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

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Sialia

First Post
Gosh, there's alot of story-hungry, bored fans out there.

You know, I could really use a dedicated Piratecat fan with a lot of time on his or her hands who is willing to do a little easy but time consuming work to help produce my next missing-chunks-of-Defender's-backstory creation.

If you are interested in participating, please send me an email at MsCurio@yahoo.com, and I'll give you the details about what it would involve.

As a perq, you might get sneak peaks at sections of Defender history as yet unrevealed.

Serious offers of help only please. The rest of you can wait until I get this monstrosity bred up to full strength.

Which might be in about 2003.

Sooner if I get some help.
 
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(contact)

Explorer
So in the mean time, go read the Retro story hour of ToEE2, posted and illustrated by (contact), and the one that got me serious about posting my own! Nearby, in a Storyhour Forum near you.

Here's the link.

I'm also working on projects that make Piratecat money, but I'm taking the time off to make a bunch of drawings.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Moving through the void. . . .

The world reappears. For most of the group, it solidifies properly: thick stale air, an inky black dwarven hall, massive pillars disappearing up into darkness, shattered statuary. Not so for Kiri, Velendo and Malachite. They materialize in solid rock.

Kiri realizes what happened as soon as the pain hits. She feels her flesh rupturing and bleeding, failing to merge with the stone around her. In her head she can hear her pseudodragon Tipic screaming uncontrollably, and more through vibration than hearing she picks up Velendo’s strained voice.

“Tel… eport… again!”

Kiri can’t move her hands, but the spell that is still trying (and failing) to solidify them surges inside of her and carries them away. They appear, panting, in a cave complex. All three are ankle deep in bat guano, and luminescent fungus glows slightly on the walls.

Malachite gives her a worried look.

“Hang on,” says Kiri, recovering from the shock. “We’re trying again.” Tipic’s tiny terrified claws dig into her shoulder as she begins to recast, and once again the three vanish.

Meanwhile, the other Defenders glance around the huge, silent hall. It takes them a few seconds to properly see the shape in the dark armor, as their gaze seems to want to slide off of him in the same way that a roach skitters from light. There is something wrong with the shape. It is a seeping sore of betrayal and despair, and fear pulses from it like pus from an infected wound. It slowly turns its head towards them, and its eyes stream hellish light.

Everyone except for Mara feels their muscles begin to shake in terror, their bladders loosen, their sweat go cold. For Nolin, though, it is worse. Everything that Nolin has ever done wrong, every friend and woman that he’s ever betrayed, are personified in that dark shape. Backing up a few steps, he turns and flees. Splinder isn’t far behind him, his boots ringing on the hard stone as he runs.

The rest of the group manages to fight down their initial instincts to flee. They can see that Kellharin is probably not a wizard; clad in ornate plate armor, he carries both a huge metal shield and a double-headed sledge hammer. Whatever the insignia on his shield once was, it has been torn off long ago. The undented armor is black from age, not from enamel, lit by the two glowing red eyes that gleam out from the shadows over the straggly beard.

“Kellharin!” Galthia darts forward, his heart thudding in his chest from unreasoning fear, and he unleashes a blurred combination of deadly strikes on the creature. The hall echoes from the sound of flesh hitting metal for the first time in decades. For his trouble, Galthia ends up with a bruised fist. “Hard to hit,” he says grimly as he falls back into a defensive stance.

Agar is responsible for making sure the spellcaster doesn’t flee. He casts dimensional anchor, but the green ray sputters and vanishes as it hits the undead. “Spell resistance!” calls Agar.

As Raevynn wild shapes into the shape of a stone giant, Shara begins to spell cast anyways. I’ve been waiting to do this for years, she muses to herself, and she lets loose with a powerful spell. Come to me! Obey me! she urges as she feels the filaments of her control undead magics wriggling around the undead in front of her, but he easily manages to resist it. Damn! thinks Shara as the magic dies away. This fight just got a lot harder. And where is Kiri?

Kellharin seems to be pulling himself out of a deep brooding trance, and he doesn’t get his shield up before Mara’s holy mace comes smashing down onto his shoulder from where she flanks him. As it does, there are bright sparks, and the undead dwarf finally snarls in anger. His breath is that of a corpse, rank and fetid.

“So people have come at last,” he says heavily in formal dwarvish, but not without the faint ring of excitement. “You must be from the surface, for you can not be from below. It matters not. You will die, like all those before you.” He hefts the heavy two-headed hammer, and Mara has just enough time to see the pulsing runes that encrust it before it pounds into her. He’s good, better than she is, and his blows knock aside her shield with tremendous force as they strike home. He attacks five times, spinning the sledge with long-practiced skill, and several of the blows get through. There’s a faint snapping sound that may be a bone, and Mara realizes that his strength is close to double her own.

“I don’t think we’re going to be the ones to die!” she says, as Malachite, Velendo and Kiri materialize behind her. “It’s time for your evil to end!” The dwarf laughs hollowly, his eyes lighting Galthia’s face as he glances back at the monk.

“Oh, no,” he answers with an amused and horribly bitter tone in his slow, deep voice. He raises his blood-flecked hammer. “You’re quite wrong. I can’t die.” And with a scream of terror, Kiri spins and runs off into the darkness.

To be continued….
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Tao risks a longing glance in the direction of the fleeing Benholms – There goes our mass haste spell, she thinks, fleeing like Eritain on a bad day – and downs an old potion of haste. She’s been keeping the potion slung on her belt for years, but there’s a time for everything, and the divine agent feels her perceptions speed up as the potion takes effect. She immediately snaps a searing light off in Kellharin’s direction, but the brilliant ray of light fizzles as it is swallowed by Kellharin’s own personal darkness.

Galthia tries another series of attacks, lightning-fast feints and jabs. Kellharin braces himself and raises his shield, and the monk finds all but one of his strikes missing. His eyes narrow as he studies the dark metal shield, looking for something. There it is, he thinks, and there on the armor as well. Good. He draws on a reserve inside of him that he developed over years of meditation and practices, and he feels the ki gather like a sledgehammer in the end of his fist. When he takes his last attack, he doesn’t aim for any openings in the undead’s defense. Instead, he aims for the structural weak point of his magical shield, a spot just off of the center. CLANG! Galthia’s fist hits solidly, and the shield palpably dents.

Raevynn now towers over the others, easily three times Kellharin’s size. From ten feet away, she swings her staff as hard as she can. The first blow cracks Kellharin over the shoulder, but he manages to interpose his shield as soon as he understands her reach, and none of her other attacks penetrate his defenses. Next to the druid, Agar is still on “don’t let him escape” detail. Another green ray shoots from his finger, and this time an interlocking web of glowing green filaments spreads over Kellharin. “Got him!” Agar announces happily. “He’s not teleporting anywhere!” The dwarf answers this statement with a short, mocking laugh. He’s interrupted by a bolt of energy from Shara, but the lightning crackles and hisses around him without harming him in the least.

Mara adjusts herself to flank, and unleashes an attack routine that targets the weak spots – if any – in Kellharin’s armor. Lightbinder hisses and snaps every time it touches the dwarf, scoring a few hits and searing dead flesh. Malachite rushes forward with Karthos drawn and follows up Mara’s attack with one of his own, smiting the undead with a brilliant flash. Kellharin grunts deeply as the enchanted blade hammers splinters of old metal into his undead flesh.

Kellharin backs up next to the wall and settles his stance, his dented shield in front of him and his massive warhammer weaving at his side. Velendo recognizes the stance, because he’s seen Splinder use it dozens of times. A dwarven defender? he thinks. That doesn’t make any sense. But Kellharin is speaking coldly, without exertion.

“I have a duty, and you challenge it. You’ll die as the others have.”

“What others?” Velendo asks. “Do you know us?”

In answer, Kellharin unleashes a blistering array of attacks against the Hunter of the Dead. “I” crunch “guard” crunch “the” crunch “Ebon” crunch “Door.” whoosh Four out of five hit, one of them crushingly, and Malachite is knocked backwards by the severe damage. “What others?” Inside the helm, a glint of fiery light reflects from old teeth as Kellharin smiles insanely. “Why, the ones I killed.” His voice rises to a manic tone, and it’s quickly clear that he isn’t exactly well balanced.

As Velendo’s head clears from the second teleport, he uses his true seeing to study the undead dwarf. He sees a pillar of black flame wrapped in magical armor. Interestingly, filaments of black fire are being carried into the dwarf from one direction, emerging from the darkness as they carry power into the undead guardian. Something is strengthening him, thinks Velendo. The door? Oh, what I wouldn’t give for the Damming Stone right about now. Following the direction of the filaments, Velendo turns and runs into the darkness.

To be continued....
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Tao wrinkles her nose. She can still hear both Benholms and her dwarven friend running off into the distance behind her. I’ve got to cut off the fear effect, she thinks. What would do it? She casts magic circle against evil, hoping that the fear is caused by some sort of domination effect. It’s possible she’s correct; as soon as she charges forward to attack and Kellharin falls within the radius of the circle, the gasping screams behind her abruptly cut off.

Across the pillared hall, Nolin, Kiri and Splinder screech to a panting halt. The unreasoning fear that possessed them has suddenly disappeared, and they can hear the sounds of the battle hundreds of feet away. “By Moradin’s tangled beard,” mutters Splinder.

“What WAS that?” asks Tipic, Kiri’s pseudodragon. “That thing’s really scary!”

“I know, sweetling,” answers Kiri as she scratches him fondly on the neck. “Let’s go deal with it.” She turns to run the other way, and Nolin follows on fiery phoenix wings.

Galthia now knows what he needs to do in order to win the fight. He completely gives up on actually hurting Kellharin, and instead focuses all of his attacks on the dwarf’s shield. On the third hit, the githzerai’s fist smashes right through the enchanted metal. With a wrench, he rips the magical shield in two, and launches an attack on the breast plate of Kellharin’s heavy dwarven armor. Spells flash and sear around him as Agar and Shara try to penetrate Kellharin’s resistance. Next to him, Mara, Malachite and Tao surround the dwarf as best they can, weapons rising and falling as they try to beat their way through the heavy armor. Kellharin utters a horrible word, and both Raevynn and Malachite fall back with their eyes bleeding. The dwarf follows his attack with another series of blows, perhaps trying to drop Malachite once and for all.

At the other end of the hall, Velendo looks up at a huge ebon portal twenty feet tall. Hieroglyphic-like carvings line the wall around it. The metal of the door is completely black, a darkness that seems to eat the faint light that reaches it. Velendo checks; the Ebon Door itself isn’t evil, although its guardian Kellharin certainly is. To Velendo’s true seeing, the door doesn’t appear magical at first. Then he realizes that this is because the magic is so pervasive that it already surrounds him. What IS this thing? Velendo wonders. He debates for a moment, then places a sovereign wall directly in front of the door, flush against the wall. That ought to stop it, whatever it is, he thinks to himself. He’s distraught to see the pulsing black energy streaming from the stone instead.

I see, I think. It’s pouring its power right into the stone. Right into the cavern itself. And Kellharin is picking up the energy from the rock. My wall isn’t going to even slow it down. He turns and runs back the way he came.

By the time he returns, Kellharin has badly injured several of his combatants, but none of them have fallen. The dwarf’s armor is roughly ripped open, but his sledgehammer is dripping with blood. Malachite has Karthos raised, his eyes blinking rapidly, and it’s possible that this blow may be all that’s needed to finish off the undead guardian. Through the true sight, Velendo can see the black energy flowing, and thinks as hard as he can, and decides to take a chance.

“Hang on a minute. Kellharin, why shouldn’t we kill you?”

The dwarf swivels his ancient head towards Velendo. “You can’t kill me.”

“Hah!” exults Karthos. “Malachite, swing!” Instead, Malachite lowers the weapon slightly, and waits for Velendo to finish.

“Yeah, yeah, so you said. But if we could? What happens?”

“You can’t. It won’t let you.” His deep, croaking laughter spirals crazily upwards. “Don’t you think I’ve tried? Don’t you think I’ve asked, and pleaded, and ordered? No. I am here while the door is here, and I am eternal. I don’t know why you want the door open, but you will fail.” As if in emphasis, his armor makes a small screeching noise as it begins to repair itself. Already, he looks healthier.

“But why…” Nolin starts, suddenly aware that he missed something while he was fleeing. “Have you been trying to kill us before today?”

“No.”

Nolin turns to the others. “That utter bastard! He calls himself Kellharin, he points us towards this guy, hoping that we’d teleport in and…”

Malachite lowers his protesting sword completely. “We almost did. And I’m not convinced that we shouldn’t.”

“You can’t. I am the guardian of Tuz’Zud. Now and forever more. There are none after me. They….” Suddenly beneath the helm Kellharin’s voice turns, and twists, and takes on a familiar sneer. “You think you can defeat me, worms? I tire of being polite. You’d best succeed, or sleep very lightly!” The voice trails off into a series of congested giggles, and with a grunt Kellharin shakes his head. “Get. OUT!” The voice issuing from his mouth stops completely.

“What was that? Who was that, then?” There is a faint note of hysteria in Velendo’s voice.

“They try to control me. They know they can not. The Door will not let them. They must have fooled you into doing their work for them. That was one of the flesh-eaters. I know the taste of his mind, when he has tried to seize me before.”

“What’s behind the door?” asks Shara.

“A chasm to the lands below.” Kellharin’s voice takes on a slightly rhythmic pattern, as if reciting something he memorized long ago. “Tuz’Zud was built to protect the High Lands from those beneath. With the skill and blood of Moradin’s Folk, we crafted a portal that would keep out those who sought to pass. In every generation it would choose a champion and guardian, and the honor was passed down in the family from Uncle to Nephew. He who was chosen was married only to the Door, but it was a great honor.” The bitterness in his voice is caustic.

“So why are you left here?” Nolin looks attentive, noting it down for a forthcoming ballad.

“My family died of plague, and I had no other relatives who were suitable. The Ebon Door kept me alive, though. Oh, yes. While all of my friends died of old age around me, it would not let me go. I died, and it would not let me go! His deep voice is raised in impotent fury. “Now I am a chainthrall of the Ebon door, and I will last as long as it stands. It won’t tolerate otherwise.”

“So where did the other dwarves go?” asks someone, quietly.

Kellharin’s voice is flat. ”I killed them. I stalked them through the city, and I broke their skulls with my hammer. The hammer that it makes strong.”

“But… why?”

“WHY? I knew that when they were gone, when they were all gone, it wouldn’t need me any more. But I was wrong.” The bonfire-colored eyes dim for a moment. “I was wrong. And I am still here, and they have left. Those that survived. And still I guard the door. It fears to be alone, you see, so it needs a companion. I live for it, so that it may stand.”

"How many did you kill?"

Kellharin shrugs his wide shoulders. "Two hundred? Two hundred and fifty? You can count their skulls, if you wish."

There’s a pause, and suddenly Kellharin looks up urgently, eyes flaring. “But the ghoul thought you could kill me. It must know what you are capable of! Which means…” It looks around the group, its eyes throwing odd shadows across the dusty floor. “Which means you might be able actually do it. You must! Kill me!” It spreads its arms out, bearing its rapidly healing chest.

There’s an embarrassed silence. Someone clears their throat. Feet are examined. Agar finally pipes up. “What happens to the Door if you die?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps it opens. Perhaps it stays locked. It hardly matters.”

Splinder shrugs. “We can’t kill you.”

Kellharin rounds on him, sledgehammer lifted in one hand. “You MUST!” His voice drops, almost too low to hear. “Please.”

Velendo sighs. “We can’t. We don’t know what might happen to the door if we do, and it seems to be keeping back a ghoulish army – or something - that could easily advance through here.” He flexes his mind, and the sovereign wall covering the Ebon Door disappears.

Splinder considers. “What we will do is try to find someone who wants to take your place. It sounds like an honorable job. You guard the Ebon Portal, and you keep the city safe. This place could be great again, if it hasn’t been stained by death. I don’t think you’ll be here much longer.”

Nolin cuts in, a grin slicing across his face. “Of course! I can easily craft a ballad that would make any dwarf want to volunteer! We’ll find someone.”

“They will not be of my blood.” His voice is doubting, bitter, lost.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we reach it. Guard the Portal. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

And within a few more seconds, Kellharin is once again alone. Alone with the Door.

To be Continued….
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Cool - now I'll find out what happened after I left. That getting-a-replacement-for-him thing was my cunning plan, and I want to see if it worked out. :)
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
In lieu of a formal writeup today, here are some amusing vignettes from recent games. anyways, we game tonight. Update as soon as I can!

----------


Velendo has reached 17th level, allowing him to spoof wizard spells by using miracle. One of the spells he wishes to cast requires him to possess an extremely expensive statuette of himself. With his reputation as a living saint, he's much too embarrassed to commission it himself, so he pays a low profile visit to the office of his Eversinkian temple's treasurer.

"How can I help ye, your holiness?" asks the man. His beard waggles as he bows his head.

Velendo looks embarrassed. “Look, don't let this get around. I need... it's not for me, you see. It's for a spell component."

"What is, yer holiness?" asks the treasurer patiently.

"Well, I need a small, jeweled statuette of myself. An expensive one, and it's got to be beautifully crafted. Do you mind having one made up?”

The temple treasurer nods his head. “Sure, your holiness. Which one do you want?" He unlocks a safe, pulls out a shelf, and there before Velendo's eyes are a row of small statuettes, crafted from gemstones and alabaster. All have his shield, and one of them shows him lugging about a large semi-precious rock. "We have five.”

“Five?!?" Velendo sputters. "Why could you possibly have five?”

The treasurer shrugs. “Oh, people buy ‘em. They think they’re lucky. We give them to folks, blessed, for massive donations or for favors rendered.” He fixes Velendo with a gimlet eye. "They're very popular amongst the Greater Houses. Apparently you're a status symbol."

Velendo rolls his eyes. "I'm a... oh, for crying out loud. Give me one of those."


----------


Nolin, singing his song “The Day Delioch Decreed,” written about the time that Velendo was made a proxy: “Then I failed my save. Now I’m a believer!”


----------


When the powerful psionic shadow had the Defenders strength-drained and helpless, it communicated with them telepathically.

Shadow: “3+9=12!”

Galthia, as the mass heal goes off: “No. 1-1=0.”


----------


Mara, attempting to turn shadows: “Be gone, you nasty shadows!” (looking around) “What? I hate shadows!”


----------


Upon investigating the loot of the Dockside Royals, the group found one chest with a strange, exotic arachnid time-sealed in psionic quintessence.

“Remind me again. Why exactly do we want to open a chest that is full of large spider?”


----------


Blackjack: “…thanks to our ineffable DM.”
Piratecat: “What do you mean, ineffable?”
Blackjack: “I think he’s ineffable because I frequently want to say, ‘Hey Kevin! F you!’”
 
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aithdim

First Post
Piratecat said:
Exactly right, Fade. Valdek was an old school, front line fighter... and a very good one, at that. He had a sword named "Warwinner" which got more powerful when he was attacked by multiple opponents. In the basement under the Steading of the Hill Giant King, he used it to amazing effect against a whole tribe of bugbears.

War Winner was a truly amazing weapon. Not only was it a +1 to +4 Ba Sword (boy was I mad when we switched to 3E) it shot out purple beams at creatures wishing Valdek harm. I used it as a scouting device especially in urban settings. In a darkened cavern manticores attacked and then flew out of range of our light. When Valdek drew War Winner purple beams shot out in the darkness and an archer (I think it was Valendo but I'm not sure) shot the beast.

But, War Winner, was not his only cool magic weapon, Valdek, as a human, always had problems with fighting in darkness, when he picked up the magic shortsword, Rogue's Eye, which granted him low light vision, he used to fight 2 weapon with the bastard sword and the short sword. Valdek was a country boy, farmer actually.

(I may be leading into something that would be better in the early years thread, but too bad I'm waiting for the next update too. BTW Kid C and Sagiro ...excellent madlibs)

His father was a war veteran who with his old comrade set up a farmstead. Valdek learned to look after himself when he needed to. When his father died, his mother told him the truth about his father. Valdek was the bastard child of Count Terim Loyal. Alix's half brother. Thats why he joined the defenders. He learned a couple of things before he perished one was that titles and money don't make you a nice or better person and second it pays to be a commoner over a knight because sometimes it feels good to watch your opponent go sailing to the ground because you lanced his horse.

Sorry :rolleyes:
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Back at Mridsgate, the battered Defenders report back to the Prince. “He’s the only one left,” concludes Nolin after a long explanation. “I think if we can find a dwarf to undertake the noble responsibility of his task, we’ll be doing something good.” Splinder looks as if he might open his mouth to speak, thinks twice, and stays silent. The Prince looks doubtful.

“Will he need to eat? Because from what you say, the entire city is abandoned. We’d need thousands more of my people to fill it. As you can see,” his voice is full of bitter irony as he gestures around him, “we’re a little short of spare dwarves at the moment.”

The Defenders discuss strategy mentally via mindlink while the Prince waits. After more than a minute of their silent conversation with each other, Prince Stern turns to Agar in slight annoyance. “So, do they do this a lot? Sit around and stare at each other?”

Agar whispers back, “You have no idea.” The group immediately reinvolves the Prince in the conversation, and Stern resolves to announce Kellharin’s plight and hold a tourney to find someone willing and competent enough to voluntarily assume his place as Guardian of the Ebon Door.

Nolin questions three dwarves who he saved during the siege. While finishing off the last of the ghouls, Nolin had cast detect thoughts, and had been horrified to pick up insane terror coming from a ghoulish meat wagon. The three still-living dwarves had been saved, healed, and now were in state where they could talk. They aren’t able to give much information about the sack of Mrid, as they had been unconscious after being paralyzed. Nevertheless, they report that the King had been making his stand near the palace, and that the ghoulish army had been overwhelming. By their estimates, the force that attacked Mridsgate was merely a small fraction of the total army. “They’ve probably headed off to attack the ogrish city to our east,” one of the refugees concludes. “Hopefully, they’ll all be killed.” Everyone exchanges worried glances; ghoulish ogres and giants can’t be a good thing.

In the late afternoon, the group sorts through the treasure culled from the massive battle of Mridsgate. The most interesting items include the marilith’s skimpy armored bra – “Magical!” announces Agar – and a very powerful scimitar crafted from the bone of an angel’s wing. They split up the treasure. Someone wonders out loud whether or not the now-departed Shara or Kiri should get any of the treasure.

Tao holds up the Marilith’s coiled wire bra/armor, an evil smile on her face. “Let’s send this to her! Dear Shara, we picked out a piece of treasure that we thought you’d especially find useful….”

Nolin begins to laugh. “Oh, yeah…..”

Malachite strokes his chin musingly. “I have to admit, that’s very tempting.”

Tao suggests, “We could send it to Kiri.”

Nolin shakes his head. “Nah, she’d wear it.”

One of the nonmagical items is an amber orb, about the size of a baby’s head. The craftsmanship on it is beautiful. When Malachite and Mara examine it carefully, though, they discover the faintest tang of evil. As a result, Nolin examines it closely, comparing it to what he’s learned from countless stories and legends. He quickly reaches an inescapable conclusion and looks up, excited.

“She’s in there!”

“Who is?”

Nolin waggles all of his arms and body in an indescribably snaky and feminine fashion. “Her! It’s a soul gem!”

Mara looks worried. “Let’s smash it.”

“Wait!” says Nolin. “I learned about this when we fought Mirata, all those years ago, back when she seized Cadrienne’s body at the Academy of Flamecraft. We need protection from evil and a magic circle of protection acting as a trap. We’ll need hammers to shatter it, and no one unprotected should be within hundreds of feet.”

As soon as preparations are ready, it doesn’t take the paladins long to shatter the priceless amber gem. When they do, the transparent shade of the marilith comes streaming out, ghostlike. She snarls in pure fury and slithers towards them, only to recoil when she touches the magic circle.

“Ready to die again?” asks Malachite. Looking at his friends, he adds with a grim smile, “I’ll suffer no evil to live. But I will taunt it.”

Nolin pokes his head up behind Malachite’s shoulder and lifts something up into the air, waving it back and forth. “We have your bra!”

The ghostly demon fades as she plunges her essence into Nolin’s mind, using hatred as a battering ram to force her way inside. She is repulsed by the protection from evil. Almost immediately, she changes her tactics as her form begins to waver.

“We can bargain. You are beset. I can offer you troops of indescribable power, with which to wipe out your enemies!” Her voice hisses persuasively. She tries to possess Galthia, but is driven back once again.

Malachite shrugs dismissively. “Got that.”

Agar agrees. “Check!”

“Weapons of power, magical treasures galore!”

The paladin sounds bored. “Got that.”

“Check!”

Her voice sounds desperate, as her will power keeping her alive begins to fade. “Riches beyond your dreams!”

He shakes his head sadly. “Got that.”

“Check!”

Then Velendo leans close to the magical prison, his face open and guileless. “There is only one thing you can offer us that we don’t have,” he confides.

“What? Say the word, allow me to live, and it will be yours!”

Velendo smiles broadly. “One. Fewer. Enemy.”

The marilith screams horribly as her concentration finally breaks. “Noooooooooo!” Her spirit dissolves into wisps of dream and ether, quickly dispersing in the chill cavern air.

Agar smiles with finality. “Check!”

To be continued….
 

Re: You go, Valendo!

Milo Windby said:


I know, I know, it's been quoted four or five times already. But dang, that was good. I can just imagine the marilith's expression as Valendo finished his sentence. Heh heh heh, taunting is fun.

Of course, with my view of alignment that evil=cruelty and good=benevolence, taunting a creature in torment, no matter how evil or deserving the creature, is a cruelk and thus vaguely evil act.

I've alwasy seen good as a very demanding alignment. You fight evil, but you mustn't revel in your enemies pain, becasue therin lies the path to corruption.

A creature like a marlith is irredeemably evil and thus must be destroyed. But it should be done quickly and mercifully.

In my campaign, Valendo would find a few extra detect evil spells in his roster tomorrow, as a subtle hint from his deity [sort of a "Yes, yes, my child that was very funny and even I found it quite amusing myself, but it was also CRUEL and WRONG and you should be careful, lest tiny evils lead to greater ones"...

As I said, I see good as a very demanding alignment.

Having said that, it was a truly brilliant line...
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Re: Re: You go, Valendo!

Atticus_of_Amber said:


Of course, with my view of alignment that evil=cruelty and good=benevolence, taunting a creature in torment, no matter how evil or deserving the creature, is a cruelk and thus vaguely evil act.

I've alwasy seen good as a very demanding alignment. You fight evil, but you mustn't revel in your enemies pain, becasue therin lies the path to corruption.

A creature like a marlith is irredeemably evil and thus must be destroyed. But it should be done quickly and mercifully.

In my campaign, Valendo would find a few extra detect evil spells in his roster tomorrow, as a subtle hint from his deity [sort of a "Yes, yes, my child that was very funny and even I found it quite amusing myself, but it was also CRUEL and WRONG and you should be careful, lest tiny evils lead to greater ones"...

As I said, I see good as a very demanding alignment.

Having said that, it was a truly brilliant line...

I think there are different flavors of "good," and the one you describe -- the be-merciful-to-evildoers kind of good, isn't the kind that Velendo is.

He has a pretty straightforward view of the moral world. There are good people in the world who don't cause harm to others, and they are worthy of protection. Indeed, it's a holy duty to protect them. And there are people who have made the personal choice to be evil, who will cause harm to others to further their own causes, and they are not worthy of protection. Or any other benevolent considerations. You make your bed, you sleep in it.

Velendo doesn't try to redeem people. He's in the protect-the-innocent business, pure and simple, and is willing to pursue pretty much whatever means are necessary to do that. And he has no patience for Evil. He'll taunt them. He'll smite them. He'll lie to them. He'll lean on them, even to the point of causing physical discomfort, if it's necessary to protect large numbers of innocent people. He's not in the mercy business as far as Evil creatures are concerned -- there are LG clerics and religions for that sort of thing.

So, does that make him Evil himself? It seems Calphas doesn't think so. How he protects people isn't as important as the fact that he does. That's why he's neither lawful nor chaotic. And if an evil demoness is trying to wriggle and lie her way out of her fate, it will not occur to Velendo to show kindness. Harsh as it sounds, he's not in the kindness business, either.

-Sagiro
 


Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Quartermoon said:
It's the "We've got your bra!" bit that had me laughing out loud.

Nolin sort of popped up from behind Malachite's shoulder and waved it over his head. If the look on my face was anything like the look on her face, she was really, really irked. :D
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Mara, by Littlejohn. Ohhhh, yes.

mara.jpg
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
Piratecat said:
and Plane Sailing played Priggle the svirfneblin scout.

So, do you know how bad life is as a svirfneblin scout? It's rotten, that's what it is. Nobody likes you, nobody trusts you, everybody is out to get you. Even your allies overlook and discount you. Still, we're all doomed anyway, I suppose. Just staving off the inevitable.

And me? I don't even fit in among my own people. Too rampantly optimistic and positive.

Just my luck. What an assignment.

- Priggle
 


Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
After splitting up treasure and having a final meal with the remaining dwarves of Mridsgate, the Defenders set off for Mrid. With them goes Glibstone the dwarven jester, albeit reluctantly. Malachite soon tires of the dwarf’s traditional jokes, and Glibstone finds a more receptive audience amongst Splinder and his dwarven troops. It makes the week-long trek through the caves tolerable for all.

The travel is slow and cautious. Detrius from the ghouls’ advance still litters the dwarven road. The company picks their way along over ledges and hastily repaired bridges, passing cast away bones and unidentifiable gobbets of flesh that have already been savaged by underdark scavengers. Judging from the sheer quantity of discarded bones, the number of prisoners taken at the battle of Mrid must have been substantial. The dwarves get angrier and angrier as they travel.

The group is ever-alert for any signs of active undead, but there are none. “I don’t like this,” grumbles Velendo. “Where are they?” No one knows. They expect problems going through an area known as The Ripples, a place where the stone is frozen into what looks like waves on a beach. No undead await them there, any any large predators in the area have apparently been hunted down and eaten by the ghouls.

When the group nears the svirfneblin sanctuary of Mosssong, a gem mining community buried deep within narrow winding passages, the core group of the Defenders separates from the rest of the troops. Under a wind walk spell, they follow Priggle through winding and trackless tunnels towards the deep gnomes. They hope to find the gnomes alive. Instead, they find corridors sealed with magically conjured stone. The group tries five or six different ways to get in, but all are blocked, so they resort to a sending with Priggle’s Uncle. “Priggle here. All ways into Mosssong are blocked. Is everyone okay? Did the ghouls attack you? Do you need anything? Respond briefly.” In reply, Velendo hears, “Priggle! Glad you escaped. We have sealed the entrances and are continuing our work, undisturbed. All is well; no ghoul attack. Your aunt says hi.” Slightly dubious – “He didn’t sound undead,” comments Velendo – but reassured, the Defenders rejoin their group and continues towards Mrid.

On the fourth day, Agar’s prying eyes spell detects something disturbing while scouting ahead. In a wide chasm, a bridge originally destroyed by fleeing dwarves has been restored by the ghouls. The new bridge is narrow, poorly balanced, and made from fused skeletons that are still animate. Merged hand and arm, the bridge spans the gap, jawbones clicking as they wait for their ghoulish masters to return. On the far side of the span, the prying eyes picks up some sort of waiting humanoid shape or shapes. The Defenders pause just out of sight from the chasm.

“We’d best be careful,” says Malachite. “This is probably a trap by the Puppeteer.”

“I hate that guy,” says Nolin idly. “I wish he’d show himself for real.”

Malachite looks at him. “Indeed. In any event, I suggest we come up with a plan.”

Using invisibility to undead spells, a portion of the group flies across the chasm to the far side. There they find waiting three young, female dwarves. The dwarven children sit drooling, clearly dead and reanimated as zombies. In their arms are bunches of wilting flowers from some underground plant. The group never finds out why they are there, or listens to their message; instead, using a combination of travel spells and invisibility to undead, they travel past the waiting undead children without ever being seen.

The next day, they approach Beholder Rock, a large landmark that looks remarkably like an immense beholder. It has clearly been carved in days long past to resemble one even more. Once again, the group expects an ambush, and once again the crossroads are deserted. While they are standing there, though, a powerful earthquake ripples around them, and most of the group is thrown from their feet. "Natural," remarks Priggle, examining the ceiling for structural instability. "I think."

A day after that, they pass through two deserted gatehouses and finally approach the gates of Mrid. No undead are anywhere to be seen. As Tao examines the battleground outside of the city, she looks up with a worried look. “It hasn’t just been looted, this area has been cleaned! With brooms, and soap, and clean cantrips. There is some dust from that earthquake, but that's it.”

“Why would they do that?” asks Mara, mystified.

"I don't know, but this area is almost spotless. You could eat off of it."

Priggle grimaces. "They did."

Velendo sniffs. “That's just strange. Say... does anyone else smell… rose petals?”

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
A rough map of the Upper Reaches

This map is a side view, with no indication of horizontal windings; it only shows relative vertical distance. It is not to scale.

The group started out on the surface near Candle Ridge. With Priggle Gembreath as their guide, they headed down into the tunnels at the base of the Shield Rock.

The first fight, against the ghoulish destrachans and the tentacle wraiths, occurred in the large round cavern near the top right of the map. This is also where they met "Kellharin" for the first time.

They descended down through the narrows, arriving at the dwarven guardhouse Mridsgate just as a massive battle was occurring.

Since then, they have passed the Ripples and Mosssong and Beholder Rock, and are just now arriving outside of Mrid.

Useful?
 

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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Tao sniffs the air, wriggling her nose. “Yes. Definitely rose petals.” The frown on her face grows more pronounced. “Would someone like to tell me why those damn ghouls have scented the air with rose petals?”

“To distract us?” asks Galthia. He looks around. “Or perhaps, like the bottle of wine and flowers last week, he seeks to make peace with us.”

“Maybe,” mutters Velendo. “I don’t like it one bit. I mean, clean cantrips, for Calphas’ sake! Why bother?” A horrified look passes over his face. “Maybe he promised someone that he’d deliver this place to them nice and clean.”

Priggle speaks up from the shadows, his voice dour. “I doubt it. Mrid is in the middle of a crossroads. Why would the ghouls want to give it up once they got it? No, I’m sure it’s some plot against the gnomes.” Velendo looks at him nonplussed.

“Priggle, Glibstone, how many ways out of this city are there?”

Priggle sounds depressed as he answers. “A lot, if these earthquakes haven’t sealed them. At least four or five main underdark passages are cut off by this city. We came by one of them. One other passage heads surfaceward towards Sho’kel Gruumsh, an orcish and giantish city.” He sighs. “I hate them. Everyone hates them. I hope the ghouls headed that way.”

“I don’t,” grumbles Glibstone. “Ghoulish giants?” Tao perks up at the thought.

“In any case,” continues Priggle, “another passage leads toward Titan Hall and my own svirfneblin city. That was seized months ago. A branch of that passage leads to a Derro settlement that may have been overrun, I don’t know.” He spits on the cavern floor. “Dammed albino half-breed demon-worshipping dwarves.” He looks even more morose than normal. “The last major passage leads down, towards the drow city of Eleskiel and The Shuttered Gate. I think a side passage eventually leads to a small underground sea named the Lake of Song, but I’ve never been there.”

“There are smaller ways,” confirms Glibstone the dwarf, “but those are the major gates.”

“Okay,” concludes Tao. “Let’s search the city and find out where all of those ghouls went. We know that most of the force didn’t come up our way. It’ll be good to know where they DID go.”

“Fair enough.” Velendo rubs his forehead. “I’m going to do a divination first, to see if we’re walking into an obvious trap.” He casts the spell, asking Calphas whether there are refugees left in Mrid. He hears back, “Remember that there are no ghouls and no dwarves left in the city, and you will do well.” He thanks his God profusely with prayer, and the group prepares to continue.

Walking nervously past the unlocked gates, the heroes enter a long sloping corridor. With his arcane sight active, Agar notices a line of hidden murder holes along the corridor. There is no sound, though, and the paladins detect no evil or undead. Dust shaken loose by the recent earth tremors is stirred up by their feet, but otherwise the corridor is scrupulously clean.

“What’s that rhythmic thumping sound?” asks Nolin. “And the roaring?”

“You’ll find out in a moment,” answers Glibstone mysteriously. At the end of the hall, two massive stone portals stand closed. Glibstone pushes on a shiny section of the stone, and the perfectly balanced and counter-weighted doors swing open smoothly.

“Mrid,” announces Glibstone with a small jingle of bells.

Before the Defenders of Daybreak rises an immense oval cavern roughly a thousand feet across. On more than five lofty levels, intricately carved balconies and roads ring the edge of the cavern. Nearby, a marketplace stands, completely abandoned. There is no obvious sign of recent combat, and no corpses are visible. The only debris is occasional piles of fallen rock knocked loose by the recent earthquake. It is massive, grand, beautiful, and eerily deserted; a space designed for throngs of people, but now occupied by none. In the center of the cavern a tremendous waterfall thunders down into a dark pit. It is surrounded by magical, floating staircases. Sparkling lights reflect and flare on the falling torrent, and clouds of silvery water vapor rise from the depths of the well. Suspended in the water’s path are massive waterwheels and dwarven engines, spinning and clanking as the water hits them.

“What are those?” asks Nolin in awe, over the sound of the falling water.

“Generators!” announces Glibstone proudly. “They power the pumps and the forges, the mills and the traps.”

Nolin pauses, and then his eyes light up. “They’re playing music!” Indeed, the clanking and thumping of the waterwheels is creating a massive symphony, counter-pointed by slight variations in the tone of the falling water. Nolin notices one engine that seems broken, probably damaged by earth tremors.

“Indeed,” says Glibstone. “Hymns to Moradin. Designed by our finest craftsmen, more than six hundred years ago.” His face twists. “Back when the city was alive.”

“Astonishing.” Nolin is lost in the music, and begins singing along, his voice echoing across the empty cavern.

Galthia and Tao returns from their quick scouting mission around the plaza. “No corpses. The place has been looted, but everything else has been neatened afterwards. Just like they’re expecting company.”

To be continued….
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
The group explores the central square of Mrid, and Tao slowly follows traces of faint footsteps from house to house. She finds some odd clues. In addition to the very orderly looting of valuables, there are other signs of the cleanly ghouls; for instance, she finds a carrion-scented porcelain bowl that was shattered and then magically mended. She also finds newer tracks, roughly dwarven, that probably belonged to something or someone making a rigorous search of every home. Another ghoul? Nolin decides to use his goggles of hindsight to find out.

Focusing on one of the marketplace stands, he lets his gaze fall backwards in time. Faster and faster the image speeds into the past, and Nolin watches earthquake dust rise up from the floor and air pressure from the waterfall stir the faint mist. Then something else flashes across his vision, and he scans forward again until he sees a dwarf examining the remaining items on the marketplace stall’s counter.

To his time-distorted vision, it’s almost an iconic dwarf. Rosy-cheeked, big-bellied, with a plaited beard and twinkling eyes. His shield is battered, his horned helmet cocked on his head, his axe sharp. Nolin blinks. “I’ve seen someone about four or five days ago, right here,” he reports. “It’s a dwarf, but it’s almost too dwarfy. It looks like what you’d get if someone sat you down and told you to draw the quintessential dwarf. I don’t like it.”

“Someone polymorphed?” asks Agar.

“Maybe,” muses Nolin. “He’s got a sack or treasure, and looks like he’s hunting for any valuables that the ghouls missed. Maybe he’s a refugee.” No one believes it. “I’ll go back farther.” He does, and within ten more minutes he views a handful of kobold and goblin ghouls cleaning the area. They are sweeping, scrubbing, and straightening. “Bizarre,” mumbles the bard, and hunts back farther to try and find more images of ghouls. He quickly reaches the limit of the goggles’ time-stretched vision, but he’s seen enough to confirm some of their suspicions. “Yup. Ghouls ransacked this place, stealing and smashing, and then later came back and cleaned everything up. I don’t like it one bit.”

Nervously, the group makes their way through the tunneled byways of the city towards the royal palace. The going becomes rougher, largely due to huge chunks of stone that have dropped from the ceiling. They also need to traverse deep crevices that have opened up in the wide, paved street. Velendo and Priggle stare around at the devastation and independently reach the same conclusion. “What you’re looking at,” opines Velendo, “is the result of a number of small earth tremors. Maybe only one or two of them were big, but there’s been close to ten total unless I miss my guess. They’re highly localized, and we’re moving towards their source. Could be an earthquake spell, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is avoid loud noises and area effect spells. This ceiling isn’t entirely stable.” They continue towards the palace, picking their way slowly through the rubble. As they enter the grand cavern that should frame the palace’s architecture, it’s quickly clear that the earthquakes have been worse here. Very little of the magnificent architecture and statues remain. Faint ghostly shadows flicker on walls from buried torches of eternal flame, and darkvision limits line of sight to a mere sixty feet. Thus, it is the keen-eyed svirfneblin guide Priggle who is the first to see the dwarf sitting up by the palace stairs, impatiently swinging his iron-shod boots back and forth as he drums on the shattered remains of a pillar.

“Hssst!” cautions Priggle in a whisper. “There’s a dwarf up there. Might be that one Nolin saw.” His habitual frown deepens across his rubbery face. “I wouldn’t trust him if I were you.”

“Duh.” Tao rolls her eyes and casts true seeing and Agar tries to focus his arcane sight on the stranger. As he does so, the dwarf lifts his head in apparent surprise at hearing strange noises out in the darkness.

“Hello?” the dwarf calls in a rich, deep, dwarven voice. “Is someone there?” He jumps to his feet with a hint of clumsiness, drawing his dwarven axe and gazing out into the wreckage. “Who is it?” His voice is filled with the rising lilt of unexpected hope, and he speaks in unaccented dwarven.

“Why, yes!” calls Nolin in return. “Greetings! May we approach?”

“Upworlders?” The dwarf grins widely with unanticipated pleasure, his full beard waggling as he does so. He laughs in delight. “And some of my own folk! Of course! Please, join me!” He studies the group as they approach, just as Agar and Tao are studying him.

“He’s magical, all right,” reports Agar over the mindlink. “Both high and low magic, both arcane and clerical. I think the clerical magic is more powerful. Something’s trying to foil my detection, too, but I think I have it beat.” He squints as the magical vision tries to squirm out of focus.

Tao gulps as her true sight comes within range of the dwarf. Suddenly, his squat dwarven form is superimposed with that of a massive, powerful dragon. Tao sees black faceted gems for eyes, huge rocklike scales on a serpentine body, claws like scythe blades, and an insolent sneer on the draconic face. She tries to suppress an involuntary quiver. “He’s more than magical. Crap. We’re talking to a dragon.”

“A WHAT?” asks Nolin mentally. He tries desperately to keep a smile on his face. To his eyes, the dwarf is just a dwarf, albeit one that should be modeling for portraits somewhere. Out loud, he greets the stranger. “You’re the first survivor we’ve found! Are you all right?” The dwarf nods in assent, apparently oblivious that the group has divined his true nature.

“My name is Oathenor.” The dwarf thumps his chest. “I’m a lone hunter and explorer; I spend a lot of time by myself out in the tunnels and caverns. When I heard a rumor that the ghouls were attacking Mrid, I hurried here, but I was too late.” He shakes his head sadly. “Too late. I’ll have to leave before the ghouls return. Why are your folk here? It’s good to see dwarven soldiers again.” He looks over the group placidly, stroking his beard. Tao, seeing his real form, feels a trill of fear run across her.

“A dragon. A big, brown one with scales the color of rock. Nolin, keep him distracted while we figure out what to do. Maybe he’s an ally… or at least not our enemy.”

Malachite's mental voice intrudes. "And he's evil. Very, very evil."

Nolin looks sick, but rises to the challenge. In a horrible parody of small talk, he introduces the group, providing a brief summary of the group’s battle against the ghouls. In return, Oathenor delivers an honest-sounding story of how he explored the city in vain, looking for at least one survivor. “I think the ghouls tried to get into the Royal Vaults and failed. They’ve doubtlessly gone for assistance, and I’m sure they’ll be back. My duty is clear: rescue what we can and bring it to the Prince.”

“That’s my job,” announces Glibstone. Everyone mentally smacks themselves in the head, because none of the dwarves are on the mind link – and as a result, none of them know that Oathenor isn’t what he appears to be.

Nolin interrupts smoothly. “That’s assuming that we can get the vault door open, and that’s no certainty,” he lies. “If we can, you know that your job is to accompany the goods back.”

“But –“ Glibstone barely sputters before he catches on that something is amiss, and he recovers nicely. “Well, I suppose.” Oathenor examines him with glittering eyes, and then turns his gaze back to Nolin.

“Thank goodness someone is responsible for it.. someone who isn’t me!” He laughs deeply in apparent relief, sounding just like a dwarf. “Well, no time like the present, eh? I’ll show you where it is. I’ll sleep much better when I know you have it safe.” He leads the Defenders through a tangled maze of fallen stone masonry. The palace has been almost completely destroyed by multiple earth tremors, and Glibstone has trouble holding back tears at the devastation. Subtlely, Priggle and a few of the dwarven troops peel off to go and search the palace’s remains. Oathenor, up near the front, doesn’t give any indication of noticing.

After more than five minutes of crawling and clambering along a makeshift path, the disguised dragon-dwarf leads them through a collapsed temple to Moradin and to a shattered wall that once held a secret door. “There it is,” he gestures to an unmarked wall. The vault door would normally be secret, but the stone wall around it is horribly scarred – clawed, acid-pocked. Only a huge section of wall is untouched. The Defenders exchange glances as Oathenor idly sits down on a hunk of statue that turns out to be the remains of Moradin’s head, broken in half by earthquakes. The supposed dwarf doesn’t seem to notice or care about the sacrilegious act. “Look at those claws; they must have had some horrible monster with them, but whatever it was it couldn’t claw the door open. Hard to believe, but good for our people.” His gaze seems to burn as it falls across the group. “How do you suppose you open it?”

Velendo opens his mouth to lie to the dragon. He can’t help but think that it could go horribly wrong.

To be continued….
 
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