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Return to Eberron - 5e
37. To Toadwallow Caverns
The land around Aernard looked tortured. It was the only way to put it. Aernard rose easily from a crouch and rubbed the dark soil between his fingers. It tumbled back to the ground, a harsh mixture of dirt and char. The smell was faint here in the Dreamscape, but enough to be cloying. Whatever evil wracked this place, it seemed to be attacking the very earth itself, and the large swathe of earth before Aernard had been both scorched and torn with large, jagged rents. More than half a mile long and around 200 feet wide, he imagined it would be like some dark, sinister brush-stroke upon the land. From his high vantage it swept down and away from him, and with his newly acquired lenses, he could see the wilted and burned stalks of grass in startling clarity. He cast a glance back. The rest of the party were only a couple of hundred feet back now, and he raised a hand to signal his presence. Thysper returned the signal and Aernard set westward once again. Behind the party, he could only see the faintest smudge of smoke marking the Weatherall farmstead. He hoped they would remain safe. This strange place held danger. He could feel it in the land itself as though it crouched in fear, awaiting a blow to fall. Their time was growing shorter and something was building. The hand that would strike the blow was drawing back and preparing its fearsome attack. He prayed that they could do something before it landed. He leant down and gave Blinkie a quick pat and took a sip from his flask. The burn in his throat was a welcome warmth. His gave a low whistle and trotted off westward, Blinkie loping easily beside him.

It is a charnel house. The thought pressed uncomfortably at Cedric even before he saw the horror within. Aernard stood sombrely nearby, having signalled the party forward. Alfrigg looked grim, his heavy brows furrowed in distaste. Both were fearsome warriors. They knew war. They knew the risks that soldiers faced each day, taking their lives in to their hands. War brought battle and battle brought death, and each soldier, man or woman, knew what they faced in the name of who they served or the cause they fought for. There was a nobility in it. An honour. The small charred corpse that lay huddled within the arms of another, larger corpse, screamed silent a protest to that thought. This is not war, they said. This is murder. Cedric felt anger at the injustice of it and a wave of tragic loss suddenly rose within him.
“So small and precious a life to lose; my heart mourns for all you did not know. Back to the bosom of the Mothers rose; where the light of your soul shall grow.” Cedric whispered the funeral prayer aloud – unable to keep the sorrow from his voice. He cleared his throat and laid his pack and halberd on the ground.
“I think we should bury them,” he said, and turned to pick up several shovels from the ground nearby. They had not been there moments before, but somehow he knew that the land would grant him what he needed. He handed them out, and they began to dig.
Cedric did not look back as they left the ruined remains of burned farmstead. Behind him a magical light shone brightly, marking the grave of the latest victims of this dark war. A look of steely resolve stole over Cedrics face as he marched westward. Whatever evil they faced, he vowed he would exact at least some reparation for the horrors he had seen this day.

Alfrigg watched in an almost morbid fascination as first Aernard, then Thysper, then Cedric and finally even Selph was suddenly sucked in to the large, transculent dome before them. They raced towards the hemisphere as though falling from a great height before slowing just before entry and sinking in to it as though passing through quicksand. By the stones, he thought, slightly taken aback. What other surprises would this strange place throw up! He looked around wondering what to do next. His skin still stung from his last experience in one of these darned bubbles, and he seriously considered just walking around the blasted thing and meeting the others in Toadwallow! He let out a long sigh, his bristling beard shaking as he exhaled. He couldn't leave the fellow party members to whatever dangers likely lurked within. If more of those fiendish lava-creatures were about, who knew what havoc they would wreak! His mind made up, he began to take a step forward and suddenly the half-sphere pulled at him with a tremendous force, like a great rope had been tied about him and some great figure was trying to reel him in. He resisted, automatically taking a dwarven defensive stance, settling his weight downwards and lowering his centre of gravity. And as soon as it was there it was gone. He had not moved at all and stood in the same place. He looked at the dome again. Suddenly images resolved before him. His brother, dressed in full regalia, beard plaited, weapon aloft, medals proudly fastened to his epaulette. And then next to it, a ghastly and horrid skeleton dressed in the tattered remains of a uniform, mossy water dripping from bleached bones, a vacant and menacing gaze coming from eyeless sockets. In a flash they were gone, as fast as the strange gravity he had felt. In the name of the maker, Alfrigg thought, unsure what was happening. This whole flamin' place was a nightmare!
He took another, hesitant step forward. Nothing happened. He was one step closer to the dome. Right, he thought, finally satisfied that something had worked for once, let's go see what someone's dreaming about.

Selph reoriented himself quickly, trying to take in the scene about him. Delph had been drawn in to this strange dream projection and who knew what he’d find. He found himself standing in the middle of some tropical jungle; exotic trees with long drooping fronds rose around him, a cacophony of animal and insects sounds echoed around him and a muggy heat pressed suddenly down upon him like a wet blanket. It was all oversized and larger than life; the dream-like imagination of how these things seemed to one who had never experienced them.
Aernard stood just to his side, and moments later, Thysper and Cedric followed, materializing in to the scene as though stepping through an invisible curtain. They each looked furtively about, taking in the same scenes, but then each began to stare intently at a point just 20 ft. ahead or so. Feeling a moment of alarm, Selph quickly searched for the source of their gaze. The air at the point seemed to warp and blur for a moment and then just as quickly, disappeared. They must have left their wits behind, Selph thought, shaking his head in dismay.
Beyond the point which had drawn their attention, Selph heard before he saw, what was at the heart of this projection. So a nightmare then, Selph concluded. He cast a look around for Delph quickly, his familiar the priority of course, but the pseudodragon was nowhere to be seen. Probably chasing a lizard or something, Selph thought with an oddly, lucid calm. Screams echoed through the jungle-like landscape of the nightmare and Selph considered these in the same way he might a mild conversation between friends. This was, after all, just someone’s dream.
Selph could see several human figures, about 50 ft. from his position, huddled and crouched in fear of some massive, shambling plant-like beast, which approached them menacingly. Its huge frame was a tangled heap of vines and foliage; sharpened wooden stakes made deadly fangs in a wide toothy maw and two projections formed massive arms topped in over-sized thorns, deadly slashing talons. The humans screamed again and the thing bellowed back at them in a strange, guttural baritone. Behind the beast, Selph saw more of the mischievous elemental-creatures; the lava-filled magmins seemed to carry some kind of fiery whips that they were using to drive the beast in to a frenzy. Those creatures are here again, Selph thought with interest. Let’s take care of them first. With a wave of his hand, the area around the magmins burst with an icy downpour, pattering the small elementals. They writhed in discomfort, the fat drops of rain hitting their molten hide with a smoky hiss, their fiery whips suddenly dissipating in the torrent. They cackled and burbled in frustration, waving about in confusion. Selph smiled. It was so very easy here. He waved his arms again, melding the dreamscape to his will, delicately painting and sculpting the world around him. The beast next, Selph thought with pleasure. A massive mirror rose from the ground before it, rising silently from the undergrowth, though Selph removed its reflection and the stupid creature stared dumbly at a reflected jungle scene, its prey suddenly gone. Selph couldn’t suppress a giggle in his throat. This world was like clay in his hands and he the master sculptor. He could to anything. Anything at all.
We could do anything. The thought came unbidden in to Selph’s head and was gone as quickly as it had come. What was he saying again? Yes, this world was like clay, and we could do anything at all. Anything.

Thysper clung to his bow with both hands, gripping the wood hard enough for it to creak. His knees felt weak and sweat began to stream from his forehead. It could not be real. This couldn’t be happening. Massive trees towered before him like gigantic wooden pillars, stretching hundreds of feet upwards to a bushy canopy, which hung over the forest like some green, leafy sky. Beautiful buildings of intricate design clung to the massive trunks and delicate bridges arched between houses and trees. It all flowed with natural beauty, as though grown from the land, rather than built. It was a perfection of natural form that only the elves had achieved, at least in this age. And it burned.
Everywhere the flaming tendrils of death wrapped their burning doom around the beautiful scene. The massive trunks of the Great Trees were ablaze, slowly being devoured by the hungry flames. Buildings, bridges, people; they were all being consumed by the burning horror about them. Painful screams echoed in Thysper’s ears, cries and pleas for salvation. The crackling of flame and snapping of branches roared a derisive laughter in return. Tears streamed from Thysper’s eyes as thick, black smoke rose in a cloud before him. He clutched his bow, sobbing pitifully as the world around him burned. Somewhere, a faint voice whispered in the far-away recesses of his mind. This is a nightmare!
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Welcome Home
"Hey, everyone, I'm back!" Tombak called out as he opened the door.

"Whajjabringme?" Invar demanded before anyone else could respond.

"I was in Scrapwall," he answered. "Everything there is junk. What would I even bring?"

"So you just forgot about me while you were there?"


As Invar hurled herself into a chair to pout, Ormolu walked in from the kitchen. "Tombak! Welcome home!"

"Hey, Ma," Tombak answered. As he hugged her, he fished around in one of his apron pockets and withdrew an empty goo tube with a few broken transistors and scraps of wire melted to it to make it resemble a rat. This he handed to Tumbaga as she followed their mother out of the kitchen.

"So, how'd everything go?" asked Terne, entering through the back door with Kovar and Glucydur trailing behind him.

"Pretty good," Tombak said, fishing around in another pocket. This time he pulled out a bunch of metal nuts, rods, and sheets welded together in the shape of a humanoid reading a book and sitting on what might have been a throne. This he handed to Kovar. "When we got there, a gang called the Lords of Rust were pretty much running the place, but we took care of them." At this point, Invar was glaring daggers at him, so he started digging in another pocket. "Now power is pretty much split between Bricktooth's gang, the Red Raiders, and a gang called the Steel Hawks." Finally, he pulled out a collection of sheet metal scraps welded into the shape of a bird of prey and handed it to Invar.

"Why would you leave gangs in charge?" Kovar asked.

"There's nobody else to BE in charge," Tombak answered. "But it's okay, Sevroth's pretty classy, and Redtooth's unreasonably nice for a gang leader. Anyway, turns out Scrapwall had its own technological ruin under it, and inside was a giant robot that the Lords of Rust were worshipping as a god. That's who sent Meyanda here to send the Torch's power to them so they could dig something up. We blew up their receiver, so that wouldn't be happening even if we hadn't cleaned out their base."

"Goodness," Ormolu said. "Did you find out what they wanted?"

"Not really, but it sounded like Hellion-- that's what the robot called itself-- had some kind of a problem with Silvermount. We might have to go check that out later. We brought a couple friends home, though. There's Mr. Baine's friend Dinvaya. You'd like her, Glucy; she's staying at the Temple. There's also Kerid, who turned on the Lords of Rust and helped us smash Hellion after we sprung him out of their dungeon. I'll introduce him around later, see if he wants a job anywhere around town. So, what've y'all been up too?" By this point, he'd unhooked his whip from his belt and, once he finished talking, flicked the end into the kitchen where it wrapped around a piece of fruit sitting on the counter. Another flick of the wrist pulled the fruit over to him, where he caught it in his other hand.

"Tombak! What did I tell you?" Ormolu demanded.

"'No whips in the house,'" Tombak answered contritely.

"It's basically been business as usual around here," Glucydur interjected. "With the Torch oprational again, I've had a brisk business making and repairing tools for all the craftspersons resuming work and the twins' apprenticeships are back on track. Mom's been putting in her customary shifts at the inn, which is also seeing its usual traffic. Pop has been spending most of his time keeping the house in order and simply spending time with the rest of us."

"Sounds good," Tombak mumbled through a mouthful of fruit. "Foreman hasn't put you back on the schedule yet, Pa?"

"Actually," Terne said, "I'm not sure I want to go back to work on the Black Hill."

Tombak nearly choked. After sputtering for a moment and swallowing hard, he asked the most articulate questions he could think of. "What? But... You're one of the best smiths in town! Just... Why?"

"It's... I've already died up there once, son." He glanced at each of his children in turn. "I just... don't feel safe up there."

Tombak digested that for a moment. Then he sighed. "Alright, Pop. Maybe you can help Glucydur tweak his new furnace, or pick up some of the iron and steel work that gets ignored so much around here. Until you feel safe again."
Session: Iron Gods 33 - Friday, Feb 24 2017 from 6:30 PM to 11:00 PM
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Another Outting.
I have decided to keep this log of the search for my friend, Khonnir Baine.

Thus far it does not look promising. We have ventured into the tunnels below the Flame three times and found all manner of strange and wondrous things, and although we have not found Khonnir's body it seems unlikely that he has managed to survive. It appears that three members of his party were dragged into an awful sort of torture chamber with a strange robot who was focused on 'fixing' us in some manner that involved injecting us with a numbing fluid. There was blood everywhere and no sign of the bodies. I fear the worst.

More to follow... the rest are getting ready to move.
Session: #4 - Technological Terrors - Tuesday, Mar 21 2017 from 7:45 PM to 11:15 PM
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The Edge of Death Again
Boudica knew that stepping in front of the door was a mistake even before she cast the spell. As she felt the heat welling up through her torso and tasted the pungent flames as they coalesced inside her mouth and grew heavy like a ball of molten lead, she also became aware of strength and speed of these undead. Even as the flames began to surge from her mouth in blinding pillows of flame they were striking her. A sudden knot of pain in her side as a fist hammered into her armor, then a wrenching pain in her left arm as one of them took hold of her shield and twisted, pulling her a step further into the room. Then a brutal rake of claws across her forehead and blood filling her eyes, blinding her.

Though she could smell the familiar fetor of burning flesh and hair, the weight of the attack did not diminish. Another blow to her torso battered the air from her lungs, and as she doubled overanother strike landed on her shoulder. She felt the ground tilting beneath her, darkness rising and through her mind like a black mist. “Stay on your feet,” she told herself. “Raise your shield. Live!”

Boudica sucked in a lungfull of air through the coursing pain in her chest, straightened, and brought her shield up just in time to absorb another blow from a gray, slavering undead. The shield creaked and snapped with the force of the strike and drove Boudica backwards a step, but it did not injure her and back was where she wanted to go. She brought Ravager up and deflected another attack, then saw another creature lunge through the door to her left, raise its arm high to strike at her head. She tried to bring her shield up high but her arm was stiff and surging with pain and the shield felt as if it were made of stone. She could not block it. The realization that she was about to die struck her with more force than all of the attacks combined. She braced herself, whispered a prayer to no god in particular.

But then the creature froze, let out a hissing cry and twisted sideways. Boudica looked down in time to see Leon pull his sword from the creature’s side. “Thank you, Leon,” she whispered, stepped backwards again. Then the creature in the center of the door collapsed. Meena. Boudica had no more breath to say thank you, but she said it in her mind a hundred times as she staggered backwards, retreated a safe distance behind her companions and took a knee. She wiped the blood from her face, tried to breathe.

When she could see and think clearly, Boudica began to intone a spell. The undead that had stepped into the doorway looked weak, with one arm hanging limply and its withered guts swinging from a gash in its belly. Boudica again felt the surge of magical power rising through her body, and for a moment she felt strong again. She raised her arm, pointed Ravager at the undead as she shaped the last syllables of the spell.

But then something changed in the battle. The creatures surged forward, and Mirilda, Mina and Aimorel fell into their defensive stances while Leon ducked and sidestepped. Then one of the undead was on her again, and before she could discharge the spell the creature reached around her shield and raked her shoulder with its claws.
Boudica felt the spell dissipate and the strength of its magic leave her body. “Stay on your feet,” she told herself again. “Live.” Though it sent waves of pain through her body, Boudica raised her shield and deflected its next blow, brought Ravager back and prepared to strike. The pain gave her a renewed strength, and she knew that despite her pain and weakness, she was still stronger. She could kill this thing. Magic be damned.

But then the monster threw itself to the ground at her feet. For an instant Boudica thought this was some new tactic, so she squatted and brought her shield low. Then she looked up and saw Mirilda standing over her, her face spattered with gobbets of gray flesh. The half-orc’s blow had not just felled the undead, but had driven it into the ground.

Boudica straightened, flexed her injured arm. Mirilda eyed her a moment, then simply said, “Town?” Boudica nodded.
As they made their way across the moors beneath the dazed afternoon light, Boudica felt thankful that she had survived yet another encounter with death, but she had only herself to blame for it . She would need to be wiser if she was to survive. Exposing herself to a host of powerful undead in order to cast a feeble spell may have been the dumbest thing she had ever done.

Thank the gods her companions had been there to rescue her from her own stupidity. She promised herself she would return the favor, but in the meantime, she decided that drinks were on her for this stay in town.
Session: Game Session 16 - Saturday, Mar 18 2017 from 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Battle of Harvester 18
The battle was brutal.

Chronicled by the bard
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