19 August 2006

Episode XV: Darker times in Fiendsguard

Veterans of the Golemech Corps are aging but still serve in fewer and fewer numbers.  
Meanwhile the children of each succeeding generation become more tainted by fiendish traits, becoming more more degenerate and less mortal generation by generation.
No cause or cure is in sight as the citizen senate debates endlessly and the military remains ominously silent.

Hanon 16 Year 62 Planar Reckoning

Special Unit (SU) Wolf Blue, Golemech Core, Fiendsguard Defense Force (FDF) received orders from General Cor Redhand of the Fiendsguard Defense Force Command to capture or execute Mage-General Galvius for the crimes of treason and sedition.  The Mage-General along with a chest of documents within his possession were to be intercepted and returned.  He had allegedly last been seen heading in the direction of the abandoned Outpost 17, aided by fiend agents.  Some indistinct impressions, as if another document had been written atop the orders, were also noted.
SU Wolf Blue in their mighty golemech armor journeyed to Outpost 17, narrowly avoiding the fiends ubiquitous to the Planes.  At Outpost 17 they attempted to arrest Galvius who refused, angrily defiant, stating that they were the traitors and they didn't even realize it.  Galvius and his companions, mostly tieflings, fought to the last man but fell before SU Wolf Blue, who subsequently recovered the black chest.  On their return trip they were beset by fiendish giant ants but managed to escape unscathed.
General Redhand accepted the chest from them personally and commended them for their action.  However, SU Wolf Blue was dissatisfied with the mission, due not only to General Redhand's suspicious manner but also since Galvius, prior to his death had been a hero of the FDF with an unquestioned record.  Seeking further answers, they sought out Galvius' friend, the tiefling Citizen-Senator Mazzua, who after learning of the Mage-General's death explained that both she and Galvius suspected the FDF Command of deliberately preventing the return of the Fiendsgaurd's citizens to the Prime Material. She further presented evidence, including intercepted messages from General Redhand.
Convinced that they had been duped and led to assassinate an innocent man, SU Wolf Blue decided to once again obtain Galvius' black chest,  but this time from Cor Redhand's private office.  Their espionage expert, Sirhc, gained entry to Redhand's office only to discover that he was in fact a fell pit fiend.  With Redhand in pursuit, SU Wolf Blue was able to reach the golemech hanger, arm their suits, and drive the pit fiend off.  The contents of the chest were found to be the location and activation words for a gate high above Fiendsguard that would return them to the Empire of Mellas in Frazeel on the Prime Material Plane.  Furthermore it revealed that Redhand and several other key military leaders were disguised fiends.  It also detailed the plans to use the people of Fiendsguard in a rapid breeding program for spies and soldiers to invade the Prime Material Plane.
Aware that an imminent attack from outside Fiendsguard was looming due to Redhand's escape, SU Wolf Blue brought this evidence to Mazzua who began organizing an evacuation.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the military, their covers blown, had disappeared.  SU Wolf Blue organized the FDF to fight a delaying action so that the citizens of Fiendsguard could escape.  As hordes of fiends poured after them, SU Wolf Blue remained at the tail of the withdrawal in the thick of the fray.  At the brink of the portal to Frazeel, Gresticar's golemech was wrestled back into the underworld.  He set the self-destruct and ejected being pulled through the dimensional portal by his unit mates.  His exploding golemech sealed the portal leaving a patch of otherworldly rock forever in the plains of Mellas.

18 August 2006

Golemechs One-shot Introduction

Fiendsguard is a carved, ruinous dark city seemingly sculpted out of and tacked onto a huge stalagmite deep within the planar crevasses of the Blood War. Strangely, Fiendsguard is not a city of demons and devils but a decaying prime material city-state besieged by both. This misplaced city is the result of a tear that allowed the Blood War to spill into the Prime Material world of Frazeel. The Emperor of Mellas, in an effort to avert greater calamity and destruction, had the Imperial mages create a rapid seal. In doing so many cubic miles of the fortress city of Kurr and its environs were pulled through the rift and seen nevermore by any of the Empire.

But many of the distorted city survived and the military stationed there rapidly took over in this time of crisis. The old name of Kurr was forgotten and Fiendsguard was birthed from its twisted remains. The gods were heard no more and their priests cast down, their divine spell might forever gone, the connection with the gods forever sundered. In this strange new world a magical renaissance the primary result of which were warriors capable of facing a fiend on its own terms.

Today, Fiendsguard is a strangely enlightened military dictatorship protected by the elite forces of the Golemechs --hulking, manned humanoid war machines, armed to the teeth withmagical weapons and items of the finest quality. An anarchistic “senate” of civilians decides policy within the Fiendsguard but the military has control of everything that deals with the outside, battling the incessant attacks of both demons and devils. The citizenry deals with internal events that might let the creatures that lurk outside in, the military rarely if ever has to intervene.

However as each new generation is born they have become more tainted by the hellish energies of the Blood War,
becoming more fiendish with each passing year. More and more voices are clamoring to return to Mellas and
abandon Fiendsguard. The military has met these protest with ominous silence, some conspiracy minded folks believe that there is more to the military’s obstinacy, since their children too are getting more monstrous, and their young recruits more recognizable as an enemy than an ally.

The PCs are in a elite Golemech unit functioning as pilots and gunners. They can be of any generation with their stats adjusted accordingly. All classes are represented, except no clerics. Other divine-like spell casters such as druids, paladins, and rangers are still available. The PCs will adventure both outside Fiendsguard in their customized Golemech as well as deal with the political and social turmoil within the besieged city.
GenerationPC Types
“Primers”5th level human, 64-100 y/o
5th level dwarf, 112-148 y/o
5th level elf, 182-218 y/o
5th level half-elf, 69-105 y/o
First4th level tiefling, 48-75 y/o (MM I)
4th level maeluth, 40-60 y/o (FF)
Second2nd level shfyt, 32-50 y/o (FF)
Third1st level half-fiend, 16-25 y/o

07 June 2006

Mindsgate: Battle of the Burning Tower

The hardy party awoke the next morning and as they began their morning absolutions a distant keening rapidly gained in intensity. As they scanned the dim horizon the Hand noticed the flat grey waters of the Unconscious Sea being thrown aside by a rapidly approaching cube. As the group scattered from the center of the platform an ornate box of exotic woods and heavy metal clasps some three feet in every dimension halted precisely in the center of the platform, nearly disemboweling Drakkar in the process. The chest floated approximately a foot above the platform before bejeweled clasps on all four sides burst open and the lid floated vertically, a pale wholesome light emanating from the opening.
A small curly haired figure, exquisitely dressed and coifed crawled from somewhere within the confines of the magical chest and spoke, "Greetings, I'm Verren, Valet to His Imperial Highness, I have your things."
Verren then scampered back into the chest throwing rich, well fitting clothing, gear, weapons, and armor from the inside. He warned them that they could not enter the chest nor could he leave due to a curse cast by the Unlord, with perceptible shudder he said, "we've tried that before.". Verren was largely able to fulfill their requests, supplying healing potions and other vital equipment. He even scrounged up Kai's enchanted banjo and some simple magical weapons. As the fantastic floating chest began to vibrate the lid closed Verren cried for the party to free him from his curse. With that the chest streaked off into the horizon.
Restocked and restored the party climbed the hovering stone steps of Burning Tower once more, the Hand prowling silently ahead. He scaled the central stairs to the level above, now free thanks to the party's brave battle with their sentient flame guardian. The room above was dark, but the doughty rogue heard heavy wet breathing from the level above. Stealthily climbing to the edge of the trap door, he peered in seeing three great bipedal shapes each about a head taller than a human with a thick body covered in rubbery gray hide and coarse, ropy hair. They had stooped postures, low foreheads, and long thin noses with prominent lower canines that resembled boar’s tusks. Their limbs were long and ungainly ending in powerful hands and feet armed with sharp claws.
Troll image from PMZG Game Studio -- Click to go to their site
One of the hideous humanoids spotted the Hand and began to lumber to the trapdoor. The rogue lay in wait ready to grab the large beast and pull him through. Unfortunately the trorc struck first wounding the foolish rogue and rending him with its claws. The Hands lifeless body fell to the dark stone floor below as the trorcs rumbled down the stairs. Drakkar struck with Maulstrom missing but badly cracking the stone ceiling with the electrified ball of the mystical flail. Hurth used a potion to heal the Hand while Kai fascinated the first trorc. The remaining trorcs dropped to the floor and engaged the party. Drakkar smite one trorc dead with a single blow while the second clawed Kai grievously. To everyone's surprise the fascinated trorcturned and slew its companion. Unsure of its loyalties, the Hand and Hurth then dispatched the creature.
The chamber that the three trorc guards had come from. The chamber was the same flat gray stone as the the Tower on the Undead Tree. The room had one set of stone steps built into the wall on one side opposite to which a rope disappeared in a small hole in the ceiling. All the windows were crudely blocked by stones and excrement. Three foul smelling pallets and the filthy remnants of food and/or prisoners littered the floor. Sounds of a many trorcs engaged in carousing and fighting could be heard emanating from several floors above. Attempting to see more clearly, the Hand used one of the continual flame pendants provided by Verren which rapidly summoned more trorcs armed with great falchions from the level above. A cleverly thrown tanglefoot bag tripped the first trorc who was trampled under the cruel feet of his brethren. A fierce battle followed in which Drakkar wielding the elemental might of Maulstrom slew two more of the despicable denizens of the tower. The Hand struck another trorc dead with a series of bone breaking martial blows, its internal organs bursting under the iron-like flesh of the Hand's fists. Kai extruded a thin black blade from her hand and cut violently at her foe. For a moment nothing happened but then the trorc fell before her, smote in twain by her deadly blade.
Following the battle Hurth fell ill, victim to a seemingly small blow. Lucien having remained in reserve took the wounded barbarian under his care as the party proceeded. The Hand and Kai also noticed that despite having received many wounds Drakkar had never once bled or been healed. The party questioned him but Drakkar was unaware of his unnatural history, he had always been like this but was concerned about his inability to heal. Lucien revealed that he too had noticed Drakkar's unnaturalness after the glasshark attack, but had decided to say nothing at the time.
The scrawled sigil of the UnlordThe next floor appeared to have been an old laboratory coarsely converted by the trorcs as a second guardroom. A metal ladder ascended to a round stone trapdoor, the din of many raucous trorc voices and heavy blows of weapons on armor. Along the wall several man-sized harnesses of sliver set with pale stones at the hands, chest, head, and feet lay in disrepair. One of the harnesses appeared in good repair and the Hand donned it. As he did the Lycanthrope Harness activated, spines extruded from the harness buried into his skin, his body increased in size straining his clothing as his teeth lengthened and sharpened, his nails became claws, and gray hair grew in his body and limbs. His eyes glinted yellow and menacingly in the half light. The Hand twisted the stone in the center of the harness and returned to normal. Further inspection of the laboratory found several books in poor repair as well as some notes on the creation of mechanical life, golems so complex as to be able to pass as living men. The notes were mostly so advanced that neither the Hand, Kai, or Drakkar could decipher them. The notes did explain that certain mystical iron keys could be inserted in the base of the skull to heal these constructs. All the notes bore the scrawled mark of the Unlord, a skull with a U glyph. Recalling the key provided to them by Leatherbones, the Hand found a keyhole in Drakkar's head and healed the man-construct. The key then vanished. Drakkar and the Hand decided to preserve the notes for further study at a later time.
The Hand then climbed the ladder to examine the round hatch in the ceiling. The din from above continued and he was unable to detect any traps. Both the Hand and Drakkar tried to push the hatch open but were unable to budge the stone trapdoor. Deciding to circumvent the trapdoor the three broke out a window in the guardroom below and scaled the side of the tower. As they scaled the tower the din quietened until they scaled the two stories to the level where the din should have been loudest. They broke open one of the windows and entered a dusty, bare and deserted room. No sound but the party's own stirrings could be heard. Drakkar, Kai, and the Hand decided to rest.
After a few short hours the tower suddenly sprung into an uproar as the trorcs discovered their slain fellows. Claxons and alarms rang as trorc voices bellowed their anger. The Hand spied a trorc head searching from the window they had escaped several floors below. He quickly drew his bow and fired an arrow into the thick skull of his foe. The trorc turned more insulted than injured and the clamorous alarm doubled as trorcs swarmed from the windows both above and below.
Seeking to escape the party searched first the square trapdoors above and below finding a nauseating interface between the levels, a terrible, shimmering that drove them back ill and weak. The party did see trorcs both above and below. They were trapped as three trorc heads appeared in the window. Drakkar, Kai, and the Hand engaged in a furious combat, corned in the shrinking tower chamber as the trorcs built a beachhead on the fallen corpses of their brethren. Drakkar's mystical flail was never more terrible, Kai's blade was keen death, and the Hands devastating manipulations crushed his foes innards to paste. But still the trorcs came and the three fell back.
Seeing the futility of fighting further, Kai broke out the opposite window as the Hand lengthened into his rope form. Drakkar sprung through the window but missed the Hand, falling to the slate colored waters below. The surging trorcs struck Kai in the back, lofting her unconscious form through the window. The Hand retracted nearly to the platform at the sea's edge. As Drakkar restored Kai to health with a potion, Lucien and Hurth exploded down the stairs with hundreds of trorcs in angry pursuit.
The party turned and began to swim toward the shadow they believed to be their raft.
The large shadow materialized into a gigantic black swan its wings furled like sails. On the side of the swan a closed hatchway opened at Kai's request and the party climbed gratefully into an opulently outfitted hold that sprang into illumination. Several fitted portholes ran the length of the belly. Toward the neck a doorway lead to a galley and a set of stairs climbing upward. Kai quickly sprang up the ladder-stairs passing the next floor of state rooms up to the head. Inside the bridge's glass cupola Kai took the captain's chair and a rich female voice spoke, "The Black Melody awaits your command, captain." Kai told the craft to fly as below she saw several trorcs floundering gradually toward the swanship. The Black Melody sprang lightly into the air. The Hand wondered at its offensive capabilities, to which the rich voice replied, curtly, "I'm a swan not a hawk." The craft circled the tower, well out of range of the javelins hurled by the trorcs. The top of the tower was revealed to be several stories higher than that of the Undead Tree. The top four floors had been sheared off at a steep angle.
Kai requested the Black Melody to land toward the top the tower, but the swanship declined saying that it had orders superseding her own. She told them she was taking them to the First. The brief trip lasted a few hours and as they passed a horrible, undulating, tower composed of skeletal undead she directed them to her navigational map, saying it was the home of the Unlord.
The navigation map of the Black Swan
Shortly after, the Black Melody descended before a small stereotypical wizard's tower. The squat tower was covered with thick ivy and flag stones ran from its front door disappearing into the sea. Several swans and an albatross of similar kind as the Black Melody floated in the sea around the tower. On the tower's ramparts two cruel looking hawks of similar make to the other avian craft perched in waiting. Standing at the base of the tower stood a tall white-bearded wizard smoking a great pipe and dressed in the imperial colors of Mellas.
As they approached in the small craft provided by the Black Melody the stereotypical wizard greeted them, "I am Daerrus, called the First. We must speak." Daerrus told them that Kai, the Hand, and Lucien along with several other denizens of Mindsgate were fragments of the Emperor and that if they reformed they would be able to escape the prison but in doing so they would free the demon prince, Naberaxus. Daerrus urged them not to seek escape, since the Empire was now prosperous and safe. Furthermore he told them that if they reformed they would cease to exist as individuals. Everything threatening the Empire had been consumed by the Midnight's Hunger followed by its only remaining threat, the Midnight's Hunger itself. Since Daerrus knew that all the threats were here and no one else could enter he felt that it was his duty to protect the Empire by keeping the status quo and policing Mindsgate. He told them that their previous incarnations had agreed with him and one time destroyed themselves to prevent the possibility of reformation and escape. He would provide them with the Black Melody and guidance in return for striking against those who planned escape such as the Unlord and Grimspyne. He demurred the Hand's accusations that per others in Mindsgate, Daerrus could not be trusted. The party returned to the Black Melody to consider his offer.

03 April 2006

Mindsgate: The Fall of Hive Town and the Burning Tower

"Silence, I am Grimspyne," spake the giant ebon wyrm. Lucien and Hurth returned the great dark dragon's cruel eyes as he related the tale of being drawn into the Midnight's Hunger when he faced the Emperor of Mellas. He spoke how he had prodigiously fornicated to create his dracobold cohort. Grimspyne claimed to have battled them previously. He finished his tale and demanded that the party, "Free me from this prison or die. Now."
As Lucien and Hurth attempted to parlay with the irate black lizard the Hand, Drakkar, and Kai acquiesced to the insistent dracobold growls and with weapons drawn scaled the steps to the platform. The party had individually ascertained that the village supported by the Undead Tree was not a dracobold habitation and that furthermore the tree could not bear the sudden increased weight of several hundred dracobolds as well as the bulk of a huge black dragon. As they looked around at the hive like huts of the village they noticed caterpillar-like vaguely humanoid beings either slain or being held hostage by the dracobolds. Some of these harmless appearing creatures were rapidly weaving themselves into cocoons.
Lucien finished parlaying with Grimspyne, saying that they could help him escape but that they needed to go elsewhere for it to happen. When pressed Lucien claimed that he knew the key to escaping. With that Grimspyne snatched him up and flew away instructing his mongrel children to kill the rest of the party. As several hundred dracobolds wheeled to attack, the Hand struck one down from the skies with his bare hand. However the battle rapidly turned bleak as the overwhelming odds of the situation became apparent.
But then the cocoon adepts struck from their silken sheathes emerging as large ferocious insectae and arachnidae: enormous wasps, scorpions, and spiders launched themselves at the hoard of hybrid humanoids. In the middle of this the doughty party battled its way around the trapdoor. A spell from Drakkar caused the cocoon adept's to ignore the group and his errant good luck caused several kobolds to collide in the air before him. Kai was neigh eviscerated by a brutal dracobold attack and fell to the floor. Meanwhile Hurth stood above her still form and smote dracobolds from the misty sky with Splitter. However as he battled the blade slipped from his gore and sweat layered hands falling from his grasp. Splitter spun about and flew back to his wielder's hand cleaving a dracobold in two in its return arc. The Hand healed Kai as Grimspyne flew into the fog with Lucien desperately arguing that the dragon needed all of them to escape.
The battle raged on, the desperate party defending themselves in the midst of the small war between Grimspyne's progeny and the cocoon adepts new forms. Lucien was born further away still arguing that more of the party was needed to escape Mindsgate, finally telling the dragon that Splitter was the key to escaping. With that the dragon wheeled and returned and as they again broke through the haze, Lucien could only gaze in horror as the top of the Undead Tree broke and began to topple into the metallic grey sea below.
On the platform the fierce band of brawlers faced a new challenge as the Undead Tree broke and fell into the sea. Drakkar had attempted to escape down the the stairs only to find the very ground beneath his feet turn over. As the Hand clutched at him through the trap door, Hurth buried Splitter deep in the platform and clutched the hilt. Kai grabbed hold of the barbarian but as the massive timber fell into the flat sea of Mindsgate they all fell free of the platform with Splitter still embedded in the village floor. As the party surfaced they saw Grimspyne perch above the water on the broken cocoon adept village, approximately a hundred feet away the hive mother of the cocoon adepts lay drowning, her children feverishly trying to save her.
Apparently taking Lucien at his word, Grimspyne tore Splitter and the surrounding floor of the village free. The great wyrm then rose majestically into the mist filled air and as he rose hurled Lucien to his death. But as Lucien fell he took on the aspect of a great white swan and drifted majestically to the rubble and water below, a power of his Ring of Animal Guardians.
The party quickly gathered materials for a raft which they constructed on the small pedestal that the Hand, Drakkar, and Kai had awoke upon a "day" before. As they built their raft they saw blood spreading in the water from the many dracobolds crushed under the falling village. Shortly after that a great clamor of insect-like screaming could be heard from the vicinity of the cocoon adepts attempting to save their hive mother. Later the inchor and bile of the caterpillar men came drifting around the remnants of their village. As they worked Hurth went to warn Weemag and the rest of the Sprayspawn that Grimspyne would most likely return when he realized that Splitter was not the key to escaping Mindsgate. The party sailed off in the direction opposite that taken by Grimspyne as Weemag and his people readied themselves to travel in a direction perpendicular to both.
The party rowed into the mists toward the dim outlines of great towers in the distance. They rowed until the sudden dark of the Mindsgate night and then rowed on in the morning. In the middle of the day their craft was suddenly bumped by something. As they looked in the water they saw only the water churning as if something was swimming there. Suddenly, they spied a glowing yellow eye the size of a dinner plate not far astern. The eye flashed then vanished and the attacks on the raft became more violent, a sudden jolt sent Kai and Drakkar into the churning grey water. The Hand called upon the divine power of Obad-Hai and commanded the watery creatures to flee. Two did so but two larger shapes still roiled the waters. As the others rushed to save them, Drakkar attempted an unseen servant but the aquatic environment corrupted the spell, making it drag him under the waves. Lucien clutched at Drakkar's hands and attempted to pull him out. Meanwhile Hurth heaved Kai out of the sea as a great invisible maw took a bite out of the raft right behind her kicking heels. Suddenly a great set of transparent teeth bit down on Drakkar but then loosed him. Lucien was able to cast light upon the great beast biting his comrade. The waters ceased their turbulence and the illuminated glasshark blended once more with the depths.
That night the party rested and saw in the distance three towers, the first was 60o to port and had a single white light burning in it. The second was 10o to port and showed a changing array of white, blue, and red lights. The final tower was 30o to starboard and looked like a great red fire rising into the fog. The party chose the Burning Tower.
The next morning the party approached a great column of fire burning from the waters and reaching into the haze. As they approached they felt the blistering heat of the Burning Tower and saw their raft begin to smoke and blacken. The Hand prayed to Obad-Hai for guidance and heard, Do not fear the flames. With that the Hand dove into the boiling waters and swam to the tower, he felt his skin blister and his hair singe then burn but on he swam. Finally, with faith in his deity he disbelieved the illusion. Lucien was also able to follow the Hand, but only with much convincing did the rest of the party join them.
They found themselves on a platform much the same as the one they had set out from. This one was ringed by torches and above them a great ball of flame writhed hypnotically. Kai rushed the stairs but was blasted by a flaming jet from the step. The Hand determined that this was a trap and they circumvented the step and ascended into the room above. They saw the great bonfire in the center reaching up and through the next floor. A spiral stair ran up inside the inferno. As they examined this curious set-up a great flaming arm swung at Hurth. With that the party became embroiled in a fierce battle with the flaming giant hidden in the floating furnace. The Hand struck with his martial skills and summoned a small celestial monkey to help. Kai fascinated the flames with song and attacked with her ebon blade. Hurth, bemoaning the loss of Splitter, attacked with his trusty spear. Lucien used his sorcerous arts but was badly burned by a vicious swing from the elemental. Drakkar also used his magic to attack the creature and narrowly escaped being ignited. In the end, the party destroyed the elemental and a strange flail fell from the dissipating smoke of the outsider's remains.
The party climbed back down the stairs to rest and heal. As they did Kai related the tale of the flail Maulstrom a powerful weapon of the Druidic Order. Kai recalled that Maulstrom was an ancient weapon presumably crafted as a natural balancing to other planar channeling weapons used by the Empire of Mellas. While its devastating electrical power made it a formidable part of the Imperial arsenal, its evil tendencies made its usefulness limited to agents of His Imperial Highness. It was stored away under heavy guard, but the armory it was housed in was sacked. During the Great Orc War, the Emperor himself faced the paragon of the orcs who bore this weapon. The orc champion and Maulstrom, along with several thousand heavy orc shocktroops were sucked into the insatiable vortex of the Midnight’s Hunger. Maulstrom was seen nevermore.
A guard was set and the party rested. During his watch Hurth saw flashes of light and the enraged screams of a great dragon away back where the Tower of the Undead Tree had stood.

26 March 2006

Mindsgate: The Undead Tree

Drakkar, Kai, and the Hand spent the night under Weemag's protection and the following morning began to climb the knotted vine ropes to the next level. Here several of the young Sprayspawn men sat in a crudely contrived guard post, hiding behind a rubble barricade sheltered by a simple lean to. This 60 foot diameter chamber was a shambles, a twisted and broken mess of rubble and broken stone. The roof and upper walls were penetrated by sickly grey roots, thick with a purulent ooze the color of dried blood. The roots dripped pus like many wounded fingers, across the way an old staircase little more than ramp of gravel ascended into the mists above.
As the three surveyed the ruins before them, one of the barbarian youths, Hurth abd Jabba, asked if he could accompany them. Seeing his doughty spear and leathery sinews the party consented. As the Hand questioned Hurth, Kai spotted a familiar figure wending his way down the gravel ramp and cross the room. Kai rose to meet the figure and as he drew closer saw that it was the Hand, although stretched and pale. He stunk of rotting meat, overpowering the sick stench of the festering roots. He approached and thrust a tangled metal puzzle in Kai's hands and without a word, turned and walked away. Kai spent a moment examining the puzzle but was suddenly struck by gobbet of ichor from the roots above, she felt nauseous and weak but the feeling passed. Covering herself she hurried to the shattered steps as a burning grew in her right arm, which revealed itself to be a new tattoo of an ornate and twisted black sword. The Hand, Drakkar, and their new friend Hurth hurried to join her and with the Hands expertise they managed to scale the gravel slope.
They entered the open air upon a single great platform dominated by a massive, twisted, trunk of deadwood some 30 feet across. A metal stair in the side of the great trunk rose majestically and terribly into the mists some 100 feet above. Below the flat, metallic sea they had awoken too yesterday stretched into the smoky miasma. In the distance a gondola with great black wings vanished into the fog, a familiar profile riding along with a massive oarsman. All about obscured by the mist many leather wings flapped invisibly.
With the Hand in the lead the four began to ascend the stairs having to avoid many short and twisted protruding limbs. They climbed the stairs quickly and carefully until it twisted into a hollow bowl in the wood, the stair now spiraling in the center of the tree's dead heart. As they climbed they reached another fissure that opened again to the outside. As they neared the opening they saw long branches dipping from the crown high above, stirring in the breeze...but wait there was no wind in this hellish land. And with that the opening snapped shut plunging them into darkness.
The darkness was momentary until a weak light illuminated their prison, a smooth hollow in the wood with no conceivable entrance or exit. In the corner a thin man began to stir from a poisoned sleep. He said his name was Lucien and that he had been traveling with his wife, sister, and few companions down the tree. They had been trapped by the tree and one by one his companions had disappeared, lastly his wife and sister. He did not know for how long he had been trapped here or how long ago he had last seen his loved ones.
Kai began examining the wall for a way to escape and as she wished for something to stab or break the wall a blade of a uniform, flat black material appeared in her hand. With it she hacked mercilessly at the wall until it suddenly gave way, causing her to slip and lose the ebon sword which immediately vanished. At the same moment a vicious 4 foot bipedal scaled thing half dog, half bat leapt through gnawing on her neck and face. As the dracobold struck Lucien sprung forward receiving a vicious backhand claw as he tried to tear it from Kai's bleeding face. A short vicious struggle ensued where the Hand used his martial skills to wound the creature before Lucien destroyed it with mystical bolts of energy. The party collected two well crafted short swords and several pieces of gold. As the the Hand inspected the treasure he noticed that the ingots bore representations of Lucien, Kai and himself all stamped on the opposite side with the imperial seal of Mellas. The party widened the opening Kai had made only to find themselves in a similar chamber, the gnawed, liquifing remains of Lucien's wife and sister spread on the floor. Some ten feet above them a hollowed branch opened to the mists once more. The Hand secured hand and foot holds for all and then crept out the branch. The metal stair wound on twenty feet below and forty feet above. The party made careful progress back to the stair but as they did Kai slipped and fell falling past the Hand's grasp. As she did so a thin black rope extended from his hands but he was unable to brace himself and fell with her, stretching and twisting into a thin black cord. Hurth and Lucien grabbed the Hand as he painfully and horrifyingly extended to 50 feet of cord. His agony continued as Kai climbed back to the steps but he was then able to painfully return to his normal stature, if a bit taller.
The growing party continued up the stairs noticing now that the short twisted limbs were actually the distorted arms, legs, faces and bodies of the tree's victims. They followed the stait until it wrapped once more into a cleft in the dead tree. As they approached, Hurth solved the metal puzzle they had been given. As the puzzle changed into a solid iron key a disembodied voice spoke: I am the Unlord. Keep the key safe. Do not trust Daerrus. My servant Leatherbones will contact you again soon. The stairs climbed within a 20 foot wide by 40 foot fissure before again exiting the tree. Although fearful of being recaptured the doughty crew continued on and as they climbed the fissure, a terrible sound of splintering and moaning wood came from the cursed wormwood as a jagged wooden figure tore itself from the walls. Hurth and Lucien tried to placate the splinter beast but its vicious swings showed that reasoning was not possible. The Hand and Kai both struck the beast cutting chunks of dried wood from it's splintered hide, but it was Lucien and Drakkar's spells that finished the undead tree's avatar burning its cursed remains. Inside the splinter beast's remains the party found a dead warrior wearing a hauberk of well made chain mail, a green bastard sword with a human skull as the hilt and pommel, and a ring of 12 animals each eating the next. The blade and ring each emanated magic. Drakkar took the mail, Hurth the sword, while Lucien donned the ring to no effect. As Hurth took the skullblade he laughed in a deep voice unlike his own, "Freedom and battle once more!". Frightened the party told him to discard the blade which he did. As Kai tried to grab it shocked her and when the young barbarian tried to reclaim the blade it did the same to him saying. "I will not be discarded".
The blade called Splitter recalled having a proper name once as well as being alive once and fighting his enemies before falling before them but then again rising to fight foes once more. It wanted to be its wielder's right hand and mentor, facing their foes as its own. It would only communicate when spoken to directly, that is, face to face and wanted to be slung over the shoulder so it could see. Splitter valued bravery but demanded honorable treatment as a sentient ally not a magical tool.
On Kai's insight the new party members now checked themselves for new tattoos only to find that Drakkar had one on his left shoulder, Lucien one around his navel, and Hurth one on his right breast. When the Hand tried to read the glyphs woven in the design his eyes began to bleed but he was able to ascertain that they had something to do with the saga of a demon prince.
The party left the fissure and saw that the crown of the tree supported a new or continuation of the tower below. The stair spiraled ever tighter to a trap door. The Hand examined the trap door and deemed it safe so Hurth shouldered his way through closely followed by Lucien. The young barbarian found himself stepping into a dracobold encampment and one of the vile creatures eying him, "KRRKKT" and beckoning with its head. Hurth complied as did Lucien, but Drakkar ducked quickly back down the stairs. As he did a torrent of dracobolds sounding their hunting call came tearing through the hatch, bursting through to hang from the Undead Tree and the stone ceiling. The Hand tried to reason with the bipedal beasts in several languages as Drakkar and Kai tactically withdrew down the steps. Above Hurth and Lucien heard the beating of massive leathery wings as some great thing flew from the murky mists. Suddenly an avalanche of scaled muscle, teeth, and claws impacted with the stones behind them. They turned to see a great midnight dragon folding its wings. As they stammered obeisances it purred with a voice like doom, "Silence, I am Grimspyne."

19 March 2006

Star Wars Miniatures: Despite bloody losses, Fett's Force emerges victorious!

Miko Fett's (Boba Fett) elite mercenary squad faced stiff opposition to emerge victorious in a grand battle royal between General Grievous' Separatist droid army, Grand Admiral Thrawn's Imperial troops, and the battling Jedi duo of Kenobi and Skywalker. Fett led the villainous droid bounty hunter 2-KYL (4-LOM), the cunning Avaricio (Greedo), Drarish Naelen (Devaronian Soldier) and Counts-Many-Scalps (Utapaun Soldier).
2-KYL took withering fire from both the Imperial and Separatist factions but along with Fett, Avaricio, and Naelen inflicted heavy casualties on the Imperial troops, slaying Mara Jade. Fett sacrificed melee combatant Counts-Many-Scalps by sending him on a suicide run, while he, 2-KYL, and Avaricio picked off more Imperial troopers. Meanwhile Naelen exchanged laser fire with the troops assisting the Jedi duo. 2-KYL fell shortly after to the Imperial blasters and Fett was targeted and hurt by both Thrawn's and Grievous' troops, but the droid soldiers quickly became entangled with the Jedi.
After performing the coup de grace to Thrawn and his troops, Fett, Avaricio and Naelen circled behind the Republic's Jedi team and exchanged fire with their troops. Naelen fell in this exchange, so Fett and Avaricio started shooting the Jedi in the back as they slew Grievous and finished the droid soldiers. Young Anakin was badly injured by Avaricio's aim, but was slain by the last remaining Imperial trooper who also subsequently killed Avaricio. Fett's deadly aim polished off both Obi Wan Kenobi and the Imperial. The wily bounty hunter collected his trophies and slunk away to lick his wounds, ready to fight another day.

25 February 2006

Mindsgate: Genesis

Three lost souls with no memories prior to their waking awoke to the drip of moisture on their face, a dimly illuminated pool with ponderous shapes wriggling through its heavy contents hung suspended in the dimness above them. The three figures stirred, gazing in the foggy light at the large wet rough stone slab that had been their bed chamber. Above them, above the menacing tank, a black stone tower floated unattached to the pedestal below it. At each end flat floating rock formed steps climbing into the gloom next to the faintly glowing orb full of beings unknown. In the grey leagues across a great dull, flat, unidentifiable sea other black towers loomed. So gone were their residual memories that the concept of a liquid was beyond their comprehension let alone the maddening magic that must support such a structure did not phase the trio in the least.
Naked, cold and shivering the three began to scrounge for rocks as weapons just as their minds searched for memories of their past. One, the female, remember life on a farm long ago and of aiding others, but no such feelings entered her heart now. They ascended the stairs and more memories returned, skills unknown leapt to their command. At the top of the stairs they peeked into a room, dominated by the dim illuminated pool, the opening to the aquarium orb they had seen below. As they peered into the chamber a horrific collection of men's bones assembled itself from the floor and started lurching at them across the floor, a rusty yet still dangerous longsword raised menacingly. A thrown rock did nothing to dissuade the undead and in their haste to flee the party tumbled from the narrow floating stair, one a stout half-elf to the slab below with acrobatic grace, the other a olive-skinned man with sharp features into the steel-colored sea.
The animate bones came creaking after them down the steps, and the female seeing her companion swimming safely dived in after him. The skeleton turned its attention to the half-elf and cut him with the rusty blade. The sharp-featured man suddenly let loose a bolt of energy blowing away half the skeletons skull and left shoulder. Meanwhile, the wound in the half-elf' side rekindled memories in the martial arts and he unleashed a savage kick breaking the skeleton in two.
The two men salvaged the femurs and the rusty blade as the woman swam under the platform where she found a stale empty cave, bereft of life or treasure. The party resumed their journey and and continued to the pool, where they threw one of the bones into the pool, it began to bubble and churn while flashing through a spectrum of sickening colors. Flesh began to grow of the bone and soon a man rose from the waters, a man with ebon skin, purple eyes and dark blue hair. When questioned by the woman, he knew not where or who he was only that he had awoke much as they had on the platform below and had then come to this pool looking for his ancestor's sword. The last he remembered was that he had been struck from behind. He asked the woman who she was, and she remembered a name, Kai. Then the midnight man's flesh began to quiver and shake, bubbling pustules and bursting vesicles erupting across his bare flesh. The half-elf thrust him back in the pool, but to no avail, the living corpse disintegrated with an unholy scream.
The half-elf, for reasons unknown, swung his femur club at the shadows in the room and the shadows struck back. They coalesced into a thing, a dark shape that clawed and crawled toward the naked wanderer, wounding him lightly. Suddenly a holy might sprung from his hands burning back the shadows which fled before his flames. The shadows resumed their normal state, but he could still feel them churning and roiling under the dark surface.
The three ascended to the next level, noticing the stone getting darker yet drier. They also felt, as more memories returned, that sound and scent were muted. Sound was cut off and fell silent too soon, and the smell was of nothing, of dust that had been left for a thousand years. This room had not exits in the center in a 10' x 10' area were 8 glyphs inlaid silver in the rough granite. These were no magic writing and yet they sat above two mechanisms one of which the half-elf was fairly sure was a trap. After much rumination the party solved the puzzle and inscribed the final symbol in the empty slot, the slab rose slowly and ponderously from the floor, going toward the ceiling above, as they reached the ceiling it opened and they rose through to the room above.
This room had weak torches set about every 10' with windows showing a dull blackness beyond. In the shadows at the wall many figures were stirring. Groggily and stupidly they rose from their ramshackle and worn pallets, they were poorly dressed and worse equipped, a pot for a helmet here, a table leg a prized weapon. These folk were dark olive-skinned folk with white hair and eyes blue to brown. Their chieftain an older man
asked spoke, "Drakkar, Kai, and the Hand, where are your friends?"
The two men of the party on hearing their names, knew them to be their own. They told them their troubles with their memories and the chieftain told them that they had twice been seen by the tribe in the past, the first time arriving from the levels above, the second arriving as they had via the lift. This was a long time ago, the exact time being difficult to tell as the days were approximately 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of dark without variation. There were no moons and no seasons. The chieftan, Weemag, identified his people as the Sprayspawn, the raiders from the seas. They had attacked the the Greatlands looking for women and plunder only to face the Emperor himself, the next thing they knew they were on the great grey sea outside. Without provisions they rapidly had taken shelter in this tower.
As the horror of their plight overwhelmed them, the Hand remarked, "We are trapped in the Midnight's Hunger."
"No, the Eye is but a gateway to this land," responded Weemag. As they spoke a strange dark tattoo began to form on the Hand's left breast, appearing to be an intricate form of Infernal. Unsure as how to continue, the party asked Weemag what their mission had been previously. He told them that they had been seeking the wizard, Daerrus or "the First" as Weemag knew him in order to free all the peoples trapped in this prison. The three decided to seek out Daerrus and complete their twice or thrice begun quest. With that they were supplied with some simple garments and provisions before beginning to scale the rope ladders along the wall.

Mindsgate: Introduction

Many years ago the Empire of Mellas was faced by devastation and collapse, enemies both internal and external worried its borders with war, ravaged the city-states deep within its territories, and allowed monstrous denizens to maraud its lands. The good but young Emperor was beside himself and knew not what to do, until one day a bent cloaked figure was admitted to the Imperial court. The mysterious being told the king that it had a gift that would rid the Empire of its woes, but only one of the ancient blood of Mellas could use it to do so. With that it drew out a large sepulcher black opal, the Midnight’s Hunger. The Emperor was greatly intrigued and asked that this gift be bestowed on him. The cowled enigma responded saying that although the Midnight’s Hunger was a great and powerful gift, these powers came at great cost to the wielder: The Midnight’s Hunger could consume the evils of the land, but these evils would be trapped in the heart of the Emperor. Despite his loyal council’s dismay how little was known about the gift or the giver, the desperate Emperor said he would accept the gift.
The stooped shadow mounted the stairs growing taller and more menacing as it approached the Emperor the Midnight’s Hunger thrust before it in a claw-like hand. Now towering over the Emperor, it retracted its hand and then plunged the ebon gem deep into the Emperor’s left eye. With an unearthly scream the Emperor fell, clutching his eye from which a foul ember smoldered to the accompaniment of the cloaked figures cackles of mad glee. The Emperor’s bodyguards struck the figure down, only to find the remnants of a dark and tattered cloak on their blades. The Emperor lay pale and senseless on the ornate floor, bloody tears falling from under his quivering lids.
The Emperor was brought to the Imperial chambers where he lay senseless and feverish for many days. Finally, the Imperial Magus, Daerrus, and the Imperial chirgeons could wait no longer declaring they would examine the left eye of the Emperor entered his chambers and were never seen again. The Imperial Vice-Magus, Hasjan, sealed the Emperor’s left eye with spells and instructed the new physicians to tend their liege with care. For many weeks, the Emperor was delirious but with time came healing. Finally, he rose from his sickbed, pale and worn but ready to face the invasion by a small goblin kingdom to the North.
Riding to the North, the Emperor surveyed the goblin encampment pried off his eye patch, and the despicable horde vanished in a maelstrom within his left eye. With time more enemies fell to the Emperor’s dark devouring eye; the wyrm Grimspyne among others, the Sprayspawn barbarians and brethren tribes, the rebel lord Nolduran and his allies, as well as other criminals both enemies of state and ordinary murderers, thugs, and the like. Peace began to return to the Empire of Mellas as disquiet was sown in the mind of its Emperor.
Ever since receiving the “gift” of the Midnight’s Hunger the Emperor had increasingly intense and frequent headaches along with dark visions. His mood changed along with the fading joy and prosperity of the Empire. Now the source of the Empire’s despair came not from without but from the Mellian Throne itself in the form of increasingly heavier taxation, foul edicts, and brutal reprisals to perceived threats. Increasingly the disintegrating gaze of the Emperor was cast upon the unjustly accused. The Emperor was rumored to be mad.
Meanwhile Hasjan had been questing the Empire and beyond, gathering lore about the Midnight’s Hunger. What he revealed horrified him, the Midnight’s Hunger was not simply a magical pearl but the bitter, pitch black heart of the demon prince, Naberaxus. The Empire of Mellas had been established by a pact with this very demon but the Emperor’s ancestor had tricked Naberaxus and slain him. With his dying breath the demon had cursed his own heart to be used as a weapon against the Mellian Throne. The demon’s vile essence had survived within that opal prison for millennia. Naberaxus’ vile heart would devour the Empire at the willing hand of it’s own Emperor. Hasjan returned to the Mellian Throne only to provoke the wrath of the Emperor with this grave news. The Emperor tore his eye patch from his face, but before he could cast his ravenous orb on his faithful wizard, the Emperor’s sister, Larassa, leapt between the two and was consumed.
The Emperor went near mad with grief but felt his control over the essence of Naberaxus slipping further along with a shattering pain within his skull. A pain that he could only relieve by opening his left eye and absorbing more lives within its dusky confines. Hasjan knew not how to remove the Midnight’s Hunger but devised a plan to split the essence of Naberaxus that rode the Emperor’s shoulders and store it within several loyal retainers of the Emperor.
As Hasjan placed the arcane mirror before the Emperor and his valiant vassals to perform the ritual that would split the essence of Naberaxus, the demon prince struck, forcing the hungry eye of the Emperor to open…