Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Solari: The Nightwing Comes For Us.

Isa Nagi has explained to us that he was responsible for the endless rain, because he killed Iza Cuchee; he tells us to go away and talk to the others. We cut off the medusa's head and put it in a bag.

We come back out from the snake statue and proceed to the south; at one point we hear hissing from up ahead. We find another snake statue, and Marshall uses a Poison spell to activate the torch. Iza Nami emerges and announces that it's her fault that it rains without mercy; she should have been here to protect Iza Cuchee, and now he's missing. The shadows drove him out of this world.

We continue on, and run into a batch of shadows and a greater wraith; Tavros, up front, takes ability damage. Mercy turns the shadows to his side, and scares off a greater shadow; Alexej and Tavros kill the greater wraith, and we quickly move on to where we find another snake statue and the shattered remains of a second statue. We hear hissing to the west.

Marshall casts Poison again, to activate the torch. Another ghostly snake appears; this one is weeping.

Marshall: "Don't cry, Iza Curo."

Iza Curo is mourning because her brother has been taken from this world by shadows and so she can't make it stop raining.

Marshall: "What if I destroy the shadows?"

Iza Curo: "If that is your quest then I give you my blessing."

The broken statue is tainted with the evil magic of Urgroth/Vecna. Marshall consecrates the ground there. Iza Curo reappears and tells us this was a good start, but we have to drive out the shadow priests. Still, her brother's soul is not so sad anymore. "Also, you should go and tell Mother and Father about this.

We hear loud hissing to the southwest. We go to investigate, mostly because as far as Marshall Mercy is concerned there are no bad snakes.

This one, however, is huge... and it slithers towards us. Marshall casts Speak With Animals and starts to talking it. The snake is the guardian of the entrance to the temple. Apparently we need the blessings from the other statues/spirits as well.

Marshall explains that he's consecrated the broken statue and opposes the shadows, and receives a second blessing. We move on, and hear something crunching off to the southwest.

We return to the first statue, and convince Iza Nagi that he was tricked by the shadows, and we are here to oppose them and drive out the shadows. Thus does Marshall gain the third blessing. We head towards the temple, and then Alexej gets ambushed by a pair of acid-spitting monsters.

Marshall immediately dominates one of the monsters and orders his shadows to attack. Tavros charges the other one and carves a chunk out of it with his sword. The shadows come in behind him and swarm over it, draining its strength; Leira then tags it with a magic missile. Alexej moves up to the badly damaged monster and finishes it.

Unfortunately, another one emerges from the bushes and sprays Alexej and Tavros and two of the shadows, killing one shadow -- and a fourth one emerges to spray Marshall and Leira. Alexej hears more of the shadow mastiffs - a pack of them are approaching.

Tavros is immune to fear, and his presence reassures his friends; but Leira still starts to panic. Marshall casts Sanctuary on her as she starts to run away, which should hopefully keep her safe. His dominated acid-spitter charges the one that just sprayed acid on him and they fall to clawing at each other.

Voice: "It is too late! I have summoned the Nightwing! You will never reach the temple!"

Tavros kills a couple of hounds; Alexaj moves in and kills another. Then he tries his whirlwind attack and takes out two more dogs. The remaining acid-spit-monster -- a Digester, apparently -- retreats, leaving the other two busily trying to maul each other. Leira, meanwhile, has fled into the woods.; Marshall heads out after her.

Another Dread Wraith attacks Alexej; it's still pontificating about how it's summoned the nightwing and Alexej is all alone and doomed. And that's when Tavros steps in with his ghost-touch blade and slices through the thing. "Never underestimate the power of friendship, foul creature!" As far as the wraith is concerned, this comes out of nowhere, since Marshall's earlier spell has rendered him invisible to undead.

Alexej attacks and manages to wound the thing despite its being sometimes intangible.

Marshall, meanwhile, has run into another digester; the other two are still fighting each other. He turns undead again, but the dread wraith ignores him and attacks Alexej again, draining yet more of his health. Tavros attacks again, and finishes the wraith.

Leira is still terrified and running; she can hear something moving around nearby. Alexej looks around for something else to kill, and sees nothing. Marshall moves off, looking for Leira, and finds the digester that had retreated earlier. Leira, meanwhile, has run into a line of impassable brush, and is now cowering in the bushes.

The digester retreats again, avoiding us. Alexej and Tavros move to catch up with Marshall Mercy, who casts Restoration on Alexej and restores his health. Tavros calls for Leira; she answers in a very small voice, but fortunately Marshall hears her.

Leira starts feeling her way back towards the group, and encounters one of the tigers from last session. (The one we didn't kill, obviously.) It doesn't look interested in attacking her, but it also doesn't look real interested in letting her by. Leira sits on the ground and weeps.

Marshall sends his shadows to find Leira, and follows them. Alexej and Tavros follow Marshall, and all three of them promptly get sprayed by another digester. Marshall moves away, getting clawed in the process. Tavros moves to intercept and slices into the digester; Alexej follows suit, and finishes it.

Marshall drops Hide From Undead on himself and Alexej. His shadows have now found Leira, and attack the dire tiger in an attempt to protect her. As the rest of us appear, the tiger moves back over to its dead elk.

The shadows continue their assault on the tiger, weakening it considerably. Leira is busy being traumatized, but Alexej has had enough of this tiger and moves over to attack it. The tiger slips back out of reach and runs away. The shadows follow, and finish it.

Marshall moves over and drops hide from undead on Leira as well. Tavros says reassuring things, and Leira finally gets back up but refuses to let go of his hand. We move back towards where the beasties ambushed us, looking for Leira's trident. The tiger is down and being swarmed by shadows; Leira is still weeping as we walk. Distantly, we can hear the last two digesters; they're still fighting.

We return to where the battle started, Marshall locates the trident, and discovers that his digester has been killed and its opponent is barely on its feat.

A terrible, howling cry rises from the southeast; we're all pretty sure it's the nightwing. Leira translates: "The scary voice says, 'What is this foul magic? It burns!'"

Marshall looks at the last remaining digester and slashes at it with his scythe, killing it. "I am done with thee!"

The howling continues in the distance, and now it sound angry. Alexej is booking it south, towards where we found the guardian serpent.

Something flies past overhead, and a voice in our heads says, "Ahhhhh... you lit my way."

Alexej, meanwhile, has reached one of the guardian snakes. It coils around him but doesn't begin crushing him; Alexej says, "Help me, big snake! I am friend of snake-man!"

The Nightwing (which is some sort of horrible undead bat-bug thing) has arrived, and casts Hold Monster on the snake. The snake is now frozen in a sort of living wall around Alexej. He climbs out from its coils, and positions himself on the far side of the Nightwing from Tavros.

We slip around the thing, and run into more large snakes; one of the grapples Alexej.

Marshall finally arrives, and all the snakes turn to look at him. The Nightwing lands next to Marshall and starts feeling around, trying to figure out where he is. Leira prevents the snake from swallowing Alexej with Hold Monster, and Marshall persuades the snake to let go of him. The nightwing, however, has heard us; he comes over and attacks Alexej's animated shield.

Another snake comes and coils itself around us. Marshall dismisses the Light spell on his shield and creeps of after us into the darkness.

Nightwing: "AHHHH! WHERE ARE YOU? CURSES!" A blast of cold air and the sound of crackling branches comes from behind us.

Marshall talks to Iza Bomi, the big hungry one. It opens its mouth, and Marshall crawls right in. We follow.

We find ourselves in a small clearing beneath a large tree. The far side of the tree is hollow, and there are stairs down to a tunnel. The tunnel is, of course, completely full of snakes; but we walk along it and emerge from another tree into a clearing with golden snake statues. We are not safe here, but at least the Nightwing doesn't know where we are.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Alexej: Lost in the Forest of Shadows

Aleksander Václav Dvořak Bohatýr-Popovič, you have made one of the five classic mistakes found in the great tragedies: you have run off into the haunted woods with no light.  

Even with that thought ringing clear in his head, Alexej could not stop himself. The howling of the shadow mastiffs had been terrifying, and that terror had overwhelmed everything he knew of strategy, tactics, and martial skill. He knew exactly what he needed to do -- stay in the light from Marshall Mercy's shield, and use his guisarme to trip the hounds as they drew near and so control the battlefield -- and yet he had been unable to stop himself from dropping the polearm and running off into the darkness. You are not a frightened child, Lord Řízek, he thought to himself; but to his disgust he was still running. 

It was worse now, of course: the underbrush blocked out the light, the steadily-falling rain swallowed all sounds, and he had caromed off enough trees to lose all sense of direction. It was a wonder he hadn't brained himself against one of them. At least the terror was finally fading; if he could get himself back under control he might still find a way back out of this. Even with the Гончие полуночи, the hounds of midnight, and those horrible, strength-stealing shadows all around...

Then he crashed into something new, and decided that he'd better keep running. Whatever it was, it had been large and solid enough to be some sort of boulder... but it had been warm and furry where his cheek had briefly pressed against it, and it had yowled as he put his foot down. On its tail, he thought. O my dear friend Alexej, now is the time to run like the desert birds do when they are chased by hungry cats.

A bolt of lightning traced its way across the sky, its light broken and diluted by the branches overhead but still enough to offer a glimpse of the stone statue of a snake. He twisted in mid-stride and managed to change direction just before he would have collided with it. Behind him, something coughed -- almost hesitantly, but there was an awful lot of lung-space behind that sound. Whatever he'd stepped on, it was big.

Then, abruptly, he crashed into a line of bushes that refused to give; he bounced backwards off them, uninjured but stymied. Something growled in the darkness, ominously close by, and he reached back and drew the great, two-handed flail from the side of his pack. This was no way to fight and he knew it, but he couldn't see any other choice. Swinging the flail back and forth, he began to feel his way along the stubborn line of underbrush. 

Something closed around his arm, but he jerked loose at the last moment, then fled along the edge of the brush. He could hear -- almost feel -- the movement in the darkness behind him. Whatever was hunting him was too big for one of the hounds, too solid for one of the shadows. It snapped at him again, ripping at his shoulder, but a chance flicker of lightning showed him a target and he cuffed it on the nose before it could bite down and grab him. 

If any gods or goddesses can hear me now, I humbly beg your help. I am Aleksander Václav Dvořak Bohatýr-Popovič, my friends call me Alexej, and I am being hunted by a giant tiger! Unfortunately -- but not surprisingly -- none of the gods appeared to offer him aid. In the stories of his people, they never did -- not for anyone who wasn't already one of their favorites, anyway. Behind him, the tiger let out a snarl that cut through the steady drumming of the rain; it sounded offended. 

The line of brush curved ahead of him, cutting off his escape, and Alexej turned. He could barely see, but he would have to fight. He swung his flail, and felt it crash against something solid. Then there was another snarl, and the tiger fell on him like a mountain. He felt himself battered between its paws, felt its mouth close around his left shoulder, and felt himself lifted into the air. His armor wasn't enough to save him from this; he knew of no armor that would have been. 

He sought for words in the only language that everyone else seemed to understand, and cried: "Is big mistake, tiger friend! I give you sausage if you let me go!" 

The tiger either didn't understand, or didn't care. He tried to pull himself free, but the tiger's fangs were sunk into his shoulder and he couldn't get an angle.

Then something else fastened onto his right foot and pulled. Alexej was suddenly stretched horizontal, four feet above the ground, and worried that his joints might give way. Crazily, he thought of the way that the people of this land would sometimes pull on opposite ends of the breastbone of a chicken, and felt a sudden burst of sympathy for the helpless bone. 

When the light came, he thought it was because he was dying. It was only when he hit the ground hard that he realized it was coming from Mercy's shield and that his friends had somehow found him. The tigers were snarling at each other, and he thought that the dragon-man paladin had slammed that tree-sized sword of his into one of them. Then Lord Mercy was bending over him, whispering, and suddenly his wounds were closing and his strength was restored. Even better, Mercy was holding his beloved guisarme and placing it in his hands. The man might be a crazy snake priest, but at this moment he was Alexej's best friend in this whole horrible dream-death world. 

Alexej tried to say so, but he was never entirely sure if his words came out right in the tongue of Sol Povos. 

Still, his friends had come to save him. That was a language all its own, and needed no translation at all.

Note: Alexej is not my character. This was written with permission from (and the approval of) his player, and I've tried to be true to the character.