Campaign of the Month: December 2007

Cold Blood

Episode 37: The Enclave
In Which One of Our Heroes Finds a Long-Lost Brother.

(image by Wayne Reynolds, from the Expanded Psionics Handbook)

Sheen peered down into the hole. “Is everyone all right down there?” Joris looked up at her plaintively. He was covered in slime.

“Anyone have a rope?”

“I’ll take care of it,” Kalenthor said dismissively. He mumbled and gestured. There was a loud popping noise and Joris reappeared with Tulio standing on the edge of the pit. “A little flashy, perhaps, but effective.”

“We should ask Riskin what to do with these bodies,” Sheen said. “I’ll be back.” Haden followed as she left the Steelheart foundry and walked back to the Flamebacks’. Talan stooped to examine the bodies.

“I’ve heard of this before,” he said. “Deepspawn. They can create copies of anything they eat.”

“So, are these really dwarves at all?” Joris asked. “They certainly look like it, even on close inspection.”

“They are simulacrums, nothing more,” Kal explained.

“Father’s beard, what in blazes?!” Riskin demanded, appearing in the doorway behind Sheen.

“They attacked us,” Kalenthor said quickly. “There is a deepspawn down below.”

“Deepspawn. Don’t that just . . . huh.”

“What are we going to tell Hoskuld?” Sheen asked.

“The truth?” Kalenthor offered, puzzled.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine, Sheen,” Haden said. “No need to baby him.”

“I wasn’t . . .” Sheen started.

“Of course you were,” Haden insisted.

“He’s just never been very good with the bizarre and supernatural,” Sheen explained. Riskin rigged up a pulley system using some of the junk lying around and began ferrying things from the pit.

“Ain’t that the truth,” the dwarf said as he worked. “Even afore his leg bummed out on ‘im I was always the one goin’ to the surface an’ whatnot.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Sheen said when they’d finished cleaning up. “We need to get back to the surface and look for the enclave.”

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Episode 36: Steel Heart
In Which Our Heroes Descend into Undermountain.

(image by Rafael Garres Cervantes, from Lost Empires of Faerûn)

Riskin Flameback trundled through the streets of Waterdeep with the party trailing behind. He passed several streets before ducking into a tavern proclaimed The Mighty Manticore by its signboard.

“So, how does it feel?” the ranger blushed slightly. “With the baby coming, and all.”

Joris grimaced. “As soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you know.” He sat down at the table while the exuberant dwarf ordered a round of drinks. Riskin dropped his sack on the floor between his feet and began rummaging, producing a noise similar to an iron golem caught in a windmill.

“So what is going on?” Sheen asked after the ale had arrived.

“Well, ‘bout a year after ye left, this fellow name of Kolskegg Steelheart moves inter Murkstones. Now, our town ain’t the sort ta turn anyone away—“

“They can always use hard workers if nothing else,” Sheen affirmed.

“Aye! And that’s what we thought we got! He opened his own forge an’ started hammerin’ out his own armor. No problem, says Hoskuld, our quality speaks fer itself. But this fellow, Steelheart, sells his wares ta the topside shops fer nothin’! LESS than nothin’!! Demand for Flameback armor’s sunk like a stone.”

“How can he do that?” Sheen asked. “He’d go bankrupt.”

“Wish I knew, Sheen. Truly I do.”

“It sounds like he has a different agenda from running a successful shop,” Talan mused.

“What’s worse, it’s squeezin’ the business o’ them dwarves down in Skullport. Clack came back that Thaglar Xundorn’s gonna do somethin’ soon, an’ he won’t discriminate who’s what in Murkstones.”

“That’s bad,” Sheen said. She glanced over at Joris, whose face was blank. “Skullport has a reputation for being profoundly unpleasant,” she explained. “Sort of like Plague-Mort.”

Kalenthor bowed slightly. “I tend to agree. This may sound a bit trite, but does Murkstones have any enemies?”

“None I know of,” Riskin said, taking a pull of his ale. “Undermountain is what it is, but we’ve always kept t’ ourselves. Hoskuld don’t want to lift a finger against a neighbor, but I ain’t so polite. Then who should I run across but you lot?”

“Well, we can talk to this Steelheart, see if we can convince him to change his policy,” Haden began somewhat hesitantly. He frowned and looked over at Sheen.

“What?” she asked, perplexed.

“No one likes being run out of business, but it’s not right to threaten this dwarf simply because he’s selling his work cheaply,” Haden said.

“Well, there is one other thing,” Riskin said.

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Episode 35: Scenes from a Memory
In Which Mal Relates His Tale.

(Image by Tony DiTerlizzi, from the Planes of Chaos box set)

“Now I know the Elan and remember the man
Who was born out of darkness and light.
Though the elf is a stranger I’ve long watched the ranger
And the cleric devoted to right.
That one loves a fiend with hands incarnadined
Who years to embrace all that’s good,
And yet little I know of poor Tulio
Though his village was close to my wood.
Last comes the soul who I broke to make whole
Whose life is now mine, sworn by pact.
He has called and I’ve come from the world growing numb
To help keep creation intact.”

“I remember now,” Mal said. “I once saw you, all of you, in Baltazo’s cellar. I wasn’t there, but I saw it all the same. You fought the dire lions, the effigies, but you lost. And Haden was killed.”

“Ah, well, no great loss then,” Haden said.

“Oh, but it was,” Mal said. “Without you, the others weren’t able to stop what Fearson had begun, and Plague-Mort fell into the Abyss, taking you with it. It wasn’t a dream or a story, it happened. I saw it all. The Lady knew—she knew you were the only ones who could stop what’s coming. So she sent me—my consciousness, I suppose would be the word for it—back to help you. Back through time. But first she stripped my memories from me.”

“You might have seen one possible outcome,” Sheen said, “but that doesn’t make it the only possible outcome.”

“Perhaps,” Mal replied. “But She believes it. Her reasons are not for me to question.”

“Like hell they aren’t,” Sheen snapped. “We are not pieces in some sort of game!”

Haden cleared his throat loudly. “Yes, but perhaps we should listen to what she has to say now that she’s here?”

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Episode 34: The Unkindness
In Which Joris Calls the Old Man Out.

(illustration by Sam Wood, from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting)

Haden looked up at the temple ceiling, to where the ornate pillars gave way to an elaborate fresco of the night sky. Mystra’s church in Silverymoon was not large, but it seemed that the faithful took their religion rather seriously just the same.

There was no service ongoing and the great hall echoed with emptiness. Near the altar, four humans were deeply engaged in discussion, two older men and two young women, all dressed in elaborate robes.

“Who’s this?” Haden asked, turning to Joris. From behind the cleric, the elf Kalenthor grinned.

“This should prove . . . interesting.”

“No, you see, these inscriptions use the modern syntax. I’ve seen enough fake Nether Scrolls to know one when I—“ one of the men said as they approached, gesturing with a golden scroll. His robes were blue and white, naming him as a senior cleric. He broke off mid-sentence and all four humans turned to regard the new arrivals.

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Interlude: Cold Blood
In Which Kalisa Answers Some Unanswered Questions.

by DarthKrzysztof

Night had fallen, bringing a sharp chill to the air. Joris freed himself from his elven chain, folded it neatly, and placed it next to his boots before turning back to his bedroll, which rested a short distance from the campfire. Kalisa had already climbed inside, facing away from him, wearing the wingless “Raven” guise in which he’d first met her.

The bedroll was a tight squeeze for two. Joris had both legs in before he realized that Kalisa was naked. Trying not to lean on her hair, he wiggled in next to her, propping his head up with one hand and moving the other to Kalisa’s stomach, smooth and hot to the touch. The bedroll’s magic kept the cold at bay.

“I’m sorry,” Joris eventually said, “for invoking you by your truename. I didn’t know what else to do. Arviragus got the drop on me.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Kalisa replied. “It’s I who should apologize, for taking as long as I did to reach you. I used the only portal to Faerûn I knew, then I crossed half this world to find you.”

“Really? Where did the portal take you?”

“A port city, somewhere. What was it called… something like skull? Skuld, I think.”

“Skuld? You came here all the way from Mulhorand?!”

With some effort, Kalisa rolled onto her back so she could look up into Joris’s face, giving him the impression that she was gazing directly at his soul. “For you, my love, I would cross Nessus itself.”

She had never looked at him like that before. “Kalisa? Are you all right?”

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Episode 33: Big Blue Diplomacy
In Which Our Heroes Suck Up to Some Frost Giants.

(image by David Griffith, from Frostburn)

Haden looked at Kalisa fingering her sword and surveyed the group. Talan was gripping his own swords, while Sheen was glowing slightly, ectoplasm sheeting off her skin. Only Mal appeared calm, but he didn’t seem too conscious of what was happening. “We need to try and negotiate with these giants,” Haden announced.

“What, have you lost your mind?” Sheen demanded instantly.

“The last person who tried to negotiate didn’t do very well,” Kalenthor commented. “He escaped, the fink, but just barely.”

“We should at least try,” Haden said, directing his words mostly at Kalisa. “We’ll have a devil of a time getting Joris out of here before the other giants show up.”

Talan shook his head. “We can try, but we should be prepared just in case.”

“Of course,” Haden said. He began casting a defensive spell. Kalenthor waved his hands in an arcane gesture, clearly intending to assist.

“Lead on, bold . . . sir,” the elf said. Haden raised a skeptical eyebrow at Kalenthor, then shrugged and started walking, a look of suave confidence settling onto his features. He stopped a good distance short of the giants, concentrating to amplify his voice.

“HAIL, OH MIGHTY AND FEARSOME WARRIORS!!”

“What, more little pinkskins?” the biggest and strongest giant demanded faintly. Even speaking under its breath, the voice was loud enough to be clearly heard.

“I am Haden, and I beg your indulgence for a moment.” Talan nervously eyed another giant who was rummaging in his sack for a throwing stone. The leader waved a hand and it stopped.

“YOU ADDRESS ROGNVALD, THE SERVANT OF MIGHTY GERTI ORELSDOTTR!”

Haden’s grin was somewhat manic. “Truly I am awed, sir, for your renown is great!”

“THEY DO SING OF MY DEEDS AT THE SPINE OF THE WORLD. ONLY A FILTHY LIMERICK COMPARED TO THE FAME OF MY MISTRESS, BUT STILL I AM KNOWN! HAVE YOU HEARD OF ME IN YOUR LITTLE CITY ON THE RIVER?”

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Interlude: The Lake of Fire (NSFW)
In Which Jazra Shows Xillian Around.

(WARNING: Not Safe For Work. Adults Only)

by DarthKrzysztof

Jazra watched Hexla and her friends file through the portal, realizing a moment too late that Fritzan Ringhammer had come close enough to thrust his stubby finger inches from her nose.

“I know you think you’re clever,” growled the dwarf, “but I’ll see you given the rope someday, mark me.”

Jazra couldn’t breathe, let alone respond. She knew that Ringhammer was just a tin-plated leatherhead, she knew it, but why couldn’t she stand up to him? Was she really that worried about being arrested? Was it because he’d been dogging her steps since she was a child? Or was it just because he hated her so much?

“Leave her alone,” came a man’s voice. She saw the drow – Xillian, was it? – approaching them.

“And just who do you think you are,” said Fritzan, “to order a Harmonium officer around?”

Xillian drew very close to Fritzan, stepping between the dwarf and Jazra. The drow’s rapier and hand crossbow still lay on the ground behind him, but he showed no signs of backing down. “I’m Xillian. And I’m not ordering you to do anything. I’m advising you to leave her alone.”

Oh, Xillian, don’t be addle-coved, thought Jazra. You’re just gonna make him mad…

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Interlude: Complications & Opportunities
In Which Kalenthor Naïlo Enters the Story.

by zero

Kalenthor Naïlo was hunting a thief. The moon elf smirked at the thought. “Hunting” was kind of a misnomer, he thought as he wandered the bleak, rolling hills dotted by the occasional stone tor or rocky outcropping known as the Evermoors. A man by the name of Arviragus, a sorcerer of some renown in Silverymoon, had apparently gone rogue and stolen an enchanted helm from the church of Mystra. Prestin Crownsilver, the local high priest of the Lady of Mysteries had demanded that the man be brought back or at the very least the magical helm be recovered. Arviragus had last been seen fleeing in the direction of the troll-infested Evermoors. Kalenthor, in between projects, had shrugged, picked up a scroll of dimensional anchor to make capturing the man somewhat easier, and blithely strolled off in the direction. Ordinarily, he would have tried scrying first, but his mirror had been destroyed by a dragon in Myth Drannor, a time he did not enjoy recalling. As such, rumor would have to suffice.

The wizard was in the vicinity of a distinctive tor known as the Old Man, when he noticed a pair of figures in the distance headed in the general direction of what appeared to be a ruined fort. Curious, Kalenthor had uttered an incantation to render himself invisible, and proceeded to follow the figures. As he drew closer, he saw that one of the figures was actually not walking – it was floating. The moon elf squinted in the early morning light, trying to get a better look, and he could tell that the floating figure was actually a statue resting upon a Tenser’s floating disk. The other figure was looking around very anxiously, a scrawny human with a silver-streaked black beard – Arviragus.

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Episode 32: Joris Reclamation Project
In Which Our Heroes Go Looking for Their Cleric.

(image by Mitch Cotie, from Frostburn)

Yolette jumped to her feet as the door opened, admitting almost all the other occupants of the house. They were all filthy, covered in blood and slime and gluey bits of webbing.

“Kalisa said something happened to Joris, and then she ran out of here!” Yolette reported nervously.

“Yes,” Haden said. “Our first order of business is to find out what happened to Joris. If he’s in trouble, we have to go after him. Hells know the man can’t take care of himself for five minutes.”

Talan glanced at Haden, Hexla, and Mal. “I don’t suppose any of you can wave your arms and locate him?”

“Who?” Mal asked. “Oh, him. Not really, no.”

“I can try,” Haden said. “But I’ll need to go shopping first.”

Talan sighed. “It probably would have helped if we’d caught Kalisa before she left.”

“Don’t worry,” Haden said. “We’ll find him.”

“Also that dwarf, Eldgrim, he came by the shop looking for you,” Yolette told Sheen, who thus far had been silent.

“He did? What did he want?” Sheen asked.

“I dunno, he didn’t say.”

Sheen nodded. “Then I’d probably better go to Twelve Factols. What do you need to go shopping for?”

“I need a mirror,” Haden said. “For scrying.”

Talan rummaged around in his pack for a moment and pulled out a beautifully ornate glass. “I found this on Alantavra. Would it help?” Haden took it from the ranger’s hands and examined it thoughtfully for several moments.

“It should be all right.” He placed the mirror on the coffee table and sat cross-legged on the floor. “Do we have anything personal that belongs to Joris?” They searched the room quickly, coming up with a book of Mystran parables. “That’ll work,” Haden said, and began casting the spell.

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Interlude: Crowded House
In Which the House on Smith Street Gains Another Tenant or Two.

by DarthKrzysztof

Yolette had closed the front door behind her before she saw the unfamiliar woman in Haden’s chair, legs curled up beneath her, a book in her lap. The stranger had time to say “Hello, Yolette” before the girl jumped.

“Who are you?!” Yolette demanded, trying to sound as imposing as Sheen would have, but falling far short of the mark. Are those her boots next to the door? Yolette wondered. She made herself right at home?!

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