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The Devil’s Spine: Session 10

Having conversed with the great Aurturi and received its sting and the subsequent changes, Leena, Odd, Radinator, Xenath, Xi, Zarvox, and Dãv entered once more into the pit once more. This time, they stopped in the room with the sarcophagus and took the young woman’s body with them. Using it to trigger the ‘clappers,’ they easily passed through that danger and descended down the elevator shaft into the room filled with floating chunks of shattered glass.

They approached the door that had remained sealed despite their valiant efforts and placed a hand on it. A wave of light shimmered across its surface and it rose silently into the ceiling, revealing a lavish, open room. Once-beautiful paintings adorned the walls, and a red carpet ran down the center beneath three chandeliers to the base of an imposing statue of the Queen. Placing a glowglobe in a pocket in the nearby wall, the chandeliers fill the room with cool blue illumination.

Odd approached the statue to see if it might be the ‘trap-laden statue’ referenced in a previously found clue and discovered that it was trap-laden when its eyes glowed red and a voice from around the room, “Defile NOT my final rest! Leave now while you have your life!” The chandeliers also turned red and a profound terror filled the minds of Leena, Radinator, and Zarvox. They tried bolting from the room, but Xi and Odd was able to stop them, where they remained cowering in fear for another minute or so.

Gathering their resources, it was decided that everyone would wait outside the room while Xi ran up to the statue to affix part of a cypher to it, allowing Radinator to remotely deactivate it. With the statue subdued, Odd opted to cut out a few of the paintings that were in good enough shape that they might be worth something. Zarvox asked Dãv to cut out the painting that depicted the same royal crest that was on his shield, and the culova climbed up the wall and easily sliced through the canvas, bringing him back the work of art.

Departing from the room through the doorway behind the statue before the cypher wore off, they approached a deep, wide chasm. A rope bridge was attached to two floating black rectangular objects and extended across the chasm to matching blocks on the opposite side. Zarvox told Dãv to stay on this side then stepped out onto the bridge. It immediately collapsed under his weight and he fell the 80 feet or so to the floor below.

Xi took some of his rope and tied one end to one of the Reality Spikes and tossed the other end down into the chasm. Grabbing ahold of the rope, Odd jumped onto his back and they safely descended down to where Zarvox lay surrounded by massive pieces of broken machinery. Radinator followed, leaving Leena up top with Dãv.

After everyone took a few moments to take in their surroundings and tend to Zarvox’s wounds, Zarvox called up to Dãv and asked him to climb down and provide some assistance. After the spidery creature descended, they explained to it that they’d like it to climb up the other side of the chasm and tie the other end of the rope to one of the blocks there, providing a way for everyone to climb out. It agreed and carefully made its way up the smooth wall. Once it arrived it at the top, it deftly secured it, leaving a very taut line stretching across the chasm back to where Leena waited. The remainder of the rope dropped back down to the bottom where the others were.

Odd climbed back onto Xi’s back and let the fabulous Seeker do all the work to climb up to the top. Radinator and Zarvox followed behind, chuckling at their companions’ antics. Leena slowly made her way out onto the rope across the chasm and made it about halfway before her grip gave out and she fell to the ground below. She lay there groaning for several minutes before dragging herself to the dangling rope. Tying herself to it, the others pulled her up to the doorway.

Reunited once more, they spent the next hour resting and recovering before continuing down the hallway, which Xi lit by infusing it with a significant amount of light. It opened into another room that had a humming machine in the center of it. Xi ran into the room yelling, “I am Groot!”

As he ran in, three monstrous creatures emerged from the shadows. Each bore physical characteristics of Radinator, Xi, Odd, Zarvox, Xenath, and Leena. A fight broke out, as the heroes fought for their lives. Their fear rose as each slain monster was absorbed into the living, making it bigger and stronger. But their efforts finally prevailed and they were left alone in the room with the humming machine.

Odd remotely deactivated it and their attention was drawn to a clear synth cylinder on the far side of the room. They decided to camp out in the room to regain their strength before continuing.

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The Devil’s Spine: Session 9

  • Xi unsuccessfully tries to use his beam lance to cut through the door…several times
  • They decide to retrace their steps and revisit Aurturi
  • Xi fabulously dives through one of the smashing panels but is painfully caught in the second one in the middle of his back handspring
  • The are surprised to discover that all of the traps and pressure plates in a previous room have moved. The path they once thought safe was safe no longer
  • They explore the other passageway – which lead to a small, empty room and an overhead surprise
  • Zarvox was able to talk down a very confused, angry, and hurt culova, offering it protection if it would stay close to him.
  • In their remorse, most of the party offered the spidery creature restorative cyphers or food and helped bandage up the very wounds they caused
  • They then discovered a burial chamber complete with an occupied sarcophagus
  • Leena got her hand smashed in the lid when it closed on its own, and when she reopened it, a gust of air hit her hand making it feel a bit better
  • She then sprayed her canister of sparkling spray into the sarcophagus just as the lid closed
  • Continuing their ascent, they were momentarily stumped by the tunnel with the coded doors, but they were able to figure out the pattern and emerged once more in the side of the deep shaft.
  • Everyone ascended the rope, some more bravely than others, and found themselves once more in front of the shimmering doorway leading to Aurturi
  • Hemming and hawing about what to do, they finally decided to spend the rest of the night outside on the landing, getting some rest and recovering from their foray into the Pit
  • When morning came, they approached Aurturi and had a discussion with it about the Sting of Death it offered as well as the deal it had brokered with Bach. They then offered him a promise of genocide in exchange for a similar deal. Aurturi agreed to ponder the offer.
  • Odd decided to take the plunge and asked Aurturi for the Sting. It happily (and speedily) complied, stabbing the man in the chest with its venom-dripping tail. Odd froze, paralized for a long moment before coming to once again. In addition to being hurt, he discovered that his neck had grown about 6 inches longer.
  • One by one, the rest received the Sting of Death and were one by one transformed in some way:
    • Odd’s parasite grew a tail
    • Zarvox grew gill-like appendages on his neck
    • Xenath’s lips turned a dark shade of purple
    • Xenath’s parasite developed a thick fur coat
    • Leena’s teeth became pointed
    • Xi found himself covered in lumps that each looked a bit like Odd

Having felt the Sting of Death, they thanked Aurturi and departed.

The Devil’s Spine: Session 7

Stepping through the doorway to the left, they quickly are forced to take another sharp, left turn into a room filled with beautiful works of art. Golden urns, silver vases, plump leather bags with copper buckles, and a shield hanging on the far wall with the royal crest of Queen Starloscet. In the center of the room was a pedestal, made of the same black brick as the rest of the room, and on top of it was a wooden chest, bound by a thick, iron lock.

The chest quickly drew everyone’s attention, and Odd scanned it for Numenera. Sensing that the lock would be a tricky one to open, he was extra careful in his attempt and was pleased when the lock popped open. As he was still scanning the box, he got the impression that something had just been triggered inside and he felt the box grow ever so slightly warmer. A debate ensued regarding whether or not to open it, but it was settled when Xenath boldly threw the lid back. A great bout of super-hot plasma erupted from the chest, splattering its spray across the ceiling, walls, and floor. With the exception of Xi, who was studying a fabulous-looking urn, everyone was able to safely dodge the brunt of the expulsion. Xi however, was badly burned by the plasma.

The room was now well-lit from the urns and vases which were on fire, and everyone was immediately far more cautious. They all took a much closer look at the charred remains of the central pedestal, and Odd found a small canister that had once held the now-cooled plasma. He tucked it away for future use…you never know when a flask will come in handy!

Zenath took down the shield that was hanging from the wall, and Leena saw something behind it that was just a bit off – a brick was loose! She pushed on it, and the entire wall receded slightly then slid to the left, revealing a long, dark hallway. The ceramic floor was wide enough for two people to walk abreast, and the walls were made of plaster painted to look like bricks.

Holding his glowing dagger aloft, Xi strode into the hallway, followed closely behind by Radinator. As soon as they stepped foot into the hallway, spears stabbed out at them from the walls. Xi was quite light on his feet and escaped the trap with enough time to yank Radinator to safety. Looking closer at the plaster walls, Zenath smashes his new shield into the wall, only to feel the plaster give way under the force of the synthsteel. Peering inside it, he could see the mechanisms of the spear trap line the entire hallway. Odd, being familiar with the construction of such traps, easily disables the traps along both sides of the hallway. In doing so, he was able to scavenge a couple of cyphers: two were capable of launching objects at long distances and the other two had barbed spearheads attached to a coil of cable.

Odd declared the hallway safe, but most opted to walk behind the walls than down the hallway. Only Xenath and Xi trusted Odd’s handiwork enough to walk down the hallway. With each step, they felt the floors trigger mechanisms that were now disabled. Reaching the end of the hallway, it turned left, leading into an octagonal-shaped room.

The entire room was made of a smooth metal, and in the center was a cylindrical column that reached from floor to ceiling. Protruding from four sides of the column were flat plates of metal, also reaching from floor to ceiling. Opposite the column-attached plates were matching metal surfaces in the four corners of the room.

To the left, they could see a bundle of cloth lying on the floor. Zenath told his faithful seskii companion to go fetch the cloth and bring it back. As soon as the animal passed between two of the plates, they smashed together with incredible force. The plates locked in place together for a few seconds then retracted apart. The seskii,  who had no chance to escape, was little more than a smear on the metal surfaces. Remnants of bone, fur, and spikes littered the floor to either side of where the plates had met. A heavy, fearful silence hung amongst the party in response to the rapidity of death they had just witnessed.

Slowly coming out of their shock, Xarvox took his nigh-indestructible scarf and whipped it between the plates. Nothing happened. Confusion and curiousity taking over, they vainly threw a variety of things between the plates, Scanned the column (discovering it would be impossible to damage), and shot energy bolts at the plates (which did more damage to the party than it did the plates).

Leena then revealed to the others a cypher which would allow her to telekinetically bring something to her from a distance. Using it, she summoned the pile of cloth. It rose into the air and passed between the plates, only to have them smash together once again, obliterating the bundle. Taking advantage of the time the plates were pressed together, Xi crawled under the bar pushing the plate. Once the plates separated, the bundle of cloth continued to Leena who opened them to discover the remnants of an old skeleton. Pocketing a synth ring and a rusty dagger, they asked Xi what he could see around the column.

He could now see the far exit, but it was blocked by another set of plates. Through the exit, he could see a cable dangling from the ceiling with some sort of ball attached to the end of it. Hoping that it was the key to disabling the plates, he fired a web-detonation cypher, rolled to him by Odd, at the column between the two sets of plates (between him and the entrance and between him and the exit). An explosion of pink goop covered the column, wrapping around the edges of the plates. After giving it a moment to set, Xi took a running leap through the plates toward the cable. Spinning fabulously through the air, he felt the concussive force of the plates smashing together behind him. After a dramatic pause, he called to the others letting them know he had made it safely.

He strode to the cable and pulled on it, to no effect. He pushed at it, letting it swing back and forth for a moment. Finally, he took the ball in his hand and squeezed. Immediately the floor beneath his feet began rapidly descending. He let go as quickly as he could, which stopped his descent. Looking up, he could see that he had dropped a good 15′ in just a split second. Not knowing what else to do, he squeezed the ball again, and descended another 135′ down the shaft. Looking out into another well-decorated (though very dirty and grimy) hallway, he began searching the walls of the shaft for any type of return lever or button. Though he didn’t sense pressing anything, the floor began rising, just as rapidly as it had descended. Entering the room with the metallic plates once more, he called to the others and let them know what he had found.

After a brief discussion about what to do,  Xenath took a running dive through the plates. They smashed together behind him as he gracefully rolled to his feet on the other side. The others took advantage of the opportunity and crawled to join him. Knowing that Xi was watching him, he took  his scarf in hand and lept through the plates again, pirouetting in the air. He landed with a flourish of the scarf, applauded by the harsh sound of the plates clapping together. Xi, not overly impressed critiqued, “You hesitated there. You could have done better.” The others were impressed though, and safely crawled to the other side.

All together again, they went into the elevator and Xi grabbed the ball once again. Xenath placed his burly hand over Xi’s and also squeezed. Amid dubious looks, the elevator descended once again, where Radinator, Odd, Zarvox, and Xi stepped off into the hallway. Xenath and Leena stayed on the elevator, where Xenath tied a piece of rope around the ball to maintain pressure on it.

Odd scanned this new area for traps and found that it was safe, and Leena, from the safety of the elevator, took a good look around the room. Along the wall to the left was another plastered wall bearing a beautiful mural, depicting the glorious reign of Queen Starloscet. She floated in the air above a lush, verdant landscape where people were gathering in grain and tending flocks. Leena saw that something looked a bit off about one group of harvesters, the colors weren’t quite as vivid as the rest. In a corner on the opposite side of the room were two corpses: one sitting up and the other curled into a fetal position. And in the center of the room a glass disc floated about 4′ off the floor. The table-like piece of glass was about three inches thick and about 7′ across. Her view of the room was interrupted by the elevator suddenly rising once more.

Mindless of his destruction of a work of art, Zarvox pounded away at the plaster wall, revealing a hidden room behind. Xi went from ridiculing Zarvox to joining him at the hole, curious as to what lay on the other side. His glowing dagger revealed a long-abandoned workroom, with a table and shelves covered in dust. The table had an assortment of crafting tools and the shelves bore remnants of building supplies: bricks, lumber, mortar, etc. Looking closer, Xi could see that there were some parchments tucked between some bricks on one of the shelves. As Xi, Radinator, and Odd enter the room to retrieve the papers, Zarvox goes up to the floating table and places his hand on it. As soon as he does, a silver fluid flows from the ceiling, congealing and morphing into the semblance of a human face. It speaks:

When the message ended, the face transformed into a silvery mist that dissipated throughout the room.

At that point, the elevator arrived at the bottom of the shaft once more (Xenath and Leena had arrived at the top and immediately descended again). Xenath, seeing Zarvox at the table, also went up and placed his hand on it. The silvery face reappeared, the message replayed, and the room was filled just a little bit more with some mist.

Xi had pulled the parchments free and examined them, only to find them written in a language he could not recognize. But he had prior experience in deciphering unknown languages, and after spending a couple of minutes studying it, he discovered that they were notes made by the builders of the tomb. He was able to glean several useful pieces of information:

  • Push the yellow button to activate the teleporter
  • Auturi’s sting must be felt
  • A statue of the queen is a trap
  • Something lives in the areas outside of the tomb
  • It is very difficult if not impossible to use the elevator to get back to the upper level

Meanwhile, Radinator and Zarvox began searching the bodies of the two corpses. They had apparently died from starvation, but the few shins and the buzzer they carried were still useful. Having scavenged what they could, Zarvox rearranged the skeletons into the position of star-crossed lovers.

Odd stepped from the workroom and being able to talk to machines, he remotely activated the table. He saw the silvery face form from the ceiling, and heard the undecipherable message. While it was speaking, Leena ran out and sprayed it with her can of glittering spray paint. When the face exploded into mist, the glitter hung in the air for a moment longer than the mist did. In that moment, the face briefly morphed into a semblance of Aurturi before dissipating.

Moving from the table, Odd then Scanned the iron door at the far end of the hall. He couldn’t see any latches or hinges, but he could tell that there were some mechanisms that extended down the hallway to the left. Relaying that information to the others, Xi took his glowing dagger and refractory lens and moved down the hallway with Xenath. He saw wooden door on the right and another room opening up at the end of the hall. Behind him, Zarvox placed hand on the glass table again, surprised to discover the mercurial face did not appear. He left, following Radinator, Xi, and Xenath into the room at the end of the hall.

Leena, curious as to why the face didn’t appear for Zarvox, touched the table. The face descended once again, relaying its message, and she sprayed it for an even longer period of time, and the semblance to Aurturi appeared more pronounced with the sparkle before dissipating. She then followed the others.

Entering the new room, Xi found a pedestal in the middle, about 6′ by 3′, and on the surrounding walls were an assortment of clay, ceramic, or glass jars. There was a crack in a wall, and a black, tarry substance had oozed from it, coating its way down the wall and partway across the floor.

Xi stepped back and took a closer look at the doorway they had passed. Finding it locked, he stuck his dagger into the lock and tried to jimmy it open. He felt the tumblers fall into place, and he pushed the door open. Feeling the hairs raise on the back of his neck, he threw himself to the side just as a massive, spike ball broke through the ceiling overhead and swung through the doorway.

Oblivious to what was going on in the hallway outside, Xenath took his spear and poked it into the black goo. At the contact, thousands of black spores flew into the air, causing all who were in there (Radinator, Xenath, Zarvox, and Leena) to start violently coughing. Grabbing some jars off the shelves on their way out, Radinator, Xenath, and Zarvox left the room, continuing to hack and cough painfully. Radinator and Xenath found themselves holding a jar of poison and a healing salve, but Zarvox’s only held water. Leena spent more time looking at the jars, fruitlessly trying to find one with an air-tight seal. She was able to determine though that most of the jars had held types of embalming ingredients, and that this room was likely used to prepare a body for burial.

Peering into the room he just opened, Xi saw a room with walls made of brick and floors covered in old, rotting wood. In the far corner, he saw a rusted, iron wheel. Odd came in with him and made sure that it was trap-free. Wielding his beam-sword, he was able to cut through the chain locking the wheel in place. Watched by Leena, Xi and Radinator took hold of the wheel and with a sound of screeching metal, began to turn it. Odd, who had returned to the iron door with Zarvox and Xenath, saw it slide down into the floor.

On the far side of the door was a short hallway ending in a metal wall. Etched into the wall was the outline of another door. Everyone squeezed into the small room while Odd Scanned the door. Determining that it was keyed to some sort of genetic marker, everyone began touching various things to the door in the hopes of activating it: their hands, the tattooed face bore by Xenath, the ring Leena found, speaking sternly to it, the bones of the star-crossed lovers, Xi even licked it! Leena ran back to the embalming chamber, grabbed a jar and tried using that, but it was all to no avail.

Desperate for a solution, Xenath hurried back to the builder’s room, took a shallow container and returned to the embalming chamber. Then he scooped up a big glob of the black ooze…..

The Devil’s Spine: Session 1

Where the party agrees to watch the Baron’s estate and quickly find themselves wrapped up in something much bigger as they discover a secret room beneath the estate and are infected by parasites.

Shish is eaten, tools are borrowed, seskiis are befriended, and conversations are had with statues.

“Pantser” or “Outliner”

Over the years I’ve struggled getting started with writing anything longer than a short story or a couple of scenes. In one of the podcasts I listen to (Writing Excuses), they talk about two types of writers: Pantsers and Outliners

Pantsers are discovery writers. They have a vague idea of where they want the story to go and figure it out as they go along. Outliners are the opposite. They create a very-detailed outline of everything that’s going to happen from start to finish then fill in the little gaps with more words, causing the story to appear.

I’ve had a very hard time finding where I fit into that. I like being able to discover what happens as I write, but I like the idea of having the plot laid out for me. I’ve tried relying on either method and both have left me frustrated and discouraged.

Then one of the hosts (Dan Wells) mentioned in an episode that he falls somewhere in the middle. He creates a rough outline with the major points of what he wants the story to look like then discovery writes as he fills in the gaps of his outline. When he said that, it suddenly clicked for me that this ‘new writing style’ is what would work for me! It explains why I’ve been so frustrated with trying to write exclusively as either a Pantser or an Outliner. I’m a little bit of both!

I like to discover the story as I write, but I having a frame could provide the much-needed structure to my stories. This is probably why whenever I struggle writing an email I find myself plopping down the main points then elaborating on those points until I have a well-formed message.

So, with this new self-awareness, it’s time for me to go back to all those stories I started writing and build up a rough outline for them to give me some direction to discover what’s going to happen.

 

2016 Reading List

~~Currently Reading~~

~~Read~~

  1. Forge of Darkness
  2. The Lightning Thief
  3. The Sea of Monsters
  4. The Titan’s Curse
  5. The Battle of the Labrynth
  6. The Last Olympian
  7. The First Confessor
  8. The Omen Machine
  9. The Bands of Mourning
  10. Mistborn: Secret History
  11. The Third Kingdom
  12. Severed Souls
  13. Warheart
  14. Staying is the new Going
  15. The Princess and the Goblin
  16. The Only Pirate at the Party
  17. Calamity
  18. The Red Pyramid
  19. The Princess and Curdie
  20. Dune
  21. The Queen’s Poisoner
  22. The Throne of Fire
  23. The Serpent’s Shadow
  24. Gemini Cell
  25. The Emperor’s Blades
  26. The Providence of Fire
  27. Perfect State
  28. The Last Mortal Bond
  29. Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
  30. Bluescreen
  31. Leviathan Wakes
  32. Javelin Rain
  33. Gunner’s Apprentice
  34. The Martian
  35. Hollow City
  36. I, Night Angel
  37. Throne Of Glass
  38. The Rithmatist
  39. The Lies of Locke Lamora
  40. Uprooted
  41. Real Marriage
  42. Red Seas under Red Skies
  43. The Republic of Thieves
  44. Freedom from Performing
  45. Tales Beyond the Ninth World
  46. The Sparrow
  47. The Blood Mirror
  48. Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  49. Oh Crap! Potty Training
  50. 30 Day Praise Challenge
  51. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes
  52. Ren of Atikala
  53. Ready Player One