Using My Monsters

Friday, 24 September 2010

Possibly the most useful software for 4e yet!

I like big, exciting battles with loads of stuff cracking off at once, but often found that they could get really confusing when there are a lot of conditions, marks and other stuff flying around. A few months back I downloaded an earlier version of the following software and...

...And it is so, so good! This is exactly what Wizards of the Coast should be producing instead of working to make their existing software too buggy to use. Download, give it a go, and see what you think. 

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Post War Natives - 21/9/2010 (Part 2)

02:21 – 09:00 – The group, exhausted after a very long and trying day, grab their gear and collapse into their beds. On his way to his room, Grigori suddenly becomes aware that his angry fantasies about having the power to punish Saul are not entirely his own. Shivering in the sudden psychic chill, his breath fogging, he reaches out and touches the vial, and is not surprised to find it cold and sweating. Dragging it out he shivers even more, for all but two of the restraining runes have burned out, and something...someone...is clearly reaching out to him.

For a moment the cleric considers listening to the cold, hollow voice that echoes like a voice from a half-remembered nightmare in his mind. However, with a mental slap he shakes free of the deadly idea, and with a growl he shoves the vial away and stalks to his room.

31/4/1472 – 3/5/1472 (Weather brightening. Cool, misty nights, but warm days with light westerly breezes).

Over the next four days the group begin to learn all they can about Darius Valde, his activities and his contacts. Using the rogues of the Rookery, and their own talents, they are able to discover a huge amount of information. They learn that Darius plans to buyout a number of local businesses soon and to move overseas to his estates on the southern coast of central Lower Malgoroth, on the Davi̬nne Riviera. He has recently outbid a merchant who works for the Harraken'Khelidite church on a batch of cheap Tornysh, Maldican Red and aelwyn Sybbon, rare poisons that are worth a fortune. This was the crime that has earned him his death note. Fruther searching unearths the fact that Darius has also employed an insider at the up and coming arena battles, a human named Gastul Khordaine, who he is paying to subtly poison or cripple certain monsters to allow fighters to win battles that they have poor odds in Рand on whom Darius intends to bet.

Darius' home is a fortress of spellwards, warforged guards, traps and well planned killing zones. A frontal assault would be costly and would almost certainly allow the money lender time to escape.

One of the most interesting tidbits of information concerns Darius childhood friend and former captain of the Valdean Guard, Istan Druun. Istan left the Valde estate suddenly some four months ago, and further probing reveals that for a few months before then the relationship between the two men had soured considerably. Istan it seems moved to a small town to the southwest of Irin named Aramayne, and has kept a low profile since.

After some discussion, it is decided that questioning Gastul may alert Darius to their activities. It is therefore decided that the group will leave after dark for Aramayne, there to question Istan and hopefully gain some kind of advantage with this difficult assassination.

20:30 – 21:00 - The group wend their way through the crowded streets of Irin, Emmiven on the back of Diabolus. Despite the official opening of the fayre being over a moon away, a carnival atmosphere dominates, the streets being filled with performers, hawkers, chanting priests, and criminals about their business. Couples play games of chance and skill for small prizes, whilst a multitude of different foods are sold from small booths or from the trays of wandering vendors. A juggler turns balls of pinkish flame into doves to the ecstatic applaud of the crowd, whilst a trio if Lorehavian minstrels play a complex tune on their dawnwood acoustic guitars.
By the gates stand several brightly coloured caravans, covered in charms and trinkets. By these sing and dance foreigners with ruddy skin, dark hair and eyes. The women wear long tasseled dresses, small anklet bearing silvery bells, and their long hair is held in place by colourful silk scarves. They twirl and dance to the tune of the small banjo like instruments and tambourines the swarthy menfolk play.

“Velonai.” Spits Schnecke with a growl, “No good gypsy scum.”

He storms ahead without making any eye contact with the Upper Malgorothian travellers.

21:01 – 21:10 – The group pass the gates and head out into the normally empty fields that surround the city – its killing ground in the event of a battle. As it is now, an army would have ample room to hide, for a sea of tents, wagons and stalls reach away, the night air filled with the smell of wood smoke from the hundreds of camp fires that burn in the night. To the east the group can see the wooden palisades that will stand either side of the proving grounds – an area where jousts and knightly tourneys will be held for the noble warriors.

Beyond the hubub of the camp lies the solemn black wall of the Argent Woods, the vast forests that surround the southern and western sides of Irin. It is within this place, a place that saw terrible things during the aelwyn wars, that Aramayne lies.

The sky is dark, for Lunum is little more than a thin sliver of golden that hangs low and huge in the misty air, and Aelnaerys is remote; a slightly larger than the rest star of pale lilac. A million stars twinkle and gleam above, a mantle of celestial sparkles cast against the shadowy black, whilst Chillosta, the Light of the Evening, burns with a steady silver light to the southeast. Here and there, steady mobile points of light mark the passing of high-altitude sky ships whilst the flashing lights of the occasional meteor flicker like scratches against the mantled heavens. With the music drifting from the camp, and the air still slightly warm from the long sunny day, it is hard for the group to imagine anything terrible happening this night...

21:15 – The group reach the edge of the Argent Wood. The night mist has risen fully here, and stretches in milky bands between the heavy trunks of the ancient trees. A strong resinous aroma hangs on the air, and the eerie calls of night birds and animals echo from the darkness beyond. The tiny lamps of fireflies float like lost souls amongst the branches and here and there glow the muted lights of foxfire in the black, rotted grounds litter.

Casting one last look back towards the glowing mass of Irin and its attendant camps, the group move into the darkness.

21:16 – 21:37 – The group move easily through the forest, with Jaegar navigating by the stars and moons. The forests are filled with remnants of the last war, for whilst the aelwyn never succeeded in attacking irin, they came close...very, very close.

Areas of ground scorched by fires still stand mostly bare, and there are many times where bone fragments, rusted chunks of armour or a broken or discarded weapon are seen. Often the air seems to thrum with movement, though no one is there, and no natural breeze stirs the branches. Suddenly, the prospect of trouble does not seem so unlikely, and all shiver in the gloom, and Grigori finds himself unconsciously touching the vial, the contact with the cold metal seeming to remove some of the fear of the darkness and the shades of the forest.

21:38 – 21:40 - “FOOLISH TRAVELLERS! WHAT BRINGS YOU INTO THESE HALLOWED FORESTS AFTER THE DARKNESS HAS RISEN! FALL TO YOUR KNEES AND PRAY, FOR YOUR DOOM IS UPON YOU!”

The voice is deeply powerful, deafeningly loud and booms from all around the party. Everyone goes to grab their weapons, and it is at this point that the barbarian finds his beloved dundorin thundering blade is missing.

“HAHAHAHAHAH! FOOL! I HAVE YOUR WEAPON, AND WILL SHOW YOU HOW IT IS USED UNLESS YOU LEAVE ME TRIBUTE IN MAGIC AND THEN LEAVE THIS PLACE!”

At once, ahead, the Ulnyrr's prized weapon appears, floating and glowing as if wielded by an invisible hand. The air shimmers with power, and suddenly the trees all around the group are covered in pale ghostly flames – a casting recognised by some as faerie fire. Several members of the party begin to look around desperately, working desperately to pin point their attacker. Grigori however gives a slow smile and addresses their unseen foe.

“I'm not falling for this. Whoever you are show yourself, for I am calling you out!”

Many look at the priest as if he is mad. The voice responds at once.

You can't do that... I mean... YOU CAN'T DO THAT MORTAL! SHIVER IN FEAR AND LEAVE ME TASTY TREATS AND ITEMS OF POWER, OR YOU SHALL BE TURNED INSIDE OUT AND WORN AS A HAT BY ME....A POWERFUL WOOD SPIRIT...OR SOMETHING....SERIOUSLY....”

The entire party go from concerned to annoyed. Seren calls up a sheet of flame and sends it streaking into the gloom, accompanied by a loudly declared and very colourful list of mutilations and infernal torments she will visit on the prankster. For a moment all is silent. Then Schnecke's axe drops to the floor, and a curious creature appears just beyond where is floated.

“I knew it! Faerie Dragon!” yells Grigori, a look of victory on his face.

It is about the size of a house cat, and is a small dracani. Bright pink with large butterfly like wings, it has small antennae where horns would be on a more usual dracani, and its face is very expressive. Its prehensile tail is wagging and it seems to be floating without needing to beat its wings, bobbing up and down as it thinks out loud.

“Well I'll be. He might look like a complete dufus, but actually, he's pretty sharp. Well, for a mortal anyway.”

The party don't know whether to be amused or horrified by this bizarre entity.

“What is your name spirit?” asks Grigori.
“Spirit? Wanker more like!” Adds Emmiven.

The faerie creature changes to a deep indigo, and flutters up to the warlord, sitting on Diabolus' head, between his ears. It points a tiny claw at Emmiven angrily as it declares its name to be GrigoriEmmivenHorseArse. It then points out that Emmiven's personal hygiene is outshone a thousandfold by his mounts, before turning invisible and reappearing sat on Seren's shoulders.

21:40 – 21:55 – Realising that the tiny fey's display will have probably caught the attention of many of the forests less savoury spirits, the group bid it farewell and move to continue their journey to Aramayne. However, GrigoriEmmivenHorseArse it seems, wishes to accompany them, and floats along side them informing them all in a loud voice of how they need its help, and how they will die – horribly – if he is not allowed to accompany them.

Realising that it will probably get bored before they arrive at their destination, the group ignore the tiny spirit, and continue to march towards the town.

21:55 – Torches glint between the trees, muted by the fogs, and the faerie dragon (who has not got bored and left the group) immediately vanishes from sight and grows silent.

21:57 – 22:05 – The group move carefully towards the torches, and spy a well made, stockade settlement ahead, its main gate facing north, watched over by two archer towers. Realising that this must be Aramayne, they decide to cautiously approach so as not to alarm the guards...

“HELLO MORTALS! ANYONE IN THERE? LET US IN OR FACE OUR TERRIBLE WRATH AND POOR PERSONAL HYGIENE!”

A loud oath is heard from the left hand tower, and a scratchy, pubescent voice, discordant and cracking, is heard twittering in a panic from the other. The entire group glare at the tiny fey, who is stood, once more, on the horses head (and is now scarlet, and covered in tiny rutilant flames), and then turn to address whoever is in the towers.

A spotty adolescent face appears over the wall of the left hand tower, a longbow shakily held before them like a warding rune, whilst the bearded and calm face of an older man appears above the walls of the other.

“Invaders father!” screeches the former.

“Be calm boy.” answers the latter, before he addresses the party. “Who approaches Aramayne uninvited after dark? And who has brought that tiny trickster too close for comfort?”

About to yell again, the faerie dragon halts as if frozen at the last part, before looking embarrassed for a moment and turning invisible (and thankfully silent).

“We are travellers from Irin, who seek a bed for the night in friendly surroundings.” replies Emmiven in a smooth and impossibly polite manner (much to the utter shock of his companions who are used to the warlord being a borish oaf). “The sprite has followed us, and is not a member of our troupe, though I cannot guarantee that it will not follow us into your home”.

“'Tis a little late to be expecting entry you know”, answers the man, “And Irin is but an hours march to the north. Can ye not turn about and come back once the greater sun is high. It is frowned upon for me to allow strangers into the town after dark.”

“A sound policy” replies Emmiven smiling, “but trust me, we have business in your town, and would not consider it a sign of hospitality or good manners if we were made to tromp through the dangerous tangles of the forest after dark.”

Silence, apart from the whickering of Diabolus and the thin, rapid breaths of the frightened boy in the tower.
“It would sadden me to think that I was responsible for our little town being seen badly by you city folk.” replies the older man with a nod, “so I shall open the gate and trust in my instincts, which tell me to trust you.”

“father, I don't...”

“Silence Gillem, we're letting them in!”

22:06 – 22:10 - The gates of Aramayne creak open, and the group enter the town.

Aramayne was destroyed during the aelwyn wars, and the group realise that it has been rebuilt in the few years since. The ground is still black with the ashes of the original town, and a large wooden carving, depicting a Unified Order assault mage, stands in the middle of the towns square, carved with an inspirational passage about sacrifice and rebuilding.

Varracuda shudders when he sees it.

Beyond the gate wait the two guards. Gillem is a lanky boy, awkward in his own skin and clumsy as a drunken ox. He regards the party with fear, especially when he sees Seren, and hides his horror at her warped appearance badly. Dalus, the older man, is in his late forties. A bearded, slender man, he wears simple clothes and has the tanned complexion of one who has worked long and hard in the outdoors. Calloused hands speak of physical labour, and still livid scars speak of combat and the ministrations of field sawbones in the last few years.

“Welcome, I am Dalus, and this is my son Gillem. You will find rooms at the Wending Way inn, just over the far side of the town”.

Dalus points across the main square to a long thatched building, from which echoes drimboley music and laughter. A woman in a nearby house yells at someone outside to keep the noise down, whilst a child cries within. Between the group and the inn are three townsfolk; two younger men, and one older man who's left arm is missing below the elbow. The two youngsters – well built and dressed in the same utilitarian clothing as Dalus and Gillem – seem angry, and are stalking over in the parties direction. The older man seems a little irritated, though it could be as easily due to the younger men's attitudes as anything the party have done.

“Oi!” yells one of the men, “What ye doin' leeting strangers in after dark Dalus? Have you gone stark raving mad?”

“Yeah!” Adds the second youngster.

Dalus gives the group an apologetic look and turns to face the men.

“Adalf, they are adventurer's from Irin who need our help in some noble endeavour, and they have tamed the prankster from the forest paths. I couldn't really turn them away for the spectres to feed on could I?”

Adalf doesn't seem convinced, along with his sidekick. He pushed past Dalus, and is about to start yelling at the party when a strong, even voice coming from the direction of the taverns bids him step aside. At first the group cannot see who has spoken, for the townsfolk with them block their view. However, the speaker obviously holds great authority in the town, for Adalf's bluster vanishes immediately, and he steps aside, shoving his sidekick brutally, allowing the newcomer to see the group, and to be seen by them.

He is a very well built man in his later thirties, dressed in a jerkin of armour underpadding and bearing a finely crafted broadsword in a shoulder mounted scabbard. His head is shaved, and he wears no beard. A faint scar – years old – curves around his head, but both of his eyes are clear and steady, each pale blue-green. As he moves towards the party they see him silently and swiftly appraising them; taking measure of their numbers, strengths and likely talents, the mark of a true warrior, and the group realise this is no mere woodsman, but a professional solider. The newcomer is flanked by two more townsfolk, who each carry a heavy oaken cudgel. However, he seems more annoyed at Adalf than anyone else, and demonstrates this by telling him to go home to his mother.

With the boy gone, the soldier turns to regard the group.

“I am Istan, guardian of Aramayne. Who do I have the honour of addressing?”

*   *   *

22:30 – 23:00 - The group sit in the smoky common room of the Wending Way, listening to the locals singing and laughing, and watching the priest engage in a game of dice with the locals (he returns afterwards a little angry, stating the locals cheated – utterly unaware that the fey dragon had cast an illusion onto the dice when he threw them, making them appear to have come up losing).

By way of an apology for the cold welcome, Istan has brought the group a round, supplemented by Emmiven who buys some strong sapwine shots and a small keg of Rivermead Gold. He smiles and a sense of camaraderie is conjured, unbidden between him and the group.

“So, what brings you to Aramayne?” he asks, taking a sip of his ale.

“You do.” answers Jaeger.

Istan's face drops and he subtly changes his position, ready, if necessary, to move quickly and take up arms.

“Be at peace,” continues the assassin, noting the shift, “if we wanted you dead, you would be feeding the crows right now. We come to you to seek aid in some business we have with your former master, Darius Valde.”

At mention of the moneylenders name, Istan goes pale. He seems about to speak, but has to compose himself.

Then, after a moment. “You are from the House of Killers I take it? I noticed the way you move and the slight staining on your fingers from using poisons. You seek to end Darius?”

Everyone tenses, understanding that this could horribly wrong.

“We do.” replies Jaeger, “And we need your help to do this.”

Tension mounts in the suddenly too hot tavern as Jaeger's words fade. Istan rubs a nervous hand over his head and face, and sits back on his stool, tears clearly beading his eyes. As he leans back, Jaeger notices he wears a necklace hung about with about twenty sets of spider fangs. He gives a broken laugh, and sitting forwards suddenly swipes up a sapwine shot and necks it. Gritting his teeth against the burn of the liquor, he meets Jaeger's gaze and replies.

“Darius, as far as I know is already dead my friend. That...thing...that wears his form is no longer the man I admired and fought besides since we were children. If you intend to end the monster that lurks in his skin, then I am only too happy to help you.”

A collective breath is released by the party, and Istan, trembling, begins to tell them a tale of a close friendship invaded by an unknown something, and the corrosion of a once great man into something less than, and yet somehow more than, his previous self.

Post War Natives - 21/9/2010 (Part 1)

19:31 – 22:00 – The group emerge from the vault, and are greeted by more of the guild. Over the next couple of hours they begin to lay down plans for rebuilding the stronghold's defences (and Grigori works a number of rituals that will raise an alarm if invaders break into any part of the tunnel complex, and which reinforce several of its more vulnerable doors), and Vuldir is put to work on creating a door guardian based on a description given to him by Seren.

There are a number of minor scuffles within this time as well, as rogues closer to the street levels of the stronghold learn of the attack and in some cases, seek to destroy the party. All in all three kenku and four gorashym are slain – the rest see reason, and peace is restored.

22:00 – 22:45 – The group leave the guild tunnels for now, with Edric chosen as the go between for the group and the guild, and head through the strangely subdued night streets of the Roughs, and back to the Staff of Wands.

22:45 – 22:50 – The group, stinking of the sewers and covered in dried blood, filth and other unsavoury grime, move through the crowded streets of the Plaza District, drawing many offended comments from the gentry and nobles there, and slog their way to the main reception at the inn.

There they are met by a rather flustered man who tells them that they must hand in their keys and collect their gear, as the payments for their rooms from the Unified Order have been stopped, and they are no longer customers of the Staff. They are also given a scroll bearing the Order's official seal, which Jaeger cracks open and reads...

Sirs, My name is Saul Methusian, Arch-Magus Custodian of the Unified Order and recognised Justicar. As you are aware, your former handler, Archevult, is currently on active duty for the Order, and as such, cannot take personal responsibility for you or your actions. In his absence, I am charged with adopting his duties.


It appears there are some serious oversights with your contributions to the Order's works and ideals, and as such you are commanded to meet with me at 06:00 tomorrow in the Silver Room of this establishment. There, we shall talk.


Do not be late. Do not think about ignoring this request.


Strength and Temperance.


Sual Methusian; Custodian and Justicar, Arch-Magus Rank.”

For a moment the group are stunned into silence, and a horrible feeling creeps along both Varracuda and Jaeger's spines; the former because he realises that as an unfettered mage any meeting with a Justicar could be unpleasant at best, and the latter because he knows that the Harraken'Khelidite church will brook no excuse for any delays on the liquidation of Darius Valde. Then they are outraged. Emmiven and Schnecke seriously contemplate starting a riot, whilst Seren considers a simple “fuck you” statement being made by paying for rooms.

In the end, they reach a compromise, designed to piss everyone off without getting them into trouble. Emmiven pays for a room for the night, and as a paying guest gains access to the main taproom. He then invites the group to join him as his guests for some drinks, all the while stinking of the Irinite sewers.

22:51 – 23:35 – Ladies and gentlemen in all their finery, out to enjoy an evening of refined conversation in splendid surroundings, are utterly revolted and traumatised by the ragged band of stinking adventurers; covered in blood and night soil, bearing open wounds and loudly using language that would make a dundorin whore blush, who lean and belch and yell at the bar – though none, not even those gentlemen with military rank, dare approach them to shut them up, for they are clearly a dangerous, possibly insane band of desperados.

The staff, knowing the group well, and knowing what has transpired try to tow the line by being seen to be sympathetic to all parties – a tall order – and eventually, something has to give.

23:36 – 23:40 – What little conversation still floats around the rapidly emptying room dies off completely as a terrible pentad of figures enters, preceded by a shivering wave of tingling power. Four wear the full face masks and bear the advanced auto-incantation firearms of assault mages of the XIII chapter, their black robes falling over finely crafted battle mantles imbued with cataclysmic spells of protection and retribution. The fifth figure is as tall as any of the XIII, but where as they are bulky, well-built individuals; mages with the mass of seasoned warriors, he is skeletally thin. He wears luxurious robes of soft maroon fur edged in black, and bears a simple silver amulet which is engraved with the crown of Merriel. His face is narrow, with hooded and ringed eyes, a long, straight nose and high, pronounced cheekbones. His eyes are pale amber in colour, and his thin lips are turned down into a non too happy snarl. His hair is thinning and grey, and has been swept back hard from his high forehead, to hang loosely over his thin, slightly stooped shoulders. In one hand he holds a runic rod, carved with runes of power, and in the other, a heavy book bound in dark hide.

“You will all follow me to the Silver Room where we will hold our meeting at once.”

His voice is sharp like a whip crack, and filled with contemptuous authority.

This can only be Saul.

23:40 – 23:55 - The group are lead to the Silver Room, a beautifully appointed private dining chamber, where a feast awaits. Saul gestures for them so sit, though as Varracuda moves forth, he stops him with a hand to the chest and declares, “Men, arrest the Impious one”.

At once the rest of the party are back on their feet protesting that Varracuda has the protection of Archevult – a factor, Jaeger points out, that has proved to the benefit not only of the arch-magus but of the order. Varracuda is grabbed by two of the XIII legion mages, a wretched, lost expression on his pale blue features.

“Archevult,” bellows Saul with a smug grin, “is no longer around, and his sponsorship of your group despite your demonstrated unwillingness to undertake those tasks set for you by the Order, is proof of his fundamental weakness. This...man...is an unfettered; an enemy of all good folks who do not wish to see the world plunged into the darkness of a magical apocalypse.
“Despite travelling with companions loyal to the Order, he has continued to eschew our tenets and to practice his magics – possibly dangerous magics at that – without our guidance and approval. He is a threat to every man, woman, child and thing in this plane, and as such, must be removed from circulation.”

The group begin to protest at once, their voices forming a tumult of anger. Still smiling smugly, Saul raises a slender hand and begins to speak again.

“However, as this genasai has such loyal, allied associates speaking on his behalf, I might be willing to exercise some leniency”.

Everyone quietens except Emmiven, who continues protesting about the situation – until Saul fills him with a crushing, silencing dread with a mere glance, the air flickering with the focused psi-magic.

“What are you saying?” snarls Jaeger.

“I am saying that if master Varracuda renounces his unfettered ways and joins with the Order, here and now, and if your troupe immediately undertakes the tasks set for you by Archevult on the afternoon of the thirteenth day of this month – the nullification of a dangerous unfettered mage – that I would be willing to not only allow the genasai to go free, but would restore and improve all boons previously granted.”

Varracuda struggles against the iron grip of the mages. Wretchedly, he looks to his companions for help, his face twisted by the conflicts raging within him like the currents of a deep and fathomless ocean. Silence hangs in the air, and after a short while Saul shrugs and produces a long scroll that bears the black and blood red seal of an execution order.

“I, Saul Methusian do hereby arrest thee, Varracuda Brakesh, for the following crimes against the peoples and stabilities of this world and surrounding plane. You are charged that you did...”

The group begin to yell and bellow again as Saul begins to reel off a number of supposed crimes against the Order and the people of the world perpetrated by the elemental humanoid, at least half of which carry the sentence of death or the Divorcement ritual.

Through it all Varracuda merely hangs his head...

“...And so, given the heinous nature and abundance of the crimes here listed, I am authorised by the High Council and by the Order of Custodians to effect punishment immediately against this wretched soul”

Varracuda's head is jerked up hard by one of the XIII, so that his pale eyes meet with Saul's. The custodian moves up to him so his cruel face is only a hairsbreadth away from the swordmage's, and as he speaks, he stares directly into his eyes.

“Captain, discharge your duty and execute the renegade.”

Time seems to slow as the horrified group watch one of the legion ready his weapon. Saul stands back quickly, clearly not wishing to be splashed by whatever juices are about to be liberated in this place. Everything takes on an unreal, horribly dreamlike feel.

“I'll join” croaks a tiny voice.

The muzzle of the auto-incantation weapon is pressed to the genasai's temple, forcing his head to the side.

"I'LL JOIN!” He screams again.

The runes on the weapon begin to glow with lethal killing power. The party look away, apart from Jaeger who seeks the swordmage's eyes.

Saul smiles and raises a hand.

“Stand down captain.”

The weapon is withdrawn. Varracuda's legs almost collapse as the fear and relief flow through him. The group drop to their seats, shivering.

“You'll join the Order? You'll undergo the necessary rituals needed to ensure your faithful embracing of our tenets and obey our laws”

Tears blurring his vision the swordmage nods. Saul nods and gestures towards the mages holding Varracuda. They release him at once.

“You will sign the contract I have with me, and thereafter will be a member of the Unified Order. As you have proved yourself a more than able spell caster you will be given the rank of Wizard.”

The contract is produced and signed, the air around the document shimmering with powerful magics that bind the scriber to their word.

“That's that then.” mutters Seren darkly.

Saul gives another cold smile and shakes his head.

“Ah, the experiment speaks. Alas no, for your friend has tasted the life of a renegade and as such may always be tempted to work against the Order. There is more that must be done to ensure that this deal is not merely a quick fix to an otherwise lethal predicament.”

One of the XIII legion mages suddenly grabs Varracuda's left arm and exposes his forearm, pressing the limb down with terrible strength. Saul produces a slender dagger with a glass blade as fine as a hair, and a small crystal vial, banded with five rune inscribed rings of some silvery metal. Seren and Varracuda both recognise the components of a phylactery, and understand what is about to occur.

“Do you submit to this?” asks Saul. Varracuda nods.

The dagger is worked into a pale green vein under the swordmage's skin and immediately a stream of his thin, watery ichor pours forth. Using the dagger to direct the drops Saul captures them in the vial, who's bands begin to shine with a pale light. As it is filled, the vial seals itself, and the blade is withdrawn.

“For those who are suspect, we keep a phylactery.” explains Saul. “It will allow us to keep track of you, and, should you become a problem, to end you. By submitting to this, you prove your trust of the Order, and reinforce our trust in you. There is one last thing you must do.”

Saul produces a faintly shining scroll of vellum, capped at each end by silvery metal.

“Your true name genasai.” commands Saul passing a pale quill to the swordmage.

Varracuda pauses. For a moment it looks like he may not sign, but then, with a sigh, he writes his name. At once a heatless white flame passes between the genasai, the vellum and the phylactery, and Saul begins to applaud.

“Welcome brother! Welcome to the Order and a new life for you!” He looks over to the rest of the group. “Greet your new brother Jaeger and Seren, for now he truly can call you his allies!”

No one else claps. All just look stunned and stare blankly at the weeping swordmage.

23:55 - 02:20 (31/4/1472)

An uncomfortable meal is had by the weary adventurer's, during which the broken Varracuda is primed on his duties to the Order. By the end of it the party can hardly stay awake, and so they jump when Saul suddenly bellows at them.

“You have until the 16th to discharge your duties to the Order, or there shall be repercussions. Balskus must be found and his threat ended. There are no excuses. Your rooms are ready, and have been upgraded.”

Saul stands and moves towards the door.

“Goodnight. See you all soon.”

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Ormid et al - Session 14/9/2010

05:21 – 05:50 – The group move through the strange landscape of the shattered arcane city. All are somewhat awed and disturbed by its eerie atmosphere, shifting, ethereal pressures and uncanny sights, and even Llewellyn is cowed into keeping his hands to himself and just following the group.

Even with the mounts, the going is tough, and the group move at a relative snail's pace.

05:51 – 05:56 - The party come across a curious sight; a clearing amongst some particularly warped (and alien looking) trees. The clearing is perfectly circular, and the ground within shines with a pale lilac radiance.

Dismounting, Ormid, Ardwaine and Evran immediately sense the powerful energies that are tied up in the ground there, and after briefly analysing the magic realise that some kind of binding magic is in place.

They calmly get back on their mounts, and leave the circle be.

06:15 – 06:17 – The party enter a huge gouge in the terrain – possibly caused by the unnatural levitation of a structure that once stood here, or some other cataclysmic event. The defile is narrow, and its sides high. The shattered stumps of long destroyed walls and columns dot the area, and thick, entangling brambles cascade along its sides. Normally the party would completely avoid such an obvious ambush point, but Ormid spots something that immediately captures his attention; a huge humanoid statue of age weathered stone, covered in moss, and bearing the distinctive runes used to animate a golem.

Cautiously, the party move along the gulley, expecting an attack at any moment. However, the only movement is the swaying of the tentacular trees that grow higher up the sides of the gulley, and the occasional skittish flittering of the strangely silent birds that haunt this area. Upon reaching the supine golem, Ormid dismounts, and immediately begins to study its design. He is joined by Ardwaine, Evran and Llewellyn, and the artificer quickly realises that something is wrong – sharp little glyphs of ingenious design and sophisticated mage-craft have been etched around the golems animating runes, in effect...

...The golem springs to its feet with shocking speed, throwing a half-ton fist at the vyrleen, who nimbly dodges a blow that would have seen him pasted against the rubble like a swatted fly...

...which in effect reanimate the structure and allow it to be controlled by individuals other than its original owner...

“AMBUSH!!!” bellows the Veteran as a seething bolt of chaotic energy flashes from the top of a column stump halfway up the gulleys western side, striking him and knocking him to the floor. Glancing up, the warforged can just make out the horned skull of a tiny, spindly humanoid on top of the column, an orb of glowing crystal clutched in one clawed hand.

Ferrous yelps as a tiny humanoid – a kydraxi of some kind – suddenly appears out of thin air next to him and strikes him with a staff, blasting him off his feet with far more force than such a little creature should be capable of, and entangling him in a field of shimmering force which prevents him from rising. The minute monster (a strange thing with pearlescent scales, glowing silvery eyes and rune struck horns, surrounded by a flickering, colourless aura of disturbed air and warping reality) then flickers away from the downed construct, taking position next to the artificer.

Two more of the shimmering kydraxi appear a moment later, each teleporting, striking hard, and then teleporting away again, leaving their targets prone and enmeshed in a semi-solid field of entangling force. A fifth kydraxi also enters the fray, though it is very different from the others, for whilst they seem to have perfect control of the energies they contain, this thing is being devoured by them.

Like the others it is a spindly, reptilian humanoid with sharp crocodilian features. However, its scales are either missing – leaving coruscating wounds filled with lashing energies of every type – or are burned and withered. It too is surrounded by energy, but they are a roaring cyclone of barely restrained power; corrosive, devouring power that seems to constantly scour at the monsters physical form, clearly leaving it in agony.

This kydraxi screams as it advances, shedding a blast of destructive power that bestows its devouring energies on those caught by it (including the golem, which reels from the blow as it hits a sensitive spot). It sows terrible carnage by dint of its radiating energies, but is put down by the vyrleen before it can become too much of a danger, its own surging power helping it along into death.

Like many battles, this one is short but devastating. In the space of a few scant moments enough power is brought down on the area to leave the stones blackened and warm, and to leave much of the local plant life burned and dead. For some it is a frustrating battle, as the three darting kydraxi use their ability to trip and hold down enemies to fiendish effect, tying down the Veteran for a good portion of the battle. Ormid too finds himself a little too close to the action to be able to use many of his spells without risk, though he conjures a small statue, infused with healing energy, which enables the rest of the party to keep going.

The hero of the battle is the vyrleen, for having trained to be as mobile as possible, in as many circumstances as possible, he is able to leap, back-flip, tumble and teleport all over the battlefield, landing blows with expert precision in the vulnerable spots of all foes he encounters, before leaping away out of harms reach. He has a few close shaves of course, but in most circumstances is able to dodge a blow or bolt a second before it hits, and it is he that finally confronts the unseen spellcaster on top of the pillar, defeating his spells of unwilling teleportation and sending him scurrying for safety with the only two kydraxi to have the sense to run.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Post War Natives - 6/09/2010 - Part 2

13:01 – 18:00 – The group set about meeting the important members of the guild. They meet McCloose, a human who serves as the cook for the men, and Vuldir Urmuniir, dundorin weaponsmith and armourer. Razniir Thade, the guild's Trapsmith is greeted with a slight frost by some, his handiwork having inflicted much woe on the party, whilst Imion Drixi – Vyrleen Locksmith – is more warmly welcomed.

Of most immediate use to the group is the human artificer and alchemist Tranker Forester, for he can not only enchant items and break magic devices down into residuum, but can make all kinds of alchemical substances and poisons.

The group discuss the risks of running a criminal cartel whilst simultaneously working for the powers of law and order, though this is quickly forgotten when news reaches them that several bodies have just been discovered in an area of the guild normally off limits to its members.

18:05 – 18:00 - There are three of them, all human. Each lies in a strangely relaxed manner, every inch of their bodies swollen with black bruises. Blood leaks in a tacky pool around them, pouring from every orifice and from their blown out eyes, ears and rectums. A fine brown sheen marks the walls of the previously hidden corridor (located further into the guild than the group travelled in their invading push); the result of a mist of blood settling and drying on them after it was forced from the victims in their final, terrible moments. The smell of blood mixes with the stench of emptied bowels and bladders and the ghastly stink of voided sinuses.

The “relaxed” posture is quickly understood when Varracuda and Grigori examine the bodies, for every bone in their body has been pulped to slime, every organ burst, every blood-vessel ruptured. Their muscles and connective tissues have been reduced to thick liquid and even their skin is compromised, splitting and spilling rancid, bruised filth as soon as it is touched.

“Sonic energy damage.” whispers Grigori, shaking his head, “From a very powerful source”.

The rest of the group have been looking at the possible source, for it seems that the dead rogues had found a secret vault – possibly, Bob suggests, Corvus' own secret stash – the door into it (a massive thing of steel and stone) closed. With the adrenaline of battle gone, Schnecke is feeling quite unwell, the wounds from his battle with the Groth'Ergulg throbbing despite the priests' magic, and he stays back as Jaeger, Varracuda, Seren, Grigori and a smart mouthed enforcer from the guild named Edric, consider the door and the possibility of there being any traps on it that could inflict the damage they have seen on the dead.

The two magic users give their advice, and then retreat to let Edric and Jaeger continue their work. The rogue however insists, before they begin, that he gets a cut of whatever lies beyond if he risks his hide helping them get it, and he is promised this (though Emmiven secretly decides that if worst comes to worst, Edric may have an “accident” in the vault). Then, with payment agreed, the two men set to work locating and then disabling the deadly trap guarding the door.

18:01 – 18:15 – A fiendish trap is found, capable of sending waves of deadly sub-sonic pressures rolling along the corridor, and Jaeger is under no doubts that it was this trap that pulverised the rogues on the floor. It is finely calibrated to trigger if tampered with, or if the door is forced, and the assassin is glad that the barbarian was feeling too light-headed and dizzy to attempt that. Mouth dry with anxiety as he realises how difficult this will be, the assassin gets his thieves tools out and sets to work.

Slowly, but surely, he and Edric dismantle the trap's mechanism, revealing not only its inner working, but that the door frame is actually a portal – meaning that the vault “beyond” almost certainly exists somewhere else entirely. After what feels like a very, very long time, the trap gives a gentle purr as it is dismantled, and both men give out a long held breath in relief.

18:16 – 18:18 – The party gather to force the massive portal, and after several failed attempts are able to push it to the side revealing a small chamber beyond.

18:19 – 18:30 – The room is simple reddish stone, and has no apparent exits. Roughly 40' square, it is lit by an unseen source, its only inhabitant standing silently by the wall opposite the one the group enter through.

It is a clay golem; a powerful construct of elemental magic more than capable of destroying the party if provoked – a towering humanoid mass of enchanted clay, carved with spiralling glyphs of animation and control – as well as some additional glyphs that several party members quickly realise are extraneous to the standard needs of a normal golem.

Eager to analyse these glyphs, Grigori prepares to enter the chamber, only to be stopped by Jaeger who has just noticed something about the floor – namely that most of it isn't really there!

Getting down on his hands and knees, the assassin examines the floor directly beyond the opened door, and quickly realises that it is not solid stone as it first appears, but a thick paper covered in stone dust – a classic topping to a pit trap. Armed with this knowledge, he scans the room, and quickly realises that at least half of the chamber – mostly the half closest to the entrance, is actually an open pit. He also spots two hidden doors – one of each wall to the left and right of the chamber.

Jaeger informs the group about the floor, and Emmiven, a sweaty, groaning Schnecke and Varracuda drag two of the long trestle tables from the main hall to the vault, and place them over the pits; being careful to make them only wide enough for the party to move across, not the golem. As they enter the chamber, Grigori also notices the side doors, though he chooses not to tell the rest of the party.

Initially there are fears that the golem will animate and attack as soon as anyone enters the chamber, but this proves to be unfounded. It merely stands still by the wall, apparently waiting for something.

Now able to see the complex scrawls of runes covering its body properly, the swordmage, sorceress, priest and assassin begin to try and analyse them. Jaeger hasn't a clue what they mean, but Seren and Grigori are able to determine that additional abilities have been woven into the golem – namely the ability to cause solid stone to briefly phase out of the physical world, and the ability to directly manipulate the local dimensional fabric. They also feel there is something else there, but are unable to work out what.

Grigori is tempted to try one of the side doors, but stops when Seren raises an interesting point – that the additional spells woven into the golem's standard animating and control matrices might provide a “back door” into its controlling spells – a means to “hack” it and to force it to obey them. It's a tantalising idea, but Grigori, Varracuda and Seren all realise that it would be a tricky thing to do, and that failure would most likely see the deadly construct default to its base commands of “Kill! Crush! Destroy!”. Schnecke is disappointed when he learns that the kind of hacking that Seren speaks of does not involve axes, and quietly bemoans his aching limbs and head. Emmiven and Edric both look uneasy, and unconsciously grip t heir weapons tighter.

The party decide to risk hacking the golem as they do not see any other way forwards. Pooling their knowledge, they help Varracuda to psychically impress his magic into the construct, and to send his will through the delicate weave of spells that hold the animating spirit – a furious elemental soul – in place, and which grant it the additional powers. The swordmage sweats as he feels his consciousness vibrating within the theoretical webs of magic and energy within the construct, and as he seeks to identify which he needs to awaken and which must stay inactive. It is task that becomes more difficult with each success, as the awoken magics swirl and pulse through the constructs core, seeking to flow through any way they can, but with the magic and lent strength of his allies guiding him, Varracuda successfully activates the construct as if it were attuned to him.

He withdraws at once...

...And the golem's eyes fill with pale green light, a luminous mist spilling from its slit-like mouth. For a moment everyone fears it is about to attack. Instead it raises its ponderous arms, and the group feel it gathering magical energy from the air, the temperature dropping, an eerie feeling of prickling charge racing through their skin. With weighty, deliberate movements, the construct steps to the left a little and turns to face the solid stone wall. At once a pulse of unseen power flashes between it and the surface, and suddenly a corridor is forged – not cut into the rock, but simply made; the stone within it turned insubstantial, a greyish-red mist of ghostly rock. Through the corridor can be seen nothing but leaping flame, a wave of sulphurous air bursting with a shriek towards the group from its fiery depths.

Another pulse of magic then fills the air, and with a rippling flicker, a small space appears in mid-air, a floating cache holding twelve vials of fluid. These are quickly grabbed, and Seren confirms that they are elixirs that grant the user resistance to fire.

A wave of brightness – not light, but a pulse of “less dark” - suddenly bursts from the golem, and Schnecke gives a moan as it seems to burn slowly through him. The pain subsides quickly though, and at once, the barbarian realises that the weakness, headache and dizziness he had been feeling, have gone!

The stone in the corridor begins to waver a little, as if unstable in its currently, immaterial state.

18:31 – The group run along the corridor, glugging a fire resistance elixir (except for Schnecke who has the aurumvorax skin, and Varracuda who is able to ignore most mundane flames) and as Grigori enters the room beyond, the corridor vanishes.

18:31 – 18:41 – A huge bronze door, bearing a conspicuous key hole, dominates the wall opposite the one the group entered through, its surface carved with elaborate, alien bass reliefs. The source of the flames is a huge globe of elemental fire, suspended in a potent field of magic in the chamber's heart, constantly shedding almost transparent sheets of reddish flame into the air, turning the chamber into an oven.

On the floor, set in a circle around the sphere are 10 tiles, each with a number scribed on it; 1 – 0 in the tradespeak alphabet, 6 being between the sphere and the bronze door, 1 being between the sphere and the point at which the group entered the chamber. Peering closely at the fantastic orb, Varracuda notices that a bronze key, covered in carvings identical to those on the door floats slowly within the orbs centre. Grigori considers the sphere, and realises it is an unstable elemental plasma held in place by a field of force. Not only would it take unnatural strength to penetrate the field and remove the key, but the energy within would be powerful enough to strip the elixir's protection away and to reduce the questing appendage to ash in a heartbeat.

The lock on the door is examined, and within it is spotted a tiny catch. Jaeger examines this closely along with Eldric, and concludes it is a secondary fail safe, that if not activated, would see the key, if somehow obtained, teleported to an unknown location – and would possibly activate a defence mechanism.

The catch is flipped, and a cool blue glow emanates from the lock, being mirrored by the symbols on the key.

Seren suggests putting the orbs fires out with an icy spell. The group agree to let her try, and so, she does.

The repercussions are immediate and painful. The spell is negated, and the orb suddenly blazes with a furious light. A shockwave of seething elemental fire explodes from it, scouring the chamber, and striking with enough power to overwhelm the protections the party enjoy. All are burned by it. That was definitely not the way.

Reasoning that the numbers on the floor must serve a purpose, the party try to work out what combination could open the door. Grigori summarises it could be about the position of the numbers rather than the numbers themselves. Moving to the number “6” he steps on the tile. The group flinches, but no blast comes. Instead, the tile shines with a cool blue light. Emmiven, eager to continue the trend steps on the tile bearing the number “1”.

Another shockwave rips through the chamber. More fire. More pain.

Okay, that was also not it!

“Maybe it corresponds to a word?” wonders Schnecke, his eyes clear with rare lucidity. “Maybe...errr...the word 'fire'?”

Everyone looks at the Ulnyrr in shock. Jaeger responds that this could well be right, and the group set about trying to determine how “FIRE” would translate into numbers. Their first attempt fails, and they are doused once more in flame. However, they then enter the numbers that correspond to the letters place in the tradespeak alphabet – 6, 9, 1, 8, 5 – and with a low sigh, the key is revealed, wreathed in a cooling mist.

18:42 – 19:30 – Weary after nearly 13 hours of fighting, wandering and suffering, the group enter the treasury of Corvus, a portal to the golem room gleaming in one wall. Inside stands all kinda of mundane junk, most of it worthless keepsakes from a half a hundred criminal escapades. However, cash and a number of enchanted items are also found. Almost of more interest are a number of documents. Three detail agreements between the Rookery and several nobles; a steady flow of cash and resources in return for certain dark secrets not being revealed. Another holds the pass codes for the guardian constructs of an August Society Depository counting house located in the heart of the plaza district, and another a list of debtors and creditors to the guild.

The group also find a small silver house key, though to where it belongs is not apparent.

Post War Natives - 6/09/2010 - Part 1

The group move towards the stairs.

11:23 – 11:26 – At the top of the stairs is an open doorway, and beyond that, a vast chamber. Of unusual shape and vast size, it is clearly the product of several sewer chambers being carefully knocked into one. Numerous corridors lead from the main area, and at the far end, some 120' or so away, is a large fireplace, built from a modified sewer pipe. Faint light filters in from the high ceiling through distant grates, casting shadowy rays onto the individuals that await the party.

Along the sides of the chamber lie numerous bedrolls, blankets and piles of cloth. along the middle of the chamber stand several very large, very long, heavy wood trestle tables, two of which – one directly in front of the door the group will enter through, the other 65' away from it – have been flipped over, so that they create a stomach high barrier, perfect for hiding behind.

Emmiven, Shnecke, Varracuda and Bob are the first to enter the chamber, whilst Jaeger, Seren and Grigori hang back a little. In the chamber beyond, the group can see a number of figures. Furthest are two crossbowmen, who use the furthest overturned table as cover. In front of them, but behind the last group of combatants is a kenku. It is dressed in midnight blue robes, edged in gold, and spins a curious chain of razor-edged, triangular blades in rapid, tight circles, cracking it back and forth like a whip. This creature whispers Bob is Crav'Awk, one of Corvus' lieutenants; a deadly, graceful foe.

Between Crav'Awk and the group stand three more foes. Two are kenku; each dressed in long black robes, and wielding chains similar to that held by the lieutenant, whilst the third is the source of the voice they heard on the stairs.

This can only be Meerzek the “Scar Mask”. He is an incredibly squat, stocky dundorin, dressed in heavy and well made scale armour. His blonde hair has been cropped short, and instead of a clan Gnorr, his beard is tightly wound into a bun beneath his chin, safely out of the way of grabbing hands. His eyes are frosty blue, and shine with confidence and strength, and seem all more intense for being set in a face almost devoid of any other normal features, thanks to the hideous scarring that mars it. Meerzek wields a sturdy broadsword, stamped with heraldic runes and has a bandoleer of throwing axes across his thick, barrel chest.

As soon as the warriors enter the chamber one of the kenku wraps its chain around its shoulders and produces a sling. Within a heartbeat it has fitted a stone, spun the sling up to speed, and sent it smashing into the barbarian's face with sickening speed. Crav'Awk spins across the chamber in the distance and suddenly unleashes something from beneath the folds of his cloak; a small, sharpened star of steel, a shuriken, which hisses through the air and crunches into Emmiven. The warlord however is fixed on Meerzek, and with a bellow he vaults over the table in front of him and charges towards him, slamming his hammer into the dundorin's face and smashing him to the ground, a wide space ripped in his armour's protective layers. A moment later, and Meerzek hops back to his feet and makes two deft attacks – both of which miss miserably. His first attack is a brutal slash at Emmiven's eyes, the second a driving blow that seeks the warlords femoral artery. However, so focused is he on this second attack that he missteps, and puts himself in a vulnerable position.

Varracuda leaps the downed table, and rushes one of the kenku closest to the group. His sword shimmers with heat and green fires surge along it as he swings. The kenku however is too fast, and leaps away from the blow, its own chain singing a deadly note as it flies – harmlessly – back. Jaeger shifts forwards, and stretches his hand out towards the distant figure of Crav'Awk. As he does, flickering shadows dart and pulse thickly along his arm, and the temperature drops by several degrees close to him. He then makes a sweeping gesture, and sends the shadows dancing towards the lieutenant in a tenebrous blur. The shadows hit him, and he gives a loud, bird-like scream-chitter as the dark energy scours his spirit and opens vulnerabilities within him that the assassin can use to visit even greater harm on him.

Crossbow quarrels whisper venomously from the far end of the chamber, crunching into the Ulnyrr and assassin, the latter bolt nicking a blood vessel, causing profuse bleeding, and Grigori moves around the table to try and get close enough to the warriors to pour healing into them...

...Only to feel something crunch powerfully into his leg and fix into the bone of his shin; a previously invisible bear-trap type snare. In agony, he tugs at his trapped limb, and nearly passes out as the metal fangs, powered by a powerful spring, dig deeper into the living bone of his leg. Gurgling, Grigori focuses on his inner magic and casts an astral seal upon Meerzek, before he tries to stop himself blacking out from pain.

Bob, using the table before him as cover, fires a bolt at Meerzek, who, despite being a little unfocused, manages to throw his blade in the way, and to send the bolt spanging off across the chamber. Seren strides forth from the stairs, magic crackling over her claws in a multi-coloured mist. She growls an incantation, her voice now two distinct timbres; the deep growl of the huge reptile she is becoming, and the spidery, feminine tone of the human woman she was. A frozen bolt of energy launches from her and strikes the kenku attacking Varracuda, freezing feathers and sending it squawking back.

Shnecke suddenly finds his legs wrapped by the bladed chain of the kenku next to him, before the bird thing tugs it hard, forcing the blades into the meat of his limbs and sending him staggering some 15' back towards the stairs like a hairy, bellowing spinning top. Crav'Awk suddenly darts forwards with almost impossible speed, striking out at Jaeger (who is seriously wounded, knocked off his feet, dazed and forced to step into the shadow world briefly, teleporting to relative safety behind the downed table by the stairs, an invisibility spell hiding him from non-magical scrutiny), before dancing over towards Emmiven, who he also slashes with his chain - knocking him to the floor and smacking his head with enough force to daze him - before once more leaping away.

Meerzek clambers to his feet, and spits out a mouthful of blood and teeth. Fury blazes in his eyes, and he stabs down twice at the prone warlord, his blade punching through his armour and into the flesh beneath. The first blow is accompanied by a thick burst of smoking blood. The second blow plunges Emmiven into darkness...

Surrounded by a brief nimbus of power, Varracuda leaps at Meerzek, and strikes him with his sword. As the blade bites, elemental sigils flicker around the dundorin, and form a complex rune, which sinks into him, weakening his corporeal form against fire. He then utters an incantation that draws of fire, and the air before him and around both Crav'Awk and Meerzek explodes into a surging cyclone of green and orange flame – though both rookery lieutenants manage, somehow, to avoid being even singed by its fury.

A barbed bolt crunches deeply into Varracuda, spearing an artery and sending a thick spume of blood pumping out, whist a furious Crav'Awk uses his bladed chain to rip huge holes in his armour, hugely reducing its effectiveness. Jaeger, still prone and bleeding heavily crawls along the floor invisibly, a trail of gore streaking in his wake. In his pain filled haze he forgets that the floor may bear a trap at the opposite end of the downed table to Grigori – at least until he hears the mechanism snap a millimetre in front of his face, the steel teeth missing him by a gnat's whisker. With a whispered thanks to Leorn, the assassin fires a bolt at Crav'Awk, scoring a telling, bleeding wound, before applying pressure to his own spurting wound, and stopping its flow.

Grigori curses as his fingers, wet and slippery with blood, fumble to grip the powerful metal jaws of the trap holding his leg. Schnecke comes over to help, but also fails to get a good grip before he rushes back to slam Meerzek in the face with his moaning dundorin axe. However, the blow is wide, and Meerzek expertly dodges it, parrying the heavy swing with ease.

A metallic whip crack and Jaeger clenches, expecting to feel the bite of a spiked chain at any moment. However, the blow, flicked at him by one of the kenku goes wide, and the monster catches itself with the chain, shrieking as it stumbles away in a bid to save its eyes. More quarrels whip across the chamber, one thumping harmlessly from the barbarian's chest, the other getting lodged in a table.

A metallic taste sweeps across the tongues of all in the battle as sorcerous power is gathered and unleashed. Seren summons a blazing field of radiant power, which sears both Meerzek and Crav'Awk and dazzles them enough that they are unable to properly defend themselves. Seren pours additional power into the spell, and the blinding zone of rainbow light remains. She then spits lightning, forking it around her allies, but managing to hit the dundorin hard, blasting a smoking hole in his arm.

Seren then unleashes her newest spell, and with crackling words of power summons a flashing wyrm of lightning, which arcs above her and darts towards the two dazzled lieutenants – missing both!

For a good while the battle is a tit for tat exchange. Emmiven is dragged back to consciousness by Grigori, only to be sent back into the veil of unconsciousness by another savage blow, and most of the party find themselves seriously wounded. Indeed, for a while it looks like the party may have met their match, for although seriously wounded by a heavy blow to the head flung by the warlord before he is taken down once more, Meerzek seems to draw on internal reserves of strength and carries on like some indomitable war machine, striking with relentless, terrible savagery, and apart from Crav'Awk who is bleeding heavily, most of the other rookery agents are only slightly, or are not even remotely wounded.

Seren is horribly hurt as Crav'Awk applies a black, sticky fluid to his spiked chain and strikes her. The physical wounds from the blow are severe, but the venom is worse still; surging through the sorceress with vicious force, triggering haemorrhaging and stealing her focus and strength. She responds by hurtling a barrage of magic back at him; a dazzling orb of seething energy, an unstable fractal of sorcerous light and a snarling bolt of chaotic energy, the last spell entering the lieutenant's beak and blowing his brains out of the back of his fragile skull in an eruption of steam, feathers and fluids.

Bob rushes over to Grigori and helps with the trap. At first the embedded teeth stay firm, and the priest can only scream as the pain spears through his bones like a lightning bolt. However, with further efforts the two of them manage to yank the teeth free, and Grigori is able to pull his leg out. Freed at last, his head light from the adrenaline, the priest briefly passes out. He then stumbles forth, and ignoring a furious biting throb of his wounds, he calls upon his mightiest healing spells and unleashes them in a burst of fiery, argent light.

This outpouring of healing is the first of two major turning points in the battle, for suddenly everyone is almost fully restored, their wounds (in many cases, near fatal) being closed. The second turning point is when Schnecke, furious and hungry to inflict pain, lands a trio of solid blow against Meerzek; the first with his moaning axe – the barbarian willing it to scream into the wounds, ripping them wider – the second with his fiery axe, the flames surging along the eldritch channels sewn into the dundorin's spirit by the genasai, the last scoring a devastating blow against him, almost tearing the life from him. This savage attack severely wounds the dundorin, and he is barely able to defend himself. His death comes about a moment later as Emmiven, like some vengeful spirit, rises next to him and shatters his head with his hammer, sending brains and gore squirting across the chamber in a flat pressure wave.
By this time both of the kenku has been slain, one incinerated by one of Seren's bolts, the other slain in the swirling melee at the edge of Schnecke's axe.

Every eye turns to the two crossbowmen at the far end of the chamber, and they, realising that continuing to fight would be suicide, give up.

11:27 – 13:00 - Unbeknownst to the party at this point, word has spread through the guild that they are under attack, and a great many of its members have fled. Those that remain soon learn from the crossbowmen, that the invaders are not Gutter Kings, but are powerful adventurers who are happy, if they are willing, to let them continue their activities, but under their, rather than Corvus' leadership.

Being pragmatic, the remaining rookery members agree.

The party now have a guild of rogues, trapsmiths, and warriors under their control.

Monday, 6 September 2010

A Bit of World Lore For You - How Convulos'Soth'Kulzaad Became The Prince of Poison

During the Primal Wars, Convulos (called also Soth'Kulzaad, Nythanox, Thrynath, Toxicus and many other names) was a soldier God, who fought at the front lines of every engagement with the Elder Gods and their allies. He was known for his cunning, his skill with magic and also his willingness to use any and every advantage.

He quickly fell from the favour of deities such as Solum'Tassadexes and Cellinthar'Valladir, who thought him a coward, and was reviled by the likes of Namaea who is also Isaala, for he was without compassion or mercy for his foes. However, paradoxically, one beautiful young Goddess thought him handsome, brave and clever – the Lady of Life, Oerdaine (who is also called Maelandra, Lau'Pei, Issranthia, Raithia, Alaria, Vaelnarda and many other names).

Oerdaine had also caught the eye of the young soldier God, and with the wars brought to the end, and the universes slowly crystallising into relatively more stable states, Convulos sought her out and made her his love.

Sick of the annihilation of the Primal Wars, Covulos and Oerdaine tended to the forming races of the nascent universes, and helped them to be strong and healthy. They opposed the likes of Sarrax, who sought to taint them with his own forms of life, Darkold (who is Sebbathor, Xantrox, Kazamoto, Uzzruel and who is known by many other names also) who wished to dominate them and steal all free will, and many other dark powers. Together they created marvellous elixirs that could cure any and all afflictions, that could grant long life and vitality, and that could protect their users from all forms of harm. New species were born by their will, that held the components for these medicines, so that the mortals could learn to use them for themselves, and for long and long they were happy in their love, and beloved by their chosen.

After much time, when the world we know was first taking on its present form, Convulos put it to his beloved that they should retire from the knowledge of the mortal races, and shift to a more remote continuum, where they could be alone and love for all eternity. He was earnest, and full of love, and was sure that the Goddess would agree...

...But alas, she did not, for she had grown to care for her children strongly, and could not bear to be apart from them, afraid that without her they would perish – especially as the mortals were now being used by many other deities for their own ends.

Convulos was stunned. His heart broke, and at once, all the love and the hope within him turned to poison. He hated as only a God could hate, and attacked the Goddess Oerdaine in a fury. She drove him off, for by this time she was as powerful as he, and Convulos was forced to retreat.

Desperate to hurt his former love as much as he could, he spoke the words of creation and twisted them, so that every elixir, component and living thing in which he had played a part in forming was corrupted by his spite and hate; their healing power turning to death, their hearts echoing the venom of the Gods wretched soul.

And so the first poisons entered the world, and the enmity between the Prince of Poisons, and the Healer Goddess was born. Very soon mortals who also hated, or who sought power came to worship Convulos, and he grew in dark power, and became the reclusive, venomous deity we know to this day.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Ugh!

As you almost certainly guessed the last post was very rushed, and whilst I definitely do not claim to be a literary genius, that one was filled with badness. I have done some editing. Not perfect, but better than it was.

Ta!