Things started off way too well, a sure sign of trouble ahead. Archer was easily able to find a smith who could forge the shield bracers he was hoping for. Deep in the tunnels beneath Nexus, "Karish" told him that he could forge such an item in less than a day - but because Archer only had White Jade to offer him, the bracers would have to be made from White Jade.
Also of note was that Archer obtained a scribe - a scrawny man who spends much of his time running full speed, and the rest of his time with his fold out hand-desk, parchment and quill recording the circle's (glorious) exploits. Especially Archers most wonderful role, naturally. ^_^
From there, the circle moved on towards the Darkpytt, to get the hearthstone Mina needed to be ready to face the Realm legions - now only days away from the Black Chase. The Darkpytt was found in a small jungle teeming with life, just East of the Black Chase ...
Close to the centre of the small (one mile diameter) jungle, a hunter approached the trio. Calling Archer "mate", a term which had him slightly worried, he complimented him on his bow and warned the group not to head north - if they did, they would face the dreaded Sthiss Taa and his snakeman guards.
Surprise surprise, the group did head north, which caused the hunter to shake his head in amusement and sorrow. ^_^ Even more surprising to all but Archer, four snake creatures sprang from the foliage close to the edge of the canyon to ambush the circle. They were soon seen off, though their skin was found to be incredibly tough. Krod was the only one to kill one of them. As he did, a reverberating scream rose from the canyon below.
Descending into the dappled shadows of the canyon (Archer and Krod on one of the paths, and Mina down a tree) the circle found that there was considerably less light, despite the fact that it was almost noon.
As they descended, Krod notinced a flaming bird heading towards the group at an incredible speed. As it approached, its reptilian features could be seem to be made up totally of flame - a flame that Krod barely managed to dodge as it rushed towards him. He didn't manage to avoid the second one though. This time, Archer (with his increased senses) saw a small mouse a mile away with upraised arms and electricity arcing around him. As flame began to reform at his fingertips, Archer fired a perfect shot ... distracting the mouse, and as it shifted into a man-mouse form it fled into the shadows.
Lower in the canyon, normal sized snakes began oozing out of the crannies and falling over the lip of the canyon - Archer grabbed Krod and took a long leap forward into the canyon, while Mina dodged and sprinted to keep up. The circle soon found themselves herded to a cave at the base of the cliffs ... a cave demarkated with human skulls painted in yellows and reds.
A moment or two later, a bonfire lit up at the back of the cave - revealing a large cave with many ornaments and strange markings on the walls in moonsilver and gold. Most impressive of all, was a huge cobra-man, whose hood flared and moonsilver claws glistened as he hissed. "Ahhhh, Ssssacrifissssesssss!!"
Carnage ensued. The circle began to set up their defences, but these were just not fast enough as the serpent struck with blinding speed. Streamers of emerald, crimson and gold energy filled the air around the giant cobra-man as he slitherd forward, and soon Krod went down. Mina was able to last a little longer, but in the end he was just too fast for her.
Archer stopped attacking once his comrades went down, and started talking. With a deft flip, he sent the Panacea Pipe down the snake's gullet - to little effect. In the end, Sthiss Taa agreed to let Archer take Krod's body in return for ten (living) other human bodies to be handed over within the week ...
Retreating to the Black Chase, the circle found scouts for the Realm forces masquerading as hunters and surveying the area. The Maiden seemed to have no problem with this. She led Archer and Krod back to her home, an abandoned and ruined fort in the darkest part of the Chase, and there her servitors provided them with weak sustenance (and on request, she provided Archer with a Gem of Shadows from the underworld).
6 XP each.
This is the first time I created a Lunar (Sthiss Taa) as an opponent for the circle, and I think I made her a little too tough. Though I did use less experience than the players used to create their characters.
The main problems were
- Sthiss Taa had time to prepare for the combat, and the circle did not (Snake Form, Essense Scales)
- The party was already a little weakened from the ambush and Sorcery (Flight of the Brilliant Raptor)
- Sthiss Taa had Snake style MA, specifically Striking Serpent Speed ... which is nasty!
Sthiss Taa's beastmen progeny were also fairly effective, though once the circle had proper defences up there was nothing they could do except soak (they had a fair amount of soak!).
What is hopefully obvious to the circle, is that the Maiden was attempting to get rid of a major concentration of life on the borders of "her" shadowland (the Black Chase). The concentration of life is an irritation to her, and she hoped the circle would remove its guardian ...