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

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Your "terrible, terrible idea" sounds like it was pretty fun!

Johnathan
It was...it took a while for the group to realize what anime they were in as well. Several folks were laid out on death saves. The constant stream of legendaries did take a bit of time to run through so many 9th-7th level spells you never get to see very often.

It was also fun, as almost everyone knew at least one of the heroic spirits from DnD history. Having The Lord of Blades yell 'Traitor' at sage was a 'Oh crap' moment, as was when Kitiara called for her mount, Skie.
 

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
This is from Temple of Elemental Evil, a long running campaign that went through a number of cast revisions. But Keryasa was the consistent rogue for the party; one with a bit of hunger and a bit of guilt stored up inside. But that's nothing compared to her peers.


The Legend of the Black Lantern


The village of Nulb was best described as not dead, but actively rotting away. Old wooden houses, gray with weather topped with dead sodden roofs were the norm, with some clearly struggling to bear the weight of the wet moss and fungus that grew from them. The closer to the river one lived, the wood rot was more prevalent. The streets were always slick and muddy, constantly fed with the animal leavings as well as a careless chamber pot, giving the air a stench that made most privies smell clean by comparison. But the worst aspect of it all, was the indifference the villagers had for their condition. The exuberant youth had long since left, seeking fortune elsewhere toward Saltwater or Hommlet, while others eked meager pickings as bandits. This left the remaining inhabitants old and weary with little energy and even less pride, their bones feeling the same weariness their dilapidated dwellings displayed for all to see. And when the boundless energy of the young did make their way to Nulb, it was in passing to anywhere else. None lingered, lest the rot take them too and make them bitter at the world around them.

Bitterness would be the best way to describe what the raven-haired women felt as she trudged through the mud. She shielded her jade eyes from the late setting sun that provided little in the way of warmth in the gloomy river valley. As the last edge passed below the horizon, the damp chill started to grow giving the woman a brief shiver. She was young, but no one would have accused her of exhibiting the passions of youth. What joy she might have felt was long ago purged from her soul back in the City of Greyhawk in an orgy of blood and tears. What salvation she might have briefly found, was tossed aside by a youthful passion for vengeance. That passion cost her much, and she had often wondered if it damned her soul. So now, she kept them bottled up deep inside, afraid to let them out and show the world what she wanted.

What she needed.

The never-ending growling of her stomach was the motivation of the moment, as she made her way to the largest building in the village, the Waterside Hostel. A building once built with pride, with solid foundations of rock and stone, which stood high against the mud and grime around it. Windows once clean might have shined warm light to welcome travelers. But that pride was long since spent, and the walls were stained grey and shot with rot as all the others were. The windows now were dirty muting the glow of firelight within, making it look like a log that burned down to the last coals. It cast a dark shadow across the length of the slimy thoroughfare engulfing the woman. A shadow not of dread, but of resignation. Still, it was here that perhaps the rarest of feelings might be found, hope. A warm meal with the hint of salt from the coast, was for most, a treasure beyond reckoning. A cool ale, or stronger libation offered respite away from the world, numbing cares and worries, and allowing for the occasional rare smile. It was the Hostel that the woman approached, with the same hope of food (she didn’t drink often) and perhaps a night of rest to reflect on another successful day of staying alive.

She was no more than ten paces from the Hostel, when a burst of light emitted from the windows. A cacophony of bright reds, greens and purples broke through the layer of dirt that stained the windows. The woman stopped and stared with confusion at the riot of light coming inside, and at something more surprising, the sound of laughter. She quickened her pace and tucked the small sack of vials and pungent herbs and fungus that she carried into her belt pouch and flung open the doors to the ramshackle inn to find the source of the…merriment.

The hostel’s tavern room would have been dark, with scattered torches around staining the ceiling above with greasy soot, and the hearth, was ablaze warming up the savory common stew of the day. But its light paled compared to the spectacle that she saw now, as she stared at perhaps her only friend, Bright, who now lit up the room with a woozy smile. Bright was small, almost childlike, with thin limbs that seemed long for her slender frame, and butterfly-like wings that held her aloft. She was a kindred spirit to the woman, as when they first met on the road, she was dark and brooding. Her short auburn hair was slicked and clung tightly to her head and face, as her bored green eyes judged the world with contempt. Her wings were a mottled mix of greys and blacks as she flew, rarely touching the ground in with her pale bare feet. A dark reflection of how the woman generally felt, and it was probably why they got along so well. The irony of her name was a source of amusement to them both, as she was anything but.

But no longer. Her wings now pulsed with a kaleidoscope of colors, far from dark tones before. Her hair was now voluminous and bounced easily as she spun around in air, hovering. Her arms were stretched overhead as in exaltation of the moment as the drunken smile she wore lit up the room as if all the long-sundered youth of Nulb had suddenly appeared within her and showered the grim townsfolk in joy and light. She spun around in the air in a pirouette, bent over backwards, as her wings somehow kept her aloft in this awkward pose. She giggled and laughed merrily as she kicked her legs and held out her hand expectantly. A grizzled man with a jaw with only half his teeth, grinned and poured into a small glass (perhaps the only glass drinking vessel to be found in the entirety of the inn) a dark liquor from a finely cut decanter of glass, carved to look like a lantern. He beamed with pride as he held it up to the drunken fairy, and she quickly held it aloft over her head, before tilting it and pouring the thin stream down her throat. She lazily tossed the glass aside, causing the barman to panic as he leapt to catch the precious object, causing the patrons of the Inn to howl in laughter. Cradling the glass in his hand, the barman panicked look softened as he too laughed at his predicament.

Bright continued to spin on her back, her wings now pulsing stronger with light now that her belly was filled with more of the strong drink. Her head thrown back, she opened her eyes and spotted her friend staring agog at the display, to which she smiled and spoke with unslurred words, “Kery! Join me for a drink!”

Keryasa blinked at the hedonistic display, sure of only one thing; Bright was drunk. Had to be drunk. There was no other rational explanation for it. The barman stood up, cradling the discarded glass and bellowed, “Who is the man who will try to best the fairy in a game of shots?”

“I will, Wat!” said a man, with a shock of patchy red hair. He pulled out some coins from a belt pouch and slammed them onto the table directly beneath the drifting fairy. Wat the barman scooped up the coin with a wolfish grin, and from the same lantern glass into a wooden cup. The patron looked at it with a smile and raised it in a toast to Bright, who waved her hand in encouragement and giggled. The man then looked at his cup, steeled himself and quickly tossed it back in a single gulp down his gullet. He stood there triumphantly with a winning smile for a moment in a pose that could only be described as heroic. But then the dark powers of the alcohol took hold, and his eyes quickly glazed, it wasn’t five heartbeats later that he fell over backwards onto floor and passed out, wrenching the contents of his stomach in vain to purge the drink from his system.

The bar erupted in cheers at the man’s misfortune, and Keryasa saw coins pass between the patrons of the bar. As she listened, she heard all sorts of proposition bets:

“The fairy can’t last! I bet she’s down in two more.”

“I bet, the next one loses, and pisses his trousers.”

“How can that lass hold it? She can’t possibly hold another.”

“Bullshite. Ten crowns that she beats all comers.”

“Come on!” said a merry whimsical voice, accompanied by what sounded like the ratcheting sound of a wooden Güiro. “Bright has no limits tonight! Test your mettle and donate some coin.” Keryasa turned to look, and sitting on a stool, was the terrapin form of Bac, running wooden tines up and down their shell. The tortle smiled as they teased and cajoled the others, and a trio of men stood forth to take the challenge. As Wat pour them their doom, Keryasa approached Bac.

“What in the hells happened?” she asked.

Bac gamely shrugged their shoulders, “She wanted a drink, and thought I was drinking the cheap stuff. Which I was. So, she, Nahn, Voss and I each pounded their poison of choice.”

“Leave me out of this,” Voss said, nursing a cheap ale. Voss wasn’t there by choice, having been cowed and threatened into what he probably considered to be involuntary servitude by the group. He was a former bandit, pressed into service based on the singular point that they had declined to kill him. Keryasa intended to originally, but Bac saw some value in the man, and threatened him into staying. Keryasa had recently given the man coin for his services, partially in sympathy, and partially because she once knew what it was like to be worked against their will. Death was a better choice than slavery in Keryasa’s mind, so paying him for his work seemed to be the right thing to do.

“What happened to Nan?” Keryasa asked. Bac smiled and pointed to the bar, where the half elf could be seen propping his head in his hands on the bar.

Nahn, ‘the Wiser’ had a revelation sometime in their past, and that revelation was that the only thing that counted, and could be counted, was money. Anything else was a silly distraction from the reality of the monetary policy of the world; chiefly having more meant you were winning. His obsession in finding sources of it was only rivaled by the attempt to avoid work to obtain it. And now he seemed unconcerned with the unbecoming poses of the fairy in the middle of the room, and the bodies piling up below her, all in a drunken haze. Keryasa squeezed past several patrons and tapped the half-elf on the shoulder trying to get his attention.

The tap was all that was required to disturb the delicate equilibrium holding Nahn in place. On the not-so-subtle rapping on his shoulder, his arms collapsed under his torso, and his face landed on the bartop with a wet plop and a dull groan. Flecks of vomit struck Keryasa on her face from the impact, as she realized he was yet another victim to the fairy’s drunken whimsy. She pulled up his head and stared into the face of the man, his eyes rolled back so far into his head, that the iris remained hidden. His tongue hung out of his slack mouth, drooling down his vomit-stained front. Keryasa sighed and dropped Nahn’s head back to the bar and then turned to Bac who continued to play themselves as a living Güiro.

“How many drinks did he have?”

Bac thought for a moment and said in a singsong-like voice, “One.”

“One? That’s it?” Keryasa said incredulously.

“The ‘Black Lantern’ has snuffed out many a light,” Bac said bemused, watching three more patrons fall to their own hubris in a head beneath the fairy.

“’Black Lantern?’ Wait…the whiskey?” Keryasa asked, remembering hearing of the stuff in Greyhawk. A dark libation from under the Kronn hills, where it was said the dwarves distilled in pitch black darkness, when they weren’t occupied seeking iron or jewels. No one knew how they made it, or with what. But a thimbleful was more than enough to make one dizzy. A full shot was likely not to put a grown man down.

“How many has she had?” Keryasa said, pointing her finger at the fairy, whose wings pulsed with all the color of the rainbow.

“One…two…three,” Bac thought and counted out carefully before settling with certainty. “Three.”

Keryasa looked at the giggling fairy with horror. What she had drank would put down a wild dwarven battlerager with ease. But with her, it seemed to instead pickle her, and wash away the gloomy darkness that normally surrounded the fairy. Keryasa shook her head in shock, “She’s going to feel it in the morning. So is Nahn for that matter…wait. Where is Gala’Chad?”

At that moment the door burst open, and the short-bent figure of the ‘knight’ rode into the room, on the back of the withered crocodile that he called ‘Hedoesnthaveaname.’ Keryasa thought that was a joke at first, until one evening she noticed that the harness the reptile wore, had that name stamped on the saddle. At that point, Keryasa realized that the warrior, dressed in heavy plate armor, charging on crocodile back with lance and shield, was completely out of their mind.

But what came as a surprise was the condition of the ‘knight’ as he rode into the inn. He was drenched in fresh steaming blood and spattered in gore. His eyes were wild eyed in shock and awe (more so than normal) as the drunken patrons parted the way avoiding getting close to the crocodilian he rode. It was unclear if their concern was warranted, as it ignored the din around it, and licked its eyeballs with a long dirty white tongue.

“The. Goats,” the man said simply as he looked around for sympathy and found only confusion in the faces around him. He straightened out in his saddle for a moment and said with confidence, “I am a knight,” before the wild-eyed returned and he shook, causing his armor to rattle noisily as he said again, “But. The goats.”

“What the? Why is he covered in blood? Where has he been?” Keryasa said, looking at the blood drenched man in disgust.

Bac kept strumming on their shell and gave a helpless look, “He said something about the butcher and wanted to see something for himself.”

“Well, he certainly found something…” Keryasa said as she and Bac looked at each other and shook their heads. Whatever was bothering the warrior would become clearer tomorrow. Maybe. But then Wat called out to the throng of slovenly drunken men and a few women, “Who is next to tempt the green fairy…oops too late, red fair…nope blue…never mind, THE fairy with another round of Dark Lantern. Three crowns a shot!”

Gala’chad didn’t move a muscle, and remained stock still, eyes staring ahead at nothing. But with the barest quiver of his leg, ‘Hedoesnthaveaname’ pivoted, and crawled to the bartender. Wat backed up a step for a moment but then moved forward eagerly, as the warrior slammed down three coins onto the table beneath Bright. Wat scooped up the coin, and then poured more of the dark menace into a cup for the knight and refilled the glass for the fairy. Gala’chad didn’t hesitate a moment; the drink offered was quickly downed in a quick gulp. He continued to stare at nothing, with only his right nostril flaring for the briefest moment as a reaction to what he consumed.

Proffered another glass, Bright turned over and kicked her legs up behind her as she flew in a lazy circle above the crowd. Her arms propped her head up as she lay on an imaginary feather bed, giggling madly. Her hair stood up and waved in the breeze of her wings, and her eyes were oblivious to the cheers below her. She was in a world of her own making, and the look on her face said she care nothing for the goings on below her. She propped herself up and swallowed another round of the dark liquor causing the light on her wings to grow brighter with dazzling and unnatural lights illuminating the room. She dropped the glass into Wat’s waiting hands as she turned, and flew on her back, her arms and legs stretched out wide. The patrons below jeered as another man paid his coin and tossed it back, and in less than it took to say, ‘there he falls,’ he was laid out below the fairy in the heap of failed contestants.

“You should try some dear,” the Tortle said. “The story it will tell will not likely be forgotten soon.”

Keryasa stared at the flying form and just shook her head. “I doubt it would quench my thirst so easily. We probably all should—”

“I am a knight,” said the warrior and he held out a mailed hand with coin, which Wat eagerly took, and placed another cup in his hands. Without blinking, the warrior quickly downed his cup and sat there unmoving. The bar watched with anticipation as only the fairy had dared drink more than two of the noxious liquor. He sat there motionless, both nostrils flaring and said nothing. The bar collectively released their breaths, and began to exchange coins, when the noise of snores came from the armor. Everyone turned, and discovered that somehow, the man’s head had sunk, deep with the breastplate, leaving the impression of a headless warrior, slightly slumped in the saddle. His snores echoed from the steel within, followed by the sounds of more coin exchanging hands again, as the attention turned to Bright once again.

Wat gave another glass to Bright, who lifted it up with a flourish in her slender hand. She held it aloft like a trophy, her eyes locked on to it with hunger. She opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue as she poured the potent potable over it and down her throat. The thin stream flowed measure by measure and her throat quivered a moment as she swallowed it. She then rolled her head backwards with a dreamy smile, as she spun slowly in a circle in the air, seemingly unaffected by the dwarven libation. Everyone in the bar, Keryasa and Bac included, as they waited to see what would happen next.

Suddenly the sound of a hiccup escaped from Bright’s lips, as the glass tumbled out of her hand, striking the floor and shattering, despite the best attempts of Wat to catch it. He was now prostrate on the floor from the attempt, his outstretched fingers grazing the broken remains. At the sound of the delicate glass’s demise echoed around the room, Bright’s wings turned dark, and the fairy came crashing down on the table she was hovering above. She bounced and rolled off it and landed on Wat’s back, knocking the wind out of him. Bac stopped strumming their shell, and the inn became silent.

The colors and light faded from the eyes of the people in the bar. The emotions merriment faded quickly as the dark took hold. The dim orange lights of the torches cast long flickering shadows and everyone returned to the tables whence they came. The moment of joy had already faded away from the minds of the Nulb citizenry and the quiet was now filled with a grim, murmuring and a low mocking chuckle, as the final round of coins were exchanged. Keryasa squeezed past the patrons and scooped up bright from the floor, allowing Wat to stand. The fairy’s eyes held no focus, and a slim rivulet of drool dribbled from the corner of her mouth, as Keryasa tried to wake her. But it was clear that the Dark Lantern had finally won, claiming another soul.

Keryasa gently laid the drunken fairy on the table and shook her head. “I guess no one can accuse you of not holding your liquor.” From behind her she heard a chuckle.

“Well, the lass earned her keep. If nothing else for the smiles.” Wat tossed a small sack on the table. “Better than betting on the fishing that’s for certain. Here’s keys to two rooms as well, end of the hall upstairs. Inns’ full so you don’t get to swap if you don’t like it.” He turned to look at the sleeping fairy and gave her a crooked smile. “I don’t want to be in her head next morning.” Wat chortled with an evil grin as he returned to his regulars who now were drinking heavier than before.

“He’s not wrong,” Keryasa chuckled sadly, and scooped up the keys and the small sack, and looked at the coin within. A dozen platinum sovereigns from the Grand Duchy of Geoff lay within. And Keryasa took a number before stuffing the pouch into the small satchel that hung limply on Bright’s belt. Turning to the tortle she said, “I’m taking this lot upstairs.”

Bac nodded sagely and smiled unconcerned, “These folk need more music in their lives.” And began to hum as she scratched out a merry tune on her Güiro styled abdominal plates.

“Voss, can you carry Nahn?” Keryasa said as she lifted the limp fairy into her arms and grabbed the reins of “Nohedoesnthaveaname” and started lead them to the ramshackle stairs leading upwards.

“Do I have to?” Voss grumbled looking at Keryasa sourly.

“Would you prefer staying down here until Bac told you to do something?” Keryasa asked mildly.

Voss’s shoulders slumped and he sighed. He then stood and grabbed Nahn and slung him over his shoulder. Nahn groaned a moment and muttered, “I don’t know about red pooolzz,” before snoring again. As Voss followed Keryasa and the crocodile upstairs.

They made their way to the end of the hall and found that Wat had granted them access to two rooms, one large and one small. Keryasa turned the handle and opened up the first room and found a single double featherbed, lit by a lantern. Frowning, she then opened up the second room, revealing two small featherbeds, and one double and lit by a pair of oil lamps on the wall.

“Well…crap,” Keryasa said as she led the crocodile with Gala’chad’s snoring form into the room.

Voss followed her inside and looked around puzzled. “How is this supposed to work?”

Keryasa rolled her eyes to the heavens and shook her head. “Leave a single for Bac. We’ll put Nan and Bright in the double on opposite ends.”

“What about him?” Voss said as he flopped Nahn down on the mattress.

“Him? As I recall—” and she kicked Gala’Chad off his steed and onto the floor. Gala’chad rolled in a clattering heap to the foot of the bed, and lay there motionless, the snoring continuing deep inside the armor. Freed from his burden, the crocodile slowly and lazily crawled into the second single bed. “—he sleeps on the floor.”

Voss looked at the arrangement. “Shouldn’t we put Bac and Nahn in the same bed, and Bright in her own?”

“And risk Nahn being crushed by Bac? The tortle has got to weigh well over a dozen stones. Bac can sleep on their own.” Keryasa pointed out.

“Isn’t that like the same problem with Bright and Nahn?” Voss pointed out.

“No, Bright has sharp elbows.” Keryasa said as she lay the limp fairy on the far end of the bed where Nahn was snoring. “Found that out on the road weeks ago. He won’t sleep through it.”

The pair then laid the key to the room on a table and set the latch to lock when the door was closed and entered the other room. Both then sighed as they looked at the single bed accommodation as they looked at each other.

“I guess…uh…I’ll sleep on the floor,” he said as he turned his back to Keryasa and started to remove his armor. Keryasa did the same, removing her oiled leathers with her back turned, and soon both had little more than small clothes as they awkwardly turned to look at each other in the lamp light.

“I mean to…thank you for the coin earlier,” Voss stammered. “I guess I don’t have any right to expect anything, after we…tried to—”

“Forget it Voss,” Keryasa said softly. “We all make bad choices. And compared to Nulb, banditry was a step up with a future of sort.”

“I would have called it a lack of options.”

Keryasa nodded, then laid down on the right side of the bed, as Voss blew out the lantern and tried to find a clean spot on the floor. He rustled around his pack and pulled out a moth-eaten blanket which he wrapped himself into as he tried to find comfort. But he constantly moved, twisting and turning, each time making the floorboards creak as he moved and stretched. It seemed to go on endlessly, with him never finding a comfortable spot, and the noise never dying down.

Growling Keryasa said with a note of resignation, “Voss you’re making a racket. Get in the bed and…just be quiet.”

“You….you…you sure?”

Keryasa sighed, “Yes. I swear I won’t try to hurt you…or kill you. Just be still.”

“Aren’t you afraid of—”

“Voss…” Keryasa said, letting the last part of his name hang in the air as a hiss. The man quickly abandoned the floor and curled up on the side of the bed. He laid there quietly and was surprised when he felt Keryasa’s lithe warm body snuggle up behind his own.

“Uh…” he started awkwardly.

“Shut up,” Keryasa whispered. “Nothing, and I mean nothing is going to happen. Just go to sleep. And Voss?”

“Yes?”

“You’re welcome,” Keryasa said as she lay there soaking in the warmth from Voss’s body next to her. She shivered a moment and grimaced as she waited for sleep to come, and take away the gnawing hunger she felt in the pit of her stomach. She very much wanted to take advantage of Voss, but she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. If she wanted to do so, it would be in one of two circumstances:

If he consented.

Or she was going to kill him.


Session notes: Welcome to Greyhawk! And remember Nulb is a nasty place, and Wat's establishment needs something. Probably a fire to burn it down. But this was a moment start with Kery going shopping briefly, while the other players went to the inn. But one player, had to call it quits early (my daughter, who play's Bright) who left it as I'm getting a drink. Leaving us with a Tortle Bard, an (ancient) human cavalier (the 2nd character of this player in this campaign.), Half elf monk, and Voss the NPC heavy.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Tears in the Dust - 1/16/2023

Keryasa was in a furious state as she ran in the large hall way. It was filled with detritus of furnishings, a broken table here, a smashed chair there. The walls had dusty lumps of beast heads, now moldering into dust. Kery’s side already hurt from the girl, clawing at her ribs, and spilling her cool blood. Her mood was darker than normal as a consequence of Linda’s random actions.

To call Linda an odd duck was really missing the point. Linda was beyond eccentric, and Kery was genuinely ill at ease with the child. Her strange habits with her ‘brother,’ a small skeleton she wore like a cape, its arms wrapped around her neck like a clasps. The antics in trying to bag imaginary creatures in the middle of the fight, and then this insanity about being a gargoyle. Everyone assumed the cloak she had put on earlier was cursed and was now responsible for Linda’s behavior. But Kery wasn’t entirely convinced.

And now confoundedly, Linda had somehow turned herself invisible to Kery’s eyes and was running in the darkness, heading to who knew where. The child seemed unconcerned with danger, and even less with consequences. So, running away to fulfill some obscure need was probably a random whim that just needed to fulfil. But unfortunate for her, she was both not the sharpest blade in the armory, and not the best with understanding nuance, let alone personal safety. So, while she couldn’t be seen, she also did not keep quiet. But her maniacal laughter wasn’t what made her easy to follow. It was the puffs of dust on the worked flagstone, which announced her presence. Dust like this was a hassle to cover your own tracks, but the thought must never have crossed Linda’s mind.

What thought did, however, was a mystery. But Kery was more concerned on getting Linda back under control before she brought the temple’s denizens down on their heads. Earlier she was on the edge of smashing Linda ‘the gargoyle’s’ head on the floor, just because of the pain she caused. It would have been easy; the girl was already wounded. But instead, Claude in the shape of a squirl the size of a bear, swiped at the gargoyle Linda and killed her. It was expediency for him; cursed objects don’t stay attuned to dead things, so he killed Linda. And that had cost Kery a diamond; one she was saving to perhaps buy a cure for her curse. She didn’t know how much that would cost, but she didn’t want to be short on that day either.

Kery wasn’t trying to be quiet, the need for swiftness prevented that. So, it wasn’t hard at all to grab Linda from behind and lift the invisible girl off the ground, helpless to escape. Kery held her at arm’s length when she bared her teeth. The Dhampir was ready to slake the thirst awakened from Linda’s clawing earlier. The child continued to run in the air, unable to escape based on how Kery’s arm bounced. Kery could now feel the blood tha pumped through Linda’s small body. A web of life that felt warm and red, pumping quickly in terror. She opened her jaw and was about to draw Linda’s neck to Kery’s fangs, when she stopped.

“Gah! How did you find me!” Linda said thrashing uselessly in Keryasa’s grip. There was no hope of her escaping; her tiny body didn’t have the strength to out muscle the larger woman. And even if she did, Kery could easily catch her again and dispatch her without a challenge. But Kery stopped herself.

Linda sounded like a scared little girl. Not someone putting on a show, or someone that was drunk and surly, or even dropped at birth. Kery couldn’t see her, she could feel, not just her pounding heart, but she also felt the tiny body quiver in her hands and could hear the sniffles of a nose, overwhelmed with tears.

Why am I stopping? She’s going to get herself killed. She’s going to get the others killed. She’s going to get me killed.

Kery brows furrowed for a moment, and she thought back to the night before Linda became a gargoyle and remembered the innocent question that surprised Kery.

“Do you have a mommy?”

It had been years since she thought of her. Trapped in the brothel, she could never visit her. At the beginning of her ‘employment,’ she would sometimes she her mom on the streets below, waiting to catch a glimpse of her lost daughter. But the madame found out, and had her ruffians chase her off. Kery would then be savagely beaten with a broom handle afterwards. This went on for a number of times, until finally the madame during a particularly furious beating, threatened Kery; “If you try to wave to her again, she’ll be bait for fish on the next trawler to the Nyr Dyv.”

She never looked for her again. She stayed away from the window for years, growing paler and paler from the lack of the sun kissing her skin. She buried her sorrow and pain deep within; and tried to forget any joy of the past. And once she was free, the first thing she had done wasn’t to go to their hovel in the slums. It was to kill those same ruffians that chased her mother away and shank the madam with the broken end of that broom handle. She spent the next two tollings of the clock bell, breaking the queen of whore’s bones and repaying the kindness given to herself. She didn’t stop because her lungs burned; she no longer panted at the exertion. She didn’t stop because her heart was pounding from it either, as her heart was now still. She stopped only because she was satisfied with the results. And from her time stealing and screwing patrons taught her that results were the only thing that mattered.

She fled Greyhawk that night, fearing the reprisal of the Madame’s bosses. She fled south, not stopping until the next sunrise, and it was only then did she stop and cry in a dusty barn, at a long abandoned farm on what she lost.

“Do you have a mommy?”

Even when she met the fairy Bright and they talked, neither talked about family. Just how horrible the Witchlight Carnival was and how the madam of the “Purloined Chastity,” was even worse. But neither wanted to touch the topic of kin. And now with Bright gone, she hadn’t felt the need to talk about the past with anyone else she had met afterwards.

So why did Linda ask that question?

And why did Keryasa answer it?

She didn’t lie about the unintentional estrangement. She said more that evening than she dared to in years. In the brothel, she just lied to herself, and pretended not to have one. It was easier than the pain and longing. It was a memory hidden away in a buried chest, bound in iron, and festooned with locks sealed with molten lead. But Linda’s simple, honest, curious question smashed what barriers there were and that night, for the first time in years, she cried, her tears dripping from the ceiling and hitting the dusty floor. All about the almost forgotten woman she knew loved her, unreservedly, no matter what had befallen her. Her stealing to get them by after father disappeared changed nothing. Her being whored out every night changed nothing. And Keryasa could only imagine that her cursed self would change nothing either. Or so Kery desperately hoped.

She held Linda in the air and wondered, was Kery just fortunate to have survived? Was Linda the result when you didn’t? When despair won the battle for your mind and soul? Could have Linda’s life turned out differently? Could it still end differently? Should Kery take that honest hope away from Linda?

<THUMP,THUMP>

Keryasa shook and shuddered for a moment, as her heart stopped once again. It was the first time it had pulsed without drinking the blood of another that she could remember. All without that intoxicating flush, flowing throughout her body. The one made her want, made her desire, made her seek out ways to slake her lusts. But now it left behind a shadow of feeling, of sorrow and remorse. Of pity and compassion.

Of care for another.

Keryasa closed her open jaws, and felt her canines retract once again. The raw emotions still swirled inside of her, unable to hide from her thoughts. She then closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. Then as gruffly as she could Keryasa said, “Come on. Back to the others.” Holding her invisible quarry in front of her in one hand, she turned on her heel, and marched back to the group. But she did take the time to wipe the tears away, leaving behind the drops in the dust.

Session Notes:
Kery is still around, but Bac isn't a bard anymore (now a cleric, as the player hated the lore bard...felt useless and unengaged in combat, and now playing a bard, I get it.) The fairy Bright, has been replaced by (at the time) unrevealed aasimar Hex Blade, and Nahn the Wiser was replaced by Claude Knightly, a druid who's bar tab is legendary. Linda was herself a replacement of the crocodilian riding knight Gala'Chad, who was replacement for a fathom Warlock who died to an ogre. That doesn't even begin to decribe the madness of how the crocodile was actually a cursed dragonborn battlemaster... There was a lot of mood to try experiments, and as a result Kery was the only bit of continuity on why they were in the Temple of Elemental Evil to start with.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Kery's Horror - 3/12/2023

The room had been used for many purposes. Once in the past, it probably housed acolytes to the evil shrine nearby before the inhabitants lost their lives to the army that came to purge the temple of their filth. After that, it became a den to bugbears who probably served the new masters for coin and the chance to spill blood. But they found their den invaded and their blood spilled instead, by the very group that now rested there.

Not that one could tell from looking into the room, for in the middle of the wreckage of furnishing smashed in combat new and old, sat a dark hemisphere, four paces across. The filthy ogres clad in black robes, saw it and after looking at each other, shrugged. They had seen many strange things in the temple, so this wasn’t exactly a surprise. They cautiously stepped inside the room and picked up the fallen bugbear corpses and seeing that no violence erupted, simply departed in haste leaving the black dome in silence.

Inside the dome, it was a different affair. The child Linda was fast asleep, wrapped tightly in a rope like a mummy waiting to be entombed. Her body leaned against the slumbering tortle, Bac who chuckled with a leering grin in his sleep. Along another edge the human Yu-Mi slept peacefully, with a winsome smile that betrayed no concerns or worries. This was a vast difference compared to the other two.

Claude leaned against a broken bit of furniture unmoving, his eyes covered with a silk mask. His small hin frame now slightly bloated and his skin an unhealthy shade of green, unmoving as his chest did not rise and fall like Yu-Mi or Linda's did. He was as still as the bugbears were before their bodies were taken away; cold and lifeless.

Quietly he raised his hand up and peeled upwards the mask to glance at the others sleeping around him. His eyes flicked over to look at the restrained child, lingering there before glancing at Bac, frowning. Then he looked at the human, lost in the rapture of her dreams snoring lightly, before finally looking at the raven-haired woman, who lay in an uncomfortable position on her belly on the ground, instead of laying on the ceiling, looking down upon the rest as was her normal habit.

Kery was indeed uncomfortable in more than one sense. She looked at the hin through her hair that hung over her eyes, concealing her wakefulness. Sleep was elusive, and rest and respite even farther from her. She could barely see him, through her watering eyes, which spilled onto the flagstone she laid upon. Like Claude, she didn’t breathe. Like Claude her heart was still. Like Claude she was cursed to be on the borders of death, never quite crossing.

But Claude was far closer to death, and for a while, she was certain that he had died. Kery knew many ways to kill people: with a bolt to the heart, a flash of a blade across the throat the most common. She knew of even more exotic ways as well; some painful, some extremely painful, and others just practical. Her teeth were weapons, which fed her; kept her alive and would briefly slake her never ending thirst.

It was worse on this day, as most of her own blood was spilled, and she was unable to claim any for herself. She was very close to asking one of them to grant her an indulgence and do something she had never dared; to taste a comrade’s blood to quell the hunger. She had instead coped using her skills to steal things and let the thrill of not being caught ease her discomfort. She’d probably quietly return things later; but that never seemed to be effective against her gnawing hunger. But she had never killed someone by accident. It was always her choice. Her hand. Her decision.

But mere hours ago, in an attempt to save Claude from bleeding out she fed him an elixir to restore his health. Never mind the fresh warm blood that surrounded him on the floor was like a feast to her, wasted on the floor. She was almost ready to lick the floor clean of it, rather than ask for help. But she was practical; two companions were on the floor. She had two elixirs to heal them both.

But fate was a cruel mistress and dealt Claude a losing hand. The vial contained not life, but death. A poison that was strong enough to drop an ogre, and it easily took Claude instead. Afterwards Kery realized that one of them was likely going to die; Claude happened to be the victim and it saved Yu-Mi by chance. Kery was already sick to her stomach with the knowledge that it was her hand that killed him. But she wasn’t ready for what happened next.

She had drained the blood of others, until they perished with her jaw clamped around their neck. And yet they didn’t become a creature like her. And yet now his death mocked her, as he seemed to join her in a state of not being alive. When he sat up and talked, Kery nearly screamed. She wanted to run in terror from what she had done. She instead steeled herself and pressed her ear to his chest, and quivered in fear, silently as she listened with dread.

No sound of breathing.

No heartbeat.

What have I done?

It was the only thought in her head now. She killed him, and yet now he was…something else. She was the last person to touch him when he lived, and he was a stone-cold corpse soon after. But as the last warmth left the hin, Bac had picked him up to carry him back to the surface. And it was then, he…arose, struggling to free himself from, what he probably thought was, Bac’s lecherous grasp. But somehow, that couldn’t be the reason he returned from the grave.

It had to be Kery; her curse must have found a way to spread. What else could it be? Who else could have done it? What made any more sense?

So, she watched, her breath and heart as still as Claude’s crying, praying to St. Cuthbert for mercy. To take her instead, and not let this curse infect the others. It wasn’t fair to them. If she was being punished for her violent choices, others shouldn’t pay the price. Tomorrow she would need to do something. Apologize? What would contrition be to the druid? ‘Sorry’ didn’t seem…adequate. Would he want vengeance? Her own heart staked, and mouth filled with holy wafers to the other’s laughter? What would be enough?

Kery’s tears slowed as exhaustion finally set in, and sleep took her. She never saw Claude pull on the rope, checking to see if the child was secure. Claude then shrugged and muttered, “Probably for the best” and lowered the mask to cover his dead eyes once again

Session Notes
Keryasa is a dhampir with a guilt complex. Survivors guilt, and a firm belief she's cursed by the gods for the unliving state she's in. Her main objective is money, hopefully to buy a penance from St. Cuthbert to become normal. Is it possible? Kery doesn't know, but she's keenly aware when bad things happen though.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Journal of The Folk, Eonic Cycle 21, Lesser Cycle 201, Generation 8, Hunting quarter, 28th Lunar.

<Translated from Draconic>


Finished story found in market in peace. Must find new books. Tomorrow must train using Lightfoot sword. Strange object in ways. Only use is combat. While Rockman axe made for combat, has other functions. Wood chopping, slicing meat, and can be cooking surface if needed. Daggers, good for small cutting, stripping hide and skins and fighting if needed. Eggbrother's club when using it doubles as hammer in need.

Sword? Can cut with it, can’t do anything above as effectively. Very single purpose.

But focus gives purpose. Seen Lightfoot soldiers use it, and eggbrothers’ shows elements of the Dranth. Art with it in movement, steps different than Axe. Thrusts are option, less draw cuts and cleave motion. Defensive posture tends to deflect than blocks. Dranth motion is more fluid. Strength in focus, at cost of utility.

Will try tomorrow with Eggbrother's sword. Assuming Makes-bad-choices stops talking through night. Keeps talking about a parent, someone else’s. Unclear, but likely Sig’varas trying to teach lesson. Good plan, Makes-bad-choices must listen to the Sig’varas. Doesn’t listen to self.

Makes-bad-choices is getting loud in evening. Considering knocking on door to get quiet. Will ignore tonight. Maybe sneak and touch of Sig’varas to make that request. Will wait for Make-bad-choices to binge drink again or something similar. Patience. Sleep now.


-------------------

In the morning, Ss’Thak was awakened to the elves starting to stir. The time was early, which suited Ss’Thak fine; days in the village started early. Light was as much of a limiting resource, as any other. It was the propensity for the elves to stay up beyond sunset that was disturbing. Ss’Thak surmised this had a lot to do with not being as limited by vision at night. And since elves didn’t really sleep, it seemed that they are always doing something.

While all of that being true, it was also true that elven idea of “doing something” seemed random, inefficient, overly concerned with appearances and finally, disguised the fact they weren’t doing anything important at all. For a race with plenty of time on their hands, they seem to focus on the wrong things.

Ss’Thak touched his Eggbrother on the shoulder awakening him. Meeting his gaze, Ss’Tok nodded. No words were needed. All was already discussed last night, and repeating selves just to hear themselves waste of effort. They had both noticed the tendency of the softskins to speak to each other, and really communicate nothing new. This was not the way of the folk; words interfered with focus. A nod to acknowledge certainly wise, but a village was quiet. A quiet village didn’t attract dangerous creatures. Words were used to communicate, not to make noise that had no function.

The pair had noticed that they could really move silently among the soft-skins, just by being in a room and saying nothing. They were used to being ignored, once the shock of seeing a pair of folk in a nice place had worn off. And so, without words, the pair made their way downstairs and exited the inn.

Outside the Inn they noticed that Sariel, had already arisen and was sitting on a bench nearby. She waved, upon seeing them, and then focused on playing her instrument. Ss’Thak liked Sariel; she understood the purpose of silence. She did like to make noise with her instrument, but that was noise with purpose; to instill pleasure. The sounds she played were soothing, and relaxing was pleasurable. This was a good use of noise. And considering the most dangerous creatures in the city were likely Ss’Thak and Ss’Tok anyway, the risk was low of an attack.

Looking around Ss’Thak saw that there was enough clearance and nodded as his Eggbrother. Ss’Tok drew his sword and passed it to Ss’Thak and took his axe in exchange. He then sat down and removed a doumbek that was strapped to the bottom of his pack. After taking a moment to note the rhythm of Sariel’s music, he began to drum, a slow four-beat pattern, watching Ss’Thak.

Ss’Thak stood, eyes closed, holding the sword upright in his right hand, with his left hand above the hilt, almost in prayer. He breathed, soaking in the rhythm; letting his breath match the slow beat. Slowly he forced his heart to slow, and be one with the rhythm.

His breath, his heart, and now his mind; one rhythm. The scent of the air fell from his awareness.

He began the Circ’Thank.

His eyes remained closed and began to move. Passersby’s had noted the drumming before, but now they slowed to watch the large Lizardfolk start to move in a slow circle. He stepped cautiously, turning and pantomiming a sword fight with no opponent. It appeared closer to an elaborate dance, with the sword as a dance partner with Ss’Thak in the lead. It didn’t appear like anything that would resemble sparing.

Inside of Ss’Thak’s mind, images of the elves sparing at pells, of the hobgoblin troops drilling, of human guards dueling in the faraway Free Cities, and of the rare Dwarves he met in the Karak that preferred the sword to the axe. Every memory being recalled; every movement of those he saw in the past. He recalled how they held their swords, how they balanced them, how they struck. The cuts, the thrusts, the parries.

Ss’Thak then continued the steps of the Dranth. At first, the movements were the same as ones that he would use while using his battle-axe. But they quickly began to change. The balance was different, less focus on sweeps. More thrusting strikes. Spinning the blade, using the momentum to carry him forward and away. He changed the Dranth steps as the weapon demanded. The motions became more fluid, more comfortable. His eyes remained closed and he quickly exhaled.

Ss’Tok heard the signal. The second part of the Circ’Thank had begun, and he as watched the Dranth being performed he watched carefully. Slowly he increased the cadence of the beat. Sariel unconsciously heard the increase and kept up the tempo.

Ss’Thak began to repeat the steps he had performed. There were 147 steps and motions as part of the Dranth he chose. Many were small, almost imperceptible; a change in grip, a twist of the foot, a shift in balance of the tail. But the Dranth was an old one, that any Folk would know. As Ss’Thak completed a circuit, Ss’Tok watched and increased the tempo on each circuit.

When they started, a full circuit took several minutes to complete. Soon, the circuit took only a minute; and the tempo had doubled three times. It was then that Sariel became aware that the pace had increased. It had slowly snuck up on her. She turned her head, now aware that the drumming had a purpose. Ss’Tok’s doumbek beat had taken over what was once a quiet tune to something more urgent and primal.

Ss’Thak completed more circuits. Where once the sword was an extension of Ss’Thak, the speed increase changed the balance of the dance. The sword was in control now; with the increase of energy increasing its power and momentum. The beat was always increasing pace, relentlessly driving the Dranth forward.

Each circuit was now complete in half a minute. Where once, Ss’Thak was silently performing steps, now the sword began to sing. Cutting the air, whistling with each stroke and every flourish. The light of the sun had finally crested the rooftops, and the light caught the flat of the blade. The flashing steel reflecting the light onto the crowd, the grass and the inn nearby. Patrolling guards, concerned by the crowds, approached the Lizardfolk but stopped short, uncertain on what action they should take.

Sariel had at this point stopped trying keep up the pace and moved to touch the guards on the shoulders. Gaining their attention, she simply shook her head no, and placed her finger upon her lips, signing the guards not to make any noise.

Ss’Thak was unaware. His eyes remained closed, focusing only on the Dranth. He felt the drums as his heart kept tempo with the beat. And then again, he made a quick exhale, signaling to Ss’Tok that the third stage of the Circ’Thank.

Ss’Tok kept increasing the pace, but a new pattern emerged from the doumbek. Where there was before a simple four beat pattern, a more complex eight-beat pattern emerged. The Dranth changed as well, Ss’Thak no longer moved in simple motion with his legs. Now he started to introduce jumps and spins into the movements. His tail now was more involved here, acting as the counterbalance to the sword. As the crowd watched, the sword and its’ wielder ceased fighting over who was the lead; they became one. Where once the sword was only sound, now the sound of cutting air came from all of Ss’Thaks limbs.

The circuit was now nearly frenetic; barely controlled chaos to anyone but Ss’Thak. To him the steps were orderly and purposeful. Each movement one that he had seen and that he had used in combat. Each had a purpose; to defend him, to move him to a better position, to find a weakness, to leverage a strength. Soon a circuit only took fifteen seconds to perform. Motion was blurred, the blade flashing brightly, and the sound of the cut air, now a constant whistle. Then, Ss’Thak made a sharp whistling sound.

Ss’Tok, heard and then hit four quick beats on the doumbek, and stopped. At that same moment, Ss’Thak flourished, spun and froze taking again the pose he started with. To him, the pattern was set, the contest of balance won. The Circ’thank complete. He opened his eyes and only then realized he had an audience.

The elves quietly applauded, and some tossing some coins on the ground near Ss’Tok. Sariel, turned with a smirk on her face and returned to her seat nearby. Ss’Thak blinked and shook his head.

“Silly Softskins” he thought...but not before he scooped up the coins on the ground.

Session notes:
Meet the eggbrothers Ss'Thak and Ss'Tok, a pair of deadly lizardfolk wandering the world to answer a simple question; discover the secrets of softskin's so called "civilization" to understand how these underdeveloped physical specimins manage to stay alive despite obvious physical and cultural definciencies. As the pair developed, quirks about Lizardfolk culture on naming (no one has a proper name in Lizardfolk culture, it is a three word phrase that describes them. Lizardfolk however choose their names, yet Ss'Thak (the letter m) and Ss'Tok (the letter n) have not yet), phrases (like Sig'Varus - a magic weapon that talks) and the like came out to the other players. Most of which written in native form makes for horrible reading. But there were a couple of pieces like this one that were written from a different perspective.

Here Ss'Thak is now level 6 and is learning the longsword as a new weapon skill as a Kensai. Lizardfolk do it differently.

As a final note; It's also why I admired Richard's Jhasspok; there were a lot of practical similarilties between he and Ss'Thak...right down to brutal efficiency.
 
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Richards

Legend
And I, in turn, absolutely love Ss'Thak and Ss'tak! I hope to see more of them in the future - I get the feeling I'm going to like seeing the world from their viewpoints.

Johnathan
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Journal of The Folk, Eonic Cycle 21, Lesser Cycle 201, Generation 8, Feasting quarter, 24th Lunar.

<Translated from Draconic>


Ss’thak sat outside the ruins of the tower, watching as Corpse-that-Bosses walked away. Great truths have been found. Great magics have been found to conceal the truth. Nature has been altered. This was unlike the Feywild. The Feywild was confusing to him. That place had a heightened reality; everything was exaggerated. Prey’s colors matched the surreal palette of the nearby vegetation. Prey was larger as well. When prepared, the flavors were heightened as well. The apex predators weren’t simple beasts but were-wolves. Their leader was a cacophony of spearmint and teeth.

Well…they were the apex predators. Like in most cases, the group enters a place, they alter the balance and chaos takes control before settling into its new order. And the band became the apex predators. That suited Ss’thak fine. But they were visitors, so all was temporary. They would leave, the balance would return.

But the effects of that realm weren’t just on the natives, as it had affected the others as well. Maia had been dropping her carefully projected persona more often. Baracus, was now averse to taking risks in the name of changing himself for Sariel. And Sariel…was becoming assertive. Perhaps it was the consequence of the secret task she had borne into the realm. But the realm “knew.”

This was almost natural to Ss’thak; you couldn’t lie to nature. But you certainly could fool yourself. But again, the Feywild made this literal. Nature didn’t just know; it acted. Violently. Another exaggeration of what some of the others called the “Prime-materium.”

Home.

The swamp they had traversed there was the most natural place he had seen in many weeks and yet it was not right. It was not dangerous in the manner a swamp should be, and it was more dangerous in ways than it should have been. Again, exaggerated. Almost as if the Feywild was someone else’s idea of a perfect swamp, a perfect elven court, and so on. Yet it wasn’t perfect to his mind. Or to the others…with perhaps the exception of Sariel.

But it certainly wasn’t home. The lack of this touchstone bothered Ss’thak. He and Ss’tok had found themselves after a battle with the were-wolves, flensing them, and carving letters into bone. They did this without a second thought.

This was not the way. The dead were dead. The best use of the bones afterwards were tools or weapons. The meat food. Hide for warmth. Instead, they wasted most of it, all to assuage the egos of the other weres. Later when they returned, they found out that the new pack leader would be the one who kills them all. This at least made sense. Ss’Thak would have accused the other weres that they had gone soft, lost their edge. Lost their way.

Now he was no longer sure. He was concerned about a different kind of corruption. The kind that leads you away from the true self. He was concerned about being unable to follow the task of the first Shaman and the first Chief. To render wapner with clear thought.

Now that they had returned, the sense of wrongness in place had disappeared. Granted, it took slaying the monstrosity that dwelled here first. That removed the glamour, returning it all to nature. But despite this, that sense of wrongness remained.

Ss’thok exited the tower and saw his eggbrother meditating on the ground. He moved to a spot next to him and sat and waited. After a moment, Ss’thak spoke in draconic, “The other not-Folk are resting now?” Ss’thak said without moving.

“They have been cared for. Makes-bad-choices is still a picky eater.” Ss’tok replied. “Still better than before. The others are more adaptable.”

Ss’thak opened his eyes and nodded, “Yes. The first question is and was, are we still adaptable?”

Ss’tok considered and gave the formal refrain, “The second question is and was, is there a need to adapt?”

Both then spoke, “Adaptation is response to need, Adaptation without cause is waste, Adaptation is Survival.”

Ss’thak nodded, “Old lesson. A truth for many eonic cycles. Truth has become complex with recent travel. Dead-goat-corruptor has altered much. Truth concealed by it. We glimpse only at edges. Rare has such need arose; not since the First Eonic cycle.

Ss’tok looked at Ss’thak in silence.

Ss’thak continued, “Old lesson shared by shaman. Few shaman have need of it. Fewer chiefs need it. Was taught it before we started wapner.

“What is the lesson?”

“The lesson is longer than most. It tells of the fall of the Saurid and the rise of the Mamalia. How the Saurid did not adapt and declined. Some did survive, but little of that time is left.” Ss’thak gestured at the tower. “The works of nineteen eonic cycles surround us in decay and growth show what happens when you do not adapt. But that is not the lesson. The truth of the lesson is the success of Mamalia.”

Ss’thok blinked. “What did we learn from them? No lesson that self recalls Mamalia rendering wapner.

Ss’thak turned to look at his eggbrother, “No Mamalia rendered wapner, it is the most truthful of wapner; a wapner of fact so obvious that it cannot be argued. The lesson is about change. At the time of the First Eonic cycle the Mamalia were small and few. They underwent great changes. They became large and fast. They became the apex in very short time. Why did they do this? Perhaps weather, perhaps great events. The First Cycle has few egg-lessons, but this one is discomforting.

Ss’thok thought a moment, “It is not Mamalia that must change. It is that great changes requires changes to self. And we do not like change.”

Ss’thak nodded, “We undertook ‘great changes’ only twice. In the First Eonic with the fall of the Saurid we organized and used our thoughts to survive, not just our skills. We survived, but we no longer remember what we were. The second change was in the fifth Eonic when the softskins arose and met with conflict. They created stresses and war. They sought ways to survive. We watched and realized the fate of the Folk would be decided in their wars. We chose to retreat; the lost lands and cities now hide deep beneath swamp, forest, and desert. The Folk split, hiding knowledge and power. We created a lie…that we chose to believe.”

Ss’thok considered this a moment, “But we remember we did this; how is that a ‘great change?’”

“Because we do not remember how we lived before. We hid the memory of our cities, of our learning, of our true past. We survived. We changed. We do not remember what we were. We became…Folk. What was left behind has faded.”

Ss’Thak stood and stretched his limbs and spoke again, “Now we are seeing great forces. The walking-dead such as Corpse-that-Bossess,’ the return of a Great saurid, the Feywild problems extending here, the softskins pretending to themselves that war has not started. Much caused by the Dead-goat-corruptor. The Softskins are changing again; reacting to new or constructed truth.

Ss’tok silently thought and then looking at his eggbrother again spoke, “The wapner has changed. We were to see what we could learn from the softskins, and use what is best. This is no longer true.”

Ss’thak nodded and replied, “An old egg-lesson once taught, ‘that you must question the question to understand the answer’. And so, we understand now what the right question is. Should the Folk undergo a great change? And what should that change be?”

And Ss’tok replied, “And perhaps that is not the right question.” And he turned away to look to the distant horizon.

“Are we too late?”

Session Notes:
The adventure the pair were involved in from levels 5 to 20 was one of saving the world from Orcus, the Dead-Goat-Corruptor But nothing was ever simple, and the lizardfolk were always seeing more of the problem than was apparent to the players, which the dm fed off of. So as we wrote our Journal's detailing the hidden sophistication of the folk...while we were the epicenter of violence because that solved most problems.

But we loved our introspections.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Journal of The Folk, Eonic Cycle 21, Lesser Cycle 201, Generation 8, Feasting quarter, 32nd Lunar.

<Traslated from Draconic>


Ss’Thak regarded the corpse with unease. Sed’rine were considered ‘unclean, and the anathema as the rottenest and foul of the lot. It spoke truth of the ritual, the circumstances surrounding it, it’s trigger, and even who the actors would be. Those with the spark of divinity could fix the world as they knew it.

Or shatter it to pieces.

Or was it already shattered? Somehow it seemed that the world was a puzzle with too many pieces. Some were needed, others were to be discarded. A wapner of the greatest order. But the burden doesn’t concern Ss’Thak as much as the core mystery.

Why them?

Ss’Thak was certain about what choices he could make for the Folk. The path has been clear for many Eonics. Less clear was what path should be set for not-Folk. What was correct? What was normal? Egglessons taught much about not-Folk. Behaviors, vices, patterns, tactics. But above all a key lesson has always held true; a not-Folk cannot be relied on to think in a manner that is logically best for Folk. That isn’t to say that malicious intent was always on their minds. But rather the not-Folk barely thought above their impulses. Perhaps those impulses would affect Folk. Perhaps they would not. This reinforced the oldest egglesson of survival; Self-determination was the path of security.

Maya and Sariel were standing close together in the room. Each a different fracture; Maya concerned about herself; partitioned into pieces and separated. No one piece seeing or knowing the whole; an Egglesson with only a beginning, Sariel’s fracturing was different. It wasn’t personal. Something was not correct with the lightfoots. Of the 29,203 lessons concerning lightfoots, that Ss’Thak knew, only events in context with the Folk were ever covered. But what the lightfoots are or were or supposed to be the Folk’s absence? The Egglessons were not for them.

Both Maya and Sariel were concerned with their fractured, when Ss’Thak caught a whisper about “the Lizardfolk.” Ss’Thak sighed. The fragmentation was extending farther. Positions being staked. The only question was what was the path they had already decided on, and not revealed.

Ss’Thak moved towards his Eggbrother, who was cleaning his blade. He was also unnerved, although the non-Folk would likely never notice. As predators they did not show the impatience of other lesser mammals. It was more constant tension and watchfulness. He looked at Ss’Thak saw the distant look. Finally, he knelt down next to Ss’Tok and spoke.

“Softskins have forgotten we are here again,” Ss’thak stated the obvious.

“A challenge; they are unfocused. Or focused on wrong things.” Replied Ss’Tok.

“The problem of what ‘is’ requires focus. Problem is, that it is large an unknowable. We know much about the softskins. Yet, we do not know them. We could not wapner them. We have no context.”

“What then? Must we care? Can they not survive without us helping?”

“Perhaps answers are to be found elsewhere. Not in minds of the Softskins. Not in the minds of the Folk.”

Ss;Tok looked at his eggbrother, his brow ridges furrowing “A calling has not been done since the 9th Eonic. A successful one was last done in the first. She expects us to solve and survive and propagate.”

“And so, we do. But I have a new concern. Tells-tall-tales is playing game with a god; a mind that is slippery, large, and very soft. The Sid’reen wished to change world to elevate selves.”

“That was the path they chose. And they are skilled at that game.”

“But now they seek to displace them directly. She set us on a path. Should others set the path for her? Should we?”

The comment made Ss’Tok pause a moment, then he spoke again, “We do not know her desire beyond what she had stated. We do not know what others want of her.”

“That is because, we have not asked.”

“Would She respond to the ritual?”

“I am thinking we should be more direct. We should seek her and know her mind.”

“There are no Egglessons for this.”

“Then perhaps we should create one. She has given us all we need. But this was caused by Dead-Goat-Corruptor. This altered too much. We do not ask for help for ourselves. We do not ask for guidance for ourselves.”

“Then what do we ask for?” Ss’Tok asked.

And Ss’Thak looked over and touched Ss’Tok on the shoulder and said quietly:

“What path should we…guide the softskins. Before they try to guide us.”

"And if HE answers instead?"

"Then the path has already been chosen."

Session Notes:
We were nearing the end, when my son and I threw the DM for a loop. Since we had been adventuring in the outer planes, trying to save the world, we for the first time decided to ask for advise from our goddess. Directly. Of course this was a duality goddess, where SHE was about survival and propagation, whereas HE was the defender and primal rage.

So which one would answer us on what we shoujld do with these weakling races around us? Help them, and hope to secure our races survival, or destroy them and secure our races survival?

oh Sed'rine are out word for Yuan-Ti. Lightfoots are elves
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
“A Moonlight Sonata” - 8/21/2023​


The trio of hunters had set camp, deep in the forest many leagues from Oakhurst. It had been a good day, as the three found and shot a twelve-point hart, which was now dressed and hung to dry in the cold night air. Tomorrow, they would strap their prize to the lone mule they brought and start the journey home. The only worry left, was to keep their kill from anything interested in a free meal.

It was the deepest time of night, edging towards the dawn and Haak had awoken Berg for his turn to watch the fire. A watch was needed here deep in the forest mostly to keep bears away. But truth be told, there were other things in the night to worry about besides bears. Monsters it was said would creep down from the mountains, ready to slay any who crossed their path. The three hunters trusted their skills, but they were wary nonetheless. They did not wish to become the hunted this evening. And so, it was Berg’s turn to watch, defend their kill and keep all safe.

But recently, it was said there was something else stalking the forest. A nearby settlement they passed, warned them that someone or something was preying on game deep within the woods. Several had found remains of fowl; plucked and dressed so it wasn’t an animal. Circles of stone with cold fires could be found sometimes, but little else; no sign of clearing or bedding down for an evening, or anything else that would make a proper camp. None knew who this mysterious hunter was, or where they lurked. Usually when a wandering huntsman came here, they would invariably kill far more than a single person could use. Most of them, would trade meat or hide at the nearest settlement for supplies, for any hunter would need new spears or arrows or any number of other things.

Yet none came forward to trade or talk. Whoever it was did not deign to visit the small settlements or make their presence known. Lone hunters were seen as a danger in the wilds, as it was never clear why they were alone. Everyone had heard of a story or two of a trapper gone mad from loneliness or tragedy. But this new mystery all smelled of superstition and nonsense to Berg; tales to pass the time and explain old hunts long forgotten. Or someone was too deep in their cups, looking to tell the tale of a fevered dream in exchange for another drink.

The moon was full and was directly overhead, casting her light across the forest. The branches swayed in the light breeze, casting shadows across the forest’s floor. The sound of the leaves on the wind, contrasted to the sudden popping of wood in the fire, now settling into low embers. A peaceful night as could be hoped for. Berg smiled to himself and drank happily from his skin of mead he brought, privately celebrating the successful hunt. But as Berg sat there, he realized that there was another sound on the wind. Berg lifted his head and turned it round, until his ears picked up the sound of an instrument in the distance. It was the soft tones of strings being plucked slowly. Deep tones in a rhythm, followed by haunting ones higher and clearer in clarity.

Berg was not a man of the arts; he liked his drinking ballads to be sure. Occasionally a bard would ply their skills in a tavern, and while he enjoyed the tunes, it wasn’t something he sought out. But this song, was different. The rhythm was slow and somber, and it echoed throughout the night. And it was a song unlike one he had ever heard before, that pulled on the strings of his own heart.

Berg stood, and turned his head around, to get a bearing on the music. Quickly he determined it was coming from the direction of a nearby stream where they had dressed the hart earlier that day. He quickly grabbed his hunting spear from where he leaned it against a tree. Then in the moonlight he cautiously crept towards the haunting melody he heard.

Berg felt no reason to fear; the only feeling he had was curiosity on who would be playing music here in the depths of the woods. He moved slowly, as while the light of the moon was good tonight, he still did not wish to stumble in the thick bracken undergrowth. Moving forward, he could hear the trickle of the stream nearby, which would be found on the other side of a rampart of earth and sod. Berg could feel the breeze on his face and smell the scent of the running waters ahead upwind. As he rounded the earthen mound to approach the stream, the music grew clearer. The pacing of the tones matched with the burbling waters of the stream ahead in a natural pleasing harmony. Finally, Berg made his way around, and there he saw the quarry he sought. He froze, holding his breath as he saw…her.

Across on the other bank of the stream, on a bluff of earth strewn with moss covered rock, sat a woman in a beam of moonlight. Her bare hands plucked on the strings of a wooden harp of some kind, with each note pulling at his heart. The breeze ran through her long dark crimson hair, causing it to dance around the instrument, free and wild. In the moonlight, the colors were all muted, yet he was somehow certain that her clothes matched the colors of the forest around her. But the moonlight caused the chain armor she wore to glisten in the night. She continued to play the nameless sonata here in the wilds, with no audience but herself, seemingly unaware of the hunter’s intrusion on her private concert.

Berg was entranced by the image of this woman, playing her song here in the night when it finally ended. The woman seemed to smile and stood. Her build was lean, and she was taller than most women that he knew. But she moved with a fluid, unrushed grace that would have made the barmaids in Oakhurst green with envy. She stretched her hands high overhead and then slung the instrument across her back. Then, she reached towards a tree and grasped a length of wood that seemed to be silvery white in color. As she turned, Berg saw it was a bow, the color of bone in the bright moonlight, with trails of dark ribbons streaming from the ends. It seemed unlike many other bows that he had seen before, more like a tree branch that had been grown into the shape of a bow, and less a single shaft of wood carved into one.

As she grasped the bow, she suddenly whirled, and turned to face Berg. Her stance was now crouched and low, her bow in her left hand stretched ahead of her with the weapon turned parallel to the ground. Her right had already notched an arrow, one with a silvery broad head, that glittered in the moon light. One that was pointed straight at Berg. Berg blinked in surprise, unclear how he could have been spotted and was about to speak when he heard another sound.

A heavy sound of panting through open jaws, and then the dull growl of an angry beast. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see the black shadowy form of a wolf, its eyes glowing green in the darkness. Thoughts raced through his head on how he did not notice its approach. He cursed himself for being bewitched by the music of the woman by the stream. He gripped his spear tightly and prepared himself to fight for his life.

Suddenly, there was a rush of air, and the woman appeared beside him in a shower of leaves. She had not run or jumped across the water; there was no time. She simply was there, her full mane of crimson hair flowing behind her. And as she appeared, she let fly an arrow that shimmered in the dim moonlight. It streaked and struck the wolf, clean in the throat, silencing its growl. The force of the shot knocked it down to the ground, and the corpse slid on the earth until it struck a nearby tree. Berg was about to turn, when the woman, whirled around and with a swift motion drew a sword with her right hand and held it at Berg’s throat.

Berg swallowed nervously, gasping for air at this sudden turn of events. He released his grip on the spear he carried and slowly raised his hands to the sky in surrender. He then looked at his captor in the eyes, and what he saw took his breath away.

Her face was elegant, with high cheekbones, a slim slightly upturned nose, and a narrow chin. Her lips were full and were curled into the faintest hint of a snarl. It was then he saw two features that made him question his vision. The first were the slender pointed ears from beneath the waves of hair, the ears of an elf. But if that was a surprise, the second was a shock, as she stared intently into Berg’s eyes. He could not believe it, but her own eyes were a solid uniform color of green, that shimmered in the moonlight. There was no pupil or white to see in them, as she stared into Berg’s own seeking some knowledge. Then as he watched her nose twitched. She leaned in close to his face, as if approaching for a kiss. Berg stood there nervously, as their lips almost touched, when he realized that she wasn’t trying to steal one. She was instead lightly taking in his scent, sniffing around his mouth and cheeks. After a moment she backed away slowly, and he heard her whisper a single word:

Metheglin![1]

They stood there for a moment as the woman’s snarl turned into a slight grin. She withdrew the sword from his neck and returned it to a scabbard on her hip.

“You are fortunate bhin[2],” she said. The tone of her voice was soft and feathery, and she spoke with a strong accent Berg was not familiar with. Yet despite the criticism the tone of her voice was not unkind. It was instead concerned, as an adult would be about a wayward child. “The vil[3] was a skilled hunter, staying downwind of you.” Berg cursed at himself, now realizing how he was caught unawares by the wolf. “But you are safe. For now.”

She left his side and moved to the fallen form of the wolf. Frowning she pulled out the splintered shaft of her arrow from its lifeless body.

“Broken; I will need to make another at first light.” She said looking at the shaft and returning it to a quiver on her back.

"I...I…um…that is…I…” Berg stammered trying to find the words to the questions he had.

“You are fortunate this is not the realm of Faerie, or that vil would be licking the marrow from your bones.” She then looked at Berg questioningly as Berg stood there stammering. “Where do you come from?”

“Ah…uh…oh…Oakhurst,” Berg finally spat out.

“Oakhurst,” she said slowly, sounding out the name of the town distinctly. “How far is this place and which way would I find it?”

“It…it…is…uh, two or three days to the…uh…south east.”

She stared at Berg a moment and nodded. “Do they have a place that serves metheglin…what you call mead there?”

“What…oh…yes! Yes of course at th—”

“—Good. It has been almost a year since I had tasted metheglin upon my lips. Perhaps it is time that I should pay this, Oakhurst, a visit.” She said, cutting him off before he could give a name to his favorite inn. “You should be more careful; a hunter should not be such easy prey.” She then looked at the dead wolf and nudged it with her slim, booted foot. “Take it. I have no need for its meat or skin,”

“I…um…sure. Th-th-thank…you,” Berg managed to say.

The woman nodded simply, and said a curious phrase, “Sweet Water and Light Laughter, bhin.” And she started to follow the stream to the south when Berg finally mustered enough sense for a question.

“Um…sorry…who are you?” he said taking two steps after her.

She turned and looked at him again with those solid orbs, stilling him from any pursuit. After a moment she said, “Someone seeking a story to take home.”

“Ah…yes…but do you have a name?”

“Of course, bhin. Kyra. Take better care of yourself,” the woman said, and she disappeared into the depths of the forest, leaving Berg to question what he had seen.



The next morning, his friends awoke surprised at the sight of a wolf’s hide, freshly dressed. But they could not get much out of Berg that day on how he managed to kill the beast, with no sign of his spear having even been used. In fact, it was apparent his mind was elsewhere as they broke camp and started the trek back to Oakhurst. As they marched along the game paths, they noticed that Berg was playing with something in his hands. On a closer look it was a silvery broadleaf arrowhead of a design they did not recognize. But when they asked about it, the only thing that Berg would say was:

“You wouldn’t believe my story.”




[1] A mead flavored with herbs, as opposed to melomel which is flavored with fruit.
[2] ‘Young human male’ – Slang: Elven Dictionary
[3] Wolf - Elven Dictionary

Notes:
In my collection, this was for a campaign that technically has not started yet, and I wrote it right before COVID altered our world.

The concept was based on actually an different character, her twin. The premise is that the two twins in the Feywild were bored and made a bet to go seperate ways on the prime material plane, and would compare to see who had the best adventures after a decade. That character (Kyri An'Lath) was a Herald of the Storm, Barbarian and I played her in a small two month campaign with "The Blade" as DM. But I found an opportunity to make her sister (Kyra An'Lath) as a Horizon Ranger, using the Theros setting as some of the basis (Nyxborn, worshiper of Nylea) but in a custom geography, and wrote this as an intro for the DM's world to get to know what I was going with for a character.

And I'm still waiting with the others to start the adventure, as we rework our post COVID schedules.
 

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