Spindrift on the Astral Sea

Cold Hearted
Everett's Lair

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 4, Earliest Morning: I grew very tired writing my last entry, and so I attempted to sleep. But alas, I could not drift into a deep slumber as the excitement of the previous day continued to stimulate my mind. Perhaps if I write of the day’s thrilling conclusion in this journal my mind will finally be at peace and I shall be able to rest.

After I shot Everett between the eyes, he retaliated in a most vicious manner, knocking me momentarily unconscious. I woke to the healing hand of Laurel, and saw that Aquelle had also been struck down.

Pieter stepped boldly to Everett, lifted his hands to the air, and bellowed “I DON’T KNOW”. He later explained to me that this was his Oath of Enmity. Everett became eerily still, and then his hands turned to ice, and then slowly the rest of his body did the same. A rhythmic sound, like a ‘rat-a-tat-a-tat’ could be heard. The sounds stopped, and then the demon’s heart, frozen in solid ice, burst through his back and landed somewhere across the room. I stared, dumbfounded, for several moments, and I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

At this point, Everett was clearly dead, but the machine in the center of the room kept running and it was still attached to Melian and Odo. Aquelle determined that the machine was magic. Completely ignoring this information, I decided that brute force should be tried against the contraption. I took aim at the heart of the machine, but my arrow missed wildly and ended up jamming a vent shut. Pressure began to rapidly build in the device, and it seemed that our time was running out. Pieter turned to me and shrugged. He then punched and shattered a crystal globe attached to the machine. The machine began behaving erratically. Brute force seemed to be having an effect.

Laurel sprung into action, closing off the tubes hooked up to Melian and Odo. Aquelle followed by slicing through the tubes as quickly as she could. Pieter grabbed Odo and I the graceful Melian just as the machine began to shake itself apart. We hit the ground and the machine exploded with a deafening sound. Parts rained to the ground for several seconds afterword, and the room was filled with smoke.

When the smoke finally lifted we saw among the remains of the machine a naked woman, curled on the ground in the fetal position. She was covered with familiar looking tattoos, one being a raven around her left eye. She rose to her feet and asked, “where is Everett?” Pieter kicked Evertt’s frozen heart toward the woman. She seemed to understand perfectly. She then snapped her fingers and was suddenly covered by a green cloak. “To whom do I owe the pleasure?” Pieter excitedly rasied his hand. Ordinarily I might have been jealous, but at that time I had the great pleasure of holding the lovely Melian, who’s beauty far surpassed that of the tattooed woman.

We took turns telling the story of what had happened over the course of the last several days. At the end, the woman looked pleased and paid us a considerable financial reward. She also gave us three moonstones and her strange green cloak, which felt slightly acidic to the touch. She then told us that we were free to pass as she opened a portal. Before we stepped through, Pieter turned to her and asked, “is there anything else?” She replied, “yes, you may call us… me Katryn.”

On the other side of the portal we found ourselves in a place familiar to the others but foreign to myself. A note was left on the foundation where a building had once stood. The note made mention of a debt the party owes, the Shadowfell, and the Raven Queen.

The Ron Jeremy of Rangers
Everett's Lair

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 3, Late Night: I have just had a short conversation with Pieter. Interesting fellow. And yes, he remained naked throughout the entire conversation. With that in mind, I shall now return to telling of our epic battle from earlier in this fine day.

We found ourselves surrounded by a an army of walking corpses, and the lighting in the room seemed to be playing tricks on our eyes. Suddenly, Everett shouted, still without turning toward us, “You won’t stop my work! I shall conquer death yet!” With that he sent a violent force across the room, knocking us all flat, save for Pieter who avoided the burst with some truly astounding aerobatics.

Laurel’s proud pissing ocelot bounded into the room and ripped the nearest of our maggot-infested foes from tip to taint. I never get tired of seeing the beast kill animated corpses with such incredible efficiency. In fact I think I enjoy it a little bit more each time I witness it. Pieter, being on his feet, was the first of our party to attack, save for the ocelot. He summoned forth his mighty fallen hammer, but then it unfortunately fell well short of its intended target.

What happened next is hard to explain. Two shadows seemed to dart at Pieter, but he was able to avoid both with lightning quick reflexes. One of the shadows then pinned my shadow to the wall, and I found myself nearly unable to move. The other shadow seemed to absorb itself into Laurel’s shadow. She screamed in agony as the evil shadow seemed to be attacking her person through her shadow. It was all very bizarre.

While being restrained by the shadow monster, I found it difficult to follow certain elements of the battle. However, I believe I witnessed Aquelle absorb a large amount of energy and then use that energy to light up the shadows, figuratively speaking. Pretty impressive.

At this point the cadavers decided to get aggressive. One made a move at Pieter, who easily avoided it. It then boldly went for the ocelot. The confused animal dodged the monster, and then I fell that stumbling pile of rotting flesh with a flaming arrow straight to the brain (do they have brains?) I attempted to do the same to the cadaver’s comrade, but I missed badly due to my limited mobility at the hands of the shadow monster.

Laurel continued to struggle violently against her own shadow beast, until Pieter valiantly came to her rescue. Like a classically trained dancer, he spiraled beautifully into the offending shadow and illuminated it with his grace until Laurel was able to slip free. He then stopped, called for the strength, speed, and agility of the drunken monkey, and then used that ancient technique to obliterate the two nearest corpses.

With no minions impeding her path, Aquelle made for Everett with her blade swinging, but his agility proved too much for her and he easily avoided her attack. She spun back toward him with another ferocious swing, but again missed her mark. Finally, after composing herself, she struck true, this time with her blade aflame.

Two hideous cadavers remained until Pieter and Laurel double-teamed them and turned them into something that resembled chunky vegetable soup. Gross.

With nothing left standing between me and the foul monster who so ungraciously treated the enchanting Melian, I felt a surge of courage and ripped free from the shadow monster’s tenacious grip. I pulled two flaming arrows from my quiver, drew my bowstring, and sent those arrows to fulfill their noble purpose. The first struck true, right between the beast’s eyes. The other missed wildly, hitting Odo in the bicep.

Pieter has since referred to me as the “Ron Jeremy of Rangers,” since in every battle I always seem to have “one good shot.” I know not what is meant by this, but I shall take it as a compliment of the highest kind, as I assume that Ron Jeremy is either a high priest or perhaps a god served by Pieter’s order.

Melian and What's-His-Face
Everett's Lair

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 3, Nightfall: Tis been a glorious day, and I am in high spirits as I prepare for bed. Not even Pieter with his shameless nudity nor the demon living in his skull can dampen my spirits. Let me recount for you the day’s epic conclusion.

After our rest, we followed Melian’s tracks to a heavy, locked door. A strange light was coming from underneath the door, accompanied by mechanical sounds, something that sounded like chanting, and a strange, acrid smell. Pieter carefully unlocked the doors, and then Aquelle kicked them wide open and burst into the room. She is quite bold for someone so small.

We all followed Aquelle’s lead and strode boldly into the room. There in the center was a marvelous, intricate contraption, some kind of mechanical model of the planar system. I had a feeling at that point that we were ultimately going to do a lot of damage to that machine, and I must admit that I felt a little bit guilty about it.

I quickly forgot about the machine though as I looked about the room and I saw the fair Melian! Inside a giant crystal! With tubes sticking out of her! I couldn’t help but feel intense anger well up inside me as I imagined all the terrible things that might have been done to her. Oh, I should mention that the shape-shifter was in a similar predicament on the other side of the room.

Blinded by rage, I frantically looked about the room for the foul demon responsible for this debauchery. In the darkness of the farthest corner of the room stood a being. He could only be the infamous Everett. He was chanting, and he was ignoring us. Or so it seemed. Without turning toward us, he pointed to the ground. A strange glowing pattern appeared on the floor, and shadows began moving about the room in strange, unnatural ways. On top of it all, an army of corpses awoke and seemed to rise from somewhere beneath the floor. I am beginning to develop a strong disdain for walking corpses.

Ghostface Killah
The Courtyard

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 3, Late Afternoon: We are well rested now, and at full strength thanks to the healing magic of Laurel. We found a good deal of gold and some vials of “cleaning solution” on the person of the janitor. Most anything of value in the room itself was destroyed by cat urine, including the beautiful gnomish lace table cloth. However, we did manage to find several bolts of a strange synthetic cloth. I shall dub it “fauxmish lace.” Hehe.

I have chills running up and down my spine. Pieter has just tried on a mask he found in the room. As he put the mask on, it seemed to bond with the flesh of his face. It then began to glow and become translucent. Finally, it contorted into a horrific, ghoulish expression, screamed like a bloody banshee, and then absorbed directly into Pieter’s forehead. I peed a little. I hope no one noticed.

We are preparing to follow the tracks of Melian and the other one we have lost. I do hope that we find her very soon.

Of Cat Piss and Gnomish Lace
A Custodial Closet

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 3, Early Afternoon: I am feeling much stronger now thanks to the healing powers of Laurel. As we are resting now, I shall continue to recount the battle that has recently ensued.

After I removed the face of the last living corpse with impressive bow-work, the sanitation engineer grew quite angry and hurled a small vial of cleaning solution at us. The solution came contacted the skin of Aquelle (she corrected me on the spelling of her name after rudely reading this journal without permission) and Pieter. Both fell to the ground in a state of paralysis. The cleaning solution apparently was very potent.

Laurel used her considerable powers to quickly heal Aquelle, who from the ground threw her sword at the janitor, missing him by a proverbial mile. The offensive custodian lunged at Laurel, but I stopped him dead in is tracks with the power of my mighty flaming longbow. He recovered quickly though, and unleashed a blinding light that left us all disoriented. I could see nothing, but I thought I could hear the sound of a blade striking a table, and the sound of the dastardly janitor laughing. I took a wild shot at him, but I must have missed badly, as he taunted me without mercy.

By this time I had a roaring migraine unlike any I had ever felt before. I have learned since that the others experienced the same. My vision began to come back, and I swear I saw a golden owl swoop in and provide some kind of medical aid to Aquelle. I would like to ask Laurel if this actually happened, but I do not want her to think that I have lost my faculties.

Aquelle, still on the ground, attempted again to strike the janitor with her sword, and again she missed. Pieter, summoning incredible strength, rose to his feet in dramatic fashion, only to be knocked down by the despicable custodian, who by this time was strangely wielding a sickle and a broom. Out of frustration I fired an arrow in the general direction of the janitor, only to strike the nostril of the portrait behind him. He turned toward me, but before he could act Aquelle slashed him with her blade.

It was at this time that the most spectacular thing happened. The proud ocelot, wounded and angry, strutted over to the painting I had shot with my arrow, turned his rear toward it, raised his tail, and let loose a magnificent golden, pungent stream that melted all of the paint of off the canvas. He then moved to a different location and repeated the action. He did it again and again. It was as though he were carrying inside of him an infinite amount of urine. He is a magic cat, after all.

Within seconds the room reeked of urine and territorial marking pheromones. The janitor stood wide-eyed and red-faced, then turned to us and said, “I will kill all of you dirty f*cks!” The ocelot let loose a golden shower upon a beautiful lace tablecloth. “That was gnomish lace! Made of real gnomes!” screamed the janitor. As I was growing tired of this asshole, I sent an arrow straight into one of his sinus cavities. As he stumbled back, Laurel knocked him to his knees. I then watched in utter amazement as Aquelle froze her blade, teleported across the room, and cleaved the janitor’s skull straight down to the brain pan. He toppled forward, his last words being “gnomish lace.”

Setting Fire to the Rain
Another Room Full of Corpses

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 3, Early Afternoon: I am exhausted from battle. Laurel is currently healing us all. While I recover my strength, I shall try my best to recount the events of the last several hours.

We followed the tracks of Melian and the shape-shifter to a large door. Strangely, Laurel dropped to her hands and knees as though she was like the beast she keeps as a companion. She reported to us that the room behind the door smelled of rotting flesh and warm, soapy water, scented lightly with lemon. The little one, I think they call her ‘Adele’, carefully pushed the door open. Inside was a sanitation engineer, scrubbing the floor vigorously. Preparing for battle, I cracked my neck. I tried to be discreet in doing so, but the sound ripped through the hall like a crack of thunder. The custodian slowly turned toward us and paused. Suddenly, he was surrounded by those hideous animated corpses that we have been battling. The others turned and looked at me with disgust. Oh how I loathe the sounds my body makes now that I am no longer a youth.

I had little time to wallow in shame, however, as Laurel sent her Ocelot roaring into battle. I swore in amazement to all the gods I could think of as the beast shredded one of the corpses. The brutality was unlike anything I had witnessed in many, many decades. Unfortunately, another corpse, or something like a corpse, threw itself upon that magnificent cat and the poor animal suffered some significant wounds.

Not to be outdone, Adele quickly followed Laurel’s Ocelot by summoning a rain of fire. Several of the monsters burst into flame, and the monk (I think they call him Peter, or is it Piter?) vaporized them with a wall of apparently pure energy. I must admit, until now I have not thought highly of this party, but their abilities in combat have proven quite impressive.

After such impressive attacks, I felt that I needed to prove my worth, so kicked the door open as impressively as possible and grabbed two flaming arrows from my quiver and let them fly. Both hit, though not as true as I had hoped. I don’t know exactly what happened next, but we all suddenly found ourselves lying on the ground, as though we had been knocked down by something immense and invisible moving with great speed. The janitor screamed at us for bloodying the floor.

The Ocelot quickly rose to it’s feet and sprang toward a corpse. It ripped the leg clean off of the foul monster, and we all shared a laugh as we watched it hobble about the room. The laughter ended as Adele turned herself into an intense ball of flame. The corpses moved slowly toward her, perhaps thinking that she was some kind of delicious barbecue. Corpses are stupid. Adele let loose her power, and several of the hideous creatures were reduced to ashes. Only two remained.

One of the monsters attacked the monk (I am settling on Pieter as the spelling of his name). He turned toward it with a look of pure, unbridled hatred in his eyes. So much hatred. Years upon years of it, pent up inside. He called forth the power of the ‘drunken monkey’ (perhaps one of his gods?) and then pounded the despicable corpse-monster into submission with a series of lightning quick punches. He picked up the broken body of the thing and hurled it at the remaining corpse. The body shattered into many pieces when it struck the monster, but the monster did not fall. I fixed that by literally blowing its face off with a perfectly placed arrow.

"Completely in the Nude"
Our Resting Place

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 3, Midnight: I cannot sleep. I find myself completely distressed by the disappearance of Melian. My thoughts are consumed by my concern for her. As for her strange, shape-shifiting aquaintence, I care not if he lives or if he perishes.

Twilight: I tried again to sleep. I could not get comfortable lying on my left side, so I rolled to my right. As I rolled I saw the monk sleeping near me, completely in the nude, with his front side turned toward me. After seeing this I decided to stay awake for the rest of the night. The behavior of the monk often seems unbecoming of a holy man. I sense in him a disdain for his fellow man.

The small flaming one is still awake, as she is our guard for the night. I eyed her from a distance; she seemed to notice, for she turned away. Across the room is Laurel, curled up with her Ocelot. Such a magnificent creature is that cat.

Early Morning: We are all of us awake now. The monk remained in the nude for most of the morning, only putting on his robes before we left our resting place. I could not help but stare on occasion. He seemed to take some offense to this, though he said nothing of it.

We attempted to decipher Everett’s journal. His style of writing is quite sloppy, but we found multiple references to a ritual involving a particular planar alignment. Also something about defeating death. The final pages of the journal made my blood run cold. Written in a frenzied hand, these pages speak of finding fresh hosts for completing the ritual, and something about “siphoning the raven’s power.” Could Melian be one of the hosts he speaks of? Could we convince him to make a trade? Perhaps we could give him one of the other women in exchange for her. He can keep the shape-shifter.

The Haunted House

From the Journal of Arroan Roj-Aires: Day 1, Late Evening: Laurel and I have joined a party with similar interests to our own. We happened upon this party quite unexpectedly. I have decided to start a new journal specifically to chronicle my time with this party.

Laurel and I were sent to this place by our master to learn what exactly is going on here. As of yet we have no answer. We came with a small group of trained soldiers. All of them were overcome by a sickness that we can’t explain. They became almost corpse-like, and then turned on us. We had to kill each and every one of them.

When we first met the others we were in the courtyard of this place, battling more of the corpse monsters. There seemed to be no end to them. We were the both of us exhausted and wounded, and we seemed to be trapped.

I heard a door to the courtyard open, and a small person completely engulfed in flame peered out. She stared at me for a moment, and then slammed the door shut. A minute or so passed, and she opened the door again. This time, the entire party stepped into the courtyard and joined Laurel and I in battle. With their help, the walking corpses were quickly vanquished.

The party agreed to let us join them. For this I am grateful, and I’m sure Laurel feels the same. Besides the small flaming one, the party consists of a holy man, a strange little fellow who keeps changing his face, and a lovely Eladrin bard named Melian. The names of the others I have not yet learned.

I made sure to properly introduce myself to Melian, unbuttoning my shirt before first approaching her. I showed her my long bow, and made sure that she understood just how long it was. I think she was quite impressed. The little fireball woman made a joke about my long bow being aflame. The others laughed. I did not appreciate this. But because Melian laughed, I did as well. I would hate for her to think I lack a sense of humor.

We are currently at a safe resting place in a comfortable room inside the manor. We have with us now a prisoner. Melian is quite diplomatic it seems, and she insisted we retain one of our more agreeable enemies for questioning. I suppose we shall interrogate him in the morning.

Tomorrow will be a grueling day, I believe, but tonight I shall sleep soundly with pleasant thoughts of the fair maid Melian and her beautiful golden hair and piercing bright blue eyes.

A Haunted House

From Adara’s Journal:

After Belmorn rescued us from the falling tower in the Flesh Quarter, he was eager to learn what we had discovered, although he was not pleased when he heard what we had to say. We told him of the strange Genasi, who called Aquelle sister and took Gwenny’s blood by stabbing her through with a dagger. We told him of the deals we had to make with the strange Eladrin woman, Mother Talvi. I gave her a memory from 2000 years ago in exchange for a prophecy, the words of which still echo in my mind:

The abandoned one hunts, the shadows fear the darkness.
The new children open their eyes, the new children are bound and gagged.
The lost ones seek the new way, the eyes of fire pull them into the abyss.
The fulcrum opens the way, the fulcrum closes hope.
The old masters return, ready to flay, ready to burn.
The unseen hands move the pieces, none see the hand that moves all.
The gate beyond the gates opens, the chains are broken.
Blood to bind, blood to open, blood to call.

We also swore to save her daughter within a year. While I am sworn to preserve innocent life, to save those in need and to avenge those I cannot save, I cannot help but feel uneasy about this promise, as if we have agreed to more than we know. Melian seemed displeased with the deal, and she knows her people best of all.

Belmorn was pleased to see that we had rescued Gwenny, but was troubled that we had not found the book that had been stolen from Gellentara’s estate at the same time. He had learnt that it belonged to a wizard who sought to open the outer gates to the Far Realm, and let insanity into our world.

In turn, he had news for us. He told us that a mob had risen up against the Cult of Vekna in Gloomwrought, and had driven them to ground. Thinking back to our time in that city, it still pains me that we were not able to rescue more of the innocents from the Cult’s lair, that we left that angry boy – the son of Karthenix, who burned to avenge his father’s death – to find his own way to safety. At the time, everything seemed to happen so fast: the portal opening, Odo and Flynn stepping through it, the dragon rising from its pile of treasure. If it had not been for Pieter’s brave and foolhardy act, who knows what might have happened to us? I remember him flying to the roof of the cavern and punching the icicle that hung above the dragon, only to be caught between it and the beast. We all thought him dead, but Melian moved quickly to save him, shifting herself to him and standing on the dragon’s back as easily as if it had been solid earth. The ensuing battle was difficult, but we defeated the dragon at last, and Flynn ate its heart. These wildens are a strange, wild race, and I am not yet certain what to make of them.

Still, we may not have made the same choices if we had to do it again. Thus, we strive to perfection by learning from our errors. Thus, like gold, we are purified through the flames.

From Adara’s journal:

When we arrived at Sigil, Lord Gellentara came to meet us with his troop. I escorted Gwenny to meet him, afraid that she might be taken from us again. She leapt into her father’s arms, and he seemed pleased to see her, in his own reserved, cold way. He and Belmorn left for the Eladrin’s manor, having important matters to discuss.

With some free time on our hands, Pieter and I decided to visit the shrine to Dol Arrah and the Silver Flame in the Eberron City. We both felt in need of some spiritual comfort after the events of the past few days. As we walked through the city, we could not help but notice that its streets were more crowded than usual. Many of the people were wearing ragged clothes, and had a lean and hungry look about them. At a fountain, a man was raving about how the failure of regular portals was a sign of the end times, about how we should all repent of our sins and prepare for the coming of the gods.

Later, Aquelle told us that the people on the streets were staring at her, as if afraid. From a hot pie vendor, she learnt that some Genasi had recently trouble in the city; they had tried to assault a stock room in the higher ward. The nobles of Sigil sent a message to their representatives, but got no response.

On our return, Belmorn called us to his cabin, where Odo was already relaxing in his chair and swirling a glass of his finest brandy in one pale hand. Belmorn told us that he had made a further deal with Lord Gellentara. According to the Eladrin, a manor had manifested itself within the city. From the outside, it seemed to be a small house with modest grounds, but anyone who entered through its gates found themselves in an expansive estate with a large manor situated in them. Stranger still, it seemed to leeching all the life and colour from the areas around it, so that anyone who approached it grew melancholy, and the surrounding streets were bleached to grey. Rumour had it that it belonged to a wizard who was experimenting with contact with the outer realm, and that it still contained arcane items that belonged to him. Belmorn had promised that we would investigate it, and retrieve any items of that nature. He also told us that some apprentices had gone into it and had never returned, so we should be on the lookout for them too.

Indentured slaves do not have the option of refusal, and so we headed to the manor without delay. Black iron gates stood in front of it, the metal twisted and moulded to resemble demons. To my knowledge, they did not come from any particular pantheon, but the design did seem to place a great deal of emphasis on a severed hand.

As we passed through the gate, the landscape changed around us. One moment, we were stepping into a neat, small patch of lawn. The next, we were standing in the middle of a huge, overgrown estate. The gardens had returned back to the wild, and miles of wilderness stood between us and the house ahead. A cold wind bit at us, and thin, grey clouds scudded overhead in a pale sky, quite unlike the empty expanse of light above Sigil. A trail led forward, but, as we walked along it, it disappeared and left us stranded in the middle of the tangled woods. Together, we were able to force our way through it, and found ourselves in front of the house itself. Its proportions seemed oddly distorted, as if it were overly tall. The upper stories and the roof had fallen in on themselves, leaving the top jagged and ugly.

When we drew nearer, we smelt the undead before we saw them, that pervasive stench of death that burns your nostrils and clings to your clothes. The fight that ensued was terrible. More than once, I thought that it was my time to return to the Great Wheel and begin anew the search for transcendence. Eventually, though, we managed to defeat them, and gain access to the manor.

Inside, there were more undead, and the fighting was equally bitter and hard. Once again, I almost passed from this body, and Odo almost joined me. I wonder what happens to changeling souls once their bodies perish. . . .

Part The Fifth: In Which the Party Discovers what a Ragedrake is
Less fire, more unexpected hobgoblins!

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