Using My Monsters

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Shnecke's Wolves - Session 7

01:51 – 10:30 – The group comfort the women as best they can, and after giving them some food and water, everyone settles back down to rest. The night passes with no more problems, through the terrified women sob and whisper through the long dark hours. When the group awaken, Grigori enacts his ritual about them after sending a magical message to Shi, letting her know that they are here (the warrior says she and some of her men will leave at once to collect them and bring them back home safely).

Breakfast is eaten, and with their minds made up to open the portal and hunt down the leader of the Jokiro Shukai, the group turn their attention to the Maho Gate.

“How much blood will it need?” Asks Lia, frowning.

Everyone shrugs. “Thatari, unless my mind is playing tricks on me, you collected the samurai's weapon after he fell. With your permission I would...”

“Hope's Famine”, States the warlock flatly. “It's called Hopes Famine.”

Grigori does not answer immediately, recognising the name as belonging to a truly ancient “anything” item (a device that can shift its form and function to be any kind of implement or weapon its wielder needs), attached to some of the most ill-fated endeavours in history. He knows it was the name of the greatsword wielded by High-Lord Khar'Thoran; the Solumite Paladin that lead the Third Crusade against Draxia in the 2nd Age – the most catastrophic of the seven “Doomed Crusades”. He also remembers it being referred to in association with a long dead warlord, who's troops seemed to fall to a deadly disease on another lost cause of a campaign, leaving him to fight an overpowering opponent alone – and to die in the effort.

“Ahem, well, I would very much appreciate being allowed to work a divination on the item, in order to gain some insight into how much blood the portal requires to open, as well as to what lies beyond it.”

Thatari seems to look at Hopes Famine – now an ornate rod of dark black and gold, surrounded by formless runes of black energy, and bristling with vertebrae like protrusions and unpleasant, insect like antennae. For a second, Grigori gets the creeping impression that the warlock is speaking with the implement; his lips moving slightly, his head nodding as if reaching some kind of agreement. He then fixes his strange, ghostly eyes upon the priest, and hands the item over.

Grigori likes not the way the rod feels warm like flesh to his touch, and likes less the way it seems to shift in his grasp, as if fidgeting. Placing it down on the floor with his fingertips, he then draws a circle of arcane symbols around it, and begins a ritual that will enable him to read its psychometric aura. Power floods through him as he intones the words to the spell, and at once, the runes around the rod flare with pale, bloodless light. All the group stand breathless as Grigori begins to twitch and shudder in the throes of his casting, his eyes, part open, flickering beneath his thin eyelids, their glow wavering in intensity. Power sullenly throbs through the air around him, and the Famine shimmers as if in a heat haze. Moments pass, and then Grigori arches his back and emits a strangled gasp, the runes on the floor flaring, before slumping forwards and with a gasp, erasing the circle, allowing the magic within it to drain away.

“The portal was last opened using all the blood a villager had. Beyond is a maelstrom plane; a place of endless storms, and little else. I saw, hurtling through this void, a great palace, with a path of human skeletons trailing from it. I believe it to be the lair of the monster we seek. The headquarters of the Jokiro Shukai.”

Everyone spends a moment absorbing this news.

“So, are we ready to pass through the portal?” Asks Grigori suddenly, climbing up and holding his forearm out over the bowl, “I have also seen that we should be able to open the portal from the other side, and so feel we do not need copious amounts of blood at this stage fed into it.”

With a quick flick of his other wrist, the priest flashes the warped blade of his melted mace-sword across his forearm, a dark line of necrotic blood immediately welling out and spilling into the bowl beneath. As soon as the blood touches the bowl, a filthy warmth enters the chamber, and the entire portal begins to hum with a dark power. The blood boils as if being cooked, spitting and bubbling, and thin tendrils of black steam begin to rise from it, filling in the perverted runes carved into the “horns” of the portal bowl. Everyone stares with shock, and then moves to prepare to enter the gate. Grigori brings his arm back, and staunches the flow of blood, whilst the women scream and wail in fear of the black sorcery being practised in their presence.

Bloody light wells from the runes as the blood mist fills them, and suddenly the air snaps taut with planar energy. A slight tremor shakes the chamber as the damaged fabric of reality flinches as this latest injury, and all the group watch as a doorways suddenly blinks open between the physical and the realm of the Jokiro Shukai.

At once terrific, howling wind rips into the chamber, throwing several members of the party off their feet. Lightning flickers beyond the gate's frame, throwing twisted shadows around the room, and the boom of the unnatural thunder is almost deafening. Peering through, the group can see a place of ragged, swirling, endless clouds, constantly ripped apart by impossibly powerful and long lasting bolts of lightning. There is little solid matter; only storm tossed chunks of hurtling stone, each gritty and black from repeated lightning strikes. The plane smells of ozone and ice, and appears to the group to be entirely hostile.

“Do we really need to go through there?” Asks Lia.

“The evil must be destroyed”. Comes Varracuda's grim reply.

“And I like the idea of smashing something powerful in its home world.” Snarls Shnecke with a grin.

“Right then, everyone together.” Mutters Jaeger, his shadowy crossbow materialising in his grasp.

10:31 – 10:33 - On the count of three, the party leap through the sizzling portal, the wind striking them like a physical blow the second they enter the other world. They find themselves on a huge chunk of lightning blasted stone, upon which stands a demon gate of bone and charcoal. Vile symbols are burned into its surface, and Grigori, his voice stolen almost completely by the shrieking tempests of this plane, yells that they are the key to opening the portal home from this side.

The winds are so powerful that everyone struggles to breathe, and the crash and rumble of the thunder and shriek of the tempests enough to all but drown out anything other than shouted communications. Each adventurer fights not to be captured and swept away by the howling gusts, and they all realise that unless they can find some way to safely move from this island of tumbling stone, they will be forced to head back to their own universe.

“Where is it?” Screams Jaeger, his voice a pale echo amongst the winds.

Grigori, his eyes tearing as the winds dry them, glares into the spectacular throat of the cyclonic storm that seems to comprise this realities everything, and through a ragged swathe of grey, flitting cloud, briefly spots a flash of white – the bleached bones of thousand or more interwoven human skeletons; the path to the daemon castle.

“There!” He screams, pointing, fighting as the winds try to lift him into the void. “Far, far over there!”

Everyone looks at each other, their faces clearly asking and how the hell do we get there? Fly?

“Suggestions?” Bellows Varracuda, gripping the glassy stone with whitening fingertips.

“A kite?” Screams Lia.

Most of the party look at her as if she is insane. However, Grigori says nothing, instead running through some plans I his mind. “You know,” he says, too quiet for most to hear, “that idea isn't quite as insane as it sounds.”

“Right everyone that has either a cloak, or a tent, hand them over. Poles and other solid things that can be used as a frame too.”

“Are you absolutely insane?” Screams Jaeger, his eyes red from the drying blasts.

“The Azraelite has a good idea. I calculate we should be able to make a serviceable 'wing' that together we can fly in the direction of the palace. It might fail, but at this moment, what other plan do we have?”

A bolt of lightning strikes nearby, the air shuddering with overpressure, filaments of liquid electricity snaking spectacularly across the glassy stone's surface.

“Besides, sooner or later, we are going to attract one of those, and I doubt any of us are tough enough to survive such unwanted attention.”

“Good point!” Nods the assassin.

10:34 – 10:44 – The portal snaps shut, leaving the group crouched against the stone and wind, holding the curious thing they have thrown together from the items outlined by the priest; a great, crude, curved wing of cloth, oiled leather and straining poles – useless in the comparatively feeble winds of their own world, but potentially, a vehicle in this one. Keeping hold of it in the furious, constant winds is a draining task, and everyone realises that unless they give it a go straight away, they are going to have it torn from them.

“Are you sure about this?” Bellows Shnecke, regarding the wing with clear suspicion.

“No.” Replies the cleric plainly before screaming something indecipherable and running towards the edge of the stone with it, dragging the rest of the party along.

There is a lot of screaming at this point.

10:45 – 10:47 – The flight through the tempest plane is one of the least enjoyable experiences that many of the group have had up to this point – as much falling as flying. It takes them a few moments to form any kind of cohesive plan; their minds torn between trying not to be ripped free of the device and tossed into the void, and trying to make it do something they want. However, with Grigori shouting instructions, they – sort of – manage to get the thing flying in the direction they need.

Vertigo assaults everyone, as there is nothing but shredded clouds and arcing lightning beneath their feet. The wing spins and tumbles on its way, and any sense of “up” or “down” is completely lost within moments. Muscles ache as the group try to keep hold and to force the vehicle to catch the right winds to carry them to their destination, and nausea rises within them as they spin and dive through the storm.

“There” Shrieks Grigori through a clenched jaw, “The daemon's palace. I just saw it. We are headed in the right direction, though Shnecke and Lia, you need to pull the cloth in towards you to turn us in that direction!”

The kite banks sharply, and everyone screams as they feel themselves falling. However, just as the priest says, they all suddenly see a massive chunk of rock, at least a mile across, hanging in the midst of the chaos, apparently unmoving. They can see its crumbling pagoda style roofs piled high on top of each other, as well as extensive battlements (manned by tiny, armoured forms and studded by wind bent flagpoles, topped by fluttering banners). High outer walls surround the place, and a great courtyard stretches between them and the palace proper.

“There's millions of them down there!” Screams Varracuda.

“Good!” Replies Shnecke.

“We should try to aim for one of the flags.” Yells Grigori, “Snag this thing on them and drop down to safety.”

“Are you sure that's a good idea?”

There is no reply.

10:48 – 10:50 – To the oni that man the walls of the fortress, the kite seems at first to be some kind of broken bird; screeching and flapping wretchedly towards them. However, as it nears, their glowing yellow eyes spot the shrieking mortals hanging and flailing from its lower side, and they realise that they are about to be invaded.

Ugasho Zor'Ugano, an ancient Oni Mage sworn to his master, the Zanki-No Oni Gasharo, watches the curious device as it swoops in towards one of the flagpoles that stud the high outer walls, apparently doomed to snag on it. However, as the first alarm horns begin to sound, the thing is caught by a sudden updraught, and climbs high above the central courtyard, the mortals upon it screaming with horror. Ugasho grins, his wide, fanged mouth dripping with saliva, and he turns to speak to one of the common oni nearby, looking down to regard the pathetic brute.

“Warn Shihezzu of the breach, and tell the others to prepare for battle. It seems the slayers of Hiyazaki have come to seek his master too.”

He then closes his eyes and allows the potent energy of this world flow through him, using it to fuel a summoning. As the wing drops suddenly towards the courtyard, he enacts his spell, and at once two spheres of dazzling, snarling lightning energy appear besides him – each a Xap-Yaup Energon; a living manifestation of raw, elemental electricity. Over the far side of the courtyard, several of the common oni have begun to charge the outsiders as they plunge -wailing – towards the shattered courtyards cobbles, whilst the rest of the troops fight to turn the daemon cannons on the walls round, to unleash their fury upon them.

“This should be fun.” Growls the oni mage. “What a shame poor Shihezzu won't get chance to play with them all.”

10:51 – 10:53 – The impact is agonising, and no one is spared it. Bones fracture, and the wind is smashed from each adventurer as they crash into the decrepit courtyard. Prone, they find themselves looking up at the looming daemon palace, as well as at the piles of rubble that litter the yard, clustered around great yawning pits that lead to open air. Oni charge from the walls, or roar as they try to turn deadly looking cannons mounted on the battlements to face them. From the great, battered steps leading to the palace's wide double doors strides a truly monstrous foe; a 10' tall oni with blue skin and dark green hair, dressed in nightmarishly decorated o-yoroi armour. It has three white eyes, and bears a gigantic katana. Either side of it hover spheres of lightning, from which issue constantly vanishing and re-appearing tentacles of fluid electricity. It regards the group with utter scorn, and before they can right themselves, shouts a harsh spell.

Three shuriken of brilliant red and green flame appear in its hands, and it sends them streaking towards Grigori, Shnecke and Thatari. Each one finds its mark, exploding in a burst of flame and leaving a cloud of stinging, toxic smoke in their wake, blinding each adventurer. Ugasho does not lose a second working his next spell, and the groaning, dazed adventurer's know they are going to be unable to avoid it.

Ice begins to creep across the ground around them, and a million tiny, glittering shards of it begins to form around the oni mage's hand, swirling with sorcerous animation. Suddenly the summoned frost is sent out towards the group on the wings of a spell, and everyone is simultaneously frozen and blasted by it, their limbs growing heavy and leaden with the cold, their flesh waxen and frostbitten.

Lightning jags down from one of the Xap-Yaup, the energon moving with the speed and freedom of a spark. This rips into Lia, jarring her, and she tastes blood as her jaw contracts and she bites her tongue.

“Weak.” Grunts Ugasho with a chuckle, “Barely worth my time and effort.”

Unfortunately for Ugasho, the group are far from beaten, and despite his glorious opening assault, he and his allies are doomed.

10:59 – Shihezzu, Ken-Sun, Elemental Mage of the Scouring Tempest can feel as the warding prayers on the palace doors are skilfully stripped away. He has listened to the bufoon Ugasho and the footsoldiers fighting in the courtyard, and has listened as his chief rival died at the invader's hands. There is no fear in him as the great doors heave inwards, pushed by almost inhuman strength, and a sense of supreme confidence swells within his frozen heart as he takes in the weakened and battered state of the invaders – all of them ragged, bleeding and weary, having had no time to catch their breath between their crash and this moment.

They pile in, and draw the great gates shut behind them, shutting out the common guards who roar and bellow outside.

“Just you and me then.” Whispers the monstrous spirit. “And unlike Ugasho, I shall not be defeated”.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Jiki-Ketsu Gaki and Bakemono

Hoping to get the last session write up done in the next couple of days. In the mean time, here are two of my conversions of earlier edition Oriental Adventures monsters, which I used in the Shnecke's Wolves game - the ghoul-like Jiki-Ketsu Gaki and the ubiquitous Bakemono. 

(As always, add 1/2 the monsters level to get the correct modifier for the statistics in the bottom section; i.e the Bakemono's Strength mod is actually +7 not +2). 

BAKEMONO - LEVEL 10 BASE MINION


A soliatry Bakemono is a deadly foe to the average Kai'Yassanian, though no real risk to a hardened adventurer. A pack of Bakemono however, is a whirlwind of shredding claws and chomping, merciless teeth, quite capable of bringing the unprepared or the unlucky hero to a horrific, bloody end. 

JIKI-KETSU GAKI - LEVEL 11 CONTROLLER


This wretched being rises when a priest of a goodly God falls into dark ways and dies, or when their grave is desecrated. Dressed in its stained and tattered vestments, it is a gaunt, ghoulish beings with large glowing eyes and a wide mouth. Physically weak, it will try to use guile, stealth and lesser beings to enable it to target an individual with little fear of massed reprisals. Often, when directly challenged, they flee, to plot their revenge.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ormid et al - 2 Sessions Report

07:23 – 12:30 – The group spend a little time plucking up the courage to slip into the rancid broth that laps gelatinously against the decayed masonry on which they stand. They then spend another ten minutes or so (those that need to breathe) forcing themselves to inhale the foul stuff; their innate, hardwired fear of drowning overwhelming their knowledge that the artificer's potion is enabling them to breathe fluid.

In the end, Veteran has to hold them underwater whilst they panic and struggle until they have taken a desperate, horrified breath, inhaled the filthy water, and survived.
A few more minutes taken getting used to the alien environment, and they are ready to go – though they realise that they have no idea where they are going.

Pulling themselves out of the waters again, vomiting up slick threads of mucus and water, they try to form a plan. Most just want to head down and try to locate a passage up to the surface, though Ormid is sure that things will not be that simple. They pool their knowledge of the local area – which is next to zero – and what little they know of the Ur'Leth. And it is during this conversation that the artificer suddenly recalls a distant fact that changes everything.

I have a plan!” He grins, “I think, if my history and geography is right, that there may be an ancient, experimental warship down here – the “Glorious Brick”.”

Everyone fixes the artificer with a level stare.

Seriously. It's a legend amongst artificers! It was an experimental transoceanic vessel designed to allow for infiltration and stealth assaults. It was supposedly driven by a highly experimental engine system that used taintstone radiations to drive some kind of reactor, and carried highly innovative...”

Read deadly, unstable and untested.” Interrupts Llewellyn with a sneer.

Highly. Innovative.” Snarls Ormid, “Weapons. I can enact a ritual to see if I can sense it, though in truth, there is no guarantee that it is anywhere near here.”

Why would it be?” Enquires the shadeling, her whispered voice clearly expressing her concerns about the answer.

Ah, well!” Answers Ormid, warming to the subject, “According to historical accounts held in the library's at Lorehaven, the vessel was attacked by a kraken and to quote the report 'pull'd into thee deepe and lost reaches 'neath thee citee of thee High Theocrats throne.'
Virian is built on the shattered foundations of ancient Crownsport, and if we are truly beneath it, then it is very likely that the Brick – assuming the tale is true and that the vessel was not destroyed or rendered inoperable...”

Pretty bigs 'ifs' then.” Growls Vladislav.

Ormid glares daggers at the Helldazzler. “You know, if you have any better ideas Vladislav, or any of your for that matter, I would love to hear them.”

No one answers. Mollified, Ormid continues. “Assuming it is still in one piece, we may be able to find it and use it somehow to get to the surface.”

No one speaks, the only sound being the horrible lapping of the water, the bubbling breath of the adventurers, and the edge of consciousness wailing of the local psychic pressures.

Well, it may be long shot, but it's the only plan we have other than wandering and waiting to drown.” Says Llewellyn slowly, his face showing his doubt of the whole idea.

Good, then I shall begin”.

Ormid enacts his ritual, and at once realises that the Ur'Leth have seriously warped the local planar fabric. From the moment the spell is complete, he finds himself struggling to orientate his awareness within it, and fights to keep it working. However, after a few moments, a curiously familiar tingle rushes down his spine – a sign that the thing he seeks is definitely nearby. However, Ormid is confused, for if the ritual is right, it exists way beyond its ability to sense – at least 700' below their current location.

Groaning as the ritual's magic is released and allowed to drain away, Ormid realises that one of two scenarios just played out. One is that the spell was accurate, and that it was the localised distortion of the Physical Plane's fabric that allowed his location ritual to pick up on the distant vehicle. The other is that the spell failed, and that Ormid unconsciously injected the reading into his casting.

He decides to believe the first explanation.

I've got it!” he crows, “Told you it was a good plan!”

With a rough location in mind, the group slip into the clammy waters once more, and begin to swim downward. Almost at once they begin to feel the mounting pressure, and struggle to see beyond the opaque sphere of muted yellowish light that shines from their weapons; muffled and smoky in the soupy water.

Down and down they go, each increase in depth making breathing and thinking that much harder. All begin to taste blood, and Shadevia in particular suffers as the increasing pressure, cold and exertion take their toll on her. All but the two constructs begin to struggle to draw in enough water to breathe, and all begin to experience a horrible, crushing claustrophobia.

Deeper and deeper, and suddenly, out of the gloom, the bottom of the chamber appears; a lowering wall of stone covered in pale funnel worms, odd anemones and translucent shrimps. Black tunnels yawn in this, and with a growing feeling of horror and trapped resignation, the heroes force themselves to swim down them, their limbs aching and shuddering with the effort.

They push through crushing, choking darkness for an eternity, and at one point are forced to hide as a group of eight humanoid creatures - piscine, wiry things, with wide mouths filled with sharp teeth and the black eyes of sharks – swim by in a patrol. Ormid shudders, recognising them as Shar'Hau'Guin; a predatory race of fish men who hunt for warm-blooded prey in the colder reaches of the ocean.

Shadevia is weakening with each passing moment, her smoky, shadowy blood streaming from her ears and eyes, her movement becoming increasingly weak and uncoordinated. Communication is almost impossible between the group, each hero having to resort to hand gestures in the gloom to get any points across, and all secretly dread any encounter involving combat.

Still deeper they push, the tunnel heading straight down. All (save Ferrous and the warforged) are suffering blinding headaches, and can feel their bones aching in the cold and crushing black, and all think they must be hallucinating when ahead they see a cold, blue-white light; blinking agonised eyes to try and clear them. However, the light is real, and is coming from a chamber beneath them, the tunnels they are in opening into its ceiling.

Slower now, their suffering minds struggling to stay sharp, the adventurer's swim cautiously to the edge of the tunnel and peer into the vast vault beyond. A dull crack announces that one of the Veteran's body plated has finally dented under the crushing embrace of the water, and all wonder how they are going to survive this endeavour.

Then they have other concerns.

Beneath them is a huge cavern, lit by the pale phosphorescence of twenty gargantuan anemone like creatures that form watch towers around its upper perimeter. It must be several miles across, though the group can only see so far through the rich, cloudy waters, and all can feel the unnatural pressures of powerful magic and psychic energies thrumming from the crowded, alien structures that fill it.

Ormid says something, but no one can understand him, his pressured vocal cords managing only a squelching moan. However, all turn to regard him, and he gestures down into the heart of the twisted place – clearly the lair of the Ur'Leth – We must go down through it.

There is no point in arguing, as there are no alternatives. In their current state they are vulnerable to attack, and Ormid would now be unable to enact any kind of ritual to bring them back to safety. Ormid has also realised that moving instantly from the depths they are in, to a normal atmosphere would leave them exposed to a deadly condition that brings about madness, weakness and then death. Compared to this, swimming clumsily through a fortified city of utterly alien telepaths and slavers is the better option.

And so they move, swimming in the open, hoping to pass for another gang of slaves. As they drop, so they get a better view of the horrific city below them; a place of organic, tentacled structures, cyclopean monoliths, and blasphemous temples raised in supplication to monstrous and utterly alien deities. Everything shines with a polluted, rotting radiance, and as the group get closer, they can see the coiling, sickening runes that cover almost every surface of the place; panting and pulsing with dire psychic power. Slaves are everywhere. Many are Shar'Hau'Guin, though there are also thousands of humans, dundorin, aelwyn, gorgoth, and other surface races; each covered in a protective bubble of mucus. The Ur'Leth are also here, though only a few – apparently keeping the slaves focused on their tasks (repairing the sickening structures, cleaning them, or carrying supplies to and fro).

Even in their pained and slightly dissociated states, the group are revolted by the Ur'Leth. Each is the size of a wagon and carthorse, and is a putrid blending of shark, fluke-worm and squid. Their overall shape is very fish like, as they have long powerful tails like sharks, and membranous wing like fins. However, long tentacles cluster around their mouths, and trail from around where their fins join their iridescent grey and green bodies. They have wide, bar-like eyes that bulge grotesquely from their bony, flat faces, and each radiates a constant bubble of the toxic, stinking mucus that covers their slaves. They shine with swirling, fox-fire lights, and a filthy psychic pressure oozes from them, leaving the group feeling tainted at its slimy, moist touch. Although to the foolish they might appear to be mere animals, they exude the controlled and calculated aura of highly intelligent, and perceptive beings.

Fortunately for the group however, the monsters are utterly off guard this deep in their own territory, and the party are able to move through the slimy towers and oozing streets below without being detected. On several occasions they are forced to quickly swim into cover as a patrol of thralls swims or trudges past, and on one occasion a potent psychic probe is deflected by a quickly summoned wall of arcane power by Ormid. However, they soon locate several blocked off shafts that seem to lead to places deeper even that this place – though by now, everyone is distracted and slowed by pain, the water's pressure enough to restrict their breathing, weakening them, and making them dizzy. Shadevia still suffers the most, and seems barely able to stand without drifting to the side in a slow, almost balletic swoon.

The Veteran tears away the stone plug covering one of the deep shafts after Llewellyn and Ormid manage, through their thumping headaches, aching chests and restricted, choked lungs, to erase the stomach turning glyph burned into it with vile aberrant sorcery, and the group slide in, wincing as the pressure seems at once to increase again. These shafts are not so long, though ominous, thrumming darkness lies beneath them, and the group pray to whatever Gods are listening that the Glorious Brick lies nearby. The waters, already cold enough to be harmful, grow colder still, and beneath their feet, and the frail sphere of light that surrounds them, the group make out pale strands of glowing slime, 10' wide and 60' high at least, rising from the depths of another vast cavern, each emitting a pale light that outlines the horrific, alien bulks of the things swimming up from below to greet them.

Everyone groans. It seems they have not escaped attention after all, and despite their seriously weakened state, they realise that they must now face and battle the Ur'Leth themselves in this, their native environment...

12:31 – 12:45 – Time and again, Ormid, Veteran, Llewellyn, Shadevia, Ferrous and Vladislav have found themselves in situations where death seemed a foregone conclusion, only to somehow, against all sanity and odds, pull through (save that one time when the vyrleen was slain by the fey giants of course). This apparently hopeless situation is one of them.

There are six Ur'Leth; four like the ones they saw in the city above, one that appears to command polluted arcane power, and one three times the size of its allies, who's smothering, choking aura of mucus reaches some 25' from it, turning the water to slime and making movement for the surface dwellers all but impossible. They fight with unholy tenacity and strength; blasting the party with direct psychic assaults, projectiles of burning, suffocating slime, and their whipping, hard-fleshed tentacles. Blood smokes the water, and the group are taken to the brink time and again as they absorb the physical, magical and psychical assaults thrown at them. However, veterans of hundreds of battles, the group enter that strange place where all experienced warriors go during battle; a place where every mistake their enemies make and every opportunity they make to harm them is magnified to their perceptions. A place where pain and strength flow into and from each other, and where the normal limits of their mortal bodies are pushed aside, and something akin to deadly, terrible art born.

The battle is surprisingly swift, the party concentrating on the massive monster, their spells and attacks – in many cases hampered by the unnatural environment, the sickening thickening of the waters by the mucus, and the toll the depths have taken on their bodies – slowly but surely opening increasingly critical wounds in its tough, resilient hide. Soon its psychic screams of agony ripple through waters now clouded with oily blood, ink and other organic detritus, and the party, though themselves severely hurt, manage to open the monster's belly wide, and to rip its huge, quivering heart free. With a final, fading psychic scream, the huge monster goes into a paroxysm of flailing tentacles and spurting, ripping contortions, all the while sinking, trailing huge clouds of gore and ink, into the depths.

The death of the behemoth seems to have an immediate effect on the other aberrations, their arrogant minds unable to process the sheer scale of the damage wrought to their most potent ally, and at once the water booms with hollow shockwaves as they summon fields of teleportive magic and flee to the city above, leaving brief spaces where they once floated.

Victory - though each member of the party knows that the fleeing Ur'Leth will soon return with reinforcements. A few moments are spent whilst Ormid does his best to heal the worst wounds; struggling as his alchemical components and restorative powders become soaked or denatured by the filthy, snot-like waters. Then, with adrenaline born of desperation surging through their tired, pressure fracturing limbs, the group fight to sink still further, towards something Shadevia just spotted within a tunnel that yawns below – a strange formation of rocks that could, possibly be something else!

12:46 – 13:00 – It is something else; the rear propeller array of a huge, cigar-shaped vessel, stuck, upside down, within a tunnel-like cavern at the bottom of the chamber. As the group swim towards it, hope daring to flare within their hearts, they see an ominous ring of writhing glyphs etched in pale flame into the stone at the mouth of the tunnel. Drifting closer, one eye always on the dark waters above, the artificer and rogue set about trying to fathom what the runes do, and quickly come to the conclusion (clumsily explained with weary hand-gestures and feeble charade) that they are designed to keep something in rather than out. Weakening by the second, the group realise that they must still risk trying to board the ancient experimental vessel, and hope that it has a breathable atmosphere within, for if not, this place will become their tomb – and soon.

To this end Llewellyn and Ormid work to disable the glyphs, struggling as their hands, numb with the cold and stiff with pain, are clumsy and quite unsuited to the task. Despite this, they help each other, and with a burst of bubbles and a noticeable, instant relaxing of the local aether, the glyphs vanish....

...And at once a terrible, bone chilling keening echoes through the water; a desperate, hollow, soul drenching ululation that seems to draw what little heat remains within each adventurer's bodies.

13:01 – 13:08 – As the ghastly screams begin to fade, the group float there, oozing clouds of blood, their flesh discoloured by bruising, and seriously consider turning back. The horrific wailing, so agonised and filled with endless despair, rises again, turning their blood to ice and their bowels to water. However, with an angry army of Ur'Leth and their thralls almost certainly heading their way, the group realise that they have no choice, and must find a way into this clearly haunted vessel.

They move along the side of the huge thing, marvelling at the resilient metal from which it is forged (a metal they recognise from their time amongst the warriors of the Faerie as Fae Bronze), and soon find a stubby tower, on top of which is set a large domed door of metal, sealed with a heavy valve lock. Pale anemone, funnel worms, crabs and shrimp luxuriate on the surface, making it slick beneath the Veteran's feet as he moves to turn the ancient valve, and for a moment he struggles, the metal having corroded somewhat. Another peal of harrowing wailing resonates from within the submarine, and waves of darkness hover about the edge of each adventurer's vision as it almost overwhelms them. Veteran strains, steam bubbling and crackling from his joints, and suddenly, with a sharp snap, the valve begins to turn, bubbles of ancient air, bursting from within.

Clearly aware of the violation of its lair, the source of the wailing steps up its aural assault, its cries increasing in volume, the sheer psychic weight of them withering the sponges and other invertebrates growing on the hull, sending them floating away in a black, lifeless cloud. Despite every sense in their bodies telling them to run and hide, the exhausted adventurer's pile in through the pressure door, and Veteran struggles to close it again, his own strength finally leaving him.

13:09 – 13:10 – A few panicked moments as Ormid and Llewellyn fumble to fathom out the ghaerduun controls set on a corroded panel in the tiny – and now very cramped – chamber. The only illumination comes from two dark red light gems, and this is diminished significantly when Llewellyn, seeing how shiny they are, pries one loose – the crystal immediately crumbling to ash as its magics devour it. However, despite their desperation and the poor light, they quickly locate a lever they believe will drain the water from the room, and pull it. To their relief, they are right, and within moments the party are vomiting up the fluid within their lungs, their retching and bubbling breaths filling the stale air of this place with the stink of sick. Out of the water, they also begin to feel the cold, their teeth chattering as they shiver and steam in this place.

13:11 – 13:12 – Suddenly the temperature drops even more, the air becoming metallic with an unnatural energy. Ice begins to creep like crystalline lichens over the metal walls, and the group feel a terrible, empty pressure fill the room. Suddenly the howling is all around them; so loud and near that it is like a physical presence in the chamber. Maddening fear coils within their minds and hearts as they become suddenly aware of another horrific din coming from the other side of the pressure door that leads deeper into the submarine; screams of panic and desperation. Suddenly a multitude of tiny blows ring out against the other side of the interior door, and what appear to be small bloody hand prints appear across its rust blistered surface, each spattering into existence as if made by a violent, blood-soaked blow.

The air resonates deafeningly with the ghostly screams and blows, and panic begins to claw at the six trapped adventurer's. Shadevia and Ormid scream. Llewellyn drops to the ground with his hands over his ears and the Veteran stands there stunned. Yelling in horror, it is Vladislav who defiantly grabs the blood slicked valve on the interior door, and with a yell, begins to turn it. The door suddenly bursts open and for a moment a nightmarish wave of melted, screaming, blood covered flesh – clearly a multitude of individuals somehow melded together – pours in; fleshless hands and twitching tentacles reaching into the chamber to engulf all within. As the psychic horror surges into the claustrophobic chamber, the wailing and screaming increases in volume until is almost obliterates all thought with its sheer weight. Then it flows over the group; its clammy, frothing, filthy energy engulfing them in its icy, screaming embrace before vanishing.

For Llewelyn, Ferrous and Shadevia, this assault is too much. It floods their minds with horror, and they find themselves momentarily overwhelmed by visions of such despair and nightmarish suffering that they are damaged both physically and psychically by it. It only takes them seconds to shrug it off in reality, but to them, they are trapped in a place of suffering absolute for a small eternity.

13:13 – 13:20 – With the water drained, the group spend some time catching their breaths and trying to fathom where to go. The Glorious Brick is upside down, and made for creatures much smaller than most of the group. This alone presents some rather unique challenges for them. Then there is the issue of whatever ghostly presence haunts the ship, its menace clearly evident from the trauma that last psychic assault has caused the entire party, even those not directly struck by it.

With the inner hatch opened, a putrid flood of unidentified organic soup pours through; a greasy, black, tar like material that stinks of ancient decay. Beyond rusting corridors of Fae Bronze, slick with the stuff stretch away towards the front and back of the vessel.

13:21 – 13:43 – With the ghostly howling once again shivering through the dank, pressing corridors of the vessel, the group climb up through the hatch and into the inverted corridor above. They discuss which direction to head in, and Ormid insists they move towards the aft of the vessel, and the engine room. There is some disagreement, but eventually, the party decide to do as he wishes.

As they go, squeezing and ducking along the dripping, rotting passages, the only light coming from more of the blood-red lightstones, the howling continues; sometimes a low, sobbing moan, sometimes a full blown scream that chills the blood and makes the air contort with its horror. The effects are cumulative and by the time the group come to the end of the corridor, their nerves are truly shot. To add to their discomfort many side chambers and corridors lead from this main walkway; empty pools of darkness seeming to coil within them. There are also fragments of the former crew scattered about; small bits of bone, rusted equipment, or ghastly “shadows” where the decomposition of a body has discoloured the metal. As well as the wailing, other impossible sounds echo through the abandoned vessel; distant conversations, laughter, the running of feet, screams and even a female voice singing at one point.

S-s-so many lost souls.” Laments Shadevia.

What's that ahead?” Asks the Veteran suddenly.

13:43 – 13:55 – It's a door of reinforced Fae Bronze, that has no apparent handles or other opening devices affixed to it. Above it, in what is actually the floor, is a pressure hatch. Two signs, written in the base ghaerduun language label each door, and although he cannot speak or properly read the language, Llewellyn claims that the one on the hatch warns of “harm” - though he is unsure as to whether it is a warning that what lies beyond can cause harm, or could be harmed.

Ormid decides to use his arcane sight to see if he can fathom a way to open the reinforced door, and with practised ease allows his consciousness to slip into that rarefied realm where the energies of magic become visible. At once, the howling begins again with fury, the walls shaking with its volume, and Vladislav is suddenly struck by a spanner that comes hurtling from the darkness behind them, the tool clanging loudly and painfully off his armour.

You stupid spirit! Show yourself and I will show you that there are things worse than Hell in this world!”

Detached from the “real” Ormid sees the world wrought in strands of light and textured colour. He sees four potent points of magic in the ceiling of the chamber beyond, as well as a smouldering tangle of complex, almost certainly animating, magics in a mass a little beyond the door. A potent web of magic shivers within the door itself, connect to, yet separate from the points of energy, and he realises that there are spells on the door, which can, if handled badly, trigger an automated defence system. Peering deeper, the artificer sees something he has never seen before; a black, pulsing tangle of liquid strands, writhing and coiling around a core of their own compressed form. Around this strange mass, rigid lines of abjuration magic hang like a cage, and he realises that he is looking at the vessel's engine, and that the stories were true – it really does use some kind of tainted energy source.

Suddenly, Ormid's vision clouds, as a shifting array of static like energies impress upon his view, and the howling once again rises to a terrible fever pitch. Spinning round, the artificer finds himself looking at the source of the noise; a floating, vaporous being resembling a twisted and ghostly ghaerduun.

I see you, you little shit!” Shouts Ormid pointing, “Vladislav, he's right there!”

At once the screaming stops, and the curious pressure that the spirit had been exerting vanishes, leaving all the group dizzy for a moment.

Hopefully, we shan't have any more problems from him now.” Mutters Ormid.

13:56 – 13:57 – The artificer explains what he has seen, and the group begin to discuss ways to open the door. However, bored, Llewellyn suddenly leaps up onto the warforged's knee, and with a whoop, opens the hatch above. At once a burst of cold, wet air, stinking of rotten eggs and organic corruption washes out, accompanied by an icy deluge of treacle like rusty gunk. The rest of the party scream at the rogue, half expecting the vessel to instantly explode, but he leaps through the suddenly hanging hatch and into the chamber beyond...

13:58 – 13:59 – Foxfire shimmers off the corroded walls of the chamber above, though the rogue realises it was once several separate chambers. Below, the group wonder why the inside of the hatch is layered with stone. Llewellyn knows exactly why.

Rust Monsters.

Once kept as part of an experimental weapon system (a pod with a rust monster wired in, that could, in theory, dissolve a hole in your enemies' hull), long escaped, and slowly eating their way through the walls and hull of the ship (the vessel's crash broke away some of the stone lining keeping them away from it), there are currently four of them; three much like the ones the group faced before in the rotting heart of the Clouded Hills, one a hulking thing covered in black and grey mottled chitin, its eyes flickering with colourless psionic distortion. The empty shells of older generations lie in glowing piles around the room, and a cluster of pale spheres at the other end suggest these creatures have been breeding.

Llewellyn makes a curious mewling sound, and tells the others what he can see. All the Ruster's have stopped what they were doing (wandering around a massive pile of their droppings and rust fragments, trying to reach an interior wall that is currently just beyond their oxidising tentacles), and turn to face him, feathery antennae twitching as they smell the adamantine in his mace.

Get DOWN!!!” Screams Ormid.

Move it idiot!” Yells Vladislav.

For fuck's sake Llewellyn!” Growls the Veteran.

Shadevia says nothing, simply glaring daggers at the vyrleen.

13:59 – The larger Ruster begins to move towards Llewellyn, and the rogue can suddenly feel a tension gathering in the air between him and it. Realising that it is about to unleash some kind of mental assault on him, he leaps back down through the hatch, which is immediately slammed shut by the warforged, and locked tight.

Llewellyn grins sheepishly. Vladislav cuffs him across the back of his head with a tut.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Common Oni - Level 11 Brute

As it might take me a few days to get the last Ormid et al game written up, I thought I would share with you the stats I came up with for the Common Oni in the Shnecke's Wolves game. As always, you need to add 1/2 the monsters level to the modifiers displayed after the statistics, though all other modifiers are correct!

(Click to enrage)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Shnecke's Wolves - Session 6

00:23 – 00:29 – Three ugly, hulking shapes materialise through the Maho Portal, resolving themselves into the forms of common oni, identical to the ones the group battled back on the path. These monsters bellow with fury as they are summoned to the physical, and the group get a brief glimpse of a churning, storm-riddled maelstrom beyond the door through which they arrive; a twisting, boiling place of crackling black lightning and writhing, bone coloured clouds.

The oni immediately throw themselves at the party, two of them unleashing agonising clouds of boiling copper, the metal immediately burning and hardening on the flesh of Varracuda, Lia, Shnecke and Grigori. Hiyazaki also swoops in, his eyes drizzling smoky, silvery power.

“I have something special for you. The very height of my power.”

He raises his katana, a filmy sparkling white energy suddenly swirling around his feet in a circle.

“It's a very rare technique that I ripped from the mind of a dying old man, ravaged by certain tongue loosening poisons. I hope you like it.”

The energy becomes heavy and agitated, swirling around him in a spiral, and the group realise a split second before it is unleashed that it has become a physical thing; sand-like but sparkling with millions of sharp edges.

“GLASS GHOST BANKAI!”

The writhing stuff erupts in a powdery tidal wave and rips into the party. Screams and agonised coughing fills the air as it blast them – a million shards of sharpened glass – shredding armour and warding spells, splitting flesh and gouging into muscle, bone and organs. All are struck by the horrifying attack, most of them immediately seriously wounded. Jaeger manages to warp his shadowy form enough that he receives only a single deep laceration, whilst Thatari and Grigori manage to deflect the worst of the blast with their power. Those hit by the full force of the blast are almost skinned by it, their blood oozing in thick clots through the dusting of glass that covers them. Worse, the gritty stuff is in their wounds, and every move causes them to dig deeper, worsening their already serious injuries.

Screaming with daemonic glee, Hiyazaki lashes out twice with his dark blade, opening a sucking wound across the Ulnyrr's chest. The third of the oni rumbles forth, and smashes Thatari across the head with his massive tetusbo. Grunting, the warlock is flung almost 20' across the chamber to land in a broken pile at the daemon-samurai's feet. Hiyazaki howls with more insane laughter as he sees the apparently critically wounded man before him, and is just about to begin a mocking diatribe when he is struck by a bolt of shadowy energy – a quarrel from the assassin's weapon. Hiyazaki seems about to give a disdainful retort to the small missiles apparently feeble effect. However, his words die in his throat as he feels a terrible, tenebrous venom sweep through his body, filling him with a sickening sense of disorientation. His day only gets worse when from his supine position, Thatari unleashes a fuming wave of chaotic power; the warlock arcing his back and screaming as he opens some inner portal and allows raw cosmic energy to erupt from him – a coruscating, pulsing wave of dimensional disruption, hellfire and raw psychic hate. The blast, which seems almost to be both wetly liquid and like smoke at once, hits Hiyazaki from below. It crawls over his body, dissolving flesh and armour, and strikes with such force that he is thrown 30' , where he lands hard, gasping and shivering, black vapour surging from the many wounds now torn in his flesh. Still prone, Thatari, blood streaming from his mouth thanks to the twisted syllables of his last casting, reaches towards him with a focused bolt of his purest hate. Hiyazaki screams as the mental assault explodes into his mind, shredding his thoughts and rupturing his brain, and the battle, thought a moment before to be impossible to win, suddenly has hope injected into it.

However, this is quickly stolen when Lia falls, twitching to the floor, overcome by the agony and fluid loss from her significant burns, and the heavy blood loss caused by the Bankai. Convulsing, she hits the ground hard, her eyes rolling back to expose the whites. Grigori is also knocked unconscious; the tetsubo of one of the oni leaving a dent in his skull as he flies, rag doll like, across the chamber, to smash with splintering force into the floor.

Thatari, Shnecke and the assassin all move to keep the enemy from their downed companions. The barbarian hews his axe deep into one of the oni, tearing its chahar'aina from its thick torso, and leaving a ragged, billowing wound across its guts. The assassin summons his dark power to confound another, his blows finding the weakest spots in the brute's armour, his shadowy blade sinking deep into its body before he teleports out of harms way. Thatari stalks the downed daemon-samurai, his eyes bleeding (both literally and with power). His handsome face is twisted by otherwordly malevolence, as if his body is unable to remain untainted by the dark power he focuses, and with a series of inarticulate, absolutely foul words, he summons a creeping toothed presence, which floats around Hiyazaki like a personal daemon; biting and agonising him constantly, the air in which it floats polluted with a pulsing, tainted radiance.

Varracuda, still woozy and weak from the battle in the graveyard realises that unless he can bring one or both of the healers round, the battle is lost. Swiping at one of the oni, he scurries over to the unconscious priest and begins to fumble through his belongings. After a short search he finds what he is looking for – a healing potion. He rips the cork out with his teeth, and brings Girgori's head up, jamming the neck of the bottle into his slack mouth. Snarling in frustration, he upends the bottle, and watches with relief as the potion does its work – colour returning to the priest's face, his flattened skull popping back into shape with a crackling snap. Grigori's eyes flicker open, and he immediately sits up, swaying as the pain from his burns and other wounds hits him.

Across the chamber, and Hiyazaki is clawing a the ground, nausea sweeping through him as he fights to make his brain understand which way is up and which down. Growling with fury, he considers using an attack from his position, but is unable to, the poison clouding his mind and keeping him down.

Grigori scrambles over to the unconscious ardent and winces. She is burned over most of her body, her face disfigured by the cooling metal, her clothing and hair charred and wet with exudate. Blood and clear fluids pool around her, and a thick foam bubbles, pale pink, from her mouth. Gritting his teeth against his own wound's pain, he closes his eyes and begins an incantation, calling upon his potent healing prayers in this desperate battle. Seeing this, three adventurer's battling the oni fall back, eager to be close when the spell is cast, sure that it will benefit them as well as Lia.

Smoky threads of silvery light spill from his fingers as he summons healing power into himself, and soon he is luminous with its energy. Then, with a wordless phrase, he unleashes a beautiful burst of radiance which immediately restores the ardent's ravaged body, pushing out the glass shards whilst simultaneously closing many of the wounds the others have suffered. Jerking awake, Lia almost reactively releases a shimmering burst of psychic power which invigorates all her allies close by, not only accelerating their natural healing to the point where the few remaining wounds close themselves, but surrounding everyone with a tangible field of protective psionic force.

Restored, Shnecke and Varracuda move to harass one of the Oni, and the brute, despite its deadly swings, is soon chopped down. Thatari keeps attacking the daemon-samurai without mercy; unleashing more cosmic malevolence into him, snarling with unearthly hared. For his part, Hiyazaki tries desperately to regain any kind of advantage, struggling to his feet and preparing a devastating attack. However, Grigori, seeing this, unleashes a powerful command - “HOLD!” - his word charged with potent magical energy, and despite his blazing fury and his potent power, Hiyazaki finds himself transfixed, barely able to move, his thoughts once again scattered like leaves before the wind.

In truth, the battle barely lasts another minute.

Thatari takes advantage of this latest opening, and blasts Hiyazaki again, whilst the rest of the group, invigorated by Lia and Grigori's might, throw themselves at the oni. The third brute tries to exhale a cloud of copper vapour, but howls as he burps at an unfortunate moment, his flaming breath erupting within him, causing him blinding, momentary pain. Rendered vulnerable in his agony, he is quickly ended by the assassin and the swordmage. Shnecke and Lia charge Hiyazaki, but both miss badly, the barbarian almost falling over, the ardent almost throwing her sword, and it seems as if whatever dark Gods Hiyazaki worships are protecting him as Thatari tries to blast him again, and fires wide. However, this theory is quickly disproved when Grigori, his eyes pits of molten bloody light, his pale flesh seeming to pulse with unnatural power, charges him, and slashes a deep, spurting wound into the front of his head with his warped blade; ripping the life from him, sending him sprawling to the floor, blood pumping from the horrific gash.

Lightning erupts across the chamber as Varracuda, alive with corposant, unleashes a deadly arc of energy at one of the oni killing it, leaving only one alive This doomed fiend, covered in smoking wounds and heavily outnumbered, bellows in fear and anger, and is quickly overwhelmed by the combined might of the party...

...In the heat of the final moments of battle, no one has noticed that Hiyazaki's blade has changed into a focus rod – or for that matter, that Thatari has gathered it up into his robes...

00:30 – 01:40 – The group discuss what to do next; whether to push on through the portal (which they are convinced will require blood to operate, the more they pour in, the longer the portal will remain open), or whether to destroy it and call the job done. In the end they decide to take a long rest, and then, to open the portal and to destroy whatever lies beyond. They eat a small meal, and a fire is built to give the stinking, bloody chamber some warmth. Then, they settle down to talk a little before deciding watches and sleeping...

01:41 – 01:50 – However...

Sounds of muffled female screams, and gruff, deep voices, accompanied by heavy shuffling footsteps and the distinctive snapping voices of Bakemono echo down the stairs from the graveyard, and within seconds the party are waiting in ambush, their fire kicked out with practised ease. The unseen enemy are heard thumping down the steps, the muffled screams and weeping echoing ahead, and Jaeger strains to see through the sudden darkness, his shadow-forged eyes able to clearly see what approaches.
As thought, there are Bakemono – about a half dozen. They jabber and snap around the ankles of three massive hunched humanoids; two-headed, boggle eyed, mop haired things with wide mouths filled with blunt teeth and bright blue skin. They wear rough vests of sackcloth, and the adventurer's notice that their entire bodies seem to be studded with wide, unblinking eyes. There are three, and one of them carries a squirming bundle of rags. It is from this that the desperate cries emanate.

Realising that these are raiders of some sort, returned to the lair with their latest find, the group show the monsters no mercy. With the element of surprise on their side, the fiends are quickly cut down; the larger brutes clearly oni of some kind, their ragged wounds spurting oily smoke as they scream and die, the bakemono's gore painting everything with black as it sprays from their fatal wounds. The assassin is responsible for the most kills, pouring shadowy power into his crossbow, and firing a veritable cone of duplicate bolts, shattering throats, puncturing hearts and piercing monstrous brains.

One bakemono, stood at the rear of the group, survives the battle, fleeing screaming into the night. Every other monster is slain in less than half a minute, only Shnecke receiving any kind of wound – and a superficial one at that.

With the monsters slain, the group undo the struggling, weeping bundle of rags, and find three young women from the village. Each is half out of their mind with terror at what they have endured, and what they have been imagining will happen, and they spend the first few moments simply crying and shaking. Upon seeing the party through their tears, they are initially relieved – recognising them as the Yissen who have come to destroy the Jokiro Shukai. However, as they take in their bloodstained and battered presentation, and the suddenly aroused and barely restrained hunger of the Ulnyrr and priest (both of whom pant with desire at the smell and sound of the women's thumping, fear-driven blood), they grow unsure and cowed.

“So, what now?” Asks Lia, swiping her blade through the air to get the blood of it. “We can't take the girls with us through the portal.”

“We need blood,” Begins Thatari, “they could be a useful asset.”

Varracuda stands up in shock, making the girls flinch. “No way! Over my dead body!”

Thatari shrugs.

“I know a ritual.” Says Grigori suddenly, “That could help keep them safe.” His eyes are huge and swollen with bloody light. He is unaware that his eye teeth are showing, and that his neck has almost extended, lending his angular head a particularly unnatural, ghoulish appearance. Shnecke sat just behind him grins, his own eyes coppery and luminescent.

“You have got to be kidding!” Snaps Varracuda, “And does this ritual involve blood letting by any chance?”

Grigori nods, shrugging as if this is not important.

“Bollocks.” Growl Lia and Thatari together.

“Certainly sounds like cow crap to me.” Adds Jaeger, his own eyes swimming with darkness.

“It is crap, you just want to drink their blood!” Yells Varracuda, his voice almost a shriek, a shower of sparks sizzling over his body.

The women, not understanding a word, but recognising the tone of the conversation, begin to curl up into a ball, sobbing and shaking with fear, hugging each other tightly in their dread.

Grigori, realising that he has failed to fool his companions calmly moves away from them, before deciding to voice a genuine plan.

“I could weave a protective circle around them, a ritual you all know I have. That would keep them safe here whilst we enter the world beyond the portal. The only problem is of course that if we die, or if we find ourselves leaving the world beyond in some distant realm, they will be left here, unable to escape until they die of dehydration or starvation.”

“So no then.” Growls Varracuda, his eyes crackling with lightning.

“And the alternatives?” Asks the priest mildly.

No one has an answer.