In any world and in any time, there are many truths. Some of these truths can be flexible. Cosmic, divine or arcane forces often toy with the true nature of things to provide life with chaos. Sometimes it’s enough chaos to make life interesting. Sometimes though it’s suffocating deluge, sufficient to drive a proud man to his knees, a stoic man to tears and a pious man to throw up his hands and scream at the gods themselves. Beneath the surface of these trials, however, is where we find the wellspring of inner strengths. Will, fortitude, perseverance, honor flow from this place inside each of us. These strengths drive us to fight on when hope wanes. Death becomes secondary to our effort in the struggle that thrusts it upon us. Remembered or forgotten, when we fight with honor defeat is robbed of its bitter sting.
Some truths are constants. Through the chaos, the trials and challenges we face, love, friendship and teamwork provide strength beyond even that indomitable spirit within ourselves. When we question our motives, our beliefs or our own hearts, we find the answers in those around us. Encouraging and challenging us, we are all beings in need of each other. We need to be loved. We need to be liked. We’re willing to give our very lives for those we love. A friend’s call never goes unanswered. As part of a team focusing our strengths we will conquer the unconquerable, pass the impassable and achieve what a single heart could only dream of achieving.
But friends, lovers and teams face their share of challenges too. To often time and destiny come between people. Sometimes a druid needs someone to ride his disk in order to attain that sense of completeness. Fezwick had been yearning, nay, begging for someone to ride his floating disk since…forever. “You can ride my disk!” he’d say hopeful that someone, anyone would take him up on his offer to bring them to new heights (about three feet or so above the ground). Ilessa would give an incredulous look followed by a sneering “I’m not riding that thing!” Others simply ignored the offer. Discouraged maybe but Fezwick was not deterred. With a persistence any stalker would envy, he sought every opportunity to flaunt his disk, to whip it out in front of anyone. “It’s this big!” he’d announce proudly. “It follows me everywhere I go, and look! I can make it move with my mind!” This dogged perseverance finally paid off. Faced with a scatter trap loaded with teleportation glyphs on the floor, Fezwick finally found a use for his disk. Mounting upon it the body of the dead sorcerer Tesla (and his detached head), Fezwick skillfully maneuvered his disk to a door, gently thrusting against it repeatedly, attempting to arouse those on the other side. Perhaps they weren’t concerned, perhaps they just weren’t in the mood but they were just not stimulated to action. But when Fynn said she would mount the disk, the entire group was astonished. The Deva would ride Fezwick’s disk? And ride it she did! Sitting high and proud astride Fezwick’s magical disk, Fynn rode that disk to the farthest reaches (of the room). Doors were opened and a squeal could be heard (from the hinge). Fynn saw visions (of the shadow assassin)! And Fezwick kept it up the entire time. Even when he asked her if she wanted to go farther, her words said “No” but Fezwick pushed and took her where she’d never been. The anger at being pushed against her will quickly gave way to acceptance as she realized that she was really safe on the disk of Fezwick. He gently pulled back to safety and she eased herself onto her feet. She could already imagine her next time riding that magnificent disk.
Sometimes team members just don’t see eye to eye on something. This can happen when opinions clash. One is driven to prevent the end of the world and another isn’t. Ilessa just wanted a nap. “But it’s the end of the world!” you say? “It’s not likely, since my god is going to devour the world.” Ilessa said mater-of-factly. “I really need a nap.” Well, no nap was had. Ilessa pouted, clearly unhappy and an unhappy Yuan-Ti can be somewhat uncomfortable to be around. Especially if you’re a cinder-soul Genasi and the Yuan-Ti has a yearning for something hot and spicy…
Entering the lower crypt, and after battling swarms of poisonous spiders, the party enters the dark, dank room lined with burial slots in the walls. A black cloaked shadow assassin is spotted in the back of the room, threatening a black-robed man. As soon as the black-robed man betrays his master, the assassin brutally slashes his throat. Before the man hits the floor, the assassin slips through a secret door at the rear of the room. Seconds later, a thunderous roar heralds the destruction of the secret staircase. As the party invades the room, they notice that several undead have been dispatched. Miraculously, though, the black robed man isn’t dead! Shaml Barumon is quickly healed, and the party begins questioning him. He said “I told the assassin Skamos was going to the chapel at Seabend and he tried to kill me anyway!” “Where is Skamos going?” demanded Thaerin. “Why did you lie to the assassin?” Shaml replied “I didn’t want to betray Skamos, but this is getting dangerous. You healed me when I thought I was dead. Skamos obviously crossed the wrong person to have everyone after him.”
In the mean time, Fynn searched the room. “What’s this?” she asked, fondling a black onyx skull. “It’s an Onyx Skull.” said Fezwick expertly “It used to be part of a staff.” Continuing to flex his arcanic acumen, “It is used for necromantic purposes, like raising undead and stuff.” “I want to keep it!” said Fynn. “We should destroy it” said Fezwick. Fynn pouted in a very un-Deva-ish sort of way. It can be funny how sometimes democracy and mob rule are so very similar. Ellie asserted herself and ordered the destruction of the skull and Fezwick obeyed. Thaerin also burned Shaml’s ritual book, which represented his life’s work. Shaml was clearly upset at the loss. The necromancer snapped to attention quickly though when the conversation turned to dispatching him. “Whoa, whoa, I can help you!” he exclaimed. “I know where the colossus is! I’ll take you there.” After ascertaining that the assassin would be at least a day out of his way by heading to the chapel, everyone agreed that keeping Shaml alive as a guide just made good sense. Fynn, always the humanitarian, wanted to put him on a leash. “Like a pet?” asked Ilessa. “Yeah,” answered Fynn “Like a pet!” Heads shook. “What!?” she said, wondering why everyone is against her having a little fun.
The group finally agreed on one thing. They definitely needed an extended rest. Fezwick decided to spend the night in a tree. In the outdoors. In the creepy graveyard. The one with the roaming undead. Where no one was there to assist him if trouble reared its maggot-ridden head. Only by god’s good graces (and that won’t happen again for the idiotic) did this ill-advised decision not result in a tragedy.
As the group neared the colossus, they came upon a beautiful glade with a cottage grown within the trunk of a majestic ancient willow tree. Fezwick rushed up to the door and knocked. “Is anyone home?” he asked cheerfully. Receiving no reply, he opened the door and wandered in. He did discover a journal while searching written mostly in incomprehensible script. Of what he could read, he discovered a description of a magical spring to the north. “Fezwick! Let’s go! Remember, saving the world and all that?” Thaerin yelled, obviously annoyed at the lack of any sense of urgency demonstrated by the druid. As Fezwick headed back to the group, however, he noticed blood on the path, and it was fresh, and it was leading north. Shaml had told the group that to reach the colossus they would have to continue west. In yet another ill-advised decision, Fezwick ran off northward, following the blood trail. The remaining party, exasperated by Fezwick’s apparent lack of concern for both his own safety continued west.
After about one hundred yards, Fezwick found the source of the blood trail. Lady Elistina Thornsword sat with her back against a tree. Well over one hundred years old, beaten and bleeding badly, Elistina told Fezwick of the spring fountain and he helped her to it. “Who did this to you?” he asked. “Skamos is his name. Skamos and his guards” She said. With great sadness she added “and my mother.” Fezwick was stunned. “Your mother?” Elistina related the story of her parents. “I’ve been guarding her tomb, praying for a way to reverse the curse bestowed upon her by my father. Even as she attacked me, obviously under the influence of that villain, I could see in her eyes that she still clung to the last vestiges of her humanity. I should have destroyed her years ago. I see that now. Promise me” she pleaded “that you will release her from this world so that she may finally find the peace that has eluded her.” She continued on, telling an abbreviated summary of Varxious and his imprisonment within the Dragonstar Crystal. She warned Fezwick to safeguard the crystal. “If the crystal is destroyed, Varxious will be reborn into this world!”
Fezwick left her at the fountain and raced back to catch up with the group. As Fezwick related the information from Elistina to the group, they pretty much confirmed that they already knew most of it. (Though the way they learned it was from the handout from the dm…it was meant to represent the information obtained by Fezwick. Sorry dude.) As they crossed a stream, a beautiful woman appeared in their path. With a fetching smile and bright, happy eyes, she attempted to tempt Fezwick with her charms. Ellie rolled her eyes and said let’s go. Ilessa couldn’t resist the opportunity to drop a little snipe into the mix, and for a minute it looked like there might be a scene. But the spring nymph was just a little less than interested that day and allowed the party to continue on their way. “They’ll be back,” she thought mischievously “and then I’ll have some real fun. The short girl with the hat was kinda cute too.”
Finally, our party found themselves standing before a large stone archway leading into a dark tunnel into the hillside. The archway stones were carved with runic prayers to Pelor. Thaerin climbed the earthen mound and whipped out his spyglass. “Amazing!” he thought astutely “If you don’t look at the trees, the knolls and hills appear to form the outline of a giant lying down.”
Deciding that this was indeed their destination, talk quickly turned to Shaml. Suggestions to dispatch him were replaced with the idea to instead remove his tongue in order to prevent him from continuing his necromantic pursuits in the future. Neither of these options appealed to Shaml though. Having appealed to Ilessa’s softer side, she surreptitiously loosened his bonds and whispered “Run!”. And run he did. He nearly escaped without incident but Fezwick, Gorainne’s favorite ADD druid launched himself in pursuit. Of note is that no one else in the party was overly interested in pursuing Shaml. Being the loyal friend that he is, Thaerin took up position to assist if Fezwick needed it. Shaml took a solid hit though and turned and let loose with a Deathwave, not only hitting, but pushing both Thaerin and Fezwick back fifteen feet and knocked on their behinds. Having had a pretty bad day already, Shaml fled the scene like a Yuan-Ti from a boat trip.To be continued…