Friday, September 28, 2012

Westmist Session #17 - Lizardfolk

With Turrick still in bed recovering from rat bite fever, Kern, Darnorth, Riley and Erijay headed back to Stonehell to search once more for signs of hobgoblins. They also brought along a small entourage consisting of the men-at-arms Roth, Hengest and Guy, the cleric Yar, and the war dogs Ruffee and Fonzi. And of course the faithful mule Sweet Jenny, who seemed almost eager to enter the depths once more. Before heading back to the crypts to search for stairs down, the party stopped to question Rocky the Oracular Head to gather more information.  From the stone head they learned the closest stairs down were in the far northeast corner of the crypts, that the best way to help him was to find his brother, and engaged in a rather philosophical discussion of the relative nature of large and small. None of which was particularly helpful.

Back in the crypts, they party headed south again to continue the explorations started on their last visit. Breaking open several new crypts, they encountered a handful of zombies and skeletons that were quickly eliminated.  In the next crypt, however, they encounter a greater challenge and mystery. Two roughly humanoid forms, made of swirling dust, rotted linens, bones chips and shadows, rose from the debris strewn floor to attack. Alas, poor Yar fell quickly, battered to death by grave detritus when she was engulfed by one of the creatures. The rest of the party finished off the frightful being, but did find many of their attacks were less than effective against the partly incorporeal things. Only Erijay with her magical battleaxe was able to strike telling blows.
Coming to the end of the crypts, the party discovered a spiral stairway going down. Descending, they noted a faint marshy smell, and on reaching the bottom of the stairs observed that this area of the dungeon was quite damp, with a feeling of oppressive moisture in the air. Undaunted, they first explored an octagonal room, with a pillar covered in snake carving in the middle. After Kern had prudently checked for traps, the party approached so Darnorth could use his dwarven eye to examine the stonework closer, discovering the remains of a stone snake statue on top of the pillar.  Finding nothing further of interest, they headed east. Before going too far, they were startled by a low rumbling sound that made the floors shake, and caused dust and small debris to fall from the ceiling. After a minute or so, they rumble stopped.  The party then moved on to a room whose walls were covered in crude pictographs of lizards-like humanoids, while in the room itself was a series of totem poles festooned in feathers, skulls, bits of glass and stone.

After quickly checking out an old guardroom, the party continued east, soon coming to an area of natural, unworked stone. Here, the floor was covered in a thick layer of mud, in which the clawed tracks of some unknown creatures could be seen. Boldly, they pushed on to reach a small natural cavern, where they were immediately set upon by a band of lizardfolk that stood guarding the way.  Giving the party no time to talk, the lizardfolk attacked, and were slain with relative ease. Moving across the room, the party was surprised by another band of lizardfolk. This group made short work of the men-at-arms Guy and Hengest, and left a mark on the rest of the party, before being added to the lizardfolk charnel house on the floor.  Exiting the other side of the room, the party was one more beset by lizardfolk, getting caught in a narrow tunnel by their scaly foes. These were supported by what appeared to be their tribal shaman, who quickly took out both of the party’s spell casters with well placed hold (Riley) and silence (Erijay) spells. At the same time, the lizardfolk warriors laid blow after blow on Erijay and Darnorth in the front rank, both of whom were now facing death. While Kern provided cover with his crossbow, Darnorth used his boots of levitation to rise above the fray and retreat. Erijay, barely avoiding a death blow, backed away on foot and the two war dogs Ruffee and Fonzi were sent forward to cover the retreat. Darnoth and Erijay joined Kern with their missile weapons while the dogs held the attacking lizardfolk in the narrow corridor.  There ensued a close fight, with the dogs biting into their foes, and the three crossbow wielding archers (with Erijay getting double attacks thanks to a potion of speed ) picked off the enemy ranks one by one. The party prevailed, with their only loss being the brave Ruffee.
 Sifting through the now gore covered floor, Darnorth discovered a fine longsward clutched in the hand of one of the fallen lizardfolk, while the others recovered a few bits of jewelry from the bodies. Now very cautious, the party moved forward again, sending Kern ahead to scout in silence. He found the narrow tunnels continuing in several directions, while the rest of the party discovered a larger chamber with a tall mud mound. The mound had a small door covered in a hide flap, which Darnorth pushed aside as he entered the dark interior. Inside, the iron stomached dwarf encountered a horrific smell that almost brought up his lunch, as well as finding a room with reed mats and a variety of totems and medicine bags scattered throughout.  

While Kern was eager to push on, the party elected to head back to town, given their rather battered condition. Loading their treasure and their dead on Sweet Jenny, they encountered a band of kobold workers on the way out, who provided more information in rerun for a square meal of ‘surface’ food. They learned a little more about the hobgoblins, including their general location and their mainly antagonistic relationship with the rest of the dungeon inhabitants. The kobolds also revealed that the rumbling sound head earlier was the sound of an elevator room that connects this level to the levels below, a room the party has passed close to earlier in their exploration.

Back in town, the party restocked crossbow bolts, while Darnorth found that his new sward was magical. They also had a visit from one of the Baron’s lieutenants, who was rather underwhelmed to find the party hadn’t actually seen a hobgoblin yet, let alone gather and useful intelligence. While the charismatic dwarf did his best to put a brave face on their expedition, Lord Merdwyn was not amused.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Westmist Session #16 - Fugitives no More

Having now learned more about the smugglers and the hobgoblins from the charmed Alia, the party (Erijay, Riley, Darnorth, Turrick, and Kern) had to decide how that information could be best put to their advantage i.e. get the arrest warrant lifted. Alia in tow, the head back upriver to Westmist, using the cover of darkness to make their way to the woods east of town. The next morning, Kern made his way to the Commons to meet Rikar. The beggar, true to his word, was there at the crack of dawn with Sweet Jenny in tow. From him, Kern learned that they were still being hunted and the March Baron had the town in an uproar. Kern then passed a note for delivery to Bazzrel the Flying Mage, in which the group asked the mage to meet them at the old prison pens east of town. This apparently piqued Bazzrel's curiosity, as he did indeed met the party. He first informed the party that Lord Merdwyn had seemingly come to his senses that morning. It would appear he had been under the influence of a charm spell from the Lady Glendril/Alia, who had weaved lies and turned him against the party. That said, Bazzrel then  listened to what the party and the charmed Alia had to say. He indicated he was inclined to believe the story, but warned that the March Baron may not, being especially suspicious after the events of the last few days. Just the same, Bazzrel agreed to try arranging a quiet meeting between the party and the March Baron on the next day.

Next day at the agreed time, the party observed a mass of riders leaving town and heading towards them. It was made up of the March Baron and several squadrons  of his men,  Liphanes of the Highest Virtue and his own clerical retinue, all lead by the Flying Mage.  Confronting the party and the still charmed Alia, the March Baron demanded they tell their story one more time. This they did, at which point the  corpulent Highest Virtue rode forward and raised a peon to the god Velas, asking if the story was true and if all were speaking in good faith. To the party's relief, a resounding YES was heard. Now exonerated (and having both house and hench-elf returned), they discussed with the March Baron the next course of action.  He would have to focus on preparing his defenses and sending east for reinforcements and aid from the King, but asked that the party try to find more information on the hobgoblins. Particularly how many there were, and when the attack was expected. Discussing options, they chose to start back in Stonehell, where Alia had told them one wing of the attack was being marshaled.  Leaving the redhead magician at the March Baron's mercy, Kern gave her a quick shove as they party moved out, breaking the charm and earning a look of pure evil and hatred in return.

Back in Stonehell (with Sweet Jenny and three new war dogs in tow) , the party first encountered a group of kobold caretakers, whom they questioned about the hobgoblins. From the little dogmen, they learned the hobgoblins were found on the second level, below the kobold market. They also learned that apart from the main entrance near the market, the next access closest to the hobgoblin lair was found in the crypts to the east.  In the hopes of sneaking up on the hobgoblins, the party chose to brave the crypts again, but not before searching out Korag and his Wolf Gang goblins to try enticing them to help. While Korag was pleased to see them, he was not willing to risk his tribe against the hobgoblins, especially since he didn't quite trust the party.

Rebuffed, the party head back to the undead halls, turning south in their search for the stairs going down. Along the way, they pillaged a number of crypts, and battled the rats and zombies they disturbed. Turrick was bitten by one particularly vicious rat, and began to feel a little ill as a result.  In another spot, a mass of zombies burst from the crypts to confront the party. The zombie hoard was dealt with using a combination of flaming oil and arrows, while their advance was blocked the sword and axe (and dogs) of Turrick and Erijay. In yet another crypt, a strange creature, formed of a swirling asymmetric collection of human bones, animated and attacked with a flurry of fists before falling to the party's blades.  Here, they recovered a trove of silver coins and jewelry. At this point, they elected to return to town rather than push forward, particularly since Turrick was beginning to feel the effects of his earlier rat bite.  
Back in town, Turrick visited Duran the Physician to have his rat fever treated. After a week of bed rest, he joined Kern for a night on the town, during which they both tried hitting on the same mysterious and androgynous stranger who had been the object of Erijay's advances some weeks earlier. And again, both were lucky to escape still clad in their own skin. Were that not enough, Kern on the rebound somehow ended up at the altar with a different young woman, only to leave her jilted when he sobered up enough to realize what he was doing. Needless to say, the lady was not impressed. 

On a final note, the loyal Rikar was hired to guard and look after party's house in their absence, and generally serve as 'man about the house'.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Westmist Session #15 - I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

Turning their backs on Stonehell, the next order of business for the party was to deal again with the smugglers running arms downriver. In the week leading up to the next new moon, the six (Kern, Turrick, Eazam, Darnorth, Riley and Erijay) started to pull together the pieces of their plan. An audience with the Lord Merdwyn was arranged to get both his OK to go ahead with an attack from the bridge, and to negotiate some assistance. The smooth talking Darnorth received both permission and the promise of a half dozen men-at-arms. The party also touched base with the Masked Council to secure their support, and negotiated to hire Gundar should they need help crewing and manning a boat. Finally, Erijay was sent off to get red hair dye so she could, if necessary, disguise herself as the magician Alia.

Alas, their plans were thrown into disarray when a few days before the new moon, a fleet of boats flying the royal banner of Kellowai arrived in town. These anchored in midstream, and landed a noblewomen to speak with the March Baron. The party starting digging for rumors, finding out that such a visit was unusual, as was the stated purpose (to resupply the Citadel of Amrath).Their investigation was interrupted when the beggar Rikar, previously befriended by Turrick, arrived to breathlessly tell them that the March Baron had ordered the party’s arrest and his men were spreading out across town to find them all. The group quickly decided the best place for them in the circumstances was out of town, so Rikar led them to an area where several buildings were built against the town walls. As Darnorth with his magic boots helped the party clamber over the wall, the guards in an adjacent tower challenged them and opened fire. They were quickly silenced by Erijay’s sleep spell. Kern left a handful of coin and Sweet Jenny in the beggars care, and arranged to meet him on the Commons outside the town walls the next day to get more news.

The group hid in the marsh, and watched as parties of the March Baron’s horsemen fanned out to the north and east searching for them. They also noted a party of riders heading up the old Stonehell road towards the dungeon, a party that did not return before dark as did the others. Next day Kern made his way to the Commons to meet Rikar.  He learned from the beggar that King’s envoy, Lady Glendril, had convinced the March Baron that the party had fabricated the whole hobgoblin story to discredit him,  so they could usurp his baronial seat and replace him with the axe wielding Erijay.   He also learned that the Baron’s men had ransacked their new house, and hauled away the bedridden hench-elf Elineel to the dungeons beneath his keep. Obviously unable to return to Westmist right now, they decided to head downriver to intercept the smugglers, a modification of their original plan. Stopping at the old smugglers camp, they found it still deserted and unused since their last visit. The party set an ambush around it, while Kern hid by the river to watch for boats. No smugglers appeared, but late in the evening, the royal flotilla passed by and disappeared into the evening mist.

The party continued their watch overnight with no result, before boarding their boat and heading downriver through the morning mist. Before too long, however, they emerged from the mist only to find the royal flotilla at anchor just 60 yards ahead. Quickly back paddling, they tried to evade, but were spotted and one of the vessels pulled anchor to pursue. With more rowers, the royal ship caught up and the men-at-arms aboard opened fire once the party came within visual range. They were supported by a great warrior plate mail and what appeared to be Lady Glendril, casting spells. While half the party continued to pull for shore, Erijay dropped a sleep spell on their pursuers, knocking out many of the men at arms and several rowers. Eazam used his rope of climbing, and Turrick his net, to try ensnaring the Lady, but to no avail. In the meantime, she spoke the magic word ‘tella’, dumping the party into waist deep water as their boat turned back to a box, and proving they in fact faced the magician Alia. While Kern tried to grab the box, one of the rowers ensnared it in a net and began to pull it towards his own boat. The rest of the party traded missile fire with the enemy, except Riley who successfully cast silence on Alia, neutralizing that threat. The fight turned in the parties favor when Eazam was finally successful in ensnaring Alia in his rope.  Kern, meanwhile, waited until their magic box/boat was almost onboard the enemy vessel before speaking the work ‘spaz’, returning the boat to full size and in the process crushing the enemy boat and dumping everyone onboard into the water. While Eazam pulled the bound magician to shore, the rest of the party use missile fire to pick off those crew who had not yet been pulled under by the weight of their armor. 
 The other vessels were now approaching, so the party ran into the mists to hide from the search parties. These gave up by nightfall, and when they checked in the morning, all sign of the rest of the fleet was gone, with just the debris and bodies from the previous day’s battle remaining. Kern dove into the water to recover the body of the drowned plate mailed warrior, dragging it back to camp. They stripped both the body and Alia of valuables, and cast Detect Magic to discover three magical potion vials. Then, Erijay successfully cast Charm Person on Alia, and the party proceeded to learn all she knew about the smuggling operation. As a river smuggler, she had been hired in the city of Kingsford to run arms and supplies down the rivers to the hobgoblins at the ruins of Narmor. She didn’t know who was doing the hiring, having dealt only with middlemen, but it was obviously someone of influence and wealth. She also knew there was someone in Westmist involved, but again did not know his/her identity. She had lead about 7-8 runs downriver, filling several warehouses below the ruined castle (serving as the hobgoblins headquarters) on the island portion of Narmor. After each run, she and her men would row the Folding Boat back to the east bank of the Great River, then proceed overland to Kingsford to arrange another trip.  As far as she knew, the hobgoblins were planning an invasion of the Kingdom of Kellowai, starting with Westmist. She had no idea when the attack was coming, but did say this was her last trip downriver. The party was left to ponder these revelations and plan their next course of action. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Westmist Session #14 - Once More into the Depths

Back to Stonehell, the party's (consisting of Turrick, Erijay, Darnorth, Riley, Eazam and Kern) first task was to convince Kern's new mule, Sweet Jenny II, to go down the stairs. It was discovered that carrots worked, but sweet talking by the dwarf did not. Heading back to the second level, they first encountered  a lone berserker wandering the corridors. Riley boldly waved his companions aside and dealt with the deranged fellow alone, thereby fulfilling his quest and regaining Habuu's favor.

Exploring new rooms. the party encounter one door with an ominous sign: "Do Not Disturb the Slumber of It".  They of course entered the room, to find a coffin, nailed shut and draped with dried garlic cloves. While Turrick made a  necklace of the cloves, the other argued over the pros and cons of opening the coffin. In the end, they elected to heed the sign and explore elsewhere. They continued to encounter odd sites, including ball of brightly coloured string sitting in front of one door, which Darnorth claimed for his own.

Entering a room where faint, ghostly whispers could be heard, Kern listened carefully and received great insight from the voices, determining their best bet for treasure lay to the south. Heading that way, they entered a vast pillared hall. While cautiously moving around the perimeter of the room, they were attacked by 3 giant spiders, which were soon dispatched. Encountering a pile of rubble from which a skeletal hand protruded, they decided to dig to see who or what lay beneath. They discovered the crushed body of a dwarf, of which  the most notable feature were a pair of pink boots on her feet. These were claimed by Darnorth. At this point, the party was interrupted by a band of ghouls entering the far side of the room. While at first dismayed by the presence of the foul undead (due to their previous, deadly encounters), the ghouls  were dealt with rather easily a combination of missiles and burning oil. All the same, both Kern and Turrick were paralyzed by their diseased touch.  Unsure of how long the paralysis would last, the party threw Kern and Turick over Sweet Jenny's back and headed north to a secure location to res. However, they were pleasantly surprised to find the two had recovered before camp was made.

Heading south again, they entered a room with eight white circles painted on the floor, each with six dead rats tied together by their tails. Being careful to not disturb  the circles, they next found a band of small human like figures, with vaguely simian features. These were unfazed by the party's presence,  and uncommunicative, but instead were intent on painting the walls with a strange, repeating whorled pattern.  Leaving these creatures behind, the party entered an old lounge full of rotted furniture (from which Riley recovered a handful of coins), old cloaks and a smashed harpsichord.  And two large bats, who descended on poor Sweet Jenny as the torch had been placed on her harness. The bats were slain, but not before Jenny suffered a number of bites.

In the next room the party found a shaft, hidden under a threadbare carpet, leading down to the next level. Turrick was lowered down to find the smashed remains of some sort of lift, as well as a corridor covered in a foot of dirt, overgrown with plant life, all lit by a strange dim light. Not willing to risk a lower level right now, the halfling was pulled back up to continue exploring the second level.  Pushing on, Kern luckily heard sounds ahead. Gliding forward, he found a room that looked like an abattoir, occupied by three ghoulish shapes having a meal. Sneaking back to tell the others, a plan was formulated that involved lots of oil and missile weapons. However, the party was too quick to light the oil. For when they got the ghouls attention, the foul creatures were clever enough to not go through it, but instead left by a another corridor to try taking the party from the rear. One stayed behind and did rush the party when the flames died down,  but fell quickly to the combined efforts of the party. The majority of the party then entered the abattoir to muck around in the offal and look for treasure, for which efforts they were rewarded with many coins and gems. However, the other two ghouls now appeared and fell on those left to guard the corridor. A furious melee ensued, in which Riley was paralyzed and the two ghouls attempted to carry him away. Eazam used his magic rope of climbing to latch onto the cleric, and with help for Kern , pulled Riley from the creatures grasp. The ghouls then turned on Eazam, paralyzing both he and Turrick, who happened to be standing in front of the fighter. A fusillade of blows, however, ended the undead threat before further harm came to the helpless trio, Waiting for the three to recover, the rest of the party loaded Sweet Jenny with the treasure , and then once again emerged from the depths of Stonehell.