Friday, 3 August 2012

State of Play - Shnecke's Wolves - July 30th, 2012


1/8/1472: 02:23 – 02:50 – They attack in waves. The first consists of crew from the Ravager; lowly swabs wielding scimitars, more experienced soldiers, and a few pistoleers. They are hampered somewhat by the need to climb from the dock level (where the group can see the sails of the ship suddenly bulge unnaturally, as a silvery-white glyph sewn into them blazes to life, filling them with wind), using great ladders. Realising that the cavern they stand in is too small to fight effectively, the group descend to the next level down, dropping gracefully on the wings of a Feather Fall, courtesy of the barbarians enchanted band, immediately finding themselves toe to toe with their charging foes.

This melee is frantic and the group are hard pressed. Varracuda is blinded by a slash that whips across his eyes, and spends most of this battle lunging at empty air – though his blows do occasionally land, leaving hissing, sparking wounds in their wake. The two remaining dundiir charge in (despite Grigori trying to keep them out of harms way). Angrun is slain by a swab, his borrowed axe clattering to the ground as his throat blossoms with a salty, crimson spray. Enraged by the death of his “brother” (although he then mutters under his breath in his own tongue “not that he is my brother”), the surviving dundiir, ploughs into combat, leaving a bloody wake as his axe thunks into the flesh and armour of the attacking pirates.

Lia sweeps like a vengeful angel towards the charging men, her resonant blade flashing with unearthly speed to remove limbs, open throats and spill entrails. As she fights, so a delicate light shines from her, its whispering touch filling her allies with courage and focused rage. This mantle of psychic power helps them to ignore wounds that would normally floor them, and helps them filter out the distractions that may slow or misguide their blows.

Bellowing a hearty battle cry, the undead Ulnyrr joyfully wades into combat, his jagged blade chewing through the enemy like the fangs of a great winter wolf. Time and again the scimitars of the pirates find a way through his armour, and time and again, he is either restored by the logic prayers of his fellow undead, or given a mental boost, which helps him to carry on. Soon covered from head to boot in gore, he has helped the group advance to the ladders.

Grigori is as much a combatant as any in this battle, the chain-sword of Balskuss screaming deafeningly as it chews into the foe. A fine mist of blood and fear surrounds him as he goes to his butcher's work, each blow accompanied by loudly shouted formulocantations, which allow him to project fields of healing power through the swirling melee, where it finds and restores his allies, or helps them to focus on landing deadlier blows.

Atop the low wooden buildings that squat to the left of the main battle, Thatari gives into his own blood-lust. The air coils and sloughs around him as he summons unholy power; sending tendrils of filthy flame into the enemies ranks, cursing them with misfortune or summoning unstable beings from other universes to chew and harass his foes. Hopes Famine shines with a dark light in his grasp, and blood pours from his own flesh as he feeds it some of his life force to bolster its power.

As for the assassin, he is everywhere and nowhere at once. He takes good advantage of the plentiful shadows to strike and melt away, shifting at the fringes of the battle, carefully sowing his own brand of carnage amongst his foes. Time and again the darkness rears up at his command to swallow a screaming pirate, or coalesces into a hail of venom-tipped quarrels that unerringly seek their flesh. Bolts of darkness pregnant with bound malevolence blossom hungrily in the faces and throats of men, who fall without the chance to utter a single scream, and within the swirling darkness of his hood, something like a smile forces its way onto the empty, black features of the living shadow.

Were it not for the healing powers of Lia and Grigori, the battle would be over quickly, for the group have not had chance to recover since their fight with the skeletons. However, they are old comrades now, and fight as one, and it is quickly clear that the Dohr'Khustans are outmatched and so, are doomed. With slow, hacking momentum, the group push them back to the ladders, the docks spread some 50' below, the Ravager moving slowly away, Santhiel Burr clearly visible at its helm, waving madly at more of his crew, commanding them to slow the group.

The pirate party that heads for the docks is small, and mostly consists of lowly deckhands and swabs. However, they are lead by a fearsome brute; a monstrous Urgorgori (Ogre, or in the Trade tongue, Ogger). It stands half again as high as Shnecke, and the gangplank bends alarmingly under its prodigious weight. It appears almost obese, its head small in comparison to its bulging body, but everyone knows that most of that bulk is muscle, bone, thick skin and hardened blubber. It wears mangled chainmail, and wields a maul so large that it seems too big for it to bear. However, it soon shows this perception to be an illusion, as it puts the thing to deadly use.

The first member of the party to strike at the Urgogori is Jaeger, a bolt of shadowy energy striking it with the force of a runaway cart...

...The brute apparently doesn't notice it hitting...

Upon spotting the massive enemy, both Shnecke and the dundiir gives whoops of savage joy, and throw themselves off the cliff to float down and land next to it (the barbarian swipes at a Dohr'Khustan who was climbing up a ladder, as he passes, sending him screaming downwards to land with a final crunch, broken and dead far below). The dundiir, using the momentum of his fall, lands a hideously deep blow on the Ogger, his axe biting deep into its armour and managing to draw a little blood, and the barbarian hacks at its massive belly, sending links of mail pinging across the ground, and leaving a light scratch on the beasts' bulbous gut.

On the cliff, Thatari seriously dents his companions already low opinion of him by calling upon a truly insidious power of the Hopes Famine, which draws life energy from them to power his next attack. Wounds suddenly appear on all his allies, the blood that issues forth turning to a coiling crimson energy, which is absorbed into the potent, thrumming implement. His face oddly calm, his form wreathed in a bloody aura, the warlock unleashes a terrible, mewling mass of chaotic power towards the Urgorgori, which spreads like a timelapse of mould growing, through the air, to strike the monster. That gets its attention, as the spell chews at its flesh, leaving numerous bitemarks over its body.

By this point, the swabs have arrived, and Santhiel's first mate – a masculine woman bearing a fine looking rifle – has turned her attention to the group.

The last of the freed dundiir is slain; a bullet from the first mate's weapon dropping him with nary a sound to the floor. Grigori drops down besides the barbarian, and Balskuss' chainsword goes to work at the Urgorgori's side, chewed armour and pieces of mangled flesh arcing out from the grim wound he inflicts.

And then the Urgorgori - one Gangor “Head Eater” - attacks. Within a hearbeat both Shnecke and Grigori are on the floor, 15' from the brute, close to death; their chests misshapen and crushed, their ichor pouring blackly onto the stones. The swabs are kept back by the assassin who sends bolts hissing towards them, killing all he has in his sights, and Lia soon drops down to support her stricken allies.

Still blind, the swordmage gropes for the ladder leading from the dock to the cliff. He finds it, and realises that someone is still climbing it (it's one of the original pistoleers, who, having seen his allies cut down is trying to make his way back to the safety of the Ravager). Blinking through agonised tears, Varracuda gives a grim smile, and with a grunt, pushes the ladder away from the wall, taking the screaming Dohr'Khustan with it. It takes him down with a bone-crunching smash, and ends the life of an unlucky swab who is too slow to get out of the way.

Prone and dazed, Grigori, his pain almost too much to bear, utters his most potent formulocantation of healing, an aura of fractal radiance suddenly blazing around him, to lash at his nearby allies; mending bones and torn meat, stopping bleeding and reversing deadly swelling. Shnecke gasps in pain and shock, and gives a grim smile – only to be almost kicked unconscious by the Ogger.

And so begins a truly painful battle. The group spend as much time falling back and healing as attacking, as Gangor is a monstrously powerful enemy, and his blows are enough to kill thirty ordinary men with a single strike.

Santhiel briefly joins the battle when he realises that most of his crew are either dead or ashore, and that escaping on the ship is no longer a viable option. He quickly recapitulates however, and tries to bargain with the adventurer that dogs his every step.

Unfortunately for him, that adventurer is Jaeger, and there simply is no bargaining, and Santhiel dies on board his ship, trying to breathe through lungs rapidly filling with blood, and already filled with more steel and shadow that anyone could survive.

The first mate is taken down quicky, and the remaining crew members either flee or are murdered.

As for Gangor, he simply refuses to give up, and even outnumbered six to one, is a monstrously potent foe. In the end, were it not for the psionic mantles of Lia, the healing logic prayers of the cleric and the sheer bloody minded determination to succeed of the rest of the group, he would have walked away victorious.

The battle ends when Varracuda suddenly blinks, and realises that he can see. Through a haze of tears and blood he spots the massive enemy, and his darting, ducking, stabbing allies, and bringing his blades to bear, he calls upon his elemental heritage to wreathe them in snarling, flickering arcs of lightning. He leaps forwards, all his frustration and pain behind the nimble blow, his blade finding the notch at the base of the Urgorgori's throat. Putting everything into the blow, and sending a blasts of lightning down the blade, the swordmage strikes a fatal blow, the massive humanoid suddenly dropping its maul, stumbling back and staring stupidly ahead as a cloud of coppery steam issues from the cauterised, critical wound.

“Morg*.” He mumbles under his breath thickly, before stumbling back towards the waters of the harbour, and dropping to the floor with a crash.

He dies.

02:51 – 10:00 – Everyone is utterly spent. The group decide to claim the Ravager for themselves, and decide that they will seek the assistance of the sailors they freed in sailing it away. Although they know the cult will soon seek them out, and that there are two more pirate vessels to destroy yet, they chance a proper rest – mainly because no one is capable of carrying on in their current state.

During this time, Grigori enacts a ritual on the Shadrakuulite symbol that Santhiel still wears around his thick neck. Calling upon the powers of logic, and opening his mind to the echoes of the planar skin, he demands to see any encounters the symbol may have had with the Great Maw of Shadrakuul...

Santhiel is in the sickening chamber at the bottom of the spiral stairs that leads to the tunnel to the Gulguthydra lair. He's jabbing around at the carving on the floor next to the bottom of the stairs, and Grigori briefly sees his fingers enter the eye holes of a particularly monstrous carving. At once, a well crafted hidden door slides noisily apart...”

Next he sees a vertiginous view of black waters, alive with sharks, seen through the boards of a rickety bridge. Santhiel is clearly kneeling (in worship?) and....”

“Oh Gods no.” Breathes Grigori, his waxen flesh turning paler still. “Anything but that.”

“What?” Asks Shnecke thickly, his face a mass of ugly, necrotic blisters where his dead flesh has bruised, “What did you see?”

Grigori runs over the vision one more time before telling them...

The field of vision shifts as Santhiel stands to face the maw...a monster straight out of the most terrible and terrifying tavern tales. It floats without assistance; an armoured sphere of black and purple chitin, crowned by ten twitching eyestalks. A huge mouth filled with crooked, inwardly curved fangs drools and slobbers, whilst above it, set in the front of the sphere, a single balefully shining eye twice the size of a man's head stares hungrily at the pirate.”

“Oh Gods,” Gasps Grigori again, “The Maw is a Xareth'Chelde. An Eye Tyrant. It's a feckin' Beholder...”

Suddenly, no one is smiling.

* This translates roughly as “Mum”.

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