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

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Lizard folk in disguise
Insert “Don’t Walk Towards The Light” joke here
It was more of an Indiana Jones reference that EVERYONE knows...and expected that to be the trap.

An hour was spent maneuvering around that light. The DC for dodging was unknowable because it didn't exist; just concerned DM looks when the role was low. But everyone was convinced it was dangerous, and the DM played along and let them have that fantasy.

But then Adrissa (my daughter) and Rosa had enough. Can't blame them; and at the end it added an amount of comedy to the whole thing too and we all laughed. But that comedy is outside the game. Makes retelling the story a little challenging.

Now if this was a book, this is a part where an editor tells you to cut. But since its a retelling of a campaign, the details aren't so bad...when you have context.


Lizard folk in disguise
Morte d'Cannith​

I ran towards a pillar, putting my shield over my head. Sage did much the same, but his shield was far larger, and was able to provide cover for both Adrissa and Rosa. I saw the Blade was behind another pillar, and was ducking behind it, and loosing a shot at the metal construct across from him. Glancing over I saw that his arrow struck it, and now was spinning in a circle, as the device spun, and continued to spray out more bolts across the room.

Looking back across to Doxx, I saw the old woman pressed against another pillar, seemingly safe from the constructs, when I noticed something. The device that was on Doxx’s pillar made a hissing noise. The top then elevated upwards, raising the body up on a thin stalk. Then I saw the body fall forward, until the body was at right angles compared to the ground, and it began to spin up again.

“Doxx! Above you!” I yelled. The woman looked up and mouthed something and rolled towards the middle pillar. Following him, barbed metal bolts followed her in a line, embedding deep into the floor. She continued to run, attracted more bolts from the other three contraptions.

“Just stop already,” Adrissa said between gritted teeth, as she leaned out and shot a pair of arrows, piercing the metal of one of our assailants. Inside there was the hideous sound of grinding gears and metal. I reached inside for a pair of strands and manifested a pair of violet bolts of energy, and I threw them at the same one. They both struck home, and the contraption fell over sideways, while the middle section slowed, and then stopped spinning.

I smiled a moment, and I heard the noise of a spinning construct grow louder. I barely had time to raise my shield up over my head, as number of bolts bounced off the metal. The impacts caused my arm to ache as I held it in position. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cold white beam from Bookshelf, streaking overhead, I saw chunks of ice fall to the ground, after bouncing off my shield. Meanwhile The Blade fired two more arrows at the same device, as he ran to the middle pillar for new cover. As he did so I heard the sounds of broken springs snapping apart followed by a grinding noise which quickly stopped.

“Don’t these things have a limit to the number of barbs they can shoot at us?” Rosa asked as she crouched low beneath the Juggernaut.

“An excellent quest—ARGH” Doxx responded, as she batted a barb out the air with her staff, only to have one lodge into her arm. Sage stepped out a moment, and from his forearm the three yellow crystals spun around it, each launching a bright bolt of light, and each unerringly striking the construct. Adrissa followed up with a pair of arrows from. The pair pierced the metal skin and disappearing inside, causing it to stop rotating. The sounds of whirs and clicks and broken springs faded, along with the echo’s of hundreds of the barbed projectiles, tumbling around on the floor.

“Anyone else hurt?” Rosa asked as moved to tend Doxx’s wounds.

“I believe…the rest of us were lucky and avoided harm,” I said surveying the others. Lowering my shield reluctantly, I walked over to the center pillar to examine the levers. Looking at the trio, the right most one was down, and the other two were up. “Adrissa, which lever did you pull?”

“The right one,” she answered.

“Let’s not pull that one again then,” Doxx said rubbing his healed shoulder.

“Of course not! The middle one is the obvious choice!” ‘The Blade said as he reached past me and pulled the lever. Too late, I slapped at his hand away as I heard the sound of metal-on-metal grinding, echoing throughout the room.

“We should probably refrain from pulling levers until we do a cursory examination,” Sage pointed out as he placed his shield in front of himself, and pivoted, watching the tops of the pillars again.

“Why would anyone build a set of levers where, two of them trigger the same trap?” The Blade admonished. “That would be insane.”

“What about a different trap?” Bookshelf asked calmly.

The Blade blinked and was silent for a moment before shaking his head, “That doesn’t even make sense. A second trap is worse than the first by definition. You obviously use your best trap in a room. So, there isn’t a point to having a second.”

“Let’s just not pull the third, until we know what that one did,” I said turning my head to listen. It wasn’t long, when I turned to the sound of metal sliding against each other, as the portcullis descended deeper into the rock, and opening up the rom beyond. As the rods sunk in level with the floor, Sage and I with shields in front of us stepped inside, with the others close behind. All except ‘The Blade’ who remained by the pillar.

Sage pivoted his shield, causing the light to sweep across the ground. There, on straw mats, lay the bodies of men and women, perhaps eight in all. As Sage kept watch around me, I knelt over to look at one.

It was a woman, with dirty blond hair. She lay curled up on her side in a fetal position, her face contorted in pain. Her skin was pulled taunt, and her eyes were sunk deep into her sockets. Her stomach was distended, and her limbs were painfully thin. Her arm showed signs of being cut multiple times, and the stain of blood covered her forearm. This was a face of death I was familiar with, and it was an unpleasant way to die. But then noticed in the straw, the edge of a book. I first, closed her eyes with my hand as I whispered “Please ensure her passing beyond was uneventful. I then slowly pulled the text away, sliding it out of the straw and out from underneath her. Standing I opened it and started to read the contents.

“What happened to them?” Doxx asked me.

“They weren’t fed or watered or watered much,” I said choking on the words. “So, they were starving. It’s a hard way to die, but that’s not all. She’s been bled and then left here to…well.”

“These also look like they were bled nearly dry,” Rosa said examining the others. “Treated like animals,”

“Less than,” Bookshelf corrected, before the warforged moved over to me. “What’s the book?”

“Well…assuming that these words are months…it’s a journal. It says…”

Rhaan 14th,

This all seems like a wild goose chase. First some hedge hipster comes out of the wilds months ago asking about a book, and now that same hipster says he found one of the stations mentioned?

The “Great Dhakaani Machine” is just mad scribbling by an idiot gnome from Trolenberg. I don’t believe the Dhakaani built anything resembling what was described in his book. It doesn’t make any sense. First it is nowhere near where the Dhakaani Empire once stood. Yes they ruled the continent, but that is like saying that Galifar ruled the Demon Wastes; In name only.

So here I am in Denning getting stocked up on camp supplies for this folly of ‘Research’ I’ll have to see about bringing a keg of the ale with me.

Rhaan 17th,

The damned druid was right about something! It took some of the treemen several days to clear the boulders hiding the passage below. It clearly wasn’t natural. But it wasn’t like a mine tunnel either. This was finely carved; the details are extraordinary, if a little odd. It seems decorative, but there is so much of it everywhere. Why bother?

And why here? This is still in the middle of nowhere. It also amazing that Finn found this place. But it seems being a druid has advantages in changing forms and squeezing between the rocks.

We moved our camp from the outside to two adjacent rooms just down the main passage. From there we will continue exploring the depths.

Sypheros, 2nd,

The door that blocked us at the bottom took some doing to breach. The treemen tried beating it open, but the stone was having none of that. Fortunately, there are other ways, and the crumbling door opens up the tunnel below. Nothing that a quality artificer can’t handle.

Beyond was a large chamber with only a single of side chamber. The amount of dust and debris is incredible, like fine sand from a beach. It’s going to take weeks to remove it. There is another large metal door, blocking our way, and it appears to be locked. But with all this sand, it will have to wait.

Aryth 23rd ,

I will never go to the beach again. This stuff gets everywhere! My small clothes itch all the time.

Fortunately, Finn was able to help us move the sand out quickly; his stamina is great, but his servants are even better. It took a lot of time, and magic but the sand is out. I do look forward to his return, if for nothing else he would be a nice change of conversation. Golen is a bore, and I swear the only reason Wryna is here is…well at least she doesn’t hurt my eyes to look at compared to Golen’s ugly face. Why she spends time with him is beyond me. She’s like his trophy researcher.


We are now ready to work on the door below; it is intricate series of mechanism and enchantment. Finn said we should wait for his return before working it. I have to agree with that assessment. It is like nothing I have ever seen before. But when I performed the ritual, I was amazed on the raw magical power I saw. Not the door itself, but beyond it! It was almost blinding, and that is with a magically constructed door in the way.

So, we wait. I’m going to investigate this place more thoroughly.

Vult 17th,

I have had more time to look at the ruins while Finn is gone. I have come to the firm conclusion that the book was wrong. This isn’t Dhakaani. This is far older. Maybe from the Age of Giants. The rooms are large enough, and we don’t really know much about that time. The Giants certainly left Xen’Drik at various times on their own business, so it is possible.

But I am certain about one thing; this place is here not because it was close to a city or civilization. It is here because the power behind the door is connected to a manifest zone bound here. Ergo, this is here, because the zone is here.

If I had to guess the zone is one that creates energy; so Mabar is out as is Risa. Fernia or Irian perhaps. We won’t know until the door is open and we have some protection in place.

Vult 23rd,

Finn knows more that he is telling. He strode in today and produced a what he called ‘a lesser key.’ That might have been the most useful thing that came out of that book. I know he read that book as well, but actually have one of the keys is remarkable. The book said several things about the greater and that there were a number of lesser keys. I should have convinced Framlin to let it go with us, but he wouldn’t budge. Damned bureaucrat.

But, the key safely opened the door, but only after reducing the energy within. I am guessing that without a key, most magical defenses would have been annihilated. But even at reduced levels, it is now clear that this a very powerful manifest zone for Irian.

But the room is extraordinary; a maze of tubes and what appears to be living material, all bound into a lattice around the zone. On one edge is a platform. I almost thought it was an altar of some type, but it appears to be a broken control panel. Smashed by a part of the ceiling collapsing.

Fortunately, the piping can be fixed, and I’ll look at the panel and see if it can be repaired. If Finn is right, this is an Eldritch Machine. What it does is a bit unclear, but I am sure after we make repairs it will be a simple matter to understand.

Finn has brought someone new with him a woman named Tracia to help us. She has some more plant servants and some other people with her. If they can do the heavy lifting so much the better.

Zarantyr 7th,

I was wrong. The control panel isn’t just a panel. It is also an altar. One with sacrifices made. Blood is a key component, but as I quickly discovered it is a catalyst, not fuel. Once the machine is powered and primed, it will just run. It just takes a bit of blood magic to start the process.

The panel is nearly repaired. It took a while to get a Siberys shard of the proper shape to fit. The controls are working, although we are all a little tired from the work. The blood required isn’t large, but we have all needed to give a bit. Tracia and her friends included. Once we understand how to trigger the final sequence, we will be able to turn it on fully.

But I did make another discovery today. Actually two. The first is that this not an Eldritch Machine. It is a PART of one. A very large one. Once we fitted the piping together, the energy generated by the zone was quickly siphoned off and directed elsewhere. The energy isn’t staying here. A quick assence with magical detection showed that the siphon was taking energy away from here, to someplace north. But I also found that there was some resistance on the flow. This tells me that there are other contributors as well, pushing energy on the same pipeline.

The second thing I learned, is that Tracia knows this, but is lying about it. She’s a terrible liar in fact. I think she does know what this machine is for. Or at least whatever Finn has told her, and he has told her more than us.

But I’m not sure it is a problem; Finn has helped Cannith in this great discovery. Together we will be famous!

Olarune 8th,

I don’t have much time.

I was so wrong.

About this machine.

About who built it.

About what was originally for.

About what it does now.

About what it will do soon.

About Tracia.

About Finn.

I sit here in this cage, waiting to die.

The others are already dead, exsanguinated to start the machine up and left to starve and rot.

I am next.

I am the last.

I am so sorry.

I write vainly in hopes that someone stops this.

Not Finn.

Not what he is going to do.

But about the unintended consequences he will unleash.

May the Silver Flame protect us all.

Sylannis d’Cannith

I looked at the others confused, “When is ‘Olarune’?” I asked.

“It’s the current month,” Sage answered. “Today is what, the 17 th ?”

“It’s’ the 18th,” Adrissa said somberly. “I kept track.”

“This happened when we under your ranch then,” Doxx said thinking for a moment.

“Finn…Morrigon Finn. He’s been planning this a while.” Rosa said quietly.

Bookshelf turned to look at the diminutive druid, “These druids, or at least that one knew you. What’s going on?”

Rosa’s eyes widened in alarm, “They…they’re wrong. I don’t know them. I don’t know why they claim to. And I certainly don’t know anything about this. This is…evil. There isn’t another word for it.”

I looked at Rosa my brow furrowed, “I believe you when you say that. But you do know something don’t you?”

“Just that Finn was a member of a tolerant group of Children of Winter.”

“Not anymore,” Sage said dissatisfied.

“I never met him…ever…my…friend did though, and she…had a relationship with him a long time ago.”

“So, what? They drifted apart?” I asked.

“Yes…but…she mentioned he got married I think…but it’s been a while. But that’s all I know!” Rosa said defensively, speaking faster and faster in desperation.

“I’m..I’m sorry. I just feel we are missing something,” I said frustrated. “But there is only one thing to do.” As I looked at the others. “We need to get that door open.”

Session notes:
Yeah...the light wasn't the problem. Levers though? Should have had a sign that said 'Wet paint' But we begin to see the edges of a plan and a direction to go. But first...down.
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Lizard folk in disguise
A Key Lost

I went to work, and laid each of the Cannith housemates to rest. Adrissa helped me, as I placed coppers on each eye and whispered a quick litany for each of them. I felt a little guilty in rushing and doing them all as a group, instead of each one alone. But I was sure that my god understood; the needs of the living were urgent and pressing. My ministrations of the dead was important perhaps more to me I supposed. The dead here might not have cared that I performed what I believed to be a sacred duty. I had no idea what these people believed to be their afterlife. I knew that many believed that their souls travelled to Dollurh, but Sylvannia I wasn’t sure about. Her writings mentioned something about the “Silver Flame” and while I had heard about that in passing, I didn’t know what it meant.

“Sage, what is the ‘Silver Flame’ exactly?” I asked.

Sage turned to look at me and shrugged, “It’s a belief founded in Thrane. Bookshelf might know more as he spent more time there.”

Bookshelf’s head snapped to attention at the mention of their name, “Well…yes I did. But I was never a ‘Flamer’; they didn’t really encourage warforged to be members. But they were founded by an event where a human, Tira Miron bound an overlord of darkness and flame into a ‘Silver Flame.’ Since then the church has built a city around it called Flamekeep, and the Speakers of the Flame have resided there ever since. But people that die believe they join the Flame, and fight evil as part of it.”

“And not go to Dollurh…is that right?”

“I suppose,” Bookshelf said. “We only were taught that mages with ‘divine’ type spells were different that wizards. The theology behind the religions were never important.”

“We were built as…tools for the war,” Sage informed me. “A tool should care nothing for why an acolyte from Flamekeep does what they do; just that they can. Anything else was seen as irrelevant.”

“And now? Is it relevant to you…either of you now?”

Bookshelf was silent a moment as Sage and they looked at each other. “Not really. It seems illogical that a being of such might cares about people. They certainly don’t care about me. I doubt the gods are real.”

“However, the Flame is real,” Sage said. “Tira did bind something; all the military texts describe how the forces of the era were insufficient to halt the overlord. Visiting Flamekeep, pilgrims can see the Flame itself. But as to their beliefs, or the less concrete ones of the Sovereign Host or any of the rest; it seems too abstract to be useful.”

“But this…overlord that Tira bound. It was real?” I asked trying to make sense of the story.

“It was,” Sage said. “Supposedly a creature from the earliest days. And supposedly not the only one, but I’m not up that history. Wasn’t important in training, and I doubt any texts exist on strategy or tactics.”

“History was a distraction, unless immediately useful,” Bookshelf concurred.

I looked at the bodies in the room and sighed. I really felt I should know more, understand more so I inter them properly. But I knew that I was ignorant about a lot of things here. These religions, plus the Blood of Vol were so different from what I knew. And while I had more than just faith, I had some measure of proof about my god’s existence it made me wonder. Their faiths were truly abstract belief; they had no proof. No events like the ‘Godswalk’ on Toril. No chosen. Power from the gods was without question, as a god would revoke if they were slain or did not feel a person was worthy of their power. But here…I wasn’t sure. Rosa and I supposed Morrigon venerated the wild nature of the world. Each was I hoped in opposition in terms of morality. But that morality didn’t impact their ability to work magic. Was it the same for others that claimed to have divine power?

Having no answers, I left the impromtu mass grave, and returned to the room with the revolving light. I then turned to the large door on the side of the room. Unlike the stone work here, the door had seen better times. Its metal surface was pitted and corroded, with tears of bright purple streaks dripping from the larger ones. The metal surface was dark, with a dim purple sheen. On the center of it was a runed disc, that was separated into five distinct rings. Stepping closer I looked at the runes, but none of them meant anything to me as the letters were unfamiliar. I placed my hand on the Apochcrypha and started to whisper to myself to see if these sigils meant anything. Meanwhile the others moved and stood beside me.

“That’s a big door,” Doxx said pointing out the obvious.

“What’s with the runed circles?” Rosa asked, wiping away tears from her eyes from the graves below.

“It looks like a lock mechanism,” Sage said. “Turn each ring to a position and it opens.”

“Logical. But what is that?” Bookshelf asked as they pointed to an indentation in the middle, which had a finger width shaft extending into the middle of the door.

“A keyhole?” Adrissa said squinting at it. “It’s higher up than most of us can reach.”

“Sounds about right for the rest of the furnishings.” Doxx said.

“How do we—”

“There is only one possible answer!” The Blade said triumphantly as he pulled the last lever on the pillar.

“What did you—“ Rosa started as the humming and grinding of metal echoed throughout the room. We all looked around in dread, waiting for more barbed bolts to be fired at us in quick succession. We waited as the sounds finally ground to a halt, and with a final clang the noise ceased.

“There could have been another trap you fool!” Doxx said stomping over and waggling her staff at The Blade. “You could have—” and as Doxx started to tear into The Blade, the room went darker, as the spinning light finally was extinguished.

“See?” The Blade beamed. “I told you a second trap would be ludicrous and a waste of a good trap.”

“That doesn’t help us now does—” Doxx continued, unsatisfied that she couldn’t fully vent her frustrations.

As Doxx was yelling, Bookshelf took a closer look at the door, and they reached forward and pushed on the metal plate. To their surprise, the door moved easily, swinging away from us. It made no noise as it moved aside and exposed a tunnel descending down, with more light pulsing on the walls. The door swung and finally halted with a dull boom, which Doxx failed to heed.

“—You’re pulling random levers, while we stare at—” Doxx sputtered.

“—Doxx—” I said.

“—This massive obstruction to our—”

“—Doxx honey?” Rosa said calmly tring to get her attention.

“—progress. Can’t you stop a moment and—”

“DOXX!” Several of us raised our voices, which got the old woman to turn around and blink in surprise.

“Ah…good. Glad we fixed that.” Doxx said putting on a smile. “Shall we?”

I rubbed my temples, trying to get ahead of the dull pain I knew I was going to feel.

Gos? Nothing behind?

--Oh hey! You REMEMBERED ME.

Gos…please…not now.

--But yeah. Nothing but fine grains of dust, the occasional burst of planar energy and more dust.

Well it can’t be…wait. Planar?

--Yep planar. I know we are near a doorway somewhere. The borders raises up my hackles.

I’m going to recall you.

--Huh? Wait wait! Don’t—

I quickly yanked on a white and black strand and pulled Gossamer to me, and dismissed him from the world. The last thing I wanted was for him to be stranded on the wrong side of a door. “Sorry Gos…” I muttered, and we then started to move down the tunnel deeper into the rock.

It was a fairly steep descent, and we moved slowly to avoid slipping. My boots were well worn and held their grip we enough. As we descended with the driftglobe up behind us, and might light on Sage’s shield ahead, I noticed that I could now see the pulsing light on the tunnel walls, streaking away from the bottom. And I swore, I could even feel it and I wasn’t even touching the walls. I swallowed and looked around, feeling on edge.

The others seemed to share my unease, Doxx looking around constantly, while The Blade and Adrissa kept their bows ready. Sage’s back was to me, but his arm blade was behind him, ready to whip it forward in an attack. That left Rosa who looked around furtively, like a cornered rat. I found myself watching her most, as she was beyond just jumpy; she looked terrified.

I moved closer to her and tapped her on the shoulder and leaned down. “Are you alright?”
She shook her head quickly; “I feel…feel… exposed. I don’t know why. Something on the edge of my memory that I can’t place..” She turned to look me in the eye with a wan smile. “I’m sure its just me dear. Don’t worry about me hon.”

I sighed to myself and looked ahead. Her words did nothing to calm me. Like her I felt like I was missing something. But for me it wasn’t an elusive memory. As we descended, I could feel the strands withing me, vibrate. Each one twitched in response to the pulses of light pushing past us in the tunnel. And what I first thought was my imagination, I quickly realized it wasn’t an illusion. The separation of each pulse was getting narrower, but they were also stronger. Each pulse pushed on the strands more and more as we continued. Suddenly, the runes in the hallways started to light up, in a single wave from the depths, and then passed us. But unlike before the runes only dimmed a bit.

“Something is happening below; we should be ready for a confrontation,” Sage said, voicing the obvious thought in our heads. Staring ahead, I finally saw that the tunnel opened up into a large chamber. Sage turned and gestured at his shield and nodded at Bookshelf, “Lights.” I flexed, and felt the energy flow up my spine, and the light on Sage’s shield winked out, while Bookshelf recovered their driftglobe. With our lights out, the lit runes on the wall became very clear, and the pulsing was more pronounced. Sage gestured and pointed at the walls of our tunnel, and we then split up and pressed ourselves against the sides of the tunnel, and we stepped forward into the room.

The chamber was large, and it reminded me of the music hall in the Civic Festhall in Sigil. The roof was arched, and the floor leveled off into flat arcs, that continued to descend. As they descended, the room narrowed to a dais, which had a stone structure that looked like a lectern. Behind it was a large metal door, that gave off a dull boom as it closed, and the sounds of metal scraping came from the door. On the floor around the door, were the remains of vegeogres, their corpse looked to have been seared with flames. Near them, lay the much more human corpses of men dressed in homespun robes which were covered in soot. But standing next to the pile of bodies, were a pair of large awakened trees and another pair of vegeogres. But in front of them, behind the stone lectern stood a woman.

She was wrapped in leathers that were dyed a deep red, and were festooned with bones and feathers. Her bare arms were covered in marks, either tattoos or war paint. Her face was like wise adorned with stripes that gave the impression of a leering skull on her face, surrounded by a shock of black hair with streaks of blonde. Next to her a staff leaned against the podium, from which hung bits of bone. She looked up at us, and smiled. She turned something on the podium with her hand, and then withdrew a small crystal, the width of a thumb and the length of a dirk.

“Finally…Morrigon said you would come. But its too late.” She said with a shrill voice, her lips was curled into a snarl. As she spoke, she casually tossed the crystal behind her, which hit the stone floor and shattered. She then continued, reaching for her staff which she cradled in her arms, “But he was surprised to see a former colleague to be one to move against him. As am I. Did your time on the edge of town soften you?” she spat.

Rosa stepped forward and addressed her. “Tracia. It has been a while since I last saw you. This is a bit extreme though; harvesting people and turning them into fungus? Marching on towns? All to bring forward winter?”

Tracia smirked and tilted her head looking at Rosa, “You seemed to understand once. Don’t you remember our last words together in the Gloaming? ‘Sometimes the world needs a push’ ? ”

“Let us say I have had a lot of time to consider what I said, and perhaps a retraction is in order,” Rosa said, her voice quavering.

Tracia’s smirk was now a vicious grin. “Now I understand. Thank you for that clarity of what has…passed between us,” She said speaking slowly and deliberately.”

Rosa suddenly stiffened and looked around herself nervously. I was unclear on what the significance of what was just said. And looking at the faces of the others, it was clear that for most of them, whatever was said was a puzzle. But there was an exception; Doxx.

Doxx, looked at Rosa with confusion, the old woman’s brow knitted together as she stared at Rosa in disbelief. I could see her mouth a word, but I couldn’t be sure what. Rosa lips quivered a moment as she stammered, “Whatever; what’s behind the door?”

“This?” Tracia waved at the door behind her, keeping her eyes locked on us. “The last part of a machine, long quiet. And now…active once again. Soon it will provide us everything we need. And then the long delayed winter can begin. Somehow, I bet you would want to do something stupid, like disable it. But as I already said, it’s too late. The key is broken, and only Morrigon has another.”

“We will have to pay them a visit then,” Sage said. “I’m sure Morrigon will talk to us.”

Tracia shook her head, “By the time you reach him, winter will be here. But enough of this pointless banter and poor attempts of subterfuge. Time for all of you to die!” And her eyes rolled back into her head as she started to chant.

The Blade and Adrissa shared a single thought at that moment, and each loosed an arrow. They whistled across the room, heading towards the druid, when they suddenly stopped just in front of the dais Tracia stood at. The arrows tumbled to the ground harmlessly, as the duo swore. Doxx started to run down towards Tracia, and Adrissa tore after him, discarding her bow. Sage, started to thunder down to the druid, as the trees and giant fungus started to lumber to intercept. It was then, that Tracia had finished her spell and a beam of white moonlight descended from above, and struck Rosa.
She screamed, and fell to her knees, as wisps of smoke drifted from her body. But as I watched, her form shifted. Where once Rosa stood, now was short wiry figure, who wore a featureless face with an indistinct nose, and slightly sunken cheeks. The color of her hair quickly washed away, and became white as ice. She opened her eyes, which now looked like black pools and her face was contorted in anger.

“I thought so,” Tracia said triumphantly. “So nice to see you again…Rhys.”

Session notes:
Players accused Melisandre about secrets. Of course, she knew things. She knew things that players wanted to be a secret. In this case there was a lot of elaborate stuff going on, including hiddened character sheets on Dndbeyond with the public 'Rosa' and the private 'Rhys' This one required a bit of work between the player and the DM to pull off. The surprise was well worth it.
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Lizard folk in disguise
Becoming Rosa - 12/12/2021

I didn’t really have time to process what had happened. Rosa’s form had changed, but that was all. Right now, I was far more concerned with the melee deeper in the room. I flexed and pulled on some strands and tried to wrap them around a tree and vegeogre. But I could feel the strands strike something. The sensation was like a whip striking me, as my arms felt on fire as the strands were repulsed. I gritted my teeth, and hoped I wouldn’t regret my next move, as I ran directly towards the melee. My thinking was simple; find a way past the barrier and then use the strands.

Bookshelf saw my attempts to throw magic at the problem, and quickly followed me. As we got about half way across the room, they reached out their hand and pointed. The frosty white beam came close to one of the trees, but it was stopped about three paces away. Noting that, he made to continue forward.

The Blade and Adrissa were already past that point. Adrissa had discarded her bow, and drew her short swords, and started to slice into a vegeogre, spraying the floor with green-black ichor as she cut deeply into its legs. The Blade shot the same target, the arrow sinking deep into the fungus’ flesh. He then pivoted and loosed another arrow at Tracia. The grin on his face was dashed, when the arrow collided with another invisible barrier, yet the arrow had indeed flew closer to the evil druid than his earlier attempt. Torn on what do next, he continued closed the distance and readied another arrow, ready to assist Adrissa. The vegeogre, twisted and pounded the ground, but Adrissa managed to avoid its wrath. The nearby tree was a little luckier, and thrashed Adrissa with its branches, and drew blood.

Doxx stood there with a dumbfounded look on her face, before turning and swinging her staff at the legs of animated tree. The sharp sound of wood colliding echoed through the chamber, and she spun around, and this time there was the sound of wood cracking, as the tree’s ‘knee’ exploded into splinters. The tree staggered, and nearly fell, while the old woman continued her assault, kicking at the gnarled legs, each one causing more of the wood to crack and split. The vegeogre next to it, swung and found its mark, causing Doxx to grunt as the wind was almost knocked out of her. A second moist fist came down hard on the old woman’s back, but she held her ground with a simple grunt.

Sage however, ignored all the lesser foes and charged onwards. The massive juggernaut thundered down the length of the room until he stood next to Tracia. He towered over the comparatively small druid and swung down his armblade. However, the druid was quick, and the blade and its green flames struck the hard stone, creating a cloud of dust and pebbles in his wake. He retracted the arm blade and prepared to strike again, unconcerned with Tracia’s simple staff.

But Tracia, had other plans. She whispered something in the same language that I heard Rosa use, when she cast a spell. From her open palms, a bright orange light appeared, and stretched into a solid beam of firelight, that bent in a slight curve. She swung at Sage, who quickly I saw throw up a shield to deflect it, but to no avail. The flame found an opening past Sage’s shield and it cut upwards from his abdomen up towards shoulder. The metal plates on Sage glowed a dull crimson and smoke and embers flew from the wood that were underneath the plates. Sage looked down at the druid and said, with stark honesty; “That actually damaged me. I will repay you in kind.”

But before either could respond to the other, when Tracia was almost bowled over by Rosa. She took the form of a large black bear and slashed at Tracia, who managed to only get a superficial scrape, as she dodged the jaws seeking her flesh. Rosa roared in frustration, as she attempted to maul Tracia, to no avail.

I watched this as I stood next to Adrissa and focused on the strands again. This time I managed to get a pair of loops to surround the Awakened tree and the Vegeogre. I could feel the dark energies lash at them, flaying away their whatever life force that held them together. Meanwhile, just behind me I heard some muttering, and I saw a bead of light, fly over my head.

“Oh sodding Baat—” I started as the flames erupted all around us. I but I only felt warmth caress my skin. My flesh wasn’t burned or marked at all, and nor was any of the rest of us. The vegeogres and the trees however were set ablaze. The awakened pine needles and branches were aflame as embers scattered across the room. The vegeogres skin was seared to a crisp, which cracked and flaked off in large chunks, hitting the stone floor in smoking heaps. I then heard a dull voice speak, “Not surprised it didn’t break through the existing barriers.” I turned to look at Bookshelf with confusion, as I had no idea why I wasn’t on fire, or at least in pain.

That would have to discussed later, as the sounds of blades slashing and arrows flying came from Adrissa and The Blade respectively. Adrissa continued to cut at the legs of the vegeogre, now seared by the Bookshelf’s blast. She cut and swung and swung again, cursing at her foe, spraying more fluid across the floor. It staggered for a moment, when The Blade shot it with an arrow, which strike echoed in in the chamber with an explosive snap. The Vegeogre well flat on its front, allowing The Blade to rush over and at close range shot a second arrow into its midsection, causing it to quiver for a moment, before collapsing into a lifeless pile of fungus and rot.

As it died, the awakened near the pair was flailing wildly, its crown of needles and branches ablaze in a column of fire that scraped the ceiling with fingers of smoke. It stumbled and swatted The Blade, who grunted and rolled with the blow. It then tried to move past him towards Bookshelf, but Adrissa cut at its root like legs, her blade cleaving away more wood from it as it staggered towards the warforged. But it wasn’t able to reach its target, because I moved and blocked its path before it could reach them.

The Awakened swung and I felt the heavy wood batter my shield, causing me to stagger a moment. Looking over the top of my barrier I threw a dark strand and created a miasma around it. The dark energy, sapped at its life and even some of the fire for a moment and it halted thrashing side to side. Bookshelf then spread out his fingers, and engulphed the fallen vegeogre and the awakened in flames. This proved to be too much, and the Awakened crashed down upon the stone.

Doxx meanwhile, unleshed her fury on the vegeogre. Her staff swung and cracked the thing’s head with a wet sounding thump, before she pulled it away and thrust it back into its midsection with a resounding thud. Using the lodge staff as leverage, she used it as an acrobat might use a trapeze, and swung her body around the staff, and landed two kicks, across what might be described as a flimsy excuse for a head. She then landed on her feet and pulled her staff out from the vegeogre now covered with cracked and seared skin. It stood unmoving for a moment, before it crashed down backwards, deflating in defeat.

Tracia swung with her fiery blade of orange, and traded blows with Sage, who swung with his armblade of green flame. Both struck the other, the sound of searing flesh, contrasted to the sound of wood cracking from the heat of flames. Just as Tracia was going to swing again, the black bear sank its teeth into Tracia. She yelped in surprise and swatted at the bear, singing Rosa’s fur. Rosa returned the affection, and slapped at Tracia with an open claw, and bellowed again in pain and frustration as she was unable to land a blow.

“Enough of this,” and I ran forward closer to the druid. I pulled on a pair of dark strands and threw it at the woman. The strands took a grip, and I watched her contort in pain as she heaved and wretched. I pushed down into her dark venom and she looked at me with hatred. Her lips curled into a snarl, baring her teeth, but before she spoke, three rays of fire struck her in the chest, piercing her and erupting through to the otherwise. She stood there a moment and blinked in confusion before sinking to her knees and collapsing, the fiery sword in her hand vanishing in dark smoke.

My heart’s pumping slowed as I slowly began to catch my breath. But like the others, I turned to look at the bear in our midst, who now changed back into the familiar form of Rosa.

“So…you’re a becomer,” Doxx said, not accusingly, but as a quiet statement.

Rosa, her head bent down in shame, nodded. “It was the…best thing I came up with to keep myself safe.”

“Safe? From what?” Sage asked, confused.

Rosa looked at the juggernaut with pain in her eyes, “My name is Rhys, but I haven’t gone by that in a long time. I was accused of stealing some things in Fairhaven, and I ran. It wasn’t true, but no one trusts changelings after all. So headed into the Eldeen, and met…Rosa.:” She looked at us with tears forming in her eyes. “She healed me, and I stayed with her. She trained me in the ways of the Gatekeepers, and I was…happy. But…she kept secrets. I knew she was once a member of the Children of Winter, but…something happened. I knew she had…some type of relationship with Morrigon, and that it didn’t end well.

Rosa looked at the wall for a moment, collecting herself before continuing. “Morrigon, Tracia and some others, came to her house, and…there was an argument. I was in my natural form then, but I didn’t want to pry into what was going on. They then left. They embraced and hugged each other as old friends might. But afterwards, Rosa was crying. She was so upset that she didn’t want to talk to me at all. I thought that a good night’s rest would do us all good, and we’d talk in the morning.

“But something else happened,” Bookshelf stated quietly.

Rosa nodded and choked on the words, “The next morning I found Rosa in the garden…dead. She had a long sharp blade buried in her back. I thought at first that one of them did it. But the blade wasn’t one I saw on them before. When I pulled it out…so I could move her and bury her, it just fell apart in my hand, like it was a bad dream. At that point, I decided to hide.”

“But why as…Rosa? She was dead.” Adrissa asked confused.

“No one knew that,” Rosa said. “We lived on the edges of town, and I tended to stay out of sight. Most people didn’t know I lived with Rosa at all. So I buried her, and I knew her well enough to…become her,” she stressed looking at Doxx. “But I was still scared; if whomever did kill her, found out she was still alive…I might have been in danger. So I was planning to leave and hide. Until…”

“Until what?” I asked

“I got a letter. On the outside it was addressed to Rosa, but on the inside…it was addressed to me. The real me, Rhys. And it told me I was still at risk, and come to Karnnath to help—”

“—Melisandre!” Doxx spat. “Her hands are on everything! I want to question that woman more than ever.”

“I don’t understand how she knew who I was…or how she knew I had become Rosa at all. I had only been her for perhaps a week.” Rhys said confused.

“When was this?” The Blade demanded.. “How long ago?”

“Perhaps two, three months ago?” Rosa responded.

I thought a moment, “I was in Krona Peak about that time. I saw her there at a…inquiry. A couple of days later I met and talked to her on the Lightning Rail about this gold mine with Taryn. She mentioned she sent out letters to a number of folks. But I don’t think she ever left the Mror.”

“The Eldeen is very distant from the Mror,” Bookshelf stated. “But if you have the means, it is not impossible to get between the two places.”

The others nodded, but I turned in confusion, “How?”

“House Orien,” Bookshelf said simply. “They, for a price can teleport one from an enclave to another. I know there is on in Krona Peak. There is likely one in Varna.”

Rosa nodded, “I was on the outskirts of Havensglen. It isn’t far from Varna. And yes there is an enclave there.”

“So, it is possible she could have been near and knew, Bookshelf continued. “But it isn’t exactly a cheap form of transport.”

“She was of House…what was it…Medani,” I said. “Does that help?”

“House Medani is a very…closed house. Even to most Khoravar,” Doxx said. “But they do know things. But I want to know how she knows these things. Things are supposed to be secrets.”

“I don’t think she means us ill,” I said. “She has an agenda to be sure…but I don’t thi—”

“—I don’t like being threatened,” Doxx moved close and looked me in the eye. “And revealing secrets is a threat. I don’t like it, and she will answer for it.”

“I don’t think she is the enemy here,” I said backing up from the assertive old woman.

“A problem for another time,” Sage said. “I want to look at door and machine.”

I set to healing the others, and I noticed that Doxx and Rosa were talking in hushed tones as the rest looked over the corpses, the podium and the door. I didn’t catch all of it but heard enough:

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Doxx asked her.

“You weren’t keen on revealing yourself you remember?” Rosa replied.

“Well…you don’t need to keep secrets from me, and I won’t from you.”

I realized then, that changelings, while a scattered people, they likely formed bond between themselves easily. It probably was how they survived in a world that apparently didn’t trust them. I was personally enamored with the idea that you could just easily become…anyone else. But I could see the problem with that; If you did that, who was the real you? I didn’t really have much time to think about it when Sage spoke up.

“I found what must be what is left of the key…not much left, and it isn’t dweomerred anymore,” he said. In his hands he held a crystalline rod with a pair of colored gems on each end. The crystal was shattered, and it was incomplete in Sage’s hands, as bits and pieces were likely lost on the stone.

“The panel here…it seems only to be a lock,” Bookshelf said. “It doesn’t operate anything. But the runes on it…I am not familiar with.”

Doxx frowned, stood, and walked to the podium. Quickly she shrugged her shoulders. “Beats me. Anyone else?”

Rosa, The Blade, and Sage took a turn. Even Adrissa did after stating how would she know anything about it, and quickly proved herself correct. So at that point I figured that I might as well look at it.

I stepped up to the podium and looked, and my blood ran cold. “I can…can read this.” Just as I said that the room shook, and a droning noise came from behind us from beyond the ancient door. Dust from the ceiling fell, along with pebbles and chunks of larger stones.

I looked at the rest, a lump forming in my throat. “It’s in Infernal.”

Session Notes:
For folks who have paid attention, you might have noticed variance from the rules. Rosa d'Jorasco is a Halfling (small) and Changelings cannot change into small humanoids. The DM loosend this, allowing her to play a small changeling that could only shapechange into small humanoids. Of course, wild shape wasn't impacted.

This change threw everyone off of the possibility of a second changeling in the party. She was almost revealed much earlier in the combat with the other druid Gwen...but she made that saving through, whereas Doxx did not. In real time this reveal took probably six months.


Lizard folk in disguise

Queries about a Quarry - 12/24/21​

The cobblestones were slick with the water from the downpour. The brimstone laden rain, ran over the dirty stones, adding more filth to the roadway. The acrid smell of the muggy air was in no way an improvement to the denizens of the Lower Ward, who covered themselves in yellow stained leathers, or worse, were soaked in stained linens. All in the effort to prevent the rainwater seeping onto exposed skin and staining it instead. For the poor, it was a hopeless battle, but everyone fought it, nonetheless. Overhead, from behind the clouds of rain above, darkness was falling. Soon gangs of kids would ply their trade, selling light for folks looking to get around in the deepening dark of the metropolis. For Sigil never truly slept. The mortals might, or might try, while fiends and celestials would occupy their sleepless time as only immortals could; seeking business or diversions to fill the hours.

To the figure making their way along the street it was probably a bit of both. They made sharp clipping sounds as they strode on the wet stone, while they threaded their way through the dirty rain with a parasol of leather skin over their heads and a dark leather cloak concealing their body. Several bands of lightboys stepped up to offer the cold comfort of cheerless light. But upon seeing the face underneath the parasol, each one retreated back into their alleys with terror in their eyes, and faces pale as ash. But not without regret, as while the danger was clear, so was the temptation of jink and the smell of something sweet and forbidden, lurking under the leathers the figure wore. A smell far removed from the acrid smell of the rain.

The deluge continued unabated, as the figure worked themselves through the streets. Most of the city’s denizens had already found shelter from the storm, leaving the streets with only the occasional soul running an errand of need. Finally, the figure turned onto a small avenue, devoid of passersby’s. At the end of the road, a blacksmith’s forge was still at work, where the scent of hot brimstone was mixed with iron, ready to be forged into greensteel. But next to it, a lone fiend, covered in sharp barbs all over its body, stood and shivered in the rain as water dripped off each spike like a grim fountain. They stood next to a yawning gate with a wicked polearm in hand, ostensibly to keep undesirables from passing through, and descending the stairs beneath the street.

The fiend looked at the figure approaching, and squinted. They then spoke in the sharp tones and harsh cadence of Baator’s native tongue while their lips curled into a cruel smile. “Someone is working their way up the ranks,” they said between chattering teeth, as they made a mocking flourish towards the stairs descending. The figure did not acknowledge the lesser fiend before them, and instead strode with confidence down into the bowels of stone.

The passage down was unlit, as it curled deep underneath the streets. The figure shook and closed their parasol, shaking droplets of dirty water away from the leather. They then quickly lashed a leather cord, strapping it closed and then turned the tip, down on the flagstone and used it as a walking stick. The handle was carved to look like a closed fist, with long nails, and veins that seemed to pulse in the shifting light. The hand that clutched it was fine and pale, with long dark nails at the end of fingers covered in rings. Finally, the stairs opened into the main bar of the Tenth Pit.

Within, platforms hung from above where winged fiends drank, laughed, and relaxed. Flames across the spectrum of colors lit the room into quadrants for Baatezu, Tanar’ri, and Yugoloths, and a section where all three could mingle if they chose. Along one wall was a desk before a passage way leading downwards, where a Malebranche drew up contracts for fetes of pain below. In the center was a bar, where libations from across the planes were served. The stacks of rare bottles, went to the ceiling, as mephits flitted about pulling down one bottle or another and flew them to a grey skinned figure standing at the base of the stacks, whose luminous, unblinking eyes stared at each fiend in the room. As it did so, it waved their hand, and a mephit would fly off with the desired beverage and deposited it on the table. It otherwise stood there uncaring, until the figure approached and looked into its eyes and waited.

The bartender cocked its head for a moment and returned the look with a bored gaze. It then motioned with its hand to a door in the corner of the room. Without a word, the figure pivoted and strode towards it, as it cast off its cloak with a flourish revealing a feminine figure, as her cloven hooves made light clipping sounds as she moved across the room. Her long blonde hair was in braids, and decorated with beads of bone, while she looked about with dead eyes of solid white. Jutting from her back were the remains of wings, burned down to the bone. Yet they still flexed and moved as they would in life. Behind her, four tails swished side to side like nervous snakes, each ending with a stinger ending with a sharp barb. With her cloak over one arm, and her parasol in the other, she pushed open the door, and ascended the stairs beyond.

They led to a landing, full of furnishings of fine dark wood, and upholstered in soft red velvet. The furniture seemed to hang in mid-air over the bar, clearly seen below. The fiend smiled and walked on the invisible stone and made her way towards a couch in the center of the room. She was about to sit, when the stones on another wall parted exposing a concealed passage, and revealing a tall statuesque woman. She might have passed for human, if it weren’t for small horns crowning her head and the black feathered wings on her back marking her an Erinyes from Baator. She entered the room with a bemused look which slowly melted into a smile and opened her arms.

“I was told that a Tanar’ri wanted to make a deal and look who it is; Teiazaam! It has been a while,” she said, and she crossed over towards her peer looking Teiazaam over approvingly. “And you have done well it seems. I can still smell the smoke of your promotion to the Lilitu. Shall we drink to celebrate?”

The Lilitu smiled, “Why not Aerina? I am surprised to see you here in Shemeska’s employ. I expected to meet her and not an Erinyes as my contact, much less you.”

Aerina shrugged, as she walked to a sideboard, and poured from a crystal flask, a dark red liquid into a pair of glasses. She took them both and offered one to Teiazaam as she spoke, “My mother, Invadiah had a good run for Glasya, but she failed to meet expectations. Such a b*tch she was. Her demotion was delicious to watch but of course, reality set in as the infighting for position had begun. So, I decided to take some time away from the fracas left behind, and let things sort themselves out among my sisters before playing the game again.”

The Baatezu waved her hand nonchalantly at the lounge, “So I came to Sigil to relax, and learned busy Shemeska has been, and the how those finely manicure paws of hers are in so many interests. But lately she has been reluctant to do any deals face to face, and even if she were, doesn’t have time for every bargain or request. So, I offered my services as a liaison and am now, trading for information.” The Erinyes clinked her glass to the Lilitu’s and took a sip of the liquor. “But a little mephit told me that you are here on business for Jade. What does she want from the Marauder?” and Aerina gestured toward a pair of opposing couches, which she lay upon one of them with a fascinated smile.

“My mistress wants someone found…again. She has offered a number of soul coins from her collection to make that happen.”

Aerina arched an eyebrow, “Again? Is she growing forgetful in her lustful dotage?”

The Tanar’ri smiled at the jab and Teiazaam, reclined on her own couch as and took a sip from her glass. She licked her lips and asked Aerina a question, “Do you remember, when we last saw each other?”

Aerina nodded, “Yes. Jade had invited me to watch as Zekeal lost a bet on the corruptibility of Aasimar. He was put out but amused. I heard that he was busying squeezing a mephit for ink…literally…to take notes. I also seem to recall you were at your best as you broke that lily to retching her humbles and her reducing her to tears, and all to the delight of your mistress.”

“A fun assignation at the time,” Teiazaam smiled. But it turns out, Jade has more than a passing interest in that lily.”

Aerina arched her eyebrow at that, “That is telling. Jade has never been one to linger on a conquest; even one at her behest. Mortals are food, tools or trash; nothing to revisit twice.”

The Lilitu shrugged and sipped at her drink, “That’s what struck me. But this seems less about the little mortal’s fall, and more about her kin.”

“Go on,” Aerina said looking at Teiazaam with interest.

“Several years ago, she went positively savage with rage, as someone was supposed to keep an eye on her whereabouts, and they…lost her. Since then, she has spent a lot of influence trying to find that trollop again.”

“And let me guess? You were a traded favor?”

“To a Shator,” Teiazaam said grimacing.

Aerina almost spit out her drink, “To a Gehreleth? What possessed her to do that?”

“As one of her favorites of the moment, I could only guess that she was desperate. The humiliation I suffered at that Shator’s hands was almost more than I could stand, considering they had nothing useful to say.”

“And anyone could have told her that—”

“—I did scream that as I ran out of her boudoir to fulfill her demand.” The Lilitu responded with a hint of anger on her voice. “Fortunately, she was more interested that I obeyed, and less about my recalcitrance.”

“My mother would have plucked my wings down to the pin feathers, and then pierced my flesh with them just for looking at her in the wrong way.” Aerina took a sip, and frowned a moment. “What do they do to Succubi?”

“It’s the orchids, or you get chained to a column and get to do nothing but watch others have fun for as long as deigned necessary.”

“And so rather than that…you endured the Shator instead? Remind me not to visit. But I detect a bit of contempt on your voice. Are you not here for your mistress? You wish to perhaps…return the favor?”

Teiazaam gave the Erinyes a wicked smile, “Jade is making mistakes, and they are making Malcanthet look bad. The way I see it, she needs to spend more time in her garden with her orchids.”

“Indeed…telling me this is quite the risk though is it not?”

“Hardly. You could ask any Lilitu or Succubus under her and they would say the same, even at the best of times. Jade sabotaged her predecessor in a gamble for Malcanthet’s favor. She knows everyone plots against her.”

Aerina shook her head. “Abyssal politics at its finest. So, what did you want from Shemeska?”

“Ah the heart of it. Jade wants to find that Aasimar. She seems to have fallen into a portal has made her remote to normal scrying.”

“Did you have a means?”

The Lilitu pulled from her bosom a small vial, which held red flakes, mixed around golden fibers. “When I bathed her, I took some hair and blood.”

“Such initiative!” the Erinyes said taking the vial and peering at the contents, before returning it.

“Not really. I admit that Jade has us gather and catalog something from all our assignations.”

“Even that Shator?”

Teiazaam shivered and shook her head quickly at the memory. “Even that one. The old hag did teach valuable things…once upon a time.”

Aerina swirled the liquor in her glass a moment, “But you didn’t answer my question: what did you want?”

“I can find her; it just will take some coin. But I know that the lily’s kin are what is really important. I need to learn more about the Aasimar.”

“Information needs information in kind.”

“Jade has many secrets…many that she has kept from Malcanthet. I think Shemeska might be interested in a couple of them. But my time in Carceri was not spent with only Gehreleths. I learned some things about a particular ‘lolth. One named Shyl—”

Aerina raised a hand to her lips and just barely shook her head as she spoke; “I don’t want to know. But you are playing a dangerous game if you want to use that as leverage.”

“I’m no fool; its currency and nothing more. I placed the information in a sensory stone in the Civic Festhall. Provide me the information I seek, and I’ll tell you the stones number, and where in the memory to find what you want.”

Aerina swirled her glass and narrowed her eyes at the Lilitu, “Such a shame you were born on the wrong side of the conflict; I would have loved to have you as a partner.”

Teiazaam stuck a long finger nail and stirred her own beverage, “Well…there is something about being your own mistress that is appealing. All the glory, all th—”


The Tanar’ri nodded, “Besides, I rather like you as competition. My own kin are so…boring. And I admire your professionalism on the side,” she put her drink down on a table, and stood up. She slowly approached, and straddled the legs of the Baatezu. She wrapped her arms around the shoulders of her peer, and gently stroked and preened the dark feathers. "If…you have some free time, I would love to waste a bit of it.”

Aerina, looked into the dead eyes of the Tanar’ri, and ran her own fingers through Teiazaam’s blonde hair. “I would be willing to make the time. But I think you…should consider visiting some of the…more select services we offer here first.”

Teiazaam had a flash of anger cross her face, which quickly faded. She then looked at Aerina with confusion, “You would let business steal away this moment?”

Aerina smiled, and gripped Teiazaam’s hair tightly. She used her great strength to pull the Tanar’ri close. “Hardly,” she whispered. “I just want to see you…stimulated. Several of your kin have been here asking about that very trollop and where she might be. But we could tell them nothing about where she is. However, there is a Baatezu here in the bar that might know more things about her, if not necessarily her kin or her location. So, while I can lead you in the door…you might need to suffer a bit so I can casually ask questions for you.”

Teiazaam smiled as she let the Erinyes maneuver her head and torso, until it was her that reclined on the couch, and the Baatezu now lay on top of the Tanar’ri. “And who is this…fiend?”

Aerina ran her hand over the cheek of the Lilitu and smiled, “A Kyton by the name of Nastanal. He happens to be a master of the rooms below.”

Teiazaam’s eyebrows both lifted as she looked into her lesser’s eyes. “This will work better, if I am one on top,” she kept her hands on the Erinyes’s shoulders, and wrapped her legs around Aerina’s own. As she did so, she slowly pulled her tails from beneath her, each of the stingers oozing a bead of poison in excitement.

Oblivious Aerina shook her head, “Now now, this is my place of employm—” and the much stronger Teiazaam pulled the Erinyes’ head into her bosom and held it there with an iron grip. She smiled, as Aerina’s screams were muffled by the Tanar’ri’s breasts, as the Lilitu’s tails flailed at the open backside of the weaker fiend. Each tail left the mark of a brand on her backside, which disappeared as quickly as they were formed. Each brand caused the Baatezu to shudder, and her writhing became less and less violent. After a dozen or so lashes, the Lilitu released her embrace on the no longer struggling Aerina. Her eyes were glazed in confusion, as the Lilitu’s spell took a firm hold on the hapless Erinyes. “As…as…as you like my…my mistress,” Aerina stammered with an excited smile on her lips.

“I’m sure you’ll forgive me for this…or return the favor more likely. But I’m only doing this because I really do like you.” Teiazaam said as she opened her legs, releasing the Erinyes, and sat up. Aerina, slid down off the couch, onto her knees and then prostrated herself on the floor, her wings flat on the stone, and from between the Lilitu’s legs, she looked upwards with hunger, her eye shivering with a mixture of terror and delight.

Teiazaam nodded and her grin widened. “Now…I think you were going to let me work you over, so I can have a…professional conversation with this Kyton. Shall we go?”

Session notes:
It's been a while since we graced the filthy streets of the Lower Ward. Much of this was very much 'off screen' of course. But as I was writing it, I was well...triggered?

What I am is a sucker for continuity. I was reading Shemeska's Story Hour and I realized that, coincidently a lot of the story there, lined up with Myrai's story. Both are set post faction war for example. And reading up on some of Shemeska's misadventures, it inspired me to build up an underling to deal with the little people, and not write in Shemeska herself. It makes logical sense; Myrai isn't important enough to be on Shemeska's radar, but trading information about her 'Manged' pupil is an amusing piece of currency. Honestly the idea of trying to write in the skin of that loth terrifies me; I'm not sure I could do it justice.

So Shemesksa, if you read this, consider this an easter egg to your story, which has been an inspiration.
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Smug Bladesinger
Looks like I missed last update. Had some catching up to do. However, a return to the Tenth Pit makes for an excellent Christmas present.


Lizard folk in disguise

Stone and Flame - 1/1/2022​

Sage moved to look over the pedestal. “I do not know of a language called ‘Infernal.’ Explain.”

I looked at Sage with what I assume was disbelief, “Infernal…is the language spoken by the denizens of Baator, and other places around the lower planes. It’s really a corruption of the celestial tongue.”

“Baator? Is that a place?” Adrissa asked looking at me confused.

“It’s a…um…realm…a plane where souls go. Evil ones or ones that have sold them or have been corrupted,” I responded.

“That doesn’t follow what I know of cosmology here,” Bookshelf said, putting a hand and rubbing their chin, giving off a shrill metal on metal grinding.

“By the sovereign STOP that,” Doxx said, her hands flying to her ears.

“What? Ah right. Sorry.” The warforged said before continuing, “Souls go to Dollurh, or the Silver Flame based on most Khorvair’s belief systems. Aerenal and the Valenar elves have a different perspective I am told—”

“—Ancestry worship or preservation,” The Blade interrupted. “And not relevant here.”

“Yes,” Bookshelf agreed. “So…what type of creatures are in this ‘Baator’ then Myrai?”

I blinked and stammered, “Well…they’re immortal fiends. All of them. Baatezu are the current rulers, but there are other ones that live there. Night hags, some Yugoloths I suppose, some of the Raksasha—”

“Wait…Raksasha?” Sage asked.

“I don’t know much about them,” I admitted. “I’m familiar with the common fiends. I only know of them by name. Supposedly they have heads of great cats like tigers and are difficult to work magic on. And their hands are backwards!” I remembered at last. But I watched the two warforged look at each other.

“The most ancient past of Eberron is called the ‘Age of Demons,’ where the ‘Overlords’ ruled the world. But their servants are…as you describe. Fiends.”

“Then…this place—” Rosa said, looking around fearfully.

“Predates everyone here,” The Blade noted. “However, that fact is completely useless. What does the pedestal actually say?”

“Oh, a moment,” I said, and I started to read the script that was in raised relief, on some type of purple sheened metal. I was strange how while the details of the script were different, the complex order behind the words were still there as much as any Baator contract. “It’s mostly phrases; ‘Seal’,’Unseal’,’Prime’,’Activate,’ and…this,” and I pointed to a cylinder that was spinning slowly, with what was a list of numbers. And there is a phrase here, covered in soot.”

I stared to rub away the grime away from the panel and. It wasn’t coming off, so I pulled on a light strand and used it instead to clean away the surface, and I read what I saw as I did. “Full activation will cause backwash of energy. All lessers will be eradicated within the site.”

“What’s a ‘lessers’” Doxx asked turning to the door and looking at it apprehensively.

“Well…lower orders of fiends…and mortals I suppose.” I ventured.

“Mortals?” Adrissa asked her eyes growing wider.

“Yes…us and these numbers…are decreasing…fast.” I said after thinking for a moment. We looked at each other, and then in the silence, we were aware that of a humming growing louder. Turning our heads to the door we could see just around the edges where it sat in the rock, a faint light peeking through the seams.

“I…I think we should—” Started Doxx.

“—RUN!” Rosa said, turning and clutching her hands close to herself. As she did hair fell away and revealed scales and feathers cresting around an elongated neck. Her feet grew claws, with a long central claw that clicked the stone rapidly as it ran, streaking ahead of us.

“Sodding—” I said, and I tore after the lizardlike Rosa, as did we all. Behind us the sound of the humming was growing louder, and now I could feel the stone below us shake. Next to me Bookshelf’s metal feet echoed on the stone, while behind both of us, Sage’s heavy feet crushed the stone underfoot. The Blade ran quickly and near silently pulling ahead but trailing the old woman Doxx. Just ahead of me the young girl, Adrissa was running, and I was barely able to keep up with her.

As we ran, the noise could be felt as we ran up the sloping passages. The vibration shook dust away from the ceiling at first, but as we ran for our lives, occasional chunks of rock fell from above. I pulled my shield off my arm and used it to cover my head as I held it over my head as I ran. My lungs burned, and my legs were already aching as we continued to run upwards. The father and higher we ran, the worse it was as the tunnels were altered by the magic below us.

Rocks fell from shattered parts of the ceiling, smashing into the stone below and cracking the floor. I felt slow as I watched the faster members of our group simply scamper ahead of myself and somehow more fragile compared to the warforged. My arms ached from the impact of rocks bouncing off my shield. The runes on the walls now no longer simply pulsed with light, but now were a solid shine, and they steadily grew brighter as we ran upwards. As they did I could…feel the energy around me, almost as if I had touched them like I had before. As they grew brighter, the energy scraped across me, and my skin felt raw. My mind raced wondering if it would be rock, or the strange eldritch forces that would do me in first.

More of the tunnel was falling apart behind us, when a rock fell on my shield, and knocked me off balance. I fell to the ground and my shield skidded across the floor. Then I saw that ray of hope; the sunlight from above lighting the way ahead of me. I heard the sound of stone and metal scraping together, and I felt the cold metallic hand grasp my arm and lifted me as if I weighed nothing. Sage pulled me close, and we ran together with me under his shield. Next to us, Bookshelf ran as well, now holding my shield. I pushed myself harder, wanting to feel the sun on my face, and not the strange warmth coming from the walls.

I felt the warm wet air from the mouth of the tunnel first, and then the sun on my skill. My lungs felt on fire, and my legs felt as if the bones had melted, as I collapsed onto the ground my heart feeling like it would burst. Not far from me lay a prostrate Adrissa, who also panted heavily. I closed my eyes and just breathed, not caring about anything else. I felt the thump on the earth of my shield next to me, and I heard Bookshelf say. “That’s a problem.”

Next to me I heard Adrissa stir, “Oh crap! Don’t look at them! They’re basilisks!”

“Sodding Baator,” I muttered. Pulled myself up on my knees, keeping my eyes shut. I felt next to me and found my shield and pulling it in front of me I opened my eyes, and quickly pulled on the straps, tightening it around my arm.

“Why aren’t they coming towards us?” Doxx hissed somewhere to the left of me.

“Because, they are eating a kill,” The Blade said as I heard him pull an arrow out of his quiver. “Adrissa, what do you know of these things?”

“My dad said to never get close with them, and shoot them,” Adrissa said also making sounds of drawing an arrow from a quiver.

“Did he say how far to stay?” Doxx asked between clenched teeth.

“No. He did say they are slow though.”

“Well, they are blocking the way out so—” Doxx started, when I heard the heavy footsteps of the juggernaut pounded away from the group.

“Sage! What are you doing!” Bookshelf said, as I stood up raising my shield to block my view.

“Not looking at them!” The warforged thundered. “So, start shooting!”

Next to me I could hear Adrissa and the Blade loose shots. Turning my head, I saw the Blade was backing up towards the rocky rubble that now blocked the tunnel leading down. I heard the arrows sink deeply into flesh followed by angry grunts and hisses. It was followed by the sound of something like claws or teeth on metal, and the sounds of a blade swinging and scraping against tough hide. Nearby I heard Rosa’s voice finally, which I assumed meant she wasn’t a lizard anymore. “I can’t fix it if you are petrified!”

“I guess I don’t need to see them to kill them,” I muttered and keeping the shield in front of me I walked into fray. I reached out with dark strands and felt carefully. The warforged Sage’s life I could tell easily. It was strong, vibrant and, for lack of a better word, ordered. So that meant the rest were fair game. I looped around dark strands around them and set forth a miasma around them. More hissing, and I was then attacked as I saw the lower jaw chew on the bottom of my shield, attempted to wrench it away from my arm. I pushed the shield down so its head couldn’t sneak underneath and backed up a bit, as I heard more arrows whistle by, some of them sinking into the lizards.

Nearby I heard another whistle, and I saw a dagger land near my feet. It was followed very quickly by Doxx swearing something I couldn’t quite make out. Then I heard quite clearly Bookshelf shout, “Ground!” I turned to look behind me and I saw streaking from their hand a bead of light. I sank down and hid behind my shield and waited. Soon we were enveloped in flames, but I couldn’t feel the fire around me, as Bookshelf somehow managed to aim the blast so we were on the edges. I could then smell burnt wood, grass and skin as the hissing and growling increased. The one that was gnawing on my shield thrashed back and forth trying to get to the tender morsel beyond it, me. I lashed out with more dark strands, and I could feel the life force of one fade away as the Miasma tore at their bodies. I then heard some more arrows and then the jaw on my shield, released it and fell away with a thump. From behind us I heard Adrissa say, “It should be safe now. Stab them with a sword first though.”

“Anyone hurt?” Rosa asked.

I raised my hand. “The tunnel tried to kill me, but nothing from these.”

“I agree with that. The tunnel was more dangerous.” Doxx said and pointed to collapsed tunnel.

“Well, our investigation then is complete.” The Blade said with a note of satisfaction. “We can return with the information about this place and see what they can make of it.”

Nodding in agreement, I warily stood up straight and looked at the gore in front of me. Three lizards lay there, each one with scorch marks, arrows lodged deeply into their bodies, and one even had a deep slash from Sage’s armblade. But on the ground were a pair of stone forms, and one form that was half stone and half flesh, which the trio looked to be feeding on. The victims appeared to be humans. I sighed and knelt down by the one that was partially flesh, and was about to start a blessing, when I realized that he was wearing a uniform. Glancing at the other two, who were now stone I realized that they all wore the same type of helm, which had a distinct style. Each helm had a faceplate that covered the right side of their faces, while leaving the left exposed. But I didn’t remember seeing these helms from the town or from the warlords’ troops.

“Hey, these seem to be solders,” I said pointing at the corpse in front of me. “But I don’t remember this livery from town.”

Sage withdrew is arm blade and turned the man’s head back and forth looking at the helmet. “This would indicate an elite troop of some type. Most of the militaries don’t bother with this distinction on a large scale.”

“Oh, by the Sovereign, no!” Doxx said as she ran over and looked at the bodies. “Damn it! this is all we need.”

Bookshelf walked over and looked down. “That’s a bigger problem,” they said dispassionately.

“Bigger than the basilisks?” Rosa said confused. “How?”

“I thought…I thought the order was disbanded,” Adrissa said confused.

“If only,” Doxx grunted in response. “They went into hiding.”

“I’m sorry, who went into hiding?” I asked thoroughly confused.

“The Order of the Emerald Claw,” Doxx replied. “They were a knightly order of some renown, but King Kaius III ordered them to disband due to conduct unbefitting Karnnath. They of course refused and tried to tell the commoners that they were crusaders trying to save Karnnath.”

“And they go around advertising that with those helms?” I asked. “Doesn’t that put them at risk?”

“That’s just it,” Doxx said looking at me with a resigned look. “If they are operating in the open, it means they are around in force and aren’t afraid of being seen.”

“Why?” The Blade asked.

“Overconfidence? Bravado? Who kno—” Doxx said before she was cut off.

The Blade expanded on his question “No. Why are they here? Why would they come to this location now?”

“And where did they come from?” Rosa asked aloud.

Adrissa looked at the ground a moment, moving away from us while staying in sight. After looking at the ground for a while, she then ran back with a frown on her face. “Well, the basilisks came from the north hills. Probably hungry, and these guys were just dinner. But looking at tracks from this group, it’s clear why they are here. They were following tracks.”

“Whose?” Doxx asked, although I was personally sure of the answer.

“Ours. They were following us.”

“Not the druids?” Rosa asked.

“No,” Adrissa confirmed. “We never followed their tracks, as we never found their trail. Their tracks are in line with our’s.”

“Alright. So why are they following us?” I asked.

“I was told that they were operating in the area,” Doxx said slowly. “And specifically, I was to watch out for them trying to manipulate a group being sent here.” She looked at us and sighed. “Us in other words.”

“For a gold mine?” I said even more confused. “That makes no sense.”

“Not at face value. But what if we were sent under false pretenses?” Doxx posited. “Melisandre has been manipulative at the least. I bet Taryn believes what she has sold him. But that’s not why we are here.”

“Are you saying that Melisandre is a part of the Emerald Claw? I find that unlikely.” Sage said shaking his head.

“No…but perhaps they know more about why we are here and were told to follow us.” Doxx explained.

“We should follow their tracks back and see if we can ask a living person about that.” The Blade said.

Adrissa smirked. “That should be easy enough.”

Adrissa then led us at a swift pace out of the forest. Not having to looking around randomly, made our progress out of the wooded hills faster than our way in. And true to our expectations, the Emerald Claw solders followed ours. It was almost evening when we crested a hill and looked down upon the town of Denning once again. But what we saw was not a welcome site.

Denning was burning.

Session Notes:
So did you like complication with your complication. Myrai got to ask the dumb questions, so everyone (who most of which were very new to the setting) could get an idea of what power groups were relevant. Because while Eberron is a cool setting, it has a lot of moving / shaking parts that can be daunting for unfamilar folks to play in.

But everyone at this table loves intrigue and puzzles as a side to their violence and stories.


Lizard folk in disguise

Perspectives - 1/17/2022​

Special thanks to Ryan, Graysire, and Jess (see notes)​

Several large columns of thick black smoke wafted high into the air. As we watched, several mounted solders gave chase to vegepygmies fleeing the battle. Loramica’s men were swift and merciless, lancing and trampling down the fleeing creatures, while behind them, a pair of wizards hurled flames at the fallen, keeping them down.

“It looks like we missed what happened here,” Sage said after watching the Karrns continue their slaughter. “They’re just mopping up now.”

“Let us see where the…other soldiers came from,” Doxx said grimacing.

I thought a moment and coiled a light and dark strand around and pulled my familiar out from their hiding space.

Goss I—

--Oh! Really? Now you need me?

Yes I do.

--Well you…wait you do? Alright then.

Go up, keep an eye out around us.

--Got it.

Gossamer took to the air and started to wing upwards. Meanwhile, Adrissa was on her knees looking at the turf. Her head looked up and she squinted and frowned. “They are going straight to Denning, right in between the two gates on this side.” She then waved for us to follow her, and we ran towards the town. I was nervous though. While it seemed that the fires were fading, just I knew that someone likely died in the defense of the town. I honor my duties as they are important for the souls who crossed the veil and for the souls left behind. But that didn’t mean I wanted to perform the rites. But perhaps things weren’t so bad inside Denning. Maybe the Karrns were able to protect them.

I wondered, as Adrissa followed the trail came up to a section of wall that stood between the gates on this side of the river. She stopped, and bent down looking at the soft, muddy earth before looking at us. “Here. They dropped down from the walls here,” she said.

“What?” Bookshelf exclaimed. “They were in the town?”

“Someone was helping them,” Doxx said grimacing. “The Emerald Claw may be banned by the crown, but they still have many friends.”

“They could see,” I said. “They must have had curative—”

“Or they had the same supplies as Loramica’s men.” Doxx said. “Same Karnnathi training.”

--Hey Myr. The kids inside are organizing adults to put out fires. Quite a number of bodies of the pygmies though.

So the Karrns were busy.

--Looks like they trampled a bunch of them, and a pair of patrols still are still sweeping. The Inn seems to be where the wounded are being tended to.

Keep safe and keep an eye out.

“Well, we better head inside and see what has happened,” Rosa said softly. “And see how we can help.”

“The kids are getting fires put out, the soldiers are clearing streets, a lot of wounded.”

“Do you think you can pick up the trail on the inside?” I asked the girl.

“I can citizen,” The Blade said with bravado. “I have tracked many criminals across cobblestone. Sage; you know what to do.” The Blade stood in front of the wall, looked up and waited. Sage stood there silently looking at the elf blankly, as the rest of us looked at each other. Finally, The Blade turned around, “Look, I don’t have my grapple and rope so if you—”

“—Oh! I see.” Sage said and he stepped next to the elf and kneeled down, while raising his shield flat overhead. The Blade pulled the cowl over his head and swiftly jumped from Sage’s knee to shield and then quickly leapt on top of the wall, his black cloak flaring and trailing behind him. He then ducked out of sight on the other side.

“Should we follow him?” Rosa asked puzzled.

“No, we should let him have his moment to himself on this dark night,” Doxx mused.

I turned and looked at the old woman confused, “The sun hasn’t even set yet.”

“It’s close enough.” Doxx muttered and waved her hand at me dismissively.

“We should get inside…the normal way,” Rosa chided, and we followed along the wall to the gate.

The Blade

The Blade dropped down into the alleyway and looked around, before squatting and examining the cobblestone below. It seemed that the rain had already washed away whatever dirt may have been present. Under the cowl he frowned, and his eyes searched around, looking for anything out of place. He was about to give up when he heard a faint creak of wood nearby. His head turned and saw a door, open just a crack. He froze and watched, and it creaked again as a light breeze blew through the alley. He moved to the door and kicked it open, pointing an arrow inside.

The door was apparently the back entrance to a shop. The lamps on the walls were unlit and the room was cold. The windows in the front were smashed, and glass covered the floor along with several sport spears. But as The Blade spun around all he saw were low shelves with goods, fishing nets, tackle, tents and other supplies useful in the wilderness. He sighed, and was about to depart when he saw something behind the door he entered.

There on the floor were open leather saddlebags in a pile along with discarded cloaks, still damp. He knelt down and looked the pile over. There appeared to be nothing of note about the cloaks, and he began to search the bags cautiously. Inside each he found oil, a whetstone and cloth used to polish armor or blades. As he searched the bags, he noticed that in one of them was what appeared to be embossing in the leather.

“Who tools the inside of a bag?” he muttered aloud. “What kind of amateur criminal does that. What kind of criminal breaks into a shop and leaves their stuff? What kind of…wait.”

He rotated the bag around and looked inside again. With a groan he realized that it wasn’t an emboss, but it was the imprint of something the bag once held. And now he had rotated it, he recognized that the imprint was in the shape of the half-faced helm he had saw on the Emerald Claw soldiers. He nodded with satisfaction, then thought a moment. He brought the bag to his nose and took a whiff. He immediately covered his nose and mouth under his cowl and stifled a sneeze.

“Horses. It smells of horses, but you didn’t ride them to find us. So where are they now?”

Suddenly the wind picked up and blew open the door scattering leaflets around. One smacked The Blade in the face, and he pulled it away with a gloved hand. He stared at it for a moment, and he recognized it as an advertising flyer for the shop. A small frown crept over his face as it reminded him of another flyer in Sharn…


The winter breeze drifted down the alley in Sharn, prompting a shiver from the shorter of the two human men. The other was leaning his back against the brick tower wall with an annoyed expression.

"Let me see if I have this straight," he groaned, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "So, you tried to rob a shop, and you got beat up by a guy in a black cloak."


"And then, three days later… you tried to rob the same shop…"

"Yeah," he interjected with an anxious nod.

"…and got beat up by another—"

"No, the same guy."

"…by the same guy in a black cloak." He shook his head with a sigh as he blindly snatched a flyer from the wall next to him and casually blew his nose in it.

The shorter one patiently waited for all of two seconds before urgently whispering "What do you think it means?"

The taller man dropped the crumpled flyer into a puddle at his feet. He then looked his companion up and down for a moment and began to walk past him out of the alley. Over his shoulder he finally replied, "I think it means you're bad at crime."

The short one stared blankly for a moment before frantically stepping to catch up to his friend. "No, you don't understand. This guy wasn't normal. He—"

"Look, do yourself a favor," he barked as they both round the corner and disappeared from view. "Don't tell anyone else that story."

Remaining behind in the now empty alley, the defiled flyer unfolds slightly as it soaks, making the surface once again visible.

It read:

Trappers’ Trappings

Quality Hunting and Fishing Implements
and Habiliments

Don’t be left in the cold!
Our tents are the most durable in Sharn. All materials are locally crafted so we can pass the savings on to you!

Don’t just guess. Ask the plants!
We offer the most innovative spells to get your through the wilderness with style. Your competitors are all doing it. Shouldn’t you?

Don’t hunt hungry!
At Trapper’s Trappings, there’s only one shelf: the top shelf. Enjoy the finest outdoor rations, packed with all the best nutrients, so you can stay hot on the trail!

Bad credit? No credit? No problem!
Because we only take gold.

Stop in today, or visit one of our sister establishments in Sharn: “Hooked on Tackle” in Precarious, or “Spraying Prey” in Middle Dura. You’ll be glad you did.

Adamas Seinessa ,Proprietor

The flyer drifted away in the breeze, floating upwards until a hand reached out of a darkened shadow of a nook in the wall. In the nook, a cowled figure crumpled the flyer and muttered under his breath, “And add littering to your crimes.”


The Blade looked at the flyer and narrowed his eyes at it, “Copycats,” before stuffing it into a pouch. Then he looked out the broken windows and into the afternoon sun, whispering aloud, “I found their hideout easily. I can find where these Emerald Claw folks came from too.”


The sun had just started to set and the light was fading. Overhead the clouds roiled and rumbled with thunder, their once dingy grey, now darkened with the threat of rain. Finally, we made the last turn along the wall, and the gate came into view, and we rushed over to see what assistance might be needed.

To my surprise the door was shut and barred as before. But what was new, was a pair of tree trunks that now angled from the muddy earth and led up over the wall. The bark showed signs of scratches and claw marks while next to them, four large piles of burned plant matter, the remains of vegeogres lay unmoving. They were covered in arrows, most of which had burned away with the pitch that was once dipped around them. Several smaller bodies were present as well, and the dirt and loam in front of the gate looked to have been churned recently by horses. We threaded our way around the ashen corpses and Sage banged on the door with his metal fist. Above us I heard a boy’s voice call out, “It’s the heroes! Open the gate.” We heard the bar slide away and then the doors creaked open as the rain began to fall.

The other side and its causeway leading to the town’s center was a mess. Palisades were broken, with wet splintered wood scattered around. Here too were burned vegepygmy corpses of various sizes, as well as their thorny mounts. The blind men that manned the gates turned nervously at every sound, as a pair of children guided them. The children’s faces were dirty with soot, with clean trails where tears streamed down their cheeks. They, like the adults, looked tired, like sleep was a distant memory.

As we entered and they moved to close the gate, the children looked at us for something. Hope perhaps? But as they turned to look at Adrissa, they started to tear up and turned away. I looked at our young charge and saw confusion in her eyes. Then from the battlements above, Jace appeared and ran up to Adrissa.

“Adrissa! I’m…I’m so…so sorry,” he said his eyes tearing up much like the other children.

“Wha…what has happened?” Adrissa asked as uncertainty cross her face.

“The…things came running up with trees and just climbed over,” Jace started. “A whole pack of them! Cyra blew the horn like she was showed, and the soldiers came on their horses. We…we gave more than we got, but…”

Jace’s voice trailed off, as he turned to look at three figures that lay underneath canvas on the cobbles. Two of them were adults, but the third was far smaller. Adrissa didn’t wait for Jace to finish. She ran over to the wet tarps and pulled back the one covering the smallest figure. There on the muddy streaked stone lay the young girl who embraced Adrissa on the way out of town. Her face was smooth and clean as the rain pelted her still cheeks. In her chest were a pair of short arrows, each one fatal in that petite frame.

Adrissa discarded her bow and sank down next to her friend. Her face was expressionless as she stared Cyra’s peaceful face. She was quiet for a moment before and without turning she asked quietly, “I thought…I though we built cover for them,”

“We did,” Jace said near tears. “But when she started to blow the horn, two of the dog things charged at her and she ran scared. Then she fell…with an arrow stuck in her. Then another. If she just ducked and hid…she…she.”

Adrissa nodded and turned to me. Her eyes looked older, and her face resigned. “Can you…take care of them?”

I nodded, “I will.”

Adrissa quietly nodded and said, “I’ll meet you by the Jorasco station later. I’m going to see about better cover for the kids.”

“We are going to see if things are under control at the Inn,” Sage said, and Bookshelf, Doxx and the Juggernaut trudged towards the town center.

I looked at Adrissa and reached out for her, but she turned away. My arm and hand hung there a moment before I dropped it to my side. I looked at the corpses and then closed my eyes and concentrated. I imagined a pair of light stands, weaving across themselves in a lattice over and over again. I then pulled the strands taut and snapped them asunder leaving next to me a disk floated next to me. I moved over to the bodies and bend over and picked up the small girl and lay her gently on the disk. I then started to do the same with the much heavier adults, when I realized the Rosa, in the form of a bear, lent me her strength. Together we put the two adults onto the disk, and I walked to the Temple of the Sovereign host.

Rosa had shifted back to her halfling self, and she followed me as we walked with the disk following close behind. The light rain covered us with droplets as we entered the grounds of the church, and I made my way to back where the graves stood.

“Are you alright Myrai?” Rosa asked me, as we threaded our way through the graves.

I sighed, “It doesn’t matter where I have been, death is the same everywhere,” I said bitterly. “But…I set those kids to work, to be the eyes of their parents and elders in town.”

“You blame yourself?” Rosa asked.

I swallowed hard and shut my eyes, before shaking my head. “No, I don’t…But doesn’t make it any easier. It’s not like we had a lot of choice.”

“No,” Rosa said quietly. “Not us. Not them.” Rosa fell quiet as we continued to walk through the graveyard. “I had always heard the Children were dangerous. But I honestly had no idea.”

We finally reach an open section of the graveyard, and saw that other bodies had been placed here, waiting. Almost a dozen bodies, all adults lay there, waiting for a gravedigger and perhaps some eyes to open the earth to inter them. A simple marker with the symbol of the Sovereign Host, the Octogram leaned against a wall, waiting to be planted.I moved myself so the disk was at the end of the row, and Rosa and I dragged the two adults off the disk. The I carefully lifted the girl Crya, and gently laid her down beside the others. Kneeling beside her, I pulled a pair of greenies and then I kissed one and placed it over an eye.

“I saw you do that with Mobad. What’s the reason?” Rosa asked.

“An old tale,” I said after I kissed the second coin, “where souls travel to the lands of the dead via a river. The river’s name changes by who is telling the tale, as does the destination. But they all have a ferryman needing to be paid, and the coins are the fees.” I placed the second coin on the eye of the girl. “It’s only a tale, and only the most superstitious would be concerned about not having them. But tradition has a comfort to it,” And I placed my hand on the girls’ still heart and looked over the row of corpses and sighed, reciting the Litany of Death.

“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,
Bless this soul at his chosen, appointed time,
So, she can lead her kin and friends onwards,
So be the will of my Lord, and my desire in faith
May Death grant all of you peace.”

I stood up with tears in my eyes, and focus some of the strands from within me, light and dark. I walked down the row, as a wave of earth flowed over each corpse, which sank beneath the loam, followed by the one next to them. I slowly stepped, interring each one swifter than any grave digger could. Finally, the last one sank within, and it was only Rosa and me that stood there. I took the marker and thrust the end deep into the soil.

“Well,” Rosa said looking at me with approval. “I can honestly say I wish my corpse were in your hands if the time comes. But I’d rather you help save my life first.”

Sage Redoubt

Sage walked ponderously through the now darkened streets, taking care to avoid slipping on the slick cobblestones. A rare streak of moonlight escaped the clouds, briefly reflecting off the puddles on the street before vanishing. Sage paused for a moment, looking for any sign that the clouds might disperse, but when he was met with nothing except more rain, he continued his duty thinking to himself:

Duty. Is this my duty? I was built to fight a war, to serve as a knight phantom. That was my duty. Then they chose to instead direct me to the Mror Holds, to stand vigil over a vault that no one would dare enter. That was my duty. Is my duty now to help save Denning? To kill these druids?

As he walked through the streets, Sage looked at the houses around him. He knew even with morning no one would stir within, they were empty, gathering dust as people rested at the inn or church. It was easier to keep people safe when they were concentrated in only a few areas, but it made the streets feel abandoned and the buildings seem like empty shells.

The Blade would say his duty is to protect and save people from threats like the vegemites. Doxx would probably say his duty is to Karrnath, or perhaps his purse. Both then have a duty to help Denning, but what about afterwards? Will these people be able to return to their lives or will they become like Adrissa?

An image came unbidden to Sage’s mind of how Adrissa threw herself against the vegepygmies with more reckless ferocity than even the late Mobad; how afterwards she seemed to pause as if lost, as if she didn’t realize the fight was won. Sage was then shaken from his reverie rumbling of the clouds above.

For now, at least, it doesn’t matter, we need to save Denning first, that will be my duty.


A bright light suddenly lit, stabbing my eyes waking me from my sleep. I opened them and saw Myrai. I watched her flare ghostly wings flushing outwards and I watched them fold back in wrapping herself with them only to disappear again. It startled me as it was the first time, I had ever seen anything like this before. It was beautiful. She then lay down on a bedroll here in the Jorasco station and shut her eyes and covered them with her arm, as the other cradled a nearly empty bottle of liquor to her side.

I slowly got to my feet and looked around to see everyone but Sage in the room all resting soundly. After a moment of thought, I slipped out into the rain and onto the lonely streets of Denning. It was warm and humid outside, and the clouds were dark and gloomy. Suddenly a stray ray of light pierced through the clouds casting a dim glow on the empty buildings down the street. At first, I thought it might be the dawn, but it was still too early for that. My father always called the first beam light a ‘ray of hope.’ Hope for a new day, and new fortune.

Hope… I no longer believe in hope. Did hope save my parents? I slowly started down the desolate streets towards my destination, but as I walked, I felt like I was being watched. I dismissed it as a misjudgment. However, in the corner of my eye, I spotted Sage. He was carrying under his arms bundles of wood. I stared at him for a time, seeing that even in such weather he was still working hard and was helping make this town safer. I… I wished that I had such strength at that time then, maybe all this wouldn’t have happened.

I approached my destination as, the Temple the Sovereign, as the rain started to fall. I headed over to the graveyard and looked around. I saw what I thought to be freshly dug earth, and a simple Octogram marker set into it. I then kneeled in front of the mass grave and thought of the recently departed child. Her name was Cyra. I did not know her well, but I saw her when my family came to church. She always had with this big bright smile on her face.

For a time, I stayed there in silence and eventually I choked out the words,

“I… I am so sorry this happened to you Cyra… I wish I could have stopped this all from happening. Your life was… cut too short and I never want anyone else to become like me, parents taken…”

I covered my face with my hands, as tears drip down. I sobbed for some time and then I opened my eyes and looked up.

“I’m sorry mom… dad… it’s all my fault that you died. If only I was stronger, I could have saved you. I can’t turn back time and even if I could, I wouldn’t. I can’t. I know this is selfish of me but Boldrei, please… I can’t lose anyone else. If I do, I don’t know what I would do…”

I slowly got up and headed back to the Jorasco healing station the rain covering the tears on my face.


It was early morning. It was getting harder and harder to see the clouds in detail, as the threatening clouds churned above the town of Denning. They hung low and dark and even managed to dim the light of the dawn, which had just started to appear in the eastern mountains. But now the clouds no longer threatened; they fulfilled their promise and started to pour rain upon the town and doused the dawn for the moment.

Gossamer sighed. From his perch over the Drover’s Rest Inn it just made his assigned job harder. He watched with unblinking eyes the front of inn looking for a child out of place. The haze of the rain now made that challenging, clouding the streets with mist. Fortunately, there was little movement on the cobble street. Most everyone was asleep at this hour; only the large warforged Sage Redoubt was working, delivering materials to the northern gate.

He understood why he was where he was. Gossamer did not need to sleep at all, and Myrai did. She may hate the dreams sleep brought, but she couldn’t dodge them forever. And yet, there was the risk of a child messenger needing something. There were too few in the town that could see, and even fewer that could and provide guidance. So Myrai set a task on Gossamer.

“Watch the Inn; if a child comes about looking for help, find me.”

Simple enough. A ledge underneath the eaves provided elevation for a view in front of the Inn. And its location was fortunate as it kept the rain off the Tressym. But it was somewhat boring, now that the children were organized. So, Gossamer sat bored, with paws curled beneath him. He wasn’t cold, but he conserved energy and sat watching as the rain fell. It was then, that a rare burst of light came through the clouds from the east, brightening the town. A momentary glimpse of a dawn’s light faded with the rain. Such things were now unappreciated by most of its citizens, blind to it.

Gossamer reflexively looked at the streets, for signs of traffic. Sage was walking away with a load of materials on his shoulders, but nothing else stirred. Then a movement on the other side of the road caught the Tressym’s attention. A child, moving quietly and alone. Gossamer at first was confused; it wasn’t heading to the Inn, so what was it doing? Gossamer stood and stretched his legs and wings and then stared at the figure creeping quietly away. It was then that Gossamer recognized the figure as the little human called Adrissa. She wasn’t trying to stay out of sight, but she was certainly avoiding making noise.

Gossamer took to the air, gaining altitude, and then locked his wings into a glide. He followed the girl with urgency, following another task set for him

“Hey, also keep an on Adrissa. I’m worried about her. Especially if she is alone.”

He watched from the air as she moved to one of the churches. Gossamer remembered that for part of the day, Myrai had spent time here with Rosa, and then later with other adults, cleaning up the dead from the streets. Before they arrived, a Vegepygmy band managed to jump a wall and caused a ruckus. It took some time for the Karrnathi patrols to catch up and deal with them, restoring order. The patrols now were more frequent and constant, but the damage was done in the sortie. It didn’t help that a number of the citizens from outside the walls had lost hope and managed to commit suicide. But all needed to be taken care of, and Myrai had them buried at one the churches, and it was this one he spied the girl heading for.

Gossamer decided to land and continue to followon paws. The beating of wings would make noise, but less so his paws on the ground. His black pelt now glistened with water beading on the fur, as he made his way into the church yard. The girl was moving to the area the recent graves had been dug, and Myrai had recently consecrated. He watched, as she approached a particular one on the side of the yard. He watched her sink to her knees in the muddy ground and saw her pray. He snuck through the grass towards some low shrubs to watch and listen.

She knelt there, crying a while. She spoke in soft tones and Gossamer could only just hear her say;

“Please…I can’t lose anyone else. If I do, I don’t know what I would do…”

Her voice trailed off, perhaps uncertain, or perhaps just choked away by the tears. Gossamer watched and waited, and soon the girl rose to her feet. Her hand clutching around herself as if she was trying to keep warm, during this unseasonable balmy rainfall. And he padded after her on the ground, staying behind her.

Adrissa was in no rush, as she slowly made her way back. Passing the Inn and returning into the Jorasco store front where the travelers, and Myrai stayed. Gossamer watched, as she slowly turned the handle on the door, and crept quietly inside.

Blinking a moment, Gossamer again took to the air. After a quick look, he found what he was looking for; a ledge underneath the awning of the Jorasco station. A place he could shake off the water and be close to the occupants. As he sat on the ledge he started to groom and waited for the question. It wasn’t long before it came.

Where did she go?

--To the church where you were performing services. She spent time at one of the mounds, the most recent one I believe.

There was nothing for a while, while Gossamer continued to groom.

Well, at least she came back. Did she say anything?

--Only a plea. Something about not losing anyone else.

I don’t suppose you wrote it down.

--I do lack the thumbs for that.

Probably not important…she’s nearing her limits.

--Possible. What should we do?

I don’t think we can do anything right now but watch and pray. If she needs to talk, it has got to be on her own terms.

--Will she?

Again, there was a long pause before a reply:

I don’t know it’s not something we can force though. All we can do is pray.


For her not to something rash. I am certain she hasn’t reached her ‘Appointed Time.’ So, we wait.

--Get some rest, we’ve done what we can.

But its’ never enough.

And Myrai’s thoughts were again stilled, as she began making her way to the realms of dreams, leaving Gossamer with his own thoughts. He spread his wings, and flew back to the Inn, and resumed his vigil in the rain. All the while wondering what Adrissa’s future held.

Session Notes:
Sorry this one took awhile. At the time in this campaign, several people were reflective on the various events, and each wrote a piece of fiction related to it. So (with minor edits) I have now posted a collage of not one, not two, but three additional players; 'The Blade','Sage Redoubt','and 'Adrissa' (with their permission).

I hope you enjoy each of them getting into the headspace of their characters.
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