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

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Lizard folk in disguise
I somehow get the idea if I ever tried using that line on anyone I'd just get slapped.


Compared to my more recent campaigns that was a tame double entendre...very tame.

Says more about the current stuff than the prior ones.

But honestly, glad you picked up on the humorous detail.


Lizard folk in disguise

The Gaze of Khyber - 8/11/2022​

I stood there, eyes wide in fear, my heart pounding. Every instinct I had, was telling, no screaming at me to run. To get away. To move! But the chamber had no place to hide. No where to avoid the sight of the monstrosity that hovered there over the pit. I had seen one once before in Sigil, and even that jaded place with immortals of puissance calling the shots, even they gave the Eye Tyrant a wide berth. I had heard at the Civic Festhall conflicting stories. Some that said that no two thought alike and each were paranoid, fearful of rivals. Others said that they were clan like, treating others of their kind that didn’t match themselves precisely with violence. They worked together sometimes. They were loners. No story agreed on where they came from, what they wanted, and how to avoid their ire. The only thing they did agree on, was the powers of their eyes.

It was now clear on why the chambers looked like they did. One of their eyes was able to emit a greenish beam that would turn any substance to fine ash. Flesh…metal…rock. It didn’t need hands to change the world around it. The chamber, the pit, the halls were all carved with a simple glance. Each of the small eyes, had different ways to affect the world around it with magic, and the one in the center above its maw would cause all magic to cease. That eye opened slowly, its cross slitted pupil, barely moving to regard our band as it grumbled.

“Morrrre wanderrrerrsss into the depths, and farrrr out of their own,” the tyrant growled in a calm and almost bored voice that resonated in rock around us. “Perrhaps you came seeking yourrr deaths, chasing those who came beforrrre you. Fooooolish fleshlings. But…I hold no malice towarrrds you or your ilk. You have…nothing we need,..or want. Your deaths will be quick.”

Behind me I heard some uncomfortable shuffling, and I was about to openly pray when, I heard in my head a voice…that wasn’t my familiars.

++Talk to it, keep it occupied a while. You can reply to this message.

Bookshelf? What in Baator are you planning to do while we…can’t use…?

I shook my head, hoping to find some sanity, and a modicum of courage. Swallowing past the lump in my throat, I took a unsteady breath as I tried to think on what passed for small talk with a tyrant. I then remembered something it said. “Chasing others…I guess they didn’t expect to find…something far greater than themselves.”

“Myrai…what are you doing?” Doxx hissed at me.

“Quiet,” The Blade nudged Doxx with his shoulder. “It’s listening.”

The tyrant’s large eye blinked slowly, as it settled it’s gaze on me. “Arrrrogant mortal. I do not nnnneed flatterrrry.”

“No…no…of course not,” I smiled and looked at the crown of eyes around its head, many of them focused on me; a blue one, a green one, one with the pupil of a goat, another like a cat. Each different. “But before you send me on, I just want to look at your eyes. They aren’t like mine. Not at all.” Behind me I heard Bookshelf starting to mutter something arcane.

Several of its eyes squinted at me, and I heard it make a noise that was familiar, yet very unnerving, as it…purred at me. The tyrant lowered itself and drifted closer to me, and I took a nervous step forward.

“Myrai…I wouldn’t—” Rosa started, looking around Sage’s shield.

“—She’ll be alright,” Sage whispered, keeping his shield up in front, and trying to put his bulk between the tyrant and the rust

“She better be,” Adrissa whispered, gripping her bow tightly.

It’s central eye opened wide to look at me and my own eyes. I could feel warm breath caressing my cheeks as it drifted close to me. It was no more than a hand width away, as I felt the air move as it spoke again, “How…unique. Mirrrrrors. One my…master would find…intrique—”

Bookshelf finished muttering and stood up slowly to look at the aberration. It paid no attention to the warforged, as all of its eyes were fixated on me. I could feel brushing against the strands within me, just beyond normal perception.

“—Yes,” Bookshelf said quietly and confidently. “I’m sure you will want to tell Myrai anything she asks.”

“Inter…resting,” a single small eye turned its gaze on the warforged, while the rest continued to stare at me. Then the crab like stalks shook for a second, before it spoke again, “Myrrrai. Your name…is an interrrresting homophone.” The tyrant retreated from me and drifted back towards the pit it came from. “Ssstrange that you have commmmme at alllll though…you mmmmust havvvvve been seeeeeking the…other onessss.” Its tone was less menacing and more casual now, the threating edge gone.

“What other ones?” I asked smiling nervously at the sudden change.

“Sommmme immmmortalsssss…” It said leisurely, with the hint of a smile on its maw. “Thinking themmmmselves ssssmarter, and more cunnning. Fallllen sssservantssss from time dissssstant. Irrrrrelevant. Powerlesssss. What they werrrrre was…unnnnimportant. They were turnnnnned to assshhhh and dussssst all the sssssammme.”

“Why did they come here?” I asked, realizing that I wasn’t going to be a target. The others behind started to spread out from behind me, keeping their backs to the rounded walls.

“It involved that…box there,” the sphere tilted backwards as if to gesture with its rounded chin. I glanced behind me, and realized it was talking about the battered chest that we couldn’t touch earlier.

“They brought it here,” I said aloud, mostly to myself. “What were they doing?”

The tyrant chuckled, “One of themmm…with a head of some primitive beassst, well coifed, dressed in fine robes was attempting trite ritual on it. It was…dissssruptive. It didn’t get farrrr before I petrified it.” Looking around a moment and seeing nothing only caused the tyrant to laugh, “It…fell into the depths, shattering on the stone below. Its minions, soon perished.”

I nodded, and then smiled. “I know you detest being disturbed.” It tilted a little and stuck out its lower lip as it rotated and nodded in agreement. “And more are going to come looking for that box. How, about we take it with us. They’ll follow us and leave you alone?”

“That is the most ridicu—” Doxx started, shuffling around the edge of the room slowly.

“Yes it is dearie,” Rosa said shuffling along side of her. “But let’s play…nice.”

“Oh wait,” I said, trying to sound dejected. I glanced at Sage who nodded, and he started to lead the rest out. “We can’t touch it. They managed to do something magical to it.” I then looked at Bookshelf, and waved at them to move, while shielding my hand with body, so the tyrant couldn’t see. Bookshelf quickly and calmly, walked around the perimeter, unconcerned about the floating aberration, passing Adrissa and The Blade who were both edging themselves slowly around, with Rosa gritting her teeth and stepping quietly.

“Petty arrrrcana,” and from behind the cross slitted pupil of the large central eye, a light appeared, immersing part of the chamber with a dull purple light. When the light touched me, I suddenly felt…nothing. The strands that coiled, waiting for me to call them to action were just…gone. Like they never were there. I felt empty…alone.




“You will find its enchannntmentsss…nullified,” it said with a rattling chuckle. I stepped towards the box and hesitated a moment. Sliding my rod into its leather sheath, I bent down and lifted it up. It was surprisingly light, and I could feel something sliding within it.

“Well…that helps a lot,” I said as I turned around to the grinning ball of eyes. “Thank you. We really should be going, don’t you think?” The others had made it back to the tunnel and were starting to jog upwards.

The light faded and it rotated backwards in place, looking down on me. “Yes…that…sounds right. You should…leave. Now…yes…now.”

I grasped the box’s sides with both hands, and I tried to walk casually back to the tunnel we came down originally. “Thank you again…do you have a name?”

Why am I still talking to it?!

--Beats me, but I figure you were having a moment.

Goss!...Great…fly up ahead…make sure it’s clear.

“Name?” It turned around hovering over the pit with a bemused smile on its face. “I…I havvve onnne. But…you could nnnnever pronounnnce it prrrroperly little fleshling, with your limited tongue.”

Smiling nervously, I backed into the tunnel, keeping eye contact as best I could with the morass of eyes. But and as soon as I was out of view, I turned and broke into a run. My heart was already pounding from the conversation, and it had never stopped. I just wanted out of this cavern. Somewhere along the length of the tunnel, Sage stood waiting. I ran past him up the tunnel, and he followed close behind. It felt comforting to hear his heavy metallic thundering right behind me. But that comfort paled to the fear I still felt, as I continued to run, determined to put distance between me and that floating orb of—

“Wait a mmmoment.”

Oh sodding--

I skidded to a stop just as entered the chamber above. I clutched the box close to my armored chest as I stared at the tyrant hovering there, the orb slightly tilted to the side and backwards, like it was looking down on me, regarding me with disdain. My jaw dropped as I stared at the tyrant, not expecting this. So, I was equally surprised when—


Sage slammed into me as I stood there in mute shock, knocking the wind out of me. I stumbled forward and lost my balance. I pitched forward towards the pit that was the doom to who knows how many others.

But I didn’t fall. Instead, I was lifted upwards and pulled closer to the monstrous orb. My face was now staring directly at the cross slitted gaze of the central eye of the beholder. I hung there in the air, clutching the box in my arms in desperation, shivering, eyes wide.

“I wonderrrr,” it mused with a deep purr. “….sssshould I take you belowww….? Yourrrrr eyes do showwww….promissssse.

My throat was thick with fear as I tried once again to smile to my…best…friend? “You are so kind to offer. But…but I have…an…urgent matter to attend to. I shouldn’t….take…any more of your time. So could…could you please…p—p—put me down?”

From the other side of the tyrant, I heard Bookshelf speak up, “She…is needed to…help clear up a disease that causes blindness. She—”

“—Blindnessss? Someone darrrrre triessssssss to conccccceal thissssssss world from my massster?” It growled, and I saw at least half of its eyes narrow its gaze at me, including the great eye in front of me. Its maw was now curling into a snarl, drool dripping out of sight, in the depths below us. It then puffed sharply from two nasal slits, each flaring. We turned in the air, and then I found myself pushed rapidly the edge surrounding the pit. Doxx and the Blade both caught and steadied me, as it continued. “Belassshyrrra will not be denied his sight. It wwwwilll not be taken from him. Go! Purge…this…plague. GO!!” it howled as it angrily commanded us.

I didn’t need to be told twice and nodded and muttered something like “Uh-huh!” and backpedaled to the tunnel that rose behind me. Once inside, I turned around and ran as fast as I could. The Blade and Adrissa each outpaced me, and so did Rosa who now lopped ahead in the form of a great wolf.

My lungs were on fire when I saw the light from the clouded sun ahead of me. My legs just churned, as my boots slapped on the stone, until I emerged into the cold frigid air of the surface. The icy air was a shock to my lungs, and I felt a sharp pain in them as tried to catch my breath. Instead, I grew woozy, and I sank to my knees before falling over and turning myself to lay flat on my back as I gazed up at the cloud covered sky.

I was panting for air, as Gossamer flitted over to me, and nuzzled my face. I turned my face and looked at my familiar as my breathing slowed. I closed my eyes and sighed, when I heard the raven.

“Heh heh, heh heh, heh heh,” Snaves laughter carried through the air and somehow caused me to clench my teeth together. “So…the servants of one master, were defeated by another. How droll.”

I propped myself up, and saw that only the two warforged were standing, while the rest of us were prostrate on the tundra, each with ragged breaths. Gossamer had turned and was staring at the raven, eyes narrowed, ears flattened as his fur puffed out. He let out a light growl before hissing, which I couldn’t ever recall him making before. His wings then spread wide, causing Snave to cock its head.

I gently put my hand on Gossamer’s twitchy back and spoke aloud. “We don’t want to hurt the raven. We still need it.”

“Yeah, leatherheaded pussy” Snave spat at Gossamer. “Will wonders never cease.”

“We need to leave.” Bookshelf said extending a hand to me and pulling me up to my feet.

“Can’t we—” I started before it cut me off.

“No,” Bookshelf said, cutting me off. “We need to be far from here when the enchantment finally fades. It will be angry. Very angry.”

“Shouldn’t we check that box for…it?” Adrissa pointed out, having just sat up.

Sage nodded, “If we do not have what we came for, we will need to go back down while we can.”

Doxx rolled over to where I lay and pulled the box close to her. She then quickly popped the pair of latches holding it shut, and popped open the lid, and stared within. She reached in and pulled into the grey light of the day an oblong gemstone, the color of deep cold waters. It didn’t glitter like many stones; despite being finely cut with hard sharp edges. I crawled over to where Doxx was sitting and stared at it. The center of the gem was a dark cloud; a stain that was the only mar to the stones’ cut beauty.

The Blade stood and stepped towards Snave, sitting on a branch of the nearby bush. “Well. Is that it?”

Snave yawned, and looked at the elf, “Yep.” It said disinterested.

The Blade nodded and turned to the rest of us. “Then we should go, while we still can, and put this hole behind us.”

I grimaced and stood up and nodded. “I certainly don’t want to stay and see how much more angry a beholder can get.”

“Right,” Sage said and turned to Snave, “Where is the other stone?”

Snave cocked his head at us and gave out a cruel chuckle, as it took off heading into the frozen hills to the north. And all we could do, was follow and pray that our luck would hold, and it wouldn’t be another scrape.

How wrong I was.

Session Notes:
So...we charmed a Beholder. It was a surprise to everyone, the DM included. The Beholder has a decent save, but it doesn't have legendary saves. The bigger question at the table was about the antimagic field from the central eye; did it protect its brain. After debate, the answer was no...because if it did, how could it levitate or use its other eyes? So Bookshelf just made sure to stay out of the central eye's vision...and we have a very strange encounter.

Now...oddly enough this is not the strangest beholder encounter this group had dealt with. There was a beholder with a top hat, and eleven monocles trying to make a bargain while we were in the feywild. Its a story in itself...but not today.
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Lizard folk in disguise
Then I will look forward to that day, because it sounds like a very interesting story. (Much like this one!)

That story would be an interesting hot mess. I was playing a lizard folk with my son, and we went out of our way to write observations in Lizard Head Space. The diction was cool but hard, but its only readable in short doses...and yet it is the main source of notes. The other set, which was written by "The Blade's" player, is hysterical, but there is a bit of unreliable narrator there.

It went from level 1 to level 20, and I only joined in at level 5. But it was essentially a fractured mirror of reality where we were in the twisted side. But it took a very long time to figure that out, and how to actually solve it. But what started serious and solemn, quickly became a comedy. The Lizardfolk as a pair, decimated the encounters, and the lizards out of water led to very memorable encounters. things like:

  1. One of the characters had a relationship with another that was a bit on the rocks. After observing that the pair continually "Mated and failed" over and over again, setup a mating ritual trial to determine the fitness of the relationship. It didn't go as planned.
  2. The lizardfolk had no boundaries in terms of food. So "Hag Hash" "Oni Snacks" "Black Dragon whelping jerky" were all things...with consequences.
  3. The rogue had a distorted view about the lizard folk, thinking they just ate bugs and was vocal about it. This led to the Lizardfolk gathering a bunch of bugs and offering them as a present to the rogue (in IRL, this was handled with some Harry Potter chocolate bug candy)
  4. The lizardfolk story was that lizardfolk civilization was there first, but then decided to regress and hide as the mammals took over. This meant that EVERYONE else was wrong from the Lizard's point of view; the Gods, History, etc. This manifested as the "Great Lizardfolk's Burden" and a racist/paternalistic view on everything.
  5. The Lizardfolk were constantly dealing with all the threats. So they had a contingency plan, on how to precisely kill all the party if needed. And it wasn't a secret; they were being practical, as "silly softskins" were already irrational pleasure seeking beings.
  6. The Lizardfolk were constantly doing experiments. One ran for half a year in real time, as suddenly without explanation, they kept shaking their heads, and passed a coin between themselves. When asked about it, they simply said, "That would change the nature of the bet." Later they presented a scientific paper, with data tables and analysis on how to alter softskin behavior by the external stimulus of exchanging a coin. was insane and wacky and fun. And I don't have the cycles to do it justice. :(
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Lizard folk in disguise

A Malodorous Encounter - 9/6/2022​

The day grew a little brighter, and much colder as we followed the raven, Snave, northwards. Cold enough that when we found some shelter along a hillside, Gossamer begged to be unsummoned. I admit…I was kind of envious. But the cold had set everyone on edge. Despite Bookshelf’s successful gambit, no one acted like it was a victory. They all just wanted to get the job done.

As did I of course. I wanted a lot of things: Warmth from any source chiefly. To finish the job at hand. To go…

Home? Did I want that? Snave’s banter was so familiar, yet his vitriol towards me was a bit much. I’ve been called nasty names before, mostly by children in The Gatehouse. When I worked at Fortune’s Wheel, I was sometimes mistaken for being a jinkskirt, and then called worse when I wouldn’t roll with the patron. Or when they found out I was a Sensate and figured they could roll with me for free because I hadn’t had an experience with them. As if. Having sex with another person doesn’t qualify as a novel experience. But the novelty was certainly the names they could throw at me.

All the reasons not to go back to Sigil. And not that it mattered much, no portal, no portal key, and no way to a place that I knew did. Of course, if I did have that means, I would probably go back to the Misty Forest and see Arnara again. I left there in such a rush to help some friends in need; it wasn’t a proper goodbye. Arnara said she understood and told me that I should go. That it would be the best thing for me somehow.

But Arnara avoided talking about how it affected herself.

But she was as much out of reach as Sigil. So perhaps I should just explore the world of Eberron as best I could. It would be something to explore and experience at least—

“—There,” Snave said, and the raven landed on a nearby rock and gazed ahead of us. There in the snow, was what looked to be a squat squared off fortress. It sat on a hilltop across from us on a hill we had just scaled. But it looked almost new, and not a ruin.

“A border fort.” Doxx stated.

“Here? Isn’t this a bit out of the way of everything?” Rosa asked confused.

Doxx shook her head, “South of here is the Talenta plains, and it was proven late in the Last War, that Karrnath was vulnerable from the south.”

“From what?” Adrissa asked incredulously. “I mean the halflings on fastieths are good hunters, but they never fought Karrn—”

“—Not the Talenta halflings.” Doxx corrected. “They are dangerous, but they were more than happy to leave Karrnath be. The more distracted Karrns were, the more they were left alone. These,” Doxx gestured to the fort on the hill, “weren’t built to defend against a bunch halflings on fast lizards.”

“Then…what?” Rosa asked, confused.

Adrissa, Doxx and the two warforged looked at each other, with Doxx having the most obvious scowl, before Doxx replied, “The Valenar.”

Rosa straightened up at the words Doxx uttered and nodded in understanding, which left me confused. “What are…Valenar?”

Sage turned to look at me, “During the Last War, the nation of Cyre was always short on troops, so they spent gold to boost their fighting strength. They bought a lot of warforged, used Deneith hobgoblins, and hired regular mercenaries as well. And then they also hired the Valenar; elves from the island of Aerenal. But they followed a different tradition than the Aerens; they were following the traditions of the Tairnadal."

“The Tairnadal were skilled warriors and horse masters,” The Blade continued. “So instead of following the Undying Court, they followed the tenets that are called the "Keepers of the Past." And for them, a Tairnadal attempts to emulate heroes of the past. But more importantly, they believed…believe in proving themselves. There are no better warriors in the Five Nations.”

“But they betrayed Cyre,” Bookshelf said somberly. “They took a large chunk of it for themselves, called it Valenar claiming that the elves had rights to the territory dating back to the Dhakaani empire. And once no longer subservient to Queen Mishann, they started to fight…everyone. All of them seeking greater challenges in combat and the glory.”

“They must have vast number to be so—” I started before being cut off by Doxx.

“—No. They don’t have vast armies; just small warbands. But a single elf could boast of having the strength of a score of humans. And a small warband could wipe out regiments. So a series of forts were built; some are operational now, Fort Bones, Fort Zombie and Fort Deepdark, but there were smaller places like this one.”

I got the chills suddenly. I remembered the elves in the Misty Forest; they were skilled, and they were eager to be left alone. But I didn’t seem to remember them as blood thirsty. The thought of a small band having such a fearsome reputation that the others all reacted with such trepidation, so I asked, “Did these forts work?”

Doxx sighed, “Well it was only somewhat better than camping in the open. But the forts were fixed places. The Valenar knew where to attack, and they did. But it became boring. The armies wouldn’t come out to engage, and the Valenar weren’t keen on sieges. But after Fort Bones started to challenge them with steeds that never slept and ran all day or night, the Valenar came and razed many to the ground, including Fort Bones. But after the war…forts to the east like this one were abandoned. Deepdark started parceling the land out to settlers.” The woman sighed and looked at me with a shrug, “Maybe.”

“Well staring at it, isn’t going to help much,” Sage muttered. “Let’s head in.”

As we approached, the fort looked no less inviting than did before. The grey masonry walls were intact, with catclaws snaking up the walls, with streaks of decaying mortar behind the foliage. As we approached the gateway, I was surprised to see that the entrance that led straight into a wall, continuing onwards to the left and right. The was no sign of a gate or a drawbridge. The interior wall was much higher than the edge ways, with the rusty remains of wire on the tops. Passing through the entry way, and I turned looking at the cross section of the wall. I then realized that the exterior wall was sloped on the exterior side towards the main walls, tapering to a narrow ledge on the top no wider than the length of my foot. But something else struct me as odd. The exterior wall had no towers either, it appeared to not support anyone manning the walls at all.

Shivering, I pulled my cloak around me and stared at the edifice of stone puzzling how the construction worked, and from behind me Bookshelf spoke. “Many of the forts were experiments in design. This one’s main gate is on the opposite side. All the wall does is force horse riders between the inner and outer walls, making them easy targets, and unable to easily run away. “

“It doesn’t look very sturdy. The outer wall I mean,” I said still trying to picture it.

“The Valenar and the Talenta halflings don’t use siege equipment, so manning the outer wall was never the issue,” the slender warforged said. It was all set up to draw them in the gate and cut them down from above as the riders would circle to the entrance.”

I looked at the arrangement confused and pointed to the top of the interior wall. “Couldn’t you just…climb it?”

“Honey, horses are really poor climbers,” Rosa said smiling.

“And it didn’t matter, the Valenar still conquered it,” Bookshelf said.

“How?” I was very curious. Both walls looked intact, and there were no signs of damage anywhere.

“The Valenar poisoned the water supply,” Doxx said and spat on the ground.

“What?” Shocked didn’t describe what I felt. I had this image of warrior fighting blade to blade, or perhaps manipulation of magic. Not a low trick used by knights of the post.

“The Valenar crave challenges and victory,” Sage said. “How they achieve it doesn’t matter.”

“No,” The Blade disagreed. “It does matter. It matters to the ancestor they are tied with, and if that ancestor would poison wells….so would their kin today.”

“This is all very interesting,” Adrissa said with a droll tone. “But which way should we go?”

“That way,” Doxx and The Blade pointed in different directions, Doxx right and The Blade left. The pair stepped up to each other, and the tall lanky elf looked down at the smaller wiry old woman. “That way is the obvious choice.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Doxx scoffed. “This way is a better choice. Look, less weeds and debris.”

I turned and looked down each way and was confused. Both seemed to have the same level of weeds, rock and rubble.

Rosa also noticed the incongruity. “Boys, I think we should keep our heads and stick together.” The two continued to stare at each other, unwilling to give ground or concede. Rosa again tried to find a path, “Look if it means that much, we can split and meet at the entrance at the other side. At least that way we can be sure we find the gem. It could be anywhere.”

“I suppose that could work,” I said dubiously. “But couldn’t we just climb the walls here?”

Doxx and The Blade looked up the side of the wall and then looked at us as the old woman spoke again, “The walls used to have spring traps and other mechanisms to deter that.”

“I am also regretful to say I am not a great climber,” Sage said with a twang of guilt on his voice.

Doxx and The Blade glared at each other for a moment before The Blade said “Adrissa,”

“Sage,” Doxx retorted.




“I am not sure that this is a good idea,” Bookshelf said as they shuffled over with Adrissa.

“At least you weren’t picked last,” I said.

“We’ll meet you at the bailey on the other side then,” Doxx stated, standing confidently next to Sage and Rosa.

“And we’ll be waiting for you to catch up.” The Blade responded and then turned and made their way down between the walls with Adrissa and Bookshelf. I turned to look at the others and watched as the others receded into the distance.

The causeway was a dozen paces wide and it some time to reach the far corner. The snow crunched under our feet, with lumps of weeds piercing through the surface here and there. A light breeze blew in between the walls, which was only slightly better than the open plains outside. Plodding forward we made our way the corner, where the walls met a solid round pillar. The pillar wasn’t a tower, and it was missing key portions like doors or slits for bowmen. It was a solid obstacle of granite, and like the walls, it was all to force riders to pass them by, and in that regard it failed. The Valenar killed everyone anyway.

We were probably about half the length of the down the side of the fort when I suddenly felt uneasy. I then looked at The Blade and Adrissa, and it was clear that something had put them on edge as well. Adrissa was twitching around looking at the walls and behind us with quick sharp movements, while The Blade held out his bow out, arrow notched, and watch ahead of us, his head alternating titling right and left. Holding the nocked arrow in place, he quickly tapped the side of his head with his right hand. I took a deep breath and listened.

I could barely feel the light breeze blowing past by my frozen cheek, and all I heard was the brittle rustling of weeds dusted in snow as the dried branches rubbed each other. The Blade, and Adrissa stopped and were looking up at both the interior and exterior walls. Bookshelf stood there calmly and turned around slowly also looking upwards when I heard it.

It was a scraping sound, like horn on stone. Something treading carefully I thought, with a larger sound, followed by multiple little scrapes and then silence. Then it started again and glancing around, I got the same impressions as the others; it was above us. I was trying to pin it down when the scraping stopped. Adrissa and The Blade, rushed over to the outer wall, and pointed their bows over the taller inner wall, sweeping side to side as if looking for something to fire at. Bookshelf on the other hand, moved and put its back against the inner wall and waited.

I then felt a sensation like someone had dropped a pebble in the water, and the ripple washed over me. Puzzled for a moment, I then felt all the strands with-in me vibrate as if plucked violently. The now familiar ripple washed back over me, much stronger this time. I shook my head and listened, and I grimaced. It was a pull on the weave, to bring something near, much like the one I used to force Gossamer appear. But this was much bigger akin to a thick string on a viol being plucked. My pulse quickened as the strong scent of brimstone assaulted my nostrils, followed by clattering and chittering, as horn scraped horn and clattered together. It sounded familiar somehow, but it wasn’t something recent. Nor did I recall anything like that in Faerûn during my travels, so it must had been.

Without warning, my eyes started to water, and foul taste of something rotten mixed with the smell and taste of burned nuts. Around I saw a bile-colored cloud form, and I was wracked with fits of coughing. Everything burned; my eyes, nose, and throat as tears streamed down my face in a vain attempt to wash away the irritant. I coughed again, covering my mouth with the back of my hand. When I withdrew it, I saw that not only was it covered in blood, but the exposed skin from was sweating blood as well. My knees shook as I vomited my prior meal, when I heard a pair of loud thumps on the snow.

I looked up, fighting a wave of nausea and saw what appeared to be a large bug. Its chitin was a mottled mixture of blues and mauve and it sported a pair of mandibles that clattered and clicked together. It stood in the bile like cloud, seemly unharmed and it flexed a pair of sharp claws, and in a second pair, it wielded a tripled pointed spear, made of a purplish metal I didn’t recognize. But once I took in the sight of it, and saw a second on levelling its spear at Bookshelf, I knew exactly what I was facing.

“Sodding Baator. ‘Loths,” I growled and broke into another fit of coughing, just as it thrust its weapon straight at my belly.

Session Notes:

There was a lot of history that was developed around The Last War, and this was one of those sessions that really gave the world a feeling of being lived in. The Valenar, the Karrn forts like Fort Bones, and Fort Zombie.

The splitting of the party though…well you have to wonder how the other group fared. We’ll see who comes out a head soon.
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Just caught up on the last couple of updates - very enjoyable, as always. Loved the beholder encounter. As for splitting the party ... it's not like anything bad ever happens when you do that :rolleyes:


Lizard folk in disguise

A Snake in the Garden - 10/10/2022​

The spear pierced my armor easily, and I felt the metal bite into my flesh. I would have probably screamed at the pain, if I wasn’t already in pain from the caustic vapors that surrounded me. As I spun myself to the right, I dislodged the spear just in time for my shield to catch a claw with its edge, knocking it away. I stumbled out of the miasma, and glanced at my arm, where I saw blood pooling on the surface and smoking; all horrid affects of the poisonous cloud that surrounded Bookshelf and myself.

Unlike most of the other things around us, I actually knew what I was facing; A mezzoloth. They made up the bulk of yugoloth armies and were the fodder for the Blood War that raged in the Lower Planes where I came from. But “fodder” was a poor way to describe a six limbed, insect as tall as a human, and as broad as a dwarf. Strong, resistant to magic, heat and cold, and able to spray their poisonous blood into a toxic cloud, they were more than a match for denizens of either the Abyss or Baator.

That meant for most mortals, an encounter would be fatal, and things were not starting out well.

A pair of arrows slammed into the ‘loth, each making a cracking sound as each pierced its carapace. It turned its head and chittered at Adrissa and The Blade. Both were notching an arrow, when the second one didn’t even turn, but instead simply dissolved into nothingness. Not a breath later it reformed next to the pair. Adrissa shrieked, as she tried to move away, and was rewarded with the spear piercing her in the thigh. She managed to limp away and get some distance, allowing her to loose a second arrow into the mezzoloth that attacked her. The Blade took advantage of its distraction, and circled around, loosing another arrow into it.

Bookshelf pointed a finger a the one that had attacked me and a beam of cold light slid over its shell. However, there was no sign of frost or ice like there usually was on most of his targets. I shook my head and reached out with a strand, and enveloped in a dark miasma, causing it to shudder as I yelled, “You can’t use elemental magic! Something else!”

As I was shouting the other one, brandished his spear, as Adrissa and the Blade started to run down between the walls, and gain some distance, confident in their archery skills. But the mezzoloth had other plans, as it pulled from its carapace a fleshy bud. It threw it behind the pair, and yet another cloud of toxic poison enveloped the pair.

“You’ve got to be sodden…oh no,” I realized that while the four of us had managed to get out of the caustic clouds, the clouds seemed to have a mind of the their own. They seemed to drift closer, and on the other end, the second cloud was doing the same. It wouldn’t be long before they converged, and everyone would be subject to their caustic effects. “They’re close…AUGH!” I yelled, as the spear pierced my armor again this time in my lower back. I almost collapsed from the pain from the wound, as well as my skin still sweating blood.

I turned, and summoned another miasma, this one clearly doing more damage as its shell started to flake away from the darkness I summoned. It in response chittered, and simple retreated into the fog, while its partner did the same. Bookshelf and I ran over towards Adrissa and The Blade, putting our backs together.

“I can’t see them for a clear shot,” The Blade grumbled.

“Same here,” Adrissa said breathing heavily. “And the poison is getting closer.”

“Bookshelf, do you have anything that can help here?” I asked. “At this point I need to see them.”

“Maybe. If we are lucky,” Bookshelf said. He reached into a pouch and removed a vial and, tossed the contents on the ground, which looked like water. As the water hit the ground it formed a pool that grew and grew.

“Elemental stuff won’t help much,” I reminded Bookshelf about my earlier warning.

“This is more like a beating,” the warforged said, and the pool of water erupted, into a wall of water that rushed toward the cloud and where we last saw the ‘lolth. The wave ran into the cloud, and we heard it collide with something, followed by angry chatters. As we watched, the cloud of poison and pain, sank down and disappeared into the earth. There on the ground, knocked on its back was the mezzoloth, its spear laying nearby, just out of reach.

I didn’t need to say anything, as the two archers shot the vulnerable fiend. I concentrated a moment and threw a pair of strands at it. A pair of purple bolts, leapt from my fingers and homed in and struck the yugoloth squarely in its midsection. It quivered a moment, before its limbs went slack and it started to melt into a puddle of goop, the colors of its shell leaving strips of color on the dirt.

“One down,” I panted and turned to look at the second cloud approaching us.

“I doubt the same spell will work again blindly,” Bookshelf said trying to spot a target in the dense poisonous cloud.

“We need something to draw it out,” The Blade said. “But I’m not sure wh—I can’t see.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked puzzled for a moment, as I saw the cloud sink into the ground, and the mezzoloth start to walk towards us calmly, its spear ready.

“Now what?” Adrissa said. “I can’t see either.”

“It’s a field that douses light,” Bookshelf said, as they turned towards the crunching footsteps of the fiend. “I might be able to dispel it, if I can figure out where the center is.”

I didn’t look directly at the loth, instead I turned my head as if equally blind. I had done this exact trick on hapless goblins several times, and creatures not used to being blind tended to panic. But the darkness that the loth summoned was nothing to me; all the colors of the day were visible to me, as was he.

“I have a better idea,” I said trying to hide my smile. “Get ready the one with the webbing.” I focused deep within myself. Not the strands, but the core of my being; the spark of the divine.

“Doesn’t help if I can’t see!”

“You will.” I said quietly. I opened my heart, let it pour forth. That familiar rush along my spine, was not just a simple warmth, but a raging fire. I could feel the wings unfurl and spread, as I whispered and raised my rod into the air.

“Y ao maia.”

Light burst forth from my rod and I watched the loth reflexively shield its eyes. That was all it took for Bookshelf to create a morass of webbing, anchoring the fiend to the ground. Surprised at the darkness falling away, it had no time to react, and it was quickly peppered with arrows as it struggled to escape its silk prison. In in matter of moments, it was over, as I hurled more purple bolts at it and Adrissa and The Blade continued to fire more arrows, while Bookshelf stood back and waited. It wasn’t long until it too melted away as it perished.

The Blade squinted and looked at me, “You can probably dismiss that. It’s a bit bright.”

“Actually, I can’t.” I said, looking at the light I created with a bit of amazement. “The power I put into it will fade, but not for a while. I think.”

“You think?” Bookshelf asked surprised.

“I’ve never tried to do that,” I said feeling a little winded. “All I knew is that powerful light can destroy darkness. I’ve created enough of it to know. But” I turned to look towards the direction we were heading, “We might need to hurry.”

“She’s right,” The Blade said, picking up some discarded arrows. “We cannot assume this was the only pair.”

Adrissa’s eyes went wide, “Rosa, Sage and Doxx! You don’t think they are—”

“—I do,” I said.

“We’d better make haste,” Bookshelf sighed.


We ran down the length of the fortress as fast as we could. Two mezzoloths were enough to hurt four of us badly. But there were only three of the others, and the ‘Loths didn’t have to contend with ranged attacks. It wasn’t that far in truth; it was just the dread that kept the distances long in the mind. But only made it worse as my heart pounded and prayed, I didn’t have to bury the others.

We rounded the corner together, and as we ranI could feel the breeze blow towards us, and there it was. Burnt nuts and rot; the same smells that assaulted my nostrils earlier in the form of toxic clouds. Ahead of us I could see what looked like an inner bailey that led into the interior of the fortress and there in its shadow I could see a long figure on the ground, its staff discarded nearby.

“Sodding…DOXX” I yelled and skidded to a stop and dropped to my knees ready to apply what power I had left, when Doxx rolled her head to look at me.

“I’m…fine. Just resting here,” Doxx said, shielding her eyes, “Isn’t that light a bit much?”

“Sorry…needed to keep darkness at bay,” I said sheepishly

“You sure?…its damn near blinding.” Doxx growled.

“Where are the others?” The Blade demanded of the old woman.

Doxx raised an arm and pointed to a hole in the stone next to the gate of the bailey. I turned my head and smiled as I saw a tired Rosa step through it. “Over here,” she said smiling, but the tone betrayed an exhausted soul. “I just patched up Sage,”

“I’ll just be a moment,” I could hear the Juggernaut say from somewhere within the bailey.

I sat down heavily on the ground. “Damned ‘loths. We’re lucky to be alive.”

“Eh?” Doxx said her head on the ground and turned towards me. “What’s a ‘loth’?”

“Yugoloths. Where I come from, they are just evil fiends fighting for the top bidder of their services. These were mezzoloths. The…weakest of them.” I said as Doxx’s eye grew more disbelieving them.

“The weakest? What the hell does that say about---” she started.

“—The rest are even worse. But they still pale to the Baatorians and the Tanar’ri in power and numbers,” I replied. “But what happened here?”

“Well,” Doxx started. “We were approaching the gate here, when a pair dropped a pair of poisonous clouds. They stayed inside of them and kept darting in and out of the poison. We weren’t making much headway until Sage came up with a solid idea.”

“Which was?” Adrissa asked.

“I picked up one, and slammed it into the wall, until it could no longer think clearly.” Sage said poking his head from inside the hole in the stone wall. “Fortunately, the wall broke soon after, killing it. That allowed us to defeat the second one.”

I nodded approvingly. “Works.”

“Is everyone feeling better?” Rosa asked earnestly.

“Well enough to find this other gemstone,” Doxx growled. I extended a hand and helped her to her feet. She grunted, but then walked over to Sage her gruff face softened a bit. “Thank you. You…you…saved my life.”

Sage nodded and clapped the old woman on the back a little harder than intended or perhaps as much as the old woman wanted based on her wince. “Its of no concern. My pleasure in fact. It feels good to do the function I trained for.”

The interior of the bailey was a shambles; the wooden beams that supported the upper floors had been burned away, leaving behind a hollow shell of a building. Clear that nothing much remained, we made our way through the wreckable, and entered the courtyard of the inner bailey. It was nothing that I expected.

The inside grounds were clear of snow. The ground was covered with a purple heather that looked unhealthy. Scattered around every five paces there was a trunk of a twisting tree, each with a deep maroon color to its bark. At the top, the tree’s crown, spread out in all directions like vines on a wall. The broad dark crimson leaves created a canopy that prevented us from seeing the sky, and how thick this canopy layer actually was. But spread across the branches that fanned out everywhere, were roses of sickly green and yellows, all shedding the occasional petal on the ground. The riot of color was fascinating, and vaguely nauseating as well.

“What the in Dolurrh is this?” Bookshelf asked quietly. “This isn’t natural.”

“No,” The Blade agreed. “It is not. And it is concealing something in branches above. I am sure of it.”

Aw…caught so easily by an elf. I’m ashamed. But I am bored, so maybe I am not?

Startled at the voice in our heads, we looked at each other in alarm.

Oh, and so many of you have come after that small little stone. Perhaps this will be fun

“What is…that?” Adrissa asked, her teeth clamped tightly together.

“Something powerful,” Rosa muttered. “And evil. This twisted garden is just…choked with it.”

I looked around, and I could hear motion in the leaves above, as something made its way along hidden branches above us, causing the trees to creak, and petals to flutter down. But while the ‘garden’ was still, the voice in our heads was not.

Oh…I have been so bored, and I do want to play. And I’m sure you want that little bauble at the center of it all. Please hurry…I do want to get started!

“I don’t like it nagging at us,” Doxx muttered.

“Well until we see it, there isn’t else we can do.”

“It could be lying!” Adrissa almost yelled. “Why should we believe it.”

Oh, I love children; they always have a finger on the pulse of fear and things that parents are afraid to say. How tender she must be. I so do want to taste her.

I was feeling very protective of Adrissa, so I shouted in return, “So she’s wise beyond her years, not to trust a fiend like you.”

Oh…how disappointing; I wanted to surprise you all. Especially you Myrai.

My heart skipped a beat, as I heard my name called out in my head. As I stood there, I wondered how it knew anything about me, and to my sinking heart, it spoke my fears.

You’ve come a long way to hide little Aasimar. Not that you could really hide for long. This is a remote place but…not that remote.

“Who are you?” I shouted; my heart having none of the confidence I tried to put into my voice. The others glanced at me equally puzzled, but we all just watched the canopy above us.

A friend. A fiend. Does it really matter. Come to the center of my garden here and we can…share some tea and talk about it? I have it on good authority you like red spindle bloom tea after all.

My heart now pulsed quicker. The voice was wrong; I didn’t like that tea at all. But I did share a pot occasionally with a friend in Sigil. But I have never told anyone who the tea was for, and we never drank in public. So, to have it exposed to everyone was unnerving. “Sure thing,” I said, trying to suppress any quavering in my voice. “I’m sure there is a story you want to tell.”

Of course; I’m bored. But you aren’t far from my garden’s center. Best we talk there.

Sage made a clicking sound, and pointed with his armblade ahead, and there was perhaps the largest trunk of a rose bush I had ever seen, its trunk so wide I couldn’t possibly put my arms around it. We moved as a group warily and were only a couple of paces away from it, when I could see another box on the ground; discarded like its contents were unimportant.

I thought I was going to be stuck here for a long time waiting for no one to show up. But how happy I am that the wait was all worthwhile.

“You going to show yourself?” I challenged.

Of course I am! I can’t peel the flesh from your bones otherwise. Or take your scalp as a prize for my collection. Of course, your eyes are unique as well. I do hope to take my time with you, so we can…well you can at least, scream about all the pleasures I have planned for you before…well she comes for you. All too brief for me…but I’ll make sure you remember it all.

“I find it troublesome you are so interested in one of our group,” Sage roared back. “And I am sure she will give you no such pleasure, as you will never get the chance.”

“That’s right! You, can taunt all you want!” Doxx shouted back in the air.

‘Loth? Oh no…I may be far from home, but I am no mere Yugoloth come to play—

I felt the pressure of air pushing against me, and I rolled to my left, trying to raise my shield up. But I was too slow, as a curved blade slashed by, and cut deeply into my arm holding it aloft. As I hit the ground on my now bleeding left arm, the pain now registered, causing my hand to spasm uncontrollably. Nearby I heard the whistling of more blades cutting through the air, and the sound of metal on metal along with a strangled cry from Rosa. I caught myself and regaining my balance and stood again and only found that I desperately wanted to cower and hide.

The fiend was easily half a body taller than Sage. Her face was beautiful, pale as snow and her long berry blonde hair was braided, each ending in a iron skull shaped bead. Her smile was one fully immersed in rapture, eyes far away, and a smile that betrayed a fiends dreams’ coming true. Her body was adorned with a simple harness, on which scalps, fragments of horns, and couple of hands dangling by her hips while her chest was bare of armor or anything resembling modesty. In her hands her swords were ready to strike, while squirming in the coils of the creature’s serpent like tale, poor Rosa was being squeezed, and I barely make out the word “Help!” as the air was forced out of her. The fiend now turned and leveled six sharp purple edged blades in my direction, the smile now twisting into one of cruel amusement as its voice echoed in my head, while the others tried to surround it.

No…only the best for our little aasimar. Only something that a high ranked Tanar’ri like I can inflict on your poor mortal body. You can pray to your god for death if you like; but there will be no salvation from my blades. I will tear your flesh slowly, as I carve you like an animal, and then break every bone in your limbs, one joint at a time. You can beg for death of course; how could I deny you hope, false as it will be. But I’m only a taste of what is to come…Myrai.

Session Notes:
So first up, I'd like to apologize for my tardiness. I had been a victim of a neck injury that has caused some nerve damage in my left arm, and needless to say, typing prose has been a bit difficult. As I write this, I still only have partial sensation in my left hand. On the plus side, I can type this!

The party spliting up was a foolish decision, which Doxx's player regretted making, and his bacon was saved by Sage. Now it would have meant that there would have been four mezzoloths working together, but it would have been more interesting in my opinion. If only that was the only problem.

I remember the day well, when the DM put the miniature on the bored, and Sage's player (my son) said. "So, that's not what it looks like of course." to which the DM replied, "Nope. It looks exactly like that." At that point most jaws dropped (Adrissa, my daughter didn't, because she had no idea what it was) as everyone else had played an edition or two before and remembered seeing them in passing. It had a CR of 16, and it was a deadly encounter as presented. Everyone gulped; and we did the only rational thing possible.

We paused for dinner, and discussed tactics through dessert.
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Sorry to hear about the neck injury and the nerve damage; that sounds - a term we use a lot in my office - "sub-optimal." Here's hoping for a speedy recovery. And as I continued reading the description of the final foe in this write-up, I was thinking, "Uh-oh, that sounds like a marilith!" This next battle is going to be intense!


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