Friday, August 23, 2013

Westmist Session #52 - Chief for a (Half) Day

To their surprise, the trio of Darnorth, Vorn and Aratheas were joined that morning by Riley and Gurruk, Finally released from imprisonment with the gibbering horror, they had made their way back to Westmist and the house. After a quick briefing from Riker, the two headed through the portal in pursuit of their companions. After Darnorth filled the two newcomers in on what had happened in their absence, the party decided their best bet was to forge an alliance with the mongrelmen and get them to help fight the yg-ti. Aratheas recalled the general direction of the mongrelmen lair, so the party headed off to the northwest, carefully keeping to back alleys and avoiding main roads whenever possible.  Their trek through the ruined city, however, was eerily quiet and uneventful. Late in the morning they found their first signs of inhabitants. Three poles, 10’ tall, carved with crude animal faces and equip with chains and shackles. In one shackle a partly decomposed humanoid arm remained. Nonplussed and taking it as a sign help was near, the party continued forward. Near the far western cliff they discovered a series of ruined buildings,  seemingly with no access. Careful observation found a cleverly concealed entrance however, so they crept forward.  A strange bird’s cry came from their right, and as they approached a narrow part of the passage, eight hideous creatures appeared out of the rubble. Each seemed a mix of parts from various humanoid creatures, combining the worst features of each. Challenging the party is a debased common pidgin, they first would not let them pass. A combination of Darnorth’s charm and intimidation by the ‘witch woman’ Aratheas convinced them to take the party to their leader. Lead into the ruins, they were swarmed by a crowd of mongrelmen, and Darnorth had to slap away one little pair of hands that tried to swipe his ring of spell storing.
Ushered into a ruined building, they confronted the ugliest mongrelman seen thus far; with human, ogre, frog, and dog features, he was a mass of old scars and scant fur. He proudly announced he was Chief “Eesquuech-!ungk”, and then waved the party to silence while his witchdoctor proceeded to tell the history of the tribe. After two hours of tall tales, misinformation and confusion, the story ended, allowing Darnorth to try negotiating with the chief. To no avail, for the tribes’ custom was anyone who wished obedience of the tribe must lead them. And anyone who wanted to lead them must first defeat the current chief in hand to hand combat; no magic, no weapons. Darnorth, still fuzzy headed from the tale, stripped to his dwarven skivvies and accepted the challenge.  The mongrelmen formed a ring and the combatants got down to business.   Unfortunately for the dwarf, Eesquuech-!ungk towered over him and was twice his weight, so the mongrelman laid several holds and blows before Darnorth could retaliate. A handful of dirt temporarily blinded the chief and Darnorth was able to fight back. But a few head butts and eye gouges later, the dwarf lay unconscious on the floor at Eesquuech-!ungk‘s feet. The chief ordered his bodyguards to haul the dwarf and the rest of the party to the sacrifice poles (the poles passed earlier) as punishment for their failure. That finally got Riley’s blood rising, and the party followed the mace flailing cleric into battle with the mongrelmen. Which didn’t go very good at first, as the mongrelmen grappled and pinned both Gurruk and Aratheas, and Riley and Vorn seemed unable to connect weapons with foes. Things looked grim until Aratheas managed to break free of her captors and let loose a lightning bolt through the chief and one of his henchmen. Amidst the smell of burning fur and charred flesh, the rest of the mongrelmen broke away from the party and quivered in fear before the ‘witch woman’.  While not quite in line with tribe traditions, a hurried conversation between the remaining mongrelmen decided she had right the claim the leadership of the tribe. The lady mage then ordered her new bodyguards to go and rouse the rest of the tribe and prepare for battle with the yg-ti on the morrow. But only after pointing out the tribes treasure, thank you very much. This they found hidden in hole under the old chief sleeping pallet; a pile of thousands of gold prices, three pieces of jewelry (a jeweled box, ring and earrings), and a potion of water breathing. Pocketing the portable treasure, the party settled in for the night, but not before sending out some mongrelman scouts to figure out exactly where they were going in the morning.
Morning came, and the scouts didn’t return. But the attack must go on in order to find Erijay and Kern, so the party moved out, ensconced in a rabble of about 50 mongrelmen. Hugging the cliff face, they headed south through the ruins until they glanced by chance a step pyramid set inside a walled compound. It looked relatively well kept up, so they sent in a few mongrelmen scouts. As the scouts approached, a figure appeared on the wall. A yg-ti, with snakes for arms, it spotted the scouts and cast fear on them.  The mongrelmen turned and fled back to the larger group, which unfortunately was enough to panic the rest of the mongrelmen. The whole group turned tail and fled en mass. Aratheas tried to wield her power as chief to get them to stay, but was answered with ‘you take care of snake men and we come back’ as her army melted into the ruins. Now on their own, Darnorth fired his crossbow at the figure while Riley cast silence to stop any further spell casting by thier  scaly foe.  The party then charged though the ruins towards the pyramid, while the yg-ti disappeared from the wall. Reaching the walls, they dashed straight in to find an overgrown courtyard with a number of statues, pillars and platforms in the open space in front of the pyramid. Darnorth briefly explored one small enclosure, finding an unholy symbol of Yg carved on the wall in front of a low stone shelf with the remnants of sickly green candles and incense. With no sign of the yg-ti though, the party started up the covered steps of the pyramid, only to run smack dab into a pair of bugbears rushing down to meet them. A flurry of hand axes from the bugbears and arrows/bolts from the party saw one hairy goblin fall. The second leapt over its fallen comrade and fled up the steps and out of sight.

To be continued …

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Westmist Session #51 - Charmed I'm Sure

Erijay, Kern and Vorn decided to press on further into the mountain, since the alternative was to go back and sit in the pool of water for gods knows how long. As they donned their packs and prepared to leave, Darnorth arrived in a flurry of curses on Kern for leaving the basilisk head on the path, nearly turning the dwarf to stone. .  Using hand signals through the gate, Rikar told the dwarf there was no sign yet of Riley, Gurruk or Turrick, so Darnorth decided to catch up with his companions to help them on their way.  And on the way they were, pressing down another long 20’ wide corridor that headed on for hundreds and hundreds of feet. Erijay and Vorn were nervously eyeing their oil supply when Kern suddenly raised a hand to signal a halt. The merchant had heard faint noise ahead. Covering their light sources, Erijay and Darnorth peered into the dark with their infravision, seeing a band of short humanoids (and one tall one) blocking the narrowing passage ahead.  To the left another narrow, natural passage branched off into the darkness. Assuming the creatures had already seen their light, the four moved forward to engage. As they got closer, they saw a phalanx of the chimpanzee/man creatures (tasoli) backed by another one of the snake men (yg-ti). The part opened fire on the yg-ti and ignored the tasoli, figuring it was the greater threat. And it was, for in short order, it had charmed Kern and forced the other three to run away in fear. The fear eventually wore off, but not before Vorn and Darnorth had run back to the gate and Erijay pretty much back to the pool. The three turned around and headed back to help Kern. Who in the meantime had agreed with his new scaly friend that his companions had abandoned him and the merchant would be best served by accompanying the yg-ti.

Once Darnorth, Erijay and Vorn got back to the branch, Kern and the yg-ti were gone, but the tasoli still blocked the way. Determined to bull through them to rescue their friend, weapons were drawn to attack. And the three were quickly surprised by a second band of tasoli coming out of the left hand tunnel. Erijay frantically ripped a page out of Bjorn’s spellbook and cast sleep to take out a great many of the creatures. The rest of the tasoli stood their ground, and it took much swinging of swords and hammer to clear the way. Stopping briefly to finish off their sleeping foes, the trio raced on. Ahead they could see daylight at the end of the tunnel. Erijay cast locate object, focused on Kern’s alien jumpsuit, but the merchant  (or at least his clothes) were out of range. Running towards the light in order to close the distance, they burst out into the light of the evening sun. Behind them and to the right rose sheer cliffs 400’ high; more cliffs could be seen far in the distance. And in this rift spread the remains of a ruined city. Tumbled columns, collapsed buildings, all overgrown with vines and other foliage, spread as far as the eye could see.  Except straight ahead, where they could see a swampy area.  But there was no time to admire the view, as Vorn caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and they all turned to face two more yg-ti. One was a scaly skinned humanoid like the others they had seen, except snakes grew from its shoulders in place of arms. The other was a snake headed humanoid wielding a wickedly huge halberd. Weapons were drawn, but combat was short as Erijay was able to charm the human headed/snake armed yg-ti. She asked her new friend to call off his companion. The second yg-ti was hesitant. But when Darnorth flashed the black tablet he’d recovered from the breeding pits of Yg, the snake headed creature obeyed, convinced now there had been a mistake and the party were servants of the snake god.
Questioning their new friend, they learned that Kern had been led off to meet the leader of the cult of Yg, someone (something?) by the name of Horen. Erijay’s snake sword was a relic of the cult lost when the cult of Yg was shattered in the north, but spies had discovered its location and one of their own had passed through the gate to recover it. It was now held somewhere in the temple of Yg. The yg-ti themselves were being breed or created in the temple so the cult could rise again. Horen had brought many of the jungle creatures into the service of the cult, and had the surrounding human tribes frightened enough to do whatever he bid as well. In the city itself were the yg-ti, tasoli, bullywug and bugbears. There was also a band of mongrelmen, degenerate descendants of the original inhabitants of the city, who were shunned by the cult.  And finally, the swamp and lake were home to the ‘god of the lake’, a dragon of some sort based on the description. It was pretty much indifferent to all in the city, but was worshipped by the bullywugs. Erijay also asked if they could do something about that little skin problem, their oil supply now having reached a critical point. The yg-ti could not help, but offered to take them to Horen as he wilded great magic and could probably help them. Instead, Erijay asked that they lead them to a water source in case she and Vorn needed to go for a dip. This the yg-ti did, showing them a still full well in the courtyard of a ruined building.

Stepping aside from the yg-ti for a few moments, Darnorth, Erijay and Vorn discussed what to do next. The snake headed yg-ti was insistently trying to guide them to Horen, and they probably couldn’t delay too much longer. They decided to turn on the two yg-ti in surprise and cut them down. This unfortunately didn’t go too well. Blows were landed on the two snake men, but did not slay them. Instead, Erijay found herself charmed and Vorn and Darnorth were once more sent running back towards the tunnel in fear. And in a repeat of Kern’s experience, Erijay was led away by the yg-ti to meet Horen, and by the time Vorn and Darnorth returned, they were long gone.

Now deep in trouble, the dwarf decided to use his remaining precious wish to try rectifying the situation.  Darnorth called upon the powerful magic to heal all his companions of all hurts and harms and enchantments, and to teleport them all to a specific location next to the well.  Alas even this mighty magic couldn’t do everything he asked; both he and Vorn (and presumably everyone else) were healed and Vorn got his normal skin back. But no one appeared to join them by the well. It now being night, the dwarf and cleric headed off into the ruins to find a place to hunker down and rest before deciding what to do next. In the morning, the two were joined by a human magic user by the name of Aratheas, who stumbled out of the ruins. She had been with another adventuring band and her companions had been wiped out trying to enter the city. Having spent some time sheltering with the mongrelmen, she had decided to try making it out of the city on her own rather than remain trapped there forever. The lady mage agreed to join the pair in return for assistance getting out of the city once their mission was complete.
[While all of this was going on, Kern and Erijay were brought separately before Horen. He proved to be a man, a wizard in red silk robes who questioned them about their purpose in the city. He assumed they were still charmed, but Darnorth’s wish had broken that spell, so the two told only a tale of looking for the snake sword that had been stolen from them. Satisfied with that answer, Horen ordered them taken to the temple where they could be ‘converted to the service of the snake god’. Stripped of their gear, the two were led off through the ruined city and imprisoned in the temple of Yg.]

Friday, August 2, 2013

Westmist Session #50 - The Slimed and the Slain

As Erijay, Kern and Bjorn stood peering into the passage, the sound of rustling underbrush came from behind. Erijay and Bjorn quickly doves behind some fallen rock and vines, while Kern slipped on his ring of invisibility. They saw a man emerge from the jungle, white haired and dressed in shining plate mail. Although winded, the newcomer looked up at the tunnel entrance and announced “by Veldes, I have reached the site of my quest!” After watching for a few minutes, the trio figured he was of no danger to them, and they emerged from hiding to confront the newcomer. They learned he was Vorn, a cleric of Veldes, who was on a quest from his god to track down the lair of the serpent god cult and destroy it. This cult once held sway in his homelands before being destroyed by the church of Veldes, but has started to reestablish itself.  Further questioning revealed they were far from home, deep in the southern lands. And that there was at least one other magical gate in the area, through which Vorn had come. Figuring their paths, for the time being at least, were the same, Vorn joined the party as they advanced into the darkness of the mountainside.

And advance deep they did, as the wide worked stone passage lead them hundreds of feet before emerging next to a fast flowing underground river. The stream disappeared into the rock face just a short distance to the left, but a narrow path continued on the right side of the river. Moving the single file, the group advanced, the path soon turned past a rocky outcrop. Or so it seemed, for Kern (in the lead) fell through the path and into the river with a splash.  Erijay threw the man overboard a rope, and Kern hauled himself dripping wet back onto dry land. Probing with a 10’ pole, Erijay discovered that the outcropping was an illusion, and the path actually proceeded straight forward. They were about to follow it when out of the water next to them shot four slime covered tentacles, battering Erijay, Bjorn and Vorn. Turning to face their foe, the four could see a hazy cloud of blue/grey in the water from which the tentacles emerged.  When they struck next, all four aimed for Erjay and knocked the elf into the water. She was then drawn to the thing, filled with the overwhelming desire to serve her new master.  While the others turned their weapons on the thing, Erijay was engulfed in its tentacles and started to get carried down the stream. Bjorn desperately cast web, hoping to block the hole through which the river exited the cavern. This worked, and a flurry of blows destroyed the creature and released Erijay from her servitude. 
Unfortunately, at this point both Erijay and Vorn noticed their skin had been changed into a clear slimy membrane. And as it dried in the air, they both experienced excruciating pain. Vorn dove into the water for relief, joining Erijay who now found that due to the mucus surrounding the creature, she could now breathe water, but not air. Since retreating back down a dry passageway didn’t seem to be an option right now, they continued on. Erijay and Vorn advancing up the stream (which thankfully was only 4-5’ deep), with Kern and Bjorn on the path. Before proceeding, however, Kern carefully placed on the trail (facing away from them) the weird lizard head he was carrying in his sack, hoping it might serve as protection if the searchers outside followed them.

About 60’ further upstream, the cavern opened up. It was filled by a pool of water, which was fed by a 40’ high waterfall emerging from the rock face on the opposite side of the cavern. The trail continued around one side, and then switchbacked behind the waterfall to a cave opening above.  Silhouetted by a light in the cave mouth were 4 humanoid figures.  While Erijay and Vorn stayed in the water (and Bjorn hung back on the path), Kern donned his ring of invisibility and started to climb the path.  The creatures above had seen him before he started climbing however, and one moved to pour something down the waterfall and then toss a torch into it. The falls immediately erupted in a gout of flame, scorching the merchant and causing him to slip and fall into the pool below. This got Bjorn angry, so he dropped a sleep spell on the cave mouth. Three figures dropped out of sight, while the fourth plummeted off the ledge and face-planted into the pool below. Although the body was pretty battered, Erijay and Vorn examined it, finding it was a frog like humanoid.  Kern, meanwhile, climbed up the path and slit the throat of the three remaining frog-things. He also examined the cask poured into the waterfall, and found it to be still half full of oil. Scouting ahead, he also saw the 10’ wide corridor continued on quite a ways. Rather than risk being trapped alone, he returned back to the pool to help brainstorm a solution to Erijay and Vorn’s predicament. 
By this time, Erijay found she was once more able to breathe air, the mucus having cleared her lungs. But she and Vorn were still unable to leave the water for more than 10 minutes. They waited a few hours to see if the effect would wear off like the water breathing, but to no avail. And had to deal with another group of frog-things that arrived to apparently check on the original guards. Finally Erijay tried using oil to stop from drying out, and that seemed to work to some extent. She could stay out of the water for about an hour before having to reapply oil or get wet. Which not entirely certain of the wisdom of turning themselves into walking Molotov cocktails, Erijay and Vorn saw no other immediate solution. Gathering as much oil as they could from the cask, the two lathered up and then followed Kern down the passageway, carefully tracking time to make sure they would have enough oil to get back to the pool if necessary.
The passage lead another hundred feet before opening up into a larger, worked stone room, faintly lit by a phosphorescent glow on the walls and ceiling. At the far end stood a pair of stone towers flanking a grillwork gate. Just to the right was a narrow opening in the wall. Kern crept toward the opening invisibly, noting a shuttered window in each tower. Reaching the narrow opening, Kern signaled the other three to follow him. As they crept along the wall, however, the shutters in the towers opened. In each stood a pair of creatures that looked like a 3’ tall cross between a chimpanzee and a man. Armed with javelins, they let these fly at the group.  Kern responded with crossbow fire, and expertly snipped the two in the tower closest to him. The others were taken out by a hold person spell from Vorn. But alas, not before Bjorn fell with a javelin through the heart. With no way to help their fallen comrade at this time, they looted his body and hid it in a corner. Just in case they were able to come back for him later. Kern then threw a grappling hook up to one of the open tower windows and climbed up. He found a mess of soiled reeds and food waste on the floor, a rack of javelins, and a stairway down. Down he went, to find another room, this with a door which faced to into the other side of the gate. While invisible, he pushed it open a crack to look. Hiding behind each tower, he saw a mass of the same chimp-things, who were now spooked by the door opening all on its own. Hoping to build on that fear, Kern picked up one of the dead creatures in the tower, and still invisible brought it out the door like it was the walking dead.  This spooked them even more, and the mass moved back towards the exit from the room. One, who seemed to be a leader, directed a pair to go out the exit, presumably to get help.  Hoping to stop them, Kern whipped out his crossbow and started shooting. In this he was assisted by Erijay, who with Vorn had now climbed into the other tower. After several of the creature fell to the bolts, the remainder turned and fled up the corridor. A few more shots and they were gone. Kern briefly contemplated chasing them, but wasn’t keen and rushing into a potential trap and let them go.

Taking a few minutes to examine the side passage (ending in a blocked tunnel) and the gate (which caused a large spiked wooden frame to fall out of the ceiling right in front of the gate), the remaining three then sat to determine what their plan was from here …