Archive for August, 2017

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 60

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on August 30, 2017 by Carl

Rufus and Fyn enter into a scene of chaos; Lisandra bleeding from claw marks across one cheek, Tomas stood rigid in pain as the creature of shadow plunges its limbs ever deeper into his back.

“Stand fast Tomas, I have this.” mutters Idril . The elderly gnome cups her hands and thrusts them out towards the shadowy figure. A tiny bead of swirling black energy flies out and impacts the spectre with a deafening crack of thunder. The concussive force tears the thing apart.  

Fyn and Rufus use the distraction to dash in unseen behind the last remaining Jester; Fyn stabs hard but his dagger passes clean through rotting flesh, causing no appreciable damage. His blow serves to alert the creature however, and hissing in fury it ducks its head beneath a swing from Rufus that would surely have decapitated it.

“Duck this, chuckles!” Cayleb yells, backpedaling, and another of his bolts flies true, burying itself to the fletching in the Darkspawn’s chest.

Tomas bellows in fury and hacks at the creature. The blow is heavy enough to knock the Jester to one knee, but seems to do little actual damage. “You shall be the first to die!” the undead monstrosity hisses at him.

“I think not, foul thing.” Lisandra’s words are gentle, and the movements of her fingers are delicate. The roaring blast of fire that spews forth is anything but. The Dark Jester bursts into flames, the dry and desiccated flesh consumed in a furious conflagration. Blackened bones collapse to the flagstones.

The group silently surround their fallen foe, readying themselves for the emergence of its spirit form.  But swirling smoke-like creature that emerges from the bones does not rise up to attack. Instead it sinks into the stone floor and vanishes from sight.

“Seven take it, it’s got away!” Cayleb moans. “Gone to fetch more of its kind, no doubt!”

“I’m not so sure” Lisandra muses, even as she moves to Tomas’ side to tend to his wounds. “If there were more nearby surely they would have all attacked when the one we questioned broke free of Idril’s control. No, I think we have dealt the enemy a significant blow here today.”

Idril nods. “Aye, lass, your reasoning is sound to my mind. Their plan centered on a summoning ritual, and that ritual requires a book. We have destroyed several of their number, and the one that remains does not know where the book is. It mistakenly believed we must have taken it.”

“I take it that none of us did take it?” Tomas asks, wincing as Lisandra massages necrotised flesh with fingers that glow with holy light. The other shake their heads. “So where could it be? The bookseller left it, Jeden didn’t know anything about it, none of us have it. Who else could possibly have taken it?”

The group stare blankly at one another for several beats before realisation strikes. Rufus and Tomas speak at once: “Ranji!”

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 59

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on August 29, 2017 by Carl

Fyn, meanwhile, is entirely out of his mind with fear. He runs through pitch black corridors with no thought for his destination or the dangers that may lie ahead. His only goal is to escape those horrors that he knows lie behind. Reaching a door he fumbles in the darkness to open it but finds it locked. He whimpers in terror.

In desperation he slams into the door with his shoulder, but fear has unmanned him and his limbs feel drained of strength. The door doesn’t budge, but the sudden sharp pain in his shoulder is sufficient to snap him back to himself. The magical terror dissipates, leaving the young swashbuckler suddenly clearheaded.

“Seven Hells”, he mutters, gazing back down the pitch-black corridor and suddenly very aware of his solitude and vulnerability in this dangerous place.  “What have I done?”

He waits for a moment, but hearing nothing from behind the door he begins to feel his way back the way he came, fingers brushing against cold stone. He’s gone perhaps twenty feet when he hears approaching footsteps, and his heart leaps to his mouth. He fumbles for his weapons, only to realise that he dropped them back in the chapel room. He has a bow strapped to his back, but it’s worse than useless in these conditions. Unarmed, alone, and blind. Exceptional, Fyn, just exceptional.

The footsteps draw closer, a rhythmic staccato march. The precise, regimented march of a man with a parade ground swagger stick shoved firmly up his butt, Fyn realises. “Rufus?” He calls out into the darkness. “Is that you?”

A faint blue glow appears, and a moment later Rufus rounds the corner, his sword glowing in the dark and faintly illuminating him.

“Fyn. Well, you haven’t managed to get yourself killed, or bring down another horde of Darkspawn on our heads. Which is something I suppose. Come on, we need to get back to Lisandra.”

Despite the blademaster’s gruff words Fyn grins. Rufus may give him a hard time, but even the blithe swashbuckler can hear the relief in the older man’s words. “It’s good to see you too, Rufus. I can honestly say I’ve never been so pleased to see you. You don’t have a dagger about your person I could borrow do you? I seem to have mislaid my weapons again.”

The two make their way back down the winding corridor. As they near the door to the chapel Rufus turns to Fyn, about to speak, only for the younger man to hold up a hand, cutting him off. “Quiet!” he whispers. “I think I hear something…”

They both hear what comes next; a roar of agony from Tomas as battle is rejoined. 

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 58

Posted in The Devil's Riddle on August 23, 2017 by Carl

Rufus scowls. He is sworn to protect Lisandra, and it sits ill with him to be sent after Fyn when they are still amidst such peril. But, he concedes, they do need to retrieve their ally, and of their number Rufus is best placed to carry out that task. His scowl deepens as he follows the dark tunnels after his companion, sword in hand. He quickens his pace.  The sooner he is back at Lisandra’s side the better…

“My apprentice, I am troubled.”

Rufus halts in place, astonished. This cannot be! The voice that reverberates through his mind is unmistakable; Olimar, the Blademaster who tutored him in the skills of the Chamarand. His master, who sacrificed himself to eternity trapped within Rufus’ sword, that the fey spirit Andromeda, who wars for control of his mind, might be kept at bay. Since that moment when Olimar impaled himself upon the sword there has been the constant sense of his master’s presence, but never words. “Master? How it that you speak?” 

“Is this the question that most needs asking?” There is the faintest hint of amusement in Olimar’s voice, so reminiscent of their time training together. Rufus calms himself, straightens, and slows his breathing.

“What troubles you master?” A sense of approval washes over the Blademaster, and he can almost see his elderly master nodding in satisfaction though when it speaks the disembodied voice is grave.

“You experienced Andromeda’s recent assault upon your mind as you approached the desecrated place. My influence was tempered by the dark energies here, and the fey queen was able to momentarily wrest control. With focus you overcame that assault.” The last Chamarand pauses, but Rufus knows him well enough to know that he is merely considering his next words. The Blademaster remains silent.

“It is what has happened since that troubles me.” Olimar continues. “We have warred from the moment I entered the blade, she and I. Always the two of us in perfect balance. Always held in perpetual stalemate. Sustained. Predictable.” He sighs. “Since that moment of destabilisation I no longer feel her presence warring against me.”

“But master, is this not good news?” Rufus asks, gazing at the sword held out before him.

“Would that it were my boy. Andromeda has ceased her direct assault, but her presence in your psyche remains. She has… changed tack. I fear  she has read your memories and learned something to her advantage during her brief domination, while your mind was temporarily unguarded. Something that she means to turn to her own ends.”

Rufus, calm and focused as he is, cannot suppress a thrill of fear. “The bargain.” he says, with fatalistic certainty.

“I can see no other possibility. Your bargain with the fey king Finvarra was your turning point. As a self-absorbed, ignorant  youth you selfishly demanded transcendence in return for betrayal of Andromeda, expecting power and influence. Instead you were gifted with self-awareness, and this started you on the path towards the man you have become. I fear the fey queen now knows this, and means to turn the knowledge to her advantage. How exactly I cannot say, but I sense great malice in her.”

Rufus bows his head. “Master… I have never had the chance to thank you. For your training, your friendship and most of all your sacrifice. For the perpetual battle you have waged on my behalf. Thank you, master. Whatever Andromeda’s scheme we shall face it together, and Source willing, overcome it. I take great solace in that thought.” He looks up, suddenly recalling his task, and begins to walk again. “My master, I must find my missing companion…”

“Indeed you must my boy.” Olimar agrees. “I will contemplate further.”

And with that the sword falls silent.

The Devil’s Riddle: Session 57

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

“Yes, it is long past time for answers” Lisandra agrees. “But we cannot abandon our own. Rufus, find Fyn please, before he comes to harm.” Rufus does not look best pleased to be leaving Lisandra’s side, particularly with the grinning monstrosity present, but he complies.

“You will tell us of your plans. Speak.” Idril’s words are quiet and calm, and the Dark Jester is powerless to resist. It begins to speak in a voice as dry as tomb dust. “I serve the Fury, the Glory that is to come. I am the harbinger of Darkness, the bringer of pain, the…”

“She asked for your plans, foulspawn, not your resume.” Tomas snaps.

The creature hisses, but lowers its head in supplication. The fixed grin never wavers. Skeletal clawed fingers intertwine and flex continually, perhaps an indication of the frustration the creature feels.“We were summoned to this place by followers of the Dark. Their ritual weakened the bulwarks that stand between this world and the eternal Dark, and through that rupture we came. We took their forms that we could fulfill our purpose.”

Idril gazes steadily up at the creature, unflinching. “And that purpose is?”

The Jesters thrashes its head from side to side for a moment, clearly attempting to free itself from the gnome’s magical compulsion, but finds itself forced to continue.

“The rent through which we passed was minor. Now we are here we seek to tear it wider. We seek to conduct the ritual that will open this world to the Glory that is to come to all things, our Lord and Master, the Fury!”

“And yet thus far you have not.” Lisandra turns from Tomas, who she has been healing. Her voice is soft, as if speaking to a child. “Why is that?”

The Jester’s head snaps around to fix her with its mad, baleful gaze. “The bulwarks between worlds are sturdy. The ritual to disrupt them is complex. The… the ritual was recorded, but lost. We sought to recover it…”

“What do you mean lost? Lost how?” Lisandra interrupts.

“There was a book, the one used to summon us. It was taken from the ruins above by the host I now wear. Through this host we learned of its whereabouts, and set out to recover it but…”

“Where did you seek it?” Lisandra asks, some premonition sending a thrill of dread through her..

“The Inn. The Devil’s Riddle. We returned there. But the book was gone. We took the innkeeper to learn of its location, but he was useless to us.”

There is a sharp intake of breath from Tomas. “Jeden! You thrice-cursed fiend, if you have harmed him…”

Lisandra cuts in. “When we entered you said a new way to resolve your conundrum had presented itself. What did you mean?”

The creature leans forward, almost conspiratorially. “Let me tell you…”

Idril, who has not spoken for some time, turns to her companions, an anxious look on her face. “Something’s wrong. This creature has shared more than my spell would compel. I fear treachery…”

“If the book was removed from the inn, and the innkeeper did not take it, then clearly one of you did. Now we have you here we shall use one of you as a host for my , recover the book and Woman, your spell compelled me to approach you and speak of our plans.” the Jester hisses, its head cocked to one side. “This I have done, and more. And in so doing, I have achieved three things. I have ensnared my prey. I have gathered my forces. And I have freed myself of your spell!”

The Jester’s clawed hand lashes out towards Lisandra with inhuman speed, raking across her cheek. In the same instant the spectral form that had fled earlier reappears through the wall directly behind a distracted Tomas. It plunges its shadowy arms deep into the warrior’s back and he roars in pain as he feels his very life essence being drained from him.