Thursday, April 7, 2011, 1:36 PM
Where Fellbane explores the Hunting Lands…
With Galeal in the fore, you and your Companions began the journey through the Hunting Lands to Carantharas, amazed by the primeval nature of the massive forest around you. Suffused with gloom and shadows, and draped in mist, the massive, preternaturally silent wood seemed to extend forever.
The first day of travel ended uneventfully, however, and other than having your rest interrupted by the passage of some great creature through the canopy overhead (marked by a shower of phosphorescent leaves), your night was without incident as well.
The next day you continued your journey near the shoreline, occasionally catching glimpses of bright blue water in the distance. Yet, the forest itself grew darker and colder, as you moved through a region Galeal called the Frostcurve. And, true to its name, you soon caught sight of snow drifted beneath the trees, and thick flakes beginning to turn down from the sky.
As dusk approached, you saw huts and camp fires ahead, and a large wooden ship with furled sails beached in the snow-tinged sand. You also saw great hides (some furred; others scaled, and none that you could identify) stretched and drying on wooden poles. Soon, a figure resolved itself out of the mist, a tattooed and fur-wearing Elf, who hailed you to approach.
The Elvish Ruesti, named Kothas, stated that he and others were hunting some of the cold-resistant aberrations that lurked in the Frostcurve, all to gain the favor and honor of their deity, and that you and your Companions were welcome to join them. You entered the camps, and although the Druid Kazaa noted unusual prints in the snow and mud beneath Fellbane, he did not have the opportunity to mention it to you or your Companions. Azrael, taking the lead, freely explained to Kothas that you were travelling to Carceri, on behalf of Corellon, and that the Elvish deity favored your efforts to sneak into Carceri and rescue a person lost there. Kothas seemed interested in this, and when pressed further, your Shadrim companion (for reasons known only to him), made a point of singling out Sered as the real emissary and favored of Corellon.
Kothas then observed that although he and his companions had been hunting aberrations to gain the favor their deity, no greater favor could come than from killing an individual noticed by Corellon…and with that, Kothas dropped his guise and revealed himself as a great Oni! – an adherent of the One-Eye god, Gruumsh (and one of Corellon’s greatest enemies in the pantheon of the gods). The huts around you erupted as well, and the camp was soon filled with Orcs and three massive Trolls, all Battlesworn adherents and Exalted of Gruumsh, who had come to the Hunting Lands (as Exalted of some other deities do) to prove their mettle.
Having been pointed out by Sered, the Avenger was the first under assault, and soon found himself savaged by the combined attacks of the creatures. The Orcs charged some of your Companions, and then began to work the perimeter of the battlefield, tossing axes into the fray with deadly accuracy. The most massive of the three Trolls swept through the party like an avalanche, leaving you and your Companions shaken and weakened in its wake. And with the ability to teleport around the clearing (in a massive clap of Thunder), the Oni kept everyone disoriented and off-balance.
And with Fellbane unable to consistently bring fire or acid to bear against the Trolls, the damage you could inflict quickly began to heal.
Even with Azrael’s ability to move about, the Shadrim quickly found himself harried. Gravely wounded, he crawled into a hut, seeking shelter. One of the massive Trolls knelt down, peered inside, and taking aim on where the Warlock lay, brought a huge flail made out of the bones and armor of vanquished foes down on the hut’s roof…crushing Azrael and leaving him unconscious and dying.
After the initial salvo, Sered barely clung to consciousness, looking for an opportunity to engage, as Kazaa took repeated thrashings at the end of another Troll’s flail. The mobility of the Oni and length of the Trolls gave Karac fits, as the Dwur could find few opportunities to pin the creatures beneath his weapons.
In short order, things looked dire, with a couple of your Companions unconscious, and nearly everyone bloodied. Galeal fought bravely was well, while still protecting the Runic Cube, but the Ruesti also was seriously wounded. As darkness started to settle over the woods, it seemed that a similar darkness would engulf Fellbane.
Yet, slowly but surely, you and your Companions rallied, regrouped, and began to focus your energies on one creature at a time. The Orcs, although savage, were no match for your combined attacks, and as you brought fire to bear against the Trolls, their vaunted ability to regenerate could not protect them. The Oni was the first slain, and Sered was able to a chop one of the legs off of one of the Trolls, leaving the beast crippled (but still dangerous). A massive arcane display left another Troll helpless just long enough to rain more savagery down on it, and as the minutes ticked away, the battle began to turn.
The largest Troll – an eerie doppelganger for one of Fellbane’s foes, Veyd – retreated into the depths of the woods, leaving the rest of Grummsh’s Battlesworn to their fates.
In the end, the battle was won, and as the bodies of the Exalted dissipated into luminescent ether, you searched the camp and took control of the vessel, which despite its simple and barbaric stylings, proved to be another Astral craft. Unwilling to leave such a great prize behind, you and your Companions decided to sail it back to Faeyen Verdaya, and then “restart” your journey to Carantharas afterwards.
Thus it was the next day that you found yourself drifting beneath sails of fur, each emblazoned with a huge bloody eye of Gruumsh…!
Saturday, April 2, 2011, 11:40 AM
Where Fellbane is offered a deal…
I find it interesting that you think this all about Man’s Free Will…Free Will which he seems to think he has so little of, and not more about his Pride, which he seems to have in abundance…
Callax, Adeptus Magistrix, the Ruby Court
The Waves of Grass dropped out of its color strand within sight of the great star above the isle of Starhollow, but also into chaos, as flaming wreckage from an ongoing Astral battle spun around your ship! Great monoliths carved with Words of Power, the very language of the Gods, comprised a horrific God Weapon (Deity Weapon), protected by Astral Warwings – battle constructs from the Dawn War. Trapped among the monoliths was an Efreet Cinderlord (named Kaza’el), and it was the remains of his ship that buffeted the Waves of Grass. The injured Elemental Lord called out for your assistance, even as the Warwings pummeled him.
And although you and your Companions had extended aid numerous times throughout your career – even to some characters other might consider “less savory” – you opted to stand aside in this ancient grudge between the Gods and the Primordials. Even as Kaza’el flew onto your deck, Sered and Karac kept him from completely seeking refuge on your ship. And although Azrael tried to talk the rest of you and your Companions into helping the Elemental, he still tried to injure and subdue the flaming creature for his own designs. In the end, the Warwings killed the Efreet, and as he lay dying, he burnt an Efreeti curse into the deck of the Waves…and as you sailed on toward Arvandor, after kicking the lifeless body into the Astral void, you thought you observed a second flaming ship appear on the misty sea…
Nevertheless, you passed on through Arvandor’s color veil, and the sky parted in waves of forest green and lapis lazuli, as the mist roiling around the bow of your ship coiled and coalescing - the ethereal strands granulating with bubbles and the astral miasma turning to cool foam. Where once the Waves of Grass sailed over starlight, it then plowed through cerulean water flecked with cream, as the city of Faeyen Verdaya spread out and around you; bisected by canals and crossed over by marble arches latticed with green moss. The sky was carved azure, nearly too bright to look at, hinting at the distant reflections of stars and a heavy moon; like bards waiting offstage for their cue to make a grand entrance. As in the Feywild, two great suns held court, one a deeper bronze than the other, and their mixed shine suffused all of Aravandor with a golden, eggshell glow. To the west of Faeyen Verdaya, a huge dark forest broke like northern ocean waves, trees several hundreds of feet tall capped by green, spiked crowns circled by white birds. The city itself sprawled in an organic, nautilus circle from the water’s edge – a dazzling mixture of sculpted wood, marble, and canvas stitched from bird’s plumage. Terraces and crennelated towers gave way to wooded alcoves, basins and fountains; deep pools of water cupped by stones and shells and secret glades of grass, arched tree branches, and crystal spires. Every window was an open arch, shielded only by curtains dyed in pastels that whipped freely in a breeze both beach warm and cave cool, and creatures other than birds spun their way past these ledges and openings, cycling higher between towers made of glass and colored wires; strung with natural vines and blossoms seeking out light. On the water around you float other great vessels – floating minarets and bobs; a hundred brightly colored flowers tossed on a pool, and across the waves comes music, the sound of bells and strings from the canals of Faeyan Verdaya, where the sea itself carves arteries through heart of the great city.
This was Faeyan Verdaya, the capital of Aravandor, where the chosen dead of the Fey gods have gone to serve their eternities to their patrons and the Great Hunt…
At Shalvar’s direction you docked the ship in a shaded cove, to find a Ruesti, one of the Exalted, waiting for you…Galeal, the Eladrin warrior you had met over a year ago in Aerovon (the Northern Vastwood in the Feywild). Galeal and his warriors had found you on the beach, and helped you hire Shalvar. With a rueful smile, Galeal admitted that he had met his end in one of his hunts in the Vastwood (hunts designed to emulate the very Great Hunt in Arvandor), but that he was at peace here in Arvandor. He invited you into his dwelling, and gave you rest and refuge.
Galeal told you that he had been tasked to lead you and your Companions to Carantharas, an Exalted city that had long been lost to the Abominations from Carceri. Galeal showed you a carved ritual cube, which he said held seasonal moonlight. This moonlight and the cube itself would be the components of a ritual - Bringing down the Moon, which could be used to open a slim portal to Carceri. How long it would remain open, and what could be found on the other side, he could not say. But he had plotted a journey through the Hunting Lands to Carantharas, and upon the morn he planned to depart. The rest of the day and evening, however, were for you and your Companions to purchase ritual components for your other rituals, and tend and mend your weapons and armor. Galeal’s servants later brought news that Efreets were patrolling Faeyen Verdaya’s docks, looking for your vessel, and you and your Companions decided to stay within the safety of Galeal’s compound.
However, you feared your safety, as well as your rest, were in jeopardy when Galeal’s servants woke you before dawn, with rain pounding on the canvas walls of his home. In the great room were only hours before you had enjoyed a relaxing feast, you found the Shadrim/Devil hybrid Callax (last seen in Vor Kragal) waiting (with two servants). Under the Dominion rules he could not harm you, but he was not forbidden from being in Arvandor and speaking with you.
Callax brought with him gifts, 5 daggers and a whip, made from the hand and tail of Sariel, the War Devil you defeated on the Astral Sea. And with these gifts, Callax claimed it was time to put an end to the hostilities between Asmodeus and Fellbane.
For the next hour, tensions ran high, as Callax’s oily words tempted Fellbane to abandon its search for Bow and join with Asmodeus. He offered treasure and power; and appealed to Azrael in particular, telling your Shadrim companion that a special seat awaited him in the Lord of the Ruby Rod’s court. And yet, you and your Companions held firm, believing that the Devil’s offer merely reflected how concerned he was about the possibility of success – and the ability of the Bannerlands to shake off Infernal influence once and for all.
Frustrated but nonplussed, Callax offered only two departing promises: one, that Al’Veydra would be destroyed, and two, that Azrael was doomed for his betrayal of Asmodeus. And with that, the Devil left in the rain.
Only a couple of hours later, before departing for Arvandor, Karac went down to Faeyen Verdaya’s docks and met with Callax on the board the 7DS, trying to personally negotiate Al’Veydra’s safety. His efforts were cooly rebuffed, as Callax sipped wine from Azrael’s distillery, while sitting beneath the Medusa head that had given Azrael’s business its name. Flanked by two haughty Efreeti, it was clear that he had pointed them toward Fellbane for failing to help their patron on the Astral Sea.
Smiling through bloodied fangs, as Karac departed the 7DS (bearing perhaps the last bottle of spirits ever to be produced by Death’s Head Distillery), Callax wondered aloud how Al’Veydra would look, painted in flame…
Saturday, March 26, 2011, 8:34 AM
Where Fellbane sails the perilous Astral Sea…
…you sailed for some time, before passing near a bolus of blackened mist, roiling and heaving. And then something appeared out of the blackened cancer, a bladed vessel of mithral, onyx, and bone – lit by the red light of a massive, spinning gyroscope in its hull – a soul engine to fuel the ship’s travel. Across the bloodied and carpeted decks lesser devils cavorted, putting to the tine the broken beings that must fuel the monstrous soul wheel that drove it forward. Its great masts were trimmed with sails stitched from human vice; a horror show of flickering, illuminated images between spars formed from ruby encrusted iron and black wood. The massive thorn-like stabilizers projecting from the hull were serrated edges of hell-forged adamantium trailing the red sparks and embers of discarded souls, and you and your Companions could see laughing imps hanging by clawed hands from the spines and pikes. And as the great vessel heaved into position, its underside was barnacled with black and purple carapaces slicked with oil and blood. The ship sailed on the sound of a devilish choir, a million lost souls screaming in defiance as they were pushed into the soul wheel or the imp and sin cannons that were being loosened on her decks, and the air was ripe with the odor of fear, death, pestilence, and sulfur…
This was the Seven Deadly Sins (7DS), one of Hell’s Dominion ships, and she was churning through the Astral Sea toward you…clearly your plans had escaped neither the Lord of the Ruby Rod, nor the Morvreyans who served Him…
Battle was joined quickly, as huge Glasyan Wasp Devils released themselves from underneath the 7DS; swooping over the deck of your vessel and using their giant serrated talons to pull you and your Companions into the Astral ether. The Sin cannons on the 7DS fired in rotation, subjecting Fellbane to Envy (Karac and Azrael switched weapons/implements), Wrath (Deimos and Kazaa attacked your Companions), and Gluttony (at one point Sered lay on the deck a corpulent mass, as his body swelled with invisible food), while the Captain of the 7DS – the War Devil Sariel who you had encountered once already at the Bone Gate in near Bael Turath – goaded his minions into battle. You saw that he was joined by a Deva Fallen Star – Tarsis-el – who seemed to have some history with Sered. As your attacks ripped into the Wasp Devils, their bloated forms released smaller devils – Colony Wasps – which harried you over the decks. And before anyone could react, Morin had been carried by one of the largest Wasp Devils back to the deck of the 7DS, where he was subjected to a powerful, but ill-timed arcane attack by Azrael, who was trying to extricate himself from the 7DS. Yet, Fellbane was shocked when Morin suddenly fell dead on the 7DS – your friend and healer, the daughty Dwur who had seemed to survive every battle with nary a scratch, was reduced to nothing but bloody fodder for the soul wheel powering the Dominion ship!
With your Companion dead (and receiving audience in Celestia), you and your Companions furiously rallied. Kazaa was able to polymorph Sariel into a squirrel, but not before the crafty Devil had injured Captain Shalvar to the point that he had to abandon your ship’s Astral helm. With the Waves of Grass drifting, and most of Fellbane trapped on the 7DS – the Devils’ strategy was clear. Return the 7DS to Hell with Fellbane trapped on board, and commandeer the Waves of Grass as plunder!
Although Sariel was able to shake off the effects of the Druid’s polymorph, the Infernal was less able to shrug off the lingering daze of its casting. Hindered, Sariel fled to the 7DS, where he was soon joined by Tarsis-el, who had come under furious fire from Deimos and Azrael. Karac worked his to your ship’s Helm, and battered back the Devil Wasps there in order to get Shalvar healed and back in command of his vessel.
And, surprisingly, even as Morin’s petition in Celestia was answered (at some cost to the Cleric), he found himself alive on the 7DS, to discover body lay in the hands of two Ship Devils who were trying to toss him into the Soul Wheel! With the help of you and your Companions, you were able to extricate Morin, and making quick use of a primal tree sprouted by Kazaa on the deck of the 7DS (a tree furiously being hacked at by a legion of imps), he was able to teleport across the widening space between the two vessels!
And then the 7DS was gone, having slipped away on a ruby and rust-tinted color strand, back to the Hells from which it came…
The Waves of Grass limped along, roiling out of its own color strand only a day or so from the Astral realm of Arvandor, within sight of the great star above the isle of Starhome, but also into new chaos, as flaming wreckage from an ongoing Astral battle spun lazily around your ship…
Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 6:33 PM
Where Fellbane returns home and begins the end…
For the second time in over 250 years, the city of Banner is under siege…
Circling over the broken towers, spires, and minarets are three Morvreyan airships; crusted globes of brass and black, illuminated by their own green and purple ghost lights, with the winged forms of Glasya’s devils shuttling between them. The bellies of the ships open up, pitted and stained metal doors rolling back like eyelids, to expel great gouts of a viscous, glowing gas, which lazily roils out of the darkening sky – tenebrous and wormlike - into the streets and open windows below. The bubbled gas clings to everything, writhing and squirming and hissing, boiling and exploding skin and bone as the screams of the infected rise upward. While somewhere inside one of the great ships Redleve Summoner himself, Asmodeus ‘s chosen Master of Morvrey and Glasya’s thrall, points a finger at a curled map, waiting to claim the very prize he ruins below…
From the south, past Banner’s already mottled and punctured walls, marches a legion of rot; a thousand or more of Tarsis’ undead scuttling beneath flags made of flayed and parched human skin. Even the animals of Tarsis, the dogs, cats, and rats, are walking dead, and spectral huntsmen drive them forward with whips while blowing dirges through horns of bone and sinew. In their vanguard lurches a retinue of Grezel’s demonkin, hulking and crazed, leaving flaming tracks in the earth after each step. In their bloodlust they occasionally reach out with a clawed hand and break apart one of Korfyr’s ghouls, leaving the macabre pieces to spin and dance in the foul air. While somewhere in the midst of the dead Korfyr himself, Orcus’ newest Exarch and Grezel’s weapon of ruin, turns a marbled, dead eye toward the city’s still beating heart…
Out on Cairn Lake, the cold dark water that so long again failed to protect Banner’s eastern approach from the ravages of the Morrigu, ominously floats Horn Prince Kaenig’s forces; in Arkhosian and Yuan Ti vessels of snake skin and poisoned, black wood – that had sailed through an aqueous portal only an hour before. They’re manned by his army, the scattered Shadrim of the Middle March and the Nentir Vale that flocked to his banner, as well as the progeny of the Carin Jale lost at the battle of Rheam he found living in Nazrilis Syth. Interbred Arkhosians and Shadrim, some of these winged myrmidons circle the armada; while even higher in the sky lurk Arkhosian war wyrms and drakelings. One of these war wyrms breaks rank and pinwheels from the clouds, blowing over the tops of the city’s docks like torn parchment; leaving in its wake a belch of black foam – an acid rain – that pits and holes Banner’s vessels as they list and begin to steam and then sink in the oil-slicked water. While somewhere among his poisoned Yuan Ti vessels Kaenig himself, the resurrected last scion of House Barikdral and Asmodeus’ fool, listens to his devlish war advisors, unaware that their whispered words will all but guarantee his defeat…
And in the city’s heart sits the army of the Bannerlands, just men and women and children, wearing arms and armor cobbled together from all the iron, copper, and steel melted down in the city; plates and tankards and spoons that had once been in inns and taverns; nails that had held carts together, and the plows from the farmer’s outlying fields. They turn their frightened eyes skyward, even as they tie their faces with torn curtains and blankets to futilely protect them from the Morvreyan gas above. While somewhere in the ruins of Banner’s once great castle Hesrith Andelyn himself, the self-styled Grand King and the twice-betrayed: first by Orcus and Grezel, who drove him to take the Bannerlands’ vacant throne, and then by Asmodeus and Glasya, who will ensure that he loses it, unsheathes the sword Blackweir and watches ebon flame curl along its length…
Although Orcus and Grezel set the game, it is the Lord of the Ruby Rod and Glasya who have moved the final pieces; maneuvering Hesrith and Kaenig into this battle in order to destroy them both, leaving Banner a smoking ruin yet again, with only Asmodeus’ true chosen – the Morvreyans – to pick up the pieces this time…
Unless you and your Companions succeed; here, and now, with the plans you hatched months ago beneath the trees in the TrollHaunt Weld…
You stare into the purpling sky - you see great airships and fluttering wyrms and drakes; from the plains blows the odor of rot and decay, and on the lake’s waters ships roil and heave, catapults just releasing orbs that sail over the walls trailing impossible long tails of scarlet sparks…sparks that for a brief moment illuminate three small banners fluttering bravely over the huddled heads of Nerath’s last army…
…a horn sounds and you smile and rush forward as blood flows in, above, and below the city…
But 6 months prior to the above events, you and your Companions found yourself staring through the trees of the Troll Weld, into a cold night sky flecked with stars, as Addawyr of the Night set out ale and tables and formally welcomed your return from the Torc of the Crucible. Four days ago you had come home to the Gray Downs, to find Al’Veydra thriving, and the former TrollHaunt Warrens (now the TrollHaunt Weld) populated not only by the Alkabeth refugees from Tarsis, but Addawyr and his Jessil Kerith scholars, Casawaer the Druid and the Sestus Wyr, and Shorvath Jon, of Sered’s Celestian Order. These three organization had made the empty caves of the Troll(Haunt) Weld their home – a place to await your return, and pour over the Gaulus Prophecies you and your Companions had recovered from the lost Kerithian library beneath Banner.
And although it was good to be home after almost 8 months away – months that had taken you to Banner, the Hastwith Desert, Vor Kragal, the BoneGate, and even the Sword Weld of the Eastern Nentir Vale - there was much to do~
Over the course of that night and the next two, you and your Companions:
- Reunited with Azrael, who had news of Vor Kragal and his own adventures in the City of Brass.
- Learned that the Jessil Kerith , Sestus Wyr, and Celestian Order had deciphered parts of the Gaulus Prophecies, leading them to conclude that in approximately 6 months time (with the waxing of the corpse star Acamar, in the Northern Sky), that Banner would be besieged, and that the best course of action would be to find the lost heir to the Grand King throne, Carifal Rath (that you know as Bow), who had been lost in the Feywild but who they now believe is in Carceri, the Red Prison.
- Held an audience with Lady Syntira, a Fey scion, who offered the use of Captain Shalvar and the Waves of a Grass as a vessel capable of planar travel (when installed with your Helm).
- Surreptitiously met Vizrith of SpiderWatch, who brought you news of Al’Veydra.
- And, triumphantly returned to Shard Keep in Al’Veydra, where you held meetings with your rival, J’Tiel of “Dark” Fellbane. J’Tiel revealed that Jazrim Hook and Gal’Van had both died as a result of their dealings with Morvrey (and that the Morvreyans had been ferreting out information about your disappearance from Banner), and that the Paladin Wynter had succumbed to a falling injury in White Plume Mountain. J’Tiel also revealed that the Dark Fellbane had successfully recovered two of the weapons of Keraptis: Wave (wielded by Thrae, the Spider Knight), and Whelm (wielded by Xirago, the Cleric of the Raven Queen), and that Hezrith Andelyn had attempted to conscript Al’Veydra’s wards (Raven, Gray, and Troll) to join his forces in Banner, but that so far the town had resisted.
After the discussions with J’Tiel, it became clear that you could continue to trust, in some measure, your rivals, and you told J’Tiel has much as you knew about the Prophecies and the impending fall of Banner. J’Tiel and “Dark” Fellbane agreed to marshal the wards and SpiderWatch in defense of Banner and Al’Veydra, while you and your Companions took the Fey ship Waves of Grass on an astral voyage to Aravandor and then Carceri – in a final attempt to recover Carifal Rath; the last lineage of the Grand King’s line - who has been lost across time and the planes.
Thus it was your rest was short-lived, as you found yourself watching as the Helm you had recovered two years ago from Cozule was being installed on the Waves of Grass, and Captain Shalvar was casting the ritual that would slip you from the Gray Downs, where you then…
…dropped into a world of cool mist, roiling into a distance banded by the pinprick-light of a million white stars; deepening to an opalescent, shimmering purple at the horizon. Overhead, the vault of starlight continued into infinity; brightened by an occasional mote of bright color, as if a handful of fey glamour had been thrown into a sky the color of a sword blade. As you and your Companions watched, some of those impossibly distant, serene lights moved; other ships perhaps, tracking across the deep Astral Sea – or simply the color veils of unmoored worlds and stars, turning gyres through the broken Lattice of Heaven.
The Waves of Grass spun in place; causing the mist stuff to churn against her prow like real sea foam. You could see for miles in any direction, your sight only broken by thicker strands and boluses of the mist itself; some of which glowed with its own internal light; like a will-o-wisp or lightning in a distant summer storm. You glanced over the side and were momentarily disoriented; beneath the sea’s “surface” the field of distant stars continued below you, and it seemed your ship was sailing across the top of the night sky, held aloft only by the reflected light of strange constellations.
And of course, in many ways, that was true.
Later you spied a green coil in the distance, a darker rill of color staining the grey sea’s flatness, and you knew this was the color strand that would take you to Aravandor. The Waves of Glass turned in that direction, and slid silently across the false water of the Astral Sea, leaving bubbling stardust and light in its wake…
You sailed for some time, before passing near a bolus of blackened mist, roiling and heaving. And then something appeared out of the blackened cancer, a bladed vessel of mithral, onyx, and bone – lit by the red light of a massive, spinning gyroscope in its hull – a soul engine to fuel the ship’s travel. Across the bloodied and carpeted decks lesser devils cavorted, putting to the tine the broken beings that must fuel the monstrous soul wheel that drove it forward. Its great masts were trimmed with sails stitched from human vice; a horror show of flickering, illuminated images between spars formed from ruby encrusted iron and black wood. The massive thorn-like stabilizers projecting from the hull were serrated edges of hell-forged adamantium trailing the red sparks and embers of discarded souls, and you and your Companions could see laughing imps hanging by clawed hands from the spines and pikes. And as the great vessel heaved into position, its underside was barnacled with black and purple carapaces slicked with oil and blood. The ship sailed on the sound of a devilish choir, a million lost souls screaming in defiance as they were pushed into the soul wheel or the imp and sin cannons that were being loosened on her decks, and the air was ripe with the odor of fear, death, pestilence, and sulfur…
This was the Seven Deadly Sins, one of Hell’s Dominion ships, and she was churning through the Astral Sea toward you…clearly your plans had escaped neither the Lord of the Ruby Rod, nor the Morvreyans who served Him…
Sunday, March 13, 2011, 8:46 AM
(Guest Chronicler & DM: Tom)
Descending into the heart of the dark…
After being ported into the chamber of the Dark Crucible, Fellbane discovered themselves inside the top layer of a spherical structure, whose chill gave them new reason to define the term. The floor of the room had a great hole in it, perhaps twenty feet across, and through it was positioned an enormous stone column. The column, pourous, dripped with necrotic black fluid, the Ice-Blood in its deepest form. Inside this room, they also encountered three waiting Vrock, who had been left as rear-guard by Liliandra herself. The three vulture-headed demons were arrayed around the hole, anxiously waiting out the sound of fighting below.
On one side of the room, a stone panel with a circular mount sat broodingly.
A quick charm by Dust and a bit of legerdemain convinced the waiting creatures to reveal that Liliandra had indeed gone below, chasing Jerrault – and they also revealed the knowledge that he worked for Amsha Arom now. The Preserver had fallen to the power he had hoped to master, and had opened the column himself using the Torq on the panel to the side. The column, itself, was the stake through Amsha Arom, keeping her trapped in her liquefied form.
But with the stake removed, she was reforming her bodily self even as the adventurers discussed the matter.
Convincing the three to anchor their rope, the party zip-lined down to the next level, Karac and Deimos in the lead. There they discovered another room, once with a set of large pedestals, each supporting a charred piece of what had once been Amsha Arom’s corpse – her skull, heart, and claw. A fourth pedestal supported a headless bust of marble, made to accept a necklace.
In this room, the other four Vrock – or at least, what was left of them – had faced off against Jerrault’s remaining companions, Torromak and ALayna. Alayna’s final sword-stroke passed cleanly through the final Vrock standing there, severing an arm and its head in a splatter of purple gore. The column that pierced the floor of the room above continued through this one, holing both the ceiling and the floor, and dripping its horrible Iceblood down the pores in its surface.
Except that out of the corner of one’s eye, it could be observed that the blood moved not with the random drip of gravity, but in small streams that not only flowed down, but also laterally. A few even seemed to be taking hold of the column and pulling themselves up.
Torromak immediately threw some form of spell that pulled both Deimos and Karac straight to him, and began hacking with a wicked black sword that sparkeled with motes of light, while Alayna swept in and lashed cruel cuts with her own blade, both of them leaving terrible, weeping wounds behind. While the two worked over the first two entrants into the room, Dray dropped himself unceremoniously into the room, to sprawl upon the floor and collect himself quickly. In doing so, he noticed a third assailant hiding behind the great skull…
Grave, the vampire greyhood, had re-arisen from the “coffin” he had made for himself inside the enormous dragon skull.
The three very nearly spelled the doom of Fellbane, for as the fight wore on, the three walking terrors (ironically, the rear-guard of Amsha Arom and Jerrault) handed out pain and hurt in plenty. The crux of the battle found Dray immobile, bleeding profusely, sword in hand, and compelled to strike out at the nearest creature, with Sered stone cold and also leaking precious blood beside him, Morin having been seared and sliced by Grave and Alayna, and Karac face down before Torromak adjacent to the hole. All the while subject to a zone thrown by Grave that denied them the chance to throw off the debilitating effects or stopping the magically-enhanced nature of their many wounds.
Grave had been brought down by Sered’s last strike, and Torromak fell to the combined efforts of Deimos and Dust.
But Alayna, barely bloodied, remained. She swept over Deimos, bloodying him and nearly killing him with a single stroke, before revealing a secret as yet untold. Her smiling visage revealed extended canines and incisors – both she and Torromak had been transformed into vampires. She bent and quickly brought up Karac’s still form to her face while holding sword-point at the Shadrim sorceror, drinking deeply from his exposed neck before dropping his motionless body to the floor. Her wounds knitted together while both arcanists watched.
Both came to the conclusion that fighting this battle was no longer an option, and either they had to make an exit, or Alayna did. Fortunately, both had powers that could shove or pull an enemy, and both put them into play – pushing Alayna down the hole into the next level!
While they quickly tended their own, making sure none were still dying, the sounds of fighting from below quieted. Looking down, they saw a large woman’s face peek up, before observing the disturbing image of a huge demon, six-armed and with the lower half of a gigantic snake, worm her way up onto their floor. In her hand was the Torq of the Crucible.
Liliandra looked them over quickly, and said only, “I suggest you leave, now,” before disappearing up the hole in the ceiling. Shortly after, the stake began to descend once more.
Deimos quickly arranged a power to fly himself and Dust up through the hole, and before too much time had elapsed he had shuffled the rest of the group into the top level of the Crucible again. There he and Dust – and the pile of unconscious Fellbane – faced off against Liliandra and her remaining three Vrock. She turned, having used the Torq for its intended purpose of lowering the gigantic stake, and approached the group.
“You,” she pointed to Deimos, “get to my side, now. You shall be the first high priest of my renewed temple.”
Confused, the Shadrim stammered out, “My companions, they are injured. May I take care of them and return to your place when I am assured of their safety?”
“Have you reservations about entering my service? Their safety is not my concern. Unless you wish to select two to remain while you purchase for yourself a few years of respite?”
After considerable discussion, Liliandra began to show frustration with the direction the talk was going. But during all this, Dust had drawn a conclusion. “I’ll stay in his stead.”
“You would give yourself to me freely?”
“I’ll take his place, if the rest of them,” he gestured with uncharacteristic concern, “are allowed to go free.”
With that, Liliandra turned and motioned over Deimos, an extended hand drawing a fog of blood from the pores of his skin to be inhaled with a sigh. “This one was unworthy, my servant. He deserved no boon from me if he had not the dedication to serve me. You, however, you will rise as my first High Priest.”
Dust turned to Deimos and the unconscious others. “You remember this. I am true to my nature, and my next stop is the College of Morvrey. I would recommend you not get within a country mile of that place.”
“Now leave my home, and never return, or you’ll pay with your lives and your souls,” Liliandra commanded. “Be gone before I venture back above.”
And with that, Fellbane was teleported out of the Crucible and into the chambers above. Deimos, working fast, got them conscious and walking, and the party made way to the forest outside.
[Mechanical Notes: I had intended for the feat/healing surge exchange to be permanent, but it seemed more appropriate to have Liliandra retract her gift upon being presented with a “better” (read: less reluctant) servant. Had she been killed/banished to the Abyss, her willingness or lack thereof would not have mattered, as she would have lost a measure of power to control the granting or revocation. In her temple, once she regains her strength, she’s close to demigod status – and might one day be a plague on the world again. The ceremonies of her “church,” as it were, were constructed to feed her the souls of all who serve her and anyone they can/could capture, and they had planned on using the necrotically-charged remains of Amsha Arom as an additional power source to augment their already considerable power.]