"Out of the Frying Pan"- Book IV - Into the Fire [STORY HOUR COMPLETED - 12/25/06]

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Here we go. . .

The end of the re-telling of the "Out of the Frying Pan" Campaign - which just hit its four year anniversary two months ago - will be found in this here thread.

The "Out of the Frying Pan" Aquerra D&D Campaign began in February of 2001 with five people. A sixth member joined six months later. At the point this thread is continuing from, we had lost three players (two due to moves, one due to school being priority), and were about to gain a new forth (introduced in the first installment posted here).

"Out of the Frying Pan"- Book IV: Into the Fire is a continuation of . . . .

"Out of the Frying Pan" - Book III: Fanning the Embers (aka The Fearless Manticore Killers & The Necropolis of Doom!!!).

Which was a continuation of these two threads:

Out of the Frying Pan - Book II: Catching the Spark (Part One)
Out of the Frying Pan - Book II: Catching the Spark (Part Two)

which was a continuation of: Out of the Frying Pan - Book I: Gathering Wood, which covers the first twelve sessions of the game.

Those of you who want to read an overviwe of the game's NPCs can check out the "Portal Thread", which also contains all the above links and downloads of the first two books in word document format.

"Out of the Frying Pan"- Book IV: Into the Fire begins with Session #64, in which the party (known as the Fearless Manticore Killers, but considering a name change), are making their way to the Freetown of Nikar by means of a long trip that will take them both overland and underground from the isolated Little Kingdoms in the north. In Nikar, they seek to train, get other resources like new spells and equipments, gather information, recruit allies and more than anything else repair Karack's shattered jaw.

When this thread was started the game was at Session #94, and we expected 8 to 12 more sessions before the campaign wrapped up - It ended with Session #103 (though there were two more "Reunion Sessions" that were never written up).

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Session #64 (part 1)

Anarié climbed a pile of stone at the edge of the hill and sat there, contemplating the battle in silence, while Kazrack made his way back to the others. Ratchis was awake and carefully poking at his eyeball that hung on his face attacked by frayed threads of sinew. Gritting his teeth he shoved it back in its socket and tied it in place with a strip of his hyenadon hide.

Martin sat there curious about why his mantle of green and black flame was gone and how it might have been triggered. One thing he was certain of, it had been caused by the Book of Black Circles.b

“Wow, those things really exist,” Gunthar said, coming back into the camp. “They aren’t so tough, though.”

Martin shot him a disgusted glance.

“Hey, I told you to stay behind me fat-ass,” Gunthar said to him. “Lotta good growing all green and flashy did for ya. Just makes you a bigger target.”

“I did not do it on purpose,” Martin replied quietly, fear creeping into his voice.

Kazrack tried several times to cast curative miracles upon Beorth, but failed. Eventually, Ratchis came over and took care of it. Kazrack cursed his shattered jaw that made intoning the words of prayer to his gods so difficult, but no one understood him. (1)

The dwarf went over to where Martin the Green had begun to search the dead dark elf for any clues or anything of value.

“Ut duh ya mehk uh dis?” Kazrack asked, holding up a long sword, and showing the mage the gray quality of the metal, and how it shone in places as if filled with speckles of some mineral, and yet turned in a certain way and it seemed to shimmer with shadow.

“I have no idea,” Martin shrugged his shoulders. “Some Plutonic Realms metal, I suppose.”

“We dwarves have talesh uh theesh dark elvesh ushing metal lat eh evil in shum way. Eh is shupposht tuh be potent, how-eh-er,” Kazrack said.

“It is not evil,” Anarié said, suddenly arriving to look at what they might have found.

“Whu ish et ‘en?”

“I cannot say for certain,” Anarié replied. “There is something about it that makes it sharper, stronger, but if I remember correctly, sunlight will make it lose those properties fairly quickly.”

“Do you want to use it?” Martin said, standing and taking the sword from Kazrack.

“No, I would not use such a weapon, no matter how good,” the elf replied.

“I’ll take it,” Gunthar said. “I’ll take anything.”

He swung the sword with satisfaction.

“Can I have the cloak too? It looks great,” Gunthar asked.

Anarié shrugged her shoulders. Kazrack took the cloak off the dark elf, and wondered at its craftsmanship. He could not determine what it was made from, but it seemed to give to his grip, but was tough and sprung back into shape without a crease. Each tiny stitch was in the shape of a gray spider, however, much like the sword, shadows seemed to cling to it when turned against the light of the moon.

“We have to leave this place,” Ratchis announced.

“Uh tink we shoult stay,” Kazrack managed to get out with great difficulty. “Uh kwuguth cun track ush anyway; better tuh shtay uh night un gech uh goot shtarch in uh mornin’.”

“The quaggoth know exactly where we are,” Ratchis countered. “This way I can try to cover our tracks.”

Kazrack nodded.

“Gunthar, help me with Beorth,” Ratchis gestured to the still unconscious paladin.

“What am I, your beast of burden?” Gunthar complained.

“You ur part ub our team,” Kazrack said.

“Go team…” Gunthar grabbed up Beorth’s legs, as Ratchis took him by under his shoulders.

A couple of hours later, they were making camp in a ditch at the bottom of a small gully. Ratchis spent some time scouting the area and trying to cover up any signs of their passing.

“We can stay here tomorrow and rest,” Ratchis said, when he returned. “It will be light soon, and we will only have to worry when it is dark again.”

Kazrack tried to call upon the favor of his gods once again, and this time patience and diligence worked for him, and two orisons were all that were needed for the paladin to cough into wakefulness.

“Who…who brought me back?” Beorth asked, choking.

“Kazrack and I did so, working together,” Ratchis answered.

“Rerax, gurther ‘er witsh,” Kazrack said.

“Ha! That shouldn’t take long,” Gunthar laughed, walking over.

Ratchis explained to Beorth that they had moved from where they had been and why.

“In the future, Beorth, you need to stay with the group when we form a line,” Ratchis added, after a quick overview of the fight. “It is sound tactic against other foes, but the drow, being so deceitful, against them it is especially important.”

“Yes, I know I was a fool for chasing one into the darkness,” Beorth replied.

“You can say that again,” Gunthar added.

“Gunthar, shut up,” Ratchis said.

Gunthar laughed and went over to find a spot in the gully wall to lie in.

Morning came even sooner than they thought.


Balem, the 26th of Sek – 565 H.E.

Martin the Green and Anarie were on the first watch together, as the golden light from Ra’s Glory in the east streaked the indigo sky into a watercolor wash of blue.

“It is a beautiful day,” Martin said. “It does my heart good to see the dawn.”

“When fighting such foes as the betrayers of my race one learns to fully appreciate the coming of dawn, and the brightness of noon,” Anarié said. “Unfortunately, its coming also means that I must now leave you and your companions.”

“Why?” martin turned to the elf, surprised.

“I must return to Aze Nuquenra under the bright eye of the day to warn them of the drow menace,” Anarié explained.

“Will you re-join us when we pass this way again?” Martin asked.

“I cannot say,” Anarié replied. And with that she stood and took her pack, and looked at each of the sleeping Fearless Manticore Killers and then jogged off, hopping up the steep gully wall and climbing over the edge and into the woods.

“Good-bye,” Martin whispered.

“Is she gone?” Thomas asked in the mage’s mind.

“Yes.”

“Did she take that fox with her?” Thomas asked of Anarié’s familiar.

“Yes.”

“Good.”


When Martin woke Ratchis and Kazrack, he explained that Anarié had left. The half-orc shrugged, and Kazrack said something, but no one was sure what it exactly was, but no one bothered to ask him to repeat it.

“What were those swirling colored flames around you during that battle?” Ratchis suddenly barked at Martin, easing the tension by getting back to the familiar.

“I believe it was the book,” Martin replied meekly. “I think it was trying to channel its power through me.”

“Looks like it succeeded,” Beorth said.

“I think it is triggered by certain spells, or certain kinds, though I cannot be sure,” Martin said.

“Then he should stop using magic,” Beorth said to Ratchis.

“Or he should at least stop using magic that forces a challenge to his will,” Ratchis reasoned. Martin looked back and forth between his companions, ignored.

“Or someone who does not use arcane magic should carry it,” Beorth said, and Martin frowned.

“It is my task to do,” Martin said.

“When I picked up the book it… It wounded my soul,” Ratchis said, still ignoring Martin. “It is best no one else touch it.”

“What spells make you feel like you might lose control,” Beorth asked.

“It doesn’t quite feel like that,” Martin replied. “And anyway, I am not sure. I felt something when I summoned that celestial bear, but I don’t know…I focused and it went away.”

“Hmm, I still think you should stop using magic altogether,” Beorth said.

Kazrack nodded.

“I feel useless as it is,” Martin dejectedly. “Without magic I would become a hindrance.”

“Well, we need to move while there is still light,:” Beorth changed the subject. “I hope they do not go after Anarié alone in the wilderness.”

“She’ll be alright,” Ratchis said.


They began to pack up camp to move on.

“Hey Doughboy! Don’t you go all dark powers anywhere near me,” Gunthar laughed, turning to pee against the gully wall. “I may have to sprinkle with some of the Northrop holy water.”

“Martin, do you like being called ‘doughboy’?” Ratchis asked, glaring knives into Gunthar’s back.

“It does not please me,” Martin said.

Gunthar turned back around to find Ratchis’ broad chest in his face. “Do not call Martin ‘doughboy’ again, or you’ll answer to me. Don’t be such a rude boor all the time.”

“Oh no,” Gunthar stepped back, brandishing a smile beneath his full blonde mustache. “I think you are boorish enough for both of us. I should call you, Snuffles.”

“You can call me Snuffles; just don’t call Martin Doughboy.”

“It’s a deal, Snuffles,” Gunthar winked.

“Must you?” Martin asked him.

“How do you all get along without a sense of humor?” Gunthar asked. “Maybe you can pray to you gods for one. Huh, Snuffles?”

“The only gift my god gives is death,” Beorth said.

Gunthar burst out laughing. “You see? Now that’s funny.”

They marched south out of the gully, and then Ratchis began to lead them to a rocky area with very sparse vegetation. It was steady climb, but he hoped it would lead to a place to cross the river, which at this point was far at the bottom of huge wedge-shaped crevasse.

“What do you think the drow attacked us for?” Beorth asked, as they marched. A cold rain began to fall, echoing out across the hills.

“Maybe to kill us because we know their secret,” Ratchis offered.

“How dijg jay chrek ush?” Kazrack asked.

“Maybe they caught our trail at the elf place,” Ratchis said.

“It still does not explain why us and why now,” Beorth said.

“Well, hopefully Anarié can figure it out and she and her brethren can do something about it, while we are in Nikar,” Ratchis said.

“Have we given up our promise to help that poor girl, Rahasia?” Martin asked.

“Und what about Tirhash?” Kazrack asked.

“The Maze is more important than any of that right now,” Ratchis said, stopping to look at everyone. “It presents the biggest and most immediate threat. We cannot let ourselves get distracted. I want to save them, too, and will gladly join a group to go into the very Plutonic Realms to get them, but after we deal with the Maze… after…”

He kept on walking.


The next few days were hard walking, most of it uphill, and when it was down, it was through loose dirt and treacherous roots that led down to jagged plateaus of black basalt that seemed to have burst out of the ground long ago.

The only foliage here was crabby trees, and thick vines on rocks that cracked them to reach the sparse water.

The weather was warming up, but the nights still had a frost to them, and when their trail brought them above the level of the river gorge, a fierce wind would whip down and sting their eyes and chill them to the bone.

They finally reached the gorge after five days of marching, and all were disappointed that there seemed no easy way across. The other side was at higher elevation, and they could see the dark shade of many thick green trees above them. The gorge was as wide as two hundred feet in places, but they could see that further north were the gorge turned west around a black hill atop the opposite cliff, it narrowed some.

“We’ll find a way to cross up there,” Ratchis said with confidence. “But it will be getting dark soon. I’ll bring us another mile or two closer and then we’ll find a place to camp and get a good look in the morning light.”

Everyone agreed wearily. Even Gunthar did not seem to have a quip ready.


Osilem, the 3rd of Ter – 565 H.E.

In the deepest part of night before dawn, Beorth stood and walked around the camp once more, as he and Kazrack kept watch. He had caught the smell of something burning, now he thought he saw sparks flying up into the air from the other side of the crevasse; near where the other side turned away and narrowed.

As usual, Kazrack was busy carving away at his King’s Men pieces.

“Kazrack, did you see that?” Beorth hissed.

“Whut duh you shee?”

“Smoke… Fire…Sparks…” Beorth replied.

Kazrack got up and stretched, but could see nothing through the tall dark trees and gloom.

“Uh dunt shee anytung.”

“Why are you so busy carving when you are supposed to be watching?” Beorth reprimanded.

“There ish nothing there,” Kazrack ignored the question.

“We are not alone, someone is out there and they have a fire,” Beorth insisted, even though he no longer saw a sign of the fire.

“Well, whut duh yuh pehposh we do abut it nah?”

“Remain aware,” Beorth said. “Keep better watch. Make sure to tell the others first thing.”

Kazrack shrugged, but nodded.


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


“We should go back southward and find another route,” Ratchis said. It was morning and the news of the smoke had made him reverse himself completely about the best route to take. “We cannot risk running across anything that will delay us.”

“That is unavoidable,” Beorth said.

“It will take tuh lawn tuh guh ‘round,” Kazrack said with great determination.

Ratchis looked to Martin.

“It does stand to reason that we may come across other travelers in the wilderness, and we may not be able to avoid them all if it means we may never get to our destination,” the watch-mage reasoned.

“It sounds like something interesting to break up the monotony of this ridiculous journey,” Gunthar said, hefting his pack. “Right, Snuffles?”

“We’ll approach as a group, but once we get close I’ll go ahead and scout it out,” Ratchis said, and off they marched.

It was an overcast day, but while it threatened rain, and more than once they heard distant thunder, the clouds never actually broke. The ground here was broken, and often at an angle that made keeping a steady footing difficult. The forest grew up around them again, and while not as thick as the forests in western Gothanius, it still managed to obscure the chasm.

It was close to noon when they finally came within sight of something unusual through the trees.

Below them they could see a raised road had been made with mounds of dirt that did not look like it was from this region. They could see most of the top of it had blown away, and other sections had huge chunks ripped from it, but it was clearly a road.

“There was a great fire here, or something,” Ratchis said.

“Huh?” Kazrack made a guttural questioning sound.

“He’s right,” said Martin. The trees here are younger than there were in the other part of the forest.”

“That road seem like it will lead right to the point the opposite cliff starts to turn; where that hill of black stone is,” Ratchis said. “Maybe there is a way across. I’ll check.”

The half-orc jogged ahead, disappearing into the trees. It was not long before he came back.

“There is a tower at the entrance to an old stone bridge that crosses the river chasm,” Ratchis said. “The dirt road goes right up to it, though it looks like maybe that road was once paved with huge stones.

“Who could get such huge stones up here?” Martin asked.

“Whoever built the bridge,” Beorth said, matter-of-factly.

“Yes, well… I meant…”

“Ish kunt be that good if it wushnt beelt by dwarsh,” Kazrack drooled.

“Who else would have built it?” Ratchis asked. “It looks like something dwarves would build. It goes all the way across, and part of it seems to do all the way down to the bottom of the chasm for support. I want Martin to cast his spell of invisibility on me, so I can scout it out, the tower and beyond there is some wide flat area. I am not sure. I did not want to get too close.”

The whole group moved up to the edge of the trees where the road broke out of the trees and through fifty foot clearing to the entrance of the bridge. The bridge itself was made of huge blocks of a smooth white stone, but in most places (especially the seams) it was stained with a deep mottled green, or weathered to gray. It was thirty feet wide and had low walls running along its length that seemed to have once had a wooden rail above it; long rotted away.

Kazrack sucked in a deep breath and let it out. His engineer and stone-mason’s eye saw something that others could not begin to imagine. The curves of the arches! The precision of the stone interlocking and seaming! The stone did not seem indigenous to this reason. The central tower ziggurated by mere inches all the way down, creating a broad base of support in a way that he would have had no idea how to begin doing, and it was this that convinced him that dwarves had not made this bridge.

Martin cast mage armor on Ratchis, who took off his chain shirt, and then he followed it up with invisibility. (2)

Once again, this time, unseen, Ratchis took off.

There was no longer any sign of a door in the tower that guarded the entrance of the bridge on the right side. It was round and had a carved stone roof, like a cap, though it was greatly worn. Ratchis made no sound creeping up the long wide steps up to the bridge. The smooth white stone seemed wiped nearly clean of most small debris by the wind.

The tower was dark. He approached it, but looked quickly across the bridge. It was at least one hundred and eighty feet long, but thick foliage and the flanking stone of the taller cliff obscured the other end. In addition, near the center of the bridge where the ziggurating support held up a slight widening of the bridge, like a small plaza, was a squat building made of the same white stone as the bridge.

He stopped and listened; nothing, but the sound of the distant water below.

He looked in the tower. Inside it smelled of animal musk and mold. Nothing human, or even orcish had been here for a long time. There was a rotted stair that led to the upper level, but even to Ratchis’ untrained eye, it did not look original to the construction.

The ranger let the tower be, and slowly made his way along the bridge towards the plaza and building. Here he could see that the low walls that ran along the bridge’s edge were shattered in places, and others just seemed to be missing. In more than one place cracks went all the way through the thick stone surface of the bridge, making long jagged holes ranging from a few inches to nearly two feet in diameter.

At the plaza Ratchis was taken aback. There was relatively fresh blood here, and a pair of swords and a shield that looked as if they had been dropped hastily. There was a shattered spear and several broken crossbow bolts. The half-orc re-created the battle the best he could, following it around the squat building.

He could look into the gloom within the building, by means of a shattered wall around an empty window casement, and an open doorway. Ratchis walked over to the door way and the broken remains of stone tables and chairs, and a stairway of carved gray stone leading down into the support tower below.

There was another body over by a corner where the low wall had been tore away all together. The white stone next to it was scored as if by great claws.

Ratchis went over to the body and ducked down from instinct, even though he was still invisible. The man’s chain shirt was yanked up nearly over his head. There was a broken long sword just out of his reach, and wore a dented helmet.

The half-orc turned the body around and it let out a gasp, as wound near his neck opened and fresh blood began to come out in gouts.

“He’s alive!” Ratchis could not keep himself from saying aloud. He said a quick prayer to Nephthys and in a moment the man’s life threatening wound was closed. He was stable.

Ratchis risked a couple of more spells and soon the man’s eyes fluttered.

“I am invisible by magical means,” Ratchis whispered in his rasp. “I will carry you off the bridge.”


By this time the others had made their way to the entrance to the bridge, sticking close to the tower entrance as not to be spotted from the higher cliff across the ravine.

Kazrack was astounded by the work he saw and kept mumbling about it, but no one could understand a word of it.

Soon, they saw the strange sight of a body bobbing along towards them six feet in the air.

“What is that?” Beorth asked.

“Uh ashume ish D’nur returning wish shumwun,” Kazrack drooled.

“I found him behind that building,” Ratchis said, still invisible when he had brought the man into the abandoned tower itself. “There was a lot more blood there and claw marks, that I am guessing are from that demonic wyvern that was after Kismet and Schlomo. (3)

The man stirred as everyone gathered around.

He looked up to where Ratchis should have been and fear came into his eyes, and then he looked at Kazrack and then Martin and the look turned to confusion. He had a lean build, and unkempt thick brown hair, and a beard growing in. He had the olive complexion of a Hermanlander, and green eyes.

“What is your name?” Martin asked him.

“I am Dorn,” he replied, choking. “Where is Digger? What happened to Digger?”

“I saw no one else, uh, alive,” Ratchis said.

“I thought I was dead,” Dorn said. “Is everyone else dead?”

“We found no one else with you,” Martin replied.

“Did Digger send you?”

“Nuhwun shent ush,” Kazrack said. “Unlee forchun.”

“Last I remember, Digger said he was going to get help,” Dorn said, finally sitting up. He rubbed his face with his hand, and then gingerly poked at his neck wound. “He was going to get Flora.”

“These are you companions, you are mentioning?” Beorth asked.

“Yes, we had explored an abandoned subterranean fortress, days north of here, “ Dorn explained. “There were six of us: Me, Flora, Bones, Digger, Fleece and Gissa. We lost Gissa to a great spider’s venom. We found a few things down there, but more loss of life was not worth all the treasure in Derome-Delem, so we headed back”

“What was this fortress?” Martin asked.

“It belonged to the Ancients, sometimes called the Mystics,” Dorn explained. “They looked like men, but were here before men. They once had a great empire in Aquerra before a catastrophe of some kind befell them. They made this bridge. It’s probably thousands of years old.”

“What happened here? What gave you these wounds?” Ratchis asked.

“…the three-headed beast,” Dorn began.

“Oh. No,” Martin gulped.

“What?” Kazrack asked.

“Chimera,” was all Martin said.

“Wuzzat?” Kazrack asked.

“A nasty beast that has the head of a dragon, a lion and a goat,” Martin explained. “It is the creation of foul magics.”

“A goat?” Beorth looked at Martin with skepticism.

Martin the Green shrugged.

“Are you sure you saw no sign of Digger?” Dorn asked, worry in his voice. He pointed to Kazrack. “He’s a dwarf like him.”

“I saw no dwarf,” Ratchis said.

“Ish Digger uh fumlee name?” Kazrack asked.

Martin translated.

“I don’t know; that’s just his name,” Dorn replied.

“Maybe you can tell us what happened, so we can stop badgering you with questions,” Beorth suggested.

“Yeah, if we’re gonna have to kill some three-headed freak of nature then I want to do it soon,’ Gunthar said. “I’m itchin’ to fight something.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Dorn said. “We made camp up on that hill on the other side of the bridge, as we were coming from that direction. It was getting dark, and we didn’t want to cross the bridge at night because we were afraid something might use it as a lair. However, in the early morning barbarians overran our camp. They were savage, wearing wolf pelts, and necklaces of human ears and stuff. The worst part was that they attacked to capture, and they got Flora and Bones, right away. Digger, Fleece and I ran to the bridge, hoping to escape to re-group and plan an attack to get our friend back, but that was when the three-headed monster attacked. It swooped down on us as we came across the bridge. I don’t know what happened to Fleece, but I was knocked down by a devastating claw attack as Digger and I tried to get around the building, hoping that since it did not seem to fly well that by sticking close it, it would have to make wide turns. The thing was about to rip my apart with a bite of its dragon-head,, but Digger blocked my body with his and then said he was going to get help. He never came back… I guess.”

“Was Fleece human?” Ratchis’ disembodied growl asked.

“Yes… Was?”

“I’m sorry. I saw a human corpse on the bridge. I think it was probably him.”

“I wonder why barbarians would take prisoners?” Martin asked.

“Slaves,” said Beorth, and Ratchis growled.

“Let’s go take care of them now,” the half-orc barked. “They could not have gotten far.”

“They are probably still at the camp,” Dorn said, finally standing and stretching. He winced in pain. “They said something about that hill being one of their ‘spots’.”

“You stay here,” Beorth said to Dorn. “We will return for you when we haves rescued your friends and have struck down these barbarian slavers.”

“No! I want to come. Those are my friends. I have to go,” Dorn insisted.

Kazrack shook his head.

Invisibly, Ratchis nodded. “Friendship cannot be denied. He can come.”

And with that he called to Nephthys and cured the defeated warrior.

“Nephthys?” Dorn said, with awe.

“Yes,” replied Ratchis roughly. “Now just use a crossbow and stay in the rear. When the fighting starts look for an opportunity to get your friends out of there.”

“I’m pretty good at sneaking,” Dorn said.

The party readied themselves and then with Ratchis in the lead, they hurried across the bridge. After a cursory look into the tower at the end of the bridge, they made their way up the stone embankment of here the bridge was cut into the cliff face. On the right there were bright thick trees and bushes on a layered hill, and Dorn pointed it put. The bushes moved as Ratchis crept through them. The others fanned out slowly making their way to the clearing at the top.

Martin looked down and noticed that the earth here was spill over a manmade stone plateau. In fact, there was a worn wide stairway crawling with manzanita. Centuries ago an avalanche must have covered this part of the bridge complex and trees and other foliage had grown since. He theorized that the flat top of the hill might have once been a plaza.

Ratchis made his way around a tall slab of stone that was half-buried in the earth, and he heard voices ahead of him. But suddenly a huge red and brown dog broke through the trees. It seemed to be drawn right to the half-orc despite being invisible, and it barked a deep bark that sent gouts of flame out either side of its snout.

“Uh, I never saw those things before!” Dorn said, from the rear flank, as two more dogs leapt through the brush at the group.


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

(1) DM’s Note: Remember, Kazrack now has an 85% chance of spell failure for spells with any verbal components.

(2) House Rule: Despite the switch to 3.5, invisibility has a duration of 10 minutes per level.

(3) See Session #57
 
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Manzanita

Visitor
Cool. There are new twists to this every session. I wonder if Dorn in a new PC? There are some coming, aren't there?
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
Cool. There are new twists to this every session. I wonder if Dorn in a new PC? There are some coming, aren't there?
No, Dorn is a not a new PC.

We won't be seeing any new PCs until the party reaches Nikar.
 

Dawn

Visitor
Whew! Just finished the last four pages. Of course I have gotten nothing done at work, but I am caught up.

Wow, where to begin? So much has happened since Jana died (the last point at which I was caught up). Jeremy and Derek dead. Anarie come and gone. Of course the return of Gunthar and friends. What a fantastic journey!

Is Gunthar still being played as an NPC?
What will it take, spell-wise, to heal Kazrack’s broken jaw? You don’t allow normal healing spells to do that?
Will the same type of healing be needed for Ratchis’ eye?
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Dawn said:
Is Gunthar still being played as an NPC?

What will it take, spell-wise, to heal Kazrack’s broken jaw? You don’t allow normal healing spells to do that?

Will the same type of healing be needed for Ratchis’ eye?
1) The fight with the drow and quaggoth was the final session that a player played Gunthar as their character (Ken, who formerly had played Jeremy) - after that he was an NPC with occasionally being handed to Eric M. (aka Cairan on the boards) to run in combat.

2) Regeneration, Heal or Cure Critical Wounds would fix Kazrack's jaw.

3) Only the first two would repaird Ratchis' eye.


Glad you caught up Dawn - now that I am done with my move I will be working on the next installment soon. There will be a lot more changes in the next half a dozen sessions or so. . .
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
This session was played August 23rd, 2003

Session #64 (part ii)

“Is that your momma, Ratchis?” Gunthar laughed, pointed to the great hellish hound with one of his swords. The drow metal smoked in the long afternoon light; he had already noticed that it seemed to be losing it edge. “I can see the resemblance.”

One of the two new dogs hung back, while the other leapt down the obscured stairs at the rear portion of the marching order.

Dorn hurried off at an angle to come around with a flank, keeping his crossbow trained on the monster. He seemed a cautious fighter.

Martin let a shot go from his own crossbow at the approaching hellhound, but the shot went wide of its mark.

Ratchis took advantage of the first hound’s caution in dealing with an invisible foe and called to Nephthys quietly, as he moved behind the largest tree.

A bright golden and glowing spear appeared in the air, and thrust at the fiendish dog, but it leapt out of the way with a yelp.

Kazrack hurried towards Ratchis side, as the half-orc retreated, and with one blow of his golden flail, sent the hound down on its side. It let out a howl followed by a cough of flame, and then lay still.

The third dog, leapt down towards Kazrack, but Ratchis was able to cut it off, mentally commanding the spiritual weapon to interpose itself and thrust; again it missed, but the half-orc’s great axe didn’t. He appeared without a sound, steaming blood dripping of the axe blade. The dog turned awkwardly and snarled. It let out a sharp bark and coughed out a gout of flame, but it was all turned around and completely missed Ratchis, catching Kazrack, Gunthar and Martin instead, as the three moved up the hill.

“By Horus’ Hairy Man-Teats!” Gunthar swore, and thrust his blades into the creature without remorse. “Outta my way pig-f*cker! Let a full man do this!”

The hellhound was nearly cut clean in half when it fell; its tumbling guts belching small gouts of sulfurous flame.

The newly visible Ratchis hurried on towards the top of the hill, and crouching a bit looked into the clearing to see a naked man hold a crude morning star headed towards him. The man had orange hair that was tangled into a beard covered in fresh blood. He had ruddy skin plastered with layers of dirt and mud and blood. He was barrel-shaped, with stubby legs and arms, but he swung his weapon with an abandon even Ratchis had rarely seen.

Beorth hurried up the hill, calling to Anubis to enchant his blade, and drawing the attention of the last hellhound. It seemed to notice the paladin’s awkward gait and sensed that he might be easy prey. He spun around to gauge his approaching foe, but a caught a glimpse of the naked man charging across the clearing at Ratchis who stood at three o’clock to the paladin’s six.

Ratchis stepped through the brush and stopped, crouching slightly in a ready position, growling. The naked man let out a ferocious yell and leapt the last bit of the way at the half-orc. The great axe came swinging up, batting the man out of the air, a stream of bright blood arcing behind him. He landed heavily on the ground, but was immediately struggling to get up, oblivious to the pain.

Kazrack was at the top of the hill now, complaining that proper tactics would have had the mwait at the edge of the clearing to surprise their foes as they came through. Instead, he had a clear view of the naked man dodging Ratchis’ repeated blows, and the rest of the clearing. There was a large smoldering fire in the center, surrounded with stones. There were two figures near the fire, lying bound and unmoving. One was clearly a lithe woman with long curling red hair, and the other seemed like a mop-headed child dressed in traveling clothes. There was a pile of packs and loot near by, along with the remains of a charred boar, mostly picked clean.

A woman naught but a ragged fur that held her breasts in place came screaming out from behind the pack, swinging something on a clump of black line or wire. She sent it flying at Kazrack, and the dwarf leapt up, as it just missed slamming against his leg. He looked down and saw it was a desiccated human head filled with small stones. The wire was the black hair still connected to the dried scalp. She shook her spear in the air and gibbered unintelligibly.

“Gunthar! Kill that last dog!” Ratchis commanded, still trying to get at the downed man.

“Fine! I’ll take care of the bitch,” the Neergaardian said, leaping back down towards the hound approaching Beorth. “That is what us Northrops are best at… Huh? Where’d you come from?”

Gunthar spun around and swung his sword awkwardly at a broad figure wearing a leather kilt, but naked from the waist up, that had stepped out of the brush. He had bronzed skin, and rippling muscles, and long locks of curly black hair that fell down his back. The barbarian, easily avoided the blow, and Gunthar had to squat even more awkwardly, his legs still positioned as if mid-stride, to avoid the return blow from a battle axe, and slammed his head against a tree trunk. He fell backwards, stunned; his weapons flew from his hands as he shook his head and tried to get his senses. (1)

“I hope I got this right,” Martin whispered to himself as he put the last touches on his long spell. “Tenerus tertio apshaii! Blessed Servant of Apshai, come to my aide!” (2)

There was a whooshing sound as two things happened. A great insect glowing with white divine light appeared from a flash beside the broad barbarian that had surprised Gunthar. It had great oblong eyes, and a triangular head, and long razor-sharp forearms that were bent backward as if in supplication, and pinched together with a deadly “Clack!” Its tiny mandibles constantly worked. It was over ten feet long ,and nearly seven feet tall as it menaced the barbarian, upright on its rear legs. At that same moment, Martin was once again cloaked in a mantle of translucent green and black flame that reached nearly as high as the celestial preying mantis.

“Gods!” the dark-haired barbarian cried out, and just barely managed to deflect the creature’s bite with the haft of his axe. He began to pant and huff and puff and drool, as a crazy look came into his eye. “Gods! Forst sends you one of your own!”

Beorth rushed past the great insect, charging the woman with the spear. She grunted, as a hard blow slammed her own weapon against her chest and face.

“Hedda will kill you!” the woman said to him, thrusting at him with her spear. Her muscled arms were covered in a fine red down.

By this time, Ratchis had made sure the naked barbarian on the ground did not get back up, but he had barely turned to gain perspective on the battle, when another wild warrior leapt out of the brush amd across the clearing, slamming him in the shoulder and neck with a club. The man was decorated with tufts of hair of many colors woven into his leather harness. He had a tall bright red tuft of his own atop his high sloping forehead, and spiked dog’s collar about his neck. He had many sheathed knives and daggers hanging from his belt.

Ratchis barely got his axe around to parry a follow-up blow that would have crushed his skull. He was saved from being knocked off balance by Kazrack’s arrival, bringinh his flail head around to hit the tuft-covered man in the crotch. The barbarian let out a high pitched yelp and bit his own tongue, spraying blood and spit out of the side of his mouth.

The hellhound took advantage of the chaos and took a bite at the still stunned Gunthar, attempting to drag him off, but Martin turned and sent a crossbow bolt that way, piercing its snout deeply. The bolt flew through the mantle of green and black fire with no obvious effect on it.

“Elbow bones!” Hedda cried, inexplicably.

“Anubis, I call on your anger to deal your wrath on this barbarian who very likely eats the dead!” Beorth cried to his god, and channeled the divine might of his god through his sword. The barbarian woman lifted her spear haft to block the blow, but Beorth pulled his sword close and whipped it across her bare side. He felt a piece of her hip bone chip as blood came exploding outward.

Amazingly, she did not fall, but pushed off the paladin awkwardly to regain her battle pose, screaming of elbows and bones; tossing her head about with such fury as her red-hair became as a wild flame on her head, that Beorth was not sure how she could even see his blows come in. (3)

Neither Martin or Gunthar were in any danger from the barbarian that had called himself Forst, as the prey mantis now had him pinned between its pincers and was scraping at his face and scalp with its sharp mandibles, reaching for his head. The barbarian shrieked awfully and he struggled to free himself. However, the remaining hellhound left Gunthar to come after the watch-mage. It bit cautiously at Martin and missed, wary of the green flame, so it breathed some flame of its own. The fire roared over the mage, but the mantle of fire absorbed it, burning even brighter for a mere moment before dying back down to its normal aura.

With a quick and heavy blow from his axe, Ratchis dropped the tuft-covered barbarian, and gave Hedda a taste of its blade as well. She swung around to face both her opponents, unwilling to die despite her gaping wounds. She even managed to parry several blows from Kazrack who came around to flank. She thrust at Beorth once again, and this time he felt the spear’s bite, but gritting his teeth the paladin brought his sword down and cleaved her head open. Even then she hesitated to fall, even though part of her brains were smeared on Beorth gauntlet.

There was a flash of light that followed an arcane word and gesture from Martin the Green and he appeared, bewildered on the other side of the clearing just in time to see a fourth barbarian, bearing a hand-and-a-half sword sneaking around in the brush to try to surprise Ratchis and Kazrack. (4)

“Ratchis! Look out!” he cried, and the out of instinct the half-orc leapt on the broken base of a stone column in the clearing. In many places very little dirt covered the bricked plaza that one occupied that space.

The last barbarian came charging out, roaring like a bear. He wore coat of white and gray wolf pelts, with a hood not unlike that Debo wore. He had coarse black hair and ruddy skin, and flaming green eyes that glowed brightly in the gloom of the cloudy day.

There was something familiar about them, but Kazrack did not have time to think, taking a devastating blow to the chest. His chain shirt turned the cut of the blade, but he could feel the bruise immediately swelling up, and the give of his ribs coming back into place. It hurt to breathe.

The doughty dwarf tried to return the blows, but this new barbarian was a better fighter than any of the others had been. He grinned through broken teeth as he fought.

The hellhound turned back to Gunthar, but the blonde warrior had found his wits and one of his swords and buried the blade deep between the fiendish dog’s shoulders. “How ya like it when I shove this deep inside of ya, bitch?”

Forst’s shrieking stopped, but the celestial insect jerked his body back and forth one last time, before dropping it, followed by a partially masticated head.

Beorth whispered a prayer of thanks to Anubis, as he saw the new barbarian’s back open to him, and he brought his sword down, but as if he had eyes in the back of his head, the barbarian turned away from the blow, leaving only a deep cut on his shoulder and back, instead of eviscerating him.

He let out another roar, and seemed to grow several inches in stature, as his neck and shoulders grew even broader and covered in pale green scales, a bleeding forked tongue hung out of the corner of his mouth.

“Demon!” Ratchis cried, followed by a quick prayer to Nephthys to enchant his own weapon.

“Demon, eh? Let’s see whatcha got, big boy,” Gunthar quipped. He brought his sword down as the barbarian almost lazily brought his sword across to parry, and then roared in agony. Gunthar had seen an opening at the very last moment and grunted as he brought the pint of his blade through his foe’s wrist. The hand dropped to ground. Gunthar smiled “Heh. I love disarming opponents.” (5)

However, the barbarian leader was not to be dropped that easily. Using the remaining moment of his blade he swung it up and brought it down catching Gunthar on the forearm and drawing blood. Without hesitating, the wild warrior dropped the bastard sword and drew his knotted cudgel from his side.

The stump made a puddle of green and black blood at the barbarian’s feet, but it quickly began to grow over and seal itself, though the arm was still useless.

“Oh, stopped bleeding, eh? Let’s see what else we can cut off,” Gunthar said, but his sword was stopped several times by the club. However, Kazrack was able to get a hard blow in, and the summoned celestial preying mantis, clawed at him, but was not strong enough to pin him as he had the other.

Meanwhile, the recently rescued Dorn had been slowly making his way around the clearing from the west. He stayed low, with his crossbow loaded, and watched the action, waiting for a chance to make a difference despite his weakened state. He spotted small figure doing some creeping of his own. It was a boy of probably no more than fourteen summers old, but his gait, and how he held his short sword betrayed him as one to whom killing came easily. The boy has his head shaved on either side, except for long trail of sandy brown hair tied with bits of dried gut. His nose was pierced with a thin bone, and he held a sling in the other hand.

The young barbarian was creeping along the western edge of the clearing, within sight of Martin, but was crouching by the woman lying by the fire asking if she was okay. The green and black fire still encircled him, however, so he was loath to actually touch her.

“Watch-mage! Look out!” Dorn called, firing a bolt that went wide of its mark.

Martin looked up and spotted the barbarian trying to make his way round to flank Kazrack. Unfortunately, Dorn’s cry alerted him and he let loose a stone at Martin. The mage now had a bloody welt in his head.

Martin let loose a bolt from his loaded crossbow at the young sneak, but it missed as well, as he deftly dove out of the way.

However, Dorn’s next bolt found its mark, burying itself in the boy’s thigh.

Ratchis had leapt off the column and joined the melee with what should have been a devastating blow to the barbarian leader, but despite his many green and gory wounds, he would not fall.

“May the wretched blood of Thoon’s mother smite you!” the barbarian cried, and Ratchis swooned from the pain, as the bastard sword cut him to the rib. There was a taste like fear and metal in his mouth, and he had to fight to remain on his feet. (6)

The celestial preying mantis kept clawing at the barbarian, while Beorth and Kazrack insured that he was fully surrounded, Gunthar and Ratchis flanking, The battle was a cacophony of ringing metal, grunts and hissing.

Martin lifted his reloaded crossbow to aim at the sling-wielding barbarian again, but suddenly dropped it and spoke some arcane words. When he came back to himself, he was directing a spectral hand towards the foe.

“Just run away now!” Martin called. “I don’t know what that is going to do!” (7)

The barbarian did not let up his attack on the half-orc and a short thrust took them all by surprise when Ratchis dropped and the wild warrior followed through, slamming the flat of the blade against the side of Beorth’s head. The paladin was knocked off his feet, his helm ringing in his ears.

The preying mantis disappeared with a ‘pop’, and the barbarian spun as if to gauge the new position of his foes, and this was the opening Kazrack had been waiting for.

“Kur-churr, gie-guh muh bluh!” he said through clenched jaw, and the barbarian’s knee exploded in a rain of green blood and black cartilage.

He paused as he fell, “I deserve this fate… I am weak.”

A follow-up blow crushed the barbarian’s skull as he dropped. The dwarf let him have it two or three more times to insure he stayed dead.

Beorth immediately knelt beside Ratchis and lay his hands on him, passing the healing graces of his god into the half-orc.

The young barbarian ran full speed west into the woods. Dorn let another bolt loose, but it missed and the boy was gone.

“He went that way,” Dorn pointed into the woods, but then remembered his companions on the ground and ran to them.

“Martin!” Kazrack grunted, cautiously approaching the watch-mage, who had seemed to have fallen in some kind of trance. His body jerked and the green and black flames dissipated instantaneously. “Ut ah-uhned?”

“Uh… I think I blacked out,” martin replied.

Ratchis crawled over to the bound woman, and began to remover her bonds, while Dorn held the mop-headed boy’s head in his lap. Beorth noticed the boy’s disproportionate feet, covered with curly hair on the top side and thick leathery sole on the other. He instinctively knew that this was one of the little folk, called halflings, but was certain he had never seen one before. (8) However, he left the halflings to Martin and Kazrack, who cut the bonds, and instead saw to the corpse of a curly-haired blonde woman. She had received a mortal axe wound to the chest and neck.

“Shull we bund duh undid barbariuns?” Kazrack asked when healing spells had brought the two living prisoners to consciousness.

“To what purpose?” asked Ratchis.

“We cun kestion them,” Karack replied.

“What are we going to question them about? They’re just barbarians doing what barbarians do. Are we going to save them only to kill lthem?” He stood and walked over to where the first barbarian that he downed still bled out. “I say we let nature take its course.”

“Uh thunk we cun shuh them mershee,” Kazrack sucked in some spit.

“No, we can’t!” Gunthar protested. “They’re barbarians!”

“They can learn, just as we do,” Beorth offered.

“No they can’t,’ Gunthar responded. “They are barbarian savages!”

The paladin looked at Dorn’s wounded companions and the still dying barbarians, and then hung his head. “Fine, we will let nature take its course, but we must stay in the area long enough to inter them in the earth when they have passed on before we move on.”

It was agreed.

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

Dorn’s two remaining companions were called Flora and Bones. Flora was a bard, originally from Cutter Jack’s, ad despite her swollen black eye and bloody scalp and other wounds, it was obvious she was very beautiful. She was lithe and had shockingly red hair and alabaster skin. Bones was a tallfellow halflings. Standing nearly four feet tall, only his feet and the hint of mustache that only grew just above the corners of his mouth gave him away as anything but a young athletic human boy. He had sparkling blue eyes, and a mop of curly brown hair and wore leather armor.

As the party discussed where the safest place to camp might be, Dorn collected all his party’s gear and possessions from among the barbarian’s things. He laid out the rest for the Fearless Manticore Killers to choose from, and Kazrack soon fell to counting gold and silver obleks and other foreign coins for splitting.

Among the things were also found a half-dozen dwarven “beard-scalps”, which Kazrack took and burned while saying a dwarven funeral prayer for whoever they might have been.

Dorn was concerned about Digger’s disappearance, so while the others collected the things and broke down the barbarian camp, and made graves, Kazrack, Beorth and Ratchis made their way to the central tower building to see if the dwarven companion had gone in there. All they found was a dark stone stairway going all the way down the tower support, and even a cursory examination revealed it to be worn and cracked in many places. It would be too easy to go tumbling down into the darkness, and for something down there to wait in ambush.

They returned in time to help finish the graves. Words of remembrance were spoken by Dorn, Flora and Bones about their two fallen companions, Fleece and Gissa of Bast, the latter being the dead woman they found in the camp. Flora sang a sweet funeral song common to followers of the Cat Goddess.

Beorth gave a blessing as well, as the others stood by solemnly.

Afterwards, they all made their way back to the central tower and made camp there.

Watches were set.

During the first watch, Beorth, Kazrack and Dorn heard voices and splashing far below from the dark stairway. They waited alertly, but the voices never approached.

They warned Gunthar and Bones about the voices when they were awakened for the next watch.

“Trolls,” said Gunthar.

“How do you know?” Martin asked.

“What else lives under bridges? What have you been living under a mushroom all your life like a crusty booger of a snotling like this little guy?” Gunthar pointed to Bones who sneered.

“What did you call me?” Bones asked.

“You heard me, snotling,” Gunthar mimed picked at his nostrils. “I have pulled more fearsome things out of my nose.”

“And I’ve hamstrung men with bigger mouths that you,” Bones shot back, reaching for his short sword. “And I was drunk.”

Beorth, Kazrack and Dorn went to sleep, and Martin with the aid of his ring stayed up for the second watch.

An hour had passed when Gunthar started in on Bones again. “Where you from snotling?”

“Stop calling me that,” Bones stood and put his hand on his sword again.

“Oh, you better get your little sticker ready, snot… I mean, halfling,” Gunthar spat. “I’m am sure it reassures you in your half a manhood you have in your little boy pants.”

“Say another word, big man,” Bones threatened.

“I’ll do more than that, little snotling thief!” Gunthar stood and with great speed smacked Bones across the side of the head. “Best teach you who you daddy is now.”

Bones drew his sword, but looked to Martin for a sign of what to do.

“I will hurt you,” Bones said.

“You think I can’t take your little toy away from you?” Gunthar mocked and moved in closer, taking a fighting stance.

There was a flash of color from Martin and suddenly Gunthar was drooling stunned on the gound.

“Hopefully that will calm him down,” Martin said to Bones.

“I’m not trying to start trouble,” Bones said, meekly. “But nobody talks to me that way.”

“Gunthar is just an ass,” Martin replied, and looked down at the loud-mouthed Neergaardian.

A few moments passed and Gunthar did not get back up, instead a slight snore emerged from him.

“Let him sleep,” Martin said.


Tholem, the 4th of Ter – 565 H.E.

In the morning, Flora and Ratchis took the last watch, along with Martin who finally bedded down for the second half to have the two hours of sleep he needed.

It was decided that they would rest here another day before moving on.

Later in the afternoon, Dorn and Ratchis scouted the perimeter of the area for more signs of Digger.

“What do you plan on doing next?’ Ratchis asked Dorn.

“Well, we were going to make our way to Cutter Jack’s, but with half the party gone I doubt we’d make it,” Dorn explained. “I was hoping we could come with you to Nikar, and then make our way east on the Mountain Door, which is safer.” (9)

“I will have to ask the others, but there is safety in numbers.”

“Actually, I wanted to ask you something else,” Dorn continued. “Was it Nephthys that gave you the ability to be invisible?’

“Uh, no… It was one of Martin’s spells. Why do you ask?”

“Um, when you saved me I did not know you were um, you know, that uh, one of your parents was an orc, and to be honest if I had known I might have refused your help.”

There was a long pause.

“It really opened my eyes,” Dorn continued. “When I found out you were a priest of Nephthys I was astounded… You see, my grandparents were former slaves that escaped the Black Islands Barony with my mother when she was a child, and she always tried to instill in me reverence for Nephthys, and I did give a token prayer or donation now and then, but this…”

“We can never know where her hand guides our own,” Ratchis replied.

“Do you think this is a sign? I think it may be a sign,” Dorn said. He cleared his throat.

“It may be, but you are still free to do as you like. A reminder of Nephthys’ love is not a command to do anything in particular.”

“I don’t care. I mean, I want to help you, if it means doing as Nephthys would want me to, and to repay the debt I owe you,” Dorn.

“Do as you will,” Ratchis replied after a long pause. “We should head back.”

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

Later that same day after a long talk with Flora on various kinds of lore (and she recognized Lacan’s Demise after a brief look) they showed her the black bracers they had taken off of Master Hamfast in the Pit of Bones, and she identified them. (10) Martin the Green, not wanting to deal with the small chance they would interfere with his spell-casting, let Ratchis take them, as no one else in the party seemed interested. The half-orc was happy to no longer need to wear his chain shirt.


Balem, the 5th of Ter – 565 H.E.

After a night no more eventful than the one before, except that Gunthar got away without taking a watch to avoid him and Bones going for each other’s throats, and more splashing was heard down below the group, now three members larger cross the bridge and made their way into the hills west of the river.

The terrain here was marked by scores of steep round hills covered in tall elms and maples, creating muddy tracks that wound round in all directions. The run off of melting snow to the north brought lots of silt with it, and getting over some of the hills when cul de sacs were reached took a grueling effort in the increasing heat of the day.

In late afternoon they came across an abandoned campsite that Ratchis was sure the barbarians had used three or four days before. He was certain they had come there from the northwest, but he turned the group south to find a way through the imposing cliffs they could see several miles west.


Teflem, the 6th of Ter – 565 H.E.

The next day found the Fearless Manticore Killer and their new companions moving along a shallow stream that undercut the steep western cliffs. Only narrow treacherous cracks that moved up very steeply would allow them to move westward, and Ratchis rejected every possible spot they came across.

“We can afford to go further south before we risk a climb,” he said several times after examining the map Martin had copied at Aze Nuquerna.

Just before mid-day, they splashed through the stream where it undercut the cliff and turn with it to the southwest, in order to stay out the sun. Summer was finally coming to this mountainous central region of Derome-Delem, and while the nights were quite cold, marching in armor and with pounds and pounds of gear was exhausting under the light of day.

Ratchis was leading the way as usual, about sixty feet ahead of the rest of the group. Gunthar lagged behind admiring Flora’s rear, as she gabbed away with Bones and intermittently broke into song.

Martin walked alongside Beorth discussing some of the black necromancy spells found in Hamfast’s spellbook, and how to destroy them, while Kazrack marched steadily despite the pain in his mangled jaw from every step.

Dorn moved back and forth from walking beside the dwarf to taking the lead of the main group to occasionally see Ratchis when the half-orc was momentarily out of sight.

They came around a deep bend beyond which the stream broadened and was much shallower. Caps of white foam crashed lazily over many stones, and occasionally a large fish could be seen to struggle to go up stream past them. Ratchis was standing in the middle of the stream hand in the air, and turned back to hiss everyone quiet.

Everyone stopped.

Before them, eighty feet down stream was a group of five bears happily fishing. One of the bears was particularly large and grizzled. Two more smaller and younger bears were on the western shore splashing around.

The large bear sniffed the air and looked up, and then suddenly reared up on its hind legs and bellowed.

All the other bears looked up and one moved over to block the young.

That was when Ratchis noticed that the smallest bear in the middle of the stream was no bear at all. It was a man of a kind. He wore a bearskin and stood nearly eight feet tall, and half again as broad as the half orc. He wore a necklace of bones and teeth, and had a short spear in one hand, and a basket of still flopping fish on a rock, partially obscured by another. The man had a pinched and ugly face and a dirty orange pallor, and a battered battle-axe hung from his side; a bow was on his back. Ratchis had seen his type once or twice before; half-ogre.

Ratchis took several steps back and signaled for everyone else to move slowly.

“What do we do?” Bones asked, moving up along side Beorth and Martin.

“We mean you no harm!” Ratchis called first in common, and then repeated it in orcish, though the phrase was a foreign one to his warlike people.

The large man dropped his spear and drew his axe.

Beorth sighed and pulled his own sword, “This is a battle we should not fight.”

“Yesh, D’nar, let us chruy tuh avoid thish fight,” Kazrack said, as the bears spread out in a semi-circle and moved to create phalanx with the half-ogre in the center.

Gunthar moved up and readied a javelin.

“We only seek to move through this area and mean no threat to it or your kin,” Ratchis called in orcish, and then added to Gunthar in common. “Stay back.”

“This is Shadarach land,” the big man said looking at each of the Fearless Manticore Killers and their companions in turn. He spoke in halting common.

“We seek to travel through this land,” Beorth said, not knowing he was only repeating what Ratchis had already expressed.

“The stonefolk are not welcome here,” he said, pointing to Kazrack with his axe. “They are polluters and exploiters.”

Kazrack’s eyes opened wide, insulted. “Why dosh he shay that?”

“I am look over these lands and its beasts. I am Shadarach,” the half-ogre said.

“I am a man of the woods, as well. Please let us pass,” Ratchis entreated. “We seek a route west over these cliffs and through the mountains to turn south again to Nikar.”

“Heh,” Sadarach cleared his throat and then made another sound. The largest of the bears went back down on all fours and moved beside him. The half-ogre buried his hand in the bear’s fur and scratched it hard, while the other bears went back to fishing. “There are many passes over the cliff, but you will not make it through the first coming of darkness if you go that way.”

“Why?”

“Your ancient kin. The black orcs,” (11) Shadarach said by way of explanation. “Deep in the cliffs are the homes of scores of scores of scores of them, as thick as maggots on meat, and they emerge under the cover of darkness to hunt and find spoils.”

“We have no choice but to try,” Ratchis replied. “Perhaps if we travel by night and camp by day we will have a better chance.”

“You will end a meal for your kin.”

“Do you know of another way?”

“Heh,” Shadarach paused. “There might be another less dangerous way, but it will cost you something, though I hate to aid the stonefolk.”

“What arv muh people done tuh you?” Kazrack asked, angrily. A line of spit hung from his mouth that he had to wipe away.

“The stonefolk are polluters,” Shadarach repeated. “The tunnels of the black orcs were once part of a dwarven mine that stretched for miles north of here within the cliffs, and as they devoured the earth they rerouted the river, and spilled the minerals of the deep earth that turned the trees black and sickened and killed the beasts and birds. They are long gone, but only now has nature begun to heal this land. It remembers the stonefolk and shudders.”

Kazrack was silent.

“What is this other way?” Beorth asked.

“A secret way,” Shadarach replied. “Under the cliffs, not over them. It will also save you many days on your journey. I will lead you, and I have an old map.”

“We have some silver we might offer you,” Ratchis said.

Shadarach spit.

“Keep your gold. What good is gold to me here? I would have some tools and weapons. I see you are laden with them.”

After a long negotiation, it was agreed that Shadarach would show them the way in exchange for Ratchis’ great axe, and the masterwork battleaxe that had been taken from one of Mozek’s brothers, and that Derek had long wielded. In addition, he was given some other minor items, a knife, a whetstone, some sacks and the like.

“I will bring you somewhere to rest,” Shadarach said once the agreement was made. “We will not be going until nightfall.”

End of Session #64


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

(1) DM’s Note: Gunthar suffered a fumble forcing a Reflex save (DC 15) or fall and be stunned for 1d4 rounds.

(2) Apshai is the Lord of Insects and Agriculture. It is one of the Beast Gods that is also part of Ra’s Pantheon. His most common form is that of a great preying mantis.

(3) DM’s Note: Beorth scored a critical hit with this blow, doing 32 points of damage.

(4) Martin actually lost control of himself there for a moment and cast a spell other than the one he meant to cast. He cast Dimension Door (a spell he does not even know) instead of Shield. The first level spell slot he had prepared shield in was the only thing lost.

(5) DM’s Note: All of Gunthar’s dialogue during this combat was brought to you by Martin’s player (Ciaran on these boards), who ran the fighter in combat.

(6) DM’s Note: The barbarian leader (called Thoon) used his Smite Good ability and dealt 28 points of damage to Ratchis.

(7) DM’s Note: Once again Martin failed a Will save, and found himself casting spells he normally does not even have access to against his will.

(8) Actually, Beorth probably had seen, if not met several halflings while growing up in Verdun, but alas, he did not remember.

(9) The Mountain Door is a road that runs east-west from Cutter Jack’s to what is called ‘the One Road’.

(10) These black leather bracers are burned and etched with motif of knitted bones and skulls, and flowing water, with a tall-masted ship flowing towards a red moon with a skull-face within it up the center. The left hand bracer has a sheath built into it that easily holds a long-bladed dagger or knife.
The art style of these bracers is typical of High Elves of Siron-Ehkor, while the content is not. Axo-Morë was an elven knife-fighter and necromancer of ill-repute. It is said that the fact that elves do not die a natural death made him obsessed with secrets of life and death, so he chose to study necromancy and was exiled by his people. It is said he fled to Thricia, and later settled in Haffar’s Port, from there he visited many corners of Aquerra, but was said to have been killed during a trip to the City of Ash in Dereme-Delem. DM’s Note: The Braces of Axo-Morë give the wearer a +4 armor bonus to their armor class, as the Mage Armor spell. However, the weight of the bracers on the wrist cause a 5% arcane failure chance. However, any dagger or knife kept in the lefthand sheath can be drawn as a free action (as the Quickdraw feat).

(11) There are two races of orcs in Aquerra. High orcs are live on the surface, or in near-surface cave and have intermingled with a great amount of human blood over the eons, and are a relatively newer breed of orc. Black orcs are their chaotic subterranean cousins that live deep underground and eschew the light.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
No love for the Fearless Manticore Killers this week. . .? :\

Or is it just that the update is so long it is taking people a while to finish it? :uhoh:
 

Manzanita

Visitor
Hey - that was a great update. Martin's player must be enjoying playing Gunthor for a while, to get out some of that frustration at the black book.

What a nice bunch of NPCs the next player would have to pick from. I guess it doesn't work that way in this case.
 

handforged

Visitor
That was a nice battle! It's interesting to see the effect that the book is having on Martin. I'm curious to see what happens with the half-ogre.

~hf
 

Manzanita

Visitor
August 2003. Where was I then? Can't even remember. Looking forward to getting more of this story. My goal is for Nemmerle to catch up by doing writing a session a week. At that rate it would still take nearly a year to catch up, I suppose. Oh well. Thanks for writing what you do, Nem. It is very entertaining.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
August 2003. Where was I then? Can't even remember. Looking forward to getting more of this story. My goal is for Nemmerle to catch up by doing writing a session a week. At that rate it would still take nearly a year to catch up, I suppose. Oh well. Thanks for writing what you do, Nem. It is very entertaining.
Nice to set up a goal for yourself. .. oh wait. . . ;)

A session a week would be impossible. . . maybe an update a week, and usually it takes 2 to 3 updates to equal one session.

Think of it this way. . . and update is usually 8 to 12 pages in word, so one session average about 30 pages. . .

Glad you guys are enjoying it. . . Soon we will be coming up on one of my favorite encounters ever, with a whole new level of gross factor you have come to expect from the "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign.

EDIT: Oh, and I started on the next installment last night. . .
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
I'm finding that making myself write a session a week is fun -- not only does it keep the momentum moving in my head, it erodes the gap that was causing me to hesitate in the first place. I'm glad you started on the next installment! Really good update. I'm glad I've started following the FMK again.

You have one typo in the first third, I think where preying mantis comes out as prey mantis. Which is also cool. :)
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Piratecat said:
I'm finding that making myself write a session a week is fun -- not only does it keep the momentum moving in my head, it erodes the gap that was causing me to hesitate in the first place. I'm glad you started on the next installment!
Actually, I have been a lot more into D&D lately (as you might be able to tell from my increased participation on these boards and at the RBC), so it is likely that the rate of updates will increase.

Really good update. I'm glad I've started following the FMK again.
So am I! :D Glad you liked it. Where did you originally stop? How much did you miss?

You have one typo in the first third, I think where preying mantis comes out as prey mantis. Which is also cool. :)
Uh. . . you found the typo I put in there on purpose and win a. . .uh. . . an "O-Prize". . . yeah, that's it. . . ;)
 

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