The 20-Sided Theatre, Episode 17: The Walled Desert
Chip Dipson, Action Town Crier of Paldas the Bright – Blake
The Vengeful Ghost of Adanska Rothgeld – Rud
The Wi<3z, a magical harlequin – Cian
Hera “Pally” Laris, a disapproving paladin – Ceridwen
Pinky the Problematic Pixie, a Half-Pixie, Half-Dragon – Natalie
Engar Flamehand, an elderly fire mage and mad scientist – Gabe
Åx Balbjorn, a magical axeman – Rud
The DM – Rud
Maldreth – Gabe
Rhomande - Rud
Issa - Ceridwen
Imenand - Blake
Stiev - Natalie
Vragul - Rud
Kasalan the Hateful - Blake
Scene 0: Show Opening & Theme Music
Vragul: **From “offstage”** QUIET!! TIME FOR START SHOW! VRAGUL DEFEAT AUDIENCE!!
SFX: (2d20 rolls)
DM: Your Move Silently and Hide checks are successful.
SFX: (pause)(51136_rutgermuller_Cough (short))
Rhomande: Good evening Lords and Ladies. You have chosen your entertainment quite wisely. You are about to experience the most wondrous spectacle in the Great, Venerable, and Multiplanar Empire of Voladros. I am your Host-Proprietor, Rhomande Sorfinde, and I welcome you… to The 20-Sided Theatre!
The Wiz: **From “offstage”** Dancing lights! SFX: (121558_sbarncar_whistleandreport.aif x 5 (bunched in time with opening of Theme Music)
Theme Music: (VCMG – Victory Flower Fields – 20-Sided Theatre Edit)
Music Bed: (Sylvius Leopold Weiss – Courante in F Major.mp3)
Scene 1: Recap and Story Thus Far
Rhomande: Well, my beloved audience, things are not looking good for my Insufferable Basterds. We have been at sea for the past seven weeks, and now we are all beginning to succumb to scurvy and dehydration. You see, Father Maldreth and Master Shenouda have declared a War on Foodstuffs, so they have dumped all of our supplies overboard and ceased their castings of Create Food & Water. Thrimlach ceatharinn is doing the worst of us all, due to his insistence that he drink only Sir Gnome’s urine. Being a skeleton, Sir Gnome has not produced any urine in quite some time. But you don’t want to hear about any of that. You’re here to catch up on the news of the day, and who better to up your catching than Chip Dipson’s Action Town Criers! What’s the news, Chip?
((Sfx: Action Town Criers News Theme begins))
Chip: Thank you, Master Sorfinde! Tonight’s top story begins in the aftermath of the attack on Trur Dros. Sadly, no survivors have been found to date. Fortunately, no bodies have been found either, so there may yet be hope for those who have lost loved ones in this terrible event. The investigation was interrupted by a magic orb sent by the Emperor of a far-off realm. Here’s The Wiz with more.
The Wiz: That crazy emperor wants me to go south to some portal, so I can fulfill my destiny as the Christmas Maggots or something. I wasn’t really paying attention. Whatever he said, I didn’t write any of it down, so here’s Engar Flamehand with more. He’s like a hundred and a half years old.
Engar: I am eighty-nine today, my dear. The accelerated aging loop should have me at 80 again by mid-evening. And the Emperor named you the Crimson Magus of the Foreseen Champions. Not “the Christmas Maggots”. He then asked us to find the Portal of Pa’vos, which may be under threat from a terrorist group known as The Sisters of the Many, who are led by a being known as Kasalan the Hateful.
The Wiz: Thanks, Engie! Well, that’s all the stuff about the emperor guy. Back to you, Chip!
Chip: Thank you, the Wiz! Investigations are currently underway. If you have any information about the Prophesy of the Crimson Magus, the Foreseen Champions, or the Portal of Pa’vos, please scry our news team immediately. And now to Pinky the Problematic Pixie for today’s weather report!
Pinky: Hi Chip! (then, more quietly) How was that? Did that sound professional enough, Adanska?
Adanska: You are doing well, Pinky. Just remember to look directly at the scrycrystal when you speak, and not at the ghostly wound in my clavicle.
Pinky: (quietly) Thanks, Adanska! (loudly) Well, Chip, there’s a sandstorm blowing in from the Golas Desert to the north, so we recommend that everybody take shelter until the storm passes. Once we wrap this scrycast up, the whole team is heading into the Crack in the Walled Mountains, to stay safe. Back to you, Chip!
Chip: Thank you, Pinky! A group of adventurers reported yesterday that the Crack in the Wall may be a more dangerous place usual. We go now to our senior ecology correspondent, Hera Laris, for more.
Hera: Thank you, Chip. Other than the attack on Trur Dros, the Golas Desert has been unnervingly quiet for the past five days. The bandit clan reported a day and a half south of the oasis seems to have packed up and vanished, leaving no trace of their campsite. And the packs of roving Dire Camels for which the Firesand Desert is most well known are all but extinct. One small herd of two Dire Camels was spotted yesterday, from the great heights of the Crack in the Wall. Despite the collapsing web of life in this desertscape, the Formic Ant People seem to be thriving underground. More on this as the story develops. Back to you, Chip!
Chip: Thank you, Hera. This just in! An alliance seems to have been brokered between the Formics of the Crack and the Sisters of the Many. An adventuring group has been dispatched immediately to investigate the situation. That’s all the news that’s worth crying for tonight. This is Chip Dipson signing off.
((Sfx: Action Town Criers News Theme ends))
Engar: And now, a word from our sponsor.
Rhomande: Lords and Ladies of my beloved audience, recline upon your gilded seats, quaff your libations, and adjust your listening devices to receive the full stereophonic, scryocastic selection of sounds that we have prepared for you. And, please, thoroughly enjoy your evening at The 20-Sided Theatre!
Scene 2: The End of the Crack
DM: Having healed up and rested to regain your spells, you set out once more to find the far end of the Crack in the Wall. For about two hours you make your way through the narrow, winding paths of the enormous fissure, but nothing seems to want to bother you this early in the day. The sheer walls loom 80 ILDMs over your heads, silently threatening to crumble and crush you all beneath a sudden avalanche.
The Wiz: Why is this place called Krakenwall, anyway? There ain’t an ocean here, so how’s a giant squid that eats boats supposed to survive for very long? Did you name this place, Pinky? Like how you’re constantly claiming you’re a dragon, even though you don’t have the armored tail with the little fish fin at the end or the little antenna deely-bobbers on your head?
Pinky: Leave me out of this, The Wiz. I’ve never been to this place, either. And you’re still describing lobsters.
Engar: Ahem. My dear, I believe you are confused. You must be thinking of the region beyond the Western Veldt: Krackenwald. It’s a heavily forested area, and the early rangers of the area all started as mariners, so they couldn’t properly identify a Roper when they saw one in the trees. They made their best guess and came up with Krakens, since they’re the only other monster with that many tentacles.
Hera: You are both incorrect. Engar, though your experience is long and gives you strength, your hearing is short-ranged, giving you a weakness. The Wiz, you simply need to pay better attention. We are trying to pass a range of mountains called “The Wall”, and this is the easiest pass through the entire range. The pass itself is called “The Crack”.
DM: Like I said, after about two hours of travel and this type of conversation, you finally see the end of The Crack ahead of you. The mid-morning sun beats down on the strangely ochre-colored sand, illuminating the end of the passage in an intense, orange glow. The relative coolness of The Crack gives way as you reach the inner ring of The Wall. Give me some Spot Checks.
((Sfx: d20 roll x5))
Hera: The sun’s light is refracting oddly here.
Pinky: Yeah. If you look down there, it looks like a solid plane of light. Like a mirror held just-so.
The Wiz: Well, at least it’s not a hole. You know, I’m afraid of that every time I enter a new room that there’s not gonna be any floor in there. Like I’m just gonna fall into the abyss or something.
Adanska: You have no cause to worry, The Wiz. I promise to scout out all rooms for you. In fact, because I am a ghost, I can even inspect the floors’ support structures, if you wish!
Chip: We must press on, my Action Town Criers! It is our duty to investigate this strange place and to bring news of it to all peoples we might meet!
Engar: Indeed. Tally-ho and all that! Straight on through the sheet of light, and into the Walled Desert!
DM: The light intensifies as you near the edge, forcing you to shut your eyes and trust your feet. You make the last few shuffling steps through the sand to the inner edge of The Crack. With your first steps into the Walled Desert, the light dims a little, allowing you to peek out briefly between laced fingers.
Engar: Oh! I have something for this! Would you all prefer to test something mechanical or alchemical?
((Sfx: clinking bottles))
Hera: Mechanical. Please.
Chip: I think Hera has a good point, Engar. Your alchemical experiments can be quite potent, but about 30% of the time they also prove to be quite crippling. We had best stick with the mechanical option for now.
Engar: Very well, then. Oh, bother. Which pocket were these in? Aha! Behold! Flamehand’s Flame-Reducing Spectacles! With lenses made of pure gold, hammered so thinly that one may see through them!
((Sfx: clinking of bottles & rummaging through robes))
Pinky: Oh, cool! Everything is blue!
The Wiz: Ooh! I know why that one is! Engar taught me this during my first year at the Orphanage!
Engar: Boarding School.
The Wiz: Yeah, that. The yellowy-green color of the gold absorbs all that color of light, so you just get mostly blues and a liiiiiittle bit of purple hittin’ you in the eyes!
Engar: That’s correct enough for our current purposes, my dear. We can now look about this Walled Desert more freely, albeit through a very blue filter.
Hera: And look! We stand upon a gleaming, impossibly straight and impossibly flat road!
Pinky: And it’s a broad road, too! This thing must be 30 Units across!
DM: For those of you taking note, a single Rhiosian Unit is about 853 thousandths of an ILDM. So the road is a little over 25 ILDMs wide.
((Sfx: tapping on glass))
Chip: Hrm. The road seems to be made of glass.
Engar: Detect Magic! Yes, and its durability has been magically enhanced. Hrm… if I concentrate for a bit, then I can probably mana-date these spells within a 300-year margin.
((Sfx: Detect Magic – ongoing?))
The Wiz: And maybe your magic can tell us something useful, like who built this road and where it goes!
((Sfx: d20 roll))
Pinky: Or you can look at this sign over here. I’m not sure what language it’s in, but maybe one of you guys can read it.
DM: Nice Spot Check, Pinky!
Pinky: Thanks, Mr. Voice! Uh… Engar you’re the oldest! So I’m guessing you know the most languages of anybody here.
((Sfx: detect magic – ongoing?))
Engar: What? Oh, I’m sorry, my dear, but I must concentrate on reading the energies of the spells woven throughout this glass. Perhaps Lady Hera can read your sign. She specializes in Diplomacy and Heraldry, both of which require knowing many tongues.
Hera: I’m not actually all that talented with languages, Engar, but I appreciate the vote of confidence, so I’ll take a look. Let’s see… Oh! This sign is written in Giant!
The Wiz: What does it say, Pally?
Hera: I’m not sure. I’m still learning the language from this book: Gart and Dane Have a Boulder. I know that first word means “glass”, but I’m not sure about the rest.
Chip: Quite correct, Dame Laris! But the particle at the end of the word shows that it’s an adjective, closely linked to the word at the end of the sign, which means “road”. The middle is a Locative construction for the phrase “Portal of Pa’vos”.
(note: Locative = LOCK-a-tiv)
Hera: Ah! I see, now. Thank you, Chip, for increasing my understanding of the Giant language. So, this sign should translate as “Glass Road to the Portal of Pa’vos”! And I know that the last three glyphs are to indicate a distance, but I’m not sure about the construction. Gart and Dane haven’t seen more than twelve of anything in the book, yet.
Chip: Let’s see… Giant numbers always require a little math. It’s literally “4000 stréda”, and one stréda is about 7 and a third Units…
DM: And one Unit is about 85% of an ILDM.
Engar: Please, Master Disembodied Voice, do not interrupt Chip’s calculations. Mathematics is the most serious of businesses. Here, Master Dipson. You may make use of my slide rule, if it helps.
Chip: Thank you, Engar; this’ll speed things up a lot! Let’s see… since Giants use a base-12 system, it comes out to… 50 miles!
Adanska: What is that pensive look for, Pinky?
Pinky: (lost in thought) What? Oh! While Chip was making numbers, I was just wondering who built this road and how they moved all this glass here!
Adanska: Well, the glass road seems to have a similar color to the burnt-orange sand all around us. Best guess is that someone used the sand that was already here, in their construction project. Here, let me sink through it, to see how deep the glass goes.
The Wiz: Waitaiminute, Danskie! You gots the echolocation? What are you, some sorta whale?
Adanska: What do you mean “echolocation”, the Wiz? I am a ghost.
The Wiz: Yeah, so how’s that supposed to let you tell distances by making songs and letting ’em bounce back at you?
Adanska: This makes no sense, The Wiz. I will simply descend into the road, down to the bottom, and see how far that was. Using my eyes.
The Wiz: Ohhhhh! I thought you said you was gonna sing into the glass. You’d just put your face in and go “(opera singer note)”, then come back and be all like, “Mark 9. Seven fathoms.” Alright, Ghostie. Now that we got that sorted out, go ahead and see how far down this glass goes.
((Sfx: ghost phase))
DM: Adanska sinks into the ground, disappearing into the cloudy glass of the ancient desert road. He sinks down eight ILDMs, which comes out to a little under 7 Rhiosian Units, before he reaches the rough edge at the bottom of the glass.
Engar: Hrm. Such a feat of construction might be accomplished by wide and continuous castings of Chain Lightning. However, such a method would produce only a thin layer of glass upon the sands, and what we have here is too thick and durable to have been constructed in such a manner. This was probably the work of some long-forgotten civilization that had developed a magical industry so advanced that it consumed their entire culture, leaving only their artifacts.
The Wiz: Yeah! This planet’s got hundreds of dead civilizations that were more advanced than anything on the face of Rhios today. I remember this one time at the orphanage––
Hera: Boarding School.
The Wiz: Whatever it was, the lady who made us read all those musty, old scrolls took us on a field trip one day to see a giant chariot with a huge, copper cylinder on the front instead of wheels. And there was all these pipes all over it that started spewing steam at the ground, when the Master Archivist used a spell to turn it on.
Adanska: Does anybody know enough about glass to tell whether it was made from the sand of this desert?
The Wiz: Aren’t you a psychic ghost, Danskie? Shouldn’t you already know what all the rest of us knows?
Adanska: I suppose I could look into your minds, but this violates Action Town Crier Rule Number 8: “no psychic invasions, unless part of emergency communications in the case of a split party.”
((Sfx: thunder and magic))
DM: Suddenly, a booming voice cracks through the air, cutting off your distracted conversation.
Kasalan: (start with Dragon Language, then switch to Common) You have set foot within the domain of Kasalan the Hateful, Radiant Master of the Sisters of the Many. Pitiful companions of the Crimson Magus, each step you take brings you nearer to your doom. You shall not reach the Portal of Pa’vos. Your blood shall run down the temple steps as I prepare the way for the Hungering End.
Pinky: Ehrm… No, thank you. I prefer not to die at your temple steps. This Hungering End business sounds very bad.
DM: You wait for a reply, but none comes.
Hera: Hrm. Perhaps it was one of those magical alarm systems. Everybody, take three steps back!
((Sfx: shuffling of many feet))
Hera: Excellent! Now, let us move forward again, and we shall see if the warning plays a second time.
((Sfx: shuffling of many feet))
DM: That must have been a live broadcast, because nothing happens as you step forward again.
The Wiz: Well, in that case I’m gonna skip forward, towards my doom! It’ll take fewer steps, that way.
Chip: The Wiz has a point, my Action Town Criers! Let us make haste, that we might make Rhios a little safer, a little sooner!
Scene 3: The Hidden World
DM: You continue your journey through the Walled Desert, toward the Portal of Pa’vos. After three or four hours of silent, serious travel, the easily frustrated ghost of Adanska Rothgeld makes an outburst.
Adanska: Damn those idiots’ eyes!
Pinky: I’m not an idiot; I’m just underexposed to the outside world!
Hera: No need to be so defensive, Pinky. He does this quite often, but his ire and his chamber-pot-mouth are rarely directed toward any of us. Which idiots did you mean this time, Adanska?
Adanska: The ones who follow Kasalan the Hateful and worship some sort of Ravenous Conclusion. How stupid, selfish, or lazy does somebody have to be, in order to devote one’s life to the end of the world?
The Wiz: Oh yeah, Danskie? What if you’re some sorta zombie or something. Then it’s reasonable to be hungry and looking for an End. You gotta be more openminded and see things from other people’s perspectives.
Adanska: I do see things from others’ perspectives, The Wiz! I am a psychic ghost who inhabits the bodies of others on a regular basis. Including the bodies of zombies, and they should all just end themselves, rather than ending everything else. The second option is just greedy.
Chip: That’s quite correct, Adanska! The Book of Colored Emotions states that necromancers draw power from the Orange Spectrum whenever they raise undead beings. The sorcerers’ greed for power twists into a different kind of ravening as it channels through the zombie’s limbs.
DM: Uh… hey, guys? You may want to look over there, ahead of you. You’re still about 38 miles from the Portal, according to the sign you passed at the beginning of the day, but something has changed.
((Sfx: d20 roll x6))
Engar: Hrm. That’s quite odd. The road has stopped reflecting the sun, way over there, where you can see a blurred edge to the glass. And before you say anything, Pinky, I made sure to adjust my spectacles before taking a look this time.
Pinky: Oh, good! I was afraid that since you’re 89 years old right now, you might have forgotten to put your glasses on again.
Engar: Actually, the thaumachronal acceleration loop has just passed the point of initial departure, so I’m a young and spry 80 years old, now!
DM: You continue onward for about ten miles, before the far edge of the glass road comes into sight.
Chip: Paldas protect us! What terrible thing might have caused the road to snap like this? Look at it! It’s a jagged break, so it stands to reason that it might have happened during some form of conflict.
Adanska: I’ll sink down to see how far the break goes.
((Sfx: ghost phasing))
The Wiz: I’m bored. While the ghostie’s down there, looking through the glass, up into Engar’s dress, do you wanna play some clapping games, Pally?
Hera: Thank you, but no, dear. As a paladin, it is my duty–and Solstafir’s–to stand vigilant against any coming threats.
The Wiz: Meh. Suit yourself, Pally. Whattabout you, Lobstie? You wanna clap our hands and sing the one about Ms. Mary Mack. She’s the one all dressed in black.
Pinky: The one with the silver buttons all down her back?
DM: Before you can start your game, Adanska reemerges from the ground.
((Sfx: ghost phasing))
Adanska: The break extends all the way down to the base of the road. Whatever caused this must have been powerful, as Chip indicated.
Chip: We need to press on. Pinky! Adanska! You guys scout ahead, and this time we’ll follow 80 Units behind you, instead of 40.
Åx: (yaaaaaawn) What are you guys doing? The wagon stopped its swaying, so I woke up. Are we breaking to camp? Am I on guard duty again? And when can we change the rotation, so I can stop sleeping during the daytime?
Hera: Oh! Good afternoon, Master Balbjorn! No, we’re not stopping to camp just yet. We’re merely inspecting the shattered edge of this 30-unit wide glass road. Pinky and Adanska are just about ready look for our intended destination.
Åx: (sleepy) Sounds good. I’ll just sharpen my axe, once Adanska’s out of sight. I still feel bad about what happened to him.
Adanska: You keep that thing away from me, Åx! Now, I’ll just sink nose-deep into the ground, to help me hide…
((Sfx: ghost phasing))
Adanksa: … and I am ready for anything! Are you coming, Pinky?
Pinky: Right behind you, Adanska. Just let me put on the old Pixie Invisibility.
DM: Pinky disappears from sight, and the top half of Adanska’s head begins to slide along the ground, toward the edge of the road. When they reach the jagged end, Adanska’s head suddenly vanishes from sight. He doesn’t phase farther down, or anything; he just vanishes.
Chip: Oh no! Adanksa! Pinky! Can you guys hear me?
Pinky: Yup! Loud and clear, Chip! But I’m actually on this side of the break, still. I kinda lost my nerve when Adanska disappeared like that.
Hera: Should we go in after him, Chip? He usually responds rather quickly, so I’m a bit worried.
DM: Before Chip has a chance to make a decision, Adanska reappears, still nose-deep in the ground.
((Sfx: ghost phasing))
Adanska: There appears to be an altogether different sort of wasteland, just beyond the break. There’s still a road, but that one is made of rough-hewn stone and not glass.
Chip: Adanska, you disappeared when you crossed the broken line at the end of the glass road! Couldn’t you hear us yelling for you?
Adanska: I apologize, Chip. I had no idea that you were hailing me.
The Wiz: So, what’s over there on the other side of that line of nothing, Ghostie?
Adanska: There were some very sickly-looking Dire Buzzards picking at an enormous tortoise shell. That scene was rather odd. Usually buzzards leave a carcass alone after all the meat is gone and the bones are bleached white by the sun.
Hera: Then we must gird ourselves for defense, before crossing this threshold! I shall begin by invoking the Triple Goddess’ Blessing!
Chip: And I will send up a Prayer to Paldas the Bright, that he may keep us alert, accurate, and safe!
Engar: Dire Buzzards, eh? Fortunately, I have a few extra phials of Flamehands Flask of Ferrous Fetters! That ought to keep the buzzards from flying too far, in case we need to inspect one.
((Sfx: clinking bottles))
Pinky: Well, I’m already invisible, so I guess I’ll sharpen my claws, while I work up some acid breath!
((Sfx: sharpening claws))
Adanska: My Psi Blade stands ready to defend all of my companions. Except for that Axe. If it breaks or dies, then good.
((Sfx: Psi blade))
Åx: Fear not, Adanska! My axe will stay as far from you as I can keep it! Especially when I have cast a Vampiric Touch into the blade!
((Sfx: vampiric touch))
The Wiz: Welp. I guess it’s time to Displacement myself and bring out the Mirror Images!
((Sfx: Displacement, Mirror Image))
Chip: Onward, my Town Criers! We shall spread the good news to whomever we find on the other side of the Portal of Pa’vos! The Wiz? Engar? Would you two care to introduce us with a salvo?
The Wiz: (multiple) Our pleasure, Chippie Dippsie!
Engar: Of course, Master Dipson! Now, my dear. Do you recall your lesson at Trur Dros?
The Wiz: (multiple) Of course we do, Engie! We just gotta point whatever’s in our hands–Uh, oh! I’m not sure I wanna throw a fireball with what’s in my hand. Kermie seems to have gotten into the juggling pouch again.
DM: Each of the seven Wizes brandishes a live toad in her right hand, while looping two balls through the air with her left.
Engar: Oh, no! Indeed not. You do not want to channel your spells through your familiar. Unless, of course, the spell is triggered by physical contact with a target. How about you use one of those juggling pins, instead?
DM: The seven copies of The Wiz each puts her respective frog into her belt pouch, then reaches deep into some unseen space behind her belt, to draw out a red juggling pin with a white stripe. Well, almost all of them do that. One pulls out a white pin with a red stripe, and another pulls out a blue pin with a black stripe.
The Wiz: (multiple) Meh. Good enough. You ready, Engie?
Engar: That I am, my dear. Now, Adanska, in which direction do these buzzards lay?
Adanska: Well, from where you’re standing, it’s a little more off to the right.
Engar: Excellent! So, we’ll square our shoulders to the invisible target. Yes, just that way. Now, point your implement in your more dextrous hand. And we’ll release on “three”.
The Wiz: (multiple) On three, or after three, Engie?
Engar: Good point. After three, I suppose. Since I’ll be counting rather than saying the proper thaumatalogical formulifitications. Now, then. One. Two. Three! FIREBALL!
The Wiz: (multiple, near-simultaneous with Engar) FIREBALL!
((Sfx: fireball x8))
DM: Eight balls of combustible gas streak forth from the party’s magi, disappearing silently behind the magical curtain at the glass road’s edge.
Chip: Forward, my criers! For the sake of all realities!
DM: The party takes off at a sprint, with Åx taking a quick lead. He screams his battle cry as he winds his glowing axe over his shoulder, narrowly missing Adanska’s face.
Åx: GWRW OER!
Pinky: What does that battle cry even mean? It sounds like it doesn’t have enough vowels in it to be words.
Hera: I’m not entirely sure, Pinky, but Åx claims it means “cold beer” in Dwarven.
DM: As soon as you pass through the unseen barrier, the world shifts and twists around you. Since you’re moving at speed, this doesn’t disorient you too much, but it’s still surprising to find yourselves on a weathered, stone road in the middle of a barren, cracked landscape under a burnt-orange sky. All around you, the stench of burning feathers announces the effectiveness of Engar and The Wiz’ fireball artillery. Four dire buzzards tear hunks of bone from an enormous tortoise skeleton, tossing osseous fragments into the air to shatter and dissipate on the wind. The Dire Buzzards seem not to notice their burning flesh, but they look up and turn their gaze toward the onrushing party when they hear Åx’s oncoming battle cry. Make some Spot Checks.
((Sfx: d20 roll x7))
Chip: Paldas shelter us! What’s wrong with those buzzards’ eyes? They seem to be rotting and leaking trails of putrid goo down their faces.
Åx: It does not matter to my axe! GWRW OER!
((Sfx: d20 roll, Vampiric Axe hit, something Hungering End-ly Bad))
DM: Three of the sickly birds take to the air as Åx buries his vampirically charged weapon deep into the shoulder of the fourth. His spell flares to life, and you can see a pale white light flowing from the dire buzzard, through the axe, and into Åx. The axeomancer’s head snaps back, and his eyes open wide with pain.
Åx: (cries of pain)
Chip: Åx! You have to break contact, or it’ll kill you!
Hera: I’m afraid he cannot hear us, Chip.
Chip: Quick! Someone break the connection! I don’t want to lose another friend!
Adanska: I am on it, Chip! I have been looking forward to the day when you order me to attack that treacherous axe! Yah!
((Sfx: d20 roll, psi blade miss/ghost phasing))
DM: Adanksa’s psi-blade passes harmlessly through the weapon, leaving Åx still in contact with the demonic foe.
Adanska: Uh, oh! I’d better follow through, then!
DM: Adanska continues pushing his manifested weapon through its arc, colliding squarely with the chest of the Hungering Dire Buzzard. The blade sinks into the enemy, and for a moment Adanska’s fist sits knuckle-deep in the enemy’s chest. That moment swiftly passes, as a psionic shockwave hurls the buzzard’s corpse away from Åx and Adanska, to land in a crumpled pile 16 ILDMs away.
((Sfx: d20 roll, psi blade hit, the “thud” of a falling body))
Engar: Hrm. So, the conversion factor makes that 13.6 Units away from where our companions now stand. Er… Sit, I suppose. Åx! Adanska! Are you two alright? We’re still in combat, so you ought to pick yourselves up from the ground.
Åx: I… I think I am all right. Many thanks for the assist, Adanska!
Adanska: Gladly, Master Balbjorn! Oof… That thing still packed quite a wallop, though. Its mind was… It was nearly empty, and its singular, overwhelming desire was to end the pain of existence.
Pinky: So… These dire buzzards need counseling and a veterinarian, to help them get over whatever’s causing their eyes to melt?
Adanska: Almost. Their pain does not come from the ocular disease. Their pain comes from knowing that anything has the possibility of existing.
DM: One of the airborne buzzards wheels toward its left in a wide arc toward the rear of the party. It then dives beak-first toward Hera, catching her squarely between the shoulders. Give me a Ride Check, Hera.
((Sfx: d20 roll, chaotic beak hit, another d20 roll))
Hera: Whoa! Steady, Solstafir! Good celestial riding bird! Okay, now that I haven’t fallen from my holy mount, I can take stock of my injuries. Because OW! That smarts; far worse than it ought to! And… Does anybody else feel a bit of a draft?
Pinky: Uh, Hera? I think that melty-eyed buzzard is making off with a chunk of your backplate. And don’t take this the wrong way, but any time I see you not wearing your armor, you’ve got a long-sleeved, high-collared dress on that covers you from chin to toe, so I never pegged you as someone that has this many tattoos! I love the flowering, swirling patterns! What does it mean?
Hera: Well, that explains the draft. The writing is Supernal, Pinky. The language of the gods. Not all Paladins of the Triple-Goddess elect to scribe parables and lessons over their bodies; only the truly devoted do so.
The Wiz: (multiple) Would you two stop sharing beauty tips and take care of the things that’s trying to kill us, please? I know they’re in the sky and all, but maybe one of you can still throw something at ’em.
Engar: Excellent thinking, my young student! Birds often avoid flight during inclement weather, so I suggest we bring them down to our allies’ range with an ICE STORM!
((Sfx: Ice Storm))
DM: The sky suddenly darkens, as thick, black clouds cover you from horizon to horizon. Hailstones the size of a sheep’s bladder begin pelting down over a 20-ILDM radius.
Engar: That’s a 17-Unit radius on this world, Master Voice.
DM: Thanks, Engar. The 17-Unit-radius cylinder of falling ice quickly forces one of the three remaining Dire Buzzards to take to the ground 30 IL— 25.6 Rhiosian Units away from the party. A second buzzard is knocked to the ground by one of Engar’s hailstones, landing about a stride and a half away from Hera.
Hera: Which is within easy range for my War Scythe! But first, I should quicken a casting of Detect Alignment! Oh… Oh, dear, this shall simply not do. Solstafir! You attack, while my heart offers up the proper prayers to SMITE EVIL!
((Sfx: Detect Evil, solstafir, d20 roll x3))
DM: Solstafir’s taloned feet tear parallel gashes in the Dire Buzzard’s wings, followed perpendicularly by Hera’s gleaming scythe. The holy weapon of the Triple Goddess flares as it cleaves the buzzard in twain, crossing its entire wingspan.
((Sfx: Solstafir, smite evil scythe, bird kick x2, maybe a squish or something?))
Chip: Hera says these unfortunate birds are evil, and I trust her word. I had hoped that Paldas would reveal a way to heal these creatures, but he has yet to inspire me. Pinky, come with me.
Pinky: Where are we going, Chip?
Chip: We’re going to try to catch the one that landed over there with this birding net.
Pinky: Good idea, Chip! Here, I can carry you with my dragon strength and my pixie wings!
((Sfx: pixie wings))
The Wiz: (multiple) Lobster strength! Learn what kinda creature you are, Pinky!
Chip: Just ignore her, Pinky. That’s a great idea! You take these two corners of the net, and I’ll take the other two.
Pinky: Got ’em. Now let me just get my arms around your chest… and let’s go!
((Sfx: pixie charge))
DM: Uhh… I don’t think this is going to work the way you guys think it will. I think you’re just going to get Chip all tangled up in the net.
Chip: Not if we do it like we’ve been practicing! Now, Pinky!
((Sfx: d20 roll))
DM: Pinky jets upward, 8 Units shy of their target. At the apex of her arc, she lets go of Chip, and flits over the top, to his opposite side. This maneuver leaves them face-to-face, with arms outspread, holding the net open as it careens toward the third Dire Buzzard.
((Sfx: falling?, pixie flitting stops as she flits over the top, net sound, buzzard squawk))
Pinkie: Perfectly executed! I’m glad all those drills you had us run while we camped paid off, Chip!
Chip: It’s thanks to the hard work we all put in, Pinkie. And now that we have this poor beast captured, we can treat its sickness.
DM: A black energy gathers in the Dire Buzzard’s leaking eye holes, and a ray of chaotic energies sweeps upward toward Pinky.
((Sfx: ray of destruction, d20 roll))
Pinky: Whoa! Pixie Dodge!
DM: Do you want the good news or the bad news first, guys?
The Wiz: (multiple) Ooh! I love the old, good news/bad news game! If you choose the right order, it doesn’t sound so bad. But if you choose wrong, it sounds way worse! What’s the order gonna be, boss halfling?
Chip: Hrm. I guess bad, then good. It’s always better to end on a high note.
DM: The bad news is that the buzzard is now free and its chaos beam just ruined your net. The good news is that Pinky is safe and she didn’t let go of her side.
The Wiz: (multiple) Well, I guess it’s up to me to get that beam-eyed buzzard under control. And the best way to calm anything down is a Rainbow Pattern!
((Sfx: Rainbow Pattern))
DM: Each of the seven Wizes moves her hands as if working a loom. In seconds, they each produce a ribbon of colored light, the seven bands stretching toward the three beings who so deftly avoided being tangled in the net. The seven colored bands swirl and dance around the Dire Buzzard. Its wings fold, and it sits upon the ground, following the swirling, psychedelic patterns of magic with its eyeless face.
Åx: Leaving it fully open and vulnerable to a Shocking Axe! GWRW OER!
Chip: Åx, no! We should help it!
((Sfx: charging boots?, d20 roll, axe hit, shocking grasp,))
DM: Åx’s mighty weapon arcs directly toward the center of the Dire Buzzard’s neck, lodging in one of its vertebrae. It then discharges a storm of electricity throughout the bird’s nervous system, overloading its brain and shutting down all of its motor functions.
Hera: I understand your compassion, Chip, but you didn’t see what I did. Those things were… corrupted. Everything about them was just wrong in every way. They are suffused with the antithesis to existence itself. These poor birds cannot be helped.
Pinky: Hey, guys. Weren’t there four buzzards?
Engar: Oh, yes. There were, weren’t there. The fourth must still be up in the sky. Let me just dispel the clouds I summoned, so we can find it.
Adanska: I do not see a fourth buzzard.
The Wiz: (transition to single) Me neither, and I’m learning to see through all of my mirror images at once!
Chip: This place seems quite dangerous. We should go back to the glass road and set up camp. Then tomorrow, we’ll go through the Portal of Pa’vos, help the Emperor, and…
Chip: Åx: The Wiz: Engar: Pinky: Adanska: Hera: SPREAD THE NEWS!
Scene 4: Credit where Credit is Due
Rhomande: Visit The 20-Sided Theatre online at twentysidedtheatre.com. You can also follow us on Twitter through scryomagical links that Imenand and Thrimlach have established. You can follow the Twenty Sided Theatre @20SidedTheatre, the Insuperable Rhomande Sorfinde @IllustriousRho, Master Tmenand Shenouda @ShenoudaNecroCo, Thrimlach ceatharan @Thrimlach, Issa Featherfoot @LadyFeatherfoot, and Spirit of the Swift Wind @SpiritOTSW.
Issa: The 20-Sided Theatre is a joint production of Bear Industries and the Shenouda Necromancy Corporation. This Episode stars Gabriel Abinante, Natalie Abinante, Blake Parker, Ceridwen Quattrin, Cian Quattrin, and Rudraigh Quattrin.
Stiev: Original Adventure and Ssstory by Blake Parker. Ssscript adaptatiiion by Rudraigh Quattrin. Edited by Blake Parker.
Imenand: Music by …
Imenand: For a complete list of and links to all the music and sound effects you heard on tonight's episode visit the show notes at 20sidedtheatre.com. While you’re there, consider donating to the upkeep and production of the Twenty Sided Theatre. Subscribe to and favorably rate us us on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. If you don’t…
Maldreth: Join us next time at The 20-Sided Theatre!
Scene 5: The Tag
Maldreth: Sit down and shut up, meatsacks. The Father of War commands your rapt attention. You shall close your eyes and you shall shut your ears to your worlds. My voice will now guide your minds toward the Inner Peace of Makar.
Maldreth: Take in a deep breath. Hold the breath in your nose and in your lungs. Smell the blood of the fallen and the stench of burning peasants upon the air. Hold these smells in the nose of your mind. Now exhale through your mouth. Taste the coppery tang of your own injuries. Taste the bile in your throat, as you catch a passing whiff of a coward’s evacuated bowels.
Maldreth: Open your ears to the sounds of carnage. Hear the echoes of weapons clattering on shields and breastplates. Hear the soft crunch, as axe meets bone. You know not which side in this battle the louder screams are coming from, but that is of no consequence now.
Maldreth: This is of no consequence, because your part in this battle has come to its inevitable end. The battle is life, and yours is pooling out into the dirt beneath your caved-in chest cavity. The mace was unseen, but you know it was there, by the marks it left. It is gone, as you shall soon be, but its effects will last a while, for all to behold. You bear no ill will toward the mace, nor to its wielder. You would have done the same, had you been half a second quicker.
Maldreth: Now open the eye of your mind. See the sun, glaring down into your grimacing face. You cannot turn your head away from the sun, for when you fell from your steed, you landed upon your neck, separating and snapping your third vertebra from the fourth. See a body pass between your eyes and the sun. The body above you is still living; still fighting. This is of no consequence, though. The body’s movement is of no consequence. The body’s identity is of no consequence. You are of no consequence. You never have been. But your memory may yet serve a purpose.
Maldreth: Watch the sun’s harsh light fade from the eye of your mind. Feel all muscles relax. Shit yourself if you feel like it. It’s okay; nobody of consequence will know. Let the clatter and clamor of battle fade away from your hearing. Even the terrible smells are now growing distant. Let the darkness overtake you. Feel your heart slowing. Beat. Beat. (pause) Beat. (longer pause) Beat.
Maldreth: Now shut your minds and open your eyes. The real ones, not the damed mind’s eye, again, you dolt! Now you’ve felt a modicum of peace. That’s all you deserve. You can rest when you’re dead. And until you die, you owe 10% of all production to the Church of War. Send your tithes to the Chapel of St. Turbulus, care of the Frozen Summit Crossplanar Bar & Grill, Scottalia, YO-na-then, The Empire. You will tithe, or else the Faithful of Makar shall take the Warfather’s due from your fallen corpse.
Rhomande: This guided meditation has been paid programming, brought to you by the Church of War. The 20-Sided Theatre accepts all forms of payment for all communications from all beings… for a very steep price.