Archive for September 21st, 2005

A Word of Explanation

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

An editor’s note, if you will:  the post below is the summary of
our last game, sort of, because it ended in the midst of an extended
battle.  I don’t really have a mechanism for Whitten having
written a journal entry between rounds, though, y’know?  So there
you have it.  It’s what Whitten thought after the last round of
the night.  We play again this weekend, so next week I’ll post
something more normal. (more…)

A Moment In Time

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

We are fighting Alec, the halfling we came here to rescue.

It’s all rather hard to explain.

This morning, we discussed what to do with The Ruins.  I don’t know what they’re called, so that’s what they’re called now
We agreed we should seal them off.  Adric though we should ask the
Lothandrians and the Kelemvorians to dispatch some troops to guard the
place, but Rock worried we’d just be attracting attention to it. 
I advocated just sealing it shut and leaving it be for now, as did
Badl, Nigel and others.  Badl very rightly emphasized that we first need
to seal off the entrance from the Underdark.  He and Nigel were
able to magically seal the place and then Badl disguised the entrance
and even covered over the door to The Tomb.  I spent the morning
studying the observation deck so that I can safely teleport
there.  That gives us two points inside – the main cave and the
first observation deck – to which we can go in an instant. 

Adric summoned a magical breakfast for us, and together we debated and
discussed our next steps.  Badl thinks we need to consult with
someone more knowledgeable about the ways of the world, particularly
the ancient world, and I wholeheartedly agree.  He suggested
Candlekeep, the headquarters of a god of runes and writings. 
Adric suggested Elmwood, where there’s a temple to Oghma that owes the
Tinker Trading Company a favor or two.  We tentatively discussed
going first to Elmwood (by way of Elventree), then to Candlekeep, then
possibly to Myth Drannor – Nigel’s favorite destination of them all due
to its potential for slaying any number of Drow.

Ultimately, though, the question of where to go next rested on what we
were going to do with Alec.  Most people in the party didn’t trust
him, though I personally felt that all he was guilty of was adventuring, but
we had absolutely zero grounds to hold him captive or otherwise
imprison him.  We decided that we really needed a better sense of
how well we could trust him before we made a decision, so we sat him
down and Adric and I explained that we knew that there were people
after Alec and that we felt strongly that he was, one way or another,
central to how all this was going to play out in the long run.  If
he would let us question him, as a show of good faith, and we came away
from it feeling we could fully trust him, we promised we would tell him
everything we’d learned and take him with us so that we could offer him
better protection than he’d had before we got here. 

Alec gracious agreed, on the condition that he be able to read my mind
while I read his.  I saw no problem with this, and so he and I
took off all our magical equipment and sat down opposite one another
while Rock, Badl, Adric, Nigel and Katarina prepared to ask him
questions.  Bonzo – a perfect gentleman, as always – stood by
holding my stuff while Nigel carried Alec’s.  Alec and I opened
our minds to one another, and before we started I said I’d like to do a
quick head-count since we knew we’d already been magically spied on
once already.  I went around the circle – quite surprised to learn
I could see nothing of the minds of Badl, Nigel and Katarina – as
everyone thought their names at me. 

The second surprise was that Rodeo, Alec’s ape companion, thought his name at me.

The third surprise was that there was an extra mind belonging to someone as yet unseen.

I called out that someone was amongst us without our knowledge and
Nigel and Adric asked where.  I could locate his general location,
but nothing more.  I cast a spell to see through invisibility and
Nigel and Adric each dropped a dispel in the area.  They did not
reveal our unknown guest, but their spells did have one effect we
hadn’t expected.

Rodeo turned from an ape into an enormous, coal-black dragon.

Really, that’s when the fighting started.  Alec was quick to his
feet, two knives in his hands, and he used them to stab Katarina in the
back.  Everyone stood there stunned for a moment, and then the
walls of the very cave shook as we fought back.  The dragon spat a
stream of acid that struck me and struck Bonzo, and Alec was a blur of
darts and knives and all manner of hostility.  Nigel and I were
dropping fireballs – mine sonic – and though we clearly split and
cracked the scales of the dragon, Alec was able to dance nimbly out of
the way of everything we could throw at them.  Adric summoned
forth shards of sacred light that slit the dragon’s skin open – and
again, Alec stepped between them like puddles the day after a
rain.  Badl tried to turn them both into various harmless
creatures to no effect.  Katarina tried to shoot the dragon, but
her bolts just shattered on its hide.  Her pet shadow, however,
hid in the floor underneath the dragon and popped up now and again to
grab its flesh and do whatever terrible thing it does to sap a
creature’s strength.  As Badl and Adric tried to surround Alec
with monsters they’d summoned and Rock waded in to take care of the
dragon with his own sword, we realized more and more that while we were
clearly able to best Rodeo, Alec had barely taken a scratch.

Battle raged.

For all the songs I’ve sung in one bar or another about the glories of
war and the lights that fill the sky when swords clash and armies
barrel across a field at one another, wizards at their backs summoning
the energies of other worlds to split their ranks and slay their men,
words ultimately fail the real thing, don’t they?

Eventually, Badl had pinned the dragon to the ceiling with a tree he’d
summoned from a feather, and even as the dragon managed to free itself,
Badl pointed a finger at Alec and said, “Bullfrog,” and Alec was no
more than a croaking lump on the floor.  The dragon landed around
– but, sadly, not on – him, and we drew a breath of
encouragement from the knowledge that now it was almost over. 
Though with his last act Alec had imprisoned Adric, Badl and Rock in a
cage of force, and Nigel was almost out of spells and Katarina had
found the wand of lightning to be of no more use against Alec than any
of our other tricks, Greebo was flitting through the air around the
dragon, trying one more time to land a spell that would suck the life
force from it and deliver it to me as a small down payment on what
we’re owed for having been duped into guarding a dragon and its friend
and Alec, himself, was neutralized.

That’s when Alec – the real Alec – stood up.

I do not know what he is.  Where a frog had been, now there was an
elf.  Remember how I said that the elf we’d seen in the recorded
message – Behold, young princes, the greatest victory of your people,
the recording from at least 50,000 years ago – was the elfiest elf I’d
ever seen?

Alec is that kind of elf.

When he stood up, turning back into himself, leaving behind the frog
shape Badl had given him, he wore jeweled armor and had long hair and
ears that could cut a man’s flesh with their tips.  He held a
sword in his hand, and though Adric had silenced the area around Alec
as an impediment to magic, we could see his mouth move as he shook his
sword at us.  He is angry.  His pet dragon is nearly dead,
and moments from finally dying.  His secret is out.  His
unwitting accomplices have turned on him.  We do not yet know what
his intentions may be, but with a dragon like that as his friend and
pet, it can’t honestly be good, can it? 

I do not know what is going to happen next.

Badl is trapped behind a wall of force.  Though he is a fierce
warrior and a wise druid, I do not know what he can do.  To be
honest, I do not know what most druids can do.  Badl is a reserved
sort, and he has the whiff of a fiercely independent streak about
him.  I respect this.  His ape is a gentleman, now reduced to
whimpering in a side tunnel and thanking the stars it still has its
life.  Badl is faithful to his cause, faithful to his trusted
friend, faithful to his god’s work.  His actions teach us that
there is a place in the world for everyone and everything.  I do
not want to lose that.

Nigel is angry.  Nigel, in the few days I’ve been returned to his
company, is always angry.  I should clarify that not once have I
seen him lose his temper or raise his voice, but then, he has the worst
rage of all: the kind that simmers over-long.  Ten years of
enslavement to the Drow have robbed him of what I remember as a more
carefree sense of daring.  He is still daring, make no mistake,
but he is bitter and hurt and in his short time of freedom has not
shaken the grudge that he carries from the decade he spent
underground.  I do not fault him for that.

Adric is a shining light in the world.  He has told us little of
his history despite being entirely open about his beliefs and
opinions.  A part of me has started to suspect that his past
saddens him when he dwells on it – or would if he were to do so, which
I doubt he does.  He looks always to the future, what to do next,
where we go from here.  He does not care what has gone
before.  In his eyes, every morning is a fresh chance at
greatness.  I aspire to that.

Rock is my best friend.  He is the one member of the TTC truly
left to me.  I have known him for years, fought for him and beside
him more times than I could every try to remember in that time.  I
owe him my life easily a hundred times over.  I have watched him
grow from a naive boy with a taste for the outdoors into a skilled
leader with goals and ambitions and a vision he finds worth
protecting.  I envy that.

Katarina remains a mystery to me.  I do not know her, and sense
that she does not want us to know her too well.  Katarina has
secrets and a friend made of shadows and something she wants very badly
– why else would she be here, I sometimes think, if there weren’t
something she felt she has to have that might be at the end of some road we now walk?  I sympathize with that.

I stand here and look around as Alec shakes his sword and his face
contorts with rage and his jaws flap in silent fury.  My cat is
about to kill his dragon.  I am about to try to kill him, or free
my friends, or something, I know not what.  What I know is that he
threatens us – threatens these people, and by extension, threatens
everyone I know and love.  I think of Gerhard.  We exchanged
notes this morning about the reasons why The Tomb would be an alloy of
iron and starmetal (he reports that any alloy of starmetal is weaker
than starmetal, so he doesn’t understand why anyone would
bother).  If Alec kills us all, will he find that note, hunt down
Gerhard wherever he is for fear of his knowledge of this place? 

Alec has heard us tell tales of our past exploits.  Will he hunt
down Rock’s wife?  Will he try to kill Berol, to whom I am tied in
a web of friendship and debts too complex for me to describe? 
Will he, on a lark, decide to track down all members of the TTC to slay
them in their beds before they can ever come seeking revenge?

The core belief of my religion is that beauty justifies its own
existence.  There are people in the world who think this shallow,
and I don’t spend much time talking religion with those people. 
But our dirty little secret, the thought none of us bring up around the
temples very often, is that old saw about the eye of the
beholder.  I think of these people standing here with me, frozen
for a moment in frustration and exhaustion and rage, and I think that
they are beautiful.  Sune may not have much use for all of their
exteriors, but this is beautiful in its own, weird way, isn’t it? 
We hike up and down the world, digging up secrets and seeing the past’s
past come back to haunt the now and the future, and I think it’s
beautiful in a way our scriptures do not yet address.

I think of all this and more, see Alec shaking his blade at us, his
mouth open in an angry grimace, and I think I know what I want to do
with the rest of my life.

I want to live forever.

I want to protect the world until the world, itself, ends.

We are fighting Alec.  I have no idea what’s about to happen, but
whatever it is, it’s important.  I want to stamp him out, turn
this place into a tomb not just of two dragons and an ancient elf, but
of the dangers of the past, the horrors our world must have faced and
then forgotten.  I want to draw a line in the sand and tell that
past:  you go no further.  You do not get to go beyond this
point.   Our world doesn’t need you.  Our world does
need us, though.  That’s why we’re here. (more…)