Campaign of the Month: December 2007

Cold Blood

Episode 18: The Aspect
In Which Our Heroes Battle The Aspect of Pazuzu And Leave Plague-Mort Behind.

(image by William O’Connor, from Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss)

The Aspect regarded them all in unblinking silence, its enormous bird-like eyes glowing red with lust and madness. Everyone felt their hearts in their throats and an overpowering urge to turn and run. Then Haden cleared his throat.

“The lord comes before us in a great storm of dread
stinking of Hell and the hosts he has bled,
our hearts will shrink and our terrors quicken . . .
But look, he’s really an overgrown chicken!”

The Aspect gaped. “WRETCHED MAGGOT-SPAWN OF A LEPEROUS GOAT’S LEAVINGS!” it squawked, sounding, indeed, very much like an oversized chicken. Joris found himself laughing, the aura of dread broken. The Aspect hurled itself forward and clubbed the cleric to the ground with its oversized sword. Mal chanted rapidly and hurled a swirling mass of purple energy at the screaming, flapping monster, but the spell had no apparent effect on the demon.

Sheen charged, claws growing as she ran, and ripped a hole through one of its wings, sending hot blood and feathers flying. Talan and Ari darted sideways, angling to flank the Aspect. Talan’s weapons brushed it several times, but didn’t seem to have much effect. Ari grabbed its leg in her teeth and hung on as best she could while it hopped, trying to shake her loose.

Episode 17: The Edge of the Abyss
In Which Our Heroes Must Race To Save Plague-Mort From Itself

(image by Tony DiTerlizzi, from the “Monstrous Supplement” in the Planes of Chaos box set)

Haden eyed the stranger for a moment, but he didn’t seem inclined to do anything or volunteer any more strange pronouncements. Ari poked her nose out from under the bed with a worried-sounding “whuff!”, then flung herself on Talan in a storm of licking and tail-wagging. Haden heard a muffled, “Ouch, silly dog!” from under the bed and bent down to investigate. A young girl stared at him with a worried expression.

“Hullo,” the bard announced, offering her a hand.

“Um, hello,” she said meekly. She took Haden’s hand and he pulled her out onto the rug.

“Do you have a name?” Haden asked while she got unsteadily to her feet, blinking in the brighter light of the room.

“Yolette, sir,” she said. She was small and thin and somewhat attractive in a sort of healthy young girl fashion. Haden estimated her age at around twelve. She peeked up at him from under dark eyelashes, obviously as intrigued as she was frightened.

“That’s a pleasant name,” Haden offered, trying to tone down his habitual flirt to something within shouting distance of appropriate. “It suits you.” Ari bounced off Talan to weave around the girl’s legs briefly.

“Ari likes you,” Talan said, standing up with Joris’ ready assistance.

“She’s beautiful, sir,” Yolette said diffidently, not taking her eyes off Haden.

“Another conquest for you,” Talan remarked while Joris banished his injuries with magic. “And what about you?” he asked the elf. “What is your story? And why are you looking for Haden?”

“I am Maloranserani Valtheris’Heranusee, and yes,” he rolled his eyes with a long-suffering sigh, “you may call me Mal for short.”

“I wasn’t aware I required your permission,” Haden announced nastily.

“You do not require my permission to speak, but etiquette does implore one to request permission before using a diminutive. Shall I infer from your tone that you intend using my full name to address me in the future?”

“You’re assuming I intend to address you in the future. As it stands, it would be improper to kill you—you did help us, after all—but as for anything else . . .”

Episode 16: Baltazo's Cellar
In Which Our Heroes Find Strange Creatures Beneath The Bell and Whistle.

(image by Franz Vohwinkel, from Complete Arcane)

Sheen was roughly battered by people trying to force their way past her out the door. Joris was crushed against her left side, and Talan nearly climbed onto the table trying to get out of the press. Ari whined and crouched away from heavy boots. Growling, Sheen pulled up her claws and waved them at a few people’s faces. Instantly, a clear area formed around her and the jostling lessened. In less than a minute, they were the only occupants of the tavern. Toranna leaned over to a nearby table, grabbed an abandoned drink, and gulped it down.

“You’d think they’d have the sense to barricade themselves in the building instead of charging out where they’re certain to get into trouble.”

“You know that crowd mentality,” Talan said. “As soon as a few people act, everyone else follows.”

“One of these days someone needs to explain to these people that humans are not herd animals.”

“Says who?” Talan demanded, laughing.

“Herd animals don’t eat meat,” Sheen announced. “Right. Everybody spread out and search for an entrance to a hidden cellar.” After a minute or two of poking around, Toranna located a trap door in the kitchen underneath a few barrels. Sheen heaved the barrels out of the way and pulled the door open as quietly as possible. It squeaked a bit, but not loudly. A set of wooden stairs descended about fifteen feet into what looked like a storage room. Flameless magical torches glowed in tasteful sconces, illuminating the room.

“I hear breathing, someone’s down there,” Talan whispered.

Interlude: Face of the Enemy
In Which Haden Finds One Thought Dead.

by DarthKrzysztof

Haden regained consciousness in a small, torchlit room, and was not surprised to find himself lashed to a table. He was a little bruised, but otherwise all right. And at least they had left his clothes on; given the chill in the air, he was doubly thankful for that.

“Perfect timing,” a voice declared.

“And style to spare,” Haden answered automatically. He craned to catch a glimpse of the approaching figure, but the stranger loomed over him soon enough. He recognized the silver skull mask at once, then he saw that the brooch which fastened the cloak took the shape of an eye – the Great Eye.

“Baltazo,” Haden said.

“Yes,” replied Baltazo.

Episode 15: Plague-Mort
In which Our Heroes seek Baltazo in a city teetering on the edge of the Abyss.

(image by Dana Knutson, from Well of Worlds)

The dark, shadowy outlines of men hung in the air, reaching out towards Sheen even as they keened their wrath. She stumbled backwards, raising her claws, but one of the shadows touched her almost casually, its fleshless shape passing through her armor without resistance. There was no real pain, just a chill and the sense of her will draining away. Sheen stared blankly.

“They’re incorporeal!” Joris yelled. “You need magic to hurt them!” He waved his holy symbol furiously in front of the creature’s ‘eyes’, and one shrank in on itself, burning away like a puff of foul vapor. The sound of his voice cleared Sheen’s head and she raked her claws through her attacker, tearing it to ribbons. Joris brandished his symbol again and the remaining shape was blasted into dust.

“Thank the Lady!” the cleric announced. “Sheen, are you all right? Where’s Talan?”

“I’m here,” Talan said, reappearing and adjusting his cloak. Ari barked happily.

Sheen blinked slowly for several moments. “Afrgl,” she announced.

“What?” Joris asked. “Did it hit you?”

“Um . . . uh . . . something like that.” Joris pressed his palm to her forehead and rattled off a peculiar chant. Sheen felt some of the fog recede from her mind.

“Better?” Joris asked.

“Yes, thank you.” Sheen looked over at the table, at the mask and the gem. “They were protecting those items. I’ve seen something like them before, actually. A lot of psions use similar objects in their work. We’d better take them with us; we don’t want them falling into the wrong hands.”

“At least we’ve found the portal,” Talan said, pointing at the second arch in the room.

Episode 14: The Undercity
In which our heroes descend into the depths with even more reason than they had before.

(image source)

Sheen leaned her head against the side of the cab and watched the city go past the window. Joris and Talan were sitting silently as well, absorbed in their own thoughts. Eventually, the cab stopped and the driver thumped on the wall, shouting, “Twelve Factols!” as if to make sure that they got the hint.

Talan pushed the door open and Ari promptly jumped outside, wagging her tail so furiously that her entire body wavered from side to side. She looked over her shoulder until Talan hauled himself to his feet. “Rrrruuroooo!” Ari bawled enthusiastically.

“I’m coming!” Talan said, laughing and waggling the end of his cloak in front of Ari’s nose.

“I wonder what the purpose of this building is?” Sheen asked, looking down the stone staircase that descended into the depths. Others might have found the architecture ominous, but Sheen, raised among dwarves, found it familiar and comforting. She trotted down the stairs nonchalantly. The hall below was lit by glowing crystals. Dwarves and baraiur sat quietly at tables, mostly absorbed in their food. A few looked up as Sheen walked past, but their bland curiosity held no hostility.

The stairs continued down into a loud, busy room full of yet more dwarves and other natives of Ysgard, drinking, boasting, and singing. A wrestling match broke out in the corner as they watched, accompanied by loud cheers and shouts of encouragement. Sheen skirted the festivities, followed by Talan and Joris, and went down yet another staircase.

This final hall was lit only by faint blue crystals, which cast an eerie glow on the deep black stone of the walls, ceiling, and floor. Two dwarves in full armor silently flanked an ominous metal grating. One immediately crossed the floor towards them.

“Hail, friends,” he said.

“Hail,” Sheen said in the dwarven tongue. The guard raised a thick eyebrow at her, clearly impressed.

“I’m guessing you’ve come to visit the Realm Below?” he responded in the same language.

“Yes,” Sheen said. “We have need to reach a portal in the Undercity.”

“Ah,” said the dwarf, his expression becoming very grave. “Well, I can’t let you pass unless one of you can defeat me in combat.”

Episode 13: Search for a Portal
In Which Our Heroes are Given Some Valuable Information and Seek a Portal to Plague-Mort. Complications Arise When Haden Quits The Group.

(image by Tony DiTerlizzi, from “Sigil and Beyond” in the Planescape Campaign Setting box set)

Haden hauled himself up the stairs to the second floor of Chirper’s, grinning at the muddy smudges he left behind on the stairs, the banister, and the walls. “You know, I think I could really start to like this intrepid wilderness explorer gig,” the aasling said cheerfully. Sheen made an incredulous noise.

“No, really!” Haden persisted, pausing on the landing to make an expansive gesture with his arms. “I could roam secret glens upon which no man hath laid eyes since the very dawn of time, and yea, listen to the mysterious wisdom of the noble beasts that dwell therein . . .”

Talan grinned. “You’d be bored out of your mind within hours,” he said.

“Not at all,” Haden announced, waving a dismissive hand in Talan’s direction. “I could while away the hours, conferring with the flowers . . .”

Talan laughed outright. “And consulting with the rain?”

Haden rolled his eyes. “And that, my friend, is why you’ll never be a poet. It almost scans, but what sort of rhyme scheme are you going toward here? Rhyming couplets are passe. You’d have to start a new phrase there.”

“Give it up, Haden,” Joris said. “You’d never stand for all the vermin. I saw you cast that spell on the hut. You can’t de-louse all outdoors.”

Haden shrugged. “So my head I’d be scratching while my thoughts were busy hatching . . .”

“If you only had a brain?” Sheen suggested. Joris choked and Talan doubled over laughing, nearly tumbling headfirst down the staircase in the process.

“A born critic,” Haden announced, sniffing contemptuously and pointing his nose at the ceiling while sweeping his cloak dramatically over his shoulder and prancing up the stairs. Then he stopped short.

“What is it?” Sheen asked, hurrying up the steps and looking around cautiously. The door to the room Haden, Joris, and Talan shared was slightly ajar.

“I know I locked it,” Sheen whispered.

“Housekeeping?” Joris breathed.

“I don’t think it’s housekeeping,” Talan said. “They’d be making some noise.”

“Right,” Sheen growled, drawing her short sword, and threw open the door.

Interlude: Loose Ends
In Which the Great Eye Seeks Its Own.

by DarthKrzysztof

Quinn moved down the darkening alley; though no one saw him, he tried not to draw attention to himself. He should have taken the first portal out of Sigil, but taking the time to find a door to Excelsior would pay off in the end. That gate-town was as far from Plague-Mort as he cared to go, and being surrounded by do-gooders wouldn’t be so bad if it kept the Great Eye off his back.

Were those adventurers who sacked the Citadel of Fire do-gooders? Quinn couldn’t be sure. He’d been surprised when they’d spared his life – even more surprised when he gave them the information they sought. Quinn never trusted Green Marvent, but he was downright terrified of Baltazo – why in the Hells had he turned stag on him?

Doesn’t matter now, he thought. Just get out of town.

He looked down at the shining white feather in his hand, which seemed supernaturally heavy. Had it really come from an angel’s wing? The old tiefling at the antiquities shop seemed sure, and she hadn’t charged him much for it. Once he found the portal, the dark of it would come to light.

Interlude: The Circle
In Which a Humble Shrine Gains a Humble Cleric.

by DarthKrzysztof

Joris made his way through the streets of The Lady’s Ward. Though he felt safer here than in other parts of Sigil, all the jink on display reminded him of Silverymoon, and not in a good way.

He found Transformant’s Square after Dossy Street; there, sandwiched between temples of Gruumsh and Apollo, he saw a small building of unremarkable stone, just where Raven had said it would be. Joris regarded the simple golden circle that hung above the doorway until he passed through.

The entrance led directly into a circular chamber perhaps twenty-five feet in diameter. Finding himself alone, Joris examined the room. A simple altar sat in the center, ringed by rows of rough pews. A stairway led up on the far side of the room, with a closet door set into it. Three small statues lined the altar; the one closest to him was a surprisingly graceful rendition of Mystra. Small icons representing other gods of magic were mounted between the statues.

Joris knelt before the statue of Mystra and clasped his hands, not hearing the shuffling feet until they reached the bottom of the stairs. He turned to see an old man – an ancient man – in a black robe too long for his bony frame. The image of a skull wreathed in flame dangled from a chain around his neck. Despite the man’s morbid trappings, his face was kind, and lit up with a smile at the sight of Joris.

“Greetings,” he said in a reedy voice. “Welcome to the Circle, my son. I am Numeledes.”

Episode 12: Into the Gray Waste
In which our heroes visit the lizardfolk village and enter the Gray Waste on a retrieval mission.

image source

Voorix cradled the body of his fallen son mournfully. Joris sighed and looked at the other members of their small adventuring company. “Is anyone hurt?” he asked quietly.

“A bit, but I’ve got it,” Sheen said, letting her remaining power drain into her wounds, which closed rapidly.

“I’m fine,” Talan said.

“Then I’m going to help the dinosaur,” Joris announced and made his way towards the enormous ankylosaur crouched on the far side of the clearing. It bellowed as he approached but was too exhausted to avoid him.

“Be careful getting out of the way of that tail, Joris!” Sheen called as the dinosaur regained its feet and began eyeing the cleric unpleasantly. Joris scurried quickly away. The ankylosaur snorted derisively and trudged into the brush. It was rapidly hidden in the undergrowth, but chewing noises became audible a few moments later.

“Thanks for doing that, Joris,” Talan said. Joris smiled.

Haden stood up from investigating Nihmron’s cooling body, a crude medallion in his hand. It was a circle of greenish metal stamped with a baatezu on one side and a peculiar symbol on the other. “Portal key, perhaps?” Haden asked. “This is the symbol for Baator, the Nine Hells.”

“It would make sense,” Talan said, “what with all those legion devils around.”

Sheen shook her head. “I do not think we can tackle another serious battle today. We need rest.”

“You may rest at village,” Voorix said abruptly, standing up with his son’s body over his shoulder.

“Thank you,” Talan said. The lizardman set off with the adventurers following.


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