(After quite the hiatus this campaign has resumed, being comprised of several people who have played in this campaign and a newcomer. The current party opted to canonically be the previous party who had gone through Act 1. This means that this current party got some of their notable loot as well as additional benefits.
Of course this means some ret-conning is in order as that group died completely while attempting to visit Mistedge to discover the fate of Jovak. We’ve decided to keep that mission as part of the history, but we will have to play through it flashback style to see what happened. Welcome back!)
We begin midway through the party’s most recent endeavor. The party had decided to all attune themselves to the portal sticks given by the Godsmen. They had been told to expect being gone a week.
Much like the first time they entered into this portal realm (chronicled briefly here) they were given instructions prior to entering. This time they were told this by New Steve: “Find your purpose. Engage in your test. Be forged, and emerge stronger.”
This session begins with the party having been in this pocket dimension for quite some time. Urged onward by their own convictions they have continued to press forward through many trials. Most recently they have come from wandering through a darkened ravine, rife with swarms of rats. The ongoing challenge has left many of them weary.
Upon finally discovering a way out of the ravine, they pressed on toward this new area. Having been in silence for so long, apart from the sound of rats always seemingly out of sight, they were keen to pick up the sounds of running water coming from a room up ahead. As they approached they also began to notice the smell of rot. The smell is remarkable for they discovered previously that slaying foes resulted in them dissipating rather than remaining as corpses. Upon smelling this foulness the party decided to stop their march and evaluate.
(An excerpt from the personal log of Keirenaltibus Barancleminous (written by Joshua Groom))
h3. Find Your Purpose
“Find your purpose. Engage in your test. Be forged, and emerge stronger.” – New Steve
Words that were, apparently, at least somewhat lost on our erstwhile party. We began inside the pocket dimension, wearied by trial and combat. The entire place was lousy with rats… disgusting vermin, always scurrying about with their mottled fur and nasty little incisors. They lack proper fangs, by any stretch of the imagination, mind you. To “properly” be considered a fang there is a matter of size and curvature to consider.
We neared our wits end. For exactly how long we traveled, I do not know. At least, not with any certainty. This place… this… strange place… seemed to have an effect on all of us. We became prepossessed of some strange, exotic incarnation of mania. Brother Henderson was the first succumb, rambling to himself, as if he were speaking to several people none of us could see or interact with.
Soon I began to take strange comfort in talking to them as well. It was, in a way as if I had, for a moment at least, glimpsed beyond this reality and conceived of a deeper reality… a strange place I now feel might only be a psychological manifestation… a more comfortable construct for a delusion that could ultimately lull us into abject madness.
On and on we went, passing through this seemingly endless dimension of rats and ravines. Eventually our path led to a hole extending deep underground. There, I caught the distinct sound of some repetitious waterway. I communicated as much to my companions, who like I, now surrounded the pit. Henderson and his niece descended almost immediately while I was still attempting to discuss the details of our findings with the sorcerer.
I’m going to make special note here, in this journal, acknowledging for a moment, the virtues of brazen action. From a tactical standpoint, I am well aware that plans do not survive first encounter with the enemy. Usually, adaptation and risk are a part of any meaningful endeavor, especially with the world slowly coming apart at the seams.
Some decades ago, in my youth, I once followed Lieutenant Jenkins when he charged directly into a hatchery of Tiamat, replete with his particular, and highly unconventional fervor. That battle was perhaps the most pitched and dangerous of my entire life, but the reward for our bravery was a devastating strike that cost the Chromatic Bitch centuries worth of scheming to fully recover losses.
I do, however, believe in measured caution when time permits. There is plenty of glory to find in this world that one need not rush headlong into danger to look for it. Heedless for the trepidation of old men, our party continued on.
I tried to gain entry to the chamber below through the assistance of my companion, Big Bad Jon. The occasionally massive fellow is strong, but seemingly unfamiliar with an uncertain descent, lacking both the eyes capable of conforming to such a dark, underground chamber. I, myself a former denizen of lightless depths, offered my sincerest suggestions on a manner of controlled descent, demonstrating adequate handholds and the proper “shimmy” technique, as an old companion of mine once called it.
Alas, my direction was either insufficient, misguided, or some admixture of the two. He slipped and we both quite nearly suffered a dangerous fall as a result. How I managed to keep my handhold on his shoulders I do not know, but we landed and I tried to walk off the indignity of our descent. Before I’d had much more than a chance to look about the room, I was overcome by the terrible stench. All around the room were piles of flesh and meat, rotting and fetid.
Sickness overcame me instantly, and I had to struggle to maintain composure. As I fought to take in the strange, betentacled statue, struggling to hide my discomfort behind a carefully polished veneer of experience, I apparently failed to take notice of the room’s many sentinels. Things began to happen very fast, and, in my defense, I was torn in that moment between the verge of heaving my morning supply of Everlasting Rations all over the floor, and the surprising visual of seeing my companion’s niece, Alexis, hunched forward over the fountain, lapping up some of the water.
I will, truly, never achieve total comprehension of their strange species, humans. Between their obsession with maintaining and displaying protein stalks, to their snub, simian lips. Proper draconic tongues allow for a wide range of varied and complex pronunciation and vocalization. Our language is so distinct in every nuanced gesticulation of the tongue that I’m astonished they can get by with that childish grunting they pretend can pass for a language…
I digress. Still,Alexis’s confidence and casual nature going forward was, for me, a distinct blend of horrifying carelessness and a near constant delusion of immortality. Both human behaviors, I admit, but frightening regardless of their commonplace occurrence. Their species is truly left wanting for proper self-preservation. I will make a note here for further elucidation in a separate thesis, hitherto untitled (but possibly), “From Ape to Man: How Humans Continue to Prove the Theory of Evolution.”
Yet I find hope in these dark moments that intellectual creativity can strike in even these hellish conditions. I will vet the title of my next book when I have finished correlating a record of our travel.
No sooner had Gravier joined us down in the chamber below when we were attacked. There was a familiar lull to the room, a moment all too memorable for those of us who have seen war and lived through its battles. It is a perceivable stillness that can only lay heavy over scenes of immanent and incredible violence.
The party examined the statue and each fought down their own individual bouts of indigestion. Briefly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught the mage’s giant owl as he cast his gaze upward. Before I could turn and see what he was looking at, there was a beat. Someone said something that I remembered hearing at the time, but cannot accurately recall now that the screaming has stopped. Whoever spoke or whatever they said, their words were punctuated by a flight of arrows, and the ambush began.
From up above, higher in the chamber were a series of small ledges. Each designed, from their obvious use, to house demonic archers lying in wait. These particular demons, a four-armed variety I’d heard about but never myself encountered, had a greenish tint to their skin and wielded two bows each. A purely bizarre and seemingly ineffective fighting style, it proved quite capable against our ranks. It is a well-known facet of their nature that demons have ways of making even the absurd plausibly frightening to mortals.
Yet we were spared immediate death from endless barrages of arrows when Gravier, acting on his instinct and years of experience, laid down a cloud of obscuring mist over the entire party. Without targets to pepper with arrows, the demons hung back for a moment and bided their time. While the others made their various preparations, I took a few steadying breaths and prepared to Sing.
Singing, unlike its less frequently capitalized cousin, is a practice of channeling pure creation through my words of the Song. The Song is played in all of us, through our actions and our lives in every day. It is the totality of mortal life, the sum of our parts. I have learned some of the Words that fill the Song with meaning. Through this dedication and timeless trial and error I have managed to cobble together a system of disparate magic. I have traveled remote worlds to learn to learn the Words of my own heart. I fought wars to get close to ancient draconic burial sites so I could hope to chance across just a fragment of a Word of their private Song.
I Sang, opening up a world of possibility in rich and vibrant tones. The language of the Song pulsed at my lips, guided by my tongue in a butchered mockery of the Words. Even my elegant and practiced tongue—capable of invoking a dragon’s name to the twenty-ninth syllable—fell utterly short of their primordial pronunciation. Their nature, their essence, their being… they were a deep vivid texture set to a backdrop of eternity.
I tried to help coordinate our team through the fog, I Sang out in instructive verse, suggesting through my filking of the infinite lyrics that they should fight better. The Song abided my direction. My comrades moved with greater efficiency and cohesion.
Cosmic eternity on my lips, I watched my teammates exit the fog and attempt to resume the battle. The demons kept patient their stealth, however, because repeatedly I heard my team call out no sight of targets. Gravier rode his owl across the room. I could hear a door creak wide from beyond the confines of gray mist. Then, before I could get a better sense of the world beyond my small gray protective bubble of haze, Alexis screamed.
There was a loud, cracking sound, followed by a distinct thud as she hit the floor, something grasping and suckling sounding landing on top of her. She thrashed, struggling; I could hear her boots making scraping sounds against the stonework floor. She yelled out, “What is this thing!?”
“It’s trying to drink my bones!”
I nodded, sagely, “That is a Bonedrinker!” Then, after a puissant moment of silence, I remembered that most of my party were not as well versed in monster lore, adding, “They’re undead!”
Suddenly there was a loud thrum, followed by a whizzing, cracking sound and then a flash of blue light. Through the mist I glimpsed a silhouette of Brother Henderson, hands wreathed in glowing blue, and then his glowing form disappeared, hands grasping at something I think I prefer the mist kept hidden from me. A moment later, the foul beast screamed out in shrieking terror.
I darted out of the smoke line to see Kalira engaging one of the toxodaemons on his perch. My initial casting attempts proved futile. Spell after spell I threw at him, and each he just shrugged off with ease, spraying arrows into the fray indiscriminately. An arrow whizzed by my ear and bounced off the stone statue with a clatter.
“That is it,” I muttered.
With a sharp twist of my wrist, I flicked back my index finger. Strapped to my wrist was a complicated piece of technology I first encountered during an excursion to Abeir-Toril . They are magnificent contraptions, five small tubes along the wrist attached to a line of small string tied to each finger. With a sharp tug, the bearer can produce any of the stored wands without the usually effort involved with retrieving them from a pouch or bag.
I loosed a ray of scorching fire at the demon above us. The magical resistances of demons and devils is truly something of remark. He didn’t even seem to notice the ray as it broke apart and lost cohesion against his chest. Behind me I heard a loud crash, and turned just in time to see another of the demons standing over Big Bad Jon, drawing back twin arrows to plug into the back of his unconscious head. It would seem there had been a struggle between the two, and my companion had lost.
Before I could come to his defense with another attempted ray from my wand, a giant tuft of feathers and beak crashed into the toxodaemon. Gravier’s giant owl bore it to the stone with relative ease and pinned it in place with an angry shout of, “You whoot, mate?”
I turned and then spotted the disturbing tentacle creature as it bore down on Alexis and Brother Henderson. With a sharp flick of my wrist, I brought the wand level with the beast and loosed another ray. Fire shot from a pinprick of light into a screaming ray of white-hot flame. The lance of flame struck it, leaving a line of charred flesh across the creature’s pus weeping torso. Then, before it could regain momentum, Brother Henderson destroyed it with another strike of positive energy from his hand.
The battle ended, we took stock of our loss. Once I moved to inspect her wounds, I realized Alexis was dead. Her uncle now stood over what had been her body, on the verge of losing his composure. The creature attacking her had somehow managed to drink her bones to the point where they could no longer support the weight of her body. It is a hideous and unfortunate end to be certain. My research tells me they achieve this grisly task through some specific form of painful toxin that decomposes bones to liquid like some sort of monstrous bone mosquito.
All that remained of the once young and reckless Alexis was now nothing more than a pile of flesh and fatty tissues. The muscles were completely disconnected, rendering them useless. She was very dead, fortunately for her. Probably a result of massive shock and sudden organ failure brought on when the structure containing them suddenly liquefied. I’m certain she was dead before the moment that it drank her spine and skull; mammals are, after all, very reliant on those.
There is a hall leading further into this place, and a fountain still to inspect. While my companions grieve for the fallen and tend their injury I write a document of this to maintain at least some narrative of these grim times. The world around us seems poised on the brink of ending. Tainted monsters lurk in every corner, and the undead seem to be more virulent and powerful than ever before. I wonder at what part in all this the demons play. The horror of corruption and depravity that has gripped this land in turmoil seems to be shepherded by demons. They appear consistently throughout our travels.
Are we a misguided flock looking in the wrong places for a source to save us? Perhaps a trip to Baator is in order, to seek council from the enemy of my enemy. They are altogether an evil breed, but the clever agent of Io can benefit from their disdain for fellow horrors. At least the Baatezu are a vastly more structured and logical form of irrevocable evil. There is something far greater at play here, if I could only put my claw on it.