Mouldy Rye Butter

Enter Lancen
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Flashing Back and Back and Back
First Zombie Horde

Garth, Läncen, Rolan, and Sora saw some kind of light emanate from Sora and it dispersed the blizzard— or so it seemed. The trees looked very different. It would slowly become revealed that they were transported back to The Age of Demons. There was a somewhat demonic looking creature was there, hunting in the forest. It turned out to be Amun, who was a changeling taking the form of one of the creatures of that era. Sora was able to communicate telepathically and determine that he meant no harm. Amun said that the woods were dangerous at night, and that the only safe haven was an old temple. From here we started to run “Chaos Scar: Dead by Dawn” Dungeon Magazine #176 adapted for Eberron.

Some Highlights

Outside the temple, the forest is filled with a cacophony of agonized moaning and screaming that turns your blood to ice. Through the main entrance of the temple, you see a truly horrific sight. The forest, lit by shafts of pale moonlight, is alive with rotting corpses clawing their way free from shallow graves. You try to count their numbers, but soon realize there is little point. The undead horde appears to approach several hundred, if not several thousand, members. There is nowhere to run; stiff, shambling forms fill the landscape as far as you can see in every direction. The dubious safety of the temple is now your only hope of survival.

Hundreds of animated corpses crowd around the temple, three and four rows deep. Every conceivable race, both civilized and savage, are represented among the shambling horde. Worse yet, the corpses of dinosaurs, dire animals, and even more fantastic beasts add their mass and strength to the zombie assault. Despite the zombies’ numbers, there are still gaps in their ranks; gaps the fleet and nimble among you might use to escape the multitudes of undead. However, as if the gods were reading your thoughts, a stag suddenly bursts from cover and runs a bounding course through the advancing zombies. Hope soars within you as the stag easily dodges the clumsy blows of the first few undead it encounters … before the great, animated corpse of a tyrannosaurus rex surges from the mass of undead bodies surrounding the temple and snaps the stag up in its colossal jaws. The stag utters a single bleat of pain and surprise before the zombie T-rex’s jaws slam down, stifling the stag’s cries in a gout of blood. A wriggling pile of smaller zombies quickly forms around the undead dinosaur, eager for the gobbets of flesh falling from its mouth. The stag provides only a momentary distraction for the zombie horde. In seconds, there is little left of the poor beast beyond a crimson smear on the ground. But there is fresher fare still to be had, and the masses of undead press in, clawing at your hastily erected defenses

Ryan: “What is WRONG with you?”

  • A few failed athletics checks and the barriers were not erected in time. The party was now facing a challenge far beyond their character stats. Anticipating this, the DM made sure the party was equipped well above what was normal for their level.

  • There were many groans at the table when it was told that Sora didn’t have turn undead, but the healer’s mercy replacement power proved useful.

  • Without a wizard or other AOE dealing player, the party had serious minion woes. Rolan took the brunt of it, going down twice in the battle.

  • The DM was determined to fix Garth’s voice so that he was no longer a Keebler elf. They slit his throat and he nearly died. When he was healed, he had a deeper voice.

  • Lancen was learning 4e still, and we determined he had Great Cleave, which was a major turning point against the minions. The main tipping point, however, was probably Sora’s Beacon of Hope, which calculated that Rolan was still up (at 1hp!) since it made the enemies do half damage.

  • In total the battle dealt OVER 1000XP leveling everyone up instantly! Ah, the joys of being overequipped.

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"Nylaagh! Take a Shower!"

Our heroes struggle to repair the barricades as more zombies burst through.

The temple is filled with a cacophony of thick, horrid moaning and the staccato rhythm of hundreds of undead fists beating against the temple doors. Suddenly, a sharp cracking noise echoes through the temple, and you realize your defenses have been breached!

Undead creatures start crawling out of the rubble on the floor as well. Amun is prepared to take up his sniping position and pick off enemies safely like in the last round of undead. All is going well until a a zombie soldier and gravehound pin him in the alcove. He takes heavy damage and cuts his way out, then takes on the appearance of a zombie in an effort to throw them off…


DM to party: “You see another zombie appear from around the corner.”

Rolan (playing games on his comp): “I shoot him!”

DM: “You miss. Its eyes widen and it starts dodging the arrows in a dexterous, un-zombie like manner.”

Rolan: “Second attack.”

DM: “Barely hits. Amun goes down and returns to his changeling form.”


As Garth and Sora tried to heal Amun from the other side of the chamber beyond the bookshelves, a zombie started to kneel over him and go after his skull, cold fingers on his head being the first thing he felt when he came to. There may never be a resolution as to whether or not Amun’s move was a good one. He argued that his clothes and equipment did not change with him and that there was cover (arguments that the DM found reasonable and so reduced the arrow damage), but the DM ruled that all the other clues would have been easily ignored by the party in the chaos of battle.
They quickly erected more defenses in another skill challenge.

This time big uglies burst through. The DM indicated that this was basically a boss battle. One particularly powerful zombie was identified as Amun’s dead brother. Läncen rushes at the enemies at the west door. He deals more damage to a corruption corpse, which the DM describes as having a “stench far beyond those of any other of the zombies who smell like roses in comparison. Your eyes sting and you are literally coughing.”

“Nyaagh laaygh! Take a shower!” he says in his Schwarzenegger voice. Another zombie grabs him and starts strangling him. He spends most of the remainder of the encounter in that embrace. Towards the end, he breaks free and joins the others in the center battle, to the zombie’s dismay.

“DoN’t leAVe mE! FiNe then, I GET CUSTODY!” It gets late and the side adventure concludes.

The zombie shudders and collapses as the energy animating its rotting body dissipates from your attack. You turn toward the main doors, expecting another wave of fiendish undead. Instead, the temple interior is suddenly filled with shafts of pale, morning sunshine, bursting through the cracks and holes in the doors and walls. You then realize the forest outside the temple walls has become still and quiet.


The clearing around the temple is littered with hundreds of bodies, from tiny, shrunken goblin corpses to the behemoth carcass of what appears to be a dragon. Corpses are stacked up against each of the temple doors ten and twenty high, and the stench of rot and death fills the air in a nauseating miasma… and it suddenly becomes very cold.

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A Cold Reception

They are back in the blizzard, and through the wind howling in the pines a voice calls:

YOU HAVE SEEN HOW IN AGES LONG PAST, THE POWER THAT LIES IN THIS LAND HAS BEEN THE MEANS OF BOUNDLESS EVIL. THAT POWER IS STILL HERE. IT WILL AWAKEN AGAIN FROM WITHIN THE TOWER’S GLASSY WALLS.

There was zero visibility through the cold whiteness. They all rolled well and stuggled against the elements well. Quickshot’s instincts kicked in and he traced a path through the woods. Garth observed that this was was fey in origin. Läncen was a human snowplow. They traced the source until they saw a tall, grey sillhuete in the distant fog as the blizzard cleared up.


Up ahead they spotted some goblins. But something was different (still using some pre-published material at this point).


A mass of goblins leap up from the hills on both sides of you. Most of them brandish javelins and crude short swords, but a few of them wear better armor and carry crossbows. From the highest vantage point, another goblin clad in robes waves a rod and makes arcane gestures. These goblins appear different from normal. Their blue skin is highly unusual, and the fact that they are not dressed for the cold weather indicates that they have somehow adapted to the unnatural winter. They are probably resistant to cold.

For the most part the battle went well. Läncen ran up a hill and swept through the goblins on top of it. It took one bad turn when Sora positioned herself perfectly for all the snipers and took a great deal of damage. They battled spectacularly, dealing with the spellcaster with relative ease. They finished off less than gracefully. Amun summitted the hill where most of the battle was happening in the form of a goblin, mocking the creatures as he shot at their disintegrating ranks. This time, Quickshot knew full well that it was Amun in disguise but was still aggravated by the habit. While the others on the hills began missing and failing to suppress the last of the goblin aggression, Quickshot gave Amun the boot and sent him tumbling down the hill. The session ended with a game of cat-and-mouse (or rather Tom and Jerry) between the two.

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Statues and Warlocks

Ice

The tower is encased from top to bottom in a shimmering cocoon of pure ice. The sunlight is reflected in all directions by the angled planes of the frozen barrier, which climbs to a single peak in the air at the top of the tower and widens as it plunges to ground level. A palpable sensation of bitter cold emanates from the tower and its icy prison.


Through the imperfect mirror formed by the ice, you can see that the exterior stone of the tower has been carved into a massive series of sculptures and reliefs depicting various devils in flight. It is as if a huge swirling column of fiends had erupted from deep within the earth and was being pulled into the heavens. Their mouths are open, though whether they are laughing or screaming is hard to tell.


A circular stone walkway winds around the tower’s base, and squat statues of leering devils of all sorts line both sides of this path. The cobblestones are frozen over and look slippery. The tower’s only obvious entrance is a single door at its base, but a foot-thick sheet of solid ice stands in your way.


Near the entrance, a hooded figure walks, appraising the tower.

Quickshot in an instant has an arrow drawn at his cheek. “Who are you?!” (Chris P. sings softly, “Go go Emo Raaangers…”) The figure turns around to reveal himself as Erdan Ramlaedh, whom Quickshot had met earlier in his adventures. “I know you,” Quickshot says lowering his bow. Erdan, ever the quiet one, nods in recognition. He had come searching for information on Draigdurroch, a dwarven warlock who sought to tap into the power that rests in these lands but then was not seen or heard from in thirty years and the location of his tower was lost— until now.


The party now turns their attention to the tower and they ponder for a moment on how to breach the ice in front of the door. As soon as the suggestion of breaking through comes up, Läncen takes his hammer and starts smashing through, sending shattered ice everywhere. On the third hit, he makes contact with the door and some of the statues come to life.
One of the devils carved into the side of the tower suddenly turns its head toward you. Ice breaks from its stone wings as it takes flight. Several of the statues along the sidesof the path also shudder and shake off the frost that coats them.

Sora determined these statues were homunculi, and that they were given abilities to defend the area. The winged one gave Erdan and Quickshot a lot of grief, dazing them and using its limited invisibility. The party fought carefully on the frozen cobblestones. The other guardians did extensive damage, leaving Sora wondering if they could endure going through the tower. But night was coming and the blizzard would be coming back worse than before.

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Frozen Flame

The PCs bust down the door and carefully peer in as conditions worsen outside. A grand foyer with a vaulted ceiling stands around them with ice reflecting the light of colorful everburning torches and the glowing eyes of demon statues. This light is reflected everywhere by the ice and frost that covers all surfaces, producing an eerie effect. They split up (!) and begin exploring the rooms.

There are many oddities they notice. Everything looks lived in, as if frozen in time. On some shelves there are many books on demons and devils. But most peculiar was that in the fireplaces the flames themselves were frozen in blue tongues. Amun begins experimenting with them, while Erdan examines one closely and observes that they are actually portals to Kythri, the realm of elemental chaos. In another room, frozen cold fingers clutch sheets hiding the forms underneath them. Quickshot is not slow to forget the necrotic power that is hidden in the cursed land and has an arrow at the ready, while telling Läncen to break open the frozen sheets. They reveal two older men that have their faces frozen in terror.

Quickshot gathers up the group and they have an argument that nearly results in shoving and wrestling to see who gets to be in the safe middle. Clearly, they are terrified by what might lay ahead up the stairs they are about to ascend…

The whole party sets ready actions, completely on their toes, only to find that there were others waiting for them all along.

A featureless creature made entirely of translucent blue ice stomps forward. It wears heavy armor and carries a huge maul-shaped chunk of frozen ice. Behind it, a more slender version of the same creature creates long, sharp missiles of ice, ready to throw. Yet another version of the same basic creature, this one wielding a wicked blade of glistening ice, glides across the floor, jagged shards of ice crystallizing out of thin air all around it.

True to his name, Quickshot sends arrows pounding into them with his powerful bow, criticaling and shattering one of the melee toughs. The brute tries to run down the stairs with his retort, but Amun’s crossbow finishes him off. He runs up and starts shooting more. The party them begins to be blasted with cold damage. They seem to be making quick work of them when Garth, at the bottom of the stairs, sees several more coming out of various rooms of the lower level, cauing him to retreat up the stairs.

The Situation:


Ice2
Amun is up next. Remember to keep track of everything! What is your hp? How many healing surges do you have? How many action points? What powers have you used?

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Takin Care of Business

Quickshot Laid arrows into their leader, sending shards of ice flying. The others responded by laying punishment on the group, dealing damage as fast as Sora could heal. The party took them out as well, and all that were left were the foot soldiers coming up from the first floor, who had already began to do enough damage to begin to be noticed.

After a while, they began to notice that they didn’t stop coming, leading to different theories of what was “spawning” them. In the corner, Amun noticed an ancient, weathered stone demon head. It was the head of the same demon statue that was in the back of the temple. Läncen charged it in a fury, cleaving it in two, but they still came through several of the doors down below. Sora looked down the stairs and lead the way for some of the melee fighters, while Quickshot and Amun took sniping positions above in the railing. They cut through the stream of soldiers, tracing them back to one of the fireplace portals and begin hedging their way and destroying the exit. Meanwhile, Garth finds himself suddenly floating above the ground. He determines it is an invisible elevator similar to a Tenser’s Floating Disk, and he contemplates using it to visit the third floor, but then goes off with his longspear to help destroy the portals. With one of them destroyed, the Kythri warriors retreat back to their home plane.

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Books!

A group of four gets on the levitation disk. Amun, ever the brave and curious scout, transforms into a hobgoblin of tall stature to have his head come above the illusory floor first. Fortunately for him, there were no crossbows keyed on that spot waiting to loose. He saw a room lined all around with shelves that were stuffed with books. His eyes moved toward the desk where magical lamps glowed with soft red light. Instinctively, he knew they were some sort of magical fire trap. Slowly, Quickshot urged the disk upward.

Amun took a step forward.

Nothing happened. He looked closely and saw that it was probably linked to the bookshelves. The party noticed that they were not frozen over, and became very interested that they may be important enough to have such protection. Sora observed a few magical auras on the bookshelves, one linking it to the trap and one warding them from elements and decay. Amun found the magical rune under the desk. He pulled out a small chisel and carefully changed the rune to a different one, then scratched it out.

With the trap disabled, the party begins grabbing armfulls of tomes and dives into what might be going on, searching in particular for ice-related things. The books had some variety, but they could be said to have three main topics: Cults of Khyber, Warlock Pacts, and history of this particular region of Karnnath. Quickshot looked through the books in hopes of getting practical information. Amun read with interest the history that has happened since the time that he has lived. Draigdurroch had many notes and things written in the margins, and though most were written in Dwarven, many made references to a journal which they could not find.

The search spilled out to other rooms on the floor, Amun’s curiosity in particular driving him to search for the conspicuously missing journal. He looked through the enormous, highly decorated master bedroom. There were no obvious doors going to the northeast section of the tower, so he looked along that wall. He searched behind a tapestry, which, being brittle, broke off to reveal some small cracks showing a hidden panel. Out again came his thieves tools and he picked his way in.

Meanwhile, Sora was reading a bit about the cults of Khyber and began, with the others, to wonder what else was on this level. They saw where the tapestry broke off and found the hidden door. Amun stood back as he heard loud banging and Läncen it down. Sora walked in and started searching the bookshelf in what appeared to be a study. Amun checked the desk drawer and jumped back as a jet of flame burst from a Glyph of Warding. It missed Amun and got Sora, who suffered some burns and worked to put herself out. Amun saw the journal in the drawer and quickly switched it for another book when she wasn’t looking.

The party scouted around the third floor until they found another levitation disk. They were now on top of the tower.


The top of the tower presents a bizarre scene that is strangely beautiful in its own way. The view of the surrounding area is refracted and twisted in spectacular fashion, as if you are standing inside a gigantic prism looking out. Floating several feet above the exact center point of the tower, forming the keystone at the apex of the icy cocoon, is a large crystal, entombing a red gemstone easily the size of a man’s fist.

Above the gemstone, the ice that sheathes the tower draws together into a single point about 20 feet in the air. All around this jutting finger, the air appears to harden into ice and snow, swirling away in all directions as it is propelled by a vicious wind. The clouds above the tower appear to draw energy from the gem, filling them with the pure essence of a winter storm.

The wind whips across the roof of the tower on the inside as well, with each chilling gust accompanied by a pulse of energy that erupts from the crystal’s cold facets. Its otherwise flawless surface appears to have been marred by scratches or runes that glow with their own white energy.

The red gem on the inside is the eye of an ancient demon that brought dreadful power to this land ages ago. Erdan nods as his suspicion is confirmed: Draigdurroch was messing with things he shouldn’t have.

Suddenly Läncen spies something unusual about the gem. “Nyaah! It’s alive!” Quickshot is ready to loose an arrow. He looks closer and sees that it is indeed trying to break free of its crystal prison, but it is doing so at glacial speeds. They decide to wait for Garth and Amun (who is trying to find information in Draigdurroch’s journal as fast as he can in secret) to come up to the top of the tower. Quickshot then decides it is best to destroy the cyrstal. When he attacks:

The gemstone pulses with blue light and a wave of energy knocks you back. A thin stream of white mist issues forth from the center of the sapphire, coalescing into the form of a massive, thickly muscled, white-furred monster. Thick mist rolls off the creature’s hide, congealing the air into heavy frost that clings to everything nearby. The creature roars,
and in its howl you can hear the pure elemental fury at the heart of a raging blizzard. The sapphire continues to crackle with energy, the blue light pulsing rhythmically, as if it were the beating of the very heart of winter.

Combat ensues and the spirit of winter shows itself to be a formidable adversary. It deals out cold damage and blows the party back.

Aug15

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The Spirit of Winter

The air gets colder and foggier and the battle with the fierce spirit of winter continues. The players and the DM roll terribly, resulting in a long-fought battle. Sora is continuously lowering its defenses with her divine powers, and while maintaining a silver outline on the spirit, she notes that whatever is done to it is done to the crystal as well. Quickshot is well positioned, managing to keep his distance from the worst of the fray (which is good because he has the least healing surges), in spite of repeated attacks by the crystal. He plants a few powerful shots into the beast, enraging it and sending more powerful cold gusts outward. Garth and Läncen take a great beating from large fists of frost and fur. And then…

Läncen, after a noble effort in this quest, is slain.

The party, after taking significant losses, manage to slay the spirit of winter.

The spirit of winter clutches at its chest and howls in agony. A spiderweb of tiny cracks spreads across the crystal’s surface. Moments later, the next pulse of blue energy surges forward from the gemstone, but its structure is no longer able to contain the elemental forces. The sapphire explodes, tiny shards scattering in all directions. The spirit of winter’s form wavers and blurs and then it collapses into itself in a cloud of white mist.

The icy walls that surround Draigdurroch Tower begin to shudder and tremble. With a great roar,like the sound of a gigantic waterfall made of glass, huge chunks of ice begin breaking apart from the frozen cocoon and falling to the ground below, where they shatter. Within a few seconds, the entire barrier has splintered and collapsed. The sky above the tower begins to grow lighter as the gray clouds scatter and disperse. The swirling snow stops falling and the howling of the chill wind falls silent for the first time since you set foot in the
Karnn Wood. The world appears suddenly peaceful, as if nature recognizes that its proper course has been restored.


The red gem remains, its power still latent and menacing. The PCs, like the good responsible citizens they are, destroy it.

Aftermath

Qareþås Tål sails the sea of swirly, swirly gumdrops and goes through the candy cane forest back into the Feywild to report back to Aramis. Next week, we will see how he is doing five years in the future.

Erdan Ramleadh departs and goes his own way for a time, doing his mysterious errands in solitude, as usual. He is expected to come into the campaign later.

Sora Shanna’s part in this story is not over, either.

Amun returns to his own time. With the crystal destroyed in the future and its weaknesses known, he becomes a great hero in turning the tide in the war against the demons. Many changelings claim descent from him.

Fast forward five years and Quickshot, whose real name is Rolan, wakes up gagged and bound. He is met with red eyes and smiling fangs amid soldiers clad in the garb of the Emerald Claw.

So what really happened?

Draigdurroch’s journal reveals the mystery behind all that has happened. Draigdurroch was part of a cabal of warlocks that sought new pacts with ancient, evil powers. Deep in the Karnn Wood there lay buried the Heart of Bazzok, a red gem said to be taken from the chest of apowerful demon by the same name. It was what he left in Eberron while he sleeps in Khyber. Draigdurroch found the Heart where an ancient temple to the demon once stood, and spent his lifetime trying to find ways to tap its power and perhaps commune with the demon to whom it belonged.

However, the fey spirits who dwell within the Karnn Wood and in coterminous places in the feywild have long been aware of how dangerous the remnants of Bazzok could be if the demons’s power fell into the wrong hands. They have appointed themselves as guardians to ensure that no one tampers with the evil being’s resting place. When Draigdurroch’s efforts began to bear fruit and the dwarf warlock drew upon the latent echoes of Bazzok’s power to form a dark pact, the fey approached him and warned him to cease his meddling.

By looking at the warning signs and other clues in the journal, the following can be gathered:
The warlock was confident in his powers and ignored the warning. For his temerity, the fey punished him. Draigdurroch was imprisoned within the Feywild and his tower was sealed in a block of magic ice as a warning to others. The fey set a powerful crystal holding a spirit of winter to act as the keystone holding the icy barrier and to contain the Heart of Bazzok.

The ritual enacted by the fey was designed to have a limited area of effect—Draigdurroch’s tower was encased in ice, but the surrounding lands were not supposed to be affected. Unfortunately, such a powerfulspell cannot go unnoticed forever. Draigdurroch’s tower contains several small rifts to the Kythri that he had created as part of his arcane research. Recently, a group of ice warriors discovered one of these rifts when they were drawn by the strength of the cold energy emanating from the gemstone. They have taken up residence in Draigdurroch’s
tower, finding it a most hospitable environment thanks to the perpetual layer of ice. The warriors have begun to modify the ritual that the fey created, increasing its power and spreading the effects of the magical frost over a larger area. If they were not stopped a permanent winter would have encased an entire province of Karnnath and the Heart of Bazzok would have broken free and turned the undead against all living things.

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Back into Shargon's Teeth

We return now to our main adventure where our second party is traveling beneath the waves in the Sea Dart. It has been a long journey, with Claz and Thoran etc. suffering Zoltan’s antics, but it is not as bad as they predicted. To make things better, Captain Byam took a shortcut through Shargon’s Teeth.

Beyond the clear dome of the observation blister, a breathtaking vista reveals itself in startling hues of phosporescent color. Thosands of glowing fish, some in shcools, some alone, flit through the dark water. Great columns of stone, painted in luminescent yellows and greens, punch up from the darkness below and extend toward the surface, slowly narrowing as they reach upward. Some of the columns are only tens of feet across, but those farther away in the hazing distance could be far, far broader, perhaps supporting small islets of rock on the surface.

Captain Byam Says, “The Teeth, as seen from a different perspective. Beautiful, don’t you think?”

There was a loud bang as something enormous hit the ship. The hulking shadow of a dire shark swam off beyond the view of of the observation dome. The gnomes begin to curse and shout.

“Captain! It’s damaged the elemental binding ring!”

“Blast that overgrown sardine’s misshapen fin! We can’t stay in the water! Rise! Rise!” As the ship rises it gets caught in sahuagin traps. “We’re going to need to cut her loose.” He provides the party with scrolls of water breathing and underwater crossbows. They exit the vessel and tridents dart through the water as they begin their assault.

“Time to skewer some fish!” Garth says, readying his longspear. Thoran takes aim at a sahuagin seen riding the shark, while Zoltan swims underneath its belly. Thoran twists and tumbles in the water as the colossal jaws snap at him. The gnomes cut the ship free and the remaining sahuagin retreat from Claz’s thundering waves called from the gods.

The “island tooth” jutted out of the water enough for the Sea Dart to land. “This will have to do while we make repairs,” Byam said.

“Why here? How do we know it’s safe?” asked Thoran.

“The ship’s in no condition to go anywhere else; and no, it’s not safe. I’m counting on you to fend off anything that comes.”

“Then we will take watches.”

Zoltan did not want to go outside. He was too intent on how much he wanted to kick the gnomes. He hates gnomes. They belong in Khyber. Khyber will enjoy having them there. The Mother will enjoy having them there. She will enjoy devouring all the moldy butter she wants.

The Destroyer kept watch out on the rock. Sure enough, more sahuagin emerged from the waves and they did not look happy. The Destroyer alerted the group and ran to meet them. With great speed, Thoran lept from metal fin to fin of the ship unleashing a rain of arrows with breathtaking rapidity. Their spellcaster in back saw their falling ranks and directed the magic of the sea at Thoran. Jets and jaws of water vexed the elf. The sahuagin that was riding the shark fought long and hard in the deep fray, clawing and biting. But only their spellcaster got away.

“I knew you could handle it!” said the gnome captain.

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