Shop Till You Drop

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I had the kobold pick the lock on what looked like a tailors shop. The Dragon Shaman insisted that we were NOT looting this city (even though we were already wanted criminals who would be executed), and I reluctantly agreed to leave behind some gold for whatever I took. I wasn't after much, just a huge black cloak and brooch for my Giant skeleton, and some dresses that would work to conceal my lack of legs once I had fell flight (and would fit over my leather armor with some minor alterations).

Since I was shopping, the swashbuckler and kobold thought maybe it would be a good idea if we started sneaking into shops to restock our gear? We were definitely behind on normal supplies, and this was the first time we'd stopped at any civilized place for weeks. It happened to be EMPTY, but it was still a civilized place.

At first the Dragon Shaman didn't like the idea, until he looked down and noticed he was still using the same beat up eight-gold-costing morning star he'd had since level 1. He reluctantly agreed that it was probably a good time for a re-supply run, and that we might as well take advantage of the lack of "being tried as wanted criminals" to grab some new gear.

He'd been taking armor and weapon proficiency feats for lack of better immediate options, so this was something he (out side the game) was kind of looking forward to I know. He swapped out his cruddy beat-to-crap morningstar for a Masterwork Bastard Sword. He also found a suit of Masterwork fullplate that, with some relatively minor modifications, was suitable for him to wear (what with the wings and all). He came up a tiny bit short on the gold for all of it, but gave himself a 'Trying to be a hero, 10% off' discount.

Fortunately, The Sword/Shield/Armor combo is light enough that he can still fly normally, but he won't be carrying any of us casually unless he pumps his strength some more.

The rest of us spent our loose coin on some scrolls and potions, a spellbook to serve as our fledgling archivists prayerbook, some better armor and weapons for ourselves (nothing too special. Some more daggers for me, better fitting leather armor for the kobold, a masterwork rapier for the swashbuckler (and he found a Masterwork buckler with no arcane spell failure chance)). And yes, we gave ourselves varying discounts as well.

Our little shopping detour was interrupted when we heard a haggard cough echoing down the streets. We sent the Swashbuckler first, since he was currently the only one who could pass for normal, with us trailing a few feet behind. We pinpointed the noise to one of the alleys in between buildings, and creeping down, we noticed who was making the noise. A homeless man, obviously completely blind, and laying in a pile of filthy rags. He blended in so well, that if we hadn't noticed the noise, we never would have spotted him. He was clearly dying, infected with something horrible.

Not wanting to touch him due to fear in infection (and all of us lacking any kind of way to remove a disease. We could produce healing effects, but not remove disease), I reached out with the giant skeleton hand to pat him softly on the arm and made a hushed noise to alert him to our presence. When he reached to grab the wrist of the skeleton, and felt bone instead, he gasped, and asked, "Is this the reaper coming to free me from this life?"

The Dragon Shaman said "Not quite yet friend... tell me, where has everyone gone?"

The homeless man drew a ragged breath and told us, the plague had spread through the city like an uncontrolled fire. Everyone was sick...even the healers and holy men had fallen ill. But a man... Priest, had promised them a cure... they believed him...followed him out into the desert, where they were beginning a ritual to take the sickness away. No one who'd passed had been willing to help the blind and dying homeless man though, as they figured (rightly, he said) that he was only hours from the end.

So we established two things. Priest, despite being obviously unhinged and unnerving, was nevertheless able to convince people he was important enough to let him do as he wished (browse unchecked through mental patient records, lead a church sponsored archaeological dig, get an entire city to follow him pied piper style out to an unearthed ziggurat...)
The second thing was where we needed to go now. We'd been heading that way anyway, but it was nice to know what to expect.

The homeless man wheezed, and asked us if we could do him a mercy. As the Dragon Shaman was asking "What's the moral thing to do here anyway?" I put my hand gently on the homeless mans forehead...and fired off an eldritch blast. The dragon shamans response was "Oh gee, look at that! SURPRISE!"

Bitterness aside, we gathered up our new supplies, left what we didn't immediately need back at the ship, and told the skeletons to pull out of port and return to circling the waters off shore until we came back (playing it safe), did a hitpoint/status/gear check, and set off in the direction of the ziggurat. We took the bats with us, but walked while they flew overhead.



Blockade

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On the way there, we were attacked. Whether it was a chance encounter, or something deliberately prepared, we're not sure, but we were attacked by giant scorpions of various sizes in the open sand. Since it was night, we hadn't noticed them approaching until they were actually in combat range. We managed to wipe them out, and finally leveled up for our troubles.

Which means I finally got Fell Flight! The text of Fell Flight says you gain a fly speed equal to your move rate... but the DM was kind enough to give me a fly speed equal to my NORMAL move rate, and not my new "drag yourself 5 feet at a time by your arms" move rate, because that would have just been cruel, even for him. So I eagerly flew out of my skeleton ride and put on one of the dresses, finally back to equal 'footing' among the others (actually technically better footing, as I can move in any direction at will...)

The Swashbuckler took another level of Archivist (Swash 4, Sorc 2, Arch 2). The Kobold elected to stay pure Factotum to gain Cunning Surge (and can now spend inspiration points to take an extra standard action on his turn). The Dragon Shaman got a stronger breath weapon. All of us got a high enough BAB that we get a second attack each round.

And we moved on through the desert.

When we arrived at our destination, we found no one around the box canyon directly. But when we got to the edge and looked down? We saw it was absolutely filled with a WAVE of people. They were all kneeling and facing the ziggurat, crying, and praying for strength. The sounds of the desperate. Some of the less ill were standing guard, holding large falchions and other curved blades. Around the ziggurat directly where several elite looking warriors. And on top of the ziggurat? Priest knelt surrounded by his group of men, leading the people of the city in the ritual prayers.

We pulled back away from the edge of the canyon and started talking about our options. NONE of them seemed very positive. Our primary goal was getting INTO the ziggurat itself... but ideally we could do that without the entire population of a major port city pursuing us in a rage. The kobold could probably make it in, if he could fly. With a bat though, he'd be obvious, and wouldn't be able to do it stealthily. The full plate wearing dragon shaman would be even more obvious. The Swashbuckler had no real options other than fighting his way in. I could float out above the ziggurat and drop straight down, but there were enough torches that someone would be bound to notice me, and I can't hide in plain sight like the kobold can.

We sigh and scratch our heads.

I suggest that I can probably get us in violently. I can control 32 HD worth of undead (Dragon Shaman: "No"), and I'm only controlling 27 at the moment (Dragon Shaman: "No"). If the Dragon Shaman can make it down and torch 5 people in his fire breath (Dragon Shaman: "No"), then I can re-animate them and have them attack anyone nearby (Dragon Shaman: "No"), and just raise whoever THEY kill when their numbers start thinning out (Dragon Shaman: "No"). Hell, if you keep everyone off my back (Dragon Shaman: "No"), I might be able to take out the whole canyon (Dragon Shaman: "No!!!").

Swashbuckler: "At least it's an IDEA?"

Dragon Shaman: "No it isn't. Attempted genocide isn't an IDEA. It's an ATROCITY."

We sigh and scratch our heads.

Swashbuckler: "Go in gangbusters style? Fly down, send the bats careening into the nearest attackers, dash into the entrance and try to seal it behind us so no one can alert whoever's inside?"

Me: "You mean pin ourselves in with a psychotic druid who's shown that he can wipe out the four of us casually? I don't think sealing the entrance is what THEY'RE worried about, it's what WE'LL wind up worried about."

We sigh and scratch our heads.

Factotum: "What about a distraction? We could throw the hill giant skeleton down one side of the canyon...maybe light it on fire first. And when everyone's excited and confused, the Warlock can fly the two of us to the ziggurat opening... we need to be stealthy inside the place anyway. It won't do to have two armored tanks trying to sneak through the dark tunnels with us. You could wait guard out here to save our butts when we inevitably come running out in a panic because we got in over our heads."

We look around at each other and finally nod. I can make a cloud of darkness that surrounds me, so the two of us will just be a darker spot against the night sky. I can drop at 60 feet a round, and given the height of the ziggurat as opposed to the drop, it'll be give or take 9-12 second before I can have us both inside through the doorway. And even if anyone DOES look away from the flaming skeleton long enough to notice us, we'll just be a shadowy blot that disappears in a few seconds.

Yup.

That's HONESTLY the best plan we could come up with. Go us.

So me and the kobold position ourselves at the edge of the canyon, as close to the entrance to the ziggurat as we can get, while the Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler get on the other side with the Hill Giant skeleton. The swashbuckler coats it in two pints of oil (all good adventurers carry rope, oil, and chalk, FYI) and the dragon shaman hits it with a fire breath as I give it an order to go toppling over the side of the canyon and (if it survives) start attacking anyone who attacks it.

The reaction is, exactly as predicted. EVERYONE in the canyon, Priest and his men included, look back at the behemoth falling to the canyon floor below. I grab the kobold and start flying down as fast as I can, while the skeleton hits the ground. Between 20d6 fall damage and 5d6 fire damage from the breath, it turned out to be something like 95 points of damage, which meant the skeleton was still up and kicking (well, clubsmacking) the guards who rushed it in fear and confusion. The ruckus generated was MORE than enough for me and the kobold to make it into the entrance of the ziggurat unnoticed, and the flaming skeleton killed a pretty high number of guards before they finally took it down.

The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler both booked to the entrance of the tunnel leading out of the canyon (the one we'd gone up that first time), getting into position to attack whenever anyone came up to figure out what had happened.

And we were in.



Inside the Ziggurat

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We could both see just fine in the dark, so we didn't have to get any light source or anything that would give us away. We'd been here before, so it was a pretty straightforward sneak-job. We didn't get lost or make any pointless detours into empty corridors like the first time. Along the way down though, we noticed something kind of peculiar. The spellcasting bug corpses were...everywhere. They look like they'd been thrown into a wood chipper, and were so shredded it took close examination for us to notice that some of them had parts of them ripped out cleanly. None of the spellcasting gems were to be seen. They'd all either been taken, or expended from the bugs casting them in self defense. We couldn't tell which.

But occasionally, we'd find a partially intact corpse with black onyx haphazardly jammed in where the gems should have been. We say partial because, it looks like after the onyx was pushed in, the bugs wound up being crushed out of frustration...

All of this seemed very bad.

We came to the great chamber we'd encountered the Drifter in before. The high-ceilinged chambers that we kept bumping into him in. Immediately, the kobold started sliding around the outer wall to get further into the chamber, while I (in my dark blot of shadows) floated up the wall and stuck to the ceiling, looking downwards. I noticed spiders and other various insects sticking quietly in the shadows, but none of them noticed me while I floated to a nice safe position that would give me a good view.

The scene in the chamber was... disturbing, to saw the least. The Drifter was there, in the middle of everything, surrounded by black onyx and a strange glowing symbol carved into the rock floor. The same symbol was on his forehead, a glowing gold rune. Therin and the Changeling were there too, along with a number of Priests men (who must loan out a few of them to Therin while they're working together, or something. Which would explain the guys burning themselves to death at the docks in the beginning... they weren't killing themselves, they were just HIDING. By killing themselves. Or whatever.) The fifth mystery-man wasn't present.

On the outside of the strange carved symbol, were thirteen people from this city, of various ages and genders. They were all bound and gagged, helpless, facing the Drifter as his wings buzzed uncomfortably and he muttered quietly to himself. Occasionally, Therin or the changeling would double check the bonds on some of their prisoners.

There were also thirteen jars. Each one filled with a spellcasting bug... each one looking like its back had been torn open. Whatever gems they'd had were gone, replaced by cut crystals of black Onyx. The bugs were still alive and well, though extremely agitated. These must have been the successful ones...

And on the back wall? Chained and strapped and gagged? The angel. Her eyes were gouged out , but it didn't stop her from turning her head to 'look' directly at the kobold, and then up at me on the ceiling, before returning her 'gaze' straight ahead and giving a defiant tug at the chains holding her to the ground. She knew we were here, and presumably, she gave that one subtle tug at her bonds as a way of telling us to free her. Angels aren't known to be quitters, I suppose.

A closer look at the center of the chamber revealed one of the angels eyes laying on the ground, facing directly north at the tip of the strange symbol.

The kobold crept alongside Therin/Priests workers, checking them for keys or anything that would help him free the angel. He found nothing, and elected to go and begin picking the locks on the chains directly. There wasn't much I could do from the ceiling. I could fire a blast at someone to disrupt things, but it would be suicide for me (and I'd be taking the kobold down with me).

The kobold managed to spring one of the locks, but the DCs were really high. He was forced to take 20 to get some of them...and there were a good number of locks

As he was working on freeing the captive celestial, I was watching the ritual starting to go down, still trying to think of anything I could do to stop it that wouldn't just get us destroyed. After thorough examination of my abilities and gear, I came up with.... diddly squat. All I could do was watch and hope the kobold managed to spring the angel.

The drifter finally stopped muttering to himself, and nodded at the changeling, who proceeded to walk around, cautiously opening the jars containing the black onyx bugs. When she opened each one, they honed in directly on the Drifter himself, and...apparently began to chew their way into him. The first one caused him to flinch and grind his teeth, but he simply stayed where he was with a steely resolve... until the fifth one started chewing on him. Then he finally winced and cried out in pain, falling to one knee while his wings fluttered aggressively, and the constant swarm of smaller bugs around him began to buzz around, agitated.

The changeling hesitated to open the sixth jar, and Therin simply asked "Sir?" with a concerned echo... but the Drifter cried out in pain again and glared at the changeling, barking at her to keep going. She looked very worried. So did Therin. The drifter simply scowled and gritted his teeth more. The changeling ran from jar to jar... by the tenth one, the Drifter began screaming out in pain, which even made Therin look uncomfortable, looking around nervously and trying not to focus on the sound.
The kobold sprang another few locks.

By the time the changeling had opened the 13th jar, and all 13 black onyx bugs were attacking the drifter, he was freely screaming in pain, rolling in place and trying to fight off the bugs. The changeling and Therin kept exchanging nervous glances. The prisoners looked catatonic with terror.
The kobold sprang the last lock, and disappeared back into the shadows, after patting the angel between the wings to let her know he was done. She remained in place... too clever to give it away that easily and risk being recaptured.

The drifter... stopped screaming in pain. He stopped screaming in pain, because apparently, the bugs had done him in. All thirteen of them had chewed and chewed until he'd finally bled out, and was laying in the middle of the symbol... his blood pooling out and flowing through the cracks of it while the bugs continued to feed on his corpse.

Therin shuffled uncomfortably and the changeling backed nervously towards the exit. They weren't 100% on the situation either, apparently.

When the Drifters blood finally pooled into the entire symbol? The golden rune on his forehead stopped glowing, and the symbol on the floor flashed gold instead. And when it did, all 13 of the bugs immediately fell onto their backs and went into death throes, curling their legs tight as they perished, only to flip themselves back over and stand motionless. After what seemed like too long of a pause, the strange golden symbol on the floor and on the drifters forehead flashed on the backs of the bugs.

At which point they all flew into a frenzy, circling each other angrily before flying out and attacking the 13 bound captives... who also began screaming in pain, until the bugs finally worked their way into the bound victims... causing the same glowing rune to spring up on their foreheads, and then they suddenly stopped struggling.

I didn't like where this was going.

Therin, the Changeling, and their workers all began circling the group, untying and ungagging them as quickly as possible. Therin asked "Sir, are you alright?". At which point, every ungagged victim spoke in a creepy unified chorus "Yes. Yes, I just didn't expect it to hurt as much as it did."

At which point, everyone present turned their eyes to the angel... Only to find her sprinting alongside the outskirt of the chamber, heading towards the exit door. They all screamed varies cursewords, a great wave of rage coming as they moved to attack her. The spiders on the ceiling all came to and began descending on silk strands, one of them dropping directly in front of the exit.

Feeling uncomfortably noble, I gave away my position by firing an eldritch spear at the spider blocking the doorway, allowing the angel a clean escape. The kobold gave away his position too, when he cast "Grease" on the doorway just behind the angel, allowing her to run unhindered while anyone making it to the door began to fall and crawl. I flew towards the front doorway as fast as I could, trying to dodge the spiders and taking hits from some ranged attacks and thrown rocks... one of the group cast Contagion on me, but I passed the Fort save. Another one had apparently cast some kind of lightning spell, because me and the kobold were both getting struck by bolts of electricity while we booked for the exit. The kobold managed to make a running, springing jump over the patch of grease without much problem. I just flew over it. Therin managed to jump over it too, but the changeling and some of the "previously victims" all fell prone in the muck. The rest couldn't get through the collapsed bodies, but Therin was persuing and howling in rage.

And glancing back as we ran for the exit with everything we had?

One of the victims in the grease pit had begun a violent coughing fit... coughing up blood, gore... until they literally fell apart in a showering of bone and viscera... revealing a whole swarm of the black onyx bugs from their insides, which began flying out. The others began coughing in the same way


Outside the Ziggurat

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The entire time this had been happening, our two warriors had remained outside. They had run to the entrance of the pathway out of the canyon and positioned themselves for attack, as mentioned. A group of guards came running out of the cave system to see what had caused a giant flaming skeleton to drop down in the middle of their prayer session. The Swashbuckler whipped out his new trick, cast "Enlarge Person" on himself, did a power attack and killed a guy, cleaved and killed a guy, great cleaved and killed a guy, great cleaved and missed... rolled his second attack and killed a guy, cleaved and killed again, and great cleaved to kill two more guy. The Dragon Shaman toasted the rest of the (now MUCH smaller) group with a cone of fire.

They laid low until another, smaller group came up a few minutes later. They tried to hide, but, neither of them are stealthy characters, so they wound up killing THAT group too.

Eventually, after not hearing back from any of the exploration guards, Priest sent five of his men up. The fighting got redundant in a very serious manner. See, Priests men were no incredible warriors, expecially compared to two level 8 PCs. But they just kept burning into ash and then climbing back up to fight again. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler knew they could pretty much keep mopping the floor with these guys.... but it was only a matter of how long it went on before even MORE came up. If a large enough force came? They'd be overwhelemed. And that's not knowing what tricks Priest himself is capable of (besides shutting down some magical abilities).

Swashbuckler: “So what the heck do we do?”

Dragon Shaman: “We have to buy our friends inside as much time as we possibly can. We keep fighting like spartan soldiers, regardless.”

Swashbuckler: “That's exactly what I hoped you'd say.”

They wound up fighting in the open sand for the majority of the time we were in the ziggurat, before, ask predicted, whole droves of guards and Priests men began storming up to see what the heck was going on. They fought viciously, but when the number started to get overwhelming, they started to sprint around the outside of the canyon, looking for a place where they might turn the terrain to their advantage.

It wasn't long after they got overwhelmed that a sightless angel came sprinting out of the ziggurat, immediately taking to the skies and trying to fly out of the canyon (amongst many bewildered guards and confused gasps from the crow, and Priest shouting some obscenity, obviously knowing that this wasn't the plan).

Immediately afterwards, a lightning fast kobold who was so dark he was practically a shadow came springing out, followed immediately thereafter by a deranged looking warlock floating at high speeds, scooping the kobold into my arms and flying after the angel.

Immediately followed by a howling and cursing Therin, throwing a weapon at us (and missing outright).

...Immediately followed by a buzzing hideous mass of spellcasting bugs, jet black, full of black onyx, and glowing with an eerie golden hum from the collective display of so many runes. Which then dispersed among the crowd and began to attack all of them.

Some of the bugs left the canyon, flitting to where the Swashbuckler and Dragon Shaman were fighting a small army of mook guards (and still cleaving through them like butter until...). The bugs began to attack everyone present, guards included. Whenever the bugs successfully 'killed' one of the men, they would fall to their knees, clutching their stomachs in pain, before looking back up with a brand new glowing rune on their forehead.

The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler were both tough enough to fight the bugs off without TOO much difficulty... it was easy enough that the Dragon Shaman could take the time to pry out one of the black onyx gems and pocket it.

They did start to get overwhelmed by sheer numbers, which is when the Dragon Shaman opted to throw the summoning dice...

Guess what it came up?

No no, go on, guess.

Give up?

The first die was Swarm.

The second die?

Rabbits.

He randomly summoned a swarm of rabbits. He smacked his own forehead so hard he winced in pain. "Really? I pull out a last ditch ace from my sleeve, and it's a swarm of rabbits?"

Instantly, the battlefield fills up with around three dozen tiny white rabbits. Who all hop around for a minute before flinging themselves at the faces of everyone nearby. Now let me clear one thing up before hand, these weren't monty python killer rabbits of unstoppable doom. They were literally just harmless white cotton balls, who were still nevertheless trying to DESTROY everything they saw.

By the time the Angel, Me, and the Kobold met up with them, half the canyon was filled with the eerie golden glow of those now sporting the golden rune on their foreheads.

By the time we realized it was hopeless (about 12 seconds later), the other half of the canyon was full of the glow, and every ninth or tenth person was falling to the ground, coughing out their insides... rapidly multiplying bugs included.

The ...unusual... cover of the bloodthirsty rabbits distracting every active combatant was enough for us to make our escape.



Escape (Again)

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We took to the skies, trying to outpace the growing mass of bugs and possessed people screaming in fury and pursuing us. The Swashbuckler and kobold each took one of the bats, while me, the Dragon Shaman, and the angel (who was blind, but could still apparently observe her surroundings in some fashion) all flew under our own power. We told the angel we had a ship just off shore that we could recover on, assuming we could outpace the mass of bugs. Thankfully, the bugs, while spreading rapidly, were moving about half the speed we collectively were. And the angel seemed to be able to fly circles around us all, but was going slower to keep with the group.

She thanked us for coming back for her, in the very calm matter of fact way that only an angel can seem to muster.

The Kobold asked how she can get around so fine without eyes, she just responded that "Celestial creatures do not see. We either know, or do not know."

Which was a good enough answer that we all clammed up for the rest of the flight. We landed on the deck, and sent the skeletons working double time. The Swashbuckler asked if we actually had a heading, and the Dragon Shaman replied "Far away from here".

The Swashbucklers healing bug, Chitter, molted again. Must have gotten close enough to the ziggurat, because it powered up and can now cast Cure Moderate Wounds.

We talked to the angel about what had happened. The ritual they were performing hadn't actually needed her at all. Gouging out her eyes and decorating with them was done out of malice, not necessity. That first part of the ritual had gone off perfectly, as we could see by the results. The Drifter had bred a strain of Necromancy casting gem-bugs, and had made them powerful enough that they had been able to cast? You guessed it. Magic Jar (also frequently referred to as "Soul Jar"). Then he'd somehow transferred his consciousness into the bugs... who then took over the other people... who then acted as hosts while the bug multiplied rapidly inside of them to increase the process exponentially.

Factotum: “So his goal is... what? Take over the world and leave nothing but himself? That doesn't sound like how you become a God.”

The angel 'looked' at him and said point blank, "No. He does not care about your world."

Factotum: “So...what does he want?”

Angel: “I was bound physically to this world as a guardian millenia ago. Once he had become the ultimate parasite, he was going to infect me.”

Factotum: “...And?”

Angel: An”d then we would return to heaven.”

We all stopped for a minute to take that in.

Dragon Shaman: “So he was going to use you to wrench open a path into heaven and then... infect it? That's how he was going to become a god. By INFECTING a god?”

The angel just nodded.

Factotum: “So, then, it's in our best interests to keep you as safe and hidden as possible.”

Me: “I think we should kill her.”

Dragon Shaman: “What the HELL, okay, we just went WAY past the "Gray Area of Heroics" and screaming into pointless evil. Really? Kill the angel? Really?”

Me: “Damn right kill the angel! If she's dead he can't hitch a ride in her.”

Angel: “She is absolutely correct.”

We all stop and stare at her.

Dragon Shaman: “But that's blatant evil?”

Angel: “Destroying a celestial creature is an evil act under any and all circumstances, correct.”

Dragon Shaman: “But we should kill you?”

Angel: *long pause* “I am unable to advocate the performance of an evil act under any circumstance, by my very nature.”

Swashbuckler: “So... we could kill you to stop this Drifter guy from becoming a god, but we'd still be performing an evil act by doing so. So you can't TELL us to. Can you kill yourself?”

Angel: “Destroying a celestial creature is an evil act under any and all circumstances. As I am unable to advocate the performance of an evil act, so too am I unable to perform an evil act myself, by my very nature.”

Dragon Shaman: “Okay, we get it. Killing you might be a smart thing to do, but it's still Evil with a capital E.”

Angel: “Correct.”

Me: “I'm okay with that. I'll kill her. I'm already the bad guy, I'll save you all from having to make that choice.”

Angel: “I am unable to allow an evil act to transpire in my presence without intervention, by my very nature.”

Me: “Okay, wait. I'm a little confused.”

Angel: “If you attempt to perform an evil act, I am obligated by my very nature to destroy you in opposition.”

Factotum: “You can't LET us kill you, no matter how good of an idea it might be.”

Angel: “Correct.”

After a long uncomfortable pause

Dragon Shaman: “Are the four of us strong enough to defeat you?”

The angel replied as flatly, coldly, and as factual as if she were reading a dictionary entry: "Yes"



Wrap It Up

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So after that... deliciously warm and friendly conversation, the Dragon Shaman admits that... maybe I was onto something. But even if I am, he doesn't have the conviction to go through with it as long as any other course of action exists. The other two agree, but we're putting "Murder a Being of Pure Light and Goodness" as plan B.

If we're in such dire straights that nothing else can be done, that little plan is going to be trotted out and re-examined. It'll be my finger on the trigger, obviously, but the others aren't comfortable with being evil by proxy.

So now we're acting as bodyguards for her. Things are about to get Very Very Bad(tm) on this world, but it'll get a lot worse a lot faster if the Drifter manages to hijack even a minor deity, let alone a major deity or (deity forbid) an OVERDEITY...

We think for a few minutes about what to do. We consider stopping by central island to see if we can't get Macguiller and the local legal authorities on our side. We do have an ANGEL vouching for us at this point.

But after mulling over our possibilities? The factotum mentions "Papa HeeNo did say he was warding off his village, didn't he? If he knew what he was doing, and he clearly did *points at eye shaped hole in palm* then that might be one of the safer places we can stick her until something better comes up. How long do you think it'll take for the Drifter parasite to spread?"

Dragon Shaman: No way to be 100% positive, but I'd say that continent can't last more than... a week? Two? The ocean will slow him down, luckily there are a lot of unconnected landmasses in the world... there's got to be safe pockets. We just need to find more and start figuring out a method of counter-attacking this.

We agree, and set off for the jungle continent, hoping we can convince Papa HeeNo to hide our angel until we can figure out what to do next.

I have a feeling things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better.




Devil With the Blue...

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Wrote until the wee hours of the morning. I'm gonna need a nap today.

Our adventure resumes, with us on the open water, heading westward towards the jungle continent inhabited by (among other things) Papa HeeNo and his hopefully now-healthy tribe. Our intentions, as a group, are to tuck the angel away in Papa HeeNos sanctuary, and see if there's some kind of communicative spell he has access to (it's something we currently don't have). Once she's safe, we're going to return to Central Island ASAP and check in with the only other clever person we've met, Macguiller, and see if we can't get some kind of insight from the guy.

After that, we're going to hop off to the arctic port. We're starting to wonder if maybe that listed destination had been factual, after all. Might explain the mystery man, whoever he is. And we might as well follow up on the two leads we neglected, now that the APOCALYPSE is happening a few hundred miles off our tailside.

Speaking of our tailsides though...

So we're about 50 miles out at sea, having been sailing top speed until dawn breaks and the sun comes up. Which naturally filled our hearts with resolve and renewed our... yada yada yada. We're playing Sir Robin and running with our tails between our legs for a safe hiding spot.

We're moving along as fast as our sails can take us, which unfortunately turned out to not be fast enough, as we spot something approaching from the direction we just left. We know we're outpacing the mass of bugs by a fair speed, and there shouldn't have been any ships able to catch us outright with our head start. Keep pace with us maybe, but not overrun us.

Spot checks reveal nothing other than it being a big mass of blue moving in our direction. And that it's moving very fast. The blue is making it blend into the water enough that we're having trouble getting hard details.

So, the four of us stand there at the stern of the ship, watching this rapidly approaching... something, and scratching our heads like buffoons and wishing one of us had had the sense to purchase one of those piratey collapsible telescopes. Until it finally closes enough distance that the kobold passes a spot check, and the DM sends him a note about what he sees.

The kobold chuckles nervously and announces "Uh, guys? That's a blue dragon. A LARGE SIZED DRAGON. Flying angrily at our ship."

We pause, taking in that fact for a moment before running back to the deck and starting to secure things, checking to see what we can use to our advantage in a fight like this. A Large sized dragon is literally 1/4 the size of our ship itself, and the possibility that it could capsize us is very real. It's also definitely WAY over our CR, which means one of us is probably going to die outright.

We help the skeletons swing the ship around ("HARD STARBOARD" shouts the dragon shaman ) to bring our two piddly ballistas in line with the dragons approach. The Swashbuckler and Kobold both helped the skeletons man the Ballistas, waiting for it to get into range, while we ask ourselves WHY in the world this dragon is charging us so furiously? We can't come up with an answer, as we haven't done anything to enrage any of the Draconic race... We haven't even SEEN a draconic creature yet...

...When it finally flies into range, and we can make it out in better detail. The Dragon has a golden glowing rune on its forehead.

We all stopped dead in our tracks at that, as the kobold managed to get out "Did it just occur to you guys how much trouble we're actually in? Cause it just hit me all at once how BAD our situation is."

We're in complete agreement. Blue Dragons live in the desert. The growing mass of bugs apparently found Big Blue's lair, and successfully infected it. So we're sitting there trying not to think about what ELSE the bugs might be infecting, and what ELSE is going to be hunting us to the ends of the earth, when the dragon starts screaming out at us to hand over the angel, amidst various threats and promises of unimaginable tortures.

We asked her if she could outpace the dragon, and she told us flatly that "No," it can fly much faster than she can. So we sent her below decks and locked up every entrance as securely as we could. Finally the dragon got in reasonable range of the Ballistas and we opened fire. Both hit for medium damage (3d8 each) and the group manning them began to reload for another shot.

In the meantime, me and the Shaman took to the skies with the bats flying separately. I didn't want to risk the bats in the fight, as they were extremely valuable, but we were clearly outmatched and needed all the help we could get here. We flew out to fight the dragon directly. I hit it with an Eldritch Spear as soon as it got into range and was mortified to discover that it was old and developed enough to have spell resistance. I passed the caster level check to bypass it, but not by much. At least I hit it for a relatively high damage roll.

The Blue Dragon covered the huge gap between us and fired a breath weapon (line of electricity) at the Shaman. The DM told him not to bother rolling a reflex save, as it was impossible for him to even pass it, and he took a nasty chunk of hitpoints. The Shaman cleared what was left of the gap between the two and hit the blue dragon point blank with his fire breath weapon for a similar chunk of damage. The ballistas fired (and both hit) for another good damage roll.

I fired another eldritch blast while backing off to one direction as much as I could, bypassed its spell resistance again (thankfully), and forced it to split its attention between me, the shaman, and the ship. The Shaman was in between it and the ship, and adult dragons don't actually have great mid-air maneuverability, so it was forced to attack him to continue advancing. It hit him straight on, with a scary damage roll that the DM decided was enough for it to LITERALLY just swat the shaman out of the sky and into the ocean below. The Dragon Shaman had to use his turn to scrabble out of the water (wishing he wasn't in full plate) and flying back in pursuit. If the Dragon shaman didn't have CON 22, there's no way he'd have survived all the way to this level, by the way.

My bats attacked from either side, but neither could make a dent in the blue dragons AC.

The fight raged on for like 15 rounds, so I'm gonna stop trying to give a blow-by-blow here.

The Dragon landed on the side of the ship and crushed one of the ballistas, but the bats attacking it gave the kobold a flanking position, and he made a really good sneak attack at the dragons exposed underside. The Swashbuckler opted for two-handed power attacking, increased his size with Enlarge Person to put him on better footing with the dragon (which made our ship groan from the increased weight of the two).

The Dragon spent a lot of time knocking us around, but it didn't capsize the ship directly like we'd feared. About half the way through the fight, we realized it was because it didn't want to risk killing the angel itself, not knowing where she was below decks. It DID attack our rigging, knocking the mast clean over and destroying our sails in the process. It utterly destroyed two of the skeletons, one of the bats, and sent the kobold running in fear from its Frightful Presence aura once. I spent a turn rummaging through my pack of poisons for an ingestible, high DC CON damaging poison, handed it to one of the remaining skeletons, and sent it off to fling itself into the dragons mouth to fight its way down its throat. The trick worked, destroying the skeleton, but giving the dragon 7 CON damage for a huge drop in hitpoints.

We rolled the randomly summoning dice. It came up Giant and Spider, at which point a HUGE sized spider (literally bigger than the dragon) appeared. It sort of gave us an edge, in that it was attacking both sides, which occasionally occupied one of us, but occasionally distracted the dragon while we pounded away at it. The dragon eventually shredded the spider (huge or not, it was still Dragon versus Spider), but it had been more beneficial than detrimental.

At some point during the fight, all four of us wound up in negatives, with a lot of very close calls. I don't think the DM was pulling his punches, I think we all just stayed out of range when we were too-low on hitpoints until we were healed enough to survive another hit. But between all four of us having various healing tricks, we kept getting back up to rejoin the fight. Finally, on the stern of the ship, between the enlarged Swashbuckler pounding away at its face, the Dragon Shaman hitting it from behind with fire breath and bastard sword attacks to the back of its skull, me peppering it with Eldritch Blasts left and right (some of them missing due to spell resistance), the poison eating away at it, and the Factotum hitting it in the face with a Fireball spell from the bow of the ship, the beast finally, mercifully, was felled.

At which point it began to cough in its death throes, choking up the black onyx bugs!

The Dragon Shaman coup de graced it to prevent it from dissolving into a swarm of the horrible vermin, but it still coughed up around two dozen of the soul-stealing insects beforehand, who made a beeline for us, and for the various cracks and holes the ship had developed during the fight. We managed to kill them without much trouble, the final bug crawling rapidly towards a hole in the deck when the Kobold whipped out his hand crossbow and plunked it from afar.