The Devil’s Riddle: Session 48

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on June 22, 2017 by Carl

Fyn heaves himself up and over the edge, then dashes towards the cover of a half-collapsed wall. Crouching he readies an arrow, waiting for his target’s attention to be diverted towards the irritant thorn-creatures. Then he lets fly, but at the moment he does the angel drops suddenly in an attempt dislodge the clinging briar-kin. “Source take you!” he hisses as the arrow sails over the angel’s head. He ducks back down, considering his next move. As he does so Cayleb pops up; his crossbow bolt does strike home.

Overhead the angel clasps both hands together and an immense blade of roaring fire burst into life between them. It swoops down towards one of the briar-kin that fired needles, and swings twice. The tiny creature leaps nimbly over each arc of flame, then leaps directly at the angel along with another of its kin. While two of them pummel it with spiny fists two more attempt to bind it once more. Once again the angel is able to tear itself free, though with more difficulty this time. The combined attacks and tangled vines force it to land.

Idril takes Lisandra’s hand and rises painfully to her feet. “Thank you my dear” grunts the elderly gnome. Then she mutters under her breath, twists her fingers sharply and gestures towards the angel. The ground beneath it becomes suddenly slippery, but if she hoped to cause it to fall she is disappointed.

Tomas hauls himself up, reaches for his greataxe and charges. “For the LIIIGHT!” he roars. He swings but the angel sees him coming and swats the mighty blow aside with one wing, leaving the big man stumbling and wide open to a counter. It lets out a wild, inarticulate roar of fury and defiance. 

Seeing this Rufus makes a desperate dash to help his ally. He drops his bow and breaks into a sprint. As he runs he draws his gleaming curved blade, holding it out behind him as he springs from one wall to the next and rolls over the lip. As he does so Lisandra raises her hands, and a faint, shimmering shield of light forms around her bodyguard. He comes up running and lashes out twice, clean blows that open up a neat cross of blood across the angel’s clasped fingers. The chained celestial bellows in pain, and the blazing swords falls from its grip.

Rufus allows himself a satisfied half smile, and steps back into a wide-armed stance, almost inviting the creature to stoop and reclaim its weapon. His confidence drains as he meets the creature’s gaze however; there is nothing there but deep, soulless anguish and fury, utterly at odds with its divine countenance. 

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 47

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on June 22, 2017 by Carl

“It’s as good as dead!” grins the irrepressible swashbuckler as the party respond to Lisandra’s call to action. Drawing his bow Fyn dashes for a pile of rubble in the far corner of the destroyed cellar and attempts to use it as a springboard to reach and swing up from the jutting beams above. The rubble shifts underfoot however, leaving him clinging, one-handed, to an overhanging beam, feeling somewhat foolish. He doesn’t realise how lucky he is to be out of sight of the combatants above.

Overhead the chained angel shrieks once more, an inhuman, ghastly sound that makes the flesh crawl. Blindingly bright light suddenly erupts its eyes with deafening roar; the few thorny creatures that had been clinging to the angel are blasted clear. They tumble from sight into the manor ruins.

The angel’s blazing gaze rakes over everything it falls upon, throwing up showers of dust and debris. Caught out in the open, Idril and Lisandra are blasted from their feet and crash to the ground ten feet away. Idril lies unmoving where she falls, blood pooling around her grey hair. Rufus too is thrown backwards and lands heavily but shakes his head groggily, still conscious though badly hurt. Tomas grunts in pain as he too is struck, but he keeps his feet.

Cayleb, who wisely ducked back into his hole the moment he saw danger, pops up as the beams of radiant light pass by, takes a panicked shot and ducks quickly back out of sight. Unsurprisingly his crossbow bolt flies well wide of its mark.   

More of the thorn-covered creatures emerge, scampering up beams and over crumbling masonry. Two of them open grinning, spine-toothed mouths and razor-sharp thorns spit out, flying twenty feet to rip into angelic flesh. Distracted by this assault the angel barely sees the other two that leap down from the gaping hole in the roof to land on its back. As they cling on tangled, thorny briars burst from their tiny bodies and spread between them. The tendrils interweave and wrap swiftly around the angel, threatening to bind it completely.

The angel gathers itself; powerful wings flex and tear through the thick binding briars like wet cotton. It is all the briar-children can do to hang on.

Tomas bellows in fury; down here he can do nothing. That abomination up there is free to cut down his companions at will unless he can somehow reach it. He takes a running start and leaps for an overhanging joist. Even with his great height and strength he only just reaches it and manages to hang on by his fingers.  Rufus meanwhile drags himself to one knee, nocks an arrow and despite his swimming vision he fires. The pain is too much though; his shot lacks power and the arrow falls short of its target.

Lisandra rises unsteadily to her feet and staggers over to the fallen Idril. She reaches out a hand and closes her eyes. White light, similar to that emitted by the angel, washes first over the elderly gnome and then out to envelop all her companions. “Awake, bright heart” she whispers, and to her great relief Idril’s eyes flutter open. “There is hope yet.”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 46

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on June 22, 2017 by Carl

Fyn pushes the door open, ready to spring back, but what he sees brings him up short. “Nothing in here” he calls back to his companions. “Nothing but a large trunk against the far wall.”

The party enter the room and indeed there is very little of note; a door in the northern wall, a heavy trunk against the western one, banded and clad in dull steel. It is unadorned save for three thick embossed runes on the front.

“Want me to take a look?” Fyn asks, but Lisandra shakes her head. “Let Idril and I examine it first. Perhaps we can determine what these runes signify.”

The two step forward, but before they can stoop to begin their examination they are interrupted by an almighty impact from above that causes the floor to vibrate and loose ceiling mortar to rain down on them. Rufus is the first to react.

“That came from the ruins above! Everybody move!”

He leads them at a sprint, dashing back down the corridor and scrambling up through the hole in the ceiling at the top of the stairs. The sight that greets him gives even the experienced blademaster pause. Above him, silhouetted against a large hole in the manor house roof, a being he can only describe as an angel is furiously beating its huge snow-white wings as it desperately attempts to climb. Clinging to it are a number of tiny spined creatures, their sharp thorns lacerating the flying being. They appear to be plantlike, but are utterly alien to Rufus.

Lisandra clambers up first to join the blademaster in the ruins of the manor cellar and then the others; as they begin to make sense of the scene unfolding overhead it becomes apparent that whatever it is, this “angel” is not what it first appeared to be. Its long flowing robes are stained brown with what looks like dried blood. Instead of hands it has long, vicious claws, similarly stained, and the flesh of both arms glistens, as if its skin has been flayed away. Wrapped around the body and arms are spiked black chains that pierce the skin, and attached to the chains there is a black iron collar around its neck. It opens its mouth and lets out a tortured shriek as it flings one of the tiny plant things away.

“Sevenfold Source!” Tomas spits. “What is that unholy thing? Do you see its halo? It’s black as the Pit!”

“I don’t know, and I don’t care!” cries Cayleb, still halfway through the hole. “Let ‘em tear each other apart, and let’s get out of here before they try to do the same to us!”

Lisandra shakes her head, no doubt in her mind. “I have no idea what it is, nor what those are creatures that attack it, but we are here to destroy agents of the Dark. That chained thing is plainly our foe. If it escapes this place who can say how much harm it might do? Stand fast, my friends; we attack!”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 45

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on June 20, 2017 by Carl

Lisandra closes her eyes and reaches out with her senses. Almost at once she recoils, her features contorting in disgust. “Oh! This place reeks of the Dark! Something foul occurred here…”

She takes a deep breath and concentrates, picking her way through the layers of foulness and corruption that cling to this place like congealed blood. In her mind’s eye she senses the place and time a dark ritual was performed, and pieces fall into place.

“Rufus, we had assumed the Darkspawn followed us here. I’m not sure that’s true, at least in the manner in which we had presumed.” She opens her eyes and meets the blademaster’s steady gaze. “What I sense here is an unholy rite, a summoning ritual that opened the way to the agents of the Dark. I don’t think the Darkness followed, I believe it was called.”

Rufus strokes his chin, concerned. “That would suggest that our foes had allies here, that their taint had already spread into this world before they themselves broke through.”

“Perhaps,” Lisandra nods, “though we cannot be sure. It is possible that the ritual was conducted in error, or that the consequences were unknown.” She sees the look of skepticism her bodyguard shoots her, and shrugs. “I confess, it does not seem likely.”

“But the house?” demands Idril. “What of the house? These ruins look hundreds of years old! How is that possible?”

“The Source is in all things” the Channeler responds. “Most strongly in living beings, in animals and plants. But to a lesser extent present also in felled wood, in stone and steel and glass. I think what happened when a portal opened here was that an outpouring of Darkness bled into this world. At its touch all remnants of the Source were burned away. Stone crumbled, wood rotted; in effect this place aged and decayed hundreds of years in a matter of moments.”

Fyn shudders. “Light of the Seven! If it had that effect on the building, what would it have done to any people here?”

Lisandra nods. “It is a horror that does not bear thinking on. We must do everything in our power to prevent any similar incursions. But I fear we will not achive that here. Our quarry are long gone from this place; I think we must return to the tunnels in order to seek them out.”

There is no debate; a lingering dread taints this place and all the group are grateful to take their leave of it. Within minutes they have made their way back down into the smuggler tunnels.

“Very well” says Rufus. “Fyn, with me, but quiet and touch nothing unless I say so!” The pair head down the unexplored tunnel, which turns to the right. A door stands before them, which Fyn examines for a moment before announcing “Unlocked, I think.”

Rufus nods, backing away to the cover the corridor corner. “Very well. Tomas, stand close by me. You others, behind us. Fyn, glance inside and be ready to fall back in case of danger.” He nocks an arrow. “Everyone ready? Then go!”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 44: Heart of Darkness

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on June 18, 2017 by Carl

The Innkeeper, a tall rangy fellow with a shock of greying hair, whistles to himself as he bustles around the Devil’s Riddle inn, tidying and cleaning. Despite the lack of customers due to the desertion of the village of Tylon, Jeden is content. He has his health and he has his inn. What more could a man ask?

The scraping of wood from down in the cellar wakes him from his happy reverie. “Mistress Lisandra? Master Rufus? Back so soon? I hope you gave those damnable creatures a taste of their own…”

He tails off as the cellar door opens. Three gaunt, black-cloaked figures step into the room, one moving to block the only other exit. “Oh blessed Saviour preserve me!” whispers the innkeeper in horror, the colour draining from his face. The dishcloth falls unnoticed from between nerveless fingers.

One of the robed figures approaches him. There is nothing hurried about its movements, no haste as it reaches up and pulls back its hood to reveal the dead-eyed stare and bloodless grin of the creature that used to be the bookseller.

“So good to see you again, innkeeper.” Its voice is low and rasping, and something in it’s tone chills Jeden still further. It cocks its head to one side. “I trust my room is as I left it?”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 43

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on June 18, 2017 by Carl

“First thing’s first, Fyn. Armour back on before we go anywhere.”

The group quickly follow the Blademaster’s instructions, and once ready he speaks again. “It’s hard to say whether our best chance of finding our foes lies up these stairs or deeper into the tunnels. But I say we head up; what think you, Lisandra?”

“I’m inclined to agree my friend; if nothing else it may provide us with a better understanding of our whereabouts if the steps lead to the surface. We we know there are tunnel entrances at the monastery, the inn and also a smuggler’s cove further south at the coast. Is that right Fyn?”

Fyn looks at her, puzzled for a moment. “Oh, you mean the edge. Yes, that’s right. I’m not sure where we might be right now, but it makes sense to find out. Lead on Rufus.”

The steps lead upwards for some distance. Eventually Rufus and Fyn find themselves facing a well-made wooden door. However much of the ceiling of the tunnel has collapsed, and the door is blocked by heavy masonry. Where the ceiling has given way dim light filters down into the dusty air. Fyn peers through the gap.

“It looks like there is a chamber above us, but open to the sky, the walls damaged. Some sort of ruin. Tomas! Come lend a hand here, let’s see if we can widen this hole.”

In short order the two of them have cleared a hole large enough for Fyn to wriggle through. He stands and looking up realises he is in what was once a cellar. The ceiling above has collapsed, and beyond that much of the ceiling of the first floor, as well as most of the roof. There is rubble everywhere.

“It looks like an old manor house, but long since fallen to ruin.” he calls down. “Strange though, I don’t know of any ruins in these parts…” He peers up, spotting a family crest over an arched stone doorway. “Hold on, isn’t that… Blessed Seven! It is! The twin boars! That’s Lord Cotely’s arms! This must be Cotely Hall!”

Idril and Lisandra have clambered up alongside him.

“That’s not possible” mutters the elderly gnome, leaning heavily on her cane as she recovers her breath.

“Why not?” Lisandra asks. “Had you not expected to emerge here?”  

“It’s not that,” Idril replies, her eyes widening in shock as she confirms Fyn’s guess. “This ancient ruin is indeed Cotely Hall. What is impossible, my dear, is that this manor house, so ravaged by time’s passing, was only built fifteen years ago. And when I last visited Lord and Lady Cotely here, not three months past, it was in perfect condition!”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 42

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on June 13, 2017 by Carl

“Place any metal armour into this sack. Sheath your weapons. Keep everything of metal away from your skin.” Idril busies herself gathering and preparing, some way down the passage that leads to the rust monster lair.

“Great” grumbles Cayleb. “So now we’re defenceless. How d’you expect us to get past those steel-eating monstrosities? What’re we going to use, harsh language?”

“Let me worry about that, young man.” She hefts the large pouch she took from Fyn. “I suspect they’ll be too busy focusing on dinner to pay us much mind. And if they do, well you have your crossbow, Rufus and Fyn have bows, Lisandra and I have our magics, and Tomas here is not carrying any metal. I think we’ll be fine. Master Rufus, would you be so good as to accompany me?”

The two set of quietly down the corridor with Fyn close behind until they reach the archway. Rufus and Fyn take up positions in cover as the rest of the party come up behind them. Cayleb brings up the rear, carrying a sack full of armour as quietly as possible. The rust monsters amble about the room, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the adventurers. There are two doors leading from the room, one in the far wall, another in the wall to the south.

Idril fishes out a handful of steel ballbearings from Fyn’s pouch and rolls them across the floor to towards the far corner of the room. The rust monsters’ antennae respond instantly,  twitching towards the sound and scent of metal. Two scuttle after the tasty morsels immediately, oblivious of anything other than dinner. Only one of the creatures pays the party any mind, though it too moves in the direction of the shiny ballbearings.

“Time to go!” Idril barks, and the group dash into the room, making for the door in the far wall. Rufus and Fyn take the lead, followed closely by Idril. As they pass through the archway they feel the now-familiar thrum of magical energy as the trap triggers again, and the pouch grows warm in Idril’s hands. Rather than reach in she grips the top of the pouch and flings half the contents into the far corner of the room. All three rust monsters fall on the metal in a feeding frenzy. “Quickly, while they are distracted!”  

In their haste no-one but Tomas spots the small lever jutting out of the wall near to the far door. And he is far too preoccupied with herding his companions to safety to pay it any great mind.

Rufus pulls the door open and he and Tomas make sure everyone is through before slamming it closed behind them. They are through.

To their left rough-cut stone steps lead upwards into darkness. To the right the smuggler’s passage continues for a way before turning right again.

“Right” smiles Fyn. “Which way next?”