Moving quickly from the wreckage of the dead beetles, with Rikkan taking a specimen and secreting it within the folds of his clothing, the group follow the trail away from the coast... and, as Drancis quite accurately suggests, far away from any likely scavengers that may smell death in the air.
Barely a half hour's trek to the north, a small settlement rises against the rock face of a dull gray cliff. Its buildings are constructed from similar individual stones, fit closely together with a pale-white mortar. A few plumes of smoke waft up from within, and several men with heavy crossbows guard the walls near the town’s only gate. As the group approach, a voice calls out, "Strangers!!! From where do you come and what business have you at Fort Buckle?"
Drancis looks around at his companions and judges there would be no way to hide their off-world origins. "We come from off-world. We simply seek to replenish our supplies and also gather information concerning the lands around here."
Locke adds, "We wouldn't mind a brief respite from giant beetles either." He grins up at the gate winningly.
”We were looking for a gate that we’ve been told apparently doesn’t work any more. He others are right. We just need supplies and information.”
The fact that the group are from off-world doesn't seem to phase the guard - and the fact the friends are seeking supplies and information doesn't seem a surprise either... but the mood takes a turn for the worse when Locke mentions the beetles, "What do you mean 'respite from the beetles'? What've you gone an' done?"
Uh ohhh...did we violate some taboo...or worse?
"We saw a couple of large beetles fighting over their turf...at least that is what it looked like to us. We figured it be best to wait until they moved on, right guys?" Drancis speaks up. "Didn't want to become lunch for them ya know."
Bluff: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (16) + 12 = 28
Rikkan nodded. He wasn’t sure what to say. ”Yeah, that’s the ticket. They were fighting and we sneaked right past them!”
Aid to Bluff 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 4 = 21
"Right. They looked mighty dangerous."
Aid Another (Bluff): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (18) + 3 = 21
The man at the gate seems satisfied at Drancis' suggestion that the group avoided the beetles... and waves for them to approach the town walls. Moving closer, they are suddenly motioned to stop by one of the crossbow wielding men, "Whoaaaa!!! Wait there... what's your friend got on him? Damn!!! He stinks of Chag!!!"
...the man has a point, Zoreck is still encrusted with dried gunk that he was splattered with when Rikkan shredded a beetle with his bombs.
|Zoreck the Unclean|
"What, this?" He gestures toward the beetle-gunk that's splattered on his clothes. "Yeah, I was hoping to find a laundry here, too." Thinking quickly, he tries to spin a hopefully-plausible yarn.
"Honestly, the trip through the Gate was awful: It must have really been malfunctioning, cause I felt like I was spinning around on six different axes. After we arrived, I was dizzy and nauseous... and after a few minutes I surprised myself by getting suddenly sick. Maybe I shouldn't have eaten a double-spiced thurble curry less than an hour before going through a Gate."
Bluff: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18
I hope they don't ask me what a 'thurble' is, 'cause I have no idea...
”Why are you lot so suspicious anyway? What’s the story with those beetles? Before you know it, they might pose a problem,”Rikkan points out.
AA Bluff 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (12) + 4 = 16
Drancis looks up at the man with an easy smile. "I can see why you think he smells like...what did you call them?...Chag beetle? They smelled awful, even from a distance!"
Bluff, AA: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (20) + 12 = 32
The men at the wall gesture to someone unseen below, and apparently satisfied by Zoreck's explanation about the unsettling effects of having travelled through the gate, the guards of Fort Buckle let the group enter...
...a rodent-faced humanoid, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Rikkan, stands at the opening gates - introducing himself as 'Wuli', he apologises for the cool welcome that Fort Buckle's guards extended to the group, "The Chag Beetles are the life blood of this bowl of dust... it's getting close to mating season and soon we'll be sending Maybelle out to mate with the dominant male". Guiding the group towards the largest of the tents within the walls of Fort Buckle, Wuli points towards a fenced off area - in which, a large chag beetle is basking in the sun... smiling, "That's Maybelle over there".
As he ushers the group into the tent, he asks, "So... what are you folks really looking for? We've had more folks than normal come through recently and no-one's been keen to volunteer much information".
”We weren’t lying earlier.... about looking for that gate. We have to get back to our homes and if the nearby gates aren’t working, we need to find another option. Name is Rikkan, pleased to meet you.”
Drancis' eyes widen as he sees the female Chag beetle preening in the sun. "Wow, she is quite...impressive. And Rikkan is right. We are looking for a way home. In order to find a working gate we will need supplies." He adds, "Why did the others not say what they were looking for? My name is Drancis by the way."
Locke discreetly examines his own clothing for Chag gunk while his friends talk before adding his own two pieces,"If you've had a bunch of people coming through that seem cagey I can see why you were a might suspicious of us. Like my friends have said, we are trying to find a way back home and it seems this is our next stop on that journey."
The interior of the tent features several benches surrounding a smoking fire-pit beneath a hooded vent - a curved bar covers the opposite wall blocking access to another door leading to an area nestled against the cliff. An alcoholic smell mixed with a powerful earthy scent permeates the air. There are several folk already present within the tent, Wuli nods towards them before taking his place behind the bar, So you are looking for a way off world? The way I learnt it from my parents, you're a few tens of thousands of years too late... time was that Rythes was a fertile world with many, many gates to other planets... but something happened to destroy the gates and spread a pestilence across the lands. There are a few baronies, some of which are no more than a few days travel from here, built up around the old gates... there is still life in the land around some of those ruins so that's where folks tend to scratch a living".
Pouring four tankards of a green ale-like drink, Wuli "Those folks who came before you... they all headed northwards - cagey they were, interested in where there might have been other gates... none of them stayed more than a day before they headed on to Merebec..." the conversation is abruptly stopped by a dishevelled man staggering into the tent... dust-covered and out of breath, he splutters, "Shakes... Shakes is back again!!!"
Rikkan looked nervously at the others. It might be time to get out of here before they figure out our untruth with the nettles, he thinks.
Drancis half-rises to his feet as he tries keeping his voice calm. "What do you mean Wuli? Who...or what is Shakes?"
"Is this... 'Shakes' dangerous?" Locke asks, hand twitching towards his axe.
Nettles in my last post was supposed to be beetles, of course, lol.
"Shakes..."" Wuli spits, "You see flesh is hard to come by here and we make our living raising chags. We butcher the drones for food and we fashion their shells into armour. Without a bull to fertilize a cow’s eggs — you saw Mayabelle out there — there’s no drones. With no drones, there’s not enough food to feed everyone or keep the fort defensible. And bulls are rare enough ‘round here with Shakes hunting them down".
"Some kind of winged cat with the face of a man... Shakes has made its nest in a gully half a day out from here. The damned thing preys on wild chags, especially bulls and its brought the chag population at an all-time low. We’ve lost half a dozen people to it already... and two of them were professional hunters". Wuli looks quite desperate about the situation...
"Well, we clearly can't let that no good Shakes thin the herd any further. He ,ight have already struck while we were sitting here! We might be able to help deal with this problem...if we did, would you maybe remember more about working gates?". Even if they couldn't give more information, Rikkan was beginning to feel quite bad about the scrum earlier and wanted to help.
"Not that we won't help either way," Locke interjects, "Helping people out is just what we do... but a reward of information would not be turned away if you take my meaning."
Drancis nods slowly, "If we decide to do this for you then we need to know everything you know of this creature. From what you have said this beast eats chags for breakfast! Considering what we have seen of these chags any edge you can give us may make the difference! Do you know of anyone who has faced the creature and lived to tell the tale?"
The man who had rushed in to tell Wuli of the reappearance of Shakes grimaces as he describes this strange beast, “His teeth and claws are as long as daggers, he has great bat wings that blot out the sun, his eyes sparkle like gemstones and can turn a man to stone, and he throws fiery swords from his tail”. Wuli nods at the man, "Fine... fine... look, ain't no-one who's survived an encounter with that monster... but if you think you're the folks who could scare it away, or better still slay the beast, you'd be doing Fort Buckle a great service"
Wuli nods, "We'd be indebted to yer... that's for sure. Anything we could to help you on your way home, we'd gladly do...". He pauses for a moment before continuing with a tinge of regret in his voice, "But I really do mean it when I say that, so far as anyone knows, there ain't no working gates on Rythes no more... less you count the one that spat you out near the beach. There's many folks have looked at that one over the years... it just don't seem to work the other way around".
|Zoreck the Unclean|
Zoreck unholsters his handgun and polishes it with a cloth. "We've taken out a lot of monsters in our time... I guess it's time for another notch in the handle!"
Looking at the man who announced the return of this creature, Zoreck asks, "So, where'd you say this beastie lives?"
Rikkan agrees. ”Let’s go take care of this thing. We can figure out our direction after that.”. At the very least, it would give them a chance to talk privately and figure out the whole blowing up the male beetle thing.
"Give us the directions and we will do you this service." Locke smiles at them while his inward thoughts turn grim, It is the least we can do after slaying two members of an endangered species that are so important to these people.
Rolly, the man who spotted the return of 'Shakes' is volunteered by Wuli, it seems that the Ratfolk is the de facto leader of Fort Buckle, to escort the group to where it is believed this fearsome creature lives... not one for conversation, he guides the friends across the barren lands north of Buckle for a couple of hours. Reaching the summit of a plateau, he turns back for Buckle and points to a savage looking scar in the ground some half a mile away, “I watched that monster feast on my friend Jorval’s guts, and I ain’t gettin’ any closer than this. His den’s at the far end of the Gash. Good luck to ya”.
Hiking onwards, and keeping a keen eye open, the friends soon arrive at a broad, hook-shaped gully - up to ten feet deep and surrounded by tenacious scrub growth and stony boulders. A number of chitinous oval disks lie scattered on the ground along with bleached bones denuded of flesh... a stiff desert breeze brings the stink of rot.
”So how are we going to lure this beast out? I could summon some Sort of animal and send it walking toward the scene, if no one has any other plans. And what in the world are we going to do about killing those two male beetles?!”
Drancis shakes his head uncertainly, "Well, I think I can draw it out using my powers...but I think we should scout around first." He then uses his telekinesis to levitate one of the oval disks in the air. "What do you make of this?"
Knowledge (?): 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 1 = 8
|Zoreck the Unclean|
"Just a guess, but I'd say they're giant beetle shells."
Lowering the brim of his hat to shade his eyes, Zoreck then scans the landscape, looking for any signs of danger.
Perception: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (3) + 12 = 15
"Zoreck is probably right." Locke gives the disk a closer look to confirm. "I suppose we could go in? Though fighting it in its own den might not be the best idea. Zoreck, you have any of that beetle gunk left on you? We could try and lure it with the scent."
The discs scattered across the ground are, without any doubt given their iridescence and what you had been told about 'Shakes', the remains of slain Chag Beetles. And, whilst the group consider their options, Locke's suggestion of luring the creature out turns out to be a moot point... a leonine creature with the powerful wings of a dragon and the face of a man takes to the air, bellowing loudly, “Does my next meal bring itself so willingly to my doorstep? I so love to play with my food as the chase builds a larger appetite. Yet, I can hardly turn away such easy prey...especially something which smells so tantalizing and different”.
Manticores eat any meat, even carrion, though they prefer human flesh and rarely pass up an opportunity for such a delicacy. They are smart and social enough to bargain with or bully evil humanoids into alliances or offering tribute, and more powerful creatures may hire or bribe them to guard or patrol a place or area.
Initiative for Party and Enemy
Zoreck, Initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Locke, Initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (15) + 5 = 20
Rikkan, Initiative: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (12) + 3 = 15
Drancis, Initiative: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (12) + 1 = 13
Shakes, Initiative: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (6) + 2 = 8
Locke, Rikkan, Drancis, Zoreck then
Everyone may act now - Shakes is around fifteen feet in the air and as close to the group as suits you folks...
"We will not be an easy meal I assure you, Manticore!" Locke whispers some quick words and slaps Drancis on the back, who feels a surge of arcane power flow through his body, "Bring him down Drancis!"
Knowledge (Arcana): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (6) + 9 = 15
Casts Heroism on Drancis. +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, saves and skill checks.
Rikkan moves so that he is within 30’ from the manticore. He pulls a bomb and tosses it at the creature.
RTA 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (14) + 10 = 24
Fire damage 3d6 + 5 ⇒ (2, 1, 1) + 5 = 9
Drancis nods in reply as he gathers his power...
Move: Accept 2 Burn, use Gather Power and Infusion Specialization to reduce Burn cost to 0.
Attack: Kinetic Blast against the Manticore.
Kinetic Blast, Burn, heroism: 1d20 + 7 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 7 + 4 + 2 = 30; damage: 3d6 + 6 + 8 ⇒ (1, 3, 5) + 6 + 8 = 23 *1.5 = 34 damage total, treated as Magic for purposes of DR.
|Zoreck the Unclean|
"You're as ugly as they said!" quips Zoreck as he raises his pistol and pulls the trigger when it gets within 30 feet.
Raging, Point-Blank Shot, Crack Shot, Powerful Stance
Ranged touch attack: 1d20 + 10 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 10 + 2 + 1 = 28
Damage: 1d8 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 1 + 2 + 3 + 2 = 15
He then reloads his pistol with a regular bullet and powder.
Mythic Power: 5/5
Alchemical Cartridges: 19
The friends' attacks are quick, and devastatingly effective... it is Drancis that causes the greatest injuries with his aetheric blasts smashing against the manticore midflight - although Rikkan and Zoreck too have tricks up their sleeve and, with an increasing smell of powder wafting on the slight breeze, they give 'Shakes' cause to reconsider its prey...
...and reconsider, it does - wings beating hard in a downwash of hot air - the manticore clumsily gains altitude before, some sixty feet above the group, it flicks its tail aggressively downwards - and a shower of spikes, bone-like and needle sharps, rains downwards...
Manticore, Spike vs Locke: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23, hitting for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10
Manticore, Spike vs Rikkan: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15, missing
Manticore, Spike vs Drancis: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 21, hitting for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Manticore, Spike vs Zoreck: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23, hitting for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10
Everyone may act now - the manticore is sixty feet directly above the group...
Drancis glares up at the manticore as it hovers out of his range. If Shakes thinks it will tangle with us...then it will suffer!
Move: Accept 2 Burn, use Gather Power and Infusion Specialization to reduce Burn cost to 0.
Ready action to Kinetic Blast the Manticore once it is within 30':
Kinetic Blast, Burn, heroism: 1d20 + 7 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (8) + 7 + 4 + 2 = 21; damage: 3d6 + 6 + 8 ⇒ (3, 5, 5) + 6 + 8 = 27 * 1.5 = 40 damage total, treated as Magic for purposes of DR.
Rikkan pulls an invisibility extract and chugs it down. He moves 20’ closer to the entrance of the manticore’s Lair.
Locke sneers up at Shakes, "You dare run from us after your big words you coward!" He draws his axe and settles into a ready stance, "Come fight me!"
|Zoreck the Unclean|
"Ow!! Son of a b*tch!!" Zoreck winces as the creature's tail spike slams into his chest, piercing his leather armor.
Zoreck tracks the soaring manticore with his pistol while taking an alchemical cartridge from his ammo belt. He exhales as he has an almost mystical moment of clarity where he can truly see the raging beast above him. He pulls the trigger.
He then drops the cartridge into his pistol and snaps a second shot.
Raging, Crack Shot, Accurate stance. 2 range increments. Spending 1 Mythic Power for Distant Barrage, and 2 Grit for Deadeye.
Deadeye Distant Barrage (ranged touch): 1d20 + 10 + 2 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 10 + 2 + 2 + 1 = 30
Damage: 1d8 + 1 + 2 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 1 + 2 + 3 = 11
Deadeye shot (ranged touch): 1d20 + 10 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 10 + 2 + 2 = 26
Damage: 1d8 + 1 + 2 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 1 + 2 + 3 = 10
Mythic Power: 4/5
Alchemical Cartridges: 18
Zoreck's first shot is accurate, catching the manticore across its flanks... but the second shot, as he calls upon internal powers that are curiously absent, is wild - yet still, his foe a clumsy beast in the air, he hits...
Any character attempting to use a Mythic Ability (other than 'Hard to Kill') or Mythic Surge must succeed on a DC 20 Fortitude save or become sickened for 1d4+1 hours. The mythic surge or path ability fails regardless.
Spewing obscenities as it is shot, the manticore once more flicks spikes groundwards...
Manticore, Spike vs Locke: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (17) + 8 = 25, hitting for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
Manticore, Spike vs Drancis: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (16) + 8 = 24, hitting for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10
Manticore, Spike vs Zoreck: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (19) + 8 = 27, hitting for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Manticore, Spike vs Zoreck: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (1) + 8 = 9, missing
Then, seeing Rikkan running for the lair, it dives... swooping into the range of Drancis' powers, the manticore suddenly jerks spasmodically - and then crashes to the floor in a cloud of dust. Cautiously approaching the still figure of the manticore, a ragged and flea-bitten beast, there is some relief when the group find it slain...
Combat Over, Actions?
Rikkan doesn’t allow his invisibility to wane just yet and pokes his head into the lair. He’d rather explore without the chance of being seen.
Perception 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (17) + 11 = 28 as he starts to look around in there n
GM Zed: I think the HP totals in the Campaign header has not been updated.
Drancis sighs in relief as he sees the manticore crash to the ground. He turns to the others, pulling out his newly-acquired wand.
UMD DC 20: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (1) + 8 = 9 Failure! Wand can no longer be activated for 24 hours.
"Uh Ohhh...I think this wand has shorted out. I can try using my powers to heal you, if you wish." He adds sheepishly.
|Zoreck the Unclean|
And that was the first time I'd used Distant Barrage, too. The GM giveth and the GM taketh away!
Fort save (DC 20): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (4) + 8 = 12
After his first shot, Zoreck's vision blurs and he has the sudden sense that the world is spinning around him.
Dropping his pistol, he falls to his knees, one hand on the ground, the other clutching his head. A wave of nausea comes over him, and he is briefly sick.
The moment of vertigo passes. He picks up his pistol and stands, appearing a bit unsteady on his feet.
"Okay... That was weird." Looking toward the sky he asks, "Did we get him?"