DM So we last left our heroes at the festival held in their honor! What glories await them here and beyond now that they have saved Brindinford? Read on!
DM Lieutenant Shella, Chalumma, Thos Hucrele and several other prominent merchants are here at the Stony Gaze Tavern. Sven drains tankards at the bar, while Devis, Ember and Lidda sit in a booth of their own, observing the festivities. Ibn Ad Jafer is there, telling lies with several other old men. Tolea and Alein are both in full parade dress, looking every bit the holy warriors. Even High Priest Forgrim and Sun’s Champion Marith are present, in a more subdued but no less sincere manner. Folk from Silver Hill snobs to Southspur scruffy rogues move in and out, as Lady Eriana has proclaimed it open to all. The tap flows freely, and Gell has hired on several of his kinfolk to ensure that fine halfling cooking proceeds from the kitchen in a veritable train of delicious dishes to supplement the boar roasting on a spit.
DM Naniky furiously plays his lute, blood flying from his fingertips as he sings an original song composed in their honor about the defeat of the vile witches of the Reality Wrinkle. It takes…a few liberties.
“So we’ll fight against the wind for the glory of the kings, To defeat Tal’s evil enemies,
And we’ll ride with our lord for the power and the throne, In the name of holy Taladin force!”
Ahal Ahal lingers by the party, looking as lovely as ever. She avoids any verbal slights to Lieutenant Shella as she hangs on their every word and rushes to fill their every request.
Eriana Lady Eriana, for her part assures the party that her brother did not mean any harm in not showing himself. He’s a bit stiff around commoners, a solid ruler but not exactly a people person. She does present all three of them with a silver brooch set with a rich purple amethyst, shaped like an eagle.
DM A dozen toasts are offered in your honor throughout the night, and a dozen more to Tal, and a half dozen or so to a scattering of lesser celebrated events, like the slain guards, or the rescued paladins, or the healed wererats. Merchants mob Kryss, eager to serve as the middle man of his reported ‘Dragonforged Steel’, chief among them Thos Hucrele. Shael is beset by academics and sages, curious and concerned about the bookstore. And Julian is given an abundance of pious praise for his brave and saintly purge of those infernal elements that had cropped up within the town.
Kryss With Shaels permission Kryss takes a “night off.” He spends the evening eating and drinking, as well as trading stories. While his stories pertain mostly to fighting little bushes and orcs, he is mostly listening. His superior dragon ears constantly scan the crowd listening for any talk of dragons.
DM Kryss does hear mention of a vicious dragon hunting in the north.
Shael “I will maintain and protect the lore within.” Shael assures the the academics and sages.
DM Its access is their biggest question. Specifically, theirs. To it.
Kryss Kryss is happen to discuss business and tells any who would listen about the fine quality of Fapas’ Dragonfire Forge and laments that he lost all his samples during his adventures. “Nearly 15 silvers, straight down the septic drains.” he says, as he makes his way towards the talk of dragons. “Now dragonfire! That will heat a blade, so Ive heard tell.”
Thos “How does Fapas forge with dragon flame?”
Julian Julian works hard to appear at ease, and actor as he is few could tell otherwise, but the night’s festivities cannot quite banish a few thoughts from his mind. Mana. Knives. The missing Captain that they never found. Knives.
Kryss "You would have to ask Fapas.’ Kryss replies
DM Julian can tell that the missing captain weighs on Shella as well, although she does not bring him up.
Kryss “That being said, he has asked me to be on the lookout for dragons. Maybe he catches them to power his forge? There did seem to be a sizeable basement.”
Thos Thos Hucrele nods approvingly as Kryss maintains trade secrets. “Dry Lake, north of here, has seen a dragon’s predations within a few moons or so. I’m quite interested in securing a trade deal with you and Fapas’s work.”
Shael Shael allows that is possible access may be granted to those who are worthy, but finds opportunities to mention the battles they fought to secure the Wrinkle and elaborate again on how he intends to protect it from misuse.
Kryss “There is a Hucrele establishment there already, perhaps a cousin of yours there could help arrange something? You could send a letter in care of Canstable Whitewood and I will put my sign on it as greeting.”
Thos Thos brightens at this. “Naturally, you’ll need some fair compensation for facilitation of this pact.”
Kryss “A payment for my time would suffice, say…” Kryss looks at Shael with the look of a true businessman, “30 silvers?” He steeples his fingers as though he has his prey on the hook.
DM Thos’s face freezes for a moment, before nodding. “Of course.”
Shael Using his insight to evaluate the petioners, Shael makes note of those who seem to meet his standards of worthiness so that he can speak more with them later.
Julian Julian looks up from telling the story of battling Forsaken in Durgeddin’s Tomb to a small knot of children. “Do you think conditions on the road will improve?” he inquires of the businessman, thinking back on their encounter with bandits.
Kryss “Any other financial arrangements will need to be made with Fapas of course. And you only hold exclusivity in the limits of this city and the surrounding areas within 10 miles.” Kryss continues.
Thos Thos shrugs, unwilling to commit to Julian’s question. “It is…hard to say. Criminals can come in all sorts of venues, after all. It is my hope that trade will flourish however.”
Kryss “Now that being said, I assume you have contacts in the neighboring cities. If you can create a Fapas franchise in any other city, with approval from Fapas, I expect another 30 silvers.”
Thos Hucrele’s face does not betray him again, but he agrees easily to Kryss’s terms.
Shael Shael slips in before the deal is finalized and clears his throat, “Ahem.” he eyes the local Hucrele curiously, tilting his head to the side.
Kryss “Anything else?” Kryss asks his boss. “Is he interested in purchasing plans for top of the line war wagons?”
Julian “If things do continue dangerous,” Julian smiles easily, “I gave it some thought recently. Caravans and protection, organization and fit-out and such.”
Shael “Has anyone minded the L’rd Hucrele of Kerowyn’s lot?” he wonders.
Thos “Hmm. War wagons, defending the caravans, hmm?” Hucrele appears to consider the idea, nodding thoughtfully.
Shael “I do not wish to interupt the bargaining, but I think you should know this is the man who rescued Sharwyn from the Sunless depths… you know the worth of such things.” He eyes significantly. “Not all have the eye of a Hucrele.” he smiles respectfully, if dimly, and withdraws.
Thos “You are the one who returned that mindless doll to my cousin in the east? It is as your friend says, of value.”
Kryss Kryss leans back in his chair and flips through his book of dragons, looking for entries of dragons in the Dry Lake area as he listens to the others talk.
Julian The idea of cooperation planted, Julian goes back to his tale. They can work out the details some other time.
Shael Seeming unaware of the conseqences, Shael heads for a less densely crowded part of the bar and leans across to ask quietly for a water. He doesn’t notice Lady Eriana is the reason that the common folk hang back slightly from this location.
Kryss “Do you know of any Hucrele vendors in the Dry lake area? We could possibly deliver a letter for you if so,” he asks, paging throubgh the book nonchalantly.
Thos “Honestly, my kinfolk are spread across this entire region. I’m sure that one or another lives in Dry Lake, but it is so…provincial.”
Kryss “Not a tight knit family then?”
Eriana Eriana makes her way over to Shael at the bar. “I hope you don’t feel awkward around me.”
Kryss “I assumed you all had a partnership and provided services to each other.”
Thos Thos shakes his head. “We’re large, and while we work together, I’m not really the guy to ask about the family tree. Dry Lake isn’t real business, being so small, so…” he spreads his hands.
Kryss “So who is the person to see about a larger franchising operation?”
Shael Shael blinks laconically while his gaze readjusts. Identifying Eriana he stands upright, looking away to clear his throat, “Ahm, oh. Lady Eriana.” he smiles, his gaze blank as he searches inwardly for inspiration. “No, not awkward… off-guard, maybe? I guess it’s complicated.” he finishes lamely.
Kryss “If I can get each of you sister stores stocking our goods then I could earn over a hundred gold inside 5 years!”
DM Kryss catches the barest flash of a metal symbol in Hucrele’s palm, expertly hidden. Julian spots it as well, and notes that it looks quite a bit like a holy symbol.
Eriana “It’s not complicated at all. You don’t care much for attention, you care for people. I know how that feels.”
Julian Julian can’t help but snicker at Kryss’s outburst. As for the holy symbol, if the paladin did indeed notice, he gives no sign of it. If a holy symbol is being hidden, it’s probably for a reason.
Kryss “No need to pay me now,” Kryss motions to Hucrele’s hand. “Just get payment to my employer,” he gestures to Shael.
Thos The Hucrele glances at his now empty hand with a questioning look upon his face, but a new respect in his eyes.
Kryss “I was also thinking that there might be a finder’s fee for you if you were to introduce me to the… um… Master of your House?” Kryss suggests as he places 5 copper on the table. He winks.
Shael He frowns pensively. When his water is delivered he takes it gratefully and uses it as an excuse to collect his thoughts more. Setting it down he turns to look at her directly, “Have you read the Principle Directions of Thought by Celestin the Tthul? She talks about the complex motion of an idea and how unrelated it is to its physical mooring. I’m used to attention, Lady… I am just not used to having the attention I pay to the world directed back at me.”
Thos “Master Kryss, I’m going to be frank with you. Both my services and your own are worth a great deal more coin, and of a yellower color. Let me help you help yourself.”
Thos “But as far as Hucrele’s go in this town, there’s me and my brother, and we’re the top of this food chain.”
Eriana Lady Eriana shakes her head. “I’ve read Celestin’s Deeper Thinking and his Art of the Fourth Dimension, but Principle has eluded my grasp, I’m afraid.”
Kryss “You limit yourself to the confines of a town? There is only so much wealth here. Im giving you an opportunity to make gold all over the provinces. Imagine if 1 silver of every transaction conducted all over the land went into your pocket. You would have uncountable wealth. Hasnt anyone ever thought to expand their influence?”
Thos Thos takes the time to explain the barony of Brindinford and its political and economic ramifications to Kryss, as well as have a slight discussion about the cost and benefit of extending one’s power across a larger area.
Eriana Eriana continues, “Still, I would think that one such as you, who truly seeks the exceptional, would have found someone by now that returns the attention, moored or not?”
Julian “What it would need, more than anything else, is security.” Julian opines, drifting back into the conversation. “Since the war, the roads have been bad, and dangerous, travel and trade expensive and slow.”
Kryss Kryss pays close attention to the lesson, wishing he had something to write on. He asks further questions, interjecting with ideas, and ultimately attempts to form a Mentor/ Student relationship with Thos while Kryss remains in town.
Thos Thos nods. “Yes. It can be far more profitable to simply raid shipments than to pay for them, but raids have the effect of stifling the future. A delicate balance.”
Shael He chuckles, “If you’re familiar with the author, it’s just more epistemic pedantry. I only meant to say that it was your attention that caught me off-guard.”
Kryss “Perhaps by working together for a time you might get a better chance to get in on the ground floor of Julians Caravan security advice as well.”
Thos “Naturally security is something that former bandits would be fairly well suited for,” Thos muses. “If you were to be able to reach out to them, that is.”
Julian “They say it used to be different in the old days. ‘O how lovely the beach looks when it’s filled with merchandise and it bustles with businessmen! Bundles of different clothing are pulled from the ships, countless people delight at the sailors’ cheerful singing, and the rich man dances in the sand!’”
Kryss “I mean I dont know if his ideas are for sale, but I would imagine that in exchange for a wagon built to his specifications he would be happy to field test it, provide feedback, and we could ask our good friend Azario to endorse the product.” Kryss brainstorms.
DM Thos is happy to bounce ideas off of Kryss and Julian regarding interregion caravan and security.
Shael “Sir Berrick did not prepare me to deal with true nobility.” he tells Eriana.
Kryss “An arrangements with the bandits to protect only our caravans would be of benefit. We could look into someting like that for you.” Kryss suggests.
DM Shael finds Eriana quite well rounded in her education, with the annoying exception of magic, and quite insightful as well. She seems to have a knack for taking compliments and criticism alike with the right amount of grace, and making everyone feel her sincere concern for their concerns.
Julian “Bah. Don’t even joke about that.”
DM Thos nods. “It would add an unnecessary layer of confusion…I was thinking we offer them honest work rather than pay them protection money.”
DM “I’m sure many of them are just hit by hard times.”
Kryss “I suppose there is that. Are there any rumors about a bandit king or some such?”
DM Thos shrugs. “Are there? You folk came through the area, I’m a homebody.”
Shael After quite longer than he intended, Shael manages to tear himself away from her company. He eyes the small crowd that’s surrounded them significantly and takes his half of the attention; glad-handing and interacting with as many as he can manage.
Kryss “Certainly there must be someone who talks to everybody. Who is that?”
DM Thos’s eyes run over Ahal’s backside, and he shrugs. “Maids hear a lot of rumors, but we’re a city, a place of law and order. Bandits are typically far off stories for us unless we know someone hit by them.”
Kryss “It seems we shall go bandit hunting in the morning, Julian. Im off to sleep, breakfast will come early and I dont want to miss it.” He drains Julians beer in a single pull and heads off to his room at the tavern.
DM His room is actually at an inn slightly across town.
Julian Julian takes it in stride, signaling Ahal for another.
DM She quickly puts it in his hand.
Kryss He manages to find his way, although the ale might have taken a harder toll on his senses than it should have. He collapses into a large, well paid for bed, and passes out into the happy sleep of someone who has been eating and drinking all day.:
Shael “…a whole pig? That must have been quite the contest…” “…of course I’ll stop by for a slice, how do I…” “…well, he’s a fine man and a good leader. I’m glad…” “…no, I haven’t ever been. You say it’s just south…” Shael moves adroitly through the tavern striking up small conversations with one group then politely disengaging to joing another for a round.
DM His companions see Kryss swaying slightly as he goes to leave the Gaze.
Julian Julian disengages from Thos and turns back to Shalla, talking quietly under the tavern din for a while before getting up to follow Kryss. He makes sure to make the rounds with Shael before he goes, and to stop and pay his respects to Lady Eriana.
DM The trio makes their way together down the street, heading for the Shield and Shingle. A clear loud and deep voice calls from an alley off the main road. “Hey! Heroes!” Fifteen feet inside is a hulking, ten foot tall feminine ogre with emerald green skin, deep blue hair and small ivory horns. A blast of icy air flows out from her hands, and when the gale ends, she turns and flees, ducking around behind a building.
Julian “What the…. who in Tal’s name is she?” Julian reaches for Lightbringer.
Shael “That…” Shael says at length, “…is clearly a trap.” He looks at Julian, around Kryss, “That’s a trap right?” he says a little too quickly, slurring around the words.
Julian “You think so?” Julian pauses. “Then I’ll go first.”
Shael Shouting out loud he hollars down the alley with his hands by his mouth to help the sound carry, “HEY! ARE YOU TRAPPING US?!”
Kryss Kryss leans against the blast, pulling his shield down for protection just as the cold wind disappates. He looks wide eyed at Shael as the alcohol boils away in his blood.
Julian “…or you could try that. I’ll be back.” Julian mutters, ducking into the shadows and vanishing.
DM There is no response to Shael’s yell, the streets are largely deserted, most people being at the Gaze and its party.
Kryss An icicle drops off Kryss’ armor and shatters on the ground as Kryss waits for Shael to tell him what to do.
Shael “Trap, trap, trap. Lap. Gap. Nap….” he frowns and purses his lips, “…hm. Wait here, gonna find out if it’s a trap.” he stumbles towards the trap.
DM Julian wanders into the alley, invisible.
Kryss Kryss assumes a guard position at the alley entrance.
Shael Shael blinks as his entrance dissapears, “Where’d that wall, oh, hey.” he looks up at Kryss and whispers conspiratorilly, “I gotta see if it’s a trap.”
Kryss “Ill cover you from here.” Kryss retorts.
DM He does not find the ogre creature, but he does come upon a man lying in wait, with a shuffling, vile mud like creature beside him.
Julian A trap after all! Julian turns to warn his companions…which way was it again?
DM Julian seems to circle around as he tries to find them…and what is that? Another man, lying in wait. This one is clad in black and Julian can almost sense the lethal intent within his heart.
Shael Shael circles around too — around Kryss.
Julian If he can’t find his way out, at least he can try to identify their would-be murderers. Julian gets close, looking for any sign or token he could recognize.
Julian Julian tears his eyes away and searches for the exit.
DM Avoiding the foes he saw, he slips back to them. He has been gone a quarter bell when he finally finds them near the entrance.
Julian Shael hears a voice by his ear as he strives to bypass the wall. “Definitely a trap.”
Kryss Kryss looks through the darkness for a bit before deciding to take a more tactical position. He turns towards a shadow and with the help of his magic slippers darts up a nearby wall to get a birds eye view.
Shael “Ah, ghost!” Shael jumps.
Julian “Don’t worry, I’m a friendly ghost!”
Shael “Psh, okay. What kinda trap?”
DM An arrow ricochets off Kryss’s shield. The ogre shimmers into view.
Julian “Ahem. Here to warn you away from the dire fate that led me to my death! Assassins lying in wait. Also, some kind of vile mud creatures. Also, it’s a wretched maze in there. Took me forever to find my way out.”
Shael Shael gasps, “Gasp! A maze? How many assassins?”
Julian “Also, just between you and the realm of the dead, Julian is pretty great. We’re all big fans over here.”
Kryss “Up here!” Kryss draws a javelin and throws it.
Julian “At least four, probably more… wait, what was that?”
Shael “So, like… right around that corner there’s, like… thirty assassins?!” He asks Jasper the friendly ghost.
Julian “Kryss is up on the… I mean, your friend is up on the roof and he’s in trouble! Come on!”
Shael Shael’s eyes widen and he looks up. “Kryss, you’re in danger! When is the last time that roof received proper maintenance!?”
Kryss Kryss’ muscles ripple as the javelins leave his hand in a blur.
DM They bounce off the ogre. The ogre disappears.
Kryss “Its gone!” Kryss yells down.
Shael “No, it’s okay, Kryss – the roof is still there.” he points, “Look!”
Kryss “No the…”
Julian In a magnificent but wasted display of athletics, Julian leaps from ground to rooftops in a single bound. Once there, he moves forward, trying to get a good view of the area without the perils of getting lost in the alleyways.
Kryss “She was right there!” Kryss points.
Julian The friendly ghost leaps to investigate.
DM He doesn’t spot any movement from the top of the roofs, any hidden foes may have fled from Shael’s loud calls.
Shael “She’s where?” Shael asks, he wanders into the maze trying to follow Kryss’ directions.
DM An assassin materializes from the shadows to thrust at him with its blade. Shael’s shield deflects the blow.
Kryss “I dont know, shes invisible again.” Kryss says.
Shael “Hey!” Shael scolds. “Keep it down, you’ll scare the trappers away!” He yells.
Julian Julian continues maneuvering for position and a good vantage point.
Kryss Suddenly a 7 foot tall giant charges at the assassin with a deadly sharp and more deadly looking axe. The fact that he is running on the side of the wall doesnt stand out as significant.
DM The axe bites into the assassin, who isn’t able to get out of the way in time. A massive arrow catches Kryss in the shoulder, spinning him around. The ogre materializes on another roof.
Kryss “There!” Kryss shouts, pointing out the ogre to Shael.
DM The assassin darts in for another hit, and then flips away to avoid retaliation. He flees into the shadows. And skids to a halt as he realizes these are not his foes. Well…at least not the friendly mage.
Shael Shael frowns at the man, “Shhhhh!” he commands, “There’s an ogre hunting us!” he warns, motioning towards the roof.
Julian There is a whoosh and cracking of shingles next to the ogre, and then a voice. “Boo.” A man shimmers into view, holding a black iron dagger, stained with crusted blood and razor sharp.
DM The ogre’s eyes widen. The trio spots some movement on the roof as a man with a crossbow moves into position.
Shael Shael frowns at the man and chastizes, “Yer not s’posed to watch while we’re the ones to hide.”
DM He blinks momentarily as Shael’s magic attacks his eyes, but appears to shrug it off.
Shael When he refuses to close his eyes, a mystical copy of Orcshy slices through the air at his head.
DM It nearly takes his head off at the shoulder. The man coughs up a massive amount of blood. He fires his crossbow, badly, and turns and runs away. A second assassin snipes at Julian as he becomes visible. The paladin takes a crossbow bolt to the shoulder. Poisoned, of course. Not that poison means shit to Julian. He was in the cavalry.
Kryss Kryss eyes the remaining assassin, notes the telltale vacant gaze, and looks back at Shael. “Theres only one of him. Im going to help Julian,” he says, before dashing off.
Kryss He charges over a building and comes down onto the ogre on the other side.
DM The axe catches her in the back. She whirls, angrily, as the blood drips down her wound.
Kryss Kryss responds with violence.
DM The axe flashes, and the ogre appears to have little defense against it. She ducks, he sinks it in deep. She turns and flees, moving as fast as she can to get away from Julian, and both of them catch her as she goes.
Julian The razor knife opens her back as she flees.
DM She does go though. Up, up and away. A massive bow clatters down in the alley as she flees.
Kryss “Stop her Julian!” Kryss shouts.
DM “Stay here, I’ll kill them,” the assassin assures Shael as he moves to fire his crossbow at the exposed back of one of the wizard’s companions, up on the roof.
Shael “What, no! Don’t kill them!” Shael beseaches.
Julian Julian only smiles at Kryss.
DM A bolt emerges from his abdomen.
Kryss “Stop playing around! We have to stop that thing!”
DM The poison…feels a bit shittier this time around.
Julian Even this unwelcome development cannot dampen the paladin’s good mood. He raises his voice in prayer. Tonight, evil will burn.
DM Tal’s blazing fire causes the ogre’s chain armor to glow a soft red in the dark night.
Julian Tal’s work done, the paladin takes cover. He finds a spot where he is only readily visible from above.
Shael Shael moves in front of the assassin and growls, “Stop!” his arms spread wide to block the charmed assailant’s route of attack, “…and submit.” his mind tears into the others’.
DM The assassin’s mind is a sterile place of conditioning. He sees himself, Julian and Kryss, although he has been dimmed in this mind’s eye. Shadowed is the man’s employer. Murder is on this man’s mind. The thief stops, aims his crossbow and fires at Kryss’s skull. The shot bounces off the helm. Another rogue emerges from the alley, running at Kryss with a wicked looking blade. It too bounces off the man. Shael finds the third rogue dropping down behind him, but his ring defends him. The rogue with the blade blinks as the attack is foiled. He tries to cough to clear his throat of the sudden tightness in it, but the action is difficult as his face slides apart. The second assassin drops behind Shael and rams his blade through his spine. The original assassin hisses. “Not that one, lackwit!”
Kryss Kryss drops Shatterspike at the rogue’s corpse and snatches up the giant bow on the ground, rips the arrow from his shoulder, and strings it, taking aim at the rapidly disappearing ogre in the distance. Before it has a chance to find its mark he pulls the arrow from Julian and fires that one as well. All this while charging up and down walls and leaping alleys to chase down the ogre. Its very impressive.
Julian Julian meanwhile peeks over the edge of the roof. “Damn it. Kryss, Shael’s down!”
DM The second arrow catches the fleeing ogre in the back.
Julian “I’m getting him out of here. We can bring her down from outside – don’t stay here alone!” He scans the horizon for taller buildings outside the warren of alleyways but not too far away.
DM Most buildings are around the same height, and certainly those in the immediate area are. The belltower rises in the distance. The ogre flies further away, dropping down between some buildings nearly a hundred feet away from the current fray.
Kryss Kryss roars as his prey appears to escape. Children all over town awake to the noise.
Julian “Meet you on the other side!” Julian rolls off the rooftop and reaches for Shael. A muttered curse as he hits the ground, and then… both of them are gone, without a trace.
Kryss Kryss takes Julians lead, and drops off the side of a building. He hits the ground running, a shadow darting ahead of him to lead the way. Kryss skids to a halt and darts back up the building, his massive paw reaching over to Shatterspike.
DM Kryss tears his way through the thieves and assassins, making for the street. The thieves fall before his rage, but the assassins keep up with him. Just as all hope seems lost, and a third, vile looking eyeless assassin shows up as reinforcements, he makes it to a main street, where revelers are still celebrating his ‘victory’ over the evil forces in Brindinford. The assassins melt back into the night, not willing to take their attack public.
Julian Elsewhere, Julian materializes with Shael in his arms in a side alley near the Gaze.
Kryss Kryss pulls his hood low over his head, tucks away the parties newest prize, and tries to get back to the inn without being recognized.
Julian He wastes little time crashing through the door and calling to his fellow paladins for aid.
DM The two move swiftly to Shael, kneeling before the man who saved their life before. Now his rests with them.
Kryss Once Kryss feels the adrenaline die down, he sits and thinks. He pulls a book from his pack and leafs through it. “Aha!” Kryss says aloud. “I know just what to do.”
Kryss He makes his way directly to The Gaze, via populated streets, knowing Shael will find him there.
DM Alein and Tolea sit concernedly around Shael, drained of their powers by the wounds suffered at the hands of the assassins.
DM Lieutenant Shella has a guard posted by the door.
Kryss Kryss looms in the doorway. He makes his way to Shael’s side through the crowd of shorter paladins and heros. He places a hand upon his protectors chest and leans over him like a giant over a halfling.
Shael Shael’s eyes flutter open and he looks up at the paladins, “Oh, didn’t think angels would come greet me at the door.” he grins.
Kryss “You cannot eat a dragon… if youre dead.”
Shael Shael looks up at Kryss, “I wouldn’t die on you, buddy. Hardly a class move, eh?”
DM Lady Eriana has already returned to the keep for the evening, but the rest of the Gaze is still actively partying. However, it seems like it is a good time to take a long rest, here in the safe walls, rather than head back out when assassins may be lurking around waiting for them.
Julian “Assassins. At least seven.” Julian explains as Shael comes around and he stanches his own partly healed wounds with a cloth from Ahal. “Knew we’d be headed from here to the Shield, I guess.”
Kryss “and prevent me a small snack later? I should hope not. I should not have left your side. I allowed our attacker to escape. Next time, I will allow Julian to die.” he says solomnly.
Shael He chuckles and ripostes, “Next time, let’s not walk into the trap, I think.”
Julian Julian describes what happened to their allies. Minus a few minor details such as friendly ghosts and spells of fear.
DM “What sort of demon ogre did you face?” Shella asks, concerned.
Kryss Kryss steps out to see if the kitchen is still open.
Julian “I do not know, but it could fly and vanish from sight at a word…” Julian describes the creature in case anyone else has more of a clue than he does.
DM Gell has not yet stopped making food. His kinfolk from down river are still churning out plenty of vittles.
Kryss While he snacks he reviews his book of dragon lore to see if there is any mention in a footnote somewhere of a blue demon with horns. Kryss returns from the kitchen and mumbles to Julian with a full mouth, “Ibnadjafar wuz taki boudda ogur wif horns.” lamb drops into his beard.
Julian “Iwha… oh… hm… Maybe we should go talk to him in the morning.”
Kryss Kryss shrugs. “Awwrite,” and the giant wanders off to find another drink and some sleep.
DM Once asleep, bizarre dreams trouble the three of you, as images of your would-be assassins mingle with words that seem to come from an alien world beyond space and time. The hissing syllables, foreign to you, seem to twist and writhe together like snakes within your minds. You find yourself on a violet-blue plain, with three silver sunsets lighting your path.
DM A gate bars one path, while squirming vines…perhaps tentacles, covers the second. The third is littered with arrows. The choice is yours.
Kryss Kryss turns and examines the path they arrives from after ensuring the party is together in this strange dreamspace.
Shael Shael glances at the others and wonders, “Anyone bring a shovel?”
Julian Julian shakes his head.
Kryss “Down? I have figured you would choose up.”
Julian “Do you think this is where the Speaker finally shows his hand?”
DM Lightning, fire and light so radiant it hurts to look upon it bars the direction that leaves the three paths.
Kryss “I hate arrows…” Kryss mentions quietly.
Julian “Hmph.” Julian eyes the tentacled path balefully. “Do you have Shatterspike? Smash the gate.”
Shael Shael shrugs, “Hard to say.” he nods absently in response to Kryss while trying to deduce the best path.
Kryss He drifts towards the Arrow Gate, against his will. “No! I hate arrows!” he reaches back towards his friends before suddenly smashing into the arrow gate with a scream.
DM He finds himself deep in a forest. He hears horse hooves in the distance.
Kryss “Shael?” He asks aloud.
DM The scream is not his own. It belongs to a woman. The Constable?
Julian Left behind, Julian glances at Shael. “I think Kryss chose for us?”
Kryss “Hello?!” Kryss asks, trying to pinpoint the voice.
DM “Oh gods, please save me, he’s coming!”
Kryss Kryss charges through the woods, branches and small trees crashing in his wake.
Shael Shael is still considering the other two paths, he nods towards Julian and murmers, “Maybe.”
Kryss “Im coming!”
Kryss “Shael! I need your help! We have to save her!”
Julian “Right then… unless you have a different plan…” Julian moves towards the arrow path.
DM Kryss and Julian emerge through the trees, in a crypt. A small child cries on a stone table before them. A male child. He covers his face, weeping.
Shael Shael shakes his head and drifts after Julian, watching curiously for the effect as he touches the path.
Kryss Kryss is already charged up and he dashes to the childs side without regard for his own saftey.
Kryss “I hate arrows.”
Julian Julian hangs back a bit, warier. “Who are you? What is this place?”
DM The child looks up at them, turning to face the pair. Arrows protrude from its eyes and its forehead is completely gone, a hole bored through. “Help…me…”
Kryss Kryss picks up the child and holds it out to Julian, “We have too… we cant…”
Julian Julian recoils at the first sight, then recovers. He nods grimly to Kryss. “Let me try…”
Shael Shael glances across the glade towards the gated path. The furrow of his brow deepens as he finally looks at the vine strewn path. Shael’s steps cary him confidently into the vines – tentacles?
DM Tentacles, definitely tentacles. When they part, he finds himself before a sphere of such pure blackness that he is unsure it is there, rather than…not.
Shael Shael continues walking confidently forward – his pace is measured and steady as he enters the blackness.
DM He feels himself start to vanish, burning away as he touches the black sphere. It is pure void.
Shael Shael does not hesitate or falter; he fills himself with the light of his existence sending the shimmering energy through each cell of his body to defend against its antithesis. His stride continues unabated.
DM Every cell of his mental body is disintegrated into dust, but he maintains his consciousness through each and every one of them, drawing them back together. The sphere blinks and he can see the eye within. “You draw back from the void?”
Shael The wizard does not fight the bloody tears of pain, but neither does he allow them to slow him. “No.” he says simply. He stands in the maelstrum and confronts the eye while his body disintigrates and he reforms it. “I am renewed by the challenge.”
Shael He reaches out to snatch the eye, to tear its globby substance from its anchor – he’s going to eat it.
DM The eye blasts a black beam from its depths, sending pain flashing up and down his essence. “The void is not yours to trifle with.”
Shael Shael snatches back the charred husk of his arm now unable to reform it within the void it splinters and undulates into infinite. “And shall not be in this life.” he agrees in a growl, “So open the path or I will destroy us both.” he shakes his other arm in preparation after the threat.
DM “Rogukan awaits you, little manling. As do the giants of the eight runes.” The mouth to match the giant eye opens now…wider, and wider still. Shael is swallowed up.
Julian He works a healing spell.
DM He is able to channel the healing energy into the child. The hole does not close, the arrows remain in its eyes, but the child smiles, rather than whimpering. “Thank…you…”
Julian “You’re welcome.”
Julian “Do you have a name?”
Kryss “What can we do to help you? I need to help you! Why do I need to help you?” Kryss rattles at the child from his knees. “What is this place?”
Adrian “The Burning.” “We’re in the Burning. I’m Adrian.”
Kryss “I dont… what happened to you?!”
Adrian “The Bishop. He said Tal wanted me to come.”
Kryss “Let me avenge you. Let me make this right.”
Julian “I’m Julian, Adrian. Were you burnt, then?”
DM “Tal is not here. Albie is not here. Talbie. They go together don’t they?” The child laughs.
Kryss “None of this makes sense. Where is Shael? I want to go.”
Julian “Easy, Kryss. You can look around a bit, maybe? And yeah, they do, don’t they? You know, when I was your age, I used to call the paladins Taladins.”
Adrian “Talbrecht. My brother was named after the god. I was supposed to take care of him.”
Kryss Kryss calms at the familier voice. “This place doesnt make sense.” he repeats but he follows Julians advice and explores around the area a bit.
Julian “Did something happen?”
DM The floor is made of bones, and the walls are too. As he looks around, a sultry feminine figure detaches itself from the wall and runs her fingers down Kryss’s arm. “Be at peace, warrior.”
Adrian Adrian nods. “They were butchered. Every last one of them.”
Kryss He snatches his arm back. “I… cant do that. I love her.” he whispers.
Julian “By who?” Julian has his suspicions.
DM The woman’s flesh burns away, leaving a scorched hag in its wake as she screams. “Love? A dragon cannot love…” She falls back, gasping.
Adrian Adrian looks at Julian. “The Cathezar. It comes. With blood and rage and misery.”
Kryss “Im not a…” he trails off. “Im not a dragon.”
Adrian Tears of blood flow from Adrian’s arrow punctured eyes.
Julian “The cathezar.” Julian fingers the hilt of Lightbringer… the other weapon lies in his pack, forgotten for now.
Kryss “Not a… NO! I am a dragon. I am Kryzschakaviss the Red. I am He Who Walks Among. I am Fear, I am Eternal.”
Julian “Come it may. It will find a paladin to meet it.”
Kryss Kryss continues to mutter under his breath but he is getting louder. “I am Wing of Death, the Spawn of a Goddess.”
DM His shadow grows as he intones to the succubus.
Kryss He collects himself at length. “I am Not for You.” he says with finality. “Julian. What can we do for the child? I am duty bound to find Shael.”
Julian “We can’t go back. The only way out is forward. Do you want to come with us, Adrian?”
Kryss “We will help you little one. You are surrounded by evil and lust here. We will find you a light.”
DM Adrian goes to nod, but though the head dips, it never comes back up. The child disolves into ichor, a hissing sound coming up from its departure. Words suddenly ring out clearly over the hissing, as if howled by a madman. “The coin is spun! The gates swing wide!” The sound of a thousand thousand raining coins fills the air, and the trio sink into a deeper sleep. Asleep, but will they ever wake up, Loyal Readers? Only you can find out and only next week! Join us then!