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Tristan DArque
Here for a while
(2/3/03 4:47 pm)
Yundi's Tale (as told to Tristan DArque) - long...
This is my campaign log, for the moment. Slightly different twist since it's from the perspective of an NPC. Hope you enjoy it if you can actually get to the end...

Tristan DArque
Here for a while
(2/3/03 4:48 pm)
Re: Yundi's Tale (as told to Tristan DArque) - Part I
“We will all ultimately be re-united with nature, my young apprentice. But we above all should not look forward to that day. Our purpose is to serve as her guardians as best and as long as we can.”
Jaroo Ashstaff

Since the untimely death of my teacher those words have been ringing in my head all too often. The discovery that he was being impersonated by some alien being was difficult enough, particularly when I think that it was my new friends who exposed the fraud while I sat idly by, assuming that the years were simply starting to catch Jaroo up at long last. But when Wyst found his body, cruelly treated and thrown without ceremony into a shallow grave, I confess it hardened my heart. I had already expressed my wish to investigate his disappearance and my unwillingness to assume his mantle as keeper of this grove, and on learning of his death my mind was made up. I will stay with these ‘adventurers’ until I can learn what forces lay behind these deeds, face them, and do my part to redress the balance.

I took up Jaroo’s body and performed the simple ritual, burning it in the clearing of the grove, before sitting at the side of the roadway to consider my future and await my opportunity. I had a while to wait, but eventually the darkness gave way to the sight I had been expecting: the return of the two holy warriors Render and Dimbleby. Render is a driven woman, burning with a zeal and fire I cannot comprehend and bound to tenets of which I cannot see the point, but it certainly gives her a strength and a divine power which I imagine we will need in the dark times ahead. Dimbleby was a troubled man, torn in so many directions yet struggling above all to bring the light and justice of his god to all the corners of the world. As followers of the same deity they could not have been more different, and at the same time neither resembled the acolytes of St Cuthbert whom I had already met in Hommlett. Y’dey’s calm, careful pronouncements have nothing in common with the fire in these two.

The two were walking down the road from the keep past where I sat, and I slipped from the shadows to meet them. I told them of the discovery of Jaroo’s body and expressed my wish, now fully fashioned, to join with them on their journey to whatever end it might lead us. I agreed to meet them before dawn as they prepared to return to the Moathouse.

I could not sleep. Wyst and I arrived at the meeting point to the east of the town long before my five companions rolled their wagon out of the courtyard of the keep and trundled up to meet us. The early morning mist still lingered around the roadway as the party pulled up and I climbed aboard, balancing on the back of the wagon where a blanket had been thrown over a strange cage construction. I inquired about this, and was regaled with song by the bard, Nikolai, telling of another glorious victory just that night over the strange cult that they had uncovered. It was not long before I could add the evidence of my eyes to what my ears were hearing, as we rolled past the body of a giant tentacled beast by the side of the roadway. Only hours before that aberration had inhabited the cage on which I now rested.

Nikolai is always ready with a song, and his charm and charisma make him the natural leader of this group. True, Render has enormous force of personality and she would never accept orders from the songsmith unless she believed they were right. But the difference is that while she knows what she will do – alone if necessary – she does not seek to make choices for others. Nikolai is a co-ordinator, a schemer… and a very fine musician.

Wyst trotted along the side of the wagon, the lingering smell of the foul beast it had so recently contained forcing her to keep her distance. But she has found a friend in any event. The ranger, Emerald, has a wolf of her own, and he – Spike, she calls him – is young and wild. Emerald has not yet had the opportunity to train him, though their bond is clearly strong. Wyst is less taken with the idea of a life on the road, I think: she was settled in the glade with me and Jaroo, but I sense she is not so happy out here. But this Spike, he will be a sound friend to Emerald wherever she goes. And I think she needs one. The ranger has troubles of her own: she is a deadly hand with both axe and bow, she can follow a trail that I can barely see when she points it out, and she is nimble, strong and ambitious. But she is stricken by indecision and unsure of her place in this group, constantly feeling the need to prove to her friends her worth – and now that of her new companion – but unwilling to assert it in words. Before the end, though, they will know it if they do not now.

I spent the journey to the Moathouse chatting to the fifth member of the group. Although I suspect that it is Emerald with whom I have the most in common, a respect for nature which these other cannot appreciate, the halfling acrobat Rosie is delightful conversation. Her love for life and ability to laugh in the face of danger – even when it is many times larger than her – is invigorating.

We found the Moathouse deserted. Rosie had told me how they drove the evil cultists back before defeating them all, together with the assassin who had accompanied them from the town and several undead horrors. We descended to the dungeons, winding our way carefully through the corridors towards the room where the bodies of their fallen enemies had been piled and burnt. The smell of charred flesh was strong and the sooty deposits on the walls reflected a ghastly sheen in the light of our lanterns when we caught sight of a flickering fire burning ahead. As we approached the funeral pyre, four of the skeletons erupted with fire and lurched towards us!

Sir Render and Dimbleby raised their holy symbols and drove three of the undead back. The fourth approached, a skeleton missing its skull but nonetheless driven on by some unholy force and burning in flame. We smashed it to pieces before meting the same treatment to the others, and Render explained that this must have been the skeleton of the assassin, Chatrilon. His head she had taken as a trophy, but that had not stopped whatever evil had animated his body again.

Further searching around the passages of the dungeons revealed a warren of caves, seeming clawed from the earth. Tracks led us ultimately through the maze to a cavern containing a natural pillar carved into the shapes of four figures, one to a side, towering over a strange magical altar. We found strange objects, musical instruments, hidden within the pillar, but the purpose and nature of the room was beyond our ken. Attempts to destroy the altar only made it change its nature in a most unsettling way, and we left the cavern as we had come.

My friends then led the way to a room with a hole in the floor and an intricate arrangement of pulleys supporting a wooden platform. Wyst and Spike remained in the room – it had taken some minor magic even to get Spike into the dungeons, and this would be a ride too far for him. The rest of us climbed aboard and descended into the darkness. Not far below the room we found an underground stream pouring down into the black beyond, and the others explained that this was the source of the pool which had hidden whatever lay below us. But what that might be, they had no more idea than I. After several minutes of careful lowering, we arrived at the bottom – or so we thought. In fact, it turned out to be the top of an enormous obelisk. Stepping onto the evil thing brought writhing veins rushing towards us, but we espied another platform away to one side and one by one crossed the strange surface.

It was then that disaster struck. Dimbleby, ever impetuous and wrestling as ever between the law of his teachings and the chaos of his inner soul, had been one of the first across to the other platform. As I waited my turn and watched Emerald the ranger stride across the obelisk towards him, I saw her suddenly stoop and come almost to a standstill. Her sharp half-elven eyes had seen what the rest of us had missed: we were not alone in the cavern. A slimy tentacle, its bulbous end ringed about with cruel barbs, shot from the darkness and wrapped itself around the cleric’s face before Emerald could shout a warning. From the shadows of the cavern came a monstrosity none of us could have dreamed: some sort of beaked, flying brain with near a dozen dangling tentacles. The ichor on its barbed limbs locked Dimbleby rigid in place, and even though the others swung at it with axe and sword, and shot it with arrows, it grabbed the cleric and flew into the darkness.

Dimbleby had been carrying a bulls-eye lantern, now fixed in his unmoving grasp, and its beam played eerily off the walls of this immense place as he was carried down and away from us. The monster was wounded, we could see that, but what would happen if we finished it off? None knew how far it might be to the floor below, though looking at the many coils of rope aboard the second platform one might guess, too far to fall. Emerald nocked an arrow and aimed at the creature, Render screaming in her ear to kill it, but her indecision prevailed. If she was to kill it, was she not condemning the helpless Dimbleby to fall to his death in the unearthly grip of its death throes?

Alas, there was no right decision. As it swung away, the wounded creature wrapped the brave cleric tight in its tentacles and with one snap of its cruel beak, finished his life. In rage, Emerald let fly her arrow, killing the monster, but too late. As it spiralled to the ground it whirled and span, much like the inflated pigskins that they burst to amuse the children at Midsummer. The light from the lantern locked in the fingers of the hapless holy man twirled and danced across the cavern before finally coming to an abrupt halt hundreds of feet below us.

We descended as quickly as we could to the floor of the place, keeping a wary eye out for any more horrors in the darkness. There seemed to be none. But into the ground were carved two great symbols, a fiery dark sun and an inverted pyramid with two steps. What could it mean? We retrieved what was left of the dead cleric from the clutches of his alien killer, and took what we could use from his equipment: there was no time for the niceties of burial. But as we looked around the cavern, suddenly a shape rose from rocks in one corner. In the half-dark we could see a figure and hear a low chanting, before suddenly a jet black claw manifested in the air and sped towards Sir Render!

As the rest of us drew weapons and moved forward, the black claw plunged into Render’s chest, drawing a bellow of pain even from this tough warrior woman. But she remained standing, and we advanced on this new opponent. Rosie slipped around through the shadows and as Render stood toe-to-toe in combat with her assailant on the disk of the black sun, the halfling sprang from the shadows to strike what seemed to be a telling blow. To her surprise it seemed not to hurt the armoured hulk as much as she had intended, and when we had finally defeated our enemy we discovered why: though robed in the garb of the dark cultists, this was yet another undead monster. The black sun was unsettling even to look at, let alone to stand on, and Render quickly dragged the body away from the evil symbol before searching it. Nikolai retrieved an interesting yet cryptic note from a pocket of its robes, confirming that this was the ‘Festrath’ of whom other writings had spoken. I do not understand all that is going on here, all this talk of cults and dark gods, demon princesses and lost evils, but I swear I will before I am done. Nikolai is even now trying to piece together the mystery.

To one side of the cavern was a dark archway, its setting carved into tentacles and snakes. Render prodded the darkness and recoiled just in time as another of the flying brain creatures swept through it to attack. This time the brave adventurers were ready, however, and it was despatched swiftly. A second prod of the surprisingly solid black wall produced the same result, and again a hail of arrows downed the invader before it could harm us. It seemed that the archway was some sort of portal to another world, but – probably fortunately – one that only worked in one direction, and then only when one touched the wall to activate the horrific summons. I suppose there may be many worlds, in many dimensions, and these creatures may represent nature in one of them. Perhaps there even exist those who work with and defend that alien nature, and are no different in spirit than myself, but I found these monsters repulsive. I have no wish to meet their like again, nor to understand their ways.

Our return to the surface was subdued in nature. The loss of a friend, even in my case only a recent acquaintance, hung heavily over us as we made our way back up to the daylight. Some were keen to investigate a reputed back entrance to the dungeons, which the group had located some time before, but all of us did so with a shadow on our hearts.

Edited by: Tristan DArque at: 2/3/03 5:19:24 pm
Here to stay
(2/3/03 6:46 pm)
Re: Yundi's Tale (as told to Tristan DArque) - long...
That's very good, Tristan! Please keep up the good work! I shall be reading with interest. I remember your post in the Rest in Peace thread and I've been hoping you'd start a log. This is the first I've seen from the perspective of an NPC. Very neat choice! I might do a session now and then from that perspective if I ever get the chance. Very cool! :D

Tristan DArque
Here for a while
(2/10/03 4:29 pm)
Re: Yundi's Tale (as told to Tristan DArque) - long...
The cave was some way east of the main Moathouse and hidden behind boulders and bushes. It led to a small passageway which had clearly been worked; this must have been a secret entrance to – or exit from – the evil structure when it had been in use. I had no idea what we were looking for, but after running for quite a distance the passage finally turned a corner. With just a glimmer showing from our hooded lantern, we peered round. A figure stood motionless in the darkness ahead of us, and we approached with trepidation, but it soon became apparent that it was no more than a statue. But what a statue! – carved with fine precision, in a most unusual pose. It depicted a tall, well-built man, hunched over and apparently peering down in front of him, a hint of surprise on his stone-chiselled features.

We quickly decided that the most likely explanation was that it was indeed no statue, but some hapless soul who had been turned to stone. What could have caused such a thing? We crept along the passageway, even more wary than before, and could soon see that it opened into a room. Not wanting to share the fate of the tall adventurer in the passage, we decided to scout ahead. Using a magic wand, Nikolai hid the halfling Rosie from view, and she downed a potion that allowed her to climb the walls like some sort of insect or spider. She disappeared into the half-dark. When she returned a minute or so later, she reported that the room beyond contained several nests, and that she had seen some ugly, lizard-like chickens scratching around. Nikolai had heard tell of beasts such as these, cockatrices which could turn one to stone with a peck. None of us fancied such an outcome, and in our weakened and dejected state, it seemed more sense to turn back. It looked as though this complex was only small, and unlikely to be worth the risk at present if at all. We did decide, though, to carry with us the ‘statue’ from the corridor. All agreed that if we could, we would attempt to free the poor wretch from his stony prison. Once we had retraced our steps to the thin – but welcoming – afternoon sun, I could barely conceal my delight at being back beneath Nature’s skies.

There seemed little urgency in our journey back to town. We had loaded the stone figure into the back of the wagon, and Emerald and I sat within the foul-smelling cage to ensure it did not bump and break as we negotiated the poor track. Wyst and Spike trailed our party at enough of a distance to keep the horses happy, and it was dusk before we found ourselves back in the lee of the keep overlooking Hommlett. The wagon rolled back into the courtyard, and the others unloaded our strange cargo, intending to show it to Rufus and Burne as we told our sad tale. Wyst and I slipped away to check on the grove, leaving the others that task. Nikolai has far better an ear for a story than I, whether uplifting or melancholy, and anyway I had no desire to hear it. The further loss had fired my determination to maintain my quest, but it would not ease the pain to relive the events of the day.

It was well into the night when the half-elf ranger Emerald came to the grove looking for me. I returned with her to the keep to find a most wondrous thing. Apparently the wizard Burne had been able to work some mighty magic from some old scroll or book and restore life to the ‘statue’ we had found! The tall man introduced himself as Cromwell, an adventurer who some years earlier had been exploring the Moathouse area and had, as we suspected, fallen prey to the foul beasts Rosie had seen. Although it was astonishing to see the stone figure – now flesh and blood – walking and talking, and this Cromwell seemed friendly enough, something struck me as odd about him. But I have not yet been able to put my finger on what it is; I know only that I have more trouble than the rest in welcoming this newest of my friends.

While the others ate and drank, quizzing Cromwell about his past and using this new introduction to distract them from the loss they had suffered earlier, Emerald drew me to one side. Something had clearly been troubling her, and now she explained what it was. She was greatly concerned for her companion Spike. The loss of Dimbleby had brought home to her just how dangerous our path was likely to be, and Spike – for all his glorious wild nature and surging vitality – is just a wolf. I listened to her fears for his safety, and I had an idea. My mentor Jaroo had once mentioned to me how those of the Old Faith could, with the right ritual, imbue our animal friends with the power of nature. It would help, I thought, and I agreed to see if Jaroo had left any notes about the ritual. I returned to the grove, arranging to meet the ranger there at dawn.

In Jaroo’s many books of druidic lore, I did indeed find what I was looking for. When Emerald and Spike arrived with the first light of day, I was ready, and while the others busied themselves around town, buying and selling, preparing themselves for their next foray to the wild, I performed the ritual. The effect was impressive, though it left me somewhat drained. Spike seemed stronger, more resilient immediately. Even the silver of his coat took on a deeper shimmer: he was something more than an ordinary wolf even to look at. To show her gratitude, Emerald convinced the others to give me a beautiful, magical pearl they had found on their travels.

It was agreed that Cromwell would join the group, for a while at least. Without Dimbleby the adventurers had lost their source of healing, and the tall man seemed to have some skill in that direction: their choice was straightforward enough. I was struck again by the coincidence of the situation, and still felt strangely uneasy about the arrangement. No matter. Our next destination was to be the old Temple of Elemental Evil, and we would need Cromwell’s restorative touch before too long.

First, however, it had been decided that we would return to the Moathouse to pay another visit to the cockatrices. Personally I could not see the return on the risk, but Cromwell was obviously keen for his revenge, and I suppose it turned out to be an interesting diversion. We arrived back at the cave entrance in the middle of the following day, and were soon back in the underground lair. An ambush was prepared, and the creatures proved just as stupid as they were deadly. A hail of arrows dropped them before they could lay their stony touch on any of us, and we were able to explore the chambers beyond. Aside from a few valuables, only the final room held anything of interest, but there we found a body, garbed in black and carrying several evil symbols. Nikolai deduced that this might be the final resting place of the one they called Lareth, the master of the Moathouse at its prime and struck down, so they say, by the brave Y’dey.

We returned to the track and set off north in the direction of the old Temple. It was clear that few had come this way in years: Nature had reasserted herself with great force and in places we had some trouble getting the wagon through the undergrowth. Ahead, the forest beckoned. This was the territory of the druidess Kella, and Jaroo and I had not ventured this way while I had been his apprentice. I did meet Kella once, when she visited Hommlett, and was struck by how much she seemed to embody the spirit of Nature, much more than Jaroo. Much as I loved the old man, he had put down too many roots in the grove and that was never my own intention.

We reached the forest by sundown, and decided to press on. In the darkness I could feel a sense of menace from the trees around, and my instincts told me that the decision was right: Nature has no respect for intruders, and it did not seem a good idea to pitch camp within the confines of the trees. When we emerged into the patchy moonlight, a fine drizzle was falling. We drew the wagon off the track and onto some high ground, and managed to light a fire. I spoke to Cromwell at length for the first time as we kept guard together, but while my heart tells me that he means no harm, there is something unnatural about the ease with which he plays with powerful energies, and some, well, menace in his constant talk of war and tactics. I did not sleep well.

In the morning we continued, knowing that we would have to cross the river and pass through the deserted town of Nulb before reaching our destination. By the time the bridge came into sight the rain had become harder, and progress was slow as we frequently had to climb down from the wagon to lighten the load for the struggling horses. What was left of Nulb was barely a hamlet, let alone a town, and as we rolled cautiously past the first few houses we could see no sign of life: the place was deserted. Imagine our surprise, then, to catch sight of light flooding from the windows of a large building to the right of the main street as we approached. From its appearance it seemed to be some kind of inn, and when we had reached the door we could see through the windows a collection of townsfolk drinking and talking, a fire burning in the hearth and all the lights ablaze to combat the gloom of the day. I had understood that Nulb was empty these days: it was certainly a shock to find it so clearly inhabited.

Cautiously we came to the door, leaving the wagon and the animals in the street. Mindful of the reputation of the place, everyone had their hands on their weapon hafts, and to no-one’s surprise it was Render who kicked open the door in challenge. We stepped inside and received another shock. The inn was empty. It had clearly been so for years. The silence inside accentuated the sound of the downpour outside, and the hearth was stony cold. Not a soul could be seen.

We moved around the deserted bar, kicking the dust from the floor and wondering just what sort of place this was. Cromwell entered some sort of trance and said that he was trying to see if there was any presence haunting the place. Suddenly, a ghostly apparition appeared right in front of Sir Render, a glowing blue longsword in its hand slashing towards her chest! – but fortunately she stepped to one side as the blow fell. The terrifying spectre turned to us all and in a rasping tone from beyond the grave spat out the chilling words: “Didn’t anyone tell you this is a GHOST town?!”

The horrific appearance of the undead fiend struck right to the heart, and Rosie for one was visibly shaken. Quickly, I grabbed a scroll from my pack and summoned the power of the elements in the form of a handful of fire, which I hurled towards the ghost as it advanced on us. As I did so, Render stepped forward and without a trace of fear in her voice commanded the ghost to begone, raising her holy symbol in defiance. My aim was poor, and the flames crashed against the far wall of the inn. To our delight, however, the ghost recoiled from the holy warrior and retreated! The others chased it down and swung their weapons at its incorporeal form, and as they did so I noticed that the building, tinder-dry inside despite the rain outside, was burning from my misguided fire! As the wraith was finally dispelled by the party’s biting blades, we dashed for the door, flames licking across the floor and up the walls.

It was still raining outside, but the light from the windows of the inn was real enough this time as the flames consumed it from within. We stood and watched, holding the horses to stop them bolting from the fire. Wyst and Spike set to howling as they paced around the wagon. But then, gradually, we became aware that we were not the only ones watching. Standing by a building on the other side of the central crossroads was a figure, robed in black, and it seemed to be watching not the fire, but us. We turned to face it and could hear a deep, unnerving chuckling as it stepped towards us.

Tristan DArque
Here for a while
(2/11/03 6:05 am)
Re: Yundi's Tale (as told to Tristan DArque) - Cast
That's one full session posted now, next one is scheduled for a fortnight's time (and hopefully this time the write-up should include a bit more detail on the encounters - this session was long enough ago that I couldn't remember all that much).

Just fyi, the cast list is as follows:

Emerald - Rgr6
Nikolai - Brd5/Ftr1
Rosie - Rog6
Sir Render - Pal5
Cromwell - Clr5 (unaffiliated, War and Healing domains)

[Dimbleby - Clr4/Ftr1 at time of death]

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