Adventurers Present: Notloc (Cleric-11), Darrak (Monk-11), Alvus (Rogue-8), Beebir the Bard (Bard-8), Riswynn (Druid-9), Xun Fu (Monk-9), Gosef (Wizard-9), Eli (Paladin-11), Brysar (Sorcerer-5). Party of 9.
Over the past few months, the Knight Owls have been setting aside their standard contracts to deal with an event that threatens to upset the balance of Io herself. Following small tips and side jobs, they have exposed a web of conspiracy, fear, and undeath. They have fought snow clones, draconic liches, dark warlocks, oathbreakers, and a literal dragon in a game of chess...and still, the storm comes.
Branching out from beyond Io's Edge, a dark cloud beset with arches of black lightning has begun to grow. Amassing, and moving closer with every night...
However, the Tenrook has taken notice, and has written up a contingent contract: Destroy the son of the Storm Glutton, Narizguun, and be rewarded. Your reward is negotiable; wealth, status, artifact, or something more. That is, if further incentive beyond saving the world is needed.
Only but a day and night ago did the other Owls return, with an ancient Esper ship, powered by one of its three elemental rings, as the Barrens collapsed into the center of continent once more. The storm beyond the edge grows rapidly, threatening to move at any moment...
Tonight the collected Owls find themselves in the War Room in the high tower of Tidespear Keep. They have been invited at Keddigan's request to attend the grand cleric Arif Teth's strategy meeting.
Arif is human, young but commanding, hair red as fire and decked out in heavy half-plate. The wings of Sarenrae splay out from his silver and violet cloak. He pours over a set of maps, some laid out over others, trying to formulate a defensive strategy should the storm move closer, while simultaneously making sense of the jury-rigged layout of the known world. The maps are dotted with small pins and markers of various flags and crests. As the players watch, he moves one such marker from fortress at Orlandin to mountain castle of Frostburn, muttering, "Don't know if the Pale Guard will be of any use right now..."
As Arif ponders, the Owls take note of the assembled maps, noticing that the ones positioned beyond Io's Edge are much less...ornate than the others, clearly an artist's representation of a guess of what might reside beyond the known world. They also take in the silent Striga, sharpening his halberd as he watches the night sky grow thick with clouds and cold. In the other corner of the room, a studious Elata examines the text of her Magnus as it floats a few inches above her lap, moving the glowing script around as her eyes move alarmingly fast over the words. ...Malfurik does pushups in the corner.
Arif: "I just wish there was less risk. Sending a ship we barely understand into an enemy's lair in the sky seems a bit ludicrous... But if we wait too long, we threaten to be overrun in a fortnight." After a few moments, he crosses his arms and breathes out a heavy sigh. "It seems that there is no way around it. Take tonight...you leave at dawn."
Arif exits the room and the Owls each go to prepare in their own ways, but before they separate, a very inebriated Darrak stumbles around the room, handing each ally a small vial, slurring, "Take this when we're in battle, but not before... Potion of invis, uh, invus, *cough*, invulsilibility (Invincibility).
Riswynn, Xun Fu, Gosef, and Brysar go to rest immediately, eager to get enough sleep for whatever comes tomorrow.
Notloc takes out his guide to the prime gods and finds the chapel of Sarenrae within the keep, taking an acolyte aside and asking him how to not die by dragon. After receiving some sage advice on reading, the acolyte also hands off nine care packages (each with a greater healing potion and a flask of holy water) to Notloc; Notloc returns to the group and divvies them up, then returns to his reading.
Eli and Elata spend some much needed time together. Eli: "How do you feel about the coming battle?" Elata looks up at him, a knowing smile creeping along her face. "There is a chance. A slim chance...but your chances are greater since I'm coming with you."
Eli mutters under his breath. "You've saved my butt plenty of times, so I do not object."
Elata replies, matter-of-factly, "Tis a fine thing, so I must save it." Then giggles and smiles as the dragonborn visibly blushes and turns away. She then glances over at Beebir, who is examining his new necrotic longbow, muttering to himself about needing arrow. Opening her Magnus, she summons two cordons of 30 arrows and a large quiver and tosses them over to the bard, who is taken aback and immediately starts practicing.
Alvus finds Keddigan in the rafters, and asks him for some tinkering help... The rogue spends the entirety of the evening (suffering 1 point of exhaustion) to alter his "crowbot" (procured from Malfurik sessions ago) to able to fly and deliver incendiary avian payloads within 20 feet...
Darrak searches for a place to purchase healing potions...and comes up short, then goes to bed...
The Lance of Io
Consciousness comes to you as dawnlight spills through the wide, open windows. The light is warm, soothing. It grants the Owls peace, reflection, questions from within, echoing against time: "How many times have you stood against darkness? How many times have you watched your allies fall, unable to stop it? How many more risks will you take for the greater good? And when the time comes, can you make the choice no one else can? Will Striga survive? Will Keddigan, Elata, Nikz? ...Will you survive what comes?"
And as they ponder these things in the warmth of this guiding light...it fades...as something dark brushes over it, like a matte painting of a black spiral, cracks splitting the vision, and no sooner did it arrive, the sun is eclipsed by the storm, closer than ever. A howling wind blasts through the windows, and a roar sounds within the cloud... It pierces their psyche, sending chills of dread down their spines and making their hair stand on end.
...HE IS COMING.
Stepping out into the halls of the keep, guards move with haste on either side of you, a blur of silver and amethyst. The tension is high in the keep, and they get the sense of expectation outside, atop the main tower (the mustering station for the archers), and head there quickly. There they find a long, terraced wall, lines of archers (one they recognize as fellow Owl, Nikz, a medium-sized diamond dragon sitting obediently at his side) facing the coming darkness. Arif stands with his back to them, addressing row upon row of armored soldier, banners of a wave crashing against a wall of arrows (the symbol of Tidespear) waving in the rising wind. His voice pierces through the howl as he addresses the crowd as the Owls arrive.
"Today, we place our trust in the Espers. In Owls and fate. We place our trust, our hope, our fire...in a Lance." He looks down at all of the assembled heroes, and hundreds of helmets turn to stare at them. "Be Io's Lance, warriors. Be her lance and pierce through." Arif sighs and turns his gaze back upon his soldiers, one by one the helmets turning back to face him. He continues, his voice even stronger now, "...But I have never been one to place all of my ire, all of my blood, on one solution. For if they fail, do not fear. We, the lancers of the last bastion, have protected Io from the horrors beyond the Aether for generations."
The many rows of ranks laid out before them stand a little taller, their weapons at the ready. Arif calls to them, "For when all else run!"
And like a tidal wave crashing into stone, they respond as one voice: "We remain!"
"And when all else die?"
Arif smiles, his soldiers becoming louder. "And when the pendulum swings?"
"We swing back!"
Swords draw, pikes rise, bows load. "To arms, my soldiers! To fate, to glory, to bastion's gate! And may the Seven guide us all..."
And with that, rank by rank, the lancers and archers prepare for hell, clearing the way for the Owls as they climb up to the tethered Skypiercer...
The Storm of Dragons
The Skypiercer is not a complete ship. An Esper-class airship, the Owls have learned, utilizes at least two elemental souls to keep it running and flying. This ship has three elemental brazers, and only one has a soul: the Firesoul, named Rai'Lepesk. The other two brazers, Life and Lightning, are powered instead manually; Life needs blood, given willingly, and Lightning needs, well, lightning, sent into the lightning rod in the lower engine room below deck. These three elements create rings of energy that wreath the ship; a fire ring around the neck, a burning white ring around the body, and a small ring of blue lightning around the tail of the ship.
Darrak hands a Skybridger Brew to each of his allies, and takes point on one of the shoulder cannons, with Eli taking the other. Notloc takes the wheel, and the ship whirs to life, rising from the keep and turning toward the storm ahead. The mechanical, draconic wings on the ship begin to shift forward and beat the air in long, powerful strokes as the fire ring burns red hot. In a rush of power and speed, the airship rockets forward, like a spear into the storm...
As they approach, the clouds seem to stretch and widen, obscuring the sunlight further, and the Owls feel a rush of intense cold as sleet and hail begin to hammer against the ship. Passing beyond Io's Edge, Alvus and Beebir peer over the side of the ship to the Aether abyss below...and swear they see flashes of topaz energy, illuminated tentacles, and an eye. Chills running down their spines, they decide to turn their attention back to sleet and hailstones.
The incoming clouds suddenly shift, swirling around the ship, like a cyclone. Crackling lightning and booming thunder echo around them, and between these beats, a voice, louder than the gods themselves - it pierces each of them, vibrating the the ship's hull with each word - "I. AM. THE EYE."
Alvus' keen eyes spy something scaled and silver in the clouds. "There's something out there!" And there, a massive silver dragon emerges, eyes burning red, the clouds cling to it, like skin. It opens its mouth, a ball of cold forming just ahead of its maw. Darrak, sensing the creature's intent, aims and fires his cannon, the dragon dropping its wings and ducking under the shot, then arching over Eli's cannon fire. It responds with a ball of ice toward the ship, Notloc deftly moving the wings out of the way. But as they trade fire with the creature, they become aware that there are other...things...in the clouds. Everyone readies for combat.
Gosef moves first, hurling a Firebolt toward the dragon, smacking it right in the face. Alvus looks up at the dragon to see it charge another ball of cold, aiming this time at the wizard. The rogue grabs an Alchemist Fire and chucks it toward the dragon's mouth...but it smacks against the ship's shield and he catches it, putting it back away (oops), and diving behind a post on the ship deck, praying that the dragon doesn't see him. Fu sees two wyrmlings, one copper and one red, emerge from under one of the wings, screaming toward the chamber he's in. Taking the opportunity, Fu grabs the arbalest near him and sinks a bolt into the copper one. Beebir, up front, fires his own arbalest bolt into the silver dragon. Two more cannons miss the creature, as it fires a ball of cold at Gosef, freezing his legs. Meanwhile, the red and copper dragons BOTH breathe fire, strafing around Xun Fu's chamber, but are unable to burn him. Brysar quickens his spells, creating mirror images of himself and unleashing another firebolt toward the dragon, slamming into it. The dragon then begins to charge...a lightning bolt. Riswynn summons a moonbeam upon the silver, and Darrak hits it with a cannon shot.
At this point, more creatures begin to emerge from the storm. A draken beast and another wyrmling join the silver dragon at the front, while two adult dracoliches - one of bone, a heart of lightning in its chest, and a green and gold hybrid (covered in small scratches, like feline claw marks...) - slam their full weight into the wings; but Notloc is too fast on the wheel and keeps the ship steady. Elata, seeing this, uses her Spell Augmentation to spin the weave of Shield of Faith to affect 5 other individuals. Notloc then uses the Ring of Fire at the cockpit to send a devastating ray of energy strafing across the silver dragon and the wyrmling, knocking each back from the force of the ship.
Seeing the change in circumstance, and his allies attempting to keep the others at bay, Eli mounts his horse and slams his gauntlets together, white light emanating from them, as he draws the legendary Seed of Oblivion (on loan from Nikz), a 5-foot straight nodachi that glows a brilliant hot white. With deft acrobatics, Eli's horse dashes out onto the wing, and he charges toward the skeletal dragon. The sword cleaves through it, shaving off one wing, an arm, and several ribs as the creature roars. It responds in kind, whacking the paladin with its one good claw, trying to knock him off the wing to the abyss below... Eli falters, but stays where he is due to his horse's uncanny balance. Happy to help, Darrak also rushes up while the others continue to sink arrows into the other creatures and uppercuts the thing's head off, it's body shattering into hundreds of pieces as it peels over the side.
With the copper and red wyrmlings now grappling the tail of the ship, the red one comes face to face with Fu's staff and fists, taking punishment enough to grasp the monk's staff in its jaws, angrily ripping it away from him. The green dragon leaps from the side of the wing onto the main deck wall, spewing a torrent of poison into its metaphorical barrel of fish...and Gosef and Brysar fall unconscious from the cloud. Riswynn sends a healing word to Brysar immediately. Elata uses her Magnus Purge to use a Mass Cure Wounds at double healing, and raises the fallen casters.
The silver dragon, frustrated with the damage it is suffering, stops flying and lands not the "face" of the ship, biting and clawing at Alvus and Beebir. Beebir hops down enough to dodge, but Alvus is taken up in the creature's jaws, ground by the dragon's teeth...and he uses his Soulfire (Asset) to resist being eaten and drops back down to the deck. Notloc calls upon the tempest, channeling his divinity through the Ring of Lightning, sending a laser beam of electricity into the silver dragon. The beam enters the creature through the mouth, erupting in a concussive explosion that runs down to its tail, the body exploding out and the wings falling away. But the respite is short-lived, as Alvus sees a Chimera emerge from the cloud, latching on the side of the ship, carving its way in...
Alvus aims up at the new threat, sinking an arrow into the goat head through the eye; it hangs lifeless. Beebir then sinks another bolt through the wyrmling's face...and it falls out of sight. With Eli using Misty Step to get back on deck, his horse charges the Chimera...slicing it in two.
Beginning to regain control of the ship, the party begins to settle into a rhythm, but their victory is short-lived. A crack of lightning splits the sky around them, and something huge shifts behind the cloud cover. Movement.
"I. CAN. SMELL YOU."
Before the group can react, a huge claw of smoke and scales roars out of the storm, grappling the "neck" of the ship and pulling it down. Screeching metal fills the party's ears as the path is partially crushed, and effectively cut off from the rest of the group.
The copper and red crawl into the ship, continuing to wreak havoc and turn Gosef into a chew toy. Brysar bends logic and casts Gust of Wind on the smoke hand, appearing to deal some damage to its form...for now. Riswynn, seeing this, then decides to move her Moonbeam to the hand, dealing radiant damage to it...which it EATS, and heals what the gust had done (Riswynn cancels Moonbeam). Using his teleporting dagger, Darrak blinks forward to the green dragon lich...and proceeds to punch it into using all of his legendary resistances. Elata Supercharges a healing word to Gosef's broken body. Notloc attempts to call lightning from the storm...and calls it upon himself (this is not his storm). But Gosef summons his own thunder and pushes the dragons away from him.
Again, the group slowly gains control of the boat...until another massive claw emerges from the storm on the other side, slashing into the wings. Seven orbs of black lightning begin to coalesce around the ship, bombarding it with strikes, and a giant draconic face peels into view before the ship...
Finished in Part 2 - stay tuned!