(7/13/03 5:43 pm)
just started running the module, vaguely adapted to my own campaign. The PCs are:
Slaine, 4th level NG Human Cleric of the King's Knight (crusaderish/inquisitor character).
Bav, 1st level CG Half-Fae (Elf) Fighter/3rd Rogue. (scummy thief)
Dorn, 4th level NG Dwarf fighter. (fairly standard tank).
Sylvan, 4th level NG Human Wizard (snooty noble), with a rat familiar.
Alain, 4th level Ranger, with a wolf companion.
They've been hired by a sage named Grenley Dumare in Verbobonc. He's convinced that the Temple is rising again, but the Tower of Dawn (the religious authority responsible for watching for this sort of danger) isn't paying him any attention, believing that Faerie is a bigger threat. So, the PCs have been sent to head south to Hommlet, to investigate the temple.
After a few encounters on the road (mainly centred on the Inn of the Demon's Cellar. I rolled randomly for the name using AEG's Toolbox book, Slaine objected to the name and interrogated the innkeeper, and I used the encounter to mention Chat as someone to talk too in Hommlet - he made the sign), they arrive in Hommlet. They head straight to the inn and talk to Chat. They don't even attempt to hide their intentions about visiting the Temple and searching for evil. Chat has Maridosen (the bartender/cultist) poison some of the PC's drinks. Chat heads to the millhouse and collects Grune and Vacra, and grabs Jaroo on the way back to the inn.
There are three upstairs room in the inn - Sylvan's got a private room, Dorn and Alain are in the middle room, and Bav and Slaine are in a third room.
Later that night, Jaroo, Grune, Vacra and Maridosen sneak into the inn (Maridosen lets them in.) The PCs are all asleep; Slaine (cleric) and Sylvan (wizard) are drugged and can't be woken. The cultist's plan is to assassinate the troublesome, inquisitorial cleric, cast [i]invisibility[/i] on the wizard and drag him off to be interrogated while Jaroo takes his place. It all starts to go wrong when Grune slips on the stairs (botches his Move Silently), alerting Sylvan's familiar and Alain's wolf. The wolf wakes the ranger, while the rat starts chewing on Sylvan's toe.
Unarmoured but increasingly armed, Alain and Dorn charge out into the hall. Vacra's already cast invisibility on Sylvan and is tying him up; Jaroo's taken Sylvan's form. The doppleganger tries to talk Alain and Dorn down - which all goes well until Sylvan's rat familiar bites down hard on its master's invisible toe. He wakes up, Jaroo instantly reacts, smashing Alain in the chest. Dorn bursts in and slams his axe into the doppleganger's chest, severely damaging the monster.
Over in the other room, Bav wakes up and distracts Grune from making a coup de grace attack on the cleric. Grune does manage to stab Slaine solidly, but not lethally. Bav skewers Grune with his rapier, and Slaine hits Maridosen with a [i]spiritual hammer[/i]. She flees down the stairs.
Meanwhile, Vacra casts [i]darkness[/i] and jumps out the window and [i]levitates[/i] up to the roof. Jaroo follows her out and also heads to the roof.
All the PCs except the still-invisible Sylvan chase Maridosen downstairs and catch her in the bar. She surrenders, having been severely beaten by the hammer. Meanwhile, Vacra scrambles off across the rooftops of Hommlet with the invisible Sylvan and his loyal rat in hot pursuit...
I went a bit easy on the players - I should have had Mariposen and Grune get their coup de grace attacks on the sleeping PCs, but I didn't want dead PCs on the first night. The cult botched the attack, but can recover (Jaroo's going to come in the back door of the inn disguised as Elmo, and take the injured Maridosen into custody. As long as Vacra can escape her pursuer, the only lead the PCs will have is Chat.)
(7/14/03 7:54 am)
Re: Myth's campaign|
"...just started running the module,..."
Welcome! And thanks for writing this up. I look forward to reading the next installment!
"Chat heads to the millhouse and collects Grune and Vacra, and grabs Jaroo on the way back to the inn."
Er, what happened to Chat during the fight? It doesn't seem like he was actually present.
"Sylvan, 4th level NG Human Wizard (snooty noble), with a rat familiar."
Any relation to the elven wizard of the same name in my campaign?
PS Good plan on Jaroo's next action. It will take a wise party indeed to catch on quickly to his real identity. It'll be pretty cool, too, to have the real Elmo appear a few minutes later. I wonder if the party will think the real one is fake or not.
(7/14/03 8:22 am)
Re: Myth's campaign|
Interesting beginning to the module. I have never seen the cultists in Hommlett strike so soon. I like what you are doing with Jaroo. I also like a good assassination attempt in an inn. Those are classic. I don't understand why they attacked the PCs so soon, though. Were they blabbing too loud about their mission at the pub?
I would definitely have Elmo show up after the faux-Elmo leaves with Maridosen. That would be very funny.
IMC, I didn't have very much time spent in Hommlet. Basically, Hommlet lasted one session. You have a unique opportunity to really develop Hommlet. The PCs have people in town to investigate, etc. They will likely ask questions and solve the mystery before they go to the moathouse.
I would throw the hint at Spugnoir being missing and likely in hte moathouse dungeon. Then have Chat and the cultist throw them off that trail.
(7/14/03 8:44 am)
Re: Myth's campaign|
[i]I don't understand why they attacked the PCs so soon, though. Were they blabbing too loud about their mission at the pub?[/i]
The party cleric basically told Chat "we're looking for the evil cult that built that temple. My order burnt them at Emridy Meadows, and I'm here to finish the job. We've heard about the Moathouse and the Ruined Temple, and we will be...cleansing them."
Yeah, it's a very early attack, but the party (the cleric, anyway) basically presented themselves as the worst nightmare of the cultists - an organised inquisition into the possiblity of the Temple rising again.
Chat didn't go with the assassins - he's backtracked along the party's course to Verbobonc, to make sure they're not the advance party of a crusade or something. (I didn't want to stick a 6th level bad guy into a nasty ambush, and I want to keep Chat around a bit longer as a bad guy.)
(7/14/03 8:59 am)
Re: Myth's campaign|
Very good ideas. He's pretty tough for a group of 4th level guys. He could easily kill one person, but the group could overtake him. It would be more difficult if he were fighting with a group. I'm glad you are sharing your tale with us. Keep us posted. I am playing tonight, and my group will be entering the CRM for the first time. If you are interested, read Forgotten Realms Campaign tomorrow! Welcome again.
(7/20/03 3:45 pm)
A very busy night|
Vacra and Sylvan get into a spell-slinging battle in the old town hall. The tiefling blasts the human mage with magic missile and runs off, heading across the bridge. He hurls a flaming sphere after her, bouncing it off a wall. It catches her as she crosses the bridge, bringing her down. Sylvan runs up and drags the tiefling's unconscious body under the bridge, hiding from the townsfolk woken by the fires, screaming and general uproar.
Back in the inn, the rest of the party begin to question (and loot) Maridosen. They're distracted by the innkeeper coming down stairs and blubbering about how assassins "hardly ever" kill people in the inn at night. "Elmo" (well, the doppleganger) turns up and takes Maridosen into "custody". They cut across the mud towards the river and swim back to the moathouse - barely missing Dorn the Dwarf, who followed Sylvan's familiar back to the wizard. Dorn drags Vacra's unconscious form to the inn.
While they're heading back, Elmo (the real one) turns up again. There's a lot of confusion for a while, but as they knew there was a shapeshifter out there already (the doppleganger copied Sylvan earlier), they were able to convince Elmo that something very strange was going on. He heads off to consult with Rufus (I've swapped Rufus and Burne's roles, for reasons that will become clear later).
Meanwhile, the PCs interrogate Vacra. Under threat of extreme nastiness, she turns Church's evidence and tells them everything she knows about the cult - Jaroo in the grove, the mill, Dunrat, the millhouse, everything. This takes some time, during which the doppleganger is healed by Chenashi in the millhouse, and the surviving cultists decide what to do. Currently, Dunrat and Toridan are out of town, Vacra's captured, Grune is dead and Maridosen has been stripped of her equipment. Chenashi, as the ranking cultist, sends the doppleganger off to watch for the PCs while Maridosen runs off, steals a horse and catches up with Chatrilon, who'd headed north earlier that evening.
The PCs leave the ranger Alain in the inn to watch Vacra (Alain's player couldn't make the session.) The PCs check out the grove and find no sign of Jaroo. They decide to assault the millhouse. They sneak up, but are spotted by the doppleganger, who begins to climb around the edge of the millhouse. Chatrilon, hiding nearby, aims his bow at Slaine the cleric/inquisitor, who's the main target of the cult attack.
The party's rogue, Bav, spots the doppleganger. All hell breaks loose. Bav shoots the doppleganger off the side of the mill, sending the monster splashing into the river. Chenashi and Mariposen climb out of the basement. Chatrilon tries to use his death sneak attack on Slaine - and misses. Dorn the dwarf starts chopping at the doppleganger in the river, while Slaine and Bav attack the two women coming out of the millhouse. Chenashi's precast bane is countered by Slaine's bless, but she still manages to hit Bav with cause fear. He sees a vision of the Elemental Eye and runs. Sylvan tries to use sleep, but the only person caught in it is Maridosen, who's immune.
Chenashi ducks out of range of the incoming sleep, but takes a vicious blow from Slaine's mace. She runs up to Sylvan, but neither of them can hurt the other - she's got shield of faith up, he's got mage armour. Chatrilon enters melee skewers Slaine, dropping him in one round. Dorn, fresh from splattering the doppleganger, turns his attention to the assassin. The dwarf is equally effective in reducing the assassin to a bloodied mess. Maridosen falls victim to a daze, while Chenashi flees but is brought down by a hideously lethal burning hands.
Forty seconds after the first shot, the battle is over. Slaine is down but has plenty of healing magic, Bav is scared but recovering, while Dorn and Sylvan are unhurt. The cult members - save Dunrat and his bodyguard - are captured or dead.
Dawn breaks over Hommlet, marking the beginning of their first full day in the village.
* * *
That was messy for the cult - they managed to recover fairly well from the botched initial attack, but Vacra's capture (and some fairly heavy intimidation from the PCs) resulted in the PCs making a raid on the millhouse that very night. I brought Chat back to toughen up the millhouse a bit, and he did a satisfying amount of damage. The PCs are cleaning up fairly effectively, and are trying to control the spread of information. They've just found the letter to Dunrat in the basement of the mill, which will point them at the moathouse. Now I need to decide what Dunrat's up to...
(7/27/03 4:43 pm)
I'm having a wisdom tooth out tomorrow at 8am, so I'll make this quick.
* * *
A quick spot of mill-looting later, the party return to the inn to rest. Sylvan identifies most of the items they've retrieved, trading the gems from the prayer beads to Rufus the Wizard. The party hand their prisoners over to Rufus and Elmo, and spend a lot of time discussing what to do next with Rufus. They become quite friendly with the wizard, and he aids them by twice trying to scry on Dunrat. Both spells fail, so they persuade him to try contact outer plane. That pinpoints Dunrat and co as being "near the moathouse." They consider obtaining a wagon and pretending to be the reinforcements from Rastor mentioned in the mill letter, but instead just march off to the inn.
They encounter Del on the road and ignore his warnings about a dragon. On approaching the moathouse, they use the wand of invisibility to cloak themselves, and head in... to discover that crazy old peasants can be right sometimes.
The dragon can smell the intruders, but can't see them. It does scent them accurately enough to catch both Sylvan and Slaine in a breath weapon blast. Slaine is severly injured, and Sylvan survives only thanks to the partial cover from the moathouse gate. The two retreat across the drawbridge while Dorn and Bav attack the dragon. Sylvan drops a flaming sphere on Big U, while Slaine begins bombarding it with spiritual hammers. The dragon tears chunks out of the dwarf, but turns its attention to Bav after the rogue makes two sucessful sneak attacks. A single flurry of attacks drops the rogue to 0 hit points, but the dragon is wounded. It flies out a hole in the side of the moathouse, grabbing Sylvan as it flies past.
The dragon circles above the river. Bav and Dorn try to take it down with arrows, but its hide is far too tough. Sylvan manages to twist around in its claws and loose a burning hands right into the dragon's face.
"Drop me or else..."
It drops him - 30 feet onto the steps of the moathouse. It fires a single blast at Dorn as it retreats. Slaine's hammers get one last attack in, bringing the dragon down to a mere 2 hit points.
The party begin guzzling healing potions with gusto.
None of them notice movement across the moat. Dunrat is coming...
(8/4/03 5:53 am)
The Very Big Fight|
Well, that was...efficient.
* * *
'There are people in that copse of trees over there' observed Bav. 'Uh-oh.'
A huge man in plate armour and carrying a greataxe emerged from the trees, closely followed by a cloaked woman.
Slaine, inquisitor of the Sword Knights, joined Bav on the narrow bridge of the moathouse. 'A witch and her bodyguard' he intoned. 'Destroy them.'
'How exactly do you know she's a witch?' asked Sylvan. He delicately sipped a potion - the fight with the dragon had wounded him severely, and he was still somewhat shaken.
Slaine fired his crossbow. The bolt bounced off the woman's invisible shield.
'That doesn't imply she's a witch. She could merely be a sorcereress' said Sylvan.
A quartet of undead emerged from the trees, surrounding a tall, bearded man.
'Fine, she's a witch. If anyone wants me, I'll be invisible.'
The party retreated and hastily fortified the moathouse door. Bav and Dorn the Dwarf fired another few shots at the approaching figures, but failed to make their mark. The enemies halted about 60 feet away from the entrance and hid in the tall rushes of the riverbank.
'That's that Dunrat character' muttered Bav, nocking another arrow. 'And here they come.'
The four undead formed themselves into a wedge, with the armoured fighter at the front. They rushed towards the bridge where the party waited.
At 30 feet away, a blast of divine energy turned the charging skeletons into ash.
At 15 feet away, an arrow slammed into Torridan, staggering him.
At 5 feet away, Dorn leapt forward, swinging his axe. Toridan's head rolled across the threshold of the moathouse age, but the rest of him slumped onto the bridge.
Dunrat roared a curse and hurled his bead of force into the midst of the group. It bounced off Dorn's shield and detonated near Slaine. The cleric stumbled. Dorn pushed him out of the way.
Sylvan sidled up to Bav. 'They won't come to the gate - go out there and prepare to backstab them.'
The rogue stared at the wizard, who grudgingly waved his wand of invisibility. The invisible rogue slipped out the gate and circled around the two remaining enemies.
Slaine leaned against the crumbling wall of the south tower and invoked the healing aspect of his deity. Dorn and the invisible Sylvan charged out of the gate, planning to catch Dunrat and his witch ally between their advance and the invisible Bav.
The witch spotted the tall grass moving, and blasted Bav with Burning Hands. He dodged effortlessly, then waited until Dorn had drawn her attention before stabbing her with his rapier. Dorn turned his axe on Dunrat, but the cleric's heavy armour deflected the dwarf's blows. Dunrat reached out one hand. 'Serve me.' Dorn nodded.
'Dwarf's been charmed' shouted Slyvan, who dropped his invisibility to blast both Dorn and Dunrat with a colour spray. The dwarf grunted and flailed blindly, but Dunrat responded with a holding spell. Slyvan shrugged off the spell and fired a crossbow at Dunrat. Bav found a gap in the cleric's armour and filled it with his rapier. Dunrat slumped to his knees, and Bav put the rapier to his throat - or beard, at any rate.
Slaine approached. Dunrat's eyes widened when he saw the symbols of the inquisition on the Sword Knight's armour.
'Hold him for questioning' intoned Slaine.
Dunrat's head jerked to one side, impaling himself on the rapier. Blood gushed from his neck and mouth. He intoned a death knell on himself. The dark cleric's body flared with a terrible light as his soul fed on itself.
Sylvan and Slaine stared in horror. Bav stared with a sneaking sort of admiration. The rogue admired style, and sacrificing your soul to yourself had a measure of elan.
* * *
'I AM THE DEMON BALATHAZAR. I SLEW THE DRAGON, AND I CLAIM THIS MOATHOUSE AS MY OWN. STAY BELOW, OR MY WRATH SHALL FALL UPON YE. AND PERHAPS YOU MIGHT TELL ME HOW MANY OF YOU THERE ARE DOWN THERE. AND SEND ME SOME CLERICS TO EAT. YUM'
Sylvan beat his head off the wall softly. 'This will never work. They're gnolls, but they're not that stupid.'
Slaine lowered his cupped hands and shrugged. 'We lack the full resources of the inquisition. I'm improvising.'
Bav crept over to the stairwell where they had heard the gnolls moving. The top level of the moathouse was clear - his acid-burnt arm smarted from where the ooze had slapped him - but the lower level seemed infested with monsters.
Sylvan pointed at the rogue. 'Go down there and find out how many there are.'
There was another moment of silence, then another charge from the wand of invisiblity was used. Bav crept down the stairs. Below, he found an arched chamber where the very air was unclean. He could dimly make out prison cells, pillars, braziers - and two gnolls, one leaning against an open door to the northeast.
He listened. Voices echoed through the open door.
'skeletons will go first. Garrik, your gnolls are to follow. I'll send the dead up the other -'
One of the gnolls in the room sniffed the air, then barked a warning. Bav froze. He heard soft footsteps, then a foul stench filled the air. Particles of vileness rushed into his nose, his sinuses, burning and tainting. He choked down bile. If he vomited now, they'd know his position in the room. He gingerly backed away from open doorway.
A white figure, its flesh a mess of rot and fungal growth, emerged into the room. The gnolls whined and backed away. Bav stared in horror for a moment before turning and sprinting back up the stairs. He emerged gratefully into the comparative clean air of the moathouse's upper level, and gasped.
'Gnolls - lots of them. And undead - skeletons and something worse.'
The party quickly formed into a defensive position, watching the stairwell. It was getting dark outside the moathouse. The waters seemed to churn around the fortress. This was an unholy place.
Almost too late, Bav spotted a rotting hand curling around the frame of a doorwar. 'Undead in that room' he shrieked.
'How? We searched it for trapdoors' said Sylvan.
'I didn't', muttered Dorn as he rushed up to the door. Slaine sent another blast of divine energy into the room. Three ghouls screamed and burnt. 'It's clear' said the cleric.
Your death is coming said a voice. Like an invisible, pestilent fog, a stench rolled out of the corner room.
'I AM THE DEMON BA-' began Slaine. YOU ARE NO DEMON. NO DEMON HAS WALKED THESE HALLS IN DECADES. YOU ARE A KNIGHT OF THE SWORD, A PAWN OF THE HIERARCHY. YOUR KIND CAME BEFORE. I WAS THERE. I AM HERE STILL, MORTAL.
Dorn summoned up his courage and pushed into the room, just in time to see the ghast vanishing into a trapdoor.
'They'll be coming up through there and the main stairs' said Sylvan. 'Bav, Dorn, guard the trapdoor. Slaine, watch the stairs.' The wizard conjured a flaming sphere, then went invisible. Like an eager puppy of elemental fury, the sphere bounced down the stairwell.
Little burning shards of bone and the smell of singed gnoll wafted up on the warm breeze.
* * *
'We were lucky' remarked Sylvan. His last burning hands spell had eliminated the last gnoll. The two stairs had been killing fields. The flaming spheres had done yeoman work destroying and delaying the gnolls, while Bav and Dorn had managed to slaughter around a dozen foes as they came up through the narrow trapdoor. It was only due to Bav and Dorn's excellent defences and Slaine's healing potions and spells that they had survived without serious injury.
'We had the demon Baltazar' said Bav, grinning. He'd found the gnolls were quite well paid.
Slaine's face remained impassive. 'One ghast was turned, not destroyed. We should hunt it down.'
* * *
They found the ghast in a narrow tunnel. YOUR DEATH IS COMING it shouted, but the voice was somewhat muffled. The passageway was too small for more than a single man to walk abreast.
'Those clerics should be down here' said Sylvan. 'And acoording to this diary we found, they are numerous and somewhat less than sane.'
'We press on' said Slaine.
Dorn took the lead. The dwarf had been hired as a mercenary by the church, and his fighting skills were superlative. Although Sylvan's spells had done the majority of the damage earlier, it was the dwarf that was the mainstay of their front line and the bulwark of their defences. His bearded face was dark - though far from his home, he seemed to be taking the gnoll attack as a personal assault.
He led the party down the corridor.
YOUR DEATH IS COMING.
'That wasn't shouted at us' said Bav. 'He was warning - oh'.
Two armoured figures appeared at the far end of the corridor. Both of them intoned spells that dissipated harmlessly off the iron will and stanch faith of Slaine.
'Dark spells shall not dissuade me. If they want clerical magic, I've a better prayer for them' said Slaine. He searched his mind. 'Or I will at dawn, anyway. Press on.'
Dorn pushed on to the junction. The ghast had retreated down one branch, the clerics - three of them now, the last being a troglodyte of some sort - were approaching from the middle branch, and Dorn could hear the meeping and skittering of ghouls coming from a third side passage.
Slaine handed a belt of vials of holy water to Bav. 'Throw these at any undead.'
There was a moment of silence.
'I'm not the one with the invisiblity wand, Bav.' said Slaine.
The air near Dorn suddenly screamed, and a tentacled, many-mouthed thing plopped out of the ether. Every movement seemed to cause it unbearable agony, and its scaly, amorphous flesh rippled with pain. Still, it managed to claw at the dwarf's armour.
'Help' said Dorn, as summoned monster and ghoul and ghast and crossbow bolt struck at him. His armour proved more than a match for all save the ghast's bite, and he managed to avoid its paralysing taint.
Bav flicked the bead of force they'd found earlier down the corridor. The troglodyte exploded.
Sylvan clutched his crossbow. All his spells were depleted. He watched, but the corridor was much too narrow for him to get a clear shot at anything. Slaine's last turning failed to affect the ghouls, but a shower of holy water sent them squealing back.
Geynor Ton charged at Dorn just as the dwarf pulled his shield out of the pulped remains of the last ghast's head (thus spoiling, observed Bav from the rear of the party, the chance for a perfectly good last gasp/last ghast pun). The dwarf took one look at the bedraggled, insane, wild-eyed cleric and chopped him in two.
The last cleric fell to Sylvan's crossbow. The wizard smiled inwardly - he never actually expected to hit with the weapon.
Beyond the clerics, they found a well.
They looked down into the abyss and something looked at back at them.
Edited by: Mytholder at: 8/4/03 6:04 am
(8/4/03 10:30 am)
Re: The Very Big Fight|
I really enjoyed reading your piece. You are a gifted writer, and you should think about writing fiction, if you don't already. Your adventure is full of flavor, and I look forward to reading your posts in the near future. It's fun to read posts that are only in the moathouse stages. I will enjoy what happens at the obelisk. It is a common place for a PC death.
(8/10/03 5:37 pm)
signs and portents|
Players, I know I said you could read this. Stop. Go read the version over at my livejournal instead. It's edited to remove NPC actions. I shall smite ye with hideous vengeance if you continue reading this thread.
* * *
"Hellooo?". A cracked and broken voice echoed out of the well.
They backed out of the well room. "The journal made reference to a 'Festrath'" said Sylvan. "And a 'creature'".
"We're too tired to face another battle" said Slaine. "I need to rest, and pray. And feel the sun on my face."
They retreated to the upper levels of the moathouse and arranged watches. The air seemed fresh in comparison to the foulness of the deeps. On the way, they retrieved a prisoner of the gnolls they had found earlier, an alchemist named Spuignoir. He had babbled about voices in the darkness, so they had left him locked in a room with an everburning torch for company.
Towards midnight, Bav glanced out the arrowslit into the courtyard. A flame was racing around the perimeter of the moathouse, leaping over the ancient stones. From somewhere deep underground, he heard a tremendous growling noise. He yelped and kicked the others awake, but the flame was gone and the noise silent by the time they rose.
In the morning, Bav found an ancient burn mark atop the moathouse wall. He shuddered.
* * *
"Goood morning" came the voice from the well. It sounded quite cheery.
"Festrath?" asked Slaine. Dorn nudged him. "That's a natural echo chamber - he could be far below us."
"Yeeees. Are you here to feed me? Are you meaty and succulent?"
The inquisitor blinked and moved away from the well mouth. "He's insane."
Bav rolled his eyes. "You think?"
"If we made you invisible, Bav-" began Sylvan, but he was interrupted by a sudden rushing noise from the well. A hurricane wind began to rock the wodden platform in the well.
Slaine created a magic circle against evil. A moment later, a small air elemental impacted against the barrier and was rebuffed. It swirled angrily in the well for a moment, blocked by the shield, then vanished.
"Bring down the meeeaaat" wailed Festrath.
Sylvan rubbed his hands and reviewed the spells he'd prepared. "Oh, we're coming."
* * *
They climbed onto the well platform and descended into the cavern. Mist curled around them, chilling their bodies, but it was the sight of the vast monolith below that chilled their souls. 'Palpable evil' was a pale description of the horror - this was solid evil, congealed evil. As the platform came to rest on the surface of the monolith, the veins in the stone began to coil and writhe hungrily.
"This is" said Bav, "a really, really bad idea."
Dorn pulled on the rope, lifting the platform a few inches off the surface of the monolith. It came away with a slight sucking sound.
"There's a second platform over there" said Slaine, shining a bulleye's lantern at the other, larger platform that rested against the side of the evil stone. "Bav, go."
"I'm not walking on that."
Slaine put one foot on the surface of the stone. The veins reacted sluggishly at first, then lunged. He drew back after a moment.
"That was very stupid" said Sylvan.
Slaine shrugged. "The stone takes a moment to react. I think we can make it. Bav, go."
Bav darted across the surface. Frost seemed to clutch at his heels, but he made it safely to the platform.
A tentacle dropped out of the darkness and slashed at his face. He dodged, stumbled back to the edge of the platform, realised he was heading back onto the Monolith Of Evil, ducked forward onto the far edge of the platform, grabbed onto a rope, and screamed.
Sylvan blasted the horror with a barrage of magic missiles. Dorn leaped off the first platform and drove his axe into the creature. Its tentacles went limp. Bav fired his bow into it, and it deflated.
"What was that?" he asked, but was interrupted by a voice from below.
"You kiiilled it! Well done".
"I am growing to dislike his voice" muttered Sylvan as he moved over to the second platform. Slaine joined them, and they began to descend. They dropped a sunrod. It tumbled down the side of the monolith - the obelisk, they realised, as the sunrod lit up the lower reaches. The size of the thing staggered them.
"Meat now!" squealed Festrath from below. Another air elemental rushed towards them.
"It cannot penetrate the circle" said Sylvan.
"Get the pulley" shouted Festrath. The elemental whipped past the platform and lunged for the pulley embedded in the rock ninety feet above them.
"Down!" shouted Slaine. Dorn began to heave on the ropes.
The platform shook as the elemental began to hammer on the pulley. Bav spotted Festrath lurking behind a rock. He fired a shot from his bow, but it was deflected by an invisible shield of faith. Sylvan dropped a flaming sphere onto of the madman, with an equal lack of sucess. Festrath nimbly dodged to one side and enacted a protection against good on himself.
Slaine struck at the cleric with a spiritual weapon. Festrath tried to return the favour, but his spell was interrupted by another blast of magic missiles and the enthusiastic flaming sphere. The madman collapsed in a pool of brackish water.
The elemental vanished. Dorn breathed a sigh of relief.
Then the pulley broke and they fell.
* * *
"Touch" warned Sylvan, "nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not those symbols on the floor. Not the body of that tentacled thing. Not Festrath's body. Not that gate. Certainly not the monolith. Nothing."
"Festrath" said Dorn "is a ghast."
"Oh. Touch him with an axe."
Dorn chopped the undead cleric's head off.
Bav skirted the edge of the sun symbol on the floor. "I might be able to climb up, but it'll be hard."
Sylvan patted his spellbook. "We'll just wait until I can prepare a few levitates".
Slaine muttered that he could invoke the Travel aspect of the Sword Knight and fly under his own power.
"Just to be clear" said Bav, "the plan is to sleep here, in the cavern with the GIANT OBELISK OF EVIL".
"We have no choice."
* * *
The first few hours were spent profitably. Dorn repaired the fallen platform as best he could, in case they decide to fix the pulley. They examined - without touching anything - Festrath's body, and retrieved a cryptic note along with a few magical items. They also found signs indicating that the clerics had been researching the monolith, including a stained bundle.
They did not touch the monolith.
Sylvan examined the gate, and theorised that it lead to a demiplane orbiting the elemental planes at high speed. Certainly, it was fluctuating rapidly.
In the end, though, there was nothing to do but wait. The hours crawled by, in that dark cave lit only by a single lantern. Water endlessly dripped down the side of the obelisk.
"Don't touch the water" said Sylvan.
* * *
At midnight, Bav heard the grinding noise again. He looked up. A droplet of water struck his face. He blinked.
The obelisk was moving in a slow rotation.
"It's moving" he shouted.
Dorn tried to reply, but his voice was drowned out as the obelisk began to spin faster and faster. The air churned around it. Water began to spray from the falling stream. The ground began to shake. The noise was incredible, intolerable.
Dorn crawled over to Bav and shouted into his ear. "WE MUST TAKE COVER!"
"NO, REALLY?" screamed Bav.
They hid beneath the fallen platform as the massive obelisk screamed a message across the planes.
* * *
"I have communed". Hedrack smiled beautifically. "They were sucessful. The obelisk is once again active."
Naquent made the proper mutterings of respect and joy. She despised Hedrack's manipulations.
"However" - here it comes, she thought - "they are all dead. Something has gone wrong, Mistress Naquent."
"Possibly. Word of our activities must not get out, Naquent. We are not strong enough to endure a crusade against us, even with the Divine Hierarchy in its current weakened state. You are to ensure that whoever was responsible for the disaster at the Moathouse does not report back to the Rookery or any other stronghold of the Inquisition."
"Should I not be preparing for the expedition to the First Temple?" The effort to recover the old temple was sure to win the favour of the Three. Hedrack could not deny her that, surely.
"No. Until this danger is passed, you are responsible for dealing with this problem and no other. Use your agents in Hommlet."
She returned to her chamber and issued a sending - a waste of her power, she thought.
Dunrat did not respond. He had died at the Moathouse two days earlier.
* * *
Slaine placed a glyph of warding in front of the gate before flying out. They sealed the well with a sense of relief.
Bav explored the tunnels in the crypt, and discovered an altar in a far cave. Slaine conscrated it with extreme prejudice. It shattered, and worms crawled from the remains.
There was an answering crash from below. They rushed back to the well, suspecting the monolith had fallen, but there was no change. Sylvan dropped another sunrod, and far below they made out the shape of a fallen pillar.
"The support pillar..." said Dorn.
"So what's keeping the obelisk up?" asked Bav.
"We're getting out of here" said Sylvan.
"I could try consecrating the obelisk" mused Slaine.
"We. Are. Getting. Out. Of. Here." said Sylvan.
* * *
They didn't. After retreating from the dungeon, they rested again, questioned and calmed Spuignoir, and worked out that the wagon sent from Rastor should be arriving soon. The wagon crew was dealt with quickly - a barrage of spells left them all unconscious and charmed.
* * *
Naquent attempted to scry on the wagon's arrival, as Tal's hired goons were the only contact she had to the moathouse. Her spell failed. She scowled.
* * *
They questioned the charmed wagon crew, who were only to talk about Tal Chambrish, the sack of drugs in the wagon, their journey from Rastor, and anything else that Sylvan asked. They never even triggered the zone of truth.
Leaving their new "friends" to relax, the party retreated to another room in the moathouse. They compared the journal found with the note on Festrath's body, and speculated that the holy symbols found were corrupted versions of the elemental signs. Rim Temples, Water Temples, fire...it all pointed to a vast and terrible conspiracy.
Their debate continued long into the twilight. From deep below, Bav heard the grinding noise of the obelisk beginning to spin again. He buried his head in his hands.
"Can we please get out of this cursed place?"
(8/17/03 5:15 pm)
Loose Ends I|
Only half an entry- more tomorrow. Oh, and some names have changed from the module as writen. Burne and Rufus have swapped name, and Valorie is Vister, the Paladin held in the outer fane.
* * *
The wagon rolled out the gate, and the wagoners waved a cheery goodbye.
"For evil thugs, they're quite nice" said Bav.
"You didn't say 'see you later' or anything, did you?" asked Sylvan. They had decided to let the wagon go, loaded with junk from the temple. They intended to head to Hommlet, resupply, then ride hard to catch the wagon before it reached Tal Chembrish.
* * *
Sir Aelfric of the Sword Knights rapped his armoured gauntlet on the door of the shrine in Hommlet. The young paladin was on a quest, to locate a lost member of his order named Valorie who had vanished in the mountains to the south. He also carried a letter from Verbobonc, to be delivered to the wizard Rufus. (And is a new PC, a Pal4).
The door of the shrine opened, and Aelfric was welcomed by a novice. The next morning, he broke his fast with Canoness Y'dley.
"I would ask for your help" she said.
"It seems that the secular authorities here are holding a heretic, and refuse to give her up. I do not anticipate trouble - but still, I would appreciate your aid in...facilitating matters."
They went to Lord Burne's keep. The heretic in question was the half-demon Vacra, captured by the party at the moathouse. Vacra had told them everything she knew in exchange for clemency. Still, as a heretic, she should have been handed over to the church. They said as much to Rufus.
"No!" he shouted, then "euraka!"
Y'dley and Aelfric looked at each other.
He popped his head out of the tower again. "She is ALREADY in church custody! I was given custody, er, she was put into my care by a member of the inquisiton! Called, er, Slaine. So she's already in custody, so you can't burn her."
After a short discussion, it was decided that Aelfric would find Slaine and bring him before Y'dley, to explain why he had spared a demonspawn and not reported to the shrine on arrival on Hommlet.
* * *
"Right. We circle around." said Sylvan.
"To get the dragon. It'll probably have returned to the moathouse by now."
"And you want to fight it AGAIN?"
"Yes. Now. Before it gets stronger. Bav, swim that river, climb through that arrowslit, and see if it's in there."
Bav swam across the river, peered through the arrowslit, but saw no dragon. He turned back to signal the others, who were hiding in the trees several hundred feet away.
"What's he doing?" asked Dorn.
"He seems to be waving his arms frantically...and pointing." said Sylvan.
"It's like a mummer's play" said Slaine.
"Dragon. He's pretending to be a dragon...a dragon flying over something. Oh."
They turned around. A blue dot was dropping out of the sky towards them.
* * *
Aelfric passed a wagon on the road. He was about to question the wagoners, when he saw a fireball explode in the sky. He spurred his borrowed horse and rode on.
A burnt and wounded dragon fell onto the road ahead of him. The beast was severely wounded. He charged towards it, and his greatsword cut deep into its chest. The dragon roared and spat lightning at him. He tried to dodge, but was a fraction too slow. His horse went down, and he was trapped beneath it.
He lay on his back and looked up at the blue sky. Then blue wings threw a shadow over him. The dragon's claw scrabbled at the armour over his throat, pushing at the chainmail and scarring his breastplate. The pressure of the claw increased, and blue became blackness.
When the party arrived on the scene, the dragon raised its bloodied and scorched head and hissed "Parley. Or this meat dies."
* * *
Naquent needed an ally. None of the Temple agents were fast or cunning enough to aid her, nor were any of the elementals she would invoke. She meditated on it for a time, then went to speak to the cult's annis jailor.
"I want her" said Naquent.
"She is reserved for sacrifice."
"I will provide a replacement - and reward you well."
The negociations took some time, but eventually Naquent left the jail with less gold and no magic boots, but with her servants carrying an unconscious form. She had them lay it on her bed, shooed her wraith away from it, and began to call a lesser planar ally.
A beautiful woman in a high, severe dress appeared.
"Yes, mistress?" she said in a brisk tone.
Naquent swallowed, but managed to speak calmly. "I require your services for a long period of time. You will be my agent in the world. You will watch, hunt, lie, investigate, and even kill for me. You will not question my orders, nor shirk from your duty in the slightest. This service shall be for no less than seven weeks, at which point we shall review this bargain."
The succubus pursed her perfect lips. "Expensive, milady. What do you offer?"
Naquent drew back the sheets from her bed, revealing the unconscious form of the captured paladin, Valorie.
(8/17/03 5:39 pm)
Re: Loose Ends I|
Very good! Please keep it up! I love the cut scenes.
(8/17/03 11:45 pm)
Re: Loose Ends I|
I agree. You've made this log compelling viewing. It almost seems like a TV episode. I look forward to reading the rest of your logs.
(8/18/03 2:05 am)
Loose Ends II|
"Parley" croaked the dragon.
Sylvan held his hands up, and spoke in draconic - a gesture of trust. Mortals cannot lie in draconic, but dragons can.
"You know you cannot defeat us. You are wounded - twice-fireballed, arrow-show, and Sir Knight there dealt you a dolourous blow indeed. Surrender to us, and we shall spare you."
"No. You will leave me alone, in the moathouse, or I end this meat."
Slaine whispered to Sylvan "what are you saying to it? We have to kill it now, while it is young and weak." Meanwhile, Bav and Dorn began to circle around, readying an attack.
In common, Sylvan said "I have an idea", then switched back to Draconic. "My companions are inquisitors, strong in the faith of the Hierarchy and sworn to destroy evil. They cannot permit you to leave...while you are outside the faith."
"You want me to convert?" asked the dragon, incredulously.
"Yes", said Sylvan.
The dragon laughed. Blood gushed with each heave of its chest, dripping onto Aelfric's pinned form.
In the trees behind the dragon, Bav crept a little closer. The dragon flicked its head around and roared "COME NO CLOSER, EL-"
A blast of magic missiles shot at the dragon, stunning it. Dorn darted it and neatly beheaded it.
Bav replaced the wand of magic missiles in his sleeve and sauntered forward.
"How dare he insult our friend dwarf here by calling him an elf, eh? Damned dragons."
Sylvan fumed. "I nearly had him converted to the Hierarchy. Imagine that. A pious dragon. Damn."
Dorn dragged the corpse onto a cart, and Slaine healed Aelfric. The two Inquisitors discussed the situation in Hommlet. Slaine had committed a grevious breach in protocol by having Vacra (technically, a heretic) held by the secular authority of Rufus instead of handing her over to the shrine and the juristiction of Canoness Y'dley.
They set off and arrived in Hommlet at dusk.
(For clarification - in my game, the faeries are seen as somewhat hostile - about ten years ago, the three human lands launched a crusade against Faery, and not a single knight returned. This was a disastrous blow to both the nobility and the religious orders of the human New Kingdoms, and lead to the fall of one of the royal families. Faery-blooded creatures are therefore feared. An elf (in terms of the rules) is a strongly faery-blooded mortal. The dragon could smell Bav was an elf, but the rest of the party don't know what he is In Character. So, when the dragon spoke, he blasted it with a wand he stole in Verbobonc. If Bav's true nature were discovered, it would not be automatic death, but it would be a major stain on his already shaky honour - and seeing as he's travelling with at least one fanatic (Slaine), he probably wouldn't be very safe.
The dragon was ready to Coup de Grace Aelfric if anyone got too close, but neither he nor I was expecting a magic missile attack - I'd totally forgotten about the wand.)
* * *
On arrival on Hommlet, they first visited the eccentric wizard Rufus. He was more than happy to turn Vacra over to Slaine - the wizard was in a rather precarious position already, and did not want to annoy the powerful Hierarchy. He also gave them a letter from their patron, Grenley, which Aelfric had carried from Verbobonc (and handed over to Rufus when he met him - I forgot to mention that earlier).
Verbobonc, 20th day of Autumn
Comrades in our great work,
I hope and pray that this letter finds you all safe and well. I have not slept a single night through out of worry – what terrible things have they discovered, I wondered, what elemental horrors have torn them all limb from limb in a grisly paroxysm of rending and scorching fire, crushing earth, rushing water and…
Assuming, of course, that my fears have not come to pass, and that you are reading this untroubled and uninjured and entirely (strikethrough - undead) alive, I might trouble you to write back to me and inform me of –
(Tearing winds! My muse strikes!)
- anything of note you have discovered. I also enclose two Letters of Credit. One can be redeemed at any merchant's guildhall, the other at a Sword Knight temple (although I repeat that you should be… circumspect around Canoness Y'dley in Hommlet). Each Letter is for the sum of two hundred gold. Redeem these if you see fit - the monies are intended to be part of your payment, but if you need to purchase certain necessities in the course of your investigations, I am a reasonable man.
My thoughts and best wishes go with you.
Sage and Historian
"We keep meeting insane people. Now they're writing to us" grumbled Dorn.
"Rufus, could you use a sending to reply to Grenley for us?" asked Sylvan.
"My fee is 400 gold".
"400 GOLD?" screamed Bav.
"I shall waive it, and consider you in credit, in exchange for that dragon carcass. It's fresh, you say, no more than five hours old?"
"Yes...but 400 gold? For a spell?"
"It's a very good spell."
There followed a long discussion about wizard's fees, and exactly how generous an individual should be when it came to dealing with evil cults.
Vacra - tied up in a corner - coughed.
There followed a long discussion about the disposition of the prisoner, and whether she should be burnt or merely beheaded. The tiefling began to scream that she had turned church's evidence and told them all she knew, and that you fanatical manaics can't do this to her. Bav frogmarched her out to the cells outside.
"Please", she begged, "they promised they wouldn't burn me. I'll do anything. Just don't..."
Bav squirmed for a moment. It was entirely possible that he could be in her shoes in a few weeks, if his fae heritage came out. Then again, she was half-demon. She had cloven feet or something, not shoes.
"I'm sorry" he said, and closed the iron door of the cell.
He returned to Rufus' tower to find the two wizards, the paladin and the cleric in the midst of a long discussion about the Hierarchy, the old Temple of Elemental Evil, the proper responses to heresy, the utility of fireballs in same, and so on.
"I am going to the pub" he said loudly. "Dorn, you coming?"
* * *
The meeting with Canoness Y'dley ended well.
It started very badly indeed.
"You did not think of simply letting me know you were assaulting possible heretics not a mile from my door?" she said, icily.
Slaine replied: "We arrived in the town at night, and were almost immediately assaulted by heretics. We dealt with them, raided the mill, and set off for the moathouse without delay. There, we-"
"You did not have a single moment to visit my shrine? You passed it twice on the road from the mill to Burne's castle."
"Do not interrupt me, Canoness. This is an inquisitorial matter, not a pastoral one."
"And do not dismiss me as a mere village priest!" Y'dley spat.
Sylvan, present because he is a technical advisor to the Tower of Dawn, anothe branch of the hierarchy, tried to act as mediator. Aelfric just watched as the two clerics argued.
* * *
"I have seen the eye!"
The creepy guy in robes - Nierlethi or something - had been watching Bav and Dorn from outside the inn. Bav had circled around, caught the man, and invited him in for a drink.
"The elemental eye?" asked Bav casually.
"Indeed! Oh, it calls me!"
"Does it, indeed?" Dorn passed another drink over to Nierlethi, who was now very drunk and talkative indeed. He babbled about the eye calling him from the south.
"And how did you come to Hommlet?" asked Bav.
Nierlethi squinted. "Came from Verbo...veirbo...Ver. Bo. Bonk. I was there talkin' to...to...a sage - I'm a sage, too - ...know stuff...a sage called, er....Grenley."
He slumped on the table, unconscious.
"Grenley" said Bav.
* * *
Accord suddenly dawned at the shrine.
Slaine's main priority was dealing with the cult in the south. Y'dley secretly wanted either a full-scale crusade, like Emridy Meadows, or else a covert cleansing. Hommlet was a very minor post for a cleric of her power, but she should be stuck there for years if the Hierarchy decided that the cult was a threat. It had to be either dealt with secretly, or else with a full crusade where she could gain great influence. While Slaine was not especially interested in church politics, he appreciated her position.
Sylvan, usually the more adept of the two in such matters, missed Y'dley's position entirely, and almost brought the meeting to a crashing end when he suggested that she contact her superiors to get them to arbitrate the matter and that this cult was surely made up of the survivors of the old Temple of Elemental Evil. His other priority was keeping Slaine to his pledge not to burn Vacra.
It was eventually decided that Vacra would be handed over to Y'dley. If the tiefling proved herself pious and reformed, she would be permitted an atonement. Slaine and Aelfric agreed to share each other's quests. Slaine apologised for not following strict protocol, and Y'dley intimated that she understood the needs of the Inquisition. They parted on good terms, but very tired.
The three staggered back to the inn, to find Bav and Dorn rather drunk. Bav grinned.
"Got another cultist one here".
Sylvan sighed. It was going to be another long discussion with a mad person.
* * *
"One kiss" said Naquent, "each week for seven weeks."
"She is a paladin" said the succubus, hunger warring with fear in her voice. Then, the demoness realised the dark power of the place around her. "This is...unholy." She smiled.
"You need not fear divine retribution here" said Naquent, "not in this fortress. You can drink and despoil her without the bright celestials seeing."
The succubus reached eagerly for the sleeping form of the paladin, but Naquent stopped her. "A week of service, first."
"What do you command, mistress?" asked the succubus.
Naquent smiled. The creature was bound. She turned to a font she had brought from the temple and began to scry. "Someone slew several of my agents. I need to know who and why. My only remaining contacts is three minor servants of little import. I will find them, and you will question them." She quickly related the nature of the Temple and the current state of affairs to the succubus.
The font suddenly began to steam. The image of a wagon appeared on it. Three men rode on it, along with a covered cargo.
The succubus studied the scene for a moment, then vanished.
(8/18/03 2:12 am)
Re: Loose Ends II|
Oh, one last thing. Most of the party have now levelled.
The ranger who showed up in the first session is gone - his player moved away, and I can't be bothered running him as an NPC.
Sylvan took another level of wizard, and is probably heading for a Sun Mage prestige class.
Slaine went to Cleric 5, Bav went to Ftr1/Rog4 (as far as I can recall - I need to check with the player).
Aelfric, a new player and a new character, is going to level next session - seeing as he's going to Pal5, I wanted to have time to run the whole celestial horse thing fully, and a lot of the last session was taken up with religious debate. (My notes on the hierarchy are fairly skimpy, but the players are really running with them.)
Finally, Dorn has secretly taken a level of cleric, in the dwarven Hammer Aspect faith. This suits me very well - I'm going to push the whole lost dwarven temple quest in the CRM towards him. I'm also thinking of changing Tessimon in the fire temple to an ex-inquisitor - the party love burning cultists, and Slaine said something like "we practically worship fire at the inqusition". That's going to come back and bite them.
(8/25/03 1:25 am)
In Which I Contemplate a TPK|
Lareth invoked rage and slammed his quarterstaff into Slaine's shield. The blow lifted the inquisitor off his feet and hurled him into the wall. Outside, Dorn fled, tears running through his beard. Aelfric hacked the head of his own horse, and Bav watched in horror as his own shadow began to choke him...
* * *
Two days and a night earlier, a shadowy figure crept through the gate of Burne's keep and made his way to the row of cells in the courtyard. He expertly picked the lock of the only occupied cell.
"Bav. I'm letting you go."
"Because I can. Because I don't want to turn you over to the Church. Because...I don't know. Just...go."
"Did you bring my spellbook?"
"No! Just run before the guards come, or we'll both end up on the heretic's pyre!"
She darted out of the cell, kissed him lightly on the cheek, and fled into the night.
* * *
"The demonspawn Vacra has escaped" announced Sylvan over breakfast in the inn.
"We must hunt her down" said Slaine, and Aelfric nodded.
Sylvan shrugged. "I'd prefer to stay here - we've got a week before we need to leave to catch up with the wagon in Rastor, and we could spend the time making wands and studying spells."
"You mean, you could spend the time making wands and studying spells" said Aelfric.
Dorn muttered something that he could make things, too.
Sylvan gestured grandly with a bagel. "We could also send a wagon to Verbobonc, purchase further supplies, sell all those masterwork weapons, and do further research."
Aelfric asked "could Rufus the Wizard scry for Vacra? Then guide us with sendings?"
"That would be horribly expensive" said Bav hurriedly. "She knows nothing more - let's just make those wands and then ride south."
Slaine drew himself up. "We shall not let a single demonspawn live. We shall do this mission THOROUGHLY. Make the arrangement with Rufus - he still owes us for that dragon carcass. A single scrying spell each morning, and a sending to let us know where she is. We'll leave tomorrow."
Sylvan folded his arms. "I'm not going. I'm going to stay here with Rufus and make wands, and study, and not run off after some two-bit tiefling who we've already interrogated several times. This is foolishness."
* * *
"Oh dear. Nulb. She's on the road to, well, Nulb. Don't go there - it's full of the dead, and the not-so-dead. It's forbidden". Rufus pottered nervously. His tower was rapidly filling up with bits of things killed by the party - the dragon corpse hung from the ceiling, and doppleganger organs floated in jars around the room.
Slaine turned and walked towards the stables. Aelfric strode a step behind him at his right hand. Dorn stomped along after them. Bav swallowed, looked at Sylvan (who was leafing through Rufus' library) and also followed.
* * *
They arrived at a crossroads beyond the Moathouse.
"Both roads go to Nulb" explained Dorn, "the south road is quicker, but goes through a haunted forest. The ot-"
"South" said Slaine, and rode on.
After another few hours ride, he cast longstrider on Bav's horse, and sent him scouting ahead. Bav agreed willingly for once, and galloped on down the leaf-strewn road.
* * *
"More tea, Rufus?"
"Thanks. How's that wand coming along?"
* * *
(8/25/03 9:02 am)
Re: In Which I Contemplate a TPK|
Bav charged through the forest. A trio of bizarre bat-things circled around him, but could not keep up with his swift horse. Within a few minutes, he arrived at the outskirts of Nulb. There was no sign of Vacra...no sign of any life at all - except a single lantern, hanging from one of the less ruined buildings. He rode on into the darkness.
The darkness lunged at him. Bav's horse reared back as a trio of shadows attacked. He managed to stay on his mount, and spurred it. It leapt over the lead shadow and they fled deeper into the town, into the circle of light around the lantern. A hooded figure was sitting there.
"Stranger, may I share your light?" he asked.
The figure nodded.
"Will it keep those things out?"
The figure shrugged.
"Who lives here?"
Bav turned his horse and rode as fast as he could back down the road. The shadows clawed at him as he passed, draining a little of his strength.
* * *
In the forest, the trio of vargouiles circled around Aelfric, unable to affect the paladin with their screams. Methodically, he picked them off with a longbow.
(OOC: This was rather worrying for a moment. Everyone failed their saves against the vargouile's paralyzing screams. It was dusk, and I realised that there was a fairly good chance that the monsters would kill the three PCs - Aelfric, Slaine and Dorn - that night, and that a weakened Bav would probably not make it back to Hommlet on his own. I began worrying that this was the end of the game...then Aelfric asked if the scream was a fear effect. It was, he was immune, and the vargouiles went from "lethal random encounter" to "cheap XP".)
They pressed on, meeting Bav on the road. Shadows wheeled around them, pressing in on Slaine's magic circle and the light shed by their torches. The whole forest was alive – no, undead – with laughing, mocking darkness. A cold wind whipped the dying autumn leaves from the trees.
Turn back said the wind. Come to us said the shadows.
"We press on" said Slaine.
"She must be on the northern road" said Aelfric, the only one of the party not unnerved by the gathering darkness.
"The only bridge is in the centre of Nulb" said Dorn.
* * *
They rode into town. A handful of shadows tried to block the road, but Slaine turned them shrieking back into the night. They arrived at the crossroads, and the herb shop.
Slaine scowled. "No honest man would live in a town of the dead." He took out a flask of oil and hurled it at the roof.
The door burst open and a tall hooded figure emerged. He cast back his hood, revealing a face scarred on one side, inhumanly handsome on the other. One eye was bloodshot, full of madness and rage. The other, a gleaming blue like purest crystal and calm like an ocean. He clapped his hands together and a web shot out. The party's horses and Slaine were trapped. The others charged to the attack.
Shadows emerged from the darkness once more. One tore at Bav, draining the last of his strength. He collapsed. Aelfric hewed at the one living man amongst all the dead. The man stepped back into the cover of his burning shack and blasted the paladin with a bolt of searing light. Other shadows grabbed at Slaine, weakening him, but they were quickly turned. Dorn smashed his enchanted axe through the shadow feeding on Bav, then turned as a weird chill crawled over him. A confusion spell - the dwarf resisted its maddening effect, but Aelfric began to moan and babble.
Slaine invoked bull's strength and burst out of the web. Dorn attacked the scarred man again, who stepped back and gestured. Overwhelming fear gripped Dorn's heart, and he fled. Aelfric, in his madness, decided this was a good thing to do, and also ran. Slaine cast his last bull's strength on Bav, who staggered to his feet, looked around, and ran north following the other two.
The inquisitor looked at his fleeing companions, surrounded himself with a shield of faith and stepped into the burning hut. Lareth responded by casting bull's strength followed by rage. Quarterstaff met warhammer as the two clerics clashed.
Outside, Dorn threw off the fear and turned around. Aelfic's confusion lasted slightly longer – he turned on the horses and slaughtered them. Once the minds of the two warriors were clear, they ran to help Slaine.
* * *
In his headlong flight north out of Nulb, Bav nearly tripped over a campfire.
"What are you doing here?" hissed Vacra.
"Looking for you!"
"You get me go!"
"Better I find you than they do. Run – they're just behind me." He glanced back into the town. "Or were. Go."
The tiefling nodded. "That's twice I owe you." Darkness – magical darkness – surrounded her, and she fled. Bav smiled – then his enhanced strength began to fade. He looked down.
His shadow was pulling away from his feet. Tendrils of shadow-stuff tugged at the legs of his shadow, like a man trying to pull himself out of quicksand. Each tug sapped his strength further.
* * *
Axe and sword and hammer struck at him, and Lareth danced amid the blows. His quarterstaff was a thunderbolt. Blood gushed from the ghastly wound on his face, and his bloodshot eye was like a fiery ruby. Still, he was unarmoured, and unprepared, and outnumbered three to one.
Dorn's axe caught his leg, bringing him to his knees. Slaine's hammer smashed his quarterstaff aside.
Aelfric raised his sword.
I've been dead before thought Lareth.
His head fell to the ground, his body a moment later.
* * *
They found Bav as he lay dying.
"A fire…Vacra?" wondered Aelfric. Then Bav's shadow flitted away from the corpse and charged Slaine.
Spiritual weapons blasted it to nothingness.
"We can raise him now – the shadow no longer holds his spirit" said Slaine.
Dorn shook his head. "I can rig a travois – but you will be too weak to travel when your spells run out, and the horses are dead. We can hardly carry you back to Hommlet, let alone you and a corpse."
A light appeared in the trees. A magnificent horse, shimmering with the light of dawn, emerged from the darkness, driving back the shadows. It cantered up and stopped in front of Aelfric.
The paladin smiled. "No. We'll all make it home."
* * *
They arrived back in Hommlet on the morning of the fifth day, accompanied by guards sent by Sylvan and Rufus. Bav's body was preserved by Slaine's arts, and they brought it to the Sword Shrine. Slaine gave Y'dley an ancient scroll, one of four given to them by Grenley.
"Bring him back" he asked.
"Begin the vigil" ordered Y'dley. "We shall attempt a returning at dawn."
* * *
What do you want?
I don't know. Where am I?
Oh. Who are you?
You should know my name, child. All of my bloodline…but wait – you are a bastard child of the fae, not a scion of my blood.
Er…who are you?
Yet you carry a boon. Fascinating. What do you want?
A boon…blood…are you Vacra's father?
Many generations removed, yes. I sired her line. Each one may ask me for one boon. She, it would seem, has given hers to you, faeborn.
Ok…I'd like to come back.
They are looking for you.
I hear bells…and plainsong.
The vigil at the Shrine.
Can you send me back? Whole and undiminished?
A paltry boon, but so be it. We shall meet again, Bav of the Fae.
* * *
Sylvan sat at the back of the church, observing the vigil. Aelfric and Slaine were chanting fervently as Y'dley incanted the spell on the scroll. Light began to pour from Bav's body as the spell took hold.
The wizard's arcane senses noticed something. A slight…taint. Brimstone. The candles flickered.
We need to have a little chat once you're alive again, Bav, thought Sylvan.
* * *
OOC Clarifications: Seeing as Bav had risked life and limb to rescue Vacra - twice - I decided to give him a plot hook - a boon from the tiefling's demon sire. He didn't know what was going on, but basically it ended up getting used in the same session he recieved it, to prevent the raise dead from costing him any xp.
(8/25/03 3:14 pm)
Very good writing. Quite griping as well.
(8/31/03 5:17 pm)
The Road to Stalagos I|
After finalising their dealing in Hommlet (they had sent Rethidoor the Bard north to Verbobonc, to sell off their excess goods) and making a final use of Rufus' laboratory to make a wand of lesser restoration, the party headed south towards Rastor. Aelfric left the group, swearing to return once he had located the mysterious white horse that saved the party in the woods outside Nulb. Dismissing it as "paladin stuff", the remaining four rode off to the south.
There is very little south of Hommlet. After a day's travel, there is a crossroads. One branch leads around the mountains, heading towards the "devout Khentish" kingdom of Senbley, on the coast. The other, lesser branch goes west, up into the Crowsfoot mountains. After a day's travel along that narrow path, it becomes little more than a dirt track that winds through steep valleys and pine-choked ridges. The mountains are dark sentinels that seem to frown at unfortunate travellers. The woods are thick, clotted webs of rot and green growth. When the wind blows from the east (as it does in autumn), it brings clouds that smash into the Crowsfeet and burst in huge rainstorms.
The party departed Hommlet at the beginning of the fifth week of Autumn. When they were half-way to Rastor, the first rainstorm hit.
* * *
The bridge was not old as such bridges go. The dwarves of Rastor built it two centuries before the party came to it, and the dwarves build to last. It leapt across the narrow valley in a single great arc of stone. The bridge had weathered storm and flood. It even endured the rather large giant standing on it.
After a quick consultation, Sylvan went to talk with the giant (identified by Dorn the dwarf as a stone giant.
"Hail, sir giant. I trust the rocks are good today."
"The rocks are passing fair indeed." The giant seemed rather miserable, and held a scrawny pine tree as a crude umbrella against the driving rain.
"Why do you stand here in the rain? Or are stone giants immune to the effects of wind and rain."
The giant sneezed loudly. The valley echoed.
"I see they are not" said Sylvan, "why, then, do you stand here in the rain?"
"I must demand a toll" said the giant. He then leaned forward conspiratorially. "What's a good toll? I'm new at this."
After a little negotiation, Sylvan handed over five gold pieces, yet he felt he came away the richer. "The giant", he reported, "has been told by his shaman to demand tolls from passers-by. This shaman is hanging about near Rastor, and has been acting strangely lately. He hasn't seen the wagon we're following pass this way, and he's been here two days. Rastor's another few days down the road, but there are no major dangers."
* * *
The bulette exploded out of the ground and tore a chunk out of Slaine's arm. The cleric screamed and fell backwards. Sylvan quickly hasted the party, while Dorn accepted a bull's strength from Slaine, invoked enlarge person on himself, and smashed his axe into the bullette's head.
It was, however, Bav who did the most damage. He danced around to the rear of the bulette while it was occupied with assaulting Dorn. Bav waited until the bulette lifted its tail, then drove his rapier deep into…something. There was a gush of some vile ichor and a horrible smell. The bulette squealed ("I hope that was in pain" thought Bav) and retreated back into the earth.
"No major dangers on the road?" grumbled Bav. "So much for your giant's word."
"To a giant" replied Sylvan, "bulettes are vermin."
* * *
The other wagon, carrying the three servants of Tal who the party had met and charmed at the moathouse, arrived in Rastor first. Leaving Dorn and Slaine behind with the horses, Bav and Sylvan crept into town under cover of a huge storm. Sylvan followed the three – Annwn, Hewik and Gilraen – as they went into a large townhouse. He tried to listen in, but caught only fragments.
Inside Tal's house, the succubus wearing the form of the wagoner Gilraen stretched out her mind. Her mistress Naquent had successfully scryed Sylvan earlier that day, but the wizard had assumed that it was Rufus checking in from Hommlet. The succubus had been ordered to learn all she could, but not to interfere – yet. She sensed Bav's mind outside the window, and casually wandered through his surface thoughts. A wash of greed, lust, and suspicion, coupled with a nagging debt to the Hierarchy that had raised him from the dead. Fear of shadows. The thoughts were not as good as a kiss, but they warmed her a little.
Sylvan sat in a potato field just outside Rastor. His rat familiar was hidden in Bav's tunic, relaying a running rodent commentary on events in town. The wizard was damp. He toyed with fireballing the town just to get some warmth. This storm was getting worse and worse.
North of Rastor, Dorn watched the storm while Slaine slept. Lighting was dancing around a peak to the south. The rhythm of the bolts reminded him oddly of the rotation of the obelisk in the moathouse. The dwarf muttered a prayer against evil and tried to ignore the thunder.
* * *
The last of the rain brought a rather odd visitor to the camp – a water mephit. Sylvan theorised that the creature was spontaneously called during the storm – a rare but not unheard-of event, especially in a magic-rich area. Slaine took the mephit under his wing, wondering if the creature could be used as a guide to the "elemental evil". He fed it several vials of holy water, and cast bless water on the imp. He then began to educate it in theology.
"We're fighting evil people – those who want to stop you getting to the nice water."
"Ah", said the mephit, "the dammed."
* * *
The next morning, the party observed Tal leave Rastor and sell a bag of his foul drugs to a stone giant shaman. After some discussion, they decided not to attack until they knew more. Slaine chafed under the restraint – he wanted blood, and fire. He and Sylvan argued tactics for most of the day.
Later, an invisible Sylvan ran into the town to examine a runic stone in the village centre. It told of the history of Rastor, but seemed…unfinished. The dwarves came south after the Pact of the Rock, built deep and delved high…then nothing. Half the stone was blank. On his way back to camp, he noticed a dwarven manor on the hill overlooking the town. Bav was sent back to investigate it. He triggered a trap, and barely dodged the stone block that fell when he tried the door.
As he was leaving, a crossbow bolt shot past his ear. He spun around. A female dwarf stood at the threshold. She reloaded, screamed "oy! Tal's man! Stay away from my doorstep!" and fired again. Bav took cover and circled back to camp.
"There's a mad dwarf woman firing bolts at me back there."
"Was she bearded?" asked Sylvan.
"We do not speak of such things" interrupted Dorn. The wizard nodded sagely. "So it's true then" he muttered.
Slaine said "if he thought you were one of Tal's men, and then tried to kill you, she may be an ally. Let us talk to her."
They set off down the hill.
Unseen and unheard, the succubus followed them.
<I>Commentary: Half a session's notes are above. The Stone Giant and Mephit were random encounters. I'll post up my version of Rastor when I get a chance. More later.</I>
Edited by: Mytholder at: 9/1/03 4:32 am
(9/1/03 2:50 am)
The Road to Stalagos II|
Dorn hammered three times on the door. After a few minutes, a viewing plate was drawn back and a crossbow poked out. "Who's there?"
"Dorn of Baldrohor. A warrior priest of the Hammer Aspect" he whispered. The crossbow was replaced by a pair of brown eyes, which widened. The door opened.
"I am Thuldain" said the dwarf-maiden. "You need to talk to my father."
She led them deep underground, through a maze of vaults and tunnels that could have housed the entire town of Rastor twice over. Bav noted the wealth of the fittings despite the decay. Gold glimmered beneath the dust. Sylvan sighed and grabbed Bav's cloak, dragging him along.
They were led to a cavernous feasthall at the heart of the manor. An aged dwarf-lord sat by a fire, a diamond-encrusted axe on his knees. His head was bowed.
Dorn introduced his companions. The dwarf-lord scowled at Bav and Sylvan, nodded at Slaine, but was greatly cheered by Dorn's arrival.
"I am Lord of Rastor" said the dwarf. "You are welcome here. Your coming was accompanied by omens. I have been waiting for you."
* * *
The dwarf-lord told them his story. Two hundred years before, the coming of the Navonese from over the sea and the Pact of the Rock had allowed the dwarves to leave their ancestral halls. The dwarf's grandfather had lead his clan south, searching for the fabled mountain where the legendary hero Tulian had found a magnificient diamond. Against all hope, they had suceeded - Mount Stagalos to the south was full of diamonds.
(Bav perked up a lot, and started nodding enthusiastically when Slaine talked about cleansing the mountain of evil.)
Evil had crawled out of the mountains, writhing up from the deeps and turning the shadows into false life. The dwarves retreated to Rastor, hoping to one day retake the mines...but the fire had gone out of them. The retreat from Stagalos broke their spirits, and they were content to grub roots out of the dirt like common humans.
("No offence" said the dwarf.
"None taken" said Bav.)
This human, Tal Chemmish, was nothing but the latest manifestation of the weakness and corruption of Rastor. Tal must die, soon, and painfully.
"I agree" said Slaine, "I've been saying that all along!"
"Retraint, Slaine" said Sylvan.
"RESTRAINT?" roared the dwarf, "you are young and strong! Your limbs are not withered! Snow does not lie on your brow as heavily as it does on mine! GO OUT AND CHOP HIM INTO TINY PIECES!"
Slaine bowed low. "I did not expect to find such a noble and enlightened spirit in these lands".
Sylvan buried his head in his hands. His grand stratagems for stealth and secrecy were being torn down by religious fury. He appealed to the one arbiter who both the dwarf-lord and Slaine might listen to.
"Dorn" he asked, "what do you think we should do next?"
"We must" said Slaine, but the dwarf-lord interrupted him with a roar. "LET DORN SPEAK. I would...hear what he has to say."
Dorn stared into the fire for a moment, then looked up. "Killing Tal must be done...but not yet. We do not know enough, and I judge that he is but a pawn of the darkness at Stalagos. If we are to drive out this evil, we must strike at its heart.
We must take Mount Stalagos."
(9/17/03 3:29 am)
Lunge and Riposte I|
Dorn, Sylvan, Slaine and the dwarf-king Rerrid continued to argue about what should be done next. Rerrid mentioned that there was an ancient temple in the mines, and he vaguely recalled something about a secret escape route. He went off with his daughter Thuldain off to look through the family archives.
Bav grew bored, and wandered off to look for diamonds. After all, these dwarves had dug lots of gems out of the mountain in the past, so there must be one or two lying around somewhere. He pushed his way through cobwebbed corridors and explored the warren of unused rooms.
One door had not been opened in decades, but inside he found an open bottle of wine and a half-drunk glass. "A secret passage!" he guessed, and began to examine the far wall.
A musical laugh came from nowhere. He spun around, but the room was empty...for a moment.
A cascade of blue light erupted in the centre of the room. Shimmering fragments of energy fountained out of the lower planes and wove themselves into a hideous, demonic form - A man's frame mated to a plucked, electric-blue vulture. Its wings brushed the ceiling and little sparks of energy danced between it and the metal doorframe.
A woman's voice said "kill them."
Bav vaulted over the demon and ran as if the hordes of hell were on his heels.
* * *
"DEMON! DEMON" screamed Bav as he burst into the main hall.
Slaine frowned. "Where?"
"Just behind me! A big blue bird thing?"
Sylvan raised an eyebrow. "Have you got into our host's wine cellar, Bav?"
Bav skidded to a halt, looked Sylvan straight in the eye and said "there is a giant demon in the house, and it's coming to kill us."
Slaine chanted a protective spell, as did Dorn. Aelfric secured the northern door. As he did so, he felt a presence beyond. "Bav's right...there's something-"
The door exploded. A host of demons charged into the room. Bav shrieked and fled out another door. Dorn swung his axe and a demon vanished - one of many.
"Mirror images", muttered Sylvan. A brace of magic missiles dismissed many of the demons, but one of them was definitely real.
Slaine shouted "he cannot penetrate my magic circle". The demon's mouth-beak seemed to smile, and it lunged at Slaine. White divine energy flared, but the demon's unholy aura was stronger. Slaine's protection failed, and the vrock's claws ripped the cleric's stomach open. Slaine stagged back, and Aelfric stepped into the breech, pinning the demon between himself and Dorn. Their blows rained down upon the vrock's hide, but failed to wound it severely. It spat spores at them - Aelfric's holy aegis protected him from the hellish fungi, but it took root in Dorn's beard.
Slaine began to heal himself, but his wounds were grevious. Bav popped up on the far side of the demon and tried to stab it, but his rapier was ineffective. He tried his remaining bead of force, but it also bounced off the demon's protections. Sylvan blasted it with magic missiles and flaming spheres, but the vrock kept attacking. It tore Bav's arm open, forcing him to fall back, before penetrating Dorn's magic circle protection and clawing at him.
Sylvan shouted "we need a holy weapon to injure it! My spells are ineffective!"
"Try THIS!" Rerrid Hammersong charged into the room and flung his axe at the vrock. It cut deeply into the demon's chest. Dorn dodged in and grabbed the axe. Two blows did more to injure the demon than all their previous attacks. For a moment, it seemed as if the horror was gone.
Then the vrock darted forward, brushing Aelfric aside effortlessly, and drove its claws into Dorn. It lifted him up, drew back its razor-sharp beak, and sliced him almost in twain.
* * *
Bav had run away. The bead of force was blocking his route to the vrock, and he'd failed to injure the demon anyway. He found his way back to the room where the vrock had appeared. He opened the door.
A stunningly beautiful woman stood there, dressed in a severe gown. She appeared to be finishing her glass of wine. She smiled at Bav. "Good sir" - her voice was enchanting - "would you care for some wine. Surely you are thirsty after not being torn into little pieces. Put down your rapier". Bav found his will slipping away, and his rapier felt incredibly heavy in his hand. She licked her lips and stepped forward.
Bav shrugged and flung his rapier at her face. She caught it, scowled, and vanished.
* * *
Aelfic took up the axe and cut the demon's head off. Blood spurted from it, instantly congealing into a ghastly purplish moss-like substance that coated the hall's ceiling, not to mention Dorn's body.
Rerrid grabbed his axe and waved it at Slaine. "We must do something. Can you raise him?
"I have certain ancient relics of the Hierarchy - but Dorn was not a follower of my faith. He was a dwarf."
"SO! HE DIED FIGHTING FOR YOUR CAUSE, HUMAN!"
"He died fighting in self-defence. I honour his sacrifice, but I will not use Hierarchy relics to restore his life unless-"
Sylvan nervously eyed the demon-slaying axe that Rerrid was waving dangerously close to Slaine. "The Pact of the Rock declares that the dwarves are not anathema, and that their religion is to be tolerated, Slaine. Restoring Dorn's life is acceptable according to doctrine."
"We have but three scrolls remaining, and I count at least three deserving and loyal followers of the Hierarchy here."
"YOU'D QUIBBLE OVER NICEITIES OF FAITH WHILE DORN LIES THERE, DEAD?" screamed Rerrid.
Aelfric stepped between the dwarf and Slaine. "Please put the axe down, sir."
"NOT UNTIL YOU RAISE DORN! BLOODY HUMANS!"
Slaine shouted back "I WILL NOT TRIVIALISE MY FAITH JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT TO USE DORN TO GET YOUR MOUNTAIN BACK! THIS IS A SACRED INQUISTORIAL MISSION TO INVESTIGATE AND DESTROY THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL."
"Technically" said Sylvan icily, "we're here on behalf of Grenley Dumare, a lay sage and not on behalf of the Hierarchy at all."
Aefric started to point out that he was on a mission to locate the lost paladin Valorie, but was interrupted by Slaine, who lost his temple and lunged at Sylvan. Rerrid raised his axe...
They all turned. Bav stood in the doorway. "We have another problem. There's some rather stunning but doubtless diabolically evil chick running around Rastor. I think she summoned the vrock. We'll need Dorn to kill her, so can we skip the theological brawl, bring the dwarf back, and then hunt down the one who sicced a vrock on us AND stole my rapier? Please?"
Edited by: Mytholder at: 9/22/03 8:30 am