Friday, February 22, 2013

Westmist Session #34 - The Rod of Narissa (Finale)

Continued …

After a thankfully uneventful night in the caverns, the party prepared to make another push towards their goal, the Rod of Narissa. While the spellcasters prepared for the day ahead, Kern and Darnoth discussed the malachite gems they kept finding. Darnorth, a native of these Western War Peaks, recalled that there had been a number of gem mines in this area at the height of the Third Imperium, so it’s possible this town’s mine was the source of the gems. He also guessed that might explain the gnome’s presence too.  Meanwhile, Turrick had wandered off to explore through the upper works and chit chat with the gnomes, and was not to be seen again this day.

After checking first that their rope bridge was still in place, Riley once more called on the mighty Habuu to show them the way to the Rod. Following the clerics directions, the party headed due east. Bypassing the swirling pit this time (although those gems were still mighty tempting …), they passed east out of the pit chamber into another similar cavern. Here, they found a dais, raised about 10 feet off the floor. At the top they could just barely see some skeletal remains and rags, while on the lowest level of the dais sprawled an intact skeleton. In its hand rested a long brass rod, studded with a mix of bright blue and grey gems. Sensing a trap, Darnorth first levitated to the top of the dais to find a skull and bones, dust and scraps of cloth, and a scattering of jewelry. Meanwhile, the rest of the party discussed the best way to get the rod out of the skeletons hand. In the end, Riley decided matters by grabbing a 10 foot pole and knocking the rod away from the skeleton. When nothing untoward happened, he then picked it up. Then something untoward happened. The skull rose from the dais and the dust formed a vaguely man-shape below it. With hair trigger reactions, the party moved. Erijay encased the thing in a web, Riley blessed the party, and a flurry of arrows rose from the bows of the party. All of which missed. In exasperation, Bjorn the Twice Cursed flicked a dagger at the skull. A solid hit, it caused the skull to explode, dropping a shower of dust and bone fragments over those below. Recovering from the shock of victory, Darnorth gathered the jewelry from above, while Riley gathered the bones of (presumably) Narissa from their resting place on the lower dais, and stuffed them in sack with the jewelry.
With the object of their quest now in hand, the party decided to explore the parts of the temple they had earlier skipped.  Behind one door they found a short hallway with three more doors. One was a faded coat of arms (a green tree on a white field), on another was the holy symbol of Saule and the third had a balance. Darnorth boldly checked the balance room, finding a tomb with three stone briers, each occupied by a skeleton covered in a grave shroud. In the coat of arms room, they found a single body, this one clad in armor and weapons. In the last room they found four bodies. When Darnorth started to search around the room, one of the bodies sat up and pointed a boney finger at the dwarf, who felt (but overcame) a cold grip of fear. Darnorth, now assisted by Erijay, flailed away with his sword before the two retreated out of the tomb, to allow Riley to call upon the mighty Habuu to drive away the fiendish creature. Habuu, unfortunately, didn’t answer the call this time, so the undead creature closed the tomb door leaving the party standing in wonder in the corridor.  Pondering what to do next, Darnorth recalled the fine armor and jeweled helm worn by the creature, which was enough to convince him to push back into the tomb and do battle. Again accompanied by Erijay, he burst into the tomb. The creature struck Darnorth several times, putting a painful chill into his bones, and likewise took the elf maid out of the fight with a hold.  But before long, the undead thing fell to the dwarf, who then proceeded to loot the shield and bejewel helm.
Leaving the tombs behind, the party next explored a pair of offices. In one, Kern found a scandalous church report that detailed the suppressed history of the goddess Saule. It would appear that the squeaky clean healing and harvest goddess was originally a fertility goddess of overt sexuality, with a rather dodgy history of past worship and cults that the church leaders wanted to keep quiet. Never one to let potentially useful information to go to waste, the wily merchant pocketed the tract. In the next office, Darnorth recovered a key in the desk, while Erijay opened the wardrobe to find no robes but three sand shades whirling to attack. These were dispatched with relative ease. The next room was another dressing chamber with mirrors and dressing screens. Looking at the middle mirror, Darnorth saw himself at a much older age, and felt the hand of decrepitude creep upon him. Tearing his eyes away, the hardy dwarf shook off the effect. In spite, he tried a Turrick and threw a stone at the mirror, which infuriatingly did not break. Out came the crowbars, and Erijay pried the mirror off the wall, but she found nothing of interest on the back or behind it. Kern looked thoughtfully at it for a moment, then carefully wrapped the mirror of a pair of sacks and proceeded to stuff it in his backpack. “This might come in handy sometime” muttered the merchant.
Having explored all obvious areas of the temple, the party returned to the large chamber where they encountered the first sand creature. Exploring the other exits, in the north chamber they encountered and battled another group of sand skeletons. Most notably, as Erijay struck a final solid blow to the last skeleton, she found her sword from the Breeding Pits of Yg  turning into a giant snake. The constrictor wrapped itself around the skeleton, and crushed its bones to dust before returning to sword form. Shaken, the elf gingerly picked up the sword before the party moved on again. The other two exits led to buildings similar to those seen in the gnome tunnels. Of note in one was an unusual metal chair that would rise up or down, or spin left to right when a lever on the base was pushed. In the other, the floor collapsed into the cellar as Kern and Riley crossed it, heading to investigate a trap door in the ceiling. The unfortunate cleric was dropped 20 feet into a pile of 200 year old root vegetables. In the end, the two choose not to open the trap door,as sand was trickling around the edges and Kern wisely concluded no good would come of opening it.

Now done with their explorations, the party returned to the gnome’s door and knocked. Answering the challenge from the other side, the party waited a few minutes while the picket went to get Hulgi, who then order the door opened. On the other side waited a band of gnomes, armed to the teeth.  And their surly leader, who expressed his surprise to see them back in one piece. And who demanded the party now keep their end of the bargain and resurrect poor Hoya. After some negotiation, Darnorth was left with the gnomes as a hostage/sign of good faith while Riley carried Hoya’s body out towards the daylight, and used the Rod to bring life back to the fallen gnome. While the grateful Hoya kissed his feet, the cleric noted that four of the blue gems on the Rod had faded to grey.

Hulgi pressed the party for details of what lay beyond the gnome’s tunnels, obviously looking for particular information. Darnorth used his natural charm and smile to convince Hulgi to tell the party why the gnomes were there in return for information on everything the party had discovered. Hulgi explained that the Fairy Queen is enamored of the green malachite gems, which are not found in the fairy realm. She had learned of the existence of the malachite mine in this village, and the gnome clan to reopen the mine. They started tunneling in the sand to find the mine entrance, but ran into the sand creature and skeletons who proved too much of a match for them.  And with Booh blocking the exit from the tunnels, the gnomes were in an uncertain position until the party arrived. But if they could now leave with the Fairy Queen’s blessing, the gnomes now had work to do. 

Gladly leaving the cramped tunnels behind, the party returned to Booh’s tower to find the giant still moaning and groaning in his bed, complaining that he was still very hungry. Riley cast a few cure spells to stop the giants moaning, and Kern reminded the big fellow that tomorrow they would go hunt down a nice meal of horse for him. Which made Booh happy, which made the party happy (and feeling safe enough) to settle in for the night.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Westmist Session #33 - Rod of Narissa Part 2

Continued …

Standing over the bloody remains of one gnome, and the snoozing bodies of five more, the question became what to do next. While Kern quietly slipped the temperamental cleric away from the scene, the rest of the party tied up the gnomes, leaving the leader free. This fellow they shook awake, and then Erijay cast a charm spell to try to magically clear up the misunderstanding to get information out of the little men.  Alas, the leader Hulgi was more resistant than expected, and did not fall under the elf’s command. Kern and Darnorth then tried Plan B; a combination of subtle threats and a promise to bring the dead gnome back from the dead if Hulgi would help them find the Rod of Narissa. Or at least not prevent them from searching. With some moaning and complaining, Hulgi agreed. He told them to return to the tunnel entrance in the morning, but to get out before he changed his mind.
As the party withdrew from the tunnels, who should appear but the long lost Turrick with a tale of woe and a desire to get back into the adventuring life.  With Turrick rejoining the party, they retreated to Booh’s tower for the night. The first order of business was to feed the giant so he didn’t come looking for a snack later that night. Next morning, leaving the still recovering giant in his bed, the party returned to the sand tunnel entrance. There they were met by a dozen gnomes, loaded down with axes, crossbows and heavy armor. While Hulgi lead the party, the squad of gnomes frog marched them into the tunnels. Once inside, Riley called on Habuu once more to help him locate the Rod. Getting no sense of the location of the artifact, the party proceeded to explore around several more of the houses the gnomes had uncovered before letting Hulgi lead them deeper into the diggings. Along the way, the party questioned Hulgi as to why the gnomes were no longer digging (carefully avoiding the question of WHY they were tunneling). Hulgi reluctantly informed them that the gnomes had broken into a chamber containing a strange sand creature, which had slain two of their kin and forced the gnomes to backfill the tunnel and bar it with doors and gates. At which point, the party arrived in front of said door, which Hugli unlocked and opened, then opened the portcullis beyond and led the party another 30’ to stand in front of a dead end tunnel. When Kern asked the gnomes for help in digging through, Hulgi had a pair of gnomes go back and fetch shovels, which were handed to the party for their use.  At which point the gnomes left the party on their own, closed and locked the door, leaving instructions that the party knock to be admitted should they return.

After a short time digging, the party broke into a large chamber caved out of the sand, but without the pit props and timber supports seen in the gnomish tunnels. Here Riley finally sensed the Rod toward the east. Keeping to the walls, they part moved towards the eastern exit. Before they made it too far, however, they noted the sandy floor began to ripple towards them. In moments, the floor seemed to rear up in a giant sandy pseduopod and struck. A short but furious fight ensued, which saw Foxy the War Dog do most of the damage and get slammed to near death in the process. With the danger now past, a quick look around reveled nothing more than a dead gnome (looted by Turrick), so the party moved on again to the east. A short tunnel led to a set of stone stairs, closed in by sand walls. At the top of the steps were a set of double stone doors, carved in scenes of bountiful harvest. Riley quickly identified these as motifs of the goddess Saule, albeit of an older style. After Kern checked for taps and locks, Erijay pulled the doors open with a screech. On the other side was a room, partly enclosed by sand, with a dry fountain and stairs leading down. Checking the sand showed in was at least several feet deep, so the party headed downstairs.
 Once down the stairs, they found another set of stairs going up, but which was blocked by sand. One wall was covered in crypts, and three doors exited the room. Choosing the closest set of double doors, Erijay opened them and she found herself standing on the edge of a great black void. Looking left and right, up and down, nothing could be seen. Straight ahead could be seen another door, set in a earthen wall with roots and rocks protruding, and looking for all the world like the two walls of the void had been forcefully ripped apart. Curious, the elf dropped a copper piece down to try gauging the depth. After waiting some minutes, no sound was heard. Kern tried a similar trick, flipping a coin up. It never fell, which immediately confirmed this was no ordinary hole in the ground. No one wanted to find out what happened if a person fell into the darkness, so Turrick deftly threw and hooked a grappling hook onto the opposite doors pull ring. Darnorth, using his boots of levitation, then pulled himself across and set up a three rope bridge for the rest of the party to cross. Once across, he could also now see a tunnel opening in the side of the void, some 30-40’ below the door. Ignoring that for now, the party opened the opposite door. They found themselves in a large, many pillared chamber, with two more sets of stairs heading up.  Before they could investigate further, they were set upon by six skeletons, encased in a swirling flesh of sand. These quickly proved to be no ordinary skeletons, as several starting throwing balls of sand that blinded or slept their targets. After dispatching the last of the fiends (and washing out the blinded Erijay’s eyes with holy water), the party climbed the stairs to find themselves in another part of the surface temple. A statue of Salue stood on a high dais. In her arms, the goddess held a sheaf of grains. When Darnoth levitated up to investigate, he discovered a green malachite gem the size of a fist resting on top of the sheaf.  Choosing to let the expert try his luck, Darnorth passed the boots to Kern, who deftly lifted the prize from the statue with no ill effect.
 With no exits visible, the party headed back downstairs to investigate the tunnel in the void. Again, Darnorth took the lead by levitating down to the entrance. Here he found a round tunnel that looked, much like the void itself, as if someone or something had ripped it from the cold earth. Scouting carefully forward, the dwarf soon found the tunnel branched, and at the intersection found a vile looking creature blocking the way. It was a sickly yellow, man sized hedgehog, with a skull like face. Darnorth choose not to advance further, instead heading back to the party and proceeding to build another rope bridge down the tunnel entrance. That done, the party stated to descend. Stepping foot in the tunnel once more, Darnorth in the lead was now confronted by the same foul creature. It now stood at the tunnels edge and determined to push the dwarf into the black void. Darnorth raised his shield and rushed the beast, successfully pushing it (and himself) back from the edge. The other party members began to arrive and assist him in the fight, including Erijay who caught the beast in a web. Everyone then backed up and slew the struggling creature with arrows before it managed to break free. In death, it seemed to dissolve into a vaguely hedgehog shaped mass of clay (of which a sample was collected for future research).

Carefully exploring further, a series of similar tunnels and rooms were encountered. One large chamber was found to also contain some sort of pit, filled with a whirling mass of sand and soil. Around the pit were set flat stones carved with unrecognizable runes, interspaced with green malachite gems (about a hundred in total). Twitching with greed, Erijay knelt to pry one up. It came easily, but then climbing from the pit there also rose another group of sand skeletons. These were fought back, but not before doing serious damage to the party. Thinking the treasure guardians were now eliminated, the elf and Kern again knelt to pry more gems, only to see more sand skeletons climb out and attack. Another very close fight and the party emerged triumphant in spite of blindness and sleep that knocked out several. Wisely choosing to leave the gems (for now anyway), the party retreated to a dead end chamber to rest, lick their wounds, and prepare for another day …

To be continued …