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.
AC -2 (Dex)
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
AC 7 (shield and plate)
Proficiencies: Healing, Lay on Hands
AC 6 (Dex, banded plate)
Two-handed sword, longbow
Proficiencies: Riding, Weapon Focus (Two-handed Sword)
AC 3 (Dex, leather)
Black Scimitar +1 & dagger, crossbow
Proficiencies: Mapping, Trapfinding
Elven Ranger 1
AC 6 (Dex, chainmail)
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 The group had withdrawn before they could be counter-attacked, and hadn’t suffered a single casualty, or even any injuries.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.
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
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
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
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…
…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
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
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.
GHOULS GHOULS GHOULS!
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…
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
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.
ENDITHAS! ENDITHAS! ENDITHAS!
It was truly awesome, in the original sense of that word. Some of the other players sat with mouths agape as it occurred. Highlights one of the many reasons why ACKS kicks ass, too: ACKS Fighters kick ass! In a game of B/X or BECMI, that would’ve taken a 2nd Level Fighter about 6 or 7 rounds, in which time they’d have been whittled down. As my other players all discovered as of this session, Endithas is a threshing machine in combat.
IT'S A TRAP!
An evening with Endithas Wolfram
Session 12, Player recap
Well hello there! Back for another tale from the old man I see. Well, bring me some drink and I will be happy to oblige! Though I be old, and my adventuring years are far behind me, my memory is sharp! Though I can't seem to remember your name...
Now, though you may think that my companions and I were, in every instance, cleverer than our adversaries and always victorious! It simply is not true. We lost our share of battles, and were outwitted at times.
I recall one such instance in the early days at Guido's Fort. This tale, like most, begins at the Lion's Den. My comrades in arms, Caasi, Kane, Kalasandr and I were standing around the adventurers' table, discussing what to do next. We had made several forays into the monastery on the Hill, but had not yet been able to find our prey, the King himself.
While debating and scheming, we noticed two elves at the bar glancing in our direction. We stared back, and after what seemed like an eternity of awkwardness, introductions were made and the party swelled in membership. They were Elerren and Vandelay, and they would soon prove to be excellent additions to our group.
Just then, a smallish creature introducing himself as Tover made his way over as well, and before our eyes flames in the shape of a dragon darted from his nimble fingers! What magic! We eagerly invited the tiny gnome to join us, and so the party was set at seven, along with our hired aides we totaled 12, as well as Kane's hounds! Certainly we would be a match for any adversary, though I feared we were about to lose our element of surprise.
We crossed the river the next day and hiked to the old dames. They had a new blend of delicious tea that had hints of Jasmine. Such fun!
After a sound slumber we headed for our destination. The morning started off clear, but soon a fog started to decent over us like a blanket. We were losing visibility, making us move even more cautiously. We could feel something out there in the fog watching us.
As we were crossing the clearing below the monastery, we tensed. We could hear movement, but the mist seemed to thicken as we stained our eyes to see what was out there!
Something approached, and with great speed! We braced ourselves, but were still taken by surprise as an enormous lizard-like creature broke through our ranks! It was the length of two men, with a large horn on it's head, razor claws, sharp jowls, and a vicious tail striking at us!
We had difficulty with the creature, but were eventually able to bring the beast down. We stood wordlessly panting around the dying varmint, it's blood dripping from sword and spear, grateful that none of us were seriously injured. There was some jest about how the inside smelled worse than the outside, to which we all awkwardly laughed before moving on.
We came to the end of the clearing and entered the path that would take us to the monastery. We moved as quickly as we could, but as night was falling and because of the fog we needed to light torches. I feared we would be seen as the fog seemed to amplify the light they created.
When we came to the end of the trail we rushed to the wall of the monastery ahead of us, attempting to take cover. We listened, straining our ears for sound of danger. Elerren whispered he heard footsteps quickly moving away from our direction. We set up a trap, placing a lantern at the wall while Tover made us all invisible 20 paces distant. We waited in anticipation of an attack, but one never came.
After waiting in agonizing silence, we slowly made our way to the back of the monastery walking on the outside of the wall, with Tover climbing over to walk along the inside with Elerren! Our new companions had such amazing bravery!
We came to a courtyard area that we had camped at before. We spent a restless night within, sure that at any minute our enemies would come hurtling out of the misty dark. But nothing occurred that night. I'm not sure anyone slept well, but no one said so the next morning as we quietly packed and left.
We cautiously entered the back of the monastery through a door that seemed veiled within the wall, invisible to those not trained in such discovery. We had found this hidden entrance on a previous adventure, allowing us to penetrate the monastery unseen. We made our way through corridor and into a large room that had used tables and other articles as barricades, but they were abandoned. Silence was the only inhabitant.
At the far end of the room was a door with stairs behind it. This is where we would enter the dungeon. We knew the King waited down those stairs, and we grew inpatient with anticipation. We heard and saw nothing to make us think there was any danger, so we ventured through the door and down the narrow stairs.
Just then, those in the lead noticed that at the bottom of the stairs there was kindling and debris. Suddenly, a blue flame leapt up and ran across the refuse and the floor, lighting into a blazing inferno! Simultaneously, the door behind us at the top of the stairs slammed shut, and we could not open it!
We were trapped! Ambushed by those we were seeking!
We heard our enemy jeer at us and bang their shields from the bottom of the stairs while the corridor where we stood filled with black smoke. Kalasandr tried to pick the lock, but it would not open for him, likely as it was spiked on the other side. Erasmus and I took up axes and began to smash at the door, but we knew the small space would fill up with soot before we could break it down.
Vandelay calmly stepped forward to the top of the stairs. He contorted his hands and body, manipulating the mystic energies and summoning four elven beserkers! Again, such magic was amazing to behold. They stared at him, waiting to be commanded by their master. He merely pointed down the stairs, silently communicating his intentions to his magical minions.
The four elvish warriors, almost shimmering in appearance, leapt into action, bounding down the stairs and putting out the fire by pulling apart the dry fuel it needed to burn. One of the warriors screeched in anguish from the flames as it collapsed and vanished! The other three had completed their task, and then continued on, throwing themselves onto the horde that waited and taunted at the bottom of the stairs.
Kane, Vandelay and Elerren joined in the fray with the three remaining beserkers. A bugbear and several hobgoblins and goblins crashed into our companions, a wave of spears and swords. But though our opponents outnumbered us, through our experience and unity, my companions held their own against the foul mob.
Erasmus and I were at the top of the stairs, hammering on the door. When we heard the clash of swords from below, we turned to run down to help. Just as we did so, we noticed the door that had been barred to us suddenly open, and shadowy figure in the archway.
I turned around and charged, but what I saw certainly was unexpected. A man in hooded armor and sword stood in front of me. His eyes widened as I brought my own sword down upon his neck, spraying us with his blood as the light in his eyes extinguished. Caasi, Erasmus and Kalasandr and I all attacked. There were 5 more of these vicious men, all similarly dressed, and we had no intention of letting them live. We slaughtered them while our companions at the bottom of the stairs defeated the horde of bogeymen.
As I pulled my sword from the last man's stomach, he spoke with vile intent, perhaps a curse of damnation. I covered his mouth while his spirit left his body, telling him to be still. Such was the fate of those that opposed us.
It was at this moment that I discovered something unusual. A brand was on each of these men. Two manacles linked by a chain. And their hands and wrists were covered in scars. A curious sight, to be sure.
But we had no more time for more discovery or conjecture. Luck had been with us to escape this ambush, but we decided retreat was the best option on this day. Fortunately none of us had fallen, but we were not confident that if we were to delve deeper into the dungeon in search of the King that we would succeed. His army had been alerted to our presence, and he would have to wait for another day.
Will we...or won't we?
He who hesitates...
Session 13, the Hill
Caasi walked into the dim light of the tavern, her eyes taking a moment to adjust. She muttered to herself constantly now, ever since her left arm had been restored. Such close contact with the Immortals had left an indelible mark upon her soul. Across the common room stood the unmistakable silhouette of Endithas Wolfram, the big man looming over his slender elven companion, Kane. As Caasi moved across the room towards the pair, they turned and approached her. Her smile faltered as they walked past her…
“Wait… where are you going?”
“The Hill!” Kane said, barely above a whisper, as if that explained everything.
Caasi frowned at them, momentarily confused, “But… shouldn’t we…? I mean, don’t you think… well, what about a plan?”
“Plan? With our might, there is only one plan: kill the King!” Endithas spat on the floor, as if to emphasize his point.
Heaving a heavy sigh, Caasi followed her companions out into the early morning sun; she was no longer muttering, but still cast her voice low, “I have a baaad feeling about this…”
7th to 10th of Fyrmont, 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, Vaultguard 2), and 1 Wardog and 3 Hunting Dogs belonging to Kane
Mortal Wounds: None
Deaths: 1 Hunting Dog was butchered by Goblin smiths
As had become fairly standard practice now, the group crossed the River and headed straight for the Witches’ cottage, spending the night so as to avoid arriving at the Monastery at sundown. The Sisters were happy to see them, particularly Endithas, and the night passed in pleasant distraction.
Heading out in the morning, they crossed the remains of the Hobgoblin encampment, and discovered a small party of Neanderthals digging through the remains. Simple gestures of friendship quickly established that no harm or threat was intended, and the party moved on, leaving the Neanderthals to their task.
Sometime before noon, the party crossed the dead clearing, and headed up the trail towards the Ruined Monastery. As they drew closer, the scent of burning became apparent, and Kane spotted trails of smoke above the trees. The elf was sent to scout ahead, and, climbing a tree, Kane could see dozens of Hobgoblins in organised groups moving about several fires in the courtyard of the Monastery. Never before had the party seen any significant activity on the surface, and with dozens of the humanoids on open ground, this was clearly more than the six party members could easily handle!
Kane withdrew to report back to the others, and the players then engaged in a nearly two hour discussion of what to do! Plans were made and discarded, with the debate sometimes growing heated in the drive to reach a conclusion. In the end, a consensus was reached: the party would prepare an ambush on the trail, draw out the Hobgoblins, then inflict maximum casualties before fleeing back to the fort to warn the garrison.
The rest of the in-game day was spent digging and concealing a pit (which wouldn’t pass casual inspection, but might be missed in the heat of pursuit), laying military oil (in the pit and before it on the Monastery side), and preparing a spiked barricade 50’ back from the pit. As night was falling, and the Hobgoblins would have the advantage after dark, the party hunkered down to spend the long, cold, dark hours of the night camped around their crude fortifications. Taking watch in pairs, the night passed uneventfully, and in the morning, Kane once again snuck within sight of the courtyard. The Hobgoblins had dispersed somewhat, but there were still at least several dozen milling about, performing some kind of unidentifiable tasks.
Kane once again withdrew back to the group, and another heated argument erupted as the party once again debated a course of action. Eventually it was decided that they would abandon their ambush, and would instead circle around to the eastern side of the Monastery and attempt to enter by stealth, as they had done so many times before. Only Endithas had serious misgivings, as he feared the party could be cut off from the trail to the west of the Monastery, or even trapped in the dungeon below, making their withdrawal much more difficult. In the end, he was overruled, and he grudgingly agreed to the plan.
Circling much wider around the ruins in the opposite direction to their usual approach, the party slipped over the wall into the peaceful courtyard unchallenged. A quick check for tracks revealed none at the secret entrance, although a new barricade had been erected on the inside of the visible door to the courtyard. Entering through the secret door and again checking for tracks revealed no evidence that the Hobgoblins or Goblins knew of the secret back entrance. The group passed through the guardroom, and headed into the dungeon below.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the party headed left, and immediately caught sight of firelight and the sound of hammering from the forge they had previously rescued Gareth from. A heavy, guttural voice barked orders in a tongue none could understand. Creeping forward, they spied Goblins manning the forges, overseen by a vicious Bugbear. After a whispered discussion, Kane leapt out, dropping several Goblins by surprise. The rest of the party charged the room, and Kane unleashed his hounds as the Bugbear lashed at the elf’s bow with a cruelly barbed whip. The archer narrowly managed to avoid being disarmed, and as the dogs and Henchmen attacked the Goblins, Endithas traded blows with the Bugbear. The goblinoids were quickly slain, with the only casualty being one of the Hunting Dogs, sliced to pieces by a screaming Goblin. The Belgarath’s skill at husbanding animals was sorely missed as the poor creature expired from its wounds.
The bodies were quickly hidden in Gareth’s former cell off the forge-room, and the group doubled-back the way they had come, and then on through a series of secret corridors to the chapel. Here they explored a small, secret chamber containing a ladder leading through a hole in the floor they had discovered when they first explored the chapel. Caasi clambered to the bottom of the ladder, then through a low tunnel that led to a cage. An unidentifiable piece of rotting meat was the only thing in the cage, but there was also a chimney leading upwards above the cage. This, it was soon determined, connected with the idol to He Who Shall Not Be Named in the chapel, with the cage the apparent source of the giant flies that had left Waevryn’s face permanently scarred. The mystery of the ladder solved, the party headed out through the double-doors to continue their exploration.
Across the corridor from the chapel were a series of three doors, and though the party could hear sounds behind two of them, all were locked, and inaccessible without a thief or the cacophony of an axe. Moving south towards the area a Goblin captive had previously told them the Hobgoblin King was located in, the party paused at a guardroom door where they had been flanked by, and killed, a dark priest; from the room beyond came the sound of many voices, and the group decided to avoid the guards in favour of further exploration.
Moving east, the party pushed through the first door they found. Inside a nearly empty room, two bodies lay on the floor, broken weapons and gear scattered about. One of the two was heavily armoured, the other in light leather, but both had obviously died violent deaths. Worse still, both showed signs of mutilation that suggested they had been chewed. The corpses were checked for items of value, and while Endithas refused the dead man’s plate mail, Erasmus was more than happy to put up with the smell. A quiver and a well-made bow were also taken.
As the bodies were looted, Kane searched the room for secret doors, and to his surprise, stumbled over an object none could see. Baffled by the phenomenon, the party took several minutes to determine that there was a third corpse in the room, but one that remained invisible. The party began stripping the dead woman, breaking limbs to do so, hoping a magical garment was the source of the invisibility. While they were so preoccupied, a secret door that Kane had missed opened behind them...
...and through the hidden entrance charged the hideous Thoul that had been snacking on the bodies! In an instant, it had crossed the gap to Endithas, and slashed the big man with its claws. Endithas dropped like a stone to the floor, paralyzed! The creature then lunged at Kane, who managed to get a single arrow off before narrowly avoiding its talons. The hounds and Gareth then leapt to the defence of their master, and tore the creature limb from limb, the battle over mere moments after it had begun. As the party waited for Endithas to recover, the sickening realisation dawned that the foul creature’s wounds were closing, its body knitting itself back together.
“Burn it with fire!” shouted Kane, and a liberal application of torches left the charred remains inert.
The group finished examining the room, then returned to the problem of the invisible body. Much of its clothing had now been removed, and was visible, but the corpse itself still could not be seen. In a moment of inspiration, Kane felt his way to the corpse’s hands, and discovered a ring. As the ring was removed, the half-naked body abruptly appeared, and the elven archer slipped the ring on his own finger. To the others’ shock, Kane vanished from sight, only reappearing when he removed the ring. The elf immediately donned the ring again, but this time remained entirely visible.
“The magic must work but once a day…” he said, dejectedly. (The player, optimiser that he is, has since read the rulebook, and figured out that it works once per Turn.)
Once Endithas had finally recovered from his paralysis, the group moved through the secret door into the chamber beyond. The room they discovered was a charnel house, the floor littered with bones of every description. Many were smashed, or cracked open, the Thoul seeking the marrow at their centre. Nothing more value was found, and as the party sifted through the grisly remains, the sound of voices came through a door across from the secret entrance the party had used. From what seemed to be a corridor beyond, the sound of arguing Goblins could be heard passing, and as the voices receded the party leapt through portal into the corridor behind them!
Before the Goblins even knew they were under attack, Kane had slain four of the five with arrows to the back. The fifth, realising death had come, shrieked in fear and bolted down the corridor. Kane and Endithas charged after him, but a few strides took them beyond the light of their torches. The Goblin unhampered by darkness, sped away from the party down the corridor. Kane snatched a torch from his dwarven retainer, and sprinted after the fleeing Goblin, the rest of the party mere moments behind. The party knew of only one exit from the dungeon to the surface, and if the Goblin warned the army encamped above, the party would be doomed!
As Kane sprinted after the fleeing humanoid, he could hear he was gaining on it. Suddenly, the sound of its running stopped! Worried it would slip away, he hurled his torch ahead, casting just enough illumination to make out the Goblin’s form standing by a door. In one smooth motion the archer knocked and fired an arrow on the run, but the fateful shot missed, and the Goblin pounded on the door before which it stood. The elf drew another arrow as the rest of the party approached, but before he could fire, the door opened, and the Goblin darted inside! The party ran forward, but the door slammed shut behind their quarry.
Gareth and Endithas hurled themselves against the door, but the heavy portal would not budge. As they frantically checked their map, they realised this was the guardroom they had passed earlier. That meant there was another exit from the room, opening on to a corridor that led back to the dungeon’s exit…
In panic, Kane shouted for them to drop what they didn’t need and run! Equipment was discarded, and Gareth, slowest of all, gave up all but his warhammer and armour, as the party now ran for their very lives. The sprint to the nearest junction seemed to take an eternity, and their breath came in great, whooping gasps; they reached the junction, pausing to listen, only to see a troupe of Hobgoblins come running round the nearest corner.
With a shouted cry the Hobgoblins charged the party, spears levelled to impale them. Endithas and Caasi stood firm in the corridor, and as they received the Hobgoblins attack, a bloody mêlée broke out.
“Back around! Circle behind them and prevent their escape!” shouted Kane, sending the party’s Henchman running back to the barricaded door, before turning to stab past his companions with his spear. The wave of Hobgoblins broke against the wall of steel death that blocked the corridor, and slowly, inexorably, they were cut to pieces.
The Henchmen finally managed to batter the guardroom door aside, and came running up the adjoining corridor behind the Hobgoblins, just as the last of their number was slain. It immediately became clear that neither side of the party had found the Goblin that had alerted the guards, and the group decided a full retreat was in order. The party hustled back to the surface, slipping out their secret entrance, before hopping over the ruined wall and sprinting for the trees. As the party circled wide of the Monastery, a commotion went up in the distance. The Hobgoblin army on the surface had been warned! Fearing pursuit, the group made the best time they could back across the Hill to the river, signalling the far side, then waiting anxiously to be picked up. Only when Boris’ boats passed beyond bowshot of the shore did the group finally relax; they had escaped! Warning would be carried to Ivana, and the garrison of Guido’s Fort would be made ready…
AND THERE WAS BLOOD
An evening with Endithas Wolfram
Session 13, Player recap
Hello again, I see you’re back at Guido’s Fort, and thirsty from the look of it. You must be curious why there is so much activity going on in the fort at the moment. I can explain all if you’d like. Bring us some ale and I will tell you of a tale of heroics and bravery that will surely delight you!
Thanks for the grog. I’m Endithas Wolfram, and all I will tell you is true.
Not three nights hence, with my trusted companions Kane and Caasi, we set back off over the river. We also brought our valiant aides, Gareth, Fodora, Kane’s four hounds and Erasmus. We had only one thing in mind; to kill a King that lives within the Hill.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, that no one goes across the river and returns! But we have, friend, we have.
We stayed a night at the old dames’ place. We drank tea, I think there was mint perhaps, and… well, not much more can I remember of the evening. But it was pleasant, certainly, and I awoke refreshed and rejuvenated! Waving goodbye to our hostesses the next morning, we set off to the Hill with a plan in mind and a spring in our step.
As we hiked, we came to the large clearing that had once held a hobgoblin encampment. We had dispatched the foul hobos months ago, so we were not too worried about what awaited us there. But rooting through the remains of the bivouac we saw movement. We tensed, but continued forward unafraid. As we closed we saw a group of neanderthals, crude and simple men with powerful looking bodies. With one hand we waved, greeting them, the other tightened around our weapons as our party smiled and walked past.
At the top of the clearing lies the final path to our destination. A marching order was set, and we started off down the trail. As we closed on our target the trees began to thin. We noticed several plumes of smoke rising into the midday sky, and it seemed they were coming from within the monastery.
Kane quickly scouted ahead and climbed a tree to gain some insight as to what was happening. He’s quite good at that actually. My pointy eared companion could see that within the crumbling walls of the wicked grounds, several large bonfires smouldered into the sky, with several dozen well armored soldiers making ready for some evil scheme. As he looked closer he knew them to be hobgoblins, an army of them, and the King beneath the Hill seems to have plans of his own.
Quickly rejoining us, our comrade told us of the danger that lay ahead. After some debate, we planned an ambush. We dug a large pit in the path, covering it so it could not be seen. In front of the the pit we doused a large area in oil, and behind the pit we braced many staves and spikes, to protect us from attack. As night fell, our work barely completely, we took turns keeping watch, laying in wait to spring our trap.
The night was surprisingly uneventful. Kane returned to his perch in the tree and saw that the army was still within the confines of the monastery. A disagreement arose as to what to do next. I yearned for blood, to kill as many of the foul creatures before swiftly returning to Guido’s Fort and warning its residence of the impending danger. But my companions convinced me that if all these hobos were up where we were, above ground, that we should go and loot below. It seemed clear that Kane’s appetite was whet for small shiny trinkets and things that glitter in the light.
I relented, and we made our way into the brush, skirting the eastern side of the monastery. We had entered the other direction a few times before, so decided another approach was wise. We knew of a secret way in, so we came from behind! We darted through a courtyard, and saw a barricaded door. It appeared our foe did not know of our secret entrance.
We silently entered the dungeon, and as we crept through corridors and through rooms, no enemy was to be found. We carefully made our way down a set of stairs, where only a few days earlier we had encountered a large group of adversaries that had attempted to ambush us. But nothing was there, only ash and dust.
As Kane turned the corner, he heard guttural language, harsh and authoritative, coming from Gareth’s former residence, the forges. We saw a menacing goblin-like creature called a bugbear! It relentlessly whipping several goblins and cruelly ordered them to work the anvils.
Before we could blink, Kane downed four of the vile goblin horde, his arrows finding new homes within the innards of now dead goblins. He’s quite good with a bow as well, it seemed. I then spun around the corner engaging the bugbear while Caasi shattered and crushed the bones of the two final gobos. We made short work of our foe, but one of Kane’s hounds had been gutted by enemy blades. Kane is a hard man, surely. No emotion seeps through his steely glare, as he shed no tears or words of sorrow for his fallen furry compatriot.
We piled the corpses into a cell in the back of the room, a cell that once housed Gareth. We found a little gold as well, but we knew we had to press on. We continued through to the chapel where we had found a secret door on a past adventure with a hole and an iron ladder going down a dozen feet. This is what we had wanted to investigate, as Kane seemed certain riches lay within.
Caasi bravely took the lead down the dark hole. Behind the ladder was a tunnel, only 5 feet high. Ducking down, she fearlessly lead the way, muttering something about gods and ghosts and other unholy creatures. I could not understand her crazed mumblings, but still I followed. After a short distance she discovered a cage with rotting meat and an opening at the top. We surmised this is where over-sized bees had been held before we had destroyed them, a few weeks past.
Unsatisfied with what we had found, Kane lead us through to a long hallway, one that we had seen before that has four iron-banded oak doors, all along the same side of the corridor. We prepared to rush into the first room, but the door was locked. Then the second room as well, and same with the third!
At the forth door we all heard voices, Kane snarled and said they were speaking hobo. We prepared to fight, but this door was also barred to us, so we chose to quietly explore deeper into the dungeon, into the unknown.
We turned and started down the corridor and came to a single door. Entering, we found a large room with two bodies lying face down in the centre. As we came closer we saw they were human, but their faces had been gnawed at by some ghastly creature. We searched the room, Kane looking for secret passages that we believed to be hidden in the walls, and while doing so Kane let out gasp. He said he had tripped over something he could not see!
We searched the area and found a third body, but one not visible to the eye. We were starting to search the poor soul, when from out of the darkness, seemingly out of the wall, a large foul smelling creature descended on us! Before I could react, it scratched at me. Not a major wound, but I lost all feeling and control of my body, falling into a heap on the floor!
My companions fought valiantly, but it was truly Kane’s hounds that brought the beast to its knees, removing several of its limbs in the process. I regained feeling a while later, just as Kane set the creature to burn. He claimed it was healing itself before his eyes, even though Caasi had caved in our enemy’s skull, and this was the only way to kill it.
Returning to the ethereal body, we found a ring. Kane jumped for joy, I kid you not! Apparently he does feel emotion, especially when finding small shiny precious objects. He placed the ring on his finger, and lo, he disappeared! He then removed the ring, and we could see him once again. What magic! He then tried the ring a second time, but we were saddened when nothing happened. Did he break it I wonder? His eyes never moved from the shiny object, and he tells us he’ll keep it hidden, he’ll keep it safe, his precious.
We walked through the hidden aperture where the creature lay in wait, and into another large room, one with yet another door. As we neared this next door, we could all clearly hear high pitched voices behind it. Goblins!
My blood surged. After being downed previously I wanted nothing more than their villainous blood pooling in the dirt! We flung the door open, and Kane dropped four of them before they even turned to face us! We charged the fifth and final goblin, but he somehow managed to worm out of the ruckus and leap down the hallway screaming.
Now, let me tell you friend, we all realized that if this little shit were to raise the alarm, several dozen hobos were above us, which would mean certain death. We gave chase, our lives hanging in the balance, but Kane, who could not miss earlier, seemed to be only able to hit adjacent walls! The goblin screamed and beat on the door that we had heard hobgoblin voices earlier, and he disappeared inside. Caasi and I smashed into the door, but it would not give way. We knew we had to flee, so we turned and ran, Gareth dropping a number of his items to the ground to lighten his load.
We came to a familiar junction. If we turn right, we run out of the dungeon. Left, towards the hobgoblins that had been alerted to our presence. We turned left, steadying ourselves for combat!
Caasi and I took the vanguard position with Kane behind us, his bow and spear at the ready. Our hired companions were ordered back around the way we had come to attempt to flank our opponents.
Sorry about that. Now, where was I? Oh, yes.
We steeled ourselves as a dozen hobos charged at us from the corridor, a particularly grizzled foe attacking me. But we stood firm! Caasi, who normally is the last to act in any foray, was lightning quick and brutal with her mace, swinging it from side to side, sending enemy after enemy to the afterworld! Kane and I also did our bit, spilling our adversary’s blood, and the three of us were able to carve through the forces of evil with no more than scratches.
Our companions returned while Kane searched body after body, that look in his eye again. They could not find the last goblin, and he was not in this heap of bodies, 11 I counted! We were still in the gravest of danger, and we hastily made our way our of the dungeon and back around to the path towards the clearing.
While in the underbrush, just out of sight of the monastery, we heard yelling. Our pit, we gather, had succeeded in slowing down our pursuers. How I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces!
We ran as best we could towards the river and Boris, the ferryman. We then informed those commanding the garrison of what we saw, hence all of the commotion!
Well, I see that you are tired from my tale of adventure. A good night to you sir, and many thanks for the grog!
Good evening friend! Come and sit! How about a story of cunning and adventure?! And all of it true! Bring us some ale and I will tell you a tale of wonder and courage!
“…well, then… what did you have in mind?” the question seemed simple enough, and Vandelay seemed open to any answer. Endithas regarded the comparatively slight elf through narrowed eyes.
“I say we go across the river. The witches have not led us astray thus far, and their counsel could help guide us on a course of action.” A slight smile touched Endithas’ lips as he thought back to the women; he could almost smell the mint tea…
His reverie was broken by Caasi shoving him, gently, “Whoa, there, big guy. Shall we get going?”
After much discussion, the party crossed the River to consult with the Witches, looking for information on the abandoned cemetery on the Hill, eventually deciding that no great riches were hiding there. They instead headed south, to Kelvin, in order to pick up supplies, and a mule to carry them. The trip was uneventful, the weather hot and humid.
While in Kelvin, Vandelay headed to the Campgrounds in search of work. It was there that he met a man by the name of Stephan, a young entrepreneur from the remote homestead of Sukiskyn. Stephan offered them a job on behalf of his brother, Pyotr, to deliver horses from Sukiskyn to the elven settlement of Rifflian. At 100gp each, Vandelay agreed to the deal, accepting a parchment with the seal of Stephan’s clan as proof.
The group then traveled overland to Helix, on route to Sukiskyn, with the intention of investigating the rumours of walking dead before delivering the horses. Upon arrival, they spoke to Bollo, owner of the Brazen Strumpet tavern, discovering that it was indeed true that many had recently caught sight of the walking dead near the town. Bollo seemed convinced this was the result of tomb-robbers plundering the site of the Barrowmaze, a local legend located out on the Moor.
As the hour grew late, the group moved to the Foul Pheasant next door to the tavern. A drinking and gambling establishment open late into the night, a handful of patrons filled the smoky room, including the local lord, Baronet Krothos “Kell” Kelvin. Endithas Wolfram did his best to ingratiate himself with the young man by joining him in drinking and gambling, but the young noble was eventually removed by a pair of burly bodyguards at the insistence of his balding and soft-spoken advisor.
The next morning the party found the Mercenary’s Guild and met Guildmaster Osen. With a few days to spare before the were scheduled to arrive in Sukiskyn, they hired a guard and guide, one Morgar, from Osen, and headed onto the Moor in search of the Barrowmaze. It soon became apparent that Morgar’s sense of direction was poor, and the party became hopelessly lost for much of the day, one part of the Moor appearing very much like another. Near nightfall, Morgar finally redeemed himself, leading the characters onto rolling high ground, punctuated by the unmistakable hummocks of grave barrows. The party followed a ruined path to set up camp between standing stones surrounding the largest of the barrows.
The night watch was mostly uneventful, but Vandelay was disturbed by what appeared to be lantern, first carried up the ruined path towards them, then out across the barrows, circling the party several times. In the morning, the group slept late to make up for the time spent watching whoever circled their camp. Upon waking, the group headed past the smashed remains of the capstone from the largest barrow and into the tomb below. The chamber below ground had rubble walls, and a conspicuous hole in the middle of the floor, above which was suspended a rope hanging from an iron tripod. The room was searched, and a torch was thrown below, illuminating a crumbling room with at least one exit.
The party descended the rope, then lit more torches. The room above and the room below were both obviously well used, with tracks and trash littering both. Graffiti was scrawled on the walls of the underground chamber, with “Vornath was here,” “the Norse Whisperers,” and “Beware the Minotaur!” being some of the more legible examples. Faded frescos of a burial procession marching to a barrow mound ran round the intact portion of the room’s walls. On one side, the wall had completely collapsed, and on the other stood an arched doorway. The smell of wet rot and something worse filled the air.
Moving through the archway, the party passed a hallway open on their left before coming to two doors on their right. After briefly listening and hearing nothing but the dripping of water, the group forced their way through the near door on their right. A writhing boil of sleek-furred bodies tumbled towards the party as they entered the room. Rats the size of small dogs swarmed around the group, but they were made quick work of, Vandelay creating a shish kabob as he skewered several on his spear. With the rats dispatched, a sack that had once contained food lay torn on the floor. A quick examination revealed that it still contained numerous silver pieces.
Moving to the door on the far side of the dank chamber, Endithas pushed open a door that stood ajar (through which the rats had presumably come). A much larger room stood beyond, but with time not on their side, the group decided to withdraw back to Helix.
Not entirely a bust, but a session spent more on housekeeping activities and a few pure roleplaying encounters than anything leading the party to riches. On the positive side, they have now found the Barrowmaze, and, assuming they could avoid getting lost again, would be able to return and plunder the ancient tombs.
And Now For Something Completely Different
An Evening with Endithas Wolfram
Session 14, Player Recap
This tale begins, as they often do, with my companions and I making the perilous voyage across the river Shatturgal, to a harsh land fraught with danger and menace. I traveled with Caasi and Vandilay, and our aides Fodora and Erasmus.
I had procured a number of digging implements, shovels and picks, as we first thought to return to the grave in the clearing below the monastery. You see, I had it set in my mind that there was more there than merely grave stones and thornbush. However, after a chat with Rosabella and Rosalinda, it seemed apparent that I was about to lead our group in search of something that does not exist.
After further consideration, it was decided that we would return across the river and turn our attention to the rumours of the undead rising, and these tales were coming from the town of Helix.
Of course, to go to Helix, we needed to first travel to Kelvin. Just outside the city is a merchants market of sorts, though it looks more like a disorganized campground. However, it is a wonderful place to buy a variety of wares.
I bought a donkey and named her Wilemina Mungo Effington. Yes, I know, I know. I have a knack for bequeathing names! I also bought 2 vials of holy water, as this seemed perhaps rather useful were we to meet an undead foe.
As we were wandering through the market, Vandilay struck up a conversation with a man by the name of Stephan. It seemed that he has a brother named Pyotr living south of Helix along the edge of the Dimrak forest. His brother catches wild horses, only those that are completely white though, and he sells them in the elven town of Riflian. He offered us a lot of coin should we agree to transport these horses to this town within a tree. He told us to search for the Sukiskyn farmstead to undertake this task and wrote up a contract with his family seal for us to show his brother, should we meet.
So off to Helix we ventured the next day. It’s an eight mile walk, and it took the morning make our way there. Helix sits on the edge of a land called the Moor. The town was built by Thayatians, but they built upon an older settlement that had been abandoned long ago. Why had this place been abandoned? A mystery, my friend, a mystery. There is only one industry of note, and that is the collecting, drying and distribution of peat.
The town of Helix holds only a couple dozen buildings. The Inn is called the Brazen Strumpet, and I suddenly felt the need for ale as it came into view! The barkeep, Bolo, is a nice enough fellow. But he has a lazy eye that makes it seem at if he’s looking at the other end of the room while in discourse! He told us of the Moor and the dead coming close to the town, but to his knowledge they have not yet ventured within.
After a brief discussion with Bolo, we learned one interesting piece of information; he, and others within the town, believe that it’s the fault of outsiders entering the Barrowmaze that is the cause of the dead coming back to haunt. Could this be the reason? Have adventurers awakened something beneath the peat the once slumbered?
We also learned that Krothos, the son of the Baron of Kelvin, has seen the undead walking. Krothos, that Bolo lovingly calls Kal, though not to his face to be sure, is a bit of a gambler and a lush. He can often be found in the Fowl Pheasant, a den of less repute in Bolo’s cockeyed view, and also right next to the Brazen Strumpet.
Asking where we might hire a guide to help us learn the lay of the land, Bolo pointed us to a building across the way adorned with a symbol of crossed swords upon a shield; the mercenaries guild. We talked with the Guildmaster, a man by the name of Osen. We learned little, but were able to hire a torchbearer named Mooregar.
After agreeing to price and a time to meet our new attendant the next day, we continued on into the town. The most interesting structure of note is a tower on the edge of town that looks remarkably older than the other buildings. It is home to Mazaahs the Magnificent, and even though there was a large ‘do not disturb!’ sign on the front, he took the time to invite us in and discuss the recent events of the town.
Mazzahs is more than a little peculiar in both appearance and manner! One eye larger than the other, he dresses in colourful robes covered in trinkets and baubles. In his office, filled with books of every sort, he explained to us that the Barrowmaze was built by the Nithians, and ancient people that lived in this region long ago. He mentions to us that if we are able to find artifacts within the Barrowmaze, that we should bring them to him.
And what is the Barrowmaze, you ask? A labyrinth of intricate passages and corridors buried within the the earth. One filled with danger and horror.
Our next, and final, destination on what seemed like an endless day; the Fowl Pheasant. A name more appropriate I could not fathom, as we piled into a room filled with travelers and adventurers from all across the kingdom! Though it stank of smoke and ale, the patrons were filled with drunken cheer as they rolled bones and entertained themselves with games of chance.
We quickly caught sight of Krothos, a drunken young lord, seemingly bored with his surroundings and ‘unfortunate’ lot in life. Just behind him stood what seemed to be his warden and protector, a powerful looking man dressed in dark robes and a narrow, canny face. Looking around the room it appeared the Baron’s son had a number of guards at the ready, should the need arise.
I stayed close to Krothos, making bets on the side, always wagering he would win. His luck was not great that night, but mine was no better as I could not get close enough to begin a conversation, though he was certainly too intoxicated at that point that he likely would not have remembered even if we had spoken!
The next day we met Mooregar, and off we trekked into into the Moor. Our young torchbearer was not exactly certain of which direction to follow, and it took perhaps longer than necessary, but we eventually found our way to the barrow mounds.
The area is erie, my friend. Rolling hills in all directions with the remains of ancient structures. The earth is heavy with clay, the air dense. We found a large mound to make camp for the night, and placed four piles of dried peat with torches ready to be lit. We were unsure of our security, and we made ready to defend our position if the dead were to find us this night.
Soon after we lay to rest, Vandilay woke us, a look of foreboding on his face as he peered out into the darkness. He claims he can see a bluish white light in the distance, perhaps a lantern as it continuously vanished before reappearing. However, nothing occurred, the night was still as we gripped our weapons in anticipation.
After a bit we decide to return to sleep as we became weary with the eternal night. But a short time later we were awoken yet again as a distance light was sighted. However, this light differed in one definable aspect; it was yellow in colour, not bluish white as before. But nothing occurred.
The next morning we awoke, but found no clue as to what had created the light. We soon made ready and were quickly rewarded with the appearance with the entrance with the Barrowmaze.
A short stairway descended into the dark. We lit torches and steadied ourselves as we entered into the unknown.
We came into a 50 foot square room with four pillars and a large hole in the middle of the chamber. Above the hole was a tripod, set with a rope down. We dropped a torch into the black depths, and saw that it was a 35 foot drop.
I grasped the rope, which seemed sturdy enough, and climbed down. I entered a 30 foot square room below that had writing scribbled along the walls. I saw ‘Vornath’ and ‘Beware the great Minotaur’ as my companions climbed down into the chamber one by one. I brought a torch closer to the floor and saw that bones littered the hall in all directions.
Footprints to the east were also found, and we saw they lead out of the room through an archway, crumbling with the passage of time. We came to a choice, a passage on the left, or the door on the right. We listened and could hear scuffling behind the door. We steeled ourselves, ready for battle. Entering the room we came across foul smelling vermin, a dozen enormous rats, and they looked at us as if were their next meal!
Battle ensued. The nimble creatures made it difficult for us to combat, and even though I was little help in subduing these monsters, we were able to kill the dozen or so creatures rather quickly. Caasi’s mace was covered in blood, and Vandilay’s spear had parts from several of the creatures skewered along it’s shaft. We found 123 silver pieces, but we knew that time was against us.
That is the end of this chapter my friend, but the tale is far from over!
There is no Session 15
…no, really! There is no Session 15.
Down amongst the Dead
Careful, overabundance of caution ahead!
Session 16, the Barrowmaze
“We should be heading for Sukiskyn soon…” Endithas began, trailing off as he gazed into his flagon of cheap beer.
“The horse job? Excellent. But I bet we have time for a quick trip out to the Barrowmaze before that!” Belgarath said, fidgeting with barely contained excitement. The mage had only just arrived in Helix himself, and his clothes were mud-spattered from the afternoon rain. He sat with Endithas Wolfram at a table in the Brazen Strumpet, drinking as the pair awaited the arrival of their companions.
Kalasandr pushed through the door of the tavern, glancing around the room. Endithas waved a meaty hand in the air, and Kalasandr hurried over, “Caasi is ill, and will not be coming with us…” he said as he reached the table.
“Is she alright?” Endithas asked, genuine concern showing in his tone.
“She’ll be fine with a few days rest…” Kalasandr assured them, “And what about that elf? What was his name? Vannelay? Vindaloo?”
Endithas pulled a creased parchment bearing a wax seal from his beltpouch, “Vandelay. Said he had other business to attend to. Left me the seal, if we want to head to Sukiskyn.”
“I bet we have time to head out to that ‘Barrowmaze’ place… there could be treasure to be had…”
Kalasandr and Endithas turned to Belgarath, who was still fidgeting with barely contained excitement. A faraway look was in the mage’s eye, and a slow and unpleasant smile had spread across his lips…they could almost hear the clink of coins from behind his reverie.
19th to 20th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 3 Wardogs belonging to Belgarath, Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Solla and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: None
The group headed to see Guildmaster Osen, re-hiring their erstwhile guide and torchbearer, Morgar. The young man had slightly more success in guiding them to the Barrowmaze, only getting mildly lost twice, and they arrived mid-afternoon. They spent some time examining the barrow mounds near the main, ruined path, eventually deciding to explore one slightly to the north that had already been broken open.
A short stair descended into a darkened burial chamber, some 30 feet square. A lone and broken sarcophagus adorned the chamber, making it clear the tomb had already been looted. Still, a careful examination of the interred bones revealed a tarnished gold ring, apparently missed by the previous looters.
Clearly, meagre loot was all they were likely to find in unsealed tombs, but without the necessary tools it would doubtless be difficult to access the barrows that were still sealed. It was decided that they would head for the largest barrow surmounted by menhirs, and attempt to explore further into the ruined chambers below.
The main chamber of the great barrow was as they had left it, iron tripod standing above a hole smashed in the floor, rotting rope hanging into the darkness below. A torch was thrown down, and with Endithas Wolfram in the lead, the party climbed down the rope. Here, too, little had changed from their previous visit: one wall of the chamber had collapsed into a sloped pile of dirt and rubble, and faded frescoes and newer graffiti adorned the walls. The smell of damp and rot was overpowering, and the only sound to break the silence was the faint drip-drip-drip of water. Lighting torches and lanterns, the group slipped into marching order and headed through the only apparent exit from the room.
A passage opened on their left, and the party moved to explore the corridor. Extending some twenty feet, the side-passage ended at a stout wooden door, swollen from the damp conditions. It was here that things started to go off the rails…
The players spent the next hour-and-a-half arguing about how to set up for opening the door in front of them. Not how to open it, mind you, but who should stand where, and holding what, and with whom… I let them argue it out – the one time I gave them a nudge, I was forcefully rebuffed – all the while rolling wandering monster checks, all of which came up empty. Finally, unable to take it any more, Belgarath’s player, who had been becoming increasingly agitated, shouted, “Screw it! I haul the door open! What do I see?”
“Nothing…” I replied, trying not to laugh at the fact that it had taken the better part of two hours to discover this, “…the room appears empty, save for some bones and other unidentifiable debris littering the floor. Would you-”
“I WALK INTO THE ROOM.”
At this, a cacophony broke out from the other two players who wanted to stop Belgarath, but I decided this wasn’t really feasible; the exchange with me, the DM, had taken a split second from Belgarath’s point of view, and the character’s actions would be wholly unexpected by his companions.
Now, to be fair to Belgarath’s player, he was dead tired, and had just come off flying a plane here, there, and everywhere around North America, and had been awake since 2am that morning. He was mostly trying to avoid either falling asleep, or entering a sleep-deprivation-induced delirium.
As Belgarath stepped past the threshold of the doorway, a heavy grinding sound emanated from behind him, and a stone slab rumbled down from the ceiling, sealing the room at his back. What was worse, during the massive argument about entering the room, Belgarath had expressed a desire to avoid being a target in the open corridor by holding a lantern, and the exchange with me left me with the understanding that he had passed off his lantern. He was now trapped in utter darkness, separated from the rest of the party!
“I CAST LIGHT!” the player shouted.
“On what?” I enquired.
“My fingertip!” he replied, in what would prove to be a fateful and fortuitous decision.
As the mage spoke the words of his spell, a grinding noise of stone-on-stone came from the opposite side of the room. Light sprang from his fingertip in time for him to see a stone slab retreating into the ceiling in the far wall of the small chamber, beyond which stood more than half-a-dozen animated Skeletons.
Screaming in fear as he lost bladder control, Belgarath tore open a scroll case at his belt, pulling forth an ancient parchment as the undead advanced. He read the words with trembling voice, the Skeletons crossing the space between them. Suddenly, the magical energies bound to the parchment surged forth, and a mass of thick, sticky strands leapt from ceiling to floor, entrapping the mindless undead. Seven Skeletons now hung trapped in a Web spell, unharmed, but unable to reach their prey. (Belgarath had managed to roll a 6 for Initiative, which was extremely fortunate due to his 5 Dexterity providing a -2 penalty to the roll. The Skeletons rolled a 2 for Initiative, and Belgarath was temporarily saved by his player’s very quick thinking!) As their bony feet scraped on the stone floor, a strand of webbing broke with the sound of a snapping lute string; the Web would not hold them forever, and Belgarath was still trapped in the room with them…
Outside the room, the rest of the party vainly scrabbled at the stone slab, attempting to lift it. They could find no purchase.
Kalasandr began searching the archway and door, frantically seeking some kind of reset mechanism for the trap. His efforts proved fruitless.
Back inside the room, Belgarath calmly considered the situation. He would need a change of robe, but that wasn’t really his most pressing problem. He spent some time searching the floor for the mechanism he had triggered, but his lack of experience with such things meant he didn’t even know what he was looking for. The sound of more strands of the Web breaking interspersed the scrape-scrape of bony feet on the flagstone floor. The mage pulled out his sling, and attempted to smash the immobilised undead. His immense clumsiness meant he would likely run out of sling bullets before destroying them all, and he gave up after bouncing several bullets of the walls with a single hit…
The rest of the party now grew desperate, but Kalasandr had come up with a plan: he tossed his crowbar to Endithas, and the big man (with the help of his filthy manservant, Erasmus) began trying to prise the slab up from the floor. Moments ticked by, Belgarath’s demise becoming more certain by the second. Finally, the crowbar found purchase, and the slab was levered upwards, opening a thin gap at the floor. Waevryn and Solla braced the crowbar as Endithas and Erasmus jammed their fingers into the space and heaved!
…slowly, ever so slowly, the stone slab began to grind upwards. With a great heave, the mighty Endithas jerked the slab above his head, and the party looked past his trembling form to find a calm and very much alive Belgarath stroking his beard as he considered burning the trapped Skeletons before him.
The slab was braced with a spear to take some of the burden off of Endithas, and as he and Erasmus braced the door, Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla entered the room and dealt with stuck Skeletons. A quick search revealed nothing of value in the room or the dead-end passage beyond, and the party withdrew, at last allowing Endithas to drop the stone back to the floor with a resounding “boom!”.
The noise attracted attention, and as the party moved back to the main corridor, a large, glowing beetle trundled towards them. The large insect was quickly slain by missile fire from Endithas and Solla, and while Belgarath began removing the glowing glands from its carcass, a second side-passage on the left was explored.
Some fifty feet long, the passage turned right at a door, several more doors and a barred archway visible in the new corridor. The nearest door opened into an empty chamber. The next nearest stood ajar, and after the near-death experience with the previous room, the Thief moved to check door, floor, and archway for traps. As Kalasandr leaned into the room to see if a stone slab waited above this door, a massive spider dropped from the thickly webbed ceiling onto his face! He tumbled back with a shout, battering the spider off onto its back (missed its Poisoned Surprise attack with a 1!). Performing a kip-up, Kalasandr moved back, the massive arachnid scuttling forward, narrowly missing the thief again, as Mearl lunged in and impaled the thing through its abdomen with his spear. Its many legs twitched as Mearl shook the carcass from his weapon.
Kalasandr tossed a beetle’s glow-gland up into the webs on the ceiling, watching for the movement of any more spiders. Carefully exploring the rest of the chamber, Kalasandr noted bas relief carvings of the dead marching into the afterlife, as well as the bones of a previous victim of the now-dead spider. Clutched in the skeletal corpse’s grip was a mouldering sack containing 163 ep of old, traladaran mint.
While Kalasandr explored the spider’s lair, Belgarath hacked the arachnid’s head from its body, intent on harvesting any venom. Meanwhile, Endithas checked the chamber behind the portcullis on the opposite side of the hall. Scrawled writing could be seen, but he didn’t bother to read it before the group moved on towards the end of the corridor. The passage terminated in a bricked-over opening, and on the left was a doorway, the shattered remains of its door strewn across the corridor.
Once again, Kalasandr cautiously approached the portal to check for traps. As he neared the opening, a heavy chill could be felt in the air. Inside the open doorway was a slab, a single mouldering skeleton its sole occupant. The remains had obviously been disturbed, and the faint remains of vandalized frescoes could be seen on the walls. Satisfied the opening was safe, Kalasandr stepped across the verge…
Immediately, the temperature dropped sharply, and the Thief’s breath began to cloud in the cold dampness of the tomb. A whirl of mist threaded itself together on the far side of the slab, quickly resolving into the translucent and decaying remains of a warrior. The figure wore strange clothing, and a ghostly sword jutted from a terrible rent in its chest, obviously the source of its demise. The Phantom stretched a spectral arm towards the thief, its jaw distending in an otherworldly scream!
Kalasandr screamed, dropping his lantern as his bladder let go. The others stood shocked as the thief bolted out of the room, running past them in blind panic, until the Phantom came out of the chamber, its movements halting and awkward in way that belied its horrible speed. To a person (and dog, and owl), the remainder of the party panicked and ran. The other lantern was lost, and Endithas even allowed his massive two-handed blade to drop from boneless fingers.
By some terrible twist of fate, as the party ran all but Belgarath turned through the corridors to end up back at the entrance chamber, rope dangling from the faint light above. The Mage, however, ran until his breath burned in his throat, and he collapsed, unable to run any further. He alone carried a light source brighter than the faint glow of the entrance, the Light spell cast upon his own fingertip, and as he regained his wits (and his breath), he found himself in totally unfamiliar surroundings.
Refusing to lay down and die, Belgarath began trying to trace his way back the way he had come. At first he was utterly confused, wandering in a circle (the player seemed to be unable to piece together fairly simple descriptions at first). However, he quickly determined that his flight had mostly or entirely followed the only open path, and he began to work his way backwards, desperate to find the others before his light spell ran out, or something found him! He passed a large, collonaded chamber, and heard a strange rattling from one side. Further on he crossed a pair of partially collapsed rooms, before passing through a door into a corridor he soon recognised as the main passage into the labyrinth…
For a second time this day, the party had virtually given Belgarath up for dead. Everyone had calmed down enough to begin discussing whether to search for his corpse, or abandon his body to its fate. At that moment, the dogs began chafing and whining, eager to head back into the darkness. A few seconds later, a pale and weeping Belgarath stumbled into the chamber. With shouts of joy, the party embraced The Miser. It had been a very near thing, for as Belgarath related his passage through the dark, the glow around his finger winked out.
Clambering back up the rope to the surface, the sun was nearly set. Morgar and the mule were nowhere to be found. A cold and terrifying night was spent on the floor of the great burial mound, and at the first of dawn’s rays, the party headed back to Helix.