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

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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Re: ages-old fairie magic

aithdim said:

Nice and nasty PC. Luckily for the heros the shadow didn't escape to heal and return later to repeate the scene.

Oh, it was sooo close. Mara went, and the shadow had the very next initiative. She was the only chance.

"Do you want me to roll the miss chance, or you do want to roll it?"

Mara's player looked aggrieved. "I'll roll it."

"Okay," I said. "You want a miss on low or high?"

"Pick low!" urges Sagiro. "The dice have been rolling high all night." But Mara's player goes with high instead, and after declaring that she activates all kinds of smiting and divine feats, she rolls her d20 to see if the attacks against the incorporeal monster hit.

Rolls the miss chance for the first attack. 17. Groans.
Rolls the miss chance for the second attack. 19. Starts looking worried. "Change it to low!" someone urges, but she ignores them.
Rolls the miss chance on the third attack. 12. More agonized groans from around the table. I start suspecting that my villain may get away.
Rolls the fourth attack. 6! Rolls to hit and easily makes contact, and the table erupts into impromptu cheering as Mara does 22 points of damage to a monster with only 3 hit points left. Accursed mass heal! Accursed paladin!
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
AJA said:

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

Absolutely wonderful! I've read this sentence several times over -- fantastic, even though I'm not sure I can completely visualize it!

A water tower, high over your head. The bottom gives way. You look up and you can see it coming. Millions of gallons of crystal water falling, falling down at your head, shaking the air with its passage - only it's made of light, and shaped like masonry, and it splashes through you without harm.

Unless you're undead. If you're undead, the water hits you and carries you away.
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Agar is healed by the clerics, even as the first wave of ghouls reaches the far side of the sovereign wall. “It should hold them back,” Velendo says with confidence. “There’s just a narrow gap along the top near the ceiling. Even if they use each other as ladders, it’s going to take them some time.” He has to raise his voice a bit to be heard; howls, slurps, and wailing echoes crazily about the cavern in a disturbing cacophony of noise that reminds Agar of Pandemonium.

“Then let’s take the fight to them.” Tao stretches in anticipation and makes sure her swords are loose in their sheaths. As she does so, Mara and Malachite return to the group from the edges of the courtyard, where they were scanning for hidden shadows. Since Mara can’t detect undead herself, she had borrowed Karthos from Malachite. The sword seems disappointed to be passed from the beautiful paladin back to the grim hunter of the dead.

“Hang on, something is odd,” says Nolin, peering forwards. “Agar, didn’t you say that they were spread far apart in formation?” Nolin gestures out into the darkness. At the very edges of their darkvision, the group can see the ghouls clustered up at the wall. It looks like there are more than a thousand of them now, tightly packed and clambering over one another in their eagerness to acquire fresh meat. Their long nails scrape along the wall of force as they seek some sort of purchase.

“Well, there’s one way to break them up,” says Nolin, and he cheerfully utters the command word for his previously placed fire seeds. Tao does the same for her seeds that Nolin already placed, and multiple explosions signal their effectiveness in the tightly packed ghoulish army. Ghouls are thrown upwards, screeching, but the press at the wall redoubles. Then the ghouls back away, and a single figure stands at the front of the army. It’s a dwarf; old, tall, ruggedly handsome, and very very dead. The resemblance to the dwarven prince would be obvious even if the ghoulish dwarf wasn’t wearing a bejeweled crown. Angry and terrified murmurs radiate out amongst the dwarven soldiers in the courtyard.

“The King is undead,” says Nolin sotto voce. “Long live the King.”

With that, the Defenders of Daybreak move forward to take on the ghoulish horde.

On vast fiery phoenix wings, Nolin soars to the top of the sovereign wall and casts two fireballs after swooping through the gap. The powerful fireballs tear into the tightly packed army, burning away some ghouls while leaving others totally uninjured. In the light of burning and twitching corpses, Nolin can see the packed masses of the dead beneath him. He flies forward, the foul stench of their bodies filling the air and making it hard to breathe, and the ghouls reach up for him as if they were grasping for a particularly plump and juicy fruit on a tree. A few spears clatter off the uneven ceiling above his head, and he banks around a stalactite.

Malachite runs to the wall with Karthos in one hand. The paladin levitates up to the gap and looks down at the clambering ghouls that are climbing each other’s bodies. “No,” he says simply, and thrusts forward his hand as he calls on his faith. The divine radiance of Aeos pours forth, focused through Malachite’s soul, and more than half of the ghouls within a hundred feet of him turn into ash. Karthos sings in triumph at his side, echoing the divine song that resonates through Malachite whenever the Hunter of the Dead calls on his power.

Looking down, though, Malachite can’t help but notice that there are many fewer corpses beneath him than there should be. Either he completely disintegrated them, or something strange is happening! He lets the group know via his mindlink, and Velendo confirms his suspicions.

“I have true seeing up, and only about one in four of the ghouls is real. The rest are illusions.” Using his new winged boots to fly, Velendo unleashes an incredibly powerful fire storm centered on the spot where the undead dwarven king is standing, and pauses to observe the results as the air itself catches fire. “The King wasn’t real, either. Keep your eyes open for spellcasters.” He ducks down as a bone spear shatters on the wall in front of him, and then begins another prayer.

As the dwarven troops roll out siege ladders to mount the wall themselves and take the fight to the enemy – No cowards there! thinks Agar – Mara leaps atop Luminor and pulls Galthia up behind her. “Hang on,” she says as she shakes her long golden hair away from her face, and the warhorse activates the magical harness that gives him pegasus wings once a day. Luminor gallops easily into the air, banks tightly, and speeds towards the narrow gap between sovereign wall and ceiling. Galthia’s narrow face pinches as he calculates that there isn’t a chance in hell of the large warhorse actually clearing the gap.

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
The monk points, but Mara simply repeats her previous suggestion. “Hang on!” The flying warhorse angles itself, gathers even more speed, and ducks its head as it pulls all four legs in tight against its body. Mara leans as far back as she can, and Galthia is forced to do the same.

Galthia blinks as the cracked base of a broken-off stalactite whizzes past just inches from his nose, and he can feel the horse suddenly falling and lurching in mid-air. Then there is a *WHOMP* as the long feathery wings catch the rancid air, and they’re safely through the gap.

“Nice riding,” the monk mutters, and Mara grins in the darkness. Luminor does a barrel roll sideways to avoid a barrage of bone spears, and Galthia looks down. Riding with Mara is a little bit like traveling through Limbo. “I’ll let you know where to let me off,” he shouts over the wind, and Mara nods.

Tao grabs a hold of anyone who wants to come, and dimension doors into the heart of the disorganized ghoulish army. As Malachite lowers himself to join her and Velendo flies by overhead, she and Splinder use their weapons to great effect, cleaving through the ghouls already weakened by Malachite’s positive energy burst. Soon the ground around the three of them looks like a charnel field. The newly formed undead foot soldiers throw themselves at the heroes, but their flailing limbs aren’t skilled enough to easily batter their way past magical armor or well-wielded weapons. Tao’s two swords are a blur, and despite the undead’s natural resistance to damage she has little trouble in clearing away her enemies.

Behind her, one ghoulish hobgoblin does score a hit on Malachite when his companions aid him by flinging him bodily forward into their foe! Blood trailing down his cheek, Malachite easily fights down the creeping paralysis and batters the hobgoblin’s skull in with the hilt of Karthos. One of the dwarves rushes in and finishes it off, and Malachite realizes that the dwarves are ensuring that no more ghouls have a chance to rise again. Good.

A huge bone spear arcs out of the darkness, missing Nolin and shattering on the force wall. “Undead siege engine!” calls Nolin in a ringing voice, and wheels in the air to fly back and carry Malachite and Tao. Hearing him, Velendo flies forward.

Rising from the darkness in front of the old cleric is a lumbering, hideous insect-like skeletal construct. It has at least six legs, and it is using its own massive ribs as ammunition as it slowly winches back the huge bone ballista on its back. Around it, several dozen ghouls scurry in attendance. Velendo dodges a bone spear and begins to cast. Within seconds, a blade barrier shimmers into existence next to the siege engine’s front legs, and bone chips fly as the magical blades begin to spin.

“There!” Galthia points, and Mara angles Luminor towards the siege engine. As she swoops past and leans to hit it with her holy mace, Galthia leaps nimbly from the back of the horse onto the bone structure itself. He balances on a narrow and quivering rib, pulls out his magical staff, and begins attacking.

The siege engine doesn’t last more than another fifteen seconds. The blade barrier chops into its front set of legs and a searing light from Velendo shatters a skeletal arm, just before Galthia’s staff of disruption destroys its back half with an roaring explosion of golden sparks. The monk nimbly leaps clear of the magical blades, and they watch as the huge undead construct collapses.

It takes the Defenders another fifteen or thirty minutes to mop up most of the remaining ghouls, although they use many of their remaining spells to do so. Velendo uses another wall to block one of the cavern entrances, and although he suspects a handful of undead have successfully escaped, the vast army has effectively been destroyed.

Success.

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
coyote6 said:

So did y'all simply hit the fast forward button at this point and say, "Job done, 20 minutes gone, mark off X spells"?

Pretty much. After they took out the skeletal siege engine and slew the important leaders, the ghouls' force degenerated from an organized army into a scampering mob. It was simple for the Defenders to take them apart at that point, so we fast-forwarded. With the last use of Malachite's positive energy burst, they managed to destroy the last major clump that was trying to escape, and then it was all over but the shouting.
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Later, filthy and exhausted, the group gathers in the courtyard. Velendo creates a Calphas’ Comfortable Castle and invites the dwarven troops in to feast on the gourmet food that Calphas has created.

“I’m still worried,” the dwarven prince – now king? – says. “Reports are that the ghouls who took Mrid numbered in the thousands, and had many more siege engines. I’d like to know where they went if they didn’t come here.” He pulls out a map, and points to a series of tunnels. “They may have gone up this way. There are orcs up here, and giants as well. We’ve never been able to invade them. Hopefully, these ghouls won’t, either.”

Nolin nods. “It’s quite possible that they considered you just a minor roadblock, a distraction. They probably didn’t think you could withstand the force they sent.”

The prince nods. “And we almost didn’t, either. We owe you a great debt. If you are going to take back Mrid, we’ll come with you.” The group exchanges glances.

“I don’t think that’s necessary, your Majesty,” says Mara. Velendo agrees.

“Best to stay fortified here. We can cast a sending to try and gather more reinforcements for you. The best thing you can do is provide us with information and maps.”

“Indeed.” The dwarf nods, and then a crafty look passes over his tired and smudged face. “I have just the person to send with you. Our most knowledgeable Loremaster.” He looks over at an unhappy and pathetic-looking dwarf wearing jester’s motley, jingling by himself over in the corner.

“Not him?”

“Glibstone!” the prince roars.

The jester jingles over and half-heartedly bows, bells tinkling. “Prithee, m'lord, wish ye a riddle? What is the difference between a dwarf in the forest and one who has been hit by an acid arrow?” The Defenders all look at Nolin, who slowly shakes his head. Glibstone gives a grimace that might, possibly, be mistaken for a smile in very dim light. “One meets the elfs, and the other one eats the Melf's!” He looks at the prince hopefully. The prince catches and holds the Loremaster’s eye.

“Glibstone, these heroes are traveling back to Mrid. You're going with them.”

“Mrid, your Majesty?” Glibstone gulps, bells a-jingle, and looks momentarily hopeful. “The ghouls are gone, then?” The prince shakes his head, and the jester’s face falls.

“No. But they will need to know and travel the secret ways, and no one knows the ancient runes and old lore better than yourself.”

“I could write it down, my lo-“

“Don’t be foolish, Glibstone.” The prince turns back to the Defenders as Glibstone jingles slightly. “There is a vault and an armory inside the palace, a vault that contains our greatest treasures.” Prince Stern leans forward, face clouded with worry and sorrow. “My father would have fallen before he revealed the secret to the ghouls, and I doubt that the ghouls will have pierced the secrets of the vault themselves. If they haven’t, I give you leave to borrow what weapons and armor you need, for as long as you oppose these thrice damned ghouls!” He’s standing now, shouting, and with an effort he regains control of himself. He gestures with his clenched fist. “Glibstone can get you into the vault, and will return with whatever treasures you don’t need. With those, we’ll equip our own troops, and hopefully be ready for the next assault.”

“Are you sure, my lord?” asks Mara. “We don’t need a reward.”

“Indeed. That’s why I trust you to do this.” The prince stands, nods to the jester, and strides across the hall to speak with one of his soldiers.

The table falls silent.

The Loremaster clears his throat awkwardly and harrumphs. “So…” he says. “Hey nonny nonny? Er. You know how to tell how old an elf is?”

Nolin lean back and crosses his arms. “Cut him in half and count the rings?”

“No, m’lord, that would be for a half-elf.” He looks around as if looking for an escape, and Velendo laughs as he stands up.

“Glad to have you with us, Glibstone. We’ll value your knowledge.”

<> - <> - <> - <> - <>

It’s a tired group of heroes who fall asleep in the safety of their Calphas’ Comfortable Castle that night. When the Defenders retire, the outer cavern is being thoroughly searched for valuables and items, and any ghoulish bodies are being stacked for incineration as any lone ghouls are hunted down and destroyed. The well-fed dwarves of Mridsgate have proper security precautions in place, and the adventurers feel secure enough to bid them a good evening as they close the door to the castle and queue up to bathe before bed. The hot water feels delightful.

“What are we going to do about Kellharin?” asks Velendo as they sit in the library afterwards, warm robes wrapped around them and a blazing fire warming their skin.

“Tomorrow,” the group agrees, “we’ll decide tomorrow.”

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
A quick description of the Calphas’ Comfortable Castle:

Covering 5100 sq. feet, this interdimensional space is dominated by an ornate and well-decorated Great Hall. The Great Hall has a stage for Nolin, two long tables loaded with food, a beautiful fountain, and a whole lot of carvings of saints that all mysteriously look like Velendo when he's not paying attention to them.

Off of the Hall is a stable/exercise room, a large chapel to Calphas, a comfortable library, three small chapels (to Aeos, Galanna and Moradin), a bath, and a hallway. The hallway leads to bedrooms, more baths, and a common room for the dwarven troops.

If anyone knows how to take an Excel spreadsheet and turn it into a jpg, email me privately and I’ll post a map!
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Here's a quick map of the CCC, where 1 square = 5 ft. Thanks, everyone who gave me advice!

1. The Great Hall.
2. Exercise and practice room, complete with closed pit. Also used as stables.
3. Chapel to Calphas.
4. Library with comfortable chairs and a cozy fireplace.
5. Bathroom with hot and cold tubs. Primarily used by dwarves.
6. Dwarvish barracks. Sleeps 30 in bunk beds.
7. Dwarvish common room.
8. Splinder's bedroom.
9. Agar's bedroom.
10. Velendo's bedroom.
11. Tao's bedroom.
12. Women's bathroom. Connected to library by narrow hallway (21) for the convenience of female Defenders.
13. Mara's bedroom.
14. Galthia's bedroom.
15. Men's bathroom.
16. Malachite's bedroom.
17. Nolin's bedroom.
18. Small chapel to Moradin.
19. Small chapel to Galanna.
20. Small chapel to Aeos.
21. Narrow (3 ft. wide) hallway.
 

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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Tao runs through the tunnel. She can hear the ghoul’s footsteps in front of her, but no matter how quickly she runs she can’t seem to catch up. It knows all of the twists and turns in the passageway, and she’s running blindly as she tries to run it down. Her breath rasps in her lungs.

Then the cave wall in front of her lights up with a vibrant green light, and Tao realizes that the light is coming from her eyes. Tao feels her own mouth open, and the words that emerge are in the tongue of her Goddess. AWAKE, TAO. THE TEMPLE HAS BEEN DEFILED!

Wrenched from her dream, the divine agent sits straight up in bed. Other than the faint glow of magical weapons, the only illumination in the small room is the coruscating green light that still pours from Tao’s eyes. Her Goddess’s voice still rings in her ears, and Tao instinctively knows that the small shrine here in the Calphas’ Comfortable Castle has been either destroyed or defiled. “Thank you, Goddess,” she says reverently as she scrambles out of bed in a panic.

Meanwhile, Mara awakes from a sound sleep to the frantic mental neighing of her warhorse. “Luminor, what is it?” asks Mara as she sleepily sits up and swings her legs around. Her flannel nightdress with images of the sun bunches slightly as she gets to her feet.

“I’m in the stable, and there’s something horrible on the other side of the door! It’s coming closer, I think; it might smell me. Do I kick down the door and fight it?”

“No, not yet!” Mara looks at her armor, dismisses it as taking too long to don, and grabs her holy shield and her mace Lightbinder. “Stay put, and don’t leave the room unless you have to. I’m on my way now!” She wrenches open the door to the hallway, and is caught by surprise as solid darkness flows into her room. The light from her mace is extinguished, and Mara finds that she is completely sightless. Blindly, she turns right and begins to grope her way along the corridor, heading for the less crowded back passage to the main hall.

Across the hall, Tao has grabbed her swords and opened her door as well, only to find the same complete darkness enveloping her. “Wake up, everyone!” she yells at the top of her voice, shouting the phrase that for years the group has joked will be guaranteed to wake everyone up instantly. “Evil undead Torazite babes are stealing all the beer! We’re being attacked!” Then she is jostled by Mara in the darkness. “Come with me,” she says as she grasps the paladin’s shoulder. Tao closes her eyes, concentrates, and dimension doors the two of them into the small chapel of Galanna that Velendo has created off of the main hall.

With Tao’s shouting and the faint sound of Luminor’s whinnying, the other Defenders begin to wake. Galthia is the first to reach his feet, bounding up from the floor where he sleeps and scooping up the staff that lies on the overly soft bed next to him. He swivels his head and notices the thin line of darkness that creeps into the room from the crack under his door. That hardly matters, he thinks, as he remembers the year he spent blinded in order to improve his fighting reflexes. I wonder if these primes are properly trained to fight in darkness as well? Likely not. Relying on his ears and memory instead of his eyes, Galthia swings open the door and runs down the hall past his companions’ rooms. He can hear many noises: Velendo grumbling as he wakes, Nolin mouthing inanities, Karthos speaking to Malachite, and dozens of dwarves stirring. More worrisome, though, is the odor he smells coming from the main dining hall. Something smells acrid, like an alchemical experiment gone awry, and a faint hissing sound reaches his ears. He hears no other sounds from the room as he rounds the corner of the hallway.

In Malachite’s room, Karthos is speaking. “I sense no undead, Sir Malachite,” he says with a metallic ring, “but there is something horribly evil out there. I’m not sure what; fiendish, possibly. Let’s go kill it.” Malachite thanks him as he draws the sword from its scabbard and heads out his door without his shield or crystal armor. Darkness immediately surrounds him, and Malachite decides to test its limits.

He begins to swing Karthos in circles over his head. The sword immediately begins to radiate sunlight and heat, and the solid darkness lessens into flickering torchlight in the area immediately around the paladin. Satisfactory, he thinks, then he turns and heads into the darkness towards the great hall. As he does, Velendo and Agar open their bedroom doors and try to look out into the hall.

Still in his room, Nolin swears as he quickly grabs his instrument and cloak. I’m going to have to have words with Velendo, he thinks to himself. I thought this place was supposed to be impregnable. Ignoring the easy joke, he reaches inside of himself to the phoenix that shares his soul. “Rides the Sun, do you sense anything?” The knowledge of great evil fills Nolin, along with the certainty that its only feet away from him on the other side of the stone wall. Nolin briefly considers blasting open the wall with his blast harp to get there without delay, but decides to go around via the hallway instead.

Tao and Mara reappear in what should be Tao’s plant-filled chapel, but something is horribly wrong. The Altar Tree is completely dead and withered, seared away by something unknown. Puddles of gooey fluid cover the floor, and the air smells horrible. They still can’t see due to the darkness, but both Tao and Mara can feel the puddles of fluid eating into their slippers and the bottom of their feet. “Acid,” Tao says to herself, and is surprised to find that she can’t even hear her voice. Silence, she thinks, and they both step out into the darkness of the main hall.

By now Galthia has rounded the corner and entered the main hall himself, his staff of disruption poised to strike. Suddenly he can’t hear anything, and instincts kick in as he tries to dodge to the side. He’s not fast enough. Something strikes him like a juggernaut, something horrible and slimy that breaks over him with bone-crushing force and sweeps him up off the ground. The monk desperately twists as he looks for leverage to escape, but there is none. Blind and deaf, he feels dozens of mouths beginning to gnaw at his skin, even as searing pain from some sort of acid shoots down his body. No one hears his involuntary scream.

To be continued….
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
At this point, the arcane spellcasters have only had six hours of sleep, and it's about two or three hours before the divine spellcasters regain their spells. A wave of grimaces swept around the room when KidCthulhu said, "When was the last time we fought a battle without mass haste?" Tao's player asked, "You're out?" KidC replied, "Totally tapped. Not a high level spell in sight."

No one looked pleased.

Incidentally, this game starred our very own Lord Nightshade (Justin Tindel) as a guest player. Justin was visiting from Oregon, and played a wonderful alienist.

So Sagiro (who plays Velendo) thought it was really cool when I had designed the CCC map earlier that week, using nothing but Excel. When this encounter began, I pulled out the 4-page map I'd printed out to scale and taped together. "You bastard!" he said. "I was afraid you were going to do something like this." It's a good looking map at a large scale, and worked wonderfully when trying to figure out who was where.
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
In the dark, Mara cautiously moves forward into the room. As she does so, something huge smashes her back against the wall. She feels acid soaking her front and peeling off her skin, and the pain is intense. She grits her teeth and continues forward, swinging blindly into the darkness. As far as she can tell, she doesn’t connect with anything. Next to her, Tao squints blindly into the darkness, trying to use her other senses.

On the other side of the hall, Malachite rounds the corner with several people behind him, all bunched up as they try to stay in range of the sunlight produced by Malachite’s holy sword. Agar pokes his head around the corner as well, and blinks in surprise. “Oh my… be careful, everyone! I still have arcane sight up, and there are….” He hastily counts magical auras coming from the dark room in front of him, “almost THIRTY spells active on whatever is in there! Something has been really heavily enchanted for a fight!”

“Noted,” growls Malachite, and he swings Karthos over his head as they advance into the large room. Sunlight streams out from the sword and is immediately swallowed by the pervasive darkness. They cancel each other out, though, and the torches on the wall suddenly flutter back into life.

In the flickering torchlight, the group sees something horrible. Galthia hangs suspended in mid-air, turning and struggling as his skin is eaten away by powerful acid. The thing holding him is invisible, but Galthia seems unable to break free from its overpowering grasp. He’s completely silent. Beneath him, drops of smoking acid fall like rain onto the stone floor.

Malachite steps forward one more pace and swings, taking his best guess at where the invisible monster is. His sword misses. Splinder is luckier, his axe chopping into the unseen assailant and passing through cleanly. The blade begins to pit even as he watches, and Splinder mutters an oath in dwarvish. “Acid!” he explains. “Watch yer weapons! One more hit ‘n this’ll be gone!”

Velendo silently calculates how much trouble they’re in, and with a frown pulls out the wand that he hurriedly grabbed on his way out of his room. “Not many more of these,” he complains to no one in particular, and levels the wand at the invisible monster as he triggers one of the few remaining charges. A maximized dispel magic emerges from it.

The effect on the creature is remarkable. Enchantments peel away from it like wet tissue, one spell after another sparking and crackling as it is dispelled. There is a horrible burbling, slurping, wet noise as the silence and fly spells fail, and the massive creature drops four feet to the ground with Galthia still firmly encased inside of it. The air is filled with a horrible hissing noise that sounds like an alchemical experiment gone awry.

The creature is hideous… and gargantuan. Fully 35 ft. long and 20 ft. wide, the pulsing ooze smells of brimstone and acid, and it glows the blackish red color of cooling coals. Unseen skeletal hands and faces push out from the inside, pressing against the bulging surface as if trying to reach fresh meat, and dozens of humanoid mouths open and close along its surface. The monk is literally encased inside of the creature, being eaten alive by the hungry mouths.

“Oh my God,” someone says.

“How did that get in here?” shouts Velendo.

“Who cares!” yells Tao from the other side of the room. “Just kill it!” She catches something out of the corner of her eye; a second monster, some sort of skeletal soldier, stands unmovingly next to the only door to the outside. She groans to herself, shouts a warning to the group, and focuses her attention on the ooze-like thing in front of her.

Something interesting is happening where Splinder slashed it, however. A throbbing sore has traveled across the creature’s body, a wound that looks like a thickened scab. With a wet sucking sound, the monster separates into two huge monsters, each easily 20 ft. square.

Galthia decides to take advantage of the situation. The split down the monster’s middle occurs right over the place where his struggling body is trapped, and the monk desperately wrenches himself up and out of the acidic ooze. Teeth and claws do their best to hold him back, but he manages to pull free, tumbling away and staggering to his feet.

“That’s better,” Galthia manages to gasp. He focuses his mind and pounds his fists against his own body, healing his wounds by force of will alone. Then he takes one more step, and the hideous creature surges hungrily after him. A vast pseudopod slams down against the back of Galthia’s head. He tries to escape, but the pulsing monster is too strong, and once again he’s sucked back into its midst. A large piece of his loose clothing is sheared off by the acid, and lies disintegrating on the pitted stone floor where his feet stood just seconds before.

Across the room, the other portion of the monster that isn’t busy digesting Galthia bulges forward to engulf Mara. The paladin crouches behind her magical shield as the acidic pseudopod slams into her, and she barely manages to avoid being drawn into its bulk. Behind her, Tao quickly reaches out with a healing prayer, reducing some of the brutal acid damage that Mara has suffered.

As the pseudopod is reabsorbed into the monster, Mara moves forward to attack its bulk. “Think blunt weapons will split it?” she calls out urgently, but no one has a good answer for her. She doesn’t have a chance to find out. As she advances, a second tentacle bursts out, and Mara is knocked backwards before being involuntarily engulfed. Tao watches helplessly as Mara disappears into the monster, her recently healed wounds reopening under the flow of fresh acid.

To be continued…
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Mara can hear Luminor screaming inside of her head, but the sound of the horse hammering at the stone door is muffled by the acidic ooze that surrounds her head. I’m okay, Luminor! she reassures her mount, but the pain that surges through her body belies the calm statement. Mara can feel teeth gnawing at her dissolving flesh, and realizes that she’s simply not strong enough to break free. She can also feel the acid dissolving her prim cotton nightdress. Well, that’s going to be interesting, she thinks with a wave of shyness, but she has more pressing worries.

Across the room, the Defenders attack en masse. Splinder changes weapons, takes a defensive stance, and slashes with an old weapon. His old axe dissolves completely, and the large portion of the monster shudders as it begins to split a second time. Malachite swings Karthos, and the sword emerges screaming in pain from the acid. Magic missiles from Agar pummel the writhing ooze, and a searing light from Velendo burns into its interior. Standing at the doorway, Nolin holds his blast harp up to his lips, and sends a crushing wave of ultrasonic energy into the quivering monster. It doesn’t drop Galthia, but huge rents are being blasted in its undulating surface.

Splinder quickly realizes that this is no place for his dwarven troops. “Get back, all of you!” he commands, and the dwarves who were waiting to enter and attack instead back away to give the more experienced heroes room to maneuver.

Galthia feels his magical staff of disruption disintegrate from between his fingers, just as the last of his clothing rots away from the acid. His fingers pierce the surface of the creature, and he wrenches open a gap large enough to pull himself out of. He twists his burned body out of the narrow opening, and tumbles away from the splitting creature. Naked and acid-seared, Galthia finishes his escape across the room next to Nolin.

Unable to reach the half-dissolved and still juicy githzerai, the battered portion of the ooze surges forward and attacks Malachite instead. Meanwhile, the second portion of the monster works busily on digesting Mara, even as the third portion does its best to engulf Tao. She grips the doorway with her gauntlet of adamant grasp instead, and the tentacle recedes back into the monster without taking her with it. Tao’s eyes narrow, and she casts plane shift as she slaps her open palm down on the ooze that has Mara trapped. “Let’s let someone on the Beastlands deal with you,” she says, and the monster shimmers and vanishes across the planes. Naked except for her shield, Mara drops to the floor, her skin sizzling. Tao shakes the acid from her open hand.

“Wow!” admires Agar. Whether he’s referring to the plane shift or the naked paladin is unclear. Mara quickly repositions her shield in front of her and staggers to her feet. “Nice ass,” comments Tao, and Mara flashes her a dirty look. Behind her shield, the paladin discreetly lays on hands to heal her own wounds.

“Don’t you think Galanna is going to object to you sending a horrible acidic monster to her home plane?” Velendo asks concernedly from across the room, shouting over the sounds of combat. Tao look slightly embarrassed as she replies.

“Err… I didn’t have any other choice. I’m sure she’ll let me know if it’s a problem.” Her green eyes glance around, as if expecting Galanna to object immediately, but the well-known celestial voice stays quiet.

Three pieces of ooze remain. Instead of attacking, Malachite holds up Karthos. “Can you lay hilt on yourself?” he asks. The sword answers by flashing with sunlight, and before Malachite’s eyes the acid-worn holes in the blade refill with new metal. “Nice,” comments Malachite, and he turns back to the oozes just as spells from Agar, Velendo and Nolin go off almost simultaneously. One of the oozes quivers and deliquesces in burning slime, and the other two shudder from the damage. Ghoulish faces thrust up from the creatures’ backs, howling in pain from multiple mouths, and the Defenders grimace.

It quickly becomes apparent that the smaller the pieces of the creature, the more difficulty it has engulfing people. As a result, the sections are chopped up into smaller bits that are attacked by the Defenders’ few remaining area effect spells. The monster seems to have a natural resistance to spells and fire, but within half a minute the creature is completely destroyed. So is Galthia’s staff, however, and Mara’s holy mace is badly damaged. Malachite’s sword Karthos would be destroyed as well if Mara hadn’t stepped in and healed it, her holy power repairing its acid damage.

Still clad in bed clothes – for those who weren’t engulfed, at least – the group turns to the umber hulk-like bone creature that stands unmovingly before the exit door. “It isn’t undead,” confirms Malachite. “I don’t know what it is.”

“Construct, maybe,” says Velendo. As they approach it warily, a mouth opens up on its skull-like face. “This didn’t have to happen,” begins Kellharin’s wheedling voice from the magic mouth.

“I’ve heard enough,” says Velendo flatly, interrupting the voice. He casts one of his few remaining Wall spells to hedge the construct into a narrow area. Flying up to the narrow gap at the top of the wall, he casts blade barrier down into the tight space. Metal shards and bone chips fly everywhere, bouncing off of the wall of force. Within a handful of seconds, the magical blades whir above nothing more than a low pile of shattered bone and scrap metal.

“That bastard.” Velendo looks around the acid-scarred sanctuary, taking in his battered and angry friends with his gaze. “One thing is for sure,” he begins wearily. He gets cut off as the rest of the Defenders finish his sentence for him.

“We’re going to have to do something about Kellharin.”

To be continued….
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
The faint smell of acid and brimstone still hangs in the air. Sitting in the comfortable library at 3:30 am, the Defenders snack on what few pieces of food survived the acid-bath while they debate their best plan for survival and victory. With them is Raevynn, Kiri and Shara, all of whom prismed in during the aftermath of the battle; they were confused until Agar explained that they had probably slipped into the null-time plane earlier that day. Nolin explains to the three of them what just occurred, and they join in the discussion.

“My best guess,” Agar is saying as he sucks reflectively on his lit pipe, “is that Kellharin used a gate spell to pierce the planar boundaries of the Calphas’ Comfortable Castle. He must have scried someone here in the Castle, noted where they were, and then ripped a hole into it from the Prime. It wasn’t me; my detect scrying would have told me.” He looks around questioningly, and Tao looks disgusted.

“It was probably me,” she says in a tired voice. “The thing appeared in my chapel. He must have watched me while I was praying.” Everyone looks at her with sympathy.

“So what are we going to do?” Velendo asks. “That thing was horrible! If he can send something like that in here whenever he wants, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

“Indeed we are!” exclaims Karthos the sword in a metallic voice. “I myself was injured near unto death. If it were not for Sir Malachite's skill at arms and Commander Mara’s miraculous healing touch, I would be nothing more than scrap metal right now.” It’s hard to tell, but it looks like the sword is gazing adoringly at the now-clothed paladin. Malachite sighs, perfunctorily agrees with the sword, and quickly sheathes it. Mara looks unruffled.

“That reminds me,” she says over the muffled sound of the still-talking sword. “My mace Lightbinder is badly damaged. I’ll need to try and get it fixed somehow.”

“Well,” snorts Splinder, “it’s not like we have any shortage of dwarves, and there’s got to be a good weaponsmith in Mridsgate. I’ve even got a decent one in my own ranks. I’ll check tomorrow.” Mara nods her thanks with a wide smile.

“How often do you suppose he can do that?” Malachite asks.

“Kellharin? I dunno,” answers Agar. “Depends on how powerful he is, really. Only once, I hope.” The group talks for a few more minutes about possible strategies for protecting the sanctuary, but doesn’t settle on anything in particular.

“The question is,” asks Raevynn, “should we take the fight to him? I don’t know how long it will be before I slip back into another plane, but I’d like to get him if we can.” She shoots Agar a dirty look, and he pretends to ignore it.

Kiri agrees. “With Shara and I here, we have a lot more arcane firepower than we usually do. The two of us can always return to Eversink later tomorrow. For now, lets find a way to teleport in and take him out.”

Shara looks at her questioningly. “I was under the impression that it was impossible to teleport deep underground.”

“That’s true,” agrees Velendo, “but we’re not so sure he is deep underground. We’ve scryed him once; he’s actually a dwarf, and he appeared to be asleep or projecting when we saw him. Let’s take a look at all of our auguries, legend lores and divinations concerning him.”

The group lays the transcripts out on the table.

  • The White Kingdom knows of the path, but the rotting dwarf is stalled by his own Kingdom’s defense.
    - Nolin’s legend lore on traveling through the abandoned dwarven city of Tuz’Zud.

    Kellharin guards the ebon door, his evil stopped from doing more
    Cursed to stay beyond the day the dwarves were forced to go their way.

    - Agar’s vision of the name Kellharin
As the group begins to tiredly look at the prophecies, Karthos begins to talk urgently from within Malachite’s sheath. “This better be good,” Malachite says as he half-draws the blade.

“There is undead nearby!” exclaims Karthos with worry in his voice. “I can detect them!”

“Knock knock?” says a familiar voice as an undead dwarf leans around the corner of the door. It holds out a bottle of blood-red wine in one hand and a bouquet of bone-white flowers in the other. “I brought a peace offering!”

To be continued….
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
The Defenders all jump to their feet, drawing weapons as they do so. Kellharin waves a calloused hand dismissively, and a few carrion flies launch themselves into the air at his abrupt motion. “Sit down, sit down. No need to get up on my account.”

Velendo sighs heavily as he leans forward on the table. “Kellharin, what do you want? We’re all really tired, and we don’t have much patience for games.”

The undead dwarf smiles ingratiatingly as he puts the old bottle of wine and the flowers down on the edge of the table. It’s now apparent that the bone white flowers have tiny splotches of crimson on them, like splatters of dried blood. “Understood. I just wanted to thank you. I took a big risk earlier this evening when I asked my favorite pet to drive home my point. Instead of killing him, you were kind enough to plane shift a section of him away. That was really thoughtful of you.” He beams at the group. “He’s already home safe. So, I’m appreciative.” He indicates the proffered wine and flowers, his smile stretching even wider.

In answer, Malachite sweeps his arm across the table. The wine bottle shatters when it hits the floor, splashing blood red fluid across the tumbled flowers. The Hunter of the Dead glares at the dwarf, sword half drawn. “Anything else?” he asks icily.

Kellharin looks at this display of bad manners with unfeigned disappointment. He gazes up at the human looming above him. “You know, I’ve been dead for some time,” he says reprovingly, “but I’m fairly sure that’s not how you treat guests. That was drow wine, you know, hundreds of years old!” One of the carrion flies settles back on his cheek. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“You’re not a guest.”

Kellharin clears his throat noisily, patchy beard bobbing. “I suppose not. It’s a shame; there is seldom opportunity for polite conversation in our kingdom. Too much to do. I also wanted to point out that your group is entirely vulnerable to us. Do you really want to….”

Malachite interrupts, speaking over his shoulder to Velendo. “Is there any reason to wait?” Karthos leaps to the paladin’s hand.

“…spend months of your precious life sleeping poorly and looking over your shoulder, wondering when we’ll launch an attack? Really, I don’t think it’s too late for us to find a com….”

“No,” answers Velendo with a shake of his head.

“…promise, an interim solution.” Kellharin looks hopeful.

Long sword flashing, Malachite slashes him down in a single blow.

The dwarf’s clotted bodily fluids join the flowers and the wine bottle in a grotesque puddle on the carpeted floor. Well, half of the wine bottle, anyways. Malachite looks up, and sees Splinder at the end of the table, swigging down the unbroken half as he watches the confrontation.

“What are you doing?” asks Velendo, aggrieved. “It could be poisoned!”

“Nah,” answers Splinder. “Good stuff. A little fruity for my personal taste, though.”

The group sits in silence for a minute, and then Nolin pushes himself back to his feet. “We’ve really got to do something about him. But for now, I’m going to bed. If there are any more emergencies, don’t bother waking me up.” He stomps down the hall. One by one, the others follow him.

To be continued….
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
By noon the next day, the Defenders have gotten some sleep and prepared their spells. Nothing else tried to break into their Calphas’ Comfortable Castle, and Velendo starts the day by casting a divination about their chances for success if they scry Kellharin and teleport in to kill him.

What he receives is this:

  • Does the wall tumble down when the mason falls from grace?
    Can a tyrant build a gate that shields his peasants from attack?
    Can a demon hate a devil, while a deva hates a fiend?
    Do the colors of the standard ever change and change again?
“What in the world does that mean?” complains Malachite grumpily over a cold brunch of salt pork and hard biscuits, a big change from the gourmet food that was destroyed the night before. “Whatever happened to a nice simple weal or woe?”

Velendo looks lost in thought as he stares at the paper. “Calphas’ wisdom is perfect,” he says slowly, “but my interpretation of it leaves a little bit to be desired. This is how my mind understood the divine message. Let’s see if we can figure it out.”

Taking it literally, they decide that:
  • No. Normal walls don’t usually fall just because the mason has become corrupted.
  • Yes. It’s certainly possible for a tyrant to care for and shield people weaker than himself.
  • Yes. Demons do hate devils, and devas hate fiends. (They don’t discuss the concept that devas may not bother to distinguish between devils and demons in their hatred.)
  • Yes. The colors of a standard (a flag) can certainly change, especially when it’s captured or someone has raised a false flag to fool the enemy.
“But will fighting him bring weal or woe? And what does it mean?” asks Agar.

Velendo scratches his chin. “It looks like most of the answers are ‘yes’, which suggests we should go ahead. But I can’t help but think I’m missing something. Tao, when is the next time you can talk to Galanna?”

“A few more days, unless we have a whole lot of things to ask. I only get an audience with her twice a year.”

They discuss what else they know of Kellharin. As far as the group knows, he’s an armor-wearing undead dwarf who doesn't look like a true ghoul. He’s either a powerful wizard or a cleric, and the armor suggests a cleric; either way, he's deeply religious. He can send his consciousness into other undead. He’s not located deep in the underdark; instead, he’s apparently trapped in the abandoned Dwarven city of Tuz’zud nearer to the surface. They know that a commune indicated that going through Tuz’zud was the most efficient path to reach the heart of the White Kingdom. Nolin has heard ancient dwarvish chants about the fact that Tuz’zud was abandoned, but not one of the epic chants ever said why. He has also heard that the city was built as a defense, and held dwarven warriors that could hold back darkness.

That makes Nolin think of something. “You know, we have our very own dwarven loremaster, don’t we?” he asks. “Let’s go ask him about this ebon door. Also, Mara needs to drop her mace off with the dwarven weaponsmith to get it fixed.”

While the weaponsmith is alternately oohing over the mace’s quality and clucking his tongue at the acid damage, Nolin tracks down Glibstone. The jester is sitting glumly on a set of steps, chin settled firmly on his fists. He turns his head at Nolin’s approach, bells jingling, and after the customary joke or two Nolin explains that he wants information on what happened to Tuz’zud. Glibstone’s face closes tight, his eyes wary.

“No. Tuz’zud is thuruk… that is to say, taboo. We do not discuss it. It is dead to us.” He crosses his arms in front of his chest in stubborn defiance. The jingling of his bells somewhat spoils the effect.

Nolin looks at him in confusion. “What do you mean, taboo? Why is it taboo? We need to know.”

“That information is thuruk as well.”

“What are you talking about, man? You’re a loremaster! No information should be taboo!” Glibstone looks at the half-elf in fury.

“I would not expect you to understand. There is certain information which is best left forgotten. There is certain information which leads dwarves into corruption or temptation, while there would be no threat if they had never been tempted. It is the Loremaster’s duty to guard the knowledge that must not be passed down, just as it is his duty to pass down the information that should be known.”

“Oh, for crying out loud.” Nolin rolls his eyes. “Don’t you have the slightest bit of curiosity about forbidden knowledge?”

Glibstone is quite certain of his answer. “No.”

“Well, is there any information about Tuz’zud which you can tell us?”

The dwarf considers. “It was once a large city, more than 200 years ago,” he ventures. “They suffered a small plague that killed some 30% of the population. Within a hundred years of that time, the remaining inhabitants left Tuz’zud and went elsewhere. That is all.”

“Well, thanks,” Nolin says dubiously. “They didn’t delve too deep and awaken something, did they?”

“What?” asks Glibstone, confused. “Of course not.”

“Oh, good. That’s a nice change,” says Nolin as he gets up to leave.

“You must not go there!” warns Glibstone. “It is far from here, and it is forbidden.”

“Thanks,” Nolin repeats, and walks back to the courtyard.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

By the time Nolin gets back, Agar has Kellharin's image reflected in his scrying mirror and is duplicating the image with a minor illusion. "He doesn't seem to have noticed me," Agar announces. "Either he's clever, sloppy or overconfident. I've cast detect magic through the mirror; his armor and shield and weapon are extremely magical, and he has some other magic items, but I don't think I'm looking at a screen or false vision."

Kellharin in person is a stocky dwarf clad in heavy armor and wielding a massive double-headed warhammer. Agar watches him walk slowly along the edge of a great pillared hall. The dwarven knight stands before empty wall niches that might have once held statues, pausing at each before continuing on. Through the mirror, Agar can see a heavy track worn in the floor. Kellharin has clearly done this before.

Teleports ready?” Velendo asks. Kiri, Tao and Agar all nod. “Defensive spells all cast?” Everyone nods again. “Nolin?”

The bard casts mass haste, three people cast teleport, and the eleven heroes vanish. Behind them, the scrying mirror continues to show the scene for just a few seconds more, and then it too peters out. The lamp-lit room goes completely silent.

To be continued….
 
Last edited:

Jobu

First Post
wolff96 said:
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that whatever drove out the dwarves of Tuz'Zud is linked to Kellharin guarding the Ebon Door.

The comment about "his own Kingdom's defense" refers to the defense of the White Kingdom, which will fail if he is no longer around to guard the Ebon Door. Whatever is behind that door isn't good for the White Kingdom, but will be even worse -- possibly fatal -- for the Defenders.

Ok, picture this. It's a beautiful summer night, there are eleven of us sitting around a table on the back porch, and we get these cryptic messages to figure out. This was role-playing at it's best. Having Al, Morrus, Kiri, Shara, Raevyn all here just made the evening even better. We were all gung-ho, chargeing in swords slashing and spells flying..... but remember who was DMing.
Just wait for the next post.

PS: Being a friend, relative, and loved one of PirateKitty I vote a big ole NO for the idea of breaking our fingers. But I can keep pestering him to update the storyhour more often.
 


Eisenkrote

First Post
Second-Guessing

Shamelessly heisted from Carnifex
Piratecat finally gets his revenge for ignored adventure hooks from ages past :)
My vote is for Grumsted Nightforger, reconstituted, renamed, and reassigned. After all, this Kelharin claims he can't die, and how many times was Grumsted killed the first time around before he took the hint and lay still?

One of the beautiful things about long campaigns is that, the longer they go on, the more loose ends accumulate, making encounters also an exercise in nostalgia. This becomes even easier for the DM if he has an online record of the campaign history to refer to...

I've one question for the players: did PirateCat use a different voice to portray Kelharin during this encounter?
 
Last edited:

KidCthulhu

First Post
Re: Second-Guessing

Eisenkrote said:
I've one question for the players: did PirateCat use a different voice to portray Kelharin during this encounter?

Oh, of course he did. PC is all about the silly voices. And we put it together pretty quickly once the initial battle fervor wore off.

Or at least those not fleeing like big ole chickens did. The person I feel sorry for is Kiri's player, Wisdom Like Silence, who came all the way from California, and spent the combat either mired in rock or running like a girl.
 

WisdomLikeSilence

Community Supporter
Or at least those not fleeing like big ole chickens did. The person I feel sorry for is Kiri's player, Wisdom Like Silence, who came all the way from California, and spent the combat either mired in rock or running like a girl.

Sure. But it's not bad for Kiri to occasionally be reminded that there *are* worse things than spending hours listening to the Master of Protocol discussing the proper form of address for a Baron's cousin's sister-in-law....

(and you know I'm glad to see you guys no matter what we do)
 

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