Shadows Rising

The Road to Thog Tahrir...
...and only Marduke knows the best way down...

As soon as they stepped out of the safe house were they beset by an angry group of goblins who been attracted to the dark energies of the Rune of the Grey. Although the goblins were easily dispensed with, the group decided to quicken their pace, in case others might be looking to ambush them as they made their way out of Forge.

Marduke led them to a dimly lit alley about 20 minutes from the safe house—stopping, he bent over and lifted the sewer cover from the road. After some discussion and much hesitation (Alatir, in particular, seemed very resistant to heading down into the sewers) they all slowly climbed down the hole.

Fortunately for them, the sewer had two pathways on each side of the sludge, keeping them dry for the moment. The smell, of course, was another thing, and they did their best to ignore it. As they walked along the elevated path above the sludge they noticed ahead that it vanished into the side of the sewer wall. Beyond the end of the path they saw the metal grate that Marduke had gone through on his way into Forge so many years ago.

It was difficult to see from the end of the sewer path whether or not the hole that Marduke had cut into the grate was still there. Serine volunteered to swim to the grate and inspect it herself—she climbed into the muck and slowly made her way over, discovering that the hole Marduke had climbed through had never been repaired, and that it could definitely be made large enough for each member of the party to pass through. After some work, each of them climbed through the grate, waist deep in the muck of Forge.

After passing through the gate, the flow of sewage made a sharp left turn and headed down a slight incline. Marduke assured them that the sewage flow opened up into a large cavern ahead, where it joined up with an underground river. From there, they could wash off in the river and continue on their way to Thog Tahrir.

As they headed down the slope, they noticed that the sewage was rising above their waist. As the muck rose higher and higher, they realized that a part of the tunnel had caved in ahead, forcing the sludge to back up. Realizing they were quickly running out of options, Serine summoned a quick burst of magical energy, and blew the obstruction away. They floated down the river of sludge, finally entering a vast cavern that joined up with the freshwater river.

They pulled themselves out of the sewage and walked upstream into the fresh waters of the underground river. As they were washing themselves off, they noticed behind them that the flow of muck from Forge was decreasing in its flow, until it completely stopped. Serine surmised that her spell had caused a further collapse of the tunnel roof after they had passed the blockage, meaning it wouldn’t be long until the muck of Forge backed up into the city. Marduke suggested they rest only briefly, and then make haste down the road to Thog Tahrir. After a brief respite, they set out on the dark path down into the deeps.

The path followed the river for some time before eventually veering to the left and down into a deep tunnel. The road itself had at one point been a major thoroughfare between Forge and Thog Tahrir, although centuries of neglect and abandonment had taken its toll. As they continued along, the tunnel opened up into another large cavern—the path stayed to the right of the cavern wall, while a sheer drop appeared to the edge of the path on the left.

As they walked along they came to a small turnout on the left—they noticed that there was a headless dwarven statue holding silent guard over the road. As they came in for a closer look, they were suddenly set upon by a group of goblins, led by a particularly demented and insane goblin shaman. The staff he carried seemed to give him a special kind of power—just before the fight began he summoned a great goblin beast from the shadows—it was the largest goblin that any of the adventurers had seen before.

The fight turned out to be more difficult and interesting than any of them would have imagined. Branan’s trusty burning hands spell seemed to escape him for most of the battle, and the great goblin beast packed a mighty punch. At one point, Hermia attempted to shoot an arrow at the shaman, only to accidentally drop the Rune of the Grey in the process. The shaman caught a glimpse of the rune laying on the floor, and the mere sight of it energized him and his minions.

Meanwhile, Serine had successfully knocked one of the goblins off the side of the road with one of her cantrips, although it managed to grab hold of a rock on the way down and climb back up into the battle. In the confusion of the battle, the dwarven statue somehow became animated, turning to the left and right at the hip. As the goblins were hewn down, the shaman was kicked into the waiting hands of the dwarven statue, who immobilized it while Serine gave the final blow.

After the battle, Serine went over to examine the staff that the shaman had dropped. Upon closer examination, she realized it was the Staff of the Underworld, a dwarven relic that had long been thought to be lost. As she dropped her old staff and equipped this new one, she felt a renewed sense of power flowing through her—she knew from her schooling that the holder of the staff could wield greater magical energy while in the depths—she wondered what would happen as she moved closer to the surface.

After tending to minor injuries and resting for a moment, the group decided to continue down the path—no doubt darker and more dangerous surprises waited ahead.

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Chaos in Forge, Part II
The Rune of the Grey

Except for a small backpack with a few rations, a hairbrush, and a diary, the room was empty. Nerryn and Serine searched the entire space, but couldn’t find any clues that would lead them to find Hermia. Serine picked up the diary and opened it, and discovered that it was written in the same code as the letters she had been carrying with her after they were attacked by the thugs back when they were first setting off for Anvil. She was able to determine that the diary didn’t really contain any helpful information—just a basic retelling of Hermia’s daily routine.

Nerryn and Serine headed back downstairs and conferred with the rest of the group—they decided it would be best to head back to Pannan and update him on their progress, and also see if he had any suggestions about where to look next for Hermia.

As they were walking to the Crystal Gardens, Serine suddenly had a thought…what if she used the same magical spell that she had cast on the karuviam amulet to find Jamven, except this time take strands of hair from Hermia’s brush and use that to find her. Marduke chimed in and suggested that he attempt to summon the spirit of Jamven Pegason at the exact same time, in order to enhance the enchantment on the karuviam amulet. Armed with a plan, they quickly headed to the Crystal Gardens.

After reaching the Crystal Gardens, Marduke and Serine set about getting everything in place to cast their magical enchantments. After focusing all of their energies, the spirit of Jamven Pegason did appear before them. Although the connection was not great, Marduke was able to assure Jamven that his death would be avenged and that they would keep Hermia safe—just before the spirit of Jamven faded away, a burst of psychic energy was sent into the karuviam amulet. Putting the amulet around her neck, Serine and the group followed its pull, hoping that it would lead them to Hermia.

The amulet led them to a dimly lit and shadowy area just beyond the respectable borders of Forge. Finally, they stopped in front of a small, two story house, the amulet banging on the door. They entered immediately, tripping an alarm in their haste. As they stumbled into the main room, they noticed a set of stairs up against the back wall. They headed up the stairs and Serine peaked her head around the corner—an arrow flew right across her face, barely missing her.

She called out to Hermia, attempting to reassure her that they were here to help her. After calming Hermia down and gaining her trust, they were able to shut off the alarm at the door and secure the small house. After sharing with her the parting words of the spirit of Jamven, Hermia showed them the object that they had brought to give to the Dwarf King—the Rune of the Grey. She explained to them that it was an ancient Dwarven artifact, and that Jamven believed it’s power so great that he took it upon himself, at great personal risk, to return it to the Dwarf King.

Realizing this was more than they had bargained for, Marduke and Serine went to visit Pannan to find out more details about the Rune of the Grey. After speaking with Pannan, they shared with the group that the only way to truly rid the world of the power of the Rune of the Grey was to journey to the abandoned Dwarven city of Thog Tahrir. There, they may be able to find the power to destroy, or at least contain, the rune.

After sending Alatir and Branan to the stables to pay a week’s worth of care for the horses (and to make it appear to others who may be looking for them that they were still in Forge), Marduke told them that he knew how to get to Thog Tahrir, as he had traveled the road once when leaving the depths to escape to Forge.

As they gathered their rations and prepared to leave the comfort of the safe house, they all wondered what dangers lay ahead…

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Chaos in Forge, Part I
What to do about Bellamin...

After dispensing with the goblins that Bellamin had set on them, they turned their attention to the dwarven guards who had just burst through the door—obviously, there was quite a bit of explaining to do. The Chief of the Dwarven Guard, Torelat Bronzecloak demanded to know what they were doing this far into the palace, where the goblins had come from, and why there was a dead human lying in their midst.

Both Marduke and Branan attempted to explain the situation to Torelat, and after some initial hesitation, convinced him that their actions were honorable and that the real traitor in their midst was Bellamin, who had unfortunately escaped from the palace and sealed the door behind him. Torelat requested that the group visit with Dwossom Blazingpike, the Keeper of the Throne (this is the dwarf who rules in the Dwarf King’s stead while he is away from Forge) so that they could all determine what the next steps should be.

Torelat escorted them to a great meeting room where they were eventually joined by Dwossom. After explaining the events that had just occurred, Dwossom asked them for help in searching for Bellamin and the item that Bellamin thought Jamven Pegason was bringing to him. He encouraged them to share any information they gathered with Pannan Soulaxe, the keeper of the Crystal Gardens and a trustworthy ally of the Dwarf King.

After leaving the palace, they began to piece together the puzzle that lay before them. Realizing that Jamven never brought the dwarven artifact with him when he met with Bellamin, they deduced that his partner must still have it. Knowing that it would be very difficult for Jamven’s partner to leave the city while it was under lock down, they set out to find where his partner might be. They decided that meeting with Pannan Soulaxe might be a good place to start, as he might have information about Forge that could be helpful to them.

And indeed, Pannan did not disappoint. He told them of a flourishing but very underground black market that could be found if you knew what symbols to look for. He also told them that if they could locate this symbol in the jewelry markets of Forge, then they might find someone by the name of Sirbamora who could help them.

Nerryn, as it turns out, was familiar with this symbol—after leaving Pannan and heading towards the jewelry markets she located a small establishment that had the symbol of the Prince of Shadows. They opened the door and entered cautiously, not knowing what kind of reception they would receive.

After some polite banter, Nerryn convinced the receptionist that their intentions were less than honorable—the receptionist led them through a storeroom and into a hidden room, where Sirbamora sat behind her desk. Sirbamora told them that she was aware that Jamven had entered into Forge, along with his assistant Hermia, through the secret ways known only to the agents of the Prince of Shadows. She speculated that Jamven’s assistant was probably still in Forge, as Bellamin would surely have agents watching all the official and unofficial ways in and out of the city. She suggested that they search for the same symbol in the residential district, as there were tavern and innkeepers also in the employ of the Prince of Shadows—perhaps they might find Hermia there.

After thanking her for the information, they headed off to the residential district. After some careful searching, Nerryn located the symbol on the eave of a rather shabby and shady looking Tavern and Inn. Upon entering, they noticed a few dwarves and even some humans, although everyone seemed to be intently keeping to themselves. Nerryn struck up a conversation with the barkeep and told him that she was looking for her sister Hermia, who had disappeared a couple of weeks ago on a journey to Forge. Nerryn then offered to pay any tab that Hermia still owed—the barkeep told Nerryn which room was Hermia’s and pocketed the gold for himself.

Nerryn and Serine headed upstairs to investigate Hermia’s room—as they reached her door they realized that it was still locked—calling downstairs to Branan, they asked him to sing one of his fine songs, and to sing it loudly. As Branan broke into song, Serine broke the door down with a bit of magic…they quietly entered the room wondering what they would find…

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Arrival in Forge
Time to finally meet Jamven and Bellamin

Forge.pngAfter crossing the Chasm of Forge, they entered through the side gates (the main gate of Forge was shut) into a great meeting hall that essentially functioned as a checkpoint for all people and goods entering and leaving Forge. Damvil and his brothers thanked them profusely for their assistance, and offered their home and aid to them should they ever have need of it. As the Copperhouse clan moved towards the residential block, one of the clerks of Forge inquired as to the reason for their visit. Branan assured the clerk that they would only be in Forge for a few days, and that their business was trade related. Branan did inquire as to whether or not the clerk had seen Jamven Pegason arrive, and the clerk answered by saying that he hadn’t really noticed anything out of the ordinary. Sensing the tiredness in their bodies, they decided to take Damvil up on his offer of hospitality and headed over towards the residential block.

Damvil and his brothers (and their grateful wives) greeted them with great joy and hospitality. They ended up spending the night, telling stories, drinking ale, and making new friends. After the rest of the Copperhouse Clan had headed to bed, Damvil told Branan that he hadn’t heard of anyone named Jamven Pegason and that he didn’t directly know Bellamin either—he did, however, have a friend who knew Bellamin, and offered to meet with him the next day to see if he could arrange a visit between Bellamin and the group.

After debating about setting any magical alarms, they decided that propping the passed out Marduke would suffice as a sufficient defense against anyone trying to enter the house. For the first time in many days, they all slept deeply.

The next morning they awoke to a fine dwarven breakfast—afterwards, Nerryn offered to go with Damvil while he met with his friend in order to arrange a visit with Bellamin. Returning about 45 minutes later, Damvil told them that Bellamin would meet with them at the Royal Pub in an hour. Anxious to get some answers, the group set out to meet up with him.

At the Royal Pub Branan recognized Bellamin sitting off in a corner (he had known Bellamin briefly when he was employed in the service of the Dwarf King.) They approached his table and sat down—cold and seemingly disinterested at first, Bellamin inquired as to what their interest in finding Jamven Pegason was. They told him that they had been tracking him since Glitterhaegen, and were worried that he may be attempting to trade a dwarven artifact on the black market in Forge. Bellamin shared their concern, expressing his fear of what could happen if this artifact fell into the wrong hands. As the conversation continued, Serine pulled out the second coded letter she had found on the bodies of the thugs who had tracked them from Shadow Port and asked Bellamin if he could translate it for them. Bellamin took it, read it, and quickly got up, asking them to meet with him later in the day at the Royal Palace in order to determine the next steps.

Not knowing what to do next, the group decided to explore Forge to see if they could find Jamven on their own or at least find someone who might know of his whereabouts. Branan suggested that they head over to the Crystal Gardens and speak with Pannan Soulaxe, the monk in charge who was also a close friend of his when he resided in Forge.

As they entered the Crystal Gardens they were stunned by its magnificent elegance and beauty—the gardens were full of intricately carved crystal statues, and all of the buildings reflected the very highest of Dwarven architecture. They found Pannan Soulaxe meditating in one of the gardens—he warmly greeted them and was very pleased to see his old friend Branan again.

After spending some time catching up, Pannan looked over at Marduke and called him by name—this was surprising to all, as Marduke had never remembered meeting him before. Pannan also sensed a deep magical power in Serine and bade both her and Marduke to visit with him again before they left Forge.

As they continued sitting in the beauty of the gardens, Serine had an idea—having just discovered from Pannan that the gardens can also focus spiritual and magical energy, she chanted a tracking spell on the karuviam they found in the Undermarch—the newly enchanted karuviam suddenly pulled them in the direction of Jamven Pegason, towards the Royal Palace.

The royal guards allowed them to pass (this has been arranged with Bellamin back at the Royal Pub) and they soon found themselves outside a locked door. On the inside they heard a loud thud—sensing danger on the other side, they broke the door down to discover Bellamin standing over the mortally wounded body of Jamven Pegason, slowly pulling his sword out of Jamven’s torso. Attempting to ascertain the scene, Branan tried to calm Bellamin down by speaking reason to him—meanwhile, Marduke and Serine attempted to give aid to Jamven. Realizing there was nothing that could be done, Jamven pulled Marduke close to him and whispered, “Don’t let him get it…make sure it gets to the Dwarf King.” At that, Jamven breathed his last.

Suddenly, Bellamin cursed them all for their interference in his affairs—he called for guards, but Serine blocked the door with a hold portal spell. Bellamin then turned and ran towards the back wall, revealing a secret door by which he could escape—as he turned to leave them, a horde of goblins (under his control) swarmed out the escape door and flooded the room. Forced with having to deal with the gobilns, Bellamin made his escape—as the battle with the goblins was coming to an end, the guards on the other side of the door broke it down. Realizing that goblins had somehow gotten into Forge, the dwarven guards quickly joined the fight until all of the goblins had been vanquished.

Chaos ensued—the great bells of Forge were rung and all the entrances were shut tight—the presence of goblins in the Royal Palace and the body of Jamven Pegason caused great confusion amongst the guards—Branan realized it was definitely going to take some time to sort this all out…

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The Undermarch
Into the mountain we go...

IMG_2148.JPGAs the next day dawned in Anvil, our adventurers purchased various supplies and armor upgrades (they even negotiated a nice deal with a local armorer to be his sole supplier of enthilite for a deeply discounted price on future shields, swords, etc.) and then set out for Forge.

Originally they had thought they would walk the path, but they realized that they could travel the distance much quicker if they rode their horses. As they began their journey they noticed that all of the other horses fell behind Serine for some strange reason—no matter how much they tried, they would not pass her up. Sensing nothing wrong with any of the horses, they brushed it off and continued on their journey.

A few hours in Marduke came to a sudden halt—he jumped off his horse and began to head towards a small path that veered off the Undermarch. The group stopped and called out to him, yet he kept moving further and further down the path, apparently entranced by something calling out to him. Alatir and Branan both dismounted their horses to follow after him, attempting to speak with him and bring him back to the main path.

As the path narrowed a sudden, horrible smell came over the three of them. Three lizard-like creatures sprayed them with a foul stench, and blocked Branan and Marduke from the rest of the group. Alatir found himself situated on the other side of the lizard-like creatures in close proximity with them, while both Nerryn and Serine were too far away (back with the horses on the main road) to be of any help (they were also blocked by Alatir’s body, preventing them from effectively using their ranged attacks.)

The lizard-like creatures were vicious fighters, and sprayed their stench multiple times at Alatir, Branan, and Marduke—they also seemed to blend in to their surroundings, making most ranged attacks against them difficult to land. Eventually the lizard-like creatures were overcome, but their horrible smell would not soon be forgotten.

After spending a few moments recollecting themselves, they moved on in their journey toward Forge. After a long day of riding (and noticing that multiple times the horses would seemingly choose a different horse to follow and not pass up), they stopped and rested at one of the rest points carved out of the walls along the Undermarch.

The set out on the second day feeling better and greatly desiring to reach Forge so that they could finally (hopefully) find Jamven Pegason. In fact, Branan was in such great spirits that he began to sing a great song to the Elf Queen—as he moved from verse to verse they suddenly noticed that ahead of them the great torches of the Undermarch were being extinguished, and that a great horde of goblins was approaching them. Attracted by Branan’s singing to the Elf Queen the goblins furiously attacked them (it’s known to most adventurers, of course, that goblins despise both the Elf Queen and the Dwarf King.)

Although at times the battle was difficult (especially since a goblin shaman made an appearance) they eventually routed them. Before climbing back on their horses, they noticed several small quartz-like rocks at the base of the tunnel that the goblins had come out of. Realizing that these rocks were the same substance of the rock that Serine had been given back in Anvil, they took a few of the samples lying on the ground and carried on until they reached a resting place. Later in that evening, Marduke recalled the name of the rock— karuviam—and remembered that it has the power, under the right circumstances, to hold magical enchantments.

Suddenly, Serine had a thought—what if the rock she had been given back in Anvil had an enchantment on it? She determined that it did, and that it had the mild effect of making others around the carrier of the stone slightly jealous—she also noted that the stone somehow had the ability to move from person to person, which explained why different horses would mysteriously take the lead while others would fall behind. Serine removed the enchantment from the karuviam and they all settled in for some sleep.

As morning (or whatever passes for morning when you’re in the Undermarch) approached, the group heard a voice crying out in terror and heading towards them. As they braced themselves for a fight, a youngish looking dwarf appeared before them. He introduced himself as Damvil Copperhouse and pleaded with them to follow him—he told them that his three brothers had been captured by some foul smelling creatures, and that in the darkness, he had fled towards them.

Agreeing to help him, they journeyed off the main path of the Undermarch into an old mine that had long since been abandoned. Reaching its end, they discovered four of the lizard-like creatures torturing Damvil’s brothers, who were fortunately still alive. A battle quickly ensued, and with the help of Damvil and two of his brothers (who were freed in the fight) the lizard-like creatures were destroyed.

Realizing that Damvil and his brothers needed medical aid, they agreed to escort them back to Forge (they had just come from that direction, but they were unable to continue on to Anvil because of their injuries.)

The rest of the trip was uneventful—finally, near the end of the fourth day of traveling, they approached the great bridge that crosses the Chasm of Forge—relieved, they all looked forward to a warm bed and some excellent dwarven ale—and also a chance to finally locate and question Jamven Pegason.

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Caravan to Anvil, Part II
“Looks like you’re having a going out of business fire sale.”

Anvil.jpgNo sooner had their journey to Anvil begun when they were beset by a group of thugs claiming to be from the ferry operator at the Bitterwood Landing. Branan tried his best to prevent any violence, however, the thugs were intent on retrieving the money that had been stolen from them when the group had left Shadow Port. Alatir ordered the wagons of the caravan to circle up, and everyone took defensive postures in order to repel the attack.

The fight was violent but short—for some reason, Alatir and Nerryn were unable to land any hits whatsoever—fortunately for them, Serine, Marduke, and Branan were able to fend off and destroy the thugs. Branan, relying (once again) on his trusty “burning hands”, utterly destroyed the attacking group’s leader, finishing him off by saying, “Looks like you’re having a going out of business fire sale” (at the beginning of the attack the thug leader had promised to put them all out of business…). Serine cast several successful, devastating spells, and Marduke supplied ample medical support. After the thugs were destroyed, they captured the horses they had rode in on, reorganized the caravan, and carried on for Anvil.

Before they left the battle scene, they discovered several small items and a coded letter on the body of one of the thugs. The letter was in the same code as they one they had discovered back in the caveSerine quickly got to work trying to decipher it.

Eventually they stopped to rest for the evening—as they set up a fire and ate some dinner, Marduke silent slipped aside to chant to his gods in order to seek their protection and healing. Branan offered to guard him while he chanted, an act for which he was rewarded later after the ritual had been completed—both Branan and Marduke felt rejuvenated by the invocation of Marduke’s god.

Meanwhile, Serine was able to decipher two names from both letters—Bellamin and Caruvial. Branan recognized Bellamin was the Royal Armorer to the Dwarf King—everyone else wondered what Caruvial had anything to do with all of this. After setting up a watch schedule, the group finally headed off to sleep.

The next morning, after breakfast and tending to the caravan drivers and horses, the group continued their journey to Anvil. At about the middle of the day they reach a watering hole (this was a stop that most caravans rested at, as it was pretty much the mid-way point between Anvil and Glitterhaegen. There they met another caravan leader who was surprised to hear of their ambush back outside of Glitterhaegen—according to him, this road was normally pretty quiet, seeing as how well traveled it is. He also told them stories (rumors, really) of living dungeons sprouting from the earth—he believed it was as sign of the fading power of the dwarves, an inability on their part to control the underworld. Eventually it was time to move on, and the group pushed on for Anvil.

As the evening came, the caravan stopped once more for dinner and rest. Serine continued working on translating the scrolls throughout the evening, while everyone else sat around the fire warming themselves and telling stories. Eventually they set up a watch schedule and headed off to bed.

On the third day they arose quickly and prepared to leave—they were anxious to finally get to Anvil that afternoon. After they had been traveling for a few hours, they came upon the smoldering wreckage of a wagon. Branan and Serine rode out on their horses to take a closer look—suddenly, from underneath the sand, two crazed bandits appeared—they were in a terrible state of disarray and the group was completely unable to reason with them.

A fight quickly ensued, although it was over in a flash—Marduke, Serine and Branan landed massively critical hits—even when bandit reinforcements arrived they were no match for the fighting prowess of our heroes. Taking one of the bandits longbow’s, they quickly organized the caravan and finally arrived at Anvil in the late afternoon.

After collecting the other half of their payment for protecting the caravan, and selling one of the extra horses at the stables, they set off for the Inn of a local merchant named Halfreck, who is good friends with Branan. After being warmly greeted by Halfreck with beer and food (and offered a deeply discounted stay for the evening) they finally had a chance to relax and catch up. Halfreck told them about the recent troubles on the Undermarch, and about how he had heard from a friend that Jamven Pegason entered the Undermarch about a day ago on his way to Forge. With full bellies and an action plan for the next day, the group finally retired for some much needed and deserved sleep.

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Down the stairs we go--Part III
Why did we enchant those corpse slaves?

As the group stood there contemplating their next move, they heard the heavy thud of troops entering the large room that fed into the small chamber they were standing in. Realizing that they were going to have to fight their way out, they moved into the great hall to engage the approaching enemies.

At that moment, Mirko deeply regretted ever chanting that spell at the altar. Before them stood all seven of the reanimated corpses, now fully functioning zombie soldiers. Behind them, protected by some kind of force field stood Nucien, barking orders and casting spells.

The power of Nucien’s spells and the strength of the zombie soldiers proved too much for the group to overcome. Remulus did all he could to keep the group standing, but Nucien was able to counteract nearly every healing spell he cast. Mirko and Crulamin used every ounce of magic known to them against Nucien, but the spells simply bounced right off the force field that protected him—nothing was able to penetrate it. Thang and Baru knocked down as many zombies as they could, and yet more and more continued to appear from the depths of the dungeon.

As they surveyed the scene, Hobb and Aspen realized that they would not be able to win this fight. They called out to the group and ordered as quick a retreat as possible. Nucien, noticing their retreat (and determined to keep them trapped) cast a powerful spell that knocked out several support columns around the exit. As the room began to collapse around them, Thang threw his body underneath the crumbling doorway so that everyone else could safely make it out.

Mirko, who was the last to pass through the door, turned around and caught the last glimpse of Thang as he was buried underneath the rubble of the collapsing room. As the remaining six climbed up the stairs and entered the mausoleum, they quickly discerned that they didn’t have time to even stop and mourn the death of Thang. All around them, as if possessed by horrible spirits, the dead of the town of Badger began to rise from their graves. They could hear the voice of Nucien, now louder than ever, chanting throughout the town. As they fled for their lives they realized that the unthinkable had happened—the town of Badger had been corrupted by Nucien, and was, in front of their very eyes, turning into a hell hole.

Off at a safe distance they could hear the faint screams of the citizens of Badger who hadn’t made it out. An eerie light fell over the area, and suddenly it was quiet. Aspen was the first to break the silence—she murmured something about the High Druid and headed off. Mirko, the last to have seen Thang alive, wept silently and spoke of his desire to seek out the Blue Dragon for some deep questions he had. Baru, suddenly feeling the pain of having let the town of Badger descend into death and destruction, set out to find an agent of the Crusader so that he could figure out his next steps—Hobb asked if he could go with him, and after saying yes, they both set off together.

Crulamin and Remulus were the only two who remained, and they didn’t speak a word to one another for what seemed like an eternity. Then, without even offering a glance, Crulamin turned away from Badger and walked out into the darkness. Remulus, realizing he was alone, set off to Santa Cora to meet with the Priestess and hopefully find some peace to soothe his terrible grief.

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Down the stairs we go--Part II
We should've taken the other door...

IMG_2157.JPGWith the group fully healed and recovered, they returned to the starting chamber and took the door to the right. As the path widened, they entered what appeared to be a storage room of old weapons and armor. After examining the room and realizing that there was nothing of any value, they pressed on. While walking through a narrow hallway, they came across what looked like a small landslide—they could tell that on the other side of the rubble was another room. Baru and Thang moved some of the larger rocks out of the way, creating a small hole for Mirko and Remulus to crawl through.

Inside the room, on each of the three walls, were “shelves” of corpses—they appeared to be fresh, unlike the many skeletons they had discovered in the other rooms. Finding nothing else of any interest in the room, they left and continued to push further into the dungeon, hoping that they would not come across any other rooms like this one.

Eventually they found a set of stairs that led down to a second level. The walls and floors of this level were very different from the floor above—it was made out of a very smooth stone, much like the stone that Hobb and Thang had been turned into when they opened the crypt in the mausoleum. The hallways they were in had torches on the wall—they each grabbed one and lit it, and quickly found themselves in an old, dusty library.

Old, dusty tomes lined the walls of the library, while a large table sat in the middle with various books piled high. Mirko and Remulus noticed that one book on the table was open—they recognized that the language of the book matched the Scroll of Azerul. Eager to discover the relationship between these two items, they sat down and began to try and translate it.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group moved further along the hallway. They discovered a room with what appeared to be several prison cells, each with long-dead victims inside. The group called out for Mirko to inspect the remains—he noticed that each person was killed by a powerful magical spell. Remulus, after making some headway translating the book, joined up with the group as they entered a large, mostly empty room.

As the light from their torches filled the space, they noticed a medium-sized, blood-stained altar at the back of the room. It had small lettering around the front of it—Mirko recognized it as the same writing that was in the book, and he offered a quick translation for the rest of the group. “With great sacrifice comes great power.”

Mirko chanted the inscription on the altar—nothing happened. Realizing that some sacrifice was needed, the group decided to send Thang back upstairs for one of the corpses they had previously discovered. When he returned, he placed it on the altar—Mirko chanted the words again—at first, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the corpse sat up, staring off into the distance. Mirko, quickly remembering some of the other passages he had translated from the book in the library, mumbled a spell that caused the corpse to stand up and kneel before him.

Naturally, everyone else (except for Hobb and Thang) wanted their own personal corpse slave. Thang ran back upstairs, and after fetching a corpse for each person, they each chanted the spell, one by one receiving their own corpse slave. Since Hobb and Thang had no interest in participating, Mirko took command of the additional two.

Of course, it didn’t take very long for the group to realize that the spell was working against them. Each of them who had cast the spell was feeling weaker and weaker, while their corpse slave grew more lifelike and powerful. They each attacked their corpse slave, although seeing as how they were already dead, it had no effect. In desperation, they asked Thang to smash the altar, to see if that would do anything to break the curse. He was more than happen to smash—in fact, he smashed it so hard that the top of the altar completely broke, revealing a wand hidden within.

Mirko recognized the wand from the book back in the library, and surmised that it might be the item draining them of their life force and also the item that Nucien (the disembodied voice who had sent them on this quest) had requested them to retrieve. They quickly grabbed the wand, ran upstairs, and returned to the room that Nucien had told them to.

They placed the wand in the bowl of blood—immediately, the energy ceased being drained from their bodies. Suddenly, Nucien appeared in front of them—he thanked them for retrieving the wand, and also for the life force they had so graciously given to it that allowed him to take physical form. Off in the distance they could hear the rattling of old, rusty armor approaching. Realizing that Nucien had no plan to let them live, they braced themselves for the attack to come.

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Caravan to Anvil, Part I
Alex only wants his fair share...

After pressing through the previous day and evening, the group finally arrived in Glitterhaegen as the sun was starting to go down. They returned to the Merchant’s Pub for dinner and rest, where Alex happily greeted them and graciously offered them food and place to stay (as is his custom, of course.) After a brief conversation with Alex (where, among other things, he shared with Branan that a messenger of the High Druid came looking for him) they all paid for rooms and got a good night’s rest.

In the morning, after purchasing additional supplies from Alex, they went over to Jamvin Pegason’s shop to see if they could get any additional information from his employees. As they approached, they heard a scuffle and muffled screaming from inside—drawing their weapons, they entered to discover the same group of dwarves that had crossed their path back in Shadow Port. Branan, wishing to avoid a bloody encounter, convinced the dwarves that they were not following them, and that it was coincidental that they had run into each other again. After some grumbling, the dwarves left. Jamvin’s employee was grateful for the assistance, although had no new additional information to give the group about Jamvin’s whereabouts.

The group decided that the best thing to do was to continue to head to Anvil. After visiting Darden, the local potion’s specialist in Glitterhaegen, Alatir and Marduke told the group that their friend, Finwick, might be able to offer them work protecting a caravan on its way to Anvil (work they had done many times in the past.) After meeting with Finwick, he directed them to Sardak, a local linen merchant, who hired them to protect a caravan which was just about to depart from Glitterhaegen.

After quickly meeting up with the caravan, they set out for Anvil, hoping (and praying) that the ride would be quick and without incident.

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The Cave
It looks safe in there...let's go explore it!

The cave looked innocent enough, at least from the outside. However, as they ventured further in, the situation became more perilous. Alatir was poisoned by a flying dart, although he was healed by a potion the group found on the bodies of two corpses (most likely the two friends that Caruvial was talking about.) After being forced further into the cave (several doorways would become blocked by fast growing vines as they all passed through them), they were attacked by a group of giant ants. After battling their way through them with relatively ease, they approached a narrow hallway covered in spiderwebs. Rushing through the hallway, they entered a large room covered in thick webs.

After searching the room for an exit, Branan discovered that the narrow hallway they had just exited wasn’t just filled with spiderwebs—it was lined with pulsating egg sacs. Using his reliable burning hands spell, he dispatched the egg sacs with a great fireball—unfortunately, this attracted the attention of their protective mother, who came down on top of the group just as the last bit of fire in the hallway was going out.

Surprisingly, this great beast could speak—it was understandably upset about the killing of her young, and, after summoning additional giant ants, engaged them in a fierce battle. This was a rather difficult battle for the group—Branan, Marduke, and Serine were all knocked unconscious at one point, but fortunately Nerryn was there to help stabilize them. Even Alatir had difficulty at times, especially when it came to fighting off the poison of the great spider.

Eventually, the group defeated the great spider and the giant ants, although many recoveries had to be used to finish the battle. As they were rummaging about the wreckage of the fight, a loud, disembodied voice began to speak at them. Alatir, recognizing the language as elven, translated for everyone else. The voice lamented the destruction of his creatures living in the dungeon, and warned them that an even greater evil was lurking beneath the depths. The voice warned them never to return to this place again, unless they desired meeting death.

At that, they turned back and left the way they came in. They remembered activating a pressure plate that had caused a rumbling noise off in the distance. As they traversed the paths and rooms that had been blocked by the overgrown vines, they realized that the rumbling noise had opened those pathways up for them. They exited the cave in the late afternoon sun—they decided not to waste any more time, and hiked all night and the next day, arriving at Glitterhaegen around dusk.

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