The Stonebound Monk, Part 3
- Chase Rombek, a Mystical Nano who Sees Beyond, played by Frank
- Jak, a Mutant Glaive who Constantly Evolves, played by Craig
- Glyquorg, an Exiled Jack who Controls Animals, played by Andy
- Elehar, a Tough Glaive who Rages, played by Scott
- Ralyx, a Mlox Jack who Throws with Deadly Accuracy, played by Marc
Non-Player Characters of Note
- Khavi, Ex-Tribal Leader whose flesh was melded into a Hontri
The trip from Nihliesh to the Ice Wall was just over two-hundred miles and fortunately for the determined bounty hunters of the Broken Mask, there were only twenty miles left in the trek. It was morning, and for the last several days the team traversed a large plateau while journeying to the southern mountains. Despite the common misconception that the Matheunis Cold Desert was a snow-covered landscape, the material that covered the plateau, while having the general consistency of snow, upon further examination was more like ground glass, ash, and drit. When the winds picked up, the “desert snow” would blast the travelers, getting into their eyes and under their garments, causing terrible itching and discomfort. It was a miracle that anyone could cross the Cold Desert even with the proper equipment.
Of course, the fact that the party found a wandering Mlox carpenter just sitting by a failed campfire on the last morning of their trip was quite astounding. The “man” (a Mlox is a mechanical brain encased in an organic body) was a jovial sort, good natured and quite affable, but he was terribly lost. His name was Ralyx, and he explained that he was from somewhere in the Steadfast and that he was terrible with directions. He was from Navarene… or Thaemor… actually he wasn’t sure about that last part. After a brief discussion, the Unmasked Seekers agreed that having an extra set of hands in the group, especially those that were exceptionally skilled at woodcraft and throwing large objects, would be a good thing.
Stretching out ahead of the party was their last twenty miles, but this would be their most difficult portion of the trek. After descending from the southern edge of the plateau there was a long stretch leading right up to the base of the Ice Wall, and this stretch was completely flat, save for the crevasses that lined the frozen plain. Fatoosh had warned the party to stay out of the crevasses, and from the long, carved caverns came wailing and moaning, “screams of the damned” that echoed across the plain. Although the Unmasked Seekers hoped that the sounds were merely a natural occurrence, an acoustic effect, deep within their souls they knew this not to be the case. “Something” was making these sounds… something living. But the trip across the plain did not look at all comforting. Every so often a horrible wind would blast across the flat surface, scouring all that lay in its path. Knowing that the material on the ground, the desert snow, was already an irritating material when swept at a few dozen miles-per-hour, the thought of this substance being whipped at a hurricane force wind towards the party was absolutely terrifying. Luckily, Fatoosh had crafted the special tents for the bounty hunters, and these devices would end up saving their lives.
Slowly, the team guided their snowlopers across the plain, careful to keep an eye out for a squall. It would only be an hour before the first unforgettable micro-gale would tear into the travelers. Elehar, aware of the conditions of the Cold Desert, had an uncanny feeling of impending danger, and quickly dismounted before the storm hit, while Ralyx’s improved perception thanks to his third eye allowed him to see the blowing drit while it was still several hundred feet away. Unfortunately Chase and Jak were not so lucky. While the Mlox and Tough Glaive fell to the ground and started setting up their storm tent, the former Aeon Priest and Mutant turned to face the storm and were immediately blasted by shards of the desert snow. The howling wind tore at their clothes and their skin, and after just a few moments, any flesh that was exposed was ripped away and added to the squall’s mass of material. Chase was flung several dozen feet behind the rest of the party, the force of the wind lifting the nano as if he were a leaf. Jak eventually set up their storm tent, and not wanting to be affected by the weather again, Chase used his personal environment field to protect himself while out in the open. Both snowlopers tucked themselves into long, aerodynamic tubes, and faced the blasting wind. Apparently these creatures were already used to this kind of storm.
The Unmasked Seekers seemed to have this challenge licked until Elehar made a slight error in judgment. Hoping to better secure the storm tent in which he and Ralyx were taking cover, the Tough Glaive tied one of the spikes off to the Mlox and not to the tent itself. A whip of wind caught the tent at just the right angle, and the cover flew off into the sky. At this point Chase was making his way towards his tent when he saw a terrifying sight. Ralyx was lying on the ground, holding on with all of his might to a pair of fifty foot long ropes, each secured to the storm tent which was now flying like a kite.
Attached to the storm tent kite was a certain glaive, blowing in the gale with a look of absolute glee on his face. Despite being in terrible peril, this didn’t faze Elehar whatsoever; in fact, he was having a terrific time at first. This was not the case for Ralyx. The poor Mlox [whose player rolled two consecutive “2’s”] was screaming in agony, his bare arms outstretched into the wind while he tried desperately to hold on to storm tent and his fellow party member. The squall tore much of the skin from both of his arms, at some points down to the bone. Help came from out of nowhere, as Chase charged across the blowing sands and grabbed the ropes. The nano and jack started pulling the glaive back to the ground, and once they succeeded the entire team returned to their former positions. At the end of the storm the party quickly patched themselves up and continued on their quest.
Despite several more storms that would flare up, now that they knew what they were looking for the Unmasked Seekers were much better prepared. Setting up their tents was a breeze, and since Chase’s personal environment field would function for a full twenty-eight hour day, the nano was in charge of securing the devices and their occupants to the ground. By the end of the day the party was within a mile of the Ice Wall, and they got their first look of the structures that were near the Icebourne Monastery.
The Ice Wall, a terrific mountain range that separated the south pole of the Ninth World from the Beyond, was over four-thousand feet high at this point in the range, and this staggering increase was initially at a near vertical slope. The monastery was clearly visible; an opaque dome situated around fifteen hundred feet up the wall. Just below the dome, at five hundred feet in elevation, were a series of pillars or obelisks. At the base was an abandoned encampment. As the party approached, Elehar recognized some of the banners surrounding the old camp as those of Khavi, leader of a rival tribe of southern nomads. Khavi’s tribe splintered from Elehar’s, seeking the great “Sky Kings.” She was charismatic but mad, and had a zealous following. Still, entering the camp, it seemed like the tribe was nowhere to be found, and had vacated the camp roughly three months before. There were a few trinkets and a hidden artifact amongst the abandoned encampment, but no bodies. There were, however, thousands of bones that formed a path up from the camp towards the spires and monoliths five-hundred feet ahead. Although the Ice Wall was nearly vertical when one reached the domed monastery, the first leg of the trip was at a difficult but manageable forty-five degrees. And the bones formed the first path.
Since it was late, the party set up camp and spent the night listening to the howling winds as they whipped across the mountain range. The jagged structure of the Ice Wall protected the travelers from the terrible desert snows, and it was an uneventful evening. But the morning brought a foreboding warning. Ralyx was on the last watch, and he was admiring a planet in the sky: Venus. The Mlox followed the wandering planet like the North Star, which is pretty much one of the reasons why he was always so terribly lost. When a giant bird form, nearly fifty feet across, eclipsed the bright speck in the sky however, Ralyx freaked out. He woke the rest of the team, but after several moments scanning the skies, the seasoned bounty hunters just shrugged and decided to break camp.
Chase feared that walking on the bones would be a bad omen, and advised that the crew ascended through some of the rocky outcroppings. Glyquorg, who had been quiet for much of the trek [GM’s note, Andy wasn’t able to make the game] was commanded to guard the snowlopers since they wouldn’t be able to travel off the path at such a severe grade. When the Unmasked Seekers were close to the obelisks, they noticed that they were massive, several foot wide structures of rusted rebar that jutted out from the ground towards the sky. Each of the dozen or so pieces was sheared off at the top, and ground at the base was covered with a mixture of rust and massive gobs of white avian feces.
Chase wanted to examine the bases of the rebar obelisks, and moved between the structures. The nano was pleased when he found a hidden passage that led into the face of the mountain, and was just about to open the doorway when a large shadow appeared in the sky. Ralyx jumped for joy, thrilled that his machine mind hadn’t gone mad, as a pair of enormous Hontri, massive birds of prey capable of lifting a man right off the ground with their talons, appeared. One of the birds landed on a piece of the rebar, and from its chest the party witnessed a horrifying sight. A face, which Elehar believed to be Khavi, was sticking out of the bird’s feathery flesh, and a voice groaned with pleasure:
“Elehar, come join us… join the Sky Kings… it’s so nice in here.” With that, the two birds began to swoop down upon a seemingly tasty lunch.
As Chase dodged one of the birds, running back to the party, Elehar and Ralyx acted fast. The tough glaive struck the diving bird as it flew past, carving a large slice out of its wing. Then the Mlox jack pulled a small, fleshy device that appeared to be a cross between a fruit and a spleen and lobbed it at the passing target. When it exploded, the distress detonation forced the Hontri onto the ground, where it heaved relentlessly, gagging up its last several meals. Within moments Elehar was charging up behind the beast, carving away with his greatsword while the poor monster could do little to defend itself. Chase and Jak worked on the other bird-of-prey, the nano focusing onslaughts of fiery light towards the creature while Jak’s piercing arrows peppered the soaring hunter. Neither of the birds were able to do much against the party. The Unmasked Seekers decided that day to not be fused into the bodies of the Hontri, and slaughtered the flying creatures with little regard for the poor souls trapped therein.
"I think for this entire campaign, my goal is to follow Marc…" - Frank was already toying with Marc's character's issue with directions.
"He was trying to find someplace warm, and this is where he ended up… he just picked the wrong damn direction." - Marc explaining Ralyx's wayward travels.
"We don't want to be the next ones moaning!" - Chase had no interest in the crevasses.
Jim (GM): "Any order of watch?"
Marc: "Andy has volunteered to stay up all night."
Ralyx: "But the bird thing!"
Elehar: "Keep an eye out for it."
Rakyx: *whisper* I've been keeping an eye out for it...