Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Session 15: To the hills

After liberating the slaves from the slave pits under Darkshelf, Flint, Galathil, and Lynnya turned east, to investigate reports that the slave caravans were passing through a fortification there.Along the way, they spotted some masked dwarves ahead on the road. Having heard about "chaos dwarves" Flint was cautious, but asked them if they knew anything about the slavers. When it was clear that the
party was not pro-slaver, a fight ensued. The strangely masked dwarves fought briefly before two of their number were knocked out with a sleep spell, and the last one turned invisible in an attempt to flee. In a rare stroke of luck, Lynnya was able to both detect the invisible target and pinpoint it twice in a row, taking him down with a brace of arrows from long range. Examining the corpse and removing its mask, Flint noticed that the creature did not have a face, so much as a darkness that suggested a face. Disturbed, and not wanting to take any chances with more disappearing dwarves, the party euthanized the other two.

Some time after this, and after about a day of travel, they were face to face with a four story fortress with a large curtain wall and drawbridge. Spotting sentries actively walking the top, they decided that a frontal assault was not a viable option, and decided to wait in the surrounding woods, keeping a close watch for any parties leaving or arriving. In the middle of the night, Lynnya spotted a rope being thrown from a second story window and a malnourished, disheveled man came darting into the woods. The party surprised him and made their intentions clear. Though startled, the man said his name was Parzifal and that he had escaped his captors but he did not know much information about the inside of the keep. After accepting some food, he was content to run along and try to find his way to safety.

The party then stealthily crossed the remaining distance to the rope that dangled from the window and climbed into a dusty room. They backtracked Parzifal's trail in the dust through several rooms until they came to stairs going up and down. They decided to go up to work their way to the sentries. Passing through the third floor, they found abandoned rooms and heard the eerie noises of the din of an ancient battle echoing on the sound of the crickets and the wind. Undeterred, they came to a cobweb, bone dust and old blood stain filled room with a ladder leading up on the opposite end. Attempting to sprint through the room, they were set upon by a ghost haunting this area against trespassers. It was unresponsive to being turned, and proved resilient against the arrows that were fired through it. However, Galathil's magic took no notice of its incorporeal nature and soon had the unnatural creature destroyed. Upstairs, the party ambushed a party of three hobgoblins and three humans, including one barechested knife thrower. Putting the weaker humans to sleep and killing the hobgoblins was simple enough, but the barechested man gave as good as he got in the fight against Flint.

There was a door to the outside of the curtain wall above the gate, where two groups of hobgoblins were quickly dispatched with sleep and violence. At this point, running low on spells, they decided to lower a rope for their remaining companions. At this point, Flint also began to obsess over the schematics for the mechanical construct he liberated from the Harpell's library. He wonders if he can make sense of them with the help of the tinker's tools and the broken animated armor parts he took from elsewhere in that odd manse.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Session 13-14: Slave Pits of the Undercity

Feeling a bit put-off by the typical antics at the Golden Cockatrice, the party decided to go visit their old friend Kwon, Kwon mentioned that the Society suspected the abandoned temple on the outskirts of town was a front for the slavers. He gave them instructions on how to find the back door, so that they could sneak past the guards hidden at the front entrance.

Pushing into the first level, the party is ambushed by a feast of ghouls. They land a few solid hits, but are otherwise quickly dispatched. The rest of the level is mainly traps that they evade. There is a "pleasant" garden that is avoided, before they take one of the available stairs to go down into the lower level.

Once in the lower level, the Sinisters turn left. The rough-hewn, almost ant-hill like tunnels quickly turned into more worked tunnels, and the party came into a circular room. There was a small study in front of them, in which a man was working at a desk. They attempted to sneak up on him, but his weasels heard the Sinisters and attacked. The fight was stressful at times, especially when 10 orcs stepped out of the shadows and added their firepower. But the party was victorious.

Beyond the circular room, they discovered a number of slave pits. There were more orcs beyond the pits, so the party decided to rescue the slaves there and move on. The slave lord's desk contained a map to a fortress to the northeast through which the slave caravans passed. The Sinisters decided to briefly split up, most bringing the slaves to safety while Galathil and Flint went ahead to scout the fortress.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Of Vassa and Crom

The Second Demon War was long, and fought largely in Solaria and the Eastern Plains. But it was also fought in the North, and there the deeds of Søren and Vassa were sufficient to enshrine them among the Valharim, bringing the number of that august group to eight (nine, if you tally with them the dark one). Many stories are told of their deeds, but Crom's proposal to Vassa is less well known.

Crom, it is known, is the dark God of the orcs, seeking only to crush his enemies and hear the lamentations of their women. Yet he fought, for a time, with the free folk against the demons, for he had as little desire to see the orcs dominated by Hadeth as Fayon did for the free folk. But some of the orcs fought with the demons.

And it came to pass that the war against the demons went against the free folk, and evil spirits threatened to overrun the northern kingdoms. Vassa fought valiantly, and saved many from death at the hands of Hadeth's army, but it was not enough, as the main part of the Army of Law was in the south. Then Crom came to her, and asked for her hand in marriage. This, Vassa refused, seeing that Crom did not desire her, but merely to enslave the dwarves to provide arms to his orcish hordes.

Vassa took out her whip then, and Søren came to her aid. The battle was long, for Crom is puissant of arms, but Vassa and Søren were able to drive him north into the wastes. A remnant of that battle remains, as Vassa's whip tore a large canyon into the lands east of Darkshelf, which they call Vassa's Lash. And while the northlands fell under the occupation of the devil army, yet Vassa and Søren saved many, ferrying them to Avalon, and when Sean Halospear sacrificed himself to close the gate to the abyss, the occupation ended, nor was Crom able to return.

Session 12: The Harpells invade Arden Est.

Having returned the eggs stolen from the eagles, we journeyed back to Darkshelf and found ourselves at the Golden Cockatrice for rest and recovery. There was a fair crowd that evening and I sought to regale the crowd with tales and perhaps to join another minstrel already providing song to the patrons. I was met only with scorn and contempt by this so-called "entertainer", nothing more than a tone-deaf, borish fop with more arrogance than talent. I offered to provide accompaniment for his songs but was forced off the stage when the oaf used his influence with the barkeep to prevent me from joining.

Not only were my talents rudely suppressed, I was also accosted by a thief in front of everyone, and they did nothing! The thief thought to distract me with a copper piece on the ground while he stole my pouch. I was not so easily fooled and when the scoundrel tried to get away, I used a spell to halt him. When I called the barkeep's attention to thief's actions, the barkeep and the bar patrons dismissed the incident as normal. The thief was lucky. In my country, the thief would have had his hand removed and branded for his crimes but here, they let thieves run amongst them, doing their mischief without hindrance. And they call me barbarian.

As it grew late, the tavern began to settle and, having been fatigued from our travels, we sought our rest. It was just then that the Dwarf's tankard of ale began to speak to him as if it were a man. I was horrified at such unholy magics as this. Despite my protests to not encourage the tankard to continue speaking, the dwarf parlayed with it, coming to an accord of gold and a pet bird in exchange for a service. I was dubious of what service we could provide the talking mug but it's offer of a pet bird reminded me of my beloved Svetlana and I could not refuse. The mug instructed us to order an Ivy Port from the bar to be transported to our task. Begin fatigued we resolved to begin our task in the morning.

The next morning, we ordered the Ivy Port as instructed and after taking a drink, were instantly transported by some foul magic to a mansion. Immediately upon arriving, a painting on the wall began to speak just as the tankard spoke the night before. Truly we were in some witchery. The painting, calling itself Tristan Harpell, wished for us to put some chambers of the mansion in order, saying only that we would know what was out of place when we saw it. Two keys were teleported directly into my pocket by that son of Baba Yaga painting on the wall. It would have been better to burn that witch-house to the ground but we resolved to uphold our accord.

We entered a series of chambers belonging to "Tristan's" former uncle, Siegfried Vample. We were provided a useless map, that appeared to have been annotated by a child, by a large metal suit of armor that had been animated into some sort of guardian. The terrors of this evil place would not cease. We entered a chamber marked "Swimming Pool" on the map but found it to be a library. The library appeared to be very well furnished but for one shelf which was bare. The dwarf noticed that there appeared to be a lack of astronomical knowledge conspicuously missing from the library, though we found several tomes on the table that appeared to be astronomical in nature, hinting that it was a current subject of research for Siegfried. There also appeared a journal with a mess of writing regarding a telescope that Siegfried had built using some artifact of tempered glass.

Leaving the library, we entered into what appeared to be a mechanical workshop where a number of constructs were being maintenanced by some sort of mechanical caretaker. Upon entering the chamber, all of the constructs turned on us and made for an attack. Acting quickly, I cast a spell summoning a storm of knives that cut three of mechanical horrors to ribbons. The rest were dispatched easily enough by my companions and I.

We also happened upon a room taken over by the overgrowth of poorly maintained potted trees and plants. We were confronted by an elderly man who spat something incoherent at us about not disturbing his master before transforming before our very eyes into some sort of rat demon. Immediately, swarms of rats dropped out of the floral overgrowth to come of the creature's aid. I managed to lull the swarms to sleep with a spell while my companions fought the wererat, until, in a font of holy vengeance, the paladin smote the demon a killing blow.

Next, we entered what appeared to be some sort of bedchamber with a large mirror covered by sheet against one wall. Intrigued, I examined the mirror and discovered it to be a powerful magical artifact, though I was uncertain of its nature. Pulling the sheet down, the paladin found himself attacked by a sinister clone of himself. I called upon my magic to immolate the enemy while my companions attacked the doppleganger. Upon our victory, the creature simply disintegrated, like mist, until there was nothing left of it at all. Realizing the mirror's usefulness, we resolved to take it with us. We also happened to notice that a significant portion of the mirror had been cutout and surmised this was the artifact Siegfried has used to build his telescope.

Passing through a set of double doors, we came to a large chamber with Siegfried's telescope in one corner, strangely aimed at the wall. Nearby, an adamantine door stood slightly ajar. The entire chamber was covered in cobwebs and, as we tried to clear them, we were attacked by swarms of spiders as well some bewitched spider that appeared to shift in and out of existence. Luckily, the larger spider succumbed to my magic and began to laugh hysterically and uncontrollably. While my two companions dealt with the swarms, the ranger and I pressed our attack on the larger spider. The beast continued to laugh even as it was dispatched and the spider swarms abated soon after.

Following the spider attack, we investigated the adamantine door. Finding it ajar, we decided to open it and see whither it led. As we opened it, a voice issued from the depths of the stair case the vault door had hidden. It warned that it was coming and we began to hear footsteps moving up the stairs. Moving quickly, we staged the artifact mirror we had taken from the bed chambers. We tried to lock the adamantine door with the keys we had received but neither key seemed to fit and upon trying them, and a voice emanated from the key hole, cursing "Tristan" for mixing it up with a key in the pantry, again. A minute later, the footsteps on the stairs were upon us and an ogre mage emerged from behind the adamantine door. The creature first saw its own reflection in the artifact mirror and a moment later, the ogre was in battle with a clone of itself. To avoid unnecessary injury, we allowed the creatures to wage battle against each other while we waited to dispatch the winner. After some time, the spell blasts and sounds of war fell silent. We re-entered the chamber but could find no trace of the battle that had been waged here.

It was then that two sorcerers appeared and thanked us for helping clear the suite for Tristan They related that the ogre mage emerging from the chamber set off a contingency to alert the mages to the creature's escape, whereupon the mages came to banish the creature themselves. For our troubles, the sorcerers awarded us less than half the gold Tristan had promised us, saying that we were being billed for damages to the mansion created by the ogre mage's escape, which they blamed on us, even though it was Tristan that had given us the wrong key. They then transported us back to the Golden Cockatrice and disappeared. With any luck, we will soon find that mansion and burn it to the ground as we should have from the beginning!

While they cheated us of half the gold they promised, they did hold fast to their promise of a pet bird. They provided a silver figurine of a raven which can actually transform into a real raven. I have named him Sasha. So while some good did come of our stay at the Golden Cockatrice, I must quit that cursed establishment and its wiles. I look forward to moving far beyond Darkshelf and away from this ill luck and evil witchery.