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The Adventures of Baabby and Sam - a Skylanders Campaign

This is going to be an altogether different campaign that anything I - or my son Logan, who will be DMing - have ever attempted.

Some background: my wife's nephew, Harry, has lived with us since he was a mere two and a half months old. He's now 10 years old and in the 4th grade. I ran a 9-year D&D 3.5 campaign (link: Wing Three Story Hour) for Logan and the family of one of my co-workers, and when that ended we started up our current campaign (link: Kordovian Adventurers Guild Story Hour). The first campaign was specifically designed to introduce my co-worker's 8-year-old son to D&D, and somewhere around year 6 of that campaign we added in my co-worker's youngest son, who by then had turned 8 years old himself. I always figured once Harry turned 8 (or thereabouts), he'd join our gaming group as well.

Things didn't turn out that way. Despite frequent invitations, Harry has always opted to stay home when Logan and I would head over to my co-worker's house for a D&D game session. Part of his refusal is because most times when Logan and I would go off to play (generally from noon to 5-6 PM on a Saturday), he and my wife Mary would go on what he calls a "date" - generally, a trip to the toy/electronic store and a lunch out at a local steak place. Mary would often pick him up a new Skylanders figure as part of their "date" and then he'd be content for the rest of the day, playing with his new character in the games.

(For those unfamiliar with Skylanders, it's a series of video games that comes with a portal that holds a number of these Skylanders figures - put the figure on the portal and the corresponding character shows up in the game for you to run. It's a brilliant concept, guaranteeing the company a near endless stream of money since they come out not only with a new edition of the game every year but also dozens of new characters for purchase. You don't need all of the characters to be able to play the game, but the more you have the more options you have in the game.)

Anyway, Harry's been a Skylanders fanatic since the first edition, "Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure," came out in 2011. (This was followed by "Skylanders Giants," "Skylanders Swap Force," "Skylanders Trap Team," "Skylanders Superchargers," and last year's "Skylanders Imaginators.") How big of a fan, you ask? Not only does he have all of the editions and a goodly chunk of the available characters, but he also has Skylanders bed sheets, blankets, and curtains in his room, a half dozen Skylanders stuffed animals, all of the McDonald's Happy Meal Skylanders tie-in toys, three or four Skylanders T-shirts, a Skylanders backpack, half a dozen Skylanders novels...and two separate Skylanders board games that we created ourselves. (Our original board game was based on the first edition of the video game and then we created "Giants" and "Swap Force" additions to the game as they came out. "Trap Team" was sufficiently different that it warranted a new board game.)

But Logan and I realized that Skylanders was an opportunity to introduce Harry to D&D. Not that we're trying to force him into playing D&D with us, but it's a pastime that's provided Logan and I (and Logan's older brother, Stuart) years of entertainment and we hate to see him miss out if it's something he'd like to do with us. Up until now, I think he's seen D&D pretty much as just a much-slower, tabletop version of World of Warcraft. But when we mentioned that the DM creates whatever kind of game world he wants, and Harry questioned whether "Skylanders D&D" was possible and was told it certainly was, he vowed to give it a try. We decided, since I've been the DM for our D&D campaigns for the past decade and more, this would be a perfect opportunity for Logan to try his hand at DMing a campaign. (Plus, Logan occasionally plays Skylanders video games with Harry and thus is much better versed in the history of the game world - I only know what little I know about the Skylanders universe from what I've gleamed from the novels I've read to Harry at bedtime.)

So last week I gave him a verbal rundown of the D&D character classes. He decided he wanted to be a barbarian (specifically, a "baabarian - which is apparently a thing in the Skylanders universe: a tough, humanoid sheep with a penchant for two-handed melee weapons), but he also wanted to be able to cast healing spells. So there was our first campaign decision: I had heard of gestalt character rules, so I did some research on the SRD site and got the gist of how gestalt PCs work. When we tried to come up with an appropriate name for his barbarian/cleric sheep-man, Harry came up with "Baabby" (pronounced just like "Bobby") which I, an inveterate pun-lover, couldn't help but love.

Since I'd be the only other player in this game, I decided I'd let Harry pick out my two character classes for me - I have every intention of being the mere sidekick in our little duo. He wanted me to be able to shoot a bow and open locked and trapped treasure chests, so I ended up with a gestalt ranger/rogue. For a race, I decided I'd be something other than a humanoid sheep (no sense in diluting Baabby's originality), and since "baabarians" are usually bad guys but Harry was going to run a good one (we decided on chaotic good), I opted to take another "bad guy" character from Skylanders and run him as a good guy. There are two enemies in Skylanders that are humanoid crows: Cross Crow (who uses a crossbow) and Tae Kwan Crow (a martial artist enemy from an earlier edition who's since become a good guy in the latest game); I decided I'd be Cross Crow's cousin, Sam Crow. (Pun explanation for those who aren't followers of the "Sons of Anarchy" TV show: SAMCRO stands for "Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original" - Redwood being the fictional California county where most of the series took place.) As an added pun, I decided Sam was a former member of a bow-hunters club, the "Sons of Archery."

So, now we have our two gestalt characters. I did up initiative cards for Baabby and Sam (for Sam, I just used a picture of Cross Crow; for Baabby I grafted a Skylanders sheep head onto the body of Ookla the Mok from the old "Thundarr the Barbarian" cartoon), as well as for a bunch of low-level Skylanders enemies: chompies, a chompy pod, flame imps, and eight different elemental spell punks. Likewise, I made a stand-up token for the two PCs and a bunch of the low-level monsters. Logan's going to be designing the first adventure, which we'll run through either tomorrow or sometime next weekend.

So if Harry has a good time playing "Skylanders D&D," this will be a recurring thing for us. Since these Skylanders adventures will be designed to be short (we're thinking about an hour and a half, tops), it shouldn't be too difficult to run a Skylanders adventure on the weekends that we don't get to play through a Kordovian adventure. Conversely, if Harry isn't impressed with tabletop gaming, we'll have given it our best shot and I'll feel better knowing he at least gave it a try.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (life) 1
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 1​

Game Session Date: 18 February 2017

- - -

Baabby was a tall humanoid sheep, even taller than normal for those of his kind. And unlike the rest of the "baabarians" he had hung around with for most of his life in the flock, he was afflicted with both a deep-hearted sense of inherent goodness and an insatiable curiosity about what was out there in the wider world. When the opportunity came to strike out on his own, he did so - without a single look back.

Sam Crow was somewhat typical for his kind: short, with a deeply ingrained desire to keep himself from physical harm whenever possible. Once word had gotten out that the infamous villain Cross Crow - a respected figure among those with less-than-respectable natures themselves, and a celebrity to whom Sam had claimed on many occasions to everyone within earshot to be closely related - was coming to town, Sam realized it was time for him to skedaddle before his false claims caught up with him. He hastily left the Sons of Archery to go hang around somewhere he - and his lies - had never been heard of before.

When the two bumped into each other on the road they each sensed a kindred spirit and opted to travel together. This is the story of their adventures.

- - -

"Help!" cried a voice from the nearby forest.

"Baabby -- someone needs help!" offered up Sam. "You know what that means: there's danger nearby! Come on -- let's head in the opposite direction!" Baabby's only response was to race toward the cries for assistance, hefty greataxe in hand. Cursing quietly to himself (and realizing if there was danger about, he was much safer near the hulking baabarian), Sam Crow reluctantly followed.

"Help! Somebody help us!" continued the cries. As the two mismatched adventurers approached, they saw it was a small group of Mabu miners. The Mabu were the predominant species in these parts of the Skylands: shorter than even Sam Crow, they had bearlike features and were generally so dang cuddly-looking you just wanted to snuggle up to one.

"Whaat's the problem?" asked Baabby.

"There are chompies in our mines!" explained the head Mabu. "They're attacking anybody who goes near!"

"Chompies?" repeated Sam Crow. "C'mon, Baabby: LET"S GET OUT OF HERE!"

"Hold on," advised Baabby, grabbing Sam by the shoulder before he could run off. "These people need our help."

Sam Crow let out a breath of exasperation. "Fine!" he griped. He hadn't known the baabarian for long, but he knew how stubborn Baabby could be once he set his mind to something. The miners pointed the way towards their mine, and Baabby headed there with a grumbling Sam in tow.

Just before the mine entrance, there was a clearing in the forest. Sure enough, roaming around the clearing were eight chompies: squat, mobile plant creatures with a wide mouth filled with thorn-teeth and two eyestalks jutting above their rotund head-bodies. Since the adventurers had made no attempt to move silently through the forest, the five nearest were aware of the duo as soon as they entered the grove. Turning to face them, they instinctively made the "chomping" gestures with their mouths as they approached, waddling on their stumpy legs.

Baabby stepped forward and held his greataxe at the ready. As soon as the first chompy stepped into range, he swung a mighty blow. Judging from the leafy material exploding outwards in all directions, it rather looked like someone had taken a weed-whacker to a head of lettuce.

"Pffft!" scoffed Sam, rolling his eyes at how easily these chompies could be taken down. He sighted an arrow at the next in line. "I got this one!" he called out confidently - before he sent the arrow whizzing right between the creature's eyestalks without even touching it. It would have been a spectacular shot had that been what the crow had been trying to do - instead of having tried to shoot it smack-dab in its squat little body. "Awwww!" he cried desolately.

Of the four chompies from the original group of five that had approached, three moved forward to attack the adventuring duo, neither of them quite managing to bite their targets. The fourth, however, did an about-face and waddled back away from Baabby and Sam as fast as its stumpy legs would take it. "Ha!" cried Sam. "Look at that, Baabby -- you've got it so scared it's running away!" But the crow's cocky smile turned sour when he saw the chompy hadn't been running away after all; rather, it was grabbing reinforcements. The three other chompies back by the mine entrance, alerted to enemies by its friend, spun back to the threat and all four raced back into battle.

Baabby swung his greataxe and practically exploded another chompy, while Sam once again managed to almost hit another chompy. This one returned the favor, but was much more successful with its attack. "Aaaagh--I'm being chewed!" complained Sam Crow as the chompy gnawed on the humanoid crow with its thorn-teeth. "Help me, Baabby!" Baabby, dealing with another chompy on his own, was unable to help. Forced to fight his own battle, Sam Crow pulled the short sword from the scabbard at his hip and stabbed at the chompy trying to eat him. He skewered it like a shish-ka-bob and cried out in glee. Then, seeing the second wave of chompies approaching, Sam Crow ran to a nearby rock and scampered up it, hoping to be able to shoot down at the little plant monsters from a higher point of safety.

Baabby finished off his third chompy and headed over toward the rock Sam was perched upon. The last four chompies split up, two heading for the baabarian and two veering off to Sam's rock. The two snapped at Baabby, but the nimble baabarian easily avoided their bites. Up on the rock, Sam Crow switched back to his shortbow, thinking this was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel -- before sending an arrow thunking down straight into the ground. The chompies, in turn, started leaping up as high as they could, their snapping jaws clamping down on the frazzled crow. "Hey, stop it!" cried Sam. "You're chompies, not jumpies! No fair!"

Baabby likewise took a few hits from the two chompies he was fighting, their thorn-teeth sinking deep into his flesh with each successful bite. But while their bites definitely hurt - even drawing blood - Baabby's greataxe could do a lot more damage than their thorny teeth could. Each time, it was a single blow from his greataxe that took out a chompy. After dealing with his two, he headed over to Sam's rock perch - the crow hadn't managed to hit either of the two chompies he'd been fighting, not even once - and helped his partner by slicing up the plant monsters with his blade. Once Baabby had taken care of those last two, Sam Crow climbed down from his perch. "Good job," he said to the baabarian.

Looking around, there were no other chompies about, so Baabby took the time to cast a few healing spells. Holding onto the Life Amulet he wore around his neck, he channeled healing energy into a massive hand and applied it to the wounds the two adventurers had sustained. In each case, the wounds healed over, until the pair was as good as new. "Sweet!" cried Sam Crow, heading to the mine entrance. "Let's go in! Uh, you first, though," he amended.

Baabby strode confidently through the mine entrance, Sam Crow just behind him. Turning a corner, they saw four more chompies approaching. "Aw, no, not more of them!" complained Sam, shooting at one and actually hitting him on the first try for once. Baabby didn't waste any time with words, merely stepping up to one, killing it with one blow, and then killing another with the return swing of his greataxe. Sam Crow's beak gaped open; here he had been so proud of downing a chompy with a single arrow, and then that hulking brute had to go show him up like that! It just wasn't fair! Sam sulked even harder when Baabby calmly stepped up to the last remaining chompy and took it out after it had had only one chance to snap its thorns at him.

There were a few crates just up ahead. Sam Crow gave them the once-over, eager to prove his usefulness by checking the containers for traps. Finding nothing in the way of traps, he announced they were safe and Baabby stared opening them. Most contained mining tools - picks, shovels, and the like - but they also found four potions of cure light wounds, which Sam quickly grabbed up. Then, with a look of much deliberation, he passed two of them over to the humanoid sheep. "Here," he said.

"These aren't ours," pointed out Baabby.

"True," admitted Sam. "But I'm sure the miners won't mind if we take them for now. We'll only use them if we need them. And if we don't need them, we can always give them back." Seeing the logic, Baabby shook his shaggy head and put his two potions in containers on his belt where he could get to them quickly as needed, while Sam Crow did likewise, silently pleading desperately with fate for the miners to let them keep them.

"Look: traacks!" said Baabby, pointing down at the floor of the mine. Sam was surprised the baabarian would be able to find any tracks in the stone floor of the mine - and he definitely didn't want to see whatever monster was big enough to leave discernable tracks in solid stone! - but then he saw what Baabby was talking about. A pair of railroad tracks led deeper into the mine, no doubt put there so the miners could use carts to haul away the rock they dug out. Following the tracks, the duo found they split off and went in two different directions: and that two more chompies were rapidly (for them) approaching from each direction!

"I'll take the two straight ahead!" said Sam Crow, lining up an arrow at one of the chompies coming from directly in front of him. It was a snap decision based on several factors, the main ones being that the two chompies straight ahead were much farther away than the pair off to the right, who could get to the crow much quicker. Better to let Baabby deal with them!

And deal with them is exactly what Baabby did. With two swings of his greataxe, he had two dead chompies at his feet. Sam managed to take out one of his own designated foes with one arrow shot, leaving only one chompy left alive of the four who had approached just seconds ago. Baabby stepped forward to go deal with it, making himself the chompy's primarily target - which suited Sam Crow just fine.

Baabby almost casually dispatched the chompy, then turned the corner and saw a new threat: it was a plant creature somewhat like an oversized chompy, only without the chompy's eyestalks, thorns, or stumpy feet. It had a ring of leaves around it and a maw that gaped open at the top. As Baabby - and Sam, who had moved up closer to his friend now that it was safe - watched in amazement, its maw opened up and disgorged another chompy, which immediately sprang into action, biting at Baabby. The hulking baabarian killed it with a single stroke of his axe, while Sam heard the sounds of another chompy approaching from behind them, around the corner in the other direction the tracks took.

"There's more chompies coming behind us!" warned the crow. "Do you want me to go take care of them, or should I help you with that thing?"

"You go take care of them," advised Baabby. "I got this one." Dutifully, Sam went back to the other track and saw a single chompy headed toward him. He lined up his shot, let fly with his arrow - and missed yet again. The crow snarled in frustration, grateful at least that his powerful friend hadn't seen him botch the shot. Baabby, however, was too busy to worry about such things. He was carving up the chompy pod, trying to cut it down before it could belch forth any more chompies. He didn't kill it until after it had disgorged one more chompy, but then he managed to slay them both, taking some damage from the chompy's bite before he killed it. Then, seeing the chompy pod had been placed at a dead end in the mine, he followed the way Sam Crow had gone, in case his crow companion needed any help.

Not surprisingly, Baabby's crow companion did need some help. Sam had shot at the chompy again, and missed, again, and now the chompy was busy trying to chew its way through the crow's body. Sam had been forced to forego his bow attacks and try to fight the thing off with his short sword. He finally managed to do so, just as Baabby stormed past him to see what other menaces might be present down this section of mine. As the sheep trudged down the mine, he saw a familiar shape: another chompy pod, this one currently in the process of spitting forth yet another chompy. Baabby cut the chompy in two on his way to the chompy pod, and as Sam Crow approached, he saw another figure even further down the mineshaft. This one was about the same size as a chompy, but it hovered just above the ground and was wearing a hooded robe. Fortunately, his back was turned and his attention was focused on something in front of him, so he didn't yet seem to know about the intruding adventurers.

Sam Crow made a quick assessment of the distances involved and opted to shoot at the chompy pod as he approached the figure further on. For a change, he hit on the first try, but then the chompy pod was easily four times as big as his hulking friend Baabby - and thus a lot harder to miss. Baabby stepped up to the chompy pod and swung down at the plant with his greataxe, chopping a whole section of it off.

And then, as the wounded chompy pod made shrieking cries of pain, the robed figure spun around. Sam saw two beady, glowing eyes shining from beneath the figure's hood, as its hands suddenly glowed with green energy. Thrusting its hands forward, it sent a green ball of energy blasting down the mineshaft - and striking the back of the chompy pod.

"What?" asked Sam Crow, confused at the enemy's seeming attack on what the crow had assumed was one of his allies. But then, as the chompy pod's body glowed with green energy and the chunk of its body that Baabby had just chopped off began growing back, Sam figured out what was going on. "Hey, no fair! He's healing the chompy pod!" he cried.

True enough, the chompy pod was now stronger than it had been just a few seconds ago, when Baabby had chopped a good chunk of it off. But no matter: what the baabarian had done once, he could do again! And Baabby continued to do just that, swinging his mighty axe and cutting the chompy pod to ribbons.

Sam Crow, meanwhile, focused all of his archery skills - for he was skilled, even if his success rate in combat thus far was less on the "impressive" end of the scale and more towards the "embarrassing" end - and sent an arrow flying at the floating mage, whose Life symbol on the front of his robe identified it as a Life spell punk. Sam's arrow hit the spell punk, and it once again caused two glowing orbs of green energy to form around its hands, then coalesce into a larger one. It sent this shooting down the mineshaft, but as by this time Baabby had already slain the second chompy pod, neither adventurer was sure of what it was meant to do. They'd never find out, for if it had been aimed at Baabby, it missed. Sam Crow shot another arrow at the spell punk, and this one brought him down.

The mineshaft behind where the spell punk had fallen was another dead end, and as this covered the entirety of the mine thus far, the two adventurers congratulated themselves on a job well done. But while Sam Crow was taking time to literally pat himself on the back, Baabby walked up to the dead end tunnel and peered inquisitively at the far wall.

"What's up?" asked Sam Crow.

"Look at this," Baabby replied. Sticking out of the wall was the hilt of a sword - a rather large sword, judging by the size of the hilt. "Let me see," advised Sam stepping on tippy-toes to get a better look at the sword hilt projecting from the wall. "It doesn't look like it's trapped," he commented. "I wonder how it got stuck in here?"

Baabby strapped his greataxe back in place on his broad back and stepped up to the back wall. Then, grabbing the imbedded sword by its hilt, he gave a mighty tug - and the sword came effortlessly gliding out of the stone wall.

"Whoa, look at it!" said Sam Crow in admiration. It was a massive greatsword, obviously well-forged, with ancient-looking carvings cut entirely through the center of the sword's blade: eight in all. The crow easily identified one of the "negative space" carvings as an older version of the Life symbol that Baabby wore on the amulet around his neck. With a little squinting and some imagination, he could make out older versions of the symbols of the other seven elements: air, earth, fire, magic, tech, undead, and water.

"This is a very powerful weapon!" declared Sam Crow. "It's going to need somebody with a lot of strength to wield it. Therefore, it should obviously go to me!"

Baabby just looked down at his companion with an "are you crazy?" expression on his face.

"Ah, I'm only kidding!" admitted Sam Crow. "The silly thing probably weighs more than I do! C'mon, let's go tell those Mabu miners we took care of their chompy problem for them!"

The Mabu were as grateful for the adventurers' help as the humanoid crow could have hoped for - and then some. Not only did they let the duo keep the healing potions they'd found among the crates, they also handed over a bag of 500 gold coins apiece to them.

"Whoa, thanks!" said Sam Crow wholeheartedly. Maybe there was something to this hero business after all! But if he was going to continue to be successful at it, it would probably be a good idea to stick close to his new hulking baabarian friend.

- - -

Best news first: this was fun for all involved! Logan had a blast coming up with the adventure and really enjoyed his first DMing session. (He's proven over the years he has an even better grasp of the 3.5 rules than I do, so I knew he'd do a good job on that front.) He opted to use some of my Paizo game maps for the battlemats for this adventure: one side of the "Giant Lairs" flip-maps for the area just outside the mine, and five of the smaller map sections from the GameMastery "Mines" map pack for the mine's interior.

For my part, this was the first time I got to be a player instead of the DM in literally years. Not that I'm complaining, mind you - I love DMing, but it was nice getting to be on the other side for a change.

And Harry, as Logan and I had hoped, had a blast! It probably didn't hurt that his very first attack roll with his very first set of dice was a natural "20" confirmed as a critical hit with a greataxe, dealing a combined total of 40 points of damage. (Logan, quite wisely I thought, decreed that chompies are "crittable" despite being creatures of the plant type; after all, we weren't shooting for an accurate-to-the-nth-degree 3.5 rules set, but a fun time for a 10-year-old.) As Logan had designed the chompies - which can only take one hit in the Skylanders videogames - as creatures with 2 hp each, it's no wonder the chompy practically exploded. Harry thought that was hilarious, yet found my own complete miss with my own first attack to be even funnier. But he's already gotten a pretty good grasp of the rules, knowing the difference between the different polyhedral dice and when you use which. We had him do all the math for the damage, so it's reinforcing his math skills, and he already figured out that there's no point in using Power Attack against the chompies, whereas with the chompy pods (and their extremely low AC, due to their immobility) it's a definite boon. And boy, was Cleave ever a good choice for his second feat! (We're using the "human" racial bonuses for our humanoid animal PCs, so we each started with two feats.) He managed to kill two chompies in one round at least twice in this adventure.

And talk about role-playing! Harry created a "Baabby" voice for his character, and continued to use that voice for the whole session, whether he was actually being in character or simply asking questions of the DM. "Whaaat do I see around the corner?" he'd ask Logan, even though in-game Baabby wasn't actually saying a word. I guess he's an immersion actor!

In any case, we had a good time with this, and Harry's informed us he's ready for more adventures. Next Saturday we have a Kordovian game session scheduled so we told him we might have to wait two weeks, but Harry reminded us that just because we'll be playing a Kordovian adventure on Saturday doesn't mean we can't have a Skylanders adventure on Sunday. So we're leaving it up to how soon Logan can have another adventure ready to go.
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PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (life) 1
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 1​

Game Session Date: 26 February 2017

- - -

It was the following day that a trio of Mabu invited Baabby and Sam to a celebration of their successful defeat of the chompies infesting the nearby mine. "A celebration? For me?" Sam enthused. "This is awesome! Oh, uh, and I guess it's for you too, Baabby -- you kind of helped." The baabarian just frowned down at his little crow friend and Sam quickly decided to change the subject.

"So, how much further is the town we're headed to?" he asked one of the Mabu escorting them to their celebration.

"It's just over this next hill," replied the Mabu as they crested the very same hill. "Hmm," he added. "That's weird."

"Whaat's weird?" asked Baabby in his sheepish drawl.

"That airship's not usually there." Looking down at the town, the group could see an airship hovering just over the middle of the town square, 30 feet above a fountain. As they looked, there were flashes of reddish light coming from between some of the buildings.

"Come on!" cried Baabby, gripping his new magic greatsword as he - once again - raced straight into potential danger.

"Are you sure about this?" argued Sam Crow as he struggled to keep up. Behind the duo, their three Mabu escorts tried their best to catch up on their stumpy little legs. As they approached the town, they could see two troll archers on the rooftops of the buildings and another four on the ground. From their vantage point they couldn't see who was on the airship, but Sam was willing to bet they were more trolls.

"Baabby -- trolls!" he warned his companion. "LET"S GET OUT OF HERE!"

"These people need our help!" Baabby countered, running up to the nearest troll. He was armed with a massive monkey wrench and used it to swing at the baabarian, but Baabby ducked his blow and hit him with his greatsword, knocking him over. Sam, in the meantime, saw the troll on the nearest rooftop doing something with his shortbow, that ended up with something long and red at the end of his arrow. Not wanting to wait to see what this weird weapon would do, Sam took aim with his own shortbow and shot the rooftop troll. He got him - on his first attempt, too! - and the troll toppled off the roof to the ground below. His weapon made a little explosion before it fell to the ground with its wielder.

Suddenly, both Baabby and Sam were standing in circles of red light. "Whaat's this?" Baabby asked.

"Who knows?" replied Sam. "But let's not stay here long enough to find out!" They ran closer to the town square and the fountain, only to be intercepted by two more trolls with monkey wrenches. Baabby took one down with another swing of his greatsword, but then got beaned on the head with the other troll's wrench. The baabarian actually saw birds flying around his head as he staggered under the blow.

Sam, in the meantime, had lined up another shot at the other rooftop troll. He was all the way across the square on the other side of the fountain, but Sam thought he could get him. As it turned out, he was wrong - although he did a simply spectacular job at striking the roof just below the troll's feet.

The troll fighting Baabby got in another lucky shot, and the baabarian gave a bleating cry of pain as he fell over, unconscious. Seeing his massive friend downed by a troll - a troll, of all things! - infuriated the young crow. He'd had a hard time with trolls all his life: one particular troll used to always steal young Sam's lunch money. The crow raced across the street, leaped over his unconscious friend, and grabbed up a potion from the baabarian's belt. Unpopping the cork, he poured the contents down Baabby's throat, and the baabarian sat up, healed from the worst of the damage.

"Hey!" he said to his friend. "Why'd you use one of my potions?"

"No time to worry about such things!" insisted Sam. "Worry about him instead!" And he pointed at the troll whose monkey wrench had knocked the hulking warrior into unconsciousness in the first place, who was grinning an evil grin and advancing upon the two - but upon Baabby first, for the crafty crow had ensured he had his bulky friend between him and the troll when he administered the healing potion. Baabby quickly jumped to his feet and readied his greatsword for the attack that was coming. As the troll advanced, eager to repeat his head-bonking success, Baabby struck out at him with the blade of his weapon. It would have been an awesome blow, had it hit - but the baabarian made an uncharacteristic swing and a miss.

A sudden explosion caught both adventurers off guard. The rooftop troll had shot at them with an arrow that had a stick of dynamite at its end, and it had hit both of them in its blast radius. Then, almost immediately, red light shone down from above. Finding themselves standing in red circles once again, the two dashed off in different directions. Baabby merely stepped to the side and attacked the troll with his sword again, and missed again. (The recent blow to his head must have messed up his reflexes or something.) Sam, meanwhile, ran to the side of the fountain, where he could at least put the hovering airship between him and whatever it was that was targeting them from the sky with red circles of light. That gave the crow another shot at the archer troll on the rooftop. Another shot, and another miss! But he was still glad they had moved, for the spots they had each just vacated suddenly got blasted from some unseen foe above them.

"We gotta stay away from those circles!" suggested Sam, shooting another arrow at the rooftop troll and missing yet again.

Baabby made a dash to the fountain, ending up underneath the hovering airship next to his archer friend. The troll followed suit, swinging with his wrench and clonking Baabby on the side of the head another time. Reeling with pain, Baabby cut down the irritating troll with his sword, and just in time, too, for he was getting woozy from the blows. He had just enough time to cast a healing spell upon himself before passing out. Fortunately, the cascading fountain was between him and the rooftop troll, so that enemy couldn't fire at the humanoid sheep.

"You got this guy?" Baabby asked his little partner.

"Yeah, yeah, I got him," agreed Sam irritably, angry at himself for not having gotten him yet.

"Then I'm going to go check in there," said Baabby, pointing to a nearby building. He wasn't sure who or what might be in it, but these trolls had to be here for some reason. Dashing across the street, he yanked open the door of the building and stepped inside, safe from the airborne enemy targeting them with red circles and, once he closed the door behind him, from the rooftop archer as well. But the building was empty of people; it was a simple one-room cottage whose owner was apparently away.

Sam Crow finally got off a lucky shot and hit the second rooftop troll archer, and his body plummeted over the side of the rooftop and onto the ground just below. Baabby raced out of the cottage and past Sam, down the road a bit and swung open the double doors of the next building in line. There were four inhabitants in this building: two Mabu and two trolls. One of the trolls was menacing the frightened Mabu, who hunkered in the corner and whined fitfully. The other troll tore apart the room, as if looking for something. Fortunately, neither troll had noticed Baabby opening the doors.

Sam ran up to his friend, peered inside the building, and fired a shot at the troll doing the exploring. Baabby then leaped into the room and took out the other troll with his greatsword.

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" offered the frightened Mabu.

"Whaat were the trolls doing here?" asked Baabby. "Whaat were they looking for?"

"They-- they said they were looking for the Museum of Mystical Mysteries," replied one frightened Mabu. "We tried to tell them that there was no such place that we knew of, but they didn't believe us!"

"I've never heard of such a place," admitted Sam.

"Oh, it exists," replied the Mabu. "Or at least it used to. But nobody's seen it for years, not since the mysterious fog covered up the Forest of Despair!"

"I don't like the sound of that," said Sam to himself.

"Is this museum in the Forest of Despair?" asked Baabby.

"Well, it was," admitted the Mabu.

"So why didn't you just tell the trolls that, so they'd leave you alone?" asked Sam.

"I didn't like them. They were very rude." Having gotten all of the information they were likely to get from the two Mabu, Baabby and Sam moved on to the next building. On the way, Sam stopped at the fallen archer troll's body to check out the weapon. It was a strange-looking shortbow, with all kinds of mechanical contraptions grafted onto it and the words "DYNABOW 2.0" stamped into the metal just above where you gripped it. Looking it over, the curious crow figured out how it worked: if you flipped a switch here and held it steady, it would enhance the tip of an arrow already ready to fire with the equivalent of a stick of dynamite. Grabbing up the weapon for himself, Sam ran to catch up with Baabby, who had just swung open the doors to the next building, the largest of those ringing the fountain at the town's center. A sign by the door announced that it was the Mayor's office.

Inside were four trolls menacing a distinguished-looking Mabu - as evidenced by his top hat and fancy suspenders. Sam shot at one troll, taking him down. Baabby rushed in and got another with his sword, leaving two. These were armed with monkey wrenches, and they stepped up to wallop the duo. One got in a blow that sent Sam Crow crashing to the floor, unconscious, leaving Baabby facing two-to-one odds. The baabarian knew if they managed to knock him out as well, the Mabu in the town would have nobody left to defend them.

"We're looking for the Museum of Mystical Mysteries," snarled one of the trolls. "Tell us where it is, or we'll take care of you as well!"

Baabby thought fast. "I don't know where it is," he said. But then, pointing down at Sam's unconscious form, he added, "But he does."

The trolls thought it over. "Okay, wake him up," they allowed. Baabby grabbed a healing potion from Sam's belt and poured it down the crow's beak. Sam sat up, groggy. "What's going on?" he asked. Then, realizing how he'd been revived, he added, "Hey! Why'd you use one of my potions?"

Baabby ignored the second question entirely. "They want you to lead them to the museum," he said, giving his partner a wink after making sure neither of the trolls would be able to see him do it.

"O-o-o-o-oh, the museum," said Sam, getting to his feet. "Okay, follow me!" And he rushed out the door, spun around, and put an arrow in his Dynabow 2.0, ready to send an arrow flying straight into the face of the first troll to pop his head out of the door.

"This way, guys!" said Baabby helpfully, following Sam out the door and turning in the opposite direction. He got ready to swipe at the second troll to pop his head out of the door.

The heroes' plan worked just as they had hoped. Sam shot the first troll to step outside of the Mayor's office, and Baabby took care of the second a few seconds later. Then they both ran back into the Mayor's office, since they'd each gathered a red circle from above while they had been standing there.

"Here," said the distinguished-looking Mabu, who turned out to be the town mayor. He passed over two healing potions to Sam Crow. "You look like you could use these."

"Thanks!" said Sam, taking the two and downing one of them on the spot. "Ah, that's good stuff!" he declared, wiping a wing across his beak. Baabby walked over and accepted the other healing potion, drinking it down as well.

"So these trolls are looking for a Museum?" asked Baabby.

"Yes, that's right," affirmed the Mayor. "The Museum of Mystical Mysteries, over in the Forest of Despair."

"So why are they tearing apart your town?" asked Sam.

"I gather they're looking for a map," replied the Mayor. "Or anything else they can use."

"Do you have anything we can use to get up to that airship?" asked Sam. "I betcha that's where the leader of this little troll raid is at."

"Why, yes, I believe we still have a bounce pad in storage at the General Store."

"And that would be...?" prompted Sam.

"The next building over." The Mayor then explained the building beyond the General Store was the tavern, and another building to the south was a potion shop.

"We should go find that bounce pad in the General Store," suggested Baabby.

"Yeah, we should," agreed Sam. "...But let's go check out the tavern first."


"I just like taverns!" exclaimed Sam. "Let's go!" They raced down the street, being targeted by red circles during their run but avoiding the subsequent explosions. Baabby opened the door to the tavern, exposing one troll about to go into a back room and another one up at the bar, standing before two frightened Mabu bartenders. "I got this one," announced Sam, sending an arrow into the troll drinker's back, which sent him - and, sadly, his drink - crashing to the floor. Baabby raced after the other troll, following him into a back bedroom, where the troll was quickly dispatched with the baabarian's greatsword. The grateful Mabu bartenders gave each of the heroes a quick bite of restorative food and a favorite local drink, and then the duo was on its way once again, this time backtracking to the General Store.

"I don't like these red circles!" announced Sam irritably as they were once again targeted from unseen forces high above them. He squinted up into the sky above the airship, but accidentally stared straight into the sun and had to squeeze his eyes shut. Baabby had in the meantime opened the door to the store, revealing another quartet of trolls: two wrench-wielders and two archers. The sheep-man raced into the melee with his greatsword swinging, cutting down a wrench-wielder before he could bonk Baabby on the noggin. Sam cleared his vision quick enough to shoot one of the archers, then hurriedly stepped into the crowded store and closed the door behind him. A small explosion erupted in the space right outside the door where he had just stood.

The crowded store worked to Baabby's advantage; he managed to bring one troll down and then cleave the other in a continuation of his first swing. Then, after a quick search, the baabarian found the bounce pad in a back storeroom.

Sam had heard of such devices: they were basically small trampolines engineered to send a jumper to a certain height. Voting that Baabby drag it with him - "Because you're much stronger!" assured the crow - Sam ran back outside, with his baabarian companion lugging the bounce pad under one arm. He plopped it next to the fountain, aligned just to the side of the hovering airship.

"Do you want to go first?" offered Sam Crow.

"No," answered Baabby. "After you, Sam."

Crestfallen, Sam took a running start and jumped onto the bounce pad. It sent him flying 30 feet into the air, to land on the deck of the airship. I hope there aren't a lot of enemies up there! Sam had thought on his way up. By the time he had landed, he saw that you don't always get what you wish for - and this was definitely one of those times!

Sam stood surrounded by four trolls on the deck with him...and was standing in the middle of a red circle of light, he saw with a bit of worry. Fortunately, the two archers were facing the front of the ship and thus hadn't seen him. Unfortunately, the two wrench-wielders standing just before the two sets of stairs leading up to the back deck of the airship were also facing the front, and could see him just fine. And so could an even larger, fiercer-looking troll on the back deck, standing before the vessel's steering wheel with a technology-enhanced staff in one hand. Assuming this larger, fiercer troll was either the ship's captain or at least the helmsman, and if Sam took him out it might be a major disappointment to the rest of the trolls on board, he fired off an arrow with his new Dynabow 2.0. Since he hadn't had time to charge it with explosives, this was just a regular arrow. It launched from the bow...dashed across the deck...and hit the fierce-looking troll on the side of the face.

Which ripped half of his face off.

Which then fell to the ground with a plop.

"Hey!" exclaimed one of the archer trolls, spinning around at the commotion. "You're not a troll!"

"Um, yes I am!" argued Sam Crow, desperately trying to bluff his way out of the situation. "I'm a secret troll agent, disguised as a crow, so I can...uh...infiltrate the town, see, and...."

"Not you," interrupted the troll. "Him!"

Sam turned to see where the troll was pointing, and found himself looking at the troll captain, or troll helmsman, or whatever the guy behind the steering wheel was called. Only now he could see the guy was no troll at all. Sam's arrow had dislodged a rubber mask he had been wearing, which had ripped in half and fallen to the deck. Abandoning the rest of his disguise, the captain/helmsman/whatever dropped his phony techno-staff, flung off the full-length coat he'd been wearing, revealing himself as...

"...A tech spell punk!" cried the surprised troll crew members.

"Yes!" exclaimed Sam, as Baabby landed on the deck near where he'd first landed, after making his own jump onto the bounce pad. "An impostor! This is an outrage to troll dignity! Even to us trolls disguised as crows...and sheep!" he hastily appended. "Let's get him!" And then he stepped to the side, allowing the troll wrench-wielders to attack the tech spell punk who had tricked them into thinking he was their troll boss.

The tech spell punk raised a pointed claw in the air, and an explosion of energy shot up into the air and then struck the red circle where Sam had stood. As this was on board the airship, this caused a chunk of ship to go missing and fall to the ground below. The ship shuddered and began sinking lower in the air above the fountain. Sam shot another arrow at the spell punk, and this one finished off what the first arrow had started. The spell punk fell to the deck of the ship, dead.

"Um, I hope one of you guys can fly this thing," Baabby said. One of the trolls dropped his monkey wrench and grabbed the wheel, trying to steer the damaged vessel. "Let's get out of here!" said Sam, and for once Baabby agreed. One at a time, they each jumped off the airship, landing safely on the bounce pad and stepping off to the ground by the fountain. The airship lumbered by overhead, passing by the buildings and heading over a grove of trees, where it was lost to view.

"I don't think they're going to be able to get it flying right in time," said Baabby - mere seconds before the sound of a loud CRUNCH! proved him absolutely correct.

"Well, that should be that," said Sam Crow proudly, slapping his wings together.

"We're not done yet," replied Baabby.

"We're not?"

"No, we have to put the bounce pad baack where we got it from," answered Baabby. Sam let out a sigh of exasperation, but helped his friend bring the bounce pad back to the storeroom of the General Store where they had found it.

"I guess our saving-the-mine celebration party's been canceled due to this troll pirate raid," sighed Sam disconsolately.

"On the contrary," bellowed the Mayor, stepping out of his office and into the street by the duo. "Now we have two reasons to celebrate!" And he handed over two large bags of gold coins to the heroes who had saved his town from the troll pirates. "Let's head over to the tavern -- they have the cake ready for the celebration!"

"All right!" said Sam Crow. "Being a hero is awesome!"

"I like cake," agreed Baabby.

- - -

This adventure used Paizo's "Town Square" flip-map as well as a two-piece airship map from its "Armada" Map Pack. And as a result of having gone through this adventure, both Baabby and Sam advanced to 2nd level after it was finished.

Harry didn't roll quite as hot with his dice this time around - he rolled an "8" three times in a row while attacking trolls, which with his +4 to hit in melee combat was just one number short of hitting them! But he didn't let it ruin his experience, and the fact that he got a natural "20" at least once helped matters along that front.

Thinking ahead, Harry's already surmised that there's likely to be a magic spell punk in charge of looking for the Museum of Mystical Mysteries, which makes logical sense to me. Logan's already informed us that the next two adventures he has planned will be called "The Forest of Despair" and "The Museum of Mystical Mysteries," so we'll find out for ourselves before too long.
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PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (life) 2
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 2​

Game Session Date: 4 March 2017

- - -

"That was a great party!" said Sam enthusiastically. Baabby just nodded his agreement and kept walking at his brisk pace, forcing Sam to almost run to keep up. "Wasn't that a great party, Baabby?" Sam insisted. "The cake, the balloons, the genuine appreciation of an entire town...I could get to like being a hero!"

"It was a great paarty," Baabby conceded, still headed in a beeline for the forest up ahead.

"Um, hey, look at that mist ahead," said Sam, finally getting his head out of the clouds and noticing where his noble sheep-man partner had been leading them unerringly.

"They said there was mist in the Forest of Despair," Baabby reminded his little crow partner. "It's been there for years, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah, I remember. I just thought, you know, maybe we could wait for a bit before we do something as foolish as willingly go into a forest called the Forest of Despair. Couldn't we, maybe, go visit the Forest of Really Friendly Bunnies? Or the Forest of Rainbows and Puppies and Cute Little Kitties..." Seeing the expression on Baabby's face, Sam gave up his attempts at humor. "Okay," he agreed. "The Forest of Despair it is."

The mist was so thick the two heroes could only see about 30 feet ahead of them. There was a natural pathway through the trees, and as usual, Sam let Baabby take the lead. The baabarian trudged through the forest, stepping over logs and ducking beneath low-hanging tree limbs, his magic greatsword held in readiness. He didn't have long to wait before putting his sword to good use, for popping up behind a log were what looked to be two long finger-bones - with black, blinking eyes at the end of each!

"Wh-what?" asked Sam, hardly believing his eyes. Then the creature stood up and the heroes got a good look at it. It had a stocky, round body with white, bony projections covering its torso like a pair of ribs worn on the outside. What had first looked like giant finger-bones proved to be long eyestalks, and the majority of the creature's torso opened up into a gaping maw with long, thorny spines for teeth.

"It's a chompy!" cried Sam. "Let's get 'im!" Sam knew from personal experience that these chompies were real pushovers.

Baabby stepped forward and swung his blade at the odd-looking chompy. Surprisingly, the creature ducked under the blade and it passed harmlessly over the chompy's eyestalks.

"Ha! You missed!" chuckled Sam, drawing his bow and taking aim at the little black-and-white chompy. He let fly with the arrow...and it, too, sailed over the chompy's head. "Hey!" groused Sam. "No fair!"

In return, the bone chompy jumped up and snapped its bony thorn-teeth at Baabby. Then another bone chompy stepped forward from the mist. This one also approached Baabby, who had stepped the furthest into the Forest of Despair. However, despite the heroes' initial failures, Baabby soon returned to form. He swung again at the bone chompy that had tried to bite him, cutting through its body and continuing on into the body of the other one. The second chompy cried out in pain - for the first time, the heroes were facing a chompy they had failed to slay with one strike. Attracted by the cries of the wounded bone chompy, two more such creatures stepped out of the mist.

Sam, however, had noticed something odd about the fog: it was thicker, and darker, in little strands that were interspersed throughout the all-encompassing mist. As an experiment, Sam pulled out a monkey wrench he'd taken from the body of a slain troll and poked at the dark strand of mist. When nothing happened, he reached out and dared to touch it with his bare hand - and felt a zap of life-draining energy absorb a small portion of his life force. "Hey!" he cried out in alarm.

Baabby took no notice of Sam's fog-poking experiments; he had bone chompies to slay! Faced with three such enemies, he managed to kill two of them on his own before Sam took notice and shot the other one with his bow. "Got one!" Sam called out.

"Got three," Baabby replied. "Let's check out the rest of the forest."

"If we must," grumbled Sam, but he moved ahead to check it out.

Up ahead a bit, Sam could make out two more bone chompies moving about on their stumpy little legs. He ducked back to tell Baabby what he'd seen, and together the two snuck forward. "I got this one!" said Sam, using his bow to shoot a bone chompy standing under a tree while Baabby ran up to attack the other with his greatsword. Both were quickly dispatched, but another two came forward out of the mist to take their place. Baabby stepped up to deal with one of the newcomers, when he noticed the ground under his feet was crunchy. Looking down, he saw he was standing in a pile of broken crystals. "That's weird," he said to himself, then devoted his attention to the battle at hand - which he won quite easily.

Sam shot at the last bone chompy with another arrow from his shortbow, but missed. The bone chompy raced up to the startled crow and bit him with his thorn-teeth. Sam responded with three words he'd been using a lot lately: "Help me, Baabby!" The baabarian ran over to his friend and killed the bone chompy that had been biting him. "Thanks!" said Sam. "Say, I have an idea: LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!"

"We need to check this place out," calmly replied Baabby. "Don't be so afraid all the time."

"I can't help it - I'm a crow!" replied Sam. "I don't usually admit this, but I'm actually part chicken, on my mother's side."

"Come over here and look at these crystals," said Baabby, ignoring Sam's discussion of his family tree.

Sam followed his friend over to the pile of shards, then bent down to examine them closely. "These are all smashed up and worthless!" he complained - he'd secretly been hoping the Forest of Despair had expensive diamonds just lying around for anyone to help themselves to. But no such luck.

Baabby looked at the pile of crystal shards. They were all aimed in the same direction. The baabarian looked over in that direction, but could see only the strange fog with those weird streaks of extra-darkness scattered throughout. Nevertheless, he strode over in that direction with Sam calling for him to wait for him. Whether or not he was really part chicken, he definitely did not want to be left alone in a creepy Forest of Despair!

As the two traveled to the southeast, they heard a strange whistling sound. "What's that?" asked Sam, looking around fearfully in all directions.

"I'm not sure," admitted Baabby.

"Wait a minute," said Sam, looking over at his burly friend. He cocked his head to the side, listening intently. "It's coming from you!" he accused.

"Me? I'm not whistling!"

"Maybe not -- but your sword is!" Holding his sword in front of him, Baabby could see that Sam was right: there was a wind blowing some of the fog into one of the holes of his sword - specifically, the one in the ancient symbol of the Undead element. As the fog swirled into the symbol-space, it made a whistling noise.

"This is weird," admitted Baabby.

The two continued on down the path they were following between the trees. Before long, they found a strange figure standing in front of a tall, clear crystal structure with smaller crystals jutting out of it in all directions - rather like a crystalline cactus. The dark strands of life-draining fog seemed to be seeping from the crystal. The figure in front of it gave off a terrible stench, like rotting meat. This wasn't too surprising, once the heroes got close enough to see that the figure was made of rotting meat himself.

"It's a Rotting Robbie!" exclaimed Baabby.

"What are you talking about?" demanded Sam Crow. "That's a zombie!"

"They're called Rotting Robbies," argued Baabby.

"What, they're all named Robbie?" demanded Sam. "That's just silly." The zombie - or Rotting Robbie, take your pick - made no notice of their argument, standing mostly motionless in place as if guarding the crystal cactus. Baabby strode up to it and cut at it with his greatsword, and that finally got it to respond: it slashed at the baabarian with its sharp claws.

Sam shot an arrow at it, and while it sunk into the undead creature's body down to the shaft, the zombie barely seemed to notice. Deciding that arrows didn't do it much damage but Baabby's greatsword certainly did, Sam grabbed the short sword from the scabbard at his belt and circled around to the side of the zombie. As Baabby and Sam got closer to the zombie while fighting it, they could see a round shape some ways behind it. This was an arched structure with a 20-foot circle of darkness in its center.

Again the zombie scratched at Baabby, but the baabarian dodged its clumsy attacks and struck at it with his greatsword, killing it. As the zombie fell lifelessly to the ground, Baabby and Sam inspected the crystal cactus-thing. It was standing on a circular bit of stone almost 20 feet in diameter; on closer examination, it was sticking through the stone circle, piercing it through the middle. Looking back from the pierced stone to the black circle in the upright stone platform, Sam guessed that the stone circle had been struck by the giant crystal when it was plugging up the black circle, and had been knocked to its present position.

"So where did the big crystal come from?" asked Baabby.

"I guess from...the sky?" speculated Sam.

"Do you think I should try breaking the crystal with my sword?" asked Baabby.

"If you want to," agreed Sam. "But hold on a minute!" He backed up a good 20 feet, just in case this wasn't a particularly good idea. Once he guessed he'd be out of the way of any blast zone, he gave his baabarian friend a thumbs up. "Go ahead!" he called.

Baabby swung his magic greatsword at the crystal cactus with all of his might, and upon touching it, it reverberated with a massive noise like the world's largest gong being struck by the world's largest gong-banger by the world's strongest man. The crystal shattered and the whistling wind turned into a veritable torrent, as the mists encompassing the Forest of Despair raced into Baabby's sword, completely filling up the Undead symbol carved into his blade.

"Whoa!" cried Sam.

"Wow!" cried Baabby.

"WHO TOOK ALL OF MY MISTS?" cried a horrid voice from somewhere north of the heroes.

Now that the forest was no longer covered in fog, the two heroes could see an armored warrior come stomping through the woods. He held a mighty war axe in his hands and a furious expression on his face. And that wasn't all about his face: judging from its ghastly yellow-green complexion and the way his skin was pulled tight onto his skull, this fellow was no more alive than had been Rotting Robbie.

"Go get him, Baabby!" suggested Sam, while staying exactly where he was himself. That wasn't just from fear, though - the crow was trying to remember how to work the explosive part of his Dynabow 2.0. He held down a switch with his thumb, and watched as the arrow already nocked and ready to be shot started magically being filled with explosive energy. "Oh yeah," the crow mumbled to himself, remembering how it worked.

Baabby stepped forward, then took a striking stance and waited for the armored guy to step within range. "NOBODY STEALS FROM BARON DESPAIR AND LIVES!" threatened the undead warrior. Sam gulped in fear a bit, but let his arrow fly. It struck Baron Despair and exploded. He staggered a little from the explosion, and Baabby took the opportunity to cut deep into his armor with his greatsword. Then he stepped back again, making the Baron -who, in his clunky armor, wasn't as fast as the baabarian - come to him.

Baron Despair did come to Baabby, but was struck by the sheep-man's sword before he could get in a strike of his own with his war axe. Sam circled to his left, setting himself up for a normal arrow-shot; he shot, but the arrow merely clinked off the warrior's thick, metal armor. Gulping in fear, the crow backed up to the edge of the trees - and saw a bunch of green lights, kind of like the glow of fireflies, glowing at him from among the trees.

Baron Despair stepped up to the frightened crow and swung his axe, causing Sam to cry out in pain. Baabby stepped forward to defend his friend, cutting down at the Baron with all of his might. His sword cut through the Baron's armor, into his shoulder, and halfway through his chest and back, causing the Baron to drop his own war axe. "YOU...DARE...?" began Baron Despair, but never got to finish his sentence, for he crashed to the ground, dead.

"Thanks, Baabby!" said Sam, glad to have been spared any further damage by the Baron's war axe. The baabarian took the opportunity to cast some healing spells, getting the heroes back closer to their full strength. They'd not only each taken damage from their enemies, but also from the life-sapping mist that had filled the Forest of Despair for the past couple of years. Sam was glad to see the end of the mist, and was intrigued by the Undead symbol now filled in on Baabby's new greatsword. "You know," he marveled, "if we can find a way to fill in all seven of the other symbols, you'll probably have the most powerful sword in all of Skylands!"

Before Baabby could answer, a horde of ghosts erupted from the trees - what Sam had thought were fireflies were actually the glowing eyes of the floating spirits. "GHOSTS!" cried Sam. "LET'S GET OUT OF HERE, BAABBY!"

"Thaaaaaank yoooou," moaned the ghosts. "Yooou haaaaaave freeeed usssss!"

Sam did an immediate about-face. "Oh!" he said. "Friendly ghosts! Yes, you're quite welcome! Baabby and me, we help people like you all the time! Heroes - that's us!"

"Freed you?' asked Baabby. "From who? Baron Despair?"

"Yessss," replied one of the ghosts - a figure with a hood and a long beard, Sam noticed; probably a wizard or a sage. "He waaas impriiiiisoned for yeeeears on the ooooother siiiiiide of the elemeeeeental gaaaate," said the ghost-wizard. "Wheeeeen the cryyyyystal smaaaaaashed throoooough the gaaate, heeeee waaaaaas releeeeeeased."

"So where will you go now?" asked Baabby.

"Baaaack to our hoooomes," replied the ghost-wizard, pointing to the elemental gate, the other side of which was an Undead village where the ghosts had lived before being trapped in the Forest of Despair. "But yoooou muuuuust huuuuuuurry, to the Museeeeeeum, befoooooore yooooour enemieeeeees geeeeet theeeeere!"

"Which way's the Museum?" asked Sam, hastily adding, "Just point, it'll be quicker." The ghost pointed north, as his fellow ghosts all started drifting through the black circle in the middle of the elemental gate. Now that the mists had been absorbed into Baabby's sword, the elemental gate was functioning normally once again.

A sudden shadow overtook Baabby and Sam. Looking up, they could see a battered-but-hastily-repaired airship floating over the tops of the trees. It was flying a little crooked, but the fact that it was flying at all was a concern, given that this was the troll pirate ship that had been looking for the Museum of Mystical Mysteries back in town. Now it was moving slowly over the adventurers, heading north, no doubt to the Museum.

"Let's go!" cried Baabby, grabbing up his greatsword and racing after the airship.

"But-- but we didn't get any treasure! Or congratulatory parties in our honor!" whined Sam. "At least back in town, they gave us cake!"

"Come on!" yelled Baabby, heading over a hill to the north. Sam reluctantly followed. "Stupid forest!" he complained to nobody in particular.

- - -

Next adventure, we'll apparently finally get to see this Museum of Mystical Mysteries for ourselves.

Some Skylanders backstory for those (who, like me) haven't spent any ranks in Knowledge (Skylanders): back in the "Skylanders: Trap Team" game (two games previous), Kaos - the main enemy in the game - blew up a prison made of "traptanium" to rescue the bad guys held within. The traptanium crystal shards went flying all throughout the Skylands, which are a bunch of floating islands, some the size of continents and others only as big as a rowboat. Logan took that pre-established "fact" of the video game universe and tied this adventure into it: the "crystal cactus" and the shards scattered in the Forest of Despair are all traptanium from the prison explosion.

Bone chompies exist in the Skylanders universe, and although chompies are plants, bone chompies are basically skeletal chompies, which makes no sense. Logan turned them into plants that absorbed a lot of undead energy and thus began growing bonelike fragments on their exteriors - which, in game, granted them a slightly better armor class and the damage reduction of a skeleton. Harry's enjoying these adventures because they allow him to run his own Skylanders character through the Skylanders universe; I'm enjoying watching Logan make design decisions to incorporate the square peg of the Skylanders universe into the round hole of the 3.5 D&D system. (And spending time with my son and my nephew is always a plus.)
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PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (life) 2
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 2​

Game Session Date: 11 March 2017

- - -

"So," said Baabby. "This is the Museum of Mystical Mysteries."

"Yep," agreed Sam. "That's what the sign says, all right." The two had run helter-skelter through the forest, trying - and failing - to beat the troll airship to the part of the Forest of Despair holding the museum. The airship was listing to port on the ground off to the left of the museum building, with no signs of current inhabitation. The trolls must have beaten them here!

"Let's go in," said Baabby, opening the doors and stepping inside. Resigning himself to reluctant heroics, Sam followed his friend.

"Greetings," said a statue of a bearded man in a hooded robe at the far end of the entrance. He was standing between a pair of doors, with two other doors on the walls to his east and west. Furthermore, he looked somewhat familiar; it took Sam a moment to realize this 10-foot-tall statue was a representation of the ghost they'd just talked to in the forest.

"Welcome to the Museum of Mystical Mysteries. You are the seventh and eighth visitors since the museum's recent reopening," added the statue.

"Uh oh," said Sam. "You know what that means?"

"Whaat?" asked Baabby.

"It means there were six trolls ahead of us - and they're somewhere in the museum, right now! And you know what that means?"

"Whaat?" repeated Baabby.

"It means, LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!"

Baabby grabbed Sam by the scruff of his collar as he ran past. "We need to staay and fight," he admonished his little crow friend. Seeing that Sam wasn't going to flee after all, he turned to the statue and tried asking it questions: after all, if this was the Museum of Mystical Mysteries, there was a good chance that the statuary was actually interactive instead of just spouting out pre-programmed lines. "Who were the other six visitors before us?" the baarbarian asked the statue.

"They said they were maintenance workers, here to make sure everything was in working order here at the museum," replied the statue.

"Those lying weasels!" exclaimed Sam. "Where did they go?" he asked the statue.

"They split up and went to various parts of the museum."

"What parts are those?" asked Sam.

"To my left is the Picture Gallery," explained the statue. "Behind me is the Main Oddities Gallery, and to my right are the stairs leading up to the Rift-Weavers Display and the Hall of Crystal Statues."

"Okay," said Sam, making up his mind. "Let's each take a door on the side of the statue, since they're both leading the same way. When I say 'three,' we'll both open our doors and rush whatever's out there. Ready?"

"Ready," agreed Baabby, one hand on his doorknob and the other holding his magical greatsword.

"One, two, three!" called out Sam. Baabby immediately flung open his door and rushed to the hallway beyond, spotting two trolls nearby wielding monkey wrenches. Sam, in the meantime, had opted not to open his door until his much braver companion Baabby had scoped out the dangers for him. With his head to the closed door, Sam listened as Baabby rushed up to the nearest roll and then readied an attack. Not hearing any cries of distress from his friend, Sam decided it was safe enough and popped his head out of his own door, immediately spotting the two wrench-wielding trolls spinning around to deal with Baabby but also a third troll, this one an archer like himself, further down the hallway to the crow's right. Pulling an arrow to his Dynabow 2.0, Sam sent it flying down the hallway...to miss the troll archer completely. "Bummer!" cried Sam.

The nearest wrench-wielder rounded on Baabby, who had prepared for such an eventuality and swung his greatsword at the green-skinned foe. Unfortunately, Baabby's first attack was no more successful than Sam's had been. But the troll did just fine on his first attempt, bonking the sheep-man a good one on the top of his head with his oversized wrench. "Ow!" called out Baabby, as the second troll moved up to attack the baabarian as well and the troll archer sent an arrow that likewise missed Sam.

Baabby responded to the troll's successful attack with a successful attack of his own, cutting the troll down with one swing and then advancing towards the second wrench-wielder. Sam, in the meantime, shot the troll archer and brought him down with one arrow. Good, I'm tied with Baabby! he thought, before realizing that that record wouldn't hold true for long! Sure enough, the second troll came within reach of Baabby's sword only for it to practically cut right through him. His wrench fell to the ground with a clatter, which sent another troll, who had been exploring a side chamber, in to investigate. Baabby took care of him as well in no time flat, and then the two heroes went quietly through the ground level of the museum, looking for the other two trolls. They found nobody, but then heard a crash of breaking glass coming from upstairs.

"This way!" called Baabby, leading a charge up the stairs to the second floor. Sam reluctantly followed.

On the second floor, inside a room labeled the Rift-Weavers Display, there were two trolls, one holding a large greatsword covered with eight runes running down the length of the blade. "With this sword," he chortled, "I can rule all of Skylands!"

Sneaking in for a closer look, Sam managed to get a good peek at the sword - and noticed something the trolls had not: the eight runes on the sword's blade were all stickers; some were starting to peel off at the edges. But other than that small detail, the sword was nearly an exact match for the magical greatsword Baabby had unearthed in the chompy-infested mines.

Sam sent an arrow into the room, catching the sword-wielding troll a glancing blow that did nothing more than reveal the presence of enemies. Spinning around, the wrench-wielding troll accompanying the troll with the sword stepped outside the display room and stopped short upon seeing Sam and Baabby. "Hey," he said, "aren't you two the same guys what was on the airship?"

"That's right," admitted Sam hurriedly. "We're the troll disguise experts, sent to help infiltrate the local inhabitants..."

"Hey!" exclaimed the sword-wielding troll while pointing at Baabby. "He's got a sword just like mine!"

"A clever, fake sword," improvised Sam, "so if anybody tries to take the real sword from you, they'd, um, get confused and possibly go after the wrong one..."

"But we got the real sword now," pondered the troll, "so why are you still wearing your disguises?"

Baabby had had enough of the attempts at subterfuge. He ran up and brought his sword crashing down on the wrench-wielding troll, dropping him in an instant. Sam shot an arrow at the would-be troll conqueror, but missed. As Baabby and the remaining troll traded blows with their respective swords, the true magic sword was quickly revealed. The troll dropped his museum replica with a disappointed expression on his face before falling to the floor, dead.

"We did it!" exclaimed Sam. "We took down all six trolls by ourselves!" They decided to check the rest of the second floor out, just in case any other trolls had somehow snuck in here, and they started with the Rift-Weavers Display, where they learned the sword Baabby had found in the mines was the legendary Rift-Weaver's Blade. A quick perusal of the rest of the second floor found only administrative offices, a bathroom, a lecture hall, some stairs leading up to the third level, and the Hall of Crystal Statues. These statues were of various animals - except for one, who was a very lovely-looking fairy. Walking up to her, the heroes noted her sad expression. Sam wished at once there was something he could do for her, but she was just a statue, like the others in the display. "I wonder why they carved her all sad?" Sam wondered aloud.

"I don't think she's caarved," noted Baabby. On a whim, he had held his sword up to his eyes and was peering through one of the rune-holes in his blade - the magic rune, as that seemed the most likely to be useful. Viewed in this fashion, the statues appeared as if they were still alive, just unmoving. "I think somebody turned these aanimals - and the fairy - into statues," Baabby hypothesized.

"Greetings," said a familiar voice from downstairs. "Welcome to the Museum of Mystical Mysteries. You are the ninth through sixteenth visitors since the museum's recent reopening."

Sam did a quick finger-count on his feathers. "Eight more!" he hissed to Baabby. "You think it's more trolls?"

The baabarian gave it a moment's thought. "There are the traditional eight elements on my sword," he said. "And we've met up with two spell punks already, looking for this blade."

Sam caught on immediately. "Eight spell punks?" he cried. "I'm not kidding, this time, Baabby -- WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!"

"They'll have to come by the stairs," reasoned Baabby, grabbing Sam and running back towards the staircase. If they could jam them up at the top of the stairs, where only one or maybe two could fight them at a time, they might stand a chance....

He only got about halfway to the stairwell when the first two spell punks glided around the corner. Judging by the emblems on their robes, these were the air and fire spell punks, neither of which the heroes had ever encountered before. The air spell punk got a look at the sword in Baabby's hand and yelled, "The sword - he's got it!" before diving into the administrative hallway, out of view. The fire spell punk raised a claw and pointed it at the hulking baabarian. Instantly, a small, orange sphere of energy flashed down the hallway and hit Baabby, engulfing him in a small explosion of flames. Baabby yelled in pain as Sam closed the difference between them and got off a shot with his bow. It hit the fire spell punk, but didn't drop him as Sam had hoped. In fact, the arrow seemed to strike the floating creature and then bounce off of it; it almost looked like there was a vapory layer floating around the fire spell punk that had deflected the crow's arrow. "No fair!" groused Sam.

Baabby ran up to swing his greatsword at the fire spell punk, but the air spell punk ducked back around the corner and shot a blast of air at the baabarian. Baabby wouldn't have guessed that a blast of concentrated air would hurt so bad, but it did! He grunted in pain, but didn't let that stop his greatsword from coming down on the fire spell punk's head. "One down!" he called triumphantly as the fire spell punk crashed to the ground, dead.

Sam ran closer and shot at the air spell punk, once again hitting him but once again not dropping him to the ground. The spell punk fired a blast of energy at Sam, but missed. Sam shot another arrow at the spell punk, but missed. While all of this missing was going on, Baabby had dodged around a display cabinet and cast a healing spell on himself, restoring some of the vigor that had been drained by the spell punks' various blasts. Then he rushed the air spell punk, bringing him down as well. "That's two!" called the baabarian to his friend. "Come on, the others must be downstairs!"

Sam marveled at Baabby's lack of hesitation in throwing himself directly into danger. They now knew the forces of evil had been looking for the museum in order to find the Rift-Weaver's Blade, and since Baabby already had the sword the spell punks wouldn't find it if the heroes left, so Sam was all for climbing out a window with Baabby and scampering away as fast as they could go. But no, Baabby always had to do the right thing! That sheep-man could be so much trouble sometimes, Sam couldn't imagine why he still hung around him.

Back down on the ground floor, Baabby and Sam encountered both the water and life spell punks, who had just been about to head upstairs themselves. One powerful leap brought Baabby into their midst, and one powerful swing of his sword cut the life right out of both spell punks. "That's four!" said Baabby as the bodies dropped to the floor. Sam realized now he wouldn't find out what powers a water spell punk had, but then decided he really didn't need to know. And Baabby's slay-two-foes-with-one-swing maneuver reminded the crow why he hung around with Baabby: the baabarian was a mighty handy friend to have around!

Stepping back into the main hallway of the ground level, the two heroes narrowly missed being struck by a beam of red light. Looking up, they saw a grinning tech spell punk - but only for a moment, for a magic spell punk flew up next to him and the tech spell punk immediately disappeared from view. "He turned him invisible!" complained Sam. "No fair!"

Sam shot off an arrow from his Dynabow 2.0, after having prepped it for an explosion. He targeted the spot where the tech spell punk had just been, hoping to hit him before he had a chance to leave. The explosion must have hit him, for the crow heard two distinct cries of pain - the other one being the magic spell punk, who had been caught in the radius of the explosion's effect. Baabby ran up and readied his sword for an attack, and got blasted by the invisible tech spell punk - who popped back into visibility upon firing his narrow laser-ray. Sam took the opportunity to shoot at the now-visible tech spell punk but missed, and then the magic spell punk flew over to his partner and turned him invisible again.

"Their powers only work on others, not themselves!" reasoned Baabby, running up to attack the magic spell punk with his sword. After all, why else wouldn't the magic spell punk turn himself invisible as well? Despite backing up away from the baabarian - or perhaps just wishing to put distance between him and his tech buddy, in case Sam shot another explosive arrow at the two of them - the magic spell punk couldn't evade Baabby's greatsword, which cut a gash across the spell punk's chest.

Sam shot at the invisible tech spell punk and missed; the tech spell punk popped back into view and hit Sam with his laser-ray. But by then Baabby had cut down the magic spell punk, and without his partner's invisibility to aid him, the tech spell punk didn't last too much longer against the two heroes.

Baabby and Sam each took a moment to guzzle down a potion of cure moderate wounds they had purchased after their celebration party back at the town. Then, revitalized, they headed over to the Picture Gallery to go find the last two spell punks.

Only they didn't get that far. They made it as far as just past the Main Oddities Display before a strange creature waddled up to them. This looked just like one of the bone chompies the heroes had fought in the Forest of Despair, only while those had been chompy plants with bone extrusions on their outer surfaces, these were just the bony extrusions - actual skeletal chompies, if chompies actually had skeletons. Behind the first of these skeletal chompies strode two more, each snapping their bone-teeth.

Baabby swung hard with his greatsword, expecting to cut the first chompy skeleton in two. However, despite it being a direct hit, it hardly fazed the skeleton - which, Baabby noted, seemed to be covered in a hard, stony substance. Looking past his current foe at the two coming up behind it, Baabby saw another of the creatures was seemingly covered in stone, while the third seemed to be just plain, normal bone. Once the earth spell punk and the undead spell punk hovered into view behind their chompy skeleton fighting force, it all came into focus: the undead spell punk was probably summoning these undead foes, and the earth spell punk was protecting them with a stony plating.

"If you kill a spell punk, its effects end!" yelled Baabby to his partner. Sam opted to scoot back out of range of snapping chompy skeleton teeth while he pondered this. So if he killed the undead spell punk, the chompy skeletons might go away, but if he killed the earth spell punk, the chompy skeletons would lose their stony protection - protection which, Sam noticed, the undead spell punk shared as well. That made his choice easier: leaping up onto a three-foot-high display case, he shot an arrow at the earth spell punk, hitting it but once again not bringing it down. Oh well.

Baabby struck again at the chompy skeleton he had hit rather ineffectually the first time, chipping off another tiny piece of rock from its protective coating. Then he backed rapidly away. Was the powerful sheep-man frightened of a trio of chompy skeletons?

No, he was just getting them into place. As two of them approached him (the other veered off to go snap at Sam), he lifted his Life Amulet and sent forth a wave of life energy at the undead creatures. They exploded into pieces upon contact.

In the meantime, the earth spell punk demonstrated another of his earth-based powers: holding up a claw, he focused his concentration and caused a stalactite to appear and then shoot off in Sam's direction. It hit, amidst a squawk of pain and a flurry of feathers, almost knocking the crow from his perch. The undead spell punk lifted a claw of his own and opened a small portal in the air above his head, causing another chompy skeleton to plop down onto the floor and go racing toward Baabby. It clamped down on the sheep-man with its bony teeth, but Baabby blasted out again with his Life Amulet, disintegrating the chompy skeleton and the one that had been snapping at Sam. The undead spell punk had also been in the blast radius but seemed unaffected, indicating that the spell punk wasn't itself an undead creature.

Sam finally took out the earth spell punk with an explosive arrow, causing the undead spell punk's stoneskin effect to dissipate. "That oughtta make it easier to hit him, Baabby!" Sam called down - and he was proven correct almost immediately as the baabarian's Rift-Weaver's Blade cut the life right out of the undead spell punk.

"We did it!" declared Baabby. Sam realized that the "we" was about 75% Baabby and maybe 25% Sam, but he didn't mind - they'd made it through another adventure intact, and he was more than happy to let Baabby take 75% of the kills if it exposed him to 75% of the danger as well. "Let's go check back with that fairy!" Sam suggested.

The fairy hadn't moved, nor had any of the animal statues. The heroes decided to check out the third floor, which was really just the upper part of a tower, and was thus all one big room. It was a sort of lounge area, with an eight-sided crystal floating above a table under a glass dome. An information card next to the crystal explained that this had at one time been covered with the eight runes of the original eight elements - air, earth, fire, life, magic, tech, undead, and water - but that the runes were no longer visible. This fact was instantly proven wrong by the fact that the heroes could see a rune on one of the eight facets of the spinning crystal; not surprisingly, the undead rune - the same rune emblem that was filled in on Baabby's sword.

"That crystal's tied in to your sword somehow," theorized Sam.

"Should I try to break it?" asked Baabby.

"Break it?" exclaimed Sam. "You baabarians sure like to break things! Well, since we don't know what to do, let's hold breaking it for last, since that'san action that's kind of hard to undo. How about looking at it through your magic rune hole first?" Baabby did so. "Everything looks normal," he said.

"Hmm," thought Sam aloud. "Maybe try touching your sword to the crystal?" Baabby carefully lifted the glass dome from the crystal, exposing it to the open air. It continued spinning at its original, slow pace. Baabby lifted his greatsword and carefully tapped its blade against the crystal.

In an instant, both Baabby and Sam were whisked away. Sam didn't even get a chance to finish the thought, Teleportation magic! before the two heroes were suddenly elsewhere.

- - -

Logan purchased a Paizo Flip-Mat for this adventure: "Museum," not surprisingly. We've found it helps to unfold the map and let it lie flat overnight before use, so we set it up last night and played through the adventure this morning after breakfast.
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PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 3
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 3​

Game Session Date: 19 March 2017

- - -

"Well, this is no good!" complained Sam Crow, looking over the edge of the floating island to which the adventuring duo had been teleported after Baabby touched his Rift-Weaver's Blade greatsword to a magic crystal in the Museum of Mystical Mysteries. Baabby and Sam were standing on a very narrow ledge about halfway up a very tall and very steep cliff, with only a very short stretch of level ground in either direction. Fortunately, behind them was a doorway cut into the side of the cliff leading deeper into the stone mountain. Carved above the doorway were the words:

"Let's go in," said Baabby, with that stubborn determination in his voice that Sam was learning to dread.

"Well," the crow griped, "I guess it's either that or live the rest of our lives on that ledge." He reluctantly followed the sheep-man into the tunnel.

Sure enough, there were three doors at the end of a narrow corridor, each glowing a different color: red, green, and purple. "Which one should we try?" asked Baabby.

Sam cautiously approached the first door. Although the center of the door was a uniform reddish glow, it seemed to have a translucent covering in front of it. Sam gave a tentative tap with the hilt of his short sword, and it felt like glass, or a solid crystal. Already guessing that Baabby's sword would be the key to opening either of these doors, the crow touched the translucent barrier with his hand. Sure enough, the way was blocked. He checked the green and purple doors to verify they were the same and sure enough, they were.

"Which one?" repeated Baabby.

"Well, let's think about it," replied Sam. "We have three options: red, green, and purple. What did that carving above the door say about family?"

"'Two are family, one stands alone'," replied Baabby.

"So presumably, two are similar to each other and one is different. Which two are similar between red, green, and purple?"

Baabby thought about it for a moment. "Red's a primary color," he said.

"Yeah, and purple and green are secondary colors!" exclaimed Sam. "The red door's probably the one we want! Uh, you go first, Baabby," Sam suggested, stepping back behind the burly baabarian.

Baabby stepped forward and put his hand on the reddish door, feeling the crystal structure blocking his entrance. Pulling out his Rift-Weaver's Blade, he touched it to the crystal - and it sunk through it like a hot knife through butter. Slicing down with his greatsword, Baabby carved a rift in the invisible barrier and it fell away in two pieces. Then the baabarian stepped forward, disappearing through the red doorway.

"Baabby? You okay?" asked Sam, hesitant to follow his friend into danger. When he got no answer, he realized either something terrible had happened to Baabby - or else sound couldn't travel through the doorway. Hoping fervently that it was the second reason, the crow took a step through the red doorway and found himself in a new room. Baabby was standing just before him, looking at the three corridors in the wall before them.

From each corridor streamed a column of different-colored smoke, each coming from a brazier at the end of that particular short corridor. There was blue smoke coming from the leftmost corridor, green from the rightmost, and the central corridor - which was twice as wide as the others - streamed red smoke. In each case, the flames rising up from the braziers carved into the floors at the ends of the short tunnels matched the color of the smoke. There were also three more colored doors on the far wall behind the braziers, just like the three in the first corridor: a purple one behind the blue brazier, a red one behind the red brazier, and a green one behind the green brazier. And on the wall above the three short corridors was carved another clue:

"I don't like this, Baabby!" groused Sam. Normally, he'd have voiced a desire to "get out of here!" - but the only way out seemed to make it through this Rift-Weaver's Trial.

Sam looked at the doorway through which they'd just passed. From this side, it looked just like the front: a doorway bathed in reddish light, obscuring all vision of what was on the other side. But it was red - that was the important thing. "Well, we don't want the red-smoke corridor," reasoned Sam. "If we stick with red, it won't take us forward."

"So we have blue or green," surmised Baabby.

"Yep," agreed Sam. "There are two ways we can look at this. We could take the green one, because the smoke's green, the flames are green, and the door behind it is green. So it's all the same - it's 'true,' I guess."

"Uh huh," agreed Baabby. "And the other way to look at it?"

"Well," said Sam, "If you add the red door we just came through to the blue smoke, and mix red and blue, you get purple - so maybe the purple door's the way we want."

"Red won't take us forward," Baabby reminded his sidekick.

"Yeah, you're right," agreed Sam. "We'll take the green corridor. You first, Baabby."

Baabby led the way with confidence; Sam followed behind with reluctance. Approaching the green flames, Baabby startled his companion by stepping into the brazier - directly into the green flames. With a yell, the baabarian quickly stepped out of the brazier, patting out the areas where his armor has started to burn.

"What did you do that for?" demanded Sam, helping to pat out the green flames on Baabby's back.

"I was just trying something," admitted Baabby sheepishly. "But it didn't work. Okay, let's try that green door." He touched his blade to the door, cut through the invisible barrier, and the two stepped through it and into yet another new room. This one was empty but for the green doorway behind them and a normal pair of wooden doors over in the far corner.

"Hey! Normal doors!" exclaimed Sam. "Maybe this is the way out of here!"

"You have passed the first two tests in the Rift-Weaver's Trial," said a voice emanating from somewhere in the room. "Now only the third and final test stands before you..."

"Aw, blast!" complained Sam.

"...to verify you are the two heroes described in the Prophecy of the Sheep and the Crow."

"Ahem," coughed Sam. "I believe you mean, 'The Prophecy of the Crow and the Sheep.'" He smiled over at Baabby, who only scowled at him in return.

"I mean the Prophecy of the Sheep and Crow," corrected the unseen voice, causing Sam to cringe and wince - if he'd known the unseen voice could react to what he said, he'd have kept his silly beak shut! "You must prove your worthiness to wield the Rift-Weaver's Blade."

"Come on, Sam," said Baabby, striding up the doors without hesitation. He was eager to prove his worthiness to wield his magical greatsword.

"I dunno why I have to get dragged into this," complained Sam. "I'm not wielding the stupid sword."

"The previous wielder also had an apprentice," said the voice in the room.

"Great," grumbled Sam under his breath, hopefully low enough so the voice wouldn't hear. "Now I'm an apprentice." They opened the doors wide, finding behind them only a twisting corridor. At the first turn, the mounted head of a blue dragon faced them. "Ahead lies the Trial of Might," the dragon head intoned. Once Sam stepped through the doorway, the doors slammed shut behind him. Instinctively, he tried them - and just as he had thought they would be, they were locked tight.

They turned the corner past the blue dragon head, to find a green dragon head facing them from the opposite wall. "The consequences of failure are not always immediate," the green dragon said.

"Hey, here's an idea," piped up Sam. "Let's not fail!"

"Good plaan!" agreed Baabby.

They turned another corner and were faced with a red dragon's head mounted on the far wall. "When you vanquish your foe, the doors shall open," it said.

"That's the best news I've heard all day!" said Sam, hoping at least one of the doors would lead them back to the museum.

There was a set of wooden doors beyond the red dragon's head. "Hey, before we go into our big final test, do you want to heal up your wounds from that fire?" asked Sam.

"Naah," dismissed Baabby. "But if this is a Trial of Might, I might as well be as mighty as I can!" And the baabarian cast a bull's strength spell upon himself, causing his already-powerful muscles to bulge even further. He hefted his heavy greatsword, marveling that it felt somewhat lighter than it ever had before. Then he and Sam swung open the doors and stepped forward, one of them boldly and one rather hesitantly. (You can probably guess which was which.)

The room before them had three more of those colored doorways: red, green, and purple, just as before. But standing in the middle of the room was a suit of plate mail armor, standing motionlessly with its arms crossed across its chest. It was hard to tell whether anyone was even wearing it, it stood so stock-still.

"Um, hello?" called Sam. "We're supposed to be here for the Trial of Might?"

The armor suddenly flinched, adopting a shoulder-wide ready stance. Then it held its arms out toward the two heroes and wiggled its fingers in a universally-recognized "Bring it on - let's see what you got!" gesture.

"Go get 'im, Baabby!" enthused Sam, pushing the baabarian forward into the room. Or so he told himself, anyway; it's doubtful the crow was anywhere strong enough to push Baabby anywhere he didn't want to go. But Baabby had no hesitation; he raced up to the armored opponent and swung a mighty blow with his greatsword, scoring a scrape across the front of the armor's chest plate. Sam followed suit, running down the left side of the room and shooting an arrow at the armor, getting its arrowhead lodged in a joint between the shoulder and the neck. As he passed the green doorway, he could see misty-looking bars blocking the way through the door. The crow imagined the other doors were likewise barred, and that defeating this animated suit of armor would cause the bars to go away.

The armor ignored Sam's arrow and concentrated its attacks on the hulking baabarian standing before it. That only made sense to Sam: this was, after all, a Trial of Might and it wasn't Sam's might that was on trial here. An armored fist came crashing into the side of Baabby's head, causing him to lurch momentarily to his left before regaining his balance. He retaliated immediately, bringing the Rift-Weaver's Blade crashing down onto the armored foe, cutting a notch out of the armor covering his left shoulder.

Sam stood where he was, over by the corner of the room, and charged up his Dynabow 2.0, before releasing an explosive arrow that caught the animated plate mail in the back. The armor smacked Baabby again, this time only dealing a glancing blow, but Baabby's return swing carved a gash in the joint by the hip. Sam shot it again with a normal arrow - the Dynabow required a moment between explosive charges - and then Baabby's final swing caused the armor to go crashing to the ground.

"You have succeeded at the Trial of Might," intoned another unseen voice from somewhere in this room. "You are indeed the Sheep and the Crow, as prophesied. Step through either of the doors, and you will be reunited." As the duo watched, the misty bars covering the three doors changed form, becoming words: "Strength" over the red door, "Wisdom" over the purple door, and "Dexterity" over the green one.

"I'm going with 'Strength'," advised Baabby, stepping through the red doorway and vanishing from view. Sam felt compelled to follow his friend, but then, comforted by the voice's promise, walked instead through the green door. Sure enough, doing so led him through a green portal right beside a red one and Baabby was already there in this next room.

There was a statue in the middle of this room, and it swiveled along its base to face the adventurers. Baabby and Sam saw a family resemblance at once: it looked like an older version of the statue in the entryway to the Museum of Mystical Mysteries. "You are the second wielder of the Rift-Weaver's Blade," said the statue. "I had it built to combat and defeat a powerful evil that threatened all of Skylands. Now, that evil is gaining in power and must be defeated again. The sword's power has diminished over the years, but you, the prophesied Sheep and Crow, will be able to restore it to its full power and save Skylands from this enemy!"

The statue of what the heroes now realized had to be the Rift-Weaver himself raised a stone hand and gathered up mystical energy, then threw it in Baabby's direction. The trusting baabarian didn't even flinch, knowing this wasn't an attack but rather something beneficial. Indeed, the nimbus of energy funneled straight to Baabby's greatsword, coalescing and filling in the symbol of Magic on the Rift-Weaver's Blade.

"The apprentice must aid his master in his endeavors," said the statue, swiveling on its base to face Sam. "The previous apprentice was the fairy Sapphrina, now imprisoned in the Museum of Mystical Mysteries." Another aura of energy surrounded the statue's fist and was sent hurtling in Sam's direction. The crow definitely flinched, but this was likewise no attack but rather a boost to his Dynabow's power. Then the statue turned to face Baabby once again, pointing a finger to a doorway to the right. "Step into the magic circle on the floor in the room beyond to return to the Museum. There you must give the crystal that brought you here to the statue of my son. He will tell you the next step of your quest. Return here when you have regained the symbols of Life and Fire. Now go!"

Stepping onto the magic circle carved into the floor in the next room, the heroes found themselves back on the third floor of the museum. Baabby grabbed up the crystal from the table and they rushed downstairs. In the entryway, the baabarian touched the crystal to the statue, and it bent down to take it from Baabby. It held the crystal above its head and the stone dissolved away, its energy suffusing into the statue and imbuing it with knowledge and power.

"With every pair of elemental symbols you regain, your sword will gain in power," the statue advised. "But this place is no longer safe. The trolls left behind a damaged airship," it said, stepping down from its plinth and heading for the front door. "I will repair it at once. Bring Sapphrina with you, and take the airship to the Serpent Isles. Seek there the Cave of Crystal Statues - the Medusa there will aid you. Now go!"

"I'll go grab Sapphrina!" offered Sam, rushing to the stairs.

"I'll help fix the airship," said Baabby, hefting his greatsword in a powerful fist. Then the two heroes each ran off in a different direction - but each unerringly heading to their shared destiny.

- - -

Logan used an early entry in the Pathfinder Flip-Mat series for this adventure: "Arcane Dungeons." He built the Trial to correspond with the disjointed rooms on the one side of the map; we didn't even use the other side, which is all one big area. (Knowing Logan, he'll likely find a use for it in a later adventure.)

We now know a bit more of the back story of Baabby's greatsword, and we have a path ahead of us, although we have no ideas of the details of how we'll regain the lost symbols on the sword. But it started out as a +1 greatsword, and has been upgraded to a +2 greatsword now that Baabby's regained two of the symbols. Once he regains the Life and Fire symbols, it'll be a +3 greatsword and so on, eventually capping out at +5.

Sam's Dynabow 2.0, originally a masterwork shortbow, is now a full +1 weapon. It was granted its explosive powers by the tech spell punk the heroes encountered earlier (the one on the troll airship).

Harry was surprised at how quickly we went through this adventure, because up until now the adventures have been mostly combat-related; this was his first experience with a puzzle dungeon. Logan explained that the DM never knows how quickly the players will figure out the puzzles, and that had we been stumped the adventure could have taken a lot longer. But he even had eventualities for those turns of events: had we ever gone through a "wrong" door, we'd have been teleported right back to where we had been, but doing so would have granted the animated armor in the Trial of Might an additional Hit Die. So had we flubbed up at every turn, we'd have still made it to what Harry referred to as the "boss fight," but he'd have been 4 HD more powerful than he already was.

Personally, I'm glad it didn't come to that. And I'm sure Sam Crow feels likewise.


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 3
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 3​

Game Session Date: 1 April 2017

- - -

The damaged troll airship had been repaired by the statue which until recently had adorned the entryway to the Museum of Mystical Mysteries. Now, with the crystalline form of Sapphrina the fairy brought aboard, the heroes were ready to go.

"I seldom get to say this without you scowling at me," remarked Sam Crow, looking over at his baabarian friend, "but, LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!"

The airship rose up unsteadily from the ground, wobbling a bit as it finally reached a level plane of orientation, and then sailed off over the tree-tops.

"I hope you know where we're going," commented Sam, who, on dint of being aboard a flying ship, had recently designated himself Admiral Sam Crow.

"We're heading for the Serpent Isles," Baabby reminded his sidekick.

"Yeah, I know that, but I have no idea where they might be," replied an irritated Sam.

"It doesn't maatter," said Baabby. "As long as he knows."

"Indeed I do," replied the statue. "We should be there within the hour." And indeed the next three-quarters of an hour passed without incident, except for the occasional loud banging noises coming from the engine compartment below, which never failed to make Sam flinch. After a few bangs, though, the engine would usually settle down again...just long enough for the next sudden bang to jolt Sam all over again.

"Is there supposed to be smoke coming up from the floorboards?" asked Sam hesitantly. The statue looked down at the deck, then returned its gaze to the floating island coming into view before them.

"Well, I have good news and bad news," he replied. As both heroes turned to him with worried faces, he said, "Those are the Serpent Isles just ahead. We're definitely going to make it there."

"That must be the good news," decided Sam. "...What's the bad news?"

"I'm not sure how many pieces we'll be in when we land. BRACE FOR IMPACT!"

The bangs coming from belowdecks were joined by a wheezing noise and the unmistakable sound of an explosion. Black smoke now billowed behind them, as it seeped out both sides of the airships's front, where it had originally hit when it crash-landed by the museum.

"Typical troll craftsmanship," complained Sam as the continent-sized island rushed up ahead. It was one of the larger chunks of land that floated throughout the Skylands, this one big enough to hold a small ocean in its center, in the middle of which were scattered a clump of small islands. It was to one of these smaller islands that the statue was desperate steering, as the airship dropped altitude at an alarming rate.

With a sickening CRUNCH the airship hit the edge of a pebbly beach, just at the edge of the ocean. The back half was in the water, the front half on the beach - except that as an airship, it's probably more accurate to say the aft section was in the water while the foredeck was on land. But the important thing was the ship was still in one piece, and once the engines were shut off the banging noises stopped from the decks below.

The ship's passengers were all still in one piece, too, although the crash-landing had pitched them all forward, sprawling on the deck in an undignified fashion.

"Is everyone okay?" asked Baabby, getting back to his feet and helping his partner up.

"I'm fine," replied Sam, verifying that Sapphrina was still intact. Fortunately, the fairy statue had no cracks in her crystal form, and the stone statue from the museum hadn't smashed his way through the wooden deck when he fell.

"I'll attempt to make repairs," said the mobile statue. "But no guarantees."

"Where's the Cave of the Crystal Medusa?" asked Baabby, not letting a little thing like the possible loss of their only mode of transportation distract him from his primary mission. The statue pointed off to the left of the airship (wait - the port side!), where Baabby could see a rocky cliffside in the distance, a short way up the beach. "Let's go, Sam!" he cried enthusiastically, leaping over the edge of the railing and onto the pebbly beach.

"I'm coming, I'm coming," griped Sam, climbing down a bit less enthusiastically than his partner. He landed next to Baabby and surveyed the land before them. There wasn't much to see: ocean to the left, pebbly shore straight ahead, cliffs off to the right in the distance. Here and there on the beach were scattered clumps of seaweed, and - more excitingly to the avaricious crow - glints of what looked like the occasional gem in amongst the pebbles of the beach.

Baabby strode forth in a beeline to the cliffs ahead, while Sam bent to examine the nearest gem. He picked it up, but it was nothing extraordinary - certainly not very valuable, in any case. He sighed in frustration and tossed it aside.

Suddenly, a clump of seaweed Baabby had just walked by rose up. As it rose, it almost seemed to inflate, changing from an inert clump of flat seaweed to the rotund, familiar form of a chompy! All along the beach, other clumps of seaweed rose up, taking on the forms of what the heroes later decided to call "kelp chompies."

"Hey! No fair!" complained Sam as two headed his way. "You know, mutton is very nourishing, and it tastes much better than most poultry dishes...." He let his suggestion trail off once he realized that first of all, the kelp chompies weren't paying him any attention (and probably didn't even understand his words); but more importantly, Baabby wasn't rising to the bait. What fun was teasing your partner if he wasn't even annoyed by it?

Baabby had four kelp chompies converging on him, but he said nothing. Instead, he hefted his Rift-Weaver's Blade in his hands and made a powerful side-swing that chopped through the first kelp chompy like it wasn't there and continued on to bisect the one standing next to it. As had almost become a tradition with the mighty baabarian, one swing of his magic greatsword meant two enemies slain.

Sam wasn't quite up to his friend's level of power, but he was learning to hold his own. Taking a step back to avoid the snapping spine-teeth of the nearest kelp chompy, Sam let fly with an arrow that skewered the little plant-monster and caused it to "deflate" back into a pile of unmoving seaweed - only the little crow had the feeling that particular pile of seaweed wouldn't ever be moving again!

Baabby fought off the other two that had waddled up to him, and Sam likewise shot at the other one who was biting at him. But even with these first six slain, another six were wandering up from further down the beach - and, more worryingly, there were more clumps of seaweed being brought to shore by the waves! Sam infused his Dynabow 2.0 with explosive energy and managed to kill three kelp chompies all bunched together in a group, but saw from the corner of his eye that the first of these new clumps were being washed ashore - only to rise up as new kelp chompies.

"There are more of them!" Sam cried.

"I'm on it!" called back Baabby, finishing off the kelp chompies that had waddled his way. Then, seeing there were only two currently on the beach and each one was far enough from Sam that the little crow could probably handle himself for awhile, the burly baabarian started wading into the ocean. As the waters rose up to his neck, he took a deep breath and continued his pace.

Sam ran to the halfway point between the two kelp chompies on the beach, taking aim at one but fumbling the shot with an ill-timed sneeze. The arrow stabbed down at the pebbly sand by the crow's feet as the hungry kelp chompies approached, teeth snapping. Sam was forced to draw his short sword as the two kelp chompies snapped and bit at him, several of the bites hitting their targets. "Ow!" cried Sam Crow. "No fair!"

Underwater, Baabby had found what he had been looking for - since the kelp chompies were coming from the sea, it only made sense that there were aquatic chompy pods out here somewhere. The first of them was visible just ahead, so the sheep-man started heading in that direction, not in the least bothered by the fact that his pace wasn't as fast underwater as it was on land. After all, where was the chompy pod going to go? They were immobile, depending upon the mobile chompies they spit forth for defense. But as the chompy pod before him did just that, Baabby smiled to himself as he saw that the kelp chompy thus disgorged had a hard time staying underwater - it rose to the top of the ocean's surface and started paddling frantically towards land. It didn't seem like he was in any particular danger down here at all!

Realizing the drag of the water would slow down his sword-strike, Baabby put every ounce of strength into it he had. And what a result! The aquatic chompy pod practically exploded beneath the power of the baabarian's greatsword, chunks of it falling to all sides to be washed harmlessly away by the waves. With a quiet smile of satisfaction, Baabby started making his way to the area where there had to be another chompy pod, based on the directions the sea-borne ones had been floating in.

By the time Baabby had taken care of the second chompy pod - and just in time, too, for his single gulp of air was giving out - Sam had taken care of the kelp chompies bothering him and had resumed his use of the bow, starting to take out those farther away (which was where he preferred his enemies: farther away from him!). The baabarian waded up out of the ocean to see the second-to-last kelp chompy get taken out by one of Sam's arrows, and another one getting bitten by a large snake that had slithered up from the direction of the caves. Its mouth opened wide and wicked fangs stabbed down at the kelp chompy, killing it instantly.

But the snake apparently wasn't in the mood for a salad, for it spit the dead kelp chompy right out again and looked about for a more nourishing meat dish. Seeing a sheep-man approaching, the serpent slithered over to the walking meal and bit it. Baabby felt the snake's fangs stab into his skin and inject some type of venom, but his powerful baabarian constitution allowed him to shrug off whatever debilitating effects the poison might have had. Instead, he sent his greatsword crashing into the serpent's skull, making the snake suddenly wish to reappraise its choice of dinner. Sam, in a good position to set fly with an explosive arrow, did just that, taking a little chunk of scales off its left side. (No wait, its port side - no, never mind, it's a snake, not a ship! Its left side, then.) Baabby finished it off with another powerful swing of the Rift-Weaver's Blade, and the snake fell dead to the sandy beach.

"Let's go," said Baabby nonchalantly, as if having to slay a dozen or more chompies and a giant snake were all part of a normal day's events. Sam hurried to keep pace with his burly friend.

Soon, the cliffs rose to the side of the beach and Baabby spotted a cave opening along the bottom of a near-vertical stone wall. "Let's check in there," he suggested. There was a faint light inside the cave, probably not bright enough to read by but at least providing enough light to allow them to see. The cave had little side branches all along its winding length, and in the first such side branch to the left, the heroes saw a column of buttery-yellow crystal. It was smooth, like amber, and reached from the ground all the way to the cavern ceiling. A yellowish illumination emanated from the crystal column.

"Well, I'm guessing this is the Cave of Crystal Statues," whispered Sam. "But what's it a statue of? A column?"

"Let's look around some more," suggested Baabby.

In another alcove they found a greenish-glowing crystal column, and another that glowed a bluish hue one side-cavern over. But it was the fourth one that ended up being the most exciting. Whereas the others were all translucent - you could see through them to see the cavern walls behind them - this one was misty and murky. Furthermore, there seemed to be something inside of it: a feminine form with wavy, spiky hair.

"Hey, Baabby -- I think there's somebody inside this statue!" Sam called to his friend. "Maybe you can smash it--Hey!" The crow jumped back as the purplish crystal suddenly lunged out at him. In doing so, it left behind the woman it had previously engulfed: Crystal the Medusa, who many people thought was called the Crystal Medusa. She had crystalline snakes in place of her hair - each snake a different color, making it look rather like there was a rainbow leaking out of her scalp. Each of the snakes had its eyes closed - something normal serpents, which lacked eyelids, were incapable of doing. But, as the heroes were to soon learn, these were no normal serpents.

But first, they had to deal with this ooze-monster that was dripping off of Crystal's body and sliding over towards Sam. Sam shot at it with an arrow, which was absorbed into the ooze's body and looked to get corroded away in an instant.

If Baabby had any hesitation about plunging the Rift-Weaver's Blade into an acidic crystal ooze, his actions spoke otherwise. With a mighty grunt of effort, he sent his magical greatsword crashing down into the hardened-liquid ooze, cutting a deep groove into its body. "It's kind of like taaffy!" the baabarian said.

"Mmmm, I like taffy!" replied Sam. "You ever have the kind that tastes like mint? Those are good - but how about the ones that taste like bananas? I think I like those the best!"

"Tell me later!" suggested Baabby to his easily-distracted partner. Then he swung his blade down at the crystal ooze in an overhand blow that cut another groove deep into its body, making an "X" shape with his previous blow, which had yet to reform. The ooze convulsed a little and then seemed to dissolve there on the floor, dribbling away into nothingness.

"Oh, thank you for saving me!" said Crystal. "I think that thing was trying to eat me!" Then she looked at Baabby's greatsword with a frown. "Say, I recognize that sword! You aren't Xacho's apprentices, are you? But no, why would he have his apprentices--" She cut herself off in mid-sentence, veering her one-sided conversation in a different direction altogether. "Say, I wonder what year it is?"

"Um," began Sam, not sure how to deal with this strange Medusa. He was glad that looking at her (or her looking at him? - he was a little unsure of how that was supposed to work) didn't turn him to stone, although the fact that her hair-serpents all had their eyes closed gave him some suspicions on that front. "Maybe you've heard of us? We have a prophecy and everything: the Crow and the Sheep!"

"The Sheep and the Crow!" said both Baabby and Crystal simultaneously.

"Whatever," grumbled Sam. "Some people prefer it the other way around...."

"I'm grateful for your assistance," said Crystal. "But why are you here? Which one of you is sick, and in need of crystallization?"

"Um, nothing like that," said Sam, making sure none of her hair-serpents got any ideas and peeked their eyelids open. "Quite the opposite, in fact. We have this fairy friend, see, named Sapphrina, who's been turned into a crystal statue, and we were told you might be able to turn her back."

"Oh," said Crystal. "Oh, I see. Well, yes, I suppose I could...." She turned her head and stroked one of her hair-serpents - one, Baabby and Sam couldn't help but notice, that was the exact same shade of blue as the crystal statue of Sapphrina they had left back on the troll airship.

"Great!" agreed Sam. "So, do we bring her to you, or bring you to her, or how does this work?"

"Oh, don't worry!" Crystal said, still talking to her blue serpent. "You'd grow back soon enough!"

"Huh?" said Baabby to Sam.

"Are you following this?" asked Sam to Baabby.

"Very well," stated Crystal with an air of finality. "I'll do it. But I won't do it for free. If you want me to free Sapphrina from her statue form, there's something I need you two to do for me first."

"Of course there is," sighed Sam.

"I need a piece of the Ocean's Heart," said the Medusa. "Not that big of a piece, just about so big" - and she held her hands out as if holding a loaf of bread or something similarly-sized.

"And where's this Ocean's Heart?" asked Baabby.

"Why, it's where you'd expect it to be - at the bottom of the ocean!" explained Crystal. "But don't worry - you won't have to dive down to get it. There are caverns all around this area. One of them leads to an area just below the Ocean's Heart. You'll be able to carve a bit of it off from just beneath it."

"I don't suppose these caverns are filled with monsters, by any chance, are they?" asked Sam, not really wanting to hear the answer.

"Why, of course they are!" exclaimed Crystal, seemingly surprised at such a silly question.

"Of course they are," sighed Sam.

"Bring me a piece of the Ocean's Heart and I'll restore you friend," promised Crystal. "The entrance to the cave you need it just down the cliff from here, in a patch of water with a greenish tinge - the cave opening is underwater."

"Of course it is," sighed Sam.

"Let's go!" said Baabby, not bothered in the least by this turn of events. Adventure beckoned, and he for one was eager to answer its call.

Sam, not so much - but he dutifully followed his friend back out of the cave and down the rocky beach, in search of the greenish-tinged water that would lead to their next big adventure.

- - -

Logan picked up six sheets of paper from our local Michael's craft store: three with a pebble pattern and three blue-marble ones that looked like they might be waves as seen from above. Then he had me make a Word document that was a 1" grid, and I printed off six such copies onto the Michael's craft paper. Then he cut one edge of the pebble paper sheets, such that, when laid over the "water" paper, he formed a little beach scene. That's where the troll airship crashed and where our PCs fought the kelp chompies. (Incidentally, kelp chompies don't exist in the Skylanders game - they're something Logan came up with for our D&D version of the Skylanders universe.) For the Medusa's cavern, he used four Pathfinder Map Cards from their "Ambush" set. And the troll airship was once again the same two Map Cards from their "Armada" set.

Harry dealt incredible amounts of damage with Baabby's greatsword, as usual. In the fight with the crystal ooze, it attacked Sam and missed, Baabby did 19 points of damage with a greatsword Power Attack, then Sam shot an arrow at it for 7 points of damage, then it attacked Baabby and missed, and then Baabby dealt it 22 more points of damage. Logan was surprised it went down so quickly. (Invariably, all DMs get to experience similar moments for themselves.) Harry, used to video games, asked which of the monsters we fought was the "boss fight," and was surprised to hear that in D&D there isn't always a "boss fight" in every adventure.

But this adventure sent both PCs to 4th level! Harry was psyched about that. We'll have to level them up later this weekend; as I type this, he's happily watching "Legend of Zelda" YouTube videos.


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 4
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 4​

Game Session Date: 9 April 2017

- - -

Baabby and Sam finally made their way through the jungle path and found themselves back on a rocky beach. This was different rocky beach than the one where their troll airship had crash-landed, but it had the same look about it: ocean waves lazily lapping up onto shore, rounded pebbles scattered among the countless grains of sand, four kelp chompies waddling up to go take bite-sized chunks out of the fearless heroes....

"Hey!" yelled Sam, shooting an arrow at the nearest approaching kelp chompy. "No fair!" Fortunately, he hit on his first try and the plant-monster plopped over onto its back, dead.

"I got this one!" said Baabby, running up to swing his magic greatsword at a kelp chompy over on the left. It was a beautiful swing, too: the sword sliced through the air with an audible hiss, as the muscles on the arms of the powerful baabarian rippled impressively, showing that Baabby was putting his every ounce of strength into the swing. Unfortunately, the swing was also a miss, for the chompy ducked its eyestalks down underneath the greatsword at the last possible second and the Rift-Weaver's Blade whizzed by harmlessly overhead.

"Oh yeah?" laughed Sam, lining up his next shot at the second chompy to come toddling his way. "When?"

Baabby didn't waste any further breath on talking; he focused all of his concentration - and his not-inconsiderable strength - on making his next swing count. And did he ever! The sword came crashing down into the kelp chompy's side, easily slicing him in two and then doing the same to the other one who had wandered up, thorn-teeth snapping away. With one swing, two chompies went flying into the air, bits of their chopped-up bodies flying in an arc and landing on the beach like a tossed salad. Baabby turned and grinned at his companion, but Sam was too busy taking down the fourth kelp chompy with another arrow-shot to notice.

Once the pebbly beach was once again free of kelp chompies, though, Sam voiced a concern that had been running through both heroes' minds. "You think there's a chompy pod out there somewhere, Baabby?" he asked.

"One way to find out," said Baabby, racing into the waves. There was a patch of green in the water just ahead, just like Crystal the Medusa had said there would be, signifying the underwater entrance to the cave system where they'd find the Ocean's Heart - a massive crystal that she needed a piece of in order to return the crystallized fairy Sapphrina to normal flesh and blood. As he ducked his head under the waves, Baabby turned to the greenish patch and saw it was only a thick mass of algae, floating on the surface of the ocean like a wet, fuzzy rug. The baabarian saw no chompy pods, but he did see the underwater cave entrance they were looking for - as well as two strange monsters. These were nautiloids: odd, aquatic creatures with a snail's shell in the back; a head like a sawfish, with a long, pointed snout containing side-blades down its length; and two stumpy legs to allow it to run at enemies. The nautiloids saw Baabby and apparently decided he fit the description of "enemy," for they both started heading his way, snouts aimed to maim.

Baabby, still holding the breath he'd taken before immersing himself under the waves, swung his Rift-Weaver's Blade into the side of the nearest nautiloid. After the massive damage he'd caused to the kelp chompies, he was somewhat surprised to see that one sword-slice didn't necessarily mean instant death to these creatures. Worse yet, they could do considerably more damage than a kelp chompy could, as the second nautiloid ably demonstrating by charging the sheep-man and stabbing at him with his sharpened snout.

"Hang on, Baabby, I'm coming!" shouted Sam on the beach. He tried doing something he'd never tried before, casting a longstrider spell upon himself. The magic felt almost like second nature to him, allowing him to travel a bit faster than normal down the pebbly beach and into the waves to go help his friend (who, if the little crow was honest with himself, probably wasn't in desperate need of Sam's help in any case - but it was still nice to be useful!).

Baabby brought his sword around and chopped down at the charging nautiloid, cracking open its shell and slaying it outright. Over to the right, Sam - now underwater himself - shot an arrow at the second nautiloid and actually hit it, but he noticed his arrows weren't going as far - or as fast - as they did in the open air. Not wanting to let out the breath he'd taken before jumping into the ocean, Sam contented himself with a silent "No fair!" this time. As for the nautiloid, he was still alive and very much in the fight - but only for as long as it took Baabby to take another swing at him, and then he was as dead as his slain partner.

Using hand signals, Baabby signaled that the heroes should enter the cave and Sam signaled that he agreed completely with that excellent plan but that Baabby should definitely go first. Without any hesitation whatsoever, the sheep-man entered the dark cave opening. Sam Crow followed, with just enough hesitation to keep him hanging back out of harm's way until he saw it was safe to go in.

"It's safe," commented Baabby, standing up to his full height - and rising his head up out of the water. A short way past the cave opening, the cavern system's ceiling rose up such that there was a pocket of breathable air within. And the water was only up to the baabarian's waist. Spluttering and coughing, Sam rose up next to his partner and was dismayed to see the water might only reach his tall partner's waistline but it came up almost to the little crow's armpits. "Hey!" he squawked. "No fair!"

"Climb up here, then," advised Baabby, showing his companion the rocky floor on either side of the cave passageway, as well as the occasional rock poking up out of the water. "That's better," agreed Sam, shaking himself to dry off his feathers. "I'm a crow, not a duck!" He looked around, noticing for the first time that he could actually see at all in this completely submerged cavern system. "Hey, phosphorescent fungus!" he said, noting clumps of the stuff growing in nooks and crannies along the walls. "I like me some phosphorescent fungus!" the crow enthused. "You know you're in a classy cave system when the walls glow for you! It reminds me of my night light back home!"

"You sleep with a night light?" asked Baabby.

"Back when I was a kid!" Sam hurriedly explained, specifically leaving out "...and for several years after that. In fact, up until a few weeks ago." No need for Baabby to know anything about that!

Suddenly, two more kelp chompies floated down the narrow channel toward the two heroes. Baabby, still in the water, could feel the current pushing towards him, as if eager to exit the cave system and enter the larger ocean behind him. Sam took aim and killed one chompy as it approached, and Baabby took care of the other one as the currents carried him directly into reach of the baabarian's greatsword. "Let's go," said Baabby, wading upstream the way the chompies had come. Sam hopped from rock to rock and followed his fearless associate.

There was a fork up ahead, with the current coming from the left-hand passageway. However, it was from the right-hand passageway that another pair of kelp chompies approached, waddling along the rocky sides of the cave before leaping into the water to get to the sheep-man. Sam, trusting in Baabby's ability to handle himself against a single chompy, took aim at the farther one, killing him with one arrow. And sure enough, one blow from the Rift-Weaver's Blade was all it took for another serving of chompy salad to go floating down the stream in chunks.

Figuring there must be a chompy pod down the right-hand passageway, Baabby and Sam investigated it and sure enough, the passage was a dead end - explaining why the current hadn't been flowing from that direction - and there sat a chompy pod, writhing as if about to burst forth with another kelp chompy at any moment. Baabby raced toward the pod with his greatsword pulled back for a mighty blow, and he cut the plant practically in half with one swing. Sam shot an arrow into it for good measure, but he was pretty sure that it was already dead after Baabby's mighty chop with his magic blade.

But then, as the pod drooped and fell away into the water, Sam got a good look at something hidden in the shadows behind it. It looked like-- was it?-- it was! A rusty old chest, with a rusty old lock falling off of it! Sam raced over to the chest, pulled off the broken lock, and whipped the lid up. Inside were thousands upon thousands of gold coins, glittering in the soft light.

"All right!" whooped Sam. "There must be 5,000 gold pieces here, Baabby! You know what that means? Three thousand for me and two thousand for you! We're rich!"

"I think you got your sums wrong," said Baabby.

"Okay then, two thousand for you and three thousand for me!" said Sam. But the baabarian wasn't so easily fooled, and Sam was eventually forced to split the treasure so each hero got 2,500 gold pieces. They each poured their share into the extradimensional pockets sewn into their armor and were ready to go.

Backtracking down the tunnel to the T-intersection, they continued on straight, down the path they'd have taken had they originally chosen to go left. (But Sam for one was glad they'd taken care of the chompy pod to the right first off - no sense in letting it continue to spit enemies at them, even if they were easily slain!) Two nautiloids approached the heroes as they traversed the narrow cavern corridor, but they were easily dispatched. They turned a corner, continuing to go against the current - although there was enough room on either side of the flowing water that the heroes could stay on dry land - only to find their way blocked by still more nautiloids and a pair of kelp chompies.

"Are these guys lost, or is there another chompy pod around here someplace?" groaned Sam.

"We'll find out when we find out," offered Baabby philosophically, as he raced up to slice into his enemies. Sam stayed where he was, pumping his Dynabow 2.0 full of explosive energy before letting loose an arrow that took out both chompies in one blast of fiery energy. "This chompy salad is extra crispy," he chuckled. But while Sam had taken care of the weaker foes, Baabby was once again showing off his combat prowess by slaying both nautiloids with a powerful blow, then speeding forward to take out the chompy pod he could see up ahead. Sam bit back sarcastic comments in an effort to keep up. Even with his longstrider spell active, it was sometimes difficult to keep up with his adrenaline-fueled baabarian friend!

By the time Sam caught up to Baabby the sheep-man had finished off the chompy pod. There was another side branch up ahead, as the heroes approached a T-intersection from one of its sides. Looking down the side-corridor, which was the direction from which the water flowed, the heroes spotted what was apparently their goal: the glowing crystal in the ceiling must be the Ocean's Heart! It was dripping water, which crashed to the floor like a waterfall; "Ocean's Heart" was apparently a good name for the gemstone, for it seemed to be the generating force for the ocean's waters at the center of this particular floating island.

Of course, the Ocean's Heart wasn't there just for the taking. Naturally, it was guarded by enemies that the heroes would have to overcome before they could chop a portion of the gemstone off for Crystal the Medusa. Naturally, these enemies weren't simple kelp chompies that could be slain with a single sword-thrust or arrow. Nope, that would have been too easy: these were two nautiloids and a new monster that neither of the heroes had seen before.

At first, they thought it was a shark patrolling the pool directly beneath the Ocean's Heart, for a telltale triangular fin rose up above the waterline to mark the creature's presence. But then the monster rose up to the top of the waterline, exposing a body shaped like a boomerang, with both ends pointed forward. It kept rising, and rising, until it was completely out of the water, levitating through the air above the water and still circling, circling, circling. At least that gave the heroes a good look at the creature: each of its forward points contained a circular mouth full of teeth, even though it had a normal shark "face" (complete with a normal mouth full of teeth) at the middle section of the boomerang shape. Why it had two extra mouths was anyone's guess.

Only the tube shark didn't keep Baabby and Sam guessing for very long. It sucked air through one of its forward mouths, sending the nearest nautiloid careening straight to its circular mouth. Then it spit the nautiloid right back out again, sending the sharp-snouted beast like an arrow straight at Baabby. Baabby was completely taken aback at this "missile weapon nautiloid" flying at him and cutting a deep gash along one woolly arm as it whizzed past. Sam let out his battle cry - "No fair!" - as he shot an arrow at the nautiloid as it streaked past, but even though the arrow met its target the nautiloid just seemed to shrug off the damage. However, in slicing the baabarian's arm its momentum was halted, and unfortunately, this left the hapless enemy within striking distance of Baabby's greatsword. One powerful cut of his blade and the nautiloid was no more.

But that didn't seem to faze the tube shark in the least. Using its other circular mouth, it sucked the second nautiloid in and spat it as Sam, eliciting another cry of "No fair!" from the little crow. After the impact, Sam scurried backwards and fired off an arrow at the pointy-snouted projectile weapon. As he was getting used to by now, the arrow hit but the nautiloid lived on. Sam looked up to Baabby to see if he could get his friend to take care of the nautiloid for him, but Baabby was already wading after the tube shark, greatsword in hand. It looked like Sam was on his own with the nautiloid!

The creature poked at Sam with its sword-nose again, forcing Sam to back up even further, until he found himself stuck in a small nook against the back wall with nowhere else to run. The nautiloid was too close for Sam to do much with his shortbow, so he reluctantly pulled the short sword from its scabbard and stabbed right back at his foe.

Meanwhile, seeing Baabby closing the distance between them, the tube shark decided to close the gap even further by levitating over towards the baabarian. As if to demonstrate he didn't need nautiloids as ranged weapons, one of his forward mouths took a bite out of the sheep-man's shoulder. Bleeding heavily, Baabby had to retreat around a corner for a breather, so he could cast a cure moderate wounds spell upon himself. But the tube shark followed, and his greater size allowed him to bite at Baabby with one circular mouth while the other one reached over the nautiloid's head and snapped at Sam. "Hey!" complained Sam.

But now the tube shark was within range of the Rift-Weaver's Blade again. Growling in anger, Baabby thrust out with his greatsword with all of his might, plunging the blade deep into the floating boomerang-shape. The tube shark roared in pain and focused his full attention on Baabby, biting him with both of his forward mouths. As Sam finally killed the nautiloid he was fighting with his short sword, he looked over to see how Baabby was faring - just in time to see him fall over, unconscious from the blood loss from numerous wounds.

Sam realized the tube shark would be spinning around to get him next, and he desperately didn't want to still be there when it did. So, since running away and leaving his friend to die wasn't an option (well, obviously it was still technically an option, but the little crow surprised himself by how quickly he'd dismissed it), he took a deep breath and dived into the water underneath the hovering tube shark. With any luck, it wouldn't know where he'd gone for a second or two, and that was all the time Sam needed to swim - okay, maybe not "swim" in the technical sense, but scrabbling along the bottom of the stream with both wings and both feet counted, didn't it?) - beneath the tube shark and pop up next to the unconscious baabarian. Sam grabbed for a healing potion at his belt, then shook his head with a mental What was I thinking? and replaced it where it belonged. Instead, he pulled out one of Baabby's healing potions, popped the cork, and poured its contents down the sheep-man's throat as the tube shark spun around, looking for its errant prey. With just enough time, Sam was able to leap to Baabby's far side just as the sheep-man was waking back up and the tube shark was pointed back at them. "Go get 'im, Baabby!" Sam called encouragingly, mentally congratulating himself for putting Baabby between himself and the big, scary, levitating (and dangerous!) monster.

If Baabby was offended by this selfish maneuvering, he didn't let on - not that he had any time, for he gave another powerful swing of his greatsword as the tube shark floated in for the kill, and it was the tube shark that ended up dying, not Baabby. The baabarian's sword-chop cut the creature in two, with one half of it - the main "head" and the left "boomerang arm" floating down to the right with the current, back the way the heroes had come, and the left "boomerang arm" floating slowly down the other way. "Whew!" breathed Sam. "I'm glad that's over with!"

Together, the two heroes stumbled up to check out the Ocean's Heart. It was embedded in the rocky ceiling, but not too high up that the Rift-Weaver's Blade couldn't reach it. But when Baabby swung his greatsword into the gem to break off a piece for Crystal the Medusa, his sword got stuck! For a brief moment, the gemstone stopped gushing water into the cavern system, but then Baabby gave the sword a tug and it came free, cutting away three chunks of the Ocean's Heart with it. They put two chunks into their backpacks, and Sam offered to carry the other one back to Crystal. But then Baabby gave a cry of surprise and looked at the blade of his greatsword. The Water symbol had filled up with what seemed to be a chunk of solid ice - he had gained another of the Element symbols on the Rift-Weaver's Blade!

"All right!" cheered Sam.

"We'd better heal up, just in case," suggested Baabby, casting healing spells on both of them until they were almost back to full strength. As it turned out, that would prove to be an excellent idea, for as the heroes started back the way they had come, a voice called out from behind them.

"Who-o-o-o-o...kil-l-l-l-l-ed...bro-o-o-o-ther?" said a voice that sounded like it had seldom - if ever - been used.

"Uh-oh," said Baabby.

"Oh, please-please-please let that be a nautiloid," replied Sam, wishing as hard as he'd ever wished for anything in his life.

But it was not to be. Rising up out of the water, with the chopped-off arm from what had apparently been his brother in one boomerang-mouth, came another tube shark. He dropped the bloody limb back in the water and raced over to the two heroes, hatred and anger burning in his beady little shark's eyes.

"I think I can say," said Sam, looking at the rapidly approaching monster, "without any fear of contradiction: LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!" He shot an explosive arrow at the rampaging tube shark, hoping to scare it off. But that ploy didn't work, and the heroes found themselves backing up towards the Ocean's Heart. Each hero went to a different side of the cascading water, and even Baabby opted to use a ranged weapon - Sam's old shortbow, relegated to "backup weapon" status and loaned to Baabby once the little crow had gained his Dynabow 2.0 - to try to do as much damage to the tube shark before it could move into biting range.

But as the tube shark approached, it used a maneuver the heroes had already forgotten about: despite not having any nautiloids handy to suck into one of its forward vacuum-mouths, the process worked just as easily on Sam Crow. Sam felt himself flying through the air on a crash course with a circular mouth full of sharp, pointed teeth. Instead of sucking him in and then spitting him back out as a missile weapon, the tube shark bit down hard on Sam's right wing as it entered his mouth. It hurt too much for Sam to even get out his traditional "No fair!"

But Baabby wasn't going to stand for his little friend being treated like that! Dropping the borrowed shortbow, the baabarian closed the distance to the tube shark with a tight, two-handed grip on his Rift-Weaver's Blade. He swung it into the side of the tube shark, dealing more damage in one blow than he'd ever managed before, for the blade was now enhanced as a frost weapon, courtesy of the now-filled Water element rune in the sword's blade. The tube shark howled in agony, releasing poor Sam from his grip.

Sam, half-submerged in the water, pulled an arrow from his quiver and sent it flying into the tube shark. It did nowhere near the same amount of damage as Baabby's greatsword, but that wasn't the point - in Sam's case, to even still be in the fight was quite an accomplishment.

Realizing the pipsqueak crow was of little threat to him, the tube shark once again concentrated his attacks on Baabby. It got in one good bite on the baabarian before Baabby skewered it on his blade, and for the second time that day a tube shark's corpse went floating down with the current of the water released from the Ocean's Heart.

Baabby took a moment to heal the worst of their wounds with the few healing spells he still had prepared, and then the two heroes skedaddled back the way they'd come. They both fervently wished they wouldn't meet up with any other creatures at all as they made their way back to Crystal the Medusa's cave.

Unfortunately, they didn't get their wish, for waiting on the pebbly beach for them was a creature neither had yet come across in their brief time adventuring together.

Fortunately, the creature in question was a simple snail, no bigger than the palm of the hand at the end of Sam's wing.

"Hey, little fellow!" said Sam, picking the snail up and staring into its twin eyestalks. "Would you like to be my animal companion?"

"Your aanimal compaanion?" repeated Baabby in his sheep-man accent. "Since when do you need an aanimal compaanion?"

"It's traditional for rangers to have an animal companion," retorted Sam. "I think it's about time I got an animal companion. Hey, I think I'll call you Shelldon!" he said, turning his attention back to the snail. "Do you want to be my animal companion. Shelldon?"

Shelldon, obviously, didn't answer - even if he was now an animal companion, it wasn't like he was a wizard's familiar or anything.

"Shelldon says he'd love to," reported Sam to Baabby.

"Oh, good," replied Baabby, rolling his eyes. Then, focusing back on the task at hand, he said, "Let's get back to Crystal's cave." Sam agreed that was a good idea - and so, apparently, did Shelldon.

- - -

Our PCs made it to 4th level right before this adventure, so we leveled them up. Sam opted to go from a 17 to an 18 Dexterity, which is helping him hit with his arrows a bit (even if his damage is the same). Harry opted to bump up Baabby's Intelligence to 12 - the same as Sam's - because he didn't like the idea of Sam being smarter than Baabby. Unfortunately, that was the only option that would have given him a change to an ability score bonus, and we couldn't talk him into bumping up his Strength or Constitution to help him on the baabarian side of things, or to Wisdom to aid the cleric side of things, because all of those ability scores were even and bumping any of them up would have no game benefits until 8th level (when the same ability score could be bumped up again).

So that was part of what attracted me to the idea of Sam getting a snail animal companion. I didn't want something fearsome that could actually be of combat benefit; the whole point is that Baabby's the star of this little series of adventures and Sam's just there as the sidekick. I figured a snail could always sit on Sam's shoulder and thus not get left behind, but he'd have no real practical purpose other than "nerfing" Sam a bit. Plus, I'm sure Sam can wring some amusement out of a having a snail to pretend to talk to.


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 4
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 4​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 4​

Game Session Date: 15 April 2017

- - -

"Hey, isn't that Crystal?" asked Sam, squinting his eyes against the sun. Sure enough, it was - and the Medusa had the diamond-hard statue of Sapphrina the fairy tucked underneath one arm.

"Hello," said Crystal as she approached the duo (trio, if you counted Shelldon - but nobody but Sam ever seemed to want to count Shelldon). "I thought I'd save you a bit of walking. Come on - we're going this way."

"Where are we going?" asked Sam. Baabby didn't seem at all concerned; he was just content knowing that they were heading wherever it was they needed to be heading.

"To a nearby gillman fishing village," replied Crystal. "It's not far."

"Oh, I see," said Sam, without having a clue as to why they needed to go to a gillman fishing village. The gillmen were friendly folks, mostly content with leading the simple lives of fishermen, although one of their number - Gill Grunt - had made it into the illustrious ranks of the Skylanders themselves.

Silence reigned for a few moments. Then Sam looked down at the gastropod sitting comfortably on his left shoulder and added, "Shelldon wants to know why we're heading towards a gillman fishing village."

Crystal hid a smile, seeing through the little crow's subterfuge. "I've helped them in the past, and helping Sapphrina will undo the help I've given the gillmen in the past. I need you two there to redo the help I'm about to undo."

"Oh," said Sam. "That makes sense." He slowed down a bit to allow Crystal to walk ahead of him, then looked down at his snail animal companion and made "she's crazy" motions with a finger by the side of his head. Shelldon, as usual, didn't respond.

The gillman fishing village wasn't very far away, and within minutes the trio (quartet, if you counted Shelldon, but you're probably not counting him either, are you?) stepped into a group of sturdy-looking wooden huts clustered around an enormous statue of a rearing serpent. Scattered around some of the huts were four statues of dinosaurs. The serpent and the dinosaurs were all the same color crystal as the statue of Sapphrina.

"Yipes! What are those?" asked Sam, looking at the ferocious-looking dinosaurs. Each had a mouth full of sharp teeth and wicked-looking claws, especially one particular curved claw on each foot.

"Deinonychi," replied Crystal.

"Really?" asked Sam, looking back and forth at the various dinosaurs. "Which one's Dino Mikey, and what are the other ones called?" Crystal chose to ignore the little crow-man and approached the gillman village elder to inform them what she was about to do. Worried looks crossed the villagers' faces, but they trusted Crystal's judgment - she had, after all, helped them out many times in the past - and if she said these two heroes could handle the serpent and the dinosaurs, who were they to judge otherwise?

"When I cut off the snake that's the same color as these statues, Sapphrina will return to life - but so will the dinosaurs and the sloth-serpent." The turquoise-colored snake in question gave a visible gulp; apparently a bit nervous about being cut off from the rest of its variously-colored kin growing from Crystal's scalp. Fortunately, its blindfold remained in place, as did those on the rest of Crystal's hair-serpents.

"Is thaat a potion shop?" asked Baabby, examining a sign in front of one of the huts.

"Why, it sure is!" declared one of the gillmen, stepping forward. "Would you like to buy a few potions?" It sounded like a pretty good idea; Baabby and Sam each picked up a couple of potions of cure serious wounds and Sam splurged on both a potion of resist fire and a potion of resist electricity. "You can never be too careful!" he said to the group at large, and then added "Shelldon agrees" for the benefit of those who didn't speak Snail.

There was also an armorer's shop in the small village, so the heroes decided to see what was for sale. Baabby walked away in a new +1 deep crabshell breastplate, and Sam ended up buying a suit of gray +1 studded leather armor that was enhanced with the scales of an elemental chameleon. He was a little worried that the armor was made of tube shark hide; hopefully he'd never meet up with another tube shark and have to explain why he was wearing armor made from the skin of one of their kind.

"So whaat's the plaan?" asked Baabby, after buckling on his new breastplate.

"I think we ought to do something about some of these Dino-Mikeys before we wake them up," said Sam, pulling out a 50-foot length of rope from his backpack and asking Baabby to do the same. Due to the distances between them, Sam was only able to tie up two of the four dinosaurs, but hopefully the ropes would keep them out of the fight for a bit - al least long enough for Baabby and Sam to take out some of the others. Sam had all kinds of trust in Baabby's ability to handle himself in battle, but he wasn't willing to enter a two-against-five fight if he could help it - especially when all five were so much bigger than both of the two!

"Okay, you stand here and get ready to whack this one as soon as he turns back to flesh and blood," suggested Sam. "We'll put Sapphrina behind you, where she's likely to be safest."

"Whaat about you?" asked Baabby.

"You see that hut way back there?" Sam asked, pointing to a little building at the far end of the small village. "I'm going to be right there, on the roof, where I can shoot the Dino-Mikeys from a nice, safe distance!" As Sam trudged over to his designated starting point, the gillmen all locked themselves into their huts until the battle was over. Crystal had a dagger in hand and had walked to the edge of the village where they had first approached - she was willing to sacrifice a hair-serpent (temporarily - it would grow back) but didn't want to get involved in a fight if she could avoid it. After all, cutting off one of her hair-serpents would shut off the power of the others to turn creatures to stone for a matter of some minutes, so Crystal would be all but defenseless during that time.

"Ready!" called Sam,an arrow nocked in his Dynabow 2.0.

"Ready!" called Baabby, his greatsword held in a two-handed grip, ready to swing.

"Shelldon says he's ready, too!" added Sam.

"Good luck!" called Crystal, slicing away the turquoise hair-serpent at the root with her dagger. Once cut away from her head, the serpent seemed to dissolve into thin air. The outer, diamond-hard surfaces of the statues were dissolving away as well, revealing the flesh-and-blood creatures hidden within. Before any of the formerly-petrified creatures could react, the heroes struck.

Baabby, unfortunately, made such an effort trying to get every ounce of strength behind his sword-swing that he lost sight of his target's location and actually missed. The dinosaur beside him was somewhat surprised to return to life with a sheep-man swinging a massive greatsword deep into the ground by his side. Sam, who had powered up an explosive arrow, let fly and hit the side of the dinosaur nearest him. He grinned at his awesome targeting - and then gulped as the dinosaur spun to face him, a look of extreme anger crossing its reptilian face.

Suddenly, everyone was in motion. Baabby pulled his greatsword out of the deep channel he'd cut in the ground and swung it again at the dinosaur standing by him, but the moment of surprise had been ruined and the dinosaur easily stepped aside from the baabarian's blow. Behind Baabby, Sapphrina looked about her in surprise, wondering where - and when - in the world she was. The sloth-serpent in the middle of the village plopped to the ground and looked around, hissing. And while the two bound deinonychi struggled with their ropes, the one Sam had shot had no similar restraints: he went bounding across the distance between him and the crow-man. Sam managed to hit him with a regular arrow during his brief travel time, but then the deinonychus was snapping at him with his wicked teeth.

Baabby put all of his strength into another swing with the Rift-Weaver's Blade and this time he not only connected but chopped halfway through the dinosaur's body. He pulled his sword out as the creature toppled to the ground, dead.

"What's going on?" asked Sapphrina.

"You were turned to crystal, but so were these monsters!" explained Baabby. "The only waay to release you was to release them, too!"

"Got it!" replied Sapphrina. "We'll talk later!" And then she flew over to the baabarian and touched him on the shoulder. Baabby felt a surge of power rush through his whole body, as the bear's endurance spell took effect. Ignoring the bound dinosaur behind him to his right, he leaped onto the roof of the nearest hut and pulled himself up. Maybe Sam was on to something: why not stay up out of range and take care of business with ranged weapons? He pulled Sam's old shortbow from his back and readied an arrow.

The dinosaur that Sam had shot twice now surprised the crow-man by leaping onto the sturdy wood roof of the hut he'd selected as his safe battle place. "Hey! No fair!" called out the crow ranger. The deinonychus snapped at Sam with its wicked teeth again and Sam was forced to abandon the rooftop. He raced away towards a clump of trees, then snapped back and shot the deinonychus for a third time. The arrows were causing the creature pain, anger, and grief, but weren't killing him as quickly as the little crow had hoped!

One of the bound dinosaurs finally bit his way out of the ropes and got to its feet. Across the village, the other still struggled to do the same. Sapphrina flew to Baabby's rooftop and surprised the baabarian with another spell: enlarge person. Baabby and his equipment grew to over a dozen feet in height - he could tell it was going to be nice having the fairy on the team!

But being a bigger sheep-man also meant being a bigger target. The serpent slithered over and struck out at Baabby, its fangs piercing the flesh of his upper arm. Baabby could feel venom coursing through the wound but he shrugged off whatever effects it might have had and bashed the snake in the face for its effrontery. Hopefully, there wasn't enough time for too much venom to have been pumped into his system. But Baabby followed up with a swing of the Rift-Weaver's Blade that cut deep into the serpent's side. It hissed like a tea kettle and backed off. But after doing so the serpent was suddenly attacked by the deinonychus that had escaped from its ropes; apparently serpent made just as good a breakfast as sheep-man. The serpent swung around and struck at the deinonychus, sinking its fangs deep into the side of the dinosaur's throat. The sloth-serpent released its grasp on the deinonychus and the dinosaur staggered away, its new lease on life not exactly everything it might have hoped for.

Sam's favorite foe seemed to have a lock on him. It leaped down from the rooftop, swiftly covered the distance between them, and sliced the leather-clad crow with its sickle-shaped toe-claw. Sam staggered back a few steps and managed to shoot the deinonychus again, but even after this fourth shot the stupid monster still wasn't dead. Sam realized he was in a bad position; with both of them on the ground, there was nowhere for the crow to go that the deinonychus couldn't follow - and get in multiple attacks with its teeth and claws. Sam briefly considered running into one of the huts, but then remembered they'd told the gillmen to lock themselves in. That wasn't going to work!

Fortunately, Sapphrina saw Sam's predicament and flew across the battlefield to help him. She was a sorceress, so she couldn't heal him like Baabby could, but she did have spells at hand that would help. Dropping down low enough to touch Sam on the head, she cast a bear's endurance spell on him that would hopefully give him a few more moments against his foe before dropping unconscious.

Baabby shot an arrow at the snake and leaped down from the roof, moving over behind the deinonychus still bound up in ropes. As it looked like it was about to free itself any moment, this seemed a particularly good time to take care of that threat. But first, Baabby waited to see if the serpent would continue attacking the dinosaur it had bitten or turn to try to get him again.

The deinonychus that had been fighting the sloth-serpent decided to run away and live to fight again another day and it did so, albeit in slow motion - revealing the reason for the snake's name. The other deinonychus still in the fight went after Sam again, determined to bring the little crow down. "I taste terrible!" called out Sam, trying to reason with the hungry beast. "It's a perfectly logical assumption to think that I taste like chicken, but I don't! I taste like--" and here Sam scrambled to come up with an unsavory bird "--vulture!" The ploy didn't work; Sam ended up getting bitten and scratched by all four sets of claws. He practically wobbled away, still jabbering at the monster, hoping to draw it away from Sapphrina, who in flying low enough to cast the bear's endurance spell on him had put herself in harm's way.

"You know, I'll bet if you look around you can find some dead dinosaurs around here you can eat!" babbled Sam. "Cannibalization doesn't count if you're a dinosaur - I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere!"

Rather than crawl after its slow-fleeing prey, the serpent turned again and faced Baabby. He was crouching down behind the still-bound deinonychus, waiting to see what the snake would do. When it started slithering his way, Baabby sprang into action. One swipe of the Rift-Weaver's Blade into the body of the deinonychus just now ripping through the rope keeping it in place and there was one less monster to worry about in the gillman fishing village. Then Baabby continued his strike, whipping his greatsword around and slicing into the snake's body in one graceful movement. The snake hissed again in pain - which was enough to alert the slow-fleeing deinonychus that maybe sticking around wasn't such a bad idea after all! That giant sheep-man kept killing creatures, but he never stopped to eat what he had killed! Maybe the dinosaur could have himself some serpent breakfast after all....

As for the serpent, it had apparently come to a conclusion: the oversized sheep-man needed to die! It focused its full attention on Baabby, striking out again and sliding its venomous fangs into Baabby's neck. The baabarian cried out in pain and dropped his greatsword, trying to pull the snake away from his neck. His legs buckled, the baabarian swayed, and then Baabby crashed to the ground, unconscious. Fortunately, before the snake could position itself to start trying to swallow Baabby from one end, the venom-slowed deinonychus showed back up, using a sickle-claw to score a wound in the snake's body.

Sam and his dino-enemy traded another round of one arrow vs. a barrage of snapping teeth and striking claws, and once again Sam came out the worst in that deal. But glancing over at Baabby, Sam called for Sapphrina to go feed him a healing potion from the baabarian's belt. As the fairy flew off to do so, Sam raced in that direction himself, hoping to get close enough to Baabby when he woke back up to get some healing himself. He swigged his own newly-purchased potion of cure serious wounds as he ran, part of his greedy mind wondering if he'd get a discount from the gillmen if he returned the potion bottle once he was done with it, while the rest of his mind panicked, expecting the blasted dinosaur to catch up with him at any moment.

The moment came soon enough. Sprinting after his fleeing prey, the deinonychus caught up with Sam and swiped a toe-claw at him, scoring the crow across his back, just below the backpack. "Why are you so fast?" complained Sam. "Are you wearing Dino-Nikes or something?" But then he fell flat to the ground, allowing the dinosaur to leap over him. Sam crouched back up and shot an arrow into the dinosaur's back, which irritated it to no end - but still didn't make it fall.

The slowed dinosaur bent down and bit into the snake's body, deciding there was no need to actually wait for the snake to be dead for breakfast to begin. Sapphrina took the opportunity to pull a potion of cure serious wounds from Baabby's belt and pour it down his throat. The shaggy baabarian woke, dazed, but then cleared his head with an effort of willpower and leaped back into battle. Still, he didn't forget his manners: "Thaanks!" he called out to Sapphrina as he sent his blade swinging deep into the serpent's body. The dinosaur, rather than teaming up with Baabby to take out the serpent first and foremost, snapped its teeth at the baabarian, concerned that the sheep-man was after his breakfast. The snake took the opportunity to crawl away from the two brawling brutes, slithering to the south, where other sounds of battle raged. Baabby slammed his greatsword into the envenomed deinonychus, sending it spinning away.

Sam's dancing partner spun around and struck out again with the claws on its feet, sending black feathers flying everywhere. "Ow!" cried Sam. He sent another arrow flying into the creature - it had to have been his sixth thus far - and the monster still wouldn't die! "Oh, come on!" complained the archer.

But then the deinonychus got a surprise, for the sloth-serpent had slithered up behind it just as it was going to finish off its little crow meal. The snake struck out at the dinosaur, biting it on the back of its neck. But then the snake got a surprise, for Baabby had followed it south and a final swing of the Rift-Weaver's Blade took the snake's head from its body.

And Sapphrina had followed Baabby, her fairy wings carrying her through the air at a height to keep her out of the reach of dinosaurs and snakes. She blasted the deinonychus so intent upon eating Sam - and dropped it with a single spell.

"Wow!" exclaimed Sam, amazed that one spell from their new fairy friend killed the Dino-Mikey where six arrows had failed to do the job. "What spell was that?"

"A ray of frost," admitted Sapphrina. "It's really my only attack spell."

"No fair!" complained Sam. "I get full credit for that kill!" And then, seeing there was still one combatant left on the enemy side still somewhat in the fight, he raced north and put an arrow into the neck of the deinonychus that had traded bites with the sloth-serpent. He had really, really hoped that his arrow would have taken down the dinosaur, but no such luck. Baabby finished it off with his greatsword, as usual. Then, the threat ended, he started banging on doors, letting the gillmen know it was safe to come out from their wooden huts.

"I can see you two are quite the formidable force," said Sapphrina, hoping to soothe some ruffled feathers. "It's no wonder you were chosen to wield the Rift-Weaver's Blade after Xacho. And you've already gathered three of the runes on your own? Very impressive! Do you know what they all do?"

"Well, the water rune adds cold damage to my sword-strikes," began Baabby. "And the undead rune makes it easier to slay undead."

"That's right," agreed Sapphrina. "It allows you to overcome the inherent damage reduction found on many undead creatures." Neither Sam nor Baabby were quite sure just what she meant by that, but they let it slide.

"We haven't figured out the magic rune yet," admitted Sam.

"Why, that's the most important one!" exclaimed the fairy. "This is the Rift-Weaver's Blade, remember - the magic rune allows you to weave rifts to other places. I can show you how all of that works."

"Thank you," said Baabby, ever aware of proper manners.

"You know," bragged Sam, "there's a legend about us already: 'The Prophecy of the Crow and the Sheep'."

"'The Sheep and the Crow'," corrected Baabby and Sapphrina in unison.

"Well, some people prefer it the other way around," grumbled Sam.

"So whaat now?" asked Baabby.

"Well, it would probably be a good idea to go find the rest of your runes," said Sapphrina. "You'll need your sword at full power if you're going to take on the enemy prophesied to escape from his bonds and threaten all of Skylands." The fairy looked around her. "Where exactly are we, anyway?"

"We're on one of the Serpent Isles," said Sam. "We have an airship over on a beach not far from here. Hopefully it'll be fixed by now."

"Fixed?" asked Sapphrina.

"Yeah, it kind of craashes," said Baabby.

"A lot," added Sam.

"Well then, let's go see if it's ready to make sail," said Sapphrina, motioning for Baabby to lead the way. "The three of us have a lot to do!"

Baabby led the way out the village, the Rift-Weaver's Blade resting over one powerful shoulder. They didn't make it more than a dozen steps before Sam amended, "...You mean the four of us. Don't forget Shelldon."

- - -

We used a fold-out map from the D&D Miniatures game, the "Evermelt" map that came with the "Legend of Drizzt" scenario pack you got with the Gargantuan White Dragon mini, for the gillman fishing village. And Harry, ever the analyst, noted this was the first adventure that was just one big fight. He also made note of the fact that Sam hasn't been knocked unconscious since our second adventure.

This is probably a good point to mention some of our house rules. Logan's implemented a rule whereby anyone who drops to negative hit points automatically stabilizes at -1 hp, and they can roll a d10 each round to see if they spontaneously wake up at 0 hp on their own. It's his way of trying to eliminate the possibility of PC death from the game while still having consequences for letting yourself get too low on hit points. And with only two PCs, the loss of one could wipe out the whole campaign easily (especially a campaign tracking the progress of two prophesied heroes - kind of hard to switch PCs midstream!).

Another thing we do is treat each game session as a completely new day, regardless of how much time has passed in-game. So despite the fact that some adventures take place literally minutes after the events of the previous adventure, Harry gets to pick a full complement of spells for Baabby. (So do I for that matter, but with only one 1st-level ranger spell thus far it's easy just to have longstrider on standby as needed.)

As for Sapphrina, she's there primarily as a guide, able to clue us in on important history and background information as needed. Logan built her as a sorcerer, and gave her primarily buff spells to make Baabby an even more impressive combat machine. (So far, Baabby tends to use just about all of his cleric spells on healing, so this allows the party to benefit from the effects of some of the spells he's not otherwise casting.) She's not got many hit points herself, so she definitely will be avoiding combat, leaving Baabby and Sam to take care of that front.
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PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 4
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 4​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 4​

Game Session Date: 22 April 2017

- - -

Two days later, the adventurers approached another Skylands floating island in their troll airship. When they had returned to the vessel after leaving the gillman fishing village, they had found it fully repaired by the animated statue that Sapphrina identified as a likeness of Xacho's son. They had immediately set course for a two-day trip to an island the fairy said contained the Life-Giver's Grove, their next destination and, not coincidentally, the location where Baabby could gain the powers of the Life Rune for the Rift-Weaver's Blade.

It had been an interesting two days. Sapphrina, despite having been trapped as an inanimate crystal statue for hundreds of years, was a veritable font of information. She explained that her master, Xacho, was the creator and first wielder of the Rift-Weaver's Blade; that it had originally been called the Sword of the Elements; that he had formed a group of magical scholars who called themselves the Rift-Weavers, after the rifts they had learned to carve into reality; that Xacho had sealed a great evil inside a rift, and that should the Rift-Weaver's Blade ever be destroyed the great evil would surely escape to threaten all of Skylands; that there were others attempting to aid the great evil in escaping the rift in which he was imprisoned; and that over time the Rift-Weavers became known throughout the Skylands as Portal Masters. Even Sam had heard of Portal Masters: the most powerful good Portal Master was Eon, who helped the Skylanders combat the machinations of Kaos, an evil Portal master who wished to destroy the Core of Light which kept darkness at bay throughout the Skylands.

Sapphrina also let it drop that she was capable of enhancing weapons with magical properties, which overjoyed Sam to no end - up until she mentioned she did so by absorbing coins and transforming the energy thus gained into the magical effects she desired. Still, Sam paid her 2,000 of his gold coins to have her upgrade his Dynabow 2.0, so that he could fire explosive arrows while moving and also increase the power of the explosions a bit. He said a sad farewell to his pile of coins as they vanished, but was pleased with the upgrade to his primary weapon.

"So whaat are you going to call it now?" asked Baabby. "Dynabow 2.5?"

"Nah," replied Sam. "I'm going all the way to Dynabow 3.0 - that way it still rhymes."

Sapphrina also warned the duo that she couldn't touch the Rift-Weaver's Blade, upon pain of possible death. Fairies, she explained, were especially attuned to the elements, and the extreme elemental power of the magical greatsword could easily overwhelm her.

"Yipes!" exclaimed Sam. "That's...kinda not so good." Then, to change the subject, he asked her about their destination.

"The Life-Giver's Grove is part of a vast forest covering nearly the entirety of a small floating island," the fairy explained. "It's guarded by literally thousands of protectors who keep it safe from harm."

"Whaat kind of protectors?" asked Baabby.

"Chompies," replied Sapphrina.

"Oh, this ought to be fun!" exclaimed Sam.

The airship landed without incident for once, and Baabby and Sam strode down the gangplank, Sapphrina flying behind them. They were met almost immediately by forest and Sapphrina was forced to lower her elevation in order to not fly into low-hanging branches. They followed a winding path, and then Sam saw a pair of eyestalks peering out at them from behind the foliage to their left.

The chompy stepped out onto the path in front of the heroes. Then, incredibly, it did something neither hero had expected: it spoke!

"Help!" it cried, its stumpy arms waving in consternation. "Save us!"

"Well, this is new," commented Sam, not sure of what to make of a talking chompy and not sure if he trusted this not to be a trap. He kept an arrow nocked into his Dynabow 3.0 just in case, and asked, "Do we trust this guy?"

"Of course," replied Sapphrina, surprised at the question. "They're the guardians of the Life-Giver's Grove."

"Let's follow him," said Baabby, immediately putting his full trust into Sapphrina's judgment. Sam wasn't quite so quick to follow his friend's lead in trusting the chompy, but he followed the others as they followed the chompy to a small clearing. "Keep your eyes peeled," Sam advised Shelldon, riding on his usual place on the little crow's left shoulder.

The chompy came to a halt before three more of his kind and explained the newcomers were heroes.

"Hooray!" called one of the chompies.

"We're saved!" cried another one. Sam was amazed; he'd never in his wildest dreams envisioned chompies being happy to see him and his hulking baabarian friend, given the dozens of chompies they'd slain over the course of their recent adventures. "This is a weird day," he mentioned to Shelldon; the snail didn't disagree.

"Who's been attaacking you?" asked Baabby, looking around for potential enemies.

"Undead! Horrible, horrible undead!" cried the chompy guide who'd brought them here.

"Where is the rest of your number?" asked Sapphrina.

"We're all that's left!" cried the chompy guide. "And we can't leave now, because Leafy's started to take root!" Sure enough, one of the chompies no longer had visible legs - they'd dug deep into the ground, rooting him in place. "Once he transforms into a chompy pod, we'll be able to expand our numbers once again - but until then, we're vulnerable to the undead who have been wiping us out!"

Sam gulped and looked around for enemies just as Baabby had done. "How many undead are around here?" he whispered, not wanting these hordes of undead forces to hear him and come running.

"At least--six!" replied the chompy guide, shuddering at the thought of so many enemies.

"Six?" gasped Sam, aghast at how powerful these undead must be for six of their number to have wiped out thousands of chompy guardians. But then he recalled how easy it was to kill a chompy; Baabby habitually killed several at once with a single stroke of his greatsword, and even the crow archer had managed to slay a chompy with a single arrow. (Annoyingly, the creatures they'd been fighting lately required many, many arrows to bring them down!)

"We'll take caare of them for you!" promised Baabby, leading the way back the way they'd come and moving further into the forest. Sam and Sapphrina followed.

Before too long, they got their first sight of the undead menace. They were four bone chompies and two humanoid skeletons wielding bows and arrows made of bone. "Bone 'n' arrows!" Baabby identified them.

"That's what you call them?" asked Sam, skeptical. "Why not just skeletons?"

"Because they're called bone 'n' arrows!" insisted Baabby. Sam just shrugged and took aim at the nearest skeletal archer (that's what he was going to call them). He charged it up with explosive energy, eager to see what his upgraded Dynabow 3.0 could do - and in his eagerness, fumbled the shot. The arrow went high and exploded after hitting a low-hanging branch. "Hey!" complained the former member of the Sons of Archery. "No fair!"

Sapphrina, in the meantime, put a hand upon Baabby's shoulder and cast an enlarge person spell on him. Instantly, the already-hulking baabarian hulked like he'd never hulked before - for there he stood, nearly 13 feet tall, having to crouch over to keep his head from getting entangled in the branches. His Rift-Weaver's Blade had doubled in size as well and he was eager to test out its damage potential at this new size.

He didn't have long to wait. A pair of bone chompies advanced, sharp teeth clicking together as if eager to strip the flesh off the baabarian's hide (or at least his knees, which was about all they could reach). Baabby swung his greatsword into the first chompy, cutting it completely in two as his blade rushed into the skeletal body of its neighbor, doing likewise. The baabarian chuckled in delight - he could tell having Sapphrina around was going to be fun!

The skeletal archer Sam had shot at sent an arrow of bone across the distance between the heroes, striking Baabby - the group's largest target by far - in the shoulder. The grinning sheep-man hardly even seemed to notice as he advanced upon the bone 'n' arrow.

"You're next!" said Sapphrina, flying over to Sam and casting a spell upon him. "All right!" cried Sam, eager to double in size like Baabby had done and be able to strike out with extra strength and power. Instead, he saw the world around him get larger, as his feathered body shrunk to half its size. Shelldon, however, did not shrink and he became an unwieldy weight upon the little crow's shoulder; Sam had to shift him to his head for balance, wearing him like a warrior's helmet.

"What just happened?" demanded Sam, embarrassed by the squeaky little voice that came out of his beak. "Did your spell backfire?"

"No, this is a good thing," advised Sapphrina. "You'll be glad to be small, believe me!" Sam wasn't so sure about that; now even the bone chompies were taller than he was! But he shot off an arrow at the skeletal archer that had just shot Baabby, and his targeting capability was noticeably enhanced at this size; after all, the target he was trying to hit suddenly seemed much bigger to him! "Hmm," considered the crow-man, watching as his arrow struck true but failed to do any real damage to its target. Sam scampered behind Baabby, over to the other side of the clearing so that the two remaining bone chompies wouldn't get him.

That part of his plan worked; what Sam hadn't considered that by casting the reduce person spell on him, Sapphrina had flown low to the ground and made herself a perfectly fine target. One bone chompy snapped at the fairy sorceress, clamping onto an arm with its sharp, pointed teeth. Sapphrina barely had time to cry out in pain before the Rift-Weaver's Blade came slicing down, cutting the bone chompy in two. Likewise, the fairy barely had time to get out a mumbled thanks to Baabby before his greatsword was slicing the other approaching bone chompy's body in twain as well. Bigger sword, greater strength, and a larger reach - this enlarge person business is FUN! thought Baabby.

So far, the group had only been dealing with one bone 'n' arrow, but as Baabby advanced upon him he saw a second one perched on a tree stump off to the right. They were too far apart for the baabarian to be able to attack both, even with the enhanced reach of his greatsword, so he stuck to his original target. Sapphrina, meanwhile, staggered along a different path and called out to Sam. "Over here!" she said, and the little archer went to investigate. There, standing in front of a large pit of some kind, was an undead spell punk! Baabby and Sam had encountered one of these strange little creatures back in the Museum of Mystical Mysteries, so Sam knew they could summon bone chompies from thin air. The archer took aim and sent an explosive arrow flying in the direction of the spell punk - and this time his aim was true. The spell punk, floating over the ground, was momentarily encompassed by a small gout of flame and smoke, and his robes were blackened and singed when the smoke dissipated. "What? Who?" he sputtered, having failed to see the half-size Sam Crow down one of the paths leading to the crater.

Both bone 'n' arrows got in clean shots on Baabby as he raced to his target, but that didn't stop him from taking the skull clean off of the original archer who had first shot at the group of heroes. That one clattered to the ground in a pile of bones, while the other took aim at the baabarian again and fired another round.

"Aha!" cried the undead spell punk suddenly, having spotted his foe at last. He raised his pointed limbs and sent a ball of grayish energy hurling in Sam's direction. But fortunately for the crow he was a much smaller target than normal and it was easy enough to dodge the attack. Sam replied with an arrow - a regular one, as his Dynabow 3.0 still needed time to recharge its explosive energy - that sent the spell punk staggering on its last breath.

But then the hovering mage caught sight of Baabby and his enchanted greatsword, and all thoughts of his own personal discomfort were set instantly aside. "The great blade!" he cried aloud, "I must have it, for my master!" Dazed, he flew off in a drunken fashion towards Baabby, channeling another gray-energy-ball attack as he did so. The energy hit Baabby in the back, siphoning away some of his very life force. He spun to face this new threat, turning his back on the remaining bone 'n' arrow (who took the opportunity to send another bone shaft into Baabby's broad back), and charged at the undead spell punk. The floating combatant didn't stand a chance, and his robes fluttered to the ground in two pieces after Baabby's swing cut the little fellow in half.

"Aw, I was going to kill that thing!" squeaked Sam in irritation, running over to Baabby's location and seeing that once again all of his whittle-down-the-enemy groundwork had been set up just to have somebody else make the final blow. In anger, he fired off a shot at the remaining skeletal archer. It hit, but the skeleton remained standing just long enough for Baabby to run it through with the Rift-Weaver's Blade. "Figures!" squeaked Sam.

With the enemies all slain, Baabby took the opportunity to cast some healing spells on those who needed them. Then the chompy waddled up. "Oh, thank you! Thank you!" it gushed. "You have slain the horrible, horrible undead! Thank you!" It then offered to escort them to the Life-Giver's Grove, where Baabby would be able to gain the Life Rune for his Rift-Weaver's Blade.

Following the little chompy (and regaining their normal sizes as the fairy's spells wore off), Baabby and Sam saw their little guide's eyestalks go bolting straight up in surprise. "Eep!" it exclaimed. "It was a diversion!" Rushing up alongside the chompy to see what all of the commotion was about, the heroes looked into the clearing just ahead, where they saw five figures scattered around a large tree. They each had bluish-green skin and long, pointed ears; four of them - the males - each held a longspear, while the sole female wore a witch's robes.

"Drow!" cried out the chompy. "They're attacking the Life-Giver!"

"Where?" asked Sam, looking around for the Life-Giver but failing to spot him. He imagined a wizened old man with a long, white beard, probably wearing tattered robes and holding a wooden staff. "All I see are five drow around a tree!"

"The tree is the Life-Giver!" hissed Sapphrina, trying to keep her voice down. But it was too late; the chompy's excited exclamations had caught the attention of the sharp-eared drow, who all turned in the direction of the heroes. "Get them!" commanded the drow witch and the spearmen moved to comply. With another "Eep!" the chompy rapidly shuffled backwards, behind the rest of the heroes.

Sam immediately shot one of the advancing drow spearmen with an explosive arrow and was pleased to see him actually fall to the ground, dead. "Hey! I actually got one!" he cried triumphantly, surprised at his unexpected success.

Sapphrina, seeing how effective her ploy had been in the last battle, cast an enlarge person spell on Baabby. The sheep-man grinned as he doubled his size, taking a single step forward and slicing down another drow spearman like a farmer scything wheat. The other two spearmen advanced on Baabby, obviously taking him as their biggest threat. The witch, in the meantime, hiked up her robe with one hand and advanced on the trio of heroes. Dropping her hem, she shot both hands out at them and a sheet of flames came bursting forth from her fingertips, engulfing them in flames. Sam cried out in pain; Baabby barely grunted in acknowledgement of the damage he'd sustained; but Sapphrina swayed and nearly fell, her skin blistering from the attack.

Baabby, who had intended to take out the spearmen by himself, changed tactics in mid-swing and redirected the Rift-Weaver's Blade to the drow witch, herself the greatest threat to the heroes. His blade hit true, and continued its arc to slice into the side of one of the drow spearmen as well. Once again, Baabby had cut down two enemies with one strike of his magic blade.

"Show off," muttered Sam to himself.

That left a single drow spearman remaining in the fight. He moved as if to attack Baabby, then thought better of it and high-tailed it in the opposite direction.

"Hey! He's getting away!" yelled Sam, firing off an arrow at the fleeing drow with no effect. But there was nothing for it; the drow was running faster than the heroes would be able to follow, and more importantly, Sapphrina needed healing - now!

Baabby cast his most powerful healing spell on Sapphrina, causing the blisters on her fair skin to disappear. "Thank you," she said to the baabarian, who once again had returned to his normal size at the end of her spell's duration.

"Let's go check out that tree," suggested Baabby.

There was a doorway of sorts on one side of the tree's trunk, which the drow witch had been investigating when they approached. It led down beneath the massive tree's roots, but there was nothing mystical or enchanted about the natural opening beneath the tree. It would make a good place for a fox or a badger to make its home, but nothing more.

"Hey, try sticking your sword in there," suggested Sam. "Maybe it'll work like a key."

It did more than that. When Baabby stuck the Rift-Weaver's Blade into the depression underneath the tree's trunk it ripped a hole through the fabric of reality, revealing an extra-dimensional portal within. "Now we're talking!" enthused Sam.

"Let's go!" said Baabby, practically leaping through the portal he'd just opened.

The others followed their enthusiastic baabarian friend. They found the other side of the portal to be a very small floating island, a mere dozen or so paces from end to end. They entered through a stone arch rising up from one end of the island, before them was a hulking brute of a drow, easily a dozen feet tall, his massive back turned to the heroes. He held a spiked shield in each hand, covering his arms up to the elbows.

"A goliath drow!" said Baabby as way of introduction to the others; he let his Rift-Weaver's Blade do his actual introduction to the goliath drow before him, carving a deep gouge across the monster's spine. Sam took a step to the side so as not to hit Baabby, and let loose with an explosive arrow that practically knocked the brute off his feet. In a matter of a few seconds, the mighty goliath drow had gone from full strength to on his last legs - and wobbly legs at that!

Sapphrina cast a final enlarge person spell on Baabby, increasing his own size to that of the foe he faced. However, as the brute spun around in rage and pain, he was encompassed by a greenish glow and his wounds immediately began healing up. "Hey! No fair!" complained Sam. "How's he doing that?"

The answer became apparent once the heroes saw the life spell punk floating behind its massive bodyguard. "Go get 'em!" the hovering mage called to his partner. The goliath drow snarled in response and struck out with his spiked shields, but Baabby was ready for the attack and managed to duck beneath them, infuriating the giant drow even further.

Then, to make matters even worse, Baabby decided to show his foe exactly how it was done. Entering a baabaric rage himself, Baabby channeled every ounce of strength into a crushing blow from his Rift-Weaver's Blade. Muscles straining, he brought the greatsword crashing down onto the goliath drow, cutting through his armor, through his shoulder, and halfway through his apelike chest before the sword finally came to a halt. The baabarian had to put his own foot onto the slain enemy's chest and give his sword a great tug to get it out of the goliath drow's corpse before it went crashing to the ground.

Sam shot a normal arrow at the life spell punk, who stared in shock at how quickly his battle-partner had been taken out of the fight. Sapphrina flew off the edge of the little island, sending a ray of frost spell at the spell punk. Both attacks hit the floating mage, but he shrugged them off by absorbing natural power from the island, healing over his wounds. Then he gathered up a greenish ball of energy from the very air and sent it hurtling in Baabby's direction. It hit the baabarian square on, and he grunted from the magical assault. But then he retaliated with a swipe of his sword that just barely cut through the spell punk's robe as it hurriedly backed away. Sam shot an explosive arrow at the spell punk, but again it healed itself almost automatically. Then it repeated its attack on Baabby, again sending a ball of green energy flying his way. This time he missed, Baabby turning away at the last moment.

But that was the last of the missing for the rest of the fight. Sapphrina cast another ray of frost at the spell punk and hit. Sam shot a normal arrow at the spell punk and hit. Baabby stepped up and hit the spell punk with his greatsword, and this was one attack too many for the floating mage to withstand. "My master will avenge me..." he croaked as he died.

"Now whaat?" asked Baabby.

"Hold up your greatsword, like this," said Sapphrina, demonstrating through pantomime. Baabby raised the Rift-Weaver's Blade over his head in a one-handed grip, and just as the life spell punk had channeled the life energy of the extradimensional space to heal himself and the goliath drow in the battle moments ago, the fairy channeled the inherent power into the raised blade. Sam winced as a great light burst forth from the greatsword, momentarily blinding him. After blinking the spots away from his eyes, he saw the Life Rune had now joined the other three runes Baabby had gathered thus far: Magic, Undead, and Water.

"Haalfway there," the sheep-man said, grinning.

Returning to the Life-Giver's Grove, the group met back up with their chompy guide, who led them back to where Leafy had taken root. "It won't be long now!" enthused the chompies, noting Leafy had already nearly doubled in size as he began the metamorphosis that would end up with him becoming an immobile chompy pod. In celebration of the heroes' success, the other two chompies scampered off into the forest for a moment and returned dragging large cloth sacks behind them. "Here," they said, offering the sacks to the heroes.

Sam peered inside and saw the unmistakable glint of gold from the coins contained therein. "Talking chompies who give away treasure for a job well done?" he asked aloud. "You guys are the best chompies ever!

Perched up on the little crow's shoulder, Shelldon didn't disagree.

- - -

Logan used a couple of fold-out Pathfinder forest maps for the bits of forest where we had our various battles; the extradimensional space at the end was a card from the "Extradimensional Spaces" Map Pack set. He used a couple of toilet paper rolls and a paper towel roll to represent the Life-Giver, which was a kind of beacon tree that transmitted life energy to the Skylands in the vicinity.

And this adventure put the PCs over the limit into 5th level. The fact that Harry's been enjoying this campaign was evidenced by the fact that as soon as we were finished up he went running upstairs to tell my wife all about the events that transpired in-game.
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PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 5
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 5​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 5​

Game Session Date: 29 April 2017

- - -

The heroes were back on their troll airship, heading toward Mount Mabuvius, which Xacho had saved from erupting centuries ago. On the plus side, this was somewhere Baabby and Sam were familiar with - it was the location of the Rift-Weaver's Trial, the puzzle-dungeon where they had earned the Magic Rune for Baabby's greatsword. On the negative side, though, the trip would take a full four days.

Still, that gave Sam plenty of time to devote to training his new animal companion. "Look at this!" he said excitedly to Baabby on the fourth day, and the baabarian stared expectantly at Shelldon the snail, perched - as usual - on the little crow's shoulder.

When Sam was sure he had Baabby's full attention, he commanded "Stay!" to Shelldon - and sure enough, the snail didn't move an inch. "Pretty good, huh?" Sam enthused.

"Aare you serious?" asked Baabby. "How long haave you been training him to do thaat?"

"Only three and a half days!" replied Sam. "But watch this, he knows ever more!" Looking down at the snail, he called out, "Shelldon: play dead!"

For a moment, the snail did nothing. Then, slowly (how else?), he pulled his head into his shell.

"Eh? Eh?" prompted Sam.

"I'm...speechless," said Baabby, not wanting to disappoint his diminutive friend.

"Guys," interrupted Sapphrina. "We're approaching Mount Mabuvius."

"Good," said Baabby, eager to be able to turn his attention from a motionless snail.

"Actually, not quite as good as I had hoped," admitted Sapphrina.

"Oh? Why?" asked Baabby.

"Because it's not supposed to be smoking!" As the airship approached closer to the floating island containing the once-dormant volcano, the heroes could see wisps of smoke curling up from the mount's top. Worse yet, as the ship got even closer they could see some of the smoke was coming from the Mabu village at the base of the volcano.

As the animated statue of Xacho's son brought the airship to a non-crash-landing for once at the base of the volcano, Baabby and Sam leaped over the rails and started sprinting toward the village, Sapphrina following close behind through the air, her translucent fairy-wings flapping earnestly. The village seemed deserted at first, but as they'd find out soon enough the Mabu were all hiding in the buildings made of stone. The reason for this was obvious: most of the wooden buildings were already at least partially on fire. And the reason they were on fire was also obvious: running around the village were six flame imps - small, animated balls of fire who liked nothing better than setting things ablaze.

"Hey! Stop that!" commanded Sam as he shot an explosive arrow at a flame imp setting a wooden hut on fire. His arrow struck true and the flame imp exploded in a little ball of fire which only aided in the hut's eventual destruction as even more of it went up in flames. Baabby raced past his friend, his Rift-Weaver's Blade out and ready for action. Noting he was in the middle of a patch of barren earth with nothing combustible around him, he decided to let the flame imps come to him. "Come and get me!" he called. "Nice, juicy mutton ready for searing!"

"Much, much tastier than poultry!" added Sam. In the meantime, Sapphrina took in the contents of the little village and spotted a stone well off to one side with a few buckets stashed nearby and made a bee-line for it. She wasn't particularly geared for combat but she could certainly help try to put the fires out. While she was loading her first bucket, a flame imp approached a wooden platform - it looked like a place for the Mabu leaders to make announcements to the rest of the village - and started a corner of it ablaze with its flaming body.

As three flame imps surrounded Baabby, another approached Sam, apparently ignoring his warnings about how poorly he would taste when compared to his hulking partner. They all snapped at the heroes with their flame-teeth, their teardrop-shaped bodies containing little more than a head and a pair of tiny feet to get them where they needed to go. Neither attack did much damage to the heroes, but enough to cause them to be concerned that a continued series of such bites could start to add up fairly quickly.

Taking a step back, Sam shot at the flame imp that had been gnawing at him. He hit it and it exploded, but the little crow had miscalculated when estimating how wide the radius of the previous flame imp's dying explosion had been. On the one hand, he easily slew his opponent; but on the other, he found himself still standing within the blast radius and managed to inflict more damage on himself by being engulfed in flames than the flame imp had managed to do with its snapping teeth. "Hey!" cried Sam, his black feathers starting to singe. "No fair!"

Seeing the two heroes having a bit more trouble with these flame imps than she'd have guessed, Sapphrina used her only attack spell - a ray of frost - to deal a piddling amount of cold-based damage to the flame imp setting the wooden stage on fire. Surprisingly, the meager damage was enough to kill the beast, but even more impressively, it didn't explode when it died! "Guys!" she called out. "Cold damage stops them from exploding!"

A wide grin broke out across Baabby's face, for he already had the Water Rune active on his Rift-Weaver's Blade and he knew from past experience that it enhanced the damage he dealt with the weapon with a bit of cold damage - certainly more than that present in a ray of frost spell. With a yell, he cut one of the three flame imps standing before him in half, then allowed his swing to carry over into the body of the second one in line, slaying it as well. Neither flame imp exploded - they just kind of "popped" like a bubble and were gone.

And then another kind of opponent entered the fray. It rose up from the flames on top of a burning hut, looking like an undersized gargoyle made of flames. With an evil grin splitting its face, it sent a scorching ray smack-dab into Sam, singeing his feathers even more. Sam yelped in surprise and pain, then looked down at his shoulder to see if Shelldon had weathered the attack okay. Fortunately, he was still playing dead, all snug inside his shell, so he was fine.

Baabby killed the last of the three flame imps that had been attacking him with relative ease, just as another fire mephit popped up from the flames on another roof. This one mirrored its partner's tactics, starting battle with a scorching ray - but unfortunately, it had targeted Sapphrina as its victim. She screamed in pain as the flames engulfed her, and she staggered where she stood, dropping the bucket of water. If Baabby and Sam hadn't known it before, this was ample evidence that their fairy friend was no combatant!

Sam shot an arrow at the mephit that had scorched him, hitting him squarely in - and then through - the chest. As the crow started grumbling about enemies whose bodies were made of solid flame, the fire mephit leisurely flew over and swiped at the archer with its claws. Sam ducked the blow just in time and scrambled to scoot back out of range for another shot.

Baabby was too far away from the mephit that had shot Sapphrina, so he headed that way at a run while pulling the spare shortbow from his back, nocking an arrow, aiming, and letting it fly. That focused the winged critter's attention away from the fairy and onto the baabarian, just as Baabby had hoped. Sapphrina, in the meantime, shook her head to clear it, grabbed the bucket back up, and flew over to dump its contents on the nearest fire.

Sam's next shot was an explosive arrow that took out his fire mephit opponent and the crow was pleased to see that these creatures didn't explode when you killed them, the way flame imps did. He was getting tired of singed feathers and was glad that his feathers had started out black anyway so you couldn't see how badly they'd been burned. The other mephit made the mistake of closing in to claw at Baabby, and found out that getting within reach of the Rift-Weaver's Blade was never a good idea. On the plus side, that was a mistake he'd never make again...but that was only because one swing of the greatsword was all it took to snuff out the mephit's life.

Their opponents all slain, Baabby, Sam, and Sapphrina devoted their attentions to putting out the remaining flames, a task in which they were aided by the Mabu villagers, exiting the stone buildings now that it was safe to do so. They thanked the heroes profusely; Baabby shrugged of the praise and devoted himself to casting healing spells on himself and his friends.

"You arrival was timely indeed!" said the Mabu leader. "Today is the Wizard's Day celebration, when we commemorate the day Xacho saved our village from the eruption of Mount Mabuvius, many hundreds of years ago! Now, as you can see, it looks like the protections he put in place are wearing off - or, worse yet, somebody's doing something to undo them!" The head Mabu offered to pay the heroes handsomely if they could prevent the volcano from erupting. Sam was about to inquire as to exactly how much but Baabby cut him off with an immediate agreement to do all they could. Then, before Sam could wring any more hints about the exact nature of their financial compensation, he was forced to race after Baabby to prevent being left behind.

Mount Mabuvius was a fairly tall volcano but the climb wasn't all that difficult; fortunately, there was a winding ledge that spiraled around it that looked to lead all the way to the top. Struggling to keep up with Baabby - the crow's legs were much shorter than his hulking baabarian friend's - Sam managed to find the breath to cast a resist fire spell on himself, figuring this would be a very good time for some fire protection. After all, you just had to figure they'd be fighting enemies with fire-based attacks on a volcano of all places!

The first defender the heroes met up with on the winding path was a rock walker - a hunk of animated stone that looked rather like a stone golem with no arms and just a head atop a pair of strong legs. Sam was bummed at first, thinking he'd wasted his spell - but that was before the rock walker stepped forward and belched lava in Baabby's direction.

There was no way for Baabby to avoid the incoming lava barf: not only was it a wide-spraying attack, but Baabby was just in the middle of receiving an enlarge person spell from Sapphrina, making him an even easier target to hit. But at his larger size, Baabby was able to step back from the pile of smoldering lava-barf the rock walker had just spewed out and still slam his blade into the beast's rocky side. Sam shot an explosive arrow at the rock walker for good measure, but it seemed as if this thing could take quite a bit of damage before being taken down. Sapphrina cast a bull's strength spell on Baabby, then flew off the side of the path and out of harm's way.

Baabby struck at the rock walker again with his Rift-Weaver's Blade, this time causing chunks of stone to crumble off of the beast's hide. Sam shot another arrow at it and stepped forward, carefully avoiding the lava-barf puddle. The rock walker, still very much in the fight despite having a big chunk missing from his side, stepped forward and gave Baabby a mighty kick. But Baabby's retaliation was swift and deadly, and the rock walker collapsed into a pile of gravel at the sheep-man's last swing. The heroes moved on, turning a corner along the volcano's winding ledge.

The next two enemies the heroes met up with were a pair of fire mephits, but these were out in the open and unable to hide in pre-existing flames. They tried hiding anyway, hugging each other and hoping to be mistaken for a small campfire, but they weren't fooling anyone. Sam hit them both with an explosive arrow from his Dynabow 3.0. That got his spirits up, especially now that he'd been healed of his former damage and his feathers were back to being black and glossy, instead of black and singed. Sapphrina flew up behind the crow and cast a cat's grace on him, making him even more dexterous than normal, and the Son of Archery felt ready to take on anything the Skylands could toss their way. In the meantime, Baabby finished both fire mephits off with one cleaving swing of his greatsword, leaving the winged fire-gargoyles less than impressed with their impromptu strategy.

Around the next corner, though, was another rock walker. Sam only had a regular arrow in his Dynabow 3.0, so he sent it flying, knowing ahead of time it would do an inconsequential amount of damage. It was enough to alert the rock walker of the heroes' approach, though, and it spun to face this new threat. Extra-large Baabby hit it with his greatsword, just as Sam followed up with an explosive arrow that managed to get the rock walker on the side and not include the baabarian in its blast radius. But to do so, the crow had had to advance up closer, and this gave the rock walker an alternate target instead of the hulking sheep-man. One lava-barf later, and Sam was glad for his resist fire spell - but he was desperately wishing there was such a thing as a resist barf spell. Maybe he'd ask Sapphrina after they were done fighting.

Baabby, as expected, gave the final blow that slew the rock walker; neither Sam nor Sapphrina had guessed it would be otherwise. "Let's go!" said Baabby, racing further up the trail to see what their next challenge would be.

"Not so fast!" griped Sam. "I've still got barf on me!"

But Baabby wouldn't be slowed down from his next combat. This time it was a pair of elementals, one of fire and one of earth, each about Baabby's normal size when he wasn't under the effects of an enlarge person spell. The fire elemental was the first to react, stepping forward to slam Baabby with her fists - but she didn't even get within striking distance before she was cut in half by a single swing of Baabby's greatsword, snuffing out her flames and her life in one blow. Seeing this, the earth elemental fused into the side of the volcano, its rocky body gliding effortlessly into the solid stone.

"I don't like this!" cried Sam. "It can pop out at us at any time! Quick: LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!" And this time, instead of the cowardly suggestion it usually was, it was a solid bit of tactical advice. All three heroes raced as fast as they could up the curving slope, hoping to put so much distance between them and where the earth elemental slid into the stone that when it popped out to attack them, they'd be long gone.

It was a pretty good plan, too - it would have been an even better one if Sam had recalled that earth elementals could rely upon their innate tremorsense to know exactly where their nearby foes were running, even if they couldn't be seen. A massive arm ending in a rock-solid fist whizzed by Sam's head as he raced up the slope, missing by only the narrowest of margins.

And then Sam's plan got retroactively even worse, for blocking their path just ahead was yet another rock walker. Now the heroes were pinned between an earth elemental behind them and a rock walker blocking their way forward!

Sapphrina reacted by making a swipe at Baabby - but only to pull off the spare shortbow and the quiver of arrows from his broad back. Once they left his possession they reverted back to their normal size and that made them perfect for the fairy. She flew perpendicular away from the volcano, flying above empty space so the earthbound enemies couldn't hit her, and let fly with an arrow.

Sam, in the back, knew he had no chance of taking down either the earth elemental or the rock walker on his own any time soon. He also knew the rock walker could survive several attacks by the Rift-Weaver's Blade, judging by the duration of the fights with the two previous rock walkers. But he guessed that Baabby could probably take out the earth elemental fairly quickly, based on how the fire elemental went down after one blow.

"Baabby!" called out the little crow. "You take care of the elemental - we'll hold off Mr. Barfy!" And he shot past Baabby's arm, hitting the rock walker. Sapphrina followed suit, and although both arrows hit, it was obvious that neither caused the rock walker much more than a mild irritation. But it gave Baabby enough time to swing his Rift-Weaver's Blade down at the earth elemental, chopping it in half like a cord of wood up against an axe. The earth elemental shattered into a pile of rocks as its two halves hit the ground, a look of total surprise still present on its stony face.

The rock walker belched forth a blob of lava onto Baabby's broad back, but then realized it had just cut itself off from its foes once the lava puddle sizzled on the ground between them. So it turned tail and ran further up the trail, the heroes in hot pursuit behind it.

"My ploy worked!" muttered the rock walker with a smile, suddenly spinning around to face the heroes now that they had sportingly followed within reach. It kicked out a leg at Baabby, stubbing its rocky toes on the baabarian's knee. But then Baabby cut it down with his greatsword. As it fell to the ground to shatter into a pile of small stones its last thought was, I take it back - my ploy failed!

There was one more corner up ahead before the path led them to the top of the volcano's caldera. Guarding it was yet another rock walker. Sam softened it up with an explosive arrow, causing it to advance on the heroes, smoke drifting off its charred body. Sapphrina passed by a cave carved into the side of the volcano and was momentarily distracted by the glint of gold. Sure enough, there were sacks of gold coins spilling out onto the floor in the shallow cave - little more than an overhang, really. She flew sideways into the cave, readying an arrow in case she was attacked but more concerned about rescuing the gold once the two heroes had taken care of the rock walker.

Baabby stepped forward, using his extra-large body to block the rock walker from getting access to his friends, for the path was narrower in this section of ledge. Sam scooted over by Sapphrina to give himself room to shoot an arrow at the rock walker without hitting his baabarian friend. Sapphrina loosed her arrow at the rock walker at the same time; once again, both arrows struck true but once again, they seemed to do little damage to a creature made of solid stone.

Baabby channeled all of his strength into a massive swipe with his greatsword - and missed. That gave the rock walker the opportunity to lava barf all over the baabarian. This did absolutely nothing to improve Baabby's mood - quite the opposite, in fact: Baabby let the rage build in his body until he exploded outward with his greatsword in a blur of motion. It took several such swings, but within half a minute the rock walker was dead. That was enough time for the crow and the fairy to finish stuffing the sacks of gold coins into Sam's extradimensional backpack; they had tired of combat against a foe they had a hard time reaching with Baabby in their way, and besides - gold coins! Who could concentrate on battle when there were gold coins to be swept up?

"Ready?" asked Baabby, looking down at his friends and then up at the caldera. Then, without waiting for an answer, he called, "Let's go!" Sam and Sapphrina, once again, took pains to try to keep up with their battle-eager friend.

The volcano's interior presented quite a sight: down at the far end stood a magical gateway, flanked on either side by a robed body floating above the ground - a fire spell punk and an earth spell punk. Before them stood a fire elemental, this one even taller than Baabby in his enlarged state. Most of the ground was still solid rock, but there were "puddles" where magma seeped up out of the earth.

Baabby, still caught up in his battle-lust, raced down into the caldera's interior, charging towards the fire elemental. Sam jumped down into the volcano's interior as well, trying to remember the respective powers of earth and fire spell punks. He was pretty sure the fire spell punks could shoot off little fireballs, but he now recalled that the earth spell punks could cast a protective covering around their allies that made it harder for them to be seriously hurt. And since a spell punk's spells snuffed out when he was slain, Sam targeted the earth spell punk first, with an explosive arrow.

Sapphrina, finding herself once again in the midst of a pitched battle, opted to buff up her friends in lieu of actual combat herself. Flying up behind Baabby and then Sam in turn, she cast a bear's endurance spell on each of them.

The earth spell punk did its best to ignore the pain from Sam's arrow and continued fiddling with the gateway - if he could open the gateway fully, he could cause the volcano to erupt instantly! In the meantime, his fire spell punk partner shot a blast of fiery energy at Sam but the little crow instinctively dodged at the last moment. At the same time, the large fire elemental slammed Baabby with a flaming arm, sending a wave of pain - and singed wool - down the baabarian's side.

"Help me take out the earth spell punk!" called Sam to Sapphrina, and the two each shot a normal arrow at the floating mage. As they struck true, Baabby sent his blade swinging into the fire elemental's flaming body, but she was encased in a sort of hardened stone, so his sword didn't cut anywhere near as deeply as it should have. The earth spell punk fiddled desperately with the controls of the magic gateway, determined to overcome Xacho's protections before these blasted heroes cut him down.

But it wasn't to be; Sam's next arrow was an explosive one and it cut down the earth spell punk before he could open the gateway. As the mage's body fell to the ground, the damage reduction on the fire elemental winked out of existence.

The grin on Baabby's raging face was terrible to behold, once he realized what his friends had just done. With a powerful swing, he cut the fire elemental in half, just as he'd done to the smaller one further down the volcano's winding path.

Sapphrina, seeing only one enemy still before them, shot an arrow at the fire spell punk, just as he fired a blast at Baabby. Baabby grinned through the pain of the fiery explosion, then stepped forward and cut down the fire spell punk with one blow of his greatsword.

"Yeah!" enthused Sam. "Way to go, Baabby!" They waited until the baabarian's battle-rage had subsided, then convinced him to cast some more of those lovely, lovely healing spells of his.

"Now whaat?" asked Baabby, looking around for a way to stop the volcano from erupting.

"I think we need to go through the gateway," suggested Sapphrina.

"Won't that cause the volcano to erupt?" asked Baabby.

"It shouldn't - not at once, in any case. But I'm willing to bet the key to preventing Mount Mabuvius from erupting is inside there - as is the Fire Rune for your sword."

"So how do we get in?" asked Baabby.

"How soon you forget," chided Sapphrina. "Remember the Magic Rune's power?"

"Oh yeah," said Baabby sheepishly. Then he made a cutting motion with his greatsword through the middle of the gateway and the Rift-Weaver's Blade wove a rift through space and time and opened up the extradimensional space on the other side of the gateway.

Remembering the last time they'd done something similar they'd ended up fighting a goliath drow, Sam and Baabby went in with weapons at the ready. And sure enough, standing in the extradimensional space was another large fire elemental. Not "another" one, actually - the same one they'd just slain in the caldera!

"Hold!" commanded the fire elemental in a regal voice, raising a flaming hand. "There is no need for further combat; I was under the domination of the spell punks and unable to control my own actions; now that they are slain, I once again enjoy my own free will."

"Yeah," argued Sam Crow, "but speaking of being slain...weren't you, too?"

"I cannot be truly slain," explained the fire elemental. "I am the eternal spirit of the volcano. My name is Incinceria."

"Okay, that certainly sounds like a trustworthy name," said Sam, giving Sapphrina a look that said, "No way should we trust her!"

"I know why you have come," replied Incinceria, "and your actions are noble. I will help you gain the Fire Rune for your sword, but I give you this warning: the last wielder, Xacho, found that the Rift-Weaver's Blade at full power was still insufficient to slay the terrible monster it had been built to destroy. You will need even greater power than that of the Rift-Weaver's Blade, even with all eight runes intact." But she reached forward and touched the blade of Baabby's greatsword, causing the flames of her arm to dissolve as they were absorbed into the blade. Looking at his weapon, Baabby could see the Fire Rune was now filled in with what looked like crackling flames.

"So how do we prevent the volcano from erupting?" asked Sapphrina.

"You have my word," answered Incinceria. "Besides: who wants to go back out there? It's cold out there!"

Baabby looked at Sam. Sam looked back at Baabby. "I guess that makes sense," they agreed.

"Hey, and that means we can return to the Mabu village and claim the reward!" exclaimed Sam, rubbing his hands together in glee. "Did you hear that, Shelldon? We're going to be even richer!"

Shelldon didn't respond; he was still curled up in his shell, hidden from view.

"Don't mind him," scoffed Sam. "He's still playing dead. He's a method actor - very much into character."

"So whaat's next?" asked Baabby.

"Now we return to the Rift-Weaver's Trial, remember?" replied Sapphrina.

"How far away is that?" asked Sam. "Will I have time to teach Shelldon any tricks?"

"I doubt it," answered Sapphrina. "It's just on the other side of the volcano, on a ledge about halfway up the back."

"Oh, yeah," replied Sam. "I remember that ledge. And all those lousy puzzles in that dungeon."

"I'm sure there will be more puzzles once we go back," replied Baabby.

"Oh, yippee," grumbled Sam.

"You don't like puzzles?" asked Sapphrina.

"They give him a headache," replied Baabby. Then, in a rare show of wordplay, he added, "It's because Sam here is a bird-brain."

"Hey!" squawked Sam at the unexpected teasing as he followed Baabby and Sapphrina back to the caldera and then down the winding trail. "It's not my fault if I'm not so great at puzzles!"

Then, after what he considered a sufficiently lengthy pause, he added "...I'm part dodo, on my mother's side."

- - -

Harry pointed out at the beginning of this adventure that we were fighting bad guys and having to worry about putting out fires at the same time. He's pretty quick to catch on when things are different than in previous adventures.

Logan used a village map from one of the Paizo "Flip-Mat" series for the Mabu village, and then for the volcano he did something I thought was rather clever: he used a Wasteland Flip-Map that had streams of magma as the base of the volcano, and then overlapped that with a series of cards from the Paizo GameMastery "Perilous Paths" set. Our "winding pathway" ended up with some right-turn angles as a result, but I thought that was a very cool way to design a volcano map.

And for the Medium and Large fire elementals, he used two of the Infernia stand-up tokens I had originally made for our Wing Three campaign! In that campaign, Logan had run a human conjurer who had summoned a Small fire elemental as a familiar, and later used polymorph spells to change her size as needed. I was certainly surprised to see Infernia making an appearance in our Skylands campaign, even if it wasn't really her.


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 6
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 6​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 6​

Game Session Date: 6 May 2017

- - -

"Yep," said Sam. "This is the same ledge, all right. I definitely remember this ledge."

The heroes had gathered their reward from a grateful Mabu village, returned to their troll airship, and had their trusty animated statue pilot fly it around to the other side of the volcano, where the Rift-Weaver's Trial was located. Now the airship hovered at the edge of the entry ledge. Baabby was the first to notice the entry tunnel was completely dark; the first time they'd been this way, light from the three doors within had illuminated the tunnel in patches of green, red, and purple.

That wasn't the only difference, either: in the back of their minds, the three heroes could hear an incessant ringing, like an alarm bell going off.

"It sounds like the dungeon's defensive systems have been activated," said Sapphrina. "The area must be under attack!"

"I have an idea," said Sam. "Let's let Baabby go in first."

"Thaat's fine by me," said the fearless baabarian, unsheathing the Rift-Weaver's Blade from his broad back as he entered the dark corridor alone. The magic greatsword's blade glowed - specifically, the runes the sheep-man had gathered thus far glowed: Fire, Life, Magic, Undead, and Water. From their faint illumination he could see the three doorways were still in place but the spaces between them - which earlier had glowed with the colors of their respective elements - were dark. There was nobody but the sheep-man in the empty passageway.

That changed once Baabby got halfway down the short corridor. Then, materializing in an instant, were three humanoid figures, each as tall as the baabarian. One was red and made of living flames; another was green and female in form, with a body composed of swirling vapors; the one in the back was purple and somewhat monstrous in appearance, with long claws growing out of its two-fingered hands. Each sprang into being immediately in front of the door which had once glowed in their respective colors.

"Elementals!" called out Sapphrina with no small measure of fear in her voice, for fairies were particularly susceptible to the various elemental energies.

The fire elemental, being the closest to Baabby, stepped forward and swung a flaming fist at the baabarian. Baabby ducked under the blow but then was struck by the life elemental's slam, which made a hissing noise when it made contact with his fleece; as the pain registered, Baabby realized the life elemental's body was composed of acid!

But it was the magic elemental that had Sam worried. Not only was it the fiercest-looking of the three, with its nasty claws, but you could never tell just what something composed of magic might be capable of - there so much magic available, the possibilities were almost endless! With that in mind, he aimed an explosive arrow at the magic elemental, waited until Baabby shifted out of the way as he battled the other two elementals, and then let fly. He smiled in appreciation as his arrow detonated on target, causing easily twice its normal damage; he'd just had Sapphrina upgrade his Dynabow 3.0 with some of the money he'd been given by the Mabu and while he had been saddened to see the coins vanish in the upgrade ritual, the extra damage potential looked like it was going to be worth it.

Sapphrina had been given Sam's old shortbow and she put it to good use now, shooting an arrow at the fire elemental still trying to set Baabby ablaze with its fists. But she needn't have worried; Baabby almost contemptuously swiped his greatsword at the fire elemental and cut it in half. As its body lost cohesion, wisps of flame shot off in the direction of the doorway, restoring its normal red glow. Baabby continued the arc of his swing into the life elemental's body and dealt it some damage as well, but not enough to destroy it just yet.

Down at the end of the corridor, the magic elemental's body underwent a startling transformation. It began swirling around and around until it was a virtual whirlwind, then went racing down the passageway past Baabby and over by Sam and Sapphrina. Once it was about equidistant between the trio, a barrage of magic missiles went flying from its body in all directions. All three heroes were struck, Sapphrina almost to the point of losing consciousness. She panicked, flying back out of the cave entrance along the side of Mount Mabuvius and around the corner where it was safe.

Baabby, seeing how dangerous the magic elemental was, opted to take care of it next. Stepping away from his fight with the acidic life elemental, he brought the Rift-Weaver's Blade crashing straight into the heart of the arcane whirlwind. Just as had happened with the fire elemental, the magic elemental's body went to pieces, flying back to its designated doorway, which then blazed back to life and started shedding its violet light once again.

The life elemental took the opportunity of Baabby's inattentiveness to slam him from behind, scarring him further with her acid. Sam, only able to shoot a normal arrow this time around, sent it flying at the life elemental, and if he did any significant damage it was difficult to tell. Sapphrina, having seen the magic elemental was no more, returned to the cave opening and shot an arrow at the life elemental, which she needed fear nowhere as much as the magic elemental which had had ranged attacks. Her arrow may have done damage as well, but it was Baabby's next attack - a swipe of his greatsword's magic blade - that snuffed out the life elemental's life force and sent the acidic particles streaming back to the doorway, which reformed its green glow immediately thereafter.

Baabby took the time to cast a few healing spells for those who needed them. "Looks like the doors are back to normal," said Sam, pointing out the obvious. "I assume we go through them like the first time we were here?"

"That's correct," confirmed Sapphrina, although she hadn't been with the group then. "We'll want the red door this time."

Going through the red doorway spilled the three heroes into a room with three parallel tunnels ahead of them, each spilling a different color of smoke from a brazier on the floor at the far ends. "The green door's the next one we want," recalled Sam.

"Let's think this through," said Baabby. "If elementals are going to pop up once we get haalfway down these corridors, that means we'll be facing another fire, life, and maagic elemental. Why don't we each take a different corridor and attaack where the doorways should be - thaat's where the elemental should show up."

Sapphrina agreed to the plan but had several alterations to make. First of all, rather than go down her own smoke-colored corridor, she opted to travel with Baabby down the central one. And she insisted on not only casting an enlarge person spell upon the baabarian but a reduce person on herself, making herself a smaller target for the deadly elemental energy she'd be facing. Sam opted to cast a resist fire spell upon himself, knowing at least one of the enemies they'd be facing had fire-based attacks. So, once all preparatory spells had been cast, the fairy followed Baabby down the wider, central corridor while Sam raced down the left-most one, which if memory served should be the one where the magic elemental would be appearing.

Once Sam was over halfway down the corridor he fired an explosive arrow straight ahead of him and was pleased to hear it impact against something that grunted in pain. In the central corridor, Sapphrina looked back and saw a fire elemental pop into existence in front of the doorway they'd used to enter this section of the Rift-Weaver's Trial - they'd been so worried about the three doorways ahead of them they'd forgotten that the doorways behind them were also part of the dungeon's defenses. But then the life elemental showed up directly in front of Baabby, reaching out to burn him with her acidic touch. Fortunately, with his extended reach due to being twice his normal size, he was able to spear her on the tip of his greatsword before she could even reach him. Her body dissolved, only to re-energize the green doorway from which she'd come.

But the two fire elementals now flanked Baabby and Sapphrina - one approaching from the front and one from the rear. The fairy instinctively crouched into as small a ball as she could, ducking behind Baabby's spell pouch at his belt, and the fire elementals both chose the hulking baabarian as the target of their flaming fists.

Sam lucked out, in that the magic elemental apparently chose not to waste its whirlwind magic missile attack when it could only affect a lone target, for the arcane humanoid ran up to the little crow and slashed out with its claws. Sam ducked, but the attack was enough to convince the crow to flee back the way he'd come - partly because he now realized their collective strategy had made it impossible for the now-giant sheep-man to even enter the narrow corridor from which Sam now fled. "Baabby!" he cried. "Come back the way we came!"

That might have sounded like something currently beyond Baabby's abilities given he was blocked by a fire elemental on either side of him. But the baabarian knew from recent experience that fire elementals weren't likely to survive a single blow from his greatsword, and such proved to be the case in this instance. One cleaving blow slew both fire elementals, and then Baabby was racing back the way he'd come, positioning himself just outside the entrance to the tunnel from which Sam was just now exiting.

When the magic elemental emerged from the smoke-filled corridor, the Rift-Weaver's Blade was waiting for it. One mighty swing later and the magic elemental was no more.

"Phew!" said Sam. "Thanks, Baabby!"

Sapphrina had to dismiss her enlarge person so Baabby could fit through the green doorway, but then the three were teleported to the next section of the dungeon. Sam and Baabby recalled that there were three dragon's heads in the winding corridor ahead, and then an animated suit of armor waiting for them in the Trial of Strength in the room beyond. "We won't need to fight the armored warrior," Sapphrina said. "He's part of the defense system - he should react to the presence of the Rift-Weaver's Blade."

Sure enough, rather than having to face the warrior in combat, it reported to Baabby as if to a superior officer. "The Trial is under attack by forces unknown, sir," it said. "You'll need to gather the three attunement orbs from the Path of Ordered Steps and the two portal stones from the Hall of Burning Greed."

"Let's go!" said Sapphrina, flying through the red doorway. Baabby and Sam followed suit, assuming the fairy knew where she was going. Sure enough, that way led to the statue of Xacho, only this time, as they entered the room, there was an audible click and a door to the left - which had been locked the first time they went through this dungeon complex - swung open. Passing through the door, the group saw carved on the wall before them the legend, "THE ORDER RECEIVED IS THE ORDER AHEAD." There were other rooms to the left and the right: to the left, an area of leaping flames; to the right three stones, each the size of an apple. They glowed slightly, in the colors of green, red, and purple.

"These are the attunement orbs," said Sapphrina.

"One for each of us, I aassume," said Baabby.

"Well, you're obviously Life," said Sam, "what with all those healing spells of yours. So you should get the green orb. I imagine Sapphrina's Magic, what with being a fairy and all, so she should get the purple orb."

"So that would make you Fire," said Sapphrina, frowning in puzzlement.

"Well, yes, obviously," agreed Sam. "That makes perfect sense, me being Fire."

"Hmm - because of your explosive arrows? That's a Tech device causing that."

"No, not because of that," scoffed Sam. "Isn't it obvious? It's because I'm so hot!" And he struck what he no doubt considered a sexy pose, while the fairy turned away in disgust.

"We should probably pick up the orbs in the order we gained the Runes on my sword," suggested Baabby. "That would be, let's see, Maagic, then Life, then Fire."

Sapphrina picked up the glowing purple orb, and behind her, some of the flames went out in the other room. Then Baabby picked up the green attunement orb and half of the remaining flames were extinguished. "Best for last!" announced Sam, picking up the red orb, and the last remaining flames went out. Exposed where the flames had been were individual tiles in the colors of red, green, and purple.

"Hmm," said Baabby. "I guess we have to step on a purple tile, then a green one, then a red one. Aand then baack to purple, and so on until we get to the other side."

"That's one possibility," said Sam. "But there's another: maybe Sapphrina should go first because she's purple, and she should only step on purple tiles, then you cross stepping on green tiles, then I cross stepping on red tiles."

"I'm a fairy," pointed out Sapphrina. "I don't step; I fly." It was admittedly true; in the Skylands, fairies were only humanoid in shape from the waist up; below, their bodies trailed off in smoke like genies. Without legs, they couldn't "step" anywhere.

"Well, fly over," amended Sam. "Same deal."

"Either way, it sounds like me going first. Which way should I try it, Baabby?"

"Do purple-green-red," suggested Baabby. Sapphrina flew over a purple tile, and nothing happened. From there, she could move over a tile of any of the three colors, depending on which way she went.

"I'm telling you, purple-purple-purple" makes more sense to me," chided Sam.

"Okay," agreed Baabby. "Stick to the purple ones." Sapphrina moved over to the next adjacent purple tile and a bolt of arcane energy came shooting down at her from the ceiling.

"...Of course, I could be wrong," admitted Sam, frowning.

With a black scowl, Sapphrina flew over a green tile, then a red one, then a purple, and repeated the pattern until she was across the colored tile section and into the room beyond. Then Baabby retraced her route and Sam followed suit. Once they were all safely past the colored tiles, Sam gave the fairy a sheepish grin and said, "Sorry - I'm not so great at these puzzles. As you'll recall, I'm part dodo on my mother's side."

"More than just part, I think!" snapped Sapphrina, flying over to one of the portal stones they'd been sent to fetch, which stood on a platform at the far end of the chamber. She then followed a safe route back to the statue of Xacho and down a different corridor, bringing them to another door, which opened into another chamber. There were four platforms in the middle of this room, each filled with piles of gold coins. A door to the left was closed. "This must be the Hall of Burning Greed," said Sam. "And hey! - I'm Fire, and I'm greedy! It all makes sense!"

A voice echoed throughout the chamber. "Only the Master may touch the treasure. Who is the Master?"

"Hmm," said Sam, rubbing his beak. "Well, there's Master Eon the Portal Master, of course, but he might be a bit obvious...."

"Baabby," said Baabby, strolling into the room, the Rift-Weaver's Blade gripped in a meaty hand. The fact that his answer was correct was proven by the clicking sound as the door to the left unlocked. In the small room beyond was the second portal stone. Baabby grabbed it up.

"Now whaat?" he asked.

"We head back to the hallway," answered Sapphrina. "The door across the way leads to the Portal."

"Wait a minute," interrupted Sam, turning towards Baabby. "Since you're the Master and all, could we please have your permission to rescue these poor, defenseless coins from just being abandoned here? They're meant to be spent, not left behind to get all dusty!"

"Hurry up," agreed Baabby, knowing Sam would be unlikely to concentrate on the job at hand knowing there was treasure they'd left behind. With a cry of joy, the little crow started scooping the loose coins into his extradimensional backpack. "Okay, ready, Master!" he said when he was done. Hey, they were now 12,000 gold pieces the richer - who was he to complain about Baabby getting a fancy title in a stupid dungeon riddle?

With both portal stones in hand, the heroes stepped into a portal in the room beyond and were whisked away to another place altogether. This was the Inner Sanctum, which consisted of a large area with a raised structure in the middle; circling this structure was a set of curving steps, much in the same mold as the winding ledge along Mount Mabuvius which had gained the heroes entry to the volcano's interior at the top. From the central chamber were four spherical side-chambers; of these, three were sealed up by force fields while the forth had been almost nearly sealed off by an earthquake centuries ago.

However, that wasn't all the heroes saw inside the Inner Sanctum. The three force fields were red, green, and purple, and hovering next to each was a robed figure: a fire spell punk, a life spell punk, and a magic spell punk. Each was concentrating on attempting to dismantle the force field before it, to the extent they hadn't yet noticed the intruders.

Baabby charged at the magic spell punk, who, just to the right, was the closest one available. His single cut with the Rift-Weaver's Blade was enough to slay the spell punk outright. As its body fell to the ground, purple energy rose up out of its body and flew to the back of the chamber, behind the central platform with the spiraling steps. In addition, the magical effects the spell punk had produced since its arrival in the Inner Sanctum were sundered as well. Instantly, other creatures began fading back into view, their invisibility purged upon the magic spell punk's death.

At various places across the Inner Sanctum, the forms of an air spell punk, an earth spell punk, an undead spell punk, a water spell punk, and - up at the top of the central platform - a tech spell punk materialized. And now visibly waddling around the sides of the central platform were several bone chompies.

Sapphrina was the first of the heroes to react. Seeing they were vastly outnumbered, she did what she could to help even the odds. One haste spell later, all three of the heroes were moving faster than they'd ever moved before.

Several bone chompies advanced upon the heroes from either side of the platform, while their undead spell punk master shot a blast of necromantic energy at Baabby. Fortunately, the sheep-man dodged the blast, no doubt at least partially due to his increased speed.

Sam looked enviously up at the tech spell punk, specifically at his position at the top of the central platform. From there, you'd be able to shoot down at anyone else in the entire Inner Sanctum! Making the decision to reserve that spot for himself, Sam shot an explosive arrow up at the tech spell punk, then dodged his way past three bone chompies - two of which managed to get in a bite - and started making his way up the spiraling steps. But having made his first one-third arc around the platform, Sam found himself in the line of fire of both the air and tech spell punks (the latter of which would be able to target Sam no mater where he stood in the Inner Sanctum). Sam winced under the dual assault but continued running as fast as his little crow legs would take him.

With the magic spell punk dead, the purple force field was no longer under attack. But the fire and life spell punks continued their work unabated, certain that their companions could handle a small force of three heroes.

The water spell punk had the misfortune of both hovering directly next to two bone chompies and being within Baabby's reach. That made him an irresistible target; one massive swing of the Rift-Weaver's Blade later, Baabby had cut completely through the water spell punk and the two bone chompies adjacent to it. Once again, life energy - this time blue - rose up from the fallen spell punk's body and over to the back of the Inner Sanctum; from Baabby's new vantage point he could see it heading to an open rift in the back - no doubt, the means of entry for the spell punks and their bone chompy allies.

The earth spell punk fired an orb of some kind at Baabby but missed. Nearby, the undead spell punk summoned another bone chompy out of thin air, sent it after the baabarian, and then fled at full speed in the opposite direction. He'd just witnessed the sheep-man cut down his brother spell punks of magic and water and wasn't about to be next!

He wasn't; the earth spell punk and another bone chompy were Baabby's next victims, the dual recipients of the next single swing of his greatsword. Those in the vicinity could see the look of combat fury on the baabarian's face - Baabby had let his battle-lust fuel his strength and durability and was now a combat monster let loose upon the spell punks!

Sam shot an arrow up at the tech spell punk as he circled along the steps; only now did he notice he had three bone chompies following in his wake, but under the effects of the haste spell he had no worries about them catching up to him until he reached the zenith and had nowhere else to run. The arrow was well-placed, but the tech spell punk stubbornly hung on to life. In fact, he returned fire, sending a blast of tech energy crashing into the crow's body; Sapphrina, seeing him wobbling as he ran, flew up to Sam and imbued him with a bear's endurance spell which gave him enough energy to keep on fighting. When he made it to the top of the spiral, he surprised the tech spell punk by stabbing forward with his shortsword, piercing the floating mage through his middle, Then the highest perch was all Sam's; the crow noticed the tech spell punk's orange life energy - and his shadow, which was kind of weird! - both flew across the Inner Sanctum and into the open rift, which seemed to shrink a bit in size as a result of the returned energy.

The air spell punk opted to reinforce his allies by casting spells upon his fire and undead brethren. This gave each of them an outer layer of rushing winds, likely able to fling away any ranged attacks - like Sam's arrows! - that might be sent their way.

Seeing the fire spell punk still laboring away at the red force field, Sam sent an explosive arrow his way. That nearly slew the mage outright, but once again he held on to life by his nonexistent fingernails. The attack did cause him to stop his attempts at bringing down the force field; instead, he blasted a fiery stream of energy up at Sam. But Sam's resist fire spell was still in effect, so it dealt nowhere near the damage the spell punk might have hoped for.

Looking over at the commotion and surprised that the others were taking such a beating, the life spell punk stopped his own attempts at bringing down the green force field and cast healing energy at his fire spell punk associate. (From the top of the central platform, the anguished cries of "No fair!" could be heard.) But that was the life spell punk's last act; he'd failed to notice Baabby was within striking distance and that proved to be lethal.

The air spell punk sent a blast of energy up at Sam which knocked the crow out cold. But as Sapphrina flew up to the top of the crow' perch to feed him a healing potion from his belt, Baabby slew two more spell punks: undead and fire, who had made the mistake of floating too near each other. As their energies and shadows raced to the ever-dwindling rift, all of the bone chompies suddenly popped back out of existence, their summoner having been slain.

That left only the fire spell punk. Baabby raced up to it and slashed at it with his greatsword, causing it to gasp and groan in pain. But for once it was Sam who got the finishing shot; having been revived by Sapphrina, he was able to send a normal arrow across the Inner Sanctum to grab the final kill from Baabby's grasp. (And as the baabarian glared up at Sam, the little crow was suddenly very glad of the distance between them!)

With the fire spell punk's essences fleeing back to the rift, it closed. However, in its place were two other spell punks, looking nothing like any the heroes had ever seen. One wore a white robe with a sun emblem on its hood; the other, a robe of pitch black adorned only with the symbol of a crescent moon.

The light spell punk was the first to react. It raised a curved claw and pointed it at Baabby; a blinding flash of energy shot off from it and struck the baabarian, then reflected off his body and went blasting over Sam's way. Neither hero was able to avoid the full effects, although the further distance meant that Sam suffered much less than Baabby, having received a tinier portion of the energy's full blast.

Still, Sam was not in a particularly grateful mood. He shot off three arrows one right after the other, sending each one flying at the light spell punk. However, in this case haste made waste, for only one actually struck its target. And while the dark spell punk was being temporarily ignored, it raised its own claw and a black hole - or what looked suspiciously like one - manifested in the chamber, causing ripples in a large enough radius to include both Baabby and Sam. Each hero felt their haste spell being temporarily negated, and each had the feeling if they stayed within the radius for too long it would start absorbing their own life forces.

So that was not an option. Baabby charged away from the black hole, which coincidentally sent him straight on a path to the light spell punk. He slashed down with his greatsword using all of his might, but the wonky time differential caused by escaping the black hole's power might have throw off his balance because he completely missed the floating mage. However, he was close enough that when the light spell punk started to try casting another of those reflecting light blasts his way, the baabarian was able to cut him down with one blow.

The dark spell punk seemed amazed to see his opposite partner get taken down in one blow. He raised a claw in Baabby's direction, only to have history repeat itself: before he could blast the baabarian, the Rift-Weaver's Blade came down on his head, carving him neatly in two.

After that, the heroes gathered together and attended to their wounds, applying potions and Baabby's healing spells as needed. Then, at Sapphrina's suggestion, each strode over to the force field that corresponded to the color of the attunement stone they carried. The magical stones allowed them to walk right through the force fields as if they weren't there while still leaving them intact. As one, each hero stepped into the middle of the magic circle inscribed in their side-chamber, and as one, they vanished from sight.

They ended up in another extradimensional space, where they were confronted by the holographic image of none other than Xacho, the original wielder of the Rift-Weaver's Blade - back when it was still called the Blade of the Elements.

"You have finally arrived here," said the hologram. "Long ago, many years before either of you was born, I used the powers of your greatsword to explore the rifts. In doing so, I discovered a great evil: a being known as the Devourer of Nightmares. I sought the Oracle to learn how I could destroy it, and was told two conflicting prophecies: 'Imbued with all, the Blade of the Elements shall vanquish the Devourer of Nightmares,' and 'Your quest shall fail until the courageous sheep and the cowardly crow finish your work.'"

"Hey!" objected Sam, but Baabby gave him a shushing motion.

"I had no choice but to battle the Devourer of Nightmares," hoping that the power of the eight Elemental Runes on my blade would overcome it. But I failed to destroy it; instead, I managed to seal it away here, in the Rift-Woven Vault."

"Here?" squeaked Sam, looking around rapidly for any sign of the Devourer of Nightmares - not that he knew what it looked like. Still, he was pretty sure he'd recognize it if he saw it.

"Below you, on the seal upon which you stand," said the Xacho image. Sam looked down, saw he was standing on a circular slab of stone inscribed with multiple arcane runes and jumped to the side as if he found himself standing on a hot griddle.

Then, gathering up his indignation - "cowardly crow" indeed! - Sam decided to try a bit of comeuppance on this mouthy hologram. "Well, I hate to break it to you, Xacho old boy, but I don't think the Oracle's prophecies were conflicting."

"Oh? How so?"

"You said you fought the Devourer of Nightmares - that's a long name, by the way; I think I'll just call him by his initials - you fought Don using the power of all eight elemental runes on this sword of yours. Well, of Baabby's now. But that's only eight elements. Current thinking is that there are ten elements: you forgot Light and Dark."

"What?" sputtered the holographic Xacho. "TEN elements? Since when?"

"It's a fairly recent discovery," admitted Sam. "But it was in all the papers a few years ago."

Baabby looked over his blade: he had yet to gather the Air, Earth, and Tech runes, for which there were the appropriate holes cut through the metal of the blade's center - and the Light and Dark runes too, apparently, for which there were no such holes. "There's room on the blade for two more runes," he pointed out.

"We'll have to add them to the list," said Sapphrina. Then, turning to Xacho, she asked, "Can you tell us where to get the other runes?"

"When I dispersed the elemental runes I had gathered after trapping the Devourer of Nightmares--"

"Don," interrupted Sam.

"--they returned from where I had originally gotten them. So I can guide you to the Air and Earth elemental runes, but not the Tech. I never did find the Tech rune."

"Hey, wait a minute!" said Sam. "You said you had gained all of the runes! Well, all eight, in any case."

"I couldn't find the Tech rune, so I improvised," admitted Xacho. "There is a way to gather up smaller pieces of Tech magic and fuse them into a facsimile of the whole rune, but such an undertaking takes time we no longer have."

"How so?" asked Baabby.

"The Oracle said the Devourer of Nightmares--"

"Don," interjected Sam.

"--would escape from his imprisonment one year after the Blade of the Elements was found by the courageous sheep and the--"

"Watch it there, buddy!"

"--and his crow partner," amended the Xacho hologram.

"Doesn't sound like undoing all of those runes was a very smart idea," griped Sam. "Now we gotta go get them all over again."

"There was little choice," replied the hologram. "Intact, with all the runes present, the Blade of Elements could act as a key, unlocking the creature trapped below us. And there are forces even now trying to get hold of the blade so they can free their master from his imprisonment."

"Hrrm," mumbled Sam, not wanting to let the hologram off the hook.

"Very well," said Sapphrina, her mind made up about their next course of action. "I guess we'll gather up the Air and Earth runes first, as they'll be easier. Then we'll see what we can do about finding the Tech rune, and then we'll see if the Light and Dark runes - if they exist - can be added to the sword."

"Sounds like a plaan," agreed Baabby. "So where do we find the Air rune?"

And Xacho told them.

- - -

The maps we used this time were the "Arcane Dungeon" Pathfinder Flip-Map we had used for "The Rift-Weaver's Trial," but this time Logan included more rooms than he'd used for that adventure - including the entire back side of the map, where we fought all of the spell punks. The Rift-Woven Vault was a tile map from the "Extradimensional Spaces" Map Pack and it was particularly thematically appropriate for a Skylanders game, given it was a cluster of small floating islands, some of them chained together.

Incidentally, Dark and Light being new elements is a plot point in one of the video games - "Trap Team," I think - but as of yet there are no dark or light spell punks in the video games. Logan added them as a logical extrapolation, designing their element-themed powers on his own. If the video games ever go down that path, we blazed the trail here first!


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 6
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 6​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 6​

Game Session Date: 14 May 2017

- - -

"Whaddaya mean, 'we're here'?" demanded Sam Crow. "In case you hadn't noticed, we're parked at a cloud!"

"Yes, but this is a network of solid clouds," replied Sapphrina. "See the little rainbows? Those are bridges. It's safe to step on any cloud connected by a rainbow like that. Any other clouds are likely to be just...you know, regular clouds. I wouldn't recommend stepping onto those."

"You don't say," retorted Sam. He picked up Shelldon from his shoulder and placed him on the railing of the troll airship. "I think you'd better sit this one out, Shelldon," he told his faithful animal companion. "I wouldn't want you falling through a cloud. Snails can't fly."

"You can't fly, either," pointed out Baabby.

"I can too fly!" retorted Sam, flapping the feathers of his wings. "It's just that so far I've only mastered straight down, at terminal velocity."

"Well, we don't want any of that," said Sapphrina, flying over the side of the airship and into the middle of the first cloud. As Baabby and Sam followed, two figures coalesced from the cloudstuff to become humanoid figures of their own size.

"Welcome," said the air elementals in unison. "You have been expected. If you are ready, your trial by combat will begin at once."

"My whaat now?" asked Baabby.

"We went over this," said Sapphrina. "The air rune was gathered here, at the Cloud Gardens of Valkar. Of course, that was many centuries ago; I doubt Valkar himself is still alive, but his descendants should still be willing to help us."

"If you prove yourselves worthy," replied the air elementals. Across two rainbow bridges, a much larger air elemental rose up from the cloud and smacked his fists together in anticipation of a good fight. "Are you ready to begin?" asked the twin air elemental hosts.

Baabby and Sam looked at each other, then over at the Large air elemental, and shrugged. "I guess so," said the baabarian.

"Good!" said the two air elementals, blasting the two heroes at once.

"Hey! No fair!" squawked Sam. "I didn't say I was ready!" But the crow gathered up his Dynabow 3.0 and let loose with an arrow. He had filled it with explosive energy and fired it at the Large air elemental, having assumed he was the one they'd have to prove themselves against. It was a nice explosion, but the air elemental was still alive and apparently not all that harmed when the smoke cleared.

After having been blasted by one of the hosts, Baabby immediately understood that the two smaller air elementals were part of the test, so with one cleaving swing of his Rift-Weaver's Blade he cut both down to nothingness. Then he and Sam started running across the rainbow bridge to the next cloud island, which was separated by another rainbow bridge from the larger cloud the Large air elemental stood upon.

But before they could get there, another combatant appeared from yet another cloud off to the side. This one coalesced into the shape of a large wolf; its body had barely fully formed before it was off like a shot, running across the air straight at the baabarian.

"Hey!" cried Sam, watching the cloud wolf run right off the island without falling to its death. "No fair!" But then, seeing that the wolf was ignoring him and heading straight towards Baabby, the crow continued his attacks on the Large air elemental. He had to let the explosive energy recharge for a moment so he was limited to normal arrows, and unfortunately those seemed to have even less of an effect against a creature composed of swirling vapors.

Baabby, seeing the cloud wolf nearly upon him, brought his blade crashing down upon the beast's head. The creature's cloudlike body parted, and a pitiful whimpering came from the direction of its dissipating form.

But that seemed to anger the Large air elemental. It spun into a whirlwind, flew over to Baabby and swept him up. For one fearful moment Sam was convinced the elemental would release Baabby in midair and allow him to plummet to his death, but the whirlwind simply released him in the middle of its own solid cloud island. Baabby went spinning around as he was released, but while the air elemental no doubt thought it was due to dizziness, the canny baabarian brought his greatsword out and turned his spinning frenzy into a greater momentum when his blade slammed into the elemental's midsection. Baabby finally stumbled, dizzy from the maneuver, but he smiled as he saw the elemental dissipate back into nothingness from his mighty stroke.

Sam came running over the rainbow bridge to his friend, not wanting them to be separated in this strange environment. Sapphrina flew directly over and the trio looked about in all directions for new enemies to pop up, but all seemed to be clear. "Was that it?" asked Sam. "Is the test over?"

"Unlikely," replied Sapphrina. "But we have at least gained access to the castle." And she pointed to the largest rainbow bridge of them all, which curved upwards such that the heroes couldn't see what lay at the other side - all they could see was the bottom of the cloud island attached to the other side of the bridge. As they ascended the rainbow bridge, though, a castle appeared - and judging by the size of the front doors, this was a castle built for a giant!

"Um," said Sam. "You didn't mention that this Valkar was a giant."

"A cloud giant, yes," answered Sapphrina. "Why? Who did you expect would live on a cloud island?"

"Well, I was hoping maybe some magical mice with wish-granting abilities," replied Sam. "Who had a friendly attitude towards visitors on quests."

"We're here," said Baabby, striding up to the massive door and banging on it with a meaty fist. The doors were immediately opened by two Medium air elementals. The center of the building went all the way to the back, where a regal-looking cloud giantess sat on a throne. Before her was a blazing fire, and between the fire and the front door was a long, wooden table for dining with giant-sized chairs on either side. Standing near the fire was another Large air elemental. Beside the giantess sat another cloud wolf, its tongue lolling out of the side of its mouth. Sam was slightly worried that it looked a bit hungry, and he thought he saw flashes of electrcity leaping from tooth to tooth.

"Greetings," said the cloud giantess. "I am Mystrala. I am impressed with your abilities thus far. Are you ready for the rest of the combat to begin?"

"The rest?" echoed Baabby, looking around the room. "Aare we supposed to fight these elementaals, too?"

"Them, yes," agreed Mystrala. "And Thundergrowl here," she added, patting the head of the cloud wolf at her side. "And me, as well."

"You, uh, want us to attack you?" asked Sam.

"When you're ready," agreed Mystrala. "If you'd like to tend to your present wounds, we can wait until you're finished."

As Baabby began casting healing spells upon himself and Sam, the little crow whispered to his friend, "It's kind of creepy how polite they're being."

"It's aalmost as if they aaren't the least bit concerned about us being a threat to them," agreed the baabarian in a whisper.

"Not particularly," admitted Mystrala, smiling. "If you're ready...?"

"Well, I suppose--" started Sam, then broke off in mid-sentence to lob an explosive arrow between Mystrala and her cloud wolf, hoping to take them off guard. The Large air elemental closed the distance between them in a surprising burst of speed and smacked Sam hard with an air-blast fist, sending the little crow reeling. Baabby opted to repeat his slashing move against the two Medium air elementals, but this time he managed to only kill the first one; his blade hit the second one but failed to slay it outright. It turned against Sapphrina, slamming her hard against the wall; the fairy cast a buffing spell that granted her a heartier constitution and flew away from combat, hiding in a corner.

Thundergrowl raced across the room, leaped up onto the table, and ran across its length to bite at Sam, sending a jolt of electricity coursing throught the little crow's body. "Bad dog!" Sam scolded. "You get down off that table at once!" He thought by scolding it he might trick it into obeying, but no such luck.

Baabby and Sam each looked at their respective opponents and without saying a word between them immediately swapped. The hulking baabarian brought his greatsword down onto Thundergrowl's back, slicing him in twain. The cloud wolf's body fell apart to a fine mist, which then floated across to the back of the room, where it coalesced back into its wolf form. Sam was about to let out a cry of "No fair!" but then noticed the cloud wolf just sat there, observing the rest of the combat with its tongue lolling back out. Apparently it had been defeated in combat and thus wasn't going to attack any more; these were certainly polite foes!

Sam lashed out with his short sword, taking out the last remaining Medium air elemental. It, like its partner before it, didn't bother reforming into a humanoid form after being slain; it just disappeared and did not return.

The Large air elemental focused its attention on Baabby, slamming the sheep-man twice with its blasting fists. Sam shot it in the back with an explosive arrow, and when the smoke had cleared the elemental was gone - the little crow wasn't sure if Baabby had gotten a swing in as well with his greatsword, but decided then and there that if he hadn't actually see Baabby use his sword then it didn't count and mentally assigned himself full credit for taking the creature down.

But by now both Sam and Baabby were hurting. Each had been slammed, blasted, and/or bitten numerous times, and they still had hardly touched Mystrala at all! But talk about polite: the cloud giantess, who had been watching the combat as she strolled unhurriedly from her throne to the dining table, where all the action was, surprised the group with an offer to rest and heal. "You've done admirably," she said. "Please, I insist: take the time to see to your current wounds, and we will resume combat when you're ready."

"This isn't how battles go in real life!" said Sam, then shut his beak once he realized he was trying to argue his way out of taking a breather! Baabby cast a few healing spells on the three of them, and then they were ready for combat against the cloud giantess herself.

"Are you sure about this?" asked Sam. "It feels kind of weird, attacking the hostess in her own castle like this."

"How better to prove your worthiness?' asked Mystrala. "And as you saw with Thundergrowl, no permanent harm will come to me. So, if you're ready...?"

"Oh, I'm ready!" exclaimed Sam, before dashing underneath the wooden table. He raced halfway down its length, barely needing to duck his head, and sent an explosive arrow between the legs of two giant chairs and into Mystrala's rather shapely legs. Baabby ran up to Mystrala with his greatsword swinging; he hit her in the side but she responded with a powerful slam of her fist that sent the baabarian reeling.

Following Sam's lead, Sapphrina darted under the table where she would be the safest in the combat to follow. She was able to track the fight between Baabby and Mystrala by the position of their legs, and she darted out between the chairs at one point to cast an enlarge person spell on Baabby before ducking back to the safety of the giant table.

"This is kind of like being in a kid's pretend fort," observed Sam.

Now the same height as Mystrala, and with consequentially greater strength at his increased size, Baabby found himself on a more equal footing with his foe. The two traded blows, he with his Rift-Weaver's Blade and she with her fists, before Mystrala finally called out. "I yield!" she said, and Sam, still under the table, frowned - he had lined up a perfect shot and his Dynabow 3.0 was fully charged up with explosive energy...but Sapphrina gently pushed the bow down. With a sigh, Sam relented - it would be poor sportsmanship indeed to blast the cloud giantess after she'd yielded, especially as she'd been so polite during this whole ordeal.

Sam and Sapphrina crawled out from underneath the table. "Ah, there you are!" said Mystrala, smiling. "If ever I had any doubts about the veracity of the tales of the courageous sheep and the cowardly crow, you would certainly have dispelled them!"

"Uh, yeah," muttered Sam, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment. "Just living up to my role...."

Mystrala took the heroes to a side room, where various items had been put in storage. In the back of the cluttered room there was a visible portal of glowing energy. Baabby knew just what to do: using the Rift-Weaver's Blade as a key, he opened up a rift to an extradimensional space and the heroes stepped through. The space was a little cloud island, with puffy clouds floating at waist-height, but they were immediately absorbed into the blade of Baabby's greatsword, and after a blinding flash of energy the Air Rune was filled in.

Exiting back into Castle Valkar, the heroes bid Mystrala goodbye. "Farewell, and good luck to you!" she said, waving as they departed back down the rainbow bridge.

"Man, it would be nice if all of our opponents were that polite!" said Sam.

"Not likely," replied Baabby. "But it waas a refreshing change of pace."

- - -

When the adventure was over, Harry recognized that this was the first adventure we'd gone through that didn't feature any Skylanders opponents at all. The air elementals were straight from the Monster Manual; the cloud wolf was a winter wolf with an added airwalking special ability and its normal frost bite (and breath weapon) swapped out for electricity; and Mystrala had a cloud giant's abilities but a hill giant's physical attributes as she was still young. (Logan had painted a cloud giantess miniature to represent Mystrala; they others were all D&D Miniatures we already owned.) Logan was a little ticked that neither cloud wolf got to use its lightning breath weapon before Baabby slew them, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

And he refused to let me call them "air wolves" after I explained "Air Wolf" was an old TV show about a helicopter and its pilot and crew. So: cloud wolves they are, then.

The final battle used a Paizo Flip-Mat called "Giant Lairs" for the interior of Castle Valkar. For the initial battles, Logan used a poster board I had done up for a previous campaign: the poster board was a picture of clouds and I had measured off one-inch squares on it using a yardstick. On top of these he placed cloud islands and rainbow bridges he had made out of paper with a one-inch grid printed on them; it was overall a pretty cool effect.
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Looks like you have your nephew sold on D&D. Your son has been quite creative in tailoring the campaign. Family time at the game table is great!

You're absolutely right on all counts, pogre! I think Harry might be amenable to a "standard" D&D campaign once this Skylanders campaign runs its course; Logan's been hitting the DM ball out of the park; and we're having a ball. We have some company visiting through the weekend, so no session this Saturday, but we should be on for the weekend that follows.



PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 7
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 7​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 7​

Game Session Date: 3 June 2017

- - -

"Wait," said Sam Crow, a confused expression on his face. "The Earth Rune is where again?"

"In the Geode Caverns, which are in the middle of the Perilous Plateau, which is inside the borders of the Foreboding Forest of Forbiddance." repeated Sapphrina, as the three heroes disembarked from their troll airship.

"Man!" scoffed Sam. "Who names these places? So how far away is that?"

"Several miles," said Baabby, proving at least he had been listening to their fairy guide the first time through the explanation.

"So why are we parked out here, several miles away from where we want to be?" griped Sam, ensuring Shelldon was safely anchored to his customary place on the archer's left shoulder.

"I told you," repeated Sapphrina. "This area is infused with Earth-element magic; it repels Air-element magic. The airship would likely fall out of the sky if we tried flying straight where we wanted to go."

"Well, we don't want that," agreed Sam. "That silly ship's been through enough crashes as it is." As the heroes talked, they entered a small village of straw-roofed wooden huts. The place was absolutely silent, though - nothing stirred, there was nobody in sight, and it looked like nobody had been around the area for years.

"Hello?" called out Baabby, strolling toward the closest of the huts. He peeked inside the open window, seeing nobody inside - but signs that the former inhabitants had left in a hurry: toppled chairs, the ancient remains of a former meal turned to mold and rot on abandoned plates.

"There aren't even any birds singing in the trees," observed Sam. "That's a shame: every location can be enhanced by birdsong."

"Aas someone who's heard you sing, I can say thaat's not always true," observed Baabby.

Suddenly, Sam cocked his head to one side, listening intently. "I hear scratching from inside this hut!" he said, approaching another dwelling to the south of the one Baabby had been checking out. The crow peeked through the open window and squawked in surprise: inside was a humanoid skeleton, standing upright, rubbing the stump where its right hand had been against the wooden walls. It turned at the sound of Sam's cry of surprise, then dashed to the door and opened it with his left hand. Then, running through the door, it rounded the hut and attacked the trio of heroes. Around them, the doors of three other huts slammed open, and three more one-handed skeletons came dashing out to join the fray. Unlike normal undead skeletons, these wore the tattered remains of rotting clothing. They formed an arc around the heroes, closing in fast.

Prompted by fear, Sam scrambled back away from the undead horde and shot at a point on the ground between three of them with an explosive arrow from his Dynabow 3.0. His strike was true - it's hard to miss when you're aiming for the ground - and the three skeletons were engulfed by the blast of fiery energy that resulted. As the flames flickered out, all three skeletons fell to the ground, destroyed at once.

"Whoa!" exclaimed Sam. "Did you guys see that? I got three at once! I got three at once!" The crow was used to seeing multiple foes drop all at one time, but in the past it had always been the result of Baabby's Rift-Weaver's Blade and the strength behind the baabarian's arms that were responsible.

"We saaw it," reassured Baabby, cutting the fourth skeleton in half with a casual swing of his greatsword. "Nice one, Sam!" The crow puffed out his chest at the rare praise for his combat prowess.

"Let's check out these huts," suggested Sapphrina, flying over to the one Sam had approached. Like the majority of the others in the small village, it was round with a pointed roof; inside, a line of white powder ringed the inside of the exterior walls. And carved on every wooden surface was the same phrase, over and over: "Imprisoned, he yet feeds."

"That's weird," commented Sam, looking at the white powder. "What is this, sugar?" He dipped a feather-finger into the powder and tentatively touched it to his tongue.

"I'm sure that's bone dust," replied Sapphrina, not really paying attention to what Sam was doing. "That would explain why none of the skeletons had their right hands: they've worn them down to a stub by clawing this phrase over and over on the walls."

"Why would they do thaat?" asked Baabby, intrigued. Unnoticed behind them, Sam was gagging and frantically spitting bone dust out of his mouth.

"A magical compulsion?" guessed Sapphrina. "Judging from the first hut, some of the villagers left here in a hurry, and the others stayed behind and carved the phrase into the walls with their fingers, not even stopping once they'd died." They checked out a few more huts and found the results to be about fifty-fifty: either signs of panicked flight or the same phrase carved into the walls. Their investigations prompted two other skeletal villagers to attack them; Baabby skillfully handled cutting them down without breaking a sweat.

Sam checked out a smaller hut that had two tiny totems just outside its door: one was carved like a mantis; the other, a butterfly. Sapphrina, meanwhile, had floated over to the largest hut - apparently a meeting hall. It, too, had two totem poles outside its door, this time an ox and a sheep. But of more importance, the large wooden table inside was covered in unrolled maps weighted down with books. The maps proved to be of the local area, while the books were journals of the village's history.

While Sapphrina (and Baabby, once he'd finished dispatching the last two one-handed skeletons) examined the maps, Sam gave himself over to a search for more important things - like treasure! He cried out in delight when pulling away a rotting carpet of woven jungle fibers revealed a trap door in the floor - nothing more elaborate than a piece of sturdy wood over a hole dug into the dirt floor. Tearing away the wood, Sam pulled out the sole contents of the hidden space: an elaborately carved box with three keyholes on its top. "Now we're talking!" exclaimed the greedy archer.

Squinting at the images carved by the three keyholes - he wanted to make sure they weren't trapped - Sam made out the images of a crow, a sheep, and a butterfly. "Well, that's weird," he muttered and showed the others what they'd found.

"You think they represent us?" asked Baabby.

"Could be," admitted Sapphrina, fluttering her fairy wings, which looked very much like an oversize pair of butterfly wings.

"Here, hold this!" said Sam suddenly, thrusting the box at the fairy as he rushed outside. An idea had suddenly formed in his mind; searching the sheep carving in the totem pole, he poked and prodded until he found a secret compartment. And sure enough, hidden inside it was a small metal key - with the head of a sheep engraved on its end.

"I knew it!" cried Sam, rushing over to the smaller totems of the mantis and the butterfly he'd been looking at earlier. A close perusal unearthed another hidden compartment containing a butterfly key. "Now we just need a crow!" exclaimed Baabby, finding his companion's enthusiasm contagious.

"Everybody needs a crow," agreed Sam knowingly. But a quick search throughout the small village finally led them to another pair of totems, this time a matched hawk and a crow along a path exiting the village. Sam found the crow key and the trio eagerly opened the box. Inside were three necklaces, each with a single ornament carved from a green stone: a sheep, a crow, and a butterfly. "Gee, I wonder which one is whose?" snickered Sam as he placed the crow necklace around his neck. "What do these do?" he asked Sapphrina. She usually knew the answers to such questions.

"I can only assume they'll aid us in some way," said the fairy. "Obviously, somebody here had heard of the Prophecy of the Courageous Sheep and the Cowardly Crow and stashed these away for our use when we came this way."

"Man, that stupid prophecy needs a new name," grumbled Sam. "So now what?"

"We should go check out those journals," suggested Sapphrina. "Great," snorted Sam at the suggestion as he followed his two friends back to the meeting hall hut. "Reading! That sounds exciting!"

It wasn't. Sam left the boring journal-reading to their studious fairy while he went searching the village for a totem pole carved in the image of a snail. "Sorry, Shelldon," he said after his explorations were complete. "I guess they didn't think to make a necklace for you." Returning to the others, he asked if they'd had any luck.

They had. Sapphrina explained that the journals told of an explorer who had come to the village on his way to searching for a rare and magical gemstone. The villagers told him to follow the river but to stay out of the caves. He returned days later with a chunk of the gemstone he'd been looking for, which he'd apparently broken off from the rest of the stone. But then the journal ended suddenly - and the last sentence had looked like it had been scrawled rather hurriedly. "It looks like the gemstone chunk brought the troubles with it to the village," surmised Sapphrina.

"So, it sounds like we haave two options," suggested Baabby. "We caan either follow the river and stay out of the caves, like the explorer was told to do, or we caan try to find this chunk of gemstone aand return it to where it came from." No matter which plan they adopted, their path to the Earth Rune would be taking them the same way the unnamed explorer had gone.

"Well," piped up Sam, "How about we follow the river, stay out of the caves, and if we happen to see any gem fragments lying around we figure out what to do with them when the time comes?" It was as good a plan as any, so the trio left the village through the totem poles of the hawk and the crow and trudged south. As they traveled, Sapphrina's necklace started glowing. "Hey, how come yours is glowing and ours aren't?" demanded Sam.

"I think mine's the only one doing anything right now," she said. "Odds are, it's allowing me to stay in flight, fighting the anti-Air magic infusing the area. And a good thing, too, or one of you would be carrying me." It was true: fairies had no legs, their lower torsos tapering off to a fine mist like a genie. As she was ahead of her companions, she missed out on Baabby and Sam looking at each other, then silently racing to put a finger to their nose in a "Not it!" gesture. Baabby smirked at his victory while Sam sulked at his loss. But then he decided if he was going to lose a competition like that, it was best to do so when the outcome wouldn't matter - Sapphrina's necklace seemed to be keeping her in the air just fine.

After a lengthy troop through the rainforest, made all the more memorable by the two light showers and the constant grumbling from Sam, the trio came to the river. It was about five feet below the surface of the rest of the ground, its winding passage through the jungle having carved a snakelike channel. The river wasn't very wide and probably wasn't very deep, judging from the occasional smooth rocks rising up above its surface. But that wasn't what had initially caught the heroes' attention: rather, somewhat expectedly, their focus was on the massive tyrannosaurus standing on the other side of the river in between a sharp curve. It had been dipping its muzzle in the river, either to quench its thirst or snap at some fish, but it looked up at the heroes' approach.

Everyone froze, too frightened to move. But the tyrannosaur's eyesight was apparently not all that good - or perhaps the heroes would make little more than a light snack to the massive beast - and it returned its gaze to the river below where it stood.

"Whew!" breathed Sam.

And that was when they noticed the dire tigers.

There were two of them, one over behind the tyrannosaur and the other much closer - just on the other side of the chasm from Baabby, who was in the lead of the trio's formation. It had been laying down in the tall grass when it suddenly stretched, stood, and looked the humanoid sheep straight in the eye with a look that said, "Why yes, I think mutton will do quite nicely for dinner tonight!"

Baabby wasted no time. Pulling the Rift-Weaver's Blade from his broad back, he leaped - and landed with a splash into the river below, where he quickly waded away as fast as he could. (He might have been a massively-muscled baabarian, but he was nobody's fool.) He looked up to see the dire tiger watching his every move, ready to pounce - and then saw a cave opening along the side of the riverbank. "In here!" he called, wading into the narrow cave opening and assuming a defensive stance.

Sapphrina followed at once, flying diagonally across the chasm in a bee-line to safety. Her wings brushed Baabby's arm as she flew past him into the dark interior of the cave.

"Well, this is just great!" complained Sam, looking across the narrow chasm at the hungry-looking dire tiger that was apparently deciding that a poultry dish would make an acceptable alternative to the mutton course he had originally planned. In desperation, Sam sent an explosive arrow directly into the tiger's face, then jumped into the water - and ducked. The water was only waist-high, so he wanted to make sure he was completely submerged and hopefully out of view when the dire tiger shook off the sudden attack. Because the former Son of Archery knew full well that a tiger that big wasn't going to be toppled by a single arrow, explosive or otherwise!

And sure enough, it wasn't. With a roar of fury, the dire tiger leaped the gap and landed where Sam had been just moments before. It spun around and spotted Baabby standing at the entrance to the cave, a perfectly good meal. And yet, surprisingly, it didn't leap down at the sheep-man. Instead, its ears flattened against its head, almost as if afraid to go down into the cave with its potential prey.

"That doesn't particularly bode well," sputtered Sam as he rose up from the water at the cave's entrance and followed his companions into the darkness within. "Even the tigers know better than to enter the caves."

"Guys," called Sapphrina from deeper within the cave, after it was apparent the tiger wasn't going to follow them inside. "Come look at this." She showed Baabby and Sam a pile of shattered crystal shards in a pile along one side of the cave tunnel - for from here, they could see there was another cave opening at the other end, opening back into the river chasm. The fairy was visibly shivering at the sight.

"Whaat is it?" asked Baabby, concern in his voice.

"Don't you feel it?" asked the fairy. "Something's...very off about this place."

"Really?" asked Sam in sarcastic amazement. "You mean here, in this cave that the villagers warn people not to enter?"

"We didn't really haave a choice," argued Baabby. "Would you have raather stayed and fought the tiger? And the tyrannosaur?"

"No," admitted the crow. "But still." He looked down at the pile of gem-shards, idly wondering if they were worth anything, but ultimately deciding he didn't want anything to do with gems that could have him scratching "Imprisoned, he yet feeds" until he wore out his bones. Birds had very delicate bones, after all. As Baabby and Sapphrina moved to the other end of the tunnel, though, something else entered Sam's notice: all of the shards were the exact same thickness - almost as if the full gemstone had been hollow....

"Hey!" Sam called, realizing he was the only one left in the cave. "Wait up!"

The baabarian had taken a deep breath before exiting the cave and was now skirting along the bottom of the river - which was a good thing, as he was passing beneath the area where the tyrannosaur stood overhead. Fortunately, there was a downed tree covering the chasm that partially blocked the access to the river below; even if the dinosaur had spotted Baabby, he'd have to move the tree out of the way before he could snap down at him.

As Sam exited the dark cave and blinked in the sunlight, he could see Sapphrina submerge and repeat Baabby's strategy for getting past the tyrannosaur. Something must have caught the beast's eye, for it lunged down with its giant head and snapped the tree in half, sending both chunks falling into the river to be washed away by the current. But by then Baabby had ducked into another riverside cave and Sapphrina soon followed suit. Oh well - nothing for it! thought Sam, taking a deep breath and ducking beneath the water, hoping his dark feathers would keep him fairly well hidden from the dinosaur above.

"You made it!" said Sapphrina when Sam staggered into the cave; the crow was glad to hear the worry in her voice as she voiced her happiness that he'd made it.

"Easy-peasy!" scoffed Sam. "I'm actually part duck on my mother's side."

Meanwhile, Baabby had walked halfway down the tunnel and found another gemstone - this one intact. "Guys!" he called. "Check it out!" He gave the gem a knock with his knuckles.

And it knocked back.

"Um," gulped Sam, moving up to examine the gem. "Is it supposed to do that?" As an experiment, he rapped on its surface three times, and in response it rapped back at him three times. He stared at the gemstone and was sure he could see mist of some type swirling around in there. It was almost hypnotic...but also somehow wrong. "I think I'm getting those heebie-jeebies Sapphrina got in the last cave," he said, starting to shiver.

And then the first crack appeared in the surface of the gem.

Sam leaped back as if the gem had bitten him. Despite its great size - it stood almost as high as the humanoid crow did, so it would likely be worth a fortune intact - Sam wanted nothing to do with the eerie thing. He stepped back, complaining: "'Follow the river,' they said. 'Stay out of the caves,' they said. So what do we do? We follow the river and we enter every single cave we see!"

"It looks like it's trying to hatch!" exclaimed Baabby, who had stepped forward to check out the gemstone himself. Multiple cracks had appeared all over the gem, but they were all on the inside - the outer surfaces were still as smooth as ever. Baabby hefted his greatsword and announced, "I'm going to give it a hand!"

Sam got about two words into his next sentence - which was going to be "I don't think that's a good idea!" - when the Rift-Weaver's Blade smashed through the gemstone, sending shards everywhere. The mist darkened and took form - and suddenly, there in the tunnel with the three heroes hovered a darkness elemental, its alien form (roughly humanoid, but bizarrely so, with gaps and spaces missing from its arms and torso like it was partially skeletal, and with wispy tendrils instead of legs) hovering above the floor of the cave tunnel. Although it was hard to make out facial features, it didn't look as if the elemental creature had a mouth; nonetheless, as its body formed the words "Imprisoned, my master feeds!" could be heard whispering throughout the cavern.

A great fear entered the hearts of all three heroes at the sight of this monstrosity. "I have an idea: LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!" cried Sam - but for once, uncharacteristically, Sapphrina beat him to it. With a frantic beating of wings (more hummingbird speed than butterfly), the fairy flew back the way they'd come, out of the cave, up the side of the chasm, and straight into the surrounding jungle before the tyrannosaur could even register her presence.

Fortunately, Baabby and Sam weren't as affected by the darkness elemental's frightful presence as their fairy companion had been. Sam sent an explosive arrow into the creature's torso; then, as the flames flickered out, Baabby leapt up and slashed the thing with the Rift-Weaver's Blade. Despite Sam having to wait for a moment before he could charge another arrow with explosive energy (and the apparent uselessness of a normal arrow - it hit the creature but seemed to pass right through), the hulking baabarian was up to the task of taking down the monstrosity he had helped birth.

And once the creature had been slain, the fear left the two heroes as suddenly as it had appeared. Together, they exited at the far end of the tunnel, far enough away from the tyrannosaur's position it was no longer aware of their presence, only to find Sapphrina sheepishly fluttering to meet them. "Sorry about that, guys," she apologized. "I think that was a fear effect - it was like I had no control over my actions."

As luck would have it, there was another cave opening directly across the chasm from where the heroes stood. Without hesitation, Baabby entered it, sword at the ready. "'Follow the river,' they said," repeated Sam dejectedly. "'Stay out of the caves,' they said...."

"Caan it, Sam!" commanded Baabby. "There's another gem in here! We need to destroy it!"

"Couldn't we just leave it alone?" wheedled the archer. "It's stuck in here, not doing anybody any harm...."

"Better that we aactivate it and destroy the monster within," countered Baabby. "Otherwise, somebody could come along and there could be aanother village destroyed. You don't waant thaat, do you?"

"No," replied Sam, knowing when he was beaten. "But before you go cracking it open like an egg, let me try something." Rummaging in his backpack, the little crow pulled out his canvas tent and a 50-foot supply of sturdy rope. He plopped the tent over the top half of the gemstone and wrapped the rope around it. Once he saw what his little partner was planning, Baabby even helped him pull the rope tight so the crow could tie the knot as tight as possible. Then he started tapping on it, only to hear something - the darkness elemental within, they now knew - tap back. When cracks started appearing on the inside of the gem, Sam had everyone step back out of the blast radius and targeted an explosive arrow dead center on the gemstone. With any luck, it would get tangled up in the tent and the ropes, and they could make easy work of it.

It didn't quite turn out that way. It broke through the gemstone, sending shattered pieces tumbling down beneath the bound tent, but the tent and ropes slipped off the elemental like a shed skin. Not that it really mattered all that much, though: Sam got off his shot, and then Baabby rushed in with his greatsword. He took a raking of sharp claws across his chest as he approached, but it didn't deter the sheep-man - instead, it caused the rage to build inside him and further fuel his strength. Several slashes later, the darkness elemental's alien form dissipated into nothingness, but not before whispering a creepy "Imprisoned, my master feeds!"

"Say 'Hi!' to your little pal Don from us!" called Sam, still irritated that his tent trick hadn't worked.

"Don't feel bad," said Sapphrina. "Darkness is kind of hard to tie up, after all."

"Yeah," agreed Sam. "But I blew up my tent."

"We'll get you aanother one," promised Baabby.

Exiting the other end of the cave tunnel, the heroes found themselves back at the river. No further caves were visible, but they floated down the river with their eyes peeled for any new riverbank openings; Baabby was determined to activate and destroy any further darkness elementals they might encounter on the way.

But the rest of their river trip was uneventful and the trio soon enough saw the Perilous Plateau looming ahead.

"Oh yeah," remarked Sam. "I forgot we still have a long way yet to go."

- - -

This adventure was a "travel to the location of the next Rune" adventure, not a "get the next Rune" adventure (as Logan explained to Harry once we were finished playing). Harry accepted it, although he's eager to collect the Earth Rune and be on our way to the next one.

The necklaces each add a +2 to Will saves vs. fear, which were useful against the darkness elementals, although Sapphrina did poorly on her saves anyway and went from shaken to frightened and thus fled. Fortunately, upon killing the darkness elemental its effects faded, so she regained her composure and found her way back to the rest of the group.

Logan picked up a new Pathfinder Flip-Mat for this adventure: Forbidden Jungle. It had the village of huts on the one side and the winding river on the other; he added the six cave openings along the riverbanks using paper overlays he had built and cut out. For the cave interiors, he used three different "Map Pack" cards of cave passageways, explaining away the fact that they weren't the correct size and shape to extend from one cave opening to the other as dimensional distortion.


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 7
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 7​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 7​

Game Session Date: 10 June 2017

- - -

After an arduous, sweaty hike through the rain forest, the heroes found themselves at last at the Perilous Plateau. And as luck would have it, immediately before them was the opening to a cave; Sam would not have been surprised to find the cave opening to the Geode Caverns at the very top, requiring a lengthy climb. But no: there it was, a dark opening at ground level of the plateau, with glittering light within hinting at the possibility of sparkling geodes just out of sight.

"Finally!" gasped Sam. "Let's go!"

However, he only managed to take a single step forward before everything went wonky. There was a brief moment of dizziness, followed by a lingering sensation of wrongness - as if the universe suddenly tasted purple. And there, writhing in front of the heroes, was the apparent cause of the weirdness: a wriggling tentacle with an eyeball at its tip, rising up from a rift in the ground that hadn't been there a moment before.

<Welcome!> said a buzzing in the back of the three adventurers' heads. <I look forward to tasting your fears! Especially yours, Xacho - it's been so long!>

"Well, you just made a major fool out of yourself, Don," commented Sam. "Does that eyeball of yours even work? Does he" - and here he pointed at Baabby - "look anything like Xacho? Why don't you just wear an 'I'm an idiot' sign around your neck?"

There was no reply from the eyeball-tentacle, except perhaps the telepathic equivalent of spluttering noises.

"Ah--got it! No neck!" replied Sam, answering his own question. "If you like, Don, we could probably fashion a dunce cap or something for you to wear on your eyeball. Or - here's an idea - maybe we'll just blow you up to kingdom come!" And with that, Sam sent an explosive arrow flying at the monstrosity. The explosion caused yowls of pain to manifest in the back of the heroes' heads as the abomination mentally cried out, but then Baabby stepped up and cut the thing in two with a perfectly-aimed strike of the Rift-Weaver's Blade. The rest of the tentacle pulled back into the rift, and the baabarian used his magic greatsword to close the rift behind it.

"Well, we're off to an interesting staart," he commented. "Waas that really the Devourer of Nightmares?"

"A part of him, likely," answered Sapphrina. "He's still supposed to be locked away, though - it's disturbing that he's able to open rifts, even small ones that allow him to poke part of him outside his prison."

"Well, let's not dwell on it," suggested Baabby, leading the way into the cave. "We've got an Earth Rune to fetch."

After a short passageway of normal rock, the cavern opened up into a massive geode, with purple crystals like giant amethysts jutting from every surface. Blending in with the crystals were two creatures of the same color and seemingly made of the same substance. Scorpionlike in build, they skittered forward aggressively at the heroes' approach.

"Crysmals!" Sapphrina exclaimed before they struck. As Baabby was in the lead, he got the brunt of both attacks. Raising their tails in a manner reminiscent of a scorpion, they fired beams of purple energy from their tips. Each struck Baabby in the torso, causing him to cry out in pain.

Sam stepped up and fired an explosive arrow at the purple crysmal on the right - which, he could see, was the closest to the other exit from this cavern, and thus the way they needed to go. The crysmal was engulfed in the explosion, but as the smoke cleared Sam could see the crystalline being seemed not to have been harmed by the fire of the explosion, merely the concussive blast. Bummer! - he wasn't likely to get as much mileage as he was used to with his Dynabow 3.0 against these creatures!

At the crow's side, Sapphrina flew up and fired off a ray of frost spell. All she needed to do was hit the crysmal with her spell for it to take effect, but it went wild, striking a crystal projection off to the left of the beast. But Baabby had better luck with his attack, his Rift-Weaver's Blade chipping a few chunks off the crysmal's crystalline hide by the force of his blow. In response, the creature's tail pointed at the baabarian and another blast of energy was sent his way. The other crysmal, meanwhile, was suddenly no longer where it had been but was now immediately behind the baabarian, lining up a tail-strike.

With his Dynabow 3.0 needing time to recharge, Sam sent a flurry of three normal arrows at the crysmal behind Baabby. Those that hit bounced off the creature's hide, but it flinched as if they had at least hurt somewhat. Sapphrina followed Sam's attack with one of her own, another ray of frost - which missed in just as spectacular a fashion as her last shot. "What's up with you?" demanded Sam. "Do you need glasses all of a sudden?"

Fortunately, Baabby had the situation well in hand. He brought his blade down onto the wounded crysmal, finishing it off, and then spun in place and sent his greatsword slashing into the side of the one who had teleported behind him. The crysmal retaliated by stabbing forward with the sharp point of its tail. Sam sent another trio of arrows crashing into the crysmal's body and Baabby finished it off with a final swing of his sword. Sore from where he'd been blasted by the crysmals' tail-beams, the baabarian cast a quick healing spell upon himself and deemed himself ready to move on.

The rock tunnel led to another massive geode, this one yellow with crystals the appearance of topaz. Standing in the middle of the chamber was a Large earth elemental, parts of its body filled with chips of topaz. At its side was what might have been its pet: another crysmal, this one similarly sporting a yellowish tinge to its crystalline body. Upon spotting the heroes, the elemental lumbered over. However, its speed left something to be desired, for before it could close the distance Sam sent an explosive arrow crashing into its midsection. Sapphrina flew up to Baabby, put a hand on his shoulder, and channeled an enlarge person spell into him. He grew to the same size as the charging elemental, causing the fairy to look over at Sam and declare, "I'm still plenty useful!"

"Just think about getting those glasses, that's all I'm saying," retorted Sam. "There's nothing wrong with the 'hot librarian' look!"

Baabby raced towards the approaching earth elemental at a much faster pace and swung his Rift-Weaver's Blade into its side, eliciting a grunt of pain from the rocky foe. Behind its master, the yellowish crysmal skittered sideways and shot its tail-beam at Baabby. Sam sent three arrows at the earth elemental, but he could tell by the way they snapped in pieces as they hit they weren't doing a lick of good.

Sapphrina flew forward between Baabby and Sam and cast a haste spell that affected all three of them. "Useful!" she repeated.

Now that the two hulking behemoths were face-to-face, the elemental wasted no time going on the offensive. Twin fists slammed into Baabby's head and side, staggering him from the powerful blows. But he responded with an overhead strike with his greatsword, putting every ounce of strength into it. It was enough; the earth elemental crumbled apart into large chunks of rock and a plethora of gravel.

Her confidence back, Sapphrina targeted the crysmal with another ray of frost spell - and, to her dismay, missed for a third time. "Not as useful!" carped Sam, sending some normal arrows into the crysmal, since he knew they were at least vulnerable to being hit by them. But again it was Baabby who dealt the final blow.

Waving away suggestions of healing, Baabby raced into the next geode cavern. This one was green, with emeralds jutting out at weird angles from the walls, ceiling, and floor. There were three crysmals facing them, each green like the surrounding crystals, but the one in the middle was easily twice the size of the two on its flanks. With a battle cry, Baabby charged into the chamber, swinging his greatsword at the Large creature in the middle (the one Sam dubbed "Mommy Crysmal"). It reacted by shooting its tail-laser at Baabby's face, an act which did not endear it to the screaming sheep-man. Sapphrina cast a bear's endurance spell on Baabby to keep him in the fight longer, because both she and Sam knew he was their best bet at beating Mommy Crysmal; the baabarian's companions would have all they could do dealing with the two smaller ones.

The smaller crysmals both instinctively took Baabby, twice the size of his companions, as the biggest threat they faced, so each targeted the sheep-man with their tail-blasts. Sam saw an opportunity and shot an explosive arrow at the ground between Mommy Crysmal and one of her offspring, engulfing them both in an explosive blast that at least did some concussive damage, if the fire effects were ignored. Baabby swung again at the Large crysmal, only to have his blade skitter across the crystalline surface of the creature's skin, affecting it not in the least. Mommy Crysmal and the farthest offspring both shot tail-lasers at Baabby, whereas the other one retaliated against Sam by targeting him. "Hey!" squawked Sam. "No fair!"

Three arrows clanged against the offending crysmal's body, an indication of Sam's irritation at having been lasered. Baabby got in a couple of good strikes with his blade, wounding the Large crysmal to the point it was wobbling on its arachnoid legs. Sapphrina flew up, touched her thumbs together while otherwise spreading her fingers, and used an old fairy trick to convert a burning hands spell into acidic hands, squirting streams of acid onto Mommy Crysmal and the one that had shot Sam. "Useful yet again!" she called out.

"I concede the point!" called out Sam, not wanting to hear about every time their fairy friend helped in battle. He shot another bunch of arrows at the little crysmal, finally killing it.

Mommy Crysmal, in the meantime, swung her tail into Baabby's face again and blasted him for all she was worth. With a look of abject surprise on his face, the hulking baabarian fell backwards, knocked out from the damage.

"Oh, crap!" cried out Sam. "We're never gonna beat that thing without him! Quick! Feed him one of his potions!" Sapphrina flew over to comply, pulling out a twice-normal-size potion flask from the baabarian's twice-normal-size belt, pulling the twice-normal-size cork off the end, and spilling it into the twice-normal-size mouth of their unconscious combat machine. Baabby sat up, sputtered, and got an immediate sense of the situation. "Thaanks!" he called, grabbing up the Rift-Weaver's Blade and allowing the rage to overcome him. His blow cut Mommy Crysmal in two and then the blade cleaved into the remaining crysmal's body for good measure. Sam shot the crysmal, the crysmal shot Baabby, Baabby cut the crysmal in half with his greatsword, and then that was that. The only excitement after that was calming Baabby out of his rage long enough for him to cast healing spells upon himself.

The next geode was bluish in color, but none of the heroes even gave the sapphire crystals a moment's notice - their focus was on the eyeball-tipped tentacle jutting up from a rift on the floor. <I do so look forward to the taste of your fears> the tentacle-thing thought at the heroes.

"You know my greatest fear?" taunted Sam. "That my good friend Don's eyeball might get sat on by an elephant - and the tip of the tentacle, unable to blink, will get a close-up view of the latter part of the elephant's digestive tract!" He was purposely trying to think of off-putting images - serves anybody right for poking around in his mind, where they didn't belong!

<My name is not "Don"!> came the telepathic reply, and the irritation that came along with the statement showed Sam was hitting a nerve. Another indicator was the beam of energy that shot out from the eyeball, hitting Sam Crow square in the chest. The archer felt a familiar draining of his life energy. <You like that?> came the taunting, telepathic reply. <I'll be continually feasting upon your essence as I deal with your friends!>

"Maybe," replied Sam, grabbing an arrow and charging it up with his Dynabow 3.0. "But I bet you won't be doing much draining once we blow you up!" The explosion made a rather decent bit of punctuation, the little crow thought.

Once again, Baabby stepped up as the explosion ran its course and as soon as the smoke had cleared his greatsword came slicing in for a precision strike, expertly slicing the tentacle halfway down its exposed length. The tip of the tentacle flopped around on the ground like a caught fish, then Baabby used his Rift-Weaver's Blade to close the rift into which the rest of the tentacle had retreated. As the rift closed, Sam felt the draining turn off as if somebody had turned off a switch. "That's much better," he said. "Thanks, Baabby!" The baabarian followed up with a few healing spells to get Sam back up to his full strength, and then the group was ready to move on.

The next geode was red in color, with ruby-crystals extending from all surfaces. In the middle of the geode stood an enormous earth elemental studded with rubies throughout its surface. Baabby was still twice his normal size, the result of Sapphrina's enlarge person spell, but this creature was at least another entire Baabby taller!

"Hey!" called out Sam as the creature started lumbering their way. "We've killed a whole bunch of elementals and crysmals before getting here! What makes you think you'll be any different? Howzabout you just stand back and let us pass, and you can go about whatever it is you do all day when not fighting dashing-looking heroes?" The elemental's plodding speed did not decrease in the least. "Oh well, it was worth a try!" said Sam, turning to comment to Baabby at his side.

That was a mistake! Having taken his eye off the enemy - even momentarily - Sam found himself the target of a massive fist almost as big as he was! Sam practically flew backwards and made a mental note to stand behind Baabby from now on when he was going to allow his attention to wander.

"My master will not allow it!" roared the elemental, long enough after Sam's comment that the heroes had to think back to what their foe was referring to. More than a bit big, this elemental, but more than a bit thick - in both senses of the word!

"Your master isn't named 'Don' by any chance, is it?" asked Sam as he sent an explosive arrow blasting into the earth elemental's torso while Baabby stepped back out of range. "Because we've already beaten him twice already today. I hate to mention it, but he's kind fo a wuss. You might want to go find somebody a little tougher for your next master. Say! I think I know where you might find a chompy...."

"SHUT UP!" cried the earth elemental. "Bird-thing talk too much!"

"That's not actually my fault," countered Sam. "I'm part parrot on my mother's side...." As the archer was keeping the earth elemental distracted, Baabby stepped up and swung the Rift-Weaver's Blade at their foe, but for once the blade did little but glance off the creature's stony hide. Sapphrina, seeing her original spell fade, recast haste on the three heroes, which definitely helped.

As if noticing the sheep-man for the first time (and as Sam had backed off out of range), the earth elemental slammed Baabby with its massive fists. While Baabby reeled, Sam sent three arrows flying at the elemental, but even as they struck he knew they wouldn't be doing anything but possibly irritating the massive foe. Baabby hit the elemental with his greatsword, this time doing some damage, but the elemental's retaliation sent consciousness fleeing from the baabarian at its fastest possible speed.

"Not again!" cried Sam, rushing forward and using one of his own healing potions to revive the baabarian, their only real hope in defeating the earth elemental. Sapphrina flew up and cast a bear's endurance on Baabby as well and together the two measures managed to revive him. Baabby continued the fight, chipping away at the elemental's form bit by bit until he finally laid the final blow that shattered the creature into thousands of chunks of rock and ruby. With its last moment of movement, it glanced down at its slayer as if seeing him truly for the first time, and begged, "Free the Stonefather...."

Nobody was sure what that necessarily meant, but it sure sounded like the elemental had been siding with the Devourer of Nightmares against his will - and that another of his kind was similarly imprisoned, mentally or otherwise. After healing spells brought the heroes to their full fighting trim, they moved on to what would turn out to be the last geode cavern in the entire complex.

This last one was filled with diamonds, and the light was bright enough to cause the heroes to have to squint. Another earth elemental, this one large enough to be given the nomenclature "Earth Titan" (at least, according to Sapphrina) was apparently the Stonefather. If so, the ruby-elemental's plea to free him was a literal one, for his limbs and torso were bound in two massive tentacles that squeezed him as he struggled fruitlessly to get free. Two more tentacles rose up from rifts in the ground, but these two had the now-familiar eyeballs at their tips. And every now and then, as the Stonfather struggled to free himself, Sam and Sapphrina could see through his legs a hovering, robed figure at the back of the chamber.

The eyeballs each shot out a ray of life draining; each hit Baabby and absorbed some of his life energy, but the experience did not shake the baabarian's resolve in the least. Sam stepped out from behind Baabby and shot an explosive arrow at the leftmost eyeball-tentacle, grinning as it went up in flames. Baabby raced into the room and swung absently at the other eyeball-tentacle as he passed it, but the thing was nimble and the blade swooshed by without making contact. Sapphrina, realizing every bit of damage they could deal to their foes would get them that much closer to gaining the Earth Rune for Baabby's greatsword, flew up to the leftmost eyeball tentacle and let fly with an acidic hands spell variant. Sam followed her attack up with three normal arrows, but as each one hit and bounced off with a solid thunk, the crow realized just what kind of spell punk was floating there at the back of the room - and what they could do for their allies.

"Baabby!" he called. "Get the spell punk! He's covered the other enemies in stoneskin spells!"

<You're too late!> came a telepathic taunt from the eyeballs. <You will be defeated, and I will savor the taste of your nightmares for days on end!>

"Ha!" scoffed Sam, readying another explosive arrow. "Says the mighty Don, who we've already beaten twice -- today!"

<You won't best me again!> came the telepathic reply. <I know your capabilities, little crow, and they fail to impress! After all...you're part "Don" on your father's side!>

"Pffft!" cried Sam. "Is that all you've got? You're just trying to scare me with ridiculous ideas about my family tree - which you are in no way a part of!" And he let fly with his arrow, which exploded nicely around the rightmost eyeball tentacle.

Baabby, in the meantime, had skirted around the struggling Stonefather and send the Rift-Weaver's Blade crashing down on the earth spell punk fiddling around with a closed rift in the back of the chamber, trying to get it opened up. By the time he was aware of the baabarian's approach, it was far too late for the spell punk. He died after one strike, and the stoneskins protecting his allies all died with him. Baabby turned his greatsword to the task of freeing the Stonefather by slicing into one of the two massive tentacles pinning him in place.

"That's more like it!" agreed Sapphrina, sending another acidic hands spell squirting acid into the leftmost eyeball tentacle. At this range it was hard to miss - but it was also easy to see that the center of the eyeball's pupil was ringed with teeth! "Yecch!" she cried in disgust.

For her efforts, she was blasted by a beam from the leftmost eyeball, just as Baabby was hit with a similar blast from the one on the right. Sam shot another three arrows into the left eyeball, and this time they managed to inflict no small amount of pain.

Another acidic attack from Sapphrina and another barrage of arrows from Sam left the leftmost eyeball-tentacle staggering and just about to fall. But then Baabby finally cut through the tentacle he'd been working on and shifted over to work on the other one. Freed from half of his wrestling opponents, the Stonefather was able to better apply his own grappling attempts against the lone tentacle remaining, and at last it too had been severed.

"Took you long enough!" grumbled the Stonefather. "I've been trapped here for centuries!"

"I only just recently got the sword!" replied Baabby.

"You're not Xacho?"

"No, I'm Baabby!"

"Eh, you little humanoids all look alike to me...." The Stonefather and Baabby turned as one, facing the only remaining foes in the diamond geode: two eyeball-tentacles poking up out of rifts from the floor. Each eyeball looked at the other one and then in unison each retracted back through its respective rift.

"Oh no, you don't!" called Sam as he raced to the rightmost rift. "Sapphrina! Face the wall!" he commanded.


"Just do it! It's important!" cried Sam as he skidded to a halt at the lip of the rightmost rift and started unbuckling his pants. Then, seeing that their fairy friend's head was averted as requested, he dropped his trousers and squatted over the rift. "Hey Don!" he called. "Specially delivery!" And then he let fly with a disgusting stream of whitish bird poop.

"Heh heh heh!" the archer smirked, incredibly pleased with himself. After hitching his pants back into position, he told the fairy it was safe to look again.

"I don't think I even want to know," she said as Baabby used his Rift-Weaver's Blade to close each rift in turn.

That only left the rift in the back of the chamber, the one the earth spell punk had been fiddling with. Baabby unlocked it with his blade, opening a rift into an extradimensional space. Sapphrina had to dismiss the enlarge person spell so Baabby was able to fit, but all three passed through the rift into a smaller geode with numerous crystals of different colors throughout. The fairy used her powers to channel the Earth energy from the area, and it coalesced into the Earth Rune, which promptly adhered itself to the Rift-Weaver's Blade.

"Mission accomplished," Baabby said with some pride.

The heroes returned to the diamond geode, where the Stonefather thanked them for freeing him. As a tangible form of appreciation, he gave them about 20,000 gold pieces each worth of diamonds from his own geode. "Whoa!" gasped Sam, carefully shoveling each stone into his extradimensional backpack.

"This has been the best adventure yet!" gushed Sam. "The best treasure, and an opportunity to crap on Don in his own prison!"

"Oh, tell me you didn't!" said the fairy, her nose squinching in disgust. Sam just smiled at her and deliberately did not tell her he hadn't.

- - -

According to Logan, the next adventure will find our heroes in an appropriately large city with a substantial library, where Sapphrina does research on the possible location of the Tech rune, while Sam and Baabby go shopping!

For the geodes, Logan purchased a pack of sparkly sheets of paper of different color, then measured out 1-inch squares with a yardstick and drew over the pencil marks with a black Sharpie. The connecting tunnels were more tunnel maps from a Paizo Map Pack set. We used D&D Miniatures for the elementals and Logan had me make up crysmal tokens of the two different sizes. For the eyeball-tentacles, he used some purple, clear-plastic tentacle miniatures he picked up from a game shop some time ago. (We use them to designate the central area of effect of Evard's black tentacles spells, which the wizard in our standard D&D campaign uses frequently.)


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 8
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 8​

NPC Roster:
Stealth Elf, elf monk 10/rogue 10​

Game Session Date: 1 July 2017

- - -

The troll airship dropped safely to the ground just outside the outskirts of town and its three passengers stepped off. The sun was just starting to sink beneath the horizon, and throughout the town the streetlights were being lit. "You guys get us a room for the night," Sapphrina said. "I'm heading off to the library to research what I can about the missing Tech rune. I'll meet you tonight, after the library closes for the evening."

"Aall right," agreed Baabby.

"Hey," said Sam, watching their fairy friend fly over towards a separate group of buildings in the distance - presumably where the library was located. "We might be able to pick up some equipment in town while we're here!"

"Whaat kind of equipment?" asked Baabby.

"Magic stuff!" enthused Sam as the two walked down the street. Spotting a magic weapons shop, he said, "Like they have in here! C'mon, Baabby!"

Entering the shop, Baabby and Sam noted the Mabu clerk - the owner, no doubt - behind the counter. Besides them, there was only a single other customer, a human wizard by the looks of him, examining the sample of enchanted daggers on display. He looked up at the two adventurers as they entered the shop, then quickly averted his eyes.

"May I help you?" asked the friendly Mabu owner.

"We're just looking for now," advised Baabby, before turning to his crow companion. "What do we need more weapons for? I've got my Rift-Weaver's Blade and you've got your Dynabow 3.0. And Sapphrina's got your spare bow. Do we really want more weapons?"

"Maybe not, but they don't just sell weapons in a place like this. Here, look!" Sam approached a display shelf featuring magic gauntlets and bracers. "Ooh, how much for the bracers of archery?" he asked the clerk.

"Twenty-five thousand for the greater version, and five thousand for the lesser version," replied the clerk. That tracked with what Sam knew about the cost of such things; unfortunately, the little crow had only a tad bit over 23,000 gold pieces at hand. "I don't suppose you have any discounts for incredibly good-looking crow heroes?"

"I'm afraid not, sir," replied the Mabu.

"Pity," sighed Sam. "I guess I'll take this lesser set, then." He pulled out a sack of coins valued at 5,000 gold pieces from his pack, having already separated that amount back on the airship anticipating such a purchase, and handed them over to the clerk. The Mabu did a quick count, then thanked the crow for his purchase and wished him a good day.

"You see anything you want?" asked Sam.

"Not really," replied Baabby. "Like I said, I have all the weapons I need."

"You could always use a good ranged weapon," suggested Sam.

"Naah. I leave the ranged stuff to you guys. And if I need to, I can aalways use an attaack spell."

"Okay, just a suggestion," said Sam. As they left the shop, they could feel the eyes of the human wizard upon them. Sam looked back over his shoulder at him as they exited the building, and then several times as they walked down the street. Sure enough, the wizard departed the weapon shop shortly after the adventuring duo had, and followed behind them at a safe distance.

"Hey, here's a magic clothing shop!" said Sam, spotting a gaudy-looking shop up ahead. "You go see if there's anything in there you like, while I hang out here. Then, when you're done we can swap."

"Problem?" asked Baabby.

"I just want to see what Mr. Suspicious Wizard is up to, is all," replied the archer. Baabby looked over at the wizard in question, who felt the heroes' stares and ducked into a nearby shop selling writing supplies. The baabarian shrugged and entered the magic clothing shop.

"Good evening," said the vampire behind the counter. Baabby was nonplussed by the appearance of the undead shop owner; after all, Undead was one of the eight traditional elements recognized in the Skylands and was seen by most Skylanders as just as valid as any of the others. Plus, most vampires didn't go around attacking people and sucking their blood, any more than most baabarians attacked everyone they met in a blood-red frenzy. Stereotypes abounded, of course, but most folk had the common sense to judge individuals on an individual basis.

"Good evening," replied Baabby. "Do you have any maagic cloaks, by chaance? A friend suggested I might want to purchase one."

"Ve have quite a vide selection," said the vampire. "Did you have any particular qualities in mind?"

"Sam said there are cloaks that can help you evade maagic effects. Do you have anything like thaat?"

"But of course!" said the vampire, leading Baabby to a rack of colorful cloaks and showing him the available cloaks of resistance. "I particularly like this one," he said, holding up a black cloak with a wide collar and red lining - a traditional vampire cape if ever there was one.

"I think I'll take this one," said Baabby, choosing an all-white cloak of protection +3. He then wandered over to a display of leather belts, some thin enough to wear simply to hold up your pants, others wide enough to look like they'd only be worn by weightlifters. "Whaat do these do?" he asked. As the vampire went through their various magical properties, the baabarian stopped him as soon as he started describing the belts of giant strength. "Wait," he said. "You sell belts thaat will make me even stronger thaan I aam now?"

Upon assuring the sheep-man that they did indeed, the vampire soon had a customer very happy with his two purchases. Baabby strode out of the store wearing his new belt of giant strength +4 and his cloak of protection +3. "You're up," he said. "Whaat's our wizard been up to?"

"I've been watching him," Sam replied. "And then he started watching me, only as soon as he realized he was watching me watching him, he ducked into that shop over there. He's still in there, as far as I can tell."

"Got it," said Baabby. "I'll take it from here."

Sam entered the magical clothing shop and jumped a bit at first spotting the vampire clerk - he hadn't strayed too far from his homeland much before meeting up with Baabby, and thus wasn't as used to seeing undead creatures mingling peacefully with the living. Still, his desire for a pair of magical gloves overcame his leeriness of dealing with a vampire clerk. After asking the crow his interests, the vampire took him to the glove section and displayed the various gloves of dexterity. "Ve have many colors," the vampire informed Sam. "The famous undead Skylander, Roller Brawl, has a lovely pair just like these," he said, holding up a pair of bright pink gloves.

"Hmm," said Sam. "Not quite what I had in mind. I think I'll stick to basic black. But do you have a catalogue, perhaps?"

"Ve do," confirmed the vampire. "Vhy?"

"I really want to see a picture of Roller Brawl's lovely pink pair," snickered Sam, trying his best to keep a straight face. Fortunately, the joke went right over the vampire's head - or, more likely, he chose to ignore it. But Sam paid for his black gloves of dexterity +4 and strolled out of the store. Baabby informed him he'd been watching the store the wizard went into, but he hadn't come back out yet.

"Good," replied Sam. "Let's go get those rooms at the inn."

The inn wasn't too crowded; there was a green-skinned female elf in black leather armor at the bar talking to the Mabu bartender and a human drinking a beverage a few stools over. Baabby and Sam approached the bar and arranged to rent two rooms for the night, one for the two of them and one for Sapphrina. The bartender took their money for the rooms and informed the duo that dinner was available if they were interested.

"Do you have worm casserole?" asked Sam eagerly.

"Or graass saalaad?" inquired Baabby. The bartender gave the two a look that said "Boy, we get all kinds of weirdoes in this joint but I'd better be nice to the paying customers," and replied with, "Actually, good sirs, we were serving pizza tonight."

"Oh," said Sam, trying to hide his disappointment. "Okay then. That works, I guess." He and Baabby took a table in the corner and waited for the pizza to be brought to their table. From their vantage point, they were able to see anyone who entered or exited the barroom through the front entrance. And sure enough, minutes after the adventurers had settled at their table the human wizard who'd been trailing them walked into the room, looked around, and headed to the elf sitting at the bar. He pulled a piece of paper from his robe, looked nervously over at Baabby and Sam, pointed at them, and handed the paper over to the elf.

"I'm going to see what this is all about," decided Sam, getting up from his seat and approaching the wizard. "Hello, friendly and not at all suspicious stranger!" he greeted the wizard. "We're about to have some pizza - would you care to join us?" The wizard blanched, then rushed out of the building in a near panic.

"Whaat's his problem?" asked Baabby, still seated and patiently waiting for the food to come.

But Baabby and Sam had a problem of their own. The elf's eyes narrowed as she approached Sam and Baabby. She held up the paper she'd just been handed, which had a sketch of a pair of faces - a sheep and a crow - and the word "WANTED" in big letters above it. "You boys fit the descriptions of a pair of wanted criminals that have been seen in these parts recently," she declared.

"Really?" asked Sam, the voice of innocence. "What a coincidence! But not only are we not criminals, I don't look a thing like that picture there. Note the beady eyes, the drooping feathers, and the slack-jawed expression in the picture, compared to the powerful slope of my beak, my noble brow, and the overall trustworthiness of my piercing eyes. You know," he confided, "I'm part eagle on my mother's side."

"I'm still going to have to take you in for questioning."

"What?" squawked Sam. "This is an outrage! What are we - law-abiding citizens, and heroes to boot - supposed to have done?"

The elf referred to the sheet before her. "Destruction of a museum, theft of an airship, theft of a valuable artifact, attempting to start a volcanic eruption, and kidnapping a fairy," she read. "Those are some serious crimes," she said, her eyes narrowing even further. "What have you done with the fairy?"

"Nothing!" said Sam. "We're innocent of all charges! Who dares accuse the prophesied Courageous Sheep and, uh, Only-Slightly-Less-Courageous Crow of these devious deeds?"

There was a name at the bottom of the Wanted poster. "One 'Spee L. Poonk'," replied the elf.

"Spell punk!" hissed Sam, turning to Baabby. "That wizard guy was a spell punk!" Turning back to the elf - whom he had yet to recognize as Stealth Elf, one of the fabled Skylanders who worked for the Portal Master, Eon, and who was responsible for protecting all of Skylands from whatever dangers it might face - Sam tried to convince her they weren't the bad guys in this situation. "That guy who handed you this sheet of lies was a spell punk!" he explained. "Quick! Let's go get him and make him explain his actions!"

"You're the one who needs to do some explaining," said Stealth Elf, pulling out a dagger. "You and your baabarian buddy. Let's go!"

Baabby got up from his seat but hesitated at pulling out his greatsword. Instead, he concentrated on a commotion he could hear just outside. It sounded to the baabarian like somebody was saying, "The jig's up! They're right there, inside! We need to abort the mission!"

In the meantime, Sam put a hand on Stealth Elf's shoulder to try to pull her towards the door after the spell punk - big mistake! In a blur of motion, the Skylander's blade stabbed out at Sam, piercing him in the chest. "Hands off!" she demanded.

"Hands off!" agreed Sam, putting his hands in the air. "Look: hands in the air! And completely law-abiding crow not fighting back against the bounty hunter who just stabbed him! Because he realizes she's been led astray by a spell punk who's putting a frame job on us! Come on, let's go outside and find him!"

"He's just outside," pointed out Baabby, who had recognized the voice he'd heard. And now a female voice outside replied, "We have to go on with it! The Master demands it!"

Sam opened the doors to the tavern, with Stealth Elf's dagger pointed at his back and Baabby standing docilely at her side. The human wizard was standing in frenzied conversation with a human woman dressed similarly in purple robes.

"Excuse me!" called Sam. "'Mr. Poonk', was it? Or do you go by 'Mr. Spell Punk' instead?"

"They're on to us!" hissed the female wizard as Sam desperately concentrated, trying to disbelieve whatever illusion was making these two spell punks look like human wizards. While he wasn't able to pierce whatever spell was cloaking them, he did at least recall that spell punks floated above the ground instead of walking. Concentrating on the wizards' shadows, the little crow realized they didn't quite meet up with the wizards' feet.

In desperation, Sam tried one last approach. Summoning all of his convictions, he mentally prepared himself to voluntarily give up money and said to Stealth Elf, "I will give you 100 gold coins if you just go over there and touch that wizard's ankles." Seeing what Sam was doing, Baabby decided to sweeten the pot. "And I'll give you another 100 gold coins," he offered.

Unfortunately, the heroes didn't know who they were dealing with: a Skylander isn't motivated by money, but doing what's right for the safety of the entire Skylands, and there's no way Stealth Elf would jeopardize an opportunity to bring in two dangerous criminals to make a quick couple of hundred pieces of gold. Fortunately, their pleas for her to touch the ankles of the wizards - which would prove the "wizards" to be illusory, for the spell punks would be hovering, not standing on the grand - convinced the spell punks even if they did nothing to persuade the Skylander. "The jig is up!" cried the female "wizard," sending a barrage if magic missiles flying into Stealth Elf's face, before making a dash across the village square. The male "wizard" cast a similar spell, also hitting Stealth Elf without error, but by then she was already in motion.

"Okay, it looks like I may have been wrong about you two!" she called back to Baabby and Sam as she sprinted to the male "wizard" and stabbed at him with a pair of sharp daggers. Her slim blades cut through his robes and the startled mage dropped his illusion, revealing himself as a Magic spell punk. At the same time, a pair of bone chompies suddenly popped into view in the village square, indicating the nearby presence of a pair of invisible Undead spell punks.

"Toldja!" crowed Sam, pulling his Dynabow 3.0 from his back and letting loose with an explosive arrow. The brief explosion encompassed the spell punk Stealth Elf had just stabbed, and while the archer managed to keep the elf out of the blast radius he apparently - judging from the cries of pain - caught several other unseen opponents in its area of effect. Belatedly, Sam recalled that Magic spell punks could turn others invisible - there was no telling how many foes they were actually fighting! But then he remembered that a spell punk's magical effects vanished when he was slain, and he determined to kill the two magic spell punks as soon as possible to bring the other enemies into view.

Stealth Elf stabbed forward again with her blades, slicing two deep gashes in the Magic spell punk. But then a whole chorus of voices called out, from all around the village square, "By eight all was made; by eight all shall be undone."

Baabby raced forward, his Rift-Weaver's Blade in hand, and cut the Magic spell punk in two, the mage's purple robes fluttering to the ground upon his death. All at once, another eight spell punks popped into view: one each of the other seven standard elements, plus a spell punk from the newly-accepted Light element. They were arranged in a half-circle, chanting in unison.

Sam frantically tried to remember what special abilities each of the various spell punks could do - there were too many to keep straight! But he remembered that Earth spell punks could cast stoneskin spells upon their allies, and that ability irritated the little crow to no end because it practically guaranteed the uselessness of his non-explosive arrows. So, targeting the hovering spell punk dressed in the brown robes of an adherent of the Earth element, he let fly with a trio of arrows. Two of them hit, but they failed to bring the foe down. Sam cursed and ducked into a corner of the tavern's exterior, where he had a wall to either side of him and there was no way for an invisible foe to sneak up behind him.

The chanting continued: "By this sacrifice, eight shall become one with the Master; by our sacrifice, we open the window."

Sam saw an opportunity to explode an arrow between a Water spell punk and the other Magic spell punk and went for it. The explosion caught two other unseen foes as well, those whose invisibility had not yet been undone by the death of the one who so hid them. Stealth Elf stabbed at a Life spell punk with her slim blades and brought him down, while Baabby slew an Undead spell punk (causing the bone chompy he'd summoned to pop out of existence), then raced over to the remaining Magic spell punk, wanting all of their foes to be revealed. But before he could close the gap, the chanting finished up: "See us, Oh Great One, and we shall be your vessels; see this land and devour its fear!"

With the last word spoken, the sole remaining Magic spell punk's body exploded into a puff of purple smoke, which was then sucked straight up into the air as if by an exhaust fan. The other remaining spell punks became invisible upon its death, but seven of the now-revealed spell punks also exploded into puffs of colored smoke - each one's smoke keyed to the color corresponding to its element - and was whisked up into the air, where the eight colors mingled into a whirlwind, which opened thereafter into a rift in the sky. On the other side of this rift was an enormous, unblinking eye the size of a transportation balloon, looking down over the town. Wisps of smoke remained, forming a series of bars imprisoning the eye on its side of the rift.

Sam squinted up at the eye, judging distance, and was irritated to discover he wasn't likely to be able to shoot an explosive arrow all the way up there. How much he'd give to be able to explode Don's giant eyeball! So he did the next best thing: threw taunts at the self-styled "Devourer of Nightmares."

"Oh no!" cried Sam as loudly as he could. "I'm desperately afraid that I won't be able to give my good buddy Don another surprise package like I did the last time we met! Seriously: I fear that he won't get to wallow in my specially-formulated poop! How's that fear taste there, Donnie boy? Eat it all up: nom nom nom!"

But while Sam was looking up at the eyeball, he failed to note what the remaining spell punks (Air, Earth, Fire, and Water) were doing now. Reaching into their robes, each pulled out a greenish stone, and from each stone suddenly sprouted a writhing tentacle with an eyeball at its tip. The eyeball-tentacles whipped around, looking for suitable targets. There was also a Dark spell punk approaching Sam from the west, but he wasn't part of the "eyeball-tentacle club." Instead, he used his innate powers to create a black hole in the middle of the square, encompassing Baabby and Stealth Elf within its radius.

Realizing that Stealth Elf probably hadn't encountered these new spell punks before, Baabby called out for her to run as fast as she could to escape its area of effect while he did the same thing. Both ran in slow motion, the black hole causing them to run at half their normal speed.

A telepathic grumbling blasted down from the sky above. <You had to do the ritual here, in front of these guys?> griped the Devourer of Nightmares. <I need to upgrade to a better quality of minion!> At that, the four spell punks holding the eyeball-tentacles cowered in fear, worried about having disappointed their evil master. But Don took out his frustration on Sam Crow, the little bird with the big mouth, sending a beam of energy from the eyeball carried by the Fire spell punk straight into Sam's chest, drawing forth a bit of his life-energy and causing him to be shaken just a bit.

Two other rays shot out at Stealth Elf, but she expertly dodged both. Another hit Baabby in the chest, but he managed to shake off the fear effects.

Out of the gravity well of the black hole effect, Stealth Elf headed over to the nearest spell punk, blades gleaming. Sam got off a shot at the Earth spell punk, killing it, and the stone shattered when it hit the ground, immediately closing the rift on its surface and causing the tip of the eyeball-tentacle to flop around like a fish on land as it began dissolving. As Baabby swung his Rift-Weaver's Blade at the Fire spell punk, killing him, the Light spell punk shot a blast of chain lightning at Stealth Elf. The Skylander easily dodged it, but an arc shot off from where it struck at her feet and hit Sam, singeing his feathers. (Fortunately, as a crow, his feathers were already black so the singeing didn't show.)

The Air spell punk was taken out by a barrage of arrows from the Dynabow 3.0. But the Light spell punk hit Stealth Elf with another blast, this time knocking her unconscious. Immediately, a column of energy whirled around her, causing her to disappear - apparently, Skylanders got whisked back to their Headquarters by Master Eon or his minions when they got taken out in a combat - a definite boon!

"Hey! No fair!" complained Sam. When he or Baabby got taken out during a battle, the other one had to take time to go feed him a healing potion! But the crow took his hostilities out on the Light spell punk, especially since his Tech bow had charged up another explosive arrow. When the explosion finished, the Light spell punk was finished right along with it.

<I'll make a bargain with you> suggested the Devourer of Nightmares from above the town. <Leave the rest of my spell punks alone, and I'll go elsewhere for my sustenance! I'll devour the nightmares of animals in a forest and leave these townspeople, and you, alone!>

"Yeah?" asked Sam. "And why would we trust you?"

<My kind always keeps its word> Don thought at the heroes. <I'll even throw in the answer to any one question you might ask.>

Baabby looked thoughtful, as if trying to decide what would be a good question to ask. "Don't do it, Baabby!" warned Sam. "We can't trust Don! Plus, the fact that he's trying to bargain with us means he's afraid of us winning! Why don't you eat your own fear, there, Donnie Boy - I hope you choke on it!"

Baabby gave Don his answer to the bargain by slaying the Water spell punk with one blow of his magic greatsword, destroying another eyeball-tentacle in the process. That left only the Dark spell punk left, and he didn't look particularly pleased at this turn of events. He started fleeing around the circumference of his black hole, with Baabby trying to cut him off. Sam shot a trio of arrows at the spell punk, softening him up, but the blast the archer received in return knocked the little crow out. It didn't matter in the long run, though - Baabby caught up to the Dark spell punk, and one swing of his Rift-Weaver's Blade was all it took to run him through. With all of the spell punks slain, the rift in the sky overhead began closing, leaving Baabby to wonder how a giant eyeball without eyelids or eyebrows could still manage to glare as well as it did.

But then he ran over to his companion and poured the contents of one of Sam's own healing potions from his belt down his throat. Sam sputtered, sat up, and asked, "Did we get 'em?"

"We sure did, buddy!" replied Baabby, cheerful that the battle had gone their way.

That evening, when Sapphrina met up with the two heroes at the tavern, they had plenty to tell her about their night out on the town. But she had a tale of her own, as well.

"According to my research," she said, "there's an abandoned Arkeyan workshop where they were trying to create a device that would grant 'a single wish, doubled.'"

"What's that mean?" asked Sam.

"It means thaat's where we're going next," guessed Baabby.

"That's right," confirmed Sapphrina. "We just might be able to wish the Tech rune for your sword into existence."

"Sounds like a plan," agreed Sam before turning to call for the tavern keeper. "Hey, do you have any pizza with worm toppings?" he asked.

"Or graass toppings?' added Baabby hopefully. The tavern keeper put on his best "It's certainly a pleasure to deal with you lovely customers" smile and promised to go into the kitchen to look.

- - -

Logan came up with a really innovative idea to represent the black hole effect. From Hobby Lobby he picked up a square foot or so of a black fabric mesh. He then took a piece of cardboard, cut it into the size circle he wanted, and since the mesh was tricky to cut he laid it flat on the cardboard circle and folded it over, taping it in place along the four corners. This gave him the stability needed to cut out a pretty accurate circle of mesh fabric, which was then placed onto our battle mat (he used a Paizo Flip-Mat, Village Square) to represent the black hole's location. I had done something similar years ago using construction paper for acid cloud and obscuring mist effects, but the mesh has the advantage of being see-through, so you can still see the one-inch squares beneath the mesh. It's an elegant solution, one which I'll be using myself as I DM our 3.5 campaign.

Logan also says there are other colors of mesh available at Hobby Lobby, so he's eager to make different-sized and different-colored mesh circles for varying spell effects.

I'm learning quite a lot as a player in this campaign, not only about Skylanders lore but also about Harry's abilities as a role-player and that it's a pretty cool synergy to have two DMs in the same household.


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 9
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 9​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 9​

Game Session Date: 8 July 2017

- - -

"Hey guys, watch this!" said Sam. "I've been teaching Shelldon math."

Baabby and Sapphrina dutifully stopped what they had been doing - the fairy had been helping demonstrate to the baabarian how to channel spells through his Rift-Weaver's Blade to cause dimension door and teleport effects - and gathered around the crow, whose snail "animal companion" was perched on his usual position on Sam's left shoulder.

"I saw a horse to math tricks once," explained Sam. "You'd call out a math problem and he'd tap the answer with his hoof. So I figured, 'Shelldon's smarter than some dumb old horse.'"

"But he doesn't have any hooves," pointed out Baabby.

"He won't need them," assured Sam to his audience. Then, turning to his pet snail, he asked, "What's zero times zero?"

Shelldon didn't move in the slightest measure. After a few seconds, Sam proudly declared, "...That's right! Here's another one: How much is 100 minus 100?"

Again, there was no reaction from the snail, which might as well have been carved out of stone for all the movement he was demonstrating. "Very good!" cried Sam, beaming with satisfaction.

"Let me try one," offered Baabby. "Shelldon: Whaat's 3 times 4?"

"...divided by itself, then subtracted from one," amended Sam. After a few seconds of silence, the crow once again declared his snail a mathematical prodigy.

"Enough of this," sighed Sapphrina, turning back to Baabby. "Let's get back to our practice." They'd been on the troll airship for almost a week, heading over to where the fairy had determined there was an old, abandoned Arkeyan workshop that had been working on a device that could grant a wish - although the ancient documents she had studied suggested it was "a single wish, doubled." The animated statue of Xacho's son effortlessly and tirelessly piloted the craft through the Skylands, heading for their destination.

"We are approaching the island," he finally alerted the crew, and the three heroes ran to peer over the sides of the airship at their destination. Below them was a small, floating island containing a set of crumbling ruins, six buildings in all. Of the six, five of them were occupied by Arkeyan forces of some type, either a group of soldiers clad in red or blue armor, or, in the case of the small amphitheater, an Arkeyan ultron - an enormous automaton with impressive offensive and defensive capabilities.

"Hey! No fair!" squawked Sam upon seeing these forces ranged below. "I thought this was an abandoned Arkeyan workshop! That doesn't look abandoned to me!"

"That's what my research indicated," offered Sapphrina. "Perhaps they just meant abandoned by the living Arkeyans." As the troll airship passed overhead, none of the figures scattered among the ruined buildings even bothered to look up - they might have been statues for all the curiosity they demonstrated. "Maybe they're all deactivated," suggested - and fervently hoped - Sam.

"We'll find out soon enough," suggested Baabby as the airship landed in a nearby clearing. The three heroes disembarked and silently made their way back to the ruins.

None of the buildings still had a roof, and few had all of their walls intact. The first such ruin the group approached was a simple box of four walls, although two opposite walls had gaps in their respective middles. Along the two fully intact walls stood a total of four humanoid figures in red armor, each armed with a halberd.

"Let's split up," suggested Sam, drawing a diagram in the dirt with the tip of an arrow. "I'll go to the opening on the right, Baabby will go to the opening on the left, and Sapphrina can fly over the back wall. We'll take them from three different directions that way." Following the crow's advice, the three heroes got into position, then Sam stepped into the ruins, his Dynabow 3.0 nocked and ready for action.

The Arkeyan defenders along the back wall jolted into awareness. "Identify yourself," demanded one of the figures - which, Sam could see, was an animated skeleton wearing red armor. All four of the figures were skeletal, yet the voice of the one who had spoken seemed more mechanical than anything else.

"I'm the Dynabow 3.0," said Sam in a funny voice, shooting an explosive arrow at the two armored skeletons along the back wall. The explosion staggered both figures, although neither one dropped its weapon. Seeing the fight had begun, Baabby rushed into the ruined building and approached the other two skeletons. His sword chopped one of the skeletons in two, then he pivoted and with the same swing did likewise to the other one. Sam gaped in astonishment; he'd seriously thought he'd done pretty well with his explosive shot - leave it to the hulking baabarian to show him up!

"Intruder alert!" announced one of the staggering skeletons. "Under attack by marauding forces!" Sapphrina flew over the wall, faced the two remaining skeletons, and cast a burning hands spell that took them out. As their ruined bodies collapsed onto the ground, she said, "I hope those were bad guys we just took out."

"They were undead!" pointed out Sam, still slightly creeped out by the concept of dead things that didn't act like dead things.

"Undead doesn't aalways mean evil," pointed out Baabby. "That vaampire shopkeeper was nice."

"Okay, fine," grumbled Sam. "We'll introduce ourselves nicely to the next group of undead guardians, shall we?"

The trio crept up to the next crumbling building, this one large enough to sport six red-armored skeletons. Sam boldly stepped into the middle of the ruins and once again this prompted the guardians to snap to attention. "Identify yourself," demanded one of the skeletons in a mechanical-sounding voice, gripping his halberd at the ready.

"Why, my name is Sam Crow, and I'm very pleased to make your acquaintances," said Sam in his most sarcastic voice, scowling in Sapphrina's direction as he did so. "Please allow me to introduce my boon companions Baabby, Sapphrina, and Shelldon." He swept one feathered hand in the direction of his two fellow adventurers.

"Incorrect name given!" announced the skeleton. "These are impostors! Deleting Sam_Baabby.prophecy file!" He actually pronounced the file name, calling it the "Sam underscore Baabby dot prophecy" file.

"Destroy the intruders!" replied one of the other six skeletons, halberd raised for combat.

"Wh-what the heck?" spluttered Sam, firing off an explosive arrow at the two armored skeletons in the back of the ruins, confident that Baabby could take care of the two closest ones as he'd done at the last building. As before, the skeletons weren't destroyed in the explosion but were considerably weakened. One of the closer skeletons swiped its blade at Sapphrina, but the fairy managed to fly under the weapon.

Baabby swung his Rift-Weaver's Blade at the closest skeleton, cutting it in half, and then repeating the process with the rest of his powerful swing. As before, he'd taken down two opponents with a single strike of his blade. Sam just shook his head in disbelief and begrudging admiration.

Sapphrina flew up and blasted three of the skeletons with a burning hands spell, taking down one of the three - the only one of the trio previously damaged by Sam's explosive arrow.

Realizing that his Dynabow 3.0 would take a moment to recharge, and that even an explosive arrow wasn't likely to take down a "fresh" skeleton, Sam scrounged in his backpack and pulled out a trollish monkey wrench he'd taken from a foe in one of their earliest adventures. Brandishing it like a club, he brought it crashing down on the head of a skeleton. Had he been Baabby, he'd likely have slain the undead foe, but this was Sam - and the skeleton, although damaged by the bludgeoning weapon, was still up and about and counterattacking with its halberd.

Fortunately, Baabby was near enough that he got into a flanking position with Sam and took it out with his own weapon of choice. Despite being a slashing weapon, the Undead rune in the magical greatsword overcame the skeleton's inherent damage resistance.

Dodging another blow from a halberd, Sapphrina flew to the side and blasted a lightning bolt spell at both remaining skeletons. One was taken down immediately, but the other hung on to its semblance of life - just long enough to be taken down by the Rift-Weaver's Blade. Then the baabarian cast healing spells on those who needed them.

"What was all that about?" Sam wanted to know. "I did it your way, and they still attacked!"

"I'm not sure," admitted the fairy. "They seemed to know us, or at least our names - but they said one of them was wrong."

"And did you notice I got top billing in their prophecy file?" asked Sam. "'Sam underscore Baabby' - not 'Baabby underscore Sam.' About time I get the recognition I deserve!"

"By undead forces trying to kill you," pointed out Baabby.

"Well, yeah, there's that," admitted the little crow. "But one thing still puzzles me."

"Only one?" scoffed Sapphrina.

"Yeah. What's 'underscore' mean?" Sam asked, scratching the feathers on the top of his head. Sapphrina told him she'd explain later and the group moved on to the next set of ruins.

This crumbling, roofless building held four more skeletons, but these were more heavily-armored than the others, wearing blue breastplates. Their weapons were different, too: they held greatclubs instead of halberds. And despite their general immobility, every once in a while one of the greatclubs would give off a little spark of electricity.

"Shall we try being nice again?" asked Sam, looking at the fairy as he stepped into the ruins. "Hello, all - my name is Sam!" he said. "That is my absolutely correct name, no doubt about it."

But it made no difference. Upon being activated by the crow's presence, one armored skeleton began speaking to its compatriots. "Network update!" it announced. "Deleting Sam_Baabby.prophecy file! All defenders initiate attack mode against the intruders!"

"I give up!" called out Sam in exasperation. "Next time one of you gets to do the greeting bit!" But as he was concentrating on his grousing and griping, the four armored skeletons had approached him, two of them flanking him from either side. Their electrified greatclubs slammed into him, practically staggering him on his feet. This prompted him to bring back his original battle cry from his first days adventuring with the hulking baabarian, long before the fairy entered into the picture: "BAABBY! HELP ME!"

Baabby obediently stepped up behind Sam, cutting one of the flanking skeletons in half with his blade, then cleaving into another and bringing it down as well. Sapphrina flew into position and slew the other two with a well-placed lightning bolt, for despite their electrified weaponry they were not themselves immune to electrical attacks. Baabby then cast healing spells upon a beleaguered Sam until he was back up to his full fighting strength.

There was one last clump of four skeletons, this group wearing the red armor and wielding the halberds of the first two groups. Sam decided to try something before they entered the ruined building, and did a little dance all around the building, capering and cavorting and wiggling his tail-feathers at the unmoving guardians. "Hmm," he noted. "They don't activate until you enter what's left of their building."

So Sam stepped past the ruined outer walls and the skeletons immediately jolted to life. Then Sam stepped back, and they became immobile once again. "Heh heh heh," Sam chortled, "Check this out, guys!" And the little crow did an impromptu version of the hokey-pokey, putting his left foot in - and activating the armored skeletons - then taking it out, which caused them to instantly deactivate. "Dance, my little puppets!" the archer chuckled with glee.

But Baabby's patience for such shenanigans was limited. Greatsword in hand, he stepped boldly into the ruins, causing the skeletons to animate and stay animated even while Sam pulled his left arm out, but before he put it back in to shake it all about. Two strokes of the Rift-Weaver's Blade cut down half of the skeletal resistance. Sapphrina flew over to the other two and cast a burning hands spell at them, which singed their armor and their exposed bones but failed to bring them down. Seeing that play time was apparently over, Sam shot an explosive arrow at the two remaining skeletons, causing one to crumble to a pile of bones but failing to take out the last one. It attacked the crow with its halberd but missed, and then Baabby quickly dispatched it with his sword.

That left only one ruin still guarded - and that one, the amphitheater, guarded by an Arkeyan ultron, a much fiercer-looking opponent than any they'd yet faced that day. It stood at the bottom of a lowered platform, with three sets of stairs leading down to it among stone benches from a half-circle where the audience would have sat.

Sam tried the same hokey-pokey nonsense and this time got a surprise when the Arkeyan ultron, once activated, stayed activated. It raised a mechanical arm into the air, announced "Targeting," and shot a bomb into the air. The heroes scattered away as the bomb arced in the air before landing right where Sam had stood when "putting his right foot in." There was a massive explosion, much bigger than those from Sam's tech-infused arrows, which had a certain way of bringing the little crow back out of his screw-around mode and straight into full hero mode. This device wasn't fooling around!

The heroes split up, thinking to take on the ultron from three different directions. As such, each headed for a different set of stairs. Sam took the stairway to the right, firing an explosive arrow at the ultron as he ran. This was followed by a charge from Baabby, timed such that as the smoke was clearing from the explosive arrow the baabarian was upon the mechanical device, swinging his Rift-Weaver's Blade for all he was worth.

But for once, Baabby's great strength proved to be ineffectual. Its thick armor plating kept it from being damaged much by the baabarian's greatsword, despite its numerous magical augmentations. Fortunately, the ultron was big enough that Sapphrina could fire a lightning bolt at its side without hitting Baabby as well, and that seemed to do some damage. But then the Arkeyan ultron struck back. Fortunately, Baabby was too close to it for the automaton to shoot at the baabarian, so it merely bonked him on the head - hard! - with its armor-plated arm. Sam tried to divert its attention away from Baabby by shooting a trio of arrows at it, but they just clunked off its armor without having made so much as a scratch.

Baabby, incensed at his attacks being basically ignored by the mechanical foe, channeled all of his strength into his next swing. This swing managed to cut into the device's armor, so he repeated the swing in the same place, cutting the gash even deeper. Gears and other mechanical parts started spilling out of the rent in its armor, and before long Baabby had the ultron on its back, gushing oil onto the amphitheater floor and smoke into the air.

"Thaat was a worthy foe!" he enthused, rubbing the sore spot on the top of his head where he'd been clubbed.

"That was also our last one," noted Sam, looking around at the remaining ruins. "There's got to be a secret panel or something to a lower level, because I sure don't see any wish-granting machines up here!" The trio split up, looking among the ruined buildings. Baabby finally unearthed a lever that, when pulled, caused chunks of the floor to lower into the ground, forming a set of spiral stairs that made a full circuit. "Those sneaky Arkeyans!" griped Sam, noting the hidden entrance to where they really wanted to go was the one building out of six that didn't have any defenders assigned to it. "They had us fight all of those defenders for nothing, when we could have just walked up to this one and found the secret passage without anybody bothering us!"

"What's done is done," pointed out Sapphrina. "There's no use griping about it."

"I can't help it," offered up Sam. "I'm part grouse on my mother's side."

Baabby led the way down the spiraling stairs, followed by Sam and then by Sapphrina. There was an entire lower level, looking to be separate rooms carved out of an old system of natural caverns. There was flickering light throughout, caused by technological devices rather than the half-expected luminous fungus. These electric lights flickered and occasionally shot off a spark or two, but that fact that they still functioned at all after all of these years - centuries, even! - was practically a miracle.

There was a massive gear situated on the floor in the middle of the winding stairs. It was wider than Baabby was tall, and made from solid adamantine - worth a fortune if they could lift it, but they couldn't. Sam glanced back at it wistfully as they left, not wanting to leave behind something worth so much money.

The first door they passed through led them to an even bigger ultron than the one they'd fought outside - this one must have stood 20 feet tall. Fortunately, its left arm was buried in solid rock, no doubt from a collapse many years ago. The ultron had three spaces on its exterior that were missing pieces; a quick investigation revealed that the adamantine gear they'd seen by the stairs would fit perfectly into any of the three slots.

"I think this may be what we're looking for," remarked Sapphrina, examining the unmoving machine. "We should try to find the other missing gears and see if we can repair it."

"Are you crazy?" squawked Sam. "More than likely, we'll repair it and then it'll try to kill us!"

"I don't think so," the fairy replied. "Plus, it's immobilized by the rock fall in any case. I think we should give it a shot."

"We caan't lift the gear, though," pointed out Baabby. "If the others aare the same size, we won't be able to lift aany of them."

"I have some thoughts on that problem," replied the fairy. "But let's go find the other gears first."

Checking out the other adjacent rooms, the heroes discovered another mechanical device. This one was a zelekhut, a robot of centaurian build, with spiked chains at the ends of its arms. "Destroy all intruders!" it announced in a mechanical voice like those of the skeletons the group had fought outside. It started swinging its spiked chains, ready to attack.

Baabby bull rushed straight into the zelekhut, ducking beneath the swinging chains. His sword, however, seemed to do no damage. Sam shot an explosive arrow into the area, targeted to catch the zelekhut in the explosion while keeping Baabby out of it, but it too had a limited effect. Sapphrina, no front-line combatant, opted to stay back from this foe but cast a haste spell on her two friends. That spell, plus Baabby's rage at once again facing a foe that seemed to shrug off the attacks from his greatsword, gave him the advantage he needed. It took only three blows for his Rift-Weaver's Blade to cut the centaurian zelekhut down. As the power left the creature's circuits, it had time only for a quick message to those who had slain it: "Destroy...destroy the beast...we summoned. We should have never...have never...." But then the light left its eyes and it froze in place, to speak no more.

Sapphrina spotted another adamantine gear behind the slain zelekhut's body, but they opted to leave it for later.

Another room nearby was filled with three of the blue-armored skeletons wielding electric greatclubs. Sam shot an explosive arrow into the midst of these Arkeyan defenders, damaging two of the three fairly severely. Baabby rushed in, slaying the one who hadn't been hurt, while a lightning bolt spell from Sapphrina took out the other two. A side cave off that area held the third gear, identical in appearance to the others. Sapphrina led the other two heroes to a close examination of each of the three gears, then back to where the trapped Arkeyan ultron stood.

"Remember what we practiced on the airship," she advised Baabby. "Picture one of the gears in your mind, and then channel a spell through your sword. That will allow you to open a rift directly beneath the gear, opening to a spot directly above where you want to place it on the robot." Baabby concentrated, then cast a spell through his sword. Within seconds, one of the massive gears popped into existence there in the room, dropping into place on the immobile ultron.

"Great!" said Sapphrina. "Now the other two!" With a fierce concentration the likes of which the hulking baabarian was unused to, the other two gears popped into place. The effect was almost immediate: the gears started whirring in place, and the ultron's eyes seemed to focus on the group of heroes.

"Xacho detected," it intoned. "Prophecy confirmed. Beginning creation of Tech crystals."

"Not this again," scoffed Sam. "Listen here, buddy, you're not the first to make this mistake, but this is not Xacho. His name is Baabby - Xacho has been dead for, like, centuries."

"Incorrect," replied the Arkeyan ultron. "Xacho is present in this chamber."

"Oh yeah?" asked Sam, looking around for anybody but the trio of heroes and the obviously mistaken bit of ancient Arkeyan technology. "Where?"

"On your left shoulder."

Sam looked down at Shelldon, sitting perched upon his normal place on the little crow's left shoulder. The others looked at the snail in wonder.

"That's Xacho?" asked Sapphrina.

"Confirmed. When Xacho confronted the Devourer of Nightmares, he was unable to defeat the beast the Arkeyans had summoned through their experimental rituals. The Devourer of Nightmares, however, was similarly unable to defeat the first wielder of the Rift-Weaver's Blade. So he polymorphed Xacho into a form he feared, and made him virtually immortal."

"Don is afraid of snails?" squeaked Sam, holding his hands up to his beak - this was too good to be true! He couldn't wait to tease their foe the next time they met up with one of those eyeball-tentacle things!

"Negative. It was Xacho who harbored a fear of snails," replied the ultron. "He thought they were...icky."

Everyone peered at Shelldon, who for once wasn't completely immobile: he was slowly waving his two eyestalks up and down, in the equivalence to a nodding motion. It seemed the snail was confirming the ultron's story!

The ultron continued with its explanations. The ancient Arkeyans had either created the Devourer of Nightmares or allowed it to enter their reality from another realm entirely. He stood well over 100 feet tall, and the eyeball-tentacle things the heroes had encountered this far were his fingers, which grew back when severed. The ultron also explained what it was currently doing, now that he had been reactivated in accordance with the Prophecy of the Brave Sheep and the Cowardly Crow: he was creating a pair of Tech crystals, one of which would be placed in the Tech rune shape in the Rift-Weaver's Blade. But then, since the combined powers of the eight original elements hadn't been enough to slay the Devourer of Nightmares, the greatsword's blade would need to be modified. The heroes would need to find an adherent to the Light Element and another of the Dark Element and get them to carve their appropriate runes into the greatsword's blade. Then the eight existing runes could be used to convert their power into that of Light and Dark, filling up those rune-slots on the sword at the cost of depleting the original eight element runes - which would then need to be gathered again.

"What?" squawked Sam. "We have to go fetch the eight elemental runes all over again?"

"You're grousing again," pointed out Sapphrina.

"Blame my mom."

"Only with the power of all ten elements will the Rift-Weaver's Blade be able to destroy the Devourer of Nightmares," informed the ultron. "But a part of the elemental power can be infused into the crow's shortbow, allowing it to at least hurt the summoned beast before the greatsword brings him down."

"That sounds good to me!" said Sam, rubbing his feather-fingers together in glee. He didn't care if Baabby got in the final blow - after all, he usually did - but he just wanted a chance to actually cause Don some real pain!

"The process is complete," replied the Arkeyan ultron, presenting Baabby with a pair of crystals, each in the shape of the Tech rune - a miniature, stylized gear. Sapphrina stashed one of the crystals into her pack, while Baabby inserted the other one into his greatsword, causing the rune to flash when installed. Just like that, the Rift-Weaver's Blade had gained the ability to overcome the inherent damage reduction of constructs.

"It sounds like we've got a bunch of more little quests to go on, don't we?" asked Sam.

"We do," confirmed Sapphrina. "We'll need to find adherents to the Light and Dark Elements, which might be a bit of a challenge since they've only recently been accepted as true elements. And then we'll need to gather up all of the other original eight runes again, all within the next year. But besides all of the sword stuff, we also need to see if there's a way to restore Xacho to his original form. I can't imagine he enjoys being trapped as a snail, immortal or otherwise!"

At that, Shelldon's eyestalks slowly slid from side to side, the equivalent of a person shaking his head. Sam looked down at his little animal companion in amazement. If he had doubted the story about this being Xacho before, it was hard to do so now.

- - -

It's taken me a while to write this up, since we had relatives staying with us for the past week and a half. For the same reason, we're not playing through an adventure today - Logan hasn't had time to work on the next adventure.

And we won't be going through an adventure next Saturday, either, but for an entirely different reason: Harry's decided that he's had so much fun playing "Skylanders D&D" that he's ready to join us in our regular D&D 3.5 campaign! Our next session in that campaign is scheduled for next Saturday, so we'll have a place for him at our gaming table, where he's decided he'll be running a half-orc sorcerer with a weasel familiar. Logan went out and purchased a "familiars" pack of minis that includes a weasel, so he'll be painting it this coming week in time for next Saturday. We're all looking forward to it!

Incidentally, the "topside" ruins were a set of Paizo's Game Mastery "Map Pack" cards, this one quite appropriately entitled "Ruins." The lower level was the "Tech Dungeon" (also quite appropriate!) from Paizo's "Flip-Mat" series. I made the zelekhut and ultron minis as stand-up tokens, as well as the blue-clad skeletons (those were, in Skylanders terminology, "Arkeyan defenders"), while we used skeletons from the D&D Miniatures and HeroQuest games for the red-clad skeletons. For the adamantine gears, Logan repurposed some drow floatdisk tokens I had made for our previous D&D 3.5 campaign. (It helps to save things from previous games as you never know when they'll come in handy!)


PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 9
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 9​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 9​

Game Session Date: 5 August 2017

- - -

"You really think these guys can help?" asked Sam Crow.

"It's worth a shot," replied Sapphrina. "The library here is quite extensive - and the whole place is run by a Portal Master who might be able to help us to restore Xacho to his rightful form."

"I dunno," sighed Sam, looking down at the snail perched in his place of honor on the little crow's left shoulder. "I kinda like him in his present form."

"Would you like it if somebody cursed you to be stuck in the form of a snail for all of eternity? And not just somebody, but the Devourer of Nightmares?"

"No," admitted Sam. "...But Shelldon's my snail!"

"But he's really Xaacho, not Shelldon," pointed out Baabby as the trio strode through the open doorway into the main hall of the Skylanders Academy Building. There was a short, bespectacled Mabu sorting books along one wall. He looked up at the approaching trio.

"Hello," Hugo greeted the newcomers. "Welcome to Skylanders Academy. How may I-- AAAAAGH! IT'S MY WORST FEARS COME TO LIFE!" And the frightened Mabu went screaming down the hallways, yelling about "the coming sheep uprising" and how he'd "been right all along."

"Wow," commented Sam, looking up at his hulking baabarian friend. "I may not be the most handsome crow ever, but at least my appearance hasn't caused panic in those who look at me. Way to go, buddy!"

"Whaat did I do?" asked Baabby, bewildered.

"Nothing," said an elderly man, approaching down the hallway. "I'm afraid you must excuse Hugo - he has an inexplicable fear of sheep." The man was quite old, with a long, white beard and a staff on which he leaned as he walked. He wore the lengthy robes of a wizard, and a metal skull-cap on his head. "My name is Eon, and I am the Master of these halls. I take it this is the Xacho of whom you spoke?"

"He is," replied Sapphrina.

"Then let us see what can be done," replied Master Eon. Turning, he said, "Walk this way, please," and headed down the hallway to an elegantly-furnished side room. Sam, of course, opted to take the elderly wizard literally and mimicked walking down the hallway while leaning on a staff, until Sapphrina saw what he was doing and smacked him on the arm. "Enough of that!" she hissed.

Stealth Elf was there in the side room waiting for the Portal Master and the three visitors (four, if you counted Shelldon). She had corroborated Sapphrina's earlier tale to Master Eon, vouching for the goodness of the trio of heroes after having fought at their side against a large group of spell punks and the Devourer of Nightmares. "I believe a simple break enchantment spell should do the trick," observed Master Eon.

"Are you going to turn Shelldon back into a human?" asked Sam.

"That is the intention, yes," confirmed Master Eon.

"Then I guess I better get him off my shoulder." Picking up his erstwhile animal companion, Sam said to him, "Don't worry, Shelldon. Everything's going to be okay." He set him down on the floor and took a step back, holding his hands to his beak in a worried posture. Master Eon held forth his staff, said a few magical syllables, and Shelldon's form flashed in a burst of temporary brilliance. Then, a series of small tentacles sprouted from his shell, each one tipped by a glaring eyeball, before they were absorbed back into Shelldon's body and the little snail looked no different than he had before.

"That wasn't supposed to happen, was it?" gasped Sam.

"No," mused Master Eon. "The curse seems to be much stronger than I originally anticipated."

"Why did he grow eyebaall-tentacles?" asked Baabby. "Aand where did they go?"

"A residual bit of energy from the cause of the transformation, I would imagine," muttered Master Eon, frowning to himself. He stood thinking for a moment, then came to a decision. "I believe some more study is called for. I wonder if you wouldn't mind leaving Xacho here in my care? There are a few tests I should very much like to try."

"Um, okay, I guess," replied Sam, bending over to pick up Shelldon. "You're going to stay with this nice man for awhile," he said to his snail, then added in a whisper, "Try not to be freaked out by his long white beard - he's really very nice." The crow passed Shelldon over to Master Eon, suggesting, "Hey, Shelldon, you can show him that math trick I taught you!" Master Eon passed Shelldon over to Stealth Elf. "Put him in the main lab, please," he said. "And then please bring in our other two visitors."

Master Eon turned back to his guests. "We have two others visiting us at the moment. As dealing with Xacho may well take a few days, I wonder if you might be willing to help us with a matter involving them."

"Of course," replied Sapphrina.

"Excellent," replied Master Eon. "This will be--"

"I hope you're not going to say 'killing two birds with one stone'," interrupted Sam, his arms crossed belligerently. "Because I hate that phrase."

"Actually, I was going to say 'maximizing our resources at hand'."

"Oh. Okay then."

Stealth Elf soon returned, this time without Shelldon but with a pair of elementals. Each stood about eight feet tall; the first, an angelic being seemingly made of pure light, was introduced as Lady Radia; the other, a half-glimpsed humanoid form cloaked in deep shadows, was introduced as Lord Umbros.

"They are the ambassadors from the Twin Kingdoms of Dawn and Dusk," Stealth Elf said, then introduced each of the three heroes to the ambassadors by name.

"Incredible!" exclaimed Lady Radia.

"Remarkable!" declared Lord Umbros.

Sam looked slightly embarrassed as he polished the edges of his finger-feathers on his leather armor. "Well," he blushed, "I don't like to brag..."

"The Dawn Sheep..." began Lady Radia.

"The whaat now?" asked Baabby.

"...And the Dusk Crow!" finished Lord Umbros. "Then the prophecies are true!" Sam gaped at the two ambassadors, then shrugged. Another prophecy involving him and Baabby? It was starting to become old hat. But at least this time he wasn't being billed as "the Cowardly Crow" or anything - in fact, "The Dusk Crow" had a kind of cool sound to it!

"I'm sorry, but what prophecy is this?" asked Sapphrina.

"The Twin Kingdoms of Twilight have only recently been restored to the Skylands as a whole," replied Master Eon. "For untold eons, their floating island was locked away in a pocket dimension, separated from the rest of the Skylands."

"Such has it been since time immemorial," added Lady Radia. "And throughout all of that time, the Kingdoms of Dawn and Dusk have been at war with each other, each striving for dominance over the other. It has been prophesized that the wars will continue until such time as the Dawn Sheep and the Dusk Crow step forward and bring about an everlasting peace between our two warring nations."

"Yeah, that sounds like something we'd do," replied Sam in his most humble-sounding voice.

"Then you will help us?" asked Lord Umbros.

Baabby and Sam looked at each other. "Sure," they replied in unison.

"Excellent!" replied the ambassadors. "We are told you have an airship?"

"We do," replied Sapphrina.

"Then let us fly to the Twin Kingdoms at once! Master Eon, thank you for your assistance in bringing us to these legendary figures."

"I am pleased to have been of service," replied the elderly Portal Master. "I wish you all well in ending your war." The three heroes left the chamber escorted by the two ambassadors. Sam was a bit disappointed in seeing that Baabby's ambassador was a hot chick made of cascading brilliance, while his seemed to be an old man cloaked in shadows. Baabby always got all the luck!

Reaching the troll airship, their statue pilot raised it into the air and spun it in the direction of the Twin Kingdoms of Twilight, per the instructions of the rival ambassadors. "I cannot wait for this conflict to be decided for once and for all," replied Lady Radia.

"Nor I," agreed Lord Umbros. "We cannot get to the Arena of Clashing Shadows fast enough."

Baabby and Sam, standing at the prow of the troll airship watching the cloud speeding by, took a moment to process what the Ambassador of Dusk had just said. "...The whaat now?" Baabby asked.

"The Arena of Clashing Shadows," repeated Lord Umbros.

"Where the Dawn Sheep and the Dusk Crow will fight to the death to determine which Kingdom shall prevail forevermore," added Lady Radia, excited by the prospect.

Baabby and Sam just stared at each other with their mouths hanging open.

- - -

The Arena of Clashing Shadows was a rather impressive structure: oval in shape, with benches for the audience all around its circumference and an opening at either end for the opposing forces to enter the sand-filled arena. Through these doors were the rooms in which the opposing forces trained and were housed until such time as their individual combats arose. The ambassadors explained that over the millennia of their imprisonment, the Twin Kingdoms had evolved their strategies, to the point that all warfare now took place in the arena rather than making their entire floating island one large battlefield.

"Why caan't you just stop fighting altogether?" asked Baabby.

"Because each kingdom wishes to rule the entire island," replied Lord Umbros.

"That might have been a valid point when your island was isolated from the rest of the universe," pointed out Sapphrina. "But now you're back into the Skylands! Why not spread out to new islands, find new lands where your individual kingdoms can each rule separately?"

"Such might very well occur, as time progresses," admitted Lady Radia. "But regardless, each kingdom wishes to rule this island, our original homeland. This is where our respective races were born. My people would see it basking in eternal light!"

"While mine would rather it cloaked in shadows forever," replied Lord Umbros. "But no matter. Tomorrow, whichever of you is victorious, we will have our winning side, and that Kingdom will rule this island forevermore."

"Aand the losing side? They'll just accept their loss?" asked Baabby.

"It is our way," replied Lady Radia. "Those unwilling to live under the rule of the opposing Kingdom will be free to leave. I imagine many on the losing side will choose to do so."

"Still, a fight to the death? Isn't that a bit much to ask of your legendary, prophetic figures?" pushed Sapphrina.

"Yeah!" agreed Sam. He knew full well who'd be coming out on top in a fight to the death between him and Baabby - and things didn't look so good for the good-looking one with the jet-black feathers.

"Whoever dies will merely be reabsorbed into their respective element," scoffed Lady Radia, dismissing the fairy's concerns. "They will simply be reborn, as it has always been."

"That may be how it works for elementals," replied Sapphrina, "but Baabby and Sam are both mortals."

"Indeed?" asked Lady Radia, surprised at this revelation.

"Then we shall see quite a spectacle indeed," grinned Lord Umbros - or at least it sounded like he was grinning in eager anticipation; it was too dark in the shadows he constantly generated for anybody to actually see his facial features.

"Come," said Lady Radia, taking Baabby by the shoulder. "Our respective combatants must be prepared for tomorrow's event." Lord Umbros similarly gestured for Sam to follow him and the little crow did so, not eager for the shadowy being to actually touch him. They went their separate ways, Baabby to the Dawn half of the arena and Sam to the Dusk half. Each looked back at their companion, hoping this wasn't the last time they'd see each other before they became foes in a duel to the death.

Sam was taken to a room under escort by two darkness elementals. These two were more his size and neither radiated an area of shadowy darkness like Lord Umbros did, so Sam took a liking to them more than he did to the eight-foot-tall ambassador. Still, he was slightly miffed that they weren't attractive women like the light elementals all seemed to be. If this was going to be his last night of life, why didn't he get to spend it with hot chicks? Baabby got to - but then, there was very little chance that this was going to be Baabby's last night of life; there was no way Sam could take out the hulking baabarian, even if he had a mind to do so.

"How may we serve you, Dusk Crow?" asked one of the darkness elementals.

"You guys got any chow?" asked Sam. He was incredibly nervous, and he liked to eat when he was nervous. "A worm burger, maybe?"

"I will see what I can do," promised the elemental and departed the room.

"Can I talk to Baabby?" Sam was coming up with all kinds of plans on how to get out of this fight-to-the-death business, but none of them would work if he didn't have a way to talk his plans over with the sheep-man ahead of time.

"That is not permitted," replied the other darkness elemental. "The Dawn Sheep is an enemy, and must be avoided until your fight in the morning."

"Um, okay, How about Sapphrina? The fairy who traveled with us?"

"That is permissible." As the darkness elemental left to go fetch her, another returned with Sam's worm burger. "Here you go, Dusk Crow," the shadowy being said. Then, as Sam approached to grab his food, the elemental whispered to him, "Don't trust Lord Umbros. He--"

That's as far as he got. Then his facial features scrunched up into a grimace of pain as the shadowiness was bleached from his body. Like a photo being developed in reverse, the darkness making up his body lightened until the darkness elemental disappeared completely; in its place was a forward-thrust weapon, the end of which was a glowing ball of light. Sam looked at the weapon's tip, then let his glance travel down the weapon's shaft to its wielder, another darkness elemental about his own size. And standing behind him was Lord Umbros.

"We do not allow traitors to live," remarked the weapon-wielder.

"An excellent policy, which I endorse wholeheartedly!" answered Sam Crow. He fake-spat on the floor. "Traitors! Pah! I hate them!"

"Do you have everything you need, Dawn Crow?" asked Lord Umbros in an oily voice. Sam was quick to nod in the affirmative.

"Then I shall leave you to your meal." And, turning on his heel, the ambassador left, followed by his darkness elementals.

Sapphrina showed up a few moments later. "Am I glad to see you!" he gushed. Then, waiting for the darkness elemental who had escorted her to his temporary quarters to leave, he added, "We've got to get out of here! That Lord Umbros is crazy! He just had one of his own elementals killed for trying to warn me about him!" And Sam filled her in on what had just happened.

"They won't let me talk to Baabby," Sam said. "So you'll have to go talk to him for me. We can't fight each other to the death! Maybe we can refuse to fight...or show up at the arena, and then settle our differences with a handshake or something. If their designated representatives agree on peace, won't the two kingdoms have to follow suit?"

"I don't think it works that way," frowned Sapphrina. "The respective rulers of the Twin Kingdoms of Twilight will be there; I think they get to decide what their kingdoms do, dependent upon the outcome of the arena battle."

"Well then, maybe Baabby and I could each throw a punch at the same time and knock each other out unconscious or something," Sam said, desperation causing him to grab at any idea that struck his imagination. "We'd have to fake it, of course...or at least Baabby would," he amended - the baabarian probably could knock the little crow out with a single punch, if he put all of his strength into it!

"We'll figure something out," promised Sapphrina. "But don't worry: Baabby's not going to agree to kill you in the arena. You know that!" she chided.

"Yeah, well..." said Sam, shivering at the thought of facing Baabby in hand-to-hand combat.

"Everything will be fine," reassured the fairy. "I'd better go now, if I'm going to go talk to Baabby." She turned to leave.

"Oh, and Sam?" she added on her way out the door.


"Your sandwich is escaping." Looking down at the burger he'd set down, he saw the worms bundled between the buns had disentangled themselves and were escaping the confines of the sandwich. Then the fairy departed, to the outraged squawks of "Hey! No fair!" behind her.

- - -

The next morning, both Baabby and Sam entered the arena from opposite ends at the calling of their names - or, more accurately, by the legendary titles they'd been assigned: "The Dawn Sheep" and "The Dusk Crow." The seats were all filled with elementals, half of them from the Light Element and the other from the Darkness Element. Sam couldn't help but notice the absolute segregation between the two kingdoms: half the stadium's seats were filled with light elementals and the other half with darkness elementals. Sapphrina sat in the exact middle between the two; across from her were the two highest seats of honor, one a throne for Queen Photose, the other, a throne for her counterpart, King Shade. Looking across at Baabby, Sam saw the Ambassador from the Kingdom of Dawn, Lady Radia, sitting in an elevated seat behind her champion; looking up at the seat directly above and behind him, Sam saw Lord Umbros looking down at him.

But that wasn't all. Standing on either side of Baabby were two light elementals, each looking ready for combat. There were also two darkness elementals in the arena, one on either side of Sam. "Um, what are you guys doing here?" asked Sam.

"We are your combat support team," replied one of the darkness elementals. "To aid you in your upcoming fight against the Dawn Sheep and his own team."

"Nobody said anything about combat teams!" squawked Sam, his mind racing feverishly. How could he and Baabby come up with a way to tie this contest when there were four elementals in the arena with them, neither of which would go along with any plans of subterfuge?

He had to talk to Baabby! "Let the legendary heroes approach each other!" he called out in a loud voice, then began striding forward towards the middle of the arena. Baabby followed suit. "Hey, buddy!" the little crow said, holding out his hand for the hulking baabarian to shake. After a quick handshake, they turned toward the elemental royalty seated on their thrones.

"King Shade! Queen Photose! We, your representatives in combat, salute you!" called Sam, raising his Dynabow 3.0 in the air. Baabby pulled out his Rift-Weaver's Blade and raised it in the air in a salute to the King and Queen. While the crowd cheered on the two heroes, Sam whispered to Baabby, confident that nobody else would be able to overhear them, "We gotta get rid of those elementals on the field!"

"Agreed," replied Baabby.

"After that, once it's just you and me, maybe we can--" But Sam was interrupted by Queen Photose, calling out to the arena as a whole.

"It has come to our attention that our dueling representatives are mortals," she said. "Bearing that in mind, we - King Shade and myself - have agreed that the combat to follow need not be to the death, merely the defeat of the opposing forces. Our elemental combat teams, if slain, will merely merge back into their respective elements and be reborn. But as the Dawn Sheep and the Dusk Crow each have but one life, and one life only, it seems only fair that they not be asked to give up that one life in the cause of a people not of their own."

"However," added King Shade, "death is not off the table; the combatants should not go out of their way to try to knock out their opponents, as death is also a quite satisfactory outcome."

Easy for you to say! thought Sam. You're not the one out here facing a sheep-man who could rip you apart bare-handed! But he called back, in his loudest voice, "We, your representatives in battle, do thank you for your consideration, Your Highnesses!"

"Let the Dawn Sheep and the Dusk Crow return to their starting positions," commanded Queen Photose. With shrugs of resolution, Sam and Baabby trudged back to their starting positions between their respective pair of elementals. "When we get started, I want you guys to bunch up together and head straight towards the enemy," said Sam. "I'll be right behind you." He was hoping he could get all four elementals close enough that he could hopefully take them all out with an explosive arrow.

"We know best how to aid you, Dusk Crow," replied one of the darkness elementals. Then, when the signal for combat began, each elemental raced straight ahead, not closing the distance between themselves as Sam had hoped. But Baabby's light elementals did likewise, running forward but not closer to each other; it looked like Sam's hopes of getting all four clumped close enough together wasn't going to happen. Figures!

The light elementals each shot a blast of energy at their darkness counterparts, but the darkness elementals dodged in time. In response, though, the darkness elementals - or at least one of them, in any case - created a familiar radius of darkness that completely encompassed Baabby, still striding forward in an unhurried pace. His unhurried pace suddenly slowed even further, and Sam recognized that his baabarian friend was inside one of those slow-time "black holes" that darkness spell punks were capable of creating.

Could darkness elementals make black holes? Sam wasn't sure. But he knew for sure that darkness spell punks could, and he had a sneaking suspicion that the two "elementals" on his side weren't necessarily all that they might seem to be.

Sure enough, as he targeted the ground between his two "combat assistants," he could see, out of the corner of his vision, their forms flicker just a bit around the edges. Illusions? Could be! Sam let fly his arrow, sufficiently charged up with explosive energy from his Dynabow 3.0. It covered both "darkness elementals" in its blast radius, causing an outcry from the crowd at this unexpected betrayal on the part of the Dusk Crow. In part to cover himself, Sam belatedly called out, "Impostors! King Shade, we are betrayed!"

Baabby, meanwhile, exited the confines of the black hole at his top speed - which wasn't, admittedly, very fast under the circumstances. But he exited the range of the effect just in time to see both of his light elementals send blasts of light energy at the darkness elementals (which missed) and both of the darkness elementals send blasts of dark energy at him (which didn't). The pain allowed the sheep-man to open up his body to the power of his rage, which came to the forefront like an old friend.

Through a red haze, Baabby saw his friend Sam at the far end of the arena, and between the two of them what he could clearly see for what they truly were: two light spell punks and two darkness spell punks. The audience still saw them as elementals of the appropriate Elements, but that didn't matter to Baabby. He targeted the nearest darkness spell punk and charged him, his Rift-Weaver's Blade at the ready. The blade swung down, nearly killing the spell punk in a single blow - but somehow, the hovering mage managed to survive the strike.

Sam sent another explosive arrow straight at the other darkness spell punk. It, too, survived the attack - but it seemed to be hanging onto its evil life by the narrowest of margins.

Both darkness spell punks targeted Baabby with their dark-energy blasts, hitting him. Sam realized there was a definite advantage sometimes as being perceived as the weaker of two potential targets - even if that perception was absolutely true! However, the two light spell punks targeted their blasts at Sam, possibly just to continue their ruse of being normal light elemental arena combatants.

Since the two darkness spell punks seemed so close to death, Sam decided to help them over the threshold, killing one with an explosive arrow and the other with a plain old regular arrow to the throat. In each case, when the spell punk died, the illusion it had cast over itself flickered out and died with it - revealing their true selves in death. Gasps of shock and surprise erupted from the crowd and Sam felt he was now vindicated in the crowd's mind for having attacked "his" own forces.

Baabby, staggered by the continued assaults by the two light spell punks, needed to take a moment to cast a healing spell upon himself. Up in the stands, Lady Radia took it upon herself to dissipate the shadowy effect still surrounding Lord Umbros by blasting it with enough of its opposite Element - pure, blinding light - that it collapsed into itself. Without his engulfing shadows hiding his true form, the ambassador was exposed for what he truly was: a horrid, humanoid shape with the head of an octopus or a squid, wearing a wizard's robes and wielding a powerful-looking staff. Gasps erupted from the crowd, including one from the sole fairy in the audience, who exclaimed, "A mind flayer!"

Lords Umbros stood in his seat. "Be silent!" he commanded, and in an instant the entire darkness half of the arena did so; he had somehow dominated every darkness elemental in the stands.

Sapphrina decided she'd spent enough time as a mere spectator. Flying into the arena, she lined herself up and cast a lightning bolt spell that blasted through a light spell punk and angled up to strike Lord Umbros - or whatever the mind flayer's true name was. Baabby took care of the other light spell punk with a swipe of his greatsword, leaving the light spell punk Sapphrina had just blasted as the only enemy combatant in the arena.

This last spell punk cast a chain light spell directly at Baabby, which arced back and hit Sapphrina as well. Sam was glad he hadn't been targeted, because he was busy staring up at Lord Umbros. He had noted something disturbing about the purple-colored hand holding his staff: the rubbery fingers were rather lacking in the bone department, and each one seemed to be tipped with a small eyeball....

As if feeling the crow's scrutiny, Lord Umbros turned to face Sam. "Yes, it is true," he declared. "I am the son of the Devourer of Nightmares! And I will rule in his name for all of eternity!"

"His son, huh?" Sam called up to the mind flayer. "I guess we'll call you 'Donnie,' then? Or 'Junior'?" A sudden thought struck the taunting crow. "Hey, if Big Daddy Don's immortal, does that mean your ages of development are really, really long? I'll bet you're still considered a baby, aren't you? Well, don't worry, Donnie - we'll get all of this straightened out and they we'll make sure you get a nice, yummy ba-ba. And maybe have somebody check your diaper while we're at it. Did all of this excitement cause Wittle Donnie Junior to make a boom-boom in his diaper?"

"Be silent!" commanded Lord Umbros, the purple skin of his face turning red in anger. He sent five separate blasts from the eyeball-tentacle-digits of his left hand shooting at the irritating crow-man. Four of them struck true, and Sam was instantly shaken in fear - but in the back of his mind, he decided it was well worth the inconvenience. What good were demigods if you couldn't heckle them into a frothing rage, anyway?

Sapphrina blasted another lightning bolt spell that finished off the sole remaining light spell punk and also struck the furious mind flayer. Sam sent an explosive arrow blasting into Lord Umbros's face, and was disappointed to see him shrug off the worst of its effects. He shot a normal arrow up at him for good measure, but it missed. Still, he decided to cover it with bravado: "Whassamatta, Donnie Boy? Do you want your blankey?"

Lord Umbros responded by casting a chill touch spell on one of his squidlike face-tentacles and jumping down into the arena to face his verbal tormentor. Sam felt cold energy seeping through his body at the mind flayer's touch, sapping him of some of his vitality and strength. Baabby raced up into position and swung at the mind flayer with his greatsword, but uncharacteristically he missed. Sam frantically backed up and shot another explosive arrow at Lord Umbros - careful to make sure the blast radius didn't also encompass Baabby - and once again the mind flayer shrugged off the worst of the damage. That was definitely an irritating habit! Sam sent a normal arrow flying at the mind flayer's squiddy face, but Lord Umbros slapped it contemptuously away with a tentacle. Then he swung at Baabby with two more of his face-tentacles, each of them loaded up with a chill touch spell as well. Both struck and the baabarian felt his own strength and vitality draining away, as the mind flayer spun and slapped Sam with a fourth tentacle, repeating the process on him.

But entering the arena and engaging the heroes directly in physical combat had been a mistake. Rage coursing through his veins counteracting against the strength-draining power of the chill touch spells, Baabby channeled all of his considerable power into one solid blow of his Rift-Weaver's Blade, and Lord Umbros was nearly cut in twain by the strength behind the strike. As he fell to the sands of the arena, dying, his last words were "Impossible...you're but mere mortals...."

"Nothing 'mere' about these mortals!" replied Sam, spitting down on Donnie Junior's cooling corpse.

Upon the death of the spellcaster, the domination effect on the darkness elementals was released and they could once again move and talk. They expressed indignation at how they had been duped by this Lord Umbros, who was no darkness elemental at all but some monstrosity.

"Silence!" called a pair of voices from the stands, and Baabby and Sam spun in place, weapons ready to take on whatever this new threat might be. But it was no threat at all, merely Queen Photose and King Shade, standing from their respective thrones, arms raised in a shushing motion. A hush overcame the excited arena spectators.

"It seems we have been duped," stated King Shade. "Lord Umbros was no darkness elemental at all - and the combat assistants to both the Dusk Crow and the Dawn Sheep" - Sam grinned at finally getting top billing - "were spell punks, not elementals at all! There's no telling how long these foul creatures have been working behind the scenes, ensuring our two kingdoms remained at war with each other."

Sapphrina was the first to grasp the ramifications of the king's words. "Does that mean--?" she began.

"It means," said Queen Photose, holding out a hand to King Shade, who took it eagerly, "that the Twin Kingdoms pf Twilight are no longer at war with each other!" The crowd erupted in cheers, which carried on for several loud minutes before the king and queen once again gestured for silence.

"It seems the prophecies were correct," said King Shade. "The Dawn Sheep and the Dusk Crow have brought about an end to the war between our two kingdoms."

"In return," added Queen Photose, "you may ask us for a boon. Ask, and it will be granted."

Sam turned to Baabby and Sapphrina. "Worm burgers?" he whispered to them eagerly.

"Don't you ever stop?" chided Sapphrina, as the fairy nudged Baabby.

Baabby took the hint. Holding aloft his mighty greatsword, he called out, "This is the Rift-Weaver's Blade, a sword of great power. It holds the runes of the eight traaditional Elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Life, Maagic, Tech, Undead, and Waater. We are prophesied to use its power to destroy the Devourer of Nightmares, the one responsible for Lord Umbros messing about in your affairs. We aask that you aadd the runes of Light and Daarkness to its blade, to ensure we have the power to overcome our enemy and save the Skylands from his wraath."

King Shade and Queen Photose looked at each other and nodded. "It shall be done." they said together.

"Well, thaat's a relief!" said Baabby, wiping sweat from the fleece on his head as he sheathed his sword in the massive scabbard he wore across his broad back.

"What's up?" asked Sam, looking at the hulking baabarian. The sheep-man looked like he was about to stagger from weakness.

"Residual effects from the mind flayer's spells?" asked Sapphrina, concern in her voice.

"No," admitted Baabby. "Thaat waas just a long speech for me. I'm not...I don't much like public speaking."

- - -

We used a Paizo Flip-Mat for the arena and a four-card set from one of the Map Packs for the meeting room in Skylanders Academy.

Once the Light and Darkness runes get added to the Rift-Weaver's Blade, Sapphrina is going to convert all of the existing runes into filling those two new runes and the heroes already have a spare Tech rune at hand to load back into the sword. But then we have seven other "original" runes to go fetch all over again. Some might be easy to do (the cloud giantess might allow us to regain the Air Rune from her sky castle without too much trouble, for instance), but some of the other runes won't be so easy to get again (the Undead Rune, for example, was obtained by absorbing all of the undead energy from the Forest of Despair; since there's no more undead energy there we'll have to come up with some other way to get an Undead Rune for the sword).

But those are Logan's problems to sort out. Sometimes it's fun just being a player!