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The Dragonslayers III Pt. 11: Iron-Bones & Pudding

The small chamber that Vorwulf and Magiia found themselves after being sucked through a shadowy archway began to fill rapidly with their companions so they stumbled around from tiny room to tiny room for a little while before Olf used his ESP to try to find the shortest route of escape and it was through his power he realized that the group was trapped in a 4th dimensional room also known as a Tesseract. The only way to get out would be to use a dimensional ability of some type or make their way to the farthest chamber to the “east” where there was a water bucket which was enchanted and would let whoever was touching it to walk out of the archways putting them outside of the anomaly and back within the tower proper.

The first to walk into the aforesaid “bucket room” was Vorwulf and narrowly avoided a Black Pudding that had leapt at him, Magiia was not so lucky emerging with her armor a little acid-pitted. The battle was fairly quick though the four oozes, the Black Puddings, became five when Magiia chopped one in half with her battle-axe as soon as she got into the room. The slayers won the day easily by beating them into sizzling tar with their torches. After that it didn’t take long for the slayers to figure out to link hands and walk through the archway in a daisy-chain, the healer carrying the magic bucket. The war-party wound up in a damp, slimy chamber down a flight of steps next to a barely used fungus choked well. There was no other way out other than moving back through the shadow-hung archway through which they had already presumably passed.

Grom: “I’m not going down that well!”

Vor: “Sh*t.”

They moved back into the Tesseract and Grom cast Clairvoyance for guidance to the path that would lead them to the lich. The shaman suddenly realized that if Vorwulf used his Scimitar of Dimensional Step in the chamber which they had initially entered in a certain archway the ranger could get access to another room “above” that chamber (translating into the third-dimension a fourth-dimensional description) where there was a staircase to the upper levels of the tower. It took a little while for them to figure out how the entire party could step through the dimensional rift created by the sorcerous sword-slice. Hint: it involved the magic bucket.

The party stumbled into a chamber not unlike the rest of the Tesseract though it lacked the black-filled archways on all four walls, it had an archway in the western wall which had a stone step going up and what appeared to be an iron-boned skeleton with six-arms wielding a serrated-blade falchion in each of its six hands. The chamber crammed with the entire party the 3 slayers were front and center noses to nasal cavity, their breaths clouding the polished metal of the gleaming iron-skelly.

Magiia charged the monster pressing it back with her shield pushing it all the way up the winding staircase to the chamber above out of sight of the rest of the slayers. They followed a short time after with Olf the Arborean healer hanging back with the rest of the party. The battle commenced and it took only a short time for the experienced dragon-slayers to chop the strange undead creature down, it falling to pieces. Maggi and Vorwulf were savagely wounded in the fight. Grom had used his last healing touch for the day during the battle so Vorwulf drank down another of his dwindling supply of healing potions. Olf healed some of the Amazon’s wounds stopping, at least, the bleeding. They were in another small chamber dimly fire-lit by a gold brazier with a danse-macabre masterfully beaten into its sides. In the east wall was a locked heavy-oak door near the steps down and an open way into another chamber in west wall diagonal from the oak door. Grom picked up and bagged the iron skull then walked over to investigate the other chamber which was dark.

He could see pale light shining from above past a wood railing forming a balcony of the north wall allowing a view into high ceilinged domed entrance chamber. There was stair going up presumably to the next floor through the archway in the south wall behind him. When the shaman turned from wood rail he was dazzled by a flash of blue light blasting him with a Frost Bite spell. Maggi immediately leapt into the room and shattered the sapphire-eyed black skeleton that had been lurking in the statue niche in the west wall with a single powerful axe-blow. Olf was able to restore the frost and temporary DEX damage that Grom had suffered. The shaman then cast a heal other spell on Magiia. The slayers weighed their options while the rest of the party followed the Blue-Hand up the stairs and waited in thrall for them make a final decision. They decided to go through the nearest door, the heavy oak door and elected the Amazon to kick it down.

The door flew off of its hinges and clattered down a pit just behind the door. They had found the towers oubliette. They decided to take the stairs up. Vor lead the group and was the first to enter the second floor chamber. It was a small nearly non-descript 10 ft.-square room, a cob-web draped iron chandelier hung from the low ceiling, and there were small niches in the west and south walls. There also was an archway which opened into a short L-shaped hallway, he couldn’t see the end of it but assumed a door at the termination, to the north. At the center of the room on the floor sat a bleach-white skull. The severed zombie-head stuffed into the western niche sneered, its maggoty eyes shot open exposing the bile-yellow eyeballs and it began to scream.

The slayers began to suffer damage from the sonic waves of the zombie scream and Vorwulf chopped the severed head in two halves with his astral-drift metal axe. The skull at the center of the floor leapt its jaws snapping at him. The pair of skulls in the southern niche took turns blasting the group with their sonic screams. Magiia was taken aback when her axe bounced from an identical field surrounding the second of the pair. Grom used his sling and shot a bullet striking one of the niche skulls in the forehead, the pebble bounced off of a magic shield that had surrounded the skull dispelling it.

Cris [Vorwulf’s Player]: “Shield spells they should be dispelled now.”

Gil [Grom’s Player]: “My sling isn’t going to do anything?”

Cris: “Naw, the shields are gone now, that’s the thing with shield spells it completely absorbs all the damage then goes away. If its minimal damage it still disappears!”

Vorwulf smashed the chattering skull almost lodging his axe in the floor. Magiia cleaved through the remaining pair reducing them to bone-dust with hers.

Jenn [Magiia’s Player]: “Aw man, I’m at halfway [Magiia’s hit point total]!”

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 10: Hey! You Bypassed My Labyrinth!

Vorwulf gave those behind him the signal to halt while he crept up to the threshold of the main gate where he spied two arrow slits on either side in the walls and a murder hole in the vaulted ceiling above. He though he saw something moving above in the murder hole. He shouted taunts at whatever was there and called it out as a coward but to no avail so he decided to carefully move up his cutlass in his hand. As soon as he got under the murder-hole a large glob of foulness dropped onto him. He was completely enveloped in the oozing horror. The oozing blob was mostly black stripped with yellow stripes of liquefied fat and swimming with clumps of rotted hair and dozens of human teeth. Immediately Magiia rushed forward slashing at the quivering mound of rot with her axe. She sliced through its hideous membrane easily with the power of her attack but half way through her blow was deflected by something hard and metallic underneath. The creature popped like a balloon splashing grey-brown-black sludge everywhere. There stood Vorwulf still holding his cutlass in parry position oily with the monsters filth steaming due to the heat of decomposition.

Magiia (Jenn’s Character): “Sorry.”

The strength of her blow could’ve killed him had he not been able to blindly parry her weapon as it sheared through the necrotic gelatin.

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “I’m gonna be covered in that sh*t this whole time huh?”

The party proceeded through the gatehouse and into the wide courtyard to a surreal scene. There were hordes of skeletons and animated corpses digging, hauling dirt and rocks and burning detritus, stoking the flames of the bonfires. The war-party continued to move cautiously, the dead seemed not notice the transgressors blindly carrying out their orders, fulfilling the purpose for which they were animated. Through the black smoke and glare of yellow flame they could see a large central tower at the current rear of the citadels courtyard next a cliff of dirt and rock at which a group of corpses were blinding working.

The earth-blackened tower was at least 3 stories high with looped crenulations along the top battlement its doors deeply recessed into an outcrop that spanned the height of the tower. The double door was a bronze gate crusted in verdigris but through which the finely crafted decorations on their surface, a skulls and roses motif, could easily be seen. Above the recess opening were gargoyle spouts, stone skulls with their jaws agape; they were spouts for hot-oil. The slayers stopped at the threshold of the door recess and Vorwulf spied the murder-hole which ran long-ways overhead above the double-door. They spent a few minutes trying to make a decision on what to do but nobody wanted to just walk in to try the doors including those in the rest of the train. Eventually Magiia volunteered and had the shaman help her tie her rope around her waist and pulled out her crowbar.

She walked up to the decrepit double-door measuring each step carefully and when she jammed her bar into the door they squeaked open on their own revealing they had been unsecured this entire time. Magiia sighed and laughed a little and then pushed one of the doors open. An audible click sounded and the floor fell open beneath her dropping her into a chute. Olf the Arborean healer acted quickly snatching her with his telekinesis holding her where she fell so she would fall no further. The spring-loaded trapdoors snapped back shut severing Magiia’s rope. Vorwulf went to push and hold open one side of the trapdoor while Grom the shaman tossed her the frayed end of her rope and pulled her to safety while Olf continued to concentrate. When they had her at the edge of the trapdoor she leapt in a single bound to the opposite side. She saw that less than 5 ft. from the doors were wide stone steps which crept down into the darkness but she could see some faint hint of natural light shining somewhere down there. She turned and they tossed her the rope which she held, there had been no place to secure it, so the party could get across the trap. It was then that Vorwulf spotted man-sized bat-like shadows flapping silently up from the depths.

“Lookout!” shouted Vor, he leapt to Magi’s side pulling his cutlass and scimitar in mid-somersault and the shadows were upon them. Immediately dropping her end of the rope Magi turned and spotting the first shadow creature bearing down on her she chopped it in two. The two shadowy fragments evaporating away before the fell to the ground. Grom readied his slingshot but couldn’t spot his any targets in the dimness. Olf backed off as he could see nothing and two of the three remaining beasts struck at Magi with their black talons but missing and the other went for Vorwulf, missing as well. Vor chopped one of the two on him down. Magi attacked the one on her with her axe but it passed through the monsters incorporeal form. Grom was finally able to spot one of the bat-creatures and shot a sling-bullet which bounced harmlessly off of the ceiling. Olf able to key in on one of the monsters telekinetically grappled it dragging it to the floor and holding it. It began to shriek. The fourth beast struck at Vor but missed and he struck it down with a paired weapons attack. Magi finished the creature that Olf had held. After they were sure there no more enemies headed their way Magi picked the rope back up and the rest of the party began to work their way over the trapdoors along the rope.

Vorwulf took out an oil lamp form his gear and lit it. He moved down to the bottom of the steps, about 25 ft., and stood guard to make sure no other late comers would come at them while they were vulnerable. Vorwulf surveyed the chamber. The room had a domed ceiling with an apex at about 20 ft., the interior of the dome was studded with gems as stars, the moon and the planets. In the apex of the dome was a diamond shaped hole which acted as a skylight from the top battlements through which the weak, greyish light of winter seeped causing the gem-stars to sparkle and shining a fuzzy diamond onto the encrusted fountain at the center of the chamber. In each corner was a round porphyric column. To the north was a 10 ft. wide archway opening into darkness and to the south, a man-size archway also opening into a shadow-choked chamber. In an alcove in the east wall stood an 8 ft. tall white marble statue, stained with age, of a wizard with an angelic and youthful countenance, which they took to be a representation of a living Parkannis Blackbrow, holding a large superior quality multi-faceted crystal orb in an outstretched hand.  The wall behind the statue rose only to about 10 ft. high creating a ledge just above the alcove which was also cloaked in darkness. He glanced back, the hallway behind was lit by the torches that Olf had passed out and that each party member now held.
The dragonslayers convened and were deciding which way to go when Grom got distracted by the sparkling of the crystal sphere and decided to take it. It didn’t take him any time to pry it from the statue’s palm with his dagger. He sensed no magic on it. Vor checked the wide north archway and seeing what appeared to be only a mostly empty storeroom. The floor was newly swept and the few crates had modern merchant stamps on them. He decided to lead the group through the south doorway. He tried to put his lamp before him as he began to walk through the man-sized archway but the passage seemed to be clogged with shadow and as soon as his arm passed into it Magiia witnessed him appearing to be sucked through the passage to be engulfed by shadow.

Olf immediately used his ESP to locate Vorwulf and knew he was somewhere on the other side of the archway but couldn’t pinpoint him. Magiia took it upon herself to tie a rope to her javelin and then goes to drop it through the archway by extending her arm through it into the shadows and so she was also sucked through. In an instant she found herself at Vorwulf’s side and they were both standing at the center of a small 15 ft. x 15 ft. plain square room with open archways in each of the four walls the space beyond each also obscured by shadow. They assumed they had entered the room via the north arch so Magi was preparing to toss her shield through it for some reason and as she did so Vor pushed her through. She hopped, or more accurately popped, back into the room where Vor was waiting more than a little irritated. She told him the room beyond was identical to this one.

Cris [Vor’s Player]: “Well, we’re in some sort of stupid dimensional thing.”

Meanwhile, Grom made a rousing speech to convince the rest of the party to follow their “comrades” into the shadows just before he leapt through. Not to be thought a coward each party member followed in turn.

Cris: “NO! What are you doing!? This room’s too small!”

Gil [Grom’s Player]: “Yeah but Grom doesn’t know that.”

Cris threw up his arms and sighed in disgust.

Jenn [Magiia’s Player]: *giggles*

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 9: Before the Unburied Citadel

They were astride the green dragon spirit as it flew above the silver clouds that the shaman had successfully summoned and barely was able to get under his control. The icy winter air hammered at them in unending waves, frost fringed every hair and crusted over their furs and clothes. After a few hours it suddenly plunged into the sea of grey mist below and before even the dragon broke through the fog they could hear the ring of the planishers’ hammers on the anvils as they worked to repair the ironworks of Blackbrow’s castle. Soon they were through the chill moist and blinding white-grey of the clouds and back under the seasonal gloom the fires and furnaces of the workman’s camp blazed red and yellow below to the north-east of the citadel walls. There were hordes of men working there some appeared to be slaves wearing chains and collars but the majority appeared to be freemen working for profit under the lich’s auspices. The citadel was only half unburied from the side of the mountain, gangs of hundreds of skeletons were busily digging and hauling earth within the walled courtyard. Within the walls were ruined halls and buildings which were mostly just piles of wreckage. A few skeleton gangs were burning the detritus in a large bonfire just inside of the walls near the gatehouse. They were approaching from the outside plummeting towards the main gate of the citadel the actual gates of which were missing and presumably being rebuilt/repaired by the hirelings. A deep cutting in the mountainside led from the castle throat to a trail leading down the mountain with a spur forking towards the work camp. Before the gaping opening and at the start of the cutting stood three Hill-Giants armored in dirty, shabby iron full plate capped with great helms only distinguishable by the weapons they bared – the first had a gudendag, the second a billhook with an over-sized blade, and the last bore a great club. The dragon ceased to beat and stretched its wings slowing their rapid descent. Her head suddenly reared up with a perceivable pointy-toothed grin and glared at her passengers. She jerked her head back towards the iron-shod hill-giants at the gate unleashing a mighty roar which echoed from peak to wintry peak of the Central Mountains. Then it disappeared from under the entire war-party dropping them 50 ft. into the snow.

Grom the shaman got his cantrip off and began to fly. Olf the healer grabbed onto him both making it to the ground unharmed. Vorwulf rolled with the impact of the fall and Magiia did a midair flip and landed on her feet, the deep snow cushioning the impact. The 11 Westlander warriors, the 3 Hill-Landers and the bard hit hard thudding into the snow and put of sight. The Blue Hand, his blue cape billowing from his slight shoulders, landed gracefully onto his feet and turned to help the others. The three Hill-Giant gate guards, whom stood as still as statues while the group was in midflight, started to move jerkily but still rapidly due to sheer stature towards the slayers. Grom in response immediately gestured and called down lightning from the clouds onto the head of the lead giant, the one bearing the gudendag. The blue-white bolts of electricity crashed into the armored mass causing a brief spasm. Foul rills of smoke wormed out of the metal joints and eye slits of the antique armor. The monster continued forward unabated. Vorwulf shot an arrow into it, the arrow punching a hole straight through its chestplate, black bile leaked from the puncture in thick gobs. The clanking and hammering of metal that had carried on the frozen air suddenly stopped as the workmen gathered to watch the spectacle.

Gil (Grom’s Player): “The giants are undead!?”

Cris (Vor’s Player): “Of course they are! Zombie Hill-Giants in full-plate [sound of disgust and a gesture in my direction]”

Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “Uhg! They better not keep getting back up after we kill ‘em!”

Magii charged the lead behemoth winding up a power attack with her axe. She missed (Natural 1). The second zombie guard moved up and power-sweep-attacked with its billhook forcing Olf and Grom to dodge backward their full movement. Vorwulf tried to duck. The blow caught Olf and Vorwulf injuring them both badly. The third giant-zombie guard moved charged forward and walloped Vorwulf with its great club nearly killing him. Olf activated the Shield ability on his magic helmet. The first guard swung its massive gudendag nailing Magiia ferociously wounding her. Vorwulf did a quick-draw to pull his heavy great axe and activated his boots of Fleet of Foot. Magi swung again at the gudendag wielding zombie hacking through its rusty plate dropping it unleashing a waft of hideous smelling steam from the gash. The remaining two zombie guards swung at Vorwulf narrowly missing. Grom stepped forward back into battle to use his healing touch on Vorwulf. Vor immediately swung at billhook wielding giant-zombie chopping it down. Magiia hacked into number 3 and Vorwulf finished it off with his follow-up blow. The supernatural speed granted to the range/dragon-slayer by his magic boots allowed him to whack the zombies’ heads from their iron-clad shoulders before they had a chance to stand back up destroying them and ending the battle. A few weak claps and some joyful mumbling came from the gawking workmen whom immediately turned back to their work, the ring of striking metal began anew. The rest of the party had just extricated themselves from the snow; they had taken only a few scratches from the plunge.

Vor swigged down a healing potion after giving the healer another. Grom did what he could to heal Olf the healer and Magiia without spending too much of his magic to do so.

Grom [to Magiia after using his healing touch on her]: “Sorry.”

Magiia: “No, save your spells we’ll need more of this. I’m still pretty hurt.”

Vorwulf: “Same here, I’m f***in’ hurt.”

The party got back into formation with the ranger in the lead, Magiia behind him, with Grom and Olf following her and the Blue Hand and Canohk the bard abreast, the Hill-Landers and then the 11 Westlander tribals taking up the rear. They moved cautiously into the cutting, every step deliberate, towards the wide open maw of the disinterred fortress.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 8: Dirty Black Winter

There they stood at the edge of the Hornwood the Blackwings (Grom the shaman, Vorwulf the ranger/dragon-slayer, and Magiia the dragon-warrior Ferenoi), Olf the Arborean healer, Canohk the faunic bard, and the remaining 5 Achaánal clan warriors of the Hill-Lands. Vorwulf forged ahead as they moved into the treeline. He picked up what he believed to be a scout trail moving due east. After several hours he spotted more greyish streaks lazily intersecting the trail occasionally moving in the same direction. The grey streaks in the snow were stains left from a cheap black paint which bled or was scraped off by the ice. It was easier going, the snow being much thinner on the ground as they moved deeper into the woods, but the light grew scarce dimming to a level of a moonlit night due to the snow-choked canopy above.

Well into late afternoon Vorwulf led the party on their mission to find the Blue-Hand and his camp of rebels, more to the point the magic sword that he was bearing, that dubbed the Anvil. Suddenly he brought the group to a dead stop. He had sighted someone up ahead in the dimness. It was a human male a war-belt girding his hips and belly and black bear hide with an open chest. He had bronze bracers on his arms, a steel skullcap on his head and a dirty wolfskin mantle on his shoulders, the black paint on the bracers wearing off in streaks. He sighted the Blackwings’ party almost as soon as Vorwulf saw him and a gush of steam obscured his grizzled face as he roared and charged towards them brandishing a bearded axe in each hand.

As the berserker charged Vorwulf the tattoo on his bare chest came into view, it was a pair of crossed black battle axes wreathed in red flames. Magiia and Grom could feel a rumble traveling through the ground as if something rather large and heavy was hurtling towards them. A thug leapt out of nowhere at Magiia swinging at her with his battle axe, she countered with her own axe which bounced off of his black streaked shield. Grom cast Mass Bull’s Strength increasing his allies’ ability. A blast of electricity shot from behind a clump of frosted bushes zapping Olf. The Blackwings could see it came from a medium-sized ratling warlock draped in black with a bronze mask on his face. The bard, who sang as he swung his curved long sword, and the rest of the warriors were already engaged at the rear with a larger group of the thuggish Black-Soldiery.

Cris (Vor’s player): “It’s one of those Poisonwood ratlings.”

The berserk made it to Vorwulf and swung with a paired weapons attack with his bearded axes. Vor easily deflected the first blow with his bowie knife and clinched on the second with his cutlass. Another human charged in from the forest-shadow swinging a great sword with a flame design engraved on the blade at Vor’s head. He missed. Grom took a sword blade to the guts in a sneak attack made by a faun wounding him severely.

Gil (Grom’s player): “Damn! He took half of my H-Pee in one hit!”

Olf activated the shield ability on his bronze open helm and used his healing touch on the shaman. The ground shook perceptively as the sound of splintering tree branches filled their ears and snow fell in great drifts from the canopy above as a Hill-Giant wielding a massive bearded axe crashed into the battle and swung a mighty blow into the healer, fortunately all it did was to dispel the magical field that surrounded him. Another thug in a black chest-plate brandishing a battle axe and a black round shield came into view.

Gil: “Damn! I cast Mass Animal Form!”

Instantly all their enemies with a flash of light and a slight pop disappeared and in their places were black rats which immediately scuttled away, the Hill-Giant was transformed into a rat the size of a cat but still he scuttled away with the rest. They turned to the rear the remainder of the party had been successful as well though 2 more of the Achaánal had fallen. The Blackwings found that each of the enemy warriors had a potion of warmth among their equipment, which had fallen into piles where they had stood. They also managed to loot a magic great axe from the faun, a magic great sword from one of the humans, a set of magic black robes and a pair of ruby studded bracers from the ratling warlock.

Cris: “Blackbrow’s hunting for the Blue-Hand too. We gotta move faster.”

The Hill-landers insisted on burying their comrades and thus the party was delayed an hour as all took a hand in digging into the frozen earth beneath the snow. It was evening by the time they again to move shortly after they set camp. They all crawled into their bedrolls after the shaman cast Protection from Elements (cold) on them and watches had been assigned. On first watch the entire party was abruptly woke up by a horn blast form Vor’s hunting horn. He had spotted the Brown Spine trying to dig through the canopy snow above the camp but the horn blast apparently had scared it off. It was third watch by the time everything calmed back down and Magiia and the bard were left on the lookout. It wasn’t long before there were knives at their throats and a, “shhhhh” hissed into their ears.

The entire party soon found themselves stripped of their weapons and tied up prisoners of a large group of Westlander tribals with tattoos over their faces. The bard tried to talk but choked as he was just too panicked. Grom on the other hand managed to charm them and convince the savages that they were seeking the Blue-Hand because they had a sure fire way to defeat the Lich of Blackbrow and that they didn’t mind being taken as prisoners to their encampment. So they were dragged through the snow along hidden paths many devoid of snow at a very quick pace. Each of the tribal warriors was wearing a steel skullcap, a suit of scalemail armor, a dark green though frost encrusted woolen cloak, buckskins and fur-wrapped feet. Each was bearing a wood round shield painted with a single blue hand and wielding a battle axe with a pair of tomahawks slipped under their thick leather belts. Exhausted, they reached their goal by next evening.

They had been taken to a large clearing in the trees. The forest had been chopped down around a large pond and they could see several tents and log cabins about the shore of the ice-over water. The outside perimeter by the tree-line was populated by the jutting stumps of the felled trees with a log fence on the inside perimeter of the stumps around the camp and a defensive ditch beyond that crossed by a narrow split-log bridge. The party was stopped at the split-log crossing and Grom was led by two of the Westlanders as the representative of the Blackwings straight to their leader, the Blue-Hand. The rebel leader was very young in appearance, basically a teenager, wearing a grey wool tunic and wrapped in a fine blue cloak. The Anvil was at his side. It wasn’t long before the shaman, ever the agile diplomat, had the Blackwings inside of the Blue-Hand’s pavilion pouring over his maps.

They found that the Blue-Hand had been “blessed” by the druid of Cleft-Rills, Siamnecca, and thus had gained the loyalty of the Westlander tribals of Veringer’s Field and Eagle’s Grove which comprised the main body of his forces. They although loyal to the Druidic Council of the Cleft-Rills are mostly on-board with the Blue-Hand for the loot when the fighting finally breaks out. The Blue-Hand had planned to send out small scouting and foraging parties through the winter and come spring move on Hornstone which was not too far north of the Hornwood, pushing out the “foreign” forces of Blackbrow. His plan relied on securing the Old High Road and the thicket above Loc Lake at first melt. He was sure the farmers which remained in the North Spur were on his side. It didn’t take much for the adventurers to convince him otherwise especially when the bard finally was able to deliver his message sent directly from the Druidic Council (about the Black Moon eclipsing the sun). The next day, day 9, the shaman gets an idea.

Gil: “I want to summon the most powerful spirit I can that knows the land the best.”

The Blackwings, the bard, the healer and the Blue-Hand were all in the Blue-Hand’s pavilion while the shaman used a bronze brazier to carry out the summoning. It took about an hour then after a sudden unnatural stillness overtook the whole scene and all the rills of smudge-smoke seemed to freeze in mid-air, the brazier erupted with a gout of emerald flame and the smoke about the tent became dense and green almost opaque. The image of the head of a green dragon with glowing red eyes floated in the smoke above the receding flames of the brazier. The shaman sweating and straining against an invisible enemy suffered an elongated battle of wills with the spirit finally seizing control of the powerful dragon spirit, barely. He was able to get its name though it spake it in draconic, the closest he was able to get was Adcahali. The pronunciation was deeper, more guttural and penetrated with a serpent-hiss which the human vocal anatomy is simply not capable of.

Grom: “I command you to tell us the best and fastest way to get to the fortress, Blackbrow.”

The dragon volunteered to fly up to 20 of them to the citadel on its back. With that the smoke slithered out of the tent and out into the snow where it congealed into the semi-solid ectoplasmic form of an adult green dragon. The Blackwings, Canohk the bard, Olf the healer, the Blue-Hand, the 3 remaining Hill-Landers and 11 of the Westlander warriors geared up and mounted the back of the strangely spongy and clammy dragon. Soon icy, winter air was blasting at their faces as the dragon flew up above the clouds out of the winter gloom into the bright winter sun where it shone with a vibrant green glimmer and semi-transparent like sea-green glass. Shortly they would be standing before the walls of fortress Blackbrow.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 7: On the Wings of a Shaman

Dawn. Vorwulf was able to find a narrow crag in the cliff of Nizgal’s End which allowed for the party to climb down into the box canyon and they reached its mouth by late afternoon. Vorwulf and Magiia spotted something sticking out of the snow ahead as they trudged on. It was a broken shield painted with green and white quarters the charge a black ram’s head with spiral horns. It was the shield of the Achaánal that had been snatched by the Brown-Spine dragon a few days before. Vorwulf looked back into the canyon to try to spot any caves or ledges that would allow for a lair a creature of the size of the Brown-Spine could occupy. He didn’t see any. The ranger/dragon-slayer surveyed the landscape to the south-east to where the canyon mouth gaped as dusk began to redden the sky. They set up camp and Grom, the shaman, cast Impervious to Elements (cold) before the party settled into their bedrolls to rest for the night.

A scream ripped through the camp waking the slayers. When they leapt to their feet they saw one of the Hill-Landers stumbling away into the pitch black night simultaneously laughing and crying his fellow locked in combat with a bizarre looking monster. It appeared as an emaciated corpse floating just above the snow lacking feet; a pair of splintered antlers jutting from both sides of its hideous skull. The rest of the warriors panicked and cowered behind the Blackwings as they met the undead thing in combat. Grom was the quickest to action but his attempt to banish it as a spirit failed revealing the creature to be an undead thing rather than a spirit. Magi charged the creature and power-attacked with her axe chopping it into halves with a single mighty stroke. The corpse that crashed to the snow resembled the monster she had felled only in that it was a shriveled husk of freeze dried flesh and brittle bone.

Olf concerned with the fighter that stumbled off into the dark used his ESP to locate the man. Grom followed after. The pair found him not far off but still well out of sight of the campsite. He was on his knees stuffing his mouth with snow and gibbering madly to himself, tears frozen on his cheeks.

Gil (Grom’s player) [to the other players]: “Should I try to Dispel Fear on him? Would that do it?”

Cris (Vorwulf’s player): “I dunno if that’s gonna work.” He thought for a second, “Naw. There’s somethin’ else wrong with the guy.”

Grom cast Mystic Diagnosis on the maddened warrior and found he had been afflicted with insanity by way of a curse. So he simply cast Dispel Curse instantly curing the wretch. They led the cured and shivering Hill-Lander back to camp and because the monster had invaded camp on the second watch as soon as everyone had calmed down the group tried to catch what little rest they could before sunup. Vorwulf and another Hill-Lander warrior took the third watch while the others slept. The sun rose on the sixth frigid day of travel.

Jenn (Magiia’s player): “Aw man! We’re not gonna make it!”

Cris: “We’re not going fast ‘cause of the snow. We’re up to our waists in it. Sh*t.”

Jenn [to me, the GM]: “You know, I’ve been reading this book and this guy was trapped in a jail cell in a dungeon. And the other guy with him, all the other people [NPCs] didn’t know that they were in the game but he did. Because he was a player. So he knew there had to be a way out because the Game Master wouldn’t put ‘em in a place with no escape. So y’know. The GM’s got to have a plan. If we fail…”

Cris (Vorwulf’s player)[sarcastically]: “Yeah, Only the worlds gonna end..”

Jenn [shrugging]: “If the players fail the GM fails. The guy said it.”

Before the party started to get on the move Vorwulf used his land navigation to try to figure out how much farther they had to travel. Due to his excellent skill and familiarity with the Cleft-Rills region he surmised that it would take them about 3 and half more days till they reached the edge of the Hornwood. The group set about on their way eastward with Vorwulf in the lead and the rest of the Blackwings at the vanguard with Canohk the bard and Olf the healer following. The Achaánal clan warriors were taking up the rear. Just before noon the sun vanished from the sky hid behind black clouds. An icy wind and a peal of thunder heralded a sudden blizzard which blasted down onto the heads of the adventurers. Not wanting to let the storm bog them down the Blackwings gathered around the shaman trying to give him cover as he worked his magic. Despite the cacophony of slashing winds and snow he was able to complete the ritual of Calm Storm II after an hour it was completed and the air fell still almost immediately.

The slayers looked about them and saw the grey-white walls of the storm with an appearance of wet clay swirling about them at a distance of about 7 miles or so causing everything to be washed out by the sun which peeked out from behind the silvery clouds directly above them. It was at this time that they also noticed the absence of the bard and the 6 Hill-Lander fighters. They dusted off the snow and ice that crusted their cloaks and went to find their missing charges with Olf leading using his ESP to locate the missing 7. A few hours into following the Arborean, Grom stopped suddenly and yelled, he had gone snow blind. Fortunately Olf was able to restore his vision using his Bio-Manipulation psionic ability. They treaded on.

It was evening and already pitch-black by the time they caught up with the missing party members halfway down the slope of a southerly hill. All of them were shivering, blue-lipped and suffering from exposure. The healer and the shaman spent a few minutes restoring their health and healing the damage they had suffered from the time they spent in the blizzard. They turned northward and surmounted the hill digging in immediately. The shaman cast Impervious to Elements (Cold) over the party. It was inevitable that the blizzard held temporarily back by Grom’s spell would move back in and swallow them in a hell of ice and winds. The night was uneventful while they laid in their snow-cave those on watch listening to the storm as it howled back over them on first watch and roared until the end of the third.

Come the morning of the seventh day the spent much of the morning digging out from under several feet of fresh powder, soon after emerging Grom had a sudden idea. He cast Channel Animal Ability (flight) on all of the party members pretty much using up all of the magic that he could channel for the day (i.e. spells per day).

Cris: “Aw man! It’s like when this guy said ‘look I forgot I had this’ and used that rod of Quicksand!” (see The Dragonslayers III Pt. 3: Zombie Dragons Doom)

Gil: “Well, it only lasts for 7 minutes.”

The players did the math. They would be traveling at a speed of 100 ft. per melee round which came to a rate of 20 miles per hour. They calculated the travel distance for the 7 minutes which was approximately 2.3 miles and if they were able to fly at a x4 maximum movement rate (I ruled they could) using up all of their attacks per melee round each to increase their speed putting them easily at the edge of the Hornwood before the spell expired saving them a couple of days of tramping through the snow. They had decided to hazard the flight despite the presence of the Brown Spine Dragon which had seemingly been hounding them and the potential for it to “swoop in on them”. They would be helpless not only because a dragon simply outclasses any other flying creature in the air but the spell would transform their arms into wings disallowing for hand-held weapons. The cost paid for taking that chance wasn’t evident until it had already been paid. The dragon was trailing them and while they were in midflight had flew up stealthily behind them and swooped in snatching the last man and was nearly out of sight before the shaman had spotted it disappearing over the rapidly approaching trees of the Hornwood. The head count after landing confirmed that they were a man down, another Achaánal was gone. Vorwulf was busy contemplating the grey streaks and trails in the snow he had seen from above seemingly pointing to the Hornwood hinting that a number of something was headed in the same direction.

 

To Be Continued…