Party Log | Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil
Party Members | Log Entries -start -last | Map of Hommlet |
|10-19-01 | After the trouble on the road to
Hommlet, the party arrived
more or less intact; after checking in to the Welcome Wench, we hastened
to meet with Terjohn of Cuthbert at the Temple of the Cudgeller. Terjohn
was a large man whose face bespoke a warrior's training, bearing a cudgel
and estimated at 50 or more years. The party questioned him extensively.
Have there been any disappearances, or attacks besides ours?
"There have been some disappearances recently, but we'd had no problems for 15 years prior; once they came back, we thought it was unorganized humanoids; but they kept showing up - gnolls, bugbears, and now orcs. The gnolls were wearing the symbol of the Greater Temple of Elemental Evil - an upside-down diamond with a broken two pronged caltrop superimposed.
Where is the activity located?
"What activity there is, is not really at the temple - it's more at the moathouse, east of Hommlet, southeast of the Temple. The humanoid activity is centered there, and most of the people who were waylaid were on a seldom-used road near there. That'd be the first place I'd go."
Any survivors among those who've been attacked?
"There have been some survivors among those attacked by humanoid groups, but the groups themselves have previously numbered no more than 20 [note: the group of orcs that attacked us on the way to Hommlet was larger than that].
What are the conditions like by the Moathouse?
"Most of the road has been flooded, but there is one way into the moathouse, you don't need a boat. It's about 12 miles from here, east of town. The moathouse sits on a dried flood plain, once drained, now reflooded."
Do you think someone is trying to or has rebuilt the Temple?
I worry like an old man that that temple is being rebuilt; but the reason you've been brought here is that you are not from here. Fifteen years ago, we discovered we had spies in our midst, and most of the companions were killed by those spies, so we felt that our best interest was served by bringing in outside adventurers. Rufus has sent out patrols, and mostly they have encountered humanoids. There have been attacks as close as five miles to the community. If it is someone attempting to rebuild the temple, then there must be spies in town."
To the Moathouse: The path to the moathouse is severely overgrown, only the old wagon trail allows passage. Not long after we get going, a strange whistling noise was heard by some of the party. Soon a voice says "My god, you people are noisy!" and a half-elf, dressed in leather jerkin, dagger, looking grizzled, appears. He's "Dell," a local trapper. He hasn't seen any orcs, but some "7-foot tall dog-faced creatures" [bugbears?] just outside the moathouse with some "holy men"
"They were just dressed like them," (points to Alidon and Teledesic) "...that's how I knew they were holy men." They bore a symbol - upside down diamond, broken. And he saw a dragon yesterday, in the moathouse, small and unknown color, but "...big enough to chew me in two." The holy men were dressed similarly to each other, neat, armed "like yourselves," and they were poking around the moathouse, but the dragon popped out. The dragon chased them holy men and bugbears (who seemed to be with the holy men) and they took off. Dell hadn't see the dragon before, it could be that the he'd just recently taken up residence there; it was a "dark" color. The dragon physically attacked the holy men, but did not use any breathe weapon. Dell said he was heading to Hommlet. He added that the Moathouse is "haunted" - there are "... dead people still walking around." But that was before these holy men showed up.
Teledesic dispatched Voon the Owl as a scout (mid-morning or so); we began moving forward, but fear overtook the party; some were frozen in fear, some panicked and ran; Ulfgar, Latifah, the Paladin, and Alidon fought down the fear, and were able to see a gliding dragon, idly flying from the direction of Hommlet (blue, black or even green) toward the moathouse. The dragon made no hostile moves and flew away toward the moathouse, and soon the party regrouped. Ulfgar and Penumbra scouted, and saw no activity - but the party had made significant noise.
The Moathouse is little more than a manor with a courtyard, fallen in and charred; there is a sulphuric smell, and all is quite. Voon flew up and took another look at the courtyard: it's a big open area, and there's nothing in it, there are several "nests," but no creatures at all. Ulfgar faded into the woods and disappeared, presumably scouting.
After much planning, Penumbra moved out quietly toward dusk. He reached the drawbridge, slightly rotten but with four brand new planks right through the middle. The creek was about 10' wide, very fetid and not moving at all. A frog of immense proportions, red and black, leaped from the water and entangled Penumbra in its tongue. The party charged to save him, with several arrows fired, but Penumbra buried his sword in the things chest. Cecil finished off the thing with a sword strike.
At that point, the dragon appeared. It poked it's head out of the courtyard and attacked. Blue in color, it caused Usoab to panic and bolt. The wyrm hit the Paladin with a bolt of energy and he fell, even as Teledesic and Moneypenny hit it with arrow and sword. Teledesic healed the Paladin, and they moved toward the moathouse. The dragon bit Moneypenny, and a look to the rear would show the Dwarves and Usoab charging the bridge from their positions in the woods. The wyrm again caused lightning; Moneypenny fell, as did Cecil, and it scattered the dwarves from the bridge. Ulfgar charged the thing and traded blows with it, but only at tremendous cost to himself, while Teledesic and Latifah fired bows. Ulfgar gave way to accept healing and drink a potion. The creature cast Sleep on the party, and affected Teledesic and Latifah. Usoab attacked with bow, but missed; and the dragon flew off, trailing ichor. Moneypenny observed after being revived that, upon his charge, he had yelled that the party had to kill the dragon outright or it was going to escape, while Usoab observed that he put three arrows into the dragon as it flew off.
We entered the courtyard and gave search, finding only a curved dagger laying on a smeared ruined staircase. A quick check of the tower found nothing of interest, a burnt shell like much of the rest of the courtyard; the stairs led to a small landing, pretty much a ruin. Beyond are very large footprints in blood, apparently the wyrm-nest. Partly eaten corpses (a man in chain and ocher robes, heavy mace; woman with studded leather, sword and bow) littered the area. We investigated a cell, Alidon turns up a gold chain, while another room has pelts and boar heads, antlers, somewhat burnt. Another was filled with trash. The last door opened into a room with a butcher's block, with a cleaver lay on the floor. Another room contains rat droppings.
While shoving a door, Teledesic spotted two gnolls, yelled and the party attacked. Usoab killed a gnoll, the rest fired, but Teledesic suffered a misfire and hit Alidon for a grievous wound. Usoab again hit a gnoll square, and Penumbra finished the job. Teledesic repaired the wound he caused to Alidon. Penumbra and Usoab searched for secret doors near where the gnolls would seem to have come from, but found nothing. The party continued searching and eventually found the stones from the tower room could be removed, and they revealed showed a circular staircase leading down behind them, obviously from where the two gnolls came from.
Going down the steps, Penumbra discovered and attempted to defuse a strange trap, a trap door set with a foot trigger. The trap door leads to a room with three zombies, the stench of which was nearly overpowering. Penumbra, Latifah and Ulfgar pressed the attack. A single ghoul came in and menaced Latifah, but Cecil charged and destroyed a zombie. Moneypenny killed another, and Ulfgar dispatched two more, including the ghoul. The ghoul was found to have a gold ring (Ulfgar, Room #22); another cellblock was visible beyond as well.
Cecil detected the presence of evil beyond the cellblock door, and Ulfgar bashed the door down and closed with the enemies therein. Two gnolls showed and attacked, and the pair returned combat. Numerous skeletons advanced to attack, and the party poured into the open doorway to press the defense. Ulfgar spotted a female with white robes, who she shot Cecil with a crossbow. Alidon called upon Kord to disrupt the skeletons, and he succeeded admirably but not totally, so the party continued the attack. Ulfgar killed the robed woman; and the party dispatched the remaining skeletons with aplomb, Cecil counting for two.
11-2-01 | Cecil, Moneypenny and Latifah opted to regroup and reset in the woods outside the Moathouse, while the rest of the party went on exploring the underlevels of the moathouse.
After the battle with the skeletons, the white robed lady tried to escape into nearby room, from which the skeletons had come out. Ulfgar followed here into the room and killed her. The room was otherwise empty. After a brief search of the main room, Penumbra opened one of the doors, and was immediately confronted by a human, grievously wounded; Penumbra dragged him into the room, where Alidon and Teledesic healed him somewhat; he turned out to be Spoonwar of Hommlet, proprietor of the Potionery there and follower of Boccob; he said he'd been hunting herbs, near the moathouse, found a tunnel, was attacked by gnolls, and later was caught in this room, after being hit by a skeleton's sword.
Tell us about the clerics.
"The clerics were ordering the gnolls around; there were two males and one female."
See anything interesting?
"There is a room to the south of here that is obviously an unholy place."
The party brought Spoonwar to the main entrance and sent him out to find the rest of the party, then returned to the cellblock to follow the secret doors that Spoonwar showed us. The second secret door opened into another room, cluttered, but Ulfgar's search turned up a set of human size leather armor and a threadbare cloak with an eye in flames, faded, upon it. Neither radiated magic.
The secret door opened to show a small staircase heading downward; Ulfgar and Penumbra decided to scout ahead. The party moved ahead down the steps. Ulfgar spotted a room and detected some noise inside, and after some debate the party entered the room. Three gnolls appeared in the room, and battle was joined. Ulfgar immediately dispatched a gnoll, but three more attacked. Teledesic commanded one to Surrender, while Ulfgar cut a swath through the gnoll attackers. Usoab killed the last.
The gnolls had come from a corridor leading off the room. After checking the various doors and the corridor for sounds, a loud crash was heard coming from the hallway from which the party came. Nothing appeared, so the party went back to checking the three doors; one opened into a refuse room, one was a false door, and one was empty. Penumbra scouted the corridor and discovered the gnoll barracks, though there was nothing of note there. The party proceeded back the way they came, only to discover the reason for the loud crash - a portcullis, totally blocking the way back. The party then proceeded to go down the other fork in the road. They eventually came to a room, some sort of sleeping chamber, with beds, satchels and various equipment. Ulfgar killed the gnoll guardian, who was dressed much better than previous gnoll guards with two masterwork weapons, plus a composite longbow, along with an iron box, and whetstone, and the gnoll wore a cloak with a flaming eye symbol and a brooch. The iron box was magically trapped, so Teledesic sacked it for later study, along with another of similar construction. Ulfgar surmised that these matched chambers might be the quarters of the clerics mentioned by Spoonwar, though they did not seem been to be in evidence.
Penumbra found a passageway through one of the small rooms and the party proceeded. Ulfgar discovered a wall that looked fused to the walls and ceiling, clearly different from the rest of the stone passageway. Teledesic examined it, and determined it had been magically generated, and pronounced it impassable. He also determined that the spellcaster would have also able to cast teleport spell (fifth level?)
While Teledesic and Ulfgar were checking the wall, a zombie (?) attacked Alidon and Usoab. Usoab began retching from the foul stench, and Alidon could barely keep his mace up in defense, so horrible was the smell of the beast. The party was vomiting constantly as they pressed the attack - Penumbra and Teledesic both put arrows in it between heaves, while the rest traded swordstrikes with the undead. But one of the clerics and a strange fish-creature appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and the battle was commenced in earnest. Ulfgar fell to the fish creature, Alidon was paralyzed by an unknown force, as was Teledesic later. Penumbra was bitten by a rat, and Usoab was struck by a crossbow bolt from the cleric in half-plate. Penumbra killed the undead beast with a well shot arrow and charged the fish-creature, which was apparently a troglodyte cleric of sorts, while Alidon charged the human cleric. The troglodyte fought Usoab and Penumbra with skill. Alidon killed the human cleric, but Usoab fell even as Ulfgar climbed to his feet, stunned and weak. The troglodyte was a doughty fighter, and hits proved hard to get, while the trog dashed in and out dealing blows with impunity. Teledesic managed to hit it with magic missiles, and Penumbra backstabbed the thing, finally killing it to the cheers of the company. A search of the bodies produced a variety of weapons and loot, of which Usoab took the human's morningstar.
The party moved down though the passages for a bit until they came upon a room containing a statue - one side had a jet black figure with a cape and wavy sword; another had a green man in robes and a mask shaped like the one we found; the third has a red man in a doublet and strange gauntlets and a hood; the forth is an indigo man with a robe with a sigilled sash, cowl and scepter. Teledesic made a rubbing of the sigils on the indigo sash. The place looked like an excavation site, that perhaps the denizens here were looking for something. In the pit, the sound of running water is evident, generating a mist that obscured vision. A rope weighted with the lantern went the full length without touching anything. After an hour Teledesic and Penumbra were lowered down on the platform with the block…
11-16-01 | Down in the hole, Penumbra and Usoab found a marbleized floor with purple veins throughout, which seemed to move when Usoab touched them; a dais seemed to lead to another level; the party went back up the winch, chucked the statue into the hole (60'), and backtracked.
Ulfgar detected the presence of undead and moved forward, encountering some "extraordinarily foul" creatures (probably ghouls); one grabbed Ulfgar and crashed his head against the stone floor, rendering him unconscious. The beast then turned its attention to Penumbra, and dealt him a crushing blow. Alidon attempted to charge through the party ranks to reach the beast, but was hindered; the beast managed to reach Alidon, and he pushed him away with seeming ease, but he returned and dispatched the thing.
Ostensibly victorious, Moneypenny and Latifah advanced around the corner - encountering two more of the dreadful beasts. Latifah was knocked to the ground by one, while Alidon attempted to minister to Ulfgar, who was holding onto consciousness, but barely. Teledesic poured a healing potion down Ulfgar's throat, but realized that he, too, was paralyzed from the poison touch of the ghouls. Moneypenny fought gamely, but took a significant hit and was paralyzed by the power of the ghouls, though in a heroic stance. Alidon looked up to see three of the beasts advancing around the corner. Usoab killed one with an arrowshot, as did Teledesic. Penumbra killed the last, to the relief of the immobilized party members.
The party continued on after the paralyzation slowly wore off. At the end of the corridor was an L-shaped room containing several sarcophagi, likely the beds of the ghouls, which Alidon recognized as Defiled; any evil here could draw strength from it. The sarcophagi had been torn open, probably by the ghouls themselves who'd use them for beds. Moneypenny observed: "This isn't a crypt - this is a barracks for these creatures." Usoab searched for secret doors, but found none.
The party backtracked down the hallway and checked secret doors as a group, but the search turned up nothing. After some debate, the party returned to the crypt to continue searching for secret doors. After several hours of unsuccessful searching, the party returned to the portcullis, lifted it, exited the moathouse complex, and began the return trip to Hommlet. It was near dark, and the party worried somewhat about traveling at night. But on the trail, the ground began to shake strangely and, before the party could react, a giant beetle creature burst through the ground and grabbed Latifah. Teledesic's sunrod showed the beast to be a giant preying mantis. Teledesic and Ulfgar charged, while Usoab nocked an arrow. Latifah, shaking this way and that, was rendered bloody and unconscious, and while Penumbra and Teledesic dropped down the hole to press the attack, the mantis took Latifah into the Oerth.
The return to Hommlet proceeded without further incident.
11/29/01 | Moneypenny and Cecil decided, upon reading the scrap of journal discovered at the Moathouse, to investigate the mentioned Millhouse. After some debate, the party decided that Teledesic and Penumbra approach the mill, ostensibly as merchants interested in purchasing grain for a caravan to Verbobonc. The miller showed Teledesic various products while Penumbra cased the mill. Penumbra saw a variety of footprints around a trap door in the middle of the floor, but otherwise discovered little of value. The miller Fise was unavailable, having departed rather hastily on emergency business, according to the mill workers.
After returning to the Welcome Wench, the party discussed various aspects of the adventure at the moathouse. Penumbra was dispatched to find out any information on the person Chartrilon (mentioned in the journal excerpt), while the rest the party discussed the tactical aspects of breaking into the millhouse.
While shadowing the miller's men, Penumbra was attacked by a man in black who seemingly appeared from thin air behind him (witnessed by Cecil as he exited the Wench to cover Penumbra's back). Cecil carried him back to the Wench, the party tended to Penumbra's wounds and drew the details of the event from Cecil.
"I was walking down the road, and this guy in a black outfit appeared - he was just there, he magically appeared. He took off down to the left. There were people on the street. There was a hole in his back, so I assume he was shot [sic]."
Moneypenny and Cecil drew swords and headed out toward the street, only to be stopped by the City Guard and Lord Burne. Burne dispatched Moneypenny, Cecil and three guards to see if they could locate the perpetrator, while the rest of the party petitioned Burne for help in aiding an now-obviously poisoned Penumbra. Burne ordered Ulfgar to bring Penumbra to Terjohn at the Temple of Cuthbert. Once on the street, a crowd had formed around the scene of the crime. Teledesic returned from the Potionery after hearing of the attack from Spoonwar's daughter (Spoonwar knew nothing of "Chatrilon"). Cecil surmised that, possibly, Penumbra's attacker might have been smaller than human-sized (perhaps a half-elf, like Penumbra). The Cuthbertians neutralized the poison in Penumbra (and exacted a promise to pay near 400 gp when he was back on his feet); Terjohn and Burne then talked briefly privately; Ulfgar heard Terjohn tell Burne that he (a) knew we were here in Hommlet, (b) that the party was staying at the inn, and (c) the party had gone to the Moathouse.
"It has been a goodly while since we have seen a professional assassination around here… the blow was exquisitely placed, and would certainly have killed you… you have obviously developed a very powerful enemy - I would beware." - Terjohn
Burne told Penumbra that he knew of the Moathouse trip, and asked Penumbra of the party's actions there - including why Penumbra would draw the attentions of an assassin specifically. Burne was quite intimidating during the interrogation; and guards told Moneypenny and Cecil, still searching for the perpetrator, that they were to accompany them back to the Moathouse.
The guardsmen retrieved all the party members and brought them to Burne's Tower, eventually joined by Burne, the Chief Guard Rufus, and Terjohn. Terjohn had previously vouched for us, and Burne, although admitting that we were not under suspicion, averred that it had been long since a professional assassin walked the streets of Hommlet. "Now, I need to have some answers." Teledesic produced the journal excerpt, which Burne perused. "It would be best if you did your investigation - my people will turn a blind eye to your activities tonight. Or, if you wish, there is a small farmhouse outside the community, where you can stay. But you have enemies and they are looking for you." Burne dispatched guards to retrieve the party's belongings and the illusionist-gnome.
Burne also mentioned that down the road from the Moathouse is a ghost town called Nulb; several wagons have been seen there, and perhaps our investigation can turn that direction. Rufus was dispatched to bank the fires at the farmhouse, which Burne recommended we use as a permanent safe house.
The party, now with leave from the local laird to investigate unfettered for the night, approached the mill house with moderate stealth, but a guard appeared suddenly. Teledesic spotted him quickly and Missiled the guard, after which Moneypenny killed him. But the guard returned to life, and a mage apepared behind Teledesic and Jade in a blinding light. Arrows and Missiles failed to pierce the mage's defenses; in the meantime, Cecil and Moneypenny rushed the millhouse door, while Ulfgar carried Usoab's frozen body toward the relative cover of the millhouse. Jade narrowly avoided a blast of raw flame from the mage; Teledesic charged the mage and hit her with a mace; another strike killed her, while Ulfgar killed the zombie.
The party inside the millhouse quickly searched for the cleric inside (based on the evidence of the revived corpse and the sound of chanting) but found nothing save a translucent sphere floating rather complacently down the creek. Penumbra opened the trap door inside the mill house, but eschewed it for the front door. Ulfgar, apparently in mortal fear, ran past Teledesic and Jade in some hurry.
Teledesic finally managed to Sleep the archer atop the miller's house, and he fell off the roof to the ground - but immediately there appeared a human male in plate, which charged Jade, to her chagrin.
Usoab and Moneypenny concocted a scheme to net the sphere, and produced ropes for that purpose, after it was determined that it was Cecil trapped in the sphere. Penumbra killed a female mage who followed the man in plate, but slipped and fell when he tried to do the same to him. The man in plate, in turn, touched Jade and rendered her unconscious. Penumbra and Teledesic both attacked, and Teledesic finally killed him. Despite falling off a roof, the archer who'd previously put four arrows into Teledesic rejoined the melee, but too was eventually killed.
After the mages and their guards had been killed, the party entered the millhouse cellar, where they found various comparisons indicating several someones had been staying there, including various sacks, bedrolls and chest. Once exiting the millhouse, the guard was in evidence, so after an abortive attempt to open the miller's house failed, the party departed Hommlet for the farm house. Rufus met the party on the road and guided the way.
In a chest in the basement of the mill, Teledesic found a scrap of parchement with a message on it, from "DeQuint" to "Master Durant," detailing Durant's mission to set up a "secret base" inside Hommlet. His orders also include to uncover the treasures of the Dark God, seal the Shrine, and bring what treasures are found to the Temple of All Consumption. It advises Durant that a wagon may be obtained from Tal Shammish, in the town of Rastor, and brought to the "crater."
|12-21-01 | After the
party arrived at that abandoned farmhouse, they rested and discussed the
information they'd gathered and possible next steps in their
investigation. Directly, the conversation turned to Ulfgar's suspicions
regarding the Druid. Usoab observed that a meeting with the druid might
result in not only more information concerning the party's recent
activities, but might well result in an additional safe house from which
to conduct operations, and closer to Hommlet to boot.
The party agreed that reconnaissance was the order of the day, and so Jade, Teledesic and Penumbra stayed back at the farmhouse (Alidon, Moneypenny and Cecil being too wounded to do anything but sip broth and sleep this day, Cecil doing so as heroically as was possible). Penumbra, putting himself to good use, kept the fire up and searched the farmhouse, discovering a few moldy potatoes but little else of interest, other than the rather good condition of the byre for one so long abandoned.
Ulfgar and Usoab decided to use the time to approach the moathouse. No obvious danger was seen, and the weather banked the pair's own noise, so Usoab convinced Ulfgar to take a quick look inside. Close to the door, Ulfgar espied some wagon tracks from perhaps a day before, going both in and out the moathouse. Ulfgar and Usoab abandoned the moathouse door and tracked the wagon, but the terrain and the weather prevented them from following it much further into the forest.
Upon their return to the farmhouse, Ulfgar and Usoab related their discoveries, including their suspicion that the Obelisk had been removed from the Moathouse. The party decided to return to the Moathouse and determine whether the Obelisk was still there.
The trip to the Moathouse proceeded without incident, though the weather diminished significantly during the journey. Teledesic noticed the bridge over the stream had recently been reinforced, and Ulfgar noticed the sign of several creatures having moved something large and heavy recently through the entry passages. Teledesic activated the black torch in hopes a secret door might come available, though the activation of the thing gave some of the party an ominous chill, some more than others. Despite this, it showed the secret doors the party was already aware of clearly to Teledesic, and operated excellently despite its malodorous aura.
The party proceeded through the corridor toward the Obelisk's resting place without incident, eventually coming to the quarry room. The disk used to lift the Obelsik was missing, and the quarry was filled with rushing water. Ulfgar noted some significant scratches on the floor and stairs, evidence of something heavy having been moved recently - the party realizing that, quite possibly, they had returned to Moathouse a day too late. Usoab voiced the opinion that a bit of secret door hunting might be in order, and the party checked through several passages, eventually seeking the Wall of Stone, thought to be illusionary. Teledesic successfully detected and penetrated the illusion, and the party stepped through. A bit of walking brought them to a room inhabited by a pair of odd, turkey-sized birds, which flew forward and attacked Ulfgar and Usoab with little provocation. Jade Missiled one of the birds, only to have one more fly over and press the attack. She identified the birds as cockatrices, and the melee took a more serious air. Teledesic, following Jade's lead, also Missiled and killed one, though he noticed that Penumbra had suffered the dreaded effect of the terrible birds - his skin was gray as stone, and he did not move to attack or defend himself.
Eventually Usoab dispatched the last bird, and the party proceeded on without Penumbra. The rooms beyond contained only corpses and trash, though a skeleton was found to have a small medallion with a black widow spider upon it (a symbol of Lolth, Teledesic recognized) and a smallish, ebon wand, both of which Teledesic tucked away in a sack.
The party returned to the secret door found earlier, and found a corpse and a winch, which operated the portcullis that had trapped the party in their earlier foray. The corpse, in full plate with steel shield, crossbow, curved sword and triangle symbol, also had a small bottle marked "fly", 23gp, a nice sapphire (20gp), a pearl, and a parchment, written in common:
"The Water Temple will soon make its move against the forces of Fire. Return quickly, Festrath, for we need your aid. Together we shall win the favor of the Doomdreamers in the Triad itself."
The party gathered this meager booty and returned to Penumbra's stony corpus, only to leave him due to his great mass. Teledesic, remembering his training, dismissed the possibility that Terjohn might help; the reversal spell was strictly the purview of wizards, and of them only to those of some power. The party returned to the farmhouse in subdued silence, Penumbra having been one of their oldest and staunchest comrades. Ulfgar grieved most of all, in the dwarven way - with grumbles and curses mumbled under his breath, as the heavy rains soaked the sullen adventurers.
Back at the farmhouse, Ulfgar growled an order to Alidon, Moneypenny and Cecil to "…make themselves useful, steal a wagon and fetch Penumbra back from the Moathouse.'" Jade observed that her master Spoonwar had mentioned that Burne was a wizard of some note prior to becoming Laird of Hommlet, and that perhaps he could help with Penumbra's condition.
The next day, the trio of broth-sippers ("BRAVE broth-sippers!" shouted Cecil) trudged ("Pranced!") toward town with silver for wagon-rental, while the rest of the party prepared to meet the Druid.
Upon approach to the grove, Ulfgar spied the Druid and hailed him. The party approached, and the Druid advised Jade and Teledesic to banish the spells in their heads before speaking. Teledesic responded gruffly, locked slitted eyes with the Druid and, after the briefest of pauses, threw Missiles seemingly without provocation. Nearly contemporaneously, a giant bear appeared, along with a warrior bearing a scimitar, and the melee commenced in earnest. Ulfgar threw curses to either side, but Usoab's bow sang out and a pair of arrows buried themselves deep into the Druid's chest, and he slumped to the ground. The colossal bear disappeared as if smoke, but the Druid's swordsman attacked Jade viciously and wounded her grievously. Teledesic Missiled the swordsman with a curse, while Ulfgar sprinted across the sward and tackled the scimitar-wielder, knocking him senseless.
The druid's body, upon death, seemed to change, until his body had become hairless, and his eyes became wide and pupil-less - a doppelganger, as fearsome an enemy as can be found. Ulfgar packed the unconscious swordsman into the "druid's" hut, bound him, and shook him back to wakefulness. Teledesic recalled that doppelgangers have several mental powers and many immunities, including the ability to read minds. Then the interrogation began, Usoab conducting:
QUESTION: What is your name?
Q: How long have you lived here?
Q: How long have you known the druid? Has he been acting strangely
Q: Has he been wandering off more or less than usual, talking to
people, tending the grove?
Q: How long was he Jaroo's companion?
Q: Do you know of anything going on at the Moathouse?
Q: Does anyone else ever come here?
Q: Has there been any odd occurrences lately?
Q: What stories?
Q: Did he mention an obelisk?
Q: What do you know of Nulb?
Q: Did Jaroo ever mention a crater near Nulb?
Q: Did Jaroo ever mention a crater at all?
Q: Do you know anyone named Chatrilon, DeQuint, or Tal Shammish?
Q: In what context?
Q: The half-elf?
Q: Does he wear black leather armor?
Q: Tell us more about Nulb - anyone live there?
Q: Do you know the location of the old temple outside Nulb?
Q: Did Jaroo always travel with the bear?
Q: Has anyone else been acting strange in the last two weeks?
Q: What sort of word on us has been going through Hommlet?
Ulfgar advised Yundi to continue on about his business at the grove, and not mention the party's visit or the fate of Jaroo. He also asked that Yundi approach Rufus and Burne, tell them of our visit and the fate of Penumbra, and seek their response while they party waits at the grove. In the interim, search of the hut turned up 20gp and several symbols of Olamhambra, along with the scimitar, which was decent though of standard quality. Ulfgar returned Yundi's scimitar to him, then observed as he departed. A wolf exited the woods and seemed to talk to Yundi briefly, then sped back into the woods.
An hour later, Burne appeared (as if by magic), and Teledesic delivered to him a brief report of the recent activity at the grove.
Burne: "If I was going to plant someone in town, Jaroo would be perfect - he travels extensively, is rather solitary, and Elmo is easy to fool. He is an honest man. This is truly sad, I've known Jaroo for decades.... In general, I don't think you're going to have any trouble back in town; we've let it be known that you are not the bandits we originally suspected you to be…"
Burne said that he could obtain a scroll of Stone to Flesh to aid Penumbra, but at great cost (6000gp); the party agreed, and Burne said that he would get it and do the casting when the time came. A week later, Burne cast the spell, and Penumbra was successful in returning to flesh, and life… though he was initially reticent at paying the fee (though he eventually did, at Ulfgar and Teledesic's prompting).
|1-5-02 | The party spent
a good deal of time availing themselves of the "druid's" pantry
and discussing the various things they'd discovered. Teledesic performed
and augury and asked: "Will we find the Obelisk in
which Boccob replied in the affirmative. Subsequently, plans were
formulated for a trip southeast. The stable was visited, horseflesh
retrieved, rations and wineskins bought, and the party departed Hommlet
The trip proceeded without incident, and on the fourth day of travel the Lortmils came into view, purple and shrouded with clouds. The party came across a hamlet towards evening, thatched adobe, with a dwarven smith near the edge of town, a temple to Moradin, and a half-dozen orcs, armed, walking though town amongst the common rabble of humans, dwarves and half-orcs. An open market was doing a brisk business. The largest building, the inn and stable, rivaled a short, squat stone tower sans fortifications. Many of the locals bore weapons with "peace-knots," cords binding the blade into the scabbard.
This was the town of Rastor. The inn was comfortable, if a bit rustic, and soon Ulfgar was approached by a dwarf, Rared Hammersong, the self-proclaimed Elder of Rastor, who bade us welcome and good day.
The party enjoyed the hearty repast, while vainly attempting to chat up the local barmaids. Much talk was proffered, and perhaps even a surreptitious trip to the stable was taken, but few bits of useful information were garnered. A substantial camp of orcs (the source of the locals) was located just outside of town. The ones in town looked extraordinarily wealthy and well-armed, observed Cecil. The barmaid told Penumbra that the orcs generally came into town only to patronize the marketplace, but Moneypenny's leading questions toward the location of the crater came to nought.
Of particular interest was a group of four humans and an elf. Though they kept to themselves, they repaired to the upper floor with a substantial burden - possibly body-sized, though likely not an actual body. Penumbra's curiosity was piqued considerably (no doubt he felt there might be rare goods and/or antiquities within the tantalizing bundle), and he took a quick look for himself.
Ulfgar did substantially better interrogating the stableboy. A wagon had come through about a week prior, and proceeded northeast after passing through town. The crater, on the other hand, is near the old Dwarven mine, perhaps two miles south by southwest from town and overrun by humanoids, goblins primarily. The Elder and the smith, Eggar, are former miners, while an adventurer named Timmeria lives in the tower. She'd gone adventuring nearby, but come back alone and holed up in the tower.
Moneypenny learned a few things from the Bartender; for one, adventurers from Greyhawk are a common sight in Rastor, and often as not they disappear in the mountains, never to return. For two, recently an ambassador of the Old One passed through town.
Penumbra and Jade, in an abortive effort to learn more about the other party of freebooters, managed to draw the attention of Reddithidor (whom the bartender plainly feared) and his companions. After some rather feeble bluffs, a melee was averted, but barely. Penumbra did, however, hear the group discussing "ochre robes" and "black armor," but nothing further. Jade added that one of them carried a long dagger that glowed when drawn.
To learn more, Moneypenny and Teledesic approached the room bearing a bottle of Velunian Fireamber wine as a gift. Teledesic easily gained entry, and spoke so long and boringly by way of apology that Moneypenny had a goodly portion of time to look about the room. Reddithidor is a human, brawny, and bears the sigil of Heironymous. Moneypenny saw two racks of armor, chain and plate, and the maddeningly opaque tarp, but nothing more enlightening.
A late-night discussion of how best to approach Reddithidor and his companions commenced in the party's rooms, and the decision was made to meet the other party in the great room early the next morning, show them a triangle holy symbol, and try to engage them in discussion. In the meantime, Moneypenny and Ulfgar stood watch the rest of the evening.
Early the next morning, Moneypenny, Ulfgar and Teledesic approached the others as described, and a discussion commenced. Reddithidor, an envoy of the Furyondian king, told of a melee with clerics bearing ochre robes - the racks, and bundle, contained their belongings. But otherwise, the missions of the two parties seemed to diverge. Reddithidor bade them luck, and bid them use his name as safe passage if ever in Furyondy, and hoped to encounter them again in a fortnight's time, when he would perhaps return to Rastor.
The party enjoyed a brief but hearty breakfast, and decided to visit the adventurer Timmeria, perchance to learn about the region of the mines (and, by proxy, the crater nearby). Moneypenny and Cecil approached the tower to seek audience, but were initially rebuffed, while Ulfgar browsed the marketplace. Eventually (waving a sack of silver), Moneypenny, Cecil and Penumbra gained entrance to the Timmeria's tower.
"Before I was captured by wraiths, I could teleport at will." Timmeria observed ruefully. "If you are of substantial power, then perhaps the crater is your destination. But if you are diligent, and cautious, you might try the mines first. I'd advise it. That said, I'll answer questions for 100gp per answer…"
Q: What sort of resistance might we find at the mines?
Q: Are they armed, and armored?
Q. What is this symbol?
Q: What is the Temple of All Consumption?
Meanwhile, Ulfgar visited the smith, Turghart. Why were the mines abandoned?
"There wasn't very many of us, first. But when the humanoids came, along with their human compatriots, we were forced to depart. Once in a while we see humans and humanoids working together in the mountain, but they leave the townspeople alone, and the adventurers who go there disappear often as not. Yes, I have seen that symbol (the inverted triangle) on the humans at the mine. There are several entrances to the mines, but the main entrance I know is a fifth of a league to the southwest, there are two oaks that stand together, look between them to the south, and you will find the entrance. To be honest, they were ready to abandon the mine anyway, and we fought less hard than if it was rich."
After, Penumbra arrived at the Smith's and fetched Teledesic to the tower, hoping that Timmeria might lower her price for a fellow Boccobian (she didn't). Teledesic did, however, pose one more question: What, or who, are the Doomsayers?
"I believe that the doomsayers are the leaders of this organization. There may only be three of them, known as the Triad. Beyond that, I have no knowledge of them."
And with that, they departed the tower and regrouped back at the Inn, in time for an early lunch. Then, afoot, the company departed Rastor, following the directions given them by the stableman toward the mine.
Ulfgar found tracks everywhere, booted feet and the tracks of gnolls in profusion. "Stay frosty," he grumbled, "… and keep your eyes open." It was a bit after lunch when the twin oaks were found, and the path was found easily, while Penumbra's sharp eyes picked out evidence of a cave in the distance.
Inside, the cave ended in a pair of immense double stone doors - and to either side, arrowslits, behind which Cecil detected the presence of evil. Usoab donned an ochre robe, a triangle symbol and the ivory mask, and prepared to pull the huge brass knocker, but the door pulled open and the party entered a hall. On the walls were disturbing scenes of horrid bestiality; on the floor, puzzling mosaic images of a silvery white circle, a brown triangle, an amber-red diamond and a blue-green square. Lit oil-lamps were mounted on the walls, and Ulfgar estimated the age of the murals of at least 50 years.
No sooner than the party turned the first corner than a quartet of gnolls approached, assessed, and (once provoked) attacked, Cecil first. One pulled a chain, setting off alarm bells, to Ulfgar and Usoab's obvious chagrin. The battle commenced. Cecil's broadsword hewed left and right, while Usoab's bow whirred its deadly hum and Teledesic's fingers blazed with virulent, eye-searing color. But enemies, now alerted, arrived in quantity, boiling up like roaches under a sudden light. A terrible howling arose, chilling the company to the bone, and gnolls appeared everywhere at once, their malodorous stench filling the hall. Cecil smote a gnoll, invoking the power of Hieronymous and utterly destroying the beast - but turned to find a half-dozen waiting to fill his space. Jade flung a cerulean blast down the hall, scattering gnolls but drawing the attention of their fellows, who charged her weapons high. And the howler, a rabid combination of direwolf and porcupine, viciously bit all who came near with a mouthful of dagger-like teeth.
And then, an Ogre. Huge, shaved and begoggled, it's horrifyingly odd appearance was only outdone by its fearsome attacks. Ulfgar faced it squarely, and they traded blows of such force that the very stones rocked beneath their feet. Ulfgar defeated it, but only at massive cost to himself. Usoab defeated the howler at nearly the same cost.
Cecil and Ulfgar fared badly against the remaining gnolls, and Cecil lost an ear to a gnollish axe to boot. But finally, the gnolls fell, and the bloodied comrades slowly retreated to bind wounds, quaff healing potions, and wince.
|1-19-02 | After collecting the booty from the battle, Cecil and Moneypenny
departed and the remaining party members various weapons weaponry and
such, the party prepared to depart the mine before anything more vicious
showed up - but too late. Screaming was heard by all, coming from where
Penumbra had gone exploring, and another melee was joined. Inside a side
room were several human men at arms, manning not one but two ballistas,
one of which fired and narrowly missed impaling Penumbra (and almost
certainly killing him). The party converged on the room to aid Penumbra,
but soldiers advanced while the party regrouped. Ulfgar slithered through
and pressed the coming attack, killing two soldiers and driving the other
toward the flank. But his charge brought him into the doorway, and the
pair of ballistas fired on him. Only one missed. Ulfgar was thrown against
the wall by the impact, and lay there unmoving. Teledesic charged the
doorway and Sprayed the area, but more soldiers charged and more arrows
flew. Teledesic broke off to put a healing spell on Ulfgar, which brought
him around but left him still pale and shaky, and returned to the fray.
Usoab and Teledesic were left to defend against the attack. They slew two
more soldiers then charged the room; Ulfgar and Usoab attacked the
prescient archer, while Teledesic began mopping up the stunned and blinded
guards. Ulfgar killed the archer while he tried to quaff a potion, and
Usoab joined in the slaughter with Teledesic. Soon, they had cleared the
room of enemies, though after the floor was slick with blood. Usoab
notched an arrow at the last, a wounded man who dropped his sword on
command, and he didn't resist as Teledesic tied his arms behind him.
The party set to gathering the booty - masterwork weapons and armor galore, observed Ulfgar - and quickly searched the side rooms. Barracks, primarily, although they yielded some additional booty. But before the party could follow Usoab's pleading to depart, the party was once again attacked, this time by three more humans, who approached stealthily and caught Jade unawares, breaking her leg with an audible snap.
At that point, the party recognized the horrid visage and ripe stench of zombies, and charged to aid Jade. Again, Ulfgar, Usoab and Teledesic pressed the attack, though more slowly than before, while Penumbra ministered to Jade's leg and wrapped her in cloaks to keep her from succumbing from the shock. Eventually, the trio killed the undead, and the party made for the door at the quickstep.
But before the party could leave, more zombies appeared, and a Troglodyte. The trog surprised the party, hiding in the darkness as the foul undead approached, and flung a javelin, hitting the prisoner and killing him instantly. Usoab's bow sang out and arrows sunk into the zombies, but it failed to stop them. Teledesic interposed himself in the hallway, called on Boccob to strike fear in the beasts, and they slowly retreated. But the trog, who proved to be marginally skilled in the Arts, tried to place a Hold on Teledesic, which he fought off. The stench of the monster proved more daunting, but still bearable. Usoab feathered the foul trog, then ordered the rest of the party to depart, which they did, and swiftly.
The trip back to Rastor proceeded without incident, and the party eventually staggered into town, shuffling under the weight of their wounds and near 300 pounds of armor and weapons. The group made their way to the Temple of Morradin, where they sought the healing power of the Steward. He set Jade's leg and gave her some healing broth (no large taters) and advised Ulfgar that Jade would be back on her feet in about a week or so.
Usoab later mentioned that the trog had fired a reddish Beam at him as he fled, which hit him in the chest but seemed to have no effect. Teledesic allowed that there were several ray spells that could look like that, but all would produce some noticeable affect. Teledesic described several, but Usoab could admit no symptoms.
Ulfgar went down to the stables to check on the condition of our horses and seek the rental of a wagon, while Teledesic inspected the booty for magic in preparation for the trip. Amongst the booty was an odd note: "Mereclar: All attempts to recruit local orcs have been unsuccessful. The Clerics of the outer fane are busy searching for the champion of Elemental Evil. Signed Nequent."
The trip was completed without incident, although horsemen were observed in the distance, moving in the opposite direction, about halfway to Hommlet. The party repaired to the farmhouse, where Teledesic began Identifying the items found outside Rastor, and the rest of the party went into Hommlet to resupply.
Later that night, Penumbra awoke to a rather unnerving sight: Usoab, awake, grinning, sharpening his axe. While any one of the three might be no cause for alarm, Usoab doing all at once was likely, Penumbra thought, a potentially dangerous situation. After talking with Usoab briefly (and garnering rather less in the way of conversation than was usual), Penumbra woke the companions and explained (as best he could) the situation. After some cajoling - Usoab wanted to return to Rastor immediately, but Penumbra managed to convince him that a trip to see Terjohn might be in order just before departing - and the good Cudgeller dispelled any Curse that may have been on him. He seemed… better, but still was anxious to return to the fray. His axe, however well sharpened, remained at his side as he returned to sleep, and so did, after a time, the rest of the party.
2-1-02 | Following the nearly catastrophic events in the caverns outside of Rastor, it was decided that the party would return to the village of Hommlet, both to recover and to outlay plans for the future. Once returned, Teledesic immediately secluded himself with his dusty tomes, studying matters dark and arcane. Penumbra also disappeared, though occasionally seen in the company of several unsavory characters, studying things more mundane, though no less dark. Jade returned to the establishment of Spoonwar, her former mentor, to seek his aid in alchemical researches of her own. The remainder of the group merely sought the quiet of the abandoned Druid’s Grove, where they rested and trained themselves in martial exercises.
Penumbra also frequented the common room of Hommlet’s Inn, seeking information regarding the missing barmaid he thought involved in his thwarted assassination plot. While his search produced no worthwhile results, he did come across his former comrade Alidon, finally returned from important church matters. The impoverished cleric of Kord was more than willing to rejoin his companions in their current adventure. With the party finally reunited, it was decided to seek out the abandoned village of Nulb, a community deserted since the fall of the Temple of Elemental Evil.
At first light the party readied to depart, with Usoab and Jade manning the wagon, and the rest mounted on horseback. The first day of journey down the wooded path passed without incident. During the late morning of the second day, however, Ulfgar brought the party to a halt, his keen hearing detecting the sound of numerous horses approaching down the path.
Immediately, the party sought concealment among the trees and underbrush along the path, Ulfgar and Penumbra hurriedly erasing signs of their passage. Usoab and Jade fought to quiet the horses, while Alidon, Moneypenny and Cecil boldly strode back onto the path to await the strangers’ approach.
Within minutes, a group of twenty men mounted on horseback crested a hill, surrounding a black coach of exceptional workmanship. They appeared to be seasoned veterans, all similarly armored in chainmail with matching cloaks of burgundy. Upon seeing the three visible party members, the armored cadre halted immediately, the lead figure nudging his horse a few steps forward to parlay. “Greetings, strangers,” he shouted over the distance. “We are regrettably lost, seeking the village of Hommlet. Perhaps you could show us the way.”
Moneypenny stepped forward and returned their greeting. “You’re in luck. Hommlet lies but a day’s journey in the direction you’re traveling. What business have you there?”
“We are guards in the employ of Ing Sorbell, a merchant famed for his exotic goods and spices. He seeks to open a market in Hommlet. Thank you for your assistance, friends. We have traveled for days and seen only a deserted village a little further down the road. We camped outside of it last night, but the strangeness of the place made us hesitant to enter.”
At that point , a door of the coach was flung open, revealing a grossly fat man, dressed expensively in matching burgundy silk, with a tall, pretentious hat. Fat jowls shaking, he shrilled: “Guards! What is the meaning of this delay!”
Alidon waved to the mounted guards, gesturing them on. “We have occupied enough of your time, friends. Good luck on your travel to Hommlet.”
The three stepped aside as the caravan resumed its progress. Watching it depart, Moneypenny was shocked to notice a series of symbols on the back of the coach, matching symbols the party had seen in the moathouse. Cecil too detected an unpleasantness in the entourage, an evil that seemed to offend his senses. Several hours later the party topped a slight ridge, to look upon the desolate remains of what once was the village of Nulb. An ancient bridge crossed a sluggish river, leading into the long deserted community.
Rotting structures, mostly constructed of decaying wood and sod, sagged disconsolately in the afternoon sun. A short way down the river they could see what remained of a rotting dock, with what may have been a small fishing boat laying upon its side like something long dead. Over all, hung an oppressive silence, broken only occasionally by the mournful call of a distant bird. On the near side of the bridge were obvious signs of Ing Sorbell’s encampment, though Ulfgar soon spotted signs that at least five of that group had crossed the bridge the previous night, despite their odd assertion that they had not entered the village. Cautiously, the group advanced over the bridge, Ulfgar still intent on the set of tracks he had found. Entering the village, the party stopped by a two story building, the least-decayed structure visible. Alidon and Cecil used their clerical abilities to sense a great evil within the building, Alidon asserting that creatures not living dwelled within - abominations upon the natural order of things. Further concentration told him that two such creatures were present, one more powerful than the other, and to the right of the building’s entrance. Gathering at the door, the party decided to enter, though Jade wisely decided to remain outside after casting a spell of magical protection on Alidon, and Usoab vehemently declaring he would “guard the gnome.”
With a sad groan, the door slowly opened into a large t-shaped room. The remains of a bar on the left-hand wall suggested this to be the common room of the local inn. Sunlight shafted through the dusty air, finding gaps in the boarded-up windows, the soft gurgling of running water coming from the far end of the room. The group silently entered the room, Penumbra taking advantage of the bar’s cover to swiftly nock an arrow, the rest going immediately to the far end of the chamber, to investigate the source of the watery sounds. Near stairs preceding to the upper level, they discovered a crudely boarded door opening out over the river.
Suddenly the eerie silence was shattered by a tortured moan coming from the stairway. A dense fog seemed to spring from nowhere, engulfing the room and blocking all vision. For an instant, Alidon made out a strangely glowing human form at the top of the stairs. Ulfgar let out a muffled grunt, and toppled noisily to the floor.
For several seconds, confusion reigned in the fog-shrouded room. Alidon quickly ran to Ulfgar’s aid, summoning all of the divine aid at his disposal. Moneypenny and Cecil desperately kicked out the boards covering the river exit, in a vain attempt to let in light.
To his horror, Penumbra saw the spectral form materialize behind the kneeling Alidon, narrowly missing with what appeared to be a smoldering long sword. Penumbra vaulted over the bar, but the figure had disappeared before he could even reach the floor. In his exuberance, Cecil literally knocked the cleric to the side, and attempted his own healing powers to aid the fallen Ulfgar, but to no avail. The stricken dwarf appeared to be conscious, but remained totally motionless.
Silence again filled the room, broken only by Usoab’s desperate cries of “Get out of there!” Suddenly the ghostly shape reared up before Penumbra, solidifying into a visage so horrifying that the half-elf was momentarily paralyzed in horror. Almost negligently, the apparition reached out a hand, sinking through the rogue’s leather and striking him with his deathly cold touch. Penumbra reeled back gasping, his muscles feeling strangely weak and trembling. With what may have been a hollow laugh, the spectre again disappeared.
Hurriedly, the other party members struggled to carry Ulfgar to the relative safety of the street. Still shaken, Penumbra paused to find his bow, and then weakly followed his comrades. Just as he was about to reach the door, however, he was once again confronted by the ghostly form. Again the phantom reached out, drawing so much of the half-elf’s life force that Penumbra nearly collapsed. With a desperate tumble, the rogue eluded a second attack, and bolted for the far door, dropping his bow again. In desperation, he decided to take his chances with the river, diving in and struggling for shore.
Out in the street, Ulfgar was laid carefully on the ground. An examination showed a small slit in the back of his armor, as if he had been expertly back stabbed. With a look of concern, Alidon suggested that the dwarf’s spinal cord had been terribly damaged, if not completely severed. The group spent several sad moments considering the cruelty of such a skilled warrior being felled in such a manner. Grimly drawing their weapons, Usoab, Alidon and Cecil decided to reenter the building, while Moneypenny sought out the rear entrance.
The trio cautiously walked through the now silent common room. Again the spirit solidified behind Alidon, driving it’s sword through the cleric’s back. Alidon staggered, but still managed to summon the strength to return with a blow of his morning star. Usoab expertly shot two arrows into the ghostly shape, and was stunned to see them pass harmlessly through it. Cecil boldly called upon his healing powers, and touched the spectre, using his positive energy to cause the apparition no small amount of pain. The phantom spun, outraged at this assault. It smote Cecil an outraged blow across the face, and then proceeded to attack in earnest.
Penumbra, meanwhile, having been rescued from the river by Moneypenny, threw open the door and stomped inside. Wet and enraged at the loss of his thieving abilities, the bitter half-elf stomped past the raging battle, brusquely shouldering aside the retreating Usoab, and gathered up his lost bow. He then turned, muttering curses at the apparition, and again stomped back out, letting the combatants to resume their struggle.
While the creature maintained its attack on the beleaguered paladin, Alidon fought to calm himself and call upon the power of Kord. In an almost trancelike state, the cleric raise his weapon high, and then drove it completely through the evil spirit. With a ghastly shriek, the phantom dissipated, leaving behind only its strange weapon - an ancient rune-covered longsword.
Usoab burst back into the room, this time armed with the fallen Ulfgar’s weapons. Seeing the spirit’s sword, he attempted to lift it, but found the smoldering blade burned his hand with its intense cold. Emboldened by his victory, Alidon decided to investigate the upper floor. As he ascended the stairs, he heard a faint sound as of a voice gibbering in madness. Opening the door, he was immediately assaulted with flying objects - broken pieces of furniture, dishes, books, and things less identifiable. At the far end of the room was a strange shadowy form, huddled into itself while cackling maniacally. Upon seeing the cleric, it shrieked madly and launched into a vicious assault. Alidon, however, still protected by the power of his deity, dispatched the wretched creature with a single blow. Pausing to give thanks, he swiftly searched the room before rejoining his companions.
The party soon regrouped in the street around the still form of Ulfgar. Alidon soon surmised that it was beyond his ability to aid the stricken dwarf, and it was decided to return to Hommlet. As they loaded him into the wagon, Jade carefully examined the longsword won from the vanished spirit. Her knowledge of the arcane revealed the sword’s name as “Watsbane,” but the meaning of that was unclear. It was expertly crafted of various metals, but its origin still remained a mystery.
The party made its sad return to Hommlet. During the journey, Alidon did manage to heal Penumbra, returning the thief’s strength and much-needed agility.
In Hommlet, the group immediately sought out Terjon at the temple of St. Cuthbert. The high cleric carefully examined Ulfgar’s wound, asking for a sizable fee to heal the paralyzed dwarf. Eventually it was decided to give Terjon the spectral longsword as a partial payment, while the party left Ulfgar in his care and sought other means to make payment. Terjon did indeed heal the dwarven ranger, noting that the sword Watsbane was a truly evil weapon, drawing the very life force from its victims. While he believed the party had come by the cursed blade honestly, he was relieved that it could now be safely hidden away.
Meanwhile, Moneypenny made several inquiries about town as to Ing Sorbell. The townspeople all responded with some distaste - the merchant was recognized as being quite powerful and influential, but was thoroughly disliked by the inhabitants of Hommlet. Further, neither Ing Sorbell nor his party had been seen in Hommlet for quite some time, adding his whereabouts and dealings to the growing list of mysteries confronting the party.
|2-15-02 | …upon
returning to Nulb, the party entered a reasonably undamaged building (a
rarity amongst the wrecks nearby, having been destroyed by fireballs),
whose only sign read "herbs." Upon entry, it became obvious that
at least one person had been staying here, with a suite of rooms,
caparisoned though disheveled and empty, that gave evidence of recent
occupation. A quick search by Penumbra found a small box containing 30
platinum pieces, and a scrap of paper in the firepit containing an
enigmatic "HED" and nothing more.
The party exited the building and began hunting about, eventually discovering a wracked, if large, boat sitting sullenly in the water of a small river. Ulfgar pronounced it abandoned for a lengthy time, though Cecil observed that a quick inspection might be in order. Whilst trying to board the craft, Penumbra spied a small, sunken cabin to the rear of the vessel. The door to the cabin was open somewhat, and Penumbra peeked in, rather trepidatiously. After some gymnastics trying to avoid becoming wet, Penumbra discovered a metal chest, half-sunken, within the cabin, and prepared to fetch it.
But of course, that proved fraught with danger. A pair of creatures attacked when Penumbra attempted to open the chest, prompting him to scream and the rest of the party to board and come to his aid (again). Usoab (among others) entered the cabin, but no creature was in sight, and so the chest was crushed open and some coins, as well as a black opal ring, much algaed. The party, initially concerned, questioned Penumbra's account of the red-eyed "creature," and moved on further into the town.
A rudimentary search of the rest of the town proceeded without incident, and the party returned to the camp for the evening, as dark was fast approaching and the memory of the ghostly assassin was still fresh in Ulfgar's mind. Upon return, Ulfagr noticed that someone, or something, had fed and watered the party's animals while the party had been in the town. The horses spoke to Ulfgar of a tall creature, a human woman, with no weapons, who was very kind. Ulfgar speculated: a human wizard, or perhaps a monk? The horse averred that the creature "…had a second skin, like the saddle," indicating leather armor.
At which point, the woman, declaring herself Kayla, appeared, bearing a scimitar, and with an owl perched nearly identical to Voon. "I just came to check on your animals, and warn you of a large group of hobgoblins that are in there area. There is a human in town, Lareth, a sorry sight; he's not a very agreeable sort, but he occasionally gets visitors…"
Penumbra told his tale of the mysterious boat-based "creature," but the elven woman dismissed it as bunkum. "Most of the creatures here do not cross running water, most of have stayed here have not have any difficulty."
Q. Have the hobgoblins been a problem? A. They've been growing in strength for about a half-year.
Q. Who leads them? A. I really don't pay them much attention; I give them a wide berth, and am her to tell you simply to beware.
Moneypenny invited the Druid to stay, to which she agreed, and Teledesic, observing that he "…didn't camp with Druids…" made his way with Cecil back down the path and away from camp. The party told the Druid of goings-on in Hommlet, in particular the ill-fate of Jaroo of the Grove.
"About a week ago, I encountered three unusual beings, two human males and a bugbear. They acted very strangely, they were courteous to a certain extent - more so than your friend - but they were more interested in asking about adventuring parties coming through here. The creatures were bearing well-cared for chain and bore well-crafted weapons, but otherwise asked about local activity. I told them that there had been a fairly large group with a nice looking coach and an obnoxious human here for about three days. I didn't talk with them, but I believe that Lareth did… I believe they went to the Temple, though I know not what they did there. The fat ugly human has been here before, a rarity since travelers near here are rather scarce… I've only been in this area the last six years, but the town has been abandoned for nearly 25 years… Nulb was destroyed after the Temple was, it had been previously a thriving community, though a haven for bandits and ne'er-do-wells."
Usoab thought a reconnaissance of the Temple was in order, while Alidon decided to set fire to the boat with a flaming arrow, to which the rest of the party (and the Druid) looked on in disbelief.
After she left, Ulfgar's alarm was activated, notifying the party that Lareth had returned to his hovel. The next morning, the party approached, and greeted Lareth warmly. He responded testily, affirmed his unwillingness to fight, and asked the party to leave. But Teledesic's wine loosened Lareth's tongue, and he said that "…what we sought is in the vicinity of Rastor, not the temple…" and he let skip that he worked at the Temple, and that it was a "… boring place."
The party proceeded toward the Temple, in loose formation. After about two hours walk, the Temple ruin came into view. A huge charcoal gray building covered with obscene designs, demons and monstrosities - overgrown and gothic, with a curtain wall defending it. The images, Teledesic noted, were of devils, creatures of law, if infernal. This information did little to sooth the party's flayed nerves, however. Teledesic spotted two hobgoblins milling around the barely-repaired gates. After a brief consultation, a ruse was formulated: Usoab, Alidon and Teledesic donned ochre robes and, whilst the rest aped being prisoners, the party approached the Temple.
But just as the ruse was set to be perpetrated, Moneypenny charged and attacked, to cross the distance, and the melee was joined. Two additional hobs showed themselves, and drew fire from Usoab and Teledesic, while Cecil waded into the fray (as is his wont). The four hobs died quickly (one by Jade, who Missiled the beast, and was obviously proud of the feat), but Moneypenny spotted several in the furthest tower, moving swiftly toward the gates. In response, he advised all to stay at least 20 feet from the gate. But when no hobgoblins appeared, the party advanced on the main gates inside the courtyard.
Upon approach, Teledesic noted that the side doors were sealed - with lead, no less. Cecil, unbothered by the lead, laid a shoulder into the main door, which gave way readily. The party entered the nave, decorated in such a fashion as to prompt Teledesic to wonder why evil seemed to so unable to match the ottoman to the wallpaper.
The nave, of course, was filled to brimming with hobgoblins, and a far deadlier melee was thusly joined. Party arrows slew a few, but the corpses were quickly replaced by new soldiers. Teledesic Color-sprayed the lead rank, but the second (and third, and fourth…) rank approached at the quick-step. The party fought gamely, but the sheer volume of hobs (and, as the howls indicated, dogs or wolves), made the fight a difficult one. Jade and Teledesic were attacked by wardogs; Moneypenny was attacked by an ape, and sorely bested. A swarm of centipedes arrived and did Jade's bidding (they attacked a wardog); But Usoab - and his deadly bow - aided the party and, eventually, all the attackers were dispatched.
The party, once some heals had been dispensed, searched the room. Pillars of sandstone, floor of slate, and general hobgoblin filth littered the place. It was, Teledesic observed, decorated in "evil-semi-moderne," as the entryway, with veined (and vaguely phallic) columns, multicolored stone altars looking like nothing so much as giant blocks of vomit, and the now-typical carvings of demonic faces and scenes of torture - nary a landscape or still life in sight. On one wall was inscribed: "The power of elemental death brings mortals low, but raises the Nameless One high," apparently high poetry for these mooks. The search produced nothing substantive, save for a lasting impression of the failure of hobgoblin decorators.
One exit showed to be full of rubble, while another contained a prisoner, as well as more filth. Cecil laid hands on the man, and the man, a Cuthbertian, thanked the party profusely, and begged to be released. He'd been captured for a few weeks, and had seen nothing but hobgoblins the entire time. Moneypenny, Jade and Cecil agreed to accompany the man back to Hommlet, and so departed. The rest of the band pressed on.
One door revealed a large room with some makeshift furniture, including a large bed and a bronze statue of an elf warrior. Suit of full plate, large iron box, large box wrapped in chain and padlocked, and a bolt of cloth, and three bags. In a show of expertise unlike him, Penumbra easily picked the lock and opened the box, revealing a variety of unusual treasures, including a large painting of a green dragon in the woods. Ulfgar, especially, showed a keen interest in the painting, and he hid it, along with the bags of gold and silver, while bringing the gems and smokesticks along with.
The party departed the main building, and made way for the tower, having seen hobgoblins milling about there earlier. Of black stone, 25' high and obviously damaged, Teledesic observed both hobgoblins and their lesser kin milling about and watching the approaching party. Usoab, in a fit of pique, nocked and fired an arrow, which bounced off the tower walls and sent the goblins ducking. After puzzling over how to dislodge the goblins, Ulfgar cast a spell that caused the thorny trees of the courtyard to come alive and attack Alidon. Teledesic Flew over the top of the tower and Color-sprayed a pair of gobs, then landed, while the rest of the party tried to force the door. Soon, most of the party had reached the top of the tower, having climbed the stony walls, while Usoab waited outside the door. The combat proceeded down the tower steps, with arrows and spells (and Teledesic) flying everywhere. Usoab succumbed to his own archery prowess, while Alidon traded blows with an extraordinarily skilled hobgoblin. Penumbra captured a Sprayed hob, but Ulfgar killed it before it could be interrogated properly.
Outside, the battle was worse for the party. Usoab was unconscious; Alidon, the same; Teledesic, nearly so, and pale as a ghost. Ulfgar appeared at the door, ran up, and killed the massive hob. But Alidon had crossed over to Kord's demesne, and couldn't be saved.
| Whilst Teledesic and Usoab collected themselves and what
booty could be found, the rest of the party headed down back toward the
Temple. The party agreed that Moneypenny and Cecil should accompany
Alidon's body back to town, and see him to his reward.
Ulfgar, nosing around as was his want, and discovered a privy. Not satisfied to leave it alone, he rooted through the foul matter and discovered a feces-besmeared rope. Not content to throw the horrible thing back, Ulfgar yanked it, opening a trapdoor at the bottom of the privy. He removed the urine-soaked block and discovered small alcove, containing an iron box and a coffer, containing some sacks of coins and a pair of potions, one labeled "water breathing."
Back in the tower, the entire resembled a bird in structure, and the initial staircases, made of stones carefully cut, and the walls illuminated in horrible glyphs and murals. Stained glass cast revolting light across the floor and walls, and the entire emanated an unnerving aura. Various colored arches and columns support further scenes of foulness. Dead center in the area is the central altar area, with purple and pink pillars, and the altar itself is shaped like a humanoid stained all over with blood, while a nearby pit contains shards of broken crystal. To the left, sandstone and slate, is a granite monolith, now destroyed. To the right, green columns flanked a dais stacked with crates and barrels of sundries. In the center, a depression is filled with scummy black water. Beyond the center altar lays a pair staircases, 20 feet wide, well made and multicolored, flanked by supports and containing numerous colored striations and bearing murals of flaming destruction. Beyond the stairs is another altar, bronze and copper and blackened by fire; Extending from the half circle, another dais of basalt sits a throne of purple, carved with demons: "The power of elemental death brings mortals low, but raises the Nameless One high."
In the hidden Temple, the braziers all radiated minor, barely detectable magic, though Teledesic did detect some residual dweomer. Best to avoid trying to summon anything, as the power of the items remained unknown and, therefore, dangerous. Ulfgar observed that his spells acted strangely lately, and concurred with Teledesic., going further in observing that spells cast on each other seemed to work fine, but outwardly directed magic seemed… perverted, somehow.
The party exited, gathered back the wagon, loaded Alidon's body aboard, and prepared to depart. While Moneypenny and Cecil escorted a lone traveler back to Hommlet, the rest of the party opted for the closer, if less secure, charms of Nulb.
Immediately, all but Ulfgar dropped to a much-needed sleep. At the shift, Ulfgar told a rather far-fetched tale of seeing a column of fire briefly light the sky, but most of the party dismissed this as a combination of fatigue and the dwarf's natural exuberance in storytelling, and the rest of the evening proceeded without incident.
In the morning over breakfast ales, the party debated: return and visit Lareth in an attempt to garner more information, or head back to Hommlet. With the advent of various noises, including cursing, from nearby, the party opted for Hommlet, and they arrived late that day, heading for the Druid grove (now, the party's semi-permanent quarters when in town). Loot was divvied, and heals dispensed, skills taught. Ulfgar and Teledesic took off for Verbobonc, while Penumbra and Usoab headed with jade for the Kron Hills for a fortnight amongst the gnomes.
While in Verbobonc, Ulfgar looked into the merchant Ing Sorbel and his son Forsooth. Rumors have it that he has an armory along the Wild Coast, a fleet of ships, and political contacts everywhere. He's by far the richest man in Verbobonc, and it's considered an honor to be hired by him. His company is called the Flame network, and his main warehouse, the Ember. In Safeton, his company is called the Glowing Brazier Armory and Dock (flame imagery being common amongst his company monikers)., comprised of a 30 ship fleet, the Wooly Bay Salamanders, bearing the salamander and trident standard; they put in at Sternhaven and Canistan, both relatively important and permanent ports.
Everything he has is related to fire; all his armories are symbol-ed with fire-based. As an experiment, Ulfgar wore the ochre rub, and the contact (paid 100gp) revealed that Sorbel occasionally wears such clothing as part of his duties with the "Flame Consortium." On their last night in Verbobonc, Ulfgar and Teledesic agree to don their ochre robes, and patronize a local tavern near the Flame Network HQ. Nothing happened, and the pair departed.
During the trip, Teledesic noticed something amiss. Unaware of what it was, at first, Teledesic eventually suspect that an invisible creature was trailing him and Ulfgar; Teledesic ensorcelled his eyes and spied an air elemental of goodly proportion, standing perhaps 150 feet away and observing. The pair dismounted and tried to approach the creature, but it retreated, maintaining the distance. Ulfgar proceeded toward it alone, and was able to reach turning range - at which point the creature spun up to over 100 feet high, spitting stones, dust and splintered branches. It crossed the distance to Teledesic instantly, tossed him into the air like a cork on the ocean, then removed itself once again to a moderate distance, where it returned to its normal size and visage. Teledesic attempted to speak to it in draconic, but it only flared briefly in response. The pair gathered their horses and continued to Hommlet, followed all the way by the elemental, until they reached Druid's Grove, at which point it disappeared.
In the Kron Hills, the rest of the party enjoyed the hospitality of gnomes; Jade studied in the Hall of Pranks, which Usoab and Penumbra availed themselves of the local larders and shops. Back in Hommlet, Terjohn introduced the party to an unnamed cleric who, thought insulting and arrogant, still managed to convince Usoab to accompany the party.
After discussing various aspects of the current adventure at length, Penumbra mentioned that he'd recently met a sage schooled in local history and arcana. Immediately after, the party delivered a light beating to Penumbra for withholding this information, then all proceeded to the sage's house.
The Sage Todarch Nem welcomed the party into his small, cluttered abode. The party asked Nem to peruse the collected intelligence they'd collected - Teledesic's journal, the rubbings from the Obelisk, the scraps of parchment, the curved dagger from the moathouse, the ochre robe, and the wand of secret door detection. After an evening and the brief confirmation that the items provided were actually in use, not some relics from a forgotten tomb, the Sage held forth to the fascinated party…
"The first five symbols represented the various elemental symbols; the ochre robe would have been affiliated with the elder temple, but I believe that it may be affiliated with something else now.
"The Obelisk itself - I believe the images are of the leaders in the Obex, the leaders of each elemental temple, the actual elemental lords… of the lesser Temples that make up the Obex. This is an intricate symbol, and a lie within a lie at best…
"When the original Temple of Elemental Evil existed, it was constructed as a ruse and lie. Individual clerics, mostly human, were recruited to bring power and chaos for a great sacrifice. It was thought - wrongly, in my opinion - that The Old and Zuggtmoy were the ones being worshipped, but I thought they were also being duped. I thought that a greater evil was being worshipped, which would make more sense in light of the Temple of All Consumption.
"The greater evil, which was put to sleep, and which ate all the evil creatures, was worshipped by them. This Temple, I believe, is attempting to let him out.
"It appears that there will be a great obelisk, located somewhere hear the end of your journey, which must be penetrated and the objects within rearranged or destroyed, to prevent this evil. They haven't gotten to this point this yet, but they are advancing toward that point. I would beware - it is possible that the leaders of the old temple might be still around, either having gone into the new temple - there are at least two powerful clerics and one powerful magic user who escaped from the original temple: Senshock the Mage, a cleric of the Air named Romag, and the water Priest, a human male name Belsoring. The fire and earth priests were killed. The wizard is believed to be part of the greater temple…
"Think in two ways; in the original temple - all a lie, remember - these elemental temples were created, and the worshippers were duped into worshipping something they were unaware of. The greater temple promoted strong beings when they became strong enough, and then initiated into the true faith. The elemental temple lords were aware of the sham, perpetrating the chicanery - these are the representatives from the Obelisk…
"Belsoring is described as a fat, gross creature, and it was believed that the water temple was the strongest temple, and it was believed that Belsoring was the leader of the greater temple as well…
"There was a henchman of Hendrink, a priest of the greater temple, named Lareth the Beautful. He was in charge of the Moathouse when it was overthrown and, though he was a member of the Greater Temple, whose symbol was an eye with fire, he is believed to have also been a follower of Lloth…
"The temple has many levels of interest, Zuggtmoy, Lloth, Igwill, the Old, the Devourer, Cuthbert, and towards the end, it was believed that all the champions of Good were slain along with the champions of evil, to which Cuthbert and the Old raised both sides to fight again…
"The temple has been down for 25 years; Ingsorbel was a merchant for 25 years…
"The alien looking cleric from the Millhouse was probably a tiefling, a creature from another plane. They are not unknown in the Flaeness, but not common. A tiefling is a half-breed - part human, part Other. Igwill was a tiefling…
"Nulb was always known for nefarious dealings and shady folk.
"There were no trog clerics in the Temple as far as I've ever known.
"It is possible, toward the end, that the Viceroy of Furyondy came with an army and decimated the place.
"I don't believe that elementals have anything to do with this anymore, but that's pure speculation. It was well documented that there was direct gates to the four elemental planes in the original temple, but obviously there must be some relationship to elementals, historically…
"Their followers are chaotic, their leaders are chaotic, so it's natural that they have a chaotic command structure. I have to assume that there's a connection between the Temple of Elemental Evil and the Temple of All Consumption. It is possible that the elements play some sort of key role in this…
"Crystal represents air; elementals for the most part, are neutral, and don't care one way or the other. They have been corrupted toward chaotic evil. Lloth, the Old and Zuggtmoy are all CE, countered my Cuthbert, LN…
"The Mines at Rastor are basically what they've always been… it appears that 50 years ago, they dwarves were run out of those mines, but they were taken over by humanoids, who were in turn run out by a group of humans. The last of the high priests that were confirmed killed, the priest of Earth, was killed in the foothills of Rastor; that's the only connection I can come up with. He was chased from the temple, and then killed.
"Igwill is the Old one's mother; she was consort to a demon of great power."
Hennet, the new Priest of Cuthbert, received an urgent parchment from his
Lord Terjohn, one that Usoab agreed should be kept secret and required in
addition the service of both Ulfgar and Teledesic, and insisted they stay
behind with Hennet while the rest of the part proceeded to the old Temple
of Elemental Evil; the trip proceeded without incident, and the party made
a brief camp and made fast the horses. Perhaps a mile into the trek
towards the Temple, however, Penumbra happened to look back and see
shadowed figures lingering near the horses, and returned to investigate.
Penumbra came across a trio of humans, including a female, who told
Penumbra to halt and beware of a foul beast behind him. Sensing a trick,
Penumbra continued his advance, and for the first time in recorded history
an actual beast was, in fact, behind him and subsequently attacked. (In
other news, his shoelaces were, in actuality, untied as well). In addition
to this, several crossbows sang out and bolts shuddered into Penumbra as
he fought. Penumbra fell under the onslaught, even as his comrades came
charging to his aid.
Cecil and Moneypenny pressed the attack, concentrating on the beast (a large war-dog) that had wounded Penumbra so grievously. Cecil took the on the fearsome beast, and fought well, but was viciously torn again and again by the thing. Moneypenny skewered an enemy, and broke off the aid Cecil, but before he could get there Usoab finished the thing off. Cecil turned to thank him, but was greeted by another pair of bolts, unerringly fired and deadly. The Sword of Heironymous dropped to the ground, blood pouring from the wound. Moneypeny and Usoab charged one of the crossbowmen, blades spinning, and the other, across the swale, saw his comrade pressed and beat a hasty retreat. Although the remaining crossbowman threw down his weapon and begged 'quarter,' Usoab bashed him with the shattered remains of his longbow, and killed him.
Cecil, though ghostly with lost blood, yet held onto life under Moneypenny's ministrations; but not so poor Penumbra, whose lifeless body, covered with bites and feathered with bolts, had gone into the hereafter to join Latifah and Alidon in Elysium.
"He was a good thief," Usoab said gruffly, by way of eulogy. "Or, as he liked to say, '…acquirer of rare goods and antiquities'."
A quick glance at the swale showed the crossbowmen to be caparisoned in traveling clothes, with full plate under their weathered cloaks, and finely-made longswords. Their pouches contained 140 gold nobles. The body of the dog, oddly, had disappeared, much to Moneypenny's consternation, and the woman, nowhere to be seen. Moneypenny bandaged the comatose Cecil as best as he was able with his limited healing skill, then got both he and Penumbra's body in the wagon and made to depart.
Back at Hommlet, Ulfgar, Hennet and Teledesic made preparations to depart similarly for Nulb, and did so. The trip, like that of the rest of the party earlier, proceeded without incident. The trio once again approached the lair of Lareth the Ugly, with packages for the sole denizen of Nulb. Teledesic hailed Lareth's den, brandishing the wine and packages, and bade him come forth and talk of the Moathouse.
Lareth came out, in a reasonable mood, and after ordering both Hennet and Ulfgar to depart, then with equanimity unlike him bade Teledesic ask his questions.
Teledesic began with queries about the moathouse: what was below the water-filled chamber? Why was the Obelisk held there? Why was Lareth made captain there, when it ostensibly had no purpose? Lareth, after reminding Teledesic that near a score of years had passed since his tenure there, answered some and avoided others; he did aver that there was nothing of worth under the water-chamber; that the trogs were johnnie-come-latelies; and that there was nothing of value there now.
As the discussion progressed, Lareth admitted that he'd been visited by several representatives of the new Temple, but had rejected their offers; "They come recruiting all the time," he allowed, though he dismissed Ing Soldar as "a fat incompetent." Teledesic made the same offer: come with us, and take vengeance on those who betrayed you - but Lareth rejected that good-naturedly as well.
Lareth - who could sense even the least falsehood, and whose touch was chill as blackest ice - treated Teledesic's seeming ignorance casually: when Teledesic mentioned the party's suspicion that the Obelisk was in Rastor, Lareth replied "Then, you know where you have to go, no?" When asked after the three Obix, he interrupted: "Don't assume there are only three!"
Lareth: "Basically, these are a bunch of yahoos, who want to bring back the Great Evil One - that's really about it."
Teledesic: "Then perhaps our quest - tasked to us by two archmages of great power and danger, and one we must therefore necessarily essay - will be successful."
Lareth: "On, no, certainly not. You are assured to fail. Best to stop now. I mean, you have that one dwarf, he's a warrior - but the abandoned mines, there were hundred of dwarves there, and they were killed, and the survivors expelled."
Teledesic: "But cannot a small group of skilled individuals succeed where large numbers have failed?"
Lareth: "Well, if you recall, the first group to destroy the Temple had an army to back them and finish the job. I have yet to see your army. [pause] Teledesic, I like you, so I tell you this and then must stop: your friends, whom left you in Hommlet: one is dead, another wounded, and they are headed this way. Go and prepare for them."
Lareth and Teledesic parted on good terms, and headed back to camp to apprise Ulfgar and Hennet of the conversation.
Near midnight, horses were heard in the distance, and Ulfgar, Hennet and Teledesic prepared, with some trepidation, to greet their comrades. Teledesic brought healing from scroll and potion, and soon the party, sans Penumbra, was gathered around the fire Hennet had made. Morose and quiet - Penumbra was always the mirthful one - the night passed with wineskins emptied and talk in low voices.
Moneypenny told of the woman and her dog, and made mention his suspicions of her proximity. Ulfgar, the tracker, observed that the longer the party waited, the colder the woman's trail, and the party made ready to return, in the night, to the battlefield where Penumbra fell. Before departing, Teledesic took his goods, blessed him in the name of Boccob, and set him afire, to keep the wolves at bay.
Four hours later, the party arrived near the Temple, under gathering storm clouds. Usoab, Cecil and Ulfgar searched the area, and a woman's tracks were soon found, which Ulfgar quickly followed, disappearing into the woods. Ulfgar saw the tracks blend into those of a quartet of horses and more menacingly, a large biped of near a quarter-tonne of mass.
Ulfgar followed the tracks, while the party followed Ulfgar, as near to due north as could be ascertained. Eventually, the party came to a road, running east and west, where the track ended. The party proceeded west along the old, disused track, near a league, before ending at the outskirts of Nulb.
The party continued on the road, circling Nulb until mid-afternoon, encountering nothing, and soon realizing that, eventually, the road would lead to Hommlet, and it was there that the party went.
Much discussion was had in the Wench that night on the subject of "what next?" I was eventually decided, after much debate, to (a) finally settle the questions of what below the water in the moathouse, (b) try and follow a Temple spy from Hommlet to Rastor, and (c) proceed to Rastor and the Obelisk, and trouble be damned.
The party visited a still bedridden Jade and met one Hecubus, a tattooed mage of low birth for whom Jade vouched for, and the party bade him join for the third (and hopefully last) moathouse venture.
Soon the party found themselves once again at the lip of the well; Hecubus and Moneypenny volunteered to submerse, and the preparations were made to keep them roped. The water was so cold that Ulfgar was required to enhance them against the elements, and down they went. Underneath, a large cap covered an obvious exit, cork-like, and the party spent 6 hours arranging ropes, fixing pullies and finally, with much effort, testing the strength of the portal. It opened with a crash, and the party let go of the rope… all save Hennet, who was dragged by the rope into the water and deep into the well.
All thought Hennet lost, until a light was seen, below the waterflow, in a vast cavern of purple-veined stone. Hennet stood on a platform within a cavern, accommodated at one by a wooden elevator. The party joined him, one by one, lowered down to the platform below. Where they, one by one, disappeared: Hennet, then Moneypenny, then Teledesic, then Ulfgar.
Each found themselves in a perfect sphere of black stone, yet somehow able to see. A voice, low and booming, was heard to say: "Seek the Heart of Each of the Four Doors - Only they can Sunder my Prison." A pause "Eat of my Fruit, and be Blessed." Some ate, some didn't, but all found themselves, after a brief period of discombobulation, realized they were at the bottom of the chasm, staring up at a colossal stone version of the Obelisk.
| Sensing that Usoab might be in extremis, after a brief discussion
Ulfgar, Moneypenny, Hennet and Teledesic decided to provide Hennet with a
Levitation potion, and he and Teledesic ascended the giant Obelisk toward
the rest of the party. Once arrived, Hennet immediately took charge,
commanding Cecil to cast Cure Disease on Usoab (who was barely conscious
by this point), to which Hennet followed with Dispel Magic and Lesser
Restoration. Although no immediate change in his condition was evident,
Hennet seemed satisfied and immediately began heading back down to the
Obelisk. Cecil sensed a level of evil he'd never encountered before, and
it nearly paralyzed him with loathing, but he somehow managed to reach the
elevator atop the Obelisk.
Teledesic stayed above with Hecubus, Jade and Usoab, as the light from Hennet shown dim past the still-suspended lid. Hennet engaged the elevator crank at the edge of the Obelisk, and slowly began sending the platform down to Ulfgar and Moneypenny. In the meantime, Cecil was finally overcome with the foulness of the place and collapsed, twitching and hyperventilating.
Upon arrival, Moneypenny asked casually if a hairless giant has passed by, much to the consternation of the rest of the party, though they hadn't seen it. "Let's depart post-haste!" suggested Hennet vigorously, and the party wordlessly agreed and bent to the task; the sight of armored dwarves and humans clambering up a rope gave Jade a bit of a nervous giggle, but all managed to ascend safely, reach the top, and thread their way through the now-familiar moathouse passages to the relative safety outdoors.
The party arrived back in Hommlet by suppertime. Cecil was still stricken by the oppressive air of the Obelisk room, and slept on. Hennet, Moneypenny, Usoab and Cecil made quick way to the Temple of the Cudgel, while the rest returned to the Grove... to discover that the Grove had been ransacked by persons unknown, and thoroughly so. Ulfgar bent to the track, determining quickly that the burglar was of human stature (narrowing the suspects to the entire population of Hommlet save but a few), but nothing further.
At the Temple, Hennet explained to Terjon what he suspected concerning Usoab's condition, and queried the senior priest on the need for, and fees thereon, conducting a diagnosis and magical curative on Usoab. Terjon, ever mindful of the Temple coffers, charged them 400 gp for a full Restoration, and Moneypenny produced the coin. The spell cast, Hennet began interrogating him to determine efficacy, a difficult process. Meanwhile, Cecil returned to sense, and told of horrible nightmares. But, after some time, it became obvious that Usoab was returning to normalcy, much to the relief of those present.
The party, in suitably good spirits, repaired to the Wench. Usoab and Cecil remained at the Temple, recovering, while the rest enjoyed a hearty repast and kept the servants busy bucket-brigading pitchers of ale to the table.
In the night, Teledesic entered into a dream that was like no other he'd ever experienced. A great, thick mist seemed to envelope him, and as he traveled through it, he found himself confronted by none other than Boccob himself; the Uncaring One spoke of the curse of the Mark, pointing to the Obex engraven on Teledesic's left wrist. "I cannot aid you directly, and 'tis not my measure to do so, but you are a good servant, and I would keep you from harm for now." Teledesic felt his puissance in the Art grow powerful, and in his hand appeared a Staff of exquisite craftsmanship, carven with runes and with a jewel shaped into an eye at the top. He prostrated himself in the traditional manner, and Boccob seemed pleased with this. At this, Teledesic's liege receded, and he awoke with the Staff yet in his hand.
The next morning, the party reconvened, and lengthy discussions were had over breakfast concerning the impending trip to Rastor. The conversation, by turns, grew loud and occasionally coarse, but Usoab, his intellect returned (huzzah!), exercised his prodigious leadership. The group toasted Usoab, and vowed their loyalty. Teledesic, absently rubbing the Eye of Boccob that now adorned his right wrist, caught the eyes of his compatriots who also had been marked by the Obex; Ulfgar seemed grim and determined, a leafy circlet now adorning his wrist; Hennet, almost beatific, reveling in remembered presence of his Lord of the Cudgel; Moneypenny was obviously anxious to begin, hand on pommel, as if being touched by the warrior-god had both strengthened his resolve and removed his fear. A quick glance in the looking-glass behind the bar showed Teledesic that his visage, too, had changed - sterner, with eyes that burned low with a justicar's rebuke, and a sense of direct, economical purpose where before was only a willingness to embrace what circumstance fate provided.
The second trip to Rastor began that morning.
By afternoon, the party had come across a large creature, surrounded by elves, who approached as they party rode up. They had tracked and killed a landshark, and warned us of another nearby (landsharks have a taste for horseflesh, observed Ulfgar at the news); the creature was indeed gargantuan, and the wood elves removed the plates - of great value to armorers for their natural strength - as the party passed.
That evening, the party camped sans fire, but as Ulfgar and Moneypenny discovered on midnight watch, not everyone in the woods that evening did the same - they spotted a fire nearby almost immediately. After a bit of wonderment concerning the inability of the first watch to see an unhidden campfire a scant mile away, Ulfgar crept into the brush and strove closer for a look. He discovered an encampment of elven huntresses, a half-dozen strong. Once discovered, Ulfgar soon discovered they were inhospitable and he returned to camp.
Upon arrival, the town of Rastor looked much as it did when the party had previously departed. The stable was full of horseflesh, the mounts of at least six adventuring parties besides the Blood of the Dragon Corps, all making forays into the hills, according to the stableboy. At the Grey Lodge, a substantial crowd debauched freely, and the party was barely able to garner a suite of rooms.
Down in the common room, at least four other groups of adventurers were enjoying the eventide, including one fronted by a huge barbarian, recognized as being of the Wolf tribe by Jade. After dinner, five Cuthbertian caravan guards from Furyondy approached Hennet, to whom he ministered. They spoke of rumors of gold in the hills around Rastor (hence the adventurers), though demurred when Hennet made mention of our aims. After some conversation with Usoab, Hennet arranged to hire the Cuthbertians as men-at-arms, and the party welcomed their new guards.
In the meantime, Hecubus approached the Wolfling and offered drinks. The barbarian identified himself as Zoad the Slayer, who offered that he and his party were searching for a gold mine in the Hills, but to little success. Zoad's company proved less than scintillating, and Hecubus soon departed.
Later that evening, Zoad challenged the room to a feat of strength, and laid a pouch of gold on the bar as a wager; Ulfgar, against his usual sound judgment, answered the challenge, roping Moneypenny into the deal; the plan: Ulfgar would weaken the barbarian, but lose, and Moneypenny, the second challenger, would up the bet and beat the weakened warrior. Ulfgar comported himself well, earning a mild compliment from the Wolfling; Moneypenny fared better, and the contest was nearly his, but in the end Zoad managed to put his arm to the table.
|4-19-02 | The next morning, the company collected in the common room for a
hearty, pre-march breakfast of goose eggs and ale. Discussion was had as
to Zoad the Wolfling, who was found to have begun a burgeoning business
(much to Ulfgar's consternation, in that he hadn't thought of it first) in
selling maps to the dwarven mine, along with tips for defeating the
denizens. Eventually, Usoab dispatched Ulfgar, Hecubus and Jade to scout
the dwarven mine, while the rest of the party approached Zoad to determine
the nature of his newfound wisdom.
Moneypenny and Usoab approached Zoad, to determine the nature of the maps he as selling. Sure enough, they were maps to the dwarven mine, and accurate too. Moneypenny wagered two-score of Usoab's gold nobles in an effort to get the map for free, but lost (again), though gained a map. It was highly accurate, but otherwise uninteresting.
In the meantime, Teledesic visited Timmeria, to gauge the state of her laboratory and, perhaps, prevail upon her to allow him entry therein; her lab was nonexistent, her scriptorium able to fit in a quiver, and Teledesic caught the distinct whiff of chaos from her. He departed, albeit politely, and scoured the rest of the town for something in the way of a library, but for naught. If he was to scribe even the most basic dweomer, it would have to be in Hommlet, four days hard ride to the west.
Four days later, Ulfgar and company returned, with a new companion: Ing, a half-olven disciplinarian from one of the numerous monasteries that like the Celene coast to the south. Ing, the sole remaining survivor of a party of vigilantes searching for treasure and hunting bandits amongst the hills near Hommlet, when a murder of drow overtook them, attacked and killed the rest of his band. Ing survived by retreating into the woods, wounded and bleeding near to death, hiding until Ulfgar came across his track and found him.
The Dragon Corps welcomed the newcomer, and after a hearty sup (during which Ing fell to with a gusto unlike her normally controlled demeanor), the company departed once again for the overrun dwarven mines.
After a day's hard ride, the party camped and ate a meal, enjoying the view of the high hills of Kron, then retiring to a pair of extradimensional spaces created by Teledesic, and for once worried not about landsharks, orc raiders or elven huntresses. In the night, a group of gnolls came through the lower camp, snuffled but, seeing nothing, departed. They returned in mass (nearly a score and 10!) but still were unable to discover the party, hidden away above, and eventually departed as well.
In the morning, the company, watchful of a potential ambush, moved out toward the mine. The terrain grew rougher, but Ulfgar felt strongly that we were approaching the regions marked on the barbarian's map. Eventually, the company began making concentric circles in an effort to find the entrance, and soon Hennet found a small cave opening, not ten feet from where Jade, hidden in the underbrush, had afforded herself the luxury of a short nap.
Upon waking Jade, the company constructed the ruse they'd discussed earlier - including a forged document from Festrath and a quartet of ochre robes (donned quickly by Usoab, Moneypenny and two of the hirelings), and entered the cavern. After about five hours of hard travel along rocky corridors, the party came to a room carved from the stone. Immediately, several members were nearly overcome by a horrible stench - the unmistakable reek of troglodytes. Usoab fired his dread bow, and a troglodyte dropped like a stone; soon another fell to his deadly arrowshots. On the body of one of the foul villains, Hecubus found a parchment, incribed in Draconic
Master Tarangit: We wish to extend to you our admiration and to the forces defending the main gate under your care. It is secure against the intrusion of outsiders who do not understand our need for seclusion, We have concerns, however, that you may wish to ally yourself with others of your people in the earth temple. We must request that you do not - maintain your vigilance, and great rewards will come to the priest s that defend us against the outsiders (signed) -High priest of the Outer Fane
The party made its way slowly through the narrow corridors, eventually coming to a series of rooms, filled to brimming with the corpses of gnolls, horribly murdered. Ulfgar inspected the bodies, and pronounced the wounds to be of drow-make, sending a shudder through the half-olven companions. In addition, Teledesic found ample evidence of a Fireball having been launched in the ale-room. Another room showed a dozen dead humans, reborn as zombies, killed again (cut to pieces, really, likely by sharp shortswords, according to Hecubus' keen eye for the subject), and their eyes replaced with brown stone triangles (the symbols of the earth temple).
The party proceeded back to the crossroads, and realized with a start that they had been here before - in the original assault on the mine, the party managed to proceed to this point, but no further. The gnolls, killed expertly, and the portals warped off their hinges by some powerful dweomer; several human bodies were amid the gnoll corpses, dressed in excellent armor, but with weapons broken by crushing blows. Usoab found a golden dagger amongst some trash.
Further on, more corpses, throats slit. Each opened door seemed to reveal a new horror. Hecubus was impressed by the bloodthirstiness of the drow attackers; Usoab only looked grim as he critically eyed the now-chill bodies.
After passing stone-masoning machinery, the party found themselves in a room from which the only outlets were two ore-cart tacks. After some discussion, the party opted to follow the tracks going southwest. Down the tracks a bit, Hecubus found a side passage with what appeared to be a creature inside. Hecubus and Moneypenny went in to investigate, found the creature to be a incredibly lifelike statue of an olven maid… and then realized they'd stumbled in the lair of a basilisk. Moneypenny, covering his eyes as best could, fought the huge lizard, while Hecubus caught the beast's eye and was turned to granite.
Teledesic and Jade moved forward, casting spells and curing wounds while trying to avoid eye contact with the basilisks; Jade was successful, but Teledesic was not, and turned to stone as well. The company swordsmen - Cecil, Moneypenny and Usoab - battled on, however; Cecil killed a small one, and Usoab and Moneypenny managed the others.
A brief search of the room turned up a small, densely-woven cloth which, after some haphazard experimentation (the magician of the party being a slab of basalt at this point), the party discovered it to be a portable hole, filled with chests and barrels. Amongst the refuse in the basilisk lair, Ulfgar found a book, printed on Olde Dwarven, detailing the richness of the mine, then describing the "Doomdreamers" attacks with monsters. The book ended suddenly, and without fanfare.
| With relative solemnity, the party put the basalt statues of Teledesic,
Hecubus and the female denizen into the portable hole, and made way back
to the tracks. Further they proceeded into the complex, checking here and
there in alcoves but finding nothing. Eventually, the party came upon a
set of steps leading toward the surface. Usoab and Jade investigated them
but, finding nothing, returned back down, only to have a large greenish
goo fall upon them from above. At first, they thought nothing of it, for
dungeons and caverns are often frought with goos and slimes of all types;
however, within a few minutes, Usoab and Jade began to suffer from an
acidic burning sensation wherever the slime had touched them.
Quick-thinking Ulfgar fired a torch and, though it pained the pair
mightily, burned off the corrosive remnants from Usoab and Jade.
The party continued down into the complex, eventually coming upon the badly beaten body of a human male, dead but not for very long. Ulfgar recognized him as the companion to the olven huntresses he'd come across on the road to Rastor. Tied to the corpse were two sacks, one with a massive book in it, an amazingly heavy tome of near 500 coins in weight, with pages of steel rather than parchment. Jade perused it briefly, and observed charms and binds for elementals, all in high Draconic and well beyond her capabilities in the Art. She informed the party of its contents, then chucked it into the portable hole. Also in the sacks: a pair of black gauntlets, a bandolier of daggers, and a wrapped wad of leather, heavy with unseen contents. Moneypenny, upon observing the body, determined the death blow had been dealt to the man with a massive club or mace, capable of staving in his head and chest in a single strike.
The party continued, and soon came upon and a crevasse, over which the track crossed another. Moneypenny volunteered to investigate the treacherous looking track. He fired a torch and proceeded gingerly across, finding ladders going down into the pit on either side, but otherwise determining the thing to be solid, and the party moved out by twos across.
A strange reek emanated from the pit, heavy but not unpleasant, a chemical odor. Ulfgar thought that it seemed strangely familiar - then stopped cold. The walls, stained; the smell, chlorine… Ulfgar suspected this to be dragon-spoor, and informed Usoab and Moneypenny in hushed tones. After some discussion and a bit of protective spellwork from Jade, Moneypenny and Cecil inched down the ladder to reconnoiter the pit. At the bottom, the pair found a great deal of loose rock and detritus, but otherwise nothing. They returned to the track, and the party crossed the pit without further incident.
The corridor holding the track opened into a large room. Ulfgar, scouting ahead, entered first….and immediately, the screaming of crushing metal reached the stunned ears of the party. Moneypenny drew his blade and yelled "Comrades! To Ulfgar!" and charged into the room, followed closely by the rest of the party. Inside, Ulfgar and a giant, two-headed monstrosity - an Ettin. Ever doughty, Ulfgar was trading blows with the beast in earnest, and the party warriors soon joined the fray. Usoab's bow sang out again, and he feathered the beast with arrows, wounding it grievously. Jade bent the very shadows to her will and bound the beast, and Cecil, charging and shouting, sent the thing to the Abyss. But in the back of the cave, loitering noisily, was every swordsman's nightmare - the rust monster. Upon discovery, the party's warriors beat a hasty retreat, exhorting Jade to confront the beast and scrambling for their bows. Hennet stepped forward and sprayed it with flames sprung from his fingertips, while the rest tried vainly to find something to hit it with. The rust monster ate Ulfgar's armor and weapons with aplomb; arrow after arrow bounced off the back wall of the cavern; Jade flipped page after page in her spellbook, looking vainly for something even remotely damaging. Teledesic and Hecubus remained silently stoic in the face of danger. Cecil finally dispatched the creature with a well-placed arrow.
After policing themselves up, the party pressed on. Soon, they came to a chamber with a wide pool within. Sensibly trepidatious, the party tossed various things into the water to provoke any denizen, including one of the men at arms, but to no effect. Closer review turned up a corpse, well-encrusted, bearing a thurible and an obix, but nothing else.
Against all good sense and the memories of the deaths of dozens of previous heroes in pools of just this kind, Usoab decided to shed his armor and swim across to a small ledge on the other side of the pool - apparently, in the absence of Hecubus, Usoab had assumed the "insane foolhardy risk" jobs on behalf of the party. Amazingly, Usoab made it alive to the ledge, where he discovered some trash, a battleaxe, a shield (which Usoab used as a surf-board), a vial of liquid (Rm #24), and some gems and gold (60 gp, 42 sp, and a 30 gp gem) in a pouch. For the first time the all recorded history, Usoab completed the round trip across the pool without being attacked by a hideously strong water-monster, and he regaled the party with descriptions of the trash on the other side.
At the bottom of the pool, Usoab found the corpse of a dwarf is a shining breastplate, to which he hooked a grapnel and had Ulfgar drag ashore. The body, though quite decomposed, also bore a ring and a symbol of Moraddin about his neck. Ulfgar said a brief prayer, then strapped on the breastplate. They party then proceeded, one at a time, across the lake on a rope strung by Usoab, set up camp on the other side, and promptly split into watches and went to sleep.
In the night, Ulfgar was awakened by noises out near the pool; stumbling over the edge, he saw a large reptilian creature, casually bathing in the pool. Disgusted, Ulfgar returned to his bedroll and went back to sleep.
The next morning, after Ulfgar told of the night-visitor, and plans were made to seek out and slay the wyrm on the way out of the complex. In the sand, an eight-foot footprint belied Ulfgar's assurances that the reptile was "…just a baby…" but the party, undaunted but after some debate, continued the search as they made their way sunward.
The wyrm, however, had alternative plans; it's first pass killed all three men-at-arms and and grievously wounded Hennet. In response, the party discarded the original plan and decided to run in several directions at once. In his haste to retreat down the platform, Hennet knocked Cecil off the platform, a 30-foot drop. He hit with an audible thud and stayed very still. Hennet, nearly immersed in acid and burning, lost all his possessions, including the portable hole containing most of the booty and both Teledesic and Hecubus, who disappeared in to the Astral Plane. The dragon picked up Jade and flung her into the wall, spraying blood and bone in a horrid splash. Jade dropped to the floor dead. The party scattered, and Hennet tried vainly to get Cecil's armor on… but the dragon picked him up as well, tossed him against the same wall as Jade, and he slid to the sand next to her, unconscious and bleeding to death from a dozen wounds. The wyrm landed and sprayed Usoab with acid, leaving him a stumbling, steaming, naked wreck. The dragon grabbed Usoab in one giant claw, brought him close, and twisted off his head.
The dragon then hunted down Ulfgar, who fought valiantly, if to no effect, with his bow; the dragon approached and raked him with its hideous two-foot claws until he fell in a heap of gore. Eventually, the dragon found Moneypenny in the dark, chased him into a pit, where he fell and died.