Category Archives: D&D

Raven’s Keep: A Surfeit of Ghouls

20 Gersmoan 57234

As related by Allesson

AllessonI am a bard, but most bards travel, and in Raven’s Keep there was nowhere to go, those who leave are most often exiled like Jack Girth, John Raven, and Arcturus Rann. Bards are also professional story tellers, verse-makers and music composers, employed by a patron, to commemorate one or more of the patron’s ancestors, mine then is Raven’s Keep, but I don’t want to write histories about the city, those living there are pleased enough with themselves as it is, and the really exciting people, the leaders have already gone. It is my turn now and that’s why I’m here.

Now, specifically, I would class myself a lower class of poet, contrasting greatly with the great names of legend. For example, playwright William Shakespeare, and composer of devotional poetry and songs Rabindranth Tagore, they known as “the Bard of Avon” and “the Bard of Bengal” respectively, or Lord Mendel, who is the greatest of the Lords of Klarn or as they’re better known the Lords of Mendelland, after that great bard. And so I thought I have long hoped that I too might someday be great. After all, my training has been impeccable, and I have had lifetimes of study, with all known knowledge available at my fingertips, and in Raven’s Keep that means more than it might in other places; in Raven’s Keep you learn to ask new questions like, what makes you who you are?

That’s what happens when you can change your body, your mind, and you relationships like your clothes. Imagine living in a city where all of those things are negotiable. The limits of your body no longer apply, you are what and whoever you want to be, and on top of that we are immortal. It is enough to drive you mad, and for many of us it did.

The worst of them is Blern; at least if there is anyone worse, I don’t want to meet them. They say he suffers from a delusional disorder. When he was exiled, nothing and no one seemed entirely real to him. He decided that the world was whatever he would make of it, and he felt trapped by it; it was his keeper and since nobody else in it was real, it didn’t matter what he did to escape. There was conflict–an accident–his family, his friends, all gone, dead, and he was damaged beyond repair. He needed to wear special equipment to keep him alive; he was what he sought to become, the living death. His mere presence could kill you, and so he was sent away. Since then, his name has gained new meaning in Raven’s Keep, a word of gibberish that can be substituted with any other word, referring to nothing and anything at all at the same time with equal specificity, like going out and blerning yourself.

He was the first exile, but he was sent out into the old dead world, the place we called the Wildlands. But, he was happy to go; he wanted to leave. He wanted solitude, at least that’s what we were led to believe; that is what we’ve been told, but that was before. Now, I have encountered the man myself and I can tell you, he is a stranger man with stranger purpose than that.

Unfortunately, in the wilderness Blern was not alone, and he discovered that his very presence had become corrupting. Over time he used that fact to form his own tribe, a group he named the Friends of Entropy. They became an army of violent thugs that harassed, intimidated, and terrorized the good folk of the frozen north of this world, Naessa. Among them, this Raven Keep’s outcast became a leader, and they called him Blern the Stranger, a force of chaos and great power filled with deadly purpose. While I was briefly imprisoned among them, I overheard a strange claim. They said they want to end all life on Naessa and to destroy all the technology we brought with us from Raven’s Keep, but that didn’t stop Blern from collecting our technology and equipping his growing army with our technological marvels. One can’t help but wonder if he succeeds, having destroyed all other life of the time, will they turn their weapons upon themselves or will they instead turn their wrath upon Raven’s Keep itself.

The Red Death (as they are also now known) can be identified by black uniforms that cover their bodies, and the varied masks that hide their faces. Calling themselves the ‘Red Death,’ they have now embarked upon their stated goal to bring about the end of all life, and I believe in time, the cessation of Raven’s Keep. Blern is especially interested in destroying all equipment of robotic nature. Theirs is a nomadic society, and they are now traveling southward across the land in small groups, spying out populated areas to raid or attack, and whenever possible, they steal babies both humans and otherwise, intent on raising them up to bolster their numbers and to prepare a second generation of the Red Death should it prove necessary. Their signal consists of cleaning the blade of a dagger with a cloth, until that cloth turns red with blood, then thrusting the dagger through it.

I have escaped that I might tell you this; they are waiting for you now, outside beyond this dungeon, but they have not yet approached the house itself. They have their own reasons to stay clear of T’yog who is much feared in these parts; then too, while I was with them, they encountered fearless hog-faced brutes as they approached the Devil’s House, and those beasts have added to their distrust. I escaped in the chaos of one of their attacks. Of course, I headed in the only direction that I knew they wouldn’t follow, to the Devil’s House itself.

When I arrived, I found the place in disarray. The main gate to the courtyard had been ripped from its moorings, and in courtyard there lay a mauled hulk, the body of a great beast; it had been skinned and beheaded, injures beyond the capacity of the great wolves that had set upon the body. Those wolves, as well fed as they were, didn’t hesitate to turn their ire upon me. I took cover in the nearby tower that waited just to the right of the broken gate where the tower door was hanging ajar.

This interior of that chamber was another bloody scene of overturned furnishing and alchemical sundries, no more comforting than the courtyard itself, and with the wolves still on my heels, I made for the stairs, but there too, my way was cut-short . . . Above me snarled a great black hound, sleek, with burning embers for eyes. I stood frozen as it leapt over me knocking me back down to the floor of the entry, but it wasn’t after me; instead it attacked the wolves. The wolves held their ground for a moment, but before long it was evident that they were no match for the hound and they turned and fled. The black hound gave chase, and with the courtyard suddenly cleared, I made my way to the main house. The main doors there were also gone. Scattered remnants of the courtyard’s gate lay on the ground near the entry, but that too had been knocked aside. Stepping over the rubble, I made my way inside and everywhere I looked there were signs of struggle.

Not knowing how long I might have, I determined to find any shelter that might avail itself to me and I suppose I was following the trail you had all had left behind. It led me to down a narrow hall to the right of the entry, and from there to an open black door beyond which waited a descending stair. I descended quickly until the stairway ended in a large circular room that smelled strongly of rot and old earth. The air was moist, and slime coated the walls; there were scattered debris, old pieces of wood and patches of congealed mold clinging in clumps to the room’s curving wall. In the center of the room waited a large open pit, but the floor of the chamber was also littered with the bodies of several very large, hairy-bodied spiders; thankfully all lying dead on their backs, their legs curled in death-rigor above them. There was a rope tied off from one of two great iron wheels that were embedded in the room’s stony wall, the other end hanging down the open pit. Given the circumstances, the rope was the most inviting item in the chamber, and so without further deliberation I took the rope in my free hand and I began to descend. Immediately, I noticed the ropes manufacture, clearly it was from home, and I realized that whoever had set it was likely another survivor from Raven’s Keep or failing that, at least likely to be human.

Still holding the rope, I dropped about five body lengths, as I did I began to notice that I was being watched. Strange globes, had presented themselves, they were the size of oranges, slime-covered like the rest of the wall, but eyes none the less; they were embedded in the wall of the pit; they looked like the eyes of monstrous beasts. They were will hidden, but I could see them as they popped open. As I slid by, they glared at me from a variety of positions in the well and they followed my every move, but already the walls of the dank pit fell away opening in the center of the ceiling of a much larger, water-filled chamber below. There was no solid ground, only the dark water, and it of questionable depth, but the rope had already been stretched out diagonally crossing the room and extending through the room’s only visible breech, an egress leading to a rising stair. The air of the chamber was rank, but there was no choice, I had to continue my descent, but the rope went slack and I dropped into the dark water below. That is when the others heard me, as I splashed into the water.

As I mentioned, I am a bard, and party to that I have always been a collector of antiquities: books, lore and artifacts . . . Things not often appreciated in Raven’s Keep. Of course, upon their approach, I recognized Sayberion and Nyssa immediately and I quickly surmised the identities of Halbrandir and Ankoma, but I did not then, nor do I now recognize you, by anything other than reputation, and by that I mean the legend of the changelings; a race engineered by Blern, another of his subterfuges intended to defeat and replace the ruling family of the city. I had believed you all destroyed in the wake of Blern’s exile. In ancient times, it was the Bards that were the keepers of tradition, the memory of the tribe – and we have been the custodians of knowledge; as Bard, a poet and storyteller, one who has trained in a Bardic college. I recognized you when I saw you, but how you have survived I do not know. In time, we shall have to come to terms with that, but for now I will tell you about what you have missed in your delirium.

As a Bard, I chose to nurture my ability, storytelling is what I do, and in the telling perhaps we can learn more together. Now, I can tell you about the basic nature of these catacombs. The true entry to this place was a portcullis blocked archway; it stood ominously waiting before us as I met the others, and there were two large statues, one on either side of the entry, and a methodical thudding, together with the clicking of gears which poorly masked the deep sounds of echoing anguish, the cries of the torture leaking through from somewhere deeper in the necropolis that waited beyond the archway.

statue-male-egyptianstatue-female-egyptianThere was also a sickening, mephitic blast of queer aspect, stale, fell, noxious, like the air of a befouled, ancient tomb only much worse. The chamber was large and tall, cone-shaped, and highlighted by the two tall ancient statues; one was male and the other was female, both portrayed wearing strange, but like attire, Egyptian attire if I am not mistaken, and I believe the statues represented the builders of these halls, ancient halls, with ancient secrets, not often visited, yet clearly occupied, yet by whom I wonder?

Our meeting was interrupted by a hail of javelins, a trap, well sprung at the same time as the drop of a half-dozen heavy, slicing, bladed pendulums that blocked the arch before us, and the appearance of other monstrosities. They emerged from behind the statues and they attacked–ghasts and other more ghoulish, dog-like hybrids of equally foul demeanor; those were even more hideously malformed, corpse-like aberrations with a crooked spines and bent limbs wrapped with thick folds of skin or sinewy muscle. Their hairless, gray-green bodies were covered with eruptions of large, swollen pustules. They were groaning, perhaps in pain, perhaps in hunger, and as they came at us they began snapping, oversized jaws like rabid dogs.

We fought our way through them in a hurried battle that was both brief and disgusting. The boils of the dog-like ghouls exploded as we struck them squirting out secretions of burning pus. After we destroyed the monsters we gathered at the portcullis, and working together we managed to raise it, but having no way to fix the gate we had to let it fall behind us and proceed.

We found that we had entered a vast expanse of dark corridors. Admittedly, my arrival had been the cause of some strife; the gnoll, Ankoma, in particular was notably irritated by my presence and uncomfortable with my arrival, but just as I had recognized the other members of your party, I too was recognized by them, and so by them at least, I was quickly accepted, and wherein I was not, Brand quieted the more bestial gnoll speaking out on my behalf. I had never imaged the gnolls would be as intimidating as your Ankoma certainly is; he is large, powerful and strong and he had dressed himself in the head of the dead owlbear I had encountered in the courtyard. And that was where I met you. You were slung over the gnoll’s shoulders; he was mindlessly carrying you as if you weighed nothing at all. He had tied you off like an unwieldy, fleshy cape or captured prey I couldn’t tell which, but you seemed to be in the midst of a fevered dream. Behind your closed lids, your eyes were busy, rapidly darting from side-to-side and your lips were mouthing unspoken words, as if your vocal cords were clumsily groping for sounds that never came. As you struggled I caught glimpses of thought, idle telepathic whispering . . . mumbles about floating polyps, and visions of an alien vista built upon the corpse of a dead god. As interesting as this was, my examination of you came to an end as we found a hole in the wall of one of the corridors.

We had been following the sounds of misery through the maze of halls, a task made more difficult due to the ever present echoes, even so judging by volume, we were drawn in by a noisome snarl of toppled scaffolding and broken shelves that lay on either side of a large gaping hole. Miscellaneous tools were also lying scattered across the floor. Extensive damage had occurred at the collapsed southern wall, creating the large hole, and provided egress to a much larger natural cavern beyond. Shards of rubble were poking through from the other side which was also the source of the cries of torment. Moans and shrieks echoed as a mob of hideous undead brutally beat helpless victims and hurled them headlong into a gaping pit. A few victims struggled vainly, but to no avail. Their merciless assailants bore into them that much harder, first dragging them and then kicking them into the chasm. In the pit, the victims were barely moving; they weakly stared from blank sunken eyes as their fate was inflicted upon them. Without hesitation we rushed the pit, as those pitiful wretches writhed in feverish delusions as death took hold and was ripped away. Struggling to maintain coherence, I saw one poor dying farmer almost make it out, before another one of the monsters kicked him in the face sending him sprawling back into the mass of churning bodies waiting below.

pit-churning-bodiesAnd so, another larger battle began against the undead things that guarded the chambers here, but like those other before, they seemed ill-prepared for such a competent team of combatants as we. The fighting ire of Raven’s Keep had been raised, and was on display as we mauled them, a task made easy after Sayberion rebuked them, sending all but one of them scurrying to the far side of the chamber, where Nyssa could pick them off individually, setting them aflame one-by-one with burning bolts of fire.

We tried to execute a rescue, but the victims were too far gone, a fact made clear by one of the victims who yelled:

village-victim“Away with Ye … I know who you are, and what you brung. You are devils, devils and worse. You’re no better than the monsters that came after Ye. Rydalka is dead; my folks is dead … dead as this pit, deader! And yer friends were looking fer you, the Monster in the Mask, hims what with the blue glowing eyes. They kilt everyone, everyone they could catch, but the old ones they couldn’t get away. They was tortured and they died slow. It was you he wanted, you he was looking for. The ole ones didn’t know, and they died for nothing.

Those who knew you, they died first; Swayne died fighting, and Trella, she was burnt in her hut. I heard her screams as we left, but that wasn’t the end of it. They all had masks, but the one in black robes, with the white mask, the NOSTS, they wanted the BODIES TOO!

Arnthrud and Yrsa were lucky, they died in the wilds, the rest of us, anyone captured was thrown in here … And it is all your doing. AND NOW IT’S MY TURN!”

We were forced to kill them all after the boy attacked us. The pit had changed him like the others. It was as if the pit transformed them into evil manifestations of themselves. After the victims had been put to rest we searched the chamber, and searching for magic, Nyssa found a discarded stone scarab that held an enchantment. She gathered the stone up and then we moved on.

glowing-fountainUntil the corridor split in three directions; to the south the passage formed an alcove with a strange but beautiful glowing fountain. Water spilled from the center of the fountain, pouring out from beneath what looked like a large eye into a large stone basin.

And there was a west passage, blocked by a reinforced wooden door emblazoned with a strange incantation, and to the east a massive ten-foot-square slab of solid granite rests in a wheeled track permitting it to slide left or right to allow or deny access to the northern hallway; it was slightly ajar.

The inscription read:

Si un homme meurt, peut-il revivre?
Tous les jours de mon temps j’attendrais, jusqu’à ce que mon état vînt à changer.

 Given my training I was able to attempt a translation the archaic script, loosely stated it read: ‘If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, until my change comes.’

With the others prompting I gave voice to the inscription and the door opened. Past the door the hall extended another 50 feet before a chamber was revealed. Thick iron chains lined the interior walls of a T-shaped room, linked, and they are welded into a single, massive candelabrum, twisted branches of symmetrically positioned blackened chain. There were scores of half-burnt candles hanging there. Within the confined space the air was stifling with greasy soot and the unbearable scent of rotting flesh. An oversized granite altar served as the room’s centerpiece, behind which, in a rounded alcove sat a beautifully crafted statue of a nearly naked man of good-physique and bearded face seated upon an anvil. I believed it to be a representation to the Roman god Mulciber, the celestial artist, the son of Jupiter and Juno. He was considered as the manufacturer of art, arms, iron, jewelry and armor for various gods and heroes. And, at the far end of the room, there was a slightly raised dais holding several long knives, a glass alembic, and six bisected skulls filled with strange, putrescent powders, and a scroll tube. In truth, we were all so distracted by the scene, and perhaps, already made too inert to the smell of decay to realize our danger.

hulking-bruteHiding behind the alter, a hulking brute lied in wait, a colossal, barbaric, blasphemy with glaring red eyes suddenly emerged; it wielded a massive axe easily in its left, bony, yet obviously powerful claw. The thing had at one time been a man, it was clearly similar to the other mountain-dwellers we had met, but he was no longer truly alive. He licked parched, dead lips appraising us like we were fattened prey, and he the famished beast. His mere presence filled me with an unwelcome dread – his features were dog-like, pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drolly lips, and the thought of those jaws closing upon my throat were enough to drive me to madness, but Sayberion cut the distance between us and imposed himself between me and that monster, and then the others closed in upon him. The monster didn’t survive our press; powerful as it was, it fell under the storm of blows that followed and afterwards Ankoma took the monster’s axe.

Now, all of us being in need of rest, we settled in. We have conducted a thorough search and among the implements stored in the chamber we have found a scroll tube and a parchment. The parchment reads thus:

‘The essential Salts of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole catalog of zoological representation in his own Study, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the like Method from the essential Salts of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestor from the Dust where into his Body hath been incinerated.’

foul-smelling-serumAnd then to there is the serum, it is a foul smelling concoction, an odor so dense as not to be masked by any amount of herbs, and it is a wickedly, thick, veiny, evil-looking, greenish brew that is more likely to make one ill than to do anyone any earthly good.

Prophecy: Episode Thirty-Four: The Chornicles of Klarn: The Darkness Shall Be Overcome

Episode Thirty-Four: The Chornicles of Klarn: The Darkness Shall Be Overcome
( 5/13/06)

[Featuring Aerdaluna, Lorel, Smitty, Silent Pete]

Chronicles of Klarn

From the Journal of Aerdaluna

6 Planting 592

Last night was horrific. The evening went from bad to worse. After we climbed out of the hole we considered resting somewhere. The general consensus was to continue on as Sapphire might not survive the night.

We continued to look for where they may be keeping her prisoner. In our investigation of the buildings, we encountered two other beings that gave us pause.

The first creature nearly killed us, however, as it was a powerful creature of immense darkness. It would appear and then disappear and when there was not completely there. It flowed around us as a darkness, imperceptible, then striking sapping our very life forces. It stalked us in the night as if we were food in the say that a cat will play with mice before feasting on them.

It was able to exert its huge alien mind upon some of my lesser companions, in particular, it confused Smokey who alternatively would attack whoever was near him or would wander in a daze. The creature’s powers were vast as I was unable to easily dispel the magical compulsion it had placed on Smokey. We were forced to wait it out and to protect ourselves from him, I held him in place with my own magics.

While I focused on restraining Smokey, Lorel had moved into a position where he was able to get a few shots off at the creature. The Bow of Corellon was fully able to affect the shadowy creature of night even as it stalked us. Between that and the few lucky blows that Silent Pete, Smitty and the others made on it, we were able to discorporate it.

The next was one of the head monks, now a vampire. He challenged Silent Pete to single combat. In exchange he promised to give us a clue as to where to find Sapphire. Silent Pete agreed and while he leapt to the rafters to fight the unholy creature and while it was distracted by writing down its clue, Lorel and I gave each other knowing glances. We destroyed him as soon as Silent Pete had maneuvered him into a more accessible position and had removed the amulet from his neck to which he had tied the clue.

The clue, “xyz” led us to consider that perhaps we needed to navigate the winding trail that we had first seen when we lodged in the hut that the monks had first put us in. At the end of the trail was a huge stone building.

 

Supporting Cast

The Silent Companions

Cicily Green

Treasure

Smokey

Charley

Nebula

Night

Villians

Nightstalker

Morel? (Vampiric Monk)

Experience Gained

4800 xp

Treasure Gained

maybe

Equal Share = ?? gp

 

Prophecy: Episode Fourty-Four: The Chornicles of Klarn: Family Business

Episode Fourty-Four: The Chornicles of Klarn: Family Business
(3/16/06)

[Featuring Jack, Lu Fang, Hal, Seren-Arty]

Chronicles of Klarn

(In the words of Hal) HalWithPlactery_sm.jpg

Setup camp, fended off vampiric squirels and fang dragon

Got to town, saved a few townspeople, but not all.

Fought Locke, Melina and an apparently golemified Tuvok.

Giants killed a red dragon and scared away a few other miscreants.

Encountered Pandora who talked with Hal about stuff

Pandora´s other child, Tobias joins our party

Serenity asks some questions and uses his powers to put things together
to reveal what Tobias’s plans really are.

 

Supporting Cast

Sapphire

Simberius

Cicily

 

Villians

Fang dragon

Shadow Squirels

Locke

Melina

Tuvok

Red dragon

 

Experience Gained

6000 xp

Treasure Gained

  • Bracers of AC +4 (Vercinibex)
  • Kukri +2 (Seren’Arty)
  • Amulet of Health +4 (Lu Fang)
  • +2 (Large) scalemail (proof against transmutation) (bag)
  • +4 (Large) greataxe (giant)
  • Green Ring of Dragons (Cicily)
  • Ring of Telekinesis (Seren’arty)
  • Cloak of Turn Resistance (Jack)
  • staff (evil) (bag)
  • Wand of Vampiric Touch (33 charges) (Jack)
  • screaming bolts (Seren’arty)
  • jewelry (tbd)

 

Equal Share = ? gp

 

Prophecy: Episode Twenty-Six: The Chornicles of Klarn: Hell of the Hungry Dragons

Episode Twenty-Six: The Chornicles of Klarn: Hell of the Hungry Dragons (11/10/05)

[Featuring Lorel, Hal,
Silent Pete, Jack, Smitty,
and Serenity, and reintroducing
Aerdaluna, and guest staring
Moondrop, Freya, the Silent Companions, and the virgin maidens]

Chronicles of Klarn

(In the words of Jack)

 

Tried to give the sword back. Found Aerdaluna. Mistress Kano stole it again.
Fought animated statues and Tun Mi Lung, barely escaped. Saved Mistress Kano.
Also saved a Kender and Lu-fang Jin.

Seer channelled by Cicily Green.

Let the moon beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream
To where Lords who rule all things in light and darkness the unseen
I’ve traversed the planes where fate has sent me.
Traveled through both time and space, to be where I must be.

In my thoughts I have seen ringed islands in a dream,
And the faces of those for whom I’ve been looking.
With a boy I don’t know whose eyes glisten like gold,
And with purpose untold come to lead them.

Near the still by firelight and purple moonlight
Where I hear the rested river’s call–the wind is crying,
From a love that never grows cold
And a Pirate’s tale that has never been told.

Beneath a dark stain on this horizon,
Set under a black orb that hides the sun.
Carry with you your swords and clean understanding,
Be wary of the dark orb and claw rending.

Your forgotten guides lies upon your road
To clear the shadows from your souls
Two paths you can go by and in the long run both meet and become one,
But there’s no way to change the road you’re on.

So when your path is clear to you tomorrow,
Heed my words and keep faith in me,
It’s to your destiny he has taken you,
To where what is to be I say must be.

“Quickly now boy to my hands!”

Greetings to you son of Draco.

Who would expect the fate of so many in the hands of one so young?
You don’t remember your parents, heir to the past realize the weight upon you!
It leads you to a spiritual divide.
To succeed you must strengthen your virtues and seek that which is best within
you.
You have purpose here, you body is young but your spirit is old.
Are you not weary of moving from body to body, never achieving your goal?
The world is waiting for you, balanced in black and white for you eye of the
storm.
The soul of the dragon can never truly be contained–chaos erupts at its very
core.
Enduring destroyers of the modern world shadows rising to destroy again!

Above all the very essence of magic is free–its form undetermined, flexible,
Your spirit embattled, forged to bring you to this point.
Are you prepared for your destiny?

 

Supporting Cast

Smokey

Charley

The Silent Companions

Freya

Arty (animated by Serenity)

Three young, beautiful
virgin
women

Villians

Tun Mi Lung

Tun Mi Lung’s animated statues

Experience Gained

4000 xp

Treasure Gained

nope

Equal Share = ?? gp

 

Prophecy: Episode Twenty-Three: The Chronicles of Klarn: Mistress Sandman, Send Me A Dream

Episode Twenty-Three: The Chronicles of Klarn: Mistress Sandman, Send Me A Dream
(8/3/05)

[Featuring Serenity]

Chronicles of Klarn

(In the words of Serenity)

I can’t tell how long I was out for, but slowly my thoughts return to me. As the cobwebs clear from my mind a vision passes before my eyes. I see a gaunt man that looks a little like Peter though his face has sharp angled features and rough sun-darkened skin. His arms and legs are bound though he doesn’t seem to mind. Another man reaches out a hand to touch the gaunt man’s brow. The new man is made of stone and metal and wood. They speak to each other but I cannot hear what they say. They part from each other and slowly fade from view though a hazy image remains in the back of my mind. i can tell these are pawns that my mind has naturally reached out to. It is strange that their names were not revealed to me as usual.

I open my eyes. The room looks the same as before except that the chair where Flaxbottom has been filled with a new individual. He appears to be a dwarf, though in the dim light it is hard to determine for sure. Behind me I can feel a presence and I notice a slight movement in the shadows. My arms and legs are still bound to the chair so I feign unconsciousness.

A woman’s voice hisses in my ear, “Fool, do not feign unconsciousness, I have wakened you for a purpose.” The voice is familiar, but I cannot place it. My skin shivers, whether from the heat of her breath on my cold skin or from some half-formed memory I do not know.

She continues, “Do not cry out or we are both dead. Do you understand?”

I consider my options and nod my head.

“I warn you one last time before revealing myself. Should you cry out, those who eat the mind will return and feast on both our liquefied brains.” As she says this she steps around into the dim light.

As before she is beautiful except for the thing of chaos that replaces her left wrist and hand. It is The Blessed, the woman who had slain Iris! I almost cry out, but my control is sufficient to whisper, “What do you want foul murderess?”

She scowls and with a scoff replies, “Simpleton, the creature who accompanied you was not killed by my simple use of brute force. It was a creature of the upper planes. I merely returned it from whence it came. Had you not attempted to foul my plans even that would not have been necessary.” I start to speak again, but she cuts me off, “Enough of the past, we must focus on the present if you wish to survive, we have only a few moments.”

I pause to let her speak. She certainly seems more lucid than she had when
last we met her.

“I will be able to send you back in a limited form to your companions. You will not be completely yourself, but your mind will be whole. Seek solidity and you will find yourself. You must bring a warning to the others.”

There is a movement at the door and the woman’s eyes fill with a panic such as I have never seen before. “Not again,” she mumbles and her eyes take on the crazed look that she had when we first fought her.

She places her hand on my forehead and whispers an arcane phrase. Then as my
vision again became hazy she whispers, “The Seer is fading from view. The
world must end. That which is unseen is not what it seems. All must be freed
from their prisons. That which is not seeming is not natural. The end is near.
The prophet speaks truth. You have a cute tush and pretty eyes today.”

I’m not sure about that last part, but I think she winked and then she fades
into the shadows. The door opens and a putrid light fills the room and shadows
dance on the wall. The smell of alchemy assaults me, the cloying acridness of
preserving fluid most predominant, as again I sink into slumber.

This time though I dream. I feel as if I am falling through many layers of feather-soft glass. Each pane reflects a different scene. Some are grand vistas of natural beauty others seeming visions of people in squalid cities and everything in between. Some are filled with humans and demihumans others with creatures I have never seen before.

The final image is of a dragon biting its own tail that grows to unbelievable size and becomes a natural unclaimed wilderness.

I am floating unable to control my movements. Remembering The Blessed’s words, I seek solidity. I feel myself move though I can not tell how or where. Slowly I feel a vertigo and there is a soft breeze flowing over my skin. I open my eyes to see a blurry image resolve itself into Hal, Lorel, and a young boy, all looking at me in stupefied wonder.

 

Prophecy: Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: A Note for Jack

Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: A Note for Jack
(6/1/05)

[Featuring
Lorel
, Hal & Smity, and guest
staring Freya, Arty, and Silent Pete and the Silent Companions]

Chronicles of Klarn

(Thys si Bysar os Eisalelae)

15 Tylaelael 592 TIa

Ai masaelia cali air ail ti sai caer sai tia bysar syl ail ser Ai cali
pyli mai jhylaes sal tyr jholi. Ai byri sar toraraer aelor thozol os tia
paelolaesali
sai ei teirolar 29 Vaedeil – air calol shael ei Thaedae, si aelia myr
cali shael paraer si 28r, ser sydae ter shi 3 Valol, shor shaer ailael, eir
air air poroler sai caer sas os sosti shoryr Taelaeli eil Jhelae sajol saes
var. Systysyrn shyr shi si Tysol Tyl Thaerolar shaesi Ai mor ail Taelaeli.

Ai eis tylolaer sar eir jhaer thys byrn Ai cali ver Paelaer shaendol ti. Ai
cali thys si tyr caer teiraer shaer codael. Baerdelae myr thys ti mai tia aelaesia
maer air shaer tylaelaer. Mor Ai cali aelylaesaer teiraesor shael si mydi os
shalaer Baerdelae, mes eir sor byrn. Thys sydae Ai aelylaesaer ei maedaes saelol
ei thys os maer.

Ai cali shael salaelol shaerael sai bar tylal valaer eil Ai shar maesol
thys eil eisi sai maraelia thys ei thar thyrdol volaes os aezaedolia tyr
sharaes.
Baerdelae’r mas aer volaer or ei shol vaer vaelal ail si porali. Ai mael
cos sai ailaerondrari si mar os tylys tholol sar air shar ei sholol mar shys
shia ei tyl shai shar sheria saelol maer. Si tal shar sos eil mylia, paeraer
ail ei vyl-caern vyrdi eil si mar. Ci eilai shysi caelia jhyjol taerar kalaer.
Sostaer shael paeraesari Ai syl Ai myr kaer cos calol kyrn sosaer os aerol
vardor eil si oraes ialalysia baesol Baerdelae tadesaer thys ti.

Ai thyl sar cor basti shar Cia’ Sae Mai, shor ei tolys aelalael
ci shar myl eistolardi aelyl, eil mai Ai thyl cor basti tael, Shaeras os
si Mia Pandryl
syl Ai pyr ci shyr cali syr ti car air byr shael thys si aelalael. Air maes
ci air byrn eil ailaelesaer maesal os oli Tyl Baestys.

Ai kai byrn sai mael sor Tyl tholol teiraer tes tysi ail baer os ailysarol
sal aelael vydaes meraelali. Ai pai byr thalys shael orestaesaer eil mai Ai
eis maelol sor talaesal ail maes os tia eiryloraer, Jhysaer, Car os aelael
si shai Bas ail cydaer sar si tae or shael thylyrdol tia var. Cyrn sar Ai eis
shaer eil Ai eis maejol sor Tyl shai air mar byr sai jholi thas thys sor bali
cyrn eir si vali os Vasaer.

Cestia, Eisalelae

 

Translated from the Elven…

(From the Journal of Aerdaluna)

3 Planting 592 CY

I scarcely have it in me to keep to my journal though in truth I have
done so longer than most live. I note that misdated entries fixing of my
deliverance
to a mythical 29 Readying – it having been a Freeday, the entry should
have been dated the 28th, thus today must be 3 Planting,
with best intent, as it is difficult to keep track of time without Celene and
Luna taking their paths. Tomorrow would be the Courting Moon Festival were
I still in Celene.

I am convinced that at least for now I have put Drendel behind me. I have
for the most kept myself well hidden. Nebula scouts for me so my every step
is well conceived. Still I have encountered mysteries beyond the scope of bravest
Nebula, such as this now. For today I encountered a shepherd tending a flock
of sheep.

I have been traveling between two vast mountain ranges and I was searching
for an area to safely ford a fast flowing river of exceedingly cold water.
Nebula’s sharp eyes picked out a bright red pennant in the distance.
I sent him to investigate the splash of color finding that it was a brilliant
sash worn by a monk who was busy tending sheep. The man was thick and stocky,
dressed in a rough-hewn robe and the sash. He also wore heavy looking metal
gauntlets. Times being desperate I thought I should greet him having grown
tired of eating rabbits and the other unsavory vermin Nebula captured for me.

I found that his name was Ku’ Tai Sho, with a minor enchantment
he was soon amicable enough, and so I found his name means, Betrayer of the
Sky Dragon
though I doubt he would have told me had it not been for the enchantment. It
seems he is now an indentured servant of one Count Nemours.

I go now to seek this Count finding myself much more in need of information
than even proper sustenance. I do not favor being outnumbered and so I am sending
this manservant in search of my associates, Lorel, Hal or even the boy Jack
in hopes that they may yet be following my path. Know that I am well and I
am seeking this Count who is said not to live far from this valley known as
the range of Phlarest.

Humbly, Aerdaluna

Prophecy: Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: Dream a Little Dream

Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: Dream a Little Dream
(6/1/05)

[Featuring
Lorel
, Hal & Smity, and guest
staring Freya, Arty, and Silent Pete and the Silent Companions]

Chronicles of Klarn

(In the words of Silent Pete)

I woke with a start; a chilly sweat covering my body. The dream seemed so
real.

Serenity’s eyes slowly open; they are heavy and it feels like they have
been covered with honey. He is in a mostly darkened room; the only light
coming
from tiny glowsticks on the walls and a faint hazy purple light that comes
from somewhere behind him.

His vision is blurry at first; he can see other people sitting in chairs
in the darkened room some he can see clearly others are obscured in shadow.
Quickly, however, he focuses his attention on Pan. Pan is sitting
in
a chair
like the others.
There
are
small ropes that go from the wall to his head. He has worked one of his wrists
free from the bindings that were holding his wrist to the chair arm. Pan
has a panicked look on his face. Serenity watches as Pan reaches up to the
cords
that are attached somehow to his head. Serenity wants to say something, but
he is still groggy from just waking up. Pan pulls on the cords and they rip
free from his head, taking small bits of skin with them. They look like they
have small needles at their ends.

Pan looks over at Serenity and says something, but strangely Serenity doesn’t
understand it. It sounds as if he is listening to someone speak underwater
from far away. Pan starts to work on the strap that is binding his other arm.
Serenity can see that his legs are bound to the chair as well.

Suddenly, Serenity is assaulted with an overpowering spell. It is the
smell of seaweed that has been sitting in the sun for days. Pan is looking
even more
frantic. He is looking at something behind Serenity. Pan’s attempts to loosen
his wrist turn from a focused attempt to the movements of a scared animal.
He claws at his own wrist apparently trying to dig his wrist free.

Serenity watches in horror as blood starts oozing slowly from Pan’s nose.
Tears of pain and terror are running down Pan’s face and soon they turn to
tears of blood. Pan’s struggles slow and stop as he slumps into the chair he
was trying to free himself from. Serenity notices that Pan is not breathing
any more. He can barely make out the shadow of the creature behind him.
While it is probably humanoid, the shape’s head writhes as if covered with
snakes. Again, Serenity is overwhelmed with the odor of rotting vegetation.
Serenity’s
psychic senses are slowly resolving themselves and he can also tell that the
being behind him is a strong mental force. The cords that must be piercing
his own skull start to burn and within seconds he feels sleepy again. As he
sinks back into the oblivion of unconsciousness he notices another shape moving
in
the
corner.
It is the shape of a woman with long hair and missing her left hand.

I knew that Serenity was in trouble.

After speaking to the other companions, I have found that they too have had
dreams of terror, though none as vivid and detailed as my own.

I and the other companions need to find him and free him, but where do we
start looking?

 

 

 

Prophecy: Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: Jack Be Nimble

Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: Jack Be Nimble
(6/1/05)

[Featuring
Lorel
, Hal & Smity, and guest
staring Freya, Arty, and Silent Pete and the Silent Companions]

Chronicles of Klarn

(In the words of Talon)

Caretaker introduces me, “This young woman is Talon. She is the woman who
was traveling with Jack.”

Freya interrupts, “Hast thou knowledge of Jack’s whereabouts?”

“No, I do not.”

The creature of stone and steel, Arty, asks, “Weren’t
you traveling with Jack? How is it that you don’t know where he is?

“Rike you, Jack and I were disoliented when we filst allived in this shlunken
world. I was sitting in one of the chails when the dlagon’s magic shlunk us.
By the time I had my bealings these foul cleatures had decended and sullounded
me. I attempted to flee myself flom their cilcle, but tere were too many of
tem fo me to succeed and I am captued. Jack was walking acloss the floo
as we were shlunk and thus he must have been berow when the magic was invoked.
As the creatures hoisted me to teir rail I made sure to spin alound so that
I could suvey the entilety of the alea and I could not see Jack. I plesume
that he escaped as he has since not been found or captured.”

Arty continued, “And how did
you come to be traveling with Jack in the first place?

“I am searching for him because of rewad.”

Reward, what reward do you speak
of?

“An elf named Aeldaruna encountered my master and me.”

Lorel interrupted, “You saw Aerdaluna? When and where was he going?”

“Yes, I see him. Not mole than a fortnight ago. He tord me a rittre of te
boy, Jack, and give me an epistle for him. Then he continues on thlough the varrey
of the lange of Phralest, heading to the demisne of Count Nemouls.”

“Whire I am not oliginarry
flom this alea, I have become famirial with the alea duling my time as a
student of Ku’ Tai Sho, my master. Aeldaruna offeled a leward for any
infomation legading Jack. We knew nothing at the
time, but
my master was wirring to send me to seach fo the boy.”

“I knew that if he
is in the area, thele was a good chance that he would seach out the wayhouse.
I
had
not
been
to it
befole as the lumols of the wayhouse encoulage one to stay aray; no doubt
due to the plesence of the rittre dlagon. I guess collectry that an invincibre
teen, as they arr are, wourd not be daunted by the lumols
and
wourd maybe lerish the charrenge posed by such a rocation. I found Jack
neal the
alea of the wayhouse on the ord calavan load that must have at one time
read to the buirdings. We soon aftel encounteled Mondlagon and were offeled
the
opportunity to seek safety flom Jack’s persuels. Not learizing what folm
that sanctualy wourd take, only being assuled that we wourd be safe, we accepted.”

Lorel asks, “What did the epistle say?”

“I did not lead it myserf, but Jack lerated it to me.”

Freya asks, “Thy master, what is he?”

“He is a shepheld.”

She continues, “Thou art a disembling folly-fallen bladder, though thou hast
clearly marital form. Hast thou a style thy mysterious mutton-witted master
imparts to thee?”

I notice some of the others, monks, appraising me, and consider my reply,
“I study the ways of dlagons to gain a gleatel undelstanding of the mystlies
of the universe. My master enjoys the qluiet of the fierds and the feel of
the hail of the sheep lunning thlough his fingels.”

I continue, “I watch you fighting the olc. I am not famiriar with you styre,
rass.”

Freya answers, “I hath the blood of two races, yet hath neither truely. I
am accepted, yet outcast. Thus I blend the styles of my masters and hath become
stronger
thereby. Should thou wish to name it, call it Outcast.”

Arty had been pondering while we discussed styles, he now interjects,
I am not surprised that Jack
escaped. I feel we are at last close to my goal of finding Jack.

 

 

Prophecy: Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: Storming The Rafters, Looking For

Episode Twenty: The Chronicles of Klarn: Storming The Rafters, Looking For
What We Rafter
(6/1/05)

[Featuring
Lorel
, Hal & Smity, and guest
staring Freya, Arty, and Silent Pete and the Silent Companions]

Chronicles of Klarn

(In the words of Arty)

While the creatures climbed back to their hidden home in the rafters above,
we manage to finally collect ourselves in a semblance of organization.

“The very smell of those creatures doth encourage incontinence! What
manner of villainous dismal-dreaming pestilence be they?”

Smity scrunches his forehead in thought until his bushy brows become one
in deep thought and then announces, “They are thoul by my making. Aye,
the ill-legitimate step-children poorly conceived of trolls and ghouls, with
more than a smattering of hobgoblin to hold ’em together.”

Meanwhile, Halfred gathers us together to count our number and puts armored
knee to ground thanking Heironeous for the strength to battle, the opportunity
to again smite evil in his name, and he prays for renewed strength for the
battles that lie before us.

“Heironeous, these foul creatures have taken our comrade, Caretaker,
and we would carry this battle to them and ask for the strength and wisdom
to carry
forth this battle to victory in your name – Valiant Heironeous! Share your
strength with us if our cause be true that we might endure, in your name and
succeed!”

With that, wounds mend and strength is indeed renewed and to what purpose
we wonder.

“I have called upon the power of Heironeous to heal us, it is time
for us to stage a sneak attack that we might yet rescue Caretaker.”

There is little resistance to the idea – Pandora refuses claiming that
the Caretaker is a liar and a cheat, not nearly the eunuch he would have us
believe. Sapphire for her own part offers to cast an Invisibility Sphere spell
from one of Bart’s scrolls on Stalwart, Hal’s war-horse. She explains that
the spell is large enough to conceal a small group. This idea bears fruitful
discussion as we calculate that Hal, Freya, Cicily, Lorel, Silent Pete, Synkey,
Glauron and myself might all able to fit within the spell’s effect. The enchantment
that gave both Synkey and I wings was still working and Smity told us that
he could enable Stalwart to walk on air just as he himself had done while battling
Scorch.

Our bold plan works and we are able to get some of our war party undetected
up to the rafters. The others remain below talking loudly to, hopefully,
keep the creatures in the rafters distracted and thinking that we haven’t left.

The structure of the wayhouse was built of sturdy wood; the roof supported
by a crisscross of thick rafters. We land on the rafter centered most over
the table where the thoul leader had appeared. We find the thoul lair at the
point where this beam met the top of the North wall.

Our ranged attackers dismount from Stalwart as Hal and Freya, both still on
the horse, charge through the air; Stalwart’s hooves silently finding
purchase in the air. They move to attack the thoul where we find them guarding
a cell that contains both Caretaker and a woman. There are, by our best estimate,
over a hundred of the evil thoul up here, though probably only half appear
to be combatants, the rest being women and children.

Closer to them now, we can see that Smity appears to be more right than wrong,
the thoul look to be a cross between hobgoblins and trolls (favoring their
hobgoblin side luckily). Most of them are a little taller than Hal by about
half a foot, with burly ungainly builds. Thick ropey hair which seems to writhe
with a life of its own covers their greenish skin, feral eyes, while flat chins
are almost hidden by their long, pointed noses.

Still invisible, Hal, Freya, and Stalwart finish their charge toward
the cell and as they charge, the rest of us appear, breaking the veil of invisibility,
and we open fire. With surprise on our side our attack is richly rewarded as
the thoul caught in the revelry of their recent hunt are completely unprepared.

Lorel moves forward to get the creatures within easy range of his deadly arrows.
Silent Pete is just in front of him screening Lorel from hand-to-hand combat.
Using his prized guisarme Pete slices into the quickly recovering thoul as
they approach with mean and deadly accuracy. Ribbons of gore and brackish
thoul
blood trail the singing blade when thoul move to attack them. Lorel’s arrows
quickly pierce two of the creatures that immediately fall off the rafter, tumbling
400 feet to the ground below!

Still behind Lorel, Glauron (the drow) and Synkey (the halfling) fire their
weapons, a hand-held crossbow and some type of sling, at the creatures that
are so numerous–enough to keep all of us busy. And finally, Cicily unleashes
a blast of eldritch energy from her outstretched sword, disintegrating one
creature in a flash,
leaving only his ashes to float to the ground. I stand with Cicily, and I activate
another wand, this one, my eternal wand of defenestration. A cloudy ball
of howling winds appears in the midst of the thoul further buffeting them about,
ready to defenestrate them.

On cue, Freya leaps off the horse, positioning herself in a corner near the
opening to the jail cell as Stalwart knocks one of the creatures off the edge
and Hal’s sword bites deep into the shoulder of another.

With horror we watch as thoul, only just felled, open their eyes and stand
up, their wounds slowly closing as we watch. Their resemblance to trolls is
apparently
more than just in looks. Lorel focuses, putting another shot directly through
the head of one of the rising thoul, sending the creature back to oblivion.

Now realizing the true nature of our peril we know that we will need to take
extra effort to put these creatures down hard and to move fast if we hope to
yet succeed.

The battle rages all about, the thoul show increasing confidence and organization
as they begin to adjust to the surprise fostered by our attack. Pete quickly
lays into them, again surprising them this time with his speed and skill with
the guisarme and the reach it provides. Enlightenment comes too late as a thoul
head finds
itself
short the neck that carried it, after Pete strikes the creature. The thoul
stares blankly forward never acknowledging the thin dark bloodline that spreads
across its neck in anticipation of the head’s coming roll and tumble;
a heinous melon that explodes as it strikes the ground below.

Below, Pandora winces at the horrid mess as she scrapes frantically to remove
the splashed green brain matter from her legs. Charley laughs but her stare
cuts him off short. While Smity scoffs, “Dear, I believe that will leave
a stain.” Which sparks renewed laugher but such is the nature of gallows
humor as the companions can only wonder what is happening overhead.

The thoul quickly move in and attempt to surround Freya and Hal, but they
find it too challenging to land a solid blow on either one given the pairs’
skill and armament.

Synkey, Glauron, Cicily and I continue to direct our ranged attacks at the
creatures approaching Lorel and Pete. The thoul too take out their bows and
begin to assault us with a hail of arrows. At first their efforts are directed
primarily at Lorel and Pete, but soon all of us – Hal and Freya included are
under attack as well. The creatures seem unconcerned at their losses and try
as we might we find it difficult to even fully contain the fallen knowing full
well they will rise again.

I am convinced that we are slowly wittling them down, but their sheer numbers
are forcing Lorel and Pete to start a slow controlled retreat to our defensive
line. It was unnerving the first time we saw one of them reach over and pick
up its severed arm and reattach it to his body.

Worse, suddenly at the center of the lair, two doorways spring open revealing
additional foes. From one doorway comes the leader we had parlayed with earlier.
Mounted on his huge beast he positions himself for a charge and orders his
underlings out of his way. Looking first at Hal and then at Silent Pete, he
charges the monk. His lance and Pete’s guisarme meet, but Pete steps to the
side of the charging attacker. The mounted enemy’s lance is deflected by a
field of force that suddenly surrounds Pete; he continues his swipe into one
of the underlings firing upon him as well.

Lorel fixes his aim on to the new enemy, the thoul chief Algol. Algol’s armor
deflects some of the first bolt but a few of Lorel’s bolts of power find
their mark and stagger the villain.

Meanwhile, from another doorway comes a foul looking creature. An orc dressed
in the fur of beasts and with a skullcap made from the skull and antlers of
some poor beast mounted on his head. His hair is also braided in the thoul
fashion though with bits of bone woven into the cords and he carries with him
an aura
of authority and power. His eyes glint with a gleeful intelligence beyond the
norm for an orc. He glances towards Lorel and speaks words of infernal power
as he strides towards Freya. Magical energy suffuses Lorel and his vision begins
to cloud. His blurred vision causes one of his arrows to go wide missing his
target. Making a quick prayer to his own god, Lorel focuses on fighting the
magical energies and his vision clears. Dissatisfied, the orc witch doctor
calls out a threat while raising his hand high so all can see. “You shall
surely Die by my hand!” His fetid breath reminds Freya of the smell
of rotting bodies on a field of battle. The palm of his thick hand begins to
pulse and glow with foul energies as he moves purposely forward towards Freya.
He reaches toward Freya grasping as she hurls her body to the side narrowly
dodging the attack.

Hal sees Freya’s danger and urges his mount to climb the air above his enemies
and beginning a charge to her aid. I am motivated by a new sense of urgency
as I notice that the mass of fallen and quick bodies is causing Lorel and Silent
Pete to be unable to effectively coordinate their attacks on the primary threats;
I
start
casting
an infusion
on a bead that I have. I’ll have to trust to luck as I take some shortcuts
in the casting; normally it takes a long time and much concentration to prepare
an item in this way, but we don’t have that time. It appears that the gods,
Heironeous
or otherwise, are smiling on us though as my luck holds and I feel some of
my life energy flow into the bead I have infused with magic. It glows with
an arcane
spark as I speak a command word. I almost misspeak the word, but it works and
the bead streaks from my hand and explodes in a ball of fire next to the mounted
warrior.

The blast only singes Algol and his mount, but more importantly the explosion
knocks several of the underlings through the air within the midst of the flames
while still others become smoldering lumps of charred flesh. My companions
look at me in surprise as I stagger from the energy required to pull off the
feat; I allow a grim grin to ease their concern.

Following the fireball, Lorel and Silent Pete are able to focus their combined
assault on the mounted Chieftain who quickly succumbs to their duel efforts.

Freya thinks fast, grabbing hold of the witch doctor’s powerful wrist
with both hands and struggles with him to prevent him from touching her with
his curse-charged hand. The orc, however, has incredible strength and while
she is able to hold him at first ultimately he overcomes her effort by shear
force of muscle. She feels something akin to the sudden rush of years – a
yearning to surrender, an horrid tightening and drying of her skin–unable
to prevent him from touching her with the foul energies as he rasps, “Now
you die.”

She screams as she feels her life energies drain away. A skeletal vision fills
her sight, as her body chills and she feels her heart stop. After what seems
like an eternity, she draws in a deep breath. She almost looses her grip, but
just then another blast of eldritch energy comes from Cicily distracting the
witch doctor so that Freya is able to maintain and even tighten her grip on
Volkag of Gruumsh. Realizing
that she could not survive a second necromantic assault, she attempts to prevent
him from speaking. She is again astounded at his mystic and physical strength
as he rallies to keep from being pinned completely. Hal arrives and he and
his horse begin to batter the grappled death shaman. Realizing that he may
not survive much longer, the creature whispers a magical word hoping to return
to his sanctum but the jostling from Freya’s fighting breaks Volkag’s
concentration causing the spell to fail. While the second assault from Hal
and his mount has the witch doctor swooning, blood now to pours from his
accumulated wounds. Freya shifts her grapple from trying to prevent Volkag
from speaking to simply trying to put elbow to neck but her adrenaline rush
too high and she instead she hears a satisfying crack as the foul priest falls
to the ground, dead at her
feet.

As we watch, his skin becomes taut and begins to desiccate and flake. Within
moments his body crumbles inward turning to dust that is in turn taken up by
a sudden gust of a foul wind; blown away just as quickly as he had first appeared.

I see Freya shivering as if her grave had been made and then disturbed.

Their leaders slain, the rest of the thoul retreat fast into the distant rafters.

I hear a couple of the creatures that are arguing with each other. The first
one is missing his hand, “Oy, Thurg, I need some help; give me a hand.”

They both chuckles in hideous rasping fashion as Thurg replies, “Dort,
I’d love to help you, but during the battle was disarmed.” A pained expression
crosses his face as he kicks aside the bodies of his fallen companions apparently
looking for his missing arms.

They both look at me wide-eyed as I approach, “Creatures,
I am RT. What is your designation?

They look at each other in confusion. “Dort, what is a designation?”

Dort replies, “Well, Thurg, I think it is some sort of political entity
that one belongs to. You know like an ‘alien nation’ or ‘feudal republic’.”

Thurg looks at Arty proudly, “We, thoul, are members of the Free Peoples.”

Arty shakes his head, “No, no,
I meant what are you called.

Dort gets a funny look on his face, “Well…that depends on who is doing
the calling, don’t you think. Thurg here calls me Dort and I call him Thurg,
but Thurg’s wife calls him ‘skegelecht’ and she calls me ‘drupled’ which as
you know is not polite language in the presence of ladies. My futuremate, Kelig,
calls me ‘dorcis’ don’t you know.” At which point he smiles a knowing
smile.

I suppose that will do. If I
am to understand your people then what would you be called?

“WE ARE FREE PEOPLES – you lump of stone and iron, is Becubard
now working in stone rather than flesh?”

Ah, I think I understand. And
out of curiosity, do you all regenerate, even from apparent death?

“Yes, but let me tell you Arty, it still hurts.”

Well, then I advise you not
to get in our way as we release our friend and I shall call you the Free
People of Thoul.

“You’ll get no complaints from us.” The two Thoul went back to looking
for their missing body parts. With the creatures defeated for the time being,
we free our captured comrade, Caretaker, and collect the obviously valuable
items left behind after the destruction of Volkag’s body. Not all our
fallen foes are as amicable as Dort and Thurg, so occasionally we need strike
some of them back into unconsciousness while we search the lair to recover
Caretaker’s stolen treasure. I take note that the creatures that I blasted
with the fireball do not seem to be regenerating and relay this information
to my comrades who take out a couple of torches to threaten the cowed thoul
with permanent death.

In the cell with Caretaker is Talon,
the woman last known to be traveling with Jack.