Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Westmist Session #48 - We're Going Back to Where?

Halfway through the night, Kern’s watch was interrupted when Darnorth stumbled into camp with a wild tale to tell. When they placed Morg's body on the throne, Darnorth, Gurruk and Riley found themselves teleported to a room occupied by a huge gibbering mouther. The creature telepathically "spoke" to them in a squeaky voice and said that it was once an enemy of the might wizard who built this dungeon. He had betrayed the wizard and for his punishment had to spend eternity in this room. For as long as he was in this room he could not die but nor can it leave the room; there was no magical or mundane way to get out. Except one. To pass the centuries, the creature collected jokes. In order to win their freedom they had to tell it a joke it had never heard. For several hours the three offered every joke they can wrack their brains for but to no avail. Until Darnorth finally cracked a dry one, and the dwarf found himself standing again in the stone circle. The other two, apparently, were still making their attempts at humor.  While of course concerned for their still missing comrades, the trio decided there was nothing much they could do for them at this point. They would appear whenever able. As the new day arrived, they discussed plans for what to do next. Darnorth was torn between trying on the ring (or not), and going back to Westmist to check out the portal in the cellar. Erijay thought a visit to Zoloren to ask about the ring might be in order, but on further reflection decided they probably wouldn’t be that welcome. In the end, however, they agree with Kern’s original plan. To head back to the ruins of Mor to see what had happened since their last ‘visit’ and search for clues to the Baron’s behavior.

After a little back and forth from the mound to the river crossing (due to a shortage of rope), they headed west towards the foothills overlooking Mor. An uneventful day and a half ride brought them back to the ridge from which they observed the city months ago. Although a misty rain obscured their view of the city, little difference could be seen. Using his spyglass, Kern could still see figures on the walls of Fort Gainsay, and the smoke of cooking fires still rose from throughout the ruins. One difference, however, was the encampment of the 12th Hobgoblin Cohort outside the walls. It appeared to be deserted. Since little could be gleaned from this distance, the party headed down slope towards the city. As they came out onto level ground, a party of hobgoblins and orkin appeared to the east, headed in their direction. This group halted and moved to battle formation. But instead of attacking, one hobgoblin stepped out of the ranks and announced he was Phaz’ral, a former sergeant of the 12th Cohort, and demanded to know the party’s business.  Since Phaz’ral spoke hobgoblin, Erijay was elected to represent the party, as she was the only one who could respond in that language. But only after Kern applied some of his rouge of liking to the generally aloof elf to make her a little more personable.  In the discussion that followed, they learned that after the death of “He Who Walks in Metal”, most of the hobgoblins in Mor had abandoned the city and campaign. They headed west, back to the hobgoblin homeland.  Except for the 12th Cohort, who had been chaffing under the incompetent hand of their commander. The hobgoblins mutinied and slew the commander and his staff, then broke into small bands that now fought for control of Mor. The bands had also started recruiting orkin to flesh out their ranks.
Assuming Phaz’ral was telling the truth, his story confirmed there was no massive invasion coming from this quarter. But the party immediately saw an opportunity to recover some of the weird technologies they had to leave behind when they fled the city. Phaz’rel’s band was set up in the ruins by the breech in the city wall; another larger band had taken over Fort Gainsay. The party made an offer; they would lead Phaz’rel’s hobgoblins into the fortress through the secret entrance they used before. In return, the party would be free to loot the items they wanted from the tower.  After some back and forth negotiation, the deal was struck. The party would lead the hobgoblins into the fortress and get their loot. But Erijay, Darnorth and Kern would march in the vanguard; Phaz’rel didn’t trust the party that much.  Agreement made, they all crossed into the city by raft, landing at the breech (their horses were left in the care of some well paid orkin from the patrol). The party convinced the hobgoblins to wait a few days while they prepared (i.e. rested and healed). Reluctantly, Phaz’rel gave them 2 days. Then when night fell, the trio headed out at the front of a band of 50 bloodthirsty hobgoblins. Darnorth led the way, and fortunately the dwarf recalled enough of their last march through the ruins to get them right back to the sewer entrance they used before. Down into the sewer the band crept, and after a few hours in the dank dark, they found themselves standing below the grate into the basement of Fort Gainsay.  It had been covered again with flagstones, and when Erijay and Darnorth tried to lift it, it would not budge. The elf tried to knock it open, but to no avail. This resulted in a minor panic, since Phaz’rel was now thinking he had been led into a trap. After some quick thinking and quick talking, Kern elected to head back down the sewer to find a way above ground, then sneak into the fortress using his skill and ring of invisibility. Hopefully he would be able to find a way to open the grate. Meanwhile, Erijay and Darnoth would stall the hobgoblins. The dwarf broke out his dwarven gaming tablets and started a little gambling operation to keep them busy (and made sure he didn’t win).

Kern headed back to sewer a distance, and found another grate leading into the ruins above. He found himself about a thousand feet west of the fortress. Hobgoblin sentries could be seen atop the gatehouse, so Kern slipped on his ring and looped around to the north, looking for an unguarded wall.  Finding one, he silently climbed up with rope and grappling hook.  Peering into the fortress, he could see a small hobgoblin patrol in the courtyard in addition to the sentries on the gatehouse. Below him was a building, with a gap between it and the wall. Kern lowered himself down into the gap, and then sneaked silently and invisibly across the courtyard to the main tower. Up the ramp to the massive double doors, he said a quick prayer to Belix , pulled the doors open a crack and slipped in. Once past a second set of doors, he found himself back in familiar spaces and quickly made his way to the basement. Here he saw their problem; a massive stone block had been placed over the floor grate. Looking for a way to move it, he found a collection of ropes and slings in one corner of the basement. He also noted a covered hole in the ceiling above. When he went back upstairs to check it out, he found the hole was covered by a large stone lid, and a block and tackle hung from the ceiling above it. And so he conceived a plan. Using the sling/block and tackle, he moved the stone lid. Then he hitched the sling to the stone block over the grate and tied the free end of the rope to a massive wooden throne on the upper level. And then shoved the throne to the edge of the hole, pushed it over the edge, and jumped in the seat. With Kern and the throne as a counterweight, the stone block lifted enough for Erijay, Darnorth and the hobgoblins to get into the tower. And not moment too soon; Phaz’rel was about to turn his restless troops on the elf and the dwarf.
While everyone stayed in the basement for now, Kern scouted the upper floors. The tower seemed empty, and signs of their previous running battle were everywhere (old hobgoblin bodies on the stairs, blood stains, scorch marks, etc). So they would have to bring the fight into the open fortress. The plan was for Kern to sneak back to the wall, and catch fire to one of the buildings in the courtyard. In the ensuring chaos, Darnorth, Erijay and the hobgoblins would rush into the courtyard and attack.  And all went according to plan. As the building started to burn, the doors opened and a group of orkin rushed out. Then as the sentries on the gatehouse raised an alarm, hobgoblins began emerging from another tower. As the orkin and hobgoblins formed a bucket brigade to fight the fire, Erijay and Darnorth led their force into the courtyard and a fight ensued.  They had the upper hand as the fortress hobgoblins were not armed or armored for combat. As hobgoblin slew hobgoblin, the orkin fled towards the gates to escape. On the gatehouse, the sentries turned three ballista on the attackers. Erijay cast sleep to neutralize a few, but then she and Darnorth were stuck in the thick of the fight. In the meantime, Kern worked his way along the wall to the gatehouse and made his way to the top. There, he found half of the sentries asleep from Erijays spell, while the rest tried the wake them. The merchant dove into their midst, sword swinging.  He cut down one hobgoblin, which was enough to frighten the rest into surrendering. Kern questioned them about the fortress, mainly interested in why the main tower was abandoned. He was told that a few weeks after the characters had killed “He Who Walks in Metal”, a mysterious wizard showed up in a flying head. He entered the tower, gathered up some items from inside, and then left again. After that the hobgoblins were too freaked out to go into tower; besides, they had lots of room elsewhere in the fortress.
Kern let the hobgoblins escape over the wall, and then joined his comrades in the courtyard. Phaz’rel’s hobgoblin had moved the battle into one of the other towers, while other hobgoblins were at work finishing off the wounded in the courtyard. Kern informed Erijay and Darnorth that the weird technologies they had come for was likely gone. But to be sure, the trio left the mopping up to the hobgoblins and reentered the main tower. Climbing to the top floor, they found that the green glowing cylinder was gone. As were all the automaton parts, and the body of “He Who Walk in Metal”. Disappointed, they did search around some more. Apart from abandoned rooms and junk, they found a room with an awful stench; it contained the decomposing corpses of 4 troglodytes. They also discovered a secret compartment in a bed headboard that contained two heavy gold and platinum chains. But the greatest find was by Erijay; a secret room behind one fireplace. In it they found a vast collection of art objects. Paintings, statues, crystal, china, silverware, etc. All old and covered in a thick layer of dust, and likely hidden here by the original inhabitants of the fortress hundreds of years before.  Hearing footsteps on the stairs, they scooped up as much silverware as they could find, and each grabbed a painting before sealing the secret door again. Confronted by Phaz’rel and some of his troops, they announced they had found what they had come for. Phaz’rel looked at the paintings, muttered something in hobgoblin about how easy it would have been to conquer such fools. And then proceeded to order the party out of ‘his fortress’, and warned them never to return. Which was all the encouragement they needed.   Escorted back to the wall breech, they crossed to the mainland once more. Recovering their horses, the trio prepared to head back to Westmist to see what had happened in their absence.

Westmist Session #47 - Strange Happenings

Drawing weapons, the party prepared to do battle with the gibbering thing. At this point Darnorth, Riley and Guruk suddenly disappeared,  leaving just Kern and Erijay to face the loathsome creature. It lashed out at Kern and bit deep with several of its fanged mouths. At the same time, the noise rose to a crescendo, confusing Erijay into inaction. Unable to handle the creature on his own, Kern put on the ring of invisibility. When the creature then turned to attack Erijay, he grabbed the elf and pulled her into the teleporter, and both were transported back to the finished halls. Not sure what to do now that half the party was indisposed, Kern and Erijay decided to at least explore a little more of the area.  First though, Kern went back to the trophy room where Morg had fallen. He wanted to collect the bagged lizards’ head.  Carefully tying the bag on the creatures head, he cut it off and added it to his collection of odds and ends. 

That done, they next checked the long hall, finding three doors along the left hand side. Opening the first, they found a long narrow room that paralleled the hallway.  Opposite each door was a pillar topped by a glass case, and each lit by a glowing brass plate on the wall behind. Starting at the far end, the first case contained a glass bottle with a very narrow neck. And inside was a small impish creature, which on seeing Erijay immediately started tapping the glass and asking “Mistress! Free me mistress!” Somewhat startled, Erijay questioned the creature, learning he had been trapped in the bottle by the wizard Malazar, who had built these halls. Questioned about the other glass cases, he said the last contained the ‘heart of the demon’.  All this time, the imp continued to ask to be freed, and promised to teach Erijay “strange magics” if she let him go. That seemed to convince the elf, so she started to lift the glass case. And received an electrical shock for her efforts. At this point Kern use a 10’ pole to simply push the case onto the floor, breaking it but leaving the bottle intact. Carefully, he broke the neck of the bottle, freeing the imp. Who immediately spoke some words of magic … and the elf and merchant found themselves looking at a pile of broken glass, unable to recall any of the events that led them to this impasse. And no one in sight to explain it to them.
After a little head scratching, the two moved further down the room. The middle case was smashed, it’s contents missing. The last contained a red ruby the size of Kern’s fist. It didn’t take long for the merchant to knock over the case and retrieve the ruby while Erijay looked on from a distance. At once, Kern became suspicious of the elf, convinced she coveted the massive gem. Drawing his sword, he threatened Erijay, warning that the elf would taste his steel before she would get her hands on his precious treasure. Eyes on the elf, he backed out of the room and headed off to explore and find a way out with his find. Erijay at first tried to talk him into hiding the gem away for now so they could explore together, but when that didn’t work she instead followed him, silently, at a distance.  Then, when Kern was distracted, she entangled the merchant in a web spell. While Kern raged, Erijay used a 10’ pole to knock the gem out of his hand. It rolled off into the corner of the room, and Kern came back to his senses. After some hurried apologies on both sides, Erijay cut him free and they proceeded to explore the room, while taking care to avoid getting near the gem which now sat in one corner. The walls of the room they found themselves in were lined floor to ceiling with storage drawers and cabinet, large and small. There were perhaps a hundred or more. On the wall next to the door was an array of clear glowing gems, 24 in all. Kern tried to first open a drawer but found it was held fast, with no obvious locking mechanism. Surmising that the gems have something to do with it, he pushed one to see what would happen.  At once, the two doors started to swing shut and there was the ‘hissing’ sound of gas leaking into the room. Kern dove for a door, while Erijay jammed a 10’ pole into the opening. Between them, they were able to hold the door open a crack. Kern stuck his face out into the corridor while the elf struggled to open the portal and free him before getting gassed. It took some time, but eventually Kern was able to squeeze out of the room, and the door slammed shut behind him.
Looking for easier loot, the two checked the next room. There they found a spiral stairway going up (and ending at a blank stone ceiling) and a statue of a satyr holding a pixie in its hand. Closer examination showed that he statue sat on a track that led back to the stairway, and that the back was shaped to fit into the stairway entrance. While of interest, there was on obvious way to get past the blocked stairway, so they moved onto the next room. Here Kern carefully checked the door, and discovered a poison needle trap in the handle. Disarming this and then unlocking the door, the pair entered what was once an opulent bedchamber, now a little time worn. A massive canopy bed made of redwood stood in one end of the room, draped in purple silk. The walls likewise were hung with purple silk and black tasseled cords, while in the ceiling sat a massive crystal chandelier that glowed with magical light. A bookcase and desk completed the setup, and at the desk sprawled a skeleton in purple velour robes. Once convinced the skeleton wasn’t going to move on its own, Kern moved it himself, to find that it lay face down in a book. Pulling this away, he was surprised to find the book contained not paper but instead was studded with a mass of hooked suckers that had apparently been attached to the skeletons former face. While perhaps once alive, the ‘book’ was now desiccated and dead. Meanwhile, Erijay searched the bed and bookshelf. The bed reveled nothing of interest, and most of the books were long decayed and useless. One, however, still had some pages.  It seemed to be an innocuous diary, but reading between the lines the elf sensed it was actually instruction or directions to locate some powerful magical treasures.  Unable to decipher it at this point, she tossed it in her pack for future reference.   A search of the wall behind the bed also reveled what appeared to be a secret door, but neither elf nor merchant could figure out how to open it.

Which now left them with the storage room. Going back, Kern carefully open the door and confirmed the gas had dissipated. Going inside again (but again avoiding the ruby at the far end of the room), he decided to give the gems/buttons another try. But first barred the two doors open to prevent a repeat of the gas trap. And there followed a complexes series of combination of buttons and a complex series of consequences. These included:
  •  Sounds of the doors locking and unlocking;
  • Statue by the stairway moved along the track to close off the entrance; opened gain with another button combination;
  • A ‘whoop whoop’ alarm sound several times;
  • Release of globes/bubbles containing various slimes and moulds that attacked the characters;
  •  Floor and ceiling moved to try crushing the intruders; opened up gain after a while;
  • Several drawers opened, one of which contained some gold, gems and an old set of plate mail;
  • A ‘schink’ sound from the bedroom, which on investigation proved to be one of the desk legs opening revealing a stack of platinum coins;
  • And finally sounds of stone moving in the room with the stairwell.
Investigation of the stairs again showed the side of the stairwell had opened just below the stone blocking the exit. Beyond was dirt, which Erijay dug out for a bit until breaking through to fresh air. Crawling out, the two discovered themselves back in the standing stone circle, next to a fallen stone that had blocked the original exit from the stairs.

While Erijay wanted to go back and collect some purple silk for her room, in the end both she and Kern decided to call it a day (or night since it was now getting dark). Especially since Darnorth, Riley and Guruk were still missing. The elf did examine the plate mail. It was of an old style, and on the breastplate was carved about 40 names. All were archaic, and there was space for one more. Undaunted, the elf maid donned the armour. It shrank to fit her smaller size, and in the empty space was magically carved her name.  There were no other immediate effects. And with they, the two went back to their camp (where luckily their horses were still tethered) and settled in for the night.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Westmist Session #46 - Under the Hill

During the night, the trio  of Erijay, Kern and Darnorth were surprised to see Riley and Gurruk (and one wolf) ride into camp.  Riley had finally been relived from duty at the temple, leading orisons of victory for the March Baron’s campaign.  Striking out to look for his companions, he also picked up some company along the way, a big burly fighting man by the name of Morg. Morg had recently arrived in Westmist to seek his fortune, on the run from some physical altercation with the circus owner he’d been sold to at a young age. And even someone with much more brawn than brain knew getting out of town would be a good choice to avoid pursuit. Riley had also picked up a pile of healing potions, gratefully received by the battered Kern and Erijay.
When morning came, the expanded group prepared to climb the hill once more. Kern warned the newcomers of the chilling sound at the top, but the three just sniggered behind their hands at the merchants’ fears. Reaching the top, all were able to shrug off the sound. Except Kern who kept the wax in his ears, and Gurruk’s lone wolf who ran off, never to be seen again. Down the tunnel went the six, passing along the cleared path through the fungus to explore deeper into the tunnels. In one side room they found signs of recent digging in the walls. While puzzling at first, the explanation was found in the last chamber, where giant ants were found digging for trinkets and treasure. The ants largely ignored the party, but moved to block access to (presumably) their lair when Morg headed in that direction. Riley decided to call on Habuu to grant him power of speech with the ants, and proceeded to questions the critters. He learned they were gathering ‘shiny treasures’ for their queen. He received somewhat ambiguous answers when he asked about any rings the queen may have. Further questioning confirmed the only part of this tunnel system missed thus far was the ants nest, and that if they backtracked along the tunnel they would soon come to a running stream.

Doing just that, they party found themselves up against the red and white fungus once more. Looking at their dwindling supply of crossbow bolts, they considered other ways they might get through the patch. Riley again called on Habuu to give him the power of plant speech, and the cleric entered negotiation with the fungus. He found what it craved was moisture, so in return for free passage, Riley agreed to bring water from the stream. Deal made, the fungus closed up its spore caps, allowing the party to pass.  A short distance down the tunnel, they came to a low bank, below which lay a stream and pool. Ready to fulfill the bargain with the fungus, the party started fillings helmets and water skins. But they soon noted something didn’t look right. The water in the pool seemed to coalesce into a collection of wavelets, and suddenly rose up into a 4’ wave that slammed into Erijay. Grabbing weapons, the party moved to defend the elf.  Morg found his sword had no effect on the elemental being, so he borrowed a magic sword from Kern to help with the fray. And absorb most of the blows once Erijay backed away from the melee, casting  a triple magic missile on the way. With great effect, the elemental was beaten back, and the pool was still once more. While some of the party licked their wounds, a few carried water back to the fungus, and Kern examined the pool. Scattered along the pebbled bottom he found a number of gems, which he quickly scooped up. He also found that there was no easy way to go upstream, but that the downstream end flowed into a low tunnel through which the party could pass. With no other obvious options, this is exactly what they did.

The stream emerged from the tunnel into another, larger pool. The stream branched here, one part going north and the other to the east. In both cases, the stream disappeared into the hill with no obvious way to pass. At the intersection lay an open patch of dry land, from which a small tunnel lead deeper into the hill. Heading that way, the party found themselves in another cavern. The floor was a mass of human corpses, all covered in a web of tendrils and vines. Morg probed one with his spear, and found the body did not seem to be flesh. But that action seemed to alert something, as the corpses were dragged to a standing position by the tendrils. The massive number advanced on the party, raking those in the front with their claws.  Riley tried to use the power of Habuu to turn the things, but to no avail. Given the overwhelming odds, the party decided to toss some flaming oil and then retreat back down the tunnel to make a plan of attack. A plan was hatched to give Darnorth the ring of invisibility so he could levitate over the corpses and see if there was some weakness they could exploit. The floating dwarf did indeed see an option; all the tendrils seemed to emerge from one point in the east wall. Attack there and they might take out the whole room of tendril corpses. While the party drew the attacks of most of the corpses, Darnorth hacked at the wall tendrils. It took quite a few blows, but when the final cord was cut, the tendril corpses fell back to the floor and did not rise again.

Battle over, the dwarf now noted the first obvious man made construction in this labyrinth. A small 10’x10’ alcove of red sandstone lay in the south end of the cavern.  Curious, he stepped in and promptly disappeared from sight. He found himself in another alcove like the first, which lead into a room with black a marble floor inscribed in white with a magic or summoning circle. In addition to another alcove with a white floor, two corridors exited the room. Not willing to explore further without support, the dwarf stepped back into the alcove and found himself back with his companions. The party wondered if perhaps they should all go through the teleporter, but Darnorth reported that something just didn’t ‘feel right’ about it and he wasn’t comfortable taking another chance.  Trusting the dwarf’s instructs, they headed instead further into the caverns. In separate rooms, they found a floor covered in red acidic ooze (neutralized when Darnorth dug a trench to flood it with water from the stream) and another room filled with thousands of small albino lizards. These crawled all over the party, licking their skin and generally freaking them out. Except Gurruk, who used his mastery of animal tongues to talk to the little critters. He didn’t learn much though; it seems the only thing on their minds was feeding on their sweat. But Gurruk did adopt one of them and brought him along once everyone was able to divest themselves of the rest of the lizards.

Backtracking, the party crossed over the stream to a new set of caverns. And here was yet another odd room. Partly built of finished sandstone, the floor was covered in a blue mossy substance covered with small bubbles or air bladders. After some investigation with a 10’ pole, they crossed the floor towarda a door on the far wall, making a squeeking/popping sound as they went. This attracted the attention of something in the far corner, as a protoplasmic mass of eyes and mouths rose up and started to quietly chatter at them. It didn’t seem a threat however, but the party passed through the door without delay anyway.  Here they found themselves in a room built of the same red sandstone and black marble floor that Darnorth had seen earlier. In one corner, however, was a square of white marble, while facing the door were two black marble thrones.  Closer examination of the thrones revealed they were covered in carvings of eyes and mouths. Darnorth bravely sat in the left hand throne. He felt some force trying to pull him away, but the sturdy dwarf fought it off and stood up no worse for wear. No one else was willing to try either throne though, so after some cajoling, all six stepped on the white square and found themselves teleported to the second alcove seen by Darnorth after his previous magical trip.  

Taking the northern exit, a short stroll brought them into a room with doors to the east and west and a large pool to the north. The water in the pool seemed to well up from below, but from exactly where no one could tell. Checking the west door, they found a parallel corridor. Checking the double doors to the east, they found the head of a massive blue dragon starting back at them! Thankfully it proved to be stuffed and mounted on the wall, along with a number of other creatures in similar condition (goblinoids, mermen, an 8-legged lizard with bag over it’s’ head, a half man/half snake thing, giant snake).  Spying another set of doors on the opposite wall, the party entered the taxidermic museum. Halfway across, someone noted movement above. The ceiling seemed to be settling  down on them  like some kind of giant manta ray! Those at the rear and front bolted for the doors, but Morg, Erijay and Darnorth were trapped beneath the thing. In a flurry of blades, they cut their way out, but not before the unfortunate Morg was smothered to death. Hauling his body behind them, the party continued through the second set of doors into a large chamber. The room was filled with a weird whale song humming, and in the centre was a circle of silvery metal strips handing from the ceiling. Inside the strips was a white alter. On top of it sat a ring on a red velvet cushion, all covered by a geodesic crystal dome.  Kern very carefully examined the whole area for fiendish traps, before boldly stepping inside the circle. He knocked the dome off of the altar and grabbed the ring, breathing a sigh of relief when nothing untoward happened. Except the noise stopped.

Exiting the room with their find, no one was sure what to do next. But someone came up with the brilliant idea of placing Morg’s body on the throne to see what would happen. Somehow no one could think of a reason to not do this, so back through the teleporter they travelled and dumped the bulky corpse on the black throne. His body instantly vanished, only to be replaced by another protoplasmic mass of eyes and mouths. This one seemed upset with its summoning, and began to gibber in a thousand angry voices …

To be continued …