Session Stories - Moments in Roleplaying (updated 6/15/2023)

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Short stories from adventurers
Last Updated 8/21/2023


So when I posted this, I meant it as a series of shorts on my then current character in play, Arnara. But the campaigns ended, and things moved on.

But as it turned out over the course of a number of years, I produced other shorts of other characters for no reason beyond I wanted to. Its fun writing a big epic, but sometimes a short is all that is needed.

So who can we expect to see this particular rogues gallery? Including the original posts, I'll update this list as I go.

  1. Arnara,1st Daughter and Heir of House Ustina. (Wiz14 - Bladesinger / Moon Elf)
  2. Apolyta 2nd Daughter of House Ustina. (Ftr 3/ Rog 11 Psi Warrior / Soulknife / Wood Elf)
  3. Keryasa, (Rog 7 - Swashbuckler / Dhampir)
  4. Ss'Thak (Monk - Kensei / Lizardfolk level 6 at the time of the first writing)
  5. Kyra An'lath - Horizon Walker / Eladrin Level 3.


Original
So...When I was playing in the Journal of the Souls of Legend campaign, one of the mechanical things, was I had decided to do a downtime activity of carousing with the nobles. And so, the Elven noble Sonalta Arnara Ustina was born. She was fun addition to Myrai's backstory, but that was it. But about the time I completed that work, I was invited to play in a series of adventures that started with the "Forge of Fury," and I needed a character. So I then wondered, "what happened to Arnara after Myrai left?" And I decided, to 'roll up' (ok I point buy; I always do point buy) her as a Bladesinger, heading out to find herself.

And for some reason, she was a hit with the players. They liked the deep backstory with Myrai, to the point that one of the characters in basically an homage to the hipped Myrai from Sigil. But as I played the character with this group, they were/are very into the roleplaying and story building, much of it done between sessions in Discord as part of the 'short/long rest.' What it led to was a number of shorts, that are an mix of discord chats, prose and verbal dialog. Later in the set are true collaboration with other players from the various adventures.

So I hope you enjoy the Vignettes as we travel from, the Forge of Fury, to the Tomb of Annihilation, Dead in Thay, and beyond.

Note: there might be some spoilers...so beware.



Story I - The Griffon’s Nest

It was in the deepest part of the night, where only the faintest light of the sun could be seen on the horizon. The wind blew across the mountain valley, whistling around the eaves and causing the wooden beams to creak of the old inn. Inside the Griffon’s Nest, the fire had burned down to embers, the candles stubs, and the torches sputtered their last flame in the darkened tavern. Sarel Bankdown had welcomed the adventurers, and their coin with open arms into her place, and the tavern wenches were hard pressed to keep up with their new patron’s requests. Sarel and the others worked late into the night, cleaning up from the celebrating from the day before, and exhausted themselves as the five adventures drank and ate their fill, spending their fresh earned coin amid the boisterous conversations throughout the night.

“Give me your most expensive booze!”

“That’ll show those orcs!”

“Where is my damned booze?”

“That was awesome saving the Gensai—”

“—Too bad he didn’t make it.”

“This is worse than the Baron’s; where is my BOOZE?!?!”

“I can’t believe I’m hipped here—”

“I can’t believe you wandered off to play with a statue!”

“You! Wench! My Booze!”

“Pardon me, can you bring me a metheglin and some of…what did you call it…’rotgut?’”

“We’ll head back, with more gear!”

“And a replacement Gensai right?”

“Maybe we can hire someone,”

“Yeah...maybe a goblin or something short,”

“You have to be joking!”

“WHERE IN THE HELLS IS MY…oh…thanks Arnara; you have class.”

“To victory!”

“TO VICTORY!” everyone in the tavern shouted, and the ring of the cheering still lingered in the bones of inn, even now in earliest morning as the wind continued to blow.

It also still rang in the ears of Arnara, who reclined in an overstuffed chair, with the owl, Morrigan. It was perched on the back, her head swiveling to keep tabs on the rest of the common room. Arnara’s legs were curled up beneath her lithe body, while her head was supported by her right hand, while her left hung limply over the left side of her seat. Her eyes stared dispassionately to the nearly spent flames in the hearth, barely registering the movement of the fire on the logs.

Arnara inhaled sharply, shaking herself from the reverie of the past. The images of the ruins of Whitepetal, impressions from the Funeral of the Living, and the scents of flowers and wine she shared with an Aasimar with golden hair and mirrored eyes. She slowly stood, stretching her slender arms overhead and arching her back while standing on the tips of her toes. She then relaxed and looked around the common room. It was empty, the staff long since headed to their warm beds, and the other members of her impromptu party, fast asleep in their own upstairs.

Arnara walked around the room, seeking a clear space. After a moment, she pushed the stuffed chair to the side, clearing an area in front of the hearth. She then drew the rapier that was found in Ulfe’s lair and examined it. It was a simple affair, with a woven basket of steel wrapped around the hilt and quillon. Its design was one all around function, with little concern about elegance or aesthetics. It betrayed a human’s thinking of swordplay; get the job done. The one area where it shined, was the blade itself: strong, sharp and the right balance of flexibility and stiffness. Combined with the enchantments placed on it, made it a superior blade.

Arnara wistfully looked at it, turning it over in her hands. She wondered how it would compare to her house’s lost moonblade. Probably it would look the part, unlike this one. She remembered the first time she tried her hand at rapier fighting. Like all elves, she knew the forms of blade and bow, but rapiers were something new to her. It was said that humans invented the blade, and the forms of combat around it, but it wasn’t true. The elves too had experience with this style of blade many thousands of years ago, but it was a rare art. The humans just finally got around with tinkering with longswords, until a rapier was its natural outcome. But Arnara first tried the fighting style with the Aasimar that she was a sonalta for years ago. She favored the rapier, and on a warm autumn day, she showed Arnara the basics of its use.

Arnara fell in love with the style, and practiced with it, even after the Aasimar left, promising to return. And for years she did, attracting one of the masters of the art of Bladesong. Her skills with spells were well known, but her mastery of the rapier was not. So, when she was spied one morning in the Misty Forest, the master came to test her mettle. She was hard pressed but stood her ground as she unconsciously mimicked the forms the master used. And that was enough for her to be inducted into the Bladesingers. She was thrilled and was eager to tell her friend on how she was right, that by experiencing something new, it expanded understanding.

Weeks turned to months. Months to years. Her friend didn’t return or send word. She wondered if she still lived or needed help. It was then that Arnara decided to leave the forest; to test herself, to experience more, and learn and gains skills. She would find her once again; but while she had plenty of time, her friend did not. For while her friend Myrai would outlive a human, she was not immortal. She indeed rejected the idea of extending her life, as it was a sin of her faith. So Arnara felt compelled to move faster, just to see her again if only for a last moment.

Arnara began to take steps, moving in a tight circle. Her blade close to her body, as she traced the steps of the first form. She then started to move and twist, exposing the blade and cutting the air. She danced with fluid grace, with more sweeping movements. With each sweep, the blade whistled through the air, and soon a pattern emerged from the sound. The sound of the cuts, became as notes played on a viol, each one a different note on an invisible staff in the room. High and low, staccato strikes, long sweeps, blending to slurs from the tip and pommel as each created a different note that blended together. It was a song of no words, yet the emotion of the tone was evident by the skillful dance of Arnara on the floor.

And song sung was sad and mournful because Arnara danced for the fallen Gensai. She barely knew the man, yet she saved his life as he nearly tumbled into a crevasse in the stone. She quickly had danced to the edge of the chasm and threw out a web into the darkness arresting his fall. She then danced, as the orcs came from a concealed passage, holding off their blades until her companions could bring them all down. He felt guilt at the affair, on having to depend on another, but he honestly and with humility thanked Arnara with a glad smile.

So Arnara was stricken when he died. He had bravely kicked at a door futilely, before finally pulling it open. He stood there bravely only to succumb to Ulfe’s javelin, and a pair of orcs that hacked at him savagely, bringing him low. He fell, before Arnara could warn him to wait, and stand with another of the warriors. It didn’t help that the Sigilite was ill from a trap he sprung just as the Genasi opened the door. No one was ready.

But they could have been. Thought Arnara. That they were not Tel’Quessir did not matter. They were willing to fight, defend and bleed for each other. Arnara felt she might have been able to more. At one point while Arnara worked with the woman Kiana to cut down the orcs with spells, there was a sliver of hope. There was a brief moment where she could have darted into the fray and forced a potion down his throat; but it would have meant exposing the fact that he wasn’t dead yet. And then in a flash she could not reach him. A worg and Ulfe himself stood in the way of her and his bleeding form.

A tear crept down Arnara’s cheek as she danced, her blade’s tone still soft and somber. Was it her fault that she couldn’t reach him? No…but she knew better from her master’s own words:

“Strike only when you advantage. That might mean numbers. It might mean you have surprise. It might mean position. But it means do not provide your opponent an opening. The first steps of the dance are the most critical; so never let someone else lead.”

Arnara finished the dance, her blade whistling a sharp note as a final point on the piece she played. She stood there, blade at attention, before speaking aloud.

“I failed them all. They are not Tel’Quessir and have our knowledge or wisdom. But I can teach them. And they must learn. They all should be allowed, like any other person to live as Myrai said; ‘in the fullness of time.’ I cannot fail them again.”

She moved the overstuffed chair back to where it was and pulled out her spell book. She began the process to prepare the incantations needed for the days ahead. She was quickly absorbed into the century’s old forms of arcana, preparing her mind to weave the spells to defend her companions the next time.

So, she never knew that she was observed from the stairwell leading upwards to the rooms above. That another watched her dance and saw her tears. And never heard his word spoken under his breath.

“One classy lady…”

Session Notes: Most of the text above was sourced from verbal quotes or Discord chats. This moment was after the Forge of Fury's first level was cleared out, and the group returned to town to sell stuff and get potions. As the floor was cleared, Arnara became looked to as the leader of the group with Morrigan scouting ahead, and her player free to be as smart as they could be. So when Pyrite died, it weighed heavily on her.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Story II - Ill at Ease

Arnara sighed quietly in the darkness. The air was warm and damp, and the sound of the nearby underground river echoed in the cavern beyond the iron door, where they were hiding. She had done her Reverie early, but the others seemingly unaware that she still could hear them, if not react to their activities, while the others ate and talked. Mostly about nothing, but their conversation drifted to the practical or at least semi-relevant occasionally:


“So, I know her name but what are yours?” Ametrine said.

“Why is that important?” responded the half-elf, looking at the woman suspiciously.

“Well, what am I supposed to do?” Ametrine responded. “Just call you ‘Hey you, bow guy’ or ‘Hey angsty basher,’ or ‘hey you woman, heal me?’ Sounds kind of rude.”

“Well, you were kind of rude to her after she offered her hand,” Kianna remarked jerking her thumb at Arnara, while giving the other woman a scornful look.

“What do you mean?” Ametrine and several others said.

“You mean you don’t know what a hand offered that way means?” Kianna said, rolling her eyes at the paladin.

<silence for a while>

“Should I?” Ametrine said, still confused.

“Maybe you should ask her. Then you should probably apologize,” Kianna said finally, as she shook her head in disbelief.


But now there was nothing but the darkness and the quiet snores of the band. She stood and clutched her arms across her chest; she felt cold and somehow off. Her head was throbbing with pain and she shivered. Fortunately, it would be a while before the N’Tel’Quess would be ready to move again. Until then, it left Arnara alone for what passed for a night and morning, this far away from the sun. And she hoped some quiet would put her body at ease to whatever was ailing it.

She looked at their new companion, Amertine. Her face was pale, as if chiseled from marble, her hair long and blonde. Her closed eyes were almost violet in color as Arnara recalled. But it was during one of the brawls with the orcs within the caverns, that gave her away for what she was. As she fought, bright ethereal wings unfurled from nothing, appearing like a swan ready to land on the water. This meant she was a rare type of person: an Aasimar.

What was strange, for as rare as they were, this was the second one she had ever met. The first she was introduced to years ago in the Misty Forest, and she called herself Myrai. She became a dear friend, and after she departed, Arnara honestly had never expected to meet another one. Amertine’s features were so close to Myrai’s, that Arnara wanted to touch and embrace her as a missing friend. But this woman was not her, not by a good measure. Myrai’s hair was gold, and her eyes like polished silver mirrors, and was more petite. This woman was stronger by far and had less grace that Myrai. Her armor and weapons heavier and well-worn with use, while Myrai said once to Arnara that she had never drawn her sword in anger. But the resemblance was still strong; especially those ephemeral wings, although Arnara was sure that Myr couldn’t fly.

She watched this new woman sleep peacefully there on the jail floor; this too was very unlike Myrai.

Myrai rarely had ever slept peacefully:

She thrashed.

She shivered.

She screamed.

It was disturbing enough, that it caused Arnara to become curious on how or even if she could help her friend. And this led Arnara to do something…forbidden. One day she approached one of the priestesses of Sehanine Moonbow to ask how it was done. The priestess, a good friend, gave her a mixture of chamomile, poppy and lavender to be mixed in hot water, and consumed in the evening. She told Arnara how to ignore the call to the Reverie, how to avoid reviewing and reflecting on the memories. To instead, surrender and succumb to madness lurking within. And so Arnara did something that perhaps many elves tried once, and never talked about:

She slept.

She dreamt.

She experienced.

Myrai watched over her as she did this forbidden thing, and waking was the most terrifying part of it all. To regain control of oneself, to separate memory from dream. She couldn’t say her dreams were horrors like Myrai, but she didn’t enjoy the experience. But it did answer for her, why elves never did it; there was nothing to learn from them. They weren’t real, they weren’t wisdom, they weren’t the past, they were nothing. And yet, everything else did it. Everything but the Tel’Quessir. Even the evil Dharrow didn’t dream. Myrai knew this as well yet tried everything she could to avoid it; the number of wine and liquor bottles scattered around were a constant testament to her searching for a dreamless sleep.

But as Arnara watched, this woman dreamed peacefully, unconcerned with the contents of whatever drifted through her mind. But as she slept there quietly and contently, so did the others: the half-elf Rafelor, the strange woman who called herself Kianna, the Sigilite crossbowman Hawthorne, and the dragonborn Balthasar. Not that there was a logical reason for any of them to have a peaceful slumber at all.

The troglodytes were bad enough, their stench was overpowering, and several of the others lost their meals engaging them. Arnara, hung back and used the orcish longbow she had taken to great effectiveness. The bow wasn’t one of great quality but was good enough to land arrows in the weak scaled hides of the troglodytes. Even the larger lizard and the chieftain were not too bad, although there was a lot of fire being thrown by the chief. By comparison, the chained lizard was just hungry. Later on, a pack of gricks surprised them. But in the end, they were only annoying. They just were disturbing to look at and a pain to fight as their rubbery hides resisted most of their blows. But they were not terribly coordinated, and they posed no risk to the group. The door they defended was a bigger problem, for it withstood all attempts to open it being firmly locked. This forced them all to scour the other areas and followed the river looking for places that a key might be. This led to another group of troglodytes this time they had a pet bear all eager for a fight. Nearby a different danger awaited as they avoided a deadly chamber of exploding molds and poisons. Then below they found a living wet ooze that shimmered in forty-nine shades of grey, but it too was brought down. But it was the roper that seemed to be a waking nightmare to most of them.

Arnara wasn’t sure why the others were afraid…at first. But as the creature pulled each of the adventures towards it, to get a taste of their flesh it became abundantly clear. Arnara saw the gaping maw slice through Ametrine’s armor with ease. Unable to easily escape, they one by one jumped desperately into the river nearby to escape its sticky tendrils.

Fortunately, Arnara avoided being caught in its clutches, but this created a new problem, as the river quickly battered any that attempted to tread its waters. Arnara, ran back to a point where it emerged from the rock, and managed to land them like fish on the rocky outcropping above. No sooner did she land a bedraggled Rafelor, then she landed a sputtering Hawthorne, followed by another a half-drowned Kianna. Somehow, the dragonborn Balthasar was undeterred and managed to slay the monstrosity as the others raced back to aid him. This was followed by the disgusting search of the creatures’ innards by the Warlock. He reached deep within the roper and found a powerful ring that Arnara wore for now, along with a small horde of gemstones.

All that real horror, and all of the others slept quietly, peacefully, not frightened by their dreams. It made Arnara wonder why Myrai could never escape her personal Hell. What had…damaged her that badly and so deeply she almost never escaped unless a bottle was involved?

As Arnara stood there, leaning against the damp jail wall, she noticed that she was sweating and unable to think clearly. She felt tired and her head was beginning to pound. They found in the cells, an iron key; one they hoped would unlock the door and lead them deeper into the mountain fortress. But right now, Arnara felt queasy, and on edge. She sat down and shivered, desperately hoping it would pass soon, just like a bad dream in the morning.

Session notes: This is in the bowels of Forge of Fury, as disease is about to set in, and a lack of someone prepping lesser restoration. As the characters were just feeling out each other, one of the off screen moments was when Baron Althon introduced the party together. Arnara was staying as a guest (her background is Noble), and she offered her signet ring out for a kiss because "That's how humans do that" per her father with the commoners. This went over the heads of the party, and then became an inside jokes as each one figured out what that meant. Minor point that it is a gesture used more in religious contexts but hey...who knows what those humans are doing these days.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Story III - Ametrine’s Fate


The journey back to town, and the three-day trek to eventual warmth of the Griffon’s Nest was as it was before. Blood spilled on the seeking the weapons wanted by the baron and the ancillary wealth that came with it. Five returning to town, each with a story to tell. Even at the surface that story was the same; six went in, five came out. That mistakes were made, and the opening of a door was involved. But that is where it ended.

The clouds rumbled with distant thunder, of a torrent of rain on the other sides of the peaks. Flashes of white light scattered across the overcast sky, illuminating the trees. Hawthorne was fairly certain that the rain would stay at the other side of the peaks. So, the party rested, eating their rations with smiles all around at their success. Almost.

Arnara sat on a nearby bluff of rock overlooking the fire of her companions, her hands cradling her head as she frowned. She was weary; the travel wasn’t glamorous; there were no inns or even a house to beg for shelter at in these far-off trails. Even the trails were problematic, meant for surefooted mules, hauling ore along the ridges of the mountains. And concept of a trail was a loose one, with many sections in poor condition since the dwarves abandoned their holdings with the coming of the Kingdom of Many Arrows. All of it added up to long hard days of travel with armor, weapons and now coin on the return.

But weighed on Arnara was how dissimilar the second foray into the fortress was compared to the first. She took it upon herself to help actively guide the others. It was a common tactic of the elves. They did not gather large armies, so they learned how to fight with few numbers with effective results. Basic ideas, on making sure that you never turned your back on a foe that could strike. Take rest where you can. Support each other. In a fight of attrition every death matters, on both sides. And it was on that point that Arnara was disappointed with herself.

She failed again.

Another of their party died at a door. It was comical and it was a strange feeling of history repeating itself. She watched the Aasimar, Ametrine, open the door before anyone else stood by their side. Granted she was already badly wounded, but the folly of opening a door in that condition while Arnara was still trying to get the others to focus and take on the last of the duergar. She opened it alone and quickly died alone on the floor.

You’re supposed to learn from mistakes. I should have learned from my own.

Granted, nothing was a simple as that. After dealing with the aftereffects of a spell wounding Kiana and Arnara, and also causing Ametrine to fall, they were then betrayed. The elven woman, Idalla, planted an almost fatal kiss on Hawthorns lips. His screams started strong and then finished with a whimper as the elf they trusted gave him a memory he would not forget. The elf’s image melted away and became one of a fiend; a succubus from the lower planes. She stood there with a wicked smile as she handily took the blows from Rafelor, Hawthorn, and Arnara as they all rushed over to try to save him. But it wasn’t enough and Idalla disappeared into the ether.

It was for a simple reason that Arana did this. A dangerous foe was behind them and needed to be removed, so they all could deal with the duergar smiths. Arnara assumed that either Balthasar or Kiana would be able to help the fallen Aasimar. What happened next, Arnara wasn’t prepared for; another disguise dropped revealing a fiend.

But she should have been.

As Arnara sat there, she heard footsteps approaching, crushing the thick bed of pine needles that covered the floor of the wood. Turning slightly, she was surprised to see Kiana approaching her.

“The stew is as ready as it is ever going to be,” Kiana said with a grimace.

Arnara looked at the human…no tiefling coolly, as she remembered a private conversation, she had with Ametrine. The party was focused on the tombs of the dwarves, when the aasimar pulled Arnara aside.

“I sense something from our ‘Human’ friend,” she whispered.

Arnara was startled by the statement from Ametrine and was surprised that she was opening up to Arnara at all. Perhaps it was because Arnara invited her to come with them and deal with the dwarven hold while the others dithered on the idea. So, she replied in the aasimar’s native tongue, “What do you mean ha-celas?”

She remembered the look of surprise on Ametrine’s face, but she quickly replied in the language of angels, “The human who can strangely see in the dark must be a fiend of some sorts. I thought out of everyone here you'd know what to do about her.”

Arnara had glanced at Kianna and wondered aloud to Ametrine, “A tiefling perhaps? And do what? A friend told me about them; not all are evil...in the same way not all ha-celas are good.”

Ametrine considered and replied, “hmm, I suppose so. I just thought I should warn you if anything DOES happen.”

“Unless she is a creature of belief, I will let her....and your actions determine mine.” She remembered saying. As she turned away to rejoin the group. Later, there was a fight against the smelly troglodytes, and Arnara turned to Ametrine and spoke her mind again to Ametrine in Celestial, “She healed our party...I doubt she is evil.”

Ametrine replied, still suspicious, “Maybe, but why would she pretend to be human?”

Arnara pointed out “Many ha-celas do not admit to being such. Tieflings are distrusted I am told, so why ruin a first impression? I suppose we could just ask her.”

Ametrine frowned. Then she nodded and said quietly, “That sounds good.”

It was uncomfortable; like they were forming a conspiracy against Kianna. But Arnara had decided to wait and see; which of the two were worthy of trust. But was Ametrine giving a warning, or did she have malicious intent? And so what if Kianna had a glamour concealing herself? The Fey did this without ill intent. And many tieflings would travel in disguise to avoid unwarranted attention; it meant nothing.

Or did it?

And now Kianna was beckoning Arnara to join the rest to eat and break bread with each other. A common ritual of trust among all the people of the Sword Coast.

“Why?” Anara asked.

“Huh? Because Balthasar is trying to feed us. Badly I suppose—”

“Why did you let her die?” Arnara asked pointedly.

Kianna frowned a moment before looking Arnara in the eye.

“I made a choice; it was her or Balthasar and I didn’t want to lose him while he was still fighting for us.”

Arnara stammered angrily, “But she fought for us, too. She shed her blood…gladly for us. She may have been impulsive, but she was willing to…give it all. You had time!”

Kianna shrugged, “It was a choice I had to make, and she put herself in danger,”

“She made a mistake.”

Kiana looked at the ground, her shoulders slumped as she weakly shrugged.

“Did I?”

“What do you mean?” Kianna said, her head looking at elf apprehensively.

“Ametrine knew of your…fiendish blood.”

“And what of it?” Kianna spat.

“I defended you,” I said. “I didn’t care. You fought and bled and healed us. You had earned my trust. I convinced her. But now…you hide your face again behind that mask, even after we’ve seen the truth.”

Kianna took a deep breath before speaking, “Look, any choice can backfire. I—”

“—I don’t care why,” Arnara said standing up. She stepped close to Kianna and looked the disguised figure in the eye.

“You helped, and fought, and bled. I don’t forget that. I don’t know if what happened was a mistake, and you are being glib about it, or if there was something else. All I have to say about it, is that if you want to have people trust the face behind that mask, you need to act like that person behind the mask is worthy of saving.”

Kianna closed her mouth and stiffly regarded Arnara, “I’ll sleep on it.”

“You do that…” Arnara said as she moved past Kianna and headed to the questionable meal that Balthasar had prepared. And as she did so, she quietly said.

“…Because I don’t sleep,”

Session Notes:

This was a collaboration of a between Kiana's player and I, after the main session was done and we were travelling back to the inn. Kianna had a mystery of why she was hiding, and the DM ruled the fiendish taint was detectable by the paladin for story reasons. Still was an interesting interlude.
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
As I recall it, Ametrine was down bleeding out, but Balthasar was either only low, or wasn't at risk of bleeding out right then. Tactically both could have lived. Kiana while having healing spells, really wasn't a healer though so, yet most people assumed they would be acting in that capacity.

But has been a year, and those details escape me as I wasn't taking much in the way of notes. The original draft of what happened was right after the session, so the emotion was there.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Story IV - The Shoals of the Dreamlands

The heat in the jungle was oppressive, even in the dead of night. The sounds of birds and monkey calls echoed across the slumbering city of Omu, just yards away from their camp. Insects buzzed around everyone, kept at bay only by the stinking salve everyone wore. Each of the adventurers slept too, each with their different contributions to the noise. Toddy for example, snorted constantly, as if he had broken his nose once, and it make it an effort to breathe. Aegis, tended to murmur quietly, as if holding a conversation with someone. Shalai, was as quiet as a tomb; his eyes didn’t move in sleep as the others did; it was almost like he wasn’t dreaming at all. Hawthorne, was curled up, clutching his bow and would utter strange phrases in cant, like ‘sodding berk,’ or ‘bar that spiv.’

But it was always Rafelor that Arnara listened to most during the night. He actually rarely spoke as he slept and dreamed, but when he did, it was always names that he called out in fitful outbursts. So, it was this night, as Arnara finished annotating and copying Rafelor’s journal. She shook her head smiling; amused at what she read. Then then moved quietly to Rafelor’s sleeping form, and gently lifted a hand, and tucked his journal under it. Upon touching it, the half-elf instinctively pulled it closer to his chest. And then he spoke a few words that caught Arnara’s ear:

“Hey, Arnara, can I have…”

His voice drifted off into a whisper, leaving the question unfinished. Arnara frowned; dreams were strange and alien. While this half-elf thought nothing of it, for the Tel’Quessir, dreams were shunned. The Reverie was the way to rest and recollect the memories of the day, and even then, the world around the elf was visible to their eyes. A couch or divan was best, but here in the jungle, even leaning against a tree made for adequate support. Arnara carried a bedroll, mostly so she could stretch out on the ground if needed and watch the fire, as she never needed sleep; all she needed was the Reverie.

Yet…she had tasted that forbidden fruit once and only once before. She watched her friend suffer night after night with horrid dreams. Nightmares she called them, and she…she was desperate to escape their clutches. The screams she gave as she woke, the trembling look of fear and dread in her mirrored eyes would have been enough to quench any elf’s curiosity of the landscape of dreams. Until one night.

Her friend had something pleasant; she cooed softly and smiled in her dream. Her face lit up in warmth and happiness, as the realm of nightmares were held at bay by some providence. When she saw this, she felt compelled, as a Sensate might have been to experience it, if only once. To understand the dark corners of the mind and see what visions were conjured. To people that were not Tel’Quessir this was impossible; no elf could sleep, and none could dream. Yet this was ignorance; elves could sleep if they chose. It was simply…not done. But it was well known to the Tel’Quessir, that the priests of Sehanine Moonbow would sleep, to glimpse the divine in the dreamscape. And then upon waking, shared with the others what they had seen, and discuss what portents were revealed.

So Arnara approached a priestess and learned from her a mix of herbs that would ease the transition from wakefulness. And one night, with her friend clasping her hand and watching, she passed into the shoals of the dreaming. She didn’t remember much from that dream; it was neither pleasant nor horrifying. But it was unnerving. In the Reverie, she controlled what images and memories to review and store away. The images and the unfettered emotions of dreams were wild and uncontrolled. She was a helpless passenger, along for the ride as her mind took her on a journey of the abstract and absurd.

She watched Ralefor go through his own theatre of the absurd, after muttering her name. She wondered what in the dream brought her image to life. What part did she play? Was she a fiend tormenting him, or like the aasimon was she benevolent and kind? Was it horrific, with friends and rivals simply cutouts or puppets on the stage of violence? Or sordid and base, reflecting some animalistic intent best locked away? Or perhaps it was nothing but comedy, devoid of real meaning, but there to vent some frustration in a toothless way.

Arnara’s brows knitted together as she considered the possibilities. He did not thrash as her friend did, so she had hope it was a pleasant one, or a strange one at worst. She reached over tentatively, and stroked his hair gently, taking care not to wake him. She looked at his features and was struck on how close to her kinsman Pallas, the former First Son of the House of Ustina that he looked. Similar cheekbones, and jawline, the hair color was close, if a bit lighter and almost the same cut; for Pallas was none too keen of traditional Tel’Quessir styles and preferred a simple cut.

Of all her kin, she was perhaps closest to Pallas, as opposed to the former First and Second Daughters. That was perhaps because Pallas as First Son, took his role of protector seriously. But not so serious that he didn’t tease and frustrate Arnara, 160 years his junior. He taught her the art of sword and bow and then would mock her about her lack of grace in combat, even though it was quite the opposite. He teased her and played pranks upon her constantly. But now, after his passing into Arvandor she found that she missed him dearly, even more than Casia and Zyana, the elder Daughters of Ustina. And it was to her great surprise, that she found a doppleganger in the form of a half-elf far to the north near the Spine of the World. But unlike Pallas, he had none of his graces, and needed help just getting a drink from the servants after insulted them.

As her fingers traced over the sleeping half-elf’s features, she wondered if that is why she felt compelled to help and protect him, even from his own self? Was he a younger and less prepared version of the First Son? Is that why she teased him so, to honor a dead memory?

She sighed, and gave Rafelor a final pat, and stood again, resuming leaning against the willow like tree that covered their camp with branches and leaves. She looked at all of them as they slept, like a guardian angel watching waiting for the break of dawn. All of them so young, and eager to test themselves on their journey. They all were shocked to hear that she was well over a hundred. And perhaps because of the age, she felt responsible in keeping them safe as best she could, as they wandered this foreboding jungle of death, and the sacred city below the campsite.

“Sleep well all of you; it may all be our last night together for all we know,” she whispered, she then turned her gaze upwards at the moon Selune, and then said aloud. “Please Sehanine, protect us in our journey.”

She then turned her gaze back to the slumbering ruin below, and wondered what dangers lurked within. And all Arnara could do is wait for the far away morning light so they could see what the Lost City of Omu held in store for them.

Session Notes:
So a dynamic I should explain is "The Journal." This Journal (which was originally Pyrites') is a very...self absorbed document of Rafelor's exploits, filled with a number of exaggerations. Arnara at one point during her watch while Rafelor slept, started to correct the journal, in red ink, with pithy comments. It is actually a google doc, and it is now well over hundred pages, filled with these corrections. It also was the fundamental way that Arnara and Rafelor's characters developed.
 
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Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
One of my biggest wonders is what Arnara actually dreamed that one time. Perhaps that will remain a mystery but what do I know?
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Story V - Tasted like Chicken​

“Stay here and I’ll take a look at the statue,” Arnara said cheerfully. She really didn’t expect anyone to argue; she had reciting over and over a simple charm that allowed her to understand anyone speech and any expression of the written word. It was almost a habit now that she kept it running, and Omu was littered in writings old and new.

And besides, it also lent some context to some of Rafelor’s writings as well. Some of the phrasing and words used were unique to Rafelor. Arnara wasn’t sure if it was dialect or a difference in education, but some of the idioms were perplexing, and Arnara considered herself to be fluent in common. But Rafelor’s use of the language was unique. Which led to Arnara making a lot of corrections in red ink through out his Journal. Rafelor’s sense of self and puffery was beyond extreme, and it needed to be taken down to moderate levels anyway.

So with the incantation already cast, Arnara quickly jumped and trotted the length of the fallen stele, approaching the statue of the large stone frog like creature. She was happy enough not to have to wade through the slimy pool; no telling what foul creatures would slip beneath the folds of your clothes, like leeches. But as she approached the statue of the trickster god, she heard something to her left. Turning, she saw the waters had started to bubble and churn, sloshing around algae, lily pads and foam all around the pool.

“What in the?” Aegis wondered aloud as the pool now as the pool turned into a bubbling cauldron.

“What is that sound?” Hawthorne said as he pulled out his hand crossbow, looking around for the cause.

“What now? Are you afraid of bubbles?” Rafelor mocked the others in a sardonic tone.

Imbok, the 108th son of Yorb exclaimed with a high-pitched shriek. “Told you. Shrine bad!” and dove for a nearby bush. The researcher Orvex, looked around once, and followed the orange grung into the now shaking brush, taking care not to touch Imbok’s poisonous skin.

Arnara looked at the far side of the pool with a resigned look on her face, and drew her rapier, and waited for its guardian to rise from the depths. And what rose made the statue of the Trickster God of the Frogs look like a homesick bullywug. The creature was a mottled mess of green and brown, easily three paces yards wide as it emerged. Water, leaves and filth, cascaded down its shiny, muscled form. Four long tentacles sprouted from its broad shoulders, curling and flexing as three eyes on a pink fleshy stalk turned to survey its newfound prey. With lunge, a wave of water pushed itself from the creature as it swam towards Arnara, balanced on the fallen stone.

“ha-HA!” shouted Toddy as he lunged onto another broken stele in the water, swinging his great sword. The first string bounced off the rubbery hide of the as it swam towards the elf. While the sword missed its mark, a quarrel from Hawthorne sank deeply into the hide of the monstrosity, until it was lost from sight.

Azaka, looked at the pool’s guardian and stepped toward the edge, swinging her curved blade in quick succession. The beast took deep cuts into its rubbery, spraying Toddy with ichor and blood as Azaka slashed at her foe.

The creature turned and bellowed at the guide and from its mouth, a long slimy tongue wrapped itself around the dark-skinned woman as it pulled her to the foul creature. Saliva dripped from it, and the creature’s cavernous maw as it raised itself to its full height three times the womans’ own. It then opened its maw wide with a great roar. Spittle and other fluid sprayed the weary guide, and she was about to retreat, when the huge frog monstrosity bent down and its jaw chopping around the waist of the woman. It then reared up and with a single gulp, consumed her, as her legs kicked and flailed the entire time. It then flailed its tentacles at Toddy, lashing him at him, and battering his armored form.

Aegis shouted, “No…Frog…witch…THING!” and threw a bolt of flame at the beast, dismayed as is the water and slime, dampened its affect. Shalai quickly pulled from a bandoleer at his chest a pair of darts and hurled them into the abdomen of the frog, causing it to croak briefly in retort. Close behind, Rafelor with a grim look swung his Morningstar at the beast, crushing muscle and fat as he bashed it. “You will face me you scummy thing!”

The creature turned and threw two other tentacles towards Arnara, and she quickly whispered something elvish under her breath. With the grace of a skilled dancer she twisted and out of reach of one, while the second seemed to recoil as it struck something invisible in the air causing it to slide away from the elf and her whistling blade.

Toddy shouted again, “ha-HA! You have met your match!” and swung his great sword overhead. The sword glowed with a flash of power, and he brought it down with a satisfying crunch on the clavicle of the monstrosity. “Take that!”

From the side came the sound of a snap of a wire, and another quarrel, sank deep into the slimly flesh of their foe, as Hawthorne scrambled backwards away from the thing. Aegis again threw another bolt of fire, only to see it sizzle against the wet flesh, dampening the blow. Shalai looked around in frustration; there was no spot clear for him to close against the beast, with Arnara, Toddy, and Raefalor taking all the available positions.

“You not listen! Shrine BAD!” Imbok shrieked at the party as he retreated deeper into his shaking bush. As it he so, Orvex shouted for the grung to make room, unwilling to stand in the open. “Beware! The Froghemoth is a mighty foe!” he said unhelpfully.

Rafelor, stayed in close, “Froghemoth? Deadhemoth!” and he swung, his morningstar striking it repeatedly deep in the abdomen. Each blow caused the Froghemoth to bellow in pain. It then turned and lashed out with its tentacle, wrapping them around the legs of the half-elf. Rafelor, found himself unable to move and looked up in horror as the Froghemoth reared up and opened its toothy maw.

“ONONO NO naughty word naughty word naughty word NOT LIKE THIIIIIIIS!” Rafelor screamed as the mouth came down to Ralefor’s boots. The Froghemoth then raised his head and with a single gulp, sent Rafelor to join the guide, deep in its gullet.

Arnara whispered some arcane syllables and she became a blur; her rapier whistled the Bladesong of elves, but the tone was now a high pitched shriek. Her rapier cut across the belly, causing ichor and gore to spill from the open wound. The elf danced around the creature, the blurry form easily avoiding the clumsy thrashing of the beast. It bellowed, and unleashed its anger, biting and thrashing its slick appendages at Toddy and Arnara for the blows they had inflicted, to no avail.

“Enough of this,” and Aegis, quickly started a quick incantation. From his pouches a small mortar assembled itself, as it fell to the ground, and unleashed its firepower, striking the thing in its belly. It grunted in response, and somewhere from within, came the sounds of muffled shouts of pain. The creature bellowed, and unleashed its anger, at Toddy and Arnara for the blows they each had landed. Several struck Toddy battering the armor with dents and tears in the steel, while Arnara was untouched, moving too quickly for the Froghemoth to strike.

Shalai threw another pair of darts at the monstrosity, unwilling to get closer. From farther behind him, came another snap of a hand crossbow and another quarrel sank into the slimy hide of their foe. Then with a final tremendous cry of “ha-HA, I AM TODDY!” his great sword slicing a gashing wound almost skull to hip on the creature. The creature fell over into the water, and waves of water spilled over the stone lip of the pond, as its bulk settled into the hidden goo lining the bottom of the pond.

Arnara, jumped on top of the dead beast, and made a quick slice across its midsection, cutting deeply past skin and muscle. A pair of heads emerged, gulping for air, as bile, slime and water cascaded from their battered forms. The guide emerged first, and looked like a drowned cat as, much to everyone’s’ surprise, she now had the countenance of a tiger with a human like body. As she emerged to the confusion of the group, she raised her claws in submission growling, “I can explain.”

Meanwhile Rafelor, climbed out of the steamy innards and staggered out of the pool to the soft jungle soil, panting with a wild look of shock and horror on his face.

“Wha…wha…what the hell…just happened to…?” Rafelor panted, as he lay there like a beached whale, unwilling or unable to move any further, and at the edge of madness. As he gulped for air, he jerked at the light, sympathetic touch of Arnara’s hand, as she methodically started to strip away the bile and slime from Rafelor. Rafelor lifted his head a moment, ready to launch an assault of verbal abuse at the elf, unwilling to surrender his pride at this latest perceived mockery at her hands. But he stopped himself short, when he saw the look on her face. Where he expected scorn or amusement, he saw only genuine concern. And so, he laid there, and was attempting to regain his composure, when he heard the slapping feet of their grung companion, Imbok, the 108th son of Yorb stood over Ralefor and then admonished the half-elf.

“Told you. Shrine Bad. Next time, hide in bush!”

Session Notes:
Deep in the jungle of Omu...we have an interesting band to say the least. Toddy is indeed an homage to the Yogcast character, a fighter. Aegis is a tiefling artificer, Rafelor is a half-elf fighter, and Shalai is a Kalashtar monk. Last we have Hawthorne, a hipped Sigilite ranger...because they liked Myrai's hipped story. Very different person though.
 
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