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"This one is called Gadak, and it is my pleasure to serve so fortunate a group."
Louder, he called out, "I'll rush back to the city for reinforcements! Do not fear, you will be relieved shortly."
To the five of you, he said, "Come, quickly. Let us be off before someone here finds a use for you."
With that, Gadak whipped the hissing lizards that drew the cart, and the contraption lurched into motion.
The darklands were an eerie place, unlike even the caverns that Bruendor had grown up in. Caverns loomed, some no larger than a small building, others large enough to fit entire castles, or even small towns. Fungi lined the walls, giving off a faint violet glow, and occasionally, you see small cave-dwelling creatures. At one point, something the size of a squirrel skittered across the tunnel in front of the draft lizards. With a swift lunge, one of the lizards drawing the cart snatched it up in a toothy maw, crunching and swallowing the hapless beast.
As you walked beside the cart, Gadak questioned you about the events in Celwynvian, apparently trying to get the gossip and rumors before anyone else.
Zaph, you can try whatever you want, but you know good and well that most cultures would see any form of aid as cheating, and would likely void the challenge, and possibly end with all of you being attacked.
1d20 + 11 ⇒ (3) + 11 = 14
1d8 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8
That last hit must have shaken the boggard a bit, as his return blow was off by a good distance. Still, Jakscar was hurting pretty badly. How much more damage could the boggard take? Would the catfolk be able to outlast his opponent?
The next day dawned with much activity aboard the keelboat. Under the waspish orders of Halrex, the crew got the boat headed towards the fork where the Kestrel River you are on joins with the River Esk. That journey took only a few hours, then the hard work began. Going upstream against the River Esk's flow was hard work for the rowers and the horses alike. The Esk was broader, and swifter flowing than the Kestrel, and progress was slow.
It was late in the day, with the sun hugging low on the western horizon, when Quill's sharp eyes saw a round white stone, about the size of his head, embedded in the northern riverbank, about ten feet above the water. When the boat got closer, he could see a circular etching, possibly the thorn circle he had been told to look for.
Okay, DM Quoth. I've never done a feral alchemist before...
Kethys, Half-orc Feral Alchemist:
Half-orc alchemist 1 (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide 26)
CG Medium humanoid (human, orc)
Hero Points 1
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +4
AC 12, touch 12, flat-footed 10 (+2 Dex)
hp 10 (1d8+2)
Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +2
Defensive Abilities orc ferocity
Speed 30 ft.
Melee cold iron dagger +3 (1d4+3/19-20) or
. . morningstar +3 (1d8+3) or
. . silver dagger +3 (1d4+2/19-20) or
. . unarmed strike +3 (1d3+3 nonlethal)
Ranged bomb +3 (1d6+2 Fire)
Special Attacks bomb 3/day (1d6+2 fire, DC 12)
Alchemist Extracts Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +3)
. . 1st—cure light wounds, enlarge person (DC 13)
Str 17, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8
Base Atk +0; CMB +3; CMD 15
Feats Brew Potion, Iron Will, Throw Anything
Skills Acrobatics +3, Appraise +6, Craft (alchemy) +6 (+7 to create alchemical items), Heal +4, Intimidate +1, Knowledge (nature) +6, Perception +4, Survival +4, Use Magic Device +3; Racial Modifiers +2 Intimidate
Languages Common, Giant, Goblin, Orc
SQ alchemy (alchemy crafting +1), hero points, mutagen (+4/-2, +2 natural armor, 10 minutes), orc blood
Other Gear chain shirt, cold iron dagger, morningstar, silver dagger, alchemy crafting kit[APG], backpack, bedroll, belt pouch, crowbar, flint and steel, grappling hook, hemp rope (50 ft.), signet ring, soap, torch (10), trail rations (5), waterskin, 4 gp, 9 sp
Bomb 1d6+2 (3/day, DC 12) (Su) - 0/3
Cold iron dagger - 0/1
Orc Ferocity (1/day) - 0/1
Silver dagger - 0/1
Torch - 0/10
Trail rations - 0/5
Alchemy +1 (Su) +1 to Craft (Alchemy) to create alchemical items, can Id potions by touch.
Bomb 1d6+2 (3/day, DC 12) (Su) Thrown Splash Weapon deals 1d6+2 fire damage.
Darkvision (60 feet) You can see in the dark (black and white only).
Hero Points Hero Points can be spent at any time to grant a variety of bonuses.
Mutagen (DC 12) (Su) Mutagen adds +4 to a physical & -2 to a mental attribute, and +2 nat. armor for 10 minutes.
Orc Blood Half-orcs count as both humans and orcs for any effect related to race.
Orc Ferocity (1/day) If brought below 0 Hp, can act as though disabled for 1 rd.
Throw Anything Proficient with improvised ranged weapons. +1 to hit with thrown splash weapons.
I relish comments.
From behind a stout cart that once held supplies, a nasally voice speaks up. "I saw you come in ahead of the elves. I am a servant of the illustrious House Vonnarc, and I crave the honor of escorting you to the House to report to those in charge. If you do not wish to be rounded up by those others and await the next volley of arrows from the traitor-elves, perhaps you will join me in my return to the city?"
The dark elf speaking stood, and you can see a thin, sharp-faced drow wearing what appeared to be livery of some kind - likely that of the House Vonnarc he claimed to serve.
The spider-drow were unexpected, and several of the elves fell to their glaives. Of course, the unexpected nature of the elves' attack meant that many of the drow died as well. As you watched, one of the driders was feathered with enough arrow shafts to fell it. Once you turned on the attackers, the elves began to fall back.
In minutes, a number of drow and surface elves lay prone on the cavern floor. The elves began an orderly withdrawal through the portal, and within moments the portal was closed behind them. The surviving drow shouted in anger and confusion, bickering over who was going to take command. Some shouted commands to clear the dead from the cavern, while others moved towards the gate to ensure that no more surprises awaited from that quarter. In his ire, one drow stomped on the throat of a wounded companion, killing him instantly. Preparations then turned toward sending some runners back to Zirnakayan to alert the leaders of House Vonnarc of the attack. In the chaos, your presence seems to go unnoticed...for now.
Jakscar, don't forget to update your HP. Or would you rather I keep track? I think you are 24 down right now.
1d20 + 11 ⇒ (16) + 11 = 27
1d8 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8
Jakscar's blades dove into the boggard's left armpit. He tried to drive them home and into the creature's heart, but the angle was wrong, and the boggard twisted away before Jakscar could score a deeper hit. The club came back around to crush the catfolk back and give the boggard a little breathing room.
Make that 31. You take another 8
Kaerishiel hustled you back to the Academy, a fell regiment of Shin'Rakorath mercenaries at your back. Once in the portal room, the soldiers laid out a series of wooden planks across the pool of water, making it easier to cross to the gate with speed.
"Are you ready? Once activated, the gate will only remain open for a few minutes. You will need to hustle through, with my men coming after in small squads. This will need to be a show of chaos, and ill-managed order, and we will act accordingly. Hopefully there are no drow on the other side, but hope is the refuge of the ill-prepared."
As soon as you indicate your readiness, a slight elf to one side pulls the activation key that you retrieved from Nolveniss from a pouch. At Kaerishiel's signal, he placed it against the keystone of the arch. The stone center of the archway began to become misty, then translucent, revealing a shadowy cavern beyond. As you run for the portal, an elven voice behind you shouts "Run dogs!" in Undercommon.
You burst through the gate into a dark caven. Ahead, you can see a small camp with a few tents and a collection of supplies. Word of the route in Celwynvian clearly had not reached the drow on this side of the gate, as they were completely unprepared for a small group of battered drow followed by an angry horde of surface elves to come spilling through the gate.
Shouts and cries rose from the camp as a dozen or so drow grabbed weapons and prepared to repel the invaders. With them, tall dark forms moved along the cavern walls. One was illuminated by the flash of a spell. It looked like an unholy fusion of drow and giant spider, standing seven feet tall and wielding a glaive. Two more joined it, and the monstrosities launched themselves at the elves behind you. There was no time to gape as an arrow from the pursuing elves flicked off the stone flooor beneath Bruendor's feet.
1d20 + 11 ⇒ (16) + 11 = 27
1d8 + 7 ⇒ (7) + 7 = 14
Apparently the boggard was tired of taking hits, and even more tired of fancy tricks. It held its club in a two-handed grip and swung fiercely at the black cat. The club connected hard, stone chips tearing skin and club crushing flesh.
Jakscar takes 14 damage
After the hard day's work, the down time was spent trying to cajole, beat, spit, and purge the poison out of the Captain. Finally, Halrex had had enough and ordered everyone out of the cabin. The crew lazed idly in the boat during the day, fishing and repairing lines, but otherwise just taking some time off.
Halrex had a guard standing outside the captain's cabin, just in case somebody decided to spit spiderwebs up Bloodtusk's nose, or some other damn fool thing.
Just before nightfall, the Captain stumbled out of his quarters, looking haggard and still a little gray, but at least mobile. He called Halrex into his room. A quarter of an hour later, she exited, coming straight to you.
"The captain assures me that none of you actually managed to kill him, and that he wants to get moving at first light. Something about a timetable to hold to. He described the place we are looking for, and it shouldn't be too far now. I imagine we'll get there late tomorrow or the next day. He also described the signs on the shore that will show us where to land - a stone about the size of my head, carved with a circlet of thorns. Find that stone, and that's where we stop."
The tongue wound wasn't serious, but it was enough to get the sticky thing off of thecatfolk. The boggard's tongue flashed back into its mouth and it raised its club. Then, instead of attacking, it let out a hideous croaking sound.
All PCs must make a DC15 will save or be shaken for 1d3 ⇒ 1 rounds
You got to work. Mariana cast her grease spell, and Sander set his bombs. The resulting explosion and fire got rid of the small branches and light debris. The more sustantive objects - the logs and boulders - just took an amazing amount of back-breaking labor.
It was decided to use the draft horses for hte keelboat, in conjunction with Storn's enlargement spells, to pry the logs and boulders up, drag them to the nearest bank, and deposit them out of the water so as not to create any artificial change in the waterflow.
It took most of the rest of the day to get a small opening in the obstruction. Mawj was nearly washed away as the river pushed the logs lashed to the next set of boulders aside. He was only saved by a quick grab from Mariana and Molly.
Quill sat as lookout, earning himself some nasty looks for not at least trying to help, though those became less and less frequent as his bow sang out to kill curious crocodiles.
The next day went much like the first, and ended shortly before dusk fell. The temporary dam was completely gone now, the last of the rocks and logs pulled aside or tumbling downstream. Exhausted, you rested through the night, waking the next morning with aching muscles and sore tempers.
Captain Bloodtusk did not awake. Apparently the effort of the combat at the watch station and the clearing of the dam was enough to cause a relapse from the poison. He lay in bed, breathing shallowly, with his normally green skin an ashy gray.
Standing over his bed, Halrex said, "We should stay put until he recovers. He kicked the poison once before, he will do it again."
1d20 + 5 ⇒ (8) + 5 = 13
The boggard shrugged away Jakscar's hits like a dog does a flea bite. A long sticky tongue flicked out of its mouth to wrap around Jakscar's head. The heavy tongue threw the fighter off balance.
Jakscar is wrapped up in tongue, as per the sticky tongue entry
While you were admiring/vilifying your new bodies, and getting used to the way they sounded and moved, the grey elf disappeared. One moment he was there in the tent with you, and the next he was gone. Kaerishiel sighed as he saw your consternation, and said "And thus is always the way with Gisiel. As soon as he decides he is done speaking, he leaves. And now, I think it is time to prepare for the next phase."
"You are now drow. You were part of the battle here in Celwynvian, but when the elves got the upper hand, you went into hiding to wait for the gate to recharge. You watched from afar as the elves trried and failed to cleanse the portal, and when it recharged, you made a sudden assault, pushed past our defenders, and swiftly moved through the portal to the other side."
"As soon as you are through, a half regiment of my best troops will follow in pursuit ro further confuse the matter. If there are any drow on the other side of the gate, they will likely be more concerned with our 'invasion' than with any stragglers. This should buy you the time you need to lose yourse4lves among the chaos, and allow us to ensure that no more drow take advantage of the portal to return here. Once you are through, my men will return and close the portal. From there, you are on your own. Hopefully, you will be able to insinuate yourselves into the city. If questioned, keep your story simple and close enough to the truth to be able to keep the dtails straight."
"We are only going to get one shot at this, so no matter what confronts you through that gate, remember that we are the enemy and that there is no going back. Shoot at us if you have to, but try not to kill anyone."
"A runner said that the portal finished recharging this morning. If we want to do this before another group of drow tries coming back through the gate, we had better get going. Grab your gear!"
1d20 + 11 ⇒ (18) + 11 = 29
1d20 + 11 - 4 ⇒ (9) + 11 - 4 = 16
1d8 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10
Jakscar's blade made an awful shriek as they were parried by the large boggard and his stone-ship club. With more speed than seemed possible for such a large creature, the boggard counter attacked. The blow seemed sure to split Jakscar's head open, but then the boggard slipped on some mud on the trail. It wasn't much, but it was enough to allow the catfolk to duck aside.
Hooray, black cat!
As the group looked over the blockage, and the dead creatures upon it, a few things became clear. First, the bodies hadn't decayed much, nor had they been overly damaged by wildlife. So, it was a good bet that the action had happened no more than a day, perhaps two, ago. Second, the dam was a hastily thrown together construction, with the boulders forming the anchoring elements that the logs and other debris was strapped to. It wouldn't be hard to disassemble it, just tedious.
Anything you can think of to make the job easier (e.g., bombs) will shorten the time it takes to get through the obstruction. Just because it wouldn't work well in game mechanics is no reason not to try.
"Megafauna? You mean big creatures, like mammoths? Not that I know of. But then, I'm a river jock now, and I don't get out on land much."
1d20 + 11 ⇒ (15) + 11 = 26
1d8 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10
The words are hardly out of Shabbezz's mouth when the giant boggard croaked loudly and rushed at Jakscar. The stone-studded club whistled through the air as the frogman swung viciously. The club crunched into Jakscar's side, driving the breath from the challenger.
Jakscar takes 10 damage, and is up!
From the keelboat, it is impossible for Quill to see the arrows all that closely, but he does note that some of the orcs are carrying bows, and that the giants' legs looked to have been bitten and torn by fangs much like the wolves'. If he had to make a guess from the boat, the giants were killed by some number of orcs and wolves, though how many of the attackers may have survived is unclear.
Captain Bloodtusk came to the front, already holding weapons at the ready, and barked an order to stop the keelboat before it got anywhere near the dam. "Damn merrows, always on the lookout for an easy meal. They've been blocking the rivers for years now. We just run them off, and tear the dams down, but they keep rebuilding. Been a while since we came this way, and that damn looks big. Going to take days to clear it away enough to get by. Looks as if some orcs done for 'em though."
The conversation continued along that vein as you made your way back to the keelboat. Loading up was the work of only a few minutes, and soon you were back in the middle of the river, oars stroking as you watched a plume of smoke rise from the beacon.
The countryside looked clear of both orc and animal intruders, though Quill maintained a vigiliant watch on land, water, and sky alike. The rest of you quickly fell back into your shipboard routines. The day passed without incident.
The following day, just after daybreak, you came upon a dam constructed across the bridge. Large logs seemed to have been lashed to boulders, then fortified with smaller sticks and logs before being slathered with mud. Atop the obstruction lay a giant corpse, that of some kind of half-man half-fish hybrid. The body was riddled with arrows. Around it lay the remains of four orcs and a dire wolf. Two more of the giant forms lay on the eastern bank, also surrounded by dead orcs and wolves.
K. Local DC13:
The giant figures are merrows. Merrows are best described as the aquatic cousins of ogres. Although their green, scaled skin and webbed hands and feet make them appear different, merrows are just as cruel, savage, and wicked as their ogre relatives.
Zaphomil doubted the numbers the boggard was quoting, but then, how could they know how many slept to a hut? What if the amphibians liked to sleep on top of one another in big piles? Or if there were more huts a little further away? Some of the ridge across the way looked like it might have caves. Maybe the numbers weren't too exaggerated.
As Jakscar twirled his blade, another boggard emerged from a nearby hut. How the massive frogman ever managed to get in the thing was a mystery. At seven feet tall, it towered over the other boggards, and even loomed over most of the party like an oak over a group of hawthorne shrubs. The wickedly spiked club it dragged behin him was made of bleached wood, with cords of wire wrapped around the head, bits of sharp stone wrapped carefully in the wire. The spokesman for the assembled boggards sneered at Jakscar, the expression on its froggy face clearly one of challenge.
The knight looked aghast at Molly's whispered comments, but was saved having to reply by the sudden spate of good-natured bickering that washed across the room.
It seemed to go on for days, though in reality it was but a minute or so before Raaj Bloodtusk said, "Enough! Calrianne, if that is all, we'll be leaving as soon as you get the beacon fire burning. This may not have been all of the orcs in the area, and forts downstream may need warning of anything heading their way."
"Lets be off, then, unless you have more questions for Cal?"
It was the work of a quarter hour, less even, and t he five of you stood as drow. It was at that point that you realized your disguises went beyond the physical. The daylight leaking in under the tent flap dazzled your sensitive eyes. You feel slightly more agile and adept with your hands. The rapiers and handcrossbows piled in a corner seem natural to you, and you feel that you would be able to use them with confidence. Strange magical feelings seemed to lurk in the back of your minds, as if you had learned new spells or skills instantly. When Anklebiter spoke to Gisiel, the syllables that came out of his new mouth were foreign sounding, and yet were as clear a speech as any you had heard.
The gray elf shook his head and said, "I don't speak drow. Use common. Language and vision should not be a problem, now, and you have likely picked up a few other abilities native to the flesh of the drow you now wear. I would not suggest walking out into the sunlight until you get used to your new forms. Even then, daylight will disorient you. Congratulations, now I will be off. My work here is done and I have other business."
The knight looked at you shrewdly. "So, you're heading into the old fort? I'd heard that some giants and orcs had taken it over and were using it as a base of operations. No, don't tell me any more. What I don't know, I can't say if I'm captured...and tortured..."
Her eyes defocused for a minute as she obviously was thinking about her recent experiences. With a shake of her head, she snapped out of it. "Right, the fort. I had an ancestor - my great-great-grandfather - that was the fort's cleric when it was besieged a hundred years ago. His name was Fabian, Fabian Blix. He died during the siege of the fort, but managed to get his son out through a hidden sewer tunnel that exited into the moat on the western side of the fort. If I were looking to get into the fort, that's where I'd start."
Sense Motive, DC15:
While talking about her ancestor, Calrianne seems to be bothered. Not as if she was trying to hide or mislead, but more like she was uncomfortable talking about him.
"As I said before, you will take on their corporeal forms. These were chosen specifically for their relatively low standing in drow society, those that would neither be missed nor recognized. of course, there is always the possibility of running into someone that knew these forms before. Yes, you had best work that out amongst yourselves."
As he was talking, the necromancer moved to Anklebiter. "Here, take this and put it on. Keep it touching your flesh at all times. If you remove it, the spell will be broken. I believe it will answer your questions."
The necromancer placed a pendant over the goblin's head, chanting loudly and holding one hand to the dead drow that Anklebiter had indicated. The spell took effect immediately. The goblin felt as if he had been slathered in thick mud. Looking over at the drow on the table, he could see ribbons of thick ropy flesh unraveling and spinning onto himself. The others watched in mixed horror and amazement as the goblin was transformed into a medium-height drow, muscled and dark-skinned. When the spell was complete, Anklebiter looked down in amazement as his now way too small garments barely bulged and constricted. Only his magic items seemed to have made the transformation in size with him.
Congratulations! You are now medium size. Please make an adjusted stat block with your new size taken into account. More to come as the others make their choices.
"If I wanted safe, I'd have traded my armor for dresses and become a Lord's Lady somewhere. But I know my duty. I also know gratitude."
She moved over to the nearby cabinet and removed a saddle from within.
"Take this with you. You can use it, sell it, whatever. Not going to be needing it for a while, not with the horses slaughtered. And, it's the only thing of value that I own. It's yours, with my thanks."
"I can't leave! My duty is to light the beacon on the roof, retract the drawbridge, and hold out until relief or a message arrives. This is my duty, my honor. I'll be safe enough with the drawbridge up. I've got plenty of stores, enough to last a month or more, and without the horses to worry about, I have no real need to leave the tower. I will light the "small band sighted" beacon and await further instructions. Besides, where are you going? Raaj wouldn't just take passengers aboard. What is your purpose? Your ultimate goal?"
It was apparently the wrong thing to say. As soon as the woman's name was beyond Shabbezz's lips, weapons were raised all around them.
[b]"We want no more outsiders here. They have caused us much pain and suffering. Leave now, or by the great toad, we will chase you from this place or allow our young to swim in your skulls!
The walk down to the village wasn't hard, especially as you weren't trying to be stealthy. You wanted the locals to know you were coming, and not to startle any. The first boggard to poke its head out of a hut let out a loud croak, bringing more heads out. In moments, there were a dozen or more croaking frog-like humanoids, each easily three to four times larger than Shabezz. The grippli gulped as she saw the boggards, having not told the others of the fierce animosity the amphibian humanoids had for each other.
One croaked out a challenge in its croaking, gurgling voice.
[b]"Leave now! No more outsiders are welcome here. Begone before we drive you off!
A number of the others raised various clubs and javelins.
"Conversation? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps you will not come back, or perhaps I will be gone from the place, and returned to the Mordant Tower. Much can happen in time."
"As for your own flesh, it will return when the spell is ended. The recorporeal incarnation spell is long lasting, but not permanent. The binding lasts for approximately thirteen weeks, as long as the focus objects remain on your person. You can, of course, remove the focus to return to your natural forms at any time, but once it is done, the spell ends."
"I shall see what I can do. But, again, I must warn you that our window for this deception is small. For every day that passes, your chances of making it through the portal and to the city of Zirnakaynin unmolested get smaller and smaller. But, enough for now. More time to talk in the morning, after you have met with Giseil Voslil."
The night passed uneventfully, and though each of you have reservations about the coming mission, you also have the desire to see it through. It was more than the thought of vengeance, or of doing the right thing. You saw the fate of the world in the hands of these dark elves, these creatures of evil, and it didn't sit well with you at all. Finally, each in your own way, you drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
The morning dawned with the sounds of an active camp still around you. The major battle for Celwynvian may have been won, but there were dwindling pockets of resistance. Soon after you had woken and served your morning ablutions and preparations, there was a handclap outside your tents. A young messenger was there to take you to meet with Eviana.
The elven leader stood outside her tent, along with Kaerishiel and a dusky-skinned elf of middling height and years. Kaerishiel waved in greeting, then said, "My friends, allow me to introduce you to the famous, or infamous, Mordant Spire wizard, Giseil Voslil. He has long been a friend of the Shin'Rakorath and is the most skilled necromancer I have ever seen."
The dusky-skinned elf nodded brusquely, then said "Come along, then" as he turned and walked towards a set of tents near the healers.
Kaerishiel shrugged and followed, leaving you to follow along in his wake. As he walked, he said, "Gisieal specializes in spells utilizing the bodies of the dead to achieve effects that do not involve undeath. In essence, he has discovered a spell that disguises living creatures with the flesh of dead bodies, imbuing them with some of the abilities of the once-living people. He calls it recorporeal incarnation, but do not let the name fool you. This is not the typical reanimation spell. Gisiel can give you more information about it...assuming he chooses to."
Inside the tent that Gisiel led you to is a row of tables. Upon each table is the body of a drow, two females and three males.
The necromancer said abruptly, "I assumed you would have issues with changing sex as well as bodies, so I managed to get the right ones prepared. Please do not make my work for naught. Do youhave any questions before we begin?" He glared around as if daring anyone to ask any questions.