The Thorns of Winter -(updated 8/11/22)


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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
I somehow get the idea if I ever tried using that line on anyone I'd just get slapped.

Johnathan

Compared to my more recent campaigns that was a tame double entendre...very tame.

Says more about the current stuff than the prior ones.

But honestly, glad you picked up on the humorous detail.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise

The Gaze of Khyber - 8/11/2022​



I stood there, eyes wide in fear, my heart pounding. Every instinct I had, was telling, no screaming at me to run. To get away. To move! But the chamber had no place to hide. No where to avoid the sight of the monstrosity that hovered there over the pit. I had seen one once before in Sigil, and even that jaded place with immortals of puissance calling the shots, even they gave the Eye Tyrant a wide berth. I had heard at the Civic Festhall conflicting stories. Some that said that no two thought alike and each were paranoid, fearful of rivals. Others said that they were clan like, treating others of their kind that didn’t match themselves precisely with violence. They worked together sometimes. They were loners. No story agreed on where they came from, what they wanted, and how to avoid their ire. The only thing they did agree on, was the powers of their eyes.

It was now clear on why the chambers looked like they did. One of their eyes was able to emit a greenish beam that would turn any substance to fine ash. Flesh…metal…rock. It didn’t need hands to change the world around it. The chamber, the pit, the halls were all carved with a simple glance. Each of the small eyes, had different ways to affect the world around it with magic, and the one in the center above its maw would cause all magic to cease. That eye opened slowly, its cross slitted pupil, barely moving to regard our band as it grumbled.

“Morrrre wanderrrerrsss into the depths, and farrrr out of their own,” the tyrant growled in a calm and almost bored voice that resonated in rock around us. “Perrhaps you came seeking yourrr deaths, chasing those who came beforrrre you. Fooooolish fleshlings. But…I hold no malice towarrrds you or your ilk. You have…nothing we need,..or want. Your deaths will be quick.”

Behind me I heard some uncomfortable shuffling, and I was about to openly pray when, I heard in my head a voice…that wasn’t my familiars.

++Talk to it, keep it occupied a while. You can reply to this message.

Bookshelf? What in Baator are you planning to do while we…can’t use…?


I shook my head, hoping to find some sanity, and a modicum of courage. Swallowing past the lump in my throat, I took a unsteady breath as I tried to think on what passed for small talk with a tyrant. I then remembered something it said. “Chasing others…I guess they didn’t expect to find…something far greater than themselves.”

“Myrai…what are you doing?” Doxx hissed at me.

“Quiet,” The Blade nudged Doxx with his shoulder. “It’s listening.”

The tyrant’s large eye blinked slowly, as it settled it’s gaze on me. “Arrrrogant mortal. I do not nnnneed flatterrrry.”

“No…no…of course not,” I smiled and looked at the crown of eyes around its head, many of them focused on me; a blue one, a green one, one with the pupil of a goat, another like a cat. Each different. “But before you send me on, I just want to look at your eyes. They aren’t like mine. Not at all.” Behind me I heard Bookshelf starting to mutter something arcane.

Several of its eyes squinted at me, and I heard it make a noise that was familiar, yet very unnerving, as it…purred at me. The tyrant lowered itself and drifted closer to me, and I took a nervous step forward.

“Myrai…I wouldn’t—” Rosa started, looking around Sage’s shield.

“—She’ll be alright,” Sage whispered, keeping his shield up in front, and trying to put his bulk between the tyrant and the rust

“She better be,” Adrissa whispered, gripping her bow tightly.

It’s central eye opened wide to look at me and my own eyes. I could feel warm breath caressing my cheeks as it drifted close to me. It was no more than a hand width away, as I felt the air move as it spoke again, “How…unique. Mirrrrrors. One my…master would find…intrique—”

Bookshelf finished muttering and stood up slowly to look at the aberration. It paid no attention to the warforged, as all of its eyes were fixated on me. I could feel brushing against the strands within me, just beyond normal perception.

“—Yes,” Bookshelf said quietly and confidently. “I’m sure you will want to tell Myrai anything she asks.”

“Inter…resting,” a single small eye turned its gaze on the warforged, while the rest continued to stare at me. Then the crab like stalks shook for a second, before it spoke again, “Myrrrai. Your name…is an interrrresting homophone.” The tyrant retreated from me and drifted back towards the pit it came from. “Ssstrange that you have commmmme at alllll though…you mmmmust havvvvve been seeeeeking the…other onessss.” Its tone was less menacing and more casual now, the threating edge gone.



“What other ones?” I asked smiling nervously at the sudden change.

“Sommmme immmmortalsssss…” It said leisurely, with the hint of a smile on its maw. “Thinking themmmmselves ssssmarter, and more cunnning. Fallllen sssservantssss from time dissssstant. Irrrrrelevant. Powerlesssss. What they werrrrre was…unnnnimportant. They were turnnnnned to assshhhh and dussssst all the sssssammme.”

“Why did they come here?” I asked, realizing that I wasn’t going to be a target. The others behind started to spread out from behind me, keeping their backs to the rounded walls.

“It involved that…box there,” the sphere tilted backwards as if to gesture with its rounded chin. I glanced behind me, and realized it was talking about the battered chest that we couldn’t touch earlier.

“They brought it here,” I said aloud, mostly to myself. “What were they doing?”

The tyrant chuckled, “One of themmm…with a head of some primitive beassst, well coifed, dressed in fine robes was attempting trite ritual on it. It was…dissssruptive. It didn’t get farrrr before I petrified it.” Looking around a moment and seeing nothing only caused the tyrant to laugh, “It…fell into the depths, shattering on the stone below. Its minions, soon perished.”

I nodded, and then smiled. “I know you detest being disturbed.” It tilted a little and stuck out its lower lip as it rotated and nodded in agreement. “And more are going to come looking for that box. How, about we take it with us. They’ll follow us and leave you alone?”

“That is the most ridicu—” Doxx started, shuffling around the edge of the room slowly.

“Yes it is dearie,” Rosa said shuffling along side of her. “But let’s play…nice.”

“Oh wait,” I said, trying to sound dejected. I glanced at Sage who nodded, and he started to lead the rest out. “We can’t touch it. They managed to do something magical to it.” I then looked at Bookshelf, and waved at them to move, while shielding my hand with body, so the tyrant couldn’t see. Bookshelf quickly and calmly, walked around the perimeter, unconcerned about the floating aberration, passing Adrissa and The Blade who were both edging themselves slowly around, with Rosa gritting her teeth and stepping quietly.

“Petty arrrrcana,” and from behind the cross slitted pupil of the large central eye, a light appeared, immersing part of the chamber with a dull purple light. When the light touched me, I suddenly felt…nothing. The strands that coiled, waiting for me to call them to action were just…gone. Like they never were there. I felt empty…alone.

Goss?

Goss?

GOSS!?!


“You will find its enchannntmentsss…nullified,” it said with a rattling chuckle. I stepped towards the box and hesitated a moment. Sliding my rod into its leather sheath, I bent down and lifted it up. It was surprisingly light, and I could feel something sliding within it.

“Well…that helps a lot,” I said as I turned around to the grinning ball of eyes. “Thank you. We really should be going, don’t you think?” The others had made it back to the tunnel and were starting to jog upwards.

The light faded and it rotated backwards in place, looking down on me. “Yes…that…sounds right. You should…leave. Now…yes…now.”

I grasped the box’s sides with both hands, and I tried to walk casually back to the tunnel we came down originally. “Thank you again…do you have a name?”

Why am I still talking to it?!

--Beats me, but I figure you were having a moment.

Goss!...Great…fly up ahead…make sure it’s clear.


“Name?” It turned around hovering over the pit with a bemused smile on its face. “I…I havvve onnne. But…you could nnnnever pronounnnce it prrrroperly little fleshling, with your limited tongue.”

Smiling nervously, I backed into the tunnel, keeping eye contact as best I could with the morass of eyes. But and as soon as I was out of view, I turned and broke into a run. My heart was already pounding from the conversation, and it had never stopped. I just wanted out of this cavern. Somewhere along the length of the tunnel, Sage stood waiting. I ran past him up the tunnel, and he followed close behind. It felt comforting to hear his heavy metallic thundering right behind me. But that comfort paled to the fear I still felt, as I continued to run, determined to put distance between me and that floating orb of—

“Wait a mmmoment.”

Oh sodding--

I skidded to a stop just as entered the chamber above. I clutched the box close to my armored chest as I stared at the tyrant hovering there, the orb slightly tilted to the side and backwards, like it was looking down on me, regarding me with disdain. My jaw dropped as I stared at the tyrant, not expecting this. So, I was equally surprised when—

“Oops!”

Sage slammed into me as I stood there in mute shock, knocking the wind out of me. I stumbled forward and lost my balance. I pitched forward towards the pit that was the doom to who knows how many others.

But I didn’t fall. Instead, I was lifted upwards and pulled closer to the monstrous orb. My face was now staring directly at the cross slitted gaze of the central eye of the beholder. I hung there in the air, clutching the box in my arms in desperation, shivering, eyes wide.

“I wonderrrr,” it mused with a deep purr. “….sssshould I take you belowww….? Yourrrrr eyes do showwww….promissssse.

My throat was thick with fear as I tried once again to smile to my…best…friend? “You are so kind to offer. But…but I have…an…urgent matter to attend to. I shouldn’t….take…any more of your time. So could…could you please…p—p—put me down?”

From the other side of the tyrant, I heard Bookshelf speak up, “She…is needed to…help clear up a disease that causes blindness. She—”

“—Blindnessss? Someone darrrrre triessssssss to conccccceal thissssssss world from my massster?” It growled, and I saw at least half of its eyes narrow its gaze at me, including the great eye in front of me. Its maw was now curling into a snarl, drool dripping out of sight, in the depths below us. It then puffed sharply from two nasal slits, each flaring. We turned in the air, and then I found myself pushed rapidly the edge surrounding the pit. Doxx and the Blade both caught and steadied me, as it continued. “Belassshyrrra will not be denied his sight. It wwwwilll not be taken from him. Go! Purge…this…plague. GO!!” it howled as it angrily commanded us.

I didn’t need to be told twice and nodded and muttered something like “Uh-huh!” and backpedaled to the tunnel that rose behind me. Once inside, I turned around and ran as fast as I could. The Blade and Adrissa each outpaced me, and so did Rosa who now lopped ahead in the form of a great wolf.

My lungs were on fire when I saw the light from the clouded sun ahead of me. My legs just churned, as my boots slapped on the stone, until I emerged into the cold frigid air of the surface. The icy air was a shock to my lungs, and I felt a sharp pain in them as tried to catch my breath. Instead, I grew woozy, and I sank to my knees before falling over and turning myself to lay flat on my back as I gazed up at the cloud covered sky.

I was panting for air, as Gossamer flitted over to me, and nuzzled my face. I turned my face and looked at my familiar as my breathing slowed. I closed my eyes and sighed, when I heard the raven.

“Heh heh, heh heh, heh heh,” Snaves laughter carried through the air and somehow caused me to clench my teeth together. “So…the servants of one master, were defeated by another. How droll.”

I propped myself up, and saw that only the two warforged were standing, while the rest of us were prostrate on the tundra, each with ragged breaths. Gossamer had turned and was staring at the raven, eyes narrowed, ears flattened as his fur puffed out. He let out a light growl before hissing, which I couldn’t ever recall him making before. His wings then spread wide, causing Snave to cock its head.

I gently put my hand on Gossamer’s twitchy back and spoke aloud. “We don’t want to hurt the raven. We still need it.”

“Yeah, leatherheaded pussy” Snave spat at Gossamer. “Will wonders never cease.”

“We need to leave.” Bookshelf said extending a hand to me and pulling me up to my feet.

“Can’t we—” I started before it cut me off.

“No,” Bookshelf said, cutting me off. “We need to be far from here when the enchantment finally fades. It will be angry. Very angry.”

“Shouldn’t we check that box for…it?” Adrissa pointed out, having just sat up.

Sage nodded, “If we do not have what we came for, we will need to back down while we can.”

Doxx rolled over to where I lay and pulled the box close to her. She then quickly popped the pair of latches holding it shut, and popped open the lid, and stared within. She reached in and pulled into the grey light of the day an oblong gemstone, the color of deep cold waters. It didn’t glitter like many stones; despite being finely cut with hard sharp edges. I crawled over to where Doxx was sitting and stared at it. The center of the gem was a dark cloud; a stain that was the only mar to the stones’ cut beauty.

The Blade stood and stepped towards Snave, sitting on a branch of the nearby bush. “Well. Is that it?”

Snave yawned, and looked at the elf, “Yep.” It said disinterested.

The Blade nodded and turned to the rest of us. “Then we should go, while we still can, and put this hole behind us.”

I grimaced and stood up and nodded. “I certainly don’t want to stay and see how much more angry a beholder can get.”

“Right,” Sage said and turned to Snave, “Where is the other stone.”

Snave cocked his head at us and gave out a cruel chuckle, as it took off and headed north, into the frozen hills to the north. And all we could do, was follow and pray that our luck would hold, and it wouldn’t be another scrape.

How wrong I was.

Session Notes:
So...we charmed a Beholder. It was a surprise to everyone, the DM included. The Beholder has a decent save, but it doesn't have legendary saves. The bigger question at the table was about the antimagic field from the central eye; did it protect its brain. After debate, the answer was no...because if it did, how could it levitate or use its other eyes? So Bookshelf just made sure to stay out of the central eye's vision...and we have a very strange encounter.

Now...oddly enough this is not the strangest beholder encounter this group had dealt with. There was a beholder with a top hat, and eleven monocles trying to make a bargain while we were in the feywild. Its a story in itself...but not today.
 


Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Then I will look forward to that day, because it sounds like a very interesting story. (Much like this one!)

Johnathan
That story would be an interesting hot mess. I was playing a lizard folk with my son, and we went out of our way to write observations in Lizard Head Space. The diction was cool but hard, but its only readable in short doses...and yet it is the main source of notes. The other set, which was written by "The Blade's" player, is hysterical, but there is a bit of unreliable narrator there.

It went from level 1 to level 20, and I only joined in at level 5. But it was essentially a fractured mirror of reality where we were in the twisted side. But it took a very long time to figure that out, and how to actually solve it. But what started serious and solemn, quickly became a comedy. The Lizardfolk as a pair, decimated the encounters, and the lizards out of water led to very memorable encounters. things like:

  1. One of the characters had a relationship with another that was a bit on the rocks. After observing that the pair continually "Mated and failed" over and over again, setup a mating ritual trial to determine the fitness of the relationship. It didn't go as planned.
  2. The lizardfolk had no boundaries in terms of food. So "Hag Hash" "Oni Snacks" "Black Dragon whelping jerky" were all things...with consequences.
  3. The rogue had a distorted view about the lizard folk, thinking they just ate bugs and was vocal about it. This led to the Lizardfolk gathering a bunch of bugs and offering them as a present to the rogue (in IRL, this was handled with some Harry Potter chocolate bug candy)
  4. The lizardfolk story was that lizardfolk civilization was there first, but then decided to regress and hide as the mammals took over. This meant that EVERYONE else was wrong from the Lizard's point of view; the Gods, History, etc. This manifested as the "Great Lizardfolk's Burden" and a racist/paternalistic view on everything.
  5. The Lizardfolk were constantly dealing with all the threats. So they had a contingency plan, on how to precisely kill all the party if needed. And it wasn't a secret; they were being practical, as "silly softskins" were already irrational pleasure seeking beings.
  6. The Lizardfolk were constantly doing experiments. One ran for half a year in real time, as suddenly without explanation, they kept shaking their heads, and passed a coin between themselves. When asked about it, they simply said, "That would change the nature of the bet." Later they presented a scientific paper, with data tables and analysis on how to alter softskin behavior by the external stimulus of exchanging a coin.
So...it was insane and wacky and fun. And I don't have the cycles to do it justice. :(
 
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