Using My Monsters

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Aezmyth

I thought I would pop the stats up for Aezmyth. Unfortunately, they are a bit cramped as the last update for the Monster builder screwed a whole load of things up - I suspect to get as many people staying as subscribers for when the online Monster Builder arrives *sigh*

Anyway...







Ormid et al - 15/11/2010

11:01 – 11:05 – The mind shrivelling horror of what they face is suddenly lost as the magic missile swarms flash forwards through the billowing magical fogs, and blast those in the front ranks, pushing them back into the corridor, leaving a space through which the Xareth'Chelde can fire his deadly eye beams.

Rays of lethal magic dart through the doorway an instant later; a crackling black beam, edged in blood red luminosity striking the warforged, its foul energies corroding at his life force, and a pencil thin beam of dazzling emerald light, brighter than the midday sun, hitting Shadevia, her flesh immediately beginning to crumble to ash.

The seeker responds by unleashing a storm of tenebrous bats at the vague shadow of the Beholder, still wrapped up in the sparkling, billowing vapours of the Guards and Wards ritual, a grim smile lighting her face as she hears it bellow in outrage as it is battered by the swarming tenebrous conjurings. Llewellyn, reluctant to expose himself to the deadly eyes of the Xareth'Chelde, cartwheels past the door into the chamber, flinging a dagger at the monster as he goes, the blade bouncing harmlessly off its armour plated bulk, whilst the warforged desperately asks his colleagues if they have a plan that will allow him to get close enough to the floating enemy to hit it.

And this is how the battle opens; the party almost helpless, whilst the Beholder lashes them with an overwhelming array of deadly beams.

The Xareth'Chelde is forced closer to the doorway in order to avoid the cloud of bats conjured by the seeker (who screams and moans as its initial eye beam continues to eat away at her flesh, a fine ash falling constantly as her body is eroded away), and the party, reluctant to get too close, try to strike at him from a distance or focus on the nearest living spells, their blows hugely addled by the magical mists.

It rapidly becomes clear that the Beholder is every bit as terrible as the stories portray them. Its eyes unleash death in many flavours. Ardwaine is repeatedly put to sleep by one eye, the enchantment so strong that even a near punch from Ormid's artifice arm fails to rouse her. Blinding beams of agitated energy, wounding necrotic power and petrifying magic stab repeatedly from the monster's twitching eye-stalks, almost all finding their mark. And then it unleashes a wave of dispelling power from its central eye, preventing those caught in it from using anything other than their most basic, simplistic attacks.

For a while it seems that the group have met their match, especially as, despite attempts by Ormid to prevent it, the disintegrate beams effects continue to devour Shadevia. After the first minute, most of the living spells have been blasted out of existence, but the group have yet to even scratch the deadly aberration. Then the warforged, realising that he must do something, gives a bellow and charges into the chamber beyond, ducking under the Beholder's floating bulk. Once past, he leaps onto a pillar that rises from the edge of the pit, and scrambling up it, he launches himself, eye rays stabbing at him as he flies, onto the top of the Eye Tyrant, slap bang in the middle of its writhing eye-stalks. The Xareth'Chelde gives a bellow and drifts back over the dizzy drop of the pit, where it begins to shake like a wet dog, trying to dislodge the warforged. Veteran takes the opportunity to land several powerful strikes against the monster, ripping away plates of chitin and exposing the thick, stony flesh beneath. Several times he is forced to drop to his knees or to grab hold of a tentacled eye in order to prevent himself being shaken free, but he manages to stay firmly in place. This becomes more difficult however when he feels an invisible field of force surround him, trying to move him forcibly from the monsters “back” - a telekinesis ray! Panicking slightly, he manages to resist being thrown into the void, but his place is lost a moment later when another ray – this one charged with terror – fills him momentarily with an overriding irrational fear, forcing him to leap off and to run and hide behind a pillar.

Back in the other room Shadevia continues to fire arrow after arrow at the aberration; some finding their mark, most missing. She does this despite the spreading dismay of the disintegrating magic, which eats away at her flesh and bone like the glowing embers of a smouldering piece of parchment in a breeze, revealing glistening entrails and steaming loaves of internal meats. Pus and other foul corruptions also pour from her wounds – the legacy of one of the monster's rotting beams - her life drawing to a close, the seeker having long ago run out of her own resolve to ignore the deadly magics, and having exhausted Ormid's ability to heal her. Realising this Llewellyn, disgusted at his inability to hit the Beholder and eager to do something useful, runs over to the unconscious cleric and begins to look through her packs for a healing draft or anything that might help Shadevia. He moves as fast as he can, but unfortunately as he finds her backpack and flips it open, Shadevia gives a sigh and collapses unconscious, the dark magics continuing their insidious work on her remains.

“Go laddie!” screams Ormid, now focusing some of his powers upon the shadowy figures of the Xareth'Cheld, the warfoged, and Ferrous, the iron Defender now duelling with a particularly lucky living magic missile swarm to the left of the great pit, “Quickly, before she enters the Weeping Angel's domain!”

“I'm doing it!” he snarls, grabbing a stone vial from within the pack and leaping over to the slumping form of the seeker, her body now exhaling a noxious, damp miasma as it slumps and roils into nothingness. Praying quietly to Vaenya, Vyrleen goddess of good fortune, he pops the seal on the potion and begins to pour it onto the bubbling, rotting flesh of his ally. At once there is a reaction; a coiling and writhing of new flesh and corrosive spells working against each other. Energy surges through the unconscious adventurer, and suddenly she sits up, screaming in agony, her flesh still being eaten by the magic, but death, momentarily, held at bay.

“ARDWAINE!” screams both Ormid and Llewellyn, “IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT CRAWLS, WAKE UP!!!”

By a miracle she does, blinking owlishly and asking what time it is.

Meanwhile the Xareth'Chelde has drifted back over the pit, the cloud of bats having dissipated when Shadevia fell unconscious; an inaccessible position perfect from which it can launch its attacks with little chance of retaliation. Bellowing joyfully Its eye rays stab outwards repeatedly, blasting the warforged and confusing him enough that he mistakes Ferrous for an enemy just long enough to try and hack him. The Beholder feels almost invulnerable for although its armour is deeply scored and its stony flesh a little bruised, it has weathered some of the most savage attacks the warforged can deliver without blood being drawn, and even Veteran is starting to wonder how their party will survive this deadly encounter. Spitefully it sends another blast of magic at the warforged, forcing him to leap desperately out of the way, a bubbling laugh gurgling from its guts as it watches, its eyes catching movement in the corridor beyond – the dundorin healer!

Ardwaine climbs groggily to her feet. As she does, a beam of pale yellow light strikes her, paralysing her legs, preventing her from moving over to Shadevia and delivering her most potent healing spell. However, she is able to pronounce a powerful invocation of healing, sending a gleaming wave of power towards the stricken seeker, and at once several of her most terrible wounds are simply erased. Despite this, Shadevia continues to rot and fall apart, and Ardwaine, twisting at the hip, unleashes another potent spell, calling upon dimensional energies to power it. A moment later and frost and death magic lashes from her symbol, boiling the final living spell away to nothingness, and sending deeper cracks through the armour plating surrounding the Xareth'Cheldes body. At the same time, Ardwaine harnesses the life force that flees the monster as it is wounded, and sends it winging towards the archer, further healing her wounds, but still failing to stop the dire energies devouring her.

The Xareth'Chelde's laughter turns to a roar of fury.

Seeing all this, and realising that if the deadly aberration remains floating above the pit deep within the folds of concealing mists, he and most of the party will be unable to land a blow on it, Llewellyn takes action to change this. Scrambling forwards, and taking a blast from an eye-stalk in the process, the rogue activates the Cherished Ring he was given by Julius, captain of the Sky Dancer, sending an invisible wave of friendship towards the slavering nightmare. Desperation drives this, and somehow, despite the monster's formidable psyche, the ring's power takes hold; insane, illogical curiosity briefly filling the nightmare, forcing it to float towards the party. By doing this it not only leaves the safety of the yawning pit, but places itself in the doorway within easy reach of everyone. Even better, at this close range, the magical mists are too thin to grant it concealment.

Grinning, the rogue dodges to the wall to the right of the monster, preparing to leap at the beast as soon as he can. Shadevia, lands another arrow, this one rimed with spikes of frost, into the base of the Xareth'Chelde's central eye, a frozen tear welling up at once, whilst Ormid sends a shockwave of magic into it, smashing more scales but still failing to make it bleed. From behind, the warforged's axe, roaring with fire, bites into the things armoured scales, chipping several free, but dealing no real harm, whilst the Iron Defender rips more off with his adamantine, rune-carved fangs.

In response, it's mind clear once more, the enraged beholder unleashes a frenzy of beams at his tormentors, wounding, burning, and partly petrifying those they hit. However, it suddenly realises that it may have been over confident, and the first seeds of dread begin to take root in its heart.

Gritting his teeth against the searing bite of the wound he just received, the vyrleen prepares to hit the aberration with a lethal attack, having spotted a crack in its armour he feels he can use to deal a deadly blow to its innards. However, just as he prepares to attack, a deep, unnatural sleep fall upon him, courtesy of the Eye Tyrants sleep ray.

Another field of dispelling energy sweeps over all the group in the corridor, once more preventing them from using any attacks that draw on magic or need focus to accomplish. However, outside the reach of this attack, behind the monster's bulk, Veteran leaps into the air, and with a metallic roar, plunges the burning razor edge of his blade into one of the Xareth'Chelde's weakened areas, finally ripping through the heavy meats of its body, and drawing a thick spume of dark green gore and whistling, stinking gasses.

Deadly magic sizzles through the air as the monster registers the pain and shock of the wound, and with a rumbling roar it drifts back towards the pit, proclamations of death pouring from its slavering maw like tarry curses. However, its bellows are drowned out by the rage fuelled voice of Ormid, who strides fearlessly towards it, moustache wagging with anger. In a clear voice, layered subtly with magic, he addresses the monster, and in no uncertain terms points out that whilst it may almost certainly be the doom of a few of the party's members (his own body is stiffening with pullulating petrifaction as he states this), they would ultimately slay it, or, in the best case for it, wound it to the point where it has a long recuperation – possibly never regaining its full strength. He puts it to the monster, in mangled Tradespeak (as best as he can manage using his own antiquated common form of language anyway), that it is too potent and brilliant an individual to meet such an ignoble end, or to be condemned to such a grim future. And with this in mind he proposes a truce; the Beholder allowing the party to move on, the party making no further attempts to harm him.

Whilst Shadevia sobs (the magic weakening on her, but still eating away at her substance) and Ormid fights against the leaden creep of the petrifaction, the monster considers. Its massive central eye, bloodshot and oozing, rolls around as it takes in the hulking warforged and his agonising axe, the swift and sneaky vyrleen poised to leap, the resolute artificer, the yawning dundorin, adamant seeker and softly growling Iron Defender. It mumbles to itself in its borborygmic voice, and with a snarl suddenly drops into the pit and out of sight.

Rushing to the edge of the pit, a wave of vertigo assaulting him as he sees the vertiginous drop beneath it, the artificer watches as the defeated Xareth'Chelde – still more than a match for the entire party if the truth be told – squeezes its massive bulk into a hidden tunnel below the pits lowest end, leaving them to their fate...

...Impossibly, words succeeded where lethal force failed.

11:06 – 11:16 – The battle with the Xareth'Chelde may have only taken a couple of minutes, but it feels to the party like all they have ever done is dodge or suffer the effects of lancing eye rays and try to hit a vague, deadly foe through a cloak of conjured mists. With the monster slain, the first order is try and help Ormid and Shadevia to survive their current magical afflictions.

Llewellyn is woken, and Ardwaine uses her poultices and healing arts to halt the petrifaction of the artificer, and then the continued dissolution of the agonised and traumatised seeker. With that done the group spend a few moments simply enjoying being alive.

Once they have caught their breaths, bandaged (and re-bandaged) their wounds and mastered their pain, the group begin to search the chamber. The first thing that Ormid does is work out where the ritual shrouding it in blinding vapours is focused. He then disrupts its casting, and clears the mists away, allowing the party to see that this chamber is lined with ancient, empty bookshelves, and that its marble clad walls bear intricate bas-reliefs depicting earlier times in Laertraine.

On the wall opposite the one they came through Shadevia's sharp eyes spot a slight indentation. Looking closer, she discovers that a portal is described there in arcane glyphs carved into the stone – glyphs that Ormid is able to translate with a little time, discovering that the portal's glyphs mean the following (and are arranged in this manner)


(Ice)
  (Void)        (Blood)
       (Water)       (Radiance)
        (Spirit)       (Binding)    
        (Draining)       (Fire)                 
     (Death)       (Deception)

Ardwaine surmises that the symbol at the top (“ice”) is the key to working out which glyphs must be activated, and in what order. Ormid discovers that the glyphs can be activated by touching them and focusing magic into them – something that only he can do – and he realises that if they get the sequence wrong, any consequences will be directed solely at him.

He tries to glean any clues as to which way to go by focusing on the magical energies of the area, and after a few moments of meditation he once again sees the world as a complex, vital weave of energies. The portal (which he now knows is truly what these carvings are) gives nothing away. However, he senses magic elsewhere, and is not surprised when a secret compartment is found in one of the nearby pillars by the pit.
He allows his senses to return to normal, and watches as the compartment is breached, and the various treasures within – no doubt ancient items that have resided in this place for untold millennia – are brought forth.

One of these items is a book bound in green velvet, which holds several ritual incantations, and Ormid claims this, intrigued by the power these spells could grant him. A small carving of a wasp, beautifully worked from what seems to be flowing mercury that somehow keeps its shape when touched, is identified as some kind of wondrous figurine similar to the one Ormid keeps for summoning the dog spirit, whilst three thick potions are identified as regenerative elixirs; potent healing for those that imbibe them. Finally, a rather tacky ring of gold and silver, designed to look as if it made from numerous interlocking stylized bolts of lightning, is identified as a Stormcatcher; a useful item that can be used to turn an enemies lightning spells back on them.

These items are put aside for now, and the group turn their attention back to the portal; everyone except Ormid hiding behind the pillars and shelves, whilst the artificer stands in front of the carvings, ready to awaken them with a touch.

11:17 – 11:20 – By the time the group work out that they need to activate the “Water”, “Draining” and “Fire” glyphs in that order to awaken the portal, poor Ormid has been blasted by two bruising shock waves of magical force, the second loosening teeth and cracking his spectacles. However, as he awakens the “Fire” glyph, so a wave of dimensional magic awakens within the carvings frame, and the wall is replaced by an icy plane of blue-white light; the portal to who knows where.

“Everyone ready?” asks Ormid, his voice weary.

Everyone nods.

“Here we go then.”

11:21 – The group leap through the portal...

...And reach their goal – and possibly their doom – for the portal leads to the ruined time dilation chambers, which now occupy an open area at the top of the edifice, open to the skies and unbound at its edges by wall or magic. Tearing, icy winds cut across it, and luminous clouds swirl and flicker high above in a funnel, attracted by the potent magics being cast. The very air boils with gathering magic, and the group shiver with its metallic tang.

The first thing the party see is an immense gigorim, twice as large as anything they have met so far. It has flowing white hair and pale purple-blue flesh, every inch of which is tattooed with glowing brands and runes. Power envelopes him, and his deep voice rings out, chanting impossibly potent spells over the shrieking of the winds. He wears shimmering robes of some strange, luminous cloth, and wields a crackling staff covered in blazing symbols over which dances coruscating energy and corposant. The gigorim is clearly involved in some kind of ritual, watched over protectively by the hulking form of a huge warforged great cat – twice the size and quality of the one the group fought on their arrival.

The gigorim stands within a massively complex series of carved channels, which intersect at messy and seemingly random intervals to form a vast, sprawling pattern that must have some dire, elemental purpose. Before it, to the southeast of the area, stands a huge grey-green pillar of what appears to be some kind of metal; 12' high, and carved with incredibly alien hieroglyphs that burn with a sullen green fire. The pillar chimes with a discordant whine, and power ripples from the floor carvings and gigorim and back into the pillar. Above the pillar, the group can see some kind of weird distortion forming; a time portal the artificer realises. A shimmering dome of power; the perimeter of a warding circle, surrounds both monsters, focusing the power being drawn inwards towards the pillar, and forming a potent barrier to anyone trying to stop the brute.

Several blasted corpses lie scattered about the site, their charred features and raiment’s smoking in the tearing winds, and there are signs that horribly destructive spells have not long been unleashed here. Indeed, the gigorim and his pet seem to bear some wounds in keeping with those created by potent spells.

The group stand there a moment almost hypnotised by what they see. Ormid quickly deduces that the gigorim is actually opening the time portal, apparently using the touchstone – almost certainly a fragment from the original chambers – as a focus and amplifier for the epic casting. He also realises with a lurch of horror that the stone is badly weakened, and that the portal, which is a billowing and uncontrolled thing, will not stay open long, and will likely rip this entire structure apart when it shuts due to the backwash of reality distortion resulting from its collapse.

A quick look at the energies of the shimmering dome surrounding the gigorim and his pat, and it is clear that it would reflect any direct attacks, and that in order to bring it down, the magics supplying it must be negated, which would be far easier if the party were not on a time limit (for the portal is clearly gaining substance and stability and will very soon be open) and if not for the the winds, which blast the party constantly as the gigorim's casting cause nature itself to rebel.

Indeed, the only thing the party have going for them at the moment is that the gigorim – an Aethran gigorim – is too busy working his powerful ritual to notice them. At least, until they do what they must and begin to try to lower the protections he has raised about him...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Magic Cards of Various Designs

I recently downloaded the Magic Set Editor in order to generate some item cards for the unique devices and items in my games. However, pretty quickly I found myself making MTG cards for various things in the universe, and I though I would share a couple with you now.







And now onto the "Magic" cards...






Thursday, 11 November 2010

Post War Natives - 09/11/2010 (Part 2)

12:19 – 12:22 – Fren stops in a small dank chamber somewhere in the bowels of the house. Like the others it is rank with greasy moisture, rotting papers and vermin, and the only light now comes from a shining stone that orbits the deranged artificer's head. The group wonder if she has got lost until she moves to one pile of dripping parchments and speaks a phrase of power which energises them, and sends them flying away to reveal a brilliantly illuminated corridor beyond. At the end of this corridor stands a great mirror of silvered glass – priceless in and of itself. However even from their current position the party can make out the spidery runes worked into its gilt frame, as well as the dimly glowing power crystals set amongst them.

“Use your key Istan and you will be in. You can look through before you pass through. Good luck!”

The artificer's words are dull and heavy, as if she is impossibly weary. Istan looks like he is on the verge of tears, but with a growl he turns his back on her and begins to march down the corridor. The group look towards Fren and notice that she is staring off into space, her lips moving slightly as if she is talking silently to someone. She looks suddenly over her shoulder and then, with lightning speed, jumps past the party to spin Istan round by his shoulder with surprising strength.

“What the-..”

“It's been calling to me lately you know. It's still hungry for the kill.”

Istan grows pale. “Where?”

Fren moves closer, almost as if she is going to kiss him, her face sick and drawn. However she instead puts her mouth right next to Istan's ear and in a loud, harsh whisper says, “Somewhere close by. Too close. It senses the many here. It is hungry to kill, to feel their blood slide from its claws.”

Istan looks at the party and back to Fren who has stepped away from him and stares at him with a savage, insane intensity. He shudders, and slowly speaks.

“If I survive this night, I shall come back and we shall find it and lay it to rest. It must be stopped, though how, I know not.”

And with that he gives her hands a kiss before heading towards the portal. “Come on then you lot!” he barks.

Fren stares a moment longer, then melts back into the darkness of the house, her lightstone winking out a moment before.

12:23 – 12:25 - “What the feck was that all about?” growls Schnecke, “She's insane!”

Istan briefly looks furious, but he masters his emotions and nods instead. “She has been driven insane by the things she saw during the wars. She was part of the crew responsible for maintaining the Mortifer, and as such, she had grown close to the machines spirit. When it went rogue and turned to evil, she felt a massive burden of guilt, as well as the loss of a friend of sorts.
“Her guilt corroded her sanity, until Xix's whispers began to fill her mind. The ghosts she sees and hears are, she thinks, the souls of those slain by the Mortifer. Worse, she claims she still has a connection with the machine, and says she can feel every kill it makes.”

He shudders.

“Poor woman needs help. She was...she was so full of life and beauty once.”

He shakes his head. “Come on. Let's see about one friend at a time. Darius needs us urgently. Let's go.”

12:26 – 12:31 – Up close the mirror is clearly a work of incredible artifice, and those versed in arcane lore are forced to admit that Fren, for all her madness, must be a talented weaver of enchantments to have crafted, or even to have modified it.

As the group gather Istan produces a small shard of crystal that begins to thrum with energy as it is brought towards the mirrors surface. He then touches two of the crystals in the frame, and at once, the mirrored surface swims with light and become clear, as if a sheet of transparent glass was in it.

Beyond is a beautifully appointed bedroom, dominated by a huge four poster bed and a huge marble clad fireplace. At the bottom of the bed is a huge footlocker and various expensive pieces of furniture stand around the chambers curtain shrouded walls. Rich carpets cover the floors, and bright light spills from a spectacular chandelier set in the ceiling made from individual crystals of quartz and clear jade.

By the fireplace stands a robed man in his late thirties. He has long, oiled hair the colour of midnight, and noble features. A large ruby ring glitters on his left hand, and an aura of warding spells shimmers around him like a ghostly halo. He is currently holding the hand of a slightly plump but undeniably beautiful woman who sits on a plush stool before him, her eyes locked with his, a look of purest adoration on her face. She wears the ornate robes of a cleric of Buidrerenon'Tobes, has reddish-blonde hair, large blue eyes and pale skin.

This, Istan whispers, is Yithia, Darius' lover. The man with the dark hair is the pretender.

Peering through, Grigori spots something unusual about the wall hanging curtains, and realises that behind them lurk three armoured forms – hidden bodyguards. A closer look reveal that the outlines are consistent with those of warforged.

“The girl is an innocent dupe in all this. Spare her if you can, but be aware that she is in thrall to the monster.”

The group agree, though Jaeger does so reluctantly, having little love for the greedy merchant priests of Tobes.

“I have a plan.” says Varracuda suddenly. “Why doesn't Emmiven take on the form of Darius as well? It could be that the confusion of seeing two Darius' is enough to shake the domination the doppelganger has over Yithia. It could win us an ally?”

The group stare at the genasai for a moment, and then grin, for it is a most excellent plan.

And so Emmiven allows his features to melt and shift into those of Darius – a process that none other than the sorceress are able to watch without baulking – becoming a perfect double in every way. He grins with the strangers face, and after everyone has controlled their feelings, Istan activates the mirror fully, opening a portal into the room beyond...

...”Yithia! This is a trick! He is a monster, a shapeshifter, for I am your love, come to rescue you and slay this fiend!”

It's a bit over the top, but Emmiven knows that in order to stand a chance of blasting through the mental restraints placed on her psyche he has to use a blunt instrument. His and Istan's arrival in the room has caught the pair off guard, and for an instant it looks as if the priestess might be able, in the throes of her shock and confusion at the strange and unexpected intrusion, to fight free of whatever holds her. However, as the rest of the party pile through, her eyes cloud over and she leaps to defend her “love”.

And so the battle to destroy the doppelganger begins. As predicted by Grigori three warforged, each showing signs of being lobotomised - the parts of their brains that allow them to think for themselves having been bored out and stoppered with grey, morphic flesh (that of the doppelganger) – begin to stride out from behind the wall curtains, heavy blades at the ready.

Spying the party, and clearly happy that Yithia is fully in his thrall, the doppelganger sheds the form of Darius. His flesh loses its human tone and becomes grey and formless, flowing like wet clay over the core of his being. He elongates and stretches, his eyes becoming flat discs of white, his mouth widening and filling with shark-like teeth. His arms lose any semblance of having a bone structure, waving with a rubbery looseness whilst his fingers grow long, claw-like nails. He howls with rage, an invisible aura of psychic “fog” oozing from his powerful mind, insidiously deadening the reactions and thought processes of those coming too close for too long.

One of the warforged launches in at Varracuda, who expertly parries the blow and returns a slash of his own fiery blade scoring a minor hit against the mindless construct. Istan, Emmiven and Schnecke all charge the shape-shifter; the warlord smashing him to the floor and the warrior cleaving several bloodless wounds, filled with wriggling nests of grey, doughy worms – his polymorphic flesh, working hard to restitch the wounds together. However, the most formidable blow of this opening attack comes from the Ulnyrr.

From the moment he entered the perfumed finery of the bedroom, Schnecke had changed. The sight of the powerful monster spoke to him, and his soul spoke to his homeland; its icy presence filling his spirit with bitter cold. Mercy, honour and fear all fly from him as the algid power of his people comes to flow through him, the air around him growing frosty, his breath pouring from him in great, steaming gouts. Ice flakes from his blue-tinged flesh and grows like daggers from his beard and plaits.

He charges the doppelganger, and strikes it with a blow capable of cutting a warhorse in two, his mighty blade literally tearing and warping the monsters form like a child tearing clay. The blow enters the beasts clavicle and ends in the middle of his belly, and the monster shrieks a scream so high pitched that no one hears it – though every glass thing in the bedroom shivers and cracks from it.

But Schnecke isn't even half finished yet.

Lost in the icy rage, his axe has come free and dived in again before anyone can register the sickening impact of his first blow, carving another hideous wound in the plastic things body, causing it to stretch upwards weirdly, his body elongated and sculpted like a piece of aelwyn art. Eyes now glowing with blue light, mist weeping from them like tears, his beard and hair now pure ice, the frost-souled barbarian manages to land one more blow, almost decapitating the fiend, his axe not just moaning at this point, but shrieking with daemonic glee.

“NOOOOOOO!”

It is Yithia. She leaps forth power seething from her holy symbol as she calls upon her god to smite those that seek to kill her love. The icy cold of the barbarian's rage is suddenly washed away in a deafening blast of incandescent energy as she calls a column of blue and black fire down upon the warriors attacking her love, and the assassin who has crept forwards, crossbow at the ready.

The flames are incredibly powerful, and small fires start all over the bedchamber as their heat washes out, the air growing thin and smoky almost at once. Those caught in the blast suffer horribly as the enchanted flames bathe them in agony, even the barbarian, wrapped up in the skin aurumvorax and his own fury.

But she too is not yet done. “My love!” she sobs, her symbol glowing once more, this time with a soft, golden light. “I shall save you!”

Auric energy leaps from her hands and settles on the doppelganger, immediately closing the wounds he has suffered where it touches them. The fiend roars his approval, and then, in Darius' cultured voice, thanks Yithia; the voice horribly incongruous with his alien, warped form. Another warforged enters the fray fully, missing the barbarian with a blow designed to open his belly up...and then the monster attacks...

The horror, an elder doppelganger that calls itself Aezmyth, is angry with itself for being caught by surprise, and is shocked at how badly these rampaging adventurers have hurt him in a few scant seconds. His pain is incredible and his mind scattered. However, with the initial shock fading, and his unnatural flesh on the mend, he focusing his powerful mind and at once tries to dominate the nightmarish barbarian. He sends hooked waves of mental power towards him, but finds, to his surprise, a surprisingly resilient personality in there – too strong for him to control. Fury boils up within him, and he takes this, shapes it, and uses it to unleash another purely psychic attack; an attack that he is positive will lay his enemies low.

As the third warforged strides into battle, an invisible cone of nightmare energy erupts from the reforming doppelganger's forehead, washing over the three warriors toe-to-toe with him, as well as the assassin. Those touched by it are suddenly plunged into their worst nightmares, the real world a faint image superimposed on the sanity shattering reality they suddenly inhabit. To those beyond the powers' reach, the four adventurers suddenly stop dead, their guards dropping, their faces suddenly contorting into masks of abject horror. Silent screams issue from them as they are briefly overwhelmed by the attack, though they seem, somehow, to be able to continue to fight – albeit at a substantial disadvantage.

Grigori's voice, powerful and clear rings out over the cacophony of the battle, and Schnecke is immediately woken from his waking nightmare, his boreal fury returning in a hearbeat. He then weaves a potent healing spell and send it over towards the assassin, who is burning brightly after Yithia's flame strike and is mewling within his psionically invoked personal hell. And it is a good job that he does, for the assassin, within his crisped and sticking armour, is more seriously hurt that even he realises, his entrails only held in by his armours press, his flesh charred through its entire thickness. The cooling, restorative energy pours over him; a luminous balm that restores him to full health; new flesh ballooning like a weird pink fungus from within his body, filling the cuts and blisters with healthy new tissue.

And then everything is thrown into sharp relief. Seren, who has stayed close to the portal (which this side is framed within the belly of a great chronometer), has been forming a barely stable sphere of clashing, spitting, spinning energies; a mad maelstrom of potential destruction bound within the small ball, held in place only by force of her will and her art, within her clawed hands. Now, with a wash of power, she launches it the length of the room towards Aezmyth, striking him with incredible accuracy and power.

The missile disintegrates and a blast of eldritch cold erupts from it, flash freezing the monster, blowing it into chunks with a thunderous report.

It's over!


As fast as that, and the powerful foes is slain!

The group (those not babbling and screaming anyway), can barely allow themselves to believe it – the doppelganger, powerful enough to dominate a household and keep its foes guessing, is undone in but a few seconds....this is....this is...

….not the case...

The group blink in horror as the frozen pieces begin to seethe and boil like wax on a fire, each piece suddenly erupting into a lashing mass of grey, whipping feelers, which connect with those of their neighbouring shards, slowly bringing the mass together in a frenzy of regeneration and polymophic rebirth. So rampant is the growth that any attacks are immediately undone, their damage lost in the crazy morass of cellular multiplication.

And so, whilst Aezmyth rebuilds himself into an increasingly bulky and loathsome form, the
party turn their attention to the others. Seren quickly summons radiant energy around the priestess and the two warforged that stand by her, dazzling them and forcing them to squint in the painful glare, whilst Jaeger, still distracted and blinded by his visions of horror, almost reflexively sends a wave of bladed darkness towards one of the warforged. By sheer luck, the bolt strikes the monster in its headwound, striking with terrific force, and as it falls backwards from the blow, so a fuming portal of absolute darkness yawns behind it, ready to swallow it whole. The warforged pitches into the darkness, and with a grunt, the assassin opens another portal next to Yithia, the warforged hurtling out from it to smash into her and the other living construct, all three of them slamming into the ground.

Varracuda continues to slash and poke at the first of the warforged to emerge, halfway between Grigori and Seren and the rest of the group, whilst Jaeger, now free of his horrors, unleashes another shadow-tinged cone of tenebrous bolts towards the downed enemies, poisoning them with stunning attercop venom and filling them with biting toxins.

Seeing their chance the warriors launch at the downed enemies, scoring a number of telling blows. Yithia, previously senseless from the venoms in her blood, is drenched in gore, her hair plastered to her sweating face. Despite this she rises shakily to her feet, and with a word of magic heals herself of the worst of it, before commanding the barbarian to drop to his knees, her utterance laced with magic.

But Schnecke seems not to hear her.

She screams and convulses as the assassin's venom surges painfully through her.

And suddenly Aezmyth is back in the battle, his new form a grotesque amalgam of several ferocious monsters. His bulk is that of a great bear, his flesh warty and scaled. From his posterior wags a wyvern's sting, from his powerful arms curl the claws of a primal lizard hunter, and in his face yawns the ferocious maw of a gigantic amphibian predator – the Froghemoth. His roar eclipses all other sounds in the chamber, and Yithia suddenly seems uncertain, the domination no longer so easily reinforced. She seems suddenly distracted, and although she continues to fight, her movements are now mechanical and clunky, as if against her will.

And there is fear in her eyes now – the doomed fear of one helpless against their grim fate.

Grigori pronounces a holy curse on the doppelganger, and his words strike at the beasts spiritual resonance, weakening him physically and psychically for an instant. The rest of the party concentrate on the priestess and the two warforged by her, all three of them being removed from the battle by flying blades of thunder and frost summoned by the drakven.

And then something truly horrible occurs.

The chest at the bottom of the bed suddenly bursts open, a stench so foul as to be overwhelming filling the room. A cold wind, clotted with the reek of advanced decay howls through the chamber, the small fires started earlier burning deathly blue as it touches them, and a ghastly thing – a corpse effervescent with putrefaction, dressed in rusted armour, a pitted and decayed longsword gripped in its fluid hands – erupts from the chest like a nightmarish jack-in-the-box. The zombie is animated by scores of pale grey worms, which Emmiven realises are small pieces of Aezmyth's own flesh, and when Istan gives a bestial, broken scream, the group realise who's remains stand before them, making them dizzy and sick with its stench – Darius Valde; Moneylender, lifelong friend of Istan and murdered victim of a conniving doppelganger.

Istan is stunned, his eyes locked on the dripping mass of black filth and writhing worms that used to be his best friend.

The group intensify their efforts to end this as soon as possible.

The battle, thought to be almost over with the first fall of Aezmyth proves to be far from over yet. The new form the monster has taken is a horror of lashing poisoned stings, disembowelling claws and devouring fangs. It leaps to and fro in the room; smashing furniture to kindling and laying about the party with brutal efficiency – though his attacks would be far worse were it not for the warlord's repeated distractions somehow penetrating his rage to make him pause and glare when he could be striking out.

Ultimately however it is the doppelganger's own rage that defeats him.

Having moved the entire length of the room he finds himself surrounded by the party, the swordmage cursing him with a hex that leaves him vulnerable to fire. Lashing out at random, the brute is still a deadly foe, though his regenerating flesh is hanging open in a score of places, the internal worms madly dancing to try and close the injuries up. However, he makes a fatal mistake, for seeing Seren before him, he strikes at her, and at once is surrounded by a nimbus of fiery magic – a defence the sorceress had called up around her scant moments before. Channelled by Varracuda's magic into the very core of his being, the fiery magic that leaps in a shimmering sheet from Seren's golden scales blazes within him with a fierce, unnatural intensity, withering the worms of flesh and striking at the very essence of the monster, burning the life from him.

As the killing blow falls against Aezmyth, so a horrific scream goes up, ripping the air. The greater doppelganger froths and boils, his physical form seething with uncontrolled change as consciousness flees it. Tentacles of raw flesh blast outwards from its suddenly greying and sagging mass, smashing furniture and smashing the party to their feet. Then a horrific column of melting flesh, bearing a nightmare visage like that of Darius erupts from the stinking morass of its collapsing form. It gives a phlegmy, bubbling wail, and then wilts like a mushroom in time lapse, collapsing back into the churning, burning mess that was the doppelganger's last form.

Soon there is nothing but a putrid, oily mess of unholy filth where the greater doppelganger once stood.

It's over!

12:32 – 18:30 – The group gather their wits and begin to feel their wounds. Grigori tends to them, noting with concern that the barbarian has been bitten by Darius' corpse (which was cut down just before Aezmyth was taken out), the punctures already showing signs of advanced decay. Istan rushes to Yithia's side, and sobs with joy when he sees that though gravely wounded, she lives. He gives her a healing potion with shaking hands, smiling down at her as her eyes flicker open.

Once she is comfortable (though she is dazed as grief and shock begin to work their foul spells on her) Istan returns to the party. He is grim and pale, but he shakes each person's hands with a fierce strength.

“It's over my friends, and I have a huge debt of gratitude to you. My friend, alas, is no more, though I can at least ensure he is laid to rest. As for Yithia, she will be in need of a lot of care, and will be needed to manage the estates, for she is named as the successor to Darius' empire.”

Istan then shrugs, looking lost,

“As for me, I shall stay long enough to ensure that all the affairs are put in order, and then I have my promise to Fren to fulfil. Seek me out if you fancy hunting the largest prey you have ever imagined.”

He then looks around the devastated bedroom, and moves to a part of one of the walls. After a moment he presses a secret panel, and a previously hidden chamber is revealed, its interior filled with various bits of enchanted equipment, all of them glinting in a disembodied blue-grey glow.

“Through there is a secret stash of equipment and items. Help yourself, you have more than earned it.” He then gives a sad little grin, and adds, “I call you friends now, and shall be here for you when I am able.”

The group are given food and drink by the houses terrified staff, most of whom barely dare believe that Istan has come back and saved them, and as the sun begins to set, they make to leave the splendour of Darius' estate, before being told that a carriage awaits, ready to take them back to the Staff of Wands.

Post War Natives - 09/11/2010 (Part 1)

09:41 – 19:45 - On arriving at Aramayne the group are greeted by the worried townsfolk, who awoke to discover that Istan, their guardian, was missing along with the strangers. They are overjoyed to see him return, and go manic when he informs them wearily that the attercops are no more, making it clear that the party are entirely to thank for the incredible victory.

With this, the group are buried under grateful praise. Some, such as Schnecke and Emmiven love this, soaking up the praise and happily accompanying the townsfolks to the Wending Way for a day of drinks, whilst others are not so keen. Varracuda, once more dwelling on being press-ganged into the Unified Order, feels only seething despair and anger, whilst Grigori is secretly repulsed by the townsfolk, seeing them as grubby, weak and pathetic, scrabbling to spew praise and thanks to a band they would have spat on yesterday (he does not stop to consider why he feels this way, when such thoughts are alien to him normally).

And so the group head into the pub, the genasai soon leaving to sit outside – brooding and carefully scribing a curious string of symbols, unimportant to any but him, on a piece of paper, in the hopes that someday they will be of use to him. They are symbols he only saw for a few seconds, but they are indelibly marked in his memory, and he scribes them with such accuracy that even reproduced without the same ritual and care as the originals, they make his very soul ache. As he broods and writes, so his flesh shimmers with dark bands of colour, until his entire form pulses with visible anger and upset.

Inside the group get stuck into some drinks and food, the Ulnyrr out drinking everyone else by a significant margin with his unique system – a spiked door handle which he rams into a beer keg, and uses to drink from the massive vessel as if it were a stein. Emmiven, Istan and Jaeger engage in enthusiastic conversations, whist Seren watches everyone with golden, unblinking eyes – the only member of the party the Aramaynians are reluctant to approach.

At first Grigori has a couple of drinks, if only to dull his irritation at the shrieking, mooing idiots surrounding him. However, he soon begins to feel claustrophobic, finding it harder and harder to respond politely to the back slaps and embraces of the yokel. So, hoping to avoid any trouble, he heads outside for some fresh air. The genasai is vaguely aware of the cleric as he walks across the town's square, ignoring the waves of several children playing around the statue. Suddenly feeling the need for some proper solitude, and feeling strangely drunk in a way that the beer could not cause, Grigori heads through the town's gate, and plunges southwards into the Argent Wood.

Back in the pub, the group continue to drink. Outside the pub, Varracuda ruminates and continues to flicker with emotion.

19:46 – 19:55 Istan realises that he hasn't seen Grigori for some time and asks the assassin if he has seen him. This leads to a round of questioning, and pretty soon they party realise that both Grigori and Varracuda have been missing for some time. Fearing trouble the group (including a very, very drunk Shnecke and a rather tipsy Emmiven) stumble out into the evening mists to see if they can locate their allies. There they find the genasai. Varracuda tells them that he saw the priest heading out into the woods a good while before, and grabbing his gear agrees to join them to look for him.

19:55 – 20:10 – The party, backed by several of the townsfolk, tromp into the gloomy embrace of the crepuscular forests, the latter group whispering in fear of their depths and the gathering dark. Calling out for the priest, they move a little way from the town when a bobbing light, low and multi-coloured, is seen moving a short distance away. Recognising it as the floating lantern, they head towards it...


They are calling me? Yes. But why? I'm fine. More than fine. I feel fantastic...

Grigori comes to, stumbling through the darkness of the forest. He remembers very little of the last few hours; feeling angry in the inn, leaving the town and heading for the solitude of the forest...and then....this. His fingers ache, and looking down he sees them caked with black soil and...blood?

Several of his fingernails are missing, and looking down at himself, he is surprised, but not horrified to see his robes are torn and soaked with a considerable amount of blood. A blackness swirls briefly in his psyche, fluttering like a trapped bird desperately trying to smash its way free of a cage, but something....no he...pushes it away.

No matter, I can hide this.

Grigori calls up power, and at no point worries that the power is being drawn from the vial – which now feels warm and welcoming to him, and quietly gleams within a fully restored band of restraining glyphs. The power flows through and over him, mending and cleaning his robes and healing his minor wounds.

Oddly enough, Grigori feels fantastic. He feels, for the first time in an eternity that he has control of something, though the fluttering part of his mind, the part pushed into the darkness, seems to react badly at this, briefly dancing desperately against his consciousness as if trying to get his attention.

And then he remembers – he has mastered the vial; his considerable power and intelligence succeeding where so many had failed before.

The fluttering is thrown into the darkness. His mind glows with pride and imagined power, and as the lights of his comrades begin to flicker in his eyes, he smiles broadly and waves, a sense of joy and right washing away the very last vestiges of sanity within him.

For the first time in his life, Grigori, acolyte unknowing of Jantherak the Shadebinder, is happy.

20:11 – The party spy Grigori, smiling dreamily to himself, stumbling through the mists ahead. He waves at the party, and straight away they feel that something is wrong. This feeling increases when the priest is not only happy to see them, but is nice to them. He does manage to piss off the Aramaynians by referring to them as peasants, but overall, he presents as strangely relaxed, peaceful and happy.

20:12 – 20:13 – Jaeger, feeling increasingly that something is wrong speaks to the cleric, trying to determine what exactly he has been doing in the woods. Grigori continues to talk in an upbeat and bright manner, and the assassin is about to move from suspicious to alarmed when something drops from Grigori's sleeve and lands on the dew wet grass besides him. The group stare, and after a few seconds realise what it is.

Gobroot.

They look back at the cleric – who seems almost as surprised as them at the appearance of the intoxicating root, and then relax as everything begins to fall into place in their minds – Grigori! The sly bugger! All this time he's been chewing Gobroot and the Gods know what else! Explains a lot really. Silly prick!

They laugh, and Schnecke wraps the priest in a crushing bearhug, laughing deafeningly in his ear, his beery breath warming his face. And inside Grigori something coils back into itself, and with a stab of anger puts it to the priest that he needs to reign in his joy a little if his allies – all of whom would not understand the nature of his new discovery and would see it as a bad thing – are to remain ignorant to his new found strength – at least, until they and he are ready for the knowledge to become common knowledge.

20:14 – 22:45 – The party make their way back to the town. Some take this opportunity to go to bed, whilst others stay in the taproom and drink some more. However, the long day works its soporific magic over all the group, and all are asleep – some in their rooms, others sprawled over the tables of the Way's taproom.

5/5/1472 (Early mists burn off to give a bright, warm day with light breezes. A chill night with light fogs follows, becoming clear and cool towards midnight).

07:00 – 09:30 – The group awake, some in more pain than others, and after a good breakfast gear up and return to Irin. On the way back Istan explains that they are going to be heading for the Northwood district; a place of former splendour, slowly sinking into decay, increasingly haunted by darker elements and criminals. He tells them that the secret way into Darius' home is watched over by an “ally” - though from the way he says the name, the group get the impression that there is more to the warrior's relationship with the mysterious individual than he is letting on.

Curious, the drakven and priest ask Istan a few questions, and manage to get him to talk more of the person they seek. He explains that they are seeking an Order artifcer who runs a side line in smuggled magics, illicit pleasure rituals and certain drugs. The artificer's name is Fren, and he tells them that they have known each other since before the aelwyn wars, though they are not too close any more as she has become increasingly paranoid since the war; hearing voices she says are dead soldiers, and seeing “shadows”, which she says are their ghosts. Istan thinks she is sliding into Xix's realm.

Whilst speaking, he superficially seems somewhat callous in his attitude. However Grigori senses that this a front, and with a small jolt he realises that Istan cared for this Fren, and indeed, may still do.

09:30 – 11:40 – The party enter Irin, and after a brief discussion on whether or not they should stop by the Staff of Wands to see if there are any messages for them, they decide to head straight to Northwood, which lies to the east of the High Hills district.

They move through the busy streets of the ancient city, marvelling at the hustle and bustle of the populace as they go about their daily business, and eventually begin to climb up streets that are increasingly empty and poorly maintained. Eventually, as the sun is climbing towards its zenith, they come to the outer limits of the Northwood district, clearly delineated by a well made, but badly maintained boundary wall of red brick and iron barred fencing. A large cast iron sign secured to the empty gatepost of the wall declares the name of the district beyond, though it is hard to make out the writing due to the thick tangles of carved symbols and words – gang signs and territory markers realise Jaeger and Seren, several of which belong to one of the Gutter King's chapters.

“Be on your guard” growls Istan, and the party move onwards.

11:41 – 12:00 - Northwood was clearly a beautiful place once, its wide roads and palatial residences speaking of a glorious heyday where it would have rivalled the glittering mansions of High Hills. Now many of the buildings are boarded up, and the roads are full of potholes and weeds. Gang marks mar many buildings, and the few residences that are still inhabited hide behind high spiked walls and expensive dundorin crafted gates.

In many ways Northwood is worse than the Roughs, for whereas the latter is unashamedly squalid, Northwood almost seems to be trying to hold onto its glorious past, giving an echoing sense of loss to its empty mansions and weedy gardens. Also, whereas the Roughs teemed with life, this place seems empty and desolate – haunted by the ghosts of its lost glory days. The only obvious life in the place are the pigeons that roost in the decaying gutters and eaves of the houses and the feral cats that stalk them, though Jaeger notices the glinting eyes of hidden rogues watching them pass by through tiny spaces in the porch stairs and basement windows of several buildings, making him realise that there must be hidden pathways of tunnels linking many of the “empty” buildings of the area – a rogues highway, and likely, at times when rival gangs meet, the scenes of clandestine trench warfare.

After about twenty minutes the group find themselves outside of a large, dilapidated mansion, which stands far beyond a high, well maintained wall, interrupted by a substantial gate of Steelwood and Stone, carved with blatant runes of warding. A large statue depicting a woman carrying a water jug stands about 10' in front of these, and as the party draws near, this crackles with energy, and a scratchy, male voice issues forth.

HALT! INTRUDERS WILL BE VAPORISED! MAKE YOUR NAMES KNOWN OR LEAVE!

Istan seems a little vexed, but replies, and almost at once the voice rings out again.

“Istan? Is that you? It is....good? To hear you. But who are those...people...with you? WHO HAVE YOU BROUGHT HERE ISTAN? WHAT IS THIS?”

Istan flinches, and for a moment a weary sadness marks his face. This however is quickly replaced with frustration and anger, and he is about to speak when Seren, Grigori and Emmiven step in. They address the statue (though they all realise now that the voice belongs to the mysterious Fren, and is clearly some kind of projection from the mansion) and carefully explain that they are allies of Istan's who are here to help him accomplish a vital goal. They explain that despite their exotic appearance they mean her no harm, and explain that they only wish to be about their business.

A moment passes, and then, in a rush of magic, the gates open, revealing a long weedy path of crushed gravel winding through overgrown gardens towards the mansions sagging frontage. Peering along the path, the group also spot a hulking humanoid mass of metallic material standing at the top of the path. They mention this to Istan and he simply shrugs.

“'Tis Skull Thumper, Fren's home made golem.”

12:03 – 12:18 – Even from the gates the state of utter disrepair of the mansion is apparent. Windows are boarded up and the gutters are thick with vines and weeds. As they move closer they can tell that the only thing holding it together are the thick growths of thorned ivy and southsummer creeper – all signs that Fren might be too unwell mentally to even keep her home livable.

At the mansion the group are greeted by Skull Thumper; a 10' high, 7' wide humanoid construct made from salvaged components from half a dozen other constructs. Despite his material's source he is a substantial guardian; his right shoulder mounted with a re-purposed magical ray weapon and his arms ending in spoked and rotating fists of iron and adamantium. For a tense moment it looks like he is going to block the groups' path. However, as they reach him, he steps swiftly aside with a whir of artifice and gestures towards the door of the mansion.

Moving onto the creaking and badly bowing steps the group move onto the porch, and are greeted suddenly by a painfully thin woman in her early thirties, with haunted eyes, long, thin, greying hair, dressed in filthy robes. A strong smell of rank sweat and long worn dirt wafts from her, and her skin is dry and filthy. From behind her comes an even stronger smell; the musky stink of rat urine, of rotting plaster and paper and of mould spores.

“Istan,” she mutters, staring with what seems to be anger, “you've not changed a bit.”

Istan is staring, and takes a moment to respond. When he does, it's in a strange, stunned tone of voice. “Oh, well, you know. I. You. I mean, you look...”

Fren tuts and wanders back into her home, stopping to glare at the warrior and ask “Are you coming then?”

The party follow Fren through the decaying halls of her home, trying to take shallow breaths in the “fragrant” atmosphere. Everywhere stand piles of junk and huge, melting towers of papers and schematics. Greasy trails and dropping give plentiful evidence of a heavy vermin infestation, and cobwebs hang in almost every corner and space. Dry and wet rots sprawl like spidery corals across the rotting plasterwork and wood of the building, and the only light comes through the few remaining windows or holes in the roof. As they pass one room, the priest spots a huge piece of artifice, and drawing it to Seren and Varacuda's attention they realise it is an arm mounted emitter cannon from the warforged titan. Looking closer, they can see the name of the monster it was made for (as a modular component) - Mortifer Fabrica – a machine that saw some brutal action during the war, defending the boundaries of Irin's territories.

It is also a machine that is associated with a most terrible legend, for it is known that it went rogue towards the end of the war and turned on its own. A last generation Titan, it was given terrific power, and to this day it has never been brought low. Worshipped by some warforged as the “Fury of Blades”, it has become a local boogeyman; a deadly presence that from time to time visits death on the unsuspecting. Jaeger also knows that there is currently a 4,500 gps reward for destroying the machine; double that if it can be brought in intact but deactivated.

Seeing their little whispering huddle, Istan moves over, concerned that Fren will become suspicious. He becomes clearly alarmed when he hears what they discuss and hisses for them to shut up.

The group grow silent and continue to follow the glaring apparition of the faded, insane artificer.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Ormid et al - Session Report, 3/11/2010

09:57 – 10:05 – The huge double doors leading into the edifice are warded by a powerful trap. This is discovered by Ormid and Llewellyn, the lines of its casting faintly gleaming beneath the surface of the stone and coiling around a large carving of the Crown of Merriel worked on the doors' surface. The artificer deduces that it is primed to unleash a vicious blast of chaotic energies if triggered, and also that its energies need to be redirected into the doors' opening spells to activate them.

Telling the party to back off, he and the rogue set to work, gently manipulating the delicate strands of magic within the trap, easing their energy into the door's inner workings. Every ounce of the artificer's ability and skill is required to do this without setting the trap off, the rogue working to keep his subtle castings in line. It takes time, but eventually the trap grows still within, and the internal mechanisms rumble suddenly to life, the doors seeming to vanish as they snap open.

10:06 – 10:16 – Beyond the door, a steeply slanting corridor of grey-blue marble bends upwards into the edifice's belly. It is dimly illuminated with flickering magical radiance, which seems slightly unstable, and the air is filled with the savage swoosh of the deadly blades that fill it; stabbing up from hidden slots in the ground, sweeping out in slashing arcs from the walls, and jutting downwards from ceiling compartments. The timing of the blades means that at no time is any part of the corridor completely free of slashing steel. The parties teeth ache with the mechanical resonance of the multitude of lethal devices ahead, and they realise that no matter how they approach the task ahead, they are going to suffer.

Llewellyn, held aloft by the warforged peers into the rippling sea of blades, and scans the stonework for any signs of a control panel, weakness or other way of disabling the traps' mechanisms. He spots, 10' away, in the midst of the maelstrom, a section of the floor that seems “off” somehow, and decides that there is probably a well concealed depression there, locked away beneath a stone lid. He tells the group what he thinks, and the Veteran states that he will brave the blades to try and open the hidden compartment.

The warforged strides into the field of blades, and the air is immediately filled with the harsh shriek of metal on metal as they bite deep into his plating, throwing sparks and small shards of metal across the corridor. He reaches the area pointed out by the vyrleen, and with a heavy punch, smashes the floor, revealing, as predicted, a small access panel, filled with whirring cogs and tiny magical capacitors. Struck several times more, the last few causing him pain, the warforged thumps his way back to join the others.

“Be my guest.” he rumbles to the vyrleen.

Llewellyn grits his teeth and tries to time his movement so that he stands a good chance of dodging the ubiquitous blades. Ormid enhances his defences with a minor work of artifice, wrapping the rogue in a thin layer of sonic energy before he leaps forth, but several blades manage to slash him before he can work on their mechanism, denting and slicing his armour but not drawing blood.

Despite the adrenaline running through his system, the vyrleen is able to quickly discern the mechanisms of the trap, and with a few deft twists of his tools, is able to deactivate the blades in a 15' x 15' area. The rest of the party shuffle forwards warily, and the whole process is repeated again for the next section of corridor; Veteran and Llewellyn both taking several deep cuts from the blades before the section is disabled, the warforged stepping back to join his allies after opening the control panel, to let the rogue do his thing.

However, as this section is disabled, the previous area re-activates the blades viciously wounding Ormid, Ardwaine and the Veteran, whilst Shadevia and Ferrous, who have stayed back by the great double doors, are suddenly cut off from the rest of the party by the writhing mess of blades, their view obscured. Spinning round in shock, the vyrleen can only gape at the spectacle of the reanimated trap.

As his bleeding allies stagger forth into the disabled zone, Llewellyn returns to look at the guts of the mechanism he just disabled, and with a second examination spots a sub-system of spools and runic locks. Growling with frustration and quietly commending the designer of the trap, he reaches in and ensures that this section will not return to life when another is halted.

And so onto the next section. Once again the warforged, now patched up a little by Ormid, strides into the swooping, stabbing sea of blades, and punches the lid of the control panel in. However, as he is about to turn around and leave the area, two spikes of crystal, seething with blindingly bright runes of power thrust down from hidden compartments in the ceiling, each alive with crackling magic. A moment later and a silent wave of magical energy erupts from them, and two bizarre creatures appear at their tips; serpents of living lightning, with fangs of arcane venom. The warforged immediately remembers seeing Sadran casting a spell on several occasions that created an identical effect, only in those instances it lasted a few seconds, and realises that these are more spells given the semblance of life by unknown magics.

At once both living spells leap forth and attack, somehow immune to the slicing blades of the trap. They bite with unreal fangs that inject a magical venom that burns through its host, and repeatedly arc between areas leaving dazing blasts of lightning in their wake and on their arrival. When missed, they seem to ride the inertia of the failed blow and dance with it, teleporting away from their foe in a burst of burning sparks.

They have a brief but vicious life, and manage to inflict some real harm to the party before they are unravelled by the blades, invocations and bolts of the party, leaving behind the sharp tang of ozone and the reek or burned magics.

With the living spells removed, Shadevia and Ferrous catch up with the group, the former stepping through reality to teleport to her companions' side, the latter running full pelt through the blades, dodging each and every one of them.

10:17 – 10:30 – The group slowly advance up the corridor, the warforged and vyrleen disabling each section as they go, the rogue careful to fully sabotage the mechanisms so's to prevent another incident like the one before.

10:31 – 10:32 – At the top of the corridor is a blank wall of grey-blue marble – to all appearances a dead end. However, the group are far too experienced to believe this to be the case, and Ormid spends a moment allowing his consciousness to expand and shift, the weave and nature of the magical energies in the area becoming visible to him as an impossibly complex pattern of luminous strands and pulsing lights. Ormid deduces that a source of terrible deadly magic lies beyond what he now sees to be an illusory wall. He also senses two hulking, stable masses of magic beyond that, one either side of the corridor (which he senses widens considerably), each wrapped around a writhing mess of furious energies. He recognises these as binding spells holding enslaved spirits in place – the signature configuration of powerful constructs animated by bound spirits. Returning his attention to the dark power beyond the wall, Ormid deduces that it is some kind of trap, almost certainly a powerful warding symbol. He examines the magics weave, and realises that it is triggered by sight, and is designed to snuff out the life force of whoever is exposed to its power.

He also realises that it is tied to the constructs, and that the whole thing is beyond his considerable ability to undo safely.

10:33 – 10:38 – Ormid reports back to the rest of the group, and grimly fetches his figurine of wondrous power from his backpack, a plan forming in his mind. He runs his fingers over the curves of the dog statuette, and placing it on the floor, calls out its command phrase. At once a ripple fills the air around it, and the form of the dog spirit bound to it takes on physicality. It barks at the artificer, wagging its tail, and awaits his orders.

Ormid warns the party to cover their eyes and to not look ahead until he tells them. He closes his own eyes, then sends the dog up towards the wall, before collapsing it with a wave of unravelling will. There is a horrible fizzing wail, and the dog gives an agonised yelp, the statuette immediately becoming limned with black frost. A foul energy washes harmlessly past the group, unable to find them without access to their eyes, and the way ahead is cleared.

Ormid tells everyone the coast is clear, and looks up the corridor. From beyond the vanished wall can be heard the deep roar of awakening machinery as several tons of metal begins moving. However, a clear view is not possible, for it seems that the collapse of the symbol of death has spawned another living spell; a vertical slash of smoking nothingness from which protrude coiling, shadowy tendrils of nighted energy.

10:39 – Groaning with bone weariness, the group prepare to meet these latest foes head on. The day's frantic pace, the cumulative effect of their many wounds and the knowledge that they may yet have a long path ahead of them, weighs down on them heavily, but they have no choice, and so must press on.

Two hulking 15' high iron golems, monstrous humanoids with murmillo type helms and huge, razor edged greatswords, stride out behind the living spell, pale whitish-green light spilling through the circular holes in their face plates, each quivering with apparent eagerness to kill. They are deadly, unflinching foes, without fear or weakness, but Ormid recognises that they are based on a familiar dundorin design, and so may contain a specific core of crystals to which their animating magics are bound. He knows that if these can be recovered undamaged, they could be used to pour restorative energy into the party – a vital boon after the days' manifold trials, and possibly the difference between life and death.

10:40 - 10:42 – Ferrous is the first to act. He charges forth and spews a blast of corrosive oil across the corridor, forming a slippery puddle that the golems will have to cross to approach the party – a tactic they know from the battle earlier this day can be most effective. Alas, in this battle the fight is constrained by the massive bulk of the golems and the clutching tendrils of entangling magic emanated by the living spell, and it stays firmly entrenched in the wider area at the top of the corridor. Despite this, It takes the party surprisingly little time to reduce the golems to scrap metal (within which, as the artificer surmised, gleam pale shards of energised crystal), and although the living spell is a nightmare thing of necrotic energy that drains vitality and numbs the senses, it is soon brought low. This is not to say that heroes do not escape unscathed however. All bear either terrible toxic burns from the golem's horrific exhalations, rotted wounds, festering with decay from the spells' touch, or deep, spurting slashes from the constructs monstrous blades. It seems very likely that if they are unable to harness the energy within the shards, they will not make it much further into the edifice, for they are fading fast.

10:43 – 10:48 – Following Ormid's instructions the energy crystals are harvested from within the fuming scrap of the golem's shattered bodies. Each sizzles with power, and Ormid warns that they will soon become unstable and slough into residuum if not used quickly. The crystals are shared out, and with the artificer explaining how to access their power, each member of the party allows it to flow through them; mending all their wounds, restoring their minds and granting them the same level of refreshment as a good night's sleep. Silent prayers of gratitude are offered to various deities, and with the group restored, the remaining crystals are allowed to decay, the sparkling, dark indigo dust shimmering with coruscations and sparkles of colourless magic, carefully gathered by Ormid for use in his rituals later. They then turn their attention to the great door at the end of the corridor, revealed with the removal of the illusory wall, but until now, of minimal importance.

10:49 – 11:00 – Llewellyn casts his expert eyes over the doors lines. Like those before it is a double door of gothniir and marble, imbued with powerful warding spells. However, to the likes of the vyrleen, it may as well be unlocked, and with a few flicks of his tools, and a whispered counter-spell or two (simple but very effective chants known by most experienced rogues), he has them open.

11:01 - As soon as the door is open the air temperature drops significantly, and a strong wind sucks past them and into the chamber beyond, howling with a low, ominous note. Peering in, the group can see little, for a wall of magical fog (the product Ormid realises of a Guards and Wards ritual) blocks any clear line of sight into the chamber. However, they can see several dim points of light floating in the vapours depths at various heights and distances beyond, each surrounded by a halo as their light is scattered, and the shadowy bulks of numerous bookshelves can be seen along the sides. However, their attention is drawn almost exclusively to the horror that floats about 60' away above some kind of large bright space in the middle of the floor ahead; a vast shadowy form - spherical and sporting ten waving eye-stalks. Details are obscured, but all know what this thing is, and all feel their bowels wither with horror as this realisation sinks in, for the Xareth'Chelde – the Beholders, Eye Tyrants or Death Gazers – are enemies from the most terrible tales.

A thick, bassy voice, full of slobbering consonants and drooling vowels rings out from beyond; clotted and sticky with contempt and alien disdain.

“Ah, so you made it this far. You cannot be allowed to interrupt the Aethran. You die now!”

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Post War Natives - 01/11/2010

08:02 – 08:12 – With the guardians slain, the group turn their attention towards the structure they seemed to be watching. Above the door is carved a small symbol, which is recognised by Grigori as the elemental sigil for water; the holy symbol of Quaine'Ar, the Well God; God of springs, wells, ponds, lakes, mists, rain and pure water. The roofless building itself is small; roughly 12' x 12' x 15', and remnants of verdigris and sodalite ornamentations can be seen on its inner walls (once the thick cobwebs have been cleared away). There is no floor any more, an 8' wide hole, utterly choked with thick giant spider webs, dropping away into darkness within. Closer examination reveals that the webs below form a tangled, tacky tunnel of tough fibres – a safe route down if the group are careful.

Going on what they have discovered, Grigori deduces that this was once a Well Shrine; a small shrine raised over a freshwater well, dedicated to Quaine'Ar. At the back of the structure, almost lost beneath years of moss, grime and webbing is a faded plaque carved with strange words. Drawing on his historical knowledge and his own language skills, Grigori is able to make out the meaning of the plate's inscription – written he realises in one of the three ancient Feyan tongues - “Sanctified in Honour to our Lord; 13838 K.C.”

The date means this place was built in the Second Age. This structure is ancient beyond reckoning.

08:13 – 08:15 – Grigori activates the floating lantern, its brilliant magical light spilling out through the misty air. Peering down into the hole they see that the shaft drops some 75', ending in a cold pool of spring water at the bottom, though the web tunnel bends to the southeast 25' above this and enters the caverns in which the Attercops make their lair proper. In the distant gloom of the pool something glints with a blue-green light, and a small argument ensues as the group decide whether or not to check it out now, or whether to get on and find the Attercop nest proper. As the argument seems to be ending, the assassin skilfully works a stable hole in the web tunnel, which will allow a rope to be dropped to the waters below, and the argument picks up again.

In the end, the party vote to kill first, fish for glinting mysteries second – much to the irritation of the faerie dracani, who wants to see what lies down there NOW!

08:16 – 08:22 – Unhappy with the situation, the group crawl on hands and knees through the low, tacky tunnel of fibres, the whole structure bouncing alarmingly with their movements. They eye the barbarian's flaming axe with fear, only too aware of what would happen if the tunnel were to catch light and vanish in a burst of flames, and several times someone panics as they spy an allies weapons dragging along the web tunnels sticky walls.

08:23 – 08:26 – The web tube enters a solid stone tunnel, and soon the group are able to stand up into a hunched crouch. Moving as quietly as they can, the group shuffle forth until the tunnel opens out into a vast cavern at least 50' wide, 100' long and 60' high. Every inch of the cavern is swathed with thick webs, some of which drip with particularly thick adhesive substances, others which ooze noxious fluids, and shelves of rock rise 15' at either side. Large clusters of egg sacks dot the chamber and the air is filled with strange glowing distortions, like the eddies on the surface of a brook, which cast a liquid light into the area – some kind of localised dimensional anomaly according to Seren.

From their position, the group can only make out a few of the things that live in the chamber beyond; a handful of small spiderlings (transparent and about the size of a large cat) and a single attercop warrior with a heavy greataxe of sharpened chitin. A large pool of coiling smoky darkness in a far corner seems out of place, and closer examination reveals that within the darkness lurks a vast chitinous thing that seems to exhibit the worst aspects of spider and scorpion – a cildabrin according to Varracuda, who informs the party that they are extraplanar vermin attuned to the same shadow dimensions that Jaeger draws his power from.

Unsure of how to proceed with the highly restrictive terrain, and sensing that despite initial appearances a substantial force dwells beyond, the group hold back. Then the assassin produces a small clay flask, sealed with wax and marked with an alchemical symbol indicating “Fire” from his backpack, which he lobs at the attercop. The ungainly projectile smashes against the monster, drenching it in sticky flaming chemicals, the webbing around it vanishing in the sudden inferno. The monster howls in pain, and its screams double, as both Istan and Emmiven stride forwards and blast it with firearms; the former with his pistol, the latter with his dundorin blunderbuss (a lucky hit considering his total lack of training with the hefty firearm).

This seems to awaken the unseen horror in the dim chamber beyond, for suddenly the groups' view is obscured by the bloated, shimmering form of a phase spider, which bites the barbarian (who had slogged his way through the webbing to enter the chamber). Istan charges in to attack it, but is sent on an involuntary trip to the far reaches of the visible area, where he is attacked by Cildabrin (two of them), tiny spiderlings and another attercop.

And that's it. The nest is awake and every scuttling, venomous thing darts in to devour the group. At first the battle very much goes to the groups' plan. Seren and Grigori create a safe zone close to the entrance filled with radiant energies, the ground glowing as if energized by the twin suns. Enemies within this area are blasted and dazzled, burned by the priests invoked power and rendered vulnerable and exposed by the sorceresses, whilst allies wounded to the point where blood is drawn find their injuries healed by the golden radiance. The warriors launch in, tearing through even the stickiest webs with little real effort, and managing to mostly avoid the venomous webs (who's touch raises blackish-green welts as their corrosive toxins go to work), and within a few seconds one of the attercops lies dead, as does one of the phase spiders.

However, the easy flow of battle is suddenly turned around when one of the cildabrin opens its fangs wide, and spits a smoky mass of tenebrous webs, infused with the foul energies of shadow, around the warriors at the front. These also fill a large area beyond, creating a zone of deadly draining shadow webs; sticky and deadly. In truth the worst aspects of the webs are negated by the unfailing light of Grigori's floating lantern, their restrictive physical substance rendered insubstantial as smoke. Unfortunately, they are so laden with deathly energy however, that those within their grasp are rotted by it; their flesh immediately erupting with stinking necrotic boils and seeping, pussy sores, and It becomes quickly apparent that the group cannot simply try to hold the strategic area they currently battle in, and must fight forwards, through the sticky and oft' poisonous webs, into the more exposed areas of the caverns heart.

Schnecker lays about his foes with his usual insane joy; his moaning, screaming axe not only slicing into the enemy he strikes, but blasting those nearby as he focuses his own battle cries into deadly waves of thunderous power. Istan, having fallen back to the area of cavern cleared by the alchemical fires swipes at spiderlings, and is soon joined by Varracuda as he teleports in to strike at an enemy he infused with marks of arcane energy. Jaeger pours his shadowy magics into his weapons, and uses his incredible alchemical skills to deliver withering cones of envenomed bolts, the poisons altered by his dark power so that they are fully effective against these normally poison resistant foes. His eerie shadow blade flickers back and forth, appearing from smoking shadow portals to rip into enemies before returning to him, whilst Emmiven trudges through the webbing to deliver shattering blows with his hammer; exploding spiderlings, splintering chitinous plating and sending enemies tumbling to the floor.

Seren and Grigori stay back a ways. Seren, now 7 ½' tall, covered in golden scales and almost completely morphed into her true Drakven form, her clothing stretching to accommodate her new body, gathers all the destructive energies of the universe and hurls them at her foes. Fire and thunder, acid and frost; all leap and strike at her command, her form blurred by the wavering air as she channels alien and arcane energies through her words, will and implements, before sending them winging like angels of death, towards her foes.

Grigori, surrounded by a nimbus of pale, clean radiance is the mirror opposite of Seren, for where she is crackling, surging madness and barely restrained fury, he is serene light, calm calculation and detached, cold, purpose. His incantation prayers befuddle foes and unravel their fundamental energies causing wounds and weakness, whilst his other prayers simply erase almost all and any wounds suffered by his colleagues. The priest advances slowly, allowing the lanterns light to pour ahead into the expanding zones of writhing, death-filled shadow webs being coughed forth by the cidabrin, negating their physical embrace but doing nothing to reduce their rotting negative radiance.

And then the reason for this mission makes itself known; the attercop mother – the source of the attercop infestations in the region.

In truth she is nothing like the party were expecting. She is only slightly larger than the normal attercops' and is not bloated with eggs or young. She has six limbs – two triple-jointed legs, and four long, spidery arms, each ending in black, fang like claws, and a flat head studded with eight ruby-red eyes. Huge fangs, oozing droplets of venom form most of her lower face, and as she advances, the flow increases like saliva flowing from a hungry dog spying meat.

She leaps towards Varracuda and lands two deadly blows on him, seriously wounding him and pumping him full of venom. The genasai is rendered senseless by the poison and the group can only watch in horror as both the cildabrin and the one remaining phase spider move to devour him. Seren draws on the energies of the void, her companions lungs aching as the air is drained of vitality briefly, a black frost forming around her in a small circle. Blades of roaring energy, infused with a terrible cold open frozen wounds in the monsters, their thick hemolymph freezing into grotesque icicles as it bursts from their bodies. Varracuda unleashes fire in a searing cone and Istan all but disembowels the mother with two masteful strokes of his heavy blade; the first opening her abdomen up completely, the second describing a sucking wound across her clavicle.

Sensing the battle is once more turning in their favour, the party move in for the kill, and in a blur of violence all but one cildabrin and the mother are slain. Then, realising that this monstrosity would make a valuable sale to Jurgen Throndor'Gulv, the beast master at the Irin Arena, Emmiven calls upon his innate powers to assume the form and mindset of an attercop. He then calls to the mother in her own chittering language, offering her either a swift death at the hands of his colleagues or a chance to fight for her life once more. To his own surprise, she loudly begs for the chance to be allowed to live, and drops her guard.

“What?” gasps Istan, confusion etched across his sweat and blood spattered face, “what is going on?”

“She's surrendered” answers Emmiven, his form once more that of a tall, well-muscled human, “We can take her to Jurgen and sell her as a beast for the arena.”

The group relax, noting that the remaining cildabrin has backed off, its pincers nipping nervously, its fangs shuddering, its tail twitching. They move to secure the seriously wounded mother, but stop when Istan gives a scream of rage.

“No! No fucking way! She dies now or I will not assist you. The deal was we dealt with this evil permanently so that Aramayne was safe. This is not how that happens.”

The group turn to Emmiven, who, realising that there is no room for compromise, suddenly swings his hammer into the face of the surprised attercop mother, caving it in with a sickening burst of thick fluids and dangling chitin.

She dies instantly.

A dark scream goes up from the cildabrin, and it attacks.

It lasts a whole 12 seconds before it is taken down by the group, an orb of rending force blasting its head apart – casually thrown by the Drakven sorceress.

08:27 – 09:00 – A thorough search of the chamber uncovers a small cache of gems, coins and enchanted items. Amongst these is a handsome spear etched with runes of power (taken by Emmiven), a pair of black iron armbands inscribed with dundorin glyphs of strength and blade skill (taken by Schnecke), and a pair of light boots woven from pale blue silk, which seem to emanate a constant breeze (taken by Seren). Varracuda claims a heavy bastard sword for himself, noting the striking symbols on its blade that speak of power as yet to be unlocked. Grigori selects a amulet that he theorises can grant him increased durability, whilst the assassin pockets a small device he recognises as a skeleton key – a huge boon to anyone wishing to open most locks.

A beautifully crafted breastplate of drake scale armour, its inner surface festooned with reactive abjuration glyphs is claimed by Emmiven, and from the bottom of the well chamber; a holy icon made from aquamarine, malachite and set with small freshwater pearls, carved with the symbol of Quaine'Ar, and an eerily beautiful net of pale silk that emanates a palpable aura of biting cold.

09:01 – 09:40 – The group wearily make their way back to Aramanyne, and discuss the trials yet to come. Istan tells them that they will leave that night for Irin, where they will head for the Northwood district, and the residence of an artificer named Fren, who he states holds the key to a portal that will lead directly into Darius' bedchamber – a place where they will hopefully be able to ambush and destroy the monster imitating him.