Damage Control

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At which point we began to assess the damage. We were in very, very bad shape. Our hitpoints were nil, ranging from single digits, to the kobold with the highest at like 25. All of our daily healing was expended, except for the Swashbuckler having a few cure-minor wounds. We had no healing potions left, and most of our daily abilities were expended.

The ship was in shambles. Our crew was down to two intact skeletons and a single surviving undead bat. The rigging was DESTROYED, and would take days of dedicated labor to fix. Days we needed to be resting to heal ourselves from the fight. Days when the Drifter hivemind would be heading in our direction, knowing exactly which heading we'd been following, and that our ship was in no shape to sail. There were low winds

There was talk of abandoning the ship. The Dragon Shaman didn't like the idea of leaving the S.S. Ironman behind, considering she'd been a very loyal vessel. He did concede we were low on choices though.

I could fly under my own power. The Angel could carry the kobold while she flew. The Dragon shaman could only fly for limited durations. He had a lot of stamina, but he wouldn't be able to fly under his own power all the way to shore. The bat could only carry one of them with weight concerns. Even if the Shaman and Swashbuckler stripped and left all their gear here, they'd still be too far over weight. The Dragon Shaman and kobold could ride a bat together, but not with the full plate, so the Shaman would be giving up some very critical gear.

Dragon Shaman: "We could row. We wouldn't have to spend the time repairing the mast then."

Swashbuckler: "Rowing would give us no rest, which we sorely need, and we'd be moving at half speed. Maybe if we had more skeletons."

Me, to DM: "How many hit die did that dragon have anyway?"

The DM smirked, and said "More than you can animate in a single casting".

The dragon was 18 Hit Die. I could CONTROL the dragon as a zombie, with room to spare in my max undead capacity. But I was level 8 and could only ressurect 16 HD worth of creatures at once.

Except I had a scroll of "Desecrate" that I'd taken from the changelings gear back when we'd found all the black onyx in the first place. Desecrate has the nice side effect of allowing you to animate twice as many undead per casting...

Dragon Shaman: "I am NOT letting you DESECRATE the stern of our ship!"

Me: "How about the Bow?"

Dragon Shaman: "Look, I'm IFFY about bringing a dead dragon back to life anyway. Bahamut would be upset, but I admit we have to give ourselves a little leeway right now, the stakes are high. DESECRATING our vessel to unholy forces still isn't okay."

Swashbuckler: "I'd rather not make our ship unholy. But I'm ready to look the other way, we need an answer here."

Factotum: "Likewise. I can just stand on the opposite side of the ship and hum loudly and pretend it's not happening until it's done."

Dragon Shaman: "The angel. She won't approve."

Me: "We won't tell her."

Dragon Shaman: "She'll know."

Me: "But by then it'll be done and over. She knows I'm evil, she'll just have to man-up and deal with what happened."

The dragon shaman, in real life, ran his hand through his hair and sighed, before looking clean across the table at me and saying point blank:
"I won't let you desecrate my ship".

Me: I float towards the stern backwards, keeping my eye on the dragon shaman the whole time. I tell him I don't know how he thinks he's going to stop me.

Dragon Shaman: "Roll Initiative."

Kobold: *Coughs loudly* “OH, wow, we're not getting involved in this.”

Swashbuckler: “Count me out, let me know who wins. I am Switzerland here.”

Me: “Fine. Roll initiative.”

So... there we stand. On the deck of an utterly smashed and ruined ship, in the middle of a calm ocean with still winds. Covered in our own blood, beaten to within an inch of our lives, bruised and broken. Low on supplies. I have five hitpoints, the Dragon Shaman has like a dozen.

And he wins initiative. He crosses the deck of the ship until he's adjacent... and readies an action, taking a deep inhale and telling the DM that he's ready to torch me with his fire breath if I so much as twitch aggressively.

I sat in silence for a bit, thinking of my next move. His fire breath is 4d6. I have 5 hitpoints. "If you roll all ones, I'll survive to hit you with an eldritch blast."

Dragon Shaman: “If I roll all fours, you'll instantly burn to death. Feeling lucky?”

I think for another minute and sigh. "Okay. I won't desecrate your ship".

Combat ends, everyone looks relieved. I fly over the the dragon corpse and start pushing it off the back. It's slow going, but it's close to being toppled with its own weight anyway, I just need to shift it over the edge. Finally it shifts enough that it topples into the water. I float over on top of it and pull out my Desecrate scroll.

Dragon Shaman: “Excuse me?”

Me: “I'm not desecrating your precious ship. I'll Desecrate this little chunk of water I'm floating on, and raise the dragon, and we can all be on our merry way! We can whistle a little tune while we go!”

Swashbuckler chuckles and shrugs. "She's not desecrating the ship. You can still go kill her out of spite I guess."

The Dragon Shaman sighs and shakes his head. Agrees. The ship's not tainted with evil, my actions are my own, if I want to make my own redemption that much further away then so be it.

Me: “So be it.”

So the ship floating off a ways, I UMD the Desecrate scroll and make the surrounding area pulse with unholy negative energy, yada yada yada. Fortunately the dragon corpse floated long enough for me to get off the scroll, stuff its face full of black onyx, and reanimate it.

So me and my new (very powerful) blue friend fly up to the deck of the ship, and we begin re-discussing strategy. I was just figuring on having an extra flying mount to chariot us all away, but the Kobold had a remarkably amazing idea.

"Chain it to the bow of the ship and have it pull us!"

The Dragon is strong enough that even carting our ship and crew behind it, we'll be moving at easily five times our normal sailing speed. And that's not reliant on winds, and it's non-stop. It'll fly all night and all day. We'll still need to take turns at watch, to make sure it doesn't keep dragging us straight onto dry land, but it'll be a REMARKABLE upgrade.

The DM even gave us a golf clap. He hadn't expected us to do anything like this, but was impressed that we'd turned such a horrible situation into an IMPROVEMENT over our normal standings. He even confessed that he expected one or two of us to die distracting the dragon while the others escaped.

And of we sailed! Or... flew... Or off we got dragged! Yeah, that one sounds right.

Off we got dragged!



Papa HeeNo...Again

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The rest of our travel was plagued with the most horrible weather we'd encountered to date. It became hard to tell the difference between day and night, the cloud cover was so dark. Torrential downpours were constant, the skeletons spent their time scooping water of of the below-decks (not that it was critical, the dragon was strong enough that pulling us up and forward had our ships normal waterline ABOVE the actual waterline. Lightning cracked and thunder rolled, and cyclones and maelstroms sprung up on all horizons.

The Dragon Shaman said the gods of the sea were angry at me, and this was my karma taking face. I said something about the gods of the sea being neutral and uncaring, and his reply was "well SOMEONE is mad at you".

Despite the storm, the Dragon serving as our undead engine turned the "several weeks later" journey into "several days later", which was good, because time was definitely not on our side. When we spotted land, I had the dragon sink into the water to slow our arrival. We were going far faster than any sailing ship could muster, so the dragon had to drop and start swimming, letting us slow naturally and walking ahead of us.

When we reached the entrance to the river, and the lazy local portmaster came out with a smile and a wave, saying something about the plague clearing up right after we left. He cut himself off when he noticed the huge (now pale and dead) blue dragon starting to peak above the waterline as the shore got more and more shallow. He just tilted his head and stared at it as it pulled our ship up to the dock.

Dragon Shaman: "We don't actually have any port papers, by the way."

Portmaster, shaking his head with a glazed distant expression: "No concern. No concern, I'll just... pretend I never saw you?"

Dragon Shaman: "Good man."

So we made it to Papa HeeNos area. We elected to just leave the ship floating in the water, and gave the blue dragon and skeleton orders to kill anything that tampered with the boat while we headed further inland to the village with the (perfectly willing to follow our lead) angel in tow. When we were almost there, just before we could actually SEE the village, we came to some kind of barrier. It didn't look like anything, there was just a point in the trees where we could no longer press on without passing a Will save, and then a fortitude save, in quick succession. The save DCs were ridiculously high. I floated up to see if the barrier had some kind of space limit, but no matter how high I went, it was the same thing. It just quietly repulsed us from entering.

The angel could cross through it. Whether her saves were just that high, or it was a side effect of being a creature of pure goodness, we didn't know.

As soon as she crossed the barrier though, Papa HeeNo was standing there on the other side, as if he'd been there the entier time. He said "Ah Ah Ah no no no. Ain't no one comin in da village no more, ya hear? We off limits. I knowin ya be bringin da bird girl, she'll stay. Da rest of ya need to be goin now, aint no cause for ya bein here."

Factotum: We could... really really use a place to rest. Resupply a little maybe?

Papa HeeNo just laughed and waves us off. "Ya be leavin, now." Then he reached over, grabbed the angels wing and stretched it out, and roughly yanked one of the bigger looking feathers out of place. The angel didn't flinch. Papa HeeNo then reached up, plucked out a single one of her hairs, and tied it around the feather, before letting it drift to us from across the barrier. "Ya be keepin dat wit ya. Day still be followin you instead a her now. Now go. Da spirits be lettin ya know if I wantin ya back ever. Git."

The angel didn't say a word, just turned towards the village and began marching away. Papa HeeNo waited to make sure we started heading back to the ship before doing the same.

Kobold: “That didn't really set my mind at ease.”

Swashbuckler: “It didn't? Cause my first thought here is, 'Wow, that guy knows what he's doing.'”

Me: “The angel did seem to trust him implicitly.”

Kobold: “What if he's got her under a charm or something, and is planning to kill her?”

Me: “Then we won't have to worry about that at least.”

So we leave the jungle uneventfully, heading back to Central Island.




Global Warning

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We half expected central island to be destroyed when we got there. The way things had been going with us pulling into dead cities and sneaking to haunted asylums, it occurred to us that it'd actually been a while since we'd dealt with normal people.

We still had the mental wherewithal to disguise our status as "The Necromancy Boat”. We didn't bother to hide the skeletons or bat, we just tied a rope to each one of them and handed them each a weight, and sent them overboard with the underwater dragon tugging us into port. No sense bothering to try an explanation when we could just let them soak in silence.

No one noticed the undead creatures a few hundred yards back and deep under the dark water, fortunately. They did immediately notice that our rigging had been shredded from the base up, and that all four of us looked like we'd had boulders dropped on us. Because of the speed of our travel, it'd only been a few days since the dragon attack, and we were still worse looking for the wear. We'd managed to top our hitpoints back off around day 3 through a combination of rest and our various methods of curative treatments (lay on hands, fiendish healing, regeneration, the Swashbucklers healing bug familiar, and good old fashioned cure spells). That didn't mean we DIDN'T look like we'd almost lost a fight with a dragon.

The portmaster didn't even ask for our papers. He just looked around the deck of our ship and said "What in the hells happened here?"

All we said was that we needed to see the captain of the guard (who came rushing out once he realized it was us). The first words out of his mouth? "Did you have a run in with Therin?"

Which is when it hit us that we hadn't been back to central island for a full update in a WHILE...we laughed.

We brought the captain of the guard up to speed. He was a little dubious about our story, until we showed him the familiar spellcasting bugs, only clearly twisted and evil and dark. He accompanied us to Macguillers shop so we could bring them both up to speed at once and have Macguiler check out the newest strain (and verify that the gems were of the soul-stealing variety).

His assessment of the black onyx gems was identical to ours, with the added conclusion (one we hadn't even checked) that the gems were so perfect and pristine that they were worth a lot more than normal black onyx gems of their type. I made a mental note that me and the Swashbuckler/archivist would have to harvest every available one, for undead related purposes.

Macguiller, in a little magical experiment, took a live crab and put it in a makeshift mesh cage, before activating the black onyx gem on it. Instantly, a glowing rune appeared on the crabs back and it began to attack the walls of the mesh cage ferociously. Before it could make much progress, Macguiller took a thin metal spike and slammed it home on the crab... which caused it to shake and sputter and crack open, causing another one of the black onyx gem bugs to pop out from inside it and begin attacking the same spot on the cage. Macguiler spiked it to.

The guard captain, watching intently, whistled and asked us how many of those bugs had been out there? When we said "A few thousand, and spreading" he looked at us with wide eyes and nodded. Said he'd send out every available ship to every possible port (excluding the ones within a few days travel of the egyptian continent) with sketches of the rune, the bug, and a warning about exactly what they were. Hopefully enough places would take it seriously to develop some decent defense strategies.

That's when we dropped the bombshell about the dragon attacking us (leaving out the dragons timely zombification obviously). The Swashbuckler casually asked "How many dragons do you think are in the world, anyway?" The Dragon Shaman and DM both replied together "Too many".

Still, it felt good to have the authorities on our side. The guard captain took a sketch of the symbol, the bug, and started writing down the key details, and went back to have as many copies scribed as possible, and sent out with every willing ship.

We took the resting period to look at the map of the world, And chart out how fast the bugs might be spreading. Given the actual bugs pace, it didn't look too bleak. A hundred miles out in any given direction from the initial ziggurat was the raw potential.

Factoring in the spreading and travel of faster creatures made it a little worse. Infected horses, camels, or other quick moving creatures could have spread the bugs out to just over three hundred miles. At which point they could destroy themselves to let the cache of insects out to re-start the infection process in new locations...

If the obviously Adult dragon who'd attacked us had nearby offspring who were also infected? Even just wyrmlings or very young hatchlings?

700 miles give or take.

And god knows what was out there for the drifter to take over.

Before we got too depressed thinking about that, we gave Macguiller one of the gems from the Swashbucklers healing bug and asked if he could maybe try to grow as many of those as possible. The bugs themselves were apparently not the evil plot, and having more healing in the world, especially central island, would probably be a good idea after all.

He nodded in agreement, and we wished him the best. We re-supplied as best we could (the captain practically gave us extra gear from his guard militia. Bolts, throwing daggers, whatever we thought we might need). We found a wand of Endure Elements that would be very important to us...

Because with that, we set off to the arctic circle.

To end the session, the DM let us level up. Said we'd definitely earned it with the display against the dragon, the securing of the angels (temporary) safety, and sending out a mass signal for the rest of the world to defend itself against a very real threat. Whether or not anyone would believe it remained to be seen, but at least we'd warned them.

The Dragon Shaman is now immune to Fire and has learned his final Draconic Aura. Immunity to fire will be less valuable in the arctic, probably, but at least it's something handy for the future.

The Factotum opted to finally take his level in barbarian for the boost to speed, making him even faster and more "Everywhere". The rage might also come in handy, for the boost to will saves, hit points, and damage.

The Swashbuckler took another level in archivist, and got 2nd level spells (learned Cure Moderate Wounds and Gentle Repose). His reason for learning Gentle Repose? "I'm not going to desecrate any areas, but if we find another powerful corpse, I'll just keep it from rotting horribly until one of us has enough levels to turn it into a zombies.” Pretty clever.

My Eldritch Blast got a little more powerful, but I didn't learn any new tricks for it. I can also animate things with 18 HD now, which is Ironic with a capital I because the struggle and roleplaying that resulted from NOT being able to animate the dragon means I now COULD animate the dragon, which would have reduced the conflict and just... yeah, make you go cross eyed.



Sinking Ship

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So we take off for the arctic circle, just as planned.

As we announce that we intend to follow through with our plan to head to our potential icy-deaths, the DM smiles and waves a copy of "Frostburn" at us, reminding us that we we're wearing all wearing leather armor, except for the dragonborn, who's wearing a giant suit of highly conductive metal (who mumbles and curses a little about not going with a Silver Dragon as his totem instead of Gold).

The Swashbuckler proudly points out that he has a wand with 50 charges of Endure Elements in it, and the Factotum Kobold mentions that he's going to be casting it on himself each day to save charges. The DM just nods casually and says "I have the rules for exposure and hypothermia bookmarked. Don't run out."

So we sail on until the waters turn pitch black and frosty, and great chunks of ice threaten our path at every turn. The storms that have plagued us ever since I cast "Desecrate" on the open ocean continue to do so. Maybe it really is bad karma. I definitely felt the brunt of the suffering, as at one point, I actually have to fly up and ride on our blue dragons head to give it a better guiding hand at navigating the ice, or it would drag us right into huge chunks that would reak havoc with the SS Ironman. When I was up there on him, the DM informed me that I noticed he was stiffening up in a very severe way. It hit me that dead bodies don't produce heat, and while a skeleton might be fine in this weather, a zombie won't be. So we would have to expend Endure Element charges to keep our flying mounts mobile, or we'd be hoofing it through the arctic ourselves.

Once it gets cold enough to be a concern, I UMD the wand and give all six relevant targets a charge from it, for 24 hours of protection from the cold.

Finally, we reach the destination that is listed as the arctic port. True to what one of the sailors earlier in the campaign told us, there's nothing here. The water dead-ends into a huge and unscalable wall of ice that's easily 30 stories high, maybe further (we couldn't make out the top in the bad weather). There are impressively sturdy wooden posts and bright colored markers (sporting the Empires colors) around signifying it as an actual official location, as opposed to random wilderness, but they're beaten by the weather and a lot of them are missing. Repair runs up here can't be very frequent...

At the 'port' though, is another ship, tied to the wooden posts, anchored, but still tossed and beaten against the ice wall. It's crumbling, the hull is compromised and warped. Whoever left this ship here either never made it back, or weren't planning on returning.

Our first thoughts as seasoned adventurers, is how we're going to traverse this nigh impossible wall of slick ice in these heavy winds.

NAH, I'm fooling, our first thought was "Is there anything valuable on that ship!?!?"

The Swashbuckler hopped on the bat, I carried the kobold, and the Dragon Shaman flew himself over to it. Most of the surface was slick with layer after layer of ice. We could see occasional stray papers on the deck, frozen in place by the wet mists that blew upwards. We couldn't find much of value on deck itself, but there was some salvageable rope.

We open the doors to head below decks. The first thing we notice is that the hull looked much better from our ships side. From the opposite side, there's a clear and gapping hole, and only the ropes and the fact that it's freezing into the glacier are holding it afloat. The second thing we notice? Two BIG FRACKING DIRE POLAR BEARS who immediately roar and charge us. One of the bears actually won initiative (actually, the kobold won initiative, but his first action was to immediately spring back above deck through the door the bears couldn't fit through.

The bear pummeled the swashbuckler with a nasty claw attack, knocking him prone and blocking the doorway. Me and the Dragon Shaman both hit it with our signature supernatural abilities (fire breath and an eldritch blast). The Swashbuckler stood up, and the other bear charged in and slammed me clean into the wall. The kobold had a flank on the bear through the doorway, and hit it with a great sneak attack with his hand crossbow before it hit the Swashbuckler with another claw attack and started a grapple. Fortunately it failed to properly grapple. The Dragon Shaman ran at the second bear and brought his bastard sword to it with a roar, fighting it one on one. I opted for a more prudent course of actions and floated back out through the gapping hole in the ship, helping the Dragon Shaman with an eldritch blast.

The Kobold dashed further out, took careful aim, and threw off a fireball. It hurt the bear through the doorway, but not the Swashbuckler (who was behind the wall). The Swashbuckler did a quickened Enlarge Person on himself, figuring if the bear wanted to wrestle, he'd wrestle. He grappled it out of spite, and succeeded.

The fight pretty much went on like that. In the end, we had some tough moments and took a decent licking (well, me and the kobold were attacking from range, and were fine ), and took out the bears, who had had the audacity to seek shelter in something me and my companion sought to loot.

For our troubles, we found a whoooole bunch of water damaged supplies, a few intact bottles of rum, a compass, and a whole lot of nothing. I figured, much like with the dragon, if we weren't getting GEAR we might as well have another fighter/mount on our side. So I reanimated one of the bears as a skeleton. It brought me up to my undead limit, but it seemed a valuable addition to things.



Due North

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Then we head back out into the bitter winds and even bitterer waters to begin contemplating how to get up the ice wall. It's not too difficult, the dragon is strong enough to bear the winds as he flies, so he can take us up one or two (or even all four) at a time and set us down. The greater concern, once we reached the top, was whether we wanted to take the dragon with us. I thought flying over the incredibly deep snow would be a lot faster and easier than trecking through it, and the way I saw it, time was definitely against us. In a grand sense, we needed to be working against the bugs as fast as we could. In shorter terms, we had about a weeks worth of endure elements, so we needed to wrap this frozen adventure up as fast as we could and be on our merry way.

The Dragon Shaman rightly pointed out though, that the ship and the dragon were our two most important assets. If anything hurt either one of them, we'd be stranded here. I completely agreed with that line of reasoning, which was WHY I wanted to bring the dragon with us. We could keep an eye on half of our assets, rather than none of them. And besides, the dragon could carry all of us by weight, if something DID happen to the ship.

Dragon Shaman: “But we already established that all four of us can't ride him without an unreasonable chance of falling off in flight.”

Me: “No... but we could tie some ropes to his legs and let you glide behind him? The kobold could hang onto you too, we could all fit that way.”

Dragon Shaman: “Wait. You want you and the swashbuckler to ride the dragon comfortably while I cling to a harness and parasail behind him at 150 feet per round? ...that's the greatest thing I've ever heard. Get the rope, we're doing it.”

Me: “ I meant if something happened to the boat.”

Dragon Shaman: “Well he flies faster than any of us right? We want to spend as little time here as possible. Let's just travel like that for now.”

And so we did! We left the skeletons (two human, one bear) and the zombie bat guarding the ship (and gave the skeletons poles to push away from the ice wall, hoping that would be enough to keep the ship from getting too beat up while we were away). The Dragon Shaman couldn't match the dragons fly speed in any sense, but his wings were strong enough to let him GLIDE pretty fluidly behind, and the rope gave him enough leeway to bank side to side in the process. When we set off through the snow the DM pointed out that, if anyone saw us, they would know there was something wrong with me, as the wind whipping around had my dress blowing freely side to side and revealing my lack of legs quite clearly. I shrugged. Who we'd run into, I didn't know, but there wasn't a lot I could do about that. I'd just explain that I flew with magic because I was vain, and hope they wouldn't do anything irrational.

We were heading in no particular direction. We were actually following due north for lack of any guiding hooks or logical place to head off to. Making great time flying, and since we weren't trudging through the snow, we were likely moving ten times as fast as any normal arctic expedition might (150 fly speed versus 30 feet move speed, versus moving half speed because of the incredibly thick snow and harsh conditions). In just a day, we'd probably made it over a weeks worth of travel in. We had to make camp twice still, as we saw nothing relevant in many days worth of travel.

It was winter here in the arctic, which meant no sunlight. The kobold and I were the guides here, as we were concerned light would bring down undue attention on our party (and the two of us could see in the dark). Around the tail end of the third day though, we started hearing things. The wind was a constant low howl, but this was even lower. A deep, sad, maddening moan echoing through the dark snowy night. It wasn't rhythmic enough to be natural. It was guttural. Intentional.

Along the way, the kobold made a spot check to reveal a dark shape under the snow. We landed to dig it up, and after uncovering enough snow and it was shown to be our fifth mystery man. Someone failed in his little task, apparently... whatever that task had been.

We pulled him all the way out of the snow to loot his corpse (adventurers!), which is when we saw it. He didn't die of exposure. His lower legs were gone just below the knees... and it looked like they'd been BURNED off. Charred bone stuck out through raw blackened (and frozen) flesh.

Which immediately raised a whole heap of questions. Who, what, and WHY were his legs burned off? And why hadn't scavengers picked his corpse clean? The arctic wasn't a bustling place, but there WERE creatures here. Probably fiercely hungry ones.

We still looted his corpse. Some valuables, some supplies, we took the coat just in case we started running low on endure elements. The only thing he had that really stood out was a magic mirror of some kind. We assume it was magical because it was a full six inches across, thrown in a pack full of lose gear, but it wasn't broken, scratched, or marred in any way. It had no frame, it was just a circle of silvered glass. We didn't feel we were at the best time or place to thoroughly examine it though.

Along the path further, we started noticing more dark shapes. Other men, equally warmly dressed. Every one of them had their lowest extremities charred clean off. The way we found them all, facing away from the main path, made it look like they'd been fleeing... they weren't grouped together, they were spread out and killed in various locations.

And we heard another moan coming from the pitch black snowscape.

We stopped for the kobold to do a boosted Listen check... which is when the attack came.



Into the Night

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We all rolled will saves (we all passed). Then it came in. It moved fast. Lightning fast. Faster than the kobold, and he was a flickering blurry dart when he moved his top speed. It swooped in at an arc from above, out of the black sky, moaning hauntingly. It passed over our group, hit several of us in one blow. We all took slashing and fire damage (the dragon shaman naturally only took slashing damage, being immune to fire). The immediate area lit up with flames as the top layer of snow was suddenly filled with two thin twin tracks of fire that brushed between us all in an elegant arc, apparently the creatures path of attack.

The Swashbuckler had gotten an attack off, hit with his rapier, realized it was a poor option and drew his longsword. The four of us grouped up back to back, the dragon circling us while we all stared off into the biting black coldness. The moan died away, and in another round, so did the flames, leaving us back in total darkness. The Swashbuckler cast light on the ground behind us, making our shadows dance off into the horizon eerily while we struggled to make out anything against the bleak night sky.

Me: “Knowledge arcana check anyone?”

The kobold rolls one under the DC to see if he knows anything about what we're up against. The Swashbuckler/Archivist likewise has nothing. Because he only rolled one under, the DM was nice enough to give the kobold a single word. The creatures name, something he pulled out of old memories and terror stories.

Kobold: "Wendigo".

Just then, the moan returned. We all rolled another will save. Once again, we all passed. And once again, the creature came arcing out of the pitch black sky to attack us all in one fell swoop. It ignore the undead dragon and swooped through the four of us, slashing us all with burning... something. It was too fast for us to even see how it was attacking us. But not so fast we couldn't lash out at the blur with our various methods of assault. I have Hideous Blow as an invocation, so I can fire my eldritch blast through a melee attack. I failed a spell resistance check though, and only hit it for a 1d4-1 damage. The others smacked it a little better, including the true-striking Swashbuckler who once again topped off the "Who's Who" list in damage dealing.

Kobold: “Knowledge history checks, maybe?”

The kobold rolls high enough to get out a little more info. The Wendigo is a legend of an undead creature, fueled by hate and hunger.

Swashbuckler: “That doesn't really help much, we could have established that after killing it and desecrating its corpse.”

Dragon Shaman: “NO DESECRATIONS.”

Swashbuckler: “I didn't mean the SPELL.”

DM: “And now it strikes again.”

Another howling moan fills the air. Another batch of Will saves. This time the swashbuckler fails. We brace ourselves for another attack. The Wendigo swoops through our group (taking three attacks in the process), grabs the Swashbuckler from behind, and screams off in a straight line, dragging the swashbuckler with him for 150 feet before dropping him into the snow and disappearing back into the black sky. As he dragged the swashbuckler, the swashbucklers feet burst into flames, leaving a trail across the top of the snow until he crashed back to the earth. He took 5d6 fire damage, and we got a better look at the creature. It was human looking (mostly) but twisted and feral. Its clothes, hair and its own skin hung from it in long tattered streamers, and its lower legs? Burned off below the knee.
We run towards the Swashbuckler, but even taking a double move the kobold was the only one who made it to him when the low howling moan carried back across the wind. Will saves. The Swashbuckler and me both fail. The Wendigo comes, down in its arc, getting attacked by the dragon shaman, but dragging me off (west compared to the Swashbucklers north). I didn't take any fire damage (no legs to burn), but the Wendigo was so enraged by that fact that it raked its claws down my face, almost damaging my eyes in the process (fort save), and dropping me down into the snow, 150 feet from the dragon shaman and even further from the Swashbuckler and Kobold. The kobold healed the swashbuckler some, and then sprinted in my direction. He reached me, but didn't have the actions left to heal me. I still felt better not being alone. The Dragon Shaman and swashbuckler ran towards each other.

Moan. Will saves. We all passed, but the Wendigo didn't relent. It swept down in an arc, hitting me and the kobold with the slashing fire damage (and taking a serious blow from me in the process, with a dagger strike laced with an eldritch blast that got through its spell resistance for the first time). It swept away from us, to the dragon shaman, exchanging blows, before 'rebounding' over to the swashbuckler and trading blows with him as well, before disappearing back into the night sky.

The thing cleared 240 feet in its turn while fighting everyone it passed. Scary fast.

The kobold healed me and the entire group ran back towards each other. Another moan, another will save, we all passed. The thing swung through for another round of exchanging blows with all of us. It didn't seem to care about the dragon, and the dragon was too slow to get a lick in even if it got into range.

We were almost grouped together when the swashbuckler failed another will save, with a ONE, and got dragged off another 150 feet. And then another. And another. He was getting dragged off alone, taking heavy fire damage, trying to roll a passing will save and fighting back every time and failing spectacularily, and all we could do was chase after him and listen to him screaming, quietly (selfishly) thanking ourselves it wasn't us.

Eventually, we lost sight of the Swashbuckler (the kobold was keeping up with him, but was trying to stay between both groups...and the swashbucklers screaming drifted off into the night so far he couldn't track both at once... and he elected to stay with us as the most logical course of actions), and then there were three




Puzzle Piece

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We flew north in grim silence. We didn't know if or when another attack was coming, or what to expect. At this point, we were questioning what we were even heading towards. We found the fifth man, we found his magical toy. We could examine it and see what it did once we weren't in constant environmental (and now supernatural) danger. How badly did we need to find where he was going? He obviously wasn't vital to the first part of the ritual (which meant this trek had something to do with infecting the angel and sending her home to heaven).

We were heading towards day 4 of our arctic travel, and had 30ish Endure Elements left (the kobold could cast it on himself with his Factotum spellcasting, but not on anyone else). If we went too far, we wouldn't have enough magic for the trip home. The Dragon Shaman said we at least needed to see what happened to our Swashbuckler companion. The kobold said "I have an idea or two about what happened, and I'd rather not run into the Wendigo when it gets hungry again".

Still, we pressed on, resting for another night and topping ourselves off with another Endure Elements for the days march. I say 'day', but bear in mind it's still pitch black eternal night in this region. Which is why we're confused to see a dim glow coming from over the next few snow banks.

We press on carefully, getting closer and closer, until we realize what the glow is. Its the swashbucklers rapier, with a "light" spell cast on it, sticking out of the snowy ice. We search around frantically until we find him, tucked under an ice bank, curled up in a ball, with his hands and face stuck into his pack to conserve as much warmth as possible, shivering like he's at his last.
Until I UMD an Endure Elements charge for him . He slowly stops shivering and stands up, still shaky from the cold damage he's taken. The Dragon Shaman tops him off with a lay on hands. He'd been really close to freezing to death, but the kobold managed to treat his hypothermia and frostbite with a boosted heal check. He'd taken some cold damage that absolutely couldn't be healed until we had him in warmer climates though, and was suffering some DEX damage we had no real way of fixing except for healing via rest. We ask him what happened (the DM had handled that part via private messages).

Swashbuckler: “Oh, you know. Will Save, Cure Moderate Wounds, True Strike, Power Attack. Stuff like that.”

Dragon Shaman: “You beat it?”

Swashbuckler: “I'm still moving, it's not. It had nothing valuable.”

Kobold: “...He's so great.”

By the end of that fourth day, we'd cleared almost 1000 miles. We considered ourselves at the halfway point of our journey, and were about to turn back (for better or for worse) when we saw...whatever it was we were headed towards. Ahead of us, in the snow, was some kind of stone structure. It looked to only be about 500 feet across, a perfect stone disc, supported about 5 stories off the ground by four huge pillars built perfectly on the compass points. (closer examination revealed the pillars to be circular stairways).

It had no ornate decorations. There were no runes, no magical symbols... it was all simple, basic, stone. A bare stone platform with four bare stone pillars.

We landed the dragon straight on the platform and began poking around. We established quite quickly that there was nothing actually here. Search checks reveal nothing, magical sight reveals nothing. It's just... rock.

That's not good enough for us, obviously. So we circle back off the platform and checked UNDER it, searching through the snow. The kobold manages to find something buried in the dead center. We dig it up to reveal a horribly, horribly weathered treasure chest. The classic kind of treasure chest, with a big elaborate lock. A big elaborate lock that's utterly rusted solid. The kobold digs his lockpicks around in it, but nothing will budge.

We all turn to the Swashbuckler (at the table) who smirks, grabs his dice, and asks "Two handed power attack for six?"

One clean strike and one bashed off lock later, we're cracking open the chest like the greedy imps we know we are in our hearts. The DM even played the classic zelda "Found a treasure" sound effect. And was it worth the fight through the harsh arctic climates, that would be lethal to anyone not magically protected and being escorted by a giant dragon?

Oh yeah. definitely. The chest was, quite literally, full to the top with coins stamped from precious metals and beautifully cut gemstones. Two things were immediately noticeable, however. One was that the entire chest was divided into four compartments. The coins were separated into the four compartments by what was engraved on them. One compartment just had smooth featureless coins, the other three had a variety of faces, symbols, letters and numbers... the kobold rolled some knowledge history checks on them, and discovered that they were old currencies from ancient (and defunct) kingdoms. Thousands and thousands of years defunct kingdoms, and that none of these coins were still around, they just existed as sketchings in certain history books. Defunct or not didn't matter, because we were busy scooping out the coins into sturdy canvas bags to strap to the dragon to cart off for us. A quick count revealed the whole chest to be somewhere around the 100,000 GP mark (gems included). Divided four ways, we were all kinda giddy over the find. It might even be worth more, if we could find people who were concerned about the 'ancient kingdom' status of the coins.

The thrill at the idea of a shopping spree was tempered by the fact that if we didn't figure out a way to "Save The World(TM)" there wouldn't be anywhere to spend our pile of recovered treasure.

Which brought us to the second point of interest in the treasure chest. Strapped to the lid was a big metallic blue ring with a hinge to open it, the same size across as the mirror disk we'd carted up here. Without even thinking about it, the Dragon Shaman grabbed the disc, pulled out the mirror, and pushed the two together, locking the hinge shut with the mirror inside (which pulsed with a quiet blue light and then did nothing).

The idea that the mirror might have been magically booby-trapped didn't occur to us until way later, fortunately, nothing uncomfortable or lethal happened .

Kobold: “Okay, it's time we seriously think about this situation. We're at the magnetic pole of this world. And hidden here, in nigh impassable terrain, is a giant stone platform with four pillars, a treasure chest with ancient currency from dead kingdoms spread across the entire globe, and the frame to a magical mirror. I'm thinking "teleport", anyone with me?”

We all agreed it seemed more likely than not at this point. This platform must have been an old nexus used for travel between kingdoms. God knows who created, why they made it at the magnetic pole (must have been a requirement) or how exactly it worked.

So we climbed one of the pillars and started poking around to find out, mirror in hand. It turned out that you could trigger the mirror with a UMD check (even after triggering it, we couldn't figure out what the NORMAL, non-UMD trigger was, but that seemed irrelevant as long as we could make the thing work). Once triggered, it stopped being a "looking glass" and became a literal looking glass. We could see clean through the mirror, and when we did things looked a bit different. The four pillars all had four doorways on top of them, and each led to a different room. The rooms were all bare stone. Nondescript, the same as the platform we were on itself. They also had no doorways leading out.

We figured that the four stone rooms led to different points in the world, but without going through and finding out the hard way, there was no way of telling where they went off to. We couldn't bring the dragon with us either, so we'd be crossing our fingers and hoping the mirror let us come back to this nexus point with the mirror, assuming we took the plunge through.

The other thing we noticed was that the dead center of the stone platform had a heavily locked doorway made of some kind of metal. It was only there when looking through the mirror, and it was absolutely covered in chains, heavy padlocks, and the whole thing looked very, very intimidating.

And we decided to end the session right there, with us on the stone platform deciding what to do (mainly because we honestly couldn't decide what to do ).

The DM informed us that we were leveling up to 10. The Kobold Factotum didn't really get much out of it, aside from more hitpoints and skill points. The Dragon Shaman got a stronger breath weapon, and his aura bonus shot up to +3. The Swashbuckler took another level of archivist (which puts him at 4, 4, 2 Swashbuckler Archivist Sorcerer). That means he's one level away from being able to animate and control 20 HD worth of undead creatures himself, which means we could be bringing a good force to bear against any targets we decide to plan an attack against. he's also mentioned to the DM that he wants to learn the Reincarnate spell ("just in case"). The Dm said he'd be able to take it as a cleric spell on level up (in three more levels that is). The swashbuckler said once he's got that, he'll probably go back to martial classes with his spellcasting as backup.

I got energy resistance 5 to two elements of my choice. I picked cold and electricity, figuring if we spent much time in the arctic, being naturally resistant to cold would come to my advantage. I also got a new Lesser invocation, but I haven't decided what it is (I'll need to pick by our next session).

I really like Spider Shape from Drow of the Underdark. The biggest reason I want it is because it will give me good control over my size. At this level I'll be able to turn into a Small, Medium or Large sized fiendish spider at will. In another level I'll be able to turn into a tiny one, and then I'll be able to become Huge and Gargantuan.

My other top choices are Curse of Despair (access to the Bestow Curse spell has saved us on more than one occasion), Flee the Scene (50 foot teleport with an image of me left behind is just slick, ability to fly or not), Ignore the Pyre (changing energy resistance 10 is just prudent), or Walk Unseen (invisible, yes please).

I'm also trying to decide if, at level 12, I'm going to take another "Extra Invocation" feat, or an item creation feat.

We'll see I suppose.

Also, I should probably start numbering these to keep things straight. I consider this "update 11" in any event.