The Thorns of Winter -(updated 5/15/22)

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Transcribing a campaign into prose is a challenge. Having to pull together disaparate personalities (which you didn't create) and scenarios which in the heat of the moment made complete sense (and don't when you look back at them).

Taking a fight scene round by round is doable (just go back a few pages) but describing the setup in a way so you can follow along in your own theatre of the mind. Its fun...if a bit draining to dredge up the past and reliving it for everyone else.

But I try to capture what happened in the game first, and fill in the gaps in between as needed. When this campaign was running bi-weekly in person that was enough. But contrasting it to the Arnara stories, which were online, on Roll20, with discord chats as backup changes things. Arnara I now find easier to write, mostly because its fresher, but also the dynamic of the players are different. Myrai's compaign was improv drama class. Arnara's was more DM the action, and write a bunch of side scripts.

Thanks for the comments as always.
 

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Deux ex Gossamer - 8/24/2021


I used to think she overreacts.

Well, I suppose I understand her almost blasting the four Karnathi undead. It was more than simple distaste of course. They are an anathema to her religion, and she felt she was protecting the kitte…er children. The fact they couldn’t even take a swing at her, is her own blessing. It was a good thing that the Karnathi sergeant that followed them and ordered them to stand down. Myrai was suspicious of course, but she was at least polite, if wary. The sergeant was somewhat taken aback by her appearance, but that quickly passed.

That would have been fine, but the children in the courtyard seemed to keep coming to her with questions on what to do. And she basically, without much of a thought let alone a plan started organizing them. Pairing younger with older, giving them things to do. The dwarf Taryn noticed this; he was listening carefully to what she said and the children’s responses.

Then the second wave arrived. If I thought the four undead soldiers and their equal dead mounts was a storm of trouble, Loramica was a hurricane. She was an elf, clad in platemail and a sword and shield. And like every elf I had seen, she was attractive, wearing a flawless symmetrical face, ice blue eyes and gold hair woven into tight braids. But when she opened her mouth, her imperious, arrogant demeanor shined right through. Her voice was one of command, and she demanded everyone obeyed her. She had arrived with a handle of armored men on horse. But they quickly were dispatched to meet with other soldiers securing the town, leaving a much more deferential older elf following her…someone named Lolopethis acting as some kind of assistant. Anyway, after her troops were sent off elsewhere, she decided to order Myrai to do something, but I missed what as I spied a mouse running up a…well nevermind that. My guess it was something that Myrai didn’t care for because of what she retorted. But it seemed that the response of “Pike that” seemed to go over the elf’s head.

Unfortunately, Taryn spoke up, and the elf listened to him. And she then ordered Myrai to get the children in line; organize them and get work parties started to man the gates, get all refugees near the inn, and have the children check all the houses for other people hiding in the city. The thoughts I heard through her mind, were…colorful and violent. However, Taryn talked to her, and Myrai while fuming did what was asked of her, although grudgingly.

I’m not clear on why the dwarf intervened. Perhaps to keep her out of trouble? He knew that she has had a difficult time adjusting since she crash-landed on a bar table in Krona Peak. Despite the fall almost killing her, the time in the prison was worse and it was something she didn’t want to repeat. But as I heard it, she basically agreed to listen to Taryn, because she didn’t want these Karns bossing the kids. But I believe it was more than that.

I thought it was the undead. They stared at her; not the kids nor the soldiers. Their eyes constantly followed her. There was a palpable feeling of malice and hate come from them, but the other Karrns didn’t seem to notice. I certainly found them unsettling, but I know that Myrai was trying to ignore them. It was instead the church itself that seemed to put her on edge. She never articulated a thought on why that was the case, more of a sense of the chills. But she was happy to drag Taryn back to the Inn.

On the way Taryn and Myrai talked. She asked him about the church, and she was uncomfortable with what she heard…at first. The blood, the undead champions disturbed her. But the description of the “divinity within” interested her. It aligned very closely with how experiencing the multi-verse and how one’s personal belief can change it. I am still not clear if fascination or revulsion was wining though.

Honestly her heading back to the inn and organizing the kids was a good idea. She had a knack for it. I remembered she told me once she was raised in an orphanage all her early years. And many times, older kids were put in charge of little ones. And because of that, she knew how to talk to younger children. When she stopped reacting to the other Karns soldiers, she was warm and empathetic. That was something I had not seen since she left the Misty Forest, a time she hadn’t talked or thought about in a while. Like she was avoiding thinking about it.

She spent the better part of the early morning getting things arranged. Eight kids to the gate, to watch and help the guards “see.” She found some chalk and told the kids to try every door in town and mark the front doors where they tried find residents. If they though there was trouble, they would flag down one of the several groups of horsemen riding through the down. And once done, head back to the inn for more ‘chores.’ Finally, she had some kids move all the folks in the church back to the Inn area, Findo Gask, while blind, was able to organize the inn, and Flinda was easily able to work the kitchen without her sight. She just took her time with the cutting.

It was well past midday when Myrai caught up with the other agents of Taryn at the Inn. They were debating animatedly on various topics. I could hear Myr’s thoughts drift. She was thinking that she needed to apologize to the ‘old woman’ about something, and also thought briefly about the elf in the black cloak. But after the elf said something about “exposing himself,” she decided just to say a few polite words to Adrian. But most of her thoughts were on the little girl Adrissa.

She wanted to say something to her; but she was having trouble trying to find the right words in her head. The little girl was anything but that now; her leather tunic was covered in dried ichor from fighting the vegemite things. But Myrai saw the look on her face and remembered her own time in Sigil. Losing Markel, Elisna and the Speaker. She wanted to comfort her, to tell her it would be fine.

But she wasn’t sure if that was really true. Would it be fine? Would she feel better? The look on Adrissa’s face was so empty. It dredged up memories from Myrai’s past that made me hurt. On Adrissa’s face was the same shock and numbness she had felt after Elisna was killed. It was infuriating to Myrai on how the universe was so cruel at times. What did this girl do deserve it? Would she crawl out of it? She saw Adrissa throwing herself into fights heedless of the danger. Was she trying to get herself killed intentionally?

Many people that had lost all hope did that. Markel did just that apparently. I couldn’t see what he did exactly, as it was a wall too painful for me to pierce and see Myrai’s memories there. She wanted the girl to believe in herself and move on, as Myrai had done. But she felt she should guide her. But as much experience with death and loss that Myrai had; what to do wasn’t clear. All that Myrai knew is that it wasn’t time yet for the little girl. Not even close.

After talking to Taryn and Debrika at the inn, she then did a tour of the gates around town. She made trips to the gates and made sure things were in order and promised that she would have some relief before midnight. She halted and talked to some of the cavalry patrols to see how the reclaiming of the town had gone. It was sunset when she returned to the Inn. There everything was settled, and the rotations of the kids was working smoothly. Inside, the Gask’s had everything in quick running order and warm food was being served up to the townsfolk. Outside, Myrai had some of the kids guide guards to carry fire wood and any leftover food supplies from the houses. It wasn’t cold, but the kids needed the light and warmth. Tomorrow, families and kin would be reunited if possible. But the children of Denning were going to have to help their elders, far before their time.

But while Myrai put a face of confidence and calm on the outside, the reality was that she was quite a mess. I saw that she ‘liberated’ a bottle from the Inn and sat on the dirt on the side of the street, exhausted. I realized unhappily it was going to be another one of those nights. Myrai liked drinking to be certain. But she wanted to purge the day from her mind. She wanted to be numb once again. She didn’t want the responsibility of managing the kids; it was too close to the orphanage that she left. She wanted to put Adrissa out of her mind. And she certainly didn’t want to dream and suffer her regular nightmares this night. Not now.

I knew better to say anything; when Myrai drank she ignored me. Her mind just became a morass of half thoughts, and emotion, all grey and dull with the liquor coursing through her. As the bottle was drained, everything in her head became muddled and darker. Finally, all I could feel and see was emptiness, and she slumped over into the dirt.

This wasn’t something I could fix; that was up to her after all. But she did deserve better, and I could help her get out of the dirt. I had noticed that the other agents didn’t return to the Inn, but they adopted a nearby building as their own. The light from inside the building went from bright torch light to darkness very quickly. Some sort of spell I was sure. However, it didn’t prevent me from entering and getting the attention of the…gnome? No, the halfling, Rosa. She was easy enough to communicate with what I wanted. She quickly asked the grey skinned one to follow me and fetch poor Myrai and carry her inside. He wasn’t exactly gentle, and she hit the floor hard when he tried put her down on her feet. But she instead, collapsed into heap on the floor, unaware of her relocation. But at least she was safe…safer?

She lay there mumbling to herself for a while and then drifted off. That was perhaps for the best, based on where the conversation drifted. The only three that were awake were the elf, and the two golem like things called Bookcase and Sage. One of them told a story that raised the hackles on my back and wings. Torture and dismemberment were involved a scheme involving soldiers for ransom all run by a Karrnathi officer who had recruited Bookshelf as a conspirator. I was glad that Myrai wasn’t awake for that. I knew she had some…experience with those type of matters andiIt was that part of her she buried, behind a wall of horror and shame in her mind. I only knew a little from the time on that pirate island when she saved a wizard’s life by running a con, posing as someone with…painfully exotic tastes. She was very convincing, and that frightened me.

And her.

But for now, all I could do is sit and watch over her, and hope that whatever dreams she did or did not have, that she would approach the morning with optimism and gusto.

Oh, who am I kidding?

Session notes:
There was a bit of break between this part and the next one, Gossamer's commentary was filler before the next chapter really began.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Gossamer gets a turn in 1st person? What a pleasant surprise.

Its part of his contract. He has another one back in the Journal of the Souls of Legend as well.

 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Hangover Hell - 9/6/2021


I could feel the throbbing of my heart pulse through my head. I winced and tried to squeeze my eyes tighter, as if it would assuage the self-inflicted pain from last night. As I exhaled, I felt my throat grind out a mournful sound, and as I did so I wondered if this was the sound of a near death rattle.

“I think she’s awake.” a metallic voice noted without sympathy or judgement.

“Well, that is a miracle,” said a biting voice that reminded me of an ancient Bleaker who cared for the orphans in the Gatehouse. “That bottle she cradled wasn’t meant to be drank straight.”

“That explains my headache,” I grumbled as I pushed myself to a sitting position and leaned my back heavily against the wall.

“Hon, you probably should have something to drink though. It might settle your stomach so you can eat something,” Opening my eyes, I saw Rosa standing close and leaning down towards me. Her soft hands tilted my head back as she looked into my eyes and frowned.

“Well…normally I can tell how bad you would be feeling based on how bloodshot your eyes are.”

I gave a wan smile and a brief chuckle. “I don’t think my eyes can change colors like other’s. But they do feel a bit scratchy.”

“Well, some water might help you…but the stores here are a bit spent.”

“Is there a barrel here? An empty one?” I asked.

Rosa nodded and pointed to a corner with a large oaken barrel. I rose wearily and walked unsteadily towards it glancing around. The pair of warforged were on either side of a door looking outwards to the town, while the old woman sat on stool looking at me disapprovingly. The Blade was busy inspecting a bundle of arrows, running his hands over the fletching, and checking the heads. The large grey orc lay flat on the ground snoring, while near the hearth I saw the girl Adrissa, curled up into a tight ball.

Reaching the barrel, I placed my hands on the edges and leaned forward to look down to the bottom. it took a brief pull on a white strand and mentally I poured it into the barrel. I felt cool air flow out across my fingers as the cool water rose towards the top. I could see my reflection rush towards me. My eyes didn’t look like mirrors in the water, but black pools. My face tired and haggard, with my unkempt hair clinging to each other like dirty ribbons hanging from my head. I plunged both my hand into the water, and scooped the cool water onto my forehead, letting it flow down my face. I then put both my hands in again and cupped the clear water and poured it clumsily into my mouth.

“I think there are some bowls and cups around here,” Bookshelf remarked and the warforged walked towards some cabinets against the end of the…

“Where am I?” I asked.

“This was a House Jorasco aid station,” Rosa said. “It was boarded up and shut years ago it appeared. We decided to make it our residence as the Inn is a bit full, and the other houses haven’t been fully checked for…plants.”

“I don’t remember…I guess someone dragged me in here.” I said, accepting a bowl from Bookshelf.

“You can thank Gossamer for that,” Rosa said moving over to a shelf, where my familiar lay looking bored.

I nodded and moved away from the barrel feeling a small measure better. I walked over to Adrissa’s sleeping form. I brushed the hair away from her face, and sighed. If you looked past the dirt, it was one of peace and serenity.

“She’s been out since last night,” Sage commented. “We didn’t see a reason to wake her.”

“Good. We should get her to the Inn and have Findo take care of her,” Doxx said. “Sooner she is with…everyone else, the better.”

“Say who?” Mobad said, still flat on his back, eyes closed.

“I thought you were asleep,” Doxx said glaring at the orc.

“Was. Then someone make noise. Can’t sleep now,” and the orc stood up and stretched his arms over his head. “But girl decide, not Doxx.”

“She’s not old enough to make decisions,” Doxx said exasperated.

“I doubt she’s just going to stay here quietly,” Rosa said looking at the supine Adrissa. “She has too much anger to just sit here. She said that she doesn’t have family anywhere else—”

“And that makes us a better choice? We aren’t exactly foster parents…or even an orphanage.”

“Anything is better than that,” I said as the others looked at me. “It’s a place to put someone that isn’t wanted. I want something better for her than that.”

Doxx blinked and looked at me like all sense had dropped out of my head. “And you propose what? Raise her on the go?”

I squinted at Doxx, “Just because you look like a grey beard, doesn’t make you one. She’s in pain, and she is going to do what she wants. So the best we can do is at least guide her. Doesn’t matter if she wants to stay here, or do something with us—”

“—With us? That’s a brilliant point, what exactly are we doing?” Doxx asked the group. “We all were lured here for a mine, but now all I want to do is talk to M—”

“Excuse the intrusion, but am I interrupting something?” an unfamiliar voice said. The group turned, to see an elf at the doorway. His golden hair was long and straight, and his eyes were blue and bright. His smile and manner spoke of refinement, and his calm graceful movements were calm and assured.

“Lolopethes is it not?” Rosa acknowledged the elf in the room.

“Yes. We all met when you opened the gate. But I’m afraid we did not have chance to speak, miss…”

“Myrai. I saw you at the Blood Sacrement with your…commander?” I said remembering her arrogant voice trying to order me about like some low-ranking hard head.

“Ah…Warlord Loramica is…well why I am here. Can I have a seat? My bones are older than I look.”

The Blade vacated the tall stool he was sitting in, and the elf sat down heavily, clearly tired.

“Warlord?” Sage asked with a note of surprised. “I thought Karnathi warlords commanded from military fortifications.”

“They do indeed. However, there are some…skilled commanders that are granted the title before a suitable demesne is assigned. But she has all the rank and privileges granted to one. And in the absence of the local warlord, her word is law.”

“Well, we should make our way out of here, and get out of her way.” Rosa said sweetly as Lolopethes shook his head.

“The town is officially under martial law, and as such she has forbidden anyone from leaving until she secures the town. And that is already problematic as you can imagine.”

“I’m not a Karnathi citizen,” Bookshelf said simply.

“It doesn’t matter; you are in Karnnath. The Code of Galifar had been suspended for decades, and the Code of Kaius doesn’t distinguish between citizens and…guest insofar as emergency situations are concerned. But that is precisely why I am here; I have a proposal.”

“A proposal?” Sage said. “How do you know anything about us?”

“Well, that’s simple, there were three things that told me you warranted special…attention. First, you opened the gate, not the guards. Second, she,” gesturing at me, “opened the gate to the church and was about to face four Karnnathi undead on her own--”

“—She out of her mind?” Bookshelf whispered too loudly to Sage.

“I don’t think she knows.” Sage said shrugging.

“Two pairs of musties and I impress someone?” I said confused.

“People don’t do that…and live, “Sage said simply. I gulped wondering if I had dodged a trip to the Fugue when Lolopethes continued.

“Yes…most don’t have the nerve. But I had never seen Karnathi…pause in the pursuit of their duty. That is very unlike them.”

“What was the third thing then.” Sage asked.

“Oh…I asked Taryn d’Kundarak what a scion of this house was doing here. And he told me everything. And everything about you.”

Doxx glowered and spat, “Damn that Mror. Has he no respect for privacy.”

“The House Accords are very clear on their responsibility to…any of the crowns in times of emergency where it doesn’t intrude on a House’s business. So, he told me a little of each of…” he glanced at the girl still asleep on the floor, and then he turned to face Doxx. “…most of you. But it doesn’t really matter. Loramica was going to put you to work cleaning out houses and doing guard duty. An utter waste in my opinion.

“Wait wait wait,” Doxx started. “You can’t tell me you are going to induct them into some type of special operations.”

“What? Oh no,” Lolopethes replied. “Your services were volunteered by House Kundarak.” I think we all collectively groaned at those words. “And as a partner in such matter, you have a lot of discretion on what you are able to do.”

“Do we have a choice? A real one?” I asked.

“Not really. But I honestly like you all, and Loramica hasn’t learned to use a lighter tone in matters like this. I’d rather help you be successful in doing the odd jobs that you were hired for and do them for us. And to be truthful…we don’t have much of a choice either.”

“What are you not telling us?” Sage asked.

“A lot. But come to the Blood Sacrament in an hour. Everything we know will be discuss there…as equals. Not as subordinates. Please,” the elf said with a sad look in his eyes.

“We’ll talk it over,” Rosa said smiling.

Lolopethes nodded, “Of course. As a fellow agent…of the crown, not a house mind you, I understand you need a moment. I will…hopefully see you soon.” The elf then stood, and walked briskly to the door, before turning and looking at all of knowingly before leaving. But as he left the doorway, Doxx stood up and started to follow the elf out the door.

“Doxx where are—” started Rosa, when Doxx waved her off.

“—Just stay here a moment.” And he left the Jorasco station.

Hey Goss…follow him. Let me know what happens.

--Hm? Sure boss.


Gossamer quietly rolled off his perch, and without a sound, landed and made his way towards the door as I spoken getting the rest of their attention.

“What did I do that was so special?” I asked looking at the group.

Sage spoke up, “Karnathi undead aren’t like…simple skeletons. It is said that it takes the body of a veteran soldier, but after the rites are performed, you get something stronger, smarter and far more…cunning. They can operate without others to guide them.”

“At least they’re quiet,” I said.

“Only because they had nothing to say. They can talk, and they are very very smart. Don’t underestimate one.”

“That’s just…wonderful. So, are we going to church?” I asked.

“I don’t see a reason not to.” Sage said. “Best way to evaluate what else is going on.”

“Best going in with the best information possible,” The Blade said. “It would be a step up from where we started.”

“Take me with you,” a quiet voice said, and we turned to look at Adrissa, who was sitting by the hearth, with her chin on her knees. “I don’t have anywhere to go. And I want to find out how I can help. Doing something is better than sitting around doing nothing right?”

Bookshelf, Mobad, and Rosa each nodded in agreement and at that moment, Doxx entered the station.

“Well…we should definitely listen to him. So lets drop off the girl—”

“She’s coming with us,” said The Blade. “We will educate her as we go.”

“Wait a moment! You can’t just dec—”

“Yes, we can,” Adrissa said. “I suggest dealing with it and teach me something useful. Or shut up about it. I’m good with either.”

Doxx sighed, the old woman shoulder’s sinking in defeat. I smiled to myself, but I was interrupted.

--That was interesting boss.

What happened?

--It was real short. The old woman ran over and said ‘Wait,’ and then she said something curious” ‘Thank Kaius for your Fortitude.’ The elf then stopped and smiled and replied, ‘It is Moranna’s will.’ And then they clasped forearms. The elf then leaned in close and whispered something to Doxx, but I couldn’t make it out.


I looked at Doxx who was busy explaining with all the logic they could muster why Adrissa couldn’t come with us. All the while I wondered:

What was the real game here?


Session Notes:
Well of COURSE Adrissa wasn't leaving. It was my daughter and she was now hooked on Dungeons and Dragons (One of US, One of US...) But as for the rest, well now we see how bad really are next story post.
 
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Wilpower784

Smug Bladesinger
I’ve got a question: what made you choose to bring in Myrai for this campaign? Coming from a Forgotten Realms campaign, it seems like Myrai would more likely continue in the same world than move to a story in Ebberon. And while the multiverse works in mysterious ways, was there something that made you want to put Myrai with the rest of this bunch?
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Well Myrai's original incarnation was for a Curse of Strahd campaign that never got started. So she started up in a Forgotten Realms homebew, because I wanted to actually play her and explore some ideas about faith.

But in a sense she isn't Forgotten Realms; she's really more grounded in Planescape; her speech, her childhood, that she was a member of a faction. The fact she has a FR god (Kelemvor) is coincidence, as Sigil sees all sort of religions. So in a sense, her boucing around the multiverse is a dream for her. That because she values her freedom highly; she doesn't wasnt to be in debt to anyone, nor put in a cage (real or metaphorical).

So, when the Souls of Legend campaign ended, and the Thorns one started, there was an opportunity. And the "fish out of water" theme still worked. Or New York Manhantanite in Pratt Kansas.

And so her story continues...although Arnara's story has been more recent and more fun in many ways.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Chase - 09/22/2021

We started to pick up some of our things, the weapons, armor, and shields in preparation to meet with Lolopethes’ master; the Warlord Loramica. I was happy to leave my pack and heavier things behind, if only for a while. I took the time to dry off my hair and do a more thorough cleaning with the stands. The others were doing much the same, although most were eager to use the barrel of water that I had created.

I checked myself for my things, and my hand touched the Apocrypha I carried. I hadn’t had time to think about it or read its passages recently. A pant of guilt shot through me, as I realized I hadn’t really tried to read its passages. At night I prayed as always, but I couldn’t say that I felt the solace my worship normally provided. Perhaps it was my arrival here in Eberron; the prison in Mror, the prison underground, all of the recent events. Or was it Eberron itself, so new and remote to all I knew and experienced before? I never claimed I could speak for my god Kelemvor, but I had never felt far from him, until now. Even with Adrissa by my side searching for faith, I felt a little lost myself. Until I touched the silvery cylinder.

I felt a sudden warmth clutch at my heart for a moment, causing me to reflexively clutch at my bosom. I could feel the strands moving within me. It was like something stirred them to life, and it wasn’t of my own volition. Focusing a moment, they seemed to be reaching or trying to reach for something. But the feeling was already starting to pass, and the strands started to quiesce and grow still.

Several of the others had already left the aid station, and I made my way to the door, shaking my head. And so, I wasn’t paying attention when I bumped into the “The Blade” as we both squeezed out the door together. But as we turned and turned with our chests brushing, I felt the strands surge again in a flurry. I stopped, and The Blade pushed past me, but as he did so, I tried to see what was causing the strands to react. It was then I realized two things; the first it wasn’t the strands that were tied to the Apocrypha; it was the ones that were part of me that was an Aasimar. The second thing was that it was reaching not for The Blade…but something he was wearing.

That elf favored dark clothing was an understatement. His cloak,mask, armor and even his bow was lacquered to darkened hue. But as I looked at him, I noticed that just below the clavicles, that he had a lump under the softer part of his leather armor. Without asking, I reached up and touched the spot and barely grazed it, when he caught my hand by the wrist and held it firmly, his eyes boring into me.

“Don’t touch that,” he growled, his eyes narrowing.

“I’m…sorry. I felt something and—”

“—That’s private. And personal,” he said redundantly.

I nodded, “I understand…but I…I felt something…within me reach for it.”

He still held my hand tightly and his eyes didn’t relax, but he spoke in lower tones, and was less edged. “It is a family heirloom. I do not see how it would concern you.”

I shrugged, and said, “I don’t know. Perhaps we can talk later…when we aren’t rushed?” I tilted my head and smiled. After a moment, he released my wrist, and pulled his cloak tightly around his torse muttering a single word:

“Perhaps.”

--

We walked over the bridge, heading back to the Church of the Blood Sacrement. As we did so, some of the children, ran over to me and asked for hugs, and some saying thanks. Despite the grey day, and the grim circumstances they seemed unperturbed by it. I smiled and was glad that they felt safe and were adjusting to the near normal. But I also saw them run and hug Adrissa as well. They were seeming in awe of her; that she was travelling and fighting the evil around them. Living a romanticized ideal of what it meant to fight for your life. Perhaps they felt kinship, because how they now were caring for their parents, and now she took ‘care of them all.’ Adrissa was uncomfortable with the attention at first, but she did smile as she waved goodbye once on the other side of the bridge, and we started up the causeway to our destination.

But every step I took closer, the more unnerved I felt. It did not let up at all as we approached the open gate, and once we stepped inside the courtyard the source of my discomfort was clear. The courtyard had been turned into a makeshift stable, but instead of living mounts, there stood over a dozen horses. Dead ones. Their skeletons all dressed in high quality tack and harness, ever ready for the next ride. But even more discomforting to me were the four Karnnathi skeletons and four zombies stood flanking the door.

When we entered the courtyard, they just stood there, unmoving and oblivious to us, but as we approached the double oaken doors to the church, the eight all seemed to turn their heads and look not our group, but just at me. Their posture changed, and I could see them shift their weapons in their hands, all like a living soldier would at the approach of the threat. I remembered the last time I fought the undead and they didn’t move, or act like a ‘normal’ person. These did, and I could feel their malign hatred in my own bones as they stared at me. I wanted to turn around and walk away. I wanted to unleash my power onto them and destroy them. But all I could do was choke back the bile that built up at the back of my throat.

“You…are expected.” One of the skeletons hissed in a dry and raspy voice holding no warmth. I knew there were intelligent undead, and I never wanted to meet one. But now I was faced with eight of them and I was incredulous that these…things were normal. A part of Karnnathi life; a common tool of war. I didn’t need to ask my god about this; it was wrong; a horrible sin of the highest order. And yet, I could do nothing but be polite.

I swallowed and shivered, as I walked past the dead eyes staring at me. My breathing was quickened; and I fought every urge to run or to fight. Mobad opened the doors ahead of us, and as we walked up the steps, I felt a hand on mine, and I glanced down and saw Rosa looking up at me.

“You look a bit green. Are you alright?”

I quickly with as little movement as I could, I shook my head. Rosa squeezed my hand and sighed as she continued, “This is the darkest part of the Karnnathi soul; but you aren’t walking it alone.” I breathed at little easier and steeled myself to stride past the undead, and beyond the doors into the church itself.

The Church of the Blood Sacrament was different that any other church I had been in. Other churches had windows, with glass to light the way, or stained glass to project icons and symbols to the faithful. But here, the walls had no openings to the outside. Light was provided by torches sputtering on various pillars, and overhead was a candelabra of candles. White, tapestries took their place, with embroidery of gold framing scenes of people with their heads bowed, and golden cloth surround as if it were trying to illuminate their hearts. Each person held an image of a cup or bowl which was filled with appeared to be red liquid.

Blood.

In the center of the room, there were benches surrounding a dais, carved with deep channels, that let to holes at the edges. There was a basin in the center, but the view of it was obscured by a table, clearly moved and set over it. On the table lay maps and papers Around it stood a number of armor figures, some in heavy plate others in lighter leathers. Standing at one edge stood Lolopethes, who looked up from the papers at us and gave a small smile and a nod. Next to him, stood Loramica. While she stood a full foot shorter than her aide, her eyes and the grim look at her face was enough to put me ill at ease. My stomach continued to churned and I grit my teeth together as I suppressed the urge to vomit. But at that point she spoke, and I had something else to focus on.

“Finally, the…Kundarak lackeys are here. Let’s get on with it. Sergeant, report!” Loramica commanded.

One of the plate armored men, snapped to attention and spoke, “Ma’am! The Town streets have been cleared of the remaining vegepymies, and one quarter of the towns building have been cleared looking for other plant infestations. A patrol rotation inside the walls has been established as well. As we have the…children, “his voice quavered uncomfortably. “Watching the gates, with the support of the blind guards, it frees us to watch the walls and spare riders to patrol outside as well.”

“And our supplies?” Loramica asked.

“We have enough medicine to hold back illness for about two weeks. Perhaps three if we are cautious.”

“Medicine?” Rosa asked with curiosity.

Lolopethes responded, “Yes Rosa. When you warned us at the gate about the Eye Rot, we took precautions. Karnathi regiments had to deal with this illness often during the last war. We have eye drops that act as a prophylactic against it. However, it is useless as a curative.”

Rosa nodded, “That explains much.”

“Can we continue?” Loramica snapped.

“Sorry Ma’am. We sent riders out along the river on the south bank. So far, the army has not made any attempt to ford the river.”

“What about the north bank patrols?” she demanded.

“Two groups we sent out last night; one towards Salenhold, the other to scout to see where the army is encamped. They have not returned as of yet.”

Loramica nodded. “And I am told you have a cure Major?” she was now looking directly at Doxx, as the rest of us stared at the old woman in surprise.

“Um…yes, Warlord.” Doxx said awkwardly. “Rosa here, has a formula that will cure this variant of Eye Rot.”

“It will take a decent amount of two components to cure the town. Tagent oil and morning glys flowers are required.”

“As I recall,” said Lolopethes, “House Cannith should have a store of oil in Cattbron. As for the flowers, they are native to the swamps near Bog o Narn.”

“Then it will be simple,” Doxx started. “We call for reinforcements from Fort Deepdark or Vulyar, and then we sta—”

“—We cannot expect reinforcements.” Loramica said evenly.

Doxx blinked in surprise as the rest of us looked at each other. “What?”

“We are cut off,” Lolopethes said. “A wall of thorns has cut off the Lightning Rail to the south around Cattbron.

“A wall?” Mobad said slowly. “The same wall?” He looked at the warforged who exchanged glances with each other.

“A single wall like that would be almost a hundred miles in diameter,” Sage said doubtfully.

“One hundred twelve based on the northern edge.” Bookshelf corrected.

“Well, it doesn’t appear to be a circle, but more an ovoid in shape,” Lolopethes informed us. “The north south is longer. But it extends beyond Cattbron to the south, and cuts into Darklake just west of Bog o Narn and extends as far east as Salenhold. It has cut off the Lightning rail, and attempts to cut through it, or scale over it have been disastrous, leading to many fatalities in Cattbron.”

“What about under it?” The Blade asked.

“Well…that is possible, but all around the edges the weather is as icy as the Frostfell.” Lolopethes shrugged. “Practically solid ice.”

“Wait…the weather is warm here. Why is it icy at the edges?” Rosa asked.

“Because something is pulling heat away,” I said after a moments’ thought. “The same something that created the wall.”

“Indeed,” Lolopethes said. “And that something is drawing heat to the north. The south is now a frozen tundra; and while we could perhaps dig through it, the people needed would freeze before making any headway. The road to Denning was already treacherous with ice.”

At that moment, the doors to the church opened again, admitting two more leather clad men. They were spattered in mud, and the looks on their faces was tired and haggard. Loramica nodded a moment, and said tersely, “Report.”

The first man spoke, “As we feared, a large section of the army went to Salenhold, and it is under siege. While the army is on the less protected side of the fortress, its walls are far taller than Denning’s. However, the bridge across the river appears to be damaged, locking the defenders inside Salenhold itself. They are for the moment, trapped.”

His companion then spoke up, “The main army has ensconced itself within the forest and has taken no action to cross the river at any point. They seem to be content to…wait.”

Loramica frowned. “We have two weeks. After that, we will be blind to their actions, and vulnerable. Salenhold’s troops are bottled up, and unable to assist.”

“Why not rush the town?” Mobad asked.

“Because they don’t need to,” Loramica said. They could, and risk taking loses, or they could wait and let the disease takes it course and lose little of their strength. They know that no help is coming. Cunning for bunch of plants.”

“There was one other item,” the soldier continued. “On the return, we spied a small group of the larger ones, heading towards a section of the wood to the east.”

“A patrol isn’t a major concern,” Loramica said dismissively, but Lolopethes raised a hand and motioned for the man to continue.

“Ah…yes. But this patrol had a human figure leading them. We haven’t seen any other patrol with the plants.”

Loramica tilted her head and pursed her lips, while the rest of us looked at each other. “What exactly is in that direction soldier?” The Blade asked.

“We inquired at the Inn before coming here; it leads to a valley that dead ends into the mountains. There wasn’t anything of interest there, no farmsteads, no fortifications. Nothing.”

“It would seem that something is interesting; but only the druids know what,” Sage remarked.

“Druids? Explain Major.

Doxx again looked around sheepishly. “The leader of the vegepygmies has a circle of druid under his sway. We believe he is a Reacher by the name of Moragon.”

“And who is this druid?” Loramica demanded.

“Moragon. Moragon Finn,” Rosa said quietly. “He’s a member of a sect known as the Children of Winter. A sect that desires for the world to be reborn in a wonderous spring. And they apparently know how to breed or create…vegepygmies…and more.”

Lolopethes stroked his chin. “They know something. Something that requires their circle to attend to. I wonder what.”

Loramica leaned over the table and frowned in frustration. “Short on supplies, short on horse and men. It will take all the men we have to hold the town and stop sorties from taking out the gates and prevent them from gathering for a fording.”

“Indeed,” Lolopethes agreed and gestured at us. “They can handle other matters for us, while we fortify. If we can hold here, perhaps the stalemate at Salenhold will be broken.”

Loramica nodded and looked again at Doxx, “Well…what do you…advise,” she said with mouth clenched shut.

“Ah…well…we have three options it seems. Go to Cattbron and get the tagget oil. Go to Bog O Narn and find morning Glyss, or chase a wild patrol. How far is that valley anyway?”

“Its less than half a day’s walk,” Adrissa said quietly. “Everything else is four days walking or two on horse.”

“The druid may be able to answer questions; we should interrogate them while we can,” The Blade said firmly.

“Do you know the area well?” Loramica asked looking at the girl with interest for the first time, to which Adrissa nodded confidently. “Good; guide the Major and his band there then.

Adrissa smirked and looked straight at the old woman who just covered her eyes and rubbed her temples. “Yes…I would love to show him the way.”

“Good,” Loramica said curtly. “I have patrols to arrange. And you…you have a druid to find. Dismissed.” The soldiers saluted and exited the church, while Loramica and Lolopethes, headed towards a hallway in the back. Once out of earshot, Rosa turned to and looked at Doxx.

“Major…Major Doxx?” she said with a note of incredulity.

“Yes, that is my commissioned rank, means little; I don’t have a command—”

“—You didn’t exactly disabuse her of that presumption though, did you?” Rosa said dryly.

“How is it he outranks me?” Bookshelf asked Sage.

Sage shrugged, “I never got my formal commission at all. Bank guards don’t really need one.”

“Hrrumph,” said Mobad. “He not a war leader.”

“No. I’m not,” Doxx said. “I’m a…a—”

“—Spy.” The Blade finished.

“—An operative,” the flustered woman said.

“What’s an operative?” Adrissa asked looking at Doxx quizzically.

“A nicer word for spy.” Rosa said sweetly. “Some folks are picky about the term.”

“I am not pick…” and Doxx’s voice faltered, and he shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Let’s go find this druid, so we can figure out what’s going on here.”

“Finally. Less talk, more action.” Mobad huffed in satisfaction. The others nodded and started to make their way out of the church.

I lingered a moment; as the voices drifted off outside. As I stood there in the quiet tomb of a church, I could feel the sense of wrongness again. I looked around, searching for one of the Karnnathi skeletons or zombies, but I saw no one; I was alone. My stomach once again felt uneasy, as I kept looking around in confusion, wondering what the source of my discomfort was. I closed my eyes and reached out with the strands. It was difficult as they were agitated, and it took focus to allow them to sense around me. After feeling around I realized that the discomfort was somewhere near the table that was set in the center of the room. I stared at it in confusion, unclear why it would be the source when I remembered something. I stepped towards it, and bent down to look underneath it.

Beneath it, a granite basin stood there. I reached towards it, and my fingers touched the edge, and I could feel warm stone. Far warmer than the air in the room around me. Standing up again I pushed the table a bit, so the lip of the basin would be visible. As the table moved away, and the light hit the basin I saw the source of my unease.

The basin was full of warm blood. It wasn’t the blood from a corpse; that kind of blood turned dark and cold quickly as life faded away. This was blood, as fresh as if I cut my own wrist and dribbled it in. Something kept it…warm…and fresh. But it wasn’t just that as I realized that the basin was like one to hold holy water.

“Myrai…come on,” Rosa said causing me to start.

I covered my heart with my hand as it pounded. “Rosa,” I whispered. “What is…”

“The religion here…the Blood of Vol. It asks for the ‘seekers’ to look within for divinity.” She said softly, and disapprovingly.

“So…what’s with the blood?” I asked dreading the answer.

“It’s the seeker’s. They ritually bleed themselves as part of a communion.” Rosa said simply.

“What? Why?”

“Well…to support their champions.”

“What do you mean,” I asked feeling even more ill than before.

“They…” she looked around before leaning forward towards me and whispering. “The champions of the faith are said to be…intelligent undead. And the church…they support them.”

I looked at the basin with horror. It felt like the walls of the church were slowly closing in around me. My heart pounded, and I felt nervous and ill. “That’s….that’s…wrong.”

“Its Karnnath…I don’t care for it much either. Come on. The sooner we get you out of here the better.

I nodded dumbly and followed Rosa outside. I didn’t even notice the undead staring at me this time, their malicious eyes looking at me with hate. I hoped it would be a while before I returned here, because I only had one thought on my mind.

I wanted to burn it to the ground.

Session notes:
The Blood of Vol is an interesting religion, and I love Keith Bakers notes about it. Trying to get the feel of the creepiness on one hand, the forced tolerance of others about it makes for an interest vibe overall.
 



Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Absolutely. I'm hoping there will be a few more revelations about Myrai as well as her take on Eberron.
Hint: Likes concept of the Seeker's of the Blood of Vol, but their take on death, the afterlife and the undead is starting a smoldering fire.

As for the Apochrypha. Be careful what you wish for...
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Death flies on pale wings

My discomfort lessened as I put some distance away from the church and returned to the Jorasco aid station to gather our gear. We didn’t say much to each other on the way. The Blade’s grim face revealed nothing of his thoughts as he strode down the road. Rosa had a small frown on her face but otherwise walked with confidence in her step. Doxx glowered, occasionally turning to look at Adrissa and then shook his head in disbelief. Mobad seemed, bored; flexing his muscles and stretching his limbs expecting to encounter of violence ahead of him. Countering this were the warforged; their faces betraying nothing, although Sage walked in a march, with eyes straight ahead, and Bookshelf mumbled things to themselves.

But Adrissa was the one I was watching. We had gathered our things and were headed to the smaller She was quiet, as she had been recently, but there was a determined look on her face. Was it because of Loramica’s confidence in her? Was it an opportunity to enact revenge for her family? Or was it…

“Adrissa!” I heard a girl exclaim as we approached that led back to the north. From the top of the gate a girl bounded down and ran towards the surprised Adrissa. She embraced Adrissa warmly, with a bright smile that could wash away the grey clouds that churned above us.

“Cyr…cyr…cyr...a?” Adrissa stammered.

“I can’t believe it!” Cyra said in excitement. “I heard from the others that you came into town and let in the troops! You helped save us all!”

Adrissa stood there her face a mixture of shock and sorrow, unable to speak or express what she felt. She instead gamely returned the hug with her right arm, while her left held out her bow to the side.

“We’re all…sorry on what has happened,” she said as she backed off with tears in her eyes. “But please keep us safe. Keep yourself safe. Please.”

Adrissa nodded stiffly. I could see her hold back the tears in eyes. I moved behind her, and put a hand on her shoulder.

“We have to get moving Cyra,” I said, and the young girl turned to look at me in the eyes, and I watched her jaw dropped, and she released Adrissa, and took a step back nodding.

She then smiled and ran back to the top of the gate, yelling, “I’ll keep watch for you Adrissa!” And we walked through the gate way, hearing the various children yell “Goodbye!” and some of the boys yelling, “Go get them!” as the gate closed behind us.

After we were out of earshot of the gateway, I looked at Adrissa and asked, “Are you alright?”

“I’m a hero to them,” she said softly. “Why couldn’t I have been a hero for my family?”

I bowed my head down a moment before I spoke, “I didn’t have a proper family, but I had friend I called a sister.” I saw that Adrissa looked at me puzzled. “I was barely older than you, when she was killed in front of me on the streets as we held hands.” I looked at my hand encased in a fingerless glove. “I look at what I can do now, and wish that I had the strength, the skills…and wish I had them then. But while I couldn’t save her, or take revenge, I realized that the pain was one that I never—”

“—Wanted to feel again?” Adrissa interrupted.

“”—Never wanted others to feel. We can’t alter the reality of the past, but we can make a difference in the now. I still miss my sister, and it still hurts. But if I can help ease other’s pain or prevent it altogether…I’ll do that.”

Adrissa nodded, “I think I understand. Does your…god help with that.”

I furrowed my brow a for a moment, “My god gives me purpose and focus, but as a god of death, he reminds us to look at our lives, and other lives around it to give it all meaning. There’s a lot to learn from that.”

“This isn’t one of those things that I’ll understand when I’m older is it?” Adrissa asked.

“I’ll let you know when I get that old,” I said, and we continued our march into foothills of the Ironroot Mountains.

---

“So, no sign of our quarry yet?” Rosa asked as we rested. It was near the end of the day already, and had little to show for it, beyond sore legs.

“I’m used to tracking criminals…not foilage,” The Blade said annoyed.

“He not wrong,” Mobad spat.

“What do you know about this area Adrissa,” Doxx asked, unusually respectful.

“The higher up, there are supposedly caves,” Adrissa said looking around nervously, never noticing Doxx’s unusual behavior. Supposedly good game, but most hunters avoid this place.”

“Perhaps the caves are where we should start, if we don’t have somewhere better to look,” Sage suggested.

“Why do the hunters avoid it?” Doxx asked. “There seems to be game here.”

“It’s not the game, it’s the predators.” Adrissa said. “They come down from the Ironroots to hunt."

Sage looked at the shear rock walls leading upwards. “How? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of paths leading down to this valley.”

“They don’t walk down from the peaks.”

“You mean they fl---URGK” Mobad grunted. I turned to look at the grey orc, and I was shocked at what I saw. A pair of talons gripped onto his shoulders, supporting the reptilian bulk of a dragon like creature. It roared in delight, and as it did so, a barbed tail erupted from Mobad’s stomach, spurting venom and blood in the open air.

“Wyverns!” shouted Adrissa, and The Blade wasted no time and moved firing a pair of arrows at the beast, each striking the beast in the chest, followed by a pair from Adrissa’s bow. Sage ignited his blade and twisted around, to strike a second beast who was gliding in for a silent strike against Rosa. It roared in pain, and snapped at the warforged, its maw gnawing on Sage’s shield. Its tail whipped around and landed in Rosa’s stomach, she screamed as poison was pumped into her small body. Rosa rolled away from the reptile, and I saw her place a hand on the wound, and the pain on her faces lessened. She scrambled out of reach of the tail, which continued to stab at the ground,where the halfling once lay.

Bookshelf pointed their finger at the wyvern who now stood on top of Mobad’s collapsed form, and a ray of light struck the wing, causing it to glaze with frost. Its shriek echoed in the valley, while Doxx raced in and swung with her staff, landing three blows in quick succession. It whirled rose into the air and thrust its tail at Doxx. Doxx quickly whirled her staff deflecting the strike, and as she did so a beam of light streaked from her weapon striking the Wyvern in the eyes. It twisted around in pain and moved blindly towards the sound of the whirling staff.

I then scrambled over and place a hand on Mobad’s fallen form, and reached out with my light strands, ready to pour energy into him. But as I stretched out with the stands, they slipped around him. I focused harder and tried to knot them, bind them around the wound. I felt the hope drain from me as I realized the truth; that he had already slipped beyond the veil beyond my reach.

The others continued attacking the pair of wyverns; flame and frost, and arrows and light from Doxx’s staff. I gritted my teeth and wiped the tears from my eyes, and then threw a pair of strands at the dragon like beasts, causing dark miasma to form and shroud them as I tore at their souls. I wasn’t angry at them; they were acting as their nature required. But it felt unfair as neither Rosa nor I could do anything to save him from the stealthy assault.

The Blade and Adrissa each used the trees for cover as Sage and Doxx each took a Wyvern and kept them in place. The wyverns slashed and tore at us with tooth and tail, doing little damage. Bookshelf and I kept up our magical attacks on the beasts, while Rosa focused on healing the wounded. While the wyverns were unable to strike at Sage directly, they made attempts at the rest of us, drawing blood from Doxx and battering Bookshelf. I was stabbed by one of their venomous tails, but I was spared being poisoned.

Finally, Sage slashed at his Wyvern and brough it down to earth with a crushing blow from his flaming armblade. At nearly the same time, one of the The Blde’s arrows lodged itself deep in the neck of the second wyvern, causing it to gurgle in pain, before collapsing on to the earth.

The air grew still, and Adrissa dropped her bow and moved to the fallen orc. Mobad lay faced forward with his head turned at an awkward angle, while blood poured from a gaping hole in his back. His eyes were open but had rolled upward and from his mouth poured a river of blood and a thick green fluid, that now covered the forest floor.

“Why didn’t you heal him!?!” Adrissa shrieked at me.

“I…I…tried. His body couldn’t shake off the damaged from his wounds.” I said apologizing.

“He’s taken worse!” Adrissa yelled.

Sage and Doxx rolled Mobad’s still form over, and Sage shook his head. “The stinger went right through his heart. An unfortunate blow.”

“I tried,” I whispered.

“Rosa, can you…can you?” Adrissa begged.

“I’m sorry, but I…I don’t have that power hon,” Rosa said sadly.

“He’s gone.”

Session Notes:
So...the player that played Mobad had to back out of the gaming sessions for personal reasons and it was very clear they weren't going to come back. So he died in a blaze of glory. While the player was new to the game, Mobad's quiet presence was memorable.
 
Last edited:


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Well that's quite the dramatic way to go!!

(Glad you clarified the circumstances - I'd have felt for the player otherwise.)
Exits are tricky, but based on the circumstance there wasn't much to be done. However, the character was played, even though the player wasn't there anymore. And a natural 20 was rolled on the tail strike, on a Barbarian who didn't have a moment to rage and failed a con save.

It was a pile of damage that no one was going to come back from.
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Pining in the Darkness - 10/21/2021


The grey face was calm and composed as it sank into the earth. The strands pulled and pushed the soil in the ground, allowing the cooling body to be interred within. My hands trembled as I did this as I felt my emotions churn within me.

I had killed many in Faerun, each death I tried to honor their passing. But here, in this still strange place to me, everything I had killed was an abomination. A corruption of the natural order. I felt no compunction to worry about their souls…provided they had them.

On the other hand, the souls they took all to make these horrors concerned me quite a bit. Some of them had died horribly in my eyes. Wy, and the others were slaughtered, exsanguinated, flayed… terrible endings for all. With I as their only witness to their passing. So, while I had known Mobad for less time, I felt that his burial was a burial for them all. That his ferocity in life, to survive was the one we all had in ourselves.

I felt guilty though. That I hadn’t done all I could to stop any of their deaths. I could perhaps forgive myself for Wy and the others; we weren’t prepared. But I didn’t do my duty…my responsibility to their souls. And as for Mobad, were I but a bit quicker, more skilled, more…secure in my faith I could have saved him. That I could have made the girl who now had her back to us all safe and secure. A lie we all to readily tell ourselves until its false comfort is ripped away. One of the first lessons of death and life:

Life and death are temporary; signs a long a long road. Both can start and end without warning or seeming intent. That which appears random, has purpose and meaning, even if you cannot divine what. For does knowing the path’s destination, make the journey easier? Does it have less meaning if one doesn’t know the end?

So, one person’s specific journey; its start, its middle and its end isn’t one to judge or be concerned with. It is what we can learn and take away from that person’s full journey, and how that gives meaning to our own.


The soil ceased to churn, and I knelt into the dirt and recite the litany:

“No one should be alone, in life or death,
Death is part of life, not an ending but a beginning
Death is without deceit and has meaning,
All should 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—"


As I spoke, I realized that my voice was joined by another; Adrissa. She was now on her knee over the soft soil. Her eyes were clear, and the tears dried as she nodded her head and we continued the litany together;

"Bless this soul at his chosen, appointed time,
So, his deeds will live forever,
So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith
May Death grant you peace.”


Adrissa turned to look at me and gave a me a weak smile. The rest each looked over the grave keep their own council, until Doxx broke the silence.

“Well…I suppose we should move on before more swoop down upon us,” Doxx said somberly.

“Indeed,” The Blade concurred. “We might have had a different story together in Sharn. It seems that wasn’t our destiny.”

“We should go,” Sage said looking at the sky warily.

“You might want to keep your eyes on the ground. There are other monsters hiding in the mountains here,” Adrissa said standing up. She looked at the group once, and then started off into the woods. Rosa and Bookshelf shrugged and followed her both keeping their thoughts to themselves and together we moved on.





The Ironroot Mountains were nothing more than shear cliff faces descending into the valley. So there was little need to ascend them, instead following the hills that ajoined them. We didn’t see any more monsters, despite us all being jumpy at the slightest pickup of the wind. But as we continued our search, Rosa spoke up.

“Well well…these are awakened tracks…and vegeogre things I think,” she said, looking at a muddy pool with bark and fungus on the surface.

The Blade squatted and pickup some of the bark and examined it, “It’s not logged with muddy water; we must be close.”

Goss, go up to the treelimbs and tell me what you see on the ground.

--uh…can’t I stay closer to you? Might be safer.

I doubt you qualify as a snack.

--well…can’t be too careful.


Gossamer took flight and flew high in the tree branches, scouting ahead of us. We followed in the same direction, and it wasn’t long before we found something.

--A campsite…it’s a wreck though.

“A campsite?” I said aloud as the others turned to look at me. “Up ahead.”

The rest nodded, and we slowly made our way forward, trying to keep quiet. This was somewhat of a challenge for Sage, but even he kept the din of his plats and weapons down to a minimum. We quickly found ourselves at the edge of a clearing and were surprised at the camp we found.

First off, it wasn’t a simple hunter blind or travelers camp; the tents and racks here made it more like an expedition to a strange new place, than a simple place to sleep. The tents were large, some eight paces square. And while the canvas fabric was torn and shredded in the weaspon, the insides had wooden cots and tables. In the center of the encampment was a large firepit, with metal grills and iron works to hold pots and a roasting spit.

“What in Dolurrh is this about?” Doxx muttered, as the old woman poked her head in the ruins of the site.

“This isn’t a druids’ camp,” Rosa muttered. “This is like a..a…”

“It’s a basecamp,” The Blade said. “My family sells equipment like this for travellers to Xen’drik. It’s portable in the sense that you can carry it, but its meant to be setup and maintained, and abandoned when time to leave.”

“Who would go through this effort here?” Bookshelf said as they examined the site for clues to its former inhabitants.

“A Dragonmarked House,” Sage said as he pointed to a small pile of crates nearby. “Specifically, House Cannith.”

“Cannith? Here? And why?” Rosa asked aloud.

“Cannith is thought to have…something to the north. Well past my…home.” Adrissa said softly. “Each season wagons would go up the road, and a week or so later, wagons would return. But that was on the main road. I don’t know anything about this.”

“So why here?” Doxx said confused.

I moved around the camp, and then noticed that a ridge of rock projected itself into the clearing. I wandered around it and there in the cliff was the answer.

“Everyone…over here,” I said and soon the rest joined me and saw it.

There in the rock face was a fissure, opening into darkness beyond. On both sides there were piles of boulders, all organized neatly away from the entrance. But here there was signs of a different camp; Lean-to’s and simple domes of lashed strips of bark, and vines, around a small fire.

“A second group?” I said pointing out the obvious. Adrissa started to look around the campsite and her face has a frown on it.

“This is odd,” the girl started. “This is in a little better condition, but both sites were used at about the same time.”

“And tracks lead below,” The Blade said, motioning to the ground. Both the druids and the Cannith groups I imagine.

Rosa looked at the rock face, and then start to examine the pile of boulders set aside and the ground next to them. “The awakened…they cleared the opening. It must have taken a while based on the amount of rocks moved. But…it looks like they helped each other.”

“Why would a bunch of druids help out anyone at all?” Doxx exclaimed. “They tried to kill everyone else.”

“I don’t know,” I said shaking my head. “They must have had a reason to work together.”

“We should proceed below then,” Sage remarked. Bookshelf pulled out his driftglobe and set it aloft so the other could see in the darkness. I pulled on the energy within me, and felt the rush along my spine, and I set a yellow orb of light on Sage’s shield. And with that we entered the fissure.

The opening was a composite of rock and gravel on the rock floor, but not twenty paces in, we realized this was no cave. The passage was easily five paces broad, and the walls were straight carved rock. The main passage had a slope leading deeper into the roots of the mountain. As I turned to look closer at the walls, I realized that they all had carving or glyphs on the walls. Stepping towards the walls I traced my fingers on their forms in the rock. The design wasn’t familiar to me at all, and I felt chills as I touched them.

“What made this place?” I whispered.

“I am not sure,” Bookshelf said quietly. “Its not dwarven for certain. But the carvings aren’t fresh…the dust is thick, and they seem…worn somehow. My guess is Dhakaani.”

“Dhakaani?” I said puzzled.

“The Dhakaani Empire was a ancient goblin nation—” Sage started.

“Nation…ha!” Doxx sneered. “Goblins were just vermin, until humans finally put them into their place.”

“A common misunderstanding,” Sage said reprovingly. “They were more sophisticated than just wandering tribes. Many cities are built on their city’s bones. Sharn is a good example. But…I am not familiar enough with their works to confirm Bookshelf’s supposition. But these carvings are old. Very old.”

“Feels cold to me,” I said. “But let’s keep moving.”

We continued deeper and finally we came to an intersection. Wide passages led left and right, while the passage continued deeper, while turning to the right ahead of us.

Sage pointed with his armblade to the left, saying nothing. The others in our group nodded quietly. Doxx started to move ahead of Sage, staff at the ready as they tip-toed to the edge of the intersection.

“I don’t hear anything,” Doxx whispered, and the old woman stepped into the chamber beyond.

“Awakened don’t make much noise when they are—”

Doxx was then thrown back into the hallway, as the sound of wood and leaves slammed into them, bowling them over. There, coming around the corners were a pair of huge conifers; so out of place here in the depts of this constructed shaft. Filling the tunnel, four of them, plodded towards our group, with one of them clearly pursuing the prone Doxx.

“—not moving,” Rosa said bitterly as the trees lunged to attack us all.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The trees flanking on the door passed theirs.

Doxx's perception check however...well...not everything goes to plan.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Artifice of the Past - 11/4/2021

Doxx rolled to her feet and wiped some blood from her nose. She grimaced at the tree that tossed her like a rag doll and charged back towards the fray. Flames erupted from her hands and engulfed the tree’s extended branches. It flailed about trying to beat the flames out without success, but then instead lashed out at Doxx again, failing to connect with the wily old woman. She danced away from a second one’s clumsy swing, and retreated behind Sage who now charged in, and with his armblade spread green fire across both of Doxx’s assailant’s. He raised his shield and widened his stance, challenging the copse of trees with his metallic bulk.

Behind him, I pulled on dark strands and surrounded the trees with dark miasma, while a beam of white frost from Bookshelf, froze the needles and branches on the one that seemed less singed to my eyes. A pair of snaps from The Blade’s bow and an arrow sunk deeply into the trunks and the broadheads breaching the far side in a shower of splinters. Adrissa, gave a yell, and dropped her bow and ran in with her swords drawn, and she slashed and hacked at Doxx’s first attacker, hewing the leg like roots away, and sinking a blade deep into its trunk. She was unaware of the awakened tree about to pound her into the rock, when a sinewy vine erupted from Rosa’s hand, and she pulled the Awakened into Sage, who quickly slashed, nearly cleaving the trunk into two as it crashed lifeless to the ground.

The two other trees plodded forward and swung at Adrissa and Sage; Adrissa yelped as the tree branches scraped her arms withdrew drops of blood. Sage flexed and a blue barrier flashed and shimmered, blocking a dangerous overhead strike from landing on the shoulders of the warforged. Sage then slammed with his shield and knocked his foe off balance. Doxx took that opportunity to dart in with her staff, and swung it hard against the midsection of the tree, causing it to stagger clumsily. Two more snaps from The Blade’s bow, sunk deeply into the trunk of the tree, toppling it, leaving one left.

I focused again and flung a dark strand onto the remaining tree, surrounding it with miasma, just as Bookshelf froze its trunk with a layer of hoarfrost. Adrissa moved and cut again at the roots of the plant, causing them to ooze thick dark sap, and Adrissa rolled backwards to avoid a counter strike. As the tree attempted to smash the girl, Rosa again used a vine, and ensnared a branch and puling it back again, slamming into Sage Redoubt who stopped it cold with a stab with his armblade. The blade pierced deeply into the wood, which burst into splinters and glowing green embers, as the trunk split into two and fell to the stone unmoving.

The tunnel grew quiet, with only the sound of our labored breathing echoing off the walls. We looked at each other, and Rosa moved to quickly heal the injured Adrissa and Doxx. Meanwhile Sage pivoted and turned his shield to light up the chamber. The yellow light illuminated a room with stone tables at varying heights. Some would be the right height for a person to sit at or perhaps stand at. But an equal number of the tables were far larger; even an ogre would have trouble looking over their tops. Among the tables, were leather and wool bedrolls and blankets, and a small cooking fire with an iron pot set on the cold ashes.

--You know, you make a lot of noise.

I turned to glare at the Tressym, sauntering in on his paws, unconcerned.

So helpful. Keep in the hall and follow us discretely. I want to know if someone sneaks in behind us.

--Sure sure…I’ll always watch your back. And with that my familiar started to prowl out of the room to keep watch.

“Another druid camp?” Doxx asked Rosa, who nodded in silent reply.

“What’s with these tables?” Adrissa said aloud as she walked under one of the large ones.

“Who knows what the Dhakaani did here,” The Blade remarked.

“But the tables are too large for any goblinoid; even the bugbears couldn’t use them,” Sage pointed out.

“Maybe it isn’t Dhakaani,” Bookshelf said. “Could they be…older?”

I blinked, “I’m the foreigner here…what are we talking about?”

Sage turned to me, “Eberron’s history is divided into eras. This is the modern era, before that is the Era of Monsters; before humans came to this continent. That was when the Dhakaani held sway. But before that, it was the Era of Giants.”

“The Giant’s ruled the world, and had slaves,” The Blade said with tones of sorrow on his voice. “My people. Until we rebelled and were almost annihilated.”

“Almost? What happened?” I asked.

“The dragons,” The Blade answered. “They taught the giants magic, and they brought them down. But not before we took what we needed and escaped.”



“Well…these tables could be right for giants,” Doxx said. “I’m not a student of history, but at Rekenmark, I remember a discussion of giant fortifications…but they were all based on places in Xen’drik. Nothing here in Karnnath.”

“Well, they all must be deeper within then,” Adrissa said, as she finished examining the bedrolls on the ground.

“She’s right, we’re wasting time,” The Blade said. We all turned around and crossed the hall and entered another chamber. Again, the strange sets of tables, and a campsite. But this one had small desks, and cots not just bedrolls.

“Clearly, more Cannith’s belongings,” Rosa said her lips pursed into a frown. “Seems the druids and they are partners, but don’t trust each other.”

Adrissa bent down and looked at the one of the cots. “Well, I would say that the druids are in charge now.”

“And how would you know that?” Doxx exclaimed in disbelief.

“They have dust on the cots. The druids’ bedrolls don’t.” Adrissa said simply.

“That would indicate something happened to them,” Bookshelf noted quietly. Looking around the room a moment they continued. “This little camp doesn’t show any gear that would be useful for maintaining weapons or armor. I don’t remember any on the surface either.

“They weren’t expecting trouble,” Sage said grimly. “It seems that the druids might have taken them by surprise. Their trees would have been problematic for unskilled soldiers or guards.

“Let’s continue down then,” Doxx said impatiently. “I don’t like this.”





I refreshed the light on Sage’s shield, we continued down the passageway down. It started to curve to the right, and we descended deeper. The air grew warmer as we continued, and I felt on edge more than normal. Sensations stroked my spine, giving me chills strong enough to make me shiver. I swallowed and looked at the others, to see if it was my imagination.

It was clear that everyone was on edge, but nothing more than usual. But I noticed that The Blade was twisting his head around a lot, and that he clutched the amulet he wore under his jerkin. He shifted It by the cord side to side as if it was chafing the elf. I was about the ask him about it when suddenly, a flash of light caught my eye. At about the same time, The Blade hissed and pivoted around, with an arrow notched and his bow held level, half drawn. I looked around confused, and then I saw the flash again, on the walls, brief and faint.

“Bookshelf; douse your globe a moment,” I asked.

“What’s the problem?” Sage asked still looking ahead.

“I need to see the tunnel, without all the lights” said. “I will need to dispel the light on the shield as well.”

“Only some of us can see in the dark you realize?” Doxx complained.

“It won’t be long. Bookshelf?” I responded and looked at the slender warforged. They nodded and with a quick word, the driftglobe doused itself and returned to their hand. I then focused a moment and pulled in the light from Sage’s shield.

The tunnel of course now was as bright as day to me; but no shadows danced across the walls. Doxx, Rosa and the warforged looked around nervously, unable to see, while Adrissa, The Blade and I looked around. Unconsciously we held our breathes, not knowing what to expect and waited. Then, it happened.

“What is that ahead of—” Adrissa started. Everyone turned, and there in the passage was a halo of light that pulsed up the passage from the depths. It was a simple quick flicker, that illuminated the rune like carvings on the wall. But it passed quickly behind us. To my eyes, I could see that the runes remained lit for only a brief moment, before fading.

“I…saw that,” Doxx whispered.

“As did I,” Rosa acknowledged.

We waited and then another pulse from the depths passed us. As it did, I felt the chill waft through me. I then turned to look at the Blade, and as yet another pulse flew past us, I saw him shift his head again. “Something…is hurting you Blade?” I asked

“The Blade. Yes. My amulet is…it feels like it’s burning my neckline.” He responded with irritation on his voice.

I stepped to the wall, and waited and as the light flashed by my, I felt the chill grow stronger. Taking a deep breath, I placed a hand on the wall. It was dry and dusty of course, but it was surprisingly warm as well. I traced a finger into the carving, when the light flew up from above. As the edge of light touched my hand my vision was flooded with color, and I yanked it back in pain. Smoke poured from my palm as I felt the remainders of searing agony, followed by numbness and chills, that coursed through the bones of my hand. I turned it over, and tried to flex my fingers, and found them slow to respond.

“Myrai!” Rosa yelped in concern. Bookshelf reignited his driftglobe and she moved to me and took my hand. Upon doing so she grimaced and hissed through her teeth. “Your hand! It…hurts.”

“I know that—“ I started.

“No…your hand hurt me, just as I touched it.” Rosa responded.

I looked at my hand for a moment trying to process it, and raised it again to the wall, but this time not touching it. I could barely see the waves of light as they passed. When they did, I could feel them tug on some of my strands, but others recoiled. I closed my eyes and concentrated a moment, and I realized that it was the few strands that I felt were a part of me, and not my connection to the Apocrypha. That part of me deep inside that claimed my soul as an Aasimar.

And it was revolted at not the light, but whatever pushed it along the walls. I could feel then that it was masking something. There hiding behind it was a presence. Something malevolent. Something that seethed with hatred.

“There is…something…wrong about what is causing this light,” I said to the others as they looked at me with concern. Rosa took my hand and was gingerly looking and feeling it for more injuries. “But it isn’t the light itself. It’s like feeling the heat from a fire, but your hand isn’t near the flame itself. The light is result of some activity, and that activity is…well…its not from here. And it really doesn’t like me.”

“I think you might be overreacting a bit,” Doxx said dismissively.

Adrissa looked at me and impulsively walked to the wall and reached out and touched it near where I did and waited.

“That doesn’t mean it’s safe to touch!” Doxx hissed. But Adrissa shrugged after a wave of light passed.

“I feel a tingle…but that’s all.”

“Then what is it with my…” The Blade started and trailed off, not willing to explain.

“Because…it and I are touched by celestials.” I said and turned to look down the corridor descending. “And whatever this place is, doesn’t like that.”

“So, what do we do?” Adrissa asked confused.

“We continue downwards, and pray,” I said with the rest nodding or shrugging as I flexed and placed the light back on Sage’s shield.

We descended deeper, and ahead of us we saw a flash. It created for my eyes this weird reaction of lighting everything with shadows, which then the shadows disappearing as the ‘darkness’ returned. At least that’s how I thought people with normal vision saw it. We slowed our progress until Sage turned around and said, “Douse the lights.” We then proceeded forward quietly.

The corridor leveled out, and we crept up and huddled at the corridor entrance to a large room. Inside on a center pillar, covered in runes and sigils was a crystal that spun round and round. From one end was a cone of light that swept across the floor in the room. Stepping closer I could see that there were four other pillars spaced around the room, also covered with sigils. On top of these was a cone, plated in some type of shiny metal. Across from us, was what appeared to bars, or perhaps a portcullis. While to our right were a pair of closed doors, but the scale of them was at least three to four times my own height. The light reflected off the dull metallic surface as it swept the floor in front of it.

“Don’t step into the light,” Doxx said.

Bookshelf turned to look at the old woman, “Why?”

“Probably is a trap,” she replied in an annoyed huff.

Bookshelf shook their head and opened a panel in his wrist and pulled out a slender length of steel with a yellow crystal. He flicked it, and the crystal flared to life, and the warforged eyes glowed blue. Replacing the wand, he surveyed the room for a moment before speaking again.

“Well, if that is true, there isn’t anything magical about it—” Bookshelf started.

“--He’s right. We should stay in the shadows of those columns,” The Blade said confidently. The light swept by where we stood and he quickly dashed into the room, and took position by a column to the left, his body pressed against the column in the shadows so the light couldn’t touch him.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Rosa said. “You’re afraid of a light.”

The Blade sprinted to the second column on the right, placing him closer to the barred entryway. Meanwhile, Doxx moved and took position on the right column in the same way that The Blade did.

“No. They aren’t kidding,” Rosa said exasperated. As she said that, Adrissa followed in The Blade’s path to the first column. The Blade however didn’t move as he seemed to survey the far side of the room.

Bookshelf, pulled out from leather satchel a copper wire and spoke aloud. “The Blade, what do you see? You can reply to this message.” The warforged then stood silent and nodded quietly.

Sage blinked, and then poked Bookshelf, “You might need to tell the rest of us.”

“Oh. Right. There are some levels on the central pillar opposite the gate, and out of our view from here. Inside the gate there is a room, and he thinks there are some figures within, reclining.

“Prisoners I bet! We should help them!” Rosa said, but Sage held her back.

“Are they moving? You can reply to this message.” We all stood there waiting. I used this spell a lot and I was happy for once, not to be in the middle. On the otherhand, not controlling the conversation is irksome, so I was not going to make it messier.

Bookshelf spoke again slowly, “They are very still. He thinks they are dead.”

Rosa now was getting more agitated and started to walk into the room. “This is going to take—” and she halted at the sound of Doxx’s voice.

“Rosa!” Doxx hissed from his pillar and still staying in the shadows. “Stay out of the—"

The light swept over Rosa. We all held our breaths and listened. We didn’t hear gongs, or roars or the stomping of many feet. Nothing changed about the light which spun as before unaltered in pace or color. Rosa then turned and glared at the old woman who fell silent simply shrugging her shoulders. Sage, Bookshelf and I stepped into the light and the same nonevent occurred. The light didn’t hurt me at all, and I guessed it was just a simple light and not the source of my earlier pain.

Adrissa growled in frustration, and walked to the center column, as Doxx and The Blade moved around the pillars and out of the shadows. She looked at it and said aloud, as Rosa walked past her to get to the gate, followed by Sage. “So…three levers. One probably opens a door or something.”

“Adrissa, we don’t know what—” The Blade started as Adrissa reached out and pulled the middle lever.

The light in the center of the room spun faster, and its color shifted from white and darkened to a deep red. Then I heard hissing sounds, as the conical objects elevated slighting, and spun around in place. On each one, several of the plates split open up and exposed a hollow which was quickly filled with a barbed point of metal. Each one of the cones quickly exposed four of these barbs each.

“—that will do.” The Blade finished glumly, as the room suddenly was filled with the sound of high-pitched whistles, as the barbed metal bolts were rapidly fired into our midst.

Session Notes:
Technically, it took about an hour in real time from discovering the room, to the point that combat started. Sometimes the best drama is player created, but I honestly don't think this was as intended. Adrissa and Rosa were both a little fed up on the checks to dodge the light and moving around, and trying to use message to communicate next steps becauseone wanted to make noise. So it was a relief when the shooting started.
 
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