"Twilight is a dangerous time, but also when the moon rises. Heres hoping Tsukiyo rises with us here too." Byakko replies to Geedra.
He gives a look to Mithas, assuming theres no indication from the elf he then: before turning to Skane, "Couldn't hurt could it?" He knocks loudly three times and tries the door handle...
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Finally got my internet 100% fixed after 4 service calls...and of course the last guy goes "oh yeah, it's this, we've been having issues with this a lot since xyz. Fixed."
Mithas investigates the heavy door and it proves to be, to the elf's satisfaction, untrapped and unlocked. There is no response to the knocks Byakko makes, but the door, though weighty, does swing open with the subsequent effort.
A slight chill wind wafts through this room, carrying the stale scent of carrion and peat. Beyond, an impossible forest seems to have devoured the entire chamber. The walls are woven from tangled knots of black, leafless trees, and fine flakes of rusted iron cover the floor, softly crumbling to dust. A pale light emanates from a fist-sized orb that rests within a nest of black iron branches in the center of the room, turning all forms into ebon silhouettes.
Shortly after you filter in the room, taking stock of yet another strange magical forest, you hear the flapping of wings. A raven suddenly emerges from the darkness from the side of the room and lands carefully on the odd glowing orb. It stares at the group without making a sound, but tilts its head this way and that as it watches you.
You notice two things. The first is that this raven seems to be wearing some manner of small iron amulet hanging from a leather cord around its neck, and second is that at the rear of the room, partially obscured by dead branches and leaves, is a path that leads further in.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (4) + 6 = 10
Byakko lays a hand on Enii's shoulder as she tenses. He knows her well enough that she hasn't entered hunting mode but to reassure himself he restrains her. This raven may not be just a raven, but I can never be sure a cat won't be a cat and eat a bird. Unsure of what to do Byakko tilts his head the same as the raven and gives a quarter-circle single wave with his other hand. Sure he will find something he casts Detect Magic.
Perception 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 2 = 18
”WhaT am dumb bird staring at,” Geedra calls out before she notices the amulet around this neck. ”Geedra not heard of bird wearing jewelry. Maybe bird or necklace is am be magic.?”.
She also points out to the others that the path continues on somehow.
The raven watches, tilting its head this way and that, looking to Geedra specifically when she speaks.
"Dumb?" the bird replies. "The goblin says I am dumb? Now there is the crow calling the raven black." The raven's head bobs with short, crisp movements as it surveys the rest of you, eyeing Byakko and Enii suspiciously.
"Do you like what you see? The pretty colors in magic sight? Your beast eyes me hungrily, keep it at bay lest you wish to see it withered like a parched flower." You see a flash across the raven's eyes, a flash that somehow suggests that it could follow through on that threat. "Now, who are these creatures that trespass these sacred halls, what brings you to brave the depths of this place? If your intentions are ill, I will not just be an omen of doom for you."
"Tis not my beast and she eyes you through her own nature, of her own volition. She does not wish to make a morsel of you... yet."
Byakko lifts his hand from Enii who immediately stalks towards a flank, not coming any closer to the bird. Byakko continues, "You appear plain, mundane black, but you carry something quite intriguing don't you? Perhaps it was meant for the Riders, perhaps it was meant to hinder them. We were invited here, strange that you were not informed or aware; who are you then that does not know guests and threatens violence in said sacred halls?"
Is this bird hostile?
Sense Motive/Hunch: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (19) + 3 = 22
Geedra grins at Byakko’s words. ”That good human. Geedra like that human. Crow…Geedra am a powerful Black Rider. Geedra and group here to help mighty Baba Yaga. Hut am Geedra and group’s now. Why Crow am in Geedra’s hut?”
Mithas and Skane, are you still with us?
Yes I am. Sorry for the delay.
Perc: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (4) + 10 = 14
Mithas mutter's under his breath, "Just when you thought things couldn't be odder."
He steps forwards and gives a bow, "Greetings Master Raven. We humble few have inherited the mantle of the Riders and have set forth in search of the great and powerful Baba Yaga. And who might you be who stands guard over such a wondrous bauble?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (20) + 12 = 32
Also still here. Could have sworn I'd posted... :S
Perception: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 3 = 7
His attention drawn by the others, Skäne too salutes the bird with a raised spear and shield;
"Well met hrafn (raven), I am Skäne Ingvârssonn. Also one of the svartr riddari (black riders). We mean you no ill... our Puka is almost temja (tame) and will nei make supper of you."
He gestures toward Geedra with a hard smile, then watches the bird for a reaction;
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (10) + 8 = 18
"Easy, easy, hunting cat. You'd be a rug before I'd be a morsel!" The raven laughs a short, abrasive laugh as it continues to cycle its attention across the group. It inquisitively assesses each mention of Riders, a cautious but succinct movement of its head every time.
You are beginning to piece this raven together...there are tales of Baba Yaga's raven allies that serve as her prophets. There are three said to be the guardians of Twilight, Night, and Dawn, auspicious times when dreams and worlds blur. They are often called the Liar Seers, for they shroud their wisdom in tangled riddles.
"The riders three become many. The dreams are true, the dreams are true!" the raven caws. "Baba Yaga is not here, but you can find her, never fear. First, however, you must persuade me you possess the strength necessary to bear my knowledge, and the mantle of the riders. My question is a simple one...
Born twins, they live not
Yet they grow until death
Their fates are often tied
Ever-crescent, as the moon,
Symbols of the warriors pride.
..The answer to this question lies in the chamber beyond. Bring me the answer, and I shall give you what you seek."
Know. Arcana 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (12) + 15 = 27
Geedra snapped her fingers and broken into a large fanged grin. ”Geedra got it! Crow am one of Baba Yaga’s Liar Seers! Guard twilight, night and dawn.”
She turns to the others. ”Liar seers am love to riddles. If group works out riddle, Crow should help.”
Know Local: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
"Baby Yaga really doesn't do straightforward does she. Very well bird we'll find your answer."
Mithas sighs, "Well it's not like we have a lot of options here. Onward friends, lets search out what yon bird desires."
Mithas takes point, bow out.
Stealth: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (8) + 14 = 22
Perc: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (15) + 10 = 25
"Bring me the answer!" the raven reiterates, taking wing back into the shadows of the chamber.
Those of you who picked out the partially hidden corridor leading further on behind a curtain of brambles assist the others in locating it as well, and Mithas takes point, stealthily maneuvering down the rugged hallway.
The walls of the next wide chamber are lined with grey, lifeless trees and thorny tangles of brush. In the center of the room stands a gnarled and leafless tree whose outstretched branches twist like cruel, beastly talons.
Lurking in the shadows in the corner, a form suddenly erupts from the darkness. Everyone but Geedra notices the creature right before it comes out to strike - a huge, monstrous boar. Horribly scarred with bristled black, red, and grey fur, its eyes burn with an otherwordly blackness and the savage tusks are jagged and sharp.
Boar Init: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (5) + 7 = 12
Byakko Init: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
Skane Init: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (10) + 3 = 13
Geedra Init: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (10) + 4 = 14
Mithas Init: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 1 = 16
Krosh Init: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
Won't do a map for this one, pretty simple. 50 ft wide, 30 ft across chamber with a tree in the center. You all enter in the middle of the wall, so the boar is about 30 feet away in the corner.
stealth: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
geedra per: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (6) + 2 = 8
byakko per: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
skane per: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (18) + 3 = 21
krosh per: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (5) + 12 = 17
After facing down a dragon, a boar, no matter how big, does little to shake Mithas.
Drawing an arrow to his ear, he lets loose:
Let's put all these feats to use.
Attack vs FF: 1d20 + 10 + 1 ⇒ (12) + 10 + 1 = 23 Damage? (blunt, nonlethal): 1d8 + 1 + 8d6 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 1 + (6, 3, 2, 4, 2, 6, 5, 6) + 8 = 49
Ok, back into some manner of sorts. Apologies for the delay.
Mithas sets an arrow to his bowstring as he watches the scarred beast emerge from the shadowy brambles, drawing a line through the air as it behinds to move forward, anger burning in its eyes. Just as the mighty creature starts to charge, the arrow speeds across the woody chamber and a blunted shaft strikes it squarely between the eyes. It lets out a deep, guttural bellow as it staggers where it stands, obviously dazed by the precise shot. It shakes its head, moving more sluggishly. What a hit! 49 points of nonlethal damage.
Krosh stands next to Skäne and touches his shoulder, a monotone whisper accompanying the jingle of a chime hanging from an antler. The ulfen warrior suddenly feels his muscles tense and tighten beneath his armor, enhancing his natural strength. Casts Bull's Strength on Skäne.
Skäne gets his surprise round action.
Damn guys - am sorry, took minn eye off the ball here.
Bolstered and burly, Skäne moves forward to engage the beast 20ft Move Action)
Some 10ft from the hulking boar, he holds... readying himself for its goring attack;
Readied Melee (Power Attack) Spear +1: 1d20 + 10 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 10 + 2 = 30
Power Attack Damage: 1d8 + 9 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 9 + 2 = 15
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Bolstered by Krosh's spirits of might, Skäne advances forward on the massive, grizzled boar's position and plants himself firmly in its path, bracing his spear for the beast's coming.
The boar recovers from Mithas's pinpoint strike at its heavy head, and stamps the earth in front of it in defiance, snorting and looking ahead with a fiery gaze. It does indeed break into a wild charge, focusing on the first target in its path - a readied Skäne.
As the monstrous creature draws near, Skäne sees his opening, angling the head of the spear to a point that slips it past the boar's massive tusks. With the butt end anchored against the earth and Skäne's magically enhanced frame holding the haft, such force combined with the boar's own momentum forces the point of the spear directly into it, though its able to have enough sense to move its head. The spear drives into its shoulder. The boar continues on, its weight carrying the charge forward, further impaling itself on the weapon. The tip of its deadly tusks make it mere inches from Skäne before the brute comes to a stop. As it keels over, it pulls the spear from Skäne's hands and collapses onto the ground. A readied brace against a charge actually deals double damage, so that combined with Mithas's sneak attack is enough to put this boar down...though you can tell it is still breathing, though unconscious as Mithas's attack had dealt nonlethal damage. Still, quite the one-two punch.
Byakko ceremoniously takes his hand off the hilt of Tsume and bows to his companions. "Impressively done! Even more so that it lives! Should we tie it up, see if it talks like the bird?" Byakko wary of the darkness in the Boar's eyes casts Detect Magic while he waits for a response. Enii prowls around the tree wary for threats.
I'm not connecting any dots on this riddle yet team. I'd happily take any further descriptions on the room/clearing the ole passive perc may get us there boss.
Geedra shrugged. ”Geedra am like to eat piggie here, but it might be yucky with all black demon stuff here. Maybe group investigate tree and could heal piggie on way back,” she suggests.
Skäne taps the brutish boar's tusks with his spear tip;
"The gáta (riddle). It geta (speaks) of the galti (boar's) tusk..."
There are no other features in this room besides the lifeless grey trees and strange scrubbrush that dots the area. No magic beyond the innate magic of the hut itself is present here, either. The larger tree separated into the center of the room, upon inspection, also does not seem to be magical, nor are there any decorations or adornments on it. Nothing seems to be above in the branches and you do not find any holes or other crevasses in the trunk. It appears to be purely ornamental.
When Skäne speaks of the boar's tusks in relation to the riddle, Krosh claps him on the shoulder from behind as he walks up.
"I think you have the right of it, Twice-Mantled. Born twins, not alive but grow until death."
"Bounty didn't specify alive or dead... Take the beast there trussed up or..." Byakko trails off as he plainly fingers his sword hilt before turning to unpack his rope from Enii's pack saddle.
Skäne nods in agreement and assists with any binding and carrying of the huge hog.
"Take it kvikr (alive). The galta has earned that much."
You spend some time to cut down a bough and fashion it into a sturdy pole to carry the boar. Binding the beast with lengths of rope and lashing it to the pole, it still takes a few of you to get it done, despite Skäne's magically imbued strength - this boar is a paragon specimen, solid and rippled with muscle.
Once you return to the previous chamber, the peculiar raven, now returned to its perch on the orb, watches you, a glint in its eyes as you carry in your quarry.
""Ha!" the bird sounds. "An unexpected outcome. The Beast of Gelglast yet lives. You've brought me the answer to the riddle, I concede...and you have bested the challenge, though not in the way that was intended. Still, word is word. You shall have what you seek...though take these words as well. If you are to delve the depths of Baba Yaga's trail, you must have the resolve and the fortitude to always do what must be done."
The raven's eyes glow and the amulet around its neck slowly lifts off of its form, floating over slowly to the group, where it hovers in midair.
"This amulet holds only one of the three clues you seek. It reveals the first ingredient for Baba Yaga's kettle. Look for the key where time catches up to us all."
The raven flaps its wings and lifts from the orb, its glow immediately dimming to nothing without the bird atop it. With a few more flaps, the bird begins to once more melt into the darkness.
"Look for the Mother when the moon is full!" is its final cry as it disappears.
The amulet stays floating in the air before you. A handsome iron piece, triangular in shape with two half circles carved out of its sides. A rune is carved upon it in deep, perfect stroke.
This is the Iobarian witch rune for 'dragon.'
With some divination, you also ascertain that this amulet, besides being a clue, functions as a brooch of shielding.
The seemingly endless hallway behind you awaits..
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Linguistics 1d20 + 5 + 10 ⇒ (14) + 5 + 10 = 29
”This Ioberian witch rune am mean ‘dragon!’ Geedra am almost dragon,” she says as she grabs the amulet and puts it on.
”Where time catches up to us all? Am graveyard, maybe. That am Geedra’s guess. No idea what Mother when the moon is full am to mean, though…”
If anyone else wants the amulet, just let me know. Geedra is selfish, so I grabbed it. But if someone wants it, I’m cool with that!
Mithas waves a hand in farewell to the disincorporating raven.
"No idea Greeda, but I guess that is the first part of the puzzle. Besides, who knows when time runs out for anyone? I would say death, but I've no intention of dying to test that theory out. It might make fore sense once we've found the other two clues."
He looks both ways along the endless hallway, trying to remember which way they came from. Once the rest of the team is ready, he'll lead the way down the impossible corridor.
"I've never been one for riddles and once again this one is beyond me. This blasted corridor has brought us to one clue though Mithas, perhaps we will arrive at more if it ever ends."
Byakko catches Enii eyeing the boar. "Shall we untie the beast then? I wonder if the raven meant we should finish the job as intended, the tusk riddle did mention the moon too I think... perhaps theyre part of another clue?" Byakko once again fingers his sword hilt. "I may have a way to talk with it... but it would require... combat."
Sorry guys we don't need to hold up and could just cut it loose but I'm cursed to only talk with animals in combat, maybe it'll tell me something? Also sorry for the delay, music festival all weekend.
Skäne mulls the raven's words, then nods once again toward the uber-pig;
"Let it go. Good omen to bezt (best) such a beast without the spilling of blóð..."
He hooks his fingers like tusks;
The tusks bughr (curve) like the moon. Nothing more Hvítrkló (Whiteclaw)."
"Aye, a good catch that too Skäne. I'd rather the beast go free as well, but perhaps the raven spoke of future fortitude for what needs be done... and perhaps not, I worry we'll be missing a link of the riddle chain. I know little of the ways of witches but they do not seem particularly merciful and we are unfortunately playing their game. I wish I'd said something earlier but if it would appease your omens, the cat and I can dispatch it in honor of the moon, for I sense a slightly more personal portent at play."
Byakko thumbs his blade out of its saya and tilts the exposed blade towards Skäne, displaying a crescent moon carved into the blade. Byakko continues in a low solemn voice as he shows the rest of the party, "I know not if this moon has a twin, it certainly does not live and it likely has only diminished in reknown since it was bestowed upon me but... my pride hopes that it will indeed grow again... So there you have an eerily specific coincidence. I am in awe of both of your prowess attending to this boar but I think I'm destined to test myself against it. If the beast lasts long enough I may even be able to communicate with it before Tsukiyo collects it's spirit."
"A mighty spirit resides within this beast, Moonsweft," Krosh says to Byakko. "Such a force could bestow boon or bane, as it wills. But spirits are...inconsistent. I cannot say whether this one would be of mind to be released or be pleased by a further test of strength."
The shaman walks over to regard the unconscious boar, watching the slow, methodical rhythm of its breathing. "I think you will find that this path on which you now ride will offer no coincidence. Only the leaves of fate fall upon this trail...capricious as they are. Even Krosh cannot hide the swift, knowing sidelong glance at Geedra as he says this.
He walks over to look at Byakko's sword, and runs his thumb across the flat of it as the oracle holds it. "You are a spirit of duality. Born of two bloods, marked by two spirits, bearer of two minds. Your soul tethered to the primal realm of spirits both within and out - even your soulbonded companion is striped, two in one. The moon itself is twinned, split between its lives of dark and light." He puts a rugged finger in the center of Byakko's forehead. "You are twin to yourself, in a manner of speaking. Perhaps your blade does have a twin...perhaps it is just yet unformed. Twin tusks curve to the moon, " he adds cryptically.
"If you wish, I can commune with this spirit, and can know what whims it desires."
Sry folks, had a big day and big night on Sat and paid for it yesterday, I will try to be a bit swifter while I'm possibly sidetracking us...
"Aye Krosh, I think I'd like that, perhaps this leaf belongs on our fated trail and perhaps not. I just hope my singular pride, holds up to its twinned options should it come to that, come Enii, you are as much a servant of the moon as I." Byakko turns to his other companions , "Should my pride not be equal, I trust you'll see Enii out of this place." He cuts the boars bindings before crouching 10ft in front of it, nodding to Krosh.
Sorry to leave you hanging. Had training for stuff at work all week last week and that kind of sucked my time up.
Krosh nods and begins to walk over to the unconscious beast, but stops and looks around the room.
"Better to go back to the...forested room, I think," he says. "A bit less cramped."
You work together to transport the savage boar once again, hauling it back to the chamber where you had subdued it. Krosh instructs you to undo the bindings and you reclaim your rope as you free the creature once more, staging it near the central tree. The half-orc holds his hand out towards the boar and closes his eyes, but his lips move ever so slightly as he focuses. He stays like this for a minute or so, and a few of his amulets and trinkets hanging in the antlers of his helm begin to chime and sway, as if a breeze were blowing through them. He stops abruptly, and opens his eyes, nodding.
Without a word, Krosh digs through his pack, and it dawns on you all now that though you have seen him poke around in there before during downtime, you've never really seen anything inside come out before.
The half-orc produces a few small bowls of clay and pewter and a few small satchels, and sets them on the ground. A mortar and pestle follows, and he begins taking small items out of the satchels - herbs, berries, small bones, colored powders. He mixes certain ones in the mortar and quickly grinds them into a blue-tinted substance which he transfers to a pewter bowl. Next he does a similar action but the resulting mixture is orange, and he puts that in the second pewter bowl. The third mix creates a green mass, the fourth a yellow, and they go in the clay bowls. He sets them in a square, of which the boar takes up about half. The shaman then picks up a handful of dirt from the ground below and puts that in the mortar, as well as a few bones, and finally a small amount of amber colored liquid from a vial. This mixes into a paste and he stands near the area now squared off by the four bowls.
"Come then, Byakko Whiteclaw. Moonsweft. Two-as-One. You will meet with this spirit and beseech it." He beckons the half-elf forward, and then takes up some of the fresh-made paste in two fingers and smears a line across Byakko's forehead, and another from the bridge of his nose down to his chin. It is a pungent mud, nearly stinging your eyes with the stench of whatever ingredients were used to make it.
"If you all could set the four bowls afire..." he says, almost sheepishly, as if he was demeaning you by asking your assistance. The rest of you set the contents of the bowls on fire, using whatever means at your disposal to do so. Each bowl sparks to life with flames in colors that match the substances in them - blue, green, orange, and yellow. These flames are fragrant, smelling of rare herbs and oils and unguents.
Krosh removes one of the talismans from his helm, a silver circle with a half-moon carving. The edges of the circle have tiny holes, and some sort of fine thread is woven through them, knotted every so delicately along the outer perimeter of the disc. A single small owl feather hangs from it. He presses the trinket against Byakko's forehead, adhering it there with the line of muck on the half-elves brow.
"Sit within the four flames, face the beast. You will walk beyond, to the place between places where the souls of all natural things travel. No matter what happens there, know you are tethered to this world, but you may see things that unsettle you. Or you may see things that bring you joy. Spirits are capricious. This beast will hear you, it has told me, but you must go alone."
Byakko nods to Krosh and moves towards the bowls, he hesitates as Enii balks at the fire realizing that his companion will not be traveling with him. He kneels and scratches her jowls, "I'll be back soon, keep our friends safe." Byakko stands and moves to sit where indicated, arranging his sword in such a manner that he could still draw swiftly if need be.
He takes several deep breaths, building the battle fugue and as a means of testing his tongue he says, "I am ready." It comes out as a breathy rasp but still intelligible words. He pushes the doubt of communication down, hoping Krosh's ritual will take care of the communing rather than his own cursed tongue knowing that he wont be able to speak to the boar without coming to blows. Unsure how this will proceed he mutters a prayer to Tsukiyo and casts Divine Favor on himself.
Krosh directs Byakko into the space between the flames and the oracle sits, slowly allowing himself to slip into a more primal state. THe half-orc then sparks a single mote of flame to life in his hand and sets it into the bowl with the pungent muck that he used to paint Byakko's face. The substance immediately catches fire and a dark grey haze of smoke rises out of it. He quickly puts the bowl beneath Byakko's chin and the fumes rise up, obscuring the half-elf's face. As the fumes are inhaled, the strange forested chamber around becomes distorted, the colors of the four flames blend into a whirl, and the rest of you watch as Byakko slips into an unconscious state, still seated..
The world around you fragments. Bright lines of orange, green, blue, and yellow crosshatch through the aether, segmenting the very reality you behold into a scintillating cascade of colors that swirl in a sudden hurricane. Your pulse quickens, sweat beads on your brow, your hairs stand on end, suddenly thrust into this chaotic aurora. The colors seem to thin, separate, fray into threads, as if you were in the center of a bolt of spindled thread, watching a wheel pull the yarn away. Beyond the bindings of these colors you see a vast sea of darkness dotted with countless stars, a scene that becomes more and more visible as the cocoon of color sheds itself from the air. Pinpoints of violet, azure, and cerulean twinkle in the endless distance, a sudden calm that is welcome after the previous tumultuous moments. Soon all of those colored threads are gone and you are left in the eternity of the night sky.
Unsure of a path, you walk. You feel nothing substantial beneath your feet, but your footfalls still echo and resound throughout the space, sounding like languid drops of water on a still pond. You even see the ripples, distortions of the void around you flexing and undulating in your wake. They vibrate out into the realm, towards those distant stars.
And then you see things. Some of these ripples float "up", if there is even an up, and take shapes, afterimages of a dream beyond a dream. At first they are amorphous wisps of light, but as more and more behind to amass, some begin to coalesce into more recognizable forms - a lovely young lady lying in a dark space, a sliver a light falling across her from a nearby window - a small cat mewing in the snow - the strike of a hammer, a shower of sparks, a stream of silver - the shadow of a man towering overhead, standing at a twisted gate.
As swiftly as these shapes manifest, they deteriorate back into ripples of white light that dissipate into the void once more. Krosh's deep, monotonous voice echoes somewhere in the back of your head; "The place between places..."
You walk for what feels like hours. Days. Years. Lifetimes? Or only seconds. Who can say? Lost, adrift in this place, the reflections of the corners of your past prowling in your wake. But then you feel a stronger light behind you and you spin on heel to witness the silvery light of the full moon. Immediately your inner curse manifests, pulling you to that primal place of instinct, but you remain calm, bathed in the moonlight. And even as you shift does a shadow take half of the moon, stopping neatly in the center so that you gaze at this orb now split to dark and light. You feel only resonance, and in that moment of connection, your curse slackens, and as the shadow continues to crawl across Tsukiyo's countenance, you relax into a normal state. A crescent moon is left, the shadow now stopped, and the single slash of moonbeam shines into the distance, and you understand the path.
You walk again, and the starry field melts away, cascading down the periphery like rain, revealing another realm behind. A forest takes shape, but not quite one like you have ever seen. A forest with bizarre, twisted trees, their bark either grey as ash or white as bleached bone. Their limbs either leafless and looking like so many skeletal hands, or their foliage bloodred, nearly aglow, or dark, otherworldly blue. Their trunks twist like braids or twining serpents. Thorns and brambles gather at the forest's floor, their grey and sickly green complexions making them look unhealthy, but their thick diameters and rugged angles deny that notion. You look above for guidance once more, but see the sky overhead is the smeared black and purple of a horrible bruise. The moon is a fiery orange behind dark clouds. Not Tsukiyo. Not your moon.
You push through this alien forest until a step disturbs the brush somewhere behind you. Turning, you regard the very boar that you battled in a time, a world away. It looks different, however - larger, stronger, more vibrant. The black, red, and grey fur is thicker, and bristled with thorns and brambles of its own. The burning black eyes it had before are yellow, and look down at you with an imperious glare.
The voice is strong, and it comes in a sudden rush, washing over and in you rather than coming through your ears.
"The Spirit-Talker begs that we meet. Why?"
Krosh moves away from the ritual, the space within the four fires where the boar and Byakko both rest in their induced states. Krosh removes his helm and holds it under one arm. A rare sight, the shaman's visage completely visible. Some of you have never even seen it. His long hair tumbles down to his shoulders, black and streaked with silver, many more talismans, trinkets, feathers, and boners woven into his locks. His eyes are bright, a mix of cyan and silver, and white paint adorns his face, once perhaps a glyph or sigil but much as worn away from the labors of your trials. He looks more orc than human.
"This entire journey," the shaman says, breathing deeply. "Is one I never thought I would walk, not in my wildest visions." He looks around slowly at each of you, cool eyes studying your faces in turn. "And I have had my share of visions. I know I speak long and cryptically of the spirits, and I know that you may not all understand the ramblings of this old soul, but there is a method to all of this, a purpose for this path you walk. We deal now in witches and Baba Yaga, but as powerful as she may be, she is still insignificant compared to the spirits that inhabit the fabric of all that is. You all have been draped in the spectral cloaks of her Riders, but these are not your true selves, but means to an end laid upon you in necessity."
He sets his helmet on the ground and stretches, moving his head from side to side. "Your true selves are marked by the spirits within, though you may not even know them yet. Your courses were set before the riders ever rode their steeds across your paths. Just as mine was, to join with you. Do you recall, when I rejected the offer from the white rider? When I told her I was in service to another, she knew. I do know my spirit within." He smirks as he says this, a glint in his eye. "You will all cross paths with the spirits that mark you in this journey, I should think. You may all be tested, or challenged, or welcomed. This I cannot say. I speak to the spirits, not for them. I do not wish to burden you with anticipation, or fear, or the notion that your life is not your own - this is far from truth. Spirits do not make demands of your choices, but adapt with them. For only in that are you true to yourself. I suppose, I am merely saying...you are all more than you know. And more than sellswords in borrowed mantles."
He shakes his head and lets out the lightest, slightest of chuckles, alien from one such as him. He picks up his helm and puts it back on. "Forgive the ramblings of an old shaman."
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Geedra remembered when the shaman resisted the offer by the rider. Seemed dumb then, seem dumb now, she thought as she nodded at his words.
The goblin shrugged. ”Geedra am ready to meet spirits. Maybe give Geedra more power. More than Baba Yaga maybe,” she said as she broke into a grin, obviously missing the point of Krosh’s explanation.
Damn Smoke! That's some fire writing! Not sure if I need to keep it Spoiler'd but just following the lead.
Byakko has a hard time containing his excitement, he has not felt this vibrant since the night he met Enii, but this is different. He does not have the same sense of crystalline focus from within or, as it also happened to be that night, from without.
Offering a silent prayer to his moon, Byakko responds to the boar "I requested it of him. You bear crescent arms, as do I." Once again Byakko thumbs his sword out of its saya, one handed, slowly, he tilts it towards the boar. "I am not one for riddles but those the raven spoke, of you, were too coincidental with my own path for me to ignore. Perhaps it is fate, perhaps my pride has betrayed me. Do you know of a twin, to this blade perhaps? Where does time catch up to us all?"
Byakko sheaths his blade and as the moon upon it passes out of sight a sudden thought occurs to him. He raises an arm, pointing at the boar. His voice comes heated now, he presents his truth with as little overt threat as he can, however his conviction makes it clear that this realm is not free of potential violence. "NO! Before you answer... Are you a creature of Baba Yaga's or a bystander, trapped in her hut? I may bear her Rider's mantle but she does not hold my loyalty. I am here to restore order to the succession and realm. The raven lead me to believe that you were meant to die. I'd rather not indulge the witches in wanton conflict, but happily will if you truly are their creature to dispose of, or, if it will bring me another step along my fated path."
Lowering his arm and his voice, Byakko continues, a familiar rasp creeping into his consonants as his blood raises. "So... Are we meant to cross crescents as pawns, or were we fated to meet for some other exchange?" He's unsure now if he is speaking common or in his cursed tongue. Byakko is sure though, somehow, that the boar understands him regardless. He hopes too, that similarly, the boar understands that he offers truth and only intends to seek conflict if it brings him closer to resolving the current crisis. Egads, Lawful Neutrals are probably super fun at parties... I'm trying to pull some naively Lawful diplomacy, not sure if thats coming across but heres a roll in case.
Diplomacy Improve Attitude: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23
Byakko holds himself ready but makes no further moves with the sword on his hip.
"Well, that's kind of you to say Krosh, but I've no mind in borrowing a mantle from time to time and this one suits me well for the moment. Besides, I've always seen myself as more of a gentlemen adventurer anyways."
Thanks, Byakko. I'm sometimes something of a writer in the rare slivers of time I get for it. Don't have to keep your responses spoilered if you dont want, it's just cleaner on my end for jumping between scenes. Up to you.
The boar huffs and snorts, a plume of mist spilling forth from her snout. She stamps the earth as you speak, throwing her bristled mane of brambles around her head.
"You make many requests. Demands." She doesn't seem annoyed, but the voice comes to you in a more matter-of-fact sense. "Baba Yaga...I am no creature of hers, though she may believe it. The Beast of Gelglast she calls me, a title for her trophy." She snorts again, some ancient rage welling up within her. "That old crone came to my realm, as she does to so many others, to collect her trinkets and baubles, be they living or no. I was once a defender of my realm, a champion who walked the line 'tween night and day, when my world would shift...but I doubt you have heard of Gelglast. It matters not. This was an age or more ago, and my true self lives on only in this place, as this spirit, a single strand tying me to my form." She begins to walk in a wide circle around you, her stride solid and powerful, the heft of muscle rippling under the coarse fur.
"Baba Yaga twisted me to her purpose, to be some specimen in her menagerie. My body warped, my mind and soul decayed over countless spans, all to serve some pointless whim. And I suppose...after all this time, that whim has fruited. To be some meaningless challenge to...you? To rot away until some group of creatures walks in to best me? Ha! Believe me, should my true form have been waiting for you, your ends would have all been swift. But I am no longer what I once was...a shell of a shell. My only memories live here."
The boar closes her eyes and tilts her head skyward. A breeze ruffles through the trail, rustling the strange leaves and coursing over her hide and hair. "I think I remember this raven. Some cackling mouthpiece of the crone's. Beware the cawing of those with black wings, their words are never as they seem. You say you ride for the crone, but do not owe her loyalty? How strangely must your world work."
As she speaks, the boar slowly tightens her circle around you, sniffing your air, your aura. She narrows her glowing eyes at your sword.
"Not a twin, but a companion. I know of it, but it is not mine to give." She steps ominously close to you, he snout level with your forehead. "When we return, do not hesitate. Destroy this horror I have become. Perhaps then will this thread of me find peace. Take my weapons to the camps in the galloping trees. Crescents for a crescent, you may find."
She turns and begins to walk away, but stops to speak again. "Time is merely a game to Baba Yaga. It can catch its prey anywhere, or nowhere, but it yet rests in the womb of the crone."
The boar begins to distort, her very presence dissolving away into strands of color, not unlike the ones you saw before. The strange white and grey trees run like wet paint, coalescing into a current of monochrome that sweeps around you in a maelstrom.
"Go, and remember all I have said."
You are jolted through space, through self, through vision, like being hurled through one thousand panes of glass, until your mind spins to a terminus that strikes you awake...
As you contemplate the words of your shamanic guide, Krosh himself looks on at the ritual, watchful over Byakko's unconscious form. Enii pads over to the half-orc and sits next to him, and he reaches down to scratch her head.
You all notice Fox, Geedra's oft-hidden companion, now out in plain view. The wily kit's emergence escaped even the goblin's notice at first, but the little creature sits near the witch, eyes transfixed on her with unblinking focus.
Around the same time, Skäne, looking through the colored haze of the fires' smoke and the burning unguents, thinks he spots the fleeting shadow of a massive bear in the foliage around the perimeter of the room..
Soon after, you are all brought back to the attention of the ritual when Krosh speaks.
Your half-elf companion jolts awake with a sucking breath...
Byakko starts awake, looking left and right, paler than he was a moment ago. He sits up, but before anyone can move or speak, the boar's eyes suddenly open again as well, the black wells of ink of its eyes burning cold. It lets out a guttural call of rage as it scrambles upright once more, its task unfinished...
Byakko shows none of the hesitance the companions may have noted in their first encounter with the half-elf. He seemingly levitates off the ground as he collects his feet before sprinting directly at the boar, hand to hilt, shield forgotten on his back. His fury is tangible though his voice unintelligible, "Kiiiirrrraaaggggssssshhh!!" This time the rasp takes over as his teeth and jaw grow and lengthen; a fully fledged feline set of fangs emerging as he charges. Quickie: Gift of Fang and Claw: Round #1
Enii suddenly crouches as Byakko sits up, and is only a split second behind her friend as he takes off, his shout pierces her ears <Foooor Gelglaaaaaaaaaasssst!>
Power Two-Hand Katana, Slash, Charge: 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (18) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 28 +2 Divine Favor?
Confirm?: 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (2) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 12 +2 Divine Favor?
Dmg?: 2d8 + 14 + 8 + 4 ⇒ (7, 2) + 14 + 8 + 4 = 35
Minus 2 AC, and again, for 19 AC all day
Big ole Pounce!
Bite Power Charge (Grab): 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (20) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 30
Confirm?: 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (15) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 25
Dmg?: 2d8 + 12 + 8 ⇒ (1, 7) + 12 + 8 = 28
Power Slash Charge: 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (6) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 16
Dmg?: 1d6 + 6 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 6 + 4 = 11
Power Slash: 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (17) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 27
Dmg: 1d6 + 6 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 6 + 4 = 16
Power Rake: 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (17) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 27
Dmg: 1d6 + 6 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 6 + 4 = 13
Power Rake: 1d20 + 10 + 2 - 2 ⇒ (11) + 10 + 2 - 2 = 21
Dmg: 1d6 + 6 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 6 + 4 = 16
Grab Grapple: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (3) + 11 = 14
Geedra looks on excitedly at the carnage taking place with a huge grin. ”This am good stuff! Geedra am eating ham,” she laughs as she claps her hands together.
”Dont eat all boar, Fox. Geedra will share!”
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Ok, I'm pretty much all healed up now. Thanks!
You all watch as the scene inside the perimeter of colored flames suddenly springs to life, where two dormant fighters now erupt from their slumbers with a seemingly single-minded purpose. As the boar's eyes open once more to atramentous portals, Byakko's seem to shimmer with opalescent moonlight. Both abruptly jolt to their feet, and Byakko slips into a beastlike state, his blade gaining fresh air as it slides forth in its wielders wild dash. A blur of white follows close on his heels...
Byakko and Enii set upon the gnarled boar in a display quite unlike any you have seen out of the pair. Enii leaps mid run up and over Byakko, landing on the mighty boar's back in a maelstrom of fang and claw. You hear the bone-rattling roars of the strange beast as the air is colored with blood and hair. Deep, vicious gouges appear along its sides and back, and Enii's fangs pierce the back of its neck, causing it to rear its head back in reflex.
Which gives Byakko the perfect strike, ferocious, two-handed swipe of the blade across the exposed throat. The roars peter out to gurgles as blood cascades from the massive wound, dousing a fair bit of the half-elf's body in it. Enii stays latched on until the boar collapses, a heavy, final thud as the huge form collides with the ground. All is still and quiet for a spell as the moment of sudden tension ends as quickly as it began.
There is a strange sensation that the boar's body undergoes - almost as if it gives a final exhalation, a last gasp. You see a shadow, or cloud of dust, or trick of the light...some such flicker rise up from the body, but it disappears just as quickly, if it even ever existed at all. The four colored flames in the four bowls snuff in unison without assistance.
Krosh approaches the boar, Byakko, and Enii. He takes up a handful of the pungent sludge from the fifth bowl that had sent Byakko under, and smears it just-so across the boar's head and closed eyes.
"May you find your way," he mutters. He then looks to Byakko and Enii. "A single blow. Almost as if...it were meant to be."
Despite that first one not confirming the crit, still enough damage overall to take out the boar, wow! Well done. You've given this champion of Gelglast a well-earned rest. Remember her words :)
Byakko bows his head in respect. His battle fury lost he suspects his tongue has returned but he does not trust himself. He regulates his breathing as his maw retreats to his familiar jaw line. Byakko slowly clutches at the silver and jade moon medallion at his neck, his latent ailuranthropy's Thanks WS for the thropy rabbit hole! Hah! latest manifestation frightening him speechless. Eventually he recovers enough to relate all that he experienced to his companions.
"The true beast will not miss this shadow's cresecents and perhaps I... We... will have need of them." Byakko sets to work removing the boar's tusks. Any rolls required? How big are these things...? Can I fit em in or strap em to Enii's pack saddle?