Beyond the Karameikan Frontier

As of this point, no, they weren’t. We’re about to play our 25th session this Friday, though, so a few things have happened in the interim.

The Richard Recap Session 3

Planning actually works

Belgarath said: Abandoned by our fellow men Endithas and Kane, our small group of 3 were left to fend for ourselves. We set out to the big city to recruit some help. We were valiant, strong, shiny, beautiful, skilled adventurers whose very scent (tanned leather, oiled steel and week old BO) inspired dreams of heroic battle, treasure, and fame. Who wouldn’t want to join us? We planned to spend the day interviewing the throngs of applicants, picking only the best skilled and equipped. However, the big city is a harsh world, and we managed to round up 2 farm boys and their sister. Earl, big brother Meal, and Dara. The church looked at Cassi and agreed that her arm/flipper looked and smelled terribly awful, and then said, if she wanted it healed, SHOW US THE MONEY. We also managed to acquire two extra war dogs, Cerbrus (great name), and Bill, or Bob, or something (terrible name, can’t even remember it). So our new group of heroic adventurers, farmers, and dogs set out into the sunset to vanquish the evil that our former companions had not the courage for. We headed back across the river to the dangers that awaited. We followed the trails up to the cave and ventured in. DUH DUH DAAAH !!!

The cave

Belgarath said: Once inside we explored and explored and ran into a colony of bats the size of flying pigs (death from above, again!). Kalasandr bravely took the first hit, and bled all over the place. It was starting to look like we weren’t going to make it, but then we had a novel idea: Run away! It worked, and we survived! We hid in a another part of the cave and waited until after dark when the horde of death went out to feed on insects or silly adventures that wander in the wilderness at night. We snuck back into their unguarded bat cave where Belgarath proceed to root through arm deep piles of rich, sticky, extra-potent bat guano that would put fear and nausea into any lesser man. Belgarath, risking his life, pushed back his fear (and breakfast), and bravely dug deeper and deeper until discovering a silver necklace. Thank the Immortals Belgarath was there to help the party when no one else could (rumours of a scat fetish are greatly exaggerated).

We left the cave and followed some trails and happened upon a cabin in a clearing in the woods.

The cabin

Belgarath said: Two old ladies tended to a quaint little garden behind the cabin in the middle of nowhere! It all seemed too perfect, too strange. How could they live here with all these dangers? The only sensible conclusion: they were witches? We approached with extreme caution, we strategized, quibbled, and thought of everything (we had learned our lesson with the bees). After a perfectly executed plan with a contingency for anything … the little old ladies offered us mint tea. After talking to the nice old ladies they offered us a mission to bring them the head of the eldest male ogre from a cave nearby in exchange for free Medicare upon future visits.

The Ogre lair

Belgarath said: People will do anything for free Medicare.

We found a cave with a ten foot door at the back of it. We surmised it was the ogres front door because it was TEN FRIGGIN’ FEET TALL! Again reflecting on our lessons (read: beatings) from before, we devised the perfect Ogre killing trap. With Earl and Mearl stringing a rope across the doorway, Kalasandr hiding behind the door, Belgerath ready to unleash the awesome power of the maji, Dara providing bow support, and Cassi standing in plain view as the bait.

Knock Knock… Who’s there? Ogre killers. Ogre killers who? The best, most organized frickin’ ogre killers in the land! That’s who!

As a younger looking Ogre opened the door, Dara showed we meant business by firing an arrow and completely missing him, but he still took the bait. Charging forward and tripping slightly on the rope, he never know what hit him; Kalasandr snuck forward the buried his short sword up to the hilt into the ogre’s kidney. He fell dead. WOOO HOO!!! We got him!

Oh, not the oldest ogre, wrong one! Belgarath bravely got everyone back to their starting places, just in time for the brother of the dead Ogre to come running through the door. The trap worked perfectly again, with the dogs ripping off his arms.

Oh, not the oldest ogre, wrong one!

A massive roar from inside the cave indicated that the next Ogre was the right one. Places everyone! We reset. Belgarath unleashed the most powerful of his spells (Judge: the mighty Light spell), rendering the massive behemoth blind. Unfortunately, not before Earl - or maybe it was Mearl? - met the ogre’s club which mashed him into goo. But we still prevailed, and the ogre fell. Whew…safe at last…

Cassi scraped Earl (or was it Mearl?) off the floor, and miraculously made him into a farm boy again.

Just then a mighty WWWWAAAGGGHHH!!! Came from inside the cave.

Places everyone! Mom is coming.

The trap worked perfectly again. Mom didn’t have a chance. After killing an entire family of Ogres in cold blood, we happily looted their home/cave, evicted some goblin slaves, and joyfully headed back to the quaint little old ladies (witches!) and handed over the Ogre’s head. They offered us more information about the area for money, but we declined.

All in all, we are awesome and great. And by the way, we are now rich!

Hobbling some Hobgoblins

…or, getting your gob hobbled!

(yes, I was really reaching when I titled this session)

Session 4, the Hill

The stalwart group of adventurers once again gathered around the map carved into the table in the common room of the Lion’s Den public house. Their prior exploration had yielded hints that danger lurked on The Hill, but they had found little solid evidence. They would need another expedition to find something concrete, but with Belgarath the Miser declining to join another expedition and taking his loyal man, Mearl, with him, they were notably understrength.

“Kelvin. We need to head to Kelvin, see if we can hire some more meatshie-I mean, Henchmen!” said Kalasandr, casting an embarrassed, sidelong glance at his hired man, Luka. The boy didn’t seem to have noticed, as he often tuned out when others spoke quickly.

“Hey, there… over here!” said Caasi, waving the flipper that was what remained of her poisoned arm. The others all seemed to find somewhere else to look, uncomfortable with the grotesque spectacle, “Now that we have some money, I need to go to the Church of Karameikos in Kelvin to see if they can help with this…” the flipper appeared to be waving goodbye.

“I’d really like to find a pet!”

Everyone started at that, turning to see Kane standing at the back of the group. Where had he come from? And why hadn’t they been able to find him earlier?

“What, like, a cat?” asked Kalasandr, somewhat confused. Kane’s elven eyes narrowed as he looked at the rogue. He then moved back into a shadowed corner of the common room without saying a word.

“Anyway…” Kalasandr continued, turning back to the carved map he’d been whittling, “…head to Kelvin, maybe some dogs, maybe some henchmen… what do you think?” he asked, turning expectantly to Endithas. The big man seemed to have joined them for their latest foray (though he’d never actually agreed to anything, remaining suspiciously mute). Endithas stared back at him, silently shrugging his shoulders.

Kalasandr sighed heavily, staring down at his latest additions carved into the table; how had he gotten involved with these people? Surely there were easier ways to make money? Like, say, robbing the Ducal Palace in Specularum…

16th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi (Cleric 1), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman, NM), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 1), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman, NM), Kalasandr (Thief 1), Luka and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen, NM), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), and a partridge in a pear-tree.
Deaths: Luka skewered by Hobgoblins, along with Kane’s pack of hunting dogs
Mortal Wounds: Erasmus was rendered a quadriplegic by an unlucky whack from the butt of a Hobgoblin’s spear, and the tendons in Waevryn’s legs were slashed, leaving her barely able to walk.
Levelled: Kalasandr (Thief 2)

The party left Guido’s Fort in the drizzling rain, the trip to Kelvin being a cold, damp, and generally miserable affair. Muddy stretches of the road meant that they arrived at the Campgrounds (merchants’ palisade outside the city walls) on the evening of the 17th of Yarthmont. Caasi set out first thing in the morning to the Church of Karameikos, and had the Patriarch cast Restore Life & Limb on her flipper. Her arm was restored, although her close contact with Immortal power left her a changed person, ever-after muttering to herself incessantly.

On the second night in Kelvin, the party began to fan out through the Campgrounds and local watering holes, looking for unfortunates crazy enough to risk a life of adventure for meagre coin. Fortunately, over the next several days, they found a handful of such individuals, Caasi even turning down some who had fallen under the spell of her eating a banana. The party finally left the city on the 25th, three new Henchmen in tow, outfitted with the best gear their employers could afford (which meant Luka and Waevryn were given chain armor, and Erasmus received a shiny, new mace with Endithas’ initials scribed into it).

Returning to the fort on the morning of the 26th, the party discovered from Ivana that another family had been abducted from the surrounding region. They traveled out and investigated the farmstead, finding it in a state much like the first: the home ransacked, and the animals (pigs, in this case) and people missing. They also discovered a crude, iron arrowhead embedded in the outside of the home’s front door, though the rest of the shaft was nowhere to be found.

Kane spent some time scouring the farm, and discovered a large number of tracks similar to what they had found around the Dmitros’ homestead: half-a-dozen booted feet, and a far larger set of prints much bigger than those of a man. They followed these tracks back towards the river and the fort, with the tracks once again vanishing by the water, nearly within sight of the fort’s palisade.

Deciding time was of the essence, the party quickly secured transport across the river with Boris and his son, landing this time in the larger, southern clearing, split by a waterfall and small stream. Moving up to the only known trailhead to lead from the clearing, Kane searched and discovered tracks, although these appeared to be different from those at the farmstead, and smaller than those of a man.

After a short debate, it was decided to follow these tracks back to their source; a marching order was established, and Kane scouted some distance ahead of the group. When he reached the first cross-trail, he spent some time re-acquiring the tracks, then waited for the others. He let them know what he had found, then headed out in front again along the trail to the south, a path the characters had not previously taken. Half-an-hour later, the trail split, with a branch heading west, and another continuing to the south. Kane once again spent several minutes examining the tracks, determining that they continued south.

With the rest of the party updated, Kane once again moved out in front. A short time later, after crossing a creek and traversing the flank of a small ridge, Kane spotted movement on the trail ahead. He quickly determined it was an enormous Ogre marching towards him. The beast had not yet spotted him, so Kane doubled-back at a sprint towards the party. Once there, a plan was hatched (after much arguing, and nearly taking too long) to ambush the Ogre, with the party hiding just off the trail. Kane and Fodora would be at the farthest spot with bows, followed by Endithas Wolfram and Erasmus, then Caasi, Luka, Kalasandr, and Waevryn nearest the Ogre’s approach.

Several minutes passed, the party waiting with baited breath… then, the thud of heavy footfalls neared, and the oblivious Ogre marched past the party. Kane waited until the Ogre was between the first and second group, then he and Fodora let loose with arrows. The beast’s first warning of danger was when an arrow from Kane’s bow sprouted from his chest!

With a deafening roar, the beast raised its club and charged up the path. Two more arrows flew past it, and then two new foes leapt from cover and blocked the Ogre’s advance towards the archers, one of them bashing the brute, the other (Endithas) tangling his two-handed sword in a shrubbery. Attempting to crush these two new, puny foes, the Ogre brought its club down, narrowly missing a blow that would’ve turned Endithas to jelly. The rest of the party charged up towards the Ogre’s back, Kalasandr in the lead, hoping to repeat his ogre-slaying performance from a previous foray. It was not to be, however, as another of Kane’s arrows sprouted from the Ogre’s throat, and the monstrous thing collapsed in a heap with barely a gurgle.

After a brief victory dance, the party looted the corpse, shoving their hands into the Ogre’s dirty sack, looking for his jewels. They instead discovered hundreds of gold, which they pocketed. Kane also cut off one of the beast’s massive, wax-filled ears as a trophy leaving the rest of the party gagging at the sight. They then dragged the foul-smelling corpse 100 yards into the woods, and covered the signs of battle as best they could, washing themselves in the creek they had passed.

Continuing warily along the southbound trail, the party crossed the ridgeline and began descending the far side. Within another half-an-hour, the surrounding forest had become boggy, and as the trail turned westward, the party broke into a large clearing that dropped away to the south and became marshland. Terrified of another Ogre encounter in open terrain, the party skirted the northern end of the clearing amongst the trees. In spite of catching sight of some sort of built earthen structure to the south where the forest turned to swamp, they remained hidden, reaching the trail on the opposite side of the clearing. The group continued westward.

The trail slowly turned northward, rising as it went, and eventually intersected another trail running east to west. Kalasandr, with his Mapping Proficiency, immediately recognized the intersection as someplace he had previously been, and, after a brief discussion, it was decided to turn westward towards the mysterious cottage, with the goal of investigating another branch of the path they had seen running north.

A short time later, as the party advanced up this branch, a shout was heard from the path ahead, and several figures were seen running away from the party. Kane made out shouts in hobgoblin of, “Intruders!” and the party realised they had been spotted by sentries. Itching for action, the group broke into run, pursuing the fleeing Hobgoblins. They didn’t have to go far…

The trail soon emptied into a long open area beside a small lake that ran north-to-south. At the far northern end of the clearing was a series of huts and tents, and out of these boiled a dozen Hobgoblin warriors, armed and armoured for battle! Here the party made their first mistake, dithering as they discussed whether to withdraw or fight, and if fight, whether here, or on the trail. Their hesitation gave their foes time to finish donning weapons and armor, before forming rank and charging down the muddy shore of the lake towards the waiting party.

Then the PCs arguably made their second mistake, electing to remain in the clearing to fight the Hobgoblins, instead of withdrawing to the trail, which would have limited the Hobgoblins’ ability to take advantage of their superior numbers.

The archers of the party began loosing shots as the Hobgoblins closed the distance, but the initial volley went completely wide due to the extreme range. The second volley was equally ineffective, with the Hobgoblins now near to closing the gap. Thinking quickly, Kane sent his three hunting dogs charging towards their foes. While he would be unable to effectively control them, they would present no risk to the party, and had the desired effect of stalling the Hobgoblins’ charge. Caught in the open, they again weathered a volley of missile fire from the party without ill effect, before turning to the annoying hunting dogs, and skewering them on their spears. Realising they would need to engage the creatures in mêlée, party members began charging forward, with Endithas Wolfram leading the way. Several Hobgoblins hurled their spears at the charging party members, but only Endithas was injured, a mere scrape across his thigh.

A swirling and chaotic fight began, with the Hobgoblins surrounding the PCs and their Henchmen. Luka was able to drop one the creatures, but was then impaled on a pair of spears. Endithas cut down several of the things, including their champion (splitting him head to toe), but was grievously injured in turn, barely staying on his feet. Erasmus fell next, a spear butt catching him beneath the back of his helm. He crumpled in a heap, unable to move his limbs. Waevryn was able to injure several of her foes before she, too, was cut down, with Caasi being felled atop her.

Just as all hope seemed lost, and a TPK seemed imminent (Kalasandr’s player belatedly observed that they were, in fact, outnumbered by foes that had, on average, more hit points and better Attack Throws), Kane’s deadeye archery finally began to take its toll. Able to shoot into mêlée, and dropping a pair of Hobgoblins several rounds in a row, Kane turned the tide of the battle. Amazingly, the Hobgoblins’ morale held to the bitter end, with Kane using his net to capture the last remaining runt of a Hobgoblin before it could flee.

Those characters left standing moved to render aid to their fallen comrades, with Caasi being the priority due to her ability to heal others. A Potion of Healing was poured down her throat and her wounds were bound. As she came to, it became clear that a Hobgoblin spear had pierced her left forearm, slicing the tendons and rendering it useless; at least this time it wasn’t a flipper! She would need time to recuperate. Endithas, Kane, and Kalasandr quickly set about helping the others. Unfortunately, none fared as well as she had…

Luka’s body had been pierced by so many spears that there was no hope for him. Erasmus had had his spine broken at the neck, and he was unable to move his limbs. Waevryn had suffered so many wounds to her legs that she would never walk the same again. Doing what they could, everyone (except poor Luka and the paralyzed Erasmus) was helped to their feet, and the party then moved down to the far end of the clearing to search the monsters’ encampment. They found a paltry sum of gold, a number of wineskins filled with cheap wine, broken weapons and armor, and several roasted pigs. Could these have come from the Sergeyev farm?

The sun was getting low in the sky, so the party decided they would make a quick detour to see the strange old women whose cottage was nearby, then head back to the fort. On the way out of the clearing, Endithas retrieved the strange, black scimitar from the body of the Hobgoblin leader.

Unfortunately, neither of the sisters, Rosabella and Rosalinda, could aid those suffering Mortal Wounds beyond basic healing. They instead invited the party to spend the night in their cottage, as the sun was now setting. Everyone agreed, and they were led inside the little cottage, only to discover a vastly different space on the inside: a huge entry hall led to a spiral staircase up to a second floor that didn’t appear to exist from the outside, down a long hall much bigger than the cottage itself, off of which were a number of sumptuously appointed bedrooms. Everywhere they looked in the house, beautiful knick-knacks, curios, and artwork lined shelves, hung from walls, and sat in corners. The total value of these things was no doubt enormous!

The PCs and their Henchmen were each assigned one of the luxurious bedrooms, and spent the night in comfort far better than the common sleeping room at the Lion’s Den. On the morning of the 27th, they said their goodbyes and made their way back to the southern clearing on the river, crossing back to the fort. Several jokes were made about pushing the now-paralyzed Erasmus overboard (party members who don’t survive don’t take a share of XP), but the horrified stares of Boris and their other Henchmen quickly ended such talk, and the rest of the trip was made in awkward silence.

Brutal! What happened to Belgerath, by the way? Was this a new group? Change of players?

Yeah, it was a rough session. Amazing that none of the party died (it was close). I’ve made a habit of rolling everything I can (i.e. rolls not containing hidden information) in the open, so they know it’s all on them. I am a cruel, but fair, Overlord. Actually, it’s been really fascinating watching them, in effect, learn to play again! Several of these players are people I played with back in the 80s, so I know they were once used to the unforgiving nature of AD&D and BECMI (we still tell stories about particular TPKs), but a lot of that got lost through the 2000s.

This was the same group. It’s an open table, so players show up for sessions, or not, as they’re able. Belgarath had to work (his player and Kane’s player are both pilots, with highly irregular schedules). I do my best to keep the sessions self-contained, so there’s rarely a problem with a player being present for a session, then not showing up for a few weeks. There’ve even been some sessions with people using secondary characters to run with new players at different in-game locations. I expect more of that if I manage to grow the player-base; we’re at 7 players now (all new converts to ACKS, I might add), with an eighth player contingent on him finishing his PhD.

Oh, not sure if you caught it, but there was also the highly amusing fact that Caasi went down again, and got the same result on the Mortal Wounds Table that she had just paid 500gp to have removed. She took it surprisingly well.

In Search of the Ruined Monastery

…on Hill, you not have bone to pick, bone picks you!

Session 5, the Hill

We handled the first part on our forum in order to get a few things out of the way before the main session… in fact, the story-style intros to these sessions are generally me trying to weave the ridiculous interactions on our forum (Kalasandr’s player insisting he wanted “throwing daggers”, not “regular daggers”, because one of the ACKS Class Templates had them), and in-person banter before the session (Endithas’ player proudly informing us he’d figured out the internet and finally started posting to the forum) into something in-character and funny. I’m not sure how they read to anyone else, but to the people who were there, they’re usually at least amusing. What can I say? In jokes.

Reading this now, I’ve also noticed that some these had a tremendous amount of travel description. I had all this in here originally so that the party could re-trace their steps by looking at their maps and a session report, but I realise it’s probably a little dull to wade through now. As I don’t have the time to re-write it all, I’ll just apologise in advance.

Your meeting takes place in the parlour of Guido’s manor house, and Ivana receives you with great interest. You tell her your tale, and she occasionally stops you for further questioning. She then spends several minutes questioning the unfortunate Hobgoblin, Neepo. As she becomes more forceful, he provides much the same information he gave to you: there is a Hobgoblin King, his clan lives on The Hill… yet Neepo seems hopelessly evasive around what their intentions are. After a few more moments of fruitless questioning, Ivana draws forth her sword in a single, smooth motion; the blade decapitates the Hobgoblin prisoner.

Ivana seems deeply troubled by what you’ve brought to her, “We knew the rumours about the monastery, of course, but believed it surely abandoned. We’ve had no actual trouble from anything beyond the river in many years, not since the early days of my Lord establishing the fort!” She sighs heavily, “You’ve brought me enough to be concerned. This is solid evidence of a threat, and I will be true to my word…” she turns, heading to the far side of the room, and retrieves a small coin purse from a table, stepping over the Hobgoblin corpse to hand it to you, “Here. The promised bounty of 250 gold.”

As you reach for the gold, she speaks, “However… there is more I would ask of you… if you’re interested. Such a threat must be dealt with. My Lord, Guido, has been summoned to Kelvin over the banditry plaguing the caravans to the north, and I am needed here.”

She looks the lot of you over and raises an eyebrow, “…but you? No doubt you have no obligations beyond coin. I need someone to eliminate this threat.” Ivana raises a hand, forestalling any protest, “I understand… you worry about insufficient strength. I might be able to help you there…. while I cannot spare many men or women from the garrison, I would be willing to let you hire a few. They would be volunteers, and as long as you pay them the equivalent of their monthly pay, I believe you would have enough to bolster your strength. What say you?”

Soon after, Belgarath, Caasi, Endithas, and Kalasandr gathered in the common room of Lion’s Den. Their last foray to The Hill had been a success, at least in as much as everyone had survived, but some of the injuries had been grievous. Erasmus had his neck broken, and could not move his limbs. Waevryn’s legs had been mauled, and she could barely walk. While the henchmen had been healed in Kelvin during the previous week, (at considerable expense), even Caasi had been badly injured, and her left arm was once again useless. At least this time it still looked normal, hanging across her chest in a sling. The others still hadn’t managed to get the image of her flipper out of their heads…

They had gone to Ivana Boritsa with their concerns and their hobgoblin prisoner, and she had finally believed that there was indeed a threat to the fort. The party was given leave to hire volunteer guardsmen from the garrison, and use them in an attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the Hobgoblin King and his minions. The party canvassed for volunteers, and seven bowmen and five infantrymen decided the additional pay was worth the risks of employment by the likes of the PCs.

Kalasandr fingered the black-bladed hobgoblin scimitar that now hung at his belt; he had been unable to find throwing daggers, and had received the strangest looks when he had turned down the obviously inferior non-throwing daggers every merchant had tried to saddle him with. On the other hand, Endithas had actually begun speaking to everyone, so that was a positive.

Belgarath would send his owl familiar, Stikini (though everyone called the poor bird “Stinky”) to scout The Hill ahead of the main group, and the rest would follow. They would search the north side of The Hill for the demesne of the rumoured King of the Hobgoblins…

2nd of Klarmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage 1), Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 2 War Dogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi (Cleric 1), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 1), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 2), and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchman)
Deaths: None!
Mortal Wounds: One of the infantrymen had his two front teeth knocked out by a Skeleton
Leveled: Erasmus, Fodora, and Waevryn all reached Level 1

The day dawned mild, with a light breeze and drizzle as the party herded their large complement of mercenaries into the small boats by the water. It would take them several trips for the entire group to travel across the river, and it was mid-morning by the time all had gathered on the far bank.

As planned, Belgarath sent his owl familiar, Stikini, ahead of the main group as a scout. The heavy tree cover meant the bird would need to fly close to the ground to get a good look at the trails. Within an hour, Stikini reached the clearing of the statue over clear trails. Unfortunately, he was attacked by a swarm of roosting Stirges, and narrowly escaped back to the safety of the group. By the time the party and their hired army reached the statue, the Stirges had fled.

Consulting their map, and keenly aware of their vulnerability while moving single-file, the group tried to navigate around any known threats. As they moved off the far north-western edge of their mapping, Kalasandr began scouting ahead, eventually reaching a dead-end in the trail at the top of a cliff. The scarp Kalasandr stood on overlooked the northern flank of The Hill, with a small, narrow lake at its base less than a hundred yards to the west. Far to the east, he could make out a clearing amongst the trees. Similarly, far off to the west, between a pair of high ridges, part of another clearing could be seen. Kalasandr doubled back towards the rest of the group, and after some brief discussion they headed on a branch of the trail to the south-west, with the thief once again scouting ahead.

Within the hour the trail curved ‘round to the west, and ran along a steep incline, the bulk of The Hill rising sharply on Kalasandr’s left and looming above the trail, with a veritable cliff dropping away from the trail on Kalasandr’s right. Presently, the vegetation thinned as the trail opened into a small clearing, bare to the granite of the Hill. A small stream cut across the clearing and tumbled over the cliff Kalasandr had been following on his right. On the far side of the clearing was what appeared to be a lone hobgoblin sentry, disinterestedly leaning against its spear.

Once again, Kalasandr doubled back to the main group, taking the bowmen forward to ambush the hobgoblin sentry. The sentry was caught completely unaware, and fell pierced by many arrows before it even knew it was under attack. The clearing was quickly scouted, with the stream appearing to flow from a small lake in the woods, before flowing across the clearing, over the edge and connecting to a long, narrow lake near the base of the cliff. The party forded the stream and continued following the trail.

After another hour or so, the trail passed between two high ridges to the north and south, some of the highest peaks of the Hill, and finally opened into the largest clearing the party had yet seen on The Hill. This new clearing was enormous, and unlike any others they had seen; the vegetation here was dead or dying, with bare trees reaching like claws towards the sky, and sparse clumps of brown grass clinging to the dusty soil. The group formed proper ranks and headed around the eastern edge of the clearing towards the far end. The eerie silence, and strange lack of living things set the mercenaries on edge, and it was clear that their morale was suffering. Doing their best to keep the men calm, the group forged ahead, discovering another trail leading from the clearing at the north-east end.

Switching back to single file, with Kalasandr scouting ahead, the PCs headed uphill to the east. The trees and underbrush surrounding this new path were no better off than in the clearing they had just left, with mostly bare plants, as if the entire forest here was dead. Within twenty minutes, the dead forest cover thinned, and Kalasandr realised that what he had assumed was a scrub-covered ridge ahead, was, in fact, the remains of a low, stone wall. Moving closer, he could see that it was indeed man-made, and had once been the height of a man, but was now badly crumbled and overgrown, with some sections entirely collapsed. Kalasandr cautiously waited for the rest of the party to arrive.

After the party regrouped, they began to scout the perimeter, finding several breaches in the west side of the rectangular wall, and some small buildings rising above it in the south-west corner. Carefully climbing over the wall near the low buildings, they could see across a large expanse of what must have once been the monastery grounds. An enormous pool a few hundred feet across, filled with scummy, green water, dominated an open area half-a-dozen acres in size enclosed by the wall. To the north-west was an area heavily overgrown with thorn bushes. To the east of the pool, the remains of a collapsed building. At the north end of the compound, a larger building squatted against the wall, and in the middle, a tall, rectangular building with no windows stood brooding, a line of toppled columns flanking a path leading to it. Everywhere were the signs of long abandonment, cobbles broken and overturned by vegetation, trees sprouting from paths, and vines covering the face of every building.

The group moved to scout the nearby small buildings, leaving several archers to keep watch on the low wall. Suddenly, Stikini let out a harsh cry! The familiar had spotted several figures hustling away from the compound, headed back along the path to the west. A pursuit was quickly organised, with Endithas and Kalasandr leading several of the infantry men in pursuit. They managed to follow their quarry back to the enormous, dead clearing, but it quickly became apparent that the lead was too great, and they decided to return to the main group at the monastery.

Meanwhile, as mercenaries kept watch, Caasi battered her way into the low building and began exploring. It appeared as nothing more than a barracks, with an attached eating hall and kitchen. Everything had fallen into decay, and the place appeared to have been looted some time in the long distant past. With no apparent danger present, it was decided that it could be used as a base for exploring the monastery.

The pursuit party returned, and the group began to explore the rest of the compound, once again leaving archers positioned well back from the main group. As they moved around between the ruined building and the large pool, a clattering sound came from the collapsed structure. The sound of tumbling stone increased, and group of giant centipedes came streaming out of the rubble, catching the PCs off guard. Battle was soon joined, with Endithas Wolfram and his man, Erasmus, in the thick of things. Both of them were bitten by the foul insects, and both succumbed to violent retching and nausea as the centipedes’ poison took effect. The dozen insects were eventually dispatched without further injury, but Endithas and his henchman were now both incapacitated, able to do little more than walk. The party withdrew back to the barracks and settled in to spend the night, hoping for relief from the poison by the morning.

During the watches of the night, something large came snuffling and scrabbling at the doors to the barracks, but the group remained silent, and the creature, whatever it was, eventually lost interest and left.

Morning dawned cool and misty, with the party members suffering from poison showing no signs of improvement. A decision was made to continue exploring.

(Endithas’ player took over Mearl for the rest of the session)

Moving along the same route as the prior day, past the pool and collapsed bathhouse, the party came to a large, brooding building with no windows, and a high roof tiled with slate. They moved around the building, finding nothing but a set of wooden double doors carved with the leering face they had seen on a lonely statue elsewhere on The Hill. After exploring the perimeter, Kalasandr climbed up onto the roof. Here again, there were no openings, and the roof itself looked sound. The thief climbed back down, and checked the double doors for traps. Finding nothing, they tried to open the doors, but discovered that they appeared to be locked. Listening at the door, they heard nothing. Throwing caution to the wind, they pounded on the door, and arrayed themselves to attack whatever came out. After a few minutes of tension, the party relaxed, and tried to decide how to get the door open. Kalasandr immediately got out his lock picks and set to work. Unfortunately, the party’s attention was brought back to the door ten minutes later by a sharp “ping”!

(Judges note: I’ve been allowing multiple Open Locks attempts, with each one taking a Turn. A roll of 1 on the Throw results in broken picks)

A small shaft of metal tumbled away through the air, as Kalasandr had managed to break his picks inside the lock. There was nothing for it but to hack the door down, and Waevryn set to with her axes while Kalasandr went off the check the large building or buildings in the north-east corner of the compound (and hide his shame).

The large building had four doors on its south wall, all shut, and no signs of activity. The thief headed back to join the rest of the party as they managed to hack open the doors and enter the strange building. Inside was a large, high-ceilinged chamber, dominated by a carved statue like the one they had seen in a clearing previously. This one was much larger, towering some 12 feet above the floor of the room, and had purple gemstones in its eye-sockets. Arrayed around the perimeter of the room were twelve wooden doors, all shut. The party spread out to examine the place, and as Caasi moved to listen at one of the doors, Kalasandr began to climb the statue to relieve it of its precious eyes.

As Kalasandr touched the statue, every one of the dozen doors inside the room slammed open with a “boom!” and a dozen Skeletons rushed forward to attack the shocked party! After getting over their initial shock, the party regrouped and went on the attack: Caasi called on the power of her church to turn back the undead abominations, but her efforts resulted in only two of them turning and cowering inside the small chamber from which they’d come. Mearl (played by Endithas’ player) and Argus leapt to the defence of their master, Belgarath, while the heavy infantry mercenaries closed ranks and began smashing bones. Slowly, inexorably, the part wore the undead down. When the room finally fell silent, all the undead were destroyed, and the party stood victorious (one of the mercenaries was knocked down, his two front teeth smashed out). A thorough search of the “tomb” revealed a dark dagger that Kalasandr tucked into his belt, and the two fist-sized amethyst gems from the statue’s eye-sockets.

Deciding they were understrength and would need to get treatment for their poisoned comrades, the party built makeshift litters and left the grounds of the Ruined Monastery. However, instead of heading directly back to the river, Belgarath sent Stikini to notify their ferryman, sending the mercenaries, led by Kalasandr, back across the river while the rest of the party visited the two mysterious old women. The mercenaries were attacked by a small flock of Stirges on the trip, but handily defeated them, crossing the river without further incident.

Back at the quaint cottage, the dark dagger was identified as being enchanted, with some sort of necromantic past, and Endithas Wolfram and Erasmus were given herbal tea that seemed to cure the wracking nausea they were afflicted with. Belgarath offered to trade centipede poison with the two women, and they agreed to consider a deal once he returned with the poison in hand. With that, the remainder of the group made the uneventful journey back to Guido’s Fort

Roast Goblin with All the Trimmings

Session 6, The Hill

Sitting around the Lion’s Den, several PCs discussed their next attempt on The Hill. They had discovered the location of the Ruined Monastery, and believed that the local Hobgoblins and Goblins were using it as a base of operations.

“I managed to find some military oil in Kelvin…” Kalasandr began, his pack stuffed and festooned with flasks presumably containing the flammable liquid. Kane’s eyes narrowed, and he and Caasi shuffled away around the table as Kalasandr leaned in to study the map by the light of a burning candle.

“…and I think we should hit the monastery again!” Kalasandr finished, seemingly oblivious to the others’ discomfort with his proximity to open flame.

“I believe we should move in to the Monastery…” Belgarath stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

“We need to secure the area first!” Kane interjected; it was the first time the others had heard him discuss anything other than finding an animal, though none of them were quite sure what he wanted an animal for…

“…but…it’s free!” opined Belgarath.

“I agree with Belgarath, actually…” ventured Kalasandr, somewhat apologetically, “It’s long term, but there’s already a structure, and it’s close to the witches, who’ve been good to us.”

Kane glowered, “And I suppose you want to call it Castle Anthrax, too…?”

“There’s something else I should tell you…” Belgarath interrupted, “My familiar, Stikini, has had a vision!”

“What, your owl? Your owl had a daydream?” Caasi asked, incredulous.

“No!” shouted Belgarath, “He has had a premonition! In his dreams, he saw-”

“So, it was a dream?” Caasi shot back.

Belgarath glared at her before continuing, “He saw a legion of men, women, and children, naked, bound in chains, being led on an endless march!” he finished, dramatically. An awkward silence followed.

Caasi was the one to break the silence, “So… he dreams of naked people?”

Belgarath grimaced, then let out an exasperated breath, “It is a sign. Obviously, those chained are slaves, and we must discover what is being done with them.” The rest of the group exchanged slightly puzzled looks…

“Ooookayy…if that’s what you say, sure!” Caasi attempted a more conciliatory tone, “Look, you can keep your eyes open for them.”

Belgarath was the one to suddenly look uncomfortable, “Well…uhhh…I will… I mean, I would, but…uhhh…I’m…uhhh…not coming.”

“What?!” the others shouted in unison.

“Well, I’ve bought a house, and I really need to clean up the place, plus I have some dead centipedes I’ve been working on, and I just started an animal husbandry business…” Belgarath trailed off, the rest of the party staring at him, non-plussed. Belgarath cleared his throat, “See you soon?”

11th of Klarmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi (Cleric 1), Fodora (Caasi’s henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 2), Waevryn (Kalasandr’s henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), 5 Heavy Infantry and 7 Bowmen employed as Mercenaries by the party for a term of 1 month
Deaths: None!
Mortal Wounds: One of the bowmen suffered a damaged knee due to a Hobgoblin spear, and Waevryn had her legs slashed again, necessitating the use of crutches
Leveled: None!

The party set out from Guido’s Fort, taking several hours to make the multiple crossings necessary to ferry their veritable army to The Hill, landing at the southern clearing. Kane scouted ahead as they made their way, single file, to the far waterfall by the cliff, while avoiding the giant-bee hive.

As they approached the waterfall, Kane moved well ahead of the main group, and stealthily approached the clearing. Two figures stood watch, and one of them spotted the furtive elf. As the figures turned and fled, Kane loosed an arrow, attempting to prevent them from escaping, but missed. He quickly moved back and retrieved the rest of the party.

The PCs’ group filed into the clearing, and set up a battle line, with the heavy infantry at the front, and a line of archers, including Kane and Fodora, behind their makeshift mantlets (crudely built between forays, neither as good, nor as portable as the real thing) near the waterfall. The party had barely set themselves when a horde of Goblins and Hobgoblins charged into the clearing from the treeline opposite the waterfall! As the humanoids sprinted across the open area, the party’s archery took its toll, with many of them never reaching mêlée. Several Goblins broke off and charged the archers, while the remanding Hobgoblins attacked the main line. One of the bowmen was hacked down, as were Waevryn (whose legs were slashed, again) and Caasi (who, thankfully, was knocked down without serious injury). As before, Kane’s archery and the weight of the heavy infantry took its toll, and the humanoids’ Morale held, only for them to be cut down to a man (goblin?) after a few moments more.

The party tended to their wounded but realised that, while no one had been killed, they had suffered a number of injuries, and undoubtedly needed healing. The question now was whether or not to press on and rest in the outbuildings of the monastery where they had stayed previously, or to double-back and spend the night with the “witches” where they could receive more extensive healing. Their slow movement due to hauling their mantlets meant that, either way, they would not reach their destination before nightfall. (At this point the PCs had not yet discovered the waterfall connected to the Hobgoblin Camp via a short stroll through the trees, which was less than an hour from the quaint cottage of the witches.)

Setting off on the more circuitous route, the party spent the next several hours racing the setting sun. They lost the race a mere hour from their destination, but as full darkness settled on them, the infantry near the front of the line heard the sound of something large moving through the undergrowth in the pitch blackness beyond the light of their torches. They were followed in this fashion for a few moments before a vaguely humanoid shape came hissing out of the darkness near the front of the line. The heavy infantry set to, but one of them was felled almost immediately, as one scratch from the thing’s claws sent the man tumbling to the ground in a heap, paralyzed or dead, but, either way, unable to move or fight. The men now fought desperately, but within seconds, two more of the heavy infantry lay sprawled in the dirt, unmoving. Worse still, the wounds inflicted on the creature closed before the party’s eyes.

The PCs began to panic as their meatshield began to dissolve. Kalasandr shouted for military oil, and one of the archers came forward while the heavy infantry pushed the thing back on the point of their spears. The flaming oil was directly on target, and the thing in the dark let out a horrifying shriek as it went up. Unsure of how tough it might be, another flask of oil was thrown, and in the end the creature was reduced to ash.

“Must’ve been a ghoul…” Kane remarked, seemingly unperturbed by the horrifying spectacle.

The infantry were tended to, and it was discovered that they were merely paralyzed. Crude litters were made from branches, and the group made the best possible time to the cottage. When they arrived, the sisters took them in, providing them rooms for the night, as well as healing. The next day, the party decided to purchase information from the strange women, negotiating a price of 60 gp, down from 100 gp. They were told that The Hobgoblin King resided below the monastery in its dungeons, and that the Goblins in his service laired in the overgrown remains of what were once the monastery’s gardens. They were also told to avoid the cemetery at the north end of the Blighted Clearing, as it was unhallowed ground, and home to the hungry dead.

At this point the sisters made another, far more tempting offer: they would provide potions of Healing and Invisibility, as well as both a Clerical and Mage scroll to the party. Their price was the first pick of whatever the party recovered from the dungeons below the monastery. After much debate, the deal was agreed to, and the group left to head for the monastery.

After a quick debate over timing, it was decided that the party couldn’t afford to leave potential enemies behind them as they headed for the monastery, and a detour was made to the Hobgoblin Camp to make sure it hadn’t been re-manned. As it turned out, the camp was deserted, but had obviously been re-occupied since the party had last cleared it, perhaps quite recently. Kane noted that many tracks led out the far end of the clearing along the shore of the lake, and it was decided that the party would follow them and attempt and to ambush the humanoids from the rear.

The party headed into the woods where a small stream emptied from the far end of the lake. A few dozen yards further and they discovered themselves in another, now-familiar clearing: the site of their battle by the waterfall from the previous day! Realising it was actually the garrison of the Hobgoblin Camp that they had defeated the day before, they immediately set out for the Monastery. The new shortcut they had discovered would save them several hours travel during future forays on The Hill.

The remaining trek to the Monastery was uneventful, and the group carefully approached the ruined walls of the Monastery unobserved. Manoeuvring to the northern-most breach in the compound’s western wall, the archers were positioned behind their makeshift mantlets, covering the approach from within the Monastery grounds. The infantry were kept slightly back in reserve, with the party largely stationed between the two groups of mercenaries. Moving slightly farther north along the compound’s overgrown outer wall, the group began hurling lit flasks of military oil over the wall into the tangled brambles they had been told by the sisters were the lair of the Goblins loyal to the Hobgoblin King. The dry growth immediately leapt into flame, and within moments Goblins began coming out of the far end of the bramble patch, looking for the source of the blaze. The party’s archers immediately began raining arrows down on the stunned humanoids, the first few quickly falling. The party’s crude mantlets meant the Goblins’ own sporadic missile file had virtually no chance of striking the archers in return, and for a moment the party was sure the fight would be a slaughter.

As more and more Goblins poured from their lair, the party’s mercenaries came under more fire. At the same time, many of the Goblins turned and fled towards the main buildings of the Monastery, entering the large set of carved double-doors in the western end of the buildings. Realising their quarry was escaping, Kane led the infantry around the northern side of the Monastery compound, and had the men mount the crumbled and overgrown wall to throw flaming oil into the exits the Goblins were using to flee their lair. With fire raging on the western end of the bramble patch, and new flames now blocking the exits to the east, terrible inhuman screams were soon heard from within the briars, as the remaining Goblins realised they were trapped.

With their remaining fellows trapped and burning alive, and human mercenaries advancing behind mantlets into the Monastery grounds, the remaining Goblins finally broke and headed en-masse through the double-doors guarding the entrance. After the last of them had fled, Caasi bravely followed. The doors themselves were heavy oak, and carved with images of the pagan deity they had now seen depicted numerous times around The Hill. Inside the building was a huge hall, unlit, with a high ceiling supported by five enormous columns, each carved into a likeness of Orcus, supporting the roof on upraised arms. The hall was otherwise empty, with no sign of either the fleeing Goblins, or any exits they might have used to escape. Caasi turned and headed back outside to inform the rest of the group.

With so many of their enemies unaccounted for, as well as presumably the Hobgoblins themselves, the group decided their foray was a success, and that it was time to withdraw before a counter-attack could be launched. With smoke and the lingering scent of cooked meat in the air, the party headed back to Guido’s Fort. They had cleared the Hobgoblin Camp that protected the route to the Ruined Monastery and smashed the Goblins’ lair, all without suffering a single casualty!

Belgarath and Caasi’s conversation could have arisen from my own players. Awesome. Particularly the grim prophecy followed by the announcement that he wouldn’t be going.

Those two are actually hilarious when they get at each other in person.

I think my favorite moment in this session was when the light bulb went on that the waterfall was like 150 yards from the hobgoblin encampment (working this out cut hours from several of their regular treks). I’ve been using an electronic tool to run my sessions recently, and you just don’t get these kinds of moments if you don’t have someone manually mapping.

Mage 1

Str 9
Int 18
Wis 11
Dex 5
Con 15
Cha 12

AC -2 (Dex)
hp 5

Darts, dagger

Repertoire: Hold Portal, Light, Magic Missile, Ventriloquism

Proficiencies: Animal Husbandry 3, Bargaining, Familiar

Stikini, owl familiar (Collegiate Wizardry, Lip Reading, Navigation, Tracking)

2 War Dogs

Cleric 1

Str 11
Int 11
Wis 16
Dex 9
Con 7
Cha 6

AC 7 (shield and plate)
hp 5

Mace, sling

Proficiencies: Healing, Lay on Hands

Endithas Wolfram
Fighter 1

Str 17
Int 9
Wis 9
Dex 13
Con 13
Cha 12

AC 6 (Dex, banded plate)
hp 9

Two-handed sword, longbow

Proficiencies: Riding, Weapon Focus (Two-handed Sword)

Thief 2

Str 11
Int 9
Wis 9
Dex 13
Con 11
Cha 12

AC 3 (Dex, leather)
hp 8

Black Scimitar +1 & dagger, crossbow

Proficiencies: Mapping, Trapfinding

Elven Ranger 1

Str 13
Int 9
Wis 9
Dex 17
Con 9
Cha 9

AC 6 (Dex, chainmail)
hp 6

Composite bow, spear or spear & dagger, net

Proficiencies: Ambush, Tracking

Hunting the Hobgoblin King

Assault on Precin-I mean, the Ruined Monastery!

Session 7, The Hill

“It seems we are alone…” Belgarath said speaking to Kane, the only other full party-member present.

Belgarath and Kane stood in the common room of the Lion’s Den, considering their options… the group had returned yesterday from their previous foray, and felt they had struck a serious blow against the humanoids. The lair of the Goblins on The Hill had been destroyed in a conflagration of flame, with many of their number falling to the arrows of the party’s mercenaries. The group had withdrawn before they could be counter-attacked, and hadn’t suffered a single casualty, or even any injuries. While all had agreed to make another foray immediately, only the two of them had arrived to make the trip. Even Kalasandr, who had seemed hellbent on hunting down the Hobgoblin King, had not arrived. If they were to cross the river this day, they would need to leave soon.

After a few moments, Belgarath spoke, “We assault the Monastery!” his mien was firm, brooking no argument. Kane offered none, his steady gaze locked on the mage, though he spoke not a word. Belgarath’s loyal man, Mearl, stood at his shoulder, and broke the awkward silence, “Will Ivana’s guardsmen be accompanying us?”

“Yes!” Belgarath said, thinking of the gold that had been spent on the mercenaries, and how many animals he would have to husband to cover another month…the men were employed for another fortnight, at least, “…we haven’t the numbers, otherwise,” he finished.

Kane silently nodded his acceptance, then finally spoke from beneath the hood of his cloak, “At last we will reveal ourselves to the Hobgoblins. At last we will have our revenge!”

Belgarath wondered, and not for the first time, what drove this weird, laconic elf. Why couldn’t he just be happy with a little profit, like regular folk?

12th of Klarmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage 1), Mearl (Belgarath’s henchman), Argus and Cerberus (Belgarath’s wardogs), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs and 1 unnamed wardog (belonging to Kane), 5 Heavy Infantry and 7 Bowmen employed as Mercenaries by the party for a term of 1 month, and, slightly later, Kalasandr (Thief 2).
Mortal Wounds: 1 Bowman lost an eye down a Giant Rat’s gullet, another was slashed across the eyes, and an Infantryman suffered several sucking chest wounds at the point of a Hobgoblin’s sword; Mearl was smashed flat by an Ogre, and suffered damage to his hips and back, which now ache incessantly.
Deaths: None!
Levelled: None!

The trip across The Hill to the Ruined Monastery was uneventful, with the large group arriving past mid-day. Belgarath’s owl familiar, Stikini, scouted the site from the air, informing her master that a number of small humanoids, presumably Goblins, were guarding the breaches in the remains of the low wall that surrounded the monastery grounds. None of the humanoids were visible from where the party stood on the edge of the dead forest, suggesting they hoped to ambush the group.

The party began scouting around the perimeter of the ruined wall, trying to remain out of sight amongst the trees. As they passed around to the western side of the Monastery, they saw there was a previously unnoticed breach. The hole appeared to be not just through the outer wall, but the wall of the buildings in the north-west corner of the grounds. They had not previously explored these, and Stikini was again sent forward as a scout. She returned to report that all she had seen was a tasty looking, if rather large, rat, perched upon the rubble near the opening.

Kane crept forward and slipped through the breach. The room beyond was the ruined remains of a large kitchen. A scuttling and squeaking commotion drew the elven ranger’s attention back to the opening, and he found himself faced with a rat the size of a small dog. The vermin stood on its haunches and hissed at him, before the elf unceremoniously slashed its throat with his dagger. Assuming the large, nest-like mound of debris near the hole meant that there were more rats about, Kane withdrew back to the treeline.

Rations were plundered, and a wheel of cheese was tossed into the rubble near the breach in the wall. The party didn’t have to wait long before half-a-dozen of the enormous rats came to investigate the pungent smell. Several of them hissed and nipped at each other, trying to drive each other away from the delicious-smelling prize. A volley of arrows and bolts from the party made short work of the rats, and their bodies were hidden in the brush out of sight of the walls. The group then advanced through the crumbling hole into the Monastery.

Judge’s note: I hemmed and hawed for some time about this, but in the end I decided the mercenaries would accompany the party into the surface buildings of the Ruined Monastery (not that different from clearing buildings or plundering a city) with a little cajoling, but their Morale would be reduced. Under no circumstances would they accompany the party below ground.

As the group examined the detritus in the room, more rats burst from their nest and attacked the intruders in their lair. The fight was a close-fought affair, with a Bowman being borne down under several rats. By the time the last of the huge rodents were killed and pulled off the poor man, one of his eyes was missing, swallowed down one of the rats gullets.

In the meantime, outside the building, Kalasandr spotted the bodies of huge rats, pierced by arrows, amongst the trees. He had pursued the party, not more than an hour behind them, all the way to the Monastery. Seeing the fletching of his companions’ arrows, he slipped across the open ground between the dead trees and the monastery walls, then cautiously picked his way over the rubble and through the breach in the wall…

The party was startled to see a human climb through the hole in the wall, but, to their relief, immediately recognized the man as one of their own.

“Better late than never, I suppose…” Belgarath admonished him.

“Yes. And now we find the Hobgoblin King and destroy him!” Kalasandr said, puffing slightly. He was out of breath, having run to catch the others. It was a bit unusual for the rogue to be so hellbent on a fight, but they had been hunting the lair of the Hobgoblin King across The Hill for weeks.

Turning to Belgarath, Kane asked, “Are you going to go through that?” referring to the pile of rotten garbage and cucumber-sized rat droppings that appeared to be the nest of the Giant Rats.

“What?!” said Belgarath, horrified.

“You shoved your hands in bat dung… what is the difference?” Kane retorted. The mage turned decidedly green, so Kane performed the foul deed, discovering a handful of coins, gems, and a beautifully crafted arrow.

Kane then pressed his ear to the only door leading from the room and heard nothing. Kalasandr followed suit with no more success than the elf. They tried the door, only to find it stuck. One of the infantrymen threw his shoulder into it, and the door whipped open with a loud “boom!” as it struck the wall at the end of its travel.

“I wonder if anyone heard that…” Kane asked without a hint of sarcasm.

The party moved into the darkened room beyond, lighting torches and a lantern. The room contained ancient tables and benches, all now covered in a thick layer of mold. The ceiling here had clearly begun to leak long ago, and plaster had crumbled from the ceiling and littered the floor.

While the water might have been the source of the ordinary-seeming mold, everyone studiously avoided touching the stuff, and moved to a door in the northern end of the room. After hearing nothing, the party attempted to open the door, and discovered it was both stuck, and opened in the opposite direction, meaning it couldn’t be battered open.

A scheme involving ropes under the door was quickly devised, and the door hauled open, although it was slower and no less noisy than simply hacking through the door with an axe. The room beyond was circumscribed by wall shelves, and Belgarath virtually stumbled over the others in his haste to search the shelves for forgotten lore. Unfortunately, the ceiling here had also leaked, and whatever wealth of books the former library had once held crumbled to dirt beneath his fingers. Kalasandr moved past the hyperventilating mage to search the far end of the room while Kane listened at the only other door, hearing running water.

“Hunh. What’s this?” Kalasandr asked from the far end of the room, holding an ornate, ivory scroll case aloft.

“What?!” Belgarath nearly shouted, the crumbling remains of ancient books sifting through his fingers. The despair in his expression was impossible to miss.

The case was opened and passed around for examination, with neither the thief nor the mage able to identify the writing. Kalasandr pocketed the case as they turned to the only apparent exit from the library. Opening the door carefully, they discovered an open air courtyard, with a fountain and pool the source of the sound of running water. The last rays of the sun dimly lit the sky, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves of a handful of ancient birch trees overhanging the pool. A quick search revealed no other exits, and nothing extraordinary about the fountain or the pool. As they stood by the door discussing their next move, the sharp, elven eyes of Kane noted a thin, rectangular gap in the stonework next to the only door. After poking and prodding about, a pivoting secret door was discovered, with a darkened hall beyond.

Closing the secret door, the party decided to rest in the courtyard, as one entrance was secret, and the other led to now-empty rooms. They kept watch and burned no fire, and the night passed uneventfully. Gathering themselves the next morning, the party made ready to head through the secret door.

A short way beyond the darkened doorway, a door stood on the right. A quick listen revealed voices speaking a dark tongue that Kane knew all to well from the Dymrak: Hobgoblins! Kalasandr quickly scouted along the passage, which branched ahead, and found no other immediate threats. The group set for battle, with a plan to draw the Hobgoblins out of the room into the arrows and flaming oil of the party. They readied two battle lines, one at the nearby T-junction, the other near the secret entrance to the hallway. A lantern was on the floor outside the door from which the voices came.

When all was ready, Kalasandr pounded on the door with the hilt of his sword, then sprinted back to join the others. A Hobgoblin opened the door, and with a shout behind to his compatriots, warily approached the lantern sitting on the floor… as the party sprung their ambush! Arrows and bolts flew from the darkness, with the first Hobgoblin to exit the room badly injured. Goblins and Hobgoblins began pouring from the guardroom, turning to defend themselves from their attackers. A savage mêlée ensued, the Hobgoblins cutting down one of the Infantry, and screeching Goblins dragging down one of the Bowmen. Flaming oil was used to block the guardroom door, spreading out the humanoid attackers. Kane’s hideously accurate archery once again began to take its toll, as the recently reequipped Mearl proved nearly untouchable to the humanoids’ weapons. The Goblins managed to fell another Bowman before being skewered on the point of Mearl’s spear, and the last of the foul Goblins died defending the guardroom (with a Morale check of 12!).

The battle over, the party took stock of the wounded, discovering one Bowman blinded in one eye and in poor shape from a head wound, but the other merely in shock. The Infantryman was more seriously injured, unable to walk, and with a punctured lung that rendered him useless. The Mercenaries were demoralized, and took convincing to keep them from leaving for the dubious safety beyond the Monastery’s walls. The guardroom was searched, yielding a few coins and two keys held by the largest Hobgoblin, a champion of his kind, along with a door leading to the landing of a staircase descending deep beneath the earth. It became clear that none of the Mercenaries would have any part of descending into the unknown, and it was decided that clearing the surface buildings of enemies while they still had the Mercenaries’ support was the best course of action. Before leaving the guardroom, the handle of the door to the stairs was trapped, a sharpened burr filed into the handle by Kalasandr, and laced with the centipede poison Belgarath had extracted.

Moving more cautiously now, the party headed back to the nearby T-junction, discovering another secret entrance, this one leading into the enormous chamber supported by pillars carved in the shape of Orcus that they had found their way into after torching the Goblins’ lair in the courtyard. Finding it empty, they returned to the T-junction and took the other branch, passing a corridor to the left before arriving at a dead end. A search for secret doors yielded nothing, and the group doubled back to the corridor they had passed. This ended in a pair of doors, and Kalasandr and Kane could hear raucous, deep voices in an inhuman tongue on the other side of the one at the end of the hall.

Once again the party prepared an ambush at another nearby T-junction, military oil spread in the corridor between them and the door. Kalasandr bravely cracked the door and peeked inside. Occupying the room were two of the largest, ugliest Ogres to inhabit The Hill, oblivious to Kalasandr’s eavesdropping. Gaining his courage, the thief drew his bow and fired a shot at the nearest Ogre! He cursed as he realised he had missed, the arrow shattering against the far wall. The Ogres looked up from their drinking and arguing, but, seeing nothing, returned to their gambling. Once again, Kalasandr quietly pushed the door just wide enough to fire an arrow, again missing! This time the Ogres stood from their revelry, searching for the source of the cracking noise. As the larger of the two lifted the broken remains of Kalasandr’s arrow, the thief attempted a final shot, burying an arrow in the back of the smaller Ogre!

Roaring in pain to his companion, the Ogre turned in time to see Kalasandr ducking out of the door. The hall behind the thief shook as the two beasts charged after him – straight into the missile fire of the party and their Mercenaries. The first Ogre was felled by the party’s concentrated attacks and flaming oil, but the second, larger brute charged up the corridor. The wardogs were loosed against the thing, as Mearl moved forward to hold the hallway. He managed to stab the beast with his spear, but then, howling in rage at the dogs’ attacks, the mighty Ogre brought his club down on Mearl’s head, smashing Belgarath’s loyal manservant flat with a single blow! The brutal attack was its last, as the wardogs lunged in and bore the beast down beneath their slavering jaws.

With the Ogres dead, the relieved party quickly searched the room, discovering a stash of coins, and an old, flea-infested sack they tossed aside. It was then that they heard noises from the only other door. Bracing for further battle, the party unbarred and opened the door, only to discover four unarmed and primitive hominids. It was quickly ascertained that no language was shared between the party and these beings, and a few tense moments were spent creating inventive gestures and pantomime before it was decided they were friend, or at least not hostile. The Neanderthals were grateful for their release from their Ogre captors, and left with the party.

The remaining room near this end of the buildings was searched and found empty, so the party headed back to the far side of the complex to the unexplored branch of the first T-junction they had come to after entering via the secret door. They moved along the corridor to the end, assuming (incorrectly) that all the doors on their left led to the outside (they had previously noted multiple doors in the exterior southern wall of the main monastery buildings). The door at the end of the corridor was locked, and the party discovered it opened with the key they had taken from Hobgoblin champion killed in the guardroom. The room beyond was unexpected, both in its contents and shape. Filled with supplies, including food, weapons, and armour, and extending past where the party believed the outside of the monastery to be. The supplies were enough for an army, and they looted what they thought were the most valuable items, and equipped the Neanderthals with leather armour and spears.

Re-locking the storeroom behind them (and leaving the supplies to the Hobgoblin army), they began checking the remaining doors in the corridor, knowing from the dimensions of the storeroom they did not lead to the outside.

The first of these was stuck, and, when battered open, led to an unused chamber. The second led to a shrine to Orcus, and the entire party felt immediately uncomfortable upon entering the room, with air temperature noticeably colder than the hallway. The dogs began to whine and pace, with the Mercenaries and Neanderthals become restive and unwilling to wait in the chamber. A massive statue to He Who Shall Not Be Named dominated the room, with a shallow trough the size of body built in to the floor before it. Old stains marked the floor of the trough, and the party waited in uneasy silence as Kalasandr climbed the statue and removed the large amethyst gems set into its eye sockets. A collective sigh of relief echoed through the chamber when the thief prised the gems free without incident, and the entire group moved back to the hallway.

With no apparent areas missed on their map, the party finally decided to retreat from the Monastery, and made their way to the home of the elderly sisters. The rescued Neanderthals headed off through the far end of the clearing, presumably to rejoin their own kind. The party spent the night, healing and resting, and in the morning received Rosalinda’s aid in identifying the nature the shield they had taken from the Hobgoblin champion: an enchanted, round, wooden shield +1 emblazoned with the symbol of the Callarii elves. Saying their goodbyes to the sisters, they made the uneventful trip back across the river to Guido’s Fort…

Darth Kane is now my favorite player character.

The Quest for XP

Or:...allllmost there!

Session 8, The Hill

One of our less successful sessions, at least in terms of play time, we nevertheless had a good time. We had originally been scheduled to play on the 9th, but a bad bout of influenza pushed the date back. Still, Belgarath's player provided a gourmet dinner of anise salad with pine nuts and lemon vinaigrette dressing, followed by lightly sauteed vegetables in olive oil over pasta. Then it was time to go shopping in Kelvin and Specularum! Gee, how exciting.

Belgarath was also desperate for every point of XP he could scrounge, trying to use his Animal Husbandry business income, and the sale of everything that wasn’t nailed down (including stuff that others had found that magically appeared on his character sheet), in an attempt to make Level 2 before we started playing (he was about 300 XP short from the last session).

In the end, we played for a grand total of about 20 minutes (okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much), with most of our time being taken up by housekeeping activities. Oh, and I drank far too much mead.


With all the disparate party members present around the table in the Lion’s Den with the carved map, plans were laid. Expenses were mounting, and a significant amount of treasure hadn’t been found in some time…

The party had lost the services of their Mercenaries, with Ivana balking at the mounting injuries crippling her guardsmen, as well as talk of the party heading into a dungeon below the Ruined Monastery. With all of their Henchmen, they were still a sizeable contingent, but would still need to be more cautious.

“I have some other items I’d like to sell…” Belgarath began, “…some scrolls, two potions, a shield…”

“Wait, how do you have those?” Kalasandr interjected, “We received those when we made a bargain with the witches, and you weren’t even there! You were…husbanding animals, or something.”

Belgarath looked non-plussed, “Well, no one else was using them, as they didn’t even come with us last time, and-”

“But how did you get that stuff?” Kalasandr asked again, looking increasingly perplexed.

“I do not think we should sell them. They make us more powerful!” It was one of the first times Endithas had ventured an opinion, mostly by dint of seldom being present. He seemed to constantly be complaining of pain in his back and legs. Maybe it was because he was so old? Or at least he looked that way to his far younger companions.

“One of those scrolls is Clerical,” Caasi began, “…actually, two of them, if you include the one Kalasandr found in that ivory case…”

“Yesss! The ivory scroll-case! We could sell that, too!” said Belgarath, an avaricious gleam in his eye.

“Why are you so desperate?” Kane asked. The question was ironic, considering the taciturn elf had spoken of nothing but finding an animal “companion” (whatever that meant) for the first while the others had known him.

“I am… on the precipice!” stated Belgarath with all the gravitas he could muster. The small amount of foam speckling his lips detracted from his desired effect.

Kalasandr looked around at the others, hoping someone else understood what the mage was talking about, “Of…what? Madness?”

“POWER!” Belgarath shouted, far too loudly. Several of the other patrons in the sleepy tavern looked up from their ale. Chagrined, he spoke more softly, “I mean, power. I feel I am on the verge of a breakthrough.”

“Then… why do you need money? And by selling our stuff, no less?” Caasi asked, genuinely confused.

The mage looked about at his companions, “You wouldn’t understand!” he said simply, before falling into a brooding, sulking silence.

“Right!” said Kalasandr, trying to get their deliberations back on track, “I think we should head back to Kelvin, try and pick up some more help, maybe some more military oil to replace what we’ve used.” Several other party members nodded their approval. “And if we need money…” he continued, “…there’s always that necro-whatsit dagger we found. Nobody has been using it. Maybe we can sell that?”

15th of Klarmont to the 14th of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Belgarath (Mage 2), Mearl (Belgarath’s very loyal Henchman), Argus and Cerberus (Belgarath’s wardogs), Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman and body servant), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 4), Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), 1 wardog and 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), and a partridge in a pear tree.

Mortal Wounds: None

Deaths: None

Leveled: Every PC!

Belgarath negotiated the sale to Ivana of the crossbows the party had looted from the Hobgoblin stores, and the gems taken from the profane idol. The sale netted them a small amount of gold, and pushed Belgarath that much closer to 2nd Level. He also informed her that they had found a large amount of supplies, enough for a small army; Ivana was less than pleased that these had been left behind (which may have contributed to her decision to deny them further use of her guardsmen). The party then headed out for Kelvin a day after returning from The Hill.

Spring was giving way to summer, and the fields near Kelvin were a beehive of activity. Upon reaching the city, more military oil was secured (nearly the total supply in the city), and Caasi was again healed at the Church of Karameikos for the usual 500 gp donation. Kalasandr was also busy, commissioning caltrops to be made, and hiring another Henchman (Henchwoman?), with a bright red birthmark on her left cheek, by the name of Solla. The woman appeared to be a veteran warrior, but with no actual adventuring experience.

While in Kelvin, Kalasandr also inquired with his underworld contacts about selling a few vials of centipede poison (illegal in the Grand Duchy) that Belgarath had harvested. Unbelievably, he managed to net nearly 1000 gp for the two vials! (A misread price, max die roll, and inappropriately applying Bargaining lead to the anomaly, but I decided to let it stand; someone really wanted that poison! Now the question is: what for? I'd already decided, but it would likely be a while before the party found out...)

The money from the sale of the poison pushed Belgarath over the edge, and he finally hit 2nd Level. As the party had tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the necromantic dagger they had found in a tomb beside the Ruined Monastery, a decision was made to head to the capital, Specularum. It was nearly a week’s travel, but there was hope of finding a buyer for the magical blade, and allowing Belgarath to visit his master to learn a new spell.

The trip itself was uneventful, but once there a buyer for the dagger couldn’t be found (there was only a small chance for such an expensive item)! However, when Belgarath met his mentor, Teldon, he spoke openly of their attempts to sell the magical blade, and their inability to do so. His master examined the dagger and immediately offered the princely sum of 12,000 gp! Belgarath nearly fainted, but upon regaining his composure, began to haggle with his master, eager to milk all he could from the transaction. Teldon put his young student firmly in his place, and informed Belgarath that, while the dagger was probably worth more than he was offering, there would be no other buyer, and Teldon could not offer more. Belgarath the Miser finally relented, and at the end of the week left his master’s tower with more gold than he had ever seen in his life, and the new spell Unseen Servant added to his repertoire (I had previously created Belgarath's master, including his spellbook, and anything Belgarath was taught would come from this).

The party rejoiced at their windfall, and a flurry of buying ensued. Out of character, every PC also levelled, and a considerable amount of time was spent rolling for new hp, and updating character sheets to reflect the various benefits that 2nd Level would bring (save Kalasandr, who hit 4th!). Finishing with the administration, the group headed back to Guido’s Fort.

Upon arriving at the fort, rumours reached the PCs ears of a rival party crossing the River to The Hill. They were incensed! How dare anyone else loot their treasure?! Kane immediately headed to the Lion’s Den to locate The Old Timer, and began plying the man with drinks to find out what he knew of the interlopers. It turned out a rival party, some 5 strong plus wolves, had crossed the River days before, and had not been heard from since. The party immediately made ready to depart, intent on putting a stop to whatever shenanigans these “outsiders” were up to in “their” dungeon.

After spending a couple hours to move their large group across the water, the party made an uneventful hike to the far side of The Hill. All was eerily quiet as they approached the Ruined Monastery. Strangely, no Goblin sentries stood watch, and the party was able to move to the buildings much less cautiously than before. Once inside, they made their way through corridors, courtyard, and secret door to the guardroom. Here again, they found it unoccupied and silent. Carefully avoiding their own poison, they passed through the door and descended the stairs into the dungeon below…

The stairs ran arrow-straight, traveling more than 60 feet as they ran far beneath the earth. At the bottom they ended at a T-junction, the corridor heading left and right. The party headed left, and in a few dozen feet reached another T-junction. At Caasi’s insistence they again headed left, and a few feet farther on the corridor turned right. This passage ended at door, with another passage branching to the right. The sound of roiling liquid was heard behind the door, and Kalasandr attempted to surreptitiously peek into the room, but was spotted by a pair of Goblins. The humanoids attacked the party with a shriek, and were quickly cut down. The room they had occupied was a gruesome sight, with various implements of torture scattered about the room, ready to be used. Along the far wall were four doors, each containing a barred window.

Endithas and Kane guarded the corridor while the others searched the room. Mercifully, the cells were all empty, though that didn’t explain what the Goblins had been preparing for. The humanoids’ bodies were hidden in the cells after keys to them were found hanging on the wall. Then the party headed back out into the corridor, taking the last branch they had passed.

This blank-walled corridor soon turned left, ran for fifty feet or so, turned left again, then right. Along this final stretch of hall a door was discovered a short distance before the passage ended in a second door. With no sound from either door, the room at the end of the corridor was entered first, revealing a well appointed study. The room was quickly looted of valuables, and the desk examined by Kalasandr. One of the drawers was locked, but the thief easily managed to pick it, and then opened it without checking for traps.

That choice proved nearly fatal, as a hidden needle sprung from the handle, pricking the thief with poison. Kalasandr became dizzy and felt his heart race, but after a few moments the sensation passed (made his Save vs. Poison!). Checking the previously locked drawer he discovered a bag of tiger-eye gems and a clerical scroll of Cure Light Wounds that was given to Caasi.

Meanwhile, out in the corridor, Kane and Endithas stood watch. Abruptly, a lone Hobgoblin came strolling around the corner, lantern in hand. The humanoid barely had a chance to register surprise before an arrow sprouted from its throat, and it collapsed to the floor, Endithas catching it before its lantern could smash.

The remainder of the party left the study behind, and attempted to open the only other door in the hall. It was locked, but was soon opened by Kalasandr’s deft touch. The room behind the door seemed as out of place as the study had, and it was appointed as a sumptuous sitting room, plush chairs and crystal wine glasses completing the picture. This room, too, was looted of its obvious valuables, and the dead Hobgoblin was left sitting in one of the chairs.

The party then headed back nearly to the stairs to the surface, and turned down the other branch. Kalasandr and Kane almost immediately heard noise coming from up the hall: rhythmic clanging sounds of metal on metal. Further on, a dull glow suffused the hall, emanating from a side-passage on the left. Kalasandr snuck forward, and glanced into the dimly lit passage. He found himself looking into a forge room, Hobgoblins toiling under the whip of a Bugbear taskmaster. The source of the pounding was a balding dwarven smith, a ball and chain making it clear he laboured under duress.

The thief moved back to the others, and it was decided that he would scout farther down the corridor to make certain there were no other threats nearby. Moving stealthily, Kalasandr slipped past the doorway and on down the corridor. He quickly mapped out a hundred feet or so of nearby passage, noting, in particular, a pair of ornate double doors that hopefully led to the The Hobgoblin King. He then doubled-back to rejoin the party.

As they huddled in the corridor, just out of sight of the forge, an argument broke out about how best to attack the humanoids; Belgarath simply wanted to hurl burning oil into the room, while Endithas wanted burning oil separating the party from their enemies. Everyone agreed they needed to block the door on the opposite side of the forge room with oil (though why Belgarath couldn’t cast Hold Portal once the battle had begun was anyone’s guess; the mage had a bad habit of ending adventures with his spell(s) uncast). Eventually, a Rube Goldberg-style plan was concocted, which involved Belgarath’s Unseen Servant carrying military oil, and a complex order of battle. Amazingly, the plan went off without a hitch, as the party attacked the humanoids by surprise.

The fight that followed was as quick as it was brutal, with the unarmoured Hobgoblins dropping to the party’s attacks. The dwarf turned on his captors, and managed to wound both the Bugbear and a Hobgoblin, before being grievously wounded in turn. Once the last of the opposition was defeated, the bodies were unceremoniously dumped into the forges, and Gareth the balding dwarven smith was offered both his freedom, and a chance to accompany the party to the surface, which he gladly agreed to. Kane grabbed the Bugbear’s spiked club in the hope that it was enchanted (only Cassi could cast Detect Magic, and she had already used her slot for the day keeping the dwarf alive). Gareth was asked if he had seen much of the rest of the dungeon, but, strangely, the questioning went no further. It was nevertheless clear that the humanoids were forging weapons and armour in quantities sufficient to outfit an army.

With 2am fast approaching in the real world, it was decided that the party would withdraw, and they made the trip back to Guido’s Fort without incident. Back at the fort, a hole was dug in the dirt floor of Belgarath’s cottage, and a locked chest was buried containing several magic items, with the understanding that any of the companions could access them.

Hunt Through the Dark

...or how do you solve a problem like the King?

Session 9, The Hill

Belgarath, Kalasandr, and Kane moved at a leisurely pace along the Duke’s Road, the hike to Kelvin a refreshing break from the dank dungeons beneath The Hill. All carried a small fortune in coin, as they had recently managed to sell a valuable find, in the form of a powerfully enchanted dagger. It was irksome that they would never know what magic it had held, but it was hard to argue with the mountain of gold it had earned them.

“Look, I’m not saying one does not simply walk in to the Monastery, I’m just saying it’s not that simple…” Kalasandr said, panting with the exertion of dragging Waevryn’s litter. This was the second time he would try to pay the Patriarch of Kelvin to restore the vitality in her legs. His dedication to her was singular.

Kane sneered slightly in the thief’s direction, “Ah. And next we shall hear how one simply does not leave the donjon without an enlarged-”

“Hunh?” grunted Gareth, wondering where the elf to whom he owed blood-debt was going with that remark.

“I-” Belgarath attempted to interject, but the other two were having none of it.

“Oh, here we go! Brace yourselves…” pant, pant, “…the elf’s going to say something clever.”

“Starting a duel of the wits with a master of wit?” the elf replied. That one raised even Belgarath’s eyebrows, “You do not know the tiny limits of your own mental capacity!” declared Kane without even a hint of irony. The banter continued until the sun sank low, and while Belgarath had thought the two might come to blows, they ended the evening singing drinking songs by the fire over a wineskin of mead.

“The idiots!” thought the mage for at least the tenth time that day. He was greatly relieved that neither he, nor his trusted man, Mearl, had a sense of humour that could lead to such stupidity…

16th to the 22nd of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Belgarath (Mage 2), Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), The Menagerie (Belgarath’s wardogs Argus and Cerberus, plus his owl Familiar, Stikini), Kalasandr (Thief 4), Solla and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), and 3 hunting dogs and 1 wardog belonging to Kane.

Mortal Wounds: Waevryn’s face was severely scarred by an enormous fly

Deaths: None!

Leveled: None.

Things began with the unusual move of Kane recruiting the dwarf the party had rescued from the Hobgoblins’ forge as a Henchman, even though dwarves aren’t considered animals. More shockingly, the dwarf agreed with elan once offered quality gear to replace what he had lost more than a year before. Gareth Ironhand owed Kane a blood-debt for rescuing him, poncy elf or no, and Gareth Ironhand repaid his debts!

The party then headed to Kelvin so Kalasandr could have Waevryn’s legs healed. The rogue had now spent a small fortune on the woman, though why he was so concerned with her being able to move her legs was anyone’s guess.

While in Kelvin, the party tracked down an Alchemist, one Asterius Medvedev Bogatsch, purported to be the finest in the city. From him they negotiated the purchase of a Healing Potion, discovering that buying magical goods was the flip side of making a fortune off of selling them. 500 gp later (or 1,000 gp, if you include the donation to the Church of Karameikos for Waevryn), and the party had obtained all the magical aid they were willing to pay for, and headed back to Guido’s Fort.

Upon their return, rumours again reached their ears of rival adventurers crossing the River in search of easy treasure. And, yet again, none of them seemed to have returned to the fort. Expecting to eventually run into these ne’er-do-wells, the party prepared themselves for battle, then had Boris ferry them and their complement of Henchmen over to The Hill.

The march to the Ruined Monastery was uneventful, and upon arriving mid-afternoon, they discovered the walls, courtyard, and most of the surface buildings were completely abandoned. The first they encountered any inhabitants was upon reaching the guardroom blocking the entrance to the dungeon, whereupon two Goblins promptly fled down the stairs into the depths. After a hurried argument, it was decided that party would wait on the stairs, hoping to hold the high ground against whatever enemies the Goblins would surely rouse against them…

…and waited…

…and waited…

…until, after more than ten minutes (i.e. 1 Turn spent waiting, and hence a Wandering Monster check), it became clear that the Goblins were not coming right back with reinforcements. But then, where had they gone?

Exceedingly nervous, the party inched their way down the stairs, tossing a torch to the floor at the bottom, and expecting Goblin ambush at any moment. Mearl and Gareth were pushed to the front (hey, that’s what Henchmen are for, right?), and the party descended. The blind T-junction at the bottom of the stairs was amusingly panic-inducing, but when a Goblin ambush still didn’t materialize, the party finally began to relax.

Having previously explored to the left from the bottom of the stairs (and not having Caasi present to insist on heading to the left), the party turned right, and then immediately left. The darkened corridor traveled straight with no apparent branches or doors, before ending in a lone door. As Kalasandr listened at the door, he realised he heard the sound of booted feet and guttural speech – from behind the party!

Marching order was hastily reshuffled as everyone turned to face the rear, with the dogs, all six of them, now in the party’s front. Around the corner strolled two Hobgoblins carrying a lantern, who were brought up short in shock at the sight of the party. Kane managed a hurried shot, wounding one of the Hobgoblins before they had a chance to react, and in a few more moments both lay dead on the floor. The party waited anxiously for any additional sign that they had been discovered, then returned to looting the room they had just found.

The chamber was filthy and foul-smelling, with the smoking remains of a fire dying in a large hearth. Above the coals hung a pot, with a greenish-black melange simmering away. Nearby stood a crude wooden table, along with several wooden benches and a pair of chairs. Upon the table sat several filthy, wine-stained goblets and a jug of vinegary wine. The room was about 30’ square, with another door directly across from the one they had entered through.

Kalasandr moved to the far door as the rest of the group searched the small room, and could hear a low, rumbling vibration from somewhere beyond the portal. It was rhythmic, and intermittent, though the nature of the sound was entirely unclear. An insect? Growling? A pneumatic forge? There was only one way to find out…

They opened the door and moved into the hall beyond. A couple dozen feet further, and an alcove that ended in a door opened on the left. The rhythmic rumbling was clearly coming from farther up the hall, but the party checked the side door, only to find it opened into a small cell. A quick examination yielded nothing, but Kane’s sharp elven eyesight noted something amiss with the masonry on the back wall. Poking and prodding, the party discovered a large block was loose, and with some effort, managed to remove it. Behind the wall was a crude, narrow tunnel, seemingly hand-carved with tools. Kalasandr bravely volunteered himself, and the rogue clambered into the confined space with a torch.

The tunnel wound a dozen feet, the narrow confines forcing Kalasandr to alternately clamber on hands-and-knees or bellycrawl to negotiate the passage. The far end stopped abruptly at what appeared to be another masonry block. With considerable effort, Kalasandr managed to wriggle the block into the space beyond, and then squeeze around it to peer about. The corridor the tunnel opened into seemed familiar, and, after glancing at his own map of the place, he deduced that he was near the forge where the party had freed Gareth.

Kalasandr slipped back into the tunnel, carefully replacing the block behind himself, then wriggled his way back to rejoin the party in the prison cell. It was concluded that some previous prisoner must have tunnelled to freedom. The party left the block at the back of the cell on the floor and headed back out into the corridor to find the source of the noise. A short distance farther revealed another alcove ending in a door on the left. It immediately became apparent that whatever was beyond this door was the source of the rumbling the party could hear. The door was locked, and Kalasandr quietly turned his skills on the mechanism. An audible “click!” signalled his success, and he eased the door ajar to peer into the room beyond…

Half-a-dozen large beds stood to the left of the door, and upon three of them were the hairy, sleeping forms of three Bugbears, the largest of whom was the source of what was now, clearly, inhuman snoring. Kalasandr slipped back into the hall, and the party came up with a plan: three of their number would attempt to slip into the room unnoticed, and slit the hairy beasts’ throats before they even knew the party was there! Belgarath, Kalasandr, and Kane all moved into the room, instead of just the stealthy thief, a decision that would prove most unfortunate.

While Kalasandr quietly slipped over the nearest bed and slit the throat of its occupant, Kane was much less so, and the clumsy Belgarath nearly tumbled to the floor, caught up in his own robes (rolled a surprise check for the Bugbears, modified based on Belgarath’s extreme clumsiness, and, not surprisingly, they were not Surprised; as Kalasandr had entered ahead and made his Move Silently check handily, I allowed him the Surprise Round). The sound woke the remaining two Bugbears, and the elven ranger slashed the one he had approached with his knife before it had a chance to react. The final Bugbear roared in defiance as it leapt to its feet, seizing a huge battle axe in its mangy hands. Thinking quickly, Belgarath cast Light on the eyes of the axe-wielding Bugbear, and it howled again, violently shaking its head in an attempt to clear its vision. Kane battled with the Bugbear he had already injured, as Kalasandr leapt across the beds to slash it with the Black Scimitar. Mearl charged into the room to stab the blinded Bugbear with his spear, then easily avoided its clumsy attempt to smash the haft of his weapon with its axe. Kane felled the beast in front of him with a swift thrust, then the weight of the party turned on the remaining, blinded humanoid. Swinging wildly and in vain with its battle axe, the beast finally fell to a crushing blow from Gareth’s warhammer.

As quiet settled on the room, more details of the space became apparent: 30’ on a side, with no other exits, a table and crude chairs stood in the centre of the room, the remains of a meal on the tabletop. An old, sturdy chest sat under the table. A search of the Bugbears bodies produced several keys, one of which opened the chest. Inside was an assortment of what appeared to be adventuring gear, with finely tooled leather armour, a well-kept shortsword, bow and arrows, and various other common items. Beside these sat a bag of coins, and a leather bundle containing what Kalasandr recognized as Thieves’ Tools.

Finding nothing further, the group again headed back into the hall and proceed further, once again reaching an alcove ending in a door on the left. This too was locked, but, upon trying the door, movement was heard from within. The party waited in anticipation, but the room was silent for a time. Finally, a voice called out, “Well, get on with it!” in slightly accented Thyatian. The door being locked from the outside, the group deduced that the occupant must be a prisoner, and warily unlocked the door with another of the Bugbear’s keys. Inside was a raven-haired young woman, lying on a plain wooden bench, her hands behind her head.

At the sight of the party she cocked an eyebrow, “Aren’t you a little hairless for a bugbear?”

Kalasandr immediately stepped forward, “I’m Kalasandr and I’m here to rescue you!”

“Reallllly…?” drolled the woman.

Kalasandr switched to the common street-slang used by thieves in the Duchy, noting his surprise at finding her here. The woman responded in kind, though somewhat haltingly. Satisfied, Kalasandr had a brief, whispered argument with the others, before it was decided that the gear and coins they had found would be turned back over to the woman. She quickly kitted herself, and then agreed to accompany the party temporarily as thanks for her rescue, introducing herself as Colleen DeFilch, a native of Darokin. She explained that she and four companions had traveled over the passes from the Republic in late spring, looking for adventure and easy coin. Upon reaching Guido’s Fort they heard tell that the humanoids guarding The Hill had been defeated by another group, and that the remaining treasure would be easy pickings. Much to their horror, the denizens of the Ruined Monastery were very much alive, and, worse still, were waiting for them in ambush, almost as if they had known they were coming. Their entire party was captured, and she had been separated from the others before her last sleep, all sense of time lost in the darkness.

With Colleen joining them, the group moved back into the hall, following a short distance further before it finally ended at a door. The smell of damp was in the air, and the sound of rushing water could be heard on the other side. Forcing the stuck and swollen door, the party discovered a large cavern, with a small stream running through it and draining into a hole in the floor. As they entered the room they caught site of a number of scuttling centipedes, and quickly withdrew, shutting the door behind them.

Consulting their map, it was decided to head back to the set of double-doors Kalasandr had previously scouted, in hopes of finding the hall of the Hobgoblin King. Passing several other doors, they reached the double doors without incident. They checked them carefully before discovering that they opened easily, leading to a large hall set with rows of benches. At the far end stood a massive idol of a now familiar grotesque shape, gleaming amethyst stones in its sockets.

The party entered and spread about the room as Kalasandr quickly mounted the statue and began working on prising the gems free. As he touched his crowbar to the first gem, the mouth of the statue fell open, and with a great, droning, buzzing sound, four huge flies flew out of the mouth and into the room, setting upon the party.

The flies were dispatched, but not before Colleen was badly injured, and Waevryn had her face torn apart; she would be severely scarred from her wounds. Kalasandr checked Waevryn (mostly to see if he would need to spend more on her), then, satisfied she would be able to shuffle back to the Fort with the rest of the party, went back to the idol. The party searched the rest of the room, with Kane once again spotting secret passages, this time in the south-east corner of the room. The first led into a tiny chamber with a hole in the floor, and a ladder leading down. The second, however, led into a well-appointed room. Kane stepped inside and was stunned to see a human figure, grey-skinned and hunched, sitting at a writing desk scribbling with a quill. The figure looked up, malice in his eyes, and Kane bravely ducked back out of the room to… warn the rest of the party – only to hear the opening and closing of a door from the secret chamber behind him. He looked back into the room to find it empty.

A heated argument ensued as the party debated whether to immediately pursue the fleeing figure – either through the secret door, or the double-doors in an attempt to cut the fugitive off – or to finish looting the place. They finally agreed to loot the place (in case someone else stole the phat loot they were stealing), Kalasandr working on the second amethyst gem, with the others tossing the secret study. Belgarath pocketed the papers from the desk, along with a small chest and its contents (a large cloak, a stoppered glass bottle that appeared empty, and a handful of coins).

Comfortable that they had lifted everything of value within reach (that wasn’t nailed down, and even some that was in the case of the gems), the party headed back the way they had come. When they reached the main junction, they waited for the fleeing figure. After a handful of uneventful minutes, the party headed down the main corridor in the direction they hadn’t yet explored. They passed several large, 20’ wide openings into some kind of large, unlit chamber beyond. Ignoring these, they then came to a single door on their left, with the passage ending in a second door some dozen feet further on.

Listening at the door, Kane heard the sound of Goblinoid voices. The party prepared for battle, and then Mearl tried to shove the door open with his spear, but the momentary exposure left him open and one of a volley of arrows struck him before he could duck back. He caught a momentary glimpse of upended tables forming a barricade across the room, with goblinoids crouching behind them. With a mighty yell, Gareth Ironhand charged into the room against the hated Goblins, arrows ricocheting off his plate armour. At the same time, Belgarath loosed his wardogs who ran to move around the barricades. The weaker members of the party remained in the hall, with Belgarath pulling out a Scroll of Web and considering the door on the party’s flank at the end of the hall. Should he? Perhaps he could wait?

The first pair of wardogs rounded the barricade, only to be blocked by a Hobgoblin warrior. Behind it, Goblins continued firing arrows into the room and doorway, none of them able to pierce Gareth’s considerable armour. Kane slipped into the room and moved to a corner where he could return fire against the Goblins. Belgarath’s strange decision to use neither the Web Scroll, nor a timely Hold Portal spell, to secure the door on their flank was a fateful one (it was the end of the night at this point, so there was no reason to hold back; it's meta-gamey, but unavoidably true, and Belgarath's player has a terrible habit of reaching the end of a session with spell(s) uncast, and then complaining about how useless his Mage is), as the door suddenly slammed open, the dark Cleric who had earlier fled standing behind a group of Goblins and Hobgoblins in the doorway!

Solla and an injured Mearl turned to face the new threat as the monsters charged the party. The situation became tense as the Hobgoblins behind the barricade managed to survive the wardogs’ assault, and Kane’s archery proved ineffective. In the hall, Solla and Mearl were both injured (Mearl now grievously so), even though Solla struck her opponent (with a natural 20, rolled by Kalasandr’s player). The Goblins were frenzied, with the Hobgoblins attacking from the second rank with their spears. Belgarath could no longer cast Web without entrapping his comrades, and all the other party members were already badly injured. All, that is, except for Kalasandr…

The thief leapt forward, lashing out between Solla and Mearl, cutting down the injured Goblin, then reversing his blade to kill the Goblin in front of Mearl (two natural 20s!). The injured fighter withdrew, with Gareth Ironhand coming out of the barricade room to move forward and fill his position in the line. Back inside the room with the barricade, the wardogs finally succeeded in dragging down the Hobgoblins, leaving only the Goblin archers, hemmed in on both sides. Amazingly, the Goblins drew their swords and prepared to defend themselves.

Meanwhile, Kalasandr stabbed one of the two Hobgoblins through the heart, and then slashed the second, injuring it (another natural 20!). Seeing this, the dark Cleric stepped forward, chanting words that made the party’s ears ring. He then reached out and touched Kalasandr, his hideous grin exposing teeth that had been filed to sharpened points. Kalasandr felt the hideous power flowing through him, but reaching deep inside himself, managed to shake off panic and resist the horrible magic the Cleric had used against him (the other players waited with baited breath as Kalasandr’s player rolled the die to Save versus Death… it came up with a natural 20, yet again! The player's fifth such roll in 4 rounds). The dark Cleric’s arrogant look dissolved into confusion as his spell failed to deal with the adventurer.

The Cleric then turned to the only remaining Hobgoblin at his side, chanting again, laying a dark blessing on the Hobgoblin with Cure Light Wounds. The party watched in horror as its wounds closed, and it renewed the fight.

In the barricade room, the wardogs tore the remaining Goblins to pieces, and Kane moved to join the others in the hall.

In the hall, Kalasandr narrowly missed the remaining injured Hobgoblin, but it was subsequently skewered on Mearl’s spear from the back rank. The dark Cleric slammed his mace into the thief. Gareth Ironhand stepped forward and slammed his warhammer into the dark Cleric’s side. With a final groan, the dark Cleric collapsed to the ground. Relieved to have survived, the party searched the immediate area around the room of the battle. Finding nothing else of interest, the decision was finally made to withdraw back to the safety of Guido’s Fort…


Session 10, The Hill

We got started very, very, very late. Very late. But hey, we had a lot of laughs! Caasi's player was forced to drop at the last minute due to illness, but Kane's player, who had earlier cancelled due to a flight, got in early enough to join us. Kane had heard a recent rumour of a master bowyer in the town of Helix, near the Moor...

Gathered around the table in the Lion’s Den were Caasi, Endithas Wolfram, Kalasandr, and Kane. They were studying the small carved area of the table that represented the layout of the dungeon under the Ruined Monastery on the The Hill.

“I say we head back past here… see if that’s where the King is hiding!” Kalasandr pointed at an area beyond where they had explored.

“I want a bow.”

Kalasandr looked up at Kane, frowning. The laconic elf rarely spoke, and the remark had caught Kalasandr off guard. Had he heard that right?

“Uhhh…pardon?” he asked, waiting for Kane to clarify as everyone stared at the elf, expectantly.

Kane’s eyes narrowed, “A bow of masterful construction,” he said, as if that explained his earlier interjection.

“But…” Endithas began, a look of deep confusion on his face as he looked at his companions, “…but, what does that have to do with where the King is?” he finished, turning back to the elf. Kane was gone.

“How does he do that?!” Endithas said, whirling ’round to scan the room. Kane was nowhere to be found.

“I feel unwell.” Caasi said.

Kalasandr and Endithas turned to the cleric as she continued, “I hear the voices of the Immortals. I must rest, and meditate on this!” she said, before turning on her heel and marching out of the public house.

“Well…” Kalasandr said, sounding dejected, “…now what?”

“We head here.” Kalasandr and Endithas started, turning back to the carved table to see Kane pointing at the table.

“How do you DO that?!” Endithas nearly shouted.

“Right, let’s get going. Before anyone else disappears!” Kalasandr finished, turning and heading towards the door.

24th of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 3), Solla & Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), and 3 hunting dogs and 1 wardog belonging to Kane.

Mortal Wounds: None

Deaths: None

Leveled: None

The party made the uneventful trip back to the Monastery, climbing over the courtyard wall to spend the night, uninterrupted. With the light of morning, they passed into the dark, only to discover a group of Goblins holed up behind barricades in the guardroom. A brief fusillade of ineffective missile fire was exchanged before the Goblins fled down the stairs to the dungeon below, with the party in pursuit.

The Goblins quickly lost the party, and as the group searched for the humanoids, they spotted light from the torture chamber they had previously cleared. A glance past the door revealed a group of Goblins tending to the fire and various other implements of pain. Unfortunately, the Goblins spotted the party, and Endithas Wolfram charged the room, the massive man cutting down three Goblins before they even swung their weapons! As they fell like wheat before the scythe, Kane dropped three more, feathered shafts sprouting from their bodies. In the span of a few heartbeats, they had cut through seemingly all the Goblins, and silence descended on the room.

A quick search led to Kane discovering a lone Goblin, hiding beneath a bunk in one of the holding cells at the back of the torture chamber. In one fluid motion Kane drew, knocked, and fired an arrow at the Goblin’s head. And missed.

The elf’s eyes widened in shock, before he blustered, “Um… tell us..ahhh…where… the King is. Or… umm…the next one! …won’t miss? Ahem.”

Rough questioning followed, as the Goblin attempted to save its own skin, pointing to an area directly south of where the party currently was. For its trouble, they put it out of its misery. They now knew where to find the King!

Deciding to cut through the maze of secret rooms connected to the shrine to He Who Shall Not Be Named, the party cautiously listened at each secret door, wary of their surroundings. Their caution meant that they heard many humanoid voices in the shrine itself before entering, but they unfortunately decided to crack the secret door without masking their light sources. Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears are well suited to living in total darkness, and the monsters in the evil shrine immediately noticed the light from party’s torches and lantern. The party drew back into the room, but could soon hear the sound of the secret door they had opened being barricaded from the other side.

Realising they were being cornered, the group immediately withdrew through the secret rooms and passages, back to the main corridor. There they set a clever ambush, spreading military oil before the secret entrance that the humanoids would most likely try to attack them from, and then waiting with hooded light sources down a side passage, listening intently for the sound of the monsters opening the secret door in their attempt to ambush the party.

Their patience was soon rewarded, and they caught the humanoids entirely by surprise, a single flaming arrow igniting the oil before spread before the door. Several Hobgoblins died shrieking, immolated in the conflagration before they knew what had happened. Endithas and Gareth then led the charge, slamming into the remaining Hobgoblins from their flank. Their morale held as the Bugbear in their midst motivated them with threats and curses, until it, too, was cut down by the party’s assault. The last of the Hobgoblins tried to flee, and were cut down in the attempt.

Standing victorious over the corpses of their ambushers, the party decided the withdraw from the dungeon to hunt the King another day.

With the time already quite late, we left it there, with the party returning to Guido’s Fort without incident.

Bring Out Yer Dead!

...or the storied and noble profession of graverobbing.

Session 11, The Hill

“I vote we attack the King!” Endithas said, glowering at the others over the carved table in the main room of the Lion’s Den.

Caasi seemed discomfited by Endithas’ suggestion, “We are few in number. While our cause is just, I am not convinced we have the strength to prevail…” she said, looking across the table at Endithas and Kane in turn.

“Did you not claim the Immortals protect?” claimed the big man, somewhat incredulous at Caasi’s seeming reluctance.

“Of course! They protect!” she replied automatically. She then remembered her encounter with the giant bees, “…mostly…” she finished lamely, unconsciously massaging her left hand.

Kane finally spoke, “I agree with Caasi. There are other possibilities…”

“Eh? Such as?” Endithas asked, seeming genuinely interested.

“This unexplored steam cave. Perhaps it leads under the Hill to the rumoured lake of fire?” Kane suggested, pointing to a spot on the edge of their carved map. He was referring to the rumour the party had previously heard from The Old Timer about a lake of boiling lava beneath The Hill.

“I do not believe that to be wise…” Caasi began, thinking back to her near-death experience of nearly being broiled by a gout of superheated steam.

Kane stared at the carved map a moment longer before speaking again, “Then perhaps we explore this graveyard the Witches claimed lay off the dead clearing…”

“Aye!” replied Endithas, enthusiastically, “Why not? What could possibly go wrong?”

26th to 28th of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), 1 Wardog and 3 Hunting Dogs belonging to Kane

Mortal Wounds: none

Deaths: none

Levelled: none

The party headed across the River in the morning and hiked to the Witches’ cottage, as had become their habit, saving themselves from arriving in the vicinity of the the Monastery at nightfall. There was much discussion of the mint tea the Sisters always served; Endithas Wolfram was convinced that the mint was the reason for his sound sleep. The others thought that more than mint might be to blame, which was also likely why the two women were always so happy to have the big man spend the night…

As they neared the cottage, they encountered a group of Neanderthals headed in the opposite direction. Approaching them cautiously, they discovered that several of the small band wore armour and carried spears reminiscent of those the party had discovered in a cache of supplies in the Monastery. While unsure, thinking that all Neanderthals looked the same, the party nevertheless managed to communicate their friendly intent through pantomime. Seemingly recognizing the party as their erstwhile benefactors, the Neanderthals eventually left in peace, but not before gifting the group a hollowed gourd that seemed to contain some type of primitive healing draught that smelled strongly of honey.

Parting from the Neanderthals in friendship, the group arrived at the cottage. They were welcomed, and partook of mint tea before heading to bed for the night.

After a seemingly uneventful night (that Endithas had no memory of), they set out for the dead clearing. Before mid-morning they had crossed the clearing of the Hobgoblin encampment by the lake, still abandoned, and pressed through the woods to the waterfall. As the party entered the clearing, an enormous hulk leapt out from behind the rocks, the nearby waterfall masking the sound of its movements. The Ogres’ club whistled through the air, narrowly missing Endithas’ head. It never got a second chance, as Kane planted an arrow in its chest, and Endithas buried the length of his greatsword in its gut. They quickly searched the Ogres’ corpse, and discovered that it carried some 300 gold in its dirty old sack. Taking the coins, they then pushed the remains over the cliff by the waterfall, hoping to hide the evidence of their presence.

Pressing on, the party arrived at the dead clearing shortly before mid-day. As usual, the clearing was empty and silent, with even the birds and insects shunning the place. With growing uneasiness, the party approached the northern end of the dead clearing, where the Sisters had told them the cemetery lay. Amongst the dead and dying underbrush, a score or more white stones could be seen.

“Gareth…” Kane said in a hushed voice, “…go have a look!”

The dwarf gave Kane a sour look, then carefully moved forward towards the stones. Upon closer examination, the stones appeared quite regular, and had clearly been shaped and placed by the hands of some maker. Gareth ran his rough hand over the surface of the nearest one: carved writing, worn to the point of being indecipherable, marked the stone. In front of one the other nearby stones, a pit had been dug. The hole was some two yards long and an arm-length wide, with a similar depth. Crumbled earth was piled around the hole, and it was clear that this excavation was relatively recent.

Kane motioned towards the hole with his chin, “Gareth… go examine that hole.”

The dwarf’s brow furrowed, “Eh? Why don’t YOU go have a look in the hole?”

“Oh, come on, then…” Caasi shouldered past the two, “I have no problem with dirty, old holes!” she said as she eased into the moist opening. She poked into the bottom of the hole, then gently prodded the sides. Tiny avalanches of wet earth came tumbling down around her feet. There appeared to be nothing in the pit. Caasi looked up at the others and shrugged, “Sometimes a hole is just a hole.”

Caasi clambered out of the hole and brushed dirt from her hands and tunic, then stood looking uncertainly at the other nearby stones.

“Let us head under the trees, see how many of these markers there are…” Kane said. The group clumped together as they began to move cautiously forward into the dead woods. The flank of the Hill sloped down and away from the clearing. They could now see dozens of the apparent gravestones scattered amongst the trees and brush. Every few grave markers, a similar pit had been dug. Some were obviously more recent, but others were old enough to have mostly eroded back in. The light grew dim as the trees closed in above them.

The huddled group was now perhaps two-score yards from the edge of the clearing, and the grave markers stretched ahead of them. Those deeper into the woods stood out in the gloom, showing more wear, with some tumbled or even broken by the roots of the trees.

“I don’t like this!” Endithas whispered, breaking the silence. No sooner had the big man spoken than the “Snap!” of a breaking branch came from behind the group. They all whirled around, panic beginning to set in; a person stood behind them at the edge of the clearing. The figure was silhouetted against the light from beyond the trees, far brighter than where they were standing. They all squinted against the glare, trying to make out the details…

“Huh… hello…?” Caasi said in a wavering voice, completely unnerved by the situation.

The “Crack!” of another broken twig rang out from behind them, deeper into the woods. Into the boneyard. Caasi risked a glance over her shoulder, and her eyes went wide with fear. Two more figures, feral looking, were stealthily clawing their way up the slope towards the party. Their skin had the grey-green pallor of rotting flesh, and they were clothed in decaying rags. As it became clear Caasi had spotted them, both let out an inhuman hiss, and gave up all pretense of stealth in a rush to reach the party.

“On our left!” shouted Endithas, spotting a fourth figure slipping between the trees towards the group.

The hissing undead fearlessly charged the party, although Kane managed to plant an arrow in the one blocking the way back to the clearing. The situation became considerable more dire as the injured thing reached the party: lashing out in a frenzy of dirt-encrusted nails and filthy teeth, it managed to injure both Erasmus and Fodora. In spite of the superficial nature of their wounds, both collapsed bonelessly to the forest floor, unmoving.

Now the real panic began as the party realised the nature of their foes! Gareth Ironhand moved to block the path of the thing that had dropped his companions, and his heavy armour momentarily halted it’s advance. Endithas tried to fend off the second creature, only to have it scratch his cheek with its vile claws. The big man swayed for a moment, but managed to regain his senses in time to cleave the thing in two for its trouble.

“Caasi! Quickly! Call upon the Immortals to drive back these abominations before we are overrun!” Kane shouted as he fended off a blow with his dagger. Caasi turned towards the two scrambling towards the party from deeper in the cemetery, and raised her holy symbol aloft. The power of the Immortals venerated by the Church of Karameikos flowed through her, and a bright, yellow-white glow suffused her holy symbol. Snarling, the two farthest Ghouls raised their decaying limbs to shield their eyes, before turning to stumble away down the slope as fast as they had come.

Behind the cleric the remaining Ghoul clambered bodily over Gareth’s shield to sink its teeth into the dwarf’s shoulder, just as his warhammer came crashing down, breaking the undead thing’s back. Without a sound, both fell limply to the ground. Kane fired arrows at the retreating Ghouls, missing. As the undead stumbled out of sight, an eerie quiet settled on the group, broken only by the sound of the harsh breathing that follows panicked exertion.

Kane was the first to speak, "We have to get out of here!" the wild look in the elf’s eyes the closest any of his companions had seen to real panic. They spent the next several minutes dragging their companions back to the clearing. All yet lived, but were completely unable to move.

Within minutes the group again heard the sounds of something coming through the undergrowth towards them. This time they were prepared, and the dogs and volley after volley of arrows, bolts, and sling-stones greeted the returning Ghouls, cutting them down before they could again threaten the party.

Once all was quiet, the remainder of the cemetery was searched. The pall of unease still hung over the place, and the party estimated that as many as a hundred graves were visible, a third of them visibly exhumed. The henchmen slowly regained their faculties. As they waited, the party sent Caasi elbow-deep in one dirty hole after another, the effort yielding some 6,000 silver pieces, coins of an old, Traladaran vintage, and a single beautiful moonstone. The monks buried here obviously had a fascination with silver offerings for the afterlife.

With the sun moving lower in the sky, and not wanting to be anywhere near the ancient burial ground near nightfall, the group force-marched back to the Witches’ cottage to once again spend the night, before heading back to Guido’s Fort the following morning.


A bedtime story with Endithas Wolfram

Session 11, Player Recap

I decided to include a player's write-up for Session 11, as I found it highly entertaining. As writing session reports has become something I have less and less time for, I've started occasionally leaving Endithas' reports as sole report for some sessions. They're funnier than mine, anyway!

Erasmus! Fetch me some ale and then sit as I recount our adventures to you. I know you long to curl up by the fire and listen to stories of our adventures before bed. I see you nodding my silent compatriot. Quick with the ale! Now, let us begin.

Caasi, Kane and I met at this very pub, deciding what to do on our next adventure. We discussed going to look for the King under the Hill again, but we thought it may be wiser, as we were so few, to steer in another direction instead. We talked of many possibilities, but it was concluded that we would investigate the clearing below the monastery, as it was said to once contain a place that monks would worship at, but now only horrific flesh eaters dwell!

Yes, yes Erasmus! You were there too! And Fodora, Caasi’s sworn follower, as well as Gareth the dwarf, who is in Kane’s employ. What an odd looking pair they are, the elf and dwarf! Ha! Yes, you think it’s funny too, don’t you Erasmus!

Now, we crossed the river and headed to the old ladies, both of whom I am very fond of. We drank tea, quite a lot of it, and asked them of our chosen destination, but they could tell us little more than we already knew.

The next day we headed straight towards the clearing. Just as we crossed out of the woods, we were accosted by an enormous ogre! The villain raised it’s club, intending to crush us where we stood, but before it could attack my sword was deep in its innards and Kane’s arrow firmly lodged in its throat! The beast collapsed with a loud thud, dead before it hit the ground. We found some 300 gold pieces, a fair exchange for our troubles! Yes, I see you shaking your purse, you have some of them there, don’t you!

We dragged the ogre to the ridge’s edge and pushed him over, the evidence of our transgressions destroyed! We pressed on across to the far side of the clearing. To the north east is the path up to the monastery, but we were headed to the north west on this day. That’s where we were warned by the old ladies to tread carefully.

As we approached the other side of the clearing, the plants seemed to whither and turn grey, with the thornbush looking sickly, almost dead. You could feel it in the air, evil lurking in the darkness.

Now Erasmus, have no fear! You already know the end of this tale! You were THERE!

We came across a number of small square white stones amongst the underbrush, likely grave markers. There were perhaps more than a hundred of them! And that’s when Kane’s hounds became restless. Up ahead we could see that some of the grave markers had holes dug up in front of them. And was it my imagination that they were dug from the inside out!? Within one grave we found a moonstone and 6000 silver pieces! Yes, I know that smile, you have a few of those in your purse as well Erasmus, don’t you! Ha!

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up just then. I turned around and saw a figure swaying in the distance behind us. It just stood there staring at us. After a moment I raised my hand in greeting and it mimicked me, when suddenly we could hear their inhuman groans!

Movement in the brush from all sides was noticed, we were being surrounded by the monsters! Four of them in total moved towards us, shuffling forward with deadly purpose. Caasi raised her hands above her head and began reciting scripture, imploring her beloved lord to smite our enemies as they advanced. I sometimes forget she is a devote follower of her faith, but her god listened and two of the undead turned and moved away from us. We could feel the power of her god giving us strength in the face of this dire evil!

The other two engaged us. We did our best to defend ourselves, but soon Fodora, Gareth and you, Erasmus, were on the ground, incapacitated! And after only receiving the tiniest of scratches! Oh, please don’t fret Erasmus, it’s over now! They are nowhere near!

Kane, Caasi and I did our best to fight the evil creatures, but it was the hounds that made the difference! The pack of canines tore into the inhuman creatures and soon had shred them to ribbons! When the fray had ended we quickly dragging you three into the clearing and away from the graves.

We wanted to search more, but the sun was beginning to dip, and we knew that we could spare no more time. Caasi said that it was stupid to search graves, so I suppose she will refuse her share of the spoils, hey? Ha!

We returned without further incident to the old ladies, and then back across the river the next day.

Now, time for bed Erasmus. And tomorrow morning you will bathe, as promised! Now off upstairs!

Out of the Plan and Into the Fire!

...or smoking is bad for your health.

Session 12, The Hill

We had all our regular players out plus two new players I recruited online, so it was a full house. Belgarath's player, who had at this point become convinced that everything was better than an old-school Mage, decided to play his second-string Character, a Gnomish Trickster.All the extra bodies meant much more work herding cats in order to get the session underway, and we were a bit short on time, although better than some recent sessions.

<Speaking in Elvish>

Those ones?” said Vandelay, somewhat incredulous.

Elerren Mathanion glanced surreptitiously back at the motley crew surrounding the largest table in the Lion’s Den. They were mostly human, although a rather dour looking dwarf was among them, but they were clearly led by an elf, a forrester by his appearance, “Yes. The publican here has stated that they are… known? …around this place as the only adventurers who have been to this ‘Hill’ and returned.

Have I truly fallen so far?” Vandelay said to himself under his breath.

He had met Elerren Mathanion the day before on the road to Guido’s Fort, and the spellsword had proven an amiable companion. Both were headed for the Fort based on the rumour that a sizeable ruin had been discovered across the River, with many of its monstrous defenders defeated by a group of treasure-hunters. All in all, a target ripe for someone looking to make a name for themselves. Still, Vandelay could not tackle such an expedition alone, or even with his new companion. He would need help, perhaps even that of the human tomb raiders before him.

Elerren Mathanion politely ignored the remark, “Shall we approach them?”

Vandelay sighed heavily, “Yes. It will become no more palatable by waiting.”


Kalasandr’s mind drifted as his companions discussed the particulars of their next expedition. The thief leaned back in his chair, his feet crossed on the edge of the carved table. There really wasn’t any doubt in his mind that they would seek the King. He had surprised himself with his own burgeoning obsession with tracking down the humanoids’ master. As he glanced across the dimly lit room – Endithas was saying something or other about the Witches and mint tea – he caught sight of a pair of striking figures near the bar. Elves! Well, more elves, really, if he considered Kane. And they looked to be well outfitted. And strikingly clean!

“Fresh faced and innocent!” Kalasandr murmured as he tipped his chair forward and rose to his feet, before heading across the room towards the new comers.

His path was abruptly blocked…

“Hi there!”

Kalasandr looked down with a frown. A bizarre-looking gnome stood before him.

“Is this yours?” the Gnome asked, reaching behind the Thief’s ear to withdraw a wriggling roach, “I’ll take care of that for you!” the Gnome said before popping it into his mouth.

“You have got to be kidding me…” Kalasandr stared down at the Gnome before him; he had to admit, the bloke had deft hands, as he hadn’t caught sight of the roach before the Gnome had “pulled” it from his ear.

“I’m Tover! I can be most useful on expeditions of an adventurous sort,” Tover said.

“Right. Go talk to them,” Kalasandr said, jerking his thumb back over his shoulder towards his companions. He then pushed past the Gnome towards the elves.


Vandelay saw a young human man walking up to them, his dark clothes worn and muddy. No doubt a homeless grave robber of the sort he would soon be forced to work with. Vandelay stared somewhat imperiously at him, and neither he nor Elerren spoke.

Kalasandr broke into a lopsided grin, “You’re new here, right?”

Vandelay held the human’s gaze, but it was Elerren that broke the awkward silence, “Yes. We are looking for… companions.”

The young human’s smile stayed in place. If anything, it broadened, “Oh, really? And what sort of… companion… would you be looking for?”

Was the human mocking them? Was he implying they were looking for the services of a courtesan? The ridiculous human language always seemed purposefully imprecise, “We mean to explore across the River,” Vandelay began, his speech clipped and direct, as if he had rehearsed these words for some time before saying them aloud, “The publican of the establishment has told us that you have some knowledge of what lies across the water. You would accompany us, and we would offer you a half-share in any treasure we find as a reward.”

Kalasandr’s grin dissolved into a hearty chuckle, “Oh, you’re going to fit right in, Freshmeat. Follow me!” he said, turning back towards the back of the tavern without waiting for a reply…

2nd to 5th of Fyrmont, AC 999

Characters: Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Elerren Mathanion (Elven Spellsword 1), Endithas Wolfram (Elven Spellsword 1), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 3), Solla and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), 1 Wardog and 3 Hunting Dogs belonging to Kane, Tover (Gnomish Trickster 1), and Vandelay (Elven Spellsword 1)

Mortal Wounds: none

Deaths: none

Levelled: none

The large group crossed the River in two trips, their ferryman, Boris, grinning from ear to ear. The quality of his clothes had noticeably improved since the party had first met him, and his fortunes appeared to be looking up with the recent influx of adventurers.

With everyone accounted for, they set off on the long hike to the Monastery. The day was hot and muggy, with a dim haze obscuring the distance. By the time they reached the dead clearing, all were tired and sweaty from the heat and their exertion. Night was approaching, and as the sun sank from the sky, the cooler night air brought with it a shroud of fog that closed in on the flanks of the Hill. As visibility worsened, the already uneasy atmosphere of the dead clearing grew menacing. The silence was abruptly broken by the sound of something crunching through the undergrowth ahead…

The party stopped and listened… nothing. Visibility was now less than a couple hundred feet, and the thickening fog seemed to be playing tricks on their hearing; Elerren heard something moving ahead, then behind, then to their side. One of the others heard the “swish!” of something sliding through long grass. With nothing visible within the worsening fog, the party closed ranks and continued forward at a much slower pace.

Abruptly, a cry went up from the rear of the group! An enormous, horned lizard was spotted charging the back rank. The massive thing was some dozen feet long from tail to the tip of its horn, yet it had managed to get terrifyingly close without detection. The “how” became immediately apparent, as even as it charged its skin colour shifted flowed, matching dusty ground and scrub over which it sprinted. Erasmus and Solla had no time to even raise their weapons before the thing was upon them!

Erasmus was knocked over, and Solla slashed across the arm by the beast’s massive horn. The party turned to fight, but found their attacks batted aside, or failing to pierce the lizard’s thick skin. It lunged into the midst of them, its tail and horned-head lashing about, wildly.

As Elerren struck home with his blade, Kane finally managed to plant an arrow in the massive lizard’s eye, it flailing bulk collapsing into the diets, clawing feebly at the air as it died. Much to the other’s shock and disgust, Vandelay stepped forward and hacked off the beast’s tail, “You never now. We might get hungry!” was all the elf said in reply.

Hoisting the three stone hank of lizard meat, the group set off again, desperate to reach the Monastery before nightfall; several of them remembered the horrors they had previously encountered on the trails after dark. Unfortunately, full dark had settled upon before they even reached the end of the path that led up to the ruin. Moving cautiously through the heavy fog and darkness, they approached the outer ruined wall surrounding the Monastery courtyard. As they did, Elerren’s sharp ears once again perked up, and he caught the sound of running feet, seemingly hurrying away from the party. The group quickly collapsed into indecision, huddled and crouched along the outside of the ruined wall. Tover finally convinced them to move close enough for him to cover them with an illusion of the wall itself, leaving a lantern some twenty yards away as bait, and in the darkness they waited. And waited. And waited. With the lantern finally guttering as it ran low on oil, it was decided that they would skulk round the wall to the decrepit outbuildings they had previously spent the night in, and wait until morning to assault the Monastery itself.

The night passed without incident, and in the morning the group moved off into the woods to circle around to the back of the Monastery. There they slipped over the courtyard wall, and through the secret door into the main buildings. Silence and darkness greeted them. They checked the nearby corridors: nothing. They listened at the guardroom door: silence.

The group prepared themselves, readying everyone to assault the guardroom, before wrenching open the door, hurling in torches, and charging inside. The guardroom, which had been occupied on most of their previous forays, was cold, dark, and silent. The party began to steel themselves for the descent into the dungeon below, as an argument broke as to who should lead the way. An attempt was first made to push Gareth Ironhand to the front, but the newcomers, Vandelay and Elerren Mathanion ended up volunteering for the privilege, heading to front of the marching order as the party descending the stairs.

Moving warily, the front rank was brought up short as the bottom of the stairs came into view: the entrance to the corridor was choked with what appeared to be underbrush! Branches, leaves, and other debris was stacked across the opening from floor to ceiling, blocking the way forward. A whispered discussion rippled through the party’s ranks as they considered the significance of this flimsy barricade – it looked nowhere near strong enough to prevent them from pushing through – when a spark of flame caught their attention…

Fire blossomed in the flammable barricade below them, and quickly spread through the accumulated tinder. Panic and disorder seized the group as shouts of what to do volleyed back and forth between them! As the group milled about on the stairs, paralysed with indecision, the door at the top of the stairs slammed shut behind them, the click of the engaging lock ringing out like the toll of doom.

Realising they were in mortal danger, Kalasandr sprinted back up the stairs to the door and began frantically working on the lock. Near the bottom of the stairs, Vandelay and Elerren pushed lower, before being forced back by the intensifying heat from the flames. A steady plume of smoke now roiled up the stairwell and began filling the room above.

Cursing floridly, Kalasandr pushed his picks too hard, and with a “Ping!” (and a roll of a natural 1! This unfortunately tied into a handful of houserules I am using for Thief skills) his pick snapped, sending a tiny piece of metal spinning off over his shoulder; the other half remained firmly jammed in place. The lock was now beyond even the use of a key. Kane had the thief move aside, and attempted to batter the door down, but the oaken, iron-bound portal did not so much as budge under his repeated attempts to shoulder it open.

Endithas called to his man Erasmus, and the two of them seized Solla’s axes, pushing the others aside to begin frantically hacking at the door. It was clear that cutting through such a formidable barrier would take many minutes, and it was by no means clear that they would not be asphyxiated by the rising pall of smoke before the task was complete.

Back at the bottom of the stairs, attempts were made to push the barrier aside with poles and spears, but the group had waited too long, and the fire was now far too intense to get close enough without risking immolation. (It was then, in their darkest moment, when a TPK seemed certain, that Vandelay’s player asked a fateful question, “What does SUMMON BERSERKERS do?” This player had many years of AD&D experience, but was new to our group, and had never played ACKS. As he looked over the spell, a plan formed in his mind.)

After a brief discussion, Vandelay summoned four, ghostly elven warriors in tooled leather armour, and gave them their instructions, “Charge through the barrier and slay all you find!” The four spirit elves threw themselves at the flaming blockade, the lead berserker soundlessly immolated as they pushed through, but the other three survived the gauntlet with only minor burns. The waiting Goblins and Hobgoblins stood stunned as the ghostly elves came crashing through the flaming debris, and immediately lay into the goblinoids with their swords. Vandelay, Elerren, and Kane followed the summoned spirits to the bottom of the stairs, stepping around flaming piles of branches, and began firing arrows and bolts over the heads of the Goblins into the Hobgoblins behind them. At the back of one of the passages, a massive Bugbear exhorted the lesser goblinoids forward, eager to get to grips with the hated elves.

While the slaughter commenced at the bottom of the stairs, several party members gathered at the top, trying to decide what to do. Endithas and Erasmus had halted their assault on the door, but several Henchmen and Kane’s dogs choked the passage down the stairs to the battle below. As they stood quietly discussing their options, a loud “Click!” came from the locked door, as the bizarre commotion had finally gained the attention of those who had locked the party in. Kalasandr lunged behind the door, hoping for a chance to backstab whoever had sprung the trap.

The door swung open, and a man in a black hood and armour, brandishing wicked scimitars, stepped through. Kalasandr poised himself to spring upon the man from behind, but with a bloodcurdling cry, Endithas dropped his axe, drew his mighty greatsword, and severed the man’s arm at the shoulder before he had even had the chance to raise his blade. Kicking the falling corpse aside, Endithas charged into the guardroom to find a group of similarly armed and armoured men standing in momentary shock at his entrance. Their hesitation meant death, as the big man fell upon them like a thunder stoke, hewing left and right as he cut them down, his booming laughter the sound of a mad butcher. Caasi, Kalasandr, and their Henchmen followed him into the room, and attacked those beyond his reach. The ambushers showed no fear or hesitation, but the tables had been turned, and the predators had abruptly become the prey.

The battle still waged at the bottom of the stairs, with the party holding the upper hand. Kane set his dogs on the nearest Goblins as it became clear that the upper door had been breached, and the elves and Gareth began to withdraw towards the surface. The massive Bugbear forced its way forward, cleaving through the spirit elves with abandon. Fearful of confronting the huge, shaggy goblinoid in such close quarters, a flask of oil was tossed down the stairs to douse the thing. As the Bugbear stood snarling up at the party through mangy fur dripping with oil, Tover used his Pestidigitation to flick a spark from his lantern at the beast…WOOF! The Bugbear burst into flame, and, howling in pain, collapsed back down the stairs.

Above, the guardroom was sprayed with gore, and the battle had come down to the leader of the dark-cloaked men, a man wielding a blade and shield with a skill far beyond that of his subordinates, and the blood-spattered Endithas Wolfram. The two exchanged blows as the party surrounded the man in black, but Endithas finally found the opening he needed, and stabbed the length of his greatsword through the man’s chest. Held upright by the blade piercing his body, the dark-armoured man appeared as if he was trying to speak – several party members moved closer, trying to hear what the man was saying – but it was drowned out by Endithas as he forced his sword forward, cradling the man’s head, “Shhh! Shhh! Shhhhhhh!” Light faded from the man’s eyes, and he spoke no more.

In the aftermath of the battle, the party quickly searched the bodies of the dead. All bore a strange tattoo in the shape of two manacles connected by a chain on their left forearm, and the lesser men also bore strange scars on their ankles and wrists. Strangely, none seemed to carry any gold or other possessions.

With their narrow escape from certain death, it was decided that the party would withdraw and regroup, in case further ambush awaited them below (and because it was midnight)… their trip back to Guido’s Fort was without incident.