Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Good!Party: Grand Marshall Giselle

So at this point the elf Tauriel is dead, Tavros’ mother has been resurrected, and she has judged that Rona deserves to hang for crimes, and Tavros has declared himself the King in the East. Caristhium is liberated, but in bad shape. 

He still needs properly noble clothes. 

That was in July; also in July, Ruin, Geddy, Eva, and Leira go to rescue the besieged mages. 

Overall: Lamont, former Duke of Janbridge and notable bigot, is King in the North. The High Provost and Bauregard are definitely gone; Joe R Pious is probably still around up there. The True Elven army is scatter throughout Duendewood and has largely gone into hiding. The druids have also vanished into the forest – so those are two formidable forces which might be worth rallying. The centaurs have also withdrawn. 

Meanwhile, elvish revolutionaries have spilled out of the forest and taken over the northeastern cities of Sol Povos. The priests of Vecna and the dark army are just gone; this allowed commander Giles to take over Welfort, probably with an eye towards eventual rulership. Sacha is somewhere down in that area too. 

Giselle, who had commanded the northern army, took the other half ot the army away from the capital. The remaining solari forces have reinforced various local cities. Crime lords took over Brightland and imposed their own order there. Vampires still rule Flowerhedge. The mages have been rooted out of their tower at Springmage, which is now the demonic seat of power, and taken shelter in Starroads Inn. 

The Iron Company is mercenaries, so they could be brought over to our side. The same is true for the Wildlanders; they’re barbarian hordes. 

So, having discussed the disposition of all these forces, we teleport to an area outside the influence of both demons and storm. Eva then carries us the rest of the way – invisibly – to Giselle and the remains of the eastern army. They notice us anyway when we get close enough, but Geddy manages to signal that we’re friendly. 

We land, and a big man in armor comes striding over. “Who goes there?”

Geddy: “It is I, Geddy, the bringer of…” He drops invisibility. “help!”

Phaneas, captain of the White Warriors of Lakemont, introduces himself. “He calls on us to identify ourselves.”

Geddy introduces himself, then introduces Eva, who curtsies; Ruin, whose presence causes a great deal of consternation; and finally Leira, who is using his shiny armor to fix her hair. He immediately starts hitting on Leira, and he’s pretty good looking; and Geddy in turn starts turning on the charm towards Phaneas. Phaneas is… flustered. 

Apparently we’ll need to meet with Duke Dearborn as well as Grand Marshall Giselle. Geddy looks around at the cloud, pulls out the Lute of Destiny, and starts singing, and uses Mass Charm to suggest that they take us to Giselle. They sweep us up and carry us along. He dresses down the guards for being not up to the standards of the WHite Warriors. 

Lakemont is a very traditional town, with a lot of canals – think Venice. It’s very devoted to Helios, and most of the local Solari are paladins and clerics. The paladin Solari are the White Warriors of Lakemont. There are a significant number of other Solari and soldiers, and it’s all very orderly and very well-organized. Leira pulls out her Solari badge, which she wears on a headband like a very soft tiara. Geddy is one of the heroes of Fort Dedo, and Ruin is… unknown, but probably just some sort of servant. 

We reach the room with the duke, and a woman with very nice (and probably magical) equipment. 

The Duke stands up. “Geddy Lee Geddy! It is quite an honor for you to come visit us. I have heard much of your exploits…” Someone whispers in his ear and he looks around: “Really?” He looks at Leira: “My lady Solari, you are welcome here.” 

Duke: “So, we have not heard of you in many months. What has happened to you?” 

Geddy immediately dumps all of his trauma in the form of song, and of course he’s Geddy. Women weep, men faint, small children swoon. One of the court bards grabs a sword from a nearby guard and tries to throw himself on it; the guard wrestles him away from it. 

He follows it up with the Ballad of Tavros Fontaine. (Sung, I might add, to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland – don’t ask.) The introduction turns into a sort of impromptu ball, followed by a banquet. 

Leira and Geddy are taken to rooms; Eva and Ruin are gone. They have both taken the opportunity to hook up while they’re out here. 

Geddy wakes up and four a.m. and shuffles off to find breakfast. He stumbles into three of the local governors, who are also elderly, and they start exchanging notes on their various aches and pains. He takes the opportunity to pump them for information about Lady Giselle. She still fights for the crown, and is loyal to the crown. She is extremely torn about having fled the capital. She is, however, very popular here; she brought the army, and the town is not only well-run by the duke, but extremely well defended. Lakemont is to some extent unaware of what’s going on elsewhere, which is as much a problem as it is a good thing. Convincing everyone to follow Tavros is going to be a bit tricky, since Giselle is going to want to be sure that the king is truly dead. 

Phaneas walks in with Eva, both of them looking a bit… ruffled. Geddy starts trying to convince Phaneas that he’s going to need to marry Eva and come up with a dowry and all like that. Phaneas turns pale and stumbles back across a chair. “I, um, I have to go check on my men.”

Eva: “Careful there. You take this too far, I’m not going to be able to get any around here.”

Leira and Ruin come wandering in, Leira staggering and clutching at her head. She’s a lightweight, and now very hung-over. 

The conversation turns to the refugee mages. There’s some sort of force field over Starroads Inn that’s preventing them from teleporting away. The mages are apparently putting up quite a fight. We’re talking about Lady Giuselle when she walks in. She spots us, and comes over to sit with us. 

Atrix the White may be leading the refugee mages. There are force fields keeping the mages in, and keeping the demons out. Lady Giselle knows nothing of the vault, but she does know Giles and they were both part of the Privy Council when the occasion called for it, but not part of the inner circle. She considers King Luc to be her king until his death is proven. 

The inn at Starroads is sort of the Buckey’s of Sol Povos. There are around a hundred mages and three hundred initiates, many of them children. 

She starts laying out her intelligence. The demons are led by three balors; they have Maralith bodyguards, and they don’t know who they report to – they report to The High One. Each baalor also has one of the rolling eyes-and-hands things, which may be responsible for the magics. There are also some large snake-warriors. There are a bunch of other demons, including some of the Retrievers. 

We meet with the Duke once he’s awake. He’s in a meeting room with a couple of his advisors. He’s a bit troubled that Tavros worships Amun, but Geddy points out that they belong to the same Covenant and have much in common. He also laments the lack of leadership in the church of Helios. We bring up Clovis Cloverfield, and Geddy manages to sell him as a new potentate. Might he be the new Avatar of Helios? We can’t be sure. 

And, of course, the death of King Luc hasn’t been established. Ruin: “And you have no idea how quickly and happily he would step aside were King Luc to reappear.”

It doesn’t seem like they believe him, but it was the right thing to say. Then the Duke asks about the Elvish land and title claims, and Tavros’ position on them. Geddy spews a huge line of bullshit that says more or less nothing; then he starts selling them on the benefits of supporting Tavros. 

He gets one of his magisters to explain about the College at Springhollow. There are eight archmagisters, one for each school of magic; of the the eight, Verhad of Many Faces was killed during the attack. The Evocation guy made it to the Starroads in made to the inn but then died. Strogan the Transmuter escaped the attack but his whereabouts are unknown. The other five are at the Starroads Inn. The Necromancy master was a big fan of Durest Inglorian, which might be a problem. Below them are the Masters. And below them a few dozen adepts. 

The magister believes that the mages inside are maintaining overlapping dimensional anchors to prevent the demons from teleporting in; the demons also have dimensional anchors preventing the mages from teleporting out. The inn has been fortified with walls of stone and iron and like that. The demons have laid webs around, encircled the place with Unholy Blights; stormclouds lurk overhead, and retrievers patrol the dead zone. The mages have covered the place in magic circles against evil, black tentacles to surround them on the ground, minor globes of invulnerability at choke poiints. 

We could possibly get inside on dragonback, and the mages inside know best what their situation actually is. That’s probably the plan. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

Rested? Is this what rest feels like?

So we had a very nice, solidly low-key Thanksgiving, and I made it a point to sleep a lot, and honestly I'm feeling a lot better for it. Which is good, because I was starting to feel pretty run-down, and this week is going to be extremely busy. Plus, the more energy I have in general, the more energy I have for writing -- and the better my writing is, too. 

The boys have spent their week off doing their best to be completely nocturnal, but with any luck by the time this posts I'll have dragged them back onto a schedule. Probably. Hopefully. 

And, of course, once the first of the year rolls around I'll be eligible for retirement. I need to review the details of how that works -- it might, for example, be advantageous to hold off a bit longer, or to change jobs without "retiring" as such -- but I've signed up for an online seminar that HR is hosting that should go over that stuff. And while work has been pathetically, ridiculously, embarrassingly slow about it, they do seem to be moving forward on reclassifying my position to something that at least vaguely resembles my actual job.

I can't believe we're coming into December already; I can't believe the degree to which each of the last four years has been its own special kind of Hell. It seems like a few things, at least, are finally looking up a little, so I guess we just keep the faith and do what we have to do. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but that's the best I've got.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Ruin: Paternity, Part Four

Aesa pulled her blow and stepped back as Akkora's gruff voice cut across their bout. "Hold arms!"

Looking puzzled, Tarric turned to face the Armsmistress. "Were we..." he trailed off as Akkora shook her head and turned to Aesa. "You have a visitor."

What? Who would be coming to visit her? And why would Akkora think that a visitor was important enough to interrupt their practice? She turned, looked, and nearly dropped her sword. Anica and Werendril were over on the far side of the yards...

With Ruin standing between them. 

Aesa started towards them. Tarric said, "Oh," and followed. 

Ruin stood waiting, wariness in every line of his face and body. She smiled, and his expression softened; after a moment he offered her a smile in return. The blunted steel practice sword was still in her hand; Aesa paused and handed it off to Akkora. Then she came forward, leaving Tarric and Akkora behind. 

"So Darvinin was right," she said. "You did make it back." She glanced at the pair of swords that crossed his back, then frowned slightly. "Is that...?"

Ruin turned his head to follow her eyes, then reached back and slipped the larger two-handed scimitar over his shoulder and held it out to her. "Yes," he said. 

"Merciful Amun," she breathed. "You found Tavros." 

"More accurate to say that they found us," Ruin said, aware that Anica, Werendril, and Tarric were all staring blankly at him now. "And Tavros found a new blade, so he gifted me with this one. I think it would please him if you were to have it."

Aesa frowned, suddenly worried. "Is he...?" She reached out and took the blade. It should have felt clumsy, unwieldy, but it didn't.

"They're alive," Ruin said. "Tavros, and the sorceress Leira, and the human snake-priest Marshall Mercy. Or at least they were a few days ago. They returned to the capital, near to where they were first sent to Fanaxia. I came back out with Martini and Geddy and Eva by way of Mar Dentro, where we made our own crossing to that world."

"The capital?" asked Tarric. "That's not good. It's overrun with demons, and Amun knows what else." 

Ruin shook his head. "They'll make it," he said. 

Aesa brushed away a tear; she wasn't at all sure where that had come from. Then she frowned again. "What about your other friend? The elf in the black robes?"

Ruin squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again. "Azrael. He died getting us free of the Abyss. And the last of Tavros' companions, Alexej, chose to remain behind in Fanaxia and help rebuild the Magiknights, a local order of elite protectors."

Werendril cleared his throat, then swallowed. "That sounds," he observed, "as if you've had a rough couple of years." 

"Months," Ruin corrected. "Time is different in Fanaxia." He looked at Aesa. "For me, it's been less than a season since I last saw you. But here... I've been gone for years. If I seem a bit shaken, it's only because I am."

Aesa studied him for a moment longer, then stepped forward and hugged him. "It's good to see you," she said, and then stepped back. "Are you ready to meet your children?"

Ruin shook his head. "Of course not," he said. "But... I want to, anyway."

Aesa smiled as a profound sense of relief flowed through her. "Then you'd better come with me."

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Ruin: Paternity, Part Three

The practice yard was much as he remembered it: an open square at the center of the temple, statues of titans at each corner. There were racks for practice weapons and training armor along the far wall, protected beneath a sloped roof of clay tiles, and a row of archery targets set up off to his left. Aesa was out on the sand, sparring with an armored human who just about had to be Tavros' friend Tarric. She'd gotten better, he saw; she'd also switched from a regular scimitar to the two-handed version that he and Tavros both favored. 

Tarric fought with longsword and shield; Ruin didn't remember him well, and wondered if Tarric remembered him at all. They'd only met in passing. 

Two years. Two and a half years. He shook his head. It had been a matter of weeks for him, and clearly a lot had happened in his absence. No wonder Aesa was so much better; she'd had plenty of time to practice. And to have my child, apparently

He didn't know how he felt about that. The passage of time had created a gulf between them, one he hadn't expected. And, of course, he'd gone off and left them with his children... and so Werendril had stepped in for him. Paladins, he thought. He still didn't know how that had happened. Not that he was at all surprised that Werendril would do it; it was just that he couldn't imagine how his near-brother had gotten dragged into this at all.

It was still early afternoon, bright and warm but not overly hot; a good time to practice, and the paladins, at least, were taking full advantage of it. As he watched, Akkora the half-orc armsmistress released her hold on a dwarf's arm, which she'd trapped between her legs and locked against her chest to immobilize him. She sat up as he rolled away, shaking his head. "And that," she told him, "is why you should never assume that someone isn't a threat just because they've been disarmed." 

"We're going to learn that, right?" asked the dwarf, shaking his head and rolling his shoulder. 

"Yes," she assured him, and then glanced over to where Ruin stood with Anica and Werendril... and stopped. A moment later she stood and crossed to them. She stopped in front of Ruin and leaned down, studying him. "You've come back," she said. "You heard?"

"That I had children here?" he asked. "Yes. I came as soon as I learned of it."

"You are my friend," she said firmly, "and I'm glad you came." She broke into a grin.

"It's good to find you here," Ruin said. Not least because you haven't hit me yet. He glanced at Aesa, and Akkora followed his gaze. 

"A moment," she said, and then she was striding across the yard.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Tavros: Aftershocks

"Tavros?" asked Aesa gently.

There was a balcony high on the western wall of the citadel that was the Temple of Amun -- not a large balcony, but large enough to hold a wide wooden bench, and placed so that it overlooked Caristhium itself and offered a brilliant view of the sunset. Tavros was seated on one side of the bench, his battered sword leaning against it in easy reach, a bottle in his right hand. He didn't glance back, but he lifted the bottle and used it to motion her forward. 

The setting sun had turned the clouds into a painter's pallet, and nobody else was around. Aesa came forward and matched him, taking a seat on the far side of the bench and placing her new falchion -- his former weapon -- so that it leaned against the outside arm of the bench. "Are you all right?" she asked quietly. 

Tavros shrugged and took a long drink from the bottle. He hesitated, then took another drink, and finally said: "I don't know. I think so. But this..." he waved his free arm around vaguely, "...is a lot to take in."

"How so?" asked Aesa. She thought she could guess, but maybe Tavros needed someone to talk to about it. He and Ruin seemed to be friends, which had come as a profound relief to her, but Ruin was busy coming to terms with being the parent of two young children; his mind was elsewhere. And Martini, Marshall, Ruin, and Leira all had their own concerns as well. 

"My mother is dead," said Tavros. "Start with that. Even if we can bring her back, it's a shock. I never imagined her being... mortal. And Ruin told me something of what happened between him, and you, and Anica... but learning that you both had his children was nearly as big a shock for me as it was for him -- or for you, I've little doubt."

"It was certainly something," Aesa said, glancing sardonically up at the sky. "But go on." 

Tavros shrugged and took another long drink. "I'm not the only one in mourning," he said. "Ruin's mother, Martini's brother... I knew him. I didn't entirely trust him, but I liked him." Something sharp and metallic flashed past his head, and Aesa flinched away; but Tavros didn't react. "Sol Povos is overrun with demons, and flooded with the same sort of perpetual storm that plagued Fanaxia, and I might be the sole heir to its throne... if we can somehow defeat this werebear barbarian that Vigo tells me occupies it now, possibly along with her allies the necromancer and the vampiric sorcerer. And Vigo and Dante are here... those are two worlds I never expected to collide." 

He paused, took another pull from the bottle. "Should I keep going?"

"I think," said Aesa, "that you should hand me that bottle." 

He shrugged and passed it over, and she poured a bit down her throat before passing it back. The stuff was like liquid fire -- gnomish whiskey, she thought. It was a good flavor, but Tavros was drinking it like it was water. But then, Tavros was half-dragon. I'll know he's had too much when the stuff makes him breathe fire instead of ice. "Yes," she said, and wiped her lips. "I think you should keep going."

"As you wish," he said, and paused. "The Silver Fox, an outlaw famous for rescuing elves from under the noses of the King's Archons, turns out to be one of Geddy's former companions from Fort Dedo, an elvish scout named Vendril from a border clan loyal to the throne. But, of course, he vanished before we reached Caristhium, possibly because he knows Vigo and Dante are here and he doesn't want to talk to them. Or possibly because he has other business elsewhere." He took a long drink, then added: "Geddy is suddenly elderly, and Eva -- who was described to me as a little girl -- is full grown."

Aesa nodded sympathetically. 

"And you," he said, turning his head to look at her and offering the bottle again, "are now a battle priest -- in part, I'm told, because of Ruin." 

Aesa nodded. "I don't think he was any less surprised than you are, for all that he made the suggestion."

"Anyway..." said Tavros, and then trailed off. After a moment he asked, "Shouldn't you be looking after Rose?" 

Aesa watched the sunset. "She'll be fine," she said. "Ruin has her."

"Does he?" asked Tavros, and found that he was oddly satisfied by this turn of events. "Good."

"...And we both thought I should come and check on you."

She watched Tavros' eyes flutter closed at that, but couldn't read the emotion behind the gesture. "Yes, well..." he made a vague gesture with the bottle in his hand. "It's been a lot."

"So what are you going to do about it?" Aesa asked. 

Tavros tilted his head, watching the sunset thoughtfully. "Become the King in the East," he said. "I hate it, I don't want the title or the throne, and I'm desperately afraid that if we do somehow pull this off I'll bugger the politics of it seven ways from swordspoint... but there's nobody else, and no other way to restore order. We do what we can with what we have, and hold to the faith that it's all for the best."

"Yes." Aesa nodded encouragingly. "You want some advice?" 

"I am prepared," said Tavros, with a sort of half-drunk gravitas, "to listen to anything you have to offer."

"Sleep it off," Aesa said. "Sleep as long as you need. Not so much for the whiskey, as for everything else. Then go back to the chapel, and spend a while in prayer and contemplation. Center yourself. Then visit the Chapel of All, and offer your prayers to Demeter as well."

Tavros nodded slowly. "That... that is well-taken."

Aesa smiled. "And more than anything else, don't forget that you have friends and allies, people who care about you. You, Tavros -- not the throne, not the kingdom, not some role you might be forced to play or some power and wealth you might inherit. We might not be able to help you against the Solari Hunters, but there are things we can do. And Vigo isn't the only schemer here: the Abbess is sharp and subtle, and doubtless a great deal more principled. Let her counsel you as well."

Tavros nodded and rose from the bench, collecting his sword and buckling it onto his belt. The sun was almost down, the bottle almost empty, and he felt drained of emotion... but in a good way. Yes. Time to settle in, and begin again. "You've grown," he told Aesa. "As a woman, and as a cleric. It's good to see it."

"Do you know," she asked, "that this bench is where I first met you and Ruin both? It's a good place. Almost sacred, for me."

"It is a good place," said Tavros. "Good night."

"Good night," returned Aesa. 

She watched the last sliver of sun slip below the horizon, and the clouds darken into reds and purples. 

Behind her, a deep, gravelly voice grumbled: "I didn't vanish. Your Tavros just hasn't realized that I'm still around."

Aesa started. Then, without turning, she asked: "Vendril?"

A moment later the legendary elf was sitting beside her on the bench. "It's good to meet you," he said.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Good!Party: Retaking Caristhium

This session was played in a campsite by a lake, so I didn't take notes the way I usually do. Some of you may be relieved by that, since it means that this will be a rather abbreviated account of the session. Sorry and/or you're welcome, as you prefer.

We're back to splitting the party as needed, though this is a bit awkward without Azrael to provide some of the teleportation spells we're going to need. Still, Leira can teleport groups of us, and Eva can carry people around at a fairly frightening rate of speed, and Ruin can make decent time just using repeated Dimension Door effects. We can't be everywhere at once, but we can be very mobile. 

For our first actions, Tavros (half-dragon paladin), Martini (Grey Elf assassin), and Marshall (Human Cleric) decide to try to liberate the city of Caristhium from the elvish radicals. This will take some of the pressure off the Temple of Amun; possibly get Tavros' mother - - Amelia Fountain -- resurrected, which would place a powerful mage on our side; and give us the beginnings of a base of operations. It also gives us a chance to start putting the word out...

...About Tavros. 

Tavros, you see, is the last surviving Fontaine, and as such the likeliest heir to the throne of Sol Povos -- if enough of Sol Povos remains to salvage. Tavros is, of course, perfectly appalled by the prospect... but he's willing to take up the crown and the scepter if there's nobody else (and apparently there isn't). 

There are three lords remaining in Caristhium, one of whom is currently under siege by the forces of the radical elves. Their commander is both meticulous and ambitious, so our best bet is to move quickly and take him down before he has a chance to figure out how to take us down. 

Marshall goes to talk to one lord, who was apparently a minor lord whose family was raised to the nobility only a few generations back. They are willing to help, and would support a Fontaine heir, but in return they would like to see their station raised further and their holdings increased. Marshall intimates that this would certainly be possible. 

Martini slips past the besieging forces and visits the second lord. He maintains that it was his loyalty to the Fontaines that brought him to be under siege; more than anything, he needs the siege broken or -- at the very least -- some way to get supplies into his household so that they can maintain their defenses. Martini has foreseen part of this, and has brought one of our bags of holding so that she can distribute fresh food and rations. This has made her startlingly popular. She can't end the siege herself, of course, but she promises that the elvish radical leader will fall shortly. He promises to await the outcome.

Tavros goes to speak with the third noble house in person. It's patriarch is an older man, said to have been closely involved in the local government before the city fell. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes clear that he's already cut a deal with the elvish radical, and in any case the price of his loyalty is to have other to noble houses destroyed. Tavros tries to explain that if the House will support him as he retakes Sol Povos, there would be rewards available well beyond the scope of local politics in Caristhium... but the patriarch refuses to hear it, and in any case it looks like his die is damned well cast already. Tavros extracts himself (without violence) and heads back to the temple. 

The next morning, Tavros returns to Caristhium and challenges the radical elf leader to a duel. The fellow flees, but one of his lieutenants sets fires across the city. Tavros, enraged, refuses to kill her and has her taken prisoner; Martini and Ruin can talk to her later. (He has not really focused on the part where Martini's idea of "talking to her" involves torture.) 

Unfortunately, we're quickly able to determine that the tarred head on the spike above the gates does not belong to his mother. Which means locating the elf -- which we do -- defeating him -- which we also do -- and reclaiming the body of Amelia Fontaine. There's going to be some cleanup, but the occupiers are now thoroughly disrupted and Tavros has taken his first steps towards assuming the mantle of the King in the East. 

He still flinches whenever someone calls him Highness, though.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Ruin: Paternity, Part Two

The temple of Amun, just outside Caristhium, had clearly fallen on hard times. The gates, once open to anyone, were now closed and carefully guarded; the priests and paladins within were slimmer, hungrier, more tired. Even the Abbess seemed to have aged far more than two-and-something years that had passed should allow. 

...Which was nothing compared to what had happened to Geddy, of course, but Geddy had played with powerful magics and wound up aged well beyond the years that had passed for everyone else. The gold dragon Eva had likewise aged, but in her case it had taken her from a small child (when she took human form) to a mature woman; Ruin wasn't sure what that had done to her relationship with her sister Rita, but he had the impression that here and now, they had grown up largely apart and might be close to the same age. Lifespans were funny things. 

They were on their way back up from the sanctuary -- and the small suite of secret rooms hidden behind and below it -- when someone said, "Ruin?" 

He turned and beheld Werendril, the paladin looking strong and lean and--


He hadn't expected to be struck in the face with a mail-gauntleted fist, and as a result completely failed to dodge. He staggered back, barely avoiding crashing into Geddy. Martini stepped out of the way; it was Eva who caught him and pulled him effortlessly upright. "Werendril?" he asked. 

The paladin stepped in and punched him in the balls, and Ruin doubled over. "What--?"

Then the paladin stepped in and pulled him close. "Corellon's Sacred Scrotum," he swore, "it's good that you're alive." 

"You have," Ruin gasped, trying to force himself upright, "a funny way... of showing it..."

"He's a fucking amateur," said another voice, a woman's voice rich with threat, and Werendril stepped aside. Anica was coming towards him, fist raised over her shoulder, and he braced himself for the impact. 

She wrapped her hands around the back of his neck and kissed him, hard

"Careful," he gasped. "I still might throw up."

"Don't care," she said. "You're alive." Then she punched him in the nerve cluster under his left shoulder. "But that's for leaving us alone all this time. Where the hell have you been?"

Ruin groaned. "Fanaxia," he said. "Then the Abyss. And finally Mar Dentro." This wasn't exactly the reception he'd been expecting, though he'd be hard-pressed to describe what he had been expecting. "Look, if you're going to stab me, just go ahead and get it over with."

"I'm not going to stab you, you idiot," said Anica, "but I have no idea how we're going to explain to Rune that you're actually his father. He's two fucking years old now, and has no idea who you are."

Ruin shook himself, trying to get rid of the nausea... and the numbness that ran through his entire left arm. "You're right," he said. "I have a lot of apologies to make."

"Then you should bloody well start with Aesa," responded Anica. 

Ruin looked around at his companions. Geddy was watching with avid fascination and Martini was grinning. Only Eva looked concerned. "I'll... I'll be back in a little bit," he told them. 

"I'll get your friends settled," the Abbess told him. "Let Birno know if you need a room to yourself."

Ruin blinked at her, nodded, and then turned as Anica grabbed his arm and all but dragged him away.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Ruin: Paternity, Part One

Ruin knelt with Darvinin beside the grave of their mother. "What happened?" he asked quietly. 

Darvinin squeezed his eyes shut. "When Duke Lamont brought the human army in and crowned himself king, when Mithrandril and the Provost alike disappeared, Mother dropped out of public life and began organizing the resistance. We had cells all over, sabotaging their supplies and even murdering their commanders where we could manage it. But Mother was... Mother. She was well enough known to bring people to the cause, but also well enough known to be easily recognized, easily identified. Eventually a group of Lamont's Solari cornered her and killed her -- I think he was following the example of the Order of Secrets and their Solari Hunters."

Ruin said, "Couldn't we ask someone to...?"

"No." Darvinin sounded pained. "She knew this would happen. She established the resistance, but she too borrowed a trick from the Order of Secrets: she did something to make damned sure that she could not betray it. And she asked me to be sure that she wasn't resurrected, so that the resistance would live on without any need for her."

Ruin nodded slowly. Yes, that sounds like her. He wondered how their father fared, but didn't quite dare to ask. 

"I think she sent Mistra away deliberately," Darvinin said after a long minute. "She was pregnant, almost too pregnant to draw a bow. Mother said she had a mission for her, and teleported her somewhere else. That was... maybe two weeks before she was killed."

Ruin nodded. The child would be Darvinin's, and his own niece or nephew; otherwise his brother wouldn't have brought it up. "Congratulations, O my brother."

Darvinin looked at the grave again, then back at Ruin. "At least she had a chance to give her blessing to her grandchildren before she was slain." 

Ruin frowned. "Grandchildren?" 

Darvinin nodded slowly. "My and Mistra's unborn child... and your son and daughter."

And Ruin asked: "...My what?"

Darvinin looked at him for a long time before he spoke again. "Actions," he said quietly, "have their consequences, Brother."

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Challenge: Social Media

(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: Favorite social media platform and why

I mean, I pretty much have the blog o' doom here, and a presence on Twitter. So that would have to be Twitter. 

(I used to be on Facebook too, but I dropped it a few years back. I still technically have accounts there, but I haven't been on the site in at least a year.)

The problem with that answer, of course, is that Twitter just got bought out by a guy who has no idea whatsoever what he's doing, and who appears to be in the process of burning the whole thing down. (Like, seriously. He's fired a ridiculous percentage of the staff -- I'm afraid to put in a number because it might actually change before this goes live. He's turned off a bunch of microservices that do things in the background... including the one that lets you log in using two-factor authentication. He keeps making claims about Twitter that Twitter itself refutes. He really, desperately wants everybody to think that he's smart and cool and he's just... not.) 

I'm on a couple of Discord channels, but that isn't really the same thing; and I've recently created a Tumblr in case Twitter actually does implode, but I don't have a good handle on how it works yet. So it's basically still Twitter, for however long it lasts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Good!Party: Reunions and Disasters

We hear screams outside – in the distance at first, and then coming closer. The bartender: “Not again!” Tavros: “This happens often? What is it?”

“Ir’s a dream vestige! A horrible mist composed of fallen souls, that rolls through town and eats everyone it can find.”

“Oh, dear,” says Tavros, watching the mist roll through and form faces which are disrupted by other faces. “We must help!”

Clovis goes out the front door, and Tavros follows.

Leira climbs out of the bath and dries herself off. 

Marshall watches the cloud roll through a house and the screams from inside suddenly stop; the cloud-monster comes out the other side. Tavros strides up to one of the clouds and cuts into it, which shouldn’t work at all… but he’s wielding a holy avenger, and that cuts into it as if it were solid, doing a ferocious amount of damage. 

Marshall considers a plan, and holds back; Leira is getting dressed. The cloud rolls over us, coming into Leira’s room and grasps her with foggy tendrils; she takes some damage, and also suffers an intelligence drain. It attacks Marshall, Clovis, and Tavros as well, and we all take damage; in addition, a woman in the inn is struck down and becomes a zombie. 

Marshall promptly drops a Mass Heal on everybody, including the cloud. Unfortunately, he fails to get past the undead cloud’s spell resistance, but he does heal everybody except Clovis. He follows up by restoring himself and Clovis. Tavros attacks, and finishes one of the clouds. Leira attempts to disintegrate the thing, but misses and disintegrates part of the wall. She adds a quickened False Life. Marshall casts Searing Light three times, and gets past spell resistance, but has trouble tagging it because it’s partly incorporeal. Only one connects, but it does do some damage. Clovis tries to cast Harm and accidentally casts Heal, but misses. 

Tavros takes more damage, and attacks again. His intelligence has been severely drained. Leira has also been damaged, and just starts throwing fireballs out the window at this thing. Marshall moves up and drops a Restoration on Tavros, then tries two searing lights. 

The cloud attacks Tavros, and takes him down with intelligence drain; he is literally too stupid to stay on his feet. Clovis moves up and adds Disruption to Marshall’s scythe, then casts Searing Light and actually does some damage. Leira throws fireballs around, and does some damage. 

Marshall picks up Tavros’s sword, taking a bit of damage from the offended weapon. He swing at the cloud, making use of divine power and divine favor. The cloud attacks Leira this time; she collapses. Clovis attacks with two more Searing Lights, but misses. Marshall drops a Mass Heal, then restores Tavros. 

The cloud promptly attacks Tavros again, but Clovis races over and Restores him again. Tavros attacks from the ground, and finishes the thing. Meanwhile the villagers move in and beat down the husks. The bartender rewards us with his lucky stone, which Leira promptly claims for her own. 

We depart Brightland as heroes, heading northeast. We pass through battlefields and burned-out villages; as we near Caristhium, we emerge from the maelstrom around the capital to find ourselves in what feel like late spring weather. (It’s actually June.)

With that, we return to the Elf party. 

Elderly Geddy reappears with the now-adult dragon Eva. We head north, and arrive at an elven-run inn. The barkeep looks at Ruin: “Darvinin?” 

Ruin: “Ruin.”

Barkeep: “Darvinin?”

Ruin: “His brother.” 

Barkeep: “Darvinin?” 

Ruin: “We’re twins.” 

So apparently Darvinin is away and isn’t due back for a couple of days. We get about that far when we hear a crash outside. A cart has tipped over outside, and four half-orcs are standing around menacing the owners, while four wizardly-looking types stand beside them looking on. 

The barkeep says, “Oh no. Not them again. Just let them do their thing and pass on.” They’re apparently pretty tough; Darvinin tried to confront them and got his ass handed to him. 

Ruin and Martini notice that the wizardly-types are wearing Vecna medallions around their necks, and the orcs are part of the elite guard of Vecna. Ruin immediately Dimension Doors over behind the robed figures. He cuts down one, and damages another. Geddy casts Haste, which hits everybody except Ruin. 

Eva steps outside and turns into a dragon. 

Ruin steps up and wipes out two more of the wizards. Leira steps up behind one of the orcs and stabs him from behind; she is currently invisible, using Greater Invisibility. Geddy shuffles out of the inn and casts Hold Person on the remaining wizard, who resists. Eva  kills the last wizard. 

Ruin uses Dimension Door to move in front of the injured orc. He is wearing a mithril chain shirt. Ruin exchanges a couple of blows with him, then takes his head off. 

Eva returns and the villagers erupt into cheers. The barkeep is Narissa; whatever we want is on the house. Ruin asks for whiskey. Ruin asks after Darvinin, and finds out that he’s off… burying their mother. Baethira was a prominent leader of the resistance, and she was caught by a group of the former duke’s Solari and killed. Darvinin went to bury her in a sacred place. Ruin remembers an old druid’s grove near here, and decides that that’s where we ought to head next. 

Mithandril has disappeared; the High Provost has also disappeared. These Vecna groups come into town every so often; they probably have a base of operations somewhere around here. Duke Lamont took over the whole western army of Sol Povos along with a bunch of Solari, and declared himself King of the North and took over Annun. Apparently the south is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Supposedly a bear sits on the throne of Sol Povos. 

Perhaps more importantly, the half-orc had a belt of giant strength, which we give to Geddy to help reinforce him in his old age. Ruin suggests that we go find the old grove; Eva carries us, so the journey takes half a day at most.

Sure enough, the clearing and the grove are there. Darvinin is in the clearing, kneeling beside the grave. Ruin strides over and re-acquaints himself with his twin brother. We bring Darvinin up to speed on what we’ve been doing; he brings us up to speed on everything… 

…including the fact that Ruin has two-year-old children. Ruin: “What?”

He doesn’t know what’s become of Shanna and her friends; he lost track of them when Lamont rolled in. He has stories of rape and torture; most of the true elves are sheltering the forest, since Annun and the other cities are under human control. The high provost and cronies are gone; so is Mithandril. The Vecna priests are around, but they never show up in force and nobody is sure what they’re doing at present. 

Darvinin’s advice is that we should head for Caristhium. Ruin suggests that he should find Mistra and Shanna and the others, and follow them to Caristium. 

Traveling by dragon, we head to Caristhium. We land outside of town, and walk into town… and promptly run into the guards. They’re elves, but they’re also clearly the guards you shouldn’t trust. They’re going to be abusing their authority. 

The guards looks us over, then focus on Eva: “Whoooah.” She’s an attractive woman.

Martini steps in when the guards start trying to extort Geddy and Eva. She intimidates the hell out of them, and we pass by into town. Caristhium itself is a walled town, and it’s in a lot worse shape than it was. Also, there’s a bunch of tarred heads on spikes along the walls. One occupies a place of honor above the gates. 

“That’s Amelia Fontaine,” one of the passers-by tells us. “She was one of the traitorous humans who ruled us before our new masters came.” 

Ruin recognizes that it must be Tavros’s mom. The banners are crude, but indicate some sort of elvish resistance. They’ve definitely got control of the town, and they’re squeezing it dry. Eva disguises herself as an elf. 

The temple of Amun is shut up tight, so we knock. Brother Birno greets us at the gate. Ruin introduces us (again) and he lets us in after giving Ruin some grief about faking his death to avoid taking care of his children. The place is in disrepair, and Birno is a lot thinner than he used to be. 

Birno takes us to the Abbess, who is perfectly appalled by Geddy being so vastly much older. She’s actually a bit disappointed, but she’s also very interested. Ruin gives her the story, and she leads us off behind the shrine, where she opens a wood panel to reveal a staircase leading down. She leads us down into a secret area, where two people are sitting. 

It takes us a minute because they’re in very plain clothes, but it’s Vigo the Whisperer and Dante Alighieri. 

Vigo is very excited to see us – for an inveterate schemer, anyway – and brings up to speed a bit more. He’s got a whole tactical map on the wall, He starts pointing out things that we need toi know. The druids retreated deep into the forest, and their whereabouts are unknown; the same for the centaurs. 

The demons are centered in Springmage, at the old mage’s college. The storm is centered on the elemental temple, and teleportation effects are basically impossible within that. There are Solari still holding some of the cities. The General Giselle retreated to the west and has some forces there, along with some allied Solari. Meanwhile, the Tarrasque is still roaming around, and may eventually break through at Summerwynne, at which point it can go anywhere. There’s a group of refugee mages. Flowerhedge, on the other hand, is overrun with vampires. The capital has some remnants of Meowdeus’ army. 

When the priests of Vecna reached the capital, they broke into the vault. The king is likely dead, because the vault is marked with a curse that says “Only with the blood of kings mayst thou enter.” The biggest problem with trying to retake the capital is the three horsemen themselves; two of them remain in the capital, and the vampire Chuck has taken over the small island of Jardin. They’ve also heard stories of the former captain of Fort Dido, Sacha, somewhere in the southeast. The other Grand Marshall Giles took the eastern army and established himself as the new Duke of Welfort. 

In the north, the old great western army now belongs to “King” Lamont; there’s still a force of Solari in Janbridge; there’s also a bunch of followers of Apollyon, who have allied with Lamont. Mithandril mysteriously vanished, and even Vigo has no idea what happened. 

We hang out there for a couple of days, and sure enough Tavros and Leira and Marshall show up. Meanwhile, the Vecna priests are hiding out somewhere, probably in Duendewood. So: Demons, Lamont, and the Capital – and then the Vecna priests, the Tarrasque, and various other things. 

We decide on a strategy.

Monday, November 14, 2022


Yeah, I... started to write up something on the general state of work at my job, but it made me angry and depressed so I stopped. 

Writing, on the other hand, is going pretty well. 

Have some music:

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Music: Sleep

Allen Stone: 

And yeah, this one's feeling a bit on the nose for me right now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Sol Povos: The Escape

We are now hiding from demons in the very secret house. There’s a blade barrier around everything except the front door. We really, really need to get out of here. There are still some refugees hiding in the basement. Clovis Cloverfield looks to Marshall for guidance; Marshall tells him to try to dispel the Blade Barrier, which he does. 

Vendril yells down to get the refugees moving. Tavros uses Lay On Hands to heal Liera a bit, and then retreats further into the house. Leira follows, and then looks out the window and conjures a Meteor Swarm. The demons take a surprisingly large amount of damage from this.

The Marilith smashes through the barrier and comes to the door. Marshall casts Divine Favor and a quickened Divine Power, then adds a quickened Cure Critical on Tavros. Clovis grabs Tavros by the shoulder. “What do I do now?” 

Tavros: “Heal me! You’re a cleric, heal the paladin!”

“Oh! Right!” He does, and then heals Leira as well. 

One of the Glaabrezu casts Power Word Stun on Marshall. Marshall is stunned. The other two glaabrezu smash through the barrier. The first one attacks Marshall and hits. Tavros moves back up and yanks Marshall back, taking his place. Leira casts disintegrate on the demon outside the window, but fails to dissolve it; it still takes damage, and of course it’s pissed off. She throws a quickened fireball as well. 

The marilith steps forward, staying just outside of Tavros’ reach, and attacks him. A lot. She has six arms and a tail slap, She whacks the crap out of him, and grapples Tavros with her tail. 

Venrdil’s crew tries to put the ladder out, but it immediately flies up into the sky because of the anti-gravity effect. Clovis runs up behind Tavros and drops another Heal on him, Vendril tumbles up through the antigravity and onto the roof. One of the glaabrezu attempts to stun Tavros, and fails. The other two attack him, but miss. Tavros tries to break out of the grapple, but fails. 

Leira drops a Freezing Sphere on the marilith that’s trying to crush her father, which doesn’t bother him at all – Tavros is immune to cold. She also tags the two closest glaabrezu in the process. One of them is staggering, but the marilith is barely scathed. Leira follows up with a quickened magic missile and finishes the glaabrezu; she ping the marilith with a second one as well. Marilith, telepathically: You will pay for that! 

The marilith moves into the house, taking Tavros with her and constricting him. She disdains to attack Clovis, and instead tries to use Telekinesis to throw Marshall and Clovis out into the street for the glaabrezu. She fails.

Vendril’s assistance are still trying to get past the reverse gravity. Clovis, meanwhile, casts Repulsion, making her unable to move towards him; he then blocks the doorway. Vendril tumbles through the anti-gravity and makes it to the pedestal leading to the next building. One of the glaabrezu uses Power Word Stun on Leira, and succeeds. The other one tries to telekinesis Marshall out the door, and again fails. The marilith again constricts Tavros, who is struggling but seems unable to escape. The marilith attacks Marshall, and Clovis promptly heals him. 

Meanwhile, another things comes creeping around the corner. It’s a Yuan-ti anathema: basically a giant, snake-based abomination with only the tiniest vestiges of humanity left. Vendril ties off the rope, and the anathema promptly moves in behind the glaabrezu. The glaabrezu move in but miss, and Tavros finally rips his way out of the grapple. He positions himself opposite Marshall. 

Marilith: “Come back, my pretty!” she tries to grab him with her tails but misses; she then attacks him with her swords, and hits with one. 

Then Marshall snaps back to sense. “Oh you poor, wretched creatures.” He lays into her with his scythe, doing a lot of damage… most of which, unfortunately, she soaks.

Vendril’s crew gets everyone upstairs and starts trying to get people across; one slips and flies up into the air. 

Clovis, meanwhile, is still blocking the door. He casts Death Ward on Marshall, and adds align weapon to help Marshall get through the marilith’s defenses. Vendril manages to lasso one of his men from the sky and pulls him down. “This is not going well.” 

Tavros finally cuts loose, and cuts the marilith in half; he then turns out the door and takes out a glaabrezu, then another. Marshall strolls out the door and turns into an even bigger snake than the anathema. Vendril and his friends are still moving refugees to the next building. 

So naturally another marilith comes around the corner.

Clovis steps up and heals Tavros again, while Vendril pulls another guy down. The anathemy draws a giant blasphemous falchion and attacks Tavros with it. It hits him, and the sword casts blasphemy. One of the guys upstairs just randomly dies. The rest of us are stunned and dazed. It misses with next two sword attacks, and then all six of its heads tries to bite; one succeeds, and manages to poison Tavros. 

The marilith moves closer. Vendril crosses back over to try to get the last two people. The anathema continues to attack Tavros, missing with the sword, and hitting with a claw. Tavros then attacks, only hitting it once but doing a fair amount of damage. Leira runs upstairs and positions herself where she can target the demons, and drops a meteor swarm directly behind the marilith – close enough to hit the anathema as well. Then she drops fireballs on them. 

The marilith charges Tavros and attacks with her tail, but misses. Marshall casts Greater Restoration on himself, then follows up with a quicked Spell Resistance on himself, and follows up with a quickened Slay Living on the Anathema, but fails to get through its spell resistance. 

Vendril: “I hear more of them coming. Big ones! We need to go!”

Tavros: “I say, we’re not the ones going slow!”

Clovis steps out and cures Tavros somewhat. Vendril gets two more hostages across while the others duck into the building and slip out a back window. The anathema attack Tavros again, hitting with its sword and one snake head. Tavros slices into it with his falchion and takes it down. 

Leira casts fly and then slips out the far balcony. The marilith attacks Tavros, cutting him up, and then hits him with her tail. Tavros is ready this time, and shakes her off. 

Marshall scoops up Tavros and Clovis in his mouth, spreads the wings from his magic cloak and flies away with them. Looking back, we see these two giant balls of hands and eyes rolling in to reinforce. The remaining henchman gets the last refugee across, and we slink off into the shadows of the city, our scents lost in the constant rain. 

We make our way to the outskirts of town, and Vendril leads us to Brightland. 

Brightland is now run entirely by criminal guilds, who are keeping their own sort of social order. He takes us to an inn, where he pauses to mourn the death of Jonnee, who died in the blasphemy. He gets the refugees on their way. 

Vendril: “So, guys… what the fuck? I thought you were dead.”

Tavros: “It seems we might actually have been dead.”

Leira explains how traumatized she is about being a spinster now. Vendril has word of Sasha – he’s reappeared out east. A great hero. I hear he may be in trouble, though. Viggo would know more.”

“Viggo? The Whisperer? …Of course he survived.” 

Vendril got them to Caristhium. 

Tavros: “Why are there demons everywhere>”

Vendril: “I’m told the Vecna priests just opened portals and let a bunch of them in.”

The rain has been growing stronger as we spoke, and now someone knocks on the door. A man bursts in in blue robes, He looks around at everyone who is not us and says, “Out!” Then he tosses a coin purse at the barkeep. 

He squelches over to us and sits down. “I am Ezra Cardon, high priest of Indra from the Copa Dei basin.”

Marshall: “Why should we care?” 

Ezra: “Because we have the same problem: those mewling priests of that pansy-ass god, Vecna.” He wants our help, apparently. 

Tavros: “It seems you just got here in time. The storm seems to have grown stronger just as you arrived.”

Marshall: “So what do you think we could to help?”

“It’s clear that there’s some sort of deal between Vecna and Asmodeus. Clearly the followers of Vecna didn’t want the kingdom. 

Tavros explains about what we did with the Sword and the Hand. (Leira has departed, leaving a Silent Image to occupy her chair.) Marshall: “But why would Asmodeus give those artifacts to Vecna?”

“Vecna’s followers opened portals and let Asmodeus’ demons into Sol Povos, effectively handing him the kingdom. There are pockets of resistance around – lady Gizelle in the west, the sacred hero Sasha in the east. The poet and the spymaster would know. You go to Caristium and find them, and I’ll figure out where Vecna’s followers went.”

We ask about the elf party, and Ezra says he’ll see if he can send a message to them. He’s thrilled by the idea of more allies against Vecna. He is clearly not a good guy, but he’s also extremely interested in defeating or destroying Vecna. Tavros is troubled by this, but… we’re a little short on allies and options. 

Ezra departs. Clovis has heard of an Indra temple and a high priest named Ezra Cardon from up in the Copo Deus region; that used to be Indra’s seat of power. 

Time, meanwhile, is doing very strange things to the famous gnomish bard Geddy. He and the dragon-girl Eva have been growing old while viewing each other through a crystal pond. Bryce, the crown prince, joins Geddy there, and Geddy at some point begins to mentor Bryce in the ways of rulership. 

By the time Ruin and Martini escape the abyss and return to the shores of mar dentro, Eva has rescued the elderly Geddy. We get the local date sorted out. Geddy decides to Scry on Marshall, and gets a good view of Tavros opening up people’s coffins and letting them out. As a result, we get some new information: the others are alive, Sol Povos is overrun with demons, and things have gone horribly wrong. 

We decide to head north, because Ruin has no idea that he has children and his kith and kin were in or near Annun the last he knew. 

Monday, November 7, 2022


So, a friend and I our took our younger sons camping this past weekend -- slid into the campsite just after the massive rainstorm had blown through, and had a lovely weekend after that. 


The boys spent most of Saturday playing on the beach and hitting dead trees with machetes, while the adults read, napped, made fires, and otherwise amused ourselves. 

They built a fairly extensive city of sand, and decided that they were now gods for whatever tiny little ants might live there; discussions of ant theology followed. "Why would they need money if we can just make anything they might need?" 

Regardless, they built a home for the ant blacksmith, with a forge just outside of it:

And, of course, the temple where the ants could come to worship their giant gods:

From an adult perspective, this is definitely the way to go camping: the boys kept each other occupied, while the fathers got to trade off on cooking meals. And despite the effort involved in hauling everything (including firewood) in and most of it back out, it was a relaxing, refreshing weekend.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Thursday Motivational

All right, it's Thursday. Look over your plans, gather everything you'll need to fulfill them, and then realize that everything has gone wrong and your plans are never going to work. Take a moment to have a small nervous breakdown, then make some new plans in the full knowledge that those too will be interrupted. Yes, it's probably going to be like this all day. Honestly, you might as well just give up and go back to bed now.