D&D

D&D Chronicles 2 – Broken Diamonds and Swords

This is the third post in the new D&D Mythos campaign, in which I’m playing an elven bard… which, I confess, is going to my head a bit.

The song below can be sung to the tune of the Irish folk tune Black Velvet Band. (I’m serious!)


The Broken Diamond Gang

by Sariel Donnodel

It was a morning like any old other
Our Watch band is ordered to leave
A rascal has stolen what he ought not
Our task to pursue and retrieve

Down river we go, then to Bradford
Where rascal has stolen a horse
Although his hostage has got herself free
Our mission’s to follow, of course

CHORUS
Twas the gang of the Broken Diamond
They rampaged and warred on the land
But then they made one last fatal mistake
And now they have made their last stand

The rascal he bears a tattoo
It marks him as part of the gang
They’re all good-for-nothing scoundrels, who
Will die by the sword, or else hang

The main gang’s already been routed
The duke’s men have wielded their blades
The rest are in hiding, we follow the trail
To a riverside farm in a glade

CHORUS

We sneak up and peer through the window
Having bypassed their snoozing guard
While we take position at windows and door
They’re happily playing at cards

Our arrow it flies without warning
And then the door’s bashed in as well
It’s five against five with element of surprise
They’re swearing and bleeding like hell

CHORUS

The whole thing is over quite quickly
With four of them dead on the floor
The fifth guy surrenders and we’re all fine
The rest of the gang is no more

Yes, the whole thing was over quite quickly
Defeated with less than a roar
The Broken Diamond gang is all gone
Of that you can certain be sure

CHORUS

The moral of this little story
Is don’t steal the stuff that’s not yours
Especially if it’s a magical cat
With four furry legs and some claws

Yes, the moral of this little story
Is don’t steal the stuff that’s not yours
It’ll come back to bite you as you deserve
Then you and your gang are no more

CHORUS

DnD_Medieval-lute


SARIEL

I’m humming my latest song about our recent adventures (that is, the ones we can mention in public) as we head to the Watch barracks in Rivermeet. I haven’t shared the song with the others yet… I’m still tweaking the lyrics.

It’s strange to be back in town. I feel as though I’ve changed, even if Rivermeet hasn’t. So much happened in one short week.

I feel invigorated by the successful pursuit of Elmerth Willowit and the retrieval of Espa and those arrows. At the same time, we’ve rid the world of the thieving Broken Diamond gang — or, to be fair, its remnants. (Duke Redblade’s men did, after all, get to them first.) But we are getting better at working as a team and the skirmish at the farmhouse went smoothly. I happily played my role, standing at the window with my bow.

And then there’s the gang’s loot we retrieved — only some of which we handed in to the Watch. Not to mention the gear and gold my northern brethren carried, none of which we turned in.

For the first time in forever my pouch is heavy with coin. But will anyone notice my new armour? The new cloaks worn by Aramil and Brosia? Our new weapons?

I must say I’m particularly enamoured of my new boots. They are the boots of striding and springing — and boy do they ever.

DnD_Boots

Suddenly, there’s a cry for help and we’re running. It’s just Aramil, Dixxon and me — Brosia and Alec have disappeared god knows where. The cries lead us into an alley and…

Starfuck. It’s a trap. There are seven of them, wielding swords and clubs.

Aramil blows his whistle, but straight away it’s not looking good. With a blade I am no match for these brutes. But I remember my brand new boots and I spring-tumble out of the circle to a distance from which I can use my bow.  Much better. I get a couple of arrows away, but two of the brutes follow me and it’s back to a sword.

I watch helplessly as both Aramil and Dixxon slump to the ground. I can do nothing as I fend off an opponent of my own. Aramil! I need to get to him. He’s my dearest friend in the world.

I hear another whistle and the Watch turns up. Thank the stars. Several of the ruffians are on the ground, but one gathers up the Aramil’s sword with a triumphant cry of “got it!”.

I allow the ruffians to flee, because I am running to Aramil’s side, laying shaking hands on his shallow-breathing chest, singing the healing canticle I’ve only just mastered.

This is the first time I’ve used it on anyone and I pray desperately it works. It takes so cursed long to sing, my voice trembling, but Aramil’s eyes flutter open. Then I do the same for Dixxon, praying I’m not too late.

The Watch unit on duty swirls around us, asking what happened. I say nothing specific about the sword that was taken, but now that Aramil is not in danger, and Dixxon’s also awake, my brain is starting to work again.

I realise it’s not Aramil’s sword they’ve claimed — because he lent his to me — but the one we appropriated from the scoundrel, Sir W, a week or so ago.

This was no random strike. They were after that particular sword, which was no doubt stolen before we ever saw it. I knew we should have handed it in. It was too recognisable, which was the main reason I refused to carry it myself. And now Aramil almost paid the ultimate price.

At least we do not have it now. I return Aramil’s long sword to him.

The Watch Commander addresses us the following morning. His tone is knowing as he mentions that a distinctive sword (a family heirloom, in fact) belonging to the Baron of Black Rock was won by a scoundrel who cheated at cards. A scoundrel whose description bears resemblance to Sir W.

Since the Watch Commander obviously suspects what we did, I am surprised at his leniency. But, instead of a reprimand, we have the whole day free before we are to resume our Watch duties tonight.

I’ve been in this land of the Vanya for only a few weeks and had so many experiences already that the songs are pouring out of me.

D&D Chronicles 2: Lucky we like cats

For those who missed my December D&D post… we’ve started a new campaign. Your primary narrator (for now) is Sariel Donnodel, elven bard. There is dodgy poetry. Enjoy!

All posts will be categorized D&D Mythos Campaign.


SARIEL

Broken Diamond trail
Barge forges clear blue river
The Watch in pursuit

My fingers pause on the lute strings as I run through the lyrics in my head. Urgh. Still not quite right. The river is not actually clear. Or blue. (Maybe there’s a reason it’s called the Greywater.) I stick out my tongue at the offending waters. The tune is good, though. I strum the chords softly, waiting for inspiration to come.

It’s a gentle tune, since most of my companions are sleeping. Last night, our second shift on the Watch, was long and largely uneventful. But at least we solved Moorhen’s little problem with his beloved rats, and a few other mysteries besides.

No sooner had we come off shift, though, than our Watch Commander sent us off on a week’s mission. It seems our lost-memory guy from the carriage accident, the guy from the Broken Diamond gang, has absconded with Wanda’s cat Espa and a valuable quiver full of arrows (magical?).

Espa_cat-1285634_1280

It’s all rather odd. Why would lost-memory Broken Diamond gang guy (whose name is apparently Elmerth Willowit) kidnap Espa? Unless it’s retribution for causing the carriage accident in the first place. Perhaps we shall find out, once we’ve caught up to him.

As the barge takes us steadily east along the river, I work on my songs, while the guiding arrow slowly swings north. Near sundown we disembark at a village.

Three strands of cat hair
Dob of wax to make them stick
Arrow guides us true

The following afternoon we reach the village of Bradford. It’s small, with a tavern, a smithy and a jumble of houses. Strangely, it seems deserted — not as though it’s been abandoned for months or years; more like there’s a really fun party somewhere and everyone’s dancing.

But I can’t hear any signs of a party. What I can hear are cats. Lots of cats, miaowing and mewling at each other. Since we’re looking for a cat, this could be a good sign.

The arrow leads us into the tavern — where there are… cats! At least a dozen, clambering over the tables, the chair, the great long bar. To our relief, Espa is here, although badly injured. Dixxon heals her immediately and Brosia gives her a cuddle. It seems a bit strange there are no people here.

What mischief is this?
Tavern full of mewling cats
Ale and clothes on floor

At first we wonder if our quarry is among the cats, but it’s rather hard to tell. In the stables, though, there are signs someone swapped horses (but, if it were our scoundrel, why leave Espa?).

There are also two fancy horses bearing the livery of one of the northern elven clans, whose lands are far beyond Malos. I’ve met some of our northern cousins on two occasions only. I wonder why they are here. Assuming they are here somewhere.

I don’t wonder for long. In the smithy are two suspiciously large, beautiful cats, more like lynxes than any vanya domestic breed. They are guarding the hearth, where there is an iron pot containing… something gold and gleaming. I have no more time to ponder as they attack Aramil and me, leaping and snarling, tails flicking.

lynx-3919575_1280

Cats bare fangs and strike
Arrows fly and steel blades skirmish
There is no good end

One of the strangers transforms into an unconscious male elf with a distinct look of the north; the other, a woman, is killed. The iron pot in the hearth contains a golden statuette of a ten-headed cat.

I recognise the idol immediately as Ravana, a divinity of the terrifying Rakshasa creatures. Anything to do with the Rakshasa cannot be good. Even once the idol is quenched, we make sure not to touch it. It has to be responsible for the feline infestation.

An infestation that continues. I wonder how to end the spell. I wonder how long the spell will last if we don’t end it. Hopefully these villagers are not doomed to live as cats indefinitely.

 

Towards sundown, Rufus Redblade’s men show up, including Kelmet, a priest of Radagast. Rufus Redblade is the local duke and has a bounty on the heads of the Broken Diamond gang members. We’re more than happy to hand over the idol and the northern elf to Redblade’s men — especially after Kelmet heals the elf, who reveals he and his companion stole the idol, bringing the servants of the Rakshasa church onto his tail.

We don’t need to get involved in that.

Our mission is clear — keep Espa safe and pursue the scoundrel who stole her. Maybe we can gather some Broken Diamond bounty while we’re at it?

Night descends darkly
On the morrow we’ll go forth
The brigands await

 

D&D Chronicles 2: First night on the Watch

Those who followed my D&D Chronicles posts over the past several years may be interested/amused/appalled to hear the campaign is more-or-less over… and we didn’t win.

Yep. After more than six years and 79 blog posts, we kind of stuffed it up at the end.

We haven’t exactly lost, either (although it’s still on the cards), but the final confrontation has been delayed for a few months. There will eventually be a final post to wrap up what I’ll henceforth refer to as The Varrien Campaign.

You’ll hear from the mighty Zillah at least one more time at some point in the new year.

In the meantime, we have just started a new and unrelated campaign. We’ve got a new Dungeon Master, new world and new characters. Bring it on.

I am so excited to be playing a character who is not a taciturn and troubled ranger with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Zillah was awesome, but I’m definitely ready for a change.

So now I’m gonna play an elven bard!

Sariel#1b


Rivermeet, 1 Jan

SARIEL

Finally, it’s here. Finally. Our first night on the Watch in Rivermeet.

I’ve heard so much about this town, especially how my grandparents helped drive out the urku and wrest control for the Vanya, some 200 years ago. My mother’s mother met her end here, long lost but not forgotten. (May her spirit walk with Sehanine in the afterlife.)

My brother and sister — and several of my cousins — each served a year on the Watch here too, before returning home to Azan Gedat. They each spoke of Rivermeet with affection before the massacre. (May their spirits walk with Sehanine in the afterlife.)

And now it is my turn, and Aramil’s, to fulfil the terms of the Treaty on behalf of the Sularine. And we will do so gloriously!

New companions

Our first challenge will be to win the trust of our Watch companions, who are a diverse and interesting trio.

There’s Brosia, a Parnian from Rivermeet who steadfastly denies their Sularine blood, even though Aramil and I can see it, feel it. They’re very young, even for a half-elf. And they clearly despise Aramil and me.

Dixxon is a strapping young Parnian, but of Volhyn descent. I know little of the Volhyn and look forward to learning much from him. He is a cleric of Lana-Gi, Parnian Goddess of Love, and seems to follow her teachings to the letter.

Alec is of the Fedulian people; his father is a trader in the western riverlands. He is also very young, and is accompanied by an intelligent-looking dog named Kalb. He doesn’t speak much.

That makes five of us in our Watch unit, counting Aramil and me. He and I travelled down from Malos with a caravan of traders, arriving in Rivermeet a handful of days ago, just before the Vanya celebrated their new year — which begins today.

Supposedly there will be much revelry on the streets tonight, which should make our first Watch shift interesting. I can’t wait!


First night on the Watch

by Sariel Donnodel

Five strangers (two not so strange)
Thrust together, bade keep the calm
“To the wharves!” he says, thither we go
Three Vanya and two Sularine

The market stench is cloying, thick
Fishmonger roars, steel in hand
Flurry of weapons, shouts, before
Monger lies floored, cursed and mad

A bustling start! But night’s not done
A carriage marauds out of hand
With Sularine flair the horse is tamed
Tumbling out, a lady and a man

The lady is escorted home
(Least said about that, the better)
Sir Bluster, though, beats hasty retreat
We’ll meet him again, a little later

Meanwhile, we investigate and find
An injured cat, a shaken driver
And tales of masked man, gravely wounded
At Hospitaller house for succour

The cat proves familiar companion
But wounded man, having woken
Has no memory (so he says)
On his person, a tavern token

At the Mudlark inn, we find
Sir Bluster shimmying out a window
Thus we intercept the cad
But his crony melts into shadow

Other events this night include
Telling stories, listening to dreams
Meeting locals, human, fey
Wondering if all is as it seems

Finally a pledge to father of rats
Whose children vanish, lured away
By sweet music in the night
A task for us another day

Thus ends our first night on the Watch
A strange and quite eventful time!
A step away from strangers now
Three Vanya and two Sularine

<<>>

D&D Chronicles: The Colossus

ZILLAH

Despite our so-called victory, it takes a few days for the revolution to build. The quadrant leaders are all reluctant to commit — wanting detailed plans and still more demonstrations of our strength. They are scared and self interested, demanding assurances of victory before lending aid.

But how can we plan a revolution — let alone assure victory — without knowing what our resources are? We are visitors to this accursed city, yet they provide no insights. It’s both frustrating and infuriating.

DnD_Colossus1

Planning the revolution

In the end we decide we cannot depend on anyone other than ourselves. But as soon as we declare our intention to attack the gates, Orral says the tunnel people will lend aid. Well and so.

We will attack in two days time at midday during the Festival of Elloran.


The day of revolution comes at last. The Council has withdrawn all forces behind the walls of the Bastian. The town is holding its breath as we march towards the gates, people joining us as we move through the streets at the head of a growing throng. The tunnel people are carrying large nets and assorted weapons. Other townspeople are joining them.

The steel and coal quadrants hold back, still not committing. Cowards.

We arrive at the gates. All is quiet; the wall crawlers and guards on the wall watch and wait.

Our plan is simple. Attack, defend and await the Colossus. Fen has learnt a new protection spell and cast it upon each of us. Blaze has brewed more healing potions. We are as prepared as we can be. It feels sorely inadequate.

Blaze and I commence by warping some of the crawlers. Alix sets a blade barrier along the top of the wall. Then the gates open and the first wave of Council forces emerge.

It’s a phalanx of automata and elite guards. The guards peel off right and left — I lose sight of them quickly. The automata keep coming, surging towards us, three abreast. Nightshade stands on my right, Blaze on the other side of her. Together we meet the onslaught of these magicked machines.

The automata keep on coming and coming and coming. No sooner do we hack one into oblivion than it gets dragged back to make room for another. And another. These are the ‘guardian’ class automata Orral told us about. The toughest, meanest, hardest to defeat. I know not how many I’ve destroyed, only to face the next.

I cannot see what is happening elsewhere in the battle. Every so often I hear a loud cheer from back in the town and the air is filled with the ringing of steel, the scent of blood. Some of it’s my blood, and that of my companions. None of it belongs to these cursed automata.

They keep at us. I keep swinging until I’m not sure I can take much more. My vision is swimming and my arms feel about to drop off.

But we’ve achieved our first aim. Ahead, still within the Bastian, but lumbering ever closer, is the Colossus. The Eye of Varrien smoulders like an ember in its forehead, casting a reddish glow over the swarm of wooden machines in its path. It moves at ponderous speed, inexorably closer.

FEN

I’ve never seen anything like it. The bodies. The blood. And yes, the heroism.

Alix swept the wall clear of enemy troops with a wall of her own, one of flashing blades. Then the enemy flooded from the citadel, and my compatriots met them in the street, shoulder to shoulder. A constant stream of soldiers and automata came upon them, to be hacked down mercilessly.

I ran my magics down to empty, expended all my healing potions, keeping my colleagues in the fight. My chief offensive act was a fireball, to deter what I perceived to be a mage attempting to raise dead soldiers. I shudder to think of this unnatural act. Stopping it merited the destruction wrought by my spell.

At one point, our flank was threatened, and here I was able to lend support, in the form of a stinking cloud to slow the enemy advance, and then with swings of my club until reinforcements put the foe to flight.

How valiantly the city folk fought. One lane was so covered in dead and wounded, I could not see the flagstones. What an appalling waste.

NIGHTSHADE

I can feel the energy of my goddess running through me. After all the deceit and betrayal on the part of my former comrades – the ranger killed me; she shall regret her treachery – the cleric finally succumbed. Varrien is too powerful for the homely shield of Shadrath to ward against for long. The world shall soon know just how powerful she is. All shall soon know her wrath … and, if they are meek, her generosity.

It was a mighty battle. We marched straight up to the gate of the citadel quarter, full of half-hatched plans and bravado, and the elite guard came out to meet us, in league with the cursed automata as expected. But we held the line, drawing them in twos and threes down the narrow street and despatching them thus. From the bellowing and sounds of clashing iron around us, all of Tel Marrenor was up in arms. The tunnel people had birthed their ridiculous revolution at last, though I cared not for the outcome so long as it kept busy the extra swords and machines which might otherwise be troubling us.

Then the Colossus began to move.

We were still fighting automata and not yet ready to face such a foe and so, as soon as I caught glimpse of it I cast a sleet storm in its path. Thank Varrien for my newly acquired spells!

And thank Varrien too for her tightening grasp upon the cleric’s will. I had seen for days how troubled Alix had been, how carrying the Eye vexed her, and it must finally have proved too much. In the heat of battle, I heard her call my name. A desperate plea!

I turned and there she was, running toward me with arm outstretched and in her hand … the blessed gem. Freely, she gave it to me, pressed it into my palm and closed my fingers around it. It felt like a key slotting home after too long an absence. It felt like my heart could beat again.

I don’t remember too much of what happened next. The Colossus was upon us and we fought, maces clashing against stone. I don’t think I was hit; if I was, my goddess cast her benediction over me and I felt no pain. All I could think of was the second Eye, that bright red beacon in the monstrosity’s head. It filled my vision, and my soul.

Then the Colossus was slain, crashing to the cobbles with such weight the earth beneath us trembled, and I ran. Faster than I ever have. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Zillah move as well, but my feet were swifter. Goddess-touched.

And now I have them both, the blessed Eyes of Varrien. I can scarcely believe it! At long last this ungrateful world will know its end.

ALIX

What the hell have I done?

I suspected for a while that carrying the Eye would have some effect – I had seen it when Cal carried it and couldn’t doubt it after seeing Nightshade altered – but I really thought that having it sheathed in silver would keep me safe.

I didn’t count on the subtle probing every single minute of the day, nor the more direct thrusts at my will as the golem came closer and closer. Shadrath, help me hold! I kept pleading in my head, but someone else was whispering and She was starting to entice.

We had to fight. We had to stop the automata and keep the citizens motivated. We had to back each other and stay up… and all the time, She was calling.

Tickle, probe, thrust. The golem arrived, bearing the other Eye. Another tickle, another probe and bam! My resistance was gone. I had to get to Nightshade. I knew with bone-deep certainty we would all die if she didn’t get the Eye I carried. Rise, Varrien!

I reached Nightshade, screaming “take it!” and holding out the glove. We were both still in battle, but for a second she had room to move. She reached out and scooped up the Eye, just as the golem fell.

As Zillah and Nightshade raced to tear the Eye out of the golem’s head, I couldn’t turn away. Couldn’t decide who I wanted to win. Zillah clambered atop the golem on hands and feet. Nightshade, on the other hand, tripped along its length as if she was skipping in a meadow. Zillah stumbled, slid back, leaving Nightshade to reach the Eye. She bent, prised it out, stood, an Eye held aloft in each hand.

I wanted to scream with glee. Then Shadrath himself smacked me on the side of the head and my mind cleared.

Now… Now Nightshade holds both Eyes. The battles have stopped. There is smoke in the air and blood on the streets and the sounds of people in pain and dying.
And Nightshade has both Eyes.

My God will have to come here now. One day soon, he and his brethren will have to call us to account. I should have let us die. Instead I gave her the Eye. And look at her now. Jubilant.

Oh, my God, what have I done?

FEN

Now the real battle begins. Both Eyes are in the hands of Nightshade, a servant of the dark goddess, and the flail is many weeks of travel away. If the goddess is summoned before we retrieve the holy weapon, what hope do we have of saving the world?

ZILLAH

The worst has happened: the two Eyes brought together. We strove to prevent it; yet somehow it seems as though it was always inevitable. I feel helpless, gripped in a relentless tide I cannot control. At least it is almost over.


One gets the sense this campaign is almost over.

What will Nightshade do with two Eyes of Varrien? Will we be able to stop her from resurrecting the evil goddess?

We are about to find out.

Thanks to Jason Nahrung (Fen), Kirstyn McDermott (nightshade) and Lita Kalimeris (Alix) for contributions.

D&D Chronicles: In which we start a revolution

ZILLAH

In the morning, we await the fallout of last night’s raid.

I still feel queasy at the memory of throats slit in the dead of night, guards cowering against walls in their sleeping garb. There was nothing noble or honourable about such activities, even if they achieved our objective.

Not long after midday, we’re summoned by Orral, leader of the tunnel people. With her, shouting and spitting, are two of the quadrant leaders from the city above. They inform us the council of mages has retaliated by rounding up 20 of the populace for execution. And not just random city-dwellers: the family and friends and allies of prominent people.

The quadrant leaders are furious… furious and afraid and even more antagonistic than before. I feel awful. Most of us feel awful — except Nightshade who is denouncing them for cowards and fools and asking them whether they want to be free of oppression or not?

Much as I resent it, she has a point. A bloodless insurrection is impossible. If we are to rouse the people against oppression in order to secure the Eye of Varrien, there will be casualties. Many of them. I just wish it wasn’t so.

Nonetheless, we resolve to rescue the captives. Over the course of the afternoon and evening, Orral’s people bring in news: where the captives are being held, how many guards, the suspicious movements of mages. We’re sure there’s a trap involved. Doesn’t matter. We come up with a plan of sorts.

Rescue attempt

Late that night, we go out into the city once more. The tunnel people guide us through the maze of tiny streets to the Old Castle wall. All is quiet, still, as we launch our plan.

Blaze and I cast spells on the castle’s wall defences — magical boxes of wood and steel on rails that hurl missiles at attackers. We warp the wood in an attempt to deactivate them. Meanwhile, Alix uses her magic to build walls across the road, aimed at slowing the ‘automata’ — fiendish machines on wheels that patrol the streets at the mages’ bidding. And Fen… Fen lumbers forth under the cover of invisibility and makes a hole in the castle wall.

It all happens quickly, going more or less to plan, and we’re inside the Old Castle.

The stone corridors of the castle are also silent and still. We’re either being remarkably silent, or there’s no-one here. I fear the latter, but there’s no time to stop and ponder. Every moment we delay gives the automata more time to arrive…

The stairs lead down to the basement. I see the ambush and am ready when they attack. There are only two guards and we defeat them easily enough. Behind a locked door with a grille is a corridor with cells. The captives huddle behind bars, calling for us to help them.

Still no guards have come.

Leaving Nightshade and Blaze, I run up to the first level, past Alix at the top of the steps, to find Fen. He comes when I call softly, and I send him down to use his magic to unlock the door and rescue the prisoners.

Unease makes me stop beside Alix and guard against attack. Why has no-one come? Where is the trap?

Down below, there’s a massive explosion, so huge that a wave of heat slams up the stairs, followed by tongues of flame.

big-bang-422305_640

Oh blessed Emrys, no.

I hurtle down into the smoke and dust and heat and fire. My companions are picking themselves up off the floor, slapping at the flames on their clothes and swearing. A massive fireball. I’d recognise this aftermath anywhere.

Strewn about the cells are the charred corpses of the 20 people we were intending to rescue.

Fighting in the streets

For a moment, I’m too appalled to do anything other than stare, my gut churning. Appalled that we fell so easily into this trap. Appalled at what the mages have done. I don’t know how we’re going to face the quadrant leaders now. They’ll never support us.

But there’s nothing we can do about any of it. We need to get out of here.

Our hole in the wall is now guarded by four automata. Taking a chance these are the same automata previously guarding the two entrances, we run to the back exit. It’s clear and we dash out into the streets of Tel Marrenor.

Of course they’re waiting for us. Missile-hurling wall crawlers drive us into the waiting ambush of guards. Four of them, weapons drawn.

Well, this at least is an honest battle.

My focus narrows to the guards before me. Beside me is one of my companions. I’m dimly aware of fighting going on some way behind. But the guards keep coming. And coming. Alix’s impressive blade barrier carves through an entire unit at once.

The town nearby is on fire. I don’t know how this happened, but the people are pouring out into the streets, yelling and weeping. Children are screaming. Smoke is making the air hazy and hard to breathe.

Some of the wheeled automata glide out of the smoke, bouncing across the cobbles. They bear steel blades that sweep and slice. I switch to twin maces, all the better to hack at these contraptions of wood and steel.

daleks

Based on the DM’s description, we imagine the automata to be something like daleks… Except made largely of wood, with blades. And they don’t fly.

By the time the immediate threat is dispatched, I’m breathing hard. Then Fen rushes over saying some of Orral’s people are nearby, bringing word of a large contingent of automata nearly upon us. It’s time to flee. Looking back towards the castle, I see the mangled wreckage of several automata. Doubtless Blaze’s work.

Bring on the revolution

Orral’s bouncing off the walls when we return. Crowing with excitement, she rattles off the numbers of guards and automata we’ve apparently defeated this night. It seems such a victory has not been seen in many a long year. We’ve made our statement. Convinced the quadrant leaders that we mean business.

The revolution has finally begun, she states triumphantly.

Although she and everyone are horrified about the murder of all those innocents, they seem to apportion no blame to us.

We know better.

FENFAREN

I have seen cruelty. The animal being slowly sucked down by the bog, the crushing death in a constrictor’s coils, the frantic wait for the spider. Firbolg disembowelled in battle by rakshasa claws, burnt by their fireballs. But never have I seen such calculated cruelty as this. The trap, the explosion, the innocents burned to death in their cells. All for what? To send a message?

The message is one that says this reign of terror cannot be allowed to continue.

Unbelievably, the citizens of this place agree. Despite our sense of abject failure, clever politics has pulled a victory from the ashes.

But what cost!

The town alight (my own part in that kept hidden in a cloak of shame and silence), innocents dead. Their faces haunt me. My clumsy frame, my slow wit, unable to save anyone. It’s like I’m back in the swamp again, good for nothing against the forces we face. Not a true firbolg, not a true mage.

Nightshade is right when she says more people are going to die, caught up in this grand quest, a firestorm of destruction. Such is the price of saving the world.

The mages await with their colossus, and I’m consistently reminded that the mage whose place in this party I have taken would have been eminently better suited to the task. What to do? There is nothing else to do, but continue. To the death.


That was certainly an epic raid and battle. More to come from the streets of Tel Marrenor soon… (Thanks again to Jason Nahrung for Fen’s perspective.)

D&D Chronicles: Into Tel Marrenor

Oh, the excitement! This picks up a few minutes after the previous post left off. Nightshade has been a bad bad girl and Zillah is pissed…


ZILLAH

Nightshade’s corpse lies broken at my feet. Red eyes stare blankly out of her pale, leathered face that looks months dead rather than minutes. I try remember what she used to look like — before the zombie virus, before the mummy rot, before the Eye. Back when she was my ally, if not my friend; a fellow ranger of Emrys pledged to heal the forest. It’s almost impossible to recall.

dead-1205269_1280

She was easier to kill than I expected. But I suppose with three of us laying into her… I shudder, rub at my face with the backs of my hands, not willing to sheath my weapons just yet. Blessed Emrys forgive me.

Alix does sheath her weapons and drops to her knees. I leave her to retrieve the Eye from the intimate place Nightshade has been keeping it. She has silver gloves for the operation.

Fen is cowering over by the wall, understandably horrified at what we’ve just been forced to do. But then he says something and I realise there’s a hole in the brickwork… and another brick is wobbling amid puffs of dust. A voice comes through the hole — words I don’t understand — and Fen is talking to it.

It’s not sounding hostile, but we can take no chances. Fen seems keen to stay and chat, but as soon as Alix is done I sling Nightshade over my shoulder. I have one last thing to try before I will give up on her completely.

We head back through the portal and close it behind us. Oddly enough, the unpopulated city of Reyim Baal has started to feel familiar, secure, safe. It’s somewhere I can pray to my god without being interrupted.

Kneeling beside Nightshade’s corpse, I pray to Emrys. I beg him for forgiveness at taking the life of a companion. I entreat him to forgive Nightshade, once his daughter, for turning from him. I ask him to save her soul, cleanse the darkness from it, to make her his daughter once again.

And, after a time, Emrys speaks to me. I hear his voice in my head and heart, telling me gravely he cannot command Nightshade’s soul.

My head drops.

But, he says, he will bring Nightshade back to us, if we desire it, for he believes we will have need of her.

Now I am crushed.

This was not a circumstance I foresaw… That we would need her despite everything. She’ll be angry, antagonistic. It’ll be worse than before. Our terrible actions and her understandable rage, all for nothing.

But at least she won’t have the Eye any more.

Taking a deep and despairing breath, I nod and give him thanks, trusting my god to know what is best.

Beside me, Nightshade stirs, her red eyes flashing.

Tel Marrenor is not what we expected

[Several hours later…] We’ve returned through the portal to Tel Marrenor. For forty years, the city has been cut off from the rest of the world, lost in the midst of a magicked, impenetrable forest. No-one in. No-one out.

Until now.

To our astonishment, it is not an abandoned, overgrown city of undead, but a bustling city oppressed by a tyrannical council of Vhadrim mages. Far from being secreted in a dragon-guarded chest somewhere, the Right Eye of Varrien casts its fiery glow over the city from the forehead of a giant golem (known as the Colossus), which stands upon a tower known as the Bastian. The Eye’s power is controlled by the council.

We’ve allied ourselves with the “tunnel people”, who live beneath the city and seem to have formed some sort of resistance group. They have a few renegade mages among their number, along with established channels of communication with the leaders of the various quarters in the city. They are excited to see us — the first visitors from outside in decades. Naturally, they see us as a route of escape, so they’re being helpful, if cautious.

tunnel-899053_1280

They know why we’re here. Their oracle predicted our coming. In fact, according to the oracle, many of our assumptions (and dilemmas) have proven unfounded. It seems we’re going to need the Left Eye to obtain the Right, and it seems that Nightshade is probably the one who needs to wield it.

It figures.

Nightshade is now all smirking and smug, while I feel distinctly chagrined. She would have been more cooperative, I’m sure, had we not killed her and removed the Eye from her possession. Especially if we’re simply going to return it to her… eventually. (Since Emrys brought her back, she has been mouthy and obnoxious as expected, but so far the geas Alix placed on her is holding.)

Probably not the best plan

[Midnight…] We get our first good look at Tel Marrenor under the cover of darkness. Gil, a youth with the tunnel people, poles us down canals lined with close-packed buildings of three or four storeys, the whole bathed in the scarlet glow of the Eye. Creepy.

TelMarrenor_map

We’re headed for the city’s “old castle”, now a barracks for the human forces of the council. We’re going to creep in and kill as many as possible before reinforcements arrive. The aim is to send a message to the rest of the city that we are serious in our intent. We hope to win support from those living in the city and organise a rebellion.

I don’t know if this is a good plan. Certainly we need to start whittling away at enemies, but I’ve never been one for slitting throats of my fellow humans while they sleep.

It starts off well, if you could call it that.

Gritting my teeth, I remind myself I’m trying to save the world… but surely there’s another way than this? Too late, it’s done. My dagger drips with blood.

I’m actually relieved when they wake, alerted by a fumble or a clank of armour. I care not. A scream, and sounds start to come from the chamber across the corridor. Others arrive and there is fighting in the hallway as well.

In all, we kill at least ten of the guards, maybe more, before the gong sounds. We take that as a call for reinforcements. There’s a lot of yelling among us. Fen looks distraught as he stares at the corpse of a child sprawled in the corridor. Nightshade is yelling something about not wanting anyone to see us. In the end, we flee before reinforcements can arrive.

Gil is waiting at the place we specified and we escape without further incident. But my heart is heavy, and I can’t help but wonder whether we’ve done more harm than good this night.

FENFAREN

There is a bog in the swamp not far from our settlement that we know to give a wide berth. It’s deceptively placid. Dangerous. Occasionally, we would hear the cries of a trapped beast, and if wholesome, some of the hunters would lasso it and try to pull it clear. It wasn’t unusual for the flesh to yield before the morass would give up its prey.

I know how those trapped beasts must feel.

When the humans arrived in the forest, it was as if a season was changing. They put flight to the rakshasa, they slew the dragon. Lo, we were unchained! And I, barely a member of my own people, saw a chance to be something more than the “mumbler” of ineffectual magics. These humans were trying to save the world! Could there be any greater purpose? I was humbled to be counted worthy to join their number, even though I realised, for perhaps the first time in my life, that it was my magic that was valued.

But now…

They are a fractious lot. Two from the north with many deaths of friend and foe behind, and so many horrors weighing upon their shoulders. The paladin, trying to find his black-and-white way in a world of grey. And the undead, slain by its companions, then brought back, all because of a gem.

I feel the confusion dragging me down. How I long for the forest, where at least I knew my place, even if it was not much place at all. Better than this mire, surely.

Oh, this night, this midnight raid on unsuspecting soldiers as we try to find a way to recover the second gem from the face of the colossus. It will be bathed in blood. We will be bathed in blood. If we survive.

To do my part, I thought I should wield the knife. Creep into that darkened room filled with the unknowing breaths of the sleeping guards. And strike.

I shudder still.

Perhaps it was that voice of Emrys, god of forest, who sent my blow astray? Some zephyr of conscience.

And then … and then the child. The noise, the fear, the confinement and the darkness. So far from my world. A strange land, and now I feel I am a stranger, too. An instinctive reaction was all it took. I look at my hand in the moments when I am alone and recall the feeling of the power it unleashed. A word, a gesture, a concentrated thought. And the child running for the door, to raise alarm, I thought, as though alarm had not already been raised. My power, unrestrained, devastating on one so young, so innocent. And her blissfully unaware mother, still sleeping on the other side of that door as her child lay slaughtered…

I am aware we are fighting for the fate of the world. I understand this is war. But at what point do we become that which we are fighting? Or are we fated to take upon ourselves such soul blight, in order that the world can continue to sleep lightly? And not a one here in whom I can confide. Who I can ask to provide me with clarity. I am not the firbolg for this job, and yet, I am the firbolg that finds himself here. Emrys save me. Emrys save us all.


Poor Zillah — so conflicted. And poor Fen, so out of his depth! (Thanks to Jason Nahrung for Fen’s perspective.)

Things are starting to come to a head. I have no idea what’s going to happen next…

D&D Chronicles: The treachery of Nightshade

ZILLAH

I’m going to kill that red-eyed, zombie bitch, Nightshade.

My fury and frustration are like a hot wind. I want to scream and yell. I want to storm out of the temple and never return. I want to ram my sword through Nightshade’s throat.

We’re in the Temple of Death in Reyim Baal, staring at the portal Nightshade has just closed from the other side. She’s locked us all out of Tel Marrenor, the lost city where the other Eye of Varrien is believed to be hidden.

portal-454462

All of us except Fen, that is. Maybe he can talk some sense into her on the other side. Alix and Blaze are wearing expressions similar to mine. Since Nightshade is carrying one of the Eyes already, this leaves her free to find the other without interference from us. Then she’ll have both of them. Fuck.

We’ve known her allegiance has shifted. The Eye of Varrien has corrupted her and the Goddess of Destruction has Nightshade in her clutches. I fucking knew she was going to do something like this, but we still couldn’t stop it. This is shit.

Hindsight

It’s not like we even wanted to go through the portal to Tel Marrenor yet. We’re not ready. Since losing Squirrel we’re lacking someone who can detect traps and unlock doors. We’re going to need a rogue to survive Tel Marrenor, which is the city in the broken forest no-one has been able to reach for over two decades.

The plan was not to tackle Tel Marrenor yet. The plan was to stop by Reyim Baal and check whether the portal to Tel Marrenor actually worked and then seek more information about Varrien at Terras Arnor — and a rogue.

Hindsight is brilliant, right? In hindsight, we should have:

1. Told the cleric of Elloran and his cronies who came for the Eye in Kham Jhara exactly where Nightshade was carrying the cursed stone and let them retrieve it. We were supposed to hand it over to them anyway. In one of the great ironies, they resurrected Nightshade months ago as downpayment. We should have just let them have it and trusted the Elloran/Kaltan/Phanator/Testerris posse to defeat the group from Varrien, who somehow managed to track down Nightshade and declare themselves her protectors. Besides, I never wanted to take the Left Eye anywhere near the Right Eye.

2. Enlisted the services of a rogue in Kham Jhara. So what if we’d ended up paying them for a whole bunch of extra weeks? It was naive of me not to realise the prospect of Tel Marrenor being right there would prove too much. I can sense some of the others want to go through now and get Tel Marrenor and the Right Eye over and done with — despite the fact ‘we’ are still carrying the Left Eye and have no idea what will happen when they’re brought into proximity. Oh yeah, and we have no rogue.

3. Not let Nightshade anywhere near that portal. In fact, we probably should have brought things to a head in Kham Jhara when it became clear she’d corrupted by Varrien (see point 1). But I thought between us we’d be able to… manage the situation. It is, after all, four against one. Until Nightshade actively acted against us, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Blessed gods, I am so stupid.

This is it

I’m staring so hard at the dull, not-glowing portal, I’ll probably give myself a headache. If Nightshade doesn’t open it, we’ll have lost Fen as well. We’ll have to leave here, go to Tel Marrenor the long way, hack through the forest, most likely die…

The portal changes, glows like it’s been activated again from the Tel Marrenor side. I’m not sure whether Blaze or me reacts first — we’re both through that portal quicker than a sneeze, Alix close behind.

The underground room is unchanged — dim, brick walls, no doors or windows. Musty with moisture and moss.

Nightshade waits, sword drawn.


Sigh — not sure what’s going to happen next, but it’s likely to be exciting!

D&D Chronicles: The Stars

We pick up the tale mid-battle with a treacherous black dragon, who is kicking our collective butts…

Zillah, Alix and Nightshade are cowering inside a building. They have no idea what has become of Blaze and Squirrel. (The story started here.)


BLAZE

We’re fighting the dragon – well, four of us, anyway: Squirrel, that cowardly snake, having slunk off to hide. Things are going well. I can feel it in my muscles, my bones. I’m wreathing myself in glory, all for my god, through whose grace I draw power.

And suddenly I’m not.

The dragon’s teeth snap around me. Burning. A wrench jolts me from middle to shoulders, and I’m dangling, airborne.

My fault. How could I lose concentration like that? Thinking of glory — fool!

The dragon’s wings push through the air, all strength, power. Thump, thump, thump. We rise. The ground jerks with each wing-beat, and nausea spills through me.

The tightness around my chest releases, and I’m plummeting, down, down. There’s water below. Rushing up. My armour – I’ll be dead weight.

But then I’m floating, still aloft. What? How? Of course! Feather fall. Squirrel’s spell.

I cast around. There. Squirrel! I do a double take. Surely not. But it is. This is no coward’s act.

He’s flying, cloak billowing around him, and he has never looked more magnificent, more brave or noble.

A screech pierces me. The dragon. Air gusts as she flies at me, talons outstretched. I still have my sword and swing at her, and we tussle, but Squirrel keeps coming as if to intercept me.

I’d never have guessed at such courage. Then the dragon seizes him, and there’s a spray of blood.

My back hits the water and I’m sinking, fast. I flail but go down. Nearby, something splashes into the water.

No air. Can’t breathe. Have to get this armour off. Can’t. Sunlight glimmers through the water’s surface, the last thing I’ll ever see.

No. Wait. I have an idea. Tree shape. I summon enough calm to perform the spell, and I am bobbing up and floating, a giant log. All I can see is blue sky above. Harsh sunlight.

No sign of Squirrel, but I know he’s dead. That spray of blood. There were limbs too.

It hits me hard. He died for me. He gave his life for me. The world is backwards.

The dragon blots out the sun, and I see a shape, limned against the sky, falling, walking. Squirrel – is he…? No, that’s Alix. Mercy, that dragon-bitch will have us all by the end of the day. The dragon screeches again, but I’m bobbing about with no control. If only I could stay still and see what’s happened to Alix.

Then I hit something. Solid. The bank. Only it’s the wrong one. I release the spell and haul myself ashore. Everything is in ruins. How can I get back? There. A lump of wood. I transform it to a small and not very stable raft, and carefully, quietly, launch myself back onto the water and propel myself to the other side.

In the middle of the square, her back to me, the dragon is focused on something; I sneak ashore…

tree-shape


ZILLAH

After a quick discussion, we down healing potions and get back outside to confront the dragon again. It’s all we can do. I want the Stars.

I take a few deep breaths then step outside, where the dragon waits. I get in some great blows! The dragon roars, spews acid (which I dodge)… then flies away.

All we can do is stare as it soars then descends into the middle of round building a couple hundred yards away. We’ve chased it off! We actually made it flee!

Now we have to finish the job before it recovers.

Blaze arrives as we’re scooping up the contents of the treasure chest left abandoned in the middle of the square. (So many coins and gems!) I’m enormously relieved to see him, but then he tells us what has happened to Squirrel.

My chest tightens with shock and grief — but I can’t let that overcome me now. Not until this is over. Not until that dragon is dead and we have the Stars in hand.

I’m still wrestling with the swirl of emotions when a stranger appears in the square. I stare at this decrepit little old man. Fenfaren he is called. I don’t have time or energy for him now. I don’t know where he’s come from, or why. I don’t care.

All I care about right now is killing that dragon.


ZILLAH

Nightshade and I stand side by side in the stands of an ancient stadium, magic, fire-spelled arrows nocked. Waiting.

Below, the arena is flooded and (we suspect) concealing the entrance to the dragon’s lair. Our plan — suggested and implemented by Fenfaren, who is full of surprises — is to drain the stadium to drive the dragon out.

The water starts moving, swirling, a sign Fen has begun the drain. Then, with a roar, the dragon bursts out of the water.

Nightshade and I take aim, launch the magic arrows.

They work beautifully against the dragon, which hovers nicely in range while it attacks Alix and Blaze, who fight back with gusto. We have no defence against this dragon. We can only hope to wear it down first.

Each arrow explodes into flame as it hits. I’ve never enjoyed my longbow so much.

flaming arrow2

Still, the dragon is fearsome and vicious. It munches on Blaze and tries to carry Alix away again. My heart jolts at the thought of losing another companion, especially Alix. But, just as I start to fear the dragon was not as injured as we’d assumed, it finally falls.

It crashes onto the lower stands, broken. Defeated. Dead.

I suppress the euphoria trying to sweep through me. First we must locate the Stars. Then we can celebrate. Then we can mourn.


ZILLAH

Fen is not a decrepit little old man, it turns out. Once his illusion died, he was revealed as a furbolg. Taller than an average human (nearly two feet taller than me). Bright red hair with some grey streaks. Strong. He says he’s been camped out on the hill, watching the dragon and the Rakshasa for a while.

He assists Nightshade and me to wade into the dragon’s underwater lair. Our attempt to drain the depths of the area succeeded in rousing the dragon, but the water has levelled. We’re going to need to swim.

We use the water breathing potion I’ve been carrying for a while. Two doses. Just enough for me and Nightshade, who is the strongest swimmer of all of us. Fen uses his mage senses to confirm the location of the dragon’s treasure.

The chest is made of stone, and heavy. There are six water-logged sacks as well. We grab those first, take them back to Fen and the others. Then we carefully carry the chest out of the water.

The chest has a complicated lock on it. A grid of stone buttons. Somehow we know that if we press them in the wrong order we will die.

Alix arrives at the solution. Alix, who often seems to come up with the right spell at the right time. She casts ‘stone tell’ and talks to the stone, asks the stone for the right combination to press. And it works.

We open the chest. No-one dies. And there they are… the Stars. The Stars of the Flail of Wind and Rain. (And treasure…)

The hour is late, but it is done.


ALIX

Poor Squirrel.

That foolhardy, light-fingered, ‘turn sideways and where-did-he-go’ young man who always seemed to be right next to me. Except for one time. The last time, when maybe it would have made a difference. And now he is gone.

He reminded me so much of Cal that I trusted him without thinking about it. I would even welcome the fights we will now never have. He backed us all up as much as he could and took some stupid risks. Oh, and he liked to throw fireballs and then ask questions. If there was anyone left alive.

Damn it, Squirrel, this whole thing has cost so many lives. Why did it have to cost me another mage who was my friend?

Oh, and don’t be throwing balls at the Gods, Squirrel. They probably won’t like it. And the shiny-shiny? Don’t be picking that up either.

BLAZE

Squirrel’s death sits heavily on me. I misjudged the man: thought him a sly, conniving and cowardly thief, not to be trusted, someone I could never call friend. And yet, in the end, he was the noblest and most selfless man I have ever met, and he not even a paladin.

How can this be? I thought I knew the world and its workings, but I know nothing. Now, I must atone for Squirrel’s death, but how to make amends? A donation to his church? Reparations to his family? Raise a statue in his honour? Offer my services to fight in his name?

Right now, prayer and solitude are what I need: I trust Nievor to give me guidance.

NIGHTSHADE

Damn everything, Squirrel is dead. Not just dead but EATEN by the traitorous Dragon’s water-dwelling pets, if Blaze saw it right.

At least the Dragon is dead as well now, which I’m sure would make Squirrel very happy were he here to know it. Imagine the magical ingredients he could have harvested from the corpse! He would have kept us here for days, stripping and preserving dragon parts.

I need to convince the others to retrieve Squirrel’s body from the water, even if it means catching and cutting open the belly of whichever beast ate him. Surely the Cleric will be able to resurrect him, if he is not too badly chewed? And his gear! The magic books, the maps and notes he was always scribbling down – we will be lost without them, our strength as a party severely diminished. I don’t see we have any choice but to look for him.

One other thing is certain: I will miss Squirrel sorely if he cannot be returned to us, not least because he was the last remaining member of the party I could count on to have my back. The other three – Zillah and Alix, and the oh-so-shiny Blaze – are such squeamish do-gooders they refuse to do what’s needed even when it’s pointed out to them at the tip of a sword. Squirrel, along with dear fallen Blizzard, understood that sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. The do-gooders bleat about the end of the world but think they can prevent such a thing without having to wring too much blood from their clothes afterwards.

Sometimes, I wonder whether I even belong in this party anymore…

ZILLAH

We will miss Squirrel sorely. He was smart. Crafty. Braver than he knew. His skills, forethought and fast thinking helped us navigate many a challenge and got us out of many a scrape. Yes, we will miss him.

I counted him a friend, even though I often felt I never really knew him. Not all his faces. But he was a true companion, as he showed at the end.

Farewell, Squirrel (or whatever your true name was). May your spirit dwell peacefully in the afterlife.

Vale Squirrel


ZILLAH

The master smith, Astra Khara, greets us with wild, bright eyes on our return to Kham Jhara. His fingers twitch as he reaches for the Stars, desperate to join them with the Haft we brought him weeks ago.

He says it will take several weeks to re-forge the Flail of Wind and Rain.

Astra Khara manages to mostly hide his surprise that we prevailed over the Rakshasa and the dragon, but it is there. The round trip has taken over a month. I think we’ll be recounting the tale in taverns for many months to come.

After slaying the dragon and obtaining the Stars, our return trip was uneventful. We managed to retrieve Squirrel’s pack from the depths of the lake the following morning, thanks to Nightshade’s swimming and magic from both Alix and Fen. The maps and documents he carried are vital for the success of our quest.

But Squirrel’s corpse was lost to us. I have no doubt those water monsters tore him to pieces and feasted. A sad end for our companion and friend.

Fen has accompanied us back to Kham Jhara. It will take some time for us to rely on him as we did Squirrel, but he has already proven a worthy companion.

Now we turn our attention to the final piece of the puzzle: the Right Eye of Varrien.


The DM says we’re ‘nearly’ finished… Considering we began in May 2012, it feels a long time coming! Let’s see what happens next.

Thanks to Tracey Rolfe (Blaze), Lita Kalimeris (Alix) and Kirstyn McDermott (Nightshade) for their contributions to this post.

The D&D Chronicles page.

D&D Chronicles: One enemy down, a dragon to go

ZILLAH

The Rakshasa get what they deserve

I fucking hate Rakshasa.

They are lying, smarmy, evil, murdering bastards who have to die. You are the key, their leader told me. You are the point of the sword. I knew at the time he was full of shit, and I was right.

We are not your true enemy. Well, maybe they are not the enemy, but they sure as hell are one of them.

Despite our best efforts, they had little difficulty finding our campsite the evening after our battle. We’d crept as close to their village as we dared, and I guess we should be thankful they sought us out to negotiate, rather than simply attack us again. They offered us a counter-offer against the deal we’d previously made with the dragon.

Our deal with the dragon: kill or drive out the Rakshasa and return the treasure they stole, in return for the Stars of the Flail of Wind and Rain.

The Rakshasa counter-offer: kill the dragon with the aid of a dozen Rakshasa, in return for half the dragon’s treasure and free passage out of here. (With the return of my stolen longsword as a gesture of good faith.)

Basically, we’ve never trusted either party. So we agreed to the Rakshasa’s deal, since maybe there was a chance they’d actually help us defeat the dragon. We figured they would use us to get rid of the dragon, after which they’d probably turn on us.

It seems they’re not that smart.

We’d barely joined forces, when the Rakshasa were hurling fireballs and other spells at us. Twelve of them. Five of us. It was touch and go for poor Blaze, who isn’t so great at dodging fireballs, but in the end we prevailed.

We’ve taken two of them captive for interrogation. Nightshade is scarily good at this — and I’m glad it’s her and not me. At her command, Squirrel dispatches one to demonstrate our intent, and the final remaining one squeals all their secrets.

It seems the Rakshasa are clearing out of their village. This is excellent news — except we need to retrieve the treasure they stole from the dragon. No way are we going anywhere near that dragon without the treasure. Not to mention the rest of the stuff the Rakshasa stole from Alix and me when they killed us a few days ago. I am cursed well getting that back.

Fucking Rakshasa.


The dragon gets the upper hand

Outside, the dragon rampages.

We could honestly do with some Rakshasa allies right about now. But maybe they knew how utterly futile it is to take on a dragon. Maybe we ought to have known — or at least heeded our own misgivings.

But we need the Stars to remake the Flail to take down the goddess Varrien. We never really had an option. We must get the Stars from the dragon — or die trying.

The drowned city of Jhardhemeth shudders beneath the dragon’s onslaught.

She’s a black dragon. Huge. Spewing acid, slapping us with wings and tail. She’s already carried Blaze off and dropped his fully armoured form in the water. I have no idea what’s become of Squirrel, who fled into the bowels of another building.

Nightshade and Alix are, I believe, seeking shelter in the building across the square. It took me a few tries to get the door of this building open, but for a few moments Fleet and I are safe.

Once I’ve caught my breath, I peer outside into the square.

It would have been beautiful once, all marble paving stones and columned archways. The treasure chest we reclaimed from the Rakshasa (so much treasure!) stands where we left it in the centre of the square, right before the bitch dragon decided to betray us. Of course, we expected it. Dragons are not known for fair dealing. But the reality is so much worse than we could have imagined.

I can’t see any of my companions, but the dragon is attacking something over by the next building. I hear Alix and Nightshade shouting, so I run in their direction, just in time to see the dragon rise into the air with Alix clasped in her claws.

Nightshade is sprinting towards me as the dragon takes Alix up high, so high over the water, where there are beasts with long necks and sharp teeth waiting.

Oh, blessed Emrys. Is that how Blaze met his fate?

Where the hell is Squirrel?

With a triumphant roar, the dragon releases Alix. She drops, and my heart almost stops, but then her airwalking boots kick in and she’s sprinting through the air towards Nightshade and me.

The three of us flee inside the building.

dragon


Yep. We obviously called it a night in the middle of a somewhat tricky situation… Will we prevail against the dragon and retrieve the Stars of the Flail of Wind and Rain? (And the rest of the treasure hoard?)

That, my friends, remains to be seen.

But it does unfortunately appear that our party will not escape unscathed. 😦

D&D Chronicles: In which Rakshasa prove masters of the common ambush

ZILLAH

By the time I come around, I know I’ve fucked up. Badly.

Voices first… some familiar, others not. Someone sharpening a blade. The rustle of cloth. They’re all everyday sounds, as though we’re in some form of settlement. Beside me, Fleet is purring and nuzzling my face with her nose.

I blink up at Alix as she sits back, withdraws her hand from my brow. She looks weary but relieved. The expression is familiar and she doesn’t need to tell me what’s just happened. What she’s just done for me.

Blessed Emrys, how many more times must I die for the sake of this cursed quest? I think this makes three. Or is it four?

I have no idea where we are, although we appear to be in some form of hut. I hear the others asking how I feel, but I can’t bear to look at them. I’m too mortified. It was all my fault. Alix and me, two of us alone, facing six Rakshasa. Hopelessly outmatched and outnumbered. What the fuck was I thinking?


18 hours earlier

It’s early afternoon when I see a lone Rakshasa creeping through the forest. She’s only 100 feet away from our camp, and my blood freezes. Behind me, Blaze is hovering over his potion, while the others are recovering after an eventful morning dealing with six crawlers. We’re camped in the forest above the drowned city, preparing and planning how to defeat the Rakshasa. Surprise is going to be key. I have to do something about that spy I just saw.

I activate my airwalking and follow silently.

tiger

image from pixabay

The Rakshasa is moving stealthily, but I can’t figure out whether she’s detected our camp or not. To be on the safe side, I decide to take her out.

My entangle spell has no effect and she lets out a yell. But I’m committed now, and my swords are out. She gets off a fireball then flees. I give chase until she meets up with five more of her kind. More fireballs and other spells. Fuck.

I turn on my heel and flee, cursing myself. That did not go to plan at all.

There doesn’t seem to be any immediate pursuit, which both relieves and troubles me. What are they doing? I really don’t want them to get away with news of our presence in the forest. (Although maybe the fireballs have put paid to that already.)

Meanwhile, my companions have of course been roused by all the fireball action and three of them show up in one of the smouldering glades. I quickly update them and tell them I want to track the Rakshasa to see where they go. Alix comes with me, while Squirrel and Nightshade return to watch over Blaze who is still brewing his potion.

I have no trouble following their trail through the undergrowth, but when six sets of tracks become four, we stop. Oh no no no… I can’t see the missing two in any of the trees, but they can definitely see us… hence the fireball that explodes right in our faces.

Once more I’m fleeing Rakshasa through the forest, but this time they are pursuing with intent, flinging fireballs with abandon. All six of them are right on our heels, playing with Alix and me like cats with two pathetic mice. They’re faster than us. Stronger than us. Basically Alix and me against six Rakshasa have no hope at all…


It turns out we’re in a furbolg village, of all things. Apparently some furbolgs turned up in the forest yesterday afternoon to see what all the fireballs were about, and invited us here to regroup.

Both Alix and I were dead when the others found us, but Blaze was able to resurrect Alix with a potion… The Rakshasa took our best weapons and our belt pouches and I can’t help but wonder why my companions would bother resurrecting me, given my series of supreme fuckups. Especially as I no longer even have any decent weapons with which to make myself useful.

I spend the rest of the day feeling guilty and sorry for myself.


After a full day and two nights (during one of which I was dead) in the furbolg village, we set off to take on the Rakshasa. A few of the furbolgs are coming with us to help.

We still haven’t finalised a good plan, but we do know the only way we’ll have any chance is to a) dose up on protection spells and b) ambush them in small groups somehow. They seem most vulnerable in melee, impervious to most of our magic and heavily reliant on magic themselves. Added to that, they can move much faster than we can and they have the home ground advantage.

We’re camped for the night on an old overgrown road, when a fireball lights up the night. There are just two Rakshasa attacking us, but they create enough havoc, especially once they succeed in their slow spell. We chase them off and relocate camps to pass the rest of the night uneventfully.

In the morning, we proceed along the road, intending to diverge off it around midday. But those cursed Rakshasa get the drop on us again. And this time it’s a major ambush.

Blaze sets it off by falling into a pit trap. Nightshade and I are off the path, skulking through the forest either side of the party. We’re all too far away from Alix, our source of protection spells, and already our plans are completely unravelled.

There seem to be Rakshasa everywhere in the forest. Fireballs bombard our party on the path. Nightshade is surrounded. The slow spell is crippling us. Soon one of the furbolgs is seeking shelter in the pit after helping Blaze escape it.

Knowing it’s the only chance we have, I run back to Alix to get the protection spell. Then, wielding my borrowed short sword, I enter the fray. These fucking Rakshasa have to die and I will get all my stuff back if it kills me.

Dosed up on magic and rage, I feel invincible. Even if all I have is a short sword belonging to Nightshade.

But I’m only just getting started when the Rakshasa start to retreat, slinking away into the forest like cowards. Hollering in fury I would chase after them and kill all the fuckers, but they are too fast for us. Down on all fours, they scamper away like the cats they are, leaving us frustrated and fuming.

Now we must regroup fast and go after them while they’ve exhausted their magic for the day. No doubt there are more of them in their stronghold, but we cursed well have to try.

Read all posts on the D&D Chronicles page.