Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hell Frozen Over: Chapter Twelve [BUFFY]


Buffy peered around the corner, careful not to be seen. She watched Willow, sitting there on the couch in
Xander’s living room, as the light from the television flickered across her face in the darkness. It took a moment for Buffy to realize that Willow wasn’t actually watching the T.V.—she was simply staring in its general direction.

Buffy stealthily made her way back to the kitchen. Xander and Dawn were waiting for her. “How long has she been like that?” she asked.

“Since I found her last night,” he answered. “I brought her back to my place so I could keep an eye on her. When I fell asleep she was like that, same as when I woke up this morning.”

“Well, you’re right. She’s definitely got a case of the old zombie-style mind-control going on,” Buffy replied.

“I tried to check out that condo she came out of but it was locked, and then I realized whatever pulled the whammy on her could just as easily do it to me. So I got out of there. But I bet that Witting-whatever guy lives there.”

“His name’s Wittingstone,” Dawn put in.

“Right. Well I guess in a way she’s not that much different then she’s been since Tara died. Still monosylables and whatever. Except now she likes to talk about First Principles and about the big rally that’s supposed to take place tonight. That’s pretty much all I can get out of her.” He gave a defeated sigh and leaned back in the kitchen chair. Early morning sunlight poured in from above the sink. It was going to be a long, hot day.

“We need some answers,” Buffy said forcefully. “And I want them before this big rally-thing goes off tonight. I’m starting to think it might not be a coincidence that a pack of vamps tried to kill Dawn right after she quit the group.”

“So what are you going to do?” Xander asked.

“Ask a few questions,” Buffy replied. “Starting with someone who seems to know more than he should.”

Xander was about to ask another question when he looked up at the clock. He stood up abruptly. “I’m supposed to be at the site fifteen minutes ago—it looks bad to keep calling in sick. Plus, I want to keep my eye on this job--we’re laying the foundation for the new high school.” Buffy and Xander each crinkled their nose at this. “But someone has to stay and look after Willow,” he added.

They turned and looked at Dawn.


Buffy squeezed through the narrow rock passage, a flashlight in one hand and a stake in the other. She wasn’t necessarily expecting trouble, but she wasn’t going to take any chances, either. She was deep below Sunnydale now, in a portion of the vast cave network she had never explored before. Water slowly trickled along the walls, but she felt and heard it more than saw it. Although it was dark and she was alone, she wasn’t afraid— she was the Slayer, and she had dealt with her fears long ago.

She had come to the tunnels looking for Spike, after a brief stop at his apartment and a chat with Clem, who had been staying there lately. Clem said that the blonde-haired vampire had been coming and going a lot lately, sometimes disappearing for weeks at a time. Although he hadn’t known for sure, he thought maybe Spike came to the tunnels—at least it was where many of Sunnydale’s other day-shy denizens came to rest.

The tunnels slowly climbed upward as she continued along. Spike had said something was coming, and she regretted that she didn’t stay around long enough to find out what it was. Although he no longer considered himself the “leader” of Sunnydale’s vampire population, he still had authority and still had connections. He was also someone she just could not figure out, despite having known him for several years now. One day he tries to rape her, another day he tries to give her money. It made him sound insane, but she knew from some odd Spike-perspective, it all made perfect sense.

She quietly edged along the tunnels, in some places having to crawl to get through. After a few more minutes, through the shaking glow of the flashlight, she saw something that took her breath away. The edge of the tunnel she stood in opened into a large, round cavern. All along the edges of the cavern, the entrances to other tunnels sat in shadowed recesses. But most shocking was the floor of the cavern—it was like the floor of an emergency shelter after a disaster. Dozens upon dozens of vampires were there, most snoozing away peacefully on mattresses they had dragged down from above, others resorting to the comfort of lined coffins, either their own or belonging to corpses they had long ago ejected. More vampires were there than Buffy had ever seen in one place before, and she didn’t know how to react. It took her breath away, but then she realized it made sense—they had to go somewhere after the destruction of the Master’s church, Spike’s old factory, and the several other haunts and resting places Buffy and the Scooby Gang had flushed them out of.

She carefully walked among the sleeping vampires, looking for Spike with the flashlight on its dimmest setting. She was careful where she put each step, knowing that if she woke even one of them, they would all be upon her before she could reach the tunnel—and now she wasn’t even sure which tunnel she had come out of.

“Buffy!” The whisper broke the silence, startling her.

She swung the flashlight around, but the cavern was so large the light didn’t reach all the way to the walls.

“Buffy!” it came again, but this time she was listening. She saw that a faint light was coming from one of the tunnel entrances and she headed towards it. The light started moving towards her, and she realized the figure was holding an old oil lantern.

“Dawn!” she whispered as loudly as she dared. She wanted to yell and scold but she couldn’t as they stood in the midst of the dozing vampires. “What are you doing here? I thought you were watching Willow!”

“I was. But Xander came back—they were still waiting on the permits they needed or something. I went to see Clem and he told me where you were. I knew you’d try to find Spike.” Her last words were accusing. As she whispered, the dim glow from the lantern finally faded completely—it was out of oil.

“How many times do I have to tell you? I’m the Slayer! I can take care of myself,” Buffy whispered back, harshly. Just inches from her right ankle, a vampire rolled over in its sleep and groaned. She felt like kicking it, but restrained herself. “We’re not going to discuss this here. We’ve gotta get you out of here.”

They had started working their way back to one of the tunnels when a piercing wail froze them in their tracks. It was loud, like standing next to a fire engine on a four-alarm call. The sleeping vampires were roused and stood up, blocking Buffy’s escape. They didn’t notice her, however, as their attention was drawn to the bright light that now stood at the entrance to another nearby tunnel. A short figure dressed in green armor was standing there, holding a blindingly bright electric torch in one hand and a gun of some kind in the other.

“Come and get me boys!” she shouted, and then pressed the trigger on the gun. She aimed high above the crowd’s heads, so that fat droplets of holy water fell on them like a consecrated rain. Several vampires cried out in agony, causing the entire crowd to storm forward towards the figure. Buffy’s flashlight was knocked from her hand by the press, but she managed to grab Dawn’s hand just as they too were swept up in the crowd and pushed towards the tunnel. They tried to escape, but they had to keep up or be trampled. Stay calm, Buffy told herself. They think we’re just two more vampires. If they can’t see us, they don’t know we’re really alive. If they don’t know we’re alive, we’ll stay that way.


“Are you sure this is going to work?” Joshua asked. More and more, hunting vampires didn’t exactly seem like a healthy way to deal with the grief to him. Along with Tintsman and Otis, he was standing with his back to the wall of a large, irregular cavern. There was only one exit tunnel from the cavern, and they were standing as far from it as possible. The only thing that kept him from shaking was knowing that although it might take them hours to actually trek back to the surface, relatively speaking they were only five or six feet below ground.

Tintsman stared at the tunnel intently. Soon he saw the faint glow he was expecting, and it was moving towards them and getting brighter. “No,” he replied finally to Joshua’s question. “But I am an engineer. And regardless, it’s too late to turn back now. She’s already on her way.”

The wait was nerve-wracking. Although Tintsman held a small radio transmitter, none of the three held any weapons. They knew that if they had to use them, it would be too late already. Soon they could hear the approaching storm of Rita and the vampires—the curses and yells of the vampires, and the occasional sound of her sprayer as she made sure they stayed angry enough to keep following her.

A minute later they were forced to partially cover their eyes because Rita’s electric torch was so bright. They could just make out her figure, rushing into their cavern, followed by a swarm of vampires. She barely kept ahead of them; although she was in great shape, the undead never ran out of breath—mainly because they didn’t need to breathe.

Tintsman waited until the last of the vampires had entered the cavern—Rita was less than ten feet away from them now, and the the vampires were at her heels. Even worse, they had seen him and the other two. He waited one more agonizing moment to ensure the timing was perfect, then pressed a button on the transmitter.

With a deafening explosion, the tunnel leading to the cavern collapsed in a pile of rubble. Half a second later, well-placed explosives set on the cavern ceiling detonated, sending large rocks and a rain of pebbles crashing into the swarm of vampires. Rita leapt into Tintsman’s arms, inches away from the cascade of stone. Where they were standing, they were safe—at least for the time being. Most of the vampires had survived the cave-in, and even now getting to their feet.

It was then they realized that their attackers had never meant to crush them. The explosives were set on the surface to create several parallel shafts to the nearby cavern below. And with the sun at just the right angle, the entire cavern was bathed in sunlight. Rita and the others covered their eyes as almost thirty vampires screamed, thrashed about, and finally disintegrated into dust. Tintsman watched eagerly, however. The pain of losing Maggie and Kate had been softened by the passage of time, and finding allies had given him hope. But unlike the others, he still had never faced what had happened—destroying vampires was his life now, all that he had left.

Later, as the others were preparing the climbing gear so they could extricate themselves, Joshua called out to them.

“These two aren’t dead,” he said. “Not vamps, either.” He pointed, and the others walked over to see that a young blonde girl was covered in rubble. They could just barely see another form underneath.

“Looks like the blonde shielded the brunette with her body,” Otis observed.

“Well they’re both out of it,” Joshua put in. “Though it looks like neither is hurt too badly. Give me a hand here and we’ll dig ‘em out.”

“Leave them,” Tintsman said coldy. “If they’re alive, finish them off.”

“Wait a second, Michael,” Rita said. “I know what happened back in the bar. But these two—they’re just kids. Human kids.”

“Vampires and those who help them!” Tintsman said angrily. He was tired of having to repeat it and tired of their always questioning him. “All of you swore. Now do it!”

“I don’t think I can,” Rita said.

“Me neither,” Otis added.

Everyone looked at Joshua, the weakest-willed of the bunch. He stepped back and put his hands in he air as if to fend off an invisible attacker. “I . . . I’m with them, Michael. It’s just going too far.”

“Fine,” he said, starting to ascend the shaft. “You can go wherever the hell you want. I’m going the rest of the way though. All the way. By myself if I have to.”

The others looked at each other, unsure of what to do next.

“I’m out of here,” Joshua said. “I’m going back to Topeka. This is just too much.”

The others reluctantly agreed.

“What about these two?” Otis asked, pointing.

“He probably is right you know. If they were down here, part of that crowd, they must be helping the vamps. Nothing else makes any sense,” Rita observed.

“Unless they were prisoners—but they weren’t tied up or anything.”

“Well not killing them doesn’t mean we have to help them. They’re alive. We’ll leave them alone. If they wake up, they wake up. If they don’t, they don’t. We’ll let fate decide,” Joshua said.


Xander was startled when Willow stood up suddenly. She had been sitting on the couch, motionless, for hours as the afternoon stretched into the early evening. He had tried all day long to get her to respond, but she had maintained the blank look and spoke only about “community” and “First Principles.” Now that she was finally doing something, he didn’t know whether to be overjoyed or worried.

“Uh, how’s it going Will?” he asked tentatively.

“Everything is fine, Xander. I have to get ready. Tonight is the big rally. Something big is going to happen.”

“I see. You know, I was thinking we might skip the whole ‘First Principles’ thing tonight—just this once, you know. Maybe catch a movie, get a little dinner, whatever.”

“I can’t, Xander. I have to get ready. Tonight’s the big rally. Something big is going to happen.”

“You just said that.”

She didn’t respond, but instead started walking towards the door. He jogged past her and blocked it with his body. He grabbed her gently by the shoulders and hoped his words would bore through to her brain.

“Willow, listen to me. Something’s going on. You’re not a joiner. You hate crowds. Whatever’s happening tonight, you don’t need to be there. I can’t let you go.”

“Community comes first, Xander. Without our communities, how do we know who we are? First Principles is all about community, and that’s because—“

Xander sighed and let go of her shoulders. He knew he could stop her, keep her here, but it really didn’t seem to matter anymore. She was never going to be herself as long as she was under this First Principles spell. If something big is going to happen tonight, we might as well be there to see what the hell it is. And how to put a stop to it.

“You know what, Will? Changed my mind. I feel like joining the ol’ community after all.”


Dawn woke first, wondering why her blankets were so heavy and if she were going to be late for school. She began to panic when she realized she could barely move. Her eyelids fluttered open, and she half wondered if she had been out camping—she could see the stars twinkling overhead and feel a cool breeze on her cheek. She lifted her head and look around. It all came flooding back—the rush of vampires, the bright lights, the figures in green, the falling rock—Buffy covering her body with her own.

“Buffy!” Her sister’s head lay inches from her own, and Dawn thought she stirred slightly. She called out her name again.

“Leave me alone. I’m tired,” Buffy groaned.

“Buffy, wake up! We’re stuck at the bottom of a freakin’ cave again!”

Buffy’s eyes flickered open.


After Buffy had awakened fully and found the strength and leverage to push herself off the ground, sending rocks skittering everywhere, she helped Dawn to her feet. Neither of them were seriously hurt, though Buffy’s back would be bruised like someone had taken a baseball bat to it. The climb to the surface was far easier than they had expected—metal climbing spikes had been embedded in the nooks and crannies of the stone.

“Thanks Buffy,” said Dawn, when they were resting at the lip of the shaft. “What you did was—well it was really cool.”

Buffy smiled. “All part of being the Chosen One, I guess.”

“So what was that all about?”

“You know, I have no clue. Something came along and took out half the vampires in Sunnydale—and almost us, too.”

“So you’re thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Unfortunately. We’re still going to have to find Spike.”

“Are my ears burning?” a voice called out. Dawn and Buffy whirled around to see Spike walking towards them.

“I wish your whole body was burning,” Buffy replied. “Why do you always show up at the worst time?”

“Love, the whole undead community in Sunnydale heard about what happened down there.” Spike walked over to the edge and looked down. “Biggest single massacre in years and years. I don’t think even you got quite that many at once. Are you jealous?”

“No, disappointed that you weren’t down there too. We’ve been looking for you.”

“Well, you found me,” he shrugged.

“You said something big was going to happen. How did you know?”

“You think I meant this?” He grinned, looking into the hole. “The bloody rotters got what they deserved— I couldn’t stand most of them. No, I was talking about something else.”

“So are you going to tell us are you going to be all cryptic, like Angel circa my sophomore year?”

Spike bristled slightly at the name. “All right. I don’t know much—but it has to do with First Principles and the big man in charge.”


“No, the real guy in charge. Word on the street is that he has a mad-on for a certain Slayer we all know and love. And, of course, this being the Hellmouth, he’s got quite a plan for bringing her down.”

“Enough games,” Buffy said. “What’s this guy’s name?”


Next Chapter

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jedi Historian Prestige Class [RPG]

This is a homebrew prestige class I created many years ago for a Knights of the Old Republic campaign using the original Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Roleplaying Game rules.  I hope to talk about the campaign, and my character, Jizana M'Rell, in a future post as it had quite an influence on me.  But for now, here's the class:

Jedi Historian Prestige Class

The title Jedi Historian is often confusing to lay people and non-specialized scholars in the galaxy.  A Jedi Historian is simply a researcher affiliated with the Jedi Order who studies various aspects of their history, philosophy, and structure.  Although some Jedi Historians are in fact Jedi, many are not, and some of the premiere Jedi Historians have no ability to manipulate the Force whatsoever (some have argued this objectvity makes them better historians, but others dispute this).

What all Jedi Historians have in common is that they are sponsored by, or work closely with, the Jedi Order.  Some Jedi Historians accompany Jedi on their various missions around the galaxy, while others are more stationary, perhaps spending long nights in the depths of an ancient library.

Prerequisites:  Knowledge (Jedi Lore): +10 (cumulative bonus); Knowledge (History): 5 ranks

Class Features:  * Vitality Die 1d6+Con
                         *  Skill Points 8+Int

Class Skills (prerequisites, if present, are still applicable):  Computer Use, Craft (Bookwriting, Documentary Producing, etc.), Diplomacy, Gather Information, Knowledge, Profession (Historian, Philosopher, etc.), Read/Write Language, Speak Language, Sense Motive, Farseeing, Psychokinesis

Level   BAB    Fort    Ref     Will     Special                    Def     Rep
1        +0      +0      +1      +2      Ancient Languages*  +1      +1
2        +1      +0      +2      +3                                   +2      +1
3        +2      +1      +2      +3      Historic Appraisal*    +2      +1
4        +3      +1      +2      +4                                   +2      +2
5        +3      +1      +3      +4      Historic Speciality*   +3      +2
6        +4      +2      +3      +5                                   +3      +2
7        +5      +2      +4      +5      Skill Emphasis*        +3      +2
8        +6/+1 +2      +4      +6                                   +4      +3
9        +6/+1 +3      +4      +6      Skill Emphasis*        +4      +3
10      +7/+2 +3      +5      +7                                   +5      +3

* Ancient Languages  The Jedi Historian spends a great deal of time working with ancient texts.  As a result, they have gained a common clarity into ancient language patterns.  When they encounter a new language they make an intelligence check against DC 15.  Success means that they learn to read/write the language in 1d6+3 days of intense study.  Failure means that they may try again at their next level of Jedi Historian.  Only one language can be the focus of study at any given time.  More complex languages raise the DC for the intelligence check (GM's discretion).  Languages can be spoken only at GM's discretion, as unless the text contains a phonetic guide, the Jedi Historian may never be able to speak effectively.

* Historic Appraisal  The Jedi Historian can add his or her ranks in History to an Appraise check to understand aspects of non-Force artifacts, and his or her ranks in Jedi Lore to understand aspects of Jedi artifacts. The Appraise roll gives the following pieces of information:
DC 10:  Identity of Object
DC 15: Origin of Object 
DC 20: Age of Object
DC 25: Force qualities/power of the object
DC 30: If Force Sensitive, how to active the Force powers of an object.
Assessing the monetary value of an historic artifact still requires a normal Appraise skill roll.

* Historic Speciality  The Jedi Historian chooses one object, person, or particular event in history.  In role-playing terms, the character is the expert in the galaxy on this object, person, or event.  The Historian can instantly recall any commonly known or mundane information about this subject.  More obscure questions may take further research, but the Historian knows where to look or who to ask as a starting point.  The GM has final authority to determine how much the Historian knows about a specific question related to his or her chosen topic of study.  In order to gain access to this ability, the Historian must have produced a work (such as a book, documentary, museum display, etc.) on the topic which has been widely accepted in his or her field of study.

*Skill Emphasis  The Jedi Historian receives a free Skill Emphasis in a skill he or she can justify as being related to the scholarly pursuit of knowledge.  Examples include Computer Use, Gather Information, various Knowledge skills, Farseeing, and Psychometry.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 45 Recap [RPG]

[22 Kythorn 1372]

In Mirabar, Fargrim awakens tired and drawn. His sleep was once again plagued by nightmares of terrible unliving abominations covering the land, but a new vision stood out from the rest. In it, worshippers of Myrkul performed a dark ritual involving unspeakable horrors. When the ritual was finished, the leader of the unholy congregation proclaimed that "The rites of transference are almost complete! All Faerun will reap what they've sown on Highharvestide!" When the others realize Fargrim is unwell, he explains what he saw. Dolcetto takes a particular interest. Soon thereafter, the adventurers leave the city and walk to a glade to the south. Dolcetto leaves a small doll in the crook of a tree to help him remember the location, and Mellia teleports everyone to Tunak's campsite.

When they arrive, Tunak explains that Cammy stole Mellia's horse and rode off to the east. Mellia says she and the others need to reach Silverymoon quickly, so that they can find a magical means of transporting themselves to Thay to rescue Cain. She would teleport them to Silverymoon, but she has never visited it before and thus is unfamiliar with it. Tunak offers to take the travelers on his carriage, but the others are reluctant due to its slow speed. After introducing herself to Tunak, Dolcetto suggests another option, this one involving magickally conjured steeds. However, the plan will have to wait until tomorrow to be put into effect as she needs time to memorize the spell. She notes that travel will be speedier if the group can cross the river and follow a trail into Silverymoon instead of travelling through wilderness.

Mellia notices that Bettina seems moody and withdrawn. After a brief inquiry, Mellia realizes that Bettina is upset with Markus for being so tardy. The spellcaster explains that Markus is somewhat addlebrained from his friend's sudden disappearance and needs time to heal. She persuades the reluctant ship's mistress to travel on foot with Tunak and wait at an inn in Silverymoon until contacted. Then, Mellia flags down a passing barge and bribes one its pilots to ferry herself, Fargrim, Dolcetto, and Markus across the river to the small village of High Hold. There, the group find rooms at an unremarkable inn. Mellia and Dolcetto bury their faces in their respective spellbooks, while Markus continues to talk to the "Cain" bucket and Fargrim talks to an obese merchant named Torrick about the terrible nights' sleep the dwarf has been having. Torrick says that if there's anywhere in the North where someone will find a restful slumber, it's in Silverymoon.

[23 Kythorn 1372]

In the morning, Dolcetto mouths an invocation and two beautiful horses appear out of thin air. Markus and Fargrim try to ride together on one of them, but the steed stumbles under the weight of the two males and all of their gear! The decision is made that each of the males will ride with one of the females. The four adventurers make extraordinary speed heading east, as they push the conjured steeds hard and replace them periodically with magickally-created fresh ones. In just hours, the group see Rauvinwatch Keep in the distance, a sprawling castle and watchtower on a great spur of rock overlooking the river and the road into Silverymoon. The four adventurers are stopped by a patrol of the Argent Legion, and Dolcetto comes under particular scrutiny for her obvious planetouched-features. The guards are friendly but cautious, and warn the group that evildoers will find no refuge in Silverymoon.

The adventurers enter Silverymoon via the west gate and are immediately treated to a beautiful sight. The bustling city is dominated with trees and exquisite stone architecture. Balconies and curving stairways flow alongside many of the buildings, and in the distance to the southeast is the gleaming silver Moonbridge connecting the north and south banks of the city. An atmosphere of peace and tranquility envelops the city, and Fargrim feels that the constant nightmares that torment him would be held at bay as long he remains within its walls. The adventurers make their way to the inn mentioned by Bettina, Wayward House, and find it to be a place of quality decor and quiet, efficient service. The adventurers look askance at the price, but soon find that Silverymoon is simply an expensive place to visit all around. While the others check in, Dolcetto returns to the west gate where she had seen a hired crier saying something about adventurers being wanted. Dolcetto talks to the youth and hears that a strange old wizard named Terrigo Multivar is seeking sell-swords to perform a task for him, and that he offers payment in either gold or transportation across Faerun. Dolcetto finds out that two adventurers have already accepted the deal, and are spending the night at Wayward House before setting out on the task in the morning.

Dolcetto returns to the inn and tells her companions about the opportunity. Markus and Fargrim seem interested, but Mellia thinks the group should focus on a more direct way to get to Thay. Nonetheless, the foursome ask the chamberlain for information about other adventurers staying at Wayward House, and he leads them over to a table in the common room where two men are sitting. One of the men is wearing robes with the cowl up, while the other is a burly fellow with a shovel nearby. Conversation reveals that the first man is named Myst, and Dolcetto realizes that he may have the same heritage she does. The second figure, who is quieter and focussed on drinking, is named Gelkar. The two adventurers have known each other for some time, and acknowledge that they've already accepted Terrigo Multivar's offer. 

Following the directions given by the crier, Dolcetto leads Mellia to the ramshackle house of Terrigo Multivar. Inside, they find the rooms covered with books and arcane paraphenalia on every conceivable surface and apparently in no particular order. Dolcetto is fascinated and soon finds herself lost flipping through tomes, some quite rare. Mellia makes her way through a series of rooms and finds Terrigo, who appears as a slightly befuddled elderly wizard with long droopy mustaches but a very short beard. Terrigo leads Mellia to another room and pulls a dropcloth away from a full-length mirror built into a standalone frame. Images appear in the mirror in succession, many of landscapes but some of rooms or city streets. Terrigo explains that he found the mirror as a young adventurer buried in the sands of Anauroch and that it might be an artifact of ancient Netheril. According to the old wizard, the mirror serves as a magickal portal to the place shown in the mirror. The image changes every thirty seconds, but in a predictable pattern that repeats every 24 hours. Those who step through the mirror are automatically drawn back after a period of time has elapsed, but there appears to be a random range of duration that varies from place to place. Terrigo says he had spent years of his life exploring the different places depicted in the mirror and recording the results, but that as he grew older he'd taken to hiring adventurers to do the exploring for him. Presently, he explains, he's hiring sell-swords to help him retrieve one of his prized possessions (an amulet) stolen by an intruder just this morning. Terrigo says he returned home early from a lecture at the Lady's College to discover the intruder, and after a flurry of spells the burglar was revealed to be a drow—--which the city's mythal should have deterred! The intruder jumped through the mirror and has yet to return. Terrigo promises that adventurers who assist him will be rewarded with gold or travel to any place the mirror allows, and at Mellia's request he confirms in his notes that Thay is a possible option. He says he knows little about the place the drow jumped to, as the last explorer he sent there in 1361 never came back. He suspects the drow itself didn't know where it was going, and sought only to escape. He cautions that Mellia should not think about his offer too long, for the location the drow fled to will appear again in the mirror tomorrow at mid-morning.

After leaving the house, Dolcetto and Mellia talk about whether assisting Terrigo would be a wise idea. Mellia remains skeptical and expresses concern that the group could spend days or weeks wasting time wherever the mirror will take them to instead of rescuing Cain. Dolcetto suggests the group is unlikely to find a faster way, and certainly will not find a cheaper way. She raises the idea of using a Candle of Invocation to bring Cain to the group, but the plan involves several complications, not the least of which is coming up with the funds for the candle to begin with. When they reach the inn, Markus and Fargrim remain in favor of taking up Terrigo's offer. A frustrated Mellia stalks back to her rooom.

That night, Fargrim joins Myst and Gelkar in the common room. Gelkar is reticent to talk about his past, but it becomes clear that he has given his shovel a name! Elsewhere, Dolcetto decides that the group could use guidance, and visits the Temple of Silver Stars, a beautiful structure of curving stone that is devoted to Selune, Goddess of the Moon. Inside, a priestess agrees to perform a simple augury about whether the group should go through the mirror: "there will be great risk, and great reward" is the answer. Dolcetto returns to the inn and conveys this message to Mellia, but the latter is still not fully convinced. 

Markus, meanwhile, has been meditating and has decided to take another try at winning the sword of the legendary Blademaster Isobe Noboru. He travels to Noboru's academy and, following protocol, challenges Noboru's fifth best student to a duel. The student, a large half-orc with pale skin and a greatsword, accepts immediately. Markus and the student, Kronk, enter a specially-enchanted dueling chamber designed to test combatants' ability to fight in less-than-ideal circumstances. In this duel, the room throws up great fountains of fire, but, as with all duels in the room, actual death is quite unlikely as wounds are simulated. When the fight begins, Kronk charges into battle and lands a powerful slash on Markus' torso. The adventurer quickly responds, however, by knocking Kronk's sword out of his hands and jabbing him with several quick rapier thrusts. Kronk tries to recover by swinging wild fists, but Markus easy dodges the lumbering half-orc's attacks, and the duel is soon resolved in Markus' favour. Markus then challenges Noboru's fourth best student, a handsome cat folk duelist nicknamed El Capitan. The duel is set for the morning.

[24 Kythorn 1372]

In the morning, Mellia sets out to find alternative ways to get to Thay quickly. First, she visits the Lady's College, a well-reputed wizardry school in the Conclave of Silverymoon. A tutor explains to Mellia that teleportation spells are barred within the city due its magickal wards, and that most wizards with the power to travel great distances quickly are too focussed on other endeavours to spend their time earning money providing others with transportation. The tutor goes on to say, however, that as a Fellow of the College, Mellia could gain access to every spell in the library's vast repository of books and gain other advantages as well. The entry fee is steep, however: 5,000 gp. Mellia asks instead for the name of a shop specializing in scrolls or spells-for-hire, and is directed to a building in Northbank called The Shining Scroll. Inside the long, narrow shop, Mellia encounters a woman with short blue hair, sparkling green eyes, and strange tattoos. The woman introduces herself as Xara Tantlor, the store's proprietor. Although she has various scrolls and potions for sale, she does not have the Scrying spell Mellia is looking for, and although she will Teleport individuals for a fee, she lacks access to more powerful magickal travel spells. Mellia is frustrated, and when she complains and then asks for a referral to another shop, she is quickly shown the door.

Markus returns to Isobe Noboru's training academy for his duel with El Capitan. The top student announces that the victor in this duel is the first duelist to score four hits on his opponent. This time, the enchanted dueling room creates a series of small platforms that appear and disappear at random intervals. The platforms have little effect, however, as a glitch in the magic makes the same ones disappear and appear repeatedly. The duel between Markus and the charismatic El Capitan is an ugly one on both sides, full of poor swordplay and awkward parries. Markus' rapier is heavily damaged in the duel, but El Capitan is dazed for several seconds after catching a glancing blow from the hilt of Markus' blade. In the end, with each swordsman tied at three hits, El Capitan succeeds in landing the fourth, winning strike. Markus returns to the inn, dejected.
Director's Commentary (9/06/2017)

Fargrim's nightmare at the beginning of the session, referencing Highharvestide, was my not-so-subtle sign that the PCs need to hurry up.  It also set a fixed point at which the campaign would end, something that gave me some peace of mind.  It was still months away on the in-game calendar, however.

The PCs reach Silverymoon in this session, a city with a *lot* of lore and an entire sourcebook devoted to it.  I did the best I could, but it's really hard to "accurately" portray a city with so much written about it.

Terrigo Multivar, the somewhat senile old wizard in possession of a magic mirror to other places & planes, was an addition to the campaign I really liked and would use again.  Indeed, he could serve as a sort of "patron" for an entire campaign devoted to exploring strange, unknown places, allowing the PCs to experience new adventures without tremendous travel time involved.  His presence in this session was because I needed an adventure hook to introduce two new PCs and (hopefully) get a traditional adventuring "mission" in--for far too many sessions, the PCs had wandered here and there without a lot in the way of encounters.  Mellia has an understandable reluctance to getting side-tracked on her personal goal of rescuing Cain, which is an issue I've experienced myself as a player in a sandbox campaign: it's hard to align a character's personal goals with the goals of a group of disparate individuals.

The new PCs introduced here are Myst (the back-up for Cain's player) and Gelkar (the back-up for Ralkin/Tunak's player).  We'll see a lot of more of each.

I made plenty of mistakes with the campaign, but one of the things I did that I thought worked really well was getting the other players to secretly make up and run NPC sword-fighters to battle Markus in the arena.  The catfolk El Capitan was the NPC created by Fargrim's player, and he gave the character so much role-playing personality he really stole the show and would introduce the character again later as a PC.  I may have mentioned in a prior commentary that I put a lot of thought into having different configurations for the arena and different victory conditions so that each duel was fresh and different.