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Journal of the Souls of Legend

Excellent!

And count me as another one who really enjoyed all the downtime stuff. I really like that you're fleshing out the story, rather than just recounting encounter after encounter.

That said, I'm also looking forward to getting back to the action ...
 

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Lightboy - 6/28/2020

Serendipity is where chance leads to something in a happy or beneficial way. Not sure who coined it, but it would have been nice if he coined the opposite.

Because it seems to be far more prevalent.



The sky was a deep red, as the sun had set, and shadows crept into the city. While the lampposts in this district lit up with some magic of the elves, it did little to banish the darkness. It would be some time before Selune rose to cast her light across the streets and even then, it would be only be a quarter of her grace.

So, the shop lay in darkness, quiet as a tomb. Then from the entrance, the soft sound of the door handle turning slowly to avoid making a sound. Once the latch had cleared, it opened quietly, and a cloaked figure entered the shop quickly closing it again, and slowly releasing the latch. They then, moved quietly to the stairs, looking around casually, unconcerned with being seen or heard now in the empty shop.

The cloaked figure climbed the stairs to the second level and turned on the landing, heading towards a lantern that sat on a nearby table, near a window. The figure started to move when they stopped dead in their tracks. The figure’s head twisted around sensing something was out of place. Or perhaps they heard a creak in the floorboards, or a breath of air that was unexpected. They paused with uncertainty when a voice called to them.

“Let me light that for you,” a woman’s voice called out.

The lantern blazed with a brilliant white light. The light from it was pointed, not at the window, but towards the stairs and the hooded figure, who jumped in surprise. Startled, they started to backpedal towards the stairs, when from the darkness of a side room a shadow flung themselves at the retreating figure, with a gleaming dagger in hand. The attacker swung his blade and the cloaked figure deftly evaded the blow. Too late the figure realized it was a feint, as their attacker reversed the strike, smashing the pommel into the cloaked figure’s head, causing them to stumble down the stairs.

As they stumbled, the figure attempted to stand and run back towards the front entrance. They never saw the second shadow that smashed a metal shield into their body. The figure was slammed into the wall, and then crumpled into a wheezing lump on the floor. Looking for an escape they then heard a pair of swords drawn as the shadow downstairs blocked the exit, while, the one from upstairs pointed a freshly drawn sword at the skulker’s throat. The figure then coughed, chuckled, and then raised their hands in surrender.

“Wise move berk,” I said, as I slowly came down the stairs, looking at the cloaked figure lying there with contempt. Beside me, carrying the brightly lit later, was Beepu, his eyes as hard as flint as he regarded the invader to his family’s dwelling. The figure sat up awkwardly and moved their hands towards their hood that covered their head.

“Easy there; If I so much hear an arcane word from you, I will kill you where you sit,” Iesa said evenly. “Or my brother will beat your head in with that shield. Take your pick.”

“Well, this does alter my plans slightly,” a familiar voice mocked us. “But I suppose this does spare me in having you chase me down.” The figure pulled down his hood, revealing long blonde hair and the tapered ears of an all too familiar sun elf.

The instant I saw his face, I seethed with anger, drawing my greensteel blade. I jumped down the stairs, knocking the elf flat on his back. I knelt on top of him, with my knee on his chest and my blade at his throat.

I hissed between clenched teeth, “Paradros. You unhende spiv. I should cut your throat now and bleed you dry for what you did.”

Beepu slowly walked down the stairs, surprisingly calm and said simply. “Where is she?”

“See Myrai, I think you should cool your taste for my blood a bit so we can talk like reasonable people.”

“A reasonable person would just kill you, as you are just a dead elf walking,” I retorted.

“Myrai?” and I felt Beepu’s hand on my shoulder. “I will ask you again, where is my mother, Paradros?”

“Not far; just a little ways outside the city walls. Someplace we can talk undisturbed,” Paradros said coolly. “Assuming that your friend doesn’t nick me with her blade.”

“I’ll do more than that,” I snarled.

“So, you just what? Lead us out of town and we walk away with his mother?” Iesa said. “You have been trying to get us killed for months, so pardon me if I don’t trust you.”

“My dear Iesa,” Paradros said smoothly, “We are well beyond trust here. After all, if you don’t come with me tonight…who knows what might happen? The same could be said if I don’t come back at all.” He turned to look at me in the eye. “That would be a terrible thing if you lost control Myrai. Horrible things could happen.”

I leaned in close to him, “You’re right. And horrible things happened to those who trusted you. You have a lot of your kin’s blood on your hands. So, your word means very sodding little.” I pushed my blade higher against his throat, forcing his head backwards.

“You should put a leash on her ‘Big ‘D’’ before she does something you all regret.” Paradros said smiling, sure of his position.

“Myr, please,” Daneath said. I didn’t move and continued to stare into Paradros’ eyes. “So why not meet in town?”

“Because Silverymoon’s ward prevent a lot of spells from functioning,” Beepu said evenly.

Paradros shrugged. “I didn’t choose the place. I had intended to have you follow me there after all, and not be assaulted so brazenly by the four of you. I don’t even know what will be discussed, as I am a simple messenger,” he said mockingly.

“So, you delivered your message,” I hissed. “Well done, errand boy. Why don’t you make it easy on yourself and tell us where to go, so we don’t have to drag you with us.”

“You don’t scare me. None of you do. So, shall we get this over with?” Paradros said, with an exaggerated sigh.

“You don’t know how…fortunate you are,” I said through clenched teeth, as I pulled my blade away from his throat and got off him.

“What? That I have powerful friends?”

“No,” I said. “That I do.”







Daneath and Iesa disarmed Paradros, casting his sword and dagger in the corner of the shop, and then secured his hands behind his back. Finally, they put his cloak back on over his bonds. Now only a close inspection would be able to determine he was our prisoner.

We set out and headed to the market. While it was dark, there was still some stragglers leaving town out of the Hunter’s Gate, heading to farms or homes in the nearby Moonwood. We were able to move our prisoner along and outside the walls without getting the attention of the city guard. Paradros didn’t seem to care in the slightest, carrying on with a smile and humming to himself, while Daneath and Iesa shepherded along him, three abreast.

Beepu and I were following just behind them. “They will return my mother,” he said quietly, his eyes still glaring at the sun elf.

“I hope so,” I said. “I know this is a trap, but I hope we can find our way out.”

Beepu nodded. “I would…sacrifice a lot for my family,” he said almost whispering.

“Let’s hope that we don’t need to,” I said.

“Do you really think it will be that easy?”

“No. I just don’t know how hard it will be.”

Paradros guided us northward along the road, and eventually pointed out a side path. It was barely visible with the overgrowth of the wood, and it led up into the hills, and even deeper into the Moonwood. The track was in poor condition but eventually it opened into a small clearing.

In the clearing stood an old manor house; covered in vines. The windows on the floors were missing, and the shuttered hung loosely on their sides. The rear part and the side wings were all in ruin, worn away by the weather and time. Broken branches lay on the roof, which had holes rent by other larger branches. But what used to be the very front hall was mostly intact, with a set of double doors that hung loosely on their hinges. But beyond was the barest hint of firelight flickering with.

“Nice place for a meeting,” Iesa said dryly. “Just the right amount of ruin and darkness.”

“I suppose we like a bit of the theatrical,” Paradros said smugly. “And I am sure what you are looking for is inside. So, if you don’t mind untying me.”

“Why would we do that?” I said, stopping Daneath short. “As far as I am concerned you are a prisoner.”

“Now Myrai, I think it is only proper that you trust me—”

I whipped my greensteel dagger out and then I held it to his surprised throat. “I don’t think you understand your position here,” I breathed into his face. “This blade was forged in the fires of Dis, sharper than any you can forge here. And I cannot think of anything more appropriate than using it to slit your throat.”

Paradros swallowed slowly and he stared at me coldly. “I think that my master values me, and would be…troubled my by absence,” he said evenly.

“So, he’s here to notice it then,” I replied. The other three turned to look at us as we talked.

“Along with Beepu’s precious mother and…friends,” the elf replied with cold smirk.

“Friends of yours or ours I wonder?” I said still holding the blade evenly.

Paradros looked confused before speaking, “Of yours? You won’t find them here.”

“Then, I guess you stay a prisoner,” I said with a mocking sorrowful tone. “If you are valuable…then you are perfectly safe. Otherwise, your master has sent you to your death…like all of his tools.” But as I said this, I turned over something else in my head.

He never mentioned Kingsley. Not as a victim or a warning, and certainly not as another prisoner. So, if the Kershak didn’t know about him, where was he now? I hoped that he was in a safer place than we.

Paradros grimaced and nodded. “I guess I shall have to be patient.”

I withdrew my blade and returned it to its sheath and pushed Paradros’s shoulder to face him towards the house. “Let’s get this over with.”

Iesa nodding, drew his rapier and made a couple of clicking noises with his tongue. Mo crawled out of his pack, and then quickly scampered for a nearby tree. Beepu looked at Foggle who hovered nearby. Daneath pulled the strap of his shield and drew his longsword. I pulled out the new rod I had created, gripping it tightly.

Goss…I don’t know what is going to happen.

--Well I’ll warn you if I see something that should be seen.


Daneath went inside the doors first, followed by our prisoner with Iesa tapping him with the flat of his blade, and Beepu and I in the rear.

“Stop that, you might actually cut me,” Paradros complained

“I thought you would prefer this to Myrai's blade. She actually does want to kill you.”

Paradros grunted in return. We found ourselves in a grand hall. This hall thought was lined with rotten and decaying bookshelves. A small set of stairs led to a dais with doorways leading to the shattered remains of the manor house. The roof had collapsed in spots, scattering debris on the floor. Any books that were here had been taken long ago, leaving bookcases with empty or broken shelves scattered around the room, with some broken apart on the floor.

Bur our eyes were drawn to a lit pair of braziers on the dais, and there stood three figures. The one on the left I recognized; the halfling we met outside of Portstown, north of Yartar. He looked at us disapprovingly as if we were children who ignored a warning. He had already a scimitar drawn, which he turned over in his hands in anticipation. The figure on the right was a heavily armored dwarf, who cradled a battleaxe. Unlike the halfling, he stood his ground without nervous tics. But he gave the impression that he was a coiled snake ready to strike out.

Between them stood another man. If Daneath were to stand toe to toe with him, I would have guessed he was a head and half taller. He stood there armored with a breast plate, greaves and vambraces. A sword hunt at his side, as he stood there with his arms crossed. He had no hair, and his eyes seemed to be a black mirror of his soul. In front of him was a large sack, bulging with something inside, but unmoving.

“So…my belligerent, wayward…progeny?” he spat contemptuously, “finally do me the honor of a visit. It took you long enough to leave Melandrach’s ‘protection.’ As if he could grant you any.”

Daneath and Iesa stepped forward, while I swung my rod in front of Paradros from moving forward. Beepu also stepped into the center of the room, and as we talked, the brothers flanked him at a distance.

“Well, my manners are a bit rusty,” Beepu spat. “But I do not believe my parents taught me how to address and keep appointments with criminals.”

“Beepu…you do so resemble your father…and your mother,” the man drawled. “And I am no criminal. I am one of your betters, so I expect better manners from you.”

“You flatter well enough,” Iesa retorted. “But you talk like another bully in the slums.”

“One that kidnaps an old woman out of spite,” Daneath said contemptuously. “Clearly the mark of a brave man.”

The large man smiled, “I didn’t drag Beepu’s mother into this; for that you can blame your father Beepu. If he hadn’t of…stolen what didn’t belong to him, perhaps we could have all met under different circumstances.”

“My father was not a thief,” Beepu growled.

“In the end he took something from me. It doesn’t matter if Umbra gave it to him or not. And so, I want what Pachook took from Umbra. And I want Pachook’s rand Helsa's rings.”

I squinted at the man’s demands and thought.

They don’t have the rings?

“I demand you return my mother!” Beepu said angrily.

“Certainly,” and the man bent forward to grasp the sack. “Tell you what, I’m certainly willing to return her in exchange.” He said as he hefted the sack, like it contained nothing.

“Exchange for what?” Daneath said between his clenched teeth, as he twisted the pommel of his longsword in his hand.

The man looked at us all with a sneer. “Your lives,” and then he threw the sack across the floor off the room. As he did so, the neck of the sack unfolded, and some of the contents scattered across the floor as the sack flew towards Beepu.

As I looked, my stomach started to churn as one of the objects that spilled from the bag was clearly the burned remains of an arm, the length matching a child…or a gnome. The arm was a charred to the bone, with only the barest amount of tissue holding the upper arm, forearm, and hand together. But it skidded on the floor, and settled by Beepu’s feet, with other parts strewn close by in front of the gnome.

Beepu started to shake and his hands clenched in rage. He thrust his hand into a pouch and drew a vial of water and spilled it on his hand in a practiced motion, and then flung a shard of ice at the armored figure. The ice spun in the air and then shattered on what appeared to be a globe, only made visible by the ice shards that scattered across its briefly visible surface.

“Pathetic. Did you really think that I, the Kershak would be affected by your minor magics? It is time to bring this to a close; for all of you.” The man raised his hand and a mote of fire appeared and within a blink of an eye, he hurled the mote of fire straight at us. It exploded into a wreath of flames, that surrounded Iesa, Daneath and Beepu, while Paradros and I dove. The flames licked at us as we both scrambled to find a shelter from the flame.

As the spots faded from my eyes, I stumbled to my feet slowly coughing. I looked around at the shelves that were scattered around the room. All of them now were alight in orange flame. In the center of the room, Daneath was on a knee, with his shield in front of him using it as a barricade from the blast of fire. Beepu was crouched behind him, coughing. Glancing across the room, I saw that Iesa had dove behind a bookcase. But as it turned out he wasn’t alone, as he had already traded blows with an armored warrior. The dwarf and the halfling on the dais started to run towards Daneath, with blades drawn.

I then turned to look at Paradros next to me who now stood, using a pillar to steady himself with his hands…

“Soddin—” I said starting to pull on a strand. But Paradros turned his head to face me with a knowing smile that dissolved into mist before my eyes

“—ing prod!” I whirled and saw Paradros’ cloak snapping behind him as he bolted towards the front entrance

“No!” I screamed, and I lashed out with a dark strand, the rod letting me focus. From the purple sapphire, two bolts of deep purple shot across the room, striking Paradros. The elf grunted, and stumbled and ran outside, never turning to look behind him. I was about to chase him, when I heard the sound of a blade being drawn and turned around just in time to deflect a sword blow with my shield. Another armored figure had been lurking in the stack of shelves and they tried to take advantage of my distraction.

Beepu and Daneath split apart from each other. Daneath ran and collided with the dwarf as he tried to block the axe from finding anything vital. He swung, knocking the axe blade away, and attempted to thrust and bury the sword in the dwarf’s chest. But the dwarf was remarkably fast, spinning with the momentum of his blade, and using that to knock Daneath’s sword away.

Beepu however, moved at a slight angle along the floor, pulling out of his pouch a small glass rod, and a bit of fur. He then planted himself and said some arcane syllables. From the rod emanated a bluish white light that streaked across the room, hitting first the dwarf, and striking the halfling who was closing with the melee. The sound of the strike was deafening and the overwhelming scent of burnt hair marked the bolts passage.

The Kershak shook his head sadly, as the smoke from the lightning strike disappated. He had a resigned look on his face as he spoke again.

“If that is the best you can muster, I see no reason to stay,” the Kershak gestured with a mailed gauntlet and then turned around. He the strode into a shimmering cloud in the air, into which he disappeared.

“No! Get back here!” Daneath shouted, as he swung his sword at the dwarf in front of him. The dwarf deflected Daneath’s blows with large sweeping swings of his axe, each one threatening to pull Daneath off balance and exposing him to attack. Daneath hammered at the dwarf, trying to use his height advantage to wear down the dwarf. The dwarf, however, was used to fighting larger opponents. He kept swinging low and wide, forcing Daneath to constantly move and never setting his feet for a hard strike.

Meanwhile, Iesa was busy with his own opponents as a second armored figure came around a bookcase, flanking the rogue. Iesa spun with his blade, deflecting a thrust from the second man’s longsword. But he was at a disadvantage, as the first man landed a solid blow to Iesa’s side, causing blood to splatter the wood near him.

I too was busy, as I now had to deal with a second attacker. However, I simply pulled on a single dark strand, and looped it around both of my attackers. Skeletal hands grasped at both of their throats, tearing away at their life energy. One clasped his neck and sunk to his knees, while the other one swung and landed a blow on my shield, as he gurgled in pain.

That elf has run into the trees somewhere.

--Keep an eye outside, let me know if any reinforcements arri—OOF!


The man had swung again finding his way past my shield, and his blade slammed into my armor. I wheezed and coughed up some blood. Each breath was now painful, as I suspected a rib or two had been bruised or possibly cracked. Grimacing I swatted his blade away with my shield and focused on ripping his soul away with a miasma of darkness, as the sound of a bell rang in the fiery field of battle. The second man clutched at his chest and looked at me in horror as he sunk to his knees in a clatter of metal, before he fell flat on his face.

Turning I saw that Beepu was throwing bolts of flame at the halfling that now had engaged Daneath with a pair of daggers. The flames didn’t even slow the halfling down, however. He quickly moved behind the warrior, sinking a pair of quick strikes into his side. Blood poured down from behind the faulds of his armor, dripping on the flagstone floor.

Iesa finally ran his rapier through one of his attackers, straight into his chest. But the smile on Iesa’s face was short lived, as his second foe, landed a vicious blow on the rogue, his blade landing across Iesa’s midsection. With a groan, Iesa stumbled to his knees, and slumped backwards against a burning bookcase. I watched as his rapier fell from his hand, clattering on the stone.

“No! Pike that!” I shouted and threw both light and dark strands wide around the Kershak’s lackeys, and pull them taut, before mentally yanking them so tight that the strands snapped. The sounds of bookcases and stone railings exploded as the sound of thunder shook the hall. This knocked down Iesa’s former foe, and he fell into a crumpled heap onto the floor. But my heart sank as I realized neither the dwarf or the halfling seemed concerned, or even wounded by the magic.

Daneath was hard pressed on two sides, trying to prevent the halfling from finding a vulnerable spot. So, when the dwarf struck him with the axe, he used the momentum and staggered backwards, causing the halfling to miss with a dagger thrust. Daneath seized the moment, and reposted, thrusting his blade deep into the stomach of the halfling. The halfling shook his head clearing the pain, only to be struck by a trio of bluish bolts from Beepu’s hands. He tried to twist away, but it was in vain as the missiles struck him unerringly. The halfling grimaced and spun trying to slash Daneath with his blades again, but this time he was unable to find an opening in the mithral plate armor.

I gritted my teeth and threw a miasma at both the halfling and the dwarf. As I approached them, they both grunted and glared at me in pain. I gulped, hoping that they would keep their eyes on me, and miss what I was doing, as I whispered a single word, and used a light strand to envelope Iesa, and channel healing energy into the fallen man.

The halfling took a step towards me, and once again he was struck by a trio of missiles from Beepu, who ran towards the fallen Iesa. But as he did so, the dwarf shifted positions, and brough down his axe hard in the back of the gnome, causing Beepu to fall and skid on his stomach to a nearby shelf. The dwarf returned his focus on Daneath, while the halfling looked at me with an evil grin.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Iesa crawling towards Beepu, pulling a vial from his pocket. Looking at our opponents, it seemed that neither was severely hurt; little bleeding, and neither were even slowed from their exertions. We needed to balance the scales in the fight. I then remembered something. I slung my rod to my side and thrust my hand into a pouch and pulled out a gemstone. One that we had found on the outskirts of Portstown on the way to Flint Rock. I then held it up and spoke:

“Hey dwarf, looking for this?”

He turned to look at me with greedy eyes. As he did so, I triggered the magic contained within the stone, and a brilliant white light emitted from the stone and struck the dwarf in the eyes.

“You blasted wench!” the dwarf shouted. He turned around in confusion, blinking his eyes trying to regain his sight. He swung wildly trying to keep Daneath from getting close to him. The halfling glanced at the dwarf for a moment, and grimaced and ran at me with blades ready. He swung with both them, and while my shield deflected his offhand blade, the main one sank deeply into my thigh, causing me to yelp in pain.

I stared into the eyes of the halfling and I watched his smile fade as I pulled dark strands and then screamed. As I did, dark energy exploded all around me consuming and raking at everything nearby. Black tendrils flayed at the halfling, sapping at his strength and then they reached and struck the dwarf as well. The necrotic energy wave tore at their souls, weakening them. When the darkness receded, I moved toward Beepu, who was now sitting up shaking his head.

Iesa took advantage of the dwarf’s blindness and thrust his blade into a gap beneath the pauldrons. The dwarf’s head jerked up at the sudden breech as his lungs were suddenly flooded with his own blood. He fell to his knees and heaved. Then he fell forward flat on his stomach and blood disgorged from his mouth on the stone.

I reached Beepu, and heard steps behind me, and I turned to see that the halfing had pursued me and was about to strike when a blade erupted from the halfling’s chest. His face twisted with surprise as Daneath twisted and flung the halfling from his sword. The body crumpled on the floor, and a pool of blood quickly appeared beneath the body.

I stood there panting, my chest burning and the wound in leg throbbing. I was helping Beepu to his feet, when the sudden sound of timbers creaking and snapping grabbed our attention. Looking up, the flames had reached the rafters of the room, and the ceiling was starting to collapse, as the support beams burned away.

“Get Beepu out of here, now!” I yelled. Iesa grabbed the gnome, while Daneath raised his shield overhead to protect them from falling debris.

“What are you doing?” Daneath huffed over the roar of the flames.

“Saving the dead. Go!” I slapped him on the shoulder, and raised my own shield overhead. I turned around to the center of the room, and found what I was looking for; the sack that the Kershak threw at us. I stumbled over the flaming beams, and collapsed roof sections and grabbed it. Using a white strand, I summoned the form of a ghostly white hand. I used it to grab the scattered body parts of Beepu’s mother, that had fallen out of the sack.

--Hey, you might need to hurry---

I know the place is falling apart!

--Not that; there’s a cart coming.

Oh sodding Baator, what now?!?


Grabbing the final body part I could find, the charred arm, I placed it gently into the sack. I covered my mouth and nose with a section of my cloak, and trotted outside, and away from the conflagration that consumed the hall.

They were all coughing from the smoke and flame, but Beepu looked at me with tears in his eyes before speaking.

“Did…did you get her?”

“I have her, Beepu,” I said nodding my head to the sack I cradled gently in my arms. “We can lay her to rest when we get to town, however you like. But we have a visitor coming.”

“Who the?” Iesa said, as he turned around with Daneath looking down the road. And indeed, a cart drawn by a pair of horses approached us. Framing the front where the drover sat, were a pair of lanterns gleaming brightly. The drover was covered in a leather cloak, but the hood was down revealing the face of a dark-haired half-elf. In a few moments, the cart stopped a small distance from us.

“Come on! Get in, we have little time,” the half-elf shouted at us.

“No offense, but we don’t even know who you are, let alone what you are doing here.”

The half-elf shook his head, “You’ll have to trust me, but I was sent by a friend. We must go! Now!”

I looked at the others, and we silently made our decision after looking at each other’s tired expressions. Nodding, we clambered into the back of the cart, with Foggle and Gossamer flying close behind.

The half-elf quickly turned it around as we huddled in the back watching the flames retreat into the distance. As we sat there, I looked at my companions as they stared at the hall each with different emotions clear on their faces.

Pain.

Regret.

Disappointment.

And as for myself, not one single emotion could describe what I felt.

Sorrow.

Disgust.

Rage.

The last one was the strongest; before now, the Kershak was just another person’s problem. Even after the vague threats it seemed abstract and distant.

No longer.

It was now real and tangible. A person that only cared about their wishes and agenda. Nothing else mattered; not others lives, not their beliefs, not even people who should be innocent bystanders. I sat there in pain, shivering in the dark, hoping that this wagon would lead us solace or succor, even for just an evening.

Session Notes:

For some reason it was a library in the middle of the woods; it didn't make a lot of sense at the time, so a ruined manor worked better. It was a mess of spells not working right most of the time.

And I very much almost killed (or tried to ) kill Paradros while we stood outside. I let the good tendencies play out however.

One small thing we had to ignore as players; when we tied up Paradros, the roll from Isea was a 5. So we all had to believe he did it properly, when we knew full well it didn't. Not that it would have stopped a misty step. Next time I'll blindfold them.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
A Three Ring Quest - 7/5/2020

Belief is what defines us, not truth. As proof, consider this piece of experience: deception isn’t about someone telling you a lie; its about you believing what is said is true. Even the most outlandish statement, if it is a falsehood, will always be one. But all it takes to make it true, is for someone to believe in it. If you don’t believe that, then ask yourself, what’s going on when you tell yourself a lie?

The answer is simple: you believe because you want to, even if it is patently false.

That makes belief the most important thing in the multiverse.

“Ok, so we’re in the cart now…who are you?” Iesa demanded as the cart started down the path at what seemed to be too fast of a pace. So fast, that Mo hiding in the trees barely had a chance to bound into the cart and clutch onto Iesa, panting heavily. The horses were at a gallop, lathering, pulling the cart behind as it bounced over rock and ruts, while Gossamer and Foggle flew swiftly behind. It was a painful ride, my leg was still bleeding, and breathing was problematic with a broken rib. But I couldn’t focus enough to have the strand heal me, even with a simple word. Every bump and divot caused me to take involuntary sharp short breaths to stave off the pain.

“A friend of Pachook’s,” he said.

“Right. Sure. Why the rush?” Iesa asked confused.

“Because a company of mercenaries were on their way to kill you,” He responded, barely turning his head as he drove the horses onwards. “Our mutual ‘friend’ doesn’t like to lose, and we only found out about the company this evening. We arranged to have them delayed.”

Iesa looked around. “We’re cutting across the Moonwood, and not heading to the gate,” he noted.

“Correct,” the elf acknowledged. “The company is coming from the Hunter’s Gate; no sense in running into them on the road. So, we are heading for the Moongate on the west side. I have a friend there who will let us in. You can call me Nelian by the way.”

Iesa nodded silently, and Daneath said nothing. Beepu sat there in the corner of the cart, dead eyed, looking at his feet.

“Beepu,” I started. “I…have her. This might sound strange, but did you want to…hold her?”

Beepu looked up slowly his mouth open slightly, as if words were lost to him.

“It’s alright…its family, and you care. I just wouldn’t look,” I gently offered the sack to him. After a moment, he took it from me gingerly, and cradled her in his arms. His eyes looked at the brown burlap with a pained look, as his face quivered in emotion.

“I…always knew I would bury my parents. But…this…this…was not…should not have…” he said in a whisper barely over the clatter of the wheels on random stones embedded in the trail.

I placed a hand on Beepu’s arm as he cradled the sack. “It never is. But I can help prepare her once we stop somewhere. Send her off properly.” I said tearing up.

“That’s Helsa I take it?” Nelian said, glancing at our exchange. “Our condolences and our apologies. We were surprised she was taken at all, but we underestimated the Kershak's desperation. When we did hear…it was too late. Quiet now; we are approaching the gate.” And the horses began to slow to a reasonable trot.

Looking up at the elf, I watched him tug and pull out a metal cloak pin, which he then held up for the guards to see. I could hear guardsmen say “Make way! He can pass!” and the cart didn’t even stop. As I watched, he fastened the onto his cloak, a pin in the shape of a harp. The cart continued and turned left and followed the main thoroughfare. After some time, the buildings disappeared, indicating we had entered the market grounds. After a while longer and some turns, the cart stopped in an open square, with a small grove of trees.

“We’re here. Come inside quickly,” Nelian said, pulling out a lantern and opening the shutter. Having no other clear ideas on where to go, I think we were just happy to be led anywhere. Climbing out, I saw we were in front what appeared to have been a three-story building. But the door and windows were stained with soot and ash, as the building seemed to be a victim of a great fire. From the ruin, another man appeared, and ran to the cart, climbing into the seat and drove the cart away from the ruin.

“Watch your head; the upper floors aren’t stable, but in the catacombs below, we will be safe.” Nelian said, waving at us to follow him.

“What was this place?” Daneath asked looking around him.

“It was the old music conservatory before it was moved to the south bank. Afterwards a lighting strike set the place aflame and it has been abandoned.” Nelian answered, as he led us through the broken interior, now covered with a scattering of leaves from trees outside. After a while, he came to an old burned bookcase. He pulled it aside, as it pivoted on a well-oiled hinge, revealing an oaken door, only somewhat charred. He knocked twice quickly, and then again once with a solid thump. And after a moment the door opened, revealing a human man in a hooded cloak, and behind him were a set of stairs leading down. He nodded at Nelian, and waved us all in.

We descended, and came to a large chamber, with tables, benches and stools. On the table were some cheese, breads and fruits, along with a jug and some mugs.

“Here, please eat and rest. I will find our leader who can explain what’s going on,” Nelian said as he made for a hallway nearby.

“Wait a moment,” I said snippily. “We just came out of a fight and we are supposed to trust you just like that?”

“Myr…they’re Harpers,” Daneath said quietly. “We can trust them.”

“Who?” I said confused. “What’s a sodding Harper?” I realized I was missing something important and felt out of my depth.

“They are a semi-secret organization that…help. Against bad men and support good folk.” Iesa continued.

“Meddlers some would call them,” Beepu said barely looking up.

“Well, I say. Perhaps you would prefer an old friend?” a familiar voice called to us from the hallway. Looking in that direction I saw a man, with salt and pepper hair, and a grey moustache and mutton chops. He was in a simple tunic with a sword at his side. He also was a bit rounder from the last time I laid eyes on him.

“Kingsley!” I said excitedly. I limped over and embraced and kissed the man on the cheek. “I am so happy you are alive! You’ve put on weight it seems?” I chided impishly.

“Hurm, yes. Helsa is…was an excellent cook as it turned out,” and with that he moved over to Beepu, still holding the remains of his mother in the dirty sack. “Nelian told me. I am sorry. She was a wonderful, wonderful woman. She helped me as you said she would…and I never had a chance to fully repay her.”

Beepu nodded and I hobbled back over to Beepu’s side while fishing a strip of cloth out of my pouch.

“Well, I don’t recommend opening the sack but if you can put her on the table, I can prepare a last rite,” I said as I used a strand to clean the cloth back to a nearly pure white. “Can each of you give me a greenie…a copper piece?” Both Beepu and Kingsley nodded, and each searched their coin purses, and both handed me a coin.

I kissed each coin, and I reached my hands into the sack, searching for the head of his mother. Once my fingers found her skull, I turned it by feel to have it face the ceiling, and then placed in each eye socket a coin. And then blindly, I tied the cloth around her eyes tightly. I then withdrew my hands and quickly used a white strand to clean them.

Then guessing where her chest was, I pulled Beepu and Kingsley hands and set them upon her chest and placed my hand upon theirs. I then prayed aloud:

No one should be alone, in life or death,

Death is a part of life, not an ending but a beginning

Death is without deceit and has meaning,

May your soul find its way to the Golden Hills,

And travel to each of the seven, and rest beneath the great oak,

May your kin guide you on the next step of your journey,

Because Death is never an end, but a waypost,

A Destination and a Journey one and the same,

The memory of your deeds will live forever in us,

So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith

May Death grant you peace.




I sighed and looked at Beepu. “If I remember, gnomes preferred cremation. Is that still your—”

Beepu nodded curtly, saying nothing, his eyes full of tears.

“Ahem, sorry to interrupt,” Nelian said, re-entering the room with two men in monks’ robes, and a third man close behind. “They can inter her ashes into the local graveyard here.”

“Please,” Beepu’s voice choked. “I will say my words in private.” The two robed men nodded, and gingerly lifted the sack and with care, withdrew from the room. I touched both Beepu and Kingsley on the shoulders, gently caressing each of them.

Nelian spoke again and gestured to the last newcomer, “Let me introduce our leader of this band here, Fortin Jenerret. He gestured to a mid-aged man, thin as a rail, but with twinkling eyes that saw everything, and through you. His smile was warm and disarming, while his hair was receding and thinning at the top of his head.

“Beepu, Iesa, Daneath, and…Myrai correct?” he said with a slight smile. “I am sorry to intrude on your grief, but I suspect you have a lot of questions.”

“An understatement,” Iesa said blandly.

“Well, I suppose we should sit and discuss. I think we each have a part of a story, and we may be able to help each other,” Fortin said as he started pouring what appeared to be mead from the pitcher into mugs on the table. “That includes you Kingsley,” to the former guardsmen’s surprise. “I suspect it will take all of us to untangle this skein.”

“Excuse me,” I said a little sheepishly. “I am probably the least informed here, but what is the Kershak to you?”

“A fair question and a good place to start,” Fortin said as he handed me a mug. “In one respect the Kershak is a mystery. Some who have interacted with them say they are heroes, and others villains. I would say the former are simply beneficiaries of luck; the Kershak helped, because it helped the Kershak. But I think you seen more of the other side of the coin. But what we do know is that the Kershak and his direct agents are not to be trifled with, as he has managed to tap into a wellspring of power. We thought he was perhaps another wayward Bhaalspawn, but alas he seems to be something else entirely.”

“A Bhaalspawn? What is that?” I asked, still confused.

“That’s a long topic Myr,” Daneath said pointedly as he took a mug from the man. “And that didn’t answer anything,”

“I am afraid not; what he isn’t is understood,” Fortin continued. “But he does have access to some kind of magical might. Resistant to the Weave, able to call upon it, and long life at least.”

The man took a sip from his mug and continued. “He seems driven by nothing more than personal gain. He likes to manipulate things, so that he has control. He wants power in the manner of the Zhentarim of old. And he doesn’t let anything stand in his way.

“But more interesting, is that he can extend his power to his associates, his so called ‘children.’ Assistants to spread his influence and cover…more ground. You met some of them tonight, yes?”

“Killed two of them…I think,” Iesa said, looking at Daneath doubtfully.

“Seemed dead to me, a dwarf and a halfling we met before,” Daneath responded.

“That would have been Tanar and Poran, both were key men to the Kershak, with a long history, along with Umbra of course.

“What about Paradros?” I asked.

“No…or least not yet,” Fortin replied shaking his head. “I think his still trying to prove himself to the Kershak. But with Tanar and Poran dead, he might normally be inclined to induct him. Fortunately, he cannot.”

“Why is that?” Beepu asked starting to snap out of his emotional pit of despair.

“Because his power is stretched. While we are not sure on its nature, we do know the more tools he creates, his power becomes diluted. And until Umbra, none contested his edicts.”

“What edicts? Iesa asked.

“No children, and no creation of magical devices. Which means, that the sword and dagger, and yourselves are now a collection of that power. It weakens him in essence. That is because killing his associates has split their power between your weapons and yourselves. Because of this, he no longer has a majority under his control.

“So what? We can just kill him, right?” Daneath asked with a hopeful tone.

“I am afraid not; like some of the undead, he cannot be slain. It was tried once and he just…reappeared.”

“How do you know that?” Daneath asked.

“Oh, Umbra told me…after he killed him. It didn’t last. But the same cannot be said for his children. They can be killed.”

“Umbra tried to kill him…and failed?” I questioned.

“No, he succeeded, the Kershak just failed to stay dead. That was about…what…eighteen years ago? And when he failed, Umbra started a gambit to end the Kershak.”

“Why? Why did he turn against him?” I asked confused.

“Umbra didn’t tell me. All he said was that he saw something he regretted. But he did tell me his plan. The short version is that he attempted to dilute the Kershak’s power. He first tried making weapons; the sword and dagger you now wear if my guess is correct,” at which Daneath and Iesa exchanged glances. “But they weren’t enough, so he…sorry to be crude, had you both.”

“Wait,” Iesa said with an angry look. “You mean the only reason I am here is because he wanted me to kill the Kershak?”

“You may be a means to an end, yes,” Fortin said with a frown. “But I think there was more to it. I think that the Kershak may have killed his love or his wife. I never got a clean answer to which, but after her death he found solace and planted the seeds of his revenge as it were.” This earned Fortin a dirty look from Iesa but he continued. “But once he had you both, he made sure you were concealed. With the two of you and the two weapons now in existence, the Kershak discovered he could not empower more ‘children.’ Umbra, still alive and on the loose was the obvious suspect.”

“Leaving my mother to rot,” Iesa snarled.

“At least you knew yours,” Daneath pointed out. “And I only knew him as a master later in life as he trained me. Not as a father.”

“Is that so?” Fortin asked. “That might be one piece of the puzzle. You see, he was running for nearly two decades. During this time, we had met and talked. He told us he had a plan, but it would take time. He was a bitter man when I first met him. When I saw him again a little over a year ago, he was beyond that. He was fury and hate, in a dead man’s body. I suspect that he tried to find both of you and train you, but he lost you Iesa. He was clearly upset at that. He simply, hid you too well.”

“Cold comfort,” Iesa said frowning.

“Yes, I suppose so. But let us keep going. When I last saw him, he was as I said, a nearly dead man; a revenant that was out of time. But with assistance, he had finally found you. And then he set the last piece of his plan in motion to have you and your brother and Beepu meet.”

“What?” Daneath said. “How?”

“All I know is that you were nearly of age, and that in a year that he had a trusted friend ensure you all three would be led to a place to find the weapons. Now it is clear that, the weapons were only one part of that puzzle; he hid them, and he wanted you to find them, and more.”

“But how do I fit into this?” Beepu asked.

“I know that Umbra had made friends with Pachook, and there was a deal struck between them. The reason was simple; the Kershak had asked your father to build a device for planar travel. But with the power of the Kershak, it would have been much more. Too late did your father discover that his family was at risk, to keep the device a secret.”

“My…my family?” Beepu stuttered.

“Yes, he wanted to keep the device a secret, so he planned to kill Pachook…and Helsa…and you as well, just in case. I know this, because Umbra told me. He had found out about the death sentence from Poran, who was going to do it. Umbra revealed this to your father, and naturally he was desperate to keep you and Helsa safe. And per Pachook, he kept it a secret…his only secret he kept from her.”

“Why would the Kershak worry about Beepur or Helsa?” I asked. “They didn’t have anything to do with it.”

“But he didn’t know that. What he did know, is that Helsa is…er was a very good engineer herself. And so, he suspected that Pachook would have engaged his family to help construct the device.”

I looked at Beepu, “Was that true?”

“My…my mother was a very good engineer…its why they loved each other,” the gnome said sadly. “I don’t know if she did help him or not. I know that I did…” he said looking down at his feet. “While at Candlekeep, he asked me to look into some questions on arcana, and I replied with the answers. So, In hindsight, I probably was helping…but that wasn’t clear at the time. It’s only now that it makes sense.”

“Indeed,” said Fortin. “So over two years ago, it seemed that Umbra and Pachook went somewhere, and only came back to Silverymoon a year ago. Somewhere along the way, Umbra was killed, but somehow he crawled back to the living undeterred; wanting to kill the Kershak and protect you.”

“But Umbra, failed and died. That’s not a help at all.” Iesa complained.

“Not exactly. Umbra died here in Silverymoon. But his spirit did not pass on. Pachook, with the help of a necromancer that aids us on occasion, bound his soul into his heart, and Pachook put that heart into a…part…or something. I was not present when it happened. With his soul bound this way, the Kershak still cannot create other ‘children.’ It was at this time, he set the final part of his plan in motion.”

We sat on the edges of our seats as he filled in missing pieces. “First, he had an assistant. He knew where Daneath was, and he was the one that found Iesa after a long search. He then was told to get you both to somewhere at a particular point in time. Pachook, left a note to be delivered to Helsa to have delivered to you Beepu, to meet in that same place. But he never told us where.”

“Triboar,” Daneath said. “I was told by a man, with waving grey hair to look for someone to the path to Flint Rock. And that he would have a map—"

“And I had a note from my mother, delivered to me at Candlekeep. That to find him and his works, I needed to find a man with a map to Flint Rock,” Beepu said looking at each of us.

“I don’t believe it. Mo just found the map; it’s a coincidence. It has to be.” Iesa said in disbelief.

“Wait a moment…take Mo out of your pack,” I asked. I touched the Apocrypha and started to work on a pair of white strands. Slowly I pulled and made a lattice that I stretched between myself, and the monkey.

“Hey Mo,” I said leaning forward to look at Iesa’s constant companion.

Mo looked at me in surprise. “We not talk in some time,”

“You’ve been busy,” I said smiling. “I have to ask you a question. Do you remember giving your dad a big piece of rolled up paper.”

Mo thought a moment, “Do I get a snack?”

“Of course,” I said reaching for some cheese on the table and offering it to the monkey.

Mo grabbed it and bit into it quickly and swallowed. He then looked at me and said. “That one was funny. Funny person gave it to me. Told me to give to dad. Spoke to me like you.”

“Really…do you remember anything about the man?”

“Hair was like fat mans face hair. But it moved like wind in hair. But no wind. Tall and thin. Long time don’t remember much.”

“That’s fine. Have some more when you are done,” I smiled.

“I can’t believe you are actually trying to talk to Mo and—” Iesa complained.

“An air dancer,” I said leaning back in my chair thinking.

“A…what?” Daneath asked.

“Sorry…what’s the word…genasi! He was an air genasi,” I replied. “Its why his hair moves…an ever-blowing wind, even if there is no breeze.”

“That’s right,” Fortin said. “Umbra’s friend was one. So, he got you the map, and you all started moving.”

“That seemed to be a bit of luck,” Iesa muttered.

“Or skill…his friend seemed to know his trade. Now, let me ask a question; did you find all the pieces? Pachook said he had scattered them all, but he didn’t say what they were.”

Beepu sighed, “The starting pieces I have; but I am missing three parts. The wedding rings of my parents and the heart of Umbra, or at least that is what he called it. But the rings are gone.”

“Well…after what happened, I’m sure the Kershak has them now---”

“—He doesn’t,” I said. “Remember that’s what he wanted from us.”

Beepu frowned, “That is right…he did. But they were not in the workshop.”

“Why would wedding rings be in the workshop?” Daneath asked.

“My parents did not wear them often, so they would not catch on tools or things they were building. And so, they kept them there in the workshop, in plain sight.”

“How?” I asked. “I thought they weren’t there.”

“They were not. I searched while waited for that wretched scum Paradros arrived.” Beepu replied thinking, clearly trying to think of something he overlooked.

“Um…Beepu,” Kingsley spoke up for the first time. “Before the Kershak came to the shop, she…she pushed me out the back door. But before she did so, she gave me a box of…what I thought was junk parts. She said keep it safe.”

Beepu sat up, “Where? Where is it?”

“I’ll get it,” Kingsley said, and he got up and retreated down the hallway. It wasn’t long before he came back with a small wooden box, about a hand width square. He handed it to Beepu, who quickly opened the lid. Inside were gears and cogs of all shapes, sizes and designs. Beepu quickly started taking parts out one at a time, when he stopped, gave a slight smile, and reached inside. He then withdrew two gears, with a smooth interior and a beveled set of teeth on the outside.

“My mother made these…they are supposed to look like spur gears. And these are unique as you can only fit these two together based on the spacing. Easy to hide in a box of parts. It was what they were; tinkerers and arcane engineers.” Beepu said with a sad smile and tears in his eyes.

“I’m glad you have them, and the Kershak doesn’t” I said.

“That means only our father’s heart is missing…so what would have it been?” Iesa asked.

“Another spur gear. But it would have been bigger…two hands and a half in diameter.” Beepu replied.

“Ah…wait, who’s hand?” Iesa asked.

“Mine of course!” Beepu glared at Iesa.

“It’s a reasonable question!” Iesa said defensively.

“Wait,” Fortin said. “What would it have been made of?”

“A copper alloy, on the outside, but an adamantite core. Why?” Beepu asked.

Fortin’s eyes grew wide, “The genasi has it! It makes sense now, Pachook, must have given it to Umbra’s assistant.”

“Back up!” I said. “I’m confused…how did Kingsley get involved here?”

Fortin responded, “We agreed to watch your mother in case the Kershak came looking for her. When Kingsley arrived unannounced, we were suspicious, and we…”

“Interrogated me, hurm,” Kingsley said indignantly.

“We had cause for concern…but once he mentioned the four of you, we realized that the plan was moving ahead as Umbra intended,” Fortin said defensively. “We didn’t know exactly what parts or pieces were needed, all we knew is that you would eventually end up here, and we were told to…to…of course! That’s why!”

“What?” I asked still feeling lost.

“Well…let me back up. Once Kingsley told us what he knew, we decided to use him as a man on the job; we paid him to stay and watch out for any sign of trouble.”

“I got paid by your mother and the Harpers here. But she figured it out.” Kingsley said sheepishly.

“You spent more than she paid, and she noticed.” Beepu guessed.

Kingsley nodded. “Yes, and I told her about the Harpers…but she seemed to already know about them. So, when the Kershak came, she was already prepared and pushed me out with the box. And she told me it was to…keep her son safe.” He said as he looked at Beepu sadly.

Fortin sighed, “I guess she knew more than Pachook knew she did. He tried to keep her out of it, and she in turn tried to shield Beepu,” the man shook his head. “A remarkable woman. A brave one. This is beyond unfortunate.”

“Well, at least my father is still out there,” Beepu said. “If we follow the trail, we’ll find him.”

Fortin looked uncomfortable suddenly and let out his breath in a deep sigh. “I’m sorry but—”

“—Wait! But? What do you mean but?”

“A year ago, or so, he came here, worked with Umbra and the genasi for a while. Umbra died of course, the genasi left to give you messages at the proper time. But Pachook…he…was caught by the Kershak’s forces outside of the city. He…didn’t survive. In fact, he…he…”

“What?” Beepu asked, his face grey.

“He created some magic to just explode himself and everyone else in fifty paces of him. There wasn’t anything left to even bury. But we were told that if that happened, not to…not to…tell your mother. I wish I hadn’t of made that promise.”

“Wh…wh…why?” Beepu asked, the pain on his face evident.

“Because Beepu,” I said sadly. “You can even ask the dead questions if you have a skull. He was trying to protect you and your mother. I’m…sorry.”

“Fine, where is he now?” Daneath asked pointedly.

“Pachook? We had a small shrined commissi—”

“No! The genasi…and what was his name anyway?”

“Eridan…Eridan bin Ahoone. However, we don’t know where he is…we thought you would know.” Fortin replied holding his hands up apologetically.

“Why?” I asked. “Why would we know?”

“He…he used a teleportation circle to go…somewhere.” Fortin replied.

“I’ve seen several of those; they have a rune sequence. What were the runes?” I asked, as I recalled the circles in the Misty Forest and the High Forest.

“He didn’t tell us! He had a scroll and he used it. He never told us where he was going. But he did say, you would be able to follow him,” Fortin explained.

“That makes no sense…we never even met him,” Daneath said glumly. “Would you have them in your plans Beepu?”

“Hmm?” Beepu was distracted now, “No…it’s a five-rune sequence…. Each would be distinctive like a mage’s own sigil. I have never seen anything like that in the plans.” He said dejectedly.

We stared at each other for a moment.

“It can’t be that hard,” Daneath muttered. “He got us all going to Flint Rock, he would have made sure we had a way.”

I sat there thinking when it hit me.

“Flint Rock! That’s it!” I said jumping up, and then wincing at my unfixed wounds. “Ow!”

“Flint Rock? We have to go back?” Daneath asked in horror.

“No! The map to Flint Rock!” I said excitedly.

Iesa’s eyes opened. “That’s right, there were other things—” and he started to dig in his pack, looking for the long-forgotten paper. “—On that map! We didn’t pay attention because they seemed random.”

Iesa spread the map on the table, and he and I started to parse the map looking for something out of place. As I looked at the map, I saw Flint Rock, and I saw where the canyon we passed through, the rivers and even Yartar. Everywhere there were little sigils in clusters of fives, each with a phrase in the thieves cant. But they were scattered randomly it appeared. But one caught my eye, near were Triboar would have been, and something looked different about it.

“Iesa…what does that phrase say?” and I pointed to the spot on the map.

Iesa squinted, “’Here is the start and here is the end?’” he said slowly.

“Those are it,” I said as I looked at the sigils closely. “I think the other ones are artistic license. These…these are real ones. I’m sure of it.”

“Great! So, we find Eridan and then…what?” Iesa said confused.

Fortin unexpectedly replied. “That…that Pachook told us. You have to turn on the device…and both you,” he pointed at Daneath and then Iesa, “with your weapons in hand must hold it. At that point, the machine will draw out the Kershak’s essence to you and…end him I suppose.”

“That sound’s gruesome,” Daneath commented.

“I do not care. We should end this.” Beepu muttered, halfheartedly.

“Can we rest here Fortin?” I asked. “And let Beepu have a final moment with his parents?”

“Of course. I will summon a mage that can cast the teleportation spell as well. But you will need to leave soon.”

“What? Why?” I asked.

“The Kershak will have discovered you had survived. He also does know about the Harpers of course. I would normally say this place is safe, but we should not assume that. You need to leave, with that map today!”

“But the rune sequence?” I protested.

“We have a technique that will cause the mage to forget the sequence; you will not be followed I assure you.”

I nodded. I sat there and then remembered my injuries. “I need to heal my---”

“Well If you only would drink what you are served! That mead has been mixed with a healing potion.”

“We clearly talk too much,” I said and gulped down some of the liquid. I could feel the pain in my leg and ribs disappear. I finally could breathe easily. I noticed that Daneath and Iesa had done the same, as did Beepu with very little enthusiasm.

“Can we get some supplies?” Iesa asked.

“Yes…Kingsley can you lead them to the stores? And they show Beepu where the…the shrine is”

“Of course,…gentlefolk?” and Iesa, Daneath, and Beepu, although much slower than the other two, followed Kingsley down the hall.

Gos…go with Beepu and watch him.

--Ew…that means being near Foggle.

Your own fault for stalking him.

--Fine! You owe me.

Add it to my tab.


I watched the tressym follow Beepu and Foggle as they left, leaving me alone with Fortin.

Fortin looked at me oddly but said nothing. Finally, I couldn’t take the silence.

"The hair and eyes are--"

"No…I know you are an aasimar. It’s just remarkable how that everything fits.”

“I don’t see how.” I said looking at the elderly man.

“Well, when we heard about you from Kingsley we thought you might have been a Kershak agent.” He said still staring at me.

“I’m not that for certain,” I said a bit testily.

“No. But after a while I remembered something that Eridan said before he left via the teleportation circle.”

I looked up at the man questioningly.

“He said that…his prayers had been answered.”

I must have look very confused for a moment. “Prayers?” I said slowly.

“Yes…he said he prayed to a deity for help. Clearly you are that help.” Fortin said nodding.

“I doubt that…I don’t think the powers care quite so…intimately. Besides, I’m…I’m no one.”

“I would have agreed with you, except for one thing. Eridan told me who he prayed for succor.”

My head snapped up and I looked at the man. As I did so I realized that he wasn’t looking at me…but instead what I wore.

“It was on behalf of Umbra. He was praying to Kelemvor.”
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
A Sea of Change - 7/18/2020
and sorry on being late...but real life you know.


Faith is the crux of the multiverse. Yet some accuse those with faith that it is a crutch. And maybe that is true.

But everyone needs someone to lean on. So why NOT a power? They at least have the potential for altering things.

If only that happened. But it is a better chance than literally nothing.



My jaw was hanging open, as I sat there staring at Fortin. I blinked a few times as I stumbled to try to find the words to express myself. I must have looked like a cagestruck prime to the man, when I finally started to sputter:

“No...No…no, no, nonono,” I stood up and started pacing, while staring at Fortin. “That’s ridiculous. I wasn’t summoned here! I wasn’t sent on some power’s errand. No, MY power’s errand. I mean wouldn’t a power tell you something like ‘help these berks, they asked nicely?’ I mean there are planes filled with celestials! Why send a mortal and not give them a bit of chant to explain why you, and why them?”

Fortin shrugged, “Eridan was a devout man. I cannot say why he did so.”

“Devout…devout to Kelemvor? A doomguide?” I asked still confused on how any prayer would have resulted in my appearance on the prime.

“Yes. He wore the scales, just as you do,” Fortin said. “And I for one don’t believe in random chance. But I do not return providences’ favors either. But in the end does it matter? You are here and you are intending to follow Eridan yes?”

I frowned a moment, and curtly nodded.

“Then I will check on the others,” and Fortin stood and started to the hall that lead deeper within catacombs. “Once my friend arrives, she will be able to send you on your way. You can rest here in the meantime,” and Fortin disappeared down the hall.

I stood there, leaning on the table with my hands and watched him depart, while I shook my head. “He’s barmy. That idea’s barmy. There is no—”

--What’s barmy is that you are talking to no one. I got that right, yes?

Goss, what are you—

--Barmy…means crazy. I mean you are talking to yourself after all.

Huh? Right, yes, that is how you use the word. I am…I am not…you are always listening right?

--You don’t see Beepu talking to Foggle.

Right, and no one can hear ‘this’!

--And yet you talked aloud to…no one.

Not a help.

--Of course, not...but how do you know?

What? That you aren’t a help?

--Good one. No, that you weren’t sent?

Now you’re the barmy one. Do I look like I’m a member of the celestial host?

--Well…you could be dressing down.

Goss…

--But seriously. Everything you have told me about this group the Kershak, and for that matter things in Sigil is about manipulation. Could you have been maneuvered here?

I dove into a random portal in the ‘Smoldering Corpse’ bar avoiding a fight before I became fiend food. How is that manipulation?

--Well…how did you get there?

Huh? I was delivering a message to Barkis, from someone from the Civic Festhall.

--That’s in the Clerks Ward right?

Yeah. So?

--And Barkis is a barkeep in the Lower Ward.

I don’t see the problem--

--Did Barkis have friends from the Society?

Well…no. I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning him.

--And the Society isn’t in the business of running messages around, right?

Well…no. Autochon set up a guild for that…

--So why were you there?


I sat down and slumped in a chair confused, thinking about what happened one hundred and forty-four days ago. I had been keeping track in a small book where I wrote down notes from the end of the day to remember, and within it, I counted the days.

I counted every day since it was since I saw my room in the Civic Festhall. I counted the tea times I missed with Nastanal. The number of days where I remembered friends that had left their mortal coil behind.

But beyond cursing my luck in diving where I did, I never thought much about why I was there. Making some quick jink in dropping of a message. I thought nothing of it at the time. But now as I sat there, I wondered, was there more to it? I mean…Barkis was surprised to have a note dropped off…but did that mean anything?

No…no…this was barmy. I wasn’t supposed to be there. It was chance…an accident. Happens to planeswalkers all the time…we have a word for it ‘ hipped.’

Yet, the possibility nagged at me. All the clues that my father had a hidden agenda, pushing me in a direction. That there was something planned, that I wasn’t privy to. A debt that I had incurred unknowingly. Could it be possible, that this was…intended?

“Sodding—” I hit the table in front of me with my hand. I hated this, no matter what you called it. Owing people. Being indebted. Sworn and beholden. Obligated. All my life I had debts, starting with the Gatehouse. I ended up paying the debts that Markel built, until it almost broke my body and mind. A debt to my father it seemed, just by asking for power in a moment of despair. Dying, and owing the people I considered my friends. Granted while it at one time bothered me the most, was now the least because our friendship.

But where did it end? I paid the gatehouse. I paid the fiends for Markel. I felt to be close to paying off my death. But my father? I had no answers. I didn’t even know if my father had anything to do with my faith at all. In the end I just wanted one thing.

I cradled my head in my hands, propping it up with my elbows as I closed my eyes and just breathed, trying to calm myself. I was getting worked up for nothing I was sure…almost sure of it. I stayed that was for a moment, when I shifted. I left my head bowed, but my hands no longer supported it, but instead clasped themselves together as I prayed aloud.

“I’ll do what I have to. I will do what my power requires of me. I…I just want to know that I am doing it for you. That I am doing it for a reason, and not because it is luck or coincidence. I just want…I want certainty. Certainty that it makes sense. Certainty that it is worthwhile. Certainty that…I’m not going barmy,” I chuckled. “I may not understand it, and I might question it to make sure I get it right. But I’ll do what…whatever it takes. Just…tell me…Please.”




I’m not sure how long I sat there in contemplation. But I was deep in prayer, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned, and looked up at Nelian who said, “The wizard is here. Did you need more time?”

I shook my head and pushed my chair back and stood up. Nelian motioned me to follow, and together we walked down the hall.

“Nelian…have you seen Beepu?” I asked thinking how the poor gnome looked this evening.

“I have,” he said cautiously. “I don’t know the man, but he does not seem himself.”

“Did he spend time with—”

“Yes, he did. But afterwards, he was looking at some piece of paper.”

“One of his many plans I assume,” I said hoping a bit for my friend.

“I don’t think he was really reading it though,” Nelian said doubtfully.

“Why?”

“It was upside down. I…think.”

I frowned. Beepu was going to be in a bad spot for a bit. He would need time to process everything. Mourning periods existed in many cultures for a reason; to handle that transition. I just hoped he would let me in and help.

Nelian turned and gestured towards an open doorway. It opened into an octagonal room, with teleportation circle set into the floor. On one side of the room, I saw Beepu sitting on a bench with a glum look on his face. Near him, Daneath and Iesa stood, in quiet conversation. They then nodded at me as I approached.

“You two ready?” I asked putting on a small smile.

“I’ve seen enough of what the Kershak thinks of his foes,” Daneath said. “I’m ready to end this for…for Umbra.”

Iesa nodded in agreement. “Yeah. Umbra may have been a manipulative, selfish, jerk. But after tonight,” Iesa shook his head. “I think I can understand what drove him there; right or wrong.”

I nodded and walked over to Beepu and sat next to him. “Hey,” I said. “Did you say what you needed?”

The gnome shook his head, “I…I tried. There is…too much to say.”

I nodded and placed my hand on his. “You have plenty of time to talk with her, and Pachook as well,” I said reassuringly. “But they’ll listen when you need them, no matter where you go.” I paused letting my words sink in before I spoke again. “Beepu, are you ready? I know it isn’t fair, but we do need you now.”

Beepu nodded and looked up. Foggle, drifted down and alighted onto his arm. Beepu traced his fingers around Foggle’s head, covered with patterns resembling feathers. “The plans for Foggle…it was something we all worked on together,” the gnome said. “I was field testing it, to see if its design was worth selling to other mages. It’s all I have left of them really.”

“No,” I disagreed. “You have your memories…which are far more precious. Foggle is a good example; it triggers those memories. But you don’t need Foggle to remember. Not that I’d trade you away Foggle,” I smiled impishly as Foggle’s head swerved to regard me.

“I…suppose. And I suppose I should finish my father’s work,” he said with hard look on his face.

“And we’re all going to help,” I said.

From the hallway Nelian, Fortin, Kingsley, and a fourth person, a woman, I did not know entered the room.

“Well my friends, we are here to see you off,” Fortin started. “Let me introduce you to Valnia,” the woman nodded her head towards us, and I returned the gesture. “She will be handling your teleportation.”

“Yes, and I understand that you have a location based on some sigils,” She spoke in a no-nonsense tone. “May I see it?”

“Uh…sure,” and Iesa took out the map, and laid it flat on the table. He then pointed to Triboar, and the symbols around it.

The woman nodded, “That should be simple enough. Whenever you all are ready then, I shall cast the spell.”

The four of us stood and lined up, each of us shaking the hands of Nalien, Fortin, and Kingsley. We shook hands with each other, although I hugged Kingsley instead on my turn.

“You need to get back to working, or you’re going to need a bigger sword belt,” I joked as I poked Kingsley.

“Hurm, well…Truth be told, I am a lousy cook, so I won’t have an excuse to indulge,” he said with a note of sadness. “But I will look after your place until you return, Beepu,” he said turning towards the gnome.

“Thank you, Kingsley. I appreciate that, and what you have done for my family. I will not forget that,” the gnome said quietly while nodding.

“You all take care of this Kershak then,” Kingsley said. “I shall pray for your victory.”

“Thanks, we’ll take all the help we can get,” Daneath replied.

I winced inwardly at Kingsley declaration. He meant it honestly, not realizing that there appeared to be machination of the powers already on this little sojourn I found myself on. But I didn’t want to discuss it or even think about it any further.

“If you are ready? And here,” Valnia handed the map back to Iesa. He took it and quickly folded it and returned it to his pack. We then stepped into the circle, with Gossamer flitting behind me. I looked around at the floor, and took out my journal, and copied the five sigils there, in case we found another way to teleport home. Once I copied them, I put the journal back into my pouch and nodded to the wizard that I was ready. Iesa and Daneath looked at each other, and each made a fist and they lightly touched them together. They then stepped inside the circle, and I could hear Mo make a small chirping sound from his hiding spot in Iesa’s pack. They then turned and nodded at the wizard. Finally, Beepu, stepped into the circle, with Foggle on his arm. He closed his eyes a second and said nothing. But after a moment, he too nodded his head, ready to get on with the next step.

Valnia nodded and closed her eyes. She then said a quick torrent of arcane syllables. As I watched, the world twisted before my eyes, and I felt dizzy as the weave contorted around us. After a moment, everything seemed to unwind and calm themselves. Where once there was grey slate colored stone of the conservatory, I now saw muted browns and tans. I turned to look around and realized we were in a cave somewhere, with stalagmites and stalactites scattered around, with water dripping from the ceiling. On the ground was a circle, with the five sigils we had seen before. But there was no one to be seen, just a passage through to a gallery near where we appeared.

“Hey, Myr? Light?” I heard Daneath say.

I flexed and felt the warms along my back, as I placed the familiar spell on Daneath’s shield. The men both blinked trying to quickly adjust and they looked around swiftly, taking in the scene I just saw. Beepu looked around silently with a frown and said nothing.

As I stood there, I realized there was something different about the place we found ourselves. It was very warm, and so humid that you felt you could drink the water from the air. I was already sweating, and I had only just arrived moments ago. But there was something else in the air that I could taste...it reminded me of somewhere else.

“Wow, it is warm here,” Iesa whispered while wiping his forehead.

“I wonder why. Is a fire nearby?” Daneath asked.

“Well, if there is,” I said wiping my own brow. “I can’t see one ahead of us, and that passage is the only way out.”

“Forward we go,” Daneath said facing his shield ahead, and lighting the way for himself and his brother. We walked cautiously, into another gallery, much larger than the one we first appeared in. Here the was a pool of water, and fungi of all sorts around it and along the walls. The air here was fetid damp, and that tang in the air hung there. Several narrow passages led off from here, while the one we followed continued forward. We looked at each other, sighed and Daneath led us down the passage, ignoring the sides branches, in favor of the main one.

As we moved through it, I had a strange feeling. It was a pulling or rather a light tugging on my awareness. I focused on it for a moment, and realized it was the strands oscillating like a string on a lute. I gulped, because I suddenly remembered when I last felt this way…under Flint Rock. I tightened my grip on my rod.

“We aren’t alone,” I said quietly, turning my head looking for what stalked us.

Daneath and Iesa quickly shifted and stood back to back as Daneath turned the shield around to shine the light around the gallery. Beepu stood there focused, and set Foggle aloft, trying to use the owls’ vision to get a better look.

--Myr, your left in the rear…its running!

I turned left, just in time to brace myself from the collision. The smell of fungus and rot was overpowering, as something tried to pull down my shield. I twisted and wrested my barrier free and plucked a white strand. A beam of light slammed and illuminated the figure that assailed me.

It was human…once. Rags of cloth hung from its desiccated form. Its skin, pulled too taut, was rent on the limbs and chest. From these tears, spilled out slime and mold. The eye sockets of the skull were filled with the forms of mushroom and fungi, and from shriveled lips it hissed from between broken and missing teeth. The light caused it to shirk back a moment, before it lunged at me again. From the corner of my eye, I saw four more had scrambled at were attacking the others; one on Beepu and Daneath, while two attacked Iesa as frenzied mob.

Daneath quickly swung and his blade cut the abdomen of one, all the way to the spine, spilling fungi and a musty dust like substance everywhere. Beepu, quickly threw a blast of fire straight into the face of once, as Foggle pulled on the scraps of hair of the thing.

But Iesa was harder pressed. He quickly spun and thrust his rapier through the wasted humanoid until the cross guard hit rib. And he tried to withdraw his blade quickly so he could defend himself. But the second one, jumped and clawed at him; dust flying all around. Soon Iesa was wheezing as he swung his blade desperately.

Daneath with two quick slashes and brought his blade hard on his foes shoulder, causing the walking corpse to fall to pieces. He turned and tried to force the attention of Iesa’s attackers on himself. Meanwhile Beepu, threw another blast of fire into his opponent, knocking it down flat on the stone floor. But even as we watched, it slowly was starting to pull itself back into a crouch. As for me, I focused my energy on my own attacker, and caused more light to strike it down. The corpse fell again unmoving on the floor and I turned to help Iesa.

Despite Daneath’s best attempts, the pair ignored the big warrior and focused their attacks on Iesa. One of them reached and embraced the rogue, while the second clawed at the man. Iesa wrenched an arm free, with a dagger in hand, and brought the blade deep into the back of the corpse clutching at him, causing it to crumple onto the ground.

This allowed Daneath to swing and cut the legs out from under Iesa’s other assailant. It swiped at Daneath but was unable to connect with its bony fingers. This left it open to Daneath’s riposte, causing it to fall on the ground lifeless once again.

Beepu however, was struggling. His foe rose again, and Beepu’s fire shot wide, striking the back of the cavern. Beepu attempted to back up and was narrowly missed by a wild strike. I then focused and enveloped it in a miasma of darkness, as I rent its animating force from its body. It fell, unmoving on the floor, its limbs separating from the torso in a haphazard heap.

I moved to look at Iesa, who was coughing up blood. I didn’t even get to say a word, when from the side corridors, another pack of corpses ran straight us, heedless of any danger or threat.

Daneath charged with his shield and blocked one from getting closer, while swinging his blade at two more, giving each a minor wound on dead moldering flesh. Daneath’s action caused the throng to focus on him, but before they could strike, I pulled a pair of light and dark strands taut, stretching them until they snapped. The shattering sound, broke bones and stalagmites alike, causing several to crumple to the ground, with bone fragments piercing through dead flesh. This was followed by an icy shard from Beepu’s hands, striking one of the standing corpses, and exploding into slivers around him, and causing the rest to fall to the ground.

I was panting, and was beginning to feel relieved, when I turned to look at Iesa. His face was ashen grey in color, and he had fallen on his knees gasping for breath. As I watched, his rapier and dagger dropped from his hands, as he bent over and coughed up more blood. As I knelt beside him, his breathing was shallow and ragged, and he was shivering.

“Iesa!” I exclaimed in alarm. “Talk to me you spiv! What’s wrong?”

“H…h..h..hard…to,” and he started to cough again, until he was out of breath, “breathe.”

I looked around, “They didn’t come from the passage we were headed.”

“I noticed that,” Daneath said. “I’m guessing that’s a path out.”

“Beepu lead Daneath, I’m going to help--” as I threw Iesa’s arm over my shoulder, and I strained to lift him up. “—Iesa here. Come on, help out you lazy spiv.”

“I’m…not…a…spiv…trying,” Iesa gasped for air as he stood unsteadily.

“Only a spiv says that,” I grunted through gritted teeth. “Now get your blades and move!” to which he bent over, grabbed and sheathed his weapons, and together we stumbled behind Daneath and Beepu.

The passage led to an intersection, with a passage leading down to the left, and one leading upwards to the right. Daneath immediately turned to the passage leading upwards. I struggled to keep Iesa upright as he continued to cough. Finally, we reached a rough circular chamber at the end of rising hall.

What surprised me, was a ladder, made of a strange knotted wood in the middle of the room. Looking up, the ladder was anchored to the side of a hole in the ceiling. But above that was a wooden door.

Daneath slung his shield onto his back, and sheathed his sword, and climbed up the ladder and started to push on the door. I stood there, holding up Iesa watching as he strained.

“Can…can you?” and Iesa started coughing again, with some blood dripping form the corner of his lips.

“I can, Iesa. But I want to get you into fresh air first,” I said soothingly. “You seem to have inhaled something from those…musti—er zombies, corpse things. I want you to have some fresh air, so you don’t relapse. Just hang in there.”

“It…wont…MOVE,” Daneath nearly shouted. As he strained and pushed against the door.

“Did you unbolt it?” Beepu said, sounding slightly annoyed.

“It isn’t bolted,” Daneath said, stepping down. “Something is on top of it. And I can feel the rung on the ladder start to give. They’ll crack before the door moves. I don’t suppose you could finger baste them Beepu?”

“Fingerpaint,” I corrected.

“What are you...oh that cant thing,” Beepu said, sounding dejected. “I do not have anything that can do that I am afraid.”

Iesa coughed, “Why don’t…” he hacked again, “you boost,” and again he broke down coughing again.

“That’s an idea,” Daneath said brightening up. “But not you, you can barely stand. Myr,” and Daneath dropped down to one knee. “Get on my shoulders.”

“Huh?” I said confused. “I don’t get—”

“It’s easy, you sit my shoulders and lock your arms overhead. I then lift with my legs and we push it open together.”

I shrugged. “It makes sense I suppose,“ I said as I gently lowered Iesa to the ground, and Beepu came over to steady him.

Goss, watch the passage, we’re all a bit busy.

--Oh, wanted to watch the antics here though.

Pike it!

--Spoilsport.


I lifted a leg over Daneath’s shoulder, and then rest my weight onto his back as I swung my other leg over and sat fully on his shoulders. Once settled he stood in a crouching position. I reached up and placed my hands on the door.

“Okay, keep your arms stiff!” Daneath grunted and then started to straighten up.

I gasped and locked my arms. My shoulders quickly burned as I tried to keep my back straight. I winced in pain until finally the door started to move, and several things slid off, allowing the door to open, and light to spill in from above. I could then feel even warmer air and that same tang on the air, but stronger.

“Beepu…can you climb up and drag whatever is out of the way so the door will open fully.”

Beepu nodded and leaned the still coughing Iesa on the floor. He scaled the ladder with some difficulty. I heard a scraping sound, and the door fell open. I grasped the ladder and placed my feet on the rungs as Daneath lowered himself and let me off his shoulders.

“I’ll get Iesa up, you help pull him up there, right?”

I nodded and scrambled up the ladder. I didn’t pay much attention to anything as turn around and lowered my arms to grasp Iesa as Daneath lifted him up from below. Fortunately, Iesa was able to summon some strength and pulled himself up and collapse on the floor, breathing heavily.

I sat down and looked around. We were in a cave, with the entrance partially blocked by tall grass. The interior was not much to talk about, with rough walls and a dirty covered floor. The trapdoor would be seated in an indent in the floor, and next to it were a pile of rocks.

“Rocks?” I said. “Someone bothered to put a door here, and then cover it with a pile of rocks?”

“Doesn’t make any sense to me either,” Daneath said. “Explains why I couldn’t push through it.” Daneath then looked around. “Where’s Beepu?”

Gossamer had just flown up as Daneath said that. Turning round it was apparent the gnome wasn’t in the cave.

“He must be outside,” I shrugged as I spoke. “I’ll peek outside and look for him. Rest a sec and get Iesa out in the open air.”

“Be right behind you,” I head him say, and I stepped outside into the bright light. After squinting a bit, I realized that the air was balmy and intense. The air was even more humid than before as well. The grasses obscured the cave from the surroundings, and I pushed my way through them. When they did, what I saw took my breath away.

Beyond the grasses, and at the bottom of this small hill was white sand. Some were piled into some small dunes clustered around scattered trees that were tall and thin, with a fan of thick green ribbed leaves. On one such dune I saw Beepu had sat himself down and was looking away from the cave. Beyond the Beepu and dunes was a great blue sea, with gentle waves lapping on the shoreline. The sound of the surf pounding the coast was soft and rhythmic, pierced only by the cry of gulls in the sky. It was then I realized that the tang in the air was salt from the sea, just like in Waterdeep. But here the faint breeze had a fresher scent, and it was far warmer.

“Sodding Baator,” I whispered to myself. “Where are we?”

Session Notes:

You could say ‘and now for something completely different. And you wouldn’t be wrong. And Iesa’s illness was a real problem as we soon shall see.
 
Last edited:



Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Depths of Despair – 7/24/2020

We are always losing stuff, whether they are things like your coin purse, or intangibles like your pride when your rival shows you up in a competition. But the worst is people, as we seem to be horrible handling losing someone close to you. I suppose this is what Kelemvor was trying to change in how people saw death. That death wasn’t to be feared and there was comfort in it.

But in the face of tragedy, it takes great strength to hold oneself together. And some aren’t up to the task.

I was staring at the sea as the shallow waves washed over the beach, when I heard the brothers step up behind me.

“Well, I guess this explains the heat.”

I turned around confused, “What do you mean?”

“The farther south you head, the warmer it gets. And we must be very far south.”

I had not heard of this, but as I thought of it, I realized that everyone called the area that I had been travelling ‘the North.’ So of course, there had to be a ‘South’ somewhere. But I didn’t know that the heat would increase the farther one traveled in that direction.

“Well, we’re outside and the air is fresh,” I said. “Let me see if I can help Iesa.” I reached within and pulled on some of the strands within me, and felt the strong flush across my back, as I tried to purge what it was that made Iesa ill. And then I followed it through, pulling on more strands to close his wounds. I then looked at him critically, and I became concerned.

His pallor didn’t improve, even with his wounds now closed. He stood there wheezing and looking at me puzzled.

“You don’t feel better do you?” I asked.

“A little…where I was cut, but…still…hard to breathe,” he gasped.

I frowned. “That’s not good,” I said trying to think.

“Well, do you have any other magic that can help him?” Daneath asked.

“Well…no,” I admitted. “Healing injuries is easy, and I know I can help with other maladies, but…I just tried that, and he says it didn’t work.” I lifted up my hand as I shrugged. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Maybe there is a settlement nearby,” Daneath said. “Hey Beepu,” the warrior called to the gnome sitting on the dune. “Have any ideas where we might be, and if there is ta own near?”

Beepu turned to look at us and shook his head. “Somewhere far south. I do not even know if this is the Sea of Swords or not.”

“This is confusing,” Daneath said. “Why is the circle in the cave?”

“We didn’t search all of it,” I pointed out. “Perhaps he’s hiding within somewhere.”

“Or…” Iesa coughed for a moment. “Something happened inside.”

“That means we have to go back inside then,” I stated the obvious. “Otherwise we are in the middle of know—”

--Wait…do you hear that?

I raised my hand up and turned my head. At first, I heard only the breeze across my ears but then I heard something else, singing. Very poor, offkey slurred, singing.

I mouthed to the others ‘Do you hear that?’ to which Daneath and Iesa nodded (while stifling a cough.) Beepu stood wearily and sent Foggle upwards into the sky. We waited, and then Beepu motioned towards a dune to our left. Coming closer he then whispered to us.

“A human in a small campsite. And he has been drinking.”

“Well, someone that can give us the local chant. Shall we?” I said, and we started to circle the dune following the edge closer to the hill.

As we stepped around, I could hear the voice clearer; whoever it was, wasn’t singing very loud at all, like he was singing to an audience of one; himself. He was also horribly drunk, as the words were slurred to be almost unintelligible. Stepping around cautiously, we rounded the dune, and then we had our first look at the singer.

The man who sat there on a small barrel, in front of an unlit fire was middle-aged and deeply tanned. He wore a tunic with no sleeves and a vest and breeches cutoff at the calves. His feet were bare and covered in sand. He wore on his head a broad leather hat, with a deep crimson band, festooned with feathers and beads. His face was lined, and he had a thick beard. The song was simple and rhythmic and as he sung, he lifted a dark brown bottle up to his lips. And as he did so he looked straight at us for the first time.

He coughed and spat up whatever he was drinking and dropped the bottle onto the sand. He fell off the barrel he was sitting on and started to scramble backwards.

“No! No! No! Ye ghosts from the cave will leave me be!” and he turned over and started to clumsily run.

“Beepu? Can you?” I asked, and Beepu reached down and threw up some of the fine white sand, and immediately the man fell over in a deep slumber, based on the loud snore he gave off.

“What the? Ghosts?” Daneath asked looking at us. “He’s going to be hard to convince not to run when we wake him up.”

“Or shank us,” Iesa managed to say, pointing to the short-curved sword and dagger the man was wearing from a belt at his waist.

“D, sit Iesa down there by the fire circle and help me.” I said walking over to the slumbering figure.

“Sure,” and after letting is brother sit on the sand, he came over to me, “What did you need?”

I grabbed the man by his legs, “Drag him back and prop him sitting up,” I then grunted and Daneath I and lifted and start to move the man, “against that barrel. Just don’t wake him.” We in short order, moved him into position.

“Damn its hot,” and I quickly pulled out from under my armor, the gambeson I wore. My armor was lined well enough that I didn’t need it to prevent chafing, but it was too warm. This left my arms, shoulders and neckline bare to the sun. Taking off my pack I quickly stuffed it inside and pulled out a strip of white cloth. Quickly I used my dagger to cut a thin strip, and then fastened it around my eyes. The cloth was thin enough so I could see through it, and I then ran the back of it under my hair.

I moved over and grabbed the discarded bottled, and saw it was still half full. I quickly took a swig from it, tasting the strong spiced liquor on my tongue. It was easily as strong as the whiskeys served in Waterdeep but was far far less smooth. I then sat on the man’s lap, and quickly took his hat and placed it on my head. I wrapped my right arm around his shoulders.

“Myr, what are you?...” Daneath said confused watching me, and Beepu shared the same look. Iesa however smiled and chuckled realizing what I was doing.

“Just start laughing like we’re old friends,” I said.

“We are friends---”

“Like HE,” I gestured at the sleeping man, “is one too,”

I curled up my legs as I sat in his lap, and with my left arm placed the bottle to his lips. I then with my right hand slapped his face and started to shout.

“Hey Hey HEY!...don’t youz…pass out on me,” I said slurring my words as if I was well into my cups, as Daneath sat down and started laughing. Beepu stood there confused, and then half-heartedly started to laugh and sat down.

The man shook his head and tasted the liquor on his lips and took a drink, and then he looked at me in surprise and confusion.

“What the? I don’t—”

“Youz,” I said looking at him with my covered eyes, “werez telling uss sssome great sstoriesth.” I still tried to sound drunk and cozied up next to him.

“Wazz I?” The man said confused. “I don’t rememberrr…waait. Didn’t youz come out of that there ghost cave?”

“Ghost cave?” I said with a voice of disdain, “Thatzz thilly!” as I laid on more of the mock drunken tone. “Why do call it thatz?” and I watched him to see how he answered.

“Talez of ghostz and treazzures inside,” the drunken man said.

“Thatz sounds like just talez to me,” I said with dismissively. “Whatz…your…name?” I said I as I traced my finger down his cheek

“Mine? Hibertz.” He said proudly.

“Hibertz, you are…quite the ssailor,” I drawled, looking into his eyes. Daneath and Beepu sat there with an almost shocked look on their face as I performed this little drama, while Iesa’s face was red as he both tried to stifle his laughter and attempted to breathe. “You didn’t tell me though….do youz have your own sship or something?”

“Hah, naw…I just crew with the Sea Devilz,” he said nodding and took the bottle from me and took another swig, before handing it back. I tilted my head back and took a very small swallow, before I turned to look at him with a silly grin.

“Sssea Devilz!” and I handed back the bottle. “Thatz right…you told me that. Forgot already,” I said as I glanced over at my friends. Daneath and Beepu shrugged, and I kept fishing. “So, you pulled into port here and here you are drinking your sspoilz.”

“Aye, Blackwater Reef is the best port here in…” he hiccupped before looking at me again, “Nelanther isles.” As he said the name, I involuntarily tensed and felt a chill go up my spine. Glancing over at the others I saw they had similar reactions. Iesa had stopped laughing and looked at Daneath with concern. Daneath covered his mouth trying to cover his emotions, while Beepu’s jaw dropped open.

Nelanther Isles. Waterdeep was a port, there was always tales of piracy on the lips of the sailors. But the tales of the pirates of Nelanther were particularly horrifying. These were not romantic swashbucklers. They were the worst of the worst. Cruel and vicious Reavers, who spent their time taking what they wanted. Most ships would fight to the last man, rather than be taken prisoner by Nelanther pirates, because what they wanted most were slaves. Weak, strong, it didn’t matter. But the tales of their cruelty and barbarism filled the taverns of Waterdeep with tales of nightmares. And rumor had it that they were fond of picking on the smaller races to do the lowest and dirtiest work onboard their vessels.

But this paled to the tales of what they did to the women; prized booty to sell elsewhere as slaves; if they were lucky.

“Say…my captain would like yooou,” the man said. “Not many purty girls out here. Least not bound for market.”

I swallowed, trying to hide my newfound fear. “Well, I might have to stop and see your ship.” And I pinched his cheek playfully. “You must be quite the mate to introduce me.”

“Naw, I ain’t his first nor his second. But you tell them that old Sea Bass Hibertz sent ya,” and he lifted the bottle to his lips to drain the last drops from the bottle.

“Now let me up, before I piss my britches,” I said stumbling to my feet, as I had the sudden urge to get as far from this man as I could. I felt the hand of the pirate slap my right butt cheek as I stood. Holding back an urge to murder the man as he reclined there, I walked towards my friends and said to Beepu in Elvish.

“Put him out.” And with an almost careless gesture and another bit of sand thrown, the pirate was again fast asleep.

I clutched my arms across my chest, breathing deeply and a little too fast.

“Nelanther?” Daneath said. “What have we got ourselves into?”

“Nothing…good,” Iesa said with a wheeze. “You and I might be…alright. But Beepu and Myr? There’s nowhere safe.”

I looked at the brothers shivering a bit. “So, the tales…they are true then.”

“No…” Iesa said slowly. “If anything, its worse.”

“I…see.” I said looking back at the sleeping pirate. “So now what?”

“Two paths; we keep looking in the cave for clues, or we go to town,” Daneath said. “I’d normally say the cave, but--” he nudged Iesa. “He’s not looking so good.”

“Beepu what do…you?” I turned and found that Beepu had wandered farther towards the surf and had sat down upon the sand. He didn’t respond to my words. I walked up to him, with Iesa and Daneath close behind me.

“Beepu?” I knelt down and put a hand on him.

“I am…sorry. I am just…not feeling myself,” Beepu said, as he stared at the ocean.

“Beepu snap out of it!” Daneath said as he stomped over to the gnome shouting. “We don’t have time for this.”

“I need…some time. I will watch our friend,” and he pointed at the sleeping pirate.

Iesa coughed, “This is a bad…idea.”

As Iesa continued hacking out the contents of his lungs, I felt something. A twinge, or rather like a sour note being plucked. I turned to look at him. He was clutching his chest as he expelled green phelm from his lungs. I moved over to him and closed my eyes, and felt. Not with my hands but with the strands. After a moment, it was clear they were reacting to something; as if Iesa was a marionette, to an unseen puppeteer.

“We need to go to the cave, fast.” I said.

“It’s a bad—” Iesa started.

“—something in that cave is killing you,” I cut him off. “And unless we can find what it is, you’re dead.”

“What do you mean?” Daneath said with alarm.

“Something in that cave is…well…trying to turn Iesa into one of those corpses.”

“He’s not a corpse though!”

“No. Not yet,” I said. “And wee may not have a lot of time either.”

“What about--” Iesa started to cough spasmodically, “—Beepu?”

I looked at the gnome and closed my eyes. Beepu was an emotional wreck. I wasn’t sure if he could keep himself together for another fight. Grimacing I answered the brothers.

“We…follow his suggestion and let him watch our sleeping friend.” I started to shake my head. “I think that he might be able to handle that.”

“She’s right,” Daneath agreed bitterly. “He needs time. And you,” he said pointing at Iesa, “Are out of it.”

Iesa nodded, stifling a cough. He straightened up and started heading back to the cave, with Daneath close behind. I followed them and then stopped by Beepu. I stood there a moment, looking at the gnome who stared dead-eyed at the sea.

“Beepu, we’ll be back. Just…take care of yourself. Please.” I said pleadingly, frustrated I couldn’t help him more.

“I will…just help Iesa,” he said barely acknowledging me. His mechanical owl, Foggle circled in the air quietly, making a solitary soft “beepuuu” sound as it waited for its master to command it once again.

I nodded, “Keep an eye on him Foggle,” and jogged past them and the sleeping Hibertz, still asleep to Beepu’s magic. I caught up to the brothers, and together we re-entered the cave. I quickly flexed, and placed a light on Daneath’s shield.

“So, what are we looking for?” Daneath asked, as he descended down the ladder and back into the musty depths.

“I am not sure,” I said honestly. “This is definitely a case where I will know it when I feel it,” I stood back ready to help Iesa down but Iesa slapped my hand aside.

“I can get down just,” and he stifled a cough, “—fine. I’m not helpless.”

“No,” I agreed. ‘I just don’t want you to become so.”

“Fair enough,” he grimaced and climbed down the ladder, with me close behind.

--Seriously we don’t know what to look for?

Not really. Something unhealthy would a starting point. Stay close to me Goss.

--Not a problem.


Daneath and Iesa drew their blades, and I readied my rod in my hand, as we retraced our steps back down. Gossamer stuck close to me fluttering nearby on silent wings. Before long we returned to the intersection.

“So, look in the side passages in the big room there, or,” and Daneath pointed with his sword to the passage descending before us, “down there?”

“Down,” Iesa and I said at the same time.

Daneath looked at us critically. “You sure? We could discuss it.”

“No!”

Daneath shrugged, “Being sure is all…not that I don’t disagree…” he trailed off, and led the way down the passage.

As we descended, I realized that while it was cooler, the sweat clung to my body and the heat hung on me as the fetid air seemed to get thicker. Continuing on, I noticed that the walls were slick with moisture, and patches of green fungus were scattered around the top of the cavern.

The passage started to twist to the right, still descending. As it did so, the patches became solid streaks, and thicker as caps of mushrooms sprouted from the walls. But every step I took, I felt wrongness, almost if I were ill and not Iesa. The air turned from overbearing moisture to one of decay and rot, and it was getting much stronger as we descended.

“You know, somehow I think this might be the right…what the?” Daneath said as he stopped in the passageway.

“What is it?” Iesa asked and promptly coughed.

“The way is blocked,” the warrior said, and he turned and shined the light from his shield down the passage. I stepped next to him to look. I was expecting a cave-in, with a wreckage of rubble. Instead I saw, a sickly green mass of tendrils and shoots. If I outstretched my arms, it would be double that width. At the top of the massive bulk was a crown of flowers, in a riot of colors, oranges, purples and dirty yellows. But as I stood next to Daneath, what was overpowering my senses was the stench the pervaded everything and I felt ready to empty my stomach on the floor.

As I tried to hold myself together, Iesa backed into me, and I turned my head and gulped. Behind us, four corpses were slowly stumbling their way towards us. Their dead eyes were full of fungus, that spilled over the remains of the flesh on their face. Their lips pulled back to reveal broken and split teeth.

“We can do this,” Iesa wheezed between a cough, “its only some corpses.”

“N-n-no. It’s not,” Daneath disagreed. I turned again to look down the passage and saw Daneath’s concern.

The plant’s tendrils were now quivering, and the flowers opened their blooms, releasing a perfume of death that filled the passage. It silently stretched out a number of long thick fibrous vines, that snapped toward the flabbergasted Daneath. And then the massive bulk started to shamble, and heave its ponderous form towards us, unhurried as it stalked new prey; us. The three of us looked at the plant and the corpses nervously, unsure which would strike first. But It was Daneath that summed up our thoughts on what we faced.

“This. This is bad.”

Session notes: So why this contrivance? Its all for one reason; the player for Beepu was out for the next session. For the campaign this was a small thing; but there were some consequences that I didn’t exactly feel was entirely fair as a result of this.
 

raysosher

Ray Sosher
The intro is lit. To be honest, you have made a very good vibe at the first and successfully able to keep your audience till the end. It has climax and a great story line. Nicely written. Impressive.
 

Interesting: kind of a yellow musk creeper/shambling mound hybrid, with a fungal twist. I like it! I'm looking forward to the upcoming fight, where the team's one man short (given that it's Beepu, I guess technically one short man short) and one man seriously not at full capacity. It looks like Daneath and Myrai are going to have to do the heavy lifting in the upcoming battle.

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Interesting: kind of a yellow musk creeper/shambling mound hybrid, with a fungal twist. I like it! I'm looking forward to the upcoming fight, where the team's one man short (given that it's Beepu, I guess technically one short man short) and one man seriously not at full capacity. It looks like Daneath and Myrai are going to have to do the heavy lifting in the upcoming battle.
This is one of those monsters that don't have a great description, so the fungus on the walls (as described TO me) and a single picture are all I have to work with. But while the yellow musk creeper (a favorite of mine from the original Fiend Folio) does come to mind, but that ISN'T the monster.

It is actually is far worse. Stay tuned!
 

Kieth Shadow Cloak

Hydra Tamer
I think i know what the monster is, having based a campaign or two on monsters like this, but since i don't know for certain i am not gonna say anything.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Garden of the Dead - 8/2/2020

I remember a debate in the Civic Festhall where different religions gave their perspective on life and death. One concept which I remember nodding to was the idea that our deaths help others grow. Our corpses become dirt, enrich plants, plants feed animals, animals eat other ones, animals die…and so forth

Somehow I must have missed the section on plants eating animals.



The four corpses slowly walked towards us unhurriedly, while from the other side, the mass of vegetation creeped on the cavern floor closing the distance. And the three of us stuck in between with no clear path away from either opponent.

“Iesa, stay to my right,” I said as I raised my shield up and faced the corpses, gripping my rod tight, ready to face the onslaught.

Iesa nodded and raised up his rapier, waiting for them to move into striking range. I glanced behind me, as Daneath readied his shield as he too waited for the first move of this mobile mass of vines and shoots.

“Lets strike first,” Iesa said to me. “D’s got our back,” and with that he lunged at the corpse, second from the right. His blade slid quickly and smoothly into the moldering body, and with a twist he pulled the blade out and left a large gash, spilling a liquid mass of slime and ooze. I then pulled on a dark strand and created two skeletal hands to pull on the false life of the bodies, on the right most pair. The one that Iesa struck, fell quickly, and the body broke apart, its limbs separating from the torso, as if string were cut from a puppet. The other one on the far right, swung at Iesa, but its clumsy attack was easy enough for Iesa to dodge.

The two on the left started for me and I could feel that strange oscillation, and struggle. I could feel them strain against it and to attack me, but they could not force themselves to break the strange compulsion of the strand. They stood there, unable to move past me. They inner one swung clumsily at Iesa also missing the agile Knight, while his partners clutched its hands trying to find a way past my strand’s strange effect on them.

From behind me I heard what sounded like a whip cracking and the sound of something striking metal. Glancing behind me, I saw a vine retreating from smacking Daneath’s shield, while another struck the warrior’s legs. He again fended the blow off, by slicing at the fibrous vine with his sword on a riposte. But the plant quickly took advantage of Daneath’s defenses being out of place, and a third vine whipped across Daneath’s sword arm. As the vine slid over his skin, I saw that it was covered in thorns, and they sliced deeply into his flesh.

“Crap, crap, that stings,” he barked. But I was distracted as the corpse on the far right, changed targets and swung at me, unaffected by the strand’s protection. But I swung my shield over in time to soak the blow, and then returned it into position, in case the left two suddenly found the gelbas and will, to attack me. Iesa again thrust into the gut of the right most foe, but the blow was far weaker than the first, as the combat already wore on Iesa’s limited strength as he was already wheezing heavily.

I focused a single strand on the remaining corpse on the right, ignoring the pair on my shield. I knew if I struck them with a strand, then they would be free to engage me, and I wanted to keep that from being the case as long as possible. Meanwhile I heard the sound of metal on thick vines, as Daneath chopped a errand shoot that hit his shield. Two more however snuck by his guard, one striking his thigh, and ripping skin and spraying blood, while the third one snapped at him, pushing Daneath off balance.

I smiled and thought: This wasn’t so bad. We could do this. Then the plant opened a set of flowers and a horrific smell of rot and worse came over all of us.

Iesa and Daneath both choked violently, under the wave of nausea that washed over us. But it was too much for me, and I dropped to my hands and knees, heaving as I vomited out the contents of my stomach uncontrollably.

“Myr? Get up!” and I felt Iesa left hand on me, trying to pull me upright. But the three corpses shifted and attacked him, and Iesa had to abandon me to defend himself. Unfortunately, the attempt left him open, as one of the corpses struck him with the remains of a balled-up fist in his ribs, causing him to cough up blood and gasp for air.

I was on my knees, helplessly retching. My bowels now empty, strained to find something more to empty on the floor. The scent of the flowers, and my own bile was more than I could take, as I knelt there, trying to gasp for air. I glanced in Daneath’s direction to see how his gardening was going.

He had managed to thrust his sword deep into the thicket of fiberous roots and shoots, and his sword was covered the plant’s strange fluids. But after he landed a blow, he was struck again by vines. He severed two in self defense while the third raked his sword arm. Looking at it, I could see it was already swelling up in response to the plant’s secretions on the thorns.

Alright; its bad. We can still do this.

I then collapsed in a fit of dry heaves, trying to expel something. I desperately wanted a moment to drink something, just so something would come back up, rather than the continual pain of empty retching that I was feeling. Finally, the wave of nausea eased, allowing me to breathe. Iesa had downed another corpse and was fending off the pair with difficulty.

--Myr! The plant!

I turned at Gossamers’ call. I was now unsure where he was in the throng of combatants. But pushing that aside I looked at the plant confused, then I saw it. What looked like a huge pod that would have held seeds had emerged from the center of the bulk. I then watched as it split open, and another corpse tumbled out of it, dripping wet in some sort of fluid. Once the corpse’s feet hit the ground it ran, past Daneath’s guard and straight into Iesa’s, almost bowling him over as it pummeled him from the back.

“D watch it—crap!” he exclaimed as he realized there was a fresh corpse on the scene. But the plant wasn’t finished. It slid along the wall and I watched shoots and roots reach out, and grab one of the corpses that Iesa had just recreated, and with horror I saw it stuff the remains, into what looked like another pod.

We’ve walked into the Lady’s Shadow!

Iesa was now surrounded and weakening further as he tried to stay balanced. As he fought the three bodies, each had a turn of landing blows, keeping him off balance and exposing him to more pummeling from the animated bodies.

“Myr! Help!” Iesa shouted as he swung wildly trying to use the threat of his blade to keep the corpses from attacking. But they continued their clumsy onslaught. Meanwhile Daneath was still trying to sink his blade deeper into the foliage, looking for the main trunk of the thing. Another pod had emerged and expelled a fresh slimy corpse which threw itself into the fray with Iesa making it a four to one challenge.

I stumbled to my feet, wiping some bile from my mouth with my forearm. I was exhausted from my bowel’s defection to the enemy, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I stood and stumbled towards Iesa. The corpses shirked away from me as I stumbled forward until I draped my arms over Iesa and clung onto him desperately as he supported me.

“I’m sorry about this,” I panted as I leaned my head on his shoulder looking behind him.

“Sorry about wha--?” He started before I suddenly cut him off.

I screamed.

The piercing shriek echoed within the cave, causing the walls to reverberate with the sound. As I emptied my lungs so was the darkness normally pent up within me was suddenly freed. Without any constraints, the inky strands of darkness tore at everything around me, destroying life and unlife alike. Three of the corpses fell from the onslaught, and the fourth was nearly done.

“Myr what the hell?” I heard Daneath shout.

But I was now focused on Iesa, our roles reversed, his rapier slack in his hand, and his labored breathing now slowed to the barest whisper. Now I was the one clutching him in the vain attempt to keep his unconscious form upright. I let him slide down to the floor of the cavern as gently as I could.

The last corpse leapt at me, the strands no longer shielding me; it pounded me with closed fists against my shield. I gritted my teeth, unable to respond, as I focused on my rod; pulling energy from it and saturating myself with quanta I could use again.

Daneath in the meantime, cleaved vines and roots, trying to prevent the plant from approaching the corpses. The plant seemed to know, and it reacted. It moved with surprising haste to a wall and started to stretch roots and shoots into the cracks and crevasses in the rock wall. In a moment, it was now on the roof of the chamber. And while Daneath could swing and strike at it, he could not prevent its movement above him. It crawled along the roof of the cavern until it was directly above me and Iesa, when it swiftly dropped tendrils onto one of the newly fallen bodies. It then quickly sailed upwards and was absorbed into another pod.

“You have to be kidding me!” Daneath yelled and looked at me desperately.

“Keep hacking at it!” I said, and I quickly pulled on a strand, calling forth another skeletal hand, that dragged down the final pair fighting corpses. Then whispering, “Live,” I threw a coil of white stranded energy around Iesa. He then sharply inhaled and his eyes snapped open, just in time to see the newly dead corpse slam into the ground next to him. He swiftly crawled to the edge of the room, leaving his rapier behind. But he then took out his bow, and then took aim at our foe on the ceiling.

Daneath was swinging as well; while the room was tall, the plants bulk allowed Daneath to still hit it effectively. He shouted and swung with overhead chops, cleaving leaves, flowers, and vines from the plant. He quickly found a rhythm as he tore away at the foliage. As he did so, I saw that the pod that taken up a corpse was now shrinking as it absorbed the contents. Elsewhere on the plant I saw new shoots and vines form, as fast as Daneath could cut them away.

“Keep it up! It’s eating the corpses!” I shouted and I used the same incantation to tear at the monstrous plant with a skeletal hand. I kept focusing and kept the incantation going. And together it was enough; as Daneath trimmed the overgrown topiary, and Iesa peppered it with arrows we finally were doing more damage to it than it could pull corpses up from the floor to recover with.

Finally, with a loud whoop, Daneath made a single thrust, and the entire plant spasmed; its leaves quivered, and its flowers all popped open, losing petals in a burst, and vines quivered spasmodically. Finally, with a crash, the plant slammed into the floor, its bulk collapsing on itself.

We stood in the room, warily turning around waiting for the next attack, which never came. After a few tense moments we relaxed. With the flowers now dead, the air was starting to clear, and feel less humid. I leaned against a wall and relaxed a moment, as my breathing slowed to normal. As I rested, I noticed that Iesa had stopped wheezing, and was instead making normal breaths. After a moment, he walked over to me and looked me straight in the eye.

“Remind me not to give you hug in a fight again,” he said in a huff.

“I said I was sorry,” I responded a little exasperated.

“I know. I guess if I died there, Kelemvor might have to judge me right?” he asked.

“Well; if you died, I’d probably be next, and we’d be skipping to the crystal spire together.”

“Yeah?” said Daneath. “I’m sure that ‘she let me become plant food,’ would look good on your permanent accomplishments to your deity.”

“I guess it eliminates the grave digger as a middleman,” I said sardonically.

“Well, thanks…I think,” Iesa said a bit more sympathetically, coughing again into his hand. “Although not sure what hurt more, that black stuff or that scream. But are you ok?”

I nodded yes, “I’m stretched to the rakers, but I’ll be alright after a breather.”

--Hey Myr?

Yes Gos?

--There’s a hole here, and stuff below.

Stuff?

--Like a campsite.


“What the?” I said aloud and looked for the tressym. At the back of the cave, in the area that was blocked off by the deadly plant, there was a hole that descended into another cavern. I walked over, and the brothers followed me in surprise, until they too saw the hole. We all three stood looking down, and Daneath shined his shield into the depths.

Below we saw it was another cave with a second exit, leading deeper into the caves. But on one side there was a circle of stone, a bedroll, and the remains of cooking gear. Without saying a word, Iesa whipped out a rope and started to knot it for easy climbing. Daneath took out a piton and quickly nailed into place and soon we were looking around the campsite.

It was stocked for a long stay, small crates of rations, a fishing pole, and a set of clothes. A pile of driftwood was stacked on one end, along with a hatchet. A pair of knives lay out in the open, both with the slight dusting of rust on the blades.

“A camp in a cave. Not even close to the entrance,” Daneath remarked. “This person didn’t want to be found.”

Iesa looked around the campsite a bit, “It hasn’t been used for a bit,” and he stifled a cough. “But they planned to stay a while; a lot of wood and torches.”

“Not exactly an inspiring tale of treasures,” Daneath commented as he nudged the remaining crates with his boot.

I knelt down by the bedroll. Looking carefully towards an end I found what I was looking for. There in the fibers was a grey hair. I picked it up and held it between my fingers. As I watched the hair moved like it was being blown by an intangible breeze.

“It’s Eridan’s,” I said holding the solitary hair up for the pair to see. “He was hiding here. And with hair like this and I bet a grey complexion, we might have a ghost.”

“So where did he go?” Iesa questioned. “This camp has been abandoned for a while now; long enough for steel to start rusting.”

“You don’t think that thing…ate him?” Daneath asked uncomfortably.

“I hope not,” I said. “But there is more to the cave than this. He could have moved somewhere else for all we know.”

“Well, he isn’t here, so perhaps he is…down there” and Iesa gestured towards the passage. It was narrow and bent towards the left.

I shrugged and said. “We have nowhere else to go.”

Goss—

--Watch your back. Watch your back. I know what to do.

At least one of us does.


Daneath nodded and lead the way with his shield in front. The passage was narrow, so I found myself leading Iesa through the cave, with his hand on my shoulder. With Daneath’s bulk in front of me I couldn’t see much. But this cave was tighter than the others we had stumbled through before. Even the passages above felt more open than where I found myself.

On edge I continued behind Daneath, painfully aware of the close walls, the sound of my own breath, and the occasional cough behind me. It was then when I could detect a fair odor in the air, salt.

“There is an opening somewhere,” I said.

I heard Daneath take a sniff of the air. “Yeah, I smell it too. It’s not strong, but there is another entrance to this cave somewhere.”

“A sea cave maybe,” Iesa quickly said before coughing. “There are some in the north near Waterdeep.”

” The passage opens up ahead, but I can’t see how large the room ahead is,” Daneath commented, as he readied his blade, readying himself for threats unknown.

We stepped into a cavern, in the shape of a bean, with us at one end. The scent of sea air was stronger now, but it wasn’t close yet. As I exited the narrow passageway, I saw that the cave was devoid of stalagmites or stalactites. But the room wasn’t empty either.

Crates and boxes lined the walls. Some where in decent condition, while others were broken shells, their contents long gone. All of them the size that a could be easily moved by two people. Several jutted out from the wall at irregular intervals, while some along the walls were stacked two and three crates high. I then noticed that there was a table halfway between the two passages, and just offset from the wall on my left. On it an oil lamp, a pitcher and some cups scattered across the top, while four stools were scattered on the floor around it.

Frowning, I wondered if this was a smugglers cave. Or was this the so-called treasure, that Hilberts had mentioned in a drunken haze. I then turned to ask a Iesa question, when he put his finger to his lips, and then pointed at the table with his rapier.

I turned to look at the table again, confused. I stared at it, trying to understand what spooked Iesa. Then I groaned inwardly, when I saw from the lamp the wisps of smoke escape the glass bell.

Iesa then moved quietly, I could see his face straining to contain another cough. He crouched down by a crate and I watched him cock his head listening. I stepped to my right raising my shield in front of me, pulling together some strands in preparation.

Daneath stepped forward towards the table; his stance indicated that he too saw the smoke and expected trouble. He was not surprised, when several figures swiftly rose from behind the crates and quarrels flew at Daneath and I. There were perhaps eight or ten of themn. Daneath’s shield rang with the sound of a pair of bolts bouncing off the metal as did a trio off of my own, while others just sailed into the cavern wall behind us.

But once they appeared, I snapped the strands I was working. The sounds of crates, the lamp glass and bone cracking and screams of pain carried throughout the cave. I felt that disturbing wave of excitement and euphoria as the sounds washed over me. One of the figures had manage to duck behind the crate partially avoiding my spell. He drew a dark metal blade and rushed at me.

But he never saw Iesa. In fact I don’t think any of them did, as Iesa quickly stabbed the running figure in the side causing a spray of dark blood to burst forth as it stumbled and rolled into a lifeless heap in front of me. I looked down at the figure and gasped at what I saw.

It fallen foe was a male I surmised on the face, but the features were clearly elven. High cheekbones, small squared chin, and pointed ears marked him as an elf. But the red eyes, the obsidian skin and white hair gave away his heritage.

“Dharrow?” I said the elvish word for the Drow to myself in confusion. I was blankly staring at the fallen elf. Meanwhile Daneath, chopped his blade into two more, felling each, while Iesa killed another one, already badly wounded by the cacophony of my incantation.

And just like that the fight was over. Daneath looked around and sighed.

"You made quite the mess Myr,” he said mockingly. “I’m not sure whose body part belongs who now.”

Iesa now bent down looking at one of the corpses, “Drow. Here? On the Nelanther isles?”

“One or maybe two might be outcasts or something like that one we saw in Yartar,” Daneath started as he looked over the room. “But nine? Nine males? I would guess there is a passage to the Underdark here.”

“Either of you hurt?” I asked as knelt to look at the face of the dead drow. It was handsome as I would have expected any elf. I remembered something Arnara said about them.

We were lounging on the divans at the house, on a moonless night. The stars overhead shone above us in the firmament, and I remembered saying how beautiful they were. Arnara nodded and then said something to me.

“The moonless nights are sometimes seen as bad luck to the elves, for it is nights like this that Drow creep up and take slaves down below. Not here fortunately, but other places they have been known to carry out raids.”

“What are they…like?” I asked curiously.

“A beautiful and twisted dark mirror of Tel’Quessir,” she said with a note of disdain on her lips. “Banished from the sun, and marked as creatures of darkness., their beauty marred for all eternity by their cruelty. The women, the matriarchs’ rule, and everyone else is a slave, a tool, or a sacrifice. Including the men. Especially the men.”

“We’re fine Myr, but these Drow are odd,” Daneath said.

“What do you mean?” I said unable to tear my eyes away as I looked at the dead drow with a morbid curiosity as I slowly felt the euphoria of the fight wearing off.

“They are dressed…much like Hiberts,” Daneath pointed out. “I always heard that drow had special weapons and armor. These are wearing homespun tunics and rough leather, and the swords aren’t great quality.”

“Anything in the crates?” I asked, looking at iesa who was rummaging already in the stacks.

“Not really,” he said poking inside several with his rapier. “Some hard tack and some water. Anything valuable isn’t here.”

“Well, let’s keep going,” Daneath said his voice on edge. “We were lucky. They saw us coming, they have better vision than Iesa and I in the dark.”

“Did you want me to lead?” I asked. Daneath looked conflicted for a moment before shaking his head.

“No, the light would still give us away, and I’m ready for a melee. I mean, I know you can take care of yourself,” he stammered a bit awkwardly.

I smiled, “Look I’d rather heal you than myself. But I’m staying close anyway.”

Daneath nodded, and hefted his shield in front of him again, and we started down the passage. It was wider than the prior one, and it kept turning towards the right. Very soon, we found ourselves in a large grotto. The passage had deposited us on a broad ledge, overlooking a broad flat floor. The cave walls and ceiling were worn smooth. The smell of the sea was stronger here, and now we could finally hear the sea itself crashing upon rock, echoing in the passage. But more exciting, was dim ray of sunlight coming from a passage on the floor. From where we stood there was a ramp of natural stone that descended to the floor of the grotto.

We tread carefully down the smooth stone and discovered there was more to the grotto as there was a passage leading below the ledge and descending into the rock. But we also found pressed against the base of the ledge, bedrolls, fire rings and benches and stools. The were all clustered around the passage that descended deeper. Once on the floor of the cavern, and in full view of the camp I started counting beds.

“There must be more around somewhere,” Daneath said. “I count fifteen bedrolls.”

“Sixteen,” I corrected. “And there are probably more down in that passage.”

“Why do you think that?” Daneath asked looking at me puzzled.

“They are clustered close to that opening,” and I leveled my rod towards the lower passage. If they were worried about something coming up, they would be arranged differently. So, for them it’s safe.”

“I’ll take a look and see if we are alone then,” Iesa said and before we could stop him, he crept into the camp. As I watched him place his back to the ledge’s base, I fished out some copper wire from my pouch and focused on using a stand to talk with him.

Isea! Be careful. You can’t see down there.

==I’ll be fine Myr. I don’t have the light with me, and they’ll never hear me.


Iesa then started to move cautiously towards the passage. He looked around at the various elements of the camp, nudging them with a boot occasionally. Finally, he reached the passage, and then he leaned his head to look down it as we watched. Then he crossed in front of it, heading to the other half of the camp.

<<THWIP!>>

The sound of the crossbow was barely audible. Iesa gripped his side, and started to rush to the otherside, when he stumbled and fell. From where I stood, I could see him twitching and spasming on the floor.

“Son of a—” Daneath readied his blade and looked ready to charge into the cave.

“Hold it,” I whispered and put a hand on his shoulder. “He’s been poisoned; and they probably have more ready for you.”

Daneath looked at me in surprise, “What you propose leaving him?”

“No,” I chided. “They just can’t shoot what they can’t see. Stay here.” I took about four steps forward, pulling a piece of coal out and whispering some words. To my eyes nothing changed, but I knew that I summoned a shroud of inky blackness around me. I then strode confidently towards the fallen rogue.

Iesa was still twitching on the ground when I approached. I knew that the shroud covered the entire entrance as well as Iesa. I knelt next to him, and found the crossbow bolt and pulled it free, while pressing down on the wound with Iesa’s shirt. Turning to look down the passage, I saw that it opened into another chamber. But in front of it was a barricade, and I could see four more figures crouched behind them, men with white hair. They were armed with more crossbows cocked and ready. I watched them look each other in confusion.

Feeling bold I called out to them in elvish, “I can see all four of you, and I know you can’t see me. Do you normally shoot first and introduce yourselves afterwards?”

I could see the figures react in surprise, and some hurried whispers, before one of them called out.

“Most aren’t foolish enough into enter here, female,” the last word spoken with a tone of contempt. But he also didn’t use the word for female elf I noticed.

“So, you keep up appearances of ghosts to scare the locals?” I asked.

“Superstitious sailors tales have little to do with it. Reefers know to stay away from the caves. Any cave. We heard you slaughtering our brothers, we have rights to kill you all.”

“That’s not going to happen,” I said trying to sound important. “You shot first and paid the price. Shoot again, and the price will be double. I will slaughter you in the darkness you so covet, and you will never see your doom coming.” I was nervous, hoping my voice didn’t waver. “But I’ll tell you what; I’ll ignore you shooting my friend, if you answer a question. Then we will depart and forget what happened here.”

“What question?” the drow spat.

“Have you seen a ghost of a man, grey hair waving in the breeze?”

“We know of him; you might ask in town at the casino,” came the answer. “Now leave. You aren’t wanted here.”

I started to shake Iesa, trying to rouse him from his stupor. Surprisingly, he responded and shook his head in confusion. I could hear the distressed sounds of Mo in his pack, disturbed by the darkness, and fall.

“Wha…I can’t see.”

“Shhhh,” I hushed him. I then whispered. “I’m covering us, so they can’t shoot us. Let us get out of here.” Then I called out the Drow.

“We’re leaving. I suggest not following us.” I ordered, and I then led Iesa away from the entrance. When were ten paces away, I dropped it and we quickly rejoined Daneath.

“I heard, more below I take it,” Daneath said.

I nodded affirmatively, “Yes. I’m guessing outcasts; they didn’t care for me being a woman.”

“Makes sense,” he nodded and then knitted his brow, “And what was that about a casino?”

“Eridan might be found there, or at least knowledge of him.” I answered. “In the meantime, let’s get out of here.”

----

We retraced our steps and exited through the upper cave. The sun was getting lower in the sky, but the heat seemed even greater. We trudged down the path back to the dune and surf. It seemed that we had little choice but to enter the pirate enclave. I wasn’t looking forward to doing this, and I was unsure on how we might approach it. But I didn’t get much time to consider it, when from above I heard a sound.

“Beeepooo, beeepooo, beeepooo” Foggle said as it swooped down and circled us.

“What is wrong with him, “Daneath asked. Looking at the mechanical bird.

Iesa looked around casually, and then did so with more urgency. “Hey, Hiberts and Beepu.” He turned to look at me with concern.

“They’re gone!”

Session notes:

The encounter was hard being “short a short man” did make it a strain, with no one really at full capacity.

Also, the particular game was very very magic poor. Including potions. So, other source of firepower or recovery was lacking.
 
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I screamed.

The piercing shriek echoed within the cave, causing the walls to reverberate with the sound. As I emptied my lungs so was the darkness normally pent up within me suddenly freed. Without any constraints, the inky strands of darkness tore at everything around me, destroying life and unlife alike. Three of the corpses fell from the onslaught, and the fourth was nearly done.

“Myr what the hell?” I heard Daneath shout.
Can I ask what this was? I know you traditionally "translate" the spells Myrai casts as manipulations of black and white strands without actually mentioning the name of the spell involved (which I enjoy - it gives the Story Hour a different feel), but this seems almost like it's beyond simple spellcasting. Is it some hitherto-unused warlock ability? (I'm unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the warlock class.) Or just a more powerful spell than those Myrai usually casts due to the potential for friendly fire or something? I have to confess my burning curiosity.

If it's a secret you'd rather reveal in your own time over the course of the story, that's fine too - I just thought I'd ask.

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Can I ask what this was? I know you traditionally "translate" the spells Myrai casts as manipulations of black and white strands without actually mentioning the name of the spell involved (which I enjoy - it gives the Story Hour a different feel), but this seems almost like it's beyond simple spellcasting. Is it some hitherto-unused warlock ability? (I'm unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the warlock class.) Or just a more powerful spell than those Myrai usually casts due to the potential for friendly fire or something? I have to confess my burning curiosity.

If it's a secret you'd rather reveal in your own time over the course of the story, that's fine too - I just thought I'd ask.

Johnathan
First, thank you; I am glad you enjoy the style. For others reading, yes I do intentionally avoid the spell names. I like describing the mechanics instead, as it feels more like a story vs a campaign journal. But there is a second reason for this; while Myrai has learned arcane theory through lectures at the Civic Festhall, and to a lesser extent through Beepu (though the dialog there would probably drive Myrai to start taking shots), she still is trying to learn what she can do, blindly. The Apocrypha discusses invocations, but not the spells, so a spell's proper name is fuzzy.

It also isn't limited to spells; I don't discuss that (spoiler) Daneath is a Battle Master, or that Iesa is an Assassin. As for Beepu; there is exactly one clue on what kind of Wizard he is, but it is obscure; I'll let others guess that one. I also haven't really explained their levels or even their character sheets. In fact, I can only show Myrai's sheet (and I might at some point) as I do not have the others to refer to. As for Myrai, she is multiclassed, but I'll let others guess the subclass.

All of the above is to make it a story that is interesting to read. So again, thank you.

But to the question at hand; the spell used was Arms of Hadar: a Point Blank, area of effect spell with Verbal and somatic components that damages all creatures in a ten foot radius with dark inky tendrils Hence the 'I'm sorry' to Iesa; he was only slightly sturdier than a corpse at that moment. it is a tricky spell to use without hurting your friends. From a practical perspective, it was used because the saving throw was a STR one, and not a CON one like Shatter. That was important because the DM had the nastiest luck on saves, so avoiding half damage saves was my goal. even though the dice were smaller (d6 vs d8s). The gamble paid off. She HAS cast it before in Flint Rock, but Shatter is more of her go to AoE spell by comparison.
 

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