Using My Monsters

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Shnecke's Wolves - Session 10

1:13 – 11:35 – The Kitsune's tails are rescued by the swordmage and Ulnyrr, and then, despite the parties arguments against, the pair try to rescue the wretched people sat, staring blankly in the other cages. In the end, they manage to rescue only five; the rest either refusing to move, or falling to their deaths, impaled and splattered on the stalagmites below.

“Why?” Snarls Grigori to the barbarian as he clambers down the chains, two shivering women thrown over his massive shoulders.

The Ulnyrr gives a cold grin, and simply licks his lips.

Understanding at once, his hunger suddenly returning in a flash of almost painful fire within him, the priest nods, and manages to hold his own pale features in a neutral expression, afraid that the good hearted genasai, or his other squeamish allies may object if they realise the source of the undead's sudden “compassion”.

Nendenaki, having attached his tails, is now wearing the form of a wizened old man of Kai'Yassanian appearance, his attire the simple garb of a peasant farmer. Even in human form his “fur” is silver, and his eyes brilliant green.

“So, what now? It wont take the Oni long to work out we are not dead, and we really do not want to be here when Gasharo returns. I can open a portal to the mortal plane if you wish, though it will take me a little time to do so.”

Everyone nods at this suggestion, eager to be away from this plane and more importantly, the wrath of the T'ien Lung.

“Or,” He continues, his face suddenly taking on a cunning look, his green eyes becoming slitted as a grin curls his wrinkled face, “We could locate the hidden entrance to the monster's treasury that must be here somewhere, and steal his stuff before leaving.”

Everyone looks dumbfounded. “You mean?” Begins Lia.

“Oh yes.” Replies the Kitsune. “Many times have I seen the T'ien Lung here, only to see him slip into some hidden place within the rock. It doesn't take a genius to see the sense in hiding ones treasure in a place as inaccessible as this does it?”

No one can argue with the spirit's reasoning, and it is decided that they are due a little reward for their efforts.

“Let's get searching then.”

11:45 – 11:50: A cunningly hidden doorway, 6' across is located, cut into the ground. Jaeger and Varracuda spend a few moments checking it over for any signs of warding spells, guardian mechanisms or other unpleasant surprises. They find nothing.

11:51 – 11:53: Lia, to the utter amazement of her colleagues, grabs hold of the massive chunk of solid stone, and with barely a grunt, hauls it from its resting place, revealing a tight coil of stone stairs which drop into the belly of the rock. The stairs are curious in that they do not appear to have been carved with chisels or hammers, but somehow shaped from it, much like a potter shapes clay – a sign of potent magic being used.

It is decided that Jaeger shall take the lead, his keen eyes able to spot any harmful wards placed on the way. There is some discussion on what to do with the prisoners liberated by the genasai and Ulnyrr, with Nendenaki suggesting they are sent down first to locate any “surprises” (an idea that not everyone disagrees with). However, it is decided to keep them at the back – though they continue to show little real awareness of their situation or concern about their fates.

11:54 – 12:05: The assassin moves ahead, his gaze scanning the stones, walls and floors for anything harmful. Progress is slow, and in the claustrophobic confines of the coiling steps, the group fight to keep their breathing steady.

“How can a massive monster like the dracani fit down such a narrow stairway?” Wonders Shnecke out loud, his voice a harsh hiss in the darkness, his eyes cold circles of bloody light.

“He can become mist.” Replies Nendenaki in a voice that suggests the answer should be painfully aparent, “Like all T'ien Lung.”

12:06 – 12:20 - The group reach the end of the stairs after descending some 35', a gaping darkness looming beyond the last step. Grigori leans over, and calls for Jaeger, the assassin silently fading into view next to him, before, without a word, leaning over the final step, allowing his senses to reach out into the utter darkness below.

“It's a vast cavern.” He reports, his voice a hollow whisper, “The floor is at least sixty foot down, and the walls, at least a hundred foot removed. Lots of stalagmites and stalactites.”

“I have a rope that should reach.” Replies Grigori.

The group wait whilst a rope is tied around the bottom step, and dropped into the darkness. Grigori immediately moves to begin climbing down, whilst Shnecke activates his Feather Fall ring and steps into the void. At the back of the group, the dazed humans rescued from the cages are encouraged to sit on the steps, and to wait for the parties return.

Everyone else clambers around the top of the rope, watching the priest and the barbarian, clearly outlined by the glow of Grigori's enchanted lantern, as they drop into the darkness towards the caverns floor...

Zunde, an ancient being of elemental earth, bound to the service of the dread Gasharo, awakes, the stillness of the cavern disturbed the arrival of scurrying, soft, warm bloodied things. Thrumming power rumbles silently through his body, and the ground around him, alerting his lesser kin to the danger, and with a deep roar that booms like a shockwave he unfurls his massive bat-like wings, flexes his four muscular arms, and leaps into the air, swooping towards the robed mortal on the ground, who frantically searches for the source of the noises he can hear, a melted sword held high in puny defence.

...Gargoyles, hidden amongst the forest of stalactites and stalagmites swoop in to harry Shnecke and Grigori, and before they have even had chance to raise their weapons or to utter the words to a spell, both are bleeding heavily, attacked from above and besides by the fleeting, shredding aggressors. Five of the monsters are roughly the same size as a human; rocky, daemonic creatures with grotesque horned heads, bat-like wings and razor-sharp claws. One however is three times their size; a four-armed brute with luminous red eyes and fearsome, unnatural strength.

Seeing the critical state of their allies below, and the circling monsters that even now prepare for their next assault, the rest of the group scramble to get down the rope. In his haste, Varracuda slips, and tumbles to the floor. Fortune however smiles upon him, and he manages somehow to briefly snare upon the rope, slowing his tumble somewhat – though he is still seriously hurt when he smashes, standing, to the ground.

Jaeger opts to stay above and to fire at the monsters from the cover of the stairwell's exit, whilst Nendenaki and Lia begin a slow clamber down the rope to the battle below. Thatari hangs back, offering to keep an eye on the humans.

What unfolds is a desperate battle.

The ardent struggles to climb down the rope, and at one point is almost killed by Zunde when he turns his full attention to her; slashing her sides with his claws, trying to dislodge her and send her wailing to a painful, sudden stop far below. The rest of the group fight desperately against the gargoyle's hit and run tactics, struggling to land blows against their elusive enemies, though little by little, they begin to pick apart their foes. The battle is rough however, and within moments all of them are left bleeding and panting, weak and light headed from the gargoyle's relentless assaults.

Zunde proves a truly awesome enemy, and Lia fears that she will soon be slain by him, as she endures another ripping flurry of clawed slashes at her flanks, her blood falling like crimson rain to the stones below. Weakening, she begins to lose her grip, and fights desperately to move safely to the ground, so she can properly defend herself. However, Zunde gives her no chance to gather her wits, and it is only a twist of fate against him that stops his focused attacks on the ardent; his wings clipping the rope to which she clings, his flight suddenly upset.

With a bellow, the massive gargoyle crashes to the ground, his stony flesh cracking as he crunches into the stalagmites that cluster below, the air filling suddenly with both his roars of pain, and billowing clouds of gritty, choking dust. Seeing him downed, the Ulnyrr charges him, axe raised, his eyes feral in the flickering gloom. Reaching the horror he jumps up and hacks down at it whilst it struggles to rise. The axe chops in, but to his horror the stone where the blade touches turns liquid, forming tentacles which reach out, trying to rip it free from Shnecke's hands. With a roar, the barbarian shifts his blade aside, plunging it into a still solid area, scoring a solid hit. The blow is accompanied by a devastating roar, which sends a terrible blast of elemental thunder booming forth on the wings of the Ulnyrr's battle cry, weakening the stony hide of the beast. Berserk, the Ulnyrr is not yet done, and with a howl, he focuses his fury into another ferocious blow, hoping to end the fiend before him quickly. However, the massive gargoyle turns aside the worst of this blow with an arced, intercepting wing.

Varracuda also darts in towards the downed monster, his body wreathed in crackling sparks, the air around him sharp with ozone. A burst of lightning, focused through his blade, sizzles into Zunde, tearing through the minute fractures opened by the barbarian's attack, chipping a sheet of stone from his forehead. As this stone slides free, it reveals a pulsing, violet sigil on Zunde's forehead, rendered in tiny shards of crystal.

The party piles in, the lesser gargoyles desperately trying to distract them from their downed lord, raking at the adventurer's with their talons, shrieking deafeningly. However, the party ignore them as best they can, and focus on bringing the deadly brute down, raining blow after blow upon him, his weakened skin allowing them to sink deep into his living stone body.

In the end it is Grigori, wielding the snarling chainblade of Balskus Morvel, that ends Zunde, the powerful artifice weapon chewing through his stony hide as if it were paper. The massive elemental monster shrieks in pain, his life force finally spent, and crashes to the ground in cloud of dust and hot, peppery air. As he dies, so the rune on his forehead pulses with malevolent light, sending a wave of pins-and-needles through everyone in the chamber as its magic is unleashed – an alarm beacon, sent to Gasharo, that warns the T'ien Lung of his primary guardians death, and that his treasury is being invaded. In response, a thousand tiny bells, like delicate crystal wind chimes, begin to ring around the chamber, and everyone realises at once what the sound means.

“Change of plan!” Screams Grigori, “Nendenaki, get that portal open, everyone else kill these bloody gargoyles! Fuck the treasure, we need to get the hell out of here.”

Several members of the party agree with this, and the Kitsune (grey from blood loss, having been seriously wounded by Zunde, and rescued by Grigori and Lia's restorative powers), begins to inscribe a circle of runes on the bloody floor of the cavern.

“Wait!” Yells Varracuda, smashing one of the remaining gargoyles out the air (only two remain now, the others having been chopped down into piles of fuming rubble), “What if we can locate the entrance to whatever place holds the dracani's treasures? Could we not hide in there, or at least use its defences to slow the monster's approach?”

Jaeger fires his crossbow in the face of one of the remaining monsters, wincing as his own wounds grate against themselves, feeling a hot line of blood arcing down the small of his back. “Could be a good idea.”

Varracuda nods, breaking away from the whirling melee, and allowing his senses to slip into a different level of being; a level where the lines of magic are clearly visible. It takes him a while, but soon he can see the various energies as pulsing webs and lines of light; the rigid, edged lines within his allies weapons and armour, the flowing, liquid lines of spells being woven and focused. He can see the dazzling mists of innate power flooding through the gargoyles as they try to draw upon their own magics, and sees the lights go out entirely in one as it is brought down, and shattered by one of the Ulnyrr's deadly attacks.

Scanning the chamber, the air is thick with the magics of the triggered alarm; a confusing “static” of grey and violet energy that makes focusing on fine details difficult. Luckily, what he seeks is neither small or subtle, and he quickly locates a section of floor, 10' x 10' that is covered in a layered net of stable magics, that he immediately recognises as an illusion.

“Over there!” Yells the swordmage, pointing, “An illusion covers something.”

With a force of effort, he focuses a wave of disrupting energy towards the illusion's nets, breaking them like a strong breeze ripping cobwebs. At once, everyone looking at that area sees a heavy circular doorway of Gothniir appear, set into the floor, its front heavily armoured with scaled plates of the hard golden metal.

“Get it open!” Bellows Varracuda, allowing his senses to slip back to normal, a wave of dizziness briefly stealing his breath. “Get it open before the dracani arrives!”

The last gargoyle, almost cracked open, has furled its wings around itself protectively, and hardened its flesh, becoming all but invulnerable to the attacks of the group. Frustratingly, they can see the cracks in its body slowly mending as its innate regenerative powers begin to work, restoring it slowly to full health. Whilst Grigori hammers at the thing with the artifice weapon, hoping its sharp teeth will find some weakness and open the monster up, the rest of the group scramble over to the revealed portal.

12:21 - “It's a bi-metallic strip.” Mutters the assassin after a moments examination, “A powerful source of heat must be used on the door to activate its mechanisms. Without that, the door will need literally days of hammering to get open.”

“It makes sense,” Replies the Kitsune, his ritual abandoned now that a possibly more secure locate for it to be worked has been found, “A T'ien Lung can breathe fire hot enough to vaporise stone. Luckily, Arjiin, is harder to melt than almost any other metal or stone.”

“Arjiin?” Asks Jaeger quizzically.

The Kitsune taps the Gothniir.


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Ormid et al - Session Report - 12/12/2011

00:24 – 00:40 – It takes the group some time to locate the tower of the Disciples of Change. Llewellyn and Shadevia both clamber up a nearby tower – the vyrleen almost coming to a nasty end when his clambering causes a large section of tower wall above him to slip and tumble down.

On the roof, the vyrleen finds that his eyes are barely able to penetrate the darkness and thick smoke that veils the inner districts of the city. However, with eyes born to see the subtle variations of shadow that make up her home plane, the shadeling is able to spot a wide, circular road that surrounds the central districts. At regular intervals along this road stand circular plaza's - filled with smoke, rubble and in some, bodies – about 10 in all. In the middle of one of these rises an impossible tower of smoke, glass and fire.

“Found it!”

“Where?” whispers Llewellyn, peering into the night.

“On the other side of the column of smoke rising from the south...err...hang on...”

As she watches, the tower begins to shimmer strangely, illuminated by a colourless light that seems to spring, vital and bright from the edge of the plaza. The air around the tower becomes agitated, and suddenly seems to blister, the tower becoming hazy and ill defined, as if seen suddenly through a smeared lens.

“What's happening?” Asks the vyrleeen, still unable to see anything through the smoke that billows across the city.

“It's changing it's.....hang on...”

In the middle of another plaza, at least a mile or more removed from the one in which the tower stood a moment before, the air begins to seethe and blister, and suddenly, another tower – a leaden thing of black stone, covered in glowing golden runes and pulsing with a blue aura of power – manifests. As this tower appears, so the first vanishes, becoming a formless blur surrounded with coruscating light, before simply vanishing.

Llewellyn sees the shadeling's mouth fall open, and begins to whine at her, begging to know what she has seen. Shaking her head, Shadevia explains that the Disciple's tower appears to teleport and to change form, apparently moving between any one of a number of pre-set locations.

“We can catch it up.” She grins.

00:46 – 01:10 (5/1/50) The group move through the shattered streets, now focused on a definite goal. Around them the horrors of the upheavals are plentiful; dismembered or burned bodies, bloated and flyblown, lie in piles or twist slowly from gummy ropes thrown over charred and exposed beams. Slogans written in Lower Malgorothian declare unknown hatred or rhetoric, whilst scattered remnants of normal life incongruously lie amongst the carnage, highlighting the stark contrast between life here a few months ago and today.

“So, we find one of these plazas,” States Ormid, his massive artifice arm whooshing as his forced march causes him to swing it, “and we wait until the tower manifests. Then then we rush up to it, and demand to be let in.”

“And if they refuse?” Asks Llwellyn.

“Den I have the key.” Replies Vladislav with a nasty chuckle.

01:11 – 01:13 – The group arrive at the wide street that encompasses the central districts, a sign declaring it Cercle Rue. It is wide and paved with rosy stone, though its beauty is marred by the ash, soot and blood cooked onto it, and buried beneath rubble and debris. Moving to the south, the group soon come across one of the wide circular plazas. No one is here, though a stray dog tugs at something buried under some rubble by one side, and a grotesque guillotine stands, stained dark with blood, at its northern edge.

01:13 – 01:26 – The group stand waiting, the night burning around them. They note the sounds of gunfire splattering from the inner districts, and see several large, shuddering bursts of light from something within the heart of the city, followed moments later by flat, ugly rumbles. At one point a ragged looking man, wearing dirty and bloodied military garb and carrying a musket, stumbles into the plaza. However, he flees almost at once upon spying the group, ducking back into the darkness of the shattered buildings that surround it.

Time seems to drag, and for a moment, the group are not sure the current plan is a good one. However, just as they are starting to draw up plans for tracking the shifting tower, the air in the middle of the plaza begins to boil with power, a previously unseen ring of carved runes flaring to brilliant, yellowish life around its perimeter.

The air buckles and writhes with energy, and those with eardrums feel them pop as dimensional pressures are exerted across the area. Gusts of hot wind burst from the central area, throwing up cloud of debris, and everyone is forced to turn away from the manifesting tower by its bite.

A booming rumble shakes the ground and air, and suddenly the winds die down.

The tower has arrived.

At this time, it appears as an unreal tree with a trunk of silvery-white metal. Its canopy is apparently woven from roaring emerald flames, the branches reaching into them clearly holding chambers and rooms. Hanging from the “canopy” are a number of curious structures, made from the same metal as the trunk and branches. Each is pendulous, and vary in size from a couple of feet, to several meters in length. The larger ones have windows and are clearly some kind of hanging chamber. The others however, seem to be something else.

Llewellyn blows a low whistle, and picks up a nearby piece of rubble. Then, before anyone can stop him, he throws it at one of the smaller hanging objects, closer to the trunk of the tower tree.

The stone flies lazily through the air, and comes within inches of the vyrleen's target. Then it strikes some invisible field, and in a burst of white smoky energy is transformed into a dove, which immediately flies away.

“Oh?” Gasps Ormid.

“Polymorph field. Potent.” Replies the Helldazzler.

“Well, it need to come down if we are going to get in.”

“And we need to do it before the tower decides to move on.” Answers the warforged.

Ormid nods, and peers at the trunk, noting a curiously waxy glimmer to its surface.

“They're using transientum I think, as the basis for a random clock to trigger the move.”

Everyone looks at the artificer like he is speaking another language. Tutting, he explains further.

“Transientum is a strange crystalline substance formed in the psychic plane by particularly potent dimensional pressures. Once formed, it enters into a curious cycle of decay, shifting gradually from the immaterium to the physical plane, and then, once fully manifested in this world, back, slowly to the other.
“You can, with effort, control this decay, and use it as the basis for a timer. It's not easy, but if it's done right, it can be very, very effective. I think they have used such a system to activate the gate engines within this structure, and would hazard...”

He trails off, casting his eyes over the structure, de-constructing it in his head, and analysing the systems needed to accomplish its feats.

“...That the engines can be delayed through the correct application of arcane pressure.”

“Vot about da polymorph field?” Asks Vladislav.

“The hangy thingies.” Replies Llewellyn, a gleam in his eye. “Seen something similar before. I reckon I can crack one open, and shut it down.”

Everyone looks doubtful, both because the field seems to cover them all, and because they are suspended at least 60' above the floor. Seeing this, the rogue only grins.

He then speaks a soft word of power, and everyone feels a prickling energy flicker through the air. At once, Llewellyn begins to float off the ground, a ring on his hand shimmering with pearly light.

“There are several that hang outside the field, probably to ensure it stays stable and doesn't go lashing about, turning anyone passing by into pigs or something. I think I can make a hole in the field – a thin one mind – by messing with one of them. Just give me a mo.”

01:27 – 01:30 – Alas, Ormid is unable to hold the tower in place, and before the vyrleen can open a safe way through the polymorph field, the gate engines rumble to life, and the vast structure once more melts into nothingness...

...Only to re-appear in the same place a moment later, now in the form of a great spire of glowing white crystal and gold rutile.

01:30 – 01:32 – Having had some practice, the artificer reaches out with his art and quickly locates the potent magics that drive the gate engines. Gritting his teeth, he mentally grasps them, and applies enough arcane pressure that they grind to a halt, the local planar fabric throbbing with the power this requires.

For now, the tower isn't going anywhere, though he knows his “grip” will begin to slip sooner rather than later.

Whilst he does this, the floating vyrleen locates another of the access devices (which now appear as large crystalline lanterns, hanging from complicated hooks of luminous runes), and plunges straight into trying to safely open and then to disable the mechanisms within. This is not as easy as he initially thought it would be, and he nearly trips an internal protection enchantment. However, his expertise wins out the day, and after several tense moments of jabbing, twisting and carefully cutting, everyone feels an icy tingle in the air, as a section of the unseen polymorph barrier collapses.

“Done it!” Yells Llewellyn, drifting back down, “Though we all need to be pretty careful. I reckon there is only about a three foot section that's safe.”

The Veteran and Vladislav – both clad in bulky armour – don't look too happy about this.

01:34 – 01:36 – The exact edges of the defences are located by throwing several pebbles at the supposedly cleared area, those contacting the still active area immediately becoming beetles or flies. With the safe zone more clearly defined, the group begin to move through, Ormid waiting until last, sweat pouring from his brow, as he holds the struggling gate engines in check.

The Veteran almost has an unpleasant experience when his bulky form strays into the danger zone, a violent ripple of transmutational magic coursing through him, trying to re-sculpt his form into something new, harmless and unintelligent. Luckily, his unnatural constitution serves as a barrier against its terrible, warping passage, and he emerges within the field unchanged.

With everyone through, Ormid, with a gasp, releases the magics enmeshing the tower's gate engines, and leaps through the breach. At once the air begins to seethe with dimension breaching magics, the artificer's teeth aching from its rush.

However, Llewellyn runs up to the great double doors that open into the tower before them, and with a yell, begins to hammer on them, his fists creating a surprising amount of noise in the building beyond. Almost at once, they swing wide, and the group are met by a rake thin, shaggy bearded old man, dressed in a truly archaic style; long dark purple robes of heavy velvet, covered in crescent moons, pentacles and other arcane symbols. Atop his balding pate rises a conical hat, marked with the same symbols as his robes, and around his neck hangs an ornate symbol depicting a crescent moon bisected by a multicoloured flame.

He has a wild look; staring, protuberant eyes, prominent, hollow cheeks, and when he speaks, it is clear he only has a few teeth remaining in his head. He speaks with a heavy, nasal Lower Malgorothian accent, though thankfully, in tradespeak.

“Oo de 'ell are you? Coming 'ere and bashing on ma' door?”

Llewellyn grins. “We are...”

He is shoved aside, and Ormid steps before him, giving the mage a somewhat forced smile. His hands held up in what he hopes is a placating gesture.

“My name is Ormid Thefler. Dragon slayer, time traveller and master artificer. We would like to ask...”

The mage seems to swell up with anger.

“Yeu are not welcome in zis place, and must leave at once! 'Ow dare you tamper wiz our defences!”

Ormid stops talking.

“Listen you,” Pipes up the rogue suddenly, “Why don't you go back to your sweeping, and let one of the real mages talk with us eh?”

Everyone flinches at the insult. The mage's grey face turns a strange shade of blotchy purple before...

...The door swings fully open, revealing a well built young mage, dressed in the same garb as the first. He gives the rangy mage a judgemental glare, shaking his head, and to the groups amusement, forcefully hands him a broom.

Àelon, I believe zis is yours?”

The other mage looks like he may burst, but manages to choke out an apologetic confirmation in his native tongue, before retreating into the corridor beyond.

The young mage smile at the group, his pale blue eyes shining. “Bonjour. I am Anton Azvierre, arch-mage of the disciples of change. You must have quite ze reason for coming 'ere and risking not only ze dangeurs of ze city, but also ze wards of our tower. Given zat, I am willing to listen to your tale, zo” He pauses, a moment, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand, “I am not so impressed by ze company you are keeping.”

His last comments are clearly pointed at Vladislav, who manages, somehow, to keep his tongue in check, though the spikes on his gauntleted fists snap out in irritation.

06:40 – The group, having talked into the night with Anton, won the help of the disciples, and then slept, prepare to leave the tower to help Vladislav in his hunt for Siskeer. They know, thanks to the divinations of Rammanum, that their prey lairs within a desecrated temple once dedicated to the Goddess Daragnae'Jaedala – Goddess of motherhood, birth and nurturing – and is accompanied by more soldiers, and several “Cannon Golems”; walking siege engines. They also know that the deadly Count Vorgor Khebletzi is with him – a man who, according to the Helldazzler, could be more than a match for their entire band by himself.

Vladislav does give the group the option of leaving without him, but they chose to help him complete his duty, recognising that he has helped them many times already, and is deserving of their support.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Yirlantir's Ghost - Level 20 Controller

Firstly, a game report is on its way! Finally got a game last week, and just not had the time to get the write up done. 

Secondly, I tend to plan my adventures in a fairly sandboxy way, even when the setting would seem to be quite restrictive. This ensures that when my players predicatably do something I would never have forseen, I am at least 60% prepared. In the case of the Glorious Brick and its ghostly inhabitant, I was not sure if the group would realise that the ghost was of more use to them - ahem - "alive" than dead, and so prepared the stats for poor Yirlantir, just in case. 

If you are a regular reader, you know what actually happened. However, just so you know what they may have faced, here are the dead ghaerduun's stats. 

Enjoy (and remember to add +10 to the stat modifiers listed in the lower section)

Friday, 9 December 2011

Angel Minor of Azrael - Level 11 Elite Skirmisher

With characters levelling up, illness, and RL tasks, there has not been a game for a couple of weeks - hense no updates. However, here is a monster that Grigori and the gang managed to avoid when they first returned to the Tortured World - An Angel Minor of the Weeping Angel, Azrael; The Silent Shepherd. 

(Add +5 to the stat modifiers at the bottom for half the monsters' level)

"They are spectral things, surrounded always by ghostly funereal wrappings, and phantom pressures. In form they are like their Lord; humanoid skeletons dressed in flowing robes, bearing a great scythe and an hour glass. Though I am sure they do not need them to fly, each also bears a pair of raven like wings, which they flourish during battle, giving them a terrible, dread majesty. Few of a sane state of mind can stand to be near them long, and simply die of fright. I myself can hardly sleep now, knowing that one day, when my time comes, it shall be one of these terrible things that comes to take me away...

- From "Reflections on past Glories" , by Azfarael Nar'Hezz

Friday, 2 December 2011

Carnox - Level 12 Skirmisher

Found this fellow - a giant fey cat used by the aelwyn as mounts and war beasts - lurking in my monster vaults, and thought I would share. Don't forget to add +6 to all the modifiers listed after the stats to get the correct overall bonus!

CARNOX (Aelwyn War Cat)

A Carnox is a sleek grey-blue furred felid native to certain fey dimensions. It is favoured for its deadly bite, great speed, intelligence, and ability to bear a rider into battle. Various strains of Carnox  have been bred by the aelwyn, including the "Red Roar" and "Green Shadow" variants, and there are rumours of even more manipulated strains with breath weapons and teleportive powers. 

An adult Carnox stands about the same size as a warhorse, and weighs about 1 ton.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Coming Fairly Soon - My Epic Diary

It seems lately that everywhere you look online, there are conversations about how epic levels just plain don't work in 4e. Even the ever awesome Penny Arcade are moving over to Pathfinder to try and challenge their players (I'm going to be rather amused to see how this goes, if the "homework vs results" is the same as 3.5 - i.e. many hours DM's work undone by players in 2 rounds), and if I am honest I don't get it!

Ormid and the boys are 18th, nearly 19th level, and are well made, tough characters. I do not have any problems challenging them, and in truth, despite all the powers they will get as epic characters, simply do not envision any kind of issues with challenging them. In truth, I sometimes have to adjust things down in my games, as I realise that I may have gone a bit over the top - maybe it's the old school in me. However, as there seems to be so much talk of 4e being unbalanced and ungodly at epic levels, I think I shall document how things go with my groups when they are there....and possibly start with the upper paragon tier, as that too seems to be outside 4e's "sweet spot".

So, if you are one of those curious about higher level play, please, drop in and have a look see. Make comments, and share your own experiences.

And Gabe, Tycho, good luck guys. I loved 3.0 / 3.5, but I don't miss spending two days crafting an epic level bad guy, only to see them murdered in 2 rounds by a character wielding epic magic and a super optimised character with broken maths.

Good luck, and fair winds!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Shnecke's Wolves - Session 9

11:05 – 11:10 – It is decided that Thatari will work on removing the warding glyph, whilst the rest of the group protect him from the next wave of monsters. The warlock nods wearily and turns his attention to the shifting, shimmering wards before him, and at once notes that they are worked in a way that causes them to re-align constantly. This, he realises, makes them potentially very difficult to erase safely.

“This could take some time.” He warns.

No one is listening however, for another wave of monsters have clambered through the ruined doors at the far end of the hall, intent on attack. There are eleven of them; eight more of the common oni with their huge two-handed clubs, and three brutes that tower over them; armoured monsters similar in form to their lesser kin, but wielding massive iron blades and a clear advanced grasp of combat.

“Watch the big ones.” Growls Lia, “They clearly know how to do more than just smash dumbly...”

“CHAAAAARGE!” Roars Shnecke, his huge axe held high.

One of the larger monsters – a Go-Zu Oni – sees the barbarian, and with its own thunderous bellow, charges. Jaeger seems to flicker like a dancing shadow, disappearing and reappearing instantly a few feet away, his crossbow clicking as he materialises, and the huge brute roars as a quarrel suddenly thuds into its chest.

The monster keeps coming.

This action seems to suddenly activate the entire hoard of fiends, and as one, they charge, leaping over the scattered arms and armours of their fallen comrades, making it halfway along the hall.

Back at the door, Varracuda helps Thatari with a particularly knotty configuration of the polymorphic glyphs, before moving to join Lia, Grigori and Shnecke in the “front line”.

Grigori enacts a potent spell, and launches a bolt of almost blinding energy at the lead Oni, denting its armoured breastplate and causing it to emit another pained roar. Lia holds, her shimmering, crystalline blade held high, waiting for an opening.

It arrives moments later.

Panting gustily with rising battle lust, the undead barbarian's eyes are wide and crimson. His waxen flesh becomes even paler than normal, and his eye-teeth have fully extended giving him an animalistic, nightmare appearance. As the hulking, 12' tall Oni comes closer, he suddenly gives a terrible howl, and throws himself, axe descending, towards the horror. The Oni responds with a deft, twisting, rising strike, that rides painfully along the inside of the Ulnyrr's arm, and sends his axe flying out of his two-handed grasp to clatter some 20' away. Growling, the barbarian draws his trusty thunderous axe, determined to kill the monster and get his best weapon back. His blade thunks into the Oni's chest, ripping apart the armour, and slashing a wide, fuming wound in its blue skin. With a scream, the barbarian's massive muscles flex, and he heaves the monster across the battlefield, hurling it towards the waiting ardent, who coldly and clinically decapitates it, its body immediately dissolving into black, oily smoke, its sword and armour clanging to the ground.

Moments later the main weight of the force smashes into the group's front line.

Chaos ensues, and another of Shnecke's axes sails gracefully overhead to land in the middle of the monster's ranks – deftly smashed free by another of the Go-Zu Oni. The monster's ranks are thinned significantly by a withering rain of shadow duplicate quarrels, spat forth from the assassin's weapon, whilst the barbarian manages – after landing several devastating blows – to lose his third and final axe to the twisting strikes of another of the larger monsters.

Lia, Varracuda and Grigori form a base in the maelstrom; the ardents sympathetic psychic powers shrouding her allies in protective energies, clearing their minds allowing them to strike harder, and accelerating their natural healing so that wounds that would weeks to heal normally close in moments. Grigori uses his prayers to confound, scatter, blast and control the enemy, all the while sending arcing beams of healing energy into his allies, whilst the swordmage jumps from foe to foe, slashing and burning them with fiery blades and jagged, snapping lightning.

Shnecke wades through the enemy, desperately trying to get to his axes, and were it not for his allies potent healing, would likely be cut down. He lobs several throwing axes at those that get too close, and manages to inflict some reasonable damage with them – though nothing compared to the harm he can inflict with one of his signature weapons.

Jaeger finds himself toe to toe with two of the common oni, and is seriously wounded as both land heavy blows on him; his ribs smashing under their power, his body sliding almost 20' across the corridor. Agonised and unable to breathe properly, he opens a dark portal beneath himself, and teleports to the top of the one of the shattered Foo Dog statues that flank the corridor. There, a tendril of healing power finds him from the cleric, and he winces as his bones snap back into place, and his lungs painfully re-inflate.

Able to function again, the shade rolls to his feet, and brings his crossbow up. Taking aim, he fires a precision shot at one of the Go-Zu Oni, the bolt sinking entirely into the clavicle, sending the monster reeling in agony.

“GOT YOU MY LOVELY!” Screams the Ulnyrr as he scoops up his beloved executioner's axe. To celebrate, he swings it up two handed and lodges it deep in the groin of one of the remaining common oni. The monster howls deafeningly, and promptly bursts apart in a shock of stinking, oily smoke.

Back at the door, and Thatari is getting worried. After a relatively easy time deciphering the peripheral glyphs, the whole thing shifted weirdly and formed a new overall glyph – though individual hexagramic components continue to alter and mutate before his weary eyes. His last few attempts to manipulate the magic within the symbol have backfired quite painfully, and the warlock knows that one more mistakenly placed application of arcane pressure could trigger the deadly ward.

Behind him, the battle has come down to the brutal five on one attack on the last Go-Zu Oni. Despite being seriously wounded, the massive monster is still a deadly threat, and manages several times to inflict almost fatal wounds on the group, its huge blade scything around it in a blur, leaving massive cuts wherever it makes contact. Each time someone tries to close with the beast, its superior reach comes into play, and it chops at them, striking more often than not. However, each time it strikes at Varracuda, the swordmage manages to flick a counter attack against it, and so, little by little, the battered adventurers take it apart, the final blow coming from Varracuda; his emerald flamed sword opening the monsters throat in a burst of black smoke and rippling fire.

As the final enemy falls, an eerie stillness comes across the hallway, the constant winds moaning and sighing through the piles of stained and dented armour and broken weapons that now litter the floor. At the inner door, there is a sudden burst of agitated magic, and everyone feels pins and needles creeping under their flesh. Turning round rapidly, half expecting to be blasted by whatever magic the glyphs hold, the party are relieved to see the massive warding symbol fading in a series of tiny, electrical bursts, its magic finally unravelled by the smiling warlock.

11:11 – 11:12 – The massive doors, now safe to open, are pulled back by Shnecke and Lia, whilst everyone else prepares to launch an immediate attack. As they open hot blue smoke pours out on the wings of a strong wind, smelling of seared wood and spent magic.

Beyond is a vast chamber, illuminated by several huge lanterns. It is built of red lacquered wood, its wooden floors covered with deep, crimson carpets. Eight massive red wooden pillars, decorated with golden serpentine dracani, support the vaulted, pagoda ceiling, and hanging from this are numerous cages within which sit bleached human skeletons.

However, no one really sees them, for in the middle of the chamber is a giant throne of gold and jade, carved to resemble two serpentine dracani coiled around each other, their faces meeting at its backrest's top. Before this stands a true monster; an ornately armoured Oni with white skin, brilliant electric blue hair and sparking, blazing eyes. Its face is hidden behind a hideous mempo, but all can see the long tusks that curve from its wide, black lipped mouth, and can hear its insane, booming voice as it draws a deadly spear of lightning faster and faster around its body.

Suddenly, before anyone can act, the Oni – almost certainly Gasharo – points the spear at the party, and the air ignites as lightning bursts forth; missing the assassin, but earthing through the Ulnyrr, setting fire to his hair and blasting him back.

He is about to charge, when Grigori suddenly gets a strange sense of something being amiss.

“Wait a minute!” He almost screams, “Just hold still!”

Shnecke seems like he will ignore the priest a moment, but manages to keep his anger in check. Reaching out with his mind, the priest begins to explore the chamber before him; the floor, the pillars, even the huge lightning spitting monster before him, searching for something that could be the source of his concern.

He finds it moments later.

With a jolt, Grigori sees through the powerful illusion shrouding the chamber. Everything vanishes in a moment, the power of the spell undone by his insight, and everyone suddenly reels with vertigo as they see how close they stand to a deadly drop.

Where there had been carpet, there is now only a void. The vaulted ceiling is gone, replaced by a badly burned and blasted mess of wood and stone, pierced by a massive hole that seems to bear hundreds of deep scrapes along its edge. A single mass of rock hangs in the middle of the chamber where the illusion of the Oni and his throne had been, upon which stand two white stone pylons carved with brilliantly illuminated runes, which flicker and dance with lightning. These it seems are the true source of the deadly magic that has blasted the poor Ulnyrr.

Holding this rock in place are four thick chains which stretch under massive tension from each corner of the room. Hanging down from these, five to each length, are vertically hung chains; taut with tension, which stretch down 100' to a large mass of rock studded with stalagmites - perfect spikes for anyone unlucky enough to fall through the non existent floor and onto the mass below. Built into these chains are cages, whose hinged bars are locked tight by the tension in their support. Inside most of these sit silent, skeletal people – unmoving and barely alive, their flesh papery and wind burned. However, in one, what appears to be a large tailless fox with silver and white fur paces back and forth.

It also appears to be swearing at the group in Low Yassanian, though only Varracuda knows that.

“Heeeeey! You up there! Yes you, the ugly one with the stupid face! How about getting my tail so I can get us all out of here? Heeeeeeeey! Yooooou! Are you deaf or something?”

“We need to rescue these people.” Gasps Grigori, looking at the half-dead people in the cages.

“What's that animal going on about?” Asks Lia, “And is it me or is it talking in the Yassanian tongue?”

The geansai nods. “His names Nendenaki, and he says he is a powerful Kitsune mage. Apparently he can get us out of here.”

The stones in the middle of the chamber begins to roar as more lightning prepares to leap from them.

“But first we need to climb over there and get his tails.”

He points to a mass of golden fur that flaps and dances in the winds from another chain hanging down at the other side of the chamber.

Lightning barks from the stones, but misses the group, scouring burning lines in the wood of the door behind them.

“Oh, and apparently Gasharo isn't an Oni at all.”

“He isn't?” Snarls Shnecke, disappointment rising within his chest.

“No. He's a T'ien Lung.”

Everyone glares at the suddenly quite downcast swordmage, wondering what the hell a T'ien Lung is. Varracuda raises his head, and tells them.

“A great dracani of incredible power.”

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Interesting Epic Tier Discussion

Personally, I am not finding it hard to challenge my near epic players, despite their massive brains and years and years of experience. However, these guys have apparently struggled, though I think I disagree with some of their points - A bit of imagination makes even epic minions "believable", and there are plenty of stories to be told with epic characters (you just have to think broader than "kill the God, save the universe" type quests!)

Anyway, I did really enjoy this. See what you think. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Ormid et al - Session Report - 14/11/2011

14:00 – 14:20 – With further progress to the back of the vessel impossible, the group decide to head towards the front.

They pick their way through the horror of the death haunted decks, though the wailing spectre remains worryingly silent.

I wonder if it was shocked that I could see it, and has retreated as a result?” Muses the artificer out loud.

Well, if I see the damn thing, it will find out what it feels like to die a second time.” Growls Vladislav in response.

The darkness weighs heavily upon the group as they duck their way along, their backs aching, their eyes fixed ahead as they try their best to ignore the nightmare detritus that hangs and glistens on almost every surface.

14:21 – 14:23 – More organic slime drips and effervesces obscenely in the corridor that leads to the helm room, and the group become aware of an increase in the psychic pressure; a steady gathering of the unholy, chilling energy associated with the haunting entity. In the dismal glow of their weapons, the party spy another heavy door up ahead; similar to the one that guarded the engine room. Unlike the previous door, this one appears to have a small crysteel viewing window – though with the vessel being upside down, it is low to the floor.

The atmosphere here is drenched with pent up horror. A leaden dullness seems to dampen sound and further dim the light, giving everything a deathlike, nightmarish quality; unreal and hard to clearly perceive. The horrible, soul-prickling presence is also here; breathing icily down each adventurer's neck, raising goosebumps and coiling unseen like some hovering, tenebrous serpent.

A thick pool of tarry, organic muck puddles by the door, and with a deep sense of horror the group identify that the numerous scratches dully torn into its surface are fingernail marks – the desperate scrabbles of dying ghaerduun as they tried to gain access to the chamber beyond.

Swallowing his gorge, the artificer kneels down to peer into the window, his knees sinking into the cold rotten slime. His breath fumes in the icy air, and he realises that he is shaking. The rest of the group stand still, their innate sense of looming danger screaming silently that something is truly amiss. Clenching his jaw against the shivers that now shudder through him uncontrolled, Ormid leans down, putting his face horribly close to the putrid remnants of the long dead ghaerduun, and peers into the window.

Nothing. Darkness.

Frowning, he leans closer, wiping away the spotty patina of oily muck that skins the pane. He jumps briefly as he sees his own reflection staring back at him – hollow eyed and slack faced – and silently chastising himself for being so silly, he moves his face close to the glass...

...And recoils in horror, a scream torn from him by the sudden surge of adrenaline that drenches his body...

Ormid leaps back, shaking, pale, sweating. He reaches out for the walls his whole body weak with involuntary tremors, a sob escaping his lips before he manages to get control of himself. Everyone reacts to this scene, the terror infectious, the air curdling with malevolent power.

H-his face.” Mutters the artificer, “Peeled. Screaming...his face....”

At once the unnatural wailing engulfs the area – deafening and crushing. It resonates through the bulkhead of the vessel and turns the air to ice with its distorted, despairing screams. Suddenly, the door to the control room begins to blister wetly, and a foul, oily fluid begins to seep from its slick surface. The wailing impossibly gets louder and suddenly the vaporous form of the haunting entity makes itself seen. It is a floating mass of dimly luminous mist, constantly in motion. Shimmering and pulsing like a thousand torn bandages, the mist constantly shrouds and reveals the twisted thing within; a ghostly ghaerduun – peeled and broken, its belly opened, its lidless eyeballs boggling in its ravaged skull. It has no legs, and its arms are broken and locked into horrible shapes. Its mouth is open far too wide, the things entire face warped by the dislocation, and it is from its nighted throat that the soul-ripping sound emanates.

ENOUGH!” Screams Vladislav suddenly, twinned balls of spitting, snarling power appearing in his spike gauntletted hands, “YOU'RE MISERABLE RIGHT? WELL, I'LL SEND YOU TO HELL SO YOU CAN SEE HOW BAD IT CAN REALLY GET!”

A fierce coruscating light tears at the looming darkness - the effulgent light of the Helldazzler's flaming and lightning infused aura. A high-pitched whine cuts through the screaming as he summons his most ferocious spell, and suddenly the wailing stops, the ghost regarding Valdislav with...


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” It howls in an archaic language – an ancient dialect of Tradespeak, “PLEASE NOOOOOOOOOOOO! SPARE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

The horror that has almost crushed the party suddenly ends, the atmosphere immediately relaxing, leaving only the foetid dankness of the enclosed vessel and its bad air.

We can work together maybe?” Whispers the ghost; no longer a horrifying apparition, but now a translucent ghaerduun, dressed in the leathers and pouches of an engineer, “I could get this vessel working for you if you like – though would need help of course?”

Panting, the group stare at each other, a sickly metallic tang heavy around the organics as their fear sweat oozes out.

My name is Yrlantir, and I was chief engineer on this vessel. I believe that maybe we can help each other yes?”

Before the group can answer, the first wave of psychic power hits the vessel's side, spiking painfully through the minds of the group, and with a sick sense of despair, the group realise that the Ur'Leth, having sensed the change in the haunted vessels state, have renewed their attempts to kill them.

Agreed.” Growls Shadevia

No one argues.

14:24 – 15:40 – With Yrlantir taking over the roles of the many crew members, the group are assigned to posts most befitting their skills. Ormid is initially placed with the reactor chamber – a place of wonder to him, with its dully glowing taintstone core and runic containment and dampening fields. However, he is quickly reassigned after his overly enthusiastic jabs at the consoles there see the Glorious Brick smashed hard against the jagged rocks of the tunnel, a number of warning runes lighting on several consoles to report significant damage, and of all people, Llewellyn is assigned to the enginarium,

The Veteran is put in charge of powering the weapon cells (experimental “Implosion Torpedoes” are the ammunition), whilst Ormid is in charge of managing various mechanical sub-systems. Shadevia is placed within the vessels observation chamber, her keen eyes well suited to seeing things out in the eternal gloom of the deep waters.

With everyone finally where they need to be, the huge vessel, its engines roaring to life, rights itself, and begins, slowly to edge its way out of the tunnel where it had lain for so long.

Outside, the waters are thick with the Ur'Leth, hundreds of their thralls, and formless, gelatinous things, rimed with ice, that pulse and slash in the dark. They bombard the vessel with their attacks, both physical and psychical, and warning runes begin to flash across a dozen control boards as they begin to damage essential systems, or breach hull sections.

Get us moving!” Screams Shadevia, “Veteran, take out that massive Ur'Leth and blow us a way out!”

The engines roar become a productive whine as Llewellyn teases their settings, and everyone feels the vessel come fully to life. Ormid adjusts various systems, redirecting power and healing the wounds the Brick has sustained, whilst Shadevia works to guide Yrlantir and Veteran.

Out in the darkness twinned bursts of green-black energy erupt around a particularly massive Ur'Leth and the cloud of minions surrounding it. The monsters are immediately liquefied, their bodies caught in awful, primal energies. The spheres of power then collapse inwards with a hollow boom, tons of water flooding with a thunderous roar to fill the gap, the resulting shock waves stunning hundreds more monsters nearby. Everyone hoots with raw, savage joy, and the vessel roars through the messy cloud of dead.

Onwards into the gloom the vessel plunges, narrowly avoiding catastrophe on several occasions as it scrapes along unseen ridges, or barely avoids smashing into suddenly looming cliffs. Shadevia's sharp eyes and sharper commands however keep everyone on target, and the thump and boom of implosion torpedoes is soon replaced by the rumbling rattle of open waters pressing on the hull as they burst into a vast cavern with only one exit. With joy, the shadeling sees that far beyond that tunnel lie lighter waters, and almost certainly the surface. However, her joy curdles as something massive and tentacled suddenly rises from unseen depths and blocks the exit with a massive, circular maw, lined with rows upon rows of straight, gnashing teeth.

Kraken!” Screams Ormid “The whoreson is still alive!”

Ramming speed!” Screams Shadevia, her normally sibilant voice cracking and insane. “Veteran, prepare to fire torpedoes!”

WHAT?” Yells Ormid and Yrlantir together.

Chuckling the warforged begins to prime the weapon systems again, and everyone feels the vessel pick up speed as the vyrleen opens up all the energy channels and gives the engines a brief, terrific blast of power. Ormid manages to snap out of his temporary shock and immediately begins to stab at controls on the panel as numerous warnings flare up, screaming about various systems get pushed beyond their prescribed bounds by Llewellyn's actions, and everyone braces as the monstrous mouth looms closer and closer.

FIRE TORPEDOES!” Screams Shadevia, the Veteran responding at once, sending twinned flecks of darkness hurtling towards the looming horror. The seconds of their passage seem to last for days, and it is not until the Brick has passed into the mouth that they strike something deep within the beast, erupting and turning its guts to soup.

Alarms scream and wail and everyone is almost thrown to the ground as the shock wave hits the vessel, and as it powers through the entrails and bowels of the gargantuan sea dweller. Passing like a monstrous bullet along the entire length of the thing, the Brick emerges from its rear in a huge cloud of gore, trailing smoky columns of blood and faecal matter as it soars towards the luminous waters above.

Dead in seconds, the kraken twitches as it sinks into the darkness below, wreathed in ink, blood and it own liquefied guts...
15:41 – 23:00 – The Brick is brought within a few hundred feet of the surface. However, with the adrenaline gone from her system, Shadevia's pressure damaged body shuts down, and she passes out, bleeding.

It is decided that the group will rest, whilst Yrlantir uses “experimental” remedies to cure the shadeling's pressure sickness.

The group try to find some quarters that are comfortable to them, and rest as best they can in the death-stained vessel. Yrlantir expresses his gratitude for their part in “Snapping me out of my indulgent malaise”, and offers, once their mission in Virian is done, to help them with the remainder of their mission as best he can. “Assuming you need a submarine of course.”

The party agree.

23:10 – 23:25 – The Glorious Brick is brought slowly to the surface, and Shadevia, now recovered, is the first to get a glimpse of the Risen City.

It isn't pretty.

The harbour is choked with the half-sunken corpses of a number of large ships; merchant vessels by the looks of most of them, the waters greasy and frothy. Beyond, the rainy night is thick with smoke and darkness, the buildings along the waterfront being burned out shells. In the distance she can make out the hellish glow of large fires illuminating the lower surfaces of several vast columns of black smoke rising from the unseen blazes, whilst tatters of paper and other detritus swirl through the dark air.

The Brick rises fully to the surface in a rumbling wash of bubbles, noisily nosing aside the shattered wrecks in the harbour, and sending a number of figures scurrying away in fright.

23:40 – 00:05 (4/1/50) – The group emerge from the submarine into a wet, overly warm night. The air smells of burning and of fish, and a dismal roar can be heard coming from the heart of the city – the cumulative voice of countless fires and angry fighting. The sharp crack of discharging firearms also echoes from within the city, and everyone looks uneasy at the thought of entering the war zone.

Do we know where the Disciples are based?” Asks Llewellyn quietly.

Only that they are in Virian.”

Vladislav snorts. “So much for the 'Risen City'. This place is dying.”

And we should be careful we don't follow suit.” Comes Veteran's grim reply. “Come on.”

The group move through the harbour, and into the darkness of the nearest street, hoping to find someone they can interrogate about the whereabouts of the Disciples of Change. By the dim glow of their weapons, the group can see that the streets are places of death now. Rubble – scorched and often smeared with cooked on blood – lies in drifts everywhere, and smoke swirls through the air. Rats feast on those that have not survived the riots, and the stench of death often reaches from some hidden place to tug at the group's throats.

Not all the dead are hidden however. As they wander, the group come across numerous inhuman acts carried out in the frenzy of violence that has consumed the city; corpses hanging from crudely tied nooses, bodies piled against bullet riddled, blood stained walls, severed heads spiked as grim warnings and even individuals nailed to building by heavy masonry spikes. Madness it seems has grown from the righteous rage of the populace, and what must have begun as an ordered social uprising, has rapidly turned to something far more malevolent.

00:06 – 00:16 - Soon the party are deep within the cities outer district, the darkness almost physical in its embrace. The biting smoke coils in the gloom, and the rattle of settling dirt and scurrying rats is omnipresent. Suddenly, from a shattered building on the parties left, there is a flash and a deafening bang. Shadevia, having spotted furtive movement a moment before, leaps forwards and shoves Ormid out of the way, a bullet spanking into a wall behind where his head was. Voices, roaring in Upper Malgorothian pazni, sound from the road ahead, and from within the shattered homes that line the street, and hulking armoured men, their skin, weapons and armour blackened deliberately with soot, emerge, bellowing battle cries. Up close, the group can see that each has a waxing crescent moon tattooed on their forehead and on each cheek. Several of these men also bear heavy steel shields, upon which is wrought a device - a rampant lion in black, above which hangs a triangle of three white waxing crescent moons - that Vladislav recognises.

At sight of this, he begins to swear loudly and brutally in a mix of pazni and trade, his body suddenly wreathed in a mantle of swirling flames and sparks.

Vorgorian BASTARDS!! Where is your master? WHERE IS COUNT KHEBLETZI?”

It seems our ally has some baggage.” Whispers the Veteran as he strides to meet one of the men.

Indeed.” Whispers Shadevia as she raises her bow and launches a volley of arrows.

The battle is as brutal as any the group has fought, and last less than a minute. Llewellyn skilfully takes out the hidden sniper; scrambling to their position and then employing deadly hit and run attacks; shattering a shin here, crushing a knee there.

Keep him alive!” Bellows Vladislav as he charges one of the men, an axe of lightning and acid writhing in his spiked grasp. “We need to find the Count!”

Shadevia stands back and puts her skills to excellent use; sending volleys of arrows – many of which bear fiery enchantments – into the four men who battle Veteran, Ferrous and Vladislav down the street. Ormid stands between the archer and the front line, hurling healing at his allies, and awakening various arcane mechanisms he has woven into their equipment to enhance their attacks or directly harm the enemy.

The Veteran, his guardian and Vladislav battle toe to toe with four men amongst the heaped rubble and swirling smoke of the road ahead. Three of the enemy bear heavy broadswords, which they wield with the skill of experienced soldiers. The fourth man bears a massive two-handed axe, which he swings wildly. Many of his blows are massively telegraphed, and miss their targets. However, now and then they make devastating contact; splitting armour, cracking bones and sending gore flying.

Despite the enemies initial surprise, the group rapidly get a handle on the situation, and soon all but two men lie dead.

The sniper is hauled down to the street, whilst the group turn to interrogate the swordsman they knocked unconscious. Unfortunately for this man, Vladislav looses it. Spittle froths at the corners of the Helldazzler's mouth as he drops onto the soldier's chest, and roughly grabs him by the shoulders. He then begins to scream at him in Pazni, shaking him violently, the downed man's head smacking against the rubble with each savage shake. The Veteran tries to calm him and fails, and after that, no one dares to interrupt the furious mage, even when the sounds of impact become wet, and the first lumps of sopping pink begin to glisten on the stones. Absolutely no one is surprised when the soldier soils himself, begins to fit, and then dies.

Enraged, Vladislav leaps up, his eyes wild, and begins to stalk towards the sniper. However, the group close in, hands raised, and beg him to calm. For his part, the half-conscious sniper grins mockingly at the Helldazzler, and slurs something thickly at him in pazni. Vladislav looks like he may try to barge through for a moment, but then seems to get a grip and to calm down.

00:17 – 00:23 – The group turn to the man, and with Vladislav translating for them, begin to question him. Firstly Vladislav wants to know where “the traitor Siskeer is”. The sniper grins but says nothing. Ormid tires to reason with the mercenary, his pleasant offers of freedom and survival clashing with the open threats made by the warforged. Alas, their “good cop, bad cop” routine fails, and the hardened merc remains silent.

Realising that they are getting nowhere, they begin to question the mercenary about the situation in the city, and whether or not he knows where the Disciples of Change can be found.

He remains uncooperative.

His death follows moments later.

My friends” begins Valdislav, still panting with adrenaline, “I must warn you. These men server Count Vorgor Khebletzi, a powerful warrior Lord from my homeland who was driven out by his three neighbours after years of his attempted invasions of their lands.
Vorgor has a bastard brother named Siskeer Yenvanovich, and as a Helldazzler, I am duty bound to find the treacherous bastard and to kill him.”

What happened?” Asks Llewellyn.

Siskeer was a promising abecedarian, close to becoming an initiate. His command of invocatory magic was astonishing, though he showed a cruel edge that could make him foolish. However, when his brother decided to leave his lands, Siskeer murdered several of his fellow novices, and managed, somehow to slay one of the Order's initiates, stealing a potent tome of spells in the process.
“A warrant has been issued on his head and fingers, and I will not leave here until I have completed that contract.”