The Adventures of Baabby and Sam - a Skylanders Campaign

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 18: INVITATION FROM THE UNDERWORLD

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 10
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 10​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 10​

Game Session Date: 19 August 2017

- - -

The troll airship landed gracefully just outside the entrance to the Skylanders Academy building and the three heroes hopped out. Strolling through the doors, Baabby once again frightened poor Hugo half out of his skin and the bespectacled Mabu went racing through the hallways screaming about the upcoming Sheepocalypse.

"Ah," said Master Eon to himself, hearing his assistant flee screaming from the front doors. "Baabby must be back from his voyage to the Twin Kingdoms of Twilight. I hope everything went well."

Meeting the heroes in the reception room, Master Eon listened with gladness about the success of their latest mission. "I am pleased you were able to bring peace to the Twilight Kingdoms," he said. "I, too, have news to share - but I fear mine is not nearly as pleasant."

"Is Shelldon okay?" gasped Sam.

"He's fine," reassured the aged Portal Master. "But it's about Shelldon - or rather, Xacho - that I must speak to you about." Sam gulped loudly and prepared himself for the worst.

"First of all, he remains trapped in the shape of a snail. Our attempts to restore him to his normal human form have thus far failed." Sam breathed a sigh of relief; Shelldon was safe and still his pet snail - so far so good. "However," added Master Eon, "we have learned a few more things about the curse Xacho was placed under.

"First of all, there seems to be only two potential avenues of returning him to his normal form. The first is to convince the one who cursed him into snail form to reverse the spell."

"Thaat would be the Devourer of Nightmares," said Baabby.

"Fat chance there," scoffed Sam. "I don't think Don would ever do that."

"Nor, sadly, do I," admitted Master Eon.

"What's the second possibility?" asked Sapphrina.

"The second possibility is that Xacho will return to his human form once the individual who cursed him into snail form is slain."

"I like that plan a lot better!" enthused Sam.

"Me too!" agreed Baabby.

"It sounds like 'Plan B' for the win," added Sapphrina.

"There's more," added Master Eon, frowning. "As a snail, Xacho has been cursed with immortality - the better to torment the man who greatly feared snails. Once that curse has been lifted, and Xacho's snail form is no more, his immortality will likewise be gone."

"So he'll live out the rest of his days as a human," said Sam. "That's not so bad. You humans are okay by me."

"Unfortunately, once his immortality is gone, he will revert to his true age," said Master Eon. "He will regain his human form - and then age several thousand years in a mere moment. Within seconds of having the curse removed, Xacho will be dead. And there's nothing we can do about it, I'm afraid."

"Well, wait a minute," argued Sapphrina. "There is one thing we can do about it - just not lift the curse."

"That would mean letting Don live!" argued Sam. "That won't work - he's gotta die, or he'll kill everybody else if he ever gets free!"

"You mean slaying the Devourer of Nightmares will restore Xacho, but restoring Xacho means he dies seconds thereafter?" the fairy asked incredulously. "And there's no way around it?"

Master Eon looked sadly at the three heroes. "I'm afraid not."

"Does...does Shelldon know about this?" asked Sam.

Master Eon looked over at the little crow, and a half smile formed along one side. "He does," the wizard said. "Using magic, I've been able to talk to him about it, and he knows the ramifications of your intended course of action."

"And...?" prompted Sam.

"And I'm happy to report that Xacho wishes to live out the rest of his days as Shelldon, your pet snail," Master Eon said. "Furthermore, he asked to be allowed to travel with you once again - specifically, upon the position of honor on your left shoulder. It seems he wishes to see his life's work completed, even if he isn't the one wielding his blade this time around. And," Master Eon smiled quietly to himself, "he appears to quite enjoy your sense of humor, Sam."

"I knew it!" Sam cried. "I knew he was an excellent judge of character the minute I first saw him on that beach!" Sapphrina just rolled her eyes in disbelief, but she was glad to hear that Xacho supported their plans. And if they could use magic to speak with him, he might be able to advise them as they took steps to take down the Devourer of Nightmares once and for all.

"Can I see him?" asked Sam Crow eagerly.

"But of course." Master Eon tapped his staff on the floor, and the door opened up. Hugo entered, one hand delicately holding Shelldon, the other held up to shield his eyes from having to look at Baabby too closely - his overwhelming fear of sheep made him enormously uncomfortable in the presence of the hulking baabarian.

"Shelldon!" Sam cried, taking the snail from the Mabu's hand and placing him on his left shoulder. "Glad to see you, buddy!" Then, he added, "If you're glad to see me too, then just hold still and don't say anything!" Shelldon didn't move, nor did he speak, leaving a grinning Sam to exclaim, "I knew it! He missed me!"

Master Eon allowed the heroes to greet Xacho for a few moments before mentioning the other point of interest. "During your sojourn to the Twilight Kingdoms, we received a letter from Queen Necrotifi of the Kingdom of Anubiset. She sends word that her lands are under attack - and also that she had expected a visit from 'Xacho's assistants' a week ago, and did we have any idea why they might be late?"

"Oh dear," replied Sapphrina.

"Xaacho's aassistaants?'" repeated Baabby. "Does she mean us?"

"What, we had an appointment with another Queen? I don't remember any appointment with a Queen." He narrowed his beady, black eyes. "Wait, is this another prophecy? What is it this time, 'The Tardy Sheep and the Fashionably Late Crow' or something?"

"I know the Kingdom of Anubiset," replied Sapphrina. "I've been there in the past, with Xacho. It's on the other side of the Gate of Death, in the Underworld. We'll need to wear special Death Masks if we even hope to survive."

"Well, that sounds pleasant," griped Sam.

"Do you know this Queen Necrotifi?" asked Baabby.

"NO, I'm afraid she's after my time," replied the fairy. "But Anubiset helped Xacho and I on our quest when we were first empowering the Rift-Weaver's Blade. I feel I owe it to her kingdom to help."

"But..." began Sam.

"Good enough for me," replied Baabby. "Let's go, guys!"

"But..." added Sam.

"Let's go, Sam!" repeated Baabby, as he and Sapphrina sprinted back to the airship. Sam grumbled the whole way, struggling to catch up.

- - -

The airship came to a landing on a bleak and forlorn floating island. The ground was the color of dust; gray clouds blocked out most of the sun but didn't threaten rain so much as refuse to give forth the cleansing waters they no doubt contained.

"Are you sure this is safe?" Sam asked. "What was all that talk about Death Masks?"

"We won't need them quite yet," Sapphrina replied. "We need to follow the Path of Skulls to the Bridge of Bones. We'll need to pick up some Death Masks before we cross the Bridge of Bones, because the living cannot exist on the other side of the Dark Waters of Shrieking Souls."

"That all sounds horrible!" argued Sam. "Couldn't we take a shortcut through, like, the Path of Mild Stomach Irritation or something?"

"This way," said the fairy, ignoring the little crow's protests as usual. Baabby followed Sapphrina, walking with confidence, but he did have the Rift-Weaver's Blade unsheathed and ready at hand, just in case.

Sam followed, looking down at the bone-white cobblestones on the path they were treading. "Hey!" he cried. "These aren't real skulls on this Path of Skulls, are they?" Sapphrina continued ignoring him, but the crow knew he was right. They looked like the tops of human skulls all right; the uppity fairy didn't pay them any heed because, unlike her two companions, she didn't have to walk on them - she just glided over them with her genie-like tail trailing behind her.

Sam was going to complain further about the skulls he and Baabby were walking on, but he was interrupted by the growling of a group of creatures stepping forward from the mists. Four of them were the size of mastiffs, while the fifth was probably big enough to ride like a horse. All had flaming red eyes, coal-black fur, and growled as if hungry.

"Hell hounds!" hissed Sapphrina to the others.

"Nice doggies!" tried Sam.

But the "doggies" turned out to be not so nice. Their fur standing on end, they crouched as if to pounce upon the heroes. But then Baabby surprised them by pouncing first. Leaping forward with his Rift-Weaver's Blade raised high, he brought it down into one of the hell hound, practically slicing the canine in two, then allowing his blade to continue its bloody arc, carving deep into the body of another. With one mighty blow, two of the hell hounds lay dead alongside the Path of Skulls.

Sam opted to try to take out the leader with an explosive arrow. As he might have guessed had his actions been driven more by careful forethought and less by pants-wetting terror, the fiery explosion didn't seem to faze the Nessian warhound in the least. In fact, as if to demonstrate the point to the crow archer, it bounded forward and gave forth a blast of fiery breath that encompassed not only Sam but the fairy as well. Sapphrina, particularly susceptible to the power of the elements as were all fairies, staggered off in a daze from the blast of fire. Sam wasn't particularly pleased at having his feathers singed, but he managed to tough it out long enough to call out his battle-cry at the top of his voice.

"BAABBY! HELP ME!"

But Baabby was unable to help immediately, for the other two hell hounds were flanking him and using their own fiery breath weapons to singe the baabarian's woolly fleece. Worse yet, they had learned from the others' mistakes and were far enough away from each other that the sheep-man wouldn't be able to slay them both with one swing. So, playing no favorites, Baabby attacked the one he happened to be facing, bringing the Rift-Weaver's Blade crashing down on the hell hound's skull and slaying him instantly.

Sapphrina had to take a moment to cast a protection from energy spell upon herself, shielding herself from further fire attacks - another like the one she'd just taken would easily kill her! That left Sam having to deal with the Nessian warhound - who he decided to name "Woofy" on the spot - all by himself. He pulled a couple of normal arrows from his quiver and sent them whirling into the warhound's body. "Bad Woofy!" he called. "If I had a rolled-up newspaper, you'd be getting a swat on the nose - but good!" Then, realizing what he'd just said, he smiled at his unintended pun and said, "Hey! You're the Big Bad Woof!"

"Woofy" seemed unamused. To drive the point home, he chomped down on Sam's left arm and started chewing through the leather of his bracer. Fortunately, by that time Sapphrina had gotten her wind back and flew over to the pair, sending a frigid cone of cold (because really, is there any other kind?) blasting into the horse-sized dog. The Nessian warhound yelped in pain - releasing Sam's arm in the process, for which the little crow was grateful - and focused his attention on the spellcasting fairy.

There was now only one normal-sized hell hound remaining in the fight, and it raced up to bite at Baabby. But the baabarian swung around with a speed and agility that belied his hulking form, bringing his magical greatsword crashing into the canine's body. The hell hound's spine snapped in half from the force of Baabby's blow, and he died instantly. Then the sheep-man looked over to his friends to see how they were faring, just in time to see Sapphrina send a cold-infused lightning bolt (for fairies were good at swapping out the elements of various spells) into the Nessian warhound's face, leaving it weak enough that Sam was able to finish it off with some well-placed arrows.

"Sorry," Baabby said, heading their way. "I guess you don't need my help after aall."

"Sure we do!" argued Sam. "Only now, it's more in the line of healing rather than combat assistance - or, you know, combat replacement. Like you do the combat while we watch. Or whatever." Sam was babbling at this point, but he felt better once Baabby cast a healing spell on him and he felt a bit more like his old self.

Baabby had just finished up casting a healing spell on Sapphrina and was finally tending to his own wounds when an eerie voice whispered across the battlefield. "It hasssss the sssssword," the voice said. "The sssssword the Massssster wantsssss...."

The trio of heroes looked up to see four ghostly forms rising up from the ground - again, one of them much larger than the other three.

"Ghosts!" cried Sam.

"No..." began Baabby, peering at the forms as they rose from the ground and came into full view.

"...Wraiths!" called Sapphrina - but then, she was the only one who had been here before and was better-versed in identifying the local inhabitants.

The largest one, the dread wraith, floated over to Baabby and swung at him with an outstretched hand of skeletal bones. The baabarian felt a sudden chill as the undead creature's hand passed through the sheep-man's armor and body, draining a part of his life-force and vitality. In return, Baabby swung his Rift-Weaver's Blade at the dread wraith, and if the creature expected it to pass harmlessly through his incorporeal body he got quite a surprise, for the magic inherent in the greatsword allowed it to affect the undead thing. As Baabby had put the full force of his considerable strength into the swing, the dread wraith ended up getting the worse end of that deal. Then Sapphrina only added to the thing's frustration as she fired a blast of magic missiles from her wand at it, confident not only in their unerring accuracy at striking the intended target but also in the power of the pure force energy to harm even incorporeal beings.

"Get the sssssheep," the dread wraith called. "Take hisssss sssssword!" As one, the other three wraiths flew at Baabby, surrounding him and reaching into his body to drain his life energy.

Sam targeted an explosive arrow such that it would hit two of the wraiths on one side of Baabby without getting the sheep-man in the blast radius. It was anybody's guess whether the attack would affect either of them, but at least by using a magical explosive effect there was a chance that they'd be affected. For once, luck was on Sam's side, as the explosion hurt both of the targeted wraiths - although not to the extent that either was slain.

The dread wraith struck out at Baabby again with its skeletal claws. But an incorporeal body cannot drain life energy from a solid form if that solid form is dexterous enough to move out of the way at the last moment, which is exactly what Baabby did. Then he continued his movement, swinging his greatsword out to the side and killing one of the lesser wraiths, then cleaving through another wraith, slaying it as well. He had hoped to continue his swing and get yet a third wraith, but it dodged out of the way. He spun in a circle and swung the greatsword around for another shot at the last of the smaller wraiths, but it managed to back up out of the way.

So Sapphrina blasted it with her wand of magic missiles, guaranteeing a hit. Unfortunately, it didn't guarantee a kill, and the wraith survived long enough to strike out at Baabby again. Sam targeted another explosive arrow to encompass the two remaining undead targets, but of the two, only the lesser wraith was affected - and it still wouldn't die!

The dread wraith slashed out with both sets of skeletal claws, driving them deep within the baabarian's back as the sheep-man faced the lesser wraith, hoping to deal with the weaker foes first so the trio could all concentrate on the larger threat together. He hissed in pain as the dread wraith siphoned off some of his living energy, converting it to a type of vitality that increased the undead thing's own unholy strength. Furious, Baabby slashed out again with the Rift-Weaver's Blade, cutting deep into the lesser wraith's undead body - if it had been alive, it would be bleeding profusely at the deepness of the cut. He swung again, hoping to finish it off, but missed.

Sapphrina could see by the way the wraith seemed to be phasing in and out of existence that it was just about slain. So she split up her attacks from the next round of her wand of magic missiles, sending one arcane bolt of energy to finish off the lesser wraith while the others streaked unerringly into the dread wraith's body. Sam followed up with an explosive arrow right in the dread wraith's hooded face, and it managed to stagger in place in midair. The creature struck out at Baabby again with a set of skeletal claws, but it was rapidly losing strength and the attack went wide. After taking a step backwards to avoid the dread wraith's claws, Baabby immediately changed course and sprang forward, driving the Rift-Weaver's Blade forward like a spear through what would have been the dread wraith's heart - if he still had one. But heart or no heart, the blow was the final strike needed, and the dread wraith dematerialized, its incorporeal body fading into mist that quickly dissipated into the gloomy atmosphere of the underworld.

It was about that time that the mummy showed up.

Staggering across the Bridge of Bones, the bandaged-wrapped skeleton looked to be on its last legs. Sam raised his Dynabow 3.0 and took aim, allowing the magic bow to charge up an arrow full of explosive energy.

"No! Don't!" called out Sapphrina. "He's a good guy!"

"Good grief," muttered Sam, lowering his bow. "How the heck can you tell?" But by then the fairy had flown over to where the mummy had collapsed to the ground, one hand holding his stomach.

"The walls...have been overcome," the mummy reported. "Beware...the Skittering Fiend." Then he pulled his hand away from his stomach, revealing the three Death Masks he'd hidden inside his bandages. He passed them over to Sapphrina. One was an excellent likeness of the fairy; she put that one on and passed the others to her two companions, who had approached behind her. Baabby took one that was a passable representation of a sheep, and gave the final one - clearly a bird of some sort, if not necessarily a crow - over to Sam. They pulled the masks over their heads and tightened the straps.

"Won't Shelldon need one?" asked Sam.

"He's immortal," Sapphrina reminded him. "He'll be fine without the protection."

"Let's go," said Baabby, leading the way across the Bridge of Bones. Sapphrina and Sam followed; the little crow tried not to look down at the water at the humanoid forms prowling around down there.

It wasn't long that the heroes were in the underworld proper before the Skittering Fiend made an appearance. Stepping forward out of the mists on eight powerful legs, the spidery demon glared at the heroes with eight shiny, black eyes and started rubbing his mandibles as if in appreciation of the upcoming meal.

Sam was having none of that. (Or perhaps more importantly, he was determined to make sure the spider had none of him!) The archer sent an explosive arrow crashing into the bebilith's head, momentarily engulfing all of its eyes in a cloud of flame. Shielded by the explosion, a normal arrow went flying into the demon's body shortly thereafter.

Baabby judged the distance between them and for once opted on an attack spell instead of just running at the threat with his sword out. He said the words to a blindness/deafness spell, opting for the former affliction, thinking that a blind demon would be much easier to defeat - especially one this size, with a body easily 20 feet long and a leg-span over twice that. Unfortunately, like many fiends it had an innate spell resistance that in this case served it well; the spell bounced harmlessly away and the bebilith ended up being the one closing the distance between the two.

"My Master wants your sword," it announced as it casually swiped at the baabarian with a claw. Blood flew, along with a tuft of white wool. Sapphrina flew close enough to the demon to cast a cone of cold at it and was pleased to see the spell seeming to have some effect against the bebilith. As for Sam, he wanted very much to be behind the giant spider instead of facing its mouth with its horrible mandibles. He began racing in a counterclockwise direction, sending another explosive arrow into the demon's flank as he ran.

After having given attack spellcraft a fair chance, Baabby opted to fall back into his comfort zone - face-on melee attack! He screamed in rage and raced toward the bebilith, charging at full speed. When he reached the creature's head, he slid on his knees and stabbed up with his Rift-Weaver's Blade as he skidded along the ground. This did two things: it carved a deep groove in the bebilith's chitinous armor, and it hid the baabarian beneath the bebilith's own body, where he was safe from immediate retaliation.

But not for long: all the Skittering Fiend had to do was back up a bit for Baabby to come back into view, and the spider-fiend bit at the baabarian and raked at him with its two front claws. Baabby gritted his teeth against the pain, but his strong constitution prevented the fiend's venom from having any debilitating effect on the hulking adventurer.

The creature's great size worked against it, for Sapphrina was able to fly at the fiend's head and blast it with another cone of cold without having any fears of hitting Baabby with her spell, as he was many feet below her. And while this was going on, Sam continued his race around the bebilith's body, firing another explosive arrow as he ran. He figured he was over halfway to directly behind it, where he planned to get some flanking - and some sneak attack damage - in, while Baabby dealt with the creature at its head end.

But Sam never got his chance. Once again, Baabby's immense strength, fueled beyond the norm by the power of his rage, allowed him to strike deep into the body of his foe, stabbing up into its abdomen such that the Rift-Weaver's Blade's entire length was buried in bebilith flesh. He tugged - hard - to get the blade free, drenching himself in demon ichor as he did so, and then managed to race out from beneath the bebilith before its lifeless body crashed to the ground. He shook the gore from his body and his blade as the bebelith's spidery legs began twitching spasmodically in death.

"Ugh!" complained Sam. "I hate it when spiders do that! It's creepy!"

"Come on," said Baabby, ignoring the little crow's complaints. (Everybody seemed to be doing that today!) He strode purposefully into the mist, following Sapphrina's lead, as she was the only one of them who knew where they were going.

Sam sighed. "Come on, Shelldon!" he said to the snail perched on his left shoulder. "Let's not get left behind!" And the little crow followed his friends into who knew what dangers still faced them in the underworld.

- - -

Logan used a bunch of Map Pack cards from the "Hellscapes" set for the battles with the hell hounds, wraiths, and bebilith. We have a Nessian warhound D&D miniature, but for the other, normal-sized hell hounds he used two hyenas and two black panthers. Likewise, Logan used the standup darkness elemental tokens I'd made for earlier adventures as the wraiths (they look pretty much the same), and for the bebelith he used a plastic spider I picked up from Target years ago for a dollar.

He also did some stat modifications for the wraiths and the bebelith, converting the wraith's normal Constitution-draining attacks into straight hit point loss and doing away with the bebelith's "rend armor" attack. After all, this is meant to emulate the Skylanders games more so than "straight" D&D, and Logan (quite rightly) realized it would be easier, and more fun, for Harry to have Baabby deal with straight hp loss than have to try to recuperate from ability damage/drain.

And Harry was again surprised when the adventure ended, having expected to get to the "real battle" in Anubiset rather than have this be just a "travel to the site" adventure. But it just serves as reinforcement that you never know what's going to happen in a D&D adventure, Skylanders or no Skylanders.
 

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 19: BETWEEN THE GATES OF ANUBISET

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 10
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 10​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 10​

Game Session Date: 2 September 2017

- - -

The heroes followed the Road of Skulls and eventually a great stone wall arose from the mists ahead. There was a moat of dark water before it, but a drawbridge of sorts - made from human leg bones, it looked like - was in the down position, allowing access to the double doors perched between two stone towers.

"You know, this used to be a river, but it got de-moated," quipped Sam. When neither of his friends commented on his pun, he mumbled, "Well, I'm sure Shelldon appreciated it."

The left tower held two mummy sentries, but the right tower seemed to be unoccupied. Sam was ready to take a shot at the mummies, but decided he'd better check with Sapphrina first. "Are those good mummies or bad mummies?" he asked, aware that the Death Masks the three heroes wore - which protected them from the undead energy inherent to the underworld that would otherwise kill the heroes over time - had been given to them by a friendly mummy from the kingdom of Anubiset.

"They should be good," replied the fairy. "Unless they're part of the occupying force."

"Well, let's just stroll up to the drawbridge and ask them," replied Sam, irritated that he couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys in this crazy land. "Hey!" he called up to the mummies in the left tower. "We're here to help Queen Necrotifi! Can we come in?"

The mummies did not respond...but something did. "You must not be allowed to interfere!" came a creepy whisper of a voice. Looking around, the heroes saw three wraiths rise up from the ground around them.

This further irritated Sam Crow - while he knew for sure that these were part of the invading force and thus safe to attack, the three ghostlike shapes were far enough away from each other that he'd only be able to get one at a time within the blast radius of his explosive arrows. Bummer! But the archer let fly with two arrows, one charged with explosive energy and a normal one following it up. The first flew right through the wraith's body to explode harmlessly beyond it, while the second arrow seemed to strike the incorporeal form and at least do it some harm. But Sam greatly preferred flesh and blood foes that could be damaged with an arrow at all times, not only when you hit them just right.

The three wraiths converged, each focusing on a different hero. Baabby dodged from the outstretched hands of the wraith attacking him as best he could, but it reached inside the baabarian's body and siphoned off a portion of his life force. He responded as he did to most threats: with the power of the Rift-Weaver's Blade. It came crashing into the body of one wraith, causing it to dissipate into nothingness. The blade continued its arc into the body of another wraith, but this time the blade seemed to have no effect - such were the hazards of fighting incorporeal foes.

Sapphrina cast a magic missile spell at the wraith attacking her, the force energy of her attack accurately striking the undead form as she knew it would. The wraith stiffened at the attack, then seemed to freeze up even more, hovering in place motionlessly.

To attack the wraith facing him, Sam had to back up a bit, which put him within arm's reach of the wraith Sapphrina had just hit with her spell. However, it failed to take advantage of the crow-man's proximity, allowing Sam to send another pair of arrows at the wraith he was targeting. Once again, the explosive arrow passed harmlessly through his target, while the normal one seemed to hit.

Baabby attacked the motionless wraith, thinking that perhaps the Light Rune in his greatsword may have immobilized it when his sword seemed to pass through its body without harm. There was harm aplenty in this particular pass, though - the Rift-Weaver's Blade cut the immobilized undead into two and its body shattered into ghost fragments and disappeared. Once again, he used the momentum of his sword-strike to cleave into the other wraith, and good fortune allowed this attack to be as successful as the first - the sole remaining wraith was also destroyed by the power of the Rift-Weaver's Blade.

Sam looked back up at the mummy sentries, but they didn't seem to have even noticed the fight below the walls to Anubiset. "Hey!" he called up there again. "You guys paying attention up there? That ought to prove we're good guys - let us in!"

Sapphrina was squinting up at the immobile mummies. "...I think they're just illusions," she said.

"What?" demanded Sam. "Cast by who?"

"I think by her," replied Baabby, pointing up at the right-hand tower, where a dark shape could be seen crouching behind the tower's crenellations - all but the tips of her batlike wings, that is. "We don't mean you aany haarm!" he called up to her.

A pale face peered down over the top of the tower. "No, I guess not," she admitted, flapping her wings to raise her high enough to get a good look at the heroes. "I'm not supposed to let anybody in, upon orders of the invading--WAIT A MINUTE! ARE YOU GUYS SKYLANDERS?"

"Well, kind of," admitted Sam, adopting a humble pose.

"OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH!" gushed the young vampire. "Do you know Roller Brawl? I'm like her biggest fan!"

"Well," admitted Sam, "I am close personal friends with the vampire who personally provided her with a lovely pink pair of magical gloves."

"I HAVE A PAIR JUST LIKE THOSE!" shrieked the vampiress. "Okay, I guess I can let you in - just don't let the invaders know, okay? How do you want to come in? Should I, like, fly down there and carry you over, or what?"

"I'm not sure you could lift me," replied Baabby.

"Well, maybe if the fairy gave me a hand, we could both carry you up over the wall...."

"Or, here's an idea," suggested Sapphrina, "How about just opening the doors?"

"Well, they're kind of busted," admitted the vampire. "The invaders knocked them down, and now they're just kind of propped in place. I'm afraid if you try to open them they'll fall over and the noise will attract the invaders. I can definitely carry the crow over, though: we vampires are pretty strong."

"Wait--vampire?" asked Sam, turning to his friends. "I'm not sure I want a vampire flying me over the wall," he admitted in a low voice. "What if she decides to bite me in midair?"

"You do look rather tasty," admitted the vampire, proving her hearing was much more powerful than Sam had thought. Almost as an instinct, he called up to her, "Oh, I am! But that's because I'm part roast turkey and gravy on my mother's side!"

"You aare not!" scoffed Baabby.

"That doesn't even make any sense!" chided Sapphrina, but Sam didn't care - he was too busy laughing at the ridiculousness of his claim.

"I'll tell you what," said the vampiress. "Use the door on the left - I think it's still got one hinge intact. Just be careful not to make any noise, okay?" The three heroes did as she suggested, making their way quietly through the doorway and putting the partially-broken door back into place behind them.

"I'm Misty," said the vampire as she landed on the ground beside them inside the walled city of Anubiset. Baabby made the introductions, then asked about the makeup of the invading forces.

"The main army is mostly wraiths," said Misty. "But there are three generals. The first one is called the Skittering Demon..."

"You can strike him from the list," said Sam, puffing out his chest. "We killed him."

"You did? Excellent! Then you only have two more to go. One's a snake lady, and the other's a deep crab."

"Deep craab?" asked Baabby. "My breastplate's made of deep craab shell."

"He's also called a wolf crab," Misty offered.

"Weird," admitted Sam. "I wonder if that's anything like a wolf spider?"

"What about Queen Necrotifi?" asked Sapphrina. "Is she all right?"

"The invaders tried to capture her, but she's evaded them so far." Misty looked around her. "I should get back to my post," she said. "Hey, if you guys are successful at driving off the invaders, do you think you could get Roller Brawl's autograph for me?"

"I'm sure that could be arranged," Sam promised, although he'd only ever heard of this Roller Brawl before, never met her. She was apparently an actual Skylander from the Undead team, a vampire girl herself, just like Misty. But hey, they were in tight with Master Eon - he could probably wrangle an autograph if they asked nicely.

"Awesome!" enthused Misty, taking flight back up to the top of the tower. "You guys are the best!"

"You know, we really are," admitted Sam, trying his best to look humble while boasting about his awesomeness.

"Quit flirting with the vampire!" chided Sapphrina. "Let's see if we can find the Queen."

"Well, some of us are," Sam amended, before following the fairy and the baabarian into the mists covering the city.

They didn't get very far before they were called by a stage-whispered, "Pssst!" Turning toward the sound, the heroes saw a pale-skinned woman wearing a crown of bones. "I overheard your talk with Misty," she said. "I'm Queen Necrotifi. And you are Xacho's apprentices?"

"Pleased to meet you, Your Maajesty," replied Baabby. "Aand yes, we work with Xacho." Sam looked down at the snail perched on his left shoulder - Xacho himself, after many centuries trapped in the form of a common snail.

"It's been a long time," added Sapphrina. "But I remember you from when you were a child, many centuries ago when I was here last, with Xacho."

"Yes, I thought that was you," said Queen Necrotifi, smiling. "I thank you for coming to aid my kingdom. The invading army has two main goals: capturing me, and finding the Undead Rift Gate. I've managed to avoid capture thus far, and they've assumed the Undead Rift Gate is somewhere in the palace, so they're focusing their attention there."

"But it isn't?" asked Sapphrina.

"No, that seemed like the first place they'd look. It's hidden in the stables behind an inn, about three blocks from here. You must find a way to protect it, or, failing that, destroy it to prevent them from getting their hands on it."

Sapphrina was about to inform the Queen that they wished to absorb some of the Undead energy on the other side of the gate, in order to reforge the Undead Rune in the Rift-Weaver's Blade, but before she could do so two undead shapes rose up from the ground. Each was twice the size of even Baabby; one rose up behind Queen Necrotifi and grabbed her around the waist, rising up into the air with his struggling captive. Before the others could stop the dread wraith, it had vanished into the mists headed toward the castle.

But the heroes had their hands full dealing with the other dread wraith, which struck out at Sam Crow, passing its claws through the archer's body and siphoning off some of his life energy. "Hey! No fair!" squawked Sam.

Sapphrina cast a magic missile spell at the undead form, causing it to cringe in pain, and Baabby swung his greatsword through the dread wraith's body, to little effect. Sam took a chance and shot three normal arrows at the thing in rapid succession, and pumped a fist in the air when the undead thing's body discorporated as a result. "I finally killed one!" he crowed.

"Now what do we do?" asked Sapphrina. "Go after Queen Necrotifi, or get to the Undead Rift Gate?"

"Gate first," decided Baabby. "She doesn't want it to faall into their haands - aand we need the undead energy. They won't kill the Queen until she tells them where the gate is, aand she's not likely to do thaat aany time soon."

"Makes sense," agreed the fairy. "The inn should be this way!" And she flew off in the direction the Queen had indicated, the hulking baabarian and lithe crow fast at her heels. (Well, they would have been, had she actually had any heels - as a Skylands fairy, her body tapered away below the waist like a genie's.)

There were three wraiths waiting for them by the inn, which was unnerving - was this just a coincidence, or had the dread wraiths overheard the heroes' conversation with the Queen before rising up from the ground and abducting her? The fact that one of the invading army's generals was perched upon the inn's roof made the "coincidence" hypothesis less likely.

Sam stared up at the figure, who was unlike anything he'd ever seen before in his life. From the waist up, she appeared to be a human woman, although one who had somehow picked up two extra sets of arms from somewhere. From the waist down, she was full snake. The little crow didn't realize it, but he was looking at the image of his first marilith demon.

"Hey, I like the extra arms - they must really come in handy!" he called up to her. "I take it you're one of the generals of the invading force - apparently, you must be in charge of the army!" He chuckled to himself, then added, "Don't mind me - my jokes are mostly armless!"

"I can see why my Master told me not to let you open your beak!" she called down. "Do you ever stop yapping?"

"Master?" asked Sam, ignoring her question by continuing to yap - which, in a way, actually answered her question in a rather indirect fashion. "Is it Don? It's Don, isn't it? Hey, next time you see him, be sure to call him 'Donny-Boy.' He really likes that. Oh, wait - you won't get a chance to see him again, because we're going to kill you!"

Baabby, however, was focused more on the dangers immediately at hand. Charging forward with a roar, he used the Rift-Weaver's Blade to carve right through the body of the first wraith, killing it instantly, then continuing on to swing at the second wraith in line. This time the baabarian missed, but he spun around and took a second swing at it and this one did the trick. He immediately tried cleaving his greatsword into the third wraith, but that was apparently hoping for too much, for the incorporeal form dodged his blow.

From the rooftop of the inn, the marilith demon cast a flame strike down at the heroes. She cackled in delight as all three heroes were engulfed by her spell and three separate cries of pain reached up to her ears. When the spell ended, Sapphrina was unconscious of the ground - for Skylanders fairies were susceptible to all types of energy damage - but Sam had an arrow pointed up at the six-armed demon in retaliation. The flames cleared from the flame strike spell, only for Sam's arrow to come flying up at her and explode in her face. Worse yet, while she was temporarily blinded by the flash of explosion, a normal arrow came flying up at her, to strike her in the side.

"Ignore the sheep!" commanded the marilith. "KILL THAT BLASTED CROW!" And then, to her chagrin, she was forced to back across the other side of the inn's roof, putting the roofline between her and Sam so the archer no longer had a line-of-sight on her.

Not for an arrow, perhaps, but Sam's constant babbling could still reach the marilith's ears. "Hey, you exploded pretty good there," the crow called. "You've got soot all over your face. I think I'll call you 'Sooty-Judy'!" While he was babbling, he was also crossing the street and clambering up the side of a building, pulling himself up to the roof. The sole remaining wraith moved to follow, but Baabby had his friend covered, and the Rift-Weaver's Blade went slicing into the undead form. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case, this time it seemed to have no effect.

"Sooty-Judy?" called Sam from the rooftop, pulling out an arrow and allowing it charge up with explosive energy from the Dynabow 3.0. "Did I hurt your feelings or something? Talk to me, Sooty-Judy!"

"My name's Garnett!" the marilith yelled in frustration.

"Gaarnett?" asked Baabby, casting a mass cure light wounds spell that healed himself and Sam, revived Sapphrina, and dealt damage to the wraith chasing Sam. "Thaat's a weird name for a demon." By this time the wraith had flown up to the rooftop and was trying to claw out some of Sam's life energy, so the sarcastic crow was unable to add his own comment.

Seeing Sam in dire straits, Garnett leaped from atop the inn and levitated across the street, to land on the rooftop behind Sam. Sapphrina flew up and cast a lightning bolt that caught both Garnett and the wraith in its path. The wraith was instantly slain and the marilith screamed in uncharacteristic pain - surely demons should be able to deal with attack spells a bit better than this?

But by then, Sam's explosive arrow was fully charged. Unfortunately, he was now trapped on a small rooftop with his intended target, and there was nowhere for him to go where he wouldn't be smack-dab in the midst of the explosion's radius of effect. Actually...there was one way to pull it off. Looking down to see Baabby standing in the street behind him, Sam kicked off backwards from the roof, shooting his arrow on the way down while calling for Baabby to catch him. Garnett was engulfed in another explosion (causing her to scream in pain once again), and Baabby had just enough time to shift the Rift-Weaver's Blade to a one-handed grip, leaving him one hand to catch Sam by the scruff of his collar and guide him to the street. Sam staggered but remained on his feet. "Thanks, Baabby!" he called, then couldn't resist adding, "You're the best sidekick ever!"

"You're the sidekick!" Baabby reminded his sidekick.

"Oh yeah," Sam said. "I keep getting that mixed up."

"Guys! Check this out!" called Sapphrina from the rooftop, where Garnett's body had exploded into a blast of red dust, slain by Sam's explosive arrow. "No wonder she wasn't liking those energy attacks!" She picked up a handful of fairy dust and flung it into the air, where it drifted in the wind.

"I don't get it," admitted Sam.

"She was a fairy," explained Sapphrina. "We explode into colored fairy dust when we die - and you already know about our susceptibility to energy attacks."

Baabby turned to look at Sapphrina. "I didn't think there were such things as evil fairies."

"They're rare, but they exist," admitted Sapphrina. Baabby frowned in disappointment, as if just finding out that unicorns actually pooped or there was no such thing as a puppy-kitten.

"But we got loot!" said Sapphrina, passing around the goodies she'd taken from Garnett's body. Sam took the amulet of natural armor and Baabby took the ring of protection, leaving the fairy to wear the bracers of armor.

Then the trio set out to do what they'd come to the inn for. Entering the stables, they found a dilapidated door in the back - and sure enough, hidden behind it was the Undead Rift Gate. Baabby used the Rift-Weaver's Blade as a key to open the gateway, then they passed through it. Sapphrina channeled the undead energy within to fuel an Undead Rune, which took form on the greatsword's blade. Then they exited the way they'd come and Baabby used his sword to close the rift behind them.

"We need to destroy the gate," he said. "How do we do thaat?"

"I'm not really sure," admitted Sapphrina.

"I might have an idea," said Sam, casting a speak with animals spell - the first time he'd cast such a spell. "Well?" he asked the snail he still called Shelldon, even though they all knew this was the original Xacho who had once wielded the Rift-Weaver's Blade. "Any ideas?"

"It's possible," said the snail, "that a sufficient supply of energy of an opposing type may cause the Undead Rift Gate to implode in upon itself."

Turning to the others, Sam said, "I just had an idea that I totally came up with myself without any help from anybody else: what if we applied a sufficient supply of energy of an opposing type?" He smiled down at Shelldon, knowing full well that nobody was going to believe that this was Sam's idea and not Xacho's. He liked Shelldon; he wouldn't have made the try at credit-hogging if he thought anybody would actually believe him.

Baabby stroked the fleece on his chin and looked at the empty hole in his blade where the Life Rune used to be. "Where are we going to get the opposite energy?" he asked. Then he and Sapphrina looked at each other and came up with the idea simultaneously. "A turning!" they said in unison.

"A what now?" asked Sam.

"I'll chaannel positive energy aat the gate, like when I turn undead creatures," Baabby explained.

"You can turn undead creatures?" Sam asked. "I forgot you could do that. And come to think of it, I haven't seen you turning any of those undead creatures we've been fighting all day!"

"I kind of prefer to stick to my sword," admitted the baabarian.

"Well, it is a great sword," quipped Sam, and Sapphrina just rolled her eyes. But Baabby focused a blast of positive energy through the Life symbol he wore around his neck, channeled it into the Undead Rift Gate, and saw it fluctuate in size a few times before shrinking down inside itself and winking out of existence.

"Good thinking, Xacho," said Sapphrina, leaving no doubt that she hadn't for a moment believed Sam had come up with the plan.

"Well, that was easy," said Sam. "Can we get out of here now?"

"There's still one more general to deal with," reminded Baabby. But apparently there wasn't going to be a whole lot of difficulty in tracking down the "wolf crab" - for a voice came booming across the city: "IF YOU WANT TO SEE THE QUEEN ALIVE, RETURN TO THE FRONT GATES OF THE CITY AT ONCE!"

"Uh oh," said the fairy.

"Let's go!" called the baabarian as he started running back to the front gate. When they got there, they saw an enormous demon, of general humanoid build but with a wolf's head and an extra set of arms ending in crablike claws. Queen Necrotifi was caught in one of those crab-pincers, struggling to no avail to wriggle free.

"A glabrezu!" gasped Sapphrina.

"Hey there," called out Sam. "How ya doin'? We're having a pretty good day. How about you? Your day goin' pretty good?"

"Are you the ones responsible for the destruction of the Undead Rift Gate?" demanded the glabrezu.

"Who, us?" asked Sam, playing dumb - a role for which he was particularly suited. "A Rift Gate, you say? No, we're not responsible for any--wait! Did you say 'Rift Gate'? Oh yeah, we totally destroyed it - and lemme tell you, it was as easy to demolish as one of Donny-Boy's eyeball-tentacle thingies! Say, you don't happen to know Donny-Boy, do you? Big, stupid-looking goof, has eyeballs growing on the tips of his fingers...?"

"Then our entire reason for invading the underworld is now made pointless!" snarled the glabrezu, and while Sam was busy making an "Aw!" expression of fake sorrow, the demon casually tossed Queen Necrotifi over his shoulder. She flew over the city walls to splash into the moat beyond. With a flap of leathery wings, Misty abandoned her watch-post to go save her.

"But before we depart, I'll at least have the pleasure of ripping you limb from limb! And I'll take the sword back to my Master!" And with that, the glabrezu raced forward, crab pinchers clacking together like a pair of castanets. As the demon approached, Baabby cast a blindness/deafness spell on him, hoping to deprive him of his sight. But the glabrezu shrugged it off, and Baabby once again decided to put his trust in his Rift-Weaver's Blade, where it belonged. He dodged off to the side by a building, putting his back against a sturdy wall. This had two effects: it made the demon think the sheep-man was fearful (which might make the demon overconfident and careless), and it caused the glabrezu to have to veer off course to get at the baabarian - thus setting Sam up for a sneak attack as the two combatants flanked their foe.

Sapphrina knew her own abilities as a combatant, and headed off in the opposite direction, taking cover behind a tree. She cast a haste spell on the three heroes, realizing they could all benefit from extra attacks.

Sam went with his faithful combination of "explosive arrow followed by a normal arrow." Of course, he had forgotten to take into account a true demon's ability to ignore fire-based attacks, so the explosion wasn't as impressive a weapon as the little crow might have hoped for. But at least it proved they were fighting a demon, and not another evil fairy disguised as one using illusion magic!

Roaring in rage, the glabrezu attacked Baabby, snapping his pincers at the baabarian but failing to get him caught up in them, partly because Baabby was a more experienced fighter than Queen Necrotifi was, and partly because of his much greater strength. He countered with several jabs with the Rift-Weaver's Blade, taunting the demon (perhaps he'd been hanging around Sam too long?) with, "You waant my sword? You waant it? Well, here it is!" as he drove the blade into the glabrezu's demonic flesh.

The demon responded with a flurry of attacks: both crab claws, the claws on his smaller, more humanlike set of hands, and even a wicked bite with his lupine teeth. Baabby staggered under the onslaught, and his friends realized at once that the baabarian wouldn't survive many more such attacks.

"I've got to do something!" Sapphrina said, flying over to the combatants.

"But the thing's got wicked spell resistance!" Sam reminded her. "Any attack spell likely won't make it through!"

"Then I won't cast an attack spell!" she countered, flying up behind Baabby, slapping him on the shoulder, and applying a stoneskin spell on him.

"Thaanks!" Baabby called to his fairy friend, realizing she may have just turned the tide of battle. And then, looking up at his brutish foe, he allowed the rage to build inside his body, fueling the power of his limbs.

The Rift-Weaver's Blade went slicing up into the glabrezu's body, cutting a deep gash across his chest. Meanwhile, Sam had decided to stick to normal arrows since the explosions weren't doing what he might have hoped. Plus, he could fire more normal arrows a round, and by flanking with Baabby he was able to place them in strategic targets on the demon's body where they'd (hopefully) do more damage.

With the glabrezu concentrating on fighting off the two combatants, Sapphrina felt confident enough to try her hand at an attack spell. She chose a lightning bolt, but altered the energy type to sonic damage (Skylanders fairies could do that, they were very energy-attuned...which also made them susceptible to the various energy types), thinking there was a better chance that the glabrezu wouldn't have any resistances to that type of damage.

She was right; he didn't. But he did have an inherent resistance against all spells, no matter their type, and it served him well in this instance. "Well, drat!" cried Sapphrina, which was as close as she usually came to swearing.

It wasn't long, though, before the glabrezu collapsed to the ground, dead (almost trapping Baabby underneath him as he fell, but the baabarian leapt out just in time). "Got him!" called Baabby, allowing his rage to simmer now that the fight was done.

Or was it? For here came a vast horde of wraiths, all howling in rage. Sam raised a wing involuntarily, trying to ward off the impending attacks, but they never came - the wraiths flew right through the heroes' bodies, right through the wall surrounding Anubiset, and fled the scene, hopefully never to return.

Misty landed near the heroes, dropping off a dripping-wet Queen Necrotifi. "I told you we vampires are pretty strong," Misty said to the heroes, smiling.

"You are strong," admitted Sam. "...and pretty." And he gave the vampiress his sweetest smile.

"I, and the entire kingdom of Anubiset, thank you," said Queen Necrotifi. She clapped her hands, and a pair of mummy servitors approached, each carrying a heavy sack upon its back. At their Queen's beckoning, they dropped their bundles, allowing the heroes to see they were each filled to the brim with golden coins.

"And we thank you, Your Majesty," replied Sapphrina. "I'm glad we were able to help your kingdom...although we had to destroy the Undead Rift Gate, I'm afraid."

"No matter," dismissed the Queen. "It may well be for the best, if it will prevent such attacks upon our kingdom in the future." She accompanied the heroes back along the Road of Skulls, until they crossed the Bridge of Bones. There, she retrieved the Death Masks they heroes had been wearing, that had protected them in the underworld.

"The forces that attacked your kingdom, they served a being called the Devourer of Nightmares," explained Sapphrina before they left.

"We call him Don," added Sam.

"We're on a quest to destroy him," the fairy continued.

"Well, kill him good for me," replied Queen Necrotifi.

"Thaat's the plaan," said Baabby, and the three heroes went back to their airship, to take the next step in their quest.

- - -

Logan cobbled together a cool "Anubiset Gate" map by using a "Town Square" Flip-Mat that had a wall with two towers and covering up the land on one side with a moat, a drawbridge made of bones, and a bunch of hellish land tiles from the "Hellscapes" Map Pack. He also got to use the "Wolf Demon" miniature he'd picked up from a local game shop and painted himself; it's basically a glabrezu with the serial numbers filed off.

Logan also did a really good job of sneaking things by me, which became obvious in hindsight. The first of these was naming the "marilith" Garnett, which is a type of gemstone...as is a sapphire, from which the only other Skylanders fairy we know by name in this campaign derives her name. The other was referring to the glabrezu as a "wolf crab" - I totally did not make the connection to a glabrezu (which has features of both a wolf and a crab, despite its otherwise humanoid build). As I own a crab miniature which I had picked up for an adventure in our previous campaign, that's what I was expecting him to plop onto the battle mat. Well played!
 
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Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 20: MOURNING IN SPARKLETOWN

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 11
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 11​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 11​

Game Session Date: 16 September 2017

- - -

"I'm bushed," admitted Sam Crow, crawling into his hammock strung across two beams in the lower deck of the troll airship.

"Me too," agreed Baabby, already swinging slightly in his own hammock from the airship's motion. The movement was like nothing so much as being rocked back and forth in a place of safety and generally made it remarkably easy to fall asleep. Add in tired muscles from a day of fighting demons and the undead in the depths of the underworld, and it got even easier - which likely explained the quiet snores already coming from Sapphrina's hammock.

It wasn't long at all before two more sets of snores joined those of the tired fairy, to intermingle into an unintended melody performed by three unconscious practitioners of the snoring arts. One deck above, the animated statue of Xacho's son kept his unsleeping vigil at the helm of the troll airship, expertly piloting the craft back to Skylanders Academy, where the trio would decide their next course of action. It was nice not having to set up a guard shift for the night, leaving that in the unliving hands of their unnamed statue construct.

A sudden lurch caused the airship to shudder and founder to starboard for a moment, before regaining its normal heading. The turbulence sent the three hammocks swinging off to the side, but neither of the exhausted heroes awoke from the jostling. Instead, each was caught up in a particular dream of lifelike intensity....

Sam raced through a maze of alleyways, the clicking of claws behind him letting him know the glabrezu was still right behind him, eager to cut him in half. Off to both sides, flitting past the buildings Sam ran between, the archer could see the wispy forms of wraiths keeping pace with him. They were no doubt trying to cut him off, which would force him to deal with them or turn and face the crab-demon behind him. And Sam wasn't sure when he had dropped his Dynabow 3.0 and his other weapons, but they weren't with him now. Glabrezu or wraiths, it didn't matter - he had no real chance of beating either without his weapons....

Baabby, meanwhile, was trapped in a tight-fitting box that didn't allow him the slightest bit of movement. In the manner of dreams, he simultaneously felt that he'd been there for a long, long time and yet was just now noticing that the box was painted in various-colored stripes. Only the purple stripes were fading away to nothingness. It didn't allow him any further movement, but Baabby realized that his minions had somehow weakened the imprisoning box, and that if they could continue to make the other colors go away he'd finally be free. Baabby cracked his knuckles in anticipation of the havoc he'd wreak if he ever got out of this accursed box, causing the eyeballs on the ends of his tentacle-fingers to writhe in eagerness....

Sapphrina stood in her hometown, surrounded by piles and piles of colored dust. Everywhere she looked, the buildings were covered in glitter, which formed little swirls with each stray breeze. But she knew she was the only one of her kind still alive, and that she could search each and every building and find nothing but glitter where her people should be....

Another round of turbulence hit the ship, and the statue pilot wrestled to keep the vehicle aloft. Fortunately, the disturbance slammed Sam into the side of the wooden hull, forcing him awake from his nightmare. He half crawled, half fell from his hammock and was glad to see his quiver of arrows and his Dynabow 3.0 right where he had left them. Grabbing them up - along with his other gear - he shook Baabby awake.

"Whaat's going on?" the baabarian asked, looking around groggily in the weak light - for outside, the sun was just starting to rise.

"Dunno," Sam admitted. "I'm gonna go upstairs and find out." As the little crow fought his way to the stairwell in the bobbling airship, Baabby crawled out his hammock and shook Sapphrina awake, noticing her eyes were wet with tears.

Up above, Sam could see what was causing the problem: a vertical tear in the fabric of reality, rising as high as the eye could see and extending at least as far down. The tear was covered in vertical stripes of various colors, rather like the bands of clouds in a gas giant planet. "What in the world is THAT?" Sam asked.

"It appears to be a rip in the fabric of space," replied the statue. "At our present heading, we will likely fly into it within an hour."

"Hey, here's a crazy idea: let's not do that!" cried Sam. Then he decided to ask the one person he thought might have an idea about what was going on and how best to proceed. Preparing a speak with animals spell and casting it as soon as it was ready, he turned to the snail pacing in slow motion on his left shoulder, with his eyestalks swinging around crazily - easily, the most panic-stricken the crow had ever seen his little snail pal since they'd met - and asked Shelldon what was going on.

"It's a rip in the fabric of space!" cried Xacho.

"We got that part figured out," replied Sam. "How did it happen, and how do we fix it?"

"Long ago, I determined there were eight 'weak spots,' for lack of a better term, in the fabric of space, one aligned with each of the eight elements we recognized at the time. I used the power of the sword to create gates around six of them, but I was never able to find the Tech or Magic leaks before I was turned into my present form. Apparently, someone's found the Magic weak spot and taken advantage of it, to cause this tear!"

"What'll it do?" Sam asked, steeling himself for an answer he was almost 100% positive he wasn't going to like - after all, if the answer was "Nothing much, it'll just repair itself on its own," Shelldon wouldn't be in a panic.

"Left alone, it will eventually swallow all of the Skylands!" moaned Shelldon.

"That's no good!" agreed Sam. "I live in the Skylands, and intend to continue doing so for a lot more years! So how do we fix this?"

"The sword can be used to implode it, just like Baabby did with the undead gate. Imploding it will cause the energy spill to go away, taking the inherent weakness with it."

"Well then, that's easy!" replied Sam.

"Not so!" argued Xacho. "The closer you get to the rip, the more susceptible you are to its unbound energies!" Sam squinted at the rip and thought he could see multicolored arcs of energy flashing out from the tear. "Plus, without the Magic Rune activated in the sword, he won't be able to close the tear!"

"So we need to find the Magic Rune first," pondered Sam.

"No, just enough energy to form the Magic Rune," corrected Xacho.

Sapphrina and Baabby had come up from the lower deck by this time and heard the last bit of the conversation - or at least the crow's half of it, for the speak with animals spell didn't allow those nearby to be able to understand Xacho's snail-speech, only Sam.

"Do you think we can somehow siphon off the energy spilling out of the rift to power the Magic Rune?" Sapphrina asked.

"It's technically possible," agreed Xacho. "Shelldon says yes," translated Sam.

"Then let's go!" called Baabby, turning to the statue of Xacho's son. "Head for the rift!"

"The bottom of the rift," specified Xacho. "That's where you'll be able to close it, if it's even possible."

"The bottom of the rift," Sam echoed. Then, looking at the animated pilot, he said offhand to the others, "Did we ever learn Statue Boy's name?"

"I don't think so," admitted Baabby.

"I should know his name," admitted Sapphrina. "I adventured with Xacho and his son all those years ago. But...I can't remember."

Sam opted to go to the source. "Hey, Statue Boy!" he called. "What the name of the person you're carved in the image of?"

The animated statue looked off to the side, mentally gazing inward. Finally, he responded, "...Information not found."

"Oh, fer criminey's sake," muttered Sam Crow. Since his spell was still active, he turned to Shelldon and asked "Hey, what's your son's name?"

"I...do not know," admitted Shelldon, his eyestalks hanging low. "When the Rift-Weavers didn't believe me about the threat caused by the Devourer of Nightmares and banished me from their ranks, and my son tried usurping the group for his own ends, I was so upset I cursed his name to be erased from history."

"Wow," Sam said, mentally warning himself to never tick his pet snail off if he wielded that kind of power. Then, to change the subject, he turned to the animated pilot and said, "It's official, then: your name is Statue Boy."

"Acknowledged," replied Statue Boy. "We will arrive at the bottom of the magic rift within 30 minutes."

Baabby spent the time preparing his day's ration of spells, while Sam did likewise for the other two spells he could handle each day; as a sorcerer, Sapphrina didn't have to worry about such things. But as they approached the bottom of the rift - when they could actually see where the rift ended - the fairy gave a gasp of fear. "That's Sparkletown!" she cried.

"What about it?" asked Sam, confused - he'd never heard of Sparkletown (not entirely surprising; the Skylands were, after all, practically infinite).

"That's my hometown!" she said, the color draining from her face as she recalled the dream she'd been wakened from in her hammock.

"Fairyland?" gasped Sam, his eyebrows rising in excitement. He didn't mind playing the hero and rescuing a town from imminent disaster, but if the inhabitants happened to be good-looking fairies - good-looking, grateful fairies, at that - well, that made it all the better! Fortunately for Sam, the speak with animals spell had run its course by that point so Shelldon couldn't chide him for his attitude.

As Statue Boy brought the airship to the landing dock on a small island among the clump that made up Sparkletown, the group could see the bottom of the rift attached to what was once the largest of the islands, and what was now a mass of much smaller chunks of floating rock, twisting slowly in its wake. "That's where the town hall used to be!" cried Sapphrina, already imagining the death toll this rift could cause - if it hadn't done so already. There were several small, red buildings scattered along the islands, all intact, but no visible inhabitants; presumably the fairies were all hiding in their tiny, tiny houses.

Of course, that didn't mean Sparkletown was uninhabited. Far from it: standing on an island adjacent to the one the airship had parked alongside stood four magic elementals, two of them as big as Baabby and another pair twice that tall. They looked just as Sam remembered: vaguely humanoid in build, with bodies trailing off into nothingness below the waist (rather like fairies, the crow thought bemusedly), but with wicked teeth and hands full of lengthy claws built for eviscerating.

Sam decided to begin combat like he almost always did: with an explosive arrow. After having it charged up by his Dynabow 3.0, he sent it flying at the nearest of the magic elementals. This was one of the smaller ones, so after it wandered dazedly from the blast of his first arrow, he peppered it with two more normal arrows in quick succession. That was enough to take it out, and Sam congratulated himself for diminishing their opponents by one-quarter, all by himself. (Not quietly, mind you - he was quick to ask the others if they'd seen his awesome display of awesomeness.)

With a roar, Baabby catapulted himself over the railing and ran to the Large magic elemental sharing the same island. He got in a swing with the Rift-Weaver's Blade which was enough to wound it but not enough to bring it down. Sapphrina fluttered her fairy wings to bring her into position, then fired off a lightning bolt spell that caught the other two elementals in its path. Of the two, the larger one seemed to suffer the most from the attack.

In response, the smaller of the two elementals started pirouetting around and around like a ballerina. "What's it think it's doing?" Sam asked, forgetting the magic elemental's ability to become a spinning vortex of energy. Worse yet: a spinning vortex of energy that spat out magic missiles at all within range - which, in this case, meant both Baabby and Sam. "Hey!" cried the little crow. "No fair!"

The Large elemental not in combat with Baabby approached the airship, heading towards Sam. It slashed at the archer with a set of jagged claws, causing Sam to squawk aloud in pain. He took a step backwards, primed his first arrow full of energy, and sent it blasting into the offending elemental's face. Fortunately, its blast radius also covered the spinning-vortex magic elemental, and the explosion was enough to slay the last of the smaller enemies. Sam sent a pair of two normal arrows flying at the Large magic elemental, killing it as well. "Hey, guys - did you see that?" he crowed.

As a matter of fact, Baabby had not seen Sam's awesome example of further awesomeness - but he did see a trail of magical energy come meandering from Sam's general direction and fly into his greatsword. But he couldn't afford to direct too much of his attention on this event - he had an elemental to slay! Throwing all of his immense strength behind his blows, the powerful baabarian sliced up the magic elemental into ribbons with the Rift-Weaver's Blade - and then the trio of combatants found themselves without any more enemies to fight.

But before Sam could query his friends if they'd seen his awesome killing blows, Sapphrina had rushed over to the closest of the tiny fairy houses. It stood maybe four feet tall, went about that far back, and was maybe twice as wide. Given that Sapphrina was about the same size as Sam, the little crow couldn't see how they lived comfortably all cramped up like that. But Sapphrina flew straight to the door, touched it - and disappeared. Baabby followed in her wake, and Sam reluctantly did likewise, all the while worried that this might be a trap of some kind.

The crow's fears were fortunately unfounded, for the others hadn't been zapped into oblivion, merely transported to the extradimensional space inside the house. They stood in an elaborate room, with a table overloaded with trays of sumptuous food before them. Sam stepped forward and found himself staring at a platter of roast turkey and gravy; he couldn't resist addressing a fearful "...Mom?" to the turkey, before ruining the effect by snickering aloud.

And then his attention was immediately diverted elsewhere, for three lovely fairies approached from the doorways to their bedrooms. Each wore clothes of a primary hue that matched their dragonfly wings and hair: one blue, one green, and one purple. "Hello," said the purple fairy hesitantly.

"Ladies," welcomed Sam in his most charming fashion, waggling his eyebrows and bending his beak into a wide grin.

"Is it safe to come out?" asked the green fairy.

"Not quite yet," replied Baabby. "We took care of the maagic elementals nearby, but there might be more of them aabout."

"What happened?" demanded Sapphrina.

"A bunch of robed individuals suddenly converged on our village," replied the blue fairy. "They started chanting, performing some sort of ritual."

"Spell punks!" snorted Baabby in irritation.

"And then suddenly, there was this awful noise, and the rift appeared right above the island. It broke the town hall into smithereens, and then the island it was on as well. And the rip kept growing, going up and up and up..."

"We all ran and hid in our houses," interjected the purple fairy.

"Especially once the elementals started popping up," added the green fairy.

"Whaat haappened to the spell punks?"

"They were consumed by the rift," explained the blue fairy. "They seemed rather surprised at that, too - I don't think they expected to be in any danger themselves."

"Serves them right," snarled Sapphrina.

"So now what?" asked the three fairy sisters in unison.

"We heal up, and we go baack outside, and we check out thaat rift," replied Baabby, beginning the words to his first healing spell. Sam spent the time trying to convince the three sisters of the documented healing effects of a fairy's kiss, to no avail. He then changed tactics, explaining that in cases where the fairies were related to each other their kisses could add a luck bonus to the attacks of any brave heroes trying to fight off their enemies, but that didn't go anywhere either. With a sigh of disappointment, Sam accepted Baabby's healing spells and got ready to exit the comfort of the fairy sisters' extradimensional house for the unknown dangers of Sparkletown.

Sure enough, new magic elementals had manifested during the heroes' absence. Standing in the pond on the next island over was the biggest magic elemental the trio had ever seen - it stood at least 15 feet high, easily. It was flanked by a pair of 10-foot-tall magic elementals, each flexing its claws as if eager to rip through the flesh of any enemies who might present themselves.

Sam gulped. "I-- I better go make sure those three fairies are still okay," he suggested.

"Not a chance," answered Sapphrina.

"We fight!" commanded Baabby, casting a blindness/deafness spell on the Huge elemental, hoping to deprive it of its sight. But the spell failed; the elemental shrugged off its intended effects and the sheep-man's lifetime average with that particular spell was: three attempts, zero successes. "Bummer," he swore, which was actually as close to swearing as the polite baabarian ever got.

Sapphrina had the baabarian's back, though: casting a hold monster spell at the hulking elemental, she grinned in satisfaction as it worked! One of the Large elementals moved up right next to its immobilized companion and let fly with a magical blast at the crow archer. Sam didn't even get to finish his squawk of protest before the other Large magic elemental did likewise, sending little wisps of smoke rising up from the former Son of Archery member's scorched feathers.

"So that's how you want it, huh?" Sam asked, lining up his shot at the Huge elemental. Then, realizing the Huge guy was no threat for awhile, he sighted just a bit to the left and let fly. The explosive arrow blew up in the face of the first Large magic elemental to blast Sam, and the explosion caught the immobilized elemental in its blast radius as an added bonus. Then Sam let fly with two more arrows targeted at the same Large elemental, causing it to roar in pain - music to the little crow's ears.

Baabby tried another spell, this time one he absolutely knew would work as intended. Then, he took a pair giant strides towards the magic elemental Sam had just shot, and the magic beast was surprised to see the baabarian was now every bit as tall as it was! Sapphrina followed up with a haste spell that covered all three of the heroes. Feeling the energy flowing over him, Sam called out an enthusiastic "Now we're talkin'!"

And then, in the midst of combat, another attack came from an unexpected source: the rift itself! An arc of energy came striking at Baabby, but the blast veered at the last moment and struck the Rift-Weaver's Blade instead. Baabby glanced down and saw the Magic Rune hole in his blade beginning to glow, and he figured a bunch more similar strikes and he'd have his Magic Rune all powered up!

The Large magic elemental farther away from the pond started spinning, becoming a tornado-like vortex that spun into place between Baabby and Sam, spitting magic missiles this way and that. Sapphrina was fortunately out of range for them to strike her, and she decided the boys likely had combat with those capable of fighting back well in hand - she might do best shooting the giant fish-in-a-barrel standing before her. She sent a cone of cold into the Huge magic elemental, who was still immobilized by her previous spell.

Sam send a quartet of arrows striking at the first Large elemental, and since the first of the arrows had been charged with explosive energy by the Dynabow 3.0. that was too much for the elemental to survive. Slain, it reverted to pure energy, which drifted across the battle space to be absorbed into the Magic Rune of the Rift-Weaver's Blade.

Reaching out with an enlarged arm, Baabby sent his greatsword's blade cutting deep into the vortex elemental - once, twice, thrice, and then it too was dead. And then that left only the Huge magic elemental, still frozen in place by the hold monster spell it had been unable to overcome. With all of the spells, arrows, and sword-thrusts sent its way, it was difficult to say whose blow was the killing one, but when it died it also helped to fuel the Magic Rune.

Seeing no other opponents in sight, Baabby started casting healing spells on his friends with one hand while the other hand held the Rift-Weaver's Blade facing the rift, using it as a lightning rod to intercept the occasional arcs of energy fired their way. Sam and Sapphrina, seeing the effectiveness of the greatsword as a defense, made sure to keep it between them and the rift.

Once everyone had been healed back to full strength, the trio walked confidently toward the rift. The closer they got, the more blasts of energy it spat at them; eventually, the sword had absorbed enough energy and the Magic Rune manifested in the correct hole in the blade. "Thaat's my cue," said Baabby, sending the blade to swing deep into the rift. While it was buried to the hilt into the rift, the baabarian activated its power to open and close rifts, and the tear in reality began healing up. The top of the rift, which had been so far away it was out of visual range, came speeding down to meet the lower end, and with a final sound of tearing being played backwards, the rift - and the weakness in the Skylands where it had started - was gone without a trace.

In its place, however, was one last remnant of elemental energy, manifesting in the form of a 20-foot-tall magic elemental. "Oh come on!" cried Sam getting a look at the thing, which towered twice as tall as the enlarged Baabby, who in turn stood twice as tall (more, actually) as the little crow. "Talk about making me feel small!"

But appearing small was a blessing in disguise. As Baabby was the closest foe, the largest, and the one which the towering elder magic elemental could see the best, he bore the brunt of the creature's attacks. Wicked claws slashed out at the baabarian, drawing both blood and a cry of pain.

But in Baabby's case, pain was merely a precursor to rage. Fueled by this rage, which the baabarian welcomed as an old friend, the Rift-Weaver's Blade went slashing into the enormous elemental's body. With the haste spell still in effect, Sam sent four arrows piercing the monster's form, the first of them exploding in a blast of energy. Sapphrina sent another cone of cold spell blasting into the elder elemental, and it retaliated by spinning itself into a vortex, blasting all three of the heroes with magic missiles. Staggered by the onslaught of elemental energy, Sapphrina did her best to steady herself on unsteady wings. She knew she couldn't survive another such blast, so she cast another cone of cold spell at it and then raced to hide behind a nearby house, out of sight and out of range.

Sam kept backing up, step by step, hoping to eventually find himself out of range of the magic missile attacks, while he kept arrow after arrow flying into the elder elemental's body, every fourth one of them suffused with explosive energy. (Fortunately, being 20 feet tall, Sam could target its head so the blast radius wouldn't encompass Baabby, despite him being right there next to the foe.)

Baabby kept putting all of his strength into his swings, before noticing he was missing a lot more than he was hitting. Sometimes, he realized, power attacks aren't the way to go - it can be more important to hit a foe and do some damage than try for maximum damage and miss altogether. With this new philosophy in mind, the baabarian found himself hitting more often than not, and while he wasn't doing as much damage as he might have, it was starting to add up, and the elder magic elemental began swaying in place, as if having difficulty remaining upright.

Sensing the elemental was very nearly dead, Baabby took a chance and gave a final swing of the Rift-Weaver's Blade with the full power of his considerable strength behind it. The power attack gamble paid off, for the elder magic elemental was finished off by that blow, its body dissipating as it fell to the ground. The magical greatsword, its Magic Rune already fully powered, disdained absorbing this magical energy.

A quick check through the other houses in the area found a bunch of them abandoned, their owners nowhere to be found - or, more likely, slain by the rift energy, converted to glitter (as Skylanders fairies do when they die), and scattered to the four winds by the spinning vortexes of the magic elementals. (Sapphrina shivered as she remembered her dream from that morning.) Some houses had exploring magic elementals in them, which were easily slain. The heroes did find one other survivor, an old male fairy who had been late to a meeting at the town hall - a tardiness which inadvertently saved his life. He allowed the heroes to take anything that would help them fight off the Devourer of Nightmares and his evil followers. Sam ended up taking a vial of shock arrows and a funny crystal that spun around his head when he released it. (Sapphrina said it was a dusty rose ioun stone, whatever that was!) Baabby ended up with a ring of force shield, sure to come in handy since his two-handed greatsword prevented him from using a shield of any kind. Sapphrina took a vial of stone salve. And, while nobody else was looking, Sam grabbed up a old issue of Feyboy Magazine, whose centerfold was none other than a before-she-joined-the-ranks-of-evil Garnett. Sam had to admit, she looked much better without the extra two sets of arms - or the clothes she'd been wearing when he'd killed her!

"I feel kind of guilty taking this stuff," admitted Sapphrina, putting the stone salve in her leather hip pouch.

"The village elder said we could haave it," Baabby reminded.

"And we don't miiiiind at aaaaall if you taaaaake it," said a voice from behind the trio. Spinning around, the heroes found themselves confronted by a large gaggle of fairies, of a multitude of colors. But the colors were all washed out - and, upon closer examination, each of the fairies was translucent.

"Ghosts!" cried Sam.

One of the fairy ghosts flew closer, his hand raised in supplication. "We meeeeean you no haaaaarm," he said. "In fact, quiiiiite the opposite. Despite our deaths from the haaaaands of the spell punks' ritual, we wish to see some gooooood come from all of this. And so, we have decided to graaaaant Sapphrina a boooooon." The ghost-fairies all joined hands and started humming, becoming even more translucent as they did so, as if they were traveling farther away although they remained in one spot. Then there was a flash of light, after which the ghosts were all gone.

"Whaat haappened?" asked Baabby. "Is everyone okay?"

"I'm fine," replied Sam. And, looking down at his left shoulder, he added, "And Shelldon's okay."

"I'm okay," replied Sapphrina, as her eyes flashed momentarily all white before returning to normal. She blinked a few times, then added, "In fact, I'm better than okay! The ghosts - they've opened up a channel in my mind. They've given me access to healing spells! Baabby, I can cast cure minor wounds, cure serious wounds, and everything in between! I'll be able to help you keep us all in the fight!"

"And that means you can devote more of your spells to attacks," pointed out Sam. "And that means maybe - just maybe - someday you'll actually be able to blind someone with that silly spell of yours!"

"One day, I'll maanage to aactually do thaat," Baabby promised.

"Maybe you should try deafening somebody instead," suggested Sam. "You might have better luck with that."

"You think so?" asked the baabarian.

"Huh?" asked Sam, feigning sudden deafness. "Did you say something?" Sapphrina, as was her habit, just shook her head at the little crow's joke. Shelldon followed suit, having his independent eyestalks stare at each other as if in astonishment, then waggle back and forth as if each one was a head shaking slowly in disbelief.

- - -

Logan used a sheet of poster board with a clouds-in-the-sky picture as the background for this adventure's map; in an earlier campaign, I had marked it off with a grid of 1" squares so it could represent a portion of the Elemental Plane of Air. (He'd used it in this fashion before for "The Cloud Gardens of Valkar.") Then, on top of these he placed green islands, red rectangles for houses, and silver rectangles for doors, each of these cut from thick sheets of glittery paper he purchased from a hobby store. The magic rift was represented by a full sheet of color-banded paper (looking remarkably like the bands of Jupiter) taped in an expanding cone around an empty plastic water bottle. For the three fairy sisters, he used three appropriately colored game piece tokens from my collection of "generic" game pieces. Finally, he used two of the completed maps from Paizo's "Extra-Dimensional Spaces" Map Pack for the fairies' houses, a two-tile map for the smaller houses and a four-tile map for the larger ones.
 

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 21: A LEAFY EMERGENCY

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 11
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 11​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 11​

Game Session Date: 7 October 2017

- - -

"...And that's why crows are the most intelligent life form in all of Skylands," finished Sam. Baabby gave his little companion a disbelieving eye...and then promptly fell over to the deck of the troll airship, all consciousness having fled his body in an instant.

"What happened?" asked Sapphrina, flying up after having heard the loud "thud" from belowdecks.

"My explanations about the inherent superiority of crows caused Baabby to faint dead away!" said Sam.

"I doubt that was it," replied the fairy. "Seriously: what did you do?"

"Seriously: I didn't do anything!" retorted Sam. "But don't worry! I know exactly what to do in a situation like this!" And the little crow rushed off to fetch the important tool he needed.

Baabby, however, hadn't simply fainted: he had received a magical sending of such strength and power that it temporarily knocked him out. While his body was unconscious, his mind was watching what was transpiring directly in front of him - or that's what it looked like, in any case. While Baabby was aware that he was physically still on the troll airship with his friends, one day into its journey back to Skylanders Academy after departing Sparkletown, seemingly standing right in front of him on a tree branch was Leafy Junior, the chompy in charge of protecting the Life-Giver's Grove. "We need your help desperately!" the chompy guardian cried. "We're about to be overrun! Help! Please! We need you at once!"

The vision faded and Baabby once again felt the wood of the airship beneath his broad back. Above him, he could see Sapphrina looking down at him with a worried expression on her face, and Sam hurriedly putting the cap back on a permanent marker-pen and hiding it behind his back. "I didn't draw on your face!" the crow hurriedly explained. "I wasn't even going to! I, uh, took the marker away from Sapphrina. There's no telling what she might have done! For shame, Sapphrina!"

But the sheep-man and the fairy both knew their crow companion well enough to realize when he could be completely ignored - and this was one of those times. "Was it a vision?" asked the fairy, already a step ahead of the confused crow.

"Yes," Baabby replied. "Leafy Junior's in trouble. We need to get there, faast!"

"The Life-Giver's Grove is, like, three or four days away," remarked Sam. "And I'm pretty sure it's in the opposite direction of where we're going."

"Thaat's too long," answered Baabby, regaining his feet and pulling the Rift-Weaver's Blade from its sheath on his back. "We need to get there -- now!" Swinging the greatsword while channeling a spell through its blade, he cut a gash in the universe itself, temporarily connecting the deck of the troll airship with the Life-Giver's Grove. The rift through space closed itself back up a mere moment later - but by that time, all three heroes had passed through the gap.

"You're here!" cried a jubilant voice from above. It was Leafy Junior, who had somehow managed to crawl up onto an overhanging branch jutting out from the Life-Giver: an enormous tree growing in the middle of a clearing in a vast forest. Surrounding the tree in a defensive ring were about a dozen chompy guardians - all that was left of a much-larger force, judging by the chompy corpses littering the clearing. And attacking them from various angles were about half a dozen other chompies: about the same size, with the same basic coloration (maybe just a bit more yellowy if you looked closely), the same build, the same stumpy legs and flapping upper leaf-limbs; only the eyes at the tops of their eyestalks were different, those of the attacking force glowing an evil red. And they somehow looked a bit withered along the edges of their leaves, like a head of lettuce left out for too long.

"Help us!" cried Leafy Junior. "We can't hold them off much longer - and their leader, a spell punk, has already gone through the rift!" Looking at the base of the Life-Giver, the heroes could see the rift leading directly to the heart of its Life energy standing wide open, being desperately guarded by three chompy guardians determined not to let anyone else through.

"What do you think?" asked Sam, notching an arrow to his Dynabow 3.0 and letting it charge with explosive energy. "Do we help fight these red-eye chompies first or go deal with their boss?"

"Leafy Junior needs our help here," pointed out Baabby.

"But they've got them outnumbered two-to-one!" argued Sam. But then, as if to prove a point, the evil chompies attacked en masse, slaying three more of the guardian chompies. The guardians responded in kind, but none of their enemies fell after their mass attack - in fact, none of them even looked particularly hurt.

That was all Baabby needed to see. He leapt forward, bringing his Rift-Weaver's Blade crashing down on the nearest evil chompy. The baabarian fully expected his foe to practically explode into plant matter under the power of his blade - after all, he'd been killing chompies in the same fashion from the first time he picked up the magical greatsword. But the blade scraped across the chompy's leafy hide, cutting into it a bit - but not that much.

"Okay, I get it," sighed Sam, letting fly with his explosive arrow. Its blast encompassed two of the nearest evil chompies, bunched together to the right of the massive tree, and the archer followed up with a pair of normal arrows in quick succession at the same target, picking one of the two. He managed to hit both times - the evil chompy had two arrows sticking through it like a pincushion - but it continued its advance, thorny teeth chomping. "Hmmm," mused Sam. These were like no chompies he'd ever met before.

Sapphrina took wing and shot a magic missile spell at the evil chompy Baabby had failed to kill with his greatsword. That dropped it, eliciting a grunt of surprise from the baabarian. He wasn't used to having his companions have to finish off his designated foes for him!

Around the heroes, the guardian chompies gnashed at their evil counterparts with their teeth and slashed with the sharp claws at the ends of their stubby forelimbs. Once again, despite hitting their targets, they didn't seem to be hurting them in the least.

Baabby raced forward to the nest nearest evil chompy, once again slashing into the plant's chunky body but failing to slay it. In retaliation, however, the evil chompy lashed out not with a physical attack but a spell-like ability. The baabarian winced as he felt a cold, cloying energy coalesce around him, draining him of some of his vitality. Following suit, the other blight chompies started creating unholy blight effects around their foes, not bothering to avoid their own kind as the spell had no effect on evil beings, only those of a good or neutral bent. Seeing what was coming, Sam tried calling out, "I'm thinking about stomping on puppies!" hoping against hope that he could trick a spell effect into temporarily thinking he was evil. But no such luck; he was drained just as much as his companions. "No fair!" squawked the crow archer.

Then, deciding he had better ways to express his outrage than squawking ineffectively, the former member of the Sons of Archery shot an explosively-charged arrow at a blight chompy, following it up with two regular arrows. All three hit, but still the blight chompy stood and advanced. Sam couldn't help it: he squawked "No fair!" almost involuntarily.

Sapphrina flew over and lined up two blight chompies for a lightning bolt spell. She caught both in her spell, but neither fell over as a result. She almost echoed Sam's verbal sentiment, but held back at the last moment, not wanting to sound like a whiner.

The few guardian chompies that were left began another completely ineffectual assault, but Leafy Junior, observing their lack of effectiveness from his perch on the branch, called them to fall back and guard the still-open rift in the tree's trunk. "Let the heroes deal with our enemies!" he advised.

Baabby was getting a little tired of these tough chompies not dying when he hit them. Actually, it was worse than just being a little tired of them: it was downright irritating! No, that wasn't quite the right word - it was infuriating! Baabby let the rage build inside of him, then released it in a power attack with all of his strength behind it. This time, the blight chompy had the good grace to fly apart at the seams, exploding in all directions from the force of the baabarian's blow. That was more like it! Not letting his rage cool, he stepped forward, up to the next blight chompy in line.

It sliced at the hulking baabarian with its claws and bit him with its thorn-teeth; neither attack did much in the way of damage, but it did plenty fine in keeping the fires of Baabby's rage stoked.

Sam sent three arrows flying into a different blight chompy, the last of them exploding upon contact. This time, he managed to kill it. "Yes!" the little crow enthused.

Sapphrina cast a cone of cold spell, catching two blight chompies in its area of effect and slaying one of them outright. Baabby power-sliced through the one he was fighting, leaving no further enemies on the field of combat - until another one waddled up out of a bank of greenish fog to the back of the grove. This newcomer cast its unholy blight effect at Baabby, draining the sheep-man of some more of his life energy.

Sam had another arrow all charged up with explosive energy, but the only blight chompy he could target was so close to Baabby he couldn't hit one without catching the other in the blast radius. So he fired blind into the patch of greenish fog, hoping to catch the chompy pod that had to be in there somewhere. No luck, but that was to be expected when you couldn't even see what you were aiming at.

Sapphrina flew high up into the air, until she could see the entirety of the field of fog. It was circular in shape, meaning the chompy pod was likely smack dab in the center of the fog. She relayed this information back to her friends, and Sam's second explosive arrow struck the unseen blight chompy pod.

Baabby killed his blight chompy foe with another full-strength swing of his sword. Then Sapphrina dropped back down to ground level and cast a resist energy spell on her raging friend. "I think that's an acid fog spell effect," she said, "but you're protected from acid now!"

That was all Baabby needed to hear. "Thaanks!" he called, before charging at full speed into the fog cloud. Sam raced over to stand directly in front of Sapphrina. "Don't worry," he reassured the fairy. "I'll send this arrow into anything but Baabby that comes out of the fog!" Sapphrina just shrugged; she could easily fly out of the reach of any chompy that might waddle out of the fog, but she appreciated the effort - and dreaded the whining to come if she didn't acknowledge the archer's attempt at heroism.

It didn't take Baabby long to find the blight chompy pod - it was right where he expected it to be. He chopped a great gash into its pulpy body with a downward slice of his greatsword, but then it spat out a new blight chompy at him in turn. The blight chompy bit and clawed at Baabby, tearing a few new cuts into his skin. But then it wandered out of the fog - and directly into Sam's sights.

Grinning evilly at his good fortune, Sam released the bowstring, sending the arrow barreling at the blight chompy - and missing in the most embarrassing fashion, by whooshing right in between its twin eyestalks. "I, uh, meant to do that!" Sam offered as an explanation. "I thought I might try intimidating it with my marksmanship skills!"

"Next time, you might try demonstrating your marksmanship skills by hitting it in the body with your arrow!" suggested Sapphrina, before blasting it with a magic missile spell.

"Point taken," Sam replied. In fact, several points had been taken: the points of its claws and the points of its thornlike teeth, both of which had slashed across the archer's body. He stepped back and shot an explosive arrow at the blight chompy, finishing it off.

Suddenly, the acid fog started dissipating, and Baabby's massive form appeared first as a dark silhouette and then as a fully-formed shape. He stood above a pile of mushy pulp that had once been a blight chompy pod - before he'd taken all of his rage out on it. "I got it!" he called to his friends.

"I see that!" Sapphrina called back. "But we've still got to deal with the spell punk that made it through the rift!"

The three heroes raced back to the front of the Life-Giver tree, Baabby casting a few mass cure moderate wounds spells on the way to heal them all up. "Good luck!" called Leafy Junior from his raised perch on the tree limb, as the three heroes entered the rift.

The other side of the rift was a small floating island. Hovering above it in a bubble of greenish energy was a life spell punk. The force-bubble around it was anchored in place by five beams of green energy, each emanating from an emerald-hued chunk of rock on the island, formed in a rough circle. A sixth beam of green energy lanced out sideways from the force-bubble, shooting out somewhere far away, for the green ray extended far beyond any of the heroes' field of vision.

Sapphrina was the first to react, shooting a lightning bolt spell up at the spell punk, but the energy of her attack seemed to be harmlessly absorbed by the bubble.

"We need to take out these rocks!" surmised Sam, sending an explosive arrow blasting at one of the five. Unfortunately, it had no more effect than had the fairy's spell. "They seem immune to energy!" the crow called to his friend. "See how they handle a physical attack, Baabby!"

Baabby was quick to comply with the crow's suggestion. Raising the Rift-Weaver's Blade above his head, he brought it down with every ounce of strength he possessed. It cracked the emerald rock in two, and the beam of energy rising up from it into the floating bubble winked out immediately.

"Great!" cheered on Sapphrina, as the spell punk cursed above them all. "Good call, Sam!"

"Of course it was a good call," replied Sam. "I'm very wise, after all. But then, I'm part owl on my mother's side."

"Whaat's that sideways beam doing?" asked Baabby as he applied his blade to chopping up another rock, then the one beside it as well in a cleaving motion.

Sapphrina squinted up at it. "I don't think it's shooting out," she guessed. "I think it's energy coming into the bubble."

"So he's got another rock somewhere far away powering his bubble thingy?" asked Sam.

Suddenly, the answer hit Sapphrina with the power of a knockout punch. "The cage imprisoning Don!" she cried, having come into the habit of referring to their demigod foe, the Devourer of Nightmares, by his initials. "He's absorbing the Life energy imprisoning him, just like the demons were hoping to do with the Undead energy in the rift in the Underworld!"

"Well that's no good!" exclaimed Sam, sending an explosive arrow shooting up at the force bubble and following it with another pair of normal arrows. Neither seemed to have any effect, although the fact that three of the five power stones had been destroyed meant the bubble wasn't quite as green as it had been earlier. Apparently, Baabby's destruction of the stones was weakening it, little by little.

"Almost there, almost there!" muttered the spell punk from above. Sapphrina sent another lightning bolt spell up his way, and this time some of the electrical energy made it through the force barrier. "Hurry!" the fairy called to Baabby.

"One more to go!" cried Baabby, having smashed the fourth stone and racing over to the fifth. He had noticed something his friends hadn't been in a position to see for themselves, given that their attention was focused above them while his was focused on the rune-stones on the ground: with each stone he broke, the Life Rune in his greatsword glowed a little brighter. Smashing the fifth and final stone, the Rune glowed with an emerald hue, the Life Rune having been activated at the same time the force bubble around the floating spell punk popped out of existence.

"You're too late! I have aided in my master's eventual escape!" crowed the floating mage. Sure enough, the beam of energy coming in from a great distance away had shut off, the Life energy from the cage imprisoning the Devourer of Nightmares having been fully drained away. Now the spell punk started the beam up again in pretty much the same direction; he'd drained the Life energy from the Life Rune on his master's cage, and now, since the heroes had stopped a similar process from draining away the cage's Undead energy, he would try to overpower the Undead rune by bombarding it with Undead's antithesis, Life. If he succeeded, he'd have destroyed two of the eight runes keeping his master imprisoned. His name would be praised by all who worshipped the Devourer of Nightmares!

Sam shot an explosive arrow up at the life spell punk and with the force bubble gone the blast encompassed the floating mage, leaving him a smoking ruin hanging onto life by a fingernail. Sapphrina metaphorically clipped that fingernail with a well-placed magic missile spell, and the spell punk's lifeless body came crashing down to the ground. "Too...too late..." the mage whispered with his last breath.

"Too late?" repeated Sam incredulously. "Look around you, buddy! Your bubble's gone, you're dead, and you're not sending any more Life energy at Don's cage! I'd say that's more like 'just in the nick of time,' myself!"

But once again, the little crow had spoken too soon. The rift opened behind the heroes - the one which normally connected to the Life-Giver tree. This time, however, the rift connected to a completely different place - as evidenced by the fact that an enormous tentacle came rushing through the gate, filling it up before emerging completely. But the part that did fit through the gate was easily 25 feet long and almost four feet wide at its thickest end.

"Gaah!" cried Sam, stepping involuntarily back.

<Ever the fool!> scoffed a mental voice, one the heroes immediately recognized as belonging to the imprisoned demigod they were racing to destroy before it could escape and wreak havoc across the Skylands. <My servant has fulfilled his purpose, allowing me to stretch a bit outside my confinements!> And with that, the tentacle slapped the ground near Baabby. The baabarian dodged out of the way, but the tentacle hadn't actually been attacking him; in the space where it had hit the ground, another life spell punk rose up.

"No fair!" called Sam. "We just killed one of those!" All three heroes had been focused on attacking the tentacle upon its appearance, Baabby with his greatsword, Sapphrina with her spells, and Sam with his arrows. Now, faced with two enemies, Sam called out a suggestion to the group at large: "Baabby! You can deal out the most damage! You keep chopping up the tentacle -- Sapph and I can handle the punk!" Baabby replied with a grunt and another swing at the rubbery tentacle, carving another deep groove into its spongy flesh.

Sapphrina cast a lightning bolt spell at the floating mage, while Sam sent his traditional trio of arrows, one of them explosive in nature. But while they were concentrating on their foe and Baabby was dealing with the tentacle at its root, the tip of the massive appendage slapped the ground again and a second spell punk rose up.

"Oh come on!" griped an exasperated Sam.

Both spell punks started casting spells in unison, and some of the damage Baabby had dealt to the tentacle thus far started healing up. A fresh wave of rage flowed over the baabarian, and he channeled it into his sword-blows.

"You take the new one; I'll take this one!" called out Sapphrina, sending a cone of cold spell at the first spell punk and getting the tip of the tentacle in the frigid blast as well.

"Got it!" replied Sam, sending an explosive arrow in the second spell punk's face. It cried out in pain in a manner much appreciated by the little archer, who then sent a pair of normal arrows flying into the floating mage. Baabby, in the meantime, might as well have been a lumberjack chopping wood, his Rift-Weaver's Blade cutting deep into the flesh of the tentacle he'd singled out as his sole foe with every blow. <Enough!> cried the Devourer of Nightmares, sending the tip of his appendage slamming into the sheep-man, reeling him momentarily back. But then the moment was over, and Baabby resumed his attacks on the rubbery flesh.

Sapphrina blasted the first spell punk with another cone of cold spell (also catching the tentacle in the area of effect; the blasted thing was so big it was hard to miss it with area spells of any type!). Then she puzzled aloud, "...That's strange!"

"What's strange?" asked Sam. "That we're fighting a piece of Don that he's sticking through a hole in his cage?"

"No," replied the fairy. "This spell punk should probably have keeled over dead by now, with all of the spells I've pumped into him!"

"Illusion?" asked Sam, squinting his eyes at the foe the fairy had been fighting. Sure enough: if you focused at it, you could sort of see through it a bit. "It's an illusion!" he confirmed, before turning his disbelieving eyes towards his own foe. Alas, the second spell punk was all too real.

"I don't suppose there's any chance you're just an illusion too, is there, Donnie boy?" Sam asked, while loosing another explosive arrow at his all-too-living spell punk foe, catching the tentacle - or a bit of it, anyway - in the blast radius.

<You wish!> smirked the imprisoned demigod. <I'm surprised you morons saw through my illusion so quickly! I'd have thought you'd have spent all your time fighting off an illusion and wasting your spells and arrows, only to disbelieve the second one, who was all too real! But never mind; your fumbling antics have provided me a bit of entertainment nonetheless.>

Sapphrina sent another cone of cold spell into the second spell punk and the tentacle, slaying the first and damaging the second. But the tentacle was chopped off shortly thereafter, as Baabby's ability to dish out damage was much greater than the life spell punk's ability to heal it. The rest of the tentacle was pulled back through the rift, which closed up behind it. But before the rift closed, Sam hurled a final insult toward their foe: "I hope that was your junk Baabby just lopped off!"

"Ugh," replied Baabby, stepping away from the severed tentacle. "I don't."

"Don't be crude," chided Sapphrina. "Anyway, I know what we were fighting: that was a tentacle from his face. Remember Lord Umbros, the mind flayer? He was Don's son; Don has a squid-head just like a mind flayer, although given the size difference, it's more like a kraken-head."

"I caan't wait to start craackin' his head," muttered Baabby.

"How come this one didn't have an eyeball on the end of it?" Sam asked.

"Only his finger-tentacles have eyeballs," replied the fairy. "And he's got two eyes in his head, for an even dozen."

"I'm going to send him a pair of giant spectacles," promised Sam. "Then we can call him 'Fourteen Eyes'."

"Now you're just being silly," scoffed Sapphrina.

"Ooh!" squealed Sam, an even better thought striking him. "How about ten monocles for his finger eyeballs? Then, when we show up to kill him, he can be all surprised and have all ten of his monocles drop at the same time! That would be great!"

"If they're monocles, you'd only need five," pointed out Baabby.

"Ooh, good call!" praised Sam. "That'll only cost half as much!" Sapphrina only shook her head in disbelief. Then Baabby, tired of the conversation and ready to get back to business, used the Rift-Weaver's Blade to open back up the normal rift between the small floating island and the Life-Giver. The three heroes stepped through, back into the Life-Giver's Grove once again.

"We've come to a decision," said Leafy Junior, who had dropped down from his perch since the heroes went through the rift. "We'd like you to permanently seal the rift, so it can't be used against the Skylands again."

"Are you sure?" asked Sapphrina. "Once we seal it up, it won't be able to be opened again."

"We're sure," replied Leafy Junior without a moment's hesitation. Baabby struck out with his magic blade, cleaving a rent in the rift and watching as it collapsed in upon itself.

"So now what?" asked Sam. "Did that first spell punk really wipe out two of the eight Runes on Donnie's cage?"

"The Life Rune for sure," replied Sapphrina. "And it's possible he overloaded the Undead rune as well, but I don't think he had enough time for that."

"So thaat still leaves aat least six runes in place, maybe seven," pointed out Baabby. "Aand we still need four more runes for my sword." With the Life Rune added back in, the Rift-Weaver's Blade was lacking only the Air, Earth, Fire, and Water Runes. "We need to find four more runes for my sword before his minions caan destroy the rest of the runes on his cage."

"That's about it," agreed Sapphrina.

"But how are we going to get back on our troll airship?" asked Sam. Statue Boy has no idea where we went, and he has no orders to the contrary, so he'll keep on piloting to Skylanders Academy. They're probably going to wonder what's up when it shows up without us."

"We rifted off the ship; we can rift back on," reassured Sapphrina. "Are you ready, Baabby?"

"Ready," replied the baabarian, channeling an appropriately-powerful spell through his blade, then using it to cut a temporary rip in the fabric of space. The heroes all jumped through before it could seal up behind them.

They expected to step back aboard the troll airship. Instead, they were in an area of pitch blackness.

"Wait, what?" cried Sam. "No fair!"

- - -

Logan reused the same maps and tree prop (made from a couple of cardboard tubes, one from a roll of paper towels and one from a roll of toilet paper) from "The Life-Giver's Grove", only this time he crafted some tree limbs for the Life-Giver Tree by gluing on curving bits cut off from the bottom of a toilet paper roll tube. (He made roots for the tree using the same method.) But this allowed us to put the "Leafy Junior" token up in a tree limb and have him stay in place.

Logan used "bone chompy" tokens (and the corresponding initiative card) to represent the blight chompies, and let me tell you, it was quite a surprise to both Harry and me to meet up with chompies that couldn't be taken out a couple per round!

Apparently the next adventure's going to be called "Rift Accident," so Baabby's failure to get the team back on the airship is a plot point, not anything he did wrong. I'm interested to see what that's all about!
 

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 22: RIFT ACCIDENT

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 12
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 12​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 12​

Game Session Date: 14 October 2017

- - -

"This isn't the troll airship!" squawked Sam.

"Thaat's obvious," pointed out Baabby. He had just opened a rift from the Life-Giver's Grove back to their airship, which was en route back to Skylanders Academy. But during transit, Sam could have sworn he bumped into somebody - and then they ended up here instead, wherever here was.

The first thing Sam noticed about here was that here was dark. As in pitch black dark. Fortunately, the Rift-Weaver's Blade was still in Baabby's hands and it gave off a magical light. That made here somewhat less than pitch black, but not by very much. Here was still a pretty murky place. And here apparently had denizens that were, one: used to the darkness; two: surrounding the heroes in a rough circle; and three: attacking them with light crossbows.

Sam pretty much decided right then and there that he didn't much like it here.

It took a moment for the heroes' eyes to get accustomed to the dim light from the Rift-Weaver's Blade, which was the only source of illumination within this dark dungeon. By that time, all three had been shot at by crossbowmen, eliciting a grunt of pain from Baabby and yelp of astonishment from Sapphrina. (Sam, had the good fortune - although he'd no doubt attribute it to "catlike reflexes" - to have been missed by the pair of rogues shooting down at him from an upper level along one wall of the room.)

And that was only the initial response of some of the forces surrounding the heroes; immediately after the crossbowmen let fly with their quarrels, three shapes raced up and stabbed at the heroes with sharp-tipped rapiers. At this distance, the adventurers could finally see what they were fighting: ratmen! The ones who had stepped up to stab at the heroes held shields in their off arms, whereas the ones holding back held light crossbows (and were frantically reloading them), but also had rapiers belted at their hips. At Sam's quick glance through the darkness, it looked like there were five of these rogues; added to the three fighters, that made a party of eight.

Well, the heroes had dealt with larger numbers of foes at one time before! Sam ducked beneath the ratman fighter swinging a blade in his direction, took a sliding step to the side, and let loose with a explosive arrow at the fighter, catching him chest-first in the blast and two of the rogues as well for good measure. Before anybody could react to that, Sam had also sent two normal arrows into the fighter's body. Surprisingly, none of the ratmen dropped. "No fair!" squawked Sam. For ratmen, these guys were pretty tough!

As he was facing in Baabby's direction, Sam saw the baabarian swing his greatsword in a high arc that came crashing down at the ratman fighter who had attacked the sheep-man. It crashed into the stone floor, sending divots flying - had it hit its foe, Sam had no doubt the fighter would be lying dead on the floor of the dungeon. Growling in anger, Baabby swept the sword up for a side-swing at the ratman with all of his might, but the nimble foe ducked underneath the blow. Baabby swung in a full circle and sent his whirling blade in for another powerful swing at the ratman, but again he missed; he was focused too much on damage and not enough on actually striking his foe.

Sapphrina was bleeding from a crossbow bolt and a cut from a rapier at this point, so she flew up toward the ceiling - it was quite a large room, with a ceiling height of almost 30 feet - and cast a mass cure serious wounds spell that healed herself and her two friends, both of whom had taken quite a bit of damage from these ratmen already.

The ratmen, having seen what the heroes were capable of, chose to rush in to close-quarters combat. For the rogues, that meant holding their light crossbows in their off hands and attacking with their rapiers; for the two rogues who had started on the higher level, that meant a 10-foot leap down to the lower level and a rush toward the melee. Attacked from four sides each, Baabby and Sam were hard-pressed to dodge all of the rapier attacks that came their way, and drops of the heroes' blood littered the stone floor.

From her perch above the fight, Sapphrina blasted down at three of the ratmen - two rogues and a fighter - with a cone of cold spell. That took out two of them, the first deaths the heroes had managed to rack up. Encouraged by her success, Sam blasted his ratman fighter enemy - whom he had dubbed "Mr. Fighty" - with an explosive arrow, followed by a pair of normal ones. Together, that took down Mr. Fighty, leaving one ratman fighter and four rogues to menace the heroes.

Baabby continued putting all of his power into his attacks, and continued to miss. His ratman fighter foe had no such limitations; he didn't deal as much damage as one of Baabby's powerful blows would have done (had they ever hit), but he was whittling down the sheep-man cut by cut. Sam called to his friend, "Quit screwing around, Baabby! Take your time and make sure you hit him!" Baabby ignored the archer's advice, sure that fate owed him a powerful hit on his nimble enemy. But three more attacks went whooshing through the air around the ratman fighter, none of them connecting.

"Have you learned your lesson yet?" called Sam, concentrating on blasting another rogue with an explosive arrow.

"Nope!" admitted Baabby, swinging with all of his might and missing once again. Sapphrina shot a magic missile spell at the ratman Baabby was fighting, the spell striking unerringly (as it was built to do), and so unnerving the ratman that Baabby finally got a strike in. The fighter crumpled to the ground, dead.

"Got him!" Baabby announced.

"Yeah, but we had to take care of the rest!" complained Sam. Sure enough, with Baabby's one kill all of the ratmen were dead, but the other seven had been taken out by a fairy sorcerer and a crow archer - neither one of whom was normally the big slayer of the group. The last two ratmen rogues had tried running back up the stairs to the upper level where there was door leading further into the dungeon complex, but they had still been in range of Sam's arrows and Sapphrina's spells.

"Let me heal you up," offered Baabby in way of atonement. Touching his Life amulet, he cast a few healing spells that sealed up the heroes' numerous wounds. That put them all in a better mood.

"So what in the world just happened?" asked Sam. "What are we doing here? Why aren't we on the airship?"

"That's a very good question," replied Sapphrina. "I can only guess that we crashed - if that's the term - into somebody else also traveling through a rift. We likely ended up where they were going, and they ended up where we were headed."

"It did feel like I bumped into somebody, just before we showed up here," admitted Sam. "But who'd want to come here? And why were the ratmen waiting here for us?"

"There's no way to tell," replied Sapphrina.

"Well, can we try again?" asked Sam. "Have Baabby use his sword to rift us back to the airship?"

"I caan give it a go," offered Baabby.

"Let's look around here first," suggested Sapphrina. "It's possible we were hijacked on purpose. If that's the case, we need to find out who can do something like that - and put a stop to it."

"Yeah, I sure don't like the idea of getting hijacked out of a rift every time we try going somewhere," answered Sam. "So which way?" There was a portcullis blocking a passageway to the south of the large room and a closed door up along the upper level through which the last two ratmen had tried escaping.

"Up there," decided Baabby, pointing with his greatsword. "If thaat's where they waanted to go, thaat's where we should go." He led the way, with his friends following behind him. "Ready?" he asked, and upon receiving a pair of nods, he pulled open the door.

The room beyond was also lightless, but from the glow of his blade Baabby could see a trio of ratmen fighters standing alongside a pair of statues of giant rats. Off to the right stood another ratman armed with a shortbow, with a snarling dire rat crouched at his side.

Sam was the first to react and sent an explosive arrow flying into the room to strike one of the fighters in the face. The blast encompassed the other two fighters as well, and then the crow followed up with another pair of arrows striking his initial target, who fell to the ground dead before he'd realized he was even in combat.

Baabby was charging into the room before the dead fighter's body hit the ground, swinging the Rift-Weaver's Blade into one of the other ratman fighters, cutting him down with one blow before pivoting and scoring a deep gash across the chest of the other one. Thaat's more like it! he thought to himself.

Sapphrina flew into the room, staying close to the ceiling and out of harm's way (but eyeing the ratman archer with wariness). She blasted the dire rat with a magic missile spell, hoping to take it out before it could attack. Luck was with her, for it collapsed under her magical assault.

The ratman archer focused his attention on the obvious threat posed by a hulking baabarian and sent a pair of arrows stabbing into Baabby's back and side. Sam, still in the corridor and seeing he couldn't charge up an arrow with his Dynabow 3.0 to explode the last fighter without catching Baabby in the blast radius, decided to try a new maneuver he'd been working on - speeding up the reloading process of his arrows. Within the span of several seconds, he managed to send four arrows flying into the last remaining ratman fighter instead of the normal three, which was all he'd been able to manage until recently. The fighter fell to the ground grabbing at one of the arrows piercing his neck.

That left only the ratman archer - a ranger, just like Sam - to gain Baabby's undivided attention. (Most enemies learned very quickly that Baabby's undivided attention was not a thing to be desired.) With a screaming charge, Baabby raced at the ranger, bringing his Rift-Weaver's Blade to come crashing down into the ratman's side. That attack brought the ranger down to one knee, and another barrage of magic missiles from Sapphrina made sure he never got back up again.

"Hey, check this out," said Sam, mesmerized by what the ranger had been guarding. Just behind where he'd been standing was a short corridor filled with a purplish field, which turned everything beyond a violet color but didn't prevent the archer from making out piles of loose coins, gems, and golden goblets. It was a massive pile of riches - about 30,000 gold pieces' worth of treasure all there for the taking, by the greedy crow's estimation - there for the taking, if they could just get past the purple wall of force. "Look for a release lever, or a secret button, or something!" the little crow commanded, leading the search himself. When that proved to be fruitless, he started a search among the dead bodies, looking for a key or something (although his earlier search of the room had failed to unearth a keyhole).

"It's no good," said Sapphrina, putting a hand of the frantic crow's shoulder. "There doesn't seem to be a way past it."

"There's gotta be a way through it!" wailed Sam, pressing his face up against the wall of force. "The treasure room doesn't have any other doors or ways in that I can see!"

"Let's go," echoed Baabby. "Maybe there's another way in somewhere else."

"Yeah, okay," sighed Sam, unwilling to take his gaze off of the out-of-reach riches. But he allowed Baabby to lead him to the south side of the room with the rat statues, where there was a closed door leading elsewhere in the dungeon complex.

Once again, Baabby opened the door, ready to attack anyone on the other side. But this time, the door only led to a short corridor which made a right turn after about 20 feet. "Looks safe," he said, stepping into the corridor.

Unbeknownst to him, his first step into the corridor triggered a magical trap. Stone spikes rose up from the floor beneath the baabarian's feet, but they merely poked into the bottoms of Baabby's hooves and he didn't even notice he'd been attacked. Stepping further into the room, though, caused more stone spikes to rise up, and the baabarian finally noticed he was taking damage from merely walking on the stone floor. "Ow!" he called.

Sam looked ahead and saw indications that the entirety of the floor was trapped in the same manner. Sapphrina, being a fairy, flew into the corridor without touching the floor, turned the corner, and verified that it was unoccupied, leading to a closed door ahead. She flew back to Baabby and cast a fly spell on him. He rose up off the ground, cast a healing spell on himself, and started flying down the corridor.

"Do me next!" called out Sam, and the fairy obliged with another fly spell for the little crow. "This is much better than my original idea!" the crow enthused.

"I almost hate to ask this, but what was your original idea?" the fairy asked, almost certain she was going to receive nonsense in return.

"I was going to have Shelldon crawl along the ceiling, while I hang on to his shell," replied Sam. "It would have worked, too! On the down side, though, it would take about four hours to make the trip - and then he'd have to go back for Baabby." Sapphrina merely pursed her lips and nodded to herself - she'd been right: nonsense. She turned and flew around the corner by Baabby, with Sam floating right behind her.

"Ready?" Baabby asked, but it had apparently been a rhetorical question because he then swung open the door without waiting for a response.

The room beyond was deeper than it was wide, with a large throne taking up the middle of the back wall. Sitting in this throne was a rather cute-looking ratwoman, if whiskers and a pink, hairless tail were your kind of thing - personally, Sam could do without either. But his attention was quickly brought to the hulking ratman brutes on either side of her: each wore what looked like not just any animal skins, but specifically cat skins (one calico and one tabby), and wielding greataxes very similar to Baabby's original weapon of choice. Barbarians! the crow thought, and then wondered why he was keeping this important information to himself. "Barbarians!" he cried to the others.

"Noted!" Baabby replied, getting a good grip on his greatsword, ready to pounce into the room.

Sam beat him to the punch, by sending a flurry of arrows into the room, past the baabarian's head, between the ratmen barbarian guards, and directly into the rat-queen. (She was sitting on a throne; Sam assumed she was a rat-queen.) The first arrow, the one Sam had charged up with explosive energy, went flying straight into her shoulder, bouncing off without exploding. A dud? thought Sam - that had never happened before! Worse yet, the other three arrows all managed to hit her, but each one tinkled to the floor without seemingly causing the queen any discomfort at all. She's got a stoneskin spell active! the archer realized, then once again chided himself for not sharing this valuable information with his friends. "She's got a stoneskin spell active!" he called out to the others.

"Noted!" Sapphrina replied, pulling out her wand of fireballs and sending a fiery blast at the rat-queen. The fireball did what Sam had hoped to do with his explosive arrow: engulf the queen and catch both bodyguards in the blast as well. The rat-queen retaliated by standing up from her throne in indignation and casting a spell at all three of the heroes, still bunched up just beyond the doorway. Immediately, it began raining fire from the ceiling, something Sam would have sworn was impossible. She's a wizard! the archer thought, following the thought with an echoed vocalization: "She's a wizard!"

"Do you see her bone armor?" asked Sapphrina.

"Yeah."

"And her bone sickle-staff?"

"Yeah."

"And are you aware that she just cast a flame strike spell at us?"

"Is that what that was? I was wondering."

"Wizards can't cast flame strike spells," pointed out the fairy. "Therefore, the rat-queen is a...?"

"Ah," replied Sam, making the obvious connection. "A necromancer!"

"That's a kind of wizard!" shrieked Sapphrina. "She's a flippin' druid!"

"But with all of those bones..." argued Sam.

"How about let's fight them now, and discuss them later!" fumed Sapphrina.

"Fine!" snapped Sam. "But for the record: I made you say flippin'." He sent an explosive arrow at the rat-queen...and once again it failed to explode. Instead, it bounced off her stoneskin spell, causing a minimum amount of damage to her protective spell and a maximum amount of swearing on the part of the flustered Sam (using words much stronger than flippin'). He sent a trio of normal arrows into one of the barbarians, wanting at least some of his shots to count for something.

Baabby, in the meantime, had charged into the room and attacked the ratman barbarian on the right. This was the ratman Sam had just shot, and compared to the beating he took from the enraged baabarian (for Baabby had mirrored the guards' own rage, and now Sam noted there were three burly, half-crazed, bloodlust-filled fools in the room swinging bladed weapons at each other), the archer's arrows seemed a mere scratch.

Another flame strike spell on Sam and Sapphrina sent the little archer reeling and the fairy collapsing to the floor, unconscious. (Worse yet, upon landing she activated the stone spike trap the queen had cast upon the corridor when she had first learned that her dungeon was being invaded by forces unknown - the only way the legless fairy could activate such a trap!) With Sapphrina out, Sam already feeling woozy, and Baabby ignoring the multiple wounds spilling blood down his own fleece, Sam called for a tactical retreat. "Baabby! We need healing--bad!" he called.

Baabby managed to snap out of the red haze he had been engulfed in long enough to realize what Sam was saying. Then, still flying, he backed up and slammed the door shut before casting a mass cure moderate wounds spell through his greatsword - which, thanks to the Life Rune filled in on its blade, maximized the healing effects. Sapphrina woke up and flew back into the air, while Sam and Baabby readied themselves for the door to open and the ratmen barbarians to renew the attack.

Predictably, they did just that. Standing in the 10-foot-wide doorway side by side, they lashed out at Baabby with their greataxes. Baabby took the attacks with a grunt, then retaliated.

"The queen! Get the queen!" called Sam, and Sapphrina fired another fireball spell through her wand, just as the ratwoman had finished casting a mass healing spell herself on her own forces. But it was the last such spell she'd ever cast, for the fireball spell fried her to a crisp. As her lifeless body fell to the ground, her stone spike spell deactivated on the floor of the corridor.

Baabby concentrated his blows on the most heavily-wounded barbarian, the one he'd been attacking earlier. Even with the brief respite of a healing spell from his queen, the barbarian couldn't last long under a concerted onslaught by a furious sheep-man with a massively powerful greatsword; he fell to the ground shortly thereafter, dead. The last barbarian didn't last long after that, faced as he was by an enemy barbarian stronger than himself and two other foes who could attack him from range, one with spells and one with arrows. He followed his liege in death in mere moments.

"Whew!" breathed Sapphrina loudly, letting out a great sigh. "Those guys were tough!"

"I'll say!" replied Sam, then had a sudden thought - one which, in his excitement, he forgot to mirror vocally. He went rushing over to the dead rat-queen and started groping her all over.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" demanded Sapphrina.

"AHA!" cried Sam with a shriek of triumph, holding forth a narrow rod he'd pulled from the rat-queen's pocket. It had a purple gemstone at its tip - a gemstone, it should be added, almost the exact same shade as the wall of force keeping the greedy crow from the pile of treasure in the other room. "Let's go!"

Baabby and Sapphrina barely kept pace with the gold-crazed crow, who practically tackled the wall of force, holding the gem-tipped rod before him like a knight's lance. It was a good thing the crow's hunch had been right and the magical wall snapped off immediately upon contact with the rod, or else Sam would have been flattened silly like a bird flying into a plate-glass window. But he leaped into the pile of loose coins, scooping them up and letting them trickle through his fingers just to hear them clink and clank against each other. Baabby and Sapphrina entered the room behind the crow, marveling at his antics.

"And just who are you?" demanded a regal voice behind them.

Turning around, the heroes saw a thin, light-skinned elf wearing the cowled robes of a witch. She glared at the heroes, a wand in hand and ready to be used at a moment's notice.

"My name's Baabby," answered the sheep-man. Despite looking like she was undead, the baabarian had learned that didn't mean she was evil, and so far, everything they'd fought in this place was either a ratman or a dire rat. "I'm an adventurer. This is my friend Sapphrina, and my other friend Sam."

"Why did you alter my trajectory?" demanded the undead elf. Baabby and Sam just looked at each other in confusion, but Sapphrina understood at once.

"Were you traveling through a rift, and got sent to a troll airship instead?"

"An airship? No, I ended up in a forest, facing off with four chompies."

"Leafy Junior?" gasped Sapphrina. "You didn't hurt him, did you?"

"Hurt him?" repeated the elf. "Quite the contrary. I asked him to explain himself, and he did, to my satisfaction. Then I returned to Skylanders Academy and tried traveling by portal back here - and this time, it worked."

"Why were you trying to come here?" asked Sam.

"Spyro had been battling a bunch of ratmen, and was knocked unconscious. As with all Skylanders, he was immediately teleported back to the Academy, and Master Eon asked that I replace him." Spyro was a little purple dragon and one of the most famous Skylanders around. Even Sam had heard of him before.

"So you're a Skylander, then?" asked Sam.

"That much should be obvious," sniffed the undead elf. "My name is Hex."

"Why was Spyro sent here in the first place?" asked Baabby.

"We had heard rumors that the ratmen were amassing gold, to fund a secret project. Spyro was sent to determine the truth of the matter."

"It turned out it was just a rumor," said Sam quickly with a sickly grin, kicking a few loose pieces of gold behind him and doing his best to block the Skylander's view of the massive pile of riches behind him.

"Sam!" chided Baabby. "She's one of Maaster Eon's trusted agents! Show her the treasure!"

"Treasure?" asked Sam innocently, turning around and feigning just having seen the pile of gold behind him for the first time. "Holy smokes! Hey, it looks like there's treasure here after all!"

"We were traveling by rift from the Life-Giver's Grove back to our troll airship," Sapphrina further explained to Hex's original question. "Our individual teleports must have collided in mid-stream and sent us both off course. We ended up where you were heading, and you ended up where we had just left."

"Interesting," replied Hex. "This is a phenomenon previously unknown to me." Then, looking over at Sam and Baabby, she said, "Gather up the treasure. We will bring it back to Master Eon."

"Don't we get to keep it?" asked Sam in a quiet voice to Baabby. "We took care of all the ratmen!"

"We will allow Master Eon to determine that," responded Hex, demonstrating that despite being an undead elf, she still had remarkable hearing.

"He'll let us keep it!" surmised Sam as he started shoveling the loot into his extradimensional backpack. "He's a nice old geezer!" At that, Hex fixed the crow with a withering stare. "Uh, 'geezer' is a term of respect among my people," the crow stammered. "It means, uh, 'man of great intelligence and unwavering wisdom'." Hex merely narrowed her eyes and turned away.

But Sam was correct: Eon allowed the three heroes to keep the treasure, as a reward for having picked up where Spyro had left off and taken out the nest of ratmen. He was a pretty nice geezer after all!

- - -

Logan used a bunch of Dungeon Tiles I had collected over the years to lay out the dungeon of the ratmen. In fact, he even went 3-D a little; there was a short set of stairs leading up out of the initial dungeon room, and then another longer flight of stairs leading up to a doorway. Logan put a layer of other dungeon tiles underneath these areas so we could which areas were elevated (even though they weren't to scale).

He also did something I would never have dreamt of doing. The night before we played, he laid out the entirety of the dungeon using Dungeon Tiles, then took a picture of it with his digital camera. Then, with a photo of the whole layout stored electronically, he removed everything but the area in which our PCs first showed up. When we explored further into the dungeon complex, he took a quick look at his digital photo before laying out the next room. Pretty smart! (When I DM, I always map out the areas I design in a quad-ruled composition book of graph paper. I have to admit, his method is much quicker!)

Lacking sufficient minis of the appropriate types, Logan used dagger-wielding kenku for the ratman rogues, sword-wielding kenku for the ratmen fighters, and gnolls for the ratman ranger, barbarians, and druid queen. For the dire rat, he used...a dire rat. (We have one of those!)

I should point out Sam's lack of explosions twice in a row during the fight with the rat-queen wasn't the result of any magic effect in the room, but rather my poor die-rolling: twice in a row I rolled a natural "1" for the two arrows Sam had charged up with explosive energy. (I finally gave up and switched to a different die.) Also, the dialogue between Sam and Baabby in the first fight about Power Attacks vs. actually hitting the target was taken almost verbatim from a conversation between Harry and me. Harry was determined to deal out a butt-ton of damage using Power Attack, probably because we leveled up to 12th-level right before playing this adventure, and Harry had just bumped Baabby's Strength score up to a 22.
 

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 23: AVRIL'S IN PERIL

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 12
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 12​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 12​

Game Session Date: 22 October 2017

- - -

Returning back to Skylanders Academy, the adventurers and Hex reported in to Master Eon, and just as Sam had hoped, the elderly Portal Master agreed to let them keep the treasure they had unearthed in the ratmen warrens. "YES!" exclaimed Sam excitedly, pumping a fist in the air. "C'mon, guys -- let's go shopping!"

One quick excursion to the magic shops in the area left both Baabby and Sam with some upgrades to their equipment: Baabby's +4 belt of giant strength was exchanged for a +6 model, and Sam traded in his lesser bracers of archery for a greater pair. Baabby also splurged on a dusty rose prism ioun stone which granted him an insightful awareness about when people were about to attack him. "I dunno," frowned Sam. "I don't think I could concentrate with a pebble flying around my head all the time."

"You haave a haard enough time concentrating aas it is," agreed Baabby. But the little crow purchased a jar of Keoghtom's ointment "just to have in case of emergencies," and even Sapphrina parted with some of her hard-earned coins: she purchased an amulet of health that purported to allow her to survive longer in combat before needing to be healed. "Good choice," Sam agreed.

And then, on a sudden whim, the little crow stopped off in a dollmaker's shop, returning with a small purchase of some sort held in a closed bag.

"Whaat's thaat?" asked Baabby.

"I'll show you guys later, the next time we're on the airship," promised Sam.

The trio returned to Skylanders Academy, where they found Master Eon listening to a report from a rather excitable frost elf who had shown up during their shopping trip. "...They were attacking from all directions!" the elf exclaimed. Sam noted the elf was blue in the face, but then a closer look showed his skin was actually blue all over, unlike the normal green skin of the elves he knew, like the Skylander Stealth Elf. "Blasts of fire!" the elf said excitedly. "And electricity! And cold! There must have been a whole army of them!"

Sam normally hated entering a conversation in the middle, but his curiosity compelled him to jump in anyway. "An army of what?" he asked.

"Invisible dragons!" replied the blue-skinned elf.

"How did you know they were invisible dragons?" Sam persisted.

"I saw them with my own eyes!" declared the elf.

"You saw invisible dragons?" Sapphrina queried, just to be sure she was hearing what she thought she was hearing.

"Well, they were invisible most of the time," stammered the elf. "Whenever they'd use their breath weapons, they'd turn visible for a moment, then turn back invisible again!" Sapphrina shrugged; that matched with what she knew of the standard invisibility spell.

"Whaat color were they?" asked Baabby. "When they were visible, I mean."

"I'm-- I'm not sure," admitted the frazzled elf. "It all happened so fast...." At Master Eon's urging, the elf started his tale over from the beginning and brought the trio of adventurers up to speed. The leader of the frost elf army, one Avril by name, had been leading an expedition along the northern banks of Everfrost Lake on a floating island several hours away. There had been some recently unearthed ruins, including a stone keep hidden inside a grove of evergreen trees, and inside the stone keep was a frozen-over gateway of some sort. There were ancient runes carved near the gate, indicating a certain sword with eight rune-shaped holes in it was needed to fulfill a certain prophecy. But on the way to the stone keep the expedition had been attacked by invisible dragons, and Avril had been captured by a pair of two floating mages. Other than the frost elf standing before them, she was the only other member of the expedition that might still be alive.

"Thaat's my greatsword!" exclaimed Baabby excitedly.

"Can't be. Your sword's got ten rune holes," pointed out Sam.

"It does now," argued Sapphrina. "But if those runes are ancient, then the Rift-Weaver's Blade would have only had eight rune-holes at the time the prophecy was made."

"In any case," interjected Master Eon, "it would seem these are the individuals involved in the prophecy. I would ask you to direct them to your floating island, so they can help you in finding the missing Avril."

"Of course," replied the frost elf.

"We'd be glad to help," agreed Sapphrina, and Baabby nodded his agreement by her side. Sam wasn't normally so quick to volunteer for prophecy-related missions that didn't promise a big pile of gold at the end of them, but he was still in a pretty good mood after having gotten to keep the ratmen's gold from their last adventure, so he said nothing and went willingly along with the others. Perched in his place of honor on the little crow's left shoulder, Shelldon seemed content with the plan.

Once the group had boarded the troll airship and Statue Boy had it heading in the correct direction, Sam, unable to wait any longer, pulled open the bag he had purchased from the doll shop. He then pulled out a tiny little captain's hat and plopped it on the head of his pet snail. It fit snugly right behind his eyestalks. "Ta-dah!" announced Sam proudly. "May I present to you: Captain Shelldon!" And swinging his right hand smartly up to his brow, he popped off an impressive salute.

"Oh, good grief," sighed Sapphrina.

The trip lasted just short of two hours, at which time Statue Boy brought the airship down in a snow-covered clearing. There was an evergreen forest nearby, their green needles coated with a light dusting of snow. "Brrr!" shivered Sapphrina, watching her breath frost in the cold air. Baabby didn't seem to mind the cold, but then he was covered in woolly fleece. Naturally, the frost elf wasn't bothered, either, but then this was his natural environment. "Aren't you cold, Sam?" she asked, looking for someone else to share her discomfort.

"Nah, this isn't so bad," replied the crow archer, then added, ",,,but then again, I'm part penguin on my mother's side."

"It's this way," announced the frost elf, leaping over the side of the airship. Baabby and Sam did likewise, while Sapphrina flapped her fairy wings and followed in their wake, rubbing her bare arms to keep warm. They went down a path between clumps of trees until they came to a fork. The right path continued on solid land, while to the left the path followed a frozen stream to a large, iced-over lake. In the "V" of the fork stood a large grove of trees, spaced closely together. "The fort's in there," the frost elf said, indicating the grove just ahead.

"Let's go this way," suggested Baabby, heading off to the right. The snow was slippery enough; he didn't want to try traversing an icy, frozen stream - his hooves would likely find little traction on such a surface.

"Hold up," said Sam suddenly, putting a hand on his friend's shoulder to keep him from continuing on ahead.

"Whaat's up?" Baabby asked.

"I thought I saw something."

"Like what?" asked Sapphrina.

"It was a kind of flickering, just ahead," Sam said, squinting in the cold air.

"The invisible dragons!" gasped the frost elf. "So you saw them too?"

"You can't see an invisible--" began Sam - but then he was cut off by the fiery blast of an invisible dragon. The cone of fire emanated from a large lizard of some type, and even if it didn't have wings, a lizard of that size that breathed fire would likely best be described as a dragon. This was no dragon any of the heroes had ever seen before, though: it was yellowish, with bands of brown along its back and sides, rather like a reptilian bumblebee. But the heroes had little time to spend pontificating on the creature's most appropriate nomenclature: they were embroiled in a combat for their lives, and the blast of fire had engulfed the four of them, singeing feathers, fleece, and skin alike.

Sapphrina was the first to react; with a few arcane syllables and a gesture or two, she cast a haste spell on the heroes, having learned from previous combats that giving Baabby and Sam extra attacks was never a bad thing, and had often spelled the difference between success and failure. She then flapped her wings and flew straight up, gaining enough elevation to see there were no other flickerings in the area that might indicate other invisible dragons ready to attack, but also high enough to spot the top of the stone keep hidden in the grove of evergreens. The roof of the keep was manned by two floating wizards in blue robes: spell punks, and those aligned with the Water element, judging from the stylized water-drop emblems stitched onto their garments. The fairy dropped back down below the tree line before she was spotted by the pair.

Sam used his additional speed to crank off a flurry of arrows at the still-visible land dragon before it could reactivate its invisibility. The first one he had powered up with explosive energy from his Dynabow 3.0, and the explosion caught the dragon by surprise, likely dealing extra damage to it. As the normal arrows that followed found their marks, Sam noticed the dragon's scales were changing colors, taking on an orangey hue.

Baabby had his Rift-Weaver's Blade in hand, but the dragon struck out at him before the baabarian could react. Sharp teeth crunched down onto the sheep-man's shoulder as two sets of front claws ripped across his torso. Baabby cried out in pain, and Sapphrina reacted by casting a mass cure moderate wounds spell that healed up some of the damage dealt by the dragon's fiery breath. That was enough for the frost elf, though: he wasted no time running back the way they had come, before any more of these invisible dragons showed up!

Sam sent another flurry of arrows at the dragon, whose scales were now a brilliant orange-red. The explosion from his first missile was half fire and half technological in nature, but it seemed as if the creature had only been harmed by the tech half of the blast. Still, the archer was glad to see that regular old arrows still managed to penetrate the dragon's hide.

And that wasn't all that could penetrate its hide, as Baabby ably demonstrated with his massive greatsword. The Rift-Weaver's Blade cut a deep gash in the creature's underside, just below its neck and between its front legs. The dragon roared in pain as drops of its hot blood spilled to the ground and stained the snow. And then it took its anger out at the one who had just hurt it, biting and clawing at the baabarian in a frantic frenzy of teeth and claws. Still, these attacks were keeping the creature visible, which made it easier for the heroes to fight it.

Sam sent four more arrows racing into the dragon's hide, and three of them stuck there when they hit. But then Baabby, in a frenzy of his own (his fueled by baabaric rage), slashed again and again at his foe, causing blood to flow freely from the beast's new wounds like gushing fountains. The dragon took on a distinctly bluish appearance, which Sam at first took to be caused by extreme blood loss. "We've got it on the ropes!" he called excitedly.

And then the creature opened its tooth-filled maw and spewed forth a bolt of electricity, which went zapping out in a cone that caught up both Baabby and Sam. Sapphrina, fortunately out of range, was the first to make the connection between its sudden change of coloration and its new breath weapon. "We're fighting an elemental chameleon!" she called out to the others.

"Oh, good!" responded Sam. "I always like to make sure I know exactly what it is that's killing me!" But the fairy was already flying close and casting another mass cure moderate wounds spell that dealt with the worst of their damage.

The elemental chameleon looked to be on its last legs, though - and wobbly ones at that. It faded from view as it ambled away, seeking to escape invisibly. Sam raced closer, realizing he'd only get in one shot that way but wanting it to be an explosive one. His arrow missed making a direct hit but caught the retreating beast in its blast radius. Unfortunately, the explosion was a piddling little one, one of the weakest the Dynabow 3.0 had ever produced. "No fair!" squawked the crow in irritation, cheated of his kill of a beast that big.

Not surprisingly, it was Baabby who took the creature down with another powerful strike of the Rift-Weaver's Blade. Sam just shook his head in disbelief. A little bit stronger of an explosion and the killing blow would have been his!

Sapphrina flew in and cast healing spells on the group, getting them all back up to full strength - or very close to it, in any case. "Do you think there are any more of them still in the area?" she asked nervously.

"I wouldn't be surprised if that's all there ever was," Sam said. "One elemental chameleon, if it kept popping back invisible after attacking, and changing color and breath weapons all the time - well, those frost elves could easily believe there were a bunch of them, couldn't they?"

"It's possible," conceded Baabby. "But let's go check out thaat stone fort Sapphrina found."

Rather than try to force their way through the doubtlessly locked and guarded front door, the group decided for a more unorthodox approach. Sapphrina cast a pair of fly spells on her landbound compatriots and all three took to the air. By then, the fairy's haste spell had run its course, but the heroes were pretty sure they could take out a pair of water spell punks without the benefits of such a spell.

They were right, but it wasn't as easy as they had envisioned. First of all, these were greater spell punks, a type of mage the group had never before encountered. But Sam's initial explosive arrow caught them both in its blast radius, and then the archer chose one at random to try to turn into a pincushion with regular arrows. Before he could get off any subsequent shots, though, both spell punks targeted him with their primary attacks: a pair of icy blasts from their spiked hands went flying in the archer's direction. Fortunately, Sam was able to dodge the icy blasts in time, and they passed harmlessly above his head.

"Nice!" said Sapphrina appreciatively.

"Oh, it was nothing," scoffed Sam. "After all: I'm part duck on my mother's side!"

The fairy breathed a sigh of exasperation. "I flew right into that one," she scolded herself.

Sapphrina judged that water spell punks would likely be most susceptible to fire-based attacks, so she cast a fireball spell that engulfed both floating mages. That was enough to take them both out. Baabby, not even getting in a single hit before the combat was over, had the good grace to congratulate the fairy on her combat prowess.

Landing on the stone keep's roof, the trio found a door leading to a set of stone steps leading down to a lower level. Their fly spells still active, Baabby and Sam crept down the stairs, with Sapphrina floating behind them on flapping fairy-wings. There was a door at the bottom of the stairs, leading into a large opening. At the ground level stood the frozen rift with a ring of fire (actually, a wall of fire spell bent around it and pumping heat at it in an effort to melt the ice encompassing it) while flanking it on three sides was a higher platform - on the same level as the door to the stairs from above. Two sets of shorter steps led down to the ground level from this platform. But there were two more greater spell punks floating on the flanking platform, one directly ahead and one off to the right. Off in the back corner stood a column of bluish ice.

The spell punk directly ahead - a greater fire spell punk, judging by the bright red robes with the fiery emblem emblazoned across it - lifted its hands and sent a blast of flames (Sapphrina recognized it as a lightning bolt spell that had had its electrical energy converted to fire) directly at the three heroes. Neither could avoid it in the close quarters of the bottom of the stairwell, and the heroes cried out in pain as the spell hit.

Then Sam managed to hover just a little higher than the hulking baabarian in front of him, using Baabby's massive body as a shield while he sent a flurry of normal arrows flying at the spell punk. (He figured a fiery explosion wouldn't do much to a creature devoted to the element of Fire.) All four hit, but the archer was disappointed to see the spell punk still standing - well, floating anyway - after his awesome barrage.

But then across the room, the greater water spell punk sent what looked like several snowballs flying in Sam's direction; just as his Fire comrade had used a fire-based lightning bolt spell, this was a cold-based scorching ray spell. Two of the spheres hit Sam, who squawked in indignation: "Hey! No fair!"

Baabby reactivated his fly spell and charged directly through the air, blade first, at the greater fire spell punk floating before him. The sword bit deep into the spell punk's flesh. Behind him, Sapphrina cast the last of her mass cure moderate wounds spells to keep the heroes in the fight that much longer.

"Where's Aavril?" demanded Baabby of the fire spell punk he was now battling face to hooded face. He got no answer - at least not verbally - but by the quick glance the spell punk made in the direction of the bluish ice pillar in the back corner of the room, the baabarian was pretty sure he had gotten his answer. Then the fire spell punk tried something rather foolish: casting a hold person spell on the hulking baabarian waving a greatsword in his face. Before the third syllable of the spell could leave the spell punk's lips, Baabby brought the Rift-Weaver's Blade crashing down on the mage's head, killing him instantly. Immediately upon the fire spell punk's death, the wall of fire encircling the frozen gate extinguished like a blown-out candle.

Now facing only one target, Sam pivoted and sent four arrows flying at the water spell punk. Not liking that one bit, the floating mage cast a wall of ice spell that sealed him - and the pillar of ice in the corner - from the heroes. He then crossed his arms in smug satisfaction, secure in the knowledge that he was safe, at least for a while.

It was a very short while. "Graab on!" Baabby yelled to the others, who barely had a chance to clap their massive friend on the shoulder before he had cast a spell through his magical blade, gating the three of them across to the other side of the room. Before the astonished spell punk could realize the danger he was now in, the fairy sorceress brought him down with a lightning bolt spell.

Immediately, the wall of ice blinked out of existence - as, too, did the column of bluish ice in the corner. There, in its place, stood Avril, the commander of the frost elf army. Her legs buckled, unable to support her weight after having been suspended in ice for so long. Sam dropped his Dynabow 3.0 and caught her before she could hit the floor, then lowered her carefully down to a comfortable position. Sapphrina looked her over and announced she should be fine.

"Let's see aabout this gate," said Baabby, stabbing his Rift-Weaver's Blade into the ice covering the frozen gate. The ice was instantly absorbed into the blade, making the gate available for the first time - and, not just incidentally, filling up and energizing the Water Rune in the Rift-Weaver's Blade.

"This was another one of those dealios where they try to do away with some of the bars of Donnie Boy's cage, wasn't it?" asked Sam.

"I think so," agreed Sapphrina.

"Should I use the sword to shut it down?" asked the baabarian.

"That would just close it temporarily," said Sapphrina. "We need to shut it down for good. That usually means overloading it with power of the opposite element."

"So, fire," surmised Sam.

"My blade doesn't haave the Fire Rune," lamented Baabby.

"Yeah," sighed Sapphrina. "That's going to be a problem."

Baabby was silent a moment, mulling over the possibilities. "No it isn't," he decided. "I caan chaannel the power of spells through my blade, like when I gated us across the room. Maybe I caan do the same thing with a fire spell." He got a good grip on the hilt of his Rift-Weaver's Blade, then turned to Sapphrina. "Caast a firebaall spell on me," he commanded.

"Are-- are you sure?" gasped Sapphrina. The sheep-man gave her a look of determination, then nodded his head once.

"Okay then..." gulped the fairy, and spoke the words to the spell. A pebble-sized core of fiery energy went streaking from her hand across the room to strike the baabarian. Upon impact, it exploded outwards in a burst of flame. Baabby stifled a cry of pain and instead focused all of his attention on channeling the power of the spell through his blade, which he had thrust inside the once-frozen gate. Flames coursed down the length of the Rift-Weaver's Blade, to flood the gate's interior. The inside of the upright magic circle flickered, sputtered, and shut down - permanently, as they had hoped. This particular gate would never be used to remove the Water bars of the energy cage imprisoning the Devourer of Nightmares. The sheep-man stepped back, smiling at his handiwork...all the while curls of smoke swirled up from the woolly fleece covering his body. Where it had once been as white as snow, much of it was now the color of soot, having been blackened by flames.

"You keep this up, you'll be the black sheep in your family," pointed out Sam with a sidelong grin.

"I kind of aalready aam," replied Baabby - after all, most baabarians were only interested in taking whatever they wanted, regardless of who held it at the time. Baabby was probably the only one of his kind to have walked the path of the hero. But then, he was the legendary Courageous Sheep of legend and prophecy, the one being in all of Skylands who might one day wield enough power to defeat the Devourer of Nightmares once and for all.

"But thaat's okay," continued Baabby, casting a healing spell on himself, which, channeled through the Life Rune on his blade, maximized the healing energy to repair his burned fleece. "I'm haappy with who I aam."

"And so are we," assured Sapphrina, flying over to give her courageous friend a well-deserved hug.

- - -

Logan used the Winter Forest Pathfinder Flip-Mat for the fight with the elemental chameleon - a creature, I might add, he made up himself. (We used a plastic lizard I had picked up at a dollar store for the mini.) And he had even telegraphed the creature's presence much earlier in the campaign, as one of Sam's first magical sets of armor was made of elemental chameleon hide. The levels of the keep were represented by a few one-piece tiles from a Dungeon Tiles set.

The most impressive part of the battles in this adventure was the round that Baabby hit three times with his Rift-Weaver's Blade while fighting the elemental chameleon, two of them being confirmed critical hits. Baabby managed to deal a total of 134 points of damage in that one round - astonishing Logan to no end, as the creature had 138 hit points at that time and he figured it would still be around for a while. Sam got to attack next, missing a direct hit with explosive arrow (the creature was invisible at the time), which meant he just caught it in the blast radius and it got a save for half damage. I then proceeded to roll 7 points of damage on 5d6, it made its save, and Sam ended up dealing a whopping 3 points of damage - which, of course, left it with a single hit point when Baabby's turn came up next. (Grrr! So close!)
 

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 24: RETURN TO VALKAR

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 13
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 13​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 13​

Game Session Date: 3 December 2017

- - -

The trio of heroes strode briskly through the halls of Skylanders Academy. Upon their return from the banks of Everfrost Lake, they had been instructed to meet Master Eon in the Arcane Library of the Academy building. Sapphrina flew slightly ahead of the other two, for the specific purpose of shooing away Hugo if they saw him. Otherwise, he'd likely flee in terror at the sight of the burly sheep-man wielding one of the most powerful weapons in all of Skylands - surely the little Mabu's greatest nightmare!

The fairy opened the doors to the library and saw Master Eon standing near one of the portals he used to send his operatives where they needed to be. Standing before him was Stealth Elf, garbed in her ninja gear and likely reporting in from her most recent mission. But that wasn't all: standing off to the side was a small, floating mage in brown robes, holding something heavy in his hand-claws. With a gasp of disbelief, the heroes recognized the sight of an earth spell punk, one of the lackeys working for the Devourer of Nightmares!

Sam was the first to react (or overreact, as the case might be). Grabbing an arrow from the quiver on his back, he dropped it into place on his Dynabow 3.0, pulled back the bowstring, and rushed forward as the magic bow charged up the arrow with explosive energy. "Get back, Master Eon!" he called out as he ran. "It's a spell punk!"

Master Eon and Stealth Elf looked over at the floating spell punk with mild surprise at the commotion, and the elderly portal master opened his mouth to start to speak, but the earth spell punk beat him to it. "Don't shoot!" he cried. "I surrender!"

"Staand down," said Baabby, putting his hand on the little crow's shoulder. "Let's see whaat aall of this is aabout."

"Um, that's the thing..." began Sam, the bowstring still pulled taught. "I kind of can't. Y'see, the arrow's already charged up, and there's no way to 'un-charge' it once it's ready to go...." Baabby noted with alarm that the archer's arm was starting to shudder from the strain of pulling the bowstring all the way back without actually releasing it.

"Caan't you just slowly put the bowstring baack to its normal position without firing the aarrow?" asked Baabby.

"Sure!" agreed Sam, not moving his arm in the slightest. "And then it will blow up in my face!"

Baabby started looking frantically around the library. "Is there a window aaround here?" he asked.

"Here," replied Master Eon, activating the portal with a wave of his staff. "Send your arrow here, Sam." Sam did so before the Portal Master had even finished his second sentence, breathing out a whoosh of air in relief as he did so. Then he switched the Dynabow 3.0 to his right hand, so he could rub his tired right arm with his left hand. Then he shook his head like a dog, getting all of the sweat off of his feathers. "That was close!" he said, then remembered the whole reason for his present discomfort and glared at the earth spell punk. "What's your story?" he demanded.

"He-- he's crazy!" the spell punk stammered. "I'm all for a bit of chaos and confusion here and there, but he actually wants to destroy all of Skylands! And he doesn't care for us, not really! He'll destroy all of us with everyone else!"

"I see you've worked out the disadvantages of working for the Devourer of Nightmares," remarked Sapphrina.

"He's advancing his plans!" reported the spell punk. "All of a sudden, he wants everything done at once! I think he's afraid you might actually be a threat to him! He's already taken over the Geode Caverns, to prevent you from regaining the Earth Rune! And he's sending forces to the Cloud Gardens of Valkar to shut off the Air Rune, so you can't get that one either!"

"Mystrala is in danger!" observed Sapphrina, referring to the polite cloud giant who had graciously allowed Baabby to gain the Air Rune from her castle after testing the group on their fighting prowess.

"You're not paying attention, lady!" cried the frazzled spell punk. "We're ALL in danger! But here: I brought you this, from the Geode Caverns!" He held up what he'd been holding - a small slab of stone, upon which was inscribed the Earth Rune. "You must hurry!" cried the spell punk. "Stop him before he destroys--well, everything!"

Baabby and Sapphrina stepped up to the spell punk, the baabarian pulling the Rift-Weaver's Blade from his broad back as he did so. With the fairy's assistance, the Earth Rune was transferred to the greatsword's blade, where it pulsed with energy along with the others.

"That was the easiest rune EVER!" enthused Sam. "Why can't they all be so easy?"

"It would seem as if time is of the essence," observed Master Eon. "Sapphrina, if you would assist me, we should recalibrate the portal to the Cloud Gardens of Valkar."

"I'll do you one better," replied the fairy. "I'll bet we can open a portal directly into Mystrala's castle itself!"

"And while we're gone," said Sam to the floating enemy mage, "I want you to write 'I WILL BE A GOOD SPELL PUNK FROM NOW ON' 100 times. We're in a library; I'm sure you can scrounge up some paper and a pen."

The fairy's boast turned out not to have just been pure optimism. Stepping through the portal she helped Master Eon open, the three heroes found themselves standing upon the massive wooden dining table in the middle of Castle Valkar. And standing there before them was Mystrala herself - all 15 feet of her, although she looked very much the worse for wear than the last time they'd seen her.

"Thank goodness you're here!" she cried upon seeing them. "The castle is under attack!"

As if to underscore her statement, there was a loud THROOM! at the door. Looking over in that direction, the heroes could see it was barred with a wooden plank the size of a tree trunk - but also that it was starting to crack under the pounding at the heavy wooden door.

"Hey, didn't you have a couple of them big ol' wolves...?" asked Sam, frantically looking around, hoping to increase the size of their modest little army.

"Yes," answered Mystrala. "But the enemies absorbed the essences of both Thundergrowl and Rumblegut; they are no more."

"So we're..." began Sam.

"All that's left, yes," replied Mystrala, swooning a bit and grabbing onto the edge of a giant-sized chair for support.

"You're hurt!" cried Sapphrina, just now noticing at the giantess's wounds from her fight outside the castle.

"I will live," remarked the giant. "But I must rest before fighting again, for I have used almost all of my power. I destroyed much of the enemy forces, but there is still one iron golem left, as well as two creepy guys with eyeballs on their fingers."

"And tentacles on their faces?" prompted Sam.

"Yes," replied Mystrala, repressing a shudder. "Those guys creep me out."

"They're Donnie-Boy's kids," said Sam. "We've fought them before. Don't you worry, we'll take care of whatever forces think they can--" That was all the little archer got out before the doors exploded inwards, falling to pieces on the floor before the giant's table. Standing in the doorway was an iron juggernaut, taller even than the cloud giant and wielding a massive iron sword in one hand. "Targets detected," it intoned.

"Same here!" cried Baabby, racing across the table and leaping into the air at the iron golem. He got in a good hit, although the golem managed to strike the baabarian in mid-flight as he did so. But the golem got the worst of that deal, for while his sword was bigger and no doubt dealt more basic damage, Baabby's Rift-Weaver's Blade had eight runes powering it, allowing it to overcome the creature's damage reduction and score critical hits that normally wouldn't be possible against a mechanical being. Although its face was sculpted of iron, it still managed to project an expression of surprise at how much damage the (relatively) little sheep-man had dealt him with one blow of his greatsword.

It focused its next attack on the baabarian, slamming Baabby in the side with its massive iron sword, causing a grunt of pain to escape from the sheep-man's lips. Then, from somewhere behind the automaton, the first of the mind flayers sent off a wave of fiery energy, some of which was absorbed by the iron golem and the rest of which engulfed the three heroes before it. Sam saw the iron golem's brand new scar - just put there by the Rift-Weaver's Blade - start to heal up immediately.

With that knowledge, Sam opted not to charge up one of his arrows with explosive energy, knowing that the fire-based half would merely cancel out the tech-based half of the explosive damage. Instead, he sent a flurry of four normal arrows winging their way at the iron juggernaut. Two missed, and the other two plinked off its ironclad body without even leaving a scratch. "No fair!" squawked Sam.

"Go, go, we've got this!" encouraged Sapphrina, and Mystrala reluctantly disengaged, slinking off through a doorway to her bedroom. "I'll be in there in a moment!" promised Sam, once again overestimating his desirability to the opposite sex - and not even taking into consideration the extreme size disparity between the two.

Another blast from behind the juggernaut's feet revealed the presence of the second mind flayer. The mental energy caused both Sam and Sapphrina to become shaken and unsure of their ability to fight back against this overwhelming force; Baabby, through sheer willpower rather than any special training, shrugged the effect off without effort.

But now he was already in range of his primary target. The Rift-Weaver's Blade swung out - once, twice, and again! - and each hit scored a deep groove into the iron juggernaut's armor, peeling away the layers of defense and exposing the inner workings held within. Gears flew from the creature's torso and various fluids began leaking from the rents in its armor, as it lost all basic functioning and fell forwards onto the floor with a massive crash. Baabby, through the power of his magic greatsword and the strength of his own muscles, had destroyed an iron juggernaut in less time than it takes to tell of it.

But that didn't mean the fight was over - far from it! The second mind flayer stepped forward, directing a fiery bolt of energy at the heroes with the power of his mind. The psion caught both Baabby and Sapphrina in the blast; Sam allowed instinct to take over and dodged away from the blast, preventing himself from taking any damage at all. At the same time, he sent arrows flying at the other mind flayer - but this one had been trained as a monk, and he casually slapped the first arrow away.

However, as the second one got past his defenses and struck him in the shoulder, the first one did something he hadn't anticipated: explode in his four-tentacled face! He, like Sam just earlier, managed to avoid the damage, but the explosion caught up his mind flayer brother in its area of effect, so Sam wasn't entirely displeased with the results. (The best indicator of that was he didn't squawk "No fair!" in outrage.)

Sapphrina flew up a few feet to get a good view of both targets, then sent a chain lightning spell directly at the mind flayer psion, with an arc of lightning striking the mind flayer monk immediately afterward. Both cried out mentally in the heads of their enemies, causing the heroes to grin in satisfaction.

Then the monk suddenly leaped forward, striking out at Baabby with the side of its hand - which, Baabby could see up close, actually did have eyeballs on the tip of each finger - and the opposite elbow. Baabby reeled at this unaccustomed attack, for the baabarian was used to fighting enemies who wielded weapons, not their own bare limbs. Seeing how wounded Baabby was, Sapphrina flew close and cast a stoneskin spell on him to keep him in the fight that much longer - because she had no doubts about which of the three heroes was the real powerhouse of the team.

Baabby returned the attacks of the mind flayer monk, but he used his Rift-Weaver's Blade. He hit the foe three times in as many seconds, scoring deep gashes in its rubbery flesh, but - perhaps due to the determination living organisms have that unliving mechanoids do not - despite having taken as much damage as the iron juggernaut had, the monk refused to fall over.

The tentacled psion sent a strictly mental attack at Sam's mind, but it glanced off without leaving much of a mark. "Ha!" scoffed Sam to his foe. "That hardly even hurt!"

<Not surprisingly, since you barely have a mind to attack!> thought the psion angrily to the archer.

"Yeah, that's--Hey!" cried Sam once he caught the implicit insult. But the psion had no further telepathic retort, for Sapphrina had cast another chain lightning spell at him, having a second arc go seeking the mind flayer monk. Once again, the nimble monk did a mid-air flip and avoided all damage whatsoever.

"I hate it when he does that!" grumbled the fairy.

But she hated what he did next even more. Leaping up to her level (possibly with a levitation assist - it was hard to tell, with all of his jumping around!), he struck out with his facial tentacles. Sapphrina was glad these particular tentacles didn't have eyeballs at their tips, but then she realized that was because these were the ones mind flayers used to pry out a victim's brains. "Ew! Get off!" she cried out in disgust.

He did - but only because Baabby practically chopped him in half with his greatsword as he reached the top of his arc and began his descent. His descent turned out to go much faster than he had no doubt anticipated - and he landed on the floor in one more distinct piece than he probably would have desired.

That left only the psion, who caught both Baabby and Sapphrina in a bolt of cold energy fired directly from his mind. They both cried out in pain and began shivering, but the fairy overcame her susceptibility to energy long enough to cast a mass cure moderate wounds on the pair of them, partially healing up the damage they'd just sustained.

Sam sent another flurry of arrows at the psion, and this one was unable to bat them away as the monk had done. All four hit, one of them exploding upon impact. The psion staggered back from the damage - and then Baabby finished him off with a final swing of his greatsword, after charging at him from across the doorway.

"Is everybody okay?' asked Sapphrina.

"I'll be fine," reassured Baabby.

"I'm perfectly fine," remarked Sam. "In fact, I'll just go check on Mystrala." And he ambled on over to the giantess's bedroom, running a hand through the sleek, black feathers on his head as he did so.

"Do you seriously think she's the slightest bit interested in you?" asked Saphrina incredulously.

"Sure," Sam replied. "Why wouldn't she be? After all..." and here he favored the fairy with a sly wink, "...I'm part lovebird on my mother's side."

Once he got there, though, the reality of the situation suddenly struck him: the top of his head barely reached over her knees! Alas, it would never work between them; the size differential was too great. "Oh well," sighed Sam. "Her loss."

"You were successful?" asked Mystrala.

"You bet we were!" replied Sam. "And now, if you don't mind, my friend would like to stick it in."

"What?" gasped Mystrala.

"Stick it in," repeated Sam. "His sword, into your air portal! You know, to recover the Air Rune for his blade!"

"Yes, yes, of course," stammered the cloud giantess. "I believe you know the way." But she led the heroes over to the air portal hidden in her storage area. With Sapphrina's help, the Air Rune once again blazed brightly on the Rift-Weaver's Blade.

"Aall thaat's left now is the Fire Rune," observed Baabby. "Aand then we'll be able to take on the Devourer of Nightmares directly, aand put a stop to him once aand for aall!"

"Old Donnie-Boy won't know what hit him," agreed Sam. "But c'mon--let's get back to Skylanders Academy. This fight didn't last nearly as long as I thought it would..."

"Thanks to Baabby killing off all of the opposition," interjected Sapphrina, smiling in admiration at her hard-fighting friend.

"...so I'll bet we can get back before that spell punk finishes writing up his hundred lines of homework!" finished Sam.

- - -

Logan's warned me that he's bringing this campaign to a high-speed close. In fact, we'll be getting the Fire Rune in our next adventure, and then fighting off Don in the one after that, which will conclude the campaign. After all, the whole point of even starting this campaign was to introduce 10-year-old Harry to the fun to be had with D&D, and that goal has already been admirably achieved. He now runs a half-orc sorcerer in our Kordovian campaign and an elven monk in the Durnhill Conscripts campaign, and Logan has enough prep work to do each week keeping our Wednesday nights filled with short combat scenarios.

So the first thing that happened was XP is being tossed out the window. We leveled up to 13th level immediately before running this adventure, and we'll be at 14th for the next adventure and have our final fight with Don at 15th level, finishing up the campaign.

Logan picked up Paizo's "Arcane Library" Flip-Map for the Skylanders Academy library at the start of the adventure, and we used the same "Giant Lairs" Flip-Mat that we had used previously for the interior of Castle Valkar.

We also had a bit of a panic immediately before the adventure started: Logan couldn't find the initiative card he knew I had made for the female cloud giant he had painted with my friend Dan at one of their Wednesday evening painting sessions. We knew I had made the card previously, because we had used it in the "Cloud Gardens of Valkar" adventure. But it wasn't in my index card holders where I keep all of the initiative cards I've made over the years: not filed under "Cloud Giant" or "Frost Giant" or "Giant" or "Female Giant." I helped him look, and then in a flash of sudden insight I knew exactly where it was: in the pile of initiative cards I had already gathered together for our next Kordovian campaign adventure, which - spoiler! - includes a battle with a female cloud giant.

I think we've just discovered another drawback to having two active DMs living in the same household and sharing gaming materials.
 

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 25: THE FINAL ERUPTION OF MOUNT MABUVIUS

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 14
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 14​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 14​

Game Session Date: 9 December 2017

- - -

Returning back to the library of the Skylanders Academy Building, the trio of heroes met back up with Master Eon - and a familiar face.

"I believe you recall Lady Radia," remarked the elderly Portal Master.

"Indeed we do," replied Sapphrina. The light elemental was a hard person to forget: she was an eight-foot-tall woman with a regal bearing, her body composed entirely of a warm, diffuse light which radiated in illuminated patterns across her contours. She was the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Dawn - and Baabby had recently been the gladiatorial representative of her warring kingdom.

"Now that the Twilight Kingdoms are no longer at war," Lady Radia stated, "we have had time to delve further into the Prophecies of the Devourer."

"Oh yeah, Donnie-Boy?" asked Sam with a smirk on his beak. "What did they say, that his downfall would be preceded by the arrival of a dark and ravishingly-handsome gentleman of the avian persuasion?" The little crow ran a hand through the feathers on his head to make sure none were sticking up.

"Our studies have us worried," admitted the light elemental, all but ignoring Sam's interruption.

"You're worried?" asked Sam. "We're the ones who have to fight him!"

"That's what has us worried," admitted Lady Radia, and Sam frowned at the implied rebuke. He never really liked those uppity light elemental folks from their stupid Kingdom of Dawn anyway!

"We have been focusing on the time of his second rise," continued the ambassador. "According to our calculations, the Devourer of Nightmares will escape his imprisonment in three days."

"Three days?" gasped Sapphrina.

"...You mean, like, it'll take him three full days to finally bust out of his cage, but that still won't be for months yet?" hoped Sam, hoping like he'd never hoped before.

"I mean that according to our best researchers, prophets, and prognosticators, the Devourer of Nightmares will only remain confined for three more days, at most. After which time he will once again be free to attempt to destroy all of Skylands."

"I, uh, don't imagine you have really, really bad researchers, prophets, and progwhatsicators," gulped Sam.

"On the contrary, they are renowned for their accuracy and exactitude. They did, you will recall, predict that the Dawn Sheep and the Dusk Crow would bring peace to the war-torn Twilight Kingdoms."

"Ah, crap," muttered Sam, looking up at his baabarian friend. "Three days, Baabby! What are we going to do in three days?"

"Get the Fire Rune," replied the sheep-man, quite unperturbed by the sudden deadline. The Fire Rune was the only magic rune missing from his mighty Rift-Weaver's Blade, the only weapon powerful enough to be able to permanently destroy the Devourer of Nightmares. And he, according to legend, was the only person in all of Skylands to be able to wield it in the battle to come. But if all of this power and responsibility weighed heavily on the baabarian's broad shoulders, he showed no sign of it. Baabby had always been a rather easy-going, laid-back sheep-man.

"We'd better head off now, then," suggested Sapphrina. "Time is of the essence!"

"Wait," commanded Lady Radia. "I am sure you will have time to upgrade your weapons and armor in the manner you deem most likely to aid you in your efforts to defeat our joint foe. Toward that regard, my Twin Kingdoms offer you this sum of 30,000 pieces of gold from the Royal Treasury."

"I always liked you Dawn Kingdom folks!" gushed Sam, stepping forward to receive the bulging bag of coins.

"Do you think we should, given the time constraints?" asked Sapphrina with a worried tone in her voice. Baabby might be taking the fact that they had three days to save all of Skylands rather easily, but the fairy certainly was not!

"I am sure you will have plenty of time," assured Master Eon. "I believe you have gathered each of the previous runes on the day you set forth to fetch them; the Fire Rune should be no exception. And that will leave us two more days to make our best plans as to fighting the Devourer."

Thus reassured, the trio dashed off to the city for upgrades, Baabby and Sapphrina making suggestions along the way. Sam, normally the loudest-mouthed of the trio, was uncharacteristically silent.

"Aare you okay, Sam?" asked Baabby as they approached a magic shop.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, fine. Here, you guys go on in -- I'll catch up with you."

"Where are you going?" asked Sapphrina.

"Shelldon and I just need to run a quick errand," the little crow replied, referring to the snail perched on his left shoulder. "We'll be back before you're done." Baabby entered the shop and started looking for enhancement items, while the fairy remained outside and watched where their archer friend was headed. She saw him duck into a stonecarver's shop and shook her head in disbelief. He certainly wasn't worried about the outcome of the upcoming battle against the Devourer, if he was already planning ahead to have a commemorative statue made of the event! No doubt it would be a heroic pose of the little crow standing over the slain head of his foe, as if he had single-handedly defeated the hundred-foot-tall menace all by himself! Rolling her eyes at the imagined image, she entered the shop and found Baabby.

Sam caught up with the others just as they were about to leave the magic shop. Sapphrina had purchased a silver bracelet that increased her charisma, and which would thus make her spells that much more difficult for her foes to overcome. "What about you, Baabby?" asked Sam.

"I didn't get aanything," admitted the baabarian. "I waas going to pick up a brooch of health +4, but it's too expensive."

"Nonsense!" replied Sam, spinning his friend around and marching him back into the shop. "How much were you short?"

"Three thousaand."

"Here you go," replied Sam, handing over a pouch of gold from his own stash.

"I caan't aaccept this," argued Baabby. "This is your money."

"Are you crazy?" answered Sam. "This doodad will make you even tougher than you are now. In three days, we're going to be in the fight of our lives - with the lives of everybody else we know, and tons more we don't, hanging in the balance! And let's face it, it's going to be you doing the bulk of the work against Donnie-Boy. Sapph and I will do what we can, but you're the only one who can kill him. This is gonna save my life, the same as everybody else's. So take the money and better our chances to save the Skylands!"

"Aare you sure?" asked Baabby.

"How often does Sam, of all people, give away money?" interjected Sapphrina. "If he's doing so now, you know it's got to be for a very good reason." That was all the logic it took; Baabby eventually took the extra three thousand gold pieces and added it to the 13,000 of his own to purchase his brooch.

"Hey!" he said. "I caan use it to claasp my cloak together!" Sam just shook his head in disbelief; in three days all of Skylands would either be destroyed by an insane demigod or saved through the intervention of a muscle-headed baabarian, and all the legendary "Courageous Sheep" was concerned about was that his magical doodad - which would help him shrug off wounds during battle - could also be used as a cloak-pin.

"Hey, look at all the Mabu," pointed out Sapphrina. Once the fairy had mentioned it, the other two heroes looked about and saw that there were an awful lot of the fuzzy bear-men about in the town today.

"Thaat's weird," admitted Baabby.

Sapphrina took wing and flew across the street, on a bee-line to a particular Mabu she had seen and recognized. "What are you doing here?" she asked incredulously.

"Our entire village was evacuated," replied the elder Mabu. "Mount Mabuvius is erupting. Rivers of magma threatened to overtake our poor village, so we had no choice. Already part of the mountain-top has crumbled away under the explosions, and the crater is twice as wide now as it once was."

"We need to get back there!" replied Sapphrina.

"To the airship!" called Sam. "We'll get Statue Boy to pilot us there!"

"That's too slow!" argued the fairy. "Plus, we have access to a Portal master, remember?"

"Oh yeah."

Master Eon was more than happy to conjure up a portal to the top of Mount Mabuvius, and soon after returning to the library the trio stood in the middle of the crater of the massive volcano. And the Mabu had been right: the crater was now at least twice as big as it had been when the adventurers were here last.

But they weren't alone. Standing some ways away was a fire elemental - another familiar face, for this was Incinceria, who lived here in Mount Mabuvius. She was channeling energy into the bubbling magma filling the crater's center. About 30 feet away from her was a slightly smaller version of herself, this one with fiery wings flapping on her back. She, too, was engaged in whatever it was they were doing.

Sam wasn't sure just what was going on. "Are they keeping the lava at bay - or coaxing it forth?" he asked Sapphrina. "Are they good guys or bad guys?" It was hard to tell from just looking, and Incinceria had been a formidable enemy before, although it had turned out she had been under the domination of an evil spell punk at the time.

Then they heroes noticed something else they hadn't picked up on at first: lying on the rocks between magma pools was a sundered door, and the stone frame that once held it upright, smashed into several pieces. This had been the door to the Fire Rift, where Baabby had originally channeled the Fire Rune into his greatsword. It didn't look like that was going to be a possibility anymore!

Suddenly, a flaming hand rose up from the magma. The hand was gigantic, and as it rose it revealed below it a forearm, an elbow, and then an upper arm. all made of flame - before a massive head popped up alongside the arm, a head that was itself taller than Baabby's entire body. "ALL SHALL BURN!" it roared with a voice like a crackling bonfire, as it swatted the winged fire elemental, sending her crashing into the side of the crater wall.

Baabby pulled the Rift-Weaver's Blade from his back and raced toward the enormous, fiery form. Once he had halved the distance between them, he adopted a defensive posture, ready to strike out with his blade as soon as the elemental beast approached.

Incinceria noticed the baabarian's movement from the corner of her eye, spotted the heroes, and then looked back indecisively towards the other fire elemental, who was slowly and painfully gaining her feet by the crater's wall. "Mom, are these your heroes?" the winged elemental asked, spotting the trio herself for the first time.

And then Incinceria made her decision.

"Protect my daughter, so she can stop the eruption!" she called as she transformed her body into a whirling mass of embers. The fiery tornado wobbled in place, then became an arc of glowing embers heading directly for Sam. The archer shrieked in fear and surprise, but the arc didn't hit him at all; instead, it channeled itself directly into his Dynabow 3.0, which flared in a sheath of flames for a moment. A sudden, telepathic feeling washed over the archer, and he instantly realized his shortbow would now not only be able to ignite his arrows into flames at will, but would also allow it to overcome the inherent damage reduction of fire elementals - much like this Gargantuan monster which threatened to cause Mount Mabuvius to erupt in an explosion powerful enough to wipe out the entire floating island upon which it rose.

"I'm gonna have to start calling you the Dynabow 4.0!" Sam chuckled to himself as he pulled the first arrow of the battle from his quiver and fitted it to his weapon.

Sapphrina flew up towards the flame-beast and cast a cone of cold spell that it certainly didn't like at all, judging from the howls of pain and outrage it made. It had been swinging its mighty fist at Baabby when the fairy's spell struck, and the baabarian swung at the incoming fist with his greatsword as it approached. Baabby roared in pain as some of his fleece was burned off from the giant fire elemental's attack, and the flame-beast roared as a few of its fingers went flying off to land in the magma pool beside it. But that was one of the advantages of having a body composed entirely of living fire: you could reapportion the flames as needed. Several gouts of fire erupted in the creature's hand, and new fingers sprouted forth, wiggling as if in anticipation.

Sam sent a flurry of arrows crashing up into the creature's head and torso. The first one exploded upon impact, and while Sam had fully expected the beast to shrug off the fiery portion of the blast, he also knew that half of the energy was based on tech magic, which it couldn't as easily ignore. As for the other three arrows, they dashed into the creature's body and were never seen again; if they did any damage, it was impossible to say.

Sapphrina repositioned herself and cast another cone of cold spell at the beast, just as Baabby hacked away at it with his Rift-Weaver's Blade. Two of his strikes bit deep into the monster's fiery flesh, causing it to roar again in pain. Sam, realizing his arrows couldn't do nearly as much damage to the beast as Baabby's greatsword, dashed up behind his friend and casually touched him on his shoulder, casting one of the most useful spells he knew. Around Baabby's body burst a brief nimbus of reddish energy, as the protection from fire spell took hold. Then, never taking his eye from their massive foe, Sam started backing slowly away as he grabbed for his next arrow.

Baabby struck out again at the beast with his greatsword, causing great gouts of fire to erupt from the beast's flaming body at the places where his weapon bit deep. Sapphrina abruptly changed tactics; instead of another cone of cold spell - which were admittedly having an effect, but at nowhere near the rate of Baabby's greatsword - she cast a haste spell that encompassed all three heroes. (It certainly helped that Sam had moved in close instead of keeping his traditional stance as far back from the action as possible!) The fairy was certain that granting the burly baabarian an extra attack here and there would pay strong dividends in the end.

Sam shot another flurry of arrows at the flame-beast, one of them exploding in its face and two other flaming arrows actually seeming to hurt the beast. Sapphrina was impressed by the orange streak of flame as each arrow went winging through the air; she was also prepared to appreciate the whooshing sound they made as they flashed by until she realized it was just Sam making the "whooshing" noises as a cool sound effect each time he loosed another shaft.

Leaning forward, the flame-beast slammed down at Baabby with both fists, crushing the baabarian with one while he managed to dodge below the other. "Why aare you focusing solely on me?" demanded the baabarian, frustrated at being the creature's only apparent target.

"MASTER CALLS FOR YOUR SWORD," answered the towering beast, dispelling any possibility that this sudden attack was random - the giant fire elemental had apparently destroyed the Fire Gate to help release the elemental bars of the cage imprisoning the Devourer of Nightmares, as well as to prevent Baabby from being able to charge his blade with the final required rune. Apparently Don was getting a bit nervous!

Baabby gave the flame-beast something to get nervous about: swinging frantically with his enchanted blade, he sliced through the creature's flaming body in several different directions in quick succession, the Dark Rune allowing him to deal critical-level damage to the elemental despite its normal immunity to such extra damage. Roaring in pain at the attacks, the creature realized for the first time since encountering the heroes that there was a good possibility he couldn't win this fight. It was a new feeling for the fire elemental, facing an actual threat in battle!

Having done what she could to increase Baabby's combat prowess, Sapphrina fell back to her cone of cold spells, darting in to ensure she kept Baabby out of the area of effect. Sam, still making sound effects, hit with five arrows in rapid succession, one of them exploding in a blast of tech-based magic (and some fire as well, which the elemental beast ignored). Roaring in fury - and not a little bit of fear - the flaming brute lashed out again at Baabby with his massive fists, hoping to bring down this surprising threat before his blasted sword did any more damage; he was confident he could then take out the other two at his leisure. Both flaming fists crashed into Baabby, eliciting a mere grunt of pain from the sheep-man, his only admission that he was in any kind of trouble.

But those were the last two punches the giant fire elemental would ever make, for the furious sheep-man performed an onslaught the likes of which he'd never performed before: each strike was made with an uncanny precision, each blow driving deep into the fiery heart of his flaming foe. By the time his burst of slashing fury was through, the elemental's body had collapsed into a gush of falling flames which spread out in all directions like a fountain, then - just as Incinceria's body had become a line of embers before enhancing the Dynabow 3.0 - the flame-remnants became a swirl of burning ashes which circled and then made a bee-line for the Rift-Weaver's Blade. There's no way the Devourer of Nightmares could have predicted it, but the greatsword had engulfed the power of its dying foe and transformed the flame-energy into a new Fire Rune.

With all ten runes intact for the first time ever, the Rift-Weaver's Blade shone with a brilliance that briefly rivaled the sun.

"Whoa!" cried out the winged fire elemental who had stayed back out of harm's way during the fight. "Mom was right about you guys!"

"What's your name, kid?" asked Sam.

"Haten," replied the winged fire elemental, pronouncing it to sound like "hotten."

"Well, Little Hottie," replied Sam, "Your mom always was a good judge of character."

"I'd better see what I can do to calm this down," said Haten, focusing her attention back on the bubbling magma at her feet. Concentrating fiercely, she held her arms out towards the magma and caused it to stop bubbling in the area in which she was focusing. A circle of calm appeared in the middle of the magma-filled crater, which expanded in diameter as the fire elemental concentrated on her work.

"You're doing it!" cried Sapphrina as she tended to Baabby's wounds with a few choice healing spells. He gruffly waved her off, complaining that his various scratches and burns were "nothing." After a few minutes, the lava began cooling, its color darkening from a bright reddish-orange to the dark gray of the surrounding rock.

"...And it's done," announced Haten with a nod of satisfaction. She might not have been able to help fight off the giant fire elemental working for a demigod trying to destroy all of existence, but she could certainly cool off an active volcano with ease. In fact, this would be the last time the volcano ever erupted; after this, its subsided into permanent inactivity.

"Nice job, Little Hottie!" praised Sam. "It's almost as if you're part water elemental on your mother's side."

"Not this again!" muttered Sapphrina. "Doesn't he ever get tired of the same old shtick?"

"Hey! I can't help it if I like repeating the same old jokes over and over," replied Sam with an indignant look at his fairy friend.

"You can't? I don't see why not!"

"It's not my fault," Sam replied, giving Haten a sly wink on the side. "...I'm part parrot on my mother's side!"

"I flew right into that one," muttered Sapphrina with a groan.

- - -

Judging from the howls of excitement, this was one of Harry's favorite adventures in this whole campaign. At one point, Baabby managed to deal 196 points of damage in a single round: four attacks (thanks to a +14/+9/+4 Base Attack Bonus for being 14th level and an extra attack due to a haste spell), three of which hit and two of them being confirmed criticals. (The Dark Rune allows the Rift-Weaver's Blade to deal critical damage to creatures normally immune to such attacks.) Even with the 30-point reduction for the giant fire elemental's DR 10, that was still 166 points of damage from one PC in one round. It's no wonder Harry spontaneously got up from his chair and invented the "I'm gonna kill it!" dance on the spot!

Of course, Logan had given the Gargantuan fire elemental something like 502 hp, but he did so as a test to see how long it would take us to bring it down, so he can best judge how many hit points Don should have when he busts out of his cage and we have to deal with him. (As a result of this adventure, he'll likely have quadruple-digit hit points!)

I had made the Gargantuan fire elemental for an earlier Wing Three campaign, but I had merely advanced an elder fire elemental to a higher number of Hit Dice and ignored the restrictions that said that even with max HD it was still a Huge creature. Logan, not finding stats for a Gargantuan fire elemental anywhere (and not wanting to ask me for the stats I had used or where I got them for fear of spilling the beans), used the "Gigantic" template from the Book of Templates to build his own version from scratch.
 

Richards

Adventurer
ADVENTURE 26: THE BATTLE FOR SKYLANDS

PC Roster:
Baabby, humanoid sheep barbarian/cleric (Life) 15
Sam Crow, humanoid crow ranger/rogue 15​

NPC Roster:
Sapphrina, fairy sorcerer 15​

Game Session Date: 24 December 2017

- - -

"You realize," said Sapphrina, "that now that you've gotten all ten Element Runes, the Rift-Weaver's Blade is probably the most powerful weapon in all of Skylands." Baabby did in fact realize that, just as he realized that he alone was the only person in all of Skylands capable of wielding it to slay their terrible enemy. It was an enormous responsibility - but then, if such a task had to fall onto somebody's shoulders, the broad shoulders of the sheep-man baabarian were probably the best set it could have landed upon.

"We haave two more days before Don breaks free," Baabby pointed out. "Whaat should we do in the meantime?"

"Let's go check in with Master Eon," suggested the fairy, flying ahead through the corridors of Skylanders Academy. "Hmm, that's weird," she added, looking around as she flew.

"Kind of empty in here," agreed Sam. "Like, ghost-town empty." Indeed, the Academy building was usually bustling with activity, what with the training of new recruits and assigning missions to the Skylanders tasked with keeping the floating islands of the universe free from danger. But the corridors were all empty, the rooms all silent. It was kind of creepy.

But at least Master Eon was in the library, as the heroes noted upon entering. He was standing over the portal in the middle of the largest room in the library, using it not to teleport anyone but as a scrying device. Stepping up behind the elderly Portal Master, the heroes could see a scene of combat being played out in miniature before them: they recognized Stealth Elf and Spyro, fighting alongside a maniacal gremlin with six-guns and a lengthy, trailing tongue who could only be Trigger Happy. They were fighting squid-headed enemies that Sam realized were mind flayers, like Lord Umbros who claimed to be the son of the Devourer of Nightmares himself.

"What's up, Pops?" asked Sam, then, noticing Trigger Happy's weapons in action, asked, "Are those coins shooting out of his guns?" Sapphrina elbowed the little crow, hissing, "Show a little respect! 'Pops,' indeed!"

But Master Eon seemed not to have noticed Sam's impertinence, nor did he answer his question about the gremlin's ammunition. "There are hundreds, if not thousands of them out there," the Portal Master stated, observing the battle raging on before him. "They came out of nowhere, menacing everyone and everything. I've sent all of my Skylanders out to fight them." He waved his hand over the portal and scene after scene popped into view: Roller Brawl and Hex fighting off mind flayers in a cavern; the dragons Zap and Drobot saving a Mabu village from the tentacled menaces; Eruptor, Flameslinger, and Hot Dog fighting a vast horde of them climbing up the side of Mount Mabuvius. "No matter where they first appear, they attack whoever's around," observed Master Eon, "but they're all slowly converging on Mount Mabuvius."

"Really? Why?" asked Sam Crow, not making the connection.

"Don't you remember?" scolded Sapphrina. "The Devourer of Nightmares is imprisoned in the Rift-Woven Vault - the entrance to which is through a passageway on the side of Mount Mabuvius. They're trying to get to Don, to help free him!"

"We should help fight them off!" offered Baabby.

"No," countered Master Eon. "I think it would be best if we assigned you to the task which the prophecy foretells only you can do: destroy the Devourer once and for all!"

"What, now?" asked Sam. "I thought we still had two days before he breaks out!"

"His cage will hold for another two days against his own attempts to escape, true," admitted Master Eon. "But if any of the mind flayers get to him, and aid him in the process...." He left the rest unsaid.

"Then this is it," replied Sapphrina. "Okay, guys, we need to take him down, now! But two things before we jump into battle. First thing: give me all of your money."

"Wait, what?" squawked Sam. Baabby had no reservations against the fairy's request and in fact was already pulling out all of the bags of coins he had stashed in his backpack, without questioning the fairy's motivations. "Just do it, Sam," the baabarian commanded. Without another word of protest, Sam rummaged through his own pack and passed over several bags of coins. Sapphrina took a deep breath, concentrated, and then spread her hands over the bags of coins. The bags deflated as the coins were first transformed into magical energy, and then reallocated as the fairy had decreed.

"There," she said. "Our magical amulets now make us immune to fear effects entirely," she said.

"I aalready waasn't aafraid," argued Baabby.

"I know you weren't," reassured Sapphrina. "I'm talking about magical fear effects. Now you'll be as brave against them as you are normally." The baabarian slowly nodded his understanding.

"I've also siphoned off a bit of energy from the Rift-Weaver's Blade and channeled it into your Dynabow," explained the fairy, looking at Sam.

"You did whaat?" gasped the normally unflappable sheep-man. He didn't like the idea of anybody doing anything to weaken the one weapon capable of taking Don out of the picture permanently.

"It'll heal up by itself, almost immediately," reassured Sapphrina. "But it will allow Sam's arrows to overcome Don's ridiculously strong damage reduction."

"Say that again in easy-to-understand crow talk?" suggested Sam.

"Your arrows will be able to hurt Don."

"Good enough for me!" enthused the archer. "I guess I'll have to call you the Dynabow 5.0 now!" he said, looking at his favorite weapon.

"I should think freedom of movement spells would be beneficial," added Master Eon, casting the spell upon each of the three heroes. The application of the spell caused Shelldon to start to slide off of his perch upon Sam's left shoulder, until the little crow picked the snail up and repositioned him.

"Are you ready, then?" asked Master Eon.

"We're ready!" replied Baabby and Sapphrina confidently in unison, while in a much quieter voice, Sam muttered, "...I guess so." Master Eon waved his staff over the portal, calling up the image of the Rift-Woven Vault and the three heroes stepped through. The Rift-Woven Vault was as they had last seen it: a central floating island with a rune-seal imprisoning the Devourer of Nightmares in an extradimensional space within, while eight other, smaller floating islands surrounded the central one. Four of these smaller isles were tethered to the main one with thick chains.

"What's the plan?" asked Sam.

"We'll need to open the door to Don's prison," responded the fairy, then added quickly, "and then close it up again once he sticks his head out. Baabby, you'll need to use your greatsword to open the cage; just stick it in the rune there and then pull the whole thing over to the side."

"Got it," said the baabarian, walking nonchalantly over to the rune-seal on the floor, as if freeing imprisoned Elder Gods was something he did routinely.

"Hold up there, big guy," admonished Sapphrina. "Let's cast all the prep spells we'll want right now, first, before we let Don out of his cage." She cast a stoneskin spell upon each of the heroes, while Baabby cast three spells upon himself: righteous might, which doubled him in size and increased his already-prodigious strength and endurance; bull's strength, which caused his oversized muscles to bulge out even further, to the point Sam was worried they'd rip right through his fleece and skin; and bear's endurance, allowing him to toughen it out through any damage he might sustain in the coming battle even that much more. Sapphrina followed with a haste spell that covered all three of them.

While Baabby put the Rift-Weaver's Blade into the rune-seal and pulled the whole thing to the side, allowing the floor to iris open, Sam cast a quick final spell of his own: speak with animals. "This is it, buddy," he said to Shelldon.

"Indeed it is," replied the snail Sam considered his animal companion, but who was really Xacho, the original wielder of the greatsword Baabby now used. He'd been trapped in his immortal snail form for centuries, an unending punishment from the Devourer of Nightmares. "If you are successful, his spell upon me will be broken. I will return to my true form - but my true age, as well. So let me just say--"

But the snail didn't get to finish his sentence, for at that point a massive, octopoid head erupted up through the floor of the central island. <I'M FREE!> exulted the Devourer of Nightmares in a telepathic scream of excitement, before seeing the grinning sheep-man standing before him, still holding the greatsword whose hilt stuck up out of the floor. <OH, IT'S YOU GUYS> he thought desultorily before Baabby gave his sword a wrench and caused the cage door to iris back closed - right around the Devourer's neck.

<WHAT EFFRONTERY IS THIS?> demanded the Elder God with his head stuck sticking up out of the floor. <I WILL SLAY YOU ALL! BUT I WILL BEGIN WITH YOU, MY MOST HATED ENEMY!> With an agility that was surprising for a being so big - had the heroes been able to see all of him, he'd have stood just a tad over 100 feet tall (although his stooped posture after centuries of imprisonment in a relatively tiny extradimensional space might have shaved a few inches off there) - the vast octopus-head spun around, facing directly at Sam. The little archer gave a squeal of terror as a facial tentacle (easily eight or ten times longer than the little crow was tall) reached out for him...

...and then plucked Shelldon from his perch on Sam's shoulder, popping him into a cavernous mouth ringed with scores of sharp teeth and swallowing him whole. To his credit, Shelldon, despite Sam's speak with animals spell still being active, didn't make a sound, opting to meet his fate without giving his nemesis the satisfaction of knowing he'd even frightened the tiny snail.

"HEY!" screamed Sam, with a level of outrage his friends had never heard before. "NO FAIR!" He fired a series of arrows at Don's face, but each one got swatted away by one or more tentacles. Sam consoled himself with the fact that the one he'd charged up with explosive tech energy managed to at least singe a few of the tentacles caught in the blast.

This was the first close-up look the little archer had ever gotten of the foe he'd been taunting pretty much ever since he'd met up with him; Sam was retroactively grateful for the upgrade Sapphrina had made to his protection from fear amulet, because he could see how he'd likely have wanted to flee otherwise. A head like an octopus was mounted on a humanoid neck; Don had a total of eight tentacles, two of which were longer than the others and had a wider section at the end which - Sam did a double-take when he made out this feature - came equipped with fangs.

"Holy Schmoley!" cried Sam. "That's a face not even a mother could love!"

<YOURS DID!> responded the Devourer of Nightmares telepathically, and Sam smirked a little at the thought that he'd dragged an Elder God down to the level of "your mama" jokes.

But then Don whipped his head around again and attacked Baabby with his facial tentacles, realizing the baabarian was the one true threat he faced in this fight. The various tentacles slapped at the sheep-man, but Don was surprised that so much of his damage potential had been stripped away by Baabby's active stoneskin spell. He snapped his ring of teeth at Baabby, drawing a disappointingly tiny little bit of blood.

Sapphrina cast a chain lightning spell at the back of Don's head, arcing the other shafts of lightning at his various tentacles. Sam wasn't sure how she knew this would work - or even be possible - but work it did; a telepathic cry of pain demonstrated the spell had had an effect, and various burn marks on his tentacles showed they'd been hurt separately in addition to the main blast of the spell.

And then Baabby swung his Rift-Weaver's Blade at Don's face. He was surprised when the various tentacles pushed away his attacks; despite all of his strength, both that which he had naturally and the additional muscle-power that came his way through spells, he did a lot less damage than he'd hoped he might.

"It's the tentacles!" cried Sapphrina. "Concentrate fire on the tentacles! Cut them away and you'll have a clearer path to his head!"

"I've already got a clear path!" cried Sam, for while Baabby was standing on the central floating island fighting Don, he and Sapphrina had each wisely opted to deal their ranged attacks from smaller islands in the vicinity, the better not to be bunched up and make it easier for their foe to target them all at once. Sam sent a flurry of arrows at the back of Don's head, taking advantage of the fact that he was flanking Don with Baabby, even though the crow couldn't even see his oversized friend, buried as he was under the writhing tentacles of an Elder God. Each of the arrows hit true, some ever dealing additional damage for having struck the aberration in just the right spot. "Thanks for the upgrade, Sapph!" the archer cried. "I'm loving the Dynabow 5.0!"

"Glad to hear it!" replied the fairy, casting another chain lightning at the Elder God's head and tentacles. She noted that as they dealt damage to the head, the tentacles suffered as well - maybe targeting the head was a good way to go after all.

But Baabby was now committed to taking out the facial tentacles, one at a time. He put his all into a couple of back-and-forth swings against one of the larger, fanged tentacles, eventually severing it entirely before cleaving into the other one. By the time he was done, the second fanged tentacle was still connected to Don's face - but just barely.

Don responded with a mental roar of fury and an all-out attack on Baabby with his remaining seven tentacles, finishing up with a fearsome bite. Baabby took minimal damage from this furious assault, but felt his stoneskin spell had been reduced to its last iota of protection.

Sam opted to continue with his current attack pattern: five arrows in a tight cluster (thanks to Sapphrina's haste spell), one of them explosive (thanks to the Dynabow 5.0), all of them flaming (thanks to Incinceria the fire elemental), all of them flanking (thanks to Baabby's current location at the front of their foe), and all of them dealing extra sneak attack damage (thanks to Sam's general level of awesomeness, he felt). Each arrow struck, and Sam realized he was having the time of his life fighting a foe who could, if left unchecked, leave all of Skylands a flaming ruin.

Sapphrina's next chain lightning spell actually caused three of the smaller facial tentacles and the last remaining long, fanged one to blacken and shrivel; apparently they could be killed as if they were individuals! The other remaining tentacles did not look to be in very good shape, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the grinning baabarian. Allowing his unreleased rage to explode through his body, he tore into these appendages, chopping one off, then cleaving to the next, and the next, and the next, and the next (in his fury he failed to recognize he was actually chopping through some of the "dead" ones), until the Devourer of Nightmares was left sporting nothing but stubby, ichor-dripping tentacle-nubs ringing his lampreylike mouth. "Thaat's aan interesting look for you," quipped Baabby as he brought the Rift-Weaver's Blade down in an overhand arc that cut deep into the side of the Devourer's suddenly-exposed face. The Elder God definitely looked like his best days were behind him.

Sam was overjoyed; he'd gotten Baabby to the point where he was taunting his foes in battle! Baabby's own mother couldn't have been prouder of the sheep-man at that moment.

The Devourer of Nightmares, out of other options, snapped his ring of sharp teeth at Baabby, stripping away the last dregs of the baabarian's stoneskin protection and actually drawing a little bit of blood. <GOT YOU!> the Elder God crowed, and was aghast at Baabby's disdainful expression, which said "What? This little scratch?" - without the raging sheep-man even saying a word.

That was too much for the Devourer of Nightmares to take. <I AM AN ELDER GOD!> he ranted. <I CAN DESTROY CIVILIZATION WITH MY BARE HANDS! YOU WILL GIVE ME THE RESPECT I DESERVE!>

Naturally, that was the point where Sam leaped from his perch on one of the smaller of the floating isles, landed upon the back of the Devourer of Nightmares's octopoid head, ran along its length, and then - after positioning himself directly above the Elder God's right eye - dropped his trousers and let squirt with a stream of foul bird-poop.

If Sam thought he'd heard telepathic ranting before, the levels Don reached after having Sam poop in his eye were like nothing he could ever have imagined. Sam chuckled as he pulled his pants back up and buckled his belt.

Sapphrina had an opportunity to kill off the Elder God with a final chain lightning spell, but was concerned about the prophecy - only Baabby, the Courageous Sheep of Legend, was supposedly able to slay the Devourer of Nightmares in a way that would prevent him from returning. She feared she could take him out with her spell but that he'd somehow regenerate over time - and she wanted this nasty piece of work dealt with on a permanent basis. So instead, she fluttered her fairy wings and approached the baabarian from behind, touching him lightly on the shoulder and imbuing him with a heal spell. Given the current respective combat abilities of Baabby and his foe, it likely wasn't at all needed - but it did put Sapphrina into a front-row position for the killing blow.

Baabby raised the Rift-Weaver's Blade high above his head, saw the look of actual fear cross Don's face (from his one good eye), and then brought it crashing down to stab deep into the abomination's head, right between the Elder God's eyes. Don gave a final croak, one of both surprise and disbelief, before expiring at long last. In accordance with the prophecies, Baabby had slain the Devourer of Nightmares, and Skylands was now safe from his menace forevermore.

In fact, at that very moment, the mind flayers who had been rampaging all across the Skylands suddenly gave a simultaneous bleat of terror - and then disappeared. They had been manifestations of the Devourer of Nightmare's will, only capable of existence this close to his final escape from his centuries-long imprisonment - but once he was slain they, too, ceased to be.

But Sam had one last act of desecration to perform upon Don's corpse. Setting aside his Dynabow 5.0 and pulling his short sword from its scabbard at his hip, he popped the blade beneath the Elder God's left eyeball, twisted, and caught it as it popped free. Severing it from its optic nerve, the crow pulled it up to his beak and took a bite out of it like an apple - much to the disgust of Sapphrina, who visibly blanched at the sight. "You might not have realized it, Donnie Boy," casually remarked Sam, "but I'm 100% crow on my father's side!" And he took another bite out of the dead Elder God's eyeball, a true delicacy to crows of all sizes.

- - -

Days later, the heroes had returned to Skylanders Academy, as had the entire cadre of Skylanders who had been involved in cleaning up after the mind flayer attack across all of the floating islands. The trainees looked on in admiration and no small bit of awe as the Courageous Sheep and the Cowardly Crow of Legend stepped forward before Master Eon, standing just outside the Academy Building.

"It is with great pleasure," intoned the elderly Portal Master, "that I formally induct Baabby the Baabarian and Sam Crow into the hallowed ranks of the Skylanders! Welcome, gentlemen - you do our organization proud!"

"Hear, hear!" agreed Spyro from the stands. This was high praise indeed, for Spyro the dragon was considered by many to be the pre-eminent Skylander out of the literally hundreds who made up the team, although Sam was willing to bet Baabby could give the little purple dragon a run for his money, if it came to that.

"Baabby will of course be joining the Life team," observed Master Eon, and the quiet baabarian nodded his silent agreement; the Life Amulet he wore around his neck showed his dedication to the forces of Life as a cleric since before he'd ever taken up the mantle of a hero.

"...and Sam, I think it would be appropriate for you to join our Tech team, what with that Dynabow of yours," added Master Eon.

"Wait, we're not going to be on the same team?" squawked Sam, looking frantically over at Baabby.

"We aare on the same team," reassured Baabby. "We're Skylaanders!"

"Okay," agreed Sam wistfully, perking up once he realized that Trigger Happy was on the Tech team. He was already coming up with a scheme whereby he could volunteer to help the gun-slinging gremlin with his target practice: he could convince Trigger Happy to use the opening to Sam's bag of holding as a target, and since the gremlin's guns fired coins, any ammunition Trigger Happy shot into Sam's magical bag would technically be his to keep....

"And I haven't forgotten about you," reassured Master Eon, looking over at Sapphrina. "You, too, played a great part in saving the Skylands. I would be honored to take you on as an Apprentice Portal Master."

The little fairy gasped. "And I would be honored to accept!" she gushed, not believing her luck. To study under Master Eon himself...!

Later, at the party that followed, the Skylander Zook sidled up to Sam Crow. "Dude," said the Bambazooker, "did you really take a dump on an Elder God?"

"Twice, actually," admitted Sam with a small modicum of pride.

Master Eon stepped up, joining the conversation. "One would hope," he stated, "you will not be making that one of your signature moves. You are a Skylander now, representing all of us. A bit of...decorum is expected."

"Tell you what, Pops," replied Sam. "I promise I'll save that particular 'signature move' for only when I'm fighting against Elder Gods."

Master Eon sighed. "Deal," he said, and went to mingle with the other guests.

"Delivery for a Mr. Crow!" cried a voice from outside the gaggle of Skylanders. Sam looked up and cried, "Hey! That's my statue!" Sapphrina sighed in exasperation; the silly little crow wasn't even a Skylander for a full day before he was already putting up monuments to his greatness! She silently gave him no more than a week before Master Eon decided he didn't really need the crow archer on the team after all.

"Put it over here!" commanded Sam, directing the Mabu movers who had lugged a wooden crate up to the Skylanders Academy building. "Master Eon said it could go right here, in the garden!" He indicated a well-tended grove of greenery off to the side of the building, where Skylanders and trainees often took in a bit of fresh air between their training and their missions. There was a little frog pond, and a small fountain making burbling noises among the benches and shade-filled trees; all in all, it was a place of tranquility and calm in an area of bustling activity.

"Master Eon agreed to this?" demanded Sapphrina as the movers carefully unpacked the crate and lifted the statue into an upright position.

"Sure," answered Sam. "Why wouldn't he?"

Sapphrina opened her mouth to reply, but then got a look at the statue being raised upright and didn't say a further word.

Carved of white marble, the statue was a fluted column, upon the top of which perched an enormous, smiling snail. An engraved plaque in a recessed portion of the support column read:

HERE LIES
SHELLDON

HE HELPED
SAVE ALL OF
SKYLANDS

HE WAS THE
BEST PET
EVER​
"I didn't really get a chance to say goodbye to him," said Sam sadly. "Everything happened so quickly...."

Baabby put a woolly arm around his little friend's shoulder. "It's okay," the baabarian said. "He knew how you felt, I'm sure of it."

"Yeah," agreed Sam, discreetly wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. "Okay."

"C'mon," said Baabby, guiding Sam back toward the party. "Let's go check out the snaack table. They might even haave - ugh! - those eyebaalls you like so much."

"Hey, yeah!" said Sam, perking up immediately. "You should give them a try, Baabby! They're really good!"

"Thaat," promised Baabby, "will never haappen. You'll just haave to haave my share."

"Deal!" exclaimed Sam.

- - -

...And that is how we capped off our Skylanders campaign.

We were originally going to play this on Saturday, the 23rd of December, but my wife Mary suggested that a couple hours of gaming on Christmas Eve would be a good way to keep Harry occupied and distracted from the impending holiday celebration. (Not coincidentally, it also gave her a couple hours of peace so she could work unhindered in the kitchen.)

Logan gave Don over 1,000 hp, plus 500 hp each for the two longer tentacles and 400 each for the six shorter ones. He came up with a cool way to keep the tentacles important: the shorter ones added +5 each to Don's AC, and the longer ones added +10, making a frontal assault all but guaranteed to fail. However, attacking Don from the back, or attacking a lone tentacle itself, you were only up against an AC 20. And furthermore, for every 25% of Don's overall hit points lost, his tentacles dropped by 25% of their starting hit points as well. So there were several avenues of attack, each with pluses and minuses. But despite all of these conditions, Baabby still ended up doing 217 points of damage with that greatsword of his in one round. (What can I say? He hit with all four attacks that round, one of them even being a confirmed critical hit, not to mention his Power Attack, raging, and mega-buffing.)

To represent the 100-foot-tall Elder God, Logan used a kraken toy he had as a kid - it came as part of a Pirates of the Caribbean Lego set, as I recall. (I've used it myself as a kraken in previous D&D 3.5 campaigns.) The whole ploy of snagging Don's head in the irising door to his cage was a great way, I thought, of using the objects at hand to best advantage.

In fact, I'm really proud of the way Logan has handled this entire campaign - his first time, I should add, behind the DM's screen. He took the D&D 3.5 rules and reshaped them to best fit the Skylanders Universe, and came up with a "chase the MacGuffins" overall plotline that kept the action all focused towards one final "boss fight." And he did so in a manner to engage a ten-year-old's attention, to the point that Harry has since joined our regular D&D 3.5 game.

I'm also proud of Harry, not only for running (I feel confident in stating) the most awesome gestalt sheep-man baabarian/cleric in gaming history, but also for giving tabletop role-playing a try, especially after several initial rebuffs at the offer to join our regular gaming group. This Skylands game introduced him to the fun that can be had with RPGs and I anticipate many enjoyable years ahead of us around the gaming table.

Thanks for reading!

Johnathan
 

Richards

Adventurer
Addendum: Even though Harry is now 12 years old, in 6th grade, and regularly tackles 400+ page books on his own, he still likes me to read to him at bedtime. So last year I thought it would be cool to package this story hour up like a novel. I reformatted it in Word, breaking it down into 26 chapters, each with a hand-drawn illustration on the first page of the chapter, and printed it double-sided with alternating wide margins (so I could hole-punch it and stick it into a three-ring binder). It ended up being 177 pages long. The binder even had pockets on the inside covers, which made a great place to store the Baabby, Sam Crow, and Sapphrina character sheets for posterity. I cut it pretty close getting the last few illustrations done, but I managed to finish it in time for Christmas.

Anyway, we had a great time re-reading through the adventures and remembering having gone through the game sessions. And I wouldn't be surprised if we get the binder off the shelf every year or so and read through it again.

Johnathan
 

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