Campaign of the Month: September 2016

Age of Serpents

Rolling Snake Eyes

Oh, ‘tis a mere nothing! A snake! A snake! The commonest thing in the world. A snake in the bosom – that’s all…

When last we left our dauntless Castaways, they had breached the scriptorium of Zura’s sanguine sanctorum and were about to get a massive learn on!

Then from out of nowhere, or rather, a priceless ten millennia-old porcelain amphora, burst a black blur of claws, fur, and bloodlust – wrapped in a dusty green cloak.

Tyst!

Half the Battle

Fortunately, Kor’lec already sensed something in the library of cuneiform slabs was amiss and had readied his shield against the frenzied lycanthrope. Unfortunately, the beast-halfling’s claws were not quite half-sized and bit deep into the druid’s leathers. Kishtari, certain the lycanthropic assassin was responsible for Nemanji’s disappearance, had that hazy glow and focus she often showed right before making some attacker’s remains impossible to identify.


This is going to hurt

“Big Sister! No!” Likki was tugging on the psion’s hand. “He not in charge of head!”

" Ieana’s got him," Monica confirmed. Kish finally saw it too, and didn’t relax so much as shift her concentration to something slightly less annihilative.

“What do we do in the meantime? Ack!” wondered Kor’lec aloud, somehow holding Tyst off with a shield that – despite being made of a wood as hard as granite – was halfway to a heap of densewood shavings. Kai was barely restraining her instinct to defend her master.

Likki said an Abyssal prayer to Mechuiti and called upon the cannibal god to abjure the halfling’s mind of evil influences. The goblin bounded like a mullered monkey over to the blur of fangs and claws and put out his glowing hand. Though the effect, oddly enough, was granted, it failed to release Tyst from Ieana’s mental enslavement.

“Stand back Little Brother,” was Kishtari’s only warning.

Tyst… just stopped. Kishtari had mastered the telepathic processes to free dominated minds. It would not be the first time she’d need this rare and delicate ability. And not for the first time, Tyst was unclear about where he was and what he was doing. It had gotten old. One thing was clear to the were-beast, though. He was on the hunt, now. Ieana and snakes like her were going to know their place on the food chain.

Gazing into the Abyss

Tyst explained that he’d had little recollection of what had happened to him since he and Nemanji got separated in the chaos of battle against the fungoid hordes of (formerly) Grey Island. The halfling admitted he was deep in the senseless frenzy that marked his animal side. Kishtari believed that if she were allowed to telepathically plumb the depths of the green-cloaked halfling’s mind, she might glean some insight into the whereabouts of their missing friend.

Tyst, earnest to a fault when in halfling form, readily agreed.

Kishtari confirmed the ninja’s recollection of events on Grey Island, and the psion struggled to maintain contact after the point in the mental narrative where the rage took hold of him. But Kish rode the (proverbial) tiger – and the (literal) badger – through the stocky carnivore’s rampage.

What could this bitch want?

He was a growling cyclone of claws that ran riot through the fungoid ranks, flinging out heads and innards as he went. Finally, just as Tyst began to tire, the grey islet’s landscape seemed to melt around him like a watercolor painting left out in the rain.

The halfling’s mindscape shifted, transporting Kishtari to a northern forest lit by moonlight. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, the psion noted the details of the scene suggested horrific aspects. Bark patterns resembled trembling, stitched together flesh, light through the treetops cast perverse shadowplays at her feet, the moon itself was agonized face…

Finally, the kalashtar reached a clearing where Tyst was crouched, naked, prostrate. Standing over him was a tall, pallid woman, with flowing black hair. Closer Kish looked, and the hunger-stretched skin of the woman was actually a down of white fur, and her hands ended in claws. As she turned to face the psion, the woman growled, “this one is …. MINE!” and her face contorted into a slavering wolf’s!

Amid a chorus of howls, Kish fled, only to find herself behind the eyes of the halfling again, this time in ratel form, ambling along the Thrunefang paths. He encountered Ieana. “Oh, what a fortunate find you are, beastie!” spoke the serpent woman, before she ensnared the lycanthrope’s mind…

When Kishtari ended the effect, subsequent discussion touched little on Ieana’s enslavement. They all figured it had happened as Tyst remembered. But the presence of the wolf-woman was more troublesome. The realm described was not unlike the Moonbog, the Abyssal realm of Jezelda, Demon Lord of Werewolves. What the entity wanted from Tyst was a mystery, though Dornas suspected her presence was simply a construct of Ieana’s.

Zura’s Challenges

Kor’lec, Kai, and Tyst together made a formidable tracking team, and it would be effortless to hunt down Ieana’s general locale in the darkened temple. As interesting as the Azlanti incantations and images were on the walls, it was to the opposite wing of the edifice toward their query. It was difficult to tear Monica away from the scriptorium, though, and the archaeologist argued that there might be clues as to what challenges they could expect to find while making their way to the inner temple.

The Taldan polymath would be proven correct about the challenges, but the party vote was to make haste, anyway.

The first obstacle, the Test of Presence, was a series of hidden pits in a hallway. Animated paintings depicting the Queen of Vampires were hung on the wall. As the ikons reacted realistically and disturbingly to the observer, it would have been easy to absently walk onto the hinged trapdoors and fall into the thirty foot deep pits. However, Kor’lec was cautiously keeping an eye out for traps, and managed to detect each of them before anyone blundered to their death. Monica skillfully affixed the trapdoors shut. Tyst, in anthro form, ripped down and shredded one of the paintings with his claws, just to see the ikon within it recoil.

The next challenge, the Test of Prowess, appeared to have been defeated by Ieana, but it took its toll in blood. A knife-bearing marble statue of Zura was lying on the floor of an intersection, in a position suggesting it had come to life at some point and was defeated, but only barely. The serpent-woman’s blood was spattered about the scene. “It will be better for us if she’s still wounded,” Kish remarked.

The last trial would await in the chamber containing the blood-filled bath that Naga had discovered earlier. The Test of Penitence activated as soon as Kor’lec entered the room, and he tried to keep everyone back. An all-too-curious and excited Monica forced her way inside while the trap detected by the keen-eyed druid activated. Razor-sharp scythe blades arched out of grooves in the ceiling amid a cacophony of screeching machinery. The archaeologist dove to the pillars surrounding the bath, and in a split second determined the switch upon it would stop the blades.

She was right. The room was safe, and only the inner cathedral of Zura, and their long-elusive prey, awaited the Castaways. They prepared themselves for battle with protective magic, and went over the various ideas and plans they’d made over the past few nights. Though Dornas was insistent they get the serpentrix talking about her true objectives, they all agreed to act before their abjuration magics died out. There was a grim certainty among the Castaways that Ieana would not leave the room alive. They’d bled and sweated and hardened themselves for justice, answers, and vengeance.

It was time. Destroy Ieana, or die trying.

But First, These Messages

The enormous vaulted chamber was a fitting shrine to the vampiric demon lord. Pillars topped by winged demons supported the ceiling arches. The room was bisected by a five foot wide canal of bubbling red liquid, crossed in two places by bridges. At the party’s left was the pulpit, dominated by an enormous nude statue of Zura, from whose engorged breasts the trench’s liquid flowed. Before her was an ornate altar, from which black waves of necromantic energy drifted. To the group’s right a giant portcullis blocked a vast, crystal-lit natural cavern. Niches containing reliefs and Azlanti cuneiform were staggered along the length of the temple. Rubble was strewn about from fallen pieces of the ceiling.

Opposite the entrance, a flickering torch was wedged in a pile of fallen masonry. Behind that was a creature with a coiled serpentine body – humanoid from the waist up – studying script in one of the niches. She turned around.

Trust in me... just in me...

“I rather hoped we could parlay,” Ieana stated with gentle aplomb. Her words, spoken in Taldane with a slight Varisian accent, had nary a hint of hiss or sibilance. Mid-sentence, the yuan-ti seamlessly forsook speech entirely in favor of communicating telepathically. “I never meant you harm. I will answer your questions.”

“You wrecked our boat!” Monica accused. The scholar was affronted by the snake-woman’s nonchalance. “I never intended to scuttle the ship,” Ieana explained, “it was the first mate’s fault for turning on the captain.”

“Who you mentally enslaved!”

“Yes, but only to drop me off here.” Someone asked why she kept trying to kill them all the time. “I was protecting myself. I couldn’t know that you’d listen to reason. Warmbloods rarely give us the benefit of the doubt. And yet here you are.”

“What exactly,” Dornas calmly interjected, “are you looking for on this island, in my people’s ruins?”

“Oh please,” Ieana rolled her eyes, “the mythic bloodlines of old Azlant devolved long ago. You are far removed from their glory.” The serpent-woman explained that she was on the verge of a momentous discovery, one that “your fragile race has not been able to solve since the sky fell eons ago.” Ieana glanced at Monica, “You will make your name with the discoveries on this island, but I can lead you to something that will turn the world of scholarship upside-down, and make you a legend…”

For a second, Monica seemed a little less sure of herself. Then shook her head and decided, “you wrecked our boat!”

Dornas reached out with a conjured hand, to seize the notes and charcoal rubbings piled on the floor of the niche before the coiled serpentrix. After he’d levitated them over, the magus scrutinized the Azlanti rubbings and Ieana’s Aklo notations. His eyes widened.

“Go ahead. Read it if you can. My people are returning while yours weakens. The Age of Aroden is ending. There is a place for you, though, in the Age to come.”

“Slaves.”

“It will never happen,” Dornas contended. “It IS happening,” Ieana countered, with a tinge of impatience in her telepathic speech. “It cannot be stopped.”

“We will stop it.” Dornas stated, flatly. He emphasized the point with a staff kata that stirred up his magic. Talk time was over. Likki started slapping his bongo. Ieana appeared disappointed.

“You wrecked our boat!” accused Monica for the umpteenth time and opened fire.

Let’s Show This Prehistoric Bitch How We Do Things on Smuggler’s Shiv

Kor’lec and Kai were already making their way closer to the serpent-woman as she was talking. Near the canal, he noted a skeletal face lurking just beneath the surface of the flowing blood. There were three skeletons lying in wait. Tyst had been rendered invisible by Monica’s illusion magic, and was carefully stalking toward Ieana as well. Dornas was also flying by the channel, at the bridge.

Ieana locked her gaze on Kishtari, “there are psionic mysteries my kind developed to traverse planets and rule an interstellar empire. This power could be yours…” The kalashtar seemed tempted, and even smiled as she mulled over the possibilities. She wanted so badly to return to Castrovel. The psion struggled.

“Destroy them,” Ieana commanded, telepathically enveloping Kish’s impressionable mind with the order, like a constrictor twisting its body around a surrendering hare.

Kishtari made up her mind, partially because the yuan-ti’s psionic compulsion recoiled from Likki’s defensive spell, mostly because there was no way she’d ever, ever allow someone to make it up for her.

“Bitch, that was sloppy,” Kish rebuked, like she was schooling a hopeless amateur.

Ieana finally rewarded her foes with the villainous hiss and sibilant screech they all expected to hear. In a blink, the furious snake-woman undulated to the closest column and coiled around and up like a corkscrew midways to the top. The yuan-ti was about to strike a fearsome pose before a magic fucking snowball walloped her in the face. Dornas turned out to be the mischievous snowball-thrower. Everyone laughed as the monstrous reptilian wiped her eyes, spit out ice, and tried to shrug-off the wooziness and humiliation.

Likki danced and capered. “Likki make good protection on Big Sister!” he rejoiced. “Thank you, Little Brother,” Kish patted the swooning goblin on the head. “Thank Mechuiti!” was the last intelligible thing the oracle uttered before the excitement had him babbling in Abyssal.

He wasn’t the only one babbling. Slowly slorping into the temple from the natural cavern was a true horror: a blob of flesh that formed tendrils, toothy mouths, and eyes upon its surface as it crawled along like a slug. “Good thing the gate is there!” Kish remarked, before the gibbering thing oozed through the bars. “Oh, never mind.”

As it formed mouths and reabsorbed them into its amorphous mass the blob uttered blasphemies that resembled the susurrus of a hundred caged lunatics. The sound dug itself into the minds of the heroes, causing them to act crazily. Most of them imagined their own bodies turning on them, and used their weapons against themselves. As Tyst did do, the magic hiding him failed, revealing him just within striking distance of Ieana.

“Did you think,” she boasted, “you were the only slave I’d acquire?” Ieana opened her jaws and spewed a gout of caustic acid on the were-creature. Soaked with the liquid, Tyst’s flesh sizzled and sloughed off his face bones and chest muscles like a waxwork effigy left out in the sun. But the tenacious lycanthrope stood in defiance of the pain and ruin of his body. His claws were no less sharp.

Monica tried to keep her distance from the mouthy ooze, recognizing the danger it represented. If it got too close to anyone, the thing would envelope and devour that person in seconds. She shot it. The bullet grazed the membrane holding the gibbering monster together but didn’t seem to slow it down. The polymath noted that at any given second, the creature had a great many eyes on its surface…

Meanwhile, Kor’lec and Kai were struggling against the blood-covered skeletons emerging from the canal’s crimson effluent. Kai was set against the bony guards, dispatching one easily by yanking its skull off with her jaws. One was trying to pull the druid into the viscous substance as he concentrated on Ieana. He called upon nature’s magic to vex the serpent-woman, and discovered yet another of the so-called First People’s strengths, their damnable resistance to spells.

But the mouther was just as vulnerable to magic as any creature, and Monica showered it with glittering particles that sank into its multifarious eyes. They reddened and winced as they submersed back into the blob’s amorphous bulk while its extended pseudopods flailed in pain. The creature was blinded, and the sluggish thing was easily sidestepped. The rest of the group began to regain their senses as Ieana’s last real advantage was effectively neutralized.

Kishtari had the crackling psionic nimbus about her that said “gulp” to anyone familiar with what she could do. Lighting and fire exploded from her, blasting Ieana off the pillar and sending her flaming body careening to the alcove where she had been finishing her research. It was all slipping through her fingers, the plans and the discovery she’d made and staked her life upon. How many years or decades had the lady serpentfolk studied and plotted, only for a motley group of survivors to band together, against all odds, and simply take it away from her?

Tyst, a horror of exposed bones and melted flesh on his hairy beast-man body, stalked toward the snake-woman. Likki had bound and leapt over to the wounded were-creature, and with a harsh-sounding plea to his cannibal god, mended and made whole Tyst’s furry hide. But Ieana had a spell ready for him.

Tyst vanished. For a split second, Ieana’s head darted back and forth and she flicked her tongue in a panic. When the lycanthropic ninja reappeared, it was with his long claws dug into her lower back and pelvis — the place where Ieana’s humanoid body met her serpentine posterior. The were-beast severed the bones of Ieana’s lower spine with his tusked jaws, and with all his strength ripped her tail away!

As Ieana’s life’s blood gushed from her rump, the victorious heroes gathered around her. The babbling blob retreated, and the last skeleton was blasted away by a beam of positrons from Dornas’s pointed finger. Ieana seemed as if she wanted to cry, but the reptilian had no tear ducts, and here at the end, even that small solace was denied her.

“Would you… allow… me a prayer to my god?” Ieana pleaded between bloody coughs. The heroes looked at each other and then nodded their permission. But the snake-woman started reciting a healing spell, and with that, Kishtari sliced her neck wide open with Ieana’s old fang-shaped dagger.

No Time for Losers

The altar to Zura was clearly the source of the necromantic curse that had afflicted Smuggler’s Shiv for ten millennia. With a combination of sacred energy and good old-fashioned smashing, the slab crumbled away with little fanfare.

For about two seconds.

Then a gout of black blood erupted from it, and it belched one blast wave of profane power. Kor’lec felt confident the souls trapped in the surf, and the undead who lingered throughout the jungle, would all soon find their way to final rest.

Monica accessed the fading magic in the rapidly collapsing statue of Zura to assume the form of a mist and reach a hidden sanctum of the Zura high priests, found a little more loot there and mention of a “serpent door.” In the crystal caverns, the party located the door, but after figuring out it would not easily open without sacrificing the soul-gems they picked out of the doll guardians, they left it – and whatever treasures lay behind it – untouched.

'Cause f$ck treasure, I guess?

The heroes returned to the surface, and the Tide Stone where they’d left their friends. The party found Gelik, Aerys, and Jask surrounded by a circle of about a dozen Thrunefangs, including Chief Klorak and the cannibal brides, holding the trio hostage by spearpoint.

“Looks like I have the upper hand now,” Klorak slurred, with the shmarmy rotten-toothed smile that he probably thought was charming. He winked at Dornas. “Maybe now we re-negotiate our deal, yes?”

“No.” Dornas nodded at Kish, and the circle of Thrunefangs was instantaneously transformed a circle of fire and flaming Thrunefangs. Most were incinerated instantly. A few managed to flee a few steps before collapsing into blazing heaps. The brides probably made it furthest, expiring while they desperately tried to rip away their burning hair and clothes with their blistering hands.

Dornas helped Klorak save himself before the chief was consumed. Coldly, the magus intimated that it was not for him to decide Klorak’s fate.

At that, a horde of hooting Mongrukoo stormed up the hill, led by Cenkil, just in time for the heroes to say, “thanks, we saved you the trouble of cooking them.”

Let Us Take the Adventure That Falls to Us

Cenkil explained the monkey goblins had followed the Thrunefangs to Red Mountain, after guessing that they were on the way to cause trouble for the Castaways. Cenkil, of course, thought he was saving his brother, his would-be bride, and their companions. Likki was glad to see his brother, who was acting as chief now. Also present were Likki’s remaining wife, Vershnat, and the child she’d birthed with him. Cenkil sauntered over to Kishtari. “I now realize I cannot hold you here,” Cenkil admitted, speaking the Goblin tongue “I think I should prefer quieter brides.”

Kishtari didn’t allow her fiancé’s heartbreaking revelation to despirit her. “We will remain friends, but that child,” Kish gestured to Likki’s family, “will be your chief when he comes of age.”

“That very well may be…” Cenkil began to say, but Kish cut him off, and allowed her ancestral quori spirit – in all its nightmarish majesty – to evince itself around her. “It will be as I say.

“I will see it is so.”


The party went to collect Pezock, fully intending to give the friendly, if somewhat mentally troubled, tengu the opportunity to escape the island with them. With the lighthouse up and running thanks to Monica and Dornas, the group expected rescue in short order. Aerys knew a few signals that were recent enough so passing ships wouldn’t mix up their genuine intentions with those they knew were once employed by the extirpated cannibals to lure “food.”

They found him dead. For all appearances Pezock had ignominiously poisoned himself by eating a deadly species of nudibranch. But Kor’lec wasn’t so sure. The tengu had survived alone for a decade. Why make that mistake now? The incisive half-elf noticed that Pezock’s weapon, a magical sawtoothed saber, was nowhere to be found in or around the bird-man’s shack.


A salvage vessel called the Red Gull, traveling out of Eleder to Bloodcove, was the first passing ship to notice and investigate the lighthouse’s distress signal. Within the span of a few hours, jolly boats ferried messengers and finally passengers. The adventurers and friends, those that history would name the Shiv Castaways, set sail toward bigger challenges, greater perils, and far, far, more legendary adventures.

THE END???

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Comments

XP Awards!

Ieana (aka Yarzoth), CR 5 = 1,600

Gibbering Mouther, fled, CR 5 = 800

Bloody Skeletons, CR ½, 200×3 = 600

Exploration, Partial: Temple of Blood = 800

Trap, Pit, CR 1, 400×2 = 800

Trap, Flensing Room, CR 4 = 1,200

Trap, Glyph of Warding, CR 4 = 1,200

Completion: Souls For Smuggler’s Shiv = 3,200

Total: 10,200 ÷ 5 = 2,040

PC Earned Total Next Level
Dornas 2,040 18,889 35,000
Kishtari 2,040 18,889 35,000
Kor’lec 2,040 18,889 35,000
Monica 2,040 18,889 35,000
Tyst 2,040 18,889 35,000

19.45% percent of the way to level 6
Way to rack up the XP!

Fortune Point Awards

See Fortune Points

PC Player Earned Burnt Lesson Total
Dornas Trae 3 0 . 75
Kishtari Jessie 3 0 . 42
Kor’lec Pat 3 0 . 48
Monica Montana Terra 3 0 . 43
Tyst Forrest 3 0 . 6

Everyone gets 3, for refreshments, good company, good roleplaying, and all around being the best group of players a guy could ask for!

Rolling Snake Eyes
 

Epilogue: Ship in a Bottle, Part 2

Six days later.

The Bonuwat boy had found the note-bearing rum decanter in his hand net, stained with algae and covered with seaweed, while fishing for mackerel just off the coast of Port Freedom. The ornate bottle caught his eye, and unlike the floating trash the northerners habitually littered the sea with, Sugali thought the contours and colors of the glass were pretty enough to make a nice gift for his mother. Maybe I’ll pick a few lavenders to put in it, the youth thought.

Luck was with the young man. He caught no mackerel that day, but his baskets were nonetheless full with cod, sardines, and flying fish. After paddling his canoe to shore and tying it to the pier in the late afternoon, Sugali popped the bottle’s cork and upended it to release the contents he dared not drink. Not only was alcohol taboo and a sin to great Shimye-Magalla, Sugali was aware of the damage it dealt to those enslaved by the substance. He’d seen addicted mariners drink all night at the dockside taverns and return home with nary a coin or crab to feed their starving families.

That won’t be me, the boy supposed to himself, I will be a great fisherman, and I will never harm the woman who I wed before Shimye-Magalla!

Only a rolled parchment fell from the bottle. Sugali noted it was written in Taldan letters, which he had been learning from his mother, a teacher at Port Freedom’s free school. The Bonuwat unrolled the note and slowly, carefully read the script, though he struggled with some of the slang, proper nouns, and more difficult words such as: Kishtari, Kishtari, a pearl of a lass from Riddleport.

The name and place stuck out in the boy’s mind. It echoed in his consciousness, though he knew not why. Kishtari from Riddleport. Kishtari from Riddleport. Sugali fought against the rest of text like he was trying to reel in a sawfish with a broken pole. Determined as he was to finish it, to decipher its meaning, always the young man’s eyes wandered back to the words Kishtari from Riddleport. Kishtari from Riddleport.

Hours passed. Sugali felt the cool wind and drizzle pick up as the sun set, and yet the boy stood on the short pier, absorbed by the letter that was now wet and clenched in his hands. Kishtari from Riddleport. Kishtari from Riddleport. The words screamed out in his mind. Sugali began to mutter them aloud. Louder and louder “Kishtari from Riddleport! Kishtari from Riddleport!!”

“Shh,” was the sibilant sound that quieted his voice and eased his mind. Sugali looked up from the note for the first time since the afternoon. It had grown late, and it was dark. Approaching the pier was the source of the sound. “Shh,” again, the cloaked figure soothed. Sugali could not tell if the visitor, carrying an indigo parasol, was a woman or man, their figure was slight, but he’d seen elven men with similar builds. This one was not nearly as tall as an elf. Their gold-trimmed hood was up, but in the sputtering light of the dock’s lamps Sugali saw that their flesh tone was unlike anything he’d seen in a humanoid. Like newly-sprouted lavender, he thought, relieved to be able to think thoughts of his own lavender, for mother.

“That is sweet,” said the visitor, in a dulcet voice that likewise offered no hint of their gender. “I am certain she would appreciate the gesture. It is important to be loyal to your family.” The sound of their words was so mellifluous to Sugali’s ears that it seemed to narrate the world into existence. Sugali decided that he would believe whatever words the visitor intoned. He swore that he would marry the visitor, because he loved them. Sugali savored the feeling of utter surrender to this shadowy being with the parasol.

“Read it to us,” they said. Sugali read, softly, evenly, and as he did so, he felt his heart banging like a bongo and his nethers swell to the verge of bursting like overcooked merguez. The young man read the note’s entirety, and found the sentiments expressed therein to be very sweet. He would like to see this Aerys and Kassata, whoever they were, reunited, and hoped he could help. Somehow. Perhaps the community’s elders could guide me further? Perhaps this stranger can help?

“Sugali,” the stranger sighed audibly and twirled their umbrella. “Has anyone to your knowledge, other than us, seen this note, or heard you read it?”

Sugali shook his head, “No, my god, no. I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”

Shh. I know you won’t.

In the silent, fulminant flash of white fire that his body became, Sugali saw the face of a living god behind the shadows of their cowl.

Three… Was the boy’s fleeting thought before his ashes swirled and drifted out to sea. The stranger turned away.

She is found, Eidolon.

Rolling Snake Eyes
 

Epilogue: A Beautiful Friendship

Some weeks later.

“A demon enters my grove! What is your business here Spawn of the Maelstrom!”

“Can’t an old man see his grandson? Or get some intelligent conversation around here?”

Aycenia stepped from her mighty baobab tree, giggling. Basako, leaning on his makeshift crutch, lashed his stinger-pointed tail menacingly before nearly doubling over into laughter. The two approached each other and embraced.

“I will never tire of saying that,” admitted the dryad, with affection in her eyes for the elderly, demon-blooded goblinoid before her.

“Good! It makes these old bones feel formidable again,” replied the former Mongrukoo chief, struggling to pound his chest while leaning on his crude crutch.

“Your grandchild fares well. Your kind grows quickly. He is already climbing on his own, and his playmates are not even yet born. He will soon depopulate my branches of spiders, his hunger for them is fathomless.”

“It runs in the family. And his mother?”

“She is learning my language and has already mastered a few simple orisons. She has taught me your people’s tongue, and your ways. She has expressed some interest in tending the grove, should her abilities advance. But I worry for her. She misses her husband. She longs for goblin company and great is her devotion to Mechuiti.”

“That was my father’s god, and merely my means to protect my people. If there is a demon Mechuiti, he is far from here. As I told Kor’lec and Dornas, the tribe’s notion of Mechuiti is not far removed from the druidic faith. A generation or two…”

“And as I promised my betrothed, those two generations will be fruitful. The Thrunefangs, the Devil, the Fungus God, the mockeries of life… all that limited your strength and territory are dead, by the hands of our friends.”

“Believe me, we’re not gainsaying that gift. I let my oldest take over the tribe because he’s strong and crafty; the warriors adore him. Me, I plan to live a nice, comfortable retirement over in yonder lighthouse… hrrr”

“You’re troubled?”

“Nah, I’m going to love being a crazy old hermit, dispensing occasional tidbits of wisdom to visitors.”

“Basako, that I know to be true. But dare you not dissemble to me. What troubles you?”

“Hrrr… humans. They will come. They will come for the ruins. The treasures. The land itself. And they will come far sooner and in greater force than the Mongrukoo — the tribe as it stands right now — can hope to turn away. Even with my son’s leadership, even with your help.”

Basako looked up and into the dryad’s mint-green eyes before turning his head and shuffling on his bandy-legs. His tail drew itself into a tight coil, a gesture Aycenia felt betokened the old Mongrukoo’s honest fears. She’d seen his mood darken when they spoke of the future, but she hadn’t pressed him until now. Aycenia put her hand to her chin and furrowed her brow. She allowed the silence to linger, and thought long and hard on the goblin-tiefling’s admonishments.

“My betrothed will…”

“Will forget about us!” Basako rasped and flicked his tail. The sudden rustling of the baobab’s leaves, and Aycenia’s severe expression, warned the tiefling that he’d overstepped himself. Somewhere nearby, the baby Nemanji let out a hoarse howl and a female goblin started bellowing curses in several languages. “Look, I’m…” Basako began to plead.

“Don’t!” Aycenia pointed, her frond-like hair flowing like it was being lashed by high winds. “Don’t apologize.”

A stream of Goblin invective carried over to the pair from high the treetops. The old monkey goblin and the dryad winced and relaxed.

“Sorry Lady Vershnat!” Aycenia called up. The goblin-wife’s cursing continued and so did the angry infant’s yowling, somehow, impossibly, increasing in volume. “Yes, Basako is down here! No, he did not upset me! No, I will not tell him to do that, I do not believe your kind flexes that way…”

The cussing simply increased.

“By the Worldsoul!” Aycenia threw her hands up in surrender. “Tell me I will not be as vivid when my own children come.”

“Why? I’d rather not hurt your feelings twice in one day.”

Aycenia giggled and shook her head in resignation. She placed her hand gently on the old monkey goblin’s head. Finally, the elderly goblin looked up into the treetops. “Probably I’ll be picking coconut splinters out of my scalp if I go up for a hello right now,” Basako smiled. “I didn’t mean to, hrrr… I hope I am wrong. But we should prepare ourselves to hide. When the whale-lizard comes hungry, bend like the palm…”

“… Or fall like the fig. You have great wisdom Basako, Son of Grougak…”

“It’s why you cherish my friendship!”

Aycenia laughed aloud. “But I hope you are wrong, too.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

It seemed for some moments that Vershnat had succeeded in calming her upset offspring. Then, there was a loud crash from inside a skep-like nest of twigs that only looked precariously nestled in the baobab’s branches. A tiny nude goblin crawled out and shimmied up and over the nest as his shouting mother scrambled out after him.

“Ugh. She’ll never catch him without me. But he bites. So. Hard.”

“There’s a boy! Takes after his father. Consider it practice.”

“You will return when it is quieter?” Aycenia asked, “so we can address… our … concerns?”

“Sure, see you in two-hundred moons, then. Tell you what? I’ll help you two gather up Nemanji. I’m not as spry these days, but I’ve raised eighteen and fourteen children and some of them are still alive! So I’ve a few tricks. Then we can all share ideas over this cheese wheel I lugged up here. Our friends left it behind for some reason. Their loss.”

“Nice! We have a deal Gray One.”

The sounds of the baby Nemanji’s gleeful yipping as he eluded capture, the vexed pleadings and muttered curses of his mother Vershnat and auntie Aycenia, and Grandpa Basako’s surprisingly honeyed baritone lullaby, carried over the hill and into the night.

As it could, for many a dusk to come.

Rolling Snake Eyes
 

Well done, everybody! Epic adventuring!

twigs

Rolling Snake Eyes
 

There is some amazing writing in here- but my favorite is “something slightly less annihilative.”

Rolling Snake Eyes
 

Thanks so much for commenting! We’re ll excited to hear from the readers! The players inspire the writing. Its mostly for them. It means a lot to me and my players that our Tuesday night get together is is making a narrative that interests others.

Rolling Snake Eyes
Jim_Mount

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