Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Session Twenty-Four: Darkness is Their Ally

Cloud Ray by Thomas Baxa
Note: For those unfamiliar with Dark Sun, psionics are called the Will for wild talents and the Way for trained psionicists.

Vashti shouted to the passing humans, asking what was wrong. Most of the humans ignored her, but one pointed up. As the group looked, the remaining rays of the sun were obscured. They saw a two hundred foot long creature floating through the sky. Shade shouted that it was a cloud ray.
Kalino and Julius ran back into the canyon they had just emerged from. Alaxander jogged after them, while deepening the shadows in the canyon with the way.
Vashti struggled to turn the wagon around and Shade fired some arrows at the gigantic ray. The arrows were stopped by the creatures natural telekinetic defenses. Spike barked, but couldn't reach anything so high. Jamil held his axe ready and questioned whether this was a fight they could win.

The cloud ray swooped toward them and bit the wagon and erdlu. The erdlu disappeared inside the creatures giant maw, along with their wagon, supplies, Jamil, and Vashti. The kanks broke free of their tethers and ran toward the safety of the canyon. As the creature bit down, Jamil threw Vashti out of the creatures mouth. Vashti fell to the ground, badly injured, but alive.
Shade ran into the canyon and Spike followed. Alaxander maintained the deepened shadows and encouraged everyone to hide along the canyon walls. Hearing the screams, a friendly face peeked out from a cave entrance. Some of the fleeing humans ducked inside, taking their chances with a unknown half-giant rather than a hungry cloud ray. Vashti rose and began staggering toward the canyon, while everyone shouted encouragement. The cloud ray swung its barbed tale at Vashti and impaled her through the back. Everyone thought she was going to die, but Vashti ripped herself off the barbs and fell to the ground once more.
The cloud ray moved away from the narrow canyon walls, but appeared to be coming about to make another pass. Vashti crawled into the safety of the canyon, then Kalino and Julius dragged her deeper into the shadows to hide. Recognizing his friends, Jessel moved toward Vashti, grabbed a handful of dirt and rubbed it into her wounds. They then retreated into the safety of Jessel's cave. The cloud ray moved on.
A simple cairn by Suzette
Healing spells were used on Vashti as she mourned for her hireling. They built a cairn for Jamil and sprinkled tiny drops of water upon it. Jessel spoke of Jamil returning to the earth in a confusing and haphazard way. Vashti spoke more eloquently about Jamil's service to water and how the water spirits would not forget his sacrifice. The other humans in the cave asked Jessel and Vashti if they could do the same for their dead and the elemental priests complied. A dozen cairns were built in all.
The humans said they were slaves, purchased in Tyr and taken into the wilderness by mercenaries. The humans had overheard the mercenaries talk about a tower in the scrub plains and how their lives would end there. The mercenaries were all eaten by the cloud ray and only a few of the slaves were able to escape. They planned on returning to Tyr, because they had nowhere else to go.

Day 8, Week 1, Sedulous, Friend's Vengeance, 190th King's Age, High Sun

The ex-slaves were ready to go, so Jessel gave them three goodberries. Vashti created water for them and her friends. Kalino gave them three bone daggers and Jessel used magic to shape a club of stone. Vashti gave them another bone dagger, a sliver piece, and directions to Serena's hut. They wished them well and the ex-slaves began navigating the rocky badlands back to Tyr.
Kalino and Alaxander found some water, but no one else had much luck. They ate what little food remained after the cloud ray attack and set out onto the scrub plain once more. The walked through plain, avoiding the thorny bushes. When they were just about to settle down for high sun, Jessel told them to stop. Shade saw why and told the group that he could see a tower in the distance and Jessel confirmed it. Shade determined that the tower was where the map was leading them.
Vashti helped them hold their cloaks and blankets in a way that blocked the sun during the hottest part of the day. While they waited, they discussed what it was they should do. Many suggestions were made, but they decided to wait for dusk and send Shade to scout the tower. They rested.
When night was quickly approaching, Shade sneaked away and moved in an arc, so he could approach the tower with the setting sun at his back. Alaxander used the way to silence Shade's footfalls and deepened the shadows around him. When Shade got close to the tower, he could see a couple of guards patrolling the ramparts of the forty foot fortification. In addition, he could see that the tower was old, with newer sections of repair. The tower had crenelations and machicolations.
He used the will to heighten his senses. He could see through one of the arrowslits and see two men eating inside on the bottom floor. He could hear them talk between chews. They were cautious about someone called the master and how angry he was about the loss of their slaves. They did not care for the isolation of their employment, but the pay was good, so they tolerated it.
Shade watched the guards atop the tower and could see that they moved in a predictable pattern. When the time was right, he dashed forward and hid in the darkness of the keep. He pressed himself against the wall and inched along to the north. When the guards would pass overhead, he would stop and hold perfectly still. Then, when they passed, he would continue forward. He was maintaining his heightened senses and could still hear the men eating and talking. He also smelled and heard a dog panting in the hall with the two men.
He creeped passed the hall and peeked into another rooms arrowslits. He could smell cooking farro gruel, the sweat of the cook, and death. With his enhanced vision, he saw the cook grumbling and two skeletons guarding him.
Shade then moved toward the edge of the building. He could hear some men having a conversation on the east side of the tower. He knew they were standing still, because they were not making noise by walking. They too were complaining about their employer being angry and warned each other to steer clear or get cooked by a fireball.
Sneaking back around to the west and then south side, he found a small barracks inside the tower. He could hear the sounds of two men and a dog snoring. He decided to return and report. Moving back to the west, Alaxander's mental energy was depleted and Shade was suddenly making noise once more. He stepped on some dry brush and the guards atop the tower looked in his direction.
The guards could not see clearly in the dark, so one them left to tell the others. Shade held still, afraid to give himself away by moving. After a few minutes, two guards came into view carrying torches. With his enhanced vision, Shade saw the guard on the tower glance toward the torches. When the guard glanced, Shade dashed silently forward and hid once more.
The guards with torches searched the area thoroughly where Shade had been. After ten minutes, or so, they gave up and returned to the tower. Once they were completely gone, Shade slowly and quietly crept away.

Day 9, Week 1, Sedulous, Friend's Vengeance, 190th King's Age, High Sun

Shade returned to the group's campsite. Everyone was glad to see him. They had seen the torch light, but trusted Shade's ability to escape. They were glad that they were right. Shade reported what he had seen and heard.
They decided to wait until the next night, as all the guards they had seen were human and could not see in the dark. In addition, Shade and Alaxander needed to replenish their mental strength for using the way. They had just enough water and food for one more day, so the group agreed to wait.
They slept during the day and kept watch.
The group awoke a few hours before sunset and prepared themselves to assault the tower. They agreed to move toward the east side of the tower and then approach the tower itself. Kalino had slave tattoos, so he would pretend to be a slave that had escaped. He would distract the guards, while Shade and Alaxander moved toward the tower into ambush positions.
Alaxander would use telekinesis to deposit handfuls of dirt onto the ramparts and Jessel would summon a lesser earth elemental to fight the guards on the top of the tower, then Shade would backstab one of the guards on the ground. Everyone thought they had a good plan.
It took some time to approach the tower under the cover of darkness. Kalino undressed down to a loincloth and his tattered canvas cloak. He hid a bone dagger in the small of his back, as well as one of his belt pouches. He slapped himself on his face lightly, to cause some reddening and make himself look more haggard. Jessel realized what he was doing and slapped him hard. Once Kalino's vision cleared, he staggered forward.
Kalino begged the guards for help and said he barely escaped the cloud ray alive. The guards on top of the tower aimed their short bows at Kalino and the two other guards lowered their stone tipped spears.
"You're lying!" One of the guards on the ground accused Kalino. "You're no slave, at least not anymore. Look at you, you don't carry yourself like a slave. And your tattoos are gladiator tattoos, we don't by gladiators!"
Kalino froze and yelled behind him, "Well, that failed, do we have a plan B?"
The guards on the tower fired arrows at Kalino, but missed. Alaxander teleported to the tower's ramparts and dropped the dirt. Vashti and Julius waited. Shade fired arrows at the guards on the tower. Kalino looked at the accusing guard and told him that he was out numbered and he should run. The guard ran away, while the other cut Kalino on his upper arm. Jessel called upon the power of his elemental lord and a four foot tall elemental rose from the dirt on the merlon.
The guards on top of the tower dropped their bows, drew their stone shortswords, and attacked the elemental. Their blows were ineffective. Alaxander tried to attack the guards with his bone club, but missed. Shade shot at the guard attacking Kalino, but missed twice. Spike ran up to attack the guard and bit at his shin. Kalino tried to stab the guard, but missed. Jessel charged forward and slammed the guard into the wall. The guard collapsed to the ground in a heap. Julius and Vashti jogged up to the tower.
The guards on top of the tower were still fighting with the elemental and were losing the fight. Vashti walked forward and used the way to quickly decay the wooden door of the keep. Shade and spike were the first inside and saw six skeletons. They attacked the closest one. Jessel dropped Kalino's things and Kalino began to gather his items. Jessel went inside and attacked one of the skeletons as well. Alaxander used the way to become insubstantial and float downward, through the tower. He saw slaves in cages on the top floor. Julius walked up to the tower.
Vashti walked into the room with the skeletons and commanded the skeletons to flee from the purity of her element. The skeletons did as they were commanded and fled from Vashti. A few went into the hall, one went upstairs, but the other two were trapped in the corners of the room. Jessel went inside, he was about to attack one of the helpless skeletons, but got a prompting from the elemental spirits of earth to go downstairs. He heeded his element.
Downstairs, Jessel saw a set of concentric circles that made up a large dais. Each circle was covered in runes and on the third circle were stone pillars. Each of the pillars had a human slave tied to it. They were bleeding from wounds in their necks and the blood fell upon the runes below them. There was an old human with a long beard standing near the dais, he was drawing energy from some of the scrub plain plants that had been transported inside. The plants were slowly turning to ash. The man yelled that he had ordered that he was not to be disturbed.
Jessel was enraged at seeing the defiler and threw a rock at him. The rock struck the defiler in the head, disrupting his spell, and opening a bleeding wound in his forehead. Kalino was the next one down the stairs and was also furious. In his anger, he failed to conceal the gathering of energy from the plants. Jessel was confused, however, when he saw some of the energy return. Kalino yelled and magic bolts of energy flew from his hand and struck the defiler, wounding him badly.
"Everything I know, I learned from dogs." - Nora Roberts
Shade and Spike ran down the stairs and Shade fired an arrow at the defiler. Julius arrived and detonated the ground near the defiler. Vashti came down and ran to untie one of the prisoners. As she stepped onto the dais, she vanished with an audible bamf. Alaxander floated into the room over the dais. As soon as Alaxanders head cleared the roof, he vanished with an audible bamf as well. The defiler turned to attack the group, but Spike knocked the defiler over and ripped at his throat with his teeth.
Alaxander and Vashti found themselves in an area with no light. Alaxander called out and Vashti answered. Alaxander used his iron spear tip to create sparks on the ground. He then used the way to amplify the brief light source. In a flash, he saw that they were in a dark cave, with a tunnel extending outward, and they were standing on a similar dais that they vanished from.
Jessel called out that everyone should follow their friends onto the dais and ran onto it himself. He vanished. Everyone else followed and vanished as well.
They called out to each other in the darkness. Julius used the way to light a torch. Everyone was confused, but they decided to follow the tunnel. The dust was thick and the air was stale. Cobwebs were clinging to every surface.
Soon, they saw large nine foot statues. The statues were of strange creatures, some brutish looking and some noble looking. They were generally dressed in furs and carried clubs or spears. Some had small horns, but most did not. They all had wide mouths and large noses. The group was very confused, because they had never seen any creatures matching the statues.
They saw some branching halls, but they were collapsed. Soon, they began seeing fragments of bone. Vashti delicately touched one and used the way to discover information about its owner. She found out it was from a male, mid-twenties, and was of a creature, like the statues, she did not recognize. The moved on and the bone fragments became more and more common.
Finally, they came to a large round stone door. The door was constructed of concentric rings and also has runes on it. Shade went to investigate and, without touching the door, determined that it was not trapped. Jessel started questioning whether the door lifted or rolled to the left or right. No one could tell, so Jessel grabbed the door to try and move it.
As he touched the stone door, the runes on it started to glow. The rings became flush with the door and the door rolled to the left. Inside was a pedestal with a glowing green gem atop it. The walls of the round room were lined with stone shelves covered in dust.
They went inside and examined the gem. Shade again looked at it without touching and assured the group that it was not trapped. Jessel tried to talk to, but it didn't talk back. They stared at each other for a few minutes, but it was Alaxander who reached out and took it in his hand. The gem flashed brightly and the room appeared as it may have at one time. The shelves were lined with books and there were strange creatures in the room, although they were all translucent green.
One of the strange creatures spoke in the language of the listener. So, Vashti heard in Nibnese, Jessel and Kalino in Tyrian, and Julius and Alaxander in Balican.
Ogre-looking Maurice Tillet
"This will likely be the last message from my doomed race. We have retreated to this, the last of our ancient fortresses. And even now the Ogre Doom is unrelentingly at our door step. Let it be known that we Ogres did nothing to bring this devastation upon us. We are a peaceful people, but the Warbringer sent out his champions and he demands our blood."
"The Ogre Doom is powerful and wields mighty magics that not only destroy us, but the surrounding lands. I have crafted this gem as a tool to defeat the Ogre Doom, but I don't know if it will be enough. I hope that history remembers us well. This gem-"
An explosion rings out in the vision and the gathered ogres began to burn from magic fire. Human soldiers enter, stabbing any charred remains that twitch. They part and allow and a short man to pass them. He was old, and nearly bald. The characters gasped as they saw him, for they knew him due to the trappings of his city.
It was the Tyrant of Tyr himself, King Kalak.

Join us in two months for another exciting session of Adventures Under the Dark Sun. (Sorry about the extended time between sessions, but I'm going on a work trip.)

2nd edition AD&D Dark Sun Cast of Player Characters and other Major Characters
Julius: Human male psychokinetic. 22 years old. Played by Dave. Speaks Balican, Tyrian, and Giant.
Alaxander: Human male psychokinetic. 17 years old. Played by Ben. Speaks Balican, Tyrian, and Elf.
Vashti: Human female clairsentient/water cleric. 20 years old. Played by my wife. Speaks Nibnese, Gith, and Balican.
Shade: Half-Elf male ranger/thief, 18 years old. Played by Chad. Speaks Elf and Tyrian.
Kalino: Human male fighter/preserver. 20 years old. Played by DM. Speaks Rammin, Tyrian, and Balican.
Jamil: Human fighter,  24 years old. NPC hireling. Speaks Gulgish and Nibnese.
Special Guest Star: Jessel: Half-Giant male earth cleric. 30 years old. Played by Nate. Speaks Giant and Tyrian. 

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