The Adventures of Annalax: Volume XXIII
No-one trusted these mirrors. Nor should anyone. A collection of mirrors, just conveniently sitting in the middle of a Nightmare Forest? Clearly dangerous. The party made a point of burying them face-down in the dirt.
Then three bears and eight wolves turned up. Again, these were not natural critters, but rather Nightmares in critter-shape. So it was time for yet another fight (there has been a fair number of these in recent sessions. The DM is building up to the confrontation with the Hags).
Ember started off by using his musket to cast Fog Cloud on the party. This was a strange experience for Annalax, since normally he’s the one used to casting Fog Cloud… and so suddenly being unable to see meant that he got a taste of what everyone else feels like when he does it. In other words, strangely frustrated. Annalax did, however, err on the side of prudence… his solution to the combat was to climb a tree, figuring that wolves couldn’t follow him.
Alas, the bears could, of course.
Luckily, Elknel (in another tree) did enough arrow damage to knock our ursine friend out of the branches, while Annalax returned the favour later, managing a rare critical hit (only his third in the entire campaign). Annalax was, however, vaguely disappointed that his use of Prestidigitation to screw with the wolves’ sense of smell turned out to be a bit of a dud. One would have thought that lupines would be put off by the sudden whiff of Leng Spider, but it was not to be.
This was the sort of fight that lasted a fair while, but which was not incredibly dangerous. The mood was lightened considerably by the continued party references to the bears being named Winnie, Yogi, and Paddington. “What’s he going to do? Throw honey/a picnic basket/a jar of marmalade at us?” To be fair, what else were we going to do, when confronted with three bears? The poor DM was trying to treat matters seriously.
On the other hand, burying the mirrors proved wise, since one stray unburied mirror did generate a Bloody Mary. The monster, not the drink, though the light-hearted mood was such that I quipped about the defeated creature dissolving back into tomato juice and vodka.
Sleeping afterwards proved rather awkward, however. You see, the Hags know we are coming for them – albeit they have no fear of us. So they take great delight in attacking the dreams of sleeping characters. Even Annalax, who trances rather than sleeps, was affected. It was not a huge amount, but a few extra Stress points, and one lost HP was a bit irritating.
To call this one eventful would be an understatement.
Further on in the forest, we stumbled into a Nightmare in a top-hat. As one does. This particular Nightmare was rather keen on cutting a deal with us, figuring that he doesn’t like what the Hags are up to. Most of the party, including Annalax, were quite keen on hearing him out (it also turned out that this was the product of careful behind-the-scenes negotiations from Zhan).
Ember was less keen. As far as he was concerned, all Nightmares are liars, cheats, and backstabbers (“You say it like it’s a bad thing,” said Annalax the Drow), and must be killed on sight, as per his promise to the Shadow Cat. Ember has been told that there will be dire consequences for him if he lets a Nightmare escape.
Now, Annalax can see a middle-ground between “letting it go free” and “killing on sight,” but Ember decided differently. So he attacked the Nightmare.
At which point, we suddenly realised we were surrounded, and not by the top-hatted Nightmare, who promptly vanished.
We were dealing with three beefy spell-casting Nightmares, and an assortment of lesser rabble. And the spell-casters had Paralyse and Hunters Mark. Ouch.
Zhan immediately cast Darkness. Annalax (at the bottom of Initiative, having rolled a natural 2) ran over to an appropriately tall tree, cast Fog Cloud at the base, and climbed into the branches. From there he hoped to repeat his tactics from last session, of taking pot-shots at nearby Nightmares from safety. It worked. So far as Annalax was concerned, anyway. The rest of the party was not so lucky.
The real problem was that Einarr – as a meat-headed sort – got himself a bit isolated, so Thendwyn, our Dreamland Cat Sorcerer, moved closer to put him in range of her healing spell. Unfortunately, Thendwyn promptly failed a Wisdom save, and found herself paralysed, while Einarr was swarmed. Meanwhile, Zhan was trying to rescue Manya the Bard, who had been swarmed on the other side of the battle… he successfully restrained the attackers, but they still rolled well-enough to knock Manya unconscious.
One by one, the party were taken down. Einarr, Manya, Thendwyn, Zhan. These foes rolled well, and used appropriate tactics. Worse, when one of those cannon-fodder Nightmares died, it popped with a scream that forced a save against the Frightened condition. And when the player characters were downed, they got dragged away, out of range of a convenient Mage Hand/Healing Potions combination. Annalax did get a Potion to the active-and-close Ember though.
Annalax was still secure within his Fog-enshrouded tree, and did not realise the overall danger, but Elknel did. Soon the only active party members were the two Rogues, and Ember. Elknel opted to flee, shouting at Annalax to follow him. Annalax realised he was too far away to get a Healing Potion to Zhan, while some of the Nightmares were now trying and failing to climb the tree through the Fog.
“If you can’t kill it, run like a little boy,” goes the saying, and Annalax is nothing if not a survivor.
Throwing another Healing Potion at Ember, Annalax jumped down from the tree, and ran like his life depended on it. Which it did.
So a TPK? Not quite. Annalax and Elknel are still up, albeit running away. And while the characters themselves do not know this, the unconscious party members are not dead, merely captured. The DM has a plan.
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