Monday, June 1, 2015

The Third Party: Sessions 28 & 29 (GMs notes)

Due to large amounts of downtime covered by Session 27, the last two games consisted of backfilling some of the activities of various party members during that time, rather than kicking the pig to actually advance the plotline.

Thus consider this to really be Session 27.5.


25 Eliasias

As the rest of the party dealt with the Bishop and the Council, Ash and Melastasya caught a boat back to Hillsfar and made their way to the ruins of Myth Drannor, Ash having expressed a desire to see the results of his manipulations of the Mythal via the Pool. They arrived to find the city in pristine condition, the streets were clean, the buildings whole. In fact, the only thing that seemed different from the city's founding was the absence of elves, and the presence of swarms of infant orcs crawling around and the dragon, Garnetallisar, perched on the top of the Coronal's Tower.

Ash followed the confusing jumble of memories (his own, those passed down by his grandfather, and those stored in his kiira) and led the way towards the building that once housed the "Guild of Naturalists" (which was also home to one of the largest libraries in the city). They stepped into the main hall to find it empty, save for the two wood-paneled kiosks which would have greeted visitors so many centuries before, and the great winding double-stairs that lead into the lower halls of the guild.

Mel carefully examined the kiosks, sure that the elves must have had something of value. After poking and prodding and examining with her strange multi-planar vision, she became convinced that the emptiness of the place must be an illusion. Finally, on one kiosk, she found a secret panel which opened to reveal a half-dozen tiny, plump, grey-skinned, winged creatures with masses of sharp teeth. She shooed them out of the building, taking a couple of minor bites as she did. Ash, watching from the side, saw only that Melastasya tore several pieces of wooden planking from the kiosk and threw them out the door, taking a couple of scratches in the process.

Heading down, Ash, at Mel's prodding, tried to focus on memories of where the naturalists would have kept their most precious valuables. The two quickly descended to the third level down, and, down a hallway, found a door that opened into a vast cavern. Faint light filtered into the room through a long, narrow slit running the entire length of the ceiling, revealing numerous cages of all types and sizes, from small enough for a single mouse to as large as a good-sized house, each whole and pristine and empty.

Ash send Zorch up to investigate the light from the crack in the ceiling. By Zorch's light, the could make out lettering covering the ceiling. Zorch zoomed back down and, using the concave side of a mithril shield as a reflector, illumined the entire ceiling to allow Ash to read the markings, which ammounted to a knock spell on steroids, clearly meant to allow the entire ceiling to open as a single great door, large enough for a dragon (Garnet?) to pass through.

After this discovery, Ash wandered the aisles of cages looking around curiously before his grandfather's memories caused him to pause in front of one, rather small cage, which was immediately adjacent to the largest. The small cage radiated incredible amounts of abjurative and warding magic. The cage was, of course, the one in which The Mog had been imprisoned for so long. Mel picked up the magical cat carrier and stowed it among her belongings, with many reassurances spoken loudly to the empty air that they in no way intended to use it against against Mog.

They looked around some more, walking the length of the great chamber. Mel got close to each cage, peering into the gloom to see if any of them might still contain some valuable creature. As she pressed her face up to the front of one particularly large cage, a long ropy tendril, complete with a fang-filled maw, snaked out from the shadows in the back and bit into her shoulder, grabbing and pinning her against the bars. Within she could see a fleshy mass, with numerous tentacles, eyestalks, and a single, large, vertically slit mouth. Mel shadow-stepped away from the cage and Ash sent Zorch over to shed some light on things, but could see nothing.

Mel described what she had seen to Ash, who said that it sounded like on of the breeders used by the Guild of Naturalists to replicate the creatures they brought in to study. Ash explained that the breeders, which he suspected were created by the Guild from beholder-stock, could almost instantly give birth to near-identical copies of any creature fed to them. Curious, Mel dashed up the stairs and came running back with one of the grey winged things, which she found sitting dejectedly on the steps outside the guildhall from which she'd ejected it (though it still looked like nothing more than a broken bit of board to Ash).

Mel tossed the tiny creature into the back of the cage and watched as the breeder devoured it. Minutes later the great mouth split open and a new gremlin popped out. Ash and Zorch, strangely, saw the board vanish and the gremlin appear in its place, though they could see none of the creature that spawned it. Not long after there were two gremlins, then three, then four. Ash explained that breeders could supposedly produce any number of spawn, so long as fed a continuous supply of organic matter, so Mel immediately bribed the gremlins with food and sent the out to collect tree branches and other things to feed the ravenous breeder so that it could make even more of the tiny creatures.

Ash and Mel left the gremlins to their work and wandered off, now looking for the library. In the fifth sub-basement they found the massive room, with shelves and stacks from floor to ceiling, looking just as it had when first build, but completely devoid of books. Annoyed at the lack of the knowledge they sought, they wandered through the library for hours, looking in every last nook and cranny until they finally found a single book, resting on the bottom shelf of a back corner of the farthest wing of the library. Ash, of course, opened it immediately. And vanished.

Mel let her enlightened gaze unfocus enough to see Ash slipping into the maw of some massive, monstrous creature, with vast jaws and a single glaring eye, apparently on the ethereal plane. Remembering that Ash had mentioned concocting a potion of etherealness, Mel tore-open Ash's dropped pack, grabbed the potion, and leaped into the Ethereal after her companion.

She got the drop on the book-monster, hacking at it repeatedly with the silvered edges of the wicked sisters (one held in her single hand and the other gripped in her mouth). The thing snapped its head around, focusing its one, baleful eye on Mel, causing all of her magical items to cease their functioning. It then swatted her with one mighty claw, sending her hurtling through the gray mists of the strange plane to land hundreds of yards away.

Wincing at the blow, Mel hid as best she could and sniped at the beast from range with the bow longshot. Unfortunately the creature was both very fast and very alert, easily spotting Mel and closing the distance rapidly. The creature pinned her with one claw, then proceeded to sever her remaining arm with a snap of its jaws.

Zorch, meanwhile, looked at the strange book, which now showed a depiction of Ash on the page to which it was opened. Wondering if the book were somehow a magical device tied to the creature, he cast remove curse over its pages. Ash was immediately freed from the book, but in the form of a two-dimensional paper doll. Ash attempted to blast the ethereal beast with a barrage of magic missiles, but the magic-warping effects of Myth Drannor's Mythal resulted in him instead sporting a fine, thick beard of bird-feathers, which puffed out from his paper form much like fluff glued onto a child's school craft.

Mel shadow-stepped away from the ethereal beast and hid again. Using her feat and mouth, she managed to draw the bow and continue firing, teleporting away whenever it closed the distance again. This time, the thing did not see her when she hid, and one well-placed shot finally brought the colossal monster low.

She cut out the creature's magic-canceling eye, to add to the party's collection, and returned to the material plane where she found Zorch and 2D-Ash hacking at the book with flaming swords, to no avail. Witnessing its apparent immunity to fire and blades, Ash finally identified the monstrous writing as a palimpsest (both the creature and a work from which the original text had been scraped), learning that he might be returned to his natural form by liberal application of electricity.

Mel, unarmed and much in need of rest and healing, wandered out into the streets and laid down to sleep on a bed of Blue Moss, which Ash promised could regrow her missing tissues. Ash, meanwhile, quit Myth Drannor, both to escape the Mythal and to put distance between himself and Mel's lightning-rod-like nature. With the, not unpainful, self-application of a few lightning bolts, he was able to restore himself to his proper form.

26 Eliasias

Ash and Mel reunited the next morning, Mel having miraculously regrown both of her original arms, and headed towards Ash's family estate, in hopes that the Ellindir library might be intact. They found the estate, like the rest of the city, just as it had been at the elven capital's height. Ash spoke a word and the gates swung open, with an audible hum of magical wards being disabled. Another word caused the army of skeletal undead standing in the courtyard to snap to attention and step aside, giving them a direct path to the front doors of the house. So they continued, with Ash using the watchwords of his family to disable trap after trap and keep the numerous undead guardians at bay.

Within the house they found nothing, save for the guardians, animated by contingencies from the bodies of those slain by the numerous wards covering the place. Everything was clean and pristine, but all of the furniture, art, and valuables were gone, save for a single table in the dining room, to large to be easily moved out through the door.

They searched room after room, finding nothing and growing ever more frustrated. Finally Ash stopped and opened his mind to his grandfather's memories, searching for some secret as to where the Ellindir family treasures might have been stashed in the wake of the city's fall. In his trance-like state, he made his way up and laid his kiira directly in the center of the flat roof. Bright red light swept out from the lore-gem, forming a great disk on which he and Mel stood.

When their eyes adjusted to the crimson brightness, they found themselves standing in an empty void, with nothing in any direction save the red disk. Fire suddenly appeared all around, only to be swept away by a mighty wind. Then a great wave rose up from no where to crash over them. The waters did not touch them, but left them in a dark cave of loose, brown dirt. This crumbled away and they were back within the void, but now arrows rained from the black sky through which turtles appeared to swim. And thus, they knew they were in the Everchanging Chaos of Limbo.

Mel took immediate advantage of the strange space, imagining herself surrounded by riches. The arrows raining from the sky turned into bags of coins, which exploded on impact, literally showering the two companions with riches. Another stray thought from Mel and the coins lying on the ground became bunches of grapes, and buxom serving girls clawed their way through the disk on which they still stood, fighting each other to gather up the grapes and hand feed them to Melastasya, where they turned to writhing maggots in her mouth.

Ash, meanwhile, focused on the Kiira at his feet and his own muddled memories, thinking of where his grandfather might have hidden the family treasures in this strange place. Immediately a great boulder began drifting out of the void, floating erratically like a piece of driftwood, but maintaining a trajectory more or less directly towards Ash's head.

Ash ducked at the last minute to avoid being struck by the great stone, which landed at his feet and cracked open to reveal a beautiful geode with a single, cylindrical rod of amethyst sticking up from its center. Ash took the rod and immediately a door appeared in front of him, complete with a great lock with a hole exactly the right size for the rod. He inserted the rod and the door opened into a small, stone chamber, much like a mausoleum, but stacked high with books.

Mel quickly stepped into the library with Ash, spitting bugs from her mouth and dodging the frogs that were raining down around them. Ash looked around at the collected lore of his forebears and wished that he might find an index to all of it. Immediately the rod in his hand changed shape, becoming a beautiful amethyst-bladed sword which somehow put all of the collective knowledge of the place at his fingertips, with no need to crack open any of the tomes.

Ash realized that this was his family's house-blade, a lesser cousin of the elfblades wielded by the rulers of Myth Drannor, and a much greater form of the kiira that elves used to store the memories of their long lives. The sword showed him the end of Myth Drannor and the events that lead to it: His family's dislike of non-elves and refusal to accept the opening of the capitals borders to humans and their ilk, and the long rivalry with the Coronals that resulted from it. His grandfather's participation in the creation of the Mythal, and his installation of a back door that would prevent extraplanar creatures from being controlled by their summoners. His grandfather opening Mog's cage, and the cat calling the Trio Nefarious into the city. So, he realized, his grandfather's betrayal of Myth Drannor was not only true, but had begun long before the Army of Darkness arrived in his opposition to the opening and the very ideals that the City of Love stood for.

Mel, meanwhile, looked around the place for anything of value that she might easily take with her. She found a small, blue gem lying in a corner of the structure and managed to palm it. As Ash and Mel turned to leave, they saw that the frogs that had rained from the sky as they entered had grown into large bipedal frog-things, Slaadi. The three closest ones, one red, one green, and one blue, growled ominously and approached them.

Mel jumped in front of Ash, landing several punches on the slaad. The red raked at her mid-section with its claws, but stopped just short, gently caressing her stomach instead. The green lunged for her face with its fangs, but ended with a gentle kiss. The blue spread its arms wide to grapple her, but instead wrapped her in a loving embrace and whispered something akin to "mama". Disturbed, Ash ran for the kiira and picked it up, causing the entire tableau to vanish, leaving Ash, Mel, and the blue slaad standing on the roof of the Ellindir House.

The slaad took a step back from Mel and began groveling at her feet, swaying in time with the faint pulsing of the blue gem in her hand. Mel showed the gem to Ash and he identified it as a "control gem" -- literally the brain of a slaad that gave whoever held it control over the slaad from which it was taken. This gave Mel an idea, and she dashed back to the Guild of Naturalists, slaad in tow, and promptly fed the blue creature to the breeder. She left some snacks for the gremlins and instructions to keep the breeder well-fed, then she and Ash left before the place could be overrun with Slaadi.

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24 Eleint

Melastasya, Ash, Damascena, and Kevorkian sat at a small table, enjoying the sun, the breeze, and, judging by the many empty bottles in front of them, the wine. The air was filled with the buzz of the auctioneer's voice, as Bishop Braccio unloaded the deeds to several churches into the willing hands of the wealthy patrons of the Moonsea. The winery where today's auction was being held was just one of many in the area around Mulmaster owned by the Mondaviak family.

Mel called for another bottle of Mondaviak's finest and continued her account of her and Ash's brief excursion to Myth Drannor. Kevorkian, once again invisible to all save Mel and the handful of new lawn ornaments surrounding them, then recounted his misadventures with attempting to purchase a unicorn from a merchant in Melvaunt.

Eventually the discussion turned back to Myth Drannor and the discoveries that Ash had made about his grandfather's and Mog's involvement in the city's downfall. As if on queue, the cat himself, in bipedal form and dressed to the nines, slipped out of the crowd of auction attendees and made his way up the hill towards them. He chatted with them a bit, explaining that he was there as a buyer and had already purchased a few nice temples, but not really adding anything to the conversation at hand. Mel, for her part, dove right into her usual mercantile manner, offering to commission several statues of Mog to be erected in his new temples.

Unwilling to content themselves with the beautiful day, the fine wine, or the pleasant company (ok maybe that one is pushing things a bit too far), Dame suggested that she could really use a new cloak or maybe a tail, either of which clearly needed to be made from something large and dangerous. Kevorkian obliged by casting locate creature for the nearest chromatic dragon. Despite the limited (1000 foot) range of the spell and the inability of the spell to pierce disguises or shapechanging, he did, in fact, locate one. Just down the hill. In the crowd of buyers.

Following the invisible cleric's direction, Mel and Ash wandered down into the crowd and found a small white dragon perched on the shoulder of a well-dressed, dark-haired, goateed high-roller. The man brushed off Mel's initial attempts to engage him, then finally introduced himself as Manshoon of Zhentil Keep. Mel and Manshoon made their way out of the crowd, withdrawing up the hill to talk.

The two had a fairly equitable exchange of information. The party learned that the Zhentarim had been actively backing the council in New Phlan and also the temple of Xvim in Old Phlan and still had a substantial investment of resources and capital in the city. Conversely, the information Mel gave him about the current state of Hillsfar, Myth Drannor, and Phlan seemed likely to kickstart new expansion in the region on the part of Zhentil Keep's forces.

Finally Ash, apparently having lost patience with the talk of business and politics, cast a spell to dispel any shapechanging that might be in place on the man and his tiny dragon. Sure enough, the dragon instantly expanded to full wyrm size, nearly two hundred feet long from nose to tail. Seeing the great dragon, the auction-attendees quickly broke into a panic and fled, emptying the surrounding area.

The man, suddenly pinned beneath the massive dragon's claw, told him to have fun and suggested that he would get into touch with Mel to talk further, then promptly vanished. Dame and Kevorkian did likewise, the former ducking behind some grape vines and the latter covering himself with a sanctuary.

Mel, of course, jumped right in, stabbing the dragon several times with her sword. In retaliation, the dragon flew eighty-feet strait up with a single beat of its wings, knocking Mel down, then opened its maw to douse her with a stream of boiling-hot water. Mel took the full force of the blast, then promptly hid herself as Kevorkian rushed to her aid.

Zorch began ringing his bells as Ash attempted to transmogrify the dragon with Yarash's Spoon, once and again, to no avail. Dame called forth an ice storm, which, while it did not significantly harm the dragon, served to push it downwards to within range for Mel's ability to step through shadows.

The dragon again breathed at Mel, this time unleashing a high-powered blast of sand and grit, which tore through the grape arbors, beating them down and flaying the skin from Melastasya. As it breathed, Dame and Ash noticed a ring of differently-coloured scales circling the base of the dragon's neck, one of which blurred back to white as the breath discharged.

Kevorkian quickly healed Mel again and she leaped into the air, propelling herself through the dragon's own shadow until she was clinging to its underside, stabbing it again and again. The dragon lashed at her with its claws and tail, but failed to dislodge her. At a word from Ash, Mel turned on her electricity-absorbing armorand then pressed herself tight against the dragon.

With a massive clap of thunder, Ash unleashed a storm of lightning, seven bolts in rapid succession arced through the dragon, bending and twisting to make their way to Melastasya. The beast roared and twitched as the energy tore through it. Finally the power pouring into Mel's armor overloaded it, causing a sudden, secondary discharge as the pent-up power exploded back out from the armor, only to arc back by Mel's strange attraction.

The dragon clawed at Mel and beat its wings to try to escape the electrical fury, but the arcing lightning touched off a gem from Zorch's bell of blasting that was still on the dragon's back. With one final burst of flame, the beast roared its last and began falling towards the ground, only to be arrested by a feather fall spell from Ash. A light gust from Dame blew it away from the party, to crash-land on one of the vinyard's barns, crushing it to rubble.

The party regrouped (and healed Mel yet again), then wandered over to look at the dragon they had defeated. Kevorkian examined the scales around its neck and declared that the dragon's fundamentum, the organ that grants the beast it's breath weapon, had somehow been infected with primordial chaos, much like the party had seen when Mel infected things with slaad eggs.

After a few minutes of quiet, the vintner who ran the place came out of one of the , and seeing the dead dragon lying on top of his former-barn and the sand-blasted vines, began weeping. Dame used plant growth to bless his crops and restore them to greater than their former yield, which prompted an anticipated and appropriate level of worship of the beings who could wield such power (mostly Dame and Ash).

After some musing of all the things they could make out of the corpse of so large a dragon (not to mention potentially harvestable body-parts), the party decided to take the whole dragon with them (though whether to Sorrassar or Yarash, they could not decide). Dame cast wind walk, turning the entire party and the entire dragon to clouds and blew them north. The party and their prize settled down in a clearing in the Quivering Woods, not far from Yarash's island, right next to an old forge.

To be continued...