Monday, November 24, 2014

Westmist Session #84 - The Dead Who Walk

Upon closer examination, the humanoids were actually human, covered in thick woolly cloaks. While most of the group stood warily pointing spears at the party (consisting of Kern, Erijay and Lomar, plus Bjorn and Guy), the tallest and brawniest (and smelliest) stepped forward and asked: "The Mighty Khoog demands the know your business in the territory of the Ram".  Kern replied they were simply seeking some ruins, guarded by a trio of stone ape heads. Khoog seemed to recognize the description, and grunted something about the 'pit that smokes' before informing the party they must speak to the tribes chief to see if they were worthy of the information. The party was led a short distance into an adjacent valley and the winter encampment of the Tribe of the Ram. There they were brought to the ceremonial circle in front of the largest tent, and presented to the chief, Tzarn the High Ram and the shaman, Koza the Entrail Reader. After Kern repeated his plea, Tzarn ordered the shaman to perform an augury, to determine if the tribe should help the party. The old shaman called for a ram to be brought, and proceeded to eviscerate the creature and then read the entrails. Koza reported that the reading said the party must prove themselves worthy of the help of the High Ram first, and directed they be sent to recover one of the "Dead Who Walk" to be ritually purified by the tribe.
A bit of questioning made it clear the "Dead Who Walked" were some sort of undead, found mostly higher up in the mountains. They also learned Khoog would be their guide/taskmaster, and after a night's rest, he led the party out of the valley and into the mountains.  A half-days journey brought them to the foot of a glacier. At the ice's furthest extent, a stone archway could be seen, leading below the sheet of ice. Khoog pointed them towards it, saying there they could find some of the "Dead Who Walk". He, the Mighty Khoog, would stand watch while they fulfilled their quest.
The party cautiously approached the opening formed of massive granite slabs. Inside the black gate, a wide set of stairs descended into icy darkness. They  headed down, entering a 20' corridor of the same rough slab construction, which after a short distance led into a large chamber. To the left and right, large alcoves in the walls held what appeared to be bodies wrapped in grave shrouds, stacked like cord-wood. At the far end, a narrow passage led deeper below the glacier. Obviously a tomb of some sort. Lomar thought back to his religious training, and recognized the structure and burial practices as that of the primitive D'war people who once dwelt in these lands in ages long past. The D'war were best known for their worship of loathsome tentacled and slimed gods. On that cheerful thought, discussion moved on; what to do next? Unwilling to continue on without first determining the status of the bodies (dead or undead), most of the party retreated to the tunnel entrance, where Khoog continued to glare at them. Kern then slipped back into the chamber, and deftly pulled down one body. It fell to the floor with a clatter, spilling the desiccated remains of a tattooed warrior in primitive leather. But nothing else happened. Still not sure, and figuring something further ahead might trigger the rise of a 500 person zombie army at their backs, the party proceeded to haul all the bodies out of the alcoves and stacked them on the floor, keeping a half dozen which they pulled outside into the snow. Liberally covering them with oil, they again retreated back under the eyes of the brooding Khoog, and Erijay immolated the pile with a fireball. Waiting some time for the smoke to clear and the rock to cool, they re-entered the chamber. The bodies were pretty much ash, but the intense heat had also caused the stones of the chamber the split and heave dangerously.
Waving fears of structural integrity aside, they moved towards the exit from the room. This they found narrowed very quickly to a small tunnel though which they would have to crawl single file. With little choice if they wanted to if they wanted to find some "Dead Who Walk", they crawled through, Erijay in the lead. After about 50', the tunnel opened about 7-8' above the floor of a strange chamber. On the opposite wall there was a huge skull assembled out of hundreds of  human skulls, painted black. In the jaw of the skull was a throne, and the eyes glowed with a blue light. Lining the walls were seven more mummified corpses, each standing at attention with a pole held upright in their hands. Another tunnel led off to the left. Everyone carefully dropped into the chamber, but Lomar instructed Guy to stay in the tunnel and prepare a rope and tackle for a quick escape if needed. The moody retainer required little encouragement. While Kern sized up the skull throne, Erijay and Lomar went sown the side corridor. The tunnel ended at a hole in the floor, obviously predating the tomb itself based on the manner in which the stone was laid. Each dropped a coin to judge the depth, but to their surprise there came no sound of the coins hitting bottom. Erijay followed with a torch, which fell out of sight without hitting bottom. Seeing no need to tempt fate further, they returned to the chamber with Kern and Bjorn.
Still with no walking dead in sight, the party instead focused on the glowing blue eyes of the skull. Kern climbed up and found the glow was due to a large sapphire, seemingly suspended in the eye socket. He poked and prodded a bit with a 10' pole, before using the pole the lever the gem out and across the room (where it was deftly caught by Erijay). At that point, the corpses around the walls started to shuffle forward, so the party formed ranks to meet them. Erijay cast a web spell to bind three of them, while Kern caught another in a net he'd procured from the barbarians. The rest were kept at bay by Lomar's shining faith in Saule, as least until the rest of the party started attacking them. A battle raged back and forth as the undead alternately ran away, and then returned when provoked. Meanwhile, Kern and Guy worked to push the entangled undead creature up into the tunnel to be brought back to the tribe. That done, the party started to climb out one by one, helped by a haste  spell from Erijay. Kern was struck once and frozen by the creatures claws, but was saved by a cure light wounds from Lomar. Bjorn was likewise hit and frozen, followed by Lomar. Now cleric-less, the party hastily pushed Bjorn's frozen body up into the tunnel to be dragged away, while Kern jumped back into the fray to force a potion of healing  down Lomar's throat, and thereby reviving him.

Back in the main chamber, they found now that the corpses they had put aside had animated and awaited them. As they fought these new horrors, the previously turned undead started to emerge from the tunnel. The first few were slain and then stuffed back into the tunnel mouth to block it, then the new threat was quickly dispatched except for one more kept as another prize. Hauling their struggling captives with them, the party rejoined Khooig and returned to the barbarian village. There a great conclave was held, a bonfire lit, and the "Dead Who Walk" were ceremoniously tossed onto the cleansing fire to be destroyed. Their quest fulfilled, Tzarn the High Ram instructed Khoog to lead the party north to the 'pit that smokes".

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Westmist Session #83 - Consolidation

Kern and Erijay sat Duncal down and gave him back his clothes, and a stern lecture about running off into the mountains at the height of winter and gods-knows what fate. Duncal began to whine about the party not holding up their end of the deal, this whole usurpation was taking too long, he was cold and bored here in the mountains, etc etc etc. Holding Erijay back to keep her from throttling Duncal, Kern explained there had been some minor setbacks on the way, but progress was being made with the Stonehell Resistance Army (SRA) and their task of stirring up the town against Jax.

At this point, Kern and Erijay were joined by Lomar (and his retainer Guy), bringing the news from Stonehell. Which made them all think that perhaps the best place for Duncal was back in the dungeon, in the care of the SRA.Combining Sir Janus' band with the SRA would give them a bigger force, and keep Duncal out of trouble as a bonus. Duncal just about scuttled that idea though, insisting he was not about to go in 'that hole' again. Choosing bribery over force, a deal was struck with Duncal.  Agreement as reached  that everything would come to  fruition 'soon', and that once Duncal had been placed in charge of Westmist, he would stay just 3-4 months before taking his money and heading for "more civilized lands".  Kern, Erijay and Lomar also agreed to pay him 100gp for incidentals in the interim, and 5000gp as his final fee once he was free to go. In return, Duncal would go to Stonehell with the SRA and not run again.

That concluded, they carried Duncal back to Sir Janus, and then confronted the knight with the plan. Sir Janus was not happy at first, feeling it beneath his dignity to serve amongst such rabble rousers and lower class men. He agree to the plan only in the understanding that he, Sir Janus of Lacewood was in command. Which was agreed, but Kern wrested the agreement that there would be no romantic cavalry charges to fight the enemy in the open field. Sir Janus agreed (and Erijay confirmed he was being genuine with a little ESP), and so the whole band broke camp and headed for Stonehell.
It was an uneventful, though snowy journey,  until the band had started to shift direction around the end of the Western War Peaks, to head east towards Stonehell. Above them in the thickly falling snow came a screech and the flap of wings. As everyone dove off horses and into cover, a pair of wyverns descended out of the blizzard, making for the now riderless horses.  Bjorn and Eijay loosed a fireball each, crisping but not killing the two creatures. One grabbed onto Sir Janus' horse, and began to fly away. Kern fired a crossbow bolt, and Bjorn and Erijay cast a cluster of magic missile, bringing both wyverns crashing out of the sky. Picking through the smoking remains, it was clear that Sir Janus would now be walking, as his hose did not survive the fall . Nothing of interest was found, but Erijay did cut off one of the poison stingers for possible future use. Figuring this must be the pair of wyverns that had bedeviled them before, the party decided it was worth stopping for day to go hunt down their lair and look for treasure. Erijay and Kern had information that the pair of wyverns laired atop a natural stone pillar somewhere in this general area. Resting overnight and memorizing new spells, the party started to search in the still thickly falling snow for the pillars. It look half the day to find them, 100 feet high on a ridge above them. Bjorn and Erijay cast fly and headed up. Erijay hit the jackpot right away; a jumbled nest of tree trunks with coins scattered amongst the bones and offal. Bjorn arrived and began shoveling treasure into the magic chest, while Erijay poked around some more. Her curiosity was rewarded with a scroll case (containing two treasure maps) and a wyvern egg! She slipped both into her pack for who knows what ultimate purpose.
Side trek complete, the party continued on to Stonehell. There, the remnants of Sir Janus' band was joined in an uneasy alliance with the SRA. Barfirth took his demotion to second in command with grace, and all seem set for a successful merger (especially after Lomar broke out the wine and cooking spices for a celebratory feast).  Lomar, Erijay and Kern then discussed next steps, and decided heading out to recover the Cerebral Shield of the Gann should still be their goal. Before departure, however, they sent Guy into Westmist to run some errands (picking up potions from Synthini, gathering some supplies, visiting Thuridici the Sage with 1800gp from Erijay and a request to research the natural history of wyverns). Lomar and Eirjay meanwhile, slipped invisibly and separately to town on personnal business. Erijay went looking for an animal trainer to train a pair of minimerkats to use as her eyes and ears when scouting, and spent a few days in the hovel of Ona the crazy minimerkat lady, just outside the town walls . Lomar, meanwhile, headed to see Slate and check on the progress of his mechanical arm. The dwarf had it ready, but after the painful procedure of attaching the arm, it was apparent it did not work quite as hoped. Lomar, ever hopeful, tossed some more gold to the dwarf and told the engineer he would return in a month to try it again.

When everyone assembled once more in Stonehell, the party prepared for the winter trek across the Untamed Lands to find the Horn Tribe barbarians and the hidden halls of the Gann.  Heading out of town, they first bargained an old man out of his riverboat, and so the party took to the water. Slipping past the fortress of Amrath in the dark (and silence thanks to Lomar), the turned north up the Great River, assuming from their map  that it would take them to the foothills of the Black Spine Mountains. It unfortunately didn't, but instead led them back to the Western War Peaks from whence they'd just returned with Janus and Duncal. So they hauled the boat ashore, and struck out overland, following the edge of a dark, coniferous forest until they struck the Black Spine some days later. Following the mountain front north for several more days, they were passing through a boulder field when suddenly they were surrounded by an ambush of shaggy, wooly humanoids ...