Sunday, 14 April 2013

Ruber: A New Quest

So there we were, in the heart of the demon's volcano fortress, waiting to hear if the devil could make

Dallas Kasaboski
more Edges of Sanity. Had he betrayed us? Was he still on our side? After two weeks of holding our breaths, we here at D4sign finally found out what happened next...

With an uncertain look at the demon, the lord of Ruber, who was still dripping with molten lava, Votharixis (the devil) answered, "Yessssss."

"You'll never get the chance!" Alvyn called out and at the moment, Tong charged the devil, jumping up and kneeing it in the face.

"Do not interfere!", the balor-lord commanded, but it was too late. Alvyn loosed a cloud of poisonous fumes while Kalgar drew his javelin and launched it at Votharxis. Baelfire commanded Peryl, the succubus and adviser, to get rid of Votharxis. The devil quickly disappeared and Tong barely had time to lament being cut off from the devil as Baelfire flew overhead and attacked the party.

With quick thinking, Alvyn turned invisible and faded away, while Tong leapt up the demon, knee to chest to chin, hooked Baelfire by his heel and slammed him down back into the poisonous cloud.

Alvyn made his way over the Peryl where he could see uncertainty in her eyes. "You know this isn't right! You know Baelfire's plan is insane!" Hearing his wisdom, but fearing the demon's wrath, she flew off.

The fight continued for some time. In an attempt to find weaknesses, Kalgar noticed that the balor didn't seem to be as tough as it should have been. It was taking damage and acting quite odd, but other than shouting this to his companions, he didn't really have a lot of chance to think about it.

While Alvyn kept his distance, Tong was rushing back and forth across the black basalt floors. Focusing his chi energy, Tong was able to turn into insubstantial mist and seemed to glide along the floor, at amazing speeds.

Kalgar was doing his best to draw the attention to himself, but to no avail. He called out to Kord, and with his Divine Challenge, he was dealing considerable damage at every opportunity. As the demon became bloodied, he raged and fought more furiously. One quick slash with his claws and Alvyn became stunned, unable to do anything, and his poisonous cloud disappeared. The demon whirled around and was able to create a pool of lava near Kalgar and Tong.

Kalgar had been attempting to mock the demon by sitting in a chair during the combat and suddenly was thankful he was as the chair started to melt in the lava. The floor was now lava! Seeing Tong standing right in the middle of it, he leapt across and clotheslined his friend out of the lava's path.

Still the fight looked good, and with a few more attacks, the balor dropped to his knees. Kalgar called out that he didn't look to be doing so well, and didn't look like any demon he had ever heard of. Rearing back its head, Baelfire grinned and said, "You're right!"

Standing up, the illusion dropped, revealing a fully-grown red dragon! What is going on? I thought there were only two dragons left. What is with all these stupid dragons!? These thoughts quickly floated through the minds of Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn as they prepared to be attacked by this seemingly unharmed dragon.

"You don't have to die, you can leave here if you promise to do something for me."

"That'll be the day!" Alvyn sneered, drawing two wands out of his coat and firing at the dragon's face.

The fight didn't look good for our heroes. They did their best, kept their distance, whittling the dragon's health, but he kept coming. And while he seemed to get a fresh start, they were not so lucky.

Tong dropped. Alvyn used Mage Hand to give him a potion and get him back up. Kalgar almost dropped, and when the dragon whirled around for a second time, his blast of fire flew over Alvyn's head and knocked Tong and Kalgar out.

As Kalgar fought to stay alive, to stay conscious, his vision narrowed. He tried to reach out to Kord for help. Not having formal training in this manner, he tried what Tong does. He calmed himself and listened to his heartbeat. But, while Tong's heart beats with the discipline of Ioun's monks, Kalgar's moves with the tempest fury of the waters of Aes. Lost in the maelstrom, Kalgar's vision narrowed until all around him was blackness.

Just then he found himself on a hillside. It was night time, and off in the distance was a great thunderstorm. Knowing storms followed Kord, he yelled to the heavens. "What do you want from me?" The storm didn't answer.

Just then, lightning struck the ground in front of him, and he stumbled backward, blinded.

When he regained his sight, Kalgar saw before him a giant man on a warhorse. Both the horse and rider were completely covered in plate armour, and the only part of the man showing through his helmet was his hair.

"Maybe he wants you to stop shouting. I know I do." Getting off his horse, he dropped his giant warhammer to the ground. Kalgar noticed it made a nice thud sound. He looked from the man to the horse, wondering where they came from, and he noticed the horse's eyes glowed red for a moment. Was it a trick of the light?

"Who are you?" Kalgar demanded.

"I am you and you may become, and you are me, as I once was. Names are not important only strength is important.” As he says this, he removes his helm, placing it on hook on his saddle. "Come now, you won't need that." the man nods toward Kalgar's khopesh, always close at hand.

As Kalgar dropped his gaze, the man leapt over and punched him in the face! Knocking him off-balance, Kalgar throws a right, misses, and drops an elbow on the man's head.

“I can tell you have questions, but like all things in life, you’re going to have to fight for your answers. Tasting his own blood, Kalgar answers with a right hook. “Who are you, and how do you know me?”

Keeping pace, toying with Kalgar really, the man continues throwing rights and lefts. “I don’t really know you, I know of you. I’ve felt the presence of another officer of Kord for some time, growing stronger, and knew we might meet some day. Umph, nice one.”
“Officer of Kord? You felt what? I don’t really understand, ugh!” The man had stepped around Kalgar and threw his shoulder into him, sending Kalgar rolling.
“You really don’t know how this works, do you? Well, by your fighting, I can tell you’ve seen your share of battles. We, the chosen few who work for Kord instead of merely praising his name, are like his soldiers. You’re from Aes right? Well, that would make me a, um, Petty Officer, yeah, that’s it.”
Kalgar brings his elbow up to meet the man’s face. The man answers with a grab, headbutting Kalgar. They find themselves locked in, wrestling for control. “And what does that make me, an Ensign?” He shifts his weight a little, as Shizuka taught him, and strikes again.
“Oh, you’re quick! You got it! Kord is far too busy fighting divine wars in the Astral Sea to talk with us, to talk with you. But, as your power with Kord grows, so too does your ability to sense the strength of others. I sensed a growing power in the west, but thought nothing of it until I was making my way north.”
“You talk too much”, Kalgar says as he throws himself into the fight.
“And you, don’t think too much, hopefully that will change.” As the man says this, he catches Kalgar’s fist, and bends his wrist, forcing him to the ground.
“Look, things are getting interesting around here, in case you haven’t noticed. We’ve got armies moving around as if there’s nothing to stop them, and countries using insane amounts of weaponry. I can see that you’re lost, and I know what that’s like. These are the early stages of your connection with Kord. While his teaching is very specific, you know that there are many paths you can take. You need to find out how best to serve Kord, and you’ll do that by taking stock of who you are and creating opportunities. Kord doesn’t empower the weak, so take charge and see where it leads you. Strength be upon you.”
And as he says this, he punches Kalgar in the face. The world around him swirls and with a feeling of divine connection, Kalgar wakes up from death, his eyes a sea of storms.

The dragon, thinking it had finished off the party already, turns back and says, "The gods have no place in the game!" and knocked Kalgar out again.

Not too long later, the party awakens. Tied up, barely alive, but still breathing, they look over to the pit of lava to see the dragon, now looking like a balor again, standing in the pool.

"Now, you've put me in a tough situation. I should kill you, because you know my secret, but you proved quite capable here. I could make use of you."

"What is it you want from us?"

Alvyn, wriggling around, realized the rope was strong, but not well tied. He fought, loosened his hands, and used mage hand to help untie the others.

"There are several holy weapons stored across the land. I want them. I want you to get them for me. If you agree to this, I'll send you with some of my fighters, you will retrieve the weapons and bring them to me."

"And if we refuse?" Tong asked.

"Then I'll kill you."

"I thought you were said you were going to help me. I thought we were going to rid the world of this curse." Tong, still shocked from the loss of Votharxis, had barely begun to grasp the betrayal from Balefire.

"Um, I think he lied." Kalgar, blunt as ever, reminded Tong of the situation.

"Well, if that's all we have to choose from, I guess we'll take you up on your 'suggestion'." Said with much sarcasm and some prestidigitation, for good measure, Alvyn walks over to the pool. "But just so you know, I will kill you."

Baelfire grunted, and left. The party, now unbound, made their way to the door, and Tong collapsed on the ground.

Asking for a moment, he dropped to his knees and prayed for connection with his monk brothers. During the fight, he could hear and feel their excitement and their support, especially when he kneed Votharxis in the face. As he entered the Reverie (as Tong calls his place of otherworldly communication) Kalgar can feel a foreign calmness wash over him for an instant, rubbing off from Tong.

Expecting the worst, and feeling ashamed, Tong was quite surprised to see the monks cheering, shouting, and calling his name. Ting Tang Wong Gong, walked up to him.

"Master? Why are you all so happy...I've failed."

"What? No, you kidding? You kneed devil in face, awesome!"

"But, I lost the devil, and I touched the sword."

"Oh, you can touch yourself in many ways, but look how you've grown! You were able to hold the sword and get past its power. Years ago, that would have broken you. We are not disappointed in you at all! You faced challenge, you got better. No. What is disappointing is that it has been over 48 hours since meditation. Sad, now go!"

And in a flurry of thought, Tong was back in Ruber. Rising to his feet, he saw Alvyn knocking on the giant door which had been chained from outside.

As the door opened, Verius, formerly of the Knights of Shame, made his way out as the party made their way in. Kalgar spit some of his blood on his hands and clasped Verius on the back, staring at him. Not seeing much a chance to flee, with barely enough strength to stand, the party waited for further instruction and development.

Verius came back, and led them up some stairs to a small room, inside of which were a few chairs and a table. 

"We are assembling some guards to go with you. They will be with you at all times. We are making our way first to Chalybs to retrieve a longsword from the temple of Pelor."

Taking a seat in one of the chairs, Alvyn said "Yeah...assembling all these guards isn't a good idea. There will be no way we came move surreptitiously."   

"Stealth? We don't care about stealth. His lord Baelfire wants you to get the weapons and kill anyone in your way. We need those weapons to stop the invading devils!"

"Is that what Baelfire told you? Hmm, we thought you were closer than that." Kalgar said.

"Yeah, we thought the prize of betrayal would have been better than being lied to."

"We thought you could have wormed your way into better favour with him. It's strange how long our 'conversation' with him seemed to drag on."

Not understanding what they were saying, Verius also stopped paying much attention, thinking the party was just messing with him. He left the room, locking the door behind him.

Tong slumped to the floor, and went into deep meditation. Alvyn moved to the door and stared at it. Kalgar made it over and could hear the lock being picked from the other side.

Unlocking the door, Alvyn opened it, looked out, saw the guard, and asked for some water before closing the door. The guard, completely shocked, yelped and locked the door again.

Alvyn unlocked it.

The guard relocked it.

Three hours of this passed, and Alvyn discussed strategy with Kalgar while driving the guard crazy.

Finally, the guards had assembled. Other than Verius, there were 6 guards, 3 of them women, all formidable, all bearing different weapons. Alvyn and Kalgar had decided to go along with the plan, and get rid of the guards and betray Baelfire when the time was right.

Leaving Baelfire's tower, the guards made the 3 mount up on drakes, giant aggressive lizards. While the tiefling guards had no problem with them, the others found it difficult to rein them in. A horse is fine as it might only want to stop now and then to eat grass, but a horse doesn't try to eat everything including its riders.

Making their way back to Tubetown, Tong negotiated the sale of their horses, which had been left in fine care at a stable. Alvyn leaned over to one of the guards and said, "The hour grows late, I fear." To which the guard replied, "There is still time, there is always time." They exchanged looks, and Verius raised an eyebrow, but made no comment.

Several weeks passed as they rode to Chalybs. One night, halfway along, Kalgar pulled out the black-clothed bundle he had in his pack. He continued with his nightly ritual of paying tribute to Kord and Melora by drinking and dousing himself with salt water, but this night was different.

He unsheathed the katana, and Tong could see that the crystal glowed green on the bottom of the sword. He and Alvyn watched as Kalgar took some salt water, filled his hand, and ran it along the blade. The sword turned red with Kalgar's blood, and he didn't wince as he ran his hand over the entire blade. He then wiped the blade clean.

"Tsk, now I have to bandage up that hand!" Alvyn joked.

"No, the pain is part of it." Kalgar said.

"Part of what? What are you doing, exactly?" Tong asked.

"The only currency which really counts is blood. The sword knows this and deals with this. Before demanding the sword take blood, I have paid the blood price. We do this in Aes to remind ourselves of the bond between warrior and weapon, and to give respect to the blade. The salt water, which supports all life in my country, connects us all and has now connected the sword and I together."

Later that night, Alvyn sneaked over to Kalgar's hammock, and bandaged his band. "Not running with a stupid cut on your hand on my watch!"

Along the way, Alvyn and Kalgar noticed that Tong's training had become more intense and he seemed to be mixing the fighting styles used more in combat into his regimen. The guards, who were decently friendly if wary of the group, noticed Tong's training but didn't act in any way because of it. When he wasn't flirting with the female tieflings, Kalgar spent his time with Alvyn, studying the tieflings' and how they moved and trained.

Back in Chalybs, the Cyfandir World News Network was displaying in one of the shops, and Mountainface was discussing how the strikes weren't the only bad news. "The discontent seems to be traced back to the adviser to the Queen. While he has been in office for decades, there is a new group demanding that a limit be set the number of terms and that there should be an election. The adviser claimed that none of the bad choices made were due to his advice and that this was all nonsense. And that's the way things are, if you don't like it, you can take it up with my face!"

The news faded away, and Alvyn nodded to the guard he had spoken to back in Chalybs. Recognizing him for a member of the Doomguard, he slipped him a letter recounting our adventures in Ruber and what we were dealing with. He turned to Verius and asked more about the holy weapon.

"Well, it's not exactly a holy weapon, as in, it's not strictly divine. This temple of Pelor is more dedicated to the undead facet of the teachings of Pelor. Apparently, a long time ago, a paladin traveled the land ridding Cyfandir of the undead. It is rumored that this sword carries some of his power, and is now kept in the temple here."

"A weapon against the undead...yeah, that should help against the devil invasion...or not, don't you find that strange?"

Before he could answer, the guard returned from some business saying he had brought a long-lost friend along, Tribulus Griefblade, of the Doomguard.

And that's where we ended the session this week! Be sure to join us next time for more wacky adventure when Tong says something about tools, and Kalgar says, "Ugh!"

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