Piratecat's Updated Story Hour! (update 4/03 and 4/06)

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Sialia

First Post
There are two thigns I recall aboutthevisit to the Seer. One was that itoccurred just after Dylrath got his "knowing when he's being watched" talent, and he almost passed out when we were first surrounded by the about 200 Elves who live in that wood.

The other was that in order to get access to the Seer we had to answer a whole battery of questions to prove ourselves, and that the importnat question we all had to answer was soemthign to the effect of "what is the most valuable treasure?"

And though we each had to answer for ourselves, and in our own words, the consensus was remarkable. Every one of us, with a great deal of sincerity and in our own unique way said soemthing that meant "information."

It was at aboutthis point that Dylrath realized that he wanted to be a Diviner more than anything. He was a level or two shy of completing his mastery level in roguing,which would at last free him from his apprentice contract. And suddenly, he didn't really want to be a rogue anymore.
 

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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
The Council Meeting went better than anyone expected.

Although Judge Daver argued that the group would serve Eversink more effectively as slaves, the Council overruled him and granted the enslaved members of the group their freedom. The Defenders were publicly thanked for their service and granted full citizenship within Eversink, with all the rights and responsibilities therein. In an unheard of overture, the Council also offered to purchase the group a house to live in, either within or outside of Eversink. Everyone started to smile at the offer of “outside,” as they realized that their enforced visit to the sinking city was now officially over.

Tao was offered a no-strings-attached price for the prison she inherited, and she accepted. Even more surprisingly, the Council asked Sharala Clearwater to step in as the pro tempore head of House Clearwater, “until Lord Griggan has sufficiently resumed control of his mental facilities.” Shara smiled disarmingly at that, and promised to do everything in her power to speed his recovery. Heh. Fate is smiling on the Defenders, and as they step out onto the ancient stone walkway outside of the council building, they realize that Tellingstone did his job; nothing more is holding them here in Eversink.

Passersby eye them strangely as the group bursts into excited laughter, cheering and praise for their lawyer.

TomTom snaps his fingers. “We invested a lot of money on the basis of our involvement in the city, and the ultimate fate of the prison,” he says. “I better go cash in before the Commodity Exchange receives word of the results.” He flags down a passing gondola and hurries off, whistling merrily.

The rest of the group heads back to the Temple. As they walk past the massive pillars supporting the entrance, Raevynn suddenly freezes in place. She shimmers in a rainbow of unearthly colors, and vanishes in a cascading prism of light. “What the hell was that?” shouts several people, and multiple weapons are drawn as acolytes scurry for cover.

Malachite and Mara scan the room. “No evil,” says Mara. “No undead,” confirms Malachite. There’s a pause. “No enemies,” says Nolin wonderingly, as he looks around mystified. “What just happened to Raevynn?”

Agar looks concerned. “It could be a temporal rebound,” he thinks aloud. Suddenly his eyes are gleaming with inquisitive excitement. “It’s unlikely, but it’s possible that Raevynn hasn’t fully synchronized with this plane after returning from the Citadel of Kodali’s Retreat. If so, theoretically, she may have just been whipped the other way in time. Remarkable!” He sucks on his pipe, blowing idle smoke rings as his mind works feverishly.

“So what does that mean?” asks Tao. “And why didn’t you warn us of this?”

“I didn’t know it could happen! It certainly hasn’t been mentioned in any of the tales I’ve heard of the place.” He looks at Nolin for confirmation, and the flame-haired bard nods in agreement. “If I’m correct, she should be perfectly safe. Previously, we were in a plane where time has speeded up. Since I predicate that she slid the other way, now she’ll most likely be in a temporal fluidity that moves incredibly slowly. I expect that she’ll eventually slide back here and not know that any time has passed at all.”

“Eventually?” asks Velendo, both irritated and worried. “When is ‘eventually’? And where will she arrive?”

“I’m not quite sure yet,” answers Agar, sounding more confident with every sentence. “She’s like a pendulum that’s swung a bit too far. Her natural entropy will return her. I expect that she’ll either return to where she was, or she’ll be drawn to me, since I’m the one who cast the plane shift in the first place.”

“Well,” says Mara reluctantly, “as long as she’s safe.” Malachite simply keeps quiet; he’s never trusted Raevynn, considering her to be incredibly dangerous and unpredictable. To him, her temporary loss is the party’s gain.

Nolin looks out the window at the angle of the sun. “Say,” he interrupts worriedly. “Does anything else think that we should check on TomTom?”

* * *

Nolin’s suspicions are correct. Before he ever reached the Commodities Exchange, TomTom simply disappeared. A witness who had been standing next to him is found in a tavern, describing the prismatic effect to anyone willing to buy him a goblet of wine. Sadly, TomTom was the only one who knew about the Defenders’ investments, and with a heavy sigh the group gives up the money as a lost cause. “I’ll miss him!” remarks Agar. “You can never have too many halflings in a group.”

To be continued….

  • You’ve guessed it, of course. Raevynn’s player has moved to Las Vegas, and TomTom’s player (Tremere) is on hiatus with a beautiful new daughter. This little DM-ex-machina allows me to pop either one of them in on a moment’s notice, and pop them out again afterwards. All without breaking the plot!
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
“Time to find out what happened to Saint Aleax,” remarks Mara grimly. She checks the polish of her armor, the sheen on her holy symbol, the placement of her holy mace Lightbinder. Then she tugs her long blond hair back into a ponytail and turns her blue, blue eyes on Malachite. “Coming?” she asks. Malachite simply nods, and Tao teleports the three of them thousands of miles across the continent to the genie-built trading city of Corsai.

They appear in the horse-trodden plain outside of Corsai’s massive iron gates, the smell of dust and incense and heat filling their nostrils. They quickly make their way past the scarlet-robed Redeemers guarding the gate, and move through the blazing heat into the heart of the city.

“Go on,” Malachite says to Mara. “I’ll wait here.” He and Tao settle in the stark shadow of an awning next to a wine cart, and Mara mounts the beggar-clogged stairs up to the temple entrance. She immediately notices that something is wrong; for the first time in her memory, the golden portals to the temple are swung closed.

A golden robed acolyte meets her at the head of the stairs. “I’m sorry, holy sister,” he says in a voice that hasn’t yet seen the far side of puberty. “The temple is sealed. There are many other shrines in the city for you to worship at, however.” He offers her a hand-copied map and smiles hopefully.

“Err, thank you so much,” starts Mara, and upon hearing her voice the boy realizes that he’s not just speaking to some traveling knight. His eyes never leave her face as she continues. “It’s really important that I speak to an Elder of the Church. Is Father Whalter there? Is anyone allowed inside?”

“No,” squeaks the boy. As Mara’s eyes bore into him, he continues awkwardly, “Well, I think Father Whalter is with the Elders. And some of the clerics are allowed in to continue their duties, and some of the cooks and cleaning staff are allowed in, but no regular services are being held. The Elders are all sealed in the Chamber of the Sun.” His voice drops in reverence. “Saint Aleax has ascended into heaven to serve Our Lord Aeos, you see, and they are praying over this miracle. You know, deciding what it means for the church!” The boy swallows dryly. Despite the fact that worshippers of Aeos are seldom bothered by the heat, a trickle of sweat cuts its way down the side of his nose as he looks up at the beautiful paladin.

“Well, that’s interesting!” says Mara encouragingly. “I wonder if they’d be interesting in what Aeos said to me yesterday.”

“What Aeos said…?” The boy looks at her in confusion. “You mean, in prayer, right?”

“Oh, no,” says Mara ingenuously. “When he appeared to me in a pillar of sunlight. He said some interesting things about Saint Aleax, and I thought that the Clarion and the other high priests might be interested in knowing about it.” She smiles conspiratorially, and the boy’s jaw drops.

“Will you… excuse… be right back!” He dashes away, robes flapping, and Mara folds her hands in front of her and waits patiently with a half smile on her face. He returns in a moment with an older cleric, and Mara explains herself once again. His face wrinkled with worry, the man decides to take responsibility for breaking rules, and leads Mara to a tiny side entrance. Unveiling a ponderous iron key, he unlocks the small door, and Mara steps through the door. With one step, she leaves the heat and bustle of Corsai outside, and steps into the cool perfumed silence of the Mother Church.

It’s amazing how empty it is. Occasionally distant footsteps echo across the stone floors, and once a distant gong rings out, but there is almost no one in the building. Mara’s guide leads her to another cleric who asks her once again for her story, and she patiently repeats it as a scribe silently records her every word. Shocked, this cleric leaves her to find his superior. Mara wanders a bit as she waits, watching the play of the sun as it comes through the crystal skylights, watching the reflections on the altar of Aeos in the central chapel. A gilded and jeweled statue of the God towers above the alter, armed with the golden sword and shield of his faith. It shines in the silent room, and Mara can’t help but think that the representation doesn’t look much like the tower of flame that overcame her. She can still feel the glorious heat on her skin and hear the angels singing every time she closes her eyes.

The sound of footsteps breaks her out of her reverie. “They will see you, Commander,” says the cleric in an incredulous tone. “Please follow me.” He leads the way to the exact center of the building, to a vast golden door shaped like the sun. The cleric approaches and prays silently on his knees, and as he does so the metal turns into golden, opaque light. “Enter,” he suggests, and Mara walks through the door and into the light.

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Mara walks into the wooden and crystal room as the door solidifies behind her. Pure sunlight plays across the fourteen or so church elders seated in a semi-circle in front of her. Father Whalter catches her eyes and winks insouciantly at her, a little grin playing across his round face. In the center of the Elders is The Clarion. Mara’s never seen the Holy Embodiment of the Sun before; he turns out to be a dark-skinned man in simple golden and white robes, younger than she would have thought, pale hair pulled back from his face. His voice is strong and gripping, and leaves no doubt of his authority.

“Commander Mara Thornhill. I welcome you to the Council of Elders. You are seeing a rare event; the Gates of the Sun are normally only closed when the time comes to appoint a new Clarion, and outsiders are never allowed within.” He looks around and catches Father Whalter’s eye. “I think, though, that we know enough to break our own rules when Our God demands it. I understand you have a story to tell.”

Once again, Mara begins to talk. She tells of the divinations and clues that led them to suspect Saint Aleax. She tells of Sir Malachite’s dilemma, and his distress in the schism within the church. She speaks at length of the Imbindarlan threat, of the appearance of Aeos and what he said, and of the Divine Battle that followed. The clerics interrupt her periodically, asking questions. Finally, she finishes, her throat dry.

The church elders consider her. “Astonishing,” says the Clarion. “You have truly been blessed, and you do our Father’s work. We will have to consider what this means, of course, for the theological ramaifications are… significant. You say that Saint Aleax no longer inhabits Malachite’s sword?” Mara notices that the Clarion deliberately leaves off Malachite’s honorific, but answers in the affirmative as she thinks of the good-natured leer in Karthos’ voice.

“Yes, your Holiness. It’s definitely a different personality, with no trace of Aleax.”

“I see.” He leans forward a bit, frowning. “I’m glad you have told us this. Our Lord God did not bodily visit here. Saint Aleax was attending services in a private chapel when he ascended in a pillar of fire, carried by the angels themselves. What you’ve said, if accurate, casts a different shadow on what has occurred.”

The Clarion looks around. “You will excuse us, please,” he says politely, and silence falls around Mara like a heavy blanket. She can see the church elders talking, but she can hear nothing. After some minutes, the silence lifts, and the Clarion looks at her gravely. “You’ve made the importance of your mission against the White Kingdom quite clear. You are to continue with the task as given to you by Aeos,” he says. “You may associate with Malachite in this endeavor. You may be aided by further forces of Aeos; that will be determined by our conference here. In any event, I encourage you to keep Father Whalter informed as to your progress and location.” Mara glances at Whalter, who gives an encouraging little nod.

The Clarion continues. “We are all agreed. It is essential that you do not yet discuss the details of Saint Aleax’s ascension with the faithful.. or with anyone else, for that matter. It is a private matter that must remain secret. Dissension in the church right now, at this stage, could rip us in two, and we must be very careful how we proceed. I understand that you are friends with a famous and influential bard, Commander. Make sure he knows this.” Mara nods. Then the Clarion pins Mara with his gaze and asks the question she was dreading.

"You know that Malachite is a wanted criminal by the Church. Why didn't you arrest him when you had the chance?"

Mara feels all of the blood drain from her face, and she tries to think of an honest answer that won't condemn her for insubordination and contempt. "Well, we have fought together and prayed together, and he is extremely faithful to Aeos, and... well... I had to do my duty to our God as best as I could, and to do that I had to make my own judgement of his character. I decided that he was doing more good for Aeos out of prison than in it. I had him under arrest, but...." she stumbles, but catches herself, and her voice regains its strength. "but I did my duty as I saw it. I judged his character and made a decision. I think it was the right one." She finishes knowing that she's doomed herself by her actions with Malachite, but that she would make the same decision again.

The Clarion's eyebrows draw together as he weighs Mara's somewhat disjointed answer. “That's not what I would have done, or what many here would have done. But it was done well." Mara looks at the Elders with amazement as he continues. "It's clear you serve your God and the Church, Commander Thornhill. You should be proud.” The Clarion says it in a way that suggests that they’re certainly proud of her, and Mara bows her head and turns to go as she blushes. “Oh, by the way,” adds the Clarion as he scribbles something on a sheet of paper. “Give this to someone as you leave.” He holds the sealed note out to her, and Mara takes it with a questioning look. Turning again, she leaves the room.

Her footsteps echo in the empty corridors, and soon the cleric who escorted her up to the Chamber of the Sun hurries to her side. He looks at her questioningly, not daring to ask, and Mara doesn’t offer.

They are walking through the outer temple before Mara remembers the note. “Oh, I was supposed to give this to someone!” she exclaims, and hands the sealed note to the cleric. He looks at it questioningly, tears it open, and reads what’s inside. Mara can’t see what it says, but she does see the man’s eyes bulge. “What is it?” she asks, but the man doesn’t answer as he looks at her with newfound awe and respect.

“This way,” he just says, and turns on his heels. They walk into the central chapel, Mara trailing behind the cleric as he strides towards the nave and the statue of Aeos that dominates the room. Her mouth drops open as the cleric drags a bench over to statue, clambers up onto it, and reaches up to the golden shield that adorns the arm of the statue. The cleric gives the glowing shield a slight wrench, and it slips off into his grasp. Dumbstruck, Mara just stands there as the cleric climbs down, turns, and presents the shield to Mara.

“But it… that’s….” is all she can say. The cleric just shrugs, amazed as well, and Mara slips the large shield onto her forearm. It feels right there, perfectly balanced and warm against her armor, and she can’t help the huge grin that lights up her face.

To be continued….
 
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KidCthulhu

First Post
Sito Rotavele said:


Responsibilities?? to Eversink??? Please someone tell me TomTom read the fine print on that one before he vanished in a puff of logic.

We didn't even need Tom-Tom for that one. Nolin, Velendo and Tao all realized the enormous tax revenue inherent in that little proposition. 'Sink may not want us to play in their sandbox anymore, but they certainly do want some nice, rich property owning adventurers to be filing tax reports as residents.

Silly Rabbits. Trix are for kids and taxes are for people who can't afford homes in Sigil.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Want some summer reading? The story hours which begin when the group reaches Eversink (and which end with Nolin's kidnapping) have been collected and set up for downloading. The link to the zipped Word document is below, in the first post of this thread, and on the front page of today's news. Bear with the first few pages, though; it's pretty rough until I hit my stride about page 10! :) Ever wonder how Tao ended up with a prison, or why the group is enslaved to the council of Eversink, or what "blood leeching" is? This has all the answers!

http://www.d20reviews.com/StoryHours/PC1.zip
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Bandeeto said:

Now, another point. The stone was a large boulder, the size of a hefty cauldron. Under normal circumstances, Velendo could not have even picked it up. However, the enchantment of the stone permitted the user to realign lines of gravitational force. At Velendo’s command the stone weighed less than a feather. We strapped it to his back with a large sash.


This seems like a convenient excuse for linking more of Littlejohn's art.

Velendo and the Stone
valendo_stone.jpg


You have to love the image of waving to the passing hay wagon in this picture. I'd like to know what the wagon driver is thinking.

I have a wonderful memory of a fight six years ago, when aerial creatures tried to kill Velendo and steal the Damming Stone. Velendo tried to use the stone, messed up, and disconnected himself from the earth. He was more than a thousand feet up by the time he reestablished gravity....

At which point he plummeted.

Slowed slightly by Arcade's solid fog, Velendo bailed out 50' from the ground by using his rod of security to instead plunge into a deep mountain lake in Haven, his God's paradise. The Damming Stone wasn't as lucky. Tied to the Prime Material, it continued its plunge, hurtling like a meteor into the midst of the Defenders and their enemies. It left a 15' deep crater in the middle of a small unsuspecting town that the Defenders were passing through at the time, and was an absolute bugger to uncover after the fight. :D
 
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Eridanis

Bard 7/Mod (ret) 10/Mgr 3
Piratecat said:
TomTom's player isn't leaving - we love him, and he adds an amazing amount to the group when he can come - but with a new daughter there are a whole lot more demands on his time than there was before. I've set it up so that any time he can come, TomTom will be there waiting for him, and in the mean time I don't have to keep track of a complex character!

For the moment, at least, the PCs seem to be leaving Eversink behind them. That doesn't mean that politics will disappear as they drop into an endless dungeon crawl; I'd like to think that I'm at least a little sneakier than that. But the focus will certainly change as they set out on their quest to break the spine of the White Kingdom!

This marks quite a turning point for those of us who read the story hour, not to mention for the campaign (TomTom was the last original character still actively played, correct?). The whole SH has been based in Eversink, and now we move on.

Congrats to TomTom's player, too. As a recently new father myself, I tell you that nothing beats spending time with wife and child. (However, being able to get out once a week to game is a very good aid to keeping one's sanity - make sure Mrs. TomTom has a chance to get out, too!) No time like the present to start filling a child's head with history, literature, math, and an appreciation for all things geeky, like games and computers. :)
 

Sialia

First Post
Somebody tell me you guys remembered to take care of that trade agreement His Majesty was concerned about? Please tell me that. I have reports to file, and I do like sticking as close to the truth as possible, when possible.

-'Rath
 

KidCthulhu

First Post
Sialia said:
Somebody tell me you guys remembered to take care of that trade agreement

-'Rath

Actually, our mission was not to negotiate a trade agreement. There's a whole crack precision diplomatic bun fighting team in 'Sink for that. Our job was to escort the Flowstone (check) and to serve as extraordinary embassadors to the trade mission (check). We were to impress the populace and jaded nobles of 'Sink with our power and rustic charm (check). We were not to kill anyone important (nope and nope). The king is far too wise to entrust us with anything as delicate as actual trade negotiations.

We were the parade and cultural festival, here to bring demonstrate the raditional Gauntian pastimes of disrupting political heirarchies and landmark defacement. At least we didn't have to wear leiderhosen. Velendo doesn't have the knees for it.
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Hey Piratecat,

You know, I was just about to ask about maps but, wouldn't you know, someone beat me to it. It's too bad you don't have the world in electronic format, I'd love to see it.

I just started reading your Story Hour (the rtf file) and have been blown away by what I've read so far. Then I saw David Hendee's art thread and was blown away again.

Having someone do artwork for your campaign world is so mind blowing, isn't it? I know the feeling. A guy I met over the Internet (he's from Sweden) has done some artwork for my World of Kulan campaign. It was an agreement he and I came to when I put out a call for amateur artists to do just that. I hope you don't mind me highjacking this thread for a second but I just can't help plugging my website and his artwork.

-------
Warduke: Fantasy Artist (at The Crossroads)
http://www.geocities.com/rielun/wd-art.html

Walk the Road - My RPG Campaigns' Website
http://www.geocities.com/rielun/campaignsframe.htm
-------

As for you undigitized map, how big is it? Do you have access to a scanner? If so, you could scan parts of it that relate to the StoryHour.

Ooh, just had a brainstorm, what if EN World puts together a group of members with Campaign Cartographer 2 and each of these members is assigned a section of the map, which would be sent to them as scanned images. These members could then help build your world digitally.

Of course, there would have to be guidelines, which ensures that everyone use the same symbols, fonts, etc. Maybe you could create a rough overall world map first, which would be the basis for al future maps created by the En World mappers.

What does everone think? Could this realistically work?

Later,

Robert Blezard
rblezard@telusplanet.net
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Malachite and Tao are still waiting for Mara when she emerges, and Malachite is silent as Mara relates everything that happened. “Can you get me inside?” he asks grimly.

“Well, I don’t know,” says Mara in a worried tone of voice. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. You’re still a wanted man.” She glances back up at the temple.

“It doesn’t matter. I need to speak to them.” Seeing Mara still staring at him in confusion, he adds in a low voice, “Please. I may not have another chance, and some things need to be said.” Mara nods, perhaps surprised that Malachite is deferring to her, and she turns and leads the way back to the Temple.

Stepping around beggars in the late afternoon sunlight, they climb the steps. The same young man meets them at the main doors. Mara cuts him off before he can say anything. “This man also saw Aeos. The Elders will want to see him.” In a remarkably short amount of time both paladins are inside the temple. The cleric and scribe hear Malachite’s story and his request to speak to the Clarion, and within an hour of entering the church both Mara and Malachite step into the sacred Chamber of the Sun. They find themselves before the council of church elders. Each of the clerics has a scroll unrolled before them, most likely Malachite’s account of his vision of Aeos.

His dark skin luminous in the late afternoon sunlight, the Clarion looks at Malachite, both judging and measuring him with his stare. Finally the Clarion speaks. His calm voice is resonant in the silent chamber. “Welcome, child. I regret the division that has severed your Order from the Church, but I am pleased to see that Aeos has not turned His gaze from you. You do not walk in shadow, despite rumors to the contrary.” He leans back, never dropping his gaze. “Your comrade has vouched for you. Why are you here?”

Malachite sighs. “Your Holiness, I am a servant of our God more than I am a servant of the Church. Despite this, I know that now more than ever it is essential that the rift in the Church be healed. I fear that divided we will not be able to withstand what we could weather united.”

“Indeed?” A note of anger creeps into the Clarion’s voice. “It is a shame that this did not occur to your General before he chose to rebel against the Divine Decree.” They lock eyes. Malachite diplomatically doesn’t mention that the Decree was influenced by ghoulish interference, but the knowledge hangs between them like a lead weight. The Clarion sighs and smiles slightly, and Malachite continues.

“Aleax has been brought into heaven to be cleansed of any inadvertent taint. There is an opportunity here, your Holiness, and this is my last chance to urge you to seize it. I would see the church healed before I die.”

A cleric to the Clarion’s left speaks up. “Before you die?” the old man says as he chuckles sarcastically. “You look healthy enough.”

“I am going into the White Kingdom.” Malachite shrugs his wide shoulders. “You know what that means. I don’t expect to return.”

The old cleric’s chuckling trails off awkwardly. Silence fills the room.

The Clarion leans forward. “You deserve some answers, Malachite. Sir Malachite.” He corrects himself, and the other clerics look at him in surprise. “It is not as simple as decreeing that what has gone before is now void, and the Knights of the Emerald Chapel are once again lit by the radiance of the Church.”

“It’s not, your Holiness?” Malachite asks respectfully – if in a disbelieving tone.

The Clarion’s voice is firm. “It’s not. Morale is a fragile thing, Sir Malachite. I don’t believe you have ever commanded a great number of troops.” Malachite shakes his head. “Commander Thornhill has. She could tell you that a soldier who believes that he or she is fighting in a just cause is worth ten soldiers who believe their cause is doomed or misguided. They fight harder and longer, and they triumph where others might run.”

The Clarion taps the table with one long finger. “Whatever we in this room may know of him, Saint Aleax is considered by our church’s worshippers to be a messenger of God himself. Our armies would have followed him to the Gates of Hell, and now that he is believed to have ascended they would follow his memory into Hell itself. They know that they are blessed, that God is with them, and they fight for a just cause. They will not know fear, because they are the Army of Saint Aleax, and none will stand before them.” The Clarion sweeps his arm towards the wall, towards the army unseen in the dusty plain beyond the city. “Saint Aleax formed that army to destroy the necromancers, and they will triumph, because they are certain it is the will of God.”

His voice drops. “Now, imagine the effect if we tell them differently. ‘No,’ we’ll say. ‘Your beloved Saint Aleax was an unwitting tool of undead, and we don’t want you to destroy the threat he believed in. Everything he told you, that the Church told you, may be a lie. Instead, we want you to march into the tunnels beneath the earth thousands of miles from here to confront flesh-eating ghouls. In the mean time, we’ll just leave the Necromancer Kings who threaten our cities and our families alone.’ Imagine how that will affect their morale.” The Clarion looks at Malachite and Mara with eyes like chips of ice. “Imagine, even, the confusion if we suddenly reverse our position on the Order of the Emerald Chapel. Contradicting the unliving Saint days after his ascension could destroy us all.” The Clarion sighs. “So we move cautiously, Sir Malachite. We say that we hope for a resolution between your disbanded chapel and the Mother Church. We cautiously make overtures towards your exiled General. We welcome into the church any of your number who wish to be welcomed – not as Knights, not yet, but as soldiers of God who despise the undead and everything they stand for. And when we can, if we can, we find those who might volunteer for… additional duty… far to the east.”

Malachite silently nods his head.

The Clarion continues, his voice heavy. “It won’t happen today, or tomorrow, or next week. But I foresee a time of healing, Sir Malachite, if we can work past our pride to engineer it. I assure you, nothing would please us more.” The high priest smiles a tired smile. “Perhaps you could deliver such a message to your General… as you go with the blessings of God.”

Sir Malachite nods again, and he and Mara turn to leave.

To be continued….
 


coyote6

Adventurer
Tony Vargas said:
Against the forces of politics the gods themselves contend in vain.

Hey, who do you think invented politics? :)

Look at the pantheon -- the goddess of treachery imprisoned the primordial big bads, and the good sun god's kid tried to free 'em. Divine family politics.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Back in Eversink, the group uses a commune to try and determine the most efficient path into the Underdark. Tao’s goddess Galanna indicates that going through the abandoned dwarven city of Tuz’zud is the most efficient path. The group decides to take a different path, however, based on intelligence and maps compiled by their friend Claris during her scouting missions of the last few months.

The group gathers their supplies, settles their debts, hitches up their packs, say their goodbyes, and finally march out the southern gates onto the Swamp Road. With their dwarven friend Splinder Camberlorn and his force of thirty dwarves accompanying them, the Defenders of Daybreak prepare to leave the city of Eversink behind them.

Their departure isn’t entirely unheralded. Several dozen attractive maidens gather at the gates, waving at Nolin and cheering the group on as they offer lace handkerchiefs and other favors of affection; Belissa Fishsong (their intermediary with the Council of Eversink) is amongst them, teary-eyed and broken-hearted. Some of the group’s political enemies such as the Stormcrowns are also there, eagerly hoping to see the group’s actual departure with their own eyes. Nolin buys a sausage on a stick from a vendor, kisses a few hands, and then the heroes make their way out of the city.

Once on the road, the omens are good. A cool breeze blows at their back, keeping away the ever-present mosquitoes and biting flies of the swamp, and fluffy clouds scud overhead in the bright autumn sunlight as birds swoop through the air. It’s a good day to be alive. Nolin blows his nose in Belissa’s handkerchief and thinks about how pleased he is to be out of ‘Sink.

Four days of marching later, the 40-person force veers off the road and heads into forested hills. The map obtained by Nolin turns out to be accurate when the group is stopped by an unseen voice. “Who are you, and are you friend or foe?” pipes the hidden sentry from the bracken next to the trail.

“Friend,” answers Nolin. “We were sent by the gnomes of Pellangin who have found refuge in the human city of Eversink. We plan to venture into the tunnels and liberate Pellangin and the dwarvish city of Mrid from the ghouls of the White Kingdom. If we can, we will take the fight to the White Kingdom itself.” Nolin bows politely. “If you’ll allow us to pass, of course.”

A half-dozen armed gnomes appear from the underbrush, and a fellow with a bald head and large nose saunters forward and looks up at the Defenders with a mixture of awe and hopeful disbelief. “You will, huh? Well, my friend, I think you’re lacking some troops for that, but who am I to say? I’ll take you to the village.” Hopping atop a trained riding badger, the gnome leads the group up into the hills.

A few hours later, they top a small ridge and see a lovely gnomish town laid out beneath them. “Welcome to Candle Ridge,” says their guide, and they descend the hill to the accompaniment of a small stream that burbles happily beside them.

The group soon meets with the gnomish King in exile, Clanking Doriklath, a wrinkled and ancient deep gnome with fading eyesight but a keen mind. Doriklath offers them a company of gnomish troops, but the Defenders decline his offer. “Just a good scout,” Velendo requests, and soon they are introduced to a short and stocky deep gnome named Priggle Gembreath.

Priggle seems both professional and competent. “I know most of these caverns like my own family tree,” he claims in a surprisingly deep voice for his size, and proceeds to sketch out a rough map of major tunnels and turnings on a sheet of vellum. “You’re damn suicidal if you think you’re going up against those damn things. They’re like roaches, everywhere and hard to kill, but I’ll guide you if you’re going to try and destroy some of them.” Priggle looks grim, hatred distorting his homely face. “Anything to help. It burns me to think of those damn things clambering through my homeland.”

“We have some talent in this area,” Nolin assures him, and Priggle tries to look hopeful. He doesn’t really succeed.

“If you say so. I’ll get you there, and I’ll keep myself alive in the process. The rest is up to you.” The alliance struck, the group beds down outside under the stars. The next morning they are to go underground, and nervousness runs like a fever through the heroes; only the dwarves are truly happy at the thought of getting back into proper tunnels.

Dawn comes all too soon, hidden by heavy clouds and a light rain. With little fanfare, the Defenders of Daybreak and their dwarven troops line up in front of the inky black chasm that cuts along the side of Candle Ridge. Next to them, a huge rock carved to look like a shield throws a deep shadow over the cleft.

“Ready?” asks Priggle as he finishes checking the belaying ropes. Everyone nods. “Then go where I say and don’t wander until you’re used to the Underdark. It isn’t like the surface. Sound travels, and predators seldom need vision to see you. There are worse things than ghouls down there.” He wrinkles his large nose, and no one asks him for details.

“There’s a ledge about a hundred or so feet down. We’ll rendezvous there,” Priggle says. “Let’s go.” And sliding down a rope into the darkness, he disappears from sight. One by one, either flying or wind walking or descending the ropes, the Defenders and their troops leave the surface world behind and enter the tunnels of the Underdark.

To be continued….
 
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Jeremy

Explorer
<wipes a tear from his eye>

"Sound the advance!"

"We go forth this day to claim victory. It lies there waiting like a flower waiting to be plucked and all that stands between us and it are the very gates of Hell. March!"
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
All things considered, the first day goes quite well.

There are the expected challenges: bottomless sink holes, stalagmite-choked tunnels, narrow ledges and sudden chasms. Then there are a few surprises: a vast cavern of blind bats and odiferous guano, an unexplained swarm of scuttling beetles in a low area of a tunnel, a jet of bath-warm water that shoots from the wall with bone-crushing force.

Even more disturbing is the experience of using Agar’s mass darkvision spell. The spell provides them with almost normal vision in narrow and twisting tunnels, since their line of sight is never more than 30 or 40 feet anyways. In the occasional large chamber, though, the darkvision feels much less effective. The group experiences the sensation of being completely blinded beyond 60 feet, all the while knowing that many underdark predators can see for easily twice that distance. It’s a disconcerting sensation. Splinder’s dwarven troops know their duties, though, and without being prompted they fan out 40 feet from one another in large caverns to adequately scout the space. Velendo in particular is impressed with their tactics, and mutters more than once that the Defenders could learn a few lessons from the battle-hardened dwarves.

With Priggle Gembreath as their guide, progress is steady, and the group ends an exhausting twelve hour march by approaching a well-known cavern nexus through a hand-carved 15 ft. wide tunnel. “We’ll camp just up ahead,” says Priggle. “It’s a large natural cavern that’s often used as neutral ground, as a meeting place between races. We should be safe there. Anyways, tomorrow we have to face the narrows, and I’d just as soon have us rested in case there’s any fighting.”

“The narrows?” Velendo begins to ask, but he’s interrupted by a horrible sound up ahead. It’s a trumpeting noise that reverberates along the walls and shrieks into his ear drums like an icepick. Everyone except the dwarves in the far back of the marching order is affected by the sonic attack, and with a numbed part of his brain Velendo realizes that the noise has actually stripped away the outside of his skin, leaving his forearms and face raw and chapped.

“Crap!” snaps Nolin. “We’re under attack!” While the group spends precious seconds waiting for him, Nolin focuses his mind and casts mass haste on as many people as he can. He then raises his voice in a high lilting song. The melody sounds discordant to everyone listening, but when the next flesh-rending scream bounces down the tunnel, his tune shields the group from the worst of the damage.

One by one, the Defenders spill out of the side tunnel into the cavern nexus. In front of them are several balls of tiny green flame, believed by the group to be some sort of scrying device. They orbit erratically around a horrible monster with a serpentine neck, a trumpet-like head and no visible eyes. Chunks of rotting flesh dangle from its flank, and it reeks of dried blood and decaying meat. Mounted on the monster's back is an undead knight armed with a bone lance, tongue lolling obscenely out of its mouth as it drools strands of bloody saliva down its front. “Meeeeeeat!” it burbles happily, and kicks its mount in preparation for a charge.

“There’s more!” shouts Priggle from somewhere in the darkness, and the Defenders decide that enough is enough. Growling a prayer, Malachite slams his bracers together in front of his chest, and searing emerald light explodes out of him like a newly kindled star. It flashes out 100 feet and badly sears the ghoul and its rider. Out of the corner of his eye, Malachite also catches sight of a second mount and rider who manages to partially avoid his positive energy burst.

The ghoulish knight is still hanging on to his mount with one smoking bony arm as he hears something rumbling above him. He tilts his rotted head backwards just in time to see a pillar of fire appear above him like an opening to Hell. The holy flame slams downwards and recedes with a thunderclap, leaving nothing behind but smoking embers and sizzling flesh. The ghoulish mount is still standing, though, so Tao grins savagely and uses her hasted action to cast flame strike once again. The trumpet-headed beast staggers sideways, spasms, and silently collapses into a twitching heap.

“I love doing that!” says Tao to no one in particular, even as she feels the healing power of Velendo’s prayer coursing through her.

Her delight is short lived. From out in the darkness, two more of the creatures scream their hideous cry, and the Defenders feel their bones splintering beneath their skin as they try to resist. If it wasn’t for Nolin’s continuing countersong at least one hero would have dropped, but his music manages to deflect the worst of the sonic attack.

“Here they come!” shouts Priggle from somewhere hidden, even as the two rotting monsters and their riders scuttle forward on unnaturally muscled legs. Mara shifts herself to meet them, and her new shield shatters the bone lance that is aimed at her. The paladin twists and swings, and her holy mace Lightbinder smashes through a ghoulish knight’s shoulder like it was butter.

Malachite unleashes another positive energy burst even as his sword Karthos leaps into his hand. “Now! Now!” the sword cries impatiently, and Malachite swings it into the flank of one of the trumpet-beasts. Crusted mold vaporizes as the sword strikes home, and the creature screams. Magic missiles from Agar arc above it like a soaring bird striking home, and Tao’s swords blur as they cut through sinew and rotting flesh. The second monster falls, and what’s left of the ghoulish knight riding the third beast tumbles from its back like a dead weight.

The third creature seems smarter now that its rider is destroyed. It takes in the devastation by turning its eyeless head, and with a chilling scream it spins and flees into the depths of the cave. The clacking of claws reverberates in the echoing cavern, and within seconds it is out of sight, hidden in the enveloping darkness beyond the range of darkvision. “Damn!” someone swears. “I can’t target what I can’t see!” Mara swings herself up onto her war horse's back, but she's distracted before she can ride after it. Something black and icy cold has struck her, and she shivers as she feels strength draining out of her.

Meanwhile, Galthia moves. The githzerai monk had been staying back while the area effect spells were falling like rain, but now he dashes alone after the fleeing ghoulish abomination. “Be care—“ starts Velendo, but Galthia is out of sight before he can finish the sentence. “Oh boy,” he says to himself, and begins to review whether or not he had prepared true resurrection that day.

Galthia, however, feels his Purpose thrumming through his body as he chases the monster, and that gives him strength and speed. Moving at an angle to cut it off from its planned escape, he easily dodges its feeble claws. Galthia ducks and spins close to its body, close enough to smell the carrion reek. He hits it with his iron-shod staff several times, hard, and the monster shudders and collapses.

Mara leaps off her warhorse to attack the new threat, and she feels herself stagger as several shadows slide from the darkness and attack her all at once. Her strength flees from her, and she struggles to lift her mace even as Velendo turns undead and blasts the four shadows into nothingness.

Silence falls as Nolin ceases his song. “It’s down,” announces Galthia in a flat voice.

“Everyone okay?” calls Velendo into the darkness. Mara grunts in annoyance, barely keeping her feet. Priggle, the dwarves, and Galthia all call their assent, although many of the group are badly wounded by the sonic attacks. "Why didn't you turn them?" Velendo asks Mara in surprise, and the paladin gives him a dirty look.

"I got carried away," she explains sheepishly as she gestures with her mace, and Luminor nuzzles her in comfort.

At the far end of the cavern, Galthia leaves the beast collapsed behind him as he begins to walk towards the rest of the group. Thus, he’s almost caught unawares as the monster – playing possum and not actually dead after all – unleashes one more wave of sonic energy at his back, even as it shambles back to its feet. At the last second some sixth sense warns the githzerai, and he spins out of the way as the hideous scream vaporizes the stone floor where he had been standing. “Down!” commands Galthia as he spins his heavy staff into the creature, and the monster explodes into a nimbus of silent light. Nothing but dust is left as Galthia finishes his swing and snaps his staff of disruption back into a fighting position.

“Wow,” says Nolin in an impressed tone, and the rest of the Defenders watching from across the room agree with him.

The heroes huddle around the clerics and paladins for healing, and the dwarven troops fan out to serve as pickets. It’s less than a minute, though, when the alarm comes from one of the dwarven watch teams. “Oi!” one of them calls. “A lone ghoul approaching. And it’s… it’s carrying a white flag!”

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Knight Otu said:
I must admit that I totally forgot that Galthia even existed until he showed up again in this update. :eek:
Did this happen to anyone else, or is it just me?

He was fairly quiet for much of the game, staying in character. Then he proved to be the only person who could catch up to the monster, never mind kill it easily. What was really funny was when he ran up to it. "You'll incur an attack of opportunity if you run next to it like that," I said. "Okay," he shrugged, and proceeded to use his grotesque amount of movement to virtually circle the monster and cut off its escape. It was a thing of beauty.

In retrospect, I might have the story wrong, and he may have opened up a full attack on the thing. I just remember everyone looking at how much damage he was doing and being shocked.

I felt bad for the player, although he's more patient than I would have been. It was his third game. At his first game, he played Judge Daver in the council meeting, and then Galthia was locked inside his bedroom. At his second game, Mara & Malachite visited their temple and the group spent hours discussing communes and prophecies while - wait for it - Galthia was locked in his bedroom. It was nice to finally let everyone get involved with the story!

He doesn't have a character sheet online yet. I'll ask if he'd mail it to you. Galthia is an Acolyte of the Fist (from the recent PrC in Dragon); I cancelled out the unbalancing effect of the ECL differential (his innate githzerai bonuses) by giving him significantly less cash than normal to buy magical items. I think it worked well. That isn't a trick I'd use a low levels, but at high levels it seems to be decently balanced.

My apologies for not mentioning Luminor and Newt (Tao's giant lizard mount) in more detail. Luminor is equipped with horseshoes that allow him to turn gaseous - just the thing for wriggling through narrow caves! - and a harness that gives him pegasus wings once a day. We're still getting used to including him in combat, although both Mara and I am getting better at that.

As for Malachite's horse, it was killed by a spectre shortly before he met the party, and he hasn't had the heart to call another one. It might still be out there somewhere, cantering through the world, searching for its master....
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
The orcish ghoul lurches forward, using one rotting hand to carry a long bone threaded with a strip of bleached skin. Suspicious, the Defenders surround it while the dwarves stay on watch. The undead is in fairly bad shape; one rotted eyeball keeps sliding out of its skull, and the tongue sounds partially rotted. Nevertheless, its slightly glowing red eyes seem to be intelligent, and it actually seems to be smiling in a friendly manner.

The smell is terrible.

“How exciting to see you all again,” it says in a voice like the rustling of beetles. “Although I wish it weren’t under these circumstances.” It briefly flips its head upwards, trying to reseat the dangling eye back in the socket, and then looks around at the crowd as it continues to smile as if at a private joke.

“Do we know you?” asks Velendo in a hostile voice. “Have we met?”

“Oh, no, not as such,” answers the ghoul, its voice rattling drily. “But I’ve been aware of you for quite some time. Studied up. Seen you fight.” It wrinkles its rotting nose in a gesture that would be cute if done by a ten year old girl. “You’re quite good at fighting, I’d say.”

Those glowing eye-things at the battle in Hundle’s Crossing,” whispers Tao mentally over the group’s mind link.This ghoul must have been spying on us through that entire battle – and this one, as well!

“So you’re here to taunt us before you kill us?” Nolin waves his hand derisively, preparing to repeat his standard ‘take a number and get in line’ repartee. The ghoul looks shocked, and has to suck in his lolling tongue before he can reply.

“Taunt you? Oh no, quite the reverse. I want to be friends with you.” Nolin is actually stopped in mid-retort. The ghoul looks around the dank cavern. “This is a parley, and I’m trying to avoid a war. You can’t really like it down here, but we like it just fine. This is our home. I am hopeful that we can find terms that will allow you to return home without regrets.”

Mara breaks in. “This isn’t your home. This is Dwarven territory. You survive by consuming other races.” The ghoul shrugs what’s left of his shoulders.

“And you eat cows.” He looks concerned for a minute. “You do eat cows, don’t you? It’s been quite some time for me. Like any predator, we cull out the weak and let the strong survive. Then perhaps the weak choose to join us, and they too become strong. It’s the cycle of life.” He grins horribly at his own joke. “Well, cycle of something,” and his laughter burbles wetly.

Malachite, standing stock still with his hand on Karthos, notices an odd reference. “Chooses to join you?” he growls questioningly.

The red-eyed ghoul nods, his eyeball flopping out as he does. “Oh, yes. You think true ghoulism is a… a disease, or a curse?” He laughs again, horribly. “Oh, no. Not with the blessings of the Ivory Queen. It’s a religion, and it is a choice. When a creature is killed, it can choose death and judgement from the hand of Boros, or it can choose… more. More power. More feasting. More joy. I think you’d be surprised how many people realize at the last minute that they have a golden opportunity to ascend. You people see only the outer corruption, that of the flesh.” He gestures down at the rotting orcish body. “Inside, where it counts, we are transcendent fire. For us, the eating of flesh is not a hunger so much as it is a sacrament. It’s a celebration of our Goddess, and it is an honor. Following the Prophecy is not hard for those who join us.”

Mara’s face is pale with anger. “I don’t believe you.”

The ghoul shrugs. “It’s still true. You believing it or not doesn’t change anything.” It smiles grotesquely, its tongue sliding out in a cascade of bloody spittle.

Wincing, Velendo changes the subject. “So you think you can convince us to turn around?” he says disbelievingly.

“Well, I can try… Velendo, is it?” The ghoul doesn’t offer to shake hands, although it does bow in a courtly manner. Once again, out plops the eye. “I am Kellharin. And yes, I can try. What is it you want? I have access to the magic and treasures of a dozen civilizations. Enchantments beyond measure, riches for life, exotic drugs and long-lost knowledge. It’s not much, but it is ours, and we’re not beyond sharing.” The ghoul coughs up a few squirming worms as its fingers try to reseat the errant eyeball.

“What is this prophecy you mentioned?” asks Velendo.

“It’s why we advance now,” says Kellharin softly in a rustling voice. “We have seen omens. Two years from now the Destroyer will be born to one of your human women. He or she will savage the planet, and nothing will be left by the time they finish – no ghouls, no people, no plants, nothing. Spira will be wiped clean, and we’d just as soon not allow that to happen. We will reach the surface, and we will clean it ourselves, and thus we prevent the Prophecy.” He shakes his head slowly. “Better to let creatures exist in the glory of undeath than allow everything to perish.” He looks up, hopeful. “If you wished, you could each designate a city, and we will spare it – other than the children, of course.”

“A whole city, huh?” asks Velendo in a voice heavy with irony. “I don’t think so. But maybe we could reach some agreement. Give us the text of this Prophecy of yours, and we’ll see what we can do. We can track the child down ourselves.”

Kellharin frowns. “You are not of the Faith. Besides, are you telling me that if I give you the Prophecy, you will cease your destruction of our faithful?” Velendo begins to waffle, but Malachite cuts him off.

“No.”

Kellharin turns to him. “Fanatic.” He grins. “Then I suppose that’s that, eh? I can’t pay you to stop, and you have stated that you won’t stop. Then be warned that we have no reason to leave you alive and in our Kingdom. We are at war.”

Galthia chuckles mirthlessly. “What’s to stop us from destroying you right now where you stand?” Kellharin looks at him as if he were an imbecilic child.

“You would destroy my flesh, not me.” He sucks in a deep breath of air that rattles drily inside of his frame. “There really isn’t any reason for our conflict other than your own stubbornness. Let me know if you change your mind. I’ll be seeing you.” The red light fades from his eyes, and suddenly the orcish ghoul shudders and leaps at Mara. The paladin destroys it on nothing more than a reflex.

“He’s gone,” states Malachite flatly.

To be continued….
 
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