Monday, February 13, 2017

[Pathfinder] Mummy's Mask, part 14: The Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh

Session 19
Character level: 6th
After departing from the sceaduinar the Ruby Scarabs returned to the priests’ living area where they had fought with the crypt thing. There was a set of doors they had yet to open, which they had already learned were magically enhanced. Kaa checked the doors for traps and found none. The doors were securely locked, and after several attempts the tengu was unable to unlock them. Even a prayer to Pharasma didn’t provide any assistance. Igby realized that the magical effect on the doors was an abjuration effect, which likely was contributing to the difficulty in picking the lock. At this point Azzaria decided it was time for a different approach. She took out her adamantine flail and bashed the doors open. This dissipated the magic effect, confirming Igby’s opinion.

On the other side of the doors lay a short staircase leading down. At the bottom of the stairs could be seen a small fountain, and beyond it a pair of stone feet. When the Scarabs descended the stairs they found themselves in a small antechamber that was unusually quiet, its vaulted ceiling muffling the sound of the burbling water from the fountain at its center. On either side of the chamber a pit appeared. On the opposite side of the fountain from the stairs stood a tall statue of Anubis and another door. As the Scarabs had already had an unpleasant encounter with a ‘statue’ that turned out to be a magical construct beneath the Sanctum of the Erudite Eye, they were wary when they realized that the statue of Anubis blocked the doors exiting from the opposite side of the antechamber. They also noticed that the statue didn’t stand on a base or plinth, which made them even more suspicious of it.

As soon as the Scarabs entered the antechamber, the statue moved, clearly casting a spell. Several members of the group realized that the spell was one that would increase the construct’s speed, which was also familiar from the construct in the temple of Nethys. Azzaria, remembering how that construct had actually taken her life, stepped forward to swing her flail at the figure of Anubis. Igby chanted a blessing. Sula realized that her weapons and Nyema’s fangs and claws would be of no use against the construct, so she called on the spirit of lightning to blast the construct from above. Kaa swung his fists at the figure but his blows didn’t connect, and he was rewarded by a return blow from the construct. Sula brought another lightning bolt down on its head. Igby moved forward to strike it, but like Kaa he couldn’t make a mark on it. Then Azzaria’s flail struck it full in the chest. The construct’s torso cracked in two and the upper half fell into one of the pits. The statue ceased moving.

The Scarabs were surprised by how quickly they had been able to defeat the construct. But they returned their attention to exploring the underground structure. The door that the statue had guarded bore an inscription in the language of the celestial beings, which none of them could read. Uto took out a tablet he carried that could allow a person to read such languages and read the inscription. It stated that if a supplicant put a piece of silver worth 50 gold pieces in the fountain, it would transform the water into holy water. Uto was carrying the 30 silver rods taken from the pool in the first underground room they had entered, and he knew that these rods were worth about 50 gold. He put one of them in the fountain basin and filled two water skins with the resulting holy water.

The door the construct had guarded was not locked. The Scarabs looked through it into a large circular room with a platform in the center in the form of a truncated pyramid. An elevated walkway ran around the perimeter of the room, beside columns carved in the shape of Pharasma. The circular chamber’s floor was scattered with corpses, some that looked very old and others more recent. On the platform, seated on a throne-like chair, was a living man wearing a golden funerary mask that bore an unusually animated expression.

When he saw the intruders the man rose to his feet, demanding, “Why are there always interruptions?” He gestured and two mummies moved to stand at his sides. Then a pulse of energy issued from the platform, and many of the bodies on the floor rose to their feet and began to shuffle toward the Ruby Scarabs. The masked man, who the Scarabs assumed to be Nebtah-Khufre, rose into the air, his hands moving in spellcasting gestures that they recognized as the same spell of haste that the construct in the antechamber had used. Sula still had access to the lightning she had called on the construct, so she sent a bolt at Nebtah-Khufre.

The two mummies rushed forward with unnatural speed to confront the group at the doorway. The aura of despair they carried with them paralyzed Sula, leaving her helpless, though she was still able to control the lightning. Nyema and her comrades were able to resist the mummies’ aura. Wings suddenly sprouted from Kaa’s back, but before the tengu could take flight one of the mummies struck him and he collapsed. Uto drew a spell scroll from his pack and began to read it.

Nebtah-Khufre swooped toward the party at the doorway and spoke the words of another spell, but none of the Scarabs could recognize it. The floor beneath them transformed into molten glass, scorching everyone and then cooling to form knife-like shards of obsidian. As the glass cooled it trapped their legs. Most of the group were able to break free by exerting their strength, but Sula was still paralyzed and remained trapped in the solidified glass. Once Nyema pulled herself free the lioness began to claw at the glass encasing her master’s feet.

Uto completed reading the spell from his scroll. In the air near Nebtah-Khufre a winged figure wielding a scythe appeared, a vanth psychopomp that Uto had summoned. It immediately attacked the mummy standing nearest to Azzaria, for its mandate was to slay undead. Uto then sent a wave of positive energy to heal his companions of the burns inflicted by the molten glass. In the meantime more zombies approached the Scarabs and Igby killed one, while the vanth slew another.

Nebtah-Khufre shot a ray of energy at the vanth but it had no effect. Uto issued another wave of healing energy, restoring the paralyzed Sula to full health. Kaa, who had been rendered near death by the mummy’s attack and the molten glass, was able to regain his feet. Nebtah-Khufre summoned two balls of lightning and sent them at Azzaria and Igby, but Igby resisted the magic and one sphere vanished.

Though it left his own health much depleted, Uto healed his friends again. Kaa flew into the circular chamber, blasting Nebtah-Khufre with scorching flames, but his attack seemed to have no effect on the necromancer. Nebtah-Khufre flew up beside Kaa and send out a burst of gray energy that made everyone’s heart race with fear, though all but Igby were able to withstand the desire to flee. Only Igby panicked and raced out of the room. Nyema had clawed Sula free of the obsidian, but even though the druid had been trapped and paralyzed, she had been able to shower three more lightning bolts on Nebtah-Khufre. Now the paralyzing effect faded and Sula was able to move again.

The vanth destroyed the last remaining zombie and flew up to attack Nebtah-Khufre. Kaa struck the necromancer a blow that stunned him, causing him to drop the gilded femur he held. The vanth then attacked him again, followed by another attack from Kaa. The necromancer’s skin had a stony appearance, so the group concentrated on causing damage to deplete his magical protection. Nebtah-Khufre responded by drawing a wand and issuing a charge from it at the vanth, but it again had no effect on the psychopomp. Sula could not reach the flying necromancer with her usual weapons, so she took out her sling and hurled a stone at him.

Uto’s hair shot out and grabbed hold of Nebtah-Khufre. As his was held in the grip of the hair, Kaa pummeled him until he fell unconscious and began to float gently toward the floor. Uto wanted to question him about the Forgotten Pharaoh, so he used his magic to prevent the necromancer from bleeding to death, then bound him. Igby recovered from his fear and returned, covered in blue tile shards. He fastened manacles on the captive. Afterward, they searched Nebtah-Khufre and removed everything he carried. He had on his person two curative potions; a spell scroll; a wand; a magic ring; a wizard’s spellbook; a pouch of diamond dust; a quantity of onyx stones used for raising zombies; holy symbols of Anubis, Pharasma, and Urgathoa; and the gold mask he wore over his face.

While the group searched him, Nebtah-Khufre expired. Uto realized that he must have been fortifying himself with magic, and that had ceased, leading to his death by the wounds he had suffered. Further examination of the room revealed that an ornate sarcophagus on the platform had been desecrated. It seemed that Nebtah-Khufre had been trying to raise the occupant of the sarcophagus as an especially powerful mummy. The Scarabs used some of the holy water from the fountain to clean the sarcophagus as best they could. In the process they realized it was the sarcophagus of the original Nakht Shepses, ancestor of the priest they knew.

The Scarabs gathered up Nebtah-Khufre’s body and the items they had taken from him and left the Observatory. They were able to return to Wati without difficulty, and took the body to the Grand Mausoleum. Shortly afterward the most senior priests of the temple were summoned to hear the story the Ruby Scarabs told. Two high priests from the temple of Nethys also came to hear. The priests had never heard of the Forgotten Pharaoh and could not explain why Nebtah-Khufre was so interested in acquiring his mask. When they examined the mask they found that it contained the ka spirit of a powerful person, probably a pharaoh, but they did not understand how such an artifact could be made. The mask revealed that it had different properties depending upon whether the wearer was a person of a good or evil nature. It could also be used to raise the dead, which was clearly how Nebtah-Khufre had raised the zombies in the circular chamber. The priests also identified all of the other magical items the Scarabs had taken from the necromancer.

The priests could not agree on what should be done with the mask. They argued over it for two days. At last they called the Scarabs back to the Grand Mausoleum, and asked if they would take charge of it and research the Forgotten Pharaoh. They recommended that the Scarabs go to the nearby city of Tephu, which had an extensive library that might hold information about the mask’s mysterious owner. Kaa then asked if the priests would pay them for that service. This led to a long discussion of how many valuable items the Scarabs had taken from the Necropolis and whether the temples ought to at least give them enough gold to pay for the river ferry to Tephu. Nakht Shepses also expressed displeasure that they had taken the magical shield from his family altar under the Observatory, though he hadn’t known it existed prior to their showing it to him. The Scarabs pointed out that they were willing to return it to him, but Sebti the Crocodile suggested that they ought to keep it as part of their reward for removing the necromancer from the Shepses family mortuary temple.   

In the end, the Scarabs kept the shield and all of the things they had taken from the Observatory and from Nebtah-Khufre. In addition the temples gave them 100 gold pieces to pay for the ferry to Tephu. Though the adventurers found it strange that they should have the responsibility of finding out just who the Forgotten Pharaoh was, they accepted it and agreed that they would pursue the answer to that question.

2 potions of cure light wounds
Scroll of stinking cloud
Ring of sustenance
Diamond dust worth 500 gold
Onyxes worth 500 gold
Silver holy symbol of Anubis
Silver holy symbol of Pharasma
Silver unholy symbol of Urgathoa
Rod of lesser disruptive metamagic
Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh

Next: Part 15, Visit to the Grand Library

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Star Wars - Episode 54: "Destinies"

(February 11, 2017) Episode 54: "Destinies"

Recap: The Jedi and their Antarian Ranger allies had been summoned by the Rebel Alliance to assist in an attack on the second Death Star, currently under construction in orbit around the forest moon of Endor. Dash Creel and Chewbacca took a small team of Rangers and joined the Rebel fleet aboard the Sky River Venture, prepared to attack the Death Star as soon as the shield was down. Neranya Repp and her padawan Taanar Ryl, along with their comrade ADX and companions Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and C3PO, traveled with a second team of rangers to the surface of the forest moon, using a stolen Imperial shuttle and access codes to get past its defenses. Once the strike team arrived on the moon they were captured by the indigenous native Ewoks and taken to an Ewok village. Only Taanar managed to avoid capture. She remained in hiding and followed her companions to the village.

The indigenous creatures seemed particularly interested in C3PO and ADX, and instead of binding C3PO, they carried him to their village in a sedan chair. The party was joined by Neri and Lowarra when the natives they had met in the forest escorted them to the same village. Neri asked the protocol droid if he could communicate with the natives, and he was able to find a dialect in his memory that allowed him to converse with the creatures. He learned that the Ewoks, as they called themselves, believed the intruders to be associated with the "whiteshells," who they blamed for destroying their sacred forest. C3PO struggled to convince them that the group were enemies of the Imperial troops, until Neri used her Force power to levitate the sedan chair. The Ewoks were so impressed by this that they released their prisoners, and the strike team were able to recruit them to help with the attack on the shield generator's defenses. ADX designed a strategy to have the Ewoks distract the Imperial troops guarding the bunker that housed the generator. Taanar, who had been hiding in the forest outside the village looking for an opportunity to rescue her friends, then rejoined the group.

Then Luke Skywalker told Neri that he sensed the presence of Darth Vader, and also of his sister Leia. Despite this, he wanted to continue with the mission to destroy the generator before trying to rescue her. Neri searched her feelings for the best choice, finally recommending that Luke and Han Solo go to rescue Leia while the rest of the team continued on to the generator. Lowarra then suggested that Neri go with them, believing that she, ADX, Taanar and the Rangers were sufficient to take care of the generator.

As the two groups prepared to separate, the three Jedi suddenly felt a cold and deadly sensation coming from the Ewok village they had just left. It could only be the presence of Darth Vader and the Emperor. Luke immediately wanted to go to confront his father. It was quickly decided that ADX should instead go along with the Jedi group to face Vader and rescue Leia. The droid had a score to settle with Vader since the Sith Lord had completely destroyed his original body.

Before the two groups parted, Neri gave Taanar some encouragement. As Taanar and Lowarra headed toward the shield generator with their Ewok guides, Taanar felt the malevolent presence of the Emperor recede behind her.

Neri and Luke felt fear and pain emanating from the Ewok village as they approached it. Luke realized that the Emperor and Darth Vader were killing the Ewok women, children and elders. They rushed toward the village. As they arrived, they could see that the Emperor had been accompanied by a squad of stormtroopers and an AT-ST walker. The village was full of Ewok corpses and smoke as their tree houses burned. The presence of the Dark Side was heavy in the atmosphere. They spied the Emperor standing with an unconscious Leia at his feet. Neri told Luke, "Don't do it with hate and malice. Do it with love."

The generator demolition team had learned from the Ewoks that there was an AT-ST by the bunker as well, and Lowarra already had plans to commandeer it. When the team neared the bunker, the Ewoks were sent in to draw the walker and troopers away from the bunker.  Lowarra climbed a tree ahead of the AT-ST, carrying Taanar on her back. As the pursuing walker passed below Lowarra dropped on top of it. Because its roof was slightly angled the pair nearly slipped off, but managed to catch hold of the side of the vehicle and hang on.

Luke Skywalker stepped forward to address his father, trying to persuade Darth Vader to stop supporting the Emperor and abandon the Dark Side. While he spoke, the Emperor addressed Neri with contempt, implying that he had ordered the capture, torture, and deaths of her parents. In response, ADX fired on the Emperor, who easily negated the energy from the blaster.

 Taanar released her grip on Lowarra and used her Force power to propel herself in a high arc over the Wookiee's head. landing on top of the AT-ST cockpit with her lightsaber already ignited so she could stab it through the vehicle's shell. She was surprised when the vehicle pilot popped up out of the cockpit and fired his blaster at her, hitting her at point-blank range. Lowarra scrambled up onto the top of the walker, roaring in the pilot's face, and slammed his head against the hatch with such force that he was knocked unconscious. The co-pilot then found himself slammed against the wall a moment later by Taanar's Force thrust. The walker, with no one at the controls, careened into a tree, but Lowarra and Taanar hung on.

In orbit around the moon, the Rebel fleet engaged the Imperial defenses as they waited for the planetary shield to fall. The Sky River Venture faced numerous TIE fighters, aided by the Rebel Alliance Phoenix and Gold squadrons. The sky above the forest filled with small explosions as Imperial and Rebel spacecraft were destroyed.

 After ADX's attack on him, the Emperor turned to ADX and ARD-001 and spoke in a strange language. As it dawned on ADX that this was some Sith command word, he felt himself lose control of his own choices. The Emperor had ordered both him and ARD to attack their friends. ADX was helpless to resist for a moment, as he had chosen to deactivate his sentience to avoid being subject to mind tricks. When the Emperor ordered, "Kill the interlopers," however, ADX interpreted the stormtroopers as interlopers and fired on one of them. Then his heuristic logic circuits recognized that the best way to overcome his Sith programming was to be a sentient, free-willed being. He reactivated his sentience and the Emperor's control over him vanished. Unfortunately ARD hadn't yet achieved sentience and fired on Neri, who was forced to withdraw. At the same time, an Inquisitor that the Venture crew had encountered before appeared and began to attack Neri.

Lowarra clambered through the hatch into the cockpit of the AT-ST and steered it back on course, heading back toward the stormtroopers defending the generator bunker. The Rangers took cover in the forest and kept firing on the troopers, while Lowarra began to fire the AT-ST's light blaster cannons. Taanar grabbed the co-pilot with her Force power and sent him flying out the hatch, where he was swarmed by angry Ewoks.

Neri was now under attack by the Inquisitor, while Luke and Darth Vader had abandoned conversation and begun to fight. The Emperor began to exhort Luke to release his anger and kill his father, at the same time ordering ARD to destroy ADX when he realized that the sentient droid was not under his control.

A massive flash of green energy struck one of the Mon Calamari ships battling the Imperial vessels around the Death Star. The beam barely missed the Venture. Dash realized with horror that though the Death Star was unfinished, its main weapon was fully functional. She signaled her allies that everyone should stay out of range of its weapon and close in on the Imperial capital ships to prevent them from being able to target the Rebel vessels.

ARD was ruthlessly firing on ADX, and inflicting considerable damage. Neri attempted to disarm the Inquisitor but failed. Luke was sent flying as Darth Vader leaped onto a tree stump. The Inquisitor grabbed Neri with the Force and began to choke her. As she saw Luke struggling and faced her own possible death, Neri suddenly realized that she had fallen in love with Luke. Desperate to help him, she sent thoughts of love to him through the Force. Encouraged by this, Luke sent the Inquisitor hurtling away from Neri to slam into a tree trunk.

The Venture was under attack by four TIE fighters. As it took damage, Dash fired back. In the distance she could see the New Hope pounding one of the Imperial star destroyers. The Death Star fired on a frigate in the Rebel fleet, lighting up the sky below with another flare of green energy.

While Lowarra gleefully blasted troopers with the light cannons, Taanar attempted to operate the AT-ST's heavy cannon and managed to hit another trooper herself. Lowarra then steered the walker to trample on a trooper who couldn't get out of the way as she headed closer to the bunker. Only two stormtroopers stood guard in front of the bunker's heavy entrance doors. Lowarra blasted them both aside and positioned the vehicle directly in front of the doors. Then, instructing Taanar to blast the doors with the heavy cannon, she jumped out of the vehicle and went out to engage in hand-to-hand with the remaining troopers on the ground.

The Inquisitor recovered from being smashed against a tree and tried to hit Neri but missed. The Emperor and Darth Vader both began to attack Luke, so Neri used the Force to shove Vader forward, causing him to collide with the Emperor. This gave Luke only a temporary respite, as the Emperor then began to blast him wit Dark Side lightning. At that moment Leia revived and got to her feet, causing the Emperor to turn on her and blast her as well.

Dash was relieved when Wedge Antilles arrived to help her take on the TIE fighters. Her expert piloting skills allowed her to dodge two fighters and cause them to collide with each other.

As the Emperor attacked Leia, Luke called out to Darth Vader, telling him that this was his twin sister. This news seemed to be the stroke that changed Vader's mind. Vader turned on the Emperor and began to attack him instead of Luke. Neri then reached out toward the Emperor and severed his connection with the Force. His uncounted crimes made it easier for her to succeed. Suddenly bereft of his access to the Force, the Emperor was able to negate Luke's attack but couldn't defend himself when Vader drove his red lightsaber blade through the old man's chest.

Taanar fired the heavy blaster at the bunker doors from point-blank range and the doors shattered. Lowarra ran inside and her rykkblade made short work of the troopers within. She and the Rangers raced to place the charges, and then the whole group fled into the forest as the bunker exploded, destroying the generator and the dish that projected the shield toward the Death Star.

Neri took a moment to catch her breath, then summoned her power again and sent the Inquisitor flying a tremendous distance into the forest. The Emperor's body began to crumble, radiating a purple energy. ADX finally managed to stop ARD, but was in such bad condition himself that he had to crawl to cover to avoid the AT-ST and begin trying to repair himself. Neri then grabbed the AT-ST and smashed it against a tree.

Dash could see that the New Hope had taken some damage. Just as she observed this, the shield around the Death Star suddenly went down. She headed the Venture toward the now defenseless station, followed by Wedge's squadron. TIE fighters took out several of her fighter escort as they headed for the power coupling they knew would cause its reactor to go critical if destroyed. One last TIE fighter threatened to prevent that from happening, but at the last possible moment it was destroyed and Dash was able to fire proton torpedoes into the coupling and speed away before the Death Star exploded in a ball of flames and a hail of fragments.

The sky lit up as the Death Star blew apart, and the Rangers and Ewoks began to cheer. But the battle wasn't over, and the struggle to transform the Empire had yet to begin.

With the Emperor dead, Darth Vader turned to Luke Skywalker and asked his son to join him in taking control of the Empire. He stated that he only wanted to bring peace and stability, and would put an end to the worst of the Imperial excesses instituted by Palpatine, who he believed had been trying to accumulate enough Dark Side energy to become a god-like being. He argued that without the Empire, the galaxy would fall into violence and chaos. Neri, reluctant to believe in his good intentions, begged Luke to say with her. But Luke wanted to go with his father, who he said was the only person who had ever been completely honest with him. Neri couldn't deny that; she and her friends had kept Leia's relationship to him a secret for some time. Of the Venture crew only Lowarra had been truthful with Luke, and Lowarra wasn't there to try to sway him. When Luke stated that he wanted to remain with his father, ADX mistrustfully fired on Vader, who negated the blaster energy but did not retaliate.

Leia then sought Neri's advice - should they continue to fight, or accept Vader's compromise? Vader had suggested that he would allow the Republic to reform in the Outer Rim. Neri searched her feelings, and decided that Vader's idea was the best option to avoid civil war and further destruction. Vader could take care of the various warlords and moffs who would try to take power in the Emperor's absence, while the Alliance could go about reestablishing the fallen Republic. As the last princess of Alderaan, Leia could help to persuade the Rebel Alliance to agree to the truce, and she hoped that Luke would be able to steer Vader away from the Dark Side. After telling Leia what she thought, Neri approached Luke, gave him a kiss on the lips, and sadly walked away into the forest.

The End.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Star Wars - Episode 53: "Many Bothans Have Died"

(January 21, 2017) Episode 53: "Many Bothans Have Died"

The Venture, Millenium Falcon, and Wamp Rat all rendezvoused with the Rebel fleet, where their crews were taken to a briefing room to meet with Mon Mothma and most of the Rebel high command. There, Mon Mothma told them about the second Death Star under construction near Endor’s forest moon. Suddenly Neri heard Luke whisper, “Leia’s on the forest moon.”
Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar went on to explain that they wanted the Jedi and Rangers to disable the shield generator on the forest moon, which would otherwise prevent any attack on the incomplete Death Star. Meanwhile a fleet of Rebel fighters would fly into the Death Star’s partially-open structure to destroy it. It was agreed that Dash and Chewbacca would join the fighters in the attack on the Death Star while the remainder of the companions would land on the forest moon to attack the shield generator, using a stolen Imperial shuttle disguised as a cargo ship to get past the Imperial defenses.
As the team headed for the forest moon prepared to board their shuttle, Neri was surprised when Princess Leia’s protocol droid C3PO suddenly approached her and asked to be allowed to join the mission. After a moment of consideration, Neri agreed, much to ADX’s annoyance, as C3PO had developed a strange attraction to the hardened battle droid. While this took place, Lowarra promised Chewbacca that she would look after Han Solo, who was going with the team to the moon. Han seemed especially concerned about Princess Leia's safety. It began to appear that Neri’s long struggle to follow Yoda’s direction and bring Han and Leia together was finally working.
Luke’s mood was subdued as the team gathered. He had told Neri and the others that Leia was probably with the Emperor himself, as Rebel intelligence indicated the Emperor was present at Endor. Neri then tried to use the Force to give some non-verbal encouragement. She noticed with surprise and amusement that C3PO had brought an overstuffed pack, including an assortment of thermal detonators, which delighted Lowarra. Neri then gave a short speech to the Rangers: “We did it before, we can do it again. May the Force be with you.”
As Dash and Chewie prepared to head off to the Sky River Venture, Dash gave Han a hug and told him, “I’ll buy you a drink when we get back.” Han replied, “If you blow up the Death Star I’ll buy you two drinks!” Lowarra gave Dash a big hug, and ADX exhorted her, “Maintain your biological integrity.”
As the strike team approached the unfinished Death Star, they observed the largest star destroyer they had ever seen in orbit nearby. Neri, Luke and Taanar all felt something trying to scan them through the Force, but it passed.
They made their way past the Imperial defenses without difficulty and landed on the forest moon of Endor. Shortly after they left their shuttle to head toward the shield generator they encountered a stormtrooper who took them by surprise. Lowarra dealt with him, but an instant later they discovered that he had a companion, who fled on a speeder bike. Neri and Lowarra jumped on the bike left by the trooper Lowarra had eliminated and set off on a high-speed pursuit to prevent the second trooper from giving their presence away. It didn’t take long for the two old friends to get rid of the second trooper, but more troopers arrived.
As the speeder bikes raced through the trees, Lowarra leaped from Neri’s bike to one of the other speeders and clung on. Neri caused one trooper’s blaster to fly out of his hands. A trooper tried to sideswipe Neri with his bike. Lowarra lost her grip on the speeder bike and fell off. Neri jumped off her bike and attacked the troopers with her lightsaber. One trooper dodged her, but she then shot him with her blaster and his bike crashed.
While Neri and Lowarra battled the stormtroopers in the forest, the rest of the strike team continued on toward the shield generator. Their journey was impeded when ADX was suddenly caught in a net trap. Another trap engulfed everyone else but Taanar. Taanar hid in the brush and watched as a group of small, furry beings wielding spears emerged from the forest to claim their prisoners. The indigenous natives seemed especially interested in C3PO and ADX, but failed to observe Taanar. A moment later she received a telepathic message from Neri: “I’m okay.” Taanar quickly sent back, “Everyone captured but me.”

Lowarra had been stunned by her fall from the bike, but she recovered and she and Neri began walking toward each other to meet. Lowarra was fired upon by a bow-wielding small furry being, which seemed not to care that the Wookiee looked like a larger version of itself. Neri was also accosted by one of the natives. She tried offering it some food, which it didn’t like, but despite that she was able to establish a somewhat friendly rapport with the creature. 

Star Wars - Episode 52: "A Princess Found"

(November 12, 2016) Episode 52: "A Princess Found”

As the members of the Antarian Rangers and New Jedi Order surveyed Golas Aram’s compound on Irudiru, they observed that he had top-notch security measures in place. The compound was surrounded by laser fences and disguised laser turrets, which enclosed a rock garden and a stone structure. Despite the clear message indicating that Aram didn’t want visitors, the group decided to attempt to contact him. Their attempts were unsuccessful. Aram didn’t respond.
Finally they decided to park their speeder in the landing area nearby. As they exited the speeder, a voice speaking Batchi told them to go away. Neri introduced herself courteously, but the entrance to the compound remained closed. Neri then offered to pay a significant sum for the information they sought. Just as she did this she spotted a vehicle powering up, and the laser fence activated. The group members sprang back into their speeder to pursue the departing vehicle.
As the pursuit began, the Millenium Falcon unexpectedly arrived to block the fleeing vehicle’s path. Neri approached what they presumed to be Golas Arum’s ship and rapped on the cockpit with the hilt of her lightsaber. When Arum still refused to come out, Neri cut her way in. Arum, who turned out to be occupying a hoverchair, revealed that he was afraid to talk. Neri told him who the team sought, and finally her persuasiveness won him over. Arum told her that Princess Leia was probably being held at Ashmead’s Lock - an alien spacecraft that had crashed long ago in the Blighted Lands of Kashyyk and had been converted into an Imperial prison facility. Chewbacca was very distressed when he heard this, as most Wookiees had spent their childhoods being told of the terrors of the Blighted Lands. Lowarra tried to soothe his fears.
Arum told Neri that he would give her the access codes to enter Ashmead’s Lock, and then produced a holdout blaster and fired at her! Neri used her Force power to negate the energy of the shot. The group then returned to Golas Arum’s compound, taking Arum with them as his own ship was too damaged to fly. A fire had started in a hangar bay and ADX extinguished it.
After leaving Arum, the group planned their strategy for accessing the prison ship on Kashyyk. Han Solo and Chewbacca would use the Millenium Falcon to distract the Imperial troops stationed on the planet so that the Sky River Venture could land.
When the Venture arrived in the Blighted Lands, they found it a very desolate and silent place. Abandoned watchtowers loomed over the barren wasteland. Lowarra told her friends that this part of Kashyyk had been barren for more than a thousand years, ever since the spacecraft crashed there. The team walked from the Venture’s landing site to the ship known as Ashmead’s Lock. They had no difficulty entering the mysterious alien vessel. Inside they found the remains of several droids that had been destroyed by what appeared to be lightsaber damage. Then more droids arrived, welcoming the new arrivals to the “processing unit.” ADX fired on them immediately. One of the droids grabbed Neri but was unable to maintain its grasp on the Jedi. She used the Force to send it hurtling away from her. Dash began firing on the droids also, but discovered that her blaster’s charge had been drained. Taanar used the Force to thrust another droid into a door on the far side of the chamber. A third droid grappled ADX. Then a gas began to fill the area, causing all of the humanoids to weaken.
From behind the droids, a lightsaber suddenly flared as Luke Skywalker appeared, shattering one droid with his blade. Neri dispatched another droid and Taanar smashed a third against the wall. Lowarra flew into a rage. ADX blasted the droid Taanar had knocked back, and Lowarra sent the last remaining droid back to its manufacturer in pieces. But now the group members found that they couldn’t open the door to exit the chamber. They were startled when a red lightsaber blade penetrated it from the opposite side, and Luke’s comrade ARD-101 emerged, calling out to Luke that Princess Leia was no longer in the prison facility.
There were several organic beings following ARD. These were the other prisoners of Ashmead’s Lock, who had been released by the droid. But Princess Leia had been moved to another location just before her would-be rescuers had arrived.
As the disappointed group headed back to their ships, they saw TIE fighters arriving to stop their escape. Stormtroopers with jetpacks also appeared. The rest of the group went to hold off the Imperial troops while Luke got the freed prisoners to safety. Lowarra brought down a TIE fighter with a rocket. Neri caused another pilot to crash his ship out of terror. Taanar was wounded when she couldn’t find cover. The Millenium Falcon then arrived to pursue the TIE fighters. Once the Wamp Rat was away with its cargo of former prisoners, the others saw star destroyers arriving and quickly made their escape.

After the rest of the group rendezvoused with the Millenium Falcon, they were met by the rest of the Antarian Rangers. They avoided the TIE fighters patrolling Kashyyk and left the planet again. After they reached open space, they received a coded transmission from the Rebel Alliance: they were needed for a vital mission.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tail of a Tale (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion)

I was a fan of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when it was originally released back in 2006. I spent many hours playing it. when Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released, I eagerly picked that up, and have spend many hours playing it as well. But I always missed Oblivion. Skyrim added new features to gameplay, like the ability to have a companion to help your character fight and carry loot, and the ability to purchase and furnish a private home instead of housing your stuff at a guild. But there was something special about Oblivion. The map territory you could explore seemed more expansive, your character's appearance was more customizable, and the mysterious Ayleid ruins were always appealing to me. 

I thought my opportunity to play Oblivion was lost when we purchased an Xbox One console. When my husband discovered that Oblivion can be played on Xbox One, I was delighted. He downloaded the game (no more disk to keep track of!) and we started playing it right away, just a few days ago. 

My inclination has always been to play elves in Elder scrolls games. I've tried a few other races, but I always end up abandoning those characters and going back to my elves. But last year my husband discovered a YouTube channel featuring the humorous adventures of Kaybe the Dragon-Boxing Khajit, a Skyrim character whose creator had recorded her adventures and supplied in-character narration. Kaybe's speech pattern is very amusing to my husband and I, as well as her cat-like behavior of constantly knocking things off tables wherever she goes. When I started my first new Oblivion character for Xbox One, I decided to make her a Khajit, partly to try something new and partly in honor of Kaybe.

After I'd played the character through the game's tutorial, I found myself thinking about the character's adventures as if she was similar to Kaybe. Khajit aren't common in Cyrodiil, the setting of Oblivion, or in Skyrim. The few Khajit NPCs you meet do have unique accents and speech patterns. There is even a random Khajit NPC you can encounter in Skyrim, M'aiq the Liar, who will say humorous dialogue if you trigger his conversation option. Inspired by Kaybe and M'aiq, I decided to write a short description of my character's first adventure. For color I'm working with the conceit that she doesn't speak the local language well, and that Khajit don't use personal pronouns or definite/indefinite articles. The periodic ending of a sentence with "yes" is openly borrowed from Kaybe.

Tale of a Tail

Ahdani is in prison. Why is Ahdani in prison? She took only small fish. She was hungry. She is still hungry, yes. Cell is cold and damp and there is no food. Across the way is nasty man, nasty elf maybe, yes. He says guards will not feed Ahdani, let her starve. He is not nice. He says guards come to kill Ahdani. Ahdani wants to laugh at him, he is in cell, too, yes. But he speaks truth, guards come. Guards come to Ahdani’s cell. Guards have big swords.

Old man is with guards. Old man has pretty robes. Ahdani likes, yes. Old man says he knows Ahdani, he saw Ahdani before, in dream. He also says he is emperor. Ahdani does not know. Ahdani has not seen emperor before. Maybe old man is mad. But guards say he is emperor too, yes. Old man says he will die soon, says it is destiny Ahdani is in cell. Ahdani thinks he is crazy, but he is nice to Ahdani, yes.

Guards tell Ahdani to get back, then part of stone wall opens up. There is tunnel. Ahdani did not know there was tunnel. If Ahdani knew there was tunnel, Ahdani would leave, yes. Guards and old man go in tunnel. Guards do not close wall, do not tell Ahdani to stay, so Ahdani goes in tunnel too, yes. Too bad Ahdani cannot laugh at mean elf.

Tunnel goes down. Then red men with big swords attack guards. Lady guard dies. Ahdani picks up her sword, yes. Other guards do not care. Guards do not like Ahdani, but old man says he trusts Ahdani. When red men die, their swords disappear. It is very strange to Ahdani. She searches bodies, but red robe men have nothing, only robes. Old man’s guards open door, but do not wait for Ahdani. When door closes it locks. Ahdani cannot open it. Ahdani is alone, yes.

Ahdani sees there is hole in wall, stones fell out. Ahdani goes through hole. Under building, big stone pillars, smells of dirt. Rats try to bite Ahdani. Ahdani stabs them with guard lady’s sword, yes. Ahdani finds chest. It is locked, but Ahdani can open. Good things in chest. Ahdani can sell for gold septims, buy fish, yes.

Ahdani finds wooden door. Dead goblin by door. Goblin has good things too, yes. Door not locked. More pillars beyond, more dirt. Ahdani kills more rats, finds more chests. Ahdani wonders why chests are here, maybe goblin put them there, yes. Ahdani finds nasty, nasty ghoul. Ahdani kills it with magic fire, yes. More tunnels, more rats, more chests. Ahdani has too many things, cannot carry more. She must put down things, so sad, not so many septims for Ahdani.

Tunnels are dirt now, not stone. Ahdani finds more goblins. Ahdani is clever and sneaky, she kills goblins before they see her, kills them with fire. Two goblins stand at bottom of slope, top of slope is stack of logs. Ahdani kicks logs, logs roll down, crush goblins. Goblins are stupid, yes. Goblins have many, many good things, Ahdani cannot carry them all.

Ahdani finds stone wall, wall has hole. Ahdani hears voices through hole. Ahdani jumps through hole, finds guards and old man! Ahdani thinks she is in tunnels long time, how are guards still here? No matter, old man is glad to see Ahdani, yes. Guards think she is helping red robe men, old man says no. Guards go to check ahead, old man talks to Ahdani about stars, which star is Ahdani's star. Ahdani's star is Warrior. This is good, yes.

Ahdani follows guards and old man to room, but door is locked. Guards have no key. Guards hear red robe men coming, one guard goes to fight, one guard stays with old man. Old man comes to Ahdani, tells her he thinks now he dies, gives her amulet. Old man says give amulet to Jauffre man, Jauffre man will give to emperor’s son. Old man is nice to Ahdani, yes, Ahdani takes amulet. Then red robe man comes. Ahdani fights, but red robe man stabs old man. Ahdani is afraid guard will think Ahdani killed old man, but guard does not think this. Guard is not stupid, yes. Guard tells Ahdani to go to Weynon Priory, find Jauffre man, give amulet. Ahdani would like to take old man’s nice robes but guard will not let her. Guard gives Ahdani key to get into sewer. Guard thinks Ahdani is agent, agent of what? Ahdani is clever and quick and agile, yes!

Ahdani is not happy about sewer. Tunnels are already dark and smelly, yes. Sewer will be worse. But sewer is way to get out. Ahdani takes key, unlocks door into sewer. In sewer are more rats and goblins. Ahdani kills them with her sword. There is door, when door opens, Ahdani is outside, yes! Ahdani is free!

It is night. Ahdani sees Ayleid ruin across water. Behind Ahdani are walls, city walls. Ahdani does not want to go into city at night. Maybe city guards will know she escaped prison. Tomorrow she will go, when city people all sad that emperor dies. Then no one will notice Khajit selling things for gold septims. Ahdani will sell things, buy fish and meat that is not rat meat, yes. Now Ahdani will find place to sleep.