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

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
2 sessions to go!

Session #101 (part v)

Balem, the 5th of Syet – 561 H.E.

This clearing was familiar to Bastian, yet the light through the trees seemed wrong for the time of autumn it had been when he entered Hurgun’s Maze. He wondered if he had ever been in this place in the woods at this particular time of year. Yes, there was at least one time. The leaves crunched under his boots and he startled himself and stood straight up and looked around.

“N’kron?” he called mentally for his familiar, but there was no reply. He could not sense his familiar anywhere around for a mile or more.

“What is going on?” Bastian asked aloud, and suddenly a dark figured stepped out of the autumnal foliage and answered, “I was about to ask you the same thing.”

It was a tall man, with thick black hair tight back on his head in nappy locks not unlike Ratchis’. He wore a chain shirt over his black clothes, and was covered in a black and green travel-stained cloak, made misshapen by a long bastard sword at his side. He held a long bow in his calloused hands. The man’s face betrayed something feral and dangerous. The cut of his chin was too sharp, and his eyes were narrow and dark. His skin had a yellow pallor that no pureblood human could ever have. And yet, it was not that he was ugly. There was a handsomeness to his savage look.

It was Scartesh. (1)

“How did you change your clothes and armor?” the half-orc asked, his eyes narrowing.

“What do you…? Scartesh! How did I get here? Do you know what is happening?” Bastian asked, sputtering.

“I am asking you what is happening,” Scartesh’s voice had a scratchy accent that came through more as he spoke. His face grew a bit flush. “I was watching you and you suddenly changed. You even look… thinner… Even your smell has changed a bit… What kind of trick is this?”

“Am I dreaming?” Bastian asked, aloud stepping forward. Scartesh took a step back and his hand went instinctively to the pommel of his sword. “Am I dead? The last thing I remember was the stone golem attacking… How did I get here?” Bastian looked up at Scartesh bewildered. He scratched under his beard, perturbed.

Scartesh’s wrinkled brow furrowed some more, and he made a guttural sound in the back of his throat.

Bastian put his hands up. “Look. I am just as surprised at this turn of events as your are,” he said. “You are just going to have to trust me. Okay, Scartesh? You trusted me before. You are going to have to trust me now…”

The half-orc left his hand on the hilt of his sword, but visibly settled, after looking to his left and to his right.

“Now,” Bastian continued. “If you would be so kind as to tell me what time this is that we have met…”

“What?” Scartesh growled.

“Um, I am just trying to figure out what is happening with me,” Bastian said. “I think I have been thrown back in time… Somehow, and yet not bodily or else I would be here with me, and I am the only me here right now…”

“You make no sense,” Scartesh replied.

Bastian paused and cleared his throat, placing his hand on the back of his neck and rubbing it hard. He blinked rapidly, took a deep breath and started again in his normal even quiet tone. “You are right. This makes no sense. Perhaps it is best if we stick to the matter at hand and take advantage of this opportunity my being here affords us.”

There was a long pause.

“You see… I now know that our plan does not work,” Bastian said.

“What plan?” Scartesh asked.

“For me to talk the Gothanian militia out of the attack on the Fir Harge in return for you bringing them away from here peacably.”

“We discussed the likelihood and unlikihood of it,” Scartesh said. His face seemed to grow more civilized the calmer he got, as if his erudition changed with his expression. “But there was no plan… I thought that was what we were meeting to discuss the possibility of… So you are now convinced that it won’t work?”

“I was not convinced before, but I am now, because now I know it doesn’t work,” Bastian replied.

“Then it seems I have no choice then,” Scartesh replied. “We will have to fight.”

“There has to be another solution,” Bastian said. “I also know that the war will not help anyone and will make everything worse for everyone in the long run.”

“On that we are agreed,” Scartesh replied. “Unless… Well, if it is one thing I have learned, it is that almost anything can be used as a means of survival. You just have to look at it the right way. But still, if your people insist on fighting, we have no choice but to defend ourselves.”

“No, there has to be another solution,” Bastian said again.

“So you came here to tell me the plan won’t work, and expect me to stand by and let my people get killed?” Scartesh’s eyes narrowed again. “I am starting to think you humans are craftier than I gave you credit for. Is this part of some elaborate ruse?” He drew his sword and looked around nervously again. Once again he made a guttural noise in the back of his throat, and then repeated it more loudly.

“I already told you, war will not work!” Bastian grew flustered.

“Suggest an alternative,” Scartesh replied.

Bastian rubbed his neck again and stepped back, his head drooping a bit. He hemmed and hawed and then looked up again. “I really don’t know yet,” he finally said. “I need time to think about it.”

“And while you think I am supposed to wait just long enough for your allies to launch an assault on the Fir-Hragre?”

“What allies? No… You have this all wrong,” Bastian replied. “I am here alone.”

“Hello!” A voice came from the woods. “What in the name of Horus’ Hairy Balls is going on around here? This makes no sense.” Gunthar came blundering into the clearing, sword in hand.

“Beardy! Just a few minutes ago I was back in the Honeycombe fighting sh*t-bears with my old crew,” Gunthar said. “And suddenly, some crazy ape with a glowing brain showed up and started killing people!” (2)

“I knew it! It is a trick!” Scartesh snarled, and raising his sword he let out a short roar. Suddenly, a large figure stood up in the brush and charged into the clearing. The figure was over eight feet high and was heavily armored and bore a heavy shield. Its helmet’s nose-guard seemed to cut into its yellow-orange face. It was an ogre, and it wielded a large morningstar with black iron spines.

Gunthar was slammed back by the force of the blow, barely able to raise his longsword to keep the spines on the morningstar from skewering his neck. He landed on his ass, but quickly rolled back to his feet drawing Hornet in his off-hand.

“I didn’t want to fight!” Bastian grunted as his warhammer made contact with the ogre’s knee, crunching the metal of the thing’s greave. Bastian winced as he felt a sharp burning on his left arm, and turned towards it, swinging his hammer in a wide arc to keep his opponents at bay. Scartesh had moved in close with little effort. A deep cut on Bastian’s upper arm burned as blood oozed from it.

“This can stop,” Bastian said. “There is still time to figure something out… Fighting is not the answer!”

“Dumashg, finish the other one,” Scartesh said to his hench-ogre. “I will deal with our friend.”

The ogre drove into Gunthar again, ignoring the deep wounds the Neergaardian scored on it. Bastian moved to aid his companion, but Scartesh’s bastard sword slipped in the space between the bearded warrior’s legs and tried to trip him. Bastian stumbled, but kept his balance, skipping awkwardly over the blade. He slammed the ogre in the hip, but as it spun around to smash him in return, Bastian had withdrawn again.

The ogre roared as Gunthar stabbed it repeatedly in the outer thigh with his magical short sword of speed. It brought the morningstar down, but the blond warrior stepped into the blow, feeling the heavy weight of the weapon’s handle and the fists around it, but not the spines.

Bastian spun around Scartesh and sprung in towards the ogre once again, and once again he scored a hit and withdrew.

With a wise grunt, Scartesh hustled over and slashed at Gunthar viciously, who was too busy avoiding being pummeled by the ogre to notice until it was almost too late. He felt heavy bruises begin to swell up under his chain shirt, as he gave a little ground.

“I could use a little help over here, Beardy!” Gunthar complained. “If ya done dancing, there’s fighting to do.”

Dumashg began to huff and puff, his chest expanding as spittle flew from the corner of his raw red lips and jagged teeth. The fight moved under the trees, as Gunthar tried to use the foliage to gain cover from the rampaging ogre, but his wounds were severe and a solid blow sent him to the ground, torrents of blood soaking into the dry grass.

Bastian slammed the ogre’s knee again, but when he moved to withdraw, Scartesh blocked his way. There was a ringing blow, as Bastian’s basinet went flying off. His ear rungs, and he could feel a shiner developing. There was a long gash where his helm has been dragged across his face. (3)

Bastian looked up and a blow from the ogre sent him flying back, skidding through the growing pool of Gunthar’s blood. He got up to one knee and shook his head, and looking up he noticed a black robed figure in sandals standing silently at the edge of the clearing, watching the melee.

“Are you ready to surrender now, or does your friend have to die first? Because I don’t care either way,” Scartesh said holding his sword out at Bastian.

“There is something else going on…,” Bastian stammered. “Something bigger! There is a monk here and…”

“Natan-Ahb, grant me the endurance of the sleeping bear so that I might last through these many battles!” Kazrack’s chant came out of the trees, and suddenly the dwarf was charging at the ogre. He had his flail over his head, and his shield up in front of him. The dwarf sidestepped a ponderous downward blow and turned away, slamming his flail against the monster’s side.

“Surrender!” Scartesh said, again, bringing the tip of his sword closer to Bastian who stood, and took a step back. His warhammer was as his side. Scartesh risked a look away and yelled to Dumashg to kill Kazrack quickly. As if in immediate obeisance, the ogre’s spike cudgel slammed into Kazrack’s shield. The dwarf’s armor crunched and squealed in protest. When Scartesh looked back, Bastian had withdrawn even more and had his shield raised.

“I guess both of your friends are going to have to die then,” Scartesh tisked. “It’s a shame, too. I mean, I don’t care about a grubber (4), but I am half-man, too…” He gestured at Gunthar’s crumpled bleeding form.

Kazrack looked up and was startled. Suddenly Adder was flanking him, sending a quivering blow just past the dwarf’s head. Kazrack stepped out of the way and Adder had to leap back to avoid the morningstar of the frothing ogre. The monk did not leap fast enough, and one of the spines clipped his shaved head, drawing blood. Adder hurried past Kazrack, and the ogre turned to follow, as Kazrack was moving in that direction as well to check on Gunthar.

Bastian had had a similar idea, and was backing around a large tree to get back to Gunthar with Scartesh slowly following him, but ended up crossing the ogre’s path.

There was a crunch, and the bearded warrior was bleeding out as well.

Seeing the ogre was momentarily distracted, Adder ran at Kazrack, driving the dwarf back with a flurry of blows. “Why do you persist?!?” Kazrack growled.

“They are coming out of everywhere!” Wonder crept into Scartesh’s voice, as he pointed towards Ratchis, who was hurrying through the brush towards the fight.

The friar of Nephthys stopped a few feet from the other half-orc and they looked each other up and down and snorted.

“You! You are Darksh?” (5) Scartesh asked after a moment.

Ratchis nodded.

“You are friends with him?” he pointed at Bastian.

Ratchis nodded again. “You I’ll talk to,” Scartesh smiled. “Go help the grubber. I won’t stop you…”

Ratchis turned in time to see Adder stumble awkwardly as a kick he landed on Kazrack’s shield skidded off at strange angle. The monk’s ankle twisted, and he had to hop and hobble to keep from falling. (6) In that half a moment, Kazrack’s magic flail slammed the monk twice in the ribs. Bones crunched, and Adder clutched his side, and looking near unconsciousness.

Kazrack bellowed as his next blow was knocked astray by a devastating blow that punctured holes in on the right side of his breast plate. Dumashg the ogre was not to be forgotten, the rune-thrower slid through the grass on his side, feeling his wounds burn. (7)

Ratchis was calling to Nephthys for a healing spell for his dwarven companion, when the ogre noticed the new foe and slammed him on the hip, disrupting his spell. But the distraction was enough for Kazrack to withdraw and cast his own spell to close some of his wounds, but by no means all. He looked up to see Adder closing again, and felt those heavy calloused fists pummel the side of his head.

There was a hiss and snarl in a tree above them and they both looked up to see Roland in panther-form preparing to pounce from a low bough.

End of Session #101

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

(1) Scartesh was first mentioned in the story hour in Session #88. However, he makes an appearance in the Story of Ratchis.

(2) The second time the party ever met Gunthar was in the Honeycombe fighting quaggoths, back in Sessions #23 and 24.

(3) DM’s Note: Scartesh scored a critical hit: Helm Cleaved Off, Apply Crit Multiplier to Total Damage, Save vs. Knockdown.

(4) In Aquerra, ‘Grubber’ is a derogatory term for dwarf.

(5) ‘Darksh’ is the name of Ratchis’ tribe. See the Zedarius’ Logistics of the Necropolis, and of course, the Story of Ratchis.

(6) DM’s Note: Adder rolled the dreaded ‘double fumble’ by rolling a ‘99’ on the fumble result chart: “Roll Twice. Any saves at +5 to the DC. Ignore rolls of 99 or 00.” Amazingly, I rolled ‘00’ for one of those rolls, but the second was “Twist Ankle. Speed halved for 10 rounds.

(7) DM’s Note: Yep, another crit. This one was: Apply Crit Multiplier to Total Damage (and armor DP damage)
 

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Richard Rawen

First Post
el-remmen said:
Let me ask this question:

In terms of the story itself, does it feel like it's ending?


I don't know, these last few melee's are so surreal, I don't really see them leading anywhere... but then I'm not the most perceptive person either...

It is still lots of fun to read, regardless =0)
 

Gold Roger

First Post
It's definitely a cool and unusual way to wrap up some loose ends.

Just telling you I'm still here and on the edge of my seat, even when I have little to commend.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Well, I have the next installment just shy of ready to go when Microsoft Word decides to crash and just not work again no matter how much I try.

So, while I was hoping to have another installment up as early as this evening - now I am not sure. . .

Oh, and thanks for the comments fellas!

Edit: I forgot this machine came with Word Perfect. . . So, I just opened the file in that. Whew!
 
Last edited:

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #102 (part i)

The earth shook each time Dumashg the ogre’s heavy morningstar missed Kazrack and bit into the dry grass. Each time, Kazrack sidestepped just in time, predicting the wide gait of how all giant things fight, remembering the lessons taught to him by his father and uncle. The dwarf felt Adder’s blows on his back, and had to turn again to keep his enemies abreast of him.

Ratchis came charging in at Adder, but the monk dove and tumble away, coming back up wary of the half-orc.

Roland leapt out of the tree with a roar meant to distract, but instead of joining the melee, he hopped over to where Bastian and Gunthar lay. Seeing that the Neergaardian was hurt worse, he called to Bast of a cure critical wounds, and in a moment, Gunthar was sputtering awake, trying to shake off the lethargy of death’s door. He was still critically wounded.

The monk hustled away from the melee, running right up the side of a tree just as he had when Ratchis and Kazrack had seen him last.

“Watch out for one of those fire beads!” Ratchis warned, charging for the tree himself. “Everyone spread out!”

Kazrack ran right for the tree as well, the ogre on his tail. Gunthar held back looking back and forth from the fight with the monk and the ogre and Scartesh just standing and watching from a few feet away; bastard sword resting on his shoulder. Roland looked up at the melee from healing Bastian in time to see Adder toss a bead that smashed against Kazrack’s helmet. It exploded.

Flames licked up the tree and Adder leapt higher into its branches. Ratchis had rolled clear of the worst of it, but Kazrack hollered as patches of his face and beard were seared. Dumashg’s armor was scorched, but he continued to attack relentlessly, oblivious to pain.

Ratchis fumbled in his bag for a flask of oil, hoping to take the tree down with the monk in it, but Adder leapt out of the tree and hurried towards another. Ratchis dropped the flask in the grass and charged after him, but Adder leapt up again too soon. Kazrack withdrew from the ogre, keeping on the defense in order to pick the flask of oil up.

So exhaustion might give way to simple fatigue, Roland cast lesser restoration on both Bastian and Gunthar. He followed it up with another healing spell on the Neergaardian, while Bastian moved to get a view of the fight.

Kazrack’s shield absorbed blow after blow from the ogre’s morningstar.. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Adder leap down out of the tree striking Ratchis full on in the face. The half-orc stumbled back half a step and hacked wildly with his sword to get some space. The monk easily avoided the swings, but Kazrack came around from the other side to flank him. The ogre still followed the dwarf, each blow meant to kill outright.

Bastian called to the flame in his strange arcane dwarven, and a small ball of it appeared in his hand. He flung it at Adder, but the monk easily leapt high to avoid it, twisting and bringing a kick to the side of Ratchis’ head as he came back down. Ratchis fell stunned, and the monk kicked him viciously twice more in the head and neck. He might have finished the now unconscious half-orc, if the pain of Kazrack’s flail to his kidney did not force him to turn and defend himself. The monk avoided another of the small balls of flame Bastian produced, and Gunthar began launching arrows from a safe distant at the tireless ogre.

“Scartesh! Call off the ogre! We can still talk this out!” Bastian called. “Can’t you see something strange is going on? I wasn’t trying to trick you! The monk is our real enemy.…”

Scartesh sneered. “Once he gets all worked up like this you just have to let him work it out of his system. There’s no stopping him.”

Kazrack drew the fight away from his fallen companion, allowing Roland to hustle over to aid. The dwarf moved around Adder, putting the monk between him and the ogre. Dumashg, seeming to prefer a straight line whenever possible, slammed the monk in the head full on. There was an explosion of blood and then monk was bleeding out, his blood intermingling with Ratchis’ own growing pool. However, a moment later, Roland’s healing spells had the friar coughing and spitting out blood as he sat up.

Again and again, Kazrack withdrew, absorbing the ogre’s blows on his shield, and trying his best to pierce its armor in return. Finally, the ogre stopped and teetered atop his tree-trunk legs. It let out a long low breath and then fell over.

“All that huffing and puffing works better when you can kill things quick,” Scartesh quipped.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t cut you a new one?” Gunthar challenged.

“Because you are all seriously hurt and you can’t take me on your best day,” Scartesh replied matter-of-factly.

“Wanna find out for sure?” Gunthar raised his swords.

“Gunthar! No!” Ratchis barked.

The Neergaardian stopped. “Pig-f*ckers always stick together…”

“We letting Adder bleed out?” Bastian asked quietly.

Ratchis and Kazrack nodded silently, but Roland purred his assent.

“Now can someone tell me what is happening?” Scartesh asked.

“I do not know why we should explain ourselves to you,” Kazrack replied.

“Bastian never told me he had among his companions one of our heritage,” Scartesh said, approaching Ratchis familiarly.

“You know each other?” Ratchis looked back and forth from the other half-orc to Bastian. Bastian nodded.
Kazrack glared at Bastian. Roland pawed over and rubbed against Bastian’s legs lovingly, still in panther-form.

“It seems like there is a lot of explaining to do,” Kazrack said.

“And I shall try my best to explain but…” A tall broad figure was stepping out of the overgrowth. It was a brown-skinned man with a bare chest, a bald head and a gray skull cap. He had muscular arms, baggy dark blue pants, and muscular arms. It was Hurgun of the Stone, and a trail of blue-white sparkling light was spiraling out from around him.


Tholem, the 4th of Ese – 565 H.E.

Perception rippled. Sight, sound, smell and sensation warped and twisted into a sharp blue-white wave that washed over them. Suddenly they were standing about the dais and central throne of the Control Room, and Hurgun was standing before it still talking to them. “In this moment in time the time elemental is gone, and I am free thanks to your intervention, however, though this is the conclusion, it is not the end. The anomaly is a deep one, and you have one more place you have been, but you have not been there yet.”

“I don’t understand…” Kazrack began.

“Where are the others?” Roland asked. “Sergio? Razzle?”

“Your group is bound by destiny, just as others are bound to their own,” Hurgun replied. “They have their own places to be.”

“I don’t understand…” Kazrack said again.

“It will all be made as clear as possible very soon,” Hurgun replied. He had an incredibly deep and commanding voice. “Just remember, whatever else happens you have already succeeded in freeing me and saving my Maze – just be cautious. The flow of time is always repairing itself, attempting to undo paradox, rewriting memory to fit actuality and vice versa. However, though you are in the present now, there is one more stop in the future, and the future is always in flux. Die there… Be defeated there… and though the world may not be changed, you can be… And what you see and find there is a good indication of the events of the future, so remain alert and observant… Defeat what you find there… These moments of conflict and crisis resonate through time the more important their outcome is to the direction of history…”

“Where…uh… when are we going to?” Roland asked.

“Can you not feel it coming?” Hurgun asked. “It is happening now…” The last word stretched out and warped into a long low hum that reverberated with the Control Room. There was a blast of blue-white light, and once again the Keepers of the Gate were gone.


Teflem, the 13th of Oche – 565 H.E.

“Where in the Hells are we?” Gunthar asked. They were spread out in knee-deep murky water, in the entrance to some kind of cave choked with dripping vines and reeds. There was a sliver of light from way behind them through the undergrowth, peeking through, but barely enough for the humans to see by. Warm air was wafting up out of the cave.

“There is a terrible smell here…” Roland whispered. “Some big animal… Monster…”

“Huh? What? How did I get here?” came a voice from the reed-choked darkness that shocked them. Ratchis looked in that direction, his darkvision flipping everything into shades of gray, black and white. It was a tall figure in the robes of an Academy mage, with shaggy red hair that was long in the back. Thomas the Squirrel came to life on the half-orc ranger’s shoulder, chittering happily as it leapt to the figure.

It was Martin the Green.

“Martin!” Kazrack cried happily, and the dwarf’s voice echoed in the cave.

”Hush!” Ratchis admonished, but trudged over to the watch-mage and clapped a big ham-hand on his shoulder. “We thought you were dead…”

“I think I was…” Martin replied in a shaken voice. “What is this place? How did I get here? I… I… uh, have a vague set of memories regarding a journey to this place, but they are foggy… Just like my memories of…” The watch-mage shuddered. “…Of that place where I had to destroy the book…” It was then that those who could see noted that Martin the Green seemed whole. His face was not disfigured, his teeth were all there, and his skin was not sallow and blackened in places.

“How is this possible?” Kazrack asked.

“How has any of this been possible?” Roland asked. “But since we are in the future, and Martin is here, we have reason to hope that he will be brought back to life.”

“N’kron?” Bastian reached out to his familiar mentally, and this time there was a response. “Where are you?”

“Flying high above… Confused…” the hawk replied.

“What do you see?”

“A cold marsh surrounding a high round place - you are underneath,” N’kron said. Bastian relayed this to the others.

The Keepers of the Gate realized that they had a full compliment of spells, even spells they did not recall preparing, and their many wounds and their fatigue was gone. (1) There was a flurry of castings: bull’s strength, bear’s endurance, magic circle of protection from evil, and mage armor.

“We might be watched,” Martin suggested, and cast detect scrying. But he shook his head no. “Should I take the time to cast arcane eye and explore the cave beyond?” (2)

“Let us move into the cave a bit,” Kazrack suggested. “Our mobility is limited here in this vine-choked entrance. I would rather we be able to spread out and defend ourselves.”

It was agreed.

The cave beyond was much wider and deeper than they could see across, even with darkvision, and the murky water lapped against their knees, except for Kazrack, as the water reached his thighs, splashing up to his waist whenever he took a step. Gunthar snapped on his darkvision goggles.

In the middle of the chamber a plateau of stone rose fifteen feet out of the water. To their right, a jagged pillar of stone, nearly flat on top reached six feet. In the far right corner, a tangle of roots fifteen feet across hung from the ceiling to kiss the murky water. (3)

Martin the Green began his casting.

Bastian cried out in alarm as the long jagged maw of a crocodile snapped shut right beside him. He had leapt back at the last possible moment to keep from being grabbed. The narrow wake of a second beast was making it way towards him as well. Roland pounced atop the first one, worrying at its thick hide with his panther’s teeth, as Bastian slammed it on the head with his warhammer, and withdrew. However, the second animal cut off his retreat, as he felt the hard slap of its tail against the back of his legs and he nearly fell.

Kazrack stepped forward with one mighty blow, he crushed the thing’s skull. Gunthar charged in and skewered the one Roland was working at, killing it as well. Noting a third of the animals, Roland leapt over and attacked, getting bitten for his trouble, as Bastian hustled in, struck and moved away again, in his usual cautious style.

Ratchis remained near the still casting Martin, to guard the mage from interruption and noticed small figures hopping up onto the central platform of stone out of the darkness.

“Look!” he pointed. Kazrack looked up from killing the final crocodile. There were five gnomes lining up along the edge of the plateau. They wore rags.

“Those better not be more friggin’ demon gnomes,” Gunthar swore.

“More demon gnomes?” Roland asked, as he could not see.

“They look like normal gnomes to me,” Kazrack said. “Hello?” He called to them.

“Run away!” One of the gnomes peeped in a whispered yell. “She’s coming!”

Roland walked over towards Ratchis and Martin, “What does he mean ‘she’s coming’?”

And as if in answer, a large draconic form flew out of the darkness to land behind the line of gnomes. Her body, bristling with wiry muscle was just over ten feet long, though her tail and neck nearly tripled that. She snapped her leathery wings as she landed, showing their nearly thirty-five foot span, and as her mouth opened she revealed row after row of vicious teeth, as her long forked tongue licked them clean.

“Oh, no…” Ratchis said.

Glamorgana roared.

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

(1) DM’s Note: (slight spoiler if you are reading the notes as you come across them)
At the end of the previous session, I told the players that they’re homework was to prepare a spell list as if they were about to face a dragon. At the beginning of this scene, I told them they were fully healed and they now had that prepared list to cast from.

(2) Arcane Eye has a casting time of 10 minutes.

(3) Put behind an S-block to avoid spoilers for those who have not read the installment yet: [sblock]
dragons_lair.gif
[/sblock]
 




handforged

First Post
I also have to say that I feel like we are getting somewhere now. I was pretty confused with all of the time hopping fights with Adder, except that maybe in the end they had to kill Adder to free Hurgun. I am glad to see Martin in on the fight against the dragon. I cannot wait to see how this goes, and then again, to see how it goes when they face her in the present. I hope that they are paying attention to details.

~hf
 

Manzanita

First Post
Gosh. I don't remember Scartesh at all. Did we figure out some of Bastion's past there? Sort of. But there's more to come with that, perhaps. Finally facing the dragon. Looking forward to this one. Perhaps we'll get an overview of how Hurgon was freed & what the consequences of that are.

I figured they'd fight the dragon in Hurgon's maze, or outside of it. Wasn't it attacking with an orc army as the KOTG were inside
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
Gosh. I don't remember Scartesh at all.

Well, he never appeared in the actual story hour before. He was mentioned in Session #88 by one of the orcs in the scouting party they rescued Gunthar from, and he did appear very briefly in Ratchis' background.

Manzanita said:
Did we figure out some of Bastion's past there? Sort of. But there's more to come with that, perhaps.

All we are ever going to get is allusions to Bastian and Scartesh's connection, though I think it can be figured out in light of Bastian's conversation with Roland in Topaline about his "desertion" of the Gothanian militia and his reasons for it.

Once the story hour is complete, it will be easier to figure out, though it is never outright discussed (that I remember).

Manzanita said:
Finally facing the dragon. Looking forward to this one. Perhaps we'll get an overview of how Hurgon was freed & what the consequences of that are.

Hurgun will be doing a lot of explaining and helping to wrap things up in the final session. :)

Manzanita said:
I figured they'd fight the dragon in Hurgon's maze, or outside of it. Wasn't it attacking with an orc army as the KOTG were inside

No, it was not with the orcish forces "attacking" the fortress outside. I put "attacking" in quotes because it becomes clear later that they were not really attacking.
 



el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #102 (part ii)

The roar was like nothing they had ever heard, as if the sound had already shaken its way out of the marrow of their bones before being echoed by the wyrm’s maw.

“Lords and Lady, please let my faith be a shield to protect me from that which was ever an enemy of our people,” Kazrack prayed as he moved towards the dragon.

“This isn’t how the bloody plan is supposed to work ” Gunthar explained, moving off to the right to take a wide approach to the stone island the dragon had landed on. She moved her great head back and forth to take them all in.

Ratchis ducked down in the murky water, so only his head from the nose up broke its surface, while Martin abandoned his casting of arcane eye and cast alter self instead, changing into his oft-used Tanweil form. He followed Ratchis’ example.

“Bast Bless us with your light ” Roland chanted, and suddenly he was glowing, illuminating the corner of the cave that held him and Ratchis and Martin.

“Intruders dare enter our domain again?” Glamorgana’s voice was sibilant. It snaked its way around the ears, and made the head swim. “The little ones serve us, but you. . . You all we shall devour ”

“We should spread out ” Bastian said.

“No Gather to me ” Ratchis said, sticking his head up and moving close to Martin. Roland splashed over there as well, waiting to cast his prayer spell when all his allies were in range. Bastian obeyed, but stopped when he saw the dragon reel back and then throw her head forward with a gasp. A noxious cloud of green vapor roiled over Kazrack and then unfolded over Martin, Ratchis and Roland. Gunthar had not listened to Ratchis’ call.

They cried out in alarm and Roland was able to leap clear of any real harm, but once again Ratchis called them back, hacking and tearing as the vapor clung to him. Martin saw the Wurfel Kraft in Ratchis’ hand and said, “Grapes ” (1) The lips of his current form giving him a sibilant tone as well. The Friar of Nephthys activated the cube as Martin stepped into its area, Roland followed suit with Bastian on his heels, but Gunthar approached carefully, coming around the long way, out of what he hoped was out of range of the dragon’s breath weapon. And Kazrack’s dwarven legs could not carry him back in time, for with another blast of fetid air from the wyrm came another cloud of gas, and the dwarf was nearly overcome, even though he was able to wrap a hand about his face and nose and duck most of the way down into the water.

Kazrack reached the others and called to his gods to protect Martin from evil. Gunthar changed direction and moved into the darkness towards the central island. Bastian moved to climb the rock beside them, and aid Kazrack make his way up as well.

“Oh Great Queen Bast Thou who art as powerful as thou art graceful I ask you to grant us the benefit of a prayer that we might over come this ancient serpent ” Roland chanted.

Martin and Roland were driven back by a splash, as suddenly the dragon was about ten feet away. The huge maw came in and Ratchis felt the long teeth grind against this back and sides, as the protection of the Bracers of Axo-Morë let him slide out without being torn in half.

Sagitta Igneus ” Martin cast, and two bolts of flame went flying at the dragon’s head, but she moved with great speed for a thing of her size, and easily avoided them. “Ratchis Gate ”

Still reeling from the ferocity of the attack, Ratchis pressed the side of the cube Martin the Green suggested, and the nearly invisible field, turned a bright light blue. The dragon bit and clawed at the cube with anger, but even her preternatural strength could not break through its magic. Frustrated, she was suddenly in the air again, landing with a splash near the solitary Gunthar.

“Oh sh*te ” Gunthar turned to run, but the dragon’s head slammed into his head and shoulders, sending him stumbling through the muck.

“She’s playing with us,” Roland growled softly.

Soon all but Gunthar were atop the six-foot high platform of stone, within the protection of the cube.

“We may not be able to defeat her,” Ratchis said.

“Gunthar is going to die ” Martin exclaimed. Roland cast cure critical wounds on Kazrack, and Martin followed up with bull’s strength on Roland. Ratchis cast divine favor.

“We need to rescue those gnomes ” Kazrack said.

“They have been here for a long time, and as much as it pains me to see them in captivity, we do them no good getting ourselves killed,” Ratchis said. “We should retreat and return another time.”

“Can we do that?” Bastian asked. “Hurgun made it sound like this was important somehow. . .”

“We have all the time in the world,” Roland replied. He might have smiled if he were not wearing a panther’s face.

“But we have to try to get Gunthar,” Ratchis said.

“Do we?” Kazrack asked, and Ratchis frowned.

Coordinating their efforts, the Keepers of the Gate rolled the cube into the murky water with a great splash, and made sluggish progress in the direction of the stepping stones leading up to the island where the gnomes still stood, shaking in silent fear.

Luckily for Gunthar, the dragon took off for the other side of the cavern when it heard the splash. The Neergaardian had suffered two deep claw punctures, and his shoulder had been worried by dragon teeth. He had withdrawn over and over again, stabbing at its face and breast whenever it got close, and then withdrawing again. None of Gunthar’s blows could cut through the wyrm’s scales, and finally he dove into the deep water and swam into a deep depression all about the large island. He struggled with the weight of his armor and gear, still clutching his short sword, and soon found himself atop a pile of copper and silver coins that filled that submerged area. He tried again and again to swim to the surface, feeling his lungs burn hotter and hotter. (2)

The Keepers of the Gate were startled by the sudden clatter of the dragon landing atop the cubic force field of the Wurfel Craft. “Sundial ” Martin said to Ratchis, and the half-orc quickly did it. As Roland cast aid on the still wounded Kazrack. “Attack ” the watch-mage cried. (3)

Bastian leapt and slammed the dragon the best he could with his hammer, but his blow was as ineffectual as Kazrack’s first halberd thrust (4), but the second wedged the head of the weapon into the muscle of a foreleg. Again, they felt the dragon’s roar reverberate through their bodies. Glamorgana leapt back off the cube, deftly and breathed her noxious breath again.

Ratchis and Bastian winced and fought to wipe their faces of the gas that ignored the force field altogether. Kazrack, Martin and Roland felt the burn as well, but were able to duck into the water before they had breathed in too much.

Roland cast protection from energy on himself, realizing the gaseous breath was caustic, not poisonous. Kazrack called to his gods to heal the worst of Ratchis’ wounds.

“Gunthar is dead,” the half-orc murmured.

“What?” asked Kazrack.

“The dragon came back and Gunthar is nowhere to be seen or heard,” Ratchis said. “He must be dead. We should retreat.”

Kazrack grunted his displeasure, but the group changed direction, willing the cube of force to head towards the vine-choked entrance to the cavern.

“Is this how it shall be?” the dragon hissed, and they closed their eyes to concentrate on pushing the cube along. “The intrepid heroes? The stalwart adventurers that enter the dragon’s lair, stick their little heads under their tortoise shell and roll their way home? Hmmm?”

“Do not listen to her,” Martin the Green warned. “Dragons are said to have the power of suggestion.”

“My goddess protects us,” Ratchis said.

The dragon landed between the Keepers of the Gate and the entrance, turning her body quickly, the reflection of Roland’s light spell shimmering off the rolling green and black scales.

“We can play this waiting game for a thousand years,” she laughed, and the laughter of a dragon was dreadful to hear, as if the sound rolled around and curdled in your stomach. The dragon took off again and landed atop the six foot high piece of stone the Keepers of the Gate had been on just a few moments before. They moved along at a snail’s pace.

“You know. . .” Martin began quietly, re-adjusting the stubby wings of his altered form nervously. “She might familiar with the Wurfel Kraft, and is waiting us out, knowing it cannot last long enough to get us very far. . .”

“We need to decide what we are doing ” Kazrack barked. “Are we fleeing or taking a stand?”

Oh valde venes autheo acha narro,” Glamorgana chanted, and the vines and roots in the entrance began to roil.

Ratchis sighed. After a heated whispered moment, they turned the cube and began to head back towards the dragon.

In the center of the cavern they heard Gunthar’s voice. He had managed to climb to the top of the depression and pull himself above the water, and while the dragon was preoccupied, he had made his way up to the center raised stone island.

“Hey Wormy I got your little gnome friends here I’m gonna have to kill them before I get to you ” He swung his sword over his head dramatically.

With a snap of her wings, Glamorgana took off once more, landing behind Gunthar and spinning around to bite him. The gnomes scurried out of the way, one of them shrieking in absolute fright. “Ya bitch. . .” Gunthar mumbled as teeth snapped on his arm and shoulder with great speed. He jerked himself free with a gush of blood, and collapsed onto the damp stone, dying. Glamorgana took to the air once more and landed right in front of the cube. The rest of the Keepers of the Gate had made some progress, but the cube slowed them down quite a bit, and they stopped to cast some healing spells, including one on Thomas who has been burned by the dragon’s caustic breath.

“Would it not make more sense to disengage the Wurfel Kraft now and attack?” Glamorgana asked, pointing her remarks towards Ratchis. The half-orc snarled feeling the enchantment of her suggestion wash over him harmlessly.

“We’re going to have to get closer,” Martin whispered to the others. They moved towards the dragon, trying to make towards the stepping stones, but she continued to shift over, just out of reach, but ready with her deadly bite.

Sagitta Magicus!” the dragon chanted and three arrows of light slammed into the cube and dissipated. She roared in frustration. The Keepers of the Gate moved again, and again Glamorgana shifted over to block their progress. They stopped to allow Martin the Green to cast greater invisibility on Ratchis. Roland cast divine favor. And then they moved right into the dragon, as Martin having taken over control of the cube changed it to only keep out living matter. There was a flurry of weapons, trying to reach through the field at Glamorgana, as she gnawed and clawed at it to no avail. She snarled and leapt back when Kazrack’s halberd found a weak spot in her scales and drew steaming green blood that spattered on the cube and then dripped through a half a moment later.

Martin chanted an arcane word and a sickly green ray flew from his finger and struck the dragon. She suddenly drooped and fell back even further, her wings dragging through the murky water, as she found her great strength greatly diminished. (4)

“Let me out of the cube! I will fell this dragon myself!” Kazrack barked, frustrated with his inability to follow up on his attacks.

Sagitta Magicus!” the dragon chanted again, and this time the magic missiles struck Kazrack in the chest. The party moved forward, with Bastian taking hold of the the Wurfel Kraft at Martin’s behest. The dragon retreated once more and sent three more arrows of light into Kazrack. Bastian pressed the side of the stone cube depicting a bunch of grapes and the cube’s brightness and azure tone dimmed. Ratchis and Kazrack charged with a choral roar.

Martin began an elaborate somatic dance, tracing a circle in the water as he chanted loudly.

Kazrack grimaced as the dragon slammed her head into his charging form, but he was able to turn and cut her deeply on the neck. Glamorgana moved with unnatural alacrity, lifting a claw to smack away Ratchis and avoiding his great sword, even as she used the momentum to rear up and avoid Roland’s pounce at her head.

There was a blast of white light as a great white glowing bison, six feet at the shoulder appeared and charged at the dragon, leaving a wake in the muck. Roaring with pain and anger, Glamorgana took off once again and landed atop the island. A short bark was all it took for the gnomes to fall in line in front of her again. Gunthar continued to bleed out beneath her.

She sucked in and then let out a blossoming plume of her caustic breath. Kazrack and Ratchis cried out in pain from the burns once again, while Martin ducked as quickly as he could into the water. He felt Thomas spasm beneath his hood and then felt the sharp inner agony of his familiar’s death. His arcane power was diminished and he collapsed in the water letting out a sob. (5) He had been casting another summoning spell, but it was disrupted.

The dragon began creeping across the stepping stones as quickly as she could, making for a natural stone corridor they could now see winding into the darkness of the deep left portion of the cavern. She was leaving a trail of green blood behind her, dragging her tail as if crippled. The lip up to where she went was about four feet above Ratchis’ head..

“Oh Great Queen Bast, thou who art as powerful as thou art graceful, smite this wyrm with a column of you holy flame![/I] Roland prayed, and a pillar of flame appeared from the darkness above engulfing the dragon. When the smoke and steam cleared the dragon emerged untouched. The spell could not get through its draconic resistance to magic.

Bastian fired a crossbow bolt that went wide of the escaping dragon, as Ratchis and Kazrack cast healing spells upon themselves. Ratchis followed this up with a spell on Kazrack, as the dwarf was still looking seriously wounded.

Glamorgana hurried into deeper into the passageway, and while they could see her tail still emerging from the darkness, the rest of her was obscured. They heard the breaking of glass.

“She has a whole cabinet of potions back there!” One of the gnomes cried. “She can chew through glass as if it were bread!”

“Potions? She’s healing herself!” Martin croaked as he took to the air, his stubby wings flapping furiously. He came down on the raised shelf, as Ratchis, still invisible, pulled himself up beside him. Roland leapt up onto the shelf easily, and snapped his jaws at Kazrack’s cloak to help the struggling dwarf up. Kazrack kicked futilely. Bastian made it up as Martin began his emphatic casting of a summoning spell once again, and the bearded warrior turned to help Roland pull up Kazrack, but still they struggled, the dwarf’s eagerness undermining his potential success.

Glamorgana whirled around with a roar and charged at Martin the Green. The watch-mage ducked in time with his casting, never losing his rhythm, and another celestial bison appeared, even as the dragon pulled away from the chop of Ratchis’ dragon-hilted masterwork greatsword. The bison charged right by, missing the wyrm completely. It bellowed as the dragon clawed it deeply.

Ratchis thought he could use the distraction to move within the dragon’s defense, but miscalculated, feeling the claws and bite rip into him. Being invisible seemed to prove no help against this foe. “Sagitta Igneus ” Martin chanted, he pulled his hand away nervously as he released the spell remembering that an invisible Ratchis was engaged with his target. The flame arrow went wide. The second fiery bolt dissipated as it struck the dragon. She brought her claws down on Ratchis once again, but the Friar of Nephthys would not withdraw even as he felt sore muscles tear and his blood seep from him. He drove his sword deep into the left side of the dragon’s breast. She reared up again, and the sword was drawn out leaving a ragged wound. Ratchis flicked the blade up with wrists, catching her under the snout, sending a cascade of steaming green blood all over them.

Her screaming roar was like nothing they had ever heard.

Kazrack finally made it up, dragging himself over the lip onto his stomach and scrambling to get to his feet. Roland turned away from the dwarf and to lay another curing spell on Ratchis, as the dragon withdrew once again, but he could not find the half-orc.

They heard the tell-tale deep inhale before the stinging breath of the dragon was all over them again. Kazrack swayed and fell, but on the edge of death, Ratchis charged. He leapt over the monster’s head as he brought his sword down with a powerful hack on one of her haunches. Once again she reared up, but Ratchis was ready, putting his sword up to catch her with the tip of it where her head met the body. There was a tearing sound of sinew and muscle and a rain of green blood as she came down, her own weight helping the blade cut her tough flesh.

The half-orc took three hurried steps back as the huge form of the dragon collapsed with a final breath.

The Keepers of the Gate let out a cheer, even as Roland brought Kazrack back to consciousness with a spell, but the cheer quickly died. The dead form of the dragon began to change and melt. In a moment it was a pile of vaguely dragon-shaped ice and snow, and then it was a puddle with tiny dissipating crystals shining in the light of Roland’s spell. (6)

“Oh, no. . .” Martin the Green gasped, recognizing what he saw. “That was not the real dragon. . . We are so dead. . .”

Suddenly, they were falling through an infinite plane of blue and white, their senses warping and their minds reeling until they were eager for the coming unconsciousness.
-------------------------------------------------------
Notes:
(1) Pressing the side of the stone cube that depicts a bunch of grapes creates a force field that keeps out gases, wind, etc. . .

(2) DM’s Note: Gunthar failed a swim check two rounds in a row.

(3) Pressing the side of the stone cube that depicts a sundial keeps put all living matter, allowing weapons to go through.

(4) DM’s Note: Martin’s ray of enfeeblement drained 8 points of the dragon’s strength.

(5) DM’s Note: Martin failed his saving throw, losing 2000 XP, which dropped him to 9th level.

(6) DM’s Note: This battle took 43 rounds.
 
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Scider

First Post
A simulacrum! Man, that's bitter!
I am more than curious what Hurgun has to say about this...a warning how things might end if they are not careful about the simulacrum in the future, perhaps?
 

BlackCat

Explorer
Gold Roger said:
Noooooo! Not Thomas!
LOL I think that was the reaction around the table. It's funny how familiars, when done right, become total characters unto themselves. I think that Thomas was really the perhaps unmentioned last member of the Keepers of the Gate. It was unfortunate that moments like these make that clear.
 

Richard Rawen

First Post
*shakes head sadly* goodbye Thomas.

SO... a simulacrum... where does that leave the KotG exactly?

Truly I have stopped hazzarding guesses, my legendarily mediocre plot guessing skills are overmatched =-P heh heh
 

Manzanita

First Post
A Simulacrum. Interesting. I had to go look up the spell. Yes - they're screwed. Or would be. Looks like something else happened there in the end. It's all a bit weird here. I wonder if that really is the end of Thomas.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Last night I wrote up the first 3 pages of what will prove to be the second to last installment of this story hour, as the very last session was short enough that it will likely be covered in one installment (and not counting the two "reunion" sessions, of course).
 

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