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

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Absolutely. I'm hoping there will be a few more revelations about Myrai as well as her take on Eberron.
Hint: Likes concept of the Seeker's of the Blood of Vol, but their take on death, the afterlife and the undead is starting a smoldering fire.

As for the Apochrypha. Be careful what you wish for...
 

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Death flies on pale wings

My discomfort lessened as I put some distance away from the church and returned to the Jorasco aid station to gather our gear. We didn’t say much to each other on the way. The Blade’s grim face revealed nothing of his thoughts as he strode down the road. Rosa had a small frown on her face but otherwise walked with confidence in her step. Doxx glowered, occasionally turning to look at Adrissa and then shook his head in disbelief. Mobad seemed, bored; flexing his muscles and stretching his limbs expecting to encounter of violence ahead of him. Countering this were the warforged; their faces betraying nothing, although Sage walked in a march, with eyes straight ahead, and Bookshelf mumbled things to themselves.

But Adrissa was the one I was watching. We had gathered our things and were headed to the smaller She was quiet, as she had been recently, but there was a determined look on her face. Was it because of Loramica’s confidence in her? Was it an opportunity to enact revenge for her family? Or was it…

“Adrissa!” I heard a girl exclaim as we approached that led back to the north. From the top of the gate a girl bounded down and ran towards the surprised Adrissa. She embraced Adrissa warmly, with a bright smile that could wash away the grey clouds that churned above us.

“Cyr…cyr…cyr...a?” Adrissa stammered.

“I can’t believe it!” Cyra said in excitement. “I heard from the others that you came into town and let in the troops! You helped save us all!”

Adrissa stood there her face a mixture of shock and sorrow, unable to speak or express what she felt. She instead gamely returned the hug with her right arm, while her left held out her bow to the side.

“We’re all…sorry on what has happened,” she said as she backed off with tears in her eyes. “But please keep us safe. Keep yourself safe. Please.”

Adrissa nodded stiffly. I could see her hold back the tears in eyes. I moved behind her, and put a hand on her shoulder.

“We have to get moving Cyra,” I said, and the young girl turned to look at me in the eyes, and I watched her jaw dropped, and she released Adrissa, and took a step back nodding.

She then smiled and ran back to the top of the gate, yelling, “I’ll keep watch for you Adrissa!” And we walked through the gate way, hearing the various children yell “Goodbye!” and some of the boys yelling, “Go get them!” as the gate closed behind us.

After we were out of earshot of the gateway, I looked at Adrissa and asked, “Are you alright?”

“I’m a hero to them,” she said softly. “Why couldn’t I have been a hero for my family?”

I bowed my head down a moment before I spoke, “I didn’t have a proper family, but I had friend I called a sister.” I saw that Adrissa looked at me puzzled. “I was barely older than you, when she was killed in front of me on the streets as we held hands.” I looked at my hand encased in a fingerless glove. “I look at what I can do now, and wish that I had the strength, the skills…and wish I had them then. But while I couldn’t save her, or take revenge, I realized that the pain was one that I never—”

“—Wanted to feel again?” Adrissa interrupted.

“”—Never wanted others to feel. We can’t alter the reality of the past, but we can make a difference in the now. I still miss my sister, and it still hurts. But if I can help ease other’s pain or prevent it altogether…I’ll do that.”

Adrissa nodded, “I think I understand. Does your…god help with that.”

I furrowed my brow a for a moment, “My god gives me purpose and focus, but as a god of death, he reminds us to look at our lives, and other lives around it to give it all meaning. There’s a lot to learn from that.”

“This isn’t one of those things that I’ll understand when I’m older is it?” Adrissa asked.

“I’ll let you know when I get that old,” I said, and we continued our march into foothills of the Ironroot Mountains.

---

“So, no sign of our quarry yet?” Rosa asked as we rested. It was near the end of the day already, and had little to show for it, beyond sore legs.

“I’m used to tracking criminals…not foilage,” The Blade said annoyed.

“He not wrong,” Mobad spat.

“What do you know about this area Adrissa,” Doxx asked, unusually respectful.

“The higher up, there are supposedly caves,” Adrissa said looking around nervously, never noticing Doxx’s unusual behavior. Supposedly good game, but most hunters avoid this place.”

“Perhaps the caves are where we should start, if we don’t have somewhere better to look,” Sage suggested.

“Why do the hunters avoid it?” Doxx asked. “There seems to be game here.”

“It’s not the game, it’s the predators.” Adrissa said. “They come down from the Ironroots to hunt."

Sage looked at the shear rock walls leading upwards. “How? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of paths leading down to this valley.”

“They don’t walk down from the peaks.”

“You mean they fl---URGK” Mobad grunted. I turned to look at the grey orc, and I was shocked at what I saw. A pair of talons gripped onto his shoulders, supporting the reptilian bulk of a dragon like creature. It roared in delight, and as it did so, a barbed tail erupted from Mobad’s stomach, spurting venom and blood in the open air.

“Wyverns!” shouted Adrissa, and The Blade wasted no time and moved firing a pair of arrows at the beast, each striking the beast in the chest, followed by a pair from Adrissa’s bow. Sage ignited his blade and twisted around, to strike a second beast who was gliding in for a silent strike against Rosa. It roared in pain, and snapped at the warforged, its maw gnawing on Sage’s shield. Its tail whipped around and landed in Rosa’s stomach, she screamed as poison was pumped into her small body. Rosa rolled away from the reptile, and I saw her place a hand on the wound, and the pain on her faces lessened. She scrambled out of reach of the tail, which continued to stab at the ground,where the halfling once lay.

Bookshelf pointed their finger at the wyvern who now stood on top of Mobad’s collapsed form, and a ray of light struck the wing, causing it to glaze with frost. Its shriek echoed in the valley, while Doxx raced in and swung with her staff, landing three blows in quick succession. It whirled rose into the air and thrust its tail at Doxx. Doxx quickly whirled her staff deflecting the strike, and as she did so a beam of light streaked from her weapon striking the Wyvern in the eyes. It twisted around in pain and moved blindly towards the sound of the whirling staff.

I then scrambled over and place a hand on Mobad’s fallen form, and reached out with my light strands, ready to pour energy into him. But as I stretched out with the stands, they slipped around him. I focused harder and tried to knot them, bind them around the wound. I felt the hope drain from me as I realized the truth; that he had already slipped beyond the veil beyond my reach.

The others continued attacking the pair of wyverns; flame and frost, and arrows and light from Doxx’s staff. I gritted my teeth and wiped the tears from my eyes, and then threw a pair of strands at the dragon like beasts, causing dark miasma to form and shroud them as I tore at their souls. I wasn’t angry at them; they were acting as their nature required. But it felt unfair as neither Rosa nor I could do anything to save him from the stealthy assault.

The Blade and Adrissa each used the trees for cover as Sage and Doxx each took a Wyvern and kept them in place. The wyverns slashed and tore at us with tooth and tail, doing little damage. Bookshelf and I kept up our magical attacks on the beasts, while Rosa focused on healing the wounded. While the wyverns were unable to strike at Sage directly, they made attempts at the rest of us, drawing blood from Doxx and battering Bookshelf. I was stabbed by one of their venomous tails, but I was spared being poisoned.

Finally, Sage slashed at his Wyvern and brough it down to earth with a crushing blow from his flaming armblade. At nearly the same time, one of the The Blde’s arrows lodged itself deep in the neck of the second wyvern, causing it to gurgle in pain, before collapsing on to the earth.

The air grew still, and Adrissa dropped her bow and moved to the fallen orc. Mobad lay faced forward with his head turned at an awkward angle, while blood poured from a gaping hole in his back. His eyes were open but had rolled upward and from his mouth poured a river of blood and a thick green fluid, that now covered the forest floor.

“Why didn’t you heal him!?!” Adrissa shrieked at me.

“I…I…tried. His body couldn’t shake off the damaged from his wounds.” I said apologizing.

“He’s taken worse!” Adrissa yelled.

Sage and Doxx rolled Mobad’s still form over, and Sage shook his head. “The stinger went right through his heart. An unfortunate blow.”

“I tried,” I whispered.

“Rosa, can you…can you?” Adrissa begged.

“I’m sorry, but I…I don’t have that power hon,” Rosa said sadly.

“He’s gone.”

Session Notes:
So...the player that played Mobad had to back out of the gaming sessions for personal reasons and it was very clear they weren't going to come back. So he died in a blaze of glory. While the player was new to the game, Mobad's quiet presence was memorable.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Well that's quite the dramatic way to go!!

(Glad you clarified the circumstances - I'd have felt for the player otherwise.)
Exits are tricky, but based on the circumstance there wasn't much to be done. However, the character was played, even though the player wasn't there anymore. And a natural 20 was rolled on the tail strike, on a Barbarian who didn't have a moment to rage and failed a con save.

It was a pile of damage that no one was going to come back from.
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Pining in the Darkness - 10/21/2021


The grey face was calm and composed as it sank into the earth. The strands pulled and pushed the soil in the ground, allowing the cooling body to be interred within. My hands trembled as I did this as I felt my emotions churn within me.

I had killed many in Faerun, each death I tried to honor their passing. But here, in this still strange place to me, everything I had killed was an abomination. A corruption of the natural order. I felt no compunction to worry about their souls…provided they had them.

On the other hand, the souls they took all to make these horrors concerned me quite a bit. Some of them had died horribly in my eyes. Wy, and the others were slaughtered, exsanguinated, flayed… terrible endings for all. With I as their only witness to their passing. So, while I had known Mobad for less time, I felt that his burial was a burial for them all. That his ferocity in life, to survive was the one we all had in ourselves.

I felt guilty though. That I hadn’t done all I could to stop any of their deaths. I could perhaps forgive myself for Wy and the others; we weren’t prepared. But I didn’t do my duty…my responsibility to their souls. And as for Mobad, were I but a bit quicker, more skilled, more…secure in my faith I could have saved him. That I could have made the girl who now had her back to us all safe and secure. A lie we all to readily tell ourselves until its false comfort is ripped away. One of the first lessons of death and life:

Life and death are temporary; signs a long a long road. Both can start and end without warning or seeming intent. That which appears random, has purpose and meaning, even if you cannot divine what. For does knowing the path’s destination, make the journey easier? Does it have less meaning if one doesn’t know the end?

So, one person’s specific journey; its start, its middle and its end isn’t one to judge or be concerned with. It is what we can learn and take away from that person’s full journey, and how that gives meaning to our own.


The soil ceased to churn, and I knelt into the dirt and recite the litany:

“No one should be alone, in life or death,
Death is part of life, not an ending but a beginning
Death is without deceit and has meaning,
All should strive to help those to live,
So, they can die at their appointed time,
I will honor those who have died before me,
For it is their lives and deeds that give us the world today—"


As I spoke, I realized that my voice was joined by another; Adrissa. She was now on her knee over the soft soil. Her eyes were clear, and the tears dried as she nodded her head and we continued the litany together;

"Bless this soul at his chosen, appointed time,
So, his deeds will live forever,
So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith
May Death grant you peace.”


Adrissa turned to look at me and gave a me a weak smile. The rest each looked over the grave keep their own council, until Doxx broke the silence.

“Well…I suppose we should move on before more swoop down upon us,” Doxx said somberly.

“Indeed,” The Blade concurred. “We might have had a different story together in Sharn. It seems that wasn’t our destiny.”

“We should go,” Sage said looking at the sky warily.

“You might want to keep your eyes on the ground. There are other monsters hiding in the mountains here,” Adrissa said standing up. She looked at the group once, and then started off into the woods. Rosa and Bookshelf shrugged and followed her both keeping their thoughts to themselves and together we moved on.





The Ironroot Mountains were nothing more than shear cliff faces descending into the valley. So there was little need to ascend them, instead following the hills that ajoined them. We didn’t see any more monsters, despite us all being jumpy at the slightest pickup of the wind. But as we continued our search, Rosa spoke up.

“Well well…these are awakened tracks…and vegeogre things I think,” she said, looking at a muddy pool with bark and fungus on the surface.

The Blade squatted and pickup some of the bark and examined it, “It’s not logged with muddy water; we must be close.”

Goss, go up to the treelimbs and tell me what you see on the ground.

--uh…can’t I stay closer to you? Might be safer.

I doubt you qualify as a snack.

--well…can’t be too careful.


Gossamer took flight and flew high in the tree branches, scouting ahead of us. We followed in the same direction, and it wasn’t long before we found something.

--A campsite…it’s a wreck though.

“A campsite?” I said aloud as the others turned to look at me. “Up ahead.”

The rest nodded, and we slowly made our way forward, trying to keep quiet. This was somewhat of a challenge for Sage, but even he kept the din of his plats and weapons down to a minimum. We quickly found ourselves at the edge of a clearing and were surprised at the camp we found.

First off, it wasn’t a simple hunter blind or travelers camp; the tents and racks here made it more like an expedition to a strange new place, than a simple place to sleep. The tents were large, some eight paces square. And while the canvas fabric was torn and shredded in the weaspon, the insides had wooden cots and tables. In the center of the encampment was a large firepit, with metal grills and iron works to hold pots and a roasting spit.

“What in Dolurrh is this about?” Doxx muttered, as the old woman poked her head in the ruins of the site.

“This isn’t a druids’ camp,” Rosa muttered. “This is like a..a…”

“It’s a basecamp,” The Blade said. “My family sells equipment like this for travellers to Xen’drik. It’s portable in the sense that you can carry it, but its meant to be setup and maintained, and abandoned when time to leave.”

“Who would go through this effort here?” Bookshelf said as they examined the site for clues to its former inhabitants.

“A Dragonmarked House,” Sage said as he pointed to a small pile of crates nearby. “Specifically, House Cannith.”

“Cannith? Here? And why?” Rosa asked aloud.

“Cannith is thought to have…something to the north. Well past my…home.” Adrissa said softly. “Each season wagons would go up the road, and a week or so later, wagons would return. But that was on the main road. I don’t know anything about this.”

“So why here?” Doxx said confused.

I moved around the camp, and then noticed that a ridge of rock projected itself into the clearing. I wandered around it and there in the cliff was the answer.

“Everyone…over here,” I said and soon the rest joined me and saw it.

There in the rock face was a fissure, opening into darkness beyond. On both sides there were piles of boulders, all organized neatly away from the entrance. But here there was signs of a different camp; Lean-to’s and simple domes of lashed strips of bark, and vines, around a small fire.

“A second group?” I said pointing out the obvious. Adrissa started to look around the campsite and her face has a frown on it.

“This is odd,” the girl started. “This is in a little better condition, but both sites were used at about the same time.”

“And tracks lead below,” The Blade said, motioning to the ground. Both the druids and the Cannith groups I imagine.

Rosa looked at the rock face, and then start to examine the pile of boulders set aside and the ground next to them. “The awakened…they cleared the opening. It must have taken a while based on the amount of rocks moved. But…it looks like they helped each other.”

“Why would a bunch of druids help out anyone at all?” Doxx exclaimed. “They tried to kill everyone else.”

“I don’t know,” I said shaking my head. “They must have had a reason to work together.”

“We should proceed below then,” Sage remarked. Bookshelf pulled out his driftglobe and set it aloft so the other could see in the darkness. I pulled on the energy within me, and felt the rush along my spine, and I set a yellow orb of light on Sage’s shield. And with that we entered the fissure.

The opening was a composite of rock and gravel on the rock floor, but not twenty paces in, we realized this was no cave. The passage was easily five paces broad, and the walls were straight carved rock. The main passage had a slope leading deeper into the roots of the mountain. As I turned to look closer at the walls, I realized that they all had carving or glyphs on the walls. Stepping towards the walls I traced my fingers on their forms in the rock. The design wasn’t familiar to me at all, and I felt chills as I touched them.

“What made this place?” I whispered.

“I am not sure,” Bookshelf said quietly. “Its not dwarven for certain. But the carvings aren’t fresh…the dust is thick, and they seem…worn somehow. My guess is Dhakaani.”

“Dhakaani?” I said puzzled.

“The Dhakaani Empire was a ancient goblin nation—” Sage started.

“Nation…ha!” Doxx sneered. “Goblins were just vermin, until humans finally put them into their place.”

“A common misunderstanding,” Sage said reprovingly. “They were more sophisticated than just wandering tribes. Many cities are built on their city’s bones. Sharn is a good example. But…I am not familiar enough with their works to confirm Bookshelf’s supposition. But these carvings are old. Very old.”

“Feels cold to me,” I said. “But let’s keep moving.”

We continued deeper and finally we came to an intersection. Wide passages led left and right, while the passage continued deeper, while turning to the right ahead of us.

Sage pointed with his armblade to the left, saying nothing. The others in our group nodded quietly. Doxx started to move ahead of Sage, staff at the ready as they tip-toed to the edge of the intersection.

“I don’t hear anything,” Doxx whispered, and the old woman stepped into the chamber beyond.

“Awakened don’t make much noise when they are—”

Doxx was then thrown back into the hallway, as the sound of wood and leaves slammed into them, bowling them over. There, coming around the corners were a pair of huge conifers; so out of place here in the depts of this constructed shaft. Filling the tunnel, four of them, plodded towards our group, with one of them clearly pursuing the prone Doxx.

“—not moving,” Rosa said bitterly as the trees lunged to attack us all.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The trees flanking on the door passed theirs.

Doxx's perception check however...well...not everything goes to plan.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Artifice of the Past - 11/4/2021

Doxx rolled to her feet and wiped some blood from her nose. She grimaced at the tree that tossed her like a rag doll and charged back towards the fray. Flames erupted from her hands and engulfed the tree’s extended branches. It flailed about trying to beat the flames out without success, but then instead lashed out at Doxx again, failing to connect with the wily old woman. She danced away from a second one’s clumsy swing, and retreated behind Sage who now charged in, and with his armblade spread green fire across both of Doxx’s assailant’s. He raised his shield and widened his stance, challenging the copse of trees with his metallic bulk.

Behind him, I pulled on dark strands and surrounded the trees with dark miasma, while a beam of white frost from Bookshelf, froze the needles and branches on the one that seemed less singed to my eyes. A pair of snaps from The Blade’s bow and an arrow sunk deeply into the trunks and the broadheads breaching the far side in a shower of splinters. Adrissa, gave a yell, and dropped her bow and ran in with her swords drawn, and she slashed and hacked at Doxx’s first attacker, hewing the leg like roots away, and sinking a blade deep into its trunk. She was unaware of the awakened tree about to pound her into the rock, when a sinewy vine erupted from Rosa’s hand, and she pulled the Awakened into Sage, who quickly slashed, nearly cleaving the trunk into two as it crashed lifeless to the ground.

The two other trees plodded forward and swung at Adrissa and Sage; Adrissa yelped as the tree branches scraped her arms withdrew drops of blood. Sage flexed and a blue barrier flashed and shimmered, blocking a dangerous overhead strike from landing on the shoulders of the warforged. Sage then slammed with his shield and knocked his foe off balance. Doxx took that opportunity to dart in with her staff, and swung it hard against the midsection of the tree, causing it to stagger clumsily. Two more snaps from The Blade’s bow, sunk deeply into the trunk of the tree, toppling it, leaving one left.

I focused again and flung a dark strand onto the remaining tree, surrounding it with miasma, just as Bookshelf froze its trunk with a layer of hoarfrost. Adrissa moved and cut again at the roots of the plant, causing them to ooze thick dark sap, and Adrissa rolled backwards to avoid a counter strike. As the tree attempted to smash the girl, Rosa again used a vine, and ensnared a branch and puling it back again, slamming into Sage Redoubt who stopped it cold with a stab with his armblade. The blade pierced deeply into the wood, which burst into splinters and glowing green embers, as the trunk split into two and fell to the stone unmoving.

The tunnel grew quiet, with only the sound of our labored breathing echoing off the walls. We looked at each other, and Rosa moved to quickly heal the injured Adrissa and Doxx. Meanwhile Sage pivoted and turned his shield to light up the chamber. The yellow light illuminated a room with stone tables at varying heights. Some would be the right height for a person to sit at or perhaps stand at. But an equal number of the tables were far larger; even an ogre would have trouble looking over their tops. Among the tables, were leather and wool bedrolls and blankets, and a small cooking fire with an iron pot set on the cold ashes.

--You know, you make a lot of noise.

I turned to glare at the Tressym, sauntering in on his paws, unconcerned.

So helpful. Keep in the hall and follow us discretely. I want to know if someone sneaks in behind us.

--Sure sure…I’ll always watch your back. And with that my familiar started to prowl out of the room to keep watch.

“Another druid camp?” Doxx asked Rosa, who nodded in silent reply.

“What’s with these tables?” Adrissa said aloud as she walked under one of the large ones.

“Who knows what the Dhakaani did here,” The Blade remarked.

“But the tables are too large for any goblinoid; even the bugbears couldn’t use them,” Sage pointed out.

“Maybe it isn’t Dhakaani,” Bookshelf said. “Could they be…older?”

I blinked, “I’m the foreigner here…what are we talking about?”

Sage turned to me, “Eberron’s history is divided into eras. This is the modern era, before that is the Era of Monsters; before humans came to this continent. That was when the Dhakaani held sway. But before that, it was the Era of Giants.”

“The Giant’s ruled the world, and had slaves,” The Blade said with tones of sorrow on his voice. “My people. Until we rebelled and were almost annihilated.”

“Almost? What happened?” I asked.

“The dragons,” The Blade answered. “They taught the giants magic, and they brought them down. But not before we took what we needed and escaped.”



“Well…these tables could be right for giants,” Doxx said. “I’m not a student of history, but at Rekenmark, I remember a discussion of giant fortifications…but they were all based on places in Xen’drik. Nothing here in Karnnath.”

“Well, they all must be deeper within then,” Adrissa said, as she finished examining the bedrolls on the ground.

“She’s right, we’re wasting time,” The Blade said. We all turned around and crossed the hall and entered another chamber. Again, the strange sets of tables, and a campsite. But this one had small desks, and cots not just bedrolls.

“Clearly, more Cannith’s belongings,” Rosa said her lips pursed into a frown. “Seems the druids and they are partners, but don’t trust each other.”

Adrissa bent down and looked at the one of the cots. “Well, I would say that the druids are in charge now.”

“And how would you know that?” Doxx exclaimed in disbelief.

“They have dust on the cots. The druids’ bedrolls don’t.” Adrissa said simply.

“That would indicate something happened to them,” Bookshelf noted quietly. Looking around the room a moment they continued. “This little camp doesn’t show any gear that would be useful for maintaining weapons or armor. I don’t remember any on the surface either.

“They weren’t expecting trouble,” Sage said grimly. “It seems that the druids might have taken them by surprise. Their trees would have been problematic for unskilled soldiers or guards.

“Let’s continue down then,” Doxx said impatiently. “I don’t like this.”





I refreshed the light on Sage’s shield, we continued down the passageway down. It started to curve to the right, and we descended deeper. The air grew warmer as we continued, and I felt on edge more than normal. Sensations stroked my spine, giving me chills strong enough to make me shiver. I swallowed and looked at the others, to see if it was my imagination.

It was clear that everyone was on edge, but nothing more than usual. But I noticed that The Blade was twisting his head around a lot, and that he clutched the amulet he wore under his jerkin. He shifted It by the cord side to side as if it was chafing the elf. I was about the ask him about it when suddenly, a flash of light caught my eye. At about the same time, The Blade hissed and pivoted around, with an arrow notched and his bow held level, half drawn. I looked around confused, and then I saw the flash again, on the walls, brief and faint.

“Bookshelf; douse your globe a moment,” I asked.

“What’s the problem?” Sage asked still looking ahead.

“I need to see the tunnel, without all the lights” said. “I will need to dispel the light on the shield as well.”

“Only some of us can see in the dark you realize?” Doxx complained.

“It won’t be long. Bookshelf?” I responded and looked at the slender warforged. They nodded and with a quick word, the driftglobe doused itself and returned to their hand. I then focused a moment and pulled in the light from Sage’s shield.

The tunnel of course now was as bright as day to me; but no shadows danced across the walls. Doxx, Rosa and the warforged looked around nervously, unable to see, while Adrissa, The Blade and I looked around. Unconsciously we held our breathes, not knowing what to expect and waited. Then, it happened.

“What is that ahead of—” Adrissa started. Everyone turned, and there in the passage was a halo of light that pulsed up the passage from the depths. It was a simple quick flicker, that illuminated the rune like carvings on the wall. But it passed quickly behind us. To my eyes, I could see that the runes remained lit for only a brief moment, before fading.

“I…saw that,” Doxx whispered.

“As did I,” Rosa acknowledged.

We waited and then another pulse from the depths passed us. As it did, I felt the chill waft through me. I then turned to look at the Blade, and as yet another pulse flew past us, I saw him shift his head again. “Something…is hurting you Blade?” I asked

“The Blade. Yes. My amulet is…it feels like it’s burning my neckline.” He responded with irritation on his voice.

I stepped to the wall, and waited and as the light flashed by my, I felt the chill grow stronger. Taking a deep breath, I placed a hand on the wall. It was dry and dusty of course, but it was surprisingly warm as well. I traced a finger into the carving, when the light flew up from above. As the edge of light touched my hand my vision was flooded with color, and I yanked it back in pain. Smoke poured from my palm as I felt the remainders of searing agony, followed by numbness and chills, that coursed through the bones of my hand. I turned it over, and tried to flex my fingers, and found them slow to respond.

“Myrai!” Rosa yelped in concern. Bookshelf reignited his driftglobe and she moved to me and took my hand. Upon doing so she grimaced and hissed through her teeth. “Your hand! It…hurts.”

“I know that—“ I started.

“No…your hand hurt me, just as I touched it.” Rosa responded.

I looked at my hand for a moment trying to process it, and raised it again to the wall, but this time not touching it. I could barely see the waves of light as they passed. When they did, I could feel them tug on some of my strands, but others recoiled. I closed my eyes and concentrated a moment, and I realized that it was the few strands that I felt were a part of me, and not my connection to the Apocrypha. That part of me deep inside that claimed my soul as an Aasimar.

And it was revolted at not the light, but whatever pushed it along the walls. I could feel then that it was masking something. There hiding behind it was a presence. Something malevolent. Something that seethed with hatred.

“There is…something…wrong about what is causing this light,” I said to the others as they looked at me with concern. Rosa took my hand and was gingerly looking and feeling it for more injuries. “But it isn’t the light itself. It’s like feeling the heat from a fire, but your hand isn’t near the flame itself. The light is result of some activity, and that activity is…well…its not from here. And it really doesn’t like me.”

“I think you might be overreacting a bit,” Doxx said dismissively.

Adrissa looked at me and impulsively walked to the wall and reached out and touched it near where I did and waited.

“That doesn’t mean it’s safe to touch!” Doxx hissed. But Adrissa shrugged after a wave of light passed.

“I feel a tingle…but that’s all.”

“Then what is it with my…” The Blade started and trailed off, not willing to explain.

“Because…it and I are touched by celestials.” I said and turned to look down the corridor descending. “And whatever this place is, doesn’t like that.”

“So, what do we do?” Adrissa asked confused.

“We continue downwards, and pray,” I said with the rest nodding or shrugging as I flexed and placed the light back on Sage’s shield.

We descended deeper, and ahead of us we saw a flash. It created for my eyes this weird reaction of lighting everything with shadows, which then the shadows disappearing as the ‘darkness’ returned. At least that’s how I thought people with normal vision saw it. We slowed our progress until Sage turned around and said, “Douse the lights.” We then proceeded forward quietly.

The corridor leveled out, and we crept up and huddled at the corridor entrance to a large room. Inside on a center pillar, covered in runes and sigils was a crystal that spun round and round. From one end was a cone of light that swept across the floor in the room. Stepping closer I could see that there were four other pillars spaced around the room, also covered with sigils. On top of these was a cone, plated in some type of shiny metal. Across from us, was what appeared to bars, or perhaps a portcullis. While to our right were a pair of closed doors, but the scale of them was at least three to four times my own height. The light reflected off the dull metallic surface as it swept the floor in front of it.

“Don’t step into the light,” Doxx said.

Bookshelf turned to look at the old woman, “Why?”

“Probably is a trap,” she replied in an annoyed huff.

Bookshelf shook their head and opened a panel in his wrist and pulled out a slender length of steel with a yellow crystal. He flicked it, and the crystal flared to life, and the warforged eyes glowed blue. Replacing the wand, he surveyed the room for a moment before speaking again.

“Well, if that is true, there isn’t anything magical about it—” Bookshelf started.

“--He’s right. We should stay in the shadows of those columns,” The Blade said confidently. The light swept by where we stood and he quickly dashed into the room, and took position by a column to the left, his body pressed against the column in the shadows so the light couldn’t touch him.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Rosa said. “You’re afraid of a light.”

The Blade sprinted to the second column on the right, placing him closer to the barred entryway. Meanwhile, Doxx moved and took position on the right column in the same way that The Blade did.

“No. They aren’t kidding,” Rosa said exasperated. As she said that, Adrissa followed in The Blade’s path to the first column. The Blade however didn’t move as he seemed to survey the far side of the room.

Bookshelf, pulled out from leather satchel a copper wire and spoke aloud. “The Blade, what do you see? You can reply to this message.” The warforged then stood silent and nodded quietly.

Sage blinked, and then poked Bookshelf, “You might need to tell the rest of us.”

“Oh. Right. There are some levels on the central pillar opposite the gate, and out of our view from here. Inside the gate there is a room, and he thinks there are some figures within, reclining.

“Prisoners I bet! We should help them!” Rosa said, but Sage held her back.

“Are they moving? You can reply to this message.” We all stood there waiting. I used this spell a lot and I was happy for once, not to be in the middle. On the otherhand, not controlling the conversation is irksome, so I was not going to make it messier.

Bookshelf spoke again slowly, “They are very still. He thinks they are dead.”

Rosa now was getting more agitated and started to walk into the room. “This is going to take—” and she halted at the sound of Doxx’s voice.

“Rosa!” Doxx hissed from his pillar and still staying in the shadows. “Stay out of the—"

The light swept over Rosa. We all held our breaths and listened. We didn’t hear gongs, or roars or the stomping of many feet. Nothing changed about the light which spun as before unaltered in pace or color. Rosa then turned and glared at the old woman who fell silent simply shrugging her shoulders. Sage, Bookshelf and I stepped into the light and the same nonevent occurred. The light didn’t hurt me at all, and I guessed it was just a simple light and not the source of my earlier pain.

Adrissa growled in frustration, and walked to the center column, as Doxx and The Blade moved around the pillars and out of the shadows. She looked at it and said aloud, as Rosa walked past her to get to the gate, followed by Sage. “So…three levers. One probably opens a door or something.”

“Adrissa, we don’t know what—” The Blade started as Adrissa reached out and pulled the middle lever.

The light in the center of the room spun faster, and its color shifted from white and darkened to a deep red. Then I heard hissing sounds, as the conical objects elevated slighting, and spun around in place. On each one, several of the plates split open up and exposed a hollow which was quickly filled with a barbed point of metal. Each one of the cones quickly exposed four of these barbs each.

“—that will do.” The Blade finished glumly, as the room suddenly was filled with the sound of high-pitched whistles, as the barbed metal bolts were rapidly fired into our midst.

Session Notes:
Technically, it took about an hour in real time from discovering the room, to the point that combat started. Sometimes the best drama is player created, but I honestly don't think this was as intended. Adrissa and Rosa were both a little fed up on the checks to dodge the light and moving around, and trying to use message to communicate next steps becauseone wanted to make noise. So it was a relief when the shooting started.
 
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