ENDITHAS! ENDITHAS! ENDITHAS!
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.
An inspired account. Thanks for sharing this!
No problem. Nice to know somebody is reading it!
Belgarath's letter to his Master
Session 16, Player recap
I seek your advice and wisdom. Recent events have shaken my confidence somewhat, and I need your assurance that I am following your teachings correctly.
I have been traveling and adventuring with the same group of people you met when I last visited. They are a capable bunch, Cassi the cleric, Kalasandr the thief, Endithas Wolfram the fighter, and Kane the elven ranger, as well as a few others. A few weeks ago, I had agreed to help deliver a calf in Helix. The calf had turned in the mother and it was having difficulty, the cord caught up around its neck. I laboured along side the cow for 22 hours before finally delivering a healthy calf. I was paid well for the work and managed to barter up the price so I could afford the best room at the inn with a hot bath.
I was headed to bed in the wee hours of the morning when Kalasandr and Endithas asked me to go explore the Barrowmaze near Helix. As perhaps my first mistake, I agreed to go, even though I was delirious from lack of sleep. After traveling a few hours, we arrived at a large burial mound rising out of the marsh and grassland, inside of which we found a tripod with an old rope descending into a dark pit.
We went down and discovered an ancient underground dungeon. As we agreed on a marching order I recalled you sage advice, “Belgarath, always stay in the middle of your group. This protects you from attacks, both front and rear.”
I took up a position behind my trusty follower Mearl, Endithas, and our loyal war dogs: Argus the 2nd and Cerberus. Behind me followed Kalasandr and the other henchmen. I passed off my lantern to Mearl as you always advised, so as to have my hands free for spell casting, and to prevent me from being a target. As we explored this dangerous place I could feel the eyes of the place watching us, the intruders creeping into its hidden passageways. You always cautioned me about these places, “Keep quiet and move quickly; those who loiter and cause a ruckus are sure to die.”
After moving along a few corridors, we happened upon a large oak door. I waited for my experienced teammates to open the door, but, to my surprise, an argument started between them about this, the simplest of tasks.
Kalasandr: open the door and check the room for dangers. (moves to open door)
Endithas: Wait, who has a torch?
K: Mearl does. (moves to open door)
E: Wait, what weapons are we going to use?
K: It depends what’s in the room.
E: OK if there is something up close, we use melee weapons; if they're far away, we use ranged.
K: (nods and moves to open door)
E: Wait! Where are the henchmen going to stand?
K: They can stand against the wall.
E: OK...are we ready?
K: Wait! I need to check for traps...(checks for traps)...No traps. Alright? Ready?
E: No, no wait! We need to listen at the door.
K: Do you hear anything?
E: No, I don’t hear anything. Get Mearl to listen see if he hears anything...
Mearl: (listening at the door) I don’t hear anything.
E: OK OK. Let’s stand on either side of the door just in case someone…..
It was at this point that the logic of the situation broke down for me. If anyone was in the room, they would know about us by now because of all the noise we were making - possibly everyone in the whole dungeon would be aware of us now.
E: OK, you two stay here and guard the doorway. Attack anything that leaves the room.
K: But, what if you are in the way? We might hit you with our arrows.
E: Good point!
K: OK, you two on your knees at the front, archers standing behind, ready to shoot.
E: Wait, I am not kneeling down. It puts me off balance.
K: Right, good point.
E: OK, what if 3 people are on either side of the doorway, ready to attack, then I open the door with my left hand while quickly jerking my head back at a 45 degree angle so as not to get hit by any arrows?
K: OK. Everyone ready! ...wait who has crossbows?
Master, it was at this point that I just snapped, perhaps my second mistake of the adventure. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the urgency of your words ringing through my head, “Belgarath, keep quiet and move quickly; those who loiter and cause a ruckus are sure to die!” It seemed like a monster was to come upon us at any moment. My companions had fallen into some sort of lunacy, and I wondered if some foul magic was at play. I felt I had to do something bold, and to do it fast if any of us were to survive.
I stepped forward grasped the handle of the door and pushed it open. To my relief, before me was a mostly empty room. A few bones lay in the corner, but no danger. I decided to walk in to the safety of the room hoping, my companions would follow and clear the hallway. But, to my amazement, on my first step into the room I felt a click under my right foot and heard a huge grinding noise at my back. A huge stone slab slid into place behind me. I was in total darkness. Your excellent tutelage coming to mind, I called for the magic of light, and my finger tip glowed like a bright candle. In the light, my horror awaited me. From across the room I saw 7 gruesome skeletons shambling towards me. My bravery shrank to a knot of despair in my stomach, but somehow I managed to fall back to your training, “Always keep your wits about you, Belgarath, panic serves no one!” I knew there was only one thing that could save me.
I reached into my belt pouch and pulled out a scroll with the spell Web on it. I brought forth the magic and spread a sticky barrier between me and the skeletons. After a few minutes, the team worked together (amazingly) and lifted the stone barrier out of the way. The skeletons were dispatched, and we were free to continue.
I go over the encounter again and again, but I feel I acted in the best interests of the party. What matters most is that we all survived. I feel as though I need to return to you for more training. Perhaps you could teach me to use the web magic, as it was critical in saving my life.
Patience, most definitely a virtue!
An Evening with Endithas Wolfram
Session 16, Player recap
Oh, hello there friend! Have I a story for you, and one with a valuable lesson to be gleaned and not to be forgotten.
Together with my companions Belgarath and Kalasandr… look over yonder table, notice the two gentlemen, pale in complexion and shivering slightly? Yes, the three of us, along with our aides Erasmus, Mearl, Waevryn and Solla, we ventured into the barrows yesterday.
We began our day here in Helix. We hired a lad by the name of Morgar from Guildmaster Osen, meant to lead us back to the barrows where we had ventured once before. We had intended to spend a part of the day searching the Barrowmaze and then to head towards the Sukiskyn farmstead. You see, we had been tasked with transporting pure white steeds to the elven town of Rifflian. But you know the saying; even the best laid plans…
We got a bit lost on the journey to the barrowmoor, the second time this has happened. But our guide eventually delivered us to our destination.
Next to the entrance into the Barrowmaze were several other mounds, two of which still had their stone caps in place. However, at the furthest mound we noticed half of its capstone lying in the grass, a hole into darkness on the side of the hill while the sun shone warm on our faces. We crept forward to investigate.
Seeing a staircase leading down, and with lanterns in hand we followed the dingy stairs into a mausoleum of sorts. The room was 30 feet square and only 7 feet high! In the centre lay the remains of a stone sarcophagus with the top cast aside and smashed; the bones of its inhabitant were strewn about the room.
Kalasandr searched for hidden inlets and passageways, but found none. Whilst he did so, I strode up to the large cold coffin and peered inside. On first examination, there was nothing but more of the remains of its resident. That’s when I saw it: A slight shimmer from the light cast by the lantern; I spied a ring on the finger of the deceased! I gently took the gem, thanking its former owner for his generosity. What luck that this had not been noticed by those that had first entered! Passing the band around, none of us knew of its value, or if there was some powerful magics locked within.
We decided to move the sarcophagus to see if anything was below, but there was no more to be found. After replacing the casket, we headed back out to the light of day. We quickly looked at the other two capped mounds, but decided that they would be for another adventure. We headed back to the entrance of the Barrowmaze.
Morgar was tasked with staying behind to look after my donkey, Wilemina, as we descended into the dungeon. Kalasandr tied his lantern to the rope and lowered it down ahead of us. The place smelled damp and foul, and the echoes of quiet dripping was all that could be heard over our breathing. We peered closer at the frescoes on the walls; they showed a sullen and melancholy march towards a barrow mound, surely a funeral procession from long ago.
Now, my friend, we come to the crux of our story. We formed ranks, and cautiously made our way into the maze. Veering left into the unknown, we came to the end of a short corridor with a large oak door standing before us. We quietly discussed how to go about venturing within. We decided on an order, checked for signs of any type of machination designed on injuring those unwanted and uninvited. I quietly stood in the vanguard, sweat trickling down my brow and back as those better suited than I took the necessary precautions. More necessary than we had realized.
From the rear of our group came what sounded like shuffling feet and whispered grumblings. Belgarath, our sage and certainly most learned of our group, shouted ‘That’s it!’ and stormed through us all and towards the door, angrily grabbing the latch and moving inside! I could not believe his actions, and neither could my companions, as we all stood frozen in disbelief at his actions.
He turned to look at us, a smirk on his face as if to say that he knew better than we did, when from above we heard a grinding sound. We all looked up to the top of the doorway, only to see a slab of stone rushing towards the ground to trap our hasty mage within! All I saw before it slammed into place was Belgarath’s face, the smirk replaced by stark terror in his wide open eyes!
Kalasandr dove into his satchel, quickly finding what he searched for, a crowbar. He silently handed it to me. From within we heard a scream, and then words of magics being uttered in a shrill and quivering voice. Our friend on the other side was in peril! I dropped to my knees, trying desperately to wedge the tool beneath the large aperture, and with all the strength I could muster, I pulled upwards.
Solla, Waevryn and Mearl leapt under the raised stone slab to aide Belgarath, and to our relief, our friend was fine. He had used his magics to trap his assailants within an enormous web! Bound within were half-a-dozen chattering skeletons, terrifying to behold, their bones clicking together in an unholy cacophony. They were swiftly dispatched, silencing the predators eternally, and the door braced with a spear to allow safe passage out of the room.
Once out of the reach of the door, we stared incredulously at Belgarath. There may have been an unsavoury comment or two uttered in his direction. But as we cursed our companion’s hasty actions, we noticed an orange glow coming from down the corridor, erratically moving from side to side. I drew my bow, as did Mearl, and we fired simultaneously as the largest beetle I’ve ever seen came into view! Our arrows destroyed our attacker, killing it instantly before it could do harm. The noise must have lured it to us. Belgarath, humbled by his blunder, meekly moved forward and began to remove the glowing orbs attached to the creature’s body.
We returned to the corridor from which we had come, and decided to continue on through the dungeon. We came to yet another door, and Kalasandr looked at us, worry creasing his brow. Would another trap be sprung as we ventured within?
He opened the door, cautiously and quietly. From his crouching position he looked inward, and the upward. As he did, a huge spider lunged at him! But with lightening reflexes he was able to deflect the foul creature as Mearl brought his spear down, impaling it, innards spilling out onto the floor.
The danger avoided, we looked into the room, seeing the ceiling covered in thick webbing. Kalasandr took one of the glowing orbs and tossed it into the web. It held firm, and it illuminated the entire nest. Along the walls were intricate carvings of a procession of the dead walking towards the afterlife. It chilled me to look at the images of their blank expressions. Belgarath ran over to the dead spider, giggling and mumbling to himself, in search of glands containing venom, which apparently is quite potent in this eastern Karameikos variety. As he worked on the carcass, the skeleton of an adventurer was found in the room containing a small pouch with a number of electrum pieces within!
After taking the treasure we moved on, cautiously entered the neighbouring chamber, Kalasandr listening and searching for more hidden devices. The room was unnaturally cold, the temperature suddenly dropping. From within we could see a single skeleton lying on a stone slab in the centre of the room, the walls covered with frescoes that had been vandalized. A mist gathered, translucent and certainly not from the world of the living. An ephemeral figure appeared, arms outstretching towards us, a sword impaled through the ghostly creature’s chest!
Kalasandr’s scream could barely be heard over our own, I’m ashamed to say. He was the first to turn and bolt, the rest of us in tow! I dropped my sword, though I didn’t realize it till later, and lanterns and torches were all discarded by our group, such was our fear of the haunt!
We raced back to the start of the Barrowmaze, heaving breaths and recovering our wits. It was several minutes before we realized Belgarath was missing! We hurriedly began to light torches in order to search for our lost companion, but while doing so, Belgarath sprinted into the room clutching his chest, his face stark white from his second ordeal! We all agreed that we had had quite enough for one day. We ascended the godless depths, disheartened and defeated.
Morgar and Wilemina were nowhere to be found when we came to the entrance. An ill-fated end to an inauspicious day, to be sure. What can be learned from this, dear friend? There are a number of lessons, I am sure. But the one that seems to be clear above all others, patience is a virtue of virtues, do not forget this, friend!
I can't wait for the next one!
Up the river without a paddle...
Session 17, Highreach River
“We should buy some equipment, and open some of the un-looted barrows…” Belgarath licked his lips. The Mage always seemed a bit… unseemly… when he was discussing money.
“Yes, yes…” the Mage retorted, “Fine, fine! We can buy the equipment now, and then examine the tombs as soon as we get back with the horses.”
“Should we really be carting all that heavy gear around on the boat?” Caasi asked. The rest of the party turned to her in surprise, “I mean… we’re going to hire a boat, right? Since you lot took the time to go out to the Barrowmaze. Do we really want to haul equipment upriver and overland?”
Kalasandr cleared his throat, “Um… no. You know, that’s a really good point. We can buy the gear when we get back, now, can’t we?”
Caasi shrugged, “I’m just saying…”
Belgarath blushed, mumbling something under his breath about easy money, before petulantly declaring, “Oh, fine!” with visions of grave goods still dancing in his head.
22nd to 23rd Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Stikini (Belgarath’s Owl Familiar), Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 3 Wardogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi, Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: Solla was punctured by arrows (twice!) and fell to the deck, slamming her head into the hull of the boat, suffering minor brain trauma (-2 on magical research and proficiency throws, -10% penalty on earned XP). Waevryn was felled by arrows and had her genitals destroyed by an arrow, a secret she would prefer to keep.
The party decided against stocking up on shovels, crowbars, hammers, and chisels in advance of an overland journey, and decided they could purchase such tools upon their return. Instead, they headed to the nearby pier on the Highreach River, looking for transport upstream, closer to Sukiskyn. They found an able boatman, one Kelanos, who was ferrying cargo upriver to several of the lumber camps along the edge of the Dymrak Forest. An argument broke out between Belgarath and Kelanos, as the man known by his companions as The Miser haggled until satisfied the fare would come no lower.
The group left and returned to the pier at noon to see Kelanos and his crew finish loading the boat with cargo. As the eight oarsmen took their places, the party clambered aboard with their gear. All of them removed their heavy armor, wary that any fall into the water would prove fatal while so encumbered…
I started the session discussing the hiring of a boat to shave time off their trip, and warned them that falling overboard in heavy armour meant death by drowning.
…the boat launched around the noon hour, with Kelanos assuring his passengers that they would reach the ferry site to disembark before late afternoon.
The first couple hours passed in peaceful conversation. Belgarath, dwelling on the many visions his Familiar has endured, questioned Kelanos sharply about slavers in the area. Kelanos had heard no such rumours, and scoffed at the notion; Guido’s Fort and its problems were far away, and of no concern to him.
As Belgarath turned to discuss the matter with his companions, the boat lurched violently, a grinding noise coming from below the water. The party members stumbled and fell, and Kelanos let out a shout, confused. The boat was in the middle of the river, and he knew these waters well enough to know that no rocks should bar their way.
The clatter and clack of arrows rang out, as a surprise volley from the southern shore landed amongst the passengers. Endithas let out a grunt as an arrow pierced his thigh. They were under attack, ambushed from the shore! As the party looked to the south and attempted to recover their footing, a dozen figures leapt from the bank, splashing into the water, and began swimming towards the boat. Boarders!
Another volley of arrows was loosed against them, as Belgarath moved towards the front of the boat to see what they had struck. Several of the group suffered minor wounds. Worse, the oarsmen had released their oars, and were cowering behind the gunwales, leaving the boat to begin slowly drifting downstream. Below the prow Belgarath spotted the iron links of a chain, strung across the river. They were not going to be able to pass without removing it.
Caasi and Fodora began to move along either side of the boat, frantically trying to get the rowers back to the oars. As they struggled towards the bow, one of the oarsmen leapt up and attempted to stab Caasi with a large knife drawn from his belt! At the last second Caasi spotted her assailant, knocking his blow aside with her arm. The man was then on her, slashing wildly with his blade as Caasi gave ground.
Belgarath turned to the southern shore, and with a few arcane words and gestures, cast Light on the eyes of one of the archers. The man dropped his bow and began clawing at his face, blinded. The remaining archers loosed another volley, and as the arrows rained down amongst them, Solla was felled by an arrow through the shoulder, just below her neck.
The remaining party members finally regained their footing and grabbed their weapons, returning fire. One of the approaching swimmers was struck, slipping below the water, and an archer on shore was killed while knocking an arrow.
Back on the boat, Caasi defended herself from her assailant, but was unable to land a blow in return. Fortunately, Belgarath loosed his hounds with the command to, “Attack!” and his vicious Wardogs charged the traitor, the larger of the two clamping its heavy jaws on his genitals. The man let out an ear-piercing shriek as the two mastiffs bore him to the deck and tore him to pieces.
Arrows continued to fall, and Fodora was struck down, and another archer and two more swimmers were killed by the party’s increasingly accurate return fire. Belgarath screamed instructions at the oarsmen, and Kelanos finally got them back to work, one side rowing forwards, the other backwards. Ever so slowly, the boat moved to present its stern to the archers.
Caasi rushed to tend to her servant, Fodora, while Kalasandr lowered his bow to check on Solla. Upon examination , it appeared Fodora was merely stunned, but Solla had taken an arrow to her helmet and was knocked out.
While the Henchmen were tended to, the rain of arrows paused as the first of the boarders finally began clambering over the rail. Belgarath dispatched the first of these with a Magic Missile, the man’s corpse tumbling back into the river. The others reached the deck and attacked with knives, only to be killed by the party’s counter attack. Moments after the dogs pulled down the last of them, the remainder of the swimmers reached the side of the boat and began boarding. More of the second group were already injured, struck glancing blows by arrows during their swim, and they, too, were quickly dispatched.
As Kalasandr slashed the last of the boarders, severing the fingers of his right hand, the man threw himself overboard to escape, and another volley of arrows fell upon them. Solla, already mortally wounded, was struck by another arrow and fell to the deck again, Caasi immediately rushing to her aid. Waevryn took an arrow to the groin, and waited screaming on the deck until Caasi could leave Solla to attend to her.
Kelanos, having regained command of the situation, had the oarsmen pulling hard for the opposite shore. The boat quickly moved beyond effective bowshot, and the ambushers on the south shore melted into the underbrush. The boat was brought into the shallows, and Kalasandr disembarked to deal with the chain, while Belgarath and Caasi began examining the bodies of the boarders, discovering scars on their wrists and ankles, and a now familiar tattoo of two manacles connected by a chain on their forearms. The slain men appeared to carry nothing else of value.
Once the chain was released and the wounded cared for, the boat pushed off and continued on its way for another hour-and-a-half to Misha’s Ferry. As they approached the small dock and began to unload their gear and an unconscious Solla, Kelanos called out for Misha herself, but received no reply.
“Have no fear, my friends…” Kelanos said, “She often goes out hunting with that mangy bear of hers, but she’ll doubtless return before nightfall. Make yourselves comfortable by the fire in her cabin; I can assure you she will not mind!” As he pushed the boat off from the dock, he turned to speak to the party, “Again, my sincere thanks for dealing with the bandits on the river. We would have been in serious trouble without you. Take care, and swift travels!” and with that, the oarsmen began pulling them on their way upstream.
Taking a few minutes to explore their surroundings, the party quickly determined that the door to the cabin was unlocked, and that there was, indeed, no one around. Belgarath had Stikini scout the area from high in the air, but no one and nothing could be seen, save the green, rolling expanse of the Dymrak Forest stretching away to the south. Satisfied that they were safe for the moment, the party began to settle in to await the arrival of Misha: the Mage managed to catch a rabbit for the soup pot, Endithas started a fire, and Kalasandr chopped wood to replace what they would doubtless burn through the night.
As he worked, the Thief heard a rustling in the undergrowth, and looked up in time to see an enormous bear, easily five times his size, wander out of the underbrush on the other side of the cottage clearing. The bear raised its head, sniffing the air, before catching site of the Thief and, with a grunt, charging! Kalasandr dropped his hatchet and ran for the cabin, barely outpacing the huge animal. He managed to bar the door just before its enormous bulk slammed into the portal, the entire cottage shivering with the impact.
After a moment’s consideration, Belgarath decided to try and appease the animal, offering rabbit carcass out the windows. The bear attempted to rip his arm off for his trouble, but during the process, Belgarath noticed that the bear appeared injured, with numerous small slashes on its back and the top of its head. The bear eventually calmed enough to give up, and wandered off into the woods. Rather unnerved, the party secured the cabin and bedded down for the night, the only disturbance of their slumber the howling of many wolves.
Come the morning, Misha still hadn’t returned, and the group began theorizing wildly, speculating that the bear and Misha were actually one in the same. Belgarath sent his owl Familiar, Stikini, to track the bear. The owl noted that the bear headed off to the north, but his sharp eyes picked out a profusion of other tracks in the vicinity of the cabin: the bear’s erratic tracks from at least two days before, flecked with blood, as if it had lashed about randomly. Even stranger, no tracks of any assailant were found. A similarly erratic set of tracks, perhaps those of Misha, were seen to exit the cabin, move to the dock, and disappear. Once again, no tracks of any attackers were found.
Giving up on the mystery for the moment, the party found the well-marked trail and set out for the hike to Sukiskyn. Strangely, they only decided to heal the most wounded of their number, Solla (who was unconscious), leaving several other party members badly hurt. They made good time on the broad, clear trail, and arrived in the vicinity of Sukisyn that evening in the gloaming. The smell of a fire made their stomachs rumble, but as they continued, the smell grew stronger. Presently, rising smoke could be seen above the trees, with the cries of combat reaching their ears. They began to hustle forward, but as they broke from the trees near a wooden bridge, Goblins adorned with wolf-pelts leapt from the underbrush in ambush, with Mearl and Endithas Wolfram in front, and Erasmus and Waevryn in the second rank being attacked.
The fight was short and vicious, with the already injured Endithas nearly being felled but for a draught of honeyed healing potion, the timely casting of Cure Light Wounds by Caasi, and a well-timed Magic Missile from Belgarath slaying a Goblin. As the party gathered their bearings after the fight, they could see they were at the foot of a wooden bridge across a small river, and that what must surely be the Sukiskyn homestead sat on the far side. The wooden palisade and barn of the homestead were the source of the smoke, with fire spreading up the near side of the building.
“COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!” shouted a voice from across the river. A woman stood atop the wooden gatehouse on the far side of the river, waving frantically in the party’s direction. The party began to move, then broke into a run as they spotted a troupe of Goblins astride the backs of enormous wolves loping along the far bank. They would be cut off from the homestead’s gate!
It was a near thing with their wounded, but the party managed to make it through the gate ahead of the wolves, as a second person slammed and barred the gate behind them. A cacophony of howling and snarling erupted from outside the palisade, as the frustrated animals vented their anger at being denied fresh prey.
“This way!” shouted the party's saviours, running towards a central stone building. The barn to their left was burning, and fire was starting to spread to the adjoining palisade. The screams of horses could be heard off to the right, and as the party began to follow their new found friends, there was a “Crash!” as the gate on the far side of the courtyard was smashed in. Another groups of Goblins, these ones carrying crude, red-daubed weapons, pushed their way through.
“We’ll handle this…” Kalasandr deadpanned.
“We’ll take the long way…” proclaimed the woman, as she and her companion moved behind the party and around towards the stone building.
The Goblins snarled a challenge, brandishing their bloody-looking weapons over their heads, but were almost immediately cut down to a man (Goblin?) by missile fire. The threat dispatched, Caasi moved to the shattered gate to block the way, discovering a crude battering ram that had been used to smash through. Kalasandr and Endithas liberated one of the doors from the now burning barn, hauling it over, and the three of them placed the door to block the breach, bracing it with the Goblins’ own discarded ram. In the meantime, Belgarath pulled a bucket from the barn, climbed the gatehouse, tossing the bucket over the palisade near the burning side of the barn. He then cast Unseen Servant outside the palisade, and had his invisible minion begin hauling buckets of water from the river to dump them on the spreading fire. The Unseen Servant quickly doused the palisade, but the invisible minion could not throw water very high, and was unable to reach the worst of the flames on the barn itself.
Kalasandr bravely (foolishly?) dodged into the burning barn, seeking a ladder, which he found while losing his eyebrows. He returned to the gatehouse, and passed the ladder up to Belgarath, the Mage pushing it over the wall for his Unseen Servant. Now able to reach the flames on the barn, the Unseen Servant managed to considerably slow the spread of the fire. Nevertheless, it was clear it was only a matter of time before the barn would be consumed, and the magical bucket brigade was only delaying the inevitable.
With the most immediate threats contained, Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus, and Mearl headed behind the stone building to the far side of the compound. Here they found a stable, a smithy, stalls and paddocks; all were empty, the horses gone, and the gate at the back of the pens had been smashed. They also discovered the bodies of two humans, clearly the victims of Goblin violence, presumably killed defending the horses. Moving inside to the second floor of the stone smithy, Endithas spotted the red eyes of Goblins across the river, reflecting the light of the burning barn. He and the Henchmen took a few shots, but the darkness and cover of the forest left them uncertain as to whether or not they had hit anything.
With the burning of the barn slowed, the horses gone, and ominous chanting and drums in the woods, the party (save Belgarath, who had to remain close to his Unseen Servant) regrouped in the main stone building to decide what to do next…
And with that, we broke for the evening, with the time well past midnight. This was one of the more intense sessions we’ve had since this campaign began, and one of the first times the party’s total resources have really been tested, largely due to being unable to return to a friendly port in a storm (e.g. Guido’s Fort). This was also the first time the party ever ended a session unable to return to safety (i.e. trapped in Sukiskyn, surrounded by Goblins). The situation presents new complications, as I have thus far been unwilling to parachute characters in and out of adventures. I’m going to do my best to wait until the same players are available before picking up where this session left off.
Another big highlight of this session for me, personally, was finally (after 25 years!) being able to pull out B10: Night’s Dark Terror, place down the map, and use the included counters to give the party a clear sense of what was happening. I joked about immediately devaluing the module as I punched the counters, but the truth was that I was massively excited to finally use the thing in actual play. It didn’t disappoint!
Ask, and you shall receive!
Always an encouraging read with which to set down to my own session prep. Many thanks.
Whew! Back after a months-long hiatus due to work and personal stuff. We haven't played in that time, but the session reports posted here are way behind where we actually are, so there are many more to come before the hiatus. I'm looking forward to our first real session since I've resurfaced, coming on Friday, but in the meantime, I'll jut leave this here...
The Siege of Sukiskyn
Session 19, Sukiskyn homestead
The crackle of flames could be heard outside, as well as the intermittent hiss of water on a bonfire.
They were trapped.
“My apologies for the warmth of your welcome!” the man before them said with a wan smile. He was clearly trying to cheer the spirits of those around him. A beautiful, young blond girl sat on the floor behind him, weeping pitifully, a baby cradled in her arms. To the man’s left stood a handsome woman with long, black hair. She wore leather armour over a green dress, and hovered with a protective air at the man’s side. Beside her stood a young boy, wide-eyed, frightened, with more than a passing resemblance to their host – his son perhaps? On the far side of the room stooped an older man, plump and tired-looking, missing his left arm from some terrible wound long ago.
“This is it? Where’s everybody else?” Kalasandr asked.
The man gestured behind the party, “My son, Taras, and his wife, Alfana, you have already met, I think…”
“We found them battling Goblins across the bridge,” the woman, Alfana, began, “nearly cut off by Goblins riding massive wolves! We thought it best we let them in.”
“Thank you for that!” Caasi said, real warmth in her voice, “We were hard pressed.”
The big man, Pyotr, let out a great sigh, “And now, it would seem, your fates are tied to ours.”
“There are more of us…” Kalasandr interjected, “…a mage – he’s trying to put out the fire -” the pause was punctuated by the hissing sound of water poured onto open flame from outside, “Endithas is ’round the back with Erasmus and Mearl, looking for more Goblins.”
“There are many more to be found!” Taras said, spitting on the floor beside him, “Father, I count Wolf-skulls and Red-blades in the woods and around the palisade. Of the Vipers there is no sign, and I no longer hear the horses…” the young man seemed to be near tears at this.
Pyotr glowered, “The Vipers are a cowardly lot, but they seem to have stolen our horses. Novannes and Hakos tried to stop them…” the man stopped himself, visibly upset. The weeping of the girl on the floor grew louder, nearly hysterical, and the woman at Pyotr’s side moved to her, “Shh… come my dear, we must find our strength…”
Pyotr composed himself before continuing, “Her husband and father-in-law were at the stables when the Goblins broke in. I have sent my mother and daughter to the tower,” Pyotr pointed to the north-east, “where there are no doors on the first floor, for defense. We would fall back there if the worst occurs.”
Everyone jumped as a heavy pounding sounded on the wooden door the party had entered through, “It’s a touch warm out here, if you don’t mind!” came Endithas’ rough bellow. The door was opened, and Endithas, Belgarath, and their Henchmen piled through.
“The barn is lost,” the Mage stated flatly, “Though it will take some time to finish burning.” It was another hammer-blow to the morale of the homesteaders.
“Come, then!” Endithas brought his hands together abruptly, the sound filling the space, “Let us prepare our defenses. We will make certain these Goblins pay for their efforts with blood,” the big man’s hard-edged smile held no humour, “theirs!”
The night of the 23rd to the 24th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 2 War Dogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi, Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: Belgarath lost an eye to a giant vampire bat, and Waevryn was permanently blinded by a Goblin sling stone
Deaths: Poor, poor Matvey and Kuzma
The party found themselves trapped in the Sukiskyn homestead with it’s inhabitants. Around them, Goblin war drums and chanting filled the woods, and the glow of red eyes could occasionally be seen amongst the undergrowth. The party surveyed the homestead, and began to plan for its defense. The main building, housing the kitchen and stores, and a nearby tower were built of stone, connected by the main hall, which was constructed of wood. The tower had no entrances on the first floor, and it was here that Pyotr had planned to retreat if things went badly. None of the main buildings had windows on the ground floor, and the doors were solid, and made of oak.
A plan was quickly concocted, with crude furniture barricades being thrown against the doors, and every able archer moving to the second floor. Windows on the second floor, overlooking the breached courtyard and burning barn, would allow a crossfire, turning the area into a deathtrap. Those who could not fight were moved into the tower, with Belgarath and his owl Familiar, Stikini, assuming lookout on the battlements at the top.
The party didn’t have to wait long, as shortly after they settled into their positions the gate previously blocked with a barn door and battering ram was again smashed in, a small war-party of Red-blade Goblins whooping and hollering as they loped into the courtyard. They were met with swift death from above, Endithas killing three of them, and Fodora another, before the last realised he had forgotten something in the woods, and quickly headed off to retrieve it.
The drums and chanting began again, filling the woods surrounding the homestead. Over the next few hours, the sounds would intermittently stop, the interminable silence much worse. Tension wore at the nerves of the besieged. Kalasandr took the opportunity to climb out a second-floor window (I didn’t bother with a roll, as it was child’s play for the thief), run across to the broken gate at the back of the horse pens, and lay his recently acquired caltrops. This done, Kalasandr slipped back inside the way he had come.
The fire had mostly burnt itself out, the remains of the barn and gatehouse smouldering fitfully, when the drums and chanting again fell silent. Once again, the party moved to the second-floor windows, eyes straining in the moonlight, looking for any sign of attackers. It was then that a great howling and snarling erupted across the bridge the party had used to enter the compound. Two enormous wolves, large Goblins clutching to their backs, charged across the bridge, with nearly a dozen Goblins on foot racing behind. At the same time, furtive figures could be seen scurrying around the remains of the barn from the north.
(In truth, the barn ruins were probably still far too hot for this, particularly considering how long Belgarath managed to delay them burning down with his Unseen Servant, but I didn’t give this enough thought at the time, and none of my players, not even the one with training as a volunteer smoke-sniffer, noticed.)
The Goblins’ plan quickly became clear, as the two wolf-mounted champions charged the door to the main stone building, and lay into it with two-handed axes! The party and the locals moved to the windows to stop the assault with missile fire, but as they did so, a hail of sling stones was loosed from the score of Goblins skulking in the ruins of the barn. The cover of the homestead's windows was enough, however, and none of them were injured, but the risk of being exposed enough to fire on the group assaulting the door meant risking the slings-stones of their kin. Worse, the axe-wielding Goblin champions took cover behind their wolves as they worked, the snarling beasts shrugging off arrows that would have doubtless felled their masters.
“Oil, get the oil!” Mearl shouted above the din. (Belgarath’s player was mostly playing his Henchman, with his primary character out of spells, a terrible shot at -2 to Attack Throws for 5 Dexterity, and stuck on the roof of the tower. The party had discussed heating oil in a pot in the kitchen in the main stone building, but for some inexplicable reason had thought it best to wait until under attack to heat it!) Caasi raced down to the kitchen, her sling unusable at the available openings (I ruled a sling couldn’t be used at the arrowslits in the tower). She ran into the kitchen, where several of the weaker members of the Sukiskyn household clustered near the hearth, but no oil was yet cooking! There was a heavy splintering sound as part of the door gave way, the huge maw of a wolf briefly trying to force its way through before withdrawing. The axe fell again…
“Out! Out! Everyone, upstairs!” Caasi shouted above the din, ushering them through to the great hall and up to the second floor. She then set about barricading the stairs, hoping to slow down whoever – or whatever – came through the door when it gave way.
The party and their allies on the second floor tried, at risk to themselves, to keep the Goblins from getting in. Under the pelting fire of sling stones, Pyotr was struck several times, stoically ignoring his injuries to return fire. Waevryn was also struck, and took a sling stone to face, collapsing in a froth of blood from her nose. Another volley of arrows from the defenders felled a Goblin Champion, and one of the Dire Wolves. Though injured, the other large Goblin continued hacking, the door and barricade gradually collapsing under the blows of his axe.
With a crash, the door gave way, and one of the Dire Wolves leapt into the building, snarling! The look of triumph on the Goblin Champion’s face was short lived, however, as Erasmus planted an arrow between his shoulder blades, killing him. At the same time, Mearl threw a flask of military oil in front of the door, the flames killing several Goblins and blocking the entrance. The remaining Goblins, seeing their champions and mighty wolves killed, wavered and broke. Those skulking in the burnt out barn withdrew north towards the woods, and those intending to assault the building split and ran in two different directions. The larger group milled about in the courtyard too long, and were cut down by arrow fire. A smaller group of three ran out of sight around the stone building, headed out through the horse pens. Much to their surprise, they ran full tilt over Kalasandr’s caltrops, and were all left injured and hobbling. They still managed to make their way (slowly!) back ’round the building, and slipped out across the bridge, unnoticed.
Screams and cries rang out in the great hall as the massive wolf bounded across the room and began clambering over the makeshift barricade Caasi had set on the stairs. As the huge wolf came over the barricade, it let out a rumbling growl that elicited more screams from Pyotr’s family. Caasi stepped forward, a look of grim determination on her face, raised her ebon mace aloft, and shouted, “You…SHALL NOT…PASS!” bringing her mace down on the beast’s muzzle as it prepared to leap, crushing it’s skull. The massive wolf fell dead at her feet.
(After a depressingly long streak of poor rolls that wouldn’t hit the broad side of a burning barn, Caasi’s player finally turned in a solid Attack Throw and maximum damage, killing the injured wolf. The table erupted in cheers! Unfortunately, this did nothing for her Initiative Rolls for the rest of the night, and she still averaged about a 1.1 on a D6, perpetually going last each round.)
An eerie quiet descended on the household, broken only as the drumming and chanting in the woods resumed. Kalasandr and Caasi tended to Waevryn, who was very badly injured: she had been blinded by the sling stone that had struck her down, and was badly concussed. She would need several weeks of bed rest before she would be up and moving, but even that would not restore her sight.
Endithas and Erasmus checked the bodies of the Goblins, finding a few coins, and then proceeded to pile their corpses in the doorway to bar the shattered portal. A fire was started in the kitchen, tended to by the one-eyed manservant, Stelios, and oil heated in a cauldron. With the realisation that the ground floor likely could not be held against another, more determined assault, the remaining vulnerable members of the group were sent to the top of the tower with Belgarath.
Then the waiting began again, the incessant drumming and chanting wearing on the defenders once more. All seemed calm until midnight approached, when the chanting and drumming again fell silent. As the party tensed, the silence was abruptly broken by screaming. Several members of the group moved to the east-facing windows. Before them in the eastern clearing they could see the Goblins dragging a prisoner, what appeared to be a woman in a yellow dress, along the edge of the treeline.
“No!” shouted Darya, pushing past the others, “Katarina has such a dress… if the Goblins have already attacked the Cherkass homestead…”
“We must not throw off caution…” Pyotr began, laying his hand on her shoulder, but his wife shook it off and turned to the party, nearly sobbing, “PLEASE! You cannot leave her in the hands of those creatures! I BEG YOU!”
Caasi was moved by the woman’s pleas, and with Fodora and Mearl in tow, she moved out to attempt to rescue the woman. As the trio headed across the field, the Goblins holding the woman drew their blades, as if threatening the woman’s demise. With the helpless woman so close and yet so far, Mearl’s temper snapped – he raised his arbalest to his shoulder, and in spite of meagre moonlight, underbrush, and the range, fired a bolt at one of the two despicable Goblins restraining the woman. He had already jammed his foot in the stirrup of the arbalest to recock the bow when the first bolt struck home, piercing the Goblin’s left eye and slaying him instantly! A second bolt followed, and the other Goblin stood, mouth agape, as it arced through air to embed itself in his throat. With confused gurgle, he released the figure in the yellow dress, and collapsed.
(Mearl nailed it, with an Attack Throw of 20, followed by maximum damage! Realising he’d dropped the first Goblin, he rolled to Cleave, following up with an Attack Throw of 17, and nearly maximum damage again! Belgarath’s player, who tends to complain about his Mage a lot, lamented the fact that his main Character could “never do something so useful.” I had to point out that two Magic Missiles would’ve likely done the same without even requiring an Attack Throw, and from the safety of the building. The grass is always greener...)
The trio began shouting as they hustled forward, urging Katarina to come with them. Alas, they were brought up short as “Katarina” looked up from the dead Goblins to stare at them. The leering face of a Hobgoblin looked out at them from beneath a crude wig. Somewhere off to the left, they could still hear what almost sounded like a woman’s screams…
Goblins ran forward from the trees, and the party came under fire from Goblin slingers in the woods. In frustration, Mearl and Fodora fired shots as they began to run, and at least had the satisfaction of seeing the Hobgoblin in the yellow dress fall, a bolt and an arrow in his back. As they began to run in earnest, trying to outdistance the rain of sling stones, arrows flew over their heads back towards the Goblins, Endithas slaying enough of them to discourage pursuit. The three made it back inside, largely unscathed, and the doors were barricaded anew.The defenders grew quiet, realising how easily they’d been duped, and waited for whatever new scheme the Goblins would attempt to end the siege.
A few hours had passed, with the time well past midnight, when the chanting and drumming suddenly reached a fever pitch, and fell silent once more. Again, the party strained at the windows, watching for which direction an attack might come…
(Sadly, Belgarath flubbed his Surprise Roll.)
…but that direction was most unexpected! The beat of leathery wings was their only warning, as five dark shapes swung down before the full moon and fell upon the helpless and vulnerable at the top of the tower. Belgarath was slashed by a great bat’s fangs, and fell to floor, limp and unmoving. (Giant vampire bats, and poor Belgarath failed his Save versus Paralysis.) The vile thing draped its leathery wings across the Mage and began to feed! Pyotr’s mother and son also fell beneath these nightmares given form, but weeping Masha, who had already lost both her husband and father to the Goblins, managed to dodge the foul creatures, and ran screaming down the tower stairs, babe in arms, with two of the great bats at her heels.
Warned they were being attacked from a new direction by Marsha’s screams, Endithas Wolfram ran for the tower stairs. Kalasandr, on the opposite side of the homestead, instead decided on a more… direct route; the Thief once again slipped out a window and clambered onto the roof. Nimbly hopping to his feet, he ran across the roof, and began scaling the outside of the tower! Mearl, knowing his master was in danger, loosed the hounds, who bolted towards the tower faster than any could follow.
Masha managed to stay ahead of the bats, running down to the ground floor of the tower, passing Endithas on her way. The big man blocked the stairwell, arresting the bat’s pursuit, but he then faced the flying horrors and their paralyzing bite alone. As he tried to kill the flying things, Belgarath’s faithful hounds raced past, slipping by on the narrow stair. Fortunately, Endithas’ sturdy armour (and a successful Saving Throw) saw him through (after many rounds of missing). With the bats slain, Endithas charged up the stairs with several other party members close behind.
They burst through the door to the battlements to be greeted by a grisly scene: the bloodsucking fiends had drained the very lifeblood from Kuzma and Matvey, leaving them pale and lifeless. One of them, formerly draped across Belgarath, had been torn apart by the War Dogs. The remaining creatures took to wing as the party charged them, escaping over the battlements towards the main building, and above the defenseless Thief still climbing the side of the tower (“You dick!” were the Player’s exact words to me, but the bats weren’t headed for him…).
The bats flew down and squirmed through one of the second floor open windows, paralysing another party member before they were finally destroyed by Pyotr and Mearl. The party had once again defended the homestead, but at great cost. The bodies of Kuzma and Matvey were moved with the remainder of the non-combatants to the ground floor of the tower. The party neglected to tell victims' family about it, as they were still needed in defense of the homestead. The party could ill afford them being rendered useless by grief.
Another long, slow period of ceaseless drumming and chanting followed. However, as the sky first began to brighten in the east, the sound changed. Much of the drumming and chanting fell away, as if many of the Goblins had given it up. What remained changed entirely, with no drumming, and only a droning, slow chant coming across the eastern clearing. The party braced to hold until dawn. Then shouts went up from both sides of the homestead: from the west, across the bridge and through the burnt out gatehouse, came three of the largest Goblins the party had yet seen. They charged the door and the mound of bodies blocking the way. Far more terrifying, from the semi-dark to the east, a great host of Goblins, perhaps forty or more, boiled forth bearing crude siege ladders…
Endithas, Erasmus, Mearl, and Pyotr fired volley after volley into the great Goblins, as the all others moved to defend the eastern windows. The Goblin leaders were soon slain by the withering hail of missiles, but not before the horde on the other side of th building had thrown up ladders and begun to scale the wall!
Grim determination gripped the party, and they threw all they had at the besieging Red-blades: flaming military oil, arrows, bolts, and boiling cooking oil from the kitchen hearth. Still the Goblins came on, hacking and slashing as they tried to force their way through the windows. With a mighty heave of his rippling muscles, Endithas threw over one of the siege ladders (not having Domains at War handy, I decided a standard Open Doors Throw would do, and Endithas Wolfram gets a +8 due to his 17 Strength!), its occupants falling on their fellows below and crushing them. Caasi cooked dozens more with flaming oil, torching another ladder in the process.
With the assault faltering, the party began loosing missiles into the Goblins below, and their Morale finally broke, the pitiful remains of the Red-blades finally scattering into the pre-dawn light.
True silence descended on Sukiskyn at last! No chanting, no drums, and no cries of battle. As the sun rose, the party surveyed the carnage around the homestead; they were victorious!
Bodies were looted, and costs tallied, as Pyotr and Darya were informed of their great tragedy. The party had defended the homestead, but what had brought on the assault? And why had at least three tribes of Goblins united in such an endeavour?
What an unbelievably epic session! I previously joked about devaluing my module to run this, but even if I’d had to burn it to play it would have been worth it. Everybody had an awesome time (I think), and we went over our usual midnight stop time. Still, I can’t imagine fitting that many crazy-huge battles into a single 5-hour session of 3.x or 4E era D&D. Long live ACKS!
I’ve also realised that, as much as I like writing these session reports, I can’t keep writing epics like this! They just take way too much time (and who knows whether or not anyone reads them), even more so because I have to write them in tiny snippets due to my lack of available time to begin with. Let’s see if I can trim the next one down considerably…
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Meanwhile, this last adventure was beyond epic. Goblins are generally pretty wussy, even en masse, but you managed to make them into a terrifying, blood-thirsty war-band; superb use of timing, creatures, and dramatic narration! Amazing session, and awesome job describing it!
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Honestly, the module is the main reason for the session being so epic. It's a really great module (B10: Night's Dark Terror for Basic D&D)! It does have its problems, particularly with a couple of ridiculous choke points that verge on railroading (I'm looking at you, Loshad), but it sets up a lot of interesting situations, then lets the players loose to try and solve them. It makes an excellent low-level sandbox for ACKS.