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Thread: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

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    Check It Thrice

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    We didn't even bother heading towards the port, going above the clouds and changing our destination for Papa HeeNos village straight away. It would only save us an hour, but an hour mattered now. Above the cloud cover, we stopped getting harassed by the occasional drifter bug. We wondered if we disappeared off his radar, or if he was gearing up for something bigger.
    Either way, when we reached Papa HeeNo's village, we couldn't fly in through the barrier around it. But the angel came flying out to meet up with us, silently landing on the deck of the ship and heading into the captains quarters without saying a word. After we watched her enter the only lockable room still on our ship, we turned around and were MAJORLY surprised to find Papa HeeNo standing on the deck of the ship, looking very sad.

    "Ya gots to take da bird girl with ya now. She ain't safe here no more. Aint no one safe no more."

    We looked off on the horizon and could see, very faintly, a dark cloud heading our way. We knew what it must be. Papa HeeNo just spit off the side of the ship, and a thunderstorm immediately broke over our immediate area. We asked him where we should go. What we should do. He just shook his head and looked straight up into the rain. We looked up as well, and in the instant we did, a lightning bolt curved through the clouds above us, flashing a shape into our eyes that followed anywhere we looked. We were dazed for a moment, but when we straightened up, we realized it was the eastern edge of the desert continent. The area where we found the first ziggurat.

    We had to go back.

    We looked around the deck for Papa HeeNo, but he was gone just the way he'd come. Not having any reason to stay (nor being able to land in HeeNos village), wanting to get the angel away from the approaching cloud on the horizon, and needing to pick up our skeletons, we simply left. We flew to the jungle ziggurat and circled, ordering the skeletons to emerge and climb it. They all scrabbled up the slopes as a group, which was difficult given the torrential downpour, but finally they made it to the pinnacle, and we began throwing them rope and pulling them on deck. We checked the weight, and even with the angel and skeletons, we were still a few hundred pounds under max flight capacity.

    So we started discussing strategy. We could go to the original ziggurat through the portals via the mirror, but they're be expecting that. They had utter control over two ziggurats (including one we were trying to get into) and we'd probably be walking into a death trap if we just mirror-walked ourselves in the easy way. That left the hard way. We escorted the angel through the jungle ziggurat, across the arctic platform, and into the Consecrated ziggurat with Macguiller. He promised to try to keep her safe, and she cracked the first smile we had ever seen out of her when she began to pet one of the healing bugs.

    Then we mirror-walked back to the jungle, climbed back into our ship, and began flying towards the desert continent. The plan was to hit it like a D-Day dropship. Have the skeletons hanging off ropes on the sides and jumping down as we circled the canyon, fighting to clear us a path. When we had one, we would all fly down individually, and send the Bluebird flying as high above the cloud cover as it could and circling until we re-emerged. Either we would come back out the way we came in, or try to mirror-walk to the arctic platform and re-assess our situation with whatever information we gleaned while inside.


    It was getting late, so we ended session there. We leveled again, up to 12.
    The Dragon Shaman has a much stronger breath weapon now. The Factotum gained the ability to bypass damage reduction and spell resistance, the archivist got a step closer to getting Reincarnate and other 4th level spells. I got the ability to craft items with a UMD check, but I still haven't settled on a crafting feat.



    Cat Scratch Fever

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    So, to get everything up to speed before I begin. I took the Scribe Scroll feat, for maximum versatility. I need to be able to make things quickly, while we're in travel mode, and for versatility I need to be able to limit the crafting to one of any given spell that we have a use for.

    Macguiller and the angel we're protecting are both in the Consecrated ziggurat full of corpses. It's buried, how far we don't know, and where we don't know, so for all reasonable assumptions the only way to access the two of them is via the magical mirror that's in our possession.

    The four of us are reasonably well rested and in hale and healthy condition, ready to get our war on.

    We're going to HAVE to get our war on, because our current plan of attack is to fly our Undead Dragon Powered Airship to the jungle continent the Drifter 'virus' originated from, straight to the ziggurat, drop our forty armed skeletons (and a skeleton dire bear) around the ziggurat like shock troopers, make sure we have a clear path, and haul into the ziggurat to see... why we're going there. It hit us at the start of the session that our lead is literally a bolt of lightning. We might be running a fools errand.

    Never let it be said that adventurers aren't fools. With that, we set off for the few days travel to the desert ziggurat.

    Since the overland travel was going to take a few days, I set out scribing scrolls (and the Factotum installed thick heavy wooden handles on the deck of the ship for the dragon to grab onto, so he's now detachable). I can take 10 to automatically pass the check to scribe an arcane scroll, and I can also automatically make an arcane scroll of sixth level or lower, but to make a higher level divine scroll, I have to actually pass a real UMD check.

    So first I made a scroll of Reincarnate for the Swashbuckler to put in his prayer book next level. Then I set out trying to make a scroll of Regenerate for my ruined legs. The first check I rolled a 2 (). The second one I rolled a 12, one over what I needed, and successfully scribed the scroll. After casting the spell and regrowing my legs, my character came out onto the deck of the ship and did a little victory jig.

    The timing was perfect, as not more than a half hour after re-acquiring my legs (and remembering how to walk on them), the desert continent appeared on the horizon.

    The drifter bugs were not very thick. In fact, there weren't that many at all. We came to the conclusion that the drifter was focusing less energy on filling the planet with a giant swarm, and more on infecting everything possible. The huge masses of bugs were not the front wave of an ocean of insects, they were more like strike teams sent out to search and infest. This was good and bad for us. Good because it meant we could focus less on fighting through a cloud of insects. Bad because it meant we'd be fighting whoever was left behind instead.

    As we flew over the desert city, we saw it was full of the infected. Their faces turned up and watched our ship fly overhead, golden runes flashing on their foreheads in the sunlight. A few on roofs took pot shots at our underside with crossbows, but there wasn't a lot they could do other than observe our path. We were certainly far too fast for them to try to keep up.

    Except we were intercepted halfway between the city and the ziggurat in midair. An entire swarm of Sphinxes, great lions with wings and almost-human faces, flew over the deck of our ship, golden runes flashing on their foreheads as sure as any other creature.

    The fight was an interesting one, as immediately me and the dragon shaman rolled overboard and began to attack the sphinxes in mid-air. The Swashbuckler hopped on his Dire Bat and also joined the fray, leaving our poor kobold stranded on deck and firing crossbow bolts at our enemies. He was still pretty handy, as we would occasionally fly in patterns that gave him ranged sneak attack opportunities, and some of the sphinxes landed on the deck and began assaulting him directly as a result.

    At one point, the Dragon Shaman landed on the deck and managed to grapple/mount one of the sphinxes, and charged up for a lay on hands to see if he could cure it of the bug infection. The DM said he could "Feel multiple bugs wriggling around inside, and could pinpoint one and tell how much juice it would take to kill it". It turned out to be 30 points of healing... which was a lot. Our Dragon Shaman can only heal 120 points a day, even. Still, he let fly and pulsed the bug he'd pinpointed, at which point the glowing rune faded from the Sphinxes forehead! And it coughed up a dead onyx bug onto the deck of our ship! And said "Where....where am I?" clearly very confused! And then it cried out in pain! And... another golden glowing rune flashed onto its forehead...

    The Dragon Shaman also, unfortunately, could not tell how many bugs were writhing inside of the infected sphinx. It might be three at a time, it might be a dozen. It was at once disheartening and enlightening. We knew we could kill the bugs with positive energy (or healing energy specifically), but 30 points of healing per bug was a whole heap of healing, especially when facing a swarm that could literally escort people through it by holding them aloft oversea. We now had a useful bit of information, but with no real practical application. Unless we could find a way to drop massive heal bombs somehow.

    What DID make it an interesting development was the Swashbucklers familiar, chitter. All of the sudden, Chitter went from being "Something to keep alive" to a vital combatant. Or at least, a handy little helper. It managed to make two touch attacks to hit one of the sphinxes with two heal spells, temporarily driving the bug out of it, and giving the Swashbuckler a better chance at attacking. it was MEAN, because he was attacking something that didn't even know why it was engaged in combat, but... well, we just couldn't think about that. Six seconds of its pain and confusion in exchange for our lives. The Dragon Shaman disapproved, but the Swashbuckler promised to only break out that trick when we were in dire straights.

    The fight raged on, and while we took a few licks, eventually we tore the Sphinxes up and sent most of them sprawling broken and hurtling towards the surface. We'd managed to kill a few on deck, and while one had done the whole "dissolve into a swarm of bugs" thing (which we then also had to fight) we remembered to coup de grace the others to kill them before they could do it too.

    Before we tossed them overboard (being uncomfortably close to our weight limit for staying aloft), we of course checked how many HD they had. The two best ones were 12 HD and 9 HD. The Kobold took the 12 HD one (after destroying two of his skeletons, reaching his undead cap), and the Swashbuckler took the 9 HD one (after destroying 3 of his skeletons to retain control over the bat AND the sphinx, and reaching his undead cap).

    So we're all airborne now, thankfully. The Sphinxes are not as fast as the dragon, but faster than the bats (and me and the Dragon Shaman for that matter). They're also strong, so they can lend a hand (wing) in carrying the ship if need be. In fact, one of them is strong enough to lift the ship (but not with as much weight as the dragon), so between the two sphinxes, the dragon, and the bat, we could actually do some major hauling if we had to. Me and the Dragon Shaman are the slowest flyers, but we can fly under our own power, and if necessary for speed the two of us could always climb onto the dragon and fly it directly.



    Location, Location, Location

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    Once we were straight and ready again, we had the dragon stop flying in circles and resume heading towards the ziggurat. It only took us another minute or two to reach it, and when we did, we saw it was going to be a relatively easy approach. The canyon had a large number of rune-scarred faces glaring up at us angrily, but we had a large number of armed skeletons.
    Before we dropped our undead shock troopers, we threw the dice into the canyon. It came up Wolf and Swarm, and suddenly a pack of seven wolves sprang up and began attacking everyone nearby. Collectively, they managed to kill the wolves, but that was just when we swooped down through the canyon at the lowest angle the Bluebird could successfully make and still get out safely, and we sent the skeletons (including the skeleton bear!) jumping over the edges and landing as high on the ziggurat as they could. They were low enough that most of them took no fall damage, and the ones that missed the pinnacle didn't take enough to destroy them. They ran down the ziggurat weapons ready, and the infected people (softened up from the wolves) ran up to fight them.

    I gave the dragon orders to fly above the cloud cover, and then to circle in the area. Me and my fellow adventurers flew down (sans mounts, only taking the bat for both the Swashbuckler and the Kobold together). On the way down, the Kobold cast Stoneskin on himself, and we got ready for a fight.

    A few of the infected broke through the skeletons, and were attacking us with thrown rocks and a had weapons at the ready, but we fought through them with little effort and made our way into the ziggurat. We felt very very rushed, figuring the entire cities worth of people (and god knows what else) might be swarming on our location as we search.

    We made our way to the main chamber with only a few peeks into side rooms to see if any new developments had arisen. Aside from masses of black onyx bugs with the golden glowing runes, we couldn't find anything noteworthy. Even once we reached the main chamber, things looked to be in about the same condition as they were the last time we'd been here. The symbol had faded from the ground, there were bugs crawling lazily around (not even bothering to try to attack us, since it knew we were strong enough to just bash them outright). We took the time to scoop up the angels eyes, and it hit me that I could try to regenerate her sight, but it still seemed disrespectful to leave the eyes laying around.

    We opted to take a closer, slower look, time pressures or not. In the smaller chambers off the main chamber (one of which being the portal room) we found little scraps and remnants that showed the Drifters minions had been staying here. We even found a scroll of Cure Light Wounds that had gotten left behind, but not much else.

    What we finally DID stumble across (in the same pile of crap we dug the scroll out of) was a map. It was a very sparse and general map, and it was so ancient it practically crumbled in our hands. It was missing landmasses, it was labeled in some ancient language non of us knew, and it listed a few things that no longer exist... but it was definitely a map. A map with the location of the four ziggurats clearly labeled.

    It slowly...very slowly... dawned on the entire group that they KNEW WHERE THE FOURTH ZIGGURAT WAS, AND HAD ALL ALONG. It value was a secret base was nil, because the KNEW WHERE IT WAS THE ENTIRE TIME. It was only their lack of interest (maybe!) in unearthing it and the difficulty of digging it up that kept them from already being inside of it. We didn't know if they could tell the angel was in it or not, but we officially no longer considered it a safe location.

    The kobold noticed something else to, with a triple success on knowledge history, geography, and religion rolls. The consecrated ziggurat had a symbol next to it meaning "holy", and the desecrated ziggurat had one next to it meaning "unholy". more important though, was the location of the consecrated ziggurat. It was directly underneath the church. The church the angel had been summoned and bound in, it was buried below it.
    Kobold: Anyone else putting four and four together here?

    Me: "All I've got is "We need to find out if they know where the angel is."

    Kobold: "No no... we have a portal up to heaven, and a portal down to hell. We have an angel who was bound to the world at a consecrated ziggurat , and we have a desecrated ziggurat half the world away...?"

    *long pause*

    Dragon Shaman: "They're going to summon a devil."

    Kobold: "I wonder if the devil would put up a fight, or go along with things?"

    Swashbuckler: "Why didn't they just summon the devil first?"

    Me: "Maybe it's harder? Or maybe hell just wasn't the Drifters first choice, who knows."

    Kobold: "We need to get back to the jungle ziggurat now."

    Me: "We also need to get the angel out of the underground bunker as quick as possible."

    Dragon Shaman: "But we can't bring her out of the bunker just to put her in harms way at the volcano..."

    So we had to stop and formulate a plan. We were going to go through the mirror portal, snag the angel, come back through the desert portal, put her on the ship and tell the dragon to obey her commands and send her far away, and then go back through the portals to the volcano to try to stop them from summoning a devil.

    Follow?

    So that's exactly what we set out to do. We opened a portal to the artic platform, to which the DM made us roll spot checks.

    You've never seen an entire table just lock up like that before. We all just stared uncomfortably, before akwardly shuffling around and rolling our dice.

    DM: "Okay, you don't see anything."

    *long quiet pause*

    DM: "...Well?"

    Kobold: "Ah. Uh, god. I guess. I guess we march calmly out onto the platform...without a care in our heads... stupid rules against metagaming."

    Dragon Shaman: "I hate life."

    The worst part is we successfully went across the platform, into the consecrated ziggurat, explained things to Macguiller and the angel, and took her with us back across the arctic platform and to the desert with us.
    So the DM was just SCREWING with us, or something was WATCHING us. Either way, I second the Dragon Shaman on the whole hating life thing.

    Still, we did what we set out for. Getting the angel up to the desert surface was hard, as the bugs began to swarm her. We fought them off and got out into the sunlight, only to discover that our skeletons had won the fight! And there were still six of them left, and the bear! The Swashbuckler cast some inflicts on them to get them healed up, we grabbed the dice, and we got all the skeletons and the angel on the deck of the ship, ordered the dragon to obey her (and the skeletons and bat and sphinxes to defend her), and told her to avoid trouble at all cost. We didn't have the faintest clue as to WHERE to send her off to, but we gave her the seal Macguiller had given us (my suggestion, thanks to you guys reminding me it exists) and told her to keep him updated as to where she was, so he could keep US updated.
    Then the four of us flew back down to the canyon. On the way down, we saw masses heading towards the canyon (just as predicted) but we were too far ahead of them for it to be a concern. As long as they didn't notice the angel flying above the cloud cover and off into the distance.

    We made our way back to the portal room, back across the artic platform, and went to the Volcano ziggurat on central island.



    Till They're Hatched

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    We realized, going into the Volcanic Ziggurat, that we could be walking into any kind of horrible trap, ambush, ritual, or...god knows what. We looked through the portal first, but didn't actually see anything relevant, and so, like adventurers, opted to just charge blindly into things.

    We discovered that the portal room was barricaded... from the inside. And tucked into a blind corner was a small pile of personal belongings, and a human sized clay egg. We poked around for a minute before the dragon shaman realized what was happening. He rummaged through the personal belongings, found a journal, established that it belonged to the changeling, and flipped it open to the last few entries. The entries were about Priest and Therin growing less and less trusting of her, and how things were becoming bleaker and bleaker. Apparently, they WERE planning on summoning a devil, which had been bound to the world as one of its pillars just as the angel had. Apparently as well, that was the last straw for the changeling, who was bailing out.

    Her last entry was about how she hoped the others would ignore her long enough for the transformation to take place.

    She was becoming a Dragonborn. Which means she's vowed to serve Bahamut and was trying to redeem her soul.

    And she was hatching. She broke out of her egg, now a draconic humanoid like our Shaman (though skinny and lankier), and looked around in panicked surprise, stumbling awkwardly out of the broken shell and struggling (clearly shaky and struggling to balance herself) away form us and into the far corner, looking about as pitiable as something can look.

    Dragon Shaman: "It's okay.. we're not going to hurt you."

    Me: "I still think we should kill her."

    Dragon Shaman: "I growl at the warlock."

    Me: "I don't mean to be spiteful, but can we trust her? She's a liability at best, I don't want to spend my time sleeping with one eye open."

    Dragon Shaman: "Can she talk?"

    The changeling shakes her head sadly and cups her face in her hands

    Dragon Shaman: "...Sometimes redemption takes the hard road."

    To which the changeling covers her face in a weeping gesture and nodding, before looking around confused for a moment, and then looks up as if she's remembering something, scrambling awkwardly (and naked, mind you) to her feat, grabbing a few articles of clothing and throwing them on herself as she leads us stumbling up through the ziggurat, gesturing for us to follow her. The swashbuckler asks why she's stumbling so much, but the Dragon Shaman reminds him that Dragonborn are clumsy in their new bodies, especially right out of the shell.

    We make our way to the entrance, out where it leads to a pool of open lava in the volcano's heart. And up on the ledge? We see Priest and Therin standing on opposite sides of the volcano. It's not immediately obvious what they're doing, until Therin shouts to Priest "Are you sure this is a good idea?" and a grinning Priest replies "Not at all, that's why it was Plan B!" And with that, he looked down and smiled even wider "And look. The sacrifice is here!"
    As the gears started whirring, and it hit us how deliberate the word "Sacrifice" is, the dragon shaman turned to the changeling, who was slinking back down the hall away from us silently. She shook her head... her face now melting back into an expressionless grey mask, before she mouthed the words "I'm sorry" and stomped the ground as hard she could.

    When she stomped, the ground and the entire doorway shook horribly, and we had to make reflex saves to stay up. The Factotum and Swashbuckler passed, me and the Dragon Shaman failed. The lava pool out the doorway began to swirl and churn immediately, forming some kind of super hot vortex with black swirls. The two upright members of our party moved to attack her and get the kobold a flanking position, but as they did the stonework cracked away from the floor in vague shape of a humanoid, and the shambling mess of rock bullrushed the dragon shaman clean over the edge, tumbling into the lava.

    The Dragon Shaman just glided over the lava pool and started a slow spiral upwards, shouting up at Priest "You think a little heat is going to slow me down?"

    Priest responded "Well, it's not so much about the heat as it is about the DARKNESS. We're not after your flesh... we're after your soul!"

    Dragon Shaman: "...I think I'll bank a little higher, away from the swirling vortex?"

    Therin joined in, shouting at the Dragon Shaman that they needed the soul of a kind heart, and if he didn't just give up and dive into the pool, they were just going to pick some infected kid, shove them in, and have the drifter abandon them halfway down.

    The Dragon Shaman cringed, rolled a sense motive check, failed and cringed again, before saying "Whether you're bluffing or not, I won't kill myself to satisfy you. I'm one of the only ones who can stop you."

    Therin just laughed.

    The rest of us were up and making a move to attack the changeling, but she managed to make it past us to the doorway before flying straight upwards just far enough to land on the lip of the volcano where Therin and Priest were. When priest saw me down on the ledge, he waved the orb haphazardly at me. He shouted down that his workers hadn't been very valuable to his plans lately, and that getting rid of me would be worth the price of getting rid of them too. Then he tossed the orb cassually out over the open air, spinning down into the open lava
    I didn't know what would happen to me if it hit, but I did the only thing I could do. I fired a Repelling Blast straight at the orb, and successfully knocked it back far and hard enough to lodge it into the rock face across from the doorway. Priest went wide eyed and started running over to the area it was, but he had no way down to get it (as far as I hoped). I flew out over the lava, suffering heat damage and fatigue as the swirling vortex churned hot air up at us, but I took it in stride and booked for my soul lodged in the rock face. I got to it before it could work loose, and circled it with the leather straps Papa HeeNo gave me. I could tell immediately what the orb and straps did. As long as I had on the bracers, it would bind my own soul back to me. I wouldn't age, I wouldn't die naturally. All I had to do was keep me, and the orb safe, and I would cheat a demon lord out of my soul.
    I'm sure THAT wouldn't become a concern in the coming centuries or anything, right? Demons never hold grudges.

    I could also feel that I had some control over the orb, but in the fray, and the panic induced by hovering over a pool of soul-stealing lava, I didn't get a good empathic feel for what the orb was capable of.

    I looked up and saw Priest glaring down at me, and smirked up at him, waving my newly acquired soul in his direction. I started floating up away from the lava, to get out of the damaging area, and once I was clear I hit Priest with a repelling blast, which knocked him 20 feet straight up before he tumbled back down into the same square. I got up to the edge just as he was climbing up and starting to run down the slope.

    The DM informed me of something I realized I could do with the orb. As long as it was covered in the straps and I was wearing the bracers, I could call the orb back to me as a full round action. This was relevant, because I realized I could also THROW the orb and fire eldritch blasts from it as if it were me.

    I smirked again, and pitched the orb as hard as I could in front of Priest. He watched it sail past his head, and as soon as it was past him, I used it to fire a repelling blast backwards, knocking him towards me. I caught his wrists just before he spilled out into the flaming death chasm, holding him there above the lava and staring down into his face. He was no longer smiling, even though the corners of his face were still curled up slightly in a sick grin. I asked him why he always had that hideous smile on his face. He laughed and said, "Oh, because I'm having such a GREAT time. Tell me, did you catch me to interrogate me, or to try to redeem me?"

    My response?

    "I just wanted a chance to spit in your face before I killed you".

    Which is exactly what I did.

    As Priest fell into the lava, he screamed satisfying. The pool literally bubbled up to 'catch' him, swallowing him whole and pulling him below the surface. The pool flashed black... but then continued to churn. The ritual needed a kind heart. Priest hadn't been an appropriate sacrifice, and the volcano was still hungry.



    "Hell is yourself and the only redemption
    is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person."

    Spoiler
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    As this had been going on, the Dragon Shaman had flown up to engage the changeling, and Therin had literally leapt down the volcano and landed on the stone platform, to fight the Swashbuckler and Factotum directly. I'll get back to Therin later, because that's where everything winds up flowing back together.

    First we have to talk about the Dragon Shaman flying up directly at the changeling, who was staring back at him with an icy resolve.

    The Dragon Shaman floated up and landed in front of the Changeling with a roar, taking a hard swing at her with his sword, but missing. The Changeling in return stomped the ground again, making another mini earthquake. But the force of it made the lip of the volcano crumble around them, causing BOTH of them to stumble. The Dragon Shaman managed to get a grip on the edge of the crumbling stonework, and grabbed the Changelings hand before she could fall.

    She just looked down at the swirling mess of lava and looked back up at the Dragon Shaman sadly, expecting to be dropped. She was limp, not making a grip against the Dragon Shaman and letting her hand slip out of his without struggling. The Dragon Shaman screamed for her to hold on, but she just laid there slack. He asked if he could make a strength check to swing her up onto solid footing. He rolled a natural 20 .

    When he threw her up back onto stable ground, instead of dropping her, she stared at him slack jawed, obviously confused and surprised. Her face melted into some random female form she hadn't made before. The Dragon Shaman, clinging there and expecting to be pushed off any second, didn't even struggle. He just looked up at her and asked "Is that you? Is that what you really look like?"

    The Changeling kept staring, tearing up, still slack jawed, before grabbing the Shaman and helping to pull him up. She barely succeeded (full plate alone being heavy as heck), but in the end, they both tumbled away from the edge and she collapsed next to him, covering her face, not making a noise even though her chest was heaving, obviously crying as hard as anyone can.

    The Drifter was not happy.

    The bugs in the area saw this happen, and immediately kicked into a vicious frenzy, a thick black mass descending on the Dragon Shaman and Changeling. He sprung up and hit them with a really strong fire breath, carving a charred swath through them, but they were so thick that even the damage he caused didn't stop them. They formed a massive fist twice the size of a person and literally punched the Dragon Shaman clean fifty feet away. He could see through the swarm that they were attacking the changeling, and that she wasn't fighting back. Before more than a few seconds passed, she glared back at him from inside a dissipating swarm... A golden rune glowing on her forehead. She growled loudly at the Dragon Shaman. A high wailing noise of unbridled fury.

    It was a sick joke. She was no longer silent, because it was no longer her.
    And with that she ran at the volcano and jumped off.

    Except I had been floating there above the heat, and when I saw what had happened, I decided to do the Dragon Shaman a favor. I managed to get under the Changeling and caught her, using the counter of her falling to swing her and throw her through the doorway into the ziggarut. A temporary solution, but it gave our Shaman time to work something out for our little redeemed shapeshifter.

    I paid for the move though, and the giant mass of drifter bugs that had knocked the dragon shaman back literally swatted me out of the sky, sending me sprawling down for the lava (which bubbled up hungrily at me). I managed to float for all I was worth back UP, barely catching myself in midair, roasting myself lightly in the process (fire resistance or not).
    I was floating back up out of range of the lava when the bugs smacked me down again, definitely close enough to knock me clean into it. But the Dragon Shaman had been running to the volcano, took a diving glide in my direction, and tackled me in through the doorway into the ziggurat, meeting up with the rest of our party, Therin, and the infected changeling.



    Therin

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    As all of that had been going on, Therin had been utterly wailing on the Factotum and Swashbuckler. We were pretty sure he's just human by this point, he's just apparently one of the most hardcore brawlers on the planet (pretty sure he's a monk a this point).

    To open, after jumping down the volcano and landing with a thud, he threw a kick at the Factotum which connected hard enough to send him sprawling back through the tunnels. The Swashbuckler took a True Striking swing at him, and slashed him pretty good (and then another good slash afterward), but then Therin opened up with some kind of rapid fire flurry of punches. A lot of them didn't connect as the Swashbuckler ducked and weaved, but the last one hit hard enough to knock him back against a wall.

    The Factotum revealed that the speed portion of his build had been effort well spent, as on his turn he managed to spring up, sprint up from the darkness like the living shadow he is, slide across the dusty stone into a flanking position, and pop Therin with a massive sneak attack that darn near pinned him to the wall.

    Therin backhanded the Factotum, again with enough force to send him sprawling against the far wall on the opposite side of the corner, before also taking one good heavy handed punch at the Swashbuckler. The Swashbuckler dodged it by sliding down, and Therin broke a chunk of the wall.

    The three basically went on like that, fighting their way deeper and deeper into the stone maw of the ziggurat, and the two of them dropped in hitpoints significantly. Chitter healed the Swashbuckler, and the two healed each other, and while Therin was obviously bloodied and in pain, he wasn't stopping. The fight was taking a lot out of them, and they truly gave it their all.

    Around the time the Factotum started running out of inspiration points and getting too beaten to reasonably continue the fight, the infected changeling came sprawling in through the doorway, ranting and cursing loudly. Followed shortly thereafter by me and the Dragon Shaman.

    I hit Therin with an eldritch blast, and we were thinking we were about to ge the upper hand... when everything got darker. The doorway of the ziggurat? Was literally BLACK with drifter bugs pouring in. The changeling chuckled, hard.

    Therin stopped fighting, looking at the infected changeling in fear. He asked what in the world was going on. The changeling answered "She betrayed us. She started helping them.". Therin asked if he was supposed to just believe that blindly, and the changeling shifted to resemble him (with the glowing rune) and said "Yes. Yes you are". What that implied was obvious, and Therin immediately cowed down with a nod.

    We all turned our attention to the doorway, and the gradually approaching mass of bugs.

    The changeling cackled. "That idea you had Therin... drop an innocent into the volcano... We don't know why we didn't think of that before...would have been so much faster for us."

    Therin looked at her in confusion, before the bugs began to part... an a red scaly devil came walking out between them... with a golden rune on its forhead .

    We wanted to fight. But... what could we do? The bugs were starting to literally climb together into shapes, humanoid forms shambling our way made of chitinous shell and still living insects.

    We ran.



    A New Hope

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    We bolted for the portal room, sending the kobold with the mirror first. The entire chase, a chorus of voices were screaming at us to give up the mirror. They knew where the arctic platform was, but they wanted a shortcut, obviously. Fortunately, we successfully beat them to the portal room and shut the doorway behind us. The Dragon Shaman wanted to try to drag the changeling along, but there was no way. He was sincerely hoping that the attempted homicide-by-suicide thing had been a one time course of actions. He wanted to try to abduct and heal her.

    We knew we needed to start keeping an eye on the platform soon. They'd be coming this way. But first we ducked into the consecrated ziggarut to check in with Macguiller. We found him pacing in an obvious panic, barricaded in the portal room. We asked what was wrong? Our fears were confirmed. Priest had apparently set his men digging to reach the blessed ziggurat, and they'd gotten through. Macguiller had managed to make a quick and sturdy barricade with some magical help, but it was only a matter of time before they got through.

    I giggled. And asked the DM if my gut instinct was true. The mental patients were soul-bound through it, right? The holder owned their immortal souls, (even if that soul is their own?) The DM smiled and nodded. I took the full round action to call it to me (from the volcano, and it still worked). Then I blasted through the barricade and floated out before them, telling them they worked for me now.

    The Dragon Shaman told me to free them. I floated down to him to talk face to face. I said that I saved his little girlfriend out of mutual respect, but that he was not going to be redeeming me. That as long as I held my soul physically in my hands, I didn't NEED any kind of redemption. I was currently my own God, and I intended to keep it that way.

    The Dragon Shaman said I was acting no different from the Drifter with that last comment, and asked why they shouldn't be fighting me too. My response was just "An issue of scale. And the enemy of my enemy, and all of that".

    The Swashbuckler actually chimed in and said (in character, mind you) "I don't LIKE you. But I'm very glad we're friends."

    The Dragon Shaman scowled, but said nothing. I told him there was no shame in prioritizing, and that even his Deity would understand WHY he was looking at the big picture right now. He nodded in agreement, sneered, and said "You're right. You're small time, we have more important things to worry about".

    I actually fell out of character at that, with an "OUCH. Harsh. Wow". We laughed.

    Then we started discussing what to do. I set my undying mental patients marching towards the doorway of the ziggurat as a watch. They weren't strong (at ALL), they were just undying. Then we tried to formulate an immediate strategy based on what we knew.

    We needed to defend the arctic platform at all costs at this point. The Swashbuckler asked "Why not just GIVE the drifter hell? Do we care what happens to hell?". The Kobold rightly pointed out that there would be nothing forcing him to stop at that. In fact, he'd have every reason to keep going once he made it to another plane, because he could just keep infecting and infecting until there was nothing left but him. And the more of him there WAS, the faster he would spread. So we had to secure the ziggurat, secure the platform, and try to sync back up with the angel with utmost speed. Then we started talking about the bigger picture. This world was utterly screwed. We hadn't found a way to STOP this infection from spreading. All we knew was that we could kill the bugs with healing magic, but that it just wasn't possible for us to make that much positive energy...

    And when we said that, the DM said calmly "Behind you, you hear chitter scraping and chirping, starting to molt and evolve from his exposure to the desert ziggurat".

    We all just stared down at the table and let those gears whirr in our brains for a minute.

    Dragon Shaman: Okay. New plan. Macguiller, grab every healing bug you can, and start breeding more. We're going to move to the desert ziggurat and HOLD it, come hell or high water.

    Kobold: "WHOO!"

    Swashbuckler: "HOLY CRAP WE HAVE AN ACE UP OUR SLEEVES! It's a magical time to be us."

    Me: :D <~ this face!

    So that's us.

    Session is over, but next session, we've got to prepare ourselves for the mother of all asymmetrical sieges. We have to hold a massive stone ziggurat in a blisteringly hot desert with only one entrance, AND we have to simultaneously hold an exposed-to-open-air stone platform in the ARCTIC WINTER.

    We don't know what's coming our way. But our Dm sure likes to watch us squirm, doesn't he?

    And we leveled to 13.




    Eye Spy, Something Red

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    So to start the session, we sent our updated character sheets to our DM as normal. The Dragon Shaman pointed out that, just in case it came up, that we could share his "Breath Water" ability as long as we were close to him. We didn't see it coming up, as anytime we'd be in the ocean, we'd have our eyes peeled for infected blue whales or god knows what, but it was worth knowing.

    More immediately relevant was the Swashbuckler's news about his spell selection. He'd taken Sending and Repel Vermin. Under normal situations, that would have been an odd spell selection, but he said it seemed to fit with the current predicament. We were interested to see how Repel Vermin would work against the drifter bugs. They were individually weak... So with one casting the Swashbuckler would have over an hour of being a walking citronella candle. The DM Also ruled that Chitter didn't apply to that, being essentially a part of the Swashbuckler anyway.

    He also scribed Reincarnate into his prayerbook, which our DM probably didn't notice and start planning over... Sure.

    Then we started discussing plans. Yeah, that Siege plan I mentioned above? Pay it no mind. The Dragon Shaman didn't think it was a good idea, and the swashbuckler agreed. 2 on 2 means we needed to hash it out, and the Dragon Shaman pointed out that our first and foremost goal was the assassination of the infected devil before it could open the gate to hell. Any other plans, even including the protection of the angel, had to fall by the wayside until the immediate threat was neutralized. It wasn't about good or evil, just about our IMMEDIATE need to fight an IMMEDIATE threat to the stability of the planar cosmology as we know it.

    After hearing it put that way, me and the kobold were actually swayed. He was right, growing the healing bugs was a tertiary pressure, not a primary one, and we needed to bring our full force to bare.


    We knew that the Drifter bugs couldn't survive in the arctic cold, so anything coming our way was going to be charioted on the wings of sturdier creatures. Not having an immediate plan, my compatriots began animating and arming some skeletons, while I set out scribing two scrolls of scry. One for the Angel, one for the devil. (also, while I was scribing those scrolls, the Swashbuckler scribed a new scroll of Reincarnate, just to have at the ready).
    Auto-success, and a day and a half later, and we had two scrolls of scrying ready to go. First we scryed on the angel to determine her status. The FS Bluebird was still in good condition, and the angel was calmly sitting at the doorway to the captains quarters, staring out patiently at the dragon charioting her around. We couldn't make out the rest of the ship, but she didn't seem injured or in distress.

    We scryed on the Devil before doing anything else. It was traveling in a thick vicious cloud of insects, alongside Therin and the Changeling. The bugs were so thick, we couldn't make anything else out, but they seemed to be traveling very quickly. Their haste was probably our greatest advantage against them. If they buckled down and began infecting monsters, they could bring an army we couldn't defeat, and we knew it. But they're booking it with such speed from target to target (likely the schizophrenic and impatient Drifter responsible for that) trying to accomplish their goals as fast as possible, that we had a chance to throw monkey wrenches in their gears.
    While we scryed on the devil though, we did see the bugs thinning out slightly, and some type of flying mounts rising up through the swarm. The Scry cut out before we got details, but they appeared to be some kind of smaller dragons.

    While we had the chance, we had Macguiller inspect the two hatches leading to heaven and hell. He confirmed that's exactly what they seemed to be, and gave us a little insight into the manner of 'locking' that was holding them shut. There seemed to be alternate ways of opening the portals, and in fact the portals seemed to be able to open to multiple different planes, depending on HOW they were opened. The one on the underside lead mostly to higher planes of goodness. If it was opened properly though, it would lead straight to the highest reaches of true heaven. We would bet our last gold piece that the angel was the key to opening it to those highest reaches.
    The portal on the topside indeed would open in a pit to the lower planes, in a similar fashion. The devilish creature likely being the key to opening the pit to the lowest reaches of hell itself. Opening the gates at all would be worrisome, but the devil or angel opening them directly would be much much worse.

    We weren't 100% sure on what to do, but we wanted the angels insight, and we considered it time to start keeping her with us at all costs. We didn't want her back in danger, but we needed to pool our resources from here on out. We sent a sending spell to her telling her to return to the desert ziggurat.

    The Dragon Shaman and the Swashbuckler were going to go through the desert portal, meet up with the angel, and plot the likeliest course between the volcano and the arctic (the path the devil was likely traveling). They were going to fly the Bluebird at them from behind and launch an assault from the backside. Meanwhile, the angel was going to return to the arctic (where she'd be safe from swarms of bugs), and me and the kobold were going to fly back FROM the artic in an effort to head the devil off. Both teams were going to strike with the strongest force we could bring to bare in an effort to kill the devil (with extreme prejudice, was the phrase used if I recall correctly ).

    If we could capture the changeling, we would do so, but the Dragon Shaman promised not to let that distract him from the goal at hand.

    So that's exactly what we did. We left Macguiller and the angel in the holy temple, with the magical mirror (why bring it to the drifters men anyway? It's safer in the cold). Macguiller was going to go back and forth, moving healing bugs to the desert ziggurat and setting up magical defenses and mundane barricades there. Him and the angel would move to wherever they could be kept safest.

    We also asked the angel more about the hatch. She said she could open it now and escape to heaven, but that doing so would prevent it from SHUTTING until she returned. She was one of the pillars of this reality, bound here for the express reason of connecting us with the planes of goodness. Even dead, she would still be physically HERE (though goodness would wane and the balance would be upset, it would not instantly shatter, and could be repaired in time).

    The same applied to the devil, the other way around. They were part of what made the material world...material. Killing the devil would upset the natural order of things, but not irreparably so.

    Dragon Shaman: "So if you tried to escape to heaven and shut the door behind you?"

    Angel: "This world would simply become a new layer of hell."

    Swashbuckler: "Heavy."

    Me: "And if we somehow uninfected the devil and pushed him through the pit to hell to get rid of him? Would this world become part of heaven?"

    Angel: "In a sense. This world would indeed become physically connected with the higher planes, but the natural taint of evil it contains would violate heavens nature. The results would be chaotic and destructive. I'm not sure what would happen in that case."

    Dragon Shaman: "So no easy answer. Why does that not surprise me?"

    Me: "We have an easy answer. Kill both of them."

    At the the angel unfurled her wings and cracked her knuckles, assuming a rigid and ready stance, obviously preparing for the fight she would be forced to unleash. The dragon shaman just shook his head no at me, which made me back down. The angel immediately relaxed and tucked her wings back into place.

    So we set out with our plan. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler left through the desert and got on board the Bluebird, sailing off to catch the devil from behind. Me and the kobold mounted the sphinxes, protected them from the elements of the cold, and started flying from the arctic platform to head them off in their path. The angel and Macguiller began moving the healing bugs to the desert ziggurat to make them grow, and warding it against all comers.
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-08 at 04:25 PM.