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

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
mmu1 said:
Hah. My character probably isn't even going to show up in these story hours for at least another six months... *sigh*

If you're lucky. . . Jeremy died in June of 2003, that was only 2 sessions ago in the story hour; so that is what? 9 months?

Yep, something like that.

EDIT: I looked back. It was April 2003. So, let's make that more like 11 months. :heh:
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
handforged said:
Great combat description. It seems like Martin has a pretty bad will save for a wizard. Thank you for the update.

~hf

Actually he has a pretty good Will save, his player just rolls horribly. :D
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #56

“Beorth, stop!” Ratchis yelled to the paladin, and Kazrack echoed him. “Beorth, we cannot just go down there.”

“Why not?” There was only one more boards to be removed and the paladin, blood on his face and hands, held it.

“We cannot drag Derek down there in his state,” Ratchis reasoned. “There could be something worse down there.”

The three of them began to debate the matter in earnest. Kazrack wanted to go after the archer-monk. Beorth wanted to immediately go below. Ratchis felt they should gather their strength and then retreat to some place of relative safety to rest. Martin expressed no opinion, arguing against all reasoning for whichever position, while frantically going through the monks’ camp for his spellbooks.

Finally, Kazrak sighed, “Whichever way we go we will be beset with danger, so we might as well go down.”

Ratchis grunted his disapproval. “We’ll leave the monks where they are. If that other monk is in league with them she’ll come and take them or whatever. We’ll leave them food, but take their weapons.”

“Agreed,” said Beorth.

“I found them!” Martin cried, and hugged a book to his chest.

“Hoorah!” said Thomas mentally.

There was a spiral staircase made of great stones held up by a metal frame going down into the darkness. The metal was warped and the stones cracked. The climb down looked precarious. Kazrack volunteered to go down first and check it out. They tied a rope about his waist, and down he went, while Beorth and Ratchis held the other end. Martin stood watch. He still held his books in his arms.

The stairs groaned in protest as the dwarf made his careful descent. He was jolted to one side and braced himself to fall, as one of the steps beneath him cracked, and sent up a plume of dust. But he did not fall. He could see that at one time the stairs had been of excellent craftsmanship, but years of moisture and pressure from above had twisted the metal and cracked the stone.

The open steps led down to a great round room, that was bi-leveled by a series of stone platforms that starred out from the center, out to open spaces in the wall, where brown rubble had tumbled through. The stone of the ramp and the walls were all blackened and in some places even disfigured. Scorched. The real floor was another twelve feet below. Looking around, Kazrack could see that the rubble partially obscured rotten ballistae, with their metal rivets corroded. The dwarf’s eyes widened with sudden understanding.

The room he was standing in was an enclosed parapet. The rubble had come through the great windows where the ballistae had been stationed. This was the top-most level of the citadel and the place itself had fallen nearly whole into a crevasse that had then filled in with broken rock from the surrounding area. It was as if the earth itself had swallowed the whole building.

Kazrack came around the steps and could see a gap in a ramp to his left that might have been another spiral staircase down to the lower level. He tugged for more slack from the rope.

“You okay down there?” Ratchis called down. His gruff voices echoed in the great round chamber, that aside from the rubble seemed unchanged. A large portion of the area below was in total darkness, as it seemed larger than this ramped section of the chamber.

Suddenly the darkness was pierce by an orange glow. A nearly transparent sheet of flame burst into being and circles the circumference of the room, and then split into several more, spinning around, each growing, as if to make a ring of flame.

“What is that? What’s going on?” Ratchis called down, seeing the fiery light come up through the trapdoor.

Kazrack began to back away towards the steps. “I’m coming back up!”

Beorth and Kazrack began to pull on the rope with all their might, jerking Kazrack off his feet. HE scrambled to get back up as they dragged him along bodily. He managed to regain his footing, but before he could come around the steps he heard a soft pop.

Above Beorth and Ratchis fell back as the rope gave way, burned through in the explosion. Soot came flying up out of the hole.

“Kazrack! Do you hear me?” Beorth called down. He began to clang noisily down the steps. “Sit tight! We’ll come and get you!”

He swayed in place for a moment.

Kazrack sat up singed and dazed. He had fallen again, and rolled into a ball, and was not sure if he had blacked out or not. The world was a dull hum, and he could hear Beorth calling indecipherably from a great distance. He patted out flame by his elbow, and quickly examined his beard to make sure the tangled thing was still there.

The dwarf jumped to his feet and waved Beorth back. “Get back up the stairs! Get out of here!”

Martin ran over to the hole with a jug of water he grabbed from among the monk’s things. Below Beorth looked around at the wavering red and orange light that was coming off the walls. The corroded metal of tracks the ballistae seemed to rest on gleamed.

Kazrack allowed his mind to wander a moment when he recognized how the great weapon was bolted to a frame, and chains and weights must have been used, including dwarves at several stations to target it more precisely. He could see the siege weapons were scorched as well. There must have been a great fire here once that burned hot and fast and then was put out just as quickly, he thought.

A clatter of bones against stone brought him out of his reverie. He reached the stairs, but Beorth had not ascended.

“My god’s energy will save us!” the paladin cried. Confused, Kazrack looked up and could see that the sheets of flame trailed after bones that flew through the air at great speed. Sometimes colliding with the ramp and running across them to create the clatter, making the already blackened stone to glow red.

Suddenly, the bones came flying together with great speed, and the sheets of surrounded the humanoid form. The mantle of fire, seemed to peel back from the skull, and as it did sinew, flesh and skin seemed to spontaneously grow, as if the thing were burning backward. Before them was a naked man, with runes burned deeply into his flesh. His face melted off and exploded into flame again.

Its left arm seemed to shrivel up in flame, and then flick forwards sending a bolt of fire at Beorth.

The paladin cried out to his god, and holding his sword above his head charged at the grotesque thing.

“Go down!” Martin yelled at Ratchis. “I’ll watch Derek. Go!”

“I’ll be back,” Ratchis said, apropos of nothing, and grabbing the jug of water he came hurrying down the steps. It was a bad idea. He slipped, and through his shoulder into the central pole of the steps to keep from falling, and more than half of a lower step came loose. He grunted and continued down with more caution.

The burning man avoided blow of Beorth’s sword, by having his upper torso explode into a blaze of flaming bones that struck Beorth across the chest and face, searing him.

“You will not bend me to your will servant of Anubis!”

Beorth tried to parry the next blow, but the thing punched forward. Beorth’s cloak caught flame, and there was a nasty burn on his neck and face. He fell back unconscious.

“Beorth!” Kazrack cried, turning away from the steps and readying his halberd.

“Good! More dwarves to kill!” the thing hissed, its tongue curling up into a deep red flame. Kazrack charged and brought his axe down, but the undead thing leaped back, and smacked him with flaming bony fists. He could feel the heat of the blow beneath his armor, as it became very hot in the less than a moment’s contact. HE swung wildly to keep the thing at bay.

By this time, Ratchis had come down and crawled up to Beorth, as to not attract too much attention to himself as he dragged the jug of water.

He whispered to his goddess, and in less than a moment, Beorth sat up, sputtering and holding his face. However, he did not tarry long. He grabbed his sword and came at the creature.

Kazrack was able to strike the skull a good blow with his halberd.

Ratchis chucked the clay jar at the thing, and it exploded and hissed, reforming with rather less potent, now blue-tinged, flames. The thing screeched, and Beorth took the opportunity to call to his god to smite the thing one and for all. His blade smashed through the blazing bones, sending them flying out into flaming ring of dust.

The thing was destroyed.

The three companions patted each other out.

“What happened?” Martin called down into the darkness. With the creature gone, Beorth suddenly found himself in the dark as well.

There was a whispering in dwarven below. Only Kazrack could understand it, and he hastened the others to go back up.

“Tender morsels,” the voice had said.

Above, Ratchis healed Beorth, and again the party fell to arguing and what to do next.

“Do you hear that down below? That is something mumbling in the tongue of my fathers!” Kazrack was beside himself. “I think we should go down there and destroy them right now, and then that place will be safe, and Natan-Ahb’s just will be satisfied as well.”

“Both place seem just as dangerous,” Beorth said. “But perhaps Ratchis was right about the dangers below. We should stay up here where we can tend to the monks while we tend our own wounds.”

“I am not tending anyone not in this group,” Ratchis barked. “I will leave them food within reach, but if they live or die is not my concern here. My concern is finding this map and learning where Hurgun’s Maze is.”

“When we leave them to go below we will leave them to their fates,” Beorth replied. “But while we are here I will care them.”

“I’ll help,” Martin added, weakly.

“But those abominations cannot be tolerated to exist any longer,” Kazrack insisted. “You cannot understand them, but I can, and I say we destroy them. They were destroyed easily enough before.”

“Except that now we are sorely wounded, Derek is unconscious, Jeremy is dead, we have a monk archer of some race or another…” Ratchis began.

“Hobgoblin,” Martin added, again weakly. “I saw her very quickly, but it looked like a hobgoblin to me, though I’ve always learned the females of their culture are subservient to the men, certainly not monks.”

“…Waiting for a chance to kill us all,” Ratchis continued, deciding that Martin was adding nothing helpful. “And, last of all we don’t know how many there are down there, or what else there may be.”

Kazrack sighed, “We can camp on the upper part of the room; that way we will have cover from anyone coming from above, and whatever is down there won’t be able to reach us, and if they can climb up, we’ll see them way before they get to us, and we’ll have the advantage.”

“Yes, well, we mustn’t miss an opportunity for such an advantage,” Ratchis replied.

“This sarcasm you’ve developed during your time in civilization doesn’t suit you, D’nar,” Kazrack said back, coldly.

Ratchis did not flinch, “I do not trust you to spend a night down there, whenever you hear them whisper, you are as loud as an oliphaunt.”

Kazrack grunted.

“I think Kazrack’s plan has merit,” Beorth offered, but Martin shook his head in disagreement.

“How about I go down and check it out and see if I think there is good place for us to camp, and if so we will do as you and Beorth want,” Ratchis offered.

“Okay, but I will be the one to go,” Kazrack replied.

Now it was Ratchis’ turn to grunt and roll his eyes.

“You cannot understand their whispers,” Kazrack said. “I can tell if anything they say might be helpful to us.”

“That is why you should not go,” Ratchis countered. “Nothing they can say to me can move me to be rash. They have nothing good to say. All that is left in their black bitter hearts is to destroy the living and make them as miserable as possible.”

Beorth nodded, “He is right, Kazrack.”

The dwarf shrugged, and then nodded.

Down went Ratchis, but he was not gone long.

“There are too many places where something could climb up from below,” Ratchis reported. “And the stairs are too unstable. They may collapse if we have to retreat back up in too much of a hurry. In fact, I am not sure they will last a few more gentle climbs up and down.”

Camp was made, and Martin crawled into the tent to get some sleep, feeling exhausted. Derek’s unconscious form was laid within beside him.

The sun was naught more than a dim golden glow at the top lip of the pit when Beorth, Ratchis and Kazrack were about to divvy up the watches were startled by the sudden appearance of the armored skeletons like those they had fought before. As the last light died, there they were, hissing unintelligible curses at them.

Kazrack did not hesitate, but grabbing his pouch of runestones, he called out to his gods, and one of the skeletons turned and fled.

Ratchis followed suit, but his entreaty to his goddess must have been tainted with the anger and frustration he was feeling.

Beorth cried out, as two black bolts of energy struck him. He fell and did not get back up.

The undead things had appeared surround the camp, and Martin startled awake having heard the commotion. He crawled out of the tent on his belly, and began to see to Beorth’s wounds, as blood seemed to be gushing from his nose.

Kazrack felt the cold touch of one of the bolts, but gritted his teeth and shook off the pain. Ratchis charged at the one that brought down Beorth with his hammer, but the sound of metal on metal rang out, as the undead thing moved deftly to parry the blow with its long sword. Ratchis winced, as the counter-blow grazed his knuckles as he brought his hammer down at the blade.

Again, Kazrack called out to his gods, and two more fled, following the first one as all three seemed to dematerialize into pit wall, as if suddenly ghostly.

Roaring, Ratchis closed with the skeletal warrior. The thing ducked and fired a black bolt of energy at point blank range, but the half-orc did not seem to notice the cold blow. He brought his hammer down on the thing’s head, causing a huge dent in its helmet. He could hear the sound of the crunched skull, but did not take a moment to enjoy it. Ratchis swung his hammer across its chest and sent it flying backward, sending bone fragments in all directions, as the armor seemed to age incredible as it tumbled away.

“I told you we should go below,” Kazrack admonished as soon as the battle was done. “Those things will only return.”

“Fine. We’ll go down,” Ratchis said, going over to Beorth’s unconscious form, as Martin worked over him. “But we are going from one danger to another. And I have no more access to my goddess’ healing graces this day.” His gaze lingered on Beorth.

“I have none as well,” Kazrack said. “All the more reason to find ourselves a secure position below.”

Ratchis sighed, and they packed their things.

Martin moved the boards, and below he heard some kind of echoed smack and then shuffle and a snap of something. He shuddered.

Kazrack went down first to keep watch as the others descended. Martin followed. He cast levitate on Beorth and awkwardly brought the paladin down, weightlessly. It took a good long time, and he began to sweat as the metal frame of the stairs began to groan and shake. He cursed whenever Beorth became jammed in the stairway and he had to jerk him free. He stopped to examine the paladin’s wounds to insure they had not re-opened and then continued. The stairs seemed to sigh in relief as he stepped off, dragging Beorth behind him.

Finally, down came Ratchis. He had Derek over his shoulder. The metal frame began to buckle, and then it lurched forward suddenly, as Ratchis came around, and he instinctively drove his foot down to steady his footing, but the stone beneath gave way and he flew forward. The steps began to collapse; stone falling on stone.

Ratchis fell fifteen feet below, but Derek was thrown from his shoulder and landed with a sickening crunch on his head and shoulder, crumbling unnaturally before falling over. The young huntsman was spread out on the hard cold stone, his head twisted at an odd angle.

Ratchis looked up and then scrambled over to Derek. He was dead.

“Nooooooo!” Ratchis’ voiced echoed through the great chamber, making pebbles tumble down the piles of rubble. The last piece of stone on what had been the steps came loose and fell as well.

“Ratchis! You said to be quiet,” Kazrack hissed. “D’nar! Stop! He is gone.”

Kazrack walked over and put his hand on Ratchis’ shoulder, and looked down at Derek’s dirty face.

Ratchis stood quickly and threw his fists into the air in frustration and anger, “This is all my fault!” He brought his fists down on his chest with all his might, a fleck of spit bubbling out from the corner of pruned purple lips. And then the great half-orc collapse on the ground, crying. “All my fault…All my fault… You arrogant bastard!” Ratchis sat up and slammed his fist into his leg again, and then collapsed sobbing.

“Ratchis! Ratchis, get up! This isn’t helping,” Kazrack tried, but the ranger would not respond. Martin the Green merely stood there, by Beorth, mouth open a bit. Whether his face expressed disbelief or numbness, Kazrack could not tell.

The dwarf steadied himself and snarled, looking over at Beorth breathing shallowly. With a ‘harumph’ he marched over to Martin.

“We’re going to have to make camp right here,” he said to the watch-mage. “Since you don’t need much sleep, you will have to watch all night and then wake me for the final two hours.”

“I can’t do that,” Martin’s voice was raspy whisper. He snapped his fingers and lit a torch, growing tired of the dark, that Ratchis and Kazrack could see through so easily.

“Why not? Just put your ring on,” Kazrack’s patience was wearing thin, but Martin’s was suddenly gone.

“Sure, just give me week,”(1) he said sarcastically, slipping the ring on. “I will stay up an watch the best I can, regardless.”

“And if you fall asleep?”

“Then we die,” Marin snapped. “Deal with it.”

Kazrack harrumphed again and then looked back at Ratchis who had not moved. He got out of his armor and unrolled his bedroll, and fell into an uneasy sleep.

Martin wandered over to a rotting ballista and began picking up bit so wood, and the broken shafts of spears once meant to be projected by the half-buried machine. He started a small fire, tossing his torch into it, and sitting to take watch.

The watch-mage thought Ratchis had fallen asleep where he was, but then he noticed the half-orc cleaning off Derek’s face, and trying to dress him for burial or a pyre.

Martin walked over. “Go to sleep,” he said.

“Not until he’s clean,” Ratchis replied, his voice as dead as Derek was.

“How long will that take?”

“Until he’s clean,” Ratchis responded, he never looked at Martin.

With a sigh, Martin snapped his finger and then touched to Derek’s forehead. The boy warrior was clean. (2)

“Go to sleep,” he said again.

Ratchis frowned and complied, silently.

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

Hours passed. Martin spent them staring into the small fire, and looking for strays bits of anything flammable to throw into it. Sometimes he petted Thomas on the head, as his familiar slept on his shoulder.

A few times he heard shuffling below, and the hisses of the faintest whispers in a language he did not understand. He paid them no mind. He also spent a lot of time looking at Derek’s corpse only fifteen feet away, in a shadowy reddish light.

“I’m sorry, Derek,” Martin whispered. “Beorth’s unconscious, so we couldn’t give you final rites yet, but when he awakens, we’ll make sure its done. I’m afraid. More afraid than I was when we were in the Necropolis. It could have been any one of us. Any of us could die…”

“But you’re glad it wasn’t you, right?” Derek’s voice croaked out of his dry lips as he sat up. His face had taken a green pallor and his eyes were opened wide, black and rheumy. His neck was still twisted in an unnatural position. ‘Are your scared or are you relieved, Martin?”

Derek stood up slowly, and Martin snapped out of his terror, and snatched a brand out of the fire. Martin’s former companion grinned, malevolently, and took a step forward.

Martin met his advance, bringing the burning brand down in a wide arc that Derek easily avoided. He hissed and raised a rigid hand, its nails now black and sharpened, to strike the mage, but then cocked his head as if he heard something.

Martin pulled back and made to swing his brand again, but Derek leapt away to the edge of the platform. “Yes… Yes… I’m coming,” he hissed into the darkness. He looked back. “See you later, Martin,” and swung off the side, disappearing into the darkness.

Martin stood there flabbergasted for a moment, and then chucked the brand back into the fire and sat beside it, staring away into the small smoky flame for the rest of the night.


Tholem, 11th of Sek – 565 H.E.

“Where’s Derek!?” Ratchis’ voice snapped Martin awake. He was still kneeling, and the fire had died before him. Light streamed in from the trapdoor above.

Martin fell over, his legs tingling with pin and needles.

“He’s gone. He rose in the night and fled,” Martin said, with no emotion in his voice. He stood, slowly. He made a shooing gesture with his left hand. “Go pray. We need your healing.”

“I’m sorry, Martin,” Ratchis said, inexplicably, and then rose up, his face becoming a mask of rage. He grabbed the watch-mage by the front of his robes and lifted him into the air. “WHY DIDN’T YOU ALERT US??!!??”

“What good would it have done us,” Martin replied, his voice still passionless. “We needed for Beorth.”

Ratchis growled.

“You can put me down now,” Martin added, calmly.

Ratchis put him down.

“What kind of man can be so calm when one of his friends becomes one of the living dead?” he asked, with disgust.

“We will join them soon enough, but we might as well do what we can while we can,” Martin replied.

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

After praying, Kazrack and Ratchis used the blessings of their gods to tend to the wounds of the party. Though gravely wounded, when Kazrack went to lay his hands on Ratchis, the half-orc balked.

“Don’t waste that on me!” he snarled.

“Oh? You want to die too now?” Kazrack asked. “You’d rather die down here than to live a coward.”

“Say that again’” Ratchis dared.

“You’d rather die down here than to live a coward.” Kazrack spat.

Ratchis’ big meaty fist slammed into Kazrack’s face with incredible might. The dwarf’s head was driven back, but he immediately crouched into a fighting stance, raising his own fists.

“Are you done?” he asked his friend.

“Are you both done?” Martin asked, disgust in his voice.

Ratchis slumped down to the cold stone. Crying, he cast another healing spell upon Beorth bringing him back from the edge of Anubis’ Realm. The paladin coughed awake.

“You brought me back,” he sputtered.

“One life for another,” Ratchis replied.

Suddenly, a shadow crossed over the trapdoor. “Hello!” A fair voice called down.

End of Session #56

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Notes:

(1) Martin’s ring, Lacan’s Demise must be worn for one weak without interruption for its easting, drinking and sleeping properties to kick in.

(2) Martin used prestidigitation to clean Derek’s body.
 




monboesen

Explorer
Damn. You got to be the harshest dm out there. There just seem to be no respite for the poor group. It makes for a very good dark fantasy story but I don't think many players i've known would stick with this game.

So many deaths, so many enemies, so few friends and rewards. Don't the characters (and players) ever wonder why they keep going on. The natural evolution in your game would be that almost everyone played clerics. That way they might have enough healing and turn undead attempts to survive.

I guess what I'm saying is: great story, incredible perstistant players, very nasty dm'ing.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
monboesen said:
Damn. You got to be the harshest dm out there. There just seem to be no respite for the poor group. It makes for a very good dark fantasy story but I don't think many players i've known would stick with this game.

So many deaths, so many enemies, so few friends and rewards. Don't the characters (and players) ever wonder why they keep going on. The natural evolution in your game would be that almost everyone played clerics. That way they might have enough healing and turn undead attempts to survive.

I guess what I'm saying is: great story, incredible perstistant players, very nasty dm'ing.

Derek's death sucked, major big-time.

It was just one of those things that was hard to avoid. I did my best every single time someone went up and down thos stairs to describe how unstable they were, how the metal would twist and groan and the stones would shakes and crack and throw up dust, and people had to make balance checks and reflex saves and the like - But at the same time, the Pit of Bones was the Pit of Bones - a place meant to be a "clincher" adventure - a very clear step in their journey towards Hurgun's Maze - but a damn dangerous place - and as DM you can't be afraid to put the PCs in dangerous places, places where they are in over their heads.


It is that struggle against all odds that is what makes for persistant playing in my mind. Their victories mean that much more, and deaths are earth-shattering, but I have to disagree about the party not having any friends - they have plenty. . . there is the gnomes of Garvan, Belear and the dwarves from Abarrane-Abaruch, the elves of Aze-Nunquerna, the Shepherds (i.e Finn & Co), and the constable and alderman of Summit seem very amenible to them - not to mention that Daniel the King's Steward has helped them out in the past - and then there is Richard the Red who falls somewhere between friend and foe.

But anyway The Pit of Bones was meant to be a tough place and it was. . . Wait 'til you see some of the stuff that happens next. . . .
 

Jon Potter

First Post
nemmerle said:
Derek's death sucked, major big-time.

Yeah is did! That has got to be the worst character death I've heard tell about for the shear fact that it was completely out of his player's hands. Bad enough to be twiddling your thumbs while your character's unconsious, but then to have them die after being stabilized and then come back as an undead.

That's just plain wrong.

But anyway The Pit of Bones was meant to be a tough place and it was. . . Wait 'til you see some of the stuff that happens next. . . .

It gets worse?!? :eek:
 
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