The fraying skin of the world

The Shrine in the Glass Spire Forest

After a night of debauchery and unwinding our heroes made their way into the tavern at the Good Lich Inn. Father Hubert had already departed to research exorcism and re-dedication rituals with Master Issumell. The rest of the party attempted to decipher Hargash Bitterblade’s unfinished letter. Gradiz discovered some markings in the word sanctum which revealed the word to be a rare homonymic cognate between common and spellspeak.

The group decided to inform His Honorable Mayor Avellin of the developments learn of in the letter and Alis Hollysharp, Dharwyn and Gradiz made their way to the temple of all to attempt to send word to Avellin through one of his many undead. Their request granted, Alis went to seek audience with the Mayor while Gradiz and Dharwyn, took Volume XIV:Gruumsh, of the Encyclopedia to Earthly Representation of Divine Communication to the Blister, and then to the Pipeworks searching out Tik and Tac. The orcs were happily branding gnolls with the oathrune but stopped to have a few words with the two, some kind and some harsh, with palpable tension growing between Dharwyn and Tik. Gradiz learned a little about an Elven tribe that followed Gruumsh, Ears Axe Sharp, which sounds much more intimidating in Giant.

Meanwhile Bienzar and Dorfin left the city walls to train and perfect their deceptive spell casting when they encountered Pung, a Shou arcanist in Bedlam studying self generating dark magics. Pung seemed dazed and perhaps concussed, speaking as if he was unaccustomed to the taste of words on his tongue. They followed him into Bedlam and saw him through to his loft in Kliyuk’s Square.

Alis meanwhile went to the Manor, and was received into the mayor’s gardens by four disembodied hands that served as a sort of gate guard. Avellin’s parlor is decorated in rare and beautiful instruments. The soft sounds of music seem to resonate from the walls themselves. Avellin seemed curious as to the letter that the one Alis presented him responded to. He thanked the group at large for discovering the hole in the wall, and urged them to keep this information hushed. He asserted that his servants would watch over Marwellus. And seemed as though he wouldn’t mind them continuing to keep their ears to the ground in terms of the larger issues concerning the Whispering Chains.

The group met up in the central square and decided to follow Pung’s trail to see if they might discover the group with which he travelled or the ants that might have attacked him. They wandered into the Glasshard Forest and found their way to the Temple Lupine protected by large wolves that seemed to be made of glass, not living flesh. After defeating the creatures they made their way into the temple which despite the warning to leave the temple shut had already been open. They hound a base, and around it shatted glass. A viewing font stood in the center of the temple. It had been altered to function without the narrative which accompanied the images it presented.

it told the story of Xennul the guardian of the temple beginning on the day the sky opened and released the thing that fell to earth. It was the groups first real vision of the lightning tearing open the sky and releasing an enormous boulder which burned across the sky. Xennul and the three other guardian’s(Scorpion, Heron and Trout) barely survived when the forest turned to glass. The four explored the scar, each finding a small rock like shard from the boulder. The rock corrupted Xennul and it took all his effort to control himself and not let the evil of the shard overtake him, though he could not bear to get rid of the shard. He instead closed himself in his temple, created the font and allowed himself to succumb to the magic that turned the forest to glass carrying in his palm, he hoped forever, the rock that had been his undoing.

The shard was nowhere to be found, the glass figure that had been Xennul was shattered and Pung had been here last. The group decided to immediately return to Bedlam in hopes of finding Pung before more harm might be done.

Dreams of our Fathers

Your eyes flash open because you feel the thing standing over you.

The column of white fire is pleasantly warm.

The glow it gives off illuminates a toppled and crumbling stone statue of the Allfather. The cobblestone below you is scarred and cold. The statues of dwarven heroes are silhouetted in the thick darkness that is slowly being dispelled. Behind the figure of Wrack Orebringer figures are moving in the shadow. A black clad woman no taller then four feet is flanked by two burgundy-robed men emerge from the space behind the statue. They walk at a pace so incredibly slow it resembles the thick trickle of a snails slime flowing down a cobbled wall. The room is silent, though the woman, who carries a small boulder the size of her head, appears to be speaking. Bits of wood, the size and shape of a table’s legs shatter against the stone statue and fly slowly through the air colliding with the wall on the far side of the table. A lithe, winged creature flutters from behind the statue carried by enormous ashen red wings. It is naked but for manacles around its wrists ankles and neck. It clutches in its taloned feet a clump of feathers, leaves, and dragon fly wings. Spittle spews from its maw landing on the cowls of the men before it.

The heat is enormous.

The cobblestones are gone and it is dusk. There is hot sand below you blowing in the bitter dry wind. The column of fire, enormous and softly lighting the dim air, floats forward toward a flat an barren plain where several other burning pillars stand in a wide, closed circle. The sand between them coalesces, condenses instantly into a stone disk that rises from the sand and hovers at the height of an enormous table. In a moment the columns of fire flick into darkness and you are alone with the floating stone disk in an endless desert at dusk.

1 In an instant, there are hundreds of things standing, floating, flying, and treading the air as if in water, all surrounding the graying stone. Only 10 stand in a circle directly surrounding the table. When all appear assembled these creatures sit on nothing as if resting on great high backed leather chairs.

You know the one who speaks to be Lord Ao, the being of light. He gestures toward an empty space at the table. “We are assmbled to discuss the PlaneBound, Our Brother Held, Keeper of Keys, the Whispering Chain, The King that Crawls, Lord Torog. Lord Bane, your servant ignores the call?”

Bane stands on one side of the table opposite The Lord of Light. He exudes a darkness that still sheds light. He is flanked by beings that take the form of mortals and shed a similar darkness. “The Chain has been called and abstains from this concordance. He has thrown his lot in with the others. His concern for the balance has all but faded.”

Ao shakes his head. “Then we take action against our Brother. He that fought along side and bound our enemies to their graves during the Dawn, now works against us, though he knows not his allies. We are assembled to hear testimony from The Ear at the Door, the Eyes in the Darkness, The Stilled Tongue, The Bound Tome, the Hand and the Eye, Lord Vecna, and Hestavar’s Queen, The Vast Lagoon, The Sand and Glass, and the Opened Tome, lady Ioun.”

Two creatures, a man and a woman sit across from each other at the table. The woman nods and holds out her hand gesturing to the corpse lounging across the table from her, “it means more coming from him.”

Vecna, reaches out his good hand and retrieves a black egg that he shakes free from empty sleeve of his other arm. He places the egg on the table and it cracks silently. A man lies in the shards of the egg, curled as a foetus in its mothers womb. Vecna’s bony jaw creaks into a smile. “He’ll do the work.”

Ioun shakes her head, “Yaelah, Priest of Lathandar cum Prophet of Vecna.” The beings surrounding the table look down at the man grown fullsize before them and laying prostate. His mouth and eyes are sown shut. His fingers have been bent and broken backwards so they lay flat against the back of his hands, and have been sown with metal filaments through to his palms. A middle aged being with golden hair and yellow robes scoffs in disgust. Vecna turns to him, “Thought him forgotten, didn’t you At’ar? All mine now and he has something very plump for all of you.”

“All ours,” Ioun sighs, and produces a silver blade from her robes, and slices through the sutures at the wretch’s mouth.

Its cooler up here.

You’re not floating so much as falling to earth slower than the most gentle snow flake. Below you there is a city in flames. An army has surrounded the circular walls and is erected siege ladders, they are battering at the gate, and crashing through it. Within the walls the risen dead are struggling to hold the walls while also fighting off hordes of orcs and drow, duerger lizardpeople, kenku, and even a giant floating eye shooting light of of tentacles. There are kobolds and frog people slashing at the unarmed men and women, while bodies of unarmed masses line the cobbled thoroughfare. In the central court yard, hooded men and women in purple robes are linked by a single great chain. The stand before unlit bronze spindly braziers. They are surrounded by creatures battling skeletons and zombies. The creatures are so horrifying that even from this distance waves of revulsion force you to recoil in horror and look up at the five flying boats, covered in silver brine, and crossing the horizon toward the ruins of Bedlam.

Epic Showdown in the Temple of Moradin

(Sariel: This is the session summary I wrote up last night for my friendslocked blog, to share the awesome with uninvolved friends, and to try and remember it myself. :-) It’s somewhat incoherent due to exhaustion and adrenaline buzz, probably over-focused on Alis for obvious reasons, I explain stuff that you guys know perfectly well because I was talking to people who don’t know the game, and I’m definitely missing details and may have stuff out of order, but I wanted to share, and y’all should feel free to edit in corrections or tell me to fix things or etc. :-) )

The setup: The Chaos Scar is basically a post-nuclear-fallout wasteland, only for magical fallout instead of nukes, and more of a big valley than the “sizable chunk of the landmass is desert” wasteland. Lots of monsters, lots of evil and crazy and renegade people with outposts there, all that fun stuff. The king of the region has set a bounty on dead Scar monsters, so our party — as well as other adventurers and militia-types — make periodic trips there to go hunting. This is our third or fourth trip in, and we found our way to what used to be a temple of a good god, in the process of being converted to a temple of an evil god. (Also we kind of got stuck by a tunnel cave-in and couldn’t get back out the way we came.) We made our way deeper in, found the high priest of the evil god, and got into a nice little fight which involved — among other things — said priest creating a ginormous pit in the center of the room for his evil giant insects to come out of and attack us (and try to knock us into, yay for lots of falling damage), and ultimately leaving us to deal with his bugs and other minions. We won, we took a breather, and then we looked around . . . to find out that the pit actually led into a room directly below it. Where the evil high priest was currently standing. Crazy stunts and epic rolls and daily power beatsticks were invoked, and we wrapped on a cliffhanger.

That was two weeks ago.

This week, we picked up where we left off. High priest was at about half-health or so and had some debuffs on him (yeah 4e has debuffs), but had a lot of pets around, and some weird pools of water in the corners of the room. We were down some health and some healing abilities (due to recovering a little from dropping down the pit to attack the high priest), and the dailies we’d blown, and two of us were still “upstairs” (my character can snipe with a sling from a ridiculous range, and our fighter/sorcerer had cast a spell instead of going down) while the rest were “downstairs”, but otherwise we were in pretty good shape. Yay, fightin’ time!

. . . except for one little thing. Y’see, the way the adventure was written, the PCs weren’t supposed to take the pit-shortcut down. We were supposed to go through the temple room-by-room, clearing enemies out from each, until we finally reached the boss. According to the DM, though, the writeup:
- explicitly said that the high priest’s pit would lead to the room he ran off to;
- explicitly said that the high priest had the power to control all his pets at a distance;
- explicitly said that the DM should completely ignore both of these things and not let them come into play ever.
. . . which is kind of completely stupid. So he figured that a fair tradeoff would be giving us our crazy surprise round shortcut to dump our dailies on the boss and get into position, but then letting the high priest pull those enemies from other rooms in to attack us. A couple came upstairs to deal with Alis and the fighter/sorc, and most came into the main room in waves — literally, every round for the first three rounds was a new batch of enemies.

Also, those weird pools of water? Turns out they used to be powerful sacred pools of holy water, but two of them had been corrupted by the high priest. He had a thing where, at half-health on his turn, he could teleport into one of the corrupt pools and heal a LOT, every single time he hit half-health. The PCs were supposed to start out near the two pools that were still good, which would heal us a LOT and restore some of our expended powers — but we didn’t, because of the shortcut. So the high priest got to use his pools, but we had a really, really hard time getting to our pools. Finally, the wizard worked out a crazy maneuver involving having our warden — think [defender-esque character type from another system] without the nonviolence caveat and with the ability to magically turn into a 30-foot-tall tree — fling him toward the pools, with Alis’ help, so he could magically fling the holy water back at us and get some healing done. (No, really.) Since Alis was literally 1HP away from falling unconscious at that point, she used the flinging to get into one of the evil pools at the same time, and pray to her goddess to purify it. (At this point we didn’t know that the priest could teleport every single time he hit half-health, I/Alis was just hoping to get a third pool of holy water or at least a pool of not-unholy water.) She got non-unholy water, the wizard pulled it off, and shit was amazing.

. . . but not quite amazing enough. Our setup is very much not an “optimal” 4e setup, even with an “extra” character compared to the 4e default of 5. We have one full healer (a cleric of Ilmater, god of martyrs), one very limited healer (me) who can also do lots of damage, one full tank (the warden), one half-tank (the fighter/sorc) who’d completely drained his healing surges and could only be healed by very specific magic at that point, one full glass cannon (warlock quasi-possessed by Gruumsh, orcish god of violence), and one really good crowd-control guy (the wizard). So we have two characters who’re doing the jack-of-all-trades,-master-of-none schtick, plus two more squishies, and only one real healer to keep us all up and one full tank to keep aggro. And since this fight was basically three fights’ worth of monsters thrown into one big battle, that meant some really nasty enemies, and no minions/cannon fodder so they were all hard to knock down and keep down. Oh, and Alis was KOed when she fell into the pool, and the wizard was off on his own, and like I said the fighter/sorc couldn’t be healed any more and was at single-digit health, and . . . yeah. Shit was bad.

(I feel the need to say that I’m absolutely not blaming the DM for anything here. He gave us our opportunity to nuke the high priest when the scenario said not to, his logic for combining the fights made perfect sense, and he subscribes to the Rule of Cool so if we could come up with crazy-awesome stuff like flinging the wizard and rogue in opposite directions by using our warden-turned-tree as a giant catapult, we’d have to roll for it, but he’d probably allow it. So while he was actively working to KO us, he was also actively working to keep it fun and let us be awesome, and I think he did well.)

But! Cavalry arrives! Earlier on, we’d met this good priest who’d been caught by the evil priest and tortured by his men, and helped him recover a little and all. He ran after the evil priest when the evil priest left back in that first fight, but after three waves of new enemies, the fourth wave was the good priest making it back. And he’s a cleric — a really good healer — some four levels higher than us PCs, so he could both hit okay and get us back on our feet again. The tides have turned!

. . . or have they? A combination of unlucky dice rolls from us, lucky dice rolls from the DM, and the sheer number of enemies wore us down again. We literally got to the point where we had three people not making saving throws against dying: Alis, the glass cannon warlock, and the cleric of Ilmater. (The NPC cleric took a battleaxe to the face and died. The entire table had a moment of silence, because we honestly liked him at that point, besides just from him giving us another fighting chance.) Every single turn since waking up in the pool of not-unholy water, Alis had been rolling to pray to her goddess for help, basically because I could (the DM approves of that kinda thing, he likes clerics) and she was literally ICly chanting nonstop prayers because oh god oh god we’re all gonna die I don’t wanna die not like this please—! At the point where it’s just the three of us standing, I go “Screw it, I’m not praying at the end of my turn, I’m doing the prayer first,” and roll.

[[Numbers here might be off, but I think this was roughly it.]]

I get a 16. DM said earlier that the target number to get Tymora’s attention is a 25. DM looks at the dice, looks at the priest of Ilmater’s player and the warlock’s player, and asks, “Are either of you praying too?” Warlock doesn’t pray, but is possessed by Gruumsh or a fragment thereof, that’s enough to let him roll. Priest of Ilmater says he’s praying, and because he’s worshipping a god of martyrs, he literally cuts off one of his fingers to aid his prayer. They roll successes, and the warlock gets a 17. DM decides that us two priests are going to assist the warlock’s roll, boosting him to a 22. (Technically only one person can assist a roll, but you can see where this is going.) 22 isn’t enough. DM eyes the other three players. “. . . Any of you religious enough to pray for help as you’re falling unconscious?”

We squeak our way to a 25, and the pool of water that Alis is standing in literally erupts into a column of green-glowing water — taking the form of Gruumsh’s face. (Again, Gruumsh is an evil deity; the PCs in general are Good or Unaligned, and us two priests are specifically Good. But since the warlock rolled best, we were aiding him, and he’s quasi-possesed by Gruumsh . . .) Gruumsh smiles at his warlock, and the column collapses into a perfectly, completely still pool of green-glowing water. We have our accessible holy water pool, and the three of us still standing get some healing and a power recharge.

. . . And Alis is still standing in the pool, and hasn’t used her standard action yet.

Crazy Step Two: Alis has a power that explicitly lets her hit two targets with an attack, by bouncing a sling-stone off one to hit the other. Alis loads her sling with a magic bullet and a vial of Gruumsh-water and hurls it at an enemy, bouncing the vial off to land in the hands of the cleric of Ilmater, who’s across the room from her and the pool. That vial can get any of our three downed PCs back on their feet and able to fight, and Alis has a few more empty vials on hand and is really freaking good with her sling.

. . . except that the cleric of Ilmater goes down on the next enemy’s turn. Crap.

Warlock pours the potion down the cleric’s throat, and the DM gives a really awesome description of the cleric getting a vision of Ilmater thanking him for his sacrifice and suffering, and taking up the severed finger. Cleric is up, and has a two-shot healing power back. Fighter/sorc is going to perma-die on his next turn; Alis manages to fling another vial at him such that it pops open right above his head, and enough Gruumsh-water lands in his mouth for him to be back up. Warlock drops, and cleric-player has an OOC crisis of “my character wouldn’t use divine healing on him, he worships GRUUMSH” (we didn’t ICly know the exact scenario at the time), before we remember that the warlock was holding an ordinary healing potion that the cleric can pour down his throat. Warlock’s back up, complete with awesome vision involving his pet dog (which is both his tie to humanity/good and a tie to Gruumsh). Wizard crits on his save against death, and is back up, complete with awesome vision involving casting the Raise Dead ritual on himself while, y’know, dead. Alis is immobilized, but at full health and she can still fling vials, and since she’s standing in the pool, she can get her “hit two people” power back for free. We’re fading fast, but the warden crits on his save against death, and is back up, complete with awesome vision involving wilderness symbolism. (We were amazed at how many death-crits we got, although to be fair, among the lot of us we probably rolled about a million of them.) Warlock pops his daily power — and crits, killing the evil high priest.

. . . enemies are still a problem, though. We have a duergar (evil dwarf) turned giant duergar to deal with, plus maybe five or so other enemies, at least one of whom had literally not been hit all session. Alis gets another Gruumsh-vial out — killing the giant duergar in the process — but I outright told the DM that he could and should hit me again (since I was literally in the best shape of anybody) — and that hit drops her from full HP to zero. She’s dying again. Everyone is on their last legs . . .

. . . but thanks to some more very lucky crits, a DM rule involving one-shot utility cards and floating to-hit bonuses that let us turn some misses into hits, and general party awesome, we get the group down to one single enemy, which the warlock successfully intimidates into dropping its weapon, thus ending the combat.

We are now about 200XP or so away from our next level-up, having earned something like 800+ from this fight alone. We came within a few hundred XP of doubling our total in a single fight. The session which was supposed to run 4 hours wound up running almost 8. DM has promised me an awesome flavor-vision like the others got, since I was sad that I didn’t recover from dying in time to get one, and has also promised the party some really good rewards for getting through the fight. (And that next session will be scheduled as a pure-RP one; that is, if we start a fight, it’s gonna happen, but otherwise he’s going to give us the session to ICly recuperate, discuss the fifty or so character secrets that came out during this fight, deal with townspeople and etc, advance plot, all that fun noncombat stuff.)

Awesome Things Sariel Forgot In The First Writeup And Just Remembered:

  • Dorfin uses Funneling Flurry to push two enemies into the pit. One fails his save against falling and takes damage. One makes his save, but DM allows Dorfin to make a Strength check to step on his hands and force him to fall. Dorfin crits, and does max damage with gravity on a 40+-foot drop.
  • Bienzar stays up and at near-full health for almost the entire fight, despite flinging himself across the room via tree, and getting rid of one of the good healing pools, and the DM throwing melee fighters at a squishy controller, and . . .
  • Darwin becomes a tree. We switch his little plastic pine tree mini for a very big plastic pine tree. DM forgets that the tree is a PC and therefore forgets to attack Darwin for a good two or so rounds with a good ten or so enemies.
  • Gradiz rolls crit after crit after crit on Honest Abe the Precision d20.
  • DM alternates between crits and crit-fails, or ghetto crits and ghetto crit-fails.
The Flight In

After a week of training, assessment, and for some just hanging out in the Fingermen camp outside of Haverhold Tark called six people forward for a flight to Bedlam on his huge winged drake, Boots.

The flight was incredible at the start for some, and pretty mundane for others.

Colonel Tark, as is his way made at least one member of the passengers uncomfortable enough to become magically violent.

Then a strange whistling caught the attention of ours heroes and the drake.

Boots pitched down and east flying toward an hauntingly beautiful glass forest


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