The Adventures of Annalax: Volume XII

The fight against the Mutants continued to prove troublesome. The Leng Rogue NPC kept rolling natural 1s. The Wight NPC and the Gith missed repeatedly. The Isaacs were knocked unconscious. Annalax was reduced to hiding in a cloud of Darkness (only to be swung at by Mutants who followed him in there. They missed, but it’s the principle of the thing).

Then Magni the Aasimar Warlock managed a critical hit with third-level Inflict Wounds. That… changed things. Most noticeably, most of the Mutants decided that running away was in order.

Annalax had a fair amount of fun pursuing the fleeing foes. The fact that he has Dash as a bonus action rather helped there, of course, but it’s not every day that he actually chases enemies. Normally it’s the other way around. Since the Mutants weren’t exactly high-HP, it wasn’t even the end of the world if he couldn’t Sneak Attack.

Not one Mutant escaped, and looting the remains netted Annalax five dinosaur-bone javelins and thirteen pairs of goggles. Maybe sell-able, to the right person. Maybe the party will run into an in-universe steampunk convention or something. The Wight NPC also managed to zombify one of the Mutants… now known as Frank. Or Fred. The Wight isn’t quite sure. But it does have the Wight’s hand-mark over its face, Lurtz-style.

(We actually have six NPCs in the party now. As opposed to six PCs. One feels rather sorry for the Dungeon Master here).

After the battle, we found a cave for the night (why can’t we find caves for the daytime too? Bloody overworlders). And there… something interesting happened, in terms of character interaction. Annalax largely missed it, since he was off in a corner, offering Lolth some prayers of thanks.

Basically, Magni was still in emotional turmoil about having his god revealed as a fake. He was agonising about whether to teleport out of the Dreamworld in his sleep (he can do that), and leave us behind. Magni doesn’t want to be trooping around a mountain with a collection of bandits… he’d much rather be sitting quietly in a pub, mulling on the failures of religion. Ember and the Wight had to give the poor guy a reason to continue, via an extended counselling session. And by extended, I mean that a substantial amount of time was spent discussing what gives life meaning. It involves orphans, apparently.

The Gith, meanwhile, was in the naughty box for probing party minds with Detect Thoughts. Ever prideful, the Gith also reminded us that he was not “the gun.” He had a name. Drokka is his original name, but we can call him Shen, in Celestial. Regardless of what he is called, Annalax still does not like him. No self-respecting Drow likes being told that Lolth is just an up-jumped demon who wants to take their freedom away.

Shen was also after a spell component. A crystal vial of tears, worth some three hundred gold pieces. Annalax had a solution:

  • Pay three hundred gold pieces for one of the Ranger’s used beer bottles.
  • Fill it with the tears of (the truly terrified) Alan the Wizard.
  • The Ranger returns the money later.
  • Call it a day.

Close, but no poisoned cigar. Monetary Value is not entirely subjective in this universe, so far as magical components goes. Oh well. It’s not Annalax’s fault for being ahead of his time.

Further on, we stumbled across a stray pick-axe, and an abandoned camp site. Very likely associated with the Isaacs’ missing father.

The next session was a very eventful one… but it did not have to be this way.

On through the snow we trudged – only for the Gith to discover something interesting. This was a magical blizzard (specifically very strong Evocation Magic) aimed at us. Think Peter Jackson’s Saruman chanting malign spells in Quenya atop Orthanc, if not Tolkien’s original Caradhras.

So the Ranger found a cave. Which was decent enough – or so we thought. Annalax went ahead to check things out. Specifically, the party waited outside in the snow, while our Drow poked his nose in.

The problem was this: visibility in the blizzard was so bad that Annalax wasn’t aware that the rest of the party was being attacked. Worse. They weren’t aware that he was being attacked.

The rest of the party were dealing with madmen under the control of some malign power. These were clearly the remnants of some climbing party – they attacked with teeth and pickaxes – but they were also happy enough to throw out some nasty spell attacks too. With some effort, our party chased the attackers away.

Annalax stumbled across a strange shadow creature. He promptly went back outside, and did his usual Faerie Fire and stealthy crossbow sniping. Funny thing though – the creature objected to the Faerie Fire worse than the crossbow bolts, and it did not have a problem with poison at all.

Then the creature spotted him. It got within melee range, and missed its attack.

Annalax moved away, permitting an Opportunity Attack (something he was willing to do. Disengaging would have meant no bonus-action Hiding). The creature managed a critical hit with its Opportunity Attack…

Dear Lolth. Annalax shat himself. It wasn’t the Stress, or the Physical Damage, though both were bad enough with a critical hit (and thank Lolth for Uncanny Dodge). It was the Strength Drain. The creature knocked Annalax from his poor 9 Strength to a mere 5.

Why, yes, dear reader. It was one of those Shadow creatures.

Annalax fired off another attack, to drive it off – which actually succeeded. But rather than hiding at the end of his turn, he used his bonus action to Dash back to the party, shouting warnings. It turned out the party had just finished dealing with their own attack.

This put the party in a bother. You see, they were now faced with the choice of hunkering down in a blizzard, or spending time in the cave. With the Shadow creature.

We decided on the cave.

The drained Annalax joined the NPC Party members, the Dreamland Cat Sorcerer, and the Ranger in staying near the mouth of the cave, with the area lit up like a Christmas Tree. Annalax regained his strength via a short rest, but he was not in the mood to tangle with the Shadow creatures any further. Strength is his dump stat, after all – and zero Strength is instant death.

Ember the Barbarian, Shen the Gith Sorcerer, and Magni the Aasimar Warlock, however, decided to investigate the cave further, taking a ever-burning lantern with them. Magni communicated back to the rest of us via his familiar.

Sure enough, the trio ran across eight or so Shadow creatures. But rather than do a runner, the trio settled on another course.

They talked to the creatures, in Abyssal.

Unfortunately… the demonic side of Ember went haywire, and threatened their god. Who was more than willing to accept such a challenge. Annalax heard all this via Magni’s familiar, and thought Ember had gone insane – which to be fair, he probably was.

The Gith then decided to Fireball his way out.

Alas, the Shadow creatures resisted fire, along with a fair few other things… which meant Ember, Shen, and Magni were fighting eight Shadow critters, with only the lantern light stopping a massacre. They were a good fifteen minutes from the rest of us too – not that Annalax was keen on a rematch. We were basically getting “match reports” via the familiar.

(Splitting the party… oh dear).

The trio did make a decent account of themselves, and the Shadows were at disadvantage with the lantern light, but that Strength Drain was brutal. Finally, even Ember opted to do a runner. As they were desperately fleeing up the tunnels… Ember had 5 Strength (down from 18!), Magni had 2 Strength, and Shen had 1 HP.

Then an attack on Magni connected. The only question was what the Strength Drain (1d4) would be. Magni could survive if the Dungeon Master rolled a 1 on a four-sided dice…

The Shadow rolled a 4.

Magni was dead. Rather than the poetry of Kirius’ sacrifice, or the Naga’s rather banal exit, this was raw nihilistic tragedy. Magni had just had his entire life’s meaning stripped from him – but rather than going through a reconstruction phase, he died, in a context that could have been avoided.

All his possessions went with him too. For Annalax’s purposes, this killed off the Leng Spider Caviar scheme. Quite apart from the fact that, you know, Magni (along with Ember) was Annalax’s longest-lasting travel companion, and someone who had promised to help our Drow get revenge on his sister. Bugger.

Shen the Gith unleashed a torrent of magic, which drove the remaining Shadows away.

Ember rolled a 1 to control his demon side in the aftermath of Magni’s death. Which meant he went full-on demon-lord. He lost his appearance, and punched the cave wall – bringing down rocks, and blocking off the rear of the cave. Then he passed out, still in demon form. Out of character, I was almost wondering if we were looking at a total party kill – though thankfully that didn’t happen.

Annalax hasn’t had time to mentally process Magni’s death yet. He’s dealing with Ember the Scary Demon… and, honestly, were it not for the fact that leaving the party would trap him in the Dreamworld, he was seriously thinking about agreeing with the Gith about doing a runner.

As an epilogue to the session, we saw Magni in the afterlife. It turned out he met the Eternal Flame, whom he had worshipped all his life, prior to the whole apostasy thing. Magni rejected the Eternal Flame (who wasn’t even aware of Magni’s earlier issues), and went to Hell instead. There he had a very happy reunion with Kirius the Tiefling. Awwwww. It also turned out that Kirius’s father – the Devil – grabbed Magni to Hell so that Kirius would have a friend. Double awwwwwww.

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