Fantasy Masks

Endless Death in the Dark
Dumped in an eternal grave

Rothchilde worked on identifying a few more magic items, and as they settled further into the dwarfhold, they received a visitor one evening. A portly messenger named Kendrik invited them to Master Thell’s home for a banquet in their honor, for their efforts on behalf of the city. They were suspicious, so he explained further that Master Thell dealt in alcohol on every side of the law, and could use some allies in the business.

The next evening Kendrick picked them up and escorted them to Thell’s home, backed up to the Inner Wall on the inside. They passed the fence and the hungry war-boars that guarded the place, then inside and down into a banquet chamber. They were feasted, and Thell invited them to join his business and help with its various concerns. Then he stepped out so they could discuss it.

While they were discussing the proposition, the stairs folded into the walls and the chairs and table dropped, and a hole opened in the middle of the banquet hall. Crossbowmen at arrow slits aimed at them. Thell’s voice boomed at them that their only way out was through the hole, and to say hello to Vellis for him. They were drugged; only Rothchilde succumbed, but the others were woozy. They climbed down a chain into the stinking dark. As a final act of defiance, Euclid left a glowing sigil of St. Midrian on the wall. To remind them what they’d done.

The adventurers found many corpses. Lots of them had red tunics, and no skull (though the rest of the head was there.) They crept through the weird maze where all the doors had been wrenched aside by supernatural strength, trying to evade some strange sing-songy insane voice. They found a dark magic tree, and avoided that. Eventually they wandered to what might be a way out, far above. They continued exploring, and fought the strange man with no skull in his head, several times. They kept killing him, and he kept re-spawning. They found the pool of blood he was climbing out of. They also found a statue of a tree with a skull under it, in a pool of blood.

While Agro suppressed the re-spawning wizard, the others managed to topple the tree and freeze the centipedes below and break the skull under the tree. So ended the wizard. Apparently he was a “survivor” from the wizard war with the dwarves, driven mad by his magics and endless centuries of depraved slaying in the dark.

They returned to the exit point, and Rothchilde levitated them all out. They found themselves in an abandoned dwarven temple to Khorus outside the Inner Wall.

They returned home to the dwarfhold to regroup, and then stealthed to Thell’s house. Rook snuck in, found him, and slit his throat. She was only seen by one guard as she crossed the wall, leaving. They were satisfied, and they returned home.

The next day, Kendrik made the rounds in the marketplace announcing he was now in charge of alcohol distribution, and no one made a fuss. Kendrik also sent a massive feast to the dwarfhold in carts, so the Silec ate well that night. It was his way of suggesting everyone let bygones be bygones. The characters sent him a thank-you note, tacitly agreeing.

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Good Neighbors
Making friends and influencing people

They decided to stay in the Syr’s tower instead of going back to the Guardhouse. They rested, and in the morning gave a full report to the Syr. Meanwhile, Euclid rode a hog along the dwarf road and caught up to them, escorted in to the rest of the crew as rumors spread.

Euclid made short work of healing the injured, then they left their loot at the tower under Captain Celadon’s protection and went back to their new home.

They were met by Tyreese, one of the influential people among the Silec. He said that the Silec would be good neighbors to the adventurers, if they would do something for the Silec. The Guildmaster trades pomegranate seeds (a necessary component of refining silec to be a potent drug) in exchange for harvests of the bluish wheat, and… other things. However, they have gotten fewer and fewer seeds for more and more work. They suspect his connection is drying up, and he’s making the most of his remaining supply.

They feel they’ve already earned his reserve. However, they can’t steal it; they tried, and he had two big guards that stopped them violently. The Guildmaster threatened awful retribution, horrible things, if they tried again. They won’t; the adventurers never smoked silec and aren’t members of the commune at this point.

The crew liked the idea of hurting the Guildmaster’s power, so they went with a guide around to the sewers behind the Guardhouse. Then they went in, finding two brute flesh golems. Euclid peppered them with arrows, Rothchilde blasted one, and it was down to Rook and Agro to finish them off. Then Euclid cast magical silence so Agro could batter down the store room door in peace, and they robbed the Guildmaster of the box of seeds and some fine beverages, leaving him the rest of his treasures.

They gave the box of seeds to the Silec, who had an expert find and remove poison needles and defeat the live snake in the box as a trap. They celebrated independence, a supply of seeds to last a good long while.

The crew explored the rest of their new dwarven monastary/fort/greathouse. Then they headed to the market, and met with some brutes that brought sheep down from the mountains, for trade.

As they mingled in the town celebration, the brutes confided in Agro that there was a dragon in the mountains raiding the dwarven ruins for loot; could be a lucrative kill for them.

They spent the night in the dwarfhold, with gifts the Silec gave them to be more comfortable (like straw mats, cheeses, and the like.) The next morning they went to the marketplace and invited Rothchilde’s mercenary swordsman to join them at the fort, and he agreed. The guard at the gate told them the guildmaster wanted to see them, so they went to his office. He offered them reward to go kill the dragon, and they all flatly refused and left. They swung by the Syr’s tower and got their magical objects.

Over the next week, 15 Silec chose to call the dwarfhold home and live with the adventurers, cooking and cleaning and such. The adventurers got to know the Silec better, toured the area, worked on restoring the fort, and so on. Rothchilde focused on identifying some of the rich magical objects they previously liberated.

The adventurers started seeing the dwarf hold as home.

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Welcome To My Parlor
Spider Busting in Dweredell

Date: Slithres 16, 1231

The crew returns to the towers, and meets with the Syr and Captain Celadon. The Syr expresses appreciation for their efforts, and gives them a letter granting them housing in the South Annex of the Guardhouse.

As they leave, they meet up with some of the crew from the ship that brought them here. A problem back at port, one that needs an elf and a boggie to resolve. So Tori and Pansy agree to go, overnighting in the Red Hand and leaving in the morning.

The rest of the crew settles into their odd quarters in the Guardhouse, then goes back to the Syr’s Tower all the way up to the top of the lookout, mapping the city in rough terms and also writing notes on what they discovered to date. They leave these notes with the emissaries of the Tracer’s Guild and collect their riding boars, taking them over to the guardhouse.

Guildmaster Dorian wants to meet with them. They immediately dislike his cunning and smarm, but hear him out. He wants to build the city as a sort of a shady haven for criminals, if you read between the lines, and the Syr doesn’t have a clear vision of what it should be but doesn’t like that one. Dorian has tried to work with the Travelers Guild, who have not been responsive.

Dorian suggests if they want to help the city and get better quarters, there is a dwarfhold (Sezaran’s Dwarfhold) that is overrun with psychic spiders. He has arranged for the guide they used before to guide them again, past the Silecs and into the dwarven quarter. They agree to check it out. (Agro is very impressed with the Guildmaster’s bacon flavored bourbon, and the Guildmaster suggests he gets such things for those who are his trusted employees.)

They go to investigate the dwarfhold after meditating to regain health and energy. In the meantime, Agro’s silec-addicted friend scores some, and demonstrates fresh calm and tremendous strength and toughness.

They get to the dwarfhold, seeing how the spiders are flaunting some corpses to warn others off. There seems to be only one way in (though they don’t believe that.) They go in and clash with spiders, knocking down the ones in the entryway. They find a tavern-looking space, and are jumped by more spiders. The venom of the spiders makes the victims feign death, and both Rothchilde and Rook are dropped; Agro barely manages to grab them and escape. He is allowed to go. Unfortunately, Rook and Rothchilde drop their weapons and wand!

Agro convinces the guards to send a doctor to check out his friends, and the doctor determines that they appear dead but are just drugged, and will wake the next day. Agro guards them overnight.

The next day they drink what healing potions they have left after they wake, and they spend the day resting and recovering.

That night a big spider comes to the window and psychically communicates as a conduit, they speak to the mind behind the spiders. It turns out the spiders followed adventurer dwarf thieves back here to reclaim what the dwarves took from them, and they have it, and they will eat the whole town. The crew does not agree to help, so big spiders move in to finish them off.

One belches stomach acid on the door, eating through it; Rothchilde, no longer swarmed by spiders, pulls off a knockout spell that takes the spider out. Rook opens the door and Agro rushes out, fighting two while Rook keeps one from getting to Rothchilde. He casts knockout again, and they were victorious, stabbing the dead spiders and dragging them to a massive pile.

They report this to Captain Celadon, get some municipal healing potions, and hire a bodyguard for Rothchilde (named Merton, a drunk at the market who demands 5 sina.)

The next morning they go in again, battling through the spiders with heavy use of knockout magic, and getting to a big chapel-looking area full of webs. There they find the queen spider, with magical objects studding her legs and torso as she drools over and fondles their stolen equipment.

They are attacked by a swarm of spiders, but they valiantly weather the attack and charge the queen herself as Rothchilde counterspells her magical attacks. They hew her down, and the resulting shock disorients and demoralizes what spiders are left. Rothchilde’s ability to see magic allows them to loot the queen thoroughly.

Rothchilde pulls off 5 rings, 4 shortswords, 2 wands, 2 longswords, 1 great mace, 6 magic coins, and 3 armbands! Also, he realizes her lungs used to be spellbooks; not sure if they are worth anything now, he cuts them out and takes them along.

They briefly report to Captain Celadon, then wearily retreat to the South Annex. Job well done!

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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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