Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Petrified Giant

Abel, recently deceased, furrowed his brow at the sight before him. It was definitely a she—that much was sure. She had shoulder-length, chestnut hair, a thin, athletic build and delightful breasts concealed by a snug fitting leather vest. But she also had the lower body of a mountain goat. What the hell was she, some kind of weird centaur? Not that it mattered. She was pretty nonetheless, and Abel was quite sure that he had faced stranger beings while he was alive. He just couldn't remember any of them.

     The female trotted up to Abel, stopped, put her hands on her hips then flatly stated, “Eyes up here, berk.”

     Abel abruptly took his eyes off her breasts and midriff before managing an awkward apology. “Uh, yeah. Sorry. I’m new around here.”

     He smiled broadly, but she seemed rather displeased.

     “Clueless and a petitioner—that’s great. That’ll make it much easier for the Mercykillers to press you into their little band.”

     “Mercykiller?” inquired Abel. “What’s that? Not that I’m afraid. In fact, I’m pretty sure I stood toe to toe with a giant. That’s how I got here.”

     Abel tried to puff up his chest and cocked his head back to impress her, but she still displayed a rather annoyed expression.

     “Gods help you. Come with me if you don’t want to be drafted, given a dull sword and sent into battle against who knows what on Acheron.”

     She said all of this while looking back over her shoulder.

     “Is she nervous about something?” Abel thought.

     Regardless of how she felt, he knew that he was terribly anxious when he heard the word Acheron and the implication that he might be taken taken there. He had no idea what an Acheron or a Mercykiller was, but something in his very being rebelled at the thought of going anywhere other than where he was right now. Not that he knew where he was, exactly. The female interrupted his thoughts, clearly impatient.

     “Stare blankly into space on your own time, berk. We need to beat it before the Mercykillers either arrest us or give us the rope.”

     “Rope?” queried Abel. “What do you mean by rope?”

     Again, Abel was feeling very threatened and he wasn’t sure why.

      In a tone and delivery that came very natural to him he spat, “Listen, lady, I don’t know what the hell you are, or what the hell you’re talking about. Granted, the human part of you is really nice to look at, but I don’t even know you. Why don’t you take your talk of ropes and Mercykillers and get on down the road?”

     When he was alive, Abel’s speeches usually ended up with him getting stabbed or smashed with heavy weapons like maces and clubs. This time however, the object of his ire just shook her head. She looked at the ground, took a deep breath and continued, but this time with a softer tone and a more gentle expression on her face.

     “Okay, I get it. You’re new and not wise to the dark of things. My name is Mora and I belong to a group of thinkers who feel that every being needs the freedom to do as they please and to believe what they want without some basher telling them otherwise. There are some vile bastards combing these hills looking for people like you and me for slave labor. Come with me and I’ll look after you, and make sure that you get where you need to be. Wherever that is, I assure you it’s not here.”

     Abel took it all in and smiled. Damn, she was gorgeous, even if she had a curious form and spoke a lot of gibberish. “Okay, Mora, I believe you. Where are we going?”

     As they started to walk, Mora spoke, “Some of my friends—Indeps like myself—have a kip in the hollowed-out remains of a fossilized giant. I think you’ll like it.”

     “Giant? That’s great. Just great.”

     Abel shook his head in disbelief, but eventually felt better after stealing sideways glances at Mora’s torso. Being dead was turning out to be quite interesting...

There is a fire ring in the giant’s chest. Smoke vents from a small hole directly above in the ceiling. It’s said that if someone falls asleep in the giant’s head, they will have visions of the things Skagir saw when he travelled the Great Ring.

The Kip 
     Skagir, Lord of Stone, walked the Outlands for decades. As he navigated the Great Ring, Skagir’s thoughts were focused on doing no harm and no good. He simply wanted to exist. He thought that if he purged himself of all philosophical motivations, then he would attain a perfect state of balance and merge with the plane. The fact that he was an 80 foot tall stone giant certainly helped him on his spiritual quest. No one gets in the way of a philosopher who weighs several tons.

     When Skagir eventually laid down for his eternal slumber, he hoped that his body might be used as a refuge for other travelers. His will was great, so rather than rotting, his flesh turned to stone. Rain fell onto the great statue, seeped in, and leached away the minerals within to form chambers. Eventually, a hole in the giant’s side weathered away and the secure abode was complete.    

     Currently, Skagir’s remains are being used by a trio of Indeps, who learned about the lair from one of their faction brethren in Sigil. They are searching for a gate key that was flung from Sigil and tumbled down the length of the Spire. The key leads to an Indep haven on Pandemonium. It was tossed out of the city by a zealous (aren’t they all?) member of the Harmonium. The Indeps have little hope of finding the key, but it’s worth a shot. The small band consists of Mora, a bariaur wizard, a human fighter named Jericho and a gnome illusionist named Gribble.

     Mora is native to the gate town of Tradegate. She is proud of her education and training and is fiercely independent. She believes in individual freedom and does not suffer bullies or ideologues well. Males of most species find her attractive, but she is often offended at their advances. She refuses to be seen as an object. Mora has a soft spot for petitioners, and doesn’t like to see them mistreated. She hopes that what goes around comes around. Perhaps, when she’s been written into the dead book, people will leave her alone when she arises as a petitioner herself.

Mora; Bariaur Wizard lvl. 3; Armor Class: 10; Hit Dice: 3d4; Hit Points: 9; THAC0: 20; No. of Attacks: 1; Damage: 1d4 (dagger); Move: 15, Alignment: Neutral Good   

Abilities: Strength 10, Dexterity 14, Constitution 12, Intelligence 15, Wisdom 15 (+1 bonus to magical saves), Charisma 16   

Spells: Armor, Color Spray, Invisibility

Saving Throws: Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic 14, Rod, Staff or Wand 11, Petrification or Polymorph 13, Breath Weapon 15, Spell 12   

Special Abilities: Infravision (60’), +2 bonus on surprise rolls, +3 bonus to saving throws vs. spells, +2 bonus to saving throws vs. charm.   

Languages: Common, bariaur, elf, githzerai, woodland creatures  

     Jericho hails from Hopeless, where his family eked out a miserable existence. His father died of dehydration after he decided it was too much effort to get out of bed. His mother, hollowed out and passionless, threw herself into the great pit of black, tar-like ooze at the center of the city. Jericho thinks he had a sister, but he’s not sure. He recalls a mute, young woman who used to slump against the wall near the hearth for days on end.

     Somehow, Jericho found the will to leave the city. He threw his lot in with the Indeps, excited by the plethora of ideas and opinions they hold. Jericho is quiet and of average looks. He rarely laughs, but he does display the occasional grin. He’s still trying to understand all of the emotions he is experiencing, since Hopeless was a spirit-crushing place.

Jericho; Human Fighter lvl. 2; Armor Class: 4 (chain mail, dex); Hit Dice: 2d10+2; Hit Points: 12; THAC0: 19; No. of Attacks: 1; Damage: 1d10+1 (halberd) or 1d4+1 (dagger); Move: 12; Alignment: Neutral   

Abilities: Strength 16 (+1 to damage), Dexterity 15 (+1 to AC), Constitution 15 (+1 hit point), Intelligence 9, Wisdom 9, Charisma 10   

Saving Throws: Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic 14, Rod, Staff, Wand 16, Petrification or Polymorph 17, Breath Weapon 12, Spell 19   

Special Abilities: +2 bonus to saving throws vs. charm   

Languages: Common, Night Hag

     Born on Dothion, the bucolic layer of Bytopia, Gribble has always been something of a rascal. From an early age he delighted in tricks, practical jokes and was fascinated by illusions. Few were surprised when he eventually got himself into quite a bit of trouble when one of his pranks went horribly wrong.

     No one could figure out how Yeoman Guidry’s cow got onto the roof of his cottage. Yes, there were a few giggles in the crowd at first, but the laughter turned to cries of despair when the cow fell through the roof. It landed square on Yeoman Guidry’s wife, breaking both of her legs and several ribs. Gribble was banished and soon took up with the Free League. They don't mind his pranks too much, provided he uses his illusions to great effect in service to the cause. Gribble is not much of a fighter, and prefers to let gullible bashers do all the bleeding.

Gribble; Gnome Illusionist lvl. 2; Armor Class: 8 (dex); Hit Dice: 2d4; Hit Points: 5; THAC0: 20; No. of Attacks: 1; Damage: d4+1 (sling); Move: 6; Alignment: Neutral Good 

Abilities: Strength 8, Dexterity 16 (+1 reaction adj, +1 missile adj, -2 AC), Constitution 11, Intelligence 16, Wisdom 8, Charisma 10   

Spells: Change Self, Audible Glamer, Phantasmal Force

Saving Throws: Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic 14, Rod, Staff, Wand 11, Petrification or Polymorph 13, Breath Weapon 15, Spell 12   

Special Abilities: +1 to hit kobolds and goblins, racial foes have a -4 penalty to hit Gribble (see page 22 PHB), infravision 60’, +1 bonus when rolling a save against illusions. Opponents have a -1 to save when rolling against his illusions, +3 to save vs. magic, +2 bonus to saving throws against charm 

Languages: Common, dwarf, gnome, burrowing mammals, halfling

The Mercykillers  
     Sergeant Gev understands that dreams are fragile things. All it takes is a sword thrust or the bite of an axe to put an end to that kind of nonsense. A man has to have his mind rooted firmly in the here and now. In the place of dreams and hope there are orders and steel. Life makes more sense that way. Sergeant Gev is on a mission to redirect idleness and frivolous pursuits. To that end he needs to round up some layabouts. The Outlands are full of lazy sods with nothing to do except wait for the long sleep that comes when they merge with the plane; what a waste.

     There are wars to be fought and criminals to be executed so Gev refuses to let right-thinking cutters do all of the fighting and dying. He and some underlings are prowling the Outlands near the spire. Their goal is to press into service some petitioners or whoever else they can find. Sergeant Gev likes to hunt near the base of the spire when trying to fill the ranks of the Mercykiller armies. Being so close to the center of the Outlands means that magic is cancelled out. He feels that it makes fights more even. When he draws steel on some leatherhead, he can be sure that he’s not going to catch a lighting bolt. 

     Sergeant Gev and his fellow members of the Red Death haven’t had much luck on their hunt, but perhaps all of that is about to change. Their hound has caught the scent of something that could be a bariaur, judging by the tracks. Perhaps they won’t go home empty-handed after all.

Sergeant Gev; Human Fighter lvl. 3; Armor Class: 3 (plate mail); Hit Dice: 3d10+3 Hit Points: 24; THAC0: 18; No. of Attacks: 3/2 (longsword); Damage: d8+3 (longsword); Move: 12; Alignment: Lawful Neutral (evil) 

Abilities: Strength 17 (+1 to hit and damage), Dexterity 12, Constitution 15 (+1 hit point), Intelligence 11, Wisdom 12, Charisma 12 

Saving Throws: Paralyzation, Poison, or Death Magic 13, Rod, Staff, or Wands 15, Petrification or Polymorph 14, Breath Weapon 16, Spell 16 

Special Abilities: Can Detect Lie to a single question, once per day 

Languages: Common, orc, goblin

Mercykiller Trooper (5); Human Fighter lvl. 1; Armor Class: 4 (chain mail, shield); Hit Dice: 1d10+1 Hit Points: 8; THAC0: 10; No. of Attacks: 1; Damage: d8+1 (longsword) or 1d4 (crossbow); Move: 12; Alignment: Lawful Neutral (evil) 

Abilities: Strength 16 (+1 to damage), Dexterity 12, Constitution 15 (+1 hit point), Intelligence 9, Wisdom 10, Charisma 10 

Saving Throws: Paralyzation, Poison, or Death Magic 14, Rod, Staff, or Wands 16, Petrification or Polymorph 15, Breath Weapon 17, Spell 17 

Special Abilities: Can Detect Lie to a single question, once per day 

Languages: Common, orc, goblin

Acheron War Hound; Armor Class: 6; Hit Dice: 2+2; Hit Points: 14; THAC0: 19; No. of Attacks: 1; Damage: 2-8 (2d4); Movement: 12; XP value: 65

     Acheron war hounds are used extensively on the battle plane by the Mercykillers. Their rust-colored fur is coarse, like the bristles of a brush. The burly hounds are used as sentries and can produce a variety of barks and growls based upon what they detect with their keen senses. A trained handler can translate the vocalizations to determine an intruder’s racial type (human, humanoid, demi-human, etc), a rough idea of how many are in the party and how far away they are.


     The Mercykillers and their snarling beast stood in a semi-circle in front of Abel, Mora and her Indep friends. Everyone except Abel had pulled out a weapon, and things were looking tense. Abel was oddly calm. He decided to step forward to see what he could do. How bad could it go? He was already dead, right?

     “Listen friend, I don’t know who you are, but why don’t you, that ugly dog and your boyfriends get out of here before something bad happens to you?”

     Sergeant Gev raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t used to being insulted. The petitioner in front of him must be a new arrival. Either that or he had balls the size of a wyvern’s egg. He decided to humor the petitioner and play along. Perhaps the banter might give him some time to assess the potential threat. He responded in a deliberate, firm tone.

      “Okay petitioner, this is how it’s going to go. You can walk. Go do whatever it is that your kind does out here. I’ll take the Indeps. They’ll do nicely. Every army needs arrow catchers, right?”  

     Abel scratched his head, kicked absently at a stone, then said. “Nope. I really don’t see that happening. See, I like the lady. I mean, have you seen her face? Gorgeous. She’s not going anywhere. But those other two bags of crap? You can take them.”      Jericho, Gribble and Mora collectively gasped. Leave it to an Outlands petitioner to act in such a barmy manner.  

     Sergeant Gev chuckled. “You’re something else, petitioner. The bariaur does have certain charms. This being the Outlands, let’s play it like so: You and the female leave, and we take the human and the gnome. Two leave in freedom, two leave in chains. Nice and balanced, right?” 

     “Sure thing, chief,” agreed Abel. “Mora, time to go.”

     With that said, Abel started walking away without a care in the world as Jericho and Gribble attempted to flee. Mora stood dumbfounded as chaos erupted around her.   

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