Sunday, March 29, 2015

Westmist Session #93- Vamprie Hunt Part#1

The deal with Lord Merdwyn made, the party (Kern and Bjorn, Lomar and Guy, Erijay and Jasper) prepared to delve below Westmist Keep to hunt down Jax and Alia. Lomar started off at the Church of the the Virtues, asking to meet with Liphanes of the Highest Virtues. He was granted an audience with the multi-chinned churchman, and eloquently enlisted the aid of the church in their hunt for the vampires. Cheap healing and holy water for all! Unfortunately, Kern  arrived shortly thereafter and ended any amicable relationship by requesting a fresh body from the church, so he could use the brain in the cerebral shield. Liphanes was not willing to besmirch the church's reputation by giving away the dead left in its care. Kern, however, pulled out his old book with scandalous tales of the old cults of Salue, and threatened to go public with the stories if the churchman didn't cooperate. Liphanes did eventually relent and provide a body, but made it clear neither Kern nor any of his companions could ever expect assistance from the church again.Another enemy made!

While Lomar and Kern were making and breaking friendships at the church, Jasper and Erijay were stocking up on vampire hunting supplies for all; wooden stakes, wooden crossbow bolts, garlic, essence of garlic from Synthini, holy symbols, oil and more holy water. Kern also picked up a guard of Ram barbarians to cover their backs;  the merchant for one was not convinced Lord Merdwyn wouldn't stab them in the back given the opportunity. That done, they met Lord Merdwyn and the Company of Good Cheer at the keep, and he guided them down to the cellars and dungeons below the fortress. The party was brought to a rough tunnel, ending in a small roughly excavated room. There they found a trapdoor in the floor, which Lord Merdwyn indicted was the 'secret' location pointed out by Jax's guard captain. With a bit of a smirk and a wish of good luck, the March Baron left the party to do their delve. Kern instructed the barbarians to guard the room while they were below, then picked the lock on the door. Opening it up, Kern peered inside. Even with the light of his continual light coin, he could see little. Ahead was only darkness, while behind and below was a curved wall, and well as the tops of two huge statues. These Kern recognized as two of the aspects of the foul snake-god Yg; The Great Serpent and The Snake Who Walks. Great, more snakes. Assuming they were at the top of some huge domed or circular structure, they party clipped a grappling hook on the edge of the hatch and dropped 100' of rope into the darkness. Kern started to shimmy down, and at about the 60' mark noted and archway leading out of the dome behind him. At the same time, he encountered a mass of bats fluttering around. Head spinning in near confusion, he hauled himself back up and ordered Bjorn to clear the area with a fireball. That done, they replaced the burned rope and Kern shimmied down again. Only to reach the end of the rope and find himself still dangling in mid-air. Eyeballing one of the Yg statues, he guessed he had another 50' or so to go. So up he went, and another rope was attached, and finally the party was able to descend to the bottom.
There, they found themselves standing on a layer of bone, which on close examination proved to be all snakes. Nearby was a fresher, human body, dead probably a few months. Kern did a circuit of the room, finding three 30' arched exits and another giant statue, that of the third aspect of Yg (the Man-Serpent). Back at the rope, the rest of the party had noticed a 30' diameter circle of smooth black stone. This extended a few inches above the floor level and seemed to mark the center of the room. When Kern approached, something very strange happened. He was carrying Erijay's snake sword, as he got close to the black stone, the sword began to vibrate and hum, it getting more intense as he got closer. Tempted to touch the sword to the stone to see what would happen, he resisted the urge to tinker and instead the whole party focused on their goal; get the vampires. They were also distracted by the appearance of a dozen giant rats coming from the north archway, whom they dispatched with flaming oil, swinging swords, and a partially decayed medusa head.

The vermin taken care of and with Kern in the lead, the party headed out through the north archway, finding beyond it a 30' corridor which circled the domed room. Along the walls were snake shaped arrow slits, filled in with dirt which likewise spilled on the floor. It appeared that this place once stood above ground but was somehow and for some reason buried in the distant past. This outer corridor had collapsed at the west end. Exploring to the east the party found, in addition to the archway leading from the inner dome, a second archway that led from the outer ring and into a 30' corridor. Ignoring this for now, they continued around the ring, reaching a point where the dome had collapsed again, leaving only a narrow 2-3' wide passage along the inner wall.
 Immediately recognizing a potential ambush site, Erijay cast clairvoyance and sent one of her mini-meerkats through the passage. Viewing through the  animal's eyes, the elf was lucky to glance a huge bat perched on the wall, just beyond the narrow passage. Assuming this must be one of the vampires, the party prepared for action. A flurry of spell casting (haste, bless, protection from evil, mirror image, and detect invisibility) ensued. While the party discussed how to best tackle their foe, Bjorn used his detect invisibility to check behind them. And good thing too, because perched just inside the archway leading out of the  circular passage was another, invisible, giant bat. Both vampires lay in ambush! Everyone immediately turned to face this closer threat. Bjorn, as the only one who could actually see the bat, fired magic missiles at it. Erijay, aiming in approximately the right direction, fired twice from her wand of cold, while everyone else blindly lobbed flasks of holy water in the general direction. Bjorn shouted the bat was flying away, but before they could pursue, Erijay saw through the meerkats eyes that the second bat was coming at their backs. Turning to face the new threat, they saw the bat approach, hesitate for a few moments, then fly toward Bjorn and Guy. When it got close, the bat transformed into Jax, who hauled out a dagger and stabbed at Bjorn. Missing the first time, he connected with the second blow. Bjorn staggered, started frothing green at the mouth, and dropped stone dead. Meanwhile, Erijay stared to pour magic missiles at Jax, Kern fired bolts from his magic crossbow, and Lomar fired a web spell from his spider bracelet. That pinned Jax in place, and everyone turned to finish him off with a series of blows. Suddenly, Jax transformed into a cloud of mist, escaping the web and drifting off towards the corridor down which Alia disappeared ...

Westmist Session #92 - Insurrection!

The party now knew they were being watched by Jax; and it was possible he already knew what they were planning. So the time had finally come to put everything into motion, to usurp the March Baron and place Duncal in charge of the March Barony. Having the March Baron in town was a complication, but it was now or never. First order of business was brains. The two guards were relieved of theirs, and Kern set about distilling their grey matter to use in the cerebral shield. Meanwhile, Stonehell went into lock down. No one from the Stonehell Resistance or from Sir Janus' group were allowed to leave, and no one was going to get into their lair. Shortly after, Cal from the SR came to report someone or something was lurking just outside their defenses. The party moved out, and Erijay used her mini-meerkat and clairvoyance to scout. The spy proved to be a wererat. Erijay slipped forward and tried to charm the creature, but it sensed her attempt and slipped off into the darkness. A quick scout around did not reveal any more spies, so it was decided to just let the were rat go and focus on preparations. Which also included a mass of invisibility spells to shield everyone but Jasper from view when they moved on Westmist.

Because the plan was to have Jasper (who was unknown in Westmist) to present himself and the barbarians as mercenaries for hire to Lord Merdwyn. Having ingratiated himself into Lord Merdwyn's good side, the party and their supporters could strike by surprise and take out Jax and the March Baron. The Stonehell Resistance, Sir Janu,s and Duncal were left behind to await developments.  Jasper collected a dozen of the biggest and meanest looking barbarians, and with the party invisibly in tow, headed to Westmist. On arrival, it would appear they had been expected, for all the gates were barred and patrols mounted the walls. Hollering out to the guards, Jasper asked that Lord Merdwyn came out to parlay.  It took some time, but soon the March Baron (accompanied by Jax, Bazzrel, Liphanes and a gaggle of guards) appeared on the wall. He was immediately hostile, letting Jasper know he was aware of his connection with the party, as well as this act of invasion they've performed by bringing a barbarian tribe across the Great River. This was just the type of incursion the March Baron was supposed to guard the Kingdom against, and he had no intention of parlay. Riders had already gone east to inform the king and summon the royal companies to his aid.  Lord Merdwyn suggested Jasper take the tribe and the rest of the party and clear out before the hammer fell. And with that, he turned his back and left the wall.
Jasper and the barbarians retreated to discuss next steps with the party. They decided to use a bigger stick, and Kern headed off to summon the whole Ram tribe and bring them in view of the town walls. Meanwhile, Duncal was collected from Stonehell. With everything in place,  the party now approached the walls and once more summoned the March Baron. He arrived again with his entourage, and this time Kern did the talking. He accused the March Baron of conspiring with Jax and his foul deeds, that the King would  be interested to here of all the terrible things going on in Westmist. He also shouted for all inside the walls to here that Lord Merdwyn was not the rightful ruler of Westmist, that the party had returned with Duncal, the rightful heir. Kern also threatened the March Baron with death and destruction if the barbarian hoard was released upon the town, and that the blood of all would be on his hands.Kern demanded Jax's head, and that the March Baron give up Westmist to Duncal. While Lord Merdwyn and Kern argued and negotiated, Jax could be seen getting more and more agitated. As Lord Merwyn began to bargain with Kern, Jax alternately looked angrily at the March Baron and glared with frustration at Kern and the rest of the party.
Lord Merwyn reached an agreement with Kern. Duncal would take Westmist as a vassal of the Count Palatine and deal with the fallout from the Kingdom. The barbarians would be settled in the March Barony (and again Duncal would deal with the fallout). And Jax would be removed from power, and from Westmist, but would not be killed. At this point Jax exploded in anger, waving his hands to an apparently blank section of wall. There suddenly appeared there a women with red hair, hands moving as she cast a spell. Kern and Erijay immediately recognized her as Alia, an old foe thought long dead. Alia finished her spell casting and blasted the party with a lightning bolt. As the party moved to retaliate, both Alia and Jax disappeared in a cloud of mist and drifted out of sight. Chaos ensued, and the sounds of fighting could be heard inside the walls. Some time later, the gates opened and Lord Merdwyn emerged with the remainder of Jax's guard at sword point. He sealed the deal with the party, with one addition; that they take out Jax and Alia as part of the deal. Lord Merdwyn explained that Jax was a vampire. Even so, he had long served the March Baron faithfully. But it would seem power had gone to his head, and he had now turned on his old friend and mentor. Where Alia came into the picture he was not sure; she had been in the dungeons below the keep since her capture by the party almost two years ago. He had learned from Jax's guard that the vampire had discovered some old ruins or tunnels below the keep, and it is presumably there he and Alia had fled. Lord Merdwyn offered the Jax's captured men to the party as a token of good faith, and urged the party to hunt down the fugitives without delay. In the meantime, Lord Merdwyn would stay in charge of Westmist, and Duncal and the rest of the party's supporters were to stay outside the town until it was time to hand over power.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Westmist Session #91 - Back to Westmist

Just about midnight, Guy was surprised on his watch by a pair of Bear Tribe barbarians charging out of the darkness, spear leveled at the glum retainer. Dodging the spears, he whipped out his sword and skewered one of the attackers right through the belly. To Guy's horror, the wound closed over as soon as his sword was withdrawn, and the barbarian grinned at him before striking once more with the spear. As Guy struggled with the barbarians, the others struggled to wake up, Lomar being the first. The cleric  took in the scene, then ran around the fire, kicking as many of the others awake as possible. He followed this by calling on Salue to bless the party. Kern and Jasper opened fire with their crossbows, and Bjorn loosed a trio of magic missiles. And Erijay snored. As the elf maid at last arose from slumber, the two barbarians began to transform, taking on the shape of massive black bears. Maneuvering around, she blasted the two bears with a lighting bolt. This crisped one, and singed the other enough that it turned to run back into the dark night. Bjorn hasted  the party, which then headed off in pursuit, but the werebear fell quickly to a hail of crossbow bolts.
With much grumbling about lost sleep, the party looted the bodies of some gems, admonished Guy, and then settled to rest again. And Lomar animated one of the dead as his personal servant. The remainder of the night passed uneventfully. With morning's arrival, the party started to examine some of the items recovered from the hanging tree. Lomar cast detect magic, and found that the mace, book and potion were magical. Lomar handed the mace the Guy, considering how much trouble the henchman was in when faced with a magical creature but no magical weapon. Erijay expressed interest in the book, and sat down to study. It, however, was not the great learned tomb she hoped; but instead drained away a little of her vitality and intelligence merely through trying to understand the indecipherable gobbly-gook. She was not impressed.

Packing up, the party made good progress during the day and had no unwanted visitors during the night. Next day they continued their journey. Reaching a point where the trees began to thin, they suddenly heard the sounds of beautiful female voices singing in the trees above. Erijay and Loamr we entranced, and moved under the tree to stare dumbly up into the branches. The others followed their gaze, and saw three creatures with the upper body of a woman and the lower body and wings of a vulture; harpies! The trio flew down and proceeded to slash at Erijay with their claws, the elf still too entranced to fight them off. Jasper and Kern opened up once more with crossbow bolts, but the fight ended quickly when Bjorn tossed a fireball into their midst. After picking some slightly melted jewelry from the smoking corpses, the party contiuned east and finally reunited with the Ram barbarians that evening. The next few days passed without incident, as the party lead the tribe through the foothills of the Western War Peaks towards Stonehell. There they set the tribe down in the box canyon next to the Stonehell entrance, where the party's secret entrance lay. Tzarn agreed to this arrangement for now, but let it be known that the sheep would have eaten out the small canyon in  about a week. After that, he would be leading his tribe out in search of better grazing lands if Kern and the rest of the party couldn't make other arrangements.

Teaving Tzrn, the party headed back into Stonehell to meet with the Stonehell Resistance and Janus' men. They were still hail and hearty, and Barfirth reported no big problems in the weeks since the party left. They had continued stirring up the town, and seemed to have been successful in provoking Jax. The seneschal had clamped down harder on the town, effectively imposing martial law. Barfirth figured the town was split about three ways: a third that supported Jax, a third who who support a change, and a third who just wanted to go on with life and didn't care who was in charge. And as far as Barfirth knew, no one was aware of the plotters in Stonehell.

Needing more information about the situation in town, Bjorn and Erijay started casting invisibility on everyone in preparation for a nighttime raid into Westmist. The part slipped invisibly towards town, with Lomar's zombie servitor in tow. Leaving the undead in the marsh outside Westmist, the party first tried the town gates, but found them all barred for the night. Taking advantage of the wintery weather, they slipped around the wall and onto the frozen river, heading towards the keep. The plan was to waylay some of Jax's personal guard, take them prisoner and drag them back to Stonehell for interrogation. Silenced (thanks to Lomar) and invisible. they lay in wait. About an hour had passed when a patrol of a half-dozen of Jax's men in black and yellow livery appeared around the corner of the keep. Bjorn stepped out from cover and cast sleep, becoming visible but taking 5 of the men down right away. Then suddenly from behind the party came the sound of squealing and shuffling feet, as a half dozen rat-men burst out of the darkness and ran past them. Three surrounded Bjorn and and started slashing at him with their swords. Two others stood guard warily, seemingly aware the party was around but uncertain exactly where. Bjorn cast hold person on the remaining guardsman, then invisibility again. But the trio of rat-men around him had marked their target and continued to attack (albeit, with no success). The two other rat-men began to chitter very loudly; as if they were calling for help. Jasper, taking the silenced coin, rushed over to quiet the rat-men. This drew the attention of the remaining two, and they began to flail about with their swords in the general direction of the fighter. Meanwhile, Kern rushed around the fight, summoned the secret chest, and popped two of the sleeping guardsmen inside. The appearance and disappearance of the chest was the signal to everyone else to re-group and head back to Stonehell, picking up their zombie companion on the way.

Back in Stonehell, the two guards were pulled out of the chest and interrogated under ESP probing by Erijay. They learned that the March Baron had actually just arrived back in town that day, along with the Company of Good Cheer. Lord Merdwyn was there to gather recruits to take back to the County Palatine of Overmarch, as his new realm was now under attack by the necromancers of Djall and their undead armies. Jax and his men had been 'recruiting' for the March Baron, but Lord Merdwyn was there hoping his presence (and ability to lean on the local gentry) might bring better success. The men also revealed that Jax was well aware of the party's little army in Stonehell, and had hired the wererats to keep them under surveillance. How Jax first learned of the SR the guardsmen did not know. However, everyone (Jaxs men, March Barons men and town guard) were all under orders to keep a close eye around the town and around Stonehell for the party's reappearance.