Using My Monsters

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Post War Session - 26/4/2010

Latest game report is up. Prepare for creepy crawlies, boxes of wine, and a geometric, mucous horror...
 
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16:51 – 17:00 – Vastam is a tired looking human in his late thirties. He wears heavy rimmed spectacles and well made but plain clothes. He greets the party wearily, and thanks them for coming. He then invites them into his home, and leads them from the ground floor (which is converted into tasting rooms, and a shop area), and into a series of increasingly deep cellars filled to the brim with dusty shelves packed with premium wines and rare vintages .

As he walks, Vastam explains what he wants the party to do. He is a wine expert, and he owns extensive cellars which hold some incredibly expensive and rare wines. Recently he has been asked to provide bottles for a Unified Order dinner being held out on one of the estates beyond Irin's walls by a mage named Calsivus Ghordai. Calsivus is also a wine expert, is impossibly wealthy, and he has requested some particularly valuable bottles of Theon's Bleu; a 2nd Age vintage thought to have been made in the ancient High Theocracy by a priest with a skill for brewing. Unfortunately, when Vastam went into his deepest cellars with an assistant to recover the bottles (valued at 3,500 gps a bottle), he discovered that the cellar had become infested with giant spiders. Worse, a whole section of the main cellars floor appeared to have collapsed, taking many reinforced crates of wine with it, and leaving a large, dank pit in the ground through which could be heard dripping, squeaking, and trickling.

Vastam asks the group to enter the cellars, to destroy the monstrous arachnids in there, and to recover at least sixty bottles (three crates) of his precious Theon's Bleu, and by the time he has got to this point, they are some six levels beneath street level in truly ancient cellars clearly converted from original construction. The air is heavy with dust and chill moisture, and as the group reach the entrance to the ravaged chamber, they see that it is swathed in huge, shimmering webs.

17:01 – 17:05 – Vastam wishes the party well, and informs them that should they succeed, he will give them a bottle of the valuable Theon's Bleu. Then, turning pale at sight of the webs, he flees.

The group discuss tactics.

Fire? No. Too much risk of the flames catching and causing an inferno that could weaken the floors above, or denature the other rare wines stored in the cellar. Acid? No. Lightning? No.

Schnecke gets sick of talking and charges the nearest swathe of webbing swinging his moaning axe...

...Which immediately becomes hopelessly tangled and is ripped free from his hands.

Worse, as the axe strikes, the group see the webbing jerk, as if something unseen is pulling on its strands.

The assassin tries to cut the webbing a moment later, his blade shifting through the gloom as a sharpened shadow, but he too finds it becomes hopelessly stuck to the sticky fibres.

17:05 – 17:07 – Emmiven decides enough is enough, and with a battle cry, he charges the webbing, ripping through the gummy film, and bursting into the cellar beyond.

The entire chamber is swathed thickly with sheets of sticky webbing. In the middle of the chamber is a noticeable dip where the floor has collapsed, though it is currently covered by the shimmering webs, and the warlord can make out five wine racks still standing, lost mostly within the webbing. Two racks have been knocked over, their valuable contents shattered, the stink of wine vinegar mixing foully with the strong smell of stagnant water. The air is thick with moisture, and condensation runs over the ancient stonework and beads on the webs.

However, Emmiven does not have long to take in his surroundings, for he spots four bloated black spiders squatting in the webs. Each is the size of a large dog, and is jet black in colour. Their six eyes gleam in the dim light of his companions weapons, and their fangs ooze droplets of venom. To the left of the them, mostly hidden by the walls of the chamber, is a tube of webbing, out of which protrude two huge, segmented, spidery legs. Emmiven cranes his head round and immediately wishes he hadn't, for he can see, within the web tube, a spider of nightmarish proportions. Although he cannot make out details, he can see that it is at least the size of a cart horse if not bigger, and that it bears bright green stripes along its hairy abdomen.

Emmiven fires an arrow and scores a hit against one of the smaller spiders causing it to skitter towards him in response. At this moment Varracuda enters the chamber, striking at the same creature, his blade burning a spitting wound in its body.

Soon the battle is in full swing. The sorceress scores a brutal blow against one spider with a blazing chromatic orb, before unleashing smaller orbs of elemental power on the survivors and withering them with waves of deadly power. She also summons a pool of shimmering, rainbow lights, which seem to distract the spiders when they are within it, allowing her allies to strike with greater surety and effect. The assassin drags the mobile smaller spiders into attack range and tears them from inside with his tenebrous curses, whilst the Barbarian, Warlord and Swordmage form a wall of merciless, flashing steel. And behind them all, Grigori uses his magic to knit envenomed wounds closed, to boost his allies attacks and to weaken the foes.

First to fall is the larger spider, for all see it as a major threat and concentrate on it. It shudders into death, though not before it lands a bite on the warlord – a bite he ignores; shrugging off the venom as if it does not exist. The smaller spiders prove to be the more difficult opponents, for they respond to harm by skittering away, and their venom causes sweeping weakness in the victim, lessening the effectiveness of their attacks. However, they are slowly but surely picked apart by sword, arrow and spell, and soon the group are admiring their handy work as the arachnids twitch and drip in death.

17:07 – 17:20 – The cellar is thoroughly searched, and it is discovered that there are no crates of Theon's Bleu to be found anywhere. The assassin manages – using his knowledge of both nature and alchemy – to extract the venom glands of the larger spider, and he collects a vial of its poison whilst the webbing is cleared from the hole in the floor.

Peering down the hole, the stench of stale water hits the party full force, and they can see a wide tunnel of ancient, slimed brickwork, half full of languid, brown waters. A sense of great age emanates from the crumbling walls below, and Varracuda realises that they are possibly looking into one of the archaic subterranean canals excavated by the Inner Circle – a continent wide criminal organisation that flourished during the closing decades of the Second Age – in order to allow them to ship illicit goods and slaves across Fey.

The group can see, immediately beneath the hole, a pile of rubble from the collapse, as well as several shattered wine cases (none seem to be those holding Theon's Bleu). Although the waters below are deep and barely flow, there is a slight current, and they realise that the crates have almost certainly drifted away.

17:20 – 17:22 – Down into the hole they go, and the party find themselves stood on a pile of shifting rubble, in the middle of the wide tunnel below. The ancient, crumbling walls are thickly slimed with quivering olive coloured ooze, and on entering the waters it is found to be chest high on most.

17:22 – 17:25 - Schnecke dives straight in, with the sawordmage and warlord following. Jaegar opts for a less conventional method of travel, and steps into nothingness, appearing instantly on a constructed semi-circular shelf of rotting stone, covered in masses of greenish mud and small clumps of dripping, slimy toadstools built into the side of the tunnel ahead (one of several built along the visible length). A little beyond the shelf is a great mud bank, caused it seems by a blockage in the tunnel slowing the sluggish waters enough for them to deposit their silt. The foul waters foam and gurgle past this obstruction and all kinds of debris - including several more wine crates - are lodged in its filthy flanks. Five of these crates hold Theron's Bleu.

Schnecke is first to arrive at the mud island, and whipping his soaked hair out of his eyes, he moves to free one of the crates from the mud and slime. With a grunt of effort he pulls it free with a loud sucking noise, and begins to slowly swim back to Grigori and Seren (who have stayed on the rubble island, the sorceress commanding her enchanted robes to fill the area with brilliant, spectral light). Varracuda moves to the other side of the island, but halts as the assassin, who has been peering into the gloom shouts a warning...

...He has seen what has slowed the waters down here...

...A huge, quivering, cuboid of semi-sentient slime, quietly absorbing the organic detritus brought to it on the currents...

...A Gelatinous Cube – a monster of tall tavern tales with a nasty reputation for its strong digestive chemicals, near invisibility, paralysing slime and penchant for consuming adventurer's whole.

It would be quite funny if not for those points.

17:25 – Varracuda gets too close to the slime, which responds by striking him with an arcing, swooping club of quivering, paralysing slime. He takes a good beating, but quickly shrugs off the painful stiffening in his limbs.

And then battle is joined.

17:26 – 17:32 – A short and brutal battle ensues. The slime manages to “swallow” both Jaeger and Varracuda at points in the battle, its corrosive juices burning them (though the swordmage's armour turns that harm into healing). Seren strikes the thing with potent magic, whilst Grigori conjures a zone of pale light which heals his allies.

The cube is quickly whittled down to a sticky mess, though a second problem reveals itself, for as the monster's bulk is reduced, so the flow of water increases. This in turn begins to wash the silt island away, and threatens to carry the Theon's Bleu into the dark riptides of filthy water that grow with strength with each passing moment a little way further along the tunnel.

In the end the heroes (including a slightly desperate Jaeger, who has fallen into the water and is also in danger of being sucked beneath by unseen currents to a watery, panicked death), tie themselves together, each wrapping their arms around a crate, before they are hauled slowly but surely to safety by the barbarian, priest and surprisingly strong sorceress.

All five crates of Theon Bleu are rescued – though one of these is immediately placed within Grigori's bag of holding – an illicit reward for the group.

17:55 – The group have returned to Vastam and presented him with the four crates of wine they have rescued. He is overjoyed that they have done so well (utterly unaware that 70,000 gold pieces worth of his wine sits hidden within the cleric's dimensional storage device), and good to his word gives them one of the dark blue glass bottles of wine. He informs them that he shall tell others of their sterling work, and before the group leaves, he shares a glass of wine with them.

19:30 – The group arrive back at the Staff of Wands.

20:30 – 01:30 (12/4/1472 – Mostly sunny, with strong winds and fleeting clouds): The group get good and drunk, and argue into the night over what to do next, and what to call themselves for the arena battles. They agree to look for more work the next day however, and eventually stumble off to their rooms...

...Except Schnecke.

01:30 – 02:30 – The barbarian continues drinking for a while, and then, utterly inebriated, he stumbles through the streets towards the Prayer of Banturn Inn...

04:00 – Schnecke returns to the Staff of Wands after getting lost, and retires for what is left of the night.

10:30 – The group meet up, hungover and tired, and after a short breakfast, enter the busy streets of Irin to find more work...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Pre War Session - 19/4/2010

18:45 – 18:50 – The group discuss the merits of taking a rest, and decide that despite their exhausted state, and their gathering wounds, that they should press on. They also calculate that they have now reached a point of no return with regards to their protective rituals' duration, and realise that they need to press on in order to maximise their chance of reaching their goal before the spell wears out.

This triggers a discussion about what exactly the party are going to do to escape the volcano, for they become suddenly concerned that they might not be able to leave its searing guts before their protection fades – a horrific and fatal scenario. Ormid reassures the party that he can open a portal to the teleport circle located in the ruins by the beach.

18:50 – 19:10 – The only way off the level they are on is over the edge. At the southern most end of the area, a fallen spire of razor sharp obsidian juts over a “bridge” far below – in fact a fallen tower that spans the spitting, lambent sea of molten lava. The cliffs the group stand on top of are porous stone, and liquid rock pours continually from its vertical face. This means that any descent will have to be done in a free hang, as even their potent ritual would struggle to keep them safe from the burn of the walls oozing magma, which will be made more difficult by the roaring thermal winds that gust and billow from the surface of the seething magma lake below.

Ormid pulls his trusty rope ladder out, and Llewellyn's rope is attached to it, forming a safe route to the makeshift bridge below. However, as the group (fighting vertigo and the very real fear of falling a long way into a boiling sea of melted rock) attach it to the spur of shattered obsidian two problems become immediately apparent. Firstly, the obsidian is viciously sharp, and as soon as any pressure is applied to the rope tied to it, tiny frays are seen as the stone begins to slice through the fibres. Secondly, once the ladder and rope are taken beyond the adventurer's protective aura, they begin to smoke and flame in the deadly air.

In a state of half fear, the group – guided by the Warforged – scramble as quickly as they dare down their hanging rope ladder and rope, and they just make it before the smoking fibres finally burst into flame and are quickly devoured. Ormid laments the loss of his rope ladder “I've had that since my first journey you know”.

19:10 – 19:15 – The group are now on the face of a huge fallen tower of obsidian. It is a vast thing, clearly of Zargor'Gigorim construction, bearing minimal ornamentations, that has fallen across the lava lake, and which leans on several large pillars of basalt which rise from the fires below. In its fall it has split into three sections, forming a bridge towards a vast wall of cool Ael'Shar stone – the same kind of stone that the potent statues were carved from – and the group can see that the top of the vast ruin has actually punched a hole in that alien wall.

It is immediately apparent that staying on the upper surface of the fallen tower is suicide, for it is being constant pounded by missiles thrown up from the surging lavas far below, and is exposed to powerful gusts of blazing wind and clouds of scalding, toxic fumes. Not wanting to be knocked unconscious by a flying missile or worse, knocked off into the fires below, the group enter the belly of the tower through one of its many windows.

Within the air still shimmers and warps with intense heat, and all the group have to make efforts to breathe slowly and deeply in the near airless environment, giving the ritual time to provide its protection. They are surprised at the lack of ornamentation and furniture within the tower, but reason that it has been scoured away by the gusting fumes and endless pressure here.

The group move forwards cautiously, moving through floors that have become walls via large circular hatches set in their centres, and avoiding the many cracks and holes that dot the towers inner surfaces. After a short while the winds begin to pick up again and the full roar of the lava lake – a little subdued within the towers hollow heart – returns.

They have come to the first break in the fallen tower – a gap of 30', shot through with powerful thermal winds and giving those that fail to cross it a deadly descent into the magma 300' below.

19:16 – After some quick planning Llewellyn uses his boots to teleport to the far side. As he does so he becomes aware of a deep roaring, distinct from the deafening, ubiquitous roars of the volcano, that seems to be getting closer. Meanwhile Ormid begins to pour hot chocolate from his decanter over the groups' last coil of rope, in the hopes that the moisture will slow its destruction in the fiery winds.

19:17 – 19:21 – The roaring gets louder, and the Vyrleen looks down into the sinking tube formed by this section of tower, and notices that something huge is blocking the glow of distant rents and holes in its base...

...It is this huge something that is making all the noise...

...and it's getting nearer...

...fast...

19:21 – Ormid finishes soaking the rope and the warforged throws it with a mighty heave over the flaming gap. The Vyrleen, looking over his shoulder, quickly secures the rope his end, and then, with abject horror turns to regard the thing that bellows and flames as it surges on vast, scarlet wings towards him; the diamond blades on its knuckles skimming the floor, its huge, armoured tail swiping chunks of debris from the walls as it twitches furiously, its massive head – a thing of scales and fangs and gleaming, fiery blue eyes – a nightmare combination of lizard, cat and hawk.

A Red Dracani.

A huge, furious Red Dracani...

19:22 – Ormid, Veteran, Ferrous (rather awkwardly) and Ardwaine climb across the rope, each trying not to focus on the horror across the gap; the spectre of the tiny Vyrleen – mace in hand – against the scarlet bulk of a monster straight out of the most heroic and terrible legends. The rope hisses and burns their hands as the liquid rapidly vaporises and the hemp fibres begin to char and smoke, and they have to fight their panic, their dread of what awaits, and the punishing gales of super-heated air that throw them about like leaves in the wind.

19:23 – 19:25 - As they arrive, the Dracani, roaring in a language none speak, opens its cavernous jaws and exhales a massive cone of magical fire at the Vyrleen. Llewellyn is burned as the lambent exhalation rolls around him, but he manages to duck under the main blast, and scurries beneath the Dracani, throwing his back to a wall, and shattering several belly scales with his mace as he goes.

Furious, the Dracani spins to bite him. However, Ormid throws a rune etched cube in between the rogue and the monster, which unfurls and becomes a curious jack-in-the-box like construct, complete with empowered blades and spidery metallic legs, which immediately begins to threaten (?) the Dracani, drawing its attention. As this flies through the air, the artificer weaves a spell into the enchantments of the Warforged's axe, the mundane flames of its forging changing into shifting, glassy, spectral flames of radiant energy. Then, throwing his best efforts into not gibbering like a madman, and getting as much accomplished as quickly as possibly, he works a spell into the enchantments on Ardwaine's deadly hammer, the lightning that usually wreathes it being replaced with a fuming aura of caustic energy. Then, he gibbers.

With his axe enhanced, the Warforged charges the Dracani, trying to move into a position where he can flank with the artificers servant. However, as he does this, the huge monster flicks its spiked tail at him like a massively muscular whip. Seeing this, the Warforged ducks under, and the deadly attack cracks deafeningly above his head. However, at the same time, the shimmering axe bites deep into the creatures posterior, driven deeper by the monsters movement. Scales shatter, and the Dracani bellows with rage and shock as it licks the sensitive skin beneath, its claws slipping on the edge of one of the many crevasses that open in the floor. After his solid blow, Veteran slams the axe in again, scoring another shattering blow, before taking advantage of the Dracani's unbalanced state and shock to hammer in another risky but deadly attack.

Black, sizzling blood drips freely from this last wound, and the brute shakes the very air with its bellow of fury.

Ardwaine charges the thing, swinging the softly hissing hammer towards its side, and scoring a solid hit. The scales shatter under the blow and enchanted acid smears the area, continuing to burn its way inwards towards the monsters flesh.

Surrounded and more hurt than it has ever been, the cunning monster calls upon its innate presence and focuses it into a burst of pure, primal dread. A wave of invisible horror explodes from it, and all are overwhelmed by a crushing sense of abject, paralysing horror. For endless moments they stand rigid, unable to call upon their faculties, unable to move or speak or do anything, during which time the Dracani speed away from them, after it makes several attempts to devour the warforged and Dundorin – attempts which thanks to their finely wrought and enchanted armours result in nothing more than some dents and scratches.

Conquering their awoken fear, the party move to try and strike the brute down. They chase after it, and it rewards them with a flurry of clawing strikes, which again are defeated by the armour, shield, and martial prowess of both Ardwaine and Veteran. Fire once more tears at them as the monster unleashes another searing blast, and all feel its agonising burn. Desperation and a mad sense that things are not going too well for the monster fills the party with heady energy, and they press their attacks, striking several more firm hits against the things armoured flanks and head. The din of battle is maddening, and the protective field of energy around each adventurer glows like a cerulean cloak as it reacts not only to the environmental energy, but to the presence of an entity that is fire and death made manifest.

On the battle rages, and more and more of the monsters scales are shattered, dented or torn free to expose oozing flesh beneath, though the blows are starting to fall with less regularity and the insane burst of optimism is starting to wane.

Then, disaster!

The monster unleashes another wave of withering terror, and once more all of the party are unable to do anything as their minds and bodies are held rigid with pure dread. Each character expects to feel the rending talons or crushing bite of the Dracani at any moment, but to their utter shock, it turns and with a booming roar, swoops back along the tower, eventually dropping through the second breach and vanishing into the fiery deeps.

The Dracani has fled!

19:25 - It takes the party a few moments to shake off the paralysing fear the Dracani invoked, and it takes them another moment for their miraculous delivery from the jaws od death to sink in. Ormid notes that a thick trail of hissing blood marks the retreat of the monster, and they realise that it was more hurt than they had imagined. Fleeing had been a wise – if frustrating – move on its part.

19:26 - 19:40 – In its haste to leave the Dracani has shed several gems from its jewel encrusted body, and these are collected by the party. They then move along the remainder of the towers' interior, and find that towards the top it narrows, the walls being decorated with strange, spiralled flaps of glassy stone, all of which lead to a curious semi-circular hole, apparently a part of the towers' construction, worked into its rooftop.

Noting the curious design, Ormid suddenly realises that purpose of the structure – a musical instrument! He realises that it would, when set upright in the magma fields, have emitted a range of tones as the volcanic gasses and gusting thermals tore along its interior, as if the whole thing was a giant recorder.

19:41 – 19:43 – The group agree that they need to have a rest. All are wounded, exhausted, and in the case of the artificer and rogue, still suffering with the jungle fever. It is agreed that the Vyrleen will sneak ahead and scout out whatever lies beyond the tower's tunnel, and that if it seems defensible, that the group will rest there.

Before Llewellyn leaves, Ormid tries to discern if there are any magical auras in the vicinity, but quickly snaps out of his trance when he is almost overwhelmed by the powerful energies that weave through this place – energies that would have probably blinded his arcane sight or driven him mad if he had gazed upon them for too long.

19:43 – 19:55 – Llewellyn creeps to the end of the tower and notices that the air becomes noticeably cooler and that the roar and boom of the volcanoes innards seems to suddenly quieten to a muted rumble as he enters the portion that is within the tower of Ael'Shar stone.

Looking through the gap in the top of the tower, Llewellyn sees a large decagonal chamber made from the strange Ael'Shar stone. Despite its decrepit state it is clear that it was once beautifully adorned, and as he silently slips into the chamber proper, he notes the high vaulted ceilings, rune carved arches and faded reliefs that adorn them. A huge icosahedron of pale light floats some 30' above the floor, the ceiling soaring another 20' beyond it, though it flickers suddenly from sight, leaving only the ruddy light of distant magma (which comes through a great rent in the floor on the far side) for a moment before it silently reappears.

Sliding over to the hole In the floor, Llewellyn feels his stomach lurch as he finds himself looking through a mass of twisted supports and bent beams into a vast shaft of Ael'Shar stone, some 300' across and over 700' deep (which means it plunges beneath the level of the volcanoes main magma lake). He can see that there art ornamented platform positioned in a descending spiral around the wall, each connected by a doorway which seems to head back into the solid mass of the tubes' walls. Far below him, almost obscured by the shimmering heat distortions, he can see some kind of construction; four paths that cross the magma to meet with some kind of large, thin object – a tower perhaps – that is set in the middle of the chamber.

Llewellyn also notes that the walls of the larger chamber are cracked in many places, and that magma from the main lakes outside pours in, in thick, blazing falls – though oddly, the level of magma below stays constant. He also hears a distant roaring, unmistakably that of the wounded Dracani echoing from somewhere to his right and down, and looking in that direction, his eyes smarting from the hot, drying winds that gust up the tube like chamber, he sees something – a mass of fiery gas perhaps – briefly appear on one of the ledges below, and hears the crackling baying of Hell Hounds.

Pulling back into the relative cool of the Ael'Shar chamber, the Vyrleen tries not to think of the impossibility of this place, or of what it was built for. Instead he yells to his companions that the area is safe, and that they should be able to rest in peace.

19:56 – 22:30 – The weary adventurer's do not stop to eat, instead quickly arranging watches before retiring. All, even those supposedly are on watch, are soon fast asleep, the ancient Ael'Shar magic influencing them. Their sleep is filled with dreams that echo with ancient sorrow and wisdom, though these are forgotten on waking.

The group awaken fully refreshed and convinced they have slept for a full six or so hours, after only two, and are amazed by the level of recovery they have gained. Unfortunately, both Ormid and Llewellyn (despite in the Vyrleen's case, the ministrations of Ardwaine), still suffer with the fever, though it has not grown worse, and much of the acid scarring still mars the artificer's face and upper body.

After a brief meal and a discussion about what to do next the group move towards the hole in the floor to consider their next move.

22:30 – 22:35 – For a moment it seems that their next move will be to return to the teleport circle so far away, for none of them want to try and clamber through the ravaged supports and then down the fiery walls of the larger chamber and towards the nearest of the platforms. However, Ormid comes up with a plan, for he knows that given some help and given the right application, he may be able to conjure spectral steeds that can fly!

To help him accomplish the manipulation of the ritual Ormid consumes a mind enhancing elixir, and with no further ado, begins the casting...

22:35 – 23:45 ...The first of seven castings. It takes over an hour for the group to summon mounts with the power of flight, the manipulations of magic falling short six times before. However, after using many of his ritual components, and with the help of his allies, Ormid is successful!

23:45 – 23:47 – It takes them some time to conjure the courage needed to willingly command their mounts to step into the empty air of the hole, Ormid being the first to do so. The descent through the searing, blazing atmosphere of the tube is both exhilarating and mind shatteringly terrifying. The mounts plummet at first, trailing lines of blueish sparks as they fall; their riders clinging to them, their screams lost in the roar and hiss of the lava. However, when they reach fifty feet above the level of the magma, they stop falling and gently level out, racing through the mirage lousy air as if it were solid ground.

23:47 – 23:50 – From this angle the details of the thing at the bottom of the chamber is apparent. It is a huge faceted shard of some bronze coloured, alien crystal – extra-dimensional in origin the artificer speculates – that floats just above the level of the magma.

Each of its facets is emblazoned with a large, glowing, red rune of alien power, and the bottom fifth of the crystal is bound by an elaborate and delicate cage of black metal. The inside of the cage is lined with long crystalline bristles, which stop just shy of the crystal, and Ormid realises that this is all part of some impossible, alien and incomprehensible power generator.

The four paths Llewellyn saw from above are bridges of black metal, covered in masses of cooled magma, which float just above the magma's surface, and lead to arched doorways, each surrounded by redly shining glyphs. Llewellyn spots, high above to the north, a great rift in the walls, from which pours both a steady stream of lava, and the furious roars of the Dracani.

23:50 – The group decide to head into the southern tunnel leading from the crystal chamber.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Post War Group - 13/4/2010

13:35 – 13:50 – The group spend some time calming down, shuddering, and searching the chamber for anything of value (they find nothing; the cultists being naked and the daemons leaving only stinking greasy spots where they were destroyed).

13:51 – With great caution, the group open the doors of the mausoleum and step outside into tangled woodland. Jaeger immediately realises that the party is far from Peregrine, noting that the trees here are broadleaved, and that the spring plants are several weeks ahead of those in the north. He estimates that the party are now at least 700 – 1,000 miles to the south of Peregrine.

The woodland they are in is small and clearly ancient. Numerous moss and lichen covered headstones can be seen scattered through its winter-browned grasses, many fallen and trampled, others pushed out of alignment by the expanding trunks of the oaks and hollies that are common here, and it quickly becomes apparent that this is a familial burial ground, almost certainly attached to a small settlement or homestead. Beyond the woodland, the group can see empty, unploughed fields, surrounded by dry stone walls, and to the northwest, a tumbledown building that looks like it may have been a large farmhouse.

13:53 - However, the party are distracted, for they hear a woman sobbing, and soon find one of the cultist weeping hysterically amongst the trees; naked, still covered in a drying skin of filthy fluids, her long dark hair encrusted, shivering in the cold, spring wind. They approach her cautiously, wary of any tricks she may have, but she turns out to be a simple, horrified woman named Salara Cooper, a wife from Irin.

13:53 – 13:54 - The group argue over what to do with her. Schnecke states that a “mercy killing” is in order, fingering the razor edge of his axe (this sends Salara into another torrent of horrified weeping). The Warlord also seems in favour of dispatching her. However, the priest, handing her his cloak, talks to her softly, and informs her that if she makes herself useful to the group and tells them all they need to know, they will not kill her – though she panics when she discovers that she will be handed over to the Unified Order once they reach Irin.

15:54 – 14:10 - They interrogate her, and learn that up until a year ago she was happy to be the wife of a successful Cooper (Halsfur Cooper). However, she began to suspect her husband was seeing another woman and began to plot her revenge, seeking out illicit relationships; chasing the idea of a glamorous, secret, second life of guilt free debauch and heart stopping new experiences. What she found instead was Maelazeiria, who subtly and completely entered and violated her mind, to the point that she willingly entered into the vile ritual orgies that the daemon arranged. Now, with Maelazeiria banished, she has come to her full awareness, and the realisation of what she has done (as well as the fact that her husband left her several months ago when she would not tell him what was up with her) has hit her like a gigorim fist. She is a broken thing, disgusted with herself entirely and sickened at the permanent destruction she has sown into her own life.

The group continue with their interrogation and learn that Salara knows very little about the workings of the cult, except that they would be “summoned in visions” by “the mistress”, and that they would meet in various places around the area. She reiterates the almost dream like state she has been in for so long, but is able to recall that some of the meetings occurred in a slaughter house – possibly in a poorer area of nearby Irin (the group now know where they are; west-central Fey) called “The Roughs” - and tells them of how on one visit one of her fellow cultists summoned the spirits of the slaughtered animals held on hooks there, and made them dance in the darkness above their lustful acts. She also mentions orgies held in the desecrated crypts of a Solum'Tassadexite chapel, overseen by a corrupted priest. She is unable to tell the group which denomination of the Solum'Tassadexite church the priest fronted, though she recalls his symbol depicted a supine crescent pieced by a stylized, flame-wreathed sword.

Further questioning reveals that Maelazeiria had a “dark knight” who would stand guard over her at times, and who would occasionally join with her during the rituals. She cannot give a name, though she describes him as “indescribably beautiful and cruel” “Like an Aelwyn, though crueller still” “Pale and grim”.

And she recognises Rubus from his description, though she states he usually wore a mask made from a human skull. 

14:10 - The group decide that they have heard enough, and that they should explore the farmhouse – partly to see if there are any more cultists hiding in there, and partly to find Salara some clothes.

14:15 - Within the ruin they discover another cultist, a male, crouched and muttering in the shattered kitchen. Emmiven (who has kicked the houses' front door in and charged to confront him, despite knowing that the assassin is poised by the back door for a stealthy entrance) strides towards him, only to watch as he uses a shard of filthy glass to open his arms up to the bone. The male bleeds out quickly and dies with only a sob and a whimper.

14:15 – 14:35 - The group explore the building and find many discarded clothes, which Salara informs them are those of the cultists, as well as a few trinkets. They also find that a small, ruined chapel to Arnelc'Caliel stands, shattered and empty, at the edge of the farms yard.

Whilst the group are doing this, the priest rests alone, feeling suddenly weary and tearful. As he gathers himself a little, he suddenly becomes aware of a voice in his mind...or in his soul...a voice that strangely, he realises has been speaking to him for some time now. It is a normal, male voice, that seems earnest and a little scared, and Grigori finds himself letting it speak, despite knowing its source.

“I was misunderstood.” It whispers, “They hated me because I proved them to be charlatans.”

Grigori tries not to listen, knowing that to keep doing so is dangerous and wrong. However.

“I simply showed them that there is no mystic force driving life, but simple principles of alchemy and natural energies. All I did was strip the fancy and emotion out of the study of life and death, and they decided I was a monster.”

Grigori flinches at the reasonable sound of the statement, especially reflecting on the way the Unified Order restricts knowledge that does not agree with their version of things.

“Don't let them silence me forever. Please. I only ever wanted to find the truuuuuth...”

Grigori forces his mind away from the voice, and feels the vial suddenly wet and cold against his thigh, where it sits, putrid and dank, in his robes' pocket.

14:40 – 16:00 - The group head northwards towards Irin, guided in part by the sobbing cultist, and in part by the growing spectre of the oldest city on the planet. The first thing they see is the Tomb of the Dreaming God rising in the distance; a shimmering tower of shadow, dimly flickering with green fire, and some of the taller spires of the cities larger temples and private dwellings. Hovering above the city the group can see a large number of brightly coloured hot air balloons and cruising sky ships, which all seems a little odd.

As they get closer to the storied city they begin to see increased signs of a military presence, and soon they are within clear sight of its perimeter, its defensive glyphs and standards shining brightly along its high, newly constructed outer walls, vying for space with huge, colourful pennants which have been draped over the walls.

16:00 - The group arrive at the main southern gate, which is watched over by a large number of warforged, as well as a handful of humans and a couple of Dundorin. Two Warforged Titan's stand either side as well – Speciosus Senior (Imposing Lord) and Letalis Pulsus (Fatal Blow), their unblinking eyes scanning the flow of humanity into and out of the city.

16:01 – 16:05 - Seeing the group dragging a weeping, near hysterical woman with them, the guards quickly move to stop them, lowering spears which crackle with an edge of potent offensive magic. The leader of this group of guards is a particularly tall warforged who bears the mark of a newly minted specimen, who's armour plating has a blueish tinge. The living construct demands to know what is happening in a booming, resonant voice, and the group begin to explain, painfully aware of the crowds of people looking in horror at them. However, they stop as the tall warforged suddenly sags a little, its head tilting slightly to the side, before suddenly holding up a silencing hand and informing its allies in a burst of machine cant that the group are free to go under the authority of the Unified Order.

Before the group go Salara is secured by several of the guards. The group explain her crimes and her explanations for them, and she is dragged off to face an uncertain future. At this point, another sending finds the warforged, and it informs the group that rooms have been arranged for them at the Staff of Wands – one of Irin's most exclusive inns, located in the great plaza that surrounds the lake in which the Tomb of the Dreaming God rises.

16:06 - The group enter Irin.

16:06 – 16:40 - The party move along the cobbled streets of the city, and are at once aware of the powerful sense of impossible age and ambient presence it possesses. Their minds fill with the hundreds of tales of the greatest heroes of the ages and how their paths inevitably brought them to this very place – often to speak with “Mad Magico” - the very being who's dreams supposedly hold reality together where it slumbers in the heart of the tomb tower. They see both incredibly rich and healthy nobles – many of whom are mages or associates of the Unified Order – and great collections of folk who are homogeneous in their wretchedness and disease. Modern magical devices and conveniences are everywhere, next to buildings and statues that were here before the ages last turned, and the meandering roads are broken here and there by huge, venerable Oaks and Beeches; just coming into their first leaves of the year. 

Posters are everywhere, declaring upcoming events in the Grand Fayre. Most of them seem to be referring to the opening of “The Grand Spectacle” “A grim show of blood and heroics” - a great arena event that will begin on the first day of the Summer Solstice and end five days later on the final day. Near to these are requests from the spectacles organisers for “Monster Hunters, Adventurers and Fortune Seekers – Work Available – Please speak with Septimus Aalv at the 'Prayer of Banturn' Inn for details”.

The group ask for directions to the Staff of Wands, and even guided by them it takes them the better part of an hour to reach it; a huge and impressive building, draped in numerous standards showing either the Unified Order's symbol, the cities standard (a closed maze) or the symbol of Merriel'Shaava. Window Boxes overflowing with flowering plants decorate its front as well, and over the door, the sign is a permanent illusions of a staff that shifts into a wands before exploding in a burst of illusory flame.

However, they are more awestruck by the soaring structure of the Dreaming Gods tomb, which dominates the centre of the plaza.

It is impossibly huge, and seems to somehow exist apart from the rest of the city, the distances between the edge of the lake and the tower itself seeming far greater than the actual physical distance could possibly be. It soars to a height of many hundreds of feet, and is a gigantic edifice of darkest green stone – so dark as to appear black save where the light reflects off it. It comprises a main central oblong tower, supported by four lesser towers. No windows, no doors, no battlements. Seamless and immaculate. The only apparent ornamentation is a circle of huge, green glowing runes of impossible complexity rendered close to the top of the main tower, and a huge halo of green fire that floats silent and impossible at the same height around it.

A placid lake surrounds the island upon which the tower stands, and four bridges, one from each cardinal point, leads from the plaza to the island. In the grounds around the tower, grow numberless weeping willows, their long branches hiding the base of the tower and its grounds.

The group also notice that despite the lack of guards, defensive structures or even signs of warning aruond the structure, no one has attempted to set up a stall on any of the bridges. No one even walks or sits on them, so potent is the aura of ineffable power and the supernatural presence of the whole place.

16:41 – 17:20 - At the Staff of Wands the group are informed that their rooms are pre-booked under the name Archevult, and a moment later they discover that the grand magus is waiting for them, appearing to be alone for once. None of the other diners sit near him, or even seems to look at him - and he looks odd...he's....smiling...

...And he's not wearing his usual robes of state or mask...

Archevult greets the party warmly and shakes their hands. He tells them how pleased he is to see them, and orders food and wine for them. Once the group are settled and their food and drinks have arrived, he whispers a word of power, and the rest of the taproom suddenly seems far removed and unreal. Archevult remains objectively bright, but an edge comes to his voice that is more like his usual self.

Archevult will firstly congratulate the entire party for their incredible work, and will again apologise for the foul burden thrust upon them. He will then tell them that they must bear it a little longer, though he has a temporary solution to its insistent call to the powers of darkness. With this he produces a scroll tube, from which he pulls a string of glowing glyphs. He asks to be allowed to see the vial, and that it be placed on the table. He then weaves the glyphs around it, muttering a powerful sounding incantation that makes the glyphs stick to it in a shower of angry, white sparks.

As soon as the final glyph adheres to the mottled container, the party feel a great weight – a weight they did not even know they carried – lift from their shoulders, and a sense of freedom in their souls. Archevult explains that the corrosive evil of the vial will eat away at the glyphs, and that he cannot say for certain how long they will last, but that they should at least be able to enjoy a short break from the foul things dark presence. However, he then warns that party that Rubus was not captured, and that it is unlikely that the Ravensoul Cabal and Death Loved are the only foul organisations looking for the vial. He tells the party that he and a select few allies are trying to think of a place where the vial can be safely stored, and asks that they keep it for now, whilst they come up with an answer. He then bids the group to eat, and states that they should probably stay local for now to let their presence in the north die down a bit, and suggests they find work in the city, adding that the Order can always send some jobs their way.

He then gives the party 1,000 gold in paper money, and thanks them once more for their work, adding that they might want to speak to a local wine merchant named Vastam Dirk, who is looking for capable souls to help him with a little problem he is having.

“I'll find you” he states before standing up, allowing the taproom to return to full reality, and striding out of the Inn.

18:30 - After finishing their dinner, and realising that for the foreseeable future their rooms at the lush inn have been paid for, the group decide to rest up for the rest of the day, agreeing that the next day shall be spent shopping and checking out the employment opportunities in the city. And with that, they retire to their rooms, to enjoy the unexpected luxury – made all the better without the insubstantial weight of the vial's soul crushing presence and a distinct lack of enemies trying to kill them.

11/4/1472 (Bright and breezy. Winds warming)

10:00 – 16:30 – The party enter the busy streets of Irin and shop for various items, visiting a number of merchants and specialist suppliers. They also offload some of the gear they have collected during their adventures. As they wander through the maze of streets and districts they also visit several individuals seeking hired help.

Firstly, they visit Septimus Aalv and sign on as a team to take part in the upcoming arena battles. Septimus – an awkward, bookish man – tells them to attend the selection battles, on the 21/4 – the precursor rounds that determine who gets to fight for the pleasure of the Irinite crowds.

They then, on Septimus' advice, speak with Jurgen Throndor'Gulv, a grey bearded, grey haired, piercing ridden Dundorin half drunk in a bar called the “Raging Taurag”– Beast Master for the upcoming spectacles. Jurgen is looking for adventurers who can find him living monsters for the arenas, and he is willing to pay handsomely for any specimens brought to him. However, he seems less than convinced as to how much use the party will be; regarding them woozily, before bursting out with laughter when they tell him they want work.

However, he gains some control of himself and with a snigger, tells the group that a rogue Morgog'Gigori has been spotted to the west, some six days away, in the wild foothills where the Faerie Gates meet Argent Wood. He tells the party that if they can bring the brute – who is supposedly tattooed with runes of power and wields a huge club bearing the skulls of several wyverns – back to Irin alive, he will pay them 7,500 gold and will give them further monster capturing contracts.

Then he tells the party to get lost.

This request does not sit well with the group once they learn from Grigori that the Morgog'Gigori (known as Stone Giants by men) are not one of the depraved lesser Gigorim races, but intelligent and usually peaceful creatures, and they decide that for now, they will not try to impress the drunk Gigorim.

16:50 - And so, as the suns sink in the northwest, and the streets of Irin begin to fill with shadows, the group knock on the front door of Vastam's wine shop, and prepare to see what help he needs – and more importantly, how much he is willing to pay...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Irin after the Aelwyn Wars

During the war, the Unified Order built a powerful military presence in the eternal city, recognising the dangers should the Aelwyn be mad enough to attack the Tomb of the Dreaming God, possibly in a last ditch “scorched earth” attack. During the bitter months of battle, they constructed additional walls around the ancient city, and filled them with all manner of arcane and mundane weapons. They also assigned almost 12,000 newly minted Warforged to defend the site, as well as twenty Warforged Titans, countless Golems and other war machines, and bound countless elementals and other spirits to the defensive areas. They wove complex defensive mythals in harmony with those already around the Tomb of the Dreaming God, and ensured that any Aelwyn attacks were stopped long before they got within sight of the ancient city.

And they were more than successful. The Aelwyn, recognising the colossal impact the fall of Irin would have on many of those fighting them (though without any suicidal thoughts of destroying the tomb, which they understood is the anchor for reality) made countless attempts to reach the site by land, air and by other less mundane means – all of which failed.

Now the city remains alert for attacks, and a general sense of paranoid readiness hangs in the air. The defences remain in working order, though only 2,500 of the original warforged remain, the rest having joined the war in Vaesuur. Those remaining have begun to build a settlement of their own half a mile to the northeast of Irin, a fledgling town they call New Forge, but which the locals call “Clank Town”. “Clank” is also a derogative name used to refer to the Warforged by many locals – which seems to be starting to annoy the devoted living constructs.

Irin remains sacred to those that worship Merriel'Shaava, as well as to those who seek the wisdom of Erikanthros, Mad Magico or the Dreaming God (depending on how you want to see that mighty entity), and there is a strong trade in religious and arcane paraphernalia – all carefully overseen by the Unified Order of course). The Order have magnificent offices in the city, at the edge of the wide plaza that surrounds the lake within which rises the Tomb; a cathedral like structure called by many “The Court of Five Stars” or simply “The Court”. As with most non-merchant prince ruled cities at this point in history on Fey, the Order are the de facto rulers of the place, though they like to be seen to be only “advisers” to the hereditary councils that officially rule the city.

Surprisingly for a city so very central to the Order, there is a strong undercurrent of dislike for them and their machines. Many folk whisper that the defences are not to keep enemies out, but to keep them in, and there are a number of underground organisations that seek to train “unfettered” mages, or seek to find a way to weaken the Order's influence within the city. Of late, the Order's popularity has waned more, as many of the folks who would be planting crops and maintaining the farmsteads that were once famous in the region and which are essential to keeping the cities supply bins full and trade active, have been drafted into the forces sent to the southern hemisphere to fight the Vaesuurians, and although there are no signs of supplies reaching critical levels yet, it is on the cards. Worse, the abandoned or unmaintained farms are either falling into disrepair (and becoming home to bandits and worse) or are being bought for a fraction of their true value by various – often Order affiliated – individuals, and converted into private compounds, second homes or agricultural endeavours who's produce is exclusively destined for trade in the southern markets, or to the warmasters.

Recognising the dangerous drop in morale, the Unified Order are resurrecting a truly ancient tradition in the city – the Irin High Fayre – and a great festival shall begin from the 21/6 until the 21/9 within the city. Public opinion however seems to be that the resources destined for this spectacle could be better spent on helping people survive the coming years.

Another recent faux pas by the Order occurred when Arch Mage Gustav Pezzopar – a well recognised representative of the Order in Irin – suggested that the Custodis Aeterna (the powerful guards that watch over the Dreaming God and maintain / protect his tomb) should submit to Order doctrine and accept their direct assistance in the Tomb – a place that none are allowed to enter, including the Order's members. This was seen by most as arrogant at best, suicidal and insane at worst, and it is widely rumoured that one of the Custodis Aeterna manifested inside the Courts most heavily warded chamber, met the eyes of the potent magi sat there, spoke one word - “No” - before returning to its normal place. There are even more hushed whispers that the entity was none other than the ancient 2nd Age Hero Emerald Woodstaff, reborn in the form of a Custodis.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Post War Group - 7/4/2010 - The Final Part - The Group Reunited; a Final Battle

Well, against all odds and conventional wisdom, the group have survived their ordeals apart. Now they must face a terrible foe together - exhausted, scared and confused. I did take a little bit of a liberty with he ending - one Dretch outlived the Succubus - but it flows better as written here. Enjoy!

*   *   *

13:15 – 13:20 – The reunited allies quickly relay to one another the trials they have been through, and discuss what to do next. All realise that it is highly unlikely that they can now simply leave this place of death and foul lusts without further trouble, and they are painfully aware that despite the invigorating power of the holy mausoleum and their healed wounds, the day could still, easily, be lost, for all are weary and numb from the emotional wounds they have received.

13:21 – 13:26 – Beyond the doorway is a tightly coiled flight of stone stairs which lead up. A slight breeze can be felt coming down them, and although the stench of death and evil is still strong, it also carries distant aromas of grass and trees and sunlight.
The party carefully move up the stairs, and note that the walls of this place once held numerous memorial plaques, many of which covered recesses within the wall that held ashes or skeletal remains. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the tombs, these have been violated; covered in lewd and vile graffiti, smashed open and plundered, or simply chiselled until the original details are gone. To further add to the disturbing scene, several more dead celebrants lie broken and bruised at certain points; final victims to their fellow cultists hunger for freedom.

As they move higher, the group become aware of a growing weight in their souls. The air, though fresher carries a foulness not born of the physical plane, and all begin to feel the pressing crush of daemonic evil; recognising its loathsome pressure from their encounter with the plague daemon. Eventually, the swordmage, who is at the front of the group, sees the steps end – a plain opening that leads into a dark space beyond.

The foulness is like a physical presence now, a crawling sensation of crushing wrongness that makes concentrating hard and which makes everyone feel somehow tainted simply by being exposed to it. To make this worse, there is a stillness from above that all recognise as the silent alertness of a crouched predator – who or whatever is up there is more than aware of the parties approach and is waiting, just as the party are able to sense them, and are ready to strike out.

For a pregnant moment the whole party stands still along the tight curve of the stairs, all but Varracuda and Jaeger unable to see anything other than the person in front of them, and then, with a grim sigh, the swordmage leaps into the void above...

13:26 – 13:35 - ...and into a nightmare.

The swordmage finds himself in a small stone chamber filled with rubble, cobwebs, dried and dead leaves and evil – daemonic and mundane evil.

Pale sunlight can be seen through gaps in the chamber roof, and glinting through the edges of a pair of closed and barred stone doors which stand at the end of a short corridor. Numerous alcoves of various depths lead off the main chamber, and Varracuda recognises this place as another crypt – though the sarcophagi that were once here have been removed at some point. However, his attention is focused more on the vile host that surrounds him.

First to catch his attention are eight of the celebrants, who crouch ready to leap at him, naked and smeared in the sickening fluids of their rage and lust. They wield a variety of improvised weapons; chunks of rubble, jaw bones, sharp pieces of snapped femur, or simply use their nails and fists. Around their feet, like a living tide of foul corruption, squat horrific daemons. Each is the size of a human toddler, and appears to be a constantly dissolving, dripping mess of putrid oily flesh and boiling, black vapours. Each monster wails almost constantly, and has flabby, dissolving limbs from which sprout long, filth encrusted claws. Set into their neckless heads are wide mouths filled with long, needle-sharp teeth, which gleam with a sickly radiance in the gloom, and their eyes are little more than faintly luminous blobs of swollen, pus leaking flesh, set loosely into their continually dripping faces. The stench that comes from them is that of rotting flesh and strong alchemical acids, as well as the psychic stink of diseased minds and unholy wickedness.

Varracuda recognises them from the few librams he has studied on the minions of other planes, identifying them as minor daemons known as Dretches. However, his thoughts are suddenly muddled as his eyes come to rest on the chambers final inhabitant.

She is beyond beautiful, and beyond wanton. She at once manages to embody all that is perfect and innocent, and all that is worldly and overpoweringly erotic. She is a human woman, with long dark hair, full breasts and a perfect feminine figure. Her eyes are golden and seem deep and moist enough to drown in.

And she's naked. Totally, distractingly naked.

The spell is broken as the first celebrants launch forwards, giving voice to their madness and anger, and suddenly Varracuda is having to parry the hail of blows coming his way. Leaping from the stairwell and towards the woman, he is quickly surrounded by Dretches and cultists and discovers that the Dretches emit a field of daemonic magic, which draws blood whenever he is forced to stop concentrating on holding it at bay. Varracuda unleashes a wide burst of killing blows, decapitating one cultist and slashing the throat of the other so deeply that his death screams are merely a wet cough. His blade also rips across one of the daemon's bloated bellies, leaving a flapping, oozing wound that vomits thick, custard like filth, though the repugnant spirit seems to hardly notice. Varracuda screams a note of warning at the woman as the assassin uses his dark powers to apport into the chamber behind one of the Dretches and into one of the deeper alcoves. From there he extends shadowy tendrils of dark power into the soul of the woman, tearing at her spirit and leaving a dark wound in her essence that he can exploit at a later time to further wound her.

As this magical ability strikes her, the woman's form changes in a heartbeat. She remains a voluptuous, stunningly beautiful humanoid female, but any fa├žade of humanity is gone, for she now bears short back curved horns on her forehead, has slender black bat-wings sprouting from her shoulder, and a long, needle tipped tail.

She's a Succubus; a daemon of lust made flesh. A corrupter. A tainted soul. A natural leader for this perverse group of necrophiles and perverts.

She screams, her fury exploding in a painful corona from her.

Dretches are suddenly everywhere, biting, slashing and screaming with their phlegmy, high pitched voices. The rest of the party suddenly find themselves blocked in on the stairwell as three of the foetid daemons pile down towards them, the warlord suddenly engaging in a wrestling match with the nearest as he fights to get by. Varracuda is torn and slashed by them, whilst Jaeger manages to avoid their talons, though their vicious aura works its painful magic.

Then the Succubus attacks. She moves round the throng of horrors surrounding the swordmage, and suddenly reaches for him, grabbing him, and pulling him towards her. As she does this, she opens her mouth, revealing a forked tongue, and to the genasai's horror, she tries to give him a deep kiss! Fighting down his conflicting hunger for her and repulsion of her, the Genasai manages to pull free before she can complete her move, and she screams with fury once more.

And so things move on. The Succubus' second attempts to kiss Varracuda succeed, and as her tongue wraps around his, she pours magic into him, and suddenly all Varracuda knows is that he loves her, and that he must keep her safe. In a state of dissonance, he knows he won't harm his allies, but simultaneously he knows that he must stop any of his allies harming her.

Things only get worse when she manages to totally dominate him a short while later, and gets him to give her his blade. Jaeger, now being pounded by rocks and bones thrown by the cultists, and having taken several firm blows, begins to yell to his companions, unable to see what is going on from the recess in which he fights, and knowing only that he is apparently alone against a hoard of daemons and lunatics, whilst the adventurers trapped on the stairs fight to get past and / or destroy the daemons blocking their access to the chambers above.

Lightning lashes the chamber at one point as Seren reveals her familiar – cat sized Dracani – and uses it as a focus for her magic, though the poor thing is quickly dispatched by the minor daemons killing presences, and the warlord and barbarian manage to eventually break into the chamber, though Schnecke suffers serious wounds in the process, the healing magic of the priest being the only thing preventing his sudden and gory death.

Schnecke is next to feel the dominating power of the succubus, and he is persuaded to throw his dundorin axe away, before the Succubus is forced to pay full attention to the swordmage and warlord as they move to flank her, and set about her with blade and magic.

Seren and Grigori work to clear the room of the cultists and lesser daemons, whilst the assassin flickers like a deadly spectre; opening throats and splitting skulls, and sending the Dretches howling into dissolving clouds of putrid, poisonous gas.

With her minions suddenly slain and her own physical form in this plane seriously damaged, the Succubus (who the group hear being called Maelazieria by one of the cultists), tries to move towards the exit to the tomb. However, she doesn't make it. As the last Dretch is sent gibbering back to its own filthy dimension, the air rank with its noxious fumes, the full fury of the party falls upon her.

She lasts less than a few seconds.

With her screams dissolving on the air like the filthy flesh-slime of the Dretches, the group, now utterly spent; shaking with exhaustion, mental stress and the curdling after effects of too much adrenaline being present in them for far too long, slump to the ground, and allow themselves a moment to acknowledge their pain, to deal with all the horrors they have seen, and to let themselves accept that at long last – for now – the nightmare is over.

They hope.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Post War Group - 7/4/2010 - The Assassin, The Sorcerer and the Swordmage (Part 3)

Jaeger senses a gathering evil beyond, and warning the rest of the group, prepares to enter the marble vaults.

12:42 – Jaegar goes ahead of his companions' climbing silently and hidden into the chamber, and up between the wings of the statue. From his vantage point he is able to clearly see the entirety of the chamber beyond.

The chamber is a vast burial vault, its arched ceiling some 30' high. Gross graffiti covers much of the marble in this chamber, and yet, despite the horrible desecration it has endured, its former grandeur is still apparent; mute testimony to the wealth or influence of whoever built it. At either side of the chamber stand rows of shattered sarcophagi; their contents scattered across the floor, chunks of their substance strewn about. A single doorway in the southern most corner of the chamber seems to be the only exit, but by far the most impressive thing about the vault (despite the beautifully rendered statue upon which the assassin lurks) is one large mausoleum constructed in the middle of the western wall, between the two rows of violated sarcophagi, directly across from the statue.

It is made from pale marble, and has escaped the vandalism that has marked every other area of the tombs. The soft blue radiance that fills this chamber is radiated by this structure, and from his vantage point, Jaegar can see it bears the life sized carving of a beautiful young woman, dressed in full-plate armour, who lies with both hands resting upon the pommel of a huge hand-and-a-half sword that lies along the length of her body – the burial pose of knights. Around the edge of the faux roof of the structure is elaborate scrollwork, and though the assassin cannot read it from his hiding place, he can clearly see the seal upon them – a stylized sun within which blazes a stylised sword of fire – the ancient symbol of Solum'Tassasdexes, from before his sanity shattered and he became the broken, insane deity he is today. At the corners of the structures roof are small cherubic figures, their heads bowed as if weeping, their hands together as if in prayer.

The chamber is not empty however. The reanimated remains of the sarcophagi's former tenants stand alert and ready around the place, their bones brittle and dusty, whilst two more skeletons, clad in chain armour and wielding bone longbows stand poised in the two farthest corners. The endless stream of mad poems, ranting rhetoric and weeping, screaming song is coming from a wild haired man who stands before the exit. He is openly weeping, and wears long dark funereal robes, a sword strapped to his belt, a large animal horn draped around his shoulders. A vague sense of power emanates from him as he rants, and the assassin looks back over his shoulder towards his two companions crouched in the shadows, and bids them move forwards with caution.

12:43 – 12:45 – The swordmage moves carefully into the chamber, crouching low behind the tombs in order to try and remain hidden, whilst Seren tries to stay close to the statue for the same reasons. Alas, they are soon discovered, and the madman immediately urges the undead to kill them, launching into a series of foul incantations and unholy prayers.

The skeletons are in bad condition, and are dispatched easily. Several simply collapse by being too close to the sorceress, as she radiates power constantly, which burns them to ashes, whilst even the most minor blow from sword or spell is enough to destroy the others. Of far more concern are the two skeletal archers, who's worm-eaten arrows find their marks with painful regularity, inflicting grievous wounds, and the threnodist, who's mad poems are soon shown to be spells of foul power.

At one point, both Seren and Varracuda are overcome with a nightmare delusion created by the threnodist, each believing that they are buried alive and suffocating, and all they are able to do is scream and gasp as they try to draw breath in what they believe is the suffocating embrace of cold, crushing earth. The threnodist also summons an undead spirit, which possesses Varracuda and sends him dancing obscenely from his hiding place, and out into the open, where he is shot by more decrepit arrows.

However, once the entombing delusions power has fully faded (it leaves its victims dazed for a while once the full effects have faded), the threnodist finds himself surrounded by the group. The group also discover that the untouched mausoleum radiates holy power, slowly healing their wounds, allowing them to access their innate healing ability, and granting them some small protection from the monsters attacks.

The assassin unleashes his choking mantle of shadows and covers the death bard in wounds and slowing shadows, whilst Seren blasts him with raw magic and Varracuda slices him with blades of fire, and slowly but surely, he is worn down and eventually killed.

Radiant fire from the sorceress finishes off the archers quickly, and finally, the group can rest.

12:45 – 13:05 – The three battered adventurers know that something horrible lies ahead, and with the gentle protection of the mausoleum around them, they take time to fully heal, to let the tensions of their seemingly endless encounters ease off, and to prepare themselves for whatever evil awaits.

13:05 – 13:15 – Distant sounds from back in the tombs bring all the group to full alert. Expecting only more trouble, they move to defensive positions within the mausoleum, and prepare to unleash whatever hell they can at what or whoever comes past the statue. However, they then hear the familiar muttering of the priest Grigori, and with wide smiles, relax as they emerge, alert and tense, into the chamber and join them in time for whatever final horror awaits beyond the exit...

Post War Group - 7/4/2010 - The Barbarian, The Priest and the Swordmage (Part 3)

12:50 – 12:58 - The trio of adventurer's ride the lift back up to the corridor and throw themselves into battle with the Golems. Luckily for them, it becomes apparent after the first blow is landed these constructs, whilst impressive looking, are gaudy imitations – sub-standard constructs made from weak, chalky stone and animated by only minor spirits.

The party are able to destroy them with little effort, though they learn (painfully) that as each Golem is destroyed, they explode in a blast of razor edged shards, which stab deeply into their flesh causing horrible wounds. In truth though, the constructs prove rather ineffective against the group, and soon they are panting through the thick white dust of their destruction, amidst the collapsed rubble to which the Golems have been reduced.

12:58 – 13:00 – With the Golems destroyed, the only way forwards is a heavily reinforced door upon which blazes a powerful warding glyph. Grigori moves to examine it, with a view to carefully undoing the strands of lethal power woven into it, and opening the door safely. Alas, he does not reckon on the stone-brained thought processes of the Ulnyrr, and before he can stop him, Schnecke has strolled up to the door, and given it a thump!

For a split second everything becomes burning, blinding light and searing, blazing agony.

The Glyph explodes in a blast of radiant energy, burning all three adventurers and temporarily blinding them. Luckily, none are slain, though all are seriously hurt, and once they can see again, they find that the warded door has been blasted free of its hinges in the explosion, and that the way into the chamber beyond is open.

13:00 – 13:02 – The three enter Rubus' study, and find the horrific mess left from the dissolution of the Angel of Decay, as well as the portal that leads to the lust chambers of the Death Loved.

13:03 – After a brief discussion, and a few weary words of encouragement, the group move through the portal and into the chambers beyond.

13:03 – 13:13 – Slowly, carefully, they pick their way through the chambers, stopping to examine the various remains scattered about – the recently alive and recently unliving alike. As they move towards the stairs leading from the lower crypts, they hear distant conversation echoing along the decrepit corridors from some unknown space above. After a few moments, the group recognise the voices as those of their allies, and with weary joy, Grigori, Schnecke and Emmiven join their allies...

Continued in the third part of this sessions write up.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Pre War Session - 31/3/2010 - Fire, Fire and more Fire...

Fire, Acid and Magma - everything that burns and sears - all come together to give the group a really hard time this time!
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15:00 – 15:05 – The group wander down a wide tunnel which gradually grows wider as it winds downwards. Gusts of hot, acidic fumes belch along it, driven by howling, superheated winds filled with flying cinders and sparks, and the group realise that without the ritual spell protecting them, they would be suffering already from its corrosive and toxic touch, to say nothing of the withering heat. Indeed, the opaque clouds of volcanic gas glow with the lambent light of the volcanoes hidden guts, lending everything within a hellish slant.

15:05 – 15:08 - The group soon find themselves walking amongst looming Cyclopean ruins of rune carved obsidian, all built by creatures many times larger than men. Everything is covered in a mantle of sulphur, and the air dances with the heat distortions here. Ormid takes a moment to shift his awareness, in an attempt to “feel out” the local magical energies. He senses the powerful elemental energies that naturally surge and clash in this place, and can feel the dimly guttering magics sewn into the ruins around them – fading abjurations against the environments brutal embrace – however, he senses no other local energies of interest...until...

Briefly, at the edge of his awareness, beyond the immediate scope of his senses, he feels a thorn of potent elemental energy spike at his consciousness; scratching along his mind, before quickly withdrawing.

Ormid tells the rest of the party with a note of dread in his voice.

15:08 – 15:10 – The group decide that they will head deeper into the volcano without searching these upper areas, reasoning that the stelae, being related to potent magic, should be in an area more saturated with eldritch power, and wanting to make the best use of the protection ritual's duration.

15:10 – 15:25 – The group move through the ruins on this level, and behold the spectacle of what lies beyond the cliff on which it rests; a vast open area filled with thick, billowing clouds of volcanic gasses, massive blasts of surging magma and jets of lambent flame. They move to an area where the ruins tumble over the edge of a glowing cliff of rock, the powerful winds screaming over it throwing searing heat into their faces, and after a brief discussion, clamber slowly down it – a terrifying eighty foot descent to the next swathe of ruins.

They make it with few problems, though at one point the rogue slips and has to be caught by the Veteran before he can fall free and drag the party with him. By the time the group have reached the bottom, both Ormid and Llewellyn are sweating heavily, their eyes unfocused as they fight to concentrate through their dizziness and pain.

15:20 – 18:30 – The group are in a large area of ruins, which lie closer to the core of the volcano. Geysers of Lava explodes at random intervals from the numerous cracks that cover the ground here, and sheets of roaring flame and molten rock flash out constantly, turning the ground in to an amorphous patchwork of melted and cooled rock, and keeping the party on their toes as they work to not be covered in deadly, molten rock.

Each adventurer feels the magic of the ritual tighten around them like a physical presence, shielding them from the searing air and the deadly fumes, and in darkness, they can see it - a thin veil of misty, faintly blue energy; a spiders web of power that means the difference between life and death.

This region is mostly Zargor'Gigorim construction; black, decorated towers of obsidian with knife sharp battlements and heavy, runed bridges. Almost all are covered in curious spatter patterns of cooled basalt, and more than a few are leaning precariously over the cliff, the main bulk of their construction dangling over the fiery air above the lava flows beneath.

There are no signs of the Ael'Shar structures here. However, the group decide they will search these ruins, and spend three hours doing so, concentrating their efforts on a region of structures who's architecture suggests they had arcane or religious significance.

The search is hazardous as many of the structures are unstable, and the ever present bursts and sprays of magma are unpredictable at best. The group's fears only increase when they find, lodged in the wall of one building standing at the edge of a zone of wanton destruction, a huge scarlet scale...

...the scale of a Dracani.

Taking this with them (and fearing that this explains what it was Ormid sensed earlier), the group soon make another incredible discovery in the smoke wreathed basement of a tilted structure, half hanging over the magma lake far below. They find, beyond ancient doors of reinforced stone, a vast vaulted chamber carved with flowing lines of Gigorim runes, which emanate from five magical circles carved in a circle in the chambers centre. Long scratch marks on the polished obsidian floor show that something heavy has slid from within each circle – almost certainly as the chamber has tilted – the “somethings” being found to be five incredible statues.

Each statue is carved from a faintly luminous stone quite alien to the group, and stands almost twelve feet high. They each depict a being that at first appears to be a stylized Aelwyn, though particularly tall and slender with exaggerated features and long, tapered ears. However, Ormid quickly realises that these are depictions of Ael'Shar, the progenitor race that created the Aelweyn; an ancient race of storied magical power and almost god like abilities, who once had great continent spanning empires on Arbel'Verdaniss, and warred with the Daemonori, the Settari and other ancient races who's names are lost to history.

Each statue radiates a mind-crushingly powerful aura of magic, and Ormid deducts that the circles were intended to contain this power, whilst the runes that snake across the chamber are intended to channel the power into a ritual – a ritual he feels was intended to move a colossal object – possibly a huge building, or even, given the might of the latent power in the statues, a city.

Ormid surmises that these statues could be used as a power source for the Ael'Shar portal weapon – and is determined to obtain one for his own studies back at Lorehaven.

The next chamber holds another surprise; a vast growth of green sulphur, within which can be seen a beautiful fire opal of incredible size (human fist sized) and quality. Realising that this stone is worth at least 20,000 gold, the group decide to get it out, all crowding around the stone to watch it being removed. Without thought, Veteran swings his blade at the crystal, and all the party are suddenly blasted with a powerful volcanic acid – the source of the almost transparent crystals green colouring – which explodes from within soaking them.

Screaming.

Blindness.

Agonised burning.

Confusion.

Choking gasps on the acidic fumes.

All the group suffer terrible burns from the acid, though it is poor Ormid who suffers worst, for despite the ministrations of the half-blinded priestess, the acids cling tenaciously to his flesh, rendering it down into a white, soapy slime, and before it can be washed and scraped free, the artificer is seriously burned inside and out, and sustains scars that will never heal naturally.

There is brief panic and anger when Llewellyn, hoping to lift the mood of the group “steals” the stone...his plan fails, and he is nearly skewered by his angry and hurt allies.

With the area searched, the party spend some time catching their breaths and patching up (and re-patching up) their wounds before moving on.

However....

18:30 – 18:45 – As the group leave the ruins, weaving through the unstable, flaming terrain, they spot a patrol of bizarre elemental monsters heading their way, apparently with a purpose.

Three of the monsters are hulking things of living lava; 8' tall and vaguely anthropomorphic, with long arms of lava, each ending in a spike of molten rock, and with a halo of floating, lightning covered spikes floating above their heads. These move along behind two huge dog like creature composed of raging elemental fires, bound to skeletons of black basalt. At the back of the group, driving them onwards, float two creatures the group have seen and fought before – fire archons; intelligent and potent things of living flame which bear armour made from volcanic stone and wield potent fiery magic.

As the group spot the monsters, the two Hellhounds suddenly sniff the air as if scenting them before giving out loud, rumbling barks. At once, one of the Archons unleashes a blast of fire that erupts amongst the party, the flames woven with raw dimensional force both burning and bruisng them, as well as blowing them off their feet, scattering their formation, and with the first blow struck, the elementals attack!

Weary from their encounters with the scorpions and the acid, not to mention in the case of the Vyrleen and artificer, from the continuing effects of their illness, the battle is a true test of their skills and tactics. The Hellhounds prove to be powerful foes, and the archons harry the party with blasts of flame and force – though the other creatures are dispatched with minimal efforts. Things are made more complex by the continued eruptions of deadly magma across the battlefield, which continually force the group to split their attention between their weird foes, and the deadly natural hazard. However, they triumph, though battered, burned and disoriented, they decide to find a sheltered place to rest before they journey on, hoping that the ritual protecting them will last long enough to allow them to complete their tasks...