Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Consume Element - Boon Power

In the Ormid et Al campaign, one of the party members has received a new boon power. It does not replace any existing powers, and is a nice add on for them to use when they need it. 

Here it is; Consume Elements.

 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Post War Group - Tortured World - Grigori et al 22/8/2011


16/06/1472 – 11:40 – 11:55 – The group come slowly and painfully round, the distant sounds of frightened voices, yelling in a language unknown to them, echoing from somewhere far away. Each adventurer can feel the heat of a pounding sun on their backs, and they can hear a low background whining that can only be insects of some kind. Stinking dust, thick with the redolence of pond sludge, tickles Lia's nose, and fills the heads of the others with its malodour, and the group can feel dry heat radiating up from the surface on which they lie.

As consciousness begins to take fully hold, even the undead feel the agony in their bones; their journey through space (and indeed, through time, though they do not know this as yet), leaving them badly weakened and stressed.

The shouting continues...some angry...most frightened.... People are moaning and some seem to be praying, though it is impossible to tell for sure given they speak a foreign language...

Somewhere in the distance, something wooden sounding repeatedly clacks as if struck....an alarm?

Slowly, each questor open their eyes, the harsh light of the sun leaping in to stab at their brains with fiery fingers. Dizziness and nausea, worse for Lia, sweeps over them as they try to sit up and take in their surroundings.

They are in some kind of open field, cut into the gently sloping land ito create a series of wide terraced shelves. It is thick with dead and desiccated grass of some kind, though it is quickly apparent that it was sown in rows, suggesting a crop. To the east and west, at the edge of the field, rises thick jungle. To the south, the field ends in more jungle, but the horizon lies some distance beyond that and...

...And by the Gods! Hanging at least a quarter mile in the air above this place, many miles to the south, is a mass of land too huge to fathom. A gargantuan, mountainous edifice of torn rock which shimmers with its own local weather systems and from which pours an impossible sheen of water – a water fall made, it seems, by a sea draining continually from somewhere above.

To the north, the stepped fields rise to end in a small cluster of rustic, high sided buildings; wooden framed, wattle and daub, with thatched roofs made from twigs. Each stands on low supports, and seems quite sturdy. Beyond this tiny village, more jungle rises, clustering it seems around hidden hills and low mountains.

Between the downed group and the village stand about twelve men and women. Each is dressed in a simple robe, and all have a golden complexion, narrowed, slightly tilted eyes, and dark hair. The women all wear their hair pulled back into a small bun, secured with long wooden pins, whilst the men either sport top-knots, short, high ponytails, or wear their hair down. At least half are on their knees, apparently praying at the group, and as they speak one word - “Shinegami” - is repeated over and over. The others are either wailing in terror, or making conservatively aggressive gestures towards the party – holding aloft sickles, or strange wooden, flail-like polearms (though Grigori quickly realises these are farming implements rather than purpose built weapons).

Above the group, the air still seethes with fading planar instability, and they realise that they must have just manifested here in front of the villagers.

“Ugh! My head.” grunts Shnecke, “What the hell was I drinking? And what the hell is that noise?”

Rolling over, Varracuda looks at the thing he carries. Jaeger's corpse has barely any weight at all, and the genasai is somewhat troubled to see that true death has reduced his body to a warped, inky skeleton of almost carbonised shadows. He blinks up at the sky, and sees that Aelnaerys has got big enough that its violet disc is visible during the day, and that the sun is surrounded by a smoky halo - a result of the billions of fragments of Lunum reflecting its light in the upper atmosphere. A low rumble shakes the ground, making the villagers pause in their cries a moment.

“So d-dizzy!” Gasps Lia, “Where the hell are we?”

“I don't know.” Whispers Grigori, trying to ignore the deep hunger that the mortal woman instils in him, “But we need to somehow get these folks on our side, or we are dead.”

The clacking in the village was clearly some kind of alarm, and the group can see, as they giddily rise to their feet, hands raised in what they hope is a peaceful gesture here, that a half dozen lightly armoured figures with weapons are running at full speed towards their position.

“We need to act now.” Hisses Lia, before turning to face the villagers, and, seeing their gestures, bowing deeply at the waist, hands together as if in prayer.

Seeing this, the villagers quieten a little, those kneeling looking at the party with a mix of fear and hope.

“We. Mean. You. No. Harm” Begins the priest slowly and loudly, mirroring Lia's movements, “We. Are. Not. Your. Enemies.”

The villagers have grown quiet (though the approaching warriors are apparently shouting at them – almost certainly telling them to get away).

One of the sickle bearer's steps forwards, his face hopeful. He says something in his native tongue, and at his words the other villagers look at the group with questioning hope. Lia reads his body language, and realises that he is asking whether or not they should stop the approaching men from harming them; that he is looking for some proof that they mean him and his no harm.

In response, she bows her head and places her weapon on the floor, the rest of the party following suit. This simply act seems to be enough, and as the charging men get closer, the villagers turn to slow them. This seems to stagger the men – each dressed in curious armour consisting of a rounded hardened leather breastplate, tassets and spalders of woven linen and bamboo and heavy leather gauntlets, each bearing either a finely wrought axe or a slender, single bladed longsword. Confused, the warriors begin to shove the villagers out of the way, yelling angrily at them, and push to form a lose line in front of the party, weapons raised. The villagers continue to yell at them, and the warriors continue to shove them back, stealing frequent, angry glances at the party as if daring them to attack whilst they are distracted.

“Do. Nothing.” Whispers Lia sharply out the corner of her mouth, hearing a deep, sludgy growl emanate from the barbarian.

It quickly becomes clear that the warriors are not going to control the villagers, and are unwilling to try and hurt them, so one of them – a rangy man bearing a straight sword – turns to the group, and begins to speak to them in an urgent, questioning tone of voice. Intuiting that he wants some kind of reassurance that they mean no harm, the priest very slowly picks up his weapon, sheathes it, and places it on the ground once more, before bowing his head, exposing his neck to a sword blow. The rest of the party simply lower their heads. This, it seems is enough, and the warrior begins to shout at his allies, apparently ordering them to stop harassing the villagers and to stand down.

It is at this moment that the group notice a robed figure, clearly female, her face hidden by a wide, conical hat of straw. Walking gracefully towards them; her movement fluid and balletic, her only weapons, a pair of short, straight bladed swords tied to her hip. As she nears, the gathered villagers and warriors begins to bow towards her, stumbling back to let her reach the party.

Soon she stands before the group, and to their surprise she speaks to them in Trade. “Please stand Shinegami. I would speak with you.”

Looking up, the group stumble to their feet, and find themselves face to face with a truly striking woman possessed of an alien, fey beauty, realising at once that she is no more human than they are dracani. Her skin is tanned, but has a slightly olive undertone, and her eyes are large, tilted and luminous – must as those of the hated aelwyn were. They are darkest green in colour, and suit her heart-shaped face and wide, upturned mouth. She is smiling, and it is reflected in her eyes, though her stance speaks of intense martial discipline and coiled readiness.

Seeing the group have not moved, she repeats her request, her voice resonant and slightly unsettling.

“Please, I am Shi Awasaki, leader of the Ashano Ishi'Tao Bushi, the Heroes of Good Soul. The villagers believe you to be death gods, sent to answer their prayers for deliverance from the Jokiro Shukai. I am not so sure, but appreciate that you have yielded properly, and would therefore extend to you the honour of speaking with me in more civilized surrounds.”

Shi gestures at the village in the distance.

For a moment the group dare not move, and the rangy bushi sees this as some kind of slight; shouting at them in the native language. Shi turns to him and says something, and at once he steps back, bowing his head.

“Please. You will not be harmed.”

11:56 – 13:00 – The group are sitting, barefooted, in the only building in the village that has a tiled roof – the inn. Shi has removed her hat, allowing her luxurious hair – black, but sheened with green where it catches the light – to fall free, and has encouraged the group to kneel or sit cross-legged, their confusion at the lack of chairs plain to her.

“You are Yissen no? Chai Bu?”

“Err what?” Asks Shnecke.

Shi smiles. “You are outsiders, from far away?”

“Err yes.” Replies Grigori, “I suppose we are. In fact, if I am honest, I am not sure for definite where we are.”

Shi looks momentarily taken aback, but quickly regains control. She asks how the group came to be here, and they tell her the whole story, including the fact that all but Lia are now “tainted” with undeath – though they seek to undo their sorry state. They tell her that a fifth member of their band lies dead, and that they would also seek his return (though Grigori is toying with the idea of trying to bring the assassin back with a ritual he has learned), and then ask again where they are.

“You are in what used to the northwestern province of the Empire of Jow'Fei Yen II, the lands known as Kai'Yassan.”

“Used to be?” Asks Varracuda.

“Nearly three weeks ago, the heavens sundered the earth, and the land was torn apart. All the realms of Kai'Yassan were picked up and set adrift in the heavens; the lesser lands such as this, close to the earthly realms, the greater and greatest rising to meet the heavens themselves.”

“What were the local effects?” Asks Lia, “Why do you and your band stay here?”

Shi nods, as if accepting that the question is a good one.

“When the heavens split the earth, the water in the paddy fields drained away, and the crops perished. For long and long the Onida of the Jokiro Shukai – the Laughing Hell – have demanded a tithe from this village of rice, taking all but the minimum needed for the village to replant and to scrape by.
“When last they came, the villagers could not give them any rice, and the daemons instead took one of their maiden daughters, saying that the next time they came, they would take children if not given anything else. The villagers need the rice they have to replant next year – assuming they can re-flood the fields somehow – and so they are trapped with having to choose between starving or giving up their children to the monsters.
“I grew up in the mountains to the north of here, and because of my nature, feel a natural protectiveness to this region.”

“You're a bamboo spirit folk aren't you!” Interrupts Varracuda excitedly.

Shi nods again, “I am indeed born of the spirits of the great grasses that grow in this region. The Onida are foul things born of the winds of sorcery, and the corruption of Shukai. Their predations hurt not only the people of this region, but the kami, the great spirits of it too, and they must be stopped.”

Shi seems to deflate a little at this, and it is clear that some unspoken pain is making its presence felt. The moment passes, and when she regards the group, it is with steel in her marvellous, viridian gaze.

“The villagers have been praying to Kimmen'Isigari and to Kebbishikai for aid, and so, when the air burned and you all appeared in the fields, they believed their prayers had been answered. At first, I did not think it possible, for I sensed the darkness in most of you, and assumed you were either more wandering ghosts or daemons. However, I am now not sure. “

“We need help.” Replies Grigori suddenly, “And would be happy to help you in order to get it.”

Shi looks at him.

“As you can see, and as I have explained, we are...tainted...and we would very much like to return to our former lives as living, breathing individuals. I possess the ability to get halfway there, but to fully remove this taint we need the help of a powerful individual with potent magic. Can you think of someone who may be able to help us?”

The spirit woman seems surprised at the priest's honesty, and after a moment nods.

“There is a terrible and powerful earth spirit in the land mass that floats to the south of this land. He could almost certainly help you return to life, though getting an audience and convincing him to help will not be easy.
“I know of a way to reach him however, and will show it to you if you can end the threat of the Jokiro Shukai Onida.”

Grigori looks round at the rest of the group, and sees only agreement in their eyes.

“Then so be it.” He says smiling, “We shall hunt down and destroy these Laughing Hell daemons, and help to save the people of this village”.

13:00 – 06:00 (17/6/1472) – A meal is eaten (though there is much uncomfortable hilarity when Shnecke is initially unable to consume the half-throttled gibbon that is caught for him by one of the bushi, his piteous pleas of “But don't you have something like a goat? Something that doesn't look like a little person.” falling on deaf ears), the genasai consuming mortal food, despite its unpleasant taste and his inability to digest it in his current state. Then the group spend the afternoon preparing; Lia sleeping, the others meditating and dwelling on the task ahead.

Varracuda risks a journey to a spring an hours wander away, and meditates there, sensing a sad elemental presence there, that seems to mourn him. Shnecke spends the afternoon carefully teasing his hair with a comb, and by nightfall has managed to secure it in a neatly bound topknot exactly like those worn by the bushi of the Ashano Ishi'Tao, much to the delight of the villagers.

As evening falls, and the night song of the jungle grows in volume, a storm rolls in from the south, a heavy rain rattling off the roof of the inn. The group spend some time playing board games with the locals, and Shi gives them some pointers on the monsters they will face – two-headed horrors, brutish daemons that spit molten copper, and possibly the ghosts of those that were slain by them or who's burial ground – now the heart of the Oni's lair – has become corrupted by their foul magic. She warns them of the Bakemono, savage mortal humanoids that serve the Oni, and tells Lia that her weapon, forged as it is from resonant crystal, will be a deadly weapon against the Onida – it's substance pure in a karmic sense, and so able to disrupt the polluted substance of the Onida.

She then wishes the group well, and tells them that she will see them in the morning.

And so, as the storm rages above, the streets becoming a morass of mud and water, the groups retire to their rooms; the undead falling into a deep fugue, the mortal, Lia, into an exhausted sleep.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Emmiven and Seren - Session One

And so we follow the dark adventures of the traitors as they try to get back to the Rookery Halls, and to start their search for the missing vials of Jantherak, the Deathstones, and their own ascension to Lords of the Undead. 

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9/6/1472 –

06:00 – Seren and Emmiven arrive in the forests to the south of Irin, though at once it is clear that something terrible has been unleashed here, as everything is covered in a layer of rampantly growing fungus. The air is stained by spores, and the skies are olive-green in hue, racing with unnatural energies.

Jantherak extends his senses as much as he is able and warns them that some kind of major planar breach seems to be in place over the ancient city to the north. He then tells them that he is too exhausted to help them further, though after prompting from the warlord (now a vampire) he warns them that a powerful undead is likely going to seek them out for the vial – an undead who is in possession of one of the other vials.

06:01 – 06:25 – The pair wander through the forest with a growing sense of unease. Everywhere, alien fungi cluster and flourish. The air is thick with the stench of spores and mushrooms, and much of the normal plant life has been smothered by rubbery rhizomorphs. No birds or other normal wildlife are evident, apart from the occasional skeleton, burst open with rampant fungal growths.

06:25 – 06:30 – The two undead stop suddenly when they hear something crashing about ahead. Hiding by the spongy trunk of a rotting Oak, they spot a warforged up ahead that appears to be entirely parasitised by the fungus; its armoured plating peeling and bubbling with rust, its eye lenses clouded by spores. It seems to be in a daze, more a zombie than anything else.

However, heavy footsteps to the south of the group give them a moments warning that it is not alone, and they are able to make out the dripping bulk of a similarly corrupted Iron Defender, its fangs boiling with corrosive slimes, bearing down on them at speed.

Seren launches a blast of thunder at the charging thing and misses (to her shock, it seems that Jantherak has imbued her with some of his power, for her spell is thick with decay – a wave of necrotic energy rather than the sonic power she was expecting), the Iron Defender launching at her and taking a huge bite from her leg; tearing a good pound or two of flesh away and sending her sprawling. Emmiven launches an attack on the warforged, and is immediately blinded as a cloud of stinking spores erupt from within the things dank flesh. In response, the back of the warforged, between its shoulder blades, folds open, and the hilt of a corroded greatsword appears. Pulling the putrid weapon out, the 'forged attacks Emmiven, slicing a huge, dripping wound into his pale flesh.

The battle almost sees the two would be undead overlord's destroyed – the relentless assaults the infested war machines unleash almost too much to keep up with, and the pair are forced to climb into the trees to buy themselves some time to think of a strategy. This proves to be a mixed blessing, for the 'forged badly wounds itself falling from the tree after making a two-handed attack against the vampire and missing badly, whilst Seren, bleeding heavily, her oily, cold blood falling like a black rain to the growths below, slips on a slick, fungus smeared branch and tumbles hard to the ground – directly in front of the ravenous Defender.

However, whilst in the trees, both see a sight that chills even their wretched hearts, for to the north, where Irin stands, the skies are split wide open, and several impossibly vast columns of fungi - covered in green, flame-like waves of spores as well as cathedral sized mushrooms - reach from the ground up into a howling hole in the leaden green clouds. Black and purple lightning crawls through the clouds that spiral slowly around this hole, and a miasma of smoke, dust and mostly spores, hangs over the ancient city.

By this stage of the battle the warforged is emitting a choking stench that stings the eyes and throats of those too close, further adding to their woes. Emmiven is constantly blinded by the 'forged's spores, and makes a desperate move – dropping on him from the tree's heights and diving in to rip its throat out with his vicious canines. The gamble pays off, the vampires natural dexterity allowing it to fall without harm, his mouth finding a soft spot in the 'forged's armour and biting deeply.

The haemolymph is polluted by the fungus and tastes vile, but it contains the spark of life, and Emmiven is rejuvenated by it; a horrific warmth spreading through him as it accelerates his healing and fills him with terrible, unholy vigour.

Looking up Emmiven can see the undead drakven trying to get away from the growling Iron Defender, her hand raised in a spell casting gesture. Charging forwards he unleashes an attack at the thing, ripping a chunk of its rotted hide away – a massive eruption of organic acid exploding from within the thing.

Seren is almost killed, and lies, fading rapidly at the base of the tree. Emmiven is also seriously wounded, but with the life force of the deceased 'forged still singing in his veins, he manages to block out the shock and pain and deal the corrupted homunculus a fatal blow...

...Just as Seren manages to pull free of her stupor...

06:35 – 13:00 – The pair search the bodies, finding nothing of use, and then seek a dark place to hide and rest (having not rested since before they battled the dracani and ice elementals in the Nordvyrr world).

13:20 – 14:30 – The pair wake, spend a little time planning on what they want to do (get to the guild, make vampires, establish a base), and then head northwards, eventually arriving at what used to be the southern fields around Irin – now transformed into a warped rotscape of alien fungi, spore clouds and tangled, rubbery rhizomorphs.

14:31 – 15:00 – The pair (grateful that the spores, smoke and dust are blocking the sun) move with growing trepidation towards Irin's southern walls, noting that the tent city of would be festival visitors has now become a rotting hovel.

They see fire being poured from the top of the walls onto screaming figures – apparently residents of the tent city - and realise that the city is under attack from the north, and that no one is being allowed in.

15:01 – 15:15 – Arriving at the tent city, the pair are approached by various wretched individuals – mostly humans. All infected with signs of fungal infestation. They beg for help, but receive only crossbow bolts from Emmiven and killing bursts of arcane fire from the Drakven. Soon they learn to stay back, though more than a few call out in anger at the pair.

15:16 – 15:26 - The pair cross the 30' empty zone at the base of the wall – charred and littered with pugilistic corpses – and call up to the walls that they are not infected and must be let in. The guards disagree, and both Emmiven and Seren are shot with muskets. Realising that they are going to die if they keep this up, the pair retreat back into the tent city, and form a plan.

15:27 – 16:12 – Emmiven uses his new dark powers to turn into a bat, and flies around the cities walls, looking for an officer who is separated from the main press of guards. The walls are mostly covered, and there are a lot of soldiers – natural and 'forged – manning them, apparently taking pot shots at anything that approaches from the tent city or the fungal forests beyond.

To the north, there are signs of intense fighting; flashes of light, sullen eruptions of power and huge clouds of smoke (or spores). A continual roar of explosions and yelling thrums through the air, which itself is agitated by dimensional pressure; a sullen, oppressive heaviness of the soul which crushes the will with its weight. Closer now, the vampire still struggles to appreciate the sheer massiveness of the fungal growths linking the city to whatever realm lies beyond the eye of that horrible aerial storm, and he can see that most of the city is covered in spores, or slimy feelers of fungus, the towers and domes further north appearing completely consumed.

Emmiven spots a pale faced, weary looking officer heading down the steps at the back of the wall for the billets built beneath them. Carefully he follows, not wanting to draw attention to himself, and eventually he observes the young man heading into a two bedded officers billet. Silently slipping into the room, he finds that another officer is snoring in the bed already.

Emmiven contemplates killing the man he has followed, but realises that this would draw undue attention. Instead, he calls upon his shapeshifting powers, and takes on the man's form, before stealing his uniform and leaving him to sleep. Moving through the halls, he greets other soldiers who call to him, before eventually running, as if in a panic, up to the section of wall where the soldiers that shot him are posted.

All eyes turn to him at once, and feigning anxious agitation, Emmiven tells them that they have received a command from the Unified Order, from Saul Methusian himself, to let two allies into the city – an experimental Drakven form named Seren, and an allied warrior named Emmiven. The guards are somewhat sheepish when they explain that they have shot at those two, and Emmiven manages to put on a convincing performance of horrified disbelief, before ordering the men to fetch a rope ladder to let the pair in.

A slight kink develops in his plan when a nearby priestess of Oerdaine'Maelandra offers to heal the pair's wounds when they arrive.

Emmiven then runs from the wall, and as soon as he is out of sight, returns to his bat form, whisking his way back to Seren. By the time he has got there, the rope ladder is being lowered, a squad of muskets ready to climb down and cover the pair's approach.

16:13 – 16:20 – despite the guards pleas for them to hurry up, the pair saunter to the rope ladder, and climb with exaggerated slowness (blaming their wounds). This causes some tension when they reach the top, when one of the soldiers starts to get in their faces.

Things only get worse when the priestess pushes forwards telling the soldier that she must tend to the adventurer's wounds – and offer they rudely rebuff, stating they will “Obtain the healing of our own clergy, the priests of Merriel'Shaava”.

16:21 – 17:01 – The pair leave the wall and quickly enter the city. It is almost deserted, most people being holed up in their homes, hiding from the horrors in the northern districts and beyond. They encounter a few patrols of soldiers, and a Unified Order mage who seems to be casting warding spells on the buildings and withering any fungi he finds. They also see teams of 'forged who are scraping fungal growths off the buildings and streets, and putting the pallid scrapings to the torch.

17:02 – 17:15 – The group arrive at The Roughs and find it also eerily empty. It is clear that the cleaner squads have not been here so often, and there are many signs of fungal infestation; entire buildings swallowed by deformed masses of pale growths and oily toadstools. A few blocks have clearly been left to burn down in the last few days, the residual heat still enough to be felt by the pair as they pass, and they are relieved to find the building in which the entrance to the sewers that leads to the Rookery Halls lies still standing – though heavily overgrown with ferny masses of heavy, slimy growths.

17:16 – 17:17 – Emmiven opens the door, and sees at once that the guards who were watching the entrance to the sewers have been entirely consumed by the fungi (which has blossomed into all kinds of weird and alien forms within the houses sheltered confines). Hostile, the three infested men attack the pair – but are put down before they can do any harm.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Post Sundering Campaign - Grigori et Al - Session Report 15/8/2011


This was nearly the one that ended this campaign, and I think it has sent a bit of a shockwave through the players as to how quickly death can happen if tactics are not thought through and luck sides with your enemies. Enjoy.
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14/6/1472 – 05:20 – 05:45: For five days now the party have moved ever southwards and westwards, hoping to see the distant spires and domes of Galeworth. During these travels they have seen things that would once have broken them, for although Lia speaks of “The Sundering” as a one off event, it is clear that it is still very much taking place.

The group are now almost blas̩ about the continual shooting stars and aerial fireballs Рlegacies of the shattered moon; fragments falling to the ground and blazing away in the atmosphere's embrace. They are also inured to the frequent earth tremors and quakes that shake and split the land. However, the constant and often unannounced impingement of other Рat times very hostile Рuniverses into the physical plane are something no one, undead or alive can get used to.

The skies change and shift, eerie sounds and unnatural pressures play across the landscape at random, and new horizons flit in and out of existence like transient mirages. Rains of strange and oft' hazardous energies blaze without warning from the skies, from the ground or from no particular point of origin. Vile monstrosities spill screaming – sometimes with rage and the desire to kill, sometimes with horror and agony as they find this world utterly incompatible with life – through portals. Bizarre phenomena of a million types manifest at random and everywhere are the signs of normal people meeting horrible or inexplicable ends.

At first the group had hoped to speak to someone in one of the many small towns and villages that dot the landscape, to try and find out what was going on, and to find some kind of base to work from. Malton-on-the-Wold was the first – a sleepy village that had been torn apart by the sundering; several sections of it set to floating 20', 50' and 100' above the ground, buildings intact. At first, with Lia as the main spokesman, the villagers and the adventurer's who were defending them, had been sympathetic. However, as soon as Grigori mentioned an “affliction” upon his party, and one of the defenders (a dundorin warrior) had realised that the warped priest was undead, they were told, at sword point, to leave.

Alas, this would define how almost every attempted engagement with the people of this damaged isle would go – caution, then fear and inevitably hostility – and after the first couple of days, the group decided to just avoid any settlements they came across, silently asking themselves if it was realistic to imagine any other kind of reception when they got to Galeworth. And now, with the sun still low in the southeast, the skies burning with an sullen, unnatural coppery light, the group have spied another settlement; a half dozen low stone buildings with thatched roofs.

They are in a region that has been little touched it seems by the catastrophe; a region of well maintained fields filled with fat sheep and bordered by drystone walls and well maintained blackthorn hedges. The hamlet is clearly inhabited, for they can see that smoke rises from several chimneys, smudging as it climbs into the humid, dismal sky.

“It looks so peaceful”. Whispers Lia, longingly looking at the distant homes, “I wonder if they even know what's going on?”

No one speaks, for all of them know that to dwell too long on “normal” life, is to invite a terrible longing and draining madness into their souls.

“Let's move on.” Growls Grigori gruffly, “Before they spot us and try to burn us at the stake.”

Keeping to the shadows of the stands of Iron Oak that grow around the edges of some of the fields, the group are moving away from the unnamed settlement when...

...A high pitched screaming, like fingernails down a blackboard....

.Pressure....a horrible....mind crushing pressure.....

...A prickling, like an electrical current....a sharp dizzying pain in the ears....

.A roaring...a mindless, bestial roaring........A roaring that throws a silvery wave of displaced air, rank with the stench of acid and fish, blasting across the land, sending the bleating sheep into a mad panic.

The ground heaves oddly, as if suddenly turned at a sharp angle, though it does not appear to move at all, and all the group turn to look in the direction of this latest dimensional shift.

To their horror, the distant hamlet is ground zero.

A pall of dust or smoke hands above the settlement, and the distant screams of wounded men and women, the barking of agitated dogs, and the soul curdling shriek of a baby drift, like hells own symphony, from within. As the group watch, they see tiny figures fleeing from the settlement, stumbling madly through the Iron Oaks that surround its northern side, making for the open fields and safety.

Another unearthly roar, louder than the bellow of a dracani, and five slender tentacles, at least 70' high, flourish above the roof-line and treetops of the hamlet, each grasping something small and bloody before retracting rapidly downwards towards some unseen point.

The air buzzes with planar static, and everyone can feel their brains shivering with its touch. Gasping, Shnecke reflexively draws his axe, its corrupted flame blazing with a shadowy light, and begins to trot towards the calamity unfolding in the distance. With a sense of trepidation in their hearts, the party move along with him, their empty eyes fixed upon the horror ahead. Lia is gasping as adrenaline surges through her, and tries not to think about how all of her companions are not even breathing as they move towards this nightmare.

The group seek the shelter of the Iron Oaks, and looking past them, can see that the people of this nameless settlement can no longer be in any doubt that the universe has gone insane.

Half of the buildings that were seen in the distance are now gone, the only sign of their existence being the massive cloud of dust and smoke that cloaks the entire area. Another building lies shattered to the east of the group, its front walls smashed in, its roof collapsed into rubble. Where once a village square or social plaza would have stood yawns something almost impossible to comprehend – a massive, snapping maw; 140' long, 40' wide and filled with rows upon rows of inward curving, grey teeth. From within this gasping orifice rise the tentacles; 75' long tongues covered in segmented chitin and thorn-like hooks, though flexible enough to be capable of coiling and writhing like earthworms exposed to light.

The entire thing floats in a “puddle” of rippling dimensional disruption, and the group can see numerous eyes the size of a sheepdog – grey, bulging and lidless, with a slitted pupil like that of cat – writhing within loathsome recesses of shadow in rows around the main maw.

But there is more, for flocks of horrific things fly in the foul stinking exhalations of the maw – parasites of some kind, belched into this world by the foetid roars of the mouth. Each swarm occupies at least a 30' volume of air, and is composed of hundreds of alien, winged horrors – ovoid masses of soft flesh, trailing black tendrils and oozing a gluey resin as they go, propelled each by four wings, which run along the curve of their bodies like the fins of a cuttlefish.

“What the hell is that?” Gasps Lia, gagging on the putrid stench coming from the mouth.

“Some kind of feeding orifice, almost certainly pushed through a weak area of our dimension's bounds by a beast living in the psychic plane.” Replies Grigori.

At mention of the no-place between universes, the assassin utters a venomous hiss. “I hate that place. It needs to go back!”

The party nod grimly.

“YEAH! Let's send that massive thing back to where it came from!” Roars Shnecke, letting his rage envelop him, his dead soul almost experiencing joy.

* * *

There is a brief discussion regarding tactics before they move forwards – tactics that seem to be forgotten almost at once.

Lia creeps forth and hides besides one of the dimly glinting trunks of an Oak, expecting the others to join her in a tactical advance on the maw. Instead a beam of blazing radiance splits the air above her, darting into the nearest swarm of the fleshy alien parasites, and at once the entire cloud swoops towards her, following the line of the ray. Unfortunately, the monsters are not intelligent, and they assume that she, and not Grigori (the one who fired the beam) just attacked them. Dripping shimmering webs of rapidly hardening resin, they rush the ardent, covering her in the stuff. At once her flesh burns with chemical agony, and with dawning horror she realises that the resin is both highly corrosive and hardens rapidly, trapping her. With a scream she tries to fight free, but she is struck in the face by a mass of whipping tentacles, more searing resin and the heavy bodies of the horrible flying lumps.

With a roar, axe held high, the barbarian charges the swarm, whipping his blade back and forth through the throng. A few of the horrors are killed by his swings, but against the hundreds that flock there, festooning the branches of the Oaks with needle thin stalactites of burning resin, he inflicts only minor harm. A wave of heat thunders through the canopy, and a cone of blue-black fire follows, incinerating branches and leaves, and blowing a huge number of the flock to pieces, their smouldering bodies crashing, stinking and twitching, to the floor. It is Varracuda, who has also moved forth, his body shimmering with ghostly sparks. At the same time, a shadowy quarrel whips through the mass of flying beasts, barely scratching the swarm – fired by the assassin.

“Simple weapons won't harm it!” Grunts Lia, struggling against the corrosive grasp of the resin, “Need, to use...ugh...area attacks...”.

Determined to destroy the swarm, the group plough in, with many of them becoming covered in the burning, hampering filth. However, their attention is suddenly stolen when one of the massive tongue/tentacles of the maw reaches down, and with a roar, grabs Shnecke, hauling him upwards and away. Enraged, he bites and claws at the chitinous appendage, and manages to pull free, dropping some 15' to the ground with a crunch. However, the attention of the maw is now on the party, and time and time again, it sends its deadly crushing tentacles out to grasp the party...

...And it starts to win...

The first swarm is put down, though it leaves almost everyone badly injured. Worse, the group have become scattered; either grabbed and dropped by the tentacles, or swept this way or that by the hammering swarms.

“This...this is lunacy!” Gasps Lia, her flesh grey with adrenaline and exhaustion, her healing powers all but used up keeping her allies alive this long, “How in the nine nights are we going to destroy that thing?”

“We should target the eyes!” Announces Grigori from behind the collapsed building, “It is sure to withdraw if we blind enough.”

“I can try to mend the rip in the dimensional fabric it's using to manifest in this world.” Adds Varracuda, “Though I suspect attempting it will be both hazardous and difficult.”

“What about the tentacles?” Yells Jaeger, firing a shadowy bolt at one of the huge feelers, watching as it punches a hole in it, causing the maw to emit a terrible bassy roar, “It seems to really hate it when you hurt them!”

“The eyes are nearer!” Replies Grigori.

“Yeah, and they probably look amazing when you pop them!” Snarls the Ulnyrr.

“Right, let's get closer and blind it then!” Yells Lia, glad at last to have some kind of plan.

The group charge forwards; Grigori, Lia and Shnecke in the lead, Jaeger keeping far back, and Varracuda hovering midway between the two groups. At once the tentacles smash down, sending the three lead heroes flying, and Lia is pulled perilously close to the edge of the maw.

Now at the edge of the maw, close to a row of the massive eyes, the group can see into the dizzying pit of its throat. The maw itself is a heaving cavern of spiky chitin, thickly smeared with saliva and the resinous exudate dropping from the three massive swarms that flit and pulse around the waving tentacles. Beyond the main mouth however is a terrible tunnel of muscle and circular sets of grinding molar teeth. Peristalsis continually opens and closes the pulsing throat, affording the party a terrible view of the near infinite length of that grinding, deadly tube.

A flash of radiant magic arcs over the heroes heads towards one of the swarms.

“NO! NO! You idiot!” Screams Lia, “They don't care about us until we....aaaargh!”

As before, the the previously passive swarm reacts violently to the attack, and once more, it is Lia (and this time Shnecke) who bear the brunt. The swarm is deadly, and Lia, Shnecke and Grigori all find themselves caught by the burning resin time and time again – sitting ducks for the deadly blows of the tentacles.

Varracuda quickly gives up on trying to mend the rift, realising that alone he is simply not skilled enough to do so. Grigori seems a little confused, and changes tactics almost constantly, wounding but not killing eyes, and dancing back and forth along the edge of the horrific orifice, almost oblivious it seems to the face that Lia has been critically wounded by a tentacle, and is being dissolved slowly by the swarm. Jaeger initially holds back, firing his bolts at the tentacles – at least, until one of them snakes around him, and heaves him into the air, crushing him unconscious. He is killed moments later when Varracuda, in a desperate attempt to save him, teleports onto the tentacle (his own wounds almost enough to overwhelm him), and forces it to let go; the 30' fall enough to destroy the unconscious assassin's cohesion, and to send his soul into the hereafter.

However, in the midst of this horrible, one-sided battle, there is no time to mourn or to allow a comrades death to sink in, for the assassin is not the only one to find themselves facing the gates of death.

The party realise far too late that the time they wasted on the deadly swarm has cost them their lives. The tentacles continually smash into them, grab them, and haul them into the mouth, and soon Lia (who is quickly rendered unconscious), Shnecke and then Grigori are held by them, about to be drawn down into the deadly gullet. One attempt to escape involving lots of rope and luck was almost successful – until the tentacles grabbed the escapees and tugged them, wailing bitterly at the unfairness of it all, back towards death.

With Varracuda fleeing the scene, Jaeger's corpse over his shoulder, and the rest of the party unable to escape the tentacles, all seemed lost...

...Until Grigori, his lungs filling with slime as his undead flesh is pulped by the tentacles, remembers the trick he pulled in Sarion's wagon, and pulls out his extradimensional bag. Reasoning that the rift between the physical plane and the psychic plane through which the maw protrudes may be enough, he waits, his vision fading, his mind dizzy with the planar pressure and the destruction of his body, until he is almost pulled into the mouth, and stabs the bag with his melted sword...

...A colourless, soundless shock wave erupts with the cleric at its epicentre. A hurricane vortex manifests over the maw, sucking everything within 200' of it – trees, buildings, villagers – Varracuda and Jaeger – and everything else – into it. A globe of crushing psychic energy balloons from the site and with a final ear splitting explosion the maw vanishes along with everything else, leaving a crater and a strange shimmering smudge in the air...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Fungoid Horrors

In a couple of hours Emmiven and Seren get their first "post treachery" game. It will involve a return to Irin which has, in the Sundering, become ground zero for a battle between its native inhabitants, and a vast array of highly infectious otherworldly fungi. At the risk of being a little spoilerific, I thought I would share two of the monsters they may face tonight - the result of the stygian spores infecting two of the more common constructs built by the Unified Order during the Aelwyn Wars. 

I hope you like 'em!

INFESTED WARFORGED GREATSWORD



A corroded thing of rusting metals and weeping tissues, this creature was clearly one of the millions of living constructs forged by the Order to fight the Aelwyn, and defend the home hearths during the push south that followed. Now however, it bears signs of advanced decay. Oily fluids drip from its organic parts, and glowing strands of fungal mycelium cover it in a damp, fleshy web. Its eye lenses are tarnished by spores, and when it tries to emit a battle cry, the sound that emerges is a wet, sobbing gasp. 

INFESTED IRON DEFENDER

 
Spotted with patches of creeping corrosion, this dripping horror still has a vaguely canine shape. Much of its steely exterior has sloughed away, revealing the rusting bands of its ribs, and between them, dripping masses of glowing tissue and fungus fruiting bodies. It stinks like a slaughterhouse, and you can clearly hear the hiss of the thick drool that hangs in quivering ropes from its rotting, bent fangs.

(As always, the stat mods do not include 1/2 level. Stat blocks made using DnD4eCM.)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Daemon Fissures - Level 12 Hazard

The Sundering has brought all kinds of new weirdness to my world, including a pile of new hazards. With the influx of otherwordly energies and the imposition of entirely alien universes on the core world, it is not surprising that some unpleasant effects like this eventually manifest.


Click on the stats to stop your eyes bleeding

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Post War Group - Tortured World - Grigori et al 8/8/2011

So, with the betrayal of Emmiven and Seren, I am now running two groups. This is the write up for the last game which involved the rest of the party...

EDIT:: The interdimensional and chrono-distortions of the Sundering briefly switched Ormid and Grigori over between campaigns it seems...I have corrected the time-space continuum and returned the heroes to their correct places in the multiverse...

*     *     *

9/6/1472: (16 days Post sundering): A desolate hill stripped of all life by the opening of a terrible portal; a shimmering doorway that leaks souls from the realms of the dead, and radiates the unwholesome energies of those dismal, necrotic worlds. Cold winds blow constantly around the shimmering anomaly, despite the fact that mid-summer in this realm is only a couple of weeks away; swirling and shifting randomly as pressures unrelated to the weather play across the land.

A rumble shakes the hill, and small chases of blue fire briefly dance across its surface, leaving fuming ice behind and bringing the watchers up short, forcing them to drop down behind the low, dead shrubs that cluster about this barren rise. For a moment the leader – a brute dressed in heavy plate armour, and wreathed in the dark-grey robes of his order; his heavy mace belted to his back, the hourglass – symbol of his order - hanging against his armoured thigh by a thick rosary – fears the vile things that have just appeared through the rift may have noticed him and his. However, he quickly realises that they are too busy arguing or talking to do so – seven, no six....no, wait, four more lost souls - returned through the anomaly, in need of shepherding back into the nether.

Putting on his ceramic faceplate decorated with the rune of the final gate, he looks towards his allies; nine stalwart souls charged with the same sacred duty as he, clad in plate armour and bearing silvered scythes (save two who carry blessed muskets) – the instruments of exorcism. Bringers of balance. Servants of Azrael. Acolytes of the Weeping Angel.

Realising that it's now or never, Carlonius - Euthaniser and blessed of Azrael - orders his troops into a wide arc, hoping to engulf the rag tag undead on top of the dead hill in a net of steel and magic, backed up by the sanctified bullets of the two Releasers (who even now head back down the hill, seeking the cover of some half-dead blackthorns). Slowly, they march forth, and Carlonius begins to chant the litany of exorcism, its words giving him and his squad the strength they need to complete this grim but necessary task...

At first the undead at the top of the hill do not seem to notice the widening band of advancing exorcists, and Carlonius gets chance to have good look at them. Despite his earlier uncertainty (though he is sure there were more at first – an armoured one with a hammer, and a tall, robed one with what looked like horns, and for a moment, something terrible – a thing of darkness and malevolence) he can see there are just four now.

One is huge – clearly a massive warrior in life. It wears mouldering hide armour, and bears a huge jagged axe, who's blade drips black flames. It's hair is long and knotted, the colour of cobwebs, and a thick beard hangs from its face. Were it not for his training, Carlonius might mistake him for one of the living, for he moves with lively animation and apparent sentience. However, he can see the ghostly pallor of his skin, and can sense the dark power that beats where once a heart grew. Next to the brute is a smaller being; lithe and wreathed in an aura of snickering black sparks. Its hair is made from rays of ghostly indigo energy, and its body seems almost to be composed from banked coals – though coals that seethe with an unnatural, dark-blue flame. Its eyes drip pale blue light, and it bears the signs of a horrible death by poisoning; the bloom of corruption apparent beneath its finely crafted armour.

The third being appears openly distressed. It wails and howls, and as Carlonius nears, he can see a vile cloud of black light fading from around it – the apparent source of its distress. With a jolt, he realises that this fading power is a remnant of the foul thing he knew he saw a moment before, and for a moment, a flicker of fear licks at his heart. Like the first, the beast could pass for human to the untrained. It has long black hair and waxen flesh, its features drawn and gaunt. At present its eyes burn with a coppery light, and the Euthaniser can clearly see the extended canines in its upper jaw. It is clad in leathery armour that seems to have almost melted to its flesh, and bears a curiously misshapen sword – wrought to look as if it had melted into its current warped shape.

The last fiend is almost impossible to clearly see, for it is wreathed in pulsing, smoky darkness. He can sense its malevolence, and can feel its poisonous, deadly mind reaching out, and too late, he realises that he and his band have been spotted!

“Lost ones!” He roars at them, his voice powerful and steady, “Know that you violate the laws of nature by your very being. Submit to the mercy of our prayers and blades, and we shall grant you a peaceful passing!”

At the sound of his voice, the undead adopt cautious stances. The big one with the axe shouts something in a clotted voice - “Grigori, who the hell are these idiots?” - apparently towards the one with the melted sword.

“Azraelites” Grigori

“Not friendly then?” Asks the huge brute, scrabbling forwards to crouch in a rough patch of torn earth and jagged stones, his black axe flickering.

“Not in the slightest!”

Carlonius flinches as one of the Releasers far behind him fires a shimmering shot at the spark wreathed horror, the radiant bullet going wide and vanishing into the shimmering anomaly the hangs above and behind the horrors.

“For the balance! For the veil!”

It's one of the footsoldiers; a new recruit named Taskan. He raises his scythe and charges, a couple of his companions, caught up in the excitement doing the same.

“Hold fast! Maintain formation!” Screams Carlonius, his fury evident in his voice, “Alspear, accompany them before they...”

The sparking undead has moved forwards with deadly grace, the air curdling as he advances. With terrible speed, and practised skill he advances towards the three soldiers furthest up the hill; two of the over enthusiastic footsoldiers, and Alspear; a veteran warrior of the order. All three have stopped to face the approaching horror. Scythes are raised, battle chants ringing from them, but.

But.

The ghostly thing – some kind of undead elemental being, possibly a genasai – raises its straight blade, and the air prickles with magic. A moment later, and a cone of violet, black and dark red flame erupts, engulfing the three warriors and sending a shockwave of heat down the hill towards the others. Screams bubble from within its hellish heart, and a moment later, when the sorcerer's fire has gone, one of the footsoldiers – Taskan – lies dead; his armour melted and glowing, his flesh blistered and smoking. A cold wind, ripe with carrion's perfume, reaches the remaining cultists as the previously hidden figure – a humanoid shadow, more solid than darkness but as dead and hollow as the others – drifts to stand next to the flame bearer. Coalescing into the form of a slight male humanoid, its face a formless mass of darkness, it raises an arm, and a crossbow of smoky shadows forms there. A moment later, and the front line soldiers are once again swallowed by horror; a blast of ripping shadows that leave two more dead; twitching and frothing as some unholy venom goes to work in their systems. Suddenly poor Alspear is alone – and things are about to get worse!

From the west comes a scream – a female voice, that Carlonius recognises; the voice of a traitor, turned against the order when her personal life was allowed to eclipse her sacred duty.

“Lia! Fallen one! Apostate!” He screams, pointing at the armoured figure, “Brothers and sisters! Her head must be brought in! In Azrael's name, she must be punished!”

She charges from behind a withered tree, and moves with a deadly purpose and almost unearthly grace. Her face is almost hidden by a mask of raw psionic energy, and her inner power flares as a halo of shimmering motes, which dance like faceted flames around her head. In her hands she bears a strange greatsword; its blade wrought from a single psi-crystal, designed to resonate with its wielder's mental energies; a curious blade which she quickly puts to deadly use.

At first the Euthaniser thinks she has come to aid her former allies, perhaps to seek some kind of forgiveness for her vile betrayal. However, instead she sends her blade out in a deadly arc towards his second and lover – the Guardian Alarianna. Her psionically charged sword bites into Alarianna's shoulder, chipping the metal of the guard, but not penetrating. However, a burst of silvery distortion pulses from the Ardent's halo, and at once, the fire wielder is wreathed in energising power, his movements becoming swift and sure.

“KILL THE TRAITOR!!!”

Another bullet screams out, blasting into the fire bearer, the blessed radiance within it chewing a brutal wound in its shoulder. However, the wound is closed almost at once as Lia (curse her soul) sends a plume of psionic energy towards the horror, and reverses the damage done.

And now, finally, he is in the thick of it. Loudly chanting the Litany of Exorcism, his heavy mace - scribed with prayers of banishment and cleansing – raised high as he seeks to crush the abominations before him.

“Your struggles are for naught! The balance must be upheld!”.

Power blossoms within him, glorious and potent. He swings, vaguely aware that the fiend bearing the molten sword has joined the fray, his blade snickering against Alarianna's armour, eyes burning like circular crimson cinders...

..and misses, his destructive prayer wasted as the mace is caught and expertly swept aside by the blade of the fire bearer...

...Things do not improve from there on in...

Only one of the squad – a Releaser – makes it from the hill alive. All the others fall to the undead and their traitor ally.

06:40 – 06:45 - With the last of the Azraelites slain, Grigori stumbles back from the inert form of the huge brute, his mouth filled with the coppery tang of the Euthaniser's blood, the warmth of it spreading like poppy juice through his body. Around him his remaining allies (everyone save the treacherous sorceress Seren and that bastard Emmiven – both of whom were swept away by the vial moments before the group was attacked) stand still, their new forms neither out of breath or registering pain, despite the exertions and wounds of the battle.

The mortal – Lia she says her name is; a former member of the Weeping Angel's faithful, now turned rogue – is busily searching her former allies for anything of worth, and quickly recovers a small flask. Opening it, the priest recognises the tang of a resistance potion, and placing it within his bag of holding, he turns, still dazed a little by the events of the last few minutes, to regard the rest of the group. Suddenly however, the full reality of what he is, and what he has just done hits him, and with a strangled yelp, he turns and vomits up the thick, congealing blood he drank from the dead warrior-priest.

“We're.....we're....undead.” He gasps, wiping thick strings of spittle and gore from his mouth.

“Yes, it seems we are.” Whispers Jaeger happily; the assassin apparently at ease in his new, shadowy form.

“We need to get alive again.” Grunts Shnecke, as he tromps over with the silent genasai. “Who's gonna' let a monster drink beer in their inn? We need to get normal again.”

“Lia? Is it?” Begins Jager, addressing the mortal. “What the hell has happened here? We thought we were returning to the Fey Isles, but if this truly is home, then something terrible has occurred whilst we have been away. Tell us, what went on?”

Lia looks at the undead before her, memories of her recent horror at her order bitter in her mind. She looks into empty eyes that burn with cold blue flame, sullen red light, or which hold nothing but the emptiness of the void, and despite the physical forms of the monsters before her, sees the people they were in life – and could be again.

“Firstly,” She starts carefully, “I need to know I can trust you, and journey with you a while. I have recently turned on my former colleagues” she gestures at the bodies sprawled across the hillside, “and as such am alone and almost certainly hunted.”

“You can travel with us girl, but first, tell us what happened.”

“The Sundering.” She shrugs. “To be honest, no one knows what caused it, but something utterly catastrophic has hit this world, and indeed, they think, the entire universe. You currently stand on what used to be the western lands around Galeworth, Alac and Nelimi. However, when the universe convulsed, a huge amount of the continent broke free and drifted westwards, forming a massive island, and it is on this island that we all now stand.”

“At the same time that,” she points at the curiously twisting shimmer the group emerged from, “opened, and the recently, and less recently dead began to appear through it – often confused and frightened.”

“What are the Unified Order doing?” Asks Jaeger, a strange grin appearing eerily on his shifting, vaporous face.

Lia shrugs. “I have been avoiding any kind of civilisation since it happened, though from the number of refugees and dead I have seen, society has pretty much broken. Possibly nothing. I heard a rumour that those strong in magic, or close to potent sources of it were badly affected by the turmoil of the sundering. It could be they don't exist any more.”

As she speaks, the group begin to take in their surroundings. Strange pressures constantly move through the area, as if the air is thickened or vibrating. Whispered voices and low rumbles constantly thrum through the ether, and in the distance the group are shocked to see, briefly, an entirely different horizon appear. For a moment it is like a mirage. Then it becomes real – distant black peaks of ice, strange glittering snows – the ground rumbling as it settles. However, after a moment, a tremendous flickering weaves through the new horizon, like ripples through a reflection, and it vanishes leaving the “real” one behind – though now tainted with greyness.

“What, the HELL, was that?” Gasps Grigori.

“That is the universe still settling. An aftershock of the Sundering itself. I have no idea how long this kind of thing will..”

She stops as a blast of bitterly cold air, metallic and filled with insect like chittering blasts over the hillside – the shock wave from the brief intrusion of that other universe a moment before.

“...continue.”

“Just how big is this thing?” Asks Varracuda, his voice hollow and resonant, as if spoken from far below the ground, but still able to convey his utter disbelief at what is going on.

Lia looks at him with something akin to sympathy. “Bigger than anything that has ever happened before. Over the last two weeks I have seen the greater moon destroyed and turned to ash and falling stars. I have seen the very land shift and change before me, becoming alien and deadly. I have witness beings of utter horror and strange beauty simply walking, unbidden through our world, and have seen every single thing I thought I knew about or relied on, blasted, distorted or simply gone. The scale of this thing is too huge for me to comment, but it seems to me that reality has gone utterly insane. Nowhere is safe, and nothing can be trusted.”

“Did you just say Lunum is gone?” Asks Grigori, looking up towards the sky (and immediately wishing he had not, for, for a brief moment another sky is superimposed through it; a sky of flame and shadows, that swirls with maddening motion and hellish power).

“Yes, though the Lonely Moon, Aelnaerys, has been getting larger and larger ever since. Pieces of the old moon are constantly falling to the earth, usually as shooting stars, but now and then, like a bomb.”

A low rumble shakes the hillside, several plumes of blue flame erupt a few feet away, the air burning with cold as they snake and dance like small tornadoes.

“The earthquakes are constant too.” Lia whispers, “The death throes of the world Carlonius called them.”

The rumbling goes on for a while, the ground shaking and shivering.

“Anyway, we need to move. I can guarantee that more of my old order will be here soon, and there is every chance that an Angel Minor may be sent to hunt for us.”

“Is that bad?” Sighs Jaeger.

“Yes. That would be very, very bad, for all of us.”

“So, where to?” Asks Grigori, swaying as he continues to struggle to take in the changes in the world – and within himself; his ability to heal having been changed by Jantherak's parting curse to the ability only to harm, his holy symbol and mace melted into a jagged blade that hungers for living souls by the necromancers evil power.

“The nearest city.” Replies Jaeger. “We can make contact with the Order, and can seek some kind of remedy to our current state, though...I might just stay as I am. This new form has many advantages over my old body.”

He giggles, a little brokenly.

“The nearest city would be Galeworth, about 350 miles to the southwest of here. Are you sure you want to risk civilisation? They may not be too forgiving about your, umm, current state.”

“We have to!” Snaps Grigori, “I cannot stay like...like this! We need to remedy this, make contact with the Order, and stop our former colleagues from doing anything stupid.”

“And we need to make it back to Irin in time for the arena battles!” Pipes up Shnecke.

Everyone turns to look at him, and despite themselves, burst into laughter.