Campaign of the Month: April 2011

Planejammer: The Spelljoined

Kenari's Journal Part 65
Violetta the Hellbred Bard

Kenari journal

“We’re on one of the turret balconies of the Walking Castle in the Harrowing fighting off a bunch of Scro looking for the Witchlight Marauder Key. Any of that ring a bell?” Ef Utan grunts as the Scro below push at the trap door and he reinforces it with his weight.

“Right… right…” she mutters as reflexively pats her waist looking for her gear that is no longer there.

“Oh, I imagine you’ll be wanting this stuff back,” I say with a start as I pull out the beaded mask, Black Nib & paper, and the scroll with the bard song.

She smiles and strokes the mask fondly before putting it in her sack, mutters something about how her song about Zagyg was much better, and then looks up with a start. “Wait… you have the Black Nib? There may just be a chance to fix things after all! The question is… do you trust me?”

“My magics revealed that you have a good heart, even if your appearance might not suggest it so,” Lenata says with a smile and a nod.

“Hey, if Lenata trusts you…” Vedis mutters and the rest of us shrug and nod in agreement.

The Hellbred sighs in relief and smiles a toothy grin. “Great! My name is Violetta, and we really need to get to the basement where the Dream Stone is if we’re going to have any hopes of making things right.”

“The Dream Stone? It’s in the basement of this castle?” Vedis exclaims in surprise. “But I thought it was huge?”

“Moot is what it is if we can’t find a way through these Scro,” Ef Utan mutters as he struggles to keep the trap door closed.

Hmmn… teleportation…transportation… I know I’ve got to have something… wait! What about that tapestry?

“Will this do?” I say as I sling my pack onto the ground and unroll the Tapestry of Psychoportation that we removed from that hallway in the Wax Works.

“I can’t believe you have one of these!” Violetta exclaims in excitement. “Hmmph… this one is better than mine,” she mutters as she skims over the symbols with her fingers. “Ok… this just might work!” She scoots over to Ef Utan. “I’m going to start singing, and I want you to count to 5. When you’re done, we’re all going to join hands as quickly as possible and hope to the gods that this works!”

Everyone nods and kneels within reach of each other as Violetta places her lips near the crack of the trapdoor and starts to sing a moaning dirge I have to struggle not to listen to.

“1…2…3…4…5!” Ef Utan shouts as we quickly grasp hands around Violetta as she manipulates the symbols on the tapestry and we disappear in a flash of light… to appear again in a large circular room with doors at the four directions that I haven’t seen since the vision we beheld around the thrones in the pyramid before we came to the Harrowing.

Except this time… there seems to be a 20ft tall pyramid of crystal floating in the middle of it.

“Now I know my pack is bigger on the inside… but I don’t think I can carry that,” I joke as I move to investigate the doors.

“There’s something odd about it…” Vedis mutters as she stares at the crystal pyramid in fascination. “It’s like it’s here… but not here.” She reaches her hand out like she’s in a trance and suddenly the pyramid flickers to reveal an odd shaped key in the middle of it.

Wait…was that what I think it was?

The pyramid flickers again, but this time stabalizes for a few seconds to reveal the key inside… just long enough for Vedis to lunge forward and remove it before it reverts back to the crystal pyramid. "Well there’s that, at least… now what about the Dream Stone itself?

“This thing was supposed to be huge, right?” Ef Utan asks.

“The Imaskari wizard did say it was quite vast,” Lenata nods.

“Hmmn…” he mutters as he walks around the stone and looks at it from different angles. “It’s definitely not as big as it was described now… so perhaps…” he steps back to the edge of the room, covers one eye and reaches out to grab what has suddenly become a much smaller crystal pyramid that he puts in his pouch, “it’s all a matter of perspective?”

I have to fight the urge to applaud the bodyguard from Sigil for his ingenuity as I refocus my attention on the doors in this room. “Just so everyone’s aware… don’t touch the doors. It seems that each of these babies has some wicked fireball traps rigged to them. It would be all well and good if they were pointing out… but these things are pointed in… probably to destroy the artifacts before anyone like us got our grubby paws on them.” I chuckle. “Not that it did them much good.”

“Okay… now that we have the key and the Dream Stone, we need to focus our energies on trying to get out of here,” Violetta announces as Lenata gently helps her to sit on the floor with the tapestry. “Vedis, Word, I am going to need the help of both of you if this is going to work.”

“I see…” says Word as he floats over to Violetta and sits cross-legged beside her. “You plan on pooling our energies in order to power the tapestry enough to return us to the Shadowsphere? I had tried this on my own previously…”

“As had I… but alone we were no match for the powers of the dimensional anchor. With this tapestry, however… and the added energy… we just might be able to make it work this time.” Violetta grins hopefully as Vedis sits to her other side and they all hold hands. Their eyes close as a humming in the air starts to pick up… the vibrations getting stronger and stronger to the point that it makes me feel like my fur is going to stand on end. Hands begin to glow and spread as the energies of the three psions combine… and with a great flash of light and crescendo of noise we are suddenly falling through the air… towards the pointed top of a pyramid surrounded by Mulhorandi slaves and 10th Pit slavers.

Honey… I’m home!

Kenari's Journal Part 64
The beginning of the end...

Kenari journal

The succubus steps aside with a smile and a wave of her hand and I leap past to strike Ef Utan across the chest with my claws in glee. Seeing his blood on my claws is so beautiful… I hope she likes it…wait… it’s Ef Utan! Come on, Kenari!

I shake the strange thoughts out of my head and refocus on the deeds that my mistress commands of me. These people are a danger to my mistress! But the white haired one… she is the one my mistress hates the most. “I will make you happy, mistress,” I cry out as I roll and slash my way past the others towards the offending cleric, “If I have to kill everyone here to do it!”

“Of course you will,” she replies with a sly smile and disappears in a puff of brimstone.

Word teleports again down the stairs and I can hear him yelling that my mistress hasn’t gone far as he proceeds to attack the two other men who had shown up down the stairs. Good… I don’t know what I’d do if she left me!

Suddenly there’s a scream as the tips of fingers go flying by. Apparently Word struck true with his halbred. I just hope they weren’t friends of my mistress… because I might have to make him pay next.

Strange… either that man was hurt more than I thought, or there’s something weird going on as the screams haven’t stopped.

In fact, the screams of the man Word attacked begin to change from screams… into roars as I look over my shoulder to witness the beginnings of a frightning transformation. Mistress protect me… is he… a dragon?

Ripping fabric is soon followed by exploding brickwork as the force of the wizard’s transformation proceeds to blow out the walls of the stairway in a massive BOOM! Friend and foe alike drop to the ground as shards of stone fly through the air. When the dust settles, there is now a massive blue dragon hovering over the stairs of what used to be a hallway.

I think….I think that’s the Patchwork Lord? Doesn’t matter now though… as I must kill the cleric! I seize my opportunity while the cleric is still shaken from the explosion and pounce, knocking her to the ground for the killing blow. I thrust my claw towards her exposed neck, but she manages to twist in my grasp and the claw merely scratches the side. The site of blood on the Aasimar’s neck, while what my mistress wants…. but a voice in my head gives me pause. This is the woman who has helped me so many times… I’d be dead without her… and now I’m trying to kill her? This isn’t right! I shouldn’t be doing this… I shouldn’t….can’t….I won’t

I grab my head in pain and growl before reaching to my sash for my healing wand. “I’m so sorry, Lenata! Please forgive me…I couldn’t help myself! It’s not my fault!” With shaking hands and a few muttered words of activation I’m able to heal the wound to her neck as Lenata smiles in relief.

“Thank Celestian you’re back to normal, Kenari…. now look out!”

There’s a giant WOOSH of air as the dragon beats his wings, knocking Ef Utan off his feet towards us. I dodge the flying warrior with the thanks of Lenata’s warning, but Lenata is not as fortunate since she was already knocked prone. She’s sent flying by the weight of Ef Utan’s armor and falls off the edge of the stairs with a scream into the now open air below.

“NO!” I scream in fear and look around frantically for something I can do. It’s then that I catch the flash of the glimmering stones of the Psiforged’s body and I get an idea. He can fly! I quickly focus my thoughts on Word, as well as a few prayers that I might do this in time… when with a pop of air and a THUMP, the cleric lands on the remnants of the stairs behind the dragon and Word of Wisdom, I hope, is flying somewhere below us.

Fire launches all around me as Ef Utan regains his feet and launches his attack with Flametongue, followed by an enraged Vedis with her energy attack. The dragon, nonplussed at this feeble resistance, shows his disdain by breathing lightning down upon us. I just manage to roll down the stairs under it as the lightning once again strikes Ef Utan. I swear, if we survive this, we’ve got to get him some protection towards that.

Suddenly amidst the fire and lightning, I just manage to pick out a strange thing… I think… it’s a flute? As I look past Ef Utan and Vedis I can just make out the red skinned woman at the top of the stairs wearing a white feathered mask with a flute to her lips. Well that’s a relief… if we survive this maybe we can finally talk!

There’s another smaller explosion, then I hear a Scro scream behind me and turn just in time to witness its doom as it falls off the stairs by Lenata. The flutter of a cape zooms by me towards the dragon as Word charges the monster… only to be slapped back through the air by it’s tail.

Thinking quickly, I grab the Tyrant card from my sash and pray as I concentrate over it… hoping in my heart that whatever power that’s in these cards might help us in our darkest hour. A ball of light shoots from the card, hovering in front of me as it grows in size and then shoots towards the dragon’s chest. There’s a blinding flash of light as it strikes… but as I clear my vision I see that it didn’t harm it, per se… but it definitely changed it. The blue dragon is replaced by a sewn together golem that reminds me of the ones we saw on the Demiplane of Dread when this crazy adventure first started so long ago… but that’s as much a I can describe as it’s now falling towards the castle below.

“What in all the spheres just happened?” asks Vedis incredulously.

“I swear he was wearing the clothes of The Fated!” exclaims Ef Utan in doubt as he looks over the edge of the stairs.

Word of Wisdom returns through the air and lands next to us on the stairs. “I saw him teleport about half way down… I did my best to trace it, and believe he is in the bottom of the tower over there.”

Multiple shots ring out and we all turn in surprise to see Melchior at the top of the stairs with gun in hand as he takes out more Scro snipers. “The battle is still going, people!”

There’s a whiff of brimstone in the air and I turn back in fear to see that the succubus has returned with a wide grin behind Lenata. “My mind is my own, you undead skank!” I back peddle as fast as I can up the stairs to join Melchior and the red-skinned bard to try and help from a distance as Lenata dodges the monster’s now clawed fingers. I can’t help but grin in satisfaction as the air pops around her and suddenly Ef Utan is in her place with sword in hand. He swings it towards her midsection… but at the last minute turns it to the flat of the blade and launches her through the air towards the castle below like a ball and bat.

“Let’s see if you can fly, bitch!” He yells down.

Word’s eyes glow for a moment. “No… but she can teleport. I believe she is now in the same area where the golem retreated.”

“Well here’s hoping we don’t have to go there, because we’ve got other fish to fry right now,” Vedis replies sarcastically as she shoots an energy attack towards more Scro filling the other turrets. “By the way… there’s a Reigar in the courtyard holding an unconscious Melchot captive… just in case you all might want to know.”

There’s a groan from the red-skinned woman as she collapses and her legs go out from under her. Lenata quickly wraps her arm around her shoulders to hold her up. “Come on, let’s try and at least get some cover from these gunshots,” she says as we return to the ruins of the room of cells to take cover behind a remanant of the wall.

“So… what is she?” Vedis asks curiously as Lenata tends to the unconscious woman. “I thought she was a Tiefling… but… she looks different.”

“She’s not a Tiefling… but she’s definitely been touched by them,” Lenata offers.

“She’s a Hellbred,” answers Ef Utan with a shrug of indifference. “Repentant evil souls trying to be good supposedly getting another chance, if you believe in that kind of thing.”

“As a matter of fact I do,” Lenata replies with a pleased smile.

Suddenly there is a great tearing sound as a chunk of the staircase we were on crumbles to the ground far below. “Great…anybody got another rope?” says Vedis in frustration.

“No need… looks like Kenari’s is still here,” Ef Utan calls out as he returns from the other balcony with rope and grappling hook in hand. He and I then return to the stairs to scope out the damage as the others discuss transporting the red-skinned woman. With a grunt and a heave the grappling hook soars through the air to catch on a large piece of rubble on the other side.

Once it’s pulled taught and secured, I give it a test and with a wild grin run across the line with claws outstretched. With a leap and a roar I pounce on one of the hapless orcs and plunge my claws through his spleen with a satisfying crunch.

“What the hell,” I hear Ef Utan say before he runs after me along the rope and follows with his own attack as he bull rushes one of the other Scro into falling off of the side of the tower.

The remaining Scro lunges at me with the bayonette on his now empty rifle, but I manage to twist to the side and avoid it as it chinks into the stone behind me. “One blade? Hah, I’ve got six!” I taunt as I flaunt them in front of my face. I am denied the satisfaction of seeing the Scro’s response, however, as he’s more occupied with the bullet that just appeared in his forehead.

“Dang it, Mel… that was a good taunt wasted!” I tease as the gunslinger and the others make it over the rope to join us with an out-of-breath Vedis bringing up the rear as she carries the unconscious Hellbred.

“Stow it, Kenari… we’ve got more coming!” warns Ef Utan as he kneels down to check the trap door to the balcony. Lenata quickly pulls a Tanglefoot bag and thunderstone from her pack and nods to Ef Utan, who opens the trap door just enough for her to toss them in and then closes it.

“Ummmn…. my head… where am I?”

All heads turn from the sounds of Scro below as we realize… the Hellbred woman is finally awake.

Kenari's Journal Part 63
Finally...The Walking Castle

Kenari journal

After the 3rd hour I am shaken by my daydreaming thoughts of furry embraces by the rumble of thunder yet again… but instead of lightning the noise is followed by a crashing shriek of metal on metal as the setting prop sun in the sky stops moving and the rising prop moon crashes into it, causing bits of the sun to crumble and fall to the ground in yellow chunks of wood and metal.

“By Celestian… look at the sky!” Lenata calls out as the sky turns blood red and the moon begins to grow.

I am more concerned, however, with the increasing number of moaning sounds as the ground around us shifts from the sheer number of zombies starting to come out of it.

“This way!” yells Ef Utan as he holds up the collection of tokens pulling towards the east. With a blast of golden light Lenata clears a momentary path through the zombies as her divine light crumbles them to dust around us, and we all run to keep up with Ef Utan as he charges past the thorns and grasping hands of the undead.

With a quick thought I pull “The Eclipse” card from my sash and whisper a prayer to any god that might be listening that it helps. Instead of the usual sparkling lights, however, a single ball of light forms in the clearing ahead and shoots straight into the moon, causing it to begin to crack and crumble. That’s it! “We have to destroy the moon!” I yell to the others before I pull a Potion of Tumbling from my pack and gulp it down in the hopes that it will help me dodge their cold touch of death.

Vedis and Lenata do their best to launch attacks at the moon with missiles of light and fire while the rest of us keep the ever growing zombie swarm away. Suddenly a large chunk of the moon falls and crushes a particularly fast zombie that had its eye on Ef Utan (figuratively, folks). I look up and notice that the moon is not only missing a few pieces… but it’s beginning to spark as fissures spread through what is left.

“Get ready to duck!” I yell out in warning as the moon explodes into fragments and rains down debris. Lenata thankfully manages to dodge out of the way thanks to the auspices of her god I am sure… but Vedis seems to have a rather stubborn zombie holding on to her ankle. I curse profusely in Abyssal as I focus on the Maenad and manage to switch places with her just in time to roll out of the way of a jagged piece of metal that imbeds itself into the unlucky zombie (are there lucky zombies?) with a thud.

As the dust of the moon finally settles, I look around with relief to see that everyone seems to be okay… and that the zombies have stilled and returned to their graves. Except… wait a minute…

“Where’s Melchior?”

“Shit! We must have lost him when we ran from the zombies!” Ef Utan replies.

“We have to go back for him!” Lenata pleads. “He could still be alive!”

The ground shakes around us with the echo of a loud WHOMP.

“I have to say it,” says Ef Utan, WHOMPWHOMP “but I think we’ve got bigger concerns WHOMP right now.”

Trees crash down to the ground east of us as the thumping noise increases and large mechanical legs storm through the brambles bringing the Walking Castle into view for the first time. I pull the self-named card that I had been saving for this occasion from my sash and play it as the sparkling energy falls over us all and disappears. We all then proceed to take cover in the trees, hopefully out of view of the Scro on the turrets above as we let the castle pass and scope it for alternative entrances.

“Did you see who was on that main balcony?” exclaims Vedis. “I swear I saw another Scro wizard and a sparkly guy like Tain the Reigar holding a body by the hair! I’ll bet a week’s tips that was Melchot the Dreamer!”

There’s a whistling in the air interrupting Ef Utan’s reply just seconds before the bombs start to explode around us. I dodge for cover as Vedis gets knocked onto her rear and lashes out with her Energy Push at the castle above. The resulting scream of the gnome falling to his death and the subsequential explosions tell us she must have hit her mark.

“I think that’s our way in!” I declare as I pull my rope and grappling hook from my pack. Lenata hands me her rope as well, and with a few deft knots we’ve got a rope that’s sure to be long enough. Ef Utan mutters a quick spell as he takes the grappling hook, and with a few quick swings for momentum he launches it into the air with a satisfying clang of metal on metal. A quick tug confirms that the rope is secure.

“You’ve still got those vials of gaseous form, right, Ef?” I ask and he nods. “Why don’t you three drink those and get up there safely while I draw their attention on the rope?”

“A bit dangerous, don’t you think?” he asks with a raised eyebrow.

“Hey, it’s me!” I joke and begin my climb. “See you at the top!”

Bullets zing by me from the multiple Scro snipers in the turrets above, and I keep my toes crossed in hope that I’m not forced to eat my words with a side helping of lead. A cloud of purple mist passes by me and I smile in relief knowing that they’ll make it up there without harm. Eventually I make it up to the slightly splintered balcony, just in time to get a good view of the Scro mage Vedis mentioned waving his arms in incantation and sending a ball of energy our way. I don’t even want to find out what that is! Some of the purple mist follows me as I quickly make my way down a set of stairs from the balcony to take cover and find myself face to face with a locked door.

One of the forms of mist, however, floats down towards the wizard. “That must be Vedis…” I mutter. “I just hope she doesn’t do something stupid… that’s my job!”

I do my best to keep at the task at hand, however, as a potentially dangerous spell is coming our way and we’ve still got a locked door in front of us. Thankfully I work best under pressure, and the door is soon unlocked to reveal a large round room bisected by sets of iron bars to form prison cells. In one of the cells hangs an unconscious red-skinned woman in black leathers from chains on the wall. From the look of the vivisection tools and bloody table nearby, we probably got here just in time.

I quickly make my way in followed by the mist that turns into Lenata & Ef Utan, and close the door behind me in hopes that the spell will activate in contact with it before it contacts us.

“Can you unlock the cell so I can check her wounds?” asks Lenata.

“Stand back just in case,” I warn as I pull out my tools. “Ef?”

“Do what you can to help here… I think I’ve found that brain cylinder over here from the vision!” he calls out as he investigates a large metal cylinder resting on an obsidian altar.

I nod and carefully investigate the lock to her cell. “Woah… check this out!” I say as I step back and point to some of the tiny runes inscribed on the bars. “There’s a dimensional anchor on each of these cells to prevent teleporting abilities from getting you out… but if I fail the lock, something is definitely going to come in and make me pay for it.”

“Can you unlock it?” Lenata asks worriedly.

“Well yeah… I just wanted you to know how hard it was,” I chuckle as I use my picks and with a click the door springs open.

My fur stands on end and I can’t shake the oddest feeling. Wait a second… I know I disarmed that trap correctly, so why does it feel like… “Someone’s coming!”

Energy crackles and forms into a ball of light in one of the other cells as it coalesces into a humanoid form… and with a POP Word of Wisdom, the Psiforged who had gone missing soon after we first arrived in the Harrowing, collapses in the cell.

“Where have you BEEN?” I ask in surprise as I hurry over to unlock his cell and Lenata begins her spells on the unconscious woman.

“She’s been damaged in ways I am not strong enough to repair,” Lenata laments as she lowers the woman to the ground and waves her glowing hands over her body. “While her physical wounds will be healed, her soul has been damaged by these abhorations.”

“Where am I?” asks Word. “The last I recall I was trying to teleport out of the Harrowing when I felt my essence… grabbed… and then found myself here.”

“It looks like the dimensional anchor of this room brought you to the Walking Castle,” I explain as he looks at me with what I can only assume is confusion. “Look at it this way… you’re where you need to be, you’re with us, and you got the short trip.”

“Just in time, too,” says Ef Utan as he stands near the exit down another staircase on the other side of the room. “From the sound of the voices below, I think we’re going to have company.”

“Let’s be sure to give them a proper welcome, then!” I reply as I toss a thunderstone down the stairs. Ef waits for the resulting bang, smiles, and then charges down the stairs with a battle cry, mug and Flametongue in hand.

Vedis suddenly forms out of mist beside me with a pleased look on her face and I almost pop my neck doing a double-take as I swear I heard the words “Kiss me, Big Boy!” from down below.

“Guess what I did!” she exclaims as the Psicrystal leaps from her shoulder to run to her mistress resting on the floor.

“Can’t talk… fighting…” I reply as I leap down the stairs to the oddest sight of a naked and rather voluptuous brunette smiling at Ef Utan and beckoning to him seductively with her slim fingers.

Word uses his teleportation powers to appear down the stairs behind the woman and warns us of the presence of two more men further down the stairs past him. I focus my abilities on the Psiforged and switch places with him to try and get a sneak attack on the woman, but unfortunately for me she’s not just exceedingly beautiful… she’s quick. She turns on her heel and easily dodges my claws before sticking out her bottom lip in a rather sexy pout.

“Now why would you want to attack little old me? Don’t you want to attack them instead? It would make me ever so happy… and you know you want to make me happy.”

She reaches up to caress my cheek and I shiver in anticpation and what else she might do… because Gods help me, I find she’s right… I would do anything to make her happy.

Kenari's Journal Part 62
It all starts to come together...

Kenari journal

The unmistakable sounds of gunshots echo in the distance, followed by a chilling howl of agony.

“Gunshots? Here?” gasps Lenata.

“It myst be the Scro looking for the key,” barks Ef Utan angrily as he draws his sword. “Come on, Kenari!”

I leap down from the roof and roll to the ground with a snarl as I sheath my hands into my clawed gauntlets. “Maybe they can answer some questions!”

Vedis summons her mindblades to her hands as Lenata draws her guns and we run through the brambles towards the sounds of the gunshots. Crazy, I know…. We come to a clearing some 500 yards away and I wave to the others to hault as I scout around the clearing. Unfortunately Vedis was a little too eager and the noise she made crashing through the bushes alerts the four Scro clad in red and black armor standing over the body of a cloaked halfling with a strange hand comprised of keys for fingers.

I take a moment in my hiding place to draw “The Locksmith” card from my sash as I recognize the man from the vision, and as the tell-tale energy falls over my head I am blessed with the knowledge that his strange hand is actually a minor artifact called “5 Fingers” that allows you to cast magical unlocking spells… so long as you’re willing to sacrifice your hand in its place.

Hmmn… I like my hands the way they are… but I still wouldn’t mind having it. You never know when it might come in handy after all.

I edge around the clearing in an attempt to flank the Scro as one of them draws a wicked looking rifle and the most well-dressed of the bunch swings about a shining staff in the direction of my friends. To my dismay, I find them all much easier to see as a blue fire seems to outline them all. Crap… Fairy Fire!

I reach into my haversack for one of my last thunderstones and hurl it into the clearing when the Scro rifleman wheels about and with one shot introduces me to one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt as I fall to the ground trying to staunch the blood coming from my upper thigh with my scarf. Damn… going to have to go to Spiral again someday when it’s not occupied by these bastards and get a new scarf! Red is so not my color!

With a yell, a wave of energy pulses out from Vedis and all but the well-dressed Scro fall to the ground unconscious. Ef Utan leaps into the clearing wielding his sword and mug and attacks as I scan the clearing looking for Lenata. There… that flash of white… next to the unmistakable hat of Melchior.

I chuckle to myself and with a grimace concentrate on the gunslinger as I focus my power. “Sorry, Mel… but at least you’re not blind or sick this time.” With a pop of air I’ve switched places with the gunslinger and suddenly find myself next to the cleric across the clearing. Hopefully Melchior will be able to get the drop on the Scro from his new position.

“Oww,” I groan as Lenata crouches down and shakes her head in admonishment.

“What would you do without me?” she jokes as her hands glow with healing energy.

An ear-splitting shatter rings out as Ef Utan’s katana shatters against the wizard’s staff. The Scro then reaches back with a glowing hand and lunges forward with a lightning bolt to Ef Utan’s stomach, knocking him to the ground in a crackling heap.

“Be Celestian’s blood!” Lenata swears as she runs to help him. Vedis screams as Ef Utan falls and the Scro grunts in pain as he grabs his head from her psionic attack, giving Lenata the precious moments she needs to heal Ef Utan with her magic.

With a grunt the bodyguard rises and leaps back into the fray with his wakizashi as red energy begins to swirl around the Scro wizard. “Blood magic!” Lenata warns as his body seems to grow in mass.

I slip my hands into my gauntlets with a snarl and pounce on the wizard’s back, slashing across his shoulder blades. I catch the the signs of Vedis’ attack just in time and manage to push off and roll out of the way of her Energy Push as a beam of fire rams into him. I can’t help but feel a chill despite the heat as I notice that the wizard was barely moved. Ef Utan leaps again at the Scro, but this time is launched backwards into the briars by a viscious backhand as Lenata bombards the Scro with an array of magic missiles from her fingertips. I swipe again at his chest with my claws and roll away as an enraged Ef Utan unsheaths Flametongue and with a blast of magical fire rearranges the wizard’s face into something much more appealing – a dead Scro.

Melchior and Vedis patrol the edges of the clearing for any more of their party and I keep the cleric busy searching the wizard as Ef Utan goes about finishing off the still unconscious Scro from Vedis’ psionic sleep attack.

“Ooo… now look at this, Lenata!” I say as I clean off an intricately decorated staff with runes dedicated to divine powers enscribed in silver bands around the top. “This is a Staff of Revelations! This Scro was apparently a priest… of Grummish, maybe? But anyway, I think clerics use these to help them communicate with spirits, gods, that kind of thing.”

“Indeed, this is a precious find, Kenari. Thank you. Once I have cleansed it in Celestian’s divine light, this should become useful.” Lenata runs her hands along the staff in admiration and then straps it securly to her pack. As she leans over the Scro I notice that the Heart token around her neck seems to be tugging towards a large emerald on the wizard.

“Aha! What have we here?” I remove the emerald and toss it to Ef Utan. “I think that makes six!”

“Bloody fantastic,” he replies. “Finish up what you two are doing, then we’ll see what these babies can do!”

After a few minutes with Lenata’s help we’re able to sort out any items of worth, and quickly divy them up. Melchior lays claim to the rifle that causes me such pain as Lenata takes the staff and a starchart describing the Shadowsphere. Ef UTan takes a Pouch of Holding and some spell components, and I take a new healing wand, as well as the 5 Fingers artifact.

Vedis looks at me curiously as I pick up the hand. “Do you want it? All you have to do is cut off your hand…” I flop the fingers in her direction with a jingle of keys and grin.

“Oh no… you can keep your sick treasure,” she laughs and steps back with a wave of her hands.

“All right, these tokens seem to be pulling in an eastern direction when we have them all together… so if that’s going to take us to the Walking Castle, perhaps we should have a quick camp away from this clearing to prepare for whatever battle is sure to come.” says Ef Utan matter of factly. “I figure four hours tops for any prayers or meditations for spells?”

The rest of the party quikly agrees as we could all use a breather after that last fight. We move 100 yards to the east and set a quick fireless camp as Ef UTan, Lenata and Vedis conduct their prayers and meditations, and Melchior and I go about cleaning our weapons.

Finally… the Walking Castle. I can only imagine what we’ll find. Is the Patchwork Lord holding Melchot’s other half along with the Dream Stone in order to conduct a ritual to bring him and the Dreamjammer into existence in order to fulfill the 10th Pit’s multi-planar conspiracy? What of this red-skinned bard… does she have the power to make the Harrowing right again? And what of the Witchlight Marauder Key? Even if we do manage to find it… can we in all good conscience hand such a weapon to anyone, even if they say it’s to use against the Scro?

Gods… it’s a good thing I have that ring to sustain me, because I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep anyway.

Kenari's Journal Part 61
Taverns... the last great universal constant.

Kenari journal

I back up from the now quiet corpse with my hands to my holsters as I look around the clearing nervously. “Orcs? Here? They must be looking for the Witchlight Marauder key!”

“From the looks of the body, it doesn’t seem like they’re that far behind, either,” mutters Melchior as he kneels down beside the furry body to examine it.

“All the more reason for us to get the hell out of here and to the next token so we can leave this accursed place,” growls Ef Utan as he slams his sword into his scabbard and storms off into the brambles.

Eventually the rest of us catch up with the disgruntled warrior and after 8 hours of hiking we decide to take a chance and make camp. Moods are tense and uneasy as we foregoe the usual fire and set up watches throughout the night.

Sleep comes fitfully and in spurts as I toss and turn on the hard ground, but I can’t shake this feeling of dread now that we know the orcs have invaded this storyland. As much as we have been cutting our own path of destruction, we at least have the desire to make things right if we can. The orcs… who am I kidding, the Scro… let’s just say I’ll be surprised if we don’t wake up to find the whole brambles ablaze.

Maybe that’s why my dreams were so strange that night.

I’m walking on an endless field of multi-colored gas that reminds me of the phlogiston so much that I find myself holding my breath in case I’ve been teleported again. Suddenly a deep gutteral voice echoes around me and whispers a litany of violence that I haven’t heard since we fought the ghost of a Scro on that strange asteroid that led us to the Imaskari.

I wake up with a jolt gasping for air and look around urgently to see that the others are also waking up and looking worse for wear. I crawl over to Lenata and whisper as the others start packing up camp in silence.

“Did you all have a dream too?”

Lenata nods grimly. “We need to get out of here.”

“At the very least a drink… I could definitely use a drink,” I mutter as I gather my things and prepare to move through the brambles once again as thunder rattles in the distance.

A few hours later after trudging through the thorns and brambles we come upon a rather large looking building with warm lights and drunken sounds coming from inside.

“Oh my gods… is that what I think it is?” I ask in wonder as I look at a door that could be four times my size.

“Well, you did say you wanted a drink,” Lenata jokes. “You just didn’t specify what size .”

“It looks like the door is cracked… if we work together we should be able to get it open,” Ef Utan offers. The rest of us soon gather with Ef Utan at the door and put what strength we have into it… because apparently I’m not the only one who could use a drink lately.

“Ho now… hold up there, little people… we don’t just serve anybody in here!” a booming voice announces as we finally push the door open.

I look up to see a rather intimidating cyclops behind the bar…. well… he would be if it weren’t for the receding hairline, handlebar mustache and apron, anyway. Thinking fast, I reach into my sash and play “The Publican” card and cross my fingers that the sparkling energy I see around him means something helpful just happened.

“Are you sure you don’t need the business? Things look kind of slow in here,” I say as I look around and take note of the row of black-skinned dwarves with fiery hair sitting at the bar. What are they again… Aesir? I think that’s it.

“Besides, not only am I the best waitress in multiple star systems, but I’m a pygmy giant!” Vedis pipes up proudly.

“Are you now?” the cyclops asks with a grin. “Very well then… she can come in for 500 gold, and the rest of you can come in for one round because you’re friends with her.” He rumages through a drawer and throws a napkin at her that almost covers her in its size. “Best I can do till we find an apron your size,” he mumbles apologetically. “Now let’s see you live up to this claim of yours!”

Vedis folds and ties the napkin around her waist as she rolls her eyes and makes her way behind the bar, while I climb up onto a stool to order a drink. Just in case, I pull out the “Brass Dwarf” card and play it as well, hoping that the sparkling energy around them will make them more suseptible to answering a few questions that don’t have to do with rocks.

With a sharp bang a rather large mug full of ale is set in front of me and I grin, as this one round is probably going to last a while. I wonder if there’s a hangover card in my sash somewhere?

Ef Utan eventually makes his way to a stool and starts sharing stories of battle regarding his prized possession, that Dwarven Battle Mug. Apparently he didn’t embellish enough for their tastes, though, as they proceed to school him in how to brag properly. He deftly changes the topic to Orcs, however, and the fate of poor Brambelson.

“Stupid rabbit,” mutters one of the dwarves as the rest grow quiet.

“Yeah, it’s a shame that he’s not going to come back anymore either,” I mutter as I take a sip of my beer. “The Wax Works went BOOM!” I gesture wildly with my hands and have to grab the counter in order to keep myself from slipping off the stool. As I right myself, I can’t help but notice that the Dwarves are starting to look a little twitchy. I think that news really got them worried, but they’re doing their best not to show it.

“Hey, do you suppose you could give us directions to the Caldera? We’re seeing the sites.” Ef Utan asks casually.

I have to admit, he’s swifter on the deceptive art of conversation than I first gave him credit for. Comes from all the experience being a bodyguard for higher ups, I’m sure.

A rather drunken dwarf points out the window towards a volcano in the distance. Now how in the spheres did we miss that?

“Come on, Kenari… we’re still on a schedule… remember ?” Ef Utan nudges me and hops off the stool to head to the door with the others.

“Alas, poor ale… I hardly knew ye,” I mutter as I leave a gold piece on the counter as a tip and head out the door with the others. “You could’ve let me finish it, at least…”

“And then I’d be left dragging your drunken ass through the brambles. No thanks,” he chuckles. “Now if you aren’t too drunk, how about climbing up to the roof and getting a better view of that volcano for us?”

“You’re such a slave driver,” I mutter as I strap on my claws and work my way up the side of the building to a relatively safe perch by the chimney. “Yeah, I’ve got a pretty good view of it from here… I think it will only be-”


Kenari's Journal Part 60
Et tu, Conspirators?

Kenari journal

“Don’t ask me how it happened, but I think this is a dream,” Vedis whispers as the starlight illuminates a woman in silks chained to an altar on a raised stone dais nearby.

Nine cloaked figures appear from the darkness and encircle the dais as each raises their daggers high in some sick ritual. Ef Utan draws his sword and runs to the dais to try and block the daggers while Lenata mutters a whispered prayer to her god for a spell that might save the woman.

“No!” she calls out in frustration. “My spells aren’t working!”

I reach out with my mind and try to imagine myself crouched on the dais and the woman in silks on the ground beside Lenata… but for the life of me something about her just keeps slipping from my grasp and prevents my new abilities from working.

The cloaked figures strike in unison, the daggers plunging into the helpless woman again and again. Lenata cringes and looks away as the woman screams, but I can’t help but notice that the arm of the one standing in front of Ef Utan passed right through him.

Eventually the screams end and one of the figures cuts open the corpse as the others greedily start reaching into her body and pulling out various amulets and tokens. So this is how they did it… no wonder she was so angry!

“That poor woman…” Lenata whispers.

“Hmmn… let me try something,” says Vedis as she reaches out her hand and freezes the scene. Her brow furrows for a moment and then it’s like everything is happening in reverse as the figures replace the tokens and close her wounds. When it rewinds back to where they’ve drawn their daggers, the scene freezes.

“I wonder why we’re seeing this… and how?” Vedis mutters. “Could this be the dream of the conspirators? Or maybe what is left of the spirit of Sonneray is trying to show this to us?”

“Well since we’re here, let’s see what we can see,” I say as I cautiously squeeze between the conspirators and look at the altar. “I wonder if there’s any writing here that might pertain to the ritual?” As I kneel down to check the sides of the altar I notice some inscriptions along the base in a few different dialects. All of them seem to be references to the same story of betrayal and sacrifice. I stand up to tell the others when a particularly interesting inscription catches my eye. Around the indentation for the head of the sacrifice there seems to be a glyph that looks curiously like the Spelljammer.

“Guys, I think this is where those 10th Pit guys are going to conduct that ritual with the Dream Stone!”

“I just hope that they haven’t already done it,” mutters Ef Utan as he walks around the circle to peer under the hoods. “Why don’t you let this dream play for a bit, Vedis… I want to get a good idea of who is who, and who took what token.”

Vedis complies and after a few minutes we’re able to come up with a list of the betrayers we haven’t encountered yet:

  • Tic-Toc Man takes her eyes
  • Balomar (the puppet!) takes her skin
  • The Night Peddler takes her ears
  • The Weaver takes her hands
  • Some unidentified augmented human takes her brain

When we’re done, it seems the dream has decided that it’s gone on long enough and the figures turn into wispy puffs of smoke before everything goes dark.

The light returns and I’m blinking for a few minutes to adjust before I realize that we’re back on the stage in the theatre again, Balomar and his puppetmaster asleep under Vedis’ power.

“No need for them to wake up again,” says Ef Utan as he draws his dagger and bends down to slice the throat of the sleeping puppeteer. I can hear the cleric’s gasp of shock at such an act, but Melchior nods in approval at justice being done and I just shrug. Better him than me, I say.

“So where do you think the token for the skin is?” I wonder aloud as I grab the dummy and pop its head off before shaking it upside-down to see if anything falls out. Alas, all that comes out is a nasty cloud of sawdust that gives Ef Utan a coughing fit before it fades away.

“The only interesting thing here seems to be this rather hefty diamond I found on the puppeteer, and no you can’t see it, Kenari.” Ef Utan replies as he stands up and pockets the diamond.

“Guys, I think there’s something you should know,” Vedis mutters.

“Again?” Ef Utan replies. “Feel free to tell us these things when they happen, you know.”

Vedis ignores him and continues. “I had another vision when I looked at that altar in the dream… I saw Melchot there for just a moment before it became Sonneray again.”

“Oh no… do you think they already conducted the ritual?” says Lenata.

“Whether they did or not, our goals haven’t changed here, people,” says Ef Utan firmly. “We still need to find the Dream Stone and the Witchlight Marauder key before we can get out of here.”

The group nods and we finish with the corpses of yet another conspirator before leaving the theatre and heading back to the brambles. We manage to make our way for another hour or two before our momentary silence is disturbed by a loud noise ringing out from a northeastern direction.

“That was a gunshot!” exclaims Melchior in surprise. “Do you think someone else is here in the Harrowing too?”

“Let me check it out first, and I’ll come back to report,” I offer as I slip on my gauntlets and disappear into the bushes. I do my best to follow the direction I swear I heard the shot come from when I finally come to a clearing. As I look around I can’t see anyone with a gun who might have made the shot… but lying in a pool of blood and fur with a bullet between his eyes is the unfortunate soul who was on the receiving end.

That fool rabbit.

“Oh geesh,” Vedis moans as the others come into the clearing. “The poor guy didn’t deserve to die that way. He was just a silly rabbit!”

“He was a murderer like the others,” Melchior replies grimly. “Justice has been done.”

“We won’t know what was done here until we ask him,” says Lenata with a look of disapproval at the gunsliinger. “With the help of Celestian, we should be able to ask him what happened.”

The silverhaired cleric kneels over the furry corpse and mutters a prayer as her hands flutter back and forth above his body. Suddenly Brambelsons eyes open and I have to stop myself from taking a step backwards. What can I say… I don’t like the undead!

“Ask me your questions before I finally find my peace, cleric.” the voice drones in a raspy monotone.

“Why were you killed?” Lenata asks gently.

“No idea.”

“How do we get to the next token?” asks Ef Utan.

“With luck.”

“Who killed you?” Lenata asks again.

Brambelson seems to hesitate for a moment… as if he doesn’t know the word for what he wants to say. “… ugly pig men.”

Oh shit.

Kenari's Journal Part 59
The show must go on...

Kenari journal

After a few hours of travel the brambles begin to lessen and finally open up into another clearing with a structure in the distance. As we get closer it has the look of an old wooden theatre.

“A theatre? Here? There’s just something odd about that,” I mutter.

“Like anything is normal around here,” Melchior replies as he walks past.

“I’m just saying,” I continue as I follow the others. “You’ve got all of these characters created by this bard to act out her story, and what does she make them do? Act out another story within the story. It just seems kind of cruel to me, is all… like making a cow eat a steak or something.”

Ef Utan snorts and shakes his head. "Lets stay focused, people… there’s not telling what’s going on in there after the last house we checked out. "

We eventually stop outside the front of the theatre and scope out the three main doors, but can’t find any back doors to speak of. There are some windows up above, however. I gesture towards one with a thumb over my shoulder. “Shall I?”

“By all means, let us know what you see!”

I grin and strap on my gauntlets for a little extra help as I use the eaves and some of the old boards sticking out as footholds. Once I’ve got myself proped on the ledge above I take one of the few clean sections left of my sash and wipe away the dust and dirt to see what I can see. My eyes widen and my ears twitch in surprise before I jump down to the ground to inform the others.

“Well, other than the typical rundown theatre with a stage and dusty seats, there’s a whole pile of Storykin bodies on one corner of the stage while this dark haired guy in a red jacket and a puppet on strings talk to each other.”

“He’s a ventriloquist?” Ef Utan asks in curiousity. I look at him blankly as he sighs. “Is he using his hands to make the puppet talk?”

“No, that’s the freaky thing, " I continue. “The he’s holding the strings of the puppet, but it is definitely talking back to him in a different voice.” I shudder and rub my arms. Demon dolls… what a nasty thought!

“The cook mentioned a Sanguine Playhouse run by a Ballomar,” Ef Utan remembers. “I’m guessing the guy in the red jacket is probably him, so let’s go have a talk!”

I sheath my gauntlets and brush the dust off my hands. Ef suddenly stops as if he remembered something and turns to me with a scroll in his hand. “Before I forget… I figure this might come in handy for you if you ever need a magical enhancement for your weapons.”

“Much appreciated! I’m sure I will put it to good use,” I chuckle as I roll it up and put it in one of the side pockets of my pack.

Once we’re ready to go it only takes a quick check of the doors to discover that they not only aren’t trapped… but they aren’t locked, either. “He must be expecting an audience,” I joke.

“Theatre people never could take a critic,” Vedis replies with a smirk. “I can only imagine how he’ll react to us.”

Ef Utan opens the main doors and strides into the lobby with the rest of us following behind. The faded remnants of what must have used to have been beautiful murals decorate the ceilings. Upon closer look and the size of that satyr’s…. well… this must have been a bawdy playhouse once, that’s all I’m saying. I’m trying my best not to look at what’s left of a rather questionable well-endowed centaur when a movement catches my eye upon one of the cornices. Eeew… is that a bug? Did they really bother to make bugs of this story?

Suddenly the bug leaps down from the cornice onto an old wooden table and speaks. “My name is Grig! Nice to meet you! Pardon me… but have you seen my fiddle?”

“No, can’t say that we have, little one,” Lenata answers with a smile.

Wait a minute… do I hear music? What’s that tapping noise? I quickly turn around to look for the offending sounds and discover that Melchiors foot is tapping. Strangely enough, it looks like he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.

The sound of music grows stronger when suddenly a very small violin appears bobbing to and fro in the air from the next room. There’s that tapping again… but it’s getting louder! I look back at Melchior and see that he’s not just tapping his feet… he’s starting to dance an awkward jig. In fact… it looks like the others are starting to do it too.

“What in the 9 Hells are you doing to my friends?” I snarl at Grig as my head begins to pound.

“Not an appreciator of fine music, I see,” the cricket frowns as it backs away.

With a hiss I make a grab for the blasted thing and just manage to snag it with a claw under one of the strings. Quickly I turn to the cricket in order to get him to make it stop… only to find that it has made its way to the swaying Lenata and is working on loosening the clasp of the Heart token around her neck.

Thinking fast, I grasp the struggling violin tightly in my hand and swing my pack onto the ground so that I can stuff it inside one of the inter-dimensional pockets. Play all you like in there… no one can hear you anymore. Crud… I just hope I didn’t put anything important in that pocket.

With the fiddle out of hearing, the dancing curse soon fades and Lenata grasps at her neck. “We’ve got to get that back! Come on, Vedis!” The cleric and the Maenad then take off up the stairs to the balcony after the offending cricket.

I’m about to take off after them when a voice stops me in my tracks.

“Ah… our lead actors have finally arrived!”

A shiver of dread rolls down my spine at the words, and I quickly pull three cards from my sash: The Theatre, The Cricket, and The Twins. Swirls of energy fall over me, Ef Utan and the puppet on the stage. I can only hope a similar effect is helping Vedis and Lenata with getting their token back from Grig.

Ef Utan’s response to the puppeteer’s declaration is much less subtle in its reply as we struts purposely down the isles and promptly conjurs a TK fist that slams the puppeteer into the pile of storykin corpses. I shake off my dread and quickly follow suit with a well-aimed explosive round into the side of the puppet. Ef Utan can handle the other guy… I hate magical dolls! Seriously… they’re too dang creepy! Chunks of wood splinter off of it as its small wooden arms start waving about in what I swear is something I’ve seen Ef Utan do before.

Waitaminute… is it trying to cast a spell?

Before I can try and stop it, however, a squeal comes from above us as that flying monkey of Vedis’ glides down and grabs the offending cricket out of the air between its teeth. Apparently Vedis had the same plan (or I’m finally rubbing off on her) as she takes a running leap off the balcony and slams into the puppet master, the stage and whatever might have been underneath it as arms, legs and wood planks go flying. Arms and legs flail about as she tries to extricate her leg from the new hole in the stage she made without letting the puppet or its master loose.

No sense in wasting a good opportunity…CAT PILE!” I yell as I thrust my hands into my gauntlets and bound down the isles in a leap that lands me directly on top of Vedis.

“Pardon me, just passing through,” I chuckle as I reach over her right shoulder and cut off the puppet’s arm. “Let’s see you cast now, you little bastard!”

I feel the thump of a small body as it lands on my back and squeals in delight at its masters playtime. “Let me go you storykin reject!” wails an angry little voice. Good lizard monkey thing… extra Tanglefoot bags for you if we ever get back to the ship!

“Quick, Balomar… take the token!” Grig yells just before Ef Utan’s boot crunches down on the puppets head and he grabs the token out of the air.

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay, that’s it… time to end this!” Vedis exclaims in frustration before a pulse of energy radiates out from her and everyone but us falls asleep.

Suddenly there is a blast of thunder and everything goes dark in the theatre. Little pinpricks of light like stars shine down from above as it begins to rain upon the stones that we’re now standing on.

“Vedis…” I whisper nervously as I look around at our new surroundings. “What did you do ?”

Kenari's Journal Part 58
Absolutely, postitively... no more pets!

Kenari journal

The last remnants of the hags death throes eventually fade, except for the blasted rain that’s soaking me to the bone and making my fur feel like a wet blanket. Combine that with the ill effects I’m still suffering from that fraking mist, and I feel like I want to crawl into a ball and die just to stop the coughing and pounding in my head.

Thankfully Ef Utan seems to be on top of things, as he quickly and efficiently guts the remains of the hag to get the amulet that represented her tongue back and pulls the Black Nib out of her scraggly hair.

“Hang on, Kenari… we’ll get you feeling better in a moment,” Lenata kindly whispers as she bends over me with her glowing hands. After a few moments it feels like the illness seeps out of me into the ground, and suddenly I am feeling much better. I sit up to thank her and end up grabbing my temples in pain. Oww… still have the remnants of a headache, though.

Lenata smiles in sympathy and pulls a small flask from her belt. “Here, drink this hangover remedy we picked up back on Sigil… it should take care of that headache.”

“May your god bless you, Lenata… you’re a life saver more than a dozen times over!” I mutter gratefully as I take the flask and down it in one gulp. Yes…. thank Bast and Celestian, I think that will do it.

Lenata moves over to help Melchior as I regain my feet and go to see what Ef Utan has found while searching the corpse. I peek over his shoulder and can’t help but notice that he’s found another one of those silver scroll cases like the one we found in the Wax Works.

“Ooo… can I see? Bet I can open it! Hey, did you get that pen, too? I found some parchment on the desk… can I see if I can write something magical? Pretty please?”

Ef Utan rolls his eyes as he’s used to my game by now… but thankfully he hands the items over anyway. I tuck the Black Nib behind my ear and focus on finding the notes enscribed on the scroll case so that I may sing it open like the other.

After a few moments I find it and the scroll tube pops open to reveal not a scroll of summoning or planar creation, but a song. Well damn.

“What is it?” Vedis asks eagerly.

“Looks like one of those bard epics about Lord Mayor Zagyg of Grehawk,” I say with undisguised disappointment as I bend over the scroll to keep it out of the rain. “There’s a few interesting bits about a ‘god trap’ of some kind, but other than that it doesn’t seem that special to me.”

“Well dang it,” Vedis mutters.

“It’s not every day you can find a scroll to create your own Demiplane,” Ef Utan admonishes. “Now come on, I’m getting sick and tired of getting rained on.”

Now that Lenata has managed to remove the spell taking away Melchiors sight, we’re thankfully able to gather everyone together and head back through the columns to where we last saw the Unicorn. Neither it or the goblin are here anymore… so I’m guessing that they were scared off by the thunder and lightning and sounds of battle.

The rain, thank Bast, has decided to stay in the clearing with the columns, so Vedis and Melchior take the time to start a much needed fire so that we may camp and dry ourselves out. As she’s picking up branches she notices a half-eaten pear lying in the ground and picks it up.

“Well that’s odd…” she mutters.

“What is?” Lenata asks curiously.

“You remember those pears the unicorn and goblin were fighting over?” Lenata nods. “Well this one says ‘Fear Not’ on it in tiny lettering. Do you suppose it was magical?”

“Entirely possible,” Lenata replies as she lays out her bedroll by the fire. “The clerics of our temple have been known to make restoratives in the forms of food… it helps them go down quicker.”

The night passes uneventfully for the most part… until my turn at watch, of course. I’m sitting atop one of the ruins and cleaning my gun when suddenly I hear the noises of stomping feet and breaking plants as something comes towards us out of the brambles.

I quickly slip a bullet into the chamber and cock the trigger as Brambelson comes charging out of the brambles and screaming in a blind panic. With a step of his large hind legs he’s leaping over our campsite and into the darkness.

“I wonder what’s got him in such a fright?” I mutter as I uncock my gun and holster it. I jump down and wake the others, as it’s almost daylight anyway.

“What was all that noise about?” Melchior mutters as he grabs for his hat to block the light of the wooden sun ratcheting into place in the sky.

“Something has the rabbit scared out of his mind,” I inform them. “It might be a good idea to pack up camp while I check it out.”

“I think she’s just trying to get out of packing her bedroll,” Vedis mutters.

You know… never thought about that. I’ll have to remember that for next time!

I carefully make my way through the brambles until I notice something red in the distance. What is that… a piece of fabric, maybe? I make my way closer and scan the clearing. It doesn’t look like there’s anyone left here, whatever it was that scared Brambelson. I crawl over to the fabric and see that it is indeed a piece of scarlet and black fabric, torn and hanging from one of the brambles. I gingerly separate it from the thorns and pocket it in my sash, along with an interesting beaded mask laying on the ground. It’s got beads and feathers on it like it’s from a festival… but it doesn’t appear to be magical. Ah well… perhaps I can use it in one of my performances!

Not seeing any remnants of danger, I make my way back to the others and inform them of what I found. Soon after we return and Melchior scans the edges of the clearing in hopes of finding some kind of tracks belonging to whomever left that fabric.

“Dang it… there’s tracks all right, but they’re all like several weeks old!” he exclaims in frustration as he hits his thigh with his hat. “Do you suppose time goes differently in the brambles than in other places?”

“Hey guys, there’s something I need to tell you,” Vedis says with chagrin. Ef Utan turns to look at her with a raised eyebrow and gestures for her to get on with it. “Well…you see… when that hag died, I had a vision of sorts.”

“Of sorts? Do tell,” I chuckle.

“I heard the hag mutter in my mind something about the ‘Red Skinned One’ and how she was the only one powerful enough to rewrite the story. That, and I saw an image of her… she has dark red skin, glowing eyes, and these curved horns by her temples.”

“Sounds like a Tiefling bard to me,” Ef Utan mutters. “Well, she’s obviously not here , so lets follow those tracks and see if they lead us anywhere interesting.”

Melchior takes the lead this time, as I’m still trying to pick up on all the things he mumbles about when he tracks, from what it means when moss is one one side or the other to which direction a twig is broken in. We make our way through the brambles for a bit, until he raises his hand up to halt us and bends down to peer at the grass.

“What did you find? Something interesting?” I ask as I look over his shoulder.

“Sssh…” he admonishes as he holds up a finger to his lips. “There’s what looks like a diamond over there in the grass,” he points ahead of him and I can just see a sparkle through the foliage, “but I think it’s moving.”

Sure enough it seems to have heard us, as it’s now moving at an odd gait out of the grass towards us.

“What is that,” Lenata mutters as she peers at it. “Are those legs made out of ectoplasm?”

“It’s a Psicrystal!” Vedis explains in joy as she kneels down and beckons to it. “Come here, little guy… where’s your master?” The psicrystal then skitters through the grass towards Vedis’ and jumps into her outstretched hand.

Vedis closes her eyes and concentrates for a moment. Perhaps she’s speaking to it with her mind? Hard to tell with psions.

“It says its name is Jane, and it wants to find its master,” she replies as the psicrystal crawls out of her hand and up into her hair to look like a piece of jewelry.

“Hmmn… if it is sentient, perhaps I could try something. I promise I won’t hurt you, Jane,” Lenata reassures the psicrystal before closing her eyes and muttering a prayer to her god. “From what you told us of your vision, Vedis, I think Jane’s master is the same Tiefling bard that we need to find. I could see a clear image of her in its mind, and it fits your description exactly.”

“Well that just made things a bit easier,” says Ef Utan. He then turns around and continues the trek through the brambles… but I swear I could hear him mutter something about ‘blasted pets.’

The sound of thunder in the distance puts speed in our step as we make our way through the brambles yet again, hoping it will lead us to our next location… and the next token.

Kenari's Journal Part 57
Bards never could take a critic...

Kenari journal

“Mmmmnnnn…” the shadowy figure moans as it drifts towards Lenata’s amulet with an outstretched bony hand.

“Can’t you speak?” Lenata asks it as she steps back nervously. “Is this what you want?” she shakes the amulet in her hand and the creature moans even louder while clutching at its emaciated chest. It then briefly clutches its throat and then covers its empty eye sockets before moaning again.


Hmmn… a hag who can’t talk… I pull the cards out of my sash and flip through them till I find the card that I knew I had seen…The Mute Hag. Maybe this will help… I concentrate and throw the card down on the desk full of crumbling parchment and watch as a faint light appears around the hag and then disappears.

“Maybe if we give her the tongue back,” Ef wonders as he removes his token from around his neck and holds it out in front of him. The hag then lurches forwards towards him while grabbing at her throat.


“Are we sure we want to do that?” Lenata asks worriedly. “We need those tokens to get out of here, right?”

“Look at our past record,” I snort as I work my way behind the hag. “How do all of our encounters with creatures around here end up? We might as well try to get some questions answered first…”

“Let me see what I can read from her,” Vedis offers as she puts a hand to her temple and closes her eyes. “Pain…loss… betrayal… and a desire for bargaining. Definitely not undead, though.” She turns to the hag and calls out. “Shadow of Sonnarae… can you understand us? Nod once for yes.”

The hag nods and then moans again as she clutches her throat and points towards Ef Utan.

“Well, here goes nothing,” he says as he steps closer and holds out the token. He then quickly steps back as the hag snatches it and stuffs it into her mouth. After a moment she convulses and lets out a rattling sigh like that of a death rattle.

“Give me my heart and eyes, and I will give you what you seek…” it whispers hollowly. “You want to leave this place… but you don’t have the skill to use the Black Nib! Restore me, and I will show you the way out.”

“Yeah… I’ve heard that one before,” I snort. “Death is an easy ‘way out’ in any situation, and I’m sure you’d be glad to help us along.”

“Let’s just kill it!” Melchior declares.

“What?” Vedis calls out in confusion. “No… why? We were just…”

The hag gestures with her arms and suddenly a wave of greenish-yellow mist shoots out from her to engulf Vedis and Melchior in a sick-smelling cloud. Sweat beads on his yellowing skin as Melchior drops to his knees. “Told you…” he moans weakly.

I take my moment to strike and try to grab what I noticed to be a feathered quill behind what used to be her ear. Where else do writers keep their pens? That hag is fast though, as she spins out of reach and avoids my grasp before drifting into a corner and disappearing from sight.

Oh crap… I don’t like this!

I scan the area in a panic as Ef Utan swings about blindly in the space where we saw her last, but to no avail. I quickly put my back to a column and gulp down a potion that is supposed to protect me from evil things… at least that’s what the vendor on Greyhawk said, anyway. If something is going to appear out of no where to terrorize me, I want every chance I can have to make it difficult for them.

Good thing, too… as the hag suddenly appears again behind Ef Utan and grabs his head between her bony fingers. He screams as his features seem to melt and change, but manages to push her away with a yell of desperate effort before dropping to his knees.

Dammit… where did she go?

“Oh no… you’re not doing that again!” Lenata yells as she reaches into a pouch and flings a handfull of glitering dust over the area that settles around the outline of the hag just as she strikes out at Melchior.

“MY EYES!” he screams out as he scratches at his face in a panic. “Murlynd help me, I can’t see!”

I would feel sympathy for the blind gunslinger if I had the time… but I find myself suddenly occupied with getting out of the way as Ef Utan mutters the activation word of his sword and sends a fireball into the middle of the fight. Your own fault for telling him how to use that thing, Kenari…

Lenata runs over to me as we take cover behind some of the columns to escape the blaze. “Are you ok?”

“Nothing singed here thank the gods,” I mutter as I peek around the corner to try and pick up on the shimmering outline of the hag. “Do you think he got her?”

I turn and see the silver-haired cleric holding her hands out over my gauntlets and muttering. When she’s done she looks up and smiles. “I pray to Celestian that he did… but just in case, I added a spell to your gauntlets that should help.”

I nod to her in thanks as she leaves, just catching the muttered name of Melchior. Oh gods… I hope he’s allright!

I strap on my newly ensorcelled gauntlets and ready myself to join the fight as Vedis spies the glittering outline and sends it backwards into one of the ruined columns with a fiery push of energy from her outstretched hands. I jump onto some of the crumbled marble and launch myself at the slouched hag hopefully before she can recover. My claws rake across what I think is it’s face and chest before a searing pain rips across my stomach and sends me spinning to the ground in a growing pool of blood.

Shit… shit… shit… this is not how I was hoping to try the new powers the Imaskari gave me… if I live through this I hope they don’t give me crap for not telling them yet!

Vedis and Ef Utan step up with their weapons, giving me a moment to pull off my sash and press it into my stomach as I crawl to a place of relative safety behind some of the marble ruins. With one hand I claw out and pull myself up into a lean against a column as I frantically search for the silver hair of the cleric. There… behind the others… she’s treating Melchior…

“Forgive me, Melchior… but I really need some help right now!” I mutter weakly as I close my eyes and focus my will on the gunslinger and all of the details around him: the color of the grass, the jagged edges of the marble, the loose bricks under his feet and the scent of lavender that always seem to come with the cleric. I focus on those details and how they would feel to me if I was there instead of him… when there is a gentle “pop” in the air and suddenly the smell of lavender isn’t just in my imagination.

“By the Gods, Kenari… what did you just do?” Lenata asks in confusion as I suddenly appear next to her.

“Tell you later…” I joke weakly as I pass out.

“Where the hell am I?” Melchior yells in the distance.

Fall, dammit!”

I am jolted back into consciousness by the frustrated scream of Vedis shaking the columns and everything around them with her sonic vibrations. “I think he’s making her angry,” Lenata jokes as she finishes her healing spells over me. “Be more careful next time, ok?”

I stand up gingerly and stretch to find that my stomach is now completely healed. My leathers and sash, however… they could definitely use some help. Images of the black-furred leatherworker waiting for me back on the ship come unwanted to my head. I miss him so much… but I have to remain focused!

With a snarl and a shake of my head I leap back into the fray. It takes all of our combined efforts before the hag seems to weaken… but not before it lashes out with that damn green mist again. Suddenly my fur feels too thick on my skin and I’m struggling to hold down the bile that’s rising in my throat.

Ef Utan swings yet again with his flaming sword, but this time burns a deep cut from clavicle to ribs. “My HEART!” she screams as she falls and the sky grows dark with the rumblings of thunder.

Without warning random bolts of lightning streak through the air into rubble, causing us all to run for cover until the last death throws of the Shadow of Sonneray subside in the now pouring rain.

I almost feel sorry for the hag that was once such a benign and powerful bard… but there just wasn’t anything left than the hatred and revenge that kept what was left of her going. I just hope her soul can finally find peace.

Kenari's Journal Part 56
I never liked pears anyway...

Kenari journal

Once again we attempt to make camp in one of the clearings of the brambles as Lenata summons food & water with her magic and Melchior pulls out his pipe.

“You’ve been holding out on me, mister!” I joke as I sit down next to him and work on starting a small fire. After an hour we agree on shifts and take turns on getting some sleep before we look for the next token.

It’s around 3rd watch that I feel her boot nudging me in the side. “Get up, Kenari! I’m hearing some weird noises out in the brambles,” Lenata whispers urgently.

Thanks to that ring I found so long ago now I’ve never really needed that much sleep or food anymore… so it didn’t take much before I was sitting up and listening to the noises on the wind.

“Strange… it’s like a thumping noise…” I mutter.

“Not like that heartbeat from the pyramid I hope,” says Lenata with a shudder.

“No, thank the gods… this is more like… like a rabbit thumping on a log, maybe? Hey… do you think it could be Brambleson? He did run away after that duel with Vedis, after all.”

“I hope that’s all it is,” she whispers.

“Well whatever it is, I’m taking it as a sign that we should move on,” I reply as I get up and we proceed to wake the others.

“Hey, do you hear voices?” Melchior asks as he stands at the edge of the clearing.

I walk up to Melchior and give a listen… and indeed, there is some indistinct muttering in the distance. “Why don’t you guys finish picking up camp and I’ll go check it out?” I offer as I strap on my claws.

“Be careful,” he replies with a nod and a hand on my shoulder before re-joining the others.

I crouch low and make my way through the brambles and bushes until I hear the mumbled voices becoming more distinct. Hmm… from the tone it sounds like they are arguing over something?

I decide to take a peek, hoping that their own argument will keep them too busy to notice little old me. Peering through the bushes ahead I can make out a clearing filled with tarnished angel statues and white marble ruins almost reminiscent of the kinds I saw on Nova Roma… but the owners of the voices are something totally new.

To the side of the ruins seems to be an abandoned orchard of pear trees, and underneath one of them is a rather agitated unicorn with a pear on the tip of his horn. “Nyah-nyah, you can’t have the pear!” it calls out to a frustrated little goblin who seems to be trying to take the pear for his own.

Well, that doesn’t look too dangerous at the moment… I’ll head back and tell the others so we can check it out together. At the very least, maybe we can get some fresh rations! Although… who knows what would happen if we ate story fruit… with our luck we’d get cursed and have to stay here six months out of the year.

I quietly make my way back to the others, who have now finished packing up camp. “Strangest thing over there,” I say as I gesture with my thumb over my shoulder. “There’s some unicorn playing Keep-a-Way with a goblin!”

Waitaminute…unicorn… I think there’s a card for that! I reach into my sash and flip through my cards and lo and behold, there it is… a picture of a Unicorn with a pear on its horn. Well that settles it for me, anyway.

“Might as well check it out,” Ef Utan declares as he adjusts the straps on his swords. “Maybe it will lead us to the next token.”

“Unicorns… I thought they only appeared to virgins?” Vedis wondered aloud.

“Apparently the stories were wrong,” I snort as we make our way back to the clearing to find that the unicorn and the goblin are still at it over the pear. I concentrate and play the Unicorn card in my hand before joining the others, and can just notice the subtle shimmer of energy that falls over it before disappearing.

You can’t have a pear… only the Goblins can take them,” the unicorn says in a huff as Vedis tries to take one of the pears from the tree, but can’t seem to grab it.

“But why?” she asks in frustration.

“Because only the Goblins can take them!” it replies simply.

“That must be the way the story is written,” says Lenata.

“Pears aside…” Ef Utan begins as he gets the unicorns attention away from the grasping goblin, “what’s that way past those marble columns?”

The unicorn looks towards the columns and shudders. “Nothing that way but unhappy endings…”

“Why unhappy?” Lenata asks the unicorn gently.

“Because that’s where she wrote her stories… before they ate her,” it replies forlornly.

Melchior groans in frustration and steps forward. “Look, horse …. I don’t give a hoot about your fruit… I just want to know if the Black Nib is that way or not.”

The unicorn trots backwards a few steps and neighs. “Yes, yes…. it’s there with her writing desk! Now just leave me alone!”

Suddenly the goblin makes its move and leaps up to grab the pear from the tip of the unicorns horn while it was distracted. “Aha! That’s what you get for stealing it from me in the first place!” it cries before it runs off with the unicorn chasing after.

“Well, so much for that then,” Vedis mutters as we continue past the orchard and through the crumbling columns. A shiver runs down my spine as the air turns chilly… but Lenata seems bothered for other reasons.

“I don’t like it here,” she whispers as she runs her hands up and down her arms to warm herself.

Once we move through the columns to the clearing beyond, I begin to see why. Rusty red stains upon an ancient stone dais are all that is left of whatever horrific act the unicorn spoke of. Rusty red stains of blood… and a fine wooden writing desk off in a corner, slightly hidden by the numerous columns.

My curiousity gets the better of me and I quickly move to the desk to search it for the Black Nib, while the others search around. It isn’t till Lenata pulls out the token from around her neck that a tall gaunt hag-like creature steps out from behind one of the pillars and gestures at us… well Lenata… well… actually… the token around her neck if you ask me.