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

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Lizard folk in disguise
Another day, another way to get Myrai captured by endless torturers.

Also, that’s...not good. Is she really dead again?

Its not like she's looking for it...but if she is consistent in one thing; extricating herself from problems like this.

And if weren't for conflicts like this, its hard to have adventures!


Lizard folk in disguise

Hatchet Job Gone Wrong - 3/24/2021​

(Special thanks to Ryan for his contribution on The Blades' interrogation)​

The wailing sound faded to nothing while the group looked at each other apprehensively.

“Someone else is alive down here?” Doxx stated in disbelief.

“The cages implied capturing of people,” Sage noted. “Prisoners are therefore possible.”

Rosa frowned, “That…that would be strange for vegepygmies”

“Vege whats?” Mobad asked confused.

“They…are known to me. They feed off the weak and dying,” Rosa said quietly.

“How do you know this?” Bookshelf asked slowly.

“There…there is a sect of druids in the Eldeen known as the Children of Winter,” Rosa began. “And one of their sacred places is an area of the forest called The Gloaming. In that place you can find…tribes of them. They use a type of mold to…give birth to new ones,” and she pointed at the pits with the russet-colored slime. “But I thought I heard they were hostile to…everyone. Even the Children of Winter.”

“So why do you think it is strange they have prisoners?” The Blade asked.

“To make a new one, you throw the dead bodies into the…mold; it’s how they grow the tribe. The bigger the body, the more pygmies it creates. That seems to be their cycle; kill and multiply. They don’t trade or socialize otherwise, so why keep prisoners?”

“Something has altered the cycle somehow,” Bookshelf observed. He opened up part of his abdomen and started to type notes on a machine. “This is interesting, do you know more?”

Rosa thought a moment, “The tribes grow to certain size, and stabilize or collapse,” Rosa said. “Most likely because they…run out of dead things and living things with any sense run.”

“Wait…Adrissa,” The Blade said with a tone of alarm. “You said they led people and animals to the barn. How many are we talking about?”

Adrissa looked around in surprise at being asked a question, but she quickly answered. “Well…I saw ranch hands and others from outlying homesteads. But I saw a lot of cattle.”

“Cattle…” The Blade said thinking before Sage continued the questioning.

“The cattle here…they are magebred right?” To which Adrissa nodded. “How large is a cow?”

Adrissa frowned, “About twice your height…real passive, easy to herd with dogs.”

Rosa’s eyes widened, “A single head would create a lot of them. How many came through here?”

Adrissa grew alarmed, “Well our ranch had two hundred heads, and about half were magebred. But…but…they led other ranches cattle here too!”

“Then…where are they?” Bookshelf asked. “If they slaughtered her fam…um… her herd, shouldn’t we have seen more?”

At the word slaughter Adrissa tensed up and looked at the slender warforged with hate.

Bookshelf looked at the girl coldly, “Don’t.”

“I agree there should be,” and Rosa stepped in between the pair. “Adrissa, if there are prisoners down here, what did your family look like?”

“I look like my mom…dad had grey hair and a beard, and a large tattoo across his back from his time in the war.”

“And who was the last ones you saw led to the barn?” Rosa pressed.

“Only that woman you asked about earlier and her Blademarks. And that was weeks ago.”

Rosa nodded, “We should finish our breather and start looking for them. They might be still alive,” and she glared looking at Bookshelf. “But we can’t afford to die down here; we need to get out and get to Denning and warn people.”

“Yes, and get the girl,” Doxx said pointing at Adrissa, “To family or someone to take care of her.”

“I can take care of myself,” Adrissa said her brow furrowed in anger as she looked at the old woman.

“She has the right to choose. And she chose to stand against the evil here. Good job by the way,” The Blade said, as he struggled to pat Adrissa on the shoulder as she squirmed away. He reached out and pulled on her shoulder to turn her around. “Listen, I’ll keep you safe. Just ignore him.”

“That…this... this is no way for a child to live!” Doxx said angrily at the elf.

“Don’t matter. She surviving. Better to help her do that, instead of being coward,” Mobad muttered.

“Or faster way to die and join her—” Bookshelf started before Rosa hissed at him to keep quiet.

“Let’s eat and move on before someone finds us,” Rosa said, still glaring at the warforged, who simply shrugged.

They sat and munched on the rations they brought, while the pair of warforged looked on. It was silent, with no sounds coming from beyond the barred doorway, and no repeats of the wail they heard. After they finished, Rosa checked everyone to make sure that there weren’t any injuries that needed treatment. After she was satisfied, she nodded at Mobad, who unbarred and pulled open the large wickerlike door.

Beyond was a three-pace wide passage lit by torches in sconces, that curled around to the left. But ahead they saw a four-way intersection. They moved cautiously through the tunnel, and Doxx moved ahead and peered around one corner and then the other before waving them forward. When the group reached him, he pointed towards the right hand opening and whispered, “Look.” They all turned and entered a chamber.

The chamber was shaped like a kidney bean, with only the single exit, and a smoldering camp fire and it reeked with the smell of wet mold. The room was in a disarray, with cloth and what looked to be random bits of wood and bone all across the floor. On the walls was what a appeared to be a woven lattice work of fibers, that suspended small cubbies. Each one was an armlength wide and inside were visible small nests of rags and straw. But what stood out was the number of cubbies.

“It’s like a beehive,” Rosa said looking at the structure.

“Several hundred could nest in here,” Sage noted, and Bookshelf nodded in agreement.

“In the other direction crosswise is a similar chamber in size and it is also empty,” Doxx said.

“This is bad,” Rosa said. “Most tribes are small, like twenty or thirty.”

“I think big ones slept here too,” Sage said pointing out large nest like shapes on the ground. “Maybe ten or fifteen, based on the size.”

“We should continue on,” Doxx said. “And see if there are more.”

Returning to the passage, they continued and came to another intersection and once again they saw another pair of chambers, but these were larger than the prior two and equally empty of any vegepygmies.

“How many?” Rosa asked.

“I estimate now over a thousand now, and that is just the little ones,” Sage Redoubt said grimly.

“And a hundred of the larger ones,” Bookshelf added.

“But not here,” Mobad grunted.

Rosa sighed, “Let’s continue.”

The passage was now slopping upwards as it twisted around, finally it started to straighten out, and ahead was another thatchlike door. Rosa closed her eyes and fur and claws sprouted all over as she once again turned into a black bear. Nodding at each other, they quietly approached the door. As they did so The Blade began thinking to himself:

I was sure this was going to be a typical band of mercenaries. Just another group of shady individuals I'd have to tolerate in order to get a job done. But that farmhouse tonight changed everything. I saw what they were really made of. Faced with deadly enemies and an innocent in danger, they didn't run. Every one of them stayed and fought. Could it be that I've underestimated them? Could they have the potential to be heroes?

And under my expert tutelage, there's no telling how far they could go: how many innocents could be saved, how many families protected. A multi-city crime-fighting team isn't entirely out of the question. There would be trademark and franchise negotiations of course… monthly meetings… invention exchanges? Well, I suppose we should play that by ear…

The Blade has been studying a flimsy thatch door a bit too carefully, for a bit too long. “It's not trapped,” he assured the party waiting behind him.

With a look that was equal parts confusion and exasperation, the old woman asked with strained patience “And what exactly would a trap on this thing be?”

Oblivious to the question, The Blade pulled the door just far enough to slip inside. A few seconds later, the door is pushed wide open behind him, revealing to the party a room full of disturbing equipment. Two Vegepygmies were working on a frame where they were stretching a piece of leather across it. The Blade approached them with odd confidence.

All right, this is where I truly shine: interrogation. And now to squeeze every bit of vital information out of these hapless minions.

Facing the creature on the right, he began to display his masterful extraction technique. "Where are the rest of those bask—"

The creature suddenly burst into flames and dissolved into scattering ashes as a fiery blast hit it from over The Blade's shoulder. He sighed. The momentary expression of frustration on his face was immediately overwritten by a slight smirk.

Ah of course: destroy the first creature to let the second one know we mean business. Perhaps more aggressive than I'm used to, but an understandable tactic.

He turned his menacing gaze to the other creature, who must have been sufficiently worried by now. "Now then, where are the—" he started again, when the orc and the old woman brushed each of his shoulders as they ran past him to kill the remaining creature.

The Blade's smirk faltered slightly, but then returned as he slowly shook his head.

Ha! Overzealous. What a rookie mistake. These fledgling heroes have a lot to learn if they want to be revered champions in the endless battle against the forces of…

Turning to face the scene behind him, his cheeks went pale and his eyes glazed over.


Lying on the floor, the dying girl's frozen form rested at the feet of a remorseless warforged. The desperate roar of a black bear filled the room as she leapt into the air. Two halfling feet landed next to the dying child, as Rosa attempted to keep her from the jaws of death.

How could I have been so stupid? I had every reason to know, every chance to expect it. Unlike most villains I've met, this one plainly announced his intentions. Like a fool, I dismissed his threat as bluster and cluelessness. I told her I'd protect her from him. But I turned my back.

The world around The Blade came back into focus, as his attention settled on an arrow sticking out of the warforged's torso, and then on the bow in his own hand. Gathering his senses, he subtly scans the faces of everyone around him, and it became clear: they're not going to help kill him.

These are mercenaries. I can't be sure they won't turn on me before I can destroy this monster. And if I fail to finish him off, she'll only be in more danger.

He lowered the bow. "That warforged is defective. Secure it. I don't care how.”

Doxx, and Mobad stepped in between Bookshelf and the fallen girl with Doxx already berating the slender warforged.

“Why did you do that?!?”

“She put a hatchet in my leg,” And Bookshelf pointed to their left knee at Adrissa’s axe sunk deeply into the wood between two metal plates.

“And why did that happen?”

“I said out I found her father,” and he pointed back to the wooden frame. While the leather wasn’t fully stretched across it, one thing stood out clearly. The leather had a military campaign tattoo inscribed upon it.

“Human leather,” Mobad said grimly.

Rosa was on the floor comforting the unconscious girl, with the larger juggernaut standing at her side. Whether intended or not, his posture seems to be that of a protector. The Blade stepped to his side, the three of them now looking down over the girl.

"Sage. You're a mercenary, right?"

After a thoughtful pause, the warforged offered a tentative reply. "Sort of?"

"I'd like to hire you for a… side job. We can sort out payment later. But the job has to start now."

"What's the job?"

"Bodyguard. I need you to protect her." The Blade's eyes shift only briefly to the expressionless face of the child's assailant. "…from anything."


No hesitation. No question about the payment? There might be more to this one after all. No. If I overestimate them again… the consequences could get much worse. They're mercenaries. They're just doing a job.

But still. In a situation this precarious, fighting in an unfamiliar land with pure evil traveling at my side… true allies would be too valuable to ignore.

“I am sure she misunderstood my intent,” Bookshelf said as he wrenched the axe free from his leg and then started to work the arrow out of their chest.

“I doubt that,” Doxx said. “Stay away from her, and don’t talk to her.”

The Blade came up to the group around Bookshelf and simply glared at them. “Let’s look around, and we’ll ask her what happened when she wakes.”

The main room was rectangular in shape, with another thatch door opposite of the one they entered and on the long walls were four side chambers. In the main room, along with the tools, were bins on the sides. The four of them walked over and looked inside and saw they held various kinds of gear.

“This one has leather…belts, jerkins…even some armor.” Doxx said.

“This one has knives…swords…a mace…nothing quality,” Mobad remarked.

Bookshelf started to look into another one, when a glint caught their eye from a fourth bin. They walked over and stared for a long moment quietly into its contents.

“A Blademark baldric,” Doxx said. “They were here,”

Mobad looked at the third bin that Bookshelf passed by, “Bows and arrows here.”

“Parts,” Bookshelf said simply, and they reached in and pulled up a round metallic object and turned it in their hands. As the others turned to look it took a moment to realize that Bookshelf held a warforged head.

“How many?” Doxx asked with a tone of disgust.

“Five.” They said grimly looking between the bin, and the leatherworking station. “People for parts. All kinds.”

Sage and The Blade approached, both with grim looks.

“Will she—“Doxx started.

“—She’ll live.” Sage replied.

“You better hope she does,” Doxx said angrily glaring at Bookshelf.

“I’m supposed to just stand there and take an axe to the leg? It might have removed yours,” Bookshelf replied calmly.

“And I’m sure you needling her had nothing to do with it,” Doxx snapped.

“Enough! We have enough problems without creating one. We will deal with this later,” Sage said. “For now, we should watch the other door to make sure we aren’t disturbed.”

Mobad grunted, and walked to the far door, pushing his way past Bookshelf, nearly knocking him over. The rest then moved into one of the antechambers that flanked the room. Inside were two of the cages but set upright on their ends. A table nearby had sharp knives and tools, while on the ground two baskets sat half empty, each with an assortment of clothing and equipment. In the back corner, small cloth was spread out on the floor.

Doxx moved towards the cloth and realized that something was under it. Using their staff, they moved the cloth aside, and Doxx jumped back suddenly. There underneath was a pair of vegepygmies. The others whirled at the motion and were ready to attack when Bookshelf spoke.

“They’re dead.” They walked forward and drew a dagger and used it to move limbs and roll their heads side to side. “No wounds, no fire, no frost. Something else killed them.”

“And no one noticed?” Doxx exclaimed.

“Apparently they aren’t very bright.” Safe noted.

The Blade in the meantime looked over the cage when something drew his attention. High on it, stuck on fragment of wooden thatch was a strand of long golden hair.. Frowning he looked down and saw that the cage was set upon a basin. Sniffing the air, he was certain from the scent that it held blood. He then frowned and leaned closer and looked inside. The basin was filled to the brim with the all too familiar liquid. He was about the straighten up, when he thought he felt something on his cheek. He reached out his hand towards the basin and realized what it was.

“It’s warm. Someone was exsanguinated here very recently,” The Blade said, then noticing something else on the floor and moved to pick them up.

“If that was the case, who left this?” Sage had squatted down and pointed to a set of red smears on the stone floor. Doxx and The Blade moved over to look, and it was clear that the smears were a set of bloody footprints.

Doxx squinted at it a moment, “A woman’s footprint based on the size…or a male elf.”

“It must be Myrai’s. And I suspect she is a wizard of some kind.” The Blade said, holding out a bit of black fur, “A black cat—” and then he produced a black feather in the other hand, “—with wings.”

Doxx blinked in confusion, “I…thought the girl was telling a tale. But I suppose with a familiar of some kind anything is possible.”

“So, her familiar got her free?” Sage asked.

“Yes, she used magic then to kill the guards, and—” The Blade moved over to the bins in the room, “Got dressed…I don’t see anything in here that a woman could wear.”

Doxx looked closer at the ground near the entrance to the side chamber, “That seems to be the right of it. There is a boot print her against the wall. I bet she sneaked out. Perhaps she distracted the others and is ahead of us now.”

Bookshelf had been quiet, but now they looked at the basin of warm blood, “But this…this basin is full. The amount of blood here…a human shouldn’t be alive after shedding this much blood.”

“I agree,” The Blade said somberly. “But, the lack of a woman’s body, and two pygmies’ corpses tell a different tale.”

The four stepped back into the main room, and Rosa moved towards them with Adrissa rubbing her head. “She doesn’t remember what happened in the fight with vegepygmies here,” and she leveled a gaze at Bookshelf, “Nor how she got knocked out, but I told her it wasn’t important right now.”

The Blade looked at Sage Redoubt and the juggernaut nodded, “I will stay closer to her and keep her safe.”

“She’ll be safer in Denn—” Doxx began to start his tirade again.

“Nowhere is safe. No one is safe,” Adrissa said quietly, bringing Doxx up short. “Not my home. Not Denning. Not the ranchers.,” and she pointed to the leather frame with the tattooed skin stretched across it. “Not my father. And not me, so save your sermon Doxx. Just get me out of here.”

The Blade was about to respond, when he closed his mouth, and moved to the third bin, and found a shortbow and a quiver of arrows. He brought them over to the dead eyed girl and offered them out. “Perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. It’s your life.”

Doxx sighed looking at the girl, and her innocence lost, “Well…at least we know Myrai was here, and is ahead of us. Might as well follow her.”

The rest nodded and moved towards the barred passage out. Mobad slid the bar back and pulled the wicker door a little, peeked through, looking for trouble, before he opened it and entered the passage way. As the group moved through the doorway, the girl stopped by the leatherworking station, with her father’s flayed skin on the frame. She reached over with a shaking hand and touched it gently before saying softly for the last time.

“Goodbye Daddy.”

Session notes:
So, The Blade's player kindly allowed me to adapt his original piece into the story, and thanks again Ryan. However, there is a small thing that happened at this point. After Adrissa was hit by the Ray of Frost, there was an interesting change. That change was that my daughter started to play Adrissa as a character. Her personality changed a bit from the frightened passive girl that originally appeared, to something quite different. Originally it was just going to be temporary as well; it was the first time she had ever played Dungeons and Dragons with her father (Myrai) and her brother (Sage Redoubt). And instead, she became a permanent member of the group that plays today.

So what was a side character became something more important, and has hooked my daughter into the Pen and Paper world, and she has even dm'd a group of my friends recently for the first time. So this story has a lot of personal memories for me, beyond just the game.
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Smug Bladesinger
Geez, framed skin? Talk about a hellish way to find your dead relative. The Blade is still great, definitely needed in the face of fleshy portraits, massive blood basins, and a couple too many vegepygmies for comfort.


Lizard folk in disguise
Its called "Recycling" in the grimmest possible way. In talking with "The Blade" last night, he's amused as well.

So enjoy!

So after a lengthy hiatus I'm all caught up.

Must say I'm thoroughly enjoying the rather dark and grim tale you're currently unfolding. And the characterisation of the various party members (particularly Bookcase).

And congrats on getting your daughter hooked to D&D!!


Lizard folk in disguise
So after a lengthy hiatus I'm all caught up.

Must say I'm thoroughly enjoying the rather dark and grim tale you're currently unfolding. And the characterisation of the various party members (particularly Bookcase).

And congrats on getting your daughter hooked to D&D!!
Welcome back. I was afraid I chased you off :)

And Bookshelf is challenging to write; It was always the small things at the table with tone, less action. All of them have their secrets and subtleties, and I am glad you have been enjoying it.


Lizard folk in disguise

Confrontation with a Lesser Winter - 4/12/2021​

The passage beyond, resembled the earlier one, if a bit wider. The floor here was stone, but with a fair spattering of damp mud in the center of the corridor. But beyond the sputtering torches on the walls, there was no sound, and no movement.

Mobad stood in the center, axe ready alongside Sage, with The Blade, and Adrissa close behind them with bows ready, and Bookshelf and Rosa behind them. Doxx however, stayed along the right side wall, watching the floor.

“Her trail is clear, and fresh. The prints have no water in the mud here. But no sign of the cat though.”

“It’s flying dear,” Rosa said patiently.

Doxx winced, “Of course it is.”

“Told you,” Adrissa said smartly.

The group continued forward, and found more branching intersections, to caverns on the sides. Each one was like the prior ones they had encountered. But they were each twice the size of the previous ones. And like before, each was as empty. Eventually, they saw ahead of them, torches flanking a door. They all pushed themselves against the wall and peered ahead.

“A door,” Mobad simply said. “Iron bound though.”

The Blade looked at the girl, “You said your family secured a cavern to hide because of the war right?”

Adrissa nodded, “Yes. But I never saw the inside of it.”

“We should be cautious,” Sage responded. “For as dim as these pygmies are, something else leading them is far more cunning.”

The group moved to the door, while The Blade examined it, and Doxx pressed her ear against the wood.

“I hear…talking, can’t make out what,” Doxx said, and she gripped her staff tightly.

“Well, I’m sure we have the element of surprise,” The Blade said confidently, and he pulled open the door.

The circular chamber was well lit with braziers on the floor and with oil lamps hanging from four pillars that reached the domed ceiling. The stone floor here was finished flagstone, and the walls here showed signs of being worked smooth, with some brick work in places. Along the edges were two stacks of crates, some marked with House Cannith’s sigil, and others blank. By each stood another set of the giant sized vege hulks they had fought earlier. On the far wall, were shelves, full of books and various objects, and another door was on the left, barred shut from this side.

But it was the thrumming of fingers on a tome that grabbed their attention. Near the center of the room, behind a large worktable and standing on a box, was a small figure in a brown robe. Her eyes bored into the band as they entered. Around her right eye an ugly black and red stain writhed on her skin; an Aberrant Dragonmark. Her face had already a deep frown, as she addressed the band;

“So…you are the ones who burned down the house.” She said coldly. “Pity, but it has outlived its usefulness I suppose.”

Adrissa hand tightened around her bow, as Rosa spoke, “Where is the woman?”

“Doesn’t matter she…wait…” and a warm smile spread across the gnomes face, “Rosa? Rosa d’Jorasco is that you? It has been a long time since you visited. I don’t suppose you have decided to rejoin us?”

Rosa looked around at the others in wide eyed surprise, her words stolen away by her shock. She finally took a breath and replied, “I…don’t…think so. I’ve seen enough to see that this—”

Rosa was cut off for a moment, as the ground heaved and shook. The quake caused rock and dust to fall from the roof of the cavern and was violent enough that even the hulks had to steady themselves using the nearby pillars. The gnome had put both of her hands down on her worktable, but she looked around with elation. After several moments, the rumbling and shaking subsided, but now a wave of nausea came over the group as they recovered their bearings.

“Of course not,” the gnome continued. “You never had the stomach to do what was necessary. And now…well it is far too late. The coming of Winter has truly begun! Morrigon has completed his labors, and his toil is bearing fruit. I suppose he might have wanted to have a word with you…but perhaps one bitter parting is enough for everyone.”

The Blade stepped forward and spoke in a strong commanding voice, “Now I suggest you give up quietly, and we ensure your safety when we take you—”

“—You are taking me nowhere elf.” The gnome sneered. “I am no cutpurse on the streets of the cities of waste and detritus. I am a herald of the change, and Morrigon seeks to change the world for the better. As for you, you are out of your element city boy, and out of your league. And while the woman you seek had a clever trick up her sleeve; it won’t save her, and nothing will save you. Dispose of them!”

“I think you should—WATCH OUT!” The Blade said as a large crate sailed overhead and slammed into the floor, among them all. The crate split open, releasing fractured glass, and a thick cloud of dust that covered everyone and everything nearby. The group’s eyes started to water and burn a bit, and they coughed a moment as one of the hulks strode forward.

“You stupid idiot! Not THAT one!” screamed the gnome, “Just go crush them!” and she waved her hand, and a green ball appeared in it and she tossed it at The Blade. It sailed across the room, and struck the ground where he once stood, splashing a caustic liquid at the elf and Rosa as well. Fortunately, Rosa had also avoided the liquid, as she scrambled backwards out of reach, growing hair, claws and teeth as she transformed into a bear once again.

Doxx then wasted no time and ran towards the hulk that threw the crate. But as she passed a pillar she was struck and pulled backwards by a thorny vine. There in the shadow another brown robed figure, stood ready with a quarter staff. But Doxx ignored the blow and continued to surge forward. Evading another blow from the figures’ quarter staff, she then assaulted the hulk with her staff and a pair of kicks, trying to slow it. She glanced behind herself to see what the others were doing and cursed quietly.

Adrissa had also bolted forward, loosing an arrow as she ran, the shot going wide. She wore her anger openly on her face as she quickly dropped the bow and drew her short sword. But she swung and missed the spry gnome, and she growled in frustration, staying close to her quarry.

Mobad was of the same mind as Doxx, and charged into the second hulk followed by Sage Redoubt. The orc’s great axe had no trouble finding his mark, as he cut pieces of hulk away, just in time for Sage to sear it with green flame from his armblade. “Fire and frost!” Sage yelled to remind the others.

“That’s nice. I don’t carry either,” and The Blade ran to the edge of the room and spied another robed figure behind a pillar. His bow shot arrow after arrow and the figure staggered, with both shafts sunk deep into their torso. “And Adrissa, you aren’t supposed to drop your bow!”

“Frost is a good idea,” and Bookshelf pointed, and the blue, white beam of frost struck Doxx’s attacking hulk easily, causing ice to form over its legs. The hulk however ignored the ice and was busy trying to club Doxx without success. Doxx danced and confounded the brute as it struck the ground several times in an attempt to smash the old woman.

The other hulk was slightly more successful in that it hit Mobad. But Mobad just roared and reveled in the pain. And he whirled around, his axe once again carving grey moldy skin away. Sage ignited his armblade again and the stench of seared rotten plant matter filled the room. The hulks’ strength was fading fast.

Rosa gritted her teeth and gave out a loud roar as a bear, and then charged at the gnome. She lumbered forward, and passed by Doxx, as she built momentum to attack, but the gnome was ready for her. She was unfazed by Adrissa’s fury, as her sword and axe strikes kept hitting nothing. But she turned to look at Rosa as she simply smiled and waved her hand.

From the top of the chamber, a beam of white light struck the ground, hitting both Rosa and Doxx. Rosa bellowed in pain and shook her massive head as white smoke wafted from her fur. But glancing sideways, she saw that Doxx had a different reaction to the light.

Doxx stood there and screamed as she was fully illuminated by the light. But as she did, her voice deepened. The old woman’s gnarled arms became smoother, as the liver spots faded away. Her scraggly hair fell away revealing a white mop of short hair. Finally, her face of lines and wrinkles, melted to smooth skin, with grey eyes, and an indistinct face.

“Knew it,” the gnome said with satisfaction. “If you are going to play as an old woman, don’t run around like a young fella, changeling! Not quite the stern stuff that Rosa is made of ACK!” And the gnome leaped backwards off her box as Adrissa screamed at her, swinging her sword and axe. Her face was a such a knot of rage and hate, that it made Mobad’s own a pale shadow to the girl’s emotions now on display. But despite her attempts to land a blow, her weapons seemed to be nudged away from connecting.

But Mobad’s opponent had neither the agility nor the guile to survive Mobad’s continued assault. The great axe cleaved more and more plant like material from the hulk, as The Blade continued to move and shoot around the room, laying low another figure behind the columns and turned to land the second shot deep into the trunk of the hulk. Sage quickly thrusted into it, and then ignited his sword, causing gouts of flame to flare from the open maw of the ‘giant pygmy.’

Doxx meanwhile rolled to the floor, as the Rosa bear changed targets to help Doxx, and sunk her teeth deep into the second hulk. Glaring at the gnome once, the revealed changeling gripped their staff and whirled it around themselves in a fury. In a flash, the staff was now illuminated with a burning light as fire-streaked trails from the ends. Finally, Doxx rotated the spinning staff in front of them, and a pair of fiery tendrils wrapped themselves around the hulk, setting it aflame. Amid the smoke the hulk stumbled around for a moment, before it finally collapsed on the floor of the cavern in a ashen heap.

The Blade stayed at the edge of the room and took aim at the gnome, who cackled in laughter as the shot seemed to be deflected away from the mark. Taking careful aim, he let fly another arrow, which was to be deflected from his target again. Frowning, he took even more careful aim again and releasted. As it flew towards the gnome, a dim green light surrounding the gnome flickered and died. The arrow struck the diminutive figure in the ribs. “I knew my aim wasn’t off. Hit her now!”

Adrissa yelled, her hair flowing behind her as she swung with her weapons. Both struck the gnome hard, and blood sprayed the girl. Her mouth was contorted into a vicious grin, as she watched the gnome stagger backwards.

“That’s good!” The Blade said getting another arrow ready. “Now make sure that—”

Mobad’s axe came down on the gnomes clavicle and severed her left arm away from the small body. A great gout of blood burst forth and drenched both the orc and the girl. He retracted his axe looking for another opponent and said, “—that’s how to do it little girl.”

“—we leave her alive to ask questions.” The Blade said defeatedly, and shook his head.

“Do you think a Zealot like her would talk to us?” Doxx said glaring at The Blade.

“She might have talked to Rosa,” Sage said looking at the bear.

The bears fur and claws began to shorten again and she spoke awkwardly, “Roawt—what do you mean?”

“She knew you.” Sage said simply.

“I…I…don’t know her. Nothing she said made any sense.”

“You told us about the Children of Winter befo—” Sage pressed.

“That I understood the faction,” Rosa pleaded. “That they’re mad…thinking that casting the world into Winter will make it a better place. But I still didn’t know her or how she thought she knew me. I only played along to try to understand what was going on here.”

“Well…it looks like she died with her secrets,” Doxx said bitterly.

“And you seem to have shed your obvious one,” Sage pointed out.

Bookshelf ignored them and cast a spell, causing his eyes to twinkle in a blue light, and started to look at the shelves at the back of the room. Some had books, and others had flasks and beakers. “Hm, a magic orb, a stick…no a wand, and a stack of arrows? These might be serviceable.” Continuing he looked at the spines of the books that were scattered on the shelves. “These are…recent books. Key battles in Cyre, several are on the soldier’s experiences. Then a bunch on diseases, and enchantment. An eclectic mix.”

Mobad rolled his eyes and sat down by a pillar and started to wipe the blood from its edge, “You did good little girl. You have my respect.”

Adrissa looked at the orc, “It isn’t enough. This is someone’s errand gnome.”

“It never is,” the orc nodded, earning a dark look from Doxx, who was ignoring Sage’s jab.

Resigned that Doxx would continue to ignore him, the juggernaut continued. “Well, let’s see if there is something else, we can learn here.” Sage said walking to the table where the gnome was working. There among the experiments was an open notebook, the ink still wet. Sage narrowed his eyes at it. “I can’t read this. I don’t even recognize the glyphs used.”

Bookshelf walked over and they too shook their head. “I don’t recognize it either. I can perhaps translate it with a spell.”

Rosa joined the pair of warforged, and climbed up on the stool and looked at the notebooks’ contents. Sighing she said, “Its in Druidic of course. Give me some time to read through it.”

The Blade wandered the room, when near the door when something shiny caught his eye. Bending down he picked up a small flat object; a copper coin. “This is out of place here. Wait…what is this?”

“What is it elf?” Doxx grumbled and walked over, slowly changing back into the same old woman he was before.

“This coin…I don’t recognize it. I’ve even seen coins in my…in a collection that were said to be Dhakhani. This doesn’t look like any of them at all.”

“You know you don’t need to hide changeling,” Mobad muttered.

“Keep your nose out of it and say nothing,” Doxx snapped and the non-plussed orc just shrugged. “Let me see that.” Doxx took the coin and frowned. “It’s not from the Five Nations, or Q’barra, and doesn’t look like an Aereni coin either.”

Bookshelf came over, his eyes still glowing. “Well…it’s a normal coin, but it had something cast on it. A bit of evocation with negative energy. I know I have seen this before. But…what is also strange is that there is a bit of…conjuration on it as well. Not cast on it, but in close proximity.”

The Blade looked down and the ground and then noticed the same boot prints they had been following earlier near the descending tunnel. He followed them back to door they entered from, and followed them to the other door, talking aloud. “She entered the room, stood there a moment, and then she ran to the door, only stopping to open it.”

“Not bad for someone that was captured and bled dry,” Doxx remarked.

“I concur, they underestimated her,” Sage said.

Thinking a moment, Bookshelf spoke again, “She clearly wasn’t dead, and I think I know what she did.”

“I can stop you there citizen,” The Blade stated confidently. “This Myrai person escaped from the cage below by charming the vegethings, and then using her persuasive skills to convince them to turn against the gnome, allowing her to dash outside to safety.”

Bookshelf blinked at the explanation and calmly said “I suspect something very different…”

Session Notes:
Moonbeam is a great spell to create havoc with. Adrissa at this point, really, really, liked hitting things, and wasn't really keen on ranged combat, despite being offered weapons for it. But she liked to be in the thick of things. Finally, Detect Magic in this game was evolving to be used forensically, like an inquisitives tool kit. So seeing past effects was a part of the how the world worked.
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Smug Bladesinger
The forensic vibe is really cool. I like to see that kind of creative problem-solving. Although, that’s probably nothing compared to whatever magic trick Myrai pulled.


Lizard folk in disguise

The Thorns of Winter - 4/21/2021​

“My father, I…don’t…”

I felt my heart beat ebb as the spear was pulled out of my chest. All the air within me passed my lips uttering a last plea. My vision grew blurry, as I watched the vegepygmies wander out of the room leaving me to die in the cage. My breathing had stopped, and I felt my heart slow and then stop.

I waited.

And waited.

Nothing was happening.

I was confused. I remembered the last time I died, that I awoke on the ashen ground of the Fugue and was meet by a petitioner named Alionus. But I didn’t remember waiting like…this. I thought a moment and tried to move. Unsurprising I found that my soul was unmoored from my body, and now I was adrift beside it hovering.

No…drifting. I was moving, not of my accord but I could feel myself being pulled somewhere. As I looked around, I saw that only two of the vegepygmies remained in the room, the others had moved on other things. The gnome too was gone, seemingly with more important things to do. Finally, I looked at myself hanging in the cage.

I knew I was in bad shape, but I didn’t realize how bad. My body clearly had lost weight, and color. My golden hair was matted and hung limply against my skin, covered in dust and filth. And my eyes…my eyes were closed, but tears of blood had dripped out of the corners and streaked down my cheeks. Offset in my chest, was a hole, where even now, blood dripped, cascading down my stomach and legs to collect in the basin below.

I had seen many corpses; some of which I created myself. But it was uncomfortable looking at my own, hanging there helpless. And this made me angry. I guess I could empathize with ghosts and spirits who felt like their work wasn’t done, and why they clung to the world of the living. Did that mean I was one?

No…I was being drawn away, but I hadn’t left yet. Watching around me, it seemed that time had slowed as my captors continued with their duties, but at a snails crawl. Ironically, I realized this was that moment I was waiting for; few guards and the ones here were not paying attention. Only problem was I wasn’t alive to take advantage of it.

“Sodding Baator,” I muttered to myself under my…breath? Well, I was fairly sure no one could hear me. But after I cursed, I realized I could feel something. Not air, not warmth or cold. Not pain. But something more familiar. I thought a moment and flexed and I realized what I felt were the Strands. Looking at myself I could just on the edge of vision see that they connected my soul to my body, and as I concentrated, I could see the intricate weaving of light and dark strands, and as I watched I could see they were fraying and unravelling.

That’s why I was still here; I wasn’t dead yet. I was close though. Given time my Strand would unravel and finally would cast my soul loose. And while time had slowed to a crawl, it was still finite. I focused a moment and realized that I could still pull on the Strands themselves, but I wasn’t sure what I could do with that knowledge. But it didn’t long to for me to realize that unlike the last time, I didn’t want to pass beyond.

I wanted to live.

Time was against me then, as I started to pull on the energy within the Strands. I left the dark ones alone and focused on finding every one of light. I then in desperation threw them around my body, weaving a lattice and then I pulled on the slack. It was hard…my body was being pulled away. The Fugue was calling me…or was I bound for Dolorrh? It didn’t matter; I wasn’t going to go. Not this time.

I focused, and strained. I felt the strands tighten, and I could see the dark ones unravelling faster and faster. As I puled my soul closer, I cast more light out from the slack in the Strand, weaving more and more loops around both my soul and my body. As I moved closer it was becoming easier and easier. Finally, my soul and body were almost touching and with one final pull I whispered ‘aloud;’

“My father, I am…not going to die.”

My eyes opened wide, and I struggled not to scream as I could once again feel the pain in my chest. I forced myself to breathe slowly and quietly and not gulp for air. I then and looked around with my eyes. Just as I had saw before, the pair of pygmies were busy at the table and noticed nothing. As I took each breath, I realized that the pain in my chest was subsiding. I could feel and hear my heart beat stronger and I had the sensation of blood running through my head once again. I hung there quietly wondering what to do next, when it happened.

The pair of vegepygmies left the room, unaware of my sudden return to the living. I noticed that on the table, they had left behind a number of tools and one item caught my eye; a thin blade made of bone I thought. It resembled a skinning knife, and it was exactly what I needed.

Smiling, I focused a moment and beckoned my familiar from his hiding spot, and with a quiet rush, Gossamer appeared on the ground and he stretched his wings.

--Well…that was strange. I thought I was going to unbind, and yet here you…wow. You look like crap.

I feel about the same. We don’t have time. There is a knife on the worktable over there. Fly over, grab it and put it in my hand.

--We expecting company?

They stepped out for a…just get it!

Gossamer didn’t argue, and after looking around, he ran across the floor and leapt onto the workbench. He grabbed the blade by the hand with this mouth and then quickly flew over to my cage and carefully put the handle into my hand.

Stay quiet, watch the entryway.

--Sure thing.

My forearms were bound at the wrist against the wood, and were elevated above my head. With my hand, I carefully manipulated so I could slide the blade between my skin, and the fibers that bound my wrists to the wooden lattice of the cage. Then once in place I straightened my wrist, causing the knife’s edge to cut against the fiber. I slowly flexed, moving the knife in a sawing motion. Quickly I could feel the fibers release and pull away, and my right forearm was free.

Goss; I need you to help me to trade the knife to the other hand.

--Yeah yeah. There are a couple outside by the way working on some frames.

Gossamer flew up and grabbed the knife and deposited it in my left hand and he returned to the ground to watch for pygmies to return. I clumsily repeated the maneuver with my weaker hand, and while it took a little longer, I was able to free my left forearm. With it free, I could now bend it over and inserted the blade between my right elbow’s binding and I quickly started to saw it.

--Myr, the pair is coming back. And he scampered and hid behind my cage as I desperately worked to finish and release my right arm. Just as they were about to walk into the room, I felt the knife had cut through the fibers, and I quickly moved my hand back above my head and held my breath.

A pair of the Vegepygmies came in, the same ones or different I had no idea, but they returned to the bench and started to clear tools off the surface. I could see them clearly, and I smiled. My right arm moved and gestured, throwing a dark strand around the pair, as I muttered under my breath. Ghostly skeletal hands then reached up and grabbed them by the through. I could see the vegepygmies reach up for their necks and then they stopped and fell lifelessly onto the ground.

--That was lucky you know.

I’ll take what I can. Go watch for others.

--How are you going to reach the rest of you?

With an arm free, I’ll create a new hand.

I then pulled on a light and dark strand, and with a quick wave I created a ghostly hand in the air. It moved and took the blade from my left hand and I directed it, bond my bond to set me free, starting with my head so I could look around, my torso, waist and then my legs and feet. I wasn’t sure how long it took, but once I severed the bonds holding my legs, I practically fell out of the cage. I staggered forward and leaving wet bloody footprints on the stone. My limbs were sore from supporting my bodies weight on the bonds and the fibers left red inflamed marks where they cut into my skin. Breathing easier I finally summoned the courage to look at my chest.

Looking down, between my breasts was just unmarred flesh. I felt with my hand, pressing to find where the hole was. There were clear blood stains from where it poured from my heart, out of the hole, but the wound was closed without any sign of a scar or other mark.

“Thank Kelemvor for this miracle,” I whispered, and I moved to the workbench and the baskets nearby. The first thing I did was drag the small bodies over to the far corner of the room and along side the workbench. Looking into the baskets of gear, I found what looked be some sort of canvas or sail cloth, and I quickly draped it over the dead bodies, all while muttering, “I have no idea what passes for death rites for you, but I’m sure my god will forgive me for skipping them with you, berks.” I then quietly dug in to the baskets and found then one that had my gear. I quickly rummaged, around looking for my belts.

--Two are out there in the room…still ignoring us. Not sure how long that will be.

Just keep me informed, as I get dressed.

--you going to bathe while you are at it; you smell like you crapped and pissed your—

Please don’t remind me. I’ll cover the smell, can’t fully clear right now. Need to get my armor and stuff.

--By yourself?


I found my waist belt and pulled it out. On one side hung a long thin sheath, next to my greensteel stiletto. From it, I pulled out a silver shaft of metal, and I quickly waved a pattern in the air with it. I could feel it pull on Strands around me, and I could feel something manifest, a helper.

“Help me dress and put on my armor,” I said. I couldn’t see it, but I heard some digging and the shapeless form pulled out my leather breeches out of the basket. While it did that I did take the time to use a light strand to scrub away the wet blood on the feet and lower legs. The breeches floated over to me and I dutifully stepped into them and pulled them up over my hips. The helper started to lace up the calves as I then put on the belt around me. And so, it went on with boots, blouse, armor, sword belt and the rest of my gear, easily cutting the time by half. I sighed as I realized that all my gear hung on me looser than I remembered, and my stomach’s growling reminded me on why. But once dressed I did use some strands to cut down my odor. Finally, I placed a hand on my returned holy symbol and pulled from the brightest strands to rejuvenate myself and my strength, if not quell my hunger.

--You look better…except for the blood around your eyes.


--You are still crying blood.

I put a hand to my eye, and I pulled it away. As Gossamer said, my fingers were covered in blood and I was now aware that my eyes burned. Thinking back, I realized that the gnome was interested in me becoming blind and her experiments seemed to focus on the fact I could still see, even after Wyn was blinded. I flexed a moment and called from that place deep inside and focused on restoring my vision. I felt the rush up and down my back, as my wings appeared momentarily as I released the power within me. Quickly the pain dissipated, and I focused again on leaving this prison.

Now dressed, I moved quietly up to Gossamer on the floor and looked out in the main room, where there were several exits to side rooms. There were two vegepygmies working on a piece of leather on a frame. But near them, on end of the room stood two massive vegepygmies. Well calling them pygmies was absurd as I think I would have come up to mid chest if I stood close to them.

--You might have a problem killing all four.

You’re right. But I have an idea.

I whispered under my breath to my helper. “Go to one of the side room across from us and knock things over and create noise.”

--Is that going to work?

I could send you to do it.

--I’m totally sure that will work.

I waited and watched. It wasn’t long before I heard objects clatter and fall to the stone. Of course, the four vege things didn’t react at all, but as time passed, the noise got louder and louder, until finally I heard glass breaking, followed by metal banging on metal. So, while the creatures were basically unaware, they weren’t completely stupid, and all four of them moved towards the sound. I waited till they passed by, and snuck quietly along the wall, reaching the formerly guarded door, with Gossamer trotting on the ground behind me. I pulled the wicker door open quietly and saw an empty passage beyond. I then darted through, with Gossamer in tow. Then closing it, I moved quietly up the tunnel.

--What about the…wait the noise stopped.

The helper can’t exist without me being close to it. So now there is nothing to find.

--And how do you know this is the right way?

I’m guessing, but they were guarding it for a reason, and I thought we came up from the other direction in the cages. But the passage is leading up, so this is a good a guess as any.

--Luck is with you, I guess.

I wish I had Iesa’s luck. I’ll just have to settle for my wits.

--Don’t trade them; his wits were never that good. You still smell by the way.


The passage was partially worked, with torches in sconces along the sides. I snuck along the side of the wall, with Gossamer and I both listening carefully. My heart was the loudest thing I heard, and I noticed to my chagrin that the pain and itching to my eyes had returned, as did the bloody tearing. But having no solution to that, I pressed on. We passed by several intersections that led into strange chambers with cubbies set on the walls. Far too many to count, and if full would have been more than enough to overwhelm Denning. But the passage and the rooms were empty and finally I arrived at a normal, iron bound wooden door.

Sighing, I decided to use my wand again and summon another helper, unsure on what to expect in the next chamber. I then grasped the handle and attempted to open the door quietly. But luck had seen fit to abandon me, as the door creaked open causing me to grit my teeth. But seeing that nothing more could be done, I stepped inside.

The room was circular in shape, with four pillars stretching from floor to ceiling. Next to each pillar was a lit brazier, illuminating the room in a warm orange glow. Crates and boxes were scattered around, and shelves and beds lined the back wall from where I stood, and another bigger door was on the right side of the room. In the middle of it, I saw the gnome on a box, accompanied by several other human sized figures. Any chance of being unnoticed was quickly dismissed by the gnome addressing me.

“Well. I seem to remember having you hung out to dry as it were. How interesting,” the gnome said casually, as her companions turned to face me.

“Sorry, but while I did say that Death is part of life, not an ending but a beginning, I should have mentioned that my god is the one who judges whose time has come. Not you.” I started to edge slowly to the door on the right, trying not to draw alarm. “And as his servant he decided that it isn’t time for me.”

“A servant of the Keeper,” the gnome spat. “Stealing souls isn’t death my girl. Your ignorance is astounding.”

“The Keeper? That’s not who I serve,” I said still inching towards the door. “My lord has no need to steal things that come naturally. And he only holds the faithless or the false within his realm; a just punishment for non-believers.”

The gnome cocked her head in thought, “This is something new. I insist you stay, and stop moving to the door. I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about as your eyes rot away one and for all.”

I slipped a hand into my pouch and pulled out a greenie casually, along with a small bit of bat fur, and smudge of coal. And I walked towards the gnome. “Well, that’s the thing. Just because you have eyes…” And I mentally wove dark strands into a web around me. “…It doesn’t mean you can see.” and I uttered a simple word of binding.

For me, the room was alive as if the sun shown down in this cave. But for them, the gnome and her companions looked around in confusion. I quickly put the coin into the ’hand’ of my helper and said under my breath, “Walk around in a circle” and dashed to the door that I hoped led out.

“Well played girl,”: I heard the gnome behind me say “But darkness always fades away; but not for you. Its all you are going to know now. So, enjoy your brief respite.” And as I pulled open the door, and saw the tunnel leading up to natural light ahead, she began to cackle maniacally. I closed the door and ran up the passage, with Gossamer still close behind me. I kept the strand of darkness going, hoping to delay pursuers.

--What is she talking about ‘brief respite.’

I’m running out of time.


I’m going blind.

Bookshelf explained his theory to the others, explaining the incantations used and how that aligned with the footprints seen, the excessive amount of blood spilled, and the comments the mad gnome had made to quiet nods. After the warforged finished, they all were quiet, when suddenly The Blade burst out, “That doesn’t make any sense. My theory is far more logical.”

“It isn’t supported by the magical—” Bookshelf started.

“A spell of darkness? Unseen helpers? Willing themselves alive? That’s all nonsense.” The Blade confidently.

“Well…Bookshelf is right about one thing,” Rosa said her voice quavering.

“About what?” Mobad asked, bored with the posturing and theorizing.

“This gnome,” Rosa started. “Gwen Squirlnet according to this...that’s what she was doing. She was trying to make Myrai blind.”

“Why her?” Doxx asked.

“It wasn’t about her,” Rosa explained. “She was resistant to this…magical infection she created. So, she kept Myrai around long enough to make it stronger.”

“So?” Mobad asked, unclear on the point.

“Gwen was going to use this to…infect the town of Denning. Everyone there is going blind in a matter of days. Even the warforged.”

“How?” Sage asked confused. “We aren’t affected by diseases.”

“This isn’t a normal disease…its more like a curse. Gwen found it in the Mournland and she’s…refined it.” Rosa said sadly.

“Let me guess. There’s no cure,” Doxx said rolling their eyes.

“No…there is…or was one.”

“Was?” Sage asked.

“That crate that was thrown at us…that was the antidote.” Rosa said and then everyone looked at each other in silent horror.

“Can we make more?” The Blade asked.

“I need to read more here, but we should see if there is anything left and keep it. If we get back to Denning, I can use the Jorasco aid station to see if we can make more.” Rosa replied.

Adrissa had moved over to where the crate had landed in the midst of them all, and started to sort through the wreckage. “There are …two vials intact. Everything else is smashed,” the girl said.

“Let’s grab them and get out of here,” Doxx said. “The sooner we get back to Denning and interrogate Melisandre on this the better.”

“Melisandre?” Sage asked confused.

“I am certain she knew more that she told us. And if she had told us up front, we might have been able to do…something.” Doxx said seething.

“Well citizens, there’s only one door. We should use it and head back to town.”

“At least we can agree on that,” Bookshelf said.

Mobad opened the large door, that revealed a large natural passage, leading upwards to a foggy light. With weapons still drawn, they ascended the passage and soon were blinking in a hazy dawn. light of the outdoors. The clouds were now roiling and churning visibly above them, with the echo of thunder through the area. They had exited from a wedge of rock on a hillside, with trees flanking them to the east heading towards the Ironroot mountains and to the west the river valley. But as they exited the cave, it was clear that all around them, the grass and other foliage was crushed flat into the earth, by many set of feet.

“They were here. All of them.” Adrissa said quietly. “And now they are headed to Denning.”

“I don’t think that is the only problem.” Bookshelf said pointing to the north, and then sweeping his hand around to the west.

“By the Sovereigns what is…what is that?”

In the distance where Bookshelf had pointed, was what looked to be a distant wall, reaching from the ground and deep into the skies. But even from the distance away it was, the wall didn’t appear to be a solid contruction of stone or earth. Rather it resembled a distant hedge, sans the leaves. It twisted and trembled, as if alive. It was massive, stretching across the horizon, and it cut a path along the hills and the river valley, sweeping southwards on the western side of the valley. As they stared they saw new ‘growth’ spurt from the earth, and with in moments, reached the heavens. As they watched they felt the earth tremble, and they watched another section grow and expand.

“It’s…it’s alive.” Adrissa said in awe.

“But what is it exactly?” Doxx asked.

“Its…part of a circle. A circle of thorns,” Rosa said. “And we’re in the middle of it.”

Session notes:
So Richards, apologies in the LONG delay on the meaning of the title of this series. I blame COVID and other writing projects to get to the meaning here.

Also at this point, Doxx (or his player) was starting to get obsessed about interrogating Melisandre. Poor woman. But this is indeed a bit of a curveball compared to the promise of a gold mine.

For sci-fi aficionados there is enough clues here to see what book/film that this is an homage to. As a hint, the book was published in 1951, and the movie released in in 1962. Two different TV series were produced as well in 1981 and in 2009 by the BBC. And I admit when I first saw it as kid on TV, at the time I found it horrifying.
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