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


Lizard folk in disguise
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!


Yeah. Kind of obvious for anyone who has been around the block a time or two. Up until this point the most memorable encounter with one was the "secretary" in Lolth's vessel in Q1. That was funny.

This one was more...personal.

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Lizard folk in disguise

Yeah. Kind of obvious for anyone who has been around the block a time or two. Up until this point the most memorable encounter with one was the "secretary" in Lolth's vessel in Q1. That was funny.

This one was more...personal.

And not to be rude, thanks on the well wishing for the neck. this week we get to make a call on surgery. I'm trying to positive about avoiding it, but we shall see.

Sub-Optimal is the understatement though. Losing strengh in the hand and arm is alarming to say the least.


Oh, definitely. We use "sub-optimal" at work for instances where a much stronger sentiment would be appropriate. I'm not even sure how it started, but it's a tradition we're all carrying forward.



Lizard folk in disguise

The Coils of Death - 11/14/2022​

The towering fiend lunged at me, eyes aflame with malicious glee as they raised a pair of blades overhead. The pair whistled as they cut the air and I attempted to roll out of the way. The first blade sank deep into the ground, as I rolled to my left. But too late did I realize that was what it wanted, as the second one, pierced my outstretched thigh. The steel of the blade felt white hot, and as it sank first into the muscle, and then all the way through me and pinning my leg to the earth. I fell on my stomach, losing my grip on my rod, mouth agape and unable to make a coherent sound, my free hand sank into the cold frozen earth gripping it in pain, while I tried to twist and pull my shield over me. But the fiend held the blade in place preventing me from moving. Laying there I was exposed, as I lay on my shield making it almost impossible to use it as a barrier.

As my mind raced on how to extricate myself from this position, I heard the swishing sound of flames igniting on Sage’s armblade, followed by the clang of a parry, and the sound of a blade skating of the edge of a shield, and the grunt of a warforged. I could hear arrows in the air, and striking something, but I had no idea if they had found their mark, or even hurt the tanar’ri. Turning my head and I saw the fiend, unconcerned with the others attacking her, smiling and ready. Behind her, I could Rosa struggling weakly, within the serpent coils, while Doxx struggled to pull her free from the clutches of the fiend’s tail. A white beam of light then struck it in the chest from Bookshelf’s fingers and I watched it slide off, seeming to have no effect.

Your trite magic will not affect me. And I do love to see you, groveling in the dirt, you filthy lily!

She twisted the blade embedded in my leg and couldn’t hold back the scream of pain. The blade felt like a hot iron in my flesh, searing skin and even charring bone. I glared at the tanar’ri and threw a dark strand around her and pulled it tight. But the miasma of darkness seemed to slide away from it, leaving her unharmed. Groaning, and unable to move all I could do was stare at the grinning fiend, her comely face and fine braided hair a mockery of mortal beauty. She smiled as she looked down on me, content on my position when she then suddenly roared in anger.

Straining to look I saw in the clutches of her tail, now instead of a small halfling, there was a very large and very angry brown bear, and it had just sunk its teeth deep into her scaley flesh. She thrashed her head about and tore out a chunk and spat it upon the ground. Greenish blue blood poured from the open wound, and it the hunk of meat seemed to melt on the ground. The marilith’ s face contorted with rage, and she screamed in anger at the bear, while the bear retorted with a roar of its own. I could see the muscles around the marilith’s face tense for a moment, and the bears roar became weaker, and with horror I hear the snapping of bone as the coils squeezed Rosa, snapping her ribs. Blood spurted from her mouth as she was elevated into the air, and two blades of the marilith cut deeply into the bear’s hide,

“No!” and Doxx swung her staff at the fiend in a whirlwind like frenzy. The first swing was wild, and the second was deflected by the one of the many wicked blades the marilith held. But that didn’t stop her from planting her staff into the ground and vaulting her body up into the air, where Doxx landed two hard kicks in the backside of the demon. IT grunted and swung a blade in a chopping motion and caught an overextended Doxx. The blade sliced through her midsection, and she landed on her feet, staggering, as Doxx clutched her belly in pain.

“Foul thing!” Sage yelled and ignited his armblade once again and swung. But the marilith was faster by far and with a quick flick of her wrist she knocked it aside, and reposted, shearing through Sage’s shield and clipping him in the shoulder. Sage managed to raise his shield, preventing a nasty draw cut by lifting her blade off him, only to find that one of the fiend’s lower arms thrust a sword straight into his belly. She twisted it once and retracted it, causing the great juggernaut to stagger and shake its head.

Adrissa then dropped her bow, drew her swords and charged at the tanar’ri carving up her friends. She swung with her blades, and found success, creating a gash in the side of the fiend and causing more blue green blood to spray everywhere. She cut again and again, each time, creating a pair of smaller wounds. The fiend snarled and then noticed that frost had formed on her blade. Confused for a moment she raised five of her blades overhead and started swinging wildly. Great chunks of ice and rime fell from the sky and struck her and missed everyone else, as Bookshelf expertly manipulated their spell, to cause no damage to anyone close by. But the fiend looked more annoyed than hurt as she snarled at the warforged. But her gaze snapped back to Adrissa who now nervously regarded the large fiend as we all could hear what it was thinking.

I think I will carve you up next, once I remove the limbs from this troublesome trollop!

I gulped, and saw the fiend turn its gaze to me once again. One blade still was thrust through my leg and held me fast to the ground and I shook with fear as I saw the other five sweeping down to do what the fiend said. I didn’t think I just curled up and threw all but one of my dark strands around me, while that single thread reached out to the beyond, and channeled something even colder than Bookshelf’s storm.

The blades swung down and hit solid ice within which I was now entombed. The fiend grunted with frustration as the quintet of blades could do nothing to me as they carved away clean slices of ice away, but none came close to my curled-up body. Snarling, she twisted the blade embedded in my leg, and pulled it free from the ice. I could feel no pain from it though as the ice numbed me and staunched the bleeding in my leg

How novel to hide yourself in ice. I will have to carve it, and your flesh from your bones!

Through the fractured prism of ice, I saw her raise all six of the blades and was ready to carve me out of my icy redoubt, when I saw a pair of arrows sink deeply into her chest. She looked down at them and looked over and past me, her eyes narrowing in hate.

“Take that fiend! I will bring you to justice after I…woah woah woah WOAH!”

From my supine position, I watched as the marilith melted away into black smoke. The Blade lowered his bow for a moment, and then suddenly dove forward, as the tanar’ri emerged from a detonation of smoke. I watched as the elf scrambled and a pair of swords slashed through the air, followed by the sound of tearing leather. “It’s after me! Do something citizens!”

“Do something?” Doxx said exasperated. “You ran away to get a shot, and now we have to run and catch up!” I could feel the earth shake as the juggernaut ran past me, and I had a glimpse of Adrissa running past me, along with the bear form of Rosa, battered and bleeding, but with plenty of fight left in her. I could then see Bookshelf stand over me and as they made motions, and this time cast a bead of light over me. I could see the light of flames illuminating his form, as what I presumed was a ball of flame engulfing the fiend in a warm embrace.

I then saw cracks forming in the ice around me, and after a moment it shattered and fell away, freeing me. Bookshelf extended a hand, which I took and pulled myself upright, and turned around to see what had happened. The Blade was running, his legs lifting off the ground in an awkward, yet effective stepping motion to keep away from the fiend. Who easily slithered and caught him, cutting him with two deep wounds. But Sage and Doxx managed to flank her and attempted to keep her from perusing him to no avail, as each of their blows were knocked away by her swords. Rosa had in the meantime changed back into her halfling form and was now shouting and guiding a glowing figure of bear of light around the battlefield, running it through the group and causing their wounds to close.

“It is difficult to hurt it,” Bookshelf calmly remarked. “Many of the spells I am using it seems to easily will away from hurting it.”

I could only nod grimly as I bent down and picked up my rod. I then reached inside myself for a dark strand and cast it over its head, leaving the strand intact between us. It barely took any time as I then pulled from power from light strand and two bolts of light streaked from my rod and struck her. Each time they did, the dark strand pulse and pulled power from me and pushed it into the marilith causing it to shudder as the black energy, sapped its own causing the fiend to grunt in pain. Still winded from my wounds I muttered aloud. “Just be direct and…”

“And what?” Bookshelf asked?


It then took the time to glare at me and appeared ready to slither over to me when Sage pounded forward and intercepted it. As he did so, his form became indistinct and hazy, and I could barely make it out. He swung with his armblade, which clipped on it its flank. It turned and gave the warforged a wicked smile, shaking their head.

I see you behind that pitiful excuse of an illusion.

She then swung four of the swords at the juggernaut. One was knocked aside with his shield, but the sound of three of the swords impacting his metallic armored skin rang out with the crunching and scraping of metal on metal. Oils and other thick fluids sprayed from the Juggernaut, who staggered under the blows. On the last sword blow, Sage sank down onto a knee, and with a shaky raised his shield overhead.

CRACK! The marilith grunted and twisted around found Doxx swinging her staff overhead and again and bringing down on the back of the serpent followed by her pounding her fists on its scaly hide. With a snarl, the marilith’ s tail coiled up and then struck, surrounding Doxx in its scaley grasp.

You pretend to be an old frail woman. No matter, your bones will snap just like one.

The Blade stopped running and pivoted kneeling on the ground. He levelled his bow parallel to the earth and took careful aim before releasing two arrows from his bow. Both found their mark, sinking deep into the belly of the tanar’ri. It turned and swung a sword down splintering the arrows. Still holding Doxx in its clutches, it twisted its torso and flung a pair of her blades at the elf. The Blade raised his bow and deflected one blade away, but the second one sunk into the elf’s chest, causing him to grunt in pain. It slithered to the elf, retrieving one blade, and then grasping the pommel of the second. It lifted the elf up, and he slid down the length of the sword. The Blade grasped the edges with his gloved hands, trying to avoid slipping down the blade. His attempts were in vain as he sunk to the hilt, his face contorted in pain. The marilith lifted The Blade upwards until he was at eye level, her face in a triumphant smile.

“Let him GO!” Adrissa snarled, as she twisted and cut into the coils of fiend’s serpentine body. The girl was now covered with ichor and blood as she carved into the tanar’ri, her eyes streaming tears with each blow. The marilith turned and looked down at the girl with disdain.

As you like little one.

The marilith swung her arm wide, and The Blade flew off the blade and sailed through the air, his leather cloak flapping in the air, before finally striking a tree. His body fell to the earth in a heap. The elf started to slowly push himself off the ground with one arm, as his second clutched his abdomen, his jaw clenched in pain.

Now shall we see to you now?

“Don’t…don’t…you…touch…her!” Doxx gasped, still entangled in the coils of the tanar’ri. The fiend didn’t even deign to acknowledge the old woman, and instead whipped her tail around in an arc. Doxx then flew into the air, and she sailed until she slammed straight into Rosa, bowling her over. Doxx rolled to a stop next to the halfling, her eyes closed and unmoving. But the marilith simply continued her stare at Adrissa and with one of her lower arms, made a quick swing the sword whistling as it cut through the air.

My world slowed to a crawl as I saw a great gush of blood spurted away from Adrissa’s neck. Her swords dropped and stuck in the earth pommels up, as she dropped to her knees and slumped to the ground unmoving. The fiend smiled and turned to look my direction. She slowly slithered towards me, when I saw Bookshelf step in between us, saying only “Stay in the ring.” The warforged extended a small wand from their forearm, then spun quickly. One the ground, a ring of blue fire erupted surrounded us. But I could feel no warmth from the blue flames.

“That’s not going to work,” I said moving closer to Bookshelf. “They are resistant to fire and magic.”

“It will have to stand in it to reach us.” The warforged said. “Just do wha—”

The marilith charged through the wall of flames. They licked her skin and scale, causing them to crack and smoke as she embraced the warforged, and she carried him and pushed them through the curtain of flame and held him tight. She simply smiled at him, as wooden parts of their limbs caught aflame, and he thrashed in her arms.

I have face the fires of Avernus with others of my kind. No fire you can conjure can compare. But I suppose for a lesser creature, it is a a difference is without distinction.

The blue flames evaporated into nothingness, as the warforged ceased to struggle. The marilith tossed the limp form of metal and wood aside, and tilted its neck, cracking the bones within. With cold eyes she looked at me, and with smile that widened with delight she addressed me again.

Now…that we are done with foreplay, shall we get to down to business?

Session Notes:

This fight was now a distant memory, and the details are foggy. But it was not a forgone conclusion we would survive this encounter. The marilith actually had more health than a standard one for the simple reason it wouldn't survive The Blade's sharpshooter hits, or Doxx's pounding. The fight wasn't nice, nor fair. But it was fun.

On a more serious note, my writing productivity has been significantly curtailed due to pain. Pain I hope to have corrected with surgery this week. I hope this addresses things, and let's me get back to some productive writing once again.


Smug Bladesinger
I took a hiatus from this for awhile, but now I’m back into the swing of things. Caught up and things have been rather amusing. Look forward to more once you’re feeling better.


Lizard folk in disguise

Two Gambits - 12/25/2022​

My heart pounded in terror, as I stood there, unable to move. Not that my torn-up leg would let me anyway, but where could I flee to? She was larger, stronger, faster and the tanar’ri tore apart my companions with ease and was now going to apply her undivided attention and finish me off. My legs were like jelly and I wanted to just fall down and surrender my life, but I was sure that wasn’t the fiend’s plan.

The marilith called me by name. She knew of me somehow, and all of this was a show to get me to break down in fear. But I had never met a marilith before, so she was here for someone else. As it slid on her snake like body towards me, I looked at the sorry state of us all. Bookshelf and Adrissa could be dead. Sage Redoubt was still kneeling, slumped against his shield. Doxx and Rosa each moaned where they lay, but I had a sudden flare of hope as Rosa turned her head to look at me with a pleading look in her eyes. An unspoken hope for the one thing I might be deliver for her: Time.

I straightened up to meet the eyes of the tanar’ri. She was wounded; sword cuts, arrows stuck out here and there, her flesh burned. But she didn’t care or acknowledge the pain they caused, if any. For all I knew she enjoyed it as much as a mortal would enjoy a fine meal. After my time as a plaything for fiends, I knew their tastes and interests could vary widely. I just needed to play the right part.

“You’ve travelled a long way to find me,” I said, holding my ground. “Isn’t sending you to chase a small lily like me a bothersome waste of time?”

The marilith cocked her head with a smirk. “Oh…the challenge was there. Dispatching the original guards for that stupid diadem took far more work than dealing with you. And for some reason the Arcanaloth’s didn’t think they needed to secure their mezzoloth’s assistance,” and she pointed with her chin to a spot behind me. There, barely visible on the frozen ground, were strips in a pile of shredded cloth and leather, soaked with ichor of some kind. No... not one pile…two of them. “Idiots busy squabbling with each other, rather being creative about what needed to be done. But I guess not everyone can be Shemeshka. But I am still disappointed…I expected you to be more effort. Pity.”

“Might be the only thing we can agree on,” I said, causing her to arch an eyebrow. “I don’t know why I ‘m worth the effort either.”

The fiend snorted, “I think this is point where I make a pithy comment about how it isn’t about you. Or so Teiazaam indicated when she called in a favor.”

“Teiazaam?” I said trying to hide the confusion in my voice. “So, they want me for leverage I suppose.”

“I wouldn’t give Teiazaam that much credit. Too young, too new at her role. She just does what Jade tells her. And she’s already at the risk of burning too bright for her own good, having managed to aggravate some senior Baatorians recently.”

I gulped and felt the pit of my stomach sink at the name.


The radiant sister nearly broke me in Sigil, I was ready to jump over the edge of the city in Suicide Alley. Truth was she didn’t need to hurt me; she just tore me open and I inflicted all the pain to myself in front of her as she reclined with friends and sipped wine as I howled at long forgotten pain that has gnawed at me ever since.

The marilith’s coils wrapped themselves around me and lifted me from the ground and began to squeeze. Held on for a while, but it was long before I felt a rib snap under my breastplate, follow by several more, causing me to drop my rod onto the frozen ground as I struggled for air.

“Oooo…” the fiends said with a soothing like mocking voice. “She only wanted you alive for the journey. Some pain might let you keep your sanity intact is my gift to you. But I’d rather you not struggle, so I am afraid those arms and legs are going to stay here.

My breathing was shallow and fast, as my chest spasmed from the pain. I could feel blood enter my lungs, as my splintered ribs tore into them. I coughed gamely, and thick dark blood came up, staining my lips and chin as I felt myself grow weaker. My head slumped, and I saw from the corner of my eye that Rosa had been busy, as a small bear ran from between my companions. I could see Sage moving slowly, and Doxx slowly roll to her feet. The Blade, was on his back, and notched an arrow. Finally, I saw Bookshelf quietly roll over and stand. I few options on hand but one; a long shot at best as I moved my hand from trying to pull the serpent’s coils off of me, and instead reaching into my pouch and grabbed a round hard object within.

“Hmm, any opinion on what limb we should remove first?” the marilith asked with a sneer.

I pushed my right arm straight towards her face. One arm of the fiend’s dropped a sword and grasped my wrist and pulled my arm taut. My shoulder ached, and I realized it was about to pop out of its socket when I got its attention. “I guess it was fun while it lasted. C—c—can I know your name?”

The marilith looked at me with amusement. “Aren’t we a bit forward mortal, asking for names.”

“Its not like I get to keep an arm for a memory,” I said raggedly and then my voice fading to a whisper. My strength, and barely able to breathe. Her face was swimming in and out of focus and I felt like I was going to pass out when she took the bait.

Still smiling she leaned in a bit, and her head was now very close to my arm. “My name among others is Xianala,” she hissed.

“Well, Xianala I doubt you will ever forget this,” and I snapped my fingers on my right hand.

Xianala’s brows furrowed looked at my hand and for the first time realizing it wasn’t empty. In my palm was an amber gemstone, given to me long ago on another world. As the fiend looked at my hand in confusion, I pulled at the matrix surrounding it, and it exploded in a flash of light in the marilith’s face.

Xianala hissed and reflexively pulled herself back from me and released my arm. But as she did so, Sage sprang forward and thrust his armblade deep into her abdomen. Before twisting and causing the wound to erupt int green flame. The marilith blinked, trying to clear spots from her eyes, and her lower arms kept swinging wildly trying to block other attacks to no avail. Doxx easily avoided the blades and swung her staff quickly working down the coils the at held me, until the fourth blow finally was enough to cause the fiend to drop me to cold earth.

The Blade quickly stood and started to fire arrow after arrow at the blinded tanar’ri. Who screamed and twisted madly at the assault. Then from under her, I felt a surge of magic as Bookshelf caused the earth to erupt. Stone pillars struck her, giving her no reprieve from the assault. I lay there on the ground gasping for air and watched a beam of moonlight descend on Rosa’s command, burning the fiend with its radiance. And tried to push myself up with my arm, when I felt the edge of bladed underneath my chin. Xianala vision was now focused on me as she leaned down and held a sword’s edge to my neck. “If you want her to live I sugg…URK!”

Adrissa said nothing as she used her sword to remove the fiends’ s head from its shoulders. She hissed one last time, as all her limbs dropped their weapons in a clatter. As each touched the ground, each one melted into steaming mercury, while her body melted into ichor.

I lay there on the ground watching it all, unable to saying anything more, as my vision faded to darkness, with only the voice of Rosa saying, “Hang on Myrai!” and warmth flowing through out my body.


I opened my eyes and saw Adrissa with tears in her eyes as she stroked my cheek and smiled. As I focused on what I was in the midst of an argument.

“It knew her!” Doxx exclaimed.

“It does not change anything,” The Blade muttered back. “I am sure that all of our foes know some measure of us.”

“That’s just it! I’m tired of being in the dark here.” Doxx shouted. “I mean we were almost shredded by a marylin—”

“Marilith,” I said sitting up with a groan. “They act as generals in the Blood War…and they tend to lead from the front.”

“A…general. Alright. Why in Dolurhh is a general of a bunch of…of whatevers here looking for you.”

“I don’t suppose saying it could have been worse is a help?” I said standing up. “But I suppose that a marilith is a bit smarter than some of the bigger tanar’ri.”

“Bigger?” Adrissa asked her face said with a look of concern.

“Is there any reason to think that this…marilith will come back?” Rosa asked.

“Extra planar creatures take time to reform after being defeated on a plane not their own.” Sage commented.

“I seem recall could be months or years,” Bookshelf commented. “But it varies on power and the rules of the place.”

I shrugged, “The mezzoloths we fought probably will reform and remember nothing. The two arcanaloths who were originally here,” and I pointed to the spots that Xianala showed to me. “Probably will but will shrug and not return without a better deal. As for the marilith…she won’t be back; she came as a favor to—”

“Who is Teiazaam then?” Doxx asked.

I shook my head. “I don’t know who, but it isn’t her that scares me. It’s…Jade.”

“Jade?” Rosa asked. “The name doesn’t sound like one a fiend would carry.”

I chuckled darkly, “All of their names are pretty; all of them colors. Each color coming from the evil halo they wear. Only thirteen exist, and they are far more powerful than that marilith.”

“And why would Jade be interested in you?” Sage asked.

“I met Jade years ago,” I said the others looking at each other in surprise. “Then I was in the palm of her hand for a day and…never had I wanted to die more. But the day was done, and I had other…clients to entertain. But she didn’t come back. So, I suspect it’s not me she wants. Not really.”

“Then what?” Bookshelf asked quietly.

I looked down a moment and sighed, before meeting the warforged gaze. “My father is my only guess. A being I have never spoken to. I’m more curious on the how they found me, but I somehow bet the marilith didn’t ask and wasn’t told. Anyway, did we find what we were looking for?” I asked changing the topic.

Bookshelf nodded. “We have it. The…fiend wasn’t interested in it all, and the box was intact.” Bookshelf took out from a pouch at his side, the gems one a deep blue, the other a deep red.

“One sapphire, one ruby,” Rosa murmured. “Any significance to that?”

“The harder gemstones are used for certain higher magic rituals, spells and in powerful artifacts,” Bookshelf replied. “But these seemed to have been bound before, there is patterning inside so, they are not just another pair of gems. But I am surprised.”

“About what?” The Blade asked.

“They aren’t dragonshards,” Sage commented. “Their capacity for magic is greater and more efficient. It is possible the ancient fiends needed something else for a reason but it’s difficult to tell.”

“We should get back to that…other fiend Twisted Mirth,” The Blade said. “I have a bad feeling about all of this, and we should get it over with”

“What about these other fiends after Myrai?” Doxx snapped.

“Well, I have an idea about that,” I said somberly. “And there is only one person that could answer it—”

“--Good…any time we can avoid going near that hag—” Doxx started.

“—is Twisted Mirth,” I said sadly.

Doxx’s jaw dropped, and she shook in fury, “Why!?”

“Because she’s not just a night hag. She’s a Great Auntie,” I said.

Rosa’s eyes almost popped out of her head, “How do you know that?”

Turning I looked at Rosa, “Because she told us. She specifically said; ‘…it as close to an even exchange that you will ever get from another auntie.’ “

“What that even mean!” Doxx exclaimed beyond frustrated.

“It means that Twisted Mirth has access to knowledge and power beyond any of us here, including the marilith and her friends.” Bookshelf said quietly.

“It also is outside of everything we discussed,” I said as I felt a cold chill creep up my spine. “So…as much I hate do so…I’ll have to make a bargain with her.”

Session notes:
"Twisted Mirth, I have come to bargain!" Oh THAT ever works. But Merry christmas all. Its been the first time my hands have cooperated, I'll take this as a good sign!


Lizard folk in disguise
Hag never were a part of Myrai's problem spacel, although the stories of Ravel Puzzlewell are known to her. But they keep popping up in a lot of my campaigns, played or written. Arnara had a more forceful interaction, and its possible her cousin Lyanna has more to bargain with there.

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