Friday, December 27, 2013

Westmist Session #60 - Delving for Duncal Part#1

Having spent a lot of their recent adventuring time just mucking around, Kern (with Bjorn), Erijay, and Riley (with Gurruk and wolves) decided to get down to business. They loaded up and headed for Stonehell, ready for an attempt at rescuing Duncal, heir to the previous March Baron, from his mountain troll captors deep in the dungeon. They made quick passage through the upper levels, stopping only to pass once more through the cordon of their former hirelings. Who had gotten rid of the untrustworthy hobgoblins and were now joined by a handful of the March Barons former guards, lost by the party on several previous  expeditions. Wondering who was left to come back from the great beyond to surprise them, the group made their way without delay down to the fourth level. Following the previously mapped route, they skirted the gentleman ghouls lair and headed for the great stairway down to the trolls level. Along the way, they ran into a group of the ghouls led by the butler they had spoken with previously. With much haughtiness, the parry was informed the group was going to get some `groceries` for tonight’s feast.  They were rather coy about their shopping list, but did say the main course would be full roasted human stuffed with a halfling puree. Although (with a glance at Erijay), fresh elf would be a fine addition to their larder. When told the elf was not for mealtime, the ghouls shooed the party along while muttering something about the lower class of visitors these days.

Coming to the stairs, they descended by the light of torches set in sconces. Reaching the bottom, Kern halted the rest of the party while he scouted forward. Passing below a raised portcullis, Kern spied a huge octagonal room, in the centre of which appeared to be a large pit or sunken floor. The construction here differed from the upper levels. Instead of fitted stone, the floors and walls looked like they were poured of seamless cement. The ceilings were flat instead of the curved architecture seem thus far. Unable to see the far wall, however, he donned his ring of invisibility  and crept slowing across the room.  Just as he reached the pit, a metallic sing-song voice came from the darkness ahead, speaking in rusty archaic common: ``Who crosses my chambers without leave and without paying the toll`. With their scout caught, the others moved forward in support. Erijay and Gurruk checked out the pit, and found it occupied by a pair of five-headed draconic creatures. Gurruk tried using his animal empathy to draw the creatures into his service. While willing, the hydras seemed bound by another power that prevented them from joining with the wild man.  Kern, meanwhile, moved closer to the voice, hoping to actually see the source before answering. He found a pair of high balconies in the corners of the room, and on the southernmost one stood humanoid creature. Dressed in strange iridescent banded mail over a layer of basilisk hide, his grey skin showed features of just about every demihuman and humanoid imaginable.  Again the creature challenged the merchant, demanding a toll for safe passage. Inquiring as to how much the toll was, Kern was told either 2000gp or two items of surface magic would allow safe passage in and out (should they return alive from the troll halls). Balking at the fee, the group pulled back to the stairs to confer. They decided to use force, and Bjorn started preparing the censor to summon the air elemental to help them.
Bursting forth into the room, Bjorn directed the elemental at the strange humanoid. Kern turned his crossbow on the same target. Gurruk, backed by Erijay,  tried once more to reason with the inhabitants of the pit. Riley and the wolves covered Bjorn to ensure he was not disturbed while controlling the summoned elemental. The elemental tore into the humanoid creature, and despite Gurruk`s best effort, the two hydra crawled out of the pit and attacked he and Erijay. The creature was taken down quickly, and the elemental was directed onto the hydra. One of whom had brought the elf maid to deaths door, in spite of a flurry of lighting bolt and magic missiles. They too soon fell, and after battle cleanup began. Gurruk began carving up one of the hydra to get it`s hide to make into armour. Kern and Erijay searched the humanoids body. In addition to the odd armour, they found a handful of strange triangular platinum coins and a ring. This Erijay put on and found it to be a ring of hydra control. Too late. Kern meanwhile claimed the creatures fallen crossbow, which he suspected of being magic. They also noted he had strange cat-like, metallic eyes.

There was little time to ponder these discoveries, however, as visitors arrived at the southern entrance into the room.  A half dozen of the same creatures, accompanied by another dressed in a bodysuit covered in small iridescent plates. Bjorn directed the elemental on these newcomers, blocking them in the doorway. While the bulk of the invaders could do nothing to harm the elemental, the one in the bodysuit raised a hand covered in a fine mesh glove and pointed it extra planer creature.  A bolt of lightning shot forth, followed by another and another.  Worried their airy protector was going to defeated, the party tried to join the fight and help. Erijay started reading spells straight from her spellbook, blasting away with a lightning bolt and magic missiles. Meanwhile, Kern used a lever on one balcony to drop a portcullis, barring their foes from entering the room. The creatures were slaughtered except for one who was spared and convinced to talk. Little was learned except his people controlled this area and they called themselves Vrilya. Taking the Vrilya captive, Erijay also grabbed the glove from the pile of the dead. Which was timely, as a commotion could now be heard at the north end. As the party headed for the north entrance, they saw a pair of tigers throw themselves at the dropped portcullis there. Behind the two cats came another band of Vrilya. These cut down the felines, who transformed on death into human form. The Vrilya then rushed the portcullis, and were preparing to force it open when Riley spoke up. He offered them the life of their captive (as well as the imposing menace of the still swirling air elemental) for free passage to the halls of the mountain trolls. This caused some discussion, and after a few moments the Vrilya leader accepted the offer. With the condition that  the party not come back this way; instead the Vrilya would show them another back up to the upper levels. The party agreed, and Bjorn dismissed his elemental servent (who couldn`t fit into the narrow corridors ahead). The party them formed up, and with a squad of Vrilya in front and back, were lead deeper into the dungeon. As they passed the fallen weretigers, Kern was shocked to see that one was Sanaja, his recent co-captive in the temple of the yg-ti. Curious ….

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Westmist Session #59 - Revenge and Lessons Learned

After a few days back in Westmist, Kern called the party together to fill them in on information he had been collecting about the March Baron and all the somewhat shady goings on over the last few months. Kern had discovered that, first of all, the King was not privy to Lord Merdwyn latest caper, setting up an independent County Palatine. And Lord Merdwyn at least was worried he would take offense and was going out of his way to placate His Majesty. While this was going on, the March Baron continued to consolidate his hold on the old town of Nasper. This was being bankrolled by a treasure trove recovered, by the March Baron (assisted by another group of adventurers) from below Nasper Castle. And thirdly, there was something fishy going on with the March Baron, Jax and Sir Wyder (the King's recent representative in Westmist). Although the royal knight was seen passing through Westmist after the hobgoblin battles, reports uncovered by Kern seemed to point to the knight’s death in battle. Which left open the question of who was this other Sir Wyder? Kern warned that one of his spies had been discovered and dismissed from the March Baron's service. While he doesn't think the person can be traced back to him, it is a reason to be extra careful around Jax and the March Baron for now.

While all of great interest, this was not information that could be acted n at once. For now, Riley and Kern paid a visit to Thuridici the Sage. They wished to question him about the secret chest recovered from the Forbidden City, as well as the gate by which they had reached that city. The irritable academic met with them and, after being shown the chest, agreed to take the job (for a paltry 1000gp) of determining how to bypass the beard curse when opening it. The carving, he said, seemed to depict one of the many of demons worshipped in the far southern jungles. As for the gate, he was surprised to find that there was such a thing hidden in a Westmist cellar. Based on the description, he immediately declared it to be one of them many Gates of the Wind Wizards of Foronaxos. The Wind Wizards were a powerful group of mages who specialized in the building and use of magical gates. They had done so since the beginning of recorded history, even back before the Godwars that destroyed the first fabled civilizations of man. The last known member of the order was reportedly seen several hundred years ago, and to the best of Thuridici's knowledge they were no more. Their gates were powered by precious gems, and each gate could be opened to different locations depending on the actual combination of gems (star ruby, star sapphire, blue diamond, and even fabled star topaz) inserted into the slots. Surprised to find their gate could lead to many dangerous places, Kern asked if it was possible to destroy or block it. Horrified at the thought of destroying such an artifact, Thuridici did believe it possible to block passage through it by some other means. But could not say how without further research (at a cost of 3000gp). Kern and Riley, checking their coin purse, choose not to hire the sage at this point, and opted instead for the temporary expedient of having Slate build a wall across the gate to prevent any unwanted visitors from entering the house.
Thirsty still for information, Kern suggested a trip to Stonehell to speak with Lachesis. Mainly to find out if it was possible to sleep in the dungeon safely. Back into the depths went Kern (and Bjorn) and Riley (and Gurruk), only to be stopped almost immediately by a new door that blocked access to the old hobgoblin fortress and the stairs to the lower levels. While not trapped, the door was barred, so Riley decided to knock and see who answered. A small slot opened in the door, a pair of eyes peered out and a strangely familiar voice asked "Who are you? What is your business here?" The cleric, showing immense self control, explained who they were and their desire to head deeper in the dungeon. At which point the voice asked "Ah, Brother Riley. Do you not remember us?" Which, after a little further back and forth, led to the discovery that holding the door and old fortress against them was a band of their former hirelings and henchmen. Mysteriously (?) back from their former dungeon graves. While not happy at their previous treatment (i.e. left for dead) by the party, the band agreed that in return for a small 50gp fee, the party would be free to pass their door in perpetuity. Chaffing at the embarrassment of being shaken down by their dead hirelings, the quartet none the less passed through without incident, greeting previously dead acquaintances along the way.

Past that hurdle, the headed straight to Lachesis. That lady agreed to meet with them, and in exchange for the usual fee, answered their questions about sleeping in the dungeon. She dismissed the story of insanity in anyone sleeping below ground as a baseless myth. She had lived in Stonehell for many years, and was she not sane? The biggest problem would be finding a place where the resting party would not be continually disturbed by the denizens of the dungeon. She did offer, for an additional fee, to give directions to a location of a room on the second level guaranteed to give them a peaceful place to rest. Kern and Riley, however, checked their bank balance and choose to not spend any more coin at this time.

Having taken leave of the spy mistress, Kern now convinced Riley to go with him to the garden area to take revenge on Urushiol, the crazed guardian of the gardens who had cheated Kern and Darnorth in their previous dealings. Riley agreed, so off to the gardens they went. And immediately set off the same screaming alarm that was set of on previous visits. Hoping to still recover some element of surprise, Kern donned his ring of invisibility and crept ahead of the party. What he found was not comforting. Urushiol's fungal cavern was now filled with a massive web cave, just like those built by the spell spiders. Wandering around it were a dozen emunyfolk, acting strangely subdued. Kern went back to fetch the rest of the party, and they then decided to try talking to the emunyfolk to find out what had happened. No luck though, as the mushroom men instead shuffled towards the group to attack. Although well outnumbered, the party's vicious response caused the emunyfolk to pull back. At which point Kern saw more trouble; a massive spell spider crawling across the ceiling and casting spells.  As magic missiles slammed into the party, the huge arachnid dropped on top of them and started to tear into them. Kern however, was able to slip on his ring of invisibility again, and get behind the beast, driving his sword deep into its gullet. Mortally wounded, it turned on Kern, but was beaten down and slain by Riley, Bjorn and Gurruk. With the death of the spider, the emunyfolk seemed to come out of their stupor. They immediately headed for one end of the web cave, and their recovered the body of Urushiol, whom they carried off to bury. The party, meanwhile, looked for loot, and recovered the rest of Urushiol's old hoard below the remains of her giant mushroom.
While not exactly the vengeance he desired, Kern was satisfied. Riley, however, now wanted to drop to the fourth level and recovered the statue that seemed to strip away age. He figured Zoloren would pay well for such an artifact. So down they went. Bjorn cast floating disk and the four of them then carefully (without touching it), used a clock to drag the statue over to the disk, and tipped it onto the magical carrier.  Heading back up to exit the dungeon, the spell expired about halfway, forcing them to drag it the rest of the way.  But they were able to get it outside, and back to Westmist. There, Kern first tried to convince the elderly Rikar to touch it, but the former soldier  wouldn't have anything to do with such 'dark majiks'. Instead, Kern convinced the middle-aged Bjorn to touch it a couple of times to see if it would work. On the first touch, Bjorn suddenly looked much less wrinkled and grey. Alas, the second did nothing for the now sprier mage. But figuring it would still be of interest to Zoloren, they got in touch with Afflain the Fence, who agreed to contact the archmage to see what he might offer for this item. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Westmist Session # 58 - A Way Down & Invitation to Dinner

Darnorth, Kern and Bjorn returned from Stonehell with their tales of easy adventure and treasure. This got Riley, Gurruk and Erijay interested in a return to their old monster stomping grounds. Darnorth agreed to go with them, while Kern and Bjorn choose to stay in Westmist. First, however, all were surprised when a delegation arrived from the Temple of the Three Virtues. They bore an invitation from Liphanes the Highest Virtue, summoning Riley to the temple to attend a ceremony of thanksgiving for the destruction of the Helix of Yg, recently recovered by the party and turned over to the church by Riley. Riley, accompanied by Erijay and Darnorth, arrived at the temple to find the main hall of worship bedecked in ecclesiastical finery and with the Highest Virtue waiting in the centre. The fat churchman read a proclamation stating that the Virtuous Augustus of Kellowai had approved award of the title of “Mighty Arm of the Faith” to Riley in reward for his services to the church. He was presented with a massive gold medal/holy symbol, and was informed his new title entitled him to lodging at any temple of the church and guaranteed an audience with the ranking churchman in any temple on request.  And with a final burst of hymn and praise, the new “Mighty Arm” and his companions were sent on their way.

And that way led them today back to Stonehell , to search for the still elusive access to the fifth level where Duncal, the heir of Westmist, was supposedly located. An uneventful passage through the upper works led them back to the fourth level, where they headed for unexplored area to the south and east. They first encountered a room containing the statue of a young boy in a classical pose. Closer examination showed it was been damaged by a sword, axe or other blade, but was otherwise non-descript.  Looking for hidden treasure, Erijay and Darnorth pushed it aside. When Darnorth touched the statue, however, he a suddenly felt younger. Erijay noted the dwarf had lost a few wrinkles around the eyes and grey whiskers in his beard. Alas, his youth was the only thing found, as nothing was hidden below the statue.
Moving on, they next encountered a door with a finely written sign. In several languages (all of which Darnorth could read thanks to his helm) was written: “DO NOT OPEN!”. The dwarf squirmed in indecision, unsure if the warning should be taken at face value, or if he should take a chance in the hope there were piles of gold on the other side. Finally deciding to take a chance, the rest of the party headed back down the hall to take cover just around a corner, while Darnorth slowing unlatched and opened the door. Once opened far enough, he did see gold. In the form of huge golden panther, which leap at the dwarf. In a matter of seconds, Darnorth was mauled so badly he fell unconscious to the floor, blood pouring from multiple deep wounds. Erijay dashed off her lightning bolt, melting a patch of the amber cat before it raced down the hallway and leap on her. Erijay tried but failed to cast spell after spell as the cat raked her with its claws.  She did succeed in casting a trio of magic missiles, and join Riley and Gurruk in pounding the thing to pieces. Close examination (after binding the dwarf’s wounds) revealed the cat was made of amber, which now lay in scattered chunks on the floor. Hauling the dwarf behind them, Erijay searched the cat's  room for treasure and/or secret doors, while Riley and Gurruk kept watch.  Which was good, for while Erijay searched, the sound of heavy steps and breathing came down the hall. Leaving the door open just a crack, Riley and Gurruk saw a massive cave bear approach, sniffing after the smell of dwarven blood. Reaching the door, it rose on its back paws to a full 15’ high and tried to push open the door.  But Riley and Gurruk slammed it shut, and after some more sniffing around, the bear moved on.  While this was happening, Erijay continued to search but unfortunately found nothing. Once certain the bear was gone, the surviving trio hoisted the unconscious dwarf and headed out of the dungeon and back to Westmist. Where Darnorth was dropped in bed to be nursed back to health.

While the dwarf recovered from his wounds, there was other excitement in town. The March Baron arrived back in town for the first time in months, leading his victorious troops. Word spread through Westmist that there would be a proclamation the town square, which Riley and Erijay hurried to attend. There, standing on a hastily built platform, stood Lord Merdwyn, joined by Jax and backed by his troops. To the gathered crowd, the March Baron announced that he was taking, by right of conquest, the title of Count Palatine of the Overmarch. He was also rebuilding the town of Nasper to serve as seat of the County, and issued a call (backed by a substantial bounty) for settlers to join him in the new lands, to reclaim the Untamed Lands for human civilization. He would be maintaining his title as March Baron of Westmist, and the fealty he owed to the King of Kellowai for that title. He would, however, be moving his primary residence to Nasper to oversee development of his new realm, and so confirmed the appointment of Jax as the March Baron’s seneschal in Westmist. He then dispersed the crowd, included Erijay and Riley who headed back to the house. They were just arriving when they heard the sounds behind them, and turned to see the March Baron and a number of his men headed their way. The March Baron greeted them politely, and referred back to the party's previous services to him and the fact that he had promised a reward when he was better able to pay. Now that time had come, and a half dozen of his men dropped a huge chest in front of their door.  And with a few final words of thanks, Lord Merdwyn left. Popping open the chest, Erijay and Riley found it filled with gold coins (5000gp to be exact).  Payday at last.
After waiting another week for Darnorth to recover, the group headed back to continue exploring from where they left off. Passing through a little amber debris from the cat (although most was now gone), they headed south this time. Here they found a room, walls covered (ironically) in bas reliefs of dwarven funeral processions. A dozen bare stone briers lined the walls and a carving of the dwarven Tree of Life lay on the floor in the centre. Along one wall lay a 12' tall stepladder. Thinking it might be there for a reason, Darnorth floated up to the ceiling to look, but saw nothing of interest.  Several corridors exited the room, and from the one to the south came the glow of a fire. Heading to investigate, Erijay stepped into a room with a pit filled with a huge bonfire. Scattered about were piles of ashes. As she approached closer, out of the fire leapt four fiery canine forms that rushed to block her progress. The rest of the party came up and a fierce melee ensued. The hounds alternated biting and breathy fiery breath, Darnorth taking the brunt of the fiery breath. A combination of magic, melee and missile took out three of the beasts, which collapsed into piles of warm ash as they died.  The fourth tried to escape by leaping over the elf and the dwarf, but Darnorth drove his blade into its belly as it passed overhead, resulting in a shower of warm ash all over the dwarf. 

Pausing briefly to sift through the ashes (and recover a few gems), the party passed through another room, then through a door into along hallway. After a short while, a 20' wide hallway opened on the left. Peaking down here, the party could see light and head the sound of clinking and clattering. Cautiously moving forward, they entered an octagonal room , set for a formal dinner.  Setting out the silver ware was a man with a withered, cadaverous look, dressed in antique and shabby finery. "Oh" he said in a finally cultured accent; "I wasn't expecting extra guests for dinner. Have you an invitation?" When told they didn't he replied "well, that's good, as you are by no means dressed for an evening of fine food and conversation". Darnorth cautiously asked what was on the menu, and the man  read a gruesome mix of dishes made of ogre, human and throghrin from the menu. The last served with a fine bĂ©arnaise sauce.  He then shooed the part away, telling them to watch for "Fluffy" and his friends on the way out.
The party choose to meekly leave at this point, figuring they could come back at another time when better prepared for fine dining. Heading in the opposite direction, they first found a chamber with a wide set of stairs leading down. Finally access to the firth level!  While Darnorth suggested going down to 'scout around', the others convinced him that  a search of the rest of this area might be a better idea. Looping back around, they first found a machinery room full of chains, pulleys, counterweights and gears. It looked very much like the elevator machinery they'd found on the second level. But with no elevator in sight, they moved on and entered a natural cavern system. Right at the entrance was a human skeleton, chained upright to a stalagmite. In its hands it held a piece of slate on which was written in chalk "The Gentlemen invite to dinner. Today's special: minotaur, warlock and throghrin with lentils".  Riley took this, figuring it could it could be their invitation later on. Passing deeper into the caverns, they found what appeared to be the main entrance to the Gentlemen's abode. Further on they encountered a room with walls covered in a humanoid bones, all arranged in peculiar patterns. They next surprised a quartet of ogres in a room full of refuse. A standoff ensued, but no one was interested in fighting just now. Darnorth questioned the ogres, wondering if they knew Rufus and Tusk. The four told the dwarf where to go and how to get ther. And then warned the whole party off, telling then they continued north at their peril.  Not interested in pushing their luck with the ogres right now, the party indeed headed in the opposite direction. In a small side cavern they saw a strange glow like a continual light. Moving in to investigate, Darnorth was surprised by a spiderlike creature that dropped onto him from the ceiling. It was dealt with swiftly, and the glow was found to come from a plain iron spike on the floor. Also found  in the room, stuffed in a crevasse at the back, was the long dead skeleton of an adventurer. It proved to have nothing of interest, so the party first skirted a room filled with an eerie whistling sound, before circling back to the stairs from the level above. Figuring they had seen enough for one excursion, they headed up the stairs, out of the dungeon and back to Westmist.