Awake and Dreaming

Happy Birthday

At six o’clock in the morning Larry sprang from his bed and ran downstairs towards the kitchen. Outside the bird were chirping, the sun was shining, but today wasn’t just another day. Today was Larry’s birthday and his parents were here to celebrate with him. Vaulting off the last creaking step he flung himself through the kitchen door to see both of them waiting for him at the kitchen table.

“Hi Mom, Hi Dad! You remembered it was my birthday! You guys are up early!” Larry belted as he whisked dirty dishes from the table into the sink. A birthday cake baked just two days before was sitting in the middle of the table with 34 candles precariously placed on its top.

“How’s the shop running pop?” Larry said as he elbowed his father in the shoulder. He knew Dad was getting older but he looked a little more tired today. Maybe it was the lighting. “The frosting tastes wonderful Mom, even better than last year!” He bounded over and gave her a big hug which nearly knocked the old woman from her set. Sitting her back up he made his way to the cupboard and pulled out three plates then sliced each one of them an equal share of cake.

“Happy birthday to you…happy birthday to you…happy birthday dear Larry..” he belted out in unison with his parents. Their words were slurred in with his. He paused for a moment, changed his hand gestures and muttering a few more words they suddenly sounded a bit more clear.

There, much better than last year. I must be getting better!

Cleaning up the plates he pulled out and old worn checkers set, one of his favorite games. All afternoon and into the evening Larry played game after game and chatted with his parents. It was so good to see them again. Although they weren’t around much since the accident any time he got to spend with them he treasured…and they were especially punctual on his birthday. They hadn’t missed one since.

The evening grew late and Larry’s eyelids began to get droopy. “Well I guess its time to get ready for bed. Thanks for the best birthday ever! I love you guys!” he said as he threw his arms around both of them. Then, standing up he twisted his arms into a strange gesture and both his parents slumped over on the table.

He looked at them for a moment before carrying them out into the backyard. Father first, then mother were put back into their grave plots and covered with dirt.

“I’ll see you guys again next year and it will be the best birthday ever!” Larry whispered before turning and skipping back into the house.

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Transplant
This may or may not be true...

The small stone was shaped like a human heart. The longer he stared at it the more he felt compelled to pick it up. In the crowds of people walking through town square he was surprised he was the only one who noticed it.

I could have sworn it wasn’t there before…is my mind playing tricks on me? When was the last time I ate?

The drifter moved out from the alley and swiftly scooped up the heart rock in his hands before disappearing down an adjacent passageway. It was much lighter than it appeared and very warm to the touch. As he cradled it against his chest he could have sworn he felt it beat. Maybe it was just his own heart, maybe his stomach was growling. All he knew right now is that he needed to get something to eat and the marketplace wasn’t much farther down the street.

Placing the heart in his front pocket he moved down the street and through the crowds of people. Several hours, and one satisfying meal later, he had completely forgotten about the little stone. He patted his chest and found that the pocket was empty. Maybe he imagined the whole thing. It had been three days since he last ate and delirium had set in.

The next morning a little boy was heard screaming as he came out of an alleyway, yelling for his mother. Dragging her back to the now gathering crowd he pushed his way through and showed her what he had run from. The body of a drifter lay sprawled across the stones, a large gaping hole where his heart should have been. Laying next to the body was a small, heart-shaped rock.

The more the little boy stared at it…the more he felt compelled to pick it up…

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Rats in the Walls - AP Completion
Loot and Wrapup

Torn limb from limb with his head severed, the elf fell to the ground. His laboratory in shambles, his pets scattered, and his “Old Voice” now silent. Gathering up what valuables you can find, along with the Rat Kings head, you leave the foul-smelling cavern and head across town to claim your rewards.

You are able to salvage the following from the Rat King’s lair:

  1. The Staff of the Rat King
  2. Four Vials of Acid
  3. Three Potions of Cure Light Wounds
  4. Two Vials of Alchemist Fire

Returning to Captain Rubix she gives you another pouch with 750g and thanks you for bringing back her dockmaster.

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Journal of the Rat King #1

Found and disciphered from a small, leather-bound journal located on a barrel in a storage room:

I have finally perfected my potion of rat domination. Unfortunately, the ingredients must be harvested from the fungus chamber, and it’s impossible to identify the deadly violet fungus hiding there. Many of my minions have perished collecting what I need.

My genius knows no bounds! My latest creation, the mighty rat-bear-pig, is a complete success. Its keen snout can safely sniff out the violet fungus so I can avoid them and collect my ingredients unharmed.

Potion of rat control ingredients: yellow puffball and weeping wig, both found in the fungus chamber. The ingredients are then distilled and mixed in my lab to create the potion. Don’t forget! Always forgetting! Damn that Old Voice’s buzzing!

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And they called her Captain (p3)

Bursting through the doors and onto the deck, she was met with silence. Not a single crewman could be found as the ship drifted through a sea of endless fog.

At first frustrated by the lack of her crews initiative while sailing through a dangerous situation she quickly began to realize she was the only one left on the ship. All the bunks were empty, the hold was still filled with supplies, even meals were left uneaten on plates. Its as if the crew had all vanished in an instant leaving everything exactly as it was…without signs of struggle or an explanation why.

Collapsing to her knees she began to weep as the ship drifted on into the endless nothing.

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And they called her Captain (p2)

The impossibly black fragments seemed to draw all light in from around. Three shards tumbled out of the bag and came to rest in her outstretched hand. Instantly her whole world went dark.

Visions of nameless, shapeless creatures from the Nothing filled her head. Rising up from the sea, emerging from deep within mountains, closing in on a round blue and green sphere surrounded by millions of twinkling lights, all swimming in a sea of darkness. They were all coming for her. They could all see her with their lidless gazes and indescribable forms.

She tried to run but instantly fell back on the dock. All she could manage to do was curl up in a ball and try to shut them out.

There were too many to count. Like a plague of locust they washed over all the life of the world. Civilizations fell, species were entirely consumed, the very gods themselves stood powerless as they were ripped from existence, thrown away into the great Nothing from whence nothing returns.

She could hear all of them, the countless, the nameless, all speaking to her in unison, uttering one single phrase over and over and over again:

We see you now.

Everything disappeared. She was in her own bed, no bag or shards to be found. Sitting up she turned her head to look in the mirror and horror took the breath out of her lungs. Where a living, healthy brown eye had been was now a gaping scarred void. A brown leather eye patch lay on a nightstand next to her bed. Grabbing it she ran for the doors to the ship deck in a panic.

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And they called her Captain (p1)

15 years ago a pirate sailed the seas in search of money, adventure and everything she could get her hands on. Being a woman made things a bit more difficult (as they were viewed more as property rather than captains) but the challenge excited her. It drove her and she excelled.

Her crew was made up of ex-guard, former sailors turned to a more lucrative lifestyle, and convicts who would rather die than go back to the death sentence known as Overreach. They worked well together, for pirates, and plundered many a merchant vessel (as well as the occasional navy ship through the use of trickery and guile). She became quite famous and garnered a fearsome reputation…one that attracted the attention of a peculiar customer.

The Winds of Fate blew her direction and she soon found herself accepting a transport quest backed by a substantial amount of gold. Too good an offer to turn down, she inquired why the payment was so great and what was she transporting. For a normal merchant discretion and ignorance serves as a comforting blanket on cold dangerous journeys through uncharted territories. Sometimes It’s better not to know what you are transporting…only that it needs to make it to the intended destination quickly and safely with no interruptions. She, however, was not a merchant.

The Stranger laughed from beneath his hooded robe and spoke with a raspy voice.

“I have been around for a long time and this world has been around much longer than I, but there are some things that have been around even longer than the gods and the universe. Some things have been there before the Nothing and will be there after everything is gone. Some things always were.”

Forcing out a harsh, wet cough, he extended a smooth, slippery and tentacle-like hand to the pirate Captain.

“Do we have a deal?”

Shaking the creatures hand, she instantly regretted the decision. With that brief gesture she had set in motion plans which dated back millennia. Chills ran down her spine as the creature crumbled away, laughing, into a pile of rags and rotting crustaceans. Something told her there was no going back on this deal.

Then she did the one thing she would regret doing for the rest of her life; She opened the bag the creature had tasked her to transport and gazed upon its contents…

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Bob the Necromancer
A story heard while frequenting a local tavern.

He was a cheery man. Whenever anyone asked his name he always responded the same, “Bob, and your name?” He lived by himself on the edge of the town running a good business incinerating people as part of the local tradition of cremation. His house was of moderate size at the front of a large lot backed by a high earthen mound (none remember a time it wasn’t there). Rumors wandered the town; that he was secretly rich, that he collected magical objects, and that his furnace was magically powered, etc. however no-one could confirm or deny them (another elusive piece of information was his age). On days when he wasn’t preparing a body he could be depended upon to watch the local children, and from the word of the children he was quite the accomplished storyteller. On those rare days when no-one died and no children needed watching (and sometimes even then) he could be seen practicing with a massive longbow sending arrow after into target posts he’d driven into the ground near the great pile of dirt. Occasionally he would host archery contests or carve hunting bows for sale in the market. Among Bob’s oddities, one often struck many as the oddest, when merchants came to town he’d always buy up large quantities of cloth as well as all the iron, copper, bronze, and other raw metals that the blacksmith couldn’t afford or just didn’t buy. It was never very much at a time, for the village was far from any mining settlements, but the odd purchases were are regular as the sunshine. When asked about them he’d just smile and say, “its for a little project of mine…”

One spring a merchant drove his cart in with the new of a massive band of orks wandering through the land pillaging and razing whole villages to the ground, and that the band was working its way in the general direction of the town. This was immediately the subject of much discussion. A week passed and they started coming, a steady stream of refugees filed through the town one way and some eight-hundred soldiers of the local noble the other. News reach the town a fortnight later of the staggering defeat of the soldiers in an ambush, along with three survivors.

When the local children spoke fearfully of this news to Bob, he told the children wait outside while he went and got some things. When he returned he had belted an old looking sword and a quiver of arrows. With the children in tow the man walked to the home of the town magistrate and knocked upon the door. The magistrate himself answered.

“What is the meaning of this?” his gaze took in Bob’s weaponry, “are we under attack, WHAT IS IT!?!?!” It has been a trying time for everyone, especially the magistrate whose duty it was to see to town affairs.

“This business with the orks is causing problems and I don’t like it. Its scaring the children.” The magistrate looked confused by this odd statement and was about to speak when Bob cut him off, “I’d like to put a stop to it, but i’ll need the cooperation of the town.” The civic leader looked at him silently for a moment.

“You, a lone old man? What can you do, or do you have an army hidden away?” Bob just smiled and said, “Open the main road out of town an hour before dark, then you shall see.” He turned and left the magistrate standing at his door, dumfounded look and all.

Later the word was given that the road be cleared for important town business. At his house the children watched Bob walk to the back of his lot and start digging out the front of the mound he and others had used as an arrow backstop for years. By evening he had uncovered a large door of aged wood bound in steel. He opened it and disappeared inside. When he reemerged what followed him was a sight that would live forever in the minds of all who saw, for he lead a great horde of undead warriors.

First came over a hundred ranks, ten abreast of preserved undead wearing spotless plates of steel armor, in each rank was adorned with its own symbol of fire inlaid in copper on their breastplate, or of a silver star, each carried a hand-and-a-half sword and shield. Behind them came the skeletons, over two thousand of them, each one reinforced with banding of iron along the spine and limbs, all of them carried a longbow and quiver loaded with black arrows as well as a menacing hammer, behind them trotted some ten “horses” reanimated pack beasts loaded greatly with more quivers of arrows. The last and smallest group numbered no more than three dozen, undead again, clad in cloaks of black patterned in silver, from within ebon shrouds darkened plates of armor glinted faintly, and slung about them was an array of implements of death, all of which glowed faintly even to the eyes of the mortals watching.

At the end of town the magistrate stood awestruck at the sight of “harmless old Bob the fixture of town, the guardian of children, and the dead” marching while surrounded by laughing children and followed by a legion. “See” said one child loudly to his parents, “his stories ARE true he even let me help with some of these.”

“Look it’s great grandpa” said a little girl as one of the undead, without missing a step, drew and waved his sword in salute at the little girl and her family, who promptly fainted. The magistrate looked at the child then at the man and then back again. The necromancer halted his army before him, bow in hand.

“The eternal Legion, at your service. All volunteers accounted for and awaiting your leave to depart and do what must be done…”

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The claiming of Tzipporah
Previous session introduction.

Life is hard…its especially difficult if you’re the spawn of the unholy union between a demon and human. Somewhere down the line a poor woman’s luck ran out and she was assaulted in the most violent and horrible fashion, bearing a child with both the soul and perseverance of a human but all the malice and hatred of a demon. Imagine a scenario where a soul is constantly being torn asunder and just as its about to break, both it and the attacker collapse from exhaustion…then… the battle starts all over again. Now contain that within a mortal body, throw in some demonic deformities, and look in the mirror. Welcome to your new life.

Sadly this is not far from the way you entered this world. Ptolus has a vast maze of dungeons and caverns deep below the city which hold great treasure and unspeakable horrors. The Delver’s Guild sends hundreds of adventurers over the years deeper and deeper to unearth these and more in hopes of acquiring vast knowledge, power and wealth. Years ago such a group of adventurers ascended the staircase and dove into the unknown in search of those very things. Among them was a young woman who’s grip on the magical arts was much stronger than her grip on reality. They slogged through the muck, kept on guard for constant attacks by beasts and much worse, always pushing forward to what seemed like an impossible goal.

On the third day they reached a large room with tall cathedral ceilings and strange markings covering the walls and floors. In the center of the room, hovering 2 inches above a pure white-stone pedestal was a deep green shard the size of a full grown man. It was then that the spiders made themselves known. Bravely the party fought them off but wave after wave continued to assault them. First the rogue succumbed to the poisons coursing through his body after countless bites and scratches. His screams could be heard as the spiders overwhelmed him and tore his bloated body to pieces. Next was the cleric with all his faith and conviction. Cleaved in two by a taloned leg he lay gasping on the ground for breath that would never come.

Seeing her companions struck down one by one unnerved the poor girl. She gathered what strength she had left and let loose a massive wave of fire that incinerated the remaining spiders. It washed over them like a molten wave of death, slamming into the crystal in the center of the room as it passed. Suddenly, everything went completely silent. No breath could be heard, the remaining three were struck mute, and all attempts to make any sort of noise was met with failure. Splitting slowly from the center, piece by piece, the crystal seemed to peel itself apart revealing a horribly twisted and warped human with jet black skin, wrapped in its own massive leathery wings. Horns protruded from its misshapen skull and its body convulsed with the first breaths it had taken in centuries.

The creature stepped down out of the remains of the crystal and turned towards the intruders. Breathing in deeply it exhaled a violent burst that seemed to push all the sound back into the room, knocking them to the ground. The next few seconds were a blur but they ended with both of her party members slain and the woman suspended in the air by her neck as the demon examined her. Its horrible toothed mouth formed into what could have been a smile as the smell of sulfur assaulted her lungs. In that moment the terrifying realization of what was about to happen crept into her head…and she desperately grasped for anything sharp to end her life with. The futility of this action seemed to please the demon as it began to work on her…

Twenty years later a similar group of adventurers from the Delver’s Guild managed to stumble upon the same room. This time they found a creature not human, but not completely demon, encased in an embryonic sac at the foot of a bone-white stone pedestal with green shards scattered all over the room. It appeared to be female, fully grown and approximately 22 human years of age. They freed it from its fraternal prison and drug it back to the surface. Shackled and gagged, this was to be its existence….or was it?

You are almost to the staircase when something odd happens. Call it demonic intervention, possibly the last gift from a twisted father. The hallway that had been secure for years burst forth with all manner of vermin and filth that leaps onto the party, getting into the spaces between armor and dragging them to the ground. Somehow you managed to slip away to a passage you didn’t even realize was there – you could have sworn the wall opened up. Guided by an unseen force you sprint away from the horrible sounds of digestion and the screams of agony. Something inside you smiles and you have no idea why, but it feels good.

Hours after your escape you surface in a small cave by the shore. It appears to be some sort of smuggling stash with a small group of pirates to match. They quickly pull you out of the water and put you before their captain. She leans in close and examines you before speaking. “My, you are a curious creature. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like you.” Her voice is both piercing and soothing at the same time. The patch over her eye hides a much more horrible story than the protruding scars around it would tell. “Welcome to the surface. Now after these chains come off you’re going to tell me a little about yourself and then I will tell you a little about what’s going to happen next. My name is Captain Rubix…”

[ This begins the entrance of Tzipporah into the game. I’ll speak with you more about what she has done since then and catch you up to speed when she is introduced to the party. ]

claiming-of-tzipporah.jpg

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Hook, line and job
Previous session.

“Excellent” Rubix says and walks back around her desk. She sits down, leans back and crosses her legs. Opening the top drawer of her desk she removes an expensive looking cigar and a small twinder twig which she uses to light it. Taking a long drag and letting it out in several small smoke rings she looks up at the ceiling thoughtfully before turning again to you.

“Now that we have a legally binding verbal agreement,” looking at both of you directly, “We can discuss the rest of the details.” She turns slowly around in her chair as she smokes the cigar, releasing little clouds of smoke circles every now and again.

“I run an operation here called the ‘Port Sea Trading Company’. I’m going to speed things up and assume you’ve already heard about it. We deal in all sorts of merchandise, ranging from artifacts and armor to slaves and salvage. Naturally moving such items across the sea can be dangerous. Pirates loves to attack ships just like the ones you’re going to be working on, looting and killing the crew. It’s a shame when we have to kill them all and deposit their bodies at the bottom of the sea. Losing potential employees always hurts a little.” She pauses her spinning as she says this and cracks a little smirk, then continues her slow rotation.

“We have clients who would like to move some merchandise from this fair city to a location undisclosed to employees such as yourself. Due to the sensitive nature of their cargo and the amount of ‘insurance’ they have purchased, we require a sizeable guard to ensure its safety. The route they have chosen is not the most safe. Let’s be honest…it’s pretty damn dangerous and would put and peril you suffered during YOUR previous escapades to shame.” She chews something for a second in her mouth and then spits into a brass jar on the ground.

“The ship leaves in two days at sundown. You are to report to Tobias downstairs at that time. Take the next day or so to get your affairs in order, write your will, have your last supper, whatever you need to do. When you come back try not to get yourself a tail. I don’t need any MORE complications than I already have.”

She stops her spinning and puts her cigar out in the ashtray on her desk. Folding her hands across the desk, she leans towards you. “Don’t disappoint me and you’ll find that this can be the start of your new career…on the outside.” Her gaze hardens as she stares you directly in the eyes before standing up again and staring out the large window, her back to you.

“Oh and on your way out, leave the silverware in that sack by the door. I don’t care about the food or the shoes but I doubt you’ll get past the minotaur while you still have that on you.”

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