"Out of the Frying Pan"- Book III: Fanning the Embers

Dr. NRG

First Post
nemmerle said:
Hey in celebration of hitting 10,000 views let's do another lurker/reader role call. . .

Feel free to pimp your own story hour (if you have one) while you are at it, and let's see. . . favorite moment from the Pit of Bones (let's say from when they leave the giants to the last entry).

I know what mine is. . .

Heya, new reader here. You picked me up with the story hour sampler thingie you did recently. What a great idea! Without an intro like that, picking a 20-page story hour can be pretty intimidating.

As for a favorite moment, I really liked the 3-way confrontation between the Gunthar party, the skrag, and the FMK. There were some interesting inter-group dynamics there, and in the following scenes.

NRG
 

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handforged

First Post
I'm still here, Nemm, just less time online, so less replies. Still love the story. Favorite part, was when Kazrack finally got the dog to leave him alone. I was so relieved.

~hf
 

Graywolf-ELM

Explorer
Doh, I am shamed. if it were a snake it would have bit me. You mean this time at the pit of bones(Not when the paladin came here by himself the first time), and I have to say the encounter with the Scrag is my favorite as well.

GW
 

Manzanita

First Post
I'm chewing on that 'favorite part' thing. What was the 'scrag'? Is that the Dragon Disciple? (Is that what he is?) Or do you mean the troll barbarian?

I think 3 way battle somewhat understates it, either way, since the gnomes are something of a 4th force, not completely aligned with the FMK.

I do think that has been my favorite part. Nemmerle constantly inspires me to be a better DM. His bold inclusion of numerous NPCs with cross-purposes and distinct personalities really has enhanced the game. It would be tough to run a sesson, or a battle with so many NPCs.

I liked the underwater passage. I liked how Kazrack got to be important, too. A dwarven cleric fulfilling a long-awaited role. Could the party even have succeeded here without him? Did you customize the encounter somewhat, knowing you'd have a dwarven cleric in the crew? Or are you going to tell me you already had this mapped out years earlier before you know who your PCs were?
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
the doctor said:
Heya, new reader here. You picked me up with the story hour sampler thingie you did recently. What a great idea! Without an intro like that, picking a 20-page story hour can be pretty intimidating.

Welcome aboard, Doc!

Glad yer enjoying. . .

So did you start from the very beginning of Book I, or did you just start with this "Necropolis of Doom" thread?

manzanita said:
What was the 'scrag'? Is that the Dragon Disciple? (Is that what he is?) Or do you mean the troll barbarian?

A scrag is an aquatic troll - that is what the troll barbarian was.


manzanita said:
I do think that has been my favorite part. Nemmerle constantly inspires me to be a better DM. His bold inclusion of numerous NPCs with cross-purposes and distinct personalities really has enhanced the game. It would be tough to run a sesson, or a battle with so many NPCs.

It can be tough to do, but over the years I have come up with a number of tricks for handling this kind of thing, and making sure it does not bog the game down.


manzanita said:
Could the party even have succeeded here without him? Did you customize the encounter somewhat, knowing you'd have a dwarven cleric in the crew? Or are you going to tell me you already had this mapped out years earlier before you know who your PCs were?

It would have been nigh impossible to figure it out without a dwarven priest there - but as usual I had back up plans for how the party might find out where the Maze was - but in typical nemmerlesque style, the other methods might have been more difficult and/or distasteful. :)

As for how long it was planned out. . . I knew about the Pit of Bones and had prepared it for nearly a year before it was played - If Kazrack had not been around - I don't know how I would have handled it. . . But the map-room was definitely created with him in mind. . . I always try to give each PC a chance to shine and do their thing as a campaign goes on (though sometimes it feels like the effort to do that is unappreciated).

A good example of this was the tasks for Osiris. Kazrack had to forge something (a way for him to get to use all the skill points he dumped into craft), Ratchis had to hunt something down (mister ranger gets to do this thing), Jana was going to get a chance to learn a bunch of new spells from a "good" source, but with the responsibilties that come with that (thus allowing her the opportunity to fulfill the "arc" of her character we had discussed at the beginning) and Martin (whose player never gave me a background. . . .grrrrrr!) got a chance to deal with a powerful and ancient enemy of his order. . .
 

Dr. NRG

First Post
nemmerle said:
Welcome aboard, Doc!

Glad yer enjoying. . .

So did you start from the very beginning of Book I, or did you just start with this "Necropolis of Doom" thread?

I've just read the Necropolis of Doom so far, but may find myself inspired to go back and read the others as well.

NRG
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Dr. NRG said:
I've just read the Necropolis of Doom so far, but may find myself inspired to go back and read the others as well.

NRG

If interested, I am doing a reprise of the entire in installments I put up three times a week here.

The Prelude (what is called "Book I" here) is almost done (one more installment to go) and then I will be starting on the next part.
 

Ciaran

First Post
nemmerle said:
and Martin (whose player never gave me a background. . . .grrrrrr!) got a chance to deal with a powerful and ancient enemy of his order. . .
Eh? I'm sure I gave you a background write-up...
 


Dawn

First Post
It has taken me a while, but I'm back. Glad to see you're posting the original work somewhere because I have a lot to catch up on!
Keep it coming!
 

Dr. NRG

First Post
nemmerle said:
If interested, I am doing a reprise of the entire in installments I put up three times a week here.

The Prelude (what is called "Book I" here) is almost done (one more installment to go) and then I will be starting on the next part.

Many happy hours of reading later, I'm all caught up.

Keep up the good work Fearless (at least the second time around) Manticore Killers. :p

Btw, Ciaran, I, too am a recovering powergamer. It's not easy, but it's satisfying to successfully stay away from the RPG crack that is power! You've done a great job, from what I can tell from the story hours. I never would've guessed without your admission.

NRG
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Well, just to keep you all in the loop. . . With the holidays here and all it is going to be a little while before I get to do some serious work on the next installment. . I thought I'd have it done by now - but having to wipe my HD clean and slowly re-building my machine has taken a lot of time, and then I was sick, and work has been really busy - oh, and I do have a social life. . . :p

NRG: Where'd you get the idea Cairan was a power-gamer? (Oh and any new favorite parts now that you've read the whole thing?)

Dawn: Welcome Back! You were missed. . .
 

Dawn

First Post
Thanks and glad to be back, Nem. My own "real world" has kept me from both the Story Hour and my own campaigns. Getting ready to restart and upgrade from v3 to v3.5.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #63 (part ii)

Osilem, the 24rd of Sek – 565 H.E.

The next day Ethiel came to the party early in the morning, and noting Kismet’s deep sadness, he had one of the elves bring her somewhere where she could take a warm relaxing bath in some elven herbs that might help soothe her trauma.

Beorth and Martin took turns explaining all that had happened at the Pit of Bones, with Ratchis and Kazrack interjecting their own opinions on things occasionally.

By the time they were done it was time for lunch, and afterwards, Martin was escorted to the library chamber below so that he might copy a more detailed map that might show a good route to Nikar. Beorth went to aid him. Ratchis, feeling much better, (1) spent the afternoon playing with Kwa and finding he was much better behaved than he used to be. Kazrack continued to work on the stone pieces of the set of King’s Men he was making (2). He tried to make one of the ‘priest’ pieces look like Belear. Anarie spent the afternoon in closed chambers with Ethiel and Findulias discussing whatever news of elves they might have gained since they last saw her.

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

Late that night, after everyone had retired, Beorth awoke with a start. He leapt from the bed, as there was the silhouette of a figure standing over him on the left, fang-shaped green glow seemed to hover before the figure’s chest.

“Who is there?” the paladin said, grabbing his sword and lighting the lantern beside the bed.

Martin was standing there fully dressed, the Book of Black Circles clutched to his chest. The watch-mage’s eyes were wide open and unblinking. The necklace of undead control that Beorth normally carried in his pack was around the watch-mage’s neck. (3)

“Martin!” Beorth called loudly, ripping the necklace from the watch-mage’s neck. Gunthar awoke in the other bed.

“Whut’s going on?” the blonde Neergaardian asked groggily.

“Huh? Wha…?” Martin blinked and crumpled onto the bed, dropping the book.

“The Book seems to have made you walk in your sleep,” Beorth said. “It seems to be able to control you.”

”Oh no,” Martin moaned. He sat up and buried his face in his hands.

“This tome is too dangerous to keep around,” Beorth said. “Perhaps we should wait no longer, and you should open it and use it right now and destroy it.”

“You might be right,” Martin replied. “But what if you are wrong and I am permanently corrupted by the book?”

“Then you will meet Osiris,” Beorth replied calmly, gesturing to his sword. He turned to Gunthar. “Go wake the others. This must be taken care of now.”

Gunthar ran over to the next room and banged on the door until it opened. Kazrack looked up at him angrily.

“Baldie wants you and the Pig-f*cker,” he said by way of explanation. “Now.”

Gunthar ran further down the hall to awaken Anarie.

“Bring your weapons and armor,” he told the elf maid. “We may have to kill dough-boy.”

“Do not let them do anything rash,” Anarie said. “I will go get Ethiel.”

Gunthar winked at her and ran back to the room to find the four heroes arguing, though Martin did so sullenly.

“We should deal with this right now,” Beorth said. “He had taken the cursed necklace from my things. This is getting too dangerous to let sit.”

“I fear Beorth might be right,” Martin said.

“Have you felt any more compulsion from Osiris as to do something in particular?” Ratchis asked.

“No, but…” He choked a moment. “We don’t know that that is what will happen. I have the book now, maybe there will be no more compulsion because if I fail to destroy it I will die anyway.”

“I don’t think so,” said Ratchis. “Kazrack and I both felt a compulsion that seemed to grow stronger or weaker depending on how far along we were in completing our task. We have no reason to believe yours should be any different.”

“Why wait to be compelled?” Beorth asked with frustration. “Would that not go against the tenets of your faith? Would it not be better for him to do it freely now?”

“He took this oath on freely to begin with,” Ratchis said. “Whatever comes of it now, he knew getting into this it would not be easy.”

“Uh ‘ill conshult uh wuneschtonesch n’ shee ish my gods uv any guidance for ush, even though this is a muhtter that originates with Oshirish,” Kazrack offered through the clenched fragments of his jaw.

“Patience is a good idea,” Ethiel’s smooth voice was from the doorway as he entered the room. “And at the very least, if you plan to use such a powerful artifact I ask that you do it far from here. We are already charged with watching over one evil. We need not tempt it with another.”

Beorth nodded.

Kazrack went back to his room to consult the dwarven rune-stones, and returned about twenty minutes later shaking his head.

Uh do nut think my wishdom was equal to tuh tashk,” he said his solemnity undone by his ridiculous way of speaking now. “The runesh were vague, but there were definitely shignsh that we should prosheed with great cau-shin n’ peehapsh even timlinessh.”

“So that settles it for me,” Ratchis said. “We wait.”

“So what now? Am I to be bound to my bed each night to keep others safe?” Martin asked.

“Perhaps it is when you are sleeping that you are vulnerable, and you should keep the ring on and sleep as little as possible,” Ratchis suggested. “ We can keep a watch on you for those two hours.”

Martin nodded.

“Un peehapss the amulet hash as much to blame, Beorsh,” Kazrack added. “We should not keep two such curshed objectsh of power in such a clush proshimity.”

Beorth and Martin nodded.


Tholem, the 25rd of Sek – 565 H.E.

Next day after another elven breakfast that Kazrack sneered at, but ate anyway, the Fearless Manticore Killers packed their gear and made ready to head overland by foot to Nikar. It would be a journey of several weeks, though with the map Martin had copied, Ratchis thought he could lead them there in as little as two; Bes be on their side.

Ethiel and all the other elves of Aze Nuquerna gathered at the door to the stone and wooden fortress to bid them a safe journey. They provided them with what they could in way of supplies, but it was not quite enough. It was decided that Gunthar and Anarie would make a quick journey to Ogre’s Bluff to get the rest of it, as no one would recognize them. They would all march to within an hour of the town, and then the two of them would go the rest of the way on their own.

Ratchis confided in Martin that by sending the two newest members of the group he hoped that they would be less likely to hear some news that would delay them, as they would be less likely to recognize a name, or what have you.

Martin sighed, tired of moral acrobatics.

However, they had not gotten far when they spotted Debo jogging towards them, his great sword on his shoulder, and his wolf’s head hood bouncing up and down on his back. The three of them walked to where the others were waiting.

“Time for plan?” Debo asked Gunthar.

“We went over this dog-breath,” Gunthar replied.

“We need to go to dragon now,” Debo said.

“No, Debo, we have to hold off on that part of plan,” Gunthar said. “We have other things t odo before we can do that. Well, I do anyway.”

”Where we going?”

“Nikar,” Ratchis answered.

“Where?”

“It is about a month to the southwest of here,” Ratchis said.

Debo hollered and threatened Gunthar. But the Neergaardian would not give in.

His face a bright purple, finally Debo said, “Me go guard Kan-On then.”

“Sush!” Gunthar put a hand up to the barbarian’s mouth, and Debo bit at it fiercely and brought his sword off his shoulder.

Kazrack and Ratchis tensed to draw their weapons, but Gunthar put u pa hand.

“Guard the what?” Beorth asked.

Martin snickered. “That is your plan? To use a cannon against the dragon?”

“What is a cannon?” asked Kazrack.

“It is a Kan-On,” Gunthar said. “For someone who is supposed to be educated you sure do sound like an ass half the time.”

“It is a gnomish weapon of war that explosively launches heavy iron balls,” Martin explained.

“Ifish thish weapon ish sho fearshome how come we do not shee them more often?” Kazrack asked.

“They are unreliable,” Martin said. “You are as likely to blow up yourself as you are to fire it correctly.”

“Bah!” Gunthar said. “Frederick said he knew of two distinct tales where Kan-Ons were used to fight a dragon, both leading to the dragon’s death… Well, at least gravely wounded, but with the dragon-slaying sword, it was supposed to make up the difference. Thus the change in plan.”

“What is the plan now?” Ratchis asked.

“You guys are the plan,” Gunthar said. “I help you do your things and maybe get my brother back and then you help me and Debo, and Rondar, if he ever shows his wart-covered ass again to slay the dragon, using the Kan-On. If figure the pig-f*cker and stubby here won’t be needing any princesses, and though I have heard that elf women can marry in their culture, I try not to think about it too much because it gets hard to think about any thing but…”

He winked at Anarie. She made no response whatsoever.

“So even including Jeremy, we still have plenty of princesses,” Gunthar continued. “Unless you count Baldie, and while I think he has balls, he must certainly pee sitting down.”

Beorth stiffened, but Ratchis put one of his huge hands against the paladin’s to gently hold him back and calm him down.

“You know, Gunthar,” Ratchis growled. “We invited you into our group and we can uninvite you.”

The blonde warrior turned back to the short dark barbarian. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Take your wolf-skin to where the Kan-On is and guard it and see if Rondar shows up, and if you get hungry, eat him.”

“It is going to be a long time,” Ratchis said. “Months.”

“Debo can’t die,” Debo said, and then without another word took off jogging to the northwest.

“Eh, waste of flesh,” Gunthar swore, as he and Anarie began their short trek to Ogre’s Bluff.

A little over and hour later Gunthar and Anarie were entering the town square of Ogre’s Bluff. There was a large crowd gathered, and what was clearly a large gallows had been set up on the far end of the square. There were so many people they would have had to force their way to the crowd to get up close and get a good view.

“What’s going on?” Gunthar asked a middle-aged pot-bellied man with wiry hair.

“Oh just some robber ‘ looters,” the man said. “They was some of them there so-called ‘dragon-hinters’, but they gots ta ‘bey the law like anybody else. I say.”

“Sure. Sure,” Gunthar nodded. “What’d they do?”

“Ida know, robbed or looted or sumthin’,” the man replied.

Six men with sacks tied over their heads were led on to the gallows and each had a noose affixed about his neck. Without so much as a word of ceremony, the platform was knocked out from under them and they began to jerk on the ropes.

Disgusted, Anarie stepped into Margun’s General Store.

“Wait, you’re gonna miss the best part when they s**t themselves right before the stop wrigglin’,” Gunthar teased.

“It seems unfortunate that people hired to protect the land would turn against its people,” Anarie said, as she made her way through the packed shop, while patting the overenthusiastic golden dog that leapt at her happily.

“It happens,” Margun replied, his eyes growing wide in awe of an elf in his shop.

“I have a list of things here I need to acquire,” Anarie said, and it was all business.

The two of them had been gone less than three hours when they finally returned, laden with goods.

Anarie mentioned the hanging.

“Good,” Kazrack said.

Ratchis threw his dwarven companion a disapproving look.

“Uht? Ifish they were robbing ur looting they got what they desherve,” the dwarf reasoned.

“Could you tell who they were?” Ratchis asked.

The elf and the man both shook their heads.

“There is nothing to be done about it now,” Ratchis said. “Let’s go.”

“I hope they get a proper burial, whoever they are or whatever they did,” Beorth said.

And on they marched.

The woods gave way to the river once again, but this time they were crossing it much further north where it crossed a narrow plain and was much shallower; crossing it was no problem.

Soon they were traveling among sparsely wooded hills, weaving about them at times, but occasionally Ratchis would lead them over one to get a good view of the lay of the land and compare it to Martin’s map. Tall black mountains loomed like an impenetrable wall several days west of them.

The end of the day found them making camp at the top of a squat wooded hill that had reminded Martin of something like half-melted ziggurat that leaned over to one side, making northeast side slightly more steep than the rest.

Ratchis and Beorth watched first and then woke Kazrack and Gunthar to watch in the dead of night. It was a cool night, and they had made a small fire, which Gunthar fed occasionally, while the dwarf marched around the camp.

Some hours into their watch a violent hoot echoed in the night. Kazrack stopped in his tracks, while Gunthar leapt to his feet.

“Sounds familiar…” Gunthar began, when another echoing hoot cracked the night. This time, closer.

“It’s those sh*t-bears from the Honeycombe!” Gunthar hissed to Kazrack. (4)

-------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) DM’s Note: Ratchis made his secondary save for the energy drain caused by the Book of Black Circles the night before.

(2) King’s Men is basically the Aquerra version of chess, though some of the pieces are named differently.

(3) The Fearless Manticore Killers found this on the care-taker of mortuary south of Stone Bridge, way back in Session #8

(4) Also known as ‘quaggoths’. The second time the party ever met Gunthar’s Crew was in the network of caves beneath Ogre’s Bluff, called the Honeycombe (see Sessions #23 & 24).
 

Graywolf-ELM

Explorer
nemmerle said:
Anarie mentioned the hanging.

“Good,” Kazrack said.

Ratchis threw his dwarven companion a disapproving look.

Somehow this strikes me as friends of the party, who they will regret not going to town and saving.

GW
 


Dr. NRG

First Post
nemmerle said:
NRG: Where'd you get the idea Cairan was a power-gamer? (Oh and any new favorite parts now that you've read the whole thing?)

Somewhere along the line, when explaining the way he plays Martin, he mentioned that he was recovering from that particular affliction. I certainly never would've guessed it without his saying so.

As for a favorite scene, I really liked the fairy circle. It presented a whole host of confusing and ambiguous challenges -- the solutions to some of them conflicted with the solutions to others. It was both nicely designed and nicely played.

NRG
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #63 (part iii)

Anarie’s reverie was very odd. Instead of reliving the memories of her own life, the broken images, while still from her perspective seemed to be of someone else’s life. She was marching through a dark place, all color washed out of it, except for the occasional gleam of mail from ahead of her. She seemed to be marching with other elves.

Soon she found herself pool of clear water, kneeling to fill a black leathery skin. As the bright moonlight glimmered on the surface and saw her reflection; hair white like silver; eyes, a steel shining gray, and skin like charred ebony.

“Be on the alert,” Anarié said, her unblinking eyes suddenly moving as she leapt to her feet. “Wake up! There are novilustani around. There are drow around!”

In a moment, all were awake. Ratchis prayed to Nephthys to increase his strength, while Martin cast mage armor on Beorth, as there was no time to put on his splint mail. Gunthar, a sword in one hand and a javelin in the other, jogged off into the darkness of the trees, as moonlight streamed into the clearing.

“Martin, if you could cast that armor upon me as well, I would appreciate it,” Ratchis barked.

“There are three sh*t-bears coming around from the north,” Gunthar hissed.

“Remember, there are drow here as well,” Anarié said. “They are crafty opponents.”

“Everybody stay together. Let them come to us,” Ratchis rousing his companions, as they all felt a fear creep over them. There were no sounds of night birds or insects, and the breeze had fallen out of the trees, leaving only the sound of deep snarling ragged breaths syncopated by padded feet scrambling up over the rock, grunting as they pulled themselves from tree to tree.

Those coming from the left hooted and this time the hoot was echoed by the sound of more far below on the right, at the bottom of the steep side of the hill.

“There!” Gunthar pointed to a dirty white shaggy form breaking through the trees with a javelin, as he prepared for an opportunity for a clear shot.

With an arcane word, Ratchis was also the recipient of a protective spell as Beorth was, and a prayer from the Friar of Nephthys and the paladin, too did receive the strength of the bull.

Beorth moved to fill in the ring of heroes, as Martin ducked behind Kazrack.

“Huh-Hra!” Gunthar flung his javelin with all his might even as the shaggy first came into the dwarf’s view. The javelin shattered one of the quaggoth’s ribs and there was an explosion of flesh and blood. The bear-man tumbled to the ground. (1)

The next quaggoth to leap up to the top of the hill felt the bite of two of Anarie’s magic arrows of light. It stumbled, but did not fall.

Beorth stepped to his left to block the path of another quaggoth who came leaping from the shadows. It slammed into him with great force, and Ratchis stepped forward to meet the first one and cleaved its head open with his great axe.

The quaggoth Beorth fought felt the bite of the paladin’s sword, and it progress was stopped as it crouched back to snarl and circle him.

Anarié spoke a word and soon her cloak was shining with the smoky light of a torch, and she hurried over towards the tree where Gunthar waited to spot any more that might be coming up.

The fight had moved away from the center of the camp, as Ratchis, Kazrack, Anarie and Gunthar formed a line that reached from the trees out to where the quaggoths might approach from.

Beorth, however, was slowly drawn away in the other direction by his foe as they continued to trade blows.

“Are you okay back there, Beorth?” Ratchis called to his compainion. “Can you hear me back there?”

Three more came over the top of the hill and one ignored Ratchis to go for Kazrack to its error. Noting the thing’s left flank was open, Ratchis swung his axe up under its arm pit, nearly cleaving the thing’s head and shoulder off. It collapsed into a quivering pile of matted hair and meat.

“Ut un uz i-een!” Kazrack cursed incomprehensibly.

Another of the bear-men came out of the shadow of the wood; perhaps it had snuck around the very edge of the top of the hill. Gunthar was hard-pressed to get his guard up as his attention was on the where they thought was the place all the quaggoths emerged from. He grunted as links of his mail were caught in the jagged claws of the beast.

Anarié moved past the Neergaardian to listen for more coming around to flank from the darkness, and Beorth finally dropping his foe with a sword thrust, stopped to listen as well.

Martin cowered unsure of what to do, as yet another quaggoth came over the crest of the hill and charged at Kazrack.

Ratchis swung around striking deep into the shoulder of the quaggoth attacking Kazrack, but it refused to drop. Its squeal of pain turned into a roar of anger.

“Friggin’ sh*t-bears!” Gunthar swore. “You decided to climb up the wrong friggin’ hill!”

Gunthar fought off his attacker at the base of a tree, and several of his blows did not hit their mark, for it kept withdrawing into the branches. Suddenly, it roared and pushed through the branches to sink its teeth into Gunthar’s arm.

“Son of a bitch!” Gunthar swore. The thing huffed and puffed and its matted hair became bristled and its chest expanded.

Ratchis, distracted, felt the club of the one before him. Three more quaggoths were pulling themselves over the edge.

“Ow!” Beorth felt something like a sharp pinch at his neck, as something clanged against the bottom edge of his helmet. Reflexively, he reached up and brushed at it and tiny crossbow bolt fell away. The wound burned. He looked around frantically for it source.

“I’m checking on Beorth,” Ratchis announced, still holding his ground as more quaggoths approached, hooting and swinging their wood and stone clubs over their heads.

“Unteh-oo tuh uld uh lun,” Kazrack called, as he thrust his halberd into the gut of the man-bear before him and with a twist of the broad blade ripped its insides out. It tumbled over into the blood-soaked grass.

Anarié fired two more of her magic arrows at one of the quaggoths, not noticing that Beorth had spotted the source of the bolt.

There, barely visible in the shadow of a tall fir tree, stood a lithe dark figure, only a few loose strands of silver-white hair falling out from under a black leather helmet, and in muted gray mail that looked so finely woven that individual links could not be discerned. The dark elf held a tiny crossbow in one hand, and held a short sword in the other.

“Anubis, help me strike down these evil foes of light,” Beorth prayed to his god as he rushed over, inwardly thanking his keen eye-sight, but it was too late that he realized that the elf had allowed himself to be seen, and withdrew; Beorth was drawn into a trap. He felt a sharp blow to his side from behind and swung around, a second dark elf, this one wielding to two long swords had been hiding there, too.

From the darkness below the hill there came the sound of even more quaggoths hooting to each other.

One ran past Kazrack, and Martin only barely turned away to only get a painful glancing blow off his hip. As it was, it nearly knocked him off his feet.

Suddenly, the watch-mage cried out as he saw green and black flames begin to lick up his robes and surround him in an aura of arcane fire. It moved with him, shedding dim green light in the clearing.

“What the…?”

Not thinking anything of what seemed like a new spell of Martin’s, Kazrack stepped over and drove his halberd blade into the quaggoth’s back. It howled and turned to face the dwarf, suspicious of the green fire.

Gunthar and his foe traded blows, but it was too wild now and leaving itself open. The Neergaardian feinted a thrust and the thing dove for him, missing. It slammed its face against the hard ground.

The dark elf opened his mouth in a smile of brilliant white teeth. He dropped his crossbow and pulled a longsword in a blur of movement, and Beorth’s was only barely able to turn away blows that would have killed, into ones that merely drew blood.

“Dark skinned betrayers from under the hill, you will die tonight!” Anarié cried with rare passion, and she ran parallel to where she finally had seen the ancient foe of her people, and two bolts of white light flew from her finger, slamming into the elf.

“Are you not happy to see us, cousin?” the dark elf sneered.

Martin had managed to draw and load his crossbow, but his bolt went flying high over the quaggoth’s head.

The drow that remained invisible to all but Beorth struck out with one of his blades, whipping at Beorth’s weapon hand, slicing open gauntlet and hand alike. The sword flew from the paladin’s grasp and he turned to withdraw, feeling the bite of the drow blade twice more despite the enchantment on him. In less than a moment, he was bleeding on the ground, growing colder by the moment.

“The drow are here!” Ratchis announced rushing back to help Beorth, a quaggoth on his tail.

“There’s no such thing as dark fairies, unless you count the ones down by the docks in Earthsea City,” Gunthar quipped. He made short work of another quaggoth, ignoring the one on the ground momentarily.

Kazrack swung around and finished the one on the ground and swung out his blade to trip up the one chasing Ratchis, but it deftly leapt over the blow.

Askula!” sang a voice above them, and they looked to see a tall female drow dressed in a long black coat covered in gray and purple spiders. Her hair was cut in four stripes of shocking silver that wound down her back, kept in place by silver spiked barrettes, tied in intricate knots of hair. Her skin was like ash, and about her neck was black metal spider pendant.

A globe of magical darkness covered part of the clearing, engulfing the two drow, Beorth’s dying form and the charging half-orc. Two sharp blows greeted him to the deep darkness, and he frantically tried to keep up some guard, listening out for a footfall, but the sounds of battle were a cacophony.

Sagitta Magicus,” Anarié canted again, aiming at the drow sorceress, but this time the two arrows of white light seemed to fizzle out of existence just before striking her.

“Weak surface magic,” the drow said in thickly accented elven.

Martin tried for a shot at the drow sorceress, but it arced low.

Ratchis leapt back out of the darkness and called to Nephthys to close his wounds. Luckily, the quaggoth that was following him, had turned off to chase Martin, but Gunthar skipped out of the shadows with kick to the groin, and he slid his longsword into its chest through the shoulder when it doubled over. (2) It did not get back up.

By now the clearing was a mess of dirty white and red. More quaggoths had come over the side in the confusion, and Kazrack charged at one to keep two from ganging up on Anarié who was keeping them at bay gracefully, taking openings when she saw them.

Ratchis was caught unaware by one of the new-comers, and grunted in agony as he felt a stone club against his kidneys.

The darkness lifted and suddenly it dropped again, this time covering the main area of the battle.

“You want magic?” Martin cried out to the floating drow sorceress from beneath his mantle of green and black flame and sounding a little crazed. “Here is some magic for you.”

And suddenly the spell he had been chanting was completed. There was a flash of blinding light, and there stood, roaring on its hind legs, a golden bear that gleamed in the gloom. The bear clawed angrily at one of the quaggoths, but the thing leapt back, and hooted in fear.

The drowess ascended out of sight.

Martin hurried around the darkness, ready to cast a spell at the first foe he saw, but instead he felt the bite of a tiny crossbow bolt. The world became a dark blur and he felt himself slowly falling to the ground, and then all was black for him.

Kazrack instinctively leapt out of the darkness, and with two chopping blows, finished the one harassing Anarié.

“Oh Spider-Goddess! Bring me your servant so that we may slay the surface-dweller and her weak companions,” the sorceress hissed (3)

There was a pop and Anarie started as a fat black spider, nearly three feet in diameter appeared on the tree behind her. She ducked and twisted to avoid its bite, but it scurried after her. Ducking a quaggoth’s blow, she moved to flank the quaggoth still near her, putting it between her and Kazrack, and shoved her long sword through its lower back. It howled, but did not fall, spinning around and whipping it blood in great arcs.

The bear went after the spider instead, smashing its soft body easily, while turning to find the next closest foe.

Ratchis rushed his way through the darkness towards where he had last seen Beorth, but his joy at coming out into the moonlight was short lived. He saw movement to his left and turning to look, heard a twang, and suddenly his right eye was burning. One of the tiny crossbow bolts of the drow had pierced his eyeball. (4)

Roaring, he fell backwards, dropping his axe and clutching at his eye, and he wheeled around frantically. In all the commotion, he did not even feel the venom on the dart that put him in a questionably merciful sleep.

Gunthar whipped around to barely miss the furiously quick blows of the drow elf with two long swords.

“Bast’s Flabby Kitty Teats!” Gunthar cursed. He gritted his teeth as he tried a riposte that was easily parried. This elf also wore the gray finely woven mail, but had a burgundy cloak that seemed to flow in and out the darkness beneath the trees.

“There is a such thing as drow elves!” the Neergaardian cried out, and he yelled to Martin, who had just managed to stumble out of the darkness close by. “Fat ass! Get behind me!”

Gunthar and the drow fell to fencing, trading blows, and parrying. Again and again their blades met and turned. Gunthar put his strength into it, but the drow’s forms were practiced, and soon he had cuts in his wrist and forearm.

The Neergaardian cursed.

In the darkness, the summoned celestial bear squeezed the last life out of a quaggoth and bit deep into its shoulder to make sure.

Clear of quaggoth for a moment, Kazrack ran to Ratchis’ large pack and pulling the long bow from atop it, began to try to string it.

“Ruchus! Ur buh! Uh jrow ‘itch en ee uhr!” he said, and looking up he saw the drow sorceress point a finger at him and hiss an arcane word. A sickly green ray enveloped in a mist shot out at him, but Kazrack ducked out of the way of the spell, but right into the club of a quaggoth.

And now it was Anarié’s turn to come to Kazrack’s aid as she drove her blade into the back of a quaggoth moving to flank him.

Glad to have some support, Kazrack fit an arrow to Ratchis’ bow and fired up at the drow witch, but the arrow flew awkwardly and dropped short into the dirt.

The sorceress disappeared once more.

Dropping the bow, Kazrack drew his flail and leapt at the other quaggoth, smashing it full on in the face with a satisfying crunch. It fell, unmoving, to the earth.

The celestial bear grabbed another quaggoth in the darkness, and tore into it, killing it easily. It was the last one.

Anarié instinctively ducked a tiny bolt fired from the trees over her left shoulder, and spinning to knock the quaggoth she fought off balance, moved to support Gunthar, hoping to draw the other drow into a fight.

The bear bounded out of the darkness and charged at the drow wielding the hand crossbow, but the dark elf deftly spun out of the way. However, he was startled by his comrade’s cry, as Gunthar found the opening he was looking for and cut deeply into his foe’s thigh, nearly cutting the whole leg free of the crumpling body. (5) With one fluid movement, coming out of that blow, Gunthar spun into place to flank the other drow warrior against the glowing bear.

“Now we gotta little something goin’,” Gunthar said, licking his lips of his opponent’s blood.

The drow holding the crossbow moved away cautiously, ducking and weaving to avoid Gunthar’s blows, and getting dangerously close to the bear to cause the Neergaardian to pull his swords back, allowing for temporary escape. Gunthar, however, was not to be deterred when he moved to follow and noted the elf’s greater speed. He slid both swords away with a flick of his wrists, and pulled a javelin from the quiver on his back.

But the bear was quicker in its reaction and ripped at the elf with a claw. Crying out, the drow threw himself over the side of the hill, tumbled down its steep rocky surface into inky shadow. The bear, still following Martin’s last command to chase down and slay their foes, dove off the side after him.

Kazrack spun and threw a hand axe at the floating drowess, but she stayed just out of close range, surveying the melee as if she were not a part of it.

Anarié quickly cast a spell and moved with great speed away from the battle.

“Flee! Flee!” the drowess mocked from above in her accented elvish, but she seemed to be doing the same. Reaching out to grab a treetop to pull her levitating form around.

“Flee! Flee!” Anarié returned, and with a word she ran towards the tree leaping fifteen feet in the air and into the tree the drowess clung to. Unfortunately, the elf maid failed to get a good footing and slammed through the branches and needles to land heavily on the ground.

The drow sorceress laughed.

Gunthar cursed and ran back to the campfire, sticking his javelin into the flame until it caught.

Meanwhile Kazrack began to climb the tree, Anarié had just fallen out of, while she drew her bow and looked for a shot on the sorceress.

Teneraél Undol, grant me spider’s grace,” the sorceress chanted, and then leapt from the tree, clinging to a narrow branch at the top of one a handful of yards away like an insect. (6)

Gunthar threw his smoking javelin at the sorceress, but it just landed awkwardly in the tree, slowly making its way back down through the branches.

Anarié let an arrow fly, but it arced over the tree.

Looking down and then back up. Kazrack leapt back out of the tree, and ran over to check on Beorth and Ratchis.

Gunthar ran over to Martin’s slumbering form, and took up the mage’s crossbow and loaded it, taking a shot.

The sorceress leapt again and Anarié fired, but the arrow flew past the target. However, in ducking to miss the shaft, the arc of her leap was ruined and she slammed on the ground at the base of the tree she was leaping for.

Kazrack looked up from where he was using a cure minor wounds spell to stabilize Beorth, when he heard Anarié call, “She’s on the ground!” The dwarf leapt to his feet and jogged in that direction, flail in hand.

A flurry of arrows of followed the sorceress back into the tree. She climbed with great speed and deftness, barely seeming to need to touch the branches.

“I hate these things,” Gunthar swore loading and firing again. Again, he missed.

The drowess leapt again, and this time Anarié’s arrow struck home! Or seemed to, only to bounce away as if it had struck some invisible barrier.

They chased her this way across the top of the hill, until bleeding from arrow that nicked her, she leapt into the top of a huge tree that was actually planted on one of the lower levels of the stepped hill. She began to climb down with great speed, and Kazrack leapt right off the hill at her when she was nearly level with him, but the dwarf fell short, slamming into the tree and sliding down.

Gunthar did not even bother to try for the tree and did a running jump down to the next step. His feet slipped out from under him and he landed painfully on his tailbone.

The drow sorceress leapt again, followed by one last arrow from Anarié, but it was too late. She was gone. (7)

End of Session #63


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Notes:

(1) DM’s Note: Ken (who was still playing Gunthar at this point) has the greatest luck with crits. As Jeremy, he scored more than anyone else (seeming to have an affinity for “Hand Removed at Wrist”), but the streak seemed to pass on to the playing of Gunthar.

(2) DM’s Note: This cinematic piece brought to you by the “Dirty-Fighting” Feat. ;)

(3) Translated from the drow dialect.

(4) DM’s Note: Ratchis suffered the “EyeBall Pierced” Critical effect.

(5) DM’s Note: Ken (as Gunthar) scored a “+1 Total Damage Multiplier” (which causes damaged a number of additional times equal to the weapons critical damage multiplier plus one; so in this case x3).

(6) Translated from the drow dialect. Teneraél Undol is the drow spider-goddess.

(7) DM’s Note: This was the last session that Helene (Jana, Derek, Anarié) was able to play in the group as she had to return to France because her visa had expired. Coincidentally, it was also the last session Ken ever played in as well. We miss them both.
 
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Graywolf-ELM

Explorer
Wow, a running fighting, turning, chaotic battle. I really like your representation of it. So much more than the individual attack and damage rolls, but the actions that took place as well.

GW
 


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