A few Rules to help get things going...
1) Submit deviations to the proper file. They will be moved or removed, depending on who catches it first.
2) it's a good idea to keep things D&D related. We don't want to remove stuff, it wastes time and hurts feelings.
3) Keep the trash talk to a minimum. I don't like flame wars.
4)Keep it PG-13
5)it may take 2-3 day for devs to be in the group folders .
more rules will be added if need be.
(Icon made by the lovely
Sapphire: TB Ch 6: The Tiefling in the MarshThe Blood Marsh, OutlandsSapphire heard it said many times that the Outlands were the safest of the Outer Planes. The berks that said that have probably never left Sigil in their life, or they would know the dark of it. The Outlands, also known as the Plane of Concordant Opposition to the Clueless, is the plane of true neutrality. As such it is malleable to the ethical and moral outlooks of the planes that it borders. On the Upper side of the Great Wheel the Outlands were relatively safe, perhaps even boring, but once you get close to the Lower Planes things start to get dicey. This was the case for the Blood Marsh, which is on the border of the Lower Plane of Gehenna. The marsh was a nightmare of swampy ground, tangled trees, ravenous trolls and treacherous quicksand. For nearly two days the party had been following Yamara as she led them down the narrow, twisting path that wound through the marsh.“There’s an old shack just ahead” Yamara announced. “Just beyond that is the road that runs between the portal to Sigil and the gate-town of Torch. For some strange reason the trolls avoid that shack, so we can rest there tonight. We’ll be in Sigil in time for supper tomorrow.”“All I want is a clean bed,” Augy sniffed. “I’m getting tired of sleeping in the mud.”They emerged from the tangle of trees onto a small rise. The one-room wooden shack sat at the highest point of the rise, which wasn’t more than a foot or two higher than the surrounding marsh. What paint that it might have once bore was long gone, and only a few shingles graced the slightly sloped roof. A dilapidated porch spanned the entire front side while the remains of a small set of stairs led up to what Sapphire presumed to be a back door. A window on the near side was covered with boards, which she found odd considering there was no front door.“Wait just a second,” Sapphire warned. She picked her nose up and inhaled slowly and deeply, trying to identify the out-of-place odor she had detected. “Is that burning incense I smell?”“Who would be burning incense in a swamp?” Augy asked.“Probably not the trolls, that’s for certain,” Yamara said.“Cover me,” Thorn ordered.The paladin strode confidently toward the shack, keeping his hand on the hilt of his sword but leaving it sheathed so as not to unnecessarily antagonize what might be nothing more than a simple traveler. Sapphire notched an arrow and followed behind and slightly to the side so that she could send an arrow past Thorn and into the doorway if the occupants proved hostile. Yamara drew her dagger and quietly slinked to the front corner of the shack. Zarana and Augy held back and prepared to bring their magic to bear if needed.Thorn stepped up on the porch and announced his presence. When he was greeted only with silence he peered inside. He stepped back from the doorway in surprise, glancing back toward Sapphire with a look that told her he had seen something he wasn’t sure of. Curiously she climbed up on the porch and took a look inside herself. What she saw in the shack was not something she was expecting to see in the middle of the Blood Marsh. Sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor was a tiefling dressed in a simple tan robe and light boots. He had a lean build, sharply pointed features, dark skin, a clean-shaven head and curling horns. His eyes were closed, and he was quietly chanting a mantra. He held his arms straight out in front of him with his palms up. An ornate katana rested in his hands, and she was amazed at how steady his arms were despite the weight of the blade. Sapphire stepped into the room carefully, not sure if she should disturb the tiefling or not.“I know you’re there, assimar,” the tiefling spoke without opening his eyes. “Come, make yourself a place to rest; there is plenty of room.”“Sorry,” Sapphire apologized “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”“You did not,” the tiefling reassured her. He opened his eyes and smiled, gently setting his katana down. “I am Micah Crawley, native son of the great city of Sigil. I am returning to Sigil, having completed training with the Sunlo monks on the Prime world of Sargress. What brings you folks to this forsaken corner of the Outlands?”“My name Sapphire,” Sapphire replied. She introduced the rest of the party to Micah as they entered the shack. “We are heading to Sigil ourselves.”“Ah . . . Sigil, the great City of Doors, the one place from which a resourceful cutter can get anywhere. Have any of you actually been there before?”They all had to admit that they’d never really been in Sigil on their own. Thorn was there with his recruiter for part of his training in the prison, but who in their right mind is going to challenge a patrol of Mercykillers? Sapphire was there once as a child, and Yamara never went far beyond the Blood Marsh portal. Augy never set foot outside Arboria, and since Zarana was a prime she didn’t even know Sigil existed until recently.“It’s no dark that Sigil chews up newcomers and spits out the remains without remorse,” Micah warned. “It will be dark soon. Gather around and I will tell you as much as can be told about my city in a single night.”“How about something to eat first,” Yamara said. “I can’t appreciate a good tale on an empty stomach.”“I have apricot preserves in my pack,” Micah offered.The six of them sat down to a meal of salted pork, apples, and traveler’s bread with apricot preserves, and talked well into the night. Thorn gave a brief summary of all their adventures to date, form time they met Zarana in the market of Eastwind to the encounter with Bron and his goons in Yeoman. Sapphire told him about her childhood growing up in the cattle pens, and her eventual escape into the Plane of Air. Micah was somewhat taken aback by her experience, admitting that he assumed all assimar had perfect childhoods when compared to what the typical tiefling child endures. He seemed to warm up to her after that revelation.Micah claimed to have worked as a tout before setting his sights higher, and could explain much about Sigil. Since it could take years to understand the full complexities of the City of Doors, he remained focused on the basics that a newcomer would need to know. He took some time describing the physical layout of the six wards; the Clerks Ward, Lower Ward, Market Ward, the Lady’s Ward, Guildhall, and the Hive. Afterwards he finished with a rundown of the fifteen factions that via for control of the city, and the factols who command those factions.“The REAL power in Sigil is The Lady of Pain” Micah said. “She doesn’t rule like a mortal queen, issuing decrees and such. She’s hardly ever even seen, and when she does make an appearance people run for their lives. The very touch of her shadow will kill you.”“I remember my foster father Cecil mentioning her,” Sapphire said. “He said she keeps Sigil out of the hands of the fiends and the powers, but other than that it’s best to not think of her at all.”“But what IS she?” Zarana asked. “Is she a goddess?”“Nobody knows what she actually is,” Micah replied “but she certainly is no power. In fact she brutally slays any poor sod that attempts to worship her or pray in her name. It’s best to simply accept that she is, and leave it at that. Tell me Sapphire, what compels you to journey to The Cage?”“Where else on the planes does one go to find their place?” Sapphire shrugged. “I certainly wasn’t going to make much of an impact on the multiverse just drifting around the Plane of Air baking cookies.”“That’s true,” Thorn admitted. “I’ve tasted her cookies . . .”Sapphire threw an apple core at him.Micah chuckled. “Ah yes, of course,” he smiled. “Many a glorious quest, foolhardy adventure, doomed undertaking or evil mechanization has been launched from The Cage. Then it truly is providence that brought us together. I too am just beginning my journey across the multiverse, and am in need of a group of stalwart companions to watch my back.”“If we’re going to base this little campaign of ours out of Sigil, it’s a good idea to include someone who knows something of the city,” Augy noted. “I presume you have a few useful contacts as well, Micah?”“I know a cutter or two that can did up the chant and maybe pull a few strings,” Micah replied.“Can you use that fancy blade you’re wearing?” Sapphire asked. “Powers know we could use a real swordsman in this group.”Sapphire ducked quickly, laughing as she narrowly evaded the apricot-laden biscuit Thorn threw at her head. Micah gave a quick laugh, and then stood up and bowed slightly from the waist. He retrieved a small wax candle from his pack, which he placed on a window sill and lit. Once the candle was in place he drew his katana and began a series of practiced exercises. He demonstrated both defensive and offensive positions, often striking out with his hands and feet as well as his sword. He was amazingly fast, and he moved his body and blade with fluid grace. Sapphire was impressed with his concentration and focus. Suddenly he became a blur of motion, spinning and whirling across the shack toward the window that held the candle. He made one final strike with his katana, extinguishing the flame without touching the candle. Sheathing his blade, he turned and bowed again.“Gads!” Yamara exclaimed. “You learned that from a bunch of monks?!”“The Sunlo are warrior-monks,” Micah replied. “They train their body to be as one with their chosen weapon. That is why I sought them out. Such training is the best way to attune oneself to the cadence of the planes.”“Cadence of the planes huh,” Thorn said. “You’re a Cipher then?”“I am of the Transcendent Order, you are correct sir.”“I’ve never heard of the cadence of the planes,” Zarana said. “Of course I haven’t heard much of anything about the Outer Planes; nothing that’s turned out to be true, anyway. What is it?”“The cadence of the planes is like a rhythm, or perhaps a heartbeat, of reality,” Micah explained. “In every place and in every instance there is an action that must be taken. Most people miss the opportunity to act because they stop to consider their next action. This pause, no matter how fleeting, causes them to fall out of sync with the cadence. To feel the cadence is to make action and thought as one. That is the goal of the Transient Order.”“Don’t try to understand it, Zarana,” Sapphire advised. “Some Cipher spent half a day trying to explain it to me once, and when he was finished I wasn’t any closer to understanding it than when he started.”“It’s not a philosophy for everybody,” Micah admitted. “But then again, what philosophy is?”“I’ll make you this deal, Micah,” Thorn said. “You can travel with us to Sigil and get settled in. Give it a week or two, and then we’ll all decide if this party is cohesive enough to function. Everyone agreed?”“Wonderful,” Micah grinned as the rest of the group nodded their approval. “Then let’s get some rest. The portal to Sigil is less than a day from here, but the Blood Marsh gives no second chances.”******************************************************************************************Tarnish teleported into the middle of the clearing and looked around, expecting to find her arcanoloth contact Hargri’mel waiting for her, but all she saw was a group of trolls setting up an ambush. The erinyes had no idea why the unfathomable yugoloth would want to meet her here in this desolate swamp rather than someplace in Sigil or The Grey Waste. He was nowhere to be found however, and she wasn’t about to wait around. She was preparing to teleport back to Baator when she noticed another winged figure in the shadows of the marsh. She bristled when she saw that it was her succubus counterpart Ezra. Ezra smiled smugly at her, and it was all Tarnish could do not to remove the mocking expression from the Tanar’ri’s face. Permanently.“Well look at what just popped in from the pits,” Ezra said. “What the Abyss are you doing here, Tarnish?”“I might ask you the same thing, Ezra,” Tarnish replied, crossing her arms and fixing the chaotic fiend with a steely gaze. “I’m here looking for Hargri’mel, so don’t push me into doing something you’ll regret.”“Curious. I’m here looking for Hargri’mel too. He said he had something important to show me.”“That’s the same thing he told me. It sounds to me like that arcanoloth is toying with us again. Well I’m not playing his games this time. I’m leaving . . .”“Hold on a bit, Tarnish,” Ezra smiled and pointed down the road. “There’s a merchant coming down the road from Sigil, right into the troll ambush. Let’s stick around and see what happens.”“Why not?” Tarnish shrugged, looking down the road at the approaching wagon. “I could stand for some mild amusement.”The fiends slipped into the foliage on the opposite side of the road and waited for the trolls to spring their trap.******************************************************************************************The party left the small shack at first light, with Sapphire walking slightly ahead keeping a lookout for dangers. Marshlands were not her favored type of wilderness, but she was still better suited to scouting than any of the others. Thorn, Augy and Yamara were about a dozen paces behind her. Zarana and Micah brought up the rear. The road to the portal was comparatively narrow, and was overgrown with weeds and creepers. Fallen trees and other debris littered the road periodically, some of the obstructions looking as if they were placed there intentionally. The presence of droppings from draft horses and other beast of burden suggested that the road had seen some recent use. From the freshest droppings Sapphire estimated that the last caravan passed down this road heading to Torch approximately three days ago.They were less than two hours away from the portal when she heard someone up ahead calling for help.“Hold up!” Sapphire barked, motioning for silence.She heard the desperate scream again. It was a male voice, and he seemed to be more in fear than in pain. She also heard him begging someone or something for his life. Sapphire glanced over at Thorn to make sure she wasn’t hearing things. Thorn had drawn his sword and was staring intently at the trees ahead, a look of steadfast courage and determination on his face. Sapphire nodded and drew an arrow out of her quiver, notching it in her bow as crept toward the area where the screams were coming from. She had no idea what to expect, and she sincerely wanted to help whoever was in danger, but they needed to see what they were up against first. Charging into an unknown situation with swords swinging was the fastest way to write your own name into the dead book.Around a sharp bend in the road was an extensive patch of dry ground. The party took cover behind a large overgrown log in order to survey the area. A wagon full of barrels and skins of lamp oil had been haphazardly pulled to the edge of the marsh, as if its driver had no intention of ever moving the wagon again. The draft animals that pulled it there were nowhere to be seen, nor was the teamster. Opposite the wagon a group of four trolls was occupied with stacking wood to build a fire in a makeshift pit. Tied to a spit above the wood pile was a well-dressed and rather plump human; it was he that was screaming. Near the pit three more men sat helplessly bound and gagged, fearfully watching the trolls’ activity.“They’re going to cook that poor man alive,” Zarana whispered. “We have to help him!”“Um, those are trolls Zarana,” Yamara pointed out. “They seem to be rather focused on their task right now, so we should have no problem sneaking by them if we keep quiet.”“I don’t fancy the idea of leaving any soul to such a fate,” Thorn whispered.“The merchant knew where he was going,” Augy argued. “He should have hired more or better guards. It gains neither us nor them any boon by throwing our lives away on a fool’s impulse.”“I don’t like turning my back on a person in need either,” Sapphire said, “but Yamara’s right. Those are trolls, and there are four of them. Trolls are as tough to hurt as fiends, and they regenerate faster than I do. I hate to say it, but I don’t think that there is anything we can do for the merchant or his gaurds.”“We need flame” Augy advised. “I have one flame spell available, but it’s low-powered and isn’t going to do much damage against trolls.”“If its flame we need,” Micah smiled. “I believe I have a plan to even the odds. See that wagon over there Sapphire? Do you think that you could put a few holes in those oil barrels without the trolls noticing, enough to get them leaking really well?”“I can hit a target like that with my eyes closed,” Sapphire nodded. “But the wagon’s too far away from the trolls for the flames to reach them.”“Leave that to me,” Micah smiled and took out a pair of star-shaped steel disk. “Yamara, you sneak around and cut those guards free; we’re going to need every weapon we can get. Prepare your spell wizard, and be ready to strike fast and hard when you see my signal.”“What signal is that?” Thorn asked.“You’ll know,” Micah grinned mischievously before slipping into the underbrush.“I hope that tiefling knows what he’s doing,” Thorn grumbled.Sapphire shuffled over to a position where she could hit the wagon from the backside. She targeted the barrels on the top of the wagon first, aiming for the joints between the lower boards. As the oil began to trickle out and pool into the bottom of the wagon she sent a few war arrows into the leather skins stacked on top of the barrels. The broad head of the war arrows easily sliced the skins open, causing the oil contained therein to pour down the sides of the wooden barrels beneath. Soon the wagon was nothing but a conflagration just waiting for the spark to ignite it.The tolls finished stacking the wood under the merchant, and now the largest one was leaning over the pit striking a steel bar against a piece of flint. Another troll forced a piece of fruit into the man’s mouth, which the others seemed to find wildly amusing. A small column of smoke began to rise from the wood, indicating that the kindling had caught the spark as was starting to burn. Laughing heartedly at the merchant’s desperate struggles the trolls began to slowly turn the spit. Whatever the tiefling was planning he had better act fast. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Micah coming out of the marsh on the far side of the wagon. To her surprise he climbed right on top highly flammable vehicle. He yelled a vile insult in orcish, which immediately got the attention of the four trolls. With expert precision he threw his stars at the largest troll. The tiny blades stuck into the troll’s upper chest but did little damage; in fact they only seemed to enrage the troll.Micah continued his taunting, throwing three more stars in rapid succession and striking a different troll each time. Finally the trolls had enough. Three of them charged the wagon, determined to rip the annoying little tiefling apart. Sapphire expected Micah to jump from the wagon and run into the marsh, but instead he just made a rude gesture and drew his katana as if he intended to defend the oil-soaked wagon.As the trolls reached the wagon a brilliant fireball suddenly flashed into existence, engulfing Micah, the wagon, and the trolls. This burst of fire was followed a few heartbeats later by an even bigger blast as the oil ignited, sending a column of flame soaring nearly a hundred feet into the sky. Two of the trolls came staggering out of the inferno, both of them wreathed in flames. Sapphire dropped them with well-placed arrows, and then hit them with a few more arrows just to make sure they didn’t regenerate before the fire did its job.Thorn jumped over the log with his shield raised and his sword at the ready, Zarana and Augy right behind him. Zarana made a sweeping motion with her hand, launching a spectral war hammer at the final troll. Her spell struck the troll in the side of the head, knocking it into the fire pit and inflicting minor burns. Snarling with rage the troll scrambled to its feet and rushed toward them, scattering the wood and inadvertently extinguishing the fire in the process. Augy took the opportunity to cast his Burning Hands spell, dousing the troll with tendrils of fire that emerged from his outstretched fingers.Sapphire watched the battle closely, waiting for an opening to use her bow without risking her arrow striking Thorn or Zarana. Having freed the caravan guards, Yamara snuck up behind the troll and struck a devastating double blow with her daggers. The three guards also closed quickly with the troll, eager to gain a measure of revenge on their former tormentor. They now outnumbered the troll six-to-one, and were inflicting more damage than even its incredible regenerative power could overcome.Before long it was over. Thorn decapitated the troll and instructed the guards to finish dismembering it and toss its body parts into the fire. Sapphire slowly walked to the edge of the still-burning circle of fire that surrounded the charred remains of the wagon. A nauseating smoke drifted from the corpses of the three trolls as the flames consumed the last of the fat. She couldn’t see any sign of Micah, and she didn’t recall him leaping to safety as the oil exploded. She had to assume that the tiefling had some magical means of escaping the blast, since sacrificing himself in such a manner didn’t make sense otherwise.She was soon joined by others. “Where’s Micah?” Yamara asked. “Please tell me he didn’t blow himself up.”“I’m right here Yamara,” Micah called from the marsh. “Now THAT was what I call a blast!”Micah strode into the clearing and raised his arms in triumph. There wasn’t a mark on his body, although his robe had mostly burned away; Micah apparently wasn’t aware of that, or didn’t care. Sapphire felt her cheeks redden, and she quickly turned her head. Augy slapped his hands over Yamara’s eyes like she was a little girl, ignoring the halfling’s protest. Zarana put one hand on her hip but didn’t look away. Instead her eyes shamelessly scanned the tiefling’s body, a coy smile forming on her lips as her gaze lingered on his waist.“Impressive,” Zarana said.“Thanks,” Micah replied. “My heritage makes me totally impervious to flame, and also allows me to generate fireballs. So I’ve developed a tactic of unleashing a fireball centered on my own . . .” Micah paused when he realized what Zarana was talking about. “Oh, you mean that,” he mumbled, looking down and scratching his head in embarrassment.Thorn casually stepped between Zarana and Micah, intentionally blocking the dark elf’s view, and handed Micah his cloak. “Before you engage that tactic again tiefling,” Thorn said “I’d advise you to obtain more flame-resistant garments. You’re traveling in the presence of ladies now.”“That’s never happened before,” Micah accepted the cloak from Thorn and hastily covered himself. “My robe must have soaked up some of the oil, becoming highly flammable itself. I offer my sincere apologies, ladies.”“Oh, you have nothing to apologize for,” Zarana smirked. “So it’s true what they say on the Prime; everything really is bigger out on the Planes.”“Zarana!” Sapphire scolded.“What?” Zarana replied innocently.“Come on we’re wasting daylight” Thorn said. “We need to get to that portal before dark, unless you want to spend another night in this festering swamp.”Thorn and Augy turned and headed toward the fire pit to help the merchant, who had once again began calling for help; this time in a rather indignant tone. With a playful wink at Micah Zarana went to tend to the injured caravan guards. Micah watched her walk away for a few seconds before turning to Sapphire.“Is it true what they say about drow women?” he asked.“Drow society is radically matriarchal, if that’s what you mean” Sapphire replied. “The women dominate in all aspects of culture, while the men keep the home, raise the children, and tend to their wives needs in the bedroom.”“Could be interesting,” Micah mused. “Fortunately I always carry an extra robe, just for such a contingency. Now if you young ladies will excuse me, I need to get dressed.”“Why bother?” Yamara chided. “We’ve already seen everything.”“I’m never going to live this down, am I?” Micah sighed.“Probably not,” Sapphire smiled and put her arm around the halfling’s shoulders. “Come on Yamara; let’s give the monk a little privacy so he can attempt to salvage some of his dignity.”The two women turned their backs while Micah rummaged through his pack to retrieve his spare robe. “You know,” Yamara said “we’re going to have to keep that drow on a short leash from now on.”******************************************************************************************Tarnish couldn’t believe her eyes. She stepped out from the undergrowth and watched the party of mortals heading toward the portal as fast as they could, clearly worried about the presence of additional trolls. Was that what Hargri’mel wanted her and Ezra to see? The assimar looked just like Crystal, but it was confirmed that Crystal was dead. Could this woman be Crystal’s infant daughter? She looked to be about the right age, and nobody knew the child’s fate. At least nobody was admitting they knew of her fate.“That couldn’t possibly have been . . .” Ezra began.“No, she’s dead,” Tarnish interrupted “but it could have been her infant girl. I’ll follow them to Sigil and see if I can confirm her identity. You go back to Azzagrat and report this to Graz’zt.”“That’s LORD Graz’zt to you Tarnish,” Ezra spat “and I don’t take sodding orders from baatezu! Come to think of it, I don’t even take orders from other tanar’ri, or anyone else for that matter. Why don’t I follow them and YOU go report to LORD Graz’zt?”“Oh please,” Tarnish sneered. “You’ll probably forget all about them as soon as you get to Sigil, and go running off in some other random direction. With the exception of cambions you tanar’ri don’t have the discipline to perform covert activities.” Seeing Ezra’s expression harden, Tarnish tried a more diplomatic approach. “Besides that, I’m an erinyes. Do you know what would happen to me if I just teleported into the 65thlayer of the Abyss?”“You’d be torn to pieces in seconds,” Ezra smiled at the thought “and that would be a real shame too, since I wouldn’t be around to see it. Fine, I’ll go inform Lord Graz’zt of what we’ve discovered. But it this turns out to be a false alarm, you’ll be the one explaining it to him.”Ezra vanished in a puff of sulfuric smoke. Tarnish shook her head and headed toward the portal, shifting her form as she did. Her black feathery wings retracted into her back, her clothes took on the appearance of common traveler’s garb, and her features mellowed slightly to allow her to meld into the background better. She hated dealing with tanar’ri, and if any of her fellow baatezu discovered what she was doing her corpse would be hanging from Bel’s fortress in Avernus. Still the potential rewards were worth the risk, and her actions will ultimately benefit Baator even more than the Abyss; providing that the Abyssal Lord’s crazy idea actually works, of course.
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