We're Not In Arkansas Anymore!

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

After defeating the terrors of the tower of bugs, the party headed south, returning briefly to Oakhurst before traveling on to the coastal cliffs and Swallowfeld, a larger community in which the party hoped to find the magical resources needed to restore Katmar. The half-orc fighter suffered much damage, both physical and spiritual, at the hands of the dromite vampire.

With Plina as part of their company, the heroes made the trip without incident. Upon arriving at Swallowfeld, they could not help but notice the gate banners announcing that important visitors were in town. Specifically, the banners showed that Trencavel, master of House Fresleven’s garrison, and Aki Rance, high bishop of Cymer, were in Swallowfeld. St. Allerius told the party that he and Trencavel are friends, and that the half-giant paladin might have some influence that could help procure the necessary magic for Katmar’s restoration.

The party presented themselves before the court of Sir Sigmund Kjell, dwarf fighter and vassal to House Fresleven. Also present at court were Trencavel, Aki Rance, and ecclesiastical assessor Aranka Ratier, who greeted Katmar warmly, the two having know each other for some time. The party expressed surprise that the hulking half-orc fighter was friends with the Church of Cymer’s chief accountant.

St. Allerius and Scooter related the tale of the tower of bugs to the dignitaries. They explained that Katmar could not recover on his own from the vampire’s evil touch. Aki Rance had a proposal for the party.

“We can perform the restoration on Katmar,” he said, “starting immediately. Of course, since the restoration can only be performed once per week for him, you may need to travel some with us, as we leave Swallowfeld for Mordel in a few days. In exchange, we have a matter that could use your attention.”

The dignitaries explained that local wealthy merchant Feodol Batharda had recently passed away. His son Dennel, the Vermillion Wizard, and daughter, Larissa, reputed to be an organized crime figure, were both claiming sole right to inherit. Sir Sigmund dispatched soldiers to Old Feodol’s manor to search for a will, but the soldiers found nothing to settle the dispute. Sir Sigmund authorized the party to enter the manor and search for the will, reasoning that adventurers would have the necessary skills. The party agreed, and the first restoration was performed on Katmar.

Sir Sigmund’s reasoning about adventurers proved accurate. The manor house, despite Old Feodol’s wealth, was dilapidated and squaloress. Except the kitchen and library, it showed little signs of actual habitation. Ebe’s keen perceptions found a well-concealed secret door in the library. Behind it were stairs leading down to a messy basement that Old Feodol obviously used as a living area. A search of the area turned up lots of personal effects: books and papers, information about business contacts, a painting of a woman the party thought must’ve been Old Feodol’s wife, a congealed bowl of gruel, a portrait of Feodol showing him with pipe in hand and wearing a checkered smoking jacket, the depicted smoking jacket hanging from a peg, et cetera.

The party found another secret door toward the rear of the basement. This door opened to reveal a stark contrast. The next room was a neat, tastefully decorated study with comfortable chairs, a fireplace, and two growling two-headed blond mastiffs crouched and perhaps ready to attack. The party quickly shut the door to have time to discuss what to do with the dogs. Ebe, thanks to knowledge of nature, knew that the two-headed dogs were actually just animals, not some sort of magical beast or unnatural creature. Indeed, Ebe related to the party that some local druids specialize in creating unusual animals via secret animal husbandry techniques. This revelation prompted a brief discussion of how difficult it must be to selectively breed dogs for an extra head. While this discussion took place, Plina returned to the kitchen and prepared four bowls of highly tasty gruel for the dogs.

Ebe reopened the door and slid the bowls of food into the room before shutting the door once again. The party listened for a few seconds as the dogs noisily ate. The heroes then entered the study with Ebe in the lead. Ebe’s ability to handle animals kept the double-headed mastiffs calm, allowing the party to search the study. They found a workbench covered with various healing herbs. Two tins of the desk were labeled “REMEMBER!” and “Helpful”. The first tin contained a red candle that smelled faintly of cinnamon. The other tin held eight large berries. The party left the dogs sitting by the fireplace while Scooter checked the door leading out of the study for traps. He found none. St. Allerius used his clairvoyant senses to peer through the door and saw a short corridor that jogged to the right.

The party sent Scooter scouting ahead. After the bend, the corridor opened into a trophy room. Scooter saw a suit of heavily damaged platemail, a bizarre creature’s head, framed certificates and letters, and a tiny clockwork monkey sitting on a rafter beam. Closer inspection revealed many more clockwork monkeys sitting in the rafters. None of them were moving, but the party become paranoid nonetheless. St. Allerius reasoned that the monkeys might animate and attack intruders, which meant that Old Feodol must’ve had some means of bypassing them. He returned to the basement, noticed the checkered smoking jacket in the portrait and the one hanging on the peg. St. Allerius donned Old Feodol’s smoking jacket and found the deceased’s pipe as well. He then returned to the trophy room.

Katmar and Ebe’s animal companion Big Red took the lead. As soon as they entered the trophy room, the monkeys animated and attacked, forming a clockwork monkey swarm. The party defeated the swarm without serious injury. Scooter struck the final blow that dispered the swarm’s remnants. St. Allerius was unable to command the swarm, but the party experimented with the few remaining clockwork monkeys to discover that they reacted hostilely to everyone but St. Allerius. Apparently, the smoking jacket was a passive signal that kept the monkeys from attacking the wearer.

The framed documents were letters from various people, thanking Feodol for intervening on their behalf. There was also a heartfelt letter expressing friendship from a man named Terisin; that letter mentioned “atonement many times over.” Plina recognized the name Terisin was belonging to a a druid of some infamy, known for violently protecting the small woodlands north and west of town. The placard by the armor identified it as Lord Arnost, who Plina knew to have been a pompous noble who tried to build a new villa in the woods north of town, but who disappeared mysteriously. The placard beneath the strange creature’s head mentioned the Orindale Loggers, who thirteen years ago, tried to cut the forest north of town but were attacked by a plague of horrible beasts that destroyed their saws, rusting them instantly. Rob identified the creature’s head as belonging to a rust monster. An arrow-shaped road sign painted with the words “Garland’s Fork” hung on one wall. Garland’s Fork is a small community northwest of Swallowfeld.

The clockwork monkey menace neutralized, Scooter inspected the one door leading out of the trophy room. He found a trigger mechanism on the door, which he ably disabled, preventing the spear-tipped portcullis trap from pinning anyone to the floor. The party advanced into the next room. They found two large baboons in a cage. From the ceiling hung many ropes. There was a door in one corner. The baboons reacted in a friendly manner to St. Allerius, who still wore the smoking jacket. An inspection of their collars noted nametags labeled Dennel and Larissa. The door opened into a pantry stocked with eggs, dried fruits, flour, and other foodstuffs. A more thorough search of the room discovered a secret door cleverly hidden in the wall next to the baboon cage. The secret door itself had a smaller door in its base. St. Allerius couldn’t see much via clairvoyance due to the lack of light in the other room. Ebe opened the smaller door and cast a light spell in the room. While doing so, he noticed spots of red wax on the floor near the smaller door inside the room.

St. Allerius’s clairvoyant senses could see nothing in the room except a table upon which sat a green-bound book. Scooter unlocked the secret door, and Katmar entered. He immediately detected a moldy smell, and then realized something invisible had snuck up on him. He lashed out with his falchion, striking something unseen but quite solid. The creature backed off, and then Katmar was engulfed in a cloud of spores that caused him to became extremely lethargic. Ebe sent in Big Red, whose sense of smell enabled him to find the monster. Ebe hit the creature’s area with faerie fire, negating its concealment via invisibility. After that, the fight against the phantom fungus was short work for the party.

The party discovered Old Feodol’s will in the room, along with four potions of cure light wounds and four emeralds. The will bequeathed all of Feodol’s wealth to the druid Terisin and his fellow woodland protectors. The document explained that Old Feodol had done something quite foolish as a young man that had caused a druid’s death, and that he had devoted much of adult life to atoning for that error. The will also said that those who found and executed the will could keep the potions and emeralds.

Our heroes presented the will to Sir Sigmund in front of Dennel, Larissa, and Terisin. Needless to say, Old Feodol’s children were not pleased. Threats were made, but Sir Sigmund honored Old Feodol’s last will and testament. The day’s adventure ended with the party making plans to depart Swallowfeld with Rance, Ratier, and Trencavel, traveling with them toward Mordel at least long enough for Katmar to be fully restored.

Tower of Bugs, Part 2

Despite having expended much of their divine spell resources, the heroes pressed on, searching the area where they fought the two dromite warriors and the juvenile two-headed troll. Jeremiah heard a clatter of rock from the portion of the tower’s second floor where the wall had collapsed, leaving a chamber exposed to the forest and elements outside. Investigation of the clatter revealed that friends Plina the Kool and Scooter had arrived. The pair moved up into the tower for a reunion.

Plina explained that she and Scooter had followed the party as quickly as they could to Oakhurst, but arrived too late to accompany them on the trip to the tower. Plina, of course, had accompanied Rob, Ebe, Jeremiah, and Lindsey (who has retired from adventuring) from the Four Communities region, reckoning that she had little reason to stay there after Kurt’s death. Scooter is a Mordel local, a devotee of Darlen and a bit of a rogue.

Plina agreed with Rob that it would be safer for her to leave the tower and set up camp. She gave Rob a bundle of cookies of cure light wounds and departed. Scooter remained with the group.

Further explorations found behind the crossbow-bolt trapped door a coffin. Based on tracks in the dust, it appeared as if four dromites carried the coffin into the room, but five walked out. One pair of dromite tracks was noticeably larger the others. Katmar carried the coffin to the ruined room where it could be exposed to the light of day. The coffin held nothing but hints that a vampire or vampire spawn might be in the tower.

With Scooter in the lead, the party moved up to the next floor. The door into the third floor was locked. There were faint dromite tracks in the stairwell. Scooter picked the lock, and he and Rob moved into the chamber beyond, which took up half the third floor. They discovered two altars to Rascarl and two bloody bones skeletons. The fight against the skeletons was brief but fierce. After they were dispatched, St. Allerius locked the door from the stairs to the third floor.

Unbeknownst to the party, while they explored the altar room, finding a couple of magic scrolls and two dead dromites, the dromites from the fourth floor were assembling in the next chamber, having heard the sounds of battle. The party’s progress was interrupted by Rob needling Jeremiah into defending the Church of Cymer to which the halfling inquisitor is devoted.

Scooter grew tired of the theological banter and opened the door from the altar room into another large chamber, this one too sporting a gaping hole where one of its walls had collapsed years ago. In the process, Scooter triggered not only the dromite ambush but also stirred up two swarms of biting bot flies.

All hell broke loose.

Most of the party rushed through the swarms to engage the dromites. Scooter suffered serious injuries early on at the hands of a dromite psychic warrior with a punch like a sledge hammer. Jeremiah went after the dromite ranger. Katmar charged the three dromite soulknives. Big Red bull rushed the psychic warrior, pushing him over the edge to the ground below.

Rob’s animal companion Tejas kept Rob from being ambushed by the man-sized dromite vampire that had entered the altar chamber via the stairs, the locked door proving no obstacle to its gaseous form.

The fight turned desperate. While Katmar and Big Red proved especially effective against the soulknives and psychic warrior (who had psionically teleported back up to the third floor), the vampire proved formidable. It seriously seared St. Allerius with a psionic energy ray. The party retreated, shutting the door between them and the vampire in the altar room.

Around this time, Owlcon, a vulpinal agathion that had been tracking the vampire, arrived to lend its aid to the party. The other dromites had been dispatched by the this, and the swarm threat neutralized. Owlcon took point as the party moved back into the altar room.

In the following battle, the vampire nearly killed Katmar with its energy draining punch. Before that, it briefly dominated Katmar, turning the mighty half-orc fighter against the party, but Owlcon dispelled the mental control. Eventually, our heroes boxed the vampire in. They had great difficulty coping with its impressive defenses and fast healing, but finally Scooter struck with a mighty sneak attack. Owlcon staked the downed vampire and removed its head.

A search of the rest of the tower uncovered much loot as well as a captive human bard named Balenar Forsend. Balenar explained that he and his adventuring companions had been attacked by the dromites. Only he survived; they even killed his dog Kita.

The party had emerged victorious from the Tower of Bugs, but Katmar failed to shake off the entire effects of the vampire’s energy drain. XP was earned. As the party camped, enjoying a fantastic meal prepared by Plina, they pondered their next move….

Tower of Bugs, Part 1

In Oakhurst, there is an oracle named Surya Raier. She has been haunted by spirits claiming that an insatiable evil is moving through the Tangled Wood, searching for clues to the whereabout of the Yellow Jade Heart, a relic reputed to hold great power. She got word to St. Allerius about these spirit-visitations and told him about a ruined tower in the woods toward which the evil was moving.

Concerned by Surya’s premonitions, our heroes ventured north by northwest into the Tangled Wood. After a few days of searching, they located the tower, a five-story ancient structure covered with vines. Parts of the lower four floors had collapsed, leaving the interiors exposed to the elements, but the uppermost floor appeared intact. Cautiously, the adventurers moved through the ruins of the ground floor, only to be ambushed by a pair a monstrously large creatures that resembled horrible starfish. These creatures had burrowed into hidey holes, bursting forth to attack when the party passed over their locations. The fight was brief and fierce, with only Ebe sustaining much in the way of serious injuries.

A search of the area after the fight revealed the presence of recent tracks, most of them belonging to forest animals, but some having been left by smallish humanoids. Rob and Katmar identified the tracks as belonging to dromites. Following the faint tracks inward, the party found a closed door in the center of the tower and an archway leading into another chamber. Rob and Katmar moved to explore the archway, only to fall prey to another ambush predator, this one considerably more dangerous than the burrowing giant starfish.

Jeremiah identified the creature as a death worm, a savage centipede-like monster with acidic blood and a deadly toxin. Katmar demonstrated the power of the death worm’s acidic blood when he struck a mighty blow with his sawbacked falchion. The monster’s caustic ichor scarred the blade. The party also discovered the creature could spit lightning and was clever enough to use some rudimentary tactics. Still, in the end, the beast was defeated, although several party members had the hurt put on them.

The party took time to heal, thanks largely to St. Allerius, and explored the rest of the ground floor. They found a gnawed dog corpse that still wore a bejeweled collar and a tag that read Kita.

Rob went into stealth mode and explored up the spiral stone stairs behind the door. He heard strange voices on the second and fourth floors from behind doors exiting the stairwell. He heard nothing on the third floor, and did not go up to the fifth since the stairs opened directly into that floor. Rob then returned to report his findings to the rest of the party.

Our heroes moved up to the second floor and rushed the door, catching two dromite guards by surprise. Fortunately, they had forgotten to bar the door. The dromites attacked with psionic heat rays and then switched to swords. Katmar, Rob, and the animal companions Big Red and Tejas made short work of them, but the battled turned more serious when a juvenile two-headed troll burst into the chamber from a connecting room. Katmar bore the brunt of the monster’s claws and fangs. The young giant was defeated and burned to prevent its regeneration.

More injuries were inflicted when the animal companions were caught in a brutal crossbow bolt trap protecting the other door leading out of the dromite guard chamber.

The party expended more healing resources and considered their next move….

Accusations & Exile

After the deaths of Valdus and Kurt, the victory over the Cold Rider and Unseelie Court was followed by weeks of violence and suspicion.

As Takton drew closer to the world, following its course across the heavens, the evil influence in the Four Communities grew stronger. Eruptions of the Dark Current grew more common. The restless dead clawed out of their graves and stalked the towns. The winter came on harsher than most could remember. Heavy, bitterly cold rains swelled the rivers, flooding pastures and turning roads to mud.

Rob, Ebe, and Lindsey had fewer adventures, spending much of this time in and around Shieldmark. The first signs of problems for our heroes came as rumors: Kurt was being posthumously accused of certain crimes, agents of the Recondite Order were asking questions, many of those who arrived in the Four Communities aboard that bus from Arkansas reported that locals were becoming more distant, even hostile.

Then, one morning, the Recondite Order’s tower rose in Shieldmark’s main square, having appeared there during the night. The abbey monks and the Shieldwatch brought the summons to Rob, Ebe, and Lindsey. They and the other “visitors” had been summoned to appear before the Order.

The Recondite Order claimed that whatever magical forces brought the “visitors” to the Four Communities had weakened the barriers between worlds. At the same time, this involuntary transdimensional movement had strengthened the forces of evil and somehow diminished the power of the Tangled Lady. Sages from the Library of the Silver Key confirmed that the Order’s hypothesis could be true. Officers of the Shield Watch and members of the Night Stalkers argued that the “visitors” had not chosen to violate the Eldritch Protocols and that punishment under their provisions was improper. Lindsey eloquently spoke in defense of the heroes, and several people, including Xos testified to the good deeds performed by Rob, Ebe, and Lindsey.

In the end, the Recondite Order refused to pass sentence under the Eldritch Protocols. However, the threat posed by the “visitors” presence could not be ignored. Rob, Ebe, Lindsey, and the other “visitors” were sent into exile.

For the second time in a year, the travelers from Arkansas found themselves displaced against their wills. Plina went with them.

After weeks of travel, much of it perilous, Rob, Ebe, and Lindsey led the other “visitors” across the Witch Hex Swamp and through a mountain pass to reach the coast of a sea. Along the way, one of the “visitors” named Jeremiah proved to be useful if difficult to get along with. Before making the trek across dimensional barriers, Jeremiah had been a military chaplain. The strange forces of the transfer and magic of the new world transformed Jeremiah into a halfling. He has forgotten much of his previous life; what he does remember is more like a strange dream. In the Four Communities, he had developed an affinity for the Knight in Scarlet, becoming a sort of military inquisitor.

Fishermen in a small coastal village told the travelers of several fiefdoms farther along the coast to the east. About a week later, their journey ended with their arrival in Wolverton, capital of Stalos, one of the vassal states to the Landgraaf Eustef Fresleven. Weary of the long voyage, the “visitors” started to settle into new homes and new lives. Perhaps most changed by the region has been Jeremiah, who has become a perhaps too zealous follower of Cymer.

Rob, Ebe, Lindsey, and Jeremiah soon met two locals who’ve become adventuring companions. The first is Katmar, a half-orc fighter who once served as a slave aboard an orcish pirate ship. The other is the pious St. Allerius, a cleric dedicated to furthering the powers of goodness.

Catching Up by Summing Up

I have fallen inexcusably and way behind on campaign log updates. Mea culpa maxima. Here’s a summary:

After defeating the mites in Rozri Ruins, the party headed back west to Shieldmark. Along the way, they spent the night in a roadhouse. In the wee hours of the morning, a sinkhole opened under the roadhouse, dropping the entire building into a small network of caves.

The sinkhole had been caused by a temporary planar flux between the Material Plane and the Shadow Plane. This flux also permitted several shadow goblins and their barghest leader access to the Material Plane. The PCs did fearsome battle with these monsters. Chuck fell in battle against the barghest. The party did liberate the intelligent longsword Yasu from the barghest. Yasu was quite sorry for having been used to strike the fatal blow.

The remaining party reached Shieldmark. Local inquisitor Valdus joined the party, telling Rob of ongoing attempts by a new thieves’ guild — the Hidden Throne — to fix the upcoming softball tourney in Harvest. Rob, fearless defender of softball, sprang into action. Our heroes met with a local crime figure at the Greasy Rat and uncovered information about the Shiv, the Hidden Throne’s local top dog. The heroes also thwarted the Hidden Throne’s attempt to kidnap Shieldmark’s star pitcher.

The Hidden Throne’s trail next led to Harvest. Investigations in town discovered that the bad guys were holed up in an old hunting lodge outside town. Rob and friends assaulted the lodge, defeating the Shiv and discovering that the local sheriff was part of the conspiracy. The PCs also discovered a subterranean complex accessed via the lodge’s fireplace.

The complex turned out to be full of half-drow and drow serving a dark elf cleric who commanded a huge fiendish spider. It turned out the drow ran the Hidden Throne as a way to finance their occult investigations into ways to weaken the Tangled Lady and increase the influence of the Unseelie Court in the Four Communities. All of these investigations were coming to fruition at the Winter Festival near Alfheim whereat something called the Cold Rider would herald the beginning of the end.

Having destroyed the drow menace near Harvest, the party traveled to Alfheim, deep in elf territory. The Winter Festival was a large carnival surrounding a frozen pond. Valdus entered and lost the pie eating contest. Rob and Kurt did quite well with the egg toss. Near sundown, Sir Pirran, a grig knight working with the Recondite Order, contacted Rob and had him rendezvous with Kaet Eluse of the Order.

Kaet told the PCs that the Cold Rider would soon arrive. She gave them potions that rendered them immune to the powerful illusions that the Unseelie Court would use. When our heroes returned to the festival, they saw madness and murder. Evil fey tortured and killed festival-goers, but the powerful illusions hid their crimes from the victims themselves.

The PCs started a running battle, first against the swinomancer, then against a quickling, and then against a gang of frost chiselers who had sealed victims in blocks of ice for use in the ice carving contest. The fight against the chiselers is where things went bad.

Kurt was very nearly drowned when he was caught on the ice with a chiseler, who used its magic powers to surround itself and Kurt in a dome of ice and then opened up the ice into the chilly pond. Just as the party managed to kill the last chiseler and rescue Kurt before he died, the Cold Rider arrived.

In the pitched battle against the Cold Rider, Valdus and Kurt were slain. Sir Pirran assisted in the battle. The Cold Rider and its orc warrior allies were narrowly defeated. Several dozen festival-goers were killed, but the death toll would’ve been much higher had the party failed.

Thus ended the first “chapter” of the campaign. Discussion ensued. It was decided that we had playtested various house rules enough. Also it was decided the using the slow progression XP chart was too slow, especially given the unusually large number of game cancellations we’d experienced over the past couple of months.

When the next “chapter” of the campaign begins, about a year will have passed, and the PCs will have traveled to a new region of the campaign world. More on that later.

The Mite Menace Defeated

Having arrived in Curfang Valley hot on the heels of the refugee mites, the party followed the trail until it reached a natural hole in the ground. With care our heroes descended into a new system of caverns. Here’s a summary of the highlights of this session:

Wasps! Chuck took the lead and promptly stumbled over a tripwire. The tripwire pulled down a hidden pottery jar of largish size. Chuck jumped out of the way, but the jar shattered, unleashing a very startled and angry swarm of wasps. After being stung repeatedly, Chuck races back to the rest of the party with the wasps in pursuit.

Quick thinking by Ebe and Kurt clogged the tunnel with entangling roots. This disrupted the swarm enough to prevent further progress by the wasps. The party retreated from the entangled area to explore another route. After that proved to be a dead end, the heroes returned. The wasp swarm had left the area, flying up through the passage down into the caves.

Ambush! Chuck took the lead again. He discovered a passage leading to a large cave, the first half of which was occupied by a shallow subterranean pond. On the opposite side of the pond could be seen several large stalagmites behind which burned some sort of light source. As the party studied the area, a kobold launched a ranged attack before attempting to retreat by jumping from a concealed ledge to a sizeable rock jutting from out of the pond. Unfortunately, the kobold misjudged the distance and hit the water closer to the party than intended. It never survived to complete its retreat.

From behind the stalagmites, a man-sized goblin revealed itself, attacking with throwing axes. Rob and Ebe slogged through the water while Chuck and Kurt provided ranged weapon cover. The goblin retreated behind cover, but Rob caught up with it and dispatched it after a brief but fierce battle.

Blister Beetles. More tunnels led deeper into the earth. The next cave our heroes entered was littered with the savaged remains of giant bees. While our heroes pondered this strange turn of events, they were ambushed by blister beetles, a type of ferocious, acid-spitting vermin about the size of a man’s leg. The party defeated these monstrous bugs with some minor injuries.

The Blinded Grig. A grig, partially blinded by an earlier blister beetle attack, entered the cave. Kurt and Ebe kept Rob from braining the disabled fey. Kurt made friendly, and the grig revealed that it had been tracking stolen giant bees when he was jumped by mites and blister beetles. He hadn’t made it far into cave system before this attack took place. Kurt negotiated the grig’s release in exchange for a promise to later be provided with giant bee venom.

Black Bile Mushrooms. Leaving the grig behind after resting for a bit, the party pressed deeper into the caves. They came to a drop-off into a large cavern. The cave was oppressively hot and strangely illuminated from an unsteady light source behind several massive columns. Kurt climbed down into the cave. He noticed several patches of black bile mushrooms, a particularly noxious fungus that is extremely sensitive to touch, which causes it to spew forth clouds of toxic spores. Kurt was intent on harvesting some spores. That’s when the pack of blister beetles attacked. One blister beetle was easily twice as large as the others.

Everyone entered the cave, and a pitched battle was waged. The blister beetles proved immune to the black bile spores, but Kurt cleverly exploited the concealement provided by the toxic clouds of spores. After the blister beetles were defeated, the party set about exploring the large cavern. They quickly discovered the oppressive heat became nearly unbearable on the other side of the columns.

Abyssal Pit. On the other side of the columns was a pit of bubbling, impossibly hot liquid that appeared to be water. The heat radiating from the pit was enough to blister flesh. Lindsey identified this phenomenon as an abyssal pit, a rare irruption from a lower plane into the material world. By this time, keen-eared Ebe could also hear faint chanting from the tunnel leading out of the cavern. Our heroes carefully skirted the abyssal pit and stalked toward the chanting.

The Ritual. The tunnel leading away from the abyssal pit opened into the largest cavern yet found. A gaping pit occupied most of the cavern’s floor. The chanting came from within the pit. In the pit were four mites arranged in an arcane circle. On the other side of the pit were Nambrakh, the demon-possessed mite cleric, his spider-riding ranger lackey, and a dark folk.

The battle that raged while the mites chanted their ritual was our heroes’ most fearsome and important fight to date. Rob took the lead against the spider-rider. Chuck and Kurt moved to engage the dark folk and Nambrakh. Ebe and Lindsey provided magical support from the rear. The fight against Nambrakh and the dark folk quickly took a turn for the worse. Nambrakh retreated to unleash waves of negative energy while the dark folk startled hurling acid darts while within a circle of magical darkness. By the time the fight ended, only Rob, Kurt, and Ebe were still standing, and all three of them were seriously injured.

Nevertheless, our heroes had successfully dealt with the mite menace to Rozri Ruins. Lindsey determined that the mites’ ritual was a rare, powerful earthquake spell that would’ve devastated the area and quite probably would have collapsed the mines beneath Rozri Ruins.

Strange Mirrors

Since I’m waay behind on the adventure logs, this is going to be more of a summary hitting the highlights of two or three sessions.

After a little R and R, our heroes returned to the mite complex beneath Rozri Ruins. They quickly determined that the mites had indeed abandoned the complex as Nambrakh had said. Remembering that some mites had retreated into an unexplored section of the complex, the heroes moved in that direction. Instead of lurking mites, Chuck walking point was mobbed by a pack of vicious dire rats. Surrounded and cut off from quick help from the rest of the party, Chuck suffered several minor wounds from the rats’ razor-sharp incisors.

While Rob and Ebe moved to aid Chuck, Lindsey and Kurt peeled off to the left away from the rat fight to ensure that nothing was moving in from that flank. In the process, Lindsey provoked two ankhegs, which scrambled out of their pit lair, spewing acid and snapping their mandibles. What started out as an easily managed fight against dire rats turned into a frantic retreat. Chuck was nearly unconscious by the time Rob hauled him back toward a narrow-doored chamber. Kurt provided cover via crossbow fire. Fortunately for our heroes, rather than pursue the party through the narrow doorway, the ankhegs went after the easier dire rat prey. The party took care of some healing while the ankhegs defeated the dire rats. The party then defeated the somewhat injured ankhegs.

The party then ventured deeper into unexplored territory. They found a flight of ascending stairs leading into an antechamber which sported four elaborately framed mirrors on two walls. Adjacent to this antechamber was a 35-foot square pit that stretched off into darkness. Lindsey and Chuck examined the mirrors while Kurt, Rob, and Ebe went to check out the pit. Chuck noticed nothing unusual about the mirrors, but Lindsey’s keener mind and arcane training determined that two of the mirrors had unusual properties.

Unusual Mirror One: Looking into this mirror, Lindsey didn’t see his reflection, but instead saw a square room that had piles of ruined armor on the floor. Squatting in the center of this room was a metallic beetle the size of a dog. Glowing mirrors lined the chamber’s walls. A corridor led from the chamber to the right, and Lindsey could see that a bright light shone somewhere done that passage.

Unusual Mirror Two: In this mirror, Lindsey saw a beautiful, black-haired woman in a different chamber. She was arguing with a bearded man whose eyes and nose were obscurbed by a black cloak, but no sounds could be heard. Also in the chamber with the woman and the man was a large, toad-like creature who massive maw was filled with horrid fangs. Lindsey indentified this latter creature as a hezrou, a type of powerful demon.

While Lindsey made these unusual discoveries, Rob, Kurt, and Ebe found strange things in the pit. Four glowing sigils were carved on the floor of the pit 20 feet below. A massive humanoid creature apparently made of stone patrolled the pit’s floor. The creature responded when spoken to, but revealed no other information than it was on perpetual guard duty to ensure that no one used the summoning circles. Ebe and Rob skirted the pit to reach a ledge running along one of the pit’s sides away from the mirror room. Once Ebe and Rob were close enough for their light sources to reveal details of the larger chamber on the other side of the pit, they quickly determined movement in that direction was too dangerous to attempt.

The immense chamber’s floor was inscribed with a maze-like pattern of glowing purple lines. A large canine-like creature bristling with horrid spines lunged at Ebe, but apparently was unable to pass the glowing purple lines. Lindsey indentified this monster as a howler, another demonic creature. The stone creature in the pit warned the party that the howler would surely eat them if they weren’t careful. Rather than test this warning’s advice, our heroes turned back toward the site of their confrontation with Nambrakh and his minions.

The party eventually discovered a smallish room obviously intended for use as a bed chamber. A narrow tunnel led out of the room. Rob picked up the mites’ trail in the tunnel, and so the party went in that direction. Chuck in the lead was ambushed by a couple of mites, but these waylayers were quickly killed. The tunnel sloped upward, leading the party to a narrowish, lightly wooded high mountain valley. The party’s resident geography experts determined they were now in Curfang Valley.

A Little R and R

Time to start catching up on campaign events:

After the heroes returned from the mite complex, they split up to take care of various things. Rob, Kurt, and Plina made the trip to the Quarry to sell goods, re-equip, and have some fun. The silversmith Scius agreed to store some loot not easily sold in such a small community.

While in the Quarry, Rob and Kurt met Jeltsje Femke, a gnomish adept who usually lived in the wilderness outside the town. She makes the trip into the Quarry periodically in order to sell or trade potions for necessities. Rob and Kurt picked up a few cure light wounds potions from her.

Rob then went back toward Rozri Ruins while Kurt and Plina stayed in the Quarry for the night. On the way back, Rob met the dwarf Breixo Cibran.

Breixo explained that he is an inquisitor working with the Night Stalkers. He’d heard of troubles in Rozri Ruins and was heading there to investigate. Rob told Breixo about the doppelganger and the mites. He also mentioned Nitloaf’s apparent involvement with the mites, owing to the large quantity of spices from Rozri found in the mite complex.

Rob and Breixo confronted Nitloaf, who was thoroughly intimidated into confessing. Nitloaf claimed that his interests were purely monetary. Nitloaf turned over a portion of his ill-gotten gains and promised to straighten up and fly right.

Breixo suggested that Rob accompany him to meet Isym Koaan in order to tell the Night Stalker foundress about Rozri’s goings-on. Breixo Cibran introduced Rob to Isym. Rob told Isym about their recent fights against the doppelganger and the mites, including the mite cleric. Isym’s expert opinion is that the presence of a doppelganger indicates Unseelie Court activity. This could mean the Dark Folk are involved. The Dark Folk are sinister fey that tend to explode when slain. Isym also thinks that the mite cleric is Nambrakh, a rare exceptional mite rumored to have sold his soul to hellish forces for greater power. Before Rob left Isym’s mountain fastness for Rozri Ruins, Isym gave Rob a masterwork cold iron shortspear.

While Rob and Breixo made the trek higher into the Shield Tors, other events transpired. Ebe enjoyed a quiet time in the mountains with Big Red and Conan, the group’s animal companions. Lindsey dove into the few books taken from the library in the mite complex, including a mouldering wizard’s spellbook. Consequently, Lindsey boosted his arcane knowledge. His examination of the history books taken from the mite complex revealed that the complex was once a secret lair of the Shadow Choir.

According to the Choir’s strange beliefs, reality is comprised of a million “spheres” and each “sphere” is something like a separate universe. This multiverse came into existence when a nameless creator deity fell into a deep slumber. The multiverse and everything in it result from this god’s dreams. For now, the Dreamer’s sleep continues due to the soporific effects of the Drummer’s gentle music. The origins and nature of the Drummer in Choir lore are unclear. The Choir believed that it could influence the Drummer via powerful rituals, thus affecting the Dreamer and, in turn, reality itself. The Choir may have even sought the means to awaken the Dreamer, which could result in the destruction of the multiverse.

Chuck had suffered badly at the poisonous mandibles of monstrous spiders during the first foray into the mite complex. He rested and recuperated under the somewhat slipshod care of Nitloaf. Chuck segued into and out of consciousness frequently. During one of his lucid moments, he awoke to find a strange gnome in his room. This strange gnome said that he had heard Chuck had made inquiries about the thieves’ guild in Shieldmark. The gnome instructed Chuck to go to the Greasy Rat after his return to Shieldmark. Chuck was further told to wear a single glove on his left hand. He would be watched for. If he follows the instructions, said the gnome, a representative of the Six-Fingered Hand would contact him.

After his visit to Isym, Rob returned to the Quarry. Kurt and Plina returned as well. Two days had passed. Chuck was nearly at full strength. It was time for these heroes to descend once again into the mite complex.

Finding Plina

I’ve gotten inexcusably behind on the session logs. It’s time to play some catch up by summarizing two sessions, and then going into a bit more details with third. So, without more delaying, here’s the summary of the two sessions prior to Rozri Ruins Revelations:

Kurt, Rob, Ebe, Chuck, and Lindsey defeated the doppelganger, uncovering it as Joncas’s murderer. The question remains as to what happened to Plina, the halfling cook the doppelganger had replaced before it replaced Kurt.

Kurt revealed that the doppelganger, disguised as Plina, took him by surprise. He regained consciousness in a dark room. After freeing himself from his bonds, he explored via touch. Eventually, he discovered the catch to open the secret door and found himself in a basement. The room the doppelganger had kept him was smallish, but led to a sharp decline heading deeper into the mountain on which Rozri Ruins sits. Rather than risk exploring on his own, Kurt exited the basement, alerted the miners, and traveled into the mines to warn his comrades that he had been replaced by a shapeshifter.

Recognizing the need for haste, the heroes journeyed down the secret room’s decline. They found themselves a couple hundred feat underground playing the roles of unwanted intruders in an ancient complex infested by mites and their giant spider allies. Over the next half hour or so, the adventurers engaged in an on-again, off-again running battle against the mites. Chuck in particular proved rather inept at defending himself against giant spiders and their venom.

A necessary delay to regroup and rest inadvertantly gave the mites time to launch attacks on two fronts, catching the party in between a few mites and two spider swarms and the mites’ power leaders, a giant spider riding warrior and a cunning cleric. The heroes inflicted heavy losses on the mites, but Rob, Lindsey, and Chuck fell in battle against the ranger and cleric after those three adventurers became separated from Ebe, Kurt, and the two animal companions, Big Red and Conan.

The mite cleric parleyed with Ebe, negotiating an exchange. The cleric turned over the captured heroes and Plina in exchange for time to vacate the premises with his remaining followers.

Achieving a somewhat Pyrrhic victory, the heroes limped from the mite complex back to the surface. It would take two days for all of them to fully recover from their ordeal, especially Chuck, who had all but been paralyzed by repeated exposure to spider venom.

Joncus Is Dead!

Shortly after talking to Todd, the dinner scene was interrupted by a dwarven miner becoming noisily ill. By this time, Kurt was gone to “rendezvous” with Plina. A few inquiries revealed that several miners were experiencing gastric distress recently.

Rob asked the other two cooks, Agey and Tolla, to see the food preparation and storage areas. The latter were in a cellar beneath the kitchens. There in the cistern was discovered the decomposing body of Joncus Foann, the missing Shield Watch messenger. The lad had been dead at least a couple of days, it seemed. The halfling cooks had not noticed the body since it had been wrapped in a dark tarp and weighted, and also because they seldom removed the cistern’s cover, instead pulling up water via a rope and bucket.

Suspicion immediately fell upon Scius Koak, the silversmith who had last seen Joncus alive. Further examination of the body determined Joncus had died from a severe blow to the head, which reminded the adventurers of the attack on Vot allegedly perpetrated by Todd Evans. Rob took charge of the scene. He got mine leader Banns Kalst to agree to confine Scius and Todd. He sent Chuck to fetch Kurt from Plina’s. Agey went along as guide.

While they were gone, Rob and Lindsey had made further inquiries about the situation at Rozri Ruins. They learned that Plina usually handled matters in the cellar. They also learned that a local called Nitloaf ran the company store and never ate in the mess hall. Kurt, Agey, and Chuck returned. It was decided that Nitloaf and Plina needed to be interviewed. Kurt protested in the latter case, claiming that Plina was “too tired, if you know what I mean.” The others overruled Kurt. Chuck left to fetch Nitloaf. Rob and Kurt went to fetch Plina. Lindsey and Ebenezer stayed in the cellar.

Chuck found Nitloaf leaving the company store. Nitloaf was an unpleasant fellow, both in terms of his personality and atrocious personal hygiene. Chuck bullied Nitloaf into fetching the company store’s ledgers. Linsdey was certain that something nefariously capitalist was afoot.

Meanwhile, Kurt and Rob arrived at Plina’s. Kurt entered through the front while Rob kept watch on the street. After a short time, there was a crash, and Kurt cried out in alarm. Rob rushed in to find Kurt sprawled on the floor, rubbing the back of his head. He claimed that Plina had clocked him and run out the back door. Rob gave chase at once. Despite his prowess as a tracker, however, he could find no trail.

Rob and Kurt searched Plina’s chamber. Under the bed, they found a hidden crawlspace. It was empty except for a Shield Watch badge. A quick check confirmed that Joncus’s corpse did not have a badge among its effects. Agey and Tolla expressed strong disbelief that Plina could be a killer. They’d known her for years, and the three had moved to Rozri from Harvest to cash in on the recent silver find.

The adventurers first went to the cave entrance surrounded by ancient stones. Despite advice to the contrary, Chuck was certain he could manage the climb down into the cave. To his credit, he made it half way down before slipping and falling. The sudden stop at the end of the fall rendered Chuck unconscious. Rope was fetched, and Kurt bravely volunteered to make the descent. After securing Chuck to be hauled back to the surface, Kurt quickly searched the area. Once topside, he reported that he found nothing of note. Given the muddy ground, it seemed unlikely that Plina could’ve went down into the cave without leaving tracks.

By now, it was quite late. Chuck was seriously hurt. The adventurers decided to call it a night. After resting, the adventurers would investigate the site where Vot was attacked.

Chuck was fine in the morning thanks to rest and magical healing. The adventurers met with Vot, and made the trip down into the mines. Vot explained that miners were essentially independent contractors. A miner received a share of any silver mined. That share had to be shared among the miner’s partners, if any. Not wanting to share his share, Vot preferred to mine alone, off the beaten path away from the other miners.

At the place where Vot was attacked, the gnome explained that he had been working when he was clouted from behind. He came to and wandered in a bit of daze until other miners found him. No, he didn’t see who hit him, but he was sure it was Todd. A search of the area revealed two things. First, the full extent of the mines and natural caves appeared rather large. Two, Ebenezer noticed a small, crudely fashioned statuette. Upon study, the group determined that the figure represented the evil aspect of the Dweller.

Not sure what else to do, the group started back toward the surface. Along the way, Kurt’s animal companion, the tiger-like Conan, stopped, obviously disturbed. It appeared to be focused on something ahead of the party. Ebenezer and Rob moved forward cautiously to investigate. Ebenezer heard something moving around the bend. Then, Conan attacked Kurt!

Fearing an ambush, Rob moved forward. Ebenezer stayed put. Linsdey and Chuck readied themselves for a fight. To their surprise, Kurt grew savage claws and rendered Conan unconscious with two vicious swipes!

Meanwhile, Rob had advanced enough to see figures moving down the tunnel. The lead figure was larger than the rear figures, but shadowed by the backlighting.

“Halt! Who goes there?” Rob said.

“It’s me,” said the lead figure, “Kurt.”

Thereafter, a fierce battle took place, pitting the five adventurers against the evil fey doppelganger that had been impersonating Kurt since his “rendezvous” with Plina, who wasn’t really Plina at all. Through sheer determination and teamwork, the adventurers defeated the monster.


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