Guest Blog by Max Bryans
Our Cast of Players:
- Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 9.
- Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
- Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
- Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 9.
- Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
- Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 9.
- Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 9.
- Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/7/8.
- Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 10.
- Nogri: Human Warrior, level 2.
- Tal: Human Warrior, level 2.
- Uthilian: Elf Warrior, level 2.
- Vermox: Human Warrior, level 2.
Total XPs awarded from the previous session: 237,290
With a quick prayer, Albrecht cures the Dwarf enough to render him lucid, and relieve most of his pain. Slowly his glazed eyes brighten and he gives a start as they focus on Albrecht’s unfamiliar face.
“Easy, there. We’re not going to hurt you.”, says Albrecht in his best bed-side manner.
The Dwarf is middle aged by his race’s standard, and from his numerous scars, it’s clear he has not led a peaceful life. His calloused hands and hardened muscles show his to be a fighter of some experience.
“What’s your name, friend?”, continues Albrecht.
“Dazack … and you?”, he replies.
“We’ll ask the questions.”, growls Edward.
“Steady, big man. Was just making conversation. I’m not look for trouble. Sheesh …. I’m just grateful to be out of that pickle.”, he rises up and rests on his elbows as he looks around at the now rather crowded torture chamber. As well as the torture instruments, he now sees Rashid doing his best to tie up the unconscious Ogre prisoner, whilst Artan is searching the room for further clues and items. He smiles when he sees the bloodied remains of 2 of his torturers.
“Don’t mind him”, says Albrecht with a glance towards Edward, “just tell us what you know. Where you were captured and how you came to be here.”
“We were ambushed and I was captured in Hall of Pillars. The …. “
“Ha”, scoffs Pioden, “Ambushed? As in snuck up on by Ogres?”
Dazack is taken aback, he had not spotted Pioden melded to the wall before.
“Oh”, he says looking back to Albrecht, “you got one of those smart arses too have you?”, he continues.
“Long story short. We were hired by the folks of Hadler’s Gap to clear this place out of Ogres. The Sheriff told me of a previous crew that had done the same a year or so ago. They went to sort out an ogre, and came back raving about culty kobolds, murdered a peasant in a bar brawl, then skipped town.”
At this short but accurate description of their antics Albrecht raises an eyebrow and looks to Pioden. Dazack continues.
“My crew went in, and it was business as usual. Your standard nest of bad guys to clear. Then we hit this place.”, he gestures at the dimensionally disconcertingly perfect stone walls, “The place was starting to rattle us and we got ambushed in a chamber with a bunch of statue pillars. I’m not sure what happened really. One minute we were bickering like children, since the wizard wanted to go a different way than the priest … the next I saw an ogre, then a flash of light as the bugger clubbed me on the helm.”, he raises his hand to feel the noticeable bump still on the back of his head.
Elfire interjects, “So as we don’t kill ‘em if we meet them. Describe your crew.”
“Easy enough. Myself and 2 human warriors, a one-eared elf (with a hatred of Lizard men), a wizard (easy to spot, pointy blue hat with stars and moons and all) and a priest. You can tell him since he does like to preach.”
Acting on a hunch, Albrecht asks “Was one called ‘Kraven’, by any chance?”
“You know him?”, answers Dazack then his eyes widen as he realises, “Hang on. How could you know that? Who the hell are you guys? Hang on, it’s you ain’t it. You’re the lot the Sheriff told me about.”
“Some are, some aren’t.”, answer Albrecht. “Now we have to decide what to do with you. You’re welcome to come with us.”
“As opposed to staying here? Sure. I need to see if I can find my guys. Some of the poor sods might have made it out. But I’m out of kit, got any spare weapons?”
Pioden offers Dazack his old 2-hander. It is gratefully accepted and even thought the sword is almost twice his height, Dazack gives it a few knowledgeable practice swings.
As Dazack familiarises himself with his new sword, Artan draws the party to attention and reports his finding from the chamber.
“Still that spooky stone. No ways in or out bar the way we came in. For what it’s worth, these tools,” he gestures to the multitude of torture instruments, “are not made by ogres to be used on dwarves. They are old but masterfully crafted for use by humans on humans. I did find these though.”, and he brandishes a set of crude ogre sized keys, “Best we be off ….. whhhoooaaaaa there.”
He stops and the party’s attention follows his gaze. For whilst he has been giving his report Dazack has approached the unconscious ogre and with a contemptuous thrust skewered him through the temple.
“Dazack. You take liberties that are not yours to take.”, cries an incensed Albrecht, “We hadn’t finished with him.”
“He tortured me, not for questions, just for fun. He was mine to take.”, retorts the seemingly fearless dwarf.
“Bloody typical dwarf. No offense, Artan.”, injerjects Pioden.
What follows is a traditional story. The millennia-old cat and dog like argument between headstrong down-to-earth dwarf and ethereal head-in-the-clouds elf. The humans in the party can only stand to one side and listen with internal cringes as the “debate” get heated and runs through the usual racial differences in first weapons, then living arrangements, then hygiene (or lack of) than sexual partners and prowess, finally ending in insulting each other’s mothers. The onlookers know better than to interfere and at times find themselves agreeing and disagreeing with each party in equal measure.
Finally, Dazack ends the debate the way it always ends. With one party throwing his hands up in despair as he realises he’s getting nowhere.
“Sod ye all then. Thanks for the sword, but I’m out of here.”, and he turns and trots (in the dwarven mile eating way) out of the door, down the corridor and turns out of sight.
The humans shake their heads at the intransigence of both races. And knowing there is nothing to be said prepare to move out. Artan leads the way. He thinks this by far the best, since he will not have to look at Pioden. The incessant buzzing in his ears is clouding his judgement and he has to bite his tongue to prevent himself wading in (both verbally and physically) to defend his race from the upstart elf.
At a more cautious pace than Dazack, Artan (followed by the other warriors) exits the torture chamber, turns South, then West and is met by an open door. The door opens into a large chamber, which sounds just like the one Dazack described.
The ceiling is supported by 8 large pillars, carved in exquisite detail like priests and holy men. The holy symbols of which indicate they are of the neutral or good persuasion. On the wall is a massive, again uncannily lifelike, fresco. Both Pioden and Albrecht remember this painting. But with the benefit of experience, and Edward and Rashid’s knowledge of history, they are much better able to comprehend what it signifies. Until recently the events shown would have been written off as mythical. But they cannot be sure of that now. The eerie room is illuminated is an ever so strange manner. There is no clear light source, but rather the continuous flickering and darting of light as it enters the walls and leaves by a different route. It’s like looking at a mirage on a hot summer’s day. Which is doubly off putting, since the chamber is as cold as the grave.
The picture shows the massive Red Dragon (Pyraxix) being summoned and with a mace wielding human (judged by the mace to be a pre-lich Dread Watcher) subjugating the good folk of the world. All the whilst under the shadow of a sun which has been shadowed by huge dark hand (maybe Frogroth?). The presence of the Holy men also seems to make sense. Afterall, would the victor not want to torment the defeated by making them watch his victory for all eternity? But now they think on it, they can’t be sure the statues are watching the fresco. Without moving, they seem to be following each and every one in the party. The effect is so disconcerting it threatens to snap the tenuous control the party have of their tempers.
On the South wall is another door, and to the West is a passageway.
“Hurry up, Rashid. Check that door, won’t you?”, growls Artan to the surprised thief.
“Of course, give me some light.”, replies the little man as he reached for his tool pouch.
As Rashid inspect the door (all the whilst expecting Albrecht to render his search pointless), Edward moves to inspect the passage to the West. He can see that the passage continues in the form of the current impossible stone for about 40 feet. Then, much to his relief, it opens back out into a roughly hewn, more natural type of corridor.
“I’ve found a way out”, he calls.
“Never mind that. Have you finished, Rashid?”, growls the irascible Artan.
“It’s clear.”, announces Rashid as he taps the door. This tap is all that is required. The heavy black stone door opens in a slow smooth action, into another chamber which runs North-South.
Foregoing any further inspection for traps, Artan leads the warriors into this next chamber. It is similar to the previous. With a double row of statue pillars holding up the ceiling. Each of these is of the same exquisite detail, and eyes of each seem to (without moving) be both following the party’s progress and not meeting their eye.
“I know some, if not all of these now.”, declares Albrecht. “I didn’t last time, but I do now.”
And he goes from one to the other and inspects them. In no particular order we have:
A human woman, in leather armour with a dragon hilted longsword. The same sword William found in this very place so long ago.
A strong looking Halfling with a Mohican haircut.
A dwarf in plate with a hammer.
A female elf in chain mail.
A man in leather armour with a bow.
Another man in plate with a mace, but not Dread Watcher’s Mace, he is relieved to note.
A man in robes with a wicked looking sickle. He is unmistakably the first incarnation of the Bishop they encountered. The one who was a senior member of the Black Watch.
A one eared elf.
A woman in scalemail, with long flowing hair. Although made of stone, the fairness of her features makes it a sure thing it should be a shock of flame red hair.
And finally there is a humanoid figure completely shrouded in flowing robes. So much so it is impossible to make out his features or age, or even details of his frame such as height or weight.
The enormity of stage, and the realisation of how they have all been played comes crashing home to Albrecht. The cruelty of the game, and the suffocating unease of being within these un-earthly chambers finally hits home. It is only by clutching his holy symbol that he can keep from despair.
To be continued…