Thursday, January 27, 2022

Fanaxia: The Death of Kroni, and Into The Abyss

So, the last order of business before we depart Fanaxia: Bring back Kroni, thus freeing Sacha, and then kill Kroni, who is effectively a demigod.

We load up on our preparations, making people variously invisible and protected.

Geddy opens by casting Haste on us. Martini kills a chicken and pours its blood into Kroni's mouth. All of sudden, dark and swirling clouds gather overhead. A burst of lightning coats the area, and Kroni is now holding the Sword of Kaz.

Kroni is not wearing armor, but he's wearing a bunch of magic items that have suddenly reappeared with him. Tavros attacks, missing him four times but hitting him once, and does some damage.

Then Kroni moves. He tries to land a Bad Touch on Tavros, but misses. He then tries to smite Tavros, but he's still a little shaken from coming back to life and mostly misses. Unfortunately, "mostly" is not "completely" and he hits Tavros very, very hard. Tavros goes down.

Marshall, in the form of huge serpent, casts Heal on Kroni, but fails to get through his spell resistance. Ruin tries to carve into him, but completely fails to connect. Azrael lets loose with Scorching Ray and Quickened Scorching Ray, and scorches Kroni a bit.

Alexej manages to connect, but then gets his guisarme stuck and drops it. Leira drops Displacement on Alexej, and then fires off two quickened Scorching Rays. Unlike Azrael, most of her attacks get through.

Kroni blinks over next to Leira and tries to smite her while power attacking. Leira goes down. He then attacks Marshall, not smiting but still doing some damage.

Geddy starts singing.

Tavros is still bleeding out. Kroni blinks over next to Alexej and attempts to smite, and takes him down. Ruin attacks but again fails to connect. Azrael tags him with a Scorching Ray, and then again with a quickened Scorching Ray, and does some notable damage. Kroni blinks over to him and smites. Azrael drops out of the air like an elvish rock; Martini grabs him and uses Dimension Door to get them both out of the way.

Geddy uses his guitar to attack with a Power Chord, and takes Kroni down.

...Holy shit.

There's an enormous thunderclap overhead, and Kroni goes down. We heal Azrael and Tavros, and Resurrect Leira and Alexej. We loot the body, stake him, cut his head off, stuff a holy wafer in his mouth, immerse him in running garlic-water.

We retrieve the Sword of Kaz, which is very apologetic. We also gather:
Boots of Striding and Springing
Gloves +6 Dex
Braces of Armor +8
Amulet of natural armor +5
Ring of protection +5
Cloak of resistance +5

Alexej heads off to re-found the Magiknights. We head back to take the motivator out of the flying ship. Aided by spells and Geddy's singing, Martini attempts to disable the motivator so we can remove it...

She succeeds. We're going to have an airship when we get back. We head back to Castle Fanax and hand the artifacts over to Behemoth. He ties the portal off to a single Glaabrezu, who departs through the portal just ahead of us. We hurry through after him, into Behemoth's throne room; there's another portal on the far side that leads back to Povos. There are treasures scattered everywhere.

As we step through the portal, a coldness drops over us, nauseating. We find ourselves in a quarry, wearing nothing but manacles; in the distance we see a pyramid of stone, with a line of souls hauling stones. A demon comes to taunt us about how Behemoth kept his bargain and the portal back to Sol Povos is right there in his throne room, but we'll never see it because we're slaves now.

Azrael bends over and retrieves a wooden stick, the one he found in the treasure room earlier. The spellcasters are blocked from their magics, and pretty much all we have is Azrael and the magus staff. Tavros tries to breath ice on the demon, but fails; Marshall tries to turn into a giant snake, but fails; Ruin can't find any dimensional slips, either.

Toth the demon assures us that the portal is right there in the pyramid waiting for us, but since we're chained here Toth expects us to be slaves. Azrael is playing up the fact that he's leaning on the staff of the magus. Geddy, meanwhile, is... well, there's just an unresponsive body here.

Marshall encourages us to grab stones and start moving them towards the pyramid. Leira starts crying, loudly. There are demons on patrol around the quarry. Without our equipment, we're distinctly outmatched; we're going to have to do something clever. And this is probably the wrong party for that.

Azrael is very bored with all this. He says he can plane shift using the staff. And he won't leave Martini, but he wants her to know that he could, if he wanted to.

We take our blocks up to the drop-off area, and now they expect us to go get more stones. Martini tries to take a break, and Toth whips her; Martini pretends that this is sexy, but doesn't manage to convince the demon.

Marshall starts trying to rally the other random slaves around here to do his work for him. The slaves are not having any of it. Toth whips him again.

Martini tries to seduce Toth, but he isn't attracted. Too human.

We walk back down to the quarry. Azrael says, "Behold, demon. I am Azrael Abyss and I am your master now." He gestures with the staff and our manacles fall off. Leira is still crying loudly enough to drown out other sounds.

Marshall just picks up a rock. Martini, on the other hand, sneak attacks Toth with a rock. In the nads. Toth is... not happy. Ruin smacks him with a rock , and Tavros rips him apart with his claws. Tavros leans down, picks up his whip, and then looks around for Geddy and sees... nobody.

Azrael reminds us yet again that he can plane shift out. Ruin asks if he's offering to create a distraction and then plane shift himself to safety. We take rocks without Toth and pretend we're being good slaves.

"You! Where is your slave master?"

Martini: "He's right here. He definitely did not take a break while we are carrying rocks."

"He's taking a shit?"

"Well, somewhere. I mean, I didn't listen that closely."

"Toth is sleeping on job again. Slaves carry rocks."

We head on to the second checkpoint. "Why are you here without a slave master?"

Martini: "I mean, that guy was scary so we're just carrying rocks even though he went away."

"Toth isn't scary."

"He is, but you're scarier. If I take this rock to the next spot will you promise not to hurt me?"

They whip us a couple of times on general principle, and when we get to the drop-off point we meet Garth, our new slave master.  

"Look," says Ruin. "We brought rocks, like good slaves!" He holds out the rock, and then drops it on Garth's foot.

Azrael, sensing trouble, hits Garth with a lightning bolt. It does a lot of damage, but isn't sufficient to kill him. Ruin grabs Garth in a bear hug... naked... with a demon.

Leira cries very loudly to cover the sound of violence. Martini slams a rock into Garth's nuts, and Tavros knocks him out.

We break there.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Challenge: Best Book, Movie, or TV Show

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: best book, movie, or TV show from 2021

This sort of question is always tricky for me, since I don't really watch TV shows and seldom see movies until they've been out for a while. Books are usually easier, but I don't always keep track of publication dates; my favorite book from 2021 might very well have been published in, say, 2017 and I'm just now getting around to reading it. Add to that the temporal distortion of living through a global pandemic that half the government insists isn't happening (unless it is and it's the other side's fault), and... what is 2021? What even is time? What the hell was my name, anyway?

Anyway... I don't have a strong contender for best book for 2021. I'd have to dig back through what I've read, and really think about it, and I don't have enough brain for that. So instead, I'll just mention a couple of books that I found memorable and enjoyable: 

  • Not Your Average Hot Guy, Gwenda Bond. Fun, apocalyptic paranormal romance. There's a sequel due out in April; I've already pre-ordered it. 
  • House of Salt and Sorrows, Erin A Craig. Very, very much a Gothic, with an accursed family, a sprawling manor, and a sense of dread that builds right up to the end. Some nice touches of romance and intrigue as well. Actually published in 2019, but I read it in 2021 so that counts, right?
  • Little Thieves, Margaret Owen. Theft, intrigue, dark magic, high and low gods, and in the center of it all a human girl whose mothers are Death and Chance -- and the investigator sent to catch her.

I didn't watch a lot of new films in 2021, but I did enjoy the first half of Dune and the Suicide Squad movie.  

TV shows have been an absolute no-go for me; I have absolutely nothing to recommend. Beautiful Wife started watching A Discovery of Witches, and it looked very good but I've only seen maybe ten minutes of it in total. I've caught glimpses of Death in Paradise, again because Beautiful Wife was watching it, and it looks like a lot of fun as well; but Discovery is apparently from 2018 and Death dates all the way back to 2011 or something, so... yeah. Not exactly 2021 material, here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

RoH: Thieves in the Night

Remant came awake with his left hand around someone's throat in an unbreakable grip, while his victim flailed and struck at him with one arm. For a moment he considered commanding his hand to release its grip, but the figure above him wore a cloth over the lower half of its face and strange, dark lenses over its eyes. The lenses were held in some sort of wire frame, the design unfamiliar but the purpose obvious. It was night outside, and the intruder was Vanil, so the lenses most likely allowed their wearer to see in the dark. Which meant...

His hand clenched and twisted, and a cracking sound filled the tent. The intruder slumped, completely limp. Remant sighted and shoved it aside, then looked around. Yes, there was a dagger on the ground beside his bedroll. He slipped out of the blankets and rose into a crouch, then reached down and pulled on his black leather gloves. He didn't bother with his boots; those could wait. 

There were other figures moving in the darkness, but none seemed to have noticed him yet. There should have been guards at the edge of the camp, but none of them were visible. Downed, then, he thought. Hopefully not dead. He did not want to see what would happen if the intruders realized that anyone in the camp was awake and mobile. 

So he reached down and clasped his sword, and then he reached into the depths of his mind. The unwelcome remnants of power were still there; he touched them, and called for darkness. 

There were no sounds as the camp went black, but after a moment of stillness the intruders raised their blades; several of them silently called up spells as well. Remant couldn't see them; not exactly. But this darkness was his and he knew the place of everything in it. It was only a small effort to slip up to the nearest intruder and gut them. The darkness drank noise as well as light; the first death was silent.

So were the second and the third. The fourth was trickier; that intruder had given up on seeing, and extended a sort of warning-web of magic around him. He turned to meet Remant's blade, and he fought well, trying to move in past Remant's guard with his shorter blade. It might have worked, too, if Remant's left hand hadn't caught the intruder's wrist and held it for the brief moment necessary for Remant to put his blade through the man's heart. 

And these were men, all of them. That was unusual; most bandit troops had some women among them. Remant puzzled over that as he killed and killed again, dispatching the last two intruders. Then, finally, he let his darkness fade. It was a relief, more than anything else. The darkness was hungry, and his control of it was limited; much longer, and it might have devoured everyone within reach, friend and foe alike. I really need to learn more of sorcery, he told himself again. Everything I know is either trivial, or dangerously extreme. 

The intruder at his feet coughed out a mouthful of blood. "They said... there was power... here." He drew a shuddering breath. "The beast-bound... will come... for--" There came a soft rattling sound, and his whole body relaxed. Remant wiped his blade on the man's dark tunic, then sheathed it. It was time to see who else had survived.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Weekends are restful, and other delusions

 So... I think I might be getting my sleep schedule back on track. And I'm keeping up with Duolingo, which is perhaps more of an amusement than a practicality at this point, but still worthwhile. And I managed to run a (short) D&D game for (most of) the youth D&D group, so we're getting that back on track too. And really, the weekend was calm and restful and... {snicker} restorative and.. {guffaw} relaxing...

So over here in Reality, Secondborn skipped his meds on Saturday, which makes us crazy but also means he has an appetite. He had a hearty breakfast, a good lunch, a solid dinner... and by evening, he threw up a fair amount of everything he'd eaten. Most of ended up in the toilet, at least. We got him down to bed, and he went to sleep. Firstborn, meanwhile, got his COVID booster on Friday and woke up with a 103 degree fever on Saturday morning. The home test was negative for COVID, so it was probably a reaction to the booster, but... Not. Relaxing. Still, a bit of Tylenol brought the fever down and we got him through the day and down to bed for the night as well. I even got a bit of the dishes washed.

On Sunday I woke up a bit after seven -- apparently I've hit the point in my life where I only need about seven or seven and a half hours of sleep. So I got out of bed, feeling somewhat refreshed despite the day's trials, and walked into the bathroom and found that the handle for the shower was sitting on the edge of the sink. 

All right, I thought, in a fit of laughable optimism, we can deal with that if we must. I took my morning meds, and then realized that the strange sound I was hearing was someone whimpering. 

It was Secondborn. He had a stomach ache. He had the kind of stomach ache that was acute enough to lay out him -- which is impressive, since it takes a pretty fair amount of pain for him to even notice. So I tried to get a laxative into him; he promptly threw it back up. I got some probiotic into him, and cleaned out the tub so he could climb into a bath. Beautiful Wife woke up at about that point, and gave him an enema, and he pooped out a solid sphere of poop that I swear to the gods was about the size of a softball, followed by a more poop of more regular consistency. Beautiful Wife cleaned the bathtub after that one. 

At which point he was unmedicated, unfed, and feeling much better: the perfect combination for making us all crazy. We got some more food into him, and then his meds, and finally got him settled in just in time for me to try to pick back up on the D&D game for Firstborn and his friends. 

Y'all... I am so done. I have nothing left. I'm going to drop him off at school, get to work, and try to start sorting things out again... but I'm either going to be dragging, or I'm going to be running on unbroken adrenaline. We're going to have to keep Secondborn on regular laxatives for at least the next two weeks, and we're going to have to make sure he eats. (Part of the reason we hadn't realized he was so constipated was that his ADHD meds kill his appetite, so he doesn't eat enough to have the kind of side effects that make it obvious.) Firstborn made it through Sunday with no noticeable fever, so that was almost certainly a reaction to the vaccine... but that didn't stop it from adding another set of knots to my shoulders. 

The house is a mess and I've done very little about it, if anything else comes up I don't know if I'll be able to cope, and I swear by the dark and forgotten gods that I will stab the first person who suggests that "life never gives you more than you can handle" or any other positive-thinking bullshit. This -- this weekend, the week that preceded it, all of 2022 so far, the last three years of global pandemic and related gaslighting -- has all been a lot and it's a fucking miracle that any of us are still functional. 

So if you're still doing anything, however minor or however haphazardly, just remember that you're doing good. None of us are okay right now, I don't think. And anyone who is, is probably in denial. Take care of yourselves, gentle readers; take care of each other. If the only way out is through, then the best way through is together. Keep the faith; keep staggering forward as best you can.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Povos Dwarves: Arcane Magics

I really hadn't intended to publish any more Dwarf thoughts for a while, but I have nothing else ready for today so here you go:

Elves are the originators and masters of wizardry, Gnomes are renowned for their illusions, and many powerful wielders of arcane magics have risen from the Humans. Dwarves, on the other hand, hit things with axes.

At least, that's the popular conception... and there is some truth to it. Most Dwarves have little time for arcane magics, and many are dismissive of spellcasting as "tricks" -- almost a form of cheating -- used by weaker, more breakable races like Elves and Humans. However, the magic used by Dwarves within Dwarven society is something else altogether. A proper spellcaster is a valuable contributor to Dwarven society, someone to be valued and respected. In times of war, they help defend the gards and delves; in times of peace, they provide items and services that improve the quality of Dwarven life. 

Dwarves have several distinctive arcane spellcasting traditions of their own:

  • Scribes serve as scholars as well as spellcasters: historians, philosophers, mathematicians, and recordkeepers. They are respected for their discipline and study, and expected to be sober, serious, and wise -- though not all are so dignified; absent-minded scholars and over-enthusiastic researchers can be found among their number as well. They are usually wizards, but may be sorcerers or even bards; the Loremaster PrC is common as well. Many scribes go into public service, finding places in the bureaucracy of Dwarven government, but they may also be employed by noble families or prominent merchants. Others are artisans, producing the sorts of minor magical items that are common household goods in the gards and delves, or placing spells as needed. (Continual Light and Continual Flame are very common.) To become a Scribe, one must graduate from one of the Colleges, and the status and reputation of the College is very important to the future Scribe's career. Even after graduation, a Scribe is answerable to the Headmaster of their college for any misconduct that might reflect badly on the institution. (Every gard has at least one College, and a few of the larger Delves do as well.)

  • Battlemages are the heavily armored wizards of the Dwarven military (though they may be assigned to positions at court or in noble houses as well, at the discretion of their superiors). They are specially trained to cast spells in armor, even heavy armor, and accompany Dwarven troops into battle. (I'd suggest that they take a particular Feat to allow this, and then have to gain proficiency with armor through either cross-classing or other feats.) Battlemages may be wizards or sorcerers, but there are eldritch knights and the occasional bard among their number as well. Historians suggest that this tradition arose from the nature of underground battles: in the tunnels and caverns, it is far too easy for a mage to find herself in melee range of an enemy, so learning to wear armor was a necessity.

  • Sorcerers are just as respected as wizards, if for a different reason: they are considered to have more of the blood of Sardion than other Dwarves. Depending on their particular talents, they may find a place among the Scribes or Battlemages -- many do -- but they are far more likely than wizards to choose other options. (More about those later.)

  • Wizards are almost always trained at (and affiliated with) one of the colleges, though Battlemages may have been taught through an apprenticeship under another Battlemage. A wizard with neither master nor college to vouch for her is highly suspect, and would be well advised to find a way to establish her respectability immediately or else make her own way somewhere outside of Dwarven society entirely.

Arcane magics and magic items are surprisingly common among Dwarven dwellings, and serve a variety of very practical purposes. Providing such spells and items is considered part of a mage's duty to society, particularly among the Scribes. Minor items with very specific effects -- often in the form of small, marked stones -- can be found in almost any Dwarven dwelling (and moving house or preparing for some big change is sometimes referred to as "gathering your stones"). 

Some examples include: 

  • Cooking stones are usually small, flat stones the size of a large coin and marked with something to indicate fire on both sides. They're imbued with a limited form of the Heat Metal spell, with the following differences: 
    • The effect only works while the stone is in contact with the metal.
    • The heat comes up gradually. 
    • When the stone is removed, the metal cools as slowly as it normally would.
Cooking stones are most often used for cooking, either by setting them on the metal surface of a stove or placing them directly on a pan. They can also be used to heat metal for smithing if a forge is not available.
  • Bath Stones are found in sets of two, usually enameled (one orange and one teal) and usually with a small hole near one edge to allow them to hang from a bit of cord or chain. They may be coin-shaped or more like teardrops, and they serve to regulate water temperature. Hang the orange one in the bath, and the water will begin to heat. (Don't boil yourself!) Put the blue one in the bath, and the water will cool.

    Do not put them both in at once.

  • Speaking Stones are another paired item, usually placed at the door of a dwelling, one inside and one outside. Anyone touching the outer stone and speaking will be audible through the stone on the inside. This may be a one-way or two-way effect, depending on the specific enchantment. Range is extremely limited, usually to about two feet.

  • Impelling Pipes are available in a variety of sizes, but they're usually decorated on the outside with carvings of waves or sets of wavy lines to indicate their purpose. When placed in water, they pull water in one end and expel it out the other. When connected to systems of pipes, they serve to move water around. The use of impelling pipes is one of the things that makes the larger Dwarven cities livable, as they make it possible to distribute potable water and remove wastewater. (The Dwarven Plumbers Guild is one of the oldest and most influential groups in Dwarven Society, but that's an entire entry unto itself. The Architectural Guild wishes they had even half of the Plumbers' knowledge and expertise.)

  • Golden Anchors are usually metal, and consists of a flat "foot" a couple of inches across, with a loop on one side. Press the foot against a stone surface and speak a command word, and it will anchor itself in place. Another command word will cause it to release. Used for everything from hanging pictures to traversing crevasses (usually done with multiple sets that have different command words).

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Fanaxia: The Battle for Liberation

 We're leveling up, and Ruin has added another level of Barbarian. Tavros is a paladin for RP purposes, but mechanically he's just adding Fighter levels at this point. His natural armor grows stronger. Geddy, meanwhile, is improving his various social skills and his performing arts.

We've also had a chance to go over the things we learned from looking through Vecna's mirror.

So... the bargain is struck. Hecate, Behemoth's Marilith assistant, leads us to a basement and explains that this will lead us to the shadow worm, and that Earthquake in the right spot will force it up. We need to focus on the worm no matter who shows up to assist it. Once it falls, the demons will come to our aid.

Geddy has used one of his Wishes to acquire a baliset; as we pass we find a shrine to Justinius J Justinius, a gnomish deity. The doorway sort of ripples as a man walks out of nowhere into the room; he looks around the room appraisingly, then places an amazing blue baliset in the place of honor.

Geddy immediately zips into the room, disappearing from the rest of us, and reappears with this lute: Richenbacher's Electric Baliset. It can make sonic attacks based on his Perform roll, either at a single target or in a cone. This allows him to attack while still playing.

We rest in the basement; and on our twenty-fourth day in Fanaxia we emerge to do battle. We open with our preparations spells: Shield, Death Ward, Hide from Undead (Leira, Geddy, Azrael, Martini), Displacement (Tavros, Ruin, Alexej). Azrael also Enlarges Alexej. Martini makes herself and Azrael invisible. We've also applied Silversheen to our blades.

Marshall detects evil and we move over to what looks like a giant worm home. Once we've got everything set up, Marshall casts Earthquake. The ground heaves and groans.

The Shadow Worm emerges. It's colossal, bigger than anything we've ever seen. It attacks with a cone of cold (quickened). It's a big chunk, but Tavros is immune and Ruin is resistant. It follows up with Hold Monster, paralyzing Leira and Martini.

Tavros charges in, taking a hit on the way, and smacks it fairly hard; it's heavily armored, though. Martini shakes off the Hold and retreats. Azrael drops Meteor Swarm but doesn't get through his spell resistance much.  The Scorching Rays are equally ineffective.

Ruin charges around the back to set up a flank, and attacks. So does Geddy. Marshall moves in next, surounded by his swirling snake-blades, and tries to cut into the worm. He is himself a giant snake right now. Unfortunately, the magic blades aren't magic enough to get through the spell resistance.

Geddy takes to the air and starts singing; the worm screams, and then casts Quickened Haste on itself. It immediately attacks Tavros twice, and misses; it then tries to sting him and also misses. Tavros riposts, and carves into its scaly hide. Azrael's spells again prove ineffective. Ruin manages to cut it, and Alexej does as well.

We hear the castle door open, and the Nightwalker comes sprinting out to assist his Dreadworm. A Nightwing is following.

Marshall casts Firestorm on the shadow worm, but fails to get through its spell resistance. Neither does the Blade Barrier. Geddy plays a Power Chord, and it hits him but fails to penetrate.

Leira drops Sunburst on the Nightwalker and the Nightwing. She gets past both their spell resistances. The Nightwing is blinded and badly burned; the Nightwalker is just somewhat burned.

Cimaron emerges from castle as well. The worm attacks Tavros again, this time more carefully, and manages to bite him and promptly swallows him. Fortunately, we're all death warded; otherwise Tavros would be losing levels. Instead it's just acid and bludgeoning. Tavros is basically unconscious. It follows up with a Cone of Cold. Leira and Azrael dodge the worst of it, and Martini avoids it entirely. She uses Dimension Door to move herself and Leira out of range of that cone of cold. Azrael attacks with Meteor Swarm (hitting with two) and Empowered Fireball (missing).

Ruin attacks again, hitting it twice. Alexej follows up, hitting some more, and staggering the thing.

The Nightwalkers are moving up, but aren't quite close enough to reach us; ditto the Nightwing. Marshall casts Forbiddance, which will block them from shifting planes but also lays down a consecrated area that will damage them as they pass through.

Geddy tries his Power Chord again, but doesn't get though this time either.

More Nightwalkers come pouring out of the building, and Leira drops Sunburst again. Unfortunately, they've all got spell resistance, and she only tags one of them -- and for limited damage.

Simaron comes charging through and casts Confusion or Ruin, and gets through his spell resistance -- but Ruin shakes it off. Tavros dies in the shadow worm's unholy digestive tract. It tags Ruin with its stinger but doesn't poison him, then bites him twice -- once super-effectively. It swallows Ruin's corpse as well.

Martini pulls her longbow and takes a shot at the worm. Azrael drops a couple of Fireballs, and one of them gets through; Alexej follows up by stabbing the beast some more -- "Kill the beast while it's wounded!" -- drops it.

As soon as the dread worm falls, the west wing of the castle lights up; and then the barrier shatters. Demons pout out of every opening. Behemoth emerges from one of the towers. Squads of demons follow Hecate into combat. Massive retrievers crawl over the hedges.

Before long we are left alone in the eerie silence of the back courtyard. Marshall snakes in and retrieves Ruin and Tavros... or their corpses, anyway. He resurrects Tavros, and Ruin is... sort of just barely even a corpse anymore.

We search the castle, and find Simaron's cache of treasure: 140,000 GP in coins and artworks. 35,000 in other magic items. A Maul of the Titans, worth 25,000. A Rod of Alertness, which Ruin would be very interested in - 85,000. Gem of Seeing, worth 75,000; basically True Seeing for 30 minutes per day. Manuals +1 Health, +4 Health, and +4 Dex. Alexej pulls out something he thinks is a guisarme, but it's just a stick. Azrael leaps on it. The staff is a staff of magus; Azrael says he is now invincible. It can absorb spells, among other things.

Day dawns with light rain and a cloudy but illuminated sky. The demons have retreated to the castle and appear to be sated after their violence. There was a *lot* of collateral damage. The lizardfolk are gone; villages around the swamp are gone as well. The devastation was at least localized. Kroni's corpse and the corpse of a small child are both lying in front of the castle gate.

We go and examine the body. Those are horribly dessicated vampires that haven't eaten in years, and are helpless husks. We could give them blood, or... we could use Speak With Dead.

Problem is, we can't contact his soul. We probably couldn't have brought it back, either; it's either protected, or trapped, or something. We try it on Kroni, and get a very MPD Sacha/Kroni.

Leira is SO EXCITED.

Question for Sacha: "Do you have knowledge of any of Kroni's memories?"

"No, but I can feel two bodies..."

"Where are you right now?"

Sacha tells us, probably in the Wellfort area. We probably need to bring this body back with blood, it would pull Kroni out of Sacha and into this body. That would probably be an issue in itself, since he's probably a demigod level being.

...We're going to have to kill him. Damn it.

The marsh is very different; there is now lush green grass surrounding an enormous tree with the black-singed skin of a great white dragon is laid across its limbs. The clearing is expanding quickly, reclaiming the marsh and swamp. Zilv is gone; another man walks out of the swamp with a pair of lutes strapped across his back.

It's the guy that Geddy saw earlier. He pauses: "Are you by any chance part of the church of Urgroth?"

Us: "No."

Him: "You look kind of like heroes. I am Bryce Lamont, heir to throne of Fanaxia. Is there... anything left?"

He's wearing a duplicate of both Richenbacher's lute and Geddy's old lute.

Us: "Don't go to the castle."

Him: "Magiknights?"

Us: "Um... maybe not?"

Geddy breaks into song and brings him up to speed. He sort of collapses on a tree stump.

Him: "I've been away for so long. The priests... I had to, or they would have found me."

There's definitely some weirdness going on with the timeline and the lutes; Bryce remembers a gnomish mentor who bears a suspicious resemblance to Geddy. He apparently just passed away.

He feels horrible about the loss of the Magiknights. He's apparently been hiding in the swamp and taking advantage of its Vecna-created enchantments. We walk him back towards the castle, and kind of bring him up to speed.

We convince Bryce to talk to Crowe; after a couple of hours, Crowe agrees to assume the mantle of Priest of Amun. The amulet doesn't kill him; he glows briefly, and his biggest ship suddenly turns into a massive oceanborn citadel with a couple of Solars to guard it.

Bryce and Duchess Durand get on well, and she's reassured that he's not particularly militant. After a day or two of this, Alexej comes to us and announces that he has decided to stay in Fanax and re-found the magiknights along with the local bard and lady Merrowin the druid. He also wants to find Braum and Joseph and bring them out to be the official cooks of the magiknights.

Killing Kroni -- here -- is our last bit of unfinished business. We hunt down enough diamond dust to resurrect Ruin as well; we're going to need him to fight Kroni. We sell off the Maul of the Titans, but Ruin claims the Rod of Alertness and Martini holds onto the Gem of Seeing. Azrael keeps the Staff of Magus.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Blogging Challenge: Stay Warm

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: What inventive ways do you have to keep warm?

My immediate reaction is, "Ask me that again this time next month, when the late February cold snap drops on us like an anvil from the sky and the Texas power grid curls up and dies like a slug exposed to salt." Because, yeah: I absolutely guarantee that that's going to happen again if we get anything even remotely like the same sort of weather as we had last year. We've already seen that Governor Abbott and his pet power companies haven't done anything to harden against cold weather. Their strategy seems to consist entirely of hoping that weather won't be so bad this year. And honestly; that may be giving them too much credit. It's entirely possible that the folks in charge are looking forward to profiting off the deaths and desperation. Disaster Capitalism is nothing new. 

A friend of mine (also in Texas) did a Twitter thread a while back that had a lot of helpful suggestions. On our end... I have a decent amount of camping gear. (Though I should probably go buy more propane. Huh.) Problem is, you have to be very careful with that. I can use a propane grill to cook... in the garage, or out on the porch, but if you try it in the house you're pretty much asking for carbon monoxide poisoning. (We do have a detector.) So we're looking at layering up on clothes, using disposable plates and dishes, doing the cooking out in the cold, and like that. We do have a fireplace, but I don't keep any wood around; it's small and smoky at the best of times, and honestly hasn't been used since well before we had kids. Gods know what might have gotten in and blocked up the chimney since then. 

So mainly, it'll be a matter of layers of clothing and warm drinks if we can manage them. And plenty of books and games to pass the time. Sleeping bags within sleeping bags, for night time.

If we do have power -- and we were one of the luck few places who did, last year -- then our only problem is that the power companies are going to try to bankrupt us for their own profit. But, again, Disaster Capitalism isn't anything new. 

But for non-disaster staying warm? I don't really have anything especially creative. I stay indoors and drink a lot of tea.