Monthly Archives: December 2010

SOW Chapter8: In Fetid Darkness

In Fetid Darkness

In Fetid Darkness

Two great heroes are returned
  Old school rules the day

In Fetid Darkness – Old School

Horseman - Disease

"Should we rest or go on?" ask the Ians.

"We have to ressst!" answers Ssarina.

"You may need rest, but we have a number of psychic defenses in play guarding us against harm; maybe we should enter the dragon’s lair ourselves," suggests the Ians, "There may be something of value there. And there is a small possibility that the lair is unguarded or lightly guarded."

"I can go with you, my own magical defenses are peaked," offers Zardoz.

"I am done, for now," says Shaden, "I need a priest, a cot and a woman … not necessarily in that order … I am game if you are woman," he offers to Ssarina. She musters an unfriendly hiss and a glare that could kill all by itself.

"We could all use a break but I am really fine … Maybe we can take a peek," offers Vani.

 "No, you stay; you can stand guard at the entrance; the others will need you if something shows up. We will be fine and fast if need be, Zardoz and I will go, " says Ian prime.

"You mean we," adds the second Ian with a wink and a smile.

"Right, we Ians and Zardoz will check it out. Vani will stand guard – just in case Ssarina and Shaden get in a fight rather than setting camp. Face it … night is coming and we don’t want something coming out after us anyhow. We are better off meeting whatever is down there on our own terms."

"Let’s go," says Zardoz and he starts walking to the southern face of the Ever-tree where they discovered a mist-laden path leading into the fetid darkness beneath the tree.

Looking toward the shadowed entrance Ian says, "You wait right here, Vani. That way you can keep an eye on the others and you should be able to hear us, too."

"Why not, have one of you stand guard (suggest either of the two Ians) then both Zardoz and I could join you?"

"It doesn’t work that way. We have to stay close to each other … it drains us to separate while we are together … ironic right?"

The rank tunnel beneath the Ever-Tree leads into moist darkness, the warmth makes it feel almost alive. Having no time to lose the two Ians and Zardoz descend.

As they enter the passage Ian turns to Zardoz and says, "This is fine … we don’t need the others, this is old school adventuring and we are old school. I am very glad you showed up."

"Focus!" interjects Zardoz.

"Oh, right … but I was thinking. I should really start writing a poem about our adventures. A living history."

"What are you talking about?"

"Something like …

Dawn and Dusk bid time,
Beneath the Ever-tree, guard red crime,
Protecting tracks evil left behind,
Greeting heroes in ways most unkind.

"Bravo!" says the other Ian.

"Its a start," says Ian one.

"Quiet, let’s go, if we’re going to do this," says Zardoz.

"He’s almost as grumpy as the Prince of Narsbane," whispers Ecto-Ian.

"Or that ranger fellow we met on the way here, he sure fit the truism, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ If we’re doing this ‘old school’ we need to be living it large! Though I agree that doesn’t mean we can’t be going in with a bit of stealth," Ian prime continued in a quiet tone.

Map

Shadar-kai Witch

The tunnel has a flat, packed-mud floor cut into a steep decline and the wall is sheathed in wood. At the far-end of the path there is a reddish glow and flickering ghostly light lighting the floor of the cavern. As the floor levels it opens to a cavernous chamber. Nuggets of gold lie scattered on the floor of the chamber but it is a pool of blood chaos and two portal circles that draw their attention. The beautiful shadar-kai witch from the mottled tower flees across a slender catwalk as Zardoz and the Ians enter. As they near, the witch disappears in a swirling cloud of darkness leaving behind a shadow haze that obscures the rear of the chamber, above the catwalk a tall gaunt figure floats, with an animal skull head and a bone bow it hovers near the center of the chamber.

As the heroes reach the floor and start moving through the chamber, the hovering pestilence gasps as if savoring its first breath, a breath stolen from the living. Slowly it descends to the catwalk as cold blue waves of arcane fire begin to dance upon the portal circles in the center of the chamber one near each of the heroes. Suddenly two huge figures appear illuminated in the blue portal light. Two huge cyclopes appear, one in either portal, each heavily armed with a spear, throwing knives and a heavy barbed net. They strike without hesitation. The ectoplasmic Ian deftly dodges. Zardoz dodges too but not as effectively as the bard and he is injured as the point of a cyclops’ spear bites into his shoulder even as the cyclops fixes the wizard with an unnerving glare. Zardoz backs away and the pestilence demon arms its bow and slowly draws back the string a black arrow materializing in the demon’s clawed hand.

Ecto-Ian attacks but the cyclops ignores him pushing forward. The demon fires missing Zardoz, though only barely. Zardoz reacts by slamming the butt of his staff upon the cavern floor releasing a wave of thunder that radiates outward catching both cyclopes forcing them backward.

Pestilance DemonThe true Ian leaps between the giants testing the catwalk with one foot, abruptly a skeletal-looking demon appears on the catwalk between the bard and the demon barring Ian’s progress. The bony demon stabs, cutting Ian, the wound merely cuts his sleeve, not drawing blood, but the attack forces the bard to withdraw a step. Mithril blade in hand, Ian swings through the air pointing the sword directly at the pestilence demon releasing an explosion of kinetic force that knocks the large demon from the catwalk. The fiend falls backward splashing down into the blood chaos amid a fresh red cloud of acidic mist. The demon’s minion strikes again but this time Ian parries the blow catching it with his own sword.

The surrogate Ian calls out to the the cyclops on the west side of the cavern, tempting the monster to pursue him.  Zardoz holds the one-eyed giants at bay firing missiles of magical force, aimed with a wand pulled from his robes. Annoyed at its inability to hit the ectoplasmic foe in front of him, the near cyclops reaches for a skin-flask on his belt and hurls it at Zardoz. Zardoz dodges and the flask bursts in the wall spraying the wizard with a strangely sandy mist, immediately Zardoz staggers as a wave of numbness spreads throughout his body and threatens to overtake his mind.

The pestilence demon crawls out the blood chaos on the far side of the pool on the east side of the cavern. Ian duels with the pestilence’s minion slashing the skeletal creature. It disappears leaving the faint smell of sulphur in the air belying its fiendish origin. Ian darts towards the demon again but again he finds his way blocked by a second demonic minion.

With lethargy threatening to overcome him, Zardoz releases another wave of thunder advancing as the thunder pushes the monstrous cyclops. The Ecto-Ian and the second cyclops return to trading blows, with the trade going decidedly in Ecto-Ian’s favor even if only in small denominations. Eventually Zardoz pushes both the cyclopes to the very edge of the primordial pool … the pestilence targets the wizard, firing once, twice … both missing but then a third arrow scores a hit on the wizard. The third arrow is a sickly green color, fletched with mold-covered feathers. It pierces Zardoz painfully in the chest but the arrow vanishes leaving a burning irritation that spreads out from the point of contact. To Zardoz’s benefit the arrow strike breaks the spell of the cyclops poison. Zardoz slams the staff down again toppling one of the cyclops into the blood chaos, the other goes to a knee and cast his net snaring the wizard. The barbed net bites deep into Zardoz’s flesh trapping him.

Ian prime dodges as the fiendish skeleton attacks trying to work past the bard’s formidable defenses. Ecto-Ian prods at the cyclops still in the blood chaos preventing its escape from the pool. The other cyclops stands and advancing on the downed wizard raises its spear high with one trunk-like arm ready to deliver a killing blow but when it approaches the netted wizard Zardoz disappears transforming into moonlight only to reappear several steps away from the befuddled cyclops who slams the staff down again. The cyclops staggers backward falling head-over-heels into the the molten quagmire.

True Ian executes a luring strike to dispatch the second minion, again there is the smell of sulphur then the fiend is gone. Ian takes advantage, quickly he steps forward attacking the master demon establishing a bond of retribution with his attack setting divine energies whirling about their battle. A third minion appears and attacks but the divine energy turns on the creature destroying it immediately. Zardoz draws near weighing into the cyclopes with waves of thunder. One of them finally sinks beneath the blood chaos dead; the second struggles but it is forced back by the wizard’s thunder. Facing off with Ian, the great demon is unable to draw additional arrows in the close melee, instead it slams the bard with the bone bow knocking him backward creating more space. Ecto-Ian yells, "Zardoz, take the demon, I will keep the cyclops down!"

Responding the wizard utters a single word of power releasing crushing force upon the demon who stumbles back collapsing into the pool defeated.

CyclopsWeary and injured the heroes look towards each other taking a deep breath. Zardoz’s wound from the arrows still burning like a fast spreading infection. He drinks a healing potion, which seem to slow the spread. Ian surprises Zardoz with a prayer to Gaea which results in a healing balm halting the festering wound and providing Zardoz with a burst of energy. Looking up from the wound towards Ian Zardoz sees sudden concern spreading across the bard’s face then a wave of darkness envelopes both heroes as the demon rises floating from the pool of blood chaos siphoning the heroes’ life force to fuel its dark resurrection. It is all they can do to stagger backward away from the demon. Once again the demon is whole and it fires a salvo of arrows in their direction. The first black arrow hits Ian forming a deathly link between him and one of the two dead cyclopes. The dead thing’s eye opens blackened and the monster begins to crawl out of the blood chaos. The second fearsome red arrows strikes the wizard throwing Zardoz into a panic … he flees to the east side of the cavern, into its deepest, tightest crease. The Ians race towards the demon and this time no fiend blocks their path. Fearing for their friend’s life they take turns attacking the demon. The cyclops zombie chases Zardoz into the crevice–blocking Zardoz’s escape. Zardoz howls terrified digging his way into the fissure.

Now undead, the cyclops ignores its weaponry, mindlessly seeking to crush and consume the wizard but the crevice is too tight and soon the wizard recovers his sense and begins drive the zombie back relying on blasts of thunder. As the cavern quakes from the wizard’s spells the Ians work together to drive the demon backing it up towards the pool of blood chaos. The demon resists but the closeness of the fight forces it to use the bow more like a staff than in the way it was designed which works against the demon but still it proves to be a dangerous foe, more than enough for one Ian; but here now it faced two. Ian prime surrounds himself with the Crystals of Cytorrak and yells to Zardoz, "I think that we need to be further away from it when we destroy it. It must have a limit on how far it can drain our life. We’ll attack it from a range and push it back as it destroy it."

As Zardoz emerges from the crevice he finds himself in the midst of the bard’s raging battle having driven the huge zombie back. Without thinking Zardoz unleashes another wave of thunder catching both Ians, the demon and the zombie in the spell. The Ecto-Ian blinks out of existence, Ian prime falls to the ground to save himself from a fall in the blood chaos, the zombie is pushed back, and the demon falls into the pool, not far enough from the heroes to prevent it from draining them again, triggering its fall and resurrection again and again it drains both Ian and Zardoz … the wizard collapses inward, nearly dead, too weak even to call out to Vani.

In the moments that follow the two heroes battle the demon fighting with everything they have left. The fight seems longer than it is and time seems to come to a standstill for the beleagered heroes. Eventually the demon falls, and this third time it doesn’t rise. In the course of the battle, where one zombie fell the second rose to take its place. Ian is infected by one of pestilence’s arrows just as Zardoz had been earlier in the fight. In the end the heroes emerge the cavern triumphant but running for their lives as they are chased by the second cyclops zombie. This second cyclops zombie is ultimately destroyed by the halfling sorcerer waiting at the entrance. Vani duels the monster while the others doing their best to avoid being killed.

When the zombie is destroyed, it becomes clear that their mission has been successful. They declare the cavern free of any immediate threat. Within the cavern they find enough raw nuggets of gold to make a weigh just over four stones (fifty pounds, 5000 gold pieces) and in the back end of the cavern, tracing the path of the shadar-kai witch they discover a portal.

Ian announces, "I think we should rest now," and he begins to muse,

The wicked are sunk,
In chaos pit they had made,
In their net taken.


Cast (at the Ever-Tree): Shaden (PC/Van), Vani (PC/Van), Ian (PC/Andy), Ssarina (PC/Heather), Zardoz, (PC/Mike)

Summary/Goals: Defeat the dragons attacking the fey of the Ever-Tree. Follow the shadar-kai (Sarshan and the witch) thru the portals to prevent their plans to use blood chaos to destabilize the Elsir Valley (or whatever their plans really are).


SOW Chapter8: Nightmare Visions

Nightmare Visions

Dusk and Dawn descend  
  The Ever-Tree was their end
  Shadows lead them on

Nightmare Visions

Nightmare vision

Nightmare visions fill Shaden’s mind as he finds himself upon a wooden platform suspended high within an impossibly gigantic tree. All-around him is the stuff of legend, and with him some comrades he knew from a time before his nightmares started. Weeks or months ago the half-orc’s life had become a waking dream and endless battles fading in and out with such regularity that he no longer knew if he was awake or sleeping.

ZardozSimilarly Zardoz had no idea what had occurred. One moment he was within the Fist of Mourning, an ancient burial tomb of the dwarven hero named Murat. There Zardoz and Lama Amya Seff guarded and cared for a man he didn’t know. An old man suffering wounds beyond any understanding but regardless of the injuries the man held on. He somehow survived the unimaginable torture of being suspended within a web woven of his own intestines, opened up, exposed to breeding and feeding slaadi larva. A man who had miraculously survived the past month without food or water. He hadn’t spoke beyond moans. Neither Zardoz nor the Lama had been able offer anything but the most meager of comforts to the suffering man, taking turns to guard day and night. On the 33rd night of the vigil, as Zardoz stood guard, the tomb was invaded quietly by a man clad entirely in black. He had entered silently as the night. When Zardoz spotted him the dark man was in the chamber with the old man, his demeanor still and calm. He had the tortured man fixed with an unwavering gaze. Zardoz called out a warning pointing his staff in a clear threat waking the  Lama with the smallest crack of arcane thunder. Amya Seff stirred and the man bowed raising his hands to his chin in a gesture that might be interpreted as respect  his first and final fingers raised, pointing towards his chin as he bows; instantly both Zardoz and the Lama’s chests heave and contract their heart’s stopping, tightening as if caught in a steely vise. The chamber spins, the old man screams and the room bursts into a kaleidoscope of color. As Zardoz’s heart begins pounding he also finds himself upon the wooden platform.

Joining Zardoz and Shaden on the platform are Vani, and Ssarina … missing are Bingus, Bhenedict, Bairdyn, and Ian. Eoffram and Theron had decided to stay at Talar; Theron to aid the villagers and Eoffram to muster aid for the village. Exactly how Vani and Ssarina arrived was less mysterious than the arrival of the others. After some much needed rest and recovery, Bingus and Falrinth had worked together activating the rune stones that the shadar-kai witch had left behind using them to reestablish the portal. The portal itself had not been large enough for the entire party to access at once, so as a group they had decided to pass through the portal in two waves, first including Ssarina, Vani and Ian followed by a second wave including Bhenedict, Bairdyn and Bingus. Both Vani and Ian were familiar with magic portals so they were unconcerned but Ssarina, Bhenedict and Bairdyn needed some convincing happily provided by Bingus who was both enthusiastic and excited by the prospect. Magic gates, colored portals and dimension hopping adventure being the kind of stuff the gnome lived for.

eye portal

Entering the portal was as straight forward as could be expected … even in the best of circumstances such travel was at the very least disconcerting to novices but this trip was decidedly worse, different. and altogether disturbing. It felt like being turned inside-out while being stretched through a pinhole, even as their minds were intermittently flooded with either brilliant white light or a rainbow of sparkling color everything racing but then freezing as time suddenly stopped a strange eye appeared, individually for each traveler. It was giant and all-seeing studying them like bugs, watching without blinking, and then with no warning Vani and Ssarina were dropped landing hard upon the portal platform with Zardoz, high upon the skeletal branch of the immense Ever-tree suspended four-stories high on a small island in the middle of a dismal, fog-shrouded lake of blood-chaos.

As quick as they landed the wonderment faded as those together on the platform sorted out who was and wasn’t there. First Zardoz had arrived, he was followed by Ssarina and Vani  and almost immediately after they, Shaden had appeared. Zardoz didn’t recognize any of them, but both Ssarina and Vani had heard of Zardoz and Vani actually recognized the son of Magnus who had disappeared many years before although he couldn’t say why or how he knew the lord’s son. Zardoz had been lost when the Great Lord had been ambushed. Somehow, Vani had always known of Zardoz and recognized Zardoz immediately, inexplicitly but Vani didn’t question this, he rarely questioned any of his obvious talents … insight, magic, the power of the mind … all natural, unworked, untapped and unquestioned. Vani remembered things, it wasn’t exactly déjà vu rather he just knew things. To Vani, Zardoz was almost like a brother long forgotten but well known and easily understood. Vani was buoyed by Zardoz’s sudden appearance; Zardoz was a marker that told Vani he was where he needed to be, a sense he had faith in as Ishtar’s apprentice.

In Ssarina’s home Majyst, Magnus was revered–equal parts saint and ambassador. The beautiful dragonborn city had even been named by Magnus. The creator of all dragonkind in all their myriad forms, the high god Io, the Nine Fold Dragon, had created dragons first and gave his children gifts like tooth and claw and wing, long life, fierce magical powers, in the hopes that they would rule in prosperity. However, in the millennia after their creation, his children were scattered around the world and trying to kill each other. Io wept for his children then made a mighty roar and said "If any dragon blood shall be spilt, then let it be mine!" and then he cut his belly and let his precious life blood drop onto the Sea of Eternity. The blood cooled and formed into many islands that formed the Mystic Isles, a place where dragons could gather safely and where their clans could prosper. This chain of islands was bound to Klarn when Magnus sought haven there during the Age of the Undying as his differences with the other lords soured Magnus’s interest in their company. There he founded Majyst a place where his council could be held, a place where his disputes with the other lords would be settled without the risk of the deadly battles; a place created to bring an end to the dragon wars. Ssarina had seen many images and statues of Magnus and instantly recognized a resemblance in Zardoz though she could not say exactly what it was that she recognized. In any case, she felt he was an ally she could trust.

Not recognizing the others, and having been drawn here somehow in the midst of a challenge, Zardoz was on guard, his first thought defensive. Zardoz gazed at the others, his eyes wide, dangerously darting from face-to-face with his staff still drawn, but Vani’s easy smile disarmed the wizard’s nerves and the clear confusion in the others faces led Zardoz to believe that they had nothing to do with his abduction. Speaking up he offers, "I am Zardoz, son of Magnus … I would know who you are and why have I been summoned here."

"You really are ‘That Zardoz’, aren’t you?" asks Vani.

"I don’t know of any other Zardozs," answers the wizard.

"I knew it! Well you have been missing a long time."

"I’ve been preoccupied," responds Zardoz.

"Sshaden … where have you come from? How is it that you have joined uss?" asks Ssarina.

Shaden looks about dumbfounded … pausing to peer over the edge of the platform, "Where are we?" he asks.

DawnLooking towards Shaden, Vani starts to answer, "And where ar…."  when two great shadows swoop down from above. Just before they crash into the platform wings spread giving rise to a buffeting of hot air and before anyone can react Zardoz and Ssarina are gone grasped in the jaws of the twin verdant dragons, Dawn and Dusk. Either dragon easily heavier than a warhorse at three times the length, their bodies covered in green scales of varied hue which had served well to camouflage their approach in the branches above the platform. Beating their wings hard they race away from the island carrying their victims beyond out over the blood chaos in different directions before dropping them into the caustic mire.

Landing with a splash in the noxious mix of swamp water and primordial magic that is the blood chaos, Ssarina struggles as the larger dragon Dawn hovers above provoking her. Across the swamp about one hundred feet east of Ssarina. Zardoz lands wickedly, and floats on the surface unconscious … his death imminent. The dragon that had dropped him arcs low glancing at his handiwork and turns back towards the other heroes. Seeing the dragon’s fast approach Shaden thinks about leaping from the platform but decides instead to run across the narrow bridge that connects the platform to the trunk of the Ever-tree where a stair leading to the ground is carved in the trunk of the immense oak tree. Meeting the dragon’s approach Vani attacks, blasting both dragons before floating to the ground upon the winds of a storm of his own creation. The halfling lands at the edge of the island near as he can to Zardoz’s fall and calls out a mystical godly word of power he had been taught by the White Lord Ishtar, cascading the area surrounding him with healing magic that both wakes and saves the wizard’s life.

In a sudden flash Ian appears upon the now empty platform taking in the battle raging around him. Having no time to address the circumstance of his arrival, the male dragon, Dusk, rakes the bard while flying past, breaking to a hover twenty-five feet beyond Ian while flipping to face the bard.

Green tree guardian,
Waiting, taking, and breaking,
Brindol’s brave brigade. 

Still over the lake of blood chaos, the dragon Dawn speaks in the ancient draconic tongue, she says, "Sart ir svabol xurwkic wux siofme si geou ti sone wux?" (Small one – what makes you think I will not eat you?) as she rips at Ssarina’s flesh with dagger claws dragging her further into the swamp.

Ever-tree map

As Zardoz makes his way to shore he tries to run towards the male dragon Dusk but he finds his enchanted boots of speed sinking into the thick muddy surface of the island slowing his pace to what seems a crawl to the normally speedy wizard. Giving up the chase Zardoz pauses focusing a spell which blasts the dragon with an explosion of cold freezing the air around Dusk. Immediately ice and frost spreads over the dragon’s body forcing the dragon to the ground. Ian moves forward to attack but Dusk demonstrating his own arcane talent blinds Ian with a mind-befuddling spell which confuses the bard’s senses to the point he can’t see the dragon and then Dusk curses Ian for good measure.

Still floundering in the blood chaos infused swamp, Ssarina struggles mightily as the dragon Dawn’s taunts continue. Dawn refers to her as a ‘pet’ while using her gaze to hypnotize the dragonborn paladin bending Ssarina’s perceptions, which causes her to paddle deeper and deeper into the burning lake of blood chaos. Only Ssarina’s faith protects her healing her time-and-time again. Witnessing this from the shore Zardoz casts a spell of resistance granting Ssarina some protection from the lake’s acidic nature, enough to allow her to dive below the surface beyond the dragon’s sight. As Dawn’s plaything disappears beneath the surface, the dragon wearies of the game and turns her attention back to the island leaving Ssarina and meeting up with Dusk at the lake a short distance from the island. There the two dragon conspire, "Yth jalla svent wer levethix irral, hak wer lyriki ir ini ir" – (We should destroy the wizard first, then the others one by one).

Zardoz, being fluent in the draconic tongue responds, "Confn vur itrewic ve sjek wux siofme wux shilta." – (Come and get me if you think you can). Having challenged the dragon he casts a mirror image spell creating a multitude of images, perfect duplicates of himself before retreating towards Ian and Shaden who finally reached the foot of the Ever-tree. Ian and Shaden had been busy themselves dueling with the male dragon, Dusk the dragon alternately blinded one or the other with his mind-numbing spells but working together Ian and Shaden had kept the dragon at bay to this point. Now together again, the dragons turn their attention to the warrior Shaden as Zardoz retreats, but not so much that Dawn forgets her ‘pet’ Ssarina … briefly turning her attention to the paladin Dawn focuses her incomparable will twisting Ssarina senses once again again causing her to swim deeper, erasing progress the paladin had gained then with a sly grin Dawn whips the half-orc’s legs out from under him with swift sweep of her tail dropping him hard to the ground. As Shaden tries to regain his footing, she snaps out like a snake snatching Shaden within her jaws. Prey captured in her vise of dagger-teeth, Dawn flaps her powerful wings lifting Shaden into the air. As Dawn rises, Dusk races by exhaling a wide noxious cloud of poison gas upon the others.

With the others distracted, Vani hides behind one of the Ever-tree’s large roots and calls out, "Ssarina!" When he gains her attention the halfling quickly removes his magical winged boots, boots enchanted for short flights; then with a mighty heave he tosses them to the paladin yelling, "I want these back!" Then suddenly Vani notices Dusk’s deep shadow as the dragon glides past above him. Without hesitation Vani points a dagger unleashing a whirlwind from its point forcing the dragon to land. Dusk responds exhaling a thick heavy cloud of poison gas that encompasses both Vani and Shaden. As the dragon retreats Shaden races leaping high, slashing, opens a painful ribbon of ruin upon the dragon’s belly,with his blade, the Wicked Fang.

On the other side of the root the larger of the twins, Dusk stalks Ian and Zardoz lashing out time and again with tail, claws and fearsome teeth. Zardoz’s mirror images fall one-by-one protecting the wizard, and encouraging Ian to demonstrate his own unique ability. Reaching deep within the bard summons a mysterious second self. How he managed this miracle was beyond even Ian’s full comprehension but it was a talent he had developed long ago, the ability to bring forth a second version of himself. Unlike Zardoz’s duplicates Ian’s second was no mere phantasm, rather it was truly a second Ian, immaterial and without weight or gravity but independent and as dangerous as Ian himself. The enraged dragon ignored them wailing against their defenses, destroying Zardoz’s duplicates but causing little real damage other than the heroes retreat from the poisonous gas cloud.

Grabbing on an idea Zardoz grins slyly while using a subtle illusion to create a draconic battle roar sound far off in the distance then announcing, "As you die, know that today you battled the son of Magnus, Lord of the North Wind … your time is short, my father comes for you … do you hear him?"

Dusk howls his frustration as only a dragon can, Duskstunning both his opponents with the force of his cry before retreating to the opposite side of the Ever-tree disappearing. Dawn reacts differently roaring ferociously, she snaps-up Shaden again in her jaws and flying into the air with great sweeps of his wings. The dragon’s rage is palpable, her intent is clear, she means to finish and she races straight over the swamp. With Dusk hiding, Zardoz turns his attention to Dawn, together he and Vani, wizard and sorcerer, wage war leveling their most powerful magics again the dragon carrying Shaden. They hold nothing back knowing inside this would be their only chance to save their ally, and together if only barely they succeed, the beast goes limp and begins to fall. Still struggling Shaden crawls from the dragon’s mouth pulling himself up insuring his own survival by landing on top of the dragon as they fall rather than being crush beneath the monster. In the end the fall is still too much, Shaden lies on top of the dead dragon, unconscious. Seeing his sister, Dawn, fall breaks Dusk’s will … his mind runs red, thoughts of caution vanishes … wanting only vengeance Dusk races back.

Seeing the danger, Zardoz utilizes a fast cantrip conjuring a spectral, floating hand to race ahead to administer a healing potion to Shaden waking him. Looking up, the world goes dark as Dusk blocks out the sky, he shrieks pure rage, sheer will and force stunning Zardoz but having no effect on Ian’s other. Moving past them the dragon breathes out another blast of poison gas without pausing and drives hard, diving to rake Vani who reflexively vanishes as he is struck reappearing safely on the other side of a great root. With a sweep of his wings Dusk goes into a hard fast glide swooping up Shaden without slowing ripping him from the ground. Quickly the dragon gains altitude in a rush, rising, carrying Shaden to his doom. Coolly Ian unholsters the weapon he had secured from the rat Socrates … A strange looking rod, about two and a half feet long, with paired grips and a targeted lens, well-forged of metal and a hard smooth material, not unlike polished stone … The bard points the rod at the dragon pulling at an exposed switch with his index finger, leasing a bolt of red-hot plasma that misses the dragon wide. Running out of time, Ian notices the lens set atop the rod as if for targeting, looking through he spies the dragon which suddenly appears much closer. Through the lens Ian watches as Shaden struggles, never surrendering, stabbing at the dragon even as he’s carried to certain doom. Refocusing, Ian holds his breath as he pulls the trigger … the weapon hums, backfires and explodes with electric ruin, even as Ian scores a direct hit!

Ian drops the weapon in a cascade of sparks … the dragon falls, a hot plasma hole burnt through its body, already dead … again Shaden finds himself crawling atop a dying serpent but this time in mid-fall he launches himself free pushing off the dead dragon toward the muddy island; he hurls through the air rolling as he crashes. Dusk splashes down nearby in the blood chaos. Shaden is broken but alive, weak and still incredibly strong … Ian pauses and says,

Sky-high, blood and bone
Shredded wings and a red splash
Screams to mark your end

 


SOW Chapter8: Ever-Tree Preamble

Ever-Tree Preamble

 

 
 

Ever-Tree Preamble

The Ever-tree is the giant oak tree that links and shelters Klarn to all other known worlds. Beneath the ground the tree’s roots draw their nutrients directly from Elemental Chaos and throughout the tree Shadowfell spreads beneath the thick canopy of leaves that cut the light beneath the tree to a perpetual gloom. Beyond the canopy the fairies of Feywild dance where the sunlight settles on the tree’s leaves. And at the foot of the Ever-tree the world extends as Klarn’s place in the Astral Sea is secured by the great oak. Here today, now Klarn’s placement is threatened as the world tree is violated. The tree’s home within the Flame-Moss Moor is drowned in a lake of blood chaos, the Ever-tree is reduced to an island in middle of a dismal, fog-shrouded swamp, its huge roots snake through the boiling ooze like great vipers. The enchanted bole of the Ever-Tree resists the fell effect of the blood chaos but the primordial ooze feasts on the Ever-tree’s ever-growing roots, in a cosmic stalemate. Above, the dragons named Dawn and Dusk, Sarshan’s twin dragons, dart across its branches consuming the fairies, while the other inhabitants of the tree remain hidden and the heroes arrival gives the dragons pause even while the blood chaos continues to gnaw upon the roots.

 

An oak I know there stands,
Ever-tree is its name,
A tall tree, showered with shining loam.
From there come the dews
That drop in the valleys.
It stands ever green
Klarn’s soul.

The Ever-tree shivers,
The oak, as it stands.
The old tree groans,
And its home Klarn quakes.

Know that fate waits in the bowels of the tree
Through the course of five long nights,
Wounded by sword and serpent, this battle of Queens,
Ourselves for ourselves,
Strung within the tree to seek our fate below
Where the roots feed on chaos.

Ever-Tree