Fantasy Masks

None of Your Beeswax
Gang-Busting in Dweredell

Date: Slithres 14, 1231

Supper that night, when they went down to the common room they met the captain of the Cityguard, and Rook intimidated him and brushed him off. The crew rested overnight and into the morning, so Tori could heal. Then they met with the Syr.

The Syr told them there was a location in the Outer City, the Sorcerer’s Tower, that had been occupied for the last 2 years. A gang was growing, they each had a black hand print on them, and they seemed to be silent and communicating telepathically. The Syr asked the Cityguard to take care of it, but suspects they intentionally drag their feet while working out some deal. Would the outsiders like to try to find out what’s going on and sort it out?

They would. They chatted briefly with Captain Celedon, then went to the market. Tory, Rothchilde, and Argonak made contact with a black market seller, asking for healing potions and high-quality merchandise. Rook and Pansy checked with a weapons dealer who sold Rook some Dwarven mastercraft weapons.

To the Tower

They hired a drug addict to take them to the tower. He pointed the way, then withdrew before the gangers ambushed them. The gangers sniped at them, and used two tarry stone constructs; gangers set the constructs on fire for more fighty fun. Rothchilde pulled one construct apart magically, Argonak and Rook hacked the other down, and a flurry of exchanged fire worsted the gangers.

Continuing on to the tower, they faced a mass of gangers at the base. Fire and blades cleared them out quickly enough. As they approached, a cloud of bees escaped the top of the tower and flew directly away from the city, south, as fast as they could. Cracking the door open, the crew saw there was a black magical beeswax inside, and strange vibrating honey. They got a sample.

Rothchilde levitated Argonak and Torie to the roof, Argonak cut through, and Torie investigated inside. He saw a queen bee that could not run away, and a sort of animated corpse that wanted to touch him.

The two escaped back down and Rothchilde threw fire into the tower. It went off with spectacular pyrotechnics, a column of magical flame into the sky. The crew retreated back to the Inner City.

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The Road to Dweredell
It is a well-built road, but it is not safe.

What about last time, in Dinford?

Turns out there was no information there, just a dead scholar. Tempest fell in love with the captain of the guard, and Euclid re-strategized. Rather than chasing this down on his own, he needed a group that could funnel information to him and help him get at legends; it was time to pursue membership in the Tracer Guild.

The others agreed, so they traveled to Annwheat and met with a representative of the Tracer Guild, Captain Audentia, on her ship the Harvester. She said they could be considered for membership if they’d undertake a task for the Tracer Guild, who only accepts people who have done impossible things.

The Tracers wanted Euclid for a different top-secret mission, so Rook took command of this one. Rothchilde, Toree, and Pansy went along. they also made a new friend, Agronak, a brute who was coming up in the Security Guild in Annwheat for his vigilante activity throwing criminals through windows and down stairs.

They sailed three months to the Subrekt Peninsula. Intelligence suggests that an ancient dwarven ruin, Vankrulia, is going to be important shortly. The nearest settlement to it has “gone dark” over the centuries, and they are to see what is going on there; is it abandoned, or still populated?

Their mission: Go to Dweredell. Assess its readiness to cope if something big happens in the area. Improve its defensibility and social stability. Make friends and get a clear sense of the power strucutre (formal and otherwise) in the settlement. Send reports to the Harvester, which will be in port while its crew undertakes a similar mission on the coast.

The Dinsford game ended on Prothres 26, 1231, springtime. The Dweredell game begins Slithres 12, 1231, almost six months later in the fall.

The Road

Over the course of two days, they talked to locals to get a decent map of the area and buy some riding boars. The journey was about 40 miles, but mounted and on a smooth road that should not be too onerous, and could likely be done in a day, if they push.

As they rode through the woods on the dwarfroad, they were attacked by half-alive construct monsters that drifted down out of the low clouds. Ten of them jumped the crew. While Pansy and Rook tried to keep the boars from bolting, Torie was struck down after snapping off just one shot with his crossbow. Rothchilde was in grave danger, and the maximum number of murderous hulks possible surrounded Rook and Agrnonak as they went back to back.

Pansy formed an alliance with the biggest boar, and together they fought back and killed two of the monsters, freeing her to charge to the rescue just as Rothchilde was badly injured. The other boars joined in, and in no time they had Rothchilde free to cast. Between Pansy’s second relieving charge and the wizard’s magical assault, they cleared some breathing room for Rook and Agronak, who cut down the monsters. One tried to escape, to be destroyed in flame by Rothchilde’s sorcery.

They calmed the boars and magically healed Tory with some potions, then limped into town in the steady rain.

Arrival in Dweredell

They rode through the outer gate, cautious with no sign of life but smoke as from cookfires. The inner gate was guarded by nosy guards, and they were taxed and allowed into the city, directed to the Red Hand tavern. They traveled down the center of town, and reached the tavern, which was almost out of business though once thriving. They got some comforts of civilization; food, drink, warmth.

Captain Celedon of the Syrguard visited with a couple of his men, to sound out their intentions. They were evasive, and Celedon left them after setting an appointment with the Syr in the morning.

This adventure is dedicated to Paul Tankersley, who played Tempest. Paul died last November. This is the first time we have played Fantasy Masks without him. Today would have been his birthday. Happy Birthday, Paul.

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SSG Dinford
The Search for the Sleeping Goddess Begins

Prothres 26, 1231

Euclid and Tempest arrived in Dinford first, getting rooms at the Stony Gaze tavern by Eastgate. Pansy, Torhi, and Rothchilde journeyed to Dinford via Ulbor, arriving together and reuniting with the others. Mara Nocturne shadowed the group, keeping tabs on them with her remarkable senses.

Earlier, Euclid and Tempest had located Khuzomia house, but it was too late in the day to visit; they decided to go in the morning. They passed an uneventful night in the tavern (or, in Toree’s case, in the stable. He was broke.)

Visiting the Scholar
They visited Khuzomia, but no one answered the door. The man who ran the herb shop downstairs let them in through a trapdoor up into the scholar’s quarters, and they found a room locked from the inside with Khuzomia tied to a chair, beaten, and stabbed to death days ago at least. They aired it out, and as Rothchilde dissuaded the shopkeep from calling the guard right away, they looked it over.

Tory noted old rat holes, one of which had bloody little pawprints leaving. No rats had been at the body, but rats had obviously been in the place; the garbage, nesting in old books, etc. It looked like the books had been quickly searched, and lots of paper burned in the fireplace.

The guards arrived; one was disconcerted by a murder, the other was pretty matter-of-fact about it and headed off to report the murder to his superiors. The adventurers were released but instructed not to leave town.

(More to come!)

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Dyson's Delve
The Secret Lair Revealed

Timothy of Gisselex, a towering Alornite willing servant, led Baraz Gundu and Guntham of Dunmer on an expedition.

Turns out a slaver cult and a cult of dark gross secrets ganged up to make travel to Ulbor (and therefore trade) difficult. So the church of Alorn sent them to find a possible hideout of the cults, who might be working together.

They made it two days out in the badlands, finding an entrance and knocking off some local wildlife (huge rats and ferrets.) Swift, stealthy,and murderous, they killed a pile of goblins and some hobgoblins, taking their stuff. They went downstairs, finding more goblins and hobgoblins and dispatching them with shocking speed. Loaded with loot, they retreated to base camp to bury the spoils, then returned with reinforcements.

Yakhi Hush and Onan Zeheb Silvertongue joined them. They explored further the next day, finding that the slaver cult didn’t want them there. They shied away from the undead after a couple clashes, and withdrew in frustration, not sure how to find the lair they sought.

They found a goblin staked out and left to die for religious reasons, and in exchange for his freedom he showed them the back entrance the slavers were using, far below in the next valley over. Invigorated by signs of progress, they hacked through some killer flies, and a couple manticores, freeing a goblin population from tyranny.

With the manticore horde, they had more than they could easily get back to civilization. They staggered out loaded with loot and delighted at how easy this adventuring was, and headed back to town.

They were richly rewarded by the Ulbor Guilder Council for finding a slaver hideout, and they retired or went on with prestigious careers. The end.

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Adventure 10: Rellik Arena
A field trip to a fight club.

Zenthres 14, 1231

While relaxing in a tavern in the grand city of Ulbor, a number of characters were caught up in a raid by the Ulbor Town Guard. A group traveling together consisted of Baraz Gundu dwarven treasure hunter; Guntham, a dwarven engineer; Onan Silvertongue, violent black sheep of a wealthy dwarven family; Yakhi Hush, a skyva trouble-shooter assigned to keep track of Onan; Random, a trim little boggie festooned with knives; and Timothy of Gisselex, a hulking willing servant of Alorn. All of them allowed themselves to be loaded into the prison wagons except Timothy, who considered starting a fight in the tavern, but eventually acquiesced to being taken into custody.

They realized they were not actually captured by the town guard, but instead by guilders pretending to be town guard. They were taken to the Ulbor Guildhouse where the Guilder Council met. They were joined by a pair of Security guilders, Hirsch and Quinn.

The head of the Guilder Council of Ulbor, Lord Derbaen, personally briefed them on their secret mission. A criminal organization called the Bazaar started a fight club outside a small town, Rell. They were to go, and be seedy enough to fit in there, but trustworthy enough to return afterwards. (Random was especially delighted to be called “trustworthy.”) Several of those present realized their presence was probably the result of political wrangling between their superiors and the council, but were nonetheless delighted to have the opportunity to go on the adventure.

The fight club was supposed to be based around the main attraction of a massive werewolf, and led by a dwarf supported by brutes. They purchased silver-lined daggers from the guild, and Timothy bought a book on how to deal with werewolves (the only suggested cure was decapitation) then split into two groups to travel less conspicuously. The dwarf-centric group took a wagon, and the human group took a coach. Off to Rell!

On the way, they heard a number of rumors and met a number of individuals (and punched some of them, mainly some mouthy skyva teens who didn’t show Guntham the respect he required; to avoid a possibly ugly crowd reaction, they hired the teens as bodyguards for the rest of the trip.) Soon enough, they arrived in Rell, and headed for the Laughing Man Inn on the outskirts of town, built with money from the Bazaar and servicing the fight club in the old dwarfhall under the mountain. They asked enough questions to find out there was a cover charge, and what the password was, but not enough questions to get beat up by the vigilant local security.

The dwarves met up with a nervous dwarf who was there looking for an ancient dwarven treasure, and they figured they could keep an eye out for it as well. Timothy toured the town to see if there was anything they were missing, and struck up an expensive friendship with a Traveler, Timrian. Quinn and Hirsch got acquainted with a group of noblewomen and their guards.

The next evening they were off; the dwarven group rented a wagon to get out there in about 3 hours, and Quinn’s group rented a stagecoach to get out there in two. Soon enough, they were through the rain and into the underground carnival of the Rellik Arena.

The human group (Quinn, Hirsch, and Timothy) arrived first. They checked out the food, and the betting on the arena matches, and found the vast arena itself. Then they gravitated to the gambling chamber.

Random struck up a conversation with the boggies running the gambling chamber, and Timothy was dissuaded from checking out the back. Quinn, Hirsh, and Timothy bet in the games of chance and did alright.

The dwarves found the skyva disrespect of this ancient dwarfhall unpalatable, but bearable. They found the rest of the group, and they consulted on their next move.

Yakhi, Random, and Onan headed for the brothel. They talked to Lady Thinholt, the madame, who agreed that their top act would be perfect for Yakhi. Going through the chambers where the prostitutes were at work in tented areas, they found a free-standing tent against the walls where the finest prostitute present waited. They asked her for information, finding that Firehammer was the dwarf in charge, supported by three brutes who were now werewolves, and a few other details. They paid her for her silence, then slipped out of the desecrated dwarven temple that now oversaw the sweaty work of skyva whores.

They watched the first fight, noting Firehammer’s personal presence on the north balcony. Timothy and Guntham slipped away during the first match of the fight club; Quinn bet on the outcome, but those two used that time to go to the most trafficked area of the fight club (the people pouring into the arena managed by two guards) and attacked those two guards, staging a fight to draw their attention and brutally striking at them. As one guard resisted, the other showed up, but the intrepid duo murdered one and battered the other, then the willing servant of Alorn snarled at the patrons to keep moving and mind their own business.

Stashing the fallen in the privy tents, Timothy could now pretend to be a Bazaar guard (having taken the identifying headband.)

Meanwhile, in the arena, one of the brutes who was in charge of the operation fought four signed up participants, killing them all and healing with some strange power. Timothy bluffed past the guards on the north balcony as the fighting concluded, going down to the barracks, and into a back area where he saw the victorious brute who snarled at him to get out of there. He did, and headed to the other side of the arena, with Guntham, to check out the drug den. Quinn gleefully collected her winnings from her winning bet on the fight.

Time passed, and the group struggled to decide how best to proceed. Guntham made an improvised explosive device out of his powder horn, his undershirt, and some scored silver coins (for any werewolves they’d encounter.) They saw an elven wizard, Famous, who the prostitute had told them was a very important person (and to them, worth 1,000 sina!) making the rounds.

Eventually, they waited until the end of the next fight, which was slaves being mauled to death by a pack of wolves. Firehammer came out, to oversee, as he had last time. This time, Timothy and Hirsch were disguised as guards, and followed Firehammer down the stairs after the match. Guntham and Random swiftly knifed the door guards and followed, the rest of the party on their heels; as Baraz spiked the door shut, Firehammer realized something was wrong as they passed through the barracks.

Yakhi snapped into action attacking a guard who was awake, and Random flung a knife into Firehammer himself—but the furious dwarf charged him and laid him out with a single blow of his fantastic axe. As Firehammer’s guards reacted, Hirsch and Timothy swiftly slew them. Quinn began the grim business of murdering guards as they stirred in their sleep, as the rest of the party pounced into the fray.

Firehammer resisted, even after Onan disarmed him. Repeated blows eventually knocked him unconscious, but still alive enough to claim the bounty if they got out in one piece. They stripped him of his gear, putting it on themselves (it was nice stuff!) and they proceeded into the brute area.

Sure enough, they confronted a brute, and Guntham drove him back as the others got his bomb and lit it; an expert toss by Random landed the bomb at the werewolf brute’s feet, and as it exploded a single sliver of silver shot up under his jaw into his brain, killing him instantly.

As frustrated guards hammered on the iron doors behind them that were spiked shut, they swiftly explored a meeting room, meeting more guards and a door into the arena; the guards went down in a spray of blood, the door was hammered shut directly thereafter. As Baraz examined a door that suggested they “Keep Out or Die” a werewolf in a nice silk robe complained about the noise until Random hucked a dagger into his torso. Angry, he swelled to a monstrous furry size, and Timothy led the charge where he and Hirsch slew the thing in a burst of violence, impressing the rest of their group. True to his reading, Timothy cured the werewolf by chopping the head from the corpse.

Baraz got past the poison on the doorknob, the backwards lock, and the caltrops on the carpet. Timothy’s detection of magic lit up a couple trunks, and Baraz avoided the enchantment on the locks by removing the hinges. They stole Famous’s spellbook, four wound sealers (and a vial of poison disguised as a wound sealer!) and a magic ring, as well as still more coin.

Following the corridor back into darkness, they found the sealed off mine entry, with a dwarf rune that said “Regret” on it. However, an unholy rune modified it, in Timothy’s sight, to “Regret Nothing” and that was unsettling. They also realized there was a chamber above this room, a hole in the five meter high ceiling.

They felt the sands running through the hourglass by now, with the guards still distracted by trying to get in to them but unlikely to remain so forever. After Timothy hurled some insults up into the stinking undead-energy laden hole above, they retreated. Firehammer’s beard was tucked behind cloth, he was wrapped in a cloak, they supported him as though he was drunk. The skyva put on their guard headbands, and they bluffed their way out.

Upon reaching the exit, a werewolf brute stopped them—impatient, Timothy smote him, hewing him down in a single remarkable blow, the power of his god fueling the violence of his arm. The rest of the group engaged and slew the rest of the door guards; the guards in the next chamber waved them through, and the surface guards had no idea there was a problem.

Timothy brashly commanded the guards to load the barrel with all the entry fees onto the coach, which they commandeered, and they raced away, all the way to the Security guildhouse in Rell, where they got paid and received their praises for a job well done.

Special thanks go to Simon, who designed the Rellik Arena that I adapted, statted up, and ran.

Special thanks go to Dyson Logos, who made the geomorphs that Dave’s Mapper put together in the map that Simon stocked. This was the end result of the May Mapper’s Challenge.

And special thanks to Mark, who handled loot distribution.

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Adventure 9: Shrine of Nine Omens
A pleasant tour of statues.

Proteaxalan Yushun seems pretty harmless. The Drac loves to fish and to cook, and draws from a profound fund of theological legendry and amusing anecdotes when entertaining his friends. For decades, he has used humor and theological gravitas to keep peace with his Skyva neighbors, teaching the lore of Proteax and keeping the story of the Shrine of Nine Omens alive in the minds of pilgrims and visitors.

He did not deserve to be badly beaten and kicked out of the shrine. His two acolytes did not deserve to be run through and buried in dirt, instead of being returned to the sea. The defenseless shrine is a museum of lore, not a treasurehouse of gold. Why would raiders despoil it?

Yushun explained they had him on his knees at swordpoint, manacles on the way, when Yushun prepared a mighty curse. Had they chained or killed him, the curse would have snapped around them, and they would have been hideously punished by Proteax. However, they sensed their danger, and released him to crawl away. He spent several hours in the healing salt of the ocean, then met inbound pilgrims, who brought him to Fegheran. There, he met with the group’s contact, to beg for help.

A slaver cult worshiping Ketcheya, God of Chains, gruesome favored son of Khorus, evicted the Proteaxles. They did not see a shrine; they saw a defensible surface structure and a roomy underground complex to protect their unsavory trade.

Led by a Skyva, Captor Chumrian, a force of slavers are prepared to ply their wicked trade. They will likely target students of the Furliath Tower, fledgeling wizards. Chumrian allied with a clan of Kudjell Deep Slavers, mercenaries from a brute tribe (“the Chaindancers,” led by Chief Wekru.) Chumrian is a fat man with handlebar mustaches and a shaved head. He rules through verbal and physical brutality, generously handing out whippings from his spiked chain to those who displease him.

The eviction crew could go in the front door; the shrine’s north-facing side has no wall, so the ocean is always in view. The back of the shrine has the stairs leading down into the dark. Yushun suggests an alternative, providing a map to get to a sea cave, only accessible at low tide. If they follow a worming corridor back, behind the altar at the very end is a secret entrance, flanking the slavers. They probably don’t know about that entrance.

Yushun could protest to the Proteax cult, but he would surely be replaced, and he likes his posting. He’d rather deal with this on his own resources. His life savings is 50 sina, and he offers it to the adventurers for their eviction work. Also, anything they get from the slavers is theirs tax free, owing nothing to Proteax. He’s hopeful that’s enough; money is not the main reason to undertake this mission.

No, the most compelling reason to do this is to smash the hell out of slavers…

*

Prothres 12, 1231

They met in the upper room of the Three Pointer, a seedy tavern in the small harbor town of Gisselex. Charlie had the job, the map, and the contacts. Timothy was a local holy man of Alorn who was ready to lend a hand when he heard slavers were the target, despoiling a holy place. He knew of Euclid and Tempest in town, following a lead with a scholar regarding a mysterious lost city, so he invited them.

Hirsch and Quinn had been on caravan duty; Hirsch just could not seem to get along with the other guilders, so they’d been pulling crap jobs for a couple months. They stopped over in this town, and decided this job would be better than the last leg of the caravan. Finally, Guntham was a surly engineer who was interested in seeing more of the world and possibly shooting some of it with his pistol.

Charlie explained that they would be rewarded with the life savings of the Proteaxle who ran the shrine, and they would get any loot duty-free (as far as Proteax and local salvage tax goes.)

They headed out, trudging an hour and a half across the frozen landscape. They flanked the shrine and huddled in the shelter of a boulder to rest before undertaking their mission. Hirsch and Charlie scouted, seeing a mass of dozens of bipedal lizards hunched against the cold, gathered around the shrine. Mounts for brutes! Maybe the front door would not be the best option.

The tide receded far enough, and they leaped down into the knee-deep frigid water. Sloshing some distance into the cave, they pulled themselves out, shivering, to find an old smuggler’s cave. Continuing back through the tunnel, they found a chamber with writing on the wall and stairs leading down to a corridor that led deeper into the stone.

Several of the invaders knew Dracoris, and could read the text that was a thousand years old. They stood in the “Birthrun of Contemplation” that shared the history behind the shrine, the name of the dwarven sculptor Kellis Uracht (who spent 250 years of his life crafting the 9 statues of the omens in gratitude for Proteaxle help in the war of revolution), and a number of meditative prayers to recite in traveling the Birthrun.

They reverently undertook the 300 meter corridor, and as they approached the end, they noted a small cave off to one side, with a nasty algae pool. Those who had been in Atarin’s Delve realized they knew that smell—giant crab. They quietly passed by, not bothering the pool.

They found an altar with a precious sapphire embedded in it, and a massive sculpture of a leaping sailfish behind the altar. Examining the altar, they saw it was a focus for fate, to make sacrifices or prayers and change luck and the future. They also found the sailfish statue was mounted on a pivot. Triggering it, they found themselves in a finished stone corridor.

Someone was coming! Charlie leaped out, attacking, backed up by others. They pounced on the servants and swiftly murdered three of them as the rest of the party secured the opposite door. A quick search revealed servant quarters, so they blew through the other door and found a store room of supplies, and the surviving servants desperate to live when confronted with red-handed despoilers.

Questioning them, Tempest got a sense of the layout of the complex, and the forces they faced. Fentell was a very helpful servant, not interested in the health and well being of his cruel masters.

Continuing on, the invaders burst out of a doorway into a large sanctuary. Taking the guards totally by surprise, they hewed three down before the others realized their danger. Two ran for reinforcements, one for cover, and the third tried to take a slave hostage, only to sprout a most unfortunate decorative shaft from his face as Euclid fired his longbow, and a mastercraft throwing axe from his torso as Guntham made a counter-offer.

Twenty slaves were chained in the sanctuary; a party of pilgrims the slavers detained. The invaders went to work as the alarm was raised through the underground complex; in a minute, the slaves were freed, Charlie followed one fleeing slaver back to the dead end and subdued him by her self, grimly chaining him to a bench in a room that appeared to be for spellcasting slaves (complete with prisoner leeches.)

Tempest and Landru took up positions between the magnificent statues of a whale and a kraken, two more omens. The altar in the sanctuary was cold wet sea-stone. They also picked the lock to a treasure room, finding the Skyva war chest.

The brute leader, Chief Wekru, demanded their surrender and then perished, shot in the head; Guntham notified the invaders that he brought a gun as he fired it from behind them, startling them and blowing away a brute at close range.

A couple rushes were repulsed, the flashing steel and sturdy shields of the invaders shoving the brutes back as a withering fire of supernaturally accurate longbow arrows hissed between them, and Guntham’s gleeful and murderous support spilled yet more blood. A lull in the attacks meant they dragged the bodies in to recover arrows, and for Quinn to finish off the wounded and pile them like firewood.

Pressing the advantage, they secured another choke point as the rest of the group searched where the servant told them they’d find a secret entrance to where the leaders of the Skyva quartered.

Euclid turned it up, and they confronted a mass of humans waiting inside. After a short, blood exchange, the humans retreated behind another door; cautious, the invaders pulled back, resolving to continue on and leave them behind.

Hearing the approach of deep hounds, the party withdrew back to the sanctuary. The slavers sent Deep Hounds at them, who proved less impressive than the party feared; Guntham’s shot and Hirsch’s blood-starved axe hewed them down with a single blow each. Chopping down some more of the hounds, they prepared to resume the attack, when the secret door opened.

Captor Chumrian swaggered out to confront them, confident in his magic defenses. They were not enough to stop the exquisitely lethal aim of Euclid and Guntham; an arrow through the head and gunshot to the gut knocked him back into the secret door, which closed behind his corpse. Furious, his consort, Lashess Makra, confronted them in a storm of chains and fury.

Ranged attacks whirled through her maelstrom of chains, then Timothy and Hirsch charged in and hewed her down with mighty blows, ending the leadership of the human slavers for good.

Taking Chief Wekru’s fancy helmet, they cast Light on it and threw it ahead, to give them some warning; the Deep Slavers took to sniping at them from the darkness, puncturing Landru with a poisoned bolt.

Emboldened by success, and deeply engaged in wiping out raiders preying on civilization, Euclid prayed for a blessing. Miraculously, the light from the hat took on a sea-dappled appearance, and the whole place felt underwater; a shadow passed overhead. It was rather alarming.

As the vision faded, the opposition seemed to have pulled back. The invaders entered the human quarters and pursued the terrified and belligerent humans. They discovered barracks, and sleeping quarters for the Captor and the Lashess. They also found the serpent statue, and a meeting room. One of the humans surrendered, a number were hewn down, and three made a break for it. Charlie killed one, Hirsch killed the other, and the third wisely surrendered, and was chained where the slaves had been restrained.

Pressing forward, the invaders found a meeting room that was desecrated to be a shrine to Ketcheya. Guntham had brief negotiations with a Kudjell Deep Slaver that was standing out of the sight of the humans, which resulted in Guntham firing on the slaver, knocking him down; well, not every diplomatic session ends in a treaty.

They found the brute headquarters, and as they investigated the room with chamber pots in the back, they found an iron chest with the brute treasure. Charlie defeated the poison needle on the chest, and they added it to their winnings.

Looking ahead, they found a tapestry with an abstracted holy symbol of Proteax curtaining off a chamber with the statues of a shark and a dolphin, and a bridge. Withdrawing, they followed the cave passage.

Down further into the complex, they discovered a steep ragged step/ladder up a cliff to where the Deep Slaver leaders had been staying. The statue of a lobster was quite startling at close quarters.

Then the rest of the deep hounds barreled down on them, baying. The slaughter was quick and complete, and the invaders passed their cooling corpses.

A small shrine room, and inside, the statue of an angler! They continued on and found the corridor emptied into the bottom of the chasm between the front door in and the rest of the complex. Retracing their steps, they crossed the bridge and headed up the winding stairs to the back of the main shrine building above.

The brutes mounted up and cleared out, and the Deep Slavers took their treasure and ran. Now, after dark, it seemed unwise to follow the cunning slavers.

Savoring their victory, they made the slaves and servants comfortable for the night. The next morning, they met the Proteaxle Yushun, who thanked them and took over. Upon finding out he had both three captive slavers and some desecration below, he was most pleased, and he figured by the end of the day he could have it re-sanctified.

The generous invaders declined his offer of his life savings, and they also left the pocket change on the corpses, fondly missing Tory’s stubborn and strong-stomached looting philosophy. The pilgrims offered many blessings on the party before heading back to town to arrange for more guards.Tempest rewarded Fentell with a handful of coins for his trouble.

They split up their take in the Three Pointer, and went their separate ways, satisfied with a job well done and weighted down with a fortune in coin.

Thanks to Kristy for handling the loot tracking and distribution.

Thanks to Dyson Logos for another great map!

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Adventure 8: Return to the Crypt of Lord Rudia
Never leave a necromancer at your back.

Snow drifted around them as they trudged back from the haunted darkness beneath the mountain. By the time they were halfway back, the drizzle of snow had become a torrent, and only the sheerest luck got them back to the village in the snow-battered early darkness. They collapsed in the inn, lungs burning, flesh numb, grateful to be alive.

They were also startled to find that the elven warrior Kira had somehow tracked them out to this tiny town. She did not seem overly inclined to get her story across to them, and they were not burning with the need to know, so the matter dropped and they anticipated her brutal death-dealing hands joining them on the return trip to the haunted crypt.

The snow got worse, then worse still. For days, they huddled in the inn, keenly feeling their isolation and vulnerability. Wedged between the end of Nuzagoth’s season and the coming of Scythia’s month, they felt the death in the cold, and the howling fury of the monstrous blizzard that sought to crush the town beneath its squirming weight.

For five days, unrelenting storm. Then, a full day of digging out, discovering the drifts that averaged out to about four feet of snow dumped on the town. Hiking back to the crypt was thoroughly impossible.

Undeterred, the rescuers discussed the matter with the locals, and by the end of the 7th day since they returned from their first expedition, they were prepared to leave the next morning, transported out by dogsled across the wild dunes of snow.

Optimistically, the dogsleds could help return loaded with treasure. Realistically, they will be able to strap the corpses of their comrades to the frames, returning them for burial in consecrated ground.

When they left that gruesome eternal night last time, they knew that somewhere in the depths, a necromancer waited for them. Time granted by the storm, and a fresh supply of corpses, suggested the coming confrontation would not be easy. But neither was leaving a necromancer at their backs.

Grimly determined, the adventurers clutched at the dogsleds as their guides stoically called to the dogs, and the frames lurched over the unbroken dazzling snow, white as a burial sheet.

No turning back now.

*

Varthes 28, 1231

Euclid, Tempest, Torey, Landru, Rothchilde, and Kira clung to dogsleds for the grueling 4 hour ride. Upon arriving, they set up a lean-to and rested out of the wind as the peasants dug a way down to the crypt door.

As they headed in, they saw pitch and oil smeared to the right, and decided to leave that tempting bit of disaster for later. They approached the metal doors that had previously been the site for a grand melee with wolves and a werewolf; this time, skeletons lurched from one doorway as something pounded on the other door (that was spiked by Tory.)

Tempest and Kira fought their way past the pressure of skeletons into the room as the door was thrust aside by zombies with armor bolted to their corpses and weapons replacing some hands. Rothchilde webbed them in place to wait their turn, but this isolated Tempest and Kira in the room—an alarming development as a deathwolf (undead werewolf) lurched out of the darkness at them with a clotted growl.

Tempest and Kira dispatched the monster with ease and repeated blows, and after burning off the web, the rest of the party began the slow work of chopping down the toughened zombies.

After a hard and breathless fight, they slammed the metal door to the new hallway, and regrouped. Through the secret door, they found the grand stair, besmeared by much traffic and dragging of sticky things. They headed down the stairs with Rothchilde’s sphere aglow, and they were unmolested by shadowplayers.

The tomb below was empty; something dragged the huge pile of vampire victims out of the room. Grimly preparing themselves to meet those victims in battle, the invaders trudged back up the many stairs, heading to the former succubus lair.

Her corpse was missing as well, and no treasure had been left in its place. The invaders returned the the corridor fondly remembered for many battles, ready to go on, with a clearer sense of the various monstrous undead they would likely face.

Nothing prepared them for what lie beyond the door. The succubus skeleton had been animated, alright; and it flared with infernal fire! Pinions of bone were wreathed in flame, and the unholy thing flung fire at those facing it. Rothchilde countered with a blast of ice from his Ice Thorn, but that would not be enough to put the monster down.

Tempest charged, with Rothchilde at his side ready to neutralize fire. Kira followed, with Landru, right on their heels. As they dashed down the corridor, they realized too late—

—tumbling down the pit trap, they crashed down 10 meters below. Most of them controlled the fall fairly well, and they were not too severely hurt. However, they were trapped, and the flaming skeleton ambled closer, to fling fire down upon them as they were helpless to retaliate!

Euclid donned sword and shield, dashing out to the hall and leaping over the pit trap, crashing into hand to hand with the skeletal thing and driving it back. Tory followed, with a rope to pull the captured invaders to safety.

As the invaders in the pit tried various strategies to escape, Euclid slashed away at the monstrous skeleton; in retaliation, it detonated in a gust of hellish flame, knocking him flat and burning him badly. He healed himself and slowly rose as the bones pulled themselves back together, and a desperate prayer to St. Midrian gave him protection from the energy of its second burst; still on his feet, he grimly whacked away at the reforming skeleton with his shield.

By now, he had bought the rest of the invaders enough time to get out of the pit; Tory lowered a rope, Rothchilde levitated out, and they all ended up back in the corridor. Tempest raced down to support Euclid, and a frenzy of bashing later saw the skeletal demon splintered beyond repair.

Resting long enough to regain perspective, breath, and some magic, they left the corridor behind and continued on. They found a crypt with tombs, and Tory’s elvensight realized to his dismay that the friezes lining the walls were actually waiting corpses that staggered to the attack!

The drained victims of the vampires surged at them, reaching for them, to pull them down and chew holes to drink their luscious blood. Rothchilde webbed the central attack in place and assisted Landru in forcing the horrific undead back, as Kira and Tempest chopped through the other flank, with Euclid and Tory guarding the rear.

Arms growing weary from the rise and fall of their deadly weapons, the invaders watched with surprise as the surviving unwebbed thirsty ones pulled back and headed down the stairs.Burning those trapped by web, the invaders cautiously followed.

They found many undead standing around a bier where a black-robed man gently snored. Daring, they arrayed themselves to attack. Heavy crossbow bolt, arrow, and mystic bolt crashed into the sleeper, killing him at once; all the undead collapsed like puppets with their strings cut. Investigating the dead body (including a swift decapitation) they found it still warm.

As Kira nabbed the head for her bag, Tory searched the corpse, finding an iron key—and manacle scarring, bruises, signs of torture. Perplexed, the invaders pulled back a bit, then explored the rest of the level, unsure whether they had gotten the necromancer or not.

They found the necromancer’s quarters, with his disgusting relaxation device and a trunk loaded with generic robes but many fancy shoes. They read a bit of his pompous and monomaniacal diary, in the best tradition of romance novels reading the most purple bits aloud.

Continuing on, they also found the treasure room. Tory shone with enthusiasm as they opened chests of coin. Euclid found Lord Rudia’s sword. They also found a box with scrolls; Rothchilde determined they were maps, about a thousand years old each, indicating the location of a city (Yeilan?) and something called the Sheltered King’s lair. Hm!

Baffled at the absence of the necromancer, they experimented with locking and unlocking the stone pocket doors with the iron key, and in wary frustration they retreated to the upper level.

One of the tombs had its stone lid shifted to the side; they realized the necromancer had hidden as they hacked their way past!

Pursuing his tracks, they emerged outside to find that the necromancer’s smooth talking had not fooled their guides. The necromancer, dressed as a bandit (with very fine silver buckle shoes) was beaten and lashed to a dogsled.

Delighted, they rewarded their guides with a pittance of their loot that was still sure to improve their quality of life greatly. Tempest sternly ordered them all into the crypt for the night, and the following morning they took their loot and the corpse of the necromancer back to Port Selver.

It was an eventful night. Euclid prayed at Rudia’s crypt, and got the sense that if the sword could help recover Yeila that was more important than it resting here. His devotion also caused Dracoris runes to glow on the reptilian statues; “Alorn” on one and on the shadowed cowled woman, “Yeila.”

For her own inscrutable purposes, Kira lopped the necromancer’s head off and kept it. The others were not entirely comfortable asking why, and no one else wanted the head, so it seemed a mutually agreeable if somewhat disturbing arrangement.

The necromancer was defeated, his minions collapsed, the treasury of the monsters looted. Also, the party now had two intriguing maps, and a fantastic Alornite blade. It seemed easy enough to pass the time dividing up the loot while waiting for a riverboat to navigate the ice floes on the river so they could head back towards civilization. Port Selver did its best to throw a feast, the heroes were honored, and the haunted darkness was left far behind.

Thanks to Mark for handling loot tracking and distribution.

I populated this map with monsters and treasure, but used a map from “Heroes of Horror.”

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Adventure 7: Crypt of Lord Rudia
"Deliver us from vampires..."

Port Selver is plagued by an infestation of evil. The quiet river town has been losing several young men and women a week who simply vanish; several more turn up dead in the alleys behind taverns or floating down the river. Monsters are striking without regard for consequence, smug in their sense of safety in the isolated, winter-locked borderland.

The people have been praying to St. Midrian and Alorn for deliverance. The town council contacted the Alorn temple in Annwheat with a plea for help.

Their tale is grim. A vampire has moved in and begun making more vampires, targeting the young women of the town. He has attracted to his service a necromancer, a werewolf, and possibly other evil creatures. His burning charisma may attract more at any time. The only silver lining is that they destroyed a bandit gang that was in the area, but now those bandits are undead servitors.

These monsters have grown so bold that a local tracker followed the blood trails and tracks back to a temple of Alorn that was destroyed back in the revolution and never rebuilt—which is why the people have come to the Temple of Alorn for help in dealing with this evil force.

Winter is peak season for dealing with the undead, and many of the temple’s resources are committed in assault, defense, and investigative tasks. The temple demanded that Port Selver commit to rebuilding and rededicating the temple in the wilderness; the representative of the town could not agree to those terms, as the temple is somewhat distant from the town and resources are scarce. So the temple delegated this task to a Midrianite, with the mandate to build a crew in consultation with the local Guilder Council and go sort it out.

*

Varthres 20, 1231

Euclid gathered a group composed of Tempest, Pansy, Tory, Rothchilde, and Landru. They rode out to Port Selver over the course of days. Rothchilde kept their imaginations fired by demonstrating the killing cold his wand could unleash, and his new favorite spell—fireball. It was important to Tempest that the group get a visual understanding of the radius and range issues of these spells, so they knew to get the hell out of the way when the time came. Rothchilde also enchanted a number of blades to pierce armor.

They spent the night in town, and then left their horses and slogged the brutal two hours across the snowbound landscape, into the forest and away from civilization. Their depressed guide mumbled prayers the whole way, and assumed they would lose; when he got them within visual range of their objective, he turned and trudged back.

He probably didn’t make it. Wolves descended on the party, and as most of them scrambled up trees, Landru and Tempest sorted them out. However, Tory noted half the wolves did not engage, but flanked the party, getting behind them. Between them and escape.

They pushed through the ruins of the shrine, to the doorway heading into darkness. They noted tracks went to the left, not the right, so they headed to the left. They found a pair of iron doors with ancient locks (the shrine was over 1,500 years old, after all.) Tory popped the lock with his usual expertise, and as Pansy whipped the door open, Tempest was ready for anything.

“Anything” turned out to be five wolves that leaped out at him and Tory. As they were hacking at the wolves, a bone-chilling screaming howl of raw supernatural rage shivered through everyone but Rothchilde, whose sorcery protected him from the worst of it. Struggling against fear as well as fangs, they escalated their efforts; Rothchilde knocked the wolves out with sorcery. Euclid offered the soothing reassurances of his god and Pansy slammed the door shut.

As they tried to catch their breath for a moment, reassured by Tempest’s leadership, the door was shoved open by supernatural fury, flinging Pansy into the wall; Euclid and Tempest mastered their fear and attacked the slavering werewolf, with Tempest cleaving through the monster and hurling it back with a mortal wound.

Dismayed by the wolf lair they found, with crude slaughter art slapped on the walls with viscera like sick finger-painting, they were undeterred from encouraging Tory’s expert treasure-hunting. He found a secret door, and they noted it as he continued searching.

Finding that the werewolf had nested in a broken-open crypt, using unmentionable bedding, Tory steeled his nerve and poked through it, finding nothing. Fortunately, the monster also had an iron box next to the nest with some treasure in it.

With backpacks loaded by more coin, they lined up and headed through the secret door. A vast staircase plunged into the darkness, and ahead, the only tracks were those of a woman; they followed the greater tracks, down into the endless dark.

As they continued down the steep, slick stairs, they shivered. Something—wrong. Then Tory noticed Pansy’s shadow winking at him. Shadowplayers! Rothchilde whipped out his golden orb and sent them screaming through the walls.

At the foot of the stairs, they heard a corpse wetly discarded. They cautiously looked into the room, finding themselves at the threshold of the deep crypt, belonging to Lord Rudia himself. Wolves charged at them, slavering, as simpering vampire spawn offered cover to the mighty thing that created them. The vampire was covered in chitinous armor, with scythe-like claws.

As Tempest and Landru once again flailed at flashing fangs, assaulted by wolves, Rothchilde shot fire at the vampires. The three women were crisped, but the ancient evil laughed in the face of his sorcery. Pansy helped out with the wolves, but would it be too late? The vampire raced across the room and tore Tempest down, nearly killing him with a single clawed hit.

A crossbow bolt was carefully aimed at a seam in the armor of the monster’s head, pounding into the vampire’s skull. Rothchilde knocked the rest of the wolves out with his sorcery. The vampire considered the entire group, ready to focus its attentions on him alone.

It was a simple enough matter to shove past them and sprint up the stairs into darkness. Landru pursued briefly, but the monster had the speed of the damned. The invaders regrouped to deliberate on their next move.

In searching the crypt, even Tory found no secret exists. They respectfully arranged the mass of corpses the vampires had drained off for their pleasure and sustenance. Landru read the ancient Dracoris runes, noting the history of Lord Rudia. He had once stood against a tide of the undead. He and his followers were slain, but they saved countless innocents. The aspect of Alorn was reptilian, for the temple predated the revolution to shrug the Dracolithic imperial rule off the Freeholds. Euclid also discovered that the furious core of Lord Rudia’s influence was untouched by the vampiric taint that surrounded it. He also pondered the black statue of a mysterious robed woman—does Alorn have a divine daughter whose worship is lost in the Freeholds?

Also, Lord Rudia’s statue on the lid of his crypt seemed to have been holding a sword at one time—good to know. And it appeared the vampires tried to open the crypt, with painful results; some holy energy of Alorn still resided in this place.

After meditation, prayer, research, and gestures of respect to the dead, the invaders formed up and tracked the bloodstains of the fleeing vampire.Up the stairs, down the corridor, and out—into the sunlight? Grim, they followed, finding the casting of its stripped off armor. They continued, toiling up the hill, down the other side, out to the frozen over lake. They saw him ahead in the distance, almost jaunty as he escaped, inevitably headed back to town.

They couldn’t allow it. Under the lowering weight of the clouded afternoon sky, they gave chase. They outpaced the monster, who seemed to have difficulty under the open sky of the daytime. Launching a barrage of ranged attacks, they targeted his head with elf-make arrows, heavy crossbow bolts, and sorcery. The reeling vampire escaped into the brush, and wolves swept down at the pursuers.

Rothchilde saved them the bother of a fight by blasting the wolves with knockout sorcery, and as they tumbled down the hill suddenly unconscious, the implacable pursuers closed in on the vampire.

The blood trail then tracks only headed up through the brush, up the hillside, to a stony overhang. Tracks went in, but not out, on either side. Rothchilde sent an explosion of flame into the enclosed space, then after considerable deliberation, Tempest and Euclid climbed in to see what was left. They found the vampire’s remains.

Tory was then sent in to look for treasure, and true to his nature, he found it; a chalice and a sacrificial knife. Goods in tow, and sure of the vampire’s demise, they headed back to the crypt.

They rested for a while, after the grueling trek across the winter landscape, noting uneasily that it was now heading into late afternoon. After a brief discussion, they decided to press on.

Back in through the complex, they came to the top of the stairs down to the hellish crypt, and instead took the side corridor. Pushing through the secret door at the end, they found themselves in a room with the floor covered in cushions, drapes on the walls, and unspeakable acts a regular feature of the nest of pleasurable horror. Suspecting the vampire spawn of lairing here, they proceeded with caution; Tempest then found himself face to face with a slender woman wielding a brutal sword. As he clashed steel on steel, projectiles whipped around him, slamming into her; she was far tougher than she looked. Grim, he slammed his best hit into her, flinging her riven corpse back with its wings (?!?) fluttering.

Standing over the slain succubus, he made room so others could go into her lair. Landru wanted her enchanted blade, but the others didn’t trust its infernal enchantment. They did take a mystic candle, a death mask, and all her ill-gotten coinage.

Considering the overcast day, the daylight slipping away, and a two hour trek across unfamiliar snowbound terrain, the invaders decided to retreat for now. The vampire, its spawn, the werewolf, a pack of wolves, and a demon had been slain. Still, they did not know what horrors yet lurked in the shrine.

They had plenty of time to ruminate on what may still corrupt the darkness of that place as they trudged back towards the blighted town. Yes, they agreed. We must go back… Tomorrow.

Thanks to Mark for handling loot tracking and distribution.

I populated this map with monsters and treasure, but used a map from “Heroes of Horror.”

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Adventure 6: Prince Erin's Folly
The Guild doesn't need to know EVERYTHING.

Background

Magus Grylandar is not with the Tower Guild, not anymore. Hasn’t been for decades. But he has a reputation among treasure hunters as a canny employer who is more than fair to those who carry out missions on his behalf.

He approached Rothchilde with a most intriguing proposition. If Rothchilde will gather a group of adventurers who don’t mind a little something on the side, out of sight of the vigilant Guilds, then it could be extraordinarily profitable. For making the effort, travel expenses are paid, as well as a 50 sina bonus. (And the chance to purchase a wand and additional spells from non-Guilder sources at… reasonable rates.)

Prince Erin was a governor for one of the Dracolithic states in what is now the Freeholds. He was famed for his connections to the Gilver, back in the days before Necromekk. But not much before. No one knows where the Prince was buried, but they suspect his body was hidden by his Gilver allies. All that transpired around the time when Mekk was subverted to become Necromekk. When the god that granted energy to the unliving became the god who channeled the energies of undeath.

Prince Erin had a small fortress on an island off the coast of the mountains, extremely out of the way, known as Prince Erin’s Folly. In the troubled times as Mekk fell, perhaps an enclave of Gilver settled in there, or already had a temple in that area. Perhaps his fortress will have a clue.

The heraldry for Erin’s house was the Catalyst, a giant iron bull that breathed a petrifying gust upon its foes. Could it be? Could an isolated Gilver outpost be nearby, and could they have a surviving Catalyst of Mekk? If so, even news of finding such a thing is worth 1,000 sina to the Magus. If it could be subdued, it would be priceless, but he would offer 10,000 sina for it exclusively (as his information sends them on this trip.)

So the brave souls undertaking this ambiguous mission traveled to the coast, where a ship waited to take them to the island. Approaching the island, they see a narrow ship at anchor in the restless sea off the frozen coast. Their captain grimly informs them that reef crawler action has intensified this winter, and there is a 2 sina per head bounty on them. Maybe that’s why the other ship is here. Maybe.

Then the explorers hunched in the longboat, carried over the heaving sea, soaked with spume and tasting salt, approaching the cheerless spit of land that may hold priceless relics from thousands of years ago. Already, they can see the shattered silhouette of Prince Erin’s Folly dominating the low horizon.

*

Varthres 10, 2031

Rothchilde led the expedition, joined by Hirsch, Quinn, Euclid, and an escaped elven slave of the brutes who worships Khorus, Iskierka (called Kira for short.)

They landed on the island, soaked to the bone. As they approached Prince Erin’s Folly, a broken down watchtower presiding over some ruined buildings, they spotted some men guarding the ruin. Euclid used his stealth and tracking to check the back trail, estimating a dozen of them, with a heavy box. As Hirsch flanked the group using his uncanny stealth, Rothchilde opened negotiations.

The friendly rough men invited him in out of the cold, and he summoned the rest of the group to go with him. Once inside, they were chatting about reef crawler bounties when the men pounced on Euclid, not having much use for an unrestrained Midrianite in their midst. That triggered a general melee, or would have; Rothchilde drew himself up and radiated his supernatural power, terrifying them. As they fell back, or ran away, the adventurers gleefully set to with their weapons.

Those fleeing were intercepted by Hirsch and his mighty axe, and he slaughtered the first two escapees as Euclid calmly crippled another. Those who ran from their guard posts on the roof were chased down by Kira and pulped, with the occasional arrow arcing down from Euclid.

As Quinn undertook the distasteful task of finishing off the wounded, Rothchilde found a big chest the pirates brought ashore with them. Quinn tried her hand at picking the lock, and was pricked in turn by a sharp, discolored needle. Panic and poison flowed through her, and Euclid managed to negate the effects of the poison that clutched at her heart. They searched the pirates for a key; finding none, she tried the lock again and picked it. The chest was full of treasure!

The invaders searched the tower carefully, but found no clues about any nearby temple of Mekk. Their search expanded outside, and Euclid found reef crawler tracks that disappeared in some disrupted earth. They gathered around the trapdoor, and hauled it open.

As they descended into the dark, croaks of challenge rose from the reef crawlers. The battle became decidedly one-sided when Rothchilde knocked 4 of the 5 out with magic, and the party bowled over the last one. As Quinn again demonstrated her expertise in killing unconscious foes, they discovered this had been a wayside shrine to Mekk. They respectfully withdrew to the outer chamber and considered a door that was barricaded with furniture from the shrine, with something evil behind it.

After rolling in a stone that cast light, and shooting in an arrow that cast light, they suspected the creatures that kept devouring the light sources did not like light. The ever-impetuous Kira charged in and sparred with a pair of undead reef crawlers, then withdrew. They did not pursue. Quinn got a line of sight on them, and she looked tastier; they charged out, Hirsch engaged them, and Rothchilde webbed them up. They were summarily slain, and as the web burned off, the invaders withdrew to outside to escape the rancid smoke.

They noted the fog had thickened. That could be ominous. But it hid the column of smoke.

Back down into the darkness, and they found a spiral staircase heading down. Following it, they came out in a room lit by two everburning torches, so naturally they took them. Quinn scouted one hallway, not liking the look of some thirty meditating robed figures generating a hum.

They followed the other corridor, finding a room packed with fungus, as well as a couple nasty amorphous threats. Rothchilde froze a path to the far door with his Ice Thorn wand, and they discovered on the other side of the door a room full of deadly dust, with an iron throne radiating holy death energies. Quinn carefully collected some of the dust as Euclid sparred with the slime monster that seemed determine to taste some Midrianite. After slaying the slophunter (its acid mangled his favorite masterwork rapier), and smashing one of the jellyfleshers, they retreated back to the main room to rest and regain some of their spells and nerve.

Euclid put a silence in the hallway past the meditating figures, and they slipped past unnoticed. They found a temple to Mekk that had been subverted to Necromekk. Heading up a staircase, they were startled by a life-size statue of a Catalyst, well rendered. When their heartbeats returned to normal, they investigated a room full of statues. Finding little of interest, they crossed to another door, and Hirsh burst through to interrupt a conversation—

—and found about twenty skeletons and four priestesses! Battle was joined, desperate and clattering, as bones flew apart under mighty blows and hissing death monsters clawed at the hated living. The priestesses flung death energies at the invaders, rejuvenating their own dark powers with the blood energy of their attackers. Repeated blasts of cold from Rothchilde turned the tide, and Euclid shot their leader in the forehead, killing her instantly before the priestesses dropped him with their foul magics.

With the leaders down, Rothchilde webbed the skeletons in place, and the invaders withdrew a bit to catch their breath. Then, flame in the web finished the last skeletons off. The intruders stalked into the Necromekk holy place, noting the statue that had been repainted to Necromekk colors from its once benign Mekk representation.

They followed a corridor to a locked door, but all that seemed to be within was some giant sleeping weasels and a well, so they didn’t bother opening it. Retreating all the way back to the pillared temple with the spiral staircase, they decided to see what was upstairs.

Seeing a peculiar arch across the room, the one in first position, Hirsch, stepped forward to investigate. The more mundane arch into the room was enchanted, and he went to sleep. After various experimentation (including Rothchilde’s effort to suppress the enchantment), the rest of the group pulled him back in, and they retreated back to the pillared hall. Eventually he woke, and they followed the stairs down.

At the bottom of the stairs was another arch. This one animated, forming two Mekkguards. Rothchilde spoke to them in Dracoris, a language old enough for them to know it. They offered the invaders a choice; leave, or go through the interior door and answer the mystery before them. And not leave. Ever.

Rothchilde attacked the Mekkguards, and the end seemed to be upon the group. But Kira leaped at them with savage fury and in a matter of seconds had broken the core of both guards with her brutal fighting technique and mastercraft elven spiked knuckles (and the help of her stalwart allies).

With the guardians down, the group sent Kira in to scout. She saw mashed paper all over the floor, then a shape—

—a bull shape that charged her, smashing through the corner of the wall in its fury to reach and trample her fragile body to elf-paste! So she sprinted back, they slammed the door, and it banged into the door hard enough to dent it and ram two steely horns through.

They retreated back up to the pillared hall and consulted. Quinn scouted back down, cautiously, noting some “blood” substance leaked under the door. She collected it, and the party ruminated on what it could mean; did they have the proof they needed?

Eventually the meditating figures woke, and the party retreated up the staircase to hide and wait. Rothchilde again talked to the arch at the top of the stairs, like the arch at the bottom of the stairs; it formed a pair of Mekkguards as well. They did not know whether a catalyst lurked in the depths, but they were not about to let anyone leave.

Hearing a shrill scream as those who had been meditating found their clergy slain, guardians ruptured, and temple defiled, they figured discretion might be the better part of valor.

Racing out, they reached the surface around sunset. A scouting party from the pirate ship spotted them, and Rothchilde swept their consciousness away in a burst of inexorable magic. They entered the watchtower to collect the chest of coin, surprising another scouting party at point-blank range. Rothchilde knocked all but one out, and the other swiftly fell before the party’s ready violence.

Escaping with the chest, they made it to the coast, where Rothchilde released a fireball to signal the ship. The longboat picked them up, and as the Magus’s representative demanded an update, the ship captain heaved up the anchor and ran, as the pirate ship was closing on them.

Euclid gave them some souvenir arrows in the hull, then the ship was at full sail, and the pirates broke off pursuit.

The party talked the grudging representative into some coin for their troubles, and Euclid sold a map of the complex to him for additional funds, which were split among the party.

Behind them, deep in the darkness, a riddle or two remained. But they had emerged alive and victorious and a little wealthier, enriched by their experiences below the broken tower of Prince Erin’s Folly.

Thanks to Michael for handling loot distribution and Shaun for mapping.
Special thanks to Dyson Logos for another great adventure. (Issue 3.)
Funny game quotes recorded by Michael!

April 23, 2011

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Adventure 5: The Star Vault
A Diplomatic Expedition of Steel and Violence.

Background

Lord Helsweut thinks he rules Avadall Township. He can be excused the delusion, as Baron Folwyn granted him title and lands there. A number of other local rulers find themselves laboring under the delusion that the Baron’s land grants allow them to rule. And why not!

A shadowy figure, the Lord of the Star Vault (a he calls himself) has taken up residence in the area. More cunning than a bandit leader, he has informed four local communities that they must pay him a tribute, or suffer. No one has ever seen him, but he has claimed responsibility for the disappearances of two local nobles’ spouses, and he just captured Lord Helsweut’s favorite minstrel, Gelbritch Vance (rumored to be Helsweut’s bastard son.)

No one knows how he manages to kidnap nobility from their secure homes, but they have learned to fear him, and tribute is flowing. It looks bad for Baron Folwyn, who is annoyed at this threat.

The Baron assigned his not inconsiderable spy and scholar network to the task, and they unearthed a crisp and brittle map that indicates something called the “Star Vault” is an ancient dwarven temple to Lunestra in the Foskell Hills. That matches with what the Baron’s spies could find out about where local lords were to bring the tribute.

Well, he’s asking for it, this self-styled Lord of the Star Vault. Time to give it to him. The Baron asked the Guilder Council to send a diplomatic expedition to use steel and violence to teach this upstart his place—a grave. In exchange, he offers those who participate a fine steed by way of gratitude, and he forgoes the local salvage tax. However, he does want the goods that were given to the Lord of the Star Vault returned. The rest? Thanks for services rendered. As long as the Lord of the Star Vault dies…

*

Mokthres 20, 1230

Belstaag Bob, Tory, Pansy, Rothchilde, Landru, and Rook undertook this expedition on behalf of the Guilder Council.

After following a guide for hours over the rough terrain, they came to the place where tribute was left, maybe 100 meters from the arch carved into the cliff. Their guide left, and they approached the entry. Tory noted that someone in good boots stopped about 7 meters from the arch, for something, while everyone else noted what a fabulous spot for an ambush they had entered.

Grimly marching ahead to the unguarded door, they were not surprised when skeletons erupted from the loose soil. They dispatched the skeletons, holding the choke point of the entry to the Star Vault. Not only were they swarmed by skeletons of humans, they also broke an owlbear skeleton before it could dig all the way out.

Breathless but unharmed, surrounded by the litter of shattered bone, they trod into the Star Vault itself.They quickly ran afoul of strange pale boulders that Tory recognized as something he called “moon rocks.” These amorphous creatures mocked them in a strange language and flung stones until Rook slaughtered them. However, they were spotted from across the cave by more moon rocks, who jumped on puffballs that let out a shrieking whine and alerted everyone to their presence.

Dozens of moon rocks swarmed at them, but they were slowed by Rothchilde’s webbing and picked off by Pansy and Tory’s range weapons as Rook gleefully slit more of them open. When Rothchilde burned his own web off with squealing moon rocks inside, the rest retreated back down into their dark pit.

The invaders admired the chips of stone that glowed when exposed to sound, forming constellations overhead. They also admired the massive 3 meter tall statue of the dwarven aspect of Lunestra that dominated the room. Overwhelmed by the beauty, Landru swore his faithfulness to Lunestra from now on, leaving an offering of a single silver coin; a metal sacred to the moon.

Moving along in their search for the Lord of the Star Vault, they confronted a strange construct with 4 shields that spoke with them briefly until Tory leveled a heavy crossbow at it; motivated, it sprang into action only to be hewn down by Landru and Belstaag Bob.

Tramping over the remains, the invaders entered a last antechamber, with doors of clear dwarven make and artistry leading deeper. Wary, they investigated carefully, and found the lair of a Morglian Clubber. Rotchilde lit the room clearly with his golden sphere, and they spotted it hanging in ambush in the center of the ceiling; a crossbow quarrel, javelin, and sorcerous bolt settled the clubber before it could spring at them.

They entered the audience chamber of the former temple to Lunestra, hushed in the presence of the luminous aspects of the god and the magnificent throne for the ruler of this place.

Continuing down a back hall, they attacked a massive guard wolf and swiftly murdered it before it could raise the alarm. Then as they explored, a robed figure sprinted out, looking to escape. Rook pursued, and flung her sword at its retreating back, bringing the escapee down. Belstaag Bob accommodated with the killing stroke as he pursued.

The Lord of the Star Vault was a Gelbrian Masker! Now a dead masker.

As they checked out the living quarters behind the audience chamber, they found a Kudjell Deep Slaver’s room, and the imprisoned minstrel. Freeing him, and noting the location of the tribute the locals paid to the masker, they investigated a bit further to find the masker’s office.

Tory expertly sprung the locks and enriched the group with the monster’s ill-gotten gains, and Rothchilde realized a Shadowplayer was plaguing his steps. His golden sphere sent it shrieking through the wall, and Tory gathered up the enchanted objects, coins, ledger of local extortion, and other treasures as the party retreated back to open air.

All that remained was dividing up the treasure, satisfying the Baron’s demands, and receiving their rewards. Each enjoyed a steed worth about 20 sina, trained light warhorses or ponies as appropriate from quality breeding stock.

The party celebrated their victory with delicious Clubber Wings harvested and prepared by the redoubtable boggie cook Pansy.

Special thanks to Mark for tracking and facilitating division of the loot.
Also, special thanks to Dyson Logos for another great map.


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