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  #31  
Old Jun 12th, 2024, 12:41 AM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
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A dust devil couldn't have swirled more swiftly than the destabilizing sensations in Xihue's head. High pitched screams still echoed within the monk's skull, and it barely avoided a sense of vertigo from overwhelming Xihue. Muscles still remembered their duty. In the absence of directive thought, his well-trained physique launched into the draconic forms that removed energy from his surroundings. Heat was siphoned and channeled away from the hands and feet, it pulled so abruptly from his fingertips and toes that it drew all ambient warmth from a considerable distance, changing any moisture from sweat and vapor into ice and mist.

Although the first strike was true, the slight contact with one or two flying mice did little damage to the larger swarm. Only a few frozen bodies fell from the nearby sky. As Xihue allowed the blow's momentum to turn his entire body, the acceleration of the opposing fist was unguided. It failed to contact with any of the undead creatures but the combined energy of both windmilling fists, drawn suddenly and tightly back toward center, enabled Xihue's frosty feet to whirl about in a way that mimicked Hope's energy weapon, into the swarm, where they connected with a few more of the combined damage of two successful out of three attempted hits equals 8hpbats.

Stollen heat rose within Xihue's chest demanding release. "I bet fire would work wonders on these dusty old things!", observed Devari. Yes, that might be even better than cold! Xihue knew what would come next, should the winged vermin not overwhelm him before he was ready.


 
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  #32  
Old Jun 13th, 2024, 03:25 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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Devari's request for help was answered by a trio of glowing bolts made of pure arcane force. The darts flew unerringly towards the bats the bard's own rapier had just proven ineffective against, ripping through the undead vermin with ease and reducing them to mere bits of bone and rotted flesh that fell like rain on the cobblestones.

Satisfied with the result, even though more of the creatures remained, Isandril tapped Tegan's shoulder to catch his attention, indicating Hope with a nod of his head, and then moved a few steps back and towards where the greater number of the bats were still plaguing Xihue and Redwaters. As he did so, he glanced at his dagger as it hovered close to him in an almost protective manner, its sharp blade a veritable tongue of flame. Last line of defense indeed, he briefly pondered with a smile as he looked at the charred remains of many an undead bat, bringing to mind both Hashem and Pnoah who, alongside himself, had contributed greatly to the magic weapon's creation.

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  #33  
Old Jun 13th, 2024, 08:36 PM
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How Long Until "Vampires of a Broken World"?
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Tegan and Isandril fought side-by-side, frost, force, and radiant energy slicing through the nearby swarms. As the swarm entangling Isandril fell to the warstaff of Gilean, the wizard advanced. Seeing his opportunity, Tegan took a swing at the sparse cauldron of bats surrounding him. Kanna's radiant glow was not able to connect with the few bats still keening around the warrior, they seemed to hang back, just out of reach of the divine blade.

Tegan knew that as he advanced the surviving bats (if they could be called that) would strike, but he had no choice. The warrior burst forward, finding himself amidst Hope, Xi, and Isandril. He readied his blade, looking for a foe to parry.


 
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Old Jun 14th, 2024, 07:26 PM
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Going Out with a Bang!
One by one, the bats were cut down and the swarm, which had initially looked like a vast, angry cloud ready to envelop the companions, thinned noticeably. Where Devari’s sharp sword failed to pierce the fell creatures’ emaciated bodies, Isandril’s unerring missiles of pure force succeeded. Where Gilean’s heavenly light was evaded, Xihue’s discipline and training prevailed against the screeching vermins’ great numbers, crushing their ice-covered bodies with well-aimed punches and kicks. Where Tegan’s sword was unable to keep the undead bats suffers 2 points of damagefrom attacking him and his companions, Talia’s missiles, releasing bursts of intense magical cold, froze them while airborne and brought them crashing to the ground.


No hero, alone, was a match for this deadly maelstrom of winged creatures, but together they endured. Together, they prevailed.


Any natural creature valuing its life, would have chosen survival over hunger and fled. A flock of birds would have dispersed, flying as far away as possible. A pack of wolves would have accepted their defeat and stopped chasing their prey. But the bats persisted in attacking the companions, even when they realized that their fangs could not penetrate the Solamnic squire’s metal armor, even when they were cut down by the mage’s flaming dagger or when the priestess’ faith in the power of her divine patron kept them at bay. They were not guided by reason or instinct or emotion. Their actions were controlled solely by the curse and no matter how many bats were destroyed, the curse’s hold on them and every other undead creature in the valley did not weaken.


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A whirlwind of undead bats
Repelled by slashing sword and mighty fist, crossbow bolt and slingshot missile, devout prayer and arcane incantation, the bats took to the sky. The companions looked up and smiled, hoping that the fight was over. And indeed, no bats swooped down to bite them or use their claws to tear their flesh. Instead, they formed one single swarm, circling round and round a central point, resembling a whirlwind of leathery wings and small, desiccated bodies.


And then they started screeching, really screeching. The bats had not been silent from the very beginning, using their high pitched cries to navigate, locate their enemies and to sow fear into the hearts of any living beings that encountered them, but now the sound they made intensified.


A tenfold. A hundredfold. A thousandfold.


The stone bridge the companions were standing upon started shaking. The rock that had defied the Cataclysm started cracking and shattering. The companions’ ears started bleeding.


The bridge connecting the two mesas started collapsing.


Ignoring the pain, ignoring the dizziness, ignoring the sound that threatened to make their eardrums burst, the companions ran. They ran faster than ever before, not looking back or up or down. Only ahead. If they managed to reach the watchtower, they would be safe.


By the time they stepped on the island of rock and collapsed to the hard ground, utterly exhausted, the screeching had stopped. The companions realized that the bats’ frail bodies had been unable to maintain their screaming for long and burst. One by one, they had fallen to the rocky ground, hundreds and thousands of tiny, unmoving bodies littering the valley.


It took more time for the earth to settle and for the shaking to stop. Once it did, the silence that ensued seemed utterly unnatural to the companions, who couldn’t realize that it was finally over.


They had survived Hurim’s welcome.


The area of level ground they found themselves on was surprisingly free of the rubble that had accumulated elsewhere. Built in the center of the plateau was the watchtower they had seen from below, though up close the solitary structure appeared much more intimidating than before. Standing about 50 feet tall, the edifice was of solid, dark basalt, which made it defy the light of even the brightest of days. As the shadow of the canyon walls was cast upon the plateau, the tower looked like a portal into the heart of the Abyss, black upon black. Signs of age and weather were clear in the building’s outer facade, with large cracks streaking across the stone and loose rubble piled along the tower’s walls. The only visible entrance into the watchtower was a single door that had been torn down and turned to dust centuries ago. Along the first floor of the tower, arrow slits were equally spaced apart around the entire perimeter. Each upper floor had two open windows, altogether providing a view of every direction.


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The watchtower

Tegan could clearly recognize the clear advantage such fortifications provided to the ones defending the valley from invaders. And yet, this almost impregnable tower had not been enough to spare Hurim of its dark fate. The watchtower had fallen and with it the Temple of Golden Sands.


As for the how’s and the why’s, hopefully the answers waited for them inside Hurim’s silent sentinel.



Calendar23rd Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Morning

Solinari: 17/36 (High Sanction)
Lunitari: 26/28 (Low Sanction)
Nuitari: 7/8 (Waning)

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes +1 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls | Red Robes -1 spell DC, DIS on spell attack rolls | Black Robes -


 


 
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  #35  
Old Jun 19th, 2024, 03:48 AM
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Finally they congregated in the shadow of the watchtower, occasionally whacking a stray bat into submission. They had made it through the fight, but not without injuries, in fact every one of the companions had cuts and scrapes weeping somewhere about their person. If this is what the lowliest of creatures in Hurim could do, did they really stand a chance of making it to the centre of the valley?

"Maybe we can rest inside," Devari suggested, although they all knew that there was a good chance that they would have more foes to vanquish first. She pulled half a wing from the mechanism of her crossbow and then cranked the string back and loaded a bolt, wondering as she did so whether there would be space to fire it inside. "Better to have it and not need it, huh?" she shrugged.

As the group made their plans, trusting the magic of Isandril to scout ahead despite the battering he had taken on the way up here, Devari pulled the mage aside.

"Look, I know what you did. Last night, when we fought. I know you were trying to make me angry to help me. I… I suppose I should thank you. But I'm not going to, not yet. Get through this place alive and I'll thank you then, okay? Don't be a hero."

 
 
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Old Jun 19th, 2024, 05:51 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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As Isandril stepped on solid enough ground gracefully, the greater part of the bridge he and the others had just crossed collapsing behind him, he could not help but reflect on the more physical challenges and exertions of the previous weeks and attribute to them, at least in part, the fact that he was still alive and not breathing his last amidst the ruins below. Still, it was not as if he had escaped the entrance into Hurim unscathed, as not only the undead bats' teeth and claws, but also their unnatural shrieking, had taken their toll on him. Still, though injured and with some of his arcane power used up, he was in good enough shape to go on, his determination -and his hearing, for that matter- more or less intact.

Indeed, as necessary roles were divided among the group, he was to be their... scout and explorer. He found the details of what he had to do more akin to those of an investigator. Truth be told, he believed himself, as a researcher and wizard who had looked into more than his fair share of old libraries and interesting ruins in his long life, rather suited to the task. Taking a look at the watchtower itself, he breathed deeply. Suited to the task or not, he would still have to be particularly wary given the welcome he and the others had managed to survive from.

It was these thoughts Devari interrupted as she pulled him aside. Somewhat surprised, the mage looked at the woman, perhaps fearing her anger, the one he had awakened in her the previous night, had not abated. Admittedly, no matter how necessary he considered his actions or how justified he felt his intentions had been, he found the thought that he had damaged what relationship he had with her a painful one. And then she spoke and his spirits were almost immediately lifted. And he almost sighed in relief. Almost but not quite, for he still managed to keep his composure. More or less, anyway.

"I..." He stammered briefly, not quite sure of what to say. "I have not often been given to heroics, I think," he finally replied, offering her a smile. A warm and sincere one for her alone. "Even so, with an incentive such as this, I shall certainly strive to be particularly cowardly this time."

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Old Jun 19th, 2024, 09:06 AM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia's ears hurt, like… really hurt. The bats screeched and when it seemed like their ear piercing chorus couldn't get any louder… it most certainly did. The acoustic assault hurt ears and stone alike and the acute vibrations began to shake the stone bridge until collapse was imminent.

The group began to run for safety but Talia was frozen in place. Even as everyone else ran past, the kender hesitated a moment too long. As a parting gift, Talia was hit by a heavy bit of stone that tumbled from above and caught her underfoot. She tumbled quite acrobatically but she could not escape the pain as a sharp gash was opened on her shin.

Once the rumbling had passed, the party stood before the monolithic abandoned watchtower. Up close it was much more threatening than it has originally appeared to be. It was a foregone conclusion that they would now go inside, there was no way Talia would let it be otherwise.

"Maybe we can rest inside," Devari said and Talia chuckled as she shook her head. "We should probably rest out here… and heal up a bit. I bet there are zombies and mummies and blood sucking vampires inside. Seriously… the only rest we will get inside will be if we die."

Talia shrugged her shoulders at the possibility of death, that was an everyday occurance for her. Instead she began to puzzle over the types of danger the group might find inside. "Alright.. I'm going to need some light up front. Maybe an extra set of eyes in case I get distracted."

Talia rummaged through her bag, wondering if she had anything useful lying inside.


OOC Failed athletics for 3 damage. Pouch check = 92 (No Aoo - fancy footwork and she has alert)
 

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  #38  
Old Jun 19th, 2024, 09:43 AM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
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It was more sensation than image although the dark cloud of hand-sized bats was a captivating sight. Their individual bodies, en-mass, were a daunting spectacle of malicious corruption. Like a demonic choir, they sang out with concussive intent to beat the ground into submission, to demolish the land bridge upon which Xihue stood, and to expend one, final effort to eradicate the invading light of life that the party was unwilling to surrender to this cursed place.

Hope, Tegan, and Isandril were with him. Together, they bolted the remaining distance to the tower, picking up a flagging Redwaters on the way. Xihue instinctively grabbed Hope's hand, then Isandril's sleeve, hoping to link the three together for mutual support as he dashed for the apparent safety of the keep. It's ominous presence soon provided both security and dread as the group reached its base and re-ordered the companions who all seemed shaken in one way or another.

A small trickle of blood still leaked from Xihue's ear as a thickening coagulative reminder of the passing trauma. "Peace! May we all find serenity in this moment. I am hurt. Who else has suffered damage?"


 
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  #39  
Old Jun 20th, 2024, 03:55 AM
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Hope
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Closing her eyes and bracing for the inevitable attack from the swarm of bats that had pursued her relentlessly so far, Hope waited… and nothing came her way. It was not that the bats suddenly weren’t able to hit her, rather they had changed their strategy. The priestess slowly opened her eyes and she saw, high in the air, the sky was getting even darker than it already was. The small creatures had converged into a mass of blackness.

It was there, out of reach, that they unleashed a terrible screech.

For a moment, Hope thought she was back within the Mikku camp. The feeling of terror she felt when a swirl of blackness removed the party from their slumber by screaming absolute sheer dread came back to her. Unlike the dream eater’s attack, the bats’ didn’t make her cower in place, it was pure pain. Hope had to cover her ears with her hands, and even then it was not enough to protect herself. The only solution was to run away.

Too focused on resisting the agonising shriek as much as she could, Hope didn’t really watch where she was going. In the middle of the bridge, a misplaced rock made her stumble and hit the ground hard. Trying to use her arms to get back on her feet, she fell again, her limbs too painful. Under her current duress, the half-elf never realised the bats were gone, annihilated from their ultimate stand.

Only with Xihue’s supportive hand was Hope able to stand up again and reach the tower where everyone else was contemplating their own wounds. The party’s intent in climbing the watchtower was to assess the topology of the region and gather what information they could about what would await them. Halfway though, the cost for that information was already high.

Finding a clean spot –or rather, as clean as she could in the circumstances– to breath and sit down, Hope delicately took down the shield from her injured arm. She didn’t want to attract too much attention to herself, everyone had enough concern about their own health. Her entire left side was quite painful and she had to sit in an awkward position to not feel it too much. Slightly lifting her robe and pulling her sleeve, Hope saw she was covered in bruises and cut. Sharp pain came to her as soon as she touched her own skin.

Hope knew the best way to alleviate it was to call upon her God’s powers. But the thought made her feel quite selfish. She couldn’t possibly put her own needs before that of her companions. With Talia talking of taking a quick rest before venturing inside the tower, Hope decided this break would have to suffice for the time being. She needed her mental acumen in case something worse than a swarm of bats was their next trial.


 


 

Last edited by Mirasiah; Jun 20th, 2024 at 05:44 AM. Reason: Added the HP recovery from short rest
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Old Jun 20th, 2024, 12:03 PM
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A quiet entry
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The cloud of undead bats had swarmed them without warning, and with the same suddenness, they left. Their exodus was not like the entrance, silent and foreboding. Instead it was vicious and deafening. The crescendo of wailing and gnashing was obscenely loud at first, but that was only its genesis. The screech grew in pitch exponentially, not just increasing in volume but echoing off the walls. Multiple times, Tegan thought there was no way it could be louder as he covered his ears with his hands, failing to drown out the thunderous cry. His vision swam as the ringing in his ears threatened to permanently deafen him. As he stood shakily, he felt vertigo fighting to overcome him as he stood on the now seemingly narrow bridge.

It was then that he saw Xihue grabbing their two close-by companions, Isandril and Hope, and sprinting for the end. It wasn't that Tegan had bad vertigo. The bridge itself was collapsing. Legs churning, Tegan followed his companions. His normally loud mail was completely silent in the uproarious cacophony of sound created by the bats and the bridge. Tegan's every footfall brought him closer to the edge of the bridge, to safety.

In front of him, he saw Hope trip. He intended to help her, but Xi proved the faster. In accordance with his stated intentions around the fire at camp, Xi made sure to protect Hope, or as he called her, the Ghan Shen. He pulled her to her feet and helped her to clear the bridge before certain death. Moments after they reached the sanctuary of the far side, the integrity of the bridge failed critically and their path back (and path to follow for Aric and Zendra) was lost. The earth-shaking boom of the bridge falling began to fade, followed by the shrieking, and then slowly, its echo.

Sitting alongside the others, gasping for clean air in the now dust-ridden environment, Tegan reviewed his companions state. None of them were whole at this point. Tegan examined himself. He was only minorly wounded. He had multiple small bites and many minor scratches. He felt under his ear and felt a small trickle of blood. He breathed a deep breath. They had made it to the tower.

The tower was its own issue. Now immediately at hand, it was intimidating to say the least. As Tegan considered what they were to do, a rest was suggested. While Tegan loathed to spend any excess time in this cursed place, he had to accept that they were heavily bruised. Resting when able was wise. As they sat, Tegan positioned himself to watch Talia. They didn't need a new crisis while they rested.

Drawing deep breaths, Tegan centered himself, ignoring the superficial wounds and focusing on regenerating his spent stamina. The soft sound of Devari's Kimanjah played. Normally Tegan would have cautioned doing something that could draw attention to them in hostile territory, but considering they had opened with a "shrieking bat and collapsing bridge" symphony, the soft playing of the instrument was not an issue. As he listened, Tegan thought he could hear a slight discordant melody echoing from the instrument. The very environment even corrupted the music here. At least, he thought he heard it briefly. Looking around, no one else seemed to state what he observed. Maybe it was just in his own head. He kept his thoughts to himself. If he was the only one to notice, he didn't need to add to the aura of foreboding.

Shaking his head from the thought, Tegan listened closer to the conversation. Isandril was noting that they really needed to establish roles and order to work as a team. Tegan readily affirmed the idea and quickly roles were established. In the end, Talia would lead the way (not like she would allow it any other way) and Xihue would take the rearguard. Isandril was elected as the explorer. As they discussed, the idea of needing a leader was established. Tegan kept quiet, nervous to take further responsibility following the verdict he had proclaimed on Devari recently. Still, Hope proposed that Tegan should lead. Tegan expected this - Hope may be new to the group but she seemed to be his most staunch supporter. Tegan smiled at her and said little, but looked around the group. In the end, Tegan was established as the defacto leader of the group.

He was thankful for the support of his friends despite recent events. Some were outspoken, insisting that Tegan was the best fit. Others were quiet. Tegan felt the weight of responsibility bearing on him again, not aided by the weight of anxiety created by the Valley.

Tegan felt he needed to say a few words, so he spoke softly. "Thank you friends. I appreciate your support. I will take this mantle although I am tempted not to. I care not to demand and order, but if push comes to shove and we need a decision, I shall provide one."


 
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Old Jun 23rd, 2024, 09:34 AM
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The Death Trap
Weary of body and of spirit, weakened by a thousand small cuts and bruises, the companions settled down to rest upon the hard, dry stone of the mesa. Normally, such a thing should have been impossible with the sun nearing its zenith in the sky, but even outside the thick shadow of the watchtower the desert heat could hardly penetrate into the valley of Hurim. It was as if this cursed place was draining the energy of the very sun until all that remained was a source of sickly light devoid of true warmth.


With one eye towards the canyon they had already traversed, in case the bats or something even worse made an appearance, and one keeping watch over the entrance to the lonely tower, the heroes examined their injuries, cleaning and binding them until the bleeding stopped and the pain subsided. While her companions were busy tending to their injuries, Devari picked up her kimanjah and started playing, her bow bringing the instrument’s chords to life by making them vibrate gently. It hadn’t been long since the kimanjah was in her possession, an unexpected gift from an unexpected source, but she was already playing it like an expert. Her mother had often boasted about her daughter’s talent in music and the nimbleness of her fingers and in this, at least, she had been right.


The sounds generated by the kimanjah, a musical instrument beloved by the people of Khur, were sharper than those of the lyre and more melancholic than those of the lute. They filled the air with a sweetness that was mixed with sorrow, an emotion that seemed to suit the mood perfectly. It was the first time in over five hundred years that music was heard in the valley of Hurim.


The sound of the kimanjah washed over the companions, calming their hearts and soothing their anxiety. Though Devari was no longer capable of experiencing the strong emotions that had not too long ago been an integral part of who she was, she was practically shocked to witness the beauty that was hidden inside this small musical instrument. Its music brought her back, way way back, and she remembered her days on the stage, dancing in an exotic dress, as colorful as it was revealing, to the joyful sounds of the tambourine played by her mother, while little Amare clapped excitedly, cheering for her sister. She had been happy in those days, she realized, truly and perfectly happy, even though the everyday problems of the small family had not allowed her to realize it sooner. Tears coursed down her cheeks and she made no attempt to wipe them off. On the contrary, she displayed them proudly, for it was proof that her heart did more than just pump blood to the rest of her body.


Others were deeply touched by the music as well. Talia remembered the many hours spent with her father, patiently poring over maps of constellations or watching the skies intently, trying to discover the mysteries of the cosmos. For her, it had always been more about understanding the mysteries of her father’s affliction, the fear, the caution, the sadness, emotions that had been unfamiliar to the small kender. Through the music of the kimanjah, Talia was now able to get a taste of what had shaped her father’s life, if not fully experience his pain. It was like staring at a mirror and realizing that the two Talias, the real one and the reflection, were similar but not the same. So too had been her father, both like and unlike her. The kender’s mouth felt dry and her eyes started burning, making Talia feel miserable and wonderful at the same time.


Hope too was reminded of the myriad moments that had led her to Hurim. She remembered her father’s smile, his soft voice as he gave her every explanation her curiosity demanded. The kindness of her grandmother, pretending not to see her sneaking inside the library and then suddenly winking at her like some mischievous street urchin. She relived the old woman’s frailty as she lovingly squeezed her hand for the last time. The many evenings spent with her special friend, evenings that were so beautiful that she feared her heart would burst. She recalled hours and hours of study, the words coming alive in her mind, arrogant Kingpriests and gentle elven queens, evil dragons breathing fire and ice, lightning, acid and toxic gas and armies of Solamnic Knights in glistening armor riding their warhorses, gloomy towers of high sorcery and grand temples of pure white marble dedicated to Paladine. Page upon page upon page of history that made her heart beat faster and was undeniable proof that life was worth living.


Though Devari’s companions welcomed her gift, the valley itself resented the music, the high walls of the canyon rebuffing it and turning it back to its source. The repetition made it sound discordant and chaotic, a fact registered immediately by Tegan. But the purity at the core of the songstress’ playing was beyond even the power of Hurim’s curse. It could not be compromised, neither could it be corrupted. It shone brighter than the pale sun and filled the companions’ hearts with warmth and courage and hope.


They were now ready to face whatever waited for them inside the watchtower. They were now ready to face Hurim’s tragic past.


The huge door that had barred the entrance to the watchtower, reinforced with metal and ten times thicker than Tegan’s shield, had been broken down either by brute force or powerful magic and turned to dust long, long ago. The only thing that remained were small pieces of metal, badly rusted and bent beyond recognition of their original purpose. Peering through the open doorway, the companions could see a series of unusual rooms. A hallway, 10 feet wide and 30 feet long, sporting a multitude of arrow slits, led to a much smaller doorway than the entrance to the tower. The ground was littered with skeletal remains, most of which had disintegrated into dust. However, a few large skulls, and even complete skeletons buried in the dust lent a clue to the invaders who died on the Night of Betrayal - ogres by the size of them.


normal image without text wrap
All that remained of the invaders and defenders of the watchtower

Talia was the first to step foot inside the building, unafraid of the rubble and the bones and the shadows of past horrors. Isandril was quick to follow, driven by curiosity as much as he was by a sense of duty. The rest followed, slowly, reluctantly, holding their breath each time they stepped on some old bone that shattered with a hollow noise beneath the soles of their boots.


Deeper into the tower, the trail of skeletons began to shift slightly, as more and more smaller skeletons mingled with the larger bones of the ogres. Each door had been battered down, torn off its hinges and splintered, leaving only fractured wood that had long since petrified. Along the walls, the companions saw where attempts had been made to break down the thick stone, with numerous holes in the walls large enough for a kender or an ascetic gnome to squeeze through.


Even the floor had suffered from the merciless assault of the ogres and especially the ravages of time, the thick supporting timbers having grown brittle and dry and no longer able to support the weight of the heavy stone slabs and that of any individual stepping on them. The floor at the tower’s north-eastern corner had been damaged especially badly and it took a combination of sharp, elven eyes and Talia’s natural agility for the kender not to end up tumbling into the darkness through a hole large enough to swallow her whole. Undeterred, the fearless kender dusted herself off and peered inside, happy to have discovered that the place actually had a cellar!


Only a short time later, Isandril discovered a more conventional, if less fun and dangerous, way into the tower’s basement: twin trap doors, almost fully hidden beneath a thick layer of scattered bones and desert sand, that time had hardened so much that they resembled true stone. A half-hearted attempt to lift them remained unsuccessful. It would take more than the slender arms of a Silvanesti mage to make them budge.


A few feet away, there was another pair of trap doors, though not in the floor as the ones Isandril had discovered, but in the ceiling, leading no doubt to the watchtower’s upper levels. They too had been petrified and weighed as much as solid stone. Standing 15 feet off the floor, it would take a good amount of ingenuity to reach them and an equal amount of physical prowess to open them, in case the companions wanted to reach the top floor so that they could have a good look of the entire valley.


As most of the companions searched for a solution to the problem of the trap doors, Xihue couldn’t help but feel that he was being watched. From a young age, the shepherd had learnt to trust his instincts and the chill running down his spine was a clear indication that the companions weren’t alone inside the tower. Someone else was there too, though perhaps not of the same nature as the party of brave explorers. And yet, no matter how long and hard the Alan-Atu looked, he could not spot anything out of the ordinary - except perhaps for shadows occasionally moving without clear cause, ignoring the laws of nature.


Could it be that the curse had affected even the shadow cast by the sunlight as it streamed through the narrow windows and murder holes? And if so, how did one capture a living shadow?



Calendar23rd Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Noon

Solinari: 17/36 (High Sanction)
Lunitari: 26/28 (Low Sanction)
Nuitari: 7/8 (Waning)

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes +1 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls | Red Robes -1 spell DC, DIS on spell attack rolls | Black Robes -


 


 
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  #42  
Old Jun 23rd, 2024, 02:19 PM
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Mirasiah Mirasiah is offline
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Hope
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The impromptu rest the companions took revealed to be much more invigorating that Hope had expected initially. Devari’s song certainly helped alleviate the worry in everyone’s mind, but to the novice Aesthetic there was more, something intangible lifting her spirit. A fleeting sensation that recalled good memories. And through it, the half-elf was smiling,as if she was in a beautiful library, surrounded by books, rather than in this hostile valley where death was met at every turn.

Hope followed the others going inside the tower. Xihue was guarding the rear of the group, to make sure they weren’t attacked from a blindspot, as the protector he was. The tower’s interior was anything but empty to Hope. As a student of History, traces of the past, like the remains found at every step, were an inestimable treasure. Once again, she took her journal and carefully documented all she could see, for herself but also for Zendra; she had a promise to keep. One set of bones appeared slightly different from the rest, making a larger skeleton. Crouching next to it, Hope assumed it belonged to an ogre leader. Standing up, she shared her findings with the rest of her party. “This one was probably the leader of a group of ogre warriors. Remember that the dead are empowered in the valley, be careful where you step.”

Instantly regretting her words, the priestess hoped they wouldn’t invite the ogre to rise from their long slumber. The companions had enough trouble to get rid of undead bats, undead ogres would certainly be much more threatening. Hope turned to Tegan, knowing his natural confidence was infectious. After taking a moment to calm her breathing, she was ready to follow the group in the exploration of the tower.


 


 
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Old Jun 24th, 2024, 09:47 AM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia listened to Devari's melody and she hummed along even as she contemplated whacking the bald woman with her hoopak. The kender knew that Devari had to experience strong emotions to recover from her ordeal and a sneak attack to the head would certainly be surprising. Talia blinked away tears, unable to execute her ambush on her friend with her vision blurring so instead she sat with her memories. She stared up at the sky, remembering the pinprick of light she had discovered long ago, a pinprick that grew in intensity for weeks and months before slowly fading away into nothingness. Her father had said it was the death of a god… Talia wasn't so sure.

Talia sat, an ornate brooch of dwarven design in her hands. The brooch was emblazoned with Reorx’s hammer prominently depicted among a sea of stars and fiery comets. Talia had no idea where the brooch came from but as she stared at the sky, she looked for a star that matched the large one on the brooch. Could it be the Dawnstar? Talia affixed the brooch to her chest, it would make an excellent badge.

Once the group had made their way inside the tower, Talia skipped about, fascinated with what she might find in all the hidden nooks and crannies. Her skipping almost brought her down another hole, and remembering the spikes at the bottom of the last hole she fell down from… she decided to walk slowly for the foreseeable future.

“This one was probably the leader of a group of ogre warriors. Remember that the dead are empowered in the valley, be careful where you step," Hope said and Talia came over to inspect the bones. She stood, her hand on her chin as she pondered the problem of skeletal ogres.

"Well… if they don't have legs… they can't be much of a problem!"

Talia grabbed the large leg bones of the ogre and proceeded to struggle to drag them towards the large hole in the floor, fully intent on sending them crashing down below.


OOC Medicine: 19
arcana: 6
Athletics: 10 (No Aoo - fancy footwork and she has alert)
 

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  #44  
Old Jun 27th, 2024, 06:44 PM
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Tommyk382 Tommyk382 is offline
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Unnerving Tower
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The companions entered the tower. Tegan was at the head of the column except for, of course, Talia. As he traversed the ruins, Tegan was loathe to disturb anything in the wreckage. He was on alert and every nerve in his body was screaming that something dangerous was near. Despite the cold of the valley, Tegan could feel a warm bead of sweat work its way down his forehead, cheek, and down his neck. The sensation set every hair on his body erect. Trying to control his gnomish steam engine of a heart, Tegan watched as the others made relevant observations.

The mage had found trapdoors, leading both up and down. There were 2 sets of these trapdoors, both on the east and west side. Tegan stood beside the wizard, screwing up his face as he considered how one would even open the upper set. There was no convenient access - they were over a dozen feet off the ground. Tegan took a knee and investigated the floor trapdoor on the eastern side. This wood was ancient. So ancient, in fact, that it resembled more of stone than of wood.

Deciding that action was needed, Tegan gestured for Isandril to step aside momentarily. Rolling his shoulders to loosen them, Tegan sheathed his sword and reached for the handles. Squatting in an athletic stance and exploding up, the others could see the strain on Tegan's muscular frame as he fought the massive weight. His explosive upward momentum was more of a steady pull, against Tegan's will. Despite this, he did overcome the challenge, opening the door and letting forth a plume of dust. Coughing and sputtering, Tegan found a clean piece of cloth to clear his vision. Deeming it necessary, Tegan prayed that Kiri-Jolith would give him light as he drew his sword again. The light of Kanna held forth, Tegan peered into the darkness below.

Behind him, he could hear scraping and huffing as Talia was likely getting into some trouble. He would have to review that in a moment.


 
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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 02:07 AM
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Elanir Elanir is online now
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The Spirit and the Skull
Tegan pulled with all of his considerable strength, the pressure in the muscles of his arms and back building gradually until the strain was replaced by a burning feeling and then a slight trembling. For a moment, the Solamnic squire feared that no matter what he did, he would not be able to move the trapdoor, its petrified wood left undisturbed for centuries. But he was wrong. Persistence and hard training paid off and he slowly felt the resistance lessen and the heavy piece of wood move. At first only slightly and then, suddenly and with a great groan of protest, the trapdoor was opened.


Ignoring the sweat on his forehead, Tegan peered inside the black hole and was immediately confronted by the stench of death and decay. He staggered back, holding a gloved hand over his nose and mouth to stop himself from gagging. Something had died inside the basement, the squire was sure of it, but how could it be that the smell was still so strong after so many centuries? Surely, all that was left by now was dry bone and dust.


Tegan realized that he was shivering. Not because of the shock of being struck by that terrible smell or because he was afraid. He was shivering because of the intense cold that was coming out of the dark hole, a cold that had no place in a ruined watchtower in the middle of the Khurish desert.


A dragging noise and then a loud clattering made him draw his sword, which seemed eager to face whatever danger was hiding in the twisted corridors of the tower. The rest of the companions quickly followed, expecting the worst. What they saw made them sigh in relief, however. Talia was standing over a hole, wiping off the sweat of her brow and grinning sheepishly.


"What?", she asked impetuously. "That big ogre can’t rise again if he doesn’t have any legs, can he now?"


It was hard to argue with Talia’s logic. More than that, it was hard to argue with a kender, so the companions accepted her innovative - and ingenious! - solution to a problem that hadn’t presented itself yet and returned to the opened trapdoor.


Talia did so too. But before she fearlessly led the way into the bowels of the tower, she returned to take a final look at the rest of the ogre skeleton, half-expecting its large, hideous and at the same time macabrely wonderful skull to be glaring at her for having relocated the mighty creature’s legs. Thankfully, the skull and the rest of the ogre chieftain remained perfectly still. Talia pursed her lips in mild disappointment. She was of course grateful she didn’t have to fight against a gigantic skeleton, though seeing one move around - especially without legs - would have been pretty entertaining.


With a final shrug of acceptance, Talia turned around, ready to return to the trap door before her friends made a complete mess of things that even she wouldn’t be able to fix, but was stopped by a strange whisper.


"Thank you…"


Talia looked around - at the cracked ceiling and the dusty floor, out of the doorway and through the various holes the ogre invaders had opened in the walls. Nothing. She looked inside her dangling pouches and bulging backpack, in both her sleeves and finally gave a long, suspicious look at her hoopak. She had heard stories of sentient weapons and she would have loved it if her hoopak were able to talk to her, more so if it could make funny voices. But the hoopak remained a hoopak, somewhat chilly to the touch, but otherwise pretty ordinary. A pity, Talia thought and looked elsewhere for the grateful “something” that was thanking her.


"Thank you for breaking the spell… for waking me."


The skull! It didn’t move its jaw, as the kender would have expected, and its large, fang-like teeth didn’t make funny clicking noises, but Talia was absolutely certain that it was the ogre skull that was talking to her! Intrigued, she approached, her imp-like eyes glistening with curiosity, though she didn’t actually touch the old bone. After all, even kender impulsiveness had its limits when dealing with the final remains of evil ogres.


The skull spoke again and this time the voice was stronger, though Talia appeared to be the only one to be able to hear it.


"A kender? I never expected a kender to be the one to come to my aid. Then again, it makes sense. Who would be brave enough to face such darkness but a kender?"


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The grateful spirit
The hair on the back of Talia’s neck suddenly stood on end and she turned around with a flourish, her sadly far-too-silent hoopak ready to strike any pesky spirit or ogre skeleton on the head. Sure enough, a hazy, semi-transparent presence was standing behind her. The spectre resembled a man wearing a helmet and the armor of a soldier. It was holding a large sword, but made no attempt to use it against Talia. On the contrary, the apparition respectfully bowed its head before her.


"Blessings of Paladine to you, traveler. I am Maasin, guard of Hurim, one of many. I fell when the watchtower fell, struck down by a powerful ogre mage called Brumik. It is the one whose skeleton you have disturbed, breaking the spell that kept me in death-like sleep. Even now, however, I am not free. I hear Paladine’s voice calling to me, but I am unable to follow. I cannot leave this cursed place. Shattering the ogre’s skull would grant me rest, I think."


Seeing that Talia was eyeing the skull with obvious intent, the hoopak restless in her hand, the spectre quickly intervened.


"Wait! I am not the only one bound to this place. I feel the presence of others. Two have fallen to the darkness in the room below us. They walk in shadow now and hunger for the warmth of the living. Another, the commander of the guard, stubbornly keeps his watch at the top floor of the tower. He was mighty in life and even more so in death, adamant in his duty to keep all invaders out of the watchtower - you as well."


The spirit’s eyes glistened and the spectral silhouette shimmered - did Maasin experience fear? Was such a thing possible in death?


"You must free the commander! The others too, if you can. You must destroy them in their ethereal forms and then reverse Brumik’s powerful magic. I can help you! I am bound to his skull, the seat of his power. I can show you how to gain access to the magic. Pick up the skull and focus on the tiny spark inside it. Use the magic of the valley to bolster it. Picture yourself in a safe place, hidden from all danger. No one will be able to see you anymore, neither the living nor the dead."


Did that mean…? Talia dared not believe it! Would the ogre skull allow her to turn invisible!? The elven cloak and the elven boots were nice and all, but to be completely undetectable was an entirely different trick! Not even Isandril could do that.


It was a handler’s dream come true!



Calendar23rd Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Noon

Solinari: 17/36 (High Sanction)
Lunitari: 26/28 (Low Sanction)
Nuitari: 7/8 (Waning)

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes +1 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls | Red Robes -1 spell DC, DIS on spell attack rolls | Black Robes -


 


 
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