Guest Post by Max Bryans
Our Cast of Players:
- Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 8.
- Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 9.
- Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 8.
- Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 9.
- Kaji / Edward II (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 8.
- Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 8.
- Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/7/8.
- Nogri: Human Warrior, level 2.
- Uthilian: Elf Warrior, level 2.
- Vermox: Human Warrior, level 2.
Total XPs awarded from the previous session: 62,740
As Albrecht cradles the deathlike Edward his heart quickens and he suddenly sees a glimmer of hope.
There is a faint condensation on the inside of his helm, HE’S ALIVE!!
But only just, it takes a fast prayer to stabilise the terminally ill Paladin. It seems the prone Kaji was more close mouthed under the Stinking Cloud than anyone had given him credit for.
With a sense of euphoria Albrecht and Aaron gather the party into a prayer circle. With many joyous hymns, rather than the usual more solemn prayers, the congregation are restored to full vitality. The two priests enjoy being able to commune with their gods in a less pressured way, and even include the statue that is now Pioden, hoping that the gods will also restore him.
But that is beyond their power, Pioden remains stone. With the remainder of the party restored, Kaji contemplates what to do about the elf’s predicament.
“I could try dispelling it… wait a second”, he says and then closes his eyes in concentration.
“Nope… nothing doing there. We’ll have to take him with us and find the right spell. Unless”, he turns and points at the bodies of Skullshank, the Bishop and Witch Queen, “they might have something.”
With an efficiency born of experience the party strips the bodies and gathers any items into a pile. Kaji then casts his Detect Magic spell and proceeds to identify and distribute the rather substantial pile of loot.
“No spell books, that’s a bad start… but let’s see what else we have…”
A few wands automatically disappear into Kaji’s deep robe pockets, and some potions are lined up for future tasting.
“Amulet of Natural Armour… Patroclus,”
“Boots of Teleportation… best we just hang onto these,”
“Bracers of… BLOODY HELL, these are as good as plate, eh… I’ll be having those,”
“An Energy Dagger… best for backstabs, Pioden (one day, I hope),”
“Major Cloak of resistance… BAGGSIE”, and Aaron gets Kaji’s old one,
“Ring of Fire resistance… wasn’t that a quest of yours, Patroclus? Here ya go.”
“Two Major Rings of Protection… one to each of the Priests.”
“Five shot Fetish Necklace… bit of a panic item, for you Aaron.”
“Ring of Protection from Normal Missiles… who’s got a spare finger? OK, this is for you, Elfire.”
“A serious sickle… may be handy for you, Patroclus.”
“A couple of Priest Scrolls for you, Aaron.”
“An Amulet for me.”
“And finally, WOW, I never expected to see one of these. Here you go Elfire. Does everything except take boy scouts out of dragons’ hooves."
“Dragon’s don’t have hooves”, growls the warrior.
“You don’t get humour do you? Never mind, you had to be there.” Taking a deep breath he finishes explaining. “It’s a Rod of Lordly Might. It can be almost any weapon you can think of, can be a ladder or battering ram, it also can scare the shit out of anyone who so much as looks at it. If that isn’t enough for you, it even tells you where you are in case you get lost coming home from the pub. Now do you want it, you ingrate?” With a barely audible grumble of thanks, Elfire takes the Rod.
All in all, it is a major haul of treasure, but unfortunately nothing comes to light which will assist Pioden.
Almost as one, it dawns on our heroes that they are actually not quite out of trouble yet. There is no visible exit to this chamber. Like the neighbouring one they entered from, it is more like they are suspended in the centre of the universe, with stars and galaxies shining around them. These stars shine furiously and, with no air to interfere, do not twinkle. It is a truly breath-taking spectacle, hovering amidst the furnaces of the cosmos.
It’s clear that “out” is not an option. It is decided to re-enter and search the quadri-divided circle which surrounds the dais, still with the remains of the Occulus Infernae upon it. With the traditional thief out of action, it falls upon Elfire to scout the area. After borrowing Kaji’s ring of underwater breathing, he re-enters the blue quadrant. The sensation of his lungs filling with water is disconcerting and he controls his panic once he realises he is not going to drown. He searches the area and reports his finding to the rest.
“What are these?” he asks, pointing to the lenses in the scraps of the Occulus.
“The Eyes of the Night, best we destroy them”, warns Albrecht.
“You like destroying handy stuff, don’t you?”, retorts Elfire, as he ignores the warning and pockets the large gems.
After a brief search, Elfire spots the same compass like sigil, made of 5 triangles, which was found on the top of the ziggurat. Unlike its counterpart this one has no recesses.
“Here goes nothing”, mumbles the warrior as he presses down on the centre triangle with his new rod.
There is a sinking feeling in everyone’s stomach as the floor (if it could have ever been described as that) melts away from underfoot. With a soundless roar the party feel as if they are falling through time and space. They are thoroughly confused by having no frame of physical or mental reference, and it is all they can do to watch as reality dissolves around them. It is like being in a never waking dream. Figures of fact and myth cascade through their consciousnesses. An example of the chaos is seeing a uniformed man, with toothbrush moustache, flying upon a blonde haired dinosaur. In another reality they see Wednesday looking out at them from a slowly spinning blue box. Past and future friends, enemies and lovers, those that both were and never will be, flash before them in a whirlwind of possibilities.
Kaji is extremely disconcerted. His consciousness seems to be alternating from host body to host body. From his original self, through that of a hobbit maid, to his current incarnation as Edward. Through his periphery vision Edward also notices these changes are manifesting (as best he can tell) physically. More confusingly, Aaron and Elfire seem to be converging with his flashes of remembrance of his old friend Artan and acquaintance Rashid. Even Pioden is not immune, his stone form flickers from stone to flesh and back again. Each fleshy pulse allows him to move as if to scream, only for the motion to be cut off as he solidifies again. It is like watching a grotesque dance under strobe lighting.
With a SNAP, which he feels with every sense, Edward comes to a conscious heightening stop. He has never felt so alive and is instantly aware of his surroundings.
He stands in a roughly carved, torch lit chamber, in the middle of a pentagram. Beside him are two friends he had believed long dead, slain in the hellish battle with your duplicates beneath Hellfrost Mountain. There is Artan, fierce dwarf warrior, looking surprised, and Rashid, master of the dexterous arts, looking terrified. Of Aaron, Albrecht, Elfire, Kaji, Patroclus and Pioden, there is no sign. In front of him is a large mirror hanging on the inside of a stone door and reflecting the unexpected trio.
He gasps as he catches sight of himself, Artan, and Rashid in the mirror. With the horrible realisation that he has been here before, in his own past, memories come flooding back. He remembers himself not as a reflection, but as having just slain the dragon Pyraxus and his coterie of mad and mutated cultists.
With horror and mounting dread at what is about to happen he watches, paralysed, as the reflection of his own past shatters as the stone door is opened.
His then comrades in arms (Albrecht, Artan, Kaji, Pioden and Rashid, led by Edward himself) enter the chamber and, recovering quickly from their own surprise, prepare weapons and spells and charge to attack, murderous intent in their eyes. It is now clear to Edward that ever since this moment, all of you have been trapped in some terrible distorted repeat of history, a loop of time caused by the rash, unthinking actions of your own bloodthirsty past selves. How many times has the loop already repeated itself, trapping its occupants in an endless repetition of ghastly error? Will Edward, at his moment of greatest triumph, once again be killed by his own prior self? Is he a mere bystander to fate, unable to break the chain of cause and effect and destined forever to trap you all like flies in the amber of an unbreakable paradox?
“STOP!” roars Edward as he draws his sword but, instead of preparing it for combat, he throws it at the feet of this past reality party. He pulls off his helm, bows his head and falls to his knees, uttering something that he has never said before… “we surrender”.
With a reality affirming SNAP, a number of very confusing things happen. It is as if a stage curtain has lifted to reveal the same scene, but with different characters. For reasons of clarity and sanity, we had best view them from each hero’s point of view.
Artan and Rashid. The newly manifested duplicates, who are standing beside Edward and Kaji, disappear. But the pair in the cavern, having decided to accept Edward’s surrender, remain. They look around somewhat alarmed as all of the original party other than themselves disappear too.
The newly arrived Edward watches his duplicate disappear. His sword, which was thrown down in surrender, seems to be back in its scabbard.
Aaron, Patroclus and Elfire drop into the frame. They collapse into the pentagram and quickly adopt a defensive posture. There are new people in the room but Edward seems to recognise them, so they stand fast to see what happens.
Albrecht also drops into the pentagram and immediately recognises both the stage and the players. He is confused as to the sequence of events, but utters a quick prayer of thanks for the miraculous restoration of Artan and Rashid. But midway through the prayer he stops. “Why thank the gods for that?” he asks himself. “Yes, they led a risk filled life, but it’s not as if they died or anything. All they did (or is that what "we"did?) was enter this chamber 10 seconds ago.”
Kaji also appears in the pentagram but is rather perturbed to note that he is back to being a hobbit maid. Spells empty from his mind and he notices with chagrin that his spirit is no longer Magic Jarred into the diamond ring. Then, almost as quickly, he feels that memory fade. “What was I worried about?” he ponders to himself. “I’ve just entered this chamber, haven’t I? I’m still annoyed about this wretched body of my current incarnation, although it does have some, erm, novelty value.” He blushes at a recent memory. “But I’ll figure a way out of this in future, won’t I? But who are these guys…?”
Pioden with a loud and earthy crump falls into the Pentagram. Almost as soon as his stony form lands it shimmers and returns to flesh. He dusts himself off and recollects his last conscious memory being that of charging to engage Dread Watcher in Skullshank’s astral observatory. This is replaced by an odd sense of displacement as he can’t quite join the dots between entering this chamber and standing in the pentagram. He’s also rather disturbed to see two new warriors and a priest standing next to him. But Edward seems to accept them, so he decides to make introductions when he clears his head.
There is a stunned silence.
Followed by a pregnant pause.
“Who the hell is this?” asks an exasperated Patroclus, gesturing towards Kaji, Artan and Rashid. “You haven’t killed them… so you know them… yes?”
Edward sighs, “there was a time we would have done just that. Thankfully not today.” And he walks over to the edge of the room, shuts his eyes and drops into silent prayer.
“Hang on a minute”, says Aaron, “isn’t this where Elfire and I met up with you lot? We came in through that door just there.” He points at the loosely swinging door, as if daring it to open.
“Yes, you did… or will… or didn’t… or won’t. I’m not sure yet”, ventures Kaji in a soothing feminine (albeit somewhat high pitched) voice.
“Err… who are you again?”, asks Aaron whilst staring at Kaji’s pert bosom.
To be continued…