Friday, 29 October 2010

Monday, 25 October 2010

Ormid et al - Session Report, 17/10/2010 (Part 4 of 4)

09:48 – 09:50 – Sick and dizzy, covered in bruises and cuts, the party drag themselves from the shattered guts of the sky ship and up onto its deck. There they find that the ship has gouged a huge divot across the platform, the ripped rock stained dark by the fluids from the burst Order soldiers they crushed on their landing, and to the left of the ships nodding aft tower, a deadly group of Order soldiers heading their way.

The group are lead by a middle-aged man who bears a goatee beard and shaved head, dressed in flamboyant robes. A number of flashing swarms of tiny missiles float around him; living spells of some kind, the weakest of his formidable allies.
The first and most frightening of these is a hulking construct of animate clay; a golem. It lumbers along with the menacing might of a mountain, the spiral runes carved in its “flesh” shining with a green light, its eyes, discs of cold blue light. Further away from the party stalks a creature that is both beautiful and nightmarish; a warforged crafted into the form of a great, fanged, hunting cat – all lithe predatory movement and skulking, efficient power.

Finally, stumbling towards the group with thuggish intent are two massive creatures that seem to be the somewhat amateurish blending of flesh and artifice. Both were once normal humanoids – a dundorin and a well-build human – but they have been grafted with artifice parts (actually those of an Iron Golem), their pallid, tortured flesh giving way to slimy metal pipes, armour plated limbs and in their swollen and bruised bellies, sickening glassteel orbs within which slosh brown and blackish-green fluids. The Dundorin has no face any more, its original features being replaced with a death-mask like countenance of burnished steel, whilst the human has retained most of his brutish looks, though his eyes are now polished orbs of rune engraved red crystal, and where hair should be, snakes a festoon of ribbed pipes and cables. Both bear reinforced spines and ribs, and corded metalline musculature.

There is no exchange of words, no dramatic exclamation of rage or anger, just the unspoken understanding that blood will be shed and only one party will leave the area alive. This does not stop the mage giving the party the option of submitting to the Order's mercy however – a call that is met with derision at best.

09:51 – 09:53 – And so another battle. By this point the group are acting almost on instinct alone, their weariness, dizziness and pain a blanket that detaches them somewhat from the horror around them.

Realising that the ship is about to fall over the edge of the platform, the groups first concern is to get off it. This becomes even more urgent when the mage orders the golem to shove the ship off, the massive construct lumbering forth to obey. The living spells dart in, but meet a swift demise as their fragile energies are dispersed with well aimed weapon blows or shaped forms of magic, and Ormid quickly uses his artifice to construct a bridge from the ships high deck down to the platform.

The threat of the Golem is neutralised when it slips on the oily exhalation of Ferrous, the warforged leaping onto its back and laying about it with heavy swipes of his fiery blade, the searing edge cutting steaming divots deeper and deeper into the constructs massive form. However, the construct emanates an unseen aura of mental energy that clouds the minds of the group somewhat, making any kind of subtle tactical shift impossible whilst they stay within it. This leads to Ferrous almost dying as it bears the brunt of the half-golem's attacks, their massive, curved blades ripping through its adamantium plating as if it were paper. Things only get worse for the group when most of them are hit by blasts of corrosive vomit, it's toxic properties corroding armour and flesh with equal vim, and almost everyone suffers when the tensile wire holding the Wisdom from its final flight snaps, the super-stretched cable whipping lethally through the battling throng, opening horrific, bleeding wounds in all it hits. With its support gone, the sky ship drops away with a final roar of snapping wood and crumbling stone, to smash moments later in the ruins far below.

Once again the parties pain and weariness is lost in the dissociative haze of battle, adrenaline and endorphins surging through them as they dispense death and chaos upon their foes. Wounds that would slay normal men are shrugged off, and powers enough to make the air haze with disruption are called upon, focused and unleashed by both parties. Lightning describes jagged patterns of scorching light, gunpowder weapons disgorge smoke, noise and biting lead and the fatal pathways of the Veteran's blazing axe blur through the stinking miasma of battle that billows and twists around the ugly, desperate melee. Frost, flame, acid and waves of concentrated psychic energy curdle the aether with their power, whilst radiant energy is used to heal and to hurt; vaporising where it is focused in destructive bolts or blasts, mending where it is channelled with subtlety and skill. Spirits of ice and air are called by the silent seeker, bound into arrows to give them much greater power, and clattering things of artifice are awoken and set to battle by Ormid.

Ormid is taken down, and for a moment, slips close to death, the lingering energies of the mage continuing to devour his body even after he has fallen into merciful unconsciousness. Fortunately, Ardwaine, covered in blood, both hers and her enemies, whispers a prayer of healing and brings him, agonised and weeping, back to life.

One by one, the enemies fall. The Golem never manages to rise from the oil slick, though its cursed blows still send several members of the party flying, their wounds filled with baleful magic which prevents them being healed, whilst the hunting cat is taken down by the vyrleen's chewing mace. The half-golems are smashed apart with hammer, axe, spell and arrow, and the mage is silenced forever by Llewellyn's mace, his head snapping to the side with jarring speed, his incantation silenced in the time it takes his neck to snap.

Before long the Order welcoming party lies dead, and the group, weary almost beyond tolerance, are victorious.

09:54 – 09:56 – There is little time for the party to steady themselves and to enjoy a little healing from the priestess before they turn, limping, towards the impressive rune-bound double doors of stone and Gothniir that lead into the edifice from the platform.

“Everyone ready?” croaks Ormid, bloodied bandages binding his most recent and vicious wounds.

Grim nods from all.

“Then let's finish this.”

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Ormid et al - Session Report, 17/10/2010 (Part 3)

09:40 – 09:44 – In the short time since it first took off, the sky ship has climbed high into the skies above the central ruins, its steep ascent marked by twinned contrails of magical exhaust. With every passing second the tiny vessel gets nearer to the ominous cloud wreathed mass of the floating edifice, the truly epic scale of the levitating mass of stone becoming more and more apparent. Then, suddenly, all at once, the lower mantle of clouds that hug the mountainous base of the edifice above is punctured by a frenzy of heavy weapons fire, the skies around the speeding ship suddenly shot through with shimmering shock waves, the black clouds of detonating explosives and the blinding beams of hellchanter fire. Caught in the maelstrom of explosions, the vessel begins to buck and twist, shuddering and ringing with each blast. An explosion erupts close enough to the ships' port side to blast several of its portholes in, glass spraying into the battle ravaged chamber. Shrapnel spanks off the exterior of the ship, and a high pitched scream shrieks through the vessel as wind surges through the missing windows.

“My Lord,” growls the warforged at the helm, “this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”

Still reeling from the vicious battle, the party begin to move towards the helm, each one shuddering and swaying as the vessel jumps with each blast. Ears pop as pressure waves pound the ship and sound drowns out all thoughts.

A shot clips the tail vane of the ship, and it immediately begins to vibrate horribly, a deep rattling moan thrumming through every timber of its body.

“Shit!” shrieks Llewellyn, grabbing onto a mast for support as the ship begins to yaw alarmingly.

Ormid, his face a mask of determination claws towards the helm rooms door, fighting gravity as it tries to claw him back towards the rear of the ship. As he reaches the door, he reaches out with his fingertips and manages to flip it open just as another explosion erupts directly in front of the careening vessel. Darkness sweeps over the ship and everyone is deafened momentarily as the concussive wave from the blast sweeps across it. Ormid is hurled back, but sees clearly as the thick green glass windows of the helm room explode inwards, a red hot piece of shrapnel decapitating the helmsman.

At once, the ship begins to arch alarmingly as icy, smoky air screams in through the shattered windows, and all the party feel their stomachs lurch horrifically as they, along with the out of control ship, begin to plummet.

“Holy shiiiiiiiit!” Screams Llewellyn.
“Ah fuck!” Bellows Ardwaine.
“Not good, not good at all!” Wails Ormid.
“The fuck?” answers Veteran.
Shadevia says nothing, her hood torn back by the blasting air, her cadaverous features still dark and haunted as she grits her teeth against nausea and strength sapping dread.

“get me to th-the controls!” wheezes Ormid, his breath fogging in the cold, thin atmosphere.

Veteran surges forwards, scooping the artificer and rogue towards the tiny room, whilst Ardwaine and Shadevia make their own way forwards, their ears agonised by the sudden shifts in air pressure. The helm room is a charnel house; fragments of sizzling shrapnel smoke where they are embedded, fragments of warforged are spattered all across every surface. By Leorn's grace however, the master controls are mostly intact, though they do seem to have taken some damage. By even greater luck, the system is truly antiquated, at least by the current times' standards, and Ormid is bowled over to see components he himself designed back in his home time. With joy, he realises he knows how to fly this ship!

Outside the air is ravaged by random blasts, and segmented by dazzling beams of raw magical power. Stalling badly, the ship is now arcing towards oblivion in the ruins far, far below. However, Ormid, helped by Llewellyn manages to get the engines running again, and aided by the warforged (who uses the red dracani scale to cover one of the windows, hugely reducing the bite of the air and the risk of shrapnel wounds) they are able to correct the sickening fall, and to get the ship soaring, a thick tail of smoke and flame trailing behind it, towards the floating mass of the edifice.

09:45 – 09:47 – For what seems like an eternity the ship struggles higher and higher, sweeping back and forth amidst the thudding fields of explosions and burning rays. Now the edifice and its cloudy cover are the only thing filling the windows, and as they draw nearer the amount of fire being thrown at them lessens, for few of the cannons arcs of fire go this high. Suddenly, in a wash of wetness and chill darkness, the ship punches into the boiling cloud layer, and for dreadful moments the vessel is flying blind. Then, the cloud is gone, and suddenly the group realise they have another problem...

...The edifice is really close now...too close.....too....damn.......close!

“Lidithima's tears!” shrieks Ormid, pulling hard on several levers set into the floor, “Where are we going to land?”

Leaping up from below the control panel, the soot and oil smeared vyrleen peers out of the windows, squinting against the biting winds screaming through them.

“Gods, I can't see!” he wails, his eyes refusing to stay open in the drying gale.
“What?” Screams Ormid, “For the love of the Gods boy, look harder or we are dead!”

Llewellyn leaps back under the panel and begins to fiddle with crystals and wires, whilst the silent archer moves to stand by the artificer, her eerie features displaying no emotion.

Desperately the vyrleen tries to think of something, anything, that might help. Then he spots it; a sub-system built into the control matrix that is familiar to him – a variation on certain warding traps that activate bright lights when motion or other stimuli are detected.

It's the head lights!

Fumbling with cold numbed fingers, and dizzy from adrenaline and lack of oxygen, the rogue redirects the flow of energy through the system, and at once brilliant beams of clear light briefly stabs ahead, throwing the rocky face of the edifice into bright illumination. Shadevia squints against the light, but spots something. She taps on Ormid's shoulder and points to a platform that hangs out from within a concealed area – a place where the ship may be landed. Then the lights burn out in a shower of sparks and crystalline shards.

“Oh Gods,” mumbles Ormid, “this is not going to be easy.”

He pulls on the levers and stabs several glowing crystals on the console, the engines giving a plaintive roar in response. By this point the Wisdom is beyond the firing arcs of all the cannons, and it surges forwards, the mountainous wall of stone careering towards them with mind-shredding speed.

“AAAAGH! We're gonna' feckin' crash!” bellows Ardwaine, sliding away from the front windows to be profoundly sick by one of the masts.

“We'll be f-f-f-f-...”

So fast as to be almost impossible the platform zooms past the ship, flashing past in a blur.

“...-uck! No!”

Impact is a second away. In that horrible frozen moment Ormid can see the veins of crystal running through the blue-grey stone of edifice and the pockmarked fields of fossils frozen within its surface. His sense sharpen to a degree he can hardly imagine; colours become intense and luminous, smells overwhelming and his flesh crawls with sensation.

Death approaches....

...3....2....

1...

09:48 – The ship suddenly snaps round to its port side. Gravity shifts to the starboard and everyone is thrown in that direction. The fatal sounds of vanes snapping and beams loosing cohesion explosively cracks through the air as the billowing air punches them, instigating the sudden change in direction.

Ormid fights to understand what just happens. Then he spots the warforged.

The Veteran has saved the group, having pulled harder than Ormid ever could on several levers at once, engaging air breaks beyond the point of tolerance and throwing the ship over into a sharply descending arc. Now the Wisdom is screaming at a 45° angle towards the wide platform below, churning clouds the only thing beyond it.

Snapping out of his fear induced daze Ormid leaps up and drags on the controls, assisted by the vyrleen, whilst Ardwaine looses more of her last meal noisily. The ship is still travelling at a terrific speed and the platform seems to jump towards them, a terrifyingly small target to land on.

Dimly, the group notice that a reinforced door leads from the platform and into the belly of the edifice. Small figures – mages and warforged – are swarming out, and their faces flash forlornly moments before the full 15 tonne bulk of the Wisdom, screaming at terrific speed, grinds them into a red smear against the stone of the platform.

The world turns black and silver. Noise. Impact. Fear.

And then the dim realisation that the ship has stopped, most of it hanging over the edge of the platform, a straining length of high tensile steel cable the only thing stopping it grinding over and into oblivion...

...And outside, the sounds of more troops approaching, dimly heard above the roaring bellow of failing artifice and the grinding crunch of the ships slow slide towards its final flight...

Ormid et al - Session Report, 17/10/2010 (Part 2)

09:07 – 09:10 – A patrol of warforged – some of whom bear the strange symbol of a cog framing a stylized eye with a blank, black pupil – stops the party and asks for their ID. As the Veteran intimidates their leader (who bears no symbol) with a blurt of machine speak that holds his true identify, Llewellyn decides to keep his hand in, and lifts an item from a passing mage. However, he is clearly rusty, for he bollocks it, and is spotted by one of the patrol.

For a moment it looks as if the group will be forced into a battle in the open, almost certainly leading to a deadly confrontation with Unified Order forces – a death sentence. However, the patrol leader, shaken from what he has divined from Veteran's blurt, pulls his soldiers up short before they can attack.

“They are on special business boys. We don't want to mess. Let them pass.”

09:11- 09:12 – The group move a little way further down the road, before Ardwaine grabs Llewellyn by the throat and smashes him against a wall. Fury Is etched onto her face, and her eyes blaze with raw aggression as she begins to squeeze just a bit too hard on his windpipe.

“You fucking moron!” she spits, drool gliding over her bottom lip, “Are you trying to get us fucking killed?”

Llewellyn kicks and thrashes, his face turning blue, and suddenly realising that she is killing him, the dundorin lets him go, spitting on him as he drops, rubbing his neck.

“Keep the fuck away from me you little shit, you hear me?”

Llewellyn just gasps, and gags. The dundorin stalks onwards, the rest of the group staying with Llewellyn, though none offer to help him up.

09:20 – 09:27 - The group arrive at a huge building with a curiously hinged roof; a dome of corrugated metal able to tilt open in order to allow ships inside access to the open skies. Ormid quickly scans the mechanism that powers this movement, and deduces that the system is fully manual, and that the roof is only able to open – or more importantly to close – slowly.

Two more warforged allied to the Veteran Ascended wait by a rear door, and once they have got over their awe at being in the presence of their deity – albeit in a younger, less godly manifestation – they show the group inside.

09:27 – 09:33 – Inside all is a blur of activity. Massive artifice cranes are slowly moving huge collections of sealed crates – each coded to designate where it is from and where it is going – into the holding bays of two massive sky ships, and all around the docks hundreds of individuals run to and fro busily ensuring that everything goes according to the schedule. The warforged lead the party to a small vessel at the back of the hangar; a vessel that is of familiar design to Ormid as its pattern is the same as those used in Lorehaven in his time. This is the Wisdom of the Order; their way to the edifice far above.

09:34 – 09:36 – Three of the warforged climb up the steep sides of the ship and go inside, ready to get it prepped for flight, whilst the last one helps the group up after them. However, as they get onto the deck, from inside the vessel they all hear a dull thump, followed by a booming roar and the sounds of metal striking metal. It is clear that someone or something is inside the ship and has engaged the warforged in combat!

09:36 – 09:40 – The party run towards the aft stairwell which leads to a broad common area; the helm room to the fore of the vessel behind a sturdy door, the steps to the lower decks and engine rooms towards the aft. Smoke fills the air, and the stench of burning meat mixes with the smell of ozone and boiling oil. The three warforged that had come ahead of the party are dead; two lie gutted and bleeding on the floor, their armour effortlessly torn apart by heavy blades, whilst the last shudders and jolts against the far wall, trapped within an artifice net charged with lightning.

“THERE!” Howls a metallic, inhuman voice – the voice of a warforged. “THE DAEMON MANIFESTS IN OUR PRESENCE! DESTROY HIM!”

The screaming comes from the far end of the chamber towards the aft portion of the ship, its source a robed warforged dressed in very heavy vestments of red and silver. In one hand it wields a hammer wreathed in crackling flames, whilst in its other hand it wields a holy symbol – the symbol of Ebon Eye. Between the priest and the group (who are on the steps still, leading down) are several more warforged.

Two are fairly basic soldier types, each plated with reinforced sheets of adamantium and wielding heavy looking falchions, whilst another is a much heavier model. This brute is half as tall again as the others and is bristling with brutal spikes, a massive, barbed double-axe gripped in its spicate fists. Steam pours from its saw-like mouth, spilling over its barrel chest.

The three warrior types are accompanied by a creature only too familiar to the party; an Iron Defender like Ferrous, though it is rather plain when compared to the fey rune decorated beast that accompanies the group. This creature gives a metallic bark, but holds back a moment at the command of the last creature in the hold – a warforged dressed in braided armour, a heavy belt full of artifice components and tools wrapped around its hips, a shimmering warhammer, covered in wires and empowered gems in its grip.

“DESTROY HIM NOW! LORD EBON EYE DEMANDS HIS SKULL PLATE!”

Llewellyn is the first to react, leaping acrobatically sideways off the steps and striking hard at one of the sword wielding warriors below. His mace draws nothing but sparks off his armour however, and the vyrleen has to pull back rapidly as the warrior tries to sweep his weapon out of his grasp. The soldier strikes back, his blade cutting a hideous, flapping “C” of flesh from Llewellyn's belly, blood and entrails immediately appearing from its ghastly grin, and Llewellyn staggers back, his brain having not yet registered the severity of the wound he has just taken.

Corposant plays over the glittering fangs of the Iron Defender and lightning suddenly erupts around the rest of the party (save Shadevia who has wisely stayed at the top of the steps, where she can strike with her deadly bow), blasting and dazing several members of the group. Things only get worse when the other soldier strides up to the Veteran (who is struggling to move against the lingering bite of the Defender's breath weapon), and with a vicious sweep of his curved blade not only opens a spurting wound in his chest, but sends his axe hurtling 20' away behind the enemies ranks.

Suddenly, before the group have even had chance to get stuck into these unexpected foes, they are on the brink of catastrophe.

And then Shadevia makes a strange gesture, and a chill gloom creeps into the air, charged with subtle motion. Around the warforged front rank the air grows thick with darkness, which suddenly rips apart to become a dense swarm of darting bat-like shadow shards, the tenebrous wings confusing and blinding the group's enemies, exposing them to their attacks. Wounded by a burst of psychic fury unleashed by the chanting robed Ebonite, Ormid energises his healing construct and throws it down amidst the group, whilst Llewellyn cartwheels past the suddenly disoriented warforged, and scoops up Veteran's axe. Barely able to pick it up, the rogue heaves the massive weapon towards the warforged, the warrior grabbing it and swinging it at the massive spiked brute that has just laid his shoulder open to the core in a burst of oily fluids and crackling energy.

Another withering cone of lightning blasts through the party, and yet again several members are unable to gather their wits as the voltage surges through them. Ardwaine, who has managed to avoid both blasts utters a healing prayer, reducing some of the wounds suffered by Veteran and Llewellyn, and Shadevia begins to lay about the enemy with arrows imbued with elemental spirits; frost and lightning empowering each projectile.

For several fraught moments the party struggle to match their foes still. However, as soon as the enemy Iron Defender is smashed, the battle swings, finally, in their favour, and it is at this point that the ship begins to shudder with power, its engines turning over, a subtle roar of unleashed, focused elemental power surging through the entire structure; artifice runes burning with power in the beams and masts of the vessel as it awakens.

“I'll take us up.” crackles the deadpan voice of the fourth allied warforged, “You just take those heretics out.”

The confines of the chamber boil with the shocking horror of combat. Weapons savagely crunch into metal and flesh, and the smoky, stench filled air coils with whining artifice, seething projectiles and mind-blasting waves of psychic turmoil. The noise is deafening and the battle dirty and up close. The ground becomes slick with oily fluids and gore, and small smoky fires burn across the area, adding their hellish light to the thick, smothering air. The enemy artificer uses his powers to drive his allies onwards with psychic prods and words of power, whilst the priest calls upon arcane fire to heal his allies and blast the group.

However, despite their opponents ferocity, the group manage, just, to win, the final soldier being decapitated by the death throes of the spiked horror as Veteran's axe takes its head.

But the group are far from out of danger.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Ormid et al - Session Report, 17/10/2010 (Part 1)

08:45 – The group come to a break in the forest, and ahead behold a wondrous, yet horrifying sight; a blinding wall of brilliant light, scintillating through all the colours of the rainbow. It is a formidable construct of epic magic, suspended between 25' high pylons of metallic stone, carved with powerful runes.

“It's beyond my ability to bring this down” gasps Ormid almost as soon as he sees it, “this is a work of art. An incredible piece of artifice.”

He shakes his head.

08:46 – 08:55 – The group move southwards along the wall, hoping to find some kind of breach or other easier way in. Through the painful glare of the wall they can see that the land sharply drops away beyond, and can make out the vague silhouettes of buildings in the dip. Above loom huge anvil-headed clouds, alive with thunder and flashes of lightning, their shadow plunging the settlement below into darkness. All the party feel a bitter disappointment within them; to have come so far only to be stopped by this final barrier seems so unfair...and to have their only way home blocked...

And then they see him.

08:56 – 09:00 - A huge warforged, clad in golden plates which bear terrifying runes of power and long spikes stands ahead, next to a section of the barrier which, for reasons unknown, is down. A sizzling greataxe struck with dread glyphs of destruction growls and crackles in its spiked grip and its eyes glow with almost liquid golden fire. An aura of raw power oozes from it, setting the air around it to shivering, and yet, despite all this, it seems oddly...familiar.

And then it hits the party who it is, though It takes them a few moments to recognise him, for he is very, very much changed from his “current” (to them) form.

It is Veteran.

The Epic Veteran.

Veteran Ascended.

The group greet him warily, for they realise that he has undergone apotheosis, and that he may now be something utterly different from the creature they once (and currently, still do) know. It is only now that they see the second figure, a shadow hiding in his brilliance; a strange woman who crouches next to him; clad in dark armour that weeps shadow and a hooded cloak. A shadowy bow of solidified gloom is slung over her shoulder, and her features are lost in the deep, shifting darkness of her hood. She regards the group with wary, black eyes, and seems tense.

“H-Hello?” mutters Ormid

“Welcome friend.” replies Veteran Ascended in a deep, rumbling voice, “Come here, for we must speak before you move on.”

Trying not to feel too awed (and in the case of Veteran, too full of himself), the party move closer, noting that the ascended warforged bears a symbol on his chestplate – a flaming double axe, framing a cog, within which is a stylised human-like eye. As the party nears, the shadow woman tenses still more, but a murmured word from the ascended warforged seems to calm her.

“Greetings to you all, my former self and allies. As you may have guessed, I am you Veteran, though you may not necessarily become me.”

The group take a moment to let the illogical nature of that statement sink in, before Ormid, his head suddenly throbbing, asks for clarification.

The answer, though it feels right, doesn't really help that much.

“Time is strange thing, that guards its past very carefully. The past is set, immutable, and you are all my past. I remember meeting myself here, remember the battles in the ruins, the volcano and everything else we did together, just as I remember the future that lead to my present state. However, the future is a shifting serpent, who's path is tangled and varied, and though you are my past, I am not definitely your future – or at least, my present and this present is not definitely your future.
“Be not beholden to this, and be not overly confident in the trials ahead, for there are other futures and other paths of time. You may find that you are destined to tread one of those rather than this one, especially if you believe yourself immune to harm, having seen 'your future'”

A moment of stunned, confused silence, and then the Veteran asks, “How did you, I, get like this?”

The Ascended Veteran nods. “We are a prototype of our kind; the template from which countless millions have or will be born. Warforged are sentient beings, who seek a deeper connection with the universe, and so, whilst some may turn to the worship of the deities of other races and cultures, many sought a god in their progenitors, or at least, in the first of their kind. As I battled increasingly powerful opponents, and my existence became known, so I grew in power, eventually undergoing apotheosis sparked by their faith.
“However, you should know, there are other paragons like myself who underwent this change, and amongst them, in this reality, is Ebon Eye.”

“I have arranged for some of my followers, and for this woman – Shadevia – a lost traveller from a shadow world cast onto the fabric of the universe by this plane, to help you get access to the ancient Time Dilation Chambers, for these are your only hope of leaving this time alive. The chambers drift high above the central ruins, in the heart of those mighty clouds”

The Veteran Ascended points to the ominous, towering clouds above the ruins, who even now shift and billow with seething, internal energies.

“The Unified Order are hard at work trying to find a way to use the ancient chronomantic cores of the the chambers as the foundation for some kind of time gate, though they have been utterly unable to decipher the artifice at work there. To this end they have enlisted the help of an ancient being – an Aethran'Gigorim – a giant from a long flown tribe, imbued with a powerful grasp of magic and arcane lore, who even now works some kind of ritual up there
“I do not believe the Aethran intends to help the Order, but has its own selfish agenda, and I believe that if it is allowed to complete its work, this world may be undone. So, you must gain access to the edifice that floats above, locate the chronomantic cores, and use them to open a way out of here. You should also work to thwart the Aethran's plans, preferably by destroying the cores somehow and taking them forever out of the Order's hands.

Head shake. Ormid frowns.

“So let me get this straight,” he begins, pursing his lips to his steepled fingers, “We need to find an ancient piece of artifice that so far has eluded the brains of the greatest Order mages and somehow make it work for us, whilst simultaneously avoiding or battling an ancient being of primal power, and, somehow undo the very magics we need to get out of this nightmare of a future? Is that right?”

The Veteran Ascended gives a low, rumbling laugh, “I had forgotten how sulky you could be master Ormid. It is exactly as you say. And there is more.”

A collective groan.

“The agents of the Ebon Eye have learned of your presence in this time Veteran, and in spite of all he knows about the immutable nature of the past, he seeks to destroy you in an attempt to destroy me. To this end, he has made all his followers – of which there are many in the ruins – aware of your mortal appearance, and has promised great power and privilege to the one able to bring you down. You should be aware, they will strike at you, and it will be a vicious confrontation. Make sure it isn't your last.
“And so you must go. Shadevia is able to summon the spirits of the world to aid her, by imbuing her arrows with their power, and as such will be a powerful ally. She needs to escape this place, for the Order seek her out as a criminal against their ideals.”

Evran snorts.

“And as for you,” says the Veteran Ascended, turning to the ragged mage, “You cannot go any further, for when you went renegade, the Order made a weak phylactery from some of your personal affects. This could, at close range, be used to track you and consequently, the party.”

The mage stiffens, a panicked look crossing his face. Sparkles of magic dance over his hands as he reflexively summons power to defend himself if needed. However, the demi-god's next words calm him at once.

“Where in this world would you go mage? Where could you start again and know peace?”

“Oh? OH! Well, I always wondered what Central Lower Malgorothian cuisine was like. Was always hearing abou...”

There is a shivering in reality, a pop, and the mage is no longer there, sent away on the currents of magic to the fog shrouded ports of Port D'aube far to the east and south of here.

“And so, it is time for you all to move from here and onwards towards your destiny. Beyond the barrier is steep drop, and beyond that, a large settled area used as a base of operations for the hundreds of researchers, historians, artists, artificers, botanists, psychics and other experts that work to uncover the ancient cities secrets. Security in there is actually quite lax, for the defences in the outer ruins, as well as the deadly nature of the ruins themselves, are seen as a powerful protection; so you shouldn't have any problems getting to the sky ship hangar.
“Once in there, my servants have procured a ship, the Wisdom of the Order, which they will use to take you to the floating edifice above. Chances are, any secrecy you have enjoyed so far will vanish at that point, for only authorised personnel are allowed to enter that area, and deadly force will be used against trespassers.”
The group all groan inwardly, the epic nature of the task before them really starting to hit home. Shadevia joins them, saying nothing, and all the party feel a particular sense of unease around her, for she seems to exude a morbid atmosphere of despair and loss, and seems to be at the centre of a constant invisible mess of movements, as if thousands of unseen birds continually fly around her. They thank the Veteran Ascended, and pass through the barrier, and quickly move down the sparsely covered drop on the far side.

08:56 – 09:00 – At the bottom of the hill, crouching behind some ancient stonework, are four warforged who all bear the Veteran Ascended's symbol on their chestplates. They bow to Veteran and bid the party follow them to the hangars. They warn the group that they need to look natural as they move, as if they belong there, for any kind of cautious, stealthy movement would be out of place in what is a fairly laid-back settlement.

09:00 – 09:07 – The group enter the researchers village, and are slightly amazed at how normal it is, given its fantastic location. Its structures are all ancient buildings that have been repaired and fortified, and as the group move along the well paved roads, they see that all the trappings of a normal town are present; taverns, shops, places of worship (with a huge bias towards Merriel'Shaava and her servants) and places for games and fun. The group pass the settlements equivalent of a town hall, and manage not to laugh when an elderly gent carrying a plater of hot caffeine throws them all sky high when challenged by the Iron Golem's that guard the way in.

And then the Vyrleen, bored, does the worst thing possible...

Monday, 18 October 2010

'Twas A Day

Just a quick heads up. The last game was an all dayer so there is a lot to get written up. I will be doing it in bits, and there is a chance that they won't all get up here in a hurry. 

Thanks for your patience (and if you have no patience - screw you ^_^)

Monday, 11 October 2010

Post War Natives - 08-10-201

“Darius and I grew up together in Irin. He was always a scrawny little bleeder, who's mouth got him into all kinds of trouble his fists couldn't get him out of. That's where I came in, as I have always been a tough bastard with an eye for causing my foes to suffer. As we grew we did everything together, so it made sense when Darius got his money lending business started, that I should be the head of his security team.

“We worked hard together to get his business up and running, and weathered many trials together. As the years passed by, our friendship became more and more solid, and I truly never thought we would fall out in any way. However, about six moons past, he began to change. He became crueller, and the bond between us seemed to have faded. Yithia, his love, told me I was being silly, but I knew that something was very, very wrong.

“He started to meddle in affairs that were clearly dangerous – the poison thing with your church being one of them – and when I urged caution, he flew at me and told me to keep out of his business, and warned that if I couldn't, that I should leave him. This, more than anything before confirmed to me that some terrible doom had come to my friend, though I had no idea what.

“I begged Yithia to work a divination to scan her love, but she grew angry and upset, and echoed Darius' words earlier. I truly believe that she too knew what was going on, but didn't want to admit it, even to herself.

“Then, I saw it. I had heard through my underworld contacts in Irin that a retirement order had been put out on Darius – though not the one you are here to execute – and eager to try and slap some sense into my lifelong friend, I charged into his chambers...”

Istan seems to sag a little at this point. He takes another slug of liquor, and after warming it in his mouth swallows it hard. He looks up at the group with wet eyes, and then manages to compose himself enough to continue.

“I burst into Darius' chambers, and caught 'him' by surprise – or at least something that resembled him. It was only a split second glimpse, but he was...wrong...somehow. His features were loose and alien; blank eyes, grey flesh, like molten wax. He was too tall, and too slender. His arms were overly long, and his shoulders were hunched.”

Istan shudders again.

“It was only a split second glance. As fast as my shocked brain could take in what it had seen, the thing was back to normal; Darius for all intents and purposes. But I knew better.”

“I ran. I grabbed my weapons and a fistful of coins and ran.”

Istan clenches his fists and looks down, and all the group realise that they have been silently rapt by this terrible tale. Emmiven is the first to speak.

“Istan, at the risk of frightening you, what you saw, did it look anything like this?”

The warrior looks up at the warlord, and Emmiven allows his features to slide into their natural state; noseless, mouthless, wide white eyes without pupils and grey, featureless skin, like potters clay. Istan leaps up and reaches for his blade, knocking his chair flying. The group all stand up, arms out, trying to calm him, and seeing that Emmiven has returned his features to their human mask, and seeing the groups' eagerness to avoid conflict, he picks his chair up and sits down once more, though with a notable degree of cautious stiffness to his manner.

“Yes. That is exactly what I saw. What, in the name of all that crawls are you?”

Emmiven nods, apparently unmoved by Istan's revulsion. “I'm a shapeshifter, a changeling. I am called Doppelganger by some, Shift Kin by others. I believe that your friend may well have been replaced by one of my kind. Did the changeling know things that only Darius could know?”

Istan nods.

“Then it must be a very old, and very powerful specimen, for only they can read the minds of their victims and steal not only their appearances, but their personalities. We must be careful in our endeavours, for such a beast is canny and will have numerous spies and associates”

“It's possible that Darius may yet live you know.” Adds Jaeger, though Emmiven does not look convinced. “We may be able to save him.”

“So,” gulps Istan, finally back in control of himself, “my friend is at best a prisoner, and has been for months now, and you seek to destroy the monster that has ruined his life.”

He seems to give the matter a moments thought before continuing.

“I know a secret way into Darius' inner chambers that this shapeshifter will not know. Darius, fearing that a mage with the power to read minds could learn of an escape route he had knowledge of, and assuming that we would always be side by side, charged me with creating a secret way in and out of the compound that only I would know of. I did this, and to this day, only myself and the mage that helped me create it, know of it.

“You could use this way to enter the compound completely undetected by the guards and wards around it, and hopefully, catch the monster unawares. However...”

The group stare quietly, having expected this.

“I have duty to the people of this village. They took me in without any knowledge of who I am, and in payment I have worked to help keep them safe, for dark things stalk the forests to the south of here; Attercops.”

“I do not feel that I can leave the people of this town alone to face the predations of these monsters, but will have to come to Irin if you are to use the secret way. To this end I propose an alliance. You help me wipe out the Attercop hive once and for all, and I shall help you to not only locate the secret way into Darius' keep, but shall fight besides you against the imposter. Everyone wins.”

Istam sits back, fire in his eyes, and waits for the group to reply. The party look at each other, and without words decide that this is an excellent plan. Emmiven grins at Istan and extends a hand. Istan hesitates for only the briefest moments before taking his hand and shaking on the deal.

“So be it. We leave at first light then. Get some food in your belly, get some sleep, and I shall see you in a few hours in the town square.”

Istan rises, and drops a couple of silver coins on then table, before leaving.

23:00 – 00:30 (4/5/1472) The group have some more drinks, and try to relax before the trials of the next day. Then they retire to their rooms for the night.

07:00 – Thick mist, strong with the smell of pine sap and damp earth, hangs over Aramayne, turning everything beyond immediate sight into looming, shadowy ghosts. Istan is waiting for the party in the stillness of the square, and now wears his weapons in a more professional manner. He also wears a well maintained suit of chainmail, a heavy shield of burnished steel, and a riveted helm of leather covered steel atop his head. He grins as the group emerge, and greets them warmly.

07:20 – 07:25 – With the party (plus the faerie dragon) gathered, Emmiven riding Diabolus, the group move out of Aramayne, and into the foggy depths of the Argent Woods.

The woods are an eerie and storied place, and in the gloomy half-light, more evidence of the carnage that took place here during the aelwyn wars is apparent. Crows caw above, and furtive movement in the dense canopy suggests the nearness of arboreal rodents – or something else. However, as the group head southwards, all natural beasts seem to grow less frequent, and the party increasingly find huge swathes of webbing, thick as bedsheets and tough as mail, spread like nets between the trunks of the trees and along the lay of the canopy.

07:26 – 07:30 – Dense webs hang vertically from trees ahead, and form low slung sheets across the floor, masking the terrain beneath pale, sticky fibres. Moss covered stones jut up from the rich black soil, and the tangled roots of ancient oaks – a tree that is starting to become more common than the Silver Pines – rear up like woody talons all around, forming twisting labyrinths of earthy tunnels back into the ground. The party are moving with great caution now, for Istan has warned them that they are nearing the Attercop lair.

“So, what exactly is an Attercop?” asks Varracuda quietly.

Istan begins to speak, but is interrupted by Grigori. “Attercops, also called Ettercaps, Arachryst or colloquially, Spider Folk, are nasty arachnid humanoids with a penchant for breeding monstrous varieties of spider and for laying ambushes. They are rumoured to feed on blood, and prize the fluids of sentient beings above those of other, lesser beasts.”

Istan nods, and adds. “They're nasty little bastards with a venomous bite and the intelligence to fight together and make their abilities pay. Don't expect a straight forwards battle with them.”

Grigori suddenly seems to shake as if struck, and his shrill voice rings out, echoing through the webbed stillness of the ancient forest...

“AMBUSH! EMMIVEN, TO YOUR RIGHT!”

All eyes snap to the right, and at once see the form of a nasty grey-green spider the size of a hunting dog, launching from a trap-door of silk-woven sod at the base of a sprawl rooted Oak. At the same instant another, identical spider leaps from the left hand side of the party, whilst four wretched things; hunched backed humanoids with spider-like heads, pinkish-brown chitinous armour, and segmented, spider-like limbs, skitter forwards, each one wielding a greataxe apparently woven from arachnid secretions. Each creature stands a little over 5' high, and moves with the surety of thinking, self-aware entities.

Attercops!

In the distance, almost obscured by the waving sheets of webbing hanging from the branches, loom two huge spiders, each larger than Emmiven's warhorse. They are pale silver, with irregular splotches of indigo across their bodies, and have six silvery eyes set into their small, viciously fanged heads. As the group watch both vanish, reappearing a moment later directly in front of the party, venomous fangs snapping.

Combat ensues. The webbing proves to be a substantial handicap to the party, for it restricts movement by clinging in sticky clumps to them, whilst all their enemies are able to move through it without impediment. The smaller spiders attack using stealth; lunging at their targets and then withdrawing into webbed tunnels which burrow beneath the forest floor, allowing them to move unseen - often some considerable distance from where they originally struck – ready to strike once more by surprise.

The Attercops are, as Istan warned, skilled combatants, that seek to flank their foes and make use of their paralysing venom to incapacitate party members for crucial moments. When they strike with their strangely crafted greataxes, the damage is substantial, the strength in their spidery limbs being perfectly suited to their heavy, cleaving blades, and they soon manage to wreak some substantial damage to the group.

Of the most immediate concern however are the huge silvery spiders, for they are able to bend space, and teleport across the battlefield, delivering a powerful bite thick with a potent venom. These monsters wreak additional havoc, by being able to send enemies on involuntary trips across the battlefield, with bursts of teleporting energy, and they become the primary focus of the parties efforts.

The group work incredibly well together through this battle. Emmiven uses Diabolos to trample foes under its iron-shod hooves, smashing them to the ground and pulping them before they can rise, whilst the warriors form a defensive line, shoving back the monsters as they launch in to attack. Seren bears the brunt of several attacks after an Attercop sneaks around and manages to paralyse her with a bite, and even the barbarian – usually the most doughty member of the party in matters of constitution – finds himself held rigid by their venom at least once; a horrific sensation of leaden helplessness that leaves a wake of painful pins and needles in its wake.

However, with the deft discipline of seasoned adventurer's the group drive the horrors back, leaving no survivors, though all bear at least a few wounds from the fray.

07:31 – 07:36 – Jaeger spends a little time draining the venom from the Attecop's glands, managing to obtain a small vial of the nasty stuff, whilst the rest of the party catches their breath, cleans and dresses wounds, or drinks plenty of water in an effort to purge any remaining venom from their systems.

07:37 – 07:53 – The party move on with even more caution, the forests around them becoming increasingly thickly shrouded with webbing, though the barbarian's flaming axe and the genasai's fiery invocations clear it easily enough. As they continue, they spot the desiccated forms of local animals and even a few unlucky humanoids hanging in the tangles, along with small amounts of coin, and discarded weapons.

“Leave them.” warns Istan frowning, “Likely they are rigged to some kind of alarm system or trap. We can rescue the remains and their wealth once we have destroyed the colony.”

The party heed his words, and move on, trying to ignore the silent, swaying shadows.

As the party move on, it becomes clear that the warhorse will not be able to move safely, and reluctantly, Emmiven tells the intelligent steed to return to the edge of the woods and to wait for them, which it does. Eventually, the group see some kind of ancient structure ahead – small and roofless, possibly a large shed or small cottage – almost lost amidst the omnipresent silken sheets of webbing. At first they think the area is empty, though they spot several clusters of curious silk spheres; tumorous things of off-white fibres, anchored to the ground and trees by tough strands of webbing, which Istan identifies as nursery sacks, almost certainly swarming with immature, but highly venomous spiderlings.

However, as they draw closer, Grigori and Istan both notice that something squats, almost invisible in the gloom and through the webs, on top of the structure's walls – two massive spiders, even larger than the phase spiders before. Each is a fat bodied thing covered in short, black bristles. Their pedipalps have evolved to become 5' long barbed blades of chitin, each one oozing tiny droplets of milky venom, and their short legs suggest these are ambush predators that use speed and surprise to deal a vicious, fatal blow to their prey before it is able to respond. The wretched twisted forms of Attercops can also be seen inside the structure, though before the group can attack, Grigori spots something that gives him concern.

Just in front of the party, in the billowing sheets of webbing, the priest has noticed a thick strand of darker webbing, which hangs in such a way that anyone moving towards the structure would break it. In a world of hanging silken sheets, this webbing is almost invisible and seemingly unremarkable. However, upon closer examination, Jaeger realises that it is supporting a delicate net of envenomed webbing, hung over the area, which would, if the strand were broken, be dropped on the party, almost certainly wrapping them up in toxic strands, which would likely impede their ability to defend themselves and expose them continually to their poisonous covering.

With this deadly trap discovered, the group are able to move around the trigger safely. However, their movement sends tiny vibrations through the crazed tangles of webbing around the area, alerting the monsters ahead as surely as if they had shouted, and at once, another battle begins.

07:54 – 07:55 – It is a short battle, but by its end several areas of the webbing are burning cheerily, and two of the egg sacks have been ruptured by the blind swinging of a attercop that demonstrated an uncanny ability to manipulate the webs in order to impede the party, the area around them boiling with blind, vicious spiderlings, who swarm and bite anything they come into contact with that has warm mammalian blood or its equivalent.

The “sword spiders” lie dead, though they have inflicted significant harm on the party; their massive, poisoned sword-arms ripping through armour and flesh like paper, shredding internal organs and pumping their targets full of deadly poison, and were it not for the vigilant healing invocations of the cleric, Emmiven, Varracuda and likely Istan would all be dead thanks to their tender mercies.

07:56 – 08:01 – The group allow Grigori to work healing over them, and take a moment to master their pain and budding fear. Once again, the assassin obtains a vial of milky attercop venom from the slain fiends, and before too long, the party are ready to explore the ruins and to find their way into the attercop lair.

“Be warned,” begins Istan grimly, his armour punctured in several placed by the serrated blades of the sword spiders, “I have never been this deep into the monster's territory, and know not what lies beyond this point. Be prepared for anything, and keep your eyes and ears open.”

Gritting their teeth against the pain of their wounds and the residual sting of the toxins in their bodies, the group nod, and move towards the ruined building.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Back When Things Were Simple...

This strip always made me smile. I miss the old Dragon mag so much sometimes!


And isn't the message there incredibly true? The older you get, and the more you play, the more complex and crazy the missions and plots become. I wonder if the PC's in my games sometimes feel like this!

Ormid et al - Session Report, 29/9/2010

06:18 – 06:20 – As the kydraxi flee, the party feel a giddy sense of elation at another enemy vanquished. They search the remains of those monsters that did not flee, and uncover little of interest. Then they begin to discuss what they should do next.

“So where exactly are we headed?” asks Ormid, wiping gore from his bent-framed spectacles.

“The heart of the city.” Replies Evran, “It's where the most important buildings were back in the day, and is where we are most likely to find the ancient time dilation chambers.”

“But what about the Order?” asks Ardwaine, “I mean, they are hardly gonna' let us just waltz in and take what we want are they?”

The group mull over various ideas.

“A distraction!” Shrieks Evran suddenly. “We could climb up into one of those” (he points at a vast spired structure – a citadel of alien design – drifting on broken streams of reality 300' above the ground, a couple of miles to the south) - “and somehow bring it down - POW! - into the ruins! That would bring every Order freak from miles around, and remove them from where we want to go.”

Evran beams, clearly pleased with his idea. The Veteran and Llewellyn both seem to share the mage's enthusiasm for his clearly insane idea, the former somehow conveying an eager grin without the benefits of lips or moveable mouth parts. Ardwaine and Ormid however, aware of the suicidal nature of such a plan, are less keen, and make their feelings known.

“So, who would stay inside the building, to trigger its descent?” Asks the dundorin.
“And how do you propose we 'bring it down'?” Asks Ormid, “They're not floating on goodwill and fluffy puppy smiles you know. That's some serious power holding those thousands of tons of material in the air.”

The group look across the warped landscape towards the tower, the three pro-crashing adventurer's only seeming to truly take in the sheer size and magnificence of the floating structures for the first time.

“But, we could climb up those rubble trails that float behind...” Begins the vyrleen, until he realises that no one is listening.

“IF, we work out where we are going, and IF we need to cause a huge bloody distraction to get there, then your plan might be a good one Evran.” murmurs Ormid, “But I'm still not sure we could actually knock one of those things down, and even less sure we could do so without getting killed, so let's hope we don't rely on that plan eh?”

Evran looks disappointed, but nods, glumly, like a child who has just been told they can't have a new toy they wanted.

“Can we move on now?” asks Ardwaine, climbing back onto her spectral mount.

Ferrous barks in agreement, and soon the party are on the move again.

06:21 – 06:45 – The group move deeper into the ruins of the this once principle city, and view even more of its ravaged sights. They ride through a forest of pines, which simultaneously seems to be an autumnal broadleaved forest, who's ghostly leaves fall silently from an invisible canopy as they ride – a spectral image of the former forest, overlapping the “reality” of the one they are physically in - and more than a few times enter areas where the air grows humid and heavy, like that of a jungle. Strange pressures and eerie shivers play over the party as they pass shattered structures, which seem to have been in this world for hundreds if not thousands of years, but which clearly pre-date the city itself. At one point they climb up a bald hill getting a good view of the surrounding area. To the east, beyond a deep dip in the land filled with black pines and further out, huge mushrooms, they spot a massive cyclopean wall of black stone – clearly larger than any human architecture. It extends for several miles north to south, and thin threads of smoke can be seen rising from hidden fires in a wide breach in its length. To the south the land drops away sharply into hidden deeps after a few miles of loosely wooded and ruin studded levelness, though a huge cluster of black crystals, taller than a tower and seething with ebon and purple mists and cold, tenebrous flames, forms an impressive, alien landmark close to its edge. To the southwest the land rises sharply masking what lies beyond, though dark clouds, pregnant with hail or snow yet clearly filled with flickering fires of substantial power, lower above. To the north, thick forests, spiked by glistening ruined towers, climb into sweeping, domed hills, hiding from this elevation, the jagged, barren peaks of the Southgards. And above it all float the shattered, shimmering, gleaming ruins of ancient structures – both those of hoary Laertraine, and those of far removed universes, sucked by rips and eddies in reality, into their current locales – their torn bases trailing floating veils of rubble, some surrounded by groves of actively growing trees, who seem utterly unhindered by their unnatural, aerial homes.

Taking this all in, and getting their bearings, the party decide to check out the smoke coming from the vast wall. They plan, should it be some kind of Unified Order patrol, to ambush them and to take their clothing and identification – an old, but occasionally viable plan – and with this in mind, usher their mounts down into the black pines ahead.

06:46 – 06:55 – As the party ride down the hill towards the trees, they become aware of a building, subtle pressure in their heads; a little like the fullness in the ears one feels when one moves to a high altitude quickly without ears popping, though it seems to resonate through their whole bodies. Veteran feels it particularly, for it seems to surge like energised treacle through his form, leaving hot, liquid bursts of pain in its wake.

The pressure only increases as the group enter the shadowy embrace of the forests at the bottom of the hill; sounds becoming muted and muffled, the air seeming dense and thick with strange energies. Noting the way that the horses – constructs of raw shaped magic – are flaring with pale light and flickering strangely, Ormid calls a halt. He whispers something to Evran, and both spend a moment staring, eyes squinting, into the shifting gloom that spreads amongst the mossy trunks of the black pines...

...06:56 – 07:00 – Ormid sits suddenly back in his saddle with a gasp, and Evran slowly climbs down off his mount and backs away from it as if it is some venomous monster.

“Everyone dismount.” breathes Ormid slowly, “There is a band of incredibly unstable energy ahead, and if we wander in with any kind of active magics, or activate any magics whilst moving through it, I believe...”

“As do I.” interrupts Evran.

“...That there would be a serious, and almost certainly deadly reaction.”

“But...” begins Llewellyn.

“I'm not going to argue with you.” snaps Ormid, who with a gesture and a murmur of draining magics dismisses the horses, dropping those still on them to the ground. “We carry on, on foot.”

The party organise and slowly, carefully, walk through the strange, oppressive stillness of the unstable wild zone. Energy flares in colourless rainbows from the warforged's internal components, and similar discharges of power crackle and sing from the various enchanted items carried by the party. After a couple of minutes, when the party are deep in the zone, they feel an arctic drop in temperature, and smell snow, though there is no wind, no precipitation and no other indication as to where the change has come from. Eyes wide, the group push on, and soon, without any warning, they find themselves suddenly back in normality – not to mention several miles closer to the huge wall then they have any right to be, in the middle of the forest of huge mushrooms they saw from the hill.

07:00 – 07:15 – A light mist threads amongst the stems of the 30' – 140' high fungi that form a forest in this region, the smell of mushrooms overpowering in the dank air. The group all recognise these as a fay species – almost certainly introduced by some errant interdimensional current as spores, or perhaps the descendants of specimens brought into this world by a long gone Laertrainian mycologist. They are different here however, for the group remember that in their native lands they shone with pale violet light, and their spores (which drizzle constantly adding to the mist in this region, each individual the size of a dies pips) glowed with a pale green light, forming luminous carpets on the floors of those whimsical, deadly lands. The ground here is a tangle of thick rhizomorphs and fluffy mycelium, and the group have to move carefully to avoid tripping on the spongy, tangling terrain.

The air in this region carries a strange energy; a shifting pressure like that before a storm, and Ormid recognises it as the energies of a wild zone. He warns the groups' spellcasters that their magic may be unpredictable in this area, and warns everyone else to be choosy when activating any magical powers on their gear, for a wild surge could be deadly. He then collects some fungus samples, mumbling something about “growing a new house”.

They move for a while amongst the towering, sweating stems of the gargantuan fungi, and only stop when they all feel a rhythmical thumping through the ground, followed shortly after by dull thudding sounds. Peeling back the tangled skin of the forests upper floor, the group hide from the ever nearing sounds, and a few moments later catch a glimpse of four massive humanoids, moving along a path some 60' away, that winds westwards to the north of their current locale.

Each creature stands almost three times the height of anyone in the party, and have dark grey, stony flesh, covered in purple and blue tattoos. They are massively muscled, though lean and sculpted, like fine athletes rather than hulking brutes, and have stoic, stony features set into a scowl. They are Morgog'Gigorim – Stone Giants – and are clearly intended to watch over this area in a region where the usual types of guardians employed by the Order – things of billowing magic and channelled power – would result in catastrophic wild storms.

Two of the monsters wear heavy plate armour, magnificently crafted from plates of worked stone, and wield huge greatswords of grey steel, a bandolier of massive throwing hammers thumping across their armoured breasts. One slightly behind these two soldiers bears no sword, but has a multitude of finely crafted throwing hammers to hand, whilst the fourth wears supple robes crafted from interweaving crystals, and moves with a lithe grace and balance that leaves the group in no doubt that its body is its weapon.

As they move, they scan their dark gazes over the landscape, and the party duck under the pungent mat of the forest floor before they are spotted. After a short while, the dull thumping of the gigorim's footsteps fades into the distance, and the group scramble out of their earthy hiding place and brush themselves down.

“I really don't want to mess with them.” whispers Ormid.
“Me either”, agrees Evran, picking a beetle out of his ear. Even the warforged, normally up for any battle nods his agreement.

The Vyrleen seems to be peering towards the wall in the direction from which the patrol came.

“The smoke we saw is coming from the same place they did. It might be worth checking the area out?”

No one seems too keen to volunteer, and the Vyrleen decides he will climb a nearby mushroom for a better view.

07:15 – 07:20 – Leaping nimbly over to the base of one of the tree-like mushrooms, Llewellyn begins to try and scale the wide stem, but finds it beyond his strength, its oily secretions making it almost impossible to grip. Aware that the group are silently laughing at him, he tries several times more, managing to get only a few feet off the ground before losing his grip and slipping, sans dignity, to the base of the fungus on his arse.

Chuckling to himself, the Veteran hauls the diminutive humanoid to his feet, and with piton and rope, he begins to climb the stem like a cliff face, dislodging chunks of mushroom wood and bursts of slimy fluid with each move. Using the spaces made by his passing, the vyrleen follows, and after a short while both the warforged and the rogue are at the top of the stem, some 40' above the ground, looking along the lengths of the gills that frill the caps underside, and wondering how they will manage the 20' overhang the cap presents, without being sent crashing to a painful mess far below.

An insane plan is hatched. Hanging by the pitons, the warforged helps Llewellyn to tie the rope around his waist. He then begins to swing him back and forth like a tiny pendulum, gaining momentum with each pass. Trying hard to remember not to whoop with the sheer adrenaline pumping joy of what he is doing, the vyrleen begins to set his mind on the next phase of the plan, for it is the most dangerous part.

Having built a terrifying amount of momentum, the warforged grunts that the rogue should be ready, before suddenly, with an upswing, releasing the rope. Inertia sends Llewellyn hurtling towards the edge of the cap and beyond, and suddenly the stupidity of the move overwhelms him, along with a terrifying, exhilarating burst of screaming joy. However, before he can fly off to a horrible death, the Veteran grabs hold of the rope with an iron grip, jolting Llewellyn to a sudden stop and forcing him to whip up and over the edge of the cap and up onto its top. He slams into the solid fungus' cap with enough force to wind him, and begins to scrabble for a handhold.

To his horror, he discovers that the top of the cap is covered in the thick layer of slippery slime, and he begins to slide towards the edge of it. Panicking, Llewellyn grabs his mace, and with as much force as he can muster, slams its handle into the fungus, lodging it in firmly, giving himself a handhold. Ropes are secured, and soon the warforged joins him.

The view from on top of the fungus is still blocked by the much larger specimens that grow everywhere. However it allows the to note that the path the gigorim were wandering along leads to the massive breach in the alien wall, about a quarter mile away. In front of the breach is a large area that has been cleared of obstructions – clearly a kill zone – and closer examination reveals the presence of craters in the ground; almost certainly the results of cannon fire. Realising that there must be a fortified position guarding the breach, and that the kill zone is almost certainly trapped, the two adventurers realise that the group will need to come up with another way of getting through if they want to avoid and almost certainly suicidal confrontation.

07:25 – 07:40 – The two fungoid climbers return to the ground, and the group decide that the safest route will be to scale the wall itself, a way away from the breach, and to move further in from there.

07:50 – The group arrive at the base of the huge wall, and soon are roped together and climbing up its pocked and vine covered face. It's slow going, but with Veteran and Ardwaine forming the solid core of their efforts (and Ferrous secured by a rope to the warforged), they make steady, safe progress...

….Until....

08:00 – 08:05 – About halfway up the wall, the group come to a thick growth of some strange rubbery black plant, which grows out of the wall. Thinking it an ideal anchor point for the ropes, the warforged clambers towards and then into their middle, grabbing out a piton ready to spike the walls' face. Ormid, shaking with fear as he clambers up the wall, looks up just as this is happening, and feels his stomach knot in horror, for he recognises what the plants are...

“WHIP WEEDS! LOOK OUT!!!”

The warning saves Veteran's life, for suddenly, all around him, the kelpe like growths come to life, their broad leaves slashing back and forth with a ghastly rattling cry, whilst long, thorned tendrils unfurl from their cores. The plants skitter like foul vegetable spiders over the walls face, lashing out at the party with their deadly stems, and soon, a precarious battle across the walls face begins.

The group do incredibly well, given the tenuous hold they have on the wall, the ropes and pitons slammed into it allowing them some movement and ability to fight, though still leaving them unsteady and vulnerable to being knocked off. The Whip Weeds are unintelligent and straight forward foes, prone to sudden explosions of ripping attacks when brought down, and were it not for the unusual circumstances of the battle, they would be quickly dispatched. Ormid and Evran purposely use their lowest powered spells, so as to stand a better chance of controlling them in the wild zone, and through the whole battle only one surge occurs; triggered by Ardwaine as she unleashes lightning from her hammer. This surge however aids the group, adding ferocity to the elemental bolt, allowing her to strike with increased range and surety.

Llewellyn takes two out, landing magnificent blows on them with his mace, whilst the Veteran accounts for two more. The last one, spattered in the sap of its allies, and struggling to find purchase on an area of wall suddenly slick with Ferrous' corrosive exhalations and blocked by an artifice bridge conjured by Ormid, simply drops off the wall and skitters away in panic.

It's over.

However...

08:06 – The group catch their breath, hanging from the ropes, and hear from the north a distant commotion. Dread rises within their bellies as they realise that elements of the force at the breach must have heard the distant commotion of the battle, and that they are responding. Looking towards the top of the wall, the party move with increased haste to get there before they are discovered.