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


Lizard folk in disguise

True Lies that are Told​

“Right now, we need to rest,” Rosa protested. “Adrissa almost lost her head, Myrai almost lost everything else. Everyone needs a night’s rest.”

“The remains of the keep should be sufficient to protect us for an evening,” The Blade said. “But what are the odds of new guardians appearing?”

“Slim,” I said as a shook my head. “But its not like we have much of a choice. Not at night with this cold.”

Doxx frowned and huffed, “No. No, we don’t. Let’s get comfortable.”

Together we moved back to the remains of the keep, leaning on each other. On the way I summoned Gossamer to scout ahead. One look at all of us, and the familiar didn’t even make a quip, and quickly flew to scout ahead. What Goss found was a small room on the second floor that required some rope work to reach, as the connecting hall had collapsed, isolating it from the stairs. It was a bit of work to climb up into, but no one else was going to get to us either.

Doxx, Rosa, and I lay out our bedrolls, while The Blade wrapped themselves in a blanket. Soon Bookshelf erected the dome to protect us from the cold and hide us from prying eyes, while the warforged, and The Blade kept watch. I lay on my bedroll, and peeled off my leggings, so I could better clean the gash through my thigh. I knew the fiend’s blade had torn right through the muscles, but fortunately didn’t sever anything. So with a number of white strands, I was able to heal my wounds, which freed Rosa to do the same for the others.

She had just finished with Adrissa and had turned her attention to The Blade who half heartedly waved her off. While she dealt with the hand slaps of the elf, Adrissa came over to me and sat down on the foot of the bedroll.

“Does it hurt?” she asked looking as muscle rejoined, and skin started to close around the gaping wound. Blood poured out of the wound, and onto a cloth I had set there expecting it. The power to heal was a marvelous one, but it aways seemed that it left extra blood behind as the body was put back to working order. I had now healed myself and others enough to know this as a fact, and I was clueless on why.

“Quite. But once the wound closes it fades quickly enough,” I said as I pulled on a strand to clean away the blood from my skin, leaving no trace of a scar behind.

Adrissa looked at my leg with a thoughtful look before saying, “Does it aways prevent scars?”

“Hmm? No…not always. If the wound is old enough there will be a scar, but fresh ones usually don’t.” I turned to look at her, and realized she was running her fingers around her neckline. “It doesn’t look like it will in your case either.”

Adrissa sighed, and her shoulders slumped a bit. “Good,” she said quietly. She then looked at me and asked, “You’ve fought a lot. Do you have any scars?”

I thought a second, as I cradled my leather leggings and started to use some light strands to mend the rents in the material. “From fighting, I’ve been fortunate, I guess. I only have barest hint of one from a crossbow, knocking me off a roof,” and I pointed to a spot on the lowest part of the ribs on my right. “But its faded away mostly. The worst wound I ever had however didn’t leave on behind, though by all rights it should have.”

“An accident?” Adrissa asked.

I shifted uncomfortably and sighed before answering, “I made a bargain to save someone I loved. And that bargain was to let fiends…hurt me.” I said swallowing around a lump that suddenly appeared in my throat. “Fiends like that marilith. But part of the bargain was that they would heal me and leave me unmarked. And they carried it out to the letter.” I looked down and grimaced. “But make no mistake, you can get hurt plenty, to the brink of death even, and healing magic can cover it up.”

“Can I ask what they did?”

I looked at Adrissa in the eyes in sorrow, “After ten days of pain, only the worst remained in my memories. But having healers there only encouraged them to take me within a heart beat of death with the wounds they caused. But most people in that situation pass out, their minds unable to cope with the pain. They wouldn’t let me do that, and instead let me scream or just stare in horror when I could no longer do so. All for their entertainment.” I spat.


“Well…I have heard a lot of explanations, and truth be told the only one that seemed to make any sense is that they were… ‘born’ to do it.” I was quiet for a moment and I stopped Adrissa short with “I experienced things that should be left to the realms of nightmares. They aren’t bedtime conversations really.”

Adrissa nodded but changed her question, “So if you made a bargain like that, why would bargain with Twisted Mirth?”

And there it was. It was the real question in the back of my mind too. I remembered how the malebranche slid a contract in front of me, ink dry with Markel’s and my name throughout its length. How that contract nearly broke me, because no mortal was ever really meant to survive that many horrors of pain in a brief time. How following two contracts to the letter, ended up with Markel dying slowly with no one lifting a finger to help. How good intentions in spirit was trumped by the letter of a contract. Knowing all this, why would I make a deal with a fiend like a night hag, and one who was great auntie no less, the most dangerous and cunning of their kind.

The night hags were powerful, and they commanded respect because of the knowledge they held in their worm-ridden skulls. Even the rulers of Baator and the Abyss paid them heed, each one searching for knowledge only in their grasp. Rarely could they ever be held to account for the misery they created. The only one that I heard that might have been was one called Ravel Puzzlewell, who was sent to the mazes by The Lady of Pain, in my home Sigil. But even then, some whispered that it was all by her design, and that she could leave anytime she wanted. And while she wasn’t heard from again, it didn’t make anyone feel confident she was gone.

It was that knowledge that made them shrewd bargainers, and the negotiations were always tilted in their favor. They had no reason ever to say yes, and if you insulted them with a poor offering, you might not ever obtain what you wanted from them. It left one with little to work with negotiations, while they could ask for the moon or stars…or more personal things. And any bargain struck, always turned out for the worse for the seeker. So Twisted Mirth wasn’t wrong; when there was something that the hag wanted from a mortal, it was the closest thing to an even bargain you might see. But even then, it was still tilted in their favor.

So why do it? Why take this risk? Is knowing more about this Teiazaam and what Jade wanted with me worth it? Did it help me somehow avoiding them or forcing them somehow to leave things alone. Was it even about me, or more about my absent father instead, and I was just a pawn in some immortal game where the stakes were unclear, and if I even had an interest in the outcome.
All of this assumed that Twisted Mirth knew anything at all. She may be a great auntie, but did that mean she knew what was going on in the Abyss at all? This being the farthest known reach of the multiverse I had ever seen or heard of.

“Because knowledge is worth something,” I said. “And knowing why Jade is willing to send a marilith after me might enough to survive.” I looked at the camp and then at Adrissa, “The only reason I’m not in pieces being delivered to Jade, is because of everyone here. But you all shouldn’t have to be obligated to fight for me, just because you were nearby.”

“Honey, you could say the same about us,” Rosa said, finishing tending to The Blade. “You didn’t know someone was looking for you, so its not like you could have prevented it dear.”

“Knowledge is not worth every price,” The Blade grumbled. “Shortcuts like that never get you what you want or need.”

“Ever the purist,” Doxx snorted, as she lay on her back in her bed roll. “Sometime bargains like that are the only way to get ahead. It’s not like your opponents are following some silly code of honor.”

“That might be a matter of who you are bargaining with,” Bookshelf said quietly. “Buying it from a sometimes ally is better than a sometimes enemy.”

“It is her decision. Question might be does she have anything that is worth a trade.” Sage said. “You still need to sleep; its many hours till dawn. Rest while you can.”


“Wait for me!” a young girl with golden hair yelled chasing after the tiefling.

“Come on! If you are going to have a birthday, you need to celebrate it properly!” Elsina shouted back.

I’m…I’m dreaming. I know I am! Why am I here again?

Stopping at stall, the tiefling makes a bargain by pointing at the same candy over and over again, each time getting a different price.

That’s right. A candy vendor run by Chaosmen…but I was surprised she had money.

The tiefling handed the girl a bright red hard candy and popped another into her own mouth.

“,” the golden haired one said.

“And sweet! Spicy cinnamon!” the tiefling giggled.

Nearby a man breaks from a crowd running from a stall, with some prize in his arms. A woman with long and wild black hair turns with interest.

Why am I seeing this?!? I want to forget this memory. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

The woman close her eyes and a wicked smile slowly spread across her face. She took a pair of steps and drew a pair of swords as she danced toward the knight of the post running with his goods.

No! Stop her! Stop her! Don’t let Pentar ki—

The little girl dove towards the woman’s legs and managed to trip her. The woman opened her eyes and glared at the little girl. She stumbled on, and managed to with a single slice, cut the head of the knight of the post with a single cut.

The tiefling stood there in shock, as the black-haired woman turned on her heel, and raised her sword high and brought it down on the golden haired girl laying in the dirt of the road. The tiefling, Elsina screamed at the sight of her friend being slaughtered in front of her.

Wait…that’s…that’s…not what happened. She died! I’m alive!

The body of the golden-haired girl lay unmoving in the street, when suddenly a nimbus of light surrounded her. The crowd wasn’t just hushed, but frozen as was the wild haired woman, as a figure stepped out of it. It stood twice the height of the people around it, clad in grey, sporting a set of wings that were white, flecked with grey feathers. It was a beacon of light in the dusty crowd its light blanketing the street as it emerged from the crowd. As it walked it made a gesture, and it turned and lay a hand on the tiefling’s head.

“I’m sorry to grant your wish. But it is necessary. Blessed is your passing. So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith, may Death grant you peace Elisna.”

There was a flash, and sound of metal cutting flesh and bone, and Elisna’s head slowly fell to the earth.

This didn’t happen! I didn’t…she didn’t…there was no…what’s going on!

The angel, turned and looked at me as it shrank and drew a cloth hood over its head, its golden prescence now growing to a blinding light, until I could no longer see anything.


My eyes fluttered open, and instead of the ground with my companions, I found myself once again floating on my back in a firmament of
lights. The strands held me a loft caressing my bare skin. And once again the patterns of silver in my skin were different; more complex than before. But something was different. The presence of the construct was missing, its voice in my head empty.

I willed myself upright and shook my head, trying to clear it. Why was I here? Why now? How badly did that marilith actually hurt me? I didn’t really have any sense of time or time passing when it spoke.


It wasn’t in my head, instead the voice was softly reverberated in my bones and strands around me. I was about to open my mouth when I realized another distinction. No ‘Element Myrai.’ Just my name.

Looking around gave me nothing more to latch onto, and I was about to speak when the voice echoed through me.

“I suppose it…is overdue we talk…my daughter.”

Session notes
And Pentar would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that meddling angel...or wait. Didn't she? Hard to tell wtih Pentar. :)
Last edited:

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Smug Bladesinger
YOOOOO father daughter "bonding" time let's gooo.
Always my favorite when we get to look into the more personal, thought-influenced moments of Myrai and other characters. This one was excellent, and the next part has me excited.


Lizard folk in disguise

Thy will be done - 03/12/2023​

(This section took a lot longer to edit and write than normal. Apologies)​

I hung there in the construct, shocked. The voice I heard was deep and articulate. The type of voice you want to hear when someone is telling a story you want to lose yourself in. It was a voice I longed to hear. Desperate to hear after all these years. But, as I hung there in space, my mouth open, I found myself at a loss. What do I say? What do I ask? Where do I start?

As if he read my mind, came an answer, “You no doubt have questions. Questions that make your bones ache with need. I will disappoint you I fear, as some answers you are not ready for yet.”

I frowned for a moment and after some hesitation, I asked the first thing that popped in my head from the questions that were forming in my head, “The…the vision of Elsina…was…was that what really happened?”

“It is.” He answered.

“Why don’t I remember it that way?” I said to myself before addressing the voice of my father, “Did you…change…how I--?”

“—It would not do, to have two very distinct memories of the same event.”


“I thought I explained that. Having two—” the voice started patiently before I cut him off.

“No.” I corrected him and pointedly asked, “Why did she have to die at all?” As I spoke, the words kept coming easier now, like a dam was starting to break and they started to fall from my mouth rapidly, “You had power enough to change the event. Why did Elisna need to die at all?”

“Because it was a mortal’s time to go in that place, in that time.” He explained, “It could have been the vendor you purchased your sweet at. The shop keeper who reported the theft. Even the woman who swung her blades in the street, could been killed. All were possibilities, and yet improbably it was you that was fates choice.”

“You said, ‘I’m sorry to grant your wish?’” I said, recalling what was said in the vision I had before coming here. “You…responded to her prayer? You granted it?”

“Serendipity…” The voice flatly said contradicting the word’s usual meaning in my head. There was no remorse in it. Not even a note of regret. “…By her making an offer of trade, it made it possible to let you live.”

“But…but…that doesn’t make sense.” I was recalling my own rebirth at the hands of a priest of Asmodeus over a year ago. “You could have found coin, or just convince a cleric to raise me…wait what am I saying? You’re sodding angel! You could have done it yourself!”

“Your soul was not ready to see the Fugue,” He answered again. ‘Too young, too malleable. It would have been difficult ensure the summons back to your body as your soul wouldn’t want to come back. You were not anchored to life yet, as it did not have a positive meaning for you. Hence another soul was needed in your stead.”

My mind was racing with the contradictions. How events before didn’t mesh with what was being said. “But you forced me back before, didn’t you? What made my throat bring ripped out so different.”

“That was barely possible, you had just begun to truly live.”

“What about Elisna?” I demaned angrily. “Wouldn’t she want to come back and live. Come back to…me?”

“She was content to believe that she saved your life.”

I shook my head defiantly, not wanting to believe the words “That doesn’t explain why she had to die!” I was now shouting at the construct, which seemed small as my voice echoed throughout the empty space.

“Some deaths are not intrinsic to the multiverse; they happen, and the outcome does not alter what is to be. But some events, are…notable. There are lives that have importance and impact. And their deaths too have impact. Yours would have been problematic. Others needed to take your place.”

I started to cry, I felt powerless, but more than that, I felt alone. Here was my kin, my father, explaining fate to me. It felt dismissive. “Why didn’t you pick someone else!? You didn’t have to …kill…her…” my voice faltered, as the lump grew in my throat.

“She had already made the offer, and that alone, made it easy to make the change. Anyone else could have had repercussions.”

“Repercussions? What about to me? Didn’t you think about the pain it was going to cause me?!?” I yelled into the darkness around me. “The anguish of seeing her corpse animated, and running messages around the Hive every day?”

“Is your lack of pain of such import that it worth more than a shopkeeper’s wife?” The voice questioned me, and I realized it was somewhat ignorant of me to assume that if someone else was chosen, that their friends and kin wouldn’t be impacted. But that truth did nothing to quell the churning emotions on my near sister’s fate. Heedless of my turmoil, the voice continued, “But the reverse is not true. In fact, your pain was, and still is necessary.”

I blinked through the tears and panted back in seething frustration “My pain? Like I need more of it. Elisna killed by Pentar. My first kiss of mercy I gave that boy the Faction War in Sigil. Losing Markell on the floor of the Tenth Pit! The burned bones of Beepu’s mother cast aside! Killing Eridan to save my friends and me! Watching Wy die in a cage! To every death I was surrounded and touched by? Hers wasn’t the first or will it be the last, but…I miss her.”

“That pain is needed, much like a hammer on a blade being forged.”

“That’s barmy!” I screamed at the construct, pulling on strands to elevate my voice and letting my fury fill the space. “I don’t need it! I don’t WANT it. I want to forget it! I want a decent night sleep without the nightmares. I don’t want to relive each and every one, over and over. And now you are telling me that you won’t let this madness end? Or me end for that matter? I’m so important that everyone else close to me should perish instead. To the blazes with that! Just let me die and save the rest the suffering!”

“That is not your destiny.”

I crossed my arms and thrashed around helplessly, trying to find a target for my glare, “Destiny? So now I have a destiny? So, what possible destiny requires me to suffer the loss of everything I hold dear! I want to ease other’s perception of death, not be the cause of it!”

“It is precisely your ability to feel it, that is important,” my father continued. “It allows you to find empathy.”

“What? My normal sense of what’s fair and right isn’t enough? A good story from a bard could do the same thing.”

The voice disagreed, “Perhaps, but it is not as powerful as personal investment and experience. And my investment in you is as great if not greater. For the good of all.”

“Investment?” I said my fury rising again. “What possible need is there to have me watch other people suffer. For ME to suffer? I’m not some petitioner paying for their sins. What are you possibly expecting to teach me? What gain is there to suffer all the way you can be hurt, whether by torture or having your heart and hopes crushed? Isn’t it enough?”

“It is not.” The voice disagreed again.

My mouth hung open in shock. The meaning there was plain and simple; I was going to hurt more; to see more, to experience more. Like the greedy inner masochist of a Sensate in me was had to devour every pain I could suffer, just because they wanted to. No, because I supposedly needed to. ‘For your own good,’ was how it felt like my…father…was trying to put it.

I was frustrated so I changed my line of questions then hoping to get answer to something, anything. I grit my teeth and forced my voice to be calmer, “Then why are you investing all of this into me? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you forging me into?”

“That is not for—”

I growled as the anger welled up in me. I wasn’t even thinking about it, but I was starting to pull on strands even here to elevate my voice. All so I could shout this proxy of the powers that seemed to want to twist fate in the worst way for me, “—Enough! If you aren’t going to answer questions, why are you here?!? Why should I even listen to you? Why should I allow you forge me into anything?”

The voice commanded me “You will be strong and endur—”

“—I don’t want to hear you give me another screed! Sodding Baator…” I exhaled and let the anger simmer back down as I glared around me, emotionally drained. I then glared at the darkness, “I am done being the marionette here. I will control my own destiny! Not the fiends who are interested in me! And not you!”

I could only hear my own heart thumping in my ears and my lungs laboring for air. I pulled my legs up and rested my head on my knees and wrapped my arms around my calves. My anger spent; it left me shaking as tears rolled down my cheeks. As the silence continued, I felt that all I had accomplished was nothing. I was simply to be treated how all immortals treated mortals. As tools. As a resource. And now for the first time really understood why Sigilites avoided celestials and their kin even more than fiends.

Celestials did not desire worship; they were instruments of the powers, and they themselves were the epitome of power. They were perfect in action and thought. And so, when flawed mortals called upon them for help, they would find themselves at the celestials’ beck and call. For angels only answered the most desperate prayers, and they did not come to help, but to be obeyed. They would demand everything to be sacrificed to defeat the greatest sins or most foul evils. The myths of them offering mercy were just that, myths.

Or so I had been told. I never had spoke to any of the celestials, and so here it was, the first one just happens to be my father. But as an angel’s daughter, no matter how important, regardless of my ‘destiny,’ I was still a mere mortal. I felt I like a child at the Gatehouse’s orphanage unworthy at sitting at the elder’s table. So, I had no idea what to expect next.

So, I was surprised to hear a quiet, soft and respectful voice now in my head, “Myrai. Please.” He said softly, with a gentled and tender tone that compelled me to listen.

I closed my eyes and sighed. I wanted to ignore him, but I couldn’t, “What?” I whispered.

“You are important. And not just to myself. Your importance to others is even greater. That is why I am talking with you now; because you are no longer hidden.”

I was expecting something else, so I asked, “Hidden? I don’t understand.”

“I arranged for the conditions to let you fall to Toril. But as you fell, I made it challenging for others to follow you. Eyes from afar could not see you. But arriving here has undone my protections. Your existence could not be hidden any longer.”

“Others? Do they know what I am?” I muttered still simmering. “Will they tell me?”

My jibe seemed to miss its mark as he continued, “They only see you as leverage, not as something important. I am their prize. Only one other truly suspects your importance; and she watches and waits for…an error.”

“Only one. Jade.” I said grimly. I could see that green halo and that knowing wicked smile in my mind, and it still twisted my stomachs into knots.

“The one that knows, is not Jade,” he said, taking me aback. “But Jade too wishes to uncover the truth and learn my secrets. This is why I cannot tell you more; you are a prize beyond counting in comparison to I; and that is saying too much. But I can tell you, while she is but a single concern among many.”

“What good does this do me?” I asked completely out of sorts. “Fiends are trying to get to me to get to you. I can’t do anything about it! I can’t run out their reach, even if I had forever and a day! There isn’t anything I can do!”

“Not correct. There are two things that must happen to ensure your safety. The first is the easiest; you must reach the end of this journey. The overlord should not be freed on principle. But at the end, there you will find what you are currently lacking.”

I nodded slowly, “Alright; finish this. Got it. What else?”

“You were found by the Webbing of Cauldrons. You must hide yourself from its sight.”

I rolled my eyes afraid of yet another distraction, “And where is this trinket?”

“It is not a device you can use. It is the name of the network used to communicate across distances and planes. A way of making deals between fiends that barely can tolerate their own kind’s presence. It was through this you were found. It was through this web that Teiazaam made a bargain from afar.”

“Bargain?” I said confused. “Who could Teiazaam made a deal with? I mean this prime is really, really off the beaten path! So, who would know…obscure…arcana…” the words drifted off into silence as I realized what she bargained with.

Another hag.

“Twisted Mirth gave me up to another hag.” I said grimly. “She barked where I was to Teiazaam.”

“And there is your opportunity.” My fathers’ voice sounded nonchalant at my revelation. “All you need to do, is bargain to your advantage.”

My eyes must have just popped out of my sockets as I hung there, my mouth agape. “Outwit a Great Auntie? You’re mad. I don’t have anything of value!”

“Great Aunties are not as simple as the lesser member of their sorority. They look beyond the misery they cause for greater goals. So, she might yet…bargain again.”

“Like Ravel…” I whispered. “She had a question she wanted answered. And got mazed for it.”

“All to her design. And she got what she wanted.”

I thought on that; she wanted to get mazed? She put herself in a prison…to keep herself hidden and safe. She probably could have left anytime. An interesting notion, but not the most important thought though.

I shook my head, trying to clear away the mblix from my father, “But all you are doing is manipulating me. Telling me partial nibblets of the past, all to hide the future. Find another. Ask someone else. Leave me alone,” I said my head hanging and my eyes closed and watering.

“That…is no longer an option. Your brother already has perished before reaching his full potential, and the time left only leaves…you.”

“A last hope. A last stab at…something,” I rued.

“Focus child. Twisted Mirth does not yet have what she wants. The gems you possess are part of it. But she needs a soul to bind it all together. One with strong…planar connections.”

I gulped. She needed my soul to finish the key. This tidy detail was never mentioned, and why would she? I couldn’t imagine the others just simply handing me over the to the hag. It wasn’t like them. But…I could see myself guilting myself into doing it. But before I could pursue this thought much further, he spoke again.

“So…you will give her one; Teiazaam’s.”

I blinked. “What?” I whispered mostly to myself.

“Teiazaam is new to her role, but she herself is an old creature of chaos and seduction. So, summoning her and using her as the binding is only appropriate to the pain she has caused you.”

I hung there in the air confused, my mind racing. I had thought that this mysterious Teiazaam was a faceless antagonist; one of many immortal fiends in the multiverse. But that I somehow knew her…I wracked my mind trying to think where when it dawned on me. “She had to have been in the Tenth Pit with me.”

“In her prior form of a succubus. Now, she is more powerful, a Lilitu. More than enough to create the binding you need, although you may to sweeten the deal for your Great Auntie for it. But the key to this, is something simple, her true name. Yrrthacius.”

My jaw dropped open. A true name? I had of course heard stories of their power, how a fiend couldn’t resist a calling using it. How it could force submission of any fiend. And to a hag, true names had value. But I had my doubts.

“This is…something I can use to trade with but…do I have the right? I mean, Jade and her friends watched me suffer in humiliation. Is that crime enough to use her as a binding?”

There was silence for a moment. “This is a moment of pride for me; that you would care for your opponent’s soul as much as a friend. But in my judgement, she has done enough damage to so many, that some time as a dweomer is suitable punishment. I am certain of this.”

Within the construct I head only hear my breathing as I considered. What choices did I really have? Do I play the fool, to curry favor to get to some real answers, and not this stupid miniature version of the Kriegstanz. “I guess it is a solution,” I muttered.

My father now felt as distant as could be. “Once the matter of the fiends hounding you is resolved, I can talk more openly. But for now, I will expand your abilities further.”

I opened my eyes, suddenly afraid. I saw that there were more strands floating around me, and as I watched, four of them lashed out and struck me in the torso. I threw my head back in pain and screamed as I felt the strands worming their way into me. It felt like they were tearing into my humbles and knotting themselves inside of me, and wrapping and knitting to the strands that already permeated my being. They snaked past each other, creating a crucible of flame within my soul, welding the strands to me. And as sudden as it started, it ceased. I breathed easier as I felt the sensation die down a bit.

I hung there limply in the silence, feeling the strands empowering me. As I regained my strength, I summoned the effort to ask a last question. Something that had always nagged at the back of my mind. Something selfish. “I…understand why we can’t talk about you or I. But…my mother? Can you?...” my voice trailed off into silence as I hoped.

And the silence carried on for a while, before I heard my father’s voice again, “Your mother shares much of your passion, and is a remarkable woman.”

My heart skipped a beat.


I looked up into the roof of the construct and was about to ask more when he spoke again “I cannot divulge more, for both of your safety. Go!”


My eyes opened, and there I was back into the ice world I had left behind. bundled in my bedroll. Beside me Adrissa was still asleep next to me breathing softly. The others were asleep, all but the warforged, and perhaps The Blade, who leaned on a rock underneath our dome of protection. In the distant east of the Iron Root mountains, the barest hint of color put them into a red silhouette against the sky.

I stood up and stretched, and the warforged both turned their heads to look at me, when Bookshelf spoke. “You are up early. Did you…sleep well?” it said awkwardly. “You appear to have shed…tears.”

I rubbed my hand under my eyes, and indeed there were the moisture of tears. I nodded and smiled. “I didn’t sleep. But I had a…meaningful conversation. And I guess that is best outcome I could have hoped for.”

Session Notes:

I believe someone asked if there would be more questions than answers. Well...of course there would. :)


Lizard folk in disguise
The Raven Says… - 4/15/2023

The journey back to the hag’s lair seemed to crawl. There wasn’t any new snow or ice, and the travel wasn’t really more arduous than before. But my thoughts were racing on what I now had in my possession; power. Immortals always held the cards for everything a mortal wanted. Wealth. Power. Knowledge. It didn’t matter how exotic, or base, or obscure immortals would be there with a hand out and a deal in the offer. And while the baatezu are the ones most think about in bargains, the truth was that the ‘loths, hags, and tanar’ri would all make a deal to get what they wanted. The mortal…not so much.

But the other truth was that it wasn’t just the fiends; celestials had a price too for these things too. It was just harder to make a bargain and the currency was different. They wanted your soul to believe and commit to their cause. Whether that means you lay down your life, sacrifice your wealth to serve the ones that needed it more, all they really wanted was your faithful obedience. The fiends by contrast would let you damn yourself; the celestials would whisper commands to guarantee victory at any cost.

The key of course was a mortal made decisions; choices that would echo in the afterlife. They could choose weal or woe, damnation, or salvation. But the immortals were bound to their ethos as creatures of belief. They would only in the rarest cases violate this truth on their own accord, causing them to rise or fall.

But their name; their true name changed all of that. With it an immortal could be compelled to act. They were guarded treasures, as no immortal really wanted to be subservient to another. But in the hands of a mortal; they could be forced to a mortal’s desires and will; against their own natures.

Of course, that made it sound simple, and the reality was using a true name was tricky business. The more powerful the immortal, the more powerful the magic needed to bind them to your will.

And I had none of that power.

But Twisted Mirth did.

But I was conflicted. Teiazaam was a fiend, one that had apparently hurt me before, and was intent to hurt me again. I was a pawn in a game, to be used, shredded, abused, and discarded. But now I had a name, a cudgel of sorts, that I could wield it and reverse the fiend’s fortunes. But should I? Did I have the right to? I mean, she had ill will for me, so wasn’t it a matter of comeuppance? A well-deserved fate?

I shook my head in disbelief, as I crunched through the snow with the others. Was this just survival? Or a test? I mean I got this name through the grace of my father, an angel. And he expected me to use it. This wasn’t a test of faith; it was a command in a long running battle. And while I was still just a pawn, I now had the potential to be a queen on the board and I wasn’t sure if this was what I wanted. I wasn’t even sure if my opinion mattered here.

--You know this will never end right? I heard in my head. Gossamer was flying near me, mostly occupied with watching the raven Snave. A glance at Gos told me everything; eyes narrowed, ears folded back, tail fur flared and twitching while staring at Twisted Mirth’s familiar. But while Gos watched the ambivalent raven, his caring voice and focus was more on me than his “prey.” Even if you settle the score and use Teiazaam for your father’s needs…your needs, there will be another right behind her. Jade is just one of thirteen that exist in perpetuity.

I gritted my teeth and shouted back in my head, No end in sight then? Just a parade of people after my father? Trapped in a perverted version of the Blood War for eternity.

--Well…perhaps not that long.

I looked at Gos exasperated, So…never ending until I die. And my father is trying to prevent that. So…I have what another century of fun and games until I can rest? It’s not fair.

--Isn’t that the plight of everyone? Everyone here? Immortals toying with mortals for an obscure goal?

I stopped in the snow and looked upwards at the heavens. I felt tired beyond my years; drained of anything resembling motivation and hope a distant dream. Above me snowflakes drifted down lazily, with some landing on my face, the nipping cold barely registering. Fight the good fight, or roll over and let them win the battle. The war is far beyond me at this point. So, does it matter what I do?

--Probably. But if you really feel their fiends aren’t fighting fair, you should remind them on one of the oldest rules of planes.

What? I don’t see how the Rule of Three applies—

---- Not that rule; what comes around, goes around.

“Myrai? We need to keep moving,” Rosa said, shaking me out of my frozen stupor.

“Sorry,” I replied. “My thoughts are…elsewhere debating on what to do when caught between two immortals.”

The halfling nodded, and we started walking again following the warforged, who plowed their way through the snowy banks, unbothered by the frosty conditions, while Adrissa and Doxx trailed behind in silence. It wasn’t long before Rosa offered her thoughts, “Well here in the world, there are so many that cross the borders at times. Elementals, fey, fiends and I guess celestials. And there are even worse things lapping at the borders of reality such as the Dalkyr, and the soulless undead. You just have to do what you can and must. To do anything else, isn’t living.”

‘To do anything else, isn’t living.’ I thought to myself. Perhaps that was all that mattered. Kelemvor would come for me at the end of things as he intended. And he wanted us all to lead full lives. So, preserving that for anyone, including myself, must be the right thing to do. And anyone preventing that…

“That makes a lot of sense,” I said to Rosa with a thin smile. “For druidic faiths, death and life must be intertwined.”

Rosa nodded, but avoided looking at me, “Yes, they are; one cannot exist without the other. When immortals start mucking around with the balance, it makes a mess of things. So, saving our world from one is likely to cause everyone living here to save it. But as to the smaller battles between the spirits, like your fiendish friends and yourself, as long as they are self-contained it will balance out.”

I was nodding listening to her, when I gave a single dismissive guffaw, “Well except I’m not.”

“Yes, you are,” Rosa said.

I looked at her confused, and I swore my heart started to pound. “I’m…mortal. My mother is a mortal. How could I—”

“Honey, you can’t fool a druid. We see the signs of life all around us. And I will admit that when we first met you looked…different. But despite appearances, to my eyes, you were attached to the fabric of life and death. But now…Its clear that you are tearing yourself away from it. It isn’t finished, but it’s started.”

I stopped and dropped to my knees in the warforged packed snow and grabbed her by the shoulders. “No! No! I’m becoming a…”

Rosa looked at me and stroked my cheek, “Honey powerful druids encounter this too, and their lives are extended to serve nature as their champions. But you are less stretching out your life; you are pulling away from it. You probably are still mortal now…but for how long, I don’t know.”

“That…that…unhende…ARGH” I growled. My mind swirled with insults faster than my mouth could spit them. I could feel Rosa’s hand on my shoulder as I said between clenched teeth. “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want this! This is never going to end! How…how am I ever to rest…how I am going to serve…to serve…”

I looked at Rosa with my eyes wide in shock. By now the others had stopped, gathering around us.

“She seems to be unwell since our last rest,” Bookshelf commented coolly.

“Distressed is more like it,” Doxx countered, “Considering the number of unnaturals, I’m amazed we all haven’t cracked.”

“She hasn’t cracked!” Adrissa exclaimed as she rushed to my side, her face a knot of emotion, mostly confusion. She then turned and wagging her finger at Doxx she yelled back at the old woman. “Leave her alone!”

“Nonetheless, we should be continuing back to Twisted Mirth, should we not?” Sage commented.

“And you feel comfortable with the deal she’s offered us?” Doxx accused.

“I am not discussing anything at this time based on present company,” Sage said, only quickly glancing at the raven who now alighted on a bare conifer branch.

“Not prudent,” Bookshelf agreed.

“Heh heh heh,” the raven chortled menacingly. “Oh, worried about what I might hear. How cute. A bird like me, and you all fear me. That’s a laugh.”

Doxx turned to glare at Snave and then looked to the nearby hills. “The cave is just at the top of those hills right?”

“Smart one!” Snave sneered. “Smarter than the bunch of dolts you travel with.”

“Then I guess we don’t need you at all,” Doxx said, gripping her staff.

Snave’s head turned to glare at the old woman and took to the air. It didn’t get very far as Doxx leapt up and smashed an end of her staff into the raven and flung its body to the ground. Doxx landed and swung her staff overhead and crushed the body into the compacted snow. Within the The sounds of hollow bones snapping on the c, as the bird’s torso collapsed and surround the leather wrapped end. The only sound was a a mocking chuckle before the corpse started to dissolve into a gooey puddle.

Rosa whirled around; her eyes wide in surprise. “Doxx! That was familiar. Twisted Mirths familiar. She isn’t going to be happy about—”

“--It is not important,” Bookshelf said evenly. Doxx was prepared from an outburst, but not the support from the warforged who she regarded suspiciously. “If Snape was, she would have sent a banderhobb or something else. Or a warning. Snape was not any of those things. It was—”

“—A tool.” I finished. “Like we all are to her.”

Doxx looked at Bookshelf and then at me and nodded before turning to Sage, “What was that about the deal?”

“If there was not such a large price for failure,” Sage said somberly, “I would council to reject it. The hag does not mean us harm. It means someone else’s. And while with others that might be a measure of comfort, it gives me pause on the--” Bookshelf finished, as Sage nodded. “We do not have a means to alter the bargain—”

“That’s not true!” Adrissa spoke up. “She hasn’t made one. None of us have! We aren’t bound by a promise at all; she wouldn’t do so unless we were successful.”

“She’s right, “ Rosa admitted. “I guess it means that if there is a bargain to be struck, what terms can we live with?”

We looked at each other in silence for a moment digesting what Rosa said. The wind picked up and blew snow flurries around our feet as we stood there, trying to fathom the cost that might be asked.

“If it means saving the world…quite a lot,” Doxx whispered. “The Last War had thousands upon thousands sacrifice everything for so little gain.”

“My world was until recently a vault holding wealth for a nation that now is a ghost,” Sage replied nodding. “Nameless and forgotten I would have been. A sacrifice for something as great as the world is a small price.”

“The world used me for their own ends,” Bookshelf reflected. “Nothing so grand as the Last War’s lofty ideals, let alone a dusty vault.”

“I don’t care about the world!” Adrissa said angrily “Everything I had in it is…gone. ” she said, her eyes sweeping across her new family. “I have nothing more to lose. But if I were to leave it, I would want it to be a better place.”

I grimaced as I spoke, “This…isn’t my home, or my world. Everything I know, had or cared for before is…far away. Or was. I’m now a hunted piece on a chessboard, and I don’t even understand what the game really is. But I have made friends here,” I said looking at all of them in turn. “And I have lost friends here like Wy and Mobad, so it is as much home as any other place could be. I don’t need my god to tell me that,” as I said that my hand wrapped itself around my symbol of the scales held by a skeletal arm. “And I know what costs I can pay. But…” I smiled and looked at the rest. “It doesn’t mean I need to make a bad bargain in the process.”
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Lizard folk in disguise
Leverage - 5/11/2023

It wasn’t long before we reached the cleft in the hillside, where Twisted Mirth’s cave sat. The greens and purple flames within spilled out from the cave in the hillside, and into shadows that danced on the floor the gorge. Flanking the cave were two bored banderhobbs, both seated with their spindly legs splayed in front of themselves as their beady frog like eyes looked towards us with disinterest. And somehow sitting on the plinth of rock outside, where all the warning signs hung—

“—Oh hah hah. Swing a staff and crack a bird’s back in two. That was rude!”

Doxx looked at Snave, unimpressed, “So, do it again harder?”

Snave hissed, “You have a lot of gelbas to do what you did. Twisted Mirth will show you what happens when—”

“—SNAVE! Quit your whining about your poor manners!” we heard the hag growl from inside her lair at a volume that was almost certainly enhanced…I hoped.

Snave spun on the rock and looked inside the cave and hopped up and down in agitation, “But they can’t just…just…do that to me! I’m more important than—”

“Warple!” we heard an angered hag say, and suddenly from the right banderhobb, a fleshy tongue lashed out and struck the hapless bird. In a blink of an eye, the tongue retracted and pulled the screaming executioner raven back into the banderhobb’s mouth. There was a spray of green and red ichor, as the banderhobb casually, crunched on the screaming raven, who was silenced after a couple of bone snapping crunches.

We stood there in shock for a moment, and Twisted Mirth addressed us, “Oh he told me everything. I’m surprised you waited as long as you did. I guess you have a tolerance for annoying…things…heh heh heh,” the ending chuckle was cold and devoid of warmth as it mocked us from deep within her cave.

“I don’t feel better about this,” Rosa whispered to me, to which I could only shrug as we stepped inside the cavern once again.


The night hag stood hunched over the cauldron, and she turned and grinned with a cold smile, the sickly colored lights highlighting the ridges in her face, while her dark purple skin absorbed the light. Her small eyes twinkled in the fire light as she stopped stirring her cauldron with a long grime covered rod, and ran her tongue along it, sampling whatever substance was found within in. She then spoke in that gravelly voice again, “So…you have them. And you survived. All that I could…ask for,” ending with a growl like purr. “You are worthy of a bargain now.”

“You promised, the greater key, knowledge on how to use the key in exchange for—”

“All true. But while I did promise the key…we still need to…fix it,” the hag said with e viscious smile. “A simple matter…but one that require a small bit of preparation and I suppose…a sacrifice.”

“What sacrifice?” Rosa exclaimed. “You mentioned nothing about this!”

“Did you think recreating durable arcana once done by an Overlord would be a simple matter? Did you think you could just use primitive incantations to achieve such a lofty goal? No, effort must be put into this, and there is always a cost. You should be thankful that most of it was already spent to create the key; the price that needs to be paid is far lower. But it is a sacrifice I suppose.” Twisted Mirth finished and looked at us with a sly grin and waited.

“Two gems were all you mentioned we had to get—” Doxx started.

“—Very true—”

“—So, what else do we need to fetch for you?” Doxx finished.

“Nothing more need to be brought here,” the hag said with a sly grin. “As I said, just a sacrifice…” her gaze slid over everyone present. But from what I knew, she was doing it all for show. She knew that only one person could be used. So, it wasn’t really a choice of who assuming just us. “…a soul to bind and hold the pieces together.”

The warforged looked at each other, while Doxx crossed her arms, “If you said you needed something like that, we could have brough back a prisoner.”

Twisted Mirth grin didn’t falter, “Well, only one of the ones you faced might have worked. But I honestly didn’t expect you to encounter such a being.” As she spoke I realized that she was being honest; she expected the yugoloths, but not the tanar’ri. My mind began to turn on this thought as Rosa’s anger rose and she spoke.

“One of us,” Rosa growled between her teeth. “You knew it had to be one of us the whole time.”

“No,” I said startling her. “Not just any of us. Only one particular person. Me.” I walked forward towards the hag, her gaze now fixed on me with a bemused look. “Strong planar blood perhaps? A key bloodline? Tell me, why I am so special for this purpose.”

“Myrai!—“Adrissa started, but I raised my hand to cut her off, as I looked up at the hag.

Twisted Mirth who had at first a bemused look now had almost thoughtful look on her face as she said in a quiet tone, “And how did you conclude it was you that was…special.”

“We all have our connections,” I said with a wan smile. “After all, someone made you an offer for me, didn’t they?” The twitch on the hag’s face was brief, and I realized what must have happened. “But you, didn’t take them up on it. You didn’t deliver me because you already had a plan for my soul. And you wouldn’t let anything get in the way of your revenge.”

“Good souls are hard to find,” Twisted Mirth said coolly, the wicked grin returning.

“True. So…did Teiazaam take refusal well?”

Twisted Mirth’s grin changed every so briefly to shock, before settling back into that grin as her eyes narrowed to look at me. “An old friend of yours I take it?”

“One that meddled in your affairs I’m afraid. Almost got us killed, and me…your needed component, spirited away.” I said watching the night hag carefully.

“Her mistake,” Twisted Mirth growled. “She will pay in due time—”

“—why wait?” I cut her off causing the fiend to cock her head with sudden interest. “She shouldn’t be allowed to think she can cheat your sorority, and others shouldn’t look to her for inspiration.”

Twisted Mirth chuckled softly, “You show promise, but she is untouchable unless she makes an appearance. Highly unlikely I would say.”

“I guess we’ll just make an invitation she can’t refuse, “ I said now mimicking the hag’s grin.

“A circle to summon her is easy enough. But to hold her would take something more. More power than you possess.”

“Are you sure of that?” I said, taking her aback. “I do have knowledge that can make her dance like a marionette at a festival. I know…her true name.”

Twisted Mirth’s smile melted away as she licked her lips. “Perhaps we should make our bargain then. What do you want?”

“You forge the key…with Teiazaam’s soul. You, give it to us along with the knowledge needed to thwart the Overlord,” I said.

One will get the knowledge,” the hag corrected. “You will give me the gems, that are needed to make the key whole. The key will be yours. But…” the hag licked her lips. “…Your blood, but not your life, will be needed to bind the tanar’ri in a circle here.”

“Meaning I don’t have to bleed to death?”

The night hag gave me a wide grin, “I promise you it might take a bit, but your death is not required. I think you can find help here surviving.”

I turned to look at the rest. No one looked comfortable, but it was The Blade the spoke. “If you think this our best option citizen...”

I turned to face the hag and looked her straight into the eye. “Done.”

“So be it.” Twisted Mirth said, the smile returning. “It will be a full night ahead of us.”

Session Notes:

The next part is a bit ugly. In more ways than one. I'll try to keep it on this side of horrific though.


Lizard folk in disguise
I'm looking forward to the next update - you do a particularly excellent job with your truly evil foes.

You know...I like hags as villans. But I still feel inadequate compared to a certain person's description of yugoloth society.


Lizard folk in disguise

Twisted Mirth…we have come to bargain. - 6/15/2023​

Twisted Mirth was chortling in the most sinister way, as she moved around the cave, her fingers searching for items scattered amongst what I would have called charitably, junk. The hag took out a black iron whistle and blew on it, but whatever shrill note it played, was on the distant edge of perception. From behind large sections of junk, emerged the elf woman and the human male that the night hag used as servants. They each were covering their ears from pain as they looked up at the hag with fear.

Twisted Mirth had work to do and wasn’t interested in abusing her servants. First, she gathered a metal sieve with a sickly purple plant growing in it with roots trailing through and below it. She wrapped the roots into a ball and deposited it on top and handed the bundle into the arms of the mute elf girl servant. The elf looked fearfully at it, and the hag, gulping nervously, as she was handed more esoteric items: A metal basin, with a bucket below it, an hourglass, large battered cup that looked like a chalice, several bundles of herbs, a hatchet, a broom, and what appeared to be a large dagger, which if I were to wield it, would be more like a sword. The elf struggled to keep it all in her arms, and the fear of dropping anything was clear on her quivering face.

Next, she called over the hapless male human, who I recalled was last being used as a stool. He shuffled over and the hag pointed downwards next to the steaming cauldron and knelt down on all fours and waited. With no effort, Twisted Mirth lifted the metal cauldron and deposited it on the back of the and to our horror, the man grimaced in pain at the sound of sizzling flesh, and the smell of the seared flesh, made me want to retch.

In response, Adrissa pulled on my arm and pointed at the two slaves reminding me, “We said we would free them!”

“Bothered by a little sizzle?” The hag mocked the girl. “Serves them right for breaking the deal they agreed to. But nothing can…kill them.” She smiled as she bent to ruffle the man’s hair and then moved to pet the elf’s cheek with a wicked smile. “Pain is what they deserve, for the disrespect. But it all gets better after a moment. They can’t get out of their punishment by dying. Oh no no no…But I do remember your interest in them. The conditions for their freedom are tied to our work tonight. If everyone else does what was agreed to, they will be free as well. Come.” The hag then grabbing a wool scarf, stained with green ichor, and full of holes and a floppy pink leather hat, exited her cave.

I and the others followed, warily. A pair of banderhobbs had bounded ahead in the snow as the behest of the hag, while her servants stayed closely behind. I winced looking at them; both were in rags, and clearly were suffering in the cold as neither had shoes nor covering for their hands. Their skin was swiftly turning white in the deathly cold air, and while I been told they could not die, it was clear that neither was protected from pain.

“Remind me to ask what the penalties are breaking this deal,” Doxx said to Rosa as we trudged behind her.

“Best thought there dearie, is not to break it to start with,” Rosa replied.

“Myrai, are you…” The Blade started to say to me quietly.

“No. I’m not. I am very certain that nothing will go as we want,” I hissed under my breath. “I might have changed the deal a little, but I am sure that this isn’t going to make anything easier on us.” Adrissa hung close to me, shivering in the cold. Or in fear, but this weird ‘grandmother’ of a figure of a hag, was clearly having an effect on her, cowing her to silence in between bouts of bravery.

The warforged, Sage and Bookshelf walked behind us all, saying nothing as they resolutely marched through the snow, If they felt cold or fear it wasn’t apparent on their steely faces.

We fortunately did not have to march far in the snow, as we came down the hill into a gully that protected it from the wind. While there were some stunted trees and bushes on the edges, the center was clear of vegetation. But on one side was a lump of snow, about neck high. The hag approached it, and took the broom from the freezing elf, and used it to brush away the snow and revealing a stone table. The hag took all the items from the woman, and thrust the broom into her arms, cackling at her, “Clear off the ritual stone and be quick about it! If we had the time, I’d make you use your tongue instead!”

The elf wasted no time clearing off the stone, and indeed I suspected the broom was enchanted to help her. She was moving quickly, probably to get a sense of warmth into her, but the center of the gully was being cleared faster than I thought it should have. But I had little time to wonder, as a watched her uncover a stone set into the earth, at least ten paces across. It was inset with worn grooves and carved channels that formed three circles on the stone. I couldn’t tell if the deep grooves were runes, arcane marks or just decorative. And it wasn’t long before it was all cleared.

“Bring the hatchet girl!” the hag instructed as Twisted Mirth then led the man with the cauldron on his back to the center of the circle. Once there, it seemed to take the giant hag no effort to lift and place the cauldron near the center. The man wheezed in relief from his burden lifted, as the elf woman handed the hatchet to the hag and gave a look of pity to the man. He glanced up at Mirth, and he extended an arm to the hag as he squeezed his eyes shut and grit his teeth, all to avoid seeing the hag bring down the hatchel on the man’s arm, severing it cleanly from his torso.

My drop dropped in shock, and I covered my open mouth in horror, as Adrissa screamed, all to the chuckles of the hag. She tossed the arm down in the center of the circle, and then chopped again at the…same arm? I watched with morbid fascination as the arm was cut away cleanly, only to be quickly replaced by another one that quickly sprouted from his body. As I looked at the pile of arms in the center, I realized that in my vision, they were no longer flesh and bone, but some type of hard wood.

“That is a foul hatchet,” Sage remarked with distaste.

“She certainly has quite an array of strange tools,” Bookshelf acknowledged, nodding in agreement.

The hag, having cut enough wood, spat on the pile, and they erupted in purple flames, as she easily lifted and placed the cauldron on the eldritch bonfire, which despite it being lugged in the winter like snow, was already bubbling at a boil. The elf and human male, while clearly tempted by the flames to warm their bones, retreated to the edge of the circle and knelt clinging each other for warmth. Rosa, not caring what the hag might say, took and draped a blanket around the pair.

Twisted Mirth didn’t object at all, her eyes focused on stirring the cauldron with the stick that was coated in thick grime. She then gave a knowing smile, and turned and beckoned to us, “Come. Now we shall make our bargain. All the things you and I want shall be spoken, and the penalties enumerated. But to make it a fair bargain, we must do this with one party at a time citing what they want and the other one stating what they want. One for one.”

“The penalties?” Sage asked evenly.

“Ah…they come first, so there is no surprise. For this one, the penalty is servitude for a dozen years and a day. And that applies to me as well. And I can guarantee, I will not be the one to break this deal.” There was a look of disgust that crossed her face as she briefly considered the outcome of that. “Also, neither party can hurt the other while the deal is in force. So, if no one objects, we all spit in the cauldron and negotiate the next term. If you don’t agree, we will continue until we do. But we only have until a turn of the hourglass to complete the ritual, which can only be done once a turning of the moon of Mabar.”

“How long is that?” Doxx asked Rosa.

“About a month,” Rosa replied.

“So, we get one shot at this?” Doxx said rolling her eyes.

Twisted Mirth said nothing and smiled, when Bookshelf said, “Then we are done with terms, we each spit three times and the deal is sealed. Well let’s get this started.”

“We all spit into the cauldron to start it. GIRL turn over the hourglass when we spit, or I will turn you into a timepiece as a replacement!” The hag shouted, and the elf jumped and scampered the table and placed her hands on the hourglass and watched.

“Now, spit!” and the hag quickly spat a dart of black goo from her mouth into the bubbly liquid which started to froth. We all looked at each other and each of us spat into the bubbling morass, at which the elf flipped the timepiece, and the sands began.

Twisted Mirth then started, “To avoid a fate of servitude for a dozen years and a day, between Great Auntie Twisted Mirth, and the band of…hmm…adventurers that share their expectorant here, a bargain equally matched will be made.”

“You wish the Master Key to be rebuilt! I possess the rod; you possess the gems. Surrender the gems, the true name of Teiazaam, and the blood of an aasimar, but not her life, and I will construct it.”

We all stood nodding. I was relieved that she called out my life wasn’t needed here without having to argue about it. But it was now apparent that Mirth had very little interest in us beyond tools. She was chasing something far more important to her, revenge. The Blade was the first, and we all followed with our own spit, causing the waters in the cauldron to start to glow in a color best described as a mottled mauve.

“You were to train us to use how to use the key,” Bookshelf started before Twisted Mirth cut them off with a bony waggling finger.

“--I said one of you. Who?” The hag stated, as she then crossed her arms watching.

We looked at each other and before we could even discuss it, Bookshelf replied. “Me. Teach me how to use the Master Key.”

“I will give you that knowledge, although it may take a day or two for it to make any sense. Agreed?”

We all nodded, and spat into the cauldron, causing it to froth a bit more, and the glow to grow.

“You will set free the woman and the man there!” Adrissa said angrily.

Twisted Mirth rolled her eyes, “Yes, yes, that was a given and need not be part of this. But since you require it, I require something of you. I require you to assist me with preparing the key, Adrissa.” She and the rest of us were taking a back. I pushed her behind me and was about to call it off, when the hag continued, “I do not require your life, or even for you to come to harm. I need you to put things where I tell you.”

Adrissa straightened up and came from around me. “Fine. I’ll do it.”

Twisted Mirth smiled and spat again into the cauldron, as did we all, causing it to glow brighter still, as the cauldron was nearing a roiling boil.

“I then require you to…oh what’s a pithy phrase. O…mete justice on the one who stole from me, and is helping the overlord break his bonds—“Mirth started.

“—We can’t, because you can’t tell us who it is.” Rosa pointed out.

The hag smiled widely showing her cracked and rotten teeth, “Ah yes, but I can tell you who can, and where that person is. Your friend Melisandre—”

“She’s not a friend!” Doxx barked at the hag.

“She is more of one than I, little changeling,” the night hag said as it leveled a steely gaze at Doxx. “And she can be found in…Denning.” Doxx’s jaw dropped, and we all looked at each other in surprise.

“Denning,” I said, wondering if this was just the beginning of rude surprises. “When and how did she sodding get there?”

“Best you ask when you see her. Do you agree or not? Time is flowing away.” The hag said pointedly.

“Fine,” Doxx said and spat into the cauldron as the rest of us did as well.

“Anything else?” Twisted Mirth asked, looking at each of us. I just wanted to get this over with, and really couldn’t think of move to add, and it was clear the others had the same mindset. “Good!” And she quickly spat three times in succession into the cauldron.

We all started working our mouths to come up with the last bit of spittle to fulfill the contract. It seemed that this was the time for my throat to suddenly go dry. It took me a moment to work some up as I was the last to deliver my trio into the cauldron. When the last bit dribbled into the pot, the color changed to a glowing swirl of blue and yellow. Twisted barked at the elf girl, “Now! Bring the cup!” I groaned inwardly, as the elf ran to the stone table and grabbed the battered chalice, and ran to the hag, eager to be rid of it. Twisted Mirth took it and dipped the cup into the liquid and with a pinky extended she sipped from its contents. She savored it and then passed it to The Blade.

The Blade looked at it is frowning, and took a quick sip, and handed it to Sage. As he did so, he blanched at whatever he tasted, as did Sage. And so, the chalice went to each one of us in turn, and each one’s face soured at the contents. Finally, I was the last to receive it and I looked at the contents trying to steel myself for whatever nauseating assault I was going to expect to suffer. I closed my eyes and put the chalice to my lips and quickly sipped.

While the others were nauseated, I felt my stomach cramp in pain as whatever I swallowed hit bottom. The pain spread from my bely to and down my limbs, causing them to twitch violently. The hag took the chalice from me, as I collapsed on my knees gasping for air. I was barely aware of the hag mockingly patting me on the back sounding like a caring parent, “There, there, it’s all over now. Aasimars don’t like their medicine it seems,” she then cackled, as I pushed her hand away from me, causing her to howl in laughter. Adrissa quickly came to my side and tried to comfort me, as the hag immersed herself in the sound of my agony. She wiped the tears of joy from her eyes and sighed, “Well the bargain is done then. Time to reforge the Master Key.”


Lizard folk in disguise

Keys to knowledge and regret - 7/25/2023​

The hag chortled as she watched me on my knees dry heaving. But despite the pure evil next to me, I felt that somehow this would all end well. That our regrets would be minimal, and the damage done to our souls would be minor. It had to…this wasn’t some drunken Sensate dalliance with a fiend. I was trying to help people after all. This wasn’t some game or other misbegotten way to spend time.

But to immortals, mortal concerns were just minor noise in their existence…if the mortal was lucky. But for many fiends they were levers to be pulled, and at best prizes to be collected and put on a trophy shelf. At worst, their souls would be currency, food, or used for…

I shuddered, as I remembered what Rosa had told me…that I was on the precipice of no longer being a mortal. I looked at the rest of our group, each looking around at the other members, each hoping this would all work out. I wanted to keep that perspective. I didn’t want to forget it, or change. But would that really be possible? Could I be a mortal in immortal form?

I shook my head to clear it. This wasn’t the time for idle hopes, as Twisted Mirth moved to the center of the clearing, and pulled out a rod that had some kind of brown and desiccated hand about the size of a child’s, but even daintier at the end. Taking a thread bare cloth pouch she tossed it casually into the air and hummed. The pouch hovered there, and like a conductor of a grim symphony, she directed the pouch along the ground, pouring out a thin line of yellow powder. And despite the seemingly casual waves of the rod, the circles, lines, and runes that were drawn were precise and delicate, even beautiful. But as I watched I realized it was really a single line being poured from the sack. It never double backed or crossed over itself, but it did sometime twist and turn to make lines in parallel. I guessed that even ugly hags had to follow the elegance of magic’s design, and that it was beyond even their corrupting hands to twist into something ugly. Perhaps it was that leftover fey buried inside; the source of their power came from places beyond even their control.

As she continued to draw with her rod, the hag commanded me, “Now, you aasimar, come here and kneel next to the circle. Do not mar the line!” she said waggling the strange rod at me. I noticed that when she stopped moving her wrist, the hand had a finger extended, and it continued to waggle without any guidance from Twisted Mirth. Trying to ignore the gruesome thing, I swallowed, and came to the hag, who pointed me to a particular spot where it appeared like a compass’ mark for north. With my knees quaking, I knelt down on the cold, hard earth by the edge of the ritual stone and turned my head and waited. The hag hummed, and eventually, the bag came back to where I knelt, with the beginning and where I presumed the end of the line would be met. As I waited, I recognized the scent of brimstone and something else that hung in the air as the pouch finished emptying its contents. The line was now complete, and the ends almost touched. I was puzzled on why they didn’t as there now was a small divot about a hand’s width apart, that both lines entered about halfway. However, it seemed to be intentional that the pair did not.

“Now the fun part!” Twisted Mirth said giggling as she handed me something that looked like a basin shaped like a bean or a moon, that was the top of a long and slender funnel. “We need some helpers! She will need to hold herself still while you bleed her, to fill the funnel.”

“What?” Doxx exclaimed as I stood there looking at the circle wondering if I would survive the bloodletting. “This bargain—”

“You fear you made a bad one? You wish to break it?” Twisted Mirth said looking down her long-pointed nose, glaring at the form of the old woman. Her expression was one of scorn and disbelief.

Doxx stood there her mouth quivering in anger, “What good is a bargain if it kills—”

The hag rolled her eyes and dismissed Doxx’s concern away with a wave of her twisted taloned hand. “Your druid could keep her alive easily if she cared to. And all the blood in her body isn’t needed, just enough to color the powder, and fill the divot so the circle is complete.”

“It’s alright, I can easily do that,” Rosa said, touching my side.

“I can cut her—” Sage started.

“You?” Doxx said incredulously. “I’d rather have The Blade do it—” The Blade looked down at his coiled whip in confusion at this as Doxx continued, “But he doesn’t even carry a knife. I have steady hands. I’ll do it. You’d…just lop off her head and burn the wound shut.”

The hag grinned, “And just as well. As you,” she pointed at The Blade, “and you,” then dramatically sweeping her hand towards Adrissa, “You each must take a gem, and stand on the East and West sides of the circle holding them high in the air, while you,” and she stabbed her finger at the other warforged, Bookshelf, “Will stand at the head of the circle with me.”

“Doing…what?” Bookshelf asked in a dull tone.

“Well, one-hand you will hold this:” and she gave them the filth incrusted stirring rod from the cauldron.

They turned it over in their hands and looked at the hag, “Why would I—”

“Because that is the body of the key,” Twisted Mirth said with a smirk.

Bookshelf looked down, and rubbed their metallic hand on the crusted rod, and after a bit of work, the dried layer of filth started to crack, and crumble away, revealing a purple metal shaft. “Byshek,” Bookshelf remarked as they continued to clean it, heedless of the hag stepping next to him, and placing an object on his head, startling the warforged.

On his head was a gray metal dome, covered with dirt, and small holes. Through the holes were a mixture of roots, chain and wire. The warforged cocked their head and shook it around on their head, before using both hands to lift it up a bit, causing several tubers to fall to the ground by their feet. The hag pushed the strange helmet down again on their head, now set deeper into the dome.

“Isn’t…that…a cooking colend—” Adrissa stammered.

“—We use what is handy,” the hag shrugged. “Don’t take it off, through this band of root and wire I will give you knowledge on how to use the key. Now, I have to prepare the ritual to bond the gems and rod together. It won’t take long. It all starts with your blood saturating the powder, and once that little divots fills in front of you…say the true name. I will take over from there.”

Nodding, I exhaled trying to steel myself. Rosa approached and took the funnel from me, and I put my hands on my knees, and took some deep breaths. Rosa spoke, probably to put me at ease, “It’s an old-fashioned leeching basin. I’ll keep it on the end of the powder here and I’ll tell you when your blood comes around dear. You might feel a bit dizzy though.”

I nodded, and whispered, “Thanks,” I then turned as saw Doxx standing next to me.

“My hand is steady,” she said and looking at the old woman’s gnarled hand it was perfectly level and still with the sharp dagger in hand. “I can’t promise it won’t…hurt.”

I nodded that I understood, and bowed my head as I pulled my hair away from my neck. Rosa placed the concaved basin against my neck, and I looked ahead of me, over Rosa’s head. Adrissa stood holding the red gem to my left, and The Blade held the blue gem to the right. Both of them looked uncomfortable holding them, while Bookshelf at the opposite end of the circle of it kept shifting, trying to adjust the colander on their head. The hag slapped their hand, so he retracted it and instead just held onto the rod and waited. I felt Doxx grab my hair to hold my head steady, and I took a final deep breath, closing my eyes.

“Cut me.”

I didn’t feel the knife pierce my skin. I did feel the blade though as it sliced deeper, until it pulled on something for a brief moment. Then I felt my heart pounding as I felt warm blood gush from the wound. It was then I felt the sharp sting and fire from the pain of the gash there as my mouth dropped open. I was focused trying not to move. My hands clung to my thighs, as my nails dug into my leather breeches. The pain was no worse than many that I had faced before, but in every case that I could recall, I was able to move, thrash or at least try retreat from it, even in vain.

I wanted to scream, or cry aloud but I was afraid to. Afraid to mess up this whole ritual. Afraid I would barely be alive to say the one word I needed to. Through my tears and my labored breathing, I could see the yellow powder turning not red, but a purple-like color. The transition of color had just passed The Blade, who could only watch in morbid fascination, as it slowly passed him, as he gamely held the blue gem aloft.

“It’s slowing,” Rosa whispered. “I’m going to heal her, but it will close the wound. You will need to cut deeply again.”

“Fine,” Doxx grumbled. And I heard a whisper from the halfling and felt pain as skin stretched and closed, followed by the euphoria as the pain eased. The feeling was ripped away, as Doxx sliced again tearing the newly closed wound back open. I felt my heart pounding as more blood poured forth. My eyes bulged, and my breathing grew more ragged as I clenched my hands. Fingernails pierced and ripped the leather and dug into my flesh.

Staring across at Bookshelf, the powder’s color change passed him, and I realized then it was slower than when it passed The Blade. I gulped for air and started to gather enough to speak, when Rosa gave my thoughts voice, “It’s slowing, we need more. I’ll use a more powerful incantation to heal her, but blood volume is slow to recover.”

“Do it!” Doxx said grimly, still gripping my hair holding my head still. “If I slice deeper, I can get a lot, but it might kill her!” I heard more druidic, and the sensation of skin closing. It was fire on my flesh as it stretched and closed, along with the tissue beneath. All for it to be sliced again. My heart’s pounding was now painful, and I flexed my legs as I knelt, trying to cope with the pain. My eyes turned to look at Adrissa, and I finally saw the powder pass her, as she looked with an expression of horror and empathy, her hands quivering as they held the red gem over her head.

But the changing powder was now slowing to a crawl. “The basin is nearly empty! You’ll have to cut and find one of the deep ones. Fresh ones that are from her heart.” Rosa said and whispered again in the language of the druid and the painful sensation of the wound closing made itself felt again.

“It will kill her!” Doxx said.

I closed my eyes, and strained for the air to speak, “D-d—do--”

The pain was sharp as the dagger cut deep, and I felt blood spurt out in a great gout. My heart’s pounding echoed my ears, as I realized, it was pumping…nothing. I could feel it constricting harder and harder to keep me alive and push blood through me. Blood that was no longer there. My heart rate was decreasing, as each beat came slower and slower.




I then felt the strands in me, stard to thrash. They were lashing out trying to wrap themselves around and protect me. I could feel the dark ones trying to weave a mesh and pull it tight. The temperature was dropping, and I could feel the frost beginning to form, as Doxx and Rosa both exclaimed, “What the…no! no no no!” Hearing them got me to focus. I used the light ones to beat off the dark ones and use them to draw in more light into me. My eyes started to close, and the world became blurry.

My breathing was slowing as I curled up the strands around my heart and pulled on them, winding them tighter and tighter. I could finally feel tension on the strands though, but I was growing more and more tired. With my breathing now shallow I forced them to flutter open to look across from, as I saw Twisted Mirth gloating at my predicament. I grit my teeth and hissed in anger. Using the last of my energy, I pulled on the light strands until I felt them strain and then finally snap.

I was flooded with energy in my heart, and I felt it fill, and my heart pumped twice in sudden eagerness, as I felt the blood push through me. My neck’s open wound gushed and spat out more like a new well, untapped.

“What the?” Doxx said confused. “It’s overflowing! Too much!”

“I’ll close it soon! It’s almost here,”

I opened my eyes, and I saw the powder turning purple finally reach the divot in front of me. I watched with elation as the blood, my life’s blood started to fill it. My heart beat faster and I smiled as my heart beat faster and faster, each one pouring more blood into the funnel. Rosa whispered more words, and I could feel her magic close the wound at my neck. The blood rushed through to my head, and I felt restored somehow. With the circle now complete, I said the lone word in my mind.


The powder suddenly was lit with mauve and green fire. Every line of the powder was now dancing and flickering with flames as I knelt there. The warmth and heat from the fire was a contrast to the cold around me and my torn breeches. But as I knelt there, I could feel the strands around me move as if something was pushed against them. Suddenly with a blast of wind, the fire was almost extinguished as something screamed and hit the earth in the center of the circle.

I lowered my arm from my eyes which I must have raised unconsciously to shield them. There in the circle on their belly was a figure of…something woman like. Her skin was lightly tanned, and she wore fine silk that were slit in a revealing manner exposing her legs and back. Her shapely legs both ended in hooves, and her head of hair was scattered around her, exposing two long sharp horns. Projecting from her back, were what were once a pair of wings, but now stumps of char, burned away. Finally, there were four tentacles, longer than I was tall, that also extended from her back, and now lay twitching. The fiend groaned, and pushed themselves up and opened their eyes, revealing empty sockets in their skull.

“Ugh….wha…what…what in the? Where am I?” the being said, pushing up its torso, and looking around confused. “How did I get to this place? And who has the audacity to…” Her head turned and “looked” at me with those empty eye sockets kneeling there, and her lips curled into a snarl. She scrambled quickly looking to tear me apart with her sharp nails.

I fell backwards and pushed myself away in a panic as the being lunged at me. She stopped cold where the line of fire now was, hitting an invisible barrier, and she collapsed onto the frozen earth with a moan. She lifted her head and shook it, and now with her as close as she was, I recognized her. She had unburned wings, and a tail, no tentacles and eyes then. But she was one of a pair of succubi that bathed me and seduced me in the Tenth Pit. It all flooded back to me how gentle she was, how she tenderly caressed me in the bath and treated me like a pampered…pet in a gilded cage. It was a wonderful moment or escapism, and a masterful seduction, all to disguise their intent.

But I was still a mortal plaything and nothing more. Something to be toyed with and discarded. But I forgot that as she forcibly revealed secrets about myself locked away. All for her mistress’ amusement. I never learned either of their names though, only Jade’s the Radiant Sister who oversaw my pain. The circumstances were now different though, our roles reversed. She wasn’t safe from me, but I was from her. Stumbling to my feet I said, “I presume you are Teiazaam.”

The fiend’s head snapped up to look at me as the sound of her name, her eyes narrowing at first before widening in shock. Her eyes narrowed in a glare as she spoke in a soft menacing purr, “Well, well, well. Isn’t this a surprise.” She staggered to her feet and tapped the barrier that separated us. “Powerful. More powerful than you could…and how did you summon me against my--” Her eyeless sockets opened wider, exposing the hollows where her eyes should have been. “—NO! How did you—”

I didn’t smile. I didn’t feel self-righteousness or anything like that. I wanted the exchange done with. Besides, she didn’t have the answers I wanted. She was Jade’s tool and nothing more. “I guess I should thank you for the memories of us…together. But I would have been happy never to see you again, in any form. But you should know better than to meddle with your…betters.” And I gave her a wicked grin.

She snarled at me, and her tentacles whipped around her, striking the barrier to no avail. “You? A better of me? You are just a mort…” her voice trailed off, as she squinted at me a faint glow became visible in her eye sockets. Her teeth clenched in anger as she continued. “I see…I’d welcome to the sorority, but you won’t survive long enough to be a memory..”

“Time will tell. But…I don’t claim to be your better,” I said evenly.

She looked at me confused, “Then who—”

“—Ah…the discourteous lilitu has finally starting to see the big picture,” Twisted Mirth said with a cruel chuckle as she stepped around from behind Bookshelf. The warforged tried to adjust the colander on its head, but the hag simply slapped his hands away. Teiazaam turned around and become visibly nervous in the presence of the Great Aunie, wringing her taloned hands together as she glanced around herself looking for any options of escape. “I see you remember me. Normally I like to take my time to teach a memorable lesson to an impudent fiend. But your meddling was less than welcome, and more to the point…rude.”

“I…I…didn’t mean to interfere in…whatever your—”

“Yes…of course not. So…I think it is only fitting that you never interfere again.”

Teiazaam nodded vigorously, “Yes! I never will. Ever. My mistake.”

Twisted Mirth smiled and watched the lilitu beg in her magical prison for a moment. “Yes well, I doubt your soul will find its way out of its new prison,”

As the hag said this the Teiazaam’s face contorted first into horror and then into unmitigated rage. She began to scream, “You wouldn’t dare! Jade! Malcanthet will not.”

“Silence, Yrrthacius.” Twisted Mirth said simply, and the litltu’s mouth slammed shut. She clawed at her face trying to force her mouth open again, and only succeeded drawing her own blood. “Oh, and still yourself…we can’t have you risking your soul over a trite disagreement.” With that, Teiazaam froze, unable to fight the compulsion of her true name in whatever magic the hag bound her.

“Better…everything is ready,” Twisted Mirth laughed openly now in glee. “All you need to do, is bring the gems and touch them onto the rod that your friend holds. Once done, I will finish the final incantation to bind it all together…and we all get what we want. So come you two.” The night hag began to chant in a unfamiliar language, as Adrissa and The Black carried the gems to Bookshelf and the rod.

Sage Redoubt had been standing idly by, with everyone having a task to accomplish but him. While it would normally be hard to understand what was going on in a warforged mind, in this case it was clear to me, that wheels were turning in his head. As I found the strength to stand, the juggernaut stepped towards me and whispered, “Something is out of place here.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, still feeling shaky from the blood loss.

“The circle is what I expect; a prison that will channel Teiazaam in a direction of the hag’s choice. But I only recognize some of the words she is using…but it seems off.”

Rosa looked up at the warforged, and then turned to look at Twisted Mirth, “It’s a corrupted dialect of sylvan.... that makes sense. But…the words and phrasing is about…cleaning? No…removal…it’s a...dispel?” Rosa said confused.

“What could she be dispelling?” Doxx said mystified.

Sage quickly made a motion, and a short incantation, causing his eyes to glow blue. He looked at Twisted Mirth and pivoted his head so he could hear her better. “She is not binding anything…she’s…breaking one.”

“What?!?” I said alarmed, whirling to see Twisted Mirth’s knowing smile as she looked at me, unconcerned. “Why would she free Teiazaam?”

“No…its’ not directed at her. It’s directed at the…gems!”

The hag screeched in victory her hand thrust up into the air in triumph. I could feel a surge all around us, as the two gems gave of a flare of light, engulfing the rod, the hag and Bookshelf. The light grew, and the blast of wind and air came from the rod. Bookshelf, braced itself to stay upright, and not drop the newly forged key in one hand, and other holding the colander on their head with the other. The wind around us shrieked and howled as it whipped around, as magic bonds were sundered. It flashed between heat and bitter cold, lashing my skin as the scent of brimstone was now overwhelming. Then there was flash, and I was knocked on my feet by a blast of force, knocking me on my back.

I lay there in the now dark night air, unable to breathe at first, when suddenly my lungs took in a deep breath of air. Sitting up, I saw that the circle holding Teiazaam, and the fiend herself was now gone. Bookshelf, somehow was still standing, holding the newly forged key, while The Blade was kneeling down, covering Adrissa with his great black cloak.

But it was the two children that stood where The Blade and Adrissa had been that grabbed all my attention. They were young half elves I guessed, both with long blonde hair and that cascaded all around them to their thighs and over their dirty smocks. They looked at each other, and then at Twisted Mirth, who now howled with laughter, saying nothing, their expressions empty.

Then I heard something that was unexpected to me, sobbing. I turned around and I saw the two slaves of Twisted Mirth. The male held and consoled the elven woman who now wept uncontrollably, looking and pointing at the children.

But the sounds of her crying were quickly overwhelmed by the night hag’s laughter which now doubled in volume and malice. Turning to face her again, I saw the two girls, look past me to the elven woman, and each of them lowered their eyes, but not before both of their mouths twist into wicked grins. Then as I sat there, I watched with horror, as from the backs of both girls, there was the sound of flesh ripping and bone cracking. From each one’s back, a pair of long thin arms had emerged. Each once then pulled away shattered ribs, and from each one a foul woman’s head emerged. Finally wriggling and stepping out of the small forms, a fully grown grotesque and naked woman emerged, one with deep bluish white skin, the other a foul green.

Two more hags.

My heart pounded, as I gazed upon the malevolence that I had unleashed onto Eberron, as the elf's crying behind me turned into a forlorn wail.

What have I done?

Session Notes:

Yeah. That happened. It was a shock and gruesome suprised. Such that I almost called this one "A good deed never goes unpunished." There were a lot of questions afterwards, on if this could have been avoided as well.
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Lizard folk in disguise

Back to Cattbron - 8/21/2023​

The clearing was now empty of the fiend Teiazaam, but the two ‘young’ hags that had effectively replaced her cackled with glee. Twisted Mirth and the pair opened their arms and embraced in the circle, now bound with smoke from what was once my blood. As they did so there was wash of vertigo that hit my stomach as I felt my strands impacted by an invisible knot of malice that now formed there.

My jaw quivered in rage as I staggard to my feet. Of all the horrors that I could have come up with; enslaved to Mirth, or Teiazaam, or even a plaything to Jade; I could have dealt with those things. I could have paid that price. But Eberron was going pay the bellman here, not I. I was merely the agent. The enabler.

But not its architect.

“You got exactly what you wanted,” I said between clenched teeth. “You never meant to help us.”

The three turned to face me, each with a different expression. One daughter looked at me with a mocking sneer, while the other tutted and shook their head. But it was Twisted Mirth herself that rolled her eyes and spoke to me plainly. “No…no…not yet. Your promise will do that for me though. This,” and she squeezed both of her daughter’s shoulders as any proud parent might, “was an overdue bonding moment. Not long delayed, but insulting enough to make me want to rend the flesh of the…” Twisted Mirth let the unspoken word hang there as she considered for a moment what she meant to say. “…but you are also very wrong. I do wish to help you—”

“—Because it helps you.” Rosa said sorrowfully. “The only way you would offer anything resembling a fair deal.”

“Closer to the right of it,” the hag agreed, while the other two giggled. “But I do not wish an Overlord’s return. Yes it would mean power, but before I was a power between many of them, all clawing to stay on top of the others. A single one? Nothing to do. And besides, I’ve had enough time to appreciate the finer points of mortal misery. Why give that up?” and she spread her arms wide. “Your poor fiend’s mistress will trade much to find her wayward fool of a lilitu. But not until your job is far over.”

“So!” Doxx said with a bravado I didn’t think was very convincing. “Where’s the knowledge you promised us? And the key?” she put her hands to her hips indignantly.

Twisted Mirth turn to look over her head at Bookshelf, who stood there silently, unmoving. Sage approached them first and placed a hand on their shoulder. Barely turning to talk he said, “He’s alive but dazed. Probably alright. Probably,” as Sage turned to give the hag a dirty look. Turning back, he lifted out of Bookshelf’s hands a byshek rod, with the red and blue gems now fixed on the ends. Turning it over in his hands, his eyes glowed blue for a moment and he nodded. “Its enchanted…and it has a lot of power coursing through it. I presume it…worked.”

Twisted Mirth shrugged, “The key was a simple matter, but sharing the knowledge though.” And she shook her head with a smirk. “Never tried that with a warforged before…interesting sensation. But the bucket of metal, wood and stone will be fine. The images and truth I gave to them will become clearer when they rest. I,” and she glared at Doxx, “keep my bargains. You can ask anyone.” She jerked her head towards of her former slaves, and then wrapped her arms around the daughters cooing, “Let’s find you something to clad your wondrous glory in.”

I wondered for a moment what she meant, and turned to look at the elf and human, who clutched each other in desperation. I realized then, that I didn’t really create a new evil. They did. Probably inadvertently, as neither realized the true cost, and I was equally certain that what they tried to gain in exchange was worth little more than ash on the wind. I stepped towards them but the man help his hand out to stop me, his voice quavered as he spoke for the first time, “Leave us…leave us be. We don’t deserve your sympathies. Or your help. We only want to be left alone with our…”

“Myrai, what are they talking about?” Adrissa asked, coming to stand next to me.

I winced and told her, “They are the…parents of a pair of babies long gone. Gone into a hags gullet. And that hag gave birth to a pair of babies just like them—”


“—And they probably raised them. And then tried to hide them, not realizing it was too late, and making themselves Mirth’s slaves.”

Adrissa looked at me with tears in her eyes her mouth quivering, “I wanted them to be free.”

I bowed my head and held her close, “I don’t…I don’t think we can grant that really,” As the pair quietly sobbed and clutched each other.

The Blade observed this all with a scowl before saying simply, “We’re done here. We should go back to Cattbron.”

Doxx nodded, “I have to agree with you. I’ve had enough.”


The journey into the still distant dawn, wasn’t especially warming or joyous. Honestly I couldn’t tell if we won something, or lost something. All I knew was that without my father’s knowledge, it would have come at a higher cost to ourselves. And it also meant, that I was still yoked to the whims of immortals. My father. Twisted Mirth and her kin. Jade. And I expected to add more to that list before long.

But how long would it before I forgot myself and my early years before I started to be as callous as they?

The lights of Cattbron was ahead, and unlike most times it was The Blade that was leading us forward, and not Adrissa. His pace however was brutal, and he was forced to pause frequently for the rest of us. Or more accurately, some of us. The warforged weren’t slow by any means, and Rosa had command of various animal forms that were faster if she chose, but she declined, wrapping her arms around herself and slowly following the elf. As for Doxx, the spry ‘old woman’ was faster than The Blade, but he plodded along Rosa’s side, keeping pace with her.

But it was Adrissa, and I that were the laggards. Myself because I felt shaky and tired, giving what I did to make the key. But Adrissa, where she once clung tightly to me, she now was distant, clutching her arms to herself tightly. I knew where her head was at, and I felt it was wiser to let her handle it on her own terms. However, others disagreed.

“Blade! Would you—” Doxx started at the elf.

“—‘THE Blade.” The elf hissed barely glancing backwards. “I though I was clear on that point.”

Doxx frowned, and her face flushed in anger, “Blade,” she started pointedly. “We need to slow down for the girls’ sake. They’ve been through a lot—”

“—And the people of Denning haven’t? They are probably blind in fear by now. And Cattbron? It is only a matter of time before the vege’s make their way south to them, and turn the citizens into tools or blankets for all I know. And you want to rest?”

I don’t. But…Adrissa…in the name of the Sovereigns, she’s still a—”

“—An innocent? She has seen the vileness of true criminals. We cannot wait for—”

“What? For her to grow up?” Doxx leapt forward and put herself between The Blade and their supposed destination of Cattbron. “So she can be as damaged as you? Why do you go back to Sharn and that sporting goods store front and let us do the real—”

“—ENOUGH!” Adrissa shrieked, getting all of our attention. “Childhood spoilt; check. Exposure to horrible fiends; check. Watching people around me act like my parents and guide me badly; check plus! Just stow it! ‘THE’ Blade…where are you going?”

The Blade stood up stiffly, his mouth opening and closing quietly, before replying, “To Denning.”

“Don’t we need something before we go back?” Adrissa said angrily.


“The oil. The Oil of Tagget. We need that from the Cannith Warehouse,” Rosa said.

“And that’s not the only item we need. The flower Morning Glyss,” Sage said reminding them. And we will need to travel along the lake to find it. If we can.”

“Of course! I’m glad you finally remembered!” The Blade said beaming.

Adrissa rolled her eyes and stomped her foot in the snow, and screamed at him, “You forgot! You are a terrible person, and a worse liar.”

The Blade stiffened and looked at the girl from beneath his cowl. “No. I’m just a person that deals with criminals. Not fiends, not hags, not world ending threats. But I do know we can’t wait. We have to move faster before…we all lose.”

Adrissa’s anger cooled a bit and she nodded her head. “You’re right. And I will be damned in Dolurrh if we are going to lose.”

Rosa smiled and chuckled weakly, “Well then. I know of only one place to go.”


The brass cone on the wall echoed with the sound of a gnome’s weary voice, “Ugh…I’m sorry the Cannith Warehouse and Library is closed for the time being until staff returns to answer—”

“Framlin! Open up!” the juggernaut bellowed into the cone.

From the cone we could all hear a stool fall onto stone and the sound of a gnome backside land awkwardly with an ‘oof.’ There was the sound of scraping wood on stone, and the winded voice of Kalborius Framlin spoke again, “Why…what…wait? You?!? You’re back? And you aren’t toads or banderhobb or anything else nasty?”

Sage shook their head in disbelief, “No you foolish bureaucrat we are fine. We need--”

“--Wonderful! Glad to hear it. Anyway we are closed for the winter. Especially the library. That is now completely off limits, and is enforced with the heaviest wood planks, tables and chairs. No toad, no juggernaut, and no Banderhobb can get in now!”

“So you locked yourself in,” Doxx said mildly. “Feeling hungry yet?”

“I secured the valuable texts within! And I happen to have a marvelous pot of more than finite gruel, with a infinite spice pouch!” Framlin’s voice came through with a smug response.

“Right.” Doxx said shaking his head. “Well, we don’t need to see you. We want the Tagget oil.”

“What??!?” Kalborius said in outrage. “That’s Cannith property! I can’t let you take it!”

Sage shook their heavy head and leaned into the cone and spoke levelly, “Yes, but you are already barricaded in. I doubt you can get out.”

“I…well…wait now! You can’t just take—”

“Cannith’s heroic donations have been noted citizen,” The Blade said quickly. “This conversation is done. Thank you.” He then took a rag out of a pouch, and stuffed it into the bell, muffling the voice of Framlin. The Blade then looked at us and said mildly, “Shall we?” as he flung open the unlocked door to the Cannith building.

Nothing had really changed since our last visit; the stairs wound up exterior of the square room up several floors. But instead of heading up, we headed towards a large double doors leading deeper into the building. But as we headed across the room we heard “STOP! You are NOT authorized!”

Sage’s jaw ground together with a metallic scraping sound, as he turned to face another, larger metallic cone on a tube in the ceiling. “Of course it would not be that easy to silence him.”

Doxx turned and looked at the cone, while The Blade ignored it and moved toward the door. “Look, you can help or you can shut up.”

“But I was left in charge! I’ll get into trouble if anything is removed!” Kalborius yelled in protest.

“Of the library.” Bookshelf said quietly, grabbing all of our attention.

“You feeling alright?” Rosa asked, putting a hand on the slender warforged’s thigh.

“I…am…better,” Bookshelf said slowly. “But I have images I am trying to…understand them. Anyway, Kalborius, I doubt that they put the responsibility of inventory control in your hands.

“WHAT? I resent that…utterly accurate comment,” the gnomes anger deflating into the truth of the matter.

“So you will be a hero then for ‘allowing’ us to take the oil.”

“I suppose…” Framlin sounded doubtful with a tinge of voice. The Blade opened the door, and we proceeded down the hall, and the gnome’s voice now projected from another cone in the hall. “However, but I really can’t stop you after all—”

“—Just put the furniture and planks when the winter starts thawing.” Bookshelf said plainly.

The Blade was nodding his head at the exchange, as he came to a large sliding oaken plank door bound in iron. He grabbed the handle and pulled on the door to move it aside. The wheels on the rail above screeched as metal wore against metal, echoing in the hall. I shuddered at the sound that caused me to cringe in discomfort and was glad it was over quickly. Once open, the voice of Kalborious was now echoed, in what I presumed was a large room ahead.

“I suppose I will have time for that,” the gnome was sounding agreeable for the first time as he continued. “Perhaps they’ll give me an award. No! A promotion! I can see it now how I, Kalborius Framlin…hey! Who in Dolurrh are you and what are you doing?”

We looked at each other in alarm and rushed into the warehouse. As we did there was the distinct snap of crossbow strings. I managed to raise my shield just in time and deflected a bolt that skittered across the floor, while a second pierced the metal, the tip cutting my forearm. Lowering it enough to peer over the top edge I saw our assailants and I groaned as I recognized them.

There were about seven or eight half masked helmed and cloaked figures half hid behind beams that supported the massive warehouse. Most were reloading, while another group was busy chopping at a set of large barrels midway through the warehouse. Several were already shattered, spreading their contents across the floor, a red oily liquid. They didn’t even turn to look at us as they continued to chop away at the oil barrels.

Then a man behind one of the pillars, took a shot at Doxx, who clearly picked the bolt out of the air with her gnarled hand and a scowl as the man shouted, “The Emerald Claw will win this battle today!”

Session Notes:
I didn't realize how long ago this was. At the time Adrissa, my IRL daughter was interested in D&D and curious and I gave her a pre-built role to play. She ran with it, and now years later I find myself dropping her off at college out of state, and we still talk and chat about Adrissa as I put the events into prose.

But now we can put that nasty eldritch witchery behind us and get back into the normal round of betrayal, power groups working at cross purposes and all the things that make Eberron a fun place to be.

Unless you are in Cattbron. That might be less fun.

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

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