Friday, April 10, 2015

Westmist Session #94 & #95 - One Destroyed and One Got Away

... The party moved fast as the misty Jax drifted away. After taking a few moments to loot Bjorn's still warm corpse of valuables, they started chasing the quickly receding mist. It drifted towards the 30' wide corridors, turning left at a four way intersection. The party chased, with Erijay and Kern in the lead, but soon lost sight of the mist. In the wide passage they found four narrow side passages, two on each side, before the main corridor came to a semi-circular end. Inlaid in the floor there was a silvery unholy symbol of Yg. Rather than mess with anymore Yg-things, the party backtracked and explored the first side passage.  The 5' side passage extended just 10' before ending in a wall of dirt. Dug in this was a narrow, low tunnel, which would require crawling and hand and foot to explore. Erijay sent one of her mini-meerkats into the tunnel and scouted along using clairvoyance. The rodent found a maze of tunnels 2'-3' in diameter, and soon ran into a pair of giant rats! The little meerkat turned and fled back to it's mistress, and the party decided to search elsewhere.

Heading to the other side of the main passage, they found the first narrow passage on that side led into a series of smaller rooms. Erijay paused for a moment to cast detect invisible from Bjorn's spellbook, then took the lead into the rooms. The first had a floor ankle deep in guano and a ceiling thick with bats, which took to wing as the elf maid entered. These she froze with a blast from her wand of cold, and the little frozen corpses fell to the floor in a tinkle. Passing through another narrow passage, she spied a room with about a dozen human forms. Many she recognized as people from Westmist, included their old fence, Afflain. Alas, they were no longer themselves, but barred teeth and slipped over to claw and bite at the elf. She pulled back out of the way to allow Lomar to step forward and use the power of Salue to drive the foul fiends away. Meanwhile, Erijay caught an invisible glance of Alia, standing in the narrow passage on the opposite side of the room. Shouting a warning to everyone else, she pushed Lomar out of the way, bypassed the retreating undead, and dove at the red-headed witch with her sword. And slammed the point into the wall. Meanwhile, Guy and Jasper moved up and started lobbing holy water, one of which instead drenched Erijay from head to foot. More holy water was lobbed, Erijay missed again with her sword, and Lomar was unsuccessful in turning Alia. But the vampiress wasn't planning on staying, and turned to a giant bat and quickly flew away out of the party's sight.
After a cursory check of the remaining rooms, the party headed back to the four way intersection and decided the investigate the other two passages.   One extended just 40' before ending again in a semicircle and symbol of Yg on the floor. The other corridor was similar in length to the first and also ended in a semicircle and symbol of Yg on the floor.There were a couple of large archways leading off the corridor. One led to a collapsed room, the other into a large room filled with sarcophagi! Rather than manually search all the  sarcophagi, Erijay cast locate object to track Jax via the stuff he was wearing. Surprisingly, the spell pointed them back towards the giant rat tunnels. Heading back that way, they resigned themselves to crawling single file into danger. Using the meekat to again scout ahead, they navigated the winding passages and mostly avoided the rats, before discovering a small wooden coffin stuffed into a low burrow. Kern wiggled to the front of the line and checked it for traps before popping off the lid. Inside lay Jax, slowly reforming into human form. Wasting no time, the merchant staked the vampire through the heart, shoved Salue's blessed sheaf of wheat in his mouth, and decapitated him. There was a faint. disembodied ghostly howl, and the body suddenly crumbled to dust. Kern and Erijay did a little happy dance; their long arch rival was now gone for good!

But there was still Alia to deal with. So Kern lifted what objects Jax left behind (some jewelry, armor and sword, and a scroll of protection from magic) and everyone proceeded to crawl back out of the tunnels. Kern also used the scroll, figuring they might need the protection if they ran into Alia again. And sure enough they did. Just as they approached the end of the tunnels, Guy (in the lead) spied the vampiress crouched in the narrow corridor ahead. With a wicked smile she cast a lightning bolt at the trapped party, only to have that smile turn to a snarl when she realized it had no effect on the protected party. With a scream of rage, she ran off before the party could all get out of the tunnel.

When they did all emerge, Kern passed the shield of the Gann to Erijay, and donned Jax's medallion of thought, planning to hunt down Alia by her thoughts. He was unsuccessful though; she must have already moved too far away. Guy, meanwhile, noticed something while gloomy looking at the floor. Out of the mess of tracks on the floor, he spied a fresh set that could only belong to a light footed undead woman. Off in pursuit the party swnt again, only to find the tracks suddenly end at about the four way intersection. Guessing she must be near though, Erijay started the process to summon an air elemental with the brazier looted from Bjorn's body. Meanwhile everyone else headed back to the sarcophagi room, assuming her coffin must be in there somewhere. Searching almost a hundred stone sarcophagi wouldn't be easy though; it took Lomar and Guy almost 10 minutes to pry off one lid. Inside they found a disturbed pile of old bones, and hidden under the skull a gold and diamond necklace. At this point, a low rumbling sound was heard coming from the dome. With the now-summoned air elemental in the lead, the party headed that way. At first they saw nothing, until suddenly a massive earth elemental burst out of one of the large archways. Erijay swiftly sent the air elemental in the battle with it, and the two magical beasts tore at each other. Lomar, Guy, Jasper and Kern at first tired to help their windy friend. In the end they decided to back away and search the room for Alia, assuming she had summoned the elemental and was somewhere nearby. Checking out the base of the three giant states of Yg, Kern found nothing. Lomar and Guy, exploring the room the elemental had emerged from, also came up empty. At this point Erijay shouted a warning; the air elemental was almost spent and the earth elemental was still strong and powerful. With that everyone fled back to the sarcophagi room, hoping to hide there. The elemental followed them though, and started bashing at the wall to break in. Kern fired crossbow bolts at it and Erijay used all the remaining charges in her wand of cold, and in the end the summoned monster was blasted to pieces.
Heading back out, Lomar decided to investigate the unholy symbols of Yg on the floors. Thinking they might open some hidden chamber, he touched each in turn. No chambers opened, but he did steal some life force from Eriajy and found his skin starting to slowly turn to scales.

Desperate, the party went back to the big room and started ripping open sarcophagi, looking for Alia's. They mostly found piles of old bone. Plus one wight, which Lomar pushed backed with the blessings of Salue, before Guy and Jasper popped the lid back on the sarcophagi. It did not take long before they found one empty sarcophagi,  but for a bit a dirt in the bottom. Thinking this might be it, Loamr poured a flew flasks of holy water in, and was rewarded with a hissing and popping sound that indicted it must have been unholy dirt and probably Alia's resting place.

Speaking of whom, she suddenly appeared in the doorway behind them. With a sneer, she mockingly thanked them for freeing her from serving Jax. And with a final laugh, turned to a bat and flew away. Once more chasing her, they saw her fly into the dome and then up out of sight. Presumably out the hatch and away. She had, it seemed, escaped them. Disappointed, but ready to leave more than ever, they headed for their rope to climb out of the dreary buried temple. Only to find it had been cut and left on the floor. Erijay muttered as she pulled out Bjorn's spellbook to cast fly  from it's pages. At that moment, above them in the hatch, they could see a light, and a familiar voice called down. It was Lord Merdwyn, and he asked for news of their success. Kern told him Jax was destroyed but Alia escaped. Lord Merdwyn chuckled, and said that perhaps they should then renegotiate their deal. He instead proposed that  Duncal replace the now departed Jax as his  seneschal in Westmist. The party could become Duncal's guard, much as the Company of Good Cheer was Lord Merdwyn's. The March Baron also hinted that he knew Duncal was going to pull up stakes and run at the first chance, so the role as seneschal could then fall to one of the party.  It was, the March Baron said, the best deal for them all. Especially since he had the party trapped in an old evil temple and at his mercy ...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Westmist Session #93- Vamprie Hunt Part#1

The deal with Lord Merdwyn made, the party (Kern and Bjorn, Lomar and Guy, Erijay and Jasper) prepared to delve below Westmist Keep to hunt down Jax and Alia. Lomar started off at the Church of the the Virtues, asking to meet with Liphanes of the Highest Virtues. He was granted an audience with the multi-chinned churchman, and eloquently enlisted the aid of the church in their hunt for the vampires. Cheap healing and holy water for all! Unfortunately, Kern  arrived shortly thereafter and ended any amicable relationship by requesting a fresh body from the church, so he could use the brain in the cerebral shield. Liphanes was not willing to besmirch the church's reputation by giving away the dead left in its care. Kern, however, pulled out his old book with scandalous tales of the old cults of Salue, and threatened to go public with the stories if the churchman didn't cooperate. Liphanes did eventually relent and provide a body, but made it clear neither Kern nor any of his companions could ever expect assistance from the church again.Another enemy made!

While Lomar and Kern were making and breaking friendships at the church, Jasper and Erijay were stocking up on vampire hunting supplies for all; wooden stakes, wooden crossbow bolts, garlic, essence of garlic from Synthini, holy symbols, oil and more holy water. Kern also picked up a guard of Ram barbarians to cover their backs;  the merchant for one was not convinced Lord Merdwyn wouldn't stab them in the back given the opportunity. That done, they met Lord Merdwyn and the Company of Good Cheer at the keep, and he guided them down to the cellars and dungeons below the fortress. The party was brought to a rough tunnel, ending in a small roughly excavated room. There they found a trapdoor in the floor, which Lord Merdwyn indicted was the 'secret' location pointed out by Jax's guard captain. With a bit of a smirk and a wish of good luck, the March Baron left the party to do their delve. Kern instructed the barbarians to guard the room while they were below, then picked the lock on the door. Opening it up, Kern peered inside. Even with the light of his continual light coin, he could see little. Ahead was only darkness, while behind and below was a curved wall, and well as the tops of two huge statues. These Kern recognized as two of the aspects of the foul snake-god Yg; The Great Serpent and The Snake Who Walks. Great, more snakes. Assuming they were at the top of some huge domed or circular structure, they party clipped a grappling hook on the edge of the hatch and dropped 100' of rope into the darkness. Kern started to shimmy down, and at about the 60' mark noted and archway leading out of the dome behind him. At the same time, he encountered a mass of bats fluttering around. Head spinning in near confusion, he hauled himself back up and ordered Bjorn to clear the area with a fireball. That done, they replaced the burned rope and Kern shimmied down again. Only to reach the end of the rope and find himself still dangling in mid-air. Eyeballing one of the Yg statues, he guessed he had another 50' or so to go. So up he went, and another rope was attached, and finally the party was able to descend to the bottom.
There, they found themselves standing on a layer of bone, which on close examination proved to be all snakes. Nearby was a fresher, human body, dead probably a few months. Kern did a circuit of the room, finding three 30' arched exits and another giant statue, that of the third aspect of Yg (the Man-Serpent). Back at the rope, the rest of the party had noticed a 30' diameter circle of smooth black stone. This extended a few inches above the floor level and seemed to mark the center of the room. When Kern approached, something very strange happened. He was carrying Erijay's snake sword, as he got close to the black stone, the sword began to vibrate and hum, it getting more intense as he got closer. Tempted to touch the sword to the stone to see what would happen, he resisted the urge to tinker and instead the whole party focused on their goal; get the vampires. They were also distracted by the appearance of a dozen giant rats coming from the north archway, whom they dispatched with flaming oil, swinging swords, and a partially decayed medusa head.

The vermin taken care of and with Kern in the lead, the party headed out through the north archway, finding beyond it a 30' corridor which circled the domed room. Along the walls were snake shaped arrow slits, filled in with dirt which likewise spilled on the floor. It appeared that this place once stood above ground but was somehow and for some reason buried in the distant past. This outer corridor had collapsed at the west end. Exploring to the east the party found, in addition to the archway leading from the inner dome, a second archway that led from the outer ring and into a 30' corridor. Ignoring this for now, they continued around the ring, reaching a point where the dome had collapsed again, leaving only a narrow 2-3' wide passage along the inner wall.
 Immediately recognizing a potential ambush site, Erijay cast clairvoyance and sent one of her mini-meerkats through the passage. Viewing through the  animal's eyes, the elf was lucky to glance a huge bat perched on the wall, just beyond the narrow passage. Assuming this must be one of the vampires, the party prepared for action. A flurry of spell casting (haste, bless, protection from evil, mirror image, and detect invisibility) ensued. While the party discussed how to best tackle their foe, Bjorn used his detect invisibility to check behind them. And good thing too, because perched just inside the archway leading out of the  circular passage was another, invisible, giant bat. Both vampires lay in ambush! Everyone immediately turned to face this closer threat. Bjorn, as the only one who could actually see the bat, fired magic missiles at it. Erijay, aiming in approximately the right direction, fired twice from her wand of cold, while everyone else blindly lobbed flasks of holy water in the general direction. Bjorn shouted the bat was flying away, but before they could pursue, Erijay saw through the meerkats eyes that the second bat was coming at their backs. Turning to face the new threat, they saw the bat approach, hesitate for a few moments, then fly toward Bjorn and Guy. When it got close, the bat transformed into Jax, who hauled out a dagger and stabbed at Bjorn. Missing the first time, he connected with the second blow. Bjorn staggered, started frothing green at the mouth, and dropped stone dead. Meanwhile, Erijay stared to pour magic missiles at Jax, Kern fired bolts from his magic crossbow, and Lomar fired a web spell from his spider bracelet. That pinned Jax in place, and everyone turned to finish him off with a series of blows. Suddenly, Jax transformed into a cloud of mist, escaping the web and drifting off towards the corridor down which Alia disappeared ...

Westmist Session #92 - Insurrection!

The party now knew they were being watched by Jax; and it was possible he already knew what they were planning. So the time had finally come to put everything into motion, to usurp the March Baron and place Duncal in charge of the March Barony. Having the March Baron in town was a complication, but it was now or never. First order of business was brains. The two guards were relieved of theirs, and Kern set about distilling their grey matter to use in the cerebral shield. Meanwhile, Stonehell went into lock down. No one from the Stonehell Resistance or from Sir Janus' group were allowed to leave, and no one was going to get into their lair. Shortly after, Cal from the SR came to report someone or something was lurking just outside their defenses. The party moved out, and Erijay used her mini-meerkat and clairvoyance to scout. The spy proved to be a wererat. Erijay slipped forward and tried to charm the creature, but it sensed her attempt and slipped off into the darkness. A quick scout around did not reveal any more spies, so it was decided to just let the were rat go and focus on preparations. Which also included a mass of invisibility spells to shield everyone but Jasper from view when they moved on Westmist.

Because the plan was to have Jasper (who was unknown in Westmist) to present himself and the barbarians as mercenaries for hire to Lord Merdwyn. Having ingratiated himself into Lord Merdwyn's good side, the party and their supporters could strike by surprise and take out Jax and the March Baron. The Stonehell Resistance, Sir Janu,s and Duncal were left behind to await developments.  Jasper collected a dozen of the biggest and meanest looking barbarians, and with the party invisibly in tow, headed to Westmist. On arrival, it would appear they had been expected, for all the gates were barred and patrols mounted the walls. Hollering out to the guards, Jasper asked that Lord Merdwyn came out to parlay.  It took some time, but soon the March Baron (accompanied by Jax, Bazzrel, Liphanes and a gaggle of guards) appeared on the wall. He was immediately hostile, letting Jasper know he was aware of his connection with the party, as well as this act of invasion they've performed by bringing a barbarian tribe across the Great River. This was just the type of incursion the March Baron was supposed to guard the Kingdom against, and he had no intention of parlay. Riders had already gone east to inform the king and summon the royal companies to his aid.  Lord Merdwyn suggested Jasper take the tribe and the rest of the party and clear out before the hammer fell. And with that, he turned his back and left the wall.
Jasper and the barbarians retreated to discuss next steps with the party. They decided to use a bigger stick, and Kern headed off to summon the whole Ram tribe and bring them in view of the town walls. Meanwhile, Duncal was collected from Stonehell. With everything in place,  the party now approached the walls and once more summoned the March Baron. He arrived again with his entourage, and this time Kern did the talking. He accused the March Baron of conspiring with Jax and his foul deeds, that the King would  be interested to here of all the terrible things going on in Westmist. He also shouted for all inside the walls to here that Lord Merdwyn was not the rightful ruler of Westmist, that the party had returned with Duncal, the rightful heir. Kern also threatened the March Baron with death and destruction if the barbarian hoard was released upon the town, and that the blood of all would be on his hands.Kern demanded Jax's head, and that the March Baron give up Westmist to Duncal. While Lord Merdwyn and Kern argued and negotiated, Jax could be seen getting more and more agitated. As Lord Merwyn began to bargain with Kern, Jax alternately looked angrily at the March Baron and glared with frustration at Kern and the rest of the party.
Lord Merwyn reached an agreement with Kern. Duncal would take Westmist as a vassal of the Count Palatine and deal with the fallout from the Kingdom. The barbarians would be settled in the March Barony (and again Duncal would deal with the fallout). And Jax would be removed from power, and from Westmist, but would not be killed. At this point Jax exploded in anger, waving his hands to an apparently blank section of wall. There suddenly appeared there a women with red hair, hands moving as she cast a spell. Kern and Erijay immediately recognized her as Alia, an old foe thought long dead. Alia finished her spell casting and blasted the party with a lightning bolt. As the party moved to retaliate, both Alia and Jax disappeared in a cloud of mist and drifted out of sight. Chaos ensued, and the sounds of fighting could be heard inside the walls. Some time later, the gates opened and Lord Merdwyn emerged with the remainder of Jax's guard at sword point. He sealed the deal with the party, with one addition; that they take out Jax and Alia as part of the deal. Lord Merdwyn explained that Jax was a vampire. Even so, he had long served the March Baron faithfully. But it would seem power had gone to his head, and he had now turned on his old friend and mentor. Where Alia came into the picture he was not sure; she had been in the dungeons below the keep since her capture by the party almost two years ago. He had learned from Jax's guard that the vampire had discovered some old ruins or tunnels below the keep, and it is presumably there he and Alia had fled. Lord Merdwyn offered the Jax's captured men to the party as a token of good faith, and urged the party to hunt down the fugitives without delay. In the meantime, Lord Merdwyn would stay in charge of Westmist, and Duncal and the rest of the party's supporters were to stay outside the town until it was time to hand over power.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Westmist Session #91 - Back to Westmist

Just about midnight, Guy was surprised on his watch by a pair of Bear Tribe barbarians charging out of the darkness, spear leveled at the glum retainer. Dodging the spears, he whipped out his sword and skewered one of the attackers right through the belly. To Guy's horror, the wound closed over as soon as his sword was withdrawn, and the barbarian grinned at him before striking once more with the spear. As Guy struggled with the barbarians, the others struggled to wake up, Lomar being the first. The cleric  took in the scene, then ran around the fire, kicking as many of the others awake as possible. He followed this by calling on Salue to bless the party. Kern and Jasper opened fire with their crossbows, and Bjorn loosed a trio of magic missiles. And Erijay snored. As the elf maid at last arose from slumber, the two barbarians began to transform, taking on the shape of massive black bears. Maneuvering around, she blasted the two bears with a lighting bolt. This crisped one, and singed the other enough that it turned to run back into the dark night. Bjorn hasted  the party, which then headed off in pursuit, but the werebear fell quickly to a hail of crossbow bolts.
With much grumbling about lost sleep, the party looted the bodies of some gems, admonished Guy, and then settled to rest again. And Lomar animated one of the dead as his personal servant. The remainder of the night passed uneventfully. With morning's arrival, the party started to examine some of the items recovered from the hanging tree. Lomar cast detect magic, and found that the mace, book and potion were magical. Lomar handed the mace the Guy, considering how much trouble the henchman was in when faced with a magical creature but no magical weapon. Erijay expressed interest in the book, and sat down to study. It, however, was not the great learned tomb she hoped; but instead drained away a little of her vitality and intelligence merely through trying to understand the indecipherable gobbly-gook. She was not impressed.

Packing up, the party made good progress during the day and had no unwanted visitors during the night. Next day they continued their journey. Reaching a point where the trees began to thin, they suddenly heard the sounds of beautiful female voices singing in the trees above. Erijay and Loamr we entranced, and moved under the tree to stare dumbly up into the branches. The others followed their gaze, and saw three creatures with the upper body of a woman and the lower body and wings of a vulture; harpies! The trio flew down and proceeded to slash at Erijay with their claws, the elf still too entranced to fight them off. Jasper and Kern opened up once more with crossbow bolts, but the fight ended quickly when Bjorn tossed a fireball into their midst. After picking some slightly melted jewelry from the smoking corpses, the party contiuned east and finally reunited with the Ram barbarians that evening. The next few days passed without incident, as the party lead the tribe through the foothills of the Western War Peaks towards Stonehell. There they set the tribe down in the box canyon next to the Stonehell entrance, where the party's secret entrance lay. Tzarn agreed to this arrangement for now, but let it be known that the sheep would have eaten out the small canyon in  about a week. After that, he would be leading his tribe out in search of better grazing lands if Kern and the rest of the party couldn't make other arrangements.

Teaving Tzrn, the party headed back into Stonehell to meet with the Stonehell Resistance and Janus' men. They were still hail and hearty, and Barfirth reported no big problems in the weeks since the party left. They had continued stirring up the town, and seemed to have been successful in provoking Jax. The seneschal had clamped down harder on the town, effectively imposing martial law. Barfirth figured the town was split about three ways: a third that supported Jax, a third who who support a change, and a third who just wanted to go on with life and didn't care who was in charge. And as far as Barfirth knew, no one was aware of the plotters in Stonehell.

Needing more information about the situation in town, Bjorn and Erijay started casting invisibility on everyone in preparation for a nighttime raid into Westmist. The part slipped invisibly towards town, with Lomar's zombie servitor in tow. Leaving the undead in the marsh outside Westmist, the party first tried the town gates, but found them all barred for the night. Taking advantage of the wintery weather, they slipped around the wall and onto the frozen river, heading towards the keep. The plan was to waylay some of Jax's personal guard, take them prisoner and drag them back to Stonehell for interrogation. Silenced (thanks to Lomar) and invisible. they lay in wait. About an hour had passed when a patrol of a half-dozen of Jax's men in black and yellow livery appeared around the corner of the keep. Bjorn stepped out from cover and cast sleep, becoming visible but taking 5 of the men down right away. Then suddenly from behind the party came the sound of squealing and shuffling feet, as a half dozen rat-men burst out of the darkness and ran past them. Three surrounded Bjorn and and started slashing at him with their swords. Two others stood guard warily, seemingly aware the party was around but uncertain exactly where. Bjorn cast hold person on the remaining guardsman, then invisibility again. But the trio of rat-men around him had marked their target and continued to attack (albeit, with no success). The two other rat-men began to chitter very loudly; as if they were calling for help. Jasper, taking the silenced coin, rushed over to quiet the rat-men. This drew the attention of the remaining two, and they began to flail about with their swords in the general direction of the fighter. Meanwhile, Kern rushed around the fight, summoned the secret chest, and popped two of the sleeping guardsmen inside. The appearance and disappearance of the chest was the signal to everyone else to re-group and head back to Stonehell, picking up their zombie companion on the way.

Back in Stonehell, the two guards were pulled out of the chest and interrogated under ESP probing by Erijay. They learned that the March Baron had actually just arrived back in town that day, along with the Company of Good Cheer. Lord Merdwyn was there to gather recruits to take back to the County Palatine of Overmarch, as his new realm was now under attack by the necromancers of Djall and their undead armies. Jax and his men had been 'recruiting' for the March Baron, but Lord Merdwyn was there hoping his presence (and ability to lean on the local gentry) might bring better success. The men also revealed that Jax was well aware of the party's little army in Stonehell, and had hired the wererats to keep them under surveillance. How Jax first learned of the SR the guardsmen did not know. However, everyone (Jaxs men, March Barons men and town guard) were all under orders to keep a close eye around the town and around Stonehell for the party's reappearance.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Westmist Session #90 - Bears, Birds and Bodies

Pickets had detected the Bear barbarians moving through the forest and towards the vulnerable Ram tribe. While Tzarn the High Ram organized his men to guard the main body, the party (Kern, Bjorn, Erijay, Jasper, Lomar and Guy) prepared to receive the attack at the head of the column. There seemed to be some time before their attackers emerged from the thick forest, so Bjorn began the process of summoning the air elemental with his censor. Meanwhile, Lomar called down the blessing of Salue on those about to fight, and also took the opportunity to cast animal growth on one of the barbarian ram-riders nearby, thereby increasing the size of the already giant ram to gargantuan proportions. Everyone else spread out to prepare for what may come.  After several minutes, a skirmish line of Bear barbarians approached the edge of the wood. There they halted and loosed a volley of spears, one of which dinged Kern in the side of the head. Jasper and Guy responded with bolts and spears, taking out two of the skirmishers. Erijay tossed a fireball at one end of the line, crisping half the remaining attackers and setting the forest alight. Then followed a charge by the giant-giant ram and the rest of the party to finish off the last few.
The party proceeded to loot the bodies while Kern stood guard in case there were more attackers. The sounds of battle could still be heard to the rear, but suddenly a much closer bellowing sound was heard coming from the north. Kern turned to see three large black bears, two sporting barbarian riders, followed by a small group of tribesmen on foot, charging down on the party. Calling everyone out of the forest, Kern turned invisible with his cloak and slipped forward to make a surprise attack. Meanwhile, everyone else emerged from the smoking forest to engage the new foes. Erijay cast a slow spell on the bears and riders, Jasper and Guy flicked more bolts and spears, and Lomar sent the giant-giant ram and rider into combat. A flurry of spells and stabbing ensued, but the bear riders held their ground. At least until Bjorn finished summoning the elemental, which he promptly dropped into the midst of the bear riders. That, coupled with a few magic missiles, back stabbings and other shenanigans was enough to clear the field and for looting to proceed again.

The sounds of battle died behind them as well, and when the party met with the High Ram later in the day, he reported some losses to the tribe's warriors, but otherwise all went well. Tzarn was anxious, however, to put their enemies behind them and cross the Great River. He was therefore not interested in Kern's plan to turn the tribe around to go looking for the "Hanging Tree", about which the party had learned from an old journal in the wyvern hoard looted some time earlier. "The Hanging Tree" is a massive fir tree in the Forest of the Bear, where  the Bear Tribe barbarians disposed of  and display the bodies of those who trespass their territory. The diary described the branches of the tree hanging with numerous human and humanoid corpses, many still  dressed and equip as in life and with obvious wealth. Kern insisted to the party that such a treasure so near by could not be ignored, and in the end they agreed. Tzarn meanwhile agreed to take the tribe across the river and await the party no more than 4 days before moving on and turning his tribe loose on civilized lands.

With little time to spare, the party moved deeper into the dark, wintry forest. They found their path led them back along the route taken by the attacking barbarians, at least until the falling snow hid the tracks. However, the two day march was uneventful, and in the afternoon of the second day they approached their goal. Ahead could be seen a massive fir tree breaking through the forest cover. Around the top flew several dozen dark shapes, ravens as far as could be seen.  Kern slipped forward invisibly to scout, and found  a large clearing below the tree. Above he could see the bodies hanging, but nothing else seemed to be present. He called the rest of the party forward, and they gathered below the fir and tried to figure out the best way to get all the loot. In the end, Guy was given Erijay's potion of flying, and the henchman sent up the tree to cut down the bodies for the rest of the party to loot once they hit the ground. This seemed to work at first, until someone noticed the ravens were descending, circling the tree and approaching the party. Guy tried to get above them, hoping to smash a few to the ground with falling bodies, but he was intercepted on the way and had to fight for his life. The rest of the birds fell on the rest of the party. Jasper immediately shouted "close your eyes!", and whipped out the preserved medusa head to turn the flying things to stone. Alas, the head not being fresh, it did no such thing this time. The ravens descended and began to peck at everyone's eye's and heads. Casting blindly, Bjorn loosed some magic missiles, Erijay a blast from her wand of cold,  and Lomar called down a curse on the flock. To the distress of them all, no birds fell in this onslaught. However, another blast from the wand, a web to pin one lot of ravens to the tree, and a few bolts from Jasper and Kern took down about half the birds. The rest flew back up the tree and out of range, leaving the party alone. Who proceeded (after some first aid and healing of course), to get on with the "cut down corpse and loot" process. In this they were successful, gathering a fine collection of coin, gems and jewelry, as well as a few possible magical items (a mace, potion and a huge tome). Kern also collected the desiccated remains of one body, obviously a lady of some importance based on the cornet and signet ring she wore. The merchant figured someone might pay handsomely for the remains, assuming he could figure out who she was and from whence she came.
With evening falling, the party restrained Lomar form igniting the giant tree and quickly headed back east, to put as much distance between them and the tree before they made camp for the night.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Westmist Session # 89 - Winter Wandering with Barbarians

... they are surprised to see that two brains they assumed were floating in the tank were actually lurking behind it. And they had sharp beaks and nearly a dozen razor tipped tentacles. The pair of weird creatures levitated overhead , and descended down on Erijay and Kern. Kern, lacerated and impaled by a mass of tentacles, found himself lifted off the floor as the thing started to carry him out of the room.  Erijay loosed a charge from her wand of cold, while Bjorn fired a trio of magic missiles. Khoog lashed out with his axe and Kern was able to winkle a dagger out of his boot and stab into the brain-creature carrying him. The two creatures still foughton, and the second now struck Erijay, paralyzing her and lifting her to be carried off. Bjorn saved the day by webbing Kern and one brain-creature in the entrance to the lab, and then using another trio of magic missiles to drop both to the floor in a spray of cerebral fluid and ichor.

Once everyone was recovered, they turned their attention back to the tank. Behind it Kern found a large metal plate (10'x5'), steel on one side and silver on the other. After a quick gp-equivalent calculation, he decided it was not worth trying to drag out of the dungeon. Back to the tank, he tried to figure out how to get the three remaining brains safely out of the pits of the Gann, thinking they might be useful in the Cerebral Shield. In the end, he simply plopped them in a sack and carried the dripping mess to the snowy and blustery surface.

Once there, Erijay and Kern were getting ready to trek back to Westmist. But Khoog would not allow that. He had been sent to make sure Kern returned to the tribe for his wedding to Wazara, the chiefs' twice widowed sister. And to lead the tribe across the wintry wastes of the Untamed Lands to their new promised lands around Westmist. Oh right, that little detail ...

Back to the tribes main encampment they went, and after a few days of preparation and exchange of wedding gifts between the bride and groom, the day of the celebration came. After the traditional slaughter of the wedding ram and consumption of the raw heart by the bridal couple, Kern was surprised to discover he had to wrestle his new bride to determine who would be head of the household. Stripping to their skivvies and lathering up with lanolin, the two met in a circle of drunken, hooting barbarians. Kern was somewhat perturbed to see his new wife was much more muscular and stronger than he had anticipated. At a signal from Tzarn the High Ram, the match began. Time and time again, Kern grasped Wazara, only have her throw off the hold. A couple of times, she likewise had the merchant down and almost pinned. In the end, however, Kern prevailed, pinning Wazara and gaining title as head of the household.

With the matrimonial wrestling match complete, the rest of the tribesman began setting up matches and making bets. One large brute by the name Toruga of the Double Straight Horn, challenged Bjorn to a match. The magic user accepted, but in just 10sec found himself pinned and poorer by 100gp. Erijay choose not to participate, but instead used the time to ask some of the drunken tribesmen about Kerns' new bride. Apparently she had been married off by Tzarn twice before to important allies, each of whom mysteriously died after they were no longer of use to the High Ram. Humm ...

The celebration raged on for another day, but then it became time to prepare the tribe for the trek through the winter snows. Tzarn summoned his new brother-in-law and demanded Kern provide a plan for getting the tribe safely through the winter snows, and past both the Tribe of the Bear to the north and the Tribe of the Wolf to the south. Kern mumbled something about Mr. Windy, and powerful magic and so on. Nothing very convincing, but with Tzarn nursing a raging hangover, it was enough for the chief. It took a few days, but soon the whole tribe had assembled: 150 warriors, 120 old and infirm, and nursing mothers, 130 children, and 7000 sheep. Piling their worldly good on sledges pulled by giant rams, the tribe set off, with Kern and a hand picked scouting group of tribesmen in the lead. Erijay and Bjorn hung back with the main body, keeping close to Tzarn the High Ram.

The slow trek trough the foothills and onto the plains was uneventful, but that all changed when the tribe stopped to rest at midday on the fourth day out. Kern was still ahead scouting, and Erijay and Bjorn were standing outside the High Rams tent when the witchdoctor Koza approached, accompanied with Khoog and a dozen barbarians. They all looked edgy, and Koza demanded the elf step aside so they could enter the tent and consult with Tzarn. Erijay tried to delay, and Bjorn quickly cast invisibility, and started to summon the air elemental just in case. Koza was impatient, however, and with a gesture from him, a half dozen of the barbarians grappled and, after a brief struggle, pinned the elf maid. Koza, Khoog and the others then pushed into the tent, and soon the muffled sounds of fighting could be heard through the thick felt. Bjorn ceased his summoning, and rushed invisibly inside, while Eirjay began to scream for help from those loyal to the chief. Inside, Bjorn could see Tzarn surrounded by enemies, battered and bleeding. Laying dead on the floor were the High Rams bodyguards, as well as one of the attackers.  Bjorn cast a web spell, entrapping Khoog and most of the barbarians. The witchdoctor turned, cast a spell, and suddenly the three dead tribesmen rose to their feet as zombies and turned to attack the mage. That was all the break Tzarn needed, and he lowered his head and rammed into the witchdoctor with his ceremonial horns.   While Bjorn fought the zombies, the chief struck Koza twice more with his horns, and the witchdoctors' battered and crushed body fell dead to the floor. The chief then walked over to the webbed rebels, and cooly drove a spear through each head, leaving only Khoog. Under questioning, Bjorn and Erijay now learned that Khoog was a grandson of the previous chief, said chief having been usurped by Tzarn. Koza had recruited him to join the witchdoctor in taking out Tzarn and ending this foolish plan to move east to Westmist. The old entrails-reader could see no good coming of such a move. Questioning complete, Tzarn finished Khoog off with his spear.

The tribe was shaken by these events, but Tzarn now put much trust in the party, and the trek continued. More days of cold travel ensued, with little to break the monotony until the eighth day. Late in the afternoon, Kern and his scouts observed a cloud of snow to the south, obviously being kicked up by a large group of something approaching. As the tribe pulled back into a compact, defensible group, Kern, Erijay and Bjorn went out to confront whatever it was. After some time, they could see a figure on horseback leading a group of men or similar creatures. As they got closer, they could see the rider was dressed in heavy black robes decorated with skulls, and his stead was a skeletal horse. The rest of the creatures were battered hobgoblin and human zombies, obviously the dead of last seasons hobgoblin invasion. The rider (Xoltac) halted, and presumptuously demanded they party provide 'recruits' for his army or he would turn them loose on the party and tribe. The party demurred, and when the conversation began to get heated, they ended it with a quick fireball and a series of magic missiles  and crossbow bolts. Once the ashes cooled, Kern looted a purse of coins and gems from Xoltecs' crisp body, as well as a weird staff made of fused human bone and a suit of black lacquered plate mail.
Moving on, another week found the tribe on the banks of the Great River. Kern scouted ahead hopping to find the magical Starbridge spanning the river, but to no avail. He returned to the main body, and it was decided to get to work building rafts using trees from the surrounding forest. They had just started to organize the tribes labour, however, when from the woods came a loud roar and out poured a hoard or Bear Tribe barbarians ...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Westmist Session #88 - Brains ... Brains ...

Khoog refused to spend another night below ground, so he left Erijay and Kern (with Bjorn) to bed down with the centipede-women. They were joined the next day by Lomar and Jasper, and the cleric had his work cut out for him healing all their wounds. That done, exploration continued. In particular, exploration to identify a way to get in behind the metallospiders and hopefully get the drop on them. Descending the long spiral staircase, the party passed through a door just above and opposite the one they'd encountered the spiders last time. Behind it were stairs going down and a spiral staircase going up. As the party started past the spiral stairs, a pair of metallospiders surprised them from above, dropping onto Erijay and Kern in the front rank. Lomar fired his web bracelet and  entrapped both, but also caught Erijay in the sticky mess. Thankfully, the rest of the party was able to destroy the two metallospiders and retrieve Erijay before any serous harm was done. Investigating where the spiders had come from, Kern climbed the spiral stairs and found a small dead end tunnel. Out of the wall protruded two small pipes, surrounded by globs of metal. Next to each was a lever. After some soul searching, Kern decide to pull a lever. And was doused in a spray of hot molten metal.
Once Kern stopped screaming, everyone decided it best to  head down the other stairs instead of poking around with the tubes any further. These stairs led to a tunnel, then an opening in the tunnel floor. Handholds led down,  and Kern was about to try them out when a flying ape rose out of the pit and attacked. It was quickly slain, and Kern tried climbing down again. But only after Lomar tied a rope around the merchants waist, just in case.  Lowering himself down, Kern found himself dangling above a bizarre mass of glass tubes, wires, pipes and valves. A circle of glass tubes sat in the middle of the room, each large enough to hold a person. Deciding it would be best to find a more direct (and easier to flee through) entrance, the party dragged Kern back up and returned to the long staircase. Just about to open the door, Kern now heard scurrying noises on the other side. Fearing more metallospiders, Kern pulled open the door and Erijay cast a web to block the passage above. Which, luckily, was where the spiders were lurking. But not metallospiders this time, just regular run of the mill, giant poisonous black widow spiders. With the spiders barred behind the web, the party descended even further down the stairs, and were able to walk right into the strange laboratory when the reached the bottom. They could now see that two of the glass tubes were filled with liquid. One held a humanoid skeleton with three arms and two heads. The other was a murky, opaque mess. On the west wall was a huge switch. Kern played around with the valves for a bit, and learned he could fill the empty tubes with some kind of broth or protoplasmic goo. He then went over the throw the switch, at which point the liquid filled tubes began to glow green-blue and a loud hum filled the room. Not sure if they should tinker any further, Kern shut down the power and the party headed east.

There, they encountered another steel door, which opened easily. On the other side was a huge room, with multiple floor of steel grating above and below. A strange blue glow faintly lit the whole area, and before they could proceed into the room, the mechanical voice of an unseen metallospider challenged them. And warned them to leave and NEVER return, or suffer the consequences. The party did try to engage in some conversation to figure out what made the metallospiders 'tick' so to speak. The were able to learn that the creation of the Gann which they'd been designed to run was a machine built to destroy the world! With that sobering fact, and the fact that they could not see their adversaries, the party prudently decided to retreat and forget about their bargain with the centipede-women. Time to focus on finding the Cerebral Shield and get the heck out of these depths. So they retraced their steps back to the blood-thristy head, and tried to feed it the blood of the slain flying ape to get more info. Alas, it still did not speak. Next step, Lomar tried to dispel the angry air elemental Bjorn had inadvertently trapped below. No luck; Salue did not hear his prayers. So back to the surface and a night of rest before they delved once more.
Starting again at the head, they followed Erijays directions. They got so far, and then turned back up towards the surface. There they ran into two strange laboratories. One contained what appeared to be two steel coffins, held upright on metal racks and filled with weird foam. On one was a dial with 8 settings. Lomar crawled in one and had Guy turn the dial to 7. Everything hummed and glowed, but Lomar emerged unharmed except for a little missing hair. The second laboratory contained a chair with metal straps at arms and neck, plus a large arm dangling overhead, with various saws and drills attached. Next to it was a steel cabinet with a dial marked from 1-10 on it. Kern managed to pick the lock, and opened it to find 10 jars, most of which contained a head in some kind of preserving fluid. Human, non human, and one medusa head. Which luckily Kern avoided looking at closely and therefore avoided getting turned to stone. And which Jasper popped into a sack for potential future use. No one wanted to sit in the chair, so they headed out and went further down to try picking up the right path to the Cerebral Shield. They found themselves moving to the west, and shortly came to a rope bridge spanning a wide gulf. And swirling around it, still trapped, was the air elemental. Lomar tried once more to dispel, and once more failed. Salue must be angry with her servant! In the end, Bjorn and Erijay blasted the trapped thing from a distance with spells, and Kern with bolts from his magic crossbow, until it finally dissipated and left the way open for them to continue.
Just past the bridge they encountered another strange lab. In this one they found two metal tables in the center of the room, and shelves with glass jars containing preserved body parts lining the walls. At the far end of the room was a metal cabinet and a big glass tank in which floated a number of brains. Kern again unlocked the cabinet, and inside found a small glass ball on a chain. Inside were three interlocking rings and in the top a hole with a plug. Also in the cabinet was a convoluted distillation apparatus, and a book. Kern gingerly opened and read the book, and found that the little glass ball was the Cerebral Shield of the Gann. He was a little perturbed to find that in order to provide mass protection against mind affecting magic, the glass  ball had to be filled with the freshly distilled essence of a fresh humanoid brain. Well, might as well start with the brains in the tank. As the party started to recover the brains from the tank, suddenly ... TO BE CONTINUED