The Thorns of Winter -(updated 8/1/2023)


Lizard folk in disguise

The Worst Wizard​

The creature blinked once and made a low rumbling sound, that only just covered the muffled sounds of Kalborius in its gullet. Its eyes squinted and it pulled its lips into wide toothy grin as it watched Sage and Doxx charge down the center of the shelves. It squatted down low awaiting the charge unconcerned. Doxx, being the faster of the pair had her stick ready and was about to swing when we all heard a sound the sound of something spiting. Doxx turned her head and all I could hear her say, “There’s anoth—”

From between a pair of shelves on the right, a flesh-colored mass the size of a small pig slammed into Doxx, and then retracted back dragging Doxx with it. We all heard a loud grunt and the old woman scream in pain. Sage’s head turned to look down the shelves, and when from the left side another tongue slammed into Sage’s shield. But unlike the first one it simply pulled taut, and then stretched even farther as the Juggernaut continued to lumber down towards his quarry. Sage didn’t even break stride heedless of the of the giant mass of green flesh he now dragged behind him. The creature gurgled in frustration as it tried to regain its footing, tumbling behind the runaway warforged.

“Great, three targets,” The Blade said and loosed an arrow which lodged deeply into a spine of book on the shelf. The elf growled, and notched another arrow and loosed it, and it pierced the extended tongue attached to Sage, causing it to detach from him. The momentum carried it down the same aisle that Doxx disappeared down.

“What the?…nononono AGH!” Doxx shouted followed immediately followed by the sound of a pair of damp wet fleshy creatures slamming into each other. Sage ignited his armblade and swung at his target, easily cutting through its viscera with a sizzling sound. From inside the toad there was a scream of panic. The creature opened its mouth and attempted to rip off Sage’s sword arm with its maw. But Sage turned and it chewed instead on his shield. As it did so, the muffled screams from it stomach became clearer, “Watch it with the flaming sharp object!”

Bookshelf and I looked at each other and shrugged. He with a snap, pointed a cold white beam that struck the toad, and hoarfrost formed over its right shoulder and chest. It turned and glared at the warforged, grimacing. I then pulled on some light strands and cast a pair of strands toward Sage’s opponent. They manifested as bright purple bolts, but it felt different. I could feel the energy flow down the strands faster than before, and the bolts seemed to glow brighter than they had before. They both slammed into the toad thing and its gaze snapped to look at me, its eyes narrowing.

“That’s not good, is it?” I asked Bookshelf.

“Unlikely,” the warforged said.

“What in Dolurrh are banderhobbs doing here?” Rosa said in puzzlement. We both looked at the druid confused as she ran down and stopped at the intersection of shelves where Doxx had been dragged. She looked down between the rows of shelves and yelled, “Where are you Doxx? Where’s the other one?” and she rolled on the floor dodging a tongue that lashed out at her

Adrissa grimaced and bolted down the stacks drawing two short blades as she ran. Then she suddenly ducked, as another tongue shot out at her from her left, not two paces from where The Blade, Bookshelf and I stood. I then heard Doxx’s stick strike and crack bone, and the sound of a banderhobb grunt in pain.

“Wasn’t Doxx on the other side?” I asked, suddenly alarmed.

“I’m going to flank it,” The Blade said, and he darted to the left, trying to reach the end of the line of shelves. Unlike the middle of the room, the sides were dark, based that I couldn’t see any shadows with my eyes. At that point Rosa called out, “Whatever you do, stay away from the shadows!”

“What? Why—What the?” The Blade called out at about the same time Sage said, “It backed up between the shelves and vanished!” The Blade made a grunting sound and followed by the sound of teeth ripping leather and The Blade hissing in pain. Adrissa stood up and continued to run down towards the sounds where Doxx was swinging her stick, and I heard her swords slice into flesh and the banderhobb bellowed in pain.

Bookshelf ran to follow where Adrissa had gone, while I decided to follow The Blade. I rounded the corner and saw it dragging the elf behind it and darting between another pair of shelves, letting arrows fly as he ran. At least one found its mark, based on the grunting I heard.

“Sodding Baator,” I said, not having time to throw more magic at it. I ran and turned the corner and saw that the toad had released the Blade and now watched us with an evil smile. The Blade had been mauled and was now bleeding badly. I ran towards him putting my shield in front of me, expecting a tongue to lash forward. Then I pulled on a light strand and used it to weave a lattice to close the bleeding lacerations on The Blades’ shoulder. Nearby I could hear Bookshelf mutter, and I heard crackling ice, followed by a sound of wood on wet flesh, and the sounds of swords slicing and cutting.

Out of my vision, I heard Sage say, “You will not evade me that easil…what the?…WATCHOUT!”

I heard a creaking followed by a loud thump a short distance away, followed by more creaking. I turned my head to look at the banderhobb and it smiled and waved its hand, wriggling its fingers as it stepped into a shadow and melted away. I furrowed my brow confused, when I heard the creaking and thumping repeat itself and get louder. The sounds of books scattering on the floor, followed by more crashes and booming sounds growing louder. The Blade looked at me and staggered to his feet. He turned his head toward the crashing sound, muttering; “It baited us, and its partner pushed over the shelves! We need to run!”

The Blade grabbed my hand and pulled as we ran towards the center aisle. The crashing of the bookcases grew louder as one shelf hit another as the stacks were collapsing. The Blade pulled me along, his longer legs and faster gait causing me to stumble and trip. We were several paces away from the aisle, when the shelves on our left shuddered and started to collapse. The stack, dumped its contents onto our head as it proceeded to tip, coming down upon us.

“Pike this!” I leapt forward and pulled back on The Blades’ arm, pulling him into an embrace with me. I then cast a strand of light towards the aisle and pulled on it hard snapping it. The air rushed through my hair as I clutched elf and dragged him with me, following the strand to its terminus. From behind me the thundering explosion I left behind, shredded books and scattered papers everywhere. The I watched the stack push over its neighbor, as it collapsed into a pile of splintered wood. The air rushed through my hair as the shelves shattered behind us. But I barely had time to digest this.

We stood there, The Blade’s chest touching my breastplate. But even clad so, I could feel there was a hard object above his breastbone. As we embraced, I felt a surge of energy from it. It wasn’t like the strands that I used. It wasn’t dark or light, but what I felt was something more familiar. It felt like one of those times where I would summon the light from within me, but the energy was inside whatever he wore.

It felt like me.

I looked up at The Blade, his masked face betrayed a momentary flicker of surprise, as I realized he too could feel the same sensation I did. But we had no time to dwell on it, as he aimed his bow towards the far side of the room, and loosed a pair of arrows. Each sank deep into the toad that had only a moment before emerged from the shadows at the end of the shelves. It looked down at the arrows that jutted from its hide with disinterest and then looked at the The Blade and I, shaking its head. It then raised a hand up and extended a finger to its lips and made a wheezing “Shush” sound.

There then was the sound of a loud crack, and Doxx rolled out from the stack, clutching Adrissa. The shelves fell over and as they did so and started to fall upon on the next set. As the last shelf fell, there was only a solitary guttural “Eep!” sound, followed by a loud pop, and squishing noise. On the floor, green and pink ichor flowed into the aisle from the crushed banderhobb within.

The other banderhobb was still wiggling its fingers at us when a shadow emerged from behind it. It turned in confusion as a large brown bear embraced it and started to tear at it with claws and teeth. It returned the favor with its toothy maw, ripping into bear hide with glee. Blood and ichor flew everywhere, as Rosa kept at it, holding her toad in place. The banderhobb then looked around in alarm, as it tried and failed to move towards a shadow and was quickly assaulted by cold light beams from Bookshelf, Doxx’s stick breaking more bones, and finally Adrissa cutting into it, causing it to dissolve into more sticky goo.

Turning, I saw Sage chase after the third one, as it lumbered to the edge of the room. They both ran on top of the collapsed shelves, as both of their bulks, crushed the wood beneath their feet of steel and flesh. Suddenly, it turned to face Sage and bellowed. Out from its mouth in a ball of slime flew out Kalborius, who slammed into the warforged. Sage, off-balance from chasing the banderhobb, caught the man and was bowled over, hitting the floor so hard, the shelves that still stood, shook, and books fell from their shelves. The banderhobb was still smiling and made a motion with its hand and pointed towards a thick paned window. It ran over next to it and crouched down and disappeared.

Quiet filled the room as dust drifted down from the rafters. Ruined shelves and their contents were now scattered across the floor. Many of the books were torn from their bindings, and few seemed to escape the fracas unscathed. Among the wreckage, Sage’s armored form creaked and shuddered as he slowly sat up, cradling the dripping form of Kalborius in his arms.

“MRorr…Is everyone alright?” the bear asked as it shifted back into Rosa.

“Never…better,” Doxx said flopping down casting her arms wide across the length of shattered wood.

“Kalborius?” Sage asked the dazed man in his arms. The wiry man was panting heavily, as he wiped goop from his short shaggy blonde hair. His face was covered in a scaggy scruff of a thin beard, now matted against his cheeks. He patted the ground and found a pair of wire rimmed spectacles that he put on, only to realize that one lens was cracked, and the other missing.

“I’m…fine. Where is it?” the man said as he squinted looking around at the pile of books with difficulty.

“Where is what?” Sage asked.

“My spellbook. It was under my arm, as I was sorting out other texts, when that thing swallowed me,” the man replied.

“I think this is it…based on the slime,” I said as I pulled on a light strand, to lift a slimy text from the floor, unwilling to touch it.

“Oh no! It will be ruined!” Kalborious exclaimed as he approached and saw the soaked book.

“I can probably dry it out,” I said as I started to weave both light and dark strands and squeezed them, pushing the fluid out of the pages as the others talked.

“What did you call these things?” Bookshelf asked Rosa.

“Banderhobbs,” Rosa said with disgust, but she looked around the room nervously. “They are a magical amalgamation of flesh and shadow, and not a real creature of nature.”

Bookshelf thought a moment, “Something that a druid would create, based on you know about them?”

“Here Sage,” I said handing the thin tome to the warforged. “Can you look at this and see if I should do more, while I clean off Kalborious?” I slapped away the hand of the man as he reached for the book. “You are still covered in slime, so don’t touch it till I’m done.” The man nodded and patiently waited, while Sage flipped through the book.

“You really should use a spell crystal, they are far more dura….ble,” The warforged cocked its head as it looked at the book in confusion, and then addressed Kaborious. “This is a cookbook.”

“Yes yes, all magic spells are recipes really,” the man said as he patiently waited for me to finish cleansing him.

Sage shook his head, “No. This is book about cooking food. This page is a recipe for Karnathi sausage bread pudding. Although…why is it covered with diagrams in…wax?”

“It was the only thing handy, and I inscribed the arcane language on top of it. Only a wizard would understand.” Kalborius said dismissively.

“I am a wizard,” Sage said evenly as he flipped through more pages in the book. “And these drawings don’t make any sense.”

“What do you mean wax?” Adrissa asked, as she cleaned a cut on her arm with a cloth. She walked over and looked at the book as Sage flipped through the pages. “Wait…crayon? You can write spell books with crayon?”

“Not normally,” Bookshelf said.

“Certainly, you can!” Kalborius said defensively. “I did exactly what the priest said to—”

“You took wizard training…from a priest?” I asked.

“The Silver Flame disciples helped me understand arcana and encouraged me to take notes as I used my spells…to sometime surprising effects.” Kalborius admitted.

Sage shook his head, “That’s backwards. You don’t cast a spell randomly and take notes. You learn the spell and then cast it.” The warforged handed the ‘spell book’ to the man. “I don’t think you are a wizard.”

“I am!” Kalborius said, with a tone that said he was insulted by the entire conversation.

Bookshelf and I looked at each other for a moment, before we said the same thing, “He’s a sorcerer.”

“I am NOT!” Kalborius said in a huff.

“Anyway,” Rosa continued, “I have never known a druid to create them. The Children of Winter don’t. I heard about them from Greensingers.”

“What’s a Greensinger?” I asked, unfamiliar with the term.

“They are a sect that lives deep in the Eldeen Reaches, and they spent time with the fey of Seelie and Unseelie courts. But I have only heard of them being used by…” and Rosa’s voice trailed off for a moment as she looked around on edge.

“By…what?” Doxx asked impatiently.

“Well…covens of…hags.” Rosa said finishing her thought.

I gulped. I knew there were many kinds of hags in the multiverse. Each has access to strange magics and powers. They respected no one but other hags. The most famous hag I knew of was Ravel Puzzlewell, who was mazed by the Lady of Pain well before my time in Sigil. But I didn’t have much time to dwell on this as at the uttering of the word, ‘hags’ Kalborious reacted.

His face grew pale, and he started to shiver as he shook his head back and forth saying, “No…no…nononono! Not her. I don’t want to do anything with her.”

“Her?” I asked confused. “A…hag?”

Kalborius gulped and nodded. “Y-y-yes her. She lives in the hills nearby. Only the desperate seek her out, but she usually just spurns most seekers. But the stories about her…they say she was here before Karrn the Conquerer, and she turned him away…yet she spoke with Galifar years later. When people do manage to make a deal with her, it never ends well.”

“Does she have a name?” I asked in a low voice.

Kalborious nodded and muttered, “Twisted Mirth.”

The Blade was agitated and grabbed the man by the collar, “So, why would a hag send a banderhobb to a Cannith—OUCH!”

I turned to look at The Blade, and half of his face was now covered in snow and ice. He turned and looked back at the window, and there stood the banderhobb, holding a second ball of snow it its as it looked at The Blade, its eyes narrowed into a glare. It bellowed and then melted into the shadow again disappearing.

We ran to the window. The Blade was the fastest of all of us, and he reached the windows and threw it open to look down at the street, just as another snowball hit him in the face. I stood next to the window and leaned in cautiously and looked below. There standing in the snow beneath a lantern, stood the injured banderhobb. It beckoned with its scrawny arms at us. It didn’t run or move; it just watched the window with interest.

“It wants us to follow it?” I asked confused. “Why would we do that?”

“I’m doing no such thing,” Doxx said, turning back towards Kalborius. “Where’s the book we were looking for?”

Kalborius shook himself to regain his composure, and started to look around the floor, “I had just pulled it from that shelf…under there,” as he pointed to a crushed bookcase. “…when it swallowed me. But I don’t—”

“It has it,” Rosa said pulling herself to look over the window sill and look at the street below. There under the lamp, the banderhobb’s tongue snaked out of its mouth, holding a tome of some sort. It waved it around with its tongue before retracting it and stuffing the tome back into its mouth. “And if I had to make a guess…Twisted Mirth wants to talk to us.”

Session Notes:
Kalborius Framlin "Wizard Extraordinaire" is my son's favorite concept character. A sorcerer, raised by priests, who led him to believe he was a Wizard. It's just more funny that Sage (also played by my son) is arguing with himself about being a wizard.

Twisted Mirth on the other hand...we'll talk about her soon. Very Soon.
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Lizard folk in disguise

March of Many Darks - 5/15/2022​

“You can’t be serious,” Doxx said pointing at the gesticulating banderhobb. “That’s an invitation?”

“I can’t think of a reason to stand there waving a book around,” Rosa said looking at the old woman reproachfully.

“Do we really need this book?” I said already knowing the answer.

“I don’t see how we can avoid it,” Sage responded.

“I agree,” Bookshelf said quietly. “Whatever knowledge is within its pages; it has been reviewed four times. And at least one of them is well informed enough that she wouldn’t have bothered if it were worthless.”

“You think Melisandre is all that?” Doxx said giving the slender warforged a sour look.

“She knew much about each of us,” Bookshelf continued. “She had reason and methods to know, and whatever her motivations, she doesn’t seem to be one to leave important knowledge unchecked and unheeded.”

“If…if…if…you are going to see…see…seek out Twisted Mirth, leave me out of it!” Kalborius stammered shaking his head back and forth.

“What about the oil?” Adrissa pointed out.

“That’s right,” I said, and I walked over and knelt by the shivering wreck of Kalborius who looked at me confused. “Do you have any in the stores here?”

“I…well…I think so?” Kalborius said confused at the change in topic. “I don’t keep track of the inventory, but I know it’s used for a lot of different things—”

“—How much?” Rosa interjected, rushing next to me.

“I don’t know…perhaps…well…I guess…”

“How much?!” Rosa stamped her foot in anger.

“Well, I think it is maybe a gold or two per flask—”

“Not the PRICE you idiot!” Rosa grabbed the man by his lapels, still soaked with ooze from the belly of the banderhobb. She shook him her teeth gritted in frustration. “How much do you have!?!?”

“Aaahh,” Kalborius stammered as the halfling continued to shake him. Rosa was then pried away by Sage as the he tried to speak. “Ah…maybe a tun?”

Rosa looked at the everyone quizzically while Adrissa and I shrugged our shoulders.

“That is about 36,000 flasks,” Bookshelf said after a moment calculating the answer.

Rosa smiled, “That is more than enough, assuming we can get enough morning glys we should have enough to cure—”

“—Cure?” Kalborius said warily, eying Rosa.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Doxx shaking her head vigorously and waving her hands wildly trying to keep us quiet. Unfortunately, Adrissa had her back to Doxx and spoke up first, “To cure the plague in Denning before it spreads—”

“Plague!?!” Kalborius’ eyes bulged in shock as Doxx winced and cradled her head in her hands. His eyes then narrowed in realization, “But you need the oil to make…a curative?” He stood up and straightened his ooze-stained robe. “It should be kept here for safe keeping—”

Rosa smiled sweetly and looked at Kalborius. “You wouldn’t happen to have any morning glys here?”

The man frowned. “That blooms in the spring normally, but not here.” he said. “In the swamps near Bog-o-Narn usually. But it doesn’t keep, and there have been several Cannith alchemists that have been trying to discover a meth—.”

“—Well then…we need to make it closer to where the outbreak is,” Rosa continued. “Otherwise, the curative won’t keep either.”

“That…that makes sense. I can see if anyone is willing to transport it, I suppose.” Kalborius said slowly.

“Leave the oil here and we should guard it. Perpetrators could just walk off with—OOF!” The Blade started, before another snowball hit him in the back of the head. He whirled around and there by the window, squatted the banderhobb. It shook the water and ice off one hand, while in the other it clutched another large snowball, which it casually passed between its claws. It’s looked at the The Blade with a toothy grin that opened wider at The Blades seething glare. It then made a low croaking sound and stepped backwards and faded from my view.

“It likes you,” Doxx said bemused.

“If it is foolish enough to lead us to its master,” The Blade said grimacing beneath his cowl. “I suppose we should pay this ‘Twisted Mirth’ a visit.”

What I didn’t realize that he meant ‘right now,’ and not ‘after a good night’s rest in a warm inn.” Although it had little to do with The Blade’s opinion, but it was more the insistence of the banderhobb. It had little concern about our comfort, as it lumbered ahead of us enthusiastically. It noisily crushed the snow beneath its flappy feet, and it occasionally bent over to gather some snow it kicked up and threw a large ball of snow at us when we didn’t keep up.

Well, ‘us’ might be generous. It really just kept throwing them at The Blade, and only when its aim went wild did it pelt anyone else. And it wasn’t like we could really keep up with it as the creature had a maddening habit of disappearing behind a frost covered tree and reappearing farther ahead. Eventually it grew bored with its icy jabs and freezing taunts, and simply waited for us to catch up with it, before leading us onwards through the icy fields in front of the foothills.

Then the clouds broke open, and moonlight covered the snowy landscape, the first time in many weeks. The light was enough to foul my strange sense of perception, and I saw the frozen landscape like how everyone else would. The trees were scattered around us, and the ground was covered in frozen bushes and scrub. The sound of our boots or metal clad feet crunched through the snow as we made our way to a range of hills ahead of us, while behind the lights of Cattbron were nothing more than a dull glow over the horizon.

The hills were a decent distance from the town and my legs were already aching from the march. This wasn’t my idea though.


“What do you mean we can’t take the horses?” Doxx said with a look of incredulity on her face.

“There is no way we are going to bring animals anywhere near a hag,” Rosa insisted.

“Aren’t we more at risk of…being eaten?” Doxx exclaimed.

Bookshelf and Sage looked at each other and just shook their metallic heads at what was obvious to them

“Not if the hag really wants to talk to us,” I had said. “If she wanted to just kill us, or use us for stew, we would be dealing with something worse than banderhobbs.”

Rosa nodded, “Most natural creatures stay far away from hags, and magebred horses, while not natural are smarter than—”

“—Us—” Doxx muttered.

Rosa glared at the old woman and kept talking, “—most people.” At which Doxx narrowed her gaze at the halfling. “So best we stable them in town—"

“—and walk,” Adrissa said grimly shaking her head.


And so, we plodded forward, the hills slowly growing closer. I shivered and tried to rub feeling back into my arms. The cloak I wore seemed to leak my body’s warmth away into the night, causing shivers through my limbs. On horseback this wasn’t as bad, as the steed’s body was like a furnace below you. But now nothing held back the biting cold’s caress. I winced and shut my eyes. I was tired. Beyond tired. Maybe if I stopped…

“You need to keep moving.” My head snapped up and I shook some sense back into my head. The Blade was standing beside me and nudging me along, and he threw his long leather cloak across my shoulders, sharing some of his warmth.

“Th—th—thanks,” I chattered.

“Don’t mention it,” he said quietly. I glanced at his masked face under the cowl. There was some crusty snow still melting from a well tossed ball from our guide. I could barely see his eyes, but I could see them twitching and focusing on different things; the banderhobb, Adrissa, the occasional tree. But after a moment they focused on me again and his spoke in a hushed tone. “What was that earlier?” he asked.

I huffed a moment and barely shook my head. In then reached into my pouch and wrapped the copper wire around my finger, and I brushed my thumb along the edge while I looped a strand around us.

“I assume you wanted privacy,” I barely whispered. His eyes turned to glance at me, and I could feel him nod ever so slightly. “I felt something…like myself.”

“What does that mean?” I heard in my head, as he replied to my missive.

“It felt like that part of me that…makes me an Aasimar. I feel it when I create light or purge poisons or diseases. But there was something different about it.” I paused a moment and watched his face.

He had stopped looking around and his focus on was on me alone when the inevitable question came; “How did it happen?”

“Well, I am guessing it is because of something you are wearing, probably on your chest.”

“Why would you say that?” he asked suspiciously.”

“Because we were chest to chest when I felt it, and I don’t feel it now standing next to you.”

His eyes narrowed thought, processing what I said. “You are…observant.”

“And correct?” gave a small smile as the magical connection continued to keep our words private.

“Yes. It is a…token from my grandmother,” his voice said in my head.

“Can I, see or hold it?” I asked carefully. Something about the way he ‘spoke’ about it was evasive or perhaps just reluctant to share.

He didn’t respond immediately. But I felt his head move and I glanced and saw him nodding. He shouldered his bow and reached within his tunic and pulled something out. He cupped it in his hand as if he was trying to hide it from the world, before placing it in my right hand. I could feel a surge within me as it resonated with me, sending warmth up and down my back. I then cupped it and pulled it close to my face so I could look at it closely.

Wrapped in a network of fine chain, it was a shiny dark grey material that was shaped like a flattened spiral, similar to a snail shell. I turned it over in my hand and I could see nor feel any entrance or defect in its surface. I brushed my gloved thumb over the strange object, and I could feel it respond to my touch. Each brush sending a sensation of power through my hand. I bit my lip a moment as I regarded it, and I lifted the object closer to my face. Squinting at it revealed nothing new, so I decided to try something. I turned my head a little and placed the flattened side of it and pressed it into my cold cheek.

The flare of warmth was a wonderful feeling, but that sensation was all too brief as I could now feel a connection. My vision was distorted as I was torn away from the hillside and raced among the clouds and beneath the stars. I was moving rapidly through the night, and I crossed over land and then a great ocean. I could see that I was rapidly approaching an island. Not a small one, but a huge one that put places like Nelanther to shame. I barely could grasp the size as I felt drawn to a city there, deep in the woods. The stone walls and causeways were old, but it wasn’t abandoned or in decay. I could see and feel points of energy moving around the streets, some faint and some bright. My senses then were pulled towards a large ziggurat in the middle of the city, and I was pulled to its edge.

My awareness stopped suddenly there. I felt pulling, but I couldn’t approach the entrance to the pyramidal structure. I could see in the stone nearby carvings, each ablaze with a bright white light, but the lettering was unfamiliar. I tried to move my perspective and found that I was in the grip of something I could not directly perceive. But I felt it hold and constrain me. As I kept trying to pull away, I found my awareness unable to shift away. Then as I struggled, I saw a light approach from the ziggurat. It was almost blinding as it enveloped me, and I realized it wasn’t one light, but a swarm of them. I could feel them swirl around my mind, and I could hear a cacophony of voices in my head. Each one spoke over the other, but more than that I could feel emotions from each light.

Surprise. Alarm. Concern. Curiosity. Contempt. Fury. Hate.

But most of all, Love. Not for me. Not for a particular specific light. A love not just for lights around me, but for lights in the causeways. Lights across the island. Light across the world. All the lights.

I struggled with the flood of emotion coursing through me, and I could feel not warmth, but heat flare through my body and up my spine. My back arched in pain as I could feel my wings appear in a blinding golden blaze. My mind was assaulted by more and more emotions and thoughts that slipped past me in my struggle to put everything into context. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I grasped the basics on what I felt. Something only described to me once, in tones of sadness and regret because it was something I could never experience.

Or wasn’t supposed to be able to.

Each light was a soul; I knew it. I had pulled enough people away from the veil of death that I knew the contours of them well enough. I could remember being nothing but a soul once in The Fugue as I thought I would meet my god in person. But I remembered that while my soul felt not stronger, but it had a radiant quality compared to others. I thought at the time it was the Strands and their connection to me, but now I realized that it was simply because of who I was; a daughter of a celestial.

But these souls put me into my place, as my soul was a best a pale imitation of their glory. And as I hung there in their judgement I had only one explanation for their source, a legend of their creation as the offspring of not an angel. But from a god.


As that revelation crossed my thoughts, I felt a wave of rejection. The journey I had just begun, played through my senses again, but in reverse and in far greater speed. Within a the briefest of moments my vision returned to where I stood, light fading from the shocked face of The Blade, and the others around me. I realized that I somehow was in the air above the snow, and I quickly fell into the snow below me, the icy cold a slap to my body, as much as the slap to my soul a moment ago. I lay there panting in a daze as I could hear echoes around me.

“What in Khyber was that?”

“Is she alright?”

“Those wings were beautiful—”

“—Nevermind that they scorched The Blade.”

“Are you alright? Say something.”

“I’m fine citizen—”

“—Not you! HER.”

“That manifestation was greater than her prior ones.”

“Not now Bookshelf.”


I could feel my shoulder being gently shaken, and my eyes focused on Adrissa, who knelt in the snow next to me. Her face was streaming tears, but they weren’t tears of pain, but the tears of someone in throes of exultation. Like a window to the divine had opened and shut before her.

I blinked a moment and turned my head to look at my open hand, where The Blades’ token was. There in bright sigils was an elven word. I snapped my hand closed and started to push myself up, when Doxx and Sage lifted me to my feet.

“What was that all about?” Doxx asked me accusingly. “A blazing light in the middle of the night is only going to attract problems.

“What?” I asked wearily. “Like a banderhobb?”

Doxx’s face went red for a moment, “I know we are expected but still! That light show could probably be seen a league from here!”

I looked at him, and I am sure that my face was a muddle of confusion and disbelief. “What?” I asked.

“Darling,” Rosa said with a bemused smile. “You were a blazing light, greater than…no the only one we could see.”

“What triggered that?” Sage asked pointedly.

“Is it something repeatable?” Bookshelf quickly followed up with.

I glanced at each member of the group, but I really only wanted to see what was on The Blade’s face. His head had only the barest of movement, but he was clearly shaking his head no; at least to me.

“I…I…can’t explain it. But I don’t think that would happen again,” I pleaded and swallowed, hoping the others would believe me.

“How?” Sage asked, as his towering form moved next tome and looked down at me, his eyes bore into me, searching for a reason to disbelieve me.

I wasn’t frighted of Sage normally, but it was only now that I realized how small I was, compared the juggernaut that easily weighed over four times my own body, armor and all. He could have easily broken me into two with the barest of effort if he chose, and I doubted I could even scratch his metallic skin in defense. I nervously returned his gaze and took a deep breath to steady myself and reiterated, “I don’t think it would happen again. I can’t say why.”

“Perhaps it has something to do with…this?” Doxx said. I inwardly groaned as I turned to look at her, and there hanging from her staff was The Blades’ token. I didn’t even feel her slip it out of my hand as I was brought up to my feet.

“That,” The Blade said evenly, “is not yours.” His bow slipped off his shoulder and he quickly grasped it with his left hand.

“I think I have a—” Doxx started.

“—You do not.” And The Blade held out his right hand. “Return it.”

Doxx and The Blade glared at each other. Doxx’s fingers clenched her staff tightly, her knuckles growing white from strain, while the Blade tightened his own on his own weapon. I think we all took a step back from the two, hoping that it didn’t come to blows.

The wind had just picked up slightly, when I heard a sudden rush through the air. I didn’t even turn to look, as alarmed and fascinated with the tension that was strung between the changeling and the elf. But the sound faded quickly, as a snowball struck The Blade in the side of the face. Doxx lifted a finger as if to point it out, when a second ball struck her in the face as well. Both turned and looked up the hill, where two banderhobbs stood, each one packing another pile of snow into a packed ball.

Then I heard a creaking and squeaking sound, of metal on metal. Then this strange sound came from Bookshelf’s mouth. As Bookshelf stood there, he started to shiver and then finally began to laugh. We all looked at each other for a moment, as the rest of us started to cut loose at the absurdity of what had happened. All except Doxx and The Blade.

They stood there unmoving staring into each other’s eyes, as snow clumps fell from their faces, their brows knit in concentration. Then suddenly both sputtered and joined us in laughter. Doxx proffered her staff with the token on the end, and The Blade took it back gently.

“We have enough problems with those…two?” Doxx said realizing that the banderhobb count had doubled. “We can’t become focused on the wrong thing.”

The Blade nodded in agreement, “No; we cannot be divided. And I assure you of two things; one this is personal. Two, she is never touching this again.”

I looked at The Blade with an expression that probably said, “hey now!” But the others looked at me and the mock damage to my pride and laughed harder.

“Let’s get up the hill, before we are…assaulted again,” Sage giggled in a deep baritone.

“I thought Doxx could, I don’t know, dodge those?” Bookshelf chortled.

“Yes, yes, yes. Very funny, let’s move!” Doxx said.

The Blade tucked the token beneath his jerkin, and he looked at me impassively.

“I’m sorry…about that,” I said as we turned side by side to trudge up the hill. I didn’t bother with the copper ring as any pretense of secrecy was gone. “I didn’t expect that…experience at all.”

“What did you experience?” The Blade asked quietly.

“I saw a city of stone, on a large island. Inside were souls. Elven souls.” I said looking at the Blade. I could barely see his eyebrows lift under his mask.

“You..saw Shae Mordai?”

“I guess?” I said uncertain on if it was, and why that was important. “I felt, rather than spoke to whatever I saw. But I wasn’t welcome there. Not at all.”

The Blade nodded looking ahead. Frowning he simply said, “The Undying Court.”

“What is…what is that?” I asked, never having remembered anything like that when Arnara and I spoke at length in the Misty Forest.

“The collection of the ancestors of the Elves,” The Blade said quietly. “The Aereni elves have paid homage to them for 25,000 years.”

“What does that token, have to do with them?” I asked.

The Blade pursed his lips and then sighed. “It was my grandmother's and see was a member of a group that protected the rulers of Aerenal and the Undying Court by extension. But she was betrayed and was…killed. This is all I have left from her.”

There was more there. I could see the pain on The Blades normally stoic face. But I didn’t want to cause more problems than I already had this evening. “Did you…did you see the writing on your grandmother’s token, when I fell?”

“I saw the light, but not the letters,” The elf said looking at me again. “What did it say?”

“It was a symbol that, is a challenge to the reader. To, ‘Have Faith,’” I replied. “Does that make any sense to you?”

The Blade frowned and looked at me, “Not really. I believe in myself, and that is enough." And with that, he pulled away and wrapped is cloak around him, leaving me again in the cold to shiver. I could only sigh and curse myself for handling something so sensitive to another so terribly bad. I couldn’t have predicted what had happened of course, but it made me feel inadequate all the same.

But what did happen? It was awe inspiring; nothing I had seen or felt before had the beauty to compare. I knew that from my time with the wood elves in the Misty Forest, that they held themselves aloof from, humans and others. I asked Arnara about it, and she had replied that it was avoiding the pain of losing people close to you, so frequently. It made sense, and I didn’t question it. But now I realized that there was far more to it. That the nature of the elves’ existence was a step removed from the rest of the mortal races. Or rather, two steps, if one could consider I was only a single step removed. That there was a difference of being borne from the blood of your god, as opposed the seed of an angel, or the whims of a god’s creation. I wondered if I could really understand Arnara at all.

I tossed these thoughts back and forth, as we climbed into the hills. We followed a trail the circled around one tall hillock, switching its trail back and forth. Here on the hillside, the scant few trees, were bare of snow and of life. Frozen mosses and lichen adorned branches and stone, but none looked healthy. It was rot frozen in winter for all the eye to see. The scrub was dusted in snow, and it too looked like it had the life choked away, many seasons ago. It was hush, with no sounds beyond the wind that tore through the hills in frozen gusts. The banderhobbs had scampered out of sight, and finally the trail we were following revealed our destination.

The trail opened up into a small gorge, clear of snow, inset into the hillside, with the rocky floor of sloping away toward us at the entry. At the top of the slope stood the two banderhobb, who fidgeted as they stood with their backs to the rock, flanking a crack like opening, where a sickly purple and green light flickered within. Off to the side of the entrance, was a plinth of stone the height of Sage. The plinth had writing carved into it, and as we approached, I could read warning in many languages. Most of them said, “Go Away,” or “Mind your own business.” Some were more advice in nature like, “All deals are final,” and “You better know what you are asking for.” And at least one I could see was crude humor of a sexual nature. Or I hoped so; I didn’t think dwarves could bend that way. But it was at the very top of the rock that gave me a sense of foreboding.

On top of the plinth was the miniature executioner’s raven. It looked at the Blade and hissed at him, confirming my fear; it was a familiar. I swallowed and decided that keeping Gossamer hidden away was the better choice, despite the tongue lashing he would dole out for his ‘imprisonment’ later. It looked at us and stood upright with a look of imperial disdain and began to preen its feathers, unconcerned with us or the cold.

We approached warily. I for one didn’t know how to announce ourselves to the occupant within. But I didn’t need to worry about that as it turned out. From inside the rent in the cave wall, appeared a shadowy form of a hunched figure, casting a long shadow across the floor of the gorge. Then we all heard a high pitched screech that morphed into a chuckle that echoed around the gorge. It was like finger nails scraping on slate as it took on the form of the most malevolent sound of glee that I had ever heard. After serval moments it gave way to a voice that chastised and mocked us.

“Well…finally the puppets of the three have arrived,” it chortled with malice, before increasing the rhythm of its insults, “Took you long enough to get here! Lollygagging through the countryside like your world wasn’t going to end!” It sighed and again chuckled. “Well, nothing more to be done there; all the good help was killed off long ago. So, I guess it’s you, or nothing. And have I the bargain for you…so step inside pawns; I promise not to bite…unless you want me to. Let us see what you can do for old Twisted Mirth, shall we?”

Session Notes:
First...this is very late. RL has been challenging recently, but I want to get back to the ride here.

The Blade, like the others, had a complex background story that were revealed in pieces; sometimes by the player, and sometime by the DM. As Ryan's writings indicate, there is a lot of family in the back of The Blades mind, which made him what he is today. The interactions that The Blade had with others was perhaps the best parts of the campaign.

But now we will begin to see the stage that players are really...but perhaps not all of it yet. Twisted Mirth has a tale to tell, and she of course does want something...which should give any sane cutter pause.
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Lizard folk in disguise
A lot of these chapters have been really solid lately. There’s a good streak going here.
Well...lots to describe and lots and lots of dialog.

However, I would be the first to say, that discussing anything with Twisted Mirth in her home isn't for the squeamish


Lizard folk in disguise

Twisted Mirth - 6/2/2022​

We stood several paces away from the mouth of the cave, each looking at the other. The shadow appeared to shrug, and moved back into the cave, the red fire light spilling into the gorge as it casually mocked us, “Come, come, harming you now would be missing the point of inviting you. And I have invited no one else before.”

This did nothing to make us feel at ease, but finally Sage shrugged and stepped forward, and the rest of us fell in line behind the juggernaut. As he crossed the threshold of the cave, one of the banderhobbs belched, causing myself and Rosa to jump at the noise.

“Fen and Garry won’t bother you; they will keep others away. Go boys!” and the pair just bounded out of gorge, back down the path we took. The hag continued, “Ah…you sent ‘The Guardian’ in first. Wise to show your obvious fear; makes things easier that way, ah ‘The Vigilante’, ‘The Spy’, ‘The Balm’, ‘The hunter’, ‘The One with regrets’ , and—” I just stepped into the cave, in time for her to look at me and say ‘The Prodigal One’ and as she did my breath quickened at the sight of our fears, and I realized we were serious trouble.

Hags. There are many kinds of these fey I am told, each commanding strange magics and stranger knowledge, best left forgotten. But they existed as twisted mockeries of the fey, valuing ugliness in place of beauty. But as evil and malicious any one could be, there was always the worst possibility, and Twisted Mirth was one of these.

She stood over a cauldron, poking its contents with a rod coated in layers of dried something, so thick, that the rod’s true shape was lost under it. But she was taller than even Sage, and she looked down at him and the rest of us with coal black eyes. Her hair was shock of frizzle, streaked with blacks and purples. Her skin was the color of purples and blues, deeply lined, and covered with boils and warts, each with wiry hair sticking out of them. Twisted Mirth’s face was contorted into sneering smile, her hook like nose flaring as she looked us over, and she turned her head, there buried in the mess of hair were curled horns. And as I looked at that visage, chills ran up and down my spine and my heart quickened. Everything in my gut was telling me to bolt, while the only thing running through my head was that it was too late.

She was a night hag, the strongest and most dangerous member of that sisterhood. Where I came from, they had travelled the planes until they reached The Gray Wastes and either it corrupted them or they took what they wanted from it. Master manipulators and crafty merchants, selling power, dreams, or souls. The only one I knew of, was one all Sigilites knew, and that was Ravel Puzzlewell, and she was so brazen and powerful that the Lady of Pain mazed her. But that was the Lady of Pain’s home, and locus of power; here we were in Twisted Mirth’s.

She clearly relished our discomfort and chuckled, “Such fears you wear on your sleeves,” she said slowly with a twisted smile, “And eyes empty of anything of real importance. I shall have to teach you all the true matter of things.” Then she sped up her cadence with a glare, “like you have any time all left,” before calming herself down. “Come make yourself…comfortable.”

I finally tore my eyes away and looked around the cavern. Shelves were scattered along the walls, the planks held up by skeletal hands, jutting from the rock. On some were librams, jars, and small pouches, sacks, and boxes. From the ceiling too more skeletal hands held the ends of ropes or perhaps dead vines, each ending in a cage, or a flask, or other strange objects twisting in the air. In one corner was a mirror of brass, tarnished and soiled so no reflection could be seen clearly. On another end, stood a workbench with random cutting tools scattered on the top, and a chest underneath. On another end of the room was a large chair, upholstered in some type of scaly leather and covered in dust. Next to it with a small table and glasses with only a single lens. The hag snapped her fingers, and I then realized, she wasn’t alone.

The first figure was a man, who walked on hands and knees. He was clad in a grimy smock, and his long, dank hair covered his face, so his features were concealed. He scrambled to the other side of the small table and waited on all fours, steeling himself and trembling. Twisted Mirth wasted no time sitting on his back, wiggling her posterior on him as if she was getting comfortable. The man groaned and said nothing,

The second figure was a filthy woman. She was nestled between two shelves, her dirt caked arms grasping her knees. But at the snap of Twisted Mirth’s fingers, she stood. Her hair color was difficult to identify, as it too was caked in mud and grime. From beneath it you could just make out the pointed tips of a half-elf’s ears. Her face was finely structured, with high cheekbones, a narrow nose, a small, dimpled chin, and bloodshot, watery eyes that communicated misery. She moved to a chest in the under the workbench in desperate haste, and opened it, pulling out a tray. She set it on the bench, and then pulled out an assortment of mismatched dirty mugs. She stood there and looked at the mugs and waited.

Twisted Mirth, pulled out from a pouch a small, dried fruit and crushed it into dust that drifted down from her hands. Once she did, there was the sound of bubbling from the mugs, and the woman took the tray and with eyes down, presented the tray to Rosa.

Twisted Mirth smiled and spoke that sweet grandmother like voice, “You must be parched after your long walk here.” She then looked at us all and waved her hand nonchalantly, “The drink is perfectly safe, a fine wine from another age in fact. I have nothing to gain by harming you. In fact, that is the last thing I wish to do.”

Rosa took the mug and stared at the contents and took a quick whiff of its contents. She frowned and shook her head before speaking, “Ah…we appreciate your hospitality…uh aunty Twi—”

“—Grandmother is the appropriate title. So cultured and mannered,” she said smiling, before quickening her cadence to mock us, “unlike the rest of you ready to soil your small clothes.” She then sighed and nodded for Rosa to continue.

Rosa gulped as did I. She knew as much as I did, that hags had a pecking order among themselves, and in that order a grandmother was the top. But she recovered and continued, “Grandmother Twisted Mirth, we only came because of a text your…fine servants recently…borrowed from the Cannith library. So, if we could just—”

Twisted Mirth shook her head and pulled out a whistle made of a bone. It shrieked a hideous sound for a moment before she put it away. From outside a banderhobb flapped inside and stood in front of Rosa. With ease, it quickly spat out the book at Rosa’s feet, covered in slime and bile, before it scampered back out of the cave. I moved to Rosa and knelt down and pulled on a strand to see if I clean away the mess, as Twisted Mirth spoke again.

“And there it is. However,” she said with a vicious smile, “the gnome that wrote it was arrogant, insufferable and plain wrong about so many things. Everyone that has read it recently had to sift through it to find small grains of knowledge. But I…I know the truth behind what he found, and its importance. Otherwise, keep the thing; it has no value to me. You…do however.”

The girl presented the tray to me, and I took a mug, not even glancing at the contents. I was not going to drink it, but I didn’t want to be rude to whatever passed for manners to a hag, when Sage spoke, “What exactly is the price.”

Twisted Mirth looked at the juggernaut with a twinkle in her eye. “For this…nothing. The deal I wish make we discuss a little later. But for now, it amuses me to subvert your opponents and tell things that are hidden, and the stakes at play.

The girl moved to Bookshelf with her tray, and the hag continued. “You found the node in the mountains, and you know clearly it is not a Dhakaani construct. It is as you surmised something far older. It is also only a small part of a great…machine.”

“A machine?” Sage asked, as the girl made her way to the warforged. “What does it do?”

Twisted Mirth smiled, “I know that it draws power from the planes around Eberron, each node a different plane. As to what it does? Well…in part, turn spring to deepest winter, clouds and storms, and walls of thorns obviously.” I stopped cleaning the book and looked at the others as each one took this information in. “It can remake the world with either the greatest precision or the most brutal ways. Its creator invested much of itself into the machine, and it was a great source of pride to them. As to who it was…you would refer them as an overlord of ancient times. One of many now bound in prisons around the world. That one was known as Mat’astalan, the Shaper.”

The girl had moved to Bookshelf and handed him a mug as Rosa spoke again, “An overlord…from the Age of Demons, bound away by the Gatekeepers.”

Twisted Mirth snorted, “Hardly. The Gatekeepers maintain the seals, but it was not they that bound them. Matters not, Mat’astalan was bound, and they took the easiest path to do this. They bound him into his own machine.” Rosa’s eyes grew wide. “And yes…as they turn the machines node back on and empower it; his one chance of freedom approaches.”

“Why would Moragon do this?” Bookshelf asked confused. “I do not see how a druid would side with an overlord.”

“I agree, it doesn’t make sense,” Rosa concurred, “Even for the Children of Winter—”

“Unless he doesn’t know,” Doxx said simply. “Moragon has been manipulated.”

Twisted Mirth giggled, “Right you are. He doesn’t know. He found a machine, thinks he knows how to control it, but he doesn’t realize the true risk. It is written nowhere but…here,” Twisted Mirth tapped her temple with a dirty talon like finger.

“And how do you know?” Bookshelf asked.

The girl moved to Doxx, who without a though took a mug, “Because my silly warforged, I was there when he built it, used it, and watched them become bound into its coils.” I looked at her and wondered, how long ago this was. I had to remind myself that she was an immortal, and immortal motivations were far far different than our own. Which made me wonder what was driving her here. “Shame too; Mat never got to use it at full strength. That would have annoyed the other overlords, and they did try to get along…most of the time.”

“So, who’s manipulating Moragon?” The Blade pressed, after being offered a mug from the girl. He took it, and with a quick motion, placed it back on the workbench.

Twisted Mirth’s face turned from amusement to one black with rage. She gnashed her teeth and said between gritted teeth, “I…I made a bargain under duress. And one point is that I cannot divulge who they are, nor confirm who they aren’t. But it is one of Mat’s loyal servants, one of the members of the Lords of Dust, and Mat’astalan’s speaker. And they have been manipulating many people, as is their opposition.”

“Why all the subterfuge then?” I asked. “If it was a matter of turning on the machine, that should have been possible a long time ago. Shouldn’t it?”

Twisted Mirth shook her head, “It isn’t enough to just turn it on. The right people at the right time are required, to allow the seal binding Mat’astalan to crack. So, the interested parties have been searching the world for parts of the Prophecy to ensure those right things happen…or not happen as the case may be.

“Prophecy?” I asked looking at the others, and it was Rosa that was rubbing her eyes, trying to relieve a headache.

“The Draconic Prophecy,” she said in a tired voice. “It is a living prophecy, written in the bones of Eberron in far away places. Its…huge. So huge that no one person knows it all, and it keeps—”

The girl moved to Adrissa with the final mug, and tripped, causing the mug to spill on the floor, and the girl to fall flat on her face. She quickly sat up and looked at the hag in utter horror, both of her hands covering her mouth.

“Snave…” Twisted Mirth said her head shaking in disappointment, yet a cruel gleam was visible in her eyes. From outside, the executioner raven, flew in and alighted on a shelf, along a row of glass jars. It then quickly dipped its beak into one and pulled out what appeared to be a twitching slug. But I then realized it was something else entirely, a tongue.

The raven hopped over to another open flask and then dropped the quivering tongue within. As I heard the sound of a plop into liquid, the girl reacted. She lay on the floor and thrashed, kicking and beating the floor with her hands. Veins stood out in her arms and neck as her body contorted. But the one thing she did not do, was make a sound. Whatever pain she felt was done in utter silence.

Everyone had something on their faces at the sight of this, disgust, horror, sympathy fear. Only the warforged gave no clear expression on their faces, but I could hear Sage tighten his grip on his shield. Bookshelf was however a mystery, saying nothing and doing nothing. But I couldn’t just let it happen, and so I turned to face Twisted Mirth and smiled, “Please; I’m not sure what she has done to warrant this, but it is…” my mind raced to find a polite way to save the girl from the silent pain she was enduring. “…distracting us from you telling us things you want us to know.”

The hag grinned, “How nice to think of me at time like this. And here I thought you might care for her. Or him,” as she pointed to her living stool, who’s face was contorted in pain from holding up the hag on his back. She nodded to the raven, and it picked up the tongue and dropped it back in the jar it was found in, which caused the girl to stop contorting and twisting on the ground. She instead lay on her back, her eyes full of as she looked at me with sorrowful expression. “Each of them, not just broke a deal, but tried to cheat me. So, thirteen years and a day a servant to me is the penalty. And she’s so close to the end as well. But please…continue Rosa.”

Rosa shuddered and tore her gaze away from the woman lying on the floor, panting in silence, “It changes over time, as certain circumstances are met. Its complicated and the only three groups of beings can really understand its vast permutations I am told. The Aerenal elves, the Lords of Dust, and dragons.”

“All true,” Twisted Mirth giggled. “But here we are, near the very end of this particular one. It is only now that it is almost possible to break the overlord free, and only if certain things are accomplished. This is the end game for Mat’astalan’s freedom, or continued imprisonment. And you. All of you, are pawns in this.

“I can’t see how it could be us though,” Doxx said frowning. “At the risk of being rude, I would say you have a vested interest in the outcome.”

Twisted Mirth leaned back and howled in laughter, a cold cruel screech that you could feel scraping along your bones. She settled down, and stifled her own laughter and seem to quote something from memory:

"’A gathering of interests seven. Two new men; one a guard forgotten, another a flesh peddler. A sharp one of the giant's folly hiding in the darkness. Two children of the Traveler; one serves a king, the other honors the dead of the marked house of health. Finally, two children of loss, one near and one far.’

Twisted Mirth looked at Doxx smiling, “Certainly sounds like you. But are correct, I have a vested interest here. Because what I want is something so pure and simple that even you,” and she pointed at Doxx who glowered in response, “Could understand it. Revenge and humiliation for the one who dared to hold a bargain over my head. So, I want you to succeed and keep the overlord in his prison.”

I was confused at first. A fiend that didn’t want a ruler of fiends to be free? But the more I thought about it, Twisted Mirth wasn’t beholden to this overlord. And if the politics of the Lords of Dust was anything like the Abyss, that short term deals, betrayal and self-interest were the norm.

“So, we’re your pawns then.” I stated evenly.

“Almost,” the hag said slyly. “Your ultimate success or failure is your problem, not mine. I can work with either outcome. But Mat’astalan’s speaker? They can lose. They must lose personally. So, while that could result in Mat’astalan being freed, it is more likely they will not.” The night hag gave a crooked smile, “So you might say I have a vested interest in your success.”

“So, what is the deal you want to make?” I asked.

“So, I wish to give you two things. The first thing is knowledge on how to operate the machine. Because as far I as am aware, only I and Mat’s speaker know how to operate it.”

“That will not help us much,” Bookshelf said. “We would need a key. And that druid, Tracia smashed the only one we knew of. We had hoped the book would have some information about it.”

“Ah…the book knew of two keys; the lesser and the greater,” Twisted Mirth said knowingly. “And sadly, Moragon has the only greater key that remains.” I heard several others give a heavy sigh, but I didn’t. And I was right in my suspicious as the hag continued, “But that stupid insipid gnome knew nothing about the master key.”

“So what?” Doxx retorted. “Unless you have it what good does knowing—” and Doxx looked at the hag, whose smile grew wider as he spoke.

“You have it,” The Blade said.

“Most of it,” Twisted Mirth corrected. “And I know exactly where the two pieces are to complete it. I will finish it and give it to you to use…as you will.”

“And what do you want exactly?” I asked.

The hag cackled “Simply you find the Speaker and remove them from the board. Nothing more, and it as close to an even exchange that you will ever get from another auntie.”

“You will set your two slaves free,” Adrissa said quietly. She had been silent throughout the discussion.

Twisted Mirth looked at the girl with an expression between surprise and amusement. “How adorable; trying to bargain…” the hag rubbed her chin and after a moment shrugged. “Why not? You may have them.”

The man serving as Twisted Mirth’s seat, twisted his head to look at Adrissa with tears in his eyes, as he continued to struggle to hold Twisted Mirth’s bulk. The woman however, propped herself and looked at Adrissa with shock, shaking her head in what I guessed was disbelief.

“So…how do we do this?” Doxx asked, “Spit? Blood oaths?”

Twisted Mirth stood up shaking her head. “Such perverted bargains come later,” to which Doxx shuddered for a moment at an unbidden thought. “For me to make such a bargain, I need you complete a task for me. Or rather two tasks.”

Session Notes:
Twisted Mirth is not a nice hag. At all. And yes there is/was a lot of exposition here, but it leads to excitement I swear.


Lizard folk in disguise

More than we bargained for - 7/2/2022​

“We must be out of our minds,” Rosa muttered trudging through the snow.

I nodded, “I agree. And we technically haven’t made a bargain or contract or anything!”

“Get two precious gems from guarded locations,” The Blade growled. “If it weren’t from a hag, it would almost read like a post bill in Sharn.”

Doxx shrugged, “That at least would make sense,” the old woman said rubbing her thin arms with her hands as she pinched the staff between her neck and shoulders. Then she pointed ahead of us, “But following that usually isn’t part of the deal.” Ahead of Adrissa who was leading our march, flew the grey winged executioner raven.

“They aren’t far at all!” Twisted Mirth had said. “Just follow my pet here, and he’ll show you the way.”

“True,” Sage said. “It’s probably just a familiar so she can keep eyes on us.”

“Think she knows a way to bypass the limit on distance?” Bookshelf asked, peering at the raven with curiosity.

“With hags, anything is possible,” I said. “They all have, strange access to powers no one else can duplicate. Its why people gamble and try to get a deal from them; all because they do impossible things. But it never seems to end well…or not that I have heard anyway. But this is still strange.”

“Because she didn’t make a bargain with us,” Rosa nodded in agreement. She then furrowed her brow and turned to look at me. “Do…you have experience in these kinds of contracts, Myrai?”

I winced and after a moment spoke slowly, “I did a contract once, and only once. But it was with a Baatori—uh what you would call a devil. It was long, complex and I thought I was very canny when I signed it.” Sighing I looked down and fought back the tears and memories. “I was very wrong.”

Rosa kept looking at me, “And things ended badly?”

I nodded, “I…I was peeled like a cony…Sorry that probably doesn’t make sense to you. Basically, I was being cheated before I even arrived.” I said remembering the malebranche’s toothy, malevolent grin as it pushed the contract towards me in the Tenth Pit. “I made a bargain to save my…my lover.”

Rosa pressed, “And they didn’t honor the bargain?”

“No.” I said tearing up a bit. “They honored it. To the letter. They let him go and didn’t kill him. But since he had a contract with them to die…they honored that too, and they let him bleed to death as I watched, helplessly. Then they fulfilled a hundred and thirty-three contracts, each one taking a turn with me and…”

Rosa blanched and stopped and looked at me in concern, “They used you…how?” she took my hand and turned me to look at her standing below me.

I stopped in the snow and continued. “It was different for each fiend, but it all involved…pain.” I could still remember the ache in my arms as I hung there in chains for the fiend’s amusement. “I nearly gave up my sanity along with skin and blood. But the one thing they wouldn’t let happen is let me die. Much like the two in Twisted Mirth’s cave. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to end it all but found themselves unable to do it.”

“This isn’t a bounty,” Doxx said, as the group gathered around me. “This is the makings of a horror story, that teens tell each other to make themselves sound brave. We should find another way and leave this hag out of it.”

“We need the Master Key,” Sage said. “Without it, we cannot turn this eldritch machine off.”

“Nor do we know how to operate it,” Bookshelf said. “And Twisted Mirth does.”

“But Morrigon has to have a key on him!” Adrissa pointed out. “We should just take his!”

Rosa sighed, “The other one we saw, was fragile; we can’t risk him breaking it.”

“Look this whole thing seems strange; especially since we didn’t make a bargain,” I said. “I don’t know how hags make one, but we’d all have to agree and do…something.”

“She’ll have you sign a paper with your blood mixed with hers,” a rough sandy voice said to our surprise. We looked around startled and confused. Twisting my head, I saw that the executioner raven, had alighted on a small boulder and was pecking at it with its jet-black beak. It then looked at me and the others in turn and opened its beak and spoke, “That’s how she likes to seal her deals.”

Doxx leaned over to Sage muttering, “It can talk…”

Sage looked at the old woman and sighed, “And it probably heard you,”

The raven blinked and opened its mouth again and it started to huff the air rapidly, “Oh she’s a smart one…or is it a he? Can’t always tell with changelings.”

I sighed and crossed my arms as I glared at it, “A familiar indeed. You have a name?”

The raven cocked its head, “Oh the lily is trying to be polite! Pike that berk. I don’t give a sod about you, your adams or even that swagger Mirth.”

I clenched my rod in my hand as tightly and clenched my teeth. “I should styx you, you halfheaded, unhende—” I raised my rod and started to pull on a strand. Bookshelf grabbed my arms, pinning them to my side. I started to twist in a poor attempt to escape his grasp. The raven started huffing again, and I realized what it meant.

It was laughing at me.

“Go ahead and earn a page,” it hissed at me as I struggled against Bookshelf. “Running a ful black one against poor me is climbing the spire.”

“So, we didn’t enter a bargain,” Sage mused. “Why?”

“A reasonable question, tinman.” The raven said. “No telling what’s going on in her bone-box. And to answer your foamed up lily’s question, my name is Snave.”

I stopped struggling as I narrowed my eyes looking at the raven, and Bookshelf released me. “How did you get here, because you sound like a cager.”

Doxx leaned over to Sage, “Its common she’s speaking right? I can barely follow it.”

“Trading of insults in a type of slang,” Sage observed. “Probably from where she grew up, although not sure about the raven—”

“—It’s Snave, you gearheaded lemon!”

“Snave.” The Juggernaut grumbled and glared at the bird for a moment, before continuing. “Do you know anything about where we are going?”

Snave cocked its head and looked at Sage, “To a hole in the ground, wider and deeper than that greenskirt lily’s—”

My blood boiled as Snave spoke and I cut off the nasty bird, “--Why you!—” I flexed and threw a dark strand around the bird and pulled. I could feel the dark miasma start to form and then suddenly, the strand flexed and whipped back at me. I could feel pain around my head, and I fell to my knees, hunched over. I gasped and gripped my head in pain. As I stared at the snow, I saw blood drip on the white surface, each droplet giving off faint steam. Growling, I pulled myself up to a kneeling position and wiped the blood from my nose.

The raven’s huffing now had tone and a deep grating guffawing came from its throat after a moment of me fuming, and it looked at me shaking its head. “Oh, that’s rich! You run a black one and try to deliver me the mail? Sodding mephit, serves you right! Get this through your thick wormy, bone-box; Mirth doesn’t give a sod about me, but she isn’t going to let you fail on the account me getting boxed. So, use that brainbox for once and pike off!”

The bird then looked at the juggernaut again, “And before I was so rudely interrupted by the greenskirt, its in a deep hole. But that hole is on the edge of Khyber.” At that last word, the group became hushed and everyone but me was looking at each other with ashen faces.

Calming down a little, I looked at the others and saw the concern, fear and doubt cross many of their faces. Even the warforged with their stiff countenances shifted uncomfortably at the mention of the word. “What’s Khyber?” I asked the others. Everyone looked at each other but no one seemed willing to answer the question. “What is it…why are you afraid?”

“Khyber is the bowls of the earth below us.” Rosa said grimly. “Many foul things are buried and sealed there, long forgotten by most.”

“Like…like…the vegethings,” Adrissa said in a quavering voice. I could see her eyes wide and for the first time in a long while, the grim mask of determination fell away for a moment, and there once again was the young girl from the ranch. I was still on my knees as a reached out and touched her shoulder. She turned to look at me and took a deep breath and seemed to recover as Rosa continued to speak.

“No. Those were creatures from the Gloaming where decay is strong. But Khyber is where evil things were imprisoned. Some long ago, like the overlords. And then later …the Daelkyr.”

“Daelkyr…is that a fiend of some type?” I asked. The word was unfamiliar to me, but we had been talking about fiends, hags and other foul beings beforehand, but Rosa seemed to dread these creatures more.

“I…I…don’t know what they are. But the gatekeepers sealed them below. Nightmarish aberrations that are mockery of nature. But while the Daelkyr are sealed below, their servants aren’t. They infrequently come up from the depths.”

“I seem to recall that some theorized that they caused the fall of the Dhakaani Empire,” Bookshelf said quietly.

“I…had never heard that,” Rosa said. “But I could believe it.”

Snave started his mocking laughter again, “Afraid of the creatures below? You should be afraid. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of the horrors—”

“—You are a terrible motivator,” Doxx said.

“And fear doesn’t come into it,” said The Blade. “So…what is it? ‘Pike it and sodding lead.’” The elf and looked at me for approval

I looked at The Blade a moment, smiled and shook my head in disbelief in what I just heard. “Close enough, cutter. Close enough.”

We rested the night under a dome of magic. I yay there warm and cozy, with Adrissa close by. And while the nightmares were still there, they didn’t intrude into my waking self, beyond a pounding heart and quickened breath. The dreams left behind the tendrils of fear upon me, but it seemed far from the worry of the day.


It was near mid-day when we came to the entrance to the realm below. I was expecting a cave; like the ones in the High Moors, or the sea caves of Nelanther or the grottos beneath pirate town of Blackwater reef. Something with columns of stone and water dripping here and there, and narrow passages that twist around all alike, far from the light of the sun.

The only thing that matched that description was the lack of sunlight. Before us was a tunnel, where perhaps three could walk side by side, and perhaps several more with difficultly as the sides of the tunnel arched upwards. The tunnel, twisted down into the depths like a spiral. The walls were somewhat smooth but with faint weathering of water and wind, causing small cracks, and small piles of pebbles on the on the floor of the tunnel as it cut down into the rock below. But what stood out to me, was that the tunnel was perfectly round and there were no columns or pillars or branching passages as far as we could see. And then, there also was a low sound that hung in the air, a low ragged hum you could more feel than hear. Finally, there was a constant wave of stifling air coming from the depths. It melted the snow on the edges and formed rivulets of water that dripped down into the tunnel. They gathered into a small stream, which ran along the floor of the tunnel, and headed downwards.

We stood there looking at the passage heading down unwilling to take that first step. Finally, it was Sage that spoke first saying, “Staring at the darkness, doesn’t make it more inviting.”

Bookshelf nodded, and pulled out his driftglobe, and set it to a point just behind him. “Well, we won’t be blind.”

Sage nodded, and turned to look at the Blade, Adrissa and I, and asked, “Can you see anything?”

The three of us, moved to the threshold and looked down. From my perspective, I saw nothing remarkable. The tunnel was odd, but it just descended deeper, and because of the curve, we couldn’t see the end at all as it twisted out of sight.

“There isn’t anything to see; it turns and that cuts off my view,” The Blade said.

“Pretty much that,” Adrissa agreed.

“No nooks, no side passages,” I said and looked at the others. “It’s not natural, it must have been carved. But even in Krona Peak, the Mror’s passages were arches or squared off tunnels. Not round like this. They also had shoring or pillars supporting some of the larger ones. But there isn’t any shoring or any bracing at all.”

“Well…let’s send the raven in and let him scout it out,” Doxx said not even turning to look at the bird and kept her eyes looking downwards.

Snave was perched on a dead branch of a tree, preening its wings. The raven stopped and looked at the old woman and gave off that gritty chuckle and flared out its wings. It then said mockingly, “Are you barmy? I’m saying here.”

Doxx turned and stomped over to the bird and pointed her staff at it. “You’re supposed to lead us to the gem. So do it.”

“Nope.” Snave said. “Just to here. I am going to wait until you come out. If you come out.”

“Coward,” Doxx spat.

“Go hug a razorvine!” the bird retorted.

“Turd brain,”


Doxx turned to look at me confused.

I just nodded, “Means you’re an idiot.”

Doxx whirled around to look at Snave, “Just get down there!”

The bird yawned and then took to the air, and then dove for the entrance. Doxx gave herself a self-congratulating smile. But it fell quickly, as the raven circled the tunnel entrance, and then returned to the branch and cackled that same gritty laugh and said with a venomous tone, “Such a cony. Easy to bob and peel.”

Doxx looked at me and I told him, “He fooled you. Face it he isn’t going.”

“See! your greenskirt gets it!” Snave sniped.

“What does that even mean?” Bookshelf asked.

I glared at Snave and said between gritted teeth, “A jinxskirt is a streetwalker. A greenskirt is a cheap one.”

“Oh.” Bookshelf said and was about to ask another question, before he thought better of it and stayed silent.

“Anyway, If we need a scout, I’ll get him,” and I reached with my mind and pulled the strand, and out popped my familiar.

--What the?!? Wow is it COLD out here and…what the…what is that smell?

Sorry Gos, but I need you to…smell?”

--What? You can’t smell that? Its overpowering. Like fish or something. Its coming from…yep…that tunnel over…wait…isn’t the raven that we killed earlier.

Yeah. Can’t kill it now though.

--Really why?

A hag is protecting it until we get some gems.

“Oh wow; a little flying slave,” the raven said with a sneer. “Guess you don’t need me.”

“Stitch your lips,” I said to Snave and for some reason it didn’t bother to retort.

--I don’t like the bird.

You’re in good company. Can you fly ahead of us?

--Sure thing…but that smell is awful. Don’t know what it is.

Gossamer yawned and stretched, and then dropped down and ran into the tunnel.

Adrissa sighed, “I really do like Gossamer.”

I nodded, “He’ll let us know what’s ahead, but he did say there is a weird fish like smell coming from below.”

Rosa frowned, “If he can smell it and we can’t…its probably an animal of some sort. Or at least something living.”

“Wonderful,” The Blade muttered. Let’s get this over with.”

I had placed a light on Sage’s shield and Bookshelf’s drift globe hovered over us as we descended. The melted snow ran down into the depths as a thin shallow river, the trickle echoing off the walls. The curve of the tunnel was constant along with the slow measured descent. As far as I could see, there was no obstruction, and little variation. And Gossamer had little more to add.

--You know I could do this faster if you would just keep up

I don’t know what we are going to find down here, and I rather you stay close enough to still communicate.

--Well, I don’t know how far ahead or below you I am, but this seems to go one for…wait. A room! Can’t see it all from the entryway, but there is a pit in the middle of the room. Perfectly round though. These curves give me the chills.

Don’t go in if you can’t see the far end, wait for us.

“There’s a room with a pit ahead.” I said in a hushed whisper to the others.

“Anything within?” Sage asked in a low voice staring straight ahead, never turning to face me.

“Not from the entrance way; he can see in the dark but that not far.”

“We should be prepared for anything,” Rosa said.

“What exactly are we looking for?” Doxx hissed.

“I wish I knew,” Rosa said.

We moved forward, as quietly as we could. This was a challenge for the juggernaut, Sage, but we had little choice. Eventually I could see low on the ground, Gossamer who peered ahead of us. One of his ears turned our way, but he like Sage did not turn his head, focusing ahead.

--I can just see the entrance from here. Nothing is by the entrance that I can see. But the smell is worse. Not fish though. Something sharp and almost rotten and very strong.

I frowned and inhaled sharply with my nose and there it was. Just on the edge, a faint whiff of something acrid and spoiled.

“I can smell it,” I said aloud. “But Goss says that is very strong. We’re getting closer to…something.”

Sage nodded, and led with his shield in from of him, shining the light ahead. Directly behind him The Blade and Adrissa stood, both with bows ready, and then Rosa, Bookshelf each with a staff ready and then finally Doxx wither her staff and myself with shield in one hand and my rod in the other.

Goss watch our rear for now.

--Oh please? Even though you haven’t bathed in days, you all smell much better than this. I want to spit up a hairball…yeach.

Goss trotted behind us, and crept back the way we came, as we pressed forward and entered the room.

The chamber was shaped like an oval, with us on one end of the longer axis. The walls sloped at an angle backwards away from the pit, leading to a ledge that encircled the room. But the ledge was empty of anyone or anything from what I could see. In the middle of the room was a hole, perfectly round, with a smoothed curving lip on the edge, and the thin river of water from the surface dripping down into the depths. There was no light, coming from anywhere, and beyond the clinks and clanks of our gear and footsteps, they only sound was the hum that really was more felt than heard. Finally, I noticed that directly across from our group, was another round passageway, which I suspected descended deeper but also appeared to be empty.

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

Sage simply nodded and stepped into the room. The Blade and Adrissa spread out flanking the juggernaut, and behind him each turning and looking at the ledge and the passage way ahead. The rest of us stepped inside, looking around nervously.

“Nothing here,” The Blade said but he didn’t lower his bow. He and Adrissa turned, continuing to look at the ledge which encircled the entire room. But there was nothing there.

“Something is near though,” Rosa said covering her nose. Adrissa nose wrinkled in disgust and Doxx, took a couple of wads of cloth and stuck it up her nostrils.

“I smell nothing,” The Blade said.

“Nor I,” Bookshelf replied, and Sage nodded, still focused on the far entryway.

“Strange,” I said. Sage started to make there way around the left side of the pit followed by The Blade. I now led with my own shield and stepped ahead of Adrissa, my guard up.

“Should you be doing this?” Adrissa hissed.

“No,” I said still on edge. I could now see the passage ahead, and as I surmised it curved down into the darkness. I then moved a little closer to the edge of the pit. The edge was a smooth, forming a wide shallow funnel shape, and I was nervous getting too close without something to grasp. It prevented me from getting close enough to look downwards. Sighing in frustration, “I can’t see much down the passageway because of the slope, and I can’t see down the pit for the same reason.

“Have your cat-thing look at it from above,” Doxx said.

I nodded. It was a good idea, as he could fly and not risk a fall.

Goss, come here, and look down the pit and see what you see.

The tressym flew low into the room and banked around the pit’s edge looking down while circling and rising slowly into the air of the chamber.

--I can see another room and another pit descending. But something strange. The air in the pit smells…cleaner.

I don’t get what you mean.

--There is a draft pushing up from the pit. Warm air makes it easy to fly. But the air coming up doesn’t have that smell…so where is it coming from…oh pike me…WATCH OUT!

My heart started to pound, and I felt as slow as dripping honey as I tore my eyes away from the pit and looked at Gossamer. The tressym was wide eyed and was glancing at the ledgeway, as he dove heading back towards the tunnel, his wings pulled in close. But I very quickly saw what had scared Goss.

The shapes of figures were rising on the ledge, like they had been lying down when we entered. They rose in silence that seemed to be two quite different kind of creatures. The first kind were small and grey skinned, reminding me of a goblin. Each were kneeling, and I saw that unlike goblin, they each had four arms and their hands were full, wielding variety of weapons and a shield. Each had two slabbering mouths one over the other dripping drool. All of them crouched behind their shields and levelled crossbows at different members of our group.

If the four-armed goblins weren’t disturbing enough, the creatures that accompanied them were worse. Their skin was a mottled mess of sickly purples and green. From their bodies, small tentacles twitched in the air. Their long arms ended in hands with talons, and from their shoulders sprouted two long tentacles coiled, ready to strike. They glared down at us with empty eye sockets, and their mouths opened wide, exposing sharp teeth. A sinewy tongue longer than my forearm, tasted the air and licked their lips in anticipation.

I turned my head and realized that the creatures surrounded us. I drew in deep breath and watched as a half dozen of the tall ones leapt off the ledges towards us, while the small ones each launched quarrels into our midst.

“Ambush!” I yelled.

-- Session Notes

Very late; apologies, but real life concerns are real life concerns. Snave turned into a party favorite real quickly...wait no. That's inaccurate. They hated his guts. This was also the first time that any of the players had met the creatures of Khyber in Eberron as opposed to say the Drow in the Forgotten Realms. So the revealing of Dolgrims and Dolgaunts was a special moment, before all hell broke loose.
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Lizard folk in disguise
Well, Snave might not be a party favorite but I can't help but love him.


I will admit; he's toned down a bit. Even though half of the words are in the Cant, there was far more off color jabs and jibes. I had to balance it here a bit.

But it was the laugh they REALLY destested. They all remember it all too well.


Lizard folk in disguise

The Eyes Have It -07/27/2022​

With the sound of metallic snaps, bolts were flying everywhere. One bounced off of my shield with a loud clink. As for the other bolts it appeared that the diminutive creatures were terrible shots as only one other found its mar.. As I raised my shield to better protect myself, more bounced off of the metal. And the one bolt simply bounced off of Sage’s armored form, as he readied their arm blade. With a burst of green flame, Sage’s weapon lit up the chamber. He charged at one of the tall thin creatures and the smell of burning flesh flooded the chamber.

The creature made no outbursts of any kind, no yelling, no screaming. Just a hiss from its gaping maw as its long sinewy tongue thrashed about. It started to flail against the warforged, when another one attacked me. It was fast, and despite the empty eye sockets, it was clear it could see just fine. It hit my shield with its palm, causing it to resonate with the strike. I was distracted, as I tried to maneuver my shield, so it was between myself and it. However, I didn’t see that creature had spun around, and it then used its momentum to kick away my shield, and me nearly off balance. As my left arm was flung wide, I was struck by one the long fleshy tentacle across the face. I tasted blood in my mouth, and as I shook my head to regain a semblance of sense, the second one wrapped itself around my waist and thighs. I stumbled a bit, but I was unable to move.

The Blade was somewhat more fortunate. He took aim at one of the crossbow wielding creatures and a single arrow was enough to knock it off it’s feet, the shaft protruding from one of the creature’s maws. A second shaft from his bow had the same result and I thought I saw The Blade grin in satisfaction. But it was short lived, as another one of the thin ones, pounded at me with its hands, each one hit my breastplate, causing me to stagger. But it focused its tentacles on the elf, each one stretching out over my head and wrapping themselves around The Blade’s torso and his bow arm.

Rosa ran around the room, trying to find cover, while Adrissa followed her. The girl interposed herself between Rosa and the four limbed assailants that persued them. Her blades cut deeply into the sides of one of the creatures, spraying purplish pink blood across the chamber wall. Each cut put a wider and wider grin on Adrissa’s face, even as the thin creature was unable to secure a hit against the agile girl. She even batted away the tentacles that stretched by her in an attempt to hit Rosa.

Doxx also had her hands busy, as the old woman faced off against another tentacle assault. She was able to match it, blow for blow, with neither making much in the way of damage to the other. It was a flurry of kicks, punches, slaps and elbows, which were simply a blur as each probed the other’s defensives, looking for an opening. But they were equally matched defensively, and both were too canny to make themselves an easy target.

Bookshelf pointed a finger, and a frosty ray shot out, missing their target, and struck the wall behind them. The warforged sighed, looked around and motioned to us, shouting, “Come to me, I have an idea!” Doxx nodded, and spun her staff, striking the head of her opponent and leaving it dazed. She then planted the end of the staff on the rock and then vaulted over towards Bookshelf and landed upright next to her.

“I would…” I gasped, trying to pull myself away from the creature. Its other tentacle wrapped itself around my neck, and it was all I could do to keep it from choking me, as its fists pounded again on my armor. I thrashed and tried to use my shield as a wedge to force the tentacles off me without success. It leaned towards me with its long whip like tongue, like it was going to flay the flesh from my face when it smiled at me, and I felt excruciating pain around my torso and thighs where it had wrapped me up with its tentacles. I could feel it tearing at my soul, pulling parts of it no matter how much I tried to resist. Nearby The Blade grunted in pain, and at a glance I could see it was doing the same thing to him, robbing him of energy.

I shouted, “Blade! Come to—”

“—THE Blade—” he responded between clenched teeth.

“—sodding Baator! Grab! My! Rod!” and I stretched the rod towards him. He looked it and with his right hand grabbed the end, and together we pulled closer to each other. When his body was close enough, I felt within, and grabbed for a strand and wrapped it around us, while I cast away another one, next to Bookshelf. And for the second time in a day, I snapped it, causing our bodies to vanish from where we stood, leaving behind a blast of thunder, knocking the emaciated figures to the ground.

We reappeared next to Bookshelf, freed from the entanglement of the slimy tentacles. Sage simply pivoted, stomped over and started cutting through our enemies with ease, while Adrissa took down two more crossbow wielding creatures on the ledge, “Only two more left!”

“Where are they?” Bookshelf asked as he pulled a crystal from a pouch, and it began to glow.”

Adrissa fired an arrow behind the group and upwards to the ledge nearly above us. “Directly above us! I can’t get a clear shot.”

“No need,” and Bookshelf tossed from his hand a small, that glowed with a bright orange light. It continued upwards until it was level with the ledge, and then it exploded in a blossom of flame. I instinctively crouched down, as did the others from the conflagration above, but we needn’t have worried. The flames danced across my cheeks, and I felt only the hints of heat.

Above us, there were screams as each of the crossbow wielding creatures each howled from each of their two mouths, each one its own chorus. They each collapsed in a smoldering heap, the odor of burnt hair and seared flesh wafted down from the ledges above us. Bookshelf was looking upwards and nodding, “There that was…easy?” Bookshelf had lowered their gaze and they took a step backwards along with the rest of us.

Of the half dozen of the tall lanky humanoids, one stared at us with empty sockets hissing weakly. Its skin was almost burned away, leaving behind a shell of a creature. Its arms dropped limply to the sides, and it then fell onto its knees before falling forward to the rocky floor, with a heavy, wet sound. However, my eyes were locked on the five behind it, that seemed unharmed and unconcerned.

“Why are they still alive?” Doxx hissed.

“The others just flattened themselves on the floor or the wall,” Sage grumbled.

The five charged at us, their tentacles outstretched, and their hands clenched into fists. As they closed the distance, Adrissa and The Blade, fired their arrows at them each one’s arrow sinking deeply into their torsos but doing nothing to stop their onslaught. I found myself standing next to Doxx and he was next to Sage, each of us trying to interpose our bodies and our shields to protect her and the rest behind us. It was futile thought, as I was pummeled by their fists, while their tentacles just reached around us grasping Rosa, The Blade and Adrissa. I was furiously trying to do anything to protect anyone, when I heard Adrissa behind me scream and with horror I saw the arrows falling out of their wounds, and the holes closing up.

Rosa behind me grunted, and I heard her start to chant. Where before we had felt the dry rush of wind and flame, now suddenly the air turned damp. The hairs on my arms stood on end and as I heard crackling noises above me. Suddenly, an almost blinding bolt struck in the middle of the pack, and the sound of thunder echoed in the chamber. The white spots in my vision began to fade but what I saw brough no comfort. It seemed that the streaks of lightning were just something more for them to dance around, as not a one was struck by the bolt. I could hear the frustration in her voice as she exclaimed, “This isn’t fair! How can they move that….Augh!

Her scream made me cringe in sympathy; the creature’s ability to pull at your very vitality was excruciating. I was beating back more fists against my shield, when I realized that the storm above us was now swirling and fading away as the spell slipped away from Rosa’s control.

Doxx swung her stick overhead, and beaned one on its skull, “We’ll have to focus one down at a time.”

“Breathe Sage,” Bookshelf said simply. Sage nodded and opened his mouth and from it a gout of foul liquid sprayed over the creatures. But they twisted around the bile, as if their spines and bones just weren’t there. Or at least most of them, as one was grazed, giving off an acrid stench as it grazed over its shoulder and back.

“That did not seem to help,” Sage shouted, as he kept swinging his armblade, the green flames sometimes finding their marks, but as much as he cut, the wounds just closed as they took the other’s life energy to heal their wounds.

“We had better do…ugh…something!” The Blade muttered, sounding exhausted.

I felt a tentacle slip past me and wrap around my thigh. The pain started again as I felt like I was feeding it. Not muscle or blood but my soul instead, piece by piece. I glared at the one right in front of me and grit my teeth as I spat, “You want my soul? Allow me to show it to you!”

I pulled on every white strand within me. I had always played with the dark ones or wrapped light and dark together to manipulate the world. But I didn’t want to make simple miasma of darkness, or even to just pull me away to another place I could see as I did before. I yelled, in my own tongue, for the first time in a long while:

“Na koʻa ʻālohikane e ʻā i ki aʻuha mani!”

I could feel the wings, erupt again. But it wasn’t a simple warmth or flush I felt up and down my spine. The strands flew from me I as I cast them in a lattice in front of me. The weaving was rough, but it wasn’t what mattered. What did, was the light bursting forth as a conduit for my soul.

“What did she do?” Doxx yelped. “The floor is glowing!”

“I am not sure, but it’s affecting them.” Sage said.

They stood there cringing, and it was clear that their legs were about to buckle from the way they shook and staggered. I could feel the tentacle’s grasp around my starting to quiver and loosen as my light started to overwhelm them. “If we can keep them in the light—”

“Say no more dearie,” Rosa said and suddenly from the rock, sprouted roots and vines. They stood there helplessly as the strong tendrils held them fast. Their skin started to blister and smoke as the light scorched their flesh. “Let’s get out of reach of them!”

Sage and Doxx, pulled on my arms and I stumbled backwards. The monster’s grip was now so weak, that their tendrils’ s strength had melted away, and was weakening further by the moment. It was then easy for all of us to move away from their long grasp. I continued to pour myself into the lattice, and as we watched from across the room, they each collapsed on the rock floor their breathing ragged. One by one, their labored breathing suddenly shuddered a final time, before stopping entirely.

I let go of the lattice, and felt the strands dissipate, as did the dim light where the monsters once stood. I could hear everyone’s breathing slow down, and I felt my heart’s own beat become more measured. “That was…impressive,” Sage said. “The wings and light are one thing. But I no idea that just light would be enough to kill.”

“Light can cause pain,” Bookshelf said.

“You have no idea how often a noble from Fairhaven would come out to the Eldeen to play, only to head back to the inn after being kissed by the sun for too long,” Rosa said. “Light can hurt. I’ve heard in some places like the desert, it can even kill.”

“That seemed to be a bit more than light,” Doxx said slowly.

I nodded in agreement, “It is difficult to explain it, but I poured a bit of myself into it.”

Adrissa looked at me with a mixture of awe and concern, “Did it hurt?”

I looked at the girl and smiled, “Not as much as they did. But it is tiring. So…what are they?” and I pointed to the corpses.

“Dolgrim,” Bookshelf pointed to the ones on the ledges before gesturing to the one on the ground, “and Dolgaunts. Creatures of corruption from ancient times. I had heard of them, but this is first time I have seen any of them.”

“The Dalkyr created them,” Rosa said, slumping down on the floor and exhaling with relief. “Too bad the Gatekeepers couldn’t seal their works away. They are horrible things.”

“Sadly, these aren’t the worst of them.” Sage said.

“Let’s not plan on finding something worse, shall we?” Doxx said.

We rested for a while, before continuing to follow the passage way down. Gossamer was again in front just ahead of the curve while we looked for some hidden steel within us to keep us going. The river of water was gone from the passage, all of it spilling into the pit in the room behind us. So, it was not surprising when I could hear the echoes of dripping of water ahead.

--Another round room. Another pit. But no other exits either.

They must have climbed up from the pit. Is that all.

---Yeah that’s all I can…wait no. There is a platform on the far side, and it has a wooden box on it.

That’s it?

--Nothing else…I’m looking down the pit, and it has a tight spiral ledge coming up. But nothing down there I can see. But there is a lot of warm air coming up.

Don’t go in, we’re almost there.

“Gos is in the next room. Empty of Dol-whatever’s, a pit, and a box on some stone,” I relayed to the others.

“Think that is it?” Adrissa asked.

“If it isn’t the raven will gleefully point it out.” said Doxx.

We rounded the corner and entered the room, and it was as Gos described. The river of water above, a now dripped from the hole above not in a single rivulet, but multiple ones, which shifted as around and dribbled from different points in the ceiling and into the pit below. On the far side, was a simple plinth of ston. Upon it was what appeared to be a square oaken chest, no more in length than my arm. Unremarkable, if it weren’t for the dents, scratches and gouges all along the outside. It had no lock or even hinges, as it appeared you could just lift off the top to see the contents.

“This seems too easy,” Bookshelf said.

“There aren’t any ledges overlooking everything here,” Adrissa noted, as she twisted around looking for another band of assailants.

The Blade approached the hole and looked down. “Warm. Smells like brimstone a bit. And something else. But if the Dolgrims climbed out of there, it will be hard no to notice them.

“I can remedy that,” Sage said. The juggernaut moved to the edge and pointed his armblade at the hole. From a panel on his arm, a small shard of crystal emerged, and it flashed. White fibers flew from it and stretched as the widening ball flew down the pit.

I moved inside and peered over the lip of the pit, and it was now covered in a giant web, covering it entirely. I nodded approvingly. “That will make it problem for anyone coming up.”

We approached the box with trepidation. It was nothing spectacular, just battered. And as I suspected, all you had to do was lift open the lid to reveal the conents.

“This has got to be a trap,” Doxx said.

“Nonsense,” The Blade said shaking his head. “We already ran into the trap. Why would you put another one right here?”

“Dear, aren’t those the same thing?” Rosa chided.

“No, they aren’t,”

The pair leaned in towards each other arguing their points.

“Yes, they are!

“Later!” I admonished.

“Honey don’t touch---“ Rosa started.

“I…I can’t,” Adrissa said. I turned to look and her hand was outstretched and flattened against something in the air above the box. I squinted and used my rod to try to touch it, and instead contacted a hard smooth surface above it.

“Nothing is ever easy,” Doxx said.

“It’s a magical ward. I can probably remove it,” Bookshelf said and he pulled out a black shard of crystal and muttered a quick incantation. He finished, and said, “Try now.”

Adrissa looked at the warforged and reached for the box and once again contacted an invisible surface surrounding it. The girl turned and looked at him and said, “Not quite."

"That should have worked,” the slender warforged said, perplexed.

“It happens to everyone I’m told,” Sage said.

“Not to me,” Doxx whispered under her breath.

Bookshelf glared at the old woman, “Funny. But I know this enchantment. Breaking it shouldn’t be this difficult.”


“Unless it was empowered somehow,” Sage pointed out.

“I suppose…”


Gos later, we’re in the middle of something.

“Myrai, do you have…something?” Bookshelf asked me.

“Me? No…not for something like this.”

--Myr…oh sodding Baator…

In annoyance, I vocalized, “Gos is it…that…imp…imp…” my voice trailed off as my heart started to pound.

Rising from the center of the pit, were the wispy remains of webbing floating in the air and draped on top of a round mass of chiton. On its lower third a large toothy maw smiled, and slime dripped from its purple lips into the depths below. The red and blue mottled skin was covered in crusted scales that shifted and pulsed with every breath it took in that maw. In the middle of the orb or what you might generously call a face., a large lump in the center reminded me of an eye still closed, while on its crown staring at us, ten crab leg like stalks, each ending an eye, each with a different iris and sclera.

It gazed at us, and its maw opened wide into a vicious smile, as it made a deep resonating grunting sound, and licked it lips with chilling anticipation.

Session Notes:
Welcome to khyber and please pick up your hot towel. Dolgaunts have evasion, so that made things far more difficult. The Dolgrim were not as much as an issue, but the casters kept choosing dex save spells. It didn't work as intended. Fortunatly a well timed combo, did.
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