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The Thorns of Winter -(updated 12/4/21)


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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Talk about an update. Ended up answering a lot of questions I had. Looking forward to the next part
Like "Is she dead?"

Its can be hard to kill an Undying warlock that doesn't want to die. But the story would be different, if other subclasses were available at the time.
 

Richards

Legend
For sci-fi aficionados there is enough clues here to see what book/film that this is an homage to. As a hint, the book was published in 1951, and the movie released in in 1962. Two different TV series were produced as well in 1981 and in 2009 by the BBC. And I admit when I first saw it as kid on TV, at the time I found it horrifying.
Well then, I'm going to have to go with
John Wyndham's "The Day of the Triffids."
I read the book and saw the original movie; I was unaware of the TV shows.

Johnathan
 

Well then, I'm going to have to go with
John Wyndham's "The Day of the Triffids."
I read the book and saw the original movie; I was unaware of the TV shows.

Johnathan

Pretty sure I watched the 1981 version, but I think I skipped the more recent one.

Very clever adaptation of some of the central elements of the story, Nthal. I'm looking forward to seeing how your misfit band of heroes deal with the threat.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise


Muddy Respite - 5/2/2021​

(Special thanks to Ryan 'The Blade' for introspective writing)​

A peal of thunder sounded across the sky as the clouds above flashed with light. As the group stared at the distant wavering wall, a warm damp gust of wind blew through them as the rain began to fall.

“We need to get to Denning,” Sage said simply. “If there is a horde coming for them—

“—And what exactly are we going to do against an army of vege-thingies?” Doxx retorted. “We aren’t one. How are we going to stop them?”

“No, we cannot,” Sage agreed. “But we can help them defend the town. We have information about them; use fire for example. That has value on a battlefield, especially on this eye rot disease they have.”

“It will be worse for the townspeople,” Rosa said sadly. “If we don’t get there in time the cure is worthless. We have to try.”

“Why even bother? Why don’t we just find our way back to Cattbron?” Bookshelf asked.

“That’s the problem,” Doxx said as they glared at the warforged, “Without a raft or boat, the river is too fast for horses to swim across to get there, let alone people.”

“And how do you know that?” The Blade asked with a note of doubt in his voice.

Doxx shrugged, “During the war I had some…training about the local area. Never came here though, just notes really. But the town of Denning defended a bridge crossing it. The only other crossing is Salenhold higher in the hills.”

“So, we could go there?” Bookshelf asked.

“Possibly, but we have to go all the way to the river anyway to get there. Might as well just go to Denning.”

“Sorry…I have a question,” Adressa suddenly asked, and the group turned to look at her. “So where did this person you were talking about go?”

They looked around for a moment in confusion before The Blade spoke up, “I don’t see her, although this rain is going to make finding her a problem,” and he bent down as did the quiet Mobad looking at the earth. And it was the orc that found the tracks first. “The vegetables don’t wear boots, and don’t sink deep. She headed down to the river valley.” Mobad grunted.

“Why that way?” Bookshelf wondered.

“That’s easy citizen,” The Blade beamed. “She doesn’t want to use the open road.”

“Why not?” asked Rosa.

“Because that army is using it. Faster to move large groups,” The Blade continued. “Walking into the back of a column is probably not a good idea.”

“He’s right, I hate to admit,” Doxx responded.

“Well then citizens, let’s at least find Myrai. We cannot leave her out here alone.” The Blade said with bravado.

The continued following her trail, and Mobad was relentless in his search. He didn’t speak more than grunts as he followed a trail that was becoming less and less obvious as the rain fell around them. By midday, they finally descended into the canopy of trees that grew within the valley. But as they got close to a large oak, Mobad stopped suddenly with a look of confusion.

“This…strange,” the orc muttered. “The tracks…stop.”

“Well it is raining,” Rosa said sweetly as she leaned against the oak, sheltering herself against the rain.

“No. Not lost. Stop.” Mobad continued. “She not walking straight, but boots stop here.” And he stood, under the tree and pointed between his own two feet.

The Blade bent over to look and traced the prints back to the base of the tree. “She sat here…for a while., unmoving.”

“She took a breather…much like us,” Doxx slipping his voice back into the tone that matched the woman’s visage. “That’s not a startling revelation.”

Mobad frowned, and then knelt by the prints. He then looked back and forth at the ground, before he straightened up suddenly. He then started to circle an area about two paces wide shaking his head.

“This not make sense,” he said. “She mounted a horse.”

“How do you know that?” Adrissa asked, bending down to look at the boot prints herself.

“Right print deeper, because all her weight supported briefly on foot,” Mobad said pointing out the differences to the girl. “She mounted on a stirrup with left and then…gone. Not make sense.”

“Well, a horse out here is a lucky find,” Bookshelf said. “Well…unless…” the warforged then took out a slender wand, one that was found on one of the shelves in the cave they had departed and waved it. The warforged eyes started to glow blue as Mobad continued.

“Horse stood here, but didn’t walk to here,” and the orc pointed to his right as Adrissa studied the ground where he pointed, and then followed where he pointed next. “Distance between hoof tracks are far apart,” and he pointed deeper into the valley. “It then ran. But distances between track means it galloped. But no horse can move…that fast.”

“I see it!“ Adrissa said excitedly following Mobad’s finger. “I know the magebred cattle have long gaits based on their size. But this is…a really long gait.” Mobad nodded in agreement still puzzled.

“This Myrai is very skilled,” ookshelf said looking at the ground. “And her belief is strong.”

“What?” The Blade asked. “You aren’t saying she summoned a horse here are you?”

“Not a conjuration. An illusion of one,” Bookshelf replied. “She made an illusory one and believed in it enough to ride it.”

“Told you. That makes far more sense,” The Blade nodded confidently.

Rosa and Doxx exchanged glances of skepticism at each other at The Blade’s words as Bookshelf continued. “I am familiar with this spell, although I do not possess it.”

“I know of that one,” Sage Redoubt said nodding in agreement. “I have used the illusion in my training, and it is used by the Phantom Knights in Aundair although I also didn’t know the spell. Not useful for groups, unless everyone can cast it.”

“Eh?” Doxx turned to ask. “Why not?”

“You can only create a single horse. It can be created with a ritual and maintained as well. But a single wizard can only create perhaps five or six at a time with great effort. But it is useful for a scout.”

“Or a single woman running for her life,” Rosa said sighing. “How far could she get on this…illusion?”

“Miles. If she kept at it, many leagues,” Bookshelf said.

“Well. I guess catching her is out of the question then,” Doxx said sardonically.

“No…we follow her,” Mobad said. “She not well. Stumbled to here. She will need to rest.”

“We’re going to need a place too…its what four days to Denning?” Doxx said.

The two warforged looked at each other and shrugged, unsurprised, while The Blade muttered, “Justice doesn’t sleep and nor do I.”

Rosa rolled her eyes, “Let’s get going then.”




The rain started to lessen, but it left a fog in the warm air, making it difficult to see clearly. They followed the horses’ trail. It was an effort between Mobad, Adrissa and The Blade to find the hoofprint spread across the floor of the valley. But suddenly, Mobad stopped, and gripped his great axe tightly.

“What’s wrong now?” Doxx asked annoyed.

“She slowed down. Then horse moved uncertain, and then erratically, “ he then turned to look at the old woman. “And then there are new tracks. Not seen these before. She was chased.”

“By what…exactly?” and Bookshelf’s voice trailed off as they asked the group as they slowly turned their head around. Then they all heard it. A rhythmic pounding of something heavy running towards them from somewhere in the mist.

“That can’t be good,” Doxx said gripping their staff tightly.

“No it can’t,” said Rosa as she bent down on all fours and slipped into the shape of a bear. Everyone now could hear the rattles of bone on bone, growing closer. And just as Rosa changed form, from the mists charged a half dozen figures. That they were vegepygmies was clear, but what wasn’t were their steeds. Their heads were broad and flat, with a toothy maw. Their bodies were vaguely frog like, but with lupine legs. The vegepygmies that sat astride them, had a single shield on one arm, while the other had a long sharp spear.

Both the warforged yelled, “GROUND!” and each quickly moved to take cover behind a tree. One of the mounted opponents tried to lance the juggernaut as it passed the tree, but the lance splintered as it struck Sage’s shield. As it passed close Sage swung and swiftly knocked one off its mount, to the sound of sizzles as the green flames died. Meanwhile Bookshelf simply pointed his finger at the mounted vegepygmy and a beam of frosty light struck and knocked his opponent to the earth well before the lance could strike them. But to both of their surprise, the mounts stopped and hissed.

“I don’t think they like us,” Bookshelf said as he dodged away from the hissing plant. It snapped at the worforged failing to injure him. Sage faced the same problem, as one of the plant like beasts clawed and chewed on his shield to no avail.

“They aren’t bright enough to run though,” Sage noted.

Mobad gave out a shout, as a lance struck the orc in the thigh. But the retaliation was fierce as Mobad cut down through the rider and into the mount. The mount hissed at the orc and it quickly snapped and grazed the orc with its teeth. But like the pygmies he could see that the fibers that made the ribs section already growing and closing the rent in its side. Bellowing in anger Mobad roared, “Need fire!”

“If I only I could,” said The Blade swiftly firing arrows and knocking off two more riders to the ground. “But fire tends to warp the shafts. Keep chopping citizen!”

“GGGRWARRR,” yelled the ursine Rosa, as she sunk her teeth into one of the mounts, following up with a swipe of her claws. The Vegepygmie fell flat onto the ground, which allowed Adrissa to run up and stab it with her sword, and then slashed at Rosa’s prey.

Another beam from Bookshelf froze a corpse of a Vegepygmy. “You will have to keep hacking at them,” the slender warforged said. “So, I can catch up and freeze them. Or you can use a torch or something.”

Doxx nodded and pulled off of their pack a torch. Smiling a second, it quickly turned into a frown. “This might take a moment to light.” The old woman said annoyed.

“This might help,” and a gush of red flame spread out from the Juggernaut, catching the mounts, the riders, bodies of both, and at the edge of conflagration it clipped the torch held out by Doxx.

“Yes…that does,” Doxx nodded with satisfaction, and then with a staff in one hand and and a torch in another, they proceeded to run among the group, setting fire to the unmoving bodies that lay on the earth. The old woman ran like the wind, searing fallen bodies, and several of the mounts alike, while evading snaps and lances. But once the old woman pressed their torch on the final unlit Vegepygmy, the remaining mounts, turned and ran, quickly disappearing into the fog. The group, not eager to pursue, stopped and caught their breath.

“Think they can talk?” Doxx asked, as the creatures disappeared from view.

“Gww….No,” said Rosa, returning to her normal self. “Those were thornies, but I thought they were smaller, and slower. Whatever the Children of Winter have done, they have learned to make these bigger….if not smarter.”

“Then they cannot report our location,” Sage said. “But we will need to rest soon. We have been moving all the prior night and most of the day, And while we do not tire, we must rest to recollect ourselves,” he said looking at Bookshelf who nodded in agreement.

“Where, are we going to be safe out here?” Doxx exclaimed in frustration. “And wont Myrai just gain more distance.”

“She evading patrols will slow her,” Mobad said simply. “We try after we rest.”

“Doesn’t change the problem of where is safe.” Doxx retorted.

“I know a place. Its not far,” Adrissa said and she started to walk down the hillside. The group looked at each other quizzically, and then the Juggernaut shrugged and followed the girl, with Mobad, Rosa, The Blade and Bookshelf in tow.

“What? We’re going to follow a little girl now?” the old woman said in disbelief.

“As you said, you know only what you read,” Rosa pointed out. “She actually lives here, so come on., and bring the flame so we can make a fire.”

Doxx stood there with the sputtering torch before muttering under their breath. “I don’t know what Moranna was thinking when she sent me. But I bet Melisandre is at fault.” And then they trudged after the group.

Before long, Adrissa came to a small creek leading down from the mountains and followed it into a wash. She followed the banks, which had during spring thaws the floodwaters had cut deep into the hillside. After a while they arrived at a stand of trees that sat at the bank’s edges, and Adrissa bent down and crawled past a wall of weeds, disappearing from view.

They stared for a moment, when her head appeared out of the brush, “Come on, its dry down here, and you can even stand. Might want to bring a light first, its dim.

Bookshelf took out their driftglobe and lit it, and then on all fours crawled into the weeds. Below, the river had cut open an earthen cave, with some rock on the sides, preventing it from cutting deeper. The bare earthen floor was dry, and descended downwards, indeed allowing Bookshelf to stand hunched in the hidden cave.

“How did you find this?” The warforged asked, as Rosa climbed in next.

Adrissa was quiet for a moment, and as The Blade climbed inside, she answered reluctantly, “My…father liked to hunt, and we setup a deer camp nearby and I found it exploring. It’s flooded normally after the spring thaws, but…that hasn’t happened yet.”

Bookshelf stood there and looked at the girl, and opened its jaw to say something, before catching themselves. Finally, it said only, “I see” quietly under their breath.

The Blade stood up as best he could, and nodded in appreciation, “Resourceful. I approve.”

“Of course, you do,” Doxx said climbing inside. “For someone that skulks on the dark rooftops in Sharn—”

“Compared to someone hiding under a pile of ‘Inquisitives’ in the alley?” The Blade said mildly.

“Do you …know each other?” Mobad asked as he squeeze inside looking at the pair suspiciously.

“No!” both The Blade and Doxx said emphatically as Mobad sat on the floor and looked back and forth at them, eyes squinted.

“Well…I guess I’m last. Just pull me if I get stuck,” Sage said as the bulky juggernaut blocked the dim light outside. “Or not. I can be a door…or a cork I suppose.”

Doxx still glared at the elf, “So what were you doing on the roof?”

“Probably the same thing as you in the alley,” The Blade said mildly.

Mobad still squinted at the pair before his eyes settled on Doxx. He then raised a hand as if to shield his vision and see only a part of the old woman. His eyes grew wide, and he jumped to his knees with his axe at the ready. “You! You were in MY ALLEY!”

Doxx glared back, “Yes…uncomfortably.”

“Why were you watching us?” Mobad said his temper seething.

“I wasn’t exactly. I was waiting for The Blade so I could watch him,” Nodding at the masked elf.

“You really are a terrible spy,” The Blade responded. “That pile of newspapers was an obvious cover. And yes Mobad, I knew where your gang was hiding, and I was tipped off that the Watch was coming to pick you all up. Turns out I was wrong. It was the Dark Lanterns.”

“Looking for me,” Doxx said annoyed.

“Us actually. I could hear them talk. They were looking for two people, and not his old boss,” and he pointed at Mobad, who knelt there confused. “Which begs the question on why you were there looking for me.”

“I just follow orders,” Doxx snapped.

“Like when Melisandre called for you?”

At the sound of her name, Doxx moved close to The Blade, “No, and what do you know. Who are you?”

The Blade sighed, “Well, I don’t know what was in your letter, but she seemed to know a lot about myself. And rather than be exposed, I choose to expose myself.—”

“That sounded wrong,” Bookshelf whispered to Rosa.

“Shh…I want to hear this,” Rosa said.

“My name is,” and the Blade removed the domino mask he wore constantly, “Adrian Seinessa,” The others looked at him blankly as he turned his head expectantly. “Come on…of the trading good stores in Sharn? You must have heard of us.”

Mobad raised a finger and then it drooped, his hand resting on his chin. He thought deeply before saying with certainty. “No.”

The Blade turned to Doxx and looked at him waiting, and the old woman shrugged, “No…I…no.”

“You are a terrible spy,”

“Shut up!”

“Now, now dears,” Rosa said soothingly as she stepped between the pair…rather than fight about this, why don’t we rest, find the girl, save the town and whatnot. Like it or not, we’re all we have. Let’s not try to kill each—” and she glared at Bookshelf before looking at Adrissa. ”—each other.”

Sometime later, the center of the small cave held a small pile of torches, near burned to ash, surrounded by the seven reluctant partners. Aside from the larger juggernaut occupying the entrance, everyone had claimed a space against a wall. Their unspoken effort to put as much distance between each other as possible, seemed to be a result of their recent experiences and revelations. Each of them in their own way was struggling to reconcile the things they've learned. The first was that no one inside this cave would be wise to trust any other. But the second was that possibly no one outside this cave can be trusted at all. For the foreseeable future, this collection of people were the only allies they were each likely to find.

The newest addition to this wary band was also the first to have fallen asleep. Her new short sword lay close at hand, the girl seemed either completely unafraid or too exhausted to worry anymore. Such a spirit was a rare thing to find in someone so young. She clearly had a heroic future ahead of her. But first she had to survive this.

The Blade pulled another tiny capsule from a pocket under his cloak, and carefully attached it to the arrow in his other hand. He studied it for a brief moment, before slipping it into the quiver with the others. He like the others sat with his back against the wall with one hand holding the bow across his lap. He allowed his hood to droop down slightly, which blocked his eyes from view and left his mind to wander.




The small room is bathed in late-afternoon sunlight pouring through the single window. A young elven boy, who appeared to be twelve human years of age, sits alone on a wooden bench. His normally fine clothing has seen better days, and as he stares patiently at his feet, an occasional blink is followed by a wince of irritation from his swollen right eye.

Footsteps down the hall catches his attention, but he doesn't look up, even when a man's voice comes into earshot. "Some of the children have said that he started a fight with two older boys, but I don't know much more than that. He hasn't exactly been talkative," the voice of the headmaster explains as his and another pair of feet seem to be approaching the room.

A woman's voice responds tersely, “I see. Well, I'll take it from here.”

When the elven woman appears in the doorway, if she has any reaction to the sight of his black eye, it is undetectable. Her pinned-up blonde hair, sophisticated dress, and humorless expression portray a woman of class… a severely inconvenienced woman of class.

She says nothing but stands expectantly with arms folded. He stands up from the bench, picks up the satchel of books next to him, and quietly follows her down the hall, ignoring the headmaster as they leave. Stepping out to the street, they both quietly climb into a waiting coach, which then begins to roll away.

The rhythm of the trotting hooves on the cobblestone road seems to count the seconds as the two silently watch the city roll by, each through their own window. Minutes pass before the woman patiently breaks the silence. "How did it start?"

The boy looks away from his window. “I punched him.”

“Punched whom?”

With the slightest shrug, he replies “The one on the left.”

Her response is a soft sigh, tinged with a hint of disappointment. “Why?”

“They were picking on Byron, and he gets scared easy, and they know he can't fight, but they—"

“No,” the one word, soft as it is, instantly stops him. “Why the one on the left?”

Perplexed, the boy searches for an acceptable response but finds nothing.

Her next sigh forgoes all disappointment, in favor of a new hint of exasperation. “You left your right side completely undefended. You can't do that with two targets. You hit the target on your right first and keep your left arm up to guard against the other.”

Mildly embarrassed by how obvious it seems now, he simply mutters “Oh… yeah.”

She gives him only seconds to dwell on it before she asks, “Did you widen your stance like we talked about?”

“No.”

“And what happened?”

His eyes tilt away as a sheepish smile crosses his face. “I ended up on my ass.”

A sudden chuckle escapes the woman's stern lips, and a louder laugh from the boy follows almost immediately. Eventually the laughter gives way once again to the rhythmic cobblestone clock, and a long moment passes before the boy speaks again.

“Will Father be mad?”

“Probably,” she says bluntly. After a side glance in his direction, she adds “But more at me than you.” Her lips briefly form the closest thing to a smile he's seen today.

“He doesn't want me to fight.”

“He just doesn't want you in danger.”

The boy's focus drifts toward his feet with a long, pensive sigh. “I really thought I could win.”

Her eyes spend a few silent seconds on him before they shift to the world outside her window. “Is your friend all right?”

“Yeah.”

“Then you won.”

A new smile slowly spreads across his face. He turns back to the view through his own window, his swollen black eye entirely at odds with his satisfied grin.

“Yeah. I did.”

The Blade’s smile went unnoticed by all, as the final embers burned away to ash and the soft sound of snores echoed in the darkness.





It was much later when the others awoke and stretched. It was dark again outside and the group ate a berry provided by Rosa that morning. As they ate, Doxx turned to Sage and asked “So, did we miss anything?”

“Two patrols, mounted. Didn’t even slow down. They were searching with their eyes, but the fog makes things hard to see. But it settled down now.”

“Can the the Vegepygmy things see in the dark?” Bookshelf asked.

“No,” Rosa said. “They need light.”

“Then moving in the dark makes the most sense. We will have an advantage as Mobad and I can see in—”

“—I can see in the dark,” Adrissa pointed out.

“—see in the dark with Adrissa,” The Blade continued. “Now we need to—”

“Meow.”

“Pardon Rosa?” The Blade said confused, turning to look at the druid. She in turn was looking at the entrance to their hideout. There, blocking the exit, sat a black cat, looking around bored.

“Well great hiding spot,” Doxx said gesturing at the intruder. “Any smart animal can find us and…” his voice trailed off as the cat stretched itself, arching its back. As it did so, a pair of black glossy wings unfurled and flapped lazily for a moment, as the cat sat back down on its haunches and began to groom its face.

“That…that’s…” Doxx said stammering.

“Myrai’s familiar,” Rosa said looking at the rest. “We’re close.”

Session Notes: I was actually talking to 'The Blades' player, Ryan last night about his writing, complaining about tenses. Right now, events written here are from December 2019, and there is a lot of memorable dialog, and a lot of forgotten context. So reconstructing it is a challenge. It helps to have 'The Blade', 'Sage Redoubt' and 'Adrissa Tannoch' close at hand for memory jogs.

Fortunately, The two POV's will finally meet. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it gets any easier. It never does.
 
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Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
Lots of stuff finally coming together, and The Blade unmasked too. All very interesting...

On another note, I really enjoy the forensics/trail following from Mobad. Not that long ago, I wrote a short story for a scholarship, and I decided to make it a murder mystery. The thing I learned from that is coming up with a plot and then coming up with a set of clues leading up to what really happened is very, very hard. So seeing that used well, both in this latest chapter and the mystery of Myrai’s escape I find really impressive.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Lots of stuff finally coming together, and The Blade unmasked too. All very interesting...

On another note, I really enjoy the forensics/trail following from Mobad. Not that long ago, I wrote a short story for a scholarship, and I decided to make it a murder mystery. The thing I learned from that is coming up with a plot and then coming up with a set of clues leading up to what really happened is very, very hard. So seeing that used well, both in this latest chapter and the mystery of Myrai’s escape I find really impressive.
Well, I will try not to cheat and introduce characters or scenarios that weren't covered in the text beforehand like Agatha Christie. It also helps that we don't have to wait till the end of the book to see the results.

Thanks for the comments on the forensics. This is leaned into heavily in the Eberron setting with Sharn and inquistives. But...investigation can happen anywhere, and with any skill. But in an adventure, that makes characters with skills interesting.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise


Caught between a rock…5/9/2021​



The cat finished washing its face and stood again. It seemed to be surveying the band looking at each one, vocalizing in soft trills as it did so. Then it moved back to the entrance to their hidden cave and waited patiently for someone to mov. When none of the group made a move, it flexed its wings and paced in front of them, with the sound of a low growl.

“What is it doing?” Doxx whispered.

“I think it can hear you,” Sage remarked.

In a normal voice, “Well it can’t understand us, so what is it doing?”

“I think it wants us to follow it,” Adrissa said kneeling down. The cat responded and trotted over and immediately bunted her on the knee, purring as it did so.

“I think it can understand us.” Bookshelf said rubbing his chin. “I remember that familiars can certainly understand their master…or mistress in this case. But most of them are…well normal beasts. I have never heard of a winged cat though.”

At the utterance ‘dumb beasts’ the cat turned and looked at Bookshelf, flattened its ears and growled. It then finished nuzzling Adrissa’s legs, and then scampered towards the entrance again.

“Well, whether it does understand us, I am not a fan of following it in the dark,” The Blade said. “It’s not that I don’t trust it outright, but I don’t trust it because it can’t answer questions.”

Rosa had been quiet for a little bit murmuring under her breath. She then moved forward toward the cat and then addressed it, “So…you’re Myrai’s familiar? Right?”

The cat trilled in response. The others had heard a cat meow before, but the strange sound it made wasn’t familiar to most of them. But to Rosa the trilling was far more informative.

“His name is Gossamer,” Rosa said. “And I’m to tell the slender warforged that it indeed can understand us…all of us.”

“That’s interesting—,” started Bookshelf before Sage interrupted, “—Pardon did it actually say warforged?

Rosa nodded, “It did actually…that’s a first. Usually when an animal refers to a warforged, they called it something like ‘tree thing person” or ‘rock thing person.’ But if this one understands language, it must have heard the term. It’s very smart.”

The cat gave a plaintive meow followed by more trilling.

“Its…species is called ‘tressym’ and…it does it wants us to follow him. It appears that Myrai is trapped, by a pair of Vegepygmies.”

“It said that?” Doxx said in a light tone of disbelief.

“Yes…it actually said vegepygmies. And…while she was not exactly safe when he left, and she’s…not well.” Rosa continued as the cat vocalized with other sounds.

“Blind?” Mobad asked, looking at the cat with interest.

“No…yes…more than that, she’s sick somehow. Exhausted?” Rosa chuckled a moment, “And Gossamer is not a healer so asking him for an opinion is pointless.”

The Blade nodded, “Of course it points out the obvious. It may not be a cat, but it has a lot in common.”

Rosa blushed a moment, “Well…it seems that tressym can breed with cats, but he would like you to please stay on topic and follow him.”

The Blade shrugged, “Well, we know that there are only two of them, that shouldn’t be a problem. Even if they are big ones.”

Gossamer trilled again and Rosa then said, “Yes he can count, yes two of them, and yes they are big ones.”

Sage fastened his armblade onto his arm. “Well then, this sounds like a bad fairy tale, but let’s go save the girl.” And the group crawled out of the cave with Doxx in the rear muttering, “Oh like its going to be that straightforward.”

Outside, the low hanging clouds were lit up of with the dim light of the moons, lcasting everything in a dim shadowy light. Streams of lightning coursed through the air every few moments, with the occasional rumble of thunder. The wind was blowing again, now cool and damp in the night air, and the tree branches, many still bare of leaves, clattered together. Gossamer now leapt up into the air, and his wings caught the air; with his rear legs and tail trailing straight behind him, and his front paws tucked under its chest, as it meowed again.

“He says, she maybe a half day travel ahead, by the edge of the stream by a large finger of rock,” Rosa told the group.

“I know that place!” Adrissa said excitedly and she looked at Gossamer who was swooping around them in the air. “The rock is what, bigger than him? “and pointed at the juggernaut Sage, “And has three smaller ones surrounding its base? Right?”

Rosa smiled at the sounds of the cat’s purr, “He says that’s the place.”

“Come on then,” Adrissa said as she and the cat led them along the stream.

“Great; now we are following a girl and a cat,” Doxx muttered.

Sage looked at the old woman, “You want to lead?”

Doxx scrunched their face like they had bit into a sour lemon. “If I did, you all would still follow them.”

Despite the dim conditions, the travel along the creek was eased by Adrissa’s knowledge of the area. While they knew that it would be a while before they reached the stone, they hurried as best they could. As they continued, it was clear that Adrissa knew the land very well. This was her backyard in a way, and her familiarity was a comfort to the group, who were worried enough about patrols. Having Adrissa lead the way allowed them to focus on other threats that might be lurking the darkness. However, none appeared, and they found themselves climbing up a small rise when they heard a dull pounding sound ahead of them. Causing the tressym to trill again.

“The rock is on the other side, and it sounds like they are still pounding it.” Rosa whispered to the group.

“Its going to be hard to fight in the dark,” Sage noted.

“I will take care of lighting the field,” Bookshelf said, letting his unlit driftglobe loose to fly in the air above him.

“Well then,” Sage said as he adjusted his shield, and walked up the side with his barrier in front of him, and his arm blade at the ready. The others followed in the juggernaut’s wake, each preparing their weapons in anticipation of combat. Once they crested the top of the rise, they could finally see the rock.

It stood in the center of a clearing, a gray finger of stone, easily twice the height of Sage, with three smaller stones clustered at the base, and a scattering of rock and moss at the base. Lighting coursing through the sky illuminated the rock, casting flashing shadows in all directions. Circling the stone were a pair of Vegepygmies, but if the term was inappropriate to the hulks before, it was even less now. The pair that stalked the stone would easily tower over Sage, and their prodigious bulk were easily twice of the hulks they faced before.

“By the Sovereigns,” Doxx muttered, “How big do these things get?”

“Where is Myrai Gossamer?” Rosa asked, and a single silent meow was the answer, causing Rosa to pull herself short before saying, “Inside…the stone?”

Adrissa turned and looked at the group, “That doesn’t make sense; that stone is…well solid stone.”

Rosa listened to the tressym’s chattering sound and looked at the warforged, “She used magic to enter it somehow. And just as she finished, the pair charged her and the stone. But it should be almost up.”

“Can you talk to Myrai now?” Bookshelf asked. After a quiet moment, a single low meow was the response.

"She’s alive but she’s…not making sense,” Rosa responded after conferring with Gossamer.

“Doesn’t matter,” Mobad said clutching his axe in his meaty hands. “They bleed, we freeze and burn, we can kill them.” And without waiting the orc started to run down to the clearing. After a quick glance at each other, Sage, Adrissa and Doxx followed the charging orc, with Rosa and The Blade close behind. As he built up speed the orc bellowed and burst into the clearing. Using a nearby stone for leverage he heaved his bulk into the air and gripped his axe with both hand intending to cut the colossal vegepygmie into two.

The axe found its mark, and cut down into the thing’s chest, spraying Mobad with an acrid smelling substance. The orc roared in pain, as he swung again in time with Sage who ignited his armblade and cut across the back of the monstrosity’s legs, and then flinging the flame against the second one, who pounded futilely against Sage’s shield. The juggernaut looked small compared to their bulk, but stood resolutely against the pounding, as flickers of magic surrounded him. But he growled as Mobad’s second cut sprayed them both with caustic fluid.

“Their blood is laced with something,” Sage yelled as the sudden light of the driftglobe illuminated the rock. As he yelled, Doxx swung their staff and struck his opponent, causing another spray of fluid to erupt and covering the trio. “Well beating it doesn’t help,” the old woman said between her teeth, clenched in pain.

“Then cut them down fast!” Adrissa yelled, slashing at the colossus’ legs with a pair of short swords, cutting deep into their calves as she continued to run past. The cuts sprayed everywhere, and Adrissa screamed as she was covered with the sickly green fluid. And likewise the others winced as well as the caustic mist covered them. As she ran, she was struck by a claw like appendage, causing her to stumble and almost lose her footing.

“Maybe if we puncture it!” The Blade said, and he fired a pair of arrows into one of them. Both sank deep into the flesh of the vegecolossus, and again more fluid sprayed forth, drenching Sage, Doxx and Mobad, all of whom grunted as the liquid burned flesh, metal and wood alike. Adrissa was just out of range of the deluge, and she rolled away keeping it that way.

“I don’t think that helped,” Rosa said her hands moving. Around Sage a warm green light appeared, and some of the burns from the acid started to dissipate. At the same time a warm yellow light surrounded Adrissa, her wounds closing.

Sage yelled. “We need to separate them and keep your distance.”

Bookshelf heedless of the danger continued his chant, and then with a snap of their fingers, hurled a white ball of snow and ice toward the monstrous pair. It detonated into a blast of ice and rime covering both. As it did so, the frozen fibrous flesh fell away, and hurled slush like streams of liquid on Sage, Doxx and Mobad again, while Adrissa rolled and scrambled farther out of range.

“Stop that, or I break you!” Mobad roared, as he glared at the slender warforged in the distance. Seething he moved from the stone, and pulled a short slender shaft with a iron tip and flung it at his foe, while Sage too backed up away from his own. Each of them responded to their respective assailant and pursued, with only the sound of their heavy footsteps on the earth. Running by the pair, Doxx then spun and flames erupted from his hands and he seared it, without getting within its reach. He continued to run and got in front of Mobad.

Adrissa grimaced and dropped her sword, and drew her bow, firing an arrow deep into the flank of Mobad’s opponent. Another arrow from The Blade sank deep into it, as she shot again, as did The Blade. But the colossal vegepygmie turned, and charged at the small girl, lifting both fists into the air and brought them down upon her, and she collapsed onto the forest floor. It then turned and leaned down and chomped on Mobad on the clavicle, but Mobad wrested free from the jaws of the thing with a grunt and the sound of snapping bone.

Meanwhile Sage’s opponent was having far more difficulty getting around the juggernaut’s defenses, as his shield and his magical barriers made it difficult to strike him. Sage then yelled to the rest, “Focus the other one down, I will hold this one.” As he said that, the colossus finally made a sound; a rushing of air and what sounded like creaking wood and splintering. From its mouth erupted a stream of bile and it shook its head to scatter the liquid everywhere. Sage found himself drenched in the poisonous brew, and wavered a moment under the onslaught, before clanging his armblade against his shield. “I am Sage Redoubt, and I will not falter!” the juggernaut yelled in return, before swinging his a flaming blade once again.

Bookshelf created one of their frosty beams of light, and it hit Mobad’s colossus square in its back, causing more frozen flesh to slough off. “I don’t have a lot for this situation.” The warforged said mournfully.

“Well, my hands are full,” As she waved a hand, and a green mist formed around Adrissa, who shuddered and coughed. And then with a bit more effort a yellow light touched Mobad, causing his wounds to close. “I can’t heal them all at once. And every time we hit them, they hurt us.”

The Blade stopped a moment, and then notched an arrow that he had retrieved from the caverns under the Tannoch Ranch. “Well…perhaps a well-aimed shot will do.” And he let loose an arrow, just as Mobad pulled himself out of claw range. The arrow disappeared into the bulk, and there came the sound of a muffled crack. The colossus arched backwards and then lost its balance, landing with a loud thump onto the ground, flat on its back. Mobad wasted no time and leapt on top of the fallen vegecolossus and started to hack away. He ignored the sprays of caustic fluid, as he chopped and hacked with his axed deeply into its torso, almost cleaving it into two.

Doxx, then ran back towards Sage, and whirled her staff around her. Then with a flourish, a gout of flames erupted from its tip, igniting the second one into a conflagration of mold and rot. From behind him, Adrissa launched more arrows into its back, as did The Blade. It started to turn to face one of the archers, when Sage pointed his armblade at the overgrown pygmy. Slots opened from his arm, and three siberys dragonshard crystals appeared, and started to spin around his forearm. From the spinning crystals, five bluish white missiles streaked at his foe, each one striking it unerringly in the back. As it turned back to face the juggernaut, a single beam of frosty white light struck the monstrosity, in an already gaping wound. It stepped haltingly towards Sage, and then turned to face the direction that Bookshelf stood. After it took a second step forward it then collapsed and ceased to move as it lay on the earth.

Adrissa, sat on the ground and clutched herself in pain and started to cry. Rosa ran forward and touched her, casting some healing magic saying, “You’re fine…you’ll feel better in a moment.”

“Like Dolurrh she will!” Doxx stomped over angrily. “You shouldn’t just jump into a fight! At all! What are you trying to do? Get yourself killed?”

“Doxx—” Rosa started to say, when Adrissa retorted.

“—So what? What are you going to do? Tell my dad?” she stood up and confronted the old woman, who backed up in surprise. “You think that shipping me off to Denning is somehow going to make things safe for me?” as she jabbed a finger into the chest of the old woman. “These things killed my friends…skinned my father. And you! You burned down my house, and have the gall to tell me what to do? So what if I die?!? I’ll be out of your ugly face then. Isn’t that what you want? So, shove it and leave me alone!”

Bookshelf came up behind Rosa and looked at the girl who looked like she was going to murder Doxx, with that finger stabbing the old woman’s chest. It then made a grinding noise in its throat, getting Adrissa and Doxx’s attention. “I burned down your house. Not Doxx. Sorry.” It said simply as it stood there with its arms limply at its side.

Adrissa’s eyes were still full of fury, glared at the warforged and was about to speak, when she bowed her head, and her shoulders slumped. She then said, “I…I understand.” She then turned to look at Doxx and said, “Just leave me alone.” and she stomped over to a tree and leaned against it and slid down and sat on the ground, her head laying on her knees.

Rosa stood, and nudged Doxx, “Leave her be. She has enough issues, without you becoming another one. Just let her work it out; and we’ll keep her safe.”

Doxx sighed and shrugged, as Mobad, Sage and The Blade approached. “I feel wrong.” Mobad said looking somehow green over his gray complexion.

“Those plants are poisonous,” Sage said. “More alarming is that they even exist. Riders, hulks, and …bigger hulks? What else did they make in those warrens?”

“Don’t forget mind controlling plants,” The Blade pointed out and asked. “These things are going to be a major problem if they get to a city. These two could easily wipe out city guards. Even professional soldiers.”

“All the more reason to get to Denning fast.” Doxx said emphatically.

“Well then,” Rosa said, turning to the tressym. “So…how do we get to Myrai?”

The cat was trilling again at Rosa when Bookshelf stood in front of the finger of stone. Spreading its arms apart, it started to mutter and then it clapped its hands together. A pulse of energy flashed away from the stone, like a bubble underwater that suddenly appeared, expanded and popped. With that final burst, a form was flung out of the stone and the sound of metal on metal clattered onto the ground.

They all rushed to the fallen form, and Doxx gently rolled over the figure onto her back. She lay there breathing shallowly as Rosa knelt next her. She was of medium height, and was dressed in a form fitting bronze breastplate, with a simple layered pattern etched into it. Her leggings were made of leather pieces, stitched together in a random pattern, colored in reds, browns and blacks. Around her waist was a rapier and pouches, while in one arm she had a shield, and the other a dark steel rod topped with a purple stone. Her hair was colored like metallic gold, but it was matted and was covered in dried blood, that clung tightly around her head. Her face was striking, but a quick glance told Rosa, she was not in good health. Her face was almost devoid of color, and her eyes were sunken into their sockets, and her cheeks were hollow. But the one bit of color on her face were the thick rivulets of blood that dripped from the corners of her closed eyes.

As she lay there, Gossamer flew down and landed on her breastplate, and then he started to nuzzle her face. The woman didn’t respond as the tressym kept nuzzling. He then turned and looked at the group and gave a single sad mournful meow.

Session notes:
Vegepygmie chiefs and thornies weren't enough. No we needed bigger ones! And more dangerous ones. But that said, the characters were now starting to have a better feel for each other, especially my daughter who played Adrissa.

The only technical error was that Rosa should not have been able to talk to a familiar at all, as the find familiar spell changes their type to a "fey, fiend or celestial." But it was ignored. Otherwise I have this image of Gossamer trying to do charades or draw a message in the dirt to terrible results.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
United at last! And Myrai’s having a terrible time. Nothing unusual here.
Made prison look comfortable...although a trip to the Dreadhold might be harsher. I don't really want to write that one though.

The vegepygmies didn't feed prisoners normally, and so Myrai was an exception. They of course did that poorly, and Gwen really really didn't care.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Reunions and Introductions - 5/23/2021​


Rosa rushed to the side of the fallen woman and placed a hand on her forehead for a moment, and then felt around the throat feeling for swelling. “She’s alive, but she has a fever, and looks to be half-starved.”

The Blade eyed the darkness around them his bow turned level to the ground, and an arrow notched and ready, “We shouldn’t stay here,” he said.

“Well, carrying her is going to slow us down,” Rosa pointed out. “We should get her up and moving first.”

Doxx still cradling the woman, “She’s out of it right now. Any ideas on how to wake her up?”

“Well, you could just shake her awake,” Bookshelf pointed out.

Gossamer however had other ideas. After watching the others for a moment, he shook his head. He then reached forward with a paw and extended a single claw. He then reached forward and placed the sharp tip on her lower lip and pressed down.

Her eyes snapped open, and she gasped for air. As they looked at her eyes, they saw no pupils or whites, silvery mirrored orbs. She brushed the tressym’s paw aside as she panted for breath, as her head turned around wildly, confused. “Who…what? Who’s there?” she said as she struggled to sit up and failed, collapsing back into Doxx’s arms. “I…I can’t see you.”

“Its alright dearie,” Rosa said placing her hand on the woman’s cheek and looking at the blood streaks from her eyes. “You are Myrai right? We were sent to find you.”

“Yes…,” she said giving a sigh of relief and she relaxed a moment before turning her head towards the sound of Rosa’s voice. “Who would have…Taryn? Did he send you?”

“Indeed,” Sage said causing Myrai to turn her head in the direction of his. “Taryn said you had been missing, and he sent us to the ranch. We have been following your trail from where you were held.”

As she lay there, her breathing eased. “That sodding gnome infected me. I tried to clear up mu blindness…but it didn’t work for long.”

“How did you get into the rock?” Bookshelf asked, and Myrai turned her head towards the new voice.

“A ritual I had,” she replied. “I figured it would be a bit safer than hiding in the brush when I couldn’t see. It took a while to do, but right as I finished, two huge vegepygmies charged at me. I was able to get into the stone first though. I was able to send Gossamer out to find someone, anyone that could help.” She lay there still, sounding a bit winded. “I don’t suppose you have some food? I haven’t had a decent meal in weeks.”

“Just a moment,” and Rosa pulled out a sprig of mistletoe from her pouch and whispered in the druidic language and cupped her hands together. From nothing, grew a handful of large red berries. “Everyone take one and eat it; we’ll be good for the day.” Each of the others each took a berry, while the warforged looked at them with curiosity.

“I am not accustomed to eating.” Sage said, and Bookshelf nodded in agreement.

“Just eat it dears. Even your kind can benefit from it,” Rosa said as she took one of the remaining berries and pressed it against Myrai’s lips.

Myrai opened her mouth and as she bit into it, her eyes grew wide, and without any hesitation she quickly sat up and clumsily grasped Rosa’s hand and shoved the rest of the berry into her mouth. Her face had an expression of rapture as she swallowed the fruits flesh, and she licked her lips savoring the berry’s flavor. Her breathing eased and color started to return to her face. She smiled as she spoke, “It’s been a long time since I had berries like this. Druid berries if I am not mistaken? A life saver then too.”

“I have to point out, we should really leave here, and turn off that light!” Doxx said pointing at the driftglobe.

“Quite right,” and Bookshelf extended his hand, and the globe lowered itself into it and it fell dark, as Bookshelf put it back into a pouch.

Myrai chuckled, “Well doesn’t change my problem, I can’t see.”

Rosa then reached into her pouch and pulled out one of the vials from the smashed crate in the cave.

“Wait Rosa,” Doxx said. “We only have a couple of those.”

“I spent last night translating the book,” Rosa responded. “We can make more with the right materials and none of them are particularly rare. And we can’t have her follow us blindly. Not if we want to move fast.”

“Do it,” Mobad said gruffly, causing Myrai to turn her head at the sound of the new voice. “She must be able to fend for herself.”

Looking around, the others didn’t argue further. Rosa then popped the stopper on the vial and leaned over Myrai. “This is probably going to sting.” And she then poured drops into both of Myrai’s eyes, and the woman winced and gritted her teeth.

“Sting? Sodding Baator that burns! Worse than brimstone.” She then started to blink as tears welled up in her eyes. and turned her head looking around at her familiar and the others. “That…that worked. It feels different than when I tried. When I did it, my eyes kept itching and I was soon blind again. How?”

“It looks like Gwen had a cure as well as a plague,” Rosa said. “Can you walk? We probably should get somewhere safer to talk and rest.”

Myrai nodded, “I feel better than I have in days with a full stomach.” And she stood up and stretched. “Lead on, and we can talk.” She then bent over and retrieved her rod from where it lay on the ground and noticed that Doxx still stared at her.

“What?”

“Your eyes,” the old woman said simply trying to lean in and look at them.

Myrai sighed and might have rolled her eyes, if anyone could tell, “I know, I know. Yes, I can see, and I was born with them that way. Anything else?”

“I wonder if…” Doxx said before straightening up, “Later I suppose dear,”

Myrai squinted a moment, and then shrugged, “Alright…sure. Where are we going?”

“Back to Denning citizen, “The Blade said before turning to Adrissa, who continued to stare at the strange woman. “Do you know a way or somewhere safe?”

Adrissa nodded, “We’re getting close to the Four Oaks camp, but that’s on the road. But I know of a deer blind that is secluded.




I was crying when my sight returned. Not just because of the burning pain of the ointment, but I was unsure if I was ever going to see again. I grew up being able to always see; I could create light so I could see the world in color, and when I was young, even the world in shades of grey was comforting. I had played some Sensate games, like “Game of You” that required blindfolds, or darkness. But that was a game, and the blindfold was discarded at the end, sight returned. I had met some that lost their sight fighting, some because of illness, and some that never knew it. But I never realized how frightening it was to lose it. I was thankful, and at the same time humbled at how precious a gift it really was. I now really understood how others felt, and how difficult it was to overcome such loss.

But I dried my tears and was surprised to find that this band was following a little girl through the valley. It wasn’t a question of skill, she clearly had it. But I couldn’t imagine Taryn hiring her. Or Melisandre recruiting her.

And unlike the others she wasn’t well equipped. She was in the equivalent of hand me down clothing in terms of a leather jerkin, and weapons. I was curious about her story, and how she was the one they relied on to guide them. For that matter the ancient woman that travelled with us was a puzzle too. She was very spry for someone her age, and her mind was pretty sharp. But I couldn’t imagine why Taryn would have hired her. It made me curious.

But I was curious about all of them. A full-blooded orc, a massive figure of muscle marched along side a halfling, who attire, and air spoke volumes about her; a druid I was sure after consulting with Gossamer. And then there was the two warforged; one ‘normal’ sized, who’s equipment reminded me of Beepu’s; someone skilled in magic. And then the other; a massive figure of metal plates, shield and a blade extending from an arm. Of the warforged that I had seen, he seemed to embody the term more than any other I had seen.

But it was the elf with the bow and the whip at his side, that I was most curious about. His poise and agility were exactly what I would expect from one, and his eyes never stopped looking ahead and behind for trouble. This was expected but what wasn’t was, well…a presence. Something about him tugged at me, and as we continued, I realized that more than a presence.

Somehow, I could feel my strands being drawn to him. Pulled gently, like two people walking by each other, and their sleeves catching on each other. And it wasn’t the strands I associated with light or darkness either; it was the ones that were a true part of me; the one that created light and my ephemeral wings.

But I dared not ask anything yet. The others had clearly met Vegepygmies out in the open, and clearly didn’t want to attract them now, which I had no issue with. Unfortunately, that meant I had only one person to talk to as we travelled.

--You really should be thanking me more. I think I deserve a—”

You know Goss; I appreciate you finding help, but you’re being awfully smug about it.

--And why not? I mean without my help you would have been pounded by that pair of overgrown mold!

And the fact that you cease to exist, the instant I am off to see my god has nothing to do with it?

--Well…it was a little bit of motivation.

Look, I’ll find you something of quality to play with or eat after we are somewhere safe.

--I was thinking about drawing up a list to…help you find the right rewards for someone of my importance.

Seriously?!? Alright that’s enough out of you. You’re going to be lucky to have a box to sleep in when we get to town!”


For miles this went on. I finally had to threaten him with being stuck in pocket space before he would let it go.

We kept marching and finally, Adrissa turned, and climbed up the side of the valley. It was a bit of a struggle, but finally we found ourselves on a small ledge, that was surrounded by what appeared to be a wooden palisade, with shrubs that had been planted around the outside. Within, there was a fire ring, and clear space for us to stretch out and rest.

The orc and the elf started to scout around, to make sure we were alone while the warforged stood in the center of camp and watched. I sat down, and sighed. My legs ached. I realized with a smile, that it had been months since I walked anywhere. How I tread the forests, the plains and swamps in Toril. I guess the rail and riding on horseback was spoiling me.

At that thought I reached into my pouch and pulled out a mirror. I steeled myself and then looked at myself in it. As I expected, I was an utter mess. The blood in my hair, and the filth streaked across my face. I knew that I had dressed in a hurry days ago, and that the rest of me couldn’t have been any better. And the less I thought of my body odor, the better. While I realized needed sleep, I needed to be clean first.

But what I really wanted was a warm hot bath, and bottle to ease the pain and the memories of the last several weeks. But I was going to have to just make do. So I began what used to be my ‘travelling on the road’ ritual that I had done with Wy. I slid out the silver wand and tapped it, summoning the shapeless force, and I whispered to it in my native tongue to help me remove my armor, and for it to hold it and my rod and sword belt. I looked under my shirt and remembered how much blood had left me and how much still stained my skin. And I didn’t really want to think about the rest of the filth.

So, I started to pull on the light strand and using the mirror I started to strip the layers of dirt, spattered blood away from my hair and face. I then started to clean the rest of me, when I belatedly realized I was being watched by the others. The orc and elf had returned, and everyone was looking at me silently.

“Sorry? I haven’t been clean…in a while,” I said pointing out the obvious, at least to me.

“It’s alright dear,” the halfling Rosa said. “Its not like you are bathing in the creek,”

I chuckled, “That is true, but you all do seem to know me by name, I know the little that Melisandre told me,” I said as I continued to clean my skin and clothes. The old woman I noticed squinted at me, as I said that, but didn’t interject.

“Quite right. Well, that’s Mobad,” she gestured at the orc, “Bookshelf,” nodding at the normal warforged, “Sage and —”

“—Sage Redoubt,” the massive warforged corrected.

“Yes dear,” the halfling smiled. “Adri…er The Blade,” she motioned to the elf, “the old woman you see is Doxx, the girl is miss Adrissa Tannoch, and I am Rosa d’Jorasco.”

“Well…thanks everyone for coming to help me. I…wasn’t expecting any help honestly.”

“Taryn was concerned to say the least, as were Flinsa Gask back at the inn.”

I nodded, “Well I guess I owe him my thanks as well. But where is Taryn and Debrika?”

“We don’t know,” The Blade said. “We were following you to the Tannoch ranch, and Taryn, Debrika and some Blademarks headed to a different one. We haven’t seen them since.”

“I don’t suppose you have seen Melisandre anywhere?” Doxx asked looking at me intently.

I was surprised at the question, “I saw her last was in Cattbron. She and Taryn introduced and put…put me in charge of some Blademarks,” I said glumly at the memory of Wy and the others. “But that was…what weeks ago? Why?”

“Doxx believes that the woman has led him here under false pretenses and wishes to question her.” Bookshelf said quietly.

I furrowed my brow a moment, “Um…him?” and I looked at the old woman, as Doxx glared at bookshelf.

Rosa rubbed her eyes, “Bookshelf that is a bit rude to expose our friend here.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I am a little…new here, but what are you talking about?”

Doxx rolled their eyes, “It means I’m a changeling.”

I must have looked confused, as Sage picked up on it quickly, “Wait. You don’t know what that is, do you? And you also said you are ‘new’ here? And you are also unlike any human that I have encountered or read about.”

I sighed, “Well, I’m not from here—”

“—From Karnnath?” The Blade asked. “I knew it.”

“From Eberron,” I said. “I fell through a portal from a world called Toril and found myself on my back in a bar in Krona Peak.”

Sage nodded, “So you are the one. I came through Krona Peak and heard stories of a strange woman with funny eyes that was, depending on who told it, wrecked a bar, escaped from prison, and stood trial and a Soldorak was imprisoned instead. The details were lacking though.”

I shrugged, “All of those things really. But as to your other question, I’m not human.”

“And I’m not a changeling,” Doxx said sarcastically.

“I’m not. I’m an Aasimar,” I said evenly.

“What’s that?” Adrissa asked.

“It means…that the blood of angels course through my blood. And in my case, I’m…a daughter of one.”

I saw Adrissa’s eyes grow wide, and her jaw drop open. This stood in contrast to Doxx who looked at me, like I was trying to bob him. The others looked at each other, clearly unable to decide whether to believe me.

I sighed and stood up. And taking out a greenie from my pouch, I focused a moment. I felt the rush up and down my back as I created a dim note of light on the coin. The warforged looked at each other and shrugged, and said nothing, while Doxx, Mobad, Rosa and The Blade all looked at me in surprise. But it was Adrissa that had the strongest reaction. She looked awestruck and she fell to her knees with tears in her eyes. I had seen that look before in Waterdeep, and usually I dreaded it.

But for her, I knew there was sad story behind her dead eyes. ‘Tannoch’ as in a member of the Tannoch family who owned the ranch. A ranch that as far as I had known, the Vegepygmies had killed everyone that lived there. Everyone but this little girl, forced to grow up and fight to survive. I had seen that look in Sigil during the Faction War. And now, instead of dead eyes, I saw a glimmer of hope in them, like a flower blooming in the frost; delicate and at risk of being frozen.

I smiled, and stepped towards her, and knelt and placed the coin in her outstretched hand. "It won’t last forever, but you can have it for as long as it lasts.” Turning again to the others, “I was told by Melisandre that Aasimar are rare here. But it seems that travelers from far flung places are even rarer.”

“I’ve never heard of a place called Toril,” Bookshelf said quietly.

“And I’m not even from there…I was born in Sig—” I started to say when my attention was diverted. At the edge of my vision, through the trees, I saw a pair of figures approaching.

Ka’u’ ko’ali’o!” I said, and the shapeless force, flung my rod into my waiting hands. The others caught on quickly and grabbed for their weapons, as I turned and levelled my rod in the direction of the figures. The Blade and Adrissa point pointed bows in the direction I was facing, while the others brandished staff, sword, and axe.

Goss; go high and see who they are.

—On it.


“I don’t see anything,” Adrissa whispered.

“Nor I; are you sure you see something citizen?” The Blade said in a low tone

I nodded and watched and waited. The pair approached slowly. At first, I thought it was simply caution. But it was clear something else was at play.

--Boss, I can see them now. It’s your employer.

“Taryn,” I said aloud.
 
Last edited:


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Faith - 6/4/2021​



Mobad squinted out in the darkness, “I see nothing,”

“Nothing is very dark for me,” I said to the orc. I took out from my pouch a copper wire, and with a quick thought, threw a loop of a white strand in the direction of Taryn,

Taryn? Its Myrai, we’re coming to get you and Debrika.”

“Myrai?” came the reply. “Debrika thought she saw a light. I am glad you are alright, what about the others?”

“Well…some are with me now, others…didn’t make it. We’ll talk more when you are safe.”


“Come on Mobad, let’s give them a hand.” I said, and I walked out into the forest towards the Mror. We made our way to them quickly, and it became apparent why they were moving slow.

Both of them had been fighting, Debrika’s face was only scowls as we approached. Not because of us, but because of what had happened. Her armor was dented and covered in blood and ichor, and her warhammer had clearly seen a lot of use. Taryn looked a little worse off, with his clothes were ripped stained with blood and gray green ichor. He wielded his short sword in a hand, as he leaned against Debrika. Finally, I got a good look at Taryn’s face.

“You’re blind, aren’t you?” I said, motioning Debrika to follow me, while Mobad looked around us for trouble.

“Debrika has seen this before; Eye rot wasn’t it?” he said looking in my direction at the sound of my voice as she grunted the affirmative. His eyes were shut, and crusted with scabs, and his face stained with bloody tears. I looked at Debrika and saw she too had dried blood around her eyes, but she was squinting trying to see.

"You tried to cure it I’m guessing, and it keeps coming back?” I guessed, as we entered our camp.

“Yes,” Debrika muttered angrily. “My prayers do not keep it far from us. But I needed to stop curing Taryn so we could make progress.”

We entered the hunting blind, and Debrika guided Taryn to spot on the ground, before she knelt down in an angry huff. Taryn then continued, “I take it that the Tannoch Ranch was crawling with little moldy things as well?”

“Yes,” The Blade replied. “We reached the ranch, and below it found that it concealed a network of caverns full of the Vegepygmies—”

“—Vegepygmies? That’s what you called them?”

“They are known in the Eldeen Reaches,” Rosa explained.

“What in the Sovereign are they…nevermind continue please.” Taryn said as he listened intently.

“We found below a druid that had been concocting a plague based on eye rot. But this one is more powerful, and even affects warforged,” Sage continued.

“I think you skipped the part about burning my house down?” Adrissa said pointedly.

“I know that voice…” Taryn said. “That’s…that’s the daughter…Adreesa?”

“A-dree-sa,” the girl said slowly.

“Yes…did your family—”

“No,” said Bookshelf. “No one else was alive.”

Taryn shook his head, “I’m sorry to hear that. My condolences Adrissa. Well…alright. Why? What’s going on?”

“Well, let me read some things from the druid’s journal. Perhaps it would explain some of this:”

Barrakas 27th, 997 YK

It’s rare that I get to sit down and write my thoughts down. Ever since my introduction to Morrigon, it has been a flurry of planning and work. His discovery, his plan, his leadership is what we have needed to bring the fullness of time, in not some distant season. But now!

And he has entrusted me with a mission. To make a weapon out of the affliction known as “Eye Rot.” An ancient malady, but one that needs some help becoming virulent. My experience in the Gloaming tells me it can be improved, as much as the Valdis cattle have been.

He has put me in charge of a warren, one of many, deep beneath a ranch. A perfect place to find specimens to test on.



Rhaan 2nd,

House Cannith continues to provide unwitting assistance. First to Morrigon, and now to me. A group heading north were ambushed. After their interrogation by Morrigon, they have been given to me to perfect my work. These test subjects are timely as I am about to start the breeding process for the rot.

4 Human Males

3 Human Females

1 Dwarf Male

In the meantime, the Vegepygmies are…adequate servants. Not bright, but they don’t bicker. Actually, they barely talk. They gather stragglers and some livestock for more reproduction use. Based on the time tables, we should have enough at the four locations to start the march.

Now it is up to me.



Sypheros, 19th,

Finally, some progress! This problem quickly turned to several. The first was increasing the infectious nature of Eye Rot, which led to the immediate problem of not infecting myself. Every improvement does require a new cure for the loyal. Everything must go step by step. So, more tagent oil and more morning glyss. A lot of it is needed. I will need to have the pygmies from other warrens fetch me the gloss. The only close source of the oil was the Jorasco station, but that has been already emptied. Another trip to Cattbron will be needed.

I have increased its infectious nature already. Contact is no longer needed; just being in the area of an infected animal matter is enough. I have an array of subjects to work with:

3 Human Males

2 Human Females

2 Shifter Females

1 Shifter Male

1 Dwarf Male

1 Warforged

This last one will be a significant challenge; they aren’t normally infected by disease at all. However, while they are described as living constructs, one thing I am certain is that magical infusion of the disease may be able to do the trick. We shall see!



Vult 3rd,

Yes! A solution! The concept of eye rot directly affecting Warforged was folly. But I had an idea, which after quick journey to the Mournland, I had my prize. The Rot has been fused with a living blindness spell. Via some creative uses of some curses the rot is in essence a spell. This means that it will require magic to cure it, but that will be only temporary. The living rot itself will be strengthen to resist being cured itself causing continual reinfection via magic. I look forward to seeing everything come together.



Zarantyr 7th,

The project has at last entered its final stage, finally perfection. All that remains is to test my beauty on the remaining subjects and ensure its resilience. The subjects to receive her gift are:

1 Shifter Male

2 Human Males

1 Human Female

1 Elf Male

1 Dwarf Female

1 Warforged

After some time to get acclimated to her effects and some simple tests of my creation’s tenacity they will be recycled.

The Pygmy forces are now using larger stock, to create larger forms. After creation they have been sleeping in the warrens, conserving energy and waiting for the call. It is exciting to see it finally start. Winter truly will be here!



Olarune 8th,

EVERYTHING WAS SO CLOSE! We were ready to start! Ready to begin! My beautiful creation took hold quickly and no magic could keep it at bay, but then disaster! I had reported success to Morrigon, and the call had come to prepare. But then ill luck; someone noticed that the cattle was missing and sent Blademarks. This was expected; once the call was made, we were to capture them, any remaining travelers, ranchers, and failing that kill them. So, we found five poking in the barn above, and we caught them. Fortunately, (I’m not so sure now) I decided to have my servant try the newest batch on the survivors and see if there were any mishaps. And of course, there was one.

Of the Five, two the survivors of them were Gold Blademarks. Solid testing material: battle hardened. But their fortitude was tested, and they failed. Plus, the pygmies couldn’t make a mistake. But the fifth one refused to submit. She was a…surprise. When I examined her myself, it made sense…in a way. She wasn’t really a human. She was infused with planar energy, although I am not clear on what plane. Her eyes were similar to an eladrin or tiefling in look. But she resists. I must find out why! I cannot risk resistance in any subjects.



Olarune 10th,

She tests me. Impossible it was said, for my creation to conquer the warforged. Yet I had done so. Shifters, dwarves, everyone else weeps blood within an hour. I have conquered everything that once stood in the way of our glorious progress...except for HER, SHE still refuses to bow, refuses to break and succumb, SHE merely insults me with HER mockery of Common. But SHE won't be mocking for long, let ME have her laugh, soon SHE'll see...or rather, won't. When even HER resistance falls, nothing will be able to stop us.

But I must solve this problem quickly! The call to march to Denning and Salenhold has been sounded and our warren must join them. Once we feel the tremors, we will know that that the autumn is ending, and winter has arrived.



Olarune 12th,

Finally! Understanding! She is impacted, but it will simply take longer. She isn’t immune at all, but instead is very resistant to disease in general. But now that the rot has started to set within her eyes, she now cannot escape. She was an interesting subject, a challenge. But she will now be recycled just like all the others.

I have done it. There will be no stopping Children of Winter now!


“Children of Winter?” Debrika asked. “Aren’t they just insane druids?”

“Well…not insane,” Rosa said wincing. “But they are…passionate on how the world would be a better place after a ‘freeze.’”

“And they create a magical disease to blind people? Why? And who is this Morrigon?” Taryn asked.

“I would like to know the same thing,” Doxx said pointedly. “Didn’t this druid imply you know them, Rosa?”

Rosa looked down and sighed, “I honestly don’t know what she was talking about. But I have heard the name Morrigon. He was a Child of Winter…but a moderate one. But he left the Eldeen years ago. I never met him!

“I don’t see how a bunch of walking mold is going to defeat the Karnn’s warlords. Not without…oh…that’s it. The Eyerot! A blind army is practically useless.” Taryn said glumly.

“Well…depending on how big that wall of thorns is, it might not matter,” Sage pointed out.

“A what?” Taryrn and Debrika said together.

“There is a wall that…grew and looks to be encircling a large area up here.” Sage said. “But we don’t know how big it is, just that it reachs the low cloud, and its northern border is a mile or so away from the Tannoch ranch. So, Denning might be cut off from us. We don’t know.”

“Didn’t I hear right that there is a cure though,” I asked.

Rosa nodded, “Yes. Mixing part of Taget oil and morning glys. The same components are used in the standard treatment, but there is a distillation step that is new, to concentrate it. Which reminds me…I have a dose left. Who should I—”

“—Debrika.” Taryn said firmly. “If there is fighting, she at least can heal and help the wounded. I can fight, but I can’t aid people in the same way. Her sight is more valuable than mine.”

Debrika opened her mouth to argue and then closed it. She nodded at the truth, and she wiped some of the blood from her eyes. Rosa, moved to the Mror and took the last vial and uncorked it, and poured the contents in each of Debrika eyes. Immediately she began to seethe and swear.

“By Dol Arrah’s light that hurts!”

“Tell me about it,” I agreed. “We’re what two days away from Denning?”

“No…less really, if you avoid the road.” Adrissa said. “The road is great for wagons, but it swings a bit out of the way. We can get there by just after nightfall tomorrow if we get some sleep and we cut across country.”

“I would feel better inside some walls, than outside.” Doxx said grimly. “And she does seem to know the way, so the faster we can get her to town, the better.”

Adrissa glared at the old woman, as Bookshelf spoke. “You can get some rest, we can watch through the night,” they said nodding at the juggernaut.

“The quicker, the better.” Mobad said, and he sat down on the ground, leaned up against a tree and folded his arms and started to drift off. The others started to pull out their bedrolls and prepared to sleep. It was strange to look at the warforged though and see them standing, and ready for anything. I wondered how they spent the time not sleeping…not dreaming. A question for another time.

As I set out my bedroll and laid down upon it, I looked and saw that Adrissa was looking at me intently. I figured it was best to have the talk now, and so I waved her over. She looked around nervously? Guiltily? I wasn’t sure, but she took her bedroll and set it out next to mine, as I talked to her.

“So…you have a…question?” I asked.

She looked at me and struggled to find the words for a moment. Finally, she blurted, “So you are an angel….so you have seen…gods?”

I sighed, “I am an angels’ daughter…but I am not one. I’ll live a while and die like anyone else. And then, and only then might I meet my god. And I have never met a god…or even my own father.” I said as I stroked her hair.

“Why did he leave you?” she asked confused.

I looked at her and shook my head, “I…don’t know. I think he wants me to travel, and learn, and help others but…I chart my own way I guess,” As I continued to stroke her hair, I focused on one of my light strands and focused cleaning her dirty smudged face. She could feel me doing something, and I stopped a moment, and pulled the small mirror out of my pouch and let her hold it and watch me clean her face. As I did so she asked another question.

“So…are gods real?” She asked.

“I believe they are.”

“Even if you never see them?”

“Yes. It’s called faith for a reason.”

“But why…why do they make bad things happen to us?” she asked, with some tears in her eyes.

“They don’t make bad things happen. Some things are bad luck, and sometimes bad people do things. But the god I believe in…he teaches us how to live and keep death away. Sometimes I can do that, and sometimes I help those who…need help facing death.”

“So…you worship the Sovereign Host right?”

I shook my head, “No…I had never heard of them before I came to Eberron, and I expect the gods I know the names to are unfamiliar to you as well. But I,” and I took my holy symbol into my hand and held it out for her to see the scales held aloft by the skeletal hand, “I am a priestess to a god named Kelemvor, and he…he is kind god, with a hard job.”

“How?”

“Well…he’s a god of death,” to which she recoiled for a moment. “But unlike the one here…the Keeper? He wants everyone to live as long as they can. He can wait, he’s not in a rush to steal souls. And even when someone does die, they pass through his home only for a moment before going to their final resting place, wherever that may be.”

“Oh,” she said. “Do you want to meet him?”

I scrunched up my face, “I almost have…twice now I guess,” thinking back to when I was stabbed in the chest with the spear. “But he seems to think I have work to do still. So, I help others how I can. Like girls like you.” And I poked her on the tip of her nose, and she giggled. Then then became serious again and asked.

“Does death hurt?”

I frowned and shook my head. “Dying can. And living is hard at times but dying too soon is a hard thing.”

She nodded, “I hope it wasn’t hard for my…dad and mom.”

I grimaced, “I’m sure while they miss you, for them it will be a short time waiting. But until then, they will want the best for you. So, you need to remember them and put everything you remember about them to good use. They don’t want to be forgotten; the memories you have of them are partially what makes you, you.”

“That’s easy for you to say…you have a father.”

“One that gave me up to an orphanage in the worst slum in city?”

“Really? Why?”

“A great question. Perhaps I’ll ask him when I meet him. No idea about my mother though. So…at least you had your parents; a home, and memories of good times. I…can’t say I had those kinds of memories.”

“And you still believe in your god?”

“I do. and I have seen a lot that makes me ask questions. But I still have faith in my god. Which is why I help people where I can, so they can find their own.”

“Do…you pray?”

“Every night. Usually to myself.”

“Can…can I pray with you?”

I was taken aback. Most people want a blessing because I am an Aasimar, or they needed help with their own issues of death. But while I had said prayers, I never had anyone ask to pray with me before.

“Sure…just listen and repeat what I say,” and I closed my eyes and started:

“Death is part of Life, not an ending but a beginning.

“Death is without deceit and has meaning.

“I will strive to help those to live,

“So, they can die at their appointed time.

“I will honor those who have died before me,

“For it is their lives and deeds that give us the world today.

“Bless me to live until my appointed time,

“So, my deeds will live forever.

“So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith.

“May Death grant us peace.



I heard Adrissa whisper the last words, and she looked at me again, and whispered, “Thank you.” She then lay down in her bedroll and turned around facing away. I then reached out my arm, and pulled her a little closer, and as I expected she clung tightly to me.

As I lay there, hoping my nightmares would stay away for the night, I caught the glance of the orc, as he sat there. He nodded subtly with approval and returned to dozing where he sat. I then smiled, and relaxed and let myself drift off to sleep.

_____

I was blessed to have dreamt of nothing that I could remember. I was afraid of waking in a cold sweat screaming. I didn’t think Adrissa needed to hear that from someone she was trying to find comfort in. I needed to show her some strength, so she could find her own again.

It wasn’t even light when we started to pack up camp. Rosa handed out more berries to eat, and it still tasted like the Seven Heavens to me. I may have grown up an orphan, but I will say the Bleakers did their best to keep us from going hungry. Being hung in that cage with only the barest minimum gave me perspective that I didn’t want to repeat again. The group was tired still, their faces all looking grim. Adrissa was eager to get moving, and since no one was really interested in talking, we started making our way through the woods.

Taryn, despite his blindness had a fine sense of balance and was easily led. And with Debrika now no longer fighting the eye rot, she was able to guide him easily. This allowed us to make good time. Gossamer of course, stayed high in the trees, keeping an eye out for vegepygmies. As we were travelling in the dim light of the day, we kept quiet, not wanting to attract more enemies.

By midday we were tired. Adrissa found us a place to rest by a small brook. It had been getting warmer, and my body felt drenched in sweat. Above us the clouds roiled and churned, looking ready to soak us, but they didn’t. When we stopped, I decided to do something useful…

--You want me to do what?

I want you to fly to the south west, as far and fast as you can. Don’t get spotted, by anything and I’ll summon you back when we are ready to leave.

--This is about that reward talk isn’t it.

No…it’s seeing if the Vegepygmies are on the road anywhere that direction. Then .

--Well…as dumb as they look, I’m pretty sure I can avoid them.

Well…unless they can fly.

-Hah right…wait. You don’t think tha—

Gos! Get going.


So I sat on the ground and used a piece of cloth I had, and used it to wipe off the sweat from my skin, and then used a strand to clean it, and then cool it down. As I sat there, I felt the tugging again. The Blade sat nearby and was checking over some of his arrows, and I was about to ask him, when I was asked a question.

“So…how much time did you spend with Melissandre?” Doxx asked me in a low voice as she sat down next to me.

Looking around, I realized that Taryn and Debrika weren’t in immediate earshot, and it was clear that Doxx was not trying to get anyone else attention. I sighed, “I had a nice dinner with her on the lightning rail to Cattbron. After we arrived, I didn’t stay in town long and we didn’t talk again. Why?”

The old woman looked at me and frowned, “How did she find you?”

“She arranged for some evidence to be discovered, that proved I wasn’t a spy and that a dwarf was bobbing the town of Krona Peak.”

“Bobbing?”

“Oh…right. Pulling a con. Basically pocketing extra money they shouldn’t have. Anyway, after I was released, I got a letter instructing me to get to lightning rail…and here I am. Now for the second time, why?”

“I am suspecting that she knew more than she was telling. She knew far more about me than I found…comfortable. But I think there is more to it than that.”

“You think she knew something was going to happen here?”

She nodded. “She seemed to know that Blademarks weren’t going to be enough to find cows. So, she had us sent as well.”

I sighed, “Ok...I admit that makes some sense. But that could just be dumb luck.”

“I don’t think so. We were hauled in from the Eldeen, Sharn, and Thrane…. these aren’t close places. She could have found someone, anyone from Karnnath that was closer., plenty of skilled people ready for work around here. So why us?

I could only shrug, “I don’t know. Its not like she told me anything. That damn contract had nothing about this specially, and it had a lot on the gold mine.”

“So you think that’s real?”

“That I am certain off…it was all the talk in Krona.”

“I guess that will have to do,” She frowned, and was about to get up when I stopped her.

“I’ve humored you, will you humor me?”

“Wait do you mean,” she asked suspiciously.

“You are a changeling. What is one?” I asked.

“We…are a race that lives in the shadows of others. We can change our shape to what we want. But people are suspicious of us because of that, so we don’t usually go around showing off that we can do it.”

“So you can become anything?”

“Anyone, any race, any gender—”

“—you can change all of that?” I said even more curious. “What do you look like normally?”

Doxx looked at me, and then I saw the lines of her face fade away. Her skin lost color and became more grey, and her nose indistinct. Her eyes appeared more of a solid white, and her hair receded in length, and it stayed white in color, and not a frazzled grey. As I looked her face even appeared to be more masculine. I couldn’t help myself and I reached out and touched this new face. Doxx didn’t recoil but instead asked “Are there none of us where you come from?”

“No,” I said still amazed. “There are many that can use illusion, and some fiends that can do this. But I have never known anyone of them personally. But I am curious about how it feels…to be someone else.”

Doxx looked at me and shrugged, “Some are more into that aspect than others. Its just a tool for me.”

At this point the large warforged Sage interrupted us, “We should be moving again.”

“Right,” and I focused and cast a light strand in the direction that Gossamer flew, and with a pull, returned him to me.

What did you see.

--They don’t fly, and they are dumb in the sense that if you are an animal, they ignore you.

Gos…

--Well they are on the roadway and they have essentially blocked it. But they had stopped a while ago and had cut down trees. Not sure why, I didn’t see any logs or fires nearby, just stripped branches. Fresh from the smell. A lot of them are milling about.

How far?

--Maybe a league or two? I could just see the town. But one thing; there are a lot of them.

We knew that.

--No…remember the caverns and how they looked like they could hold a huge number? This looks to be four times that.


“Oh sodding,” I said aloud.

“What?” Sage asked.

“They’ve reached the town, and there are a lot more than that single complex had.”

“The journal did say there were other warrens,” Rosa pointed out.

“They’ve been chopping down trees and stripping branches though.”

Sage and Bookshelf looked at each other and at Doxx. “They can’t be.” Bookshelf said.

“Can’t be what?” Adrissa asked concerned.

Sage then said, “That’s what an army does when they are going to start a siege. We’re too late.”

Session notes:
There was a lot of character exploration here between Myrai and other other players, so the fish out of water story continues. But Doxx continued their obsession with Melisandre, and Adrissa (and yes I had to do 101 name correction to fix the spelling) was becoming a full fledged ranger...if short.
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Vegepygmies at the Gates - (6/13/2021)​



“No!” I said, my heart quickening in panic. “We can’t be…we can’t let them—”

“Myrai, how was the army arranged?” Sage asked me. I turned to look at Gossamer who quickly spoke to me in my head.

--Well there are like five groups north of the walls. They seem to have something made of wood there. There is a group by the gate leading in. But the rest of the army is on the road. They aren’t close to the five group or the town gates. They’re hanging back.

I relayed what Gossamer said word for word, as Bookshelf and Sage looked at each other confused.

“They have enough numbers to overwhelm the town, but they are hanging back?” Bookshelf said confused. “Its like they are planning to starve them out.”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” Sage said pondering. “They could escape out the south gate easily. Did the familiar see anything around Denning?” Sage asked me.

“His name is Gossamer, and he can understand you fine.”

--Well, I saw some smoke from some open fires on the roofs. I saw them launching pots that landed in town, but most of the pots weren’t on fire or anything.”

Repeating what Gossamer said didn’t seem to clear up the warforged puzzlement. But then Doxx interjected. “So why don’t we see what they are hurling into the town. They aren’t trying very hard to burn it.”

“Lead the way,” Mobad said standing, gripping his great axe in both hands.

---

Adrissa led us through the thick woods, following concealed deer trails in the foliage. I was frustrated that we couldn’t move faster, but while Taryn wasn’t stumbling around with Debrika’s help, we couldn’t rush through the woods. I could only hope that we would have some answers. The branches and leaves slapped my face as we moved until finally we started to climb a hillock. After some effort, we crested it, and found ourselves in view of the town.

Denning wasn’t on fire, or really at risk of burning. I had seen worse in the Hive, where fires set had ravaged the slums. This was just spotty fires here and there. As I looked closer to us, I realized that right at the base of the hill was a catapult and crew. There were two large and four vegepygmies. The large ones were occupied with moving clay pots onto the makeshift siege weapon and winding up the tension to fling another pot into the town. The four small ones seemed to be in charge directing the big ones to ‘aim’ them and reload catapults.

Hey Goss, go fly out and see what the army is doing. Come back if it starts moving.

--Great. You will pull me back right before you leave?”

I will! Get going.


The tressym flew off towards the east. Sage then tapped Mobad on the shoulder and then pointed himself and then one of the large ones, and then the other one, and toward Mobad. The orc nodded and grinned, while The Blade notched an arrow, and Doxx gripped her staff. Adrissa seemed torn for a moment, and she decided to pull out her short bow. Debrika sat Taryn down, and looked at myself, Bookshelf and Rosa. Rosa and I waved her on, and she looked at the others and nodded.

Sage isn’t silent. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And the sight of him charging into the vegepygmies must have been alarming to normal people. But if that was terrifying, him being flanked by Debrika with her hammer, and then the bare-chested orc bellowing as he charged into the fray should have been terrifying.

But these things weren’t people. They turned and stared and seemed to let the trio just crash into the group. Sage’s fiery sword quickly cut into the large one, and fire spread to the other. Mobad just hacked at his, carving large grey chunks off of his foe. Debrika swung and smashed into a smaller one at the same time that Doxx whirled her staff around, striking all four of the pygmies. The Blade and Adrissa then shot into the throng, their arrows finding marks and taking down two more vegepygmies. Then, Bookshelf pointed a finger, and I watched frost spread and covering the figure freezing it in place. I then grimaced and I with a momentary thought, I cast a dark strand out and around a pair of small ones, and the ghostly hands gripped them, causing two of them to fall. The large warriors kept up their attacks, and in moments it was over.

But it was strange. There were the sound of weapons on wet moldy flesh,of torches sputtering around the catapult, bodies hitting the ground, and the sizzling noises of seared flesh of fallen. But there was no screams of pain, pleading for mercy. Nothing; they just took the blows, and weakly attempted to fight back, but seemed almost half-hearted. The whole scene was unnerving to me.

I had taken Taryn by the hand and was leading him down to the catapult as the remaining sunlight started to fade. The Mror, orc and warforged, were keeping watch as the rest of us scrambled down.

“The other catapults aren’t reacting to us,” Sage noted as he peered into the distance. “They are either focused, or just aren’t observant.”

“They follow orders,” I said as I approached. “Independent thought isn’t a strong point.”

“Wonderful, so who told them to make catapults?” Doxx complained.

“Morrigon must have others helping him…helping guide them,” Rosa said bitterly. “Maybe he brought a circle of druids from the Eldeen.”

“Don’t druids frown on …chopping trees down for siege weapons?” Bookshelf asked.

“Yes…even the Children of Winter don’t just cull trees. But…if they are trying to end everything, they might see it as a noble sacrifice. I…I…just don’t know.”

The Blade stood on part of the catapult looking around, his bow drawn. Adrissa was about to step up for a better view, when I saw her pause. She looked down at a line of clay pots, and she jumped down and looked at them closely. Sitting Taryn down near Debrika, I moved over to see what had attracted her attention.

There was a half-dozen pots, divided into three different sets. Each set had a different shape at the top. The first set of pots were small and I had a firm idea contained a type of pitch. The smell and the rag leading out of the top of the round hole seemed obvious to me. The next set had a five-sided opening on the top, and some lids nearby that could be used to seal them. But I glanced down, and I could see a blue liquid inside. I knew that liquid well, as it was poured into my eyes as part of the experimentation. But the third set had square openings and it was these that had Adrissa’s focus.

“What did you find Adr—” I started.

“—Something moved in there.” She said her voice quavering.

That got everyone’s attention. The Blade, who had the highest vantage, aimed his bow down at the pot. “I saw motion. But I don’t have a clear view of what it is.”

We looked at each other, unsure how to proceed, when a great axe came smashing down on the pot. The orc had no patience for the tension or the mystery, his face scrunched in frustration at our inaction. The clay fell away, and inside, cleaved into twain was a sickly yellow plant, with a bright yellow flower. As I stared at it, I saw it quiver and thrash a moment. Green sap leaked out on the pottery fragments and covered Mobad’s axe and it was then I smelled the strong odor of musk.

“That is bad,” The Blade said.

“Your talent for understatement is—” Doxx began.

“—You needed worry; my statements are as accurate as my archery,”

Doxx glared at him, while I knelt down and looked closer at the strange flower. “I don’t understand what the concern is.”

“You didn’t see these at the ranch dear?” Rosa asked.

“No…we saw some figures entering the barn and headed straight into a trap. I don’t recall seeing them in the barn, or below.”

“That,” spat Doxx, “turned a number of the Ranch hands into slaves.”

Adrissa growled, and she started to smash the other pots. She broke apart each one and cut and slashed each of the plants within. Her face was knot of fury and anger as she hacked with her sword and hand axe. I stepped forward a moment to stop her, when Bookshelf stood next to her, and with a finger froze each flower with a cold beam of light. Adrissa didn’t notice at first, but when she broke open the last pot and saw the light, she turned and looked at Bookshelf in confusion. Her mouth opened and closed like she was going to say something but was uncertain what. But Bookshelf responded with, “I saw what they did to them. They were why I burned the house down. Sorry.”

Adrissa stood there and nodded quietly, and then turned to the town, and asked the question on our minds. “How many did they send into town?”

“How would they know they are there, if they are blind,” Rosa asked.

“What do you mean? I can’t see what the problem is.” Taryn asked sounding fustrated.

“Pots of pitch, the stuff that spreads eyerot, and pots with a cutting of a creeper,” Rosa replied.

“But why launch pitch at all?” Doxx asked. “I mean wouldn’t it just hamper taking the town?”

“There aren’t enough catapults or pitch here to burn down a part of the town,” Sage remarked. “Even with the other catapults. This pitch is a slow burning annoyance; it isn’t the explosive material that Cannith made during the war.

“It’s bait,” I said as the others turned to look at me. “You sent a pot with the fire, attracting the townsfolk to put it out. And then—”

“Of course, you follow up with a pot to blind the fire fighters.” Doxx said slapping her forehead.

“And then the creepers to land and find places in the town to hide; now that they can’t be seen.” Bookshelf finished.

“They aren’t that smart, are they?” Debrika asked, her voice sarcastic and incredulous.

“No,” I agreed. “But they do follow directions. This is someone else’s idea.”

“So, what do we do?” Sage asked. “We can take down the other catapults. Stop the spreading of eyerot from getting worse.”

“There is also the matter of them breaking open the gates,” Bookshelf pointed out.

The Blade jumped down and looked at the ground. “This appears to be the last of their stores. I think they already sent over the walls…a dozen sets.”

“The door is more important.” Doxx said. “They have plenty of trees and can build more catapults and crew them. But if the gate is breached, it will be hard to hold.”

“Strategically that makes sense,” Bookshelf agreed.

“Take the catapults and smash them.” Mobad voiced.

--uh boss?

“Mobad is right! We can’t let them just launch more into the town!” Rosa exclaimed.

Need a moment Goss.

“The gate is more important to keeping the citizens alive.” The Blade said confidently.

--Boss!

“Do I get to voice an opinion?” Adrissa asked.

“No.” “No.” “Yes dear.” “You should!” “No shush child—"

This is a bad—

--The army is coming!”


“Sodding…STOP!” I yelled louder than I intended. Everyone stared at me. I raised my hands up and said, “We have a problem. The army is moving.”

Everyone turned their heads and looked at each other in turn. And like they all shared a single purpose and thought, they all said the same thing:

“Gate!”

---------


We ran as fast as we could which was surprising considering that Taryn couldn’t see a thing. Despite he being blind, Taryn had superb balance, and was easily guided by Debrika and I as we all headed for the gates. Gossamer didn’t have a firm grip on how fast they were moving, but the last thing we wanted was to be caught outside the gate, and on the wrong side of the river. But as we closed the distance, we knew this was going to be more challenging, because someone got creative.

Two of the large vegepygmies were at the gate. The pair were using a log, and together kept ramming it into the door. But they weren’t alone. On both of the large ones, they wore what could be best called a platform. It looked like they had stuck their head through a side of a crate and now wore it like an outlandish ruff around the neck. But on each of these slabs of wood, stood four of the vegepygmies, and these were armed with shortbows. Complicating this was the fact that there were small palisades of wood allowing the pygmies to hide behind them.

The Blade started to shoot has he ran, not even stopping to get precise aim. But his shots sank into the wooden palisade. The pygmies weren’t great shots either though, as arrows rained around us with only Mobad and Bookshelf taking grazing hits.
“Anyone have a plan?” Doxx yelled as we were closing the distance. The Blade had range, but even his longbow couldn’t penetrate the cover they hid behind. Adrissa’s bow was no better than the Pygmies, and Mobad likely would have little luck with his Javelins. But as we continued Bookshelf spoke up.

“I have one. Wait for my signal and then charge in. Don’t get closer than ten paces.”

“Follow me, and when I stop, get behind me!” Sage yelled. The lumbering juggernaut ran and put himself in between the group and the vege-brutes. Suddenly, he dropped to a knee and wedged his shield into the earth and he then ducked his body down behind it. The rest of us followed and hid behind his bulky form. As I watched arrows struck his shield weakly, I saw something more interesting. Some of the arrows seemed to stop in the air and tumbled to the ground. As I watched I realized they were striking some kind of barrier, but I didn’t see or feel any part of the weave being manipulated. All I did see was a yellow crystal on Sage’s left forearm pulse with light as the arrows struck nothing in the air.

I didn’t really have time for questions, as Bookshelf hid low behind Sage’s bulk. From him I could feel a large spell being pulled from the fabric of the weave. And then he stood up and pointed, and a bead of light flew from his hand and streaked towards the group. Instantly the air erupted in flames, and I felt the hot breeze blow back in our direction. I stood up and saw that the large vege-brutes were set ablaze. They beat themselves gamely, trying to put out the burning patches on their hides. But my heart sank as I watched the little ones stand up and started to ready a volley.

Mobad didn’t wait as he charged in, followed by Debrika and Doxx. He quickly hacked at the hulking brute, once again chopping chunks of grey plant-like matter away, while Debrika took a more impactful approach. She slammed her hammer into one of them, and I could feel something tug at me. It wasn’t magic, or at least not the Weave. It pulled at my heart and I could see a flash as her two-handed hammer shimmered with white light. I was awestruck at the sensation, and I watched the vege-brute shuddering at the impact. Doxx clapped her hands together and then suddenly her hands and legs were ablaze. It seemed that the flames leapt from her and seared her foes as she kicked and punched around them, without being close enough to be pounded by their fists.

Sage then stood and clanged his armblade to his shield and thundered his way into the fray with a gout of green flame igniting his blade. As he approached the arrows from the vegepygmies bounced off his shield and skin. He drew all of their attention as he swung and cut deeply into his foe, and his flames spread to the other one. Both of the large monstrosities swung and tried to pound the warforged, but the juggernaut would not be stopped. If he noticed the blows, he said nothing and kept igniting his blade.

As the group fought it was clear that these vege-brutes were much hardier, and more dangerous than others of their kin. One of them twisted and extruded a wet grey pseudopod and swung it in a great arc. Mobad, Debrika and Sage all were struck, and fell to the ground, while Doxx was able to avoid any the impact at all. As they lay there, the archers on the platforms tried to pin the three down; Sage simply stood seemed unconcerned, while both Mobad and Debrika were pierced with arrows. But both regained their footing, with Mobad bellowing a ferocious yell while Debrika shouted “Vann kalt ko-krun!” in the Mror language. But the second one was fixated at the agile old woman, and it too extruded a wet pseudopod. It whipped it overhead and slammed it down, striking Doxx squarely on the head and shoulders. Doxx staggered and fell unconscious onto the earth.

Rosa was busy as I watched her cast a spell and created what appeared to be a glowing white yellow tree. But the ghostly tree walked and stood over Mobad and I could see his wounds close. While she did this, she waved her hand, and I could see a shower of golden motes float down on the unmoving Doxx. Her teeth were clenched as she focused moving the tree from person to person and the worry on her face was evident. Next to her the Blade changed his focus to hit the large ones, since the small vegepygmies hid behind their wooden cover. Meanwhile Adrissa was following The Blades lead. From our vantage points we could see the vege-brutes do the same thing again, with one sweeping the field and knocking people down and the second slamming whoever fell. Even Sage Redoubt was unable to stay upright during the assault.

Suddenly I heard next to me, Adrissa cursing something I couldn’t quite hear. Glancing at her I saw that she had thrown down her bow and it was obvious why; her quiver was emptied. She was about to run into the melee when Bookshelf gripped her on the shoulder.
“Wait, don’t.” the slender warforged said forcefully.

“Let me go!” Adrissa retorted, trying to break free of the warforged metal grip.
“I can’t protect you from the fire. Please…Adrissa.” Bookshelf said softly. Adrissa stopped and looked at Bookshelf confused for a moment. Then Bookshelf turned and flung a second bead into the throng.

“No Bookshelf, wai—” I started when the flames enveloped everything in view. The vegepygmies, the vege-brutes, and Sage, Debrika, Doxx, and Mobad. But as I stood there and watched the flames fade away for the second time, I saw something. It was like the fire was not…well fire. It looked like there were pockets or bubbles of fiery water that the four stood in, seemly untouched by the flames. I then turned to look at Bookshelf and Adrissa.
“Now go,” Bookshelf said, and Adrissa needed no other encouragement. She flew into the pack and flung herself at the vege-brutes and started to slice them with her sword, and hack with her hatchet. As I watched her, I saw her face and it sent a chill down my spine. Her raw emotions on display on her face, and it was one of pure rapture. She was reveling in the violence, as she hewed fibers and flesh away from her hated foes.

My knees shook, as I saw her. The expression, the unbridled joy as she whirled and cut. Her brown hair whipping around her wildly, as part of the cyclone of destruction. A face and look shared by someone else I knew and feared. And hated. Because there before me I saw embodiment of destruction. A spitting image of the Factol of the Sinkers. The woman who killed my dear Elisna in front of me in the streets of Sigil.

“No No nonono, I won’t let you become like her,” I said aloud. And as I watched, I saw the pair of vege-brutes turn, sensing opportunity. Somehow, they knew that an easy kill approached.

Growling to myself, I ran forward and yelled at the group. “Get back! Protect Adrissa!” I started to pull on a light and a dark strand and started to weave them together. Sage turned to look at me in confusion. The pair of brutes and their platforms were still intact, the vege-pygmies still shooting at the seemingly invulnerable juggernaut. But as he saw me, it was clear he knew I was up to something. He backed up his bulk to push Adrissa backwards, while Debrika assisted a dazed and staggered Doxx.

I gripped my rod tightly and then threw the loop of the braided strands around all of the vege-things and pulled them taut until it snapped. The air exploded with the sound of wood shattering into splinters. The vege-brutes were now pierced with huge splinters. The little ones found themselves falling to the earth, most of them landing with a solid wet thud, and remained there unmoving. Several stood up awkwardly in a daze, only to find themselves pierced by The Blades arrows.

But the two brutes still stood, and they turned their attention to me. They both sweeped again, trying to knock me down but I was fast enough to avoid one, which led to me being smashed by the second bowling me over. I tasted blood on my lips as I stood glaring at the pair.

“I don’t have to play fair either,” I said. I pulled together two dark strands and wove them around me. After tying them off I let loose the strands and let them engulf me. To me, it was the brightest day. But to them, they looked around confused as darkness clouded their vision.

“What the? Where is she?” I heard Rosa yell behind me.

“Somewhere in that…darkness,” I heard Doxx say.

“Well I can’t see the pair now, so this doesn’t he—”

I then shifted moving towards the gate and letting the globe of darkness fall away from them.

“Much better,” and I heard a pair of twangs as he sunk more arrows into them. I saw a single ray of cold white light striking one. Sage stood again as the bulkwark he was and slashed with his blade, coated in fire. Doxx now rejoined the fight again with fists of fire, while Debrika smashed, and Mobad and Adrissa chopped into them. After they did so, I moved and covered the vege-brutes in darkness again and threw out dark strands, trying to choke the life from them. The sudden loss of vision caused them to turn and twist, looking for me. They tried to stagger out but Sage, Debrika and Mobad blocked their attempts to leave. After striking, I moved again revealing them, and all of my allies struck again.

As they clumsily tried to defend themselves, I covered them again. Using more dark strands I rended their lifeforce again. The stupid brutes staggered in the darkness, swinging around them wildly to no avail. And after they swung, I shifted myself and darkness revealing them again. Once again, the others charged in and finally both crashed down to the earth, unmoving.

I then cut loose the strands and let the darkness fall away. Adrissa looked at me in awe as I wiped the blood from my face, using a simple white strand. She ran up to me with a look of confusion.

“How…how…it was dark. I couldn’t see anything. Not them, not you.”

“The darkness doesn’t exist for me. But it does for others, and I take advantage of that.” I said as my breathing slowed from the exertions. I knelt down and looked at her. The battle lust was gone, and the almost innocent look had returned. “We should talk later about you charging into danger.”

“Why? I’m not old enou—”

“No,” I said shaking my head. “I can’t say this isn’t your fight; it is. But you can’t let it be all you are. We’ll talk later.”

Sage had moved to the gate and pounded on the wood shouting, “Open up!”

From the other side we heard a voice stammer, “No no no…not with those things pounding the gate. I can’t do that.”

“They dead,” Mobad stated. “Open. Now!”

“How do I know it isn’t a trick?” the voice questioned.

“Oh, come on!” Doxx exclaimed. “Wouldn’t they have started with tricking you before trying to smash the gate down?”

“I don’t know your voices! I’m not opening it!”

Adrissa then rolled her eyes and stomped to the gate and yelled. “Open the gate damn you Balen!”

“Wait…no…” we heard. Then a small panel slid open. There on the other side I saw the face of a child, looking us over. The boy settled their gaze on the girl and said, “Hi Adrissa.”

Adrissa blinked and replied, “Hey Jace. Can we come in?”

“It is her?” the voice behind the door said.

“Yeah pa,” the boy replied. The panel then closed, and I could hear some clamoring behind the gate. Finally, we heard the bar slide back, and one of the gate doors opened letting us through.

The gate was just that, a gate set into the wall, anchored to a low pair of towers. On one side was a small stone building, presumably where the gate guards stayed during their shift. There were four guards here, but the blood around the eyes told me everything I needed to know; they were all blind. But with them there were three children; the boy Jace, and a younger boy and a girl. They looked at Adrissa and were excited asking her questions about how she got there.

Adrissa was a little shocked at the and could barely answer the younger kids’ questions. As she stood there unclear on what to say, Rosa knelt down and looked at Jace’s eyes.

“He’s not infected,” she said confused. She then looked at the younger kids and gripped their heads a moment as she peered into their eyes. “Neither are these two.”

“You…you can see?” the guard, who I assumed was Balen asked.

“We have perfect vision, guardsman,” The Blade said confidently. “How are the rest of you.”

“We…don’t know,” Balen continued. It was strange, but as we helped with the fires, our eyes started to burn, and we went blind. We didn’t want to abandon the gate. But my kids came, and they have been our eyes. But I can scarcely believe what they are saying.”

“Why didn’t you send your kids to get help or—”

“Big mean dogs are running around streets,” Jace said. “They have weird people on their backs with spears,”

“How did they get in if the gate was closed?” Bookshelf asked.

“Saw some of them running on the wall and then down into the streets.” Jace replied, his eyes tearing. “We’re scared; we saw the dog…well…”

Rosa stroked the hair of Jace, “Shh…it’s alright. We’re here to help. Have you seen anyone else?”

Jace shook his head, “Not in a while. We saw other kids leading their parents to Drover’s Rest and—”

“Wait, leading? They can see?” Bookshelf said curiously. “Why can children see?”

Rosa thought a moment, “Gwen…she never mentioned children. Just adults. Perhaps she never tested any.”

I flexed a moment and with a strand pulled Gossamer to me.

--GAH! I thought you forgot about me.

How were things out there?

--Well…the army is more of a horde and its moving to town, but it isn’t rushing with urgency.


“The rest of them are coming, but not a rush,” I told the others.

“They are waiting, they don’t need to take the town with force.” Sage said.

“Well…they’re just going to fling more crap over the walls. What are we supposed to—” Doxx started when he stopped. In the distance to the south was the sound of a large horn sounding four notes, one long and three short.

“We’ll I’ll be,” Doxx finished. The two warforged looked at each other and Bookshelf commented. “Military horn.”

“Karnnathi,” Sage said. “That’s an order signal. “But I only know the Aundarian signal codes.”

“But I do,” Doxx said. “That’s a command to open the gate; Someone wants in.”

Session Notes:
We can see that Adrissa and Bookshelf started to define their new relationship here. There is a lot to the story, but I need to pry it out of my daughter, as most was done in a physical journal I don't have access to. Myrai and Adrissa's relationship of course is complicated...a lot with Adrissa really hating shooting things with her bow.

With any large party it is hard to keep things focused on any pair of dyads. Its also hard to get int a word in the dialog. Makes it a mess to write at times too, and make sure everyone gets a moment in the sun.
 

Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
Definitely understand where you’re coming from with large parties. In the moment, it really is a challenge to try to get a good amount of dialogue in without completely stealing the show. That’s probably why I’m so drawn to quiet moments, because it allows for the characters (and in some cases, the readers too) to focus on specific elements that would otherwise be drowned out.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Violence in the Streets - 7-14-2021​

(Sorry for the delays, but IRL issue prevented a lot of time to work on prose. A lot more coming soon though.)


“Great, let’s get it open.” I spoke. Mobad grinned in agreement.

“At this point any number of troops would be a help,” Doxx said. “And they can get word out for more once we tell them what’s going on.”

“What…what do we do?” Jace asked with the look of terror on his eyes.

“We can’t just leave them alone here,” Rosa said. “If there are more mounted vegepygmies, they could overrun everyone at the gate.

“Another problem; we still need to cross the river,” Bookshelf pointed out.

“The bridge is near the Inn, right?” Sage asked, and Jace nodded in response. “We head there and draw attention to ourselves. That will keep them focused on us, until we get the other groups inside the walls.”

“An excellent plan!” The Blade said. “Except what would draw a bunch of rotting vegetables together?”

“A fire would do it,” Sage said. “But one of Bookshelf’s would probably be a hazard.”

“That bad,” as Mobad pointed out the obvious.

“I have something that can grab their attention,” I said. “Let’s get to the Inn and the bridge.”

“We will!” Jace said proudly. The guards looked less enthusiastic and far more grim about it, but the determination in their faces showed they weren’t going to give up their homes.

We moved through the streets of Denning warily. Black smoke wafted from the rooftops partially obscuring the roadway and alleys. The fires on the roofs sputtered, but the recent damp weather kept the flames from spreading. But it was all a mask for the stinging we felt in our eyes, as the eyerot tried to spread further. I reflected that being blind, even in my home town, would be terrifying. And the muffled screams and wailing seemed to confirm my concerns. But we couldn’t look for survivors yet.

We passed by a large church that had been struck with multiple fire pots. Its steeple stood defiant as the flames sputtered on the roofline. One of the blazes caught a nine barred symbol high above the open doors afire, the gold and blue paint peeling. The smoke drifted down into the graveyard, partially submerging the headstones in a river of dark haze. It seemed off to me though that on one was here. And it saddened me that a proud symbol of faith was abandoned like it was.

“I would have expected more to fled to here,” I said aloud as we passed.

“The townsfolk would be at the Church of the Blood Sacrament not here,” Adrissa said quietly.

“Why there?” Bookshelf asked.

“It was built with a wall and gate,” Adrissa responded. “Not sure why.”

“Defensible then,” The Blade noted. “More than the common buildings.”

I nodded. The roadway turned and followed the river channel, and then turned passed the Valadis stables. Inside I could hear the shrilled neighing of terrified horses. We ignored them and entered the open square which the bridge and the ‘Drover’s Rest’ shared.

The square was full of shattered pots of fire, pots with wispy vapors, and pots with the remains of plants inside, each chopped into small pieces. But here we also found a number of men and women who had been stabbed, hacked and torn apart; signs of the vegepygmies and their mounts. But nothing lurked in the square now. I looked at the ‘Drover’s Rest’ and while the doors were shut, I couldn’t see anything in the windows with my sight. Looking at the bridge, it appeared unguarded as it crossed over the rushing waters.

“I was expecting…something,” Doxx said puzzle. “But there’s no vegepygmies, no townsfolk.”

“Perhaps they are barricaded inside buildings,” Sage remarked, turning his body warily expecting an attack.

The Blade moved toward the bridge and looked at the ground, and Adrissa followed close behind with Mobad. All three looked at the cobble stones and looked at each other nodding.

“A lot went south, across the bridge,” Mobad said simply.

“That’s obvious,” The Blade said. “But the townsfolk were followed by our moldy friends, with no one coming back.”

Adrissa squinted, and suddenly moved to cross the bridge, her head down still focusing on the cobbles and mud. Mobad and The Blade, looked at each other and moved forward, followed by the rest of us.

“We shouldn’t let her do that!” Doxx hissed. “We need to get her to—”

Rosa cut him off, “We’re here, she’ll be fine. I doubt she wants coddling. Besides, she does seem to know what she’s doing.”

Doxx grumbled. I could tell he that he genuinely cared about the girl but was conflicted. I wasn’t sure if it was how the others supported her, or perhaps how The Blade enabled her. Frowning I saw a lot of myself in the girl, and that drive to be able to be a burden to know one. What I didn’t have were critics, or others that cared enough to tell me the risks of what I did. But if they had, would I have listened. Probably not.

Once on the other side she bent down. As she did so, the horn sounded again. It was louder now, but nothing else had changed. She peered at the cobble and mud, and she moved from side to side about two paces.

“They split,” Adrissa quietly noted aloud. “A large number of those thorny dogs, and some vegepygmies headed that way,” She pointed to the south east, which I recalled was the path to the main gate. “But people almost all of them headed south.” And she pointed down a wide causeway that I wasn’t familiar with.

“Let me guess, that way leads to the ‘Church of the Blood Sacrament,’” Bookshelf said, and to which Adrissa nodded.

“Well done,” The Blade beamed. “You will make a fine inquisitive, when this is all over.”

“Inquisti—“ Doxx stopped himself short. “Let’s focus on getting the town secured.”

“That’s not all. There is a big one that followed the townsfolk, along with others.” Adrissa said, ignoring the argument about her.

“We should make sure the townsfolk are safe.” Rosa said. “There is going to be a lot of blind people, likely with self-inflicted wounds.”

“No,” Doxx disagreed. “Getting reinforcements from the outside is a priority.”

“Won’t they just become blind like the rest?” Sage asked.

“We need to warn them about that,” Doxx continued. “But if this is a military column, they might have some standard protection from eyerot. It won’t cure it, but it might be protective against it. And besides, if they are mounted, they can easily crush the vegepygmies.”

“The townsfolk though; they have to be scared, afraid, wounded.” Rosa stated. “We need to go to them, and ensure their safety.”

“Bad choices. Gate.” Mobad said.

“The citizens must be the first priority!” The Blade stated.

“Now look—“ Doxx started.

“—Which means we need to open that gate. Otherwise, we can’t help them.” The Blade finished.

Doxx simply shut his mouth in surprise. And looked at the warforged who looked at each other and nodded, as Rosa spoke again “And if we don’t help the townsfolk, what good will the armies of Karnnath do us? I’ll head to the church myself.”

“We will need you Rosa,” Sage stated. “We will likely have our hands full opening the gate.”

“Someone has to go!” Rosa was almost shouting at this point.

“Adressa, where did most of the vegepygmies go? The gate or the church?” I asked.

“The gate.” She said looking at me confused.

“Alright,” and I took a deep breath. “I’ll go to the church, and the rest of you open that gate.” I said.

“Alone? That’s not a good idea.” Bookshelf said.

“She won’t be alone,” Debrika spoke up for the first time in a while. “She will take Taryn and I there.”

“Taryn’s blind!” Rosa exclaimed.

“And not deaf,” the Mror grumbled. “And not useless. If they get close to me, I can take care of myself.”

“Well…that makes me feel better, but I should still—” Rosa started.

“Rosa,” I said. “The gate is important. Debrika and I can hold down the church until you finish opening that gate. You better protect this lot,”

“I should be with you…but I’ll help with the gate.” Rosa said, straightening up. “You watch yourself out there you three.”

Adrissa stood and said, “I will go with Myrai.”

“No. Please go with the others. They are going to need your help.” I said as I put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m betting we’ll be fine.”

“But I can—” she started before I knelt before her.

I need you to keep them safe. Getting that gate open is a must,” I said. “I have faith in you; do you have it in me?”

Adrissa looked at me biting her lip and looked confused. Finally, she nodded. “Alright…please…please be safe.”

“I’ll be fine; my faith will protect me…and you.”

“Right then,” Doxx said. “Let’s open that gate.”

I turned to Debrika, who was pulling out a cord of hemp, and handed it to Taryn, while she tied an end to belt above her foulds on her armor. Nodding, she hefted her Warhammer and looked at me.

“Right,” I tried to say with confidence. “Good luck. May Kelemvor protect you.”

“I don’t know who that is. But I’ll take it,” Doxx said, and the others nodded.”

The others started to make their way to the front gate, bows, staves, axes and swords at the ready. They jogged down the roadway with urgency leaving us behind.

So, I found myself with my employer, his body guard/accountant, and my ever ‘helpful’ familiar in the crossroads. I looked down it and prayed that my hunch was right.

--You sure this is a good idea?

I honestly don’t know. But if it is real bad, we’ll just go back to front gate.

--Right…you know if it wasn’t for the fact my existence is predicated on you staying alive, I’d go with them.

Thanks. You really know how to build up my confidence.

--Anytime!

Oh shut up!
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

Open House - 7/31/2021​



“I don’t like this,” Adrissa said looking over her shoulder and watching the trio of figures head down a causeway.

“We get the gate open, its over. Simple as that,” Doxx said with confidence.

“Do you think it will?” Sage asked. “I might be rusty on rules of engagement and tactics, but if it isn’t a large column, I do not see how they would rout that army.”

Doxx simply glared at the juggernaut, and they all continued down the road. It was strewn with smoking pots and other debris. Storefronts were dark with broken glass panes, and smoke wafted from the insides. As they pressed on, the horn called out again.

“Lots of damage, but…” Bookshelf trailed off quietly.

“What?” Rosa looked around in confusion.

“Bodies,” Mobad said sniffing the air.

“There aren’t any,” Rosa said still confused.

“That’s the problem,” Bookshelf said. “We saw a fair number before the bridge. Now none. Something isn’t right.”

“That’s an understatement,” Doxx grumbled.

“Get out of the middle!” The Blade said as he dashed and pressed himself against the front of the building. His eyes were trained down the throughfare towards the main gate. The others followed the elf’s lead, and he moved along the storefront. He stopped a moment and turned to face the others, raising a finger to his lips, and then pointing down the road.

The gate leading to the southern road was like the one on the north, if wider. The gate itself was flanked by a pair of towers, with a grey stone arch connecting the two, and with a parapet for cover. Wagons were tipped over and arranged partially blocking the gate. There were a handful of spears and weapons lodged into the wood. The smokey haze was thick here, and the call of the horn overtook any other noise.

“What are we—” Sage started, when the juggernaut’s mouth clamped shut.

Rosa squinted to look at the gate, as a breeze brushed her nose. And there with the acrid scent of tar and wood, was the faintest touch of musk. “Oh no,” Rosa said in a pained voice.

Through haze, there were several human sized figures. They shambled almost aimlessly around the roadway. They didn’t look concerned, or defensive or even interested in their surroundings. As they watched, they heard the sounds of bodies scuffling, and moving. Soon more figures shuffled into view, none more interested in the world around them.

“Like the ranch hands,” Adrissa said quietly.

“There must be a plant nearby,” Sage said.

“It must be behind the wagons or the gatehouse,” Doxx said.

Bookshelf peered at the small throng, “Those were the guards; they still have armor on them.” As the warforged whispered, more figures emerged from the makeshift palisade.

“Those are townsfolk. If it is creating them now—”

“We better move now,” Mobad said pulling his axe close.

“I’m going to the roof,” The Blade said. “Cover me!” and he started to scale up the side of the building.”

“Aren’t you supposed to cover us?” Doxx said as the elf disappeared on top of the building.

"I trust his archery and bravado. His understanding of military jargon, not so much.” Sage said. “Rush!” And the juggernaut started to charge towards the gate. Just behind him, Mobad ran, and quickly overtook the heavily armored warforged, as did the old woman with staff in hand. The warforged armblade flared to life as Mobad hew into on of the yellowish musky figures, his second strike nearly splitting it into two. Doxx whirled their staff around and the sounds of bone splintering echoed near the gate, as they quickly beat down a second. Finally, Sage’s blade connected with Doxx’s target felling them, and the flames spread to another zombie like figure.

The noise of steel and wood on bone and flesh, caused the others to turn to look at the trio with a hunger in their eyes. They stumbled forward moving towards the group, arms outstretched, their faces twisted with rictus grimaces. As they staggered forward, a bead of light streaked across and detonated into a conflagration. The wagons and zombies alike were set aflame, with some falling to the ground. But several staggered back to their feet and joined more that lumbered out from behind the wagons. As the burned figures moved forward, the twangs of bows and the impact of arrows into dead flesh and bone, knocking two of them over. A half dozen had now emerged and too began to charge, when beam of light illuminated some of them, searing them with light. Wisps of smoke drifted off them, as they continued forward.

The ones that survived found themselves fighting against a trio they could not touch. The juggernauts plate armor held easily against their flimsy blows. Doxx simply avoided them, easily swatting away clumsy punches. And as for Mobad, he simply roared, and ignored the red gashes in his grey skin. And each with axe, staff and armblade, cut them down as the zombies fell over themselves trying to pummel and claw down. Meanwhile more arrows landed as did a beam of light striking from the distance, and the column of moonlight burning away more dead flesh, as more arrows struck home.

As more fell, the fire from the blast, had set the wagons on fire, and they were quickly consumed by the flames. One collapsed, as fibrous tendril extended and pulled down the sides of the ruined wagon. The creeper stretched upwards, and a pair of pale-yellow flowers bloomed in the night air. From Rosa’s beam of moonlight, puffs of pollen spread wide and then lazily drifted through the air.

From his perch, it appeared that the party seemed to have beaten most of the zombies to the ground, but from his vantage point atop the battered building, The Blade could see Mobade, Sage and Doxx rushing in to battle the final threat. Remembering the basement of the farmhouse, he scanned the creature for a similar weak point and found it: a plexus of sorts in whatever this thing might have called a nervous system. A difficult shot, but not impossible. He took aim and let the arrow fly. It felt like hours before it finally hit the creature… several inches away from the plexus. The creature shuddered only briefly but it did not die.

"Damn it!"

Standing at the top of the barricade, Sage continued to be buffeted by the heavy thorny tendrils as The Blade frantically grasped at the quiver on his hip. "Ugh, too slow!" he hissed to himself as he finally pulled an arrow free and drew for another shot. Suddenly aware of his tension, he caught his breath and whisperd to himself.

"Inhale… aim… exhale… fire."

The new arrow is released and whistled through the air until it plunged into the target. The creature stopped, and the tendrils flop to the ground around it, shriveling slightly.

Mobad, Doxx and Sage are still standing. The party has survived. But the screams continue to ring from all directions in the hazy, musk laden, toxic air. Punctuated by the sounds crumbling stone and splashing water, the screams seem to grow louder in his head until they drown out all else.

I can't do this. This isn't a bunch of thugs snatching coin purses or beating up a shopkeeper. There's no one to tie up and leave for the guards. The guards are blind or dead. These are monsters… real ones. People are dying. They need something better than me. Something stronger. What the hell am I doing here?





In a wide garden behind the large manor and surrounded by tall stone walls, a ten-year-old elven boy stands holding a bow that seems just slightly too large for his frame. A few dozen yards in front of him stands a lone tree. Hanging loosely from the thickest branch by a bit of sturdy rope, is a large wooden disc painted with a few wobbly concentric circles.

Pulling back on the string, the boy falters in the middle of the draw and loses his grip. The arrow flies past the tree, striking the wall. He winces at the loud clatter and quickly glances around. Seeing no apparent witnesses, he picks up another arrow and begins to draw again but stops at the sound of voices escaping through an open window.

"Really? A weapon?" a man's voice asks.

A woman replies "I'd hardly call it a weapon, dear. It's a bow."

"It's just not an appropriate gift. Not at that age."

"I couldn't agree more. He should have had one years ago."

"We're not warriors anymore. Life here is about business, not battle."

"Well then, how fortunate that I bought it at your store. Perhaps you'll get a tax deduction."

After an exasperated pause, the man's voice finally speaks. "You know, you're not as funny as you think you are."

With a somehow audible smirk, the woman retorts "Yes I am."

A moment passes after the voices have trailed off into the distance. Stepping out the door into the garden, the elven woman pauses abruptly for a second when she finds the boy's eyes already expecting her. Continuing forward, she says "It's not polite to eavesdrop."

Oblivious to the hint that he should mind his business, the boy blurts his observation. "He doesn't think fighting is important."

She answers with a wistful sigh. "One of the few things upon which we will always disagree, I'm afraid."

"You always say a united front makes us strong."

The slight raise of her eyebrow betrays her mild surprise that he had paid enough attention to remember that. "True," she concedes thoughtfully. "But diversity of perspective makes us wise."

The boy rolls his eyes. "What good is that?"

"Well one is rather useless without the other. Strength is very valuable, right up until the day you face something stronger. And then what do you do?"

Silently, he replies with a curious shrug.

"You adapt. That's where the wisdom comes in."

Intrigued, he presses. "How?"

"It's simple," she says. "You identify your weakness. Then you change it. As many times as it takes." Seeing his mental gears turning, and his mouth preparing to open for another question, she quickly intervenes. "That's enough philosophy for today. Why don't you show me what you can do?" With a wink, she adds "I'd hate to think I've wasted my money."

Resuming his stance, the boy begins again to draw the bow, faltering only slightly this time. As he takes a moment to focus on his target, he hears a slow whisper from above his shoulder.

"Inhale… aim… exhale…fire."

On the last word, his fingers release the string without hesitation. His eyes remain locked on the arrow for several seconds after it embeds itself in the bullseye, and a smile slowly crosses his face.





From the rooftop, The Blade scanneds the battlefield below. Bookshelf destroyed the last of the zombie creatures, and it appears that all of the party is safe and accounted for.

He turned his gaze to the quiver on his hip, and mumbled to himself "Too slow…"

The quiver's condition is as pristine as the day he first laid eyes on it. He runs his fingers along the well-stitched vertical seam. With both hands, he grips the mouth of the quiver and pulls hard several times, until a rip in the seam becomes several inches long. Folding the leather flat around the wider opening, he nodded. "Better."

Outside the city, the muffled voice called again. "Open the gate!"

From the rooftop, The Blade yells down into the streets below "Let's move!". He rushed to rejoin the party.

People are dying. They need me. They need us.

Session Notes:

Never split the party. Yeah right.

Thanks again to Ryan for his piece on the Blade's back story. And we'll see what happened at the church later this week.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Church of the Blood Sacrament - 8/17/2021


I moved slowly and cautiously moved along the buildings’ sides, avoiding the middle of the roadway. I held a thin rope loosely in my hand. The rope then led to Taryn, who felt his way using the wall of the building on his left. Behind him, Debrika followed right behind, and she kept her Warhammer at the ready. Debrika wasn’t exactly keen on letting anyone guide her employer. But the fact was that she needed to move more than I did should we run into anything.

The way ahead was difficult to make out. It wasn’t the darkness; that didn’t exist for me. But the smoke and a haze from the fire and bags scattered around the city made moving treacherous. The thick plumes obscured everything, so there was no telling if there was an ambush ahead. But still, Debrika and I and were sure, if we couldn’t seem them, then they couldn’t see us. It was a good thing that Taryn was sure footed. While being blind he didn’t fumble or falter. So, while I led him, it was only with the most minimal guidance. Fortunately, we had our own guidance.

Gossamer was running on the rooftops and gliding between buildings. I didn’t really like sending up in the smoke and haze, but any information ahead of us would be valuable. Because, while the smoke wasn’t any better where he was, he easily could scout ahead and listen for signs of trouble.

We made our down the straetway as I led the Mrors towards the large church. I had remembered part of it in the distance; a large grey edifice with a wall that was higher than the town one. I didn’t pay it much mind before as I was saddlesore and needed a drink badly. But one thing I knew was that churches were places where people gathered when they needed help. And I needed help for Taryn and somehow, I knew that that more would be asked of her in kind.

Finally, we came in sight of the gates to the church grounds. The wall completely encircled the compound, and the gate was drawn shut. But it was the large squat vegeogres in front of it that was now the present problem. Especially since they weren’t looking at the gate, but were looking away from it, looking for more survivors. Fortunately, the problem of the haze must have affected them, as they had not reacted to the three of us as we approached.

I pulled on the rope and moved to an alleyway. After checking to see if there was anything lurking there beyond the piles of crates and other debris, I tugged and reeled in the dwarves. Once they got close, I placed my hands on Taryn’s shoulders, guided them to a wall and pushed them down, so he knelt, and Debrika did much the same.

“What is it?” Taryn asked.

“A pair of large ones in front of the gate.” I said as I peeked around the corner.

Taryn frowned, “Not good.”

I shook my head a moment, and then grimaced as she remembered that Taryn couldn’t see my head move. “Sorry no.”

“Are there any other entrances?” Debrika hissed in irritation.

“I have no idea,” I replied. “I didn’t stop in town for a tour. I’ll see if Goss can see one.”

Goss…is there any other way into the churchyard?

--I’ll look.


No arguments. Gossamer could be a pain, non-committal, and judgmental. But when it came down to important stuff, he was an asset. And right now all we could do was wait in the haze and hope the Vegeogres didn’t get smarter and find us. But after what felt entirely too long, Gossamer appeared, landing on the ground beside us..

--I looked. There is a side entrance, but it is chained and locked on the inside. But more importantly, there are people by the main gate and not that one. And with that, he simply started to lick his paw.

So, that would mean the main gate is our best chance, since I don’t want to break it down. Looks like I might have to do in the duo one way or another. Frowning, I started to tighten the straps on her buckler.

There’s more. There are other figures in the other alleys as well. From what I could tell, they weren’t more pygmys, but more refugees.

“Wonderful. Sodding wonderful.” Myrai said aloud.

“What did he find?” Taryn asked.

“The main gate is the way in, and there are others, like you in other alleys. Probably wanting to get in.”

“That doesn’t make much sense,” Debrika said. “How would they know to avoid them?”

“Luck or they aren’t blind,” I guessed.

“What are you going to do?” Debrika asked.

“Kill them and get you both inside the church. Hopefully.”

“We really should help somehow.” Taryn said ruefully.

I thought a second and looked around the alley. A smile crept up on my face as I looked at the empty crates, ropes and random detritus in the ally.

“I have an idea.”

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

The large brutes barely moved or stirred as they stood in front of the oaken gate. Each flexed their massive hands reflexively and simply waited. The smoke and haze were starting to clear a little, but if they noticed or cared they gave no indication. So it was to their surprise (I think) that when a pair of purple bolts of light streaked from my hands, that they did they react. One bolt for each, and each struck the creatures squarely in the chest. They paused a moment and looked around dumbly, trying to locate where assault came from.

And of course, they just stood there, clueless. Growling under my breath I decided that the subtle attack wasn’t enough. I moved to the middle of the road and yelled, “Over here, you barmy softheads.” I gulped and wondered if this really was a good idea after all, as the creatures turned to face me.

And they still didn’t move.

“Really?” I pulled on the strand again and threw another pair of purple bolts each hitting the creatures, one in the face, and the other in the shoulder. They stood there and blinked, and then both started to charge at me like an angry bull.

“Time to bolt…” I muttered, and broke for the alley as fast as my legs could delivery me.. The Vegeogres, weren’t far behind, their longer strides ensured they would catch me if I simply was planning to run away. But as risky of an idea that was, I was planning something even more risky. Or daring. Brave? Courageous?

I came to a stop in the middle of the alley way and turned to face the pair as they closed in on me. But as the oncoming wall of fungus approached me, I simply wore a cruel smile and waited.

In their haste to turn me into a smear on the cobble stone, they paid no attention to the alleyway itself. And so, they made no noise or sound resembling a voice, but each tripped on a latticework of rope that wound through the alleyway that suddenly entangled their legs, causing them to fall down on the ground.. As they struggled to pull themselves free, two figures burst out from the crates. Tayrn with a short sword and his knuckles, and Debrika with her warhammer in hand. Both were swinging wildly at the prone vegeogres.

For as blind as Taryn was, he didn’t fight like it. His stabs and punches were accurate enough to make deep cuts on our foes. And Debrika just swung her Warhammer overhead and landed blows that cracked…something inside the Ogres. As the Mror fought, I pulled on the strand and ghostly hands arose to throttle the hulks. Pieces and of the fungus material shed away from their forms as the magic rotted them away from the inside. And despite my nerves, it was over for both in a matter of seconds as each of the assailants ceased to move.

“Ok, that’s enough.” I said rushing up to the two Mror.

Taryn, smiled. “Just like tunnel fighting. Usually can’t see there either.”

“I prefer the lit tunnels,” Debrika muttered.

“Come one,” and I pressed the rope into Taryn’s hands. “It’s not far now.”

We left the alley and led the pair to the oaken gate. I then pounded on the door with my buckler.

“Open up!” I shouted. And after what felt like an eternity, The sound of someone struggling inside to move the bar that likely held the gate fast. I kept looking behind me, expecting to beassaulted by another vegesomething, when finally, the gate started to open. I turned and started to smile but I stopped as my jaw hung open as I saw who greeted her.

“Hi Lady Myr.” Said a young halfling girl, who stood there in a simple dress staring up at her.

I stared a moment, trying to remember the name of the Innkeepers’ daughter. “Jess…Jessik Gask right?” to which the girl nodded. Without turning I pulled Taryn with the rope, but Debrika took it from me, and led Taryn inside the compound herself. Tearing my eyes away from Jessik, I looked at the who else was there at the church.

The massive doors to the church were flung open. Above the doors, was a large glasslike orb, the color of deep crimson, held in the jaws of what looked to be a skeletal dragon’s jaw. I had no idea why but looking at the symbol gave me the chills. Something felt wrong here. But before I could think about it, rushing from the church were a number of children, and they took the hands of Taryn and ushered Debrika inside.

“Myrai, what is—” Taryn started.

“You two go with them. I’ll catch up after I ask some…questions.” As I looked behind me and I saw that there were more children leading more adults from the alleyways. I then noticed that behind the gate stood Gandal, Findo Gask’s eldest son, with several teen aged humans. They stood exhausted from working the heavy gate and its bar holding it shut.

Myrai knelt down by Jessik and grasped her by the shoulders. “Jessik, where is your father?”

“He’s still at the inn hiding in the cellar. But its full now. So, he sent us kids to help others come here.”

My heart ached. Children have to bear so much and grow up so fast in times of need. The war in Sigil tore away any innocence left of the children in the Hive. And here it was no better. I knelt down and embraced the halfling for a moment, before looking her in the eyes again. I was afraid of the answer to the question I needed to ask.

“Can every child see?”

“No. The older one’s eyes itch too. They won’t see much longer. Only the younger ones can now.”

“So, your brother…”

“It won’t be much longer.” She said dully. There were no tears left in her at this point.. She was simply enduring the reality she faced. It wasn’t fair to these children. And while she couldn’t shed anymore tears, I did it for her.

“It’ll be alright; once the—”

Hey boss…we have horses with riders approaching. Well I think they are horses.

“What are you talking about?” I said confused as I stood.

“I don’t—” Jessik started.

“Sorry I wasn’t talking to you I was talking….to…”

I heard them first; the sounds of hooves of cobblestone, and the sound of metal rubbing and clanking on metal. I could only assume that the gate was now open. But as the riders approached, I felt…something. My heart pounded as I felt something nipping at the strands around me. It was more than just simple discomfort, for as the riders approached it felt like the air had turned foul suddenly. Then from the haze I could finally see the riders and their steeds, and I was immediately afraid, as I pushed Jessik behind me.

These horses were not the kind of calvary I expected to rescue me. Instead, I found myself looking at a nightmare. Four dead, skeletal things with well cared for tack and barding, slowed their approach. They didn’t nicker or neigh; the only sound they made came from their hooves. Their tails of bone didn’t swish but hung limply behind it. I had fought skeletons in a Uthgardt tomb once, and I remembered how still the skeletons were there. These animals were even more unnerving as they didn’t act in the way I expected them to act. But whatever I was expecting I now focused on the riders, who had slowed their undead mounts to a halt and dismounted.

My stomach churned as I saw that the rider’s condition was no better than the horses. Looking at the four of them, each were in various states of decay. Browned flesh stretched taut on bones on two of them, and the other two didn’t even have skin. Each wore a helm from which you could see reddish pin lights from where their eyes should have been. They looked at me with cold interest and they drew their weapons.

The skeletons I fought before were a mockery of life, but they moved haltingly and were clearly not smart. Nor did they resemble the raging barbarian they were buried as. But that wasn’t the case here, as these things moved with purpose as a malign intelligence guided them. Each of them looked at me with naked hostility, as two raised their shield and swords up, while the other more skeletal readied a pair of wicked curved blades, one for each skeletal hand. I could feel the resonance; the one inside of me when the undead were close. But this was stronger than any I had ever felt.

And these four were way too close and looked ready to bear down me. All I could do was raise up my shield and moved my rod behind me. I pulled on the strands and the rod now crackled with purple energy ready to pull into service. They started to move and shift trying to surround me. My breathing quickened, and I grit my teeth and mumbled aloud:

“I really don’t like Karrnath.”
 
Last edited:

Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
As I’m reading this, I always think about how these things look like in an actual session. There’s so many creative, unique situations, that it’s hard for me to imagine them from what I’m familiar with. Also might be stuff you’ve added as well when writing. Makes for one heck of an adventure.
 

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