Dragonscale - Elemental Evil

The Lord of Lance Rock gets his comeuppance
Clearing out caves has never been such fun

After spending some time recovering and ensuring the corpses and hands were put beyond the ability to raise them again, the group moved into the passage that the Zombies with the pole-arms came out of when they were trying to escape the cavern the previous day. Taking note of the scrapes and damage to the limestone walls indicating heavy traffic through this tunnel, they moved cautiously, ready to defend themselves. The tunnel opened up into a vast cavern set up as a morgue/surgical workshop of some sort with some rather odd features.

The cavern had 4 stone slabs laid out along its left hand edge. Each slab looked like a tombstone suspended on a wooden frame to make a table of some sort. Lying on each of these makeshift stone tables was a cadaver, each in various states of decay and dismemberment. Around the stone tables were baskets full of gory body parts and between the 3rd and 4th tables, with it’s back to the party was a hooded, robed figure stitching a body laid in front of it. Along the right wall was a pathway up a cliff face, high on the wall (which seemed climbable) and along the back of the cavern was a rack of 4 full, human skeletons, hanging between a pool of clear water and a blue curtain, slung between one wall of the cavern and another, suspended on brass poles and a rod. The curtain looked like it covered a section of the cavern but none of the party could see beyond it. There seemed to be a set of stairs by the curtain, seemingly leading to the cliff path. In front of the curtain was a bench that had laid out on it various tools and surgical implements, pristine and obviously cared for, organised by function and size in a very precise manner. A jug of grain alcohol and a bowl of embalming fluid sat on the other table on the left of the cave.

Worried that these bodies may animate (and wondering if the robed figure was the Lord of Lance rock), the party moved into the cavern and spread out. Erik hung back in the entryway, ready to escape (as he was the most injured), Zydrunas moved towards the nearest slab and the girls moved along the right hand side of the cave where the cliff face ran, hoping to provide support should Zydrunas ‘wake the dead’. Zy picked up the body on the slab and took it to the nearest basket, ducking it head-first into the basket in an effort to make it difficult for it to ‘rise up’ on him later.

Body-dunking done, Zy started proceedings by shouting at the robed figure, losing the element of surprise for the party in a typically Bryan moment,

“Oi, dogtits! Where’s the party at?”

Looking over it’s shoulder briefly, the hooded figure turned to finish it’s stitching slowly then turned and hissed something low and unintelligible at the party. While it looked like a human man, there was no way to be sure as the robe covered the face effectively. Zydrunas moved as if to approach the figure to unmask him when Erik interrupted,

“Don’t put yourself at risk, Zy. Allow me”

and with that Erik used a ‘Mage Hand’ spell to remove the hood from the figure’s head.
The figure was a human male with a pale, bluish skin tint, clouded eyes and lips stitched shut with a thick leather cord. It was trying to speak to the group, but the bound lips were preventing it from being heard,

“Mssssstrrrrrrrrr!” it spat, making no move to attack the intruding adventurers.
Seeing a creature in potential pain and needing to question it, Myrtle carefully approached, couching her dagger where she could easily defend herself if needs be. Indicating to the figure that she meant no harm as she approached, she offered to unbind the man’s lips.

The man bowed down a little, offering his face to the halfling who went through her pack, retrieved her shears and used them to cut the cords. The cord had sigils running all around them but cut easily enough. Once freed from it’s bondage, the figure stretched its lips and shouted it’s sentence over it’s shoulder towards the back of the cave,

“Maaaasterrrr! Indtruuuderrrsss!”,

before starting to babble an endless stream of nonsense about surgical procedures, anatomical facts and names of tools at Myrtle, seemingly without aggression towards her. Lerissa advanced further into the cave, hoping to head off any danger and to get past the robed figure before he started to block their progress while Erik and Zy looked out for the obvious Zombie attack from the slabs that was not coming. The party got ready for a fight.

While Zy was fixated on the bodies on the slabs and Myrtle was interested in the hooded figure’s ravings, Erik noticed the rack of skeletons at the back of the cave moving a little unnaturally. Realising this was similar to what had happened in the chiller room, he shouted, “Skeletons!” to the group and a fight began.

Zydrunas put away his axe the started to run at the Skeletons. Erik prepared his spells, Myrtle went for her crossbow and Lerissa moved to support her Halfling friend. The 4 Skeletons split into two groups, one group heading straight for Myrtle and one group headed towards Zydrunas. As Zy approached his group, he grabbed a cadaver from a slab and used his momentum to slam it into the advancing Skeletons (who just sliced it in two, leaving Zy holding half a body by its arms). Sarah managed to balance a zombie figure on the figure for Zydrunas so it looked life the half orc figure was actually swinging around the body! Genius!

The other group harried Myrtle and Erik shot firebolts at them, damaging the skeletons but not stopping them. Lerissa moved to help Myrtle, leaping onto the tool-filled table and using her dexterity to flick, kick and shove various tools and implements at the skeletons surrounding Myrtle. A skillful kick on a bone saw saw it slice through a skeleton’s neck allowing Myrtle time to fire her crossbow into the eye socket of her second assailant, sending it’s skull into the blue curtain beyond. As the curtain moved under the force of the impact, it briefly revealed the shape of another zombie dog, advancing toward the curtain from the other side.

The hooded man, still blabbering medical nonsense, started to go around the cavern upending the baskets of body parts. While the party ignored him, he carried on moving to each basket and emptying it. The purpose to this would become clear to the group shortly.

With two skeletons down and two more attacking Zy, the party started to notice why the baskets were being upended. Crawling out of the baskets was more crawling claws, similar to the claws seen in the star-shaped cavern. Myrtle pinned one to the floor with her quarterstaff as it extracted itself from the basket while Lerissa picked up picks, awls, scalpels and other sharp objects from the table she was stood on and pelted another with the tools, killing it before it had chance to leap up at her. The hooded figure continued emptying baskets and was trying to extract the body Zy had dunked earlier.

For his part, Zy found himself unable to defend himself properly with his fleshy bludgeon and was being severely injured by his bony assailants so he threw the remaining piece of torso at the skeletons he was facing, spinning as he unslung his axe. A mighty blow caught the first skeleton off-guard and it exploded in a shower of bone shards all over it’s companion. Flying into a barbarian rage, Zy threatened his remaining skeleton with his more effective axe.

While Zy dealt with the remaining Skeleton, Erik spotted the crawling claws near him and ran for the safety of Lerissa and Myrtle on the other side of the cave. The girls advanced to help Zy and to deal with the hooded man. As Myrtle dealt with yet another claw and advanced on the hooded man, Erik headed down the cliff side of the chamber to take up a clear shooting position only to have the zombie dog leap off the cliff path from it’s hidden location down towards Erik. Forced to run again, Erik fled this new threat towards the hooded man, blindly firing his spells behind him as he ran to no effect. Seeing the new threat, Myrtle got the dog’s attention and put a bolt in it. Erik forgotten, the zombie dog rounded on Myrtle and leapt to attack.

Zydrunas felled his last skeleton in a mighty blow. Lerissa joined Myrtle in harassing the dog, hoping to keep it from eating the already injured halfling and give their Barbarian time to blindside the dog. Meanwhile, Erik was struggling to fend of the robed man, who was simply trying to grab him and hold him in place to be a victim for the final claw. Both Erik and the hooded man were weak, however, and from the other side of the cavern it looked like these two figures were having a nerdy slap-fight over a handbag or playing a child’s game of ‘keep-away’. At this stage Bry halted the game and illustrated the fight Erik was having by showing a YouTube video of two cats playing what looked like ‘Patty-Cake’ to the amusement of all the players around the table.

Picking back up with the next combat round, Myrtle defended herself from the dog, Lerissa stabbed it and Zydrunas ran in, blindsiding the beast and cleaving it in two. Threat neutralised, the team moved to help Erik fend off the claw and the robed man.
As Lerissa approached the claw jumped onto her but between Myrtle and Zy the claw was plucked and wrung out like a gory sponge. The hooded figure was put out of his misery and the team wasted no time collecting the bodies and torching the baskets of gory bits just in case. With Myrtle and Zy now on low health, and nobody able to rest effectively (all having used their Hit Dice already), the party opened the curtains and looted the chamber in the hope of finding something useful to heal with.

Behind the curtain lay a waiting room of some kind. Adorning the floor was a red rug (which
Dee refused to have Erik step foot on and both Sarah and Sara followed suit, drawing amused exasperation from Bry. For details on why Dee avoids red carpets please see the document, “a Dungeons and Dragons Odyssey”), a dining table carrying an open book and some writing materials, a bench and some iron shackles. The bottom of the stairs to the cliffside path lay here as well as an exit deeper into the cavern. While Zy climbed onto the path to explore (finding a release lever and a brick-hole showing the boulder trap room that Myrtle almost lost her life in earlier), Erik flipped through the book on the table and saw it was an unfinished treatise on anatomy, apparently being penned by the Lord of Lance Rock himself. Pocketing the materials, Erik avoided the rug again and got ready to leave. Myrtle saw that the shackles has been used to chain up something with putrefied flesh (some of the flesh still present on the iron rings) and Zydrunas defiantly walked onto the rug to prove it wasn’t a trap…….and promptly tripped on the rug edge briefly knocking himself out in the resulting fall.

Using the opportunity to rest a moment, the group brought Zy around, rearmed themselves and moved deeper into the tunnel beyond the cavern. This tunnel split into two and choosing to split up the group found it rejoined only to make a hard right-hand turn before splitting again. Electing to stay together this time the group headed down the left tunnel and found themselves at a large, square chamber decked out like a study-cum-bedroom complete with chest, dressing table and bookshelves dominated by a circular stone plinth in the center of the room. The walls had more blue curtains around them and the plinth held a glass orb upon it, some sort of fiery energy swirling around inside it.

Seeing no obvious way to advance the party split their attentions over several features in the room. Myrtle went for the chest, Lerissa and Erik made for the dresser table and Zy approached the orb on its plinth. In the chest were neatly folded clothes, mainly robes, and a clean traveller’s pouch. On the dresser was make up and a small table mirror. Erik gave the mirror to Lerissa and moved to see what was in the chest with Myrtle. As Zydrunas approached the shone plinth, a light shone around the runic inscriptions around the edges of it’s top, focusing into a burst of light on the side he was approaching from. Warily, he continued to approach, noticing a swirling eye inside the globe of glass, only to have a burning flash of light leap from the plinth towards him. Ducking out of the way just in time, Zy backed off only to hear the voice of the Lord of Lance Rock who was also in the room with them somewhere,

“Don’t you see it? The Eye! The Eye is wonderful, terrible. The eye is all powerful! Don’t you want to bow down in worship?”

Dismissing the question, Zy had a wicked idea.

Taking the mirror from Lerissa, Zy resolved to reflect the light blast from the plinth to hit the orb. Taking aim with the glass, Zy started to advance once more, his intent clear. The blast came a second time, nearly scorching Zy’s fingers as they held the mirrored surface. The beam reflected, almost burning down one of the blue curtains at the back of the room. Before Zy could set up for another attempt, Erik stopped him, pointing out for a second time,

“Why put yourself at risk? Let me.”

Using his Mage Hand spell, Erik lined up the glass from a distance and Zy moved forwards behind the mirror to trigger a third blast of light. The beam came but instead of hitting Zy, it hit the mirror Erik was holding aloft with his magic, reflecting perfectly at the glass orb that it was clearly protecting. The beam struck the orb, pushing it off it’s housing and off the back of the plinth. As it hit the ground and shattered into glass shards, the orb pulsed a blast of bright light, almost blinding the party. At this point the Lord of Lance Rock, having heard his precious orb destroyed, leapt out from his hiding place behind one of the curtains, magic wand in hand.

The fight was very short. The Lord of Lance rock fired upon Erik and Myrtle using his wand of magic missiles, dropping the Halfling but somehow failing to take the rival spellcaster down, too. Zydrunas and Lerissa advanced, but half blinded by the flash, neither could effectively take down the Necromantic nuisance. Lerissa opted to climb onto the plinth to gain the high ground and, boxed in as he was, the Lord of Lance rock met his demise without being able to use his wand a second time.

After dealing with Myrtle and ensuring she was OK, the group turned their attention once more to the Lord himself. Talking great care to apply a steadily increasing amount of pressure to the unconscious human’s skull, Zydrunas took great pleasure in slowly cracking it open until he was sure that this cave-dwelling Necromancer was no more. Looking through the Lord’s things, gathering up his diary and the glass fragments of the orb, the group decided to hunker down here to rest and recover from their trials.

While resting, the party read through the Lord’s diary. This was an interesting read, telling a story of a Waterdhavian noble ostracised by his family and striking out alone to perfect his dark craft and carve out a territory of his own. It was clear that this, Oerieth, started by finding this cave, finding bodies from burials or natural deaths and then came across a battleground between some monks and some blue armoured warriors (the same warriors Zy was looking for). Taking their bodies and selling their kit in local places for food and tools, it wasn’t long before Oerieth progressed to having to kill to gain fresh bodies to work with. He was obviously writing about anatomy and could have been an excellent surgeon but instead he chose this dark path. About a month ago, Oerieth stopped writing so extensively in his journal, instead making notes of bodies and experiments in brief notes before ceasing to record anything at all. No note of the Orb was ever made in the journal.

Resolving to return to Red Larch and turn over the evidence and cadaver locations to the constable and his men, the party made plans to return to Kayleesa at the Swinging Sword and tell her that they’d dealt with the evil at Lance Rock as she requested. What shenanigans will the party get up to once they return to Red Larch? Were the Monks that Oerieth got some of his bodies from the same Monks that were at the Swinging Sword? Who are the Knights in Blue? What was the Eye and where did Oerieth get it?
Find all of this out as our adventure continues (likely in 2017).

View
Tactical retreat from Lance Rock
Or how to wipe out your own party

So, in this session we see a nearly total party kill (TPK), a rarity in my games. The best bit? It wasn’t even from damage dished out by my monsters…..

The session started with the party recovering from the rockfall trap, spending time getting Myrtle Bullroarer up and about whilst guarding the only way into their area. While they expected trouble, none came and they were able to spend time helping the concussed halfling to her feet. Mobile and armed, the party decided a tactical retreat may be in order and discussed plans to retreat but Myrtle pointed out that she had a crossbow and wanted to stick it to the filthy human Lord of Lance rock as soon as possible!

Cautiously advancing back to the star-shaped cavern, the party came across ‘the Bear’ and the dancer, now armed and stood blocking their escape. The party carefully filed in, taking care not to trigger any reprisals from the two figures preventing their withdrawal but in the darkness of another passage behind them, Erik Deville detected the presence of two more zombie figures, seemingly with polearms of some kind. Caught between two potential assailants the party decided to break out and went for the Zombie performers at full pelt.

Combat was furious and bloody with Zydrunas leading the charge on the Bear costumed Zombie, defending himself from it’s fearsome looking claws. Unfortunately the dancer (now sporting a pair of lithe fencing swords) used the opening Zy gave her to bury her blades into the half-orc’s midriff, almost causing him to collapse in pain from the wounds but his barbarian rage mounted, exploding forth unbidden for the first time and renewing Zy with the energy to fight.

Erik, seeing Zy in danger, used a Fire spell on the Bear costumed zombie, hoping to allow Zy to focus on the dancer but Zy stepped into the way at the last moment and took the full brunt of the Sorcerer’s spell! Zy’s vision clouded, his mind almost lost to the inky blackness of unconsciousness but the red rage of the barbarian burned even hotter from the incompetence of the attack and he resolved to carry on now and collapse later, hopefully with his hands around the Sorcerer’s scrawny elf neck!

Despite the near disaster of dropping their own big hitter by accident, the party continued the fight. Seeing their instructed target, the two zombies in the dark passage stepped out into the cavern and tried to us some kind of blunted bident tools on long poles to ensnare the Sorcerer and prevent him from casting spells. Fighting one off, Erik got pinned by the other and while he could cast spells, he could no longer move freely as the unholy strength of the Zombie who had pinned his neck was difficult to resist.

With Lerissa trying to distract the dancer from attacking Zy and Myrtle moving into the cave to get a clear shot at the bear, an exit was cleared quickly by the trio. With Zy about to lose consciousness and Myrtle still heavily injured a withdrawal was in order. Looking around as they made to leave, the party looks back to find that Erik was now pinned in place by both zombies, who were trying to drag him away.

Hesitating for a moment, Zy raised his axe high and ran at the Zombie pinning Erik’s neck. Erik dropped to the floor to make it harder for the Zombies to move him and to let Zy catch a better view of his chosen target. Lerissa moved in swiftly to stab the second Zombie Magecatcher, stabbing it successive times before the Zombie could eact and Myrtle, feeling the need for fresh air and restful sleep, let fly at Lerissa’s target with her crossbow. Unfortunately, Myrtle was still woozy from her concussion and her aim wasn’t good, burying her bolt in Lerissa’s back rather than the Zombie’s chest as was intended.

With three of the party severely injured and escape now a priority to avoid the whole group becoming fodder for the Lord of Lance rock’s now empty corpse larder, the party redoubled their attacks taking risks to end the fight as quickly as they could. Erik crawled away, shooting spells from the ground as best he could as he tried to regain his feet while the other’s covered him. Zy’s rage was enormous and the Zombies were no match for the adrenaline of the fearful party.

Assailants all dropped and all party members surviving (for now), the party made a swift getaway, leaving Lance Rock to make camp nearby where they could watch the comings and goings from the cave. Once in camp, most of the group collapsed from exertion, leaving Erik alone to tend wounds and see to the first watch.

Overnight the party saw no activity in the cave but a giant feathered flyer of some sort flew over the camp, leaving a feather behind as it wheeled about. None of the paty could see it but as the party had thought to dull their fire, chances were they, too, had not been seen. What was overhead? Zy thought it a Roc, the size of the wingbeats seeming so large, Lerissa though otherwise, telling the others the waxy feather feels like it belongs to something more beastly live a Hippogriff, Chimera or Manticore. Erik inspected the feather and after finding traces of elemental air magic upon it he decided to store it for later use.

In the morning, the party set up for a return raid on Lance rock’s caverns. Feeling refreshed, if a bit battered from yesterday’s trials, they pushed on, cautiously looking for traps and guards put in place overnight. They weren’t to be disappointed.

The body the part left in the first cave was missing, dragged away deeper into the cave for some unknown reason. They put their guard up, and advanced deeper towards the domed room. Here they stopped, suspecting more zombies awaiting them on the shelf above but while they debated action they heard odd breathing, coming from inside the room. Suspecting something was hiding behind the stone platform, the party threw in some magical light then advanced cautiously to flank whatever may be hiding. Zy was so eager to attack he struck his axe on the shelf above by accident, distracting Lerissa with the sudden noise who then, in turn, took a fall over the broken remains of the rock-box from their earlier foray through this area.

On her face and vulnerable, Lerissa didn’t like what came next. A zombie dog padded out from behind the stone platform with a scroll between it’s teeth bearing the same markings that triggered the magic mouth they had found in the rockfall room. Expecting attack, the party readied themselves until he dog just calmly sat down, offering the scroll to any brave enough to take it.

Puzzled by this turn of events (surely this guardian was here to prevent them coming back?) the party stopped, unsure of what to do next, until Lerissa got to her feet as the dog approached her. Seeing no reason to not satiate her curiosity about the scroll, she gingerly took it from the dead, dog’s mouth, triggering the magic mouth spell on the scroll in the process.

The scroll’s mouth boomed a warning from the Lord of Lance rock, telling them to leave lest he use his foul magics to make them serve him! The dog took up an aggressive stance, calming somewhat when Lerissa retreated and the party looked to be leaving. Tired of inaction, Zy and Myrtle let rip on the dog, who seemed most interested in biting Erik. Zy used the dog’s chosen target against it, ensuring that as the dog leapt at the Sorcerer, Zy’s axe could bite before it did. Dog jumped, axe came down, dog was practically split in two. That’s what you get for ignoring Zy’s axe. Erik, and the party, were safe it seemed.

With the dog’s internal cavity now on display thanks to Zy’s mighty axe swing, the party saw a scroll buried in dog where internal organs should have been. Using magic hands to extract the scroll, untie it and read it, Erik kept the scroll at a distance from the party. After all, this could be a trap. Erik’s caution was rewarded when the scroll boomed another pompous warning from the Lord of lance rock then exploded in a shower of acid! Most of the party escaped unsplashed but Zy had gotten a little too close and took a few splashes of weak acid to his arms. Other than Zy, the only other thing to take the acid trap was the stone platform itself……and this dissolved the remaining bloodstain, revealing the symbol beneath at long last!

The symbol seemed to be that of an eye in a stepped platform with four runic symbols arranged beneath it. None of the group recognised what the symbols meant but they had seen one of the four symbols before on the travelling book taken from the Monk at the Inn! Something odd was going on here. After sketching the symbols out onto the parchment the dog has been carrying in it’s mouth the party moved on to the star shaped cavern.

No costumed zombies greeted them this time. instead, arranged around the cavern and lying face down and stripped naked, were the bodies of all the zombies they had thus far slain. A grotesque reminder of what they had to do to get this far already. Sensing something was up, the party advanced cautiously and were again surprised when the bodies didn’t come to life, explode or otherwise attack. Getting close enough to see properly (but not close enough to be grabbed), Zy inspected the nearby bodies – they were definitely the zombies they’d already (re)killed as you could see the wounds inflicted on them clearly. All the zombies seemed to have 1 extra injury, however – they all had their left arms separated at the elbow but arranged in place as to appear to be attached. Myrtle climbed the walls, sensing a trick. Zy let the others into a nearby branch of the cave with Lerissa walking backwards, keeping an eve on the bodies.

Zy led the group down a dead end. Before they could about-face the party’ felt something was off – it felt like a trap. In the near dark, Lerissa almost missed it but when Erik said to her, “did those hands move?” they realised that the hands were crawling across the floor towards them, without the bodies they were originally attached to! Trapped at the back of the dead-end, Zy hung his now useless axe and prepared for “Hand-to-Hand combat” (geddit?! Hand to hand?! :) ) but it was Lerissa and Erik that took the brunt of the crawling hand’s attack.

The fight was messy. Unable to use their larger weapons, hampered as they were by the narrow branch of the cave, Lerissa and Erik resorted to knives as hand leapt up at their throats and crawled up their clothes. Seemingly out of immediate danger (hanging off the walls of the cave) Myrtle was saddened to realise that these hands could climb, two of them electing to follow her route up the limestone walls. Unable to effectively defend herself while climbing, Myrtle chose to jump, turning with her staff in mid-air to swat the hands off the wall as they gave chase. Her aim was true, and the hands were batted away into the sidewalls of the cavern, curling up like drowned spiders as they landed.

Lerissa and Erik dispatched their assailants with swift knife work and as they looked for more targets they moved into the cave to give Zy some room to move. One hand remained, and it leapt at Lerissa’s throat as she was on the way into the main cavern. Zy, boxed in throughout the brief fight and ready to hit something, saw the hand jump. Lerissa ducked. The hand missed. Zy started running at it. Having calculated the hand’s trajectory perfectly, Zy got to it before it hit the floor, volleying the hand with a mighty kick that send it flying down another branch of the cavern, never to be seen again. Who knew half-orcs could play soccer?

With Lerissa injured slightly but the party all still capable and looking for vengeance, the gang regroup and start selecting another cavern branch to go down. One way or another, the Lord of Lance rock is going to pay for messing with them!

View
Dancers and Jesters and Bears (oh my!)
Urination, devastation and consternation at Lance Rock

Our session started innocently enough, with the party resting to allow Zydrunas time to regain his faculties after being brained by the box of Rocks, but this idle time led the group into doing some odd spring cleaning. Let me explain…….

In the dome shaped cave the party were resting in, there was a natural, low stone slab with a large dark blood stain on it, presumably left from multiple sacrifices. Thinking there may be a clue underneath the bloodstain the party resolved to scrub it off and reveal what may be underneath. The only other things the party noticed about the cave was the faint sounds of jingling bells and forced laughter coming from a narrow corridor in the left wall of the cave, and the total lack of sound from the right hand passage.

Lacking any cleaning materials and instead of using lots of precious water and materials, our ‘Noble’ Tiefling Lerissa, under instruction on the properties of Uric acid from the sorcerous Erik Deville (*whose magic had failed to move the stain), simply decided to drink heavily and relieve her bladder on the stain to assist in removal. A few embarrassed moments later (with Zydrunas watching the whole thing from the corner of the cave where he was making as much noise as possible by sharpening his axe) the party managed to scrub enough blood to reveal some sort of picture of symbol. The partially revealed sigil wasn’t recognisable to the party (was is a rune? a map, a coat of arms? None knew) so they moved on, deciding on the quiet corridor on the right.

Moving into the corridor ready for trouble the party came across a smaller, rectangular room with odd pegs and rails installed along it’s sides. Hanging on the rails were 12 corpses in various states of dress and decay, everything from skeletal remains to fresh cadavers. The smell of decay was absent in this room and the temperature was artificially colder than the rest of the cavern thus far, but only once you were inside the room. While Erik was investigating the source of this chilling effect and smell repression the rest of the party moved to investigate/identify (and loot) the bodies. While rifling though the bodies, the skeletal remains animated. Erik was apart from the main group and saw the skeletons come to life, his shouted warning enough to call the group to action quickly enough to not be surprised and the party found themselves under close assault from the brittle fingers of these reanimated bones.

The fight was short and brutal with the party quickly realising that blades weren’t going to help in the close quarters. Using staffs and bits of armour torn from the other corpses, the party proceeded to beat the skeletons down. Myrtle Bullroarer knocked a skull clean off it’s body (leading to another skeleton picking up the skull to use as an improvised weapon) and at one point, Zydrunas even tossed his axe to the skeleton he opposed, using the moment the skeleton caught his massive axe and tried to work out how to use it in the close confines of this creepy wardrobe of corpses to rusk the hapless pile of bones, lift him bodily and hurl it over Lerissa’s head directly into the skeleton she was fighting.

Before long the party were victorious, a mixture of bludgeoning and Firebolts saving the day. Lerissa looted a messenger pouch from one of the corpses and Erik set about burning all the other copses to ash lest any more decide to animate and attack.

Inside the pouch was a letter written in absolute gobbledeygook on a vellum sheet is elegant, yet scratchy, script. Obviously ciphered, the party moved to the blank parchment found with the vellum in the pouch for clues. One of the sheets was obviously chemically treated somehow and under advice from Lerissa, the party concluded the cipher was likely hidden on that apparently blank parchment somehow. Storing the pouch for later study, the party moved back to the domed room and pushed on down towards the sounds of the bells they’d heard earlier.

The bells and laughter had stopped. Perhaps the sounds of combat or Zy sharpening his axe had warned off the laughing, jingling people. Edging down the thin passageway, taking note of the fabric scraps and dried blood found caught on the naturally spiky sides of the narrowing corridor, the party found themselves in a larger, crooked star shaped cavern with a lower ceiling. The artificial light cast by Myrtles ensorcelled staff revealed many branches to the star, snaking away from the central cave in all directions and three motionless figures in the centre of the cave itself: A Jester (replete with bells), a Bear and a female dancer in large skirts and heavy make-up. When the bemused party approached, the three figures sprung to life – the Jester larking about and trying (and failing) to juggle, the Bear (seemingly a man in a good costume) moving back and forth shouting a fake “Rawr!” and the dancer pirouetting and laughing in a forced, almost mechanical way. These figures were obviously under the influence of magic somehow, and were not acting naturally at all.

After the jester dropped his juggling balls (but carried on the motion of juggling anyway) and the dancer approached Lerissa stating “Oh! A Bear! Won’t someone save us from this creature?” (a line prompting the ‘Bear’ to comically chase after the dancer with fake claws raised and “Rawr!” aplenty) the party got a good look at the faces of two of the figures – these were Zombies in costume, acting out some sort of instruction or grotesque pantomime. The Jester, after letting Myrtle get to his (juggling) balls, started to retreat into one of the star branches. Baffled by this display, the party casually pursued the fleeing, laughing figure.

Following the Jester-zombie up a steady incline debating what to do with these unnatural but seemingly harmless creatures, the party simply followed the Jester’s lead and headed up the incline, the jester ringing rows of bells lining the uphill corridor as he laughed his way to the top. Getting sick of this behaviour and not entirely trusting the Jester’s actions, Myrtle took aim with her crossbow as the Jester reached the top of the incline and fired before they could lose sight of him. Hitting dead centre, the bolt threw the Jester onto his back, where he kept laughing unnaturally at the party, seeming unperturbed by the injury. Zy rushed up the passage, delivering a killing blow or three with his mighty boot, silencing the Jester for good.

With the rest of the party catching Zy up, they discovered that at the top of this corridor was a small round chamber with three tables inside. On top of each table was an iron bound chest. Deducing that this was where the Jester was leading them the party nervously took a chest each with only Erik staying near the door, looking for wards, magical runes and such around the chamber entryway. A pair of curious eyes watched the party from a dark hold in the wall opposite the entryway and when Zydrunas spotted the watcher, Erik simultaneously found the runes for a Magic Mouth spell. These activated showing a painted par of lips which spoke in a voice that filled the small chamber,
“You dare to pit yourselves against the Lord of Lance Rock? Die, you fools!”
And with that, a mechanical, grating noise followed by a hidden gate of iron bars started to fall into the cavern entrance, trying to seal the characters in as trapdoors above disgorged tons of boulders to crush the party.

Exploding into action, Zy dived for the outer walls hoping to avoid the falling rocks. Myrtle and Lerissa dived under the tables for cover. Erik rolled under the falling grate and out onto the corridor. Rocks fell. Fortunately nobody died.

Once the dust settled it was clear that while Lerissa had sustained injury, the party halfling had taken a severe blow, knocking her unconscious. With Zy and Eriok working together to raise the grate and Lerissa administering First aid to the fallen Myrtle, the party worked to get their companion somewhere safe and comfortable where they could deal with the most severe of her wounds.

Sliding the unconscious halfling out under the propped up grate (having used some large rocks and the now destroyed table’s to provide suitable props s people could crawl under the grate) the group are left wondering whether the other two Zombie performers are a threat and who to get at this so-called Lord and pay him what he is due for such a craven attack! First, the party need to save Mytle’s life and bring her around. Then, it’s payback time.

View
Pilgrims and cave safety
How to win friends and stay safe underground

Our PotA game resumes after a hiatus for work issues, new jobs, and studies/exams for the group. As most of the group had forgotten most of the details of what had been going on we started with a brief summary of what’s been going down and where they’ve been. Then we got underway making a welcome return to the Forgotten Realms.

After spending their nightcap talking to Kylessa, the proprietor of the Swinging Sword (who imparted thoughts about the “Evil emanating out of Lance Rock”, the party awake to the smell of simple bacon being cooked in the rear yard of the Inn. Heading downstairs they find themselves the third group to breakfast.

Sitting between the stairs and the front door, where they seemed to have moved their table that morning, was a pair of monks or pilgrims of some sort, dressed in brown robes, having an involved conversation about travel plans then trade routes, then commodities, then village life. These two had never been seen by the party and were likely visitors from their dress but their conversation seemed a bit scattershot and odd. Sitting at the bar was a more familiar face – Lerissa, a beautiful Tiefling who was friends with the party, an occasional informant or fixer and a welcome sight after a day guarding a Dwarf, chasing nothing, talking to a drunk and babysitting kids.

After greeting their friend, the party quickly noticed two things: 1) Lerissa had news and was seemingly looking for them. 2) The pilgrims in the booth were apparently watching them and taking notes.

Lerissa and Myrtle headed upstairs to have a private briefing on Lerissa’s arrival. Zydrunas and Erik waited for their bacon and kept an eye on the two visitors. Kylessa arrived with bacon and asked the boys if they’d thought more on last night’s conversation. Zydrunas responded by loudly and obviously making light about a false request to murder people under her employ while Erik tried to talk to her. This prompted one of the men to put away his notes and take off, leaving a waft of leather curing oil in his wake and his companion sipping tea alone. Once Kayleesa left the table and now Zydrunas was on to their watching eyes, it didn’t take long for trouble to start.

It started with Zy sitting in the pilgrim’s vacated seat, loudly and obviously eating bacon in his new companion’s face. Opening his tirade with “Why don’t you take a portrait, it’ll last longer” Zy was surprised to find the Pilgrim pull out parchment and pencil and start to draw a portrait of the Half-Orc. What started as a funny starter and amusing response ended with outright accusations of spying, quick threats and a game of “bounce the pilgrim’s nose off the tabletop”. In the questioning that followed, Zy broke the poor man’s nose and got him to empty his pockets, giving up his ‘notes’ on the group which were nothing more than a list of place names with no extra context behind them. When the pilgrim (who was claiming that they were from the North and were looking for trade routes and pilgrimage paths for their break-away sect of Lythander) produced his ‘Holy text’ that needed translation, the party’s dwarf specialist, Erik, noticed that the books runes were ancient Drarven and were highly unlikely to be a religious text for Lythander. With Zy distracting the pilgrim and Erik insisting on his release, Zy and Lerissa allowed the pilgrim to scoop up his possessions minus the book. In his haste to get away the pilgrim didn’t notice the book was missing as he ran out of the door, stuffing his paper and notebook into his robes quickly and running off to summon the local law enforcement.

After smoothing things over with Kayleesa and paying for the trouble (getting the sharp side of her tongue in the process and having to promise not to cause trouble in the inn again) the party decided to do as she wanted to help repair the relationship and head out to Lance rock. Standing in the road getting their bearings they were met by the assistant constable, Edward Lamb, who was sent over to see to the disturbance. Eddie quickly sheathed his weapon and drew on his pipe, bantering with the group and trying to calm things down in a good-natured way once he saw that they weren’t being aggressive of troublesome with him. Erik came up with a plan where Eddie could ‘run the group out of town for 24 hours’ to save his face and give the impression that something had been done to them for troublemaking, and the group would stay away from the town for at least day and come back only after their ‘ban’ had expired. Eddie agreed to this and hammed up throwing them out of town, ensuring he did so on the correct road to Lance rock after giving them some directions and seeing them safely on their way.

The Long road south saw only a single caravan and after a brief exchange with some human guards (finding out that there were some fresh cairn graves on the side of the road further south and to watch out for the inevitable wild animals looking for an easy meal), during which Myrtle had to be restrained, the group found Eddie’s path to Lance Rock, the titular rock now visible from the road and of obviously different rock (granite) than the surrounding limestone-laden hills.

After traipsing through the plains and then the scrubby hillside the party came across some odd signs around 150feet away from the rock. These said “Come no closer, lest ye contract, this plague that afflicts me. The Lord of Lance Rock”. Ignoring these, the party pushed on, finding that after the hills there was hidden a dip, a small flat similar to a crater ringed by a limestone crag. Inside this flat area stood the Lance Rock itself – a mighty menhir of grey granite jutting upwards at an angle and a cave system in the Limestone.

Investigating the cave two more signs were found claiming that anyone entering the caves looking for treasure will get plague and will be met with self-defense. Ignoring that, too, the party explored inside.

The first chamber held a man lying on his back, motionless, and the smell of death and something like incense. Not taking chances the party kept it’s distance, nudging the lying figure from a distance with magic. This prompted the figure to rise clumsily and stand, staring at the group with little comprehension, neither attacking nor communicating. From the dead stare and the pale, part-rotten skin, it was obvious this was a corpse. As it was standing (NOT a normal situation for a corpse), Zy ran in with a battle cry, cleaving the hapless figure in two before it so much as took a step and showering the group in gore.

Taking this encounter to be proof of shennanigans the group readied-up and pushed further into the cave, Zy in front. The next chamber was a large domes area with a flat, table-like rock near the middle. Zy bravely strode ahead into the empty chamber…..and got clocked on the noggin by a box of falling rocks from above as he crossed the threshold into the chamber.

With Zy down with his head practically split open, the group exploded into action. Myrtle tested for triggers for further rockfalls first then the group started to enter the chamber, looking to ensure Zy was not fatally injured. Thankfully the half-orc’s thick skull had saved him but he was dizzied and struggling to rise unaided. Looking up back towards the entrance the group saw a platform above the cave mouth where two zombies were trying to move a second box of rocks into dropping position. Getting Zy up and readying their own weapons, the party attacked their would-be ambushers with Zy dragging/throwing the zombies off the ledge and dropping the remaining rocks onto them for good measure. Not much was said for Lerissa’s poos aim with her hurled rocks, having hit Zy during the short melee instead of the Zombie he was grappling at the time.

After ensuring the zombies weren’t getting up the party checked out the ‘table-like’ rock to find it was stained with blood. There was scant evidence of metal against the rock showing that if sacrifices were held on this platform, the performer was very accurate indeed or extremely practiced. Faced with exits to the north and the south the party rested, allowing Zydrunas to recover from his head injury and waiting to see if the commotion summoned any other trouble.

The moral of today’s story? Wearing a hard-hat in a cave really is a good idea after all :)

View
What happens when you play with kids?
The party follow the children and find a sh***ing dwarf. Nice.

With the Party in Red Larch and starting to make enquiries about local ruins and the Mirabaran delegation our plot started to unfold, ever so gently, like a fine, flowering tea….

Myrtle Bullroarer (our Halfling Ranger) followed the crying child all the way to what looked like a poultry shop of some kind and tried to eavesdrop on the young girls explanation of what had upset her as the child’s Grandmother comforted the crying child. Through this it was discovered that the girl has seen a ghost man while out playing and that he’d told her to go away (G-G-G-GHOST!). With a rough idea of the direction, Myrtle resolved to check this out – where there’s places things don’t want you to be, there’s things people don’t want you to see, after all.

Erik was following Myrtle and came across the local constable arguing with the local innkeeper. The constable was insisting that he had to muster his men to search a known Bandit spot as he’d had sightings from travellers but the woman insisted that all of Red Larch’s troubles had a common source and were probably to do with the evil emanating from Lance Rock. After being told curtly to go away and leave the law to chase the real bad guys, the constable continued to his men, running into (and talking with) Erik briefly along the way and promising to meet up to talk about local ruins and bandit activity later.

With Zydrunas and Erik Deville joining her Myrtle was discovered by the Grandmother of the yound girl and treated like a parton of this poultry shop establishment. After being furtively asked to check for ‘dangerous animals and the like’ in the direction the girl had identified as Ghostly for the payment of some specially prepared chicken.

The party had their first solid hooks and chose to follow the Ghost lead. While leaving the store two young Tethyrian kids barrelled through the party to talk to the young Girl Pell Mhandyvver. They shouted excitedly “The Plague Dwarf’s back! The Plague Dwarf’s back!!” and what follows is a typically childish recounting of a trip out to Lance Rock gone wrong when the kids were turned away by an old Dwarf telling them that there was plague out there.

Ghost forgotten for the moment, the party followed this new information and promised to ‘babysit’ the three kids for the afternoon in exchange for a meal that night. Somehow convincing the Grandmother they were trustworthy and true-hearted (despite Zy looking like he was going to eat the kids), the party had the kids lead them off on a magical journey to the Plague Dwarf’s new location.

Their prize was to come across a hillside camp outside of the farms where a Dwarf was sitting behind a bush doing something that sounds like sitting. The Dwarf was drunk, having decided to set up a little still in the copse of trees and brew berry wine. The exchange between the dwarf and the party was brief and somewhat standoffish (especially as the Dwarf was have-drunk and passive-aggressive) but the Dwarf at least confirmed that he was a scout paid by the Mirabarans to find some sites on interest for them to visit on the way through the area.

It seems the delegation from Mirabar the party were looking for were delivering a dead knight somewhere but the Dwarf scout had seen no sign of the special seeds Myrtle had been sent to retrieve when the delegation was reported missing. The Dwarf had indeed been out to Lance Rock and saw signs warning of plague and so, to save the kids any trouble, had shooed them away before moving on himself. Adding that he’d seen the delegation a few Tendays ago and seeing no reason they’d be ‘missing’ the Dwarf went back to his drinking.

The party returned to town and collected their prize – now being seen as AWESOME in the eyes of their tiny travelling companions. Taking rooms (and a stable for Zy) at the Swinging Sword Inn, the party ran across the woman who was arguing with the constable later that day. After meeting her for late-night drinks and discovering she may have a trace of the gift of divination about her, the party found out more about the argument and were told of the ‘evil’ coming from Lance Rock.

Apparently there’s more going on in this town than missing Dwarves and lost seeds. With a trip out to Lance Rock to verify the Dwarfs claims seemingly on the cards, a known bandit camp not far from town that the local law may need a hand with and a potential ghost (or other, misunderstood nasty) to also investigate things are starting to get a little more interesting.

View
Our adventure begins for the Half-Hero troupe!
How three "Half" people entered a sleepy village

So, with our players assembled and despite my lack of prep time (thanks to various work disasters throughout the week) our game eventually got underway.

Three adventurers, Myrtle Bullroarer the Halfling Ranger (Sarah), Zydrunas the Half-Orc Barbarian (Bry) and Erik Deville the Half-Elf Wild Sorcerer, found themselves all having resons to want to be in the region of the Dessarin Valley at the same time. These three knew one another reasonably well and saw no reason to help one another out along the journey towards vengeance, recovery and discovery. Apparently, these players figured out how to make three Halves into a whole party, if you see what I mean :)

To that end they took up jobs with a Dwarf peddler taking his caravan south through the valley and, thanks to information they had, ventured towards the traveller’s stop of Red Larch, a simple place full of tradesman, quarrymen, caravans and farmers.

Vengeance.

Zydrunas, a being filled with the fires of retribution, was tracking a man responsible for burning to death a companion of his. He had found out that this murderer was looking to find an kill a Blue knight and that to escape the law he had taken a job on a southbound caravan. Red Larch was a place to begin a search.

Zydrunas, a being or rage and indignation, would find this man and make him pay dearly.

Recovery.

Myrtle had been approached just days earlier than Zydrunas’ discovery by a Ranger of the Emerald Enclave. Trouble was suspected in he Dessarin valley with a Dwarven delegation from Mirabar – they had gone missing en route to an Enclave member in Goldenfields. These Dwarves were carrying special seeds that must be found and delivered and while the Enclave had agent in the area, more hands were needed. The Enclave could trade information about how the human trade conglomerate acquired her villages lands which had led to the displacement and loss of many of her kin. Would Myrtle help? Although predisposed to doing so for the promised information, her mind was made up when Zydrunas announced his planned trip. Seemingly two favours could be given at once.

Myrtle decided to take the offer as the payment would set her next course of action as she, too, was a being on not inconsiderable vengeful intent. In this case towards those that destroyed her village. Zydrunas would surely approve and assist.

Discovery.

Erik had been deeply meditating. His search for the meaning of his power and how to unlock it’s potential had slowed down these last few months. While Myrtle had helped him locate an area of considerable natural magic to help his study, it had long since stopped providing him breakthroughs. Now all it was doing was giving him nightmares.

Erik’s dreams and meditative visions were dark and foreboding; He saw a forgotten temple of sorts. Lying within was a power, mysterious and brooding. Something sinister, something…..alien. Yet he believed this was somehow akin to his own power. He was intrigued, and spent more time trying to force the visions and dreams to study them.

After much work at his endeavour, Erik had come to believe that the power was dangerous – VERY dangerous. It seemed to emanate from the Dessarin valley, a place he had never really been. He’d need a guide, and he’d need muscle if he was to investigate further – luckily he knew two useful people whom he may convince to help.

Luckily for Erik, they were also going to the Dessarin valley and so he convinced them about the importance of his discovery and enlisted them to help his search for this power, and to prevent it from spreading it’s influence if necessary if he would see to their tasks in turn. A bargain struck, our trio set to travel

To Red Larch.

Our party found a Dwarf caravan going South, took small payment for an easy guard job as the Dessarin valley had apparently been seeing more bandit activities recently, and set to discovering what they could along the way about Mirabar and the delegation. Apparently there was a famous historian attached to the delegation and he was likely to have wanted to stop at holy sites and ruins along the way so it was no surprise the delegation was late for it’s appointments as far as the caravan owner was concerned.

Deciding to simply seek signs of trouble in the area of the Dessarin Valley and see what that may unearth for them, the party decided to stop at Red Larch and start asking questions. Given it’s central location and well travelled road, Red Larch presented a good hope of rumour, info and clues.

As they entered the town, they were joined by a scuffy young man dressed in a lawman’s tunic but a butcher’s stained garb underneath. This was assistant constable Edward Lamb, a young pipe-smoking and rather scatty lawman who clearly had another trade besides accosting travellers.

Assistant Constable Lamb greeted the caravan warmly and after introductions by the caravan leader, Edward cheerfully questioned the characters intentions in a round about way. The party earned a smile, info on where to stay and some advice about rumours of bandits on the Cairn road for their patience with his unusual questioning style and veiled threats of the law for troublemakers.

Before the party could act on Edwards advice on places to stay (and while they were looking at an upside down washbasin fashioned into a warriors helm for the local bar) a girl of 8 summers ran through the group screaming, “Nana! Help! Nana!!”
Taking this as a clue to potential trouble, Myrtle stealthily followed the girl (well, as stealthily as you can in an open street with onlookers staring at you and you buddies) while Zy turned back to see where the girl had come from and check trouble there. Erik, left alone for a moment as his companions sprang into action, followed Myrtle slowly, flashing a smile at the onlookers and explaining that the Halfling’s odd behaviour was down to the fact she wasn’t used to towns.

We left our story with Myrtle following the girl towards some sort of shop, passing an argument on the way and with Zy frightening some locals by searching the land behind their property in typical menacing style. Have our party found genuine trouble, or is this a simple case of a crying girl? What is the argument about? Is Zy getting the lawmen called on him for intimidation and trespass (however accidental)? How will Erik explain his companions odd behaviour and child-following?

Find out, next time!

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.