Sajeek stands loosely, mouth agape and eyes blank. The battered and broken vah shir blinks slowly in response to a jagged bolt of black lightning ripping across the blood red sky. The shattered remains of his mind struggle to piece together what had just taken place. The blackness was gone, not that it was a good thing. A thick bolt of primordial fear flog the bits of his sanity that are left.
The vah shir stares at the moving mountain stupidly, as if unable to comprehend what is taking place. The slow recognition of the God of Fear in his mind starts his heart to tremble, feeling as if it was being squeezed with in his chest. Another bolt of sickening lightning scorches the bloody sky, the screech roar of the unholy thunder strike him like solid blows.
Looking at the thunder, Sajeek is reminded of the black worms. The same ones that were shoved down his throat, after his lower jaw had been torn free from his head with a violent yank. Their faint acid skin burning, as they ate their way down his throat and into his chest cavity. His screaming had only stopped when the wiggling, burning black worm had started in on his blood filled lungs. They had saved his heart for last, the healing magics keeping him alive for all of it.
Hands twitching as he almost makes a pair of fists, the vivid memories of being chased down by Bast blossom with his Mind's Eye. The big cat had chased him down, toying with him the way he would a small rabbit. The feeling of the tiger slamming into his back and knocking him to the ground, fangs buried with his next. Unable, Sajeek chokes and screams as the nightmare tiger begins to eat him alive.
The tearing pain started in his stomach as the nightmare tears into his soft furred flesh with little difficulty. The stench of his own bowels being torn apart smash his nose as he struggles feebly. The horrid chewing and tearing continues for ever. He feels his body be pushed as the tiger gets most of his massive head into his torn up chest. The grating of the nightmare teeth grinding against his ribs as Bast thing starts to dig into his organs. Many years later, his suffering really begins.
Sajeek had lost count and the ability to remember all the horrors that had been inflicted upon his body and very soul. Of the ones that stand out the most within his broken mind was that of being hunted. By Lithia and Raji. No matter what he said, or how he tried to escape, they never had fallen behind. Jeers and curses, followed him as he runs in the complete darkness, being stabbed and cut as he attempts to get away. They always catch him. They take their time killing him in more ways then he could count. Each more horrible then the last. Their mocking voices lashed his soul, shredding and tearing it. They cut down everything that he was, breaking it down.
The mountainous form of the God of Fear shifts, forcing his attention back to the god. Bits of his mind attempt to flee deeper into his mind, finding their was no where left to run. The vah shir's mouth opens and closes feebly as he tries to form thoughts and then words. Faded pictures of Justis flash through his mind's eye as if he was flipping through and old picture book. Almost forgotten, the mental flash of his foster parents and Bast blink into existence in his mind for a brief half a second. The faint images of them not eating or killing him serve to poke his mind.
Finally able to close his mouth and keep it closed, Sajeek's mind tries to focus enough to figure out why they were hear. The broken vah shir's mind tries to find a time when he wasn't being torn asunder, or very soul being chewed upon like a demon hound gnawing upon a leg from a fresh kill.
Blinking one eye at a time, the vah shir begins to realize that others where standing near him. A fuzzy thought that he should know them works it's way across his mind. Names slowly begin to filter into his mind. The vah shir begins to realize that he knew these strangers, and knows them well. Something about trusted slaves he was using to find..., something of importance. 'Wait, no, not slaves. Friends? Allies? Foes?' he thinks dully.
Returning his attention to the God that was before them, the vah shir blinks once again. He had to tell the god something, something important.
"Shissar.... coming.... back..." comes the words slowly in iskar. The sounds that escaped from his muzzle is barely recognizable as words. There was more then that, his mind struggled to dig out the finer details. Sajeek came dangerously close to falling back in the mental blackness as he struggles to remember.
Revery had never told anyone about his fear of slugs, and anything like them. Slugs, snails, and extending to squid and octopi as well.
So it was no surprise when they appeared. All of them. The octopi came first, to remove his skullcap. That was the first pain, the skull. Octopi have hard beaks inside, which, if large enough, are very effective for this task. Revery's revulsion of the animals themselves was replaced by the pain of the skull being cracked open, and pulled off.
Then came the slugs and snails. They crawled in between the lobes, and then started to eat. The mirrors everywhere made that clear. For Revery, that was the worst. He is his brain, and even dead, he feared its loss more than anything.
Logical thoughts were a pebble in an ocean of pain, and an ocean of fear. It did not matter which was worst - they both were. He hoped that once a certain amount of his brain was gone, the pain would go, but he feared that will not be the case. That fear was realized... eventually.
It took many eternities for the snails and slugs to complete their degustation of his grey matter. He did not expect it to actually hurt, but in fact it did, randomly. That was the worst, for the pain was intense, and he didn't know when it would come.
While his brain was being consumed his body was too. First the squid would make holes in his skin, then the octopi would rend them open, causing intense pain. Then the snails would come and crawl inside, and feast on his muscles, and eventually, his internal chest organs.
In a brief moment of coherence, Revery wondered if he would remember this. But then, when? When he was awake? When he was in heaven? Would he ever get there? Why was he not visiting Quellious?
That moment passed as quickly as it occurred.
Revery gained a new, visceral, instinctive understanding of the meaning of eternity, and of Hell. Whether this new understanding would of ever be of use was unknown.
Gwendalyn had thought that she knew what pain was, from being tortured as a slave. She was wrong. Before, it had been limited by what she could survive; now there was no such limitation. She had been whipped before, but these scourges cut to the bone and tore off chunks of flesh. She had been cut before, but now she is eviscerated and watches impossible monsters play with her organs, gnawing on her intestines while they're still attached.
Her body swells as she is eaten from within, skin stretched impossibly tight until it bursts in the middle, spilling a torrent of fist-sized maggots onto the foul ground, leaving her an empty sack of naught but bones and eyes, left only so that she could witness the squirming of her disgusting progeny. Razor-sharp tongues probe through her skin to burrow into her bones, dissolving them with acidic bile and sucking them out slowly, one by one, until she is a shapeless blob. Her screams became such a constant background that she no longer even notices them except when they stop, which is only when she lacks the lungs to take a breath or the throat to shape it.
But still, there are limits to physical pain; not so with the spirit. Her very essence is rent, defiled, and torn asunder, leading her repeatedly to the brink of madness with gibbering fear of being rendered into oblivion; and when it reaches the point that she would welcome nothingness as a blessing, her soul is patched together just enough that the fear of nonexistence is replaced with fear of living forever in ceaseless horror. And so it goes, until even the cycle of dread -- fear of destruction followed by fear of survival -- becomes a mundane fact that seems to stretch forever in both directions, past and future alike.
She lies upon the nightmare plain.
Cazic-Thule's tormentors had saved horrors untold for the strong-willed gnome, targeting his faith as much as his body.
Nogglegrop had woken without his deity. He had turned his back on his friends, family and his people for his faith, and now without that connection he realized that Fizzlethorp was dead.
Tears ran freely as he realized he was nothing, as his entire life was for naught.
The special agony came from the lie within the lie. Thousands of times he had fought his way free of the nightmare, to live as much as years beyond the veil, only to have his hope torn asunder again as he was ripped back into the darkness.
Only when the truth of the Plane of Fear envelops the group does Nogglegrop feel something he had thought was gone forever. There was the warmth of the connection with Fizzlethorp. It was always there, and his deity had never forgotten him.
A muscle twitches in your cleric's jaw as he looks over at Cazic-Thule.
"Woo! look out world, he comes the wackiest man alive. " Kwen manages to say, the emotion completely bleed out, the choir of the damned quite evident in his broken voice. He wondered if he had been better off never leaving Freeport with this group.
You feel the damp chill, the heavy aroma of rotting death fills your nostrils and a sense of emptiness of the Plane of Fear. Around you are ancient ruins overgrown with roots and the hulking remains of dead trees, like a long unintended and decrepit garden. This is a place between the present and the past, between the living and the dead.
Creatures hand on the periphery, just waiting to be permitted to drink your fluids and sup upon your flesh.
You never get close to the Faceless, but the interrogation happens nonetheless. No words ever spring forth, not that they could with the great distance between yourself and the the hulking mass of divinity, but your minds are brutally dissected for information.
Darkness follows and when your eyes flutter open you find yourself in the Rathe Mountains at the exact moment that you had left.
The Avatar of Fear is gone, though the furrows it had made in its charge, as well as the blood stains, and cracks in the very stone from its trampling, remain. You can each trace where you were killed.
In Gwendalyn's hand is a dagger made solid from the substance of the Greenmist. Rahn will be released from her torment once the dagger is stabbed into the heart of Justis by the shaman.
Random (by alpha: Gwendalyn, Kwen, Nogglegrop, Revery, Sajeek): 1d5 ⇒ 1
Cazic-Thule is now aware of the Shissar's plots. The Faceless will now act directly against the lizardmen.
You have each been touched by divinity, and even though it was torment you have learned much about yourself and are stronger for the experience.
("Cazic's Touch": CLANG level 8!)
She wakes upon the blood-stained rocks, holding a green dagger. She thought her voice would be cracked from aeons of screaming, or slurred from not having spoken a coherent word in an elven lifetime, but her speech is as mellifluous as ever. "F### you, Swenj," the teenaged Halasite succinctly opines, lying on her side, staring at the divinely-crafted instrument of murder in her large, calloused hand.
Twitching, lying flat upon his back, the wild eyed vah shir looks at the stars. He blinks rapidly as his emerald eyes flicker around, looking at the night sky. It was only interrupted by the oppressive mountains that reached up to claw the top of the world. Hearing a noise, the hunter suddenly spins over to his clawed toes and hands, rising a few inches from the mounatin stone. Feline muzzle pulled back in a silent snarl, the narrow eyed vah shir stares at the others. Metal scratches stone as he shifts his hands, the clawed handwraps still bound to his wrist.
Slowly, the hunter recognizes the others that are around him as not threats. The feeling that he hunted with them blossoms within his clouded mind. Relaxing ever so slightly, the wild eyed vah shir rises to a crouch. Wet nose sniffing at the air, the hunter smells blood in the air.
Smelling his own blood with the mix gives the hunters a long moment of pause. Crouched, the vah shir's dark grey fur is raised along his hackles. The reddish tiger strips that cut his fur look like bloodly gashes at a glance. Claws shifting on the stone, the hunter's eyes shift around the dark surrounding, growing wide. The vah shir looks ready to flee at a moments notice.
Upon truly waking up, the rogue rolls from his back into a crouch; both of his Kurki blades drawn in a faction of a heart beat. Too much time had been spent looking for threats that it seemed almost habit to start the day like that. Even his earlier comment was how he had started his days in the hell that had been in. Hearing Gwen's comment he grunted feeling the same way, about Swenj, finally he slowly stands; he felt out of sync with his own body.
Every thing that Kwen had experienced made being alive feel surreal, what little green that was on the grass seemed to have a brilliant emerald color to it. The blood that was on the ground and the others stood out in stark relief against everything.
" Next time we are not playing with altars no matter what."
The sweet warmth of Bristlebane Fizzlethorp's song flowed through the cleric, and no matter what torment was conceived the minions of the Faceless they could not replicate that loving connection.
"I feel Bristlebane, and never had before. This is home. I swear to each of you on my life, if such a thing means anything, that we are home."
Nogglegrop was free of the psychotic plane and though no time had passed there was a change in his appearance: Most of Nogglegrop's hair was gone, except for thick white clumps above his ears, but he took care to normally keep those neatly trimmed, like his pointy beard and thin moustache, and to keep the rest of his large noggin cleanly shaved. Well, except for his eyebrows, those were welcome to run wild.
The cleric props himself up to a sitting position and looks for his helm. He finds it full of blood and mangled beyond any ability that he could don it again. Laughing without mirth he stares at it for a bit and then simply tosses it aside.
Words come out in the presence of a gulp, "What was it like for each of you?"
Your gear has seen better times. Getting landed on multi-tonne creatures was not something you would recommend.
All of you understand the truth of the dagger that Gwendalyn wields. This is not a combat weapon, but one that much be used against a helpless foe (must be a coup de grace). It is a special torment of the God of Fear that you will look down upon the innocent eyes of the child before you thrust her death into her.
Soon enough Bast is with you, and Sajeek's parents have waved their goodbyes as they return to Luclin to battle the Shissar directly. They give the lay of the land, which they know incredibly well. With that knowledge you will be able to dodge many of the static dangers. If truth be told they have talked about the Shissar being able to see the future, but not for the group, so they don't want to endanger the party by being close to them. They hate to abandon Pravus Mortis in the mountains, but the Shissar are much more of a threat.
Nogglegrop pulls out his map so everyone can get the fullest advantage from the elder vah shir's words.
Cazic-Thule's mental surgery has protected you from the brunt of the horrors you have endured, for even the most strong-willed would see their psyche's fragment under the expert torture they had felt done to their minds and bodies. It is not a sharp pierce, but a dull ache that will fade with time and be categorized with the rest of the experiences you have witnessed.
Hunting horns can be heard behind you, to the north. The long-legged giants are massing to destroy a creature that no longer is present, leaving only you to feel their wrath.
What should have been a happy reunion at the return of Bast, Lithia and Raji, was instead tense. Bast comes running up to greet Sajeek, the vah shir snarls loudly. The big reddish-orange tiger stops, and his mismatched eyes look at Sajeek confused. The tiger takes a cautious step forward only to dart out of the way of claw strike. The growling vah shir doesn't seem to recognize his warder.
A look at the wild eyed vah shir reveals hatred and anger. The Beastlord thought that one of his tormentor had found him. He wasn't about to let it gut him this time. Muscles tense as the hunter prepares to launch himself at the slowly backing up Bast.
Voices in combine stop the vah shir in his tracks. Wiping his head in the direction of the those whom made the word-noise, the hunters burning emerald eyes narrow. Lithia and and a wary looking Raji stand a little ways behind Bast. Her warm eyes filled with unshed tears, Lithia says something to Raji quietly. He shakes his head "No," but she silent glares at him. The warrior doesn't last long under the silent glare of his wife.
Calmly Lithia slowly walks up to Sajeek, her at arms at her side she whispers something repeated in the combine tongue. The hissing and growling hunter slowly calms. Ears twitching as if tickled by a breeze the vah shir seems to calm slightly as the shaman approaches. By the time Lithia is with reach of the somewhat mangled claws, the hunter isn't growling. He still eyes the other vah shir in front of him, as if expecting an attack. Sniffing at the air as the shaman begins to raise her arms, the hunter twitches when Lithia sets her hands on his shoulders.
Lithia draws the vah shir into an embrace, slowly stroking the back of the hunters head. Almost as if he was struggling against it, the hunter visually begins to relax. Eyes drifting shut, the hunter rumbling purr is softly heard. Tears leak out from behind his closed lids as Lithia whispers to the vah shir as she holds him in her embrace. The shaman eyes are filled with warm and kindness. As well as deep sadness when she to the sky.
Lifting his head from his foster mothers shoulder, Sajeek blinks his emerald eyes, looking as if he was waking up from a long nap. Tightly hugging Lithi, the Beastlord nuzzles and is nuzzled in return. His purr grows in volume. Sajeek slowly lets go and steps away, looking at the others and the surrounding a little confused.
Spying Bast slowly creeping foward, Sajeek drops to his knees and embraces the big cat, squeezing him tightly. Nuzzling and licking and excepting the same from his warder the two purr happily. Sajeek didn't seem like he even remembers taking a few swats at the tiger.
A short while after given the party advice on the local area, they leave, speaking of fighting the Shissar on Luclin. They both hug Sajeek and then wish the party be watched by the spirits. The faint scent of lilac dances on the breeze when Lithia goes by. The two look determined. In a way, that had actual found a weapon that could possible destroy Luclin. The Shissar themselves.
Revery's trembling hands find their ways up his body, finding relief on his face, relief that it is intact. Continuing upward, or rather, horizontally, to his scalp, they encounter hair, and skin and skull, intact.
A deep sigh and a groan erupt from the erudite's mouth, and he looks around, his head still on the hard stone of the ground. He sees his friend, Sajeek, in a hug with his mother. "Where can I get one of those?" he asks.
Soon enough he lifts his head, and shakes it, half expecting to loose a few slugs or snails from within it. None appear. He remembers a question: would he remember? He recalls pain, and fear, especially fear.
It grips him again! The Fear! Is this another spate of torture being administered him? Of a more subtle variety? His head turns, and he takes in the others. Are they here, subject to it too, or are they merely part of his own personal torture? He stands, quickly, and covers his head.
"Is this real?" He looks around for evidence of reality, of solidity. Feeling the crawling of slugs in his head, he jumps up and down, and whines, "Nooooo!" Is this verisimilitude, or is it.... He searches the eyes of his supposed companions. He finds Gwendalyn, unusually pale, staring at a greenish dagger that is so much more than a dagger. "That is not real. That is of him. So, I guess the rest of this must be real."
Kwen stands up from his crouch sheathing both of his weapons, turning around slowly taking stock of where he was. Facing the Avatar of Fear felt so long ago, at the same time it also had happened just a short time ago.
Kwen twitches slightly at the gnome's question, then manages to say " It was hell. Too many things that they all stand out and at the same time blend together, of course one thing was being skinned. That was probably the least unpleasant thing that was. Perhaps one day under a lot of alcohol we could discuss more of what happened. For the moment I'd rather try to let some of this fade." Completely emotionless. Then a dull ache starts at his temples, feeling the remains of an epic level migraine, the rogue waits for things to slide back into focus so he could at least pretend to feel more human.
Looking down at his one finely crafted clothing and his long coat he could see a lot of crusted blood, dirt, and various other fluids. Some of the pockets on the outside were slightly frayed. Kwen wonders if the armor would have left an impression on his skin. There is an ache in his heart nay soul, a small hole on the inside could be felt. Eventually that hole will mend, but it will take some time as it seems to be the remains of the lance that was used to hold the rogue into place.
Finally after regrouping with Bast and Sajeek's foster parents, and learning more of the surrounding area Kwen nods at the advice given. Looking over at the ritual dagger Kwen ponders at what the future will now hold in store for the party. 'Gods love fools' Kwen thinks about the saying and shakes his head slightly; it seemed that there was some truth to it. Kwen would add this to the quote though 'Beware which gods love said fool.'
Looking at the map Kwen lookes at how far the group need to travel to get the distasteful deed over and done with. For once caring little at the what the full blood elf's problem with half breeds, Kwen's winning smile would sway them.
Watching his foster parents leaving again, Sajeek gently scratches Bast's ears. The vah shir's ears twitch and he shudders slightly as Noggy's question seeps into his mind. He eyes the map, as he mulls over the gnomes question. The fingers of his left hand trace the white clawprint on his right bicep.
"I was torn to bits, eaten alive, eaten from within. Melted with acid, burned by fire, shattered by ice, and fried by lightning. Those where the good days," Sajeek forces out a wet sounding chuckle. Closing his eyes tightly, the Beastlord sighs. "The worst were the times I was hunted by Lithia, Raji or Bast." A shudder runs along his spin. He opens his eyes and shakes his head. "Or nightmare versions of them rather."
"I think we need to get our asses in gear," Sajeek says after the blast of a hunting horn rings through the mountains. "Let cut across the Common Lands and go to Freeport. We can take a ship from there. I would really like to check out the Loping Plains. I think we could use the temporary distraction right now."
Raji and Lithia had left Luclin in search of a weapon that could destroy everything, and though it started as a fool's errand, if the prophecies could be trusted, they had found out: Pravus Mortis.
Nogglegrop listens to the bleak accounts for what transpired in Sajeek and Kwen's period of torture. Feeling a bit of levity can never hurt, and demonstrating his resilience, he answers, "A thousand thousand gnome beauties lined up and took turns ravishing me. Between that and the peeled grapes it was horrible."
The gnome looks up a few times, distracted by the horns, but traces their likely route to get to Freeport. You will need to travel straight east, a direction that is easy to determine since you know where north is, until you get to the Serpent River and follow it straight north to the second split, then go further east. He looks to the others to see if anyone disagrees with the beastlord's idea.
The twisting Serpent River neatly halves Antonica, and it keeps the plains in the middle of the continent fertile and green. Starting inauspiciously at the lake near Halas, it flows quickly over sharp rocks down to a branching in the middle of the continent. Its west branch is used for barge travel, and small riverside communities dot the banks of the water. The east branch becomes the Lifire River, the chief source of water in the Desert of Ro. The water wanders muddily in the southern part of Antonica before it empties into the Gulf of Gunthak.
Human settlers and traders populate the green flatlands known as the Commonlands, though the population thins out the farther away from Freeport one gets. The Freeport militia ranges deeply into the Commonlands, patrolling the area and keeping the peace. The hill giants and orcs are very agressive, and some of the outlying settlers don't take a shine to strangers of any kind.
Freeport remains a question mark. If the militia remembers you then you will likely be hanged by the neck until dead.
Nogglegrop removes his magical item and dangles it in front of everyone else. "This was a impromptu decision. We still need to figure out who gets what and why."
Gwendalyn ignores the question of what it was like, since she's trying to forget, and looks at the map. "I'd rather go to Qeynos than Freeport. For one thing, we were lucky to get out alive; for another, we've seen before how much longer it takes to walk somewhere than you'd think from looking at a map."
"Now, since north is out of the question with giants massing, I suggest we go west through the mountains; that or continue down to the lake and follow the shore to the sea. Either way, we can go north along the coast, and maybe catch a barge at the mouth of the Serpent. Then, since it's about the same from Qeynos to Faydwer whether you go north or south, I'd like to go by way of Halas."
"We can discuss magic while we walk, but we need to get moving."
Discussing while the group walks is a wonderful idea. Considering that one teammate is saying east and the other west, and traveling north is suicide-by-giant, a consensus will need to be made quickly so they can take their first step..
It will take months to get to Qeynos on foot as you will need to cross the Plains of Karana again.
The Free City of Qeynos is a major city, not just on Antonica, but throughout all Norrath. It serves as the heart of the kingdom of the same namesake ans is ruled by Antonius Bayle III. The plains of Karana to the east hold hundreds of small farms and outposts and open up the rest of the continent. Regular trade flows from the docks of the Free City to the city of Erudin and vice versa. Some foolhardy captains go farther south, but only with the aid of spellcasters, since the next closest opportunity to restock their ships is on the frigid continent of Velious.
Nogglegrop stands, large map dangling from one hand, magical belt draped over the other, bouncing his attention back and for between Gwendalyn and Sajeek, hoping they can make up their minds quickly before Pravus Mortis has to put their "giantslayer" titles to the test.
White Satin Gloves
These delicate, nearly gossamer white gloves fit snugly on any wearer's hands. Once worn, the provide superior resistance to fire, at the expense of weakening all other resistances. However, they are excellent gloves when fighting fire-oriented opponents.
Kwen found that the white gloves fit snugly about his hands. He feels both healthier and a bit weaker. The white satin gloves are so light that they are barely there (0.1 lbs.).
Fire Resistance (12)
All other resistances -2
Fire Save +3
Giant's Reminder String
These items are appropriately belt-sized for men and elves - although smaller folk can wear them cinched tightly - yet even larger races like trolls can wear them as belts. They first gained their name when they became known as rings for some of the largest giants, among whom any means of even partially offsetting the debilitating stupidity of their ancient curse is of great value.
Nogglegrop has found light belt (0.5 pounds) made him see the world clearer.
To understand the truth of both item's magic, and whether the weakness of the gloves was indeed a curse, you will require magical identification. To get an idea of what they might be worth in trade, to the right buyer, one must have a keen eye (appraise DC 26 for white satin gloves, appraise DC 25 for giant's reminder string once all powers of the item have been identified, no retries on roll).
Sajeek wrinkles his noise, looking at Gwen. He knew that Qeynos was closer to them, but not to the Loping Plains. And the poor elf Justis. The couldn't ignore that forever.
"Why do you want to go..," Sajeek catches sight of Halas on the map in Noggy's hand. Suddenly, it clicked in his head. Gwen wanted to go home. The vah shir vaguely remembers that she had mentioned wanting go home. Sajeek blinks and goes silent for a moment. "East it is. Now that's decided, let's get the hell out of here."
"Can we get a ship from Halas to the Loping Plains on Feydwar? Or, if we are thinking about looking at land to start this town, we should think about people needed to actually build it," Sajeek says after they had been moving for a little bit. "Hmm, maybe we could get that ship from Halas to Freeport. Given the huge advantage that we gave the knights, I think they should have won. If they lost, we get out of Freeport with the quickness." the young Beastlord says with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Sajeek, do you think you could hide our tracks?" asks Revery as they start heading west. "Wouldn't want to make it easy for those giants."
Revery mentions nothing about his torture. He almost says "Me too" after Noggy relates his fictional horror, but thinks better of it. When Noggy offers up the belt, Revery asks, "Mind if I try it on?"
As they start traveling, he thinks for a bit and then says, in Iksar, "I think we should practice use of this tongue. The more familiar we are with it, the faster we'll be able to listen, and pick up new words."
He continues, in Iksar...
"If we're going to be traveling by ship, perhaps we could stop in Erudin, too? With all this talk of building a city, I shall have to have a discussion with Arwen. Perhaps she'll agree to join us. Maybe we need more people whose names end in 'wen'. And maybe Kwen would like to look up his 'contact' there, even though I'm not sure how much actual contact there was last time."
" Sure I could find out more, but we should talk and move, the last thing we need is a whole bunch of giants fighting us." The rogue says in Iksar showing that he was quite able to speak and understand the lizard tongue.
" We should find the nearest city and resupply there, then make our next move. I go by Kwen for my full name would take far to long to speak in a normal conversation." Kwen finishes with a wink.
The slowest of all (except Bast) at learning Iksar, Gwendalyn replies to Revery with a hint of developing fluency as they travel. "Your people had a thing about gnomes, remember? Perhaps it would be better for us to carve out some safety first, and then send for people."
You are moving across solid stone, which will make it a difficult to discern your movements. Countertracking is an option (no roll required, will add +5 DC modifier to the pursuer's roll), but it will significantly slow down the party's progress (move at half speed).
As usual, Nogglegroup (15' base speed, 3x run speed) is doing a great job in slowing you down. Considering how long the legs of your powerful pursuit is (40' base speed, 4x run speed), the gnome seems even slower than normal.
Continuing west brings you to the far end of a corridor that runs further south. Raji had warned you away from this area, reporting that there was a mysterious sphinx named Ankhefenmut at the other end. You hear the sound of carapace and armoured legs skittering about, knowing that these are the scarab guards of the sphinx.
Each mountain holds enemies innumerable and each outcropping of rock a potential ambush point. The giants can see perfectly in the dark, but many of you cannot, and there is many hours of night remaining.
Choices appear to still have enough life to be bandied about: Qeynos, Lake Rathetear, Freeport, Erudin, Halas....
Gwendalyn offers to let Nogglegrop ride piggy-back again, since she left so much behind to run from the Avatar of Fear that even his 98.75 lbs. of gnome, armor and gear would only take her from a light load to a medium load (20 ft. base speed, 4x run speed). "I think we need to find a place to hide until morning."
Revery has the magic belt in his possession. He can see the world clearer.
Nogglegrop is a heavy burden, which slows Gwendalyn down significantly.
Moving west will have the group pass the side passage towards the sphinx.
Ambush sites are prevalent for the denizens of the Rathe Mountains, which also provides ample opportunity for the group to hide. The only decision will be how high they are willing to climb to find a hide.
Choices abound, the group need only make one and come to a consensus.
"Yeah, enough to know they should be avoided," Sajeek looks back at the others annoyed by their voices echoing off the stone. "Can we stop talking so damn much and actually start moving? Or was being constantly tortured to death by the Faceless's minions not enough?"
"No I can't hide our trail on solid stone. No, I'm not going to set a false trail either. Save your air for running, not talking. If we're going to hide, look for someplace that would make a giant crouch to investigate," Sajeek says, emerald eyes moving about. Raji hand spoken of the sphinx that lived in the area. "Northwest and Qeynos is it. If we make it out of the damn mountains," Sajeek mutters to himself.
Lithia and Raji had given the group 'the lay of the land' and Revery had felt the group would be able to find the best route based on that. "We simply need the safest route to get a head start to Qeynos. Can we go north for a while?"
He tries to recall if there are other cities between here and Qeynos, or towns or other interesting or useful places.
Knowledge/geography: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (20) + 12 = 32
"On second thought give me a few bits of broken gear," Sajeek says, pulling of one of his mangled claws as he runs. The scuttling armored legs of the big bugs had giving him a glimmer of an idea. "I can try to make it look like we headed south. Then we head north westish to get out of the mountains."
"We'll have to head the other way as soon as I attempt this."
Revery had traveled approximately half the distance between the Rathe Mountains and Qeynos and found the map to be accurate in terms of settlements and towns (critical success). There was nothing beyond what they had encountered or learned about in their previous journey that he can bring to mind. Beyond the miles and miles, there were more miles and miles.
Moving through mountains does not lend itself to minor adjustments in one's course. If one wishes to go west then they will spend as much time tracking both north and south, and even backtracking at times, to avoid having to ascend to great heights.
The false trail is set, and the group finds a hide for the night, and the next, the next, and over a tenday later the exhausted group finds their way free of the Rathe Mountains.
So many threats had been avoided, due to the advice you were given by the wise vah shir, that the group's movements were possice, giving no small thanks to the Avatar of Fear destroying many of the giants, and uniting many of the others into a common cause.
Several times you had almost been found, and had spent many a sleepless night as the giants had plodded past your hide in search of a monster that was no long on the surface of Norrath.
Pravus Mortis are able to dip their toes in Erud's Crossing, and though you can see nothing of the continent beyond, you all know that Odus lies just beyond those waters.
You have come out in a summer storm, and the winds bow your heads and force you to raise your voices.
You are all well rested, and it is still a handful of hours before the evenfeast.
You have won your way free of the trials within the Rathe Mountains.
" Well that was fun." The rogue mutters darkly, still feeling out of sorts from the last couple of weeks " I could use a number of spirits right about now, alas the potent liqueurs are out of our reach at the moment. The good news is that we survived, and we killed a giant! Still the cost of this trip was not something that I would have paid willingly if I had known what we would go through." Kwen says with a smirk.
"Potent spirits sound good right about now," Sajeek agrees, looking back at the mountains that loomed behind them. He half expect a hoard of giants to come running out of the pass after them. The summer's rain made quick work soaking his robes and fur. Bast looked up at him as if the rain was the vah shir's fault somehow.
"I can't wait till we get to Qeynos. Both to properly resupply and take a well deserved rest for a day or two," reaching down he scratches Bast's ears. "We should probably find a boat that will take us to the land of gnome haters," Sajeek shoots a grin a Revery. "So that Rev can get news to wife. I don't know if we want to stop there long, depending on if we can find a non-erudite captain. If they even allow non-erudites to dock there."
The had to huddle close to be heard over the noise of the storm. Sajeek glances around them.
"I think Gwen wanted to stop by Halas as well," Sajeek says after a few seconds of thought. "Not that I could say "No" to anyone for wanting to see anyone close to them after what I dragged everyone through." The young Beastlord shakes his head and grins slightly. "But getting to Qeynos and getting some stiff drinks and food that we didn't have to catch should be the first thing we do." He glances around. "And it might be a bit easier to find a boat in a port city then out in the wilderness."
Gwendalyn nods. "Qeynos first. From there, it's probably safer to sail north than south anyway, and not only safer than walking straight across to Freeport but possibly faster too. And if we stop in Halas, you can say hi to all the ladies who've missed your company," she smirks.
" Ah good, now to get our friend the gnome smuggled in, sounds like a lot of fun. At least the weather is nice today." Kwen says, his smirk turning into a full fledged grin. The thought of getting potent spirits into his belly, felt like a good idea. After all yesterday had been the first decent nights sleep in what felt like forever.
Sajeek cheerfully enjoys the downpour from the storm. After all it was acid melting his flesh, or a mass of tiny worms burrowing into him. The vah shir could deal with the wet. 'The smell kinda sucks,' the Beastlord thinks with a sniff.
Eyes ever moving on their surroundings, Sajeek's emerald gaze lingers on Noggy for a second or two. He moves a bit closer to the gnome, who seemed a tad reluctant in giving up his ride.
"We need to think about getting you some sort of riding mount. No, not Bast," the vah shir says already guessing the gnome's first suggestion. "Some kind of goat, or riding dog. Oh! What about some kind of tinkered mount," Sajeek asks.
Two relatively uneventful tendays plus three later the storm has passed, leaving behind an oppressive humidity wrought by the sun sitting low and pregnant in the sky.
Two days past you had made the dangerous crossing of the mouth of the Serpent. If barges were an option you never saw one.
You follow the shoreline, but out of "Faydedar-grabbing distance" (thanks to the gnome's paranoia), and cannot hear the waves over the whirring of the cicadas, as they create a symphony of scratchy noise to celebrate the longer days of summer. You get momentary reprieves from the drumming of the insects as a sea gull screams good-day to one of its brethren.
Bast yawns and shakes himself out, seemingly in agreement with the relaxed nature of his surroundings.
Deep wagon wheel tracks are found pacing your northern heading. The tracks are very old, but look like they were set during a deluge of a storm, much worse than the one you just experienced. Perhaps they had hunkered down and waited for the storm to pass, or had tried to push through, but you see evidence that they had to stop and repair a wagon wheel time and again.
Glancing at the direction and location of the caravan is heading brings something to mind...
A day later you see the first caravan skirting the river traveling westward with a destination of Qeynos. Guards professionally scour its contents, and momentarily speak to each person, before permitting them to carry on. Before they leave the guards speak to the wagonmaster and come to an agreement. A number of the women and children leave with the caravan, bidding a tearful goodbye to the group, guards and the other women and children. Those with sharp eyes notice that the guards hand over some money to the wagonmaster, likely funds that come from a pool of the guard's meagre wages.
Justis and her mother had been on that caravan, which had left 6 days before you had. Though your route was much longer it appeared as though this caravan had been trapped by a storm. She was heading for your destination of Qeynos and had no money to travel home, and would require the charity of a boat's captain to set sail to Faydwer. Charity took time, and that time might permit Pravus Mortis to catch the girl before she set sail to distant lands.
Nogglegrop is less interested in being smuggled into a place where he is hated, so Revery can smooch his wife, than one might imagine. He suggests sending a letter, or finding someone more convenient to spend one's life with.
Gwendalyn brings forth the strange Greenmist dagger forth from a fold in her clothing. She could feel the energy in it, vibrating with power. This was a conduit to a dread god, a dark weapon to worship a darker king. Her fingers tingled and a burst of mangled child's thoughts came forth from the dagger. The shaman realizes, in horror, that Rahn's soul was in the weapon she wielded. The dagger was attuned to her, and she was cursed to carry it (NO DROP) until the task was completed, or the dagger was destroyed. By communing with the dark spirits Gwendalyn can ask one question of Cazic-Thule for clarification of the use of the dagger.
Another summer shower douses you, though this one is not accompanied by a storm. It is a warm wetness.
You come upon a weathered fence, surrounded a large property bountiful with crops of corn, that passes very near a dilapidated porch of a farmhouse. You notice a movement to the side, the sudden shift of the corn, and once, the brief glimpse of a mop-haired young boy.
A young girl explodes out from behind the farmhouse yelling, "PA! Strangers!"
It is a fairly large home, with several rooms and even a staircase leading up to a loft. It had once been a decent abode for the floors were not dirt, but made of wide oak planks, which squeaked when you walked into the entryway. A half-burned log lays in the hearth and a metal pot sat on the counter across from a small table. Truly the place had fallen into disrepair, but that did little to offset the warmth of the greeting the young man had given you when he welcomed the group into his home to warm up, dry off, and break bread.
Compared to how dilapidated the surroundings are the new plow stands out. It is made to be pulled by a man.
He is Jakab and his two children are too rambunctious to be identified as more than grubby little blurs of movement. His food is bland fare, being all corn-based, but filling. Once the children are in bed he breaks out the corn whiskey.
Jakab is a large and muscular young man, whose clothing are all but rotting off of him. He has large trusting eyes that seem to be unaffected by the horrors of the world around him, and the challenges of farming in such hostile territory. There is sorrow in those eyes, for his daughter is dying of an affliction that no cleric can mend.
You are welcome to spend the night.
A slightly inebriated Nogglegrop snaps his fingers, and suddenly avows, "A clockwork riding mount!" and then collapses into snores.
Sajeek manages to contain the surprised scream that sought to escape his muzzle. He settles for hopping back a step and bumping into Bast. Who is less then pleased to have Sajeek's hindquarters in his face. By only the grace of the spirits is Sajeek able to get his tail out of the way before Bast's teeth latch onto it.
Part of Sajeek wants to find a reason to pass on Jakab's offer of hospitality. There were times when the vah shir wasn't 100% that they had been released from Cazic-Thule's grasp. The thought that everything before his eyes would shatter like a pane of glass and he would see the Faceless's minions scrambling over each other to get to the Beastlord first.
Bast solves any dilemma for him by giving both of dirt blur's of movement a curious sniff and a lick and then proceeds to ignore them. Until the children find that the tiger is just as interested in moving things as barn cats. Tapping a cornstalk in front of the tiger to get the snobby acting cats instant attention, the three manage to keep themselves out of trouble. An accomplishment for Bast, if anything.
"Uh, yes. Thanks for the offer of food and getting out of the damp," Sajeek grins at the farmer Jakab. His ears twitch at the sound of giggling.
A little while later, after agreeing, well Noggy had pretty much agreed for everyone else, they sit at the table. His belly full, of food he didn't have to hunt, and the warm burn of the whiskey settle nicely into his bones, Sajeek stares into the fire. Dragging his emerald gaze away from the fire, he looks over at the farmer, nursing his cup of whiskey.
"Thanks for the drink," the vah shir says, raising his cup and giving the farmer a slightly tipsy nod of his head. "Oh, and Bast is still out hunting down rats. Keeps him out of trouble." The Beastlord smiles at the thought of the tiger depopulating the local rat menace.
"Drunken silences with people I do not know very well make me want to drink more," Sajeek comments to no one in particular. "So, rather then get so drunk I throw up in our new friend's house, let us talk about something. Anything really. How are you Jakab?" The vah shir pauses for a moment suddenly remembering something. "First off, thanks again for inviting us in." Sajeek grins. "Okay, somebody else's turn."
Nogegrop will always agree to the offer of a meal, especially if it comes with alcohol.
Bast at first scares the children, but his lack of eating them wins them over, and then he is tortured by their play, as they pull his fur and hang on his tail. They are both less than 5, which makes the little imps all the more devious.
You are told that the sickly daughter is sleeping and not to be woken. There is a sorrowful resignation to the man's voice as he speaks of his third child, who he expects to be gone at any moment.
It becomes clear that this farm is in disrepair because this Jakab's resources and time have gone into the care of his sickly child.
Kwen's hands had gone to his hilts for moment before recognizing the children as children. Thanking Jakab for his offer of hospitality the rogue takes him on his offer to break bread with them. Perking up when he hears the sound of Whiskey being offered; Kwen has a cup, enjoying the slight burn as the whiskey goes down his throat, Kwen lets out a small sigh.
Upon hearing Jakab talk about his third daughter sick with an illness that can't be treated, Kwen slides the hundred copper coins into a pouch along with 50 gold coins but he does so with his long coat covering the extra pouch that he was placing the coins into. Upon pulling the new pouch that was holding the gift that Kwen was going to be giving Jakab he wonders if not this could be a trick. After all Kwen had seen such cons before in the city, Kwen resolved that he wouldn't drink any more of the whiskey tonight and sleep lightly.
Having a feeling that the man might be to proud to accept such a gift he says " Jakab in thanks for the meal and the offer of a place to rest, it would be poor of me to not at least pay for the services rendered of a meal, a place to stay, and of course potent drink." The rogue has a very slight slur on his words, still the rogue's voice was low as not to bother the sick girl.
Trying to ease the man's thought and possible pride of not taking the coin; and to act a bit drunker than Kwen felt; was a bit trickier then normal, but the rogue was slightly out of practice... at least with the lying part.
1d20 + 12 ⇒ (17) + 12 = 29
bluff check 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (7) + 6 = 13
Jakab nods his thanks as he slides the money back to the rogue. "There is no need to pay, it is my pleasure to help where I can."
The meal likely cleared out this farm's food stocks, but you would on offend the man by pressing to pay, or leaving money for him to find later.
"Where do you travel to? We do not see many travellers in these parts, beyond the occasional caravan that is."
Nogglegrop wakes when the sick child is mentioned. He offers his services as a healer, but Jakab politely declines: there was no hope to hold onto.
Kwen nods; knowing that only so much can be done, if a man will not take coin then you couldn't force it upon him. " For now perhaps Qeynos, or another place. May'haps Freeport, unless there is trouble brewing in that city." Kwen skits the truth, blending the lie together with the truth, for Freeport could still be fighting the civil war.
1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26
" You maintained the occasional caravan, have you heard any news while they were passing by, or even some rumors, we have been traveling for a long time and have missed a month or two of any real word of what has been going on." Kwen says with smile.
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
Jakab passes along very familiar information about a subterranean lair where women and children were held hostage, but freed from their chains by 'Pravus something or other' and returned back to their homes.
It was this caravan that brought his new plow, purchased during better times, and only just arrived.
He relays more about Freeport, assuring you that the war continues to rage as it does on Kunark.
Revery tries hard not to complain about the rain, but fails. It is just so wet, and he feels cold and miserable. Is there no magic to ease their discomfort?
And when the farmhouse appears, and the invitation proffered, he is ecstatic to accept.
Satisfied by a hearty meal and a good stiff drink (of which Revery, as usual, only minimally imbibes), he chimes in his thanks to Jakab for his most generous hospitality. He has a few questions for him, but does not want to bombard him with them all at once, so he starts with a simple one. "What is your daughter's name?"
Gwendalyn gladly accepts the farmer's offered hospitality, as she is feeling rather bedraggled from being killed, tortured, and rained on, in that order. She smiles to watch the vicious tiger play nicely with the small children; if only they'd seen him tear into a mountain giant, they'd probably be more careful of his tail.
As the evening wears on, Gwen is particularly pleased by the liquid dessert, as one thing that you can't do on the trail is brew spirits. (She's given the problem some thought, and it would be entirely impractical.)
"Are you sure that there's nothing we can do to repay your hospitality? You have no idea how much it means to us, to have a little bit of normalcy in our lives --" She chokes on her words, her eyes dark and moist. The young Northwoman is too overcome with emotion to continue, since avoiding the memories has deprived her of practice at corralling them when they attack.
All are somehow attuned to the Greenmist dagger and understand the truth of it, and that a question is able to be asked.
The children were put to bed hours ago. Each did not go down without a fight, or without a tuft or two of Bast's fur clutched in their mitts. The boy disturbingly sniffed in a few strands of the fur on purpose, for reasons unknown. They had retired up to the loft, which is where Jakab also goes when it is time for his slumber.
The glow of the hearth whispers warmth against the chill of the night. It seems an insane proposition to attempt to scratch out an existence so far from the protection of populated centres, but there is wisdom in the madness, since the farm is protected by being remote, since few even know of its existence. You imagine that this farmer is decent with a sword, since there would be the occasional attempt to steal his supplies.
Jakab traces the wood's grain in the table as he fields Revery's query, "Avvie. She was named for her grandmother Avendal." His voice has a sweetness, an innocence that seems so very out of place in this dangerous land. "Pass along the hospitality to those in need. It is the traveller's moto to provide when you can, and receive when you cannot." Jakab bids you good night and retires, since he has chores very early the next morning.
You are left in the main room, to huddle about the hearth next to a snoring gnome whose armour looks to have exploded off of him, fragmented about the room.
Nodding to the hospitable farmer as he heads off into the loft, Sajeek settles his back against Bast. The big tiger had wandered back into the house, worn out from the terror's disguised as children and rat hunting. He had been kind enough to drop the head of one of his snacks in Sajeek's lap upon his return.
"Thanks, awfully," the vah shir mutters as he had gotten up to toss the cracked open rat skull outside. "Where were you when I was bunking in a whore house in Freeport," he comments quietly to the tiger as he returned. Bast had wasted little time getting closer to the fire and lying down on his side. He grumbled a bit when Sajeek lays against him, but soon passes out "friendly growling" faintly.
The Beastlord is quiet, a horrible question rolling around in his head disturbs his buzz. Sajeek was wondering something very unpleasant. If the one stabbed by the Greenmist dagger infused with Rahn's soul had to be Justis.
"I think I might have a sort of idea to help the farmer," the vah shir whispers in the iksar tongue. "Should we ask if the one pierced by the dagger has to be Justis? I know it's really screwed up, but it would kind of saved his child. I mean if Noggy can't help her or anything." Sajeek's ears lay flat against his skull, and he looks sick to have brought it up.