Thursday, September 21, 2017

Rain: Season 1, Episode 1, Part 2

Imagine my surprise when I realized overland movement and encounters weren't detailed in either Mythras or Classic Fantasy. Not what I expected for a “return to the golden age of roleplaying … between the late 1970s to 1980s.” I just read that wilderness adventures would be available in the Unearthed Companion supplement late 2017 or early 2018. That's more a return to 1981, when the Basic and Expert sets were around. In 1974, original Dungeons and Dragons (and each edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) had those rules in the base game.


-drums fingers-


Deal breaker? Not exactly. That's what house ruling is for (or buying another supplement), but it leads me to wonder if missing a third of the game, you know, getting from A to B, may be why it isn't as popular as D&D. I’d have to rummage through decades of Runequest rules to find out.


Be that as it may, I'll use Underworld and Wilderness Adventures from the original Dungeons and Dragons to keep it in theme to pre-1980 rules. It does beg the question why not just play D&D… I'll kick Mythras around a little longer to see what I think.


Following the silver standard, I adjusted the treasure amount by a factor of 10. And, now, I have an NPC to build...


Season 1, Episode 1, Part 2: The Beginning (One OK Rock with live action Kenshin)


It was two days travel going north to Thorndyke, a fishing community between the hills that border the Synnorian Valley and the Strait of Alaron. Rain gathered his meager belongings, the two most precious being his falchion and hand crossbow.


He had stumbled across the hand crossbow while exploring a cave and meant to sell it. The kind merchant in Corwell had informed him just how rare a thing like that was. Ruairidh had taken a liking to Rain when he was growing up. Rain would stop by frequently to see what new wares he had traded for from Waterdeep or Baldur’s Gate. The merchant never asked questions of where some of the things Rain sold him came from, either.


The cusped falchion was a gift from Nogai, a sailor from Thay. They had met in Ruairidh’s shop a handful of years back. The two engaged in conversation about the lands beyond Moonshae; that was when Rain explained his trouble with mastering the longsword. After that, each month, the two met for practice. He wondered if he would run into Nogai on his next trip.


[GM roll for lost, day 1 (1 in 6): 6]
[GM roll for encounter (4 in 6): 1]
[GM roll for lost, day 2 (1 in 6): 4]
[GM roll for encounter (4 in 6): 5]
[GM roll for encounter type: 8, Dragon]
[Player: W. T. F.]
[GM roll for dragon type: 6, Gold]
[Player: -wipes brow- Ok. Wait. This changes everything!]
[GM roll for surprise, Rain: 1]
[GM roll for surprise, dragon:  2]
[GM roll for sight distance: 30 yards]


The first day away from Chrysalis was uneventful. Rain was familiar with the nearby terrain and had visited the Strait of Alaron frequently. The second day, he had been following the base of the rocky mountains, when his ears heard the clatter of large rocks being sent down the cliff face. Cautiously, he pressed himself against the rocks and inched closer to see.


[Player roll for Stealth: 55]
[GM roll for Perception: 73]


As Rain came around a bend, he saw a nearby cave. Deep gouges were rent into the edge of the cliff.


“Don't be yourself. Don't be yourself. Don't… Aravae is going to be pissed,” he muttered to himself.


Rain eased closer and peeked around the corner. A large golden reptilian head faced him. Long whiskers curled gracefully against the cave’s floor and sharp gleaming fangs bared. Rain swallowed. The gold head lifted up toward the ceiling; Rain craned his neck to follow.


“What are you doing in my lair?” it asked, a rumbling whisper that wasn't as quiet to his ears.


Rain smiled faintly and came fully into view. “I heard falling rocks,” he swallowed again, “So I just wanted to… you know, see what caused it?”


“Ah,” it said, bringing its face close to the elf’s. “You're an elf.” The dragon's breath caused his green cloak to billow. “I meant to study you.”


It sounded like he wasn't going to be eaten. Not yet, at least. “Study?” he said, sounding more like a squeak compared to the draconic bass.


“It's why I moved here. I just brought the last of my things from my old home.”


[GM roll for treasure: 13,500 sp, 1,100 ep, 8,000 gp, 900 pp, 35 gems, 24 pieces of art, 4 maps, 2 rank 1 magnitude 5 scrolls, magnitude 2 potion of vigor, bastard sword +1]


Rain’s eyes flicked away to peer past the dragon. There was an immense pile of coins behind it, gems were strewn about, and a scattering of random items seemed haphazardly mixed into the pile. He glanced at the immense gold form and back at the treasure hoard. Don't be yo-


“Can I take a look? I collect odds and ends,” he said hastily.


The dragon huffed. Rain wasn't sure if that was yes or no, but he walked slowly into the cave. The coins didn't interest him so much as the strange items laying around. There were things he couldn't find anywhere in the Moonshae.


“Is that comb…”


“Made of jade? Yes,” a woman’s voice interrupted.


He turned and was again surprised. Where the dragon had been, a female elf stood. Her likeness reminded him of Aravae with her gold hair and eyes, but the similarities ended there. She wore a suit of golden armor made of scales and held herself as if she was waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Coiled, contained and focused.


“How do I look?” she asked, her voice emulated the melody of Elvish.


Rain remained quiet and tried not to compare her against the other elves in Chrysalis. This was a dragon. He was very capable of not angering a dragon.


“Would I pass well enough to mingle with your people?”


His eyes slid away and focused on the jade comb. “Yes. You’d… You'll fit right in. What should we call you?”


“My name is Shiventai. Would that work?”


Rain thought about all the things Aravae would say when she found out he was giving advice to a dragon. “It could, if you tell them you just arrived.” He cleared his throat and turned back around. “I'm Rain.”


“Rain isn't Elvish.”


“No, but it's what people call me.”


“Well, Rain, what were you doing before you trespassed into my home?”


Rain grew serious, reminded of his mission. “There's a fishing village, Thorndyke.”


“The little place I flew over north of here?”


“That's the one. They've been having some kind of trouble, and it sounds like they're being harassed by goblins or orcs at night. I was sent by Genna to find where they were coming from.”


Shiventai arched one delicate eyebrow. “A mission from the Druid of Myrloch. I'm either impressed or intrigued. Emotions are still a strange thing.”


Why was everyone so surprised by this? he wondered.


The dragon turned elf walked toward her hoard, brushing scale armor against Rain’s lighter leather, and reached down to pull a bastard sword free. “Where do we start?”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rain: Season 1, Episode 1, Part 1

For Rain, I am running Mythras (formerly Runequest 6, and the free Mythras Imperative) with the Classic Fantasy supplement (preview here). Classic Fantasy brings pre-3rd edition D&D to the d100 system; 3rd through 5th might take a little thought without Feats. The setting uses the 1st edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Set with FR2 Moonshae. The adventures are created with the Dungeon Master's Design Kit, while the dungeon is made with the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets. I will also be experimenting with breaking up the episodes so each scene will be one post. Might make it more palatable with bite size pieces. At the end of the post, I'll include Rain’s character sheet.


Unfortunately, I could not find any resources on what Genna Moonsinger looked like, not having read Darkwalker on Moonshae. Only that she’s old, wrinkly and stout. So, I have to make up my own version of her.


I have read that Mythras has flavorful but lethal combat. Let's see how long Rain survives...


THEME
Action/Adventure
GOAL
Explore a New Area
STORY HOOK
Old Friend: Genna Moonsinger
SETTING
Classic Dungeon
ALLIES
Aravae Daewynn, Genna Moonsinger
MASTER VILLAIN
Agent Provocateur
MINOR VILLAIN
Daughter with the Heart of Gold
PLOT
The A-B-C Quest
CLIMAX
Prevented Deed with Throne Room Duel as secondary


Season 1, Episode 1, Part 1: True (Amaranthe)


A figure stood apart from the tangle of others in the main square. He was the same height as a human male, but his lithe form seemed fragile and thin by comparison. His bronze head was topped by short black hair with matching eyes. Even without the pointed ears, he was already marked as an elf. Some might call him a high elf, but he was one of the Llewyrr, native to Gwynneth and the Moonshae.


He wore simple clothes when he wasn't out hunting, dark trousers and a summer green shirt. Calf high dark leather boots covered his feet, soft soled so he could move quietly. He didn't have much use for accessories, aside from the ever present dagger at the small of his back. The elf turned his gaze south.


From his vantage point, he could see the tree line where the Grove of Meditation began. He looked through the passers by and felt a small pang of shame. He barely had any magical reserve, not enough to master the most basic cantrip. The Grove is where elves went to commune and grow their arcane abilities.


Behind him, the silver and crystal city of Chrysalis dominated the valley. Aside from the elves, very few were permitted to marvel at its ingenuity. Towers that touched the clouds constructed of crystal and glass. An immense wall, almost transparent, surrounded the city on all sides. That was not their only defense.


North, beyond Chrysalis, were the horse farms. These bred the white chargers the Sisters of Synnoria rode into battle. Another pang of shame pulled at him. He was trained in the martial arts, as all elves were, but he was considered too weak for the front lines. The guilt washed away with a moment of pride. Still, he had made his own way. If that was the path the Goddess set him on, so be it.


“Lost?” someone asked behind his elbow.


The elf turned and was briefly surprised to find a short human woman standing behind him. Genna Moonsinger smiled. She stood up to his shoulder with chestnut hair and brown, earthy eyes. She wore cloth in shades of wood, splashes of green and yellow peeked from between their folds. A Druid, her task was to guard the Moonwell, the magical waters that could heal wounds. Small wonder she could sneak up on him.


“Just thinking,” he replied.


“Dwelling is not thinking, Nalmyraen. Too much time, I think.”


“I'm an elf, Genna,” Rain said, pointing at an ear. “I have nothing but time.”


Genna chuckled, a warm and inviting sound. “True.” She cleared her throat, becoming more businesslike. “Speaking of too much time, the Earth Mother has a task that needs doing, and I think you're just the one to do it.”


Rain smiled, at first thinking this was a joke, “And that would be?”


“There's been trouble brewing near Thorndyke. They think it comes from the north, about a day. We would like you to investigate the validity of their claims.”


He shrugged. “Three days to get there then, just to see if they're lying about their problems?”


“Yes. I would rather you find nothing than get too involved. See what you can see then come back. Alright?”


“No promises,” Rain said with a grin.


Genna scowled. “That's what I'm afraid of. Still…,” she turned and headed back toward Myrloch where her grove and the Moonwell waited.


“What'd the Druid want?” a quiet voice asked as they watched the retreating form of Genna.


Rain smiled at the familiar voice. He turned to see Aravae coming up behind him. She was about his height and light to his dark. Her blonde hair was pulled tight into a tail wrapped by a sapphire ribbon. She must have been sparring because her torso was covered by a silver breastplate, the rest of her was clad in mud colored leathers save the white cloak of the Sisters of Synnoria. A longsword swayed at her hip as she approached. Aravae’s gold eyes turned from Genna and fixated on Rain.


“An assignment. Apparently from the Goddess.”


Her brows arched upward, not exactly mocking but amused. “Sounds important. Sooooo, why you?” she asked and elbowed him playfully.


Rain scowled. “I don't know. Maybe because I'm quieter than you folk crashing about in plate?”


Aravae feigned indignation. The silence stretched for several heartbeats. He watched her from the corner of his eye. She was thinking. Coming to a conclusion, Aravae unfastened her cloak and handed it to Rain.


“I have a cloak,” Rain said matter of factly.


“Of course you do. This is just in case your's gets torn,” Aravae pinned him with her eyes and grew serious. “And don't do anything dumb.”


“Male, you mean.”


Aravae laughed brightly. “Because men are dumb,” she said, adding a nod of finality. “And rare for us. Which makes you,” she poked him pointedly, “rarest of all. You are male, don't fight alongside us and don't have any magical aptitude to speak of.”


He had gotten into many fights over the latter two, but Aravae had a disarming smile. He knew she was joking. They'd grown up together, and Rain was closer to her than any other of their generation.


“Fine,” he said, his turn to feign indignation. “I'll try not to by myself.”


NALMYRAEN “RAIN” EVENSONG, ELVEN THIEF
Rank 1: Apprentice


STR 09
CON 13
SIZ 15
DEX 16
INT 15
POW 06
CHA 14


Damage Bonus: +0
Initiative Bonus: 16
Action Points: 3
Armor Points: 3 (except head)
Healing Rate: 3
Luck Points: 2
Move: 20


Age: 114
Height: 5’10” Weight: 130


STANDARD SKILLS
Athletics: 50
Boating: 22
Brawn: 24
Combat Style (Thief): 50
Conceal: 32
Customs: 70
Dance: 30
Deceit: 54
Drive: 22
Endurance: 26
Evade: 57
First Aid: 31
Influence: 48
Insight: 41
Language (Common): 69
Language (Elvish): 69
Locale: 40
Perception: 46
Ride: 22
Sing: 20
Stealth: 51
Swim: 22
Unarmed: 25
Willpower: 32


PROFESSIONAL SKILLS
Commerce: 39
Courtesy: 39
Lockpicking: 42
Mechanisms: 41
Sleight: 55
Survival: 29


PASSIONS
Loyalty to the Earth Mother: 51
Neutral (independent, respectful of nature): 42


GEAR (18 ENC)

backpack, dagger (1d4+1, bleed, impale), falchion (1d6+2, bleed), flint and tinder, hand crossbow (1d4, impale), lockpick, rations (14), rope, set of undecorated clothes (2), studded leather armor, thieves tools, waterskin, 20 silver

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Artair: Season 1, Episode 1

I had been asked what Solo System I used, so I figured I would include what occurs in the background as I play. In this particular game, I used two and 7/10 things: Tiny Dungeon is the core game, Dungeon Master's Design Kit generated the adventure, Hankerin Ferinale's Timers and Untold: Adventures Await was used in one scene. Everything else was a result from dice rolls (including the character, where I made a 36 entry table to randomly generate four traits).

ARTAIR THE HUNTER
Artair is a human man with long chestnut brown hair and wooded dark eyes. He has a slim build from years of living in the wild. His clothing is dark and durable, designed to hike among the trees and  hills near his grove. He is a hunter, accustomed to life in the woods, and believes that the cycle of life should be respected. Artair is proficient with light weapons and has mastered the club and short spear.


Artair was called to nature and learned the Prayers of Healing.
Through study and meditation with his grove, he became One with Nature.
Working to preserve the cycle, Artair is an experienced dungeoneer.


06 / 06 Hit Points


GEAR
adventurers kit, club, medium armor (patchwork of hide), shield, short spear (flint tipped oak haft)

THEME
Horror
GOAL
Thwart Monstrous Plan
STORY HOOK
Hero Offended
SETTING
Catacombs and mansion
ALLIES
Crusty Old Professional
MASTER VILLAIN
The Corruptor
MINOR VILLAIN
Hard Eyed Advisor
PLOTS
The A-B-C Quest
CLIMAX
Bloody Battle


Scene 1: Introduction (Crusty Old Professional)


Artair heard the commotion from his end of the grove. He often sat beneath the tree near his tiny home to meditate and listen to the plants and animals around him. That was broken by heated discussion from the clearing used as a meeting ground. As he approached, Dougal was animatedly talking with the few members present.


Dougal was a gruff man. Tall, burly and fiery haired to match his demeanor. He’d been a soldier of some kind, though no one asked what he did. Presently, he served as an instructor of weapons. He didn't wear metal armor much anymore and is often seen in leather, his omnipresent burda club swinging at his side.


“Stupid. Just stupid,” he growled, casting a baleful glance at anyone listening. “Told him not ta go anywhere near Woolstead.”


“Who?” Artair asked.


“That new apprentice. Tamos. Told him ta avoid them folk. Bad place, bad people,” Dougal replied, spitting on the ground for good measure. “Didn't listen, though. Got himself took by that lord … what’s ‘is name …”


“Cotilius?” suggested Artair. It was the only name that made sense, and it was always wise to avoid him.


“That's the one. Fancy lord Cotilius. Always stickin' his nose in people’s business. Tamos was trespassin’, so I heard, and they took ‘im.”


Artair frowned and considered his options. Dougal would best serve the grove continuing instruction instead of going on a brief adventure. Who knew how long negotiating with Cotilius could take. The handful of others… his dark eyes measured the apprentices… they had a few months yet before they could be useful. That left him while the arch-druids were away.


“Let me see what I can do, Dougal,” Artair said, his baritone slow and patient. “It's a couple days there, couple back. I should be home within a week.”


Scene 2: First Encounter (Terrain monster: guard dog)


He had reached Woolstead as planned. Two days travel from the grove to the town. He brought very little with him, sensing that Cotilius might take offense if he appeared with a flint tipped spear; he left that at home. The sky was overcast, rain beginning to fall, as he walked up the hill.


Artair approached the tall stone wall with its wrought iron gate. The mansion was a fair distance from the town proper, set atop a tall hill and giving a clear view of Woolstead below. The yard appeared deserted; the gate was closed but unchained.


He pushed the gate open and stepped inside, securing it shut behind him. As he walked toward the front door, he heard a low growl. A dark mastiff stood at the corner of the home, baring its teeth. Artair raised a hand, ready to calm and converse with the animal.


One of the mastiff’s paws touched the ground, and it began to smolder.  It crept from around the building, steam and smoke rising off its back. Cracks of fiery orange began to spread along the dark fur. Then, it erupted into ghostly green fire.


[Initiative: Artair: 6, Hellhound (2 hp): 5, Timer: 4]
[Artair: ready weapon, evade; hellhound: move, attack 2, 5; evade: success]


Artair brought up his shield and pulled his club free from his belt. He watched the hound warily. The hellhound rushed forward with a series of loud barks. It leapt at the druid, gnashing its teeth, but he had been ready. The shield deflected the attack, merely pushing Artair back from its momentum.


[Artair: attacks twice 2, 6, 6 and 1, 1, 5, Timer: 3]


He felt confident that the hound had been too aggressive. Artair stepped side and brought his club down on its back. The mastiff yelped loudly and spun to face the druid. Artair was already set to follow through, lunging forward and smashing the club against the hellhound’s skull with an immense crack. The thing collapsed on the ground, dead.


[Artair: kicks door: 1, 3, Timer: 2]


Artair didn't have time. He checked the front door and found it locked. His shoulder smashed against the wood, but the frame remained intact. There came the sound of approaching footsteps, hard soles on gravel. Running out of options, knowing he would be discovered even getting through the door, he forcefully centered himself.


[Artair: entangle: 4, 4, 4]


The guard had black padded armor and a club of his own, and he seemed surprised when he saw the fallen hellhound and a druid ready to cast a spell at him. Artair pulled on the energy within the branches and grass within the courtyard. Roots and shoots flew up to ensnare the guard.


[Initiative: Artair, 12, guard (1 hp): 7]
[Artair: move, attack: 3, 5, 5]


Artair realized subtlety was not going to work. The ensnaring foliage was already peeling away, completely ineffective. He marched up to the stunned guard and swung with his wooden club. It connected with a wet smack, knocking him against the wall. His hands searched the guard and found a set of keys. One of them should be to the front door.


Scene 3: Discovery (Intrigue: 3 Questions)


The mansion was a single level. The foyer and main hall were heavily carpeted. A pair of rooms opened to his left, and another living area was on his right. There were stairs ahead of him, with a pair of hallways to either side, but the entire house seemed empty. No conversations, no servants. Just silence.


[What would most likely attract his attention?]


The den on his left attracted him most. There were bookshelves filled with a variety of topics. Though most were histories and educational, there were a few that related to truly occult matters. Artair thumbed through one, denoting the true names of various otherworldly entities. Another title promised understanding the ebb and flow of magic and the moon.


[How does this relate to Tamos’s disappearance?]


Hidden beneath papers on the desk, another book lay open. It seemed Cotilius was experimenting with taking creatures and twisting them. He summoned entities from other worlds and merged them with other creatures from our own. Artair scowled at the affront to the natural order. This alone required him to intervene, but what does that have to do with Tamos?


[Where would someone perform these rituals?]


If Cotilius was summoning dark creatures, it would have to be hidden. Somewhere most people wouldn't expect to find a lord. Artair looked around the den. Not here. Nor the kitchen or bedroom. He doubted the living room would serve, so he decided to start at the basement.


Scene 4: A Confrontation (Hard Eyed Advisor, then The Corruptor)


The basement was typical for the population of Woolstead, square and earth floored. Barrels lined the wall to one side, and racks of wine rest against the back wall. Shelves of preserved food were opposite the barrels.


A gaunt figure was closing a door at the back of the basement as Artair came down the stairs. The door would have been flush with the wall, concealing it from prying eyes. It wore floor length dark robes, the head was shaved. Shadowed green eyes caught sight of the druid coming down the steps.


“Who are you?” the figure asked in a nasally voice. The green eyes glanced at the club in Artair’s hand. “Small matter. Cotilius is busy. You should not have come.”


[Initiative: Artair: 5, Galius (2 hp): 7, Timer: 6]


[Galius: ranged spell attacks: 2, 4 and 2, 4]
[Artair: move, attack: 2, 3, 4]
[Timer: 5]


The sorcerer’s fingers flexed, tendrils of blue white lightning danced between his hands. One hand threw a bolt that scorched and scraped the wall next to Atair; the other sent arcs of electricity into the support of the stairs he stood upon. The druid rushed forward and swung his club. Galius ducked, and the club smashed loudly against the wall.


[Galius: close spell attack, evade: 2, 2]
[Artair: attack twice: 2, 2, 2 and 1, 2, 6]
[Galius: evade: 6]
[Timer: 4]


With Artair so close, the sorcerer pressed his palms against the floor and sent a sheet of lightning across the room. Artair leapt to avoid the electricity, spinning and bringing his club down. Galius sidestepped and watched as Artair’s return strike flew up to meet him. The wizard gasped in surprise and twisted away, narrowly avoiding the attack.


[Galius: attack twice: 2, 4 and 4, 5]
[Artair: attack twice: 2, 2, 3 and 2, 2, 4]
[Timer: 3]


Galius sneered and hurled another pair of bolts. The first traced sparks along the earthy walls. The second followed the trail left by the one before and raked across Artair’s chest. He grimaced and ground his teeth against the surge of energy coursing through him. Artair lunged forward and swung again. The club found empty air then collided loudly as the reverse swing met the wall.


[Galius: attacks twice: 1, 2 and 1, 2]
[Artair: attacks twice: 1, 2, 6 and 3, 6, 6]
[Timer: 2]


The sorcerer pressed the advantage, continuing to cascade lightning at Artair. The room lit as tendrils struck into the ceiling and the walls. The druid emerged from behind his shield unscathed. He yelled and struck the wizard across the face, bringing him down to one knee. Another crack, and Galius fell to the floor.


Artair’s breathing was quick and loud in his ears. He could hear the sound of footsteps from behind the concealed door. Again pressed for time, he ducked behind the barrels to see who would open the door.


Cotilius…


[Artair: hiding: 2, 5]


He was garbed in rich dark robes. Short brown hair and matching eyes which took note of the bleeding corpse of Galius on the floor. Cotilius scanned around the basement as Artair held his breath.


“Where could you be?” he muttered, as if to himself.


“What did you do with Tamos?” the druid asked, the quiet and calm before the storm.


“The boy? Helping him,” Cotilius replied. Artair could now make out dark stains on Cotilius’s hands. “He’ll need a few weeks to recover, but…”


[Initiative: Artair: 10, Cotilius (3 hp): 7, Timer: 4]


[Artair: move, attack: 2, 5, 5]
[Cotilius: attack twice: 2, 6 and 4, 4, 4]
[Timer: 3]


“But?” Artair growled and charged into combat.


His club came around and smashed into Cotilius’s shoulder. Cotilius fell back against the wall. A knife appeared in his hand and sliced into Artair’s arm. His hand came forward and a wave of pure force collided with Artair’s shield.


[Atair: attack twice: 2, 2, 4 and 2, 4, 6]
[Cotilius: attack, evade: 1, 4, 5]
[Timer: 2]


Cotilius was wounded, and Artair could see that. The momentum of the force bolt gave him momentum to spin and swing at Cotilius with a back hand strike. It missed as his head leaned away. The second swing caught him on the shoulder again, bringing with it a pained shout. A shimmering field sprang to life on Cotilius’s arm, and he lunged forward with the knife. Another trail of blood appeared on Artair’s arm.


[Artair: attack, evade: 1, 1, 2]
[Cotilius: attack, evade: 1, 3, 3]
[Timer: 1]


The two combatants were bloody and began to fight more defensively. Though Artair had the advantage, the magical shield Cotilius summoned was challenging to get around. His club smashed against the energetic field, just as the knife stabbed into Artair’s shield.


[Artair: attack twice: 1, 1, 4 and 1, 5, 6]
[Timer: 0]


As the knife wedged into his shield, Artair pulled. The two wrestled, his first strike swinging wildly. The knife came free, and Cotilius stepped back. Artair smiled grimly, the club striking Cotilius in the head. The shield flickered then winked out.


Artair’s victory was short lived. An anguished cry burst from behind the concealed door. He rushed past the corpses of Galius and Cotilius, sprinting into the room just beyond. Tamos was splayed across a table, his ribs pried apart and open to the air. Standing past him, a dark shadowed and horned monstrosity stalked toward a ruddy portal.


The thing seemed human but immense. A couple feet taller than Artair, the horns added to its height. It was completely black, an animate shadow, and it turned before stepping into the supernatural gate. Its laugh was low and grating.


“Too late, Artair. Too late…”


The room felt hollow and empty.