Diggeries

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I am going to inform an area of Stoneshadow by defining some of the local creatures and then connecting them geographically and culturally.

I tried out the “Creatures Drawing Deck” today. Here was my draw:

Diggeries Cards

Here’s what I came up with.

Diggery

First I decided to work in the “mustache or beard” by using centipede legs for a delightful chin-mass for expressive flexibility and weirdness. I figured I’d use the bear for a body template, with ‘dilla plating mixed with chitin. I added the cute ‘dilla ears and the overall effect is somewhat bat-like with some whimsical centipede antennas. The textural mix of baggy skin, chitin plating, fur, and claws was an interesting experiment. All of the critter is oriented towards a burrowing creature.

How big, then? My first thought was “grizzly size of course” then I took a closer look and thought maybe a 5’ height would be good. Dense and bulky, so more solid than humans, but often shorter (while still less compact than dwarves.)

How about that “national park” habitat? Alright, I’m putting them at the edge of human territory, and all we’ll say at this point is that human wizards were doing some experimentation and ended up creating (or importing) these diggeries, who formed a tribal community. I’ll figure out more as I add more creatures to the mix.

Consulting the handy quick-reference for statting up monsters on p. 203 of Under the Mountain, this is what I come up with.

DIGGERIES

Compact burrowing creaturesThey can pheremonally communicate with and direct sizzlepedes. They communicate with hoarse grunts, in compact (often compound) words and grunts.

Combat 6. Claws and jaws, 6 (+2).

Armor 1 (natural). Vitality 14.

  • Active: Dirtspray. If fighting near sufficient loose material, turns back to a foe and rapidly digs, spraying the foe with a disorienting barrage of loose material that costs the foe an action next round. The target can ignore the effect by spending a Resolve or employing a similar defense.
  • Active: Tunneling. Move at a walking pace through loose soil, under the ground. Dig through soft rock, clay, or root-bound earth about a foot a minute. Claw through six inches of rock a minute, or a quarter inch of metal.
  • Special: Sizzlepede Affinity. Communicate empathically and simple ideas using chemicals and leg/beard twitches with sizzlepedes, who are inclined to obey diggeries. They can wear sizzlepedes as scarves, direct them as scouts, and lead them in battle.

BEHAVIOR:

  • 1-2. Leggit! Squawk and chitter, withdrawing (to prepared tunnel exits if possible.
  • 3-4. Raaagh! Act normally but also regain 3 Vitality.
  • 10+. Off ya! Those who are not defended do damage as normal, and in addition, each one tears off a shield or wrenches armor. If wrenching armor, reduce its value by 1 die code until adjusting it out of combat. If the target has no armor, the target is gouged for an extra attack inflicting 8 Vitality.

The Axes and Anvils Bundle is Out!

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Now you can go here to get the Axes and Anvils bundle with all the existing titles included.

The bundle includes: the Axes and Anvils rulebook, Under the Mountain GM book, character pack, clan book, lore deck, starter deck, and quickstart in one set for $39.75. Even better, if you already have some of the products in your DriveThruRPG account, the bundle automatically discounts them. Take a look!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/294797

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Axes and Anvils is Released!

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A&AbannerThe first round of Axes and Anvils products is available!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/5544/Shields-Up-Publishing

You can also check the toolkit page on the blog here for links and descriptions.

The print copies of the rules and quickstart are not yet available, but they will be soon. Also, the Under the Mountain GM book and a clan workbook to track your campaign are coming soon.

 

New Clan: Shedding the Elfjacket

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Ingdeth Copperback (Kristy) F. Vanguard, Engineer, Enchanter. Name weapon: hammer. Favors a squarish tower shield that can be set as a wall.

Gogrim Steelmane (Chloe) M. Mauler, Athlete, Chef. Name weapon: weaponized oven peel. Longs to be scary, naturally good at athletics but, as a poorly kept secret, loves cooking (but feels time in the kitchen detracts from an intimidating warrior image.)

Gilda Mountainbelt (Jake) F. Berserker, Gunsmith, Healer. Name weapon: “Scatterslicer,” a blunt scattergun with massive blades welded on the sides. (Terrible at ranged attacks, skilled at making guns but not really shooting with them.)

Delbaria Starchaser (Michael G.) F. Support, Adept, Alchemist. Name weapon: magic belt that shoots energy bolts out of its impressive girdle-buckle. Totally hairless, loves decorative details like fingernail painting. Named for a past Monarch of Stoneshadow. Wields a slide-whistle in combat, using it to concentrate and direct energy.

Cranky Elves

This Fellowship lives in Wyrmcast, and they were gathered by its mayor, Canwise, to take on a local challenge. As a local musician finished singing a ballad based on the Murder of Averline, Canwise bustled up to ask them to go check on the elves of Fenhollow Isle; the elves started taking shots at travelers, something has irritated them. (When punctured by elven arrows, the euphemism for the odd appearance of arrows jutting out of a dwarf torso is “wearing an elfjacket.”)

Feeling it would be best to prepare for diplomacy, Gogrim led the Fellowship back to his kitchen before they left, and he made a special no-bake berry loaf called a “jiggle” known to be non-toxic and popular for the elven palate. Also, he stocked up on some fish nibble, a treat known to appeal to the local magical fish population.

Poachers

On the road, Delbaria spotted smoke from a cookfire. The Fellowship decided to investigate, and spotted about twenty humans from the surface, setting up a wormlure and small barrels of gunpowder. Poaching wasn’t legal, and both the dwarves and the humans knew it. A grouchy bald wizard with a beard and staff hung back, letting a spokesman talk to the dwarves and pretend nothing was wrong.

Ingdeth took a firm tone with the humans and told them to leave; not liking the odds of an armed confrontation, the poachers withdrew. Delbaria trashed their lure, and the dwarves were content to let them off with a warning this time; they had business elsewhere.

Fen Ford

The dwarves reached the ford where dwarves occasionally built bridges, and the elves let them stand for a while (years or decades) before knocking them down again. Currently there was no bridge, and as the dwarves approached the fast-flowing but shallow river, Delbaria’s magical senses helped her spot a magical fish in the river. The dwarves lured it in close and fed it fish nibble, and they had a chat.

Gilbert the Elbowed Mudfish told them Frieda, the Wormcast war leader, led a band to Fen Hollow and killed one of the ghost stags the elves revere, dragging it off in a hail of arrows and eating it (deeply offensive acts from the elven perspective.)

As Gilbert swam away, Delbaria sprouted an elf arrow and staggered; rather than reacting violently to the ambush, Gogrim thought fast and whipped out his peel, brandishing the jiggle-loaf in hopes the elven noses would pick up the scent across the river. This offering gave the elves pause, and several pinched faces poked up out of the greenery across the river and grumbled about their stolen stag. They wanted the skull and antlers back, and an apology; then they would consider a ceasefire on travelers along the road.

Wingus Attack

As the dwarves followed the shoreline in the direction Frieda was supposed to have gone, they were almost taken by surprise by a diving pack of winguses. The leather-winged poison monkey-things nailed Gogrim hard, and scored a glancing hit on Delbaria, but the dwarves battered them down in an adrenaline-fueled reaction before the winguses could reposition.

Delbaria and Gogrim set to harvesting bits from the predator’s corpses, for alchemy and delicacy dishes; both were overenthusiastic on the pressurized wingus remains, and they were squirted by gland juices that threatened monkeyfever. Gilda used her healing skill to give them both an “eyewash” in the stream to prevent infection, then she went to to last of the bodies to get some untapped venom sacs for antidotes, successfully harvesting a few useful bits. They continued onward rather than lingering and risking another ambush now that the smell of blood was flowing away from the site.

Frieda

The Fellowship located Frieda and her warband of about a dozen dwarves, and they approached boldly. Frieda was heavily bandaged, and seated on a makeshift throne with the cleaned ghost stag skull mounted on the back as some of her warriors were scraping the hide. All of the dwarves had a bit of a glow to them, an after-effect of eating the ghost stag meat.

Ingdeth confronted Frieda over the act of war with the elves, and Frieda tried to shrug it off by suggesting the southern ford was better and they could make new, better friends there. The elves weren’t much of a threat, and their friendship was not important. The Fellowship persisted in their demand that Frieda return the ghost stag skull and antlers to the elves, and apologize.

Frieda reluctantly agreed to do so IF Gilda, her pupil in the berserk combat style, bested her in arm wrestling. The Fellowship agreed, and Gogrim gave Gilda some energy protein and a quick muscle rub to help out. Gilda and Frieda clasped hands and then had a vein-pounding bicep-bulging contest of strength and will. Gilda won, and Frieda was surprised Gilda didn’t throw the match.

Grumbling all the way, Frieda took the skull back to the elves and apologized, and the Fellowship returned to Wyrmcast successful.

Tributary: Wyrmcast

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This settlement deep in the Chamber beneath the mountains was the birthplace of Averline, once heir to the Monarch Throne. It is also famous for the variety of magical fish that live in its nearby waters. There is a wide variety; mudfish, koi, nightmarish anglers, big tuna, and more. The intelligence, ability, and weirdness of the fish is varied. Locals do not eat them.

The area has a population of “earth dragons” that burrow through the soil, patient ambush predators that are a manageable but persistent threat on the road and in the town. The town itself is built on solid rock that the earth dragons do not penetrate, and the buildings are crafted from the castings the earth dragons leave behind when they molt or die. The fortifications are cleverly shaped and interconnected, reinforced with alchemical keratin brew periodically poured on them for reinforcement.

A nearby memorial tower, Gulper’s Tomb, is built from the castings of a giant earth dragon that consumed an entire settlement. A powerful curse bound the life essence of the devoured dwarves to the casting, and when the earth dragon shed the casting and retreated to the deeps for a long rest, the dwarves found the casting and fashioned it into something of a spiritual mausoleum. The site is popular with those who revere ancestors represented among the restless shadows bound to the earth dragon casting, and artisans have worked with enchanters, alchemists, and adepts to make the site artistic and secure.

The road from the hold to Wyrmcast must cross a chasm, and the bridge over it is fashioned from wyrmsilk threaded through the trail of the earth dragons when they are gestating.

Locals have cultivated nests for homing worms the length of a finger called squiggies. Most families in the Wyrmcast have a squiggienest, and carry a pouch of the homing worms as well as equipment to write tiny messages that the squiggy can swallow if the squiggy is properly rubbed. These messages are called “squig-ees” and when a squiggy returns to its nest it warbles a short arrival song, so family members know to check the message.

The most popular pub in town is “That Wormhole,” named for a derisive nickname detractors gave the settlement. The current mayor is Canwise, a stumpy fellow with a prosthetic leg equipped with treads that often seize up or malfunction. The current war leader is Frieda, a proud and somewhat shifty berserker who dislikes elves.

Local threats often include elves when relations aren’t going well; there’s still a tribe that lives in the ruin of Fenhollow Isle on the edge of the clan’s territory. Wingus packs are also a problem; monkey-like fliers with leathery wings, poison bite, and tail stingers who tend to drop out of the dark vault above and kill swiftly, then gobble up the corpses. Venomous frogs big enough to swallow dwarves haunt the lowlands. Humans from the surface sometimes mount expeditions to try and leave worm-lures to draw earth dragons to a spot and blow them up, harvesting their insides for delicacies, alchemical ingredients, ritual components, and so on. Dwarves have outlawed this practice, but humans aren’t good with rules.

 

(Kristy, Chloe, Michael G., Jake. 8.14.19)

Legend: “The Murder of Averline”

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Averline was the true heir to the monarchy over all of Stoneshadow. He traveled through many harrowing adventures to reach a secret library on a barge, home to Algar the Oracle (who kept the barge moving and out of the hands of those who would destroy secret knowledge.) Averline planned to use the library’s secret lore to prove his lineage and credentials to be High King.

Delbaria was also there, a dwarven woman who was determined to be a wizard even though her talents were meager and no one would train her. She masqueraded as Crushclaw of Cliffside, pretending to be a wizard so she could study in the library. She met Averline, and both disguised dwarves sensed the passion and ambition in the other; they fell in love and married within a week of meeting, inspired by all that was lost while in the presence of what the barge library had preserved.

Algar the Oracle had seen into the future, and knew that if Averline was allowed access to the barge library, then Averline would face death. However, this death would trigger the revolution, as those inspired by the rightful heir would overthrow the corrupt monarch ruling Stoneshadow. Therefore, Algar allowed Averline to catch up to the barge and study, and in the meantime, Algar betrayed him, informing the elves of Fenhollow of Averline’s identity and location.

The elves of Fenhollow traded this critical information to the High King, who granted them sovereignty over their damp little island as a reward. The High King’s agents cornered Averline and murdered him.

Delbaria was inspired in her fury against the injustice and tragedy of this loss, both to her and to the dwarven nation. This assassination lit a fire in her, and she gathered allies and waged war, becoming a queen and then the High Queen, Monarch of Stoneshadow. And so began the war.

 

(Kristy, Chloe, Michael G., Jake. 8.15.19)

Caskbound Strange Mission: Heart of Kyber

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(I was the scene master, and I randomized “help the clan atone for angering the gods” in a “monster lair.”)

A greedy group of explorers from Clan Caskbound found their way to the Temple of Six Doubts and stole a fist-sized ruby, the Heart of Kyber, from deep within. Now the clan elders realize that the ruby was a key, turned in the lock of Prince Fasaash, a demon prince, who will be released if the ruby is not replaced by midnight tomorrow. The temple is defended by the People of Dust, masked sand elementalists.

Four dwarves volunteered to go. Tancred (Shaun), The Dan (Simon), Korvask (Michael), and Barteus (Andrew). They piled into a rowboat and headed for the island, unsure of what they’d find, with only the semi-coherent story of the surviving dwarven thieves to guide them. Korvask carried the Heart of Kyber.

Scene One. (Shaun. Crystals, Homestead. Hunting Monster.)

They saw a dock, and pulled the boat up onto the sand near it. There was also a tower and a house by it. The dwarves talked with an old man in desert robes and a turban and face wrapping, who was humanoid if not human. He told them if they fetched a book from inside the temple, thus transferring ownership of it to him, he would give them crystals that would ward off the monsters that would otherwise haunt their steps to the temple. They agreed, and as they followed the path they saw massive sand worms at a distance that did not approach.

Scene Two. (Simon. Vent, Redoubt. Hunting Monster.)

They came up to a 20 foot wall that stretched on both directions. Barteus threw a grappling hook and rope up to it, but a goblin popped up and told them there was an easier way. He led them 20 minutes down the wall to a goblin settlement with all sorts of goblintech, and told them he’d show them a better way in if they could trash his refurbished guardian that the last group of dwarves walked all over.

He activated a metal construct that operated on mystical fuel pumped into its back via cables, and the construct used its gripper arm and firehose arm to fight them. After being torched and battered, they knocked the metal monstrosity apart, featuring The Dan’s brutal berserk fury and annoying the goblin. Still, the goblin did show them a metal tube down into the ground, under the wall, so they could continue.

Scene Three. (Michael. Corrupted, Disputed. Hunting Monster. We decided not to honor any more hunting monster results after this!)

Following the pipe-like sewer-like tunnel, they came to a stinking room with big vats of waste. As they crossed the room, lumbering sewage constructs loomed out to fight them. They held forth against one of them, and tried for the exit when another emerged and they barely escaped. They found a mine cart on a track powered by goblin tech, and scooted on their way.

Scene Four. (Andrew. Dread, Fangs. Environmental Hazard.)

They drove the cart along the rails until they reached a place that smelled better, and Korvask successfully deciphered writing in big signs that warned they were about to need protective gear they didn’t have. Tancred managed to bring the cart to a halt, and he scouted ahead. His body experienced fear, and he saw translucent teeth in the darkness, attached to very unpleasant mouths. He retreated back to the cart.

Korvask’s education prepared him for this. Those things were the Formless Dread, a cosmic outsider attracted to where powerful otherworldly beings touched the material world. They were probably near the tomb of Prince Fasaash, and this was a guardian. He used his enchanting to make blood runes for armoring their life force to resist supernatural intrusion, and that was enough to hide them from the monster that was attracted to delicious fear. This cost about all his Resolve, and The Dan shared drinks and bolstered their resolve before they attempted the bridge. They passed the elementalist-built bridge with its goblin tracks (noting some goblin corpses along the way) until they passed through a massive gate.

Scene Five. (Shaun. Ice, Cache. Environmental Hazard.)

They came to an area locked in receding ice. They noted how the flame that always danced in the center of the Heart of Kyber drew heat from the environment here as it had back in the clanhome as they studied it. They found a square column with four holes, and Korvask studied the holes and discovered two were traps, and of the remaining two, he guessed which one was right. He put the gem back in place, and it sealed the Demon Prince in. The temperature dropped further, and it was time to escape; they scrambled up the ladder as fast as they could, ice swelling over everything far below.

Scene Six. (Simon. Ectoplasm, Transforming. CLIMAX)

They found a dead desiccated dwarf missing his name weapon, an with a moment’s thought they realized they were going backwards of how the escaped dwarves described their route. The other dwarves crossed a river of souls, then down to where the gem was, across the bridge, through the sewers, past the goblins, and down to the coast.

They came to an intersection, and followed the path with the greatest energy, hoping to find a way out. Instead they found a room with the spellbook described by the tower-dweller on a bookstand, chained in place. As soon as Korvask touched the book, he was locked in place as though by an electric current. The door to the room slammed, and a thirty foot ectoplasmic giant took shape with an axe, ready to kill them all.

Korvask struggled to vent the energy away from himself to not take damage while he was stuck to the podium. Attacking the podium just got shocks, so the dwarves took some of Korvask’s healing potions and turned their attention to fighting the giant. It walloped the dwarves around some before The Dan’s relentless assaults led the way to putting it down. Only name weapons could hurt it, as they were connected to their owners.

Tancred struck the killing blow, and as he stood in a swirl of luminous ectoplasm, he wrapped his wrench-hammer name weapon in it and gave up a permanent Resolve, so the weapon became supernatural and able to ignore normal armor.

The door creaked open, Korvask and the book were released, and the dwarves left the battlefield in search of an exit.

Scene Seven. (Michael. Foundation, Rapids. Movement Hazard)

As they approached what appeared to be the exit, a number of robed and masked figures leaped out at them, brandishing snakes from their sleeves. Pitched battle ensued, with The Dan plowing ahead and the rest of the fellowship killing off those he injured first. Gaping holes opened in the roof as the ownership of the temple shifted to the ones bearing the book, and the People of Dust fought back hard, even employing an area of attack snake-splosion. Still, the dwarves won free.

Conclusion.

They went to the tower by the coast and gave the strange man the grimore they liberated from the temple, and returned their guardian crystals. Then they boarded their boat and returned to the ship.

This was a Historical mission (it really happened) and everyone got 5 ledger except the Bearer of the Heart, Korvask, who got 6.

Caskbound: You Remind Me of the Babe

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[We played a “Strange Mission” game, without a GM. I was the Frame Master, who set the scene based on the random elements, and everybody got two words and a type of scene was generated when we started it. Out of game comments will be in brackets.]

[To set the scene, I had the words “safe haven” and “minefield” and generated the location as a secret pocket realm, and the objective to destroy secret clan lore in the hands of others.]

The fey princeling Sardine was visiting Whiskey Forge with his diplomatic entourage. The archon graciously put on a sports event for him. While watching, Sardine got bored, so he snagged the archon’s son (Rensen) and vanished. The archon was furious, but this sort of thing is a risk you take when you have diplomatic dealings with the fey. Sardine’s entourage was very apologetic and offered to open a gateway to the princeling’s favorite hideaway, so a group could go after the baby. No one of blood relation could go, so the archon chose a stalwart group.

Tancred (Shaun), The Dan (Simon), Onexia (Elizabeth), Gudrun (Iris), Piker (Mark), and Barteus (Andrew) were picked for the job. Steeling themselves, they marched through the fey diplomat portal. They found themselves on a pretty sand beach with bones here and there, under a gorgeous sky, the ocean at their backs and the jungle ahead.

Scene One: The Beach [Environment Hazard. Autonomous, Artifact. Mark]

As they started across the sand, it twirled into sinkholes with bone cages in them that rose up around the trespassers. The Dan and Onexia were accustomed to uneven floors as carousers, and Piker got lucky, so they weren’t caught up in the cages that swayed up on stalks like deadly cage flowers. Tancred, Gudrun, and Barteus had to break out of the bone cages and jump down to the sandy beach, or slide down if the trap was damaged and listed to the side. They evaded the rest of the forming traps, making it to the jungle eaves.

Scene Two: The Vine Door [Movement Hazard. Riddle, Rotten. Iris]

A path led to the jungle, but it kept splitting like a delta, and they risked losing their way. They came to a wall, and it had a doorway that was grown through with vines that wove into a barrier. When prodded, the vines set forth a glimmer of a riddle, but none of the dwarves could read it. The vines tightened when pestered, and there seemed to be a chasm underneath that was emptying of vines as the door was reinforced.

Losing patience with this fey trickery, the dwarves assaulted the portal, hacking through in an explosive flurry of violence, and dashing past it. As they did, the ground ruptured, because the door pulled at vines from the ground to reinforce itself, tearing apart the tunnel behind the door and the ground beneath them. Gudrun, Onexia, and Barteus made it across, while The Dan and Piker (who tied themselves together) both fell, along with Tancred, into a foul rotten goop far under the vine door. The party was split!

Scene Three A: Tunnel Panther [Hunting Monster. Warning, Cache. Elizabeth]

The Dan, Piker, and Tancred won free of the horrible muck, and followed a pathway up. When it split, they were attacked by a giant puma from one side; focusing their efforts, they blasted it down in the initial clash. They went to its lair and poked around, but didn’t find anything they wanted to keep (except from the puma corpse, where they harvested the tail to make a belt, the four big fangs, and some claws.) They found a ladder leading up.

Scene Three B: Rrrumblecats Ho! [Movement Hazard. Tapestry, Lurker. Simon]

Gudrun, Onexia, and Barteus came to a big hall, where Sardine taunted them by flaunting the baby, then teleporting out on a platform. Two huge panthers with whips coming out of their shoulders had runes branded on their sides matching runes on the platform (so it would only work if they were on it.) They attacked!

As the dwarves fought the vibrating cat-things, the injured one retreated to the platform and cloned itself. Still, the dwarves killed all three, and dragged the bodies onto the platform, and teleported–

Scene Four: Pain is an Illusion [Dealer’s Choice. Adventurers, Scorpion. Shaun]

Gudrun, Onexia, and Barteus teleported into an alcove by where The Dan, Piker, and Tancred were following the tunnel to a ladder. Reunited, they headed up the ladder–only to find progress was an illusion and they weren’t going up at all. So they headed down the corridor, and came to a side chamber where there were gleaming bones and such, and an opening high above. It was where corpses were dumped; they saw about 9 bodies, with some humans, maybe human children, at least 1 dwarf and elf, all jumbled together. The bones were picked clean, but no one had the urge to look for loot.

Continuing on, they found a big room, dark, with a spotlight on an altar in the center with a gleaming Clan Caskbound axe–a rune weapon! They took the axe, and heard skittering, so they ran. Checking the axe once they got away, they saw it was a rusted piece of junk. (Barteus kept it anyway.) Continuing on, they came back to the same room, and the axe was there again! They went to retrieve it again, but this time they were attacked by two massive scorpions with saw-tooth stabbing tails.

As they battered the scorpions, dismembered scorpion pieces broke down into smaller swarms, and they attacked those swarms. Gudrun got far enough back from the fray to realize the scorpions were an illusion, and they all came around to seeing it. They also saw Sardine laughing at them, hefting the baby on the far side of the room. He ran, and they pursued.

Scene Five: Time Space in a Knot [Movement Hazard. Sorcerer, Thorns. Andrew]

They came to a sphere, with pole-tops sort of big enough to stand on in a field that curved up the sides, defying physics. On a platform on the far side, Sardine, with a marimba where when he struck a note, one of the pillars gusted magic. They had to cross the room to get to him, and save the baby.

Piker tried firing his rifle, but the bullet curved around the weird physics of the room and nailed him instead. He picked himself up and tied himself to The Dan and Onexia, and together they tried leaping across.

Tancred, an engineer, could not accept the broken rules of gravity in the chamber. While he struggled to come to terms with what his eyes were telling him, Gudrun rushed out and didn’t get much closer to Sardine, avoiding his magical blasts. Piker, the Dan, and Onexia fell. Piker got stuck at the bottom, waking swarms of imps, but that left The Dan and Onexia hanging from an odd angle with the rope, able to take advantage of their strange position to get much closer to Sardine. They cut the rope to Piker and closed in, swinging each others’ weight on the rope, reaching the far side as the others were stranded or trapped in awkward situations.

When they reached the platform, they leaped out of a gem, to find themselves in a nice jungle gazebo. Sardine was pinging the teeth of a comb, looking into the gem where everyone else was, and the baby was off to the side being cared for by fey critters.

Onexia and The Dan insisted they won and it was time to give them the baby, and Sardine agreed. He dumped the rest of the dwarves out of the gem, and let them keep it as a souvineer. They got the baby, and he opened a portal back to Whiskey Forge; they had a chance to make themselves presentable, then they strode out with the baby and the gem in hand.

The Conclusion

The fey diplomats apologized once more, and headed out through the portal. The archon expressed his gratitude to the dwarves who saved his baby, and he received the gem from them as a gift. Then they were all generally happy that they wouldn’t have to host the fey princeling for at least another year… [and they all got 5 Ledger, and agreed that this version of the story was the truth as it really happened.]

Caskbound: Scouting the Gorecyst

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Sarbado, the general who assists the archon, called in Vecna, Gudrun, and Tancred. He told them that topsider agents in Brightstone were reporting that a human blood cult called the Summoners Argent was making noise about mounting an expedition to the Gorecyst. That was a corrupted corner of the Caskbound Pocket where Hellifino, a God of Ur, once battled a blood demon for weeks before vanquishing it. Where the battle unfolded, and the demon fell, the ground was corrupted and it became known as the Gorecyst.

The dwarves knew that a few decades ago a trio of medusa moved in, but they kept to themselves, so no one bothered to root them out. Also, the local wildlife was tainted with blood diseases and dangerous to visitors.

To the Cyst

The dwarves agreed to set out and investigate to see if all was well in the Gorecyst or if some further action was needed. They traveled for a few days, skirting the unhealthy center of the Pocket, and passed the settlement of followers of the Gods of Ur known as the Cysters of Mercy (mostly men.) They headed up to Tipsy Ridge, overlooking the Gorecyst, where a lone watch tower monitored the situation.

The lookout was an elderly dwarf who lived alone, with his liquorlizards and beetle pets. He insisted the sullen, unhealthy glow that suffused the plants and animals of the Gorecyst had changed its rhythm. They observed for a while from the tower, and resolved to get a closer look after they visited the Cysters of Mercy. When they visited the religious settlement, they heard stories of the ancient battle from the earnest believers, and they got a night’s rest before heading in.

After several hours they reached the Gorecyst. Its edges had been staked out with standing stones of warning, and the growths had continued 100 feet or so past the standing stones. As the dwarves approached, they saw one was covered in what looked like scabs. Upon closer inspection, the “scabs” turned out to be wings of blood moths, who tormented them briefly before Gudrun chopped them all out of the air with vicious axe sweeps. Where their blood fell, the mushrooms glowed.

Medusas

They headed in further, and were shot from ambush by a medusa. Averting their eyes as best they could while still fighting, they took her on. Gudrun was turned to stone, but the others survived the brutal fight more or less intact. They hefted their companion’s statue and returned to the Cysters of Mercy, who had an alchemist/healer expert with a vial of what was reputed to be the blood of a God of Ur, who managed to change Gudrun back to her fleshy self. After a few days for that process, they returned.

This time, they were attacked by both remaining medusas, and the following battle was savage. The first one fell quickly, but as they faced the other, Gudrun (already reeling from multiple snake bites) turned to stone, and Tancred struggled for victory only to be turned to stone also. The battle was down to Vecna and the badly injured medusa, and they raked at each other mercilessly–but the medusa survived long enough to turn Vecna to stone as well.

Whiskey Forge

The dwarves regained consciousness in Whiskey Forge, and found that when they did not return, the Cysters came out to look for them and retrieved the three statues (though the dead medusa were nowhere to be found, so a cure was difficult to manage.) They were shipped back to the clan home, where significant resources were bent to their recovery. Still, they did kill two of the three medusa, and they risked all for the clan, so Sarbado was grateful for their service.

He also told them that when the next expedition went to the Gorecyst, they would be considered veterans and likely sent along.