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

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First Post
I just finished reading this entire thread for the first time, and I have to say.. WOW! I can't imagine how much fun it must be to play in Piratecat's campaign. :)

Only problem now is that I've caught up, and I have to wait for updates with the rest of you. :(

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First Post
KidCthulhu said:
At least you could have left her boobies uncovered, so we could have gotten some cleavage with our evil.

I don't know. Six swords. Sounds like there's going to be plenty of cleavage going on.


KnidVermicious said:

I don't know. Six swords. Sounds like there's going to be plenty of cleavage going on.

Vermicious Knid, you're my new favorite poster.

I'm back from GenCon! Ran a Call of Cthulhu game for Nemmerle, Dinkeldog, Barcode, Urbanmech, Halma, and Dr. Doom; lost at the ENnies but won the Pinnacle Award for best RPGA judge (wheee!); and spent plenty of time with people I really like, including our very own Morrus. It was Good. Now, sleep! And an update coming as soon as I can write it.


The stench of brimstone rolls through the dwarven courtyard, like the warm wind before the storm.

Tao utters a magical phrase in the language of her Goddess, and in front of the wall her previously thrown fire seeds go off like children’s firecrackers… that is, if firecrackers tossed ghouls backwards in screaming, fiery arcs and set their skin ablaze with holy fire. The divine agent smiles in satisfaction at the explosive “whoomp!” and the echoing howls of pain, then looks up to where Malachite is standing on the wall’s defensive platform. “What’s out there?” she calls up. She can smell it, whatever it is, but can’t see it from where she’s standing.

“Kellharin summoned some sort of demon. Prepare yourself.”

Even as Malachite speaks, the spellcasting demon finishes her own incantations, and coils of black oily energy begins to crackle up and down her body. The snake queen turns her serpentine head, taking in the scene, and she locks eyes with Malachite. All six scimitars slide out of their sheathes with the sound of funeral bells. The huge demon smiles, her jaws impossibly wide and impossibly sharp, and with the tip of one blade she beckons him out from the protection of the wall.

Nolin comes instead. Fiery wings flapping and the song of the phoenix loud in his ears, he soars through the darkness above the coiled demon. His hands fumble in a belt pouch, and he removes a silver tuning fork of the planes, one that opens a gate directly to Mount Celestia. Who better to deal with a demon than a bunch of angels? he thinks. The question is where to trigger it; high in the air is safer, but closer to the demon is more likely to succeed. Nolin decides that self-preservation is the better part of valor, and triggers the effect high above the demon's head. There is blinding radiance and another gate opens, connecting to just above the plane's perfect ocean of holy water.

The demon begins to rise up on her tail, but she feels the insistent calling of the new gate, and she instinctively recoils. The pull isn't strong enough to force her through, so she ignores the hovering bard and slithers towards the wall instead. Dang! thinks Nolin. Oh well, they were already mad at us from the last time we tossed a demon through.

Meanwhile Galthia the githzerai monk finishes off an orcish ghoul and spins, moving quickly for the breach in the wall. He can see that Tao’s fire seeds have cleared most of the ghouls away from the opening, so he darts through the positive wall and heads towards the coiling marilith. He doesn’t make it that far, though; he’s flung sideways as something unseen ambushes him from his left side. He never gets a good look at what it is, because he doesn't sense it until its claws jam deep into his side. It cackles quietly as it begins to pull out shreds of viscera and chunks of bloody flesh, and Galthia feels horrible coldness racing through his body. He tries to react, to spin, but the numbness is too insistent; his muscles lock, and he falls face down at the creature’s clawed feet. He feels tugging, and hears a terrible slurp as the monster begins to eat him piece by piece.

“Galthia’s down!” shouts TomTom from his perch above the central gatehouse, and Mara pulls herself atop her mount and heads for the wall. “I can help him!” she shouts over the ghoulish noise, preparing her freedom of movement spell as Luminor gallops forward. Nolin’s voice rings out in a beautiful, piercing hymn, inspiring and encouraging the troops forward. Malachite, emboldened, leaps down from the wall into the breach and towards the shadowy monster feasting there. He straddles the paralyzed Galthia as his sword Karthos blazes into light.

In the light of Malachite’s sword, the thing eating Galthia appears to be a horribly devolved orcish ghoul, long tongue scraping the monk’s flesh as it chews and swallows hungrily. It looks up at the looming paladin with black sunken eyes, hatred blazing forth. Malachite swings, and Karthos trumpets with delight as his blade bites into the creature’s putrified chest. Small white worms tumble out of the wound. The ghoul ducks under the sword and scrabbles at Malachite, claws scraping on armor. Then an acid orb from Agar strikes it and it falls back, skin sizzling.

“Behind you!” Nolin calls, and Malachite glances over his shoulder just in time to see the immense demon bearing down on him. Her six scimitars weave and flash in a mesmerizing pattern, and like a storm of steel they dart and strike in an incomprehensibly complex rhythm. Malachite’s blade can’t be everywhere at once, and although he jumps over her swinging tail, six of her ten weapon attacks get through his armor. He takes a bloody gasp as black energy sizzles on his skin, and prepares a counterattack.

As Velendo hustles towards the fallen monk, Mara leaps off her horse and kneels by the body. The ghoulish orc swings at her, but winces back as the tip of its claw strikes Mara’s holy shield. “Hssssssssssh!” it gurgles, but Mara ignores it as her prayer takes effect. Galthia feels the numbness fade into pain, and he rolls free.

Meanwhile, Tao opens her soul and sends her consciousness spiraling upwards and outwards. The dwarves watching her see what appears to be green vines spiraling around her… but Tao is oblivious, her soul rocketing across the Beastlands in search of an ally of her faith. She senses one, and with pure force of will she bridges the planar boundaries between herself and the being that she senses.

The air shimmers and rips. The gate opens. And shining, luminescent in its power, the solar steps through.

”Your will, my sister?” he intones. His voice is like the rustling of the wind in mountain pines, the sound of rapid water shattering rock. Face pale from the exertion, Tao nods towards the wall and the demon behind it. “With delight,” the angel intones with a smile, and his huge wings flap once as he sails through the gap in the wall.

To be continued….
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Partially surrounded now, the shadowy ghoul that had attacked Galthia is hammered repeatedly by the combined blows and spells of Mara, Agar, and Nolin. It turns to flee, but is cut down before it can escape.

Nearby, Malachite drops back far enough for Velendo to heal his many wounds. The towering demon carefully slithers forward, upper body dancing to a music that no one can hear as she stalks her prey. Galthia briefly strays within her reach, and she strikes instinctively. His blood sprays as she impales him with multiple scimitars, which pierce him horribly before she spins all six blades back upwards into a guarding position.


The demon’s forked tongue flicks out to lick one of her ensanguined scimitars, and she briefly shudders with pleasure.

The solar summoned by Tao soars into the combat, and the demon turns to meet her new foe. The cavern is now lit by the clashing radiance of the two outsiders, and the air rings with the sound of their blows. The demon tries to sunder the solar’s glowing sword, and the angel counters by swinging his weapon around in a magnificent arc that would have taken off the marilith’s head if her reflexes had been any slower. Black energy crackles out from the demon’s body onto the solar’s, and is burned away by his divine radiance before it can reach his heart. Then Velendo’s dispel magic sears away her enchantments, and her speed noticeably slows as the black energy coating her dissipates. The tide of battle begins to turn.

Tao rejoins the battle at the angel’s side, as does Malachite and Mara. Their holy weapons carve huge rents in the demon’s scaly tail, and their armor is such that her scimitars have trouble hitting them in return. One opponent, even two, she could easily overpower… but four, along with spellcasters? For the first time, the demon begins to look worried as black blood coats her shimmering scales. Now partially healed, Galthia tumbles in to flank, and the solar begins to sing a hymn as his sword flashes left and right. Velendo, TomTom, Nolin and Agar attack from the flank, trying to pierce her spell resistance with their spells and prayers.

Enough is enough. Hissing defiance, the demon slithers backwards and prepares to teleport to safety. The Defenders who flank her strike her as soon as her scimitars pause in their whirling defense… and the teleport fails! It might be that her concentration is broken, or perhaps Mara’s holy mace disrupts the spell, but the magic hisses and spits instead of carrying the demon to safety. Tao and Malachite advance with blades flashing, and the marilith screams as she feels the weapons slicing into her innards. She is eternal and immortal, the daughter of demonic royalty, the commander of countless demonspawn that march undefeated across the fetid battlefields of the Abyss… and then she is nothing but burning bones as the Defenders of Daybreak take her down. Her scimitars and skeleton clatter on the stone as her flesh ignites, and then she’s gone.

There is a pause as the Defenders look around. Dozens if not hundreds of ghoulish troops watch from the edges of the firelight, watching the solar and the battered heroes, reluctant to attack until the demon had destroyed the surface-dwellers. Tao’s divine aura of awe surges as she stares back at them. The solar flexes his wings, and triumphant music surges as Nolin strums his magical instrument Veritas.

The ghouls’ morale breaks. Screaming in terror, they fight to clamber over each other as they sprint back into the darkness.

To be continued….

Thanks to David Hendee, aka Littlejohn! Go see his art thread in the EN Boards' Art Forum!
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First Post
Piratecat said:
Well, I had been wondering what the heck they were chortling about over in the corner; I had caught the phrase "HOW large?", but no one would tell me anything.

The corner chortling again, eh? Seems to me I remember Tao and Malachite's players chortling over another brilliant idea earlier in the campaign. Are there any of your players that can't be seated next to each other without causing chaos? Even if it's just to your RBDMly Great Ideas?

I nominate Tao's player for RBPlayer of the Month.:D


First Post
madriel said:
The corner chortling again, eh? Seems to me I remember Tao and Malachite's players chortling over another brilliant idea earlier in the campaign.

Jobu and I should not sit next to one another. We become the Bad Kids.

Indeed, PCat is referring to the the point where she leaned over with a copy of the Monster Manual, pointing to the number of HP on the solar she was about to summon. After I shoved my eyeballs back into my head, I began to chortle...


First Post
Sito Rotavele said:

"Daughter of demonic royalty?" Hrrh. Nolin, open another space on the enemies list, please.

You've have reached the Defenders of Daybreak Enemies Line. I'm sorry, all our Defenders are busy beating the living crap out of other clients right now. Please hold the line, and your grudge will be settled in the order in which it was incurred. Thank you.

[on hold muzak of early Nolin recordings and Dylrath playing the mouth harp.]


First Post
Piratecat said:
I added 2 more paragraphs above, detailing Nolin's attempt to suck the marilith into Mount Celestia. Whoops!

Jog my memory, please. When was the last time the Defenders tossed a demon into Mount Celestia?

I'm almost sorry the marilith didn't try to turn Nolin into a shishkebab. Everybody's favourite flamin' bard would have literally blown up in her face.


madriel said:

Jog my memory, please. When was the last time the Defenders tossed a demon into Mount Celestia?

I'm almost sorry the marilith didn't try to turn Nolin into a shishkebab. Everybody's favourite flamin' bard would have literally blown up in her face.

She tried... but she didn't fly, and he was out of reach. It would be remiss of me not to make a "phoenix vs chicken" joke at this point, but I'll try to contain myself.

The Defenders have a very bad habit of tossing stuff into Mount Celestia, although it was all before the story hour started.

1. Turn an erinyes (posing as Alix's new step-mother) to stone. Toss her petrified form through a portal into the ocean of holy water outside Mount Celestia. She rapidly dissolves.

2. In a big fight against abishai devils, open a gate and force one of them through into the holy water. In the same fight, Mara fumbles twice and tosses not one, but TWO maces through the opening into the ocean. She's too embarrassed to go looking for them again.

At least one deva has since scolded them for this trend, but apparently it's hard to break old habits. :D

Negative Zero

First Post
Neg Zero bends over to show his ... ah ... ignorance:

what's a Mount Celestia? i mean i can guess that it's some place where angels and whatnot live, but there's gotta be more to it than that. i initially thought it was native to Spira, but now that Knightfall1972 mentioned it, i must have been mistaken. history/current affairs lesson anyone? ... please?



First Post
Negative Zero-

Mount Celestia is one of the many planes bordering the Outlands, like the Nine Hells and the Abyss (oh and the Beastlands from which Tao's Solar came, I think). It is the home to many a good being, like Bahamut, everyone's favorite uberdragon:D

More info on the classic DMG cosmology is in the Manual of the Planes.


First Post
Can't... resist... Planescape... calling me...

Okay, I'll have to give in. Here's all the Outer Planes around the Outlands with their updated 3e names and Planescape alignments.
Starting with Mount Celestia and going clockwise:

Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia (Mount Celestia to most of us): LG. Home to a number of bemused zoveri who are wondering why they keep on seeing maces drift down through the water :)

Twin Paradises of Bytopia: NGL. I'm not happy with the over-gnomage that has occurred in 3e for this place - otherwise, a nice place to have a holiday.

Blessed Fields of Elysium: NG. As you'd expect, nice place to live. In fact, I'm never going to leave...

Wilderness of the Beastlands: NGC. The place that Tao just thieved a solar from. Put it back, you don't know where it's been!

Olympian Glades of Arborea: CG. Full of bloody elves. Bit annoyed that now all the layers of this plane are in elven - eg Pelion being replaced by Mithardir.

Heroic Domains of Ysgard: CGN. Don't choose this as a location to have a big fight with an uber enemy, because even if you friggin' kill them, they'll get up the next day anyway. Less suitable holiday location, full of rowdy vikings by all accounts.

Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo: CN. Not good for holidays. Not only does your hotel keep on moving, there are slaad. This doesn't mean you'll get to eat frog's legs, it means slaad will get to eat you.

Windswept Depths of Pandemonium: CEN. Not the most hospitable of places, the most welcoming settlement in these windswept tunnels is called the Madhouse. Not exactly promising, is it?

Infinite Layers of the Abyss: CE. Doubtless now the home of some angry abyssal parents putting bounty on the heads of the nasty people who killed their daughter :)

Tarterian Depths of Carceri: NCE. The multiverses biggest ever prison. Not recommended as a holiday destination because the weather will in turn poison, freeze, electrocute, burn or corrode you.

Gray Waste of Hades: NE. Where accountants go when they die. (No offence to any accountants readint this! :D)

Bleak Eternity of Gehenna: NEL. Misleading name; it's not very eternal, but it's very steep. Bring good climbing boots.

Nine Hells of Baator: LE. Sorta the Ultimate Center of All Evil, being hell and all. Possibly worth a visit if you like hot weather.

Infernal Battlefield of Acheron: LNE. Full of armies. As a bonus, it includes Thuldanin, my favourite layer of any plane (don't ask).

Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus: LN. WHo wouldn't want to visit somewhere full of modrons, at the very least so you can point and laugh. Or, in the case of the Defenders, specifically ignore plot hooks set up by your DM involving, ahem, a big march going round the planes?

Arcadia: LNG. Full of the Harmonium, but this is the only downer on an otherwise appealing holiday destination (as long as you're not neutral, or chaotic, or evil...)

And that's the lot. Sorry, I couldn't resist :) How many of these planes have the Defenders visited by now, anyway?


First Post
Couldn't tell you the categorical list of where we've been, but I do remember Dylrath once getting confused about where we were going on one of these planar hops.

I don't remember what he said--probably the usual confusion about demons versus devils--but Alex smacked him across the knuckles, explained matters, and wound up the lecture with shaking his finger at me and saying "Know your Lower Planes, Boy!"

Anyway, the above thread brings back fond memories of this moment, so many thanks.


Just to give you a feel, the Defenders have at one time or another:

  • Fought Githyanki on the astral
  • Trekked through the ethereal
  • Been trapped on the plane of Shadow
  • Sought refuge on Mount Celestia (and used it as a shortcut, and tried to find redemption for Alix there)
  • Recovered in Elysium (this is where Haven, Calphas' paradise, is; it's also where Velendo's rod of security takes you)
  • Joined Tao on the Beastlands, saving a unicorn from the cleaver of a Sigilian butcher
  • Accidentally summoned a plague of slaadi from Limbo
  • Met insane refugees from Pandemonium
  • Irritated lots and lots of creatures on the Abyss, and steadfastly avoided going there themselves, despite lots of interesting plot hooks carefully laid out by a certain DM
  • Avoided freeing the Worms from Carceri, and thus saving Spira
  • Ridden a nightmare across the Gray Waste; once upon a time, this is where Alix was going to seal his pact to the God of Murder and betray all of his companions. He repented in the end and refused to carry out his promise to the God, and was doomed for it.
  • Visited the gatetown of the Nine Hells in order to bargain for the eyesocket of a God. Later, they dealt with an erinyes they met there who really didn't like being thwarted....
  • Ran across Acheron while trapped between two armies, creatively ignoring my clever (and deadly) means of escape by fleeing to Mount Celestia
  • Crossed large sections of Mechanus on foot, fighting an old enemy (a cambion) who tracked them down. All the while, they reflected on where all the modrons had gone to. Jerks. Later, they sent Brindle the assassin here to start a new life, after they wiped his memory.
  • And Sigil, the city in the center of everything. Lots of things happened in Sigil!
Next update this weekend. A quick surprise, a lurking horror, and the terror of simple mathematics!


On a slightly different note, apparently somewhere around 2000 people have downloaded that .doc file of the story hour previous to this thread. Holy cow! Now mind you, I'm sure a bunch of folks have downloaded it and never read it, but that does give a rough estimate on how many folks swing by here. All I can say is a very, very humble thank you on behalf of our group for giving enough of a damn to read about our game - and an even bigger thank you to those of you who comment now and again. Ever since Raevynn's player ran into people discussing our game 3500 miles away from home, I've been a little bit in awe, and the fact that you folks keep coming back to read more says volumes.

With luck, you're following up on peoples' suggestions and dropping in on other story hours to see if you'd like them, too. There are some phenomenal ones here on this board, and I think that the very fact that we even have a story hour forum is pretty cool.

This also means that we're going to start selling advertising to support EN World. I mean, can't you just see it?


Malachite turns towards the hulking undead, sword ready in his right hand. With his other hand he fishes out a dark potion, fumbling off the top and tipping the delicious liquid down his throat. "Ahhhhhh!" says the paladin. "After a Coke (tm), I'm ready to take on the world!"

The ghoul pauses, confused. Its rotten mouth gapes open as it tries to speak. "Yougl likl Cokel (tttmmm) tuuu?" it asks in undead astonishment. "Meegl tuuuu! Whii arrr weee fiiightinggg?"

Malachite looks at the undead grimly. "Well..." he says thoughtfully. "They do say that Coke (tm) adds life!"
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You've have reached the Defenders of Daybreak Enemies Line. I'm sorry, all our Defenders are busy beating the living crap out of other clients right now. Please hold the line, and your grudge will be settled in the order in which it was incurred. Thank you.

Now, I know the Defenders have B-team adventuring groups gunning for them from time to time to try and prove themselves, but are there any lower-level adventurers willing to start at the bottom of the Enemies Line, and work their way up, in order to curry favor with the great Nolin And Those Other Guys?

Sort of a Defenders West Coast kind of deal.


Velendo glances around. “Make sure that all of these are dead,” he suggests to the group at large. “Don’t forget, yesterday one of them tried to play dea….” Before he can finish his sentence, the devolved monster that tried to eat Galthia scrambles to its clawed feet and makes a run for it into the smoky darkness.

Velendo acts by drawing on his most powerful prayers. He raises his eyes towards heaven – or at least towards the ceiling above – and creates a sovereign wall out of pure faith. It stretches out from the fortress in a vast semi-circle, separating the remaining ghouls and trapping the powerful, injured monster inside. There’s a loud *clunk* as the fleeing ghoul runs face first into the invisible wall.

Nolin snickers.

Galthia doesn’t, though, and charges after the ghoul. The creature turns and hisses ferally, fluids slowly oozing out of its broken and rotted nose. Moving at full speed, Galthia stops just short of the monster and uses his momentum to flick his magical staff out in a whirling crescent. The ghoul is remarkably agile, but not that agile, and the weapon catches it across the neck. There’s a burst of light, a celestial roaring sound, and the disrupted undead turns to dust at Galthia’s feet.

The rest of the Defenders have organized the dwarven troops, filling them with hope as they use mass heal and remove disease to bring the injured back to life. The dwarven leader introduces himself as Prince Stern Balestone, the only son of King Horox IX of Mrid, sent to Mridsgate to organize the defenses. “I don’t know if my father still lives,” he says tiredly as he wipes smoky grit from his bearded face. “We’ve been fighting for more than two days, and I know Mrid has fallen. The ghouls don’t stop, they don’t sleep, and divination tells me that they’ve been bringing up more troops once they realized we wouldn’t let them prance in.” He looks at the Defenders, and then at his recently healed dwarves, and then at the rows of the dead. “Almost seventy dead, but about a hundred left alive. We’d have lost a lot more than we did if you hadn’t arrived. Good job.” He says the last gruffly, but Nolin can sense the emotion in the simple words.

“Your majesty, you’ll need to burn the bodies of the dead,” advises Nolin, “so your own men don’t rise on you.”

The prince looks up angrily. “Dwarves are not burned! It would dishonor….”

Nolin draws on his store of ancient and obscure legends. “But wasn’t the dwarven hero Corothin Stonemaw cremated in the holy forge of Moradin, adding his ashes to the iron in order to make the first steel weapons? There is a long history of dwarves accepting cremation when the lives of their brethren are at stake.” To this the tired Prince has no argument.

“Your Majesty,” interjects Velendo, “do you have people listening for diggers? Now that they can’t get past the wall, they may try to dig under it.”

The dwarf shakes his head. “We did, but they were removed from their posts to fight in the defense. Good point. Hogan!” He roars at a younger dwarf walking by. “Get four stout soldiers with good ears, and get ‘em down in the basements with their ears to the stone. We need to listen for sappers.” Hogan nods and hurries off. Within a minute, he’s got volunteers and is headed into the fortress.

Agar hasn’t wasted this time, and the first of his prying eyes has just returned to him. “Odd,” he reflects, sucking on his pipe and blowing smoke rings absentmindedly. “They’re reorganizing their troops into battle lines, but they’re quite spread out… in a formation about four times wider than I’d expect. They have some sort of fascinating skeletal siege engine out there that just emerged from a tunnel. Lots of those spying eyes made from green flame, too. I’d guess that there are about 250 or 300 ghouls dead here on the battlefield, and maybe another 200 or 300 out in the cavern.” Another eye swoops back in and merges into Agar’s head. “Yep,” he says while swatting an invisible fly, “wide formations. But no sign of leaders yet.”

“Wide formations?” muses TomTom. “They might….” Then TomTom disappears in a prismatic shimmering. Agar’s face splits into a smile at the unusual planar effect, even though it means that TomTom has slipped back into another plane. Nolin rolls his eyes in frustration and excuses himself to fly out onto the battlefield. He quickly lays down a line of quiescent fire seeds in a semicircle around the wall, intending to detonate them later. He then returns.

“Your Majesty?” Hogan the dwarf is standing next to the Prince and looking worried. “Something strange. By the time I got all four listeners settled, I went back and checked on Delemer, who was in the east room. He’s gone! No sign of a struggle. And there’s an odd chalk mark on the floor.”

“What’s it say?” Next to the Prince, Malachite gazes around uneasily, his hand on his sword.

Hogan frowns. “It’s the number ‘1’. That’s all.”

The dwarven prince’s craggy forehead creases with worry. “Well, go check the others! And take someone with you. Go!” Hogan runs off with an escort, and returns a moment later. “Two more dwarves missing, Sir! And more chalk marks: ‘1+1=2’ and ‘2+1=3’.”

“Great,” snorts Nolin, “we have an undead math teacher in the fortress.” Agar snickers. "I have no idea what it means, but it can't be good. We should go and investigate."

Agar absorbs another prying eye, and then turns to face the group once he’s absorbed its images. “The rest of the ghouls are advancing,” he says. “Slowly, but they’re coming… all of them.”

To be continued….
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“Go!” orders the dwarven Prince. “With your magical walls and the fresh reinforcements of your troops, we should be able to hold them here for long enough.” Hogan leading, the Defenders turn and run for the heavy doors into the dwarven outpost. Malachite has Karthos in hand, and the sword detects undead as they go. Mara tries to detect evil, but can’t do so when moving quickly.

The group moves quickly along the low and narrow corridors past several intersections, emerging into a large, torch-lit great hall. Neither Malachite, Mara or Karthos detect anything, but Agar’s persistent arcane sight shows him something disturbing on the far side of the long room. He sees what looks like an elongated shadow stretching along the wall, in a place where no shadow should be.


“Shadow!” the halfling snaps. “Back wall, right side, behind the table.” No one else can see it, but they take Agar at his word, and a flame strike from Tao slams down on the area, turning the old table into a blazing inferno.

“I can detect something!” says Karthos in his metallic voice, and the group rushes forward to attack. It’s soon apparent that there are two shadows, not one, and agar unleashes lightning bolts as Mara slides along the top of a table to strike one with her holy mace Lightbinder. The shadows, vaguely dwarven shaped, don’t last long… but where’s the long and skinny shadow that Agar first saw?

“I can still sense undead,” reports Karthos. “It’s behind us. No, now it’s gone.” The sword is clearly frustrated, and the group looks behind him.

Nolin suddenly looks horrified. “The math! If the shadow is killing dwarves and turning them into more shadows, then… then they’re multiplying! The shadows are going to go after all the dwarves. Soon it will be 3+3=6, then 6+6=12. It'll grow exponentially.” The ease in which they could lose every single dwarf seeps in. They turn and run back the way they came. Through a previously cast Rary's Telepathic Bond, Nolin mentally warns the dwarven Prince. "You're going to have company! Keep your eyes open for shadows, or they'll overrun the fortress!"

“Suckered!” pants Velendo as he runs. “We’re being lured into the fortress while the dwarves are defenseless against shadows!”

Ahead of him, Agar catches a glimpse of the same long shape, partially merged with a wall in front of them. “There it is!” he cries. One or two others think they can see it now, too, oddly distorted and indistinct.

“It’s old,” says Malachite as he sprints forward. “Very old.” He feels concentrated fear leaching out of it, but his will is indomitable, and the aura that he and Mara give off protect the rest of the group from the terror of its existence.

Tao is there first and swings her weapon at it, but the blade goes right through the dark and blurry form. She swears, and gets the distinct impression that it smiles. Then the familiar smell of psionic energy fills her nose, and every shadow in the passageway shifts and hardens as they turn into ice-cold shadowy blades.

The world is suddenly a whirling, twisting gyre of ice-cold sharpened shadows. Only Galthia leaps entirely clear of them, twisting his body and spinning through the air to avoid them completely. When they vanish a few seconds later, though, half of the Defenders are flat on their back, too weak even to lift their heads. The rest of the heroes are gasping from the weight of their armor, weakened muscles shaking from the coldness of undeath.

The shadow, uninjured, slides forward along the wall.

To be continued….

Thanks again to David Hendee, aka Littlejohn!
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Velendo is collapsed on the ground, too weak to raise a finger. So is Nolin, and Agar beside him. Galthia, Mara, Tao and Malachite are still standing. Malachite emits a positive energy burst which sears the shadow, but the emerald light which floods the room doesn’t have any effect on the strength-drained heroes. Mara swings at it with her mace, and just scrapes sparks off of the stone wall as the insubstantial creature avoids her attack. Even Galthia’s staff of disruption doesn’t destroy it, although he manages to connect at least once.

Agar is helpless, but Proty isn’t. The halfling gasps, “Proty! Get us to the clerics out on the wall!” The squirming mass of tentacles that is his familiar slurps out its assent, and Agar congratulates himself for imbuing his familiar with a teleport spell. There is a flash of writhing light, and he’s gone.

Velendo knows what he wants to do, but lacks the strength to do it. As both paladins, the monk, and the divine agent swing at the incorporeal shadow – and the shadow tauntingly claws at them, further draining vital strength – the old cleric enters a state of total denial. “I’m half a mile below ground, flat on my back because some stinking psionic shadow has decided to destroy us. This can’t happen! In fact, I refuse to believe that it’s happening. Nothing can drain strength like that, and it didn’t happen to me!” Ages-old faerie magic hardens his stubbornness, and his disbelief becomes utter and complete certainty as Velendo uses his priceless gift from the Queen of Faerie. The strength drain fades away as if it had never been there – of course it’s never been there, thinks Velendo, it couldn’t have happened - and Velendo grins a cold, hard smile as he sits up easily. Raising his stone shield, he casts mass heal.

Silent light thunders through the room like a cascade of falling bricks.

It pours into all the Defenders and erases their wounds and lost strength as if they had never been hurt. Even more importantly, it batters the shadow in an irresistible assault of positive energy. The creature erects its mental defenses but it is caught unprepared, and the relentless prayer batters down its natural resistance. Calphas’ light rips huge chunks out of its essence, leaving it nothing more than a fragile wisp of shadow matter silhouetted against the pale stone wall.

It turns to flee into the solid wall, retreating to safety until it can rebuild its strength. Only Mara Thornhill is close enough and fast enough to strike it before it does.

She draws on her inner power, and holy certainty strengthens her hand as her mace swings. She strikes once; her blow passes through the shadow to shatter chips from the wall. She strikes again; her mace passes through the creature without effect. She strikes a third time; the creature completely ignores the blow as if Mara's mace didn't even exist. Desperate and furious, a prayer to Aeos on her lips, Mara draws upon the haste magic affecting her and swings a final blow as hard as she can.

The blow connects.

Sunlight pours from Lightbinder, burning away the wispy shadowstuff like a match dropped in the middle of a dry parchment. The shadow has just enough time to scream silently, and then it boils away into nothingness. Gone.

Out on the ramparts of the fortress, Agar and Proty reappear in another flash of light. “Ummm,” calls the halfling weakly from the floor of the cavern. “Cleric? A little help, please? ….Hello?”

To be continued….
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