“Gods, Annika… I thought using that ioun stone would give us a shortcut back to Sigil!” I moan as we trudge through the fields of Averness, dodging spurts of hellfire and monsters of all shapes and sizes.
“Well we’ve got to get out of here first, and then we can use the shortcut,” she replies in a huff as she looks around with her hands on her hips and blows a stray hair out of her face.
“We’re lost… aren’t we,” I moan as I roll my eyes.
“Oh ye of little faith,” she chides as she turns around and points into the distance. “We need to go that way!”
“Towards the rampaging skeletal dinosaur, you mean,” mentions Constance as she grabs her mace.
“Yes, towards the-oh shit!”
A huge black and deformed skeleton in the shame of a 15ft tall dinosaur covered in green fire and magical runes climbs out of the seemingly never-ending fields of bubbling sludge and barrels towards us with a screech. Annika wields her sword with two hands as her spell crackles down the blade and with an upward swing knocks its head back as the others prepare for battle.
Our new friend Jinsi Que leaps forward with her fists clenched and promptly steps on a piece of spleen someone carelessly left on the ground before falling on her rear with a PLOP! Fortunately for her, she’s able to return to her feet quickly as she springs up from the ground and strikes the skeletal demon with a glowing flurry of fists.
I raise my hands as I prepare to strike the monster with a spell, but the words fall flat on my lips as I take in the hypnotic patterns of green fire and runes flowing over its bones. I’ve never seen the likes of it before in all my travels! Even my forrays into the tomes of forbidden knowledge have provided little support… other than a gut feeling that this creature has been touched by gods that cannot be named by any sane person.
A bright beam of light bursts forth from Constance’s hands as she steps forward, causing the creature to howl in pain before it rears up and explodes into shards of bone that scatter across the landscape. I rush to tend to Annika and discretely brush off some of the smaller pieces in her hair into one of the empty vials from my pouch. Whatever this creature was, it definitely bears some investigation. Besides, I never pass up the opportunity for new spell components.
“Hey guys, I think it’s time we leave…” Constance suggests as she casts a worried glance at the pieces of the monster that seem to be slowly reforming into smaller piles of a dark bubbling mass.
“Run faster!” warns Jinsi as she guards the rear while we make our hasty retreat. “The things are already heading this way!”
Two smaller versions of the reptilian skeletons can just be seen running towards us as Jinsi picks up a rock and hurls it at one of the creatures. I turn and throw my hands out as I mutter the words of a summoning that I’ve not tried since our journey to the planes of Hell. The ground in front of me begins to shake and crack as it splits open and three Hell Hounds scramble out from the darkness, flames licking along their dark skin.
“Go, my pets… see if you can bring Mother a sample of this wonderful creature.”
One of the dogs turns to me with a wag of its tail as its head splits open into a mass of waving tentacles. See what wonderful gifts I can bring if you only call to me… A gurgled bark emanates from the hole where its head once was before it and its brothers launch themselves towards the regenerating skeletal beasts.
Constance uses her time manipulation powers to teleport behind the charging monsters as the Hell Hounds move to surround the creatures. A quick movement to my right sets me up for a lightning bolt that crackles through the melee. One of them unfortunately manages to dodge as it leaps for my throat… and misses just over my left shoulder. I take a small step to the right and almost reach out to touch it as my eyes are once again drawn to the glowing runes along its skin.
These secrets can be yours my child… all you have to do is call my name.
“Iiieee!” Constance yells out in pain as one of the creatures wraps its jaws around her forearm. I wonder if their bite is poisonous. Do you think she’ll let me run some tests? Jinsi leaps into the fray and shatters one of the monsters ribcages with a glowing fist before kicking its head clean off. My three pets corner the other one in a blaze of fire emanating from their writhing tentacles before I summon a last lightning bolt that finishes off the job.
“Ow! Damn it… reign in your beasts!” moans Constance as she pats wildly at the flames licking along the breeches of her right leg.
Damn it… I’m usually more careful than that. Why didn’t I…
They must know pain before they can know the peace that I will bring them; the peace of oblivion.
I shake my head roughly and press fingers against my temple as I wince in pain. My head… Gods I need a drink.
“Katya, will you control your… things… already? They’re eating the damn skeletons and making me sick,” says Constance as she shoos some of them away and starts smashing the skeleton with her mace. Hodekin and the others quickly move to scatter all of the shattered pieces of the skeletons… leaving me a perfect opportunity to scoop a tiny piece into a vial and slip it into my belt pouch. You know… for science.
“I think that does it,” says Annika as she scatters the last of the pieces that are already starting to bubble and move. She casts a spell of Web that shoots out over the pieces, and will hopefully delay their reforming long enough for us to get out of here. “Hey Katya, I know you like collecting spell components and all. You didn’t put any in your pack, did you?"
“No, I didn’t put any in my pack,” I reply with a slight grin.
After a quick jaunt using Constance’s teleportation boots we make our way to the gate where we say our good-byes to our temporary travel mates.
“Be sure to look me up when you’re back in Sigil!” the ratkin suggests to Hodey as they shake hands. “Here’s that blasted sword… I trust you guys will do what needs to be done with it.” He holds it out and Annika reaches out to grab it by the exposed hilt jutting out of the wrappings.
Oh you silly…The look on her face as the Lawful Good nature of the sword reacts to her Tiefling blood is priceless.
“What did I tell you, huh?” I chuckle as she hisses in pain.
“Here then… you take it!” she replies angrily.
“Oh no… you can keep your holy relics, thank you very much; I’m not stupid,” I chuckle.
“I will guard this holy weapon with my life,” Jinsi offers as she reaches and to take the sword.
While not as visible a reaction as Annika, even she twinges slightly as she straps the sword to her back.
Before I can comment on it, however, we hear the duck-like squawking of a dozen or so small
skeletal lizards advancing rapidly toward us in the distance.
“Okay, enough of this place… let’s get out of here.”