The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 35 – Priory at Talismith

Purple Worm

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Arius…

Lexa Lyoncroft as an ally – who would have conceived of this?  Yet there we sat with her, mapping out our strategy.  V’sarin, the dragon’s graveyard, sounded forbidding at best.  Yet there we would find the way to return Viktor Barristen to his grave, permanently.  The only catch was that we did not know where V’sarin was to the south, beyond the realms we knew.  The problem we faced was simple, how do we find this place?

Lyoncroft stirred the coals of the fire as she spoke.  “There’s an old monastery some eight days south of here, long abandoned.  It is said they were great map makers.  You may find some clue as to where you go. It is called Talismith.

“I would not recommend you go to your home town.  Barristen knows who you are, he will have his minions looking and waiting for you.  As it is, we must move on as well.  Hiding in a haunted battlefield may not be the best place to conceal one’s self when facing an undead lord.  We will go north and west exploring what you found on that map.”

“Karn had a mapmaker, but I am not sure we should go there.  This monastery may be our best chance,” Althalus said.

“Where should we rendezvous?” I asked.

“At the Rangersmeet at Villineau,” Brandon offered.  “It is safe and we may need their aid before all of this is done.”

She nodded.  “Now, we need to get messages to each other…”

“I have that covered,” Althalus said.  “I have a spell that lets me communicate.”

“What can you tell us about this library?” I asked.

“The Priory at Talismith was, a century ago, a place of great learning with a large library of tomes and manuscripts.  The monks that lived there were a small order but deeply respected in the church.  Around four decades ago the monastery suffered from a plague that wiped out half of the order.  Then a Gorgon moved into the area and killed the remaining monks.

“The church sent in a party to try and rescue the manuscripts, especially the maps said to be stored there.  The party that went in was never heard from again.  Others were sent but none came back.  The Library and monastery were considered lost after that.”

“Gorgons…” Althalus muttered.  “That is useful information…and possibly deadly.  I like this plan, but less so now.”

“We will need allies along the way,” Lyoncroft offered.  “The coming fight will be vicious and cost many souls.”  I gave her a knowing nod.  This was indeed a quest worthy of one of my order.  I muttered a prayer of protection for us all before bedding down that night.

The next day we set out across the Gallesian Fields, finding the road south that we had taken months earlier.  That evening we saw the statue where Theren enchanted his staff.  It was oddly reassuring to see sights we knew. The next day as we moved through the creepy old battlefield we were approached the Bailey Hills where the hangings after the war had taken place.  The next day, on the road, we were approached by a massive Ogre wearing a wine cask that had been split in half and was worn with half on the front, half on the back, with straps to make it a big wooden piece of armor.

“I am thinking this might be Barrel Chest, who Lexa told us about,” Theren said.

“You think?” Althalus snapped back with a wry grin.

“Hail Barrel Chest!” Theren called as he clunked forward towards us.

“Hi friend,” Althalus called as he approached, his massive tree-like club at the ready.  “We are friends of Lexa Lyoncroft.”  The warlock continued to weave a retelling of our arrangement with Lexa, dumbed down so that the Ogre could understand it.  His persuasive capabilities were good.  Barrel Chest sat down to listen, hanging on every word. We were all thankful he had not mentioned Pot Head, his brother whom we had slain. I joined in on the conversation when it looked like Barrel Chest wasn’t entirely following the story.

We conversed with him for several minutes.  He mentioned his missing brother, and we played stupid about Pot Head’s fate.  He finally asked, “Where Lexa?  Where she go?”

“She went northwest,” I said.

He looked downright sad.  “Aw, Barrel Chest upset. Barrel Chest like Lexa.”

“She will be back,” I offered.

“Me go after her.  Lexa true friend of Barrel Chest.”  With those words, he called us “Friends” and left, lumbering off into the Fields.

Two days later we passed the gate that marked the edge of the Gallesian Fields.  As Althalus put it, “The air feels less un-deady now.”  That didn’t mean that the danger had passed, as evidenced the next night.

Theren heard three horses and riders slowly approaching our camp during his watch.  He doused our fire and eventually woke us.  Althalus moved behind a tree as did I.  They slowly came into view, three humans wearing black plate armor.  Armed with lances, they leveled them in our general direction as they came into view.

“Who goes there?” I asked.

“Who’s over there?” came a voice back.

“I asked you first.”

“We have been asked to look for some people.”

“We are people.”

“We are looking for a paladin and a warlock.”

Althalus spoke up, “Non-church magic is illegal.” The irony was not lost on me.

“Why?” I asked.

“We were hired to find them.”  The menacing lance said they wanted more than to just find us. Their leader added, “And apparently we found them.”

They charged, dropping their lances and switching to maces – heading towards where Althalus and I were. Althalus blasted the horse that was rushing him, knocking it back in a blur of brilliant green magic, knocking the rider off of his steed and sending him rolling along the ground.  Brandon fired his bow, hitting another, his arrow protruding from his target’s thigh.  A magical attack on Althalus lit one of the men on unholy fire.

I faced one rider alone.  I used my thunderous and divine smite, making Skullringer shimmer in the darkness as I swung.  I hit his breastplate squarely, passing through his chest and out of his back – through his spine – killing him instantly.  The magical blast threw the horse sideways, breaking its leg as it sprawled out.  The upper torso of the rider landed at Brandon’s feet.  Mercy demanded my last attack was to finish off the wounded horse.  I missed seeing the death of one of the riders that Brandon was tangling with.

“Meat’s back on the menu boys!” called out Althalus with a twisted grin.

Theren’s thornwhip spell, pulling the one rider off his horse and towards the druid. Althalus opened up some God-awful void of darkness centered on the rider, sucking in the air and life around it.  Pure darkness slurped and whispered from the void as it devoured the rider.

“What in the hell is that?” I asked, never having seen anything like that cast before.  The warlock grinned back at me.

When the sphere of darkness ended, we saw the tormented, charred body of the rider that had been trapped in the spell.  Anguish was locked on his face.  Theren found 350 gold pieces and found a small glass sphere in a leather pouch.  One was broken at the feet of the man, but we did not know what it was for.  Theren determined that it was indeed magical.  Althalus learned that it was some sort of communication device.  “I surmise this is broken and used to communicate with someone else.”

That was ominous. Did that rider tip off Barristen with this sphere? Our warlock suggested just getting rid of it entirely.  “I don’t like the idea of holding onto this.”  I dug a small hole and Althalus put it in, burying it.

We rode on for three days heading south, into lands we had never traveled before.  The area was wooded, with rolling hills, low hollows, and the occasional creek. That night we noticed the glow of a fire of some sort, nearly a mile from our campsite, glowing in the west.

The next day we headed that direction, coming across a statue of a monk or some sort of priest.  It looked as if it were frozen mid-running stride.  A bird nest was built on it, and streaks of white bird shit streaked its torso. Moss and vines clung to it.  That conjured images of the Gorgon that were said to be in the area.

We progressed further and came across a large ruins.  Brandon pretty much confirmed that this where the fire was that night.  Outside the ruins, there are statues, covered in moss and vines.  The ruins are of a building that is 300 heads by 150 heads.  There is a tower that has crumbled, but still stands at two stories tall.  It appears at one time that this was a four story structure, but now only parts of the outer walls and rubble remain. Vines and growth seemed to be blanketing some areas of the jumble of broken stones and roof tiles.  This had to be Priory at Talismith.  In the middle of it, there was a camp site of sorts.  There was a large iron pot suspended over the smoking remains of the fire.

Brandon found a track, giant in size, with nasty claws.  He had no idea what had made it, but it was enough to give me pause.  I stopped and uttered a prayer when he told us that it was recent.

There was no easy way to approach the ruins.  We crept up on the rubble single-file, getting close to the fire-site in the middle of the ruins.

Movement popped up around us…a trap!  The creatures were massive, greenish gray skin, lanky with long arms and hideous claws.  Theren and Althalus called out, “Trolls!” and I knew we were in for a battle worthy of God’s trust in me.  Three of the monstrosities closed in on us.

The battle was a flurry of action, all blurred in my mind. A magical sphere of fire that Theren cast moved in on them and I remembered that Trolls had to be burned or they recovered injuries. The rubble hindered our movement as we tried to shift to cover each other.  Althalus’s green magic blast staggered one back, searing some of its grotesque flesh in the process.

Brandon hit one with an arrow that only seemed to irritate the Troll.  I struggled to land a solid blow with Skullringer but bit more air than Troll with both swings of the warhammer. Theren’s sphere of fire seemed to herd them…in my direction.  A magical whip wrapped around one creature, cutting it and spilling sick-green blood.

One of the creatures lunged at me, missing me with a clamping bite, but a claw dug me deeply in the arm. It was close enough for me to smell its rotting breath.

Brandon’s hail of thorns missed entirely. One Troll hit Althalus and burst into flames as a result of hitting the Warlock.  I hit the Troll on me, furrowing its flesh with Skullringer.  The ball of fire that Theren was moving and the burning Troll were a bit of a distraction that I opted to ignore.  Althalus blasted one Troll back into the rubble but another Troll slashed him up with both of its claws, splattering his blood on the rocks.

Skullringer caught my Troll in an uppercut, shattering its jaw and skull and tossing its limp body near my feet.  Green blood sizzled on Skullringer as I stood triumphant over my fallen foe.  Theren finished one of the fallen Troll in a withering flame that made its flesh hiss.  I was stunned when one of Theren’s blasts missed the Troll and instead slammed into me by mistake.

One Troll rose, regenerated by unholy means, and viciously clawed at me but I managed to take it down.  Theren’s wave of hands set the Troll ablaze, filling the air with the stench of charred rotting flesh stung at my nostrils.

Althalus’s magical blast on the last Troll knocked it back slightly, but it rushed forward and bit and slashed at the warlock.  The hit made the Troll burst into hellish flames as a result of contacting our comrade.  I sprung at that one as well, knocking the smoldering Troll with my warhammer, shattering its ribs in the process with a crackling noise.  Chaos owned the day!

Brandon hit him as well, but the Troll proved highly resistant.  Althalus’s next blast sent the now-dead Troll back into the burning sphere, destroying it.

We were exhausted and fell back to the Troll’s camp and began poking around their belongings. Rotted sacks filled with ill-gotten booty.  We found small bars of gold and silver, a few thousand copper pieces, and some rough-cut gems.  Digging deeper, we found a planking covering some sort of tunnel downward. I doubt the Trolls even knew they were camped on top of some sort of doorway.

Althalus found a sword, wedged in next to the planking that covered the hatch down. The blade near the hilt was twisted around twice, something we had never seen before.  Theren determined it was a Gnomish blade, named Quaker in their tongue.  From what Althalus was able to discern, if the blade struck true, it emits a spell called Thunderous Wave.  Theren took it for himself as the rest of us took a much needed break.

We opened the doorway under the ruins and found a narrow shaft leading down into the darkness.  Theren, in giant spider form, crawled down to a large domed chamber.  There were paintings on the walls, most cracked and covered with a thin sheen of mold.  When I got there, I saw the painted eyes of monks staring down at me from the fading works.  A thin dank pool of water covered the floor and we splashed in it as we moved.

Althalus cast a spell of a humanoid shape of light to provide us illumination.  The image of the monks painted on the dome at least told me that we were likely near the library. Theren-the-spider moved along the ceiling over us as we opened the door and started down a long hallway.  There were doors along the way but we heard nothing there.  There as a pile of rubble near the end as it curved and went down two wide flights of stairs, but the barrier of broken stone was not natural.  Someone had apparently piled up debris and benches against a pair of large bronze doors, as if they were keeping something there at bay.

We went down a hallway off of the main corridor and found a kitchen area, filled with rot, rust and dust. We went into the pantry area and saw an iron chandelier hanging above us with what looked like ravens on it…until they moved.  Stirges!

Three of the creatures dove on me, all missing, swarming around me. Three more went onto Brandon, latching onto the back of his neck, finding a crack in his armor. “Get it off of me!” he cried out, attempting to swat at the one drawing blood from his neck.

A festival of sword and hammer blows splattered the obnoxious creatures, though we were fortunate that we did not hurt each other in the melee.

We explored some of the bedchambers and found little more than signs of sacking and looting many years before.  Brandon found a sealed marble urn and he left it that way.  In one of the bedchambers, I found two vials but the labels had long ago rotted off. Theren found a golden artifact with the name of the priory intricately carved into it.

After all of our searching, we found ourselves facing the barricaded landing. Old iron candle stands and benches were part of the rubble piled up against the bronze doors. The word, Librarium was on a sign above the door. We came for a map, and obviously this would be the place where we might find one.

It took us a few minutes to clear the barricades and bracing.  I stepped forward and forced open the bronze door.  The room was massive – some 250 heads square, some twenty-five heads high. There was finger’s worth of water puddled on the floor.  Many of the book cases had been crushed, knocked over or fallen in time.  There were two points on the walls where rubble had been pushed into the chamber, but some massive force.  Books, tossed or fallen lay everywhere, but the center of the room seemed oddly cleared of shelving and debris.  A stench filled the air, a mix of mold, feces, and long-rotted flesh.  Tapestries clung to some of the walls still, while others lay rotting in the puddle.

“We’re going to be here for a while,” Althalus said as he looked at the library, stepping in and moving to some of the toppled shelves.  Most of the books that I saw were filled with marriage records or histories of places I had never heard of.  Some fell apart in my hands, so bad was their condition.  I wondered if we could, indeed, find a map of the realm still intact here.

Brandon found a book that was readable – The Tale of Sir Kavely.  A brave a virtuous knight who roamed the lands some 400 years ago.  As one of the early paladins, this book has value to any paladin holy order.  That was a story that I looked forward to reading.

Theren found a copy of Abastor – The Chronicle of the War of the Druids.  This details the Church’s war against the druids.  In scanning it, he saw that it documented evidence that the church may have very well falsified the evidence against the druids in order to purge them. It was fortuitous that our druid had found such a book.

Althalus found a black hide-bound book simply marked, “Devils” From what little he could read, the book detailed the nature of devils, how to trap and kill them, and how to control them.  In his possession, along with the Devil’s skull that I still carried, he was destined to get into trouble at some point in the future. He glossed over the warnings of potential madness from reading the tome.

“I fear you having that book,” I said to the warlock.

“What could go wrong?” he replied.

We did not get to that answer.  There was a rumble and bursting into the library chamber was a massive worm-like creature, purple, its mouth a menacing maw of death and devouring.  I drew Skullringer and rushed forward towards the massive creature.  Althalus waved his hands which made me feel better.  Both of his eldritch blasts missed, which seemed impossible given the size of the beast.

Purple Worm

The stinger hit me in the chest, punching through my shoulder armor plate.  The poison made me go cold and I dropped unconscious.  I heard the sounds of battle but was held prisoner by the pain from my wound and the poison oozing in my bloodstream.

I have no idea how long I was out, but came too in a cold sweat and panic.  I staggered to my feet and noticed that Brandon was missing and that Theren and Althalus were doing what they could to stay away from the great beast.  As I got to my feet, I called out, “How are we doing?”

“This is very not-good,” Althalus replied.  A cloud of lightning hovered over the worm, no doubt the work of our druid.

The purple worm spun to go after Theren.  I drew a javelin and planted it in the side of the creature.  I kept looking for Brandon but could not see him.  I feared that the beast had swallowed him.

Theren unleashed a bolt of flame that seared the hide of the beast.  He then transformed into a giant spider and hopped away.  The worm swung on Althalus and narrowly missed with a bite and an attempt to sting him.

The lightning bolts stabbed at the creature, searing black holes on its hide.  Bolts of flames roared down from the ceiling, hitting the purple worm at almost the same instant.  The worm bit Althalus, spraying blood everywhere, then was swallowed whole.  I now knew where Brandon was!  By God this creature was daunting.  I still struggled against the venom in my body.

The worm spun to face me and I braced myself for the rushing assault.  It suddenly paused and spit out the contents of its guts, dropping Althalus and Brandon onto the wet manuscripts of the library floor. The ranger was pale, near death, and the warlock seemed to be trying to help him.

I swung Skullringer twice, hitting once hard on the maw of the worm, knocking the head to the side for a moment.  It tried to bite me but I whirled and it missed.

Theren’s indoor lightning storm brought it down.  We were exhausted, winded, and injured. Brandon’s face was badly scarred from the stomach acid of the beast.  It would take a special kind of girl to love him from this point forward.  Our party paused and recouped, healing those who needed it.  I was still wobbly on my feet and welcomed the rest.

After we rested, we continued our search for a map.  Althalus found a crucifix and a silver edged mace in the debris. There was an elvish blade with the name “Suresh” on it.

It was I who suggested searching behind the tapestries. Brandon found a secret door behind one and we went into the antechamber.  The room was filled with racks and bone tubes sealed.  The map room!  Those we found open crumbled in our hands.  Brandon came across one ivory tube sealed in wax that had potential.  When we opened it, we found a hand-scrawled map of our realms!

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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#DandD

#DnD

Review of Alien – The RPG – Free League Publishing

alien
Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark…

At Gen Con this year I came across Free League’s booth and they were handing out cards for a pre-purchase of their Alien RPG.  Aliens is one of my favorite movies so I opted in.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but thought it might be fun to see what they could do with a new Aliens RPG (remember, there was one many years ago.)

What shocked me the most was that they delivered, both digitally and hard copy – pretty much on time.  I was also deeply impressed with the physical quality of the materials. If this book were just the text, it would be easily half this size.  The rules clock in at 393 pages.

The artwork is worth the bulk.  The paintings are spectacular and really capture the feel of the Alien universe.

I have not run a game yet, but like the format.  There are two modes of play, Cinematic and Campaign.  Cinematic play is refighting the events on LV-426.  They provide the maps of the colonist outpost and enough material to play out what happened to those poor people.  It is one of those play modes that reminded me of Zombicide, you are going to die…it’s a question of when.  Campaign play is more along the lines of a traditional RPG campaign.

The rules are well-written.  There’s not a lot of depth here in terms of skills and career paths, it is a system that relies heavily on role-playing. I was expecting more of a military slant to things, with some details about tracking ammo etc.  This game really concentrates on action over technical detail.

It is a d6 based system, though there is an option for cards to cover initiative and gear (sold separately).  The game mechanics are pretty simple to master.  Combat is straight forward.  They have a pretty good critical injuries table which I liked.  With modernistic firepower, death can come quick with a poor die roll, at least in my trial runs.

The panic system is neat.  Stress and panic play a big role in the combat system, letting the terror build to where your character is incapacitated with fear.  I like this because it plays perfectly with the Alien universe.  I won’t bore you with the details, but it was good, innovative, and simple.

The game covers the core films, including Prometheus, which was useful.  You have big bad corporations, sleazy company men/women, and tough hombres in the Colonial Marines, even vehicles and spaceships.  I will admit, the space combat system is a bit abstract for my tastes, but that is a personal preference.

The biggest hurdle this game faces is not in the book but in how you overcome the fact that players already know about the aliens.  Part of what makes the game pop is that unknown variable, but let’s be honest, we’ve all seen the films.  I would have hoped for some more rules for creating new creatures for players to face, but there’s plenty of room for GM’s Game-Mothers, to get creative on their own.

Overall, I found the book to be outstanding.  Free League has resurrected the Alien RPG and has taken it into some new and fascinating directions. I’ve enjoying reading it, which is hard to say with some RPG’s out there.  It runs around $49 US, which is hefty, but worth it since it comes with a scenario ready to play.

I can’t resist…pick this up…otherwise it’s, “Game over man!”

Gaming Rip-Off – Minuteman Miniatures – Now Called Miniature You

This little saga started at GenCon 2018.  Minuteman Miniatures had a booth where you could get your head scanned and they would provide you custom miniatures with your head/face on them.  Great idea.  I, along with my son and grandson, started the process with our scans.  In December, I ordered our minis to the tune of around $100.00.

I mentally gave them a few months grace period because I presumed there was a backlog. Then I started to email them.  No response.  I called the owner, Michael Elices, and his voicemail box was full.  Not a good sign.  I kept sending emails, every two weeks to both Mike and their support address, but got no response.

Now, a friend of mine did get his miniature – eight months after he ordered it at Gen Con and it looked great.  So this company is not an entire scam.  I am hopeful still that they would refund my money or, better yet, produce the miniatures we ordered.  At this point I would have settled for a simple “we are working on it,” response.  Instead nothing but silence, which is not good.

They have rebranded themselves as Miniature You and are promising an app as of July of this year to allow you to scan your own face and order custom miniatures from them.  I would strongly advise you to not do so.  This company has 21 Better Business Bureau complaints filed against them, all unresolved.  While I am sure their intent is to provide a service to the gaming community, and yes, some people have gotten their miniatures – there are a lot of people out there that have not.   Anyone handing them money for product is doing so with a great deal of risk.

I fully support game companies, especially start-ups.  But for them to not deliver to so many customers, then spend money to create an app to get more money…without fulfilling their orders…well, that’s borderline criminal behavior.

I will be pursuing legal remedies shortly with them.  I wanted to warn gamers out there to beware of this company though.

BattleTech Pronunciations

Lyran

This comes up all of the time, what is the right way to say proper names in the BattleTech universe.  Not so much in writing, but when you get gamers together.  Well, if it makes you feel any better, we writers slug it out as a topic as well.

We had a meeting last month in Seattle and we arrived at a few agreements among ourselves on certain ones.  I saw this pop up in the forums as well this last week…so let me offer the ones we aligned on.  Note:  I am not an employee of Catalyst Game Labs, I am a mercenary author – so none of what I say is cast in stone.  It is simply my understanding of the proper way to pronounce certain names.

Lyran

Producers of the Atlas, the Atlas Scout Lance, the Atlas Candy Bar…you name it.  Two three forms are used the most.  Lee-run, Lie-o-run, and Lie-run.  Well, it’s Lie-run.  At least, I’m pretty sure that’s where we landed.

Davion

The Happy Go-Lucky Whackadoodles of the Federated Suns who produce the nicest plate collections for your royal weddings.  It has the Max Liao seal of approval!

Two variants come up all of the time.  Dah-vion and Davey-an.  It’s Davey-an.

Alaric (Ward)

Alaric
He’s dreamy…

The cover of Inner Sphere Sweet 16 Magazine.  True story.  We argued on this one for a while.  Someone suggested we call him “Al” which made me conjure up the image of Al Bundy, hands down his pants, etc.  There were impersonations involved. As it turns out, we were fairly split on the two forms:  Ahl-erick  (with the variant of Al-erick) and Alair-ick.  For the most part, we seemed to settle on Ahl-erick or the variant.

(Stephanie) Chistu

I think we all settled on “Shist-oo” however Randall did produce Cheese-stew, which opened up a number of cheese-based jokes including Cheese-doodle.   We never put in pin in this one, but I favor Shist-oo.

I feel assured this will spark countless hours of nerdgasms…so my work is done for the night.  You are welcome!

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 34 – In Search of Lexa Lyoncroft

Badguy

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Althalus…

After our defeat of Savitar and his minions we found ourselves in an empty village, weary yet more experienced in fighting the undead. We holed up in the keep to recover.  Each hour more animals started to return to the village – now that the taint of the vampire was gone.  Our second night there we heard a growling outside the keep.  We went up to the battlements of the old structure and looking down, we saw a large, black, two-headed dog stalking around, frothing at the mouth.

I had no idea what it was, but I knew I wasn’t going to go down and confront it.  Arius fired his crossbow and I unleashed my eldritch blast. The green beams hit its black hide and seared smoking holes, knocking it back hard onto the stones.  One head looked up at me and growled, no doubt frustrated it couldn’t reach me.  Brandon unleashed his own magic, a hail of thorns, making the creature wail in pain. Injured, it took off, one head yipping as it fled. “No doubt one of the minions of Savitar,” I muttered.  It made me wonder what else might be lurking around us.

We turned our attention to those mysterious runes we’d found. I used one of my spells to understand them better.  They were enchanted, they attached or bonded to a weapon.  One seemed to have intelligence with it.  One seemed to increase the odds of hitting a foe.  Another summoned some sort of cloud. The final one that intrigued me the most, imparted some sort of intelligence to a weapon. It was the extent that my powers could obtain answers from the nether as to what they were, but it was enough. I was a little disappointed though, none of this was anything I could use.  Ultimately we decided not to attach them to any of our weapons.

Brandon revealed to us that he has been tasked secretly with reporting to the High Council of Rangers. We were not entirely surprised they were keeping track of us, after all, look at all we had been through. His candor in admitting what he had been asked to do was appreciated.

We spent the rest of the week recovering and debating our next steps.  We considered returning to the city of Karn with the map, in hopes that the mapmaker, Chester Grayson, could tell us where it was.  Thoughts of returning to face the Vizir however did not settle well with us. The compelling thought was that we had to find Lexa Lyoncroft. We could wait for her to show up, which we thought she would eventually.  Or we could go back to where we had seen her before – the Gellasian Fields.

I have to admit, it was strange, going back to where we had started those long months before.  Memories of Pot Head the Ogre and the cockatrice that had almost turned my leg to stone were not pleasant.  There was also no way to know if she was still there or would receive us well.

Brandon sent a bird with a message back to the High Council of Rangers, and we set out along a road towards the Fields and a rendezvous with an old adversary.

We set out and found little more than a strange cairn of stones along the roadside, one we gave a wide berth to.  After several days march, we turned to the south east, cross-country.  We did come across a churning of the earth, as far as we could see, as if a giant mole had come through, crossing our path.  Whatever it was, it had furrowed a long tunnel before us. We tried to jump the furrow, and as it turns out, I’m the least athletic of our group. I fell in and the tunnel collapsed, leaving me with only my head sticking out of the ground, my legs dangling beneath.

“I hate this,” I cursed.

Theren spoke up.  “Wait, do you hear that?”

There was a rumbling sound to the east…and me buried up to my neck.  “Get me a rope…now!” It took some effort, but I made it out, covered with dirt thanks to Arius.  As I got my footing we all saw the source of the rumbling – a fin breaking the surface of the ground, moving towards us.

“Landshark!” Theren called out.

“Bulette,” I corrected.  Now we knew what caused the tunnel I had fallen in.

It closed to within 75 heads of us and I unleashed my eldritch blast.  It hit the creature, pushing it back down the tunnel it was carving. “You know, he’s not moving fast.  We could just run away,” I offered.

Everyone looked at me and we began sprinting away.  “Run away!” We ran fast and kept on running until we finally collapsed in a heap of sweat and exhaustion.  The Bulette eventually stopped its pursuit, for which we were all thankful.  I had heard about such creatures and had no desire to tangle with it.  We heard it several times in the night, in the distance, clearly still searching for us.

It took us two days march to reach the edge of the Gellasian Fields.  It was here where the biggest battle of the great war was fought…both haunted and cursed.  Brandon was nervous and I told him about it quickly.  “This place is haunted, there are cockatrices, ogres, lots of undead, and where Lyoncroft had a camp.”

The grass was browning from the late fall air or just because of the proximity to the old battlefield, but we finally could see the edge of the Fields.  The grass was shorter, more weed-filled.  The magic unleashed here during the battle must have been powerful indeed to have corrupted the very soil of this place.  The problem we faced was this was not a part of the ancient battlefield that we had traversed before.

That first night we could smell a hint of sulfur in the air.  It was a restless night, reminding me of why I disliked this place. The dead don’t rest easy in the Fields. This was the closest we had been to our home in months.  I doubt any of them would even recognize us at this stage.

Our morning was cloudy and cold.  There were copses of trees and dead grass gave way to rolling hills.  Brandon spotted several carrion birds circling over a bubbling tar pit in the distance. He slinked back to us and told us that there was an old man with a cane near the edge of the tar pit and that the birds were circling over the large pond-sized pool of tar.  Small little geysers were puffing steam. He told us that there were bones around the perimeter of the tar pool.

My first instinct was that this was dangerous.  Arius, ever the sterling paladin, led the others to talk to him.  Me, I was readying an eldritch blast.  When I saw the area, I knew what it was from histories I had read of the Fields. This was the Hellground.  This was where the centaur armies were driven into during the battle.  They became mired down here and were nearly obliterated by the undead hosts.  Many souls perished here.

Arius called out to the old man, asking why he was there.  “There’s a lot of treasure out here in the tar.  I’m picking through it.  I found some a chest with some gems in it.  I need someone to wade out and take a rope to help me bring it in.”

“Guys,” I whispered.  “This seems suspicious, but he seems like a nice guy.”

“Are you mad?” Brandon asked.

“Do we want to help the old guy?” Arius asked.

“I’m not wading in hot tar,” Theren said.

That sounded right to me.  “I wouldn’t wade into hot tar for anyone, let alone this guy.  I mean he seems honest, but I don’t think we should risk it.  I do have a spell that has the shape of a hand.  Maybe I can reach out and find it, tie it off, and drag it in.”

“It’s out there.  You have to walk out and feel for it,” the old man said.

Theren looked at him with a cocked eyebrow.  “He’s lying.  I am completely convinced this guy is full of shit.”

“That’s enough for me,” Arius said.  “Good luck with your treasure…” the paladin said, waving to him and walking away.

“I don’t risk my life for treasure,” I grumbled, still convinced that he old man was telling the truth.  “Power is a different thing.”

We marched off, leaving him to his fate and trudged on. The next day, mid-afternoon, we saw a long ridge bisected our path.  It was steep, rocky, and was miles long. Brandon, scouting ahead, spotted what looked to be a man sitting alone at the middle of the ridge, unmoving.

“You watch,” I warned.  “It’s the guy from the tar pit.”  I was, for the record, totally wrong.

Our side of the ridge was rocky.  This was going to require us to climb.  As we got closer, the man-figure we saw sitting up there looked more like an old suit of plate armor.

Theren pointed out that we should go around it.  When we got around to the other side, we saw, in the distance, the north-south road…the main road that runs through the Gallesian Fields.  Our side of the ridge was more sloped, easy walking.  Brandon spotted a sign halfway up the ridge and we walked up the side reading it.  “Beware Sir Tristen, the Last Defender of Rastor’s Ridge.”

For a few minutes, we contemplated continuing up.  In the end, we had to know who Sir Tristen was.  Brandon took point and we made our way up the grassy slope – the cool wind whipping at us as we walked.

When we got within one-hundred-heads distance the armor clanged and clattered to a standing position.  Almost instantly, Brandon’s sword Nightstalker, glowed brilliant blue.

“It’s undead,” he said turning his head back.

“No joke,” I replied.

My first reaction was to close and unlashed my eldritch blasts.  The emerald energy missed by five heads length.  Curses!  The haunted armor closed with our party, and my thoughts were back to the sign that warned us about him.  The eyes of the possessed helmet on the abomination glowed red and it drew a massive great sword.

Brandon rushed forward, Nightstalker and Bonebreaker shimmering and flailing at the massive suit of armor.  In a panic, he missed with both weapons.  Arius cast one of his spells, making the monstrous suit to turn and move away from us to near the edge of the cliff.  I unleashed another eldritch blast, knocking him back and down, leaving smoking holes in the armor.

Brandon sprang at him, swinging wildly with Nightstalker – losing his grip on the backward swing, sending it flying in our direction!

The suit rose from my staggering blast, holding its hand out in Theren’s direction.  A hellfire orb of fire from his fingertips.  The ball sped toward Theren as the ball of flames expanded and I realized that it would engulf me as well.  The air became searing as the ball of flames caught me in the open. I smelled burn hair and realized it was my own beard! Smoke stung at my eyes as I saw Theren, charred but still standing.  My own defenses sent some of the fire back at the haunted suit of armor, igniting the hillside around him.  One thing is certain we are telling the countryside we were in the house!

I used vicious mockery at him but it was to no avail. Theren heated his armor to the point where it glowed orange, but it made no sound and only seemed to ignore the ripples of heat.

Arius, in all of his paladin glory, struck him with thunderous smite and the echoing clang of Skullringer! The air roared from the hit, and the hit was so hard he was knocked back ten heads and dropped to his knees from the fury of the attack.

He rose and struck the ground.  A wave rippled out from where his sword stabbed the soil.  It was like the soil was a wave of water, the ripples were massive, churning the rock and turf hitting Brandon, who somehow managed to keep his footing.  Not so with Arius who was tossed hard to the ground and badly injured. Both were injured badly by the attack.

My eldritch blast knocked him back again, pushing him up the ridge.  Arius struck the creature again, smiting him with the power of the church, damaging the visage of Sir Tristen once more.  The unholy knight used his own unholy smite, hitting Arius three times with that great sword – with a white hot intensity, setting Arius on fire in the process – knocking him out.  The flames lapped at the paladin as he lay unconscious.

“I think the right answer here is to kill him,” I muttered, missing with my eldritch blasts.  Smoke rose from his glowing breastplate, the results of Theren’s attack.  Our smoldering druid pointed to the sky above us and purple clouds magically appeared. A wave of lightning bolts stabbed downward at the knight.  It hit him hard, excess energy lashing outward.

Brandon fired his longbow, missing entirely. His second arrow bore in with a hunter’s mark. An ethereal wolf appeared near Sir Tristen, no doubt summoned by the ranger.

Arius managed to awaken enough to heal himself and extinguish the magic-fueled flames lapping at him. Sir Tristen swung twice at Arius and lost the grip on his own great sword, sending it flying down the hillside in my direction.

I hit him again with my eldritch powers, staggering him back once more. The storm clouds rained down again, hitting him once more with a loud crack.  Brandon fired twice.  His first arrow hit, the second one snapped his bow.  Arius sprang at the ghost knight with Skullringer, missing with one swing, but catching him on the back-swing.  The armor flies apart – searing the dead grass it was so hot.  The stench of unholy death rose from the empty suit, stinging at my nostrils.  Sir Tristen was no more.  The storm clouds parted and I was far too aware that we had attracted so much attention.

Suddenly, there was a finger tapping my shoulder. I jumped and turned around.  Standing there, her massive sword in hand, was Lexa Lyoncroft.  I tried to look calm and cool, but I was sure that failed.  “Hello boys, so we meet again,” she said coyly.

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Lexa Lyoncroft

Theren, still smoking from the fireball, pulled it off better than me.  “’Sup,” he said.

“We need your help,” I managed.

She glanced over and Brandon and offered a grin. “Ah, fair ranger.  I see your mission to the gash paid off well for all parties involved.  Of course your friends never learned the true nature of our relationship.”  She gave him a big wink.  What the hell?  Was she messing with us, or was Brandon holding out on us.

“We were trying to find you,” I said.  “Did you know there was a vampire that was hunting you?  We killed him.  And then there’s Viktor Barristen, he’s out for you too.”

“Tell me your tale,” she said.

We relayed the story, as best we could – the trapped paladins in Cyrilla Drex’s sword, Tempora, everything.  At times three of us were talking at once but she seemed to understand.  “Let’s go to my camp.”  It took an hour to reach the tents of her camp.  There were men there, some we had seen and fought before.  There was also several young women there. It was odd seeing Lexa again, after all of this time.  The last time, we faced her in battle.  It was over a half a year ago.  The one Barbarian working in the camp scowled at Arius, then it hit us, the paladin had killed his twin brother and taken Skullringer during our last meeting.

She asked about the death of Cyrilla Drex and we told her about the fight. “Cyrilla and I never quite saw eye-to-eye on things.  She took the sword and concealed our Order’s keep.  Are you telling me that it is intact, inside the plane in her sword?  And Barristen has that weapon?”

“Yes,” Theren said.

“Damn,” she spat.  “The last time he was incarnated, he raised an army of the dead to wage war against the Church.  He was defeated on these very fields. He will raise another army of undead.  If he does that, I will never truly be free of my own curse.”

“What curse?” I pressed.

“I made bargains, an exchange, to fulfill my life.  Until I fulfill my burden, my oath, I am trapped by the curse and continue to live the life eternal.  I’m a lot older than what you boys think.”

“What is your quest?”

“I am to restore the Sisterhood of the Sword both physically and to right the slander that has been spread by the Church.  The Church was misled into purging our priory.  It is my burden to set all of that straight.”

“We tried hard to keep the sword, but he managed to take it from us,” Brandon said.

“The swords we carry are unique.  Each blade is forged by a swordmaiden of the order.  Each member of the order carries one of the blades. In the forging process, with incants of old and a lock of our hair, the blades are quenched.  To us, they are as light as a feather.  Only a member of the order can wield such a massive blade.  Each has a stone with a unique property, crafted by God and the swordmaiden. Cyrilla’s was an alternate plane of existence, where time and magic had no grasp.”

“We saw that,” I said.

“You were there?”  We nodded.  “Did you see the keep?  Were the wards still in place?” Again we nodded.

Lexa shook her head.  “There were five of us that survived the Church’s purge.  Cyrilla wanted more than to survive and rebuild.  She was blinded with revenge against the Church.”

“I understand,” Theren the druid said.

“She left, taking all that was ours with her.  That keep has all of our spellbooks in it, all of our magic reference.  It even has our holy forge.  Everything needed to rebuild the sisterhood once more.”

“What happened to the other survivors?” I asked.

“Scattered.  Some refused to accept the curse I did.  Others have retired, turned their backs on the Church and the world that had wrongly persecuted them.  We may yet have to call on some of them to stop Barristen.”

“What about recruiting?” I queried.

She shook her head.  “We need to bring him to ground first.”

“We do have this map we found.  We don’t know what it means.”

“This spot,” she said pointing at the edge of the map.  “Could be the Gallesian Fields.  There is no way to know if this takes us to Barristen though. I have never been that far west.  There is a symbol showing a lake, but I was unaware of an inland sea in that direction.”

“We have to stop Barristen, on this all depends.  I understand his feelings towards the Church.  I have been accused myself of having a need for revenge.  I do not seek vengeance, only justice.”

A young girl emerged from the camp, wearing a habit, bringing us bowls of warm soup.  “This is Sister Highstall.  She is an adept in my order.”  She bowed her head and backed away from us.

We told her about Bentblade and then remembered we had a pardon for her. Arius presented it to her and she drank it in carefully.  “This is remarkable – especially from Bentblade.  It tells me he knows how grave the situation is.”

All of us talked at once, telling her about our being part of a tribe of Minotaurs, and about Blackshear, who she apparently had heard of.  “Your being a friend of his says a great deal.  He’s friends of no one.”

“We saved his granddaughter,” I said with pride.

“Anyone that can win over that tough old nut is impressive.”

She seemed to focus her gaze on Arius.  “What is that on your back?”

He pulled out the shield.  “We found it in an armory in Tempora.”

“This is from my order…it belongs to the Sisterhood.  I would ask you nicely to give this to me rather than make me take it by force.”  It wasn’t quite a threat, but as a close as anyone could get to it.  It’s a sacred relic. Three of them were forged. This one is the shield of the searing son – it is called Temper.  It is forged of star metal, iron that rained from the sky.  I am surprised Bentblade didn’t try and keep it.  We can get much more use out of this than you can.”

She put it on her arm and the center of it shone like a brilliant sun. I averted my eyes.

“What happened to that skull you got from us?” I asked.

“What is it with you and skulls?” she countered. “I destroyed it of course.  I am not that evil.”

“They are neat, and I like them.”

“I do not have a skull,” Theren pointed out.

“I have one that is a devil’s skull – it has silver arrowheads stuck in it.”

“Is it possible to use this as a weapon?” Arius asked.

“I would urge you to get rid of this,” Lexa warned.

“Sometimes the dark knowledge is the best knowledge,” I replied.

“We need to strategize on how we take down Barristen.”

“We have the map,” Arius said.

“But we don’t know that is where he is.  It is just a document.”

She seemed to pause and think for a moment.  “Viktor was created in the Temple of Durst in V’sarin, the dragon’s graveyard.  He enlisted a great necromancer to create the spell that brought him back to life.  That spell is likely the key to undoing him permanently.  Unfortunately no one has been there in centuries.  The Dragonborn there protect their lands from any that might trespass.”

Lyoncroft continued, “The dragon’s graveyard is a thing of legend.  Hidden in a dense hot forest, it is said that when a dragon knows they are about to die, they go there.  The Dragonborn there tend to them, ease them into the afterlife.  They build burial mounds over the dead and protect those lands.

“There are other rumors.  Some say that within that realm, there are places where the dragons go and lay their eggs – that they are somehow infused with the souls of the dead of their kind when they are born.  Such places are said to be very sacred and well protected.

“There was a legendary city there once, a Dragonborn city.  The vines and forest have consumed most of it.  In there is the Temple of Durst, a ziggurat that had once been devoted the worship of dragons – taken over centuries ago by a cult of necromancers and used as their own base.  Durst was their greatest leader, living, some say, for over five centuries.

“Viktor Barristen went there as a mortal, near death.  He wanted revenge on the church.  It is said that he enlisted the aid of Durst who wove the magic that gave him perpetual life.  Durst was said to have been killed during the last great war, here, in these fields.  His spellbook, if it even still exists, may hold the key to beating Barristen or even undoing him.”

“We should find it,” Theren said.

“We are legendary in finding lost cities,” Brandon added.

Lexa nodded.  “There are different tribes of them there.  They are friendly as long as you do not try and violate their sacred places.  Some tribes, like the Glu-ess, ride dragons into battle.  Some are nomadic, like the Vissseri.  Others, like the ebony Krudak, are hostile to even their own people.”

Her jaw set firmly as she spoke.  “The church likes to think of me as their enemy…it plays well with the ignorant masses.  I am still loyal to God.  I know my order was set up.  I seek redemption.  Once I have that, my geas is done.”

“We need that sword.  To get it, we need the right tools to defeat Barristen. If we rush in blindly, he will take us out.”

“We should go to the ziggurat,” Theren said.

“I will take a party of my adepts and use your map to find out what is out there.  You can head south and east, through the jungles.”

“Did you run into Pot Head’s brother?  His name is Barrel Chest.”

“No,” I said.

“If you do, tell him you are working with me.  For you all, you need to rest up.  I will heal your injuries.”

Brandon stepped forward.  “I recovered this amulet from Cyrilla Drex.  What is it?”

“It turns a person to stone if you use the right power word.  I would be careful of using it.”  Brandon seemed content with the answer and pocketed the amulet.

“We are allies now, united against a common foe,” Lyoncroft said.  “To the bitter end if need be.”

 

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

BattleTech Storyline Meeting

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Jason is embarassed to be sitting with us.  Totally understandable.

We got together this weekend in Seattle to map out where we are taking the BattleTech storyline.  First off, it was mentally (and sometimes emotionally) exhausting.  We started at 8am and went well into the night. I have to admit, I had fun despite the changes I need to do refine the work. The reason I had fun is that I think most of the changes are for the better…so that the fans of BattleTech will like it and so it can better feed future products. I appreciate your patience.

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Randall:  “We only took this much off his leg at the knee…” 

I had a lot of fun with Mike Stackpole getting caught up and brainstorming some very cool ideas that you will get to see at some point. It was fun to see Ray, John, and Brent too.  Ray wore a different house or unit hat every day which, I have to admit, made me jealous and roused my competitive nature. Loren and Randall were in their element, though it was akin to herding cats. For some folks it was their first time in such an esteemed (albeit mad) gathering.  For some of us old veterans, it was a trip down memory lane.

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Brent:  “Peace of Blake Be With You.” 

Our debates were lively, frustrating, and hilarious. I know you fans would love to see all of my notes – and that is never happening.  Here’s the fun teasing stuff I feel safe sharing:

  • (At breakfast).  Blaine:  “Hey Randall, I see a press release that you guys are re-releasing the Succession Wars boxed set.  Pretty aggressive given the Kickstarter isn’t it?”  Randal:  “What are you talking about?”  Everyone went to their phones in unison…hilarity followed…
  • Two in-depth discussion and debates about technologies that do not exist. Loren:  “We have to understand how it works so we never use it again.”  Only in that room does that sentence have any real meaning.
  • “Life is cheap – BattleMechs aren’t.”
  • “Remember, we’re a little cash-strapped right now.”  (Yes, the sarcasm was heavy in the meeting.) This was running joke #1.
  • “While you guys were having a sidebar, we added a few things to the list…” This actually qualifies as a running joke (see below).
  • Blaine:  “As the only person in this room that has taught at a US military academy, twice, let me say…”
  • Brent breaking out the miniatures in the middle of our debate.  I thought we were going to draw a Circle of Equals on the table and dice it out.
  • Blaine:  “So we are setting in stone the list of novels, correct?”  Everyone:  “Yes.”  Blaine:  “Good, because I stuck on a Clan Wolverine novel on there and you just approved it.” (Followed with a shit-eating grin) Randall – with Sharpee in hand, “I can fix that!”
  • Loren:  “So what do we call the new magazine?”  Mike:  “War Porn Quarterly.”  John:  “That will sell copies…”
  • (Everyone at one point or another)  “Where is House Arano on the map?”  Running joke #2.  You needed to be there, but it was funny.
  • Blaine impersonating Edgar G. Robinson from a 20’s gangster film.
  • Randall:  “Let’s face it, Katherine was our favorite person to hate.” A room of nods in unison followed.
  • Loren:  “So, does X have any kids?  They must have had kids, I mean the guy is like 45 now.”  I cannot tell you the number of times we were reconstructing famous house genetic trees.
  • All (at one point or another):  “WWJWD?”
  • The older guys, repeatedly, “Well, back in the FASA days…” We wore those words as a badge of honor with a dash of shame.
  • Randall:  “I think I can make a ‘Mech summersault in terms of the physics, but I’m not sure we should have done it in fiction…”
  • Loren:  “I think it would be great to capture one of these sessions entirely on film, but then I’m glad we don’t.  No one really needs to see how the sausage is made.”

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    Randall:  “So, for the Succession Wars Boxed Set Re-Release, we are going to need some new art…”  

No one was killed during the session, though I will say we plotted the deaths and births of many characters.  I can’t speak for the others, but we all seemed to have good time…I know I did.  Please don’t press for more details.  It is my job to simply be a tease…

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 33 – Bats in the Belfry

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Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Brandon…

Theren returned to the Great Gash and Arius caught him up on the turn of events and our mission to try and find Lexa Lyoncroft.  Theren wisely requested a letter of mark from the church to assure her they would not prosecute her.  I was doubtful that a letter alone would convince her, but it couldn’t hurt to have it. I had a companion wolf that I had adopted and found it oddly comforting to sit and pet it.

The last place Lyoncroft had been seen was my village, Buchola.  I was the last of our party to have seen her.  For me, this was joyous.  I would be returning home, wiser and stronger than before.  No doubt they would view me as a hero. I wasn’t expecting a parade or anything, but possibly someone picking up the first round.

Of course, I had been secretly summoned to the High Council of Rangers.  Somehow I needed to make sure that I honored that request.  Such summons were rare and I was a little concerned about the implications.

We were all shocked when Dimitrious came before us on the morning of our departure and said he would be leaving.  The fact he spoke at all stunned me.  “My part in these is done, for now.  I have set you on your path.  I will see you near the end.”  When Athalus asked, “How will we know where to find you?” the normally mute monk smiled. “Look to the blue light.  When you see it, you will know it is me.”  We all thanked him.  “I owe you my life,” Athalus commented.  “I know,” he replied.

I informed my comrades of my summons to the Rangersmeet at Villineau and we agreed, since it was on the way, we would go there first.  There were a lot of questions as to why I had been summoned, none of which I could answer. With a late fall chill in the air we set out.

The second night out, an old friend of mine, Drake, stumbled into the camp.  Drake was a miller from my home town, though I honestly did not recognize him.  Althalus used his magic to light up the night.  Drake told us that everyone had fled Buchola.  Someone came to town and the locals left. The mysterious man was tall with black hair.  When locals disappeared and “bad things happened,” Drake and the others had started to leave.  He spoke of nightmares and terrors that forced people to leave.  This sounded fairly dire.  What could have invaded my home?  The stranger, we learned, had been asking about Lexa Lyoncroft as well.

Drake bedded in our camp that night and went on his way.  The next day we noticed that there were some bats that were hovering over us. That was disturbing.  Bats in the daylight were a rarity.  I could not help but get the sense that they were following us.  But for who?

Four more days out I came across an unusual number of wolf tracks in our path. Pack wolves usually do not leave this number of tracks.  That night, we were approached by the very pack of wolves we had seen the tracks of.  Theren spoke to them and they only knew one word – “dinner.”  That did not bear well for us.  We could hear them snarling all around our camp.  Althalus cast a ball of fire, just to light the area up.  We were facing a large number of them.

Theren transformed into a dire wolf and pounced on their alpha before the pack could strike – unleashing the fury of the wolves around us.  A melee broke out, both magical and with cold steel.  Magical blasts flashed in the night and the stench of burned fur mingled with the sting of sweat as I sprung into the chaos of the battle.  One clung onto Arius’s throat, splattering blood into the night as he tried to shake it off.  When another leapt at him, Skullringer ripped its head off, hitting Theren with it from behind with a dull thud.  Somehow, on his backswing with the magic weapon, he let go of the warhammer, losing it in the thick grass of the plains.

A swirling cloud of magical daggers began to julienne two of the wolves, throwing fur and blood into the air with wild abandon.  Theren killed the alpha, devouring its flesh in the process.  My own magic sword, Nightstalker, cut two of the beasts deeply.  Arius threw his razor-edged shield, burying it deep in the hide of one of our foes.

My pet wolf tore into one of the wild ones attacking us, making it yip in pain.  From where Arius swung the shield, his thunderous smite blew up one of the wolves – raining blood and a bit of intestines all over Althalus who scowled back at the paladin for the gore he was drenched in. It was Theren that ended the fight, savaging the last wolf in his bloody jaws.

We were exhausted and collapsed for the night.  The next day we came to the edge of the forest with a structure poised at the edge of the growth.  While I had never been to Villineau, I somehow was sure this was it.  The building was three stories tall, smooth, almost polished wood, to the point where it blended in with the surrounding forest.  There were shapes in the wood that you could only see as you got closer, animals and other creatures of the forest preserved in the wood – not carved, almost as if the wood itself had grown in those shapes.

We were approached by the guards from the balcony over the front doors.  “It is I, Brandon Winderford. I was summoned to the Rangersmet.”  After a moment of muttering, the two massive doors opened.

The interior was incredible, almost like a plush inn of some sort.  Other carved shapes seemed to be part of the walls.  I was greeted and my friends were shown rooms while I was ushered before the High Council of Rangers on the second floor.

I was brought into a massive circular room.  I knew the man sitting in the high seat, Sylvester of Bold.  There were six other rangers, men and women, human and elf, seated above me.

“We’ve heard some disturbing reports. Word is that you have found Tempora.  Is that true?”

“It is.”

“Do you have a map of how to reach it?”

“My friend do.”

“Do you have instructions on how to reach the interior?  We have sent parties there before and have never had any luck in finding the city.”

“I do,” I replied in confidence.

“That information is useful to us.  We have heard disturbing reports to the south, that the dead have risen out of the Great Gash.”

“That is true.  And we have encountered Viktor Barristen as well.”

That stirred them.  They asked me about how I ended up there, and I told them about Lexa Lyoncroft.  That got a lot of looks from the other rangers.

“We’ve heard a number of disturbing reports about this Lyoncroft woman.  She is said to be rekindling the Sisterhood of the Swords – training new adepts.  If that is true, it represents a new faction in the realm.”

That of course was news to me, useful news I might add.  “Barristen had another sister with him – Cyrilla Drex.  I killed her in Tempora.”

Sylvester’s eyes narrowed.  “You – a fledgling ranger killed one of the Mother Superiors of the Sisterhood of the Sword?”

“I did,” I said proudly.  “With my friends.”  I told them how I plunged my sword into her heart.  There were nods from the gathered rangers.

“What happened to her sword?”

I told them that Barristen had paladins trapped in the sword and that he had taken it back from us.  That made Sylvester’s brow furrow in deep thought.

“We had heard rumors that he was in the Cloud Lands – perhaps raising an army.  This is most troubling.  You, Brandon, are to be our eyes and ears.  Remember, rangers do not take part in setting the affairs of men.  We are guides, not shapers of our world.  We bring harmony between nature and the footfalls of mortals.”

“With all due respect, we cannot sit by.  We need to call the rangers, assemble, address this matter, assist the realms,” I stated firmly.

“Assist in what?” Sylvester asked. “We do not know where Barristen is.  We don’t know where Lyoncroft is or where her loyalties lie.”

“My companions and I seek her out.”

“Where?”

“My village.  We heard it has been taken over by a man.  It was the last place we saw her.”

“Very well.  It is risky – but we will allow it.  You will need to keep us abreast of your progress.  These men you travel with, some seem, dare I say, shady?  Keep these words secret between us.  You are bound by the Ranger’s Code, remember that.”

I was dismissed to our bed chambers.  I made a copy of our map and filled in my compatriots with what I could.  It was odd sleeping indoors in nice quarters.  As much as I wanted to tell them the truth…I could not.  As much as possible I simply avoided their question.

Althalus moved his hands in front of his eyes, staring at me.  Curse his magic! I felt him probing my thoughts.  That accursed warlock was toying with my mind. I managed to block his attempt to probe me and did not appreciate the attempt.

It took hours to copy the materials and after that I collapsed into a much-needed sleep.  The next day we rose and set off for Buchola, my home town.  We traveled a day and night with nothing out of the ordinary.  The next day, just after midday, we saw dust rising on the trail ahead of us.  We saw a wagon drawn by two horses, laden with goods.  Riding atop the buckboard was an older man and woman.  Arius approached them and they said they were from Buchola.

The old man knew me as I stepped out.  Anger flashed across his face, painting it crimson.  The barkeep of the Winged Pegasus, the tavern in town.  He jabbed his bony finger in my direction.

“This is all your fault Brandon.  He came two fortnights ago, said his name was Savitar.  Of course we invited him in.  He was looking for that woman you spoke to, the one that paid you.

“We told him she had sent you with a message and that she had disappeared.  He wanted to know when you would return.  We told him we didn’t know.

“It all seemed innocent enough.  He was invited in at the keep, said he’d pay gold for a room there.  It made sense.  But Armix and his daughter Vella haven’t been seen since.  Others went missing later.  After that the clouds seemed to blot out the sun.  Then came those dogs, those two-headed beasts.  Some of our friends went missing.  Everything around the keep seemed to die off after he took up residence there.  I closed up the Winged Pegasus and left…as did most of the village. It just didn’t feel safe there any longer.

“This is your fault!  If you had not become friendly with that woman, none of this would have happened. Our entire village has been abandoned.”  His daughter looked as if she were prepared to spit on me.

“This is awesome,” muttered Althalus.  “It’s not me this time.”

I sneered at him.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean for anything bad to happy.”

“If you hadn’t been messing with that witch with a sword, none of this would have happened.”

“I promise you that we will—“

“We don’t want your promises.  You caused this.  The entire town blames you for this.”  So evaporated my thoughts of a parade upon my return.

Arius stepped up, chest puffed up in perfect paladin form.  “We are going to the village and set these matters right.”

Disgusted with us, he slapped the reins on the horses and took off.

“That went well,” Althalus said.  “Bad things happen to people all of the time.”

Theren nodded.  “I’m a druid.  You don’t have to tell me.”

“We need to right this wrong,” I said, trying to get them focused on the problem.  “I’ll go in alone. He wants me.  I will size him up.”

“I think this is a great plan,” Althalus said.

“No, it’s not,” Arius said.  “We all go.”

 

The next morning we arrived at my home town.  It was eerily silent…not even birds were chirping.  It was cloudy, but the center of town seemed even darker.  The trees rustled in the wind, but that was all we heard.  No smokes from hearths rose in the air.

Buchola had a low wall for defense that surrounded the town.  It had not been used for centuries and was moss covered.  The keep, in the center of the town, had always been covered with moss and vines.  Buchola was a town of peace…until now.

We entered town cautiously.  Everything we saw made us nervous…especially me, this was my home. There were some strange tracks, dog-like, but heavier than even a dire wolf.  It did not help ease our fears.

As we got near the keep we could see that this was the epicenter of strangeness.  The vines and moss that covered it were dead and withered.  The trees around it were dead, withered, their dead leaves littering the brown grass.  The cloud cover over the keep was complete, it was almost a twilight appearance. There was a low fog over the dips in the ground, even mid-morning. Everything that had life was dead around the structure.

“This seems uncomfortable,” Althalus said, always the master of understatement.

Arius walked up to the door of the keep opened the door, the paladin rarely showed fear when he should. I was surprised, I thought he might knock.  Arrogance is clearly a paladin’s strength.

A black haired man in nobles clothing stood in the doorway.  “Hello, what are you doing here?” Oddly enough, he seemed friendly.

“We are passing through.  Things seem…out of sorts.  What happened here?  Why are you here?”

The man flashed a grin and ignored one of our queries.  “I am here…waiting for someone.  Why don’t you come in?  We can have some wine and talk.”

I knew this was a bad idea, even my wolf companion seemed to sense it. “Who are you looking for?”

“Lexa Lyoncroft,” he said. “Have you heard of her?”

“Yes,” Arius replied.  “We know she had been here.  Why don’t you come out here?”

“I am not well,” he said.  “It is best I stay here.”

Arius suddenly grappled with him, tossing him on the ground.  “What are you doing?  Why are you showing me such disrespect?”  He rose and returned to the doorway, brushing off his shoulders.

“We seek Lexa Lyoncroft as well,” the paladin said.

The man, unshaken, grinned again.  “If you do not wish to come in, I wish you well out here tonight. Otherwise, come in and talk.  My invitation remained.”  I didn’t like the sound of that either.

Arius led us in.  The keep’s window shutters were closed and the interior was dimly lit by sconces on the walls.  A carpet covered the floor.  We saw a desk, but walls obscured the other rooms.  Althalus surprised us all with his next words, “I would like to apologize for our behavior.  We were wrong to have attacked you.”

“I accept your words,” the man said.

I reached down and pulled my sword out slightly.  It shimmered brilliant blue.  Undead. Arius saw it too and nodded once.

“I am Brandon,” he said.

“I am Savitar.  So you are Brandon,” he took a step closer.  “I understand you worked for Lyoncroft.  Where is she?”  His eyes fell into my own.  I could feel his thoughts.  I found him oddly appealing, friendly.  I was no longer in control of my words.  “These men had met Lyoncroft before.  They never said where they met her.” I felt like I was in a daze, surprised that I was sharing that information with him.

“Some wine perhaps?” the man offered.  I found myself accepting.

“I have an offer for her,” he said as he poured.  “A warrior of her prowess would be of use to the man I work for?”

“Who is that?” Theren asked.

“His name isn’t important – he goes by so many.  What is important is that I find this Lyoncroft woman.  Perhaps if you stay here, she will return.  You could be my guests.”

“What makes you think she will come back here?” the druid pushed.

“A hunch,” he replied, not sipping his own wine.  “You should stay here.  Sooner or later she is bound to show up.”

“Um, no thanks,” Arius said. “We will go to the Winged Pegasus for the night.”

I found myself talking, not controlling my own words.  “I think we should stay here with him.” Why did I say that?

“Very well, Brandon can stay here with us for the night.”

Arius glared at me.  “We changed our minds, we will stay here tonight as well.”

The man clapped his hands and a girl emerged from one of the rooms.  Her skin was waxen, her eyes seemed wide open, unblinking.  “Why don’t you take our guests to the second floor?  They can bed there for the night.”

She led us up the central staircases to the second floor of the keep.  There were barrels there, stores of some sort.  There was a rug on the floor in one spot, some old broken furniture, most of it broken.  Two old rope beds were there as well, covered in dust.

“I don’t like this,” Althalus said.  I felt oddly calm about the situation.  The man didn’t seem at all like a threat, in fact, he seemed to be more like a trusted friend to me.  Theren looked at me and waved his hands in front of me.  It was as if I had awakened and the last few minutes had been a dream, one I had been living. “What happened?”

“You were under a spell, probably a charm,” Althalus said. “Instagramus Influencus…fairly common.”  I hated that feeling.  It made me betray my friends.

We moved about to settle down for the night, knowing that the man on the floor below us was devious.  I went over by the barrels to check and another figure rose, springing at me.  His teeth flashed with fangs and his skin was pale.  I recognized him, Armix. “Armix – it’s me, Brandon.”

He didn’t respond other than springing at me.  I drew Nightstalker and the room lit up blue-white.  I turned the blade to hit him with the flat edge of the sword.  I struck him and he hissed at me in response.

“Oh crap,” Althalus said, “It’s vampire spawn.  I’ve read about them!”  He dropped to a battle stance.

The rest of my friends converged on Armix to help me. The battle broke out around me – I cut him with Nightstalker, but despite the cut, he came at me viciously.  Flames roared around him as Theren cast a spell.  It did not seem to daze Armix as he dropped his blade and lunged me with fangs and clawed hands.  This was not my friend, this was a creature from hell.

Armix shook his head, as if voices were there, and tried to put distance from us for a few moments.

I swung Bonebreaker and Nightstalker at the creature, barely scratching him.  Out of the corner of my eyes the man from the floor below, Savitar, came out of the staircase, now with pointed fangs flashing.  Theren swung his quarterstaff, burying it into the face of Savitar.  It only seemed to make him madder.

The battle became a blur.  Our weapons and spells tore into the pair of undead, yet they seemed to recover from each attack. My wolf sprung at Armix, biting him, tearing at his pale flesh, but it tore into it with its claws and bit it in the throat.  My companion animal was tossed aside like a doll discarded by a mad child, leaving a bloody smear on the floor.

Theren shapeshifted into a bear, savaging one of the spawn.  Althalus blasted away with his eldritch blasts, emerald green energy knocking Savitar back, only to ensnare him in a tangle of thorns that Arius had cast.  The vampire tore through the vines as if they were not there at all. The girl we had seen below came up the stairs, pouncing on Theren.  The bloody bear grappled with Savitar, though it only bought us a few moments.

Althalus produced the wand that fired lightning bolts we had discovered and unleashed it one of the spawn.  The brilliant blast of white energy cracked across the keep, blasting into the spawn, leaving a smoking hole where its clothing had been charred by the assault.

Nightstalker shimmered in my sweaty grip as we pressed our assault, my hunter’s mark guiding every swing I made.  Savitar disappeared into a floating gas cloud while the girl bit Theren’s bear in the shoulder.  Everything was a jumble arms, legs, weapons and blood as our party flailed away at the undead creatures. Althalus unleashed thunderous smite on Armix – rending flesh from him and leaving him as dead…as dead as any vampire can be. Althalus missed with an eldritch blast, hitting Theren instead.  The bear snapped its head around and growled, understandably.

Savitar rematerialized from a gaseous form, seemingly just as strong as ever. I remembered stories that vampires could regenerate, now I was living it!  Arius’ smite threw the girl into Theren, knocking her prone for a few seconds. Bonebreaker and Nightstalker shimmered bright as I tore into Savitar, but no matter how much I hit him, it did not seem to take him down. In the fury of my attack, I hit myself with Bonebreaker in the head. Everything went dark and I barely remember hitting the floor.

I came to with my head throbbing, staggering to my feet as if I had been drinking. We were still in the fight! Theren was in human form, swinging his shillelagh at Savitar, furrowing his chin with a blow. The girl spawn was badly battered – smoke rising from some attack I had not seen. I don’t know what Althalus was doing, but Savitar seemed to struggle with something in his head, snarling, showing his pointy fangs. Arius hit her in the gut with Skullringer. Savitar struggled with the spell that our warlock was unleashing…which we were all thankful for.  He collided with the wall, seeming to injure himself.

Arius hit himself with Skullringer, doing what I had done with Bonebreaker – leaving the paladin sprawled on the wooden floor, moaning into unconsciousness.  The girl spawn dropped under our assault, sprawled dead on the floor.  We all concentrated on Savitar.  I swung Bonebreaker and again hit myself in the head.  I sort of remember hitting the floor with my face before I blacked out…again.

I have no idea how long I was out…but when I rose, Athalus was on the floor, but seeming to still cast magic from there. Sweat stung at my eyes as I lumbered towards the fight.  Arius was up, swinging his magical warhammer again, blood smearing his face and beard. I staggered forward…barely alive, but still in the battle.  Theren’s attack made Savitar hiss loudly, turn into a gas, and seep downward through the cracks in the floor.

“We won!” Theren said joyfully.

Althalus rose to his feet.  “Not so fast.  I have some knowledge of these creatures.  He must have a coffin filled with dirt somewhere nearby.  If he gets into that, he can regenerate.  We might have to face all of this all over again.  Worse yet, we only have about an hour to find it.” Those words were ominous.

Arius used his javelins, spiking the hearts of the two dead spawn – making them explode as he pierced their un-beating hearts. We immediately searched for the coffin and found it in the basement of the keep. His body was there, resting, already regenerating.

“Spike him,” Althalus said. Our paladin did it without remorse.

“Not good enough,” the warlock said.  “Cut off his head and take it out into the daylight. We don’t want him to have any chance of regenerating.”  Theren undertook the decapitation, leaving his head out in the open.

We were weary, but searched the rooms for any other threats. We discovered a map, of lands we had not seen, and three strange metal symbols.  Small, the size of a small horseshoe, they were clearly magical.  “I’ve seen those before,” Althalus said.  “Siva Runes.  You attach them to your weapons and they infuse the weapon with some magical abilities.”

“What kind of magic?”

Althalus shrugged.  “I don’t know that.”

I pocketed them.  For a moment we looked at each other, exhausted from the battle.  “You’re from here, right?” Arius asked.

I nodded in response.

“Where’s that Winged Pegasus tavern…I think we could all use a drink.”  Coming from our paladin, we all knew it was a good idea.

 

 

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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