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Thread: The SilverClawShift Campaign Archives

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    Red Baron

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    We tried to figure out the timing. The devil had a head start on reaching the arctic, but the bluebird was faster than the sphinxes. We figured the sphinxes would meet up with the mass of bugs slightly sooner than the Bluebird, so it was me and the kobolds responsibility to be enough of a pain that they slowed down enough for the Bluebird to catch up.
    As we flew over the course of days overland travel takes, we saw the darkness of the arctic fade and the light gradually returning to the land. We also saw very little in the way of combat. The Dragon Shaman and Swashbuckler saw more trouble, coming from an infected area and soaring through a wake of bugs and infected monsters, but nothing very strong attack them, it was just a small drain on their resources.
    We turned out to have been wrong on the timing though. Maybe it took the devil longer to mobilize than we'd anticipated, but the Bluebird spotted the cloud of bugs before we did. They tailed it for a few hours, obviously having been SPOTTED, but just holding back and waiting for a sign that we were near. The cloud sent back masses of bugs to fight them, but it wasn't enough to deter them in any real fashion.

    It was when me and the kobold riding the sphinxes saw the mass of bugs that all hell really started breaking loose. The cloud sent off tendrils of black bugs flying in unison, acting as some kind of disembodied tentacles that tried to swat me and the kobold out of the sky. We successfully bypassed them though, and clashed with the cloud just as the bluebird flew into it from behind. I threw up a wall of flame in the clouds path of travel, and the whole mess screeched in anger as the dark fire literally raked through the swarm and sent thousands of the bugs falling out of the sky. The Dragon Shaman leapt off the deck of the ship and started breathing fire everywhere, while the kobold let loose with area spells to thin out the bugs numbers.
    The sea below us was literally black and bumpy with the sheer volume of dead bugs that we were leaving falling out of the sky. It was when we'd thinned them out enough to have put a noticeable dent in the cloud (maybe 5% smaller, after maybe ten rounds of destruction) that the real trouble started.

    The cloud parted to reveal a whole mess of medium and large sized dragons of various colors, all belching breath weapons at us, with Therin and the Changeling mounted on two of them. The devil was still flying under its own power.

    We knew we were about to take a beating, but it was okay. That was the plan. While me, the kobold, and the dragon shaman all engaged the dragons, the Swashbuckler had been flying the Bluebird up OVER the cloud... he was taking a little bit of a beating from the bugs, as they were manifesting as medium and large sized... humanoid... forms. Like elementals made from bugs. Bugamentals. Still, he fought them plainly, without magic, bug versus sword, not wanting to reveal the ace up his sleeve until it would truly blindside the drifter. And then, once he'd gotten the Bluebird up in position over the devil? He revealed his hand.

    He cast Repel Vermin, causing the bugamentals to shriek and dissipate away from his presence (and littering the deck with bug carcasses from where he passed), and took a running leap off the front of the ship, no mount, no fly spell, just him.

    He fell through the cloud, causing a whirlwind as he pierced a twenty foot by twenty foot hole straight through the cloud, untouchable by the swarm, and landed on the devils back, grabbing it around the neck with a sharp thud. The devil faltered in mid flight, cursing and tumbling out of the sky with our psychotic swashbuckler clinging to him in some kind of deranged bearhug. The bugs couldn't do anything about it, and in fact, the repel vermin spell seemed to be weakening the drifters hold over the devil, and the rune on its forehead waned and weakened in pulses, growing stronger and dimmer back and forth.

    It didn't matter though. Whether the devil was infected or not, we were going to slay the thing to take it out of the picture (pillar of reality be damned, the angel herself said things would repair over time). The Swashbuckler grabbed one of the devil's wrist and swung over the side, flying UNDER the devil and holding onto him viciously, freeing up his hand to draw his rapier and making true striking power attacks at the devil from underneath it.

    The Devil, to its credit, clawed at the swashbuckler with its free hand and shook violently in mid flight, but in the end? The Swashbuckler finally managed to drive his rapier up through the devils throat. He killed it... but didn't drive it far enough past negatives to stop what happened next. With a lurching cough, the devil dissolved into a swarm of bugs, and the swashbuckler tumbled out of the sky...

    ...right onto the back of the Kobolds sphinx, who had made one hell of a swoop underneath him to catch the swashbuckler. They didn't avoid crashing into the sea, but the kobold managed to guide the sphinx back at a hard enough angel that his mount took the brunt of the fall (breaking its body and destroying it, unfortunately), and sending the two spilling into the sea.

    Me and the Dragon Shaman though? We were getting our butts kicked. Everywhere we looked, another medium sized dragon was banking into us and literally body-slamming us in a new direction, sending us tumbling lower and lower through the cloud, away from the Changeling and Therin. I sent my sphinx down as a mount for the kobold and swashbuckler, but it was taking a minute to reach them (and wasn't in good shape itself). The Dragon Shaman could drop in mid-flight hard enough to avoid some of the strikes, and I was teleporting with Flee the Scene and confusing the heck out of them, but we were not winning.

    The Dragon Shaman had a plan though. He told me to order the undead dragon in the sky to obey him, which I did, and then he banked out of the cloud and left me there. Which I was none too happy about. Everywhere I moved, a host of dragons and bugs followed me, and I wasn't fast enough to make a successful escape. The Dragon Shaman had gotten out by dive-bombing, but I didn't have the maneuverability to get out the same way he had without some kind of decoy (and flee the scene wasn't cutting it).
    Worse, Therin had broken away from the changeling in a rage, and was flying at me in a fury. He raked at me with his dragon mount, and shrugged off the repelling blast I threw at him to try to get away, his dragon grappling me and biting at my face. I grabbed its jaws, but I wasn't nearly strong enough to do much.

    And then the DM made me roll a listen check. I passed, and I heard a distinct whooshing of air from above, different from the other noises of battle. Which made me notice that the Bluebird was directly above me, and falling hard. The Dragon Shaman had gotten to the deck, flown it over Therin and the thickest cloud of dragons... and ordered the undead dragon to drop it. I was apparently collateral damage

    I successfully managed to cast Flee the Scene despite the grapple, and teleported straight up at the last second... through and over the ship crashing down, leaving it crushing Therin and a whole mess of dragons as it drove them down into the surface of the sea with a horrible sickening crunch, and the sound of shredding wood as the entire deck crashed into hundreds of pieces.

    I just floated there in the mess of (angry) bugs, staring down slack jawed at the ruined deck and the pile of dragon corpses... corpses which I immediately raised and sent flying into the fray to fight the surviving dragons.
    The Dragon Shaman meanwhile, did a dive into the surface, to go below water and make sure Therin was actually dead. He'd survived the hit, somehow, and was weakly paddling towards the surface. The Dragon Shaman swam at him, and when Therin spotted him, he made a desperate lunging strike with his hand, attempting to do the throat-slashing move. The Dragon Shaman bit his hand in mid-water to stop him, and ran him clean through with the bastard sword. There was no noise, Therin just stared in the silence of the water as the blade ran him through, and sliced clean upwards, cutting him in two.

    The two floated there for a time, in a cloud of Therins blood, the Dragon Shaman just calmly staring until he was satisfied there were no surprises coming. He then cut Therins head clean off, and swam to the surface, breaking out of the water and struggling to fly upwards.

    By that time, the Sphinx escorting the Swashbuckler and kobold had joined me in the fray, and we were finishing off the last of the dragons. I activated my fiendish resilience to start healing from the fight, and the Dragon Shaman started slying around with us, addressing me directly.

    Dragon Shaman: "Oh. Good. You survived."

    Me: "Yeah. I DID."

    Dragon Shaman: "GOOD. I'm GLAD. I was HOPING you'd see the ship and teleport away at the last second. "

    Me: "I did. I DID teleport away at the last second."

    Dragon Shaman: "GOOD. I was so WORRIED you wouldn't."

    Swashbuckler: *biting his knuckle* "Awkward..."

    We regrouped and tried to find the changeling, but the cloud was dissipating, and she was nowhere to be seen. Even with the Swashbuckler driving bugs away in a sphere around him, we couldn't push through them fast enough to find out what happened to her.

    She was the last of the Drifters original group, but the Drifter himself wasn't going to go down so easily obviously. We needed to find her and heal her, for the Dragon Shamans sake. But we also needed to find a way to heal the world at large.

    I got on my blue dragon, which I guess was officially my mount now that the ship was destroyed. The team also destroyed the remaining sphinx, and I animated some more suitable dragons and transferred control over them, so now three of us have undead dragon mounts. Which makes us pretty fast, in an overland travel type scenario. We warded the dragons against cold weather and set off back to the arctic, planning to camp out and wait for Macguiller to notice we were there, then come up with a new plan.



    Plan C

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    We made it back to the arctic without trouble, and after a few hours of camping on the platform, Macguiller noticed us and opened a portal to the desert ziggurat for us, but as he was opening it, he noticed activity through the jungle portal through the mirror. We all looked through it, and saw the Changeling! Staring patiently at the doorway.

    As soon as we looked through the portal, she eyed the corners of the doorway (obviously unable to see through the portal... but somehow able to tell when we were looking through it) and said,


    "I know you're listening to us. There's something you must understand. We do not care about this piddly little world. There are limitless others for us to rule. This is what will happen. We will come to the Ziggarut we first met at. The angel will be there. Then we will return to heaven in her. If she is not there? We will set out to RUIN this pathetic reality until there is nothing left but us."


    With that, the changeling walked calmly out of the room, and a single spellcasting bug, this one a swirl of purples and reds, walked calmly into the middle of the room. One of the purple and red gems in its back flashed brilliantly, and then with a sudden lurching swirl, the center of the room was nothing but a deep crater where the bug had stood. It self destructed, and took a huge chunk of the floor with it

    The Dragon Shaman barked to open the portal, but before we could, a SWARM of twenty or so of the red and purple bugs flew into the room...and all proceeded to activate at once. With a sudden flash, the portal was....gone. We were looking at nothing but an open door frame with arctic snow drifting lazily behind it. And immediately thereafter, the doorway itself crumbled into gravel and dust.

    We were all speechless.

    We couldn't figure out what to do here. We didn't know how many of those...self destruct bugs he had, but we could only assume he meant it when he said he would ruin reality. We couldn't let him destroy the desert ziggurat, or our healing bug idea would be utterly ruined. We couldn't let him have the angel outright, or we'd be damning countless innocent souls as we ruined heaven itself (and god knows how many worlds...how many planes... how many cracks the drifter would find in reality and press through into new ones).

    Our only thought? Running, with the angel as bait. The Drifter has shown himself to be uniquely single minded, despite apparently being of multiple minds. If we showed him the angel... and then bolted with her? Maybe we could get him chasing us rather than wrecking things. Maybe long enough to get our healing bugs as a valid weapon against him. We felt pinned.

    And regrettably, we didn't have as much time to game last night as we would have liked to, so we had to end the session just then. Our Dm said that we're moving the story along really quickly though, and that it probably won't be too many more sessions before things wrap up, one way or another.

    We didn't level this session, as it was on the brief side. We asked if we'd be hitting level 20, and the DM said "probably not in this campaign", so we probably are reasonably close to a climax.

    I'm just the messenger though [/QUOTE]




    Running Away

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    So, the three party members capable of necromancy have undead dragons large enough for us to ride. We trimmed down the rest of our undead just for simplification and the ability to raise corpses as we find them (but the Swashbuckler is keeping his undead bat, which is clinging to the underside of his dragon and ready for suicide missions).

    I also have my 13 mental patients bound via their souls to my service. I asked the DM about it, and he said I could 'pull' their souls out of the dark orb and put them into smaller gems if I felt the need to sell or destroy them. The Dragon Shaman face-palmed, but it was just idle curiosity about what my character could actually do with them.

    Then we set out seeing what we could do about our problem at hand. We asked Macguiller his thoughts about the healing bugs. His response was that the healing bugs looked to evolve faster than the other types of bugs, probably because they were channeling positive energy, the force of life itself and all, so it was augmenting their growth. In the time we'd set up shop and started forming plans, several of the bugs had already molted from cantrip casting bugs, to 1st level casting bugs, and the rest were looking healthy and ready to molt any time. They were also breeding like rabbits.
    We asked him if he thought they would be able to evolve to cast mass curing spells, and his exact word was "undoubtedly". We asked him how long it would take? "I'm not sure... a week? maybe two?" We didn't have two weeks. The drifter was bearing down on our position, and if we didn't fork over the angel and the mirror, we were going to find out just how many of those self-destructing bugs the drifter had managed to get mobilized. We hoped he was bluffing, that there was no way he could actually honestly wreck the planet with those bugs alone. He could still do a number on us, massive infection combined with anarchy would be very destructive, but not so much that the world wouldn't heal in time.

    But if he could just 'nuke' the planet with disintegrate spells? Well, no more world as we know it.

    Kobold: "o we do a tiger-by-the-tail. We run, with the angel prominently displayed as bait, and give him just enough fight to keep all of his attention focused on us. And we pretend this ziggurat no longer exists. Does the drifter even know Macguiller is still alive and well? Or that he's valuable? I don't think he does."

    Dragon Shaman: "No... no I'm pretty sure he DOESN'T know actually.
    Kobold: Right, so we bolt, Macguiller wards the entrance and plays bug-farmer, and gets ready with a counter-nuke. And he can go through the papers and stuff that they left there in the first place, there might be something relevant in there."

    Me: "And we have the mirror. We can open portals to everywhere possible and start blanketing the world in bug-bombs when they're ready."

    Yay, we had a plan!

    The Dragon Shaman wondered how thoroughly the jungle ziggurat was destroyed. We probably couldn't rebuild the ancient portal constructed when the world was young whose other half had now crumbled to dust, but we could at least assess how beat up the ziggurat looked. The explosions there were nothing but a warning to us, so we could see how much power the drifter poured into that warning. If there wasn't much damage done, the Drifter might be bluffing. If there was a lot of damage done, we might be in serious trouble. If the ziggurat had been turned into a lightly smoking crater?..

    So we set to find out the hard way.

    Run from the drifter, head towards the ziggurat, and... just keep running, until Macguiller can get our secret weapon up and running.

    We set out immediately, leaving my mental patients as guardians and hopping on our undead dragons. The four of us, the angel, and three zombie dragons flying in a circle over the desert canyon, waiting for the drifter to show himself. It was night time, so...we almost didn't notice it coming. It was only the golden glowing runes shining faintly against the mass that revealed it headed our way.

    The horizon in all directions was...black. Just a solid black mass of advancing bugs so thick they were literally tumbling against each other more than flying in a cloud. There were no infected creatures. No dragons, or people waving swords, or anything. Just bugs. So many bugs that they scrabbled to our location like a titanic black ooze, more a single mass than anything else.

    They were on every side. Everywhere we looked was just a wall of bugs. Occasionally, in the rolling chittering form, we'd see temporary shapes. The drifters face, hundreds of feet tall and made of solid bug. the humanoid shaped masses of various sizes (the bugamentals, as we called them) forming and then discorporating back into the swarm at whole in rapid succession.
    We had to leave before they simply flooded our location.

    Swashbuckler: "Up and over?!"

    Everyone: *nod* "Up and over!"

    We flew up at a steep angle, over the mass, discovering that it reached just above the cloud covers. We still managed to squeak out a bit higher, and fortunately, the dragons were faster than the mass of bugs. black tendrils snaked out from the mass at us, making slow exaggerated swings to knock us from the sky, but we outmaneuvered them. Occasionally, the tendrils would link together and form lanky clawed hand-shapes, trying to literally engulf us as we flew, but we were fast enough to avoid most of them, and when they did get close, the dragon shaman would open with some heavy breath weapon to char a path clean for us. When that failed, I would sever the tendrils from the mass with ever shifting walls and rings of fire.

    What really unnerved us the most was the noise. There were no angry roars or howled curses. It was just a deafening constant hum of chitinous wings and clicking mandibles. On some level, I regretted not taking eldritch cone . A few times, swarms broke off to intercept us and formed bugamentals on the backs of our dragons, but we fought like adventurers fight and destroyed everything that got in our faces.

    I feel the need to point out that our escape from the desert ziggurat took quite a while, and there was a loooot of combat against bug swarms in various incarnations. Short of listing a roll-by-roll list from our session (which we don't actually right down or anything like that :p), this is going to be a shorter entry than it actually was at the table.

    We fought our butts off to defend the angel from the mass, and we had to keep our eyes peeled on the canyon fading in the background. LUCKILY the drifter ignored the canyon and the ziggurat, meaning Macguiller was, theoretically, safe there for the time being. That meant we had to avoid the area for as long as possible while the bugs evolved and bred... a hopeless task maybe, but it was all we had.

    Finally, after shredding and roasting our way through metric tons of possessed beetles, we broke out into semi-open waters, heading away from the coast. We couldn't really rest outright, because smaller swarms kept cutting us off, but it was relaxing to get away from the Slowly Advancing Wall of Doom that had been on us.

    We flew in a triangle, with the angel gliding in between us and the dragon shaman below her for maximum protection, and made our way to the jungle ziggurat.



    Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

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    This next part was a solo mode for the kobold.

    When we made it to the jungle continent, it occurred to us that we couldn't realistically land and poke around to check things out. The slowly advancing wall of doom wasn't THAT much slower than us, and we were still getting scrapped by swarms. We had to keep booking, but we also wanted to know as much as possible.

    The solution? The same solution we always had when something questionable and uneasy came up. Send the kobold!

    He figured out how many rounds he would be able to move while hasted, how far he'd be able to move per round, and set him off like a black little bullet. He cast haste on himself, sprung off the dragon as it banked low to the trees, hit the ground with a roll, and kept moving at a ridiculous pace (we stopped to figure out his speed, and came up to about 40 miles per hour. Barefoot).

    So moving like the devil's chasing him, the kobold clears the distance to the ziggurat, pads up the side without breaking side, and tucks and rolls into the entrance so fast he actually winds up bouncing and rolling off the ceiling and continuing his run without breaking stride.

    The ziggurat was still standing. That was good news. The bad news was that there were still a few of the self destruct bugs inside of it. The kobold managed to dodge them like they were a minefield, but they kept flying at him and popping, hurting the stone structure itself and generally tearing up the place, leaving huge craters in the walls, ceilings, and floors. At one point, he realized he was going to be unable to avoid one of the disintegrate bugs in his path, so he pulled out his handcrossbow, and using an inspiration point, made a running shot at the thing and plunked it clean where it sat.
    As he dashed past, he scooped it up and stuffed it into his sidepack so we could check it out.

    When he got to the main chamber after a few rounds of running, he realized that we probably weren't in as bad of shape as we might be, but that things also weren't really looking up for us. The main chamber was crawling with the self-destruct bugs, and there were craters all over. The whole place looked really unstable, and the portal room itself was practically blown clean through to the outside.

    The kobold did a 'run up the walls' move, and managed to spring off with a successful jump check, changing his direction and leaping over the giant mass of disintegrate bugs that were chasing him, rolling gracefully on the other side of the swarm (and taking a pretty heavy hit of damage when some of the closer ones 'popped' with him nearby), but managed to start sprinting back out towards the entrance.

    When he got back out, we were circling back over the area just as planned (knowing how many rounds he had before he had to turn back, and all that, we knew how many rounds it would be before we needed to be back over the area). With his last round of haste, he sprinted up the side of the ziggurat and did an inspired-jump check to fly off the pinnacle and land successfully back on his dragon mount .

    It was a detour we were all glad we made. We knew the threat the drifter had made was credible, but not that the world was going to be instantly scorched down to its core. Well. Probably not anyway.



    Whoops

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    Whether it was because we'd poked our noses where they didn't belong, or simply a natural side effect of being on this part of the world, we began to get attacked by self-destruct bugs making kamikaze dives at us. On top of that, the black onyx bugs were becoming thicker and thicker no matter where we went, and the angel was taking a lot of 'splash' damage from being so close to us while we fought to protect her (and from some of the bugs getting through and attacking her directly).

    We started realizing how hopeless things were getting, and I once again mentioned the possibility of simply offing the angel as a logical course of actions. Even the Dragon Shaman was hard pressed to say it was a bad idea, but in the end, the party just couldn't bring themselves to go through with it.

    Which turned out to be a mistake, because finally, after fighting god knows how many swarms (it might not come across in the writing, but we practically rolled our dice smooth with the sheer VOLUME of combat we experienced in this session), finally, the angel fell.

    And immediately disappeared into the massive cloud of bugs, which began shifting north. We could hear the angels voice from inside the massive cloud saying "See? Why did we have to do this the hard way, when we could have allready been gone from this miserable world? Why did we drag out the suffering?" before her voice faded away under the whirr and hum of the drifters wings.

    The bugs largely left us alone (though we did still have to make a token effort at fighting them off, to be more trouble than we were worth to kill), presumably because they felt there was nothing more we could do. The Drifter considered himself the winner already, and was escorting the infected angel to the arctic platform directly.

    We talked options. Macguiller would be nowhere near ready, but he might have generated enough positive energy to heal the angel. If we could get back to the desert ziggurat before the angel made it to the platform, we might be able to set up some kind of heal-bomb ambush. A few of the stronger healing bugs, the lay on hands from the Dragon Shaman, and whatnot, and we might be able to 'clean' her.

    At which point, I put forth the possibility of uninfecting her and then pushing her through the portal, plunging this world into a new layer of hell. Everyone stared at me.

    Me: "What? We're screwed. Have you not noticed the massive cloud of bugs is now EVERYWHERE we go? What are we trying to save here? The world? No, this world's dead, it just hasn't caught up to that fact yet. There's nothing left but us, Macguiller, and the drifter as far as I can tell."

    Kobold: "So we just damn our entire world?"

    Me: "To save heaven and every other world? Yes."

    Dragon Shaman: "When did you suddenly become self-sacrificing and altruistic?"

    Me: "I'm not. I PLAN on going to hell when all of this is over with, one way or another. Physically. I'm over here transcending into a demonic form bit by bit and all. You guys would be the ones sacrificing yourselves nobly, I'll be going home."

    Swashbuckler: "What if we uninfect the angel, push her into heaven, and find out that one of the drifter bugs managed to hitch a ride inside of her?"

    Dragon Shaman: *points at the swashbuckler* "GOOD QUESTION. What if?"

    Me: "Then I still get a free ride to hell?"

    Dragon Shaman: *loud buzzer noise* "Time for a new plan! We kill the angel."

    Me: "THAT WAS MY PLAN TOO"

    Kobold: "That was her plan too, it's true."

    Dragon Shaman: "You wanted to do it while she was still an angel, I'm doing it because it's a last ditch effort."

    Me: "Yeah, I wanted to do it back when it would be EASY. Now it's going to be a WAR."

    Dragon Shaman: "The righteous path is rarely the easiest and all."

    Me: "Evil will always triumph because good is dumb."

    DM: "Penalty flag! no movie quotes."

    Nonsense conversations aside, killing the angel is what we wound up settling on. It wouldn't destroy the drifter, but it would destroy his last chance at getting off this rock, and that was good enough for our party. We debated on the best way to approach, but we decided to cut them off in an ambush by flying back to the desert ziggurat and heading to the arctic platform. We weren't sure how fast the angel/bug swarm could travel, or what other travel options the drifter had, but by all reasonable calculations, we would get to the arctic platform before him and with time to spare at that (but not much time).

    So that's what we did. Macguiller was surprised to see us after only a few days travel back and forth, and said he thought he might be on to something after going through Priest and the Drifters notes on the rituals they'd been performing. That there might be any number of counter rituals.

    Kobold: "Counter-Rituals? Elaborate."

    Macguiller: "I'm not completely positive yet, the notes are... psychotic, disjointed, there are critical bits missing and obviously he didn't list things that could obviously be used against him... but I MAY be able to piece together a ritual that's the opposite of the one he performed to become this monstrosity in the first place. Something using the healing bugs and a willing host to create a sort of... 'curative' alternative to this mans possessing."

    Dragon Shaman: "Wait, like someone with a healing touch?"

    Macguiller: "More like one massive pulse of positive energy, based on how many bugs were sacrificed, but yes."

    We let Macguiller get back to his bugs and books, and the DM informed us that we leveled up to 14. Me and the Dragon Shaman each got an extra 1d6 for our respective abilities, the Kobold got access to 5th level spells, and the Swashbuckler went back to taking levels IN swashbuckler to keep his hitpoints and BAB up (both for his sake, and for his familiar, Chitter).



    Stairway to Heaven

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    After leveling up, we hit the arctic platform, and immediately we could make out the glowing mass in the distance. It was a huge swarm of bugs, and it was getting gradually smaller and smaller as it got closer. The Kobold made a boosted spot check, and realized what was happening. The black onyx bugs were traveling in a mass so thick that it was keeping the ones on the inside safe from the direct effects of the arctic chill. The outer layer was freezing and dying, exposing the next layer, and so on, and so on... the drifter was coming in a swarm, and he was leaving a massive trail of dead bugs in his wake.

    Again we pointed out that this world might wind up with a serious necromancy problem if things every went back to normal...

    Things might not get back to normal though, if the angel inside that huge ball of bugs made it to where she was going. We climbed down underneath the platform, and figured there was no sense trying to be clever, so I threw up a ring of fire around the portal and me and the dragon shaman began circling around the area below it, ready to bring hell. The kobold hid, figuring he might get a chance to make a good sneak attack, and the swashbuckler enlarged himself, figuring that in this situation, the Brutal the Better.
    We all wished we had war-hammers.

    The bugs reached us and began attacking, but we maintained our positions with a quiet resolve, devoting most of our attention to the mass itself (and noting that the bugs died off in just a few rounds when separated from the mass, but that my ring of fire seemed to have made enough heat to prolong the survival of some of them. It was helping them, but it was also keeping them from sailing right through to the portal. Our attention was so focused, because we were looking for the angel in the mess of bugs. She was the threat. The portal didn't matter if the angel could be kept from it.

    Finally, we spotted her, weaving back and forth and trying to decide on the best method of attack. We thought. Because as we were busy focusing all of our attention on her, we didn't see the infected changeling coming up behind us and firing a magical crossbow bolt-of-lightning at the Dragon Shaman. Hit him square, for a smackload of damage (and causing me to change my energy resistance from fire to electricity ). When he got hit, the angel took a chance and made a dive through the fire at the portal. I made a grapple at her ankle while she fumbled at the locks, but she missed her attack of opportunity, and I successfully grappled her and dragged her down. I dragged her far enough for the kobold to take a running scramble up the enlarged Swashbucklers back and fire off a vicious hand-crossbow sneak attack at her, hitting her for a good batch of damage.
    By this point, the Dragon Shaman recovered from being hit by lightning, and was left trying to decide between engaging the changeling, and engaging the angel. I made up his mind for him by shouting "TORCH ME" at him. In retrospect, I wish I'd kept the fire resistance, but being smacked with a cone of fire was worth it to take the hitpoints off the angel too. I activated my fiendish resilience to start healing the difference.

    The swashbuckler took a run to hit the changeling, but the Dragon Shaman told him not to hurt her. Confused, the Swashbuckler raised an eyebrow and
    hit her with a healing spell instead, temporarily forcing the bug out of her and making her gaze around in a confused daze, spotting the Dragon Shaman and looking desperately sad before another glowing rune started flashing on her forehead. At least it took her out of the fight for a round.

    I tried to maintain the grapple, but enough bugs grouped together that they formed a short-lived bugamental and bullrushed me, knocking me away from the angel. She made another dive at the portal up to heaven. The Kobold hit her with a fireball, and the Dragon Shaman moved to attack, while the Swashbuckler prepared to keep hitting the changeling with cure spells to the best of his abilities.

    The Angel successfully unlocked the portal

    A glowing pillar of light descended down from the hole in the platform, and she and the (temporarily re-infected) changeling cackled with glee. I shifted the ring of fire to a SHEET of fire directly over the portal... which was enough to keep the BUGS from getting in, but not enough to keep the angel from passing through herself!

    I wasn't about to follow. The kobold couldn't jump high enough to hitch a ride, and the Swashbuckler was engaging an enemy (and not small enough to fit through the portal regardless). The Dragon Shaman was our last great hope. He banked, arced through the fire, and flew straight into heaven itself.
    Or a transitory plane that is. It turned out, the portal didn't lead directly to heaven, it led to a realm that was nothing but a pillar of light, with a brighter light at the top. And the angel was soaring up as fast as her wings would carry her. The Dragon Shaman chased her with everything he had, praying for strength the entire time, and finally, mercifully, grabbed her ankle just before they reached the light at the top. The angel howled in rage and kicked at him with her free leg, but he didn't have to do much to stop her. A full built draconic humanoid wearing a heavy metal fullplate... he simply stopped flying.

    They sank like stones, tearing back out of the pillar of light so fast that they pierced the wall of fire and hit the ground below the platform like a flaming comet. I pushed my way through the fire and pulled the portal shut, while the Dragon Shaman successfully grappled and pinned her underneath him, and pulsed a healing touch into her to temporarily cure her of the Drifters infection. She looked around confused for the first time that we'd seen her (well, still blindfolded and missing her eyes, but she FLAILED around confused). The Dragon Shaman spoke, making her jerk her attention up to him.

    All he said was, "I'm sorry we failed you".

    And all she said was, "I forgive you."

    Then he spiked his sword down through her neck before the infection could take hold again.

    The bugs went APE.

    They hit us like fists, trying to knock us around (but doing a poor job of it, since they were freezing to death so fast without the ring of fire making a buffer against the winds). The changeling vanished in a cloud of bugs as they carried her to the top of the platform. Me and the dragon shaman flew up after her while the Swashbuckler and kobold ran to the pillar stairways to chase on foot. But when me and the shaman got to the top, we didn't find a fight. We found the changeling holding a dagger to her own throat, telling us to stay back or the changeling would die.

    Me: "Good, I don't care if she lives or not. Fire an eldritch blast."

    Dragon Shaman: "I hold my sword to the warlocks neck before she can fire, saying "I DO care if she dies".

    The changeling just smirked, held out her free hand, and said, "Mirror. Now."

    By now the kobold had joined us, and was holding the mirror out, asking if he should do it. The Dragon Shaman said yes, but that was his heart, not his head. We started to debate, but the DM stopped us to remind us that anything we said here was in character, because there was an angry changeling with a dagger in her own neck listening to us.

    So we had to talk without actually TALKING. We couldn't reveal why the mirror was important, so it became a game of wondering what the other players were thinking. At least by this point the last of the bug swarm was starting to freeze to death.

    The Dragon Shaman said to hand over the mirror, and I agreed. I think my exact words were "It's a travel toy, nothing more." The Swashbuckler said not to, but when the changeling cocked her head at him, he clammed up, afraid of spilling something important. In the end, the kobold threw her the mirror.

    She backed quietly towards the door to the consecrated ziggurat, opening a portal and stepping through it. Then she shut the portal for travel, but left it open for communication. We gathered around it, while the changeling shook her head, and said, "No choice now no choice no choice. Just wanted to leave we just wanted out. Only way out now is to ruin everything. We're going to raze this planet..." she shook her head and set the mirror down at her feet, before looking up at the dragon shaman directly. "She's suffering because of you." And then made some kind of gesture that caused the mirror to shatter into dust.

    As the portal faded away, we could see the changeling through it, the rune fading from her forehead as she looked around confused and scared, the drifter willingly uninfecting her just to let her starve to death in a temple god knows how far underground with nothing but bones and dust to keep her company.

    The Dragon Shamans player actually looked a little ill, rubbing his forehead and saying "No."

    Then, the three remaining doorways all crumbled to dust, leaving nothing but an empty platform, and two undetectable portals that can't realistically be opened. And us standing there in the arctic, with no mounts.

    Kobold: "...Sure is a good thing I just learned how to cast Teleport and the Drifter doesn't know about that!"

    And with that, the Kobold snapped his fingers, and we disappeared in a flash, re-appearing at... the courtyard to Mercyglade asylum

    Me: "Really?!"

    Kobold: "I'm sorry! It was the only location in range of my teleport spell! Without a distinct mental image we could have wound up shunted of anywhere. We're in range of Macguiller now though, I can get us there first thing tomorrow."

    So... we ran away from the asylum, hoping no ghosts noticed we were BACK, and found a suitable location far enough from everything that we could make a makeshift camp and settle down for the night. We were far enough away from everything that we even saw some uninfected animals. That was a relief. The Drifter wasn't literally everywhere yet.

    But it was only a matter of time. We had to get back to Macguiller and find a way to stop him.

    So, that's that!

    Until next session, thanks for reading my incoherent ramblings




    It Probably Sounded Like *Bamf*

    Spoiler
    Show

    The pillars of good and evil for this world are dead. According to the angel, "dead" is better than "gone", as this world is still a material plane rather than being plunged into one of the upper or lower planes. What that means for the distant future is a question, but a more pressing question is what our IMMEDIATE future is.

    After all, the Drifter can infect creatures by swarming the hell out of them, and now he has bugs that create localized disintegration effects. There are two fortunate things to consider for us.

    1) If he had enough disintegrate bugs to destroy the world, he probably would have allready. The effects of their explosions are limited to a very manageable area, and while he could seriously mess some stuff up given time, there are limits to what he can do. We hope.

    2) Every infected creature we've seen has been... less than epic. A lot of young to adult dragons, massive beasts, and the like. It's worth noting that we haven't fought any ancient infected dragons... no infected tarrasque or the like.

    At the end of the update, our party was camping in the woods dangerously close to my wisdom-wrecking backstory. We'd found some uninfected animals in the woods, which meant the drifter hadn't focused too much on this continent.

    It was that fact that had us wondering if magically jumping to Macguiller or the Changeling first thing in the morning was the best use of our resources. We figured that first, we should try to scry on our subjects of interest. Since it's a fourth level arcane spell, the Factotum could cast it in the morning, and I could have a scroll of Scrying ready by then. So we let everyone get some rest while I stayed watch and inked us up the scroll.
    In the morning, the kobold scryed on the changeling at the Dragon Shamans request. We thought the worst case scenario was suicide, but it turned out to be much worse. The Changeling was balled up in a corner, clutching her ears and obviously sobbing hard. Around here were a small hand full of the drifters bugs. Closer examination revealed her to be bleeding from the mouth, meaning those bugs were ones she probably coughed up. What they were doing to make her clutch her ears was anyones guess, but the dragon shaman was not happy with the situation. He was level headed enough to know it wasn't an instant priority, he was just very concerned.

    After that unfortunate revelation, I scryed on Macguiller. He was carving symbols into the floor of the ziggurat furiously and checking his notes every few seconds. After a beat, he looked around in shock, looked up at us, pulled out a lens and looked at us through it (verifying who we were, most likely), waved to the scrying location happily, and pointed eagerly at the symbols he was carving before giving us a thumbs up. Then he scribbled a rough sundial, pointed at it, made a 'circle' gesture, and then held up two fingers.

    Kobold: "He knew we were scrying on him? Macguiller is one clever cat."

    Me: "Makes sense, he's had plenty of time to ward the place off."

    Kobold: "The two-fingers... do you think he meant two days?"

    Dragon Shaman: "That's what I got out of it. Two days and he'll have something ready for us to use."

    Kobold: "So we need to avoid him entirely for two days to avoid drawing attention. Who's ready to go save the Changeling?"

    Dragon Shaman: *raises hand eagerly and waves it while making this face > *

    Then the Kobold snaps his fingers, only to be told by the DM, "You feel a shunting, staggering step in reality, but find yourself in the same location, as if you teleported into the same spot. You still have your spell slot btw."

    Kobold: "Huh. Try to teleport us into the desert ziggurat then. " *snaps his fingers, only to get the same result* "I suppose it's just as well that that didn't work. What do we want to do now?"

    We checked the map for places we could make it to in one hop. Nothing seemed too promising. Everything that was in range was a huge question mark, (central island standing out as a really big "AVOID THIS PLACE" choice in our minds). We didn't want to just camp in the desert outside where Macguiller was working, for fear of calling the hammer (the bug hammer) down on him. Since the kobold needs a pretty firm grasp on where we're going to not shunt us X miles into bad territory (where X is whatever the cruel gods of the dice decide), we're kinda hesitant to come to a firm decision on any of it.

    So then the kobold, never one for being slow, blurts out "Hey, the bar we got arrested in, I can pin that down pretty good!" and snaps his fingers before any of us can say "Wait".

    And suddenly we were standing in the middle of the bar we hadn't been in since before the angel was summoned, with the group smacking our foreheads and the Dragon Shaman saying "don't DO that!"
    Last edited by 13_CBS; 2009-07-28 at 06:46 PM.