Campaign of the Month: March 2016

Ptolus, City by the Spire

Session 16: Cannibals and Killer Lobsters
5th of Bloom, 721 IA
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Having survived the attacks of the black pudding, the heroes were ready to explore more of the Ratmen warrens. But as they were leaving the room, they could hear the first clanging beats of some kind of distant alarm gong. In the past, they’d heard the Ratmen use single drumbeats and four drumbeats as warnings, but this time it was a repetitive two-beats of clanging alarm. The Punnishers were pretty sure they hadn’t been spotted by anything still living, but they readied weapons for attack as they moved further into the Rat Folk warrens.

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Checking their maps, they noted that behind the next side door was a stairwell leading up to an unknown area. They paused and listened, and barely audible above the constant gonging they heard the sounds of squeaking Ratmen beyond the door. A brief, whispered debate began, but was interrupted when Mos casually opened the door a crack to peek in. (Chesh’s shocked expression was well worth it.)

They could see a few ratlings, and Mos caught a glimpse of the tail end of a ratbrute exiting to the south. The warlock smirked, then pushed the door open the rest of the way just before Thorzin barreled through it.

The five ratlings didn’t put up much fight, but one was merely wounded and took off up the stairs… after it cast a spell!

They didn’t have an immediate opportunity to pursue though, as the ratbrute returned. And it brought a friend. But even two ratbrutes couldn’t slow the rolling Punnishers, and they fell rather quickly.

Meanwhile, Chesh Briarthorn was guarding the rear and watching for Ratmen reinforcements in the tunnel. She spotted a ratlord and a half-dozen ratlings, but they were apparently hurrying in a different direction when they spied the halfling. She promptly shot a very large hole in the ratlord with her hand cannon, and both she and the rats quickly retreated in opposite directions.

Mos popped his head up the stairs to see what he could see. A pair of ratling guards were standing in front of a set of double doors up there, and the warlock and the guards spotted each other at the same time. The ratlings lobbed poop bombs at him, splattering his face and hair with malodorous brown gunk. He chose to retreat, and his companions laughed at his appearance.

Our heroes tracked the blood trail left by the wounded ratlord, and found that it was heading for a fight – they could hear the sounds of pitched battle further down the tunnel, and could eventually see just a bit of the action. It appeared that the Ratmen were fending off an invading force of goblins and ogres. They chose to not get involved.

They did, however, find a couple of ratling snipers who chucked poop grenades at them. Now Mos laughed as the others were also doused with the stinking stuff!

They decided to investigate in the direction of the (still ringing) gong, and next found the personal quarters of the old albino Rat Chieftain (killed by Aendir a while back). There were no residents here, and the chieftain’s quarters appeared to have been pretty thoroughly ransacked.

Continuing on, they finally found the huge-head cavern. Someone in there was beating on a gong of some kind, but they chose to not investigate. (They didn’t want to alert anyone just yet.)

They investigated a couple more trash-filled rooms, including one that was also very wet (it had some small pools of water, draining into a hole in the floor) before finding a second set of stairs up. It was time to check it out.

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The walls of the room at the top of the stairs were covered in charcoal drawings of serpents and tentacles. A pair of low-burning braziers provided some light here, and another pair of ratling guards stood ready for them. The gleam of bright light could be seen leaking around the wooden door the rats were guarding; the delvers quickly took out the guards and rushed the door in hopes of catching the human cultist unaware.

Fortunately, they guessed right that this was the bedchamber of the cultist priest.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t home.
Fortunately, there was someone there they could take out their frustrations on.
Unfortunately, it was a quartet of ratlings wearing frilly, pink lingerie!

The “ladies” didn’t put up any real fight. ’Nuff said about that.

There was a LOT of coinage in this room, and there was also a silver statue – also doing the whole snake/tentacle thing – that gave off faint emanations of magic and evil. Chesh thought it might be unhallowed.

They kept going, and found themselves in another cavern. This one had a stream running through it, and they decided to go upstream first. They found a very disturbing slaughterhouse “kitchen” where a ratbrute butcher and his underlings were getting ready to roast the skinned carcass of a dwarf.

Thorzin Oakwood charged immediately.

It was a brutal fight. The ratbrute wielded its massive cleaver well, hitting Aendir Meliamne with a couple of hard slashes before falling.

They found the “larder” next – there were 25 still-living prisoners in a small side cavern. And half of them were Ratmen! Half a dozen goblins joined the ratlings in the sweet release of death, but there were 7 humans and demihumans who were sorely glad to be rescued from a horrible fate.

They then found the Ratmen‘s Next Generation in another side cavern – they’d apparently been busy – and the delvers took care of 30 immature but feisty ratlings.

They knew they needed to get the weakened prisoners out, but weren’t sure how to navigate getting past all those Ratmen below. Thankfully, Nethwen Nagel had a thought – the stream had to meet up with the Lost River someplace!

They checked downstream and found a cache of rope and healing potions (though they smashed some of those getting the chest open), then found themselves on a high ledge overlooking the Lost River Caves East.

They quickly tied off the ropes to allow them to descend to the floor 80 feet below, but paused when they realized that big, moving thing was very nearby. Nethwen Nagel studied it for a few minutes, then remembered a lesson specifically about chuuls! The nine-foot-tall lobsters weren’t smart, but they were tough. And they liked to collect magic!

Armed with that knowledge, the Punnishers were much more willing to take on the beast. Aendir Meliamne, Thorzin Oakwood and Yona Note descended on the ropes, while Mos cast a pair of spells that allowed him to fly around invisibly until the others were ready. Nethwen Nagel and Chesh Briarthorn remained up on the ledge with the refugees and shot at the thing from long range, and everyone else unleashed a flurry of attacks… that would have finished it off quick, but its partner came charging in from the rear!

Now facing off against TWO chuuls, the delvers were in for a much tougher fight. But don’t worry, they did prevail.

And then they went searching and found the chuuls’ nest full of goodies, including:

There was much salivating over these new toys, especially after Mos identified ’em. Thorzin Oakwood tried out the axe Brool and discovered that in his hands, the axe would deal out cold damage.

And Chesh Briarthorn was quite dismayed to learn the details about Hellblazer

End of Session.

I made a small error – Thorzin has blue eyes, and in his hands the axe will deal cold damage instead of force damage. Green-eyed characters (like Nethwen Nagel and Mos) will deal force damage when Brool is activated.

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Yona's Journal
How to Bathe a Dwarf/ The Bath Wars

Today is the day I finally get that dwarf in a bath! My friend, Thorzin, hasn’t taken a bath for months. Maybe even a year. He is so intractable about taking a bath that it is crazy. When we go out on adventures, the enemies can smell him from a mile away even while I’m sneaking around. This is my impetus to get him to take a bath even greater. Oh yeah… hello my name is Yona and I’m an elven rogue that goes on adventures with my amazing party that let me steal shinies.

In the morning, I start to plan my attack against Thorzin’s pungent stench, acting very impetuous. I get pretty far into my plan before Thorzin thumps on the door, scaring me into thinking he is going to bring the door down. He then says in his booming voice, “Yona it is time for breakfast.” he then walks off to breakfast. I quickly gather up all my plans, that I wrote down on paper, and put them under my pillow.

I get to breakfast when I find Thorzin at the table eating breakfast already. I join him at the table and order breakfast for myself. We have a nice chat for awhile while I’m waiting for my breakfast until I ask about why he hates getting water on him. Thorzin looks proud as he clears his throat ahem Us dwarves dislike water because all these battle marks (stains) remind us of all our battles that we fought." He then incisively describes each of his battle marks, pointing at different stains, and goes on about them until my breakfast finally shows up.

Once I’m done eating I ask Throzin what he is planning to do today. He responds with, “Having a date with the barmaid and her beers, but mostly the beers.” I’m not surprised at all and this just makes it easier for me to get him to wash in my mind. I go to town and “pick up” everything I need to get him into a proper bath. Some people unknowingly help me pay for everything I need by leaving their pockets open and easy to pick at.

I get back and casually stroll past Thorzin to return to my room with everything. Once I get back I set everything on my bed and continue with my punctilious plans. I emerge for lunch, coming out with a bucket of water, and find Thorzin drinking beer still. I attempt to sneak up on Thorzin but that dwarf must have some weird sense of doom. I threw the water at him and he retracted himself, causing it to hit the barmaid. She gave me such a fractious look and dragged me back to talk to me behind the bar about what on earth I was doing.

Once I impulsively get done bribing her to pretend it didn’t happen, (which I knew I would feel compelled to steal back of course), I sit by Thorzin and have lunch. Before I left he said, “You’re going to have to do better than that.” This just gave me more determination to bathe him, and next time it will have soap in it! I spent a while thinking how on earth am I going to get him wet since he is going to be sitting and drinking all day. I decide at last to go on a walk since I need to clear my mind.

While out on my walk around town I continued thinking about how to get Thorzin wet. If I can get it to rain I could get him out in it. I think “YES THIS THE ANSWER TO THIS!!!!!” I ponder, thinking how I’ll bait him out with beer. I get happy with this thought till I deduce that I cannot control the weather and rain is not expected for a few days. This puts me right back to square one.

When I get back I decide to be social and sit by Thorzin as he drinks. We talk for awhile about our group and what they might be doing with their free day. I know some of them are stopping at important places and here I am spending my day trying to get Thorzin to take take a bath. While I was lost in thought, Thorzin got up and went to the restroom. I was seriously thinking about putting a bucket on top of the door, but then I saw a huge, scary, fighter guy go in. I know if I put the bucket up there, and it wasn’t Thorzin that got hit, that might get me killed.

I decided not to put a bucket of soapy water up and swore to myself when Thorzin came out before any other guy did. This just made me slam my head down on the table with a BLAM. I was still so tired of thinking of ideas. I decided to take a nap for a while since I was still so tired from our latest adventure. Once in my room, I flopped onto the bed with a sigh of defeat. I look around my room thoroughly, relaxing finally till at last, I fall asleep.

I woke up from a dream that he was all cleaned, and came out to see Thorzin. Nothing had changed, at all. I was way too sad and disappointed about this. I finally started thinking whether or not this was worth it. Once I thought this completely though I decided it just was not worth the rest of my free day to get him clean, despite his stench.

When I look outside to see it’s already dark, I head to Thorzin’s table where he said he would be all day. I go to sit by him and buy my dinner, but while I’m waiting for my food I realize that he has been drinking all day, so maybe I might be able to out drink him? Thorzin slyly asks, “Did you have a nice nap?” I nod yes and then say, “I want to have a drinking competition with you. If I win you have to take a bath with no complaining.”

Thorzin then produces a big smile and accepts the challenge. We start drinking and went on for quite awhile. Though of course, I was going against a dwarf, so my destiny was sealed from the start. I lost of course, but since I was drunk I quickly ran back to my room, grabbed the soap, sponge, and a bucket of water, and came running back towards Thorzin with a bucket of soapy water. I ran around chasing Thorzin till I fell asleep, getting soap everywhere BUT on him.

So, the moral of this story is quite simple: Never try to out drink a dwarf, because you will lose. Also, don’t try giving a bath to a dwarf unless you have an army to help you and even then I would still not recommend it.

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Session 15: The Eyes Have It!
5th of Bloom, 721 IA
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(Oh hey, there’s dice for sale! Everybody go pick some out!)

Now that everyone had a chance to blow off some steam, it was time to start thinking about getting back to business.

(We had a lot of fun this week, and I know we didn’t get very much accomplished. That’s partially my fault; I needed to blow off some steam too. It was a lot of fun – and hopefully no one minded too much that we were straying off topic a lot – but we’ll do better next time.)

Okay NOW we’ll get down to business.

The Fellowship of Punnishers decided to go back into the Lost River Caves to take on the Rat Folk once more, hoping to finish them off for good this time.

Their trip through the Sewers and the Kobold Slaughterhouse were uneventful. There were now a few carrion crawler carcasses among the dead kobolds. (Other delvers had obviously been through the area.)

But as they passed through the Western Caves, they ran afoul of something truly unexpected. A large swarm of eyeballs floated toward them from the darkness, moving fast. Nethwen shot an at the swarm as it approached, but her arrow didn’t get a very good impact and popped one of the hundreds (if not thousands) of eyeballs.

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The swarm swiftly enveloped both Aendir and Kemnebi, and both discovered the incredibly strange sensation of their eyes trying to literally pop out of their heads! Thankfully, both were able to escape from the cloud of eyes. The panther quickly retreated, but the doughty paladin quickly chanted a prayer to Lothian and imbued his blade with magical energy as he swung. His ensorcelled weapon ripped quite satisfyingly through the swarm, bursting dozens of eyeballs easily.

As he did so, the rest of the team also attacked… from a distance.

Mos in particular, having already experienced the (temporary) loss of his eyeballs, was keeping far away from the strange thing and pelted it with eldritch blasts from nearly maximum range of his spell.

The swarm didn’t like the paladin’s blade and moved quickly away, enveloping Chesh and Thorzin this time. They felt a strange disorientation as all of the eyeballs locked their gazes with them, but the hardy delvers would not fall victim to the confusion attack.

It didn’t get another chance to attack before the Fellowship destroyed every last eyeball. Even after it was dead, Mos wouldn’t come anywhere near…

They continued on into the Lost River Caves East. There was no sign of the Ratmen here; the sniper nest and the archers were no longer occupied. Yona decided to sneak off to the south and see if she could sneak in through the main entrance tunnel. She found two heavy doors at the end of that tunnel, each carved with the skull symbol of Ghul the Half God. Her keen eyes also spotted the murder holes in the doors, where defenders from within could fire arrows at anyone in this area. She opted to retreat and report.

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Rather than attempt a painful frontal assault, the Punnishers decided to find another way in. They climbed up to the unsearched clifftop where Ratmen archers had been. No rats were there, but far off to the east they could see a hint of movement near the far eastern wall of the massive cavern. They thought about it, but chose to leave whatever it was (it was pretty big) alone for the time being.

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It was time to do some exploring. They checked out a garbage-filled room where a couple of leftover ratlings were hiding, and that was an easy fight.

The next room held more garbage and more ratlings, but there was also a door – buried by mounds of trash – that was of interest. Mos was able to detect the faint glow of magic within that room, and convinced Aendir to muscle it open and see what was in there. They swiftly regretted that decision, as they were unexpectedly attacked by a black, amoeboid mass! The thing’s pseudopod slam was stopped by Aendir’s shining armor, but there was a sickening sizzle where it struck and the paladin was horrified to see that the armor was now pitted and scarred by the monster’s acidic touch!

Nobody wanted to get too close at that point, and everyone started unloading on it with ranged weapons. Nethwen immediately recognized the thing as a black pudding, one of the deadliest of the oozes, and shouted a warning to not use slashing blades against it. But poor Aendir had already used a spell to enchant his sword, and swung a mighty blow…

And sliced the thing into two smaller puddings.

But before the things could attack again, Mos torched each with another eldritch blast, burning them into ash.

There was much rejoicing. Especially when the halfling picked up a magical gemstone…

End of Session.

We didn’t get a lot accomplished, but it was a lot of fun. Sorry this update’s so late – I had a lot going on at work, and am only now finally getting things back to some semblance of normalcy. See you next Friday!

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Session 14: We Went to Prison, But It's Not What You Think...
4th of Bloom, 721 IA
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Surprised to be standing in the sunlight, the heroes now known as the Fellowship of Punnishers (and yes, the misspelling is intentional) looked around the Necropolis. They were less than a bowshot away from the Dark Reliquary, and with less than an hour before sunset that was most assuredly NOT a place they wanted to remain.

They made their way through the cemetery toward the nearest exit, where they were met by a fully armed and armored knight. She wore the unmistakable sigil of the Keepers of the Veil on her shield, and the curious knight struck up a conversation with the bedraggled bunch of delvers.

She was astonished to learn that they’d come up through the tunnels of the Darakhul Empire, and warned that attempting to return that way would be suicide.

Aendir was thoroughly disheartened to learn that Phadian had seen the two fugitive cultists leave the Necropolis not ten minutes prior, but there was no way to know which way they’d gone.

Anton Khatru was fully ready to go do his own thing, but Nethwen wasn’t about to let him wander off without claiming the reward from his House. She escorted Khatru and his companions to the Khatru Estate in the Nobles’ Quarter, while everyone else split up in search of baths, beer, and wisdom. (The order of those priorities varied greatly person to person.)

Aendir reported to his chapterhouse. Chesh reported to her temple. Mos disappeared. Thorzin and Yona went drinking.

Aendir and Chesh received wisdom from their mentors, and were asked to keep an eye on each other. Thorzin drank Yona under a table.

Meanwhile, Nethwen and Anton went to his home. As they entered, the other two delvers peeled off and went to do their own thing, while Anton took her to meet his father. Dorant Khatru, head of House Khatru, member of the Commissar’s Twelve Commanders, and head of the Order of Iron Might, looked surprisingly young and hale. He was gruff, stoic, and surly, but seemed satisfied that his son had finally returned. He thanked Nethwen for bringing his son home, and gave her a cheque for the ten thousand golden thrones of her reward (to be collected on the morrow from the Order of Iron Might.

A little shell-shocked, Nethwen went home and was welcomed by her family.

The next morning, everyone met up at the Delver’s Guild Office and discussed what they wanted to do next. Shopping was the first choice, and after collecting their reward they were off to Delver’s Square. They stocked up big-time on healing potions, but a trip to Rastor’s Weapons revealed that even with this big haul they didn’t have enough to buy magical weapons from the big litorian. Yet.

It was about then that a little black bird – actually a shadow sending – landed on Nethwen‘s shoulder. It whispered – in the voice of great-aunt Fransin Nagel that she’d better hie herself home right away because something was waiting for her there.

With a roiling dread in the pit of her stomach, she returned to Nagel Estate to find a scroll that had been hand-delivered from House Khatru. She read it aloud to her much-amused companions:

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My Dearest Lady Nethwen,

At first you were just another face in the crowd … just another noble passing aimlessly by, until that fateful day when my eyes laid upon your beautiful face. It was like a ray of sunshine, illuminating the dark depths of the Dungeon.
During my captivity by the cruel kuo-toans, I feared I would never again feel the sun’s warm kiss upon my face. When you rescued me, you showed me that there is still hope and love in this world. You made me realize that all things are still possible. Because of you I began to feel whole and alive. I now see beyond the clouds to a brighter and better day. I thank you for bringing me forth from the darkness and allowing me to truly see the light.
I have enclosed a token of my gratitude and affection. This letter will notify Odsen Rom – the Warden of the Prison – that House Khatru will pay the ransom for the release of Kurtlan Nagel. I have not yet notified the Warden of this intent, as I did not want to rob you of a joyous reunion with your great-uncle.
I look forward to our next meeting with much anticipation, and hope that you might honor me with the pleasure of your company on the evening of the Second of Bloom. I await your response with bated breath.

Affectionately Yours,
Anton Khatru

Great-aunt Fransin began crying tears of joy.

There was also a letter addressed to Odsen Rom, Warden of the Prison:

To: Odsen Rom, Warden of the Prison of Ptolus
From: Anton Khatru, Scion of House Khatru

Good Warden Odsen, Rom,
Please consider this to be your notification that the prisoner known as Kurtlan Nagel is to be released immediately into the custody of the bearer of this letter.
The customary “Release Fee” of Ten Thousand Golden Thrones shall be remitted unto the location of your choice by a representative of House Khatru upon notification of your residence or other, preferred delivery address.
Refusal to release Kurtlan Nagel immediately to the bearer of this letter will not only render null and void the above promissory remittance, but will henceforth remove Odsen Rom from the good graces of Dorant Khatru, Commander of the Order of Iron Might, Member of the Twelve Commanders, and Master of House Khatru.

Sincerely,
Anton Khatru

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…There was much rejoicing.

They discussed it a bit and decided that the entire team would accompany Nethwen to the Prison to protect her great uncle upon his release.

The only way to access the Prison was to go to the Docks and hire a boat, which took them across the bay to a barred cavern opening in the Cliffs of Lost Wishes beneath the Guildsman District. The guards let them into the entry, where their papers were examined, and they then loaded up into a pair of boats for the trip along the underground waterways to the inner prison areas.

A number of twists and turns through water-filled tunnels eventually brought them to a crenelated castle wall with yet another portcullis at its center. Beyond this heavy fortification they found themselves finally inside the Prison itself: a massive shaft at least two hundred feet across, with a ramp leading down, down into its dark depths. Doors lined the ramp and they could see torches lighting the ramp for several hundred feet down, but the bottom of the pit was shrouded in darkness.

An elevator platform and winch waited at the top though, and the ogre guard attendant began lowering them into the depths. Thorzin estimated they descended 382 feet before finally reaching the bottom of the pit. Far-off screams of agony and torment could be heard down here, somewhere in the distant tunnels.

Thankfully, they brought light sources with them, and the tiefling guards at the bottom chuckled darkly when they insisted on seeing the warden.

Odsen Rom was in his chamber, behind a door right at the base of the ramp. He was very, very agitated to learn that these interlopers were there for the release of Kurtlan Nagel. He initially refused to let them have the prisoner but grudgingly relented when Nethwen reminded him of what the consequences of refusal would be.

Rather interestingly, Odsen Rom was apparently angry because he’d been offered twenty thousand golden crowns for Kurtlan Nagel from some other “buyer,” though the cagey albino wouldn’t say who that was.

He led them down a dark tunnel, past numerous cells and side passages. The cell doors varied; some were solid metal, some wood with a small, barred window, and others were the wrought iron of jailhouse cell doors. All were shrouded in pitch-black.

From one of these, a ragged voice gasped Thorzin’s name. It was Wretched Bill, who now very much lived up to his name. The man begged for his forgiveness, and pleaded for them to free him from this place. Unmoved, Thorzin ignored his pleas and kept walking. Odsen Rom was definitely paying attention to this.

Kurtlan Nagel was alive – barely – and naked in a cold, wet, black cell. Aendir lay his healing hands upon the poor old man, and gave him his cloak. They left immediately.

On the way out, a voice shouted out from the small window in a cell door they’d passed earlier. YONA!! I SEE YOU!!” The rogue looked extremely uncomfortable as everyone turned to see some angry guy peering out from between the bars. Yona didn’t respond and just kept walking. The guy cursed at her for a while as they left. Nobody else recognized him, but Odsen Rom looked very interested once again.

They exited the Prison without further incident, surprisingly.

House Nagel was ecstatic to have their patriarch returned to them, and the Fellowship of Punnishers were hailed as true heroes.

Nethwen realized she really didn’t have much choice, and reluctantly agreed to go out with Anton Khatru. Her mother immediately bundled her up and took her dress shopping for her big date.

The team took some well-earned time off, and discussed what to do next. Aendir suggested possibly going back after the Rat Folk and their Chaositech-wielding Plagueborn Cultist. Chesh had noticed a posting on the Gathering Hall Notice Board, where someone named Degan claimed to have extensive knowledge of the Lost River Caves and could be found at the Red Stallion Pub.

While Nethwen was getting wooed at the Aristocrat’s Table (only the finest dining establishment in the entire city), everyone else was partying it up at the Red Stallion Pub with the locals. Right about the same time though, all of them heard the newest bardic tale, The Fellowship of the Punishers Meets the Black Hand, a rowdy, rousing tune that briefly tells of their exploits against the Kuo-Toa, the Deep Temple, and their hilarious chase through the Darakhul Empire

The Fellowship cheered louder than any at the end, and when they announced that the song was about them they didn’t buy another drink for the rest of the night.

And surprisingly, Anton Khatru was a complete gentleman. More importantly, he wants to see Nethwen again…

End of Session.

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Session 13: At Last, the Deep Temple!
30th of Rain, 721 IA
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As the ringing in his ears began to abate, Aendir realized they had a very serious problem. He’d been able to detect an area off to the east that radiated the oily black sensations that emanate from unhallowed ground, and he could now sense that something there was stirring. He didn’t know if it was due to Thorzin’s gunfire or his own holy aura, but he had the very strong impression that this was NOT something they were ready to face.

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The delvers moved north, further into the Crypts. The region was aptly named, for all around them were dead bodies lying in their crypts in the walls. Some were lying on slabs along the sides of the corridor, while others had only their heads (or their feet) poking out from a deep, narrow hole where they lay in repose. A few of these began to move, slowly getting up to give chase to the quickening heroes.

Continuing north, they came to another four-way intersection. A couple of bodies stood in repose, leaning in their upright crypts. Suspicious, Nethwen took the head off one of them. The undead creature screeched and hissed as it died. Yona took a swing at the other corpse, but that one just turned out to be a dead dude. But during the pause to deal with these two, everyone could hear the roused undead behind them getting closer. They started to hurry faster.

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Another intersection. Chesh was trying to read her thoroughly-annotated map as they went, and she was pretty sure that they were almost through.

But then an undead creature stepped forward from the darkness ahead. From beneath its dark cowl they could see a long, thick, gray beard… But then the “beard” started to writhe and reach toward them as the undead continued its approach.

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The horrible creature was also a spellcaster, but Mos was able to avoid the sole spell it released. The blades and spells of the heroes tore through the awful undead, and Mos finished it off with a blaze of flames.

They didn’t stop to search, and headed north again in a hurry. The came to a T intersection, and Chesh excitedly called for them to turn right, then left at the next branch.

They were in a curved corridor lined with crypt alcoves, and everyone grew quiet as they came to a halt just outside an ornate door.

They’d arrived at the Deep Temple.

It wasn’t unguarded though, and an empty suit of armor in the centermost alcove suddenly came to life. A misty, ghostlike undead face could be seen inside its faceplate, but when Mos whipped out his Ebon Hand unholy symbol it backed off and exited the armor. (It actually seemed disappointed that it couldn’t attack.)

The heroes looked at each other, took a deep breath, and charged into the Deep Temple.

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The temple was filled with a cacophony of roaring, as there were six Children of the Hand chained down to stone slab altars/work tables on the raised platforms. Three robed figures were also there, attending their creations. There were two with strangely mutated legs – one with muscular, goatlike legs, and the other with what appeared to be giant grasshopper legs! The third robed figure – who was apparently the head honcho – had horrible scarring and disfiguring on half of his face. These were pretty obviously the Ebon Hand priests we were looking for.

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Near the center of the room, a massive ogre with a bizarre third arm sprouting from the center of its chest spotted the intruders and shouted a warning.

The Battle of the Deep Temple had begun.

The two underpriests immediately released the chains holding down the Children of the Hand closest to themselves, then literally sprang away towards the nearest other platform to unleash more Children! Their boss also released one of the children, but then began throwing heavy-duty spells towards the interlopers. Mos was able to shake off the first one – an insidious confusion spell.

The heroes leapt into action. Aendir and the ogre charged toward each other and began trading heavy blows (though the paladin gave far more hits than he received). Nethwen, Yona, and Chesh focused their fire on the goat-legged priest, while Thorzin took on the first of the Children of the Hand and the Company of the Iron Fist attacked the grasshopper priest.

The goat-legged priest was quickly taken down by spells and missile fire, and Mos perfectly placed a hypnotic pattern that mesmerized three of the four free-ranging Children of the Hand. The fourth was quickly dispatched by Thorzin with a bit of archery support from behind.

As the delvers turned their attentions to the high priest (they dubbed him Scarface), he cast another spell – this one took him instantly across the huge chamber to a sheltered place next to the fallen goat-legged priest, where he hunkered down behind cover to hide from further further missile fire.

Nethwen and Yona tried to maneuver to get clear shots at him, but that slippery high priest laid a hand on his fallen underling and cast a final spell that took him all the way across the wide chamber to the farthest door. The delvers made a valiant effort to stop him, but he hustled through that door and barred it on his way out.

The armor-deficient Company of the Iron Fist were able to dispatch one of the Children of the Hand, but Arnissa Thrawon fell doing so. Aendir slapped her with a lay-on-hands as he hurried past, and he and the dwarf broke down that barred door as quickly as they could while everyone else dispatched the remaining Children of the Hand.

Unfortunately, it was too late. They never did catch those priests, though they chased them across three maps and eventually all the way back to the surface!

Nethwen did all the tracking as they chased down the evil cultists. She noticed that the high priest must have given the fallen guy some healing, because before they left that first room there were two sets of footprints.

The tracks led them past a clockwork automaton horror – apparently a guardian – that took swipes at the heroes but didn’t pursue them down the tunnel to the secret door they’d unknowingly walked right past earlier.

Following the cultists’ trail, they headed back north and west to a chamber where another clockwork guardian took a few swings as they ran past. This one also didn’t follow, thankfully, and they kept on the trail past many crypts and tombs.

At one point they heard voices and grew hopeful, but the voices sounded like two women having a mundane conversation, complaining about someone they didn’t like. The heroes chose not to investigate, and continued on.

CLICK ON THE MAP TO SEE MORE DETAILS

As they continued west, they realized they were hopelessly lost and unlikely to catch the cultists. Chesh heard the distinct sound of an armor-clad person ahead. With little hope of finding the priests, they moved ahead cautiously into a guard room with six armored ghouls!

The undead looked puzzled and asked “Are you with those other guys?” as they pointed to the west exit. Mos whipped out his cultist unholy symbol and almost bluffed his way past, until the ghouls noticed Aendir’s prominent Lothanite symbols on his shield and chest. Then the fight was on.

Chesh called upon the divine light of Teun to drive away the foul undead, but was only able to affect half of them. The other three leapt to the attack, and they turned out to be pretty tough foes. But after two of the three fell in combat, the last one turned tail and ran away.

The heroes pushed on west and found a spiral staircase leading up. They started to climb.

And climb.

And climb.

…And climb.

And climb.

Eight hundred and eighty-eight steps later, they finally reached the top of the Demon Stairs. Chesh and Mos were draped over the back of poor Kemnebi, and everyone was exhausted after the tortuously long climb.

The stairs opened out into a large natural cavern dotted with doors and structures, all of which most resembled residences. A few far-off locals could be seen, and when Aendir shouted “Where did they go?” they merely pointed west.

Off we went again.

No one knew exactly where they were, but they passed through an area that resembled a currently-closed marketplace with booths and tables on their way to one more set of stairs up. Exiting these, they found themselves in the city’s Necropolis!

The bad news: The cultists were nowhere in sight, and they were standing less than a bowshot away from the Dark Reliquary.
The good news: It was about an hour before sunset, and they had plenty of time to get the heck away from there before sundown.

End of session.

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Chesh's Poker Face
How Chesh Watched Mos develop a twitch

After sleeping off the effects of a Mummy’s Gaze, which I vow to try really hard NOT to fall to again, we left deeper into the dungeon. After much discussing and debating, Aendir and I covered up with capes, and tried our best to look intimidating. Aendir pulled it off well. Me? I….. am not so sure. But I stayed hid as much as I could. Mos…. (sighs deeply) Mos came into his element as an actor.

We found the Kuo-Toa nearly immediately, or rather they found us. Amazingly simple but effective guard posts for fish! But the guards themselves? Dumb as.. well, sand. We all followed our plan, and entered as Mos‘s ’slave crew’ and I think I chewed my mouth raw biting my tongue. The slaves… good gods the slaves. We have to go back in to save them, someday. Soon. The conditions they worked in, and the inhumane treatment are so wrong.

Very oddly, a human appearing woman came to ‘interpret’ for the fish men. Vhaega they called her. She appeared well fed and clothed, so in some way the fish folk are working with SOME force down there…

We were led down through the caves of the fish folk, and suddenly everyone caught their breath as one of those stuffy shirted rich kids’ followers from the adventures was there as a slave! We had to try to find where the rest of the group was, so on the fly, we suddenly needed more slaves for… recreational excuses. Watching Mos part with gold, it was SO HARD to not laugh. I just sunk deeper in my cloak and started silently reciting the followings of Teun to myself to keep quiet.

…… then we ran into Khatru himself. And the female from their company was nearby too. Watching Mos weave a story worthy of getting all THREE of them out, reminded me so much of him totally convincing Mama B that he didn’t swipe those pies right out from under her nose off the windowsill… with food on his collar! TOTALLY baffling. But he did it. Mos could sell dirt to a worm, if he tried. And more gold got pried out of his pockets. Seriously was worried I’d have to hand him MY coin purse on the side if we found more of them! But I would have. The glories of hiding in plain sight. They’re going to have fun replacing his mage coins! Hahaha!

We got past the slave pits, and ran into even MORE fun. A pit with a horror inside of it, all teeth and arms and roars. They were about to feed an orc to it, no HUGE loss, but the torture they were putting it through dangling it over the edge like that… totally not right. Either dispatch it or let it go for others to dispatch.

We finally hit the far side of the fish folks lands, and I am pretty sure coming back this way is not an option, like… ever. And boy was Khatru annoyed to find out we weren’t on the right side of them. I can’t blame him for wanting to see the sun, but we’re on a mission, and there’s no way even Mos could have gotten us back through those wet slimy caves on an excuse. They told us of their capture and sadly, the loss of two of their party members as we climbed towards the dark temple. Unfortunately, we have a mess of undead apparently to work our way through first, and no matter how quietly we try to sneak through, they came out and glory be to Teun, they turned away from HER glory! Now I have to hope the rest which are surely coming will too….

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Mos' Diary: The Care and Feeding of Slaves or How Much More Is This Going To Cost Me?!?

We passed into the fishfolk’s lands. I never gave much thought to the temperature of my blood before. I mean, I’ve been called cold-blooded, of course. In my line of work, it’s an occupational hazard. But these fishfolk? Actually cold-blooded. And now I’m feeling insulted in retrospect.

We posed as a cleric of the Black Hand and his band of merry slaves to pass into the fish-lands. It’s probably good that we did. There were a ton of the scaly walkers here and while I have great faith in Aendir and Thorzin to cause copious amounts of grievous bodily harm, I think we would have been overrun. Still, it made my skin crawl to give hard-earned coin to those creepy fish. And I had to pay extra to keep the bloody cat alive! EXTRA. MORE MONEY. TO KEEP THE BLEEDING CAT ALIVE. Somewhere there is a special heaven set aside for us long-suffering martyr types, I tell you. I keep this up and I’m going to start glowing with all my holiness.

And then we saw one of Khatru’s band. Well, even with my newfound holiness, I wasn’t exactly excited about bailing the lout out. But a man has got to look out for his fellow man, I always say. So I selflessly paid for his freedom. Overpaid for his freedom, even. He didn’t look too much the worse for wear, but even so. I’d never admit it, but leaving the other slaves in the hands of the fishfolk made me sick. Their eyes were… haunted. To be a slave is bad enough, but a slave to a race of monsters?

We found Khatru and even another woman from his team. I bought them too, parting with my poor mage coins. I will miss them. We managed to make it through, but not before we saw a great thing in the pit, being fed slaves for the amusement of the watchers. This place is truly horrific and I can’t imagine how I’d survive if we were captured and brought to this hell-hole. Khatru filled us in on what happened. They weren’t excited about going with us to the Deep Temple, but we can’t afford to pay our way back through the fishfolk and they demanded sacrifices if we came back. I mean, I’d give them the cat, but I already paid for it. I feel like I own the rotten predator now. And I hate giving away property without a good reason.

Now, if I could the skin back, maybe in the form of a lovely sleeping bag? Hmm….

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Session 12: No Turning Back Now!
30th of Rain, 721 IA
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Well, at least Thorzin got a good night’s sleep.

A few delvers were a bit surly after resting, but they decided against popping open the second sarcophagus to deal with the entrapped undead within.

A return to the West Mines led them to investigate a couple of empty side rooms (just to be sure they weren’t leaving an enemy at their backs), but then it was time to leave the mapped regions and face off against the fish men of the Flooded Mines.

Aendir and Chesh donnned cloaks and hid at the back of the group with their heads down, and Mos posed as the “cultist” head honcho, leading a bunch of slaves to the Deep Temple. The warlock spent a few minutes casting a comprehend languages spell, and they headed out. They first encountered an unpleasant slimy substance that covered everything – floor, walls, and ceiling, and discovered that the slippery stuff stank of fish. There was no other choice but to continue on though, and everyone moved gingerly through the inch-deep layer of gooey slime.

Kuo-Toan.png

A deep, metallic CLUNK just ahead stopped them in their tracks. They could just barely see a spearhead jutting from a hole in the wall directly ahead, and realized that it was a ballista bolt pointing directly at them from a murder hole!

A heavily accented voice from behind the wall called out, “Hold or die!” and everyone held while Mos dug out his Ebon Hand symbol. He had a brief conversation in Common with the unseen challenger (and overheard a bit of discussion behind the wall about whether or not to attack), and was told to enter.

And then the delvers moved into Kuo-Toan territory. Beyond the wall was a large hall where eight slimy, fish-headed humanoid guards waited. One spoke a few words of halting Common, then switched to its own strange, clicking and popping language to tell one of the others to fetch someone named Vhaega. Everyone stood around and waited for a while until she arrived. Talk about your awkward silences…

When she did finally arrive, Vhaega Thrinn turned out to be a beautiful, raven-haired human woman who spoke very clear, unaccented Common. Believing their disguises, she welcomed them and asked for the standard 100 gp per traveler fee. She tacked on an additional 100 gp for Kemnebi, though she seemed reluctant to even allow the cat to enter. Mos grudgingly paid, and off they went through the Flooded Mines of the Kuo-Toa.

CLICK ON THE MAP TO SEE MORE DETAILS

Accompanied by Vhaega and a squad of kuo-toan guards, our heroes made their way slowly through the slime-coated tunnels. As they passed other intersecting tunnels, their lights shone down on water-filled tunnels where a few fishy heads occasionally were poking above the surface, watching them pass. A low stone bridge with no side rails of any kind spanned a slow-moving river, and more of the fishmen could be seen in the water below.

And then they found the mines, where kuo-toan guards and masters stood watch over their miner slaves. And Nethwen recognized the familiar face of one of the Company of the Iron Fist. She had a brief, whispered conversation with her “master” Mos, and the halfling then convinced their human guide to let him purchase the poor fellow from the kuo-toa.

Everyone was pretty happy about this, until in the very next chamber they spotted Anton Khatru himself digging in the mine! He spotted Nethwen and, wide-eyed, silently pled for help.

Mos was very convincing in his story-weaving, but eventually managed to buy three slaves: Khatru, the first guy, and their female companion from the reluctant guide. (Mos sweetened the deal by including several Mage Coins.)

They continued on as fast as they could, crossing another bridge and following the river upstream for a time before turning west into another tunnel. Judging by the thunderous roar, a waterfall was just upstream; but beastly roars emanating from the tunnel ahead could be heard even over the river noise.

CLICK ON THE MAP TO SEE MORE DETAILS

In the cavern ahead they saw a large group of Kuo-Toa, Humans, and a strange monstrous humanoid standing in a crowd overlooking a deep pit that filled the north half of the room. The roars were coming from the pit, where a terrifyingly bizarre creature – about fifteen feet tall! – scrabbled in a vain attempt to climb up from the slime-coated pit.

Gug_Image.png

The kuo-toans were dangling a hapless orc over the pit, taunting the horror below, to the cheers and jeers of the crowd.

Understanding the odds, the heroes had to ignore this scene and moved on. The next room was the northernmost edge of the Kuo-Toan territory, and their escort bid them adieu. Happily, the slime coating everything ended just a short distance up the tunnel, too!

They found a place where they could see an opening in the ceiling above; consulting their map, they climbed up and took a break while Anton Khatru told them the sad tale of the Company of the Iron Fist. The Kuo-Toans had ambushed the delvers, and rather than killing them had seized them for slave laborers in their mines. Two members of that company had already been killed, sacrificed in the name of the fishmen’s mysterious Floating Queen.

The survivors were more than willing to help in a fight, so weapons were shared, and the combined companies moved into the Crypts.

CLICK ON THE MAP TO SEE MORE DETAILS

The very first thing they found was a cavern with writing etched into the walls in at least a dozen languages and limned with faerie fire. The words said “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter the Darakhul Empire”. Nethwen had heard whispers of a ghoul empire somewhere far beneath the Necropolis

Consulting their map again, they headed northwest into the Crypts proper, where they encountered a few roaming undead. The battle was brief, but loud. Especially when Thorzin blasted one of the ghouls with his dragon pistol!

But don’t worry. I’m sure there wasn’t anyone (or anything) around to hear the gunfire…

End of Session.

GM’s Notes: Well that was worth the wait! And what’s going to happen when we finally, FINALLY reach the Deep Temple?!! Tune in next time, True Believers!

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Mos' Diary: Why They Call it the Pit of Insanity

So today my eye fell out. Fell out and went for a walkabout. On its own. Without me.

Never thought I’d write that sentence. EVER. Trust me, don’t do magic near the Pit of Insanity. Safety tip from your Uncle Mos, kids.

Also, don’t get a massage from a mummy. Chesh got handsy with the thing and she still smells, despite copious attempts at bathing on her part. Now, she just might be that bad at bathing, but even an idiot squirrel can find a nut with practice, right? I think she might be infected. Or infested. Who the heck knows what the ancient crackpots who built this place put in their dead people! Thorzin seems to enjoy the rumble-bed he’s gained by sleeping on the sealed coffin. However the wailing makes for a really disturbing night’s sleep. I dreamed I was being chased by Chesh who kept singing and kicking randomly things. WAIL….SLAM SLAM SLAM..WAILSLAM SLAM SLAM. All damn night long.

And that damn cat kept watching me. I got up to take a leak during the ‘night’ and I swear it was licking its chops. If Nethwen ever drops down here, I’m taking that cat out before she gets healed. I’ll blame it on kobolds or whatever, but that thing needs to be a throw rug.

Yona and I chatted about Aendir‘s secret. He doesn’t act like a psychopath. I mean, aside from running toward the biggest nastiest thing in the room instead of away like a normal person, but… I’m keeping an eye on him. I mean, if you associate with blokes that burn people alive, you definitely don’t get off scott-free, right?

I’m back to sleep now. Stupid cat. I can see its damned eyes glow in the candlelight. And I think… yeah, Thorzin‘s making horse-noises in his sleep. I think the dwarf thinks he’s riding a steed. Mighty Rider Thorzin atop his gallant steed, Mummy-in-a-Box. MUMMY-IN-A-BOX, AWAY!

Stupid cat.

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Session 11 Party Treasure

3 GP
7 SP
8 CP
3 Potions of Healing
1 Elixir of Health
1 Potion of Water Breathing
1 Scroll of Lesser Restoration
1 Backpack Transformed Into Solid Ithildin [along with all its contents] (1200 GP)
1 Ring of Feather Falling

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