths…I know who I am following. But for now, the paths are the same. And I will still help you until that day comes.”

“Wow…so supportive Beepu. Thanks?” Daneath said questioningly. “Look Iesa, find him and ask him, punch him if you—”

“Unless he has 16,000 crowns in his coin purse, I don’t want to spend the time looking. That is enough to never have to…steal again. A nice little cottage in the trees here—

“—Alone. You keep chasing those elves, and they don’t bite. Here, they don’t even want humans around, and you are just going to fade away—”

“—Sounds great! Don’t need the attachments. Don’t care.”

“You realize,” Beepu started, rubbing his eyes, “Assuming that you share your fortune with us all equally, that I will likely outlive it, and still will need more funds for my research. So, your comforts do not really apply to me.”

“Ah…well…I’m sure we can come up with…something, Beepu.”

“Plus, you still owe me a debt for getting you out of jail,” Beepu pointed his finger at Iesa.

“You still holding that over me? I think I can pay that now.”

“Myr?” Daneath turned to me as I sat there listening. “You don’t want to stay here right?”

I sighed, stood up, and walked a couple of steps with my arms crossed towards a window overlooking the forest. I looked outside as I considered how to answer that question. The sun was high overhead still, just passing peak. A cool breeze ran through the tops of the trees as I gazed over the sea of verdant green. Finally, I spoke, slowly and with certainty.

“I don’t have the need to find Umbra. I was trying to help Beepu to find Pachook. And while I also can’t live on the money that is being offered—”

“What do you mean—“Iesa started.

“—I’m going to outlive you Iesa. I will barely be in middle age when you pass.”

“Damn…good looks AND long life.”

“Shut up and listen. There are two problems I have with this deal. The first, is that I will not be caged again; no matter how pretty the bars. I don’t expect any of you to understand that really. But I do expect you to understand this; Paradros and the Kershak are not telling us everything.”

Iesa was about to interject and stopped himself. He thought a moment and said, “Alright…go on. What’s the problem?”

“Paradros, just sent Ravalan into a trap. I don’t know what he said to him, but I am pretty sure it was different than what he told us. He practically admitted the plan to us. Then there’s the weapons. The Kershak, wants them so badly, he’ll pay a ridiculous amount of jinx for them. He could have killed either of you in Secomber in the last month to obtain them. Why didn’t he?”

“Why do you think Myr?” Daneath asked now becoming curious.

“I don’t know. But I do know, that the Kershak does know the real value of the bargain. And I think that reason is to take blades away from you and make you vulnerable. We don’t know how they fit in to their plans, but you don’t pay a barmy amount of jinx, unless it is the easiest and safest way to do it.”

“You mean…they are afraid of a sword and a dagger? Really?” Iesa responded, sounding uncertain and unsure.

“For that much jinx, he could commission a new set. So, there must be something else about them we don’t know.”

“Myrai is right,” Beepu spoke up his eyes darting back in forth as he started to think about how to make the weapons they held. “In fact, based on what we know of the pair of blades, it should perhaps take several thousand crowns, and some time to make a pair. That amount offered, 16,000 could craft a far greater set unless—”

“—Unless their true value is higher,” I said. “They have far more information about the weapons. They know far more about us. And they clearly don’t think much about disloyal subjects and their friends.”

“You think it’s a setup,” Iesa stated.

I nodded. “To make us vulnerable in some way. Then it won’t matter how much money we have. We’ll be in the dead book.”

Everyone was quiet, with only the barest sound of the night breeze starting outside. We all looked at each other for a moment and then Daneath started to nod. Next, I could see Beepu looking at the warrior, and he too nodded his approval. We then looked at Iesa and waited.

Iesa didn’t meet our eyes, and I could see him biting his lip thinking. Finally, he sighed and spoke;

“You’re right. So, what do we do?”

“We need protection; and it sounds like, that only King Melandrach can provide that. So, we solve this hobgoblin problem for him.”

“That makes sense to me,” Beepu said. “So, we head to the High Moor and start—”

“—Not yet, Beepu.” I interrupted. “I also don’t like that someone else is going to die, just because they helped us.”

“Ravalan,” Daneath said. “Yeah, we need to warn him.”

“You realize that also could be a trap Myr,” Iesa pointed out. “Paradros just laid it out for us.”

I nodded, “It’s true. So, I guess we can’t be surprised then when someone tries to kill us.”

“I guess not,” Iesa said with a wry grin. “So now what?”

“We leave, today.” I said. “We go find the village, we tell others that we are considering the offer. We know how to get back on our own.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Iesa said. “What do we need then?”

“Beepu and I can grab some supplies,” Daneath and motioned to the gnome “Come on.”

“Why me?” Beepu asked confused.

“Because you know where the best food is.”

Beepu was about to retort, and then thought better of it. He simply took the lead, saying as they left, “You just need a more sensitive nose, because if you…” fading away as they left, leaving Iesa and I alone in the hall.

After a moment Iesa looked at me, “What did you mean by being caged?” he finally asked, looking at me with a look of concern.

“We share something in common,” I said quietly. “We both were…abandoned. We both were poor. But, where you had…a mother, I was trapped in an orphanage.”

“Like the one I gave money to in Yartar? You were lucky.”

I shrug, “Not really. I was…deposited at…the Gatehouse in Sigil.”

“The Gatehouse? The way you said that was a bit…grim?”

“Well…the Gatehouse has several…occupants. The first are the barmy,” I looked at Iesa and realized that he didn’t grasp the word and tried again. “Insane. Dangerously insane people. And then you have just somewhat insane people. They wouldn’t hurt anyone, but they needed help. But they also take in ones that can’t take care of themselves. The infirm, the elderly and the young. So, I was a guest there for nearly seventeen years. I suppose it was better than the workhouses pretending to be orphanages. They would just work kids…to death. The Bleakers that ran the place didn’t do that, but they did expect you to pay back what you owed.”

“What you owed?

I nodded, “Yeah, so from a babe I owed…what seemed to be a lot. They had this little book that they tracked your progress in. And the number would grow as you stayed and ate, and it would shrink just a little from chores. But it always grew it seemed. And if you tried to scamper off without paying…somehow, they’d find you, beat you for stealing, add that to your bill, and you’d go back to work. I was maybe ten years old before I could even start to pay the debt.”

Iesa looked shocked. “I paid good money to the church in Yartar to take care of—”

“—and they probably did just that. And there were other…orphanages that operated that way in the other wards. But not in the Hive. Not the Gatehouse.” I looked down and closed my eyes trying not to think of the forlorn faces of the children who had no hope. How the children would steal what they could from the younger ones to pay their debt. How I was bullied. How Elisna…

“So…how did you pay it down?”

“At first a lot of very dirty work…scrubbing the rust off of manacles, filthy laundry from the occupants’ cells, cleaning out chamber pots from privies. I never did the risky stuff like go to the Prison and clean the pipes or scour beneath Ragpicker’s Square. A lot of kids didn’t come back from those kinds of things. But once I was a bit older…and braver I…escorted drunks home.”

“You were a—”

“—No! No, no,no,no. I wasn’t a jinkskirt! I just put on a cap, tucked my hair up into it and was a light boy. See, Sigil gets dark, and a lot of the lamps on the streets don’t work in the Hive. So, light boy gangs form up around a kid who has a rod that…provides light. The drunks leaving a bar, would pay the boys to lead them home. But I didn’t need a rod that made light. I just created a light all by myself on whatever I could find. Sometimes, I would cast it on a stick and trade it for coins to other light boys. They’d come back every time it went out. But I made better jink just doing it myself and not sharing. Most light boys need a small gang, so they can keep their light rod. I could create light anytime wanted, so I could give it up if someone wanted to take it. So, scrub during the day, sleep a bit, and then go to the Bottle and Jug and help someone home. Every night, for years. And then I was what, sixteen, seventeen? And I paid it off. And I was free of one cage…only to find I was still in one.

“Now you lost me.”

“Sigil has some nicknames. ‘City of Doors’, is the most common. The other is ‘the Cage.’ Sigil isn’t like Waterdeep; there isn’t a front entrance, or any regular entrance at all. The only way in or out are portals, and they need a key. And that was all I dreamed of; a key to somewhere nice, or at least close to a nice place. All I needed was more jink. But…then the war happened, and things got messy, and then I found myself on the ground on a farm outside of Triboar. So, Iesa. I don’t want to live in another cage; not unless I have a way out.”

“Your father must have been desperate then to put you there.”

I chuckle with little humor or warmth, “I guess. But it never made sense to me. Especially since I know was that he was…was…”

Iesa looked at me concerned and stepped next to me. He placed his hands on the sides of my shoulders. “Was…what?”

“A celestial. An angel.” I said choking on a lump in my throat. I looked Iesa in the eyes. “Aasimars are very rare but they appear in family lines. But it starts with the offspring of a celestial and a mortal; a foundling. I’m a foundling; the start of a new aasimar line. It’s why I look the way I look; aasimar foundlings are…strongly marked.”

“Your hair and eyes.”

I nodded. “The descendants in the line, tend to look just like pretty humans. But celestials aren’t like fiends with their tiefling children. They don’t occur randomly, and the start of a line is never abandoned. The idea that an angel is somehow, couldn’t find a better spot for their own daughter was strange.”

“I guess we both want to punch our fathers.”

“I used to. Now? I just have faith that he is looking out for me, and that he did things for a reason. Why did he make it…impossible to find? When I arrived in the Gatehouse the folks that met my father were bound to secrecy on who he was. many celestials contact and guide their descendants. Mine never has.”

As silent as the grave I thought to myself.

“But he left me in a cage. And I will not be trapped that way again. Its why I hated that deal you made with the Crimson Star; I was basically trapped in Yartar. And, I like this deal even less.”

Iesa didn’t say anything but was ever so slightly nodding. Finally, he said, “Well, I can’t say that I have any faith in my father; what his plan is, or what he thinks of me. I put trust…have faith in my comrades.

“Well that’s a good thing,” Beepu said walking into the hall. “Because I had faith my nose would find something to eat.”

Ieas pulled away from me, and I could feel my face flush like I was caught stealing a piece of bread from the kitchen.

“Did we interrupt something?”

Where once my cheeks were warmed, I now could feel them cool as I stammered, “Wha…no..no…we were only—”

“—Discussing matters of—” Iesa cut in.

“—Faith!” I finished.

Beepu and Daneath looked at each other for a moment, and then at us, and back again before both said:

“Right.”

“So,” Daneath continued while gathering his pack and Beepu doing the same, “Beepu found some food but even better, I spoke to a hunter, and he gave me directions to the path that Ravalan took out of Whitepetal.”

“That will be a help,” Iesa said smiling, picking up his own from the floor. “His footprints should stand out from an elf’s.”

“You think you can track him?” I said a little surprised, as I grabbed our gear.

“Oh sure. I have faith…now.” And smiling, he and Daneath started heading outside to Whitepetal’s center, with Beepu and I trailing.

“I didn’t think it was that inspiring,” I said to Beepu as we walked outside.

“People hear what they want to hear, and then hear what was never said. I guess it might depend how close you were on the topic.”

I looked at Beepu a little shocked, “Not that close.”

“Hmm, I guess it might also apply to talking to oneself. Oh…perhaps you should deal with her.” Beepu pointed and trotted towards the brothers down the bridgeway, heading north.

Confused, I turned and walking towards me with a somber expression was Alanathia.

“You are leaving,” she said simply, but her eyes looked at me with questions unsaid.

“Y-y-yes, we…need to speak to Ravalan, and then…most likely be heading into the High Moor.”

She looked at me with surprise, “I was told to make long term accommodations for you.”

“Ah, well, we haven’t…decided yet. We thought we should…take care of the pressing issues we discussed beforehand,” I said trying to sound normal, while also trying to be very guarded and precise on what I was saying, in case we were overheard.

Alanathia didn’t miss the intent it appeared. She glanced around her before pulling me into an embrace; “We wish you all good fortune in your hunt, may Sahanine Moonbow guide you.” But as she pulled me close she whispered quickly.

“Trust is earned, theirs is in peril, and Ravalan’s safety is in danger,” before backing away, smiling. “Safe journey, Surin’Ha-Celas.”

I smiled and bowed my head politely. I turned and walked with a brisk pace to catch the others.

“How did that go?” Iesa said as I caught up with them.

I smiled and spoke softly, “We were right, and we’d better hurry.”

Session Notes:

The argument was one of the more fun roleplaying aspects, on why we were there doing what we wanted to do. There were little reveals here and there, but this is the first time that we had a disagreement on what to do, and watching I and D go at it was fun. I of course, playing the outsider, had a slightly different view, and I didn't need an insight check to know I did not trust the Kershak.

Also, I am not sure I can do justice on how much of a smartass Paradros sounded. I suppose in some parallel future, where this is a an animated series and has full voice over, then I could do it justice.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Brothers in Arms…but not those Brothers - January 8th, 2020

I pride myself in my independence, but I don’t turn away help when I can find it. Usually trust, or the lack of it is the barrier.

But sometimes, the help you find really does come from strange places.



Iesa led us overland through elven paths hidden in the forest. But it was becoming easier for him to follow a path once he knew what to look for. It didn’t hurt that following a Firbolg was easier than following elves.

“Are you sure that’s Ravalan’s?” Daneath asked as he squinted at the dirt. I stood next to Daneath, also looking where our Knight was pointing, and was trying to understand how a divot indicated it was a Firbolg. It wasn’t working.

“I don’t understand the problem; the width is almost twice as wide as the toes of an elven boot—” Iesa was trying to explain.

“—The ball of the foot?” I said, still staring at the dirt.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Iesa waved dismissively at me. “But in the soft dirt—”

“—How do you know a foot even made that?” Daneath asked still not convinced.

“Because the way it’s turned up, with the heel mark a hand and half behind it,” Iesa said, pointing at another area of disturbed earth. “And again, its larger than an elven foot.”

“And what are you using for comparison?” Beepu asked, while chewing on some dried fruit.

“I’m using Myrai’s feet for comparison, so as I—”

“—What?” I said, my head snapping up to look at Iesa, “What about my feet? Have you been following me or something?”

“Yes…when we take breaks and stops, I try to find your prints, because they’re harder to find than Daneath’s with the sabatons he wears.” Iesa spread his hands wide in an apologetic gesture.

“At least that makes some sense,” Daneath said quietly, looking down at the mail plates covering his boots.

“True,” Beepu started smugly. “And I am sure it will take a lot more effort to find my tracks as I am far lighter afoot, and my feet are much smaller.”

“Actually, you’re as easy as Daneath.” Iesa said smiling. “Your boot marks have a distinctive heel and for some reason you stomp and sink deeply in the ground as you walk. But it’s easier to follow the crumbs you drop.”

“Crumbs? I do not drop crumbs!” Beepu said confused.

“Of course not,” I said as I pulled out a kerchief and wipe Beepu’s shocked face of the remains of his snack. Then I promptly flicked a strand at it, instantly cleaning it.

Beepu’s face turned red. “I am not that easy to track!”

“Oh…no, you aren’t,” Iesa said trying to mollify the gnome. “Myrai is just the hardest is all. She tends to step very lightly, similar to the elves, but her foot is just tad narrower than the males’ boots.”

“So, you use my feet to compare everything else to? Not…your feet?” I said a little perturbed at the idea that Iesa has been using my feet as his basis of comparison.

“Well I can’t follow myself,” He explained brushing off the observation. “Anyway, Ravalan has been here, and we seem to be catching up. If we push, we can probably catch him, maybe tonight.”

“We’ll let’s get going,”: Daneath said, and with a flourish, gestured to Iesa to lead the way. Iesa gave a mocking bow, and then moved ahead down the path we all hoped he could see, with Daneath trailing shaking his head.

“I am not easy to track, and I do not eat that much,” Beepu muttered defensively.

“No, it’s just a little bit very frequently, and you like those sweet crackers.” I said.

“Well…the elves do make great crackers,” Beepu acknowledged.

“Trust me, I’d rather that, than the idea that Iesa has been following me around everywhere,” I said wondering where Iesa’s boundaries truly lay.



We had left the forest itself now and were descending into the scrub in the hills. Here there were thorny shrubs, waist height scattered around, and very few trees. The path we were following appeared to enter into a system of gullies. The sun was nearing the horizon and the air beginning to cool. As we started to enter the gully, Iesa stopped, raising his hand up and turning with his finger across his lips.

I stood there and listened. It wasn’t hard, but I could hear a pair of voices. Both were high pitched, nasal and very scratchy. As I listened, I could barely make out the words; it took a moment until I heard one that I knew: Booyagh.

Goblins.

Iesa held out a hand upwards, holding us back. Then he moved forward to investigate, while we waited. After a moment, I pull on the strands and send a message to him.

Iesa, goblins?

--Yeah, good ear. I see a pair of them just…sitting. But no weapons or anything.

Sitting? Like ready to ambush?

--No, that’s just it. They are in the middle of the trail. Not hiding at all.


“A pair of goblins, sitting in the open, without weapons?” I whispered aloud to Daneath and Beepu.

“Bait I bet.” Beepu said with a frown.

“We’re a bad catch then,” Daneath replied his brow knitted as he thought.

I frowned and cast my thoughts back to Iesa:

The others think its bait.

--I would too. But I don’t see anyone else in the rocks or brush. I think we can question them and learn more.”

From a goblin? Well I suppose. Let me prep something but take a good look around. I’ll contact you soon.


I reach into my pouch and finger some soot and salt I had stored there, closed my eyes and started to focus on the strands again. I started whispering the ritual so I could understand their speech. Beepu caught sight of my efforts and I heard him talk to Daneath.

“I think we are going to have a meeting,” Beepu started.

“What? We are going to what…parley with goblins.” Daneath said surprised.

“Appears so. And who taught you that word?”

“What, ‘Parley?’ Probably you.”

“Well alright then…but why are you surprised?”

Daneath shrugged. “I’m not sure there is a point. But I suppose I look imposing enough,” he said pointing out the armor he now wore. Basically, it was a compromise between the hobgoblin mail and his regular set, taking the parts that worked best for him. The net effect was better overall protection at the cost of aesthetics. And Daneath’s motivation were simply that; protection.

I opened my eyes, and cast my thoughts back at Iesa;

Ready, find anything?

--No…they are alone. I’m going a little ahead to block them. But I don’t think they are going to run.

Oh?

--I don’t think they are from around here. Sneak on up.


“Follow me, we are going to catch them on the trail,” I said, moving towards the direction Iesa went.

“You really want to talk to them?” Beepu said looking at me carefully. “I thought you would have wanted to nail their heads to the wall Myr.”

It was true. A day or two ago…or ten or twelve as it turned out, I would have done exactly that. But Iesa’s curiosity had raised my own. “I’ll settle for the Prophesied One’s for now.”

“Let’s make them squeak,” Daneath said, and we headed to the voices.

We made our way cautiously, in case Iesa had erred on the pair being bait. Somehow, we made little noise and we made our way down. Then the path turned, and we finally saw the goblins.

When I saw them, I could see exactly what Iesa meant. The pair were seated on rocks, arguing with each other. Glancing over them, they were typical goblins, yellow skinned, with dark eyes and greasy black shoulder length hair, faces smeared with dirt, their hands ending in thick, rough and cracked pointed nails. But they weren’t dressed like the other goblins that we had seen. First, they were dressed in cloth and linens, and not rough boiled leather. Both of their clothes were streaked in dirt and sweat and had not been cleaned in some time. The second both wore shoes, with the toe section was cut out so their long toenails could extend over the soles. The worg riders and other goblins, barely had leather wrappings by comparison. Finally, in their hands, they each held a brimless hat, either of which would have given themselves an extra head in height, if they were wearing them. As I looked at them and the way they dressed, and thought how it made them look like dirty, ugly, wayward twin children.

But they sat there, angrily arguing with each other, oblivious to our approach. We didn’t even have to sneak, they were so absorbed that I was within a sword’s length of them, when Iesa emerged from the brush.

Neither turned their heads at Iesa’s grand reveal, which took him aback. Frowning a moment, he waited and then looked at me, to which the only thing I did in response was shrug. Finally, Iesa cleared his throat to get their attention.

The goblin on my left turned his head to look at him and I could tell by his frantic head turning between his friend and Iesa, that we weren’t expected. His partner did the complete reverse, looking up at me and then looking at his partner. Both then tried to shake his partner and pointed in to each other’s visible concern, while continue to stare. Finally, each turned their head, to look at either Iesa or I and realized that we blocked their way. Then sighing, both just stood up and raised their hands.

This was certainly was not what I expected, and I found it a little challenging to maintain the façade of a dangerous adventurer. They weren’t exactly the bloody screaming threat of the goblins that had attacked us before. But that then begged the questions that Iesa asked next:

“Who are you and what are you doing here?”

The one on the left straightened up and said “Drik” and pointed to his partner and said “Drok.” The one on the right, did the exact thing at the same time, in reverse, pointing to himself as “Drok” and his partner “Drik.” Then the one named Drik continued. “Told to go to cave and find stuff to dig up, but—”

“—Attacked by big one! Very mean—” Interrupted Drok.

“—I talking here! Dropped tools n things and ran—” Drik continued.

“—Here. Now wait for lashing.” Drok lamented.

As I listened, I knew something was familiar in how they spoke. But Iesa continued.

“Lashing? Who is going to give you a lashing?”

Drok rolled his eyes, “Lasher Reetog. He lash—”

“—Ruin shirts.” Drik said unhappily.

“Might ruin hat!” Drok nodded in agreement. “But better than lose head.”

“Would rather go home.” Drik said sadly and Drok continued to nod.

“Home?” Daneath now addressed the pair, “In the High Moor?”

“That new home, since Lasher found us,” Drok said looking at the warrior. “We from Skullport. Hired to deliver message to Secomber bar—”

“—Lasher found us. We became part of host,” finished Drik.

“Skullport? The Skullport under Waterdeep?” Iesa asked excitedly.

“That’s it;” I said as I realized what I had been missing. “The accent is from Waterdeep. All the others sounded different.”

Daneath looked at the pair a moment and then asked his own question. “Do you know where the Prophesied One is?”

The two goblins looked at each other their eyes widening. They then started to look around them, as if looking for a way to escape before responding.

“We…know…how to find camp—” started Drok;

“—Rather go home.” Drik finished.

“Well, if the lasher, or any lasher found you, you wouldn’t be able to go home right?” Iesa asked, I could see ideas running through his head.

“Yes,” both goblins answered warily.

“Then, we help you, you help us!” Iesa exclaimed smiling. “We get your tools back, and you help us find the Prophesied One. Once we find them, you will be able to return to Skullport easily, and no ‘lasher’ will bother you.”

The goblins looked at Iesa with squinted eyes, as their small minds thought about the deal.

“What?” Beepu exclaimed, his eyes open in shock. “We aren’t seriously going to make them guides?”

“Why not?” Daneath asked. “If they know the way, that will save you time.”

Beepu’s face contorted as he faced that logic head on, clearly having misgivings at the idea. “Ah…well…speed isn’t everything—”

“—Not the way you have gone on about it,” Iesa pointed out.

“Not sure you want—” Drik started.

“—To meet the one. Not sure you—” Drok continued.

“—Strong enough,” Drik completed.

I came over and knelt by the pair. The looked at me in both doubt and fear. “See, we do have some experience in these matters. Look at his armor.” I said, and I pointed to Daneath’s pauldrons.

The goblins both cocked their heads and looked. Then the both looked at each other and spoke excitedly. “These ones lasher look for—" Drok started.

“-- Ones the lasher told all to kill.”

I turned to Daneath with a smile and wink, “I don’t think you can kill Big D that easily.”

“Myr, don’t start---”

The goblins eyes lit up with excitement then. “Big D? We know of D. Deal deal deal!” They both said and without pausing.

“This is not a good idea,” Beepu his arms crossed in front of him. I noticed that he was standing on his toes to make sure he had a little more height than the pair. If they noticed, they didn’t make a sign as they excitedly look at each of us expectedly.

“It’ll work out Beepu,” I said reassuringly. “Besides they can help the brothers on second watch and help them see in the dark.”




“Another dark cave,” Iesa said glumly. “I knew there was a downside to this.”

“Drik and Drok will be a help,” I said patting the man on the shoulder.

“Well…sure, but that doesn’t help me see in the dark,” he said as he looked at the wide cave mouth. It was wedged at the end of the gully and seemed to be completely natural. The peak day sun did nothing to light up the entrance or mollify Iesa. Having played a ‘Game of You’ with other Sesates while blinded, I understood the trepidation.

“Well, you aren’t going to be blind after all,” and once again I placed a warm glow of light from the strand on Daneath’s shield. I then heard whispers in goblin behind me;

“Magic?”

“Magic/sorcerer. Wings strange.”

“Strange. Not human?

“Not human. Other?

“Other.”


The prior magic I had used to understand other languages I kept the strands coiling over and over. It was odd to hear the words, and then their meaning. Booyahg meant magic, but Booyahg three times meant sorcerer. But I decided not to engage them in conversation about this; I wanted this ability to be a secret until we knew if we could really trust them.

I know I wanted to. I knew the stories of goblin hosts, all under the banner of Maglubiyet. The power had subjugated many others before him, and supposedly rule the rest with an iron fist. That legions roamed many of the worlds, and after the soldiers died…they became petitioners to fight on forever in the plane of Acheron; warring forever. But I didn’t realize that it might not be voluntary. Was their fate tied so much to a power’s whim? Could their belief in another break the chains that held them? I really wanted to help them out if possible; to have the choice. I just didn’t want to die in the process.

We enter the cave. The passages twisted to our right, separated by stalagmites and stalactites long since merged into curtain like walls. Daneath’s light shown ahead, as the warrior turned his shield to and thro.

“So Drik, what scared you and Drok that you left your gear?”

“Not scare me, scared Drok,” said Drik.

“Not true! Scared Drik!” countered Drok.

“Wonderful, stupid blortch,” muttered Beepu not quietly at all, causing the pair of goblins to glare at the gnome.

“Rude,” spat Drik.

Drok ignored the racial slur and continued to speak to Daneath, “It large and had many weapons.”

Daneath looked at the pair and frowned, “Many weapons? Like more than two?”

“Um yes?” Drok replied uncertainly. He then spoke to his brother in goblin.

Is many more than two?”

“Many more.”

“How many?”

“three?”


“Three,” Drik said with a bit more confidence.

“How high can you two count?” I asked.

“Two.” “Three.” The goblins replied.

“Fantastic,” Iesa said resigned.

Soon the passages rejoined into a chamber perhaps seven paces square with a tunnel that continued deeper to our left. Following the tunnel, it too opened into a larger gallery, separated by more curtains of stalagmites, creating separate pathways through the large chamber. As we followed one of the paths, we entered a clear area near the center of the roughly rectangular chamber. The walls were slick with water, streaking the rock formations grey, with mixtures of white, brown and russet banded the walls and columns. But in the middle of the smooth center, we saw a pair of packs and scattered curved metal swords, crossbows, and tools. But the packs seemed to be torn apart, and the metal works were embedded into the rock, as if cast in place into plaster.

The Goblins wasted no time and bounded forth. They grabbed the pommels of the swords, and with all their might started to free the weapons from the rock with loud snapping and cracking noises. As they worked, Iesa knelt to look at the tools sunken into the stone.

“I don’t understand how they became part of the rock,” Iesa said, turn his head around looking for answers. “What did this?” he said pointing at the pile.

Drik scrunched his nose and said, “Thing with shiny armor and weapons.”

“Many weapons,” Drok corrected who was picking through the ruined packs and placing choice items into their pockets. I noticed that neither were interested in the mining tools left on the ground.

“Neither of you are miners?” I asked the pair.

“No,” said Drik.

“Make hats,” Drok said with a smile, pointing to the rust colored, brimless hat on his head.

“So…why did your boss, er lasher send you here with digging tools.”

Drik shrugged, “Said we now miners. Lasher not listen to us,”

“Lasher not bright,” agreed Drok.

It was at this point I noticed a motion out of the corner of my eye. As I turned my eyes burned as a flare of a bright scintillating light exploded in front of me. Colors swam in front of my eyes, and my vision was spoiled. I could barely see, and shadows played across the floor and roof of the chamber. Turning my head and shielding my eyes with my hands, I could see that Beepu was doing much the same I as was. But the rest were covering their eyes with their hands, staggering blindly.

“What the?” Iesa shouted in pain, and as he did so, I could hear the swishing of many somethings through the air. Turning to look, while shielded my eyes with my hand, I could see flails. The weapons were being swung haphazardly in front of a dark mass highlighted by the dazzling light. It moved with plodding slowness towards the warrior, each of the flails swinging closer and closer.

“D! Get your shield up!” I yelled, prompting the warrior responded by doing just that, trying to put the metal barrier in front of him, just in time to deflect a ball from crushing his head. And then another, and then another. Daneath’s shield was pounded downward with each blow that he couldn’t see, until finally two more flails reached over the barrier Daneath held in front of him, smashing and pushing him down almost to his knees. Behind him, Iesa stood, trying to clear his head from the sensory overload.

“That’s five weapons,” Daneath roared after suffering the blows.

“Yes! Two! Three!” the goblins said gleefully, and even though they could barely see, swung at the amorphous shape, silhouetted by the light, and then backed away before a flail could find either of them.

“This is not acceptable!” Beepu focused and sent a bolt of flame toward the shape. His confident face faltered, as the bolt came streaking back and striking himself in the chest. The smell of singed hair and cloth now hung in the air as Beepu coughed in surprise, unable to speak.

I gritted my teeth and quickly plucked the strand and threw a pair of bolts. I appeared to have better aim or luck, as both struck the dark form, the thing quivered with it making a strange rasping sound.

The light started to dim, leaving Daneath’s shield as the only beacon of light in the room, and I could finally see what our foe was. A giant snail, its tan hide, shimmering with a rainbow sheen. On its head were five flail shaped tentacles, each whirling the air, waiting for the moment to bring them down on their foe. On the snail’s back was a large shimmering shell of pearlescent whites and blue tones, the light within fading. It moved its ponderous bulk slowly and I watched as they swung and battered Daneath again, with three landing solid blows on the warrior.

Iesa now had cleared his eyes of the dazzling display. Watching Daneath swing and miss, he took the opening it created and lunged striking the creature, and causing a pair of the tentacles to slump, and hang limply on the side of the snail. He then backed away, feinting and avoiding any serious blow from hitting him.

Drik and Drok, simply moved away, dragging the remains of their packs behind them. From them, I saw them drop to the ground, their curved swords, and empty out their packs, grabbing and awkwardly trying to cock the machinery, while stumbling around looking for quarrels to load them with.

Beepu on the other hand was angry, his face purple as he tried again, throwing more fire onto the snail. This time the bolt struck the creature in its midsection, with a wet sounding ‘thud,” but I wasn’t sure it had any effect as the moistened skin showed no signs of scorching or burns. Overhead the snail, Foggle was in the thick of the fight, making hooting sounds, and flying between the flails.

“Drat!” Beepu shouted “The stupid blorch are in the way.”

“I don’t think,” as I pulled again on the strands and threw another pair of bolts at the flailing snail. “that’s the problem! I don’t think fire hurts the thing.”

--Hey boss…you might need to cover your eyes

Wha—?


Another blinding light erupted from our left flank. I barely had time to cover my eyes with my shield arm from the flash, and I heard the brothers both grunt in pain.

“Sodding Baator, another one,” I yelled.

“Hadn’t noticed,” Iesa retorted, again trying blink through tears and struggling to stay balanced in the swirling light.

“What?” Daneath, blinded and staggering himself, “How many more weapons?

“Two”,”Three,” Drik and Drok each shouted, each firing a bolt at the first assailant, and both finding their mark, and sinking deep into the flesh of the snail.

“Learn to count damn it! So, five…ten. Ten now is what you are saying?”

“No!” I threw more bolts at the first one, and one struck home, while the other careened back at me, which my shield blocked. “Eight…no seven!”

Daneath shook his head, as the light from the second snail dimmed. He twisted and charged at it, hoping to keep it from joining its peer, and creating a whirling wall of flails. But as he moved, the first snail, appeared to swing and stretch its tentacle wide, slamming into Daneath’s exposed right side. I could hear the crack of bone over the dull metal crunching sound, and Daneath tripped and fell, sprawling on to the ground, where he now laid motionless.

“Myr! I’m going to need help here!” Iesa shouted as he started to position himself to strike, waiting for the right chance.

I swallowed, looked at each of the snails and Daneath and moved. I ran towards the first snail, while snapping a white strand and tossing its energy at Daneath, while focusing and pulling on the dark strand to grip it in around the first as I ran towards it. The skeletal hand gripped it tearing away parts of its life. But I didn’t stop; I hefted my shield up and and braced myself for the onslaught.

Two flails slammed down onto the wood and brass that bound my shield together. But the blows seemed ill-coordinated, like the snail was off balance somehow. Peeking around my shield to see, I saw the flash of Iesa’s rapier as he thrust into the body of the snail. Ichor spurt forth drenching my and shield and I in a foul and tacky liquid. I saw Iesa pull his blade away, and watched as the snail started to quiver, and it rapidly pulled itself into its shell. Then started a low sound, a hum just on the edge of hearing. But it soon grew in pitch and volume, until its wail filled and echoed throughout the caverns.

From my right, I saw Beepu whisper an enchantment, and three bolts of light erupted from his fingers. They streaked and struck the creature with flashes of light and sparks. Then over the wailing I heard the snapping of quarrels. But neither found their mark as they bounced off of the scintillating shell of the remaining snail. Turning Iesa and I closed with the creature. But before either of us could strike, we heard a yell and Daneath charged into the web of flails.

As he approached, the five quickly rained down blows onto Daneath. This time he was prepared, and his sword swung parrying the blows, and striking with a riposte, cutting deeply into the soft body of the snail. I could see him focus and I watched him slash two more times. More ichor spurt from the wounds and two of the flails drooped and hung limply from the head of the snail. I then heard the goblins swear, as two more quarrels skittered across the floor, missing their target.

Iesa moved and slashed with the tip of his blade, leaving a deep wound in the flesh of the snail, dripping green ichor down to the floor, and then quickly moved away from any retaliation. I again focused and wrested away more life from it, as the skeletal hand clutched the snail. But it was Beepu who once again with more bolts of life, striking the creature. It, like the first, pulled itself into its shell and now we had another death wail in the cavern. While not deafening, the noise reverberated throughout the stone, echoing painfully around us.

I looked around; and beyond the dust that was being kicked up from the noise, nothing moved. No other snails threatened us. Looking around. I saw that there was a passage that was leading deeper into the cavern. With the snails wailing on, we moved forward. Moving cautiously, we started down it, looking for more assailants.

The wailing continued, and we had barely stepped three paces, when I smelled something. It was a moist earth smell that made my nose tingle. Soon my whole head was buzzing, and I felt light headed. TI shook my head trying to clear it, when I felt…something else; a presence. And then I heard in my head a thought that wasn’t my own or Gossamer’s.

You have slain our gardeners! Why should we not turn your meat bodies into loam for our brethren?

Session notes:

So, enter the goblins, and needless to say they were a large thorn in the dm’s own side. I think he really expected something more violent to happen to the pair. Needless to say, he was very wrong.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
In the Mouth of Darkness - 1/18/2020

As a Sensate I enjoy new experiences; new people, new customs, new secrets, new places, new…anything.

So, should I be surprised, that for others, that I am the experience? And what does it say when people, who have barely met me are afraid of what they find?

And does that mean I should also be afraid?



I shook my head, attempting to clear it. I wasn’t sure if I heard what I did, or if my mind was playing tricks on me. The confirmation that it wasn’t my imagination only put me more on edge:

--Myr? ‘Meat bodies into loam?’ What does that even mean?

Wait, So you heard it too?

--Not really…more like in my head…like you…but not you.

**Hold it…who is that in my head?

##Your head? This does not make any sense. Why are you in my thoughts.

Beepu? Iesa? How are you in my mind?

$$Master; this is all very strange. Why are there other voices?

==What the? I’m not listening to this right? You’re talking to me in my head?

%Not make sense.

%%No sense.

%You stop copy me!

%%No copy me!


I looked at the others around me, and I realized we were all silently looking at each other in confusion; the goblins, Iesa, Danneath, Beepu, Gossamer and even Foggle. We were talking like how Gossamer and I talked to each other. Our thoughts were colliding with each other faster and faster. And I was still trying to figure out how we were doing this at all.

$$Master I--

--'Master?’ Really? Such formality?

##Foggle is being respectful…wait who is this?

--Clearly I’m Iesa.

**What, I’m Iesa! Who is that?

==I am listeni—

%-Stop too mu—

%%-Noise. Can’t thi—

Gossamer stop that! Don’t confuse—

**Gossamer? I’m hearing Gossamer now!?

##We are hearing everyone, including the familiars.

&& Let me go back to sleep dad.

##Who is that!?

==It’s got to be Mo.

**I can talk to Mo!?

More like think to him.

%What is—

%%--a Mo?

Alright alright…one at a ti--

## --We should take turns. I suggest raising our—

**We need to organi—

==Alright quiet--

%Shut—

%%-up!


Are you meat beings done babbling?

The last voice boomed in our heads, like a loud echo in the cave if we were speaking instead of thinking. Looking around again, I saw that the passage that we were following, opened into another cave, but at that entrance I saw a pair of figures, perhaps my height at the entrance, each holding spears, pointed in our direction. Beyond them was even larger figure, standing with arms crossed, and it looked like it was watching us intently.

I waved my arms to get all the others attention, and put my finger to my lips, and then pointed toward the darkness. As each of them turned, they too saw the figures and reacted. Iesa prepared his rapier, the goblins loaded crossbows, while Daneath put himself between us and them. The light from his shield illuminating them for all the group.

The spearmen weren’t goblin, or any other humanoid that I was familiar with. Their skin was a mixture of earthtones and dark greens. Their bodies were slim, and had no definition for shoulders or hips, despite being humanoid shape. In fact, it wasn’t even clear where their head started as there wasn’t a defined neck either. Their eyes appeared as simple slits at the top of their form, just below a leathery broad hat, which seemed to be lined with thin strips of papers radiating from the ‘head’ to the edge of the hat. The only thing that made immediate sense was that they had no visible mouth at all. To me that explained why they were shouting in our heads, but I wasn’t clear on what magic would allow for this to extend to us.

The pair at the end of the passage were perhaps my own height, but the one beyond them, was far taller and broader. Somehow, I felt it was this one that was communicating with us, as it actively twisted to-and-fro as we…conversed. It also didn’t seem to have an obvious weapon in hand. Whatever it was, it projected both calm and confidence as we continued.

Daneath at this point actually spoke aloud and barked “Quiet!” in that commanding tone he would use in battle. The rest of our minds took a moment to quiet down. Daneath took a moment and stepped slightly forward.

==Alright, we apologize. This is new to some of us.

--Most of these idi--

Gos! Keep that to yourself


Daneath simply turned and glared at me and Gossamer who flitted nearby. I only could mouth the word ‘sorry’ in response. Shaking his head, he turned back to face the leader of the strange beings.

==Again, apologies. Now that we are…are…conversing, you spoke of gardeners?

The ones that you have slain. The ones with the shells.

==Ah…I see. We were…were—

Ignorant.

==Yes…thanks Myr, ignorant that they belonged to any—


They did not belong to us. They were encouraged to clean the place of vermin.

==Right. Well, we only came here to help Drik and Drok—

%Me!

%%Me!

==Quiet! Get their things.


Of no concern of ours. You have done damage. You must correct.

==Of course, well. Sure.

**Wait!


Iesa stepped forward, putting his hand on Daneath and stepping in front of him. I watched him scrunch his face a moment as he was trying to put his thoughts together.

**Our friends Drik—

##Oh! They are friends no—

%We—

%%--Friends?


“Shhhhh” I said aloud, glaring at Beepu and the goblins, who both covered their mouth in surprise. Beepu however had a look of annoyance and fuming as he glared at the pair. I then waved at Iesa to continue.

**Anyway, they have others that sent them here to mine.

Others?

**Yeah…goblins and hobgoblins many of them.

Then you must eliminate them. Do this and we will take no more interest you. Then you must leave.

**Sure! We can do that!

I think everyone looked at Iesa with an expression of horror, shock, surprise, or a combination. He in response looked at us with a wounded expression and thought back.

**What?

Daneath grabbed his brother and started hauling him back towards the entrance of the cave, grumbling as the rest of us followed.

**I don’t see the big dea—

“Stop that!” Daneath hissed. “That whole thing gave me a headache. Speak! Don’t Think. Or…think to yourself and don’t speak…argh. Just stop volunteering us for things like this! This is worse than that Ettin!”

Closing my eyes for a moment I took a deep breath, and then asked “Drik, Drok, how many goblins were with your lasher?”

%Girl one talk to us

%%What should we—

%Should answer—


“Aloud!” I said sharply. That got their attention as they both looked at me with guilty expressions.

“Er…more than three,” said Drik

“More than two,” said Drok at the same time.

“Right…more than five,” I said. “So where do we do this?”

“Outside the cave,” Daneath said rubbing his chin. “We can duck inside for cover if needed, and the entrance way will be narrow enough to prevent us from getting overrun.”

**That work—

“Works for me…sorry. That thinking stuff…I want to talk to Mo now. He called me dad!”

“Can we worry about the lasher’s crew first?” Daneath asked his brother, his patience already fraying. Iesa looked at him sheepishly, and we continued our way to the cave entrance.

The light was slightly dimmer, from the front of the cave, but as we approached it, we all heard noises coming from the outside. Putting a finger to his lips Iesa started to quietly creep up to the mouth to take a look outside.

==You know, you could just have told us here to be quiet.

**Wait…they can’t hear us?

They might hear us, but they can’t hear your thoughts Iesa.

%I know that.

%%Same.

&&Quiet dad, making noise in head. Can’t sleep.

$$Master can we make the others silent. Is confusing.

--It! It is confusing. Use your pronouns.

##Don’t you lecture Foggle, you feathery hairball!

ALRIGHT ENOUGH! KEEP YOUR THOUGHTS TO YOURSELF!


Gossamer was enough thoughts in my head to keep track of, let alone any other issues I had bouncing in my head. Fortunately, we were interrupted.

“So, our gatherers found helpers,” rough sneering voice rang out into the cave. “That’s fine; more labor is always needed.”

I moved up behind Iesa and looked around him. There in the gully leading to the cave were a mixed group of goblins and hobgoblins. A large burly one in boiled leather and a shield, and an axe on a shoulder was the one calling out to us. His grin, full of chipped teeth and a scar from lip to eye had all the warmth of the depths of Cania. The others were milling about, not really committed into a proper battle line, but all were armed with axes, swords or maces.

By my leg I felt shivering, and I looked down to see Drik…or it could have been Drok, using it for cover as he looked around at the pack outside. He clearly wasn’t eager to rejoin the warband.

“Is that the lasher?” I asked

To my surprise he shook his head, “No. Little lasher. Lasher bigger. Little lasher mean.”

“So, a pack of friends, this is going to be fun,” Daneath said as he peered around me and pulled back. He pulled the straps on his shield tight and readied his sword. “So what? Charge and bait them in?”

“I can put up a fog,” Beepu pointed out.

“No,” Daneath disagreed. “I need to be able to retreat back here.”

“They don’t have worgs,” Iesa noted. “This may be simple. Myr can you do anything.”

“Well, I can make their ears bleed.” I said starting to pull the strands together. “Just don’t go in the middle of them.”

“Ok, we run out hit some, and drag them back after Myr hurts them. Beepu, as they chase us hit them with that ice spell.”

“Yes. Yes, that is a good idea.” Beepu said, pulling out his skin, and pouring a bit of water into his hand. “I am ready.”

“Let’s go!” Daneath said, and Iesa and he bounded out of the cave shouting. The pack was not expecting this, and they scrambled, puling themselves into a tight group, ready to repel the sudden charge.

Pulling a piece of mica into my hand, I then mentally twisted the strands together, and started to pull on them. I focused in the middle of that pack and then pulled hard until the strands snapped apart.

The thunderous explosion of noise echoed in the gully as the strand’s resonance created a high-pitched ringing sound. I felt a rush and smiled as I watched the goblins all put their hands to their ears, many of them coughing up blood. Then I watched ten of them fall over onto the ground, lifeless. My heart quickened with excitement as I watched this, and was surprised that only a pair of hobgoblins were still standing.

Daneath charged into one of the pair and quickly brought him down with two quick slashes, disemboweling his opponent. The other one, who was more to the rear of the pack, started running back the direction they came. But Iesa chased after them, rapidly closing. Both scampered around a corner and were out of sight before we could say anything.

“Well…I guess I will save this spell for later,” Beepu said almost disappointed. “Not much point casting it at corpses.”

“I guess not,” I said, as looked at the pile of bodies in the gully. Drik and Drok then came around me and looked at the corpses and then turned to look at me with wide eyed awe.

“Girl, Booyahg.” Drik said with awe.

“Killer Booyahg,” nodded Drok looking at me with awe and fear.

I was still marveling at the sudden collapse of the hobgoblins. I had thought I would have injured them, not outright killed the majority of them. I was grinning at the swath of death that I had laid down on their heads and was just beginning to question why I was so happy with this, when we heard noises from the other side of the gully.

Looking down the path, I saw Iesa sprinting back towards the cave. Then Daneath turned and started his own run to the cave. Rounding the bend were another pack of about a dozen hobgoblins; but this band was wearing heavier armor of iron bands, not leather.

“Get in the back of the cave!” I shouted. Beepu, the goblins and our familiars all snapped to attention and started retreating.

“I am watching you!”

“You just want hat.”

“You want both hats.”

“That is NOT what…” I heard Beepu’s voice trail off into the depths. I started pulling on the dark strands and waited. First Daneath ran by me in a huff. I could hear him pant, “In the back, in the back,” as he clamored in his heavy mail.

Iesa was only barely in front of the pack, who were sprinting as well. Iesa had a slight lead and was gaining, but he also was busy dodging a hand axe being tossed at him as he ran. His eyes were wide in terror and he passed me at the entrance. As he did so, I started to cast and pulled on a single dark strand. I pulled it at it faster and faster, and focused winding it around a greenie I held in my hand. I backed up some steps and I watched Iesa run out of sight towards the back of the cave. Once I saw that, I pulled the strand taught around the coin and released the weave.

To me, everything became brighter, and the shadows melted away. But I knew that for anyone else near that coin, there was now an area of impenetrable darkness, even for the hobgoblins. I ran into the cave and dropped the coin next to stalagmite, all the while keeping the strand intact, allowing the darkness to hold.

##Myrai? Does this still work? I cannot see you, the light to the cave just…

I know. I made it dark. They can’t see. But I can tell you when they get close the edge.

==So, they can’t see the light on the shield?

No. Just don’t enter the darkness with the shield, or you will lose it.


I pressed myself against the wall and focused. While I couldn’t be seen, I still could be found. My heart was pounding even as I saw the first four enter the cave. I could see their frustrated ugly faces as they realized they could not see. But they were smart. They stood abreast, moving slowly, letting a shoulder or a shield touch and drag along a wall. And I could see them turn their heads, listening. For me, or any other opponent that would try to take them unawares.

They moved slowly, and then another four entered the cave mouth. They started to do the same thing. I tried to keep my breathing still, as I watched them. It was clear they had dealt in cases where they couldn’t see. They stayed with other, they used the walls, and they moved slowly. I turned to look, and the first set was three paces away from leaving, just as a third set of four entered the cave. I pressed myself against a wall on the left out of reach of any of them, as they threaded through using the right walls as a guide.

The are about to leave the dark, on your left-hand side. Get ready.

##Daneath is ready. Ouch that pepper is hot. Just exhale when you see something appear D.

==Fine. Don’t call me D.

%%D!

%Big D!

==Shut up!


I watched as one of the hobgoblins, stepped forward, leading with this sword. I could see light reflect off the tip as it left the darkness, and then I watched as Daneath puffed up his chest and blew. From his mouth a gout of frost emerged, and I watched three of the hobgoblins winced in pain, and a pair fell on the ground motionless. The other two charged out, only for one to find himself at the end of Iesa’s rapier, and the other was pierced by a pair of quarrels. Both fell over in quick succession.

The others paused a moment, trying to determine what had happened. They barked some words that I wasn’t familiar with, and the spell I had for translations didn’t translate either. It must have been some type of battle language or code. But as the next group got closer, I focused on the last one. They were near where I left the coin, and so I focused and with a dark strand, formed a pair of skeletal hands to grip and tear at the hobgoblins. The pair screamed, twisting to try to see what was draining away their life. But they quickly collapsed to the ground, unmoving.

The second four ran into the bodies of the first and charged forward, only to walk again into the frosty breath of Daneath. But this time, the blast was weaker than the first and they broke through swinging at Daneath. But neither attack was effective, being easily deflected by Daneath’s shield.

This left them open to Beepu, who finally used the drops of water in his hand and threw a shard of razor-sharp ice at one, which exploded, killing him and one of his peers. The other died to Iesa’s blade and another pair of quarrels from the goblins.

The remaining two stopped. They stood there listening. All they had heard were twangs of crossbows, whistling of blades, and the groans and gasps of their comrades as their armored bodies slumped to the ground. I could see their faces change from brave to fearful, as their eyes darted back and forth vainly trying to see their foes. Or their fate.

To which I quickly answered for them, as I flexed the dark strands again, and watched as they helplessly fought the skeletal hands, gripping at them. I stepped forward, to reclaim my greenie on the ground; the center of the black place they found themselves.

“Death comes to everyone; and today it is your turn,” I said. Their faces in fear reminded me of elves in Whitepetal; fear of the unknown coming to claim their soul. But I was more than happy to take theirs in recompence for what they had done. I was feeling euphoria as I felt their life falter and then leave their bodies. I felt powerful. I felt righteous. Then the moment passed. I waived off the strand holding th darkness there, and once again the shadows cast by Daneath’s shield played over the bodies of the slain. The others, having their vision restored, now could see the full accounting of the damage done to the hobgoblins. I watched the others look at each other with disbelief and then with smiles as they realized that we had actually one against over twenty hobgoblins.

But it was Drik and Drok that I most interested in. They looked at the hobgoblin bodies fearfully at first. As if they expected to be punished by another pack they hadn’t seen or expected if the bodies would jump up and punish them from the grave. But none these things happened. And they looked at all of us and nodded with approval.

“Drik, Drok, Are there any others?” I asked, snapping them out of their shock.

“Nnnno. That is all them. All two / three” Drok answered, with Drik chiming in on the count.

“And the Lasher?”

“Lasher dead there,” Drik pointed to one of the better armored figures on the ground. “We good.”

Once again, I felt the presence from deeper within the caves in my head.

They are dead. Now go, and do not return.

We stayed quiet a moment, and then Iesa spoke up, “Well, I’m going to search the corpses. We still have a chance to catch Ravalan before nightfall.
The bodies had little useable salvage or money. We dragged them outside and I made short work with burying them in the dirt. I noticed as I sunk the corpses into the earth and covered that the goblins were watching me. I wasn’t sure if it was in fear or in awe. But I noticed that they took pains to keep their distance from me. As a looked closer they were wringing their hands nervously and avoided eye contact with me.

I wondered why that was. It wasn’t that I was a Booyahg, because by that definition so was Beepu. And they certainly didn’t show fear of him at all. In fact, they were intent on harassing him as often as they could. But they were acting more like they were afraid. Afraid of me?

We gathered everyone up and started back on the trail. It wasn’t long before Iesa announced he found Ravalan’s tracks, and we were on our way. But as we walked, I thought about the goblins and their fear. I guess I could understand their fear on one level; I just did personally kill fourteen or sixteen goblins on my own. But, it wasn’t like the others didn’t kill.

As we continued, I then remembered again the euphoria; the almost unbridled pleasure I felt when the magic exploded, and I slew so many of them. The wicked grin I wore for anyone to see. I realized that the others were used to this now, but for Drik and Drok it was new. I had always thought of myself as a street savvy woman that could hold her own when the knives were out. I guess I left a much stronger impression on the pair.

So which image was right? Mine or theirs?
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Internal Conflict - 1/28/2020

A friend once told me, that torment for an immortal is for it to resist its nature. The pain is strong and never ebbs. An immortal cannot change its nature on its own, so the torment is forever.
For a mortal, torment can be caused by the same thing. Except that with great effort, a mortal can change.

But the torment felt is sharper as one comes to grip with the conflict and resolves it by changing, or weathering through it. Some don’t survive, but most do.

But standing on the precipice, undecided on what path take just drags out the pain. Most of us are just too stubborn to realize that.

At first, I wondered if Iesa really knew what he was doing. He was a city urchin at heart, and so his sudden woodsman skills made me a skeptic. But as I watched Iesa and followed his eyes on what he was looking for, my doubts were easing. Certainly, it helped that Ravalan’s feet were bigger than my own. For that matter they were bigger than Daneath, and I was certain Ravalan weighed more. So, every time he knelt to the ground and said an ‘aha,’ it became easier to see that he really was on the right track. So, after a while I let myself drift to the back of the group.

I didn’t feel like talking; in fact there was enough of that going on. It seemed that it was impossible for Beepu and the goblins not to snipe at each other. It went on for miles with no end in sight. So it suited me just fine that I didn’t have to talk. I certainly didn’t want to.

What I did want was clarity. The events from earlier had unsettled me. Granted I worshiped a power of death and judgement. I remembered getting funny looks about that in Sigil. ‘Isn’t death a strange thing to worship?’ they would say. Then I would explain that I didn’t worship death or for death. Instead the reason I worshipped was about those things left behind. Honoring the memories of the deceased. Assuaging the bitter emotions of those left behind. Especially guilt; always a bit of guilt of things said or not said. But the actual act of death wasn’t what I revered. I didn’t sacrifice an animal or a person like other powers demanded. It wasn’t that kind of worship.

So, it was only very recently had I actually killed anyone. It was a gnoll outside of Triboar. Sure, I had hurt people in self defense many times; Sigil could be a rough place, and the Hive the most dangerous place above ground. But there, I had never actually killed anyone. Here on the prime, I had killed dozens of creatures and beings. And I always did feel a bit of remorse, but only well afterwards. It stood in contrast on how different I felt during a fight.

I reveled in the violence. I thirsted for blood. I was enthralled by it. I craved more.

And it disgusted me. It was wrong. Every instinct told me I shouldn’t want this; every teaching said this was a sin. Death wasn’t a casual topic; Kelemvor’s faithful believed in staving off the end to let the cycle complete itself naturally. Accidents and disease were to be avoided or treated. Violence should be avoided because it could lead to a premature end. So what I felt was the complete opposite of what I believed, and what I wanted to uphold. How was I better than a murderous barmy in the Gatehouse? Could I stay in control? Was I even in control to start with?

What it reminded me of, didn’t give me any comfort either. It reminded me of the poor in the Hive that were consumed searching for a temporary escape; be it bub or drugs. I had seen many in that never-ending spiral in the Hive. They might get to the Gatehouse and get a bed and a meal as a respite to their situation. But they would leave to chase their hedonistic escape of choice. A chase that never ended.

The Society of Sensation said that chasing only pleasure wasn’t being a true Sensate and it was to be avoided. The Society already had a bad reputation of being hedonists as it was. First year namers would seek out pleasures first because…well they were fun and felt good. The namers would find or throw parties to experiment and try anything they could. But that’s just it; pleasures are easy to seek out and find. To understand the multiverse you had to experience everything and experience was more than just pleasure. That’s why Erin Montgomery started to test new Sensates. To weed out those who couldn’t control themselves. Many members were sent to the Gilded Hall in Aborea when they lost that control. Some returned, most didn’t. Many others were told they couldn’t join…people like Markel.

Markel was desperate to become someone and the Society of Sensation was his chosen path. He would throw the parties; and many flocked to them; myself included. He was everything I felt I wasn’t; sure of himself, attractive, and popular. I was in love with him, and I was an eager experimenter under his sway. So, when I took the test in the Gilded Hall under the dubious eyes of the factotum, I was fortunate. You could have called it the most excellent example of brinksmanship. I was complemented that I could get so close to the edge and pull back. But the reality was that I almost failed. I don’t know how I managed to pull away; as it took everything I had to do. But at the time I was excited and proud to be able to join, with Markel. But Markel never even got so far to be tested; he was judged unfit beforehand. He didn’t take that very well, and that led to…a lot of pain. For him and for me.

And now, I wondered if the test were different what would have been the outcome? What if the test wasn’t self-restraint against pleasure, but was about violence? Granted the Sensates were worried about the former. For the later you just needed to look at…at…

No. I would not become her. I was nothing like her. She may have been everything to the Doomguard. But she was a plague to Sigil. To the multiverse.

To me.

“I will build a taller hat! A better hat!” Beepu shouted interrupting my thoughts.

“Not a hatter,” Drik said smugly.

“No hatter,” Drok agreed.

I had no idea how long I had been wallowing in my own insecurities. But I felt the air had become much cooler, and sun was now low in the sky. The trail we were following was descending out of the hills, and we were approaching the edge of a bluff, overlooking a narrow valley. The floor was a sea of grass. Patures, and tilled fields, while on the far side was another series of hills. A meandering river wound its way across the valley floor. As we all approached the edge, Iesa pointed out our likely destination.

“Well, look there. A village. And hopefully, Ravalan as well,” Iesa said pointing downwards. The village was not large, a scattering of perhaps six buildings. Two of them were large, perhaps a hall or an inn, with smaller dwellings nearby. They were nestled next to the river, where a simple wooden bridge extended over it. A wagon trail led across the bridge to the west, leading out of the valley, while the eastern leg seemed to be seldom used. Lazy plumes of smoke drifted upwards coming from the chimneys below.

“No sign of trouble,” Daneath said. “But that probably won’t last. We should get down there.”

“And perhaps sit down for a bit. My legs are killing me,” Beepu grumbled. “Your pace is challenging to keep up with.”

“Gnome is whiny,” Drik commented to his peer.

“He should try whining to a lasher. Then he stop,” Drok said looking at Beepu unsympathetically.

“Look, I am tired, and my legs and feet hurt too,” I said, speaking before Beepu unleased whatever biting vitrol that he was about to say. “Let’s get down there, talk to Ravalan and get some rest.”

Beepu turned to me and looked like he was going to tear into me. But he stopped himself and nodded. “Yes. Rest would be good.”

We continued on down the bluff, following a trail that Ravalan had used. It wasn’t long before we were walking across the wooden bridge into the village. Up close it wasn’t much to speak of. The wood was grey from the elements. But it was all in good repair, with shake roofs, and windows of simple glass. Simple and functional. Yet looking at the doorways as we passed, there were signs of pride here and there. Carvings on the door sills, and the doors themselves. On the southern side stood a small chapel, with a blooming rose over a sheaf of grain, carved in oak above the door.

As we moved to the center of town, we could see that there was a large throng of people, and we could hear agitated and excited voices. The throng were gathered in a circle arguing, and I could see in the middle of it, standing head and shoulders above the villagers, was Ravalan.

“Look, if it is true you must, leave. Their numbers are too gre—” Ravalan was saying before being cut off.
“—This is our home. We will not let them take them!”

“It’s not the homes they want, they want you!” Ravalan was trying to explain calmly, but he was forced to shout just to be heard.

“Ravalan! What is going on here?” Daneath yelled and strode into the group. The villagers, surprised by the armored warrior, parted so he could approach the firbolg.

“You? What are you doing here?” Ravalan asked surprised.

“We might ask you the same thing,” I said stepping forward. “Why did you come here?”

“I was told that there was a need for my aid.” Ravalan said taken aback. “But I didn’t expect more hobgoblins. The village has seen worg riders on the outskirts. The hobgoblins have already captured some hunters and families on the outlying farms.”

A man shouted out in response, “They didn’t just take prisoners! They smashed and burned those families homes! But we will not run and surrender our fields.” The man was balding with the sides of his head covered with short brown hair and his face had a thick bushy beard. He stood there, painfully thin and gaunt. But his posture and shoulders showed him to be as resolute as a mountain. Around his neck, carved in wood hung the same symbol that was above the chapel.

“Micah,” Ravalan turned to face the man, “Those were scouts. A larger group is bound to come soon. This evening most likely.”

“Lasher Crusher?” Drik said looking at Drok.

Drok nodded. “Lasher Crusher said to be near. He big lasher. Will pound people who not listen.”

“Lasher Crusher?” Ravalan said puzzled. “Who are these two?”

“Recent rescues,” Iesa said smiling as Drik stood there looking around and as Drok started to pick his nose. “We found them on the way as we searched for you.”

“Searched for me? I don’t understand, and it isn’t important.” Ravalan responded clearly distracted by the debate at hand.

“I don’t know what a ‘Lasher’ is, but we will not leave these fields!” Micah said emphatically. “The Earthmother has promised a good harvest, and we will not forsake her bounty!”

“I have to agree with Ravalan,” Daneath said to Micah. “We already have faced two dozen of the hobgoblins on the way here. But they didn’t have worgs. You aren’t safe here.”

“We will be protected!” Micah said defiantly.

“Micah,” I said gently stepping forward to look the man in the eyes. As he gasped, I continued. “The Earthmother has indeed blessed you, and you should feel proud. But you must lead your flock elsewhere.”

“By the gods…who are—”

“A priest. A different faith. A different calling.” I said slowly. “But your pow-- , um sorry goddess would want you all to live and plant more fields.”

“But we must defend our homes!”

“I don’t know if there will be anything left to call home,” I said calmly but firmly.

“She is right,” Ravalan interjected. “As you said, the other dwellings were destroyed. They won’t leave anything standing, even if you do manage to fight them off.”

“I...I feel we should stay and help defend our…our homes,” Micah said, tears forming in his eyes as he almost choked on the words.

“Listen, I believe that the Earthmother once said; ‘Like a seed on the wind, you can travel where you need and plant the next field.’” I said remembering a passage I had heard was attributed to the power, and Micah looked at me with a pained expression. But finally, he nodded.

“Yes, I…I understand. You are right. But what will you do?” Micah asked looking at me and the rest of my companions.

“These hobgoblins are going to be sent for judgement,” I said calmly with quiet determination. “Lord Kelemvor takes a dim view of beings who wantonly kill those who have not yet lived to the fullness of time. And I’m not keen on slavery. So, I can’t say I can save your homes or the fields. I will say they won’t be following you.”

Micah nodded, “Very well. While I cannot condone revenge, I…I can aid justice. I have some potions that can heal wounds. I will leave them with you so you can dispatch this menace.”

“We thank you,” Iesa said I as I nodded. “Any assistance is welcome.”

“Let’s get everyone moving. You have light and you can make some distance before they arrive,” Daneath said.

“Alright everyone!” Micah raised his voice to the gather villagers. “The Earthmother has given us a sign and some wisdom. We must leave and take root elsewhere. Gather what you must so we can travel tonight!” And with that the villagers started to scatter to the various buildings. Some were gathering horses and wagons. There were many tears in their eyes, but I see the relief in their faces, knowing they did not need face the threat death or slavery. Micah then led Iesa towards the chapel, to retrieve the promised potions.

“Ravalan,” I said turning to the firbolg. “Can we speak to you a moment, privately?”

The firbolg nodded, and we stepped away from the village center, allowing the villagers to continue unimpeded.

“Thank you Myrai for convincing them. I have been trying all day.” Ravalan said with relief in his voice.
“After what has happened in Whitepetal, I’m glad we can provide some relief. But we have a more pressing question. What did Paradros tell you that made you come here?”

Ravalan cocked his head in surprise. He thought a moment and slowly responded “Paradros? Well, he said that he had heard of some sort of sickness in the village, so I came to assist. But as it happened, no one has been ill in some time. I found it odd but…why do you ask?”

I sighed and looked at Ravalan sadly, “Because Paradros told us that he sent you here, intending that you…not survive the hobgoblins’ attack.”

The firbolgs face became grim, “Are you sure? Why would he do such a thing.”

“Because you helped my father, Pachook and Umbra as well,” Beepu said a bit tersely. “Paradros is either in league or is employed by the Kershak, and they apparently do not like people assisting their—”

“—Enemies.” Daneath said simply.

“All I did was guide them through the forest, and he thought to put me in danger because of that?” Ravalan said in disbelief. “That elf was certainly distasteful; I thought it was because of he being a typical sun elf.
Why this effort?”

“Because, it wasn’t all about you.” I said. “He used you as bait, to lure us out of the Misty Forest.” And I gestured to my companions. “But that doesn’t mean you are safe.”

“I see,” he said sadly. “this is indeed dire, and I appreciate the warning. I am willing to stand by you if you need.”

“I thank you, but it might be better if you assist Micah, and get them safely to Secomber.” I answered.

“She’s right,” Daneath agreed. “Those people need your help. We can deal with the hobgoblins and this ‘Prophesized One’ is going to keep us busy for a while. Once we take care of that, we can think about dealing with the Kershak.”

“It seems I am in debt to you again. I am not sure I can do much more for you beyond the message I sent to Melandrach. But I will help these people.”

“Just do that,” I said. “They are going to need all the help they can to restart.”

“I know. Farewell Myrai. I hope you all can end this madness.” The firbolg said. He then strode over to the gathering group of farmers and families gathering by the bridge.

It was sad to see these proud people, forced to abandon their homes. Being transformed from farmers to refugees in a instant, at the cruel whim of the hobgoblins. The simmering hate I had for these marauders was beginning to awaken once again. They were no better than the Doomguard setting a fire in the Hive, just to watch it burn.

As we stood there, Iesa ran back to us from the chapel, holding some glass flasks. He started passing them out to the group and casually asked.

“So…Crusher Lasher?” he looked at the goblins as he handed me a potion. “Let me guess, big and likes to crush things?”

Drik nodded with Drok. Drik was attempting to extract something from his ear, while Drok quietly escavated the contents of his left nostril with a finger. “He big, stupid lasher,” Drik said. “Break things,” Drok continued. “Houses, goblins, humans, many things. Many goblins fear him.”

“And he has a pack of worgs as well it sounds,” Daneath said as he turned around looking at the village buildings.

“Well, the buildings are sturdy, but we can’t really use them defensively.”

“Why is that?” Beepu said surprised. “The doors look stout enough to keep worgs out.”

“Its not the worgs,” Daneath said shaking his head. “It’s the torches. They are likely to set them on fire, flush us out. Plus while mounted they will have a lot of speed and nothing to slow them down.”

I thought a moment and then turned to the goblins and asked, “So, how well can those worgs move while mounted? Can they easily climb, swim or jump?”

Drik and Drok frowned, their brows furrowing. After looking at each other briefly they answered, “Run fine, but not jump. Bad balance. Clumsy.” Drik said, while Drok echoed “Very clumsy,”

“Climb? Getting on top of the buildings just as bad as staying inside Myr,” Daneath started. “And I’m not swimming to get away from Worgs.”

“Why even stay here?” Iesa asked looking around with disbelief. “I mean we said it might not survive, so why defend it.”

“It makes sense to stay here, only if we can put some defenses up. But beyond flamable cover I don’t see a lot of options,” Daneath said.

“Unless you have something in mind. Do you have something in mind?” Beepu asked, looking at me critically.

I smiled, “I do. See what you can do to make the buildings safe for us, and not for them. Beepu, let’s get Gos and Foggle in the air and watching for friends.

“And what exactly are you going to do Myr?” Beepu asked.

“Start digging,” I said smiling, to the confusion of the others.

Session Notes:

I didn't really ever intend Myrai to be the face of the party. That actually was supposed to be someone else that dropped out before the game started. So, talking anyone into anything was never part of the plan. I had cast her as a charismatic introvert. it just worked out that when I did, it somehow worked out.

By comparison, Iesa tried many times, but had neither the stats or the skills. But he did try a lot, which made for an interesting story.

But while Myrai wasn't a genius, she was smart (Int 12,) and had common sense (Wis 14). So she tended to come up with creative solutions to problems; as we will see.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The One Night Stand - 2/3/2020

During a lecture about the Blood War between the Baatezu and the Tanar’ri a question was asked: Why do the Baatezu let the Tanar’ri invade Avernus all the time?

There were a number of answers given, but one did always ring true; whoever can choose the site of the engagement, controls the nature of the battle. If you can move fast, strike hard where you have an advantage. If you have range weapons, find a spot where you can’t be easily attacked. And if you must wait for them to come to you, choose a site where you can force the attackers to make hard choices.

Or better yet, force the attackers to make bad choices.
The sun had just touched the horizon to the west. The sunset was once again painting the sky with warm yellows and oranges. Pity that I couldn’t watch, as I had plan in my mind, and I had no idea how long I had to do it. The others followed me with confusion and curiosity on their faces.

I made my way to the river and followed it down stream, which happened to be northwards. I followed it, until I was past the one of the long buildings of the village. Once there, I stopped and began to concentrate on the earth near the river. Not the bank of it, but about three paces in. I then flexed and pulled out towards me a pile of dirt, two and half paces on each side, and equally as deep. The pile of loose earth rolled and moved towards me like a small landslide. I then did the same just on the other side and pushed the earth the other direction. This left me a five paces wide and almost three paces wide hole, just near the edge of the of river.

I then repeated the process and doubled its width. And twice more doubled it again. And methodically I cut a trench, moving away from the river.

“She’s building a moat?” Iesa said looking at my work, as more and more earth erupted from the ground.

“A trap,” I said, not even turning. “I am going to circle the village with this trench.”

“And then you will flood it at an opportune time,” Beepu said with a smile. “That is a great idea. But will we not be trapped inside?”

“Maybe,” I said. “But the worgs will have only one easy way in or out; the bridge. They won’t be able to run far, and it limits where they would approach from. That is assuming that Drik and Drok are right.”

“We right!” Drik said nodding.

“We not like Crusher Lasher,” Drok quickly added.

“Really no like,” Drik nodded.

“We go make presents,” Drik said with a wicked smile at his brother.

“Present for lasher,” Drik returned the smile and both then scampered off towards the buildings.

“What do they have in mind?” Iesa asked his brother watching their gleeful depature.

“No idea, but I bet we can dampen the roofs with well water,” Daneath said. “Come with us Beepu.”

“What? Why?” The gnome asked surprised.

“Are you going to help Myr dig?”

“I would like to…but that incantation is not one I can u—”

“Well come on then. I doubt that staring is going to help her much.”

“Umm hm” I said, walking slowly. Every count to twelve, I excavated another section of earth. I was in a simple rhythm, move the earth, move the earth, step, repeat. No thoughts; Just pull the strand. Make a corner, keep moving, pass buildings, keep moving, keep casting, no thoughts…

So, I don’t really know how long it took. The sun had set, but the purple rays on the thin clouds still lit the sky. But I finally encircled the village with a three or four pace wide trench. On each side, piles of soft loose earth made for a treacherous foothold, with the piles of dirt form a berm of loose earth on both the inside of the trench, and the outside, with each being about my height. On each end there was just a plug of dirt about two paces wide that prevented the river from flooding the trench.

And while it was just a cantrip, the most basic of magic, I was exhausted. The mind-numbing focus needed was more than I was used to. So, when I stumbled back into the center of town, the others looked at me with concern.

“Myr, you alright?” Iesa started, pulling himself up from the well where he was resting. The others where dripping wet, with a number of buckets laying haphazardly around the trio.

“I’m mentally drained…that your sweat or did you jump in the well for fun?”

“Hah. Hah. Hah,” Beepu said from his position on top of the side of the well. “While you were ‘digging’ we wet the roofs of several of the buildings. Should make fire less of a problem.”

“That sounds good. Where are the dirty pair?”

“Who? Iesa and Drik?” said Daneath laying on the ground with a smile on his face.

“Hey!” Iesa gave his brother a dirty look. “I’m as clean as can be hoped…considering.”

“Not enough to attract an elf I’m sure,” Daneath said lay there still smiling.

“How can you not like elven women?” Iesa said defensively.

“It’s not like I don’t. I just know that I’m not their type.” Daneath said looking at Iesa with a even more bemused expression.

“Well…half elves come from somewhere!”

“And you’re the next filthy human to make them swoon?” he still smiled, looking upwards.

“Well…why not? I’m good looking!”

“Might help if you spoke elvish.”

“If all of you would listen to me and my offers to train y—” Beepu started.

“No!” Daneath and Iesa said at the same time.

“Maybe later,” I said. “So where are the other two?”

“They were working with some wood and nails pulled from the walls,” Iesa said. “Then they started burying
them around the village.”

“Anywhere I should avoid walking?” I said looking around wondering if I could tell if I was about to step into a trap.

“Yeah. Stay away from the entrances from the other buildings but that one,” Iesa pointed at a large long building. “We’re going to rest there.”

“Great,” I said. “I’m going to get some sleep. Wake me when someone breaks something. And Iesa?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re going to need more than a bath if you want to get an elven woman to notice you.”

“Hey! That’s not nice!” Iesa said with a hurt sound in his voice. “It’s not like you have any problem attracting attention.”

“Always the wrong kind,” I said dryly. “But I’ll give you a hint; if you like the way a woman smells, it works the other way too. I’ll make you smell nice later.” And I walked over to the large building they said was safe from whatever Drik and Drok were doing. Walking in the door, I found the pair kneeling on the ground with a sack. In it were an assortment of cups, and other metal objects. I stared at them a moment, and they turned to look at me and shrugged.

“I don’t care. Don’t touch my stuff. Or me,” I said moving inside. The building was a large bunkhouse for ranchers and farm hands, and I spied an empty cot on one wall that looked clean enough. Once I reached it, I quickly collapsed on the straw stuffed mattress, still in my armor and clothes. My head was nestled against a pillow of down and cloth and I felt my eyes drooping.

Gos. Stay on the roof. Wake me whe—

--I know. Get some rest. The evening is likely to be a long one.”


I smiled and let the exhaustion wash over me. I just hoped for a dreamless sleep.

No nightmares.

No Elisna.

No Markel.

No Pentar…

I don’t know if I dreamed and forgot, or if sleep was as formless as I hoped it could be. More often, I awoke with just emotions on the edge of my mind; emotions like sorrow, anger, and guilt.

This time it was fear.

My eyes snapped open and I shivered. But I realized with a shock it my fear wasn’t from a dream, but from the sounds of wood shearing away and ripping apart into splinters. I rolled from the cot onto the floor and looked upwards at the sea of stars above. I then saw a brass colored streak pass overhead, a Foggle was following whatever orders Beepu had given. I then reached out to my own.

GOS!?!

--It was a rock! I’m not sure…another one!


The building shuddered as another rock tore through the roof and sundering the southern wall. Splinters of wood, panels and beams flew around in the air, covering everything nearby with debris from the collapsing roof. I scrambled to my feet and looked around. I could now smell damp smoke and wet wood as I saw some fire sputtering on timbers that had fallen inside. Beepu was extracting himself from timbers and was shaking his head, attempting to clear his senses. We looked at each other for a moment, and we staggered towards the exit.

Outside there was the sound of howls of worgs in the village and the smell of more smoke. One of the outlying buildings was completely engulfed in flames, while two others had small fires on the roofline. Looking around, I saw Daneath silhouetted in the flames, taking a swing and knocking a hobgoblin clean off his mount, and then watched him follow through with a cut on the worgs flank. The worg turned to bite the warrior, and missed cleanly, allowing Daneath an opening and he thrusted deep into the worg’s neck, causing blood to spurt and splash across his shield. The worg started to limp off slowly and Daneath started to give chase when he saw Beepu and I.

“Thank the gods you’re alright! A couple more worg riders are in the village, and more are stuck in the trench.” He shouted as he ran past.

“Iesa? Rocks?” I shouted at him in return.

“Don’t know. Giant.” And he stabbed at the worg felling it. Elsewhere I heard a hobgoblin scream and the fast-paced beat of a worg running.

“A giant?” I said in disbelief, and I started to run towards the river. Behind me I heard Beepu start an incantation.

Gos? A Giant?!?

--Makes sense, can’t see it from up here---Sodding!--


Another boulder sailed through the air and slammed into the doors of the chapel, sundering them apart. The boulder continued rolling inside, wrecking pews as it went. From the air, black feathers drifted down slowly. I looked in the air for Gossamer and couldn’t locate him. But my eyes settled on something else I didn’t expect.

Beepu was rising in the air swiftly. From his hands bolts of fire flew striking a worg, who I could hear yelp in pain. On his face was a smile of satisfaction as he took a commanding view of the village. He threw more fire from above, and I could hear from behind a building the harried voice of Iesa, “Take that! Thanks Beepu!”

--Myr, there are a number of the hobgoblins and worgs stuck in the trench, trying to climb out.

Well, time to end that problem.


I ran toward the river where one of the plugs of earth I had left behind. As I ran, I heard another worg yelp in pain. Glancing to my left, I saw one held fast in an iron trap, his hobgoblin rider fallen to the ground. From concealment Drik and Drok dashed out from under a building with short swords. One of them screamed in common, “CLUMSY!” and the pair set themselves on the hobgoblin, stabbing the fallen figure over and over. A noise from my left caused me to turn and reflexively I throw a pair of bolts, striking another wounded worg, causing it to collapse mid-stride. I was about to move again when I heard the voice of one of the goblins shouts, “Crusher Lasher!”

Now running, I turned my head to look north and I saw another boulder flying through the air. This one seemed unstable, a wild throw. It smashed into the deck of the bridge. A shower of splinters and water flew into the air, and just like that, the entire structure was leveled Only the footings on each side of the river remained. Looking farther north, I finally saw him; the ‘Crusher Lasher’

He stood on a hillock, framed in the moonlight. I guess I expected a large human or something. What I saw was more gangly in the limbs, and his posture was slightly crooked. It’s body was pear shaped with a large pot belly. What appeared to be the shadow of a loincloth fluttered around him as he moved. I saw him bend down, and pick up another rock, and watched him heave it high into the air. The rock didn’t seem to be aimed at anything in the village which puzzled me. Then the sound of Beepu’s laughter made it clear; the giant was trying to hit the small gnome. And while his skills in hitting large buildings was adequate, hitting Beepu was another matter.

“Of course, ‘Crusher Lasher’ was a giant. Should have asked questions about that piece of chant” I muttered to myself. I finally reached the river and got in sight of the trench and the thin plug of dirt that I had left behind.

--You better hurry. A group of them are gathered together to give themselves boosts.

I didn’t reply, I just focused the strands on the middle section of earth and dirt. I could feel the weight of the water pushing and pressing against the plug. I pulled with the strands the earth away bit by bit. Then suddenly I felt the earth explode, sundering some the strands apart as the water burst forth, scattering the loose earth. I kept focus and pulled more earth away from the center, and let the water push its way forward in a sudden torrent.

The sound of the rushing water was music to my ears, and I watched the river eat away at the remaining earth blocking the way. I smiled wickedly as I thought of the wall of water rushing down the length of the trench. The smoke was filling the village with a haze, making objects on the ground indistinct. I turned around and ran back into the center of the village, trying to keep the smoke out of my eyes when I heard it.
The sound was rage. Frustration. Hatred. A roar that echoed throughout the valley, loud and strong. I ran along the side of the building where I was sleeping earlier. On the roof were a number of scattered small sputtering fires on the wet wood, creating more smoke. Keeping close to the wall, I peeked around the corner to look north. There above the haze, framed in the moonlight I could see the giant striding down from the hillock, and towards the village. I could see even at this distance that it carried a large worked club. A gift for the ‘Crusher Lasher’ for use as a tool or weapon I supposed.

“D, you can take him, right?” I heard Iesa shout from the cover of another building.

“Taking a beating with that club doesn’t sound like me,” Daneath looking from his place by the well, wiping his blade on the side of a fallen worg.

“We could ask the ‘Apple King’ about that,” Iesa responded.

“Not even funny. Hey Beepu, you might need to go up a bit.”

“It would mess with the range!” Beepu replied from above us. “He cannot hit me with his poor aim.”

“He can if he jumps with that club,” I yelled back.

“What? Oh. Perhaps I should make certain,” and Beepu began to rise higher in the air.

“Great, Beepu’s safe. That helps,” Iesa said sardonically. “What about us? I’m pretty sure if he hits one of us, that’s it. And running might be a problem with the bridge out.”

“I’m not running, we just need to keep it from getting close,” I yelled back.

--Good news. Seems that worgs and hobgoblins don’t swim well together. Only a couple of the hobgoblins are left, and trying to climb out.

Keep an eye out for more.


“Drik, Drok, we have some hobgoblins crawling out of the water,” I said loudly, unsure where the pair might be.

I heard a pair of wicked chuckles. “They clumsy,” Drik said. “Toss them back,” Drok replied, and I heard them scamper off to look for the stragglers.

“Well, might get some shots in before it gets close,” And Daneath threw off his shield, sheathed his blade and pulled out his long bow.

“What about me?” Iesa complained.

“Get ready and stab it,” Daneath retorted.

“Get ready? By myself?”

I then pulled a mirror out and spun it in my fingers, “Protect him,” I whispered, and I pulled on a light strand and wove it around Iesa. I then quickly pulled on a pair of light and dark ones and whispered under my breath.

“Iesa; Kelemvor will protect you until you strike. Strike then run fast!”

“Hah,” Beepu shouted. “Finally, you are close enough, you lumbering behemoth of a whelp! Come and face me you low Ordning born! Even I stand above you!” and as he taunted, he threw a bolt of fire at the giant, and I watched it go wild and strike the ground instead.

“You might want,” Daneath said as he pulled on the bow string and released, “To hit it first.” The arrow flew from the bow with the narrow head whistling in the dark, accompanied by a shout of defiance from the big warrior.

Daneath was never a great shot with a bow. Iesa was much better at archery. But I knew that he didn’t have the strength to use Daneath’s longbow. Daneath did keep up his skills though on the occasional hunt. But with a target as large as a giant, I wondered if you really could miss. I also knew it was the wrong question; it was whether you could pierce the thick skin and hurt it at all.

I watched with dismay as I saw the arrow streak and just scrape the giant’s side. I started to ready my own magic, pulling at the dark strands when I heard Daneath’s second arrow fly from his hand. This one was shot low, but the arrow rose as it flew, until I heard it sink into the muddy loincloth that the giant wore. It bellowed and bent over in pain. It then looked at Daneath with a snarling face of hatred. But to my surprise, the giant stopped and lifted its great club awkwardly and used its other hand to cover its loin cloth defensively.

I let loose my magic and a small hand now clutched around the giant throat, almost concealed by the scraggly, unkempt beard. It crouched in place now, trying to find a way forward. It looked at Daneath warily.
A blast of fire from above found home this time, and the giant roared at the new wound. There was the sound of crackling, roasted flesh, and the sight of skin smoking and cracking apart. The giant looked around at its feet, and I watched it bend and pickup a mass of wood. It was the remains of a wooden wagon, that he twisted and hurled at the gnome.

The wagon tumbled end over end as it flew towards Beepu. But I watched as the gnome rose higher into the air. The wagon flew well below the wizard and then landed in a crushed heap on the ground, as Beepu laughed at the miss. From elsewhere I could hear a shriek of a hobgoblin, and the sound of body hitting water followed by “CLUMSY!”

I refocused my mind and pulled on more dark strands and formed a miasma as the sound of the bell pealed in the air. Daneath fired more arrows from his bow, and still managed to hit the giant’s loincloth again. The giant howled as this again, and it staggered around, trying to cover himself.

I pulled on more strands, and again as I did so, another bolt of fire streaked from Beepu’s place in the sky. I released my power and the bell tolled once again. The giant was frustrated; unwilling to retreat and unwilling to proceed towards the menace with the longbow. All the while being pelted with fire and torn apart by shadow.

The giant was groaning and was looking around on the ground for an object; anything it could throw at a target it could see. It was then I saw Iesa run and leap across the river, and without stopping, slashed with his dagger, across the back of the calves with a nasty draw cut. The giant bellowed at the new wound, and gamely swung at the rogue. But it was too late, as Iesa was already out of reach before he could retaliate.
Daneath fired another pair of arrows, but both lodged deeply into the wood of the club. I switched back to the chilling ghostly hand again and could feel the energy shred more of the giant’s life away. But then from above a blast of fire rained down from above, striking giant in the face. I watched it stagger around for a moment, and then it sank to its knees with a groan. I could see its face clearly now, with a confused look of pain as it fell over on its side, crashing in the earth, tossing up clouds of dirt and causing the buildings to tremble. I then could feel the last of its life drain away and dissipate as it gave off a final shuddering death rattle. A sound that thrilled me as the last vestiges of life vanished.

There were now only the sounds of fire consuming wood, rushing water, and our own breaths on the night air. The stillness took over as we looked around for another worg in the darkness, or a hobgoblin charging seeking our heads.

The euphoria was wearing off, and I could feel a knot in my stomach form. I looked around; the chapel’s doors were smashed along with the interior by a rock. One outlying building was in flames, and another was smashed apart by another rock. The bunkhouse I had been sleeping in, was torn apart, with scattered flames on the shakes of what was left of the roof. Only a pair of smaller buildings still stood intact from the ravages of the night.

I made my way to the well, and took a bucket that lay on the ground, and passed its handle through the hook at the top of a rope and clasp. I dropped the bucket down the shaft and then pulled up some water. I placed the bucket on the edge and splashed some of the cold water onto my face. I wanted to wipe away the smoke and grime that I could feel there. I wanted to wash away the conflicting emotions I felt. To conceal the tears of the turmoil within me.

As I did this, the rest gathered. Daneath and Iesa staggered forward, both injured from worgs and scrapes with blades. Drik and Drok appeared then from the southern side of the village; their shirts drenched in blood that was not their own. Finally, fluttering down from above came Foggle, Gossamer and finally Beepu, who was wearing a grin that said that he was completely and utterly self-absorbed with his accomplishments.

“We did it,” Daneath said slowly. “We survived.”

“Yes. Of course, we did,” Beepu said in a matter of fact tone. “My superior position allowed us to claim victory. I await your thanks.”

Iesa looked at the gnome for a moment before speaking, “Yes…thank you Myr for that trench,” as he turned towards me.

“That’s right,” Daneath chimed in, trying to hide his smile. “That flood of water really took out those riders. Great job!”

The two goblins nodded, “Gala Booyahg made lashers clumsy swimmers,” Drik said approvingly, while Drok just nodded vigorously.

“What?!? What about me?” Beepu’s face grew red, missing the snarky smiles on the other’s faces.

“Oh, yes. Where were you? I couldn’t see you on the ground anywhere. Where were you hiding?” Daneath said mildly still trying to hide a grin that was getting wider by the moment.

“You were really good there,” Iesa said. “Did you turn invisible or did you just become a rock again?”

“HOW COULD YOU NOT SEE—” he started, when Iesa snorted and Daneath just turned red holding is breath, trying not to laugh. Then, he gave out a sudden burst of laughter, no longer able to control himself. Beepu straightened up, surprised for a moment, and then he too smiled and laughed. “You…you had me there you two! All of you!”

I couldn’t hold back and laughed as well. Even the two goblins started to snicker and eventually were rolling on the ground laughing pointing at Beepu. As I giggled madly, my cheeks ached, and I could feel my eyes water. It was the tears and laughter washed away the pain, that only laughter with friends could.

Session notes:

So, in game terms, every minute allowed me to cut about 25’ ft long and 10’ ft wide (in 5x5x5 foot cubes) every minute. That’s 1500’ ft trench in an hour, and I had more than that in terms of time. And you thought Minor Illusion was bad.

And many worgs and hobgoblins drowned. A horrible death of course, but not as bad as Drik and Drok ‘clumsy’ attacks were.

But the DM and Daneath’s player coming us for the rational on why a giant would be afraid of a tiny battlemaster with a longbow was brilliant. Makes complete sense.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Burden of Guilt - 2/15/2020

It is a sad thing to grow up with millions of people around you every day, and yet find yourself utterly alone.

I awoke to the warmth of the sun on my face. I lazily opened my eyes to look at the open sky overhead, blue and clear. I took a deep breath and sighed heavily, unwilling to move. Not with Gossamer providing welcome warmth by my feet, as he rested there calmly. But more than anything I just wanted to rest. Not to run off to march away to some crisis. Not to chase down hobgoblin raiders. Indeed, not to fight at all. I wanted rest and respite; it had been weeks since I left Waterdeep to Secomber, and from there it seemed to be never-ending fighting. I lay there in the cot, taking advantage of what I knew would be an all too brief moment of solace.

After we had slaughtered the worgs, hobgoblins and the giant we had A lot of work to do last night. The five men worked on stamping out the fires, while I searched the village for bodies, and buried them where I found them. Some of the bodies required me to fish them out of the new canal that now circled the village. But it didn’t matter to me as I sunk each worg, each hobgoblin and even the giant beneath the earth. It was strange how in combat it was so easy to hate, but when setting matters to rest it was so soothing. Not because it was a hard earn victory, or that they deserved to be sent to judgement. But because how right it felt to treat the fallen correctly; even our foes.

But afterwards, we had all agreed to get a longer rest and not start with daybreak as we usually did. Well, I suppose it was more Beepu and myself arguing for that. Although as someone attuned and able to work the Weave that was normal, it was more than that for me.

It had been months since I arrived here, and home was still as far away as ever. While I liked the journey of my travels as it tickled the Sensate within me, the idea I couldn’t go home was like a pebble in my boot, unwilling to let me forget it. Iesa, Daneath and Beepu all had a home of sorts, between Waterdeep and Silverymoon. They could go there if they needed to. Or wanted to.

But those places weren’t Sigil. As much as I could gripe about the Hive, the Gatehouse, or any other unsavory aspect it was still home. It was everything I couldn’t do; go the Sensorium to relive the travels and experiences of others and share my own. To get a bite of za, sooty with mushrooms from a vendor on the street. My monthly tea with a…well friend is an interesting way to look at him. He was a fiend after all. But it didn’t matter now. It was all out of reach. Perhaps forever.

Heaving another sigh, I realized that turning over the same stone in my mind, I might as well do it walking elsewhere, to keep the monotony away.

Time to move, Goss

--I do believe you are wrong.

Possibly, but we’re going to need to leave at some point.

--That doesn’t concern me. Keeping warm does.

My legs are moving, like it or not.

--You are a cruel woman.


I pushed my legs free from under the impossibly heavy familiar and sat up and put my gear on. I noticed that the building was empty; even Beepu must have risen a while ago. I packed my things and walked outside to see what the chant was.

I found Daneath by the well outside, cleaning his mess kit. He nodded as he saw my approach.

“You know…sleep in, didn’t mean all morning,” he quipped as packed away the tin bowls.

“Probably. But the travelling has been wearing on me,” I replied. “Where are the others?”

“Beepu is in the chapel; apparently the goblins snore so he moved there and demanded to be left alone so he could study his diagrams and books.”

“Well…he’s the one that snores. The goblins just do it to wake him up.”

“Yeah…I know. No point on arguing it though.”

I nodded, “We have a plan?”

“Once Iesa gets back from some hunting and tracking we’re going to discuss.”

“Tracking?”

Daneath nodded, “We aren’t sure where to go from here. He’s hoping to get an idea based on tracks. That and some fresh food.”

“I take it worg meat isn’t that good?”

Daneath shuddered, “It’s tough, stringy and has a nasty flavor. Rather not.”

“So, what about Drik and Drok?”

“Well…they looted all the cups, bowls, and other metal stuff. But they can’t carry it all. Now they are trying to figure out what to take with them.”

“Well, I guess they know their goods,” Iesa said, sauntering up with some game birds in hand. “Beepu around?”

“I can get him,” I said, and I turned to look at Gossamer who had just sat down to groom.

--What? Oh..fine…sure…not like I had important things to do.

Grooming?

--Important Grooming.


Gossamer stood, stretched and flew off towards the small chapel. While Iesa continued; “Well hunting is a bit thin. But worse yet is I can’t get a handle on where the goblins may have come from.”
Daneath scrunched his face, “That’s a problem.”

Iesa sat on a bench near the well and started to dress the birds. His brows knitted in concentration. Then he finally said “Well…maybe not. We could ask our two friends if they know the way.”

Daneath and I looked at each other, and I shrugged my shoulders.

“Why not. What’ the worst that can happen?” Daneath exclaimed throwing his hands up in the air.

“You get punched in the codpiece?” I ventured.

“Better that than having your throat ripped out?” Daneath said looking at me with an arched eyebrow.

I winced. “Point taken,”

“Well then,” Daneath said, putting his kit back into his pack. “Let’s go ask them.”

We found the pair together in one of the smaller, and still intact buildings. They were sitting on the floor, carefully picking through various objects made of metal. As we approached, they started looking at us guardedly. They slowly and deliberately started scooping together the metal objects on the floor, as if they were ready to cut and run with their loot. But they didn’t, instead both sat there and waited for one of us to speak.

“Hey guys…wondered if you could help us with something,” Iesa started.

“No!” said Drik

“Yes?” questioned Drok. They then looked at each other and sighed before both said. “Maybe. What?”

“This…what did you call them…Lasher. The Prophesized One…do you know where he is?” Iesa asked as non-chalantly as possible.

The pair stopped their gathering and looked at Iesa with a look that might be best described as dismay. They glanced at each other slowly and then back at Iesa before Drik responded.

“We not sure. We never seen him.”

“But you know where he might be?” Iesa pressed.

Drik gulped, and Drok slowly replied, “He might be at camp. He might be at big fort. We not know.”

“Tell us about the camp,” Daneath jumped into the conversation.

“Camp close. Had some workers for lasher. Was mine, but mine empty now.” Drik said haltingly.

“And the fort?” Daneath asked.

“Farther. Past swamp and near lake--” Drok said before being motioned to silence by Drik.

“And you know the way?” Daneath kept pushing.

“—We not want to go there.” Drik not wanting to look either man in the eye.

“Afraid. I am not surprised,” Beepu said with a mocking tone. It seemed to be lost on the goblins though.

“Want to go back to Skullport,” Drok said, ignoring the gnome.

“Well we need your help finding—” Iesa started before being cut off.

“—No. Want to leave.” Drik said vehemently.

“Drik, Drok,” I said kneeling down in front of the pair. “Are there more hobgoblins and worgs out there?”
Drik’s head snapped up and looked at me, while Drok looked away with a resigned look on his face. “Yes. Many.”

“If you help us, we can keep them away from you. But if you head off now, you might be found by another lasher.”

Drik frowned and sighed. Drok’s face contorted with disgust. They looked at each other. Finally, Drok shrugged and Drik spoke again.

“We will try to find way.”

I smiled and bowed my head in respect. “Thank you both.” The pair were surprised at the gesture, looking at each other in confusion. “Where do we need to go?” I asked.

“Camp or Fort,” Drik asked looking around at all of us.

Daneath thought a moment, “You said it was close. I would rather continue our original plan; picking them apart one by one. So, the camp would be my vote.”

Iesa nodded, “I agree. And I don’t like the sound of the hobgoblins having ‘workers.’ Sounds like slaves.”
Beepu scrunched his face up and said, “The tactics have worked for us so far. No reason to alter that. And the thought of slaves under the boots of the hobgoblins irritates me.

“I guess the camp then,” I said.

“To find camp, must find valley of bugs,” Drik said nodding as both goblins started to scoop up the metal things scattered before them into a pair of packs.

“Bugs?” I said a little confused and more than a little apprehensively.

“Big bugs,” Drok nodded and confirmed.

“We can handle bugs I believe,” Beepu yawned.

Drik and Drok looked at each other and gave the gnome a wicked smile. “Sure. You handle bugs.”

Iesa looked at the goblins, and then at Daneath. “What am I missing?”

“I think we will only find out on the way,” Daneath replied.




We travelled late into the evening, leaving the ruins of the town far behind us. I wished I could have done more for the people that had to run. Granted I was the one that told them to run and flee their homes, but inside I knew what I told Drik and Drok, would have applied to the villagers; another group of hobgoblins would come. The battle would be repeated, but without us to face them. So, it was the right decision to convince them to flee while they could.

And thinking honestly; I would have run too. I guess power did give me courage, and circumstances had forced me to stand in the thick of combat. I could trade, or at least withstand blows with monsters and beings that acted like them. But I also supposed that in the end it was I afraid of the wrong things.

Death didn’t scare me. Was I jaded for having crossed beyond once and being forced back? Perhaps, but the thought of dying didn’t bother me. And for all the noblest intentions, five years ago I learned more about pain that I ever wanted to know. Enough to almost break me. Even my death hurt less.

I wasn’t afraid of those things. I was afraid of losing control. Not being able to do the things I wanted to do, not finding a way home, not being free. I didn’t want shackles, real or imagined. If I had a desperate wish, it was to be able to travel where and how I wanted. To explore and be free. Free from the guilt I felt; that I owed a debt that I couldn’t repay, if only in my own heart. Free from the anger that fueled me to kill these hobgoblins.

But once we camped, I took my leave from the others, skipping out on dinner and turned in early. I stripped off my armor and lay on my bedroll, and for once sleep took me peacefully.

I woke a cool hand gently shaking my shoulder. I breathed deeply, trying to chase the memory of the dream that was leaving me. Only the fringes of emotions were left; satisfaction, peace and…something else now far away. I opened my eyes and saw to my surprise it was Iesa waking me up, with Mo perched on his shoulder. Usually it was Daneath that roused me, as we would trade favors armoring up. He helped me don it at for last watch, and I he in the morning. We had done this for a while as ‘a best practice’ to make sure the armor was hanging correctly. His was more complex, but Daneath’s experience with armor helped me wear my own so I wouldn’t tire as easily, placing weight on my hips and not my shoulders where possible.

I sat up and stretched, and asked “Any issues?”

“No,” Iesa said softly. “No worgs or anything tonight.” He fed Mo a piece of dried fruit as he waited for me to get up.

“Good…where’s D?”

“He actually turned in a bit ago. Said something about fatigue, since he didn’t sleep in like the rest of us did yesterday.” He wasn’t looking at me directly, but instead down at the ground, as if distracted by something.

I nodded, “So, are you going to help me put my armor on?” I said as I stood up and fastened on the gambeson around me.

“Uh…sure,” he said leaning over to pick up the chain shirt I normally, wore and held it up by the shoulders. I slipped my arms and kept them at chest level as he buckled the straps that crossed the left side. I felt his hands gingerly touch my ribcage as he pulled the leather through the buckles. As I waited, I realized that his hands were shivering. No quivering as he struggled to pull the buckles closed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Huh?! N-n-nothing! Why?”

“Because you barely pulling on the straps,” and I reached down to pull on them myself when my hand touched his. The instant it did he recoiled and stepped back.

I turned to look at Iesa and he looked…guilty. I was sure to have a puzzled look on his face.

“I’m not a porcelain cup Iesa. And it’s just armor.”

“I’m sorry…Its…its just the last time I touched you like that I…I was carrying your body back to Yartar.”

“I...I didn’t know.”

“Yeah. Your blood was everywhere. I remembered how warm you were when I first picked you up…and how cold you were when I finally put you on that altar.”

Iesa was quiet a moment looking at the embers of the campfire nearby. And I waited sensing that there was more to this story.

“It was my fault I suppose. If I told everyone about the map, we would have taken a different route. And…and it wouldn’t have happened. And its odd,” he said turning to look at me with sadness in his eyes.

“You were the first person I saw killed that…meant something to me. I wasn’t there when my mother died. I found her well afterwards. When the hyena leapt at you and you fell, it was...different. Like I lost a…lost a sister I guess.”

“Are you sure? Usually you don’t spy on your sister swimming in a spring.”

Iesa’s eyes looked like they were about to pop from their sockets, “What…how?”

“Gossamer smelled you and told me.”

“Smelled me?!?”

“Foggle would have spotted you. But Gossamer’s sense of smell is very keen.”

“Well…I…um…that is—”

“—If I cared I would had said something. I noticed that in Waterdeep that the bathes they were segregated. They aren’t in the Great Gymnasium in Sigil. So, the modesty here is…surprising.”

“Oh well…I…just wanted to make sure you were ok and…yeah I lingered a bit long. You are a beautiful woman after all. And—”

“And?”

“Do I really smell?”

I laughed, “Maybe to Goss.”

“Yeah you said though that if I wanted—”

“—'wanted to attract an elven woman?’” I said gently. “I remember. And the next time we are anywhere near a town, an elven tree or a goliath camp I’ll help you out. Did you have a smell in mind?”

“Well…I always like the smell of that spice…cinnamon,”

I grimly chuckled, “If that’s what you want.”

He looked at me puzzled, “Something wrong,”

I looked down a second, smiled and looked at him again. “Well, I know most like the smell, but it…it has a different meaning for me. For anyone that grew up in the Hive.”

He looked at me uncertainly, “What do you mean?”

I gave him a wry lopsided grin, “A long time ago, the Blood War…um the war between what you call devils and demons broke into full swing in the poorest part of Sigil. The tanar’ri…the demons, brought a thing…a weapon in the Hive. But they couldn’t control it, and when they got chased out by the Lady, they left it behind.”

“What was it?”

“Kadyx. It haunts the Hive and kills people, but…”

“But what?”

“It has a strange sense of humor...often the kills are arranged in a strange way. Once some warrior in full plate mail proclaimed, he would go slay it. When they found him later, it was just his skeleton, standing in its armor.”

“That’s gruesome…and weird. But I don’t get it.”

“Well, when it is near…there is a strong smell of cinnamon in the air. People tend to run at that point in fear of their lives.” I finished tightening the final buckle on my armor, and started to move to the fire to start my watch. After a couple of steps, I turned around to face him again.

“So perhaps…it suits you.” I smiled. After a long pause I spoke again “Thank you for the help. Goodnight Iesa.”

“Myrai…I…I’m sorry,”

I nodded, “It’s…it’s alright. We have more than enough guilt to share.”

He nodded in response, and muttered “Good night” and he made his way to his own tent.

I moved to the center of camp where I saw Gossamer on a nearby branch

That’s surprising.

--What? That you aren’t the only one that tortures themselves with guilt? You’re surprised?

Not about that…that I never asked.

--I’m not surprised. You would rather tell a pithy story about Sigil, rather than discuss what you are really feeling.

That’s not fair!

--Fairness isn’t part of the bargain. You aren’t even playing fair. That bit about swimming for example. Did you tell him about that time when you rescued him from near death, how your hands lingered on his body, ‘checking for wounds’

Wait a—

--You are just a bottle of pent up unresolved emotions. Like your obsession with this ‘Prophesized One’

--His minions are slaughter--

About Iesa—

Hey now he’s like a --

--About Daneath—

I admire what he—

--About Beepu

There is a lot I can—

--Markell--

No.

--Elisna—

NO!

--Your fath—

STOP!


I was screaming in my head as I covered my ears in a vain attempt to silence my own familiar. I didn’t want to listen to this. I fell to my knees, breathing heavily, shutting my eyes tightly closed.

Please…stop…not now.

--I’m sorry, I’ll go back to watching for things around us. But you DO need to deal with these things.


I knelt there by the fire, tears coming unbidden once again, and streaming down my cheeks. It was then I realized the truth.

I didn’t want freedom. I wanted to run. Run and leave guilt and shame behind in a distant past, a distant place. To leave it behind and never face them. To run and hide from everyone. From myself.

I didn’t want to run anymore.

But I didn’t have the strength to deal with it.

Not alone.

Still on my knees, I leaned forward and prayed:

No one should be alone, in life or death,

Life is a part of death, not an ending but a beginning

Life is without deceit and has meaning,

May my prayer find its way to the Fugue,

And your gaze from the Crystal Spire of smoke find me,

May you guide your servant on the next step of her journey,

Because Life’s challenge is finding the next waypost,

It is not a destination, but a Journey,

Help me find the strength to heal the wounds within,

So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith

May you grant me peace in Life.




Session notes:

This was a brief moment, and there was a bit of discussion on where to go and what to do .

However, convincing Drik and Drok to stay was an effort. Partially because I think the DM actually hated his creations; or at least doing the voices. We certainly didn’t NEED them.

Or did we?
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Bugs? What Bugs? - 02/29/2020

In a vain attempt to experience everything, sometimes we experience the absurd. Its barmy but true.

How we cope with it, is the interesting question.


(Apologies; Real Life interfered with my writing. So, getting back on track.)


For the rest of the morning I was either glaring or Gossamer or watching the sky impatiently for dawn to come. While we were able to scare Drik and Drok into coming with us because of the risk of more hobgoblins, there wasn’t any sight of them, or sound of their worgs. All I heard was wind rustling the thick thigh high grasses that surrounded us and the muffled sounds of Beepu’s and the goblin’s snoring. Well, mostly Beepu’s.

In fact, I was spending my time doing anything I could to avoid Gossamer’s observation of me. I even tried to read the Apocrypha to no success; the strange Celestial writings were as unclear as anything to me. It was comical; because Beepu would probably run a green one if he knew that I could read in the darkness. He had things to read, and no way to do it on watch. I could but had nothing I could read, even though I wanted to.

As the morning’s darkness slowly turned to light, I thought about my tangled feelings I had for the others around me. The guilt and debts heavy weight still clung to me. But I had never considered my effect on the others around me. That Iesa felt guilty; that Beepu felt indebted, and as for Daneath…I had no idea.

Because it came down to that, I never asked. We never talked about my death; it was a forbidden topic. I always thought it was because the others didn’t want to cause me discomfort. But the truth was the episode bothered them as well. How does one even ‘discuss’ it? But at least I could discuss my death if I chose. My other emotional knots? That was another story.

Who would want to listen and help me sort out my feeling and my past? Would Beepu care at all about my ‘sister?’ What did I expect others to say to me about Markell? And all of them are looking for their fathers with eagerness. Mine was special only in the sense that he didn’t want to be found at all…and that he was an immortal. Only Iesa seemed to share the same perspective on finding his. But that was based on abandoning his mother and he to the slums. Mine at least tried to find a better place. And I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, let alone how I felt about it.

I realized that the answer was simple, and yet had no solution. That a person who truly wanted to know and listen would be a person that really cared about me. My dead mother might have. I thought Markell was that person, and that turned out to be horribly wrong. The only other one that might qualify that I knew, was in Sigil. But being an immortal, the definition of ‘care’ was very different that my own.

The sun peaked above the horizon, illuminating the camp. I slowly stood up, stretching out my stiff limbs. Finding someone to dump my internal ball of emotional issues was going to require a different locale. I turned and looked at our set of lean-tos and bedrolls and began the thankless job of waking everyone.

Fortunately, small talk and packing up the camp is all we did. Iesa said nothing more about last night, and I didn’t mention it either. The goblins and Beepu needled each other with a little less intensity, for which I was thankful for. The reason for this, less so.

The goblins were in front with Iesa and I close behind, and Beepu and Daneath following. Because the goblins were leading with a slower pace, so Beepu was having a much easier time with the journey. But I noticed that we were slowly making less and less progress. Watching the goblins, I saw that they were becoming animated with each other and halted with more and more frequency. Iesa however didn’t seem to notice the subtle change.

“So, we still on the right path?”

Drik nodded, while Drok almost shook his head, and then agreed. They started to mutter to each other in goblin. I didn’t understand the language, but I could tell there was some type of disagreement. Biting my lip, I decided to say nothing, and instead started to work the magic so I could understand them the next time they started to disagree. It took a little while to cast, but it was read when we crested a hill so we could get a better set of bearings.

“So, boys, I see hills, a valley a ways off in some haze, grassland…which way?” Iesa asked. I was pretty sure he was being straight up with the question, as none of us had been here before, and unlike the march to Flint Rock, there was no map hiding in Iesa’s pack.

The goblins stood there a moment, and Drik motioned to Drok. Drok sighed and came over to his brother. Drik then scrambled on top of Drik until he was precariously balanced on Drok’s head. He then looked around and confidently said, “The hills.”

<”That not we said earlier.”> Drok muttered in goblin.

<”It been a while. Directions hazy.”> Drik replied.

<”Head hazy for directions. Let me see.”>

<”No. My turn to lead. Not hazy.”>

<”Valley of Bugs not in hills. In Valley gnomepoop.”>

<”You gnomepoop. You bitchy gnome gnomepoop.”>
and he gestured towards Beepu. Beepu, who clearly couldn’t understand them, was busy reading a parchment, while the pair bickered.

“So,” I tried to sound casual, “You been to the hobgoblin camps often.”

“Maybe” said Drik. “No.” said Drok.

“Then, how do you know where to go?” I asked blandly. Inside I was afraid that they were guessing and stringing us along in fear.

“Remember landmarks mostly,” Drik said. “Not seen what I want to see.”

“I want to see. I remember.” Drok said sullenly from under Drik.

“Drik, can you le—”

“No. My day to see. We agree I stand on him!” Drik said passionately. I rolled my eyes and closed them, trying not to lose my temper. I then came up with an idea.

“Drik, come on down off of Drok,” I said smiling trying to sound reasonable. Drik didn’t seem to notice the tension in my words, and shrugged and jumped down from Drok. I then knelt down in front of Drok. I gently spun him around while he looked in confusion and then lifted him up by his forearms, the over my head and sat him on my shoulders.

As soon as I did so Drik’s face turned red, “Not fair. Drok short.”

<”Short as bitchy gnome from up here.”>

<”Cheater! Deal Breaker. Lasher snot!”>

<”Wait. Gnome bigger. You smaller.”>

<”Take that back, halfling licker.”>

<”Why? You not brave enough to ride ugly magic woman.”>


“Ok you two,” trying to hold back my laughter at their argument, and the revelation that I was a scary ugly Booyagh to them. “I’ll give you a look later Drik, if you think you are…brave enough.” Drik’s mouth opened a second and then it closed with him nodding vigorously. Seeing his agreement, I cocked my head to glance up at Drok. “What do you see?”

Drok looked around and then spoke, “Hazy head, not see hazy valley. If Valley has bugs, right place. Wrong valley, keep looking.”

“Haze around valley? Saw haze. Not sure it valley.” Drik said defensively.

“We’ll get closer, and I’ll let you look and then we’ll know.” I said. I lifted Drok from my shoulders and set him down on the ground. Looking at the others I said, “Shall we?” Everyone nodded, and we started moving again. Not long though Beepu tugged at my elbow.

“So, what was that about poop?” he asked puzzledly.

“Affectionate insults,” I said guardedly. “I thought you didn’t speak goblin.”

“I do not. But I do know what Blergmak means. That and I thought I heard the word for gnome; Keygacht.”

“Well…let’s just say that just like any pair of siblings, they like insulting each other.”

“I do not have siblings, so I do not see what the point is.”

“You don’t?” I looked at him a little surprised. “Siblings, or people that consider themselves ones, tend to insult and argue,” I said a bit wistfully.

“I know that. I do not understand why that is a necessary part.”

I shrugged, “I guess…I really don’t know. It just was...is.”

“Whatever. They are probably just laughing at me,” and Beepu then trudged along in silence.

“So…were they?” Daneath asked as Beepu stomped ahead.

“No. But he wouldn’t be laughing either.”
It was slow going, towards the patch of haze in the distance. The terrain wasn’t difficult, but it was much farther than I had thought from the hilltop. Every so often I would lift one of the goblins up on my shoulders. While I did it for practical reasons, it was clear that the Goblins enjoyed their moment of height. The others were just amused that I had become the center of the goblin’s world.

As it turned out that the haze was a light fog and it, was indeed surrounding the entrance to the valley. As we approached, the goblins started to become more wary. This wasn’t lost on anyone else either. Iesa pulled out his bow, and Daneath readied his sword and shield. We spread ourselves out a bit, keeping each other in sight as we tread through the fog. As we entered the valley, everything started to change. The breeze died down and was still. The air was thick and damp now. And then as we slowly made our way, I became afraid.

The sudden onslaught on our noses was overwhelming. The charnel smell of rot and decay was everywhere. My eyes stung and began to water and tear. As I wiped them, I kicked something on the ground. Looking down, I saw the source of the odors that now surrounded us.

It was a corpse, lying face down on the earth. The armor was in shambles, with large holes in the plate. The corpse itself was bloated; swelling up to fill the armor completely, and bulge grotesquely at the joints and neck. The skins’ color was between a deathly white and light rotten green. Flies and other insects swarmed around the bodies in thick clouds. As I stared, I could hear noises in the distance; noises of large metal plates grinding together.

Looking beyond into the mist, I saw that there were more corpses. Some in worse shape and some in better. But I didn’t see anything living beyond us. The field of corpses was descending downwards into a gully. And as we descended, the fog grew lighter, allowing us to see farther and farther.

It appeared that two hosts of men battled here in recent weeks. One group seemed to favor black tunics and yellow trim, the other was a more motley assortment of brown and red tunics. Spears were broken and thrust into the ground. In the distance, towards the middle of the battle and the valley, we could see a lone standard still planted in the ground, its colors hung limp in the still air.

I covered my mouth and nose, trying to ward off the stench. Then I heard the sounds of metal scraping nearby, giving me shivers up and down my back. I turned and faced a horror from tales told by veterans from wars past.

“Big Bugs,” Drik said quietly and pointed at the monstrosity. It was vaguely beetle shaped, with a grey carapace and spikes projecting outwards from it. The thing was massive, easily three paces wide and five long. It lumbered slowly and ponderously on the floor of the valley, unaware or uncaring of our prescence.

I then watched it move towards a pile of bodies. I saw it extend two grey metallic arms. Both were covered in dried blood and gore, and I watched it lift a corpse up into the air. The arms continued backwards over its body and then suddenly, it slammed the corpse’s chest onto a spike on its back. The arms then withdrew, and the corpse twisted and hung there, like a macabre scarecrow to frighten the living.

“That’s…that’s not a bug,” I gulp as I looked that the thing in horror. I knew was a blasphemy, and while one part of me recoiled, the other part of me wanted to destroy it. I then heard another noise deeper within, and I saw another one. And then another. Three of the things were creeping among thousands of corpses that lay on the ground. None of them in a rush, and none of them had noticed our presence.

“I’m not sure I care what those are. We should leave,” Daneath said grimly, his eyes squinting looking over the battlefield.

“Daneath is right. I do not think we want to mess with these things,” Beepu agreed readily.

“Lashers know that many would be afraid,” Drik spoke softly. “This battle old, yet the bugs never finish.”

“The lashers…you mean the hobgoblins control these things?” Iesa said looking at the goblins in surprise.

“No. Booyahg not in charge. They found secret.”

“What secret?” I asked, barely able to keep my eyes off of the one nearby, as I watched it impale another corpse on a spike on its back.

“They usually ignore living,” Drok said also whispering. “Lashers leave them alone to keep back entrance safe.”

“Back entrance?” Daneath asked, tearing his eyes away. “To their camp?”

Drik nodded, “Camp in little canyon with gate. This valley leads to cave that opens above camp. Only Booyagh and braver ones use cave.”

“How can we turn this down,” Iesa said sardonically. “Short cut with corpse backed bugs. This can’t possibly get any better.”

“I do not like it. Trusting the word of the goblins is a bad idea,”

I turned my head to look at Beepu, and just next to him the pair had turned their heads to glare at the gnome. I could only shake my head. But then I asked the pair, “Is there anything else we should know?”

They both quickly nodded and Drik said, “Yes. Do not touch the dead.”

“Well then, this isn’t going to look any better,” Daneath started. “Unless someone says otherwise, we head in and find that cave. Can you get us there?” Both goblins nodded, and Beepu only shrugged his shoulders.

We then started to thread our way through the battlefield. We moved cautiously; not running but not exactly sneaking either. The monstrosities ignored us, occasionally picking up a corpse and adding it to the pile on its back. The whole place gave me the shivers. As we continued through the valley, I began to notice that there were other bodies as well that didn’t match the ones at the entrance. The area felt off. It was like there were many different battles that were fought, and then overlaid on top of each other. I wondered if there was some other force at play here.

Gos, any of the…things moving towards us?

--No. They are just meandering.


I frowned and slowed down so I could talk to Beepu. “Hey, doesn’t this seem strange?” I whispered

“What? Us following the ad—” he started in lecturing tone.

“—Drop that. No, I mean the valley. I don’t get why so many bodies, and so many different groups as a part of it.”

“Oh. Well, I agree it is strange, but the High Moors are a strange place. It wasn’t always like this.”

“How so?”

“Well, this place is a product of the Crown wars, the Fifth one as I recall. Over ten thousand years ago it was a forest, probably like the Misty Woods. In that war, the kingdom of Miyeritar was destroyed by the Vyshaantar’s Empires superior magics. Supposedly, that event led to the Miyertar becoming drow.”

“Supposedly?”

“I am not an expert on elven history, and my memory may not be accurate. However, the magic storms laid waste to the land, and in some cases warped it. So, this valley being cursed may not be a surprise.”

“I’m not sure I like that much better.”

“Honestly I agree. In fact, I…” and Beepu stopped a moment, his eyes brows furrowing in a mixture of concentration and confusion. Then his eyes bulged in horror and he shouted at Iesa.

“Stop Mo!”

“What?” Iesa said, and he like the rest of us started to look around wildly. Beepu thrust his finger in the direction behind us. Perhaps ten paces away was that lone banner, hanging limply in the still air, its colors faded and worn from the elements. Leaning on it was a corpse, its desiccated hands still wrapped around the pole, while another hand clutched at a spear that had passed through the warrior, propping the corpse as it bend slightly backwards, the shaft of the spear somehow holding up the weight of the body. Just another deader I thought, until…

“Oh sodding, Baator no!” I said aloud. Mo was on the shoulder of the body and was pulling something shiny around the neck. Iesa turned and looked where I was, and I heard him mutter something quietly before calling out.

“Mo! Leave it. Come here!”

Mo looked up at Iesa and made a sound like ‘ook.’ He started to come back to us, when suddenly it ran up the corpse again, and tugged at the neck. Something broke free, and it now was held in Mo’s paws, much to his glee.

I could feel a sudden chill on the field, and as I looked around, I saw one of the things, drop a corpse from its claw like hands as it turned towards us. It then started to move forward, with a hideous sound as it clanked and clinked as the grey metal plates scraped past each other. The thing undulated as it moved. And it started to move fast.

“We need to bolt!” I said, backing away. We were probably in the middle of the valley, and we could barely see in the haze, the rock wall the bordered the far side. Fortunately, there was no massive ‘bug’ in between us and that rock. But there wasn’t an obvious clear path either.

“Iesa we need to move!” Daneath said and the warrior began to run, heading toward the rock, following Drik and Drok who despite their small stature, were swift enough to make Daneath work to keep up with them.

“Once I get Mo! MO COME HERE!!” Iesa shouted, and Mo started towards him, slowly. Then he turned and saw the lumbering monster starting to bear down towards him. Was he a target? I didn’t know, but nor did Mo, who froze in fear.

“MO!” Iesa bellowed, trying to get his pal’s attention. The bug thing was building speed. I grabbed Iesa by the arm and pulled him, trying to get him to move.

“We need to run. NOW!” I shouted. At that point there was a golden flash that blazed in front of the huge metal bug. And with that, Mo took to the air, as Foggle grasped the monkey in its talons.

Iesa blinked a moment, and started to stumble forward, and soon he was in a full sprint to the rock wall as well, easily leaving me behind, and passing Daneath. I looked behind me to see that another one had also turned and was giving chase as well. And then my heart sank.

While Daneath, Drik and Drok and I were about the same speed, and Iesa of course much faster, Beepu was still not swift and was falling paces behind us quickly, and the monster was gaining speed even faster. As they closed, I could feel the malevolence in them. I realized that while they were covered in metal, they were powered by the dark energy that sustained the undead.

I wanted to stand my ground and destroy them. That would have been the brave thing to do. And I knew it was a fast way to become a deader myself and impaled on a spike on its back. But with Beepu falling behind I didn’t know what I could do to help him move faster or slow down the bug.

Fortunately, Beepu had his own ideas, and quickly I saw behind him that a large fog bank appeared just behind him, enveloping the undead things. I could hear them slow a little bit in terms of the clanking and grinding sounds they made. Beepu ran as fast as he was able, not even looking to see if the fog delayed his pursuers. Ahead of him, Foggle carried Mo who was shivering in the talons of the mechanical owl.

I just ran. My heart pounded and my lungs burned. Ahead of me, I saw the goblins and Daneath heading toward the left and then I saw it, a narrow cave entrance. I turned and ran towards it, and then glanced behind me to see if we were going to make it.

Beepu, was still many paces behind, with only the wall of fog visible behind him. Suddenly, one of the monstrosities burst out of the fog, and was making a beeline for Beepu. Moments later the second one emerged, it too barreling down on us.

I was getting tired; my legs ached, and I was stumbling more. Glancing behind me I gulped, as I looked at our pursuers. Despite their bulk, they were gaining on Beepu and myself rapidly. I pushed myself harder; I wasn’t going to end up on a spike on an undead thing in the middle of prime. I was not going to die again.

The entrance was in reach, inside I saw the rest stand just inside the entrance to the cave. Daneath and Iesa had both unslung their bows letting arrows fly. I watched them streak by me, and I heard the metal tips ricochet off the metal plates. A moment later I had crossed the threshold of the cave, and I turned around, ready to let loose a spell to save the gnome from death.

Beepu ran, with the creatures close behind him. His face was red from the exertion, and his legs a quick blur as he ran for all of his worth. The metal creature was closing fast on the gnome.

He wasn’t going to make it.

I wracked my head for an idea, as the brothers kept up their barrage of arrows, even though they seemed to have no effect. Drik and Drok had pulled out their crossbows and also fired quarrels, trying to slow down the monsters in any way they could. I felt helpless; none of my blasts, my miasma, or anything could quickly cast could slow them down. I had no way to create an obstacle—or did I?

I reached out with a twisting of light and dark strands just behind Beepu. I focused on the earth itself, but instead of pushing out the dirt to make a hole, I simply churned it making it challenging to cross, lifting buried stones and loosening the earth, right in front of the metal thing. It ran over the dirt and it immediately slowed down. Its long form unable to quickly traverse the impacted area, its speed was cut in half.

It was just enough; Beepu surged forward and entered the cave. He paused a moment, to look behind him, and together we realized that it was now speeding up and was going to ram the cave at full speed.

We stumbled over each other to run deeper into the cave; Drik and Drok led the way, while I grabbed the arms of Iesa and Daneath and pulled them deeper into the darkness, having no time to create a source of light for the humans. We barely got two paces, when with a thundering sound, it crashed into the rock around the cave. Stone and dust fell from the ceiling, and we all stumbled forward, struggling to keep our balance. I failed to and I landed flat on my stomach, and was quickly covered by dust, and rock. I lifted my head and looked back at the entrance and saw the ‘bug’ back up and again slam itself against the stone.

I crawled deeper in, finally siting and turning to face the entrance with the others. After a dozen times, the bug went still. Then it slowly backed up and turned away, returning to the grisly battlefield. I sat there, still trying to catch my breath when I heard Mo utter a small moping sound. I turned to look at Iesa, and I watched Mo slink up Iesa’s shoulder and back into is pack. Iesa sighed and looked at his hand. There, a brass chain dangled from his fingers, ending in a cheap locket. The clasp that held it shut was open, and inside I could see a small dried red flower.

“All…of…that…for…a…flower?” Beepu said between breaths.

“Tells me…one thing,” Daneath said breathing a bit easier.

“What’s that?” Iesa asked giving Daneath a suspicious look.

“Mo thinks you smell too.”

Iesa’s jaw dropped, dumbfounded. And with that Drik and Drok collapsed on the floor in fits of hysteria. Daneath just stood there with a grin on his face. Beepu looked at the goblins and then Iesa. After a moment, he too spat and started to laugh as well.

Iesa looked at me helplessly, like I was the last bastion of reason, or defender of his honor.

“Myr?” he said in a pleading voice.

I leaned back against the wall, with an exasperated expression. Closing my eyes for a moment, I smiled. I then waved my hand and suddenly the smell of cinnamon and roses wafted on the air from Iesa. He looked at me puzzled at first and then his nose caught the fresh smells that now clung onto him.

“Oh. come ON!”

Session Notes:

So…we never really understood the setup of the battle here. Based on the map, Loudwater and Secomber are the two closest towns, but Secomber didn’t have a large standing force. Many things didn’t make sense, but that only after I was reading my notes. Still, Mo almost getting us killed was humorous.

Almost.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Six Bridges, Four Pillars, Three mistakes, and One ladder. - 03/08/2020

The first time I met someone from the ‘God Void’ he was about to put a bunch of hardheads in the deadbook because he thought he was in the Abyss. Turns out for folks from Krynn, anything off plane was considered the Abyss, and considering how dangerous some places can be, it wasn’t exactly unwarranted.

But, he did learn from that mistake, made good and made an excellent bouncer for a bar. The lesson to take away here, is that adjusting to reality is how your survive.

As the laughter died down, I started to look around at the tunnel. It was apparent that it was worked with tools, but parts of it appeared to be a natural tear in the rock. The floor that I sat on was only partially smoothed out, having rough uneven footing. As my eyes followed up the walls, they too were not clean and smooth. But there was no timber holding up the ceiling like in the quarry I had been in.

“This was built. Why?” I asked, looking at the goblins.

Drik shrugged. “Was always this way. Booyagh, Wanted another path. Most never used it.”

Drok nodded. “We forced here once. Worgs hated tunnel. Booyagh angry.

“Anything else?” Iesa asked.

“Simple, No branches. Nothing here but rock,” Drik said shrugging again.

“That makes it easier,” Iesa said with a look on his face that made it clear that he had an idea.

“Well what is it?” Daneath asked looking at his brother.

“I want to investigate. Can you make me invisible Beepu?”

“I can, but it will not last forever,” the gnome said looking at Iesa critically. “Foggle is adequate for this.”

Iesa shook his head. “No, your descriptions of what Foggle sees isn’t as good as my own eyes.”

“I cannot argue with that I suppose. What are you thinking?” Beepu asked critically.

“I think that taking them before it gets dark, while we can see,” Iesa started.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Daneath nodded with approval. “At least the part about scouting. We haven’t seen or heard any worgs since the village. And how many are left here.”

“There will be slaves,” Drik said sadly.

“Few here last time. Might be more now.” Drok added.

“Well, we get can some rest then if they do not patrol the tunnel,” Beepu observed.

“Well, let’s have Gossamer and Foggle watch the tunnel entrances, while we wait for Iesa to return.” I suggested. “I’m going to get some rest now unless you need me.”

“I should be fine.” Iesa said.

“Well, this will take a moment,” and Beepu started to cast his spell.

I didn’t watch. I just turned myself and leaned against the wall and tried to relax. It was a little absurd; trying to relax and rest so close to a bunch of hobgoblins. But after running for my life moments ago, and the long hike, I have learned that If needed I can nap anywhere. A quick dreamless slumber.

My head jerked up and my eyes fluttered open at the light touch of a hand on my shoulder. I was looking at Beepu and I simply nodded and rubbed my eyes. Standing and yawning, I stretched my arms overhead and looked around. Everything seemed lighter, and looking towards the entrance to the cave, I could see no sunlight streaming in. Smirking I knew it meant it was near nightfall. The reversal of light and darkness for me was still amusing. Daneath and Iesa were talking quietly, while the goblin pair were busy checking their swords, and swapping around the limited number of quarrels for their crossbows. Beepu was pacing, his brows furrowed, and his eyes closed as he whispered to himself.

I walked over to the brothers to see what they had planned.

“Morning, princess,” Iesa smiled at me.

“If I’m a princess, I demand an upgrade of my accommodations. Otherwise, I’ll send for the headsman,” and I motioned my head towards Daneath.

"Hmm…clearly I’m mistaken,” Iesa said with a mock apology.

“It’s obvious you idiot; princesses don’t snore and drool like that,” Daneath dead panned.

“Hey wait a---” I started

“—Anyway,” Iesa said cutting me off, “What you missed was the plan. Basically, there pillars of rock with bridges in between all over the canyon. The gate has a couple of guards, as does a pair of pillars above the slave pen, where there are sentries.”

“Where are the—” I started again.

“—getting there. You are pushy after a nap. Anyway I saw most of them enter a cave directly across the canyon, from where we will be entering. One thing is that according to Drik—”

“It was Drok,” Daneath said.

“You sure?” Iesa said confused.

“Yes. Now get on with it.” Daneath replied impatiently.

“Right, according to Drok, they have a big horned thing. Like a bugbear, but not one.”

“I said that!” one of the goblins.

“I know, Drok.”

“No. That Drok. I Drik,” said the annoyed goblin.

“Daneath, you really should learn to tell them apart,” I said.

“No point! Both are goblins,” Beepu muttered, still focusing inwards.

“True. We taller,” Drik chimed in.

“Now wait a—” Beepu’s eyes snapped open and his face was red in anger and he was about to launch into a tirade when I held up my hands and interrupted.

“--Alright, alright! We don’t need to make it easier for the hobgoblins. Sounds like a minotaur.”

Daneath and Iesa straightened up in surprise. “How do you know that?”

“I don’t. But I knew one who was hipped in Sigil. Was a sailor and his ship fell through a portal into the Ditch. After everyone convinced him that he wasn’t in the Abyss he was hired as a bouncer foor a bar called The Mazes. Cool cutter, as long as he kept his temper. Basically kinda looked like a bugbear in size with a bull’s head. Right…Drik and Drok?” I quickly said.

Both the goblins nodded.

“So what do we do about him?” I asked.

“Beepu says he can collapse the cave and trap them all inside,” Iesa said.

“Really?” I said looking at Beepu in surprise. “You can do that?”

“Of course I can. I am sure of this.” Beepu said.

“Ok, how do we run this?”

Daneath smiled a moment. “Iesa is going to sneak in and take care of the guards on the pillar over the prisoners. Beepu will turn both he and you invisible. Then he will collapse the cave, and I will charge like a madman to the gates, while you pick them off.”

I thought a moment. “So that way we keep the prisoners safe.”

“Exactly,” Daneath said proudly.

“There were two posts though by the prisoners. What if the other group sees or hears the group being taken on?”

“I’m sure I can handle that,” Iesa said smugly.

“What if I made sure they never heard you?” I offered.

“Go on,” Iesa said with curiosity.

“I can make one spot absolutely silent. That one group can’t yell for help. I just need a little time to cast it, before I get turned invisible.”

“You have that as a ritual? That is indeed useful. You will need to show me the formula later,” Beepu said with an almost greedy tone.

“Sure, when we get back to somewhere civilized. You sure you can collapse the cave?” I pressed.

“Yes, yes, yes. I am very certain.” Beepu waved his hand nonchalantly at the question, unconcerned.

“Fine, and Drik and Drok?”

The two goblins smiled wickedly, “We show hobgoblins they clumsy,” Drik said.

“Very clumsy,” Drok agreed.
We made our way through the tunnel towards the far side. It wasn’t long before we reached the end of it, and beyond I saw the night sky and the far wall of the canyon

Canyon was really overstating it; big crevice in the rock was more like it. Ahead a rope bridge with wooden planks let to a central pillar, and another one led beyond to another cliffside. On the cliff to the left a ledge lead to another bridge crossing to a lower pillar of rock, and that rock too had a bridge to a second pillar of rock. Both had four hobgoblins, looking down at a set of wooden cages. Following the far wall to the right, it passed by a cave, and another bridge leading back towards the rock on our side but stopping at another pillar. Yet another bridge led to another smaller cave, while a ladder led down to the floor of the canyon. Finally, at the far edge, was a palisade of wood, with a gate. There two hobgoblins stood guard, looking away.

I nodded to myself thinking that this could work, then I frowned. I turned to Drik and whispered: “Where are the Booyaghs?

“Other cave,” he whispered back, pointing at the wall on the right side.

“Did you see him Iesa?” I turned to the rogue with concern.

He shook his head, “No. didn’t have the time and I didn’t want to risk being found.”

“How many are there?” I turned back to Drik and Drok.

“One,” said Drik.

“Maybe,” said Drok.

“Great,” I muttered aloud. “Beepu, lets get our friends airborne to keep an on things, once the fighting starts.”

“A good idea. I do not want to be surprised by reinforcements.” He nodded.

Gos, after things start, take to the air and keep an eye out for the Booyagh.

--Sure I ca…a what?

A magic caster. Any kind.

--Uh…sure. How do I know it won’t target me?

Hopefully because you aren’t attacking it, and we’ll be more problematic.

--I guess I can count on you to be a bigger pest.

Thanks a lot.

--Any time.


I shake my head and look at the rest. “Ok, I’m starting. When I signal, I will be halfway through, so you should make your way there then. I can’t move it, or easily recast it though.”

“Got it,” Iesa said. “Kiss for good luck?”

I looked at him quizzically at the sudden boldness, “I…better to ask your brother for one,” I said trying to focus on the moment.

“I’m more of a hugger,” Daneath deadpanned.

“Hah, hah,” Iesa said in a wounded tone. But I wasn’t sure if it was really in jest.

I started to whisper quietly looking at the far platform on the left. I started to move my hands, pulling threads from the strand and weaving a pattern, anchoring it to the top of the pillar where four of the hobgoblins guarded the prisoners. Slowly I pulled on threads from light and dark strands. Slow enough that I would leave myself enough energy to pull sudden bursts if needed.

The others watched me in silence, waiting. Eventually I looked at Iesa and nodded. He quickly turned, and started across the wooden boards quietly, lightly stepping on the slats in an effort to make no noise.

I could feel the energy begin to bind, and the threads tying themselves into knots as they started to grip and catch each other. I watched as Iesa made his way quietly across the second bridge, reaching the cliffside path. Once he was there, I started to pull the threads tightly. They began to bind and knot and in my mind a sphere took shape.

It seemed to go on forever, but finally I could feel the magic beginning to take hold in the weave. Looking across the canyon, I saw that Iesa was ready, and with a final whisper I pulled on all the threads at one, breaking them from the weave itself, creating a field that, as long as I focused on it, would stay sustained.

The instant I stopped whispering, Beepu’s hands went into motion, and quickly I watched our bodies fade from view, like shadows did for me when darkness finally reached across the landscape.

“Done. Let us go,” I heard Beepu’s voice say, and we both tried to make our way across the rope bridge. The posts and the wood of the bridge didn’t seem new, with the boards showing their age with grey weathering. But the ropes themselves seemed newer, with little signs of fraying. The boards barely creaked as we made our way across to the pillar. Being the central one in the cluster, it would give us a great view of the entire canyon, and it would allow us to react as needed.

Daneath stayed behind in the cave, not wanting the sounds of his armor to attract attention until it was time. Drik and Drok however, crossed with us, their small bodies making little sounds as they crossed to the pillar. Once there, they started to scuttle down the rock sides to the ground below. I looked across towards where I saw Iesa making his way toward the first set of guards.

But his time was running out, as the guards noticed the change in the noises around them. They started to look around confused. I could see their mouths open and one looked like he was trying to bellow his loudest shout. The four stood there in confusion, when Iesa struck.

He was quick, Laying down two quickly to the ground. The two others didn’t even notice, oblivious to the threat that stalked them in the silence that surrounded them. By the time they did notice, they too were brought down by Iesa’s blades. I smiled to myself.

So far so good.

--Don’t get cocky

Oh please, as if…what the?


There is a belief in Sigil that things happen in sets, the most common is the “Rule of Threes.” Three things happen in the multiverse in close proximity to something important. And so, the Rule of Three struck today.

Three mistakes.

I watched in confusion as Iesa stopped on his platform and pulled out his bow and notched an arrow. I was about to send him a magical message, when I realized that Iesa would be unable to hear it. I wanted to tap Beepu to point it out, but I wasn’t sure where Beepu was on the pillar we shared. I then heard the not the twang of the bow, but just the whistling of the arrow sail past the second group of guards, striking the canyon wall beyond.

The first mistake.

The hobgoblins looked around in confusion at the noise, and quickly turned and saw Iesa. They then shouted and charged at him, quickly closing the gap. I watched Iesa react in surprise, switching his bow for his rapier.

“What in the hells is he doing?!” Daneath huffed as he ran past my hidden form, running across the bridge to the far wall. It was the same thought I had, and all I could do is whisper aloud; “I guess it’s your turn Beepu.”

“Quite right,” I heard his voice say, and then light footsteps move away. I then could feel a surge and watched him reappear on the far side of the bridge gesturing towards the cave. I could hear the noise of earth and stone churn, and I watched as dust plumes billowed from its mouth. Insides I heard yells, shouts and a couple of screams. I couldn’t see Beepu well, but I imagined him smiling, which almost put a smile on my face until I realized something.

The plan was for Beepu to cause a cave-in, blocking the cave. But other than the clouds of dust, there was no such blockage. Daneath had crossed the bridge and passed by Beepu running back towards me. From out of the cave came exactly what I predicted, a very dusty and very angry minotaur. He emerged and bellowed a hideous roar and charged straight into Daneath. Daneath, nearly was knocked over by the blow, and started to defend himself. But this wasn’t the plan! He was supposed to help Iesa, while the cave was blocked. But the cave was anything but, and more hobgoblins emerged from the rubble strewn floor.

“What happened?!?” I yelled at Beepu. “Why isn’t it blocked?”

“I could not alignt the spell to erupt from the ceiling and cause additional rock to fall. I was certain that was going to work!” he replied. He started to roll up his sleeves ready to do more work.

The second mistake.

Iesa was pinned down, with four very angry hobgoblins attacking him. Daneath was holding his own against the minotaur, who’s bulk prevented the other hobgoblins from getting closer. But I saw one, running along the cliff face path, and towards the other bridge.

I didn’t know what to do. With only a moment to decide I threw dark strands towards the same cave that Beepu had just damaged. And with a quick pull I snapped it, and from within I could hear the shattering of bone and screams from within. I could even see the minotaur spit blood, and the hobgoblin behind him fall to his knees and then face down, no longer moving. I smiled and felt the rush of excitement as I felt their lives fade away.

My eye then was drawn to who I thought was the lone coward. I expected him to run across the bridge, descend the ladder, and head towards the gate. Instead he ran across the second bridge shouting something in goblin. He didn’t slow at all and charged into the other cave.

“We’d better help Daneath,” I yelled, now fully visible. I ran across the bridge, pulling on dark strands and summoning a miasma onto the minotaur and a hobgoblin behind him. Beepu ran close behind me and leveled a bolt of fire at one of Iesa’s opponents, knocking him down. Iesa was hard pressed, and I watched with horror as I saw a hobgoblin make a savage cut across Iesa’ midsection, and blood spray everywhere. Two more remained on him, and he looked to be in bad shape.

--You have a problem!

What do you--


“--How DARE you!” I heard, and I turned to see a hobgoblin in leathers standing at the entrance of the other cave. He made a quick slashing movement with his hand and I watched a bright pea sized red light leave his hand and streaked straight towards, Daneath, Beepu and I. My eyes widened in horror as the pea, blossomed into a flower of fire and heat in front of me.

The third mistake.

My mistake.

The flames engulfed us. I have had burns before. Several times I had felt the pain of hot metal searing my skin until it smoked and charred. But only a part of me. Now my entire body screamed in pain as the fireball seared my flesh. The smell of burnt hair, leather and skin filled the air as the flames faded away. I felt nauseous and it took everything I had, not to sink to my knees. I was shaking my head, trying to clear it and focus, when I felt another sharp pain in my thigh.

I screamed and looking down I saw the cause. A quarrel was now lodged in my leg, and blood was streaming down my leather breeches. I turned to find the source, and I watched as Iesa was retreating along the cliff face, to join his brother. In the meantime, the hobgoblins had drawn crossbows and now were firing them at us, and I was the lucky recipient of the first volley.

“This is bad,” Beepu shouted, throwing another bolt of fire towards the pair with the crossbows. The blast sailed between them and struck the rock wall some distance behind them.

“Start with hitting them,’ I grimaced in pain and I threw a pair of bolts towards them, striking each, but weakly. They didn’t fall, and I was unsure if they were even seriously hurt. I saw that Iesa had placed himself on the bridge and was able to stab the minotaur who still was trying to cleave through Daneath’s shield with a greataxe. I noticed that he too was singed, and its course hide was smoking from the fiery blast. Daneath was still swinging, but his blows against his foe seemed ineffective. But worse I saw more hobgoblins running from the gate and start to climb up the ladder. It was only a matter of time before we would be overrun.

And then to make this worse, I watched the Booyagh take to the air and fly. He simply laughed at us, and our plight. He started to make preparations to cast another spell at us.

I looked above at the stars and prayed. This wasn’t going well at all. It sounded like a good plan. A great plan. A plan that was falling apart all because of errors. Daneath would be soon overrun, all four of us were badly hurt, and I had no idea what spell the Booyagh was about to unleash upon us.

Please Kelemvor. Not now. Not yet. We need—

“CLUMSY!” was the word I heard, from the top of a goblin’s lungs. Looking across at the other pillar, I saw Drik and Drok push the ladder that led up to it, backwards. There were four hobgoblins on it who screamed, as the ladder fell backwards back onto the canyon floor.

I smiled; and there it was; The Fourth Rule. The exception. Three mistakes, and one perfectly timed event.

“Well, who knew. That is a help.” Beepu said and he started another spell and from behind the minotaur a familiar fog bank appeared, covering the hobgoblins and minotaur, but keeping Daneath and Iesa’s vision clear. Iesa had moved onto the bridge, and now was firing arrows at the hobgoblins firing crossbows at us, bringing one down.

I quickly pulled on some strands and the rock in front of Daneath twisted and churned, into an uneven surface. Daneath moved swung at the Minotaur, and backed up onto the bridge. The minotaur was moving slowly, trying to find its footing, swinging at Daneath wildly, its axe throwing it offbalance.

That was all Daneath needed, and he quickly riposted, thrusting his sword deep into the gut of the Minotaur. It bellowed in pain, dropping its axe and clutched its midsection, and finally stumbling and falling off the path to the canyon floor below.

“Let me confuse them a bit,” Beepu said, and I watched right behind the churned earth, now stood a pile of rubble and stone. I was confused how Beepu did it at first, when I realized it wasn’t real; it had to be an illusion. But with the fog blocking the sight of the hobgoblins on the cliff path…how would they know?

Iesa’s bow twanged again, and the last of the crossbow men fell on the other pillar. Meanwhile the Booyagh in the air tried to hit our dirty pair, Drik and Drok with a bolt of fire but it somehow missed. They fired their crossbows at the flying hobgoblin, only scratching him. But then they ran across the bridge, and into the fog. The hobgoblin shouted in anger, unable to target the pair. He then flew over us and towards the pillars that overlooked the prisoners.

“Beepu, can you get him?” I yelled pointing at the flying figure.

“I can, why can you not bring him down?” Beepu replied flustered.

“So, I can kill the others on the path! Drop the fog.”

“Drop the…Oh I see. Fine!” and he waved his hand and the fog started to disappear from sight. Soon I could see the hobgoblins that remained from the cave and several more that had climbed the ladder before Drik and Drok dropped it. They stood dumfounded at the “new” rock wall that was in front of them and were unsure on how to proceed. I quickly pulled and snapped the strand and another ear shattering explosion rocked the path, and all but one hobgoblin fell over. The exhilaration returned and grew as I watched Drik and Drok race across shouting “CLUMSY” and quickly bringing down the remaining hobgoblin on the path.

“Take that!” Beepu threw a bolt of fire and it hit the Booyagh square in the chest.

“Your feeble magic means nothing to me!” the hobgoblin retorted, and he returned a blast in kind, narrowly missing Beepu, who quickly scrambled behind a post holding up a bridge.

“How about this then?” and I turned to see Iesa had drawn the dagger that the Kershak had wanted so badly. Its blade now dripped with some foul concoction, and I watched Iesa hurl it straight at the surprised hobgoblin. The blade spun in the air, and struck the flying Booyagh in the right breast, causing him to spit blood.

The Booyagh sneered and pulled the dagger out with a look of contempt at Iesa. Then suddenly his face contorted in pain, causing him to drop the dagger, which skittered across the rocks. And then he fell from the air, his spell no longer sustaining him. He landed face first onto the pillar with a sickening crunch of bone on rock.

We heard commotions by the gate, but our focus was now on the figure who lay on the rock. Somehow, he managed to stagger to his feet, and looked at us in fury.

“The Prophesized One will win!” and with a quick gesture with his hands, the hobgoblin disappeared from sight.

“What the? Where is he?” Daneath shouted.

“He’s invisible! Beepu...do something!” Iesa yelled.

“I have to see him to do something you dolt,” Beepu retorted angrily.

“Wait, can’t you cast something at an area?” I looked at Beepu with an idea in my mind.

“Of course. Where do you propose?”

I held up my hand.

Gos? Can you see him?

--Who? The Hobgoblin running on the path? Of course. Why can’t y—

No! is he heading to a bridge?

--Yes, he’s about to cross the one nearest the gate, and looks to be heading to his cave.

Fly over him and tell me when he gets there.


I grabbed the gnome by the shoulders and pulled him to the far side of the pillar. “Beepu, cast whatever you have at that bridge, when Gossamer is right above it. Don’t argue.”

“Alright. Fine,” he said with a confused tone, and he readied a spell and glanced between the bridge and me.

--He’s there!

“Now!”

Beepu simply threw some sand in the air. Suddenly the figure of the hobgoblin appeared and fell down unconscious on the bridge. Then his momentum carried him, and he rolled off the edge on to the canyon floor below.

However, Gossamer also quickly fell from the air plopping on the bridge as well. Seeing this, I reached down and pulled the crossbow quarrel from my leg with a yelp. I then ran across the bridges to reach my familiar.

But Drik and Drok were faster and reached the fallen tressym before I could limp there. They gently picked him up, and with great care, trotted over and gingerly handed his body to me.

I pressed my hand to his chest and could feel the warmth and the beat of his heart. Any emotion or passion I felt about the death of the hobgoblins was gone now, replaced by the feeling of immense relief knowing that my familiar still lived. I stood there, cuddling the sleeping cat in my arms, still bleeding from the puncture wound left by the crossbow as the others approached me.

“How did you—” Daneath started, very confused.

“Ah. It’s a tressym ability. They can see invisible things.” Beepu said matter of factly.

“Really? Anything hidden?” Iesa asked surprised.

“No. Invisible. Not hidden. So, if you hid in a bush, he might not see you.” Beepu responded.

“Probably would smell him,” Drik said wisely.

“Very likely,” Drok agreed.

“What the…oh come on!” Iesa said exasperated.

I just stood there, smiling, eyes closed, silently holding Gossamer tight, not wanting to wake him from Beepu’s enforced slumber. The tears in my eyes filled with the same warmth that I had in my heart. And at that moment, nothing else mattered in the world.

Not the pain in my leg.

Not the Prophesied One.

Not even Sigil.



Session notes:

So the mistakes were real; Iesa thought the silence was bigger and followed him. I did really choose the bad target, but Beepu’s is more interesting.

What you read here, is basically me in character the equivalent of ‘did you ask the DM about that?’

He didn’t so when he did try to collapse the cave, it led to I think an hour derailment, as we discussed the rules here and the basic concept that in 5e, spells only do what they are described to do. Erupting Earth wasn’t going to cause a cave in. The DM listen to the plan, and even noted my characters question “are you sure you can do that” and was surprised that the player didn’t ask.

For my part I assumed that the player had already talked to the DM based on the answer, so I was partially surprised at the events that occurred.

And it did lead to a memorable battle as you can see.
 


Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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